Author Archives: Catherine L. Osornio

The First Visit

I hoped my nervousness didn’t show. I was standing in front of a class of 60+ kids, waiting to talk to them about writing and being a writer. Many of them had seen me around school before. One of their classmates was my daughter, so I was no stranger. Yet, I felt strange. This was my first school visit, and I hoped my preparation would pay off.

I began by talking about writing in general, and then I spoke about my own writing journey. They were able to see samples of my work, from the newsletters I started with, to the colorful magazines I still contributed to, to my brand new nonfiction picture book, my first published book. The kids were very attentive. The listened in silence, asked questions at the appropriate time, and were very enthused about the bookmarks I handed out. Of course, the best part was the end when I had several students  asked me to autograph their bookmarks. Weeks later my daughter was still hearing, “Your mom is sooo cool!”

The first school visit will always include some element of fear since a beginning author doesn’t know what to expect. But planning out a presentation, bringing samples that can be looked at, and handing out something the kids can keep, will all help make your presentation fun and exciting. I know I’ll always remember my first school visit. I just hope those kids will, too.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

Cheerleading 101

I was never a cheerleader in school. In fact, I tried to stay clear of all that “rah, rah” stuff. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. But I have to admit, cheerleaders were a vital part of any team when it came to rallying support and encouragement.

A critique group should be like cheerleaders. We are to encourage one another and be supportive. We are to build up, not tear down. We are to be excited with the victories (even the little ones), and optimistic when faced with a few defeats. We are to look for the goals ahead, and see each little move forward as one step closer to success.

So even though I didn’t care for cheerleading growing up, I’m a big cheerleader now, supporting my fellow Wordsmiths in projects big and small as we move along this writing road. Go team!

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

A Critical Eye

My usual procedure when writing an article, after all my research is done, is to sit down with a pen and legal pad and start writing. I’m hoping that I’ve absorbed enough material that the ideas will flow down onto the paper in coherent and practical sentences. I’m a professional. Writing is my career; so all my work should be polished and perfect from the beginning, right? Wrong!

While just composing the above sentences, I’ve crossed out, inserted, and tweaked each one. Although the intent is to deliver a message or piece of interesting information, that goal takes time, determination, and self-editing. No one can write a perfect paragraph. Sure, we can come close, but a true professional will know that each line must be carefully reviewed, looking for clarity, creativity, and craftsmanship.

Does self-editing ever get easier? I’d like to think so. After writing many, many stories and articles, it’s much easier for me to trim and recompose and restructure. Perhaps, too, I’m more comfortable with the process as it’s now a natural part of my writing from first draft to final manuscript.

Will I ever be perfect at writing? I doubt it, but that’s where the editors will come in later. My job is to deliver the most professional manuscript I can possibly turn out, and that takes looking at my work with a critical eye.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

One Stop Shopping

My writing workplace has become the one-stop-shopping place for the whole family, especially since it houses my main computer. My husband sits down to peruse ebay for discounts on tools, my daughters sit down to do homework or to check out the latest Barbie fashions, and then my sons will either create their own graphic designs using the paint program, or they will play computer games. It’s sad, but I sometimes have to wait to get access to my own desk.

My desk, because of or in spite of this busy-ness, is now messy. It needs a whole new makeover. It is littered with graduation invites, stacks of file waiting to find a home, letters I need to read over again, and a box that needs to be shipped out.

My excuse: I don’t want to admit my own laziness, so I’ll blame it on my one-stop-shoppers. I can’t get enough time at my workplace to keep it neat.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

Dimension

Having great characters is key in any story. They need to be relate-able,  even if the reader reacts to them in anger, disgust, sympathy, or joy. But how does an author create great characters?

You need to make them dimensional. They need names, physical features, and personalities. They need to have some slight flaw since no one is perfect, and they need likes and dislikes, quirks and cares. These attributes make them real and believable. If your readers don’t believe in your characters, then your story, no matter how great, won’t work.

When I’m fleshing out a character, I’ll take a large index card or a piece of paper and start jotting down these things. Sometimes I’ll give him/her a catch phrase. Sometimes I’ll even sketch out a little picture so I can “see” the character. Writing these  profiles are very helpful, especially when your story has multiple characters. You can always check your notes to remind yourself of exactly who this person is.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

Let Your Words Do the Talking

I have always been surrounded by stories, either read to me from an early age, or told to me by relatives describing days long gone. Words drew me, not because they were randomly thrown together in some dismal array, but because they were used to describe events and places that I was not able to see for myself.

When I was able to read on my own, I chose books that used such sensory detail to draw me into the pages. Each story took shape inside my mind, becoming vivid in sight, sound and taste. I crept along dark corridors with Nancy Drew; I fished with Huck Finn along the mighty Mississippi; I got caught in a creaky dumbwaiter with Harriet the Spy; and I ate scrumptious doughnuts with Almanzo Wilder on his family farm in Farmer Boy.

As a writer, I want my readers to be drawn by my words so that they, too, can enter into the realm of imagination and see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel, and taste what I taste. I choose my words carefully so that my images can become alive for them.

How do I accomplish this? I create the scenes in my head, and then translate that onto the page. It takes practice, but once you master this technique, your writing will be more appealing and realistic. Give it a try. See if you can let your words do the talking.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

Publishing God’s Way

I did not grow up wanting to be a writer. In fact, God had to use a friend’s desire to improve her writing skills to get me interested. When I realized this was a possible new direction for my life, I prayed for confirmation. The Lord gave me 1 Chronicles 16:24 from the New Living Translation:

“Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.”

Many of my stories and articles carry this theme, sharing my faith and pointing to the hope that only the Lord can bring. I do not always write for the Christian market, but I do make sure that my writing reflects a Christian worldview in presenting information in a clean and positive way.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio