Archive for September, 2013

SCBWI Working Writers Retreat 2013

Last weekend (September 20 – 22, 2013), I got to attend my favorite writing event of the year: the SCBWI Working Writers Retreat.

waving hello


WWR 2013 Retreat Attendees

As usual, the retreat was held at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino, CA.  Our faculty this year Andrew Harwell, editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books; Liza Pulitzer-Voges, literary agent at Eden Street; Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher at Beach Lane Books and the powerhouse duo of Judy Enderle and Stephanie Gordon, who have co-written dozens of children’s books together.

Sarah Laurenson, head organizer of the retreat welcomed everyone to the retreat and did the usual round of introductions.

Afterward, co-organizer Claudia Harrington facilitated a panel on revision.


Panel on Revision


To get us ready for the weekend, our esteemed faculty each gave us tips and techniques for revising our manuscripts. They also shared their take on what the all elusive “voice” really means in  a manuscript.


judy enderle

Judy Enderle, author of many children’s books 

* Set your manuscript aside for 2-3 weeks so you can go through it as an editor instead of as an author.

* When it comes to revising your manuscript, don’t listen to too many people. Stop and consider where the advice is coming from.

* An author’s voice has to do with her word choices, the rhythm of her writing, her style. A character’s voice on the other hand, refers to the way your character expresses herself in the story.

Stephanie Gordon

Stephanie Gordon, author of many children’s books 

* Exchange manuscripts. Find someone you can trust to read your manuscript and give you critique.

* Find a writing group in your genre.

* While your main character’s voice is what you’ll work on the hardest, you need to make sure that you use different voices for different characters. Make sure your characters don’t all sound the same.

Allyn Johnston

Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher at Beach Lane Books

* It’s very important to create a dummy of your picture book.

* Picture book dummies will help you figure out the pacing and rhythm of your picture books.

* I know a main character has a good voice when I’m able to relax and just immerse myself into the story while reading.

Liza Vogel Pulitzer

Liza Pulitzer-Voges, Literary Agent at Eden Street

* For Picture Book revisions, ask yourselves: do the words sound just right? Do the pages turn at the right time? Pacing is very important.

* When reading through Middle Grade and Young Adult novels, I always look for  a consistent voice.

* When revising a novel, try to change your perspective. You might want to write in third person instead of first, or vice versa. Changing the perspective might change the whole tone of the book.

andrew harnell

Andrew Harwell, Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books

* Authenticity and immediacy are very important qualities I look for in novels.

* Make sure you’re writing as the MG/YA character in your novel. When revising, ask yourself: does this feel like a real kid character?

* Also when revising, eliminate sentences with the words “thought”, “wonders”,  “remembers”, “think”.  See if you can rewrite these sentences in a different way. Show, don’t tell.

The panel on Revision was immediately followed by a 20 minute stretching routine with our Stretch Guru Lynette Townsend. Lynette taught us some stretching exercise we could use to keep us relaxed and fit during the weekend retreat.


Stretching with Instructor Lynette


As with last year’s retreat, the group was divided into two major groups : the Award Winners and the Best Sellers. All five teams belonging to the Best Seller group had their first critique right after the  stretching routine.  It was the best time slot, I thought, since we were all wired and ready after the stretching exercises with Lynette.

Dinner was at 5:30pm, and it was followed by our final critique session of the evening. And to cap off our stellar first day, we had the Wine and Cheese Social.

wine and cheese

Faculty Members Lisa Pulitzer Voges, Lynette Townsend & Judy Enderle with Organizer Sally Jones Rogan, at the Wine & Cheese Social

Day 2 of the retreat began with breakfast at 8am, followed by a morning walk and stretching exercises with Lynette.


Going for a morning walk after breakfast

Wide awake after our morning exercises, we headed to our assigned faculty member to begin the first critique session of the day.

Since there were four of us in each group, we all had 15 minutes of critique time. Almost all the faculty members that weekend made us read our work for 7 minutes, and left the rest of the time to give their feedback, as well as encourage feedback from our group mates.

Lunch came soon enough, and after that we gathered at the quad to take our class and group pictures.

Class Picture Formal modified

 Two more critique sessions followed after that, with breaks in between so we could go to our rooms and revise our manuscripts. The organizers made sure that an Award Winner always roomed with a Best Seller. This was so that we each could have the room to ourselves while our roommates were out for their critiques. This brilliant arrangement was what helped make sure that we all had time to revise our manuscripts in peace–or even take a power nap if necessary.

And because it was going to be our last night with each other, we ended it with a bang. Or more like a song.

Saturday night was Karaoke night.


The wine and drinks available that evening certainly helped us all let loose. There were a few brave souls who sang solo, but most sang in groups of three or more. We discovered many new talents that evening.


Karaoke night felt like the calm before the storm.

Day 3 was our most intense day yet. The room was filled with a nervous energy for the First pages reading session. Sarah introduced us to the panel of acquiring agents and editors who would listen to our first pages. Faculty members Lisa Pulitzer-Voges, Allyn Johnston and Andrew Harwell were joined by literary agents Jill Corcoran and Richard Florest.

first pages  panel

Agent Lisa Pulitzer-Voges, Publisher Allyn Johnston, Editor Andrew Harwell, and Agents Jill Corcoran and Richard Florest

Each participant was given 3 minutes. We read for a minute or so, and the rest of the time listened to what the panel had to say about our first pages.

Although I was a veteran at the first pages reading session, I was still nervous as I stepped behind the podium for my turn. The past two years, I always slept late the night before, agonizing over my first page rewrites. This year, I actually spent a total of 10 minutes revising my first page. I didn’t want to cobble together a completely new first page as I had the previous times. I wanted the panel’s frank opinion on the first page which I had revised over the weekend.

After reading my 250 words, I readied my pen to take note of all their comments. I was expecting them to give me some helpful feedback and to tell me what parts worked for them and what didn’t. I was extremely surprised when they all said they liked my first page and thought it was well-written and intriguing. I heaved a big sigh of relief and was all smiles when I went back to my seat.

first pages reading

The First Pages Reading Session soon ended and we all gave each other a round of applause for surviving. We all thanked our panel for their helpful feedback. To end our retreat on a high note, the organizers held a drawing and gave away some prizes for lucky winners to take home.

The retreat ended with some fond farewells and promises to keep in touch.

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SCBWI Working Writers Retreat Class of 2013

Last weekend I attended the SCBWI L.A. Working Writers Retreat. This was the 4th time I’ve attended and I have to say the retreat just seems to keep on getting better and better.

When I first attended the retreat I’d asked the organizers if I could get the group together for a class picture—simply because I loved my experience so far and wanted a little keepsake of my wonderful time there. Four retreats later, the photo session has become an anticipated part of the weekend schedule, and I’ve become the retreat’s official photographer.

I’m not a professional photographer, but my aim is always to capture the essence of an event. The SCBWI Working Writers Retreat this year was all sorts of amazing, and I hope to share a glimpse of its wonderful spirit with these pictures.


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Informal Class

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes T.F. Walsh


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 T.F. Walsh, author of the romance fantasy novel Cloaked in Fur.


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Welcome Tania!


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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T.F. Walsh


I was born in Romania and moved to Australia at the age of eight with my family. Starting a new school in a new country was difficult since the only English word I knew was ‘blue’. I don’t even know why I knew that word. Oh, and also Tarzan. They used to show the black and white TV show over in Romania and my dad had bought me the doll when I was youngJ Fast forward many years and I’m now married to a wonderful man who spoils me all the time. He’s the biggest sweetheart. I work in marketing – social media – during the day and work closely with food bloggers. But my real passion is writing. My stories tend to fall under the fantasy umbrella, but they always have dark elements to them. I’m a huge horror buff so I guess it’s only natural that slips into my writing. When I’m not working or writing, I’m a huge lover of baking, so you’ll find me in the kitchen.

Tid-bits you may not know about me:

  • I did gymnastics for eight years.
  • Even though I’ve lived in Australia most of my life, I still have a slight accent. Most people’s first guess is that I’m from South Africa.
  • I did a double university degree in marketing and accounting, yet I’ve never done any bookkeeping or accounting work in my life. (I’m in the blue bellow and that’s my older sister)

Me graduating from uni modifiedT.F and her sister 


  • I’m a self-trained food photographer.
  • I have been told I need to be more tactful when speaking to people, eg. I once told hubby a pair of his sunnies (which he bought before we got together) made him look like he had raccoon eyes. Now he refuses to buy glasses without my input.
  • This is me at 19 when I went to the USA on my own. I will always remember this trip – I had no inhibitions and followed my heart, meeting great people and just enjoying life. This was me and some friends stuck on a motorway in North Carolina due to a huge accident ahead :)

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On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

My desk is where I do most of my work, though I often pop out to the café to write drafts scenes I’m stuck on. It does wonders.


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

I think my desk used to belong to my hubby before we got together. In fact it’s situated in the living room. It’s a pretty big room, and since most of the time hubby is downstairs playing computer games, I get lots of peace and quiet to write.

My desk modified

T.F.’s Workspace



I’m a bit of a mess maker at my desk and pile things on top of each other. Every now and then I throw some order into the mess… but not that often :)



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

My necessities are my mac, water and a cup of tea. Then I’m all set. But I do have a few quirky fun things around my desk that help me focus on creativity… one such thing is a werewolf statue I’ve dressed up in a ribbon. Mainly because I like the idea of binding such a wild creature, and I mean who wouldn’t want power over their uncontrollable side. Of course I’m not talking about me… though if I were a werewolf, I’m not sure I would tell anyone. Hmmm, maybe I would tell some people…hehe

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

I like the fact that I have everything I could need at arms reach – books, notepads, pens, my scribbles, and of course it’s my little corner.

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

Always a hot cup of tea with less water and extra milk, no sugar. Yeah, hubby’s not a fan of ordering tea for me when we go outJ


On Writing

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

Richard Laymon and Arthur C Clark – I grew up reading their stories and it’s definitely inspired me to make my stories character driven and add suspense around every corner.

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

I always need a hot cup of tea and a bottle of water at my desk. Then before I do anything, I feel compelled to do a quick round of checking of all my emails (I have a few), facebook, twitter, website, and a few others sites. Now I know this is a bad habit and I really need to jump into my writing, but so far I’ve struggled with this. Any suggestions to kick the habit?

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

I try to, but it doesn’t happen. The days I go into work, I can’t get time to write since I drive over an hour each way and tend to get home late. Because I work part time, I use the other days to make sure I write something each day. My goal is to write at least 1000 words on those days. Sometimes I’ll do more and others less – depends on my state of my mind that day, so I go with the flow. I tend to spend the rest of the day doing lots of editing. I do get distracted by games on my ipad… I tell myself I only need to play one game and then I can start writing… an hour later I’m still playing. I need to hide the ipad.


4. Why do you write?

I have a wild imagination and it just fits perfectly with story telling… I want to share with people my ideas and creative worlds and characters, and let me just say, most people outside of the writing community think I’m a bit strange or different because I don’t believe in acting like I’m all grown up when I know I’m not on the inside.

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

Join a writing group or get critique partners or both. You really can’t improve in writing without honest feedback from other people who understand writing, rather than family members.


Cool quote from Richard Laymon: ‘Calm down, you’ll live longer.’



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 Cloaked in Fur is Available Now

As a moonwulf, Daciana never expected to fall in love with a human. Hell, she never imagined that she’d abandon her pack, endanger everyone around her, and break the worst rule possible. But she did.

A rogue werewolf is killing Daciana’s friends, and she sets on capturing the creature.  She’ll do whatever it takes to stop the beast. The police and her boyfriend, Inspector Connell Lonescu, are starting to question her involvement in the murders, which is endangering the pack’s secret existence. But when the pack alpha kidnaps Connell, revealing the awful truth about the creature and its connection to the pack, Daciana must choose between saving the man she loves and saving her pack family from certain death.

Paranormal Suspense With Strong Romance






Buy Cloaked in Fur Here:


Amazon UK:

Barnes and Noble:


All Romance:

Kobo Books:

Crimson Romance Books:

Publisher: Crimson Romance


Author Links









Thanks  for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Tania!

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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Belt Ceremony

You might remember that I took another belt test just last June. You might also be wondering if I passed.

I’m happy to report that I did, and last August 15th, I finally got my BROWN BELT. (After this, I’ll have to test for Brown 1, Brown 2 and Brown 3 before I get to Black, but I’m getting there!)

So what happens during a Doce Pares Belt Awarding Ceremony? 


Sticks fly everywhere! (But if you’re quick enough you can avoid it from landing on your face)

drillsSteve and I practicing our stick fighting drills (photo by Maiko)



Bodies fly everywhere, too. (In a safe and more controlled manner. Sort of)


Master Erwin showing us the proper takedown (photo by Yvette)


Me, trying to fall the right way (photo by Yvette)

Learning the proper takedown (video by Maiko)

There’s a lot of goofing around.

goofing around

Steve practicing his locks on me, and David totally photobombing the shot. (photo by Maiko)

Then finally Master Erwin awards the much awaited certificates and belts.

certificateYay, I got my Brown Belt! (photo by Yvette)

To show off  our certificates, we take a formal class picture.

class picture formal

 Showing off our certificates (photo by Yvette)


To pretend like we know what we’re doing, we take an informal class picture.

class picture informal


Showing off our stances. (Photo by Yvette)

And finally to celebrate our accomplishments, we go out to eat.


And that’s what happens at a Doce Pares Belt Ceremony.

Thanks to Master Erwin, instructors Earl and Toy and to my Torrance classmates for teaching me the ways of Escrima.

And a very special thanks to Maiko and Yvette for taking awesome pictures and videos and supporting me all the way!

brown belt

Trying on my brown belt for the first time (photo by Yvette)

Now on to Brown 1!

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Spotlight Week Giveaway

This week the Spotlight was on Veronica Rossi and her thrilling YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy book UNDER THE NEVER SKY, Book 1 of Under the Never Sky Trilogy.

If you want to know more about UNDER THE NEVER SKY you can read my book review here. Check out the amazing trailer below:


I also have a fun interview with author Veronica Rossi here.

It’s the end of another Spotlight Week, and today, I’m giving away a SIGNED COPY of UNDER THE NEVER SKY

under the never sky

To win, just Leave a comment below and tell me why you’d like a copy of the book.

I’ll put all your names in my magical drawing box and pick the winner.

I love encouraging people to unleash their imaginative and creative sides, so the more creative your answers are, the more chances you have of winning. If your comment/answer tickles my fancy, I’ll add another slip of paper (or two) with your name on it to my drawing box.

Also, if you tweet about this giveaway, or share it on Facebook, I’ll add more 2 slips of papers with your name on it.
AND if you FOLLOW ME on Linky OR on Facebook’s networked blogs, I’ll add 6 more entries with your name into the drawing bowl.

The contest is international and will run until September 30, 2013.

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Spotlight Week Author Interview: Veronica Rossi

I’ve been a fan of UNDER THE NEVER SKY ever since I first listened to the audiobook version a couple of years ago. So I was quite thrilled when I met author Veronica Rossi at the 2012 Wondercon YA Panel.

YA AUthors at wondercon

 Veronica Rossi with other YA Authors: Andrea Cremer, Gretchen McNeil, Ransom Riggs, Lissa Price, Ann Aguirre and Kami Garcia at the 2012 Wondercon YA Panel


Author Veronica Rossi is one of the busiest writers out there, so I’m lucky she even had time to do a blog interview with me. :)

Without further delay, I present the talented Veronica Rossi.


Author’s Bio from her website

Veronica Rossi is the author of post-apocalyptic fiction for young adults. Her debut novel, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, is the first in a trilogy. Released in January 2012, it was deemed one of the Best Books of Year by School Library Journal. The second book in the trilogy, THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT, debuted in January on the NY Times and USA Today Best Seller Lists. The final book in the series, INTO THE STILL BLUE, is expected to release January 2014.

Foreign rights to the UNDER THE NEVER SKY trilogy have sold in over twenty-five territories to date and film rights have been optioned by Warner Bros.

She completed undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons. When not writing, she enjoys reading, painting, and counting down the minutes until she can get back to making up stories about imaginary people. 

Her work is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.
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The Talented Veronica Rossi

1. You’ve just recently finished writing the third book in the series (hurray!). Which of the three books did you enjoy writing the most? Which one gave you the most trouble?

 I loved writing the final book, INTO THE STILL BLUE. It felt great to deliver on all of the threads I’d been building up! And THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT was the hardest, because I had a few false starts with it, but I’m extremely proud of the end result.

2. The world in UNDER THE NEVER SKY is full of merciless yet fascinating landscapes—wastelands, skies full of electrical storms, and enclosed cities. What inspired these settings, and how did you go about building this world?

The setting for the trilogy was loosely based on a future California, specifically the Central Coast. The Aether was inspired by an image that I’ve always found particularly beautiful – light dancing on water. Building the world happened with a lot of research, followed by improvisation, followed by research, followed by improvisation. You get the picture :)

3. If you could spend one day with any character in your series, who would it be?

 Either Soren or Marron. I find Soren fascinating, and I’m drawn to Marron’s wisdom and sense of calm.

4. Your trilogy has been optioned for film by Warner Brothers (I’m so excited!), which scene from UNDER THE NEVER SKY would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

One of my favorite scenes is the “rooftop” scene, where Aria and Perry first hold hands. It’s a quiet scene, but something shifts in that moment for them. I feel like their friendship begins. I’d love to see that scene!

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

Most days, I get my kids off to school, then I answer emails for a little while, then jump into the manuscript. I usually listen to music, and I’m very committed to setting—and trying my best to keep—daily goals.

6.  Are you currently working on any other projects?

I’m working on a series right now, but I’m not at liberty to discuss it yet. I can say that it’s an upper YA fantasy, and that I’m really excited about it.

7. What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

Find support. Find people who are in the same boat, and people who can mentor you. Writing is so solitary. I found, for me, that it really helped to create a sense of community. Also, and most importantly: don’t give up! Writing takes lots and lots of focused effort. You have to just stay with it, even when it’s difficult!


Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a signed copy of UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

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Spotlight Week Book Review: Under the Never Sky

This month’s Spotlight Week features UNDER THE NEVER SKY, Book 1 of Under the Never Sky Trilogy by YA Author Veronica Rossi

 under the never sky


Under the Never Sky

384 pages, Hardcover

Genre: YA Ages 12 and up

Published on January 3, 2012 by HarperCollins

ISBN-10: 9780062072030

ISBN-13: 978-0062072030

First Line:

They called the world beyond the walls of the Pod “the Death Shop.”



 Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland – known as The Death Shop – are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild – a savage – and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile – everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

My Review:

Under the Never Sky is a dystopian story with a strange combination of science fiction and fantasy elements. The world it portrays is deadly and unforgiving: food is scarce, diseases run wild and the skies are filled with aether storms –torrential, lethal, and unpredictable.

In this story, the world is also divided into two camps. On one hand, there are people who live in Pods–technologically advanced cities built under domes. They are safe from the aether storms and fortunate enough to have food and other needs available, but they are also trapped within the dome’s confines. To counter the feeling of restlessness and boredom, the people here use technology to escape into alternate realms in their minds.

On the other hand, are the Outsiders—people who have chosen to live off the wealth of the land, and beneath the harsh open skies. Their lack of technology means that every day they risk death.  They’ve reverted back into the old ways of tribal living. They are hunters and farmers who are always on the brink of hunger due to failing crops, or of disease. In order to survive the brutal world around them, these outsiders have developed Senses— which means that one of their five senses are heightened so much that they become almost super human in their abilities. There are Audiles, who have super sense of hearing, Scires with an extreme sense of smell and Seers whose vision compares to that of nighttime predators.

The story is told in the alternating points of view of Aria, a Pod dweller, and Perry, an Outsider. Their paths cross when Aria sets out from the Pod of Reverie to look for her missing mother.

Aria and Perry come from two very different worlds, so their relationship begins with a lot of fear and distrust. Unlike most YA books where there seems to be an instant love connection, these two actually start out disliking each other. Through the ups and downs of their shared journey, however, they begin to learn more about each other’s lives and worlds. Respect develops and they learn to depend on each other.  Their connection is born not only out of the need to survive and find answers, but also because they actually give each other hope and meaning in life.

Aria and Perry are both strong and stubborn in their own ways and watching them grow as individuals and develop as a couple was for me, the most enjoyable part of reading the novel.

There are a lot of unanswered questions with regards to the world-building in this story. The history of how the world came to be as it was isn’t fully explained, but I suspect everything will be cleared up as the next two books in the trilogy arrive. (The second book of the trilogy, Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky), is out in stores now)

through the ever night

UNDER THE NEVER SKY is one book which I certainly recommend to all fans of YA novels—especially those who love dystopian stories. Its riveting action scenes, intriguing storylines, and well-fleshed out characters make it a must read.



Come back this Wednesday for the second part of the Spotlight Week, where we feature an interview with UNDER THE NEVER SKY Author Veronica Rossi.

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Workshop Description:

Creating irresistible worlds is the main strategy we have as book writers to compete with entertainment modes that move at the speed of speed.  And snagging a young reader’s interest is all about the world you bid them enter, one they will co-create (as we writer’s know, in our civilization’s past, video games were called “imagination”).

Why should they enter the world you’ve made for them?  The ancient storytellers –mythmakers dialed in to the art of getting their audience to make the leap…and you can be, too.

Reece Michaelson and Pamela Jaye Smith, authors of THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE– SCROLL I: FROM THE SHADOWS, a book with a new archetype for girls, share their ABC’s for creating irresistible worlds for readers.

Learn more about the book here:

Read an interview with the authors here:


Speakers’ Bios:

author Reece Michaelson 1

Author Reece Michaelson

When Reece Michaelson decided it was time to generate a new archetype for girls, she knew the one person who could help make it fly was Mythworks™ consultant Pamela Jaye Smith. With her considerable background in applied mythology and esoteric teachings, Pamela had provided  insights on the mythical underpinnings of an original series idea Reece pitched to noted SciFi scriptwriter/executive director Rockne S. O’Bannon (DEFIANCE, ALIEN NATION, FARSCAPE, SF ONE)  which resulted in an irresistible idea that snagged O’Bannon’s interest, and the subsequent pilot script was bought by ABC/Touchstone. As well, having been mentored at NYU by some of the great icon-creators of our time, including Arthur Laurents (WEST SIDE STORY) and Stephen Schwartz (WICKED), Reece could see that Pamela Jaye’s sense for combining education with spot-on storytelling would help nail the most iconic aspects of the tale.



author pamela jaye smith

Author Pamela Jaye Smith

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 MYTHWORKSand co-founder of the Alpha Babe Academy and Mythic Challenges. She has presented workshops for the Children’s Book Writers of LA in 2011 and 2012.


Workshop Summary:

Based on the ancient Greek mythology of Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun, THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE SCROLL 1: FROM THE SHADOWS is a story about a budding young inventor named Calice. The book steeped in mythology and as such was the perfect example for co –authors Pamela and Reece’s workshop.

authors with their book petra volare


Pamela Jaye Smith and Reece Michaelson on their Book Petra Volare

Creating irresistible worlds is the primary goal of any writer or content creator. In order to craft tales that engage their audience, they must use timeless world-making tools. These story-crafting tools were well known by the ancient storytellers–the mythmakers—and are still useful in today’s writing process.

Pamela and Reece explained the ABC’s for creating irresistible world for today’s readers.

A – Access an Applicable Myth. (Or Access several)

B – Burn and Crash vs. Crash and Burn: reverse causality.

C – Cadence.

D – Drives: Inner Begets Outer.

E – Etymology: be a detective.

F – Field notes.

G – Go out.

H – Hire Pamela Jaye!!  (not kidding!)  Alternate: Hallucinate.

I – Inquire of main character:  “What’s YOUR favorite myth/mythic Archetype?”

J – Journaling: accessing characters’ innermost secrets.

K – Kaleidoscope journaling – use a single event [think “Roshomon”].

L – Legends vs. Myth vs. Folk Tales.

M – Map the world.

N – Name the Nobody.

O – Orphans: why they’re so potent (and prevalent in KidLit).

P – Pay attention to patterns in contemporary media.

Q – Questify everyone’s role.

R – Reverse Engineer: unravel and reweave your applicable myth.

S – Symbology: infuse your story.

T – Trailer:  conceive your book’s trailer.

U – Ultimatum: tool of the gods/goddesses.

V – Value Add:  make a Teacher’s Guide.

W – World Making Through Mythic Cover Art.

X – XENA: Watch old episodes.

Y – YouTube Field Trips.

Z – Zeus Ex Machina….or, Zip It Up!

attentive audience

Attentive CBWLA participants


One of my favorite parts of the workshop was when Pamela discussed the differences between Legends, Myth and Folk Tales.

According to her, Legends are stories about people/things that happened but gain a higher status. The stories are based on truth but over time become grander and more metaphorical in nature.

Folk Tales are stories told by locals to get everyone in line with the local customs and beliefs of their village. They teach kids and newcomers how to behave in a certain way within their culture.

Myths are universal truths dressed up in local lore, and  can be used to add a depth of meaning to one’s writing. The best myths are true on several levels:

  1. Geological
  2. Geographical
  3. Physiological
  4. Psychological
  5. Sociological
  6. Historical
  7. Astrological
  8. Cosmological
  9. Astronomical


authors pamela jaye smith and reece michaelson


Pamela Jaye Smith and Reece Michaelson 

Pamela also suggested using Symbology to infuse one’s story, since symbols have a built in pattern that humans can subconsciously pick up.  Finding the main symbol in your story—whether it’s a symbol for a character, an element (like earth, water, fire or air), or even architecture will add a layer of meaning to your work.  For example, high ceilings actually heighten creativity just as low enclosed spaces dampen them. So placing a character in a cave vs placing him in a cathedral will bring about different meanings to the scene.

Pamela and Reece also shared a list of valuable resources that writers can use in order to learn more about myths and symbols.

After a Q & A session, the workshop ended, and everyone lined up to get copies of their books signed by authors.

Pamela and Reece were very generous with their time and knowledge. They answered all of the participants’ questions about their own manuscripts and even brought cookies for everyone to share as snacks! They also proudly wore the CBWLA pins which we had given them during their entire workshop.

speakers with officers

Authors Reece Michaelson and Pamela Jaye Smith ( proudly wearing their CBWLA pins), 

with CBWLA Officers Nutschell Windsor and Tiffani Barth, 


Their workshop can only be described as outstanding and we are truly lucky to have had Pamela and Reece as speakers.

pamela jaye smith and reece michaelson with cbwla

Authors Pamela Jaye Smith and Reece Michaelson with CBWLA

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Rachel Morgan



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 Rachel Morgan, author of Amazon’s bestselling YA paranormal fantasy series CREEPY HOLLOW.

creepy-hollow-series modified

You can also find Rachel blogging at

Welcome  Rachel!


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?Rachel Morgan author photo

Author Rachel Morgan

I used to be a teacher, but I’m fortunate enough now to write FULL TIME (yay!) as well as doing graphic, video and other book-related work for the small business I just launched (Morgan Media). I write for young adults, with my favorite genre being paranormal fantasy. My hobbies and interests include reading (obviously!), baking, series-watching, and crafts (like scrapbooking and jewelry-making, for example). And my hidden talent is for picking the longest queue at the shop eating large amounts of chocolate without getting sick!



On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I have an entire study to myself at home. There are lots of shelves filled with my favorite books, and there’s a long counter area where I can spread my work out.

Rachel Morgan workspace

Rachel’s Workspace


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

This is not an exciting story. The person who lived here before us installed a built-in counter-type desk area. It’s a little too high for me so I have to add cushions to my chair!

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

I need water, and I need to have my diary open beside me to make random notes and keep up with whatever I’m meant to be doing for the day. (Chocolate isn’t a necessity, but it helps if it’s also around!)


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

I guess what I love most is that it’s MY OWN space just for working in. Last year my work area was half of my bedroom; I never really enjoyed that. I think it’s good to separate work and rest/relaxation! I keep a copy of my own books on the shelf right next to me, and that helps to inspire and keep me excited about my stories.

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

Okay, this is really boring, but I drink a lot of water! When I feel like indulging, though, it’ll be hot chocolate.

 Rachel Morgan fave pix

Rachel’s favorite picture


On Writing

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

Favorite author is difficult to pick, but J.K. Rowling, Cassandra Clare and Philip Pullman are up there are the top. So many authors have inspired me to write, but I think the first one was Philip Pullman. His Dark Materials was an AMAZING series.


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

I get up pretty early and do the “admin” things before breakfast, like going onto Triberr and checking emails and blog comments. I’ll spend as many hours in the day as I can writing, and a few days in the week I try to fit a visit to the gym in somewhere! Sometimes I write in the evening, but evenings are usually reserved for family or “relaxing” online activities like Facebook.

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

I’m about to release a new book, so I’m not doing any new writing at the moment, but when I’m in book-writing mode, then I do write every day. Maybe about six hours. My main distractions are my puppies (two minutes ago, while writing these answers, I had to rush outside because they were chewing apart the wire for the fairy lights we have wrapped around one of the trees!) and Facebook.

Rachel Morgan puppy distractions

Rachel’s adorable writing distractions


4. Why do you write?

My mind has been concocting stories for as long as I can remember, and I want to share them with the rest of the reading world :-)

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

Writing tip (and I don’t know who originally came up with this): BICHOK. Butt in chair; hands on keyboard. A lot of the time you won’t feel like writing, especially when you’re in the middle of a looooong novel and it feels like you’ll never reach the end. But you just have to make yourself do the hard work!

Writing quote: “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~ Toni Morrison


Thanks  for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Rachel!

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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Author Karen Lange on Editing

I’m always so happy when bloggy friends visit my blog–especially if they’re sharing some wonderful writing tips or techniques. :)

Today I’m excited to have Karen Lange, author of Home School Co-ops 101: Essential Co-op Tools, Tips and Options for Today’s Homeschool Families, which will be  available late September 2013 from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

book cover Home school 101

Take it away, Karen!



It’s always fun to compare notes with other writers. Even if we write in different genres, we still have much in common. One thing we all do is edit.

How would you classify your editing style? Do you edit as you write, or focus and let the words flow then edit later? Or do you do a mix of both?

I use a combination of both, depending on what I’m writing. The following tips have helped ease many editing sessions. I’m curious to see if you use any of these too.

1) I allow myself to write badly. I’m not good at letting messy sentences go, as the inner editor combined with perfectionist tendencies wants to get everything right the first time. However, I’ve learned that it’s okay to crank out less than perfect stuff at first.

2) Print the work. There’s something different about reading words on paper versus on the computer screen.  Often we read our work on the screen thinking we know what’s there. Printing it can highlight problem areas and typos missed otherwise.

3) Let it rest. Stepping away for even a few hours can offer a fresh perspective. Things that sounded great (or terrible) before might sound different when we return.

4) Read it aloud. Then read it aloud again. Slowly. This takes practice, for as in #2, our brains often think we know what’s written and moves too quickly through the text.  The ear is a great editor, catching rough or awkward spots the eyes miss.

5) Get an outside opinion. Sending it to a fellow writer offers fresh insight. Hand it off to someone you trust (besides your mom, unless she’s a writer) for objective input.

6) Read it backwards, word by word. It forces your brain to focus on the actual words instead of skimming over blocks of text.

7) Eliminate distractions. I can lose my train of thought in the blink of an eye, which can lead to overlooking a mistake. So while editing, I do my best to ignore everything.

8) Don’t rush. Although this sometimes cannot be avoided, I try not to hurry through edits. When I’ve done so in the past, I often find a typo after the fact. Not a good feeling, especially once it’s been submitted.

9) Don’t edit when fatigued. A fuzzy head and tired eyes often misses things. If a deadline is pressing, sometimes even a quick catnap knocks enough of the fog away to focus, edit, and fix.

10) When I think it’s ready, I check it one last time.

Many mistakes are subtle and made unconsciously. These tips help me catch things that otherwise might go unnoticed.

Do you use any of these tips when editing? Have any others to share?

karen Lange

Author Karen Lange

Karen is the author of Homeschool Co-ops 101, a freelance writer, and online writing instructor. Her editing is helped along with liberal amounts of dark chocolate and iced tea. Stop by her blog or Facebook page, she’d love to see you!


Homeschool Co-ops 101:


Twitter: KLELange




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