Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Wonderful Woman, A Wonderful Friend

My husband and I had just moved into the heart of the city when I first met Brownie Rose. It was like her to be the first to introduce herself and we became fast friends. She had a tender heart and compassion for those around her. She was always willing to be a friend to those who had none.

Because of her kindness, we went to meetings together, we made meals for each other and even cleaned each other’s homes. Back to back, we had children. She had her third, I had just one. She welcomed me into her family, including me in special family events and birthdays.

We both moved away.

Calling became more and more less frequent, but somehow when the calls came through, it was like we had never been apart.

She comforted me when I found out my son had autism, I comforted her when she told me about her son’s eye disease. We were both in this together. She is a true friend.

I would now like to introduce you to my friend. She is an amazing woman.
She is also blind.
She has just finished her college degree and is raising three children, some with disabilities of their own. She is starting a blog to help those around her understand what it is like to live with disabilities. She is doing it to make a difference in the world. I cannot tell you how highly I value my relationship with this woman. She is truly amazing. Please visit her blog and find out for yourself what a great woman she is. Click here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living Bigger

Twenty two comments, L.T. Wow! I call that living big. I'd say you struck a chord. I love the idea of living big in your writing. I guess everyone else did, too. Your post reminded me of a Nelson Mandella quote I have sitting on my writing desk.

Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented,and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence authomatically liberates others.
--Nelson Mandella

Living small, playing small, feeling small, we all do it sometimes. When we write big, we do crawl out of our smallness, and it feels wonderful. What if we could take that idea a little farther? What if in real life we could crawl out of our smallness? What if we could find that bigness in our real lives. What if we could not just write our truth, but live our truth?

Now that would be living bigger.

Linda Garner

Thursday, January 21, 2010


What did you say? It's Thursday? Will that beats yesterday when it was Monday.

Yes, my kids had school off both Monday and Tuesday and I am walking around in a funk trying to figure out where my time went.

I couldn't help think about summer. This summer I will be taking the last of my college classes, unless things don't go as planned. Then I will be free to write, write, and write. I can't wait. But summer also brings with it less free time, since I will be taking time to play and work with my kiddos (swimming pools, jumping zone, learning to ride bikes, etc...).

So my plea for the day is.... How do you make time to write (winter, summer, spring, fall)? Anything special? Do you block out time? Take the kids to the park and write on the lappy? What is your plan of action?

Thanks everybody! See you next week on Saturday...I mean Monday. I am so confused.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Selected Neglect

Do you ever feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day? I do. Practically every day, as a matter of fact. Some days I really feel time challenged, and other days my energy gives out first.

Years ago, as a time challenged young mother, I first heard about selected neglect. A mother of many children was asked just how she managed. She said, “Simple. I operate on a system of selected neglect.” I found that idea exactly suited my needs and it helped me get through the maze of raising children. Now the children are gone, (well mostly), but I am still time challenged.

I started 2010 with an agenda of dejunking and organizing. I selectively neglected almost everything else. Next I decided to put a little more thought and planning into my piano practicing and teaching. Dejunking and organizing went to the back burner. My writing hasn’t been on the hit parade for a few days, and so today, I was on my computer at 5:00 a.m. doing a little catch up. Because of selected neglect, I was able to carve out some writing time.

I didn’t come up for air til about noon, and it was enough to start a new project, which I am excited about. It is difficult for me to write in snatches. I really prefer having big time slots to work with, but the reality is that seldom happens. So I am looking for suggestions on how to use those mini-moments to make strides in my writing. Tell me how you do it? What works for you?

And while I am admitting to being (gasp) time challenged, I would like to share with you my writing goals for January. That will help me be more accountable.

1. Submit two picture book manuscripts to a publisher. The manuscripts are finished, they just need submitting. The titles are Grudge Rock and A Jar of Love.

2. Finish my chapter book version of Way to Go Grace. It’s about half done. The picture book version of Way to Go Grace has been in the hands of a publisher for a very long time. I’m not worried about it. I figure the longer they hold on to it, the more seriously they are considering it.

3. Write a chapter a week on my new project. This is something special and new.

4. Schedule at least four Some Secrets Hurt presentations in elementary schools, for February.

I am on a roll with 1, 2, and 3. Number 4 has become a little sticky. First, my publishers told me they would arrange for my school visits. They ran into opposition and dropped the ball. They invited me to pick it up. I, too, am experiencing a few roadblocks. Principals are reluctant to open this can of worms. They know the statistics and understand that kids are at risk, but I think they are afraid of the fall-out.

I’m not giving up easily. This is such important work. There is nothing threatening about Some Secrets Hurt, and there is nothing threatening about my presentation. I feel that we owe our kids the opportunity to say no, the opportunity to tell, and the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment. Education is the key.

If you agree with me, how about calling your child’s principal, and suggesting a presentation for your school? My presentation is great for kids of all ages. I love doing presentations for parents and women’s groups as well.

I have been invited twice to share my presentation with High School Students, who have loved it. Would you have guessed that high school students would be interested in a picture book? What do they know that we don’t know?

What are your goals for January? What do you do when you’re in a time crunch? And (drum roll please) the question everyone wants to know: Do you operate on a system of selected neglect?

Linda Garner


If you haven’t heard, Some Secrets Hurts was written to prevent sexual abuse, by empowering children and teenagers to take control of their own bodies. Feel free to visit my website,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shhh! Do you hear them? The Voices?

So I know I’ve talked about voice before (check it out here), but I think it is important enough to bring it up again. I learned in my language d. class (last quarter, I’m battling the math now…save me). Anyways, like I was saying, in my LD class they taught us a little bit about learning to write. They said it was only the lucky ones that ever found their “voice.”

As a writer I grinned, because I think if you write long enough, you find your voice. If you are persistent.

If you have been reading our blog for some time, you will be able to pick out each of the different voices or writing styles Linda, L.T. and I have.

For example, Linda’s voice. Linda is a very uplifting writer. All her posts are encouraging, she has a passion for helping people and you can hear it in her writing. She writes children's books.

L.T. is so good at using the right word. Her posts have elegant mixtures of literary fusion. She really takes her time to find the right words. She writes fantasy.

I write like I’m a kid. Probably because I am around them all day. But I enjoy things that make me laugh – and yes, it comes through in my writing. I write YA.

So what are some things you can do to find your voice? I have a wonderful book by Wyndham (revised by Madison) called Writing for Children and Teenagers. If you haven’t read it, you need to find it. Excellent book. They recommend:

1. Listen. Listen to the group of people you are writing for. Find out how they talk, their tempo, their choice of words. (one word of warning for those writing YA. Don’t use fad words, like “bodacious” from the 80s – it will date your book).

2. Use good dialogue. This may take lots of practice, but if your dialogue isn’t believable, your characters won’t be either.

3. Use your dialogue to move your story forward (but please don’t info dump. I read a story where a character opened his mouth and spewed out tons of information that I didn’t think a real person would do.)

Good sound advice. They have more suggestions in the book, but I felt like these three were a good place to start.

So, those of you who have been writing for a while, how do you feel like you have found your voice? I’m interested.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trimming the Fat

Cut here. Snip there. It's best to use a scalpel, not a machete. This is delicate work. Is that blood? Did I nick an artery? Could I get a little oxygen?

I’m talking about dejunking my writing.

When writing a picture book, it’s best to be thrifty with words. This has been a hard lesson for me, because I adore words. I love the sound of words and the feel of the rhythm as the words slide over my tongue and fly through the air. I love word pictures and descriptive phrases. However, in a picture book,the fewer words, the better.

Last year after attending a writer's conference, I did major surgery on three of my favorite picture book manuscripts. I learned at the writer's conference that most publishers will no longer look at picture book manuscripts that are over 1,000 words. Why? It is because they are not very marketable. Neither Barnes and Noble nor Borders will pick them up. Can you guess who drives the market? Barnes and Noble and Borders would be a good guess. Most people are looking for a quick read in a picture book. Busy parents want to shorten the bedtime routine.

I had three wonderful picture book manuscripts that were well over 2,000 words. They were beautiful. They were my darlings. Could I do it? Could I trim them down to less than 1,000. Was it possible? Where to start? I took the challenge.

First I decided to trim the fat. In a picture book , an obvious place to look for fat is description. Since half of a good picture book is pictures, make the illustrations count. Don’t describe anything that can be shown in illustrations. It was surprising how many words I could lose by making my manuscript illustrator dependent. Snip. Snip.

Still, I had a long way to go. Next I looked for details that weren’t essential to the story. No matter how clever, or delightful, if the story didn’t hinge on it, it had to go. This bought me a few words. Cut and trim.

Dialogue can breathe life into your story, but in a picture book, dialogue sucks up a lot of words. I looked carefully at dialogue. Which dialogue made the story better? Which dialogue could I do without? Where could I tighten things up. Trim here. Snip there.
This was encouraging. Maybe it was possible. Drum roll, please. Word count? Aargh. Still 150 words to go. Trim the fat. Essentials only. Can I do it? Can I?

I looked for ways to economize on words. I cut unnecessary articles, like a’s and the’s. I hit the delete key again and again. Is there a shorter way to say this? Could I find one word that could replace two or maybe three? Snip. Cut. Trim.

Would my story survive? At first, I felt that death was imminent, but I had to try. As the process continued, I grew more hopeful. Toward the end, I became passionate, exhilarated by the challenge.

At last, triumph. My story was leaner. There was no trace of fat, not even an ounce. Was it still a story? That’s what you want to know, isn’t it? Did the story survive?

I feel a strong pulse, but she’s lost a lot of blood. Time will tell, but I think she’ll pull through. Oxygen, please. Stat.

Linda Garner

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Power of Books

Books can remind us that anything can be accomplished – even if wishing on stars. It can turn orphaned boys into magicians and even teaches little girls that the way home was inside them all along. And that all begins with an idea – an idea from a writer.

Do you remember in the 80s – There was that guy (after a tv show) that sat on his typewriter in his blue and white shirt typing a script. As he finished he pulled the paper from the typewriter and it would then fly through the air into a composed, neat pile of white papers for the editor? He made it look so easy. You just sit down, type and voila – finished story.

Unfortunately, this is not reality. Writing is an art that, just like masterpieces, takes time, thought and patience. But the patience is well worth the work.

In my first writer’s conference, they told us that if you expected a large paycheck, flowing stories or fame, you were in the wrong place. But if you have a desire deep down within you, a desire that pushes you forward to write, then you were in the right place.

Alas, once we writers start writing, we can’t be stopped (yes, I’ve tried, but the yearning to write keeps flowing out).

When that that’s when I remember the magic of books. Fairies, hobbits, adventures, pirates, sparkly vampires - all in books.

May all your reading/ writing goals this year be made. I’ve got my goals written and thought out. It’s going to be a great year!

What are your writing plans this year?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Love a Good Sort-Out

I think I have spent a good portion of my life dejunking. I seem to attract clutter. I know people who collect things. I have a friend who collects elephants, and another who collects teacups. I, on the other hand collect stuff. I blame it on my pioneer heritage. I hold on to things because I might need them some day.

I started the new year dejunking. It’s quite liberating. I am enjoying letting go of things that no longer serve me. When I finish dejunking a closet or a room, I stand back and admire the clean space I have created. It’s a nice feeling. Then I move on to another messy spot. I have so many messy spots that I will probably spend a good share of 2010 dejunking. Will it ever end?

Like a line I heard once on a Brittish comedy, I love a good sort-out. In my life, I have often found a good sort-out helpful. I enter the closet of my mind and find aging moldy thoughts and attitudes long outgrown or completely worn out, but not discarded. It’s liberating to toss them out, and make space for new ideas, new habits, a new me.

Dejunking my heart is another life-long process. It can be painful, but satisfying. I’m thinking of tossing out fear and making room for trust. Perhaps I’ll throw out anger to make room for love. Maybe I could clear out judgement to make room for joy.

Dejunking is such good therapy that maybe I should try it on my writing. Am I brave enough to look for clutter there? How many words can I afford to keep? How many is too many? Which ones should I toss?

Sometimes it hurts. But only for a little while.

I love a good sort-out.

Linda Garner