Reflecting Back…Summer, 2016 Edition

Hello, Readers!  I thought I’d start off this post with a couple of songs that always seem to encapsulate this time of year for me.

Here’s Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/173302354″>DON HENLEY – THE BOYS OF SUMMER</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user38975022″>boris apaza</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Here’s another favorite for this time of year.  California Dreamin’ as performed by The Beach Boys:

Labor Day Weekend is always a bittersweet time of the year for me.  We have a lovely visit from family for a couple of days, then it’s back to school for all of us.  This morning as I write this, my third cup of is gone, and I reflect back on my sweet, yet at times bitter, Summer vacation.

For the most part, this was a fantastic Summer, as mentioned in a previous post.  I have a book coming out from REUTS Publications next Summer, and I now have a wonderful agent, Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary, who is absolutely fabulous.  When we had “the call”, it was as if all the pieces of my literary puzzle were somehow finding their way together, creating a more complete picture.  Like magic.  There is so much to look forward to!

Yet, in the paragraph above, I mentioned that this was a fantastic Summer “for the most part”.  This is because we suffered a loss, and that loss was felt not only by my family, but by the entire school community.  So, somewhere within this wonderful, magical summer, I also went through quite a bit of grief.  And now, with the end of Summer upon us and the start of school to begin, I find myself thinking about that loss again, wondering how we will get through that first day of school.  But we will.

Looking back, I learned (or, remembered…) a few things this Summer.

  1.  It might take a long time, but if you work steadily toward a goal, it will happen.
  2. I am capable of much more than I thought I was.
  3. Setting smaller goals and completing them keeps me on track.
  4.  Having Grit can get you through the hard times.
  5. When faced with tough times, family and friends help get you through.

As this new school year starts, my goal is to remember these little lessons.  This Summer was a good one for reminders!

How was your Summer?  What new goals might you have for Autumn?  Do you have any favorite songs for this time of the year?  Leave a comment!  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Best Summer Vacation…Ever!

fireworks

Welcome readers!

About a year ago, I posted about my BEST BIRTHDAY MONTH…EVER!  Today, I feel s though I have come full circle in some ways.   This has been the Best Summer Vacation…Ever!

As you know, I teach music to Middle Schoolers, and summer vacations afford me the time to delve even more into my writing endeavors than I can during the school months.  This Summer vacation started off with a bang with my press release from REUTS Publications.  That day, My novel, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL, was announced along with author Katie Hamstead’s latest book as well.   Not only did my press release show up on REUTS’ own blog, but it was listed in Publisher’s Marketplace as well.  That was a huge feeling!!!

A month later, almost to the day, I received another message that every author dreams about:  Agent Jessica Schmeidler, of Golden Wheat Literary, sent me an offer of representation.  Jessica is amazing, and it is a privilege to be able to call her my agent.

The reason I feel like I have come full circle, is that back about a year ago, during my amazing birthday month, I actually met my agent for the first time.  She had requested to read one of my manuscripts based on a Twitter pitch I had made.  I am fortunate in so many ways.

So, this has been an incredible Summer!  In the span of a month, two of my writing dreams have come true, and I know this is just the beginning.  Thank you all for coming along with me as I sail into these new waters.  It is clear to me that I am in the best of company, with the most fabulous of followers.  I am filled with gratitude.

If you have any comments, please share them below.

A Writer’s Roller Coaster Ride, 2.0

roller coaster

Welcome, Readers!

Thank you for stopping by my Writer’s Block! A few years ago, I posted on the topic of the writer’s roller coaster ride. I had just entered a contest, and earned a spot in the mentor and agent rounds.  It was HUGE!!!  Today, I write about this topic again, this time through the lens of an author with a book deal.  The emotions I go through are detailed below, on this Writer’s Roller Coaster Ride I am currently on.  I love it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!  Maybe you have experienced some of these on your own writing journey.

DISBELIEF:  As many of you know, the process of submitting a book to agents and publishers is filled with twists and turns, and a lot of disappointment.  When I received the offer of publication from REUTS, I almost could not believe it.  I had gotten to know the team a bit through the years, and I hoped deep down that my book would find its home with them.  When it finally happened, it took a while for it to sink in.

PRIDE:  This really speaks for itself.  When a writer gets positive feedback of any kind, be it from a critique partner, a literary agent, or a publisher, the pride swells.  And that’s okay!  Enjoy it!  Revel in it!  Get ready for the next steps in your writer’s journey.  The day I saw the official press release about my novel in Publisher’s Marketplace and on the REUTS blog, I knew it was really happening!  My heart swelled!  I love my publishing team at REUTS, and know that my book baby is in the best of hands.

SELF-DOUBT:  I think as writers, we are very comfortable with self-doubt.  We know it well, and consider ourselves friends.  I say that in a jokingly sort of way, but truthfully, writers see so much in the way of “N0-thank-you’s” that we sometimes wonder if we are up to the tasks in front of us.  Eventually we do grow more comfortable with self doubt.  Now, as an author with REUTS, I still have my own doubts.  I think about upcoming revisions and marketing my book, and wonder what those processes will be like.  But through all of the wondering, I know I have an amazing support system in place; my family, friends, and my publisher are all part of my cheering section.

TRUST:  Trust can be tricky for writers.  We spend so much with our stories and characters while we write them.  It can be tough to see their world as anything different than what we envision in our own minds.  But part of the writing process includes trusting people with our book babies. It’s through the eyes of others that writers can create a more complete, fulfilling novel for our readers.  Through the years, I have grown more and more comfortable asking for criticism and critique from people.  I write about that topic a little bit here.  I also get more comfortable with trust by helping others sculpt their own novels.  There is something empowering about that. (see below)

EMPOWERMENT:   The feeling of empowerment is also a tough thing for a writer, or any creative artist, to feel.  We are always looking for what’s wrong with our work so we can fix it.  Sometimes we can’t ever get to the point where we believe it’s any good.  When writers learn to trust themselves with the writing process, and others with advice as they help you sculpt your book into a work of art, that’s when the magic happens.  Your book takes on a life of its own.  With that magic, comes empowerment.  It took me a while to understand this, but it’s okay to step back, look at your novel, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

PEACE:  Peace for me as a writer comes and goes.  Self doubt rears it’s ugly head from time to time, but then fades away as my novel writing progresses.  Peace with the writing process comes and goes.  I need to remember to embrace it when it comes, and get excited when I meet little goals!

ANXIOUSNESS:  This is where I am currently at on this roller coaster ride toward publication.  As I write this post,  I am super anxious and excited at what lies ahead for my book baby.  I appreciative the incredible support system of my family, friends, and publisher, REUTS.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

I love comments!  Please feel free to comment below, or share your experiences with your own writer’s roller coaster ride.

Big News, And I’m Shouting It From The Mountaintops!

On the mountain top

It’s been a really great day!!!  Here’s why:

Today I have the privilege to announce a new adventure: My novel, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL, has been acquired by REUTS Publications, and I couldn’t be more pleased.   Read the official announcement here!

This book and I have quite a little history!  Here’s how our adventure began.

In 1994, a friend and I went on an adventure of our own; a month-long trip through several countries in Europe.  As classically trained musicians, we were quite interested in the histories and world that Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and other master composers lived in, and that trip afforded us an opportunity to see much of it first hand.  I hadn’t realized it at the time, but on that trip, the seeds of WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL were planted.  During the years (10+!) that followed, I revisited those memories through the photos and journals that I kept during the trip, and as time went on, I knew I had to continue the adventure, in the form of a novel.

NaNo 2

2012 brought another stop on WINDOWSILL’s adventure:  I decided to use NaNoWriMo as the launching pad for writing it.  By the end of the November, I had the first draft nearly completed, and it was clear what a special story it was to me.  Its plot continues to hold a unique connection to me and my musical life, as do its characters.  But I wondered:  Would anyone else feel similarly?

I beta’d it.  I revised it.  I modified and added parts to it.  I removed parts of it.  I freaked out a little bit when I realized that I still needed those discarded parts, so I sifted through older drafts to put them back in.  (It’s true what they say about keeping all of your early drafts… ) I continued to believe in it, and I never gave up hope.  Now, several drafts, edits, contests and queries later, the reality is finally sinking in.  My novel, set partially in the 21st century and partially in the 1800’s, has found its home, and a new adventure is about to begin.

fireworks

Along this journey, I have met some amazing writerly people, who guided and encouraged me.  New friends, professionals in the business.  I never met a contest or Twitter pitch party I didn’t like.  At one point, I posted about how even though the art of writing seems like a lonely, solitary endeavor, it really isn’t (at least not for me!)  We learn from each other in so many ways.

Thank you, so much, to everyone who supported me on this incredible journey thus far.  It means a lot!

excited doggie

So now, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL and I embark on another part of this publishing adventure together.  I look forward to posting updates on the process from acquisition to publication as we go, and I hope you’ll share the ride with me!

Feel free to leave comments below!

And visit my Facebook Page and Twitter as well!

 

 

 

Revisiting Old Friends

hogwarts quote

None of what you read here today is new information.  But I had a beautiful moment this past week, and I would like to share it with you.

Many of you know that I am a Middle School music teacher as well as an author.  One of the things I enjoy most about being a music teacher is that I can have meaningful discussions with my students about the music that accompanies films.  And when those films are based on literary works, well, I just love that part of my job even more.  Our most recent discussion:  The music from the Harry Potter movies.

This discussion afforded me the opportunity to revisit those wonderful stories by J.K. Rowling, bringing back memories of my son, aged five at the time, being handed a set of the books by my grandmother.  All of the books hadn’t been written yet, but we had perhaps the first five books in the collection.  I began reading them to my son, with the plan of seeing the first movie together at the theater.

I had almost forgotten the impact of those stories on our family.  The way J.K. Rowling weaves the tale so completely, creating a multi-faceted, multi-layered world that so many of us wished was real.  Her characters became household names which we felt a full range of emotions for, from love, to empathy, to fear, to sheer hatred.  Rowling’s world of Harry Potter became an extension of our own, a fantasy we got to live out with her, if only for a short while.

The books that my grandmother had gifted to my son came at a perfect time.  Reading them and watching the films spanned a decade our lives.  The highs, the lows, the miracles, the magic.  We didn’t know it, but we needed it, and when we discovered it, we ran with it.

I waited in line for Deathly Hallows, which arrived in our local Border’s when my son was nine and my daughter was seven-months old.

And I cried when it was over.  I cried because of how beautifully she wrapped up the story. I cried because there would be no more; nothing new to look forward to.

But this week it hit me:  It isn’t over.

thank you

To be able to revisit these old friends is a gift that storyteller’s give to their readers.  I thank J.K. Rowling for being that storyteller for my family.  The Harry Potter series became a part of the lives of so many kids, of which my son was one.  Because he was the age he was when we began the journey of Harry Potter together, he got to grow alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as they grew up in Hogwarts.

And I got to go through it with him.  Another gift to be thankful for.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for your wondrous gift to my family and the world.

 

My Post-Conference High

 

lakeflywriters_logo

Greetings!

I just got home from a writer’s conference, and it was a good one.  I thought I might share some of the awesomeness with you all.  First, a little bit of background:

I heard about the Lakefly Literary conference in OshKosh, Wisconsin on Twitter a few months ago, when one of my good Twitter friends posted about it.  My thought at the time:  Sounds like fun!  I wish I could go!

Then I went online, and read about the lineup of workshops and presenters.  I admit that I was not familiar with the presenters.  They seemed to be local to Wisconsin, and here I am in Northern New York.  But the workshops seemed to be just what I needed, especially the one about making a marketing plan.  Also, the price point couldn’t be beat.  But the final thing that tipped the cart for me was the fact that several of my Twitter friends would be there, live and in person, and what an opportunity it would be to meet face to face.

So I booked my conference and flight to Wisconsin!

The Lakefly Literary Conference is still pretty young, only in its 4th year.  It is small enough for an out-of-stater like me to feel welcomed, yet offers enough of what I was looking for to really make it worthwhile.

Ruth Percey, who runs the OshKosh library, puts the event on along with several other folks, and they really went out of their way to make sure that the offerings met our needs.  By the end of the conference, she knew me by name! I left there with a great feeling of accomplishment.  Being able to meet and hang out with authors and publishers is a special thing.  There were many opportunities to browse books of all sorts, and even have them signed.  New friends were made, and folks I had only known in the Interwebs suddenly became real people.

So here I sit, in my Post Conference high.  I look forward to using the information I gathered at #Lakefly16.  Feels good!

Anyone else going to a writing conference?  Have you been to any good ones recently?  Feel free to share in the comments!

 

David Bowie and Me

Bowie

David Bowie has passed away, and I’m saddened.

Growing up in the 80’s, I would listen to his infectious music often.  His Album, “Let’s Dance” was one of the first that I ordered through my Columbia House Tape Club.  Remember that?  Twelve tapes for a penny!

Listening to his music put a beat I’m my step and a song in my heart.  I know it sounds corny, but still, the sentiment is true.  I could always pop one of his tapes into my Walkman, and escape.  I’m going grab a fresh set of double A batteries, slide one of his greatest hits tapes in right now, and take a trip down memory Lane with David Bowie.

I remember watching a television show called Puttin’On The Hits, a lip sync competition, where one amazingly made-up kid performed Bowie’s China Girl.  I wish I could find a clip of that!  Well, here’s the original, and it’s awesome:

 

Another gem from my Bowie Collection is Modern Love.  That song takes me back to Middle School dances!  I can remember all of us running into the center of the gym floor when the Footloose-like beginning of Modern Love came  pumping through the DJ’s speakers.  We all formed a huge circle in the center of the gym and jumped up and down to the beat, singing along.  (SHOUTING was more like it!)

 

Ooh!!  Next up is Under Pressure!  Fantastic!  Queen and David Bowie was magic!  And then, years later, when Vanilla Ice came under fire for the amazing similarity of Ice Ice Baby’s hook to this original tune.  Do you remember?

 

This next song used to make me cry, but I loved it.  It’s a song that told an amazing story.  I loved Major Tom, and this song made me feel what it might have been like.  Here’s Space Oddity:

 

Does anyone remember Live Aid?  One of my favorite moments from that epic event was when David Bowie and Mick Jagger performed Dancing In The  Streets.  Here is the Live Aid version of the song:

 

Ugh!  I’m running low on batteries again.  (Anyone else have those memories?  The power light on the Walkman always seemed to begin to fade too fast!)  Time for one more fave! Here’s Let’s Dance!

 

Bowie’s music has stood the test of time, with its recognizable vibe and melodic ambition, spanning across the decades.  So, while David Bowie has left us, his words and music will  live on in my Walkman, and on YouTube.

#RIPDavidBowie

Do you have any David Bowie memories?  Share them in the comments!

Cookies With Nana

Hello, writerly friends!

Happy New Year!  While this post is happening a little bit later than I wanted, the sentiment is the same.  With the passing of the 2015 holiday season, I am poised to reflect on something wonderful; a gift that I received from my mother.  I hope that reading this will give you a warm feeling on these cold winter days.

One of the fondest memories I have from my youth is baking with my mother.  Mom was a first grade teacher for many years, and her attention to details is what made her a fine baker.

I mention this, because several years ago at the holidays, my mom presented me with a book she had put together; a journal of sorts, or perhaps more of a scrapbook, which was filled with stories, cookie recipes and pictures.  The stories told about my female relatives and their Italian heritage.  Each story was adorned by a photograph of the relative whose recipe it was.

These were special cookie recipes.  I knew the cookies were Italian in origin, but these particular recipes held a special place in my mother’s heart.  She had enjoyed baking cookies with her own mother (my Nana), just as I had enjoyed baking with mine.

I had grown up making the same cookies with my mother in our kitchen, but I hadn’t realized from whom the recipes came.  My mother added her own special holiday cookie recipes as well, making the book something of a time capsule.

A photograph of my great grandmother, Nana’s mother, with a favorite of her recipes sits on the final page of the book.  That is so special to me.  The photo is very old and faded, her wavy silver hair apparent.  Clearly, Nana learned to bake special cookies from her mother.  It’s a family tradition worth keeping, and I intend to add a page with my own photo and recipes into the book as well, so it may be passed on.

So there you have it; a bit of a sentimental journey, but a fond one, nonetheless.  Does your family have any special holiday baking traditions?  Are there family recipes that hold sentimental value to you?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Growing Up “Star Wars”

The Force Awakens.

Episode 7 of a series that pervaded my thoughts as a child.

I was six when A New Hope was released.  I remember it so clearly.  My parents had gone out with friends to see it in the theater.  The next morning, they told me all about it, and said they would take me to see it the next day.

I didn’t know what Star Wars was, but they assured me that my cousin Dave and I would love it.  Hey, any time I got to go to the movies as a kid was awesome.  We piled into the car the next afternoon to see a Star Wars matinee at the Twin Cinemas.  After we got our popcorn and waited for the previews to be over, it began.

The music:  Captivating.  The opening text disappearing into the galaxy with words that I was too young to read and understand fast enough:  Somehow perfect.  It didn’t matter that I couldn’t read it though, because within the first two minutes, I was already hooked.

Droids, battles, a handsome kid, a beautiful princess, a sarcastic space cowboy.  To me, that six-year-old kid who knew nothing of the story prior, this film became my world.  My cousins and I (I have no siblings) would act out Star Wars scenes every chance we got.  We dreamed about wielding light saber’s and using the Force to move objects.  I wanted to own a Millennium Falcon toy in the worst way.

This was a franchise which defined many a childhood.  I know I wasn’t alone in that sentiment.  I had comic books, trading cards,  coloring books, posters, figurines, etc.  I couldn’t get enough.  Neither could my friends.

And did I mention the music???  When I was ten, Empire was released (my favorite!).  I had records of John Williams magnificent score, and my friend and I would listen for hours.  We were budding musicians at the time, and we would hack away at learning to play the melodies to the Imperial March and Yoda’s Theme by ear.  Today there are all kinds of digitally downloadable versions of film music to play, but back then, it was near impossible.  Good times!

As I reminisce about “growing up Star Wars”, I am faced with the release of Episode 7.  I have avoided reading too much about it, because, if possible, I want to experience this with young eyes again.  The fact that the original stars are featured makes me giddy enough!

Can. Not. Wait.

Who’s with me?  What are you most excited about with the release of The Force Awakens?  Did any of you “Grow Up Star Wars”?  Let me know in the comments!