Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Red Ribbon Week and Honoring "Kiki" Camerena

October 20-28 marks this year's Red Ribbon Week, which means schools throughout the country sponsor activities and presentations to commemorate living a drug free life.  But every year, I wonder if the meaning behind Red Ribbon Week loses its impact because it has become so routine for kids.  I also wonder how many people know or remember the story behind how Red Ribbon Week started.

Every year during Red Ribbon Week, I take this opportunity to talk with my family about Red Ribbon Week and who it is we are honoring.  "Kiki" Camerena was an example of a real-life modern day hero, as are all the DEA agents, police officers, fire fighters, soldiers and basically all the people who dedicate and sacrifice their life so that we can be safe.

I like to use Red Ribbon Week as a time to celebrate living a healthy life while remembering the modern day heros who, like "Kiki" Camerena, are the ultimate example of bravery as they put their life on the line and are willing to risk death for their passion.

If you're interested in knowing more about "Kiki", his complete story is on the Enrique S. Camarena Foundation website.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye Wins an Award

The official press release went out today! I'm thrilled to announce Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye was awarded a silver medal in the Moonbeam Children's Award contest.  Here's some information about the award and what this stands for in the world of children's literature.

"The Moonbeam Children's Book Awards exist to bring increased recognition to these kinds of exemplary children's books that inspire and delight children of all ages.  Judging panels of librarians, teachers, students and book reviewers chose medalists in 39 categories, and winning books came from a diverse group of long-established publishers, small presses, associations, and self-publishers.  This year's contest attracted over 900 entries from throughout North America and the English-speaking world, and medals will go to books representing 35 U.S. states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 3 countries overseas."

     You can see the entire list of winners here, along with more information about the awards.

I'm honored to be chosen to stand among these gifted authors and will continue to produce books that entertain, inspire and empower readers of all ages.  

Thank you judges and readers for keeping me inspired!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday's Children Blog Hop - How I Stay Inspired

One of the most common challenges faced by fiction writers is keeping the inspiration going.  Writers are asked constantly how they stay inspired or how they were inspired to write a particular story. Here's my theories on inspiration and what inspires me.

Fiction writing is a long process, especially getting the first book out into the universe.  Most everyone who knows me, knows I threw my first three novels in the trash.  My first stab at fiction writing spanned ninety-five thousand words, the second book, about seventy-five thousand and by the time I got to the third one, I threw in the towel, realizing at around forty thousand words I had nothing close to a compelling piece of work.

I printed big chunks of these books out as I re-worked and edited them, which serves me well when my kids complain about having to re-write an assignment for school.  I simply point to my four reams of paper stacked up in the corner of my office and say, "You're upset about re-writing how many paragraphs?" (It's an awesome tool. It totally works every time).

Anyhow, I know you're asking what inspired me to start again the fourth time around?  What kept me from getting discouraged (and going completely insane)?  Passion.  The same passion every person has within them to achieve a huge goal in life.  My theory is this:  People who have a true passion for something work quietly, in secret and they don't complain.  They don't publicly announce how hard they're working, how many times they started a small business and failed, how many hours they spent in classrooms or working as an intern for little to no money. They keep at it, over and over and over again, until they get it right, until they succeed.

I think we all (myself included) walk around with this notion that success is what inspires people, when in fact, the most successful people in the world failed - a lot - and somehow found inspiration in their failures, seeing failure as part of the process, the journey towards success. To me, each book wasn't a failure, it was part of my apprenticeship, a step in the right direction.  Did I feel ticked off and frustrated?  Yep.  Did I want to take my computer and throw it against the wall and scream and yell?  Um, yeah.  But I also knew I wasn't going to stop until I got it right.  So, I got some rest, got up the next day, poured a big cup of coffee and went back in.

I also read alot of books on writing and I'm still reading books on how to write fiction (I think I'm on my sixteenth or so, can't remember, lost track). Most all fiction writers struggle with the first novel because fiction writing is as individual as the voice of the author.  No two writers have the exact same system and the first novel helps establish some sort of systematic approach to putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.  Books on how to write fiction always give me new ways of looking at the craft, kind of like re-arranging the furniture in my house.

And, if what I just said here doesn't inspire you this will:  This morning, I was listening to NPR while  packing up my kids' lunches (my normal 6 am routine).  J.K. Rowling was being interviewed about her newest book, The Casual Vacancy.  She said it took her five years to write the book. See?  Feel better?  I certainly do.  How validating and inspiring is that?

So now that I've completed and published my first book, what keeps me pushing the words out each week?  What inspires me to sit down and write?  My characters. They inspire me.  I love writing them and spending time with them.  They are real to me, and I know this sounds like the people in the white coats should come knocking at my door, but honestly, I think writers have to love their characters, otherwise the reader won't.  Books have the power to change people's lives for the better and I'm inspired by characters who can help us figure out how to do that.

I'm also inspired by other writers.  I strive to be as good as my idols, Pat Conroy, Augusten Burroughs, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, Sara Zarr, Carolyn Mackler, I could go on and on.  I read other writers' work and their words inspire me to keep working and keep growing as an artist.

And finally, here's the not so exciting news on how I stay inspired to write:  I set goals for my writing (as I should for my exercising, but that's another topic altogether).  And if I don't make my writing goal for the week, I don't beat myself up.  I forge ahead.  Next week will be better, it usually is.  And some days the words don't come as quickly, so I find myself checking my word count a little more often than other days, but I don't stop writing for the day until I reach my goal.

So there's my theory on inspiration.  Hope I've inspired you as much as so many writers have inspired me.  And don't forget to hop on over to the awesome Kristina Perez's blog where you'll find a whole slew of inspiration!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Suicide Prevention Fundraiser and Giveaway

If you're a writer or a reader, here's a chance to win some really cool stuff and do something positive to help raise awareness about suicide, the fourth leading cause of death among teenagers and adults.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, studies indicate the best way to prevent suicide is through early recognition and treatment of depression and psychiatric illnesses.

In order to raise awareness and funds for this very important cause, fabulous writers, Justine Dell (Adult Romance) and Sarah Fine (Young Adult) have teamed up to give away tons of books and goodies, donated by authors (moi included), bloggers and agents.  For writers, you could win an agent critique, manuscript critique or an awesome book on writing.  For readers, there are tons of free signed books and even a gift card from Amazon.  But don't wait.  The raffle ends on Friday! And of course, if you'd simply like to make a donation, you can do that too. See the entire list of giveaways and all the details here.  Thanks in advance for participating, and good luck!