Archive for March, 2011

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest . . . Retrieving Mail . . .

March 31, 2011

 Retrieving Mail

Opening our California Writers Club mail box, I see the familiar yellow card. This means there’s too much mail for the tiny box; I must ring the bell to the back door where I’ll receive the box of entries for our contest.

At the door there’s a frail elderly woman holding on to the wall with one hand, a cane in her other. She pushes the bell and waits. “I don’t know where they are,” she says to me. “I’ve been pushing this bell for awhile now.”

I see her body shakes slightly with the tension and work of standing. My memory flashes back a couple of years ago to my dad at ninety, fighting off Parkinson ’s disease while maintaining his dignity. He, too had trouble standing and walking.

“I guess they’re taking their time,” I say. It becomes clear that no one is coming. The woman shakes more. I’m concerned now. Her gnarled hand grabs the flat wall. I know this is not enough support for her.

I remember trying to convince Dad a cane wasn’t enough support for him either. He needed a walker. But it wasn’t until after a fall and a decree from his doctor that he obeyed.

“I’ll tell the worker at the front desk,” I say.

“Excuse me,” I tell the woman weighing a package for a customer. “But there’s an elderly woman with a cane who can’t stand long, and we’ve rung the door’s bell several times and no one is answering.”

Ms. Postal Worker sighs. She’s not swayed by my plea.  “Ring it again!”

I go back and pound on the door.

“They must be listening to music,” I tell the woman who clutches the wall.

No answer from behind the door. Next, I pound so loudly the entire block must be able to hear me.

“Your tax dollars at work,” I say.

The elderly woman smiles through her obvious difficulties.

Back to Ms. Postal Worker who grimaces at the sight of me. “I pounded and no one came.”

Ms. Postal Worker’s eyes flash. She rolls her eyes and stomps off toward the back.

At last the door opens.

I tell myself that Ms. Postal Worker has had a bad day. That she really wants to write instead of tend a scale and cash register. She didn’t really mean to take it out on me.

And I watch the elderly woman walk away. She uses her cane while hugging the wall with the other. Next she grabs the counter for support.

How long until she falls? I hope she has support around her for when she does. Does she have a someone to be there when she falls?

With our writing, we all need support. Seek out others who like to write and form a writing group. Attend writing workshops where you can meet like-minded people.

If you receive a critique, don’t react with quickly with anger. Relax. Think about it and don’t let your pride get in your way. You never know, but the person who gave you suggestions might have some good points. They may help you make your writing better. Write as often as you can. With practice, you’ll learn to make a good foundation which makes our writing the strongest it can be.

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest Tidbits:

*A big thank you to the teachers who encourage participation in our contest and who have students write in their classrooms! You know who you are.


*You don’t have to send each entry in a separate envelope. (Now you know this for next year.) As long as you put enough postage on it, you can send all of your entries in one large envelope.  It doesn’t matter to us and you’ll save yourself time and postage.

*You don’t have to fill out two entry forms for each entry. Just one form per entry. A few people put one entry per copy. Just more work for YOU.

*If you send your entries in large envelopes, placing a regular stamp on them isn’t enough. Check the postage rates online or take them to the post office.

Get Ready, Get Set . . .

March 28, 2011

It’s that time of the year again.   Time for me to make a run down to Alamo and check the California Writers Club mailbox.  At this moment, I have a small stack I’m flipping through and organizing into piles of poems, personal narratives/essays and short stories.  Each year I think we’ll have fewer manuscripts, but it does seem like everyone waits until the last few days to submit. 

So this means procrastination is a common characteristic of writers?  Or perhaps we’re all perfectionists and love revision.  If that’s the case, revise away.  But just know that April 1 means the post office needs to mark them April 1 and you can only trust the post office so far. 

Although I don’t have time to read each entry as I organize them, I do cheat a bit and scan the first page as I flip through them.   I’m impressed when one of the poems makes me laugh out loud.  I run outside to read it to my husband.  He gets a kick out of it too.  I have no idea if it will win or not, but we’re enjoying this poet’s work and my bet is in some way it’s going to be published at some point.

Other poems make me think, picture the image, or pause.  That is good.   

With the short stories and essays, if I HAVE to turn page one, this means that piece has promise. 

One trick for all writers could be this:  make the editor or judge turn the page to finish a sentence or an exceptionally well-written paragraph.  If you have a good hook, chances are, your reader will  keep on reading and that is EXACTLY what you want your reader to do. 

Another trick:  write a first page filled with either tension and active verbs, and/or bring a character to life in a quirky or very real way.  Be as specific as possible.

My favorite time is when all of these entries are organized and I can flip through and read a couple here and there before I give them to the awaiting judges.   Once they are enjoying the submissions, then I start reading my own stories to judge. 

Things you may not know about this contest:

* There are two judges for each grade and category.  When the two judges can’t make up their minds or agree, they will call in a third or more to break the tie.

*All judges take their jobs very seriously.  We’ve had judges wheedle, bargain, list reasons, and beg for the entry they want to win.   

*Honorable mentions are awarded.   Sometimes, if you are very, very lucky, a judge MIGHT comment on  your piece.  Consider this to be VERY high praise indeed.  This is just like in the publishing world, when an editor scrawls something on your manuscript.  The author will be smiling for weeks!

*The judges all finish their jobs at different times.  They are all volunteers.  None of us get paid for any of this.  When they tell me their choices I immediately post the winners names on this site, AFTER I have called them.    Once I’ve notified everyone,  then letters are sent out to the winners.  After THAT is under control, EVERYONE receives a letter of some sort. 

*BE PATIENT.  The judging doesn’t happen over night, nor do the letters get sent right away.  Never fear.  You WILL hear.  It takes me a TON of time to do the honorable mentions and get everything ELSE in my life done too.  I still have my own writing assignments to write, dinner to make, and a few speaking engagements here and there. 

*When am I thrilled?  When I see someone enter the contest again.  I don’t know who you are, but I do remember some of the names now and then and smile when I see that you continue to write year after year.  THIS is the mark of a true writer. 

It’s March 28.  Get off of the Internet NOW.  You still have time to send in your latest entry!  Go for it!

Contest Countdown is here!

March 21, 2011

Attention Contra Costa County Middle School Students!  Today is March 20 and your short stories, poems and personal narratives are due POSTMARKED on April 1.    The best part about this contest is NO ONE TELLS YOU WHAT YOU SHOULD WRITE!  There is no theme.  You don’t have to write about what you did on your summer vacation, who your role model is, or why you love broccoli.  You can write about whatever YOU choose!  AND you can enter as many times as you like!  In as many categories.  Just follow the guidelines.  

In addition to the prizes listed, we award many honorable mentions.  Go for it!  What do you have to lose?   Have fun writing! 

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest Guidelines 2011

 California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch, Contra Costa County


Honoring a New Generation of California Writers

     See for contest information



Home Address_________________________________________________

Number   &  Street                  City                                             Zip

Home Phone_____________________E-mail Address________________



First and Last Name of your English (Creative Writing)


Manuscript Title__________________________________

MANUSCRIPT CATEGORIES (please check one):

_____ Short Story (up to 5 pages typed, double-spaced)

_____ Poem (up to 30 lines, can be single or double-spaced)

_____ Personal Narrative/Essay (up to 3 pages, typed, double-spaced)

Mail submissions to:  Young Writers Contest, California Writers Club, PO Box 606, Alamo, CA  94507

DON’T MISS OUT:  Only entries that follow the guidelines EXACTLY will be considered!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ CONTEST GUIDELINES:

1. Contest open to 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who live in or attend school in Contra Costa County.

2. Submit 2 copies of your manuscript. Do not include artwork or a cover. Your manuscript must be typed or computer generated at 12 point, double-spaced. No staples. Paper clips only.

3. Put your name in the upper left-hand corner of each page. Number each page.  Put manuscript title on the first page.

4. Multiple entries are welcome.  Each entry must be accompanied by a separate application form (above) or 3×5 card noting: name; home address; home phone; school; grade; e-mail address; teacher; manuscript title; and category.

5. Deadline:  Manuscripts must be postmarked by April 1, 2011. Winners will be announced when judging is complete.


­_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

PRIZES: Winning short stories and poems from each grade level will receive $100 for first prize, $50 for second prize and $25 for third prize. The Betty Tenney Essay Award of $100 will be given to the best personal narrative/essay in each grade. Second and third place prizes may be awarded in this category at the judges’ discretion. Prizes will be presented to winners on May 21, 2011, at a lunch banquet. A published author will speak. Parents are welcome.

TEACHERS: We are striving to encourage individual creativity and expression. Do not send entire class assignments. Teachers of winning students will be invited to attend the May 21 banquet.

Too funny for words?

March 19, 2011
Sometimes the visual says it all.  So in your writing, make sure you show and don’t tell.  Show by writing action, dialogue and specific details.
After viewing the video link below, write a scene with the theme of guilt.  You can make it funny or devious, and have the character try to throw off the clues of the evidence.  But in your scene make sure you show the character of the guilty party.  Have fun!

Story Contest for Kids under 19 Years Old

March 18, 2011
Enter Totem Head’s Contest to get your story published on!
The contest in a nutshell:
What :  ”Totem Head’s 2011 Story Contest”

Who :  The contest is open to US residents under 19 years old.
Note to parents :  If your child cannot write yet, you may type their words for them.

Give a gift and
support our free contest!
Categories :
1. Ages 9 and under
2. Ages 10-12
3. Ages 13-15
4. Ages 16-18
Deadline:   Dec. 31, 2011
Prizes :
One winner from each category will receive the following prizes.
1. Publication on
2. $50 cash
3. Certificate of Achievement

Judging :  Adventure Write will choose one winner from each category based on:
1. Suitability for the Adventure Write Kid’s website
2. Entertainment and Creativity
3. Spelling, grammar and punctuation

How to Enter :
1. Finish Totem Head’s Tutorial.
2. Write a story in 1500 words or less.  Make your story appropriate for kids.  The first sentence should start with “So there I was”.
3. Fill out a Contest Entry Form
4. Scan and email your Contest Entry Form
5. Type your story directly into the body of your email, or attach it to your email as a Microsoft Word or a .txt file.   (That’s a file created using the Notepad program.)
6. Email your submission to:
7. If you prefer, you may send your submission(s) through the mail to:

Adventure Write – Story Contest
P.O. Box 113074
Anchorage AK 99511-3074

Important Tips :
1. Save a stamp!  You may send multiple entries in one envelope.
2. Ask someone to proofread your story for spelling, grammar and punctuation.
3. Get feedback on your story from a friend, parent or teacher before penning your final draft.

Please note :  All submissions become the property of Adventure Write, and we cannot return them.

Winner Notification :  Adventure Write will notify winners via email and snail mail in Feb 2012.  We’ll post the winning stories on no later than 28 Feb 2012.

Visit this site to download the form and complete the tutorial, which shows easy steps to your story:

Cartooning Classes for Kids

March 17, 2011

June Cartooning Classes: Monday through Friday, 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Cost:  $100 per week for Cartoon Art Museum members, $135 for non-members


It’s time for our sixth annual Summer Cartooning Classes! Cartoonist Brian Kolm will teach students how to storyboard, the basics of traditional animation and stop motion, and how to create their own cartoon characters, super heroes and more!

Ages: Intermediate level artists from 10-14 years old.
Time: All sessions run Monday through Friday from 2:00PM to 4:00 PM at the Cartoon Art Museum
 (For past students: please note the time of these classes is different.)
Number of students: The class size is limited to no more than 14 students. The class is filled on a first come, first served basis.
Cost*: $100 per week for CAM members, $135 non-members – per student for each session.  Fees must be paid in full to secure a seat in the class.
Sign up as a member and save! ( )
Supplies: Basic Drawing Materials will be provided. Students are welcome to bring in their personal sketchbooks and materials.
 To enroll: click on the links below for each class you are signing up for.  Online reservations are sponsored by Guestlist.

June 13-17:  Introduction to Stop Motion

Time: 2pm – 4pm
Ages: Intermediate Artists ages 10-14

Sign up at:

Stop motion is one of the earliest animation techniques, but it remains one of the most vibrant and challenging forms of animation.  Films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, Wallace and Gromit, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Chicken Run and James and the Giant Peach have led to a resurgence in this amazing genre.  This class will explore the basics of stop motion films, and teams of students will create their own short animation as a final project.
Skills featured: Teamwork, Frame by Frame Animation, Digital Video Editing, Storytelling
Samples created by previous classes can be seen here:


June 20 to June 24:  Dynamic Character Design

Time: 2pm – 4pm
Ages: Intermediate Artists ages 10-14

Sign up at:

Great stories begin with great characters!  Through storytelling and design techniques, students will create their own original characters, developing the character’s personality and appearance, resulting in a final piece of presentation-ready artwork.
Skills featured: Drawing, Basic Anatomy, 3d Visualization, Storytelling, Penciling, Inking

Cartoon Art Museum • 655 Mission Street • San Francisco, CA 94105 • 415-CAR-TOON •
Hours:  Tues. – Sun. 11:00 – 5:00, Closed Monday
General Admission: $7.00 • Student/Senior: $5.00 • Children 6-12: $3.00 • Members & Children under 6: Free

The Cartoon Art Museum is a tax-exempt, non-profit, educational organization dedicated to the collection,
preservation, study and exhibition of original cartoon art in all forms.

Please also fill out and submit the waiver and emergency contact form. Mail or hand-deliver the completed waiver and emergency form to: Cartoon Art Museum; 655 Mission Street; San Francisco, CA 94105 attn: Cartoon Boot Camp, email to: or fax to: 415-243-8666. For any questions, please call: 415-227-8666 x300.

*Cancellation: All participants must be pre-paid prior to the first day of the session. Full refunds given with 2 weeks cancellation notice prior to the first day of the session. 50% refund given within 7 to 13 days of the first day of the session. No refunds given within 6 days prior to the first day of the session.

June 6-10 Story Board to Animatic

Time: 2pm – 4pm
Ages: Intermediate Artists ages 10-14

Sign up at:
Storyboards have been used since the early days of animation, evolving into a way to pre-visualize a film before time and money was spent on a project. Animatics combine storyboards with sound to create a “real time” film.
This class will teach the art of pre-visualizing a film project through the storyboard stage.  Teams of students will visualize a short scene with pre-recorded audio.
Samples created by last year’s class can be seen here: <>
Skills featured: Teamwork, Storytelling, Digital Video Editing

Cartoon Art Museum Classes:

Cartoon BOOT Camp – Summer 2011

A Room of One’s Own / Where a Writer Works

March 7, 2011

Where is your home?

 Before I had an actual office, I wrote in a small area off of our bedroom that serves as a hallway to our backyard deck.

Picture this, years ago: 

“Mom!  We’re going on the deck!” 

Tofer and friend tromp through my “office” and I slide from my computer to give them room to get to doorway.

 Screen door shuts. 

I slide back.  

Writing resumes. 

Screen door opens.

“Forgot the ping pong paddles,” says my son.

I slide away. 

Son walks by.

Wait till paddles are located. 

Screen door shuts. 

I slide back. 

Bathroom break? 


But now I have a room of my own.  The door actually closes!  Bookshelves line the walls.  A large picture window looks out over the deck and an open area, where deer, owls, and “my” cooper hawk share their space.  I am very much at home here, and am happiest in this spot. 

Note the clutter in the photo.  Old pictures of my parents are around me; my Leo the lion I got when I was five, who has lost most of his fur, sits on the top shelf surveying my progress.  (Or lack of progress, depending upon the day.) Collectibles holding books are in front of real books on the shelves, and an altar of Mother Marys and angels are on my desk.

Better Homes and Gardens it’s not. 

But it is me. 

Where is your home?  Or rather, where are you most at home when you write? 

 One friend of mine can’t write at home.  She writes in a local coffee shop.  When my son was a baby, I hired a sitter and wrote in the library reference department, where their desks have those great tall sides allowing privacy. 

But when you are really caught up in your imagination, you can write on a bus, in an airport, or at a political rally.  Nothing will stop you. 

Writing Prompt:  Try different settings as you write.  Which place works best for you?  A library, bookstore coffee shop, a picnic table, or in your own room. 

Write about your writing space.  Why does it work?  Why doesn’t it work?  What can you do to make it work?  Perhaps it’s a matter of uncluttering it, or repositioning the furniture to allow more openness. 

Play with your space just like you play with your words.

Writing Conference Quotes

March 1, 2011

I attended a writing conference this past weekend.  Here are some quotes, tips and techniques I feel anyone any age may appreciate:

Caldecott winner author-illustrator David Wiesner:  

 (quoting someone’s name I didn’t get – – sorry!)

“Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work . . . All of the best ideas come out of the process.  Something will occur to you, and then another thing will occur to you . . .”    

Agent Josh Adams made some distinctions between award winners and bestsellers.  (Some of them fall into the same categories.)

 Award Winning Books:  beautifully crafted, indelible voice, lingers in your memory, creates emotional connections, are life-changing 

The White Darkness, Bad News for Outlaws, and Rules are some titles that fit in this category.

 Best Selling Books:  high concept, thought-provoking, page-turning, suspenseful, a fun read         

Charlie Bone and the Red Knight, Sabotaged, and Kiss are high concept sellers.

 Author Alexandria LaFaye 

 If you have a better access to your subconscious, you are a better writer. 

(See!  Me here.  What do I keep telling you about dreams and using the moments as you wake from sleep?)

Triple D:  Every time you use a detail it needs to develop setting, character and plot.  

Center ourselves in the world our characters inhabit.  Our characters should have a distinctive world view.  It should sound if they are describing their world.   Not us describing it.  Figure out how to explain things from the view of the main character.  The character talks about it in relationship to what else is going on in his life. 

Characters can only draw figurative language from their own personal experience.

 How can you write more metaphors and figurative language in your writing?  Read poetry.  Good poets she suggested were Nancy Willard, Cynthia Rylant, Gary Soto, Pat Mora, Janet Wong.  Poets who write adult poetry:  Gary Snyder, Louise Glook, Emily Dickenson, Sylvia Plath. 

 Poetry is about what’s not on the page. 

 Cynthia Lord

 Newbery Honor Winner Cynthia Lord’s words were so powerful the audience gave her a standing ovation and many of us had tears in her eyes when she talked about the story behind the story of Rules.

 What happens when you write a book based on your life? 

What should you write about?

Write a book on challenging personal experiences.   She said that every message in the book, Rules,  is a message for her. 

What to consider as you write your book:

  1. What do I owe the other people whose lives are also tied up in this moment?  (Minimize the impact on their lives.)
  2. Am I willing to “go there” on schedule?  And for years?
  3. Am I ready to be honest? 
  4. Any important moment will have a contrasting emotion in it.
  5. Write what you know.  
  6. If you don’t know, ask yourself, when have I ever felt the same way as that character?
  7. Details don’t have to match, just the feelings.   To help herself remember, she surrounded herself with objects from that town and she saw her handwriting from that time.

Description:   Write what you know through settings and objects using your senses.  Set places where you can visit.  Go and see real things.  What does the air feel like? 

***What surprises you?  This question is gold in the description.

 She acted out a scene in rules where the main character pushes a boy in a wheelchair in a parking lot.  She pushed her suitcase in a parking lot.!   Lord realized there’d be pinecones, holes, cracks, etc and this made her write with more depth.

Find the one feeling of the story and everything revolves around this feeling.


Klepto Kitty!

March 1, 2011

Too funny NOT to write about!  Go for it.  Use this cat and/or the things she steals to create a story or a poem.  How funny or mysterious can you be?