Category Archives: Mindfulness

Come on in! Summer Open House Presents Kelly DiPucchio & Super Manny! Giveaway

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My little sparklers, the first time I met Kelly DiPucchio we were at an SCBWI – Michigan conference many years ago. Kelly was wearing a feather boa (not exactly standard issue for children’s writers!) and I thought, “Who is this amazing person?” There are many ways to answer that question–Kelly is a prolific New York Times bestselling picture book author. She is a creative, thoughtful and kindhearted woman. And best of all, Kelly is my friend. I could not be more delighted to have her join us for Summer Open House 2017.

Today, July 4, is the birthday of Kelly’s newest picture book is SUPER MANNY STANDS UP!

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Atheneum Books for Young Readers (July 4, 2017)

“This charming story marries the mania for superheroes with a potent anti-bullying message, making it an apt tale for present times. Super Manny, an imaginative raccoon child…declares out loud to the world his own fearlessness and strength in words that children will want to echo…. With great read-aloud potential, this story could be used by both parents and teachers to introduce concepts of courage and standing up to bullies from the youngest preschoolers up.” (Kirkus Reviews, May 2017)

Watch this super SUPER MANNY trailer!

You can enter for a chance to win your very own copy of SUPER MANNY to enjoy yourself or share with a beloved child in your life.

  • All you need to do is leave a comment at the end of this post!
    • Leave a favorite quote to add to the new “Worth Repeating” page, and you’ll get two chances.
    • AND if you become a new follower of Frog on a Dime, you’ll get three chances to win!

Drawing takes place Saturday, July 8 at Noon. 

Lemon sliceSince Kelly was kind enough to stop by for the Summer Open House, how could I resist offering her a seat on the Frog on a Dime porch swing for some lemonade and conversation?

What role has mindfulness and/or intuition played in your writing career?

Mindfulness has played a tremendous role in my writing career and life. I could tell you many stories about how different meditation practices have inspired new book ideas and even completed manuscripts in one sitting. I’ve come to learn over the years that meditation doesn’t mean you have to be in a lotus position on the floor with sandalwood incense and white candles burning. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that and I, myself, enjoy creating those sacred spaces occasionally before I write but I can also create mindfulness by taking walks in nature or sitting in the sun or even folding clean laundry (definitely my least favorite).

What is your favorite day of the week–and yes, why?

Okay, probably only writers and artists will understand this but MONDAY. Mondays mean I’m getting back to my routine and there’s something very empowering and hopeful about having the full week ahead of me so I can get things done. Usually, by Friday, I’m lamenting about how much more I should have gotten done that week!

I know this is rather personal, but what is under your bed?

A few wayward socks (see Question #10), an empty suitcase, stray dryer sheets, a peaceful colony of dust bunnies, a flashlight and copies of A Course in Miracles and Autobiography of a Yogi (for good energy).

Who makes you laugh the most?

A few years ago, I definitely would have answered, “My husband!” However, now I’d have to say my son is closing in on a tie for first place. My husband and I take pride in the fact that we’ve birthed and raised some very funny people.

If you were a cheese, what kind would you be? Why?

I’d probably be Swiss because I’m pale and holy.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My kids. I know that sounds incredibly hokey and cliché but nothing else in my life can even come close.

Kelly, now be honest, kind of music feels like torture to you?

Heavy metal. That answer should not come as a big surprise to anyone who knows me because I will openly admit to loving Barry Manilow.

What is your inner adult/inner child ratio?

50% Adult. 25% Child. 25% Dog.

If you could make a guest appearance on a sit com, which one would it be–and why?

Probably Modern Family because I love the cast and the show.

Describe your sock drawer in three words or less.

Messy. Mismatched. Merry.

If you hadn’t become a writer, what would you be?

A totally different person.

Your favorite punctuation mark: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Favorite food or drink while writing: Coffee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fantasy road trip destination:

Well, you can’t get there by road but my inner compass keeps pointing me in the direction of Ireland. Cross my pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers I will get there one day!

Kelly, thank you so much for stopping by. I think you’re super!

And best o’ luck with Ireland!

Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind. ~ Roy Bennett

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Think you’re not a bully? Take the “Am I a Bully?” Quiz

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Are you a bully? You’re mostly likely saying no. Well, um, prepare yourself for an awkward moment of self-revelation served cold with a side of I Did Not See that Coming. You’re still skeptical, aren’t you. That’s okay. I’m not going to bully you. I’ll let this quiz do my convincing for me. Please go ahead.  Take this quick, eight-question test. We’ll talk when you’re done.

Pencils ready? Please respond with a T for True and an F for False.

The “Am I a Bully?” Quiz

  1. _____ I encourage my writing friend to invest hours trolling Facebook, especially when I know awards or “best of” lists are being announced so she can look for her name and not see it there.
  2. _____ When a rejection letter arrives, I help my friend dissect it, looking for any nuance that suggests this was a personal rejection and a comment on her chances of ever selling this manuscript in any form, both existing and those yet to be created, anywhere in the known universe.
  3. _____ I help my friend do side-by-side comparisons of her writing journey with that of someone else, all the while posing questions like “How old was he when he sold his first book?” “You know you should be a lot further along by now, right?” “Did you know he writes 9,000 words a day?”
  4. _____ If my friend says she’ll never be published, I affirm her in her fears with a hearty, “You betcha!”
  5. _____ If I suspect my friend may be hoarding Rubbermaid® tubs of jealousy under her chocolate hamper, I am swift to shift into shame mode and toss out words like immature, sophomoric and baby doodoo head.
  6. _____ When my agent-less friend learns one of her friends got an agent, I read and re-read the announcement aloud to her using a fancy British accent. Once it’s tattooed on her gray matter, we move on to making a list of the reasons an agent will never-ever-ever want to represent someone like her.
  7. _____ When my friend complains that all of her ideas are lame, I protest and correct her by saying, I see them as derivative, tired and utterly unappealing.
  8. _____ When my friend compares her rough draft with the edited/polished/published work of her favorite author, I fail to point out the unfair comparison while we drive to the store for more Cherry Garcia.

You answered F on every one, didn’t you.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

But, my dearest buttered English muffin with apricot preserves, you are a bully. Every time you belittle yourself, blame yourself for having human emotions like jealousy or sadness, or torture yourself by comparing your unique journey to that of someone else, you are bullying you. Are you seein’ what I’m sayin’?

For the love of ampersands, stop.

Oh, I know it’s not that easy. It’s not easy at all. But if you can’t be your own defender, who can be? Start today by being mindful of the words you say to yourself. Instead of damning jabs, try using the sweet, consoling, empathetic words you give to others. Seek the company of encouraging people. Go on a 48-hour Facebook fast. Be BIG and send a worthy someone a note of congratulations. Be real about your disappointments. Celebrate even small victories.

And remember, my little former self-bully, even now, you are making some people sick with jealousy just by being you. Now, doesn’t that make you feel better? You betcha!

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~ Desmond Tutu

 

 

 

mindfulness and the writer’s mind

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You’ve heard of mindfulness, yes? Okay, so maybe you’ve “heard” of it, but your understanding is a tad fuzzy. If I give you a link to a delightful introduction via the lovely Anderson Cooper, can I trust you to come back to Frog on a Dime to read the rest of this post? Oh, you know I can never deny you anything. Okay, my little gum drop, have a look.

You’re back! [Trying not to look surprised] So, this mindfulness-ness thing, now you know it’s really about being aware, about being present–about being. Am I a pro at that? Oh, you little snickerdoodle. You do know how to make me chuckle. All I know is practicing mindfulness is a good, life-enhancing thing that I believe can and will enhance my writing (and yes, yours, too).

I came up with a squatty list of ways mindfulness may do you (and me) good as a writer:

  • Mindfulness improves your ability to focus. Instead of being a mind-wandering writer, you can be present for the project at hand (literally on the keyboard).
  • Mindfulness makes you aware of life’s simplest moments–waking, showering, eating, walking, breathing. Relishing and being present in even the mundanity (sure, that’s a word) of every day enriches the way you are able to translate simple, sensual experiences into words for your readers.
  • Mindfulness may unplug writer’s block – when you’re blocked, it makes you stressed and being stressed keeps you blocked. Mindfulness helps to calm and center you so the ideas can flow. Because who among us wants to be wordstipated?

No doubt, this is not an exhaustive list. Let me hear your ideas. I am aware. I am present. I am ready to listen. I am headed to the kitchen . . . (see, I need more practice).

Want to know more about the benefits of mindfulness? Here’s some fine information from the good folks at Harvard Medical School. Enjoy.

I am a human being, not a human doing. ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

and the birthday present goes to . . .

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Happy first birthday,  Frog on a Dime!

Happy first birthday,
Frog on a Dime!

Congratulations to Jennifer Byrnes! Your name was selected in Frog on a Dime’s First Birthday Celebration Critique Giveaway. Jennifer, I will be in touch soon regarding the submission details for your free 10-page critique. I am truly looking forward to reading your work and doing what I can to help you make it even stronger.

Many thanks to all who entered the drawing, and to everyone who sent birthday wishes. You made me so “hoppy”! (Oh, c’mon. I can’t have a pun-less birthday!)

While I’m passing out gifts, and since it is the holiday season, I want to share my wishes for all of you . . .

I wish you the gift of laughter–even if it means laughing at yourself.
I wish you the gift of time to “be,” not do–just “be” for a moment and be mindful.
I wish you the gift of kindness–toward yourself especially. (We are our own worst critiques, aren’t we?)
I wish you the gift of inspiration from unexpected sources–and the presence of mind to write it down!
I wish you the gift of a tender, child-like heart–if even for a day, especially this time of year.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I will give myself the gift of one more slice of birthday cake!

My mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday, so I said I wanted to read poetry with her. ~ Guy Johnson (author and Maya Angelou’s son)

dealing with distractio . . . oh, look a pumpkin!

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DSC02086My train of thought tends to run, not on traditional click clack track, but something more akin to a corkscrew roller coaster, swooshing down tunnels and circling back on itself to the point of distraction. (Does your choo choo drive you cuckoo too?) But it’s not only in my brain, I have external attention snatchers too. I’ve got innies and outies!

See, I used to think all of my distractions were primarily outies–you know, phone calls, people, social media, the refrigerator . . . and I fantasized about escaping to a little cabin all by myself. What bliss to sit alone with my thoughts and focus solely on my writing.

A few years ago I had such a fanciful opportunity thanks to the Highlights Foundation. There I was in a darling cabin–yes, in the mountains in early fall–with someone to prepare gourmet meals for me, and a group of encouraging writers to enjoy them with. No phone, no household chores, no job, no reason not to focus. I was working on a middle grade novel in the peace of my idyllic sanctuary, and then my brain said, hey, I wonder if I can get Internet access up here . . . and off I went checking email (this was long before I joined Facebook or I would have been looking at that too). [Insert eye-rolling red face here.] Yes, I got some real writing done, but that experience taught me that I can’t blame external forces alone for feeling distracted while writing. Internal distractions can be just as powerful (and sneaky).

Here are some suggestions to help combat internal distractions:

Buy a kitchen timer–set it for an allotted writing time, or do what I do–write for as long as you can sustain your focus, and then set a timer for 15 minutes to take a break. When the rooster timer dings at my house, it’s back to work. Do not use your phone for a timer. We both know why, right?

Keep a notepad and pen next to your computer. When stray thoughts bubble up–find shoes to go with that dress, get toothpaste, invent a way to make cellulite look cool–jot it down so won’t have to worry about remembering it or worse–jump up and do it.

Set regular writing appointments (because being irregular can be a drag). Promise to honor, cherish and protect those appointments in sickness and in health til the end of the writing project. How does this help with internal distractions? Just like establishing a regular sleep schedule helps you achieve a rest-promoting rhythm, so too, regular writing times get your brain in the writing zone more quickly and your muse will know when and where to find you. (Right, Enid? She’s my muse!)

Exploit your natural resources. If you have other writing friends, ask one of them to be your accountability partner. It’s miraculous how much better I focus when I know someone is going to check up on me. You can also use your critique group for this purpose, if they set regular deadlines for submissions.

Take a writing class. I was so frustrated with my lack of forward momentum and inability to stay focused that I actually signed up for a class through the Institute of Children’s Literature. That’s right, I’m paying someone to keep me on track. And you know what? I’ll be finishing my second novel this year, finally, all thanks to the deadlines set by my teacher.

Follow the one hour rule. Okay, so it’s not really a rule. I made that up. But the idea is to sit down to write one hour before you ll have to be somewhere else. For example, some days I go into the office at my day job one hour early for the sole purpose of working on my own writing. Knowing I will need to shift gears at exactly 8:30 a.m. makes me stay on track. (I’m not a morning person, so I don’t want to get up early and then waste that time.) This could also work if you know your kids will be home in an hour or if you have one hour for your lunch break. We know high school kids who work and go to school tend to get better grades because they know they have to make good use of study time when they get it. That same idea holds true for writers. If you have a little window of time, don’t wiggle through it. Use it!

Use carrots, not sticks. In other words, when your mind starts to meander down a rabbit hole, bring it back to the surface by reminding yourself if you write X number of words (or pages) today,
you can ___(insert reward here)_____.

Practice mindfulness. I’ve already blogged about mindfulness this year. And if you don’t mind, please check out that post to see if this practice would help you to maintain focus and center on the present.

Keep your goals in sight. A writing friend of mine, Rachel Anderson, says it helps her to write her goals out and put them near writing area. “That way, when I get distracted, I see the note and most times turn right around and go back to the computer.” Go Rachel!

Let’s move on to taming external distractions . . .

Yes, there’s an app for that too. Social media is probably one of the primary time munchers, wouldn’t you agree? There are apps you can get that will take up where your self-discipline lags.

Create a “Cone of Silence.” Rachel Anderson also told me, “I write in silence…no TV, no radio, and I cannot have my e-mail or Facebook open or Facebook open–all are distractions to me. My mind works best when it is completely open and the quiet does that for me.” Another writing friend Kelly Barson selected the tiniest room in her home for her office. It’s pretty ingenious–there’s no room for kids or dogs to congregate! Brilliant. Let peace and quiet reign.

Teach your family to recognize what writing looks like. For a long time, my family didn’t clue into what’s happening when I’m writing. They thought that if I was sitting in front of the computer and my fingers were still, that I was not writing and was therefore approachable to answer very important questions, such as, “Smell this. Does this smell okay to you?” or “Have you seen my other sock?” They didn’t understand that writers are writing in their brains before it comes out the keyboard. Now they know because I told them so. I’ve also told them not to interrupt me unless someone is bleeding or something is on fire and there’s no one else who can help. That hasn’t entirely squelched distractions, but it’s made my husband and daughter think twice before asking, “Where did you put the thing?”

Most all of these ideas can also help you overcome distraction’s slutty older sister: procrastination. Oh, she’s fun at first, but she’ll only get you in the trouble. Steer clear of her!

I could not resist . . . I’m breaking with tradition and sharing not one, but three, quotes with this post. If one inspires you, why not put it on the wall in your writing space to help you stay focused.

Sand was dribbling out of the bag of her attention, faster and faster. ~ Sarah Blake

It helps me to set small goals to reduce distraction because I can dance with distraction until daylight.~ Rachel Anderson

At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

are you out of your mind yet?

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frog on a pencilIt’s no secret that we writers spend a lot of time living inside our heads. We write at stop lights and on park benches, in waiting rooms and sometimes at the movies. We may not be putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every moment, but on that little “screen” tucked neatly between our ears, we’re crafting dialogue, untangling knotty plot twists and musing about our main characters. It’s part of the process for most of us. I know that’s true for me.

Maybe that’s why most writers are often introverts. It’s not that we’re shy necessarily. Perhaps it’s simply that we’re content with our own company. And, at least it seems, we’re happy to sit back and observe. But I’d like to gently suggest that we may not be the great observers we think we are. With all of this writing going on inside our heads throughout the day, it’s easy to miss living in the present. How often do we fail to see or truly hear what’s happening in the here and now, while we’re imagining what our heroine will do next on a far-flung planet or trying to come up with a catchy title for that magazine article?

Mindfulness is a practice I was introduced to through a physician at the health system where I work. In its simplest form, for me, mindfulness means taking time to slow down, to breathe and to “be” in the moment. It’s like snapping out of a daydream, wide-eyed and aware of what’s happening in the here and now.

How does cultivating mindfulness benefit me as a writer? It’s no surprise that living in the moment makes me a better observer. I can soak up details–the smell of garlic and onions sweating in the pan, the peculiar way a receptionist wears her eyeliner, the sound of scrapping chickadees, the rhythm of two teen girls jabbering in the backseat or the sharp tang of Greek yogurt with pomegranate. I’ve come to understand that being present for these little details helps me become a stronger writer, and more importantly, a more avid fan of life.

How about you? Would you mind giving it a try?

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t). ~ James Baraz