Category Archives: Getting Schooled

Weekly writing check-in: the one with all the rejections

So, I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to receive four rejections during the week of one’s birthday. Fair or not, that’s what happened this week. And that’s what happens sometimes when you send out a lot of work. Although I do think four rejections in one week is a new record for me.

But in good news, I sent three of those stories back out again. I also finished writing Must Love Ghosts, which is the last episode in the Coffee and Ghosts serial. I’m thinking a season two is totally possible, although actual story notions for it are a little murky at this point.

Writing Work:

  • Writing ~ 6,500 words
  • How to Hook the Reader coursework ~ complete


  • Knight in the Royal Arms
  • The Girl with the Piccolo
  • Gretel and Hansel


  • The Girl with the Piccolo
  • Like Bread Loves Salt (technically a return, the market is closing)
  • Gretel and Hansel
  • Knight in the Royal Arms


  • None


  • None


Filed under Getting Schooled, Weekly Writing Check In, Writing

Weekly writing check-in: the one with summer school

Mattie chairSo, I’m heading into the home stretch with Must Love Ghosts. I think I can finish it this week. Pretty sure, anyway. Fingers crossed and all that.

And … I’m taking another class, or rather, a series of classes.

Yes, I know. I was going to take a break from them for a bit, but I couldn’t resist this offering. It’s based on Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, and it’s broken into smaller, two-week classes, each one based on a chapter in the book. That? That’s doable.

And it’s especially doable now that I have a spiffy summer reading/writing chair. Granted, I have to share, but there’s room for two.

Writing Work:

  • Writing ~ 5,100 words
  • How to Hook the Reader coursework


  • Knight in the Royal Arms


  • Knight in the Royal Arms


  • None


  • None

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Filed under Getting Schooled, The dog, Weekly Writing Check In, Writing

One way to capture those fifteen magic minutes

In late November of last year, I was searching for a way back into my writing. I was searching for a way to do what Ray Bradbury urged here:

“I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing … Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today.

It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad – you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.” ~ Ray Bradbury

Terrific and inspirational advice but how, how, do you get there? How do you turn your hope into action? One way is to create a writing habit (which works an awful lot like an exercise habit–in fact, exercise has a lot in common with writing, but that’s fodder for another post).

Take a quick look at Rosanne Bane’s post on Why Habits Work When Discipline and Will Power Won’t and you can also read her post here about those fifteen magic minutes. To everyone who says you can’t create something worthwhile by writing for fifteen minutes three to five times per week, I say:

You can’t create anything worthwhile if you never start.

So go. Start something. What that something is matters less than you think it does.

So anyway, back in late November, when I was trying to figure out a way to start, I stumbled upon The Southeast Review’s 30-Day Writer’s Regimen. They were gearing up to run a version during December. I nearly didn’t do it. Come on, December? The holidays? How on earth was I going to write? Then I decided it would be a Christmas gift to myself.

It was very low stress. All I needed to do for each prompt they sent was write a single page, longhand (that’s maybe 250 words for me). It didn’t even need to be about the prompt, just whatever came to mind after reading it.

I missed a day or two (but oddly, not Christmas itself). One prompt inspired exactly nothing, so I wrote about my reaction to that prompt (wow, I have a whole lotta nothing for this one …). Some prompts got a page. Some built a continuing story, one became a poem, another a flash fiction piece. And one was the jumping off point for my very first Write 1/Sub 1 for the year, which ended up at ~8,000 words.

All because I decided I could write a single, longhand page per day for thirty days. By doing so, I built a habit, one I happen to love.

And … they’ll be running the Writer’s Regimen again in June. All new material. Still plenty of time to sign up. Anyone want to join me?


Filed under Getting Schooled, Reading & Writing, Write 1/Sub 1, Writing

My ten-year-old’s bucket list

So in the class I’m taking over at The Loft Literary Center, Breaking the Unwritten Rules in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, we’ve been talking about clichés and tropes, and about all those unwritten rules we might not even realize are holding us back from something original and startling.

We’ve discussed narration and how to balance entertainment with authenticity when writing a middle grade or young adult character. It reminded me of something Kyra said a while back.

One day after school, she mentioned she had something on her “bucket list.” After I got over my internal freak out about my ten-year-old having a bucket list, I asked her what she meant.

Here’s the thing: she’d never heard the phrase “kicking the bucket.” If she saw it in a story (or heard it in a movie) she would probably ask me what it meant if it wasn’t clear from context.

To her (and her friends), a bucket list represented a figurative bucket where they placed all the things that they’d like to do someday.

In Kyra’s case, this list includes:

  • being a scientist
  • traveling the world
  • painting all her pets’ portraits.

So, as writers, we’re told to avoid clichés because they’ve lost their freshness and meaning. But in some cases, all it takes is the next generation to give the old something new.

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Filed under Getting Schooled, Kids, Writing, YA

In which I write a poem about Carl Faberge

So, for a variety of reasons, I decided to take a poetry class. Poetry is one of those things that has always mystified me–it’s cryptic and obscure and part of me was certain this was a mistake.

Guess what? I’m kind of loving it. It’s not always easy. This week’s assignment was to write a sonnet. Fortunately, the only requirement we had to meet was the fourteen lines. The ten syllables per line and the rhyming scheme were optional.

I gave up on the rhyme early, but I wanted those ten syllables per line–and I was going to get it. So I sat in the lobby where Kyra takes dance and beat out syllables on my notebook. You know how some horses can “count” with their hooves? Yeah. It was kind of like that.

Since I was the only parent there at the time, I didn’t need to explain myself. Which is a good thing, since I probably would’ve responded with:

“I’m trying to write a %$#@-ing sonnet.”

The week before we wrote persona poems. This is a poem from the point of view of someone or

something else. So naturally, I wrote about Carl Faberge. My instructor didn’t respond–and didn’t respond. I figured I broke the class or at least his mind a little bit.

He was probably just having a busy week, because when he did respond, he called it remarkable and said:

You should check out some literary magazines you like and send it out.

As if it’s that easy. And I’m thinking: Here’s my secret talent. Finding the most unmarketable subject ever and rendering it in the least commercial form possible.

If “Two Hammers” (yeah, an inspired title, that) ever finds a home, you’ll be the first to know.

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Filed under Getting Schooled, Reading & Writing, Writing

A fifteen-year-old’s perspective on Perspectives in American Literature

So, Andrew is taking Perspectives in American Literature this semester–and already they’ve been reading like gangbusters. Well, if gangbusters read, that is. More accurately, they’ve been reading like high school sophomores in Perspectives in American Literature.

Here’s his take so far:

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Once I figured out it’s one of those books without a plot, I kind of liked it.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Everyone in class is complaining about this, but I’m enjoying it.

He really liked reading the play format and said he could see the whole story in his head. Then he wanted to know, since he’s enjoying Perspectives in American Lit so much, if he has a “literary mind.”

I told him he might. He just might.


Filed under Books, Getting Schooled, Kids, Reading

Teaser Tuesday: Second Sight

Teaser Tuesday and the rules are simple:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Let’s try a writing book this week, shall we?

It’s as Richard Peck says: “A good YA novel ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life yet to be lived.”

From Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults, by Cheryl B. Klein, pages 217 – 218.

Oh, I love that. It gets it just right, I think. When we did our blog tour for Geek Girl, Darcy and I would often refer to the “hopefully ever after.” But I think this is better.

And it’s not really a spoiler, since Second Sight is a book of essays, so you don’t need to read in order if you don’t want to. Cheryl also has a lot of excellent information online for YA and children’s writers. Check out her blog and her website.

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Filed under Getting Schooled, Memes, Reading & Writing, Writing, YA

Writing is hard

This was Andrew’s conclusion last night. More precisely, it was: Writing a short story is hard. But he did it.

To cap off the mythology unit in English, his teacher had everyone write their own original myth (emphasis on original–apparently, she’s read many a variation on Harry Potter, Star Wars, and so on).

Andrew came up with: The Adventures of Gulix.

It has prophecy, an orphan hero, a wise old mentor/sage, fiery death, sword battles, skeleton armies, river journey, wolves with diamond teeth (now that’s original), and romance.

All in 1,250 words.

He was proud, but realistic, said to me, “You can tell a kid wrote it, can’t you?”

And I told him it was a really good story for a kid. And he knows to do things I’ve seen many an adult writer not know or understand. His writing has really improved this year (and yes, I’ll be sending his English teacher a thank you note).

Plus, his story contained lots of terrific action verbs. Andrew is all about the verbs. Of course, with all that fiery death, sword battles, how could he not be?

But you want to know about the romance, right? After the epic battle with Hades, Gulix comes to and sees the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen before. He asks her name (it’s Persephone). Apparently satisfied with this answer, he goes back to sleep.

I’m going to have to figure out how to work that scenario into one of my stories (minus all the fiery death and skeleton armies, of course).


Filed under Getting Schooled, Kids, Writing

Corralling cats and words

Yes, it’s a commercial, but it’s still pretty funny (and kid safe–my kids loved it). It occurs to me that everyone else has already seen this except for me, since I don’t watch television.

In any case, enjoy!

 And by popular (?) demand, I’ll post that 490-word sentence, but below the cut. Click through if you’re curious/bored. And yes, it’s one big fat paragraph because, after all, it’s one big fat sentence. It also features Dating on the Dork Side characters.

Continue reading


Filed under Getting Schooled, The cat, Video, Writing

Remember when I wrote that really long sentence?

Remember when I wrote that 106-word sentence? I wrote another one! Even longer! This week, as part of the class I’m taking (called masterful sentences, oddly enough) we mimicked Hemingway and his +400 word sentence, which you can see here. (Scroll down to #3. I’m not going to post it here-dude, that’s longer than most of my blog entries.).

So part of the assignment was to write a 400 – 500 word sentence-and have it make sense. I did the first part at least. I wrote a 490-word monstrosity.

In the process, I think I broke Microsoft Word.


Filed under Famous people, Getting Schooled, Writing