Archive for September, 2011

High School Profiles in Courage Essay Contest

September 29, 2011

Do you like to write essays?  Enter the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Essay Contest where you can win $10,000 as a first prize, $1,000 as a second prize, or one of the five $500 finalist awards.  Entries must be postmarked no later than Jan.8, 2012.  Visit the following link for the guidelines and writing suggestions:

Contest for Pleasant Hill Middle School & High School Students $$$$$

September 28, 2011
Great writing contest for Pleasant Hill, CA students!  $$$   Go for it!   $$$$

Highlights for Children 2012 Fiction Contest – Ages 16 and Older

September 27, 2011




A funny story inspired by an unusual newspaper headline.


Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.


All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2012.


No entry form or fee is required.

Entrants must be at least 16 years old at the time of submission.*

We welcome work from both published and unpublished authors. All submissions must be previously unpublished.

Stories may be any length up to 750 words. Stories for beginning readers should not exceed 475 words. Indicate the word count in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.

Include your name and the title of your story on your manuscript.

No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.

Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned.

Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights.


Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431


The three winning entries will be announced on in June 2012. These stories will become the property of Highlights for Children and will be published by Highlights. All other submissions will be considered for purchase by Highlights.

* We’re sorry that we cannot consider contest entries from children under the age of 16. Young writers are welcome to submit their work for consideration elsewhere in the magazine. Guidelines are available on

Of Serendipity, Quick Writing Fixes Vs. Writing With Depth

September 26, 2011

Last week my regular walking friend was out-of-town, so my husband joined me on my morning walk.   As we made our laps around the track, I searched for the regular dogs who normally greeted me.  Hmm. 

Where was Brownie? Shelby? Lola?  No dog kisses.  No wagging tails of warmth.    After all, they are the real reasons I go out for exercise. 

But then, a beautiful black lab I had never seen before, loped toward us.  His tail wagged,  he ran circles first, as if begging to play.  

“Where’s your mommy and daddy?” I asked as he romped around.

“I’m sure they’re in the parking lot somewhere,” said Bob.  “It seems like that’s where he came from.  They probably let him out to run.” 

But as we walked along, the mystery dog stayed by my side, as though he owned us.

“I think he must have got out,” I said, calling him to me.  He came willingly and I read his collar, which wasn’t so easy to do, as it had faded with time, as my eyesight has done.   “Cocoa!”   I said, which was the first thing I could read from the bone-shaped tag.

He wagged his tail in recognition.   Bob recognized the address as being on the other side of the park and open space.  

“I wish I had a leash with me,” I said. 

Bob heaved a sigh.  Not quite the dog lover as I.  “He probably knows how to get home.”

“But dogs aren’t always good with cars,” I said. 

Next, a small deer, with antlers rising far above his head – – nearly larger than the deer itself – – leaped across the grassy field.   We stopped in awe to watch his graceful dance. But then Cocoa took off after him.

“No!” I shouted.  “Cocoa!”

He ran faster than the deer.

“Stop!” yelled my husband.

Cocoa applied his breaks.  At least someone taught him to obey. 

“Come, Cocoa!”  I clapped my hands and Cocoa came.  The deer bounded up the hill safely.

Close call.

My heart still beat fast.  We walked in silence. 

 I said a silent prayer for a solution, one that would work for both Bob and me.   

It appeared right in front of us in the next moment. 

A man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, with a blonde dog on a leash, came down from a side trail right in front of us on the track.   Cocoa greeted his dog with barks and howls, jumping all over him.

“This dog came to us out of nowhere,” I told this dog owner.  

He shook his head.  “I’ve dealt with him and his owner before.  His owner has a gate with a broken latch but when I’ve returned him, he yelled at me for not calling.  Which I did but he didn’t answer his phone.” 

We all shook our heads this time.  

  He unhooked the leash from his own dog and attached it to excitable Cocoa.  “I’ll return him again,”  said Hawaiian shirt.

“Thank you!” we said. 

The three of them walked away in the direction of Cocoa’s house.  I wondered what Cocoa’s living situation is like.  It doesn’t seem like his owner cares much that he gets out, or that he inconveniences other people.  Does he realize his dog could get hurt or killed?

And then I think about the kids in a friend’s class.  Their parents act in ways like the dog owner.  I’m glad I was raised by parents who cared enough to take time for me. 

Writing Prompt:

1. Take a deeper look at your writing.  Did you fix a problem temporarily where it may crop up again in a later chapter?  Fix any loose holes or leave any strings unattached?

2.  Did you create your characters with depth so that each one rings true?  Does each one have a flaw?  Why do they have this flaw?  What is the worst thing that can happen in your story because of this flaw?  Have you forced your character to confront his or her weakness?

3.  Are you ever presented with a problem in you writing you don’t know how to solve?  If so, ask for the answer.  Write down your question.  Sleep on it.  Mull it over as you take walks, wash the dishes, or mow the lawn.  Sometimes serendipity strikes and your answer will land right in front of you.  But if you want a deeper fix, sometimes you have to dig more deeply into your characters or plot to discover the answer.

Veronica Rossi: High Concept YA Fiction Today

September 20, 2011

Do you want to write young adult fiction?  Interested in learning what the market for “high concept” is like in today’s young adult world?  Discover the secrets behind this fascinating genre from the latest local success story.   What exactly makes something high concept fiction and why are agents and editor searching for it?  How can YOU apply this technique to your own writing?

Veronica Rossi, our own California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch member, sold her three-book deal to HarperCollins and looks forward to seeing the movie. Little Brown is publishing the book in the UK and 23 international territories! Not many of us can say that, now can we?

She will tell us how she broke into this highly competitive market with her novel, Under the Never Sky  and share secrets of how we can do it too.

Saturday, Oct. 8th, 2011

Sign-in begins at 11:30 (come then so you can socialize/mingle/network) at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  At noon we eat a sumptuous buffet lunch (you HAVE to try that cheese pasta!) followed by Veronica’s enlightening talk.  $20 members, $25 nonmembers.  Reservations required by emailing Jean at

Hope to see you there!     Veronica Rossi   CWC Mt Diablo Branch

Writing an Anthology & Saving Independent Bookstores

September 13, 2011

Victoria Zackheim gave an outstanding talk at the California Writers Club on Saturday.  Although she spoke on creating anthologies, much of  what she said applies to all writing. 

Which is why it’s so wonderful to attend many genres of authors speak.  Their advice and vision help all writers in ways we don’t realize until we hear them.

Regarding nonfiction books:  “Write the proposal first.  This is a clear idea of what the book is about.  It becomes an outline for you.” 

About any kind of writing:  “Dig deeper.  There’s more to the story.  There’s something  you don’t want to talk about.” 

“Describe your book in thirty words or less. Brevity works.”

Regarding anthologies:  “A community of writers is formed around each book. Now they’re creating their own communities of friends.” 

And when she wrote her introduction for the proposal of the book, 90% became the introduction of the book itself. 

What are editors looking for in an anthology? 

*originality in concept

*new ideas for fiction

*established and up-in coming authors (Not widely published so they can create a platform for them.  This gives hope for everyone!)

*provocative subjects

*ensemble that sparks interest and inspires

Writing Prompt:

1.  Write thirty words on about your book. 

2.  Come up with an idea for an anthology.  You can even do one for fun within your writing group or writing community. 

3.  Read a good anthology, such as He Said What? Women Write About Moments When Everything Changed, edited by Victoria Zackheim.


There’s an article in The New Yorker about saving independent bookstores.  The question is this:  should we?  The point has been made that video stores have disappeared.  There’s no longer a need. Why should there be one for the small  bookstore? 

I’ve had this theory since Amazon and the big chain stores popped up in our towns, closing independent bookstores.  The prices on Amazon (and their unfair no-tax system) can’t be beat.  And today’s society likes to press buttons.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they’d win over the brick and mortar chain stores.


You know what people thrive on?

A sense of belonging.  Community. 

I sense the time of independent bookstores will be right around the corner.  A few have started popping up here and there.   And many cities have never let theirs die off in the first place.  They still have author readings, book clubs and great book selections. 

So hope, pray, and visit your nearest independent bookstore.

Patience, know thy writing.

September 7, 2011

I’m working on a big project right now, one that has captured my heart; it came to me in a dream.  It’s taking me some time to get everything in a row.  Research.  Read.  Take notes.  Write my memories.  Interview. 

What a fabulous process.  But it requires a tremendous amount of patience.   Someone once said,  “I want patience, and I want it NOW!”

Writing often feels like that.

‘When will you send it out?” asks a friend who is a writer and accustomed to sending out manuscripts very quickly. 

“It’s not ready yet,” I say.

“When will it be?” she asks. 

I shrug.  “I’ll know when I know.”

I must trust the process. 

“. . . I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.”  Marie Curie



“When you get serious about the universe, the universe gets serious about you.”  Marianne Williamson

Writing Prompt:

1.  What project are you willing to show patience and perseverance with?  What tweaks your heart and you know you must write it no matter what?  Go ahead, make the committment!  What do you have to lose?  As Sid Fleischman used to say, “Only the paper is wasted.”  Now it’s not even that half of the time. 

2.  One of my friends would say, “But what if it doesn’t sell?”   Do not be concerned with the outcome.  Be focused on your passion and your craft.  Take it step by step.  Or as Anne Lamott says, “Bird by bird.”  Worry about marketing later.  (Yes, you must think of your reader as you write it, but that is different than your focus on selling it.)

Some people are writers, and some people will always plan to write, but something always gets in their way.  Face it.  They will never be up to the risk.  It is only with creativity that one grows and learns.  If you don’t want to write, then don’t.  But don’t whine that you can’t be a writer because you’re too busy.  Yeah.  We all are.  Make a choice.  A committment. 

I know writers who have written at 3 a.m. before their day jobs.  They did it.

So can you.