A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

UPDATE: Walking and Writing

First a shout out to my friend and fellow SCBWI South Sound member, Kiki Hamilton. He book, THE FAERIE RING released on Tuesday and I can’t wait to read it! I’m also very excited to attend my first ever launch party for THE FAERIE RING at the Olympia, Washington Barnes and Noble, Wednesday October 19th from 4:30 to 6:30. (If you’re in the neighborhood you should come). There will be door prizes and a drawing for a Nook. But the best part is you’ll have the chance to meet the amazing Kiki Hamilton and get a signed copy of her book.
Now about me…
Today I decided to give an update on my battle against writer's butt and my walking and writing progress, (and yes, this might just be an excuse to show a funny/cool treadmill clip at the end of this post).
After a summer of neglecting both my writing and my body, I decided to buy a treadmill. Through Craigslist, I got a great deal on a nice used treadmill, the Epic View 550. It has a strong motor and a long deck, both necessities when you are using it as a walking/writing desk. (Also important if you like to run on it when it’s rainy outside, which I do.) Also, it has a built-in TV, a feature I wanted to entice my kids to use it. (We haven’t hooked it up yet, but my kids like the treadmill anyway.)
I’m still using my Surf-Shelf, but honestly, it was easier for me to attach it to the treadmills at the gym. Right now, (and yes, I am writing this from my treadmill), my Surf-Shelf is jerry-rigged with a towel behind it to keep it from bumping against the front speed and incline controls on my treadmill. It took a couple of unpleasant moments when my leisurely walk turned into a heart-stopping full-incline run, with my laptop hanging in the balance before I figured out that I needed to keep the shelf away from those controls. I also have a rice bag sitting under the keyboard to stabilize it, because I’m worried about how the vibration will negatively affect the life-span of my Precious.
My husband has offered to build a more permanent desk to sit on the treadmill, but I come from a long-line of jerry-riggers, (I once saw my dad fix a potato digger with scrap metal that had been dug out of the field), so I’m pretty confident in my design. Also, a permanent fixture on the treadmill might discourage my kids from using it.
So the BIG question everyone is asking…Have I lost any weight???
I’m going to have to answer that truthfully, No I haven’t… BUT remember I’m just getting back to this. AND since I started walking and writing faithfully at the beginning of this month, I have noticed that my pants fit better, I have more energy, and I just feel better.
How has this affected my writing?
Walking and writing has been great for my writing. I made a play list of songs that inspire me for my WIP, and every day I plug into my headphones, jump on my treadmill and walk and write for two to three hours a day. (With breaks in between to let my treadmill cool off.) On a good day I can write 1,500 words and burn about 600 calories. On an average day it’s probably closer to 900 words and 400 calories. And because my treadmill is now at my house, I can walk and write any time of the day, and I can check e-mail, surf the web, (strictly for research), and even update my blog from my treadmill.
My back still sometimes hurts and my knees still sometimes hurt, but for the most part, walking and writing has made me more productive, and I definitely feel like I’m taking better care of myself.
I’ll let you know how the weight thing goes.
In the meantime, as promised, here is the funny/cool treadmill video. How long do you think it took them to choreograph this???

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Are You Willing to Give Up to Follow Your Dreams?

First a guilty confession, once in a while, I read SlushPile Hell. For those of you who don't know, SlushPile Hell is a (self-proclaimed), grumpy literary agent who pulls out the worst queries from his slush pile, posts an excerpt from them (with no identifying features), and answers them. So when I ran across this post, it got me thinking:

Query excerpt:

I recently quit my job to become an author. As a result, I am happy to say that I now have a manuscript for your review.

Snarky Response:

Congratulations on an incredibly wise move! I always advise my new clients to immediately quit their day jobs and to go ahead and put down payments on Italian sports cars and villas in the South of France. Anything else is a negative, defeatist attitude that, quite frankly, makes me want to vomit.—Slushpile Hell

I think most of us get why quitting your job to be a writer might be a bad move, we understand that Stephanie Meyers or J.K. Rowling success is a HUGE rarity in this business. In fact, most of the published authors I know still have their day job.

Having said this, I refer to my previous post, “Do you have to be organized to write?” in which I said I was organizing my house so writing can be my “almost” full time job. I also said I was lucky that I can do this. And I am. No, we aren’t independently wealthy. Yes, I clip coupons and shop sales, and drive an eight-year-old suburban. With four kids and only one income there are definitely things we can’t afford. (We’ve never been to Hawaii.) And yes, I’ve considered the idea that I should take my college degree and start looking for a “real” job now that my kids are all in school. It might still happen.

For now, with the loving support of my husband, I’m devoting myself to my dream, but there are definitely sacrifices involved.

All of this, and the SlushPile Hell post has me thinking, What am I willing to sacrifice to fulfill my dream of being a writer? How about sleep? How about time? How about a family trip to Hawaii? How about, (and this is where it gets harder), time with my kids? And harder still, if I was working full time instead of writing, could I be putting money away for my kids’ education?

Then there’s my loving husband. He’s an awesome, artistic photographer. He took the photo for my cover. Check out his website here. But he’s relegated that dream to a hobby so he can support our family’s eating habit. In fact, he’s worked hard for all of our eighteen years of marriage, and most of that time I've been a full-time mom.

There are people can to do both, but not without sacrifices. I have one friend who wakes up at 4:00 am so he can write 800 words before he has to go to work, and then stays up after his family goes to bed so he can write 800 more words. I know of an illustrator who passed up a three figure job offer to continue his dream.

Ultimately, though, we only get one shot at life. My question for everyone out there, (not just the writers), is: What are you willing to sacrifice to see your dream come true? What is reasonable? What isn’t?

***NOTE: The picture at the top of this post was taken by my husband and copyrighted by him.***

Friday, September 16, 2011

I HAVE A STORY TO TELL: A Special Girl, A Special Song, and A Night to Remember

I've always had a soft place in my heart for special needs kids. When I was seventeen I started working with Jason, a little boy with cerebral palsy. I was his home health aid, so I spent nearly every day after school and some weekends with him. Jason was seven at the time. During the years I worked with him, I fell in love with Jason. His family became my family. I still keep in touch with them. Jason inspired one of the characters in my book, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL.

I'll write more about Jason later, because today I wanted to share another story about another special kid. I met Brianna about eleven years ago through my church. Her older sister was in my girls group and I was friends with their mom. After they moved away, I lost track of them for years. Thanks to the magic of Facebook I've become reacquainted with her family. I was really touched by this video of Brianna's prom, made by her step-mom. I wanted to share it as my first I HAVE A STORY TO TELL.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do You Have to Be Organized to Write?

There's this image of the truly focused writer; driven, haunted, the kind of person that sits in front of their keyboard night and day, slaving away over their art as if nothing else in the world existed. (Um, I've been that person a few times, ask my family.)

And then there's reality:

Even when you're writing, life happens. For me that life includes a husband, a house, four minions (my kids), a dog, a tortoise, a guinea pig, and a whole lot of outside activities.

In order to keep up with it all, I'm battling my right-brained, seat of my pants style and trying to get organized. Usually, there are two times in the year when I get really organized. One is around January 1st and the other is around now, when my kids go back to school and my life settles back into a routine.

This year, I approached my organizing with a concrete goal in mind. I wanted to organize my household in such a way that I could be a nearly full-time writer and not have to deal with the guilt and stress that comes when I neglect my house in favor of my writing.

I know I'm lucky. My husband is gainfully employed and all of my little minions (my children) are in school. I can (theoretically), be a full time writer. BUT (and there's always that but,) my kids still need to have food and clean clothes and a house that won't end up on a reality television show.

I'm not saying you have to be perfectly organized to be a writer. In fact, I find that a little chaos in my life spurs my muse along and makes for more interesting narratives. After all, doesn't conflict make the story? But I find when my mind is clear of other distractions (like a visit from the bill collector or the Health Department), the ideas flow better.

So this year, in my never-ending search for balance and organization I've decided on jobs for the minions, I'm trying to stick to a schedule, and (this is for my critique partners) I'm learning to say "no" to things I don't have time for. However, I know there will still be times when I'm on deadline or just really caught up in a story and the rest of my life will suffer. But that's okay too. (How can we write conflict if we never have it?)

As one of my favorite authors, Janette Rallison says in her top ten reasons to be a writer:

#2. (When you're a writer) You have an excuse to be cluttered: you have no time for cleaning; you're creating ART.

So, I want to know, do you think a writer has to be organized? Is an organized person a better writer? And how do you make time for writing in the midst of your crazy, busy writer?


Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Firsts: The First Day of School

To begin my new feature and start things off, here is one of my "First Day of School" memories.

On my first day at South Fremont Junior High in the little town of St. Anthony, Idaho I was a little excited, but mostly terrified! My best friend from grade school had deserted me, (or so it felt). Our little school didn't have an orchestra program, so her parents sent her to a bigger school down the road that did.

I remember everyone milling around in front of the building, waiting for the first bell to ring. I was looking at the different groups and trying to decide where I would fit in. In one cluster were the kids that I had gone to grade school with for the past seven years, in another were some girls I knew from church, and in yet another was my sister's best friend's little sister, a girl I kind of knew. None of them openly tried to include me, and I was too shy to just join them.

I didn't know who I would walk to lunch with (our junior high didn't have a cafeteria so lunch was at a grade school a few blocks away). I didn't know where my classes were, and I didn't have one close friend to "hang out" with. Eventually, I just stuck with my eight grade and one-year-older sister, (probably to her mortification.)

I don't have many concrete memories about my first day of junior high, mostly I just remember feelings. However, a two things are firmly ingrained in my mind. My locker number was 118, (18 was and still is my lucky number), and when I bent over to put my things away in that bottom row locker, a boy, (and I still remember exactly who that boy was), pushed me headfirst into it. Not my finest moment or my finest memory.

In the end I survived the day (and the rest of junior high, but just barely).

From the standpoint of an author the first day of school has endless story possibilities. Maybe you started a new school. Maybe someone new caught your eye on the first day of school. Maybe you transformed yourself over the summer. Maybe your best friend moved and you're on your own for the first time since kindergarten, (like I was). Maybe you're mourning the loss of a summer love that didn't quite go the way you had planned.

Whatever it is, I would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to School, A Day of Beginnings

Do you hear that?

It's the sound of a quiet house.

Today, I sent my four kids off to school. The first day of school is always bittersweet for me. I hate the end of summer, and I'm always sad to see my kids leave, but at the same time I'm excited for them to start a new chapter in their lives. (And lets be honest, it is GREAT to have uninterrupted hours to write and work on writerly stuff.)

For me the first day of school is also a new beginning, a time to set new goals and decide what I want to accomplish with all the quiet time I have.

One of the things on my list of things I'd like to improve on is my blog. I thought about it a lot over the summer, (while I wasn't writing it), about what posts I'd like to write and what kind of posts my readers would like to read. I decided that you probably don't want to read about me, (at least not all the time).

So... I'd like to change things up a bit. Instead of writing about me all the time, I want to hear from you. A couple of features I'm adding to my blog are:

"Friday Firsts"
On the first Friday of the month I'm going to talk about one of my "firsts" (I know that's still me talking about me, sorry, it's my blog, I have to start somewhere,). Then I'm going to open up the discussion for YOU to tell me about one of your firsts. For example, this week is the first week of school, so on Friday I'm going to write about one of my first days of school. (Yes, I REALIZE its not technically the first Friday of the month, but it is the first Friday of the school year, so deal with it.)

"I Have a Story to Tell"
These posts will be me interviewing ordinary (and extraordinary) kids and teens to find out what they're into, what they believe in, what their dreams are, and maybe even what they fear. I will be post these as written interviews or as vlogs. (Did I mention I have an underused degree in broadcasting?) My "Teens Doing Great Things" posts will, for the most part, fall under this feature. If you would like to be part of this feature, or you know a great kid I should talk to E-MAIL ME at jenwolfy@gmail.com


That's easy. As an author, basically I'm a story collector. Everything I write comes from a memory, or an experience, or something I read. (Or even something someone told me about.) So... selfishly I'm looking for more material to write about, and I'd love for you to help me out. (And frankly, I just love a great story.)

So be thinking about a "first day of school," you'd like to share. It can be funny, embarrassing, or even ordinary and boring.

Feel free to keep your comments/stories anonymous, BUT I reserve the right to delete comments that aren't appropriate. I like to keep my blog at least PG.

Thanks in advance for your help. I'm going to go enjoy some QUIET writing time.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Teens doing Great Things--A Time to Dance

I have many favorite memories from the weeks I spent with my Japanese Exchange students. Some of them include:

Volunteering at a Day Camp. The Japanese teens spent time at a local day camp. They taught American kids origami, how to write their names in Japanese, and a popular Japanese dance.

The Teen Panel. We had a question and answer session and found out teens on both sides of the Pacific have similar interests in books, (Harry Potter), and movies, (Harry Potter and Pirates of the Carribean). The most popular question on both sides was, "Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend. The most interesting question I heard was when one of the Japanese boys asked my daughter if she liked him. (???)

The Car Wash. Our Japanese students, (most of whom were here on scholarship), worked hard on a hot day to earn money for a scholarship fund that was set-up by their Japanese agency, to send teens from the United States to Japan. Then they wrote letters to their new American friends telling them why they should apply for the scholarship and come to Japan.

(This event was held simultanously by three different exchange groups in Washington and several in California. The Washington group raised almost $1500.00. )

But my all time favorite moment came at the end of the Sayonara Party. It was also one of my proudest, and saddest moments.

The Japanese students worked hard all that day, cooking food and preparing a program for their host families and the American kids who had spent time in class with them. They did such a great job! The food came out delicious and the program was amazing.

At the end of the program they performed a dance to "Aitikata" a song by the Japanese group AKB48. The students had practiced their dance over and over again. (So often that I can almost sing all of the words.)

Still, I wasn't expecting what I saw.

It wasn't just the boys who came out in skirts, (which, by the way was laugh out loud funny!) It was when they did their encore and they pulled all the American kids up to dance with them. For the length of a song they were all united and laughing and having a wonderful time.

And when it was over we all cried.

The words to the song mean something like "I want to meet you," or "Come join me, I want to spend time with you." After all the time the Japanese kids and the American kids had spent together, it felt like a fitting message and a fitting ending to the whole experience.

Since the moment speaks better than I could ever explain it, here's video that was taken from the end of our Sayonara party.