Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Malcolm Gladwell Talks About CHOICE, HAPPINESS, and SPAGHETTI SAUCE

Today's TED talk, by author Malcolm Gladwell, is lengthy but worth the watch. I find his reasoning to be spot-on for helping me create a healthy querying mindset. He's not talking about writing, either. He's talking about how his friend Howard Moscowitz systematically and scientifically studied what makes people passionate about food.

It's really hard to see our writing with professional detachment, but we all know our feelings about coffee, Pepsi, and spaghetti sauce.

It all comes down to taste.

Your manuscript cannot be the perfect Pepsi. There is no perfect Pepsi. There are only perfect Pepsis.

Intrigued? Watch and see why your book can't, and shouldn't, be loved by all your crit partners, all agents, the whole general public.

Take it away, Malcolm Gladwell!

Can't view Malcolm's talk: Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce? Watch it here.

My takeaways?

1. People don't know what they want, but it is our job as writers to give it to them anyway. :)

2. "There is no perfect mustard or imperfect mustard. There are only different kinds of mustards that suit different kinds of people." Once you have perfected your manuscript, there will be crit partners/agents/readers, who don't like it. It doesn't mean that your manuscript isn't awesome.

It may mean that your manuscript is old world tomato sauce, and that the people you have been showing it to prefer spaghetti sauce with tons of visible solids. :) Your job as a writer is to use all your clues to find the crit partners/agents/readers who prefer the taste of spaghetti sauce with visible solids and see what they think of your manuscript.

We don't have the time to create different versions of our manuscripts. So we need to be specific when we search for our audience.

I have to add a personal caveat here--and that's that I do find value in receiving a crit from someone who doesn't read in my genre. As long as I know their tastes going in, it is extremely useful to me to hear their feedback.

3. It's all about taste. I know this on some level and have been told this in different ways along my career. But comparing books to food REALLY brings this idea home to me. We need to study and embrace human variability--embrace the diversity--in order to find the fans which will love the taste of our book. I don't want to write a book which appeals in a mediocre way to all. I want to create a book which is loved by some.

So, what do you think? Does this idea make it easier to think, when facing a rejection from an agent, that that agent prefers the taste of Pepsi and your manuscript is a Coke?

(Of course we need to make sure our Coke is the best tasting Coke it can be.)

What are your takeaways from this TED talk? What do you do when you are faced with a crit from someone who clearly doesn't like your book? How do you find your true audience? How do you handle the querying process? How do you deal with the rejections?

I will be the first to admit that I love weak, milky coffee (preferably with a nutty flavor). 

I'm so hungry for some spaghetti smothered in garlic mushroom Prego sauce. I think I'll go make some. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Evolution of Community and Laura Tells Us How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings

*dusting off the blog* *cough* 
Phew. :)

It's been a while since I blogged. I've missed hanging out here and in your virtual living rooms! Slowly, I'm going to get back into it. Being a part of this blogging community really supports me. 

And when I'm away, I'm plugged into other community--in this case, I circled the wagons of my crit partners. In my writing life, I'm putting the finishing touches on my revision and hoping to query shortly. Revision is an interesting beast for me, one which I am happily taming. This time around I needed to focus on that process and take a break from the blogging.

My writing community used to be chiefly blog-based. From this wonderful community, I found writers close to me in proximity and writers (in virtual proximity) willing to be AMAZING crit partners. Now I'm even looking for local writers to go in on office space, something similar to Writers' Room Boston, but unique and in the 'burbs. Give me a shout-out if you are interested--it's going to be a kick-butt community space. :) 

So, I apologize if I haven't been a part of your circle of support recently. I would love to know what you've been working on!

My good friend Laura Pauling has been very busy--her new book How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings came out recently.

I'm so excited for Laura, I invited her here to tell us a little about why she chose to write a girl's adventure story. I love strong female characters, especially since #myboysreadgirlbooks.   (Oh, and #mygirlreadsboybooks.) Sometime those hashtags will CATCH ON. :)

Wait, I need to throw up a banner before Laura gets here. 
*getting out virtual glue* *standing on ladder* *sluurp*

There! It's official. :)
Welcome, Laura! Tell us a little about your book.
Published by Pugalicious Press
 When Bianca and Melvin brave the jungle to rescue their grandfather, they stumble upon the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years. They must learn to work together as they face loincloth-wearing skeletons from the underworld, a backstabbing princess, and an ancient prophecy that says in three days the city will be destroyed. No problem. They’ll find Zeb and zip right out of there. The fact that a crazy king wants to serve Bianca up to the gods as an appetizer is just a minor technicality. But this ancient evil dude has finally met his match. 

Writing adventure stories for girls. 

When I started writing, I had no desire to write a story about a girl in elementary school dealing with typical problems. Not that those aren’t needed or good books, but I saw a lack of books starring girls that struck out on adventure. Usually they’re the sidekick. Maybe that has to do with marketing. I’m sure there are reasons. Or maybe girls really do prefer reading about everyday life and struggles with their friendships. Not me. I long for adventure. I did as a reader too. That’s why I made a girl the main character in my time travel adventure. I truly believe boys will enjoy this story just as much. Bianca’s cousin, Melvin, accompanies her on her adventure, so I didn’t leave the boys out!

So how did I add girl power to the adventure?
  • Bianca discovers the clues about her missing grandfather.
  • In Tikal, an ancient Maya city, she’s the one to make the decision to sneak out at night.
  • She fights Maya skeletons from the underworld and cunning enemies that try and trick her every step of the way.
  • Together, Bianca and Melvin fight in an ancient battle.
  • And in the end, she faces death with no escape route.
But, she is a girl. Woo hoo! I carefully wove in details about friendships and the challenges of relationships. For Bianca to discover truth about friendships, she had to experience the adventure. I tried to balance the struggles of contemporary middle grade for girls but in the backdrop of a time travel adventure. Hope you enjoy it!

Thanks, Heather, for having me today!

How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings released in November. Pugalicious Press did a fantastic job, and I’m extremely happy with the results. This book would make a fantastic gift for boys or girls who enjoy adventure stories with lots of excitement! You can purchase it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can read the first chapter here. Thankfully, my journey is just beginning and I’m excited to see where it leads. Click here for the list of blog tour stops! Enter to win these prize packages!

Prize Package One (signed paperbacks)

Prize Package Two (signed paperbacks)

Prize Package Three

  Refresh the page if you can't see the Rafflecopter form! a Rafflecopter giveaway

You're welcome, Laura! The book sounds fascinating--one that I am sure I (and my boys and girl) will love.

So, make sure to enter Laura's giveaway, and check out her other blog tour stops.

I know Laura first from blogging, and second from NESCBWI, and her blog is a must-read. She analyzes the how-to of writing in wonderfully enlightening ways. And she is kind and supportive. If you want to read more about behind-the-scenes-Laura, I interviewed her way back in 2010.

So, what have you been up to recently? Please let me know. And if you want to link to a blog post about it in the comments, I'll be sure to stop by and say hello! Do you crave office space in order to write? What works for you? Do your #boysreadgirlbooks? Have I asked enough questions yet? :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Stephen Ritz Grows Green in the Bronx

Stephen Ritz might be one of the most energetic people out there. I'm posting this TED talk today because he embodies what I feel like when I get home from a conference.

I spent the weekend with lovely Richmond writers.

With George Tisdale, who insists that I switch over to Scrivener. I think I shall. :) Thanks, George, for being awesome.

With Vernon Wildy, who is super friendly, kind and all kinds of interesting.

With Rosemary Rawlins, who I admire so much for her grace in putting herself and her work out there. (She speaks about support for care-givers--I would recommend her highly, if anyone is looking for a presenter.)

With Kelsie, who is not from Virginia, but from Seattle. And sweet and cheerful and awesomely funny.

I also heard Tom Robbins speak (appropriately lewd and frank :)), followed Colleen Lindsay to all her workshops (she really has her finger on the pulse of the publishing industry), and pitched to Molly Jaffa (she is truly delightful, intelligent, graceful and kind. Unexpectedly, I was overcome by anxiousness and had some difficulty making words come out of my mouth, but I think it went okay. I had thought I was past the putting-agents-on-the-pedestal thing, but speaking about my Project always makes me wig out a bit. I'm going to have to practice that.)

And, I got to hang out with Erica Orloff, one of my favorite people on the planet. Serious. Favorite. :)

Why do I go to this conference in Richmond? Well, my husband gave me the birthday present of going to see Erica last year, and Erica gave me the birthday present of suggesting I come down during the conference. :)

I love the James River Writer's Conference. Everyone is so friendly. It's a conference with a small town feel. People are gracious and kind, and come from all walks of writing. It's been such a gift for me to attend the last few years.

And, now I feel like this (I dare you to not be inspired!):

Can't see the video? Here's the link. 

All of this talk is amazing. But I love that Stephen says that he is not a farmer, and yet, look what he did.

Green graffiti! Zero miles to plate. Kids pollinating plants instead of each other. Intellectual viagra! Everything to gain and nothing to lose.

What could we accomplish, if we attacked it with this kind of zeal and energy while staying open to opportunity?

Let us all be as crazy as Stephen Ritz.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Nigel Marsh with Work-Life Balance

First let me say thank you to everyone who celebrated Natalie's book birthday with us on Friday--what fun that was!

Second, when your child tells you that he put the ice cream away in the refrigerator, don't just assume he meant freezer. Check.

Okay, now that we have the business end of things out of the way, let me introduce today's TED talk.
Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity -- and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.
I love this:
If you don't design your own life, someone else will....
And this:
We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life. 
And his conclusion--his example of being present in his own life and how small investments are the key.

Can't see the TED talk? Watch it at TED.com

How do you balance work and life? Do you have routines or trade secrets which allow you to invest your energy in the areas where you will get the most valuable results? Does where you spend your time align with your values and goals?

Is ice cream okay after twenty-four hours in the fridge?

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: http://editedtowithinaninchofmylife.blogspot.com/2012/09/writing-with-heart-and-purpose-write.html

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.  Boardspace.net 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?


Friday, August 31, 2012

If You're Gonna Be Somebody, Be Mike Birbiglia

Okay, so, you're probably thinking to yourself, "if I'm gonna be somebody, shouldn't I be me?"

I would argue no.

Not in this case. I'll tell you why:

1. Mike is great at what he does. He's a funny guy.

Video sticking? Bummer. Watch it here.

But he wasn't always so good (so he says, anyway. :))
He practiced and worked hard to hone his craft. He'll probably tell you he's still learning.

2. He's always cooking up something new.

He's not just a comedian. He writes books. He writes Off-Broadway plays. He stars in Off-Broadway plays. He acts in movies and television shows.

As you saw in the clip, he uses twitter, effectively!!, to promote himself and his products.

If you are a fan, like I am, there are many opportunities to stalk him to get your birbigs fix*. You can follow him on his blog, on twitter, and around the country for his tour. You can listen to him on the radio, on This American Life. You can buy his book and go see his brand new movie.

His fans are happy, are consumers of his products, and don't ever have to wait long to see what he comes up with next.

And what he comes up with may just be anything. I challenge you to be that creative in thinking about your professional life.

3. This dude is awesome.

Mike brings his family on tour with him--his brother and sister are commonly seen behind the scenes, selling his paraphernalia and managing things. Mike spends time meeting his fans and putting them at ease. He's always professional, and his message is always on target. He's consistently funny, self deprecating, and down to earth.

Because of his kindness, his fans are dedicated. Fans for life.

I challenge you to be Mike Birbiglia.

Learn to be great at what you do. Practice. Work hard. Keep trying new things. Give your fans new content as often as possible. Explore new ways to put yourself creatively out there. Be professional and kind.

And, come hang out with Mike and I tonight** *** at his movie, Sleepwalk With Me.

* I have to admit, it is my supremely awesome husband who continues to hook me up with tickets to Birbigs shows and events. Thanks, SK!
**Okay, so Mike might not actually be there in person.
***Mike, if you are in Cambridge, I'll be the girl in the blue hoodie with your John Hancock on the back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Elizabeth Gilbert on Nurturing Creativity

Welcome back to the blog! I took some time off during the summer. I apologize for anyone who stopped by for any of my regular features.

I'm back, and better for the time away.

I am starting a new blog series. Each week, I will post a TED talk which impacts my writing life, or life, in some way. Some of these, like this week's, will directly discuss writing. Some will get us thinking in other ways.

My hope is that the TED talks will inspire or stretch us in our thinking. My hope is that we will find more things to discuss. My hope is that they will spark us into some difference in our lives or in our writing.

My hope is that we will listen in a meaningful way and not just wait for our turn to talk.

Although, I would love it if you would take a turn to talk. Not everything in the talks will be things we will all agree on. Thank goodness for that! Discussion and differences breed new ideas and perspective.

Wow, I have lots of hopes, don't I?

As President Snow says, hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

And as writers, we tend to feed our fears.

Which brings me to our TED talk for today. In which Elizabeth Gilbert discusses fear, genius, and the importance of just showing up for work.

Can't see the embedded talk? View here.

So, do you believe your genius resides outside yourself? Have you ever had an experience like the poet described? Does this idea of external muse make you feel anxious? Does it make you feel relieved?

I'll get the ball rolling. I like the idea of just showing up. Of getting the work done. Whenever I do that, I see progress.

I also identified with those feelings of fear which Elizabeth describes.

The idea of muse as actual thing outside of us all made me cringe a little, but then I realized that I speak in those terms ALL THE TIME. I call it The Universe. As in, "I need to keep myself open to The Universe." "The Universe has provided the answer/opportunity/experience." It backs on my Faith and belief in miracles, and the idea that things will be provided for us when we need them.

Even in our writing.

What do you think?

OH, and I love her reference to Dobby, the house elf. :)

PS--After I decided to launch this blog series, I opened up this fortune:

See? The Universe is totally on board with the TED talks series. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Real Triathletes Don't Wear Socks

I was a rower in college. It is hard to find a group of people who *think* they are tougher than rowers. And who go out of their way to prove it.

That mindset makes normally sane people do crazy things.

Case and point: During spring break in college, as a favor, I coxed* a boat of burly guys. When they lifted the crew scull out of the water and up over their heads, a heavy wooden seat fell out of the boat, clunked me on the head, and dropped into the slimy lake water. My first reaction (of course) was to jump into the water and dive down to rescue the seat.

I was bleeding from my head. See? Dumbass. Stuff.

Every sport seems to have that crazy kind of badge of honor. Right now, I'm training for a sprint triathlon, and a trainer told me that "real triathletes don't wear socks." We all laughed, because we understood it. It's that weird, in-the-know thing for that particular sport. Of course real triathletes don't wear socks. Have you ever gotten out of the water, sprinted to your sneakers and bike, and stopped to try to put socks on your sandy, wet feet? It would kill your transition. :)

Writers are no different.

We all have those ways to explain to the outside world (or to ourselves) how tough writing is, and how hardcore we actually are, as writers. 

Real writers write 50k in November. (Oh, we're off to a controversial start!)
Real writers kill their darlings. (Painful!)
Real writers wallpaper their office with their rejection letters. (Beautiful decor.)
Real writers measure how long it takes to write a book in years, not days. (Sigh.)
Real writers aren't afraid to put their work out there. (Bigger sigh.)

Real writers meet blog friends irl, no matter how introverted they might pretend to be. :)
Kristen, Sarah, Madison, Matt, and Kelly
Anna, her better half Ray (my 8-yr-old's new best friend) and Chelsey
Real writers insist on taking pictures outside for better lighting. :)

And, real writers poke giant lizards in the eye.
Kristen and Matt
Real writers have an endless number of weird faces to fall back on for fan photos.

Anna. 'Nuff said.

Real writers know how to have a good time. :)
Me, Anna, Kristen, Madi, Matt, Sarah, and Chelsey
Matt, Anna (looking remarkably serious), Chelsey, and Madison
I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet Matt and some of his family (loved talking with Kelly and their daughter Madison who are all kinds of awesome), as well as some local writers--Kristen, Chelsey, Sarah and Anna.

Aren't those great pics? Don't you feel like you were there?

Anyway--what's your writing badge of honor? What's your equivalent to not wearing socks?

*Coxswains are people whose job is to yell. They yell all sorts of motivating stuff at rowers to make them row until they puke and their hands bleed. And coxswains steer the boat. I never learned how to steer. It was a bit of a bummer for everyone involved.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Minding the Gap

There is this gap between our expectations and reality. Sometimes it is just a crack in the sidewalk, other times, the grand canyon. I know that I need to mourn the gap. Mourn the difference between how I want things (in writing) to be, and how they are.

There is a Quote by Neil Gaiman. 

If you have had a Serious Writing Conversation with me, I have probably attempted to tell you about it. Neil says: 

Well, you never achieve everything you wanted to. It's the simple act of writing. You begin with a platonic ideal that is a shivering tower carved out of pure diamond, that is this pure thing that stands there unfouled by gravity and the weather. And then, the thing that you build is this thing that you have to build out of whatever is at hand and you use empty sushi boxes and chairs and get friends to hold it up and try to make it look like it's standing. And at the end of it, people look at it and they say, "It's amazing." And you say, "Yes, but if only I could have done the thing that is in my head."

I am acutely aware of how awesome my writing and ideas are--in my head. The fact that there is a huge discrepancy between how they are inside, rolling about my head, and how they are outside, in black and white, causes me some angst. 

Some very intelligent writers recently have been telling me that it is okay to feel this way. 

But this gap is painful.

And sometimes it is hard to get over.

Sometimes the gap is wide because our skill hasn't caught up with our potential.

Sometimes the gap is wide because we imagine the universe.

Sometimes the gap is wide because we want to hurry up and be done.

No matter why the gap is there, we must mind it. 

And that is hard.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jumping Into the Shark Tank or, All Those Most Important Things

It has been a little while since I posted a blog post. Sometimes that means that I am writing. Sometimes that means that life has gotten too hectic, in unexpected ways. This time it was the latter.

In the past few weeks my family has had some very big lows, accompanied by some very big highs.

The good news is that everyone is on the road to recovery, and that modern medicine is truly miraculous.

When life altering events occur, they always makes me take a look at what is important. Cliche, but there it is.

What I realized is that I have some amazing people in my life. A supportive network. But it goes beyond that.

I have people in my life who will not permit me to fail.

Even when I try very hard.


If you do not have people like that, go find them. Those people are out there for you. Do not settle for less.

Because in this business, all water slides lead to the shark tank. Would we want it any other way? What would success mean to us if it were easy?

Yup, that's Cowgirl and my dear husband in a tube in a shark tank. Did I mention we went to the Bahamas to see my sister get married?

What would you do today, if you knew you couldn't fail? Not just based on your own merit, but because you had the most beautiful, intelligent, funny, kind people holding you up.

Find someone like this guy. He would not let you fail. :)

What would you do?

I apologize for not being around to be supportive for YOU recently. I hope you know that if you need anything you can ask!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Feature: Tracy Wymer's THE COLOR OF BONES

I am so excited to bring you the news that Tracy Wymer's middle grade book, THE COLOR OF BONES is now out! You can check out his way-back-when (2010!) Friday Feature Interview here.

Here's what THE COLOR OF BONES is all about:

Twelve year-old Derby Shrewd lives in a divided town. Lights live on the Northside of the Line, Darks live on the Southside. Hillside has been that way ever since the Line appeared naturally from the ground, much like a spring welling up from deep inside the earth.

Now the Line controls the town, keeping Hillside separated, zapping those who come near it and killing those who dare cross it.

But when Derby, a Northsider, finds a pile of bones stacked on the Line, he sets out to uncover the person's identity. While doing so, he befriends a Southside girl and soon begins to challenge the Line and the town's rules. And then, before he can turn back, Derby goes too far.

Sounds awesome, doesn't it? 

It is. I've read it. :)

Here is Tracy's website, with all the links you will need to get a copy for yourself and to check out this wonderfully supportive kidlit writer. If you haven't followed Tracy's blog, he's a funny and honest blogger.

So, give Tracy some love, check out his novel, and have a fabulous weekend!

Woo-hoo! Congrats, Tracy!

Stop by here on Monday for my first Cone of Silence (in publication) discussion. :) 

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Spy Like Me, and Cone Of Silence Topics in Publishing

So, I apologize for being less than consistent with the blog posts recently--but you know what that means--I have been in the bat cave, writing. Woo-hoo! I hope that you all have been producing the words as well. 
I am planning on getting back into the regular schedule, with a twist. Mondays I am going to reserve for a discussion around CONE OF SILENCE topics in publishing and writing. You know--that stuff which people tend to not talk about in public, so they don't ruin their professional reputation. I have anonymous comments turned on, and everyone can weigh in with their experiences. I think it will be interesting. 

For today, though, a celebration!
You might have seen Laura Pauling in the pictures from the last post, about How Stalking Gets You Friends. Or from this interview she did for me a while back
Today, we're celebrating Laura's publication of her new YA spy book. I'm so excited for her! And, she's hosting a very cool blog series:
In celebration of the official release of A Spy Like Me, Laura Pauling is hosting a three-week blog series: A Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon. Woot! Woot!

Authors galore, guest posts and book giveaways almost every day!
Gemma Halliday, Cindy M. Hogan, Elizabeth Spann Craig,
Nova Ren Suma, Elisa Ludwig, and Anne R. Allen....Just to name a few!
And here's why she's celebrating!

Stripping your date down to his underwear has never been so dangerous.
After dodging bullets on a first date, Savvy must sneak, deceive and spy to save her family and friends and figure out if Malcolm is one of the bad guys before she completely falls for him.
Head on over to Laura’s blog for the start of the Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon. You won’t want to miss this sizzling series as we head into summer. Stock up on some great thrilling reads! If you dare…

I'll see you over at Laura's!

So, tell me, what CONE OF SILENCE topics would you like to discuss? It can be anything that is hush-hush. Let me know in the comment section! I'm thinking we'll start with publishing contracts. What do you think? 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Rewards of Being a Stalker, Or, What Happens When You Get Off the China Cabinet

I'm not Catholic, but I always experience a Catholic amount of guilt when things are going my way.

The passivity of that sentence belies how much space I put between myself and my successes--"when things are going my way."

The truth is that things don't just go my way. I make things go my way.

I bend the universe to my will. :)

Well, if I'm being terribly honest, it is more of a collaboration of sorts. The universe opens up opportunity, and I work my butt of to take advantage of that opening. In writing, for sure, but also in relationships with other writers.

I always feel guilt when I talk about the wonderful time I had at the NESCBWI conference. I know that not everyone has the opportunity to attend a conference. And I know that not everyone has cultivated the relationships which I have.

Some people are hanging out like this:

And, I get that. It's nice up there. Comfy. There's even a cat bed. One could hide up there and be all cozy, and say, "I don't have time to blog. Being up here, it's better for me just to focus on my writing. I don't need relationships with others to get my writing life to the next level. I'm afraid to put myself out there, and talk to _______ (fill in the blank with your scariest scenerio: an agent, a publisher, another writer, an author)."

At the conference, I met lots of wonderful people, some just starting out in this writing thing, and some from my established writing community. When people asked me how to start their own writing community, I had to think about how things had gotten rolling for me.

What I came up with was that I did a lot of stalking and supporting others. I actively grabbed people who I thought were kindred spirits, and I still spend a lot of time trying to figure out what will help get others to the next level. I never have the time to do everything that I wish I could, but I help when I can. I hope it's enough.

My advice? When you find someone you think is wonderful, stalk them. :)

Invite them to coffee (virtual or otherwise--gchat is a great coffeehouse). Email them. Tell them what you really think of them (people love to hear that you think they are awesome). Be honest. Be respectful. Comment on their blogs. Read their manuscripts.

Spend your time investing yourself into others and their careers.

Because this is awfully hard to do alone.

The proof that this works? I stalked this guy after following the amazing comments he left around the blogosphere. I up and asked this rock star to coffee (IRL) after saying something like, "I know you don't really know me--I'm really not an ax murderer." I asked this lovely lady, and this one, for help when I found it hard to put my butt in the chair. We write together, virtually, and IRL (love the local library). This amazing writer I stalked off of a comment she left on Nathan Bransford's blog. Talk about a needle in a haystack! And, I can't say enough about this brilliant writer, who I've been stalking since before I even started blogging.

We had an unbelievable time at the conference. Me and my stalkees:

Laura, Jennifer, me, Erinn, Ansha, Alicia
Nandini and Alicia

Kris, Laura, Ansha, and Jennifer
Thanks, everyone, for making NESCBWI12 unforgettable! I love you all.

I'm trying not to feel guilty about having such wonderful writers in my corner. Because I have worked hard to make it so. :)

When I get off the cabinet, and put in the hard work to maintain relationships, it feels like this:

Even cozier, right?

So, tell me, do you have any awesome stalking stories? Are you just starting out developing your own community? Were you at the NESCBWI? Have you considered stalking? :) Do you find it hard to get off the china cabinet?