Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Murray Scholars Reception 2007

This past weekend I traveled to the beautiful desert city of La Quinta, CA, to attend the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation Scholarship Reception. I was one of seven college students across the nation honored with this award for college journalism, which was one of the biggest highlights of my life thus far.

This award also had a great deal of personal significance. I have grown up reading Jim Murray and he is one of my idols. When my dad was a college senior -- just one year older than I am now! -- he wrote Jim Murray a letter asking for advice about being a sportswriter. Jim wrote back, a thoughtful, page-long, handwritten letter. One of the things he wrote in that letter I now have taped above my writing desk:

"If you are meant to be a writer, you will be. Nothing can stop a writer from writing. Not even Hitler could do that."

Jim Murray also inspired me with his kindness towards others and the way he captured humanity in all of his writings. As Rick Reilly wrote: "Jim could have written about anything -- sports just got lucky."

I feel so lucky to now be a part of the Murray Scholar Family! I also have tremendous gratitude to Linda McCoy-Murray, Jim's widow, who is one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever met. She is so energetic, passionate, and kind -- along with keeping Jim Murray's legacy alive, she has raised nearly half a million dollars for these college scholarships. She is a human dynamo with a heart bigger than Kobe Bryant's ego!


Top: Here is a picture of me with Jim Murray's legendary typewriter. (You have to press down on the keys very forcefully -- so different from touch-typing on computers these days!)

Middle: Here I am with Luc Robitaille, former LA Kings player who was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is such a genuinely nice person!

Bottom: With my idol Linda McCoy-Murray.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Opportunity for Young Readers

If any of you are interested in giving feedback to an author of an amazing, soon-to-be published book, check out the info below from my writing buddy Donna:

Youth Dream Team

If you are a young person who loves to read please visit my website for my novel, The Loose End of the Rainbow. I invite you to become a member of my Youth Dream Team. The story was written to inspire readers of all ages, but especially teens and young adults. The story is fantasy-fiction.

If you read my manuscript I will put your supportive quote on my website with your photograph and a short summary about you. You must email me your short summary and a web-quality photograph with your quote.

As soon as the book is published I will send you a free copy, of course. If you print out the manuscript please do not discard it without shredding the pages. If you are under eighteen I must have written permission from your parent or legal guardian. Everyone under eighteen will be listed without their city and last name.

Your quote does not have to be super long. I want to know what you think, in your own words.

Warmest Regards,
Donna B. Pacini
The Loose End of the Rainbow:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Talking to Students about Writing

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to speak to the eighth grade classes at Windemere Middle School. The students were a terrific audience -- listening attentively as I read a story from my book, asking insightful and interesting questions, and volunteering when I asked them questions. They even made a banner welcoming me to their school!

Talking to students is one of my favorite things -- they never fail to inspire me with their passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity about life. I think it is an important thing for writers -- or anyone! -- to remember: what made you fall in love with your passion in the first place? Sometimes I get wrapped up in the tedium and solitude of writing and the constant struggle to revise and make my work better. But after talking to a classroom full of kids about my writing process and what I love about writing, it re-opens my own eyes to the wonder and magic of the written word.

At the beginning of my talk, I always ask the students: "How many of you like to write?" Usually, a few shy hands raise. At the end of my talk, I ask the same question, and usually a lot more hands raise -- my own hand included. Talking to kids about my writing journey reminds me how blessed I am to be doing something I truly love.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines

I've long been a believer in the importance of deadlines, but I've come to accept there is a difference between self-imposed deadlines and deadlines imposed by someone else -- for example, homework deadlines. I was assigned to write a 20-page short story for my English class, and even though my week was busy with midterm exams and I came down with a nasty cold, I found time to finish my story by the 9 a.m. deadline today. I'm sad to admit, if it hadn't been assigned as homework, I probably would have let other work get in the way -- and my story wouldn't even be half-way done yet.

I set goals and deadlines for myself every week, and often I meet them. But the truth is, it's easy during a busy or difficult week -- or when I'm suffering from writer's block, or am feeling uninspired -- to push back deadlines I set myself. I had writer's block when I was working on my story for English class, but since I had to get it done by this morning, no if's, and's or but's about it -- my writer's block was no excuse. I pushed through and got it done.

So, how can you turn self-imposed deadlines into real, accountable ones? Tell someone else about them. I share my writing goals with my dad -- and now I'm going to share my deadlines with him, too. If my dad's expecting another 1,000 words of my novel by Monday, you can bet I'll do my very best to get those words written and in his email inbox! After all, I hate to disappoint him. The best part is I'm the real winner -- because I'll be the ones checking off my writing goals, deadline by deadline.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Interview on Writing World

Check out my interview on! Thanks to Eugie Foster for asking such insightful questions ~

Friday, September 14, 2007

Back to School

Well, if you hadn't guessed from my lack of blog posts the past month (sorry!) I'm back at school -- and back to homework, term papers, and tests. But I'm still trying to find at least ten minutes every day to write. Ten minutes may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over the course of the week to more than an hour. Also, I often end up writing for more than ten minutes once I get into my "writing mode." So what if I miss the re-run "Friends" episode my roommates are watching in the living room?

That said, I've discovered there is a balance. I could lock myself in my room and write for hours every evening, but instead I've decided to become involved in a variety of organizations and volunteer groups I'm passionate about. I've befriended a mentally challenged high school student named Ronald through the "Best Buddies" program at USC and I visit him once a week -- he is one of the most caring and creative individuals I've ever met. I also tutor elementary schoolers in reading and math and am a counselor for a cabin of ten adorable third-grade girls through the USC Troy Camp organization. These girls inspire me with their optimism and energy, and remind me to enjoy the simple things in life, like an ice cream cone at the park on a sunny day, or laughing over silly jokes with your friends.

I plan to write for the rest of my life. I only have two years of college left. A large part of writing, I think, is going out and living your life, meeting people, putting yourself out there and amassing experiences to use in your writing later. And it's working, for me at least -- I'm constantly jotting down ideas for new stories, characters, and articles. Now I'm off for my daily dose of writing ...

Monday, August 6, 2007

In England, Literature Held in High Esteem

I am really enjoying my classes here; they're a bit smaller than my classes at USC. My Elizabethan poetry class has about 12 students, and my Shakespeare class has only 5! The Shakespeare one especially feels more like a discussion with the professor rather than being lectured by him -- which is quite neat, as he is brilliantly insightful and is considered one of the world's leading Shakespeare experts. We actually get off-topic a lot and talk about differences between English and American culture, which is very fascinating. Apparently in England, studying English literature is considered "top of the top" while studying sciences like Biology or Engineering is, according to my professor, "for people who are a bit thick." Certainly different from the United States, where some people roll their eyes at English majors, and writers have to defend themselves to nay-sayers who scoff that writing isn't a "real" profession. It was refreshing to hear that in other parts of the world, writers are held in high esteem!

Then again, this is the homeland of Harry Potter, where J.K. Rowling is the wealthiest woman second only to the Queen herself -- a writer who is also a full-fledged celebrity. However much you like (or dislike) the HP books and all their hype, I think it is incredibly inspiring to see the world get so excited about reading. I rode the train into London the weekend after the 7th book was released, and at least half of my fellow commuters had their noses buried in "Deathly Hallows." I can't remember another time when reading has been such a communal experience -- when you can go up to a stranger and strike up a conversation about a book that everyone is reading. I tip my hat to Ms. Rowling, with a congratulations and also with a thank you for reminding the world, in the face of video games and movies and computers, how much fun reading can be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cheerio from Cambridge!

I've been here in England for ten days, and I am in already love with it here! The cobblestone streets, the amazing spired churches and old ivy-covered brick buildings, the market at the city center with stalls selling fresh-baked bread and rich ripe fruit ... one of my professors said about English weather, "We get all four seasons in one day!" and I have found that very true. This morning it was sunny and warm, then it began to drizzle and then there was about ten minutes of heavy downpour, and now it is afternoon and the skyis a cloudless blue.

I am taking two English literature courses here at Cambridge: one one Elizabethan poetry and another on the tragic figure in Shakespeare's plays. I am enjoying both courses immensely -- my professors are brilliant yet also very attuned to their students and lead tremendously insightful class discussions, relating the work we read to events across the span of history and into the present day. I leave each class feeling so inspired, even if it is a drizzly gray day outside. I've been trying to take time to write every day ... if it is sunny, I like to take a notebook out to the garden and spend some time there. This past weekend I went into London with some friends, and spent a very pleasant morning writing and people-watching in Hyde Park. To think of all the great writers who have walked these English footpaths! I feel so very lucky to be here. I have also discovered anew how inspiring nature can be, and even when I return home I plan to spend more time writing outdoors. I think a change of scenery once in a while does wonders for the creative process.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite place to write? Do you ever write outdoors? I'd love to hear your comments!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I'm spending a month studying English literature at Cambridge University. My blog posts might be a tad sporadic for the next four weeks, depending on what my level of Internet access is. I'm looking forward to sharing stories of my overseas adventures with you!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Every year, my family goes up to my Gramps's house on the 4th of July. He lives up on a hill and his backyard has a gorgeous view of the entire city -- and, on this night, the fireworks show. It is one of my favorite holidays because it is not as hectic a gathering as Thanksgiving or Christmas; in the languid summer heat, we spend more time simply sitting around and telling stories. I especially love my Gramps's stories about growing up in a small farm town in Ohio. Many of them later find their way into my own writing, in one form or another.

Who are your favorite family storytellers? Do you have friends or family members who might have great stories to tell, if only someone -- you -- took the time to listen?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Publication opportunity!

I wanted to let everyone know about this fabulous opportunity to get published in a Chicken Soup book -- you get to see your words in print AND pocket $200! Here's the announcement passed along to me from Christine, the book's editor:

Hello! Want an opportunity to make $200 and be published in a national best selling brand?
I am co-authoring Chicken Soup for the Twenty-Something Soul and this is an URGENT call out for stories, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A TWENTY-SOMETHING TO CONTRIBUTE!!

I am co-authoring Chicken Soup for the Twenty-Something Soul with Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen which is a very exciting project for me. In a time when people like Paris Hilton are representing twenty-something life, it is my mission to bring more real-life, inspirational and moving stories to twenty-something's! I am looking for stories about the twenty-something experience told from any perspective.

What does the story need to be about?
Any story about twenty-something life (career, relationships, family, money, life lessons, fate, travel, risks, acts of kindness, challenges, coincidences, tragedies, etc) is welcome. A Chicken Soup story will touch the souls of the readers and make them laugh, cry, sigh or just say, "Wow!" A story can be told from any angle: reflecting back on your own experience, being a part of someone else’s twenty-something experience, or sharing a story about how a twenty-something has impacted you. I KNOW you have a story in you!

What YOU will receive if your story is selected:
  • $200
  • A bio (if desired) giving you the opportunity to promote yourself, your business, a cause, etc. in a NATIONALLY BEST-SELLING BRAND.
  • A free copy of the book, and 50% off the book for eternity.
  • The opportunity to inspire and touch millions of people
It's that easy. You can also submit a story that has already been published elsewhere and/or can publish it in the future. Chicken Soup does NOT ask to own the rights to your story, but does require your permission.

Details on What to Do Next:
  1. Go to and read the “Story Guidelines” which outlines the recipe for a winning Chicken Soup Story.
  2. Write your story – approximate word limit is 300-1200 words (but I'll edit it for you so don't worry about being exact or fabulously well-written!)
  3. Go to, click on "Submit a Story" and be sure to select "Twenty Something" as the book title. Fill out the info and just paste your story in the appropriate box.
  4. Send me an email and let me know that you did this so I can thank you!
Due Date
I really need stories ASAP – July 6th is my first submission date so the sooner you submit your story, the better. Final submission date is August 15th.

Questions? Need more info?
Please contact me at

Monday, July 2, 2007

Haven't been able to find as much time as I would like to write the past couple of days, in between unpacking from the writers conference and re-packing for my trip to England. (On Saturday I'm leaving for Cambridge for a month where I'll be taking two English classes, exploring the countryside, and writing till my pen runs dry!) Today I squeezed in a phone interview with a delightful woman named Sim Carter from 805Living magazine -- they're writing an article about me for an upcoming issue. I loved talking with Sim -- it felt more like a conversation with a friend than a structured, stilted interview. One of my favorite parts of the writing life is promotion, because I get to meet so many people and make new friends and writing buddies. Thursday I get to have a "photo shoot" for the article -- the editor said she'll call me tomorrow and fill me in on "location and wardrobe" for the shoot. It sounds so Hollywood! :)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Home from SBWC!

I returned home yesterday afternoon from the week-long Santa Barbara Writers Conference! This was my second year as Coordinator of the Young Writers Program, a smaller segment of the Conference featuring special events for teen writers. This year we had 20 young writers, about double the number from last year, and I hope the program will continue to grow. I was continually amazed by the creativity, eloquence, compassion, insightful comments, and writing skills of the young writers. In a couple years they will be taking the writing world by storm!

The Santa Barbara Writers Conference is one of my favorite events of the year because I get to spend an entire week with other writers, people who "get" me. They, too, talk about their fictional characters as if they are real people. They understand the anxiety of being a hundred pages into a story and still a hundred more pages away from the end. And they, too, have experienced the magic of delving inside your own head and getting lost and finally glancing over at the clock to realize hours and hours have passed and it's now 2 in the morning. I would really recommend that every writer check out a writers conference, because along with getting feedback on your writing and schmoozing with editors and agents, you also get to meet other writers who are going through the same things you are. Writing is such a solitary and isolated endeavor that I think it is crucial to have writing friends, people who can empathize and who you trust to give you honest feedback on your work. I made many friends this week, and I am so grateful to be a part of this conference every year!