Monday, August 31, 2009

The 12th Annual Method Fest is Looking for Submissions

This is one of my favorite independent film festivals -- a true treasure for creative artists and movie-lovers. The 12th annual Method Fest is scheduled for March 25 - April 1, 2010 in Calabasas, California. They are looking for character and story-driven films featuring strong acting performances. The Method Fest features American and foreign feature films and short films and is named after "The Method" school of acting, which revolutionized the approach in acting, particularly in film.

The Method Fest takes great pride in being a Discovery festival, looking to help launch the works of young fresh filmmakers and to discover breakthrough performances by young, bold new actors. The festival has also taken great delight in sharing career-defining performances of established performers and in showcasing a few chosen well-known directors to screen at the festival. "We've prided ourselves on not just following other festivals' lineups. We screen world premieres and true discoveries, mixed with a few top festival films, " says Don Franken, executive director of the Method Fest.

The 12th Method Fest will feature tributes to actors and top filmmakers in addition to acting workshops, panels and seminars. The Youth Program includes a short film and screenplay competition for middle school and high school students, and awards in filmmaking and acting.

Deadlines for film submissions are: October 1 (Early Bird), December 1 (Regular Entry) and February 1 (Late Deadline). For film submission information call (310) 535-9230 or visit the festival web site at You can also register through

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Smart Girls Know" About This Great Site!

I have been writing friends with Debbie Reber for about four years now. She was the amazing editor of "The Real Deal" Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which I wrote a couple stories for. Debbie has also written two other fantastic books for girls, CHILL and IN THEIR SHOES. Her website Smart Girls Know is packed with insights and advice about friendships, school, health, emotions, love, and everything in between. She is an incredible person and a great advocate and mentor for teens and tweens. Debbie, I feel lucky to know you!

You can check out the nice post Debbie made about Write On! here:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Contest for Young Writers and Artists!

Here is a great announcement about a writing and art contest for young writers from one of my favorite children's authors, Debbie Glade!

I Love Costa Rica’s Rain Forest!
Free Young Travel Writers and Artists Contest

No Purchase Necessary and No Entry Fee!
Contest Deadline Extended to November 30, 2009!

New Prizes Just Added!
$100 Will Be Awarded by Smart Poodle Publishing to the First Place Winners in Each Category

All Other Prizes donated by Rand McNally’s online store at

You can find all the entry information at the Smart Poodle Website:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Boost Your Creativity! New Online Column

I am thrilled to be a new columnist for Women's Online Magazine Los Angeles! I will be writing bi-weekly articles about boosting creativity in your daily life. Whether you are a writer, artist, businessperson, teacher, doctor, mother, husband, pet-owner, restauranteer -- whatever your career and life roles may be, you can find release and reduce stress through expressing yourself creatively! My column will feature short activities you can squeeze into even the busiest of weeks to nurture your inner self.

Read my first column here:

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! And if you have any ideas for creativity-inducing exercises, please send them my way!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Trip to Dallas, Texas

I just got home from a wonderful week-long trip to Texas. One of my best friends is from Houston, and she wrote a play that was produced as part of a "Fringe Theater Festival" last Friday, so I used that as an excuse to go visit. (It was a great show -- I'm so proud of her!)

While in Texas, I also visited the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin, one of the premier graduate writing programs in the United States. They could not have been more welcoming or helpful. Actually, I was blown away by the kindness and friendliness of Texas people in general. I immediately felt right at home.

And, of course, I could not have left Texas without visiting "my city" -- Dallas! I am named after my grandfather, not after the city, but it was still very cool to visit and see my name everywhere. :) I took so many pictures! I also sang karaokee for the first time in front of a very encouraging group of new Texan friends. And the conceirge at our hotel gave us a coupon for free breakfast because she was so tickled that Dallas is my name!

In addition to recharging my batteries, my week-long vacation also did wonders for my creative spirit. Nothing fills my "idea well" more quickly than experiencing new things -- embarking on new adventures, traveling to new places, meeting new people. I was jotting down ideas and notes on scraps of paper all week.

Even if you don't have a vacation or trip planned for the near future, you can still rejuvenate your creative life by trying new things. Learn a recipe for a different type of food than you usually eat. Dabble in a different art form, such as painting or music. Even something as simple as taking a different route to school or work can prove inspirational as you find yourself noticing details you didn't pick up on before.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Today's Teen Writer: A Fabulous Resource

Today's Teen Writer is a wonderful online magazine for young writers, chock-full of information about writing queries, finding inspiration, editing drafts, dealing with rejection, and getting published.

Here is their goal, in their own words from their website:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Our goal is to provide you with the tools to put foundations under your dreams. Whether you want to break into non-fiction or simply write novels for your eyes only, Today’s Teen Writer will be right here to guide you in the process.

I am honored to be featured on the Today's Teen Writer website. You can check out my interview here:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tips for Busting Through Writer's Block

Is your story in a rut? Are you feeling stuck? Writer's block is definitely a problem that most every writer has to deal with. It can be so frustrating! Here are some ideas that might help you get through it:

* Set your story aside for a couple of weeks and work on something else. Sometimes, like a watched pot that never boils, a story idea never comes when we are fretting over it. In my experience, the best ideas for my stories often arrive when I am thinking about something else -- walking my dog, cooking dinner, browsing a farmer's market.

* Is there a later part of the story you want to write or know what's going to happen, but the middle is tripping you up? Sometimes writers know the beginning and the end, but not the middle. If this is the case for your story, my advice would be to skip forward and write the ending. Then, you can go back and write the middle -- ideas might come to you once the ending is in place.

* Sometimes I get blocked when I am at a "fork in the road" in my story: there are multiple routes my story could take, and I'm not sure which one is the "right" one. If you suspect this is the case for your subconscious, I would try just picking one route -- one way the story could go, one thing that could happen next -- and write that. Just see what happens! If it doesn't feel right, you can always go back and change it. But maybe it will be the thing to get you through the block!

* Try putting yourself in your character's head. Let her or him take the reins of the story. Close your eyes and really get inside that character. What are they thinking/feeling/worrying/wondering/fearing? What would they do next in this situation they are in? Try to "freewrite" without thinking too much or editing yourself. Write for eight or ten minutes without stopping. Then, see what you have. Maybe it will be enough to re-start the story again.

Hope these ideas help! I'd also love to hear any of your tips for busting through writer's block!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What makes a "good" story?

Dear Dallas,
For a long time, I've thought a story has to have a bunch of conflict to be interesting, but in the past couple days I've been reading in this old book of my mom's, and a lot of the stories in it are really interesting and fun even though they're hardly at all tense or full of conflict. So, now I've sort of been trying to figure out what it is that makes someone want to keep reading a story. Do you think, as long as you have good characters with interesting things happening to them, even if their adventures aren't full of all sorts of problems popping up, it can be a good story?

* * *

You ask a very good question, and something that I think every writer thinks about. When I first started writing, I thought that in order to have a good story, I had to come up with a wholly original, action-packed plot. But as I read more and grew more as a writer, I realized that most of the books I enjoyed reading didn't have crazy action-filled plotlines. It was more the characters that drew me into the story. For example, one of my all-time favorite books is Catcher in the Rye, and not much happens plot-wise -- the main character wanders around New York, running into people he knows, musing about his life and the world around him. But I found it utterly compelling. That book also made me realize that it is okay that I sometimes feel like I don't have as much life experience to draw upon as older writers. I can write vividly and compellingly and honestly about the things I have experienced -- childhood, high school, college, first relationships, new friendships, traveling abroad for the first time, etc -- and I can make very interesting characters and stories out of these raw materials. And the same goes for you and the things you've experienced in your life!

In short, I think a "good" story is subjective -- every reader will be different! To me, a good story is simply a story that moves the reader in some way. Maybe that movement is literal and plot-driven -- as you put it, problems that keep popping up -- or the movement could be more internal and character-based. Personally, the quieter, character-driven stories are the ones I find most lasting.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hamilton Writers Guild Announces 2009 Fiction Writing Contest

Category: General Fiction
2000 Word Limit
Entry Deadline: September 30, 2009

Contest Guidelines
. Entry fee: $10 per entry
. Prizes: $125 1st Prize; $75 2nd Prize; $50 3rd Prize
. Manuscript must be typed, double-spaced on one side of 8.5 x11 white
paper. Do not double space between paragraphs.
. Staple all entries in the upper left hand corner
. Include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, word count and
where you heard about the contest on cover page only
. Do not put your name, or any other form of identification, on the manuscript
. Entries will not be returned without a SASE and sufficient postage
. Unlimited number of entries allowed; entry fee must accompany each entry
. No e-mail entries
. Previous winning stories or honorable mentions may not be re-submitted
. Winners will be announced on November 20, 2009 on their web site:
. Individual winners will be notified by mail. Include a SASE for complete list of winners.

Send entries to:
Hamilton Writers Guild Fiction Contest
PO Box 1205
Hamilton, Ohio 45012

Monday, August 3, 2009

Writing Camp a Great Success!

I had a fantastic weekend.

August 1 & 2 were the first two days of the Second Annual Write On! Summer Writing Camp, and I cannot imagine a better experience. Twenty-four creative, energetic, compassionate young writers showed up eager to write and share their writing with each other. They dove into each activity with enthusiasm and openness -- and I was blown away by the writing they bravely shared with me and the class! Also importantly, everyone was respectful and positive with each other, creating a camp environment of creative risk-taking, kindness, and love.

To all the young writers I was fortunate enough to spend some time with this weekend: Thank you, thank you, thank you, and I can't wait to see you on Saturday! :)

If you didn't make it to camp this past weekend but it sounds like fun, you should come join us this upcoming weekend (Aug. 8 & 9)! Both morning and afternoon sessions are still available. Find more information at the Write On! website or zip me an e-mail:

Here are a couple pictures -- more coming soon on my website.