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               Because We All Have a Voice Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles
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  • 30 Mar 2013 11:06 AM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    March 30, 2013 (42nd  CBW-LA meetup): Blogging Workshop with Arlee Bird

    On the 30th of March, 2013, I had the immense pleasure of meeting in person awesome blogger and A-Z Blogfest founder Arlee Bird.

    Arlee and I became bloggy buddies, thanks to his famous A-Z blogfest. I had no idea that Arlee lived in L.A.  Luckily, I found out about this fact, thanks to my fellow CBW-LA officer Alana (also a prolific blogger), who had interviewed Arlee for her local newspaper article.

    I asked Alana to invite Arlee to do a workshop for CBW-LA, and Arlee kindly agreed.

    Arlee’s workshop focused on how blogging builds author platform. Lee began the workshop by introducing himself, and talking about his origins both as a writer and a blogger.

    arlee bird the writer


    Blogger and A-Z Blogfest Founder Arlee Bird

    His parents were professional jugglers, and soon he and sister became part of the act. His family spent their summer vacations touring and performing in front of crowds.  Lee developed his love for stories through the many intriguing folks he and his family met, thanks to juggling.

    juggling jackson modified


    The Juggling Jacksons, Arlee, his parents and his sister

    When Lee decided he would try out blogging, he decided on the title Tossing It Out, as a reference not only to his roots as a professional juggler, but also as a reference to his love for juggling words.

    During the workshop, Lee encouraged us to think about why we writeundefinedwhether it be for fun, for self-expression, or for publication. He said that our answers will also define why we blog.

    Lee answered the following questions during the course of his workshop:

    What Is A Blog?

    Why Blog?

    What Is Platform?

    How Can Blogging Help Establish Platform?

    Is Blogging Enough?

    Are the “Internet Time Sucks” Enough?

    How Do I Start My Blog?

    So I’ve Got a Blog--Now What?

    arlee bird and cbwla

    Blogger and A-Z Blogfest Founder Arlee Bird speaking to CBW-LA members

    Lee defined author platform as:

    Ÿ  Who you are

    Ÿ  What you can do

    Ÿ  Where you can be found

    Ÿ  Who your audience or customer base is

    Ÿ  What you have done


    Through blogging, we are able to establish our author platform by:           

    Ÿ  Building relationships

    Ÿ  Displaying our abilities

    Ÿ  Sharing our news

    Ÿ  Creating a community via our interaction with other bloggers

    Ÿ  Establishing credibility

    Ÿ  And building our SEO skills


    Lee discussed other social media venues where we can expand our following/author platform such as Twitter, Facebook, Triberr and Google Plus.

    Lee also spoke about What Not to Do when blogging, such as tell people too much about our lives, get into fights, or leave comments on other people’s blogs that we might later regret.

    In the second part of the workshop, Lee talked about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. He explained what the challenge was, and how he had come up with the idea.

    arlee bird why i began tossing it out


    Lee explained the benefits of joining the A-Z Blogging challenge. Not only was the challenge fun, it would also encourage discipline and creativity, since we would have to write up posts matching a specific letter for each day. The A-Z challenge would also help us network and get noticed, which would help our author platform.

    Lee cited several of our bloggy friends as prime examples of the A-Z’s success:

    Damyanti used the A-Z as a spring board for her works of fiction and later published her entries in an ebook entitled A-Z Stories of Life and Death.

    damyanti book modified

    Blogger Doris Plaster, inspired by her A-Z posts also published Home Sweet Nursing Home: An A-Z Collection of 50 Word Stories on Aging and Healthcare.

    home sweet nursing home by doris plaster

    We mentioned how Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh’s army of thousands of bloggers help him promote his Cassastar Series, and support him on his many challenges. (We also discussed theories on how Alex is able to balance blogging, writing, performing in a band, working and attending to his family, citing being an alien or a wizard as possibilities. :) )


    Mini Alex and CassaStorm modified


    Lee patiently answered a lot of questions on blogging and social media. He ended the workshop by encouraging the attendees to go home and start a blog tonight.

    Thanks to his workshop, many of our members were inspired to begin their own blogs and join the A-Z:

    Lucy Ravitch
    Chontali Kirk
    Michael Cahill
    Kate Conrad
    Christina Romero


    And of course, our members who already had blogs, discovered ways to gain more followers and make more connections online.

    Samantha Combs
    Alana Garrigues
    Jennifer Carson


    Our big thanks to Arlee Bird for coming out and speaking to CBW-LA

    If you'd like to know more about Arlee, check out his many blogs:        Tossing It Out         Wrote By Rote       A Faraway View         A Few Words         The Blogging from A to Z Challenge Blog



  • 13 Oct 2012 9:02 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Speaker Chris Lynch, Author of One-Eyed Jack

    Speaker Bio:

    Author Christopher J. Lynch is a Southern California native living in Los Angeles. A member of our group, CBW-LA, Chris has written articles for various newspapers and magazines, as well has various short stories.

    His hobbies include cycling and mountain climbing. He recently trained and led a group of blind individuals to the summit of Mount Baldy, the highest point in Los Angeles County. A documentary film is being made of the adventure.

    In May of 2012, Christopher J. Lynch finished the first draft of his debut crime novel “One Eyed Jack.” By June 13th, he had it revised, edited, formatted, and published as both an e-book, and a “Print on Demand” on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    Since then, he has enjoyed brisk sales, received rave reviews, done four author signings, and had it placed in Pages Bookstore, Small World Books, Apostrophe Books, and Frog Books. He also produced a video trailer and has done numerous guest blogs, author interviews, and promo pieces. How did he do it all in such a short time? He self-published.

    Christopher J. Lynch will share his experience and talk candidly about the self-publishing route and what it means to the writer of the 21st. Century.

    Workshop Summary:

    Chris was a wonderful speaker. He offered us a no-holds barred presentation on the ups and downs of self-publishing and gave us a lot of helpful tips and tricks, which he had to learn the hard way.

     Some of the questions Chris answered included:

    ·What is traditional publishing versus self-publishing?

    ·Is self-publishing right for me, or for my book?
    ·What are the benefits of self-publishing?
    ·What are the downsides to self-publishing?
    ·What is POD (print on demand)?
    ·What are the steps necessary for self-publishing?
    ·What are the costs involved?


    Workshop Highlights:

    Is Self Publishing For You?


    - Major bookstores (B&N) - and even some “indie” bookstores - will not carry self-published titles.

    - If you are selling on consignment to bookstores, you will have to get a sellers permit and resale certificate from the franchise tax board.

    - You may not be eligible for some book awards.

    - The “New York Times” and many other mainstream publications, are reticent to review any self-published book.

    - Some blogs may not review self-published books.

    - You will have to pay for your own editing, formatting, cover design, etc.

    - All promotion, bookkeeping, sales, etc.  is on you – You are a business!



    - Time: Your completed book can be available as an e-book in under 8 hours, and a print version in about one day.

    - Creative Control – This can be both good and bad.

    - You can set the list price (minimums for e-book and POD).

    - Higher royalties.

    - If successful, you can always get an agent and a publisher and go the conventional route.


    Where do you begin? An e-book from manuscript to product.

    - Step one: Finish the damn thing!!

    - Step two: Revise...Revise...Revise.

    - Step three: Have your manuscript professionally edited…by a reputable editing service.

    - Step four: Your cover is the first thing a customer sees - and it will only be a thumbnail on-line. Again, pay the pros. Only a front cover will be needed for an E-book (more on converting it to a full cover with spine and back for a POD).

    - Step five: Formatting from mobi, to epub to pdf can be hell, so it’s worth it to get a professional to do this for you.


    Why do a POD, if e-books are all the rage?

    - It doesn’t cost you much more.

    - It broadens your sales.

    - Many people still like holding a physical book.

    - You are going to have to do lots of in-face promotion (book fairs, signings, libraries, etc.)  and you can’t sign an e-book.


    How the steps to do a POD differ from an e-book

    - You will need to have your original, revised and edited manuscript, formatted into a different size (typically, trade size paperback).

    - Companies like Ironhorse formatting can do this: Pricing: 20 to 45K words – $40

    - You will have to have your e-book front cover made into a full cover with spine and back (app. $50.00)



    Sales, the “driver” of all business

    Three ways you will sell your book:

    - On-line

    - Consignment through bookstores

    - Private sales


    The truth about self-published book sales:

     - The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies across all formats and venues.

    - Some don’t sell at all.

    - Don’t count on all of your family and friends - especially your F/B “friends” - to buy your book

    - Sales require endless promotion: reviews, blogging, social media, author events, book fairs, swag…and some luck. It takes a lot of time…and some money.

    - It’s a crowded marketplace

    “The good news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”

    “The bad news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”


    Author Chris Lynch with CBW-LA Officers

  • 18 Aug 2012 8:51 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Workshop Description:

    Authors Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone) and Jennifer Bosworth (Struck) discussed common mistakes made by first-time authors and the things they wish they'd done differently on the road to publication.

    The topics they touched on included: how to build a better first draft, balancing critique and community with the integrity of personal voice, researching and approaching agents, what writers need to expect when they''re on submission, and how to evaluate their publishing deals.

    They also shed light on what happens after the sale and discussed what writers may want to know as theywork with editors and publicists to polish and promote their books.

    Speakers Bio (from their websites):

    YA Author Leigh Bardugo (Shadow & Bone)

    Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she live sin Hollywood, where she indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as make up artist L.B. Benson. Occasionally, she can be heard singing with her band, Captain Automatic.

    Her debut novel, Shadow & Bone (Holt Children’s/Macmillan), is a New York Times Bestseller and the first book in the Grisha Trilogy. Book 2, Siege and Storm, will be published in 2013.  She is represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of New Leaf.

    YA Author Jennifer Bosworth  (STRUCK) 

    Jennifer Bosworth was born in Price, Utah, a small, coal-mining town in the desert. As a kid, her favorite thing to do was roam alone through the barren hills and tell herself stories. As an adult, she continues to do the same thing, only now she’s roaming the streets of Los Angeles, her favorite city in the world.

    Jennifer attended college at the University of Utah, where she later taught continuing education classes on writing horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

    Struck (FSG/Macmillan) is Jennifer’s first published novel. She is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

    Jennifer is the writer half of the writer/director team with her husband, Ryan Bosworth.


    Workshop Summary:

    Last Saturday (August 18, 2012), CBW-LA had the wonderful pleasure of having YA Authors Jennifer Bosworth and Leigh Bardugo as speakers.

    The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore was packed with writers eager to learn more about writing and the publishing industry.

    The speakers prepared a wonderful presentation, full of information that would help beginning writers get started on their writing careers.  They even prepared a handout so members could easily follow the workshop.

    Speaker Jennifer Bosworth explaining the handouts

    The authors were generous in the information they shared, and despite the presence of handouts, the workshop attendees found themselves furiously scribbling pages upon pages of notes.

    Speaker Leigh Bardugo giving tips on how to create an exciting middle in one's novel

    Authors Jennifer and Leigh emphasized the importance of understanding your story idea, and considering the audience you wish to write for.

    They also stated the importance of being able to sum up your story in one sentence. They discussed the value of loglines, and the difference between high concept loglines and and regular loglines.

    Attendees volunteered their loglines. The speakers helped them figure out if their loglines contained high concept ideas, and even helped them improve and strengthen their one sentence summaries. 

     The speakers also explained the ingredients of a proper logline: character + conflict + hook.  Not all stories need to be high concept, but they should always have some kind of hook.

    Leigh and Jennifer listening to an audience member's question

    Leigh and Jennifer gave the following questions writers need to ask, when Crafting their logline:

    1.        Who is your main character?

    2.       What does your MC want?

    3.       Why does your MC want it?

    4.       What’s the catch? What stands in the MC's way?

    5.       What sets the MC's journey in motion?

    6.       What makes this story unique? What’s the hook?


    After helping the attendees with their loglines, the speakers discussed the two kinds of writing: Plotting and Pantsing, and the pros and cons between the two.

    Jennifer and Leigh are polar opposites in their writing styles, and they were perfect examples of how different plotters are from pantsers.

    Leigh is a plotter and admitted that she would not be able to sit down and write without some semblance of an outline. The wonderful benefit of being a plotter, is that the revisions are less painful because you already know the structure of your story.  One of the cons of plotting, however, is that there is no perfect plan, and sometimes too much research can bog a writer down.

    Jennifer is a pantser and loves the process of discovery and of surprising herself. One of the downsides she mentioned was that without an outline, it was easy for her to get lost in the story.


    On Getting Feedback

    Jennifer and Leigh warned writers about submitting a manuscript without getting feedback for it first:

    *An agent or editor should never be the first person to see your manuscript

    They explained the different ways of getting feedback, such as attending a critique group or going to workshops and conferences that offer manuscript critique.

    They gave the following tips for making the most of your feedback:

    1.        Listen. Don’t argue. Give the critique a chance to settle in before revising

    2.       Beware critique overload – there is such a thing as having too many betas

    3.       Red flags: betas who don’t like your genre; nitpickers; the beta ego

    4.       Stack the deck: Tell betas what you need, keep readers in reserve.



    Audience members eagerly listened as the two speakers talked about the process of finding the right agent. 

    The speakers had very different experiences in getting their agents.

    Leigh got her agent through the usual process of querying, and she gave the attendees some great tips for writing their query letters:

    • Keep it short: One page, roughly 3 short paragraphs

    • Put the hook up front: What makes your story different?

    • Do your research and personalize your queries (Why this agent?)

    • Query in small batches so that you can adapt to feedback


    Jennifer, on the other hand, got her agent by pitching in person. She and Leigh even did a demonstration on how a pitchfest usually works. Jennifer gave the following helpful tips for pitching in person:

    •Be excited about your book!

    •Speak for 1 minute and then let the agent/editor ask questions

    •Use time wisely. If agent/editor is not interested, use remaining time to ask for his/her opinion or advice


    The speakers also discussed what writers should do when they do get The Call. They cautioned writers against saying "yes" right away, likening the process of choosing an agent to marriage. 

    They gave a list of some helpful questions to ask an agent before deciding on who to pick:

    • How many authors do you represent?

    • What kind of revisions do you have in mind for the book?

    • How wide would you go with the book?

    • How and how often do you like to correspond with your clients?

    • How involved are you with social media and marketing of your clients?

    • Do you have clients I could speak to?

    • If the book doesn't sell right away, what would be your approach?


    In the final part of the workshop, the speakers discussed what happens once an author signs a contract with a publisher.

    There are a lot of things to consider when signing a publishing contract: foreign rights, , royalties, bonuses, marketing plans. An agent can help an author handle all of these things.

    Leigh also weighed in on the subject of writing a series.  If you're planning to write a series, don't write the second book until the first one sells.  If the publisher offers to buy your book as a series, be ready with a synopsis for the succeeding books.

    The speakers also explained that the submissions process takes anywhere from 1-2 years. Agents have to find the right editor, and these editors also have to find a way to sell the author's book to the whole publishing company.  It's important that the author stay busy during this submissions phase. While they're waiting for the editor's notes,  they should be writing the next book, or working on a promotion strategy for their books.

    Jennifer and Leigh ended their workshop by inviting audience members to take a piece of paper and write down their writing goals.  The attendees wrote down their goals and slipped the paper into the SASE's they had brought.

    The authors promised to mail these letters off in a few months, as a reminder to the attendees about the writing promises they had made to themselves.

    Leigh and Jennifer were gracious, generous, knowledgeable (and funny!) speakers and we were very, very lucky to have them indeed!

    CBW-LA Officers with Authors/Speakers Leigh Bardugo & Jennifer Bosworth, photo by Maiko

  • 26 Jul 2012 8:47 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)


    Whether your project is a novel, short story, or script for film, television or the internet, the Children’s marketplace is an exciting arena for writers.  But once you’ve completed writing your project, what are the next steps you should take before submitting your work to a publisher, editor, agent, producer or studio?

    There are a lot of myths out there about how to become successful. One thing we do know is that following the myths can enrich your stories. Everyone agrees that success requires a bit of magic, both in your marketing and in your stories. The madness is just an integral part of the marketing, but if you know what’s ahead you can better navigate the choppy waters of the Children’s marketplace for books, films, tv series, and web series.

    Last night, we gathered at Barnes & Noble 3rd Street Promenade for another wonderful workshop facilitated by two of Hollywood’s top screenwriting consultants.

    Authors/Speakers Kathie Fong Yoneda and Pamela Jaye Smith

    with Barnes & Noble Events Manager Shane

    Published authors and veterans of the entertainment industry, Pamela Jaye Smith and Kathie Fong Yoneda presented their individual Top10 challenges that all writers must face in order to successfully conquer the “myth, magic and madness” of writing for children today.

    Pamela Jaye Smith discussed the use of myths and symbols as a way to deepen the layers of our stories. She discussed ten important questions for us to ask ourselves as we develop or revise our short stories/novels/scripts:

    1.        Have I aligned my story with a universal Mythic Theme?

    2.       What is the Archetype for my Protagonist – is it clear and yet unique?

    3.       What is the Archetype for my Antagonist – is it clear and yet unique?

    4.       Have I aligned both Protagonist and Antagonist with an identifiable but not stereotypical Inner Drive [chakra] and how do they differ from each other?

    5.       How does my Protagonist change and grow, as expressed by their arc from one Inner Drive [chakra] to another?

    6.       What internal problems does my Protagonist have?

    7.        What external dangers must my Protagonist overcome?

    8.       Is my main symbol expressing an emotion, a situation, or a concept?

    9.       Is there a symbol for the Protagonist and one for the Antagonist?

    10.    Have I layered my story with related and age-related symbols?

      Author Pamela Jaye Smith

    Pamela taught us that symbols are primarily used for three things:

    1.        To express emotion (emotional)

    2.       To tell us something about the situation (physical/situational), and

    3.       To show a concept (if your story about freedom, love, etc)

    As humans, we’re built to grasp the meaning of symbols. Symbols are universal, and timeless and if we work them into our stories, we’ll be plugging into that deeper mythical and psychological part of our readers.

    Pamela gave us some great examples of how myths and symbols are put to great use in popular children’s books and movies. One of the examples she gave was Harry Potter’s lightning scar. Lightning, linked to mythological gods such as Thor, and Zeus, has long been a symbol of the connection between the deities and humanity, heaven to earth.

    JK Rowling’s decision to put a lightning scar on Harry’s forehead implies so much more, and is a more effective symbol of his character than say a circle or a dot on his forehead.


    Another example Pamela gave was the use of the mirror symbol in Alice in Wonderland. The mirror symbol represents the concept of duality of the world. On a situational level, it symbolizes that Alice is now in a world where things are in reverse; and on an emotional level, it symbolizes Alice looking into herself to find out who she really is.

       Author Kathie Fong Yoneda

    Kathie Fong Yoneda posed her own 10 Question Challenge for writers, based on her book THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME.

    1.        Are my characters well-drawn and interesting?

    2.       Does my dialogue add to the personality of each character and support the plot           points of my story?

    3.       Does my story fall within a general 3-act structure?

    4.       Does each scene/segment have a distinct purpose for being included?

    5.       Have I paid attention to details by doing proper research?

    6.       Do I know who my target audience is?

    7.       Have I streamlined my storytelling?

    8.       Can I summarize my story in one or two sentences?

    9.       Is my completed work in professional form?

    10.    Is this a story that I love?

    Kathie reiterated the importance of well-drawn secondary characters. An editor Kathie spoke with one day, mentioned that the one of the common downfalls of a book is that the secondary characters are weak and not memorable. Where would Luke Skywalker be without Han Solo or Darth Vader, Ariel without Flounder and Sebastian.

    Harry Potter had his friends Ron and Hermione. Although all of them went to the same school, they have very different ways of approaching the same problem. Having three different mindsets made a good blend. It  gave the whole story a sense of vitality and energy because of different types of people solving the same problem together.

    Kathie also reminded us of the importance of dialogue, and of having each character have their own voice. In Screenwriting, they have this technique were they cover up the names of the characters, and they try to guess who’s speaking to make sure the dialogue is consistent with the personality of the character.

    After Kathie’s talk, she joined Pamela at the table and they both talked about the madness of writing, and answered questions from the audience. They discussed the common mistakes writers commit when submitting their queries or manuscripts to agents and editors, and what to do to avoid them.  They even gave us great ideas on how to take our writing to the next level, by using the trans-media approach. They reminded us that novels aren’t the only creative outlet we have. Apps, web series, screenplays and other media are all available for us to use.

    CBW-LA Officers with Authors Pamela Jaye Smith & Kathie Fong Yoneda

    The workshop was a definite success. Kathie and Pamela did a great job of challenging us to create better stories that will stand the test of time.

  • 10 Mar 2012 8:44 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Practice makes perfect. We know this to be true about every skill. The only way we can develop our writing skills is to keep on practicing. I’m not just talking about writing one novel after another, or writing picture book after picture book. I’m talking about honing our craft by focusing on the act of writing itself.

    Often, the only kind of writing we do is related to the book, short story, or article we’re working on. Sometimes we need a break from our work. We need to have moments when we write just for fun, or for the purpose of learning how to write itself. This is when creative writing exercises come in handy.

    Last Saturday’s meetup was dedicated to learning various writing exercises designed to help writers find your authorial voice and style, and hone their art of description.



    Freewriting is a great way to spark that new story idea or to warm up your writing muscles before diving into their manuscript.

    I began the session by having everyone do some Freewriting.

    I asked them to bring out the questions they had picked out from the box as they signed in earlier. I set the timer for 5 minutes. Using the question as a general guide for what they would write about, my group members wrote continuously for 5 minutes without stopping to edit or think, and without worrying about grammar, punctuation or sentence structure.

      Facilitating the creative writing session



    In the first part of our session, we discussed the difference between Sound, Style, Tone & Voice. Most of the materials were taken from Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages, as well as various other books and articles found online.

    According to Noah Lukeman:

    SOUND has to do mainly with the basic construction of the sentence –its flow, its rhythm, and is more of a technical issue.

    Some sound problems we may find in our manuscript include poor sentence construction; echoes as found in the repetition of character’s names, pronouns or specific words; alliteration in prose, and resonanceundefinedthe way the sentence resounds within the context of a paragraph, line break, or chapter.

    STYLE also has to do with sentence construction but has more to do with the intention behind the construction, and thus is as much an artistic issue as it is a grammatical one.

    Ernest Hemingway wrote in simple, direct sentences and used few adjectives. Stephen King uses a lot of foreshadowing, and descriptive language in his books.

    TONE is the voice behind the work, the driving intention behind the sound and style.

    Sound/sentence construction can be technically wrong, but tone can never beundefinedit is always subjective, a matter of personal taste.

    Sound, style and tone work jointly to affect the overall melody of a piece; but tone or voice sits on the opposite end of the spectrum from sound, with style falling somewhere in between.

    Some authors use Voice and Tone interchangeably, while others believe Voice actually means the Writer’s Style. For our group however, we’ve defined Voice as a combination of both Tone & Style.

    To illustrate how each author’s voice is distinct and unique, I gave them Worksheet 1 – which contained paragraphs taken from some popular books. I told them to see if they could recognize what books the paragraphs were lifted from.

    Worksheet 2 also contained paragraphs lifted from some books. We went through several to see if we could identify the Tone used in each paragraph.

      CBW-LA members working on the exercises


    Here are some of the exercises we did after our discussion on Sound, Style, Tone and Voice:

    1. Paraphrasing

    Pick a paragraph from Worksheet 1 (or your favorite novel) and rewrite it with the same meaning, but in your own words. Try to make it as distinctly your own as you can.

    2. Character Chat

    Think of your protagonist, the lead in the story you’re currently writing, or the story you want to work on. Imagine him/her in a setting, staring at an object that’s in high contrast to her usual world.

    For example, if your lead is a preschool teacher, put her in a prison yard. Or if your lead is a brain surgeon, have him describe watching a Native American dance. Or if your lead is a billionaire, have him describe the flavor of SPAM meat.

    Try several of these chats, you’ll notice that one kind of perspective on life feels more right than others. Why is that?

    3. Many Moods

    Again, pick a paragraph from any of the two worksheets (or any book)  you currently have. Write this paragraph in three ways.

    1. a. Write as if everything about the story infuriated you
    2. b. Write as if the story were breaking your heart
    3. c. Write as if the story scared the hell out of you.

    Which one seems more natural to you?

    For that particular story, that is your writing voice.

    You can do this same exercise on your own. Take a single page of any novel and rewrite it in these three ways. Do the same with any one page of a novel and rewrite it twice, once as formally as you can and one informally. Look at these pages. Which one seems most natural?

    CBW-LA members doing some creative writing


    The power of description is such that it can transform the two dimensional page into a 3D word. Often, however, description is something that find hard to write because it incorporates so many different elements –not just the setting, but also descriptions of the characters’ clothes and appearance, the objects they use, the weather, what they’re feeling and so on.

    Some writers love action and dialogue and tend to forget about description. Their characters end up wandering through vague buildings and their readers don’t get a sense of time or place from their story. Some writers, on the other hand, include too much description. They expound on their setting so much, that it hinders the flow of their narrative. Their readers might read through a whole page describing a character’s room, and at the end of it, still wonder what the character is doing there and when the action will actually start.

    I shared with everyone Anne Marble’s article on the art of description, and the eight tips she lists down to bring a setting to life.


    Anne Marble’s 8 Tips to Good Description (Paraphrased, short version)

     1. Avoid huge lumps of description.

    • Long description describing the setting used to be popular in the past, but today’s reader won’t put up with that sort of thing anymore.
    • This is especially true if you’re writing for kids and teens.

     2. Make description an active part of the story.

    • Find a way to blend your description into the story instead of writing lumps of narrative description.
    • Use description in combination with action.
    • Ex. “Zara grabbed her mug and gulped it down, shivering when a few drops of ale trickled under her leather top” vs. “The ale was cold. She wore a leather top.”

     3. Describe what your characters would notice

    • If your hero has been in that office building dozens of times, she will only give it a passing glance, so you shouldn’t spend time describing it, unless something within it has changed that’s important to the story.

     4. Use strong, active, concrete writing words when writing description.

    • Avoid adjectives.
    • Use strong nouns and strong verbs

     5. Use all the senses.

    • Most writers tend to concentrate on sight and sound, but you can bring a scene to life by including the other sensesundefinedsmell, taste, touch.
    • Also, just because sight and sound are commonly used, doesn’t mean you have to make them common. Find a new way to describe things your characters see and hear. Don’t fall back on clichés to describe your character’s eyes or featuresundefinedinvent new ways of describing.

     6. Fit description to the type of the story

    • If you’re writing an action oriented piece, description will get in the way of pace
    • If you’re writing a slower paced story, description will be an important part of it.
    • Spooky paranormal tale might use description to build up the sense of the uneaseundefinedlinger on descriptions of dark hallways in the old mansion and hint that there are ghosts there.

     7. Avoid excessive name dropping.

    • It’s okay to use brand names in stories but get the trademark correct, don’t use them in a generic or incorrect sense and don’t portray the product in a disparaging light.
    • Brand names can be a good way to provide the reader with a quick, concrete description but don’t use them too much and too often.

     8. Don’t let description hang you up during a first draft.

    • If you’re not comfortable writing description, don’t let it get in the way when you’re writing the first draft. Remember you can always go back and add them in later.




    Susan Goldsmith Woodridge, in her book Poem Crazy, suggests that we collect words whenever we can. Words we see around us, or words that just pop into our heads.  Look into dictionaries, field guides, write down street names, product labels, names of people, etc.

    Wordpools are an excellent source of inspiration and a great way to stretch our imagination.

    Anne Marble suggests that we use strong active concrete words when we write description.

    In this first activity, I asked my members to create 2 wordpools. A Noun Wordpool and a Verb Wordpool. In their given Wordpool worksheet, they wrote down specific nouns (not house, but cottage or bungalow) and strong verbs (not walk, but stagger or stride).


    Alchemy is defined as a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life. But it is also defined as a power or process of transforming something common into something special.

    Susan Goldsmith Woodridge, in her book Poem Crazy, suggests giving colors to abstractions or concepts.

    • For example: Blue love, Chartreuse agreements, Silver deliberation, Magenta pride

    For the second exercise, I gave out two colored pieces of paper. On the yellow paper I asked them to write a color (such as magenta or periwinkle), and on the blue piece of paper, I asked them to write an abstract concept (such as deliberation, love,pride,etc).

    Once they had done that, I had them pass the yellow card to the left and the blue card to the right. Combining the words on the two cards, they came up with a new color-concept word (such as Maroon Love or Silver Fear).  I had them pass their cards several more times so they could come up with new color-concept words.


    Anne Marble encourages us to use all the senses when describing  things in our stories. One way we can do this is by building a Storehouse of sense related words.

    The 3rd exercise was all about thinking up descriptive words that pertain to each of the senses. 

    For example:

    • sight = blurry, twinkling,
    • sound = honking,
    • smell =  lemon, pungent
    • taste= vinegary, sweet
    • touch= furry, curdled, silky

    Whenever you encounter a new sense related word as you read your books, newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV, add them to the list.


     Our final exercise was from Brian Kiteley’s book The 3 A.M. Epiphany, (which is a great book to have if you want to get your hands on hundreds of wonder creative writing exercise).

     But I modified the exercise to include all the stuff we just learned about sound, style, tone, voice and description.


    IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST (From Brian Kiteley’s 3 A.M. Epiphany)

    Describe an unusual interior space, one with lots of interesting appurtenances and gadgets sticking out: a submarine, a small plane, a subway tunnel away from the platform, a boiler room in the subbasement of a high rise building, the warehouse-sized vault of a Federal Reserve Bank.

    Do not yield to the easy use of this scene. The boiler room, for instance, we all expect would conceal an axe murderer. Put two innocent children in it instead, romping and playing among the glow and roar of the fire and steam events as if this were a sunny playground (their father is the superintendent of the building and he prefers to keep the kids where he can see them).


    1. Use words from your Noun Wordpool and Verb Wordpool
    2. Usedescriptive words you previously listed down in the Sense Storehouse exercise.
    3. Use at least one color-concept word (from the Word Alchemy exercise)

    After this exercise, we all shared what we wrote down.


    The First Five Pages  by Noah Lukeman

    Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg & Laura Whitcomb

    The Art & Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb

    The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley

    The Art of Description: 8 Tips to Bring Your Settings To Life by Anne Marble

  • 14 Jan 2012 8:40 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Last Saturday’s meetup was all about setting writing goals and planning our writing career. I was quite proud of how we managed to fit 20 people into the small library meeting room. We had to steal borrow some chairs from the other library tables, but we made it work.


    The first part of our session was called “Writing Reflections.

    In the Philippines, we have a saying “One who doesn’t look back at where he’s come from, will not get to where he’s going.” Before we achieve the kind of future we want, we must take a good look at our past and present.

    I had the audience reflect on how far they’ve come along the “Write Path” by answering the questions on their worksheet.

    How we view ourselves as writers is an important part of our writing journey. It’s important to take note of our writing quirks and habits, what we dislike and like about writing in order for us to know whether the path we’re taking is the right one for us.

    We have to know who we are and what we want before we sit down to write our stories.  More importantly, we have to know why we want to be writers, why we want to travel this writing path. Do we write for fame? For money? For others? For ourselves? Do we write for the simple joy of writing or do write because we feel that our skill will get us somewhere?

    Before we do everything to get what we want, we have to know why we want it.

    After looking back at their writing past, I asked the audience to look ahead at the writing path they were on.

    I talked a little about the power of visualization, even telling them the story of computer specialist Natan Sharanksy. He spent 9 years in USSR prison because he was accused of being a US spy. While in solitary confinement, he played himself mental chess,  saying he might as well try and become a world chess champion. probably to have something to do.  In 1996, Sharansky beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov.

    I explained the importance of visualization and mental practice. Writing is 90% mental work. We must have strong, active minds if we wish to pursue a career in writing. Research, reading, plotting, creating stories, writing – all depend on our brain. Scientist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from ALS, and yet has published several best-selling books, is great proof that even without the use of our limbs or our voices, we can still be writersundefinedbecause all our stories come from only two places---our hearts and our minds.

    To put into practice this power of visualization, I asked everyone to close their eyes and imagine themselves as a successful author. Maybe they’re climbing on stage to accept the Newbery Award, maybe they’re signing books at B&N. I asked them to imagine the scene in great detail, engaging all of their senses in their visualization.

    After a minute, I asked them to open their eyes. And I told them they just got a glimpse of their possible future.

    Now we had to figure out how to get ourselves there.


    We now had our writing dream clearly etched in our minds. But in order for us to make our dreams come true, we must first come to terms with the reality around us.

    Before we even begin to figure out our writing goals, we need to first know what we’re getting ourselves into.

    This is where I gave the group several handouts on the publishing process. I talked to them about the different types of publishers, the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing, and the pros & cons for each type. I also talked to them about the various processes involved in traditional publishing (finishing a manuscript, getting an agent, finding a publisher, marketing their work, etc).

    After half an hour of this discussion, the group now knew what they were in for.

    I told them that they may find themselves  wondering whether it was still possible for them to achieve that writing dream they visualized earlier. The answer is yesundefinedwith hard work, patience, determination and the right knowledge.


    The task of getting published seems daunting, especially now that they’ve been exposed to a dose of publishing reality. But I told them not to  give up on their writing dream.

    The best way to do accomplish something, or to make a dream come true is to take it one step at a time.

    The first step to getting published is to make a commitment to writing.

    And here, I took them through some ways for them to prove their commitment to writing.

    1. Admit that you are a writer.

    In their  first worksheet, they encountered the question “Do you consider yourself a writer?” If they answered yes, then they’re already past the first hurdle. If they answered no, then it’s time to overcome the first obstacle in getting published.

    I gave them this little tidbit of motivation:

    You become a writer the moment you take up your pen (or type on your PC) and begin to write creatively.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a story, an essay, or a news article. If you write because you love to write, or simply because you enjoy writing, then you are a writer.

    You become what you think you are. If you want to get published, you must set aside your insecurities and doubts.

    Publishing a book is a long process and some people who start out wanting to get their book published, often give up after a year or two, when they realize it’s too much work and it’s taking too long.

    Depending on how much time and effort we put into building our writing career, getting published might take anywhere from 3-10 years. That seems daunting, but keep this in mind: time flies when you’re having fun.

    If writing is a passion for you, if it’s something you would do anywayundefinedwhether you knew you’d be successful or not, then it shouldn’t feel like work. If you really love something, you keep at it no matter how long it takes and no matter how hard it seems to be. It’ll all be worth it in the end.

    And to help them keep to their writing commitment, I had the group sign a contract between them and their writing dreams.

    On their worksheet #3, I asked them to write down the following words, and mean every word of what they write:

    I am a writer. I will do everything in my power to get published in one form or another.

    I will commit time and patience into achieving my writing goals.

    I will become a published author.

    Then I asked them to sign and date the contract and pass it around to their fellow writers to sign as witnesses.

    The worksheet will serve as a constant reminder of their commitment to their writing goals, and as a source of inspiration for when they feel their writing passions waning. Maybe someday one or all of the witnesses who signed on their writing contract would become famous authors too!

    For the next few steps in fulfilling their writing commitment, I had the group take out Worksheet #4, where they had to plan out their writing space, their writing tools, their ideal writing atmosphere, and their actual writing schedule.


    In this part of our session, we discussed the difference between dreams and goals. I also talked to them about the importance of writing down their goals.

    I gave them a handout on how to make SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time-Bound) Goals, as well as a list of some writing goal examples.

    The final worksheet provided some questions to guide them on planning their writing goals, and also on how to develop their book ideas.

  • 10 Dec 2011 6:05 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    We (Torrance Children's Book Writers) had our first ever Holiday Party on December 10th, 2011. It was a potluck affair, and everyone brought special dishes to share with the group.

    Wonderful potluck food

    We all sat around the table getting to know each other in a more social setting, and exchanging tales of writing woes and writing joys.

    Holiday lunch

    Once we were all stuffed to our ears, we started our program. We began by introducing ourselves to the group. I thanked everybody for making time to join us despite their busy holiday schedule. We had some new faces in that day, so I also introduced our officers so they would know who to approach if they needed something.

    I also told our newer members a little about the group's history and what we do. I told them that I had started the group a year and a half ago because I was pining for a writing group in the area that would support people like myself, who aspire to be published in the world of children’s books. I wanted a group that would provide mini-class sessions to teach me not only about the publishing industry, but also about writing itself. Since there were none in our neighborhood, I decided to create one to see where it would take me. My teaching experience kicked in and I figured I could maybe learn more about writing by teaching about writing.

    Our writing group has grown and with it our dreams. There's so much more we want to do for our members including more class sessions, more helpful handouts and worksheets and more writing events. This takes a lot of time, which we are more than willing to give--and money, which unfortunately we don't have much of.  We've already  started the process of applying for a nonprofit status, and we hope that once that has pushed through,we can start trying to get a little bit of financial help so we can do more for our members.

    My officers and I have kept busy while waiting for that nonprofit status to come through. We've come up with a new slogan and logo for our group based on our group's new name (which I had used when I sent in the non profit application).

    At last Saturday's party, we launched our new name, logo and slogan.

    Presenting our new slogan and logo

    Next year, our name will officially change from Torrance Children’s Book Writers to Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles, or CBWLA. This is the name we are using in our current nonprofit application, and the name which we hope future authors in our group will mention as inspirational in their careers.

    After presenting our new logo and slogan, we moved on to the fun part of the party---the games.

    The first game was human bingo and our members had to scramble all over the room asking people to sign in squares describing a certain trait they might have.

    playing human bingo

    The amazing Lucy finished all her squares first and won the tote bag. Amazing, considering she won the game while holding her daughter Ella (cutest baby ever!)

    Lucy won the tote bag for human bingo

    The second game was the funnest ever. The Gift Wrap Race rules were simple:  form a group of three and work together to wrap the box as quickly as possible. The catch? They had to do it one handed!

    The Gift Wrap Race

    The winners of the race received this stainless steel water bottle with our name and logo.

    The final game was a bit more challenging. Each group was given a riddle sheet. The riddle contained words with alternate titles for several well-known Christmas songs.For example, I Spied My Maternal Parent Osculating was also another name for I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Each group had 8 minutes to fill in the proper title beside the riddle.

    Members playing Yuletide Carol Riddler

    The group with the most number of correct items won the prize--mousepads!

    Yuletide Carol Riddler Winners

    Our program ended with the white elephant gift exchange.  White elephant is a gift game that involves picking a number, opening your chosen present in front of everyone else, and waiting nervously to see if someone else would steal the cool present you got or if they'd go for a new one.

    white elephant gift game

    The holiday party was a fun success and I only wish more people could've come! The food was yummy, the games entertaining, the prizes worth keeping and the people worth knowing.

    And we got to help our local library by donating old books!

    Books our members donated for the holiday book drive

    Here's hoping next year will be just as fun!

    Torrance Children's Book Writers soon to be Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles

  • 12 Nov 2011 6:02 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    We held our first ever Picture Book Bootcamp last Saturday, November 12th, 2011. The 3-hour workshop was facilitated by our TCBW’s Second Scribe (a.k.a Vice-President) Lucy Ravitch.

    Most of the material came from Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books, Nancy Lamb’s Crafting Stories for Children, as well as past SCBWI conference talks and other writing retreat Lucy Ravitch has attended.

    Lucy did an amazing job of compiling all she’s learned from Ann Whitford Paul’s & Nancy Lamb’s books, past SCBWI conference talks and other writing retreats she’s attended into 21 pages of extensive notes.

    The LA Public Library Harbor Gateway Branch librarians were helpful as usual. Librarian Donna (who became a member of our group after our first meeting at the library), was kind enough to reserve our usual conference room, and to photocopy a page of our materials when we were missing two copies.

    The meeting room normally holds 10 people, but we managed to rearrange the table and bring extra chairs to accommodate all 21 picture book writers who RSVP’d for the event.

    Attendees of the Picture Book Bootcamp

    Lucy brought 45 different picture books, which she beautifully showcased.

    A showcase of picture books used in Lucy's Talk

    She used many of the books to illustrate various points of her talkundefinedfrom picture book writing techniques to the many styles and types of picture books.

    Lucy’s discussion included instruction on how to create compelling characters, create an eye-catching first line and a great story beginning, hold a story together, develop a satisfying story ending. She also discussed the art of picking a great book title, and the benefits of making a dummy book. She also briefly touched on the language of the story as used in picture books, and rhyming in picture books.

    Before the meetup began, Lucy had asked everyone to pick two picture book manuscript samples from the board. Writers who attended used the manuscripts as a sample to work on some of the writing techniques Ann Whitford Paul discusses in her book.

    Lucy uses picture books to illustrate various writing techniques

    Writers who attended added their own notes to Lucy’s 21 page handout, and eagerly asked questions.

    The workshop ended a few minutes before 4pm, and we all gave Lucy a big round of applause. Everyone clearly appreciated all the effort she put into  the handout, as well as the presentation.

  • 24 Aug 2011 5:54 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    I first met our wonderful speakers Pamela Jaye Smith and Kathie Fong-Yoneda at a book signing in Barnes & Noble, Santa Monica on June 28, 2011. I listened to them, and two other script-writing consultants talk about Screenwriting, and writing in general.

    At the end of their talk, I lined up to get copies of their books signed. They asked me about my own writing, and I told them about the writing group for children’s books writers that I had founded last year. Kathie was most interested, and when she heard that we were always looking for speakers who would teach us for free (since we didn’t exactly have the funds), she immediately offered to be a speaker.

    Lena and I had taken pictures at the event, and so we emailed to them a week later. I was thrilled when Kathie said that she was coming down to L.A. sometime in August and she had some free time to maybe come speak to our group. She even got Pamela Jaye Smith to agree to be a speaker as well.

    Kathie Fong-Yoneda & Pamela Jaye Smith, with a poster of our event

    The event was held at the Torrance Municipal Airport meeting room from 7-9PM.

    Torrance Municipal Airport  Zamperini Field - General Administration Building

    Thanks to Lena, Lucy and Tiffani’s help, we got the room all set up before the speakers and our fellow writers arrived. One of our members, Jeff, was kind enough to bring some coffee in case anybody needed it for a quick boost.

    Kathie and Pamela arrived early, and even gave us some cookies from King’s Hawaiian to add to the snacks we were providing for everyone.

    We waited a few minutes until everybody had signed in, gotten their name tags and chosen their seats; then I introduced our speakers.

    Introducing the speakers

    Kathie Fong Yoneda is a former development exec who has worked at such studios as Disney, Paramount, MGM, 20 thCentury Fox and Universal, specializing in live action, animation and both film & television projects. She conducts workshops worldwide and is the author of THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME (2 nd edition) and teaches an online class on PITCH & PRESENTATION for Writers University ( She also co-exec produced the cable series BEYOND THE BREAK for Teen Nick. &

    Pamela Jaye Smith is a writer, international consultant and speaker, and award-winning producer-director with over 30 years in the media industry, from feature films to music videos, commercials to documentaries. She is the author of INNER DRIVES, THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE, BEYOND THE HERO’S JOURNEY, and  SYMBOLS.IMAGES.CODES: The Secret Language of Meaning in Media. As well as in-person classes here and abroad, Pamela teaches online on Mythic Themes, Archetypes, and Symbols for a number of venues. She is the founder of  MYTHWORKS and co-founder of the Alpha Babe Academy.

    Kathie began her talk by telling everyone the story of how we had first met, and of how they had come to be our speakers. She also told us of how she and Pamela have been friends for years, and of how they work together often on certain projects.

    Kathie gave us an inside peek into how family projects are acquired. First, she answered the question, “What is the family entertainment market?”

    Family entertainment, Kathie says, consists of feature films, games, books and web-based projects, although every day technology comes up with some other new way for us to enjoy the art of story telling.

    Based on her years as Disney executive, Kathie has come up with several answers as to what makes family entertainment so popular.

    1. There is an understanding that children don’t necessarily have to take center stage. 

    2.  Kids like to see funny, outrageous, out of control or scary situations are popular

    3. Most publishers and studios like projects that appeal to the entire family, and not just to kids that are under 10 years old.

    4. Projects Need to have Cross-Over appeal. 

    Another question that Kathie often gets asked is, What kinds of projects attract a buyer?

    Kathie listed down the most popular kinds of projects, along with examples of movies in each genre.

    Comedies – Home Alone, Night at the Museum

    Comedies that have a positive message – Shrek, Toy Story, Up

    Dramas  that have some kind of action/magical supernatural elements – twilight, Harry potter, spiderman

    Dramas that have universal themes – lion king, mulan

    Action –Adventure – Indiana Jones, M.I.B, National Treasure

    One of the most important questions that Kathie answered that night was How can a writer get his/her work noticed?

    Kathie says that over 80% of Oscar-nominated films for BEST PICTURE are adaptations.  Almost 45% of all TV & cable movies are adaptations.  Of those 70% of all Emmy Award winners for TV & cable movies are from adaptations.

    Still most books are not meant to become movies.

    Studios & networks take a hard look at making films based on books because they have to pay twice as much – once for the book & once for the screenplay.

    Kathie then gave us a list of things we should consider if we wanted to use this strategy.

    Aside from teaching us about loglines, Kathie also gave us a list of things the producer or studio would need to know if we were to submit a synopsis:

    • ·Who is the hero/heroine?
    • ·What is his/her goal?
    • ·What is the issue, problem or challenge he/she faces?
    • ·Where does a majority of the story take place?
    • ·What is the time span involved?
    • ·Does it take place in the past, future or present?

    Kathie reminded us that studios always look for stories that have one or more of the following elements:

    I realized that story elements studios and producers of film look for in projects they receive, are the same elements that publishers look for in the stories submitted to them.

    Kathie also listed down some major challenges in adapting our books into screenplays. Some of these challenges include the fact that many books span a large chunk of time, and while the main storyline is usually apparent in a book, many writers want to “remain true” to their work by keeping in too many subplots or characters.

    This is possibly why novelists can’t write screenplays, the same way most screenwriters can’t write novels.

    She said writers and their formats are like athletes and their sport. You may be good in golf, but you may be crummy in skiing. Or you may do well in track, but you can’t swim. Sometimes you can do well in 2 or 3 kinds of sports, same as writing.

    Kathie ended her talk by giving us other advice for submitting our works to a publisher or studio.  She says we should keep in mind that once a studio buys the rights to our book or manuscript, they “own” it & we no longer have control over the subsequent adaptation that results from their purchase.

    Kathie ended her talk to a loud applause, and we entered the second phase of our event:

    Pamela Jaye Smith's talk: Symbols and the Dark Side in Family Entertainment, Yes You Need It.

    Pamela started her talk by asking us to imagine a pie chart for our story. Within that pie chart, there are three elements that we should consider to make our stories good:




    Pamela explained that we should ask ourselves what the ratio of these elements is in the story we’re writing.

    Enlightenment is art, which shows us some kind of different vision. This is something our stories need, after all, Pamela reminded us, we don’t get much  enlightenment from watching “Dumb and Dumber”.

    Entertainment is the element that allows the audience to enjoy the story, while Expression is basically the part of the story that allows us to express ourselves.

    Another important thing to remember is that writing is made up of Art, Craft and Business. Pamela said that Kathie did a great job of explaining the Business part, and so her task was to talk about the Art & Craft part.

    Pamela went on to define mythology. She emphasized that a myth isn't a female moth undefined as one child once put it, but that myths are stories we tell ourselves to explain the world around us and within us.

    She talked a little bit about human developmental ages. Each human developmental stage is related to the kind of stories people like to hear about at the different stages of their lives.

    The first 7 years of our lives is devoted to learning about how to work our bodies. In the second 7 years of our lives, we learn about emotion. In the third 7 years of our lives, the focus is on our mental growth. The 4th 7 years of our lives  is about combining all those elements.

    For the most part, as children’s book writers we work on the first and second 7 years and so our stories are mostly about the physical and the emotional.

    One thing to remember is that idealism is part of what creates the magic that makes a book work. That’s why we have heroes, so that we could look up at something or someone. Heroes represent that enlightenment part of a story.

    Stories with heroes have worked for thousands of years. One of the first books that Pamela remembers that she loved was Oscar Wilde’s fairytales. Most of the stories in that book are about good behavior for children, appropriate behavior for young adults and sacrificial behavior for adults to get to that greater good.

    Lawrence of Arabia is one of those movies that Pamela said made a really big impression on her when she was younger. It wasn't a kid’s movie, but it was so idealistic undefined about a person going by themselves into a situation, and becomes a part of it, and adds and improves the situation by what he brings into it.

    Pamela calls this the “Going Native” theme. And this is interesting for teens, particularly because teens think they are  “the only one in the world who has ever felt like this.”

    She also told us to keep in mind when we write our stories that kids’ brains are usually wired for empathy by age 5 undefined if they’re not, then we may have a psychopath on our hands. And that’s the value of puppies and cuddly things.

    Pamela went on to explain that the way to make our characters grow and learn things in our stories is for them to encounter conflict undefined which she also calls the “dark side”.

    There are  3 levels of the Dark Side, or three kinds of conflicts:




    Stories that are most effective are ones that use at least two of these three elements.

    Pamela also listed down the 10 Aspects of Opposition and taught us how to select the best ones for our story.

    1. Self 

    2. Other individuals

    3. Family 

    4. Sweethearts & rivals

    5. Religion 

    6. Environment

    7. Technology 

    8. Wars - and warring factions. 

    9. Gods, monsters, magic, demons, and aliens .

    10. The Dark Brotherhood – the really big bad guys. 

    The 3 categories of Symbolism and how to coordinate your imagery




    Our two wonderful speakers spent a few more minutes answering the many questions about writing, publishing, symbolism, and conflict that our members asked them.

    Before we lined up to get our books signed, we took a picture of our group with the fabulous speakers Kathie Fong-Yoneda and Pamela Jaye Smith.

    Children's Book Writers with Authors & Speakers Pamela Jaye Smith and Kathie Fong Yoneda


    The workshop was a definite success. Kathie and Pamela did a great job of challenging us to create better stories that will stand the test of time.

  • 13 Aug 2011 5:49 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

    Johnny Covey, author of the self-published novel “The Answer”, contacted our group and offered to speak to us. We’re always happy whenever authors offer to share their time and knowledge, and naturally we said yes.

    Johnny Covey, author of The Answer

    Johnny Covey is the author of The Answer and creator of The 7 Equity Extractors, a framework that unleashes each individual’s equity, that untapped potential. He is also the creator of The 8 Dexterities, an exercise that distinguishes your strengths and how to focus on them. Johnny is an inspirational speaker who has been recognized for his ability to rejuvenate an organization by creating a new level of innovation. Examples of this innovation have been featured in a book by the all time best selling business author Robert Kiyosaki, creator of the internationally acclaimed Rich Dad Poor Dad series.

    You can learn more about him at

    Johnny began by introducing himself and telling us about his writing journey. At the young age of 13, he had developed an interest in Real Estate. As he grew older he learned more about the real estate business, and became very successful for many years.

    However, when the market collapsed a few years go, Johnny found himself without a job and without a future. This made him reflect on his own life, and on what he might do to regain the success he once add.

    That’s when he came up with the book, “The Answer.”

    Johnny created the book in order to help people  break through the stale, negative energy that keeps them from reaching their full potentialundefinedwhether in business or in writing.

    The book is formatted like a journal,  and unlike other booksundefinedthe font is unique. The book is printed entirely in Johnny’s handwriting. He formatted the book this way to allow the reader to feel like they are the author, because they are. Readers reflect on the various questions Johnny has posed in the book, then write down their answers in the space provided therein. The interactive style of the book was designed to help the readers discover who they are, and what their potential is. Johnny hopes for people to recognize that  all of us have the answers within ourselves, if we only take time to ask the right questions.

    After Johnny’s introduction, he gave us an exercise that he called “Pen Ponder”. He gave us a few minutes to answer the question “What is the next step for me?” –the next step referring to our writing careers.

    To give us an example of how we can go about  finding the answers to the important questions we have regarding our writing careers, Johnny asked for a volunteer.

    Johnny Covey asking Lucy questions

    Lucy volunteered. She wanted find out what the next step was for her writing career (in effect, how to get published, and what to do with the books that she had written). Johnny proceeded to ask her questions. Each answer Lucy gave was followed by another related question. Johnny ended his interview with Lucy when he was satisfied that she had arrived at several useful answers to the question “what is the next step for me.”

    Johnny Covey and Lucy

    Johnny shared the 4 M’s of finding the answers:

    1. Models – successful people/ actions we could watch from a distance. They are role models, or good examples of how we can find success.

    2. Mentors – People who have achieved what we want to achieve, or a book to help us achieve the goals we’ve written down. In our case, we would need to find other successful writers who we can learn from, and read up on a lot of writing books to help us improve our craft.

    3. Mastermind – A critique group or writing group that we can join. A group of like-minded people who can accompany us in our writing journey.

    4. Me – In the end, we decide what we need to do to find the next step in the ladder of our success.

    Johnny ended the session by asking us to answer the question “What is holding you back from your next step?”

    Johnny Covey and the class

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