Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 Holiday Book Drive a Huge Success!!!

Merry Christmas everyone! Thank you to everyone who donated books to Write On's Holiday Book Drive for showing what Christmas is really about -- the joy of giving.

This year, we donated 923 new books to charities including the Boys & Girls Club, Casa Pacifica, and schools including Haycox School in Port Hueneme, California and 93rd Street School in Los Angeles.

Special thanks to the following generous people for donating beautiful boxes of books:

* Andrea Spence Accinelli and the Write On! Canada Chapter donated 31 new books.
* Ventura's Cabrillo Middle School students donated 167 gorgeous new books.
* Jeff Becker from Ventura donated a huge box of 128 books.
* Linda Brug's class at Ventura High School donated 50 books.
* Marsha Barr and Santa Barbara High School students donated 47 great young adult books.
* Nichole Schiff from Dallas, Texas donated 50 books to her local library.
* The Baxter Family in Laguna Niguel, California donated two boxes of beautiful books!
* Nanci Cone from Ventura, California donated childrens books in excellent condition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jack London Writing Contest for High School Students

Here is a great contest for high school students! I encourage you all to enter! Here is the website for more information:

January 31, 2010, marks the deadline for entries in the 21th annual Jack London Writing Contest. The Jack London Foundation encourages high school students to explore the spirit of Jack London through reading and participation in the Writing Contest.

The writing contest is open to all students in grades 9 through 12. The essays, or stories can be on any subject. The number of entries are limited to 10 from each teacher. The entries are judged on content and form, with an emphasis on creativity.

The writing contest concludes with the first place winner receiving $2000.00, the second place winner receiving $1000.00, and the third place winner receiving $500.00. It is the expectation of the Jack London Foundation that the cash awards be used by the winners to assist in the advancement of their educational goals. The first place winner, along with his/her parents, will also be invited to the annual Jack London Birthday Banquet as special guests. The first place award will be presented during the banquet ceremony. All of the winning entries will be published in the quarterly "Jack London Foundation Newsletter".

English teachers can obtain all necessary forms, rules and publicity posters by contacting:

Jack London Foundation
P.O. Box 337
Glen Ellen, CA. 95442

Monday, December 21, 2009

Story Published in The Newport Review!

I have exciting news to share: my short story "How My Parents Fell in Love" won third place in The Newport Review flash fiction contest!

Here's the beginning:

My mother walked out of a grocery store. She wore a red dress and her hair was permed, the way it looks in the photo albums. My father drove up in a car, a fast car, silver, a car that goes vroom vroom. He did not know her yet. She was a pretty woman in a red dress with ruffles at the hem. He rolled down the window. He leaned out and smiled at her and said, “Hubba, hubba!”

They fell in love and lived happily ever after.

You can read the entire story here:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Books Make Great Gifts!

Looking to get a gift for a child this holiday season?

Why not give the gift that lasts a lifetime -- the gift of reading!

A book is something you can read again and again. A book can raise your spirits on a rainy day. A book can take you to another world. A book can inspire to you pursue big dreams!

Here is Amazon's "Top Picks" for Picture Books of 2009:

Here is's "Top Picks" for Middle Grade Books of 2009:

And here is Amazon's "Top Picks" for Young Adult Books of 2009:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Year in the Life of a "Working" Writer

One of my favorite things about being involved in the Santa Barbara Writers Conference is getting to meet so many wonderful writers! Ernie Witham is not only one of the best humor writers around, he is also a great teacher of the craft and an all-around amazing person. His Humor Writing Workshop at the Conference was always filled to capacity. I am so grateful for the friendship and support he has shown me since we met three years ago.

Ernie has a new humor book out titled A Year in the Life of a "Working" Writer. As Ernie self-deprecatingly says: "It's the perfect gift for somebody who already has a fruitcake." I think it's perfect for anyone in your life! Books make great gifts that can be shared and read again and again. And, especially in these trying economic times, what better gift can you give than laughter?

You can order autographed copies of Ernie's books, in addition to signing up to receive his columns via email, at his website

Monday, December 7, 2009

Markets for Young Writers

* Stone Soup
Is made up of stories, poems, book reviews, and art by young people through age 13. Although all the writing we publish is in English, we accept work from all over the world. To get an idea of the kind of writing and art we like, please look through our writing and art sections. Send us stories and poems about the things you feel most strongly about! Whether your work is about imaginary situations or real ones, use your own experiences and observations to give your work depth and a sense of reality. Pay $40.

* Girl's Life
Each issue of GL is packed with the stuff girls crave—real information and advice—from academic success to peer pressure to time-management and stress-relieving tips; from growing up to boosting self-esteem. Plus, GL profiles real girls facing real challenges that have amazed and inspired readers for almost 15 years.

* Speak Up
Speak Up Press publishes the literary journal, Speak Up, featuring the original fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays, photography, and artwork of teens (13-19 years old). Speak Up accepts submissions from teen writers and artists around the world.

* Teen Ink
A national teen magazine, book series, and website devoted entirely to teenage writing, art, photos and forums. Students must be age 13-19 to participate, register and/or submit work. Distributed through classrooms by English teachers, Creative Writing teachers, Journalism teachers and art teachers around the country, Teen Ink magazine offers some of the most thoughtful and creative work generated by teens and has the largest distribution of any publication of its kind. We have no staff writers or artists; we depend completely on submissions from teenagers nationwide for our content. We offer teenagers the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on the issues that affect their lives - everything from love and family to teen smoking and community service. Hundreds of thousands of students have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 45,000 teens since 1989.

* The Claremont Review
The editors of The Claremont Review are looking to publish first class poetry, short stories and short plays by young adult writers (aged 13-19) anywhere in the English speaking world. What are we looking for? We publish anything from traditional to post modern, but with a preference for works that reveal something of the human condition. We strongly urge contributors to read back issues of The Claremont Review. That is the best way for you to learn what we are looking for.

* Young Writer magazine
We would love to see YOUR writing and we might even publish it in Young Writer magazine or here on the website. It can be anything that you want to say, prose or poetry, fiction or non-fiction. Just make sure it is your own unaided work, write it as well as you can and send it to us. Let us have your name, your age and your address. We do not pass these on to anyone else. You can send it to us by email or post. Remember, whenever you send your writing off to any publisher, make sure you keep a copy for yourself in case it gets lost in transit. Email word documents (under 600 words in length, please!) to

Friday, December 4, 2009

Advice for Young Writers

Can young writers get published?


Here is a great article, "Get Published: Advice for Young Writers" from

Publishing Central is a terrific resource for writers of all ages.

Happy writing!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Guest Post By Yvonne Perry

I have enjoyed much time in the classroom both as a teacher and a student, but the most fun times are when I’m able to visit a class as an author. I have written twelve stories and compiled them into a book titled The Sid Series ~ A Collection of Holistic Stories for Children. I’m hoping for opportunities to visit more classroom and share my stories with kindergarten through 2nd grade students; and now I’ve found a way to do just that without even leaving my home. Love it!

Thanks to Skype an Author Network, I can sit in front of my computer with my video camera and speak live to boys and girls anywhere on earth! All the teacher needs is a computer that has Skype’s free software that can be downloaded at . If you are an author who wants to do a virtual classroom visit, go ahead and sign up on Skype an Author. It’s free and you could actually be paid for speaking to groups via Skype. Librarians can find author resources to help kids get into reading books. Publishers who are looking for inexpensive ways to help their authors of K-12 books find classroom engagements will love this tool. Isn’t technology wonderful?

If the topic of my book interests you and you would like to learn more about having me visit your classroom, check out
Inspired by adventures I’ve had with my first-born grandson named Sidney, each story in The Sid Series (ISBN: 9780982572207) focuses on skills such as overcoming fear, being environmentally conscious, helping others, being true to one’s self, and following inner guidance. This collection of body-mind-spirit stories highlights unique lessons about love, acceptance, self-worth, caring for the body, diversity, facing fears, dealing with change, experiencing the death of a pet, using spiritual gifts, and psychic experiences today’s children exhibit.

The titles of the stories in The Sid Series are as follows:
Sid’s Fairy ~ Learning about Inner Guidance
A Stormy Adventure ~ Facing the Fear of Storms
The Pirate’s Treasure ~ Finding Treasure Within
You Can Be! ~ Understanding Destiny and Making Choices
Ask Your Body ~ Understanding the Body’s Needs
A Ghost in My Closet ~ Communicating with Angels
A Powerful Potion ~ The Power of Imagination
My Friend’s Skin ~ Accepting and Appreciating Diversity
Puppy Love ~ Dealing with the Death of a Pet
Old Things New ~ Learning About Recycling
Always Be Honest ~ Learning to Tell the Truth
Making Room for Brother ~ Coping with Family Changes
If you would like to read inside my book, please visit

BIO: Yvonne Perry is a freelance writer and editor, award-winning bestselling author, podcast host, blogger extraordinaire, newsletter publisher, Internet marketing guru, and an outstanding keynote speaker. She is a graduate of American Institute of Holistic Theology where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Metaphysics.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Interview with "Ella Enchanted" author Gail Carson Levine for

Newbery Award winning author, Gail Carson Levine, talked to about her experiences as a young adult novelist and shared advice for aspiring writers. As well as penning Ella Enchanted, Fairest, Dave at Night, The Wish, The Two Princesses of Bamarre and the Princess Tales among others, Gail also wrote Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly to help young authors avoid writer's block and develop a process. If your tween is interested in creative writing or is a fan of Gail's books, we highly recommend sharing this article with them.

How did you start writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

I wrote as a kid, but I never wanted to be a writer particularly. I had been drawing and painting for years and loved that. And, I meditate. One time when I was meditating, I started thinking, "Gee, Gail, you love stories - you read all the time. How come you never tell yourself a story?" While I should have been saying my mantra to myself, I started telling myself a story. It turned out to be an art appreciation book for kids with reproductions of famous artworks and pencil drawings that I did. I tried to get it published and was rejected wholesale.

That book led me to a class on writing and illustrating for kids, and when I went into it I thought that I would be more interested in illustrating. But I found that I was much more interested in writing and that I didn't like the illustrating at all. I had always been the hardest on myself when I drew and painted. I am not hard on myself when I write. I like what I write, so it is a much happier process.

That's how I got started. And then everything I wrote was rejected for nine years.

Read the rest of the interview at:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Writing Handicapped" -- Guest Post by Linda Suzane

Linda Suzane is the author of THE MURDER GAME and THE EYES OF TRUTH. She also designs murder-mystery computer games and reviews books. Check out her website at

Well the month of November is past and I am finally catching up with all the stuff I put on hold while I was busy writing for NaNoWriMo. Did I reach 50,000 words? No. 34, 246. But I did complete the story. I'm not sure, even with a rewrite, that I will reach 50,000. But since I have several short stories that are in the same universe, I figure I have the makings of a book. But for me it was a major breakthrough.

Because of health problems, I have literally suffered from an over six-year writer's block. The medications they put me on to control the arthritis and depression have changed my brain and the way it functions. I used to sit for hours and daydream, fantasize stories in my head, but that ability is gone. It has only been this year that I have been well enough to return to writing. I have gotten my three books reprinted and am working hard at promoting them. I learned just because a book is published does not mean it will sell. You have to promote it and promote yourself. And that is hard work. But it doesn't require much creativity. Sitting down to write a new story from scratch -- now that is something different. I had not fully realized until this moment that I am handicapped. Oh, yes, I'm on SS disability. I walk with a walker. I take morphine and other opiates just to be able to move my body, and then not even well, or without pain. But I had never truly recognized my mental handicap.

A while back I went to the doctor because I was having trouble remembering things and it was interfering with my life. She sent me in for a battery of tests and what I learned from those tests was that I function verbally far beyond the norm. It didn't matter that I had lost a significant part of my capacity, I still was above average. And I didn't have Alzheimer's. Like all handicapped people, I have learned to compensate for my handicap, doing things in a different way to accomplish what I need to do. Now, looking back over my month-long experience of writing something new for the first time in over six years, I see my handicap and how I have worked out ways to compensate without even being aware of what I was doing. It is pretty amazing. I'm not able to create, to come up with a new story idea, but I can borrow. My first decision was to write a sequel, which provided me with ready-made characters and setting. Then I blatantly borrowed from Lauren Haney's The Right Hand of Amon, where Lieutenant Bak investigates a murder at an army fort and must eliminate each of the officers as suspect. So I sent my hero, Dar, to investigate a murder at a fortress on the Kingdom of Naj border. Then I followed the formula I use to create murder mystery games to plot the crime, which is basically fill in the blanks.

I was about halfway through before I discovered something very important: the parts that were good in the story were those places where I turned over conscious control and let my subconscious mind do the writing. All writers have that experience sometimes. But for me it became very important. Because I am handicapped by not being able to fantasize, to create a story in my conscious mind, to listen to the characters carry on that internal dialogue in your mind that you just record what they are saying and doing, I found myself blocked. I didn't know where to go next in the story. I decided to try an experiment, to do automatic writing. Years ago I had worked on a story, never knowing where it would go, I would just start writing without consciously thinking about the story. It had turned out to be a very interesting story and went in directions I had not imagined. So I decided to try that on this story. I would sit down and just write, let my subconscious mind take control. And in this way I managed to finish the story. As I said, I have not put into words until just now, to honestly recognize that I am not only physically disabled but mentally disabled and that I must find alternate ways to do what I need to do. In this case, it is to borrow and use known story ideas, but also to let my subconscious mind take the place of my conscious creative mind. There is a part of me that mourns what has been lost and will probably never be found again, but at the same time I rejoice that I have found a way to still be a writer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Write On For Literacy's Ninth Annual Holiday Book Drive to benefit children in need!

Last year we collected hundreds of 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 kids have a better holiday season. Give the gift that lasts forever: the gift of reading!

Want to get involved?

  • You can 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.)

  • You can 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 then be added to our grand-total.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Drowning in Excess

My article "Waterlogged, Yet Still Drinking" is the featured "Starting Over" piece at NewsSip this week! Here is a snippet:

On my bookshelf sit thirteen paperback books I want to read. I know that with schoolwork and clubs and other commitments, I will be lucky to get through two of them by the end of the semester. And yet, there they sit. Waiting. I will lug them home with me, and when school starts again in the fall I know I will lug them — plus half-a-dozen new “must reads” I’ll pick up while browsing Barnes and Noble — back with me. Why? Because I need choices. If I didn’t have my thirteen books what would I use to fill their spaces?

In today’s world, everyone has their own personal library: laptop, printer, scanner, Internet access. There are dozens of other “essential” gadgets, as well: stereo systems, video games, home gyms, televisions, personal DVD players. And it isn’t enough anymore just to own these essential technological gadgets. There are always newer models, better versions, more expensive brands to upgrade to.

Drowning in excess makes it nearly impossible to fully enjoy the present moment. We can’t wait till we can afford a bigger house, or a newer car, or the latest gaming system. I can’t wait to finish the first of my thirteen books so I can move on to the next one. But why? Why can’t we just be content with what we have? Why are we always in such a rush, pushing forward, straining for the future?

Read the rest at

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Waiting Game

Dear Dallas: I sent in a story to a publisher two weeks ago, and I still haven't heard back! I'm on the edge of my seat after sending my "baby" out into the world. What's up?

I know two weeks feels like a long time to wait for comments from a publisher or editor! And I understand from personal experience how nerve-wracking it can be to send your writing out into the world, especially a piece you have spent a long time writing and editing!

Unfortunately, though, waiting is a part of the writing business. When you send a story or poem or book off to a publishing company or literary magazine, it is not unusual to have to wait four, five, six, even eight months for a response.

The simple answer is that editors are BUSY! They receive many, many submissions every week and try to give every piece they are sent the time and attention it deserves. As you can imagine, you're not alone -- everyone has to wait a bit for comments! So you're in good company!

My best advice to take the edge off the waiting game is to work on a new piece of writing. Hopefully you'll get so engrossed in a new story that you'll forget to agonize over the story you just sent out -- and, by the time you hear back from the publication you sent your first story to, you'll have another story ready to go!

Best of luck! Keep sending your work out and believe in yourself! Never give up!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Calling All Teen Girl Memoir Writers for New Book Series

The Louder Than Words series is currently reviewing submissions from teen writers who are interested in writing a memoir. The editors are looking to connect with teen girls ages 13-19 who:
  • are passionate about writing
  • have an important real-life story to tell
  • love to journal, blog, or write poetry
  • dream of being a publishing author
If this describes you, you can apply to be a Louder Than Words author by
emailing editor Deborah Reber ( with the following information:
  1. Your name, age, and email address
  2. A detailed description of the real-life story you’d like to share. Please give a sense of the overall theme of the story and details regarding the personal journey you want to share with the world. Put yourself in the readers’ shoes—what would they take away from your story? Write as much about your story as you like.
  3. Two writing samples that demonstrate your style, tone, and writing ability. You can submit nonfiction essays, journal entries, blog entries, or fiction pieces, but please, no poetry unless you can imagine writing a whole book in verse. Try to choose pieces that represent the style of writing you would use in your book, and send your best stuff!
  4. A few sentences describing the role writing plays in your life and why you want to be a Louder Than Words author.
All submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and the editor will be in touch to request a more detailed outline and additional information if your submission is being strongly considered.

More information can be found at

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview with Tainted Tea Literary Magazine Editors Shane Toogood & Kris Fossett

Shane Toogood and Kris Fossett met while getting their Associates Degree in Communication Arts, Journalism at Delaware County Community College. They have now started a literary journal, Tainted Tea: Read on for their insights on writing, editing, publishing, and everything in between!

Congrats on the first issue of Tainted Tea! Why did you decide to start this lit mag? And what was the process like? Any surprises/unknown difficulties?

Shane: Thanks so much, Dallas. And thanks for interviewing us. It’s been a long seven months. Tainted Tea started because Kris and I kept saying that we needed to do something to fuel the flames of our imaginations. Although we continue to write, we both have jobs that are completely out of the writing and publishing field. She’s a lifeguard and I answer phones for funeral homes.

One day, as I was dropping Kris off at home, the two of us wanted so badly to tell the other that we wanted to start a lit magazine. Seriously, we sat in front of her house in my frigid car whose bi-polar heat decided not to work that March evening. Finally, Kris broke the silence and asked me. I screamed “I was gonna ask you the same thing!” I kicked her out of the car and as I drove home the name “Tainted Tea” dropped into my head. We loved it. It’s seductive, alluring and great alliteration.

We did some PR and Kris made the beautiful, interactive blog. All that was missing was the submissions. Once they started coming in things really picked up.

Kris: Before our first submission in late July, we didn't know what to do without content to work with. But once we received M.C. Brody's story, which is published in the first issue, we really started working, having meetings every week that lasted for six/seven/eight hours.

Once we received submissions, the magazine was no longer just something for Shane and I to do as we worked our terrible jobs. It's about the writers. We both know how difficult writing is, and we know how much courage it takes to send work out to publications. We couldn't let these writers down. If anything, we had to continue to work on the magazine for them.

Shane: As for the biggest difficulty…we had an artist verbally agree to have his work in Tainted Tea. We dropped his art in the layout and Kris tried to get a hold of him to sign the contract. When she finally met with him he lashed out…I won’t go into too much detail, but we were just about ready to go to press, and we had to pull his paintings and rearrange the whole mid-section of the magazine. We wound up making deadline fine.

What was your favorite thing about starting Tainted Tea?

Shane: Hmm… morphing dreams into reality. As I gain experience for my goal of becoming a book publisher, we’re helping make our fellow writers’ dreams come true. We love reading the enthusiastic responses when an author is being featured in the magazine. I mean, when we first started the zine, Kris and I thought we would cater to young authors, but we realized that there are just as many young authors not being published as there are the young at heart. It makes me happy knowing that another writer is happy. Too sappy?

Kris: I love everything about Tainted Tea: the writing, the editing, the layout, even the PR, which I thought I would hate due to a nightmare internship at a design firm. Shane and I spent hours commenting and editing one submission, and when the writer sent it back to us, she listened to us, and her story improved by a thousand-fold. It ended up being the best story we published.

Like Shane said, I lifeguard to support myself, and if I didn't have Tainted Tea, I would feel like my talents are going to complete waste, and I would have jumped off a cliff awhile ago. Being an editor of Tainted Tea isn't a job for me; it's something that I enjoy doing. It's my passion.

Read the rest of the interview at

Monday, November 2, 2009

Overcoming Rejection

Dear Dallas, How do you deal with rejection? It can be very discouraging.

Rejection is something that all writers share. I could wallpaper all four of my bedroom walls with all the rejection letters I have received from editors! The important thing is not to take it personally. For whatever reason, you or your writing just wasn’t a right fit for that publication at this specific time. That doesn’t mean that they won’t love the next piece you send to them! When I get a rejection letter, I first read the comments to see if there is any advice I can glean or ways I can improve for next time. Then, I submit my story or essay or article somewhere else. It took me more than a year to find my literary agent. A year of rejection, rejection, rejection – until finally, I found my perfect match. My agent understands my writing and has faith in my career. I just had to have the patience and perseverance to find her! Instead of focusing on all the possible rejection the future holds, I like to imagine that I am holding a puzzle piece, and I am just searching for the editor or reader who is a good fit for me -- who holds the interlocking puzzle piece that fits with mine.

My best advice to you is to read and write as much as you can, and to enjoy the process. What type of writing do you like to do? What draws you in? Write that! Whether it's poetry, comic books, love stories, fantasy, realistic stories based on your daily life ... or a mixture of all of the above! Write what you enjoy writing and what you would enjoy reading. I think the most important thing about being a writer is pleasing yourself and finding your own fulfillment through what you write.

Never, ever give up!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Interview with Amazing Young Nonfiction Writer Allie Sakowicz

Allie Sakowicz is proof that you are never too young to make your dreams come true. At just fifteen years old, she has written more than 30 articles for print magazines such as Odyssey Magazine and Chicago Parent as well as several in online publications including True Genius Magazine and Scrubs Magazine. She is also a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps, and as such her assignments have included attending a rally for former Presidential candidate John McCain, and President Barack Obama’s Election Night and Super Tuesday Election Night parties. Wow! Her website is

Read on for Allie's tips about how YOU can tap into your interests to make a career as a writer at any age!

How did you get your first piece published?

My first piece was actually a book review of Because of Winn-Dixie in the Chicago Tribune when I was 10. There was a general call for submissions and, being a huge fan of the Kate DiCamillo book, I submitted a review. I never expected to see it printed several months later! As for my first "real" article, the story went a bit differently. The author of the Angelina Ballerina series of books, Katherine Holabird, was making visit in my community and I was able to attend and take a picture with her. My family encouraged me to write an article about the experience and submit it to a local parenting magazine, who accepted it. It's certainly not always that easy, but I was lucky that the right opportunity came along at the right time and started my writing career.

How did you become interested in writing?

As long as I can remember, I've loved to write. Even now, I would prefer to write an essay on something than do an art project or something else any day. I wish I could tell you more, but I really can't. Writing has just always been there as a big part of my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.

What is your writing routine like? How do you find time in your busy schedule to write?

Being a full-time student makes it extremely difficult to find time to write, especially since I am involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. However, I believe that we always make time to do what we love, and writing is something that I love. Whenever I feel inspired, I will jot down a few words on an article or make a note about something I want to include. I am passionate about writing non-fiction because I love helping people gain knowledge on a certain topic. There is nothing better to me than getting an email saying that I inspired someone through my work. That is what keeps me going, and that is why I am in my room typing while my friends are at the pool, or why I am at the library researching on a 90-degree day. It's all about priorities.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the trials of the writing life, such as writer's block and rejection?

I realize that they are things that happen to each and every author at some point and try to work around them. As a non-fiction writer, I think I struggle with writer's block a whole lot less than others, but it still does occur. What I do when it does happen is find some new sources about my topic and do more research. Usually when I do this, I will come across new information I was not already aware of, and that opens up many more doors with the article. As for rejection, I'm not going to lie: it hurts. I have had many cases where it seems like an editor is very interested in my work, only to get a standard form rejection a month later. But, I just pick up the pieces and move on. Rejection is bound to happen in this business, and most of the time it is not because of the author's work, it is just an editor's preference. The one important thing to remember is to never give up. The right opportunity will come and you have to keep persevering to find it.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I read a huge variety of books, so I have favorite authors in every category. One of my favorite books, Shiver, was written by my friend Maggie Stiefvater and is a must-read. I also enjoy books by Jodi Picoult, Meg Cabot and John Grogan. As for non-fiction, I love reading medical books because I am a huge dork.

What is your biggest advice to other young writers?

I think that it is very important for kids to never give up on their dreams and goals just because of their age. It's difficult to be taken seriously sometimes in this industry, and the only way to get around that is to act serious. That means doing your research and writing quality articles or manuscripts.

What are you working on now? What's next for Allie Sakowicz?

I'm on a little bit of a hiatus from writing right now to focus on school, but I still have a few pieces in the works. I've begun to center in on articles about medicine, which is what I'm really interested in. I'm not really sure what the future of my writing career is, but I am having so much fun right now and can't wait to see what happens next.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Feel free to email me at if I can every help! I'm more than happy to offer advice or guidance to help get you where you want to be.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Online Writers Marketing Group

I just joined an online marketing group for writers and authors, and I am so excited about it that I just had to share in case any of you are interested in joining as well!

Here is more information:

Put your writing career in motion with the yahoo marketing group
VBT-Writers on the Move. Promote your platform, yourself and your books! We utilize ONGOING tours; viewpoint segments; mystery site give aways; blog radio spots; and much more to increase visibility and readership. To learn more contact Karen at: Please put "VBT-referred by Dallas" in the subject box.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Essay Contest for Young Writers

Be the Star You Are!
announces its 6th annual essay contest to promote literacy and positive messages.

300-600 words.

Who is your role model and/or mentor? In what ways has this person changed your life for the better?

FEE: $10 donation per entry

DATES: November 15, 2009-January 18, 2010

FIRST Prize: $100 plus guest appearance on the nationally syndicated radio program, Be the Star You Are!® (Total value, $700) Additionally, your story will be published in our Star Searcher Express newsletter and at In the event of a tie, winners share cash prize and both receive publication and radio interviews.

Runner-ups: Published in our StarSearcher’s Express newsletter and noted on web site.

All submissions must be received by Be the Star You Are!® by midnight January 18, 2010. Essays accepted by mail or email, with email being the preferred method. PO BOX 376, MORAGA, CA. 94556. You may enter as many essays as you'd like, however each one must be in a separate email or envelope accompanied by a $10 tax deductible donation entry fee. Donation can be via PAYPAL You will be notified when your entry and donation are received. Guidelines at or email:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Write Every Day!

One of my favorite activities is visiting schools and talking about reading and writing. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Junipero Serra Elementary School in Ventura, California to talk to all the third and fourth grade students. They were so creative, respectful, energized and, to use one of their favorite words, awesome! :)

Often kids will ask me what advice I have for becoming a writer. My biggest advice is simple: Write every single day. Even if only for fifteen or twenty minutes. Make writing a priority; make it part of your daily routine, as essential as eating dinner or brushing your teeth. Writing a whole book may seem like a daunting endeavor, but if you write just one page every day, at the end of a year you'll have 365 pages!

Recently, my own life has gotten incredibly busy. In between applying for graduate school and international fellowships, doing radio and online interviews, working on articles for magazines and websites, and the endless everyday tasks of daily life, my fiction writing time gradually slipped away. I began to feel drained and overwhelmed. At the end of the day, I would look back at all I had accomplished and still feel like something was missing.

Then I realized: I needed to listen to my own advice! I needed to make my fiction writing -- writing that is dearly important to me -- a priority again. I have set a new goal for myself of writing 1,000 words on my new novel manuscript every single day. It's been almost two weeks, and many days I have gotten on a roll and written 2,000 or 3,000 words at a time! For me, an important thing to remember when working on a first draft is not to censor or edit myself too much, but simply to let my creativity flow. Editing comes later. I often write longhand and then transfer my writing to the computer. I find I am more open-minded and free-flowing when I write by hand.

Since I've been recommitted to writing every single day, I have felt more purposeful, happy, and inspired. And my new novel is coming along great!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stress-Busting Tips

On this Monday morning, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about a condition that plagues just about all of us: stress.

Do you fluster through your days always worried about the next thing you need to get done? Do you never seem to have enough time? Do you often feel irritated and cranky, causing you to lash out at loved ones without meaning to?

How much more fulfilling would your life be with less stress?

Thanks to Victoria Moran, author of Living a Charmed Life, for telling me about a great book called The Inner Game of Stress by Tim Gallwey. Gallwey is a sports psychologist who takes what he's learned coaching world-class athletes and applies it to the rest of us as we face stress in our daily lives. Here are three tips from the book that might help you let go of some stress:

· The STOP technique: Step back, Think, Organize, and Proceed with a more conscious choice process.
· The Attitude tool: If you feel resentful, try focusing on gratitude instead.
· The Transpose Exercise: Imagine what the other person thinks, feels, and wants and develop empathy, kindness, and better relationship skills.

I'd love to hear some of your stress-busting techniques!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Interview on DreamList Radio Show

Many thanks to the very inspiring and enthusiastic Melissa Borghorst for having me as a guest on her wonderful radio show! Listen in for our tips and insights on how you can start pursuing your dreams TODAY!

Visit the website for additional resources, support and inspiration!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Neat Gift Idea for Kids

I'm always excited about endeavors to get kids excited about books and reading. I recently came across the website for The Lollipop Book Club, a company that describes themselves as "specializing in making the gift of books fun for children of all ages." Each gift arrives in a bright red envelope with a book, a lollipop, and a gift note printed on a sticker for inside the book. The Lollipop Book Club allows customers to build their own book packages, and I was happy to see that they have a wide variety of titles on their site to choose from. Another option is picking a book from one of their themes, such as Caldecott books, Just for Girls, Just for Boys, Happy Holidays, and Baby Books. Their website is

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kids Writing Contest

Here is a great writing contest for kids ages 9-12: Just Us Books Youth Writing Contest.

The prompt is "How will you use education and faith to make a positive difference in the world?"

You can win a $250 cash prize!

Entries must be received by January 31st, 2010.

Visit for more information.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Check out this site

James Patterson is not just a best-selling author; he is also a phenomenal literacy advocate. He has helped found the website with the goal of inspiring kids to become life-long readers and book lovers.

Here is their mission in Patterson's own words: "The only way to get kids to read [is] to give them great books, cool books, books they [will] absolutely, positively love. I believe we've gathered the creme de la creme of such reading right here. These are very, very special books that kids will gobble up and ask for more. If your kids get a few of these books under their belts they'll be well on their way to becoming readers for life. I promise you."

ReadKiddoRead breaks up book selections into age categories and also subject categories to satisfy every type of young reader. The site also features interviews with authors, quizzes, reading guides, and more. Here's their "12 Tried-and-True Ways to Get Your Kiddos Reading."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Interview with Young Writer Kyle Borland

Kyle "K.G." Borland, age 16, born in Massachusetts and raised in Germany, lives in Alabama with his military family. A high school junior, his interests include writing, reading, history, debating, politics, web design, tennis, fishing, soccer, being active with many community organizations, and serving as a GOODREADS co-moderator for several online groups. One of his favorite genres is writing urban fantasy, but he loves to mix genres.

Kyle is the 3rd place winner of the William Albrecht Young Writing Contest in Davis, California and his winning entry, Banishment, has recently been published in the 4th issue of the Blue Moon Literary & Art Review. Read it here:

I was delighted to interview Kyle about his life as a writer and advice for other young writers.

Congrats on your recent contest accolade! How did you feel when you learned the good news? What did you do to celebrate?
Thanks Dallas, I felt ecstatic! It’s the first time I’ve been published, naturally I was excited. What didn’t I do to celebrate? I went out to dinner, told everyone who would listen, and went to Disney World. The trip was previously planned but I made it part of my publication celebration!

How and when did you become interested in writing?
In third grade I attended a writing program for elementary school students at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. They compiled our works into one project. It was enormous fun and I loved every minute of it. I’ve been writing ever since.

What is your writing routine like? You sound very busy -- how do you make time to write?
Unfortunately, my writing routine is what some would call chaotic and hit and miss. I am extremely busy with school, work, and extra-curricular activities.When I have a free moment I try to get on my computer to write.

How do you deal with trials of the writing life, such as writer's block and rejection?
When I have writer’s block, I open a blank Word Document, save it, and then write about absolutely anything for as long as I can. Also, I keep lists of plot ideas, descriptions, and words. When I’m suffering a terrible ‘trial’ I select one of the words or one of the summary plots and write about it. Once I get my mind/muse flowing I can transfer my energy to the piece I’m working on. As for rejection, I haven’t been rejected yet. Sending my piece, Banishment, to the Blue Moon Literary & Art Review for the William Albrecht Young Writing Contest was the first time I submitted my writing anywhere. I’m sure I will have my share of rejections as I start submitting more material. I’ll let you know how I learn to cope!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors, wow, that’s a hard question to answer. One of my favorite books of all time is The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald is definitely one of my favorite authors. In contemporary times many authors’ books are a MUST reads for me: Markus Zusak, Richelle Mead, Laurell K Hamilton, and Dan Brown to name a few. I enjoy a range of genres, mainstream books, small press books, and I love to discover a not generally well-known author, for example Maria V. Snyder. Her fantasy novels are amazing! Snyder’s books/series is one I cannot put down.

What is your greatest advice to other young writers?
My advice to young authors is to just write. Write, write, write, and write some more. Even if you are simply writing about an object you see in front of you. Write. Try to write at least once a day. If you have a story in mind, write it down, don’t wait. Just, Write On! (Pun intended.)

What are you working on right now? What's next for Kyle Borland?
Right now I’m working on three stories. That’s just personal projects. I think I will eventually select one of the three and focus on it until it is completed. I am also a writer for a collaborative story hosted by my writing mentor D.B. Pacini. We have six writers and we all met on GOODREADS. Each writer has a turn and must write 2500-3000 words. Then, the next writer continues the story. We cannot kill a character we did not personally create. I’m very excited about the collaborative project. It is interesting and challenging to be part of a writing team.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I want to thank author D.B. Pacini. She told me about the William Albrecht Young Writing Contest and she encouraged me to enter it. Now she is encouraging me to continue submitting material to literary magazines and journals. She mentored you; you know how insistent she is! Also, I want to thank you for this interview. I appreciate it very much and look forward to learning more about you and about Write On!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Terrific Resource for Young Writers

The online magazine Devozine has a great "Writer's Corner" page with resources, advice, books to check out, and more! They also have a free downloadable PDF of writing workshop activities. Their website is

Sunday, September 27, 2009 Staff Writer

I am very excited to share that I am now a Staff Writer at, a wonderful online resource for college students and recent college grads. My first article, about how to avoid online job board scams, is now live. You can find it on the homepage: I'd love to hear your comments!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Promote Yourself Through an E-mail Newsletter

Ever thought about sending out an e-mail newsletter to promote yourself, your business, or your writing?

I wrote an article for iMediaConnection with tips for creating a successful e-mail newsletter -- along with common mistakes to avoid.

Here is the first cringe-worthy mistake to steer clear of:

1. Spamming and privacy concerns
Never, ever spam your newsletter to people who have not subscribed. There is no quicker way to make yourself look unprofessional and obnoxious.

Similarly, be careful not to broadcast the email addresses of your subscribers to your entire subscription list. If you are sending out your newsletter using your own email service (rather than an HTML service), make sure to put your subscribers' addresses in the "BCC" field so their information will be kept confidential.

It is acceptable to send your contact list an email announcing you will be publishing a new e-newsletter and asking if they would like to subscribe. Make sure your website has a place for visitors to enter their email addresses to your subscription list. Most importantly, when it is time to send out your newsletter, only send it to those people who have indeed subscribed.

You can read the rest of the article at the iMediaConnection site:

Please feel free to comment! And keep me posted if any of these tips are helpful to you!

You can also sign up for my free e-newsletter by sending your name and e-mail address to

Sunday, September 20, 2009

WomenArts Blog

WomenArts (formerly The Fund for Women Artists) is a fantastic organization with amazing resources! They send out a newsletter every month full-to-bursting with opportunities for playwrights, screenwriters, visual artists, writers, and more. (Great for artists both male and female!) They also have a new blog, Their website is Check it out!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lorrie Moore's New Book

On Thursday I got to meet one of my very favorite authors, Lorrie Moore. I only discovered her work last spring, when we were assigned to read her first story collection, Self Help, in my Creative Writing class. For me, it was love at first sentence. I read the entirety of Self Help in one sitting, and promptly went to Amazon and ordered all the other titles by Lorrie Moore I could find.

When you find an author who really "knocks you out" -- as Holden Caulfield says in another one of my favorite books, Catcher in the Rye -- it is such an exciting, invigorating experience. Lorrie Moore came into my life at a time when I was struggling with my writing. My "voice" felt static, used-up, cliched. I felt like I was writing the same story over and over. I was frustrated. I had trouble coming up with ideas.

Self Help was like a giant jolt of energy to my dead car battery. All of a sudden, a wide world of creative possibilities opened up in my mind. Her widely-anthologized story "How to Be a Writer" is a must-read for anyone who has ever tried his or her hand at the writing life.

Amazingly witty, darkly comic, and both smart and wise, Lorrie Moore is, in my opinion, one of the best writers around. To put it simply, when I read her work, I fall in love with writing all over again.

Her latest book, a novel titled A Gate at the Stairs, has just been released to wide acclaim. On Thursday, I got to listen to Moore give a reading and interview at the Los Angeles Public Library. She was charming, funny, gracious and insightful. After her talk, I was actually acutely nervous as I waited in line for her to sign my copies of her books. I felt like a tween girl meeting her favorite celebrity. What would I say? What could I ever say to express to this woman how much I loved her work?

I love my name for many reasons. I am named after my paternal grandfather, who is incredibly special to me. I also love that my name is unique -- I don't meet many other people named Dallas. And I love how my name is a great conversation starter when I first meet people. Lorrie Moore went to sign my book and asked, "Dallas? Is that your name?" I explained how I was named after my grandfather and had just visited the city of Dallas for the first time. And the door opened for a nice, albeit brief, conversation with my author idol.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Have you been able to meet them? I'd love to hear your stories!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Have You Tried Flash Fiction?

Flash fiction -- sometimes also called "sudden fiction" or "short-short fiction" -- is a fun new genre to try your hand at. Some flash fiction is more like a prose poem, under 300 words, while other flash fiction stories are closer to 1,000 words or so. Most flash fiction focuses on a moment in time rather than a series of episodes -- like a snapshot rather than a short film. With such a brief space to work in, you really have to make every word and sentence count!

A neat thing about flash fiction is the freedom it gives you to push your boundaries, step outside of convention, and try something completely new! What do you have to lose? Only a few hours of your time! Surprise yourself! When I am feeling stuck in a writing rut, I often start a new flash fiction story. My imaginative spirit and love for writing is rejuvenated.

Want to read some flash fiction? There are many great resources. Flash Fiction Online and flashquake are two terrific online journals. I also love the anthology Sudden Fiction -- look for it at your local library or here's a link to the Amazon page.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Guest Post by Adrienne Carlson

My Secrets to Good Writing

Some of us are born rich; some strive hard to achieve affluence; others stumble on wealth through sheer luck; and yet others struggle all their lives looking for prosperity and financial comfort without really being able to go past the boundaries of this elite status. The art of writing is similar – you are either born with the ability to weave magic with words or you aspire to learn the craft. The latter is not as easy as it sounds.

Just so I’m not mistaken, I’m not talking about writing in good English using perfect grammar and punctuation – anyone with determination and dedication can learn how to do that. What I’m referring to is the art of telling a story, one that has a compulsive beginning, a solid middle and a comprehensive ending, using words with a mastery that has to flow in one sweep from your mind to your fingers to your screen.
Some people choose writing as a way to earn a living, but in my experience, it’s those who stumble on it by chance who actually taste great success at this career. The dormant bug stays inside them, and when necessity or boredom forces it to make a reluctant or reticent appearance, the applause is tumultuous because the butterfly from the chrysalis is beautiful beyond words.

So how do you know if this talent is hidden within you? Only by trying! Choose a topic and give your mind free rein, or better still, the topic comes unbidden to your mind and begs to be explained further in the form of words. If thoughts tumble into your mind with a speed that makes them all tangled up, if your fingers itch to give concrete form to these ideas using words, and if you can heave a satisfied sigh of relief on reading the finished product, you know you have it in you to be a good writer.

Of course, you may have to hone your skills by reading more, analyzing your own work, comparing it with that of others, and keeping your ideas fresh and new. You may also suffer from the occasional writer’s block, but that is no cause for concern, because writer’s block is not that you cannot write at all; it only means that you know your creativity is being stifled by extraneous factors and circumstances. It may also happen when you know in your heart that your writing is not up to par and that you need to continue revising.

Writing is an art that must be viewed in depth in order to appreciate it – just a cursory glance or two is not enough. It also takes a person with a flair for the written word to appreciate you, and one man’s meat is always another’s poison. So don’t be disheartened if you receive more brickbats than bouquets – write for yourself, because you want to do so and not because others demand it; only then is the art of writing truly sustained.

By-line: This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of christian colleges online: Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wanna Make a Career as a Writer? Or Not? Read on!

I don't want to make a career as a writer. How can writing help me?
I always tell students I work with that writing is something that will benefit you no matter what your dream career is. Writing, at is essence, is communicating. Job interviewers, no matter what career, are looking for someone with good communication skills. It makes you a better person! For example, my mother works in an engineering firm, and they are always looking for engineers who can also write well. Writing also encompasses so many different genres and fields -- you could be a novelist, a playwright, a business writer, a copyeditor, a grant-writer, a newspaper reporter, a memoirist, a medical journalist, a poet, a children's book author ... the list goes on and on. Not to mention, writing can be great therapy because it allows you to express yourself and connect with others in a healthy, genuine way.

I do want to make a career as a writer. What is your advice?
Read and write every single day. Even writing for only twenty minutes really adds up if you do it every day. Also, if you want to make writing a career, it is important to research the business of writing. Subscribe to Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines. Read writing newsletters. Get a copy of The Writer's Market. Learn how to write query letters and proposals. Attend writer's conferences. There might even be a writer's group in your area that you can join. Tap into the writing community and learn from other writers. Most of all, don't be discouraged and don't give up! Good luck!

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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Fortune for All of Us

I had delicious Chinese food for dinner last night, and one of my favorite things about ordering Chinese food is cracking open the fortune cookies at the end of the meal. Last night, my fortune read: "Daydreams may be pleasant, but accomplishments are more satisfying."

I think this fortune can be applicable to everyone. Dreaming about the future is important, as is setting aside some time every day to daydream and let your mind wander freely. But, on their own, dreams are not enough. True satisfaction is focusing on a dream and setting forth with bravery, determination and hard work to turn that dream into a reality.

It doesn't have to be a huge leap. It doesn't have to happen all at once. In fact, I've discovered that pursuing your dreams is a lot like a climbing mountain, or taking a road trip somewhere new -- the best part actually isn't the moment you reach the peak of the mountain, or pull into the driveway of your final destination. The best part is the journey you take to get there -- all the surprises, detours, U-turns, and even roadblocks that happen along the way -- because overcoming those hardships and learning those lessons make you a better, stronger, wiser, more compassionate and giving person. As Coach John Wooden likes to say, "The journey is better than the inn."

I get the most joy and satisfaction out of actively pursuing my dreams, little by little, every day. I feel purposeful. Every day, I learn something new. Every day, I am humbled. Every day, I feel blessed.

What steps are you taking TODAY to actively pursue your dreams?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Networking, networking, networking!

Last night I went to a mixer event put on by the Young Leaders Society of Ventura County (and organized by my amazing friend Erica Roundy!) -- you can find out more information about this group at their website.

Networking is a great skill to practice. As a kid I was very shy, and growing up I have had to actively work at being outgoing and meeting people. Putting yourself in new situations is a great way to grow, learn new skills, and possibly conquer some fears! Writers, for example, can no longer afford to hide away and simply write -- we also need to be actively spreading the word about ourselves and our work. Building up your networking confidence helps in virtually any profession -- not to mention social situations that aren't job-related, like cocktail parties, birthday parties, conferences, or just meeting new friends! I met some wonderful people last night and had a fabulous time.

Here are some tips that helped me at the event:

1. Bring along your business cards and make sure they are easily accessible. When you meet someone, they will likely ask for your card as a way of getting in contact with you after the event. If you are carrying them in your purse or pocket, it is a good idea to get a business card holder so you can easily find them. Or just slip a few into your wallet. On the flip side, don't be afraid to ask for someone else's business card -- it's a compliment to them and they will be happy to give you one! The day after the event, it can also be nice to send a brief e-mail to everyone you met saying you hope to keep in touch.

2. Grab a drink. At the event I attended last night, they served alcohol, but I don't really drink. Instead, I got a Diet Coke, and it was nice to have something to hold as I mingled around the room. (I sometimes feel awkward and don't know what to do with my hands!) I learned to carry my drink in my left hand, though, because when shaking hands it can be clumsy to switch your drink to the other hand -- not to mention your handshake will likely be cold and damp due to the condensation on your drinking glass!

3. Quality vs. Quantity. Some people at networking events buzz around the room, meeting as many people as possible for brief, two or three minute conversations. Others talk to only a couple people the entire evening. I think a happy medium is best, but also consider what you hope to get out of the event. What are your networking goals? What are the reasons you chose to attend the event? Personally, I would much rather have a good conversation with a couple people but really get to know them and stay in touch with them after the event, than talk to fifty people but never really get to know any of them, much less remember all their names at the end of the night!

Hope these thoughts were a bit of help. Happy networking!