Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wow, it is crazy how fast this year has flown by. I can't believe we're welcoming in 2011 in a matter of hours!

For me, New Year's Eve is always a time to reflect on the old year and prepare for the new one. I love this quote from Jim Rohn: "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment." That is so true, and great motivation when striving after your goals day by day.

Here are some of my highlights from 2010:
  • Thanks to the generous support of many people who cast their votes for Write On, I was named one of four national winners in the Glamour Magazine/Sally Hansen "Best of You" contest. The prize included a trip to NYC, a makeover and a photo shoot for the magazine! I felt like Cinderella at the ball. This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thank you again for making it happen!
  • I took a cross-country road trip with my mom as part of my big move to Indiana to pursue my M.F.A. in Fiction at Purdue University. In addition to taking my own classes I also teach freshman composition and serve as Editorial Assistant of Sycamore Review. My first semester was a whirlwind of activity, and I feel I have already learned a great deal. Teaching was especially rewarding! I love my new life in Indiana, but it has also made me appreciate my California roots (and our glorious warm weather!) a lot more. 
  • I started my youth publishing company, Write On! Books: The first Write On! Books anthology, Dancing With The Pen, will be released in early 2011 and features stories, essays, and poetry by more than 60 young writers from all across the U.S. and even abroad. It has been such a pleasure to work with these talented, creative, insightful kids and teens, and I could not be more excited or proud of this book. 
  • My one-act play "The Stars in Illinois" was produced by Brand New Theater at the University of Southern California. 
  • My short story "DING!" was published on Bartleby-Snopes and subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Dzanc Books "Best of the Web" anthology.
  • More than two dozen of my stories and essays appeared in a variety of online and in-print publications, including two Chicken Soup for the Soul books. My short stories are archived here:
  • I organized and taught the third-annual Write On! Summer Writing Camp for young writers in Ventura, and had a blast as always. This year I also taught a series of creative writing workshops to senior citizens at Cypress Place Senior Living Center, which was wonderful. 
  • I was a featured guest speaker at the Ventura Book Festival, the Southern Expressions Writers Conference in Mississippi, the USC Associates 50th Anniversary Gala, and the American Association of University Women Spring Luncheon. I met so many fantastic people who became new friends. I was also a guest on a variety of radio shows and spoke to community organizations and schools.

Another thing to keep in mind when setting goals is to be cognizant of all areas of your life. As Coach Wooden said, "The two most important words in the English language are love and balance." With that in mind, I like to break up my goals into different sections. Here are some of my goals for 2011:

Writing Goals
  • Write every day.
  • Complete new novel manuscript.
  • Submit to a literary magazine every other week.
  • Write a three-act play.
  • Read at least half an hour every day.
  • Write a blog post twice a week.
Write On! Goals
  • Send out a newsletter every month.
  • Promote Dancing With The Pen.
  • Be a guest speaker at 8 schools/organizations.
  • Create a Write On! DVD. 
  • Start a Holiday Book Drive at Purdue.
Healthy Life Goals
  • Exercise three days a week. 
  • Learn to cook 10 new healthy recipes.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Do at least one act of kindness every day.
  • Study the Pyramid of Success and keep a journal of inspiring quotes.
  • Count my blessings every night.

Something I am trying for the first time this year is breaking down my year-long goals into month-by-month goals. It helps me get a handle on more daunting projects by planning out how I want to move forward month by month. For example, one of my writing goals is to finish the current novel manuscript I am working on. I have a goal of writing a certain number of pages every month. I am also a believer in daily to-do lists -- it feels so good to cross things off my list! -- but I think month-by-month goals are more flexible for those inevitable times when life gets crazy. For example, maybe I won't be able to write much for a few days during midterms, but then I can make up for it the next week and still be on track for my monthly writing goal.

What are your goals for 2011? How will you make them happen?

I'll close with another of my favorite quotes from Coach Wooden: "The journey is better than the inn." Here's wishing you a masterpiece of a journey in 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Writing is Like Rock-Climbing

A few weeks ago, I went rock-climbing for the first time. I am a tad scared of heights, so I was nervous as I gazed up at the rock-climbing walls around the gym. I slipped on the harness and learned the basics of belaying. When it was my turn to climb, nerves made my legs shaky. But I hoisted myself up onto the wall, and made it to the top. What elation! I was hooked.

In many ways, rock-climbing reminded me a lot of writing. Here are some things writers could learn from climbers:

1. For me, the first step up onto the wall was the hardest. I had to force myself onward. But once I did, it wasn't so bad. The same goes for writing. Often getting started is the hardest part. Force yourself to close out your email, open up that Word document, place your fingers on the keyboard, and just start writing.

2. Don't let the size of your project intimidate you; focus on one step at the time. The first wall I climbed, I didn't make it all the way to the top. A little more than half-way up, my arm muscles already burning, I made the mistake of looking up at how much farther I had to go. I felt I had gone so far already -- yet there was still such a long ways to climb! I defeated myself. Similarly, if I think about the entirety of the novel I am working on, I quickly feel overwhelmed. "Another 200 pages?" I'll think. "There's no way I can do it!" Instead, I focus on writing three pages a day. I have an idea of the novel's broader scope, but I don't let myself worry about the immensity of the task I've undertaken. On a single day, if I write my three pages, I'm good to go. Three pages, three pages, three pages. Little by little, they add up into a book.

3. When rock-climbing, you're strapped into a harness, and someone below is your belayer, whose job is to make sure you don't fall. Trust is essential. As a writer, it's crucial to have a trusted group of readers who give you honest feedback on your work. And it's equally important to have a support system of people you can count on to cheer you on and buoy you up -- because everyone slips and falls sometimes. The important thing is to brush yourself off and attack that wall again.

4. Venture beyond your self-imposed limits. With my fear of heights, I never thought I would be someone who liked rock-climbing -- but if I had let my fear stop me, I would have missed out on a really fun experience! Pushing yourself is how you grow, both as a person and as a writer. Challenge yourself to write about something that scares you. Write something that makes you uncomfortable. Write something raw and real. Refuse to confine or label yourself.

5. Enjoy the journey. For me, the most rewarding part of climbing was not when I reached the top, but rather the actual act of stretching for new holds, feeling my muscles strain as I pushed myself to climb higher and higher up the wall. Now, I try more than ever to savor the act of writing. Losing myself in a story, spending hours exploring the crevices of my imagination, spilling my thoughts and emotions onto the page, and then being able to share what I've written with others -- what a gift!

Best wishes on all your writing and climbing journeys! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Guest Post by Garasamo Maccagnone: Promote Your Book With Video!

Today we have the pleasure of hosting the book trailer for Garasamo Maccagnone’s recently released novel, St. John of the Midfield. Along with Garasamo’s trailer, this article by Maccagnone offers some suggestions for how to use YouTube for marketing your book.

Are you looking to create video to us in marketing your book? Or, are you looking for a way to get the video you already have in front of viewers? YouTubing is a form of social networking where people share their interests as well as create and post their own videos. Once posted, a video clip is keyword searchable and eligible to be placed in the playlist of anyone who finds the clip enjoyable. This is very helpful as you can use video to attract viewers and place your book trailer or video clip where it can be seen by your audience.

Playlists also appear in keyword searches with YouTube ranking keyword search results for playlists based in part on the number of clips in a list. Viewers who are searching on a theme are likely to run through an entire playlist and will save clips they like best to their own lists. They also have the option of emailing clips they like to a friend or of capturing and imbedding clips into their own site.

Take advantage of YouTube and attract readers interested in your book themes by creating a playlist of clips that will capitalize on theme-based keyword searches. Once you have a playlist created you are ready to place your own video or book trailer in front of the searching public.

Consider creating and/or posting:
  • Author video blogs
  • A slideshow video clip with an audio excerpt from your book
  • Video book reviews from a professional reviewer
  • Book Trailers

Tips for creating YouTube video clips and book trailers:

  • Ideally, a clip should run from one to three minutes in length. 
  • Avoid defining what the characters look like as most readers prefer to visualize what they are reading as they imagine it, placing themselves as the hero or heroine.
  • Incorporate audio in the form of music to add emotion and depth.
  • Use video comprised of still images or a mixture of stills and video.
  • Insert written stills or scrolling written teasers.
  • Images and content should directly relate to the content of your book.
  • Content should convey a sense of what the book is about without spoilers.
  • Keep in mind that the goal of your video clip is to capture the interest of the viewer, to create excitement about the book, and to encourage people to buy.
  • Make sure you have set appropriate keyword tags on your video playlist, and have links to your author Web page in your YouTube channel profile settings. 
With your video or book trailer created and your playlist set up, the social networking aspect of your promotional efforts are set in motion. The YouTube channel and playlist you have set up are now ready to redirect traffic to your home page and the links to purchase your book.

Have fun and enjoy the creative process.

Tomorrow, Vonnie Faroqui will post a review of St. John of the Midfield, at her blog Follow Vonnie on Twitter: @inkslngrswhmz. For the full tour schedule be sure to visit

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Oil and Water... and Other Things That Don't Mix" Anthology to Benefit the Gulf Oil Crisis

The disaster facing the Gulf Coast has been on the minds of millions of people and the ladies of the She Writes™- Southern Writers group expressed many feelings of anger, sadness, and disgust. We are not helpless, but what can we do?

She Writes™ members Zetta Brown and Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson Brown decided that something needed to be done where people can put their talents together and help make a difference. What better way than to produce an anthology where the proceeds will go where it is needed most?

Oil and Water...and Other Things That Don’t Mix contains stories, poems, and recollections from 27 authors, women and men all dealing with the theme: “Conflict... Resolution Optional.” These selections will make you laugh, cry, think, and some may even get you angry.

I am extremely honored to have my story "A Litany of Bruises" included in this anthology. There are also stories from award-winning authors and journalists, newly published authors, as well as from talented new authors who make their debut in this volume:

Jenne’ R. Andrews - Shonell Bacon - Lissa Brown - Mollie Cox Bryan

Maureen E. Doallas - Mylène Dressler - Nicole Easterwood

Angela Elson - Melanie Eversley - Kimeko Farrar - L B Gschwandtner

John Klawitter - Mary Larkin - Linda Lou - Kelly Martineau

Patricia Anne McGoldrick - Ginger McKnight-Chavers - Carl Palmer

Karen Pickell - Dania Rajendra - Cherie Reich - Jarvis Slacks

Tynia Thomassie - Amy Wise - Zetta Brown - Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson Brown

All proceeds from Oil and Water... and Other Things That Don’t Mix will go to directly benefit Mobile Baykeeper and Bay Area Food Bank, two charities helping to combat the effects of the spill and help the communities affected.

Find out more information and order the book at

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Contests for Young Writers

* Seventeen Magazine short fiction contest:

* The Poetry Society of Virginia Student Contest (open to everyone, not just Virginia residents):

* Two great writing contests from Weekly Reader:

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Guest post by Edward Stern

The Write Stuff: 8 Reasons You Should Have a Writing Journal

To be a writer, one needs to write. Bringing a laptop everywhere is not always feasible, especially for jotting down quick thoughts on the go. Many writers prefer to write consistently at designated writing times, but with a busy schedule, this can be hard to squeeze in.

The solution? Keep a writing journal. You'll be amazed at how helpful it will be for getting your creative juices flowing and capturing inspiration when it strikes. Here are eight reasons why you should have a writing journal.

1. Take it anywhere: A writing journal is a great companion for travel, whether it be by car, bus, train, plane, whatever moves. Make the most of your time commuting to work or traveling for business by taking those often wasted hours and making them productive writing time spent in your journal.

2. Capture inspiration when it strikes: You never know where you'll be when that one little phrase, plot twist, sentence fragment, anything strikes you. Be prepared, and don't lose the moment. Bring your writing journal and a pen or pencil with you everywhere to make your genius turn of phrase does not escape you.

3. Play around with your words: With a writing journal, you can bring past work with you. Oftentimes, it's important to take a step back from your work to be able to evaluate it objectively and to hone your prose. Play with your phrasing until you get it perfect while on your lunch break or whenever it hits you.

4. Record observations: As a good writing exercise, go for a walk downtown or through a park and record observations. Jot down notes on the people you see and the events taking place. Later, sit down and imagine back stories for what you saw. You never know when these could turn into a key character or the plot for your next piece.

5. Make yourself write: To be a better writer, you need to write, obviously. Having a designated journal time keeps you writing even if it's not while working on a specific poem, novel, or other project. Keep your skills sharp by keeping a journal.

6. Keep it informal: If you are writing for a living or investing your heart and soul in a passion project, write in a journal informally about the process of writing, your personal happenings, or just silly fun side efforts. Keep your writing journal a fun place, one where you can relieve stress and where writing is always fun. It will keep you fresh and determined for your other work.

7. Play games: Give yourself prompts, write from other perspectives, write letters you'll never send -- play quick, casual writing games to keep your skills sharp and to try out new things. A little intellectual stimulation will help make you a better, more versatile writer, and may also inspire new directions for your more formal work.

8. Good writers write frequently: To be good at anything, you have to practice, and practice consistently. Keeping a writing journal forces you to do so, especially around a busy schedule.

Edward Stern is a guest blogger for Pounding the Pavement and a writer on online career training for the Guide to Career Education.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Think P.I.N.K.: An interview with author and businesswoman Erica Moore-Burton

Erica Moore-Burton moved to the United States in her early twenties with $800 in her pocket and, she says, "a whole lot of faith that I was going to do well as a professional here." She didn't know anyone in the state she moved to, didn't have a job, a permanent place to live or any contacts. Moreover, she admits, she didn't really know what she wanted to do with her life. "I had a myriad of things that I was interested in, but wasn't ever been that person that knew at eight years old that I wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant," Erica says.

Today, she has a successful career as an executive director for a national placement firm, professional speaker/coach, and author. Her book, The Little Professional P.I.N.K. Book of Success, tells her full story, and introduces readers to the P.I.N.K. Principles, which she used to build her career: Passion, Integrity, No Limits and Knowledge.

We caught up with Erica to discuss the book, her life as a writer, and her advice for all of us striving for our dreams!

Tell us about The Little Professional P.I.N.K. Book of Success. What was your inspiration behind this book?

I read an article written by Michelle Obama the other day, and loved when she said, "When you reach any level of success in life, it's not just enough to sit back and enjoy it. You must reach back and help others." Essentially, this book is about me giving back and helping others through my experiences, and my successes and failures in life (both big and small). It started when I worked for a Fortune 500 company and managed an office with over 60 individuals, many of whom were young women just starting out in their careers. I was a mentor to a few of them and was really surprised at the many questions that they would ask, that I thought were basic knowledge. In turn, I thought that an attractive, yet concise handbook would be great to help them navigate their careers.

There is a scary statistic that I reference in the book about individuals not reading when they finish college, so I wanted it to be a quick read, yet really valuable and packed with tools to help women. For those who want more, I have a book list at the end for further reading. My book is a short, yet informative read and has been endorsed by many human resources managers and women that are more senior in their careers too. Most have commented that they wish they had the book when they first started their career, and they also found golden nuggets that helped them in their roles today.

I start the book with talking about finding your passion, and there are exercises to help individuals find their passion from looking at their past. The book goes on to talk about networking, guarding your reputation and using it to help you get to the next level, how to use failure as a tool for success, how to conduct a 360 review with your peer group, finding mentors and getting the best from the relationship and other success principles!

What have you learned through writing this book?

Patience was the biggest thing. Also I learned how to handle being vulnerable. You are very vulnerable to criticism when you put information out there, and through writing this book I had to learn to be comfortable with that. Some people will like it, others won't, which is okay. As long as my message is heard by the right audience and my intention in helping women is met, then I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have been using this mantra lately: "Some will, some won't ... so what next!"

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?

It's funny, I don't really have a routine per se. I have to be in the mood to write, and when I am in the mood, I write in spurts. For this book, I wrote every day for a few months. It was typically at the same time of day. There were many days when I didn't feel like writing, but thank God my husband is a motivational speaker, and he helped me on many days with his "work 5" technique. Just write and commit to 5 minutes, that 5 minutes always leads to more. In my case (most of the time) it lead to a few hours! I write in my home office which has brightly colored orange walls and a huge painting of a Caribbean setting -- I kind of feel like I'm on an island when I'm in there, which is very relaxing and conducive to writing. Other places, the usual... Starbucks with a nice latte!

What was your path to publication like? 

Long and as I referred to it earlier, a lot of patience was required. I worked with a couple of different editors which at times was frustrating! Things went wrong along the way, which was frustrating. There were days I was tired of writing, which was frustrating! There were days when I doubted myself... which was frustrating. With all the frustration around me, I kept my eyes on the prize and used some of the visualization techniques that I disclose in the book, and just knew that I would be holding a copy of the book in my hand when it was all said and done!

You are not only a successful writer, you are also a professional speaker and career coach. How do the different components of your life enrich each other, and how do you stay balanced?

I wear a lot of different hats in my life and I think that they all compliment each other well. I love speaking because I think I can really effect change in people's lives by telling my personal stories live. I actually fancied myself as an actress many years ago, and when I'm on stage, I really feel alive and genuinely enjoy teaching others. The personal coaching is really great because I get to work one on one with individuals and build a relationship. When I can see changes before my eyes in their lives and general mindsets, there is an immense sense of gratification. Again, I love helping and connecting others, it feeds me.

How do I stay balanced? Meditation and an attitude of gratitude. I am so grateful for my life, the opportunities that I have had and continue to have; to be living in this country; to have fresh food every day; to the warm water coming out of my shower. Gratitude exudes through every pore of my being for both the big and small things, and with that, it helps me to remain very balanced.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams? 

While you're young, take risks and go for it. When I was younger, the biggest risk I took was coming to America. A lot people talked to me about what I didn't have. I often think about what would have happened if I stayed, and am again grateful that I didn't... even though I was scared. So, my advice is to take lots of calculated risks while you're young and really take advantage of all the wonderful resources that we have available to us.

In the book, you speak about the importance of finding a mentor. Can you speak a bit about what you have learned from the mentors in your life? 

I have had so many mentors that have helped me in so many different ways. I suppose the biggest thing is to use mentors as an additional resource, most of my mentors have suggested efficient ways to get things done. Other mentors have shown me how to really appreciate life and live it to the fullest.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

I would like to add that it's important not only to read the book, but also to do the exercises at the end of each chapter. In most cases, experience is the best teacher, so by going through the exercises you will really learn a lot about yourself and will be able to use the information to help you in specific areas of growth.

Connect with Erica:

Order the book:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Write On's Holiday Book Drive is Underway!

Toys are broken and clothes are outgrown ... 
but the impact of books lasts a lifetime.

“Write On! For Literacy” is holding its Ninth Annual Holiday Book Drive to benefit underprivileged children! Last year we collected nearly 1,000 books (bringing our grand total to more than 11,000 books!) that were distributed to various schools and charities including the Boys & Girls Club, Casa Pacifica, and Project Understanding. Please do your part to help children have a better holiday season. Help beat illiteracy and give the gift that lasts forever: the gift of reading!

Want to get involved?
  • Mail book donations to the Write On! chapter headquarters: 400 Roosevelt Court, Ventura, CA, 93003
  • You can also mail monetary donations that will be used to purchase books to the above address. (Checks made out to Dallas Woodburn.)
  • Start a chapter in your area! Donate books to a local charity -- Boys & Girls Clubs are usually very grateful for donations -- and then e-mail me the total number of books donated which will be added to our grand-total. 

Many thanks to our recent generous contributors!

* Barry Kibrick, host of the Emmy-award-winning PBS television show "Between the Lines," annually donates 400-500 books to charity.

* Raeanne Alliapoulos donated 30 books to the Boys & Girls Club in Pomona, California.

* A. William Benitez and his company Positive Imaging, LLC, shipped out 20 copies of Lottie's Adventure, a marvelous and imaginative book for kids and middle-graders:

About Write On!

“Write On! For Literacy” is a volunteer-run organization founded by author Dallas Woodburn in 2001. The goal is to encourage kids to discover confidence, happiness, a means of self-expression, and connection to others through reading and writing. The Write On! website features writing contests, book reviews, author interviews, writing tips and ideas, and ways for everyone to get involved. 

The past eight years, Write On's Holiday Book Drive has donated 11,206 books to disadvantaged children across the nation.