Archive for July, 2011

Free Writing Workshop at the Clayton Library for Students Ages 12 – 18

July 25, 2011

 An Interactive Writing Afternoon

Ages 12 – 18 

July 27, 2011

3:00 – 5:00

Clayton Public Library

6125 Clayton Rd



Create quirky characters through drama games, humor, action, dialogue and suspense techniques which will help build an award-winning story!

Two professional children’s authors who love writing share their best secrets on writing.

You’ll get a chance to ask questions about the publishing world, write, play some games, meet other writers, and “talk books.” Led by children’s authors Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff .

Visit them at  and

Bring pen and paper and get ready to WRITE! Reserve your space at the FREE event at For event type enter: education



Within a few weeks I’ll post more regarding an upcoming writing contest for Pleasant Hill middle and high school students.  $$$ Prizes! 


News for children’s authors:  Since Abby Levine, editor at Whitman recently retired, the publisher has hired Kristen Otsby as Senior Editor.

Creativity Vs. Negativity

July 22, 2011

Congratulations to 12-year-old Grant Mower, who is the youngest creative fashion designer I’ve ever seen.  He hopes First Lady Michelle Obama will choose to wear his design of a dress for her. 

Grant has had to undergo bullying from his fellow classmates for creating his art.  Fortunately, he’s got a great mother, who supports his passion.   If your art gives you pleasure why should you let conformers get you down?  He hasn’t, and he’s to be commended for his spirit!

Although I don’t think I’ve heard of a case where a writer was bullied for his writing, I know many who have given up due to rejection or harsh critiques.  

Is writing a love-of-your-life?  Are you happiest when you are writing?  When you have written?  If you are, then stick with it!  It’s one of those wonderful arts you can do any time or place, with just a pen and paper as long as you’ve got the desire. 

Like Sid Fleischman used to say, “Nothing’s wasted but the paper.”  Now with all of the recycling we have, that isn’t even true any more!

Bravo for Grant, and all of the Grants out there!  I suspect those bullies don’t have true passions of their own, nor good parenting behind them to make them feel good about themselves. 


1.  Write about a time you were bullied or criticized.  How did you react?  Include your thoughts, feelings and the dialogue that occurred. 

2.  Create a scene or short story where a bully is a character.  Make sure your bully is not one-dimensional.  Why is she or he acting that way? 

3.  Try a genre of art that isn’t your usual form.  If you usually write fiction, try nonfiction.  If you usually paint, try photography. Experimenting might lead you to develop more sources for your original art as well as developing a new one. 

4.  Watch the video below of Grant and his designs.  Design an outfit for yourself or another famous person.  Next, describe it with words.

Acting, Art, & Writing Contests . . . Philosophy 101

July 19, 2011

Actress Dame Judi Dench says in her memoir,  and furthermore:

“Deep down, I suppose I don’t really approve of the awards business, even when I have won them, because you can’t really award prizes for acting.  That is not to say that when I have won awards I haven’t been absolutely thrilled – – I have – – but I suspect deep down that it is something that goes a bit against the grain.  Acting is such a personal, imperfect kind of art.” 

As I read those words, I remembered how I felt about writing contests before I began judging contests.   And I admit, each time a submission doesn’t win, I feel a twinge.  How will that person feel about writing after not winning this contest?  Will she or he be inspired to learn more, try harder and take workshops?  Or will he or she say, “Forget it!  I tried.  I quit. ”

1.  Judging art is so subjective.   One person’s favorite piece might not be another’s.  How many times have you read a book or seen a movie, critically acclaimed, and you thought, “Huh?  Not for me.”  Or the reverse . . . the reviewers hated it and you loved it! 

2.  As artists, actors and writers, we’re capable of a wide range quality in our  work.   I’ve written lousy (suitable only for lining a bird-cage) to fairly decent, and some of those have received publication and good reviews.   I think we’re able to create good work given enough time, effort, craft and passion.

3.  Keep on keeping on.  Make sure the awards and contests don’t get you down, and don’t let success make your head so big you can’t get in the front door.  I’ve seen both happen.  Some have gone on to publication or Hollywood stardom  only to turn their backs on everyone they knew before their triumph.  

Others go on to share their knowledge with others.  (Many thanks if you are one of these.) 

And then some give up at the slightest bit of critique, loss of an award, or tiny bit of judgement.  If this is you, then you either need to toughen up, or you’re meant to choose another career or passion.   Or create art for yourself, and never share it with another human being. 

For the rest of us who do,  creating any art is a risk.  Placing it up for critique or entering a contest is even a larger and bolder step.  Congratulations if you’ve done this!  Know that these should only help you with your knowledge, bravery and art.   Good luck!

That Yummy Chocolate Place

July 16, 2011

Thank you Joanne, for asking for the restaurant contact information.  I didn’t have time to add it in my post because I had to rush off for a chocolate fix.  But it was a mini-generic chocolate chip in comparison to this place.

Max Brenner Restaurant

E-mail address to show how much we need our own Max Brenner chocolate fix in Northern California:

Writing Prompt: 

1.   Write a letter to Max Brenner if you agree that he needs to expand his chocolate heaven to your area. 

2.  Write a letter to express your thanks for a service well done or a product that is perfect . . . or practically perfect!

Chocolate Inspires More than Calories

July 15, 2011

“Decadent dark chocolate gelato, pure vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate fondue, pure chocolate chunks, marshmallow fluff and whipped cream garnished with a toasted marshmallow served with crispy crepe flakes and whipped chocolate cream,”  I read aloud from Boston’s Max Brenner’s menu. 

I better wipe my lips, just in case I’m drooling.  This describes The Spectacular Melting Chocolate S’Mores Sundae, and as I type this I’m licking my lips in imaginary anticipation.  Do they deliver?

Memories of when Bob and I entered through the brown door (everything is brown, naturally) the scent of chocolate hit us so hard I fell into ecstasy.  As we wobbled our way to the table through chocolate scented heaven and by-passed the chocolate gift shop, I noticed you-know-what-lover sayings surrounding us on the walls and swirling-dessertish wallpaper.  When waiters delivered food to surrounding tables, it looked too good to be true.  (Yes, I know this is a cliché, but in my chocolate coma flashback now, I can’t be bothered.)

We shared a beyond-good panini.  Okay.  The best grilled panini on the planet.  Maybe somewhere between these two statements.  (Remember, I’m still in my chocolate heaven here . . .)  The crunchy toast was covered with salty black olive pesto.  This complimented the melty cheese, fresh tomato, spinach and perfectly seasoned chicken.  

But the best part so far?  The crisp the waffle fries, dusted with chili and cocoa powder. 

“Do you need to look at a dessert menu?” asked the waiter. 

I liked that he assumed we were ordering dessert.  Of course this is the real reason anyone comes here. 

“Yes,” I said.  “I can’t recall exactly which sundae it was that I’d like to order.” 

It was even better than the one above.  Or at least I think it was, as I didn’t try the one I described to you.  The one Bob and I shared had the smooth chocolate gelato, the fabulous vanilla ice cream and melted marshmallow, but it also had crunchy pieces of graham crackers and the taste of peanut butter.  On either side of this creation were two small cups.  One was filled with whipped cream and the other white chocolate.   Oooh la la!

Why did I agree to share this sundae with my husband?  I never knew anything could taste this good.  The salt of the peanut butter complimented the sweet.  After we finished licking everything clean, we sat in a sweet stupor. 

When the waiter came back, I asked him if there were plans to bring Max Brenner out to California. 

“Yes,” he said.  “They’re opening one in L.A.” 

Hmm.  A bit of a drive for a sundae.  “Would he consider San Francisco?”  I asked. 

“Drop him an e-mail,” he suggested.  

I will. 

Writing prompts:

1.  Write a poem or personal narrative about the best dessert or dish you’ve ever eaten. 

2.  Describe your favorite foods.  What makes them your favorite?  Recall their tastes and textures.

3.  What are some good (or bad?) food memories?  Funny food memories?  Embarrassing food memories?  Food gift memories?  Making food memories?  Restaurant memories?  Picnic memories?  Eating on a train or plane memories?

4.  Create a dessert for a rabbit,witch, juggler, or old man with no teeth. 

5.  Create a new recipe for you and your family.  Then make the new recipe.  How would you change it to perfect it after you’ve made it?  Write a review of your own cooking!

Let Writing Make You a Better Person

July 11, 2011

When my husband, Bob and I squeeze into the San Francisco airport, we wiggle between lines and lines of people.  Although we’re there two hours before take-off, we wonder if we’ll make our flight with all of these people. 

I haven’t seen so many people since . . . this airport at Christmas.   Maybe this means it’s good news for the economy? 

Fortunately, even with our terminal case of waiting, we do make our flight.  It’s  filled with parents and their children of many ages.  We’re pleasantly surprised to discover that all of the babies and toddlers are well-behaved. 

Since the flight is so crowded we have to sit a few rows apart from each other.  Next to me, in the window seat, sits a middle-school boy reading The Blind Side by Michael Lewis.  He’s looking forward to staying the summer with his father in Boston.  On the other side  of me a man reads his Kindle.  I’m reading  The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which, as a greatly used book, is literally falling apart in my hands. 

Right after take-off, the drama one row ahead of us and to the right, begins.   Shortly after the turn-off-seat-belt sign blinks off, rocky weather causes it to light up again and the intercom voice requests everyone to buckle-up. 

I don’t hear the nearby attendant’s request, but I hear the woman’s loud retort.  “Naw.  The light’s gonna go off soon anyway.” 

The boy next to me and I share a glance.  It says, “Who does she think she is?”

 We return to our reading in spite of the bumpy flight.  Barely a paragraph later, we hear  the attendant say, “Ma’am, you’ll have to wait.  We all need to return to our seats now.”

“I’M GONNA PEE IN MY PANTS!”  yells the woman. 

We’ve only just begun our flight.  I can tell we’re in for a bumpy ride in more ways than one.  I’m very grateful for my quiet seat companions. 

I take a moment to study the woman.  Middle-aged and overweight, her frizzy dyed red hair frames her pasty-white face.  When she gets up from her window seat frequently, she grabs the seats in front of her, forcing those people to sit forward. And of course the people beside her must rise to get out of her way. 

The man who sits on the aisle is pure gentleman.  He is truly polite. No trace of irritation exists on his face when she asks to get out to walk, to use the bathroom, to seek out an attendant.  The entire time she is moving around, she talks loudly, and screams for a soda.  “It keeps me occupied,” she says so that her aircraft audience can hear her.

My irritation starts my thoughts on another path.  What if she were a character in a book?  What has made her become this way?  Was she ignored as a child?  Why does she crave this attention?  As I build her imaginary back story, I’m filled with sorrow for the real person in front of me.   If she is like this all the time, imagine how lonely she must be. 

She needs my positive thoughts, not my judgement.