Archive for January, 2011

Contra Costa County’s Art and Writing Contest

January 31, 2011

Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center 14th Annual PEACE through ART & WRITING CHALLENGE

2011 For Middle School Students

TOPIC: Often we create divisions between ourselves and others because of race, religion, politics, sexual orientation or even minor things such as dress or mannerisms. Have you or someone you know ever been subject to verbal abuse or bullying as a result of these or any other differences? How did you/they handle the situation? What steps can we take to create an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance of all people?

Ideas to consider: • What connection is there between individual tolerance and peace between nations? • How can one person stand up against intolerance and bullying? • Are internet and email bullying more harmful than “in person” bullying?

☺Winners will be honored at an Awards Dinner on Saturday, May 14, 2011☺ ________________________________________ CATEGORIES •


750 words or less

Creative writing – poem, story, play • Art – any medium •


1. Contest is open to all Contra Costa County students.

2. For all entries: Include a cover sheet with your name, home address, phone number, email address, school, grade, teacher (or teacher who informed you of the contest), teacher’s phone number and email address, entry category and title of your work.

3. All writing entries are to be a maximum of 750 words: typed, double-spaced, with numbered pages. Please have a teacher review your writing before submitting. If possible, send the document as an email attachment to Otherwise, send two copies by mail. Writing entries will not be returned. 4. For art entries, attach the cover sheet on the back. Art may be picked up after May 14.

5. Entries will be judged on clarity, originality, depth of thought, and skill.

6. Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center reserves the right to reprint all entries.

DEADLINE: Postmarked or delivered no later than Monday, March 7, 2010.

SEND OR DELIVER TO: Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94596; (925) 933-7850.

Thanks to generous donations from The Schmidt Family in loving memory of Amanda Schmidt; Mountain Camp; and the George Miller Youth Fund.

Amazing Animals!

January 30, 2011
Watch these amazing animal videos.  Then choose one of these animals.   What’s his/her secret career?  Describe this animal with specific details.  
What are his feelings and his thoughts? 
Use dialogue with other animals to show his character.  
Use your senses to draw us into his story. 
What does he/she want more than anything in the world? 
What stops him from getting it? 
What is his weakness? 
How can he overcome his weakness to get what he wants? 
An Awesome Deer Doggie Video!
 amazing parrot

January 28, 2011

Last night as I drove in darkness along a city street,  two bright lights attached to a large vehicle turned directly into MY lane. 

Holy hot fudge.  My foot slammed onto the break.

Unwavering, the lights barreled forward, without slowing in momentum. 

At my right, pedestrians walked.  On my left, cars whizzed by.   A head-on collision flashed before my eyes. 

What was this driver thinking?  Was he drunk?  Drugged?  Confused? 

I leaned on the horn. 

At the very last second possible, he turned into a driveway to his left leading to a church. 

I gasped.  Weakness spread me; my arms felt as though I could barely hold the steering wheel. 

He saved himself a few minutes of waiting in traffic by driving on the wrong way of the street at night, in order to sneak into the church parking lot.   If I hadn’t been paying close enough attention and braked I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now. 

Writing Prompts:

1.  As writers and readers and people of the universe, we need to pay attention to everything.  Write about a time in your life where someone wasn’t paying close attention to their surroundings. 

2.  Write about a time where you weren’t paying close attention to what was happening to you or others around you. 

3.  Take 15 minutes of your day to practice “slow-down-the-moment.”  Pay attention to every sense you experience.  Walk outside into nature.  What scent do you smell?  How can you describe it with words on paper?  What do you see?  Hear? How does your skin feel in the weather at that moment?  Touch tree bark, a plant, an animal or an object.  How does the texture feel? 

4.  Practice gratitude.  At the end of each day, think of three things you are grateful for in that very day.  Had a lousy time of it today?  Then think small.  Did your breakfast cereal have a good crunch?  Your teacher or friend give you a smile?  Or think big.  You had breakfast, unlike many homeless people.  Write about the act of gratitude in a poem.

5.  Ever have a heart-thumping life-threatening moment?  Write about it or them in detail.  Show how it made you feel.  And make this moment a learning experience.  How can it help you in your every day life?

Literary Zine for Girls Ages 7 – 12 and 13 – 17

January 26, 2011
chixLIT is written by girls ages 13-17. chixLITtle is by girls 7-12.
Girls submit from all over the world–Trinidad, Japan, Russia, Germany, Canada… 
The ‘zines are ad-free, small, bimonthly, color.   Submissions are made via email. Accepted writers get a free copy of their issue.   Subscriptions are available for a very small fee.   Editors accept poems, short stories, essays, rants, raves, song lyrics, and reviews as long as they are original and authentic.  
More at or
Visit   submission information.

Working Through the Blocks

January 24, 2011

I’ve just read a great book called The War of Art:  Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. 

Writes Pressfield:

Are you paralyzed with fear?  That’s a good sign.  Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator.  Fear tells us what we have to do.  Remember our rule of thumb:  The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance.  Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that the enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.  That’s why we feel so much Resistance.  If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance. 

What do you do to avoid your writing?  How can you help yourself get unblocked? 

Recently, I began a large project that overwhelms me.  So I broke the huge jobs down into tiny pieces.  I’ve discovered that this way I feel more in control.  Yes!  I can write one letter or complete one interview.  Yes!  I can write one scene or chapter.  

What can you do to conquer your fear with your art?  Do you do any avoidance techniques?  Mine:  I do the laundry, visit the kitchen for snacks, and gaze out of my window to keep track of the wildlife. 

So instead, I reward myself after each and every job I check off my list.  I walk my dog, check  e-mail, or write something for fun instead of writing something I have to write.  

Writing Prompts:

1.  Today make a list of projects/goals you’d like to accomplish.

2.  Make a list of small rewards you’ll give yourself when you finish a project or goal.

3.  Practice the fine art of meditation and other relaxation techniques.  Listening to music, talking with other writers and artists, and living in the moment may be helpful ways for you to break through fear and embrace your art.

Your Super Pet Writing Contest

January 21, 2011

Write an imaginary newspaper article for The Daily Planet about your Super-Pet (or the pet of a friend, relative or neighbor) and how he/she did something extraordinary.

Submit your entry in our online newspaper template below and attach a picture or photograph if available – or print the template, draw a picture and mail your entry to Picture Window Books. The entry should have all the elements related to a newspaper article and will be judged on creativity, content and originality.

First place: The Super-Pet from the winning entry will be drawn by Eisner award-winner Art Baltazar and will appear in a DC Super-Pets book. Winner will receive the original illustration. The winner and his/her school will receive 5 copies each of the book.

Top 50 Entries: Top 50 entrants will receive two free DC Super-Pets books; one for the student and one for the library.

Official Contest Rules


For a list of winners write to Picture Window Books, 7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438

Contest runs from January 15 – February 28. Winner will be announced April 1st.

For an official entry form visit:

Let Lazy Dog Inspire You

January 19, 2011
Below is a video of a funny lazy dog.  After viewing the clip, write a poem or story about this guy!
(Apologies who subscribe to my blog and have received three posts for this link.  Sooner or later I’ll get it right!)

Photo Essay Biography of Yone Noguchi by Nina Egert

January 19, 2011
 Author and photographer Nina Egert has written a lovely photo biography honoring poet and professor Yone Noguchi, father of the famed architect and sculptor, Isamu Noguchi.  As a teen, the elder Noguchi apprenticed under California’s famous poet Joaquin Miller.   Miller’s friends included Bret Harte,  Samuel Clemens, Ina Coolbrith, Jack London and John Muir.
 One of his poems is accompanied by a nearly ethereal photo of “The Cascades” at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland:
Mystic spring of vapour;
Opiate odour of colour;
Alas –I’m not all of me!
Wanton fragrance, dewy, dim,
Curls out from my drowsy soul;
Wrapping mists about its breast.
I dwell alone . . .
Yone Noguchi lived from 1875 until 1947, coming to San Francisco in 1893. 


Not only is this book a wonderful look into this man’s life, history of California, and his poetry, the California photos within its pages are fascinating and many downright breathtaking.  What makes the book more amazing is that it is published by a nonprofit group, the Vinapa Foundation, so all the profits go to worthy causes
The author graciously donates any money from her sales at the CWC meetings to the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch’s Young Writers Contest.  To get your own copy you may attend one of the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo luncheons on the second Saturday of the month at Zio Fraedo’s in Pleasant Hill.  
Another way is to attend Nina Egert’s  signing and tea ceremony from 2:30 – 5:00 p.m. at 2465 34th Ave at Hyde in Oakland, CA. This event will benefit the Peralta  Hacienda.  Visit

Of Ghostly Appliances

January 17, 2011

For the past couple of months our oven’s fan would turn on all by itself.  The first time it happened I was in my office working.  My husband, Bob, was outside.  When I told him what had happened he looked at me like I had been sipping the sherry I put in the beef stew the night before.

“Bob, I haven’t used the oven all day!”

“Uh huh,” he said, one eyebrow of his arched high.

“Really!”  I defended myself.  Why is it the harder you try to prove you didn’t do something, the easier it is to sound like you’re guilty of it?

“You probably had your mind on something else and switched the knob on without thinking about it,” he said.

But when he couldn’t turn the oven fan off, a few words flew out of his mouth I can’t type here.   He ended up resorting to flipping the electrical breaker in the garage.  That night when I needed to use the oven he had to switch the breaker back on.

We forgot about that incident until when a few days later it happened again.  Only this time he sat with me a few feet away in the family room.  Now I had proof I hadn’t done it. 

People were called.  Turns out, our oven is so old and the parts needed to fix our ghost-like oven aren’t even made any more.  We continued to turn the breaker on and off for another month until we realized we might destroy the breaker itself. 

Time to buy a new oven. 

Now new oven is installed, black and shiny in kitchen.   Problem is, new oven is computerized.  Wave hand over it and say abracadabra!   Lights blink on with a twinkling melody!  Will it work if I twitch my nose instead?

First night, we make lasagna together.  Bob reads directions from Oven Quick Direction Sheet.  I slide lasagna pan in for twenty minutes.  When timer’s cute little song erupts, I remove the pan. 

But instead of hot, steamy lasagna, we eat lukewarm pasta.   We did something wrong here.

Second night, I broil salmon.  “I’m reading those directions,”  I say as I push Bob away.  Me woman.  Me take over kitchen.  Me brave. 

Fifteen minutes later, smoke alarm shrieking, windows open as we shiver through our smoke-filled house and eat blackened salmon.

Finally, this weekend, I sat down with the oven’s booklet and READ THE COMPLETE DIRECTIONS.  I learned we didn’t  pre-heat the oven correctly the first night.   (Engineers don’t believe in reading all the directions.  Writers don’t bother reading anything that deals with mechanics, instead trusting their engineer husbands.)  I also learned this oven is much more efficient and hotter than my other oven, so I can turn down the heat and or the oven time. 

So this weekend’s muffins and almond cake came out minus the smoke alarm, but with the added flare of my right index finger placed on the tip of my nose.  Hey.  A childhood fantasy needs to be acted out now and then. 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write about how you reacted to a physical or emotional change in your life.

2.  Ever have an experience with an appliance?  Use it to motivate a personal narrative, short story, or poem.  An Ode to An Oven perhaps?

3.  Reading directions can be useful.  Write a short story about a character who tosses or loses the directions to something life-changing and suspenseful.  Now she or he must proceed throughout the story without the directions!

Enter A 90 Second Video Contest!

January 14, 2011

Here are the rules quoted from James Kennedy’s blog:

1. Your video should be 90 seconds or less. (Okay, okay: if it’s three minutes long but absolute genius, we’ll bend the rules for you. But let’s try to keep them short.)

2. Your video has to be about a Newbery award-winning (or Newbery honor-winning) book.

3. Your video must condense the plot of the book in 90 seconds or less. Again, exceptions will be made for something really ingeniously bonkers, but it has to be related to a Newbery winning book.

4. Upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo or whatever and send me the link at kennedyjames [at] gmail [dot] com. Make the subject line be “90 SECOND NEWBERY” and please tell me your name, age, where you’re from, and whatever other comments you’d like to include, including whether you’d like me to link to your personal site. You can give an alias if you want; I understand privacy concerns.

5. Sending the link to me grants me (James Kennedy) the right to post it on my blog and to other websites where I sometimes post content (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and to share at public readings, school visits—and hopefully the “90-Second Newbery” Film Festival at the New York Public Library in the Fall of 2011.

6. Deadline is September 15, 2011. 

Here’s his blog to see other information, and an example of a video for A WRINKLE IN TIME.