3 Rock Solid Reasons to Retreat

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cloudsWhen it’s used a verb, “retreat” is like a military term. “Our foul-breathed enemies are advancing–retreat! retreat!” But retreat can also mean to withdraw to a secluded, quiet place. To me, a writing retreat is a combo of both. For a lot of us, time is our enemy, so when we withdraw from our daily routine to devote time to craft, it’s like a retreating retreat.

Why take time to retreat?

  1. That story is not going to write itself. You have stellar intentions to write at lunchtime or after dinner or on weekends, but then out go your intentions when the tyranny of the urgent takes over. The only thing you find time to write is a to do list. Retreats provide concentrated time to truly, you know, concentrate.
  2. Creative juices curdle under pressure. You’ve noticed that, right? The more you push and strain your brain to produce in a tiny capsule of time, the quicker your creativity contracts. It takes time for half-baked ideas to warm, rise and fully expand.
  3. Getting out of your element opens your pores, I mean, doors. Perhaps I need to explain. When you write in a new environment, it’s unsettling–in a good way. It gets you out of a same ol’ lame ol’ rut. Go with it. If new ideas come knocking, open those doors!

139Bonus round–Ideas for creating your own retreat . . . book a hotel room for a weekend. Too pricey? Use your office at work–Saturdays are typically quiet. Ask a group of writing friends to rent a house for a few days. Will a relative be out-of-town for the weekend? Ask if they would like a house sitter. (Nothing wrong with sitting in their house to write, right?)

Please treat yourself to a retreat this year, my little triple berry scones. The only regret you’ll have is not doing it.

In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion. ~ Albert Camus155

Meet Young Writer, Miss Indiya Draw

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Young writer, Indiya Draw

At a recent Family Writing Night at Paragon Charter Academy, I had the honor of meeting fellow writer Indiya Draw. Indiya is a multi-talented 4th grader who not only enjoys writing, she is also an excellent basketball player. “My biggest talent is dribbling two balls at once.” (I can’t even dribble one!)

Like most writers, Indiya enjoys reading. Right now, her favorite books are from The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby series by George Beard and Harold Hutchins. “I also like Dr. Seuss because I like how tsuper diaper babyhe rhyming sounds.” (Me too.)

paragon visit 4Indiya is a writer with  a tender heart for people and all living things. Her favorite animal is the serval cat. “Because they are cute!” And if she could do one thing to make the world a better place, Indiya said, “For everybody to have a home.”

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Indiya won the Frog on a Dime Guest Spot Drawing!

Indiya likes to write because “you can make up anything you want.” Of course, having a world of options can create a challenge too. She said, “Thinking up a topic is the hardest part about writing.” All writers can relate to that, Indiya! I am confident your amazing imagination will continue to inspire you to write many more stories. (How about a story about those adorable serval cats?) Paragon visit Feb 2018

It was a pleasure to meet Indiya and her family, and all of the students and their loved ones who collaborated to create their own stories. I wish you all many more opportunities to experience the joy of writing together.

Write on!

So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains. ~ Dr. Seuss Paragon visit 2

 

 

How I Knew What I Wanted To Do

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Childcraft, Volume 2, circa 1949

Not long ago, a colleague of mine brought his daughter to visit the office. She was about seven.

A confident little girl, she walked into my office and immediately engaged in conversation.

Then her dad encouraged her to tell me what she wants to do when she grows up.

“I want to write children’s books,” she said.

How at the age of less-than-ten does she know she wants to write children’s books? I mean, she is a child.

For me, I’ve known I wanted to write children’s books since I was a little girl too. It wasn’t that I wanted to simply be a writer; I wanted to be that specific kind. But why?

I suspect is it had a lot to do with coming under the influence of a certain book. (I know you have a “certain” book too.) For me, this book was Childcraft, Volume Two, Storytelling and Poems, copyright 1949. It was part of a 14-volume set my grandmother had purchased originally for my mom and her sister when they were little girls. Volume Two was filled with poetry by Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg, among many others and a stunning variety of illustrations by exceptional artists. My mom kept the set intact in the hall closet of my childhood home for years, but somehow that precious Volume Two vamoosed to WhoKnowsWhere.

Over the years, I thought about Volume Two. It may sound silly, but I longed to see those images of Miss T. dining with her grandparents, an elephant on the telephone, the dancing potatoes, the tiny black kitten curled on the blue rug. And I wanted to read those poems again. Those amazing poems. The combination of art and rhythmic words was like an incantation. So powerful. So magical.

I am happy to report I finally found Volume Two online and it is now at my house. Sure enough, seeing it again took me to the same place of contentment and delight that made me want to write for children, even while I was a child myself.

My little Snickerdoodles, let me encourage you to reread beloved books from your childhood. Not to study them, but because they are dear to you and can help you remember why you do what you do.  It’s not about recollecting, so much as it is rekindling. Sure, when you reread childhood favorites you may be surprised by how out of step they feel with modernity or wonder what on earth attracted you to this book when you were a kid, and that’s okay. But, there will still be that certain book that has built a cozy blanket fort in your heart. Get your flashlight and a box of animal crackers and enjoy it again. Experience the magic and it will motivate you to write some incantations of your own.

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WONT’S
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be

~Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

 

A May Wish in December

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christmas 2017 little housesMy little sugar plums, before we flop face first into holiday festivities, let me present you with a wee present. It’s a simple gift of words, wishes really, of all I hope for you this season and the new year through.

A May Wish in December

May your inner child remain your cherished friend.

May you pounce on opportunities before analysis paralyzes you.

May you run out of excuses by January 2.

May your friends’ success refine you into a world-class cheerleader.

May you believe any praise you receive as easily as you do criticism.

May you be dauntless, deliberate and delightful.

May you be your most authentic you. (Duplicates or substitutions will not be accepted.)

May you be unapologetic in your nonsense, whimsy and quirkitude.

May you be deaf to your inner critic, but alert to wise counsel.

May grace be your brand and kindness your second nature.

May fear be an energizer, not an extinguisher.

May you crave authenticity more than notoriety.

May you knock your own sweet socks off.

If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper, a pray-er, a magic-bean-buyer
If you’re a pretender com sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in! 
Come in! ~ Shel Silverstein

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Congrats x 5 Giveaway Winners!

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Mr. Tarzan Malarkey and the gang down at the law firm of Starsky & Hutch have tabulated the results of the Frog on a Dime 5th Birthday Giveaway! FB Team

Congratulations to these 5 lucky winners . . .

  • Monica Harris
  • Becky K
  • Robin Korb
  • Rondi Olson
  • Angela Verges

FB BadgerMany thanks to everyone who entered, posted, re-Tweeted and shared such kind words of encouragement and genius suggestions. I appreciate you all so much, my little crescent rolls!

(Psst. Winners, please provide me with your mailing address via FB messaging or the Frog on a Dime contact page and I will get your surprise zooming your way!)

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again. ~ Lewis Carroll

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High 5! Happy 5th Birthday Giveaway!

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Can you believe it, my shiny little pomegranates? We’ve reached FIVE full years of Frog on a Dime. My desire to be an encouragement to you has come full circle over and over so many times, thanks to you, I’m a curlicue.

To thank you-thank you-thank you, I’m offering FIVE chances to win one of FIVE Happy 5th Birthday Giveaway Surprises.

Five quick-as-a-wink ways to enter:

  • Become a new follower of Frog on a Dime. (Sign up via the home page.)
  • Invite a friend to visit Frog on a Dime.
  • Comment under this post on Facebook.*
  • Like and retweet this post on Twitter.
  • Share a comment, suggestion or question on this post below.*

*Your brilliant suggestions for future post topics, your writing-related questions or nominations for guest bloggers are especially welcome.

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Enter by 5 p.m. (EST) on Monday, December 11.

I can’t wait to pass out the surprise prizes. So, hop to it!

I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ~ Ovid

(Prizes will be sent to US addresses only.)

Some & Soon & Specificity

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Let me give you the truth. (And yes, you can handle the truth.) I am frustrated by the lack of progress with my Work In Progress (WIP). Perhaps calling it a SIP–Snail In Progress is more accurate. I suspect one (of the many) reasons for my slogginess is the overwhelmingness of it all. Novels are so stinkin’ big and messy and apt to misbehave at every page turn. You know? I think maybe you do, my ginger snap.

So, I’ve been on high alert for a simple way to progressively make more progress, and I think I may have landed on something–specificity.  Lemme explain.

Last week, I was at this training for my day job and one of the speakers (Dr. Don Berwick) used a catchy phrase that sent up a flare in my brain:

“Some is not a number. Soon is not a time.”

Say, that’s, why, that’s true. The doc had something there.

Then! I read this quote by the brilliant and darling Kathryn Erskine recipient of the 2010 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She said, “I don’t like the word soon because you don’t know when it’s going to sneak up on you and turn into NOW. Or maybe it’ll be the kind of soon that never happens.”

 

But wait, there’s more.

Then! I listened to this guy I “met” on Facebook. Comedian Tim Minchin addressed a graduating class at the University of Western Australia. (You should listen to the whole thing, ahem, after you finish reading my post, si vous plait. It’s really kind of brilliant.) Anyway, among his many glinty shards of wisdom, Minchin imparted this gem–“I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious.”

Is it just me, or is there a theme emerging?

You see it too? Oh, good.

adams-pumpkin-2So, let’s say you (and by you, I mean, I) want to write a middle grade novel. You need at least a good solid 30,000 words. That’s daunting. But instead of diddling (or in my case, doodling), why not passionately dedicate to the pursuit of a short-term goal?

Let’s do the math and get very specific. (I cannot believe I’m going to do math in front of you. The terror.)

You are going to write 30,000 in 6 months.

That equates to 5,000 words a month.

And that means you’d need to pump out about 210 words a day (six days a week).

That’s less than one page of writing a day. It’s specific. It’s possible. (I want to see nodding here.)

It’s not easy, but it’s a lot less scary than staring down the whole 30K.

Am I right? Yes, yes, of course. (Again with some nodding please.)

Instead of being macro-lethargic, I can be micro-ambitious–and reach my goal. I will be declared dauntless! Okay, okay, so it’s not sexy, but a declaration of dauntlessness ain’t nothin’ poo-poo.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

While I say “no” to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November (sorry, my little pumpkin muffins), I am sure the momentum it creates can be intoxicating. If that kind of specificity works for you, I say huzzah! Ever forward!

Remember, my chicken dumplings, some is not a number.  Soon is not a time. Specificity is the ticket to getting things done.

Now that you (and I) know this, let’s become micro-ambitious sometime soon, mm-kay?

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring