Monthly Archives: August 2009

In His Arms

He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.
-Isaiah 40:11, NLT

This summer, as I am writing, I am trying to visualize myself being held in the arms of Jesus as He holds me close to His heart.

After all, this is His promise to each one of us.

So wherever I am, in whatever circumstances I may be, working on whichever manuscripts I am writing, I am writing while being carried in the arms of Jesus. I am writing while He is holding me close to His heart.

You can do the same!

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

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Writing on Vacation?

In years past when my husband and I took longer vacations, I always brought a notebook and pen with me but seldom used it.  (After all, it was a vacation!)  However, through the years I was able to use my travel experiences for a number of stories and articles.

In 1988, we were fortunate enough to lease a condo in Hawaii (Maui) for 2 weeks, and we were thrilled to be going to this “island paradise.”  However, when we arrived, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t much different, I didn’t think, from  the beach areas of Southern California.  But we did enjoy our time there, and one of the highlights was sailing to the island of Molokai.  I later wrote about this day trip and my thought about our whole Hawaii experience in an article titled “Discovering the Aloha Spirit,” which was published in Our Family and later reprinted (at their request!) in Catholic Digest.

Another day trip, by boat, was to the tiny island of Lanai.  While we were there. I took part in a fun class on the ancient Hawaiian art of folding palm fronds to resemble fish.  Once home, I applied this newly-learned skill to other materials, especially shiny gift wrap ribbon, to make different small crafts, such as pins and party favors.  Luckily, the next year was the 50th anniversary of the statehood of Hawaii, but unknown to me, CRAFTS magazine (to whom I had sold original designs before) had planned a 4-page article with a Hawaiian theme. When I sent them my ideas, they snapped them up and featured them in full color!

In 1996,  I visited a friend in Ohio, and we spent 3 days touring the nearby Amish country, something I’d always wanted to do.  I was intrigued by the Amish people and their simple yet rewarding way of life.  Soon after I returned, I attened the SCBWI summer conference and met the editor of Guideposts for Kids ( a wonderful publication that is now, sadly, out of print.)  She was enthusiastic about the idea of a short story for kids located in the Amish country and describing their way of life and asked me to send it to her as soon as possible.  At that point, I had no idea what I was going to write, but I brainstormed with my friend, Marilyn Donahue.  Back at home, I read a number of books that further explained the Amish and their daily life.  I then wrote “The Day I Watched TV,” and sent it off.  This story appeared in the  September/October, 1998,  issue of GP4K, and it was my first acceptance in the children’s field!

A few years later, when I was writing 5-part, serialized, stories for the Los Angeles Times, I received my rights back from GP4K, and re-wrote this story to their format, calling it “Plain and Simple.”  In both instances with this Amish country story, the illustrations matched my expectations perfectly!

So, even though I didn’t actually write anything on these vacations, they did give me an abundance of material for many different pieces that I later enjoyed writing and, of course, seeing in print.  An added perk was that, since I sold these stories, articles and crafts, I was able to take my travel expenses as an income tax deduction!  A win-win situation, for sure.

Contributed by Marjorie Flathers

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Writing Havens

I do a lot of my writing in my office in what was once an upstairs bedroom. It originally  belonged to my daughter, had a four-poster bed and was decorated with flounces and ruffles. When she got married, one of her brothers claimed it as his. He immediately built a “radio station” in one corner, complete with all the stuff he needed to converse with his friends. In the other corner was a floor to ceiling cage containing a parrot.  This room was never a quiet place. I entered it only to clean and finally gave up on that.

Who would imagine that when at last the nest was empty, and I could take my pick of three extra bedrooms, I would choose this one. There are reasons: (1) it is the biggest; (2) it is shaded by several giant liquid amber trees; (3) it has a large closet. What more could I ask for? An office with plenty of working space, storage space, and a fine view of spreading branches, green leaves, and an occasional bird’s nest!

Even with the shades open, I am in perfect privacy, for the 45 year old trees make a thick, leafy screen across the windows. Granted, they do block my view of the neighborhood, but the compensations are great. In the autumn, the colors are glorious: red, brown, magenta, yellow – a riot of fall colors. In spring and summer, green leaves and bristly brown “gum balls” hang from graceful branches that sway continually in the breeze. In the winter, the branches are bare, but beautiful. They form fascinating shapes and designs, and I love the starkness of their deep brown against a winter-white sky.

I actually had to move my computer so that it faces the wall because I was spending so much time watching the trees!

But sometimes I do leave this haven. The nearest place, of course, is my back patio, also tree-shaded, this time by everlasting pear trees, whose branches dance a delicate ballet. But, once again, I become distracted by nature and find myself day-dreaming, so I pack up my notes and books and my favorite fine-point pen and head for Panera’s in Redlands. Occasionally I take my lap top with me, but mine is heavy and old and won’t run on its battery any more, which means I have to find a plug – something that’s not always available. But a table is always empty, and I buy a cup of coffee, glance at their cinnamon rolls, and get to work.

A wonderful thing happens to writers when we are absorbed in our work. We tune out sound. As I write, I am unaware of my surroundings. I am transported to whatever scene my characters are involved in. I hear their voices, not the people around me. But my sense of smell is not diminished, and I am tempted by the latest batch of fresh, warm cinnamon rolls. I weaken. I buy one and tell myself I need the energy to finish my work.

When I return home to my office with the view, I am filled with wonder at how many pages I’ve filled. And I tackle the task of transcribing them onto to the computer screen with pleasure because this amounts to a first editing of my current project. By dinnertime, the outside light is fading, and the breeze from the canyon behind my house strengthens. The trees wave their branches, shaking off the dust of a summer day. I turn off the computer and look around. It’s a nice office – a good place to do most of my writing in!

Contributed by Marilyn Donahue

A Unique Writing Place

Summer isn’t officially over, yet school has already begun for my kids. They began the other week, so I’ve had to put on my chauffeur’s cap and make my way to three different schools to drop off and pick up my four children. With their varied class schedules, and because the parking situation can be a challenge, I have found myself sitting in my car for a good thirty minutes of uninterrupted time, waiting for their dismissal.

This down time is a perfect opportunity to work on my writing projects. I’ll bring along one of my work folders and write up notes, rework a chapter, make an outline, or sift through my Children’s Writers Market Guide. Except for the cars zooming by, all is quiet and there are virtually no interruptions. It’s amazing how much work I can get done with this unique change of scenery.

A writer needs to learn to write in all areas and under a variety of circumstances. At this time my unique spot is the front seat of my car. Next year it may be something totally different. I just need to be open to the writing opportunities, wherever they may bring present themselves.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

New Space Makes a Splash

This summer I spent a lot of time in my studio getting artwork ready for the Illustrators Showcase at the SCBWI Summer Conference. I like spending time in my studio since it is the most productive place for me to work.

Before Christmas, my husband and I decided to remodel the laundry room. Since my office is adjacent to it, it would get a facelift, too. For nearly five months, I worked in the corner of the living room with supplies scattered about the house.

You see, the remodel was supposed to take only a couple of weekends, but, if you have ever been under construction, you know that is usually not the case. I didn’t gripe about the time it took, though, because I knew in the end it would be perfect for me and I would love it.

Thanks to my husband and other workers, the laundry room functions well, and my studio is beautiful. New paint and floors have transformed my little office into a beautiful new space. It still has a freshness about it that is so nice to come to every morning.

I hope you had a wonderful summer. And, wherever you found yourself working, I hope it, too, was a pleasant and productive place.

contributed by Veronica Walsh, children’s book illustrator

A “Best Seller” Spot?

I got a swing for Mother’s Day. It arrived last week. It came from Louisiana, not too far from where I grew up in Mississippi. The man made it of cypress. It will last forever.

I’ve put a nice soft pad and a pillow on it. I plan on spending many peaceful hours there swinging and writing my best seller :D. Of course, I must be careful that the soft cushion and pillow don’t lure me into a prone position and I find myself snoozing instead of writing!

I hope your summer has been productive and you, too, have found some new places to create your masterpieces.

Enjoying the last days of summer on my porch swing, Gloria

Write on a Dream

I decided to talk about where I would like to write on a dream vacation. I’ll start with Maui. I’ve never been there but my daughter told me about the fantastic sunsets they viewed out the second story of their condo last month. I would describe the vermilion and fuchsia blaze of color streaking across the often-present tropical storm clouds as the sun sinks into a turquoise sea. I would recreate the sharp fragrance of ginger blossoms beside a cascading waterfall. And, of course, the special lullaby of rolling waves caressing the white sand.

My cruise to Alaska is worth remembering once more. The feeling of mountain ranges rising sharply to the pristine atmosphere too astonishing to be real, and only a painted backdrop someone is playing a joke on us with. I would try to describe the welcome cup of hot chocolate drunk on the top deck of the ship as it rides anchor in Glacier Bay. M-m-m, I can smell that chocolate from here!

God loves color, fragrance and sound, too. We read about the new Jerusalem, how the foundations are laid with precious stones, and twelve gates, each of a single pearl. Even the streets are of pure, transparent gold. God’s throne is encircled by a rainbow resembling an emerald. The prayers of saints are like incense to our Lord, and the fragrance must delight Him continuously. Sounds—trumpets and thousands upon thousands of angels singing of the worthiness of the Lamb, to be followed by every creature in Heaven, earth, under the earth and on the sea, singing praises to Him.

Well, there’s my three dream vacations. Do you think we’ll write in Heaven? I doubt I can compete with the apostle John but I’d like to try.

Shirley