Archive for July, 2011

July 23rd, 2011 (15th meetup): All About Plotting

Our writing group always met at Borders in Torrance. But last week, they announced that they would be closing all 399 stores, so we lost our only sponsor. I had scheduled our meetups with them all the way up to September, and now I had to scramble to find us new venues.

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 was supposed to be our last ever meeting in Borders. But when I passed by on Friday to check, I was greeted by a long line to the cashier that snaked around the store. There were tons of people bargain hunting and the shelves were nearly in disarray.

In short, I had to quickly find a new venue for our group. I emailed those who had RSVP’d  for the event and informed them of the situation. I asked for their cellphone numbers so I could text them the new venue address the following day.

Early on Saturday, I drove to the nearest library. I waited for the doors to open, and as soon as it did, I rushed to the Reference Desk clerk.

I told her our situation and she suggested one of the conference rooms. They were supposed to be used on a first come, first served basis, but she reserved it for our group’s use from 1-4pm. The clerk used to be a member of the SCBWI, and was more than happy to help our group.

I was so happy to have found us a great venue at such short notice. I quickly emailed and texted all my members, and though a few of them didn’t make it, most of them were happy they did come—because I gave out a whole bunch of handouts and worksheets on plotting.

Torrance Children’s Book Writers, photo by Janet Merrigan

Most of the worksheets and handouts were based on Deborah Halverson’s incredibly helpful book Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, and Evan Marshall’s equally useful Marshall Plan for Novel Writing.

Following is an abbreviated transcript of the session:


Some people are plotters—they like to outline the story and develop their characters before they even begin writing the first draft. Some are pantsers—they start with a story idea and just go from there.

Everyone has a different approach to writing, particularly to plotting. While outlining works for some people, it might not be a pleasant experience for others.

Whether you’re plotters or pantsers doesn’t matter. What matters is that you learn as much as you can about plotting from several different sources. Because in the end, only you can decide what works for you or not.

In this session, I’ll give you several different “rules” or ways of plotting your novel. But I’d like to remind you that you mustn’t be afraid to break these rules if it doesn’t work for you.

The first thing you need to do when reading any writing book—especially one on plotting, is to understand what is being said. Once you understand the rule, then you can take it and use it as is, or adapt it in the way that makes sense for you.

You must think of every writing book you read, and every writing session you attend as a GUIDE and not as a set of fixed rules or commandments.

You can follow whatever you learn from today’s session about plotting to the letter, you can tweak the steps to suit your style, or you can even add and subtract certain steps. The point is that as long as you understand the “rules”, feel free to break them.


Before we actually start plotting our novels, there are certain very important things we must first do.


Who are you writing for?

Are you writing for children or adults?

  • Knowing the exact age range of your audience will help keep your plot on track.
  • Not only that, it will help you when you begin to query your work, and will help publishers and booksellers know where to place your books on the shelf.
  • Let’s go over the following handout really quickly.

Handout 1: Understanding Children’s Book Genres by Laura Backes

Are you writing for girls or boys?

From Deborah Halverson’s Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies:

  • Publishers would like more boy readers.
  • Boys develop differently from girls. They develop more slowly than girls, so girls’ reading skills tend to be better. Boys are not comfortable with emotion in books and like action instead—which is why they’re more drawn to video games and movies than books.
  • If you want to write for boys, make sure the story is intriguing enough for them to set aside their videogames.
    • Lots of action, irreverence, silly humor & sports themes –some authors slip emotional stuff underneath ex. My Big Mouth by Deborah Halverson about a 14 year old training to be a competitive eater also deals with issue of eating disorders in boys.


Now that you know the age range of your target audience, it’ll be easy to figure out the word count for each.

Why is word count important?

  • It helps you target your readers. Naturally, longer novels have higher word counts and are not suitable for younger children. If you say you want to write a MG novel, for instance and your first draft turned out to be 100,000 words, it’ll be harder for you to sell your work to an agent/publisher.
    • Genres also tend to play into word count. Writers need more words for world building, so Sci Fi and Fantasy novels tend to be longer, and its readers more used to reading thicker books.  So if you’re writing in this genre, you can easily  go beyond the required word count for your target audience.
  • HOWEVER If you’re trying to break into publication, it is best to stick to word count. Once you become a bestselling author you can break the rules and write a 200,000 word YA book. JK Rowling’s first book, HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone was 76, 944 words but due to their popularity, her books began increasing in word count until her final book, HP & the Deathly Hallows which had198,227 words.


Knowing the genre of the book you are writing/planning to write will help agents/publishers decide whether to pick you as a client or not.

But within each general genre, there are also specific types of sub-genres—and knowing these will help you keep on track when plotting/ writing your stories.

Handout 2: Genres and How to Choose One pp.30-33   The Marshall Plan Workbook by Evan Marshall


  • Forget about trend, and write in the genre that you love to read
  • If you love reading sci fi, don’t force yourself to write paranormal romance just because it’s the hot thing right now. You will be spending a whole lot of time writing your story, and if you don’t love the genre you’re writing in, you’ll find yourself getting frustrated, or bored or worse—not finishing the story at all.


From Deborah Halverson’s Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies:

Themea concept you want tot teach/a message you want to convey that your protagonist (and by extension your readers) can experience. Themes give your stories focus, unity and a point.

YA fiction reflects the issues and concerns that kids experience as they transition from child to adult. Themes may include self-esteem, popularity, body image, relationships, etc.

You can also pick Universal Themes—which open up your story to a wide audience. The more readers who can relate to your story, the more readers you’ll get.

Worksheet 1: Choose Your Theme. p. 33, Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson


“…You must be astute not only in how you craft your book, but also about how you position it in the marketplace. Writing a moving novel about young love and clueless parents isn’t enough; oodles of them are already out there. You must put your parents and lovers in uncommon circumstances and use your great writing to march them through an original plot.”

– Deborah Halverson, Writing YA for Dummies

Hook/Elevator Pitch: A one sentence description of your story that tells people the following as succinctly as possible:

  • What your story’s about
  • Where your story fits into the current market
  • Why your story is a fresh approach to its subject matter
  • Who your audience is


Seventeen-year old Bella moves from sunny Pheonix to dreary Forks, Washington, where she falls for a stunningly beautiful boy who turns out to be a vampire with epic enemies. (Twilight by Stephenie Meyer; 28 words)

  • Knowing your hook early will help you in many ways.
    • It will help you keep in mind what your story is really about and help you avoid deviating from this path as you plot your story.
    • Once you finish revising your draft, you’ll have a hook ready to use when you start querying.

Worksheet 2: Write Your Hook. p. 71-72, Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson.

Worksheet 3: Novel Information at a Glance


Characters are what make a story great. Your main character, in particular, is the vehicle for your plot. The great story idea you have, the hook you just came up with—the only way you can tell those stories is by telling it through the eyes of your main character.

It is therefore very important to have well thought out characters before you even begin to write down your story.

The more fleshed out your characters are, the easier it will be for you to move your plot along. Often times, the story comes out of your character profiles.

There are different ways of fleshing out your characters, I’m going to share with you 4 of the best ways I’ve found among all the writing books I’ve read.

The best part about these 3 techniques of developing your characters, is that you can use one, mix and match or combine all three of them for the best results.

I’m going to share them with you in order of least intricate to most intricate.

  1. Worksheet 4: Character Thumbnail & Profile by Deborah Halverson
  2. Worksheet 5:  The Marshall Plan Character Fact Lists by Evan Marshall
  3. Worksheet 6:  Comprehensive Character Profile (compiled by myself)

No matter what worksheet/ character development technique you wish to use, there is one particular technique that you all must know and use. If there’s one technique that I recommend you use, it would be this one:

GMC or Goals, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon

Handout 3: Goals, Motivations, Conflict by Debra Dixon


From Debra Dixon’s Goals, Motivations, Conflict

  • These are important questions for any story

  • Your job as a writer is to answer them quickly and clearly
  • You need a strong foundation – need compelling characters
  • Characterization is the key to successful commercial fiction
  • Characterization begins with goal, motivation and conflict
Who Character
What Goal
Why Motivation
Why Not Conflict
  • A character wants a goal because he is motivated, but he faces conflict






  1. Get to the Emerald City
  2. See the Wizard
  3. Get the broomstick
To find her heart’s desire and a place with no trouble


Auntie Em is Sick

  1. The Wizard is there.
  2. He has the power to send her home.
  3. The price for sending her home
  1. She’s unhappy
  2. Trouble follows her everywhere


  1. The WITCH
  2. The balloon lifts without her.
She doesn’t know what she wants


Conflict: The Power of the Dark Side by Pamela Jaye Smith

Characterization/Motivation: Inner Drives by Pamela Jaye Smith



Have you ever seen one of those Domino exhibitions on TV? The one where an artist (or a person with a lot of time on his hands) places a whole sequence of dominos on the floor. As observers, we have an idea of what the shape of the artist’s domino work is, but we can’t really tell the final outcome until the artist finishes the process and pushes the first domino forward.

  • As writers, we have to have a complete (or at least nearly complete) vision of our novel before we begin writing.
  • We have to know what is going to happen ahead of time, so we can shape our story accordingly.

Plot is defined as the events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence, through cause and effect, or by coincidence.

In short, Plot is a series of linked events. How are these events linked? By Cause and effect. Each event in a novel must have consequences—and therefore, will affect the event that comes next.

  • Each domino is linked by cause and effect. If the domino falls forward, it pushes the domino in front of it and so on, until all dominos are felled. Imagine each domino as a scene in your book—it’s exactly the same concept. Each scene pushes the story forward until all the scenes are finished and you have a complete story.
  • Each domino has to be directly aligned to the previous one in order for the exhibit to work. In the same way, each scene has to affect the following scenes directly.


Handout 4: Conflict and Character Within Story Structure

Simply put, every story has a Beginning, a Middle and an End.

The Basic 3 Act Structure is very important in plotting—and is important to keep in mind in any stage of writing. Some of the problems we have we our novel’s structure is due to the fact that we may not have a clear idea of these 3 important phases in our story.  We have to know where our Beginning ends, where our Middle starts and where our End begins.

Each Act in the structure performs certain functions.

A great article by Peder Hill explains The Basic Three Act Structure, and relates it to Character Arc.

The simplest building blocks of a good story are found in the Three Act Structure. Separated by Plot Points, its Act 1 (Beginning), Act 2 (Middle), and Act 3 (End) refer not to where in time in the story they lie but instead fundamental stages along the way.

From  Peder Hill’s Structure & Plot

  • In the Beginning you introduce the reader to the setting, the characters and the situation (conflict) they find themselves in and their goal. Plot Point 1 is a situation that drives the main character from their “normal” life toward some different conflicting situation that the story is about.
    • Great stories often begin at Plot Point 1, thrusting the main character right into the thick of things, but they never really leave out Act 1, instead filling it in with back story along the way.
  • In the Middle the story develops through a series of complications and obstacles, each leading to a mini crisis. Though each of these crises are temporarily resolved, the story leads inevitably to an ultimate crisis—the Climax. As the story progresses, there is a rising and falling of tension with each crisis, but an overall rising tension as we approach the Climax. The resolution of the Climax is Plot Point 2.
  • In the End, the Climax and the loose ends of the story are resolved during the Denouement.Tension rapidly dissipates because it’s nearly impossible to sustain a reader’s interest very long after the climax. Finish your story and get out.

From  Peder Hill’s Structure & Plot



  • Plot-driven stories are stories where things happen to the character. Has a quick, action packed pace and appeals to boys.
  • The characters react to the events happening around them and do not actively create the events or situations by themselves.


  • Character-driven stories are propelled forward by the characters of the book.
  • The character’s actions, feelings, thoughts and choices cause the events to happen.
  • The famed Alice, for instance, fell down a rabbit hole – but she wouldn’t have been there if she hadn’t chosen to follow a certain white rabbit.


Before I teach you several techniques for plotting, I’d like to take a survey. How do you plot your stories?

  • Most people do a straight up outline of their story. They have an idea of how their story begins and they start the outline from there.
  • I find it helpful to do that because I can generate a lot of story ideas just by following the flow of my thoughts.
  • But plotting is all about trying to organize those ideas so that they follow the basic plot structure.
  • I’m going to share 3 techniques of plotting.
  • You may start plotting by doing a straight up outline—but once you’re done with that, I would advice to use one of these techniques in order to organize your ideas.
  • You may use all 3 in conjunction with each other, you may mix and match or just use one technique. The main thing is that you find what works for you. Again, this is all about finding the techniques or systems that work for you.


Worksheet 7: Plot your trigger Points p.104, Writing YA Fiction for Dummies

1. Want/ goal and flaw

What does your character want more than anything? What personal quality/habit/mindset must your character overcome to get his want or goal?

2. Conflict

What is the problem throughout the novel, the conflict that the character struggles through?

3. Catalyst

What gets your character up that tree? What event sets everything in motion?

4. Obstacles

Obstacle 1: Name the first obstacle to overcome

Obstacle 2: Name the second obstacle to overcome, with higher stakes

Obstacle 3: Name the third obstacle to come, the do-or die moment

5. Epiphany

State your character’s core strength. What event or situation makes him realize he has strength?

6. Climax

How does your character’s strength get him over that last hill?

7. Triumph

Has your character achieved his want? State how he will have grown as a result of his success or failure.


Handout 5: Pushing Readers Buttons with Scenes & Chapters p.123-127, Writing YA Fiction for Dummies

  • The way you structure your story/ slice it into chapters or scenes directly affects the pace, or making your readers feel anxious, rushed, or relaxed, all on your whim.
  • How you divvy up chapters and scenes is your call, but keep in mind that kids have short attention spans.
  • Frequent breaks create a lot of white space in the books, providing visual breathers and making the book more welcoming.
  • White space is the empty space surrounding the paragraphs and images on a book page.
  • Readers see this space as visual breathing room and generally feel more comfortable when there’s more of it. Pages with long text blocks and minimal white space can be intimidating


  • Every chapter in your story should have a specific plot goal that propels your character one step closer to the resolution of his overall conflict.
  • When you string your chapters together, you have a full plot from beginning to end.
  • Sometimes a chapter is a single event experienced from beginning to end.
  • Other times, a chapter is broken down into several different events (SCENES) that together achieve the single chapter goal.

Use this list to ensure your chapter has all the necessary ingredients:

  • Your character has a need or goal that ties into the overall plot
  • The character takes action on that goal but encounters conflict
  • The conflict mucks things up further for your character.
    • The character is stuck with a new or worsened problem ( a setback) to deal with in the next chapter.


  • A scene is a single event with its own conflict that, when combined with other scenes, contributes to the overall goal of the chapter.
  • This progression of scenes within a chapter is called scene-sequencing.
    • As with chapters, a scene has a main character with a need or goal, the character takes action on that goal and encounters conflict, and then the situation is worsened at the end, leaving him with another problem to deal with in the next scene
    • The Big difference between a scene and a chapter is that a scene sticks to its own specific issue, and doesn’t try to move the character into a whole new phase of the plot. That’s the chapter’s job.
  • When a scene is complete, readers know more or are more emotionally affected, but the character may have to address another issue or two in one or more scenes before he’s ready to move on.
  • You may cut to a new scene bec. of a change in venue. Scenes usually take place in one location but not always.
  • Sometimes multiple scenes are necessary within a chapter to let multiple characters have their say.
  • Switching from one POV to another can be a reason to start a new scene.


But how do you know how many scenes you should have in a story? And what if your story has 3 characters? How many scenes should each of them have?

I had the same problem when I was just starting out with novel writing. Luckily I found Evan Marshall’s The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, and the Marshall Plan Workbook.

Marshall doesn’t work with scenes or chapters. Instead, he works with what he calls SECTIONS, which if you ask me, are very similar to scenes.

Handout 6: The Novelmaster

Handout 7: Section Sheets

The Marshall Plan is a great technique to follow if you have no idea how to even begin plotting out those scenes. It teaches you how to go from one point to another step by step, even showing you where you should insert Obstacles 1, 2 & 3 within your story.

If you are just starting your first novel ever, or starting out with a new story and looking for an organized, step by step way of doing scenes, I strongly encourage you to buy The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing or its companion book the Marshall Plan Workbook.

The Marshall Plan is a whole other topic for another day, but in the meantime you can use the Novel Master as a guide to how many scenes you should have in your story, and the section sheets as a way of describing each scene you’ll have.

Torrance Children’s Book Writers, photo by Janet Merrigan

*As you’ve seen from our session today, Deborah Halverson’s Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies is a great source of information. It’s one of the best books I’ve seen out there, that guides you step by step on how to write great young adult fiction, but all of Deborah Halverson’s techniques apply to writing any kind of fiction. I encourage you all to get a copy of this book , as well as The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing.

Thank you all for joining me today.  Let’s discuss whatever questions you may have about today’s discussions.

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Orange Belt Test

Last July 9th, 2011, Saturday, I took another belt test for martial arts class. This time I was aiming to get to level 3—Orange Belt.

We started off with some twirling exercises– secretly designed to make our arms super tired before we even got to the actual belt test.

Twirling Exercises

Then Master Erwin made us dizzy by testing our rolling skills.  It was easy enough at first, but then he asked us to roll with our sticks in hand (scary if you think about poking yourself in the ribs as you roll), and then to pick up our sticks and roll.

Crazily enough, I had fun with the rolling test. I imagined myself to be some kind of Ninja getting ready for a fight.

We didn’t have time to recover from all the rolling we had to do as Master Erwin immediately tested us on the various stick-fighting movements and strikes we’ve learned in class.

Testing various Stick-twirling techniques

I did good on most of the stick twirling techniques, as I’ve practiced those a lot in class.  But a belt test wouldn’t be as much fun if you didn’t mess up badly one at least one exercise.

That’s me completely getting frazzled and forgetting the moves and strikes I’m supposed to have learned all these months:

Forgetting my moves, but smiling anyway

In the Philippines, we are generally taught to laugh our troubles away.  So I just had to laugh at myself while I fumbled with my sticks and tried to remember which foot was supposed to hook back and which arm was supposed to strike forward.

I eventually remembered the dratted movements and got it right, but not before Master Erwin told me that I needed more practice on that one.

Master Erwin also quizzed us on the various strikes.

Quizzing us on strikes

The quizzes are always interesting because if we miss an answer, Master Erwin makes us do push ups–which makes our tired arms even more tired.

Good  thing I remembered all my strikes and was saved from push ups that day.

The test on blocking was the toughest by far.  Master Erwin had instructed all his brown belt assistants not to hold anything back and strike  us with force, so that we had to be really prepared for the blows.

Test on Blocking strikes

I had to concentrate really hard to block the strikes properly, as one wrong move would definitely hurt–a lot.

Test on blocking

It was a test of speed, endurance and strength. Earl was hitting harder than ever and I had to counter his blows.  I did well on the test–except for one incident where my stick rebounded on my forehead after an unexpected blow.

It didn’t hurt at the time, but I did have a purple bruise right smack on the middle of my forehead for a week.

Master Erwin wanted to see if we were really blocking correctly, so for the Empty Hands test, he took up the role of opponent and hit us with all he had.

Blocking the Master

I had to be super strong and stable when blocking Master Erwin. He had the title of Master for a reason–he was strong, stable and fast. And though his strikes looked effortless, my arms felt the power behind them. I had small bruises on my arm from blocking his blows as souvenirs from the test.

The next test was Estokada– a form of single stick/ sword fighting and the Filipino version of Fencing. It was an easy enough drill and Patricia and I had a chance to catch our breath.

Estokada with Patricia

The final test was forms–which is equivalent to katas which Karate students have to learn.  It involves a series of  memorized movements of strikes, blocks and footwork. And it was much easier than I had expected. Master Erwin watched us as we did Form 2 and after pronouncing it “perfect!” he let us rest on the sidelines while Steve, who was testing for his Blue Belt, finished his tests.

After Steve had finished, Master Erwin gathered us all on the mat again and gave us pointers for each and what we should practice more, and improve on.

It felt really awesome when the only thing he told me was that I had done great on the test. And he repeated it twice! So cool!

We all posed for a class picture, as we always do at the end of a belt test.

Doce Pares Filipino Martial Arts Class

And I posed for a picture with Master Erwin–knowing that it would be the last time I would be wearing my yellow belt.

With Master Erwin

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Harry Potter Movie Night

I love Harry Potter. You all probably know that by now. If you don’t—then you should probably read the Harry Potter tribute I wrote for the July 15th opening of the final movie.

And because I love Potter, I and my friends, who love the series, too, decided to make an occasion of watching the final movie.

July 16, 2011, Saturday

Movie night began at the house with a feast. Lena, and I grilled the burgers I had specially made that afternoon, while Maiko sliced some potatoes and made chili cheese fries. Around 7:30PM, Mo and Christina arrived with a great spinach and arugula salad.

We were all dressed in our Gryffindor uniform as we sat around the table and passed dishes to each other. I felt like I was in the Hogwarts Dining Hall enjoying a meal with my classmates.

After an enjoyable dinner, we rushed off to AMC Del Amo.

picture courtesy of bigmikelakers

We were about an hour and 45 minutes early for the movie, but we didn’t mind.  After all, we had paid almost $20 to watch the movie in Imax 3D, so we wanted to get our money’s worth and get some good seats.

Myself, Christina, Mo & Lena

Our group was fifth in line and we really didn’t mind waiting. We chatted to pass the time away and before long, the attendant was letting us into the theater.

Myself, Maiko & Christina

I had brought my robe with me, but after seeing that the only other person wearing a robe was the theater attendant for Harry Potter in Imax 3D, I thought it wise not to don the complete costume. Besides, it was pretty warm with all the people piling into the theater.

When most of the audience was seated, the attendant in Slytherin robes walked up to the front of the theater and introduced himself. He got the audience all excited to watch the movie by asking questions that only Potter fans would know the answer to. He also challenged anyone who had a wand (or a straw) to a duel.

A lady wearing a Gryffindor scarf and carrying a wand  accepted the challenge and strode up to the front of the theater. The Slytherin attendant knew all his spells and easily caught the lady with an Avada Kedavra.

Naturally, he got smug after that and challenged everyone else to a duel. Typical Slytherin.

Soon after, he left and the lights dimmed. We settled down to watch previews and then the movie came on.

And we all sat engrossed until the final credits came on at 1am.

I didn’t cry as much as I had expected. In fact, I didn’t cry at all. Maybe it’s because I had known for awhile that all good things must come to an end, including Harry Potter. Or maybe I was just so concentrated on watching every single detail and comparing the scenes with what I had imagined while reading the book.

Whether I cried or not though, I really enjoyed watching the movie. Watching it while wearing the Gryffindor uniform was particularly satisfying. It made me feel like I was right in the middle of all the action.

I definitely had some favorite scenes in the movie. SPOILER here, in case you haven’t watched it yet, I particularly loved the scene where McGonagall cast a spell to animate all the knight statues in Hogwarts. “I’ve always wanted to cast that spell,” she quipped happily, in the midst of all the marching statues and the approaching Death Eaters.

I was happy that the last two movies in the franchise really stayed true to the book. They even added the epilogue in there—with Harry and his friends all grown up.

Posing with the poster

After the movie, my friends and I took pictures with Voldemort to commemorate the great night.

We drove back to the house where we had some vanilla chamomile tea and the Paradise cake that Lena had bought for us. Over tea and cakes (yes, we were still feeling very English enjoying tea at 1 in the morning), we discussed various aspects of the movie and the books.

I was the resident Harry Potter expert, naturally. I mean, no one else in the room, had read all seven books more than 3x. It was fun discussing Harry Potter with friends who were into it to.

I told them that Harry Potter was really all about belonging to a family. In the beginning, I had thought that Harry and Hermione would get together. It’s what usually happens in books, after all. Lead guy falls for lead gal. But JK Rowling is a master storyteller, and knows what’s best for everyone.

She made sure that Harry, an orphan, would have a family via the Weasley’s—and she cemented that claim to family by having him marry Ginny Weasley. She also made sure that Hermione, being sort of an orphan in the wizarding world because she had muggle parents, would also be part of the Weasley clan by having her marry Ron.

We discussed so many other things that night—like Harry and Neville’s connection, as explained in the Order of the Pheonix, Dumbledore, Horcruxes and Death Hallows.

It was a memorable night indeed, and a great way to celebrate what Harry Potter has meant to all of us individually. There was no better way to pay tribute JK Rowling than to enjoy the movie in the company of friends.

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Author’s Faire at the Cerritos Library

Last April, I had dragged Lissa and Lena around the USC fairgrounds for a few hours during the Festival of Books, just looking for DJ Machale’s (one of my favorite authors) booth. We never found it and I had gone home with my Pendragon & Morpheus Road Books unsigned.

So when DJ Machale, had posted an announcement on FB about the Author’s Faire at the Cerritos Library and I just could not resist going.

The Author’s Faire was held last July 6, 2011 Wednesday at the Cerritos Library Skyline Room.

I drove down 3 traffic-laden freeways to get there. I had left work at 5pm, and I arrived at the Cerritos Library at 7pm. I would have arrived there 20 minutes earlier if I hadn’t gotten lost and driven all around the Cerritos Performing Arts Center block just looking for the library.

It was a good thing Lena had gotten there ahead of me. She gave me the correct address and directions and accompanied me to the Skyline Room. Lena informed me that Brianne Drouhard, author of Billie the Unicorn, was just wrapping up her presentation when she went downstairs to meet me. So I was definitely going to miss that one (all because I had downloaded the wrong address for the library. Pshaw.)

I had expected to see more people, but it was a very small crowd that day. It was a summer evening so people were probably more interested in enjoying what was left of the day outdoors instead of spending it inside a library.

I arrived just in time to see DJ Machale begin his reading of The Monster Princess, his latest picture book. He was reading it to a few children who were sitting cross-legged before him, at the front of the room.

DJ Machale reading The Monster Princess

It was a great story and soon even the parents enjoying the picture book story. DJ got a big applause when he finished the story and he opened the floor to questions. One parent asked how he had come up with the idea for Monster Princess.

DJ said that one day he was called into his daughter’s school and he found his daughter with a big bruise on her face that made her look a little bit like a monster. Apparently, she had run into a wall. A story about a monster who wanted to become a princess appeared in his head, and The Monster Princess was born.

The Monster Princess had great illustrations and was a wonderfully woven tale about a monster who wanted to be a princess, and about princesses who sometimes act like monsters. At its very core, the story was about finding happiness by remaining true to yourself.

When asked if he could give us a writing tip, DJ Machale said: “Don’t make your characters do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” He says he always tries to do a good amount of research for his books, even if they are fantasy. Except for one time when he had his character parachute jump from a plane. He had to write that scene pretty fast because he had never done it before and he felt like he was “faking it”.

One of the Pendragon books was set in the Queen Mary Ship at its height in 1937, and he had made sure to do a complete tour of the ship and stay true to its layout while he was writing the book. He says that if his readers were to bring the book with them and follow the directions written in the story, they would be able to see each room where it really was on the ship.

Jim Jennewein, author of the Rune Warriors, soon had his turn. His book Rune Warriors, is a historical fantasy about a Viking boy named Dane who must avenge his father’s death and rescue his fair maiden.

Jim Jennewein

Using a slideshow presentation, Jim asked us several true or false questions about Vikings. We all learned a lot of interesting facts about Vikings that day such as:

4 out of the 7 days of the week were named after Viking gods:

Tuesday = Tyr’s Day (Tyr is the god of single combat, victory and heroic glory)

Wednesday = Odin’s Day (Odin is the god of all gods in Norse mythology)

Thursday = Thor’s Day (Thor is the god of thunder and lightning)

Friday – Frigga’s Day (Frigga is the wife of Odin)

  • Vikings were actually hygienic people and insisted on bathing as often as they could
  • Vikings never wore horned helmets, though they are portrayed as donning them in literature
  • Vikings loved jewelry and were into chess and other outdoor games.

Jim even had one of the children in the audience come up and don the Viking helmet and hold an actual real Viking sword while he told us more about the Vikings.

After Jim’s presentation, most of the audience flooded to the Barnes & Noble booth on the side, where the authors’ books (and a whole slew of other popular children’s books) were displayed.

I had brought all my DJ Machale books with me, so I just ended up buying a copy of Rune Warriors Book 1 and having Jim sign it.

Jim Jennewein signing my book

I felt like a dwarf standing next to Jim when we posed for a picture.

With Jim Jennewein

DJ Machale and I chatted for a bit about random things, like the Book Festival and difference between MG and YA.

laughing with DJ Machale

He signed my Pendragon Books (Books 1-5) and my two Morpheus Road books and happily posed for a picture with me.

With DJ Machale

Maiko and Lena, my two ever loyal companions (and the bestest friends in the whole wide world), were there to take pictures of course. Maiko worked nearby and joined Lena and I for the event after her work ended at 7pm.

The three of us trooped downstairs and explored the awesome Cerritos Children’s Library for a few minutes before heading off to dinner.

Entrance to the Cerritos Children’s Library

Entrance to the Cerritos Children’s Library

The Children’s Library was indeed a magical place. It had a big aquarium as one wall, filled with various fish and a small shark.

Inside the children’s library

It also had a puzzle station, a rocketship, a realistic looking artificial tree in the middle of the room, a giant globe and a lighthouse.

Puzzle station

Lighthouse inside the library

giant globe

It was definitely a place where future authors could be born, and where kids could let their imaginations soar.

Tree inside the library

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Screenwriting 411

Last June 28th, 2011, Lena and I attended the Screenwriting 411 Session/ Book signing at Barnes & Noble, 3rd Street Promenade in Sta. Monica.

We got there an hour and a half before 7PM, and had just enough time to grab ourselves a quick dinner, browse some books and find ourselves a good seat.

I’m just getting used to the whole idea of being a novelist and I’m  not planning on becoming a screenwriter anytime soon. But I attended the session because Pamela Jaye Smith, one of my favorite writing book authors, had emailed me about the event and invited me to attend.

Pamela and I had been emailing randomly over the past year, ever since I had found her on Facebook (of all places) and sent her an enthusiastic message thanking her for writing The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains, Dangerous Situations, & Dramatic Conflict and Inner Drives: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of Motivation.

These two books have helped me out so much in terms of creating some realistic and memorable characters (at least to my mind), and I just wanted to thank Pamela for writing those books. To my great surprise, she messaged me back, and an email friendship was born.
So when Pamela invited me to attend their book signing, I immediately jumped at the chance. I was excited to finally get to see her in person.

Screenwriting 411 featured four authors who have spent most of their careers developing and revising scripts and helping screenwriters as consultants, came together that night to talk to us about their books, about screenwriting and abut writing in general.

The authors began by telling us a little bit about themselves, and their life stories were not only  interesting but inspiring. They took very different paths from each other, but all ended up as script consultants.

Here’s a little bit about each of them, taken from their personal websites:

Jen Grisanti , author of Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life

My story begins the way yours might; by working with someone who truly believed in me. Mentored by Aaron Spelling, one of the greatest executives and most prolific producers in the business, I learned early on how to develop a story and make a script the best it could be before it hit the air. I worked with the executive producers, showrunners and staff of over 15 primetime shows. I had the unique opportunity to give script notes on a daily basis and see them implemented weekly on shows like 90210, Melrose Place, Charmed, Medium, Numbers, NCIS, The 4400 and Girlfriends. As a three-year mentor in the CBS/Diversity Program and a panelist for the WGA and DGA, I helped other creative talents see the business through the eyes of an executive.

Dr. Linda Seger, author of Writing Subtext

Dr. Linda Seger created and defined the job of script consultant when she began her business in 1981, based on a method for analyzing scripts she developed for her dissertation project. Since then, she has consulted on over 2000 scripts, including over 40 produced feature films and about 35 produced television projects. Her clients have included TriStar Pictures, Ray Bradbury, William Kelley, Linda Lavin, Suzanne de Passe, Tony Bill, as well as production companies and writers from six continents.

As the author of nine books, Seger has appeared in more than 60 radio and television shows, including All Things Considered, National Public Radio, Good Morning L.A., Good Morning New York, and CNN. She is included in The World Who’s Who of WomenFive Thousand Personalities of the WorldWho’s Who of American WomenWho’s Who in AmericaWho’s Who in Entertainment,Who’s Who in the WorldWho’s Who in the WestThe International Edition of 5000 Notable WomenLeading Intellectuals of the WorldTwo Thousand Notable American WomenThe International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, and 2000 Notable American Women.

Dr. Seger is an internationally known speaker in the area of screenwriting, having taught and lectured in over 30 countries on 6 continents. She presented the first professional screenwriting seminar in both Moscow and Bulgaria, and has trained script consultants and script editors in Germany, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Austria, and Italy. She has given seminars for studios, networks, production companies, television series, and film commissions.

Pamela Jaye Smith, author of Symbols, Images, Codes

PAMELA JAYE SMITH is an Author, Consultant, Speaker, and award-winning Producer/Director with over twenty-five years experience in features, TV, music videos, commercials, documentaries, corporate, and military films.

She is a Senior Producer at RGO Media Associates and a Consulting Producer for High Tech Media.

Smith is the author of INNER DRIVES: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of MotivationTHE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE: Creating Great Villains and Dangerous Situations and SYMBOLS.IMAGES.CODES: The Secret Language of Images in Media, all from Hollywood publishers Michael Wiese Productions.

MYTHWORKS is Pamela’s consultation and information company featuring “Applied Mythology for more Powerful Reality”. She teaches and consults on story, communication, leadership, and creativity. MYTHWORKS also consults with organizations and individuals redesigning themselves and their images.

Clients and credits include Microsoft, Disney, Paramount, Columbia-Sony, Universal, RAI-TV Rome, UCLA, USC Film School, American Film Institute, Thot Fiction Marseille France, Master Writers Conference Lido-Venice Italy, Natl. Film Institute of Denmark, Creative Screenwriting EXPO, Pepperdine University, Natl. Assoc. of Broadcasters, and various film festivals and story conferences.

Others include the Institute for Global Transformation, the Consciousness Expo, American Assoc. of University Women, Junior ROTC, General Motors, Boeing, Hyundai, Hughes Space & Communi-cations, the FBI, and the U.S. Army. In 2005 she was a Roundtable Speaker at the Future of Consciousness Conference sponsored by the Institute for Global Transformation ( &

Kathie Fong Yoneda, author of The Script-Selling Game

With over 25 years of industry experience, Kathie Fong Yoneda has worked for such prestigious studios as Paramount, Columbia, MGM, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Disney, specializing in story analysis and development of live action and animated projects. Her career includes executive positions with Walt Disney, Touchstone, Island Pictures and Walt Disney TV Animation where she has evaluated more than 18,000 submissions.

Kathie has presented over 150 workshops and seminars throughout the US, Canada, Europe (Germany, Austria, France, Ireland, England, Italy, Spain) Australia and Southeast Asia (Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand) and has written a popular column on screenwriting and the entertainment industry. She’s been published in Writers Aide, Screen Talk, Script Writer, The Portable Writers Conference and has been interviewed or written articles for dozens of magazines, newspapers, e-zines, radio segments, and television shows. She was a guest of The Soviet Peace Committee for a ground-breaking 10-day media symposium in Moscow and was also a Keynote Speaker for Asian-Pacific Heritage Month at The Smithsonian Institute.

Kathie is an independent script consultant whose clientele includes several award-winning writers. She is the author of The Script Selling Game: A Hollywood Insider’s Look At Getting Your Script Sold and Produced, which is in its fourth printing. She also was a co-exec producer on the popular cable series Beyond The Break and is partners with Pamela Wallace in a company that specializes in guiding production companies, both U.S. and international, to develop their film and television projects to their full commercial potential.

The authors  eagerly imparted whatever knowledge they have gleaned from years of developing story ideas and revising scripts.  They answered everyone’s questions and gave writing tips which cut across all genres.

While the session dealt mostly with screenwriting, the authors also talked a lot about the writing process and shared some valuable lessons that all writers can certainly  use:

1.Writing is not an easy path, it takes a lot of time and patience.Give yourself permission to fail.

2. Align your story with a mythic theme. Sprinkle your stories with symbols, images and codes gathered from myth, history and media. These visuals cross all boundaries of language or culture and help sell your story.

3. Most stories nominated for the Emmy’s have a common thread: they all have powerful dilemmas, and a very clear goal.Powerful Dilemmas force the main character to make a choice–and neither choice bodes well.  The story is the answer to the dilemma.

4. What does your central character want? What’s the worst that can happen if your Main Character doesn’t achieve his goal? These are questions to ask yourself when plotting.

5. Best advice in getting your work out there is to focus on your writing. Make sure your writing is strong before submitting your work. Most times you only get one chance.

6. You can improve your skills by joining writing programs and competitions, and entering fellowships. Sometimes agents pick clients through these competitions–such as the Nichols Competition for screenwriters.

7. Treat the market the way you treat craft. Learn the marketing side just as well as you learn the writing side.

8. Develop your voice.  It is what makes your writing unique.  Ask yourself is your voice original?

9. Nobody goes through writing alone. People who are in writing groups get another level of writing. They get ahead by connecting with each other.

10. Network as much as possible, sometimes in Hollywood, it’s about who you know. Learn from everyone you meet.

After the two hour session, the authors signed copies of their books and even posed for pictures with us.

With Pamela Jaye Smith & Kathie Fong Yoneda

With Jen Grisanti & Linda Seger

The authors were all very warm and friendly. I spent several minutes chatting with Kathie Fong Yoneda, and Pamela Jaye Smith in particular, and I even invited them to come talk to my writing group the Torrance Children’s Book Writers one day. And you know what? They said Yes!

The best part about attending this event (aside from all the great writing tips), is that I was able to connect with some great authors and widen my network of contacts.

I was so happy because a week later, after I had emailed them pictures the awesome Lena and I had taken during the event, Kathie and Pam immediately set about figuring out their schedules so they could come talk to the group.

Even better, is that WE NOW HAVE A DATE  and YOU ARE ALL INVITED. Well, if you’re able to come to LA or already are in Los Angeles, that is.

Here are the Details of their next event with the Torrance Children’s Book Writers :

When: August 24, 2011 Wednesday at 7PM

Where: TBA (We’re supposed to have it at the BORDERS in Torrance, but with yesterday’s news, I might have to find another venue)

To RSVP, Click HERE. Or email me by leaving a comment on this page.


Whether your project is a book, a graphic novel, a game, or a script for film or television, former Disney exec  Kathie Fong Yoneda will give you an inside peek at how family projects are acquired.  She will touch on such areas as:

·        What is the family entertainment market?

·        What kinds of projects attract a buyer?

·        How can a writer get his/her work noticed?

Kathie Fong Yoneda is a former development exec who has worked at such studios as Disney, Paramount, MGM, 20 thCentury Fox and Universal, specializing in live action, animation and both film & television projects. She conducts workshops worldwide and is the author of THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME (2 nd edition) and teaches an online class on PITCH & PRESENTATION for Writers She also co-exec produced the cable series BEYOND THE BREAK for Teen Nick.

Lena and I with Kathie Fong Yoneda


Too many stories for young people, whether on screen or on the page, lack the core requirement for a great tale – an appropriate, believable antagonist and real challenges for the protagonist. The oldest and longest-lasting stories for kids access the universal truths of life, while presenting them in memorable symbolism and engaging imagery. You can do this, too. Pamela Jaye Smith offers insights on how to use:

The 3 levels of the Dark Side

  • The 10 Aspects of Opposition and how to select the best ones for your story
  • The 3 categories of Symbolism and how to coordinate your imagery

Pamela Jaye Smith is a writer, international consultant and speaker, and award-winning producer-director with over 30 years in the media industry, from feature films to music videos, commercials to documentaries. She is the author of INNER DRIVES, THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE, BEYOND THE HERO’S JOURNEY, and  SYMBOLS.IMAGES.CODES: The Secret Language of Meaning in Media. As well as in-person classes here and abroad, Pamela teaches online on Mythic Themes, Archetypes, and Symbols for a number of venues. She is the founder of MYTHWORKS and co-founder of the Alpha Babe Academy.

Lena and I with Pamela Jaye Smith

**** Special thanks to Lena for taking all the awesome pictures!

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LA’s First Ever Kid Lit Drink Night

I’m dying to tell you all about my Harry Potter with friends but that will have to wait for next week since I’m still trying to catch you all up on some writing events I attended last June and earlier this month. I’ll be done this week, I promise.


Inspired by Betsy Bird’s and Cheryl Klein’s Kid Lit Drink Night in NYC, newly crowned SCBWI LA Regional Co-advisor Lee Wind, powerhouse members Greg Pincus , Rita Crayon Huang , Sara Wilson Etienne and super agent Jill Corcoran decided to mastermind LA’s very first Kid Lit Drink Night.

They sent out emails through the listserv and invited fellow SCBWI members to attend via Facebook.

I received the invite and was debating on whether I should go or not. I’m a bit shy when it comes to mingling with people, as I’m always afraid of running out of interesting things to say. And this was an event filled with writers and illustrators who had brilliant, creative minds. What would I say to them?

Oh, wait. I’m a writer, too! Duh. We had tons of things to talk about for sure—books and writing were surefire ways to get any writer talking for hours.

Actually, more than the fear of not having anything to say, I was worried that I would be too tired to actually have a decent conversation with my fellow writers.

My schedule that Saturday, June 18th, 2011 included dropping my car off at the shop for its bi-annual maintenance check up at 7am, taking my best friend off at the airport at 8am, attending a make up martial arts class from 1-4pm, and then walking 3 miles to pick up my car at the shop right afterward.

I had finished everything I needed to do and had even gotten all dressed up for Kid Lit night. It was already 6pm and the get together had already started. I was too tired to drive myself all the way down to Sta. Monica—then my best buddy Lena offered to drive me there and I knew I just had to go.

Besides, I was actually looking forward to seeing some of my SCBWI friends. I hadn’t gone to the Westside Schmooze at all this year due to my ca-raazy schedule and I knew I would see some familiar, friendly faces there.

Lena and I arrived at Pink Taco’s at the Century City Mall an hour later.

Century City Mall, image from Google Maps

Pink Taco’s was definitely a happening place.

Entrance to Pink Taco, from Pink

Almost all the tables inside were packed with families and friends dining out on a Saturday night (unlike the picture below).

Pink Taco’s from

Pink Taco Bar from

We headed toward the outdoor patio and saw that the party was already in full swing. The scene looked something like the picture below, though not as crowded.

Image from Metromint’s SPAphile LA Flicker Album

I was still wondering how to go about mingling when another writer who recognized me from the Hollywood Schmooze approached me and we started talking.

After she left, Catherine Linka, fabulous bookseller and author approached me and we started chatting too. I was worried Lena was going to get bored out of her mind. She isn’t a writer and most of our conversations had to do with writing and getting published. I made sure to introduce her as my super friend/ I.T. advisor who came to my rescue whenever I had website/blog problems. Naturally, that got the other writers asking her about their own blog/website issues.

Lena and I hadn’t had dinner yet, so we actually sat down and ordered some tacos. Afterward, it was time to mingle again. I got to see fellow blogger and Writer’s Day seatmate Lisa Gail Green again.

Lee Wind actually approached me to chit chat for awhile and personally ask me to volunteer some of my time and energy  to help in SCBWI activities.

He said the SCBWI needed awesome, energetic individuals like myself. I told him that I had filled out a volunteer form during Writer’s Day in April and he said he hadn’t gotten around to that yet so he didn’t know I had volunteered, but he thought he’d ask me personally anyway. I think Lee was just being his usual nice self, but I didn’t really care because I was just honored that he even thought of me.

Lee was a popular figure, and easy to spot as he was the tallest in the group, and soon our group was joined by two other writers, along with Sarah Laurenson, the new Regional Adviser for the SCBWI-LA, and Jill Corcoran, the super agent who helped organize the Kid Lit Drink Night.

Lee and Sarah were bringing up some interesting, new ideas for the upcoming Working Writer’s Retreat and bouncing them off Jill. It was fun to just listen to them discuss the new format they were planning for the sessions. It made me look forward to this September all the more.

It was almost 8:30pm when Lee announced he should probably head home. Most of the other writers headed out around the same time, but some of followed Jill Corcoran and a bunch of other writers to the food court.

I met Sophia Chang, fellow fantasy writer and blogger for the first time that night. We hit it off right away and even exchanged business cards. (Though she joined another group of writers inside the food court, we eventually got to hang out and have our own adventure a few weeks later—but that’s another story).

Food court, from

While the other members of our group bought themselves dinner, Lena and I bought ourselves dessert. We got some tea and the biggest, most delicious red velvet cake ever!

Red Velvet Cake, from

We followed Elizabeth Briggs, (whom I had met at one of my group’s workshops) outside and we found a table. Soon, the rest of our group, including Jill appeared and we rearranged our chairs in a circle. We tried to move the outdoor heater as it was a bit chilly outside and some people in the group didn’t have jackets.

Soon, however, the cold was forgotten (or at least ignored) as dinner progressed and various topics of conversations floated around the table. Most of them were writing-related, of course, but some of them were about life in LA.

Lena and I shared our Red Velvet Cake with everyone. Things always taste better when they’re shared.

I ended up telling Liz Briggs about my “gift” of being able to read personalities at a glance and she took up the challenge and allowed me to read her. Another writer (whose name I forgot, shame on me!) also agreed to be “read”—and to my surprise even Jill Corcoran agreed to try. It was exciting and also quite a bit scary to “read” an agent, but my gift had never let me down before, so I went for it.

Hopefully Jill didn’t place me on her “Writers To Avoid Next Time” list.  Haha. Actually, she seemed quite fascinated at the whole process and was trying to figure out how I did what I did.

Before we knew it, time had flown and it was 11pm! We were all still high from the amazing dinner conversation our group had, but we had to get back home. We all walked together toward the parking lot, paid our (ridiculously high) parking fees, and headed home.

My mind was still buzzing from the amazing-ness of that night. It always gives me a natural high when I get to mingle with SCBWI friends, and talk with writers who know the trials and joys of writing. And it’s always great to meet and make new writer friends.

I’m definitely going to the next LA Kid Lit Drink Night.

SCBWI Writers at Pink Taco’s, photo by Rita Crayon Huang

You have to join me if you’re ever in LA! It’s right after the SCBWI Summer Conference on Sunday (August 7th, 2011), and Pink Taco’s is just across the street from where the conference is going to be held.

It’s going to be another fun night for sure!

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My Harry Potter Tribute

I was 17 when the first Harry Potter book came out. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out quietly—a mere whisper in the wind, and I didn’t hear its call.

My cousin Ric had been blabbing about Harry Potter since he discovered it when he was in High School, and I had already been hearing rave reviews about the books from various friends. But being in my rebellious young adult phase, I refused to jump into the bandwagon right away.

The first time I read the book, I was in already well into my third year in college. Ric had left his library copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at my house.

I was home with a fever and had no intention of doing anything even remotely academic. I saw the book lying around the living room and picked it up.

I hadn’t read any type of fiction book since I stepped into college. I simply didn’t have the time to read for pleasure because I had so many other textbooks and required articles to read. I studied the book’s cover, found it appealing, and read the first page.

Five minutes into browsing, I was completely lost in the words. I found myself heading back to bed, getting comfy and reading through it. I finished the book a couple of hours later, eager for more.

I was so restless after that. I wanted to go out and find the first two books so I could read those too. I called up my cousin later that night to ask if he had a copy and he promised to borrow them from his library. The copies were always checked out in most libraries as the books were so popular. I don’t remember if he ever got to borrow them for me. But I do remember frantically searching for the books and devouring them as soon as I got them.

Book 4, The Goblet of Fire, was coming out that year and I was visiting my mom in the US for summer. I begged her to buy me copies of all four books—and I spent some summer days re-reading the books again and again.

I anticipated every book release eagerly and made sure to buy myself hardbound copies every time. I wanted the books to last. I cried when Sirius died in book 5.

My eyes flooded again in Book 6 when Dumbledore died.

When the final book came out, I found myself doing something I never thought I would ever do. I lined up at Borders for the midnight release. I had a weekend job the following day and had to get up fairly early but I didn’t care. I had the last book in my hand at 1am. I was going to take care of an old lady the next day, and I wanted to get my hands on the book so I’d have something to do while she was asleep.

I read Deathly Hallows in five hours. When I read “The End”, I was an emotional wreck. I was in a haze– bleary-eyed and bawling. I always say it was eye strain, but if I were being honest with myself, I’d say the tears were really because so many of my favorite characters had died–and I was sad to see the series end.

I comforted myself with the thought that I still had a few movie versions to look forward to.

From Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix

And now it’s finally here. The last installment in the Harry Potter franchise—the last movie I’ll ever see my favorite characters in.

I’ve been watching the trailers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 over and over, and every time I get goosebumps.

I also found this video featuring a look back at all the 7 Harry Potter movies so far:

I already feel tears welling up, just watching the trailers. I am going to be a wreck when I watch the actual movie.

JK Rowling has come up with something to appease her grieving fans. is an online gaming website that allows fans to take on characters and play interactively with other fans. It also apparently allows users to garner points and use them to buy items from the Harry Potter shop.

Image from

I’m not much of a gamer, though I appreciate a good game now and then. But I know for sure that I’m not going to appreciate the site as much as I appreciated the books and the movies. As far as I’m concerned, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the last I’ll ever see of Harry Potter and his friends.

I’m filled with a strange sense of impending loss. I feel as though my best friend is moving far, far away and we’ll never be as close again. I know I can revisit Harry anytime I want by simply opening the books or popping the DVD’s into the player; but re-reading a story you already know and love isn’t quite the same as discovering a favorite character’s new adventures for the first time.

Harry Potter brought back my love for reading stories for pleasure. It opened my eyes to a genre I’ve always liked, but never thought I’d love as much. While I was waiting for the sixth book to come out, I suddenly realized that the end was almost near and I began to prepare myself. I prepared myself by looking for other fantasy books, other adventure series to satisfy my cravings for magical stories. I began to devour all sorts of fantasy books—particularly children’s books.

And because I read hundreds of fantasy books, I also began to think of new stories, until I began to yearn to write my own fantasy series.

Harry Potter not only rekindled my love for reading, it also re-ignited the passion for creative writing which had been buried beneath all the technical writing I had to do in college and for work.

J.K. Rowling, the woman behind this amazing series, is one of my heroes.

J.K. Rowling has given us all the priceless gift of a great story, and has reminded us never to give up on our childhood imaginations. She deserves all the wealth she’s now reaping for her hard work. She’s made reading cool again and has inspired kids to read thick books that they wouldn’t normally touch with a ten-foot pole. And she’s made writers of a lot of people—myself included.

To pay tribute to JK Rowling and her amazing story, I will do something this weekend, I never thought I would ever, ever do.

I had promised myself when the movies came out that I would NEVER watch the movie wearing costumes like some of the fans. I thought it was too geeky (even for me) and a bit beneath my impeccable taste.

But this Saturday, I will watch the movie in full Harry Potter costume. I will wear the Gryffindor uniform with pride—robe included. Although I will leave my wand at home and bring a box of tissues instead.

My Harry Potter Halloween costume 2007

After all, I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to the series that re-ignited my passion for reading, and to the author whose words made me the writer I am today.

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While trolling for cheap, one-day Photography lessons on, I found a class called: “How to Fund Your Wanderlust”. For $25, I could learn how to turn my love of travel into cash from all around wonder-woman Debbie Cloyed.

Included in the $25 fee were refreshments, and a signed copy of her new book “The Summer We Came to Life.”

Snacks, a “free” signed book and learning all about travel photography—all for $25? What a steal! Naturally, I jumped in—dragging best buddy Lena in with me.

June 9, 2011 Thursday

I get out of work at 5pm on Thursdays, due to my martial arts class, but I decided it was worth missing a session to attend this workshop/booksigning.

The class was at Samy’s Camera on Fairfax Ave—only 10 minutes away from where I worked but I arrived at Samy’s Camera’s 20 minutes later due the usual LA traffic. I walked into the big camera store and asked about the class. They pointed me to a building across the street, and said they held all their classes there.

Samy’s Camera on Drexel and Fairfax, LA

So I parked my car in their big parking lot, gave the key to the parking attendant in case he needed to move it, and made my way across the street.

A Jack in the Box was on the corner right beside Samy’s edu building. Perfect. Now Lena and I would have a place to have dinner before our 7pm class! Lena arrived a few minutes later and we sat down to dinner and chatted until 6:30pm—at which point we made our way to the building.

Samy’s Education Building through the red door on the left

We entered through a red door a few shops down and were immediately greeted by Samy’s camera staff. After signing our names to make sure we had paid for the class, we found ourselves a good seat and waited.

People slowly trickled in ones and twos. They found seats or made their way to the back, where a table laden with chips, dips and glasses of wine sat.

Debbie Cloyed came in a little before seven, all smiles. As soon as everybody had settled down, she began with an introduction of herself.

Debbie told us of how she fell in love with traveling at a young age. She spent three months in Thailand after college and decided that all she wanted to do was travel. After years of traveling in 50 countries, and living in 4, she and her childhood bestfriend Bianca (who is a teacher), decided to enter the Amazing Race contest.

Debbie and Bianca, childhood bestfriends join the Amazing Race

They sent in their video and got chosen for the Amazing Race Season 7.

Amazing Race Contestants, Season 7

After the show, she returned to her work at Samy’s Camera in LA. She was very thankful that Samy allowed her to go on a 6 month trip to Honduras.  Her experiences there gave her ideas for a book, but she didn’t begin writing until after her 3 month stint in Kenya. She crashed at her parents house for a few months where she wrote a first draft.  She moved to New York, where she found an agent–in a bar, of all places! She then moved back to LA, right around the time her agent had sold her book to MIRA Books/Harlequin.

Debbie broke her class into four parts. In the first part of her talk, she talked about Travel Writing.

Debbie warned us that there wasn’t a lot of money in travel writing. Mostly travel writing is good for people with flexible schedules or retired folks who simply wanted to travel.

She mentioned 3 ways of going about travel writing:

1. The traditional way: Approach travel magazines/newspapers. This way involves query letter and building up your portfolio–meaning writing for free until you get a magazine to sponsor your travel.

2. Starting a Travel Blog. Blogs like, and are great travel sites that employ writers. Debbie had worked for and though she didn’t get paid to write, she did get paid in vacations. All her travel expenses were paid for and all she had to do was write about them.

Debbie told us of how Johnny of had started out on his own. He would call travel bureaus in cities, and started out small, pitching it to travel sites like tripadvisor. com.  The owners of also started their blog themselves until they eventually got sponsors on their site, hotel deals and packages.

3. Writing for Travel websites/blogs. Starting a travel blog on your own is time consuming and can be expensive. So Debbie suggested that we could start  our travel writing career by approaching one of these big travel websites/blogs and telling them we want to write for them.

Debbie Cloyed, teaching the class

Part 2 of Debbie’s Talk was about Travel Photography. Here, Debbie showed us pictures from her many trips, and even showed us her camera and the gear she used when traveling. She gave us various photography tips and even talked about the cameras she favored for various types of photography.

When asked about the JPEG vs RAW format, she said that she mostly shoots in fine, big JPEG then converts it to .tiff files. Apparently, RAW formats take up a lot of space in your SD cards, due to the fact that it doesn’t compress all the colors. So for great, amazing shots, she recommends shooting in RAW format.

It was a good thing to learn, too. I never knew that JPEG formats doesn’t save all the colors, or the qualities of the scene. Since it’s a compressed file, every time you photoshop a JPEG picture, the quality becomes lower and lower.

Debbie also talked about what to do with the many great photographs we have taken, if we wish to make a living from it.

1. Join photo contests

2. Schmooze with gallery owners, meet more artists and photography groups, and network. Networking brings many opportunities.

3. Join artist residencies, and check out sites like and

4. Go to an art school/take photography programs. Aside from learning something, you get to make good connections in the art world.

5. Sell your prints on stock photography sites like,  or .

It was amazing to hear Debbie talk about Photography.  While some of her terms were too technical for me, most of her tips were easy enough to follow and very helpful.

In Part 3 of Debbie’s Talk, she told us of her experiences as a contestant on the Amazing Race.

She invited her bestfriend and co-contestant Bianca Smith up to the front of the room. The two spoke of their most memorable experiences in the Amazing Race, even given us behind the scenes stories.

Debbie and Bianca

Debbie and Bianca told us of how they “studied” for the contest by watching all the previous episodes, and how they wished they had learned some serious map skills before going.

Debbie and Bianca talking about the Amazing Race

Debbie said that if we wanted to be on the show, we should find a partner and talk about what makes us unique as a team.  What got them on the show was the fact that they had been lifelong friends, and that they were different from each other, and yet had great chemistry.

The final part of Debbie’s talk was about her book, The Summer We Came to Life, and how she fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming an author.

Debbie Cloyed and her book

After her Africa trip, Debbie camped out at her parents house and wrote the first draft in 3 months. It took her a year to find an agent.

Finding an agent is difficult, she admits, because it’s like asking someone to work for you for free. They don’t get paid unless the book sells.  Finding an agent is also about finding that one person who loves the book.

Debbie submitted queries to all kinds of agents, but eventually met her agent in a bar! She got an okay advance for the book, and an editor who gave her 6 pages of notes and 2 months to rewrite the whole book.

Rejection and writing go hand in hand, Debbie says. When she was in the process of looking for an agent and feeling the burn, her mom had told her “I have no idea why you’re doing this to yourself.” When she finally got published, her mom began saying,”Oh, I always knew you’d make it.”

Debbie gave the following writing tips:

1. The scariest thing for a writer is to stare at a blank page. But in order to get good stories, Debbie says we should talk to many people. We should think people are interesting and just hear their stories out.

2. Write everyday. Outline, schedule. At the end of each day, know what you’re going to write the next day.

3. Never pay anybody for anything.

4. Write, write, write.

We gave Debbie a round of applause. We’d definitely learned a lot from her in a mere two hours!

Lena and I fell in line afterward, to get our free books signed.

Debbie signing books

Debbie made sure she chatted with each and every one of us, and she happily posed for pictures.

Debbie Cloyed and Lena

I had an awesome time that night and 4 pages worth of notes on Travel writing, photography, the amazing race and writing!

Debbie Cloyed and myself

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This week I’m going to catch you all up on various writing related events I attended or facilitated in the past few months. I didn’t have the time to blog about them due to the England Trip Series, but I learned a few things from these events which I thought might be useful to you as well.


Often times as writers, we encounter moments when we begin to question our decision to write. We experience writer’s block or maybe even the general desire to just give up and take up a hobby that doesn’t require too much blood.

Yes, sometimes, writing feels like a long drawn out war and every battle just makes us feel like weary soldiers who think the fight isn’t worth it anymore.

But we writers all know that writing is always worth it. We just need to be reminded sometimes.

So last May 28th, 2011, I decided that the topic for our Torrance Children’s Book Writing Group would be about “Re-energizing Your Writing Passions”.

I’m going to share the transcript of our session.

You can do the exercises on your own and maybe come up with some new ideas to help you in your writing. Feel free to share these activities with other writer friends, just make sure you link it to this post so they too can go through the exercises.



  • Have you been writing lately? Why/Why not?
  • How do you feel about your writing these days?
  • What are some of the things that hinder you from writing?
  • Why do you think we let these things hinder us from writing?

At the root of writer’s block is Fear.

Our fears hinder us from becoming the authors we want to become. In order find the energy to write, we must confront our subconscious fears and find ways to overcome them.


1. The Fear of Failure or Rejection

We sometimes fear that we’re not good enough to call ourselves writers.

But we’ll never know if we don’t try. Better to try and fail than to live the rest of our lives with an unfulfilled dream.

2. The Fear of Criticism.

Bad reviews or bad critiques always get us down. But we must remember that a bad review of our work has nothing to do with us as persons. Critiques and reviews, though they may lower our self-esteem at times,  are only there to make us better writers.

3. The Fear of Offending.

Sometimes we unintentionally offend people with our writing. As writers we have the responsibility to be honest with our writing and to write about what we know. We can’t please everyone and if we try to do that in our writing, then we won’t end up writing the best work we’re capable of producing. Just look at all the books who made it to the Banned List—these writers wrote from their hearts and minds and though some people might have found their works offensive, the rest of us certainly think these books are gems of literature.

4. The Fear of Becoming Empty.

Our writerly muse can be quite unpredictable. Naturally, as writers, we’re afraid that we’ll run out of stories to tell. But imagination is something we’re born with and there are always ways to spark our creativity.

5. The Fear of Success.

Performing in front of an audience is one of the most common fears. Sometimes, as writers we are required not only to share our work but to read it out loud or to promote it even. Success is something we shouldn’t fear, but something we should embrace.

  • How do we overcome our writing fears?
  • First, we must admit to having them, and we must figure out what we are afraid of.
  • We must name our fears. Naming our fears gives us power over them.

Activity: Naming Our Fears

Write down your writing fears. It could be one word, one sentence or more.  Actually, the more specific you are the better.

Now that we’ve named our fears, the next step is to find ways to overcome them.


Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese doctor and researcher, made an astonishing discovery about water, which he documented photographically. Using a very powerful microscope in a very cold room along with high-speed photography, Dr. Emoto discovered that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them.

He put stickers with words like love and appreciation or “you make me sick” on different bottles. He photographed the water before and after the stickers were placed. It didn’t matter whether the person placing the stickers understood the words. The words affected the water crystal, whether they were written in Japanese or German.

Water from clear springs and water that had been exposed to loving words showed brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns.



Polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, formed incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors.


This experiment shows the power of thought on water.

  • Up to 60% of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70% water. About 83% of our blood is water, which helps digest our food, transport waste, and control body temperature.
  • With this much water inside of us, imagine just how much our thoughts affect the water inside our bodies.

Changing The Way We Think

  • We must change our negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • We must change our fears of writing into the joys of writing.
  • We must turn that writer’s block into a glob of clay and mold it into something else.
  • We must look for things that inspire us to write, instead of things that hinder us from writing.
    • Why does writing make us happy? What are the joys of writing?


Look at the writing fears your wrote.

How do you turn this negative fear into a positive joy?


I’m afraid of being rejected by an agent.

I’m excited to be accepted by the perfect agent.

Practical Ways to Inspire Ourselves to Write

  1. Re-read our favorite books/ the book that made you want to write.
  2. Read new books in the genre we’re writing in.
  3. Read inspirational writing quotes
  4. Find a good visual motivator and paste it to your screen/ wall.
  5. Buy some office supplies or a new journal that you’ll actually write in
  6. Start a new journal


From an article by resilience coach Angie Le Van

Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success!

Let’s take the case of Natan Sharansky, a computer specialist who spent 9 years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying for US.

While in solitary confinement, he played himself in mental chess, saying: “I might as well use the opportunity to become the world champion!”

In 1996, Sharansky beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov!

  • A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting.
  • Noted as one form of mental rehearsal, visualization has been popular since the Soviets started using it back in the 1970s to compete in sports.
    • Nowadays many athletes employ this technique –  Tiger Woods who has been using it since his pre-teen years.
    • Seasoned athletes use vivid, highly detailed internal images and run-throughs of the entire performance, engaging all their senses in their mental rehearsal, and they combine their knowledge of the sports venue with mental rehearsal.
  • Brain studies reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory.
    • So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization. It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow – all relevant to achieving your best life!
  • Study results highlight the strength of the mind-body connection, or in other words the link between thoughts and behaviors – a very important connection for achieving your best life.
  • To see is to believe – to see something clearly in your mind is to believe it’s possible. Once you believe it’s possible, your mind finds a way to make it so.

Writer’s Mental Training

  • We writers, above anyone else, need to train our minds. Why? We use our minds for 90% of our work.
  • Research, reading, plotting, creating stories, writing – all depend on our brain. Stephen Hawking, scientist, and said to be the most intelligent man in the planet, is severely disabled by a motor neurone disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
    • He has lost the ability to use his arms, legs and his voice, and yet he has managed to write several best selling books such as A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design and even two children’s books co-written with his eldest Lucy, called George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt and George’s Secret Key to the Universe.
    • He proves that even without the use of our limbs or our voices, we can still be writers—because all our stories come from only two places—our hearts and our minds.

So How Do We Train our Brain?

  • Earlier, I mentioned the study that stated that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. This means that when we imagine ourselves playing basketball, the neurons in our brain that fire when we actually play basketball are firing when we just think about playing.
  • In writing terms, when we imagine achieving a writing goal, such as finishing a manuscript, the neurons in our brain fire as if we were actually finishing a manuscript.
    • I also mentioned earlier that this study highlights the mind-body connection. There is a link between our thoughts and our behaviors.
    • When your mind has a subtle memory of how to solve a particular problem, or achieve a particular goal, it will be easier for it to translate these thoughts into physical solutions.

What Are Some Visualization Exercises We Can Do to Achieve Our Writing Dreams

1. We need to establish our goals. Sure we all want to get published, but do we want a two-book deal? A Series deal? A book deal worth millions? We have to be specific—and honest about our goals.

  • Sometimes, when you’re trying to solve a particular problem—whether writing related or not—you spend hours working it out, but find no solution. A friend advises you to “sleep on it” and you do. You wake up the next morning, and you have the answer.
  • In sleep, our minds still continue to work while our body rests.
  • Our subconscious minds cannot find ways for us to achieve our goals unless we’ve told it exactly the kind of goals we want.

2. It’s not enough to think about these writing goals. We must also write them down. If you were here during our Rewriting the Manuscript Session, then you might have heard about this study.

In 1964, all members of the Harvard Business School graduating class stated that they have, at graduation, clear goals that they want to accomplish in life. Among them, 5% took the time to write it down on paper. In 1984, a follow up study was done and it was discovered that 95% of those who wrote down their goals were able to achieve them within 20 years. Among the “lazy” majority, only 5% of them were able to reach their expected goals.

An earlier study in Yale University also had similar results. This time, only 3% of the 1953 graduating class made written goals. Twenty years after, in 1973, it was found out that this 3% of Yale graduates were able to accomplish more goals than the rest of the other 97% combined.

Amazing isn’t it? But let’s try to enumerate some possible and more rational explanations for these results.

What happens when you write down your goals?

  • It becomes a written contract to yourself which usually sparks a personal motivation to achieve them.
  • It makes you define clearly what your goals are. Writing them down encourages you to state what you want in greater detail.
  • It frees your mind of perpetually thinking and “remembering” your goals.
  • It stimulates creativity and motivates you to think about the next step.

Activity: Write down your top 5 Writing Goals

Examples: find an agent, get a series deal, become a bestselling author, get a big enough advance to quit your job and just write, sell a million copies, win the Newberry award, be featured on a talk show, etc, use your author popularity to do speaking engagements, etc.

Activity: The Movie in Our Minds.

Which among the writing goals you’ve listed would you say is proof that you’ve made it as an author?

Ex. Winning a Newberry? Signing thousands of books in one sitting? Going on a trip and finding someone reading your book?

Close your eyes. Hold a mental picture of this moment in time, as if it were occurring to you right at this moment. Imagine the scene in much detail. Engage as many of the five senses as you can in your visualization. Who are you with? Which emotions are you feeling right now? What are you wearing? Is there a smell in the air? What do you hear? What is your environment? Eliminate any doubts that come to you.

3.  Visualize the pinnacle of your writing career. Remember the image you just saw in your mind. You must play this scene in your mind again and again. Hold the scene right before you sleep at night. While you sleep, your mind makes connections about your last thought at night. While your body is resting, your mind is working on ways for you to make that scene come true.

Variation of this Visualization Exercise:

  • Visualize every step of your writing career. For example, if you are still in the process of writing your manuscript, your most immediate goal would be to finish editing it.
    • Visualize achieving this writing goal. Be very specific about every detail of this ”movie in your mind”. Imagine raising your arms in victory, or laughing in delight, or calling a friend and telling her all about how you finally finished your novel.
  • This power of visualization also works when you want to solve a storyline problem. Imagine yourself finding a way to work out the kink in your plot line before you fall asleep. Chances are you’ll have a good idea of how to when you wake up the next morning.

4. Do something physical to further promote that vision in your mind.

No matter where I go, whenever I pass by a bookstore, I go inside and I head straight for the middle grade section. I make a space for my book.

  • The mind body connection is not a one way street. Just as our minds influence the way our body moves, so too do our bodies influence the way our mind works.
  • The act of making a space for our book teaches our mind to expect things.

Now, What other physical things can you do to promote this vision of writing success?

  • When asked about what you do. Introduce yourself as a writer.
  • Attend book signings, especially of your favorite authors. Listen to these authors speak. List down the things you like about their presentation and think about how you would present the topic if you were the author.
  • Imagine what your book is going to look like. Create your own book covers, or ask the help of a friend who is good with art, to help you create your book cover.
  • Create a writing signature—one that you will use when you start signing those books during those book tours.
  • Imagine that you’ve already been published, and that you’ve been invited to do a talk and book signing—whether its at a school, or at a bookstore.  Talk aloud about your book, or your writing journey, or how you came up with your story idea.


We’ve now faced our fears. We know how to overcome them.

We’ve written down our goals and etched the mental picture of us achieving them firmly in our minds.

The next step is to find the writing inspiration to actually achieve these goals.

Before we become bestselling authors, we must send our manuscripts out. But before we can even do that, we must make sure we finish these manuscripts.

I want to share some writing exercises that are bound to give you tons of creative ideas.


  • Why are we as writers and readers, drawn to poetry?


Because poetry is the most personal and indirect form of fictional expression. The poet can speak directly to an audience, much as a narrator in stories, or take on a persona of his own.

Poetry is ultimately characterized more by how it communicates than by what it communicates.

poetry relies on the sound of the spoken language

poetry relies on figurative language.

Above all, poetry involves aspects of language that appeal to, and communicate by, sound and sight


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

Somewhere I have never traveled,

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

We must train our minds to look at the world with writer’s eyes.  How? Read more poetry, for one thing.

  • We must see everything around us as a poem in disguise.
  • Look at things and see words and metaphors.

Ex. woman at a grocery store—warm and inviting as a fresh baked cookie, and just as likely to fall apart.

Activity: Poem Fishing

Find something around you right now and  give a creative description of it. Unleash your inner poet.


  • See every scene as a story.
  • When you’re outside with your family, or waiting for the bus, or running errands, you’ll have lots of opportunity for people watching.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for possible stories.

This exercise is designed to help you train your brain to keep on generating story ideas, despite not having the time or opportunity to write.

Activity: Scene It

Look around you right now. Zoom in on a particular scene/ person that catches your attention. Perhaps you notice a lady wearing an interesting hat, or a man reading an interesting book. Observe this person/ scene. What is it about the particular person/ scene that catches your attention? Generate a possible story from this person/ scene and write it down.


  • Alchemy is defined as a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life
  • But it is also defined as a power or process of transforming something common into something special.
  • The second definition, is of course, what we should always aim to do in our writing.  And sometimes, the simplest process of mixing unexpected things together can create a great story idea.
  • So here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to combine two unlikely words to come up with something new.
  • Susan Goldsmith Woodridge, in her book Poem Crazy, suggests giving colors to abstractions or concepts.
    • For example: Blue love, Chartreuse agreements, Silver deliberation, Magenta pride


  • Think of a color and write it down on one post-it. Then think of an abstract concept. Examples would be love, pride, deliberation, agreement, etc
  • Don’t think too much about it, just write whatever pops up in your head.
  • Okay, put all the colors in this pile, and all the concepts in the other.
  • Now, pick a post-it from our color and concept pile. Combine those words and write it down on your notebook.
  • Switch it up. Now, pass your color post it to the person on your right, then pass the concept post it to the person on your left. Write down your new word.
  • Repeat the process.
  • Now, share the words you’ve come up with.


  • Remember that journal every writer supposedly carries around? It’s not just for writing down our thoughts and feelings, it’s also for storing story ideas—as well as creating wordpools.
  • Susan Goldsmith Woodridge, in her book Poem Crazy, suggests that we collect words whenever we can. Words we see around us, or words that just pop into our heads.  Look into dictionaries, field guides, write down street names, product labels, names of people, etc.
  • You can do this whenever you’ve got free time—while you’re waiting for your ride home, while walking your dog, even while cooking, as you come across an interesting food ingredient.
  • Wordpools are an excellent source of inspiration and a great way to stretch our imagination.

HANDOUT: 31 Ways to Gain Writing Inspiration by Leo Babauta

Here’s a handout. This guy has compiled several ways to gain writing inspiration. Let’s go over them very quickly.


Today we named our writing fears, and found out ways to overcome it using the power of thought and several mental exercises. We also discovered or re-discovered some activities to help us gain some writing inspiration.

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5 Things Occupying My Mind As of the Moment

Hello my awesome friends!

So I was supposed to do a blog post today about several writing related events I had attended in June but my mind is completely full of jostling thoughts right now so I decided to just have a nice little chat with you, my friends.

I find that babbling can sometimes help me order my thoughts, so you’ll just have to bear with me as I list down all the things occupying my mind as of the moment.

I’m also hoping you could give me some of your wisdom and a little bit of advice.

1. My New Story

I started plotting my new story about a week ago and I’m pleasantly surprised at how well it seems to be going. I mean, I plotted my first book in 6 months. I guess it does get easier to write when you’ve done it the first time.

It’s taking longer to build up my character profiles (Yes, I’m that kind of writer), though it looks like I’ll be able to start writing the first draft this month.

How do you go about your plotting when you’re starting a new story? Do you make use of character profiles as well? Do you have any suggestions for fleshing out your characters?

2.  My Old Story

Yup, I’m talking about the one I started querying last month, which I’ve decided not to query this month. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up yet! I’m just setting it aside for now to work on my shiny new idea.

The very helpful query feedback I’ve gotten from’s forum, as well as Connect’s forum just made me realize that my first book still needs one last rewrite. It’s not just the word count, mind you—but also the story elements itself.

So it’s back to the drawing board for me—but the plan is, I’ll finish writing the first draft to my new book and when I’m done, I’ll set it aside to let it marinate. And while my new book is simmering in its sauces, I’ll pick up my old book and do the rewrite.

Does it sound like a solid plan? What do you think?


When I attended the Kidlit night last June (Don’t worry I’ll give you all the juicy details in my next post), our new Regional Advisor Lee Wind approached me and asked if I’d like to be a full fledged SCBWI Volunteer. How awesome is that! It’s such an honor to be approached by someone like Lee and to be asked to help out the SCBWI team. I mean, it doesn’t matter that I’ve only been a member for a year or so– they recognize that I have something to offer.

Well, it’s either that, or the fact that I actually did sign up to be a volunteer. Haha! Lee assured me that he hadn’t actually seen the sign up sheet, but he thought the SCBWI could use my “energetic” ways. How cool!


So aside from Lee’s offer to volunteer, which I instantly jumped at, the current moderator for the SCBWI LA South Bay Schmooze group emailed me last week and asked me if I’d be interested in helping out the schmooze group as its moderator.

Whoa! When it rains it pours. What a tremendous honor to be thought of as someone capable of handling a schmooze.

I’m a bit torn up though. I’m planning to continue  the Torrance Children’s Book Writers—the group which I’ve worked hard to build this past year. On top of that I have various work, family, writing, martial arts and other personal responsibilities which I can’t give up.

I know I’m no superwoman (though I may have delusions of being one sometimes) and I know I can’t spread myself out too thin. But I also want to help out the schmooze because I feel like it has a lot of potential for growth—and I know it’ll help a lot of fellow writers.

So what do I do, peeps? Any ideas?

5. Belt Testing

No, I’m not buying a new belt. I’m going to try and earn one this coming Saturday.

Last year, if you recall, I got my Yellow Belt for my Filipino Martial Arts class.

This Saturday I’m testing for my Orange Belt. I know all the things required to pass the exam (er…sort of). I mean, I am part of Captain Alex Cavanaugh’s Super Cool Ninja Army, after all . (Okay so these are completely unrelated things, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.)

Anyway, the problem is that ever since I got back from our England Tour last May, my right shoulder has been sore—and so is my right elbow for some reason. My awesome PT Maiko (whom I get for free because she also happens to be my beloved best friend) said that nothing was broken, thankfully. But she also said that my shoulder was incredibly strained and that I actually needed about 4-6 weeks to fully heal.

I can still do all those forward rolls and backward tumbles and stick twirling just fine—except my whole right arm aches after each session. I should be okay up until this Saturday’s test—I think.

I should probably rest for a month after I get my belt, no?

Well anyhow, those are the top 5 things occupying my mind as of the moment.

So because you’re my friends, you’ll forgive me if I don’t come up with a slightly more helpful blog post this week, right?

Well, okay if I finish all this work accounting stuff early then I can tell you all about the Torrance Children’s Book Writers meetup on Re-energizing your writing passions this Friday.

But next week will be better for sure. I’ll tell you all about:

  • Kid Lit Drink Night with the awesome SCBWI-LA peeps
  • A Photography/Book Signing/Travel Writing Session with Amazing Race Contestant/Photographer/Author Deborah Cloyed.
  • Screenwriting 411 with some notable Screenwriters

In the meantime, I look forward to reading your comments and thoughts and visiting your blogs sometime this week.

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