Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My first writers conference...

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending my first writer’s intensive workshop at Ball State. Earlier in the month, I sent my synopsis and first nine pages of my work-in-progress. Needless to say, I was overly nervous, I always get that way.  Am I the only one? 

I checked in and was escorted to the Boardroom, and guess what, it looked like a boardroom. A large table took up most of the room, with leather swivel chairs surrounding the table. On one wall a screen displayed a computer desktop. Great, my work will be displayed up there, and they will read my stuff.  Why do I always get nervous when people read my work? 

The room was filled with all sorts of people, many who I found out later are amazing writers. I wiggle into a conference chair, and sit next to an older lady with white hair and a calming personality. She was working on a documentary on Nun's. The way she presents it sounds utterly fascinating. I'm going to have to keep in contact with her. Oh, and her son is a famous director, writer, and producer.  Seriously, how cool is that. Two co-authors across the table, recently acquired an agent, and are writing a book about a teen killer who stabbed her mother to death while shouting, "are you dead yet." Wow, all of these people are doing incredible things. Still another wrote about a portal to the afterlife on his farm. I love portal stories, after all, my book, The Last Stored is a portal fantasy.

The class begins as the two professors ask us to read our bio and our elevator pitch. My
heart thumps. Here come the nerves. Great, I didn't know we'd have to talk. At this point, I consider going to the bathroom, then coming back at lunch, but no, I've paid for the class. I look around the room, everyone else seems to have the same pained expression, or is that my imagination. I calm down. Someone penned a story about a Native American billionaire who couldn't read or write. So many wonderful stories and passions. Each and every one is turned on with their work, you can see the fire in their eyes. My turn, I read my bio and pitch about my latest work. Hey, they liked it, and no one booed.   

After the intro's, we move on to the meat of the class, the synopsis and first few pages. They're going in alphabetical order, since my name begins with P, I'll have a while to wait.  More remarkable stories, and writing. Plus, we don't have anyone annoying in class, you know, the one who always asks questions to make themselves look good. 

Time for lunch, literally a brown-bag with fresh fruit, and a huge turkey club, surprisingly delicious. They hand each of us a yellow folder containing critiqued pages. I scan the papers. Red and green mark the page. On one sheet there’s a long note comparing my writing style to Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, and The Giver. I'll take that. Yes, I'll take that. I breathe, and let my heart fall back into place. They think I have something here. I relax for the first time since I've come into the room. 

When lunch ends, we go over more of our work. The professors are kind, but thorough in their evaluations. Finally, it is my turn, Holly reads my first two paragraphs. 
"This is written well," she said. "We get a creepy, ominous vibe from her writing."
YES, yes, yes! She said a bunch more nice things, but I really can't remember all she said, ‘cause my insides were glowing. 

Doc, let me know the difference between like and as. I always screw that one up. Yesterday I spent my whole day, hopefully, correcting them in my novel. Then they moved on to the next name.

And just like that the day was over...

What? I just got here? Wait, I don't want to leave. These people understand me, they all have a passion for storytelling. In those few hours, we formed a group of like-minded thinkers. Funny, when you think about it. All of us come from different backgrounds, places, and even genders, but when we talk about our writing, we come alive. No one put anyone else down, we all listened, supported, and encouraged each other in our endeavors.

What's next? This week, I'm applying what I've learned, fixing all the mechanical issues. One day I'll be perfect, but until that day, I'll keep writing and fine tuning.

Someone told me once that writing workshops and conferences are addictive. Now, I know exactly what they mean.  I’m gathering all my available funds to attend one in July. The next conference, I plan on not being so nervous.

What was your first conference like? Your first meeting with other writers? I’d love to hear about it.   

Friday, March 13, 2015

Daniel the Camp-er Blog Tour

Daniel The Camp-er Blog Tour

I'm thrilled to be hosting S.J. Henderson on this Friday the 13th. Her book is excellent. I totally loved it, from start to finish, and give it five big fat stars! I even gave it to my oldest daughter who is a teacher to read! So take it away S.J. Henderson ...

First thing’s first, thanks for having me, Sonia. I love visiting with my writing friends, so I’m beyond grateful for the invite. And a big congrats on the release of THE LAST STORED. So excited for you!
Now to the questions…

How long have you been writing?
Gosh, it feels like forever. I can’t think of a magic age when I said, “Yes, this is what I want to do with my life.” On the contrary, as a kid, I remember mostly the feeling of not having what it takes to be a writer. Writers needed to have connections and know the secret knock to open the door of publishing houses. I was a shy kid whose closest friend was a pony, and I didn’t know anything about a special knock.
But I still wrote because I loved creating worlds, even if they existed only for me and my friends. My crowning kid achievement was a story series I wrote in the sixth and seventh grades. In this story, my main character befriended, among other odd things, what amounted to a disembodied pair of Groucho Marx glasses. It was horrible, horrible stuff, but no one else I knew was writing books about anything, no less phantoms with a superb sense of humor.
About four-ish years ago, I had a particularly trying week at my day job as a birth doula. That’s when I remembered a friend talking about a college class on novel writing she had taken. I called this friend and said, “It’s time. I need to write.” She directed me to the book they used for her course, NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! by Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month. Within a day or two of devouring that book, I was elbow-deep within my first novel. I’ve been writing ever since.

Do you write full-time?
I wish! My goal is to write full time, but I’m not quite there yet. Someday.

Where did you draw your inspiration for Daniel the Camp-er?
Draw? I see what you did there, you witty thing, you.
DANIEL THE CAMP-ER is the second book in the DANIEL THE DRAW-ER series. The original concept--a boy with a magic pencil that brings his drawings to life—came from my four boys. My second-oldest son loves to draw. For a long time, my son only had one friend, much like Daniel. The third-oldest boy sat next to me while I wrote and laughed at all the funny parts, so I kept writing funny parts. It was the most fun I’ll ever have writing a book.
I wrote the initial story, which is now the first chapter of the first book, as my assignment for a writing course I was in at the time. When I shared it with the group, my classmates urged me to write more about this goofy kid. I’m glad I listened.
My own fifth-grade camp experience inspired a big chunk of the story for the second book. I’m not sure I want to say specifically what parts were based on real life, but I bet you can guess.

Plotter or panster?
Plantser. I detest outlines. Detest them. If I plan a story like DANIEL out too much, it kills my creativity. However, I tend to go into a scene knowing roughly what needs to happen and where things are headed. I leave the rest up to the characters. Most of the time it works.

What does your writing process look like?
This question stumps me every time because I’m not sure if people want to know what I do when I sit down to write or what the big picture is. In either case my answers are pretty boring because, well, I’m boring.
I write. Usually in my pajamas, surrounded by a beverage of choice and something to snack on so my eyes stay open. If it’s noisy around me—and it’s always noisy around me—I listen to music (something mellow or familiar like Bon Iver. Upbeat or brand new music distracts me). If the house is quiet, I like that, too. Quiet is rare.
For some reason, I always seem to write my first drafts while my kids are home on extended breaks (summer or winter break). I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because I hate myself. Either that or I need to go to my happy place because they’re driving me crazy. Haha. In case you wondered, it’s super hard to write a novel with a house full of boys. With DANIEL THE CAMP-ER, which I wrote during the summer and fall of 2014, I settled on a goal of 400 words per day. It kept me writing and making slow progress but didn’t feel impossible to reach on even those packed summer days.
Once a draft is completed, I usually send it out to a few people to see if I’m on the right track. Then I take their feedback on what works and what doesn’t and revise. I usually repeat this process a few times until the story feels right and it’s ready for the next step.

Favorite writing snack?
Cinnamon Fire Jolly Ranchers. They’ve ruined my life and discontinued them. Now you’re forced to buy them on Amazon for waaaaaay too much if you gotta have your fix. I’m trying to find a suitable alternative, but no luck so far.

What is your favorite genre to write in and why?
I love writing Young Adult because it’s really the sweet spot of writing. So many things fly in YA because that time of life is about learning who you are and pushing boundaries. There’s a sort of endless vitality and discovery you can’t find anywhere else.
That said, writing for Middle Grade readers has been amazing and so unexpected. Their enthusiasm for my stories and me, as a writer, can’t be duplicated. They are the best audience.

What are you currently working on? Do you have a release date yet?
My next project is a Young Adult paranormal novel, a story I love to pieces. It needs a bit of rewriting and a ton of editing, but I’m hoping it’ll be ready for release this summer. Fingers crossed!

What do you want your readers to know?
I want my readers to know that I love hearing from them. E-mails, Facebook posts, Tweets, reviews—whatever! Nothing makes my day like hearing from someone who enjoyed my book.

Which song would work best for the soundtrack of Daniel the Camp-er?
Ooo. This is tough. Probably “The Best Day of My Life” by American Authors.

And just for fun:
Summer or Winter? Summer.
Salty or sweet? Sweet.
Cat or dog? Horse (that’s a choice, right?). Okay, then I pick dog.
Morning or night? Night.
Chick flick or Action movie? Chick flick, fo sho.


There are a few simple rules Daniel follows.

Rule One: never let an adult see your weakness. Daniel made that mistake and look where he ended up—summer camp.

Rule Two: never make fun of the person who feeds you, unless you like Miss Gunderson’s peppery pancakes and green hamburgers.

Rule Three: stay away from girls who love Glitter Ponies. They have cooties, after all.

And Rule Four: never, ever lose your magic pencil.

But Daniel has broken all of his own rules. Now he’s stuck and starving at Camp Bigfoot with the school bully as his bunkmate and an ooey-gooey girl who won’t leave him alone. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, his prized possession, a pencil that brings his drawings to life, has gone missing and wacky creatures are popping up all over camp.

Can Daniel survive Camp Bigfoot and find his magic pencil before it’s too late?

About the Series:

DANIEL THE CAMP-ER is the second book in the DANIEL THE DRAW-ER series. The first book in the series, DANIEL THE DRAW-ER, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and as an audiobook on Audible and iTunes.

Although Daniel’s adventures were written for boys and girls between 6 and 12, readers of all ages have found themselves swept up in these silly and imaginative stories.  Fans of Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid will appreciate the humor in the DANIEL THE DRAW-ER books, and parents and teachers will appreciate the lack of potty humor and themes of friendship and loyalty. And fun. Can’t forget fun.

Book Links:


A girl with a short red braid sits down in the grass next to me and stares at the picture as I work. She’s wearing a bright pink Glitter Ponies shirt. Glitter Ponies is a girl cartoon, and it’s nowhere near as cool as Bionic Aardvarks of Underworld Z. I can’t believe she can wear that shirt without being embarrassed.
“What’s your name?” She twirls the end of her braid between her fingers.
I stop drawing, not sure who she’s talking to.
“What’s your name?” She repeats.
Wait. Is she talking to me? I glance over my shoulder, but no one else is around.
“What. Is. Your. Name?” she asks again. I try to ignore her, but she’s looking at me and fluttering her eyelashes. Yeah, like that’ll magically make me pay attention to her.
“I asked you a question.” She touches me on the arm and I pull away from her as fast as I can. It’s a proven fact that girls are the number one carrier of cooties, and no one likes cooties. I’ve never seen a real-live cootie up close before, so I don’t know what they look like, but I’m not about to find out at Camp Bigfoot when I’m so far away from Mom and her special cootie shampoo. Besides, if anyone’s gonna have them crawling around on their clothes or hiding in their ears, it’s this girl.
“My mom told me it’s not good to talk to strangers,” I say.
“You’re funny.” She grins, and her mouth lights up like a disco ball. Glitter Pony Girl has braces with pink rubber bands that match her cootie-infested shirt. “Wanna go to the dance with me?”

Author Bio:

S. J. Henderson is the author of the DANIEL THE DRAW-ER series, as well as several not-yet-published Young Adult novels.

S. J. lives in Michigan with her husband and four wild boys. When she is not writing about talking cats and magic pencils, S. J. can usually be found riding one of her family’s horses or drinking a little bit of coffee with her creamer.

Author Social Media Links:

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