Sunday, December 28, 2008

Article Published in Ventura County Star

I wrote a short piece about my experiences studying abroad in England, which was published today in my hometown newspaper. Perfect timing, as it was nearly a year ago -- January 7 -- when I left for my semester abroad in Norwich at the University of East Anglia.

Here's a link to the article:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Article on Trojan Entrepreneur

I published an article titled "Turning Disadvantages into Advantages" on the Trojan Entrepreneur website. My thoughts about building a successful business are also very true about writing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Guest on Radio Show

Recently I was honored to be a guest on The Homeschool Companion Radio Show to talk about the cartoon I write for Listen Magazine, "Windermere Blogosphere." I also talked with the delightful hosts Rose and Candy about following my passion, overcoming rejection and disappointment, and lessons I've learned through my nonprofit literacy foundation "Write On!". You can listen to the full interview at this link:

Big thanks to Rose, Candy, and my amazing editor Celeste Perrino-Walker!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Story Published in "Faith, Hope, and Fiction"

I wrote a story about my experience studying abroad in England last semester called "Learning from a Distance." It is featured this month in the wonderful e-zine "Faith, Hope, and Fiction" -- a delightful and inspiration-filled publication for everyone who loves stories that tug on the heartstrings. Check it out (and subscribe to this wonderful free monthly publication) at

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Ultimate Dog Lover Book

Wanted to let you all know that I have a story published in the just-released book The Ultimate Dog Lover. The book includes dozens of true, heartwarming stories about the special bond between people and dogs. It would be the perfect gift for any dog-loving people in your life!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Neat Writing Site

Who says writing is a solitary profession?

The people at "WeBook" think writing can -- and should -- be a fun, collaborative endeavor. The site features forums for writers to receive feedback on their work, avenues for readers to critique new writing, and provides a way for writers to work together, virtually, on projects. They even publish projects by "WeBook" authors!

Check it out:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Promises to Yourself

Whenever you begin a new chapter of your life -- a new school semester, a new job, a new year -- it is the perfect time to sit down and set some goals for yourself. What do you want to accomplish in the next six months? Where do you want to be? WHO do you want to be?

Also, make a list of promises to yourself. Promises to strive for health, balance, and happiness with every ounce of your being.

I read an apt quote by Annie Dillard the other day: "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

How are you spending your days -- and, thus, your life? It can also apply to your thoughts. How we spend our thoughts is how we spend our lives, as well. How would your characterize your thoughts and self-talk? Are you building yourself up or bringing yourself down?

Here are some promises I am making to myself this upcoming school year. Maybe they'll work for you, too:

- I will surround myself with positivity.
- I will think positive, supportive thoughts about myself and my dreams.
- I will surround myself with nurturing, driven, creative, optimistic, intelligent people of integrity, who love me for who I am and yet also push and inspire me to be better.
- I will, as John Wooden says, "make friendship a fine art," and I will choose relationships that make me feel happy, fulfilled and whole.
- I will not get overwhelmed by everything I have to do -- by all the details and to-do lists of everyday life, as well as the enormity of my dreams -- but instead will seek confidence and support from all of the things I have done and learned thus far, with the support of those who love me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Article in Justine Magazine

Check out my article, "New School, New You!" in the back-to-school issue of the popular teen girl magazine Justine, on newsstands now!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Article in Ventura County Star

The Ventura County Star has always been so supportive of me and my writing endeavors, and today the newspaper published an article about my upcoming writing camp. You can read it here:

Thank you to Julie Price of the Ventura County Star, Jeff Dransfeldt for writing a wonderful story (and for being a great friend), and Eric Parsons for taking such a fabulous photo portrait.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guest Post: Improve Your Reading Habits

by Heather Johnson

“Hey, have you read anything good lately?” It's a common question -- but do you ever notice how some people never offer to tell you about a book they’ve read? That’s because a lot of people have trouble reading. Sure, they know how to read but they don’t know how to read properly. If you need to get over this hurdle then consider these tips:

1. Read. That seems like a no-brainer, right? But maybe you just can’t seem to get started on a book or even an article in a magazine. Come up with a reasonable goal for your reading habits. Maybe you tell yourself you’re going to read five books this year and then plan accordingly.
2. Vary your reading. Even if you’re a fanatical golfer and want to consume every written word about the game, you’re bound to become bored with the subject. Read fiction and non-fiction. Switch from a biography to a detective novel. This will keep your reading fresh and if you’re not enlightened with a particular choice at least you’ll know there’s something totally different on the horizon.
3. Read with a pen. It’s often beneficial if you interact with the author. Jot down notes in the margin or write questions that you think should be answered as you work through the text. This will help ensure better comprehension.
4. Read a heavy book. Robinson Crusoe may seem like too daunting of a task to tackle. But if you start a long novel you might realize that once you put a dent into it you won’t want to stop. It’s challenging, to be sure, but it will be so rewarding when you finish.
5. Read a light book. Just as a lengthy book is good for your reading habits lighter books also make for healthy reading. There’s nothing wrong with reading a quick book or "guilty pleasure."
6. Pick up an old classic. Don’t always go for the hot new release that everyone’s talking about at work. Reach for a novel that has stood the test of time like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. While you may feel like you’re back in high school, you’ll soon realize there was a reason teachers made you read these worthy books.

By-line: This post was contributed by Heather Johnson, who is an industry critic on the subject of Alabama teaching certificates ( She invites your feedback at heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Write On!" Summer Writing Camp

Calling all young writers! I am teaching a summer writing camp for youth ages 8-18. The workshops will be held on consecutive weekends, August 9, 10 and 17, from 2 to 4 p.m., in the conference room at Jensen Design and Survey at 1672 Donlon Street in Ventura.

Students will not only have FUN, they will also learn how to improve central components of their writing, including dialogue, characterization, plot and setting, through various creativity-inducing writing exercises. Poets, playwrights, short-story writers, novelists – all are encouraged and welcome to join!

The cost is $125 per student, but I am offering a SPECIAL discounted rate of $100 to the first ten kids to register. A portion of the money raised will go towards my nonprofit literacy organization “Write On!” (

* * *

Here’s what teachers and students have to say:

“Thank you so much for sharing your story with our students. My fifth graders came back to my room just bursting with enthusiasm. It was wonderful for them to hear from a young adult about her joy of writing. Thank you for encouraging our kids.”
-- Lisa Harvill, Poinsettia Elementary School, 5th grade Language Arts teacher

“What you said really inspired me. I love to write and think that it's really amazing how you published your first book.”
-- Ashleigh, 7th grade student

“Hi Dallas, I'm Bianca. You came to my school today, and let me tell you me and my friends were talking about how much you inspired us to write so I wanted to thank you so much for inspiring us to write.”
-- Bianca Rodriguez, 6th grade student

“Thanks again for taking the time to share your passions and inspire the next generation! I love the connection you make with kids by just being yourself!”
-- Stacy Eckstrom, Poinsettia Elementary School, 3rd grade teacher

* * *
My teaching experience: workshop instructor and coordinator of the Young Writers Program of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for the past three years; guest speaker at the Jack London Writers Camp in San Jose; online workshop instructor at; speaker at dozens of schools, ranging from elementary school to high school; teacher of private writing workshops for the past four years.

My writing experience: I recently signed a contract with the highly regarded agency Foundry + Media to represent my novel, The Identity Theft of Dani Norhall. I am also the author of two self-published collections of short stories. My first, There’s a Huge Pimple On My Nose, was published when I was ten years old and has now sold more than 1,100 copies; and my latest, 3 a.m., was featured on the nationally syndicated PBS book talk show Between the Lines. I have also written for numerous national publications, including Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Cicada, Justine, Listen, and my work has appeared in four Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies.

To register or get more information, call me at 805-889-5570 or e-mail me at

Monday, July 21, 2008

Happy 20th Anniversary, Teen Ink!

Teen Ink is a phenomenal website for any teen interested in reading, writing, or simply engaging with the world. Written for teens by teens, the litzine is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Teens can submit their own work for publication, read more than 20,000 pages written by other teens, join teen blogs, seek advice on writing and what books to read next, and more. Visit Teen Ink at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Book Talk Video

My brother Greg took a video of some of my talk to the Ventura County Writers Club last week, and I was finally able to figure out how to upload it onto YouTube. Here's the link:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Guest Speaker at Ventura County Writer's Club Meeting

One of my favorite parts of being a writer is getting to interact with other writers -- whether it is at a writers conference, book festival, or club meeting. I have been a member of the marvelous Ventura County Writers Club since I was in middle school, and was delighted when they invited me to share the story of my writing journey as guest speaker at their meeting last Tuesday night. They were such a welcoming and attentive audience -- some people took notes, others nodded at my talking points, and many even chuckled at my attempts at humor. :)

I loved being able to chat with members of the Ventura County Writers Club after my talk. To be sure, one disadvantage about writing being such a solitary endeavor is that it is easy to feel very alone, especially when dealing with an especially tough case of writer's block or a disappointing rejection letter. Which is why it is so important to have writer friends -- people to turn to for support and encouragement, who have been in your shoes and understand, indeed who are likely going through the very same thing themselves.

Looking to meet more writing friends? Find a local writing club in your area -- libraries and bookstores are great places to check out for possible club meetings. Search online for critique groups. Join an online writing community like,, or my own Subscribe to writing magazines and online newsletters (to subscribe to my Write On newsletter, simply drop me a line at

And, of course, if you are looking to meet other writers, go to talks by authors at local bookstores, libraries, or events. Many newspapers list "Literary Happenings" and bookstores print up calendars of events. This is a terrific way to not only gain advice and inspiration for your own writing endeavors, but also to meet other writing and reading enthusiasts. And think of it as good karma for when you embark on your own book talk tour!

Thanks again to Lisa Baretto, Greg Elliot, and the Ventura County Writers Club for having me as a speaker!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Naming Characters

I recently was e-mailed a question by a young writer: I have a lot of trouble naming my characters. Is there any technique you use?

Naming characters isn't an issue I hear discussed often -- but it's very important. The name of a character is often the first clue the reader gets about him, and if it doesn't fit with the rest of his personality, something feels "off." For example, right now I'm reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (a marvelous book, by the way, that I would highly recommend to every writer and word-lover out there!) and one of the main characters is named Hannah, which does not fit at all with her brazen, magnetically unique character. However, Pessl does this on purpose, in a way that further characterizes Hannah. The narrator remarks: "Whoever had named her -- mother, father, I didn't know -- was a person harrowingly out of touch with reality, because ... if she had to have a common name, she was Edith or Nadia or Ingrid, at the very least, Elizabeth or Catherine; but her glass-slipper name, the one that really fit, was something along the lines of Countess Saskia Lepinska. 'Hannah Schneider' fit her like stonewashed Jordache jeans six sizes too big. And once, oddly enough, when Nigel said her name during dinner, I could have sworn I noticed a funny delay in her response, as if, for a split second, she had no idea he was talking to her." In this way, Pessl brilliantly uses Hannah's unfitting moniker to shed light on her character; indeed, often those things that are not "us" tell the world just as much about who we are as those things that do reflect how we see ourselves.

Here's what I usually do when naming my characters:
in the heat of writing everything down, give the character the first name that comes to mind, or even just a letter of the alphabet, and focus on the story. Later, during the revision process, you can go back and change the name to something that feels right. If you're really stuck for names, go to the library and check out a baby names book -- it's like a dictionary full of names for potential characters! I'm sure there will be something in there that feels right to you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Featured in Creative Artists Online Community

While writing is a solitary activity, it is also important to make connections with other writers. Writer friends can help you celebrate your successes, can buoy you up when you are overwhelmed by rejection, and can serve as a valued pair of eyes to proofread your latest spellbinding short story.

Online communities of writers make it even easier to connect with other writers, even if they live miles and miles away. A couple years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Donna Pacini, a remarkable writer and amazing woman who created the Starry Night Creative Artists Community. Donna writes, "It was Vincent Van Gogh's dream to create a community of creative artists who would encourage and support once another. In that spirit we come together as a community of artists who wish to join in mutual support."

Check out the website at:

And here's my profile:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Marketing the Muse"

I was fortunate enough to meet talented writer and marketing dynamo Marla Miller a few years ago at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Marla leads a workshop on marketing and took me under her wing -- her encouragement lasted not only for the course of the week-long conference, but still lifts me up today whenever I am feeling discouraged or uninspired. Indeed, Marla was the one who helped me secure a post as Coordinator of the Young Writers Program at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference a couple years later.

Now she has created a website,, to be an extension of the workshops she teaches at writers conferences.
Not only does Marla share fantastic insights and advice about the writing business, she also leads by example -- the site is so easy to navigate and eye-catching that you can learn a lot simply by browsing through it.

Great writing simply isn't enough these days -- you also have to be able to market yourself. That's why Marla's site is such a gift. Check it out!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Keep Going, Patrick!

Last year I interviewed Patrick Pedraja, an amazing young person, for a "Spotlight" column for Listen magazine. Now, Patrick is being recognized by the "Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame" for his efforts to increase awareness about the need for bone marrow donors – especially within minority communities. In the summer of 2007, he started a national marrow donor drive called DRIVING FOR DONORS. In a novel approach to raising money to fund tissue typing which was needed to add people to the registry, Pat sold ad space on his bald head and raised more than $150,000. To enlist new donors he visited 32 cities and added 6500 new donors in just 3 months. Pat was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 10 and is currently undergoing 3.5 years of chemotherapy.

To vote for Pat for the Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame, visit It only takes ten seconds and one click to support this incredible, brave and inspiring young man. We're proud of you, Patrick!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

De-Cluttering your Space = Unlocking your Creativity

I returned home from England a few days ago, and was overjoyed to be greeted by my family, friends, and familiar comfy bed. I was not too happy, however, to be reunited with the stacks of papers, towers of books, and cluttered piles of stuff filling my room. Just stepping inside, I instantly felt burdened and stressed. Not good.

So, I took a few days and slowly sifted through it all -- donating most of it to charity. My time abroad taught me how much I enjoy a simpler lifestyle, how having an excess of material things can be overbearing rather than freeing. I mean, I traveled for three weeks around Europe with only a backpack of possessions! Do I really need to keep my term papers from sophomore year of high school, or those pair of jeans that I just might fit back into someday?

The time I spent cleaning my room has already paid major dividends in my creative life. When I wake up I feel refreshed and rarin' to go, instead of anxious and burdened. I know where things are now, and don't have to waste time finding that folder with sources for an article I'm working on -- much less sift through stacks of papers covering my desk to simply find a pen.

My challenge to you is to take a few days this summer and de-clutter your own space -- whether it be your bedroom, your office, your workshop, your studio. You've grown and your creative life has evolved -- your space should reflect that maturation. A little de-cluttering can bring huge boosts in your creative energy!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Featured on UEA website

I wrote a testimonial about my experience studying abroad in England at the University of East Anglia, and they have chosen to publish it on their website! You can read it here:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Writing for Teens

When I pitch articles or stories for a teen market I like to say, "Nobody knows teenagers better than a teenager herself!" (Even though, technically, I am no longer a teenager -- I've officially passed the decade-mark into my twenties.)

Are you looking to write for a teen audience? Even if you're not a teen yourself, you can sound authentic and compelling even to the most angst-filled teenager. I recently came across this article, which will help you hone your style and voice to engage teen readers:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Helpful article for College Students

This article is a great resource for anyone -- college student or not, writer or not -- looking to improve their health, nutrition, and general well-being!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Interview at Novelist's Cafe!

Many thanks to Debra for her wonderful interview questions -- I am so honored to be interviewed for her blog! Check it out here:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sending Postcards to Yourself

Sorry for the long time between posts ... I just returned to England from a three-week backpacking trip around Europe during our spring break from classes! I traveled with a couple friends through Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic, furiously jotting down notes in my journal all the while. So many new places, languages, cultures, fashions, people ... I felt like my writing muscle was on overdrive! With so much constant creative stimulation, it became exhausting to try to write down everything. Instead, I focused on soaking up the experiences and jotting down notes to myself to remind me of things -- notes that I can look back on and expand now that I am back in my dorm room in England.

Another helpful trick I found is to send postcards to yourself with notes anytime you travel anywhere. It's a great memory-booster to see a visual image of a place along with your own thoughts and remembrances. Not traveling anytime soon? Write a letter to your future self, filled with your goals and words of inspiration, and open it in a month or a year's time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Interview Published in Women on Writing

Check out my featured interview in the latest Women on Writing newsletter! Thanks to Carolyn Howard-Johnson for asking such insightful questions.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Breakthrough Novel Award on!

Hi everyone! I know you're all super busy, but I was wondering if you could take a couple minutes to help me realize my dream of becoming an author!

I have been selected as one of 800 semi-finalists out of an original 5,000 entries in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for my novel, "The Identity Theft of Dani Norhall." The winner receives a book deal from Penguin Putnam! This really would be my dream come true.

Here's how I need your help: the finalists are selected based on the quality of reviews on If you could just take a few minutes and read a short excerpt from my novel, and if you like it and feel inclined to write a review -- it doesn't have to be long, only a couple sentences -- I would appreciate it more than words can say.

Here's the link:

Amazon is also offering prizes and gift cards to people who review the excerpts, so you could win something, too!

Thank you in advance for your encouragement and support! Tell all your friends and family and please feel free to invite anyone and everyone to write reviews on Amazon!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Noble Woman and Writer Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Everyone is fortunate to find mentors and role models to look up to. For a writer, trying to make her way in the lonely, rejection-filled world of writing, finding a writing mentor is a treasure. I am lucky to have generous, warm, thoughtful writing mentors, one of whom is Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Carolyn is the author of the newly released The Frugal Editor -- a must-read for any writer, beginning or advanced, along with her fabulous companion book The Frugal Promoter. If you don't have copies of these two writing-shelf-must-haves, go to right now and consider it an investment in your writing career.

Carolyn was also kind enough to mention me in her blog, (scroll down to the January 3 post...) Her blog is a terrific resource for writers and readers alike.

And, I just found out Carolyn has a new endeavor: her annual "Noble (Not Nobel!) Prize for Literature."

Carolyn says, "Praised or maligned, the Nobel Prize for Literature is always news. It selects the best from the world and therefore misses much of value." So Carolyn, “Back to Literature” columnist for, aims to close the gap with her annual “Noble Prize for Literature.”

Over the last years the Nobel committee has recognized authors for their literary expertise but there has also been a trend toward awarding the prize for, as Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Tim Rutten says, “an author’s particular relevance to the moral moment in which the world finds itself.”

Carolyn’s prize therefore concentrates on books that address these same issues. For her Noble Prize, Carolyn considers books written in English (which narrows the field of prospects considerably) because writers who write in English have been rather neglected over the years and, she admits, because that is the language in which she . . . ahem, reads well enough..

Carolyn’s Noble Prize lists have included well-known authors who explore discrimination in their writing like Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison but she tries to concentrate on authors who have not been posted to bestseller lists or won major awards. Some past winners are poet Lloyd King and LA's Leora G. Krygier, Randall Sylvis and Suzanne Lummis.

The winners for 2007 are: Christopher Meeks, Ken Kreckel, Magadalena Ball, Rolf Gompertz, Joyce Faulkner and Pat McGrath Avery, Christine Alexanians, Sona Ovasapyan, Alison Bechdel, Diane Ackerman, Joshua Ferris, Lionel Shriver, Karla Brundage, John F. Nienstedt and Yvonne Perry.

My amazing mentor Carolyn Howard Johnson is no stranger to literary prizes. Her first novel, This is the Place, won Sime-Gen's Reviewers’ Choice Award after it was published in 2001 and went on to win 7 other awards. Her book of creative nonfiction, Harkening, has won three awards, and her Frugal Book Promoter and her Frugal Editor were both named USA Book News' Best Professional Book in their years of publiciation. Learn more about Carolyn at

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

I feel like this at the beginning of every new year... a combination of disbelief that it's a new year already, a twinge of nostalgia for days gone by, and excitement and hope for the blank slate of the upcoming year!

I am a huge believer in the power of setting goals, and each new year I take time to review how far I've come in the past year, and to set new goals for the upcoming year.

Here are a few of my milestones in 2007:
* I studied abroad for a month this summer at Cambridge University, and was one of four USC students selected to study Creative Writing in England this spring at the University of East Anglia.
* I was promoted to Coordinator of the Young Writers Program at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
* I broke into a few new markets, including the Cup of Comfort series, The Daily Trojan USC student newspaper, and 805 magazine, and took on a new column each month for Listen magazine.
* I was honored as a Jim Murray Scholar for excellence in collegiate journalism.

And here are few of my goals for 2008:
* Find the right agent for my novel manuscript.
* Write at least one page a day, every single day.
* Start a literary journal at USC.
* Write and produce a play to raise money for my "Write On!" nonprofit endeavors.

I also have a goal of being more consistent and better about making entries in this blog ... sometimes I get so caught up in school and writing and busy with extracurricular commitments that I forget to take the time to blog about my experiences! But I really enjoy interacting with others this way and I am definitely going to try to be more proactive about taking five minutes every other day to jot down some of my thoughts.

What are your goals for 2008? I'd love to hear them. Also, while I know a new year is a time of optimism and hope, it can also be overwhelming. Remember to break your goals up into smaller, more manageable parts -- just taking small steps towards your goals each day really adds up. For example, I tell students who want to be writers to make a pact with themselves to write ten minutes -- that's all they need to do, just ten minutes at least -- each and every day. Believe me, the pages will add up more quickly than you could imagine! As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. I'd love to hear progress on your goals throughout the year -- and, if I can ever be of any help, either in the writing field or simply by offering some words of encouragement and support, please don't hesitate to contact me!

Here's to a masterpiece of a 2008!! :)