Category Archives: mixed bag

12 Ways 2 B 5 Minutes Closer to Your Dream

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Do something every day to get you closer to your dream. That was one of the first and best pieces of advice I received when I was just packing my bags to begin my writing journey. (Thank you, Ann Purmell.)

Of course, “do something” leaves ample room for personalization. Assuming you agree with the concept, you’re probably wondering how you’d find time to do something every day.

Well, in 2015 I heard Newbery winner Kathi Appelt talk about a time in her life when she was frustrated over finding writing time. A friend challenged her to write every day. Kathi said she’d try for 30 minutes daily, but her friend protested. She wanted Kathi to aim for a mere five minutes a day. Kathi was confident she could commitment to that!

No surprise, Kathi oftentimes exceeds her five minute allotment, but regardless of the minutes, the important thing is, she is doing something every day–creating momentum, a worthy habit, a dream-supporting discipline.

Being the smart little snicker doodles you are, you knew I’d challenge you next, didn’t you. I want to give you a dozen options to spend five or ten minutes each day to bring your dreams closer to reality.

  1. Interview one character from your work in progress.
  2. Order a new book on writing technique – may I suggest Kendra Levin’s The Hero is You.
  3. Compile a list of names—first or last or both together–for future characters.
  4. Read a blog post by an editor or author you admire.
  5. Send someone you appreciate a quick thank you email. It could be a fellow writer, an editor or maybe a conference speaker who encouraged you.
  6. Write one scene.
  7. Register for a retreat or conference.
  8. Read two pages of your WIP out loud or ask someone to read them to you.
  9. Tidy your desk top (either your computer desk top or your actual desk).
  10. Research a publishing house for a future submission.
  11. Type out the text of one of your favorite picture books so you can study it.
  12. Do a Find/Replace in one chapter (or five pages) to weed out your “crutch words,” e.g. just, actually, started or to root out passive voice.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes

A writers guide to raising Baby New Year


reedWithout doubt, most of us will not think back on 2016 and heave a wistful sigh. It was a Grueler. (Not sure if that’s a word. It should be.)

Yet, it is into this mosh pit of mayhem we are about to bring a Baby New Year. And if there’s one thing we know about babies, as much as we think we know about them, those wee, wiggly love sponges possess an inherent agility for throwing curve balls.

To up our odds for raising a healthy, toddling humanette, in 2017, let’s try these three baby steps toward productivity . . .

Step 1: Brainstorm. Make a list of all the possible things you could do with your Baby New Year as a writer. The outer banks of the universe is the limit. Dream BIG. Really give it a think. (When you hear brain cells bubbling back off a tad.)

Step 2: Using your aforementioned list, select three things you’d like to accomplish as a writer with Baby New Year. (For purposes of sanity retention, I recommend selecting a large, medium and small—or a venti, grande and tall in Starbucks-speak.)

So, for example—

By December 31, 2017, I will:

  • Have a complete first draft of my current novel in progress.
  • Revise ¼ – ½ of another novel.
  • Write 12 messages of encouragement or thanks to a fellow writer (or an agent, editor, beta reader or whom have you).

Step 3: Whether you use Outlook, a phone app or ye olde paper calendar, put prompts on your calendar for each of the things you’re going to accomplish.

To elevate your chances for success, share your list with a trusted friend–a Baby New Year Sitter, of sorts, who is tough, but likely to offer treats.

Wishing you and your Baby New Year unexpected sources of delight, insight and really good cookies in 2017. Cheers! (And remember, we’re all in this together, my little malted milk balls.)

Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year! ~ Ogden Nash

Trick or Treat – Repeat


Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2016

My little cinnamon sugar cider donuts, do I have a treat for you . . .

WILLIAM AND THE WITCH’S RIDDLE written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Lee Wildish.

From the jacket flap . . .

“William and his little brother, Pinch, have been left alone at their home atop a mountain. When a witch named Morga shows up, William is forced to embark upon a terrifying journey, but he is also offered the possibility to save his family.

“The worst part of the journey is Morga herself. She has three riddles for William to solve, with only the help of an odd fellow who wakes up a different size every day and a tiny yellow dragon who can dream storms into reality.

“Three riddles. Three chances to lift an ancient curse. Three chances to save his family.”

This is a beautifully written middle grade fantasy. You’ll want to gobble it up like trick-or-treat sack of snack size Snickers! But you don’t have to take my word for it . . .

From Kirkus Reviews:

“There is humor, heart-stopping action, magic of many sorts, and tender emotions of sacrifice, love, and loss. Crum draws readers into this evidently white fairy-tale world with detailed, descriptive language and inventive syntax. An exciting, neatly crafted adventure.”

Doesn’t this sound irresistible? A copy of this spellbinding can be yours!


Leave a comment–describe your favorite childhood Halloween costume–at the end of this post by Noon on Monday, October 24, and you will be entered into a drawing for a copy of your very own. No trick – just treat!

dsc04887October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace! ~ Rainbow Rowell

the high price of giving up


You may not be able to calculate it in dollars, but the price may be higher than you think.

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Photo by Vicky Lorencen .

Have you ever wanted to quit on a dream? I have. I suspect we all have. Dreams are easy to carry when they are fresh and so are we. But they can feel burdensome once the real work begins. Little wonder we want to say “enough”!

Recently at least two of my writing friends wondered if they should loosen their grip on their dreams and let go. Can you relate? Before you make that decision, may I offer some things to think about?

Will your life be better for it–will you feel free to pursue other things–or will you miss having a dream to chase?

Can you live with the wonderings and the what ifs–I wonder what would have happened if I’d stuck with it just one more year . . . sigh.

How will others be influenced by your decision? Now, typically, when…

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Finny’s Winner


Summer Nick Taught His Cats-cover (1)

Congratulations to Ann Finkelstein and Buffy Silverman, winners of THE SUMMER NICK TAUGHT HIS CATS TO READ. This summer-fun story will be on its way to you soon!

Many thanks to everyone who stopped by for Frog on a Dime’s first ever Summer Open House. It was a delight to have  you visit and we loved reading your comments.

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Special thanks to our fascinating guest Curtis Manley.

We can’t wait to see what you’re working on next!

interview finn

And, of course, my warm and fuzzy thanks to Finny for doing such an excellent job on his very first interview. I hope I can convince him to do another interview in the future (assuming he’ll be willing to forego a nap).

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Come on in! It’s Summer Open House


Welcome to Frog on a Dime’s first ever Summer Open House! Relax. Kick off those sandy flip-flops, grab yourself a chilled beverage and enjoy.Summer Nick Taught His Cats-cover (1)

Today I’ll be takin’ it easy too because my feline friend Finn gleefully agreed to skip nap number seven to interview the author of this new cat-centric and summery picture book by debut author Curtis Manley. But first, let me proclaim . . .

I LOVE this book. I had the pleasure–the DELIGHT–to hear Curtis read his droll, charming, sweet, guffaw-worthy story at a retreat in June. This book has so many layers packed between its covers. On the surface, it’s about a book-loving boy and his cats. I mean, the title. There you have it. But it’s also about friendship and meeting people (or in this case, cats) where they are. It’s about opening someone’s world by sharing something you love. It’s about patience. It’s about the glories of imagination and storytelling. It’s about appreciating different learning styles, and yes, it’s about the summer Nick taught his cats to read. Quite a teacher, that Nick.

Enter for a chance to receive your own copy of THE SUMMER NICK TAUGHT HIS CATS TO READ! If you’re already a Frog on a Dime follower, simply leave a comment (OR question for Curtis) on my contact page by Noon (EST) on Sunday, July 31.

OR if you’re new to Frog on a Dime, you can register to become a follower (on the home page) and automatically be entered into a drawing exclusively for new followers. Winners will be announced at Noon on Monday, August 1.

Looks like my furry friend’s ready for you, Curtis . . . take it away, Finn!

cat book 2 (2)Finn says, “Welcome, Mr. M!”

Finn: Thank you for agreeing to talk with me, Mr. Manley. I have so many important things I want to know about you. 

So, for starters, what is your favorite day of the week?

Any day that a cat snuggles on my lap and purrs is a good day. I’m very lucky that that

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Meet Curtis Manley

happens nearly every day!

You know what? I like you already. Let’s keep going.

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

I would want to be any kind of cheese that mice don’t like. Because if I was a cheese that attracts mice, the mice would then attract cats—who would be tempted to jump on the mice (and me) with their claws out. Ouch!

You’d have no worries about me pouncing. I am rodent-intolerant. Ugh. The gas. The bloating. Why is Vicky looking at me like that?

Let’s see, next question:

What is under your bed?

Funny you should ask! Under the bed are boxes. Some of the boxes have things in them, and some are empty. There are just enough boxes to make it impossible for a cat to get under our bed. Why ever would we do such a cruel thing? I will tell you: When we adopted our current cat, Felix, from the shelter, he had already been adopted by two different families—and returned to the shelter by each of them because he hid all the time. So when we brought Felix into our home, we made sure that all the hiding places were where we could still see each other and get to know each other. It still took about a year for him to decide that he doesn’t need to be afraid of us.

So, is it time to let him get under the bed if that’s what he wants to do? Probably. And should we just happen to leave some crayons and drawing paper under there? Yes!

cat book 1

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

A few months after my wife and I were married years ago, we gave ourselves the gift of a cat adopted from a shelter near where we lived in California. He was a tuxedo cat who had been able to donate blood to save another cat’s life. He was the sweetest cat, moved with us around the country (CA to AZ to NC to WA), and never seemed upset or jealous when our (human) baby daughter appeared and took up much of our attention. He was with us for more than 12 years. We still miss him.

[Sniffle sniffle] No, those aren’t tears. I got a whisker in my eye. Look away. [Dab-dab with the end of the tail.]

Now, seeing as you are a human, what is your inner adult/inner child ratio?

I prefer to think of it as the inner child/inner adult ratio—because then when the ratio goes up it is a good thing! So: My inner child/inner adult ratio has increased over the past 10 years and is now probably something like 60/40. I suspect that as I write more children’s books the ratio will continue to go up…

I’m more of an NPR fan myself, but if you could make a guest appearance on a TV sit com, which one would it be–and why?

I’ve fallen out of the habit of watching TV, but—and no, this doesn’t date me at all—I could imagine myself as a guest on Gilligan’s Island… I could play either a geologist looking for evidence the island had been inundated in the past by a huge tsunami, or an author (like, for instance, Robert Louis Stevenson) hoping to live in a tropical paradise to regain his health. Personally, I’m in good health; thanks for asking!

Describe your sock drawer in three words or less.


If you hadn’t become a writer, what would you be? Please don’t say a dog groomer.

Well, I used to be a technical writer (not quite the same as a writer). Before that, I tested software. And before that, I was a volcanologist (no, that has nothing to do with pointy-eared aliens from the planet Vulcan) and got to explore volcanoes and lava flows in the middle of nowhere. One day in Idaho when I returned from a long hike I found that cows had made big smear marks on my pickup truck by licking off the dust. Cats would never do anything like that!

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Meet Mr. Manley’s friend, Felix

Speaking of cats, can your cat Felix read?

Felix  is showing some interest in reading, though right now it is only the words on the grocery sacks he loves to curl up on. Learning to read doesn’t happen overnight, so we will keep working with him!

Good luck with that.



For this next part, I’m going to throw words at you like little balls of yarn to see how you respond. Ready? Pounce . . .

Favorite punctuation mark:

I like ellipses (…) but I also like the em-dash (—). To state a preference would be unfair to each of them.

Favorite food or drink while writing:

I enjoy many kinds of tea—except Earl Grey. And I am not a coffee person (my apologies to those who are—but that’s probably not you, Finn…).

You’re right. Coffee is vile. I prefer tepid tap water from the bathroom faucet with one of my humans standing by to adjust the flow. But enough about my charming quirks.

Fantasy road trip destination:

I’d love to spend more time in the Four Corners area: colorful sandstone cliffs, twisty rivers, pueblo ruins, and petroglyphs. Alternative destination (though trying to drive there is a bad idea): Iceland.

Totally hypothetical question: do you think dogs could be taught to read? [giggling]

Of course you know the answer!

Of course. Are you sure you’re not part cat, Mr. Manley?

Finn — Thanks so much for interviewing me for Frog on a Dime! I had a lot of fun answering your questions! When you become famous for interviewing celebrities, I’ll get to boast that I was the first (interviewee, not celebrity)!

The honor was all mine, Mr. Manley. You made my first interview job so easy, but I’m still ready for nap number eight. Valentine Finn (2)


I hope everyone will enter to win a copy of Mr. Manley’s picture book. It definitely made it worth learning to read!


your bill of writes


Welcome to Frog on a Dime

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Photo by Vicky Lorencen

In the spirit of Independence Day, I present to you [cue the fife and drum please] . . .

A Writer’s Bill of Rights

You have the right to observe, but not follow trends.

You have the right to seek a second opinion.

You have the right to ask, “What if?”

You have the right to laugh at your own writing. Hey, if you’re funny, you’re funny.

You have the right to leave your beloved critique group if it’s no longer serving its purpose.

You have the right to say no when a friend of a friend asks for feedback on her 1,000-word non-fiction picture book about the history of toe jam.

You have the right not to feel guilty if someone asks for your honest opinion and doesn’t like your response (assuming you delivered the news graciously).

You have the right to try a new genre.

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