Friday, September 28, 2012

Write-a-thon Release Party for THE SECRET UNDERGROUND

Woo-hoo! Today is Natalie Bahm's release day!

*throws confetti*

Natalie is giving all the profits of this book to help Baby Jayden and his family.

And some lovely writers and I are doing a write-a-thon today to support Natalie and her cause. It just tickles me to think of writers in community doing what we do each day, but for special purpose today. I can't control life, but I can control what I put on the page. :)

You're welcome to join in. There's no strings attached--no expectation. If you want to donate, or buy a book, that's wonderful. But, I think the act of a community coming together, even just to think well wishes for someone, matters.

I had the urge to do something, and I'm doing it.

Along with these lovely writers:

Britney (@britgulbrandsen)
Susan (Susan--ack, couldn't find your twitter handle!)
Anna (@annastanisz)
Laura (@laurapauling)

Stop by their blog or tweet a hello!

And cheer us on using the hashtag #WriteWithHeart

Or, buy THE SECRET UNDERGROUND. That's what I'm going to do when I'm all out of words today.

Now, I'm going to stop wasting my words here, and open up that word document. Because it's write-a-thon time!!

Missed the build-up to this event? Check it out here:

As always, it's never to late to join in, and this blog is a JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE. (I think I need a button for that. Jon can you make me one?)

Congrats, Natalie!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

There is Time For Everything

Time sometimes twists me up in knots. I am revisiting a revision I thought would be complete months ago. But life got in the way.

Life often does. Isn't it beautiful that way?

Tomorrow, September 28th, I am using my time to help someone else. This someone:

Natalie's story is here.

I am doing a write-a-thon to help Jayden and his family.

This is the best use of my time yet.

Please consider joining me tomorrow, or buying a book. You can sign up to do the write-a-thon, or donate outright. Or you can sponsor me in my write-a-thon. (Feel free to leave a pledge in the comments--you can do it per word (ex.: .10/word) and also give a capped price.)

And, if you are local, let's write together tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Rory Sutherland says Perspective is Everything

Today's TED talk gives us lots of food for thought. Rory Sutherland, an ad man, talks about psychological solutions for real life problems. He charges us to change perception in order to change reality, or at least, to change perspective in order to be happier with reality.

Plus, Rory is pretty funny. :) It is my perception that things are funnier when said in a British accent. :)

Here's the description:
The circumstances of our lives may matter less than how we see them, says Rory Sutherland. At TEDx Athens, he makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness.
Warning: use headphones if there are children present--he occasionally swears. :)

Can't view the TED talk? Here's the link

I have to admit, when he was talking about the study with the dogs and the electric floor, I thought of writers. The button in the box is self-publishing. As writers, how much more control do we feel over our destiny, just because that button is there? Even if we never push it?

I also feel like this discussion of psychological framework adds credibility to Jane's understanding of why we can be more successful at life if we treat it like a game.

And, gives us an understanding of the psychological solution Charlie Todd found to combat boredom on that huge subway escalator.

Things are starting to tie together. :)

And these things are important.

If perception is leaky, and if psychological solutions are crucial ways to solve problems, then what does this mean for us? As writers, I think that we deal chiefly in psychological solutions. We don't make something concrete, like knitted socks. We share ideas through words. Ideas which become a shared psychological experience when people read those words.  Does this TED talk make us think of that product in a different light?

Or does it make us feel differently about how we deal with our own psychological struggle to produce our writing on a daily basis? If we don't prefer to revise, for example, (I just picked that example out of the air, really I did :)) can we find a psychological solution for this? Can we find a way to change our perspective in order to change our reality?

What connections did you make during this talk?

Oh, and please don't forget to buy a book or participate in our write-a-thon this Friday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Charlie Todd with The Shared Experience of Absurdity

So, I don't know if you've noticed, but during our Ted Talk Tuesdays we become a community of writers which doesn't necessarily talk about writing.

Which is a good thing.

Because discussing things in the vacuum of like-mindedness can produce uninspired results.

And, I'm hoping that non-writers (as if anyone really is a non-writer) will feel like they can chime in about these talks as well. :)

A few weeks ago, we talked about how we can better overcome obstacles if we place those obstacles into the framework of playing a game. How when we problem solve within a game, we can change the way our brains attack problems. How gaming can improve our lives. If you haven't checked out how Jane McGonigal wants us to lengthen our lives by playing games, definitely check it out, on the blog, or at TED.

This week's talk is a favorite of mine. Charlie Todd looks at how play has intrinsic value. Take special note of when the No-pants-subway-ride prank becomes a shared experience, and how that changes the meaning of the experience for the woman involved.

What does it look like when a book becomes a shared experience? how does this change the experience for the readers? How can we achieve this sort of thing?

I LOVE this practice of creating a public scene that is a positive experience. Of trying to make people's day a little brighter, a little more funny.

Next week, we will look at what one person thinks this kind of psychological solution can mean for us as a whole. (Stay tuned!)

Did you enjoy the pranks? What was your favorite? Was your experience heightened at all since you could hear the laughter of the TED audience as they watched it? And, do you agree that we need to play, just to play sometimes?

Oh, and I would love for you to support Natalie Bahm and our write-a-thon for a family in need. Please consider joining the write-a-thon, buying a book, or sponsoring me! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing with Heart and Purpose: A Write-a-thon Release for Natalie Bahm's THE SECRET UNDERGROUND

Write with Heart.
So, I have a proposition for you.

One that involves:

1. Putting words to page. (You know, that essential business of butt-in-chair writing.)
2. Involving your friends and loved ones in the process. (Sometimes a challenge.)
3. Doing something good for child in need. (Because this matters.)
4. Being part of a community. (We are a stronger community when we care.)

And, even though this event is tailored for writers, you don't have to be a writer to participate. You just have to be able to write.

That's all good, right?

Watch this, from author Natalie Bahm:

Can't view the trailer? Here's a link.

Natalie has, amazingly, decided to donate all profits of her middle grade book, THE SECRET UNDERGROUND to Jayden and his family. To help out with at least one of the monumental burdens of caring for an ill child. Read her explanation here.

Amazing, right?!

I feel completely blessed to have healthy children. I feel the need to pass that blessing along, in any way I can.

Check out Jayden's story here.

Let's rally around Jayden, Jayden's family, and Natalie as her book is released. This is how we'll do it:

1. Pledge to write during the write-a-thon on September 28th, the release day for THE SECRET UNDERGROUND. (If you can't do it that day, rather than forego the event, you may do it during a 24 hour time span which suits you.)

2. Sign up on the linky list on the bottom of this post.

3. Open the attachment that I email to you. This is your pledge sheet. Print it out. In the next two weeks, have friends, family and fellow writers pledge amounts for each word you write, pledge to buy a book, or pledge to donate whatever they would like.

4. On September 28th, open up a blank document, and put words to paper. Visit and cheer on other writers doing the Write with Heart event. Write whatever you want. It can be a letter, a poem, a novel. Anyone can do this. :) It'll be a community writing day!

5. Send an e-mail to your sponsors after the event, letting them know how much you wrote, and reminding them to use the donate link on Jayden's blog to send in their donations.

Easy as pie, right? Together, we can make a real difference in this family's life.

Want to help out by buying Natalie's book? Go here.

Sign up, spread the word, and grab some sponsors.

I might just drum up some prizes for most words that day! E-mail me if you would like to donate prizes, or if you have any questions at all. :) hegkelly (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks, everyone!

Click through the link below to enter, so I can e-mail you a pledge sheet, and so others can find your blog and spur you on during the write-a-thon!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Janet Echelman with Taking Imagination Seriously

As writers we take inspiration from everywhere.

Today's TED talk is about how a happy misfortune changed the life of an artist. I dare you to not be inspired by Janet's fluid sculptures.

Here's the description:
Janet Echelman found her true voice as an artist when her paints went missing -- which forced her to look to an unorthodox new art material. Now she makes billowing, flowing, building-sized sculpture with a surprisingly geeky edge. A transporting 10 minutes of pure creativity.
For me, this TED talk is a beautifully visual representation of taking the creative process from novice to master. Check it out:

Can't view the talk on the blog? Here's the link.

Do you see your creative journey taking a road similar to hers? Have you found that obstacles moved you in certain directions that you would not have originally gone? Have there been any happy mistakes in your career? What do you see in Janet's sculptures? Are you inspired yet?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Triathlon Post I Wasn't Planning On Posting

I wasn't planning on talking much (or at all) about my triathlon over the weekend. But someone requested a visual. :)

Plus, one of the pictures I posted to Facebook got lost or something. I don't know. I can rarely find my own wall over there, so consider the source. :)

So, here's what happened. My friend hatched a plan to compete in an all women's title nine triathlon. I agreed to go along. We trained. We trained more, sometimes with other lovely ladies. Then we all went on vacations during the summer. Tried to keep up with the training. We got very nervous. Didn't sleep at all the night before.

Then we did the darn thing. :)

And it was AWESOME. I think I caught a triathlon bug. Can't wait for the next one.

Here's what I learned:

1. Don't go it alone.

Being held accountable for your workouts (or writing) is how this stuff gets done. Maybe you are good at holding yourself accountable, but I am not.

The lovely ladies who kept me honest with training
I thought it was hilarious to take a picture under the RUN OUT sign. Pre-race humor is known to be a little bizarre. Which brings us to:

2. Keep it light.

We got into the water, moments before the starting gun, and realized that the water was warmer than the air. I joked, "Someone's been peeing, people!" Again, not crazy witty, but the levity and laughter helped with the last minute jitters. (I love meeting writers in person and laughing over how difficult this career can be. NESCBWI here we come!)

3. A cheer is an awesome thing.

It was an all women's race, and camaraderie was big. Lots of cheering between the athletes on the course. Which kept spirits high. (Have you cheered on another writer today? Cheesy, I know. But seriously, have you?)

4. Sometimes you have to put on your game face and get the job done. But you can't do it without support.

My game face.
What you don't see in this picture is that my three kids are jumping up and down, raring to give me a high five. My eldest child ran with me on portions of the run, and my youngest almost knocked me over in her exuberance to see me right before the finish line. Their enthusiasm spurred me to go faster.  My husband yelled louder than anyone else. :) And my mom traveled miles and miles to see my race. (Have you said thanks recently to your writing supports?)

5. If you don't take the risk, you don't get the reward.

My friend Kyla with me after the race. 
Competing in a triathlon was a big risk--something I had never done before. It takes tremendous work. No excuses. Training was mandatory. Just as we tell writers to put butt in chair, my friends and I clocked lots of miles on the roads, in the pool, and out in the lake. We took it one mile at a time--sometimes we took it one step or stroke at a time. And not only did we finish, but we finished well.

6. Take yourself seriously enough to do it right. 

I give Kyla all the credit for this gem. Once she roped me into signing up for the triathlon, she then asked a trainer to add a new class at the local Y to help us train. (A shout-out to the awesome trainer, Amelia!) Having a trainer upped our game, gave us confidence and new skills, and got us to the next level in our ability to compete. (If you can find a mentor for your writing, someone who is ahead of you, in terms of skills, then it is much easier to bring yourself to that next level.) 

7. Learn. Do it again. 

Already, I want to do the whole thing again. I want to train harder. I want to try harder. I want to use what I know to do even better than I did in my first one. 

And isn't that what it is all about?

Friday, September 7, 2012

TED Talk Response: Tom's Take On Gaming

Today's TED response comes from a wonderful blogger and writer. If you don't know and follow Tom Frankin, then what are you waiting for? I love that when he posts on his blog, he does so because he has something authentic and relevant to share. His post last week on the importance of honest reviews was especially compelling. Check it out, give the guy a follow, and then come back and see what Tom has to say about Jane McGonigal's TED talk on the importance of gaming.

Take it away, Tom! 

"The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play."
Theodore Sturgeon, from "Shore Leave(Star Trek S1E16) 
[as spoken by Captain James T. Kirk]

I love playing board games. My first games were simple roll and move games like King of the Hill and The Winnie the Pooh Game, and Trouble ("Popamatic pops the dice/pop a six and you move twice!") where you roll a die or pick a card and move where the die/card tells you to move.  

Around the age of nine puzzles started to fascinate me and games with puzzle-like elements became my favorites: Scan, and Score Four are games I still have in my collection. 

 Games were this awkward kid's way of interacting with friends and adults.  

I liked the idea of going one-on-one with them on a neutral playing field in a setting where athleticism was irrelevant and brain power was everything. 

 I was about ten when I saw the first Pong game.  (For those of you too young to know what Pong was, that simple blip being bounced back and forth between two moving lines was the first bit of pixellated gaming to crawl out of the primordial videogame ooze.)  

In my early twenties I was feeding quarters into DigDug, Defender, and Tempest machines.  But those were pixels, not pieces; consoles, not communication.

"Monopoly, Twenty-one, Checkers, and Chess (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)

....Let's play Twister, let's play Risk (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)"
 REM "Man on the Moon" (on "Automatic for the People")

I like video games -- don't get me wrong.  I just don't get the same mental workout from a video game that I tend to get from a board game.  I also don't get the same level of contact with other people through playing a video game. 

 For Jane McGonigal, gaming was a vital part of her healing process.  By creating her own game she turned a crippling situation into a challenge.  By getting her twin sister to play along, she expanded the game and started building a community around it. And that, to me, is the biggest difference between video gaming and board gaming.  Solitare games are fine, but to be truly meaningful, I think games need to bring people together, not keep them separate. 

 So, without further ado, here is: 
Tom's Highly Biased List of Gaming Axioms (with Examples)

Gaming Should Be Social.  A good game is where you can sit down and explore new situations and experiences with friends and family.  You can learn about each other and yourself as you compete with one another.   Try Settlers of Catan, Ingenius, or Agricola.

Games Should Level the Playing Field.  If you're an adult, try playing Gulo Gulo with your kids (their smaller fingers will give them a distinct advantage).  Heck, even Go has a centuries-old handicapping system that allows newer players to be competitive with more experienced players. 

Games Don't Have to be Expensive.  BoardGameGeek, my favorite site about games, has a wonderful list of Print and Play games that are not only good games, but beautifully done.  Cheapass Games allows you to print out their games for free, although donations are welcomed. 

Games Don't Have to Take All Day to Play.  Hey, That's My Fish! takes 10-15 minutes.  Quarto! takes five. Boardgames Don't Need a Board.  Hive, Zertz, Fjords, Carcassone -- these games have pieces, but don't need a board to be played. Games Don't Have to be Competitive.  There have been some great cooperative games in the past few years.  These are games where you don't play against each other, you work together to defeat the game.  (Pandemic is my favorite, although I've heard good things about Space Alert)

Playing Online Can Be a Great Way to Keep Up With Faraway Friends.  I've been playing Pente online with an old friend for years.  We keep in touch through the comments section on each game. offers a wide selection of games, all with comment sections, too. 

What are your favorite games?  Why do you play them?  What kinds of games do you like to play and why?

Oh, boy, thanks for the walk down memory lane, Tom. Pong was our first computer(?) TV(?) game. And I remember putting quest-type game tapes (actual tapes) into the tape deck attached to our computer. And Atari! Oh, and dungeons and dragons. Do people still play that? They've probably morphed into the online role-playing crowd. :)

My favorite all-time game is rubik's race. But only because I am unbeatable. It's a slide puzzle you play with an opponent. I challenge you to try to beat me. I double-dog-dare you. :)

I can't wait to hear your favorite games and why you like to game. And, feel free to continue to reference Jane's TED talk, in addition to answering Tom's questions. :) Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Jane McGonigal with The Game That Can Give You Ten Extra Years of Life

So, this week is the first week of school for my kids, and in honor of that, I'm going to present a TED talk which gets my kids (and me) excited!

Here's the description:
When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience -- and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life.

Can gaming change the way we think about real life problems? The way we cope with big and little stresses? Can it improve our lives?

Let's hear from Jane:

Can't view video on the blog? Here's the link. 

I love this. I would love to see the stigma reduced on responsible gaming. I love to play games. I feel better when I take some time out to have fun. And it does change the way I think about my writing, in the very least.

I think it is fascinating that she actually used the framework of gaming to heal herself in real life.

What do you think? Are you going to let your kids play more games? Are you a gamer? What games do you prefer?

Can you think about applying these gaming skills to something in your life which you are struggling with? That mountain of laundry? That illness? That task that seems too daunting to take on?