Archive for February, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!

February 26, 2010

This Sunday would have been my father’s 91st birthday.  His goal during the last several years of his life was to make it to age 90.  He did, with charm, dignity and grace.

He was the most positive person I’ve ever known.  I can’t write this without getting teary-eyed, and he’s been gone from this earth since mid May. 

Before he came out to California,  I didn’t know him as well as my mother.  My father was a quiet man.  So we hadn’t bonded in the way my mother and I had. 

My mother and I had much in common:  books, philosophies, politics, spirituality.  My father and I shared most politics, but his conservative Catholic beliefs and my liberal spirituality did make me feel apart from him. But I didn’t know until he moved out here, that is made no difference to him at all.  He respected and loved me for exactly who I was. 

Not for one moment, did he try to change me.  Not for one moment, did he pass judgement on me or any of my friends. 

And that has taught me about my own failings, as I try to become the person my dad was.  Not in his conservative beliefs, but in his non-judgemental ways. 

He had a delightful sense of humor, too.  Dry and understated.  Once, a friend asked me who I was most like between my parents.  The friend, Dad and I were at lunch.    I said, “Oh, I’m like Mom.  Thank God!” 

Dad roared with laughter.   Thank God.  

After a moment of pure horror, I laughed too.  He absolutely knew what I meant.   He knew I wouldn’t be happy as anything but me.

Art Contest For Grades K – 12

February 26, 2010

Design a Bollywood Movie Poster – Art Contest for Youth Grades K-12

Create a movie poster for a fictional Bollywood movie (NOT a real movie, regardless of when it was released).First Prizes:
One first prize winner will be selected in each of five grade groups: K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, 9-12. Each winner will receive:
– A signed hardcover copy of “All About India”, a lavishly illustrated 64 page non-fiction book, when published in Fall 2010.
– Poster published in a gallery on the book’s web page.
One of the five will be selected as the Grand Prize winner.

Grand prize:
In addition to the above, the grand prize winner will receive:
– Winner’s (or other designated child’s) portrait on canvas. See Gallery for sample portraits.
– Possible placement of the poster in a city scene in the book “All About India” (pending the winning entry’s approval by Tuttle Publishing).

Entry rules:
– Artist must currently be attending a public, private or home school in the United States in grades K-12.
– One entry per artist.
– Entry size 8.5″x11″, portrait (vertical), without a mat, frame or border.
– Two dimensional artwork only. Any medium.
– Place movie title on poster OR allow space in design and write title on contest entry form.
– No signature, initials or text other than movie title on the design.
– No violent or adult themes, please.
– Submission deadline is 5pm Pacific Time, March 31, 2010.

Entries will be judged on originality, humor, composition, color use and believability as a Bollywood movie poster. Do a web image search with the keywords Bollywood Movie Posters for inspiration, but copying an existing poster will automatically disqualify your entry.

Preferred: Scan in full color at 300 dpi and email high quality jpeg file, along with contest entry form, to the email address on the form.
Alternate: Mail original or color copy flat (not folded or rolled), along with contest entry form, to the snail mail address on the form. Use a sturdy envelope and mark it Do Not Fold. Must be postmarked by deadline. Entries will not be returned. Not responsible for entries damaged or never received.

Contest Entry Form will be available as a pdf here by March 15, 2010. Get started now so you can create the best poster possible!

Writing Conference Inspires

February 24, 2010

I attended a writing conference this weekend with friends at Asilomar in Monterey, California.  Set across from the rhythmic ocean waves, we walked among the tall aromatic pine trees, and breathed in the fresh smell of rain.  Deer wandered among us, not caring we were close by. 

It’s a place where nature helps you reach your spiritual self.  Whether or not you believe in a higher power, you’ll find your soul here.  Looking for the kernel of your story?  Need to reclaim the silence in your life?  Try changing the scenery of your day-to-day existence.  Even if it is only for an hour or two, take your pen and paper and visit a park, a cafe, or a crowded corner in an airport. 

Take notes about your surroundings.  Or ignore them completely and go into a deeper space. 

At the conference, agent Sarah Davies said, ” The best books teach us more about ourselves than the characters.” 

She suggested writers create larger than life characters with description revealing the character.  “What do the torn jeans tell you about the character?”   And this insightful comment about your character:  The “external of conversation needs to reflect the internal agenda of your character.”  

Author Liza Ketchum talked about finding the voice of your character.  “Voice is the most important metaphor for writing style.”   It’s the sound in your head that continues after you close the book.    She suggests that when you write a scene, end it with a cliffhanger so the next day you’ll begin momentum to inspire your writing day.

Author Gary Schmidt tells writers to get your reader to want to ask, “What happens next?”  This is the ultimate dramatic question.  His talk was so moving everyone gave him a standing ovation.

Author Ellen Klages suggested another way to describe “hook” is the “wow value.” 

Agent Ken Wright says there is a saying among agents about reading a book.  “You cry you buy.” 

What happens when writers get stuck?  What should you do then? 

Gary says, “What happens around you main character?”  Write about that and see what happens.  You may make some interesting discoveries.

Liza takes a shower or a walk.  Ellen goes to a mindless movie and then she’ll begin writing on her hand.  Yuyi Morales looks for an image she loves to motivate her to write.  Author Deborah Underwood goes to an art museum or a concert.  “Be around creativity in another form.”

Young Writers Contest Guidelines

February 23, 2010

Reminder to those entering the California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Young Writers Contest.  Follow the guidelines.  We’ve already had a few entries where people haven’t double-spaced their short stories, which disqualifies them from being read. 

Double check what you have sent us.  If you forgot and discovered you sent something where you ONLY double-spaced  your paragraphs and not your sentences, it is fine to send it again the correct way.  You still have time before the deadline!

Contests for Kids AND Adults

February 22, 2010

1. Scare the Dickens Out of Us Contest  – This contest is for kids and adults.  The guidelines are at this link.  There IS an entry fee ($20 for adults, $5 for kids)  Sponsored by a library, however, and the prizes are $.

2.  The next contest is Writing Contest with NO entry fee!

$1,000 Cash Prize  
 And you might get published!
Here’s the details:  
• Winner is picked by Editorial Advisory Board.
• $1,000 Prize plus possible publishing or literary agency contract.
• Must have 50,000 words up by August 31st, 2010 (but more is fine)!
• Must be 13 years or older to enter.
• Can enter one free Basic Story per author (and as many Premium Stories as you want).
• Stories that were previous Finalists or Semi-Finalists in any contest on Textnovel are not eligible.

See Contest Rules for more details!
Please contact if you have any questions. We don’t currently have a landline or

mobile phone number but you can contact us through our contact us page and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Bonus: Our 2008 winner Shannon Delany picked up a 3-book publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press!  It is available for pre-order on Amazon.  Our 2009 winners are still finalizing their manuscripts to get them ready for submission to publishers.

From Beyond the Grave – Or – A Valentine’s Coincidence?

February 18, 2010

On Valentine’s Day my husband was rummaging around in his messy office when he came across something he had never seen before; a valentine from his father to his mother from early in their marriage.

Since his mother has passed over a year ago, he couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen this particular item before. Ever. And here, on this particular day, it dropped into his lap. Literally.

“What a weird coincidence,” he said to me.

“Isn’t the universe wonderful?”  I said. 

Writing Prompt:

1. Do you believe the universe speaks to you in an usual ways? Or do you believe in literal occurrences? Write about your thoughts.

2. Have any funny coincidences ever happened to you? Write a personal narrative about one of them.

3. Create a short story about a coincidence that changes someone’s life completely.

Video – Dare to . . .

February 17, 2010

First Drafts and Writing

California Young Writers Contest Entries

February 17, 2010

One question that has appeared in my e-mail box recently is one concerning titles.  No, a title isn’t required for your entry for the California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Young Writers Contest, but it’s great if you have one.       

Why is it good to have a title?  

A good title is intriguing for the reader.  It tempts the reader to read on. 

In our case for this contest, it’s helpful as we judge the entries, for identifying the poem “that begins with the line  . . .” is more difficult than if we are able to distinguish a short story, personal narrative or poem by its specific title. 

However, we have had winners not title their pieces. On their awards, we list it simply as Untitled

How should you find a good title?

You’ll know it when you have found it.  You’ll feel when it’s the right title.  Brainstorm a bunch of them.  It might be in your actual poem, story or essay.  What is the theme of your piece?  What does the main character want?  What does she or he fear?  Perhaps answering these questions might lead you to your title.

Another Writing Contest for Kids (Pre K – 6th Grades)

February 17, 2010

                                        Toni Buzzeo Announces:

 No T. Rex in the Library (S&S, 2010) will be published on February 23, 2010!

In honor of its imminent arrival, I am currently conducting a writing contest for preK to sixth graders. PRIZES include ten hardcover autographed copies of the book. The grand prize is a free ½ hour Skype visit with the author.


 1. Librarians/Teachers will share the title and the cover image (but not a synopsis of the book) that depicts Tess riding a T. Rex with books in his jaws. They will ask students to write a story telling what happened to get Tess onto that dinosaur and what happens next.

  1. Submission will be a fiction story of 50-750 words based exclusively on the cover image of the book.
  2. A 9×12″ poster of the cover is available by mail to any librarian or teacher who plans to enter the contest. E-mail for a mailed poster (limited to the first 150 entries)-or if you would rather print it locally, it can be viewed online at
  3. Each entry will be accompanied by a contest submission form which will be included with the mailed poster or may be downloaded online at
  4. An entry may be a group-composed story (especially good for PreK-First Grade) or an individual story, but will be limited to ONE submission per class of students; librarians or teachers who have individual students write stories should formulate a way to choose the one best story for submission.
  5. The contest is open to all librarians (school and public) and all teachers/students (public, independent, and homeschool).
  6. All entries must be postmarked by Saturday, March 13, 2010. Legible scans will be accepted with accompanying contest submission form by e-mail to
  7. Author Toni Buzzeo will personally judge all submissions.
  8. The top ten stories will earn those ten submitting librarians or teachers an autographed hardcover copy of NO T. REX IN THE LIBRARY.

10.The grand prize will be awarded to the top story of these ten. That submitting librarian or teacher will win a free half-hour Skype visit with Toni Buzzeo.

Step Back in Time

February 15, 2010

Watch a few minutes of the video below.

Jot down a few impressions of what you see of this moment back in time.

Next, write a few paragraphs placing YOU in the middle of this street. Use all of your senses.

Add conflict. What could happen to you that could increase excitement or tension? Write about that moment. Stretch out that moment in time using your feelings, thoughts, and sensory description.

Finally, if you’d like to write a poem, choose only the most vivid experiences in your writing.  Use a highlighter to show your best writing in the paragraphs you wrote.

Can you cut out the “ands, buts, ifs, the” words?  Cut out any adverbs (ly words) and show with a good verb or concrete (specific) noun instead.

Now read your piece out loud. Does it have a natural rhythm and flow? Rewrite and “tinker” with it until it sounds just right for your ear.

Feel free to enter this in our contest or show it to another writer or teacher for their comments.  You may choose to submit it to another place for publication too.