Friday, January 20, 2017

And Sometimes the Answer is...


That was the subject line of an email I received last November.

I knew who sent it, and I knew what it was about, but I could barely open it.

It seemed a bit surreal.

After all, I’d waited for this particular moment for a while.

Okay, a long time.

The picture book in question had gone through about 10 months of revision with my acquiring editor.

But that’s not what I mean by “long time.”

The truth is, I’m pretty sure this entire process began when I was 10. That’s when I wrote and illustrated my very first “picture book.”

Alas, the writing was wanting and the plot was thin.

And then there were illustration issues. 

The turtle character I could handle. A rock with appendages — piece of cake. But the frog dude? Now, that was a lot of leg to deal with.

Trust me, you can only hide your amphibian behind a leaf so many times before even a 10-year-old realizes that a book is DOA.

The project was abandoned. And from then on, I left the illustrations to the professionals.

Fast-forward another decade or so, and I was starting to submit manuscripts in earnest.

But the YES did not arrive.

Sure, the stories were likely lacking. But I’m pretty certain that the main reason for all of that rejection was the sad fact that my acquiring editor hadn’t been born yet.

And then he was.

Of course he had to navigate through teething and walking, reading and writing, and all the rest.

He did it with flying colors  especially that reading and writing part.

Then he spent 10 months helping me make my little book the best that it could be so that he could take it to an acquisitions meeting.

And only then...

after all of that...

could he type the words I’d been waiting for:


Yeah, it took a long time...

But not quite as long as the Cubs.

And YES! It was worth the wait.

PROMPT:                         “Never, never, never give up.”
~Winston Churchill

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Don’t Be Chicken

Well, it’s November.

And you know what that means, don’t you?

It means that summer is far behind us, and the slow march to winter solstice is beginning to take its toll.

Here in the Gray-t Northwest, November means gray and drizzle and gray and showers and gray and rain and more gray and cloudbursts and early nightfalls of a darker shade of ... well, gray.

Here’s the rub — if you’re not careful, all of that gray can start to affect your grey matter. And by mid-month you’re likely to find yourself listlessly sucking down Darjeeling and eating orange marmalade straight from the jar.

I’m speaking from experience here.

But this doesn’t have to be you! Your inner awesomeness and a November stretch goal will save the day... er... month!

Just say NO to listlessness by checking out this list of fabulous possibilities—

Pen a novel! (NaNoWriMo)

Create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days! (PiBoIdMo)

Research and write a nifty nonfiction piece! (WNFIN)

Or get really inventive and create a November challenge of your own...

You could draft a screenplay!

Revise those old manuscripts you’ve got hanging about!

Do daily morning pages à la The Artist Way!

You could even make it a month of poems, jokes, comics, or paintings!

Due to the fact that I write for a living and for fun, I decided to take that last option last year.

I’d never worked with acrylics, and I thought, Well what have I got to lose, but all that orange marmalade belly fat? Then I set aside an hour a day for painting.

In the end, it was great fun. And I particularly enjoyed two of the pieces I did...



Well, I guess I was a little chicken after all.

But it didn’t stop me.

PROMPT: Come up with a stretch goal and make your own November to remember...

Chickens are optional.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Imagine that all of your wildest author and artist dreams have come true...

I mean, really imagine it

in living color

with taste and smell-o-vision even.

What would your life be like?

What time would you get up in the morning?

What would you eat for breakfast?

What would you wear?

How much time would you put into your craft each day?

What crazy new projects would you try?

Where would you go?

Who would you hang with?

What causes or charities would you champion?

You know where this is going, don’t you?

PROMPT: All of those amazing answers of yours...yep, every one
And once again, here’s that little bonus motivator that never fails to crack me up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Many Choices... So Little Mind

Here’s some news you can use —

Our good friends in the field of neuroscience have proven that the brain’s most productive time is within the first two hours of waking up.

Ah yes, smug pessimists, you’re right about this one — it’s all downhill from here.

But optimists, take heart! Applied wisely, this could be the best news you’ve heard all day.

First off, let’s explore why this is so.

Well, in not-so-super-scientific terms, your brain gets tired. 

And what makes it tired? Three things really —

Decision. Decisions. Decisions.

Okay, that looks like only one thing. But it turns out that mental energy is drained away with every choice you make — especially those that involve willpower. At a certain point your grey matter thinks nothing matters... “Like whatever, Dude. Whatever.”

The actual super-scientific term for this is called decision fatigue. And it explains why a health-conscious person will refuse that tempting bowl of donutty frosted fun first thing in the morning, yet gleefully scarf down two or three at noon.

But is this fact of life only helpful for those trying to avoid donuts?


Arming yourself with this insight can actually help you reach your creative goals. Here’s how:

1. Eliminate unnecessary life decisions... like that pesky morning fashion dilemma. Trust me, if your closet contains only black mock turtlenecks (Steve Jobs) or gray t-shirts (Mark Zuckerberg), you’ll free up your mind for more important choices. And if you want to really go full throttle with decision elimination, you can ditto successful CEOs Alexa Von Tobel and Leo Widrich by eating the same meals each and every day as well.

2. If you spend the first two hours of your day watching YouTube videos of cats wedging themselves into teeny tiny boxes, you might want to rethink the way you start your morning.  Remember that those first two hours are 120 minutes of golden creative opportunity.

3. Creative endeavors require willpower. That is, for most of us they’re optional activities so a decision must be made daily — as in, “Will I write something today, or not?” And we all know what happens when you leave this decision until evening...Yep, you’re glazed and confused from eating ALL the donuts, and you’ve got no words in the file.

So, make the decision ahead of time. In fact, build a habit such as “Every day at (pick your favorite time) I write for X number of minutes or Y number of words.” And voila! That was just one decision, and you’ve already made it! So, if you stick to this plan, you won’t ever need to decide again — leaving your brain freed up for other important choices like...

Do I want the chocolate frosting or vanilla?

PROMPT: Give your brain a choice break and start building creative habits. For a kick-start in habit formation, check out Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

By the way, I am guiltily aware that one of your decisions today was spent on choosing to read this blog. For that, I am grateful.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know. This baby New Year is already 28 days old and cutting teeth. What’s more, I’ve read a recent article suggesting that most of you have given up on your writing resolutions by now.

Now that’s just sad.

So maybe it’s time to regroup and give yourself a restart.

An awesome theme song might help...

You Gotta Be by Des'ree, Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You), or Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Monty Python are all excellent choices. However, I do NOT recommend Waiting Around to Die by Townes Van Zandt, or Beck’s Loser for obvious reasons.

A Statement of Awesomeness comes in handy, too...

Something like Writing for the Wide Screen in 2016, Novels, Art, and Caffeine for 2016, or I’m a Creating Machine in 2016 could be just the ticket to set your wonderful wheels in motion. 

Personally, I’m Plotting for Dopamine in 2016. Clearly I find it hard to resist wordplay that combines my love of both writing and psychology. And yes, I am well aware that I’m the only one chuckling right now. But I do digress...

Please note that if your 2015 Statement of Awesomeness was... well, awesome, then there’s certainly no shame in It’s What I REALLY mean in 2016!

So let’s restart this New Year the right way right now!

Here are FIVE TIPS to make the awesome part guaranteed: 
  1. Say YES to RESOLUTIONS! Even though New Year's resolutions get a bum rap, our friends in the Journal of Clinical Psychology note that those who make them are actually 10 times more likely to successfully change their behavior than those who do not.
  2. ACTION is your friend. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.” While his words should not be confused with the post-Teddy phrase “get some action”... his sentiments remain spot on. ACTION, whether you're taking it or getting it, is always a good thing.
  3. FINISH! Vow to finish something this year... and this something can be ANYTHING... even an anything as humble as a haiku. Just finish it. And while you’re finishing, remember this as well – DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. If the last line of that haiku has one extra syllable that you just can't seem to shed — I do not care, mon frère. Call it done, grin, and move on.
  4. Then there’s the first cousin of DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT, affectionately known as LATE IS BETTER THAN NEVER... just like this post... ahem. See, it’s true.
  5. Finally, if you can remember only one of all the tips I’ve mentioned, please let it be this one — STAY IN THE GAME. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about here – resolutions, goals, dreams, desires, or life in general and specifically – STAY IN THE GAME. It’s always worth the ride.
Bonus Tip: Through it all, BE NICE TO YOURSELF. And if you happen to get to a point where you’re spouting a bunch of F words like failure, frustration, or face-plant, remember that a new year can begin on any given day at any given moment —

even this one right now.

PROMPT: Art is not just what we do. Art is who we are.

Yes, my friend, your LIFE is a work of art —

so, make it a good one.

And here’s a little extra motivation that cracks me up and never gets old.