Friday, December 14, 2007

December 2007 Update...

Rather than try to keep everyone up-to-date on my "happenings" via emails and long phone conversations, I'm going to post a monthly update here. Stop back often to see what new projects I'm digging into!

I'm excited this week to announce that I'm working on two new books that will be published in 2008 -- although I'm not sure of the exact date. While my agreement with the publisher won't allow me to provide a lot of details, I can say that I'm writing two books (for kids ages 9-12) ...each book will highlight a popular music star. One is a very popular hip-hop artist...the other a well-known rapper. My deadline is January 31, 2008, so I have a lot of work to do in a short time...but it's going to be a fun experience, I'm sure.

On the article front, well, I'm going to have to slow that pace down a bit while I focus on the book deals. For the past few months, I've been writing a lot of articles on a variety of subjects and sending them out for consideration in publications. For the most part, though, I've been digging into interviews with some really fantastic Christian music artists. Since July, I've hung out/talked with Leeland, Kutless, and Grey Holiday. (Their articles already appear on, and will also appear as the cover story for several issues of Credo magazine next year.) In the next few weeks, I'll be adding Sanctus Real, Michael Gungor Band, and RE:ZOUND to that list. Just this week, I also had the great fortune of speaking with Dr. Gary Chapman about his Love Languages for Children book. I'll be taking his information and developing a few articles for publication.

Back to the book front...two books that I contributed to were released in October. One Year Life Verse features my daily devotional for a day (I can't remember which one!) in July. The other book, Along the Way for Teens, is a super book that's a collection of true stories that are sure to inspire our youth. My chapter "Three Moments of Glory" is the first chapter in the book!

And then there's all that other stuff that would fill up too much space in a blog...additional book chapters, greeting cards, a permanent spot with a quarterly magazine and the possibility of a column with a large teen magazine.

Gotta run...gotta write!

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's with it!

It occured to me last night that the winter blah's are setting in, and there's really no way around it. As he flipped through the pages of the calendar, my five-year-old son reminded me this morning, "Hey Mom, the first day of winter is still coming!" With 16 inches of snow covering the ground already, it feels like winter found its way to Wisconsin months ago!

I'm not a big fan of winter. Call me silly, but where's the fun in this?
  • Melted snow in my front hallway after all the neighborhood kids decided to "stop in" for a few minutes. (Not to mention that I stepped in one big puddle just two minutes after putting on a pair of socks!)
  • Mismatched mittens in every corner of the hallway, car, closets, but not one pair to be found anywhere!
  • Slushy snow lining every parking lot, making it nearly impossible to move to and fro' without splashing some on the back of your pant leg...or into your shoes!
  • Frozen car seats and steering wheels.
  • A fading summer tan.
  • Mean holiday shoppers pushing their way through the aisles, not even sparing the smallest of children.
  • 20 degrees below zero...and a wind chill factor of -58!

"So move!" you say. "Quit whining and move South." Yes, you're not the first one to offer up that bit of advice. And while I seriously consider that option between the frigid months of November and March, I'm reminded of these things:

  • Family. Everyone lives within an hour of my home, so I can avoid interstate traffic and FAA regulations when I want to spend time with loved ones during the holidays.
  • Snowmen, snow angels and shovels. Nothing tops watching a five-year-old playing in the snow!
  • Crackling fireplaces.
  • Imagery. There's just something about a light snowfall that makes the season complete. It's a little hard to get that in a warm climate.
  • Deer tracks in the snow across my front lawn.
  • Big sweaters that conceal the extra holiday pounds!

So, whine I least until the first signs of spring. I've been in denial, thinking that maybe this is the one year that winter will forget to rear its ugly head. I've been hoping that 80 degree weather, leaves and green grass will magically appear some day before the crack of dawn. It's not looking too good, though. It's almost winter...and I'm going to have to live with it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Top 10 reasons to give thanks...

10. Great reports cards from both boys.
9. A supportive (and fun) boss.
8. Finding the perfect Christmas gift for that someone special.
7. Book sales!
6. Celebrating my birthday. (Getting older isn't really all that bad.)
5. Listening to Noah read Harry Potter.
4. Coloring with Payton.
3. Magazine contracts and more writing assignments.
2. A husband with great math and accounting skills. (Someone has to take care of the paperwork that goes with my writing, and God knows that can't be me!)
1. My family and our health.

Top 5 Things Making Me Insane This Week...

5. Deadlines and writer's block. Truly NOT a great combination.
4. Cold weather. Ever year about this time I wonder why I have remained a Wisconsin resident all my life!
3. Christmas preparations. Is it just me or doesn't it feel like we just finished shopping for last year's gifts? I'm SO not in the mood yet. Maybe after the first real snowfall...
2. A stupid ending to one of my favorite shows, The Bachelor. What a waste of my Monday nights for the past few weeks.
1. Corporate America. External consultants providing multi-million dollar recommendations on how to run your business can make life miserable. Don't ask me why...just trust me on this one.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Getting back to the real world...

Having spent 8 days on a Disney Cruise last week, I'm still trying to find my way back to the real world again. That thing about "sea legs" -- it's not a myth. Trust me! I'm still finding myself walking sideways down the hallway, and I swear my bed was rocking from side to side last night. That's not the worst part though. This morning I awoke to find my kitchen looking the same way it did last night...without chefs and a buffet line. I became accustomed to sliding out of bed, slapping on a baseball cap and treading to Deck 9 for a buffet of all my breakfast favorites: hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage links, caramel rolls, little cheese slices, bagels with chive cream cheese. This morning I was lucky shove a Diet Coke in my purse as I headed out the door for work. The kids were a little disappointed, too, when they only had mini chocolate chip pancakes -- without the chocolate sauce that their server brought upon request. At 2:16, my midafternoon hunger pangs started and instead of running back up to Deck 9 for my usual snack (chicken strips or a bratwurst and french fries), I dug around in the back of my desk drawer to find an old package of Certs. Somehow that just wasn't the same. At 2:55, I became a little thirsty. A bottle of water was the only thing I had to cure that dilemma. What happened to that nice guy in the white shorts and colorful shirt walking around next to the pool -- the one who was always carrying the Drink of the Day with pineapple and a cherry hanging off the glass? Where was he when I needed him? And that brings me to think about dinner. Hmmm...I actually have to think about making dinner. That's something I haven't done in a while. I got used to sitting down to a lovely presentation of lamb chops, lobster, risotto, and plaintain chips. And if I still had room -- which I always did -- I topped it off with a chocolate molten lava cake or some other plate heaped with calories. Mmmm, I can taste it all now. I think we'll have frozen fish sandwiches and Fritos tonight. And if kids are good, we'll dig out an Oreo or two for dessert.

Yes, it's a little hard to get back to the real world again. Making my own meals. Doing my own dishes. Cleaning my own house. Oh yeah...that reminds me. What do you want to bet my bed didn't get made after I left the house this morning and my bath towel is still hanging off the shower? And who's going to magically replace the bottle of shampoo that I used up this morning? And who's going to turn down my sheets, make towel animals, and leave chocolates on my pillow?

Getting back to the real world really stinks!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Local media misses the big story...

This past weekend, I threw a book signing party that even J.K. Rowling would have been impressed with. Almost 800 people filled an overheated gymnasium in Monroe, WI (where I grew up) to celebrate the release of my first book, "Why Does Grandma Have a Wibble?" Long lines waiting for autographs, hundreds of children running here and there, and books flying off the was the perfect day. And to show my appreciation to the "little authors" who contributed to my book, I asked each of them to join me in signing books. With pens in hand and name badge stickers announcing their success, they wandered around signing books and collecting their own autographs. For a couple short hours, these students (more than 175 of them) were enjoying a moment that might not ever come again.

Sounds like a great news story, right? Wouldn't this be a nice ending to the nightly television news that only covered the war, two traffic deaths, a campus drug bust and a missing plane full of skydivers? One would think so. And what about local newspaper coverage? Maybe that's the easier one. Just how busy does a local newspaper with a pretty average circulation need to be to miss covering this event? Let me tell you.

It was a busy day in Monroe...I understand that...but it's sad that an annual chili cook-off was the big news. What's even sadder is the photo that made the front page of the newspaper from this chili cook-off. It wasn't a photo of a pot of chili....heck, it wasn't even of the chili-maker himself. It was a photo of a little girl throwing darts at a life-size photo of Michael Vick. I guess there are other smaller fund raisers at this "chili party", and the Humane Society thought it would be fun to raise some money by using Michael Vick's recent run-in with dogs and the law as the basis for claiming a little cash. First, it was in poor taste...but that's another day's worth of ramblings. Second, and more importantly, it was the feature photo on the front page. A kid...throwing a photo of a person. And where were the kids who had actually done something successful? They were stuffed in a 90-degree gymnasium waiting for a photographer to show up to give them a little publicity.

Oh, she did show up...and she did take the photos....but that was it. And the kids...well, one of a photo in the paper....on the back page. No write-up. No interviews. Nothing.

The reporter tells me they ran out of room and that it was the editor's decision to bury the 175 kids who were doing something worthwhile on the back page. Shame on you, Mr. Editor. You didn't get this one right. In a time where schools are struggling to make reading and writing an important part of our children's curriculum, you thought that dart-throwing was the bigger news story. SHAME ON YOU!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

There's a reason I'm a writer...

I’m not a morning person. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I hate the thought of getting up before I need to, and I’m not even that good at obeying the alarm clock once it finally chimes in the early hours of the day. So today was one of those days that I dread.

The email came yesterday morning. Channel 3’s Morning Producer wrote to see if I’d be interested in bragging up my book on live television. Of course, I replied “Yes!”, but before I hit the send button, I scrolled back up the page to find the key word that I had missed at first glance. Morning producer! He was the morning producer! Obviously that meant he wasn’t in charge of the nightly news. Darn it!

Well, I never pass up an opportunity to plug a book in front of an audience of thousands, so I happily left the “Yes!” in my reply. Send.

Joyously I reclined in my chair, relishing the thought of the publicity. And then it hit me! I had to get up before the birds! I had to set an alarm that would go off before the sun had even peeked its crown over the eastern horizon. I had to go to bed early. I had to find something to wear. Oh yeah…did I mention that I had to get up early!

I called my husband, Jeff, to tell him the good news – that I would have a live segment on Channel 3’s Morning Show. I anticipated some sort of congratulations, but all I heard on the other end was laughter. “Yeah right, like you’re going to get out of bed that early. You have to be there before 6 o’clock?” And again – laughter!

At 4:30 a.m., I rolled (literally) out of bed. Groggily I made it through the hair and makeup routine – over and over again. First the hair is this way – then the hair is that way. First a shade of Estee Lauder’s beige #112 – then a change of heart and it’s an application of Lancome’s tea rose something or other. A little blush. Then a little more. And then the hair again. Jeff, still trying to get some rest, was getting worn out watching my routine and practically kicked me out of the bathroom so I’d make my early appointment.

As I entered the studio, I found News Anchor Charlotte Deleste sitting behind the news desk. Her makeup and hair were perfectly in place as they are every morning when I watch her – from my bed!!!! Her smile seemed genuine, and if she was tired, it didn’t show. I wondered how she did this every day. Was she as tired as I was? Did she detest the thought of an alarm clock that goes off in the dark? Did she feel as good as she looked?

And then I remembered what the cameraman told me when I asked him how the morning crew managed to get up so early every day. “I tell people that we really haven’t gotten used to getting up early, but we have gotten used to feeling like crap every day.”

Thanks for those words, Mr. Channel 3 cameraman.

That’s why I’m a WRITER!

Monday, October 1, 2007

How I ended up here...

So I forgot that I'm on "deadline" today. Credo magazine needs a Leeland interview from me in about....oh, three hours ago! I remembered this when I was sitting at work, knowing there was nothing I could do until I got home. I kept reminding myself that it's only 1,200 words. I can whip that up in less than an hour -- not counting the interuptions from a number of screaming neighborhood kids outside on my swingset, a noisy train in the backyard, constant reminders by my five-year-old that we have fruit snacks in the cupboard (that are not for consumption now!), wet socks, naughty cats...and the distraction of dinner dishes, baskets of unfolded laundry, paperwork for my book signing, accounting records, and "The Bachelor" coming on any minute.

And as I take a break for just a minute to collect my thoughts and look around, I see Payton (5) walking in the room with a stack of books. "Let's read, Mom!" And at that very second, I was taken back to when I was five -- carrying around stacks of Dr. Seuss books with a smile on my face. Without a second thought, I pushed the computer aside and snuggled up next to him, listening to each word that he read. He was reading!!!...reading every word! And then it hit me again that that's how it all began for me. My love of books is what even got me to this state of panic tonight. That love of books is what has inspired me to write.

So write, I will...all 1,200 words of an amazing interview with one of Christian music's hottest new bands, Leeland. And I'll get it all done before "The Bachelor". Thanks, Payton, for reminding me how I ended up here tonight!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Authored a Book...But Have You Seen the Box???

The fruits of my labor have officially been delivered to my doorstep. In fact, exactly 1,488 copies of Why Does Grandma Have a Wibble? are neatly packaged in boxes that are now lining my wall like wallpaper. I have no complaints though. This dream is long overdue!!!

I always wondered what I'd feel like the day I took delivery of my first book, and strangely it was the most insignificant piece of the publishing process that made me smile the most. Thirty-one boxes piled on a wooden skid, wrapped in shrinkwrap, and I thought I'd be scrambling to tear open the box to make sure that the books were inside. Instead, I stood back and giggled to myself as the forklift operator moved the skid around because I was admiring the side of the box that clearly had my book's name printed on the side of each one. Like a big box of Doritos or Charmin toilet paper, it was clear what the contents were. I surprised myself that such a goofy thing could hold my attention for so long. Even when my mom called a couple hours later to congratulate me and ask me how I felt about my "big day", my first comments were about the printed boxes. I think it's easy to see how easily amused I am -- and how I can find appreciation in the little things. I think it's also easy to see that I was the kid who got the big bike for Christmas, but I played with the wrapping and the box while the gift remained under the tree!

Watch What You Say Around Me...

When my son Noah was seven, he was admiring the loose skin on his grandmother’s neck and said: “Grandma, I like your wibble. Mom, why does Grandma have a wibble?” And that was the beginning of a dream come true for me. As my children have quickly learned, if you say something cute or profound around me, I’m usually grabbing a pen or my laptop to scribble out an idea for a potential book. And that’s what happened with Noah’s comment. Within a matter of weeks, I was searching for a publisher and going through the labor-intensive search for kids’ quotes to fill the pages of my book. My preference was to land a contract through a traditional publishing house, but they are known for moving at glacial speed. I figured if I waited on a contract from a large house, these children would be graduated and might even be grandparents if I didn’t move the process along a little faster. So, I chose a self-publisher, and now have a few more experiences under my belt. While going this route is not something that I might consider again, just because of the enormous out-of-pocket expense that is laid out even before you have a book in hand, it certainly has given me an understanding of the self-publishing business. AND, it did allow me to see my own book in print in a much shorter time frame. “Why Does Grandma Have a Wibble?” has finally been released, and I now have 1,488 copies of the fruits of my labor in my garage.

Some Young Writers Have a Chance...

My first speaking engagement as a “real author” was in the Monroe School District. How fitting that I was visiting classrooms that I used to frequent when I was a young girl 30 years ago. The rooms looked a lot smaller and the walls were better decorated than when I was there…but that’s probably just my grown-up perception. One thing that changed: my classroom never had a cool mascot. Ms. Jordan’s room had a dragon named Bob. He didn’t really care that I was there. In fact, the only time he even perked up was when Ms. Jordan released a few live grasshoppers into his tank. Thankfully, the kids were more interested in what I had to say than Bob. I taught them how to take an otherwise dull story and fill it with interesting facts that would grab the reader. Attentively, they listened and then shared their own books with me that they had been creating in their writing class. They are so lucky! I loved my elementary teachers, don’t get me wrong, but where was Ms. Jordan when I was eight years old? She was actually teaching them how to publish a book. And they were thrilled to have the opportunity! What a great skill, and from what I could see, there was a lot of potential for future authors. Way to go, Ms. Jordan!!!