Archive for January, 2012

Orson Scott Card’s Book Signing

I’m a big fan of Ender’s Game (and all the books in the series that I’ve read so far).  I’m such a huge fan that when I received a Signed Collector’s Edition of Ender’s Game for Christmas, I started jumping up and down with such joy, you’d think I’d won the lottery.

So, when I heard (another term for finding about stuff on online) that Orson Scott Card was going to do a book signing for his latest novel Shadows in Flight at Mysterious Galaxy, I was over the moon with excitement.

Orson Scott Card Sign Orson Scott Card’s Book Signing

Naturally, I dragged my loyal minions friends and fellow booksigning enthusiasts Maiko and Lena with me.

The book signing was scheduled for 7:30pm, but when I got there an hour before, Orson Scott Card was already there, signing books and chatting up a storm with a gaggle of his young fans—giggling High School girls who were obviously very excited to be talking with the author of their favorite books.

Orson Scott Card or OSC, as I shall now call him, continued signing books and chatting with his fans up until one of Mysterious Galaxy’s owners introduced him.

Orson Scott Card signing before talk Orson Scott Card’s Book SigningOrson Scott Card signing books before his talk

OSC began his talk by telling us a little something about his latest book. Shadows in Flight is the 11th book in the Ender series, and a direct sequel to Shadow of the Giant, with Bean as its main character.

Orson Scott Cards newest book is Shadows in Orson Scott Card’s Book Signing

Apparently, Shadows in Flight began as a short story, but it later on evolved into a whole novel. He and his publishers agreed that the hard cover book was fast becoming a luxury for most people, so they decided to experiment and come up with a novel that was shorter, and whose price was cheaper for a hard cover book.

Orson Scott Card talk2 Orson Scott Card’s Book Signing

OSC said that a lot of his fans were sending him angry emails and berating him for not putting up an ebook version of Shadows in Flight.  He explained that Amazon had wanted to sell an ebook version of his book for almost the same price as the hardcover, and he and his publishers didn’t want that. Amazon went on to boycott Macmillan, but it turned out that the readers didn’t “give a rat’s patoot” where they got the books they wanted to read, including OSC’s book, so Barnes & Noble sales shot up, and Amazon eventually dropped the boycott.

OSC says he loves his kindle, and reading his ebooks, but he warns readers to be more discerning about the ebooks that are sold on Amazon. He says that with the new program, anyone can put up their manuscript on Amazon and some of them might not have the benefit of having gone through the editorial process. He said editorial services cost money, and this is what we get when we pay for a book that has been published traditionally.

He gave Robinson Crusoe as an example of what happens when a book doesn’t have an editor. In one scene, Robinson Crusoe took off all his clothes, dove into the ocean and filled his pockets with whatever he found there!

OSC went on to encourage us to support our local bookstores, especially independent ones like Mysterious Galaxy. He talked about how he happened to be there signing that night. He  knew he was going to be in town anyway, and he loved Mysterious Galaxy, so he contacted them and they arranged for a one night only signing session. OSC talked about how he always bought books so he could give them away to friends and family. Someone asked why he doesn’t just lend books, and OSC said, ”I don’t lend books. I give books so I don’t lose a book and a friend at the same time.”

He opened the floor to questions, and the first question he got was “Did you know in Speaker for the Dead, that Ender was going to have kids?” OSC replied, “I only report what my characters say. I go with what feels right at the time.”

Orson Scott Card talk3 Orson Scott Card’s Book Signing

OSC reported that he was talking with his publishers about doing a revised version of Ender’s Game because he wanted to put in a reason for the randomness in the last battle.

He also talked a little about Earth Unaware, which is another book coming out this year. He co-wrote it with Aaron Johnston, who he felt, had a similar style to his own writing. Earth Unaware is the prequel to Ender’s Game, and takes place before Ender was born at the time of the first Formic war.

Orson Scott Card earth unaware2 Orson Scott Card’s Book Signing

OSC mentioned that audibooks were the most important medium for him, because he writes in the oral style. He writes to be heard. He told us a little about how his audiobooks came about, and how his daughter auditioned to be one of the readers in one of his books, and how that eventually became the stepping stone for her career.

When asked about what he likes to listen to, OSC said, “It makes me a better writer to listen to famous actors imitate Shakespeare. It may be a little weird for modern readers, but Shakespeare had the rhythm, the flow, and the smooth language.” OSC admitted that he couldn’t stand rap. “You can’t change the stress of the word and still have the English language.” Although, he said, that the best rap he’d ever heard was from an Irish Reporter, who rapped about life in Dublin.

The final question was about how hard it was for him to delete his “babies” or scenes and passages that don’t work in his manuscript.

“It’s not my baby until it’s good.” Orson Scott Card said, smiling. He said that writers shouldn’t be afraid to delete what they wrote, because they can create more words. “I write fiction, I’m often lying–so none of it is precious.” He says the pros do it all the time because they know that their books can only get better.

Orson Scott Card ended his talk by thanking everyone for coming, and asking everyone to follow some respectful rules when falling in line for the autograph session.

Orson made it a point to talk to all his fans while he was signing books. I told him how I actually read his book “Enchantment” before I discovered Ender’s Game. That made him smile. He said he was really proud of “Enchantment” and he thought it was one of his best works.

I had a great time listening to Orson Scott Card. I hope he visits Mysterious Galaxy (Redondo Beach) again in the near future.

Orson Scott Card and myself Orson Scott Card’s Book Signing

***Special Thanks to Maiko and Lena for taking some of the pictures

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The 7 Figures of Speech

I’ve known about Figures of Speech since I was in elementary, when my Reading Teacher first introduced the concept in the 4th grade. This lesson was repeated and added on to every year up until I graduated in High School.

Of course, College didn’t do much to extend my knowledge of this great literary tool—which makes sense since I took up Psychology and not English Literature or Linguistics.

I never knew there were other types of Figures of Speech, besides the common tropes (metaphor, oxymoron, hyperbole), until I chanced upon a post by Professor Grant Williams.

On his webpage, Professor Williams describes 7 types of Figures:

Figures by Type with Link Definition
Tropes figures which change the typical meaning of a word or words
Metaplasmic Figures figures which move the letters or syllables of a word from their typical places
Figures of Omission figures which omit something–eg. a word, words, phrases, or clauses–from a sentence
Figures of Repetition (words) figures which repeat one or more words
Figures of Repetition (clauses and ideas) figures which repeat a phrase, a clause or an idea
Figures of Unusual Word Order figures which alter the ordinary order of words or sentences
Figures of Thought a miscellaneous group of figures which deal with emotional appeals and techniques of argument

I was (naturally) fascinated to read about all various figures listed under each type. (I’m easily intrigued by anything language/literature related—maybe most writers are.)

For example, did you know that Prosthesis isn’t just a word describing an artificial limb? It’s also a figure of speech (Type: Metaplasmic Figures) which describes the addition of letters to the beginning of  a word such as beweep, as in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29  “I all alone beweep my outcast state”.

This particular piece of information about the seven types of Figures of Speech opened my eyes to a whole world, and gave me tons of ideas on how to improve my own writing.

It also made me realize quite a few things about myself:

  1. I’ve been missing out on some awesome literary devices.
  2. There’s so much more about the craft of writing, language and literature that I don’t know about.
  3. I need to learn more about the English language if I wish to improve my writerly skills.

I’m always researching on ways to better my plot, dialogue, characterization and setting, but I rarely take time to worry about the other side of my writing which is the language itself.

This simple, informative article by Professor Grant Williams was a great wake up call. It’s time for me to re-read my Strunk and White, and  do more research on various other literary techniques and devices.

We owe it to our readers (present or future) to write the best book we can write. That includes making sure that aside from creating 3D characters and weaving a great plot, we use the best language possible to convey our stories.

Content may be king when it comes to storytelling, but I find that the books that stay in my heart and mind for years, are the books who combine a great stories with beautiful language.

Maybe we writers could help each other out by swapping titles. Could you recommend some good writing books on language, literary techniques or style and structure?


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Starbucks to Sell Alcohol–Yea or Nay?

Happy Chinese New Year!

I was supposed to do a post on the Year of Black Water Dragon today, but I heard about Starbuck’s plan to sell beer and wine at 6 of their Los Angeles stores, along with some  locations in Atlanta and Chicago.  Here’s a link to the news, in case you want to read about it.

For some reason, this disturbed me.

Alcoholic beverages and Caffeinated drinks are not only in two very different categories, they are at opposite ends of the Drinks Spectrum (yes I made the term up, but you know what I mean).  People drink stimulants like coffee and tea in order to wake up & get a boost of energy to do work. Which is students, writers and other folks trying to catch up on deadlines head to the nearest coffee shop to do some work.

People who’d like to be as far away from work as possible, on the other hand, might want to head out to a bar or restaurant, where they can drink a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. They drink alcoholic beverages to relax from a hard day, to loosen up and be a little bit more sociable, or to drown their sorrows.

Such is the normal order of things. People who wish to think clearly go to coffee shops for some brain boosting caffeine, while people who clearly wish to NOT think, head down to the bar for some brain addling substances. I don’t know if I’m just being a little too picky here, but I kind of like the normal order of things.

There’s a reason the government doesn’t care if people sell coffee, and why they require vendors to apply for a license to sell alcohol. Coffee isn’t dangerous (unless you’re pregnant or have some other health problems), while alcohol, especially when consumed in large amounts, is extremely dangerous—not only to the person drinking, but the people around him as well.

I enjoy the peaceful silence of a coffee shop, and the sense of quiet community with other folks who’ve also come to work. I’m afraid adding alcohol into the mix might change this atmosphere completely.

People who like to think don’t often mingle well with people who don’t like to think.

CoffeeBreak tnb Starbucks to Sell Alcohol  Yea or Nay?

Thinking

695071 drunk201 Starbucks to Sell Alcohol  Yea or Nay?Not Thinking

I do most of my writing at home, but occasionally, I like to go to the nearest coffee place to write, or to do critiques with writer friends. If we do end up at a Starbucks that sells alcohol, I’d like to be assured that I won’t get hit on by some dude who’s had one too many beers, or be bothered by a group of rowdy friends who’ve drunk too many glasses of wine.

And that’s looking at the best scenario. I can think of far worse things that might happen if Starbucks begins offering beer or wine—mostly things that usually happens in bars.

As a writer, I admit to having a vivid and creative imagination, so maybe I’m just being paranoid. But if I were to have a vote in this, I’d say NO to serving alcohol in coffee shops, even if it is just Starbucks.

What do you think?

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Guests Welcome

I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of super duper awesome blogger-friends Alex Cavanaugh, Theresa Milstein & Misha Gericke, and share my space with other blogger friends who might want to do a guest post on my blog.

I’m sure there are a hundred reasons guest posts work, but here are some things that immediately come to mind:

1. Guest posts are a great way of making sure that a blog always has something new and something interesting to offer.

2. Guest posts are a great way of introducing your bloggy friends to other blogger friends.

3. Guest posts are a great way of promoting other bloggers. It gives them the opportunity to be heard/ read by other readers, and to gain new followers in the process.

4. Guest posts allow the host to take a breather and learn something new at the same time.

5. Guest posts are a great way of showing solidarity, of showing that one is part of, and connected to a larger community.

I’m sure you wonderful folks can think of other great reasons to promote guest posts. Please feel free to write them down in the comment section! I learn a lot from your comments, you know.

So, beautiful friends, if you are interested in doing a guest post and sharing your writing experience, wisdom, tips, techniques or any writing-related bit, please email me at nutschell@yahoo.com.

My house is open, I do hope you come and visit!

welcome BLUE Guests Welcome

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January 14, 2012 (22nd meetup): Get On Your Write Path: Plan Your Writing Goals and Your Writing Career

Last Saturday’s meetup was all about setting writing goals and planning our writing career. I was quite proud of how we managed to fit 20 people into the small library meeting room. We had to steal borrow some chairs from the other library tables, but we made it work.

I. WRITING REFLECTIONS

The first part of our session was called “Writing Reflections.

In the Philippines, we have a saying “One who doesn’t look back at where he’s come from, will not get to where he’s going.” Before we achieve the kind of future we want, we must take a good look at our past and present.

I had the audience reflect on how far they’ve come along the “Write Path” by answering the questions on their worksheet.

class January 14, 2012 (22nd meetup): Get On Your Write Path: Plan Your Writing Goals and Your Writing Career

How we view ourselves as writers is an important part of our writing journey. It’s important to take note of our writing quirks and habits, what we dislike and like about writing in order for us to know whether the path we’re taking is the right one for us.

We have to know who we are and what we want before we sit down to write our stories.  More importantly, we have to know why we want to be writers, why we want to travel this writing path. Do we write for fame? For money? For others? For ourselves? Do we write for the simple joy of writing or do write because we feel that our skill will get us somewhere?

Before we do everything to get what we want, we have to know why we want it.

After looking back at their writing past, I asked the audience to look ahead at the writing path they were on.

I talked a little about the power of visualization, even telling them the story of computer specialist Natan Sharanksy. He spent 9 years in USSR prison because he was accused of being a US spy. While in solitary confinement, he played himself mental chess,  saying he might as well try and become a world chess champion. probably to have something to do.  In 1996, Sharansky beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov.

I explained the importance of visualization and mental practice. Writing is 90% mental work. We must have strong, active minds if we wish to pursue a career in writing. Research, reading, plotting, creating stories, writing – all depend on our brain. Scientist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from ALS, and yet has published several best-selling books, is great proof 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.

sharing thoughts January 14, 2012 (22nd meetup): Get On Your Write Path: Plan Your Writing Goals and Your Writing Career

To put into practice this power of visualization, I asked everyone to close their eyes and imagine themselves as a successful author. Maybe they’re climbing on stage to accept the Newbery Award, maybe they’re signing books at B&N. I asked them to imagine the scene in great detail, engaging all of their senses in their visualization.

After a minute, I asked them to open their eyes. And I told them they just got a glimpse of their possible future.

Now we had to figure out how to get ourselves there.

II. REALITY: PUBLISHING 101

We now had our writing dream clearly etched in our minds. But in order for us to make our dreams come true, we must first come to terms with the reality around us.

Before we even begin to figure out our writing goals, we need to first know what we’re getting ourselves into.

This is where I gave the group several handouts on the publishing process. I talked to them about the different types of publishers, the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing, and the pros & cons for each type. I also talked to them about the various processes involved in traditional publishing (finishing a manuscript, getting an agent, finding a publisher, marketing their work, etc).

teaching January 14, 2012 (22nd meetup): Get On Your Write Path: Plan Your Writing Goals and Your Writing Career

After half an hour of this discussion, the group now knew what they were in for.

I told them that they may find themselves  wondering whether it was still possible for them to achieve that writing dream they visualized earlier. The answer is yes—with hard work, patience, determination and the right knowledge.

III. MAKING A COMMITMENT TO WRITING

The task of getting published seems daunting, especially now that they’ve been exposed to a dose of publishing reality. But I told them not to  give up on their writing dream.

The best way to do accomplish something, or to make a dream come true is to take it one step at a time.

The first step to getting published is to make a commitment to writing.

And here, I took them through some ways for them to prove their commitment to writing.

1. Admit that you are a writer.

In their  first worksheet, they encountered the question “Do you consider yourself a writer?” If they answered yes, then they’re already past the first hurdle. If they answered no, then it’s time to overcome the first obstacle in getting published.

I gave them this little tidbit of motivation:

You become a writer the moment you take up your pen (or type on your PC) and begin to write creatively.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a story, an essay, or a news article. If you write because you love to write, or simply because you enjoy writing, then you are a writer.

You become what you think you are. If you want to get published, you must set aside your insecurities and doubts.

Publishing a book is a long process and some people who start out wanting to get their book published, often give up after a year or two, when they realize it’s too much work and it’s taking too long.

Depending on how much time and effort we put into building our writing career, getting published might take anywhere from 3-10 years. That seems daunting, but keep this in mind: time flies when you’re having fun.

If writing is a passion for you, if it’s something you would do anyway—whether you knew you’d be successful or not, then it shouldn’t feel like work. If you really love something, you keep at it no matter how long it takes and no matter how hard it seems to be. It’ll all be worth it in the end.

And to help them keep to their writing commitment, I had the group sign a contract between them and their writing dreams.

On their worksheet #3, I asked them to write down the following words, and mean every word of what they write:

I am a writer. I will do everything in my power to get published in one form or another.

I will commit time and patience into achieving my writing goals.

I will become a published author.

Then I asked them to sign and date the contract and pass it around to their fellow writers to sign as witnesses.

writing contract January 14, 2012 (22nd meetup): Get On Your Write Path: Plan Your Writing Goals and Your Writing Career

The worksheet will serve as a constant reminder of their commitment to their writing goals, and as a source of inspiration for when they feel their writing passions waning. Maybe someday one or all of the witnesses who signed on their writing contract would become famous authors too!

worksheets January 14, 2012 (22nd meetup): Get On Your Write Path: Plan Your Writing Goals and Your Writing Career

For the next few steps in fulfilling their writing commitment, I had the group take out Worksheet #4, where they had to plan out their writing space, their writing tools, their ideal writing atmosphere, and their actual writing schedule.

VI. PLANNING YOUR WRITING GOALS

In this part of our session, we discussed the difference between dreams and goals. I also talked to them about the importance of writing down their goals.

I gave them a handout on how to make SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time-Bound) Goals, as well as a list of some writing goal examples.

The final worksheet provided some questions to guide them on planning their writing goals, and also on how to develop their book ideas.

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Funniest Holiday Contest Winners

Happy Friday (the 13th) everyone!

Thank you to all those who joined my Funniest Holiday Contest Giveaway.

I loved hearing all your funny holiday stories, and I think a few people deserve special mention:

C. Lee McKenzie, your story about adventurous kitten Pitch certainly made me laugh.

And Sharon Hamilton, I hope you’ve managed to clear your living room of all the flocking!

Now on to the two lucky people who defied Friday the 13th and won the amazing prizes.

Drumroll please!

drawing lots Funniest Holiday Contest WinnersContest names in the drawing box

2nd prize, an autographed copy of Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents goes to:

theresa milstein Funniest Holiday Contest Winners

And 1st prize, an autographed copy of Ellen Degeneres’s Seriously I’m Kidding goes to:

kelly polark Funniest Holiday Contest Winners

Congratulations Theresa and Kelly! You both are so deserving. Your tweets and FB announcements surely helped. Email me your home addresses so I can send your wonderful prizes out.

ellen degeneres book seriously im kidding1 Funniest Holiday Contest Winners

happy accidents jane lynch1 Funniest Holiday Contest Winners


Thanks again to all who participated!  Have a wonderful weekend everyone. icon smile Funniest Holiday Contest Winners


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Hey all! I hope you’re having a wonderful Monday.

Today I was supposed to announce the winners of my Funniest Holiday Contest.

Seeing as there were only 14 entries, I decided, well, I might as well extend the contest to give more people a chance to enter.

And just to give you an idea of how awesome these giveaways you might win are, here are some excerpts from the books:


2nd Prize:  Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch (Autographed Copy!)

happy accidents jane lynch Contest Extended   Ellen Degeneres & Jane Lynch Book Giveaway

If I could go back in time and talk to my twenty-year-old self, the first thing I would say is: “Lose the perm.” Secondly I would say: “Relax. Really. Just relax. Don’t sweat it.”

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious and fearful that the parade would pass me by. And I was sure there was someone or something outside of myself with all the answers. I had a driving, anxiety-filled ambition. I wanted to be a working actor so badly. I wanted to belong and feel like I was valued and seen. Well, now I am a working actor, and I guarantee you it’s not because I suffered or worried over it.

As I look back, the road to where I am today has been a series of happy accidents I was either smart or stupid enough to take advantage of. I thought I had to have a plan, a strategy.

Turns out I just had to be ready and willing to take chances, look at what’s right in front of me, and put my heart into everything I do. All that anxiety and fear didn’t help, nor did it fuel anything useful. Finally releasing that worry served to get me out of my own way. So my final piece of advice to twenty-year-old me: Be easy on your sweet self. And don’t drink Miller Lite tall boys in the morning.

-Jane Lynch, Happy Accidents


1st Prize: Seriously I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres (Autographed Copy!)

ellen degeneres book seriously im kidding Contest Extended   Ellen Degeneres & Jane Lynch Book Giveaway

Ellen Degeneres: Writing This Book

Over the last year or so since I decided to write this book, people have been asking me how I have the time and why I chose to write it. The truth is, last June I was driving through a tunnel while I was on the phone with my agent and my cell service was spotty. I said, “I just got a great Ikea table for my breakfast nook.” My agent thought I said, “I’ve got a great idea for my newest book.”

By the time we figured out our hilarious misunderstanding I had signed a whole bunch of papers (who has time to read all those words?!) and I was under contract to write a book. Similarly, a few years ago, I told my agent, “I think I got some fudge on my lapel,” and he thought I said, “I want to be a judge on American Idol.” Since then I got a new phone. And I found out my agent’s name is Marvin, not Blarvin.

But the real truth is, I’m glad I decided to write this book. I love writing and I do feel like I’ve learned a lot about life and love and other “L” words since I wrote my last book, and there are things I want to share with the world.

Here’s one of my favorite chapters in her book:

How To Be A Supermodel

One: The Look

Always look like you’re angry at the universe for making you too pretty.

Two: The Walk

Trot. Aggressively, like you’re a horse that’s trying to avoid puddles.

Three: The Squint

Squint like someone is bouncing sunlight off their watch and directly into your eyes.

Four: The Pout

Get those lips out there. Purse your lips like you’re trying to sip out of a straw that someone keeps moving away from you.

Five: The Pose

Be mysterious. Always pose with one hand in your pocketas if to say, “I’m so mysterious, this hand in my pocket could be a hook hand. You don’t know.”

Six: The Breeze

Carry a giant oscillating fan with you at all times. No exceptions.

***

Now that you know how awesome and fabulous these two books are (autographed by our favorite comediennes, no less!), please feel free to join the contest by clicking on this LINK.

And just to make a point that Friday the 13th isn’t always bad luck (at least for some people), I’ll announce the lucky giveaway winners on Friday, January 13th, 2012.

Good luck everyone!

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Useless Trivia? Maybe Not.

Wanna win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Ellen Degeneres’s Seriously, I’m Kidding and Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents?  Click on this link.

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While browsing through the web today I found this amusing website which listed some absolutely useless trivia—meaning information we would never find use for in our daily lives.

Here are some of the fascinating facts listed on the site:

  1. A rat can last longer without water than a camel.
  2. Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every 2 weeks, otherwise it will digest itself
  3. A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate. (So glad human beings aren’t like ferrets)
  4. Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.
  5. Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.  (I always knew peanuts could be deadly)
  6. Ketchup was sold in the 1830’s as medicine. (I wonder if they ate it or slathered it on the affected part…)
  7. Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time. (I bet picture book writers/illustrators would love this talent)
  8. da vincijpg Useless Trivia? Maybe Not.Walt Disney was afraid of mice. (I believe he was trying to face his fears when he created a giant, talking mouse and named it Mickey, <after an Irish mobster probably>.)
  9. Bruce Lee was so fast they actually had to SLOW a film down so you could see his moves. That’s the opposite of the norm. (wow!)
  10. Warren Beatty & Shirley MacLaine are brother and sister. (I don’t know why I found this fascinating, but I did.)
  11. On average, 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily.

The website’s author listed down some trivia which would be interesting for writers as well:

  1. 315 entries in Webster’s 1995 Dictionary were misspelled. (This is why I’d rather use wikipedia sometimes…)
  2. The dot over the letter ‘i’ is called a tittle.
  3. Dr. Seuss actually pronounced Seuss such that it sounded like Sue-ice. (I wonder if anyone can confirm this)
  4. When the master printer was building a page and discovered that a particular sort was empty, he would get angry. Thus the term “out of sorts”.
  5. The question mark came from a monk habit of writing the Latin word for question, quo, at the end of sentences. Over time the letters were written vertically to save space and morphed into the ? we write today. Similarly the exclamation point came from the Latin word “Lo”, meaning something important that should be heeded. (Lo and behold!)
  6. 220px Winniethepooh Useless Trivia? Maybe Not.The original Winnie the Pooh was a real live bear found outside of Winnipeg, Canada. Hence the name Winnie. (I always wondered why anyone would name a bear Winnie)
  7. On average, 100 people choke to death on ballpoint pens every year. (Time to ditch that habit of chewing on pens while thinking)

I was pleasantly surprised (and a little proud) to discover that I knew one of the trivia items listed on the site:

Los Angeles’ full name is El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porcincula. (thank God they changed it!)

The list is pretty useless. The trivia items are intriguing, fun and fascinating enough to keep you thinking for hours, but you won’t really be able to use them in real life—

Unless you happen to be a writer, of course.

As writers, we are always on the lookout for sources of writing inspiration and story ideas. So this list of useless trivia isn’t exactly useless for us. It’s in fact, a treasure trove of potential stories waiting to be told.

We could write a poem about the real Winnie the Pooh, an essay on how in the world people could choke to death on ballpens, a picture book on a rat and a camel’s friendship, and even write a novel on newborns who were switched at birth (Only we should make sure the story is very different from the ABC Show Switched at Birth).

This is a writer’s secret–he/she can make a story out of anything–even a  list of useless trivia.

***If you haven’t read my guest post on story ideas, you can find it here.

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New Year’s Resolutions vs SMART Goals

Wanna win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Ellen Degeneres’s Seriously, I’m Kidding and Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents?  Click on this link.

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Before I begin my first post for the year, I’d just like to wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your loved ones. icon smile New Year’s Resolutions vs SMART Goals

Also, I’d like to say thank you to all my bloggy friends, who’ve left such wonderful comments and heartfelt holiday greetings. I will make time to visit you all in  the blogosphere soon.

Now on to our scheduled program.

Today, I’d like to talk about New Year’s Resolutions. Or more specifically, the problem with making New Year’s Resolutions.

The dictionary defines the word Resolution as A firm decision to do or not to do something.

In other words, you vow to do something that you know will make you a better person.

For example, we resolve to save more money, lose weight, be nicer to our friends, be a better writer and so on.

These are great resolutions, great vows to ourselves. But we have all learned the hard way that promises are meant to be broken.

The problem with resolutions is they are written either like promises, in which case they are set up to be broken—

Or like wishes, in which case, they have this feeling of being unattainable.

Resolutions are too general. They give us too much room for error.

This is why I don’t believe in Resolutions. I believe in Goals.

Goals are defined as the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aims, end.

This means that when we write down goals, we see the end result very clearly in our minds, and we write down the steps we need in order to achieve them.

In one workshop I attended, the speaker introduced the concept of SMART Goals.

SMART stands for

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Time-bound

These are the criteria for creating effective goals.

I think the most important word here is Specific. Specificity is what differentiates a goal from a resolution. Whereas resolutions leave room for error because they are too general, goals are supposed to be so specific that you can’t make excuses not to achieve them.

Let’s turn the previous resolutions into SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound) goals.

12178622811310025450gringer Piggybank pink.svg .med  New Year’s Resolutions vs SMART Goals

Resolution 1: Save more money

Revised Goal: Set up my bank checking account to automatically transfer $25/$50/$100  to my savings account every 1st of the month.

22381280 New Year’s Resolutions vs SMART Goals

Resolution 2: Lose weight

Revised Goal: Sign up for the weightwatchers program, or for membership at the local gym. Get a physical trainer and work out at least 3x a week. Count calories and cook healthier meals. Avoid eating out at fastfood/restaurants.

images New Year’s Resolutions vs SMART Goals

Resolution 3: Be a nicer friend

Revised Goal: Stop avoiding calls just because I’m busy. Make a point to meet up with friends at least once a month. Plot my friends’ birthdays on my calendar so I don’t forget to send them a card or call to greet them a happy birthday.

school clipart boy writting 1156372780 New Year’s Resolutions vs SMART Goals

Resolution 4: Be a better writer

Revised Goal: Join a writing group, read & make notes on (insert title of writing books to be read here), attend at least once writing conference/workshop this year, read at least one book (or audiobook) a week in my chosen genre, write at least 500 words everyday, etc.

So if we really want to improve ourselves this new year, we should write down goals, and not resolutions.

Some of my writing goals for this year include:

  1. Finish the 2nd Draft of my YA by the 2nd week of February.
  2. Start a new YA novel by March.
  3. Improve my blog/website by finishing my planned “Helpful Links” tab.
  4. Create the website for my writing group, (CBWLA).
  5. Attend the Writer’s Day in April, the SCBWI Working Writer’s Retreat in September (and if I still have the funds, the SCBWI Summer Conference).

I’m detail-oriented (to the point of being obsessive-compulsive sometimes), so I have specific goals for the different categories/aspects in my life: family/home, writing, CBWLA, SCBWI, martial arts, creative projects, etc.

I’ve got so many goals to list down I’m not even halfway done yet.

Which reminds me, I’d better return to writing those down.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a few words of inspiration from my good friend, Anonymous.

How to Be Happy

Keep your heart free from hate,

Your mind from worry.

Live simply.

Expect little,

Give much.

Fill your life with love.

Scatter sunshine.

Forget self, think of others.

Do as you would be done by.

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