Archive for March, 2013

SCBWI O.C. Agents Day

Last March 16th, 2013, I had the opportunity to attend SCBWI O.C.’s annual Agents Day.

Held at the Newport Sea Base, the conference featured four literary agents:

Stephen Fraser from the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, Kerry Sparks from the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, Susan Hawk from Bent Literary, and Taylor Martindale from Full Circle Literary. Also on hand was award winning author Carrie Arcos.

The first half of a day was dedicated to listening and learning from the speakers. I took notes furiously as each speaker had a wealth of information to share. Here are some of the things I learned from each of them:

Stephen Fraser spoke about what agents do, and the different rules by which they are able to sell their clients’ books.

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Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

  • An Agent is a broker for your manuscript.
  • Having an agent is like having your own personal GPS system – he gets your manuscripts to the right editor in the right publisher.
  • Happiness is a quiet thing. The same thing can be said of selling books.
  • When you’re negotiating a deal, stand up so you’ll feel stronger.
  • As long as it’s great writing, it will sell. A good book always has a home.

 

Taylor Martindale spoke about the all important element of Voice in fiction writing, and why agents are always looking for it in submissions. She also gave us five tips for using voice in our own works, and some exercises for developing voice.

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Taylor Martindale, Full Circle Literary

  • What is voice?
  1. Combination of personality, tone and style that is specific to your novel
  2. The way readers are introduced to your narrator and reader and carried on throughout the book
  3. What makes your reader care about the character
  4. What gets you connected to the book before you’re getting into the story
  • When working on your books, Specificity helps – generalization won’t make a good start to your book.
  • Use the five senses when writing. Sensory details are rich and evocative and connect with the reader

 

National Book Award finalist Carrie Arcos spoke of her writing journey, and of her experience at the National Book Award ceremony banquet.

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Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist

  • Don’t put too much stock in praise or criticism. There will always be both.
  • On Writing while Parenting: I didn’t wait until I felt like writing. I wrote whenever I had the time.

 

Susan Hawk of Bent Literary, talked about the books that she loved, and the current publishing trends.

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Susan Hawk, Bent Literary

  • She looks for books with compelling voice, stories with depth and heart, lovable characters
  • She loves historical fiction, humor, mystery, sci fi & fantasy.
  • On Querying: Never query a novel that isn’t finished
  • On the difference between MG & YA books:
    • YA – problems come more from their peers,
    • MG – problems deal with authority/parent/teacher

 

Finally, Lit Agent Kerry Sparks demystified the Author-Agent relationship by taking us through all the steps of publishing. She gave us tips on what to do pre-agent and when we’re ready to get an agent. She also gave us advice on selecting an agent, and explained what happens once a writer gets an agent, and once that agent sells the manuscript to a publisher.

She also gave us a sample query to show us what works in a query and what doesn’t.

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Kerry Sparks , Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

  • Read tons of books in the genre you are interested in writing for
  • A personalized query letter can stand out in a sea of generic ones, so do put more time into this
  • When selecting an agent, look at their track record, as well as their website, social media and blog
  • Work with your agent to get the manuscript in best shape possible
  • Book won’t come out for a year or more after it’s sold, depending on the edits and the publisher’s list
  • You have to be the biggest advocate of your book. Think about School & Library Visits, Tapping the local Market and social media.
  • Social media is your friend but you have to do genuinely

After soaking up all the information from the wonderful speakers, we broke for lunch. Learning from our experience last year, my fellow carpoolers and I had picked up a Subway lunch on the way to the conference. This was good as we enjoyed a leisurely chat and lunch in the Yacht room, instead of having to walk two blocks to the nearest restaurant.

Lunch was over soon enough, and the session resumed. This time, however, attendees were divided into two rooms, depending on their surnames. A-J stayed in the main hall, while the rest headed for the Yacht room.

We had a Speed Round with all four agents, and we were able to ask them all sorts of writing/publishing questions during the 15 minutes each of them was with us.

In between speed rounds with two agents, we had the First Pages Reading session. Some lucky attendees got their first pages read out loud, and the agents present gave their helpful feedback on what works, and what doesn’t within the pages.

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 First Pages Reading Session

After the final First Pages Reading, everyone who had paid for a manuscript critique lined up to get their manuscripts. I excitedly read my critique and even got the chance to speak with the agent assigned to my manuscript.

The SCBWI O.C. Agents Day remains to be one of my favorite conferences. I’m already looking forward to next year!

 

 

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TWN WWW 300

Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Cheryl Malandrinos, author, editor, and ghostwriter. 

You can also find her blogging at the following sites:

http://ccmalandrinos.com

http://ccgevry.com/

http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com

http://www.thebusymomsdaily.com/

http://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

http://cherylschristianbookconnection.blogspot.com  

Welcome, Cheryl!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

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Cheryl and her girls

Thanks for having me here today, Nutschell. I’m a children’s author, editor, and ghostwriter who also makes a living as an online book publicist. I’m a Downton Abbey addict. I also enjoy cross-stitching—when I have time—and gardening. My girls and I plant a garden each spring. We’re hoping to expand it this year to include more fruits and vegetables. No hidden talents, but I would love to try making wine one day.

 

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

Most of my writing is done in my home office. My desk faces the windows, so I have a clear view of the woods behind our house and all the birds and squirrels I feed each day. My cats love me for the free entertainment.

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Cheryl’s desk

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

My desk came from Staples, as did the matching filing cabinet. I wanted something with a feminine flair, but still useful.

When I first set up shop, our girls were toddling around, so I had to make space in a corner of the family room. Once our son moved out and got married, I took over the nursery and moved our oldest daughter into his room. I don’t believe in a lot of clutter, so my desktop is fairly clean, though books litter almost every other surface.

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I must have my coaster with the kitten hanging from a tree. It’s a good spot for my tea cup and it reminds me to keep holding on in this crazy world of publishing. I also have a cat shaped pen holder. Other than that, it’s just my speakers, a clock, a calendar, a lamp, and my Inbox.

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Cheryl’s kitty coaster

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

The natural scenery is definitely the best part of my workspace, but on the wall, I have a beautiful watercolor painted by one of my clients. We visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina each year. He painted a scene of sand dunes along the water that reminds me of the area when I can’t be there. There are other nautical accents in the office, too.

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A watercolor painting by one of Cheryl’s clients

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

If it’s not a cup of tea, then it’s Pepsi—not Coke (yuck). I try to drink water a couple times a day, but two cans of Pepsi and four cups of decaffeinated tea are my regulars.

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Cheryl’s kitties 

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Maud Montgomery are my favorites. Their feisty, impulsive main characters remind me of myself. Both women have a keen eye for detail, which brings their settings to life.

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. I was the crazy kid who enjoyed writing book reports. My classmates hated me. From very young I knew I wanted to be one of two things: a teacher or a writer. As a mom I’ll always be a teacher. Writing came later. Though I began writing as a teenager, it wasn’t until I became a stay-at-home mom in 2004 that I pursued it as a career path.

 

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I don’t have typical days. Part of that is lack of discipline, but with a family and work, I don’t have a set schedule. Right now, I am writing one picture book a month. I’m also trying to finish edits to a middle grade historical I would love to pitch to an agent this year.

Most days, I get up with the girls and sit down to check email once both leave for school. I work on virtual book tours in the morning, have lunch, and then spend a couple of hours writing—if possible—until I pick up our oldest daughter. Once the kids are home, I don’t work again until after they are in bed. I have multiple blogs, so nighttime work is blogging.

 

3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

 I write something every day, but that something might be a blog post or a book review. The Internet and email are my worst distractions; the Internet probably more than the other. Working from home, while wonderful in many ways, is very lonely. I crave social interaction from writing groups and forums to which I belong

4. Why do you write?

I write because I have to. It’s kind of like breathing—if I don’t do it, I’ll die.

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

I tend not to offer tips or techniques. What works for one writer won’t always work for another. For me, I find writing out a first draft and editing once I’m done is more efficient. Others must edit as they go. The only thing I am sure of is that nothing gets written if you don’t sit in the chair and write.

Here’s a quote that motivates me when I’m struggling: “You can’t cross a sea by merely staring into the water.” – Rabindranath Tagore  

 

 

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Thanks Cheryl, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

 

 

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SCBWI L.A. Writers’ Days 2013

This year’s SCBWI L.A. Writers’ Days was held last March 9-10, and focused on Diversity in Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Nonfiction and Poetry.

I volunteered to help out with the Food Committee once more, so I missed out on a few segments throughout the day, but that didn’t stop me from learning tons from the awesome speakers they had lined up that day.

SCBWI L.A. Regional Co-Adviser Lee Wind opened the day with a heartwarming keynote on “Our World of Diversity and What It Means for the Characters You Create.”

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SCBWI L.A. Regional Advisers Sarah Laurenson and Lee Wind

He was followed by Literary Agent Adrianna Dominguez, who talked about “The Market for Diverse Literature: Challenges and Opportunities.”  She said that needs of minority children are not being met since most commercial publishers opt for more commercially viable works. She reminded us that if children don’t see themselves in books, they are not motivated to read.

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Literary Agent Adrian Dominguez

After a short break, Lee Wind returned to moderate the Diversity Panel. Panelists included Literary Agent Adrianna Dominguez and Authors Malinda Lo, Eugene Yelchin, and Nikki Grimes. The panel discussed the issue of diversity in today’s literary scene, and gave several examples by which writers can reach more readers through their diverse characters.

SCBWI L.A. is big about thanking their volunteers. After the panel, Regional Advisers Lee Wind and Sarah Laurenson presented the Sue Alexander Encouragement Award to longtime volunteer Sue Welfringer.

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SCBWI L.A. Volunteer Sue Welfringer accepting her SASE

Lunch was a delicious treat catered by the Corner Bakery, and we returned to the conference hall refreshed and ready for the next round of keynotes.

Author and Illustrator Eugene Yelchin spoke about Emotional Writing in his keynote. He reminded us that we should all know ourselves before we write for others, and that we must have compassion for our own selves in order to write emotionally authentic pieces.

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Author Illustrator Eugene Yelchin

Malinda Lo, Award Winning Author of “Ash”, shared her journey to publication with us in her talk entitled “Cultural Intersections: How I Came to Write What I Write.” She said  that diversity was a place to start, and shared with us the funny story of how she had earned $10 for a poem she had submitted to Cat’s magazine, entitled “Cat.”

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YA Author Malinda Lo

 

Digital Editorial Director of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group, Daniel Nayeri explained that Diversity isn’t. He lists scarcity, conspiracy and uniformity as concepts we should avoid relating to diversity.

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Editor Daniel Nayeri

Finally, Author Nikki Grimes spoke of the Poetry of Patience: How to Create a Classic. She said she approaches her writing like a jigsaw puzzle/quilt , concentrating on developing the small pieces of the story then once she has enough pieces for a beginning, middle and end, she puts them all together.

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Author Nikki Grimes

SCBWI L.A. showed their support for their published members by hosting the PAL Volunteer Authors Parade after the keynotes. SCBWI Author members showcased copies of their books and spoke a little about their works.

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Author Jesse Klausmeier explains her book

Attendees also received writing exercises from each of the speakers in their packets, and were encouraged to work on these exercises during the short breaks throughout the conference.

And last but not the least, I performed my Contest Coordinator duties by announcing the winners of this year’s Contest, and handing out their certificates.

Writer’s Day Saturday was another success, and I hear that the Sunday Intensives were truly valuable as well, thanks to the amazing speakers and organizers.

 

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Paleyfest: Once Upon a Time

One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is that there are always awesome events in the area.

Paleyfest is one such event. Founded in 1984, Paleyfest connects TV show cast members and creators with their fans through their live shows.

When I heard that Paleyfest was going to feature one of my favorite TV Shows, I simply had to go. Tickets were affordable enough at $25, but I was lucky to have gotten it for cheaper when I grabbed the very last discounted ticket on goldstar.com.

So last March 3rd I attended the Paleyfest showing for ONCE UPON A TIME. And I had a blast!

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Here’s the show’s blurb from the Paleyfest site:

One of the highest-rated new dramas of the 2011–12 television season, Once Upon A Time continues to build a loyal fan base through its sophomore year. The series has been praised for its original and imaginative narrative: Hank Stuever of the Washington Post wrote that Once has “the right mix of cleverness, action and romance.” Created by Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the series creatively shuttles between the fairy tale world ruled by the Evil Queen and the quiet fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, where classic characters residing in exile are coming to grips with who they really are “from the other side,” all because of Henry’s (aka the grandson of Snow White and Prince Charming) deep belief in their stories. Never have the icons of childhood seemed so real and complex.

 

The show was held at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, a mere 5 minutes away from where I work. There was already a long line of people when I arrived an hour before the show.

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Inside the Saban Theater

Parking was available at a building across the street, so I went in. Unfortunately they only took cash so I had to leave the lot and find parking elsewhere. And that turned out to be a good thing as I found FREE street parking a block away.

I got my ticket from the Will Call booth and joined the 3 blocks long queue to get inside. It was half an hour before the line started moving.

I found my balcony seat and got settled in, not sure what to expect. This was the first time I’d ever even heard of Paleyfest.

The lights soon dimmed and one of Paleyfest’s directors welcomed us all and introduced us to the Once Upon a Time Executive Producers and Creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (the guys who also created “Lost”).

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Once Upon a Time Executive Producers Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis

The two show creators got us all excited when they announced that we would be watching a  yet-to-be-aired, full episode of our favorite show AND the first 15 minute sneak peak of the episode after that.

It was awesome to watch an episode before it even aired, but the real treat was watching it with a thousand other fans. It’s an experience like no other. The excitement was palpable and listening to everyone’s “oohs, aaahs and oh no’s” during key points in the episode was so much fun.

The hour flew by, and soon we were getting ready for the main event: seeing the cast members live.

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 Matt Mitovich, Editor-At-Large for TVLine.com

Matt Mitovich, Editor-At-Large for TVLine.com  was the moderator for the panel. He introduced all the cast members as they went on stage one by one.

 

cast left side

From Left to Right: Jennifer Morrison, “Emma Swan”, Josh Dallas, “Prince Charming”/”David Nolan”, Ginnifer Goodwin, “Snow White”/”Mary Margaret Blanchard”,  Executive Producer/Creator Adam Horowitz and
Executive Producer/Creator Edward Kitsis

 

cast right side

From Left to Right: Lana Parrilla, “Evil Queen”/”Regina”, Robert Carlyle, “Rumplestiltskin”/”Mr. Gold”, Emilie de Ravin, “Belle” and Colin O’Donoghue, “Captain Hook”

Creators & Executive Producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis joined the panel as well. They were careful not to reveal spoilers and character arcs for upcoming episodes.

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The cast applauding writers of the show

They did hint, however, that the show would be visiting another new realm this season: one that involves a certain Captain Hook. The creators and cast also told fans to look forward to Episode 17: Welcome to Storybrooke, as the episode will show the how the characters deal with the first week of the curse.

cast and screen

It was fun to listen to the cast members banter with each other and answer questions about the character they played; and also to listen to the creators explain the direction of the story, without giving away too much. Listening to them, I felt lucky to be privy to information that most die-hard fans would actually die for.

The moderator also asked the audience members for questions, which the cast and creators graciously answered.

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Audience members ask questions

A second after the last question was asked, the crowd surged toward the stage and began asking the cast members for autographs.

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Fans ask for autographs

I was too far away to even try to get autographs, but I was still happy to have had the opportunity to attend such an amazing festival.  I left the theater with a big smile, and already planning to attend next year’s Paleyfest.

 

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Nicole Singer

 

TWN WWW 300

Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Nicole Singer, author of that fun blog Write Me a World.

Welcome, Nicole!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

Nicole Singer

Nicole Singer

 In my younger days, I snuck out of bed far too often to read by the glow of my nightlight.
Not much has changed in 20 years, except I’ve learned to keep the light on and my late nights now consist of reading AND writing.

An absurd portion of my little Midwestern duplex has been taken over by books.

I’m lucky enough to write in my day job, too! As a public relations counselor, I get to craft stories, messages and copy for a variety of audiences and styles—I even wrote a comic strip for a hospital once.

When I’m not glued in front of a computer or writing notebook, I’m probably out on the lake with a nice cold drink in my hands or exploring the northwoods.

What I Write
My first love is fantasy! Anne McCaffrey opened my eyes to dragons in grade school, and I’ve been spinning my own worlds ever since. I’m currently working on two epic fantasies, as well as outlines for a middle grade fantasy series and a space-opera.

I’ve also written several short stories, and you can find my story “Running in the Dark” in last spring’s issue of the Soundings Review.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

Haha – um, my floor. I don’t know, I’ve just never been a desk person. I like to sprawl and type (I used to handwrite), and I’ve been known to dictate scenes while I’m in the car, too.

 

2.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

 I like to be close to my bookshelves. I can pull out a book if I want to see how a certain author handled a similar scene, and sometimes it helps to even just glance in that direction when I need a little nudge of inspiration. Plus, I have these lovely reminders hanging on my wall over the shelves.

 nicole bookshelfNicole’s Bookshelves

3.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I love that when I’m there it means I’m WRITING!! Oh, there is also this pile of WIPs, notes and miscellaneous names, ideas and maps. It’s pretty much within arm’s reach in front of me if I’m writing on the floor. And there is my piano bench of ideas, with more sketches, cool references, the start of languages for a few of my WIPs, and my trusty thesaurus. I’m also very addicted to my mini tape recorder, which stays by my bed in case the muse knocks in the middle of the night.

4. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Oh, this is a fun one, and the answer is…it depends. Partly on the weather and partly on what I’m writing. I like chai tea with cinnamon in the winter, but I’ve done a variety. Once I happened to be drinking a maple rootbeer and it became the basis for a drink in my novel.

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

Robert Jordan and Anne McCaffrey.

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

Sadly, my biggest ritual is simply trying to squeeze in the time to write each day. I’m doing grad school in the evenings, so I often don’t get started until late, but I do try to fit it in whenever possible. I also love music when I write.

 

3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

 I definitely try! I’m lucky if I get in a full hour, but my goal is always between 1 and 2 hours a night. I actually don’t have that many distractions, though, so that’s a good thing.

 

4. Why do you write?

I love it. It’s like breathing. One of my favorite quotes is: “Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.” That’s what writing is like for me. It’s the constant.

 

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

Ooh, I’m ahead of the game. I sort of just did that in my last answer. I would just encourage everyone to keep going, learn by being an avid reader, and don’t lose sight of why you wanted to write in the first place.

 

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Thanks, Nicole, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

 

 

 

 

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TOPTENMOVIE

  Ninja Captain Alex says List your top ten favorite movies!

I love movies, so this was a tough assignment, but I managed to wrangle out one movie per genre. And since I had so many choices, I cheated a bit, and made a separate list of  my top 3 all time favorite movies.

1. ANIMATION: Finding Nemo

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2. CLASSIC: The Sound of Music

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3. COMEDY:  Sister Act

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4. EPIC: Lord of the Rings Trilogy

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5. FANTASY: Harry Potter Series

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6. HISTORICAL FICTION: The Legend of Zorro

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7. MARTIAL ARTS: Forbidden Kingdom

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8. MYSTERY: Sherlock Holmes

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9. ROMANTIC COMEDY: Love Actually

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10. SCIENCE FICTION: Star Wars Saga

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All Time Favorite Movies – Movies I can watch over and over again:

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What a fun Blogfest. Thanks Captain Ninja Alex!

Check out the other ninjas in this bloghop:

 

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National Wormhole Day Blogfest

I was supposed to post this last Wednesday, but since I had my usual Wednesday Writer’s Workspace scheduled, I’m posting late for Stephen Tremp’s National Wormhole Day Blog Hop.

National Wormhole Day Blog Hop: Here is a fun Blog Hop! What would you do or where would you go if you could traverse a wormhole through space or time just once? Would you go back in time and talk some sense into a younger you? Go five years into the future and bring back the Wall Street Journal? See just how the heck the Great Pyramids of Giza were really built? View what the other side of the universe looks like? Kill Hitler?

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A wormhole appears right in front of me, swirling blue and gold.

I frown, wondering why the time-space continuum is acting all funky today.

Then I remember. It’s National Wormhole Day.

Awesome. I’ve been waiting for just this opportunity. I jump through. I know exactly where I’m going.

I travel back in time 23 years, and find myself in a tiny bathroom, in a small apartment in Manila, Philippines.

I lift one foot from the toilet bowl, and the other from the bathtub (Apparently time travel makes you very flexible), then peek outside.

My 5 year old sister is playing with her toys, while my stepdad watches TV in the living room. I open the door slowly and dash up the stairs straight into my bedroom.

Ten year old me puts down her book and blinks up at me.

“Who are you? And why are your shoes wet?”

“Forget the shoes.” I close the door behind me and grin at her. “I’m you. Only two decades older.”

She frowns. “You look older than 30.”

“Hey I’ve had to deal with grown up stuff. Like taxes and sh-mits.” My nostrils flare. I didn’t realize I was this rude when I was younger. “You mean I look like I’m 50!?”

“No.  More like 32.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. I guess you can’t lie to yourself. “Well that’s because I am.”

“So why are you here?” My younger self asks.

“I’ve traveled back in time to give you a very important message.”

Her eyes grow wide. “What? Do I have to save the world or something?”

“No, silly. You want to be a writer.”

Her eyes narrow. “I knew that.”

“Well yes, but you’ll forget about it eventually. You’ll get distracted with school and friends and pimples–“

She gasps. “Will I have lots of pimples?”

“Just a pimple once every blue moon.”

“Oh that’s not too bad.” She says, visibly relieved. Vain little pipsqueak.

“Anyway, I was saying you’ll forget about writing eventually. Sure, you’ll dabble here and there, but writing as a career option will fade from your mind in time. You’ll listen to all the ‘practical’ advice grown-ups will give you and you’ll begin to think that what you really want to be is a doctor.”

“Because I want to help people?”

“Er..sure. Actually, it’s either that or you become a lawyer or a businesswoman. Apparently those are the only career options which will bring you money.” I snort.

“So I don’t really want to be a doctor?”

“Well, you’ll convince yourself that’s what you want. You’ll take a Pre-Med course in Psychology, then you’ll discover that you dislike the sight of blood and almost faint…” I bite my lip. “You’re not supposed to know that. Anyway—what I’m trying to tell you is this. You want to be a writer. You’ll always want to be a writer whether you forget about it or not. But the truth is writing as a profession takes a long, long time and you need lots of practice to be good at it.”

“Which is why you’ve come back in time? To give me a headstart?”

“Exactly.” I always knew I was smart. “So here’s what you have to do. Read all the books you can possibly lay hands on, and write whatever stories pop into your head.”

She grimaces. “Then I won’t have time for homework.”

What a nerd. “Well, of course you have to do your homework. We both know you like being an overachiever. But whenever you have free time—write down your stories. Play with your imaginary friends, let your creativity and imagination run wild.”

“That’s all it takes to write a book that people will read?”

“It takes a lot more than that, and you’ll learn along the way. But those are the basics. Never let go of that place in your heart that believes in magic. It’ll help you write the stories you want to write. Magic is real, trust me. It just appears in forms you might not recognize.”

She looks at me skeptically, then shrugs. “Okay.”

“Believe in yourself. Brush your teeth after every meal. Floss often. Make friends. Laugh a lot. Eat your greens. Dream big and work hard. Love yourself. Hold your loved ones close to your heart. Don’t say things you might regret and write. Always right. Oh—and never, ever, ever give up.”

“That’s a lot of clichés.”

Smart aleck. “Yes. But they’re also true.”

Her eyes bulge. “There’s a glowing portal behind you.”

“That’s my cue.”  I bend down to give her a hug.  “You’re going to be just fine. Just believe in yourself.”

She nods as if she knows this already. I smile and step into the wormhole, looking ahead to a brighter future.

 

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Damyanti

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Today is the official start for Stephen Tremp’s NATIONAL WORMHOLE DAY BLOG HOP, which I signed up for. But since I’d already scheduled my regular Wednesday Writer’s Workspace post, I’ll be posting on my Wormhole Day post on Friday.

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TWN WWW 300

 

Today, I am most eager to welcome Damyanti

Damyanti  Ghosh is  an  established  freelance  writer  for  various  magazines  and  journals.  Her  short  fiction  has  been  published  in  the   Quarterly  Literary  Review  Singapore,  Muse  India  and  in  print  anthologies  by  Marshall  Cavendish,  Monsoon  Books, MPH  publications and various others. She  writes  as  Damyanti  Ghosh,  and  under  the  pen  name  of  D  Biswas.

Welcome, Damyanti!

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Profile pic

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

I’m a freelance writer who has strayed into fiction. I love reading, and keeping aquariums. I feel most at peace reading in front of my aquariums. I’m afraid I can’t see much talent in me, hidden, or otherwise.

 

Reading in front of the aquarium modified

Reading in front of the aquarium

 

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I write fiction at restaurants, mostly. Or if I’m lucky, in front of windows with a view like the one below. I can’t seem to write fiction 1st drafts on my work desk. I can do edits there, but not rewrites. Go figure. It must be a left brain-right brain thingie.

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 Writing with a view

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

It is a simple Ikea desk. I find the more time I spend preparing to write, the less I write: so I’ve more or less given up on decorating my study.

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I do have pens and stick-it notes lying around, but I only use them during the planning or revision stage. During 1st drafts, it is the laptop.

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Damyanti’s writing desk

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I don’t love my workspace as such. It is there, and it is where I write my articles, but I’m not sentimental about it.

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Green tea, always.

 

 

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

I have so many favorite authors it is tough to name them, right now it is Julian Barnes.

I think my ‘inspirers’ are not literary.

They would have to be my father, my husband, my writing teacher – in the order in which they came into my life. The one who suffers the most due to my writing but still supports me is of course my husband.

 

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

Usually I’ll wake up early and write. If I can’t get to that, I’ll tear my hair a bit, and then head out, usually to a place that serves tea. Each day is different. I still lack the discipline to just sit there and write. I’ve learned to stretch between writing sessions, and on better days, I can get a 1000 words done in two hours, or three.

3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

When on a fiction project, I try to write everyday. When I’m not writing fiction, I’m writing articles. Or I’m writing fiction in my head (which is pretty much all the time). The internet is my distraction, as it is with most modern writers. This is why I run away to eateries that don’t have wifi.

4. Why do you write?

The reasons have changed over the years. In the beginning it was a welcome distraction, then it became a passion. Now it is more or less my meditation.

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

I don’t know that I have written enough to give a good tip, but I’ll give it a shot.

My current wisdom would consist of this: Try and write as much as you can, everyday, but be forgiving of yourself when you can’t. Embrace both criticism and praise, and use them both. Treat rejection and acceptance as much as equals as you possibly can, and write your first drafts only for yourself.

 

 

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Thanks, Damyanti, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

 

 

 

 

 

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I personally love using the keyboard (especially since my handwriting pretty much sucks).  But there is a certain magic in writing with a pen that allows us more freedom to express ourselves.  That’s probably why most writing exercises (especially the freewriting ones) will advise you to write with pen and paper. Most journals are done by hand for this same reason—and because pen and paper is more easily accessible than a laptop.

Journaling or creative writing should be a pleasurable experience—one that you’d like to do over and over again so that you can grow your writing skills.

And writing by hand can be fun—especially if you have the right tools. I’ve already shared with you some things to consider when choosing the write creative writing journal or notebook.

Now I’ll share some factors to consider when choosing the right pen for your creative writing endeavors.

 

Weight

If you write often and a lot, you might want to consider a lighter pen versus a heavier one.  If you have a stronger grip, heavier steel/brass barrelled pens might also be best for you.

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Benchmade Tactical Pen from Knifecenter.com

 

 

Thickness

Do you prefer a thicker or thinner pen? I personally enjoy thicker pens because the solid feeling they have in my hands allows me more freedom to doodle or write in my journal.

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Alibi Fountain Pen, from Dannzeman.com

 

Thinner pens are great for lugging around, but may be more taxing to write with for a longer period of time.

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HP Ipaq Stylus and pen from mrgadget.com

 

Length

Likewise, shorter pens are portable and will easily fit in the spiral of smaller notebooks or notepads. But they are harder to control and will become more tedious to write with, if you’re writing for a long time.

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Short lanyard pens from scrollpen.net

 

Longer pens are more comfortable in the long run.

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Archi long pens from lexon-design-store.com

 

Design

You can choose the appearance, material, and finish you like for your pens.  Some plastic and metal pens feel smoother to the touch, while others may have a slight texture to help with the grip. Of course, pens come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes as well. Choose the one that suits not only your needs, but your personality.

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Geeky pen designs from walyou.com

 

Taking time to pick a special pen for your journal/creative writing notebook might motivate you to likewise spend more time using the pen, and writing.

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Food pens from spiralcircle.com

 

Ink Type

Ballpoint ink comes in a variety of colors and writes smoothly on most types of papers, and is the fastest drying among all inks.  Most of the colored dyes used in ballpoints may fade with time and if exposed too much to light.

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Papermate Flexigrip pen from Staples.com

 

Water based ink used in some rollerball pens and fountain pens are a thinner liquid and thus might not do too well on glossy surfaces or coated paper. These are fun to use for calligraphy or for fine writing, however and can readily be used if your journal has thick, textured paper.

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Sharpie pens from officesupplygeek.com

 

Gel Ink is fast becoming a favorite for many writers. It might take time to try, depending on the type of paper you’re writing on, but it’s waterproof and lightfast. Most gel inks are acid-free, as well, which means they are archival quality and keep for a long, long time.

gel pen

 

Gel pens from doesthispenwrite.wordpress.com

 

Ink Color

Many writers prefer the usual black or blue ink, since we’re used to seeing this color on paper everywhere. However, there are also creative types who prefer to write with their favorite colors.

There are tons of color choices out there and you can choose one color for each type of writing you do.

I find that purple and green inked pens are becoming quite popular for editing and proofreading, instead of the usual red.

 

Cost

This is the final thing to consider when choosing a pen for your writing, but it’s also one of the most important ones.

If you’re the type to easily lose or misplace pens, it might be safer to buy cheaper or mid-priced ones. But buying more expensive pens may also work in your advantage. If you know how much money you spent on these pens, you might take better care of it.

The good thing about buying pricier pens is that you get what you pay for. These high end pens will deliver on quality and design and may last longer than their cheaper cousins. They also might have the option of being refillable, which means that after your initial pricey purchase, you can save by buying refills. (Assuming you don’t lose the pen, of course :) )

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Montblanc 100 Years Solitaire rare blue diamond  pen

 

These are just some of the things to consider when choosing a pen specifically for creative writing purposes.

If you want a more in depth post on pens, read Arkanabar ‘s  AWESOME article on Selecting a Writing Instrument. Arkanabar is a pen enthusiast and has even compiled a list of links to other Pen Enthusiasts, Manufacturers and Retailers.

My personal favorite is the Pentel Energel Retractable pen series. They come in both .5 mm and .7mm.  I use these thicker .5mm for writing in my journal or freewriting.

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Energel pens, from daviswebtech.com

 

I also use the purple Energel pen for some of my editing work.

Purple-Energel-pen

Lately though, I’ve been addicted to the blue Energel .7mm pen. I’ve been using for editing, as well as for writing in my calendars and lists.

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So what’s your favorite pen? Do you have a specific pen for each specific task?

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Spotlight Week: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE Giveaway

This week, the Spotlight was on BETH REVIS and her awesome Sci Fi Series ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

Curious to know more? Check out my review of the trilogy.

And if you missed it, here’s the link to my interview with Beth Revis.

It’s the end of another Spotlight Week, which means it’s time for another awesome giveaway.

Today, I’m giving away a SIGNED COPY of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE!

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To win, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The contest will end on March 29,2013, Friday.

Good luck!

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