Archive for February, 2013

Grateful Writer? Relax your way to writing!

February 15, 2013


As I gaze out of my office window, pondering over my next phrase, I am thankful for the California open space behind our house.  If you have a little patch of nature, or can walk to one and sit under a tree with a notebook, you’ll discover how freeing a few trees, a bit of grass and the smell of fresh earth can relax the writer or artist within any of us. 

IMG_0018Next, I am gratified by the room around me, filled with my most precious possessions:  books and creatures writing and reading, and lovely cards given by wonderful friends.  I remember when several years ago my writing area was a small retreat between our bedroom and the hallway.  My son and his friends ran back and forth between his room and the backyard deck, while I rolled my chair away from my computer as they whooshed by, a stream of boy-noise and action.   


Who can forget a best friend by my side, encouraging my writing?  Zoie will be sixteen-years-old at the end of this month.  When she was a puppy, I barely wrote at all.  Once she was out of baby-hood, I resumed my normal schedule, with walk breaks, of course.   Within the last year she has lost most of her sight and hearing, so she doesn’t feel comfortable outside without one of us by her side.  She is more impatient with my writing time.   It MUST be time to go out NOW, she seems to say with her big brown eyes.  I agree.  We must remember time with our loved ones is important, too. 

No matter if you write for a few minutes now and then or hours every day, be grateful your passions have led to toward this path.  

Writing Prompts:

1. Where do you hope your writing will lead you?  What do you wish to discover about yourself, your past, present or future?  Write an essay about this adventure.

2.  Interview yourself.  What is your favorite word?  (I have several – – most of them I make up.  Since I happen to be starving right now, I think my favorites are hot fudge sundae.)

Where do you write most productively?  (Me – my office.  Although any classroom or library with individual desks works well, too.)

Do you have any favorite moments of inspiration?   (Just before I fall asleep or as I awake.)

What are your favorite writing books?  ( I love What’s Your Story by Marion Dane Bauer.  Although it is marketed for middle grade students it is wonderful for everyone.)

How did you find writing?  (I found it in school but a guidance counselor said the only option was working for a newspaper.  So I dropped that idea until my son was born.  Then I took a pen in hand and began again.)  

What is your biggest conflict with writing?    (It is often harder than it looks.)

What do you enjoy most about it?   (It drops you into another world entirely.) 

3.  Write a poem, song, or personal narrative on gratefulness. 

4.  Have you ever been inspired by nature?  Where?  When?  Write about this inspiration.

February 7, 2013

Humor, Mystery & Suspense Writing Workshop
Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade Students
Saturday, March 2, 2013
9:00 – Noon

Walnut Creek Public Library
1644 N. Broadway
925-977-3340 (Library)
Walnut Creek, CA

Dying to write a funny thriller or a scary whodunit with quirky characters? Discover how YOU can write the BEST story from two published authors. You’ll have a blast, play an uproarious game and write. This is YOUR chance! Ask questions about books, the craft of writing, the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest and the publishing world! Come and have a great time with children’s authors Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.

Visit them at and

Bring pen and paper and get ready to WRITE!


Photo Contest for All Ages!

February 6, 2013

A N E X P E D I T I O N E R S – T H E M E D
A L L – A G E S P H O T O C O N T E S T


In The Expeditioners — “nail-bitingly thrilling” (San Francisco Chronicle) adventure novel for young readers, from McSweeney’s McMullens—brilliant explorer Alexander West invents a code that allows him to secretly communicate an important message to his children. In this Expeditioners-inspired photo contest, readers of all ages are invited to create a secret message using nothing but (1) a book cover and (2) some blank scrap paper. Read on for complete contest rules and instructions. Four winners will be announced in March!

Use a book cover to create a secret message.

• blank scrap paper and scissors
• your imagination
• a camera phone or other camera

Go to a place where there are lots of books—a library, a bookstore, or your own bookshelf.

Find a book with a lot of words on the cover. The more words, the better. (Magazines work fine, too.)

Use scrap paper to block out words and letters until you’ve “discovered” a secret message in the cover. Your message might be a sentence, a phrase, or even a single word. (Refer to the attached examples.) What kind of message should you be looking for? Let your imagination run wild! Extra points will be awarded for ingenuity, mysteriousness, and overall fun.

Shoot “before” and “after” photos of your secret message, using our examples as a model. (One of your photos must be a straight-on shot of the book cover as you found it. The other photo must capture your secret message.) Email these photos to, with your name and age. Winners will be selected in three age categories: 10 & under; 11 to 14; and 15 & up. We will also award a prize to the longest coherent message created by a contestant of any age.

All photo entries must be received by March 1, 2013. Winners will be notified via email, and then announced on the McSweeney’s website in mid-March. We’ll share some of our favorite entries — including all winners — in a photo gallery at

• Ask permission before you do this activity in a bookstore, or if you plan to use someone else’s books.
• Don’t cut up any books! There’s no reason to cut or tear anything except scrap paper. Photos involving cut-up books will be disqualified from the contest.
• Have fun and get creative.
• If you haven’t done so yet, check out S. S. Taylor’s The Expeditioners!

Memorable Movie Moments Help Our Writing

February 5, 2013

Every great movie has one or more ultimate memorable moments. A few lines of memorable dialogue:

* In “All About Eve” Betty Davis says, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
* In “The Wizard of Oz” Dorothy proclaims, “We’re a long way from Kansas!”
* In “The Wizard of Oz” the witch cries, “I’m melting!”

Then there are the images which stay with you forever.

*Also from “The Wizard of Oz,” the sand running through the large hourglass timer
*E.T. and friend riding their bicycle across the face of the moon
*Wile E. Coyote hanging suspended in air

Every scene, whether it is from a short story or a movie, must include four things:
Desire, Action, Conflict and Change. (Thank you, Robert McKee!) Your character desires something more than anything in the world, takes action in some some or large way, runs into someone or something creating conflict and the character changes. The change can be slight, but there must be change. At the end of the scene, to be truly memorable, it should have a punch – a line of dialogue or an action that gives it an extra oomph.

Writing prompts:

1. What is a memorable moment from a movie you have recently seen? Why do you think it is indelibly etched within your memory?
2. Learn to identify these memorable moments within movies and the books you read as well as the desire of the characters, their actions and conflicts and their changes.
3. Write a scene with a character you have created or know well. After you write your piece, identify any memorable moments within it. If you can’t find any, structure the pacing of your story and the tension so as to create them. Remember desire, action, conflict and change.
4. Write a personal narrative scene with these same elements.

Attention East Bay High School Students! Writing Contest $$$ and Workshop for YOU!

February 5, 2013

Good news for students in grades 9, 10, and 11 who attend high schools in Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon, California. There is a writing contest JUST for you! Categories are poetry, personal essay and short story and prizes awarded will be $125 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third in each category. Students may submit up to two pieces.

AND . . . that’s not all! A free writing workshop taught by author Lynn Goodwin will be given on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 from 3:30 – 5 p.m. and held at the Pleasanton Library to help students become inspired and prepared for the contest.

For more information visit