Archive for November, 2010

Does your pet think it’s human?

November 25, 2010

Why but of course.  Doesn’t every pet? 

Have you ever said, “Sometimes I think Fluffy (or Scruffy or Sir Elrod) thinks he’s human because . . . ”

The Contra Costa Times would love to hear your story.  Tell them why in 150 words or less.  Make sure to include your full name, your pet’s name, city of residence and a daytime phone number.  E-mail submissions to (put “pet submission” in the subject line) or mail them to Ann Tatko-Peterson, Bay Area News Group, P.O. Box 5088, Walnut Creek, CA  94596-1088.  Deadline:  Dec. 10.  Story will run in early January.

If You Could Go Anywhere in the World . . .

November 19, 2010
Here’s a great site to use for your writing and for geography! 
1.  Place a character in a setting anywhere in the world. 
 Have fun choosing a place!
Research the location to discover the culture, foods, weather, styles, sounds, language and other details to enhance your scene.
2.  If you could go anywhere in the world, where would YOU choose to go?  Why?  Place yourself in this city and write a travel log of your trip.
3.  Write a poem based on one of the videos you see on this site. 
Around the world




Calling All Contra Costa Middle Schools!

November 18, 2010

Free Contra Costa Middle School Writing Workshops!

The Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club is sponsoring a program for published writers to lead free middle school workshops in poetry, short story, and personal narrative. A generous grant to the CWC will underwrite the program costs.

Contra Costa middle school teachers, administrators, and librarians are eligible to nominate their school to participate in the program.

Send an e-mail to:  to state why your school should be selected. Deadline for entries is December 15, 2010. The Mt. Diablo Branch, CWC Writers in the Schools program is intended to encourage young people in creative written self-expression.

The club sponsors an annual Young Writers Contest for middle school students, awarding cash prizes in poetry, short story, and personal narrative. The 2011 contest Information is also on the club website:

When a Publishing House Dies

November 17, 2010

“Tricycle is dead, ”  the e-mail said. 

I gasped.  Grief overwhelmed me.

How could this be? 

It happened to soon. 

I’m not ready for it.

I thought of the amazing books out of this quirky and unique small publishing house.   The hysterical George Hogglesberry Grade School Alien by Sarah Wilson,  the lyrical and moving Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown.  And who can forget Adventures of COW by COW?

 Tricycle Press’ sudden demise shouldn’t have come as such a shock.  After all, when Random House bought them, we knew anything could happen.  When a small publisher is gobbled up by a large one . . . who knows what the big guys are thinking?  

They wanted to buy Ten Speed, the adult publishing branch and they ditched the children’s division.  Isn’t that just like the world?  Giving second thought to kids? 

When I was in children’s theater, the “real” theater department considered children’s theater “second class” because we were “only” for kids.  Ha.  They didn’t get it.

Pretty soon we’ll have one or two gigantic publishers owning everything.  Every author will have the same voice.  There will be no choice in the world. 

So let’s “get it.” 

Right now, go to your bookstore and buy a quirky, unusual, fabulous book for kids.  Read it yourself!  Give it as a gift!  Don’t have a kid in your life?  Donate it to a local elementary school library.  Every school library is in need these days! 

Let’s promote small publishers,  unique independent bookstores,  unknown authors, well-done ANYTHING for kids!  Let’s have MANY voices instead of a few brands.  Join together to promote reading. 

Let us use this death to promote action.  Rest in Peace Tricycle.

Headline Humor

November 15, 2010

Today on the Internet, these headlines caught my eye:

Man Once Thought Dead Arrested

Actress Criticized for Stage Debut

Time Out Problems for Super Nanny


Questions popped into my mind.   Why did they arrest the man?  Did he fake his death?  Hide out?  Disappear in a complicated scheme?  Or was it a case of mistaken identity? 

What about the actress?   What outrageous behavior on stage prompted criticism?  What made her do it?  How did she get on stage?  Was it a long and hard climb to her acting job?

Why was the nanny called a super nanny?  What kind of kids were under her care?

Each of these titles could become a movie, depending upon how the story is handled.  Each of them could be a short story or a poem or a piece of art work.  It’s your choice.   You may choose to create any piece of writing in any style or genre. 

If these titles don’t inspire you, open the newspaper, magazine, or click on your computer screen for another title.  Write your OWN version of what could follow.

Game Rooms and Internet Cafes in Libraries?

November 12, 2010

Welcome to the new library.   According to the LA Times, libraries are reinventing themselves into our digital age.  Computer game rooms, internet cafes, and books are arranged by categories rather than good ole’ Dewey is  the new library.

Writing Prompt:

1.  What will the library look like in 50 years? 100?  Write a short story set in the future.

2.  Write a personal essay on your feelings about how libraries should or should not be changing. 

3.  Create a poem focusing on this theme.,0,6514361.story?page=1

Does a Personal Narrative Have to be Exciting?

November 10, 2010
I was wondering, does a personal narrative have to be about something exciting that happened in your life? Can it be something not that exciting, but still something that happened to me? It is a personal narrative after all, and I know that the name says it all, but just to make sure that there are no huge rules about them.
 A personal narrative could be about you looking at a butterfly and noticing something about that butterfly you never saw before and relating it to your life or the world in some way. 
The best personal narratives I have ever read are NOT particularly exciting, but they touch our souls.  A great narrative will be a special moment in time that has touched you and will touch the reader too.  
Many personal narratives are not exciting at all. Just let the reader feel like she or he is experiencing the moment or episode along with you. 
If you have any more questions feel free to ask. 
Good luck with your narrative!

Want to learn the secrets of the publishing industry?

November 8, 2010

Visit some authors of the Mt. Diablo Branch California Writers Club in Contra Costa County, CA.  They’ll answer YOUR QUESTIONS about writing. Want to learn how they found an agent?  Discover how THEY got published?   Have a persnikety problem regarding writing craft?  Ask the experts for free!

PLUS if you are a middle school student, you can learn about all of these things AND how you can win $$$$$$$ in the current short story, personal narrative and poetry contest!   Not sure you want to enter the contest but you want to write?  Discover how YOU can take a FREE writing workshop!

 Local Authors Book Signing Benefit at Pleasant Hill Barnes and Noble

On Saturday, November 27, 2010, published authors from the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club will sign their books to benefit their annual Contra Costa middle school Young Writers Contest.  The Barnes and Noble Bookstore at 552 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill, will host the event from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.

All Contra Costa middle school students, their parents and teachers are encouraged to attend and ask questions about the upcoming free writing workshops and contest.  

A portion of in-store purchases will benefit the Young Writers Contest, supporting the art and craft of writing in all of the county’s public and private middle schools. Shoppers can buy personally autographed copies of adult mysteries, fiction, non-fiction, drama, young adult, and children’s books.

Local writers who will be signing their books include: Barbara Bentley, Nannette Carroll, Jon Cory, Lynn Goodwin ,Margaret Grace, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff, and Nanette McGuinness. 


Remember to Live

November 7, 2010

What happens when you are working on a BIG project that at some point makes you feel overwhelmed or wondering if you are making enough progress? 

1.  Make a list of  items within your big project.  It could be creating a list of scenes you need to write, specific people or time periods you need to research, or places you need to describe. 

2.  Give yourself small daily goals.  What is something you can write today and feel successful?

3.  If you don’t have time to write or do your art today, at least carve out 10-20 minutes to daydream about your project.  Sometimes this is more productive than sitting at the computer!

4.  If you feel comfortable in sharing with a writing partner, friend, or writing group, discuss your project and the roadblocks you may have. 

 My husband and I went out to dinner last night with another couple, she being an avid writer,  and within a few minutes of brainstorming together they got me motivated all over again.

5.  Reward yourself.  After you do finish a difficult interview, scene, or bit of research, make sure you have a break with a nice treat.   Get yourself away from your work and take a walk, see a movie or get out with friends and family.  

 Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our work we forget to spend time with those we love.

Remember to live.

There’s a Lion in Our Backyard . . .

November 5, 2010

So when we got home from our vacation a couple of weeks ago, we discovered two mountain lions had been frolicking on top of a car a couple of blocks away from us. 

“Get the camera ready,” I told my husband.

“Are you serious?” he said.  “They can be dangerous.”

Yes, but I suspect we are more dangerous to them right now than they are to us. 

Thinking back a few months ago to the poor deer that was cornered in some guy’s back yard in Oakland, and an unruly cop fired his gun SEVERAL TIMES at the shivering creature.   A few weeks ago one uniformed policeman shot a Golden Retriever who wanted to play.

No, I’m not afraid of the mountain lion.  I’m afraid for the mountain lion.

The latest sighting is from a block away.  A lion crossed the street and ambled into our open space that is behind our house. 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write about any encounters or experiences you have had with wildlife. 

2.  Using a majestic wild animal as inspiration, create a poem.

3.   Write a short story with the aspect of wildlife and urban life as a theme.