Memories in Writing

Memories in Writing

It only makes sense that when you are writing a creatively fictional memoir, to look back at photos for ideas. I recently did this while writing Book Two of The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis. It’s told from Rose’s point of view–the darling in the pink hat, pictured below.

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February 19, 2009

Hopefully I am forgiven for sharing this photo, but it’s special in so many ways and launched a couple chapters in my book. This was taken on my dad’s birthday. He had been gone for 12 years already, and only four months after my son, Nick, had passed. Family came over often. It reminded me of how supported we were and still are in our journey without a son, brother, best friend, cousin. There is this gap without Nick that can’t be filled, but the gatherings we had soothed it. Losing my dad at only 57 didn’t help either.

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In addition to games, there was some serious manicotti training. At least for some!

In Saving Atlantis, I actually change these scenes to Easter. It reminded me of this special holiday that has been at my house since we moved to Clifton Park 27 years ago. Everyone always came to the Cammarata house for food and a savvy Easter egg and scavenger hunt. The children had different colored eggs to find. In addition to candy in the eggs, there would be clues to the location of the basket of treasures. Or there would be a word puzzle they would have to be solved to find the treasure. It makes sense that I am writing books about quests and finding lost items.

Each year was something different, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. My heart broke a little when they were done with the hunting, but when the youngest three were 15, I figured I kept it around long enough!

A scavenger hunt is the perfect way for Rose, Peter, and Mark to escape through their puzzle to help Luke and Natalia in Atlantis. In Book Two, cousins Quinn and Mackenzie get involved. Quinn distracts the older cousins, while Mackenzie protects the portal.

The plot is unwinding, twisting, and sometimes falling back on itself, but these photos give me inspiration and precious memories.

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Envisioning my Art: Nuts, Bolts + Beyond

Envisioning my Art: Nuts, Bolts + Beyond

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I received this postcard in the mail last fall about about a 7-month intensive for artists. It would focus on how to define myself as an artist and promote my art as a business. My latest book The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs was at the printer and expected any day. I had made a commitment to my journaling workshops and the goal to publish a book on journaling within the next two years. This was a sign I was on the right track.

I filled the detailed application and sent it in just in time. I didn’t have any expectations, but I knew I had started a ball rolling that was only going to get bigger.

It was with great joy and gratitude that I was accepted into this program that is sponsored by The Arts Center of the Capital Region. Every Tuesday for seven months, I would meet with 11 other artists from all different disciplines and various instructors who want us to be the best artists we can be.

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I am now halfway through the program and I thought, “I need to share this amazing experience and people with the world.”

This course has opened my eyes to the many layers of art. As the only traditional writer, Danielle is a blooming writer and illustrator, I wasn’t sure where I fit in. There’s this whole visual world that has opened up to me. I used photos from families and Elizabeth Fox Photography in my book What Makes Them Amazing, but thinking of how they can be used in my journaling book or displayed in an art gallery in order to share my message is thrilling.

There are so many options open to me. Learning to draw. Taking photography classes. These are different tools I can utilize to  share my message.

Of course when I get ideas, I’m like a cyclone wanting to take everything with me at once. This intensive has helped me embrace and hone my vision into achievable dreams. My purpose is to spread hope, create a sense of community, and share tools for healing for anyone who has suffered.

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Fellow amazing artists in Nuts, Bolts + Beyond

One workshop focused on building a vision board. What did we want to grow in the next year, the next five years? It was a daunting task, but we had to start somewhere. I loved the unique paths everyone is taking from painting, photography, sculpting, woodworking, weaving, illustration, and writing. I have learned how much I need to learn!

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It’s a work in progress, but I have my vision and it keeps growing as I continue in this class. I know I can use different forms of expression to share my message. The use of photography, illustration, and writing are my trifecta for creation, and I can’t wait to share it and the incredible talent of my classmates with everyone.

Creative Stories are All Around Us!

Creative Stories are All Around Us!

I am currently teaching a middle grade writing workshop at The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. It’s a great group with very enthusiastic writers.

The focus is finding different topics in the world around us and observing for inspiration. A writer must also keep eyes and ears open for unique characters, settings, and plots.

I begin each session with a journal entry about their day. Learning to record details is essential. Then follows a photo prompt. Last week, I had two photos, each of a dog. Even with the same photo everyone will come up with a different description, idea, and possible plot.

If you’d like to write from either of these photos, stop reading and write what you see, what the characters are feeling, how and if they connect, and what you think might happen. Then read further and see what the teens came up with.

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Zoey Cammarata

Zoey probably wouldn’t have liked me sharing this photo of her. She is often misunderstood, when she really is very happy to see people!

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Dakota Cammarata flipping Marvin in the air!

Dakota gets the free spirit award as he always wants to play!

Some of the descriptions were clear like Dakota wanting to run around all dayand Zoey growling at Dakota, because he stole Zoey’s toy.

Another scenario was that Zoey lives in an alley and has had a rough life. She is scared, but shows her teeth to hide her fear and look tough. Dakota is a happy dog who lives a good life. They might interact when Dakota gets lost or vice versa. How will their different experiences affect how they treat one another? Do they go on an adventure?

Photo prompts are a fantastic way to get unstuck or use actual events or descriptions in a story. Just make sure that they are changed enough, so that it is truly a work of fiction.

Of course if this is a memoir, then that’s a totally different story!

Skipping Around Saving Atlantis

Skipping Around Saving Atlantis

With The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs out to the public and going through its second printing, I have been diligently working on book two–The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis (working title, but so far feels right).

My plan is to write all four books in the series to keep the flow going, and I have been challenged by an avid fan (my husband!) to have a working draft by the end of the month! Yes! This month, January, which only has 15 days left. I am almost at the halfway point. I don’t worry about what I’m writing so much as going by the feel of it. It is a very rough draft, which is where I should be for the first one.

A couple days ago, I was stumped. I reviewed my notes, but felt stagnant in the current chapter. At lunch, that avid fan suggested bringing in Dakota, one of our rescue dogs. To be honest, I was thinking about including Zoey, but she is more my dog and Dakota is more Peter’s. However Zoey’s personality and the signature white patch on her gray chest does remind me of a certain koalephant in Shimmer’s Eggs.

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Dakota at 12 weeks when we first adopted him.

It was like an earthquake broke a dam and everything poured out. What if Peter found Dakota and brought him home? How would Dakota help Peter in his healing process? How did Dakota just happen to be in the dumpster that Rose and Peter just happened to be riding by at that particular moment? With many questions, come many answers, and great writing most likely ensues!

With all that activity, Dakota made his debut into The Puzzle Quests series. Wait until Zoey hears about this. She does have her own blog, but this will launch Dakota into permanent stardom!

Writing what moves me at that moment is the key to writing continuity. Where I placed this chapter right now may not be where it will stay, but the essence and power of that chapter is strong, and I know it will be a part of this book.

If you are stuck in your story and another thread pops into your mind, go with it. Writing is not linear. It’s like water, so let it pour out.

All I will say about Dakota’s story is he was rescued from a dumpster in Tennessee. He was starving and scared. How this plays into Saving Atlantis and Peter’s growth as a character will remain to be seen.

To find out when The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis will be going to press, Sign Up for my mailing list at www.janinedetilliocammarata.com

SCBWI Authors Share their Wisdom

SCBWI Authors Share their Wisdom

As NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) comes to an end today, the habits we formed from daily writing shouldn’t end. Getting support and advice from our fellow writers is key to keeping us motivated, but in the end it’s up to you to do the work and write your story.

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is a fabulous organization that I encourage any children’s writer or illustrator to join. The networking and knowledge  shared is vital to getting your work finished and published.

My local group which is run by the fabulous Nancy Castaldo and Lois Huey meets once a month at the Guilderland Public Library. This month we met at the William K. Sanford Library in Colonie and heard from four published authors: Nancy Castaldo, Rose Kent, Daniel J. Mahoney, and Eric Luper.

 

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Rose Kent’s books

Each author spoke about the path they took to become a writer, which only proves that anyone can be a successful writer if you have the dedication to write what you are passionate about and practice, practice, practice. Nancy was the moderator, but her love of science and learning led to her writing. Rose was in the Navy, raised a family, became a freelance writer, was published in magazines, and then wrote her novels pictured above. Eric wasn’t much of a reader as a kid, but he enjoyed stories. It wasn’t until he was in a college writing class, that he became interested in writing. Even though he earns his living as a chiropractor, his first novel came out in 2002 and he has published many for Scholastic and Cartoon Network. Dan began his career as an illustrator and sent samples to publishers. He was published immediately by Clarion Publishers, who asked him to write the story to his illustrations. Dan also works as an x-ray technician. The path to publishing is different for every writer and it’s not easy, but it’s the love of what you are doing that has to keep you going.

When dealing with challenges, Dan recommended to keep writing and put your heart into it. Even though he was published by Clarion, when the company downsized, they didn’t want his type of books any longer. He kept writing and illustrating and seven years later was published again. Rose explained that giving birth to a story is messy and takes a long time. It’s an internal process and she also has felt the joy of publishing and the rejection. Eric’s first book was rejected 100 times.  He still gets rejections after 20 books and looks for other paths.

Harry Potter was rejected 12 times.

A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 28 times.

Jane Yolen who has published 365 books is still getting rejections!

Learn from the process. Eric’s second book was in a different genre and was better because of his previous rejections.

All four authors absolutely love going into the schools and connecting with the children they write for. As Rose says, “It’s about hope. We don’t have answers to all the problems, but it goes back to hope.”

Their advice to writers:

Nancy–read, read, read and analyze like a writer. Keep a journal! Plot doesn’t always come when you want. You can refer to your journal later.

Rose–read and find the quiet space. Focus on the writing without the distractions. Write the story and make a mess.

Eric–try to write the book  you wish you had in your hands at that age. Write what you are passionate about. The most interesting things happen when he doesn’t know what will happen. Let it show up.

Dan–write about what happened to you or what you are familiar with. Push yourself to to work on your story every day.

It was a pleasure meeting the authors and listening to their stories and advice. Do the work. Sit and write. Network and learn from others. Grow your writing family by attending meetings such as this one. To find out more about SCBWI, visit their website at www.scbwi.org

For journal prompts to get the writing jitters out of the way, follow my blog www.writetobehealed.wordpress.com

 

Ask Away!!

Ask Away!!

 

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My favorite part of promoting a new book is connecting with my readers and hearing their questions. I especially love watching kids burst with questions and ideas. The questions they come up with are interesting and sometimes mind boggling, because of their insightfulness.

One of the kids on my husband’s soccer team started reading Shimmer’s Eggs and had a ton of questions for Luke today at his game. Luke said he wished I had gone to the game just so I could answer them for him.

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I want to give kids and anyone who has questions a chance to ask away. Of course, I hope you come to my upcoming book events on November 18 from 3-4:30pm at The Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza. This is a book signing, but you can definitely ask questions and buy a book!

My book launch party will be on December 10 from 1-2:30pm at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. At this event, I will share the inspirations for my book, talk about my writing process, have a group writing adventure, and save a lot of time for questions. You can register for that at www.cphlibrary.org.

But if you absolutely can’t wait to ask a question, there are two ways you can get some answers. The first is to email me at j9camm@gmail.com and follow this blog. I will post the answers here with your questions in the title.

Another place you can ask questions and get the answer is on my Goodreads page. In addition to asking questions, you can check out my other books and until November 30, enter a giveaway to win one of five of my autographed books!

Comments, reviews, suggestions for book two, which I have already started, as well as questions are more than welcome! I look forward to hearing from you!

8 Steps to a Successful Book Fairs

8 Steps to a Successful Book Fairs

Today, I attended the Glens Falls Chronicle Book Fair at the Queensbury Hotel. Over 100 local authors writing in every possible genre and for every age group shared their books. It’s a great opportunity to sell books, meet new people, and network.

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There was a fairly good crowd, but with so many authors, it’s important to stand out and connect with the readers. Here is what I learned today to make my next book fair even more successful:

  1. Have an appealing and easily accessible table. I updated my table with bright signs with the prices. Once I did that, I actually sold more copies. It’s better to know the specials and prices right away without having to ask. Visuals attract. Many people were also lured to my table by the poster size cover of my book.
  2. Bundle books together. I sell my first two books, Warriors Within and Eyes of the Goddess as a bundle pack for less than they can be bought separately.
  3. Kid-friendly activities: When there are so many other books to look at, it’s helpful to have an activity for the kids. Not only does it involve the kids, but it allows the parents to talk to you about your books. I had brought a writing exercise, but most of the kids were a little too young. I did bring tattoos of Shimmer’s egg and a puzzle piece, which were very popular. Then the kids got excited when they connected the egg and puzzle to my book! Another author had handmade bookmarks or coloring pages that the kids really enjoyed.
  4. Have bookmarks or postcards to hand to people passing by. Even if they don’t stop at that moment, they have your information and can always order later.
  5. Engage the reader in conversation. You know that ‘elevator pitch’ you can say to someone the few seconds you have on the elevator? Have that ready for when someone asks you to tell them about your book. The author next to me was fantastic in connecting with people and pulling them into his story. He sold a ton of books! But also give people space to read the back of your book without constantly talking to them. It’s a balance.
  6. Provide promotional items–For The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs, I offered a free poster of the cover for the first 100 purchases. Everyone has loved these. Keith Willis, another author from Clifton Park, sells dragon pens with his fantasy book.
  7. Dress as a character from your book. There were a few people who were dressed like their character or dressed in a certain persona. It definitely sets you apart, but you have to be comfortable. Be yourself, share what you love about your book, and be authentic.
  8. Let people know you are going to be at the event! Social media, email, word of mouth. I texted and emailed friends who live in Glens Falls, and I was so happy to have Kacey stop by!

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So happy that Kacey came to see me!
There is never a guarantee on how a book event is going to go. I have been to events where I literally didn’t sell one book and others where I sold a bunch. Selling books is obviously a huge part of it, but networking and sharing your story are also great ways to build your business.