Monthly Archives: October 2008

This Mess is a Place!

Well, my office is no more organized than it was a month ago. Every day I put it in order enough to work on my project, illustrations for Too Many Visitors for One Little House.

Even though my office is a mess, I think I’ve kept my project organized well enough to maintain sanity. One of the biggest challenges has been keeping the changes and updates of the illustrations in order. Working as a designer, I’ve learned to keep everything; probably too much. But it never fails; the thing that’s thrown away is requested later on down the line.

I like to keep as much of the project I can fastened in file folders and in chronological order. I have five file folders thick with thumbnails, roughs, final drawings, updated drawings, development notes and revisions. Not to mention the many files and folders of artwork on my computer. A chart with every page and description helps me to remember which drawings were sent, which required changes and which were approved.

My client and I spent a lot of time discussing the project over the telephone. We’d talk about character development and many other details for the illustrations. I’d then recap any discussions with an e-mail. I like following up with an e-mail because it’s just one more way to make sure we’re on the same page. Because I save them all until the project is complete, they’re also helpful if I need a reminder of what was discussed.

The project went very well. I enjoyed working with my client, the author and publisher of Too Many Visitors for One Little House, and hope to work together again in the future.

I’m almost done with the illustrations for my first picture book. I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Until then, this mess is a place!

contributed by Veronica Walsh, children’s book illustrator and member of Wordsmiths


How’s Your Work Space?

We’re winding down our month long discussion on work spaces. Has any of this info spurred you to clean up your rubble? Has it helped you organize your office better? Or, are you like me? Good intentions, but still haven’t committed yourself to change.

Don’t despair. There is still hope for us. Some day we  stumble over something in our office. After we pick ourselves up off the floor, we’ll be so thankful we didn’t break something or have to call 911, we’ll determine enough is enough. With great fervor we will wade into the stacks and stacks of material. A month later we will actually be able to see our desk! That will spur us on to greater things. Soon the floor can be seen. Next, the file cabinets will be laden with crisp files, all in order. Such a sight it will be! We will then sit at our desk more confident of creative juices flowing.

Someone sends an email you think you MUST print out.

A story sparks an idea so you print that out.

An idea for a new book comes to mind. You scratch out the basics on a piece of paper and toss it on your desk.

A few days later you find it’s happening AGAIN! More clutter is forming like a monster that can’t be stopped. But, this time you DO stop it. You immediately take the time to file the email, the story, the idea. A nice clean office again. You walk out the door confident your office will never be cluttered again!

The End

Oh, you thought that it was real? Just a story. And, I always did like stories that ended happily ever after. I hope YOUR office story does, too!

Hoping for a happy ending to my office story but doubting it, Gloria

Mission Impossible

OK, time to get brave and launch mission impossible—organize my office. With 360 degrees of clutter, where do I start? Making a plan seems logical. First, toss the obsolete. So into the trash can goes 30 (no exaggeration, I counted) sample copies of magazines I have no desire to write for, some dating back to 1995. I guess I don’t need the 2003 edition of Writers and Illustrators Market Guide. Any guidelines received by mail last century need to be checked online for possible changes. They go into a “check me” pile. Some markets no longer exist, and those guidelines obviously get tossed. Now, to organize the rest. Second item on my plan is to buy space-saving helpers from the office store. Let’s go inexpensive obviously, so I pick up a package of 50 manila folders. Third, file. The folders get names of markets for children or adults, fiction or non-fiction, books or magazines, same for Christian markets. Other folders hold copies of queries I have sent out lately, editors I have been in contact with, online opportunities, and possible agents.

Now everything is filed neatly in folders, but the folders are stacked on my table and I have to shuffle through the pile each time I need to find what I want. It’s always on the bottom, of course. So, back to the office store for a rack that holds all my folders in graduating steps so I can see at a glance what I want. Whew! What a difference that makes. A hanging file goes into one of my drawers to hold my ongoing work for children’s magazines and book compilations.

Now I’m down to my research. I cast a glance at one cupboard that stands suspiciously silent, hoarding who knows what. I yank it open and find—junk! All the junk gets tossed and I have a whole cupboard for files of different types of research. It all gets labeled so I can immediately put my hand on what I need. Ah, bliss!

There seems to be no hope for the dozens of post-it notes with Scripture verses, random thoughts, ideas for stories and articles. If I file them away out of sight they’ll truly be out of mind, so across my computer monitor’s feet is a carpet of “someday” notes. I might need them all tomorrow—who knows?

-Happy and mostly organized Shirley

Research Center

Hi! My name is Humphrey. I’m a cat. I’m also a writer. You probably know that by now. But what you may not know is that for every manuscript I write, I create its very own research center.

For instance, currently I’m writing an article about the wonderful benefits of eating tuna fish. Every day. To create my research center for this article, I decided to dedicate one shelf on my bookcase for all the books and resources I already have on hand that cover this delicious topic.

First, I emptied the bookshelf from all its existing books.

Okay, okay. As you can see by the photo, after I emptied the shelf, I had to try it out for size. It wasn’t too hard to get up there. I just used the printer as a launch pad, leaped to the top of the desk, and then walked right in. It fit perfectly! (There was just a slight problem getting down from there. I fell out, but fortunately, someone caught me two-thirds of the way down. Actually!)

Once all that was done, I spread all the books I already own on my topic out on the dining room table. I organized them according to theme:
*The psychological benefit of eating your favorite food. Every day.
*The benefit of only having to shop for one item to eat. Ever.
*The benefit of never wondering what you’re going to have for dinner. Tuna fish!

Then I was able to see, at a glance, which research books I needed to get from the library or used book store to give me sources to round out my article. I next placed the organized piles back on the shelf to keep them handy as I write. My research center was ready to go.

Now…I think it’s time for a snack. Tuna fish, anyone?

-contributed by Humphrey, Nancy’s 23-and-a-half-pound writing buddy

My Life on a Cork Board

What would I do without my 46 X 22 cork board that hangs on my office wall? I’d be probably be pulling out my hair trying to keep track of every query, proposal, or manuscript that I’ve sent. Yes, I keep a notebook with those famous manuscript tracking charts. But I get tired of flipping through that thing, trying to make out my messy printing on those short lines and small spaces. I have a system that allows me to see instantly, when I walk into my office, ALL manuscripts or queries I’ve sent. I can see when I sent them, who I sent them to, who responded and how they responded. I need to see the BIG picture, and in this case a picture IS worth a thousand words.

I like being able to look up from my computer at that giant flat piece of cork on the wall. There it is, the story of me…the writer who never gives up. My life on a cork board. It’s certainly not ingenious but it works for me.

Here’s how I do it:

I have manuscript titles tacked all the way across the top of the cork board. At the present time I have ten titles written on neon-colored 3 x 5 cards, each card cut in half horizontally.

Beneath each title I have tacked a copy of every query or proposal letter that I’ve sent. For instance, as I write this post, I’m looking at the manuscript title The Magnificent Secret, written on one-half of a fluorescent pink card. Can’t miss it. Beneath that manuscript title I’ve got a line of all my query and proposal letters tacked nearly to the bottom of the board.

When I receive a response from an editor about The Magnificent Secret, that letter is tacked on top of my original query or proposal. Now, I can see at a glance who wants to see it or who rejected it )o; Then, I transfer that information onto my messy tracking chart in my notebook. You know…the one I don’t need to open every 10 minutes.

I’m waiting for just the right editor to love The Magnificent Secret as much as Thacher Hurd does. Yes! Author, Thacher Hurd LOVES this story and has encouraged me to never give up on pursuing a publisher! So, with that kind of motivation, I press onward.

I’ve begun to notice that my 42 X 22 isn’t as big as it used to be. It’s almost filled to capacity. Now, I’m sizing up another wall for my next cork board. Soon my office will be wall-to-wall cork.

I guess you could say my cork board is nothing more than a GIANT post-it note. What writer can manage without post-it notes? I can. My life as a writer is written on a cork board.

Sherri Crawford



I know, I know, nobody irons any more. Knits, and/or the super-casual look, are in. Certainly ironing is not one of my favorite chores, but I’m old-fashioned enough to enjoy wearing ironed clothes—even jeans!  My problem was how to fit it in with the writing I wanted/needed to do.  I found a way.


The room where I keep the ironing board (also a sewing/craft/miscellaneous room—AND the guest room!) is next to my office, so before I begin a short ironing stint (usually 20 minutes to half an hour) I bring up my current manuscript, or a blank page, or my computer.  As I iron a few clothes, I begin thinking about what I’m going to write.  As ideas occur to me, I slip into my office and type them.  Maybe it’s an outline; other times it’s a paragraph or two on a first draft.  Then, when I’m ready to leave the “ironing room,” I can get right to work on whatever is on my computer screen.


I don’t do all my ironing at one time, so when I return to it another day, I repeat the process.  As I smooth out tops, pants, shirts, pillow cases, and yes, jeans, I’m in and out of my office, revising, changing, making notes on new ideas.


This process has a three-fold benefit.  1) It helps me avoid writers’ block, or the simply staring at a blank page, 2) it’s something creative to think about while I do the mindless task of ironing, and 3) the ironing actually seems to go a lot faster!  Call me crazy, but it works for me!


Contributed by Marjorie Flathers

Working on the Workspace

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my messy workspace. I promised to separate the wheat from the chaff, to dig for gold amidst the clutter. In the process of progress, I took time out to create a “found poem” that I want to share. First I took my original blog and cut it in half, then in half again. The idea was to save significant words and phrases, rearranging them until I had the essence of what I was trying to say. In other words, I “found” a poem in the midst of all those words. Here it is:

The Swamp

                                                 Clutter beyond panic,

                                                 desk piled high:

                                                 a calendar, manuscripts,

                                                 colored folders, paper clips,

                                                 last week’s mail.

                                                 I work in a swamp

                                                 where paper prospers

                                                 like tropical plants.

                                                 I wonder — could I enter some day

                                                 and never be seen again?

Besides writing a poem, I did get around to attacking the mess. First I picked up all the papers in my office and put them on my bed. This became, and still is, the general sorting area. Chaff went in the trash. Wheat went in colored, labeled folders. Label is the key word. When you find a category for something, other somethings soon follow. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was dropping papers into file folders and getting them off my desk, off the floor, and out of my hair. 

I’m not digging for gold yet, though a few nuggets have rolled my way. I found some half-written stories, a few passable poems, and a query that I thought I had mailed. This week I’m trying to find a place in my office to put all the colored file folders. Oh no! What’s that in the corner? It’s a laundry basket, full of loose papers waiting to be sorted!

Sigh. I wonder if I can start sleeping in my bed by Christmas!

Contributed by Marilyn Donahue