Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Moment #51: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my character(s) better just by answering the question. I hope you do too. )

Cuppa Jolie has gone a bit festive over the holidays. Cheers!

I hope every one's past week has been merry and bright.

We had a lovely Christmas here at Chez Cuppa, although we also experienced a loss. Gasper, my 9 year-old girlie's pet gerbil, died. Gasper was a lovely, little rodent. He really was. He was white and charming and friendly and never a problem--at least not until the last month or so.

Here's the thing, Gasper was a senior, well over his expected two years of age. He was showing NO signs of slowing down. In fact, just the opposite. In the past, this was a gerbil that stayed within his boundaries, never once trying to escape. We could even leave the top to his aquarium off and feel safe that he would stay put. It did have a lid that we kept on it, but we never took precautions to cover the gaping holes up top (a removed door and gerbil tube).

However, several weeks ago we discovered him standing on top of his cage, and noticed the picture frame hanging above it had been nibbled on, like he'd been getting out regularly to stand on top of his roof and take a look around, enjoying the view. Then, about a week later, he was loose and running around. Needless to say, his tank had to be reinforced. We were seriously surprised because he was so old for a gerbil. Then again surprised when I discovered his strategy. He wasn't climbing up his water bottle to get out. No, he was leaping. He could leap up and grab the edge of his tank, like a little super rodent.

So, we were very saddened when, the day before Christmas Eve, he slowed down. A lot. It was obvious that he was dying.

That Gasper had grown on me, darn it. Not only was I sad that I had two little girls who were broken-hearted, but I was sad myself.

Here's the part I didn't tell you. If you would have told me two and half years ago that I'd have a gerbil in my house, I would have told you NEVER. NEVER! An emphatic NOT EVER.

Let's just say a horrible-hamster experience as a child made me CERTAIN that a rodent-type pet would never be for my family. Nope. Wouldn't happen. I was certain of it. 100%-like!

But somehow two girls (crafty ones I might add...including a crafty daddy) convinced me to think about it, to just consider. They thought carefully about it and somehow I found myself at the pet store speaking to a knowledgeable person about gerbils. I still wasn't sure, but two brother gerbils (Gasper and Niblet) came to live with us.

And those fuzzy, little fellas won my heart. They weren't stinky (usually) or naughty or violent (like those horrible hamster bros). Unfortunately, we lost Niblet before his first birthday (too soon), but Gasper stayed with us for a full-gerbil life.

And we will (I will) miss him.

What is something your character was certain of, but then later (and probably very unexpectedly) changed there mind about?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive with Jenn Bailey

Yesterday I had the sweet treat of chatting with the fab Jenn Bailey via Twitter.

Jenn, graphic designer and professional blogger (and so much more), will be presenting three break-out sessions at the upcoming 11th SCBWI Conference in NYC.

We both donned our festive caps, grabbed a cuppa something, and sat down for a long winter's chat.

Here our transcript!

December 22, 2009
2:53 pm JennBailey: @cuppajolie The kettle is on. I've settled on African Rooibos tea. Perfect for this cold Kansas day. My Cuppa will be ready soon. #scbwi

2:59 pm cuppajolie: One more minute! Jingle, jingle! #scbwi

3:00 pm cuppajolie: I show one 1:00. Let's get this party started! #scbwi

3:00 pm cuppajolie: First, thank you for joining me for this exclusive twitterview at such a busy time of year, Jenn. #scbwi

3:00 pm JennBailey: @cuppajolie A red mug AND a Santa Hat! Wonderfully festive. #scbwi

3:01 pm cuppajolie: You inspired me, Jenn! A nice change. #scbwi

3:01 pm cuppajolie: You've got your cuppa African Rooibos and I have my cuppa water (boring, I know). We'll have to have a cocktail together in nyc. #scbwi

3:01 pm JennBailey: @cuppajolie My absolute pleasure! I've got my sons cleaning the house because I'm "busy", so this is great. #scbwi

3:02 pm cuppajolie: I have a handful of questions or topics I'd love to chat with you about? #scbwi

3:02 pm cuppajolie: ...but, if others have their own questions along the way, feel free to send them along and I'll throw them Jenn's way if time permits. #scbwi

3:03 pm cuppajolie: Please use #scbwi. #scbwi

3:03 pm cuppajolie: I've got my holiday music playing and my cuppa at my side. So, shall we get started? #scbwi

3:04 pm JennBailey: Yes, yes! I've Bing singing. We may just get that White Christmas here. #scbwi

3:05 pm cuppajolie: You'll be presenting 3 breakout sessions at the upcoming SCBWI conference in nyc: Viral Marketing/Promotion. #scbwi

3:05 pm cuppajolie: Can you give us the gist of your talk in 140 characters? #scbwi

3:07 pm JennBailey: There are no formulas that cause something to go viral. You have to entertain, educate or inspire your fan base and be ... (doh!) #scbwi

3:08 pm JennBailey: willing to let go of your message and encourage your audience to run with it. Relax, have fun and don't try too hard. #scbwi

3:09 pm cuppajolie: Will your talk be best suited for those already published? #scbwi

3:11 pm JennBailey: It will, but there are always lessons for the pre-published. Writers have to position themselves for book launch. Takes time to ... #scbwi

3:12 pm JennBailey: build that trusting fan base. If you push too hard and are not genuine folks will run screaming "Spam". #scbwi

3:13 pm cuppajolie: So true. Or just be turned off, yes? #scbwi

3:13 pm cuppajolie: I love those three key words you use: entertain, educate, and inspire? #scbwi

3:14 pm JennBailey: Exactly. People want to meet the author not the salesman. #scbwi

3:14 pm cuppajolie: And you mention not trying to hard. Would you say that's one of the biggest mistakes people make? #scbwi

3:17 pm JennBailey: I think it is, but you don't crash a party, stand on a chair and shout "Look at me! I've got something I want you to buy." #scbwi

3:18 pm JennBailey: At least not most of us. You want to listen first. Give a little. Be a friend to get a friend (as I said in LA). #scbwi

3:19 pm cuppajolie: Perhaps it's okay to stand on that chair and shout from the rooftop at the appropriate time(s)? (Just not over and over?) #scbwi

3:20 pm cuppajolie: "Be a friend to get a friend" is a great message, Jenn. #scbwi

3:21 pm JennBailey: Of course. When it's your party and everyone's excited to hear from you, SHOUT your head off. Just make sure people want to listen #scbwi

3:27 pm cuppajolie: Seems not to be liking my last tweet. Perhaps I'll try again with another. #scbwi

3:28 pm cuppajolie: In LA you did a twitter 101 session. Many are still not on twitter. Do you think they should jump on the twitter train? #scbwi

3:30 pm JennBailey: Twitter is one of the most power tools a writer can use for promoting themselves and their work. It's fast, accessible, searchable #scbwi

3:30 pm JennBailey: I call Twitter the great amplifier - but of course you need something to amplify. #scbwi

3:31 pm cuppajolie: Ack! Where is the time going. How 'bout just a one or two more? #scbwi

3:32 pm cuppajolie: What do you say to those that are afraid of twitter (one more social media tool to learn how to function in)? #scbwi

3:32 pm JennBailey: As long as I'm with you the boys will keep cleaning so . . . #scbwi

3:34 pm JennBailey: I'm going to borrow from myself again. Sorry to those who have heard this before. Social Media tools are NOT about technology #scbwi

3:35 pm JennBailey: They are about Anthropology. We want to connect, we've been doing it for eons - carrier pigeon, telegraph, sky writing . . . #scbwi

3:36 pm JennBailey: Twitter and the other tools are just a new way to say "Hi" and get to know people. You learned that when you were 2. There is ... #scbwi

3:36 pm JennBailey: nothing to be frazzled about. Just have fun and remember what your Mom taught you - Play Nice! #scbwi

3:36 pm cuppajolie: I do think that many are afraid of the how-tos of twitter, you know, all the @, RT, #, DM... #scbwi

3:37 pm cuppajolie: Yes. Play nice. Another great message, Jenn. People have certainly gotten themselves into trouble using social media. #scbwi

3:38 pm cuppajolie: If an author could only choose one social networking tool to use, which would you suggest. Where's is a good place to start. #scbwi

3:39 pm JennBailey: It may sound like code but it does make sense. And there are great resources out there from folks like @gregpincus and @inkyelbows #scbwi

3:40 pm JennBailey: That is such a hard question. Writers and Illustrators need a home so I'm all for a website or blog. Even a fan page on facebook #scbwi

3:41 pm JennBailey: But Twitter is like the Barker at the Circus, calling the curious and interested to come over and check things out. You need a ... #scbwi

3:42 pm JennBailey: place to send them too. Guess I'm not answering the question. #scbwi

3:42 pm cuppajolie: Do you think it's important for people to enjoy the tool they are using? ... #scbwi

3:43 pm JennBailey: Oh! Another resource (If I may) @leewind is coming out with a blogging ebook. Great stuff there too. #scbwi

3:43 pm cuppajolie: ...(Maybe this brings us full circle, back to not trying too hard.) #scbwi

3:45 pm JennBailey: Oh! You have to have fun! If you aren't it shines through. Transparency is important. BUT you also have to be where your audience is #scbwi

3:46 pm cuppajolie: And this has been FUN, Jenn. I look forward to having a cuppa something with you in nyc. #scbwi

3:46 pm JennBailey: If most of your fans are on MySpace, get used to MySpace and learn to be, at least, comfortable there. #scbwi

3:47 pm JennBailey: Let's go for a dirty martini, 3 olives. #scbwi

3:48 pm cuppajolie: Thank you so much for your time today. (I hope those boys got loads of clean up done for you.) #scbwi

3:48 pm cuppajolie: I've never had a dirty martini. Will have to try (when we meet up). #scbwi

3:49 pm cuppajolie: I will post transcripts of this chat with @JennBailey on my Cuppa Jolie blog asap. #scbwi

3:50 pm JennBailey: Thank you, Jolie. This was fun and I appreciate the spotlight :) #scbwi

3:51 pm cuppajolie: Earlybird registration is coming up (Jan. 4). If Santa leaves a little $ in your stocking, then you too can see Jenn! #scbwi

3:51 pm cuppajolie: It was my pleasure, Jenn. Looking forward to seeing you in a month (coming right up!). #scbwi

3:53 pm cuppajolie: Check out all the conference details here: The line up is amazing! #scbwi

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Moment #50: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my character(s) better just by answering the question. I hope you do too. )



And no, it's not Olympic thing (but a medal would be fun!).

It's 50 Monday Moments!

Not a Monday missed.

And I so appreciate you all coming back Monday after Monday to see what you might get out of it, whether it be getting to know your characters better or having a good giggle (it's okay, I'm fine being laughed at, when appropriate).

You know, when I started this all, I wasn't sure it fly, if people would get anything out of it, or if I'd want to keep it up. But I've been pleasantly surprised. I've always felt that if it seemed even just a few people were getting something out the Moments, I'd keep on keepin' on. You all have blown my expectations out of the water. It's been a real treat to share with you each Monday.

So, fifty is a milestone. And here's to fifty more.

What's an important milestone for you character?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Don't miss out on all the goodies. You can follow all the Team Blog conference (pre, during, and post) coverage HERE.

Jump over to Lee Wind's for an exclusive interview with Laurent Linn. (Honestly, he's one of the nicest and coolest guys in the business! Oh yeah, and he's an Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Reader.)

And set your schedules for a live twitterview I'll be doing with Jennifer Bailey, Graphic Designer and Professional Blogger, on Tuesday, December 21 at 1:00 pm pac time via Twitter (use #scbwi). Should be fun!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009



Is that not the cutest picture?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Moment #49: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my character(s) better just by answering the question. I hope you do too. )

'Tis the season to be jolly

Fa La La La La La La La La

Ah, 'tis the season for carolling. What a joyous, lovely thing.


At least not for me.

But hold on. I'm not going all bah-humbug on you, it's just that, as much as I like listening to holiday tunes, I don't want to sing them. (Please don't make me!)

I have singing issues. There you go. I said it. Fully admit it. I don't know where they come from, but I almost don't remember a time I didn't hate to sing in public. It's truly cringe-worthy for me.

Even Happy Birthday. The only time I ever really belt it out is for my daughters, even then, I'm like, UHG, that's going to be on video.

So, when last week's school concert started with a sing-a-long, well, I'm sure you can imagine how I felt about that. As almost all other parents joyful belted out the holiday fa-la-las, I sat and smiled or whispered in the ear of my youngest. If I would have sung along, I'm sure I'd be mouthing the words.

What is a cringe-worthy activity for your character?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SCBWI Exclusive Conference Interview and Other Great Linksies

Jump over to Alice Pope's CWIM Blog for another conference exclusive with Tina Wexler, literary agent at International Creative Management (ICM).

While you're there, she has super interview with some super fly LA conference attendees. Take a read HERE. You don't want to miss their conference fashions (I'm not sure how I did when I was in LA).

Also, the second place cookie winner from the contest I judged the other night at the SCBWI WWA meeting has posted the recipe. Thanks to Holly Cupala for sharing, and for saying things about me that are as sweet as her delish cookies.

You can also find photos of the cookies which took home the prize for most-creative cookie. Not only were they beautiful, but they were yummy. Thanks for sharing, Lida! Go and look! And, Lida mentioned she'd soon post the recipe.

Now, we must work on that No. 1 cookie recipe winner, Chadwick! 'Cause those whoopie pies made me whoop with joy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Singing in the Rain Part 2

The title might have been better last night if it was:

Singing in the Freezin' Cold Weather: One Seattle Writer Talks About How to Defrost Your Vocal Chords

Wow, is it cold in Seattle right now. I so appreciate everyone who came out last night, braving the cold weather and slick roads. (Sometimes it hard to believe I grew up in Montana. I'm such a wimp about the cold.)

I must say, once inside it was festive and yummy. There were cookies and books and friends galore. And I got to judge the cookie contest. Yum! And, oh my aching gut. But I'm still dreaming about the winner which some sort of awful yumminess in the form of a gingersnapish whoopie pie. Oh my!

Now I'm coming down from the night, back at home, typing this little post to you, while I munch on popcorn and Junior Mints. Yes, that's the truth, popcorn and JMs.

Just a brief report on the evening, however I plan to do several post related to my talk in the near future (very near, promise).

The evening kicked off the two fantastic YA authors, Lisa Schroeder and Liz Gallagher. So great to hear about their journeys. They were both warm and charming and full of good knowledge.

So, as many of you know, I posted yesterday about the fact that I was speaking and that I was tad nervous about what I had planned in regard to my use of technology and music. But, I went through all the step to be prepared: the room was checked for my needs beforehand, I arrived earlier in the day to test everything with tech people on-hand, and joy of all worked wonderfully. Whee!

Okay, backing up even more. My day hadn't been going so great. No need to elaborate, things just not going my way. Once I got to SPU and tested everything and saw it worked flawlessly, I was certain it was all turning around for me. I was ready for a great night and a fun, informative (I hoped) talk. I even called my hubby, who knew I was worried about it all, and let him know everything was on point. Woot!

Then off to dinner with one of my dearest friends, Sara, who later introduced me before my talk: the nicest introduction a girl could ask for. AND, it was mentioned that Sara postponed having her baby (you can come out now, little one) just so she could be there to intro me and hear my talk. What a friend! And she truly is.

So there I am, starting my talk (a little on the late side and feeling a bit like I need rush and skip over some things) and then WHAT? WHAT IN THE WORLD? The power point suddenly does not fit the screen at all. The top 30% of the slide was cut off. Ugh. But, we all powered through, and I was relieved I still had my sound. But I felt a little muddled and not on top of my game. That said, everyone there was a wonderful audience and it was a pleasure.

I've heard from many today with the most lovely words. Some of my favorites: that the talk was original and an out-of-the-box way to think about voice. That totally makes my day. Plus, the many who mentioned it sparked an idea for them. Gotta love that.

Because of the time crunch, I missed saying some of the things I'd hoped to and we didn't get to do the writing exercise that I had planned for the end. People ask if I could still share, so hopefully soon (with a little help from my techie Jaime friend) we'll get it up on Cuppa Jolie.

I also plan to do a post or two about the talk, as well as post my talk playlist. That will be fun. Yes?

Thanks again for all of your support. This community of writers is truly a gift in my life.

NOW, why didn't I take any pictures? Sheesh.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Singing In the Rain or I'm Speaking at the SCBWI WWA Meeting Tonight

I'm off today for the big city to talk about VOICE!

Here's the blurb...

SINGING IN THE RAIN: ONE SEATTLE WRITER TALKS ABOUT HOW TO TUNE YOUR VOICE, with Jolie Stekly. We hear it over and over from editors and agents, “I’m looking for a strong voice.” And not only that, but “I know it when I see it.” But what does that mean? How do you know you have it? And how can you make yours stronger? In this interactive and rollicking session, Jolie will use music to define and discuss what voice is, and how to tap more clearly into yours so that you can make your writing sing and strike a chord with readers. Come prepared to warm and stretch your own vocal abilities, but Jolie promises she won’t make anyone stand up and belt out a tune.

And I follow this amazing trio:

THE ABCs OF CRAFTING A CAREER IN YA, with Lisa Schroeder, Liz Gallagher, and Jen Bradbury. Lisa, Liz, and Jen share their journey on writing successful YA, focusing on the importance of craft, wisdom about agents and editors, and the differences between a commercial and literary approach. Lisa is the author of FAR FROM YOU and I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME; Liz is the author of THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE; and Jen is the author of SHIFT.

You can find us here:
Our Professional Series Meetings take place at Seattle Pacific University - Demaray Hall, Room 150. Registration at 6:45 p.m., program at 7:00 p.m. Get Map and Directions here. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month. To see the complete meeting line-up, please visit our Monthly Meetings page.

I hope I see some of you there!

I have made this as complicated for myself as possible: adding in technology and music. Crossing my fingers it all goes as planned and that my tongue and brain cooperate.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Moment #48: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my character(s) better just by answering the question. I hope you do too. )

Last week I attended a holiday, school concert. There's almost nothing cuter than a group of 6 to 8 year olds singing, except when one of their two-year old, little sisters dances with joy in front of the stage to every song. *melting* Too sweet.

Two classes of fourth graders followed my daughter's group. As a writer, observing kids is always fascinating, and this age of children in a concert setting didn't disappoint. It's such a mix of size and shape and style.

There was one particular girl who stood out that evening (to me, at least). She obviously had some color in her hair, wore a bit of makeup, dressed in a black dress, and wore heels. While most of the kids, the girls in particular, still looked much like kids, she looked a bit grown up...too grown up for me. That said, I'm sure as she got ready and arrived to her concert, she felt pretty and grown up. I could see it in the way she smiled and stood tall. But, it made me feel a bit sad.

A few songs into her concert, the piano accompaniment started the intro of a new song and one child belted out a note too soon. I'm sure you can guess which child it was. Of course, she was sandwiched between two boys: one in his jeans and t-shirt spending much time being silly, and a kid in his jacket and glasses looking smart, in more ways than one. Both boys sent whispers her way after her goof. I knew the smile on her face was now one meant to disguise the embarrassment she was feeling, she was laughing it off.

But then an even bigger embarassment: those heels got the best of her! Down she went, from her spot on the top riser, right into the person in front of her. I can not even begin to tell you how this pained me. She'd already been embarrassed once, but now she had to stand herself back up between those two boys, who again sent whispers her way. Another smile was on her face, but I had a view of her from top to bottom. That smile up top was forced into place and her feet...well, let's just say she shrunk about two inches as she rolled onto the sides of feet until, I'm sure, her ankles could not take it another minute and she had to stand back up on those heels. All the while she continued singing as she swiped tears away from her eyes.

I so felt for her.

When did your character go from feeling their best to feeling their worst?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

All I Want For Christmas is the 11th Annual SCBWI Conference!

Has your sweetie or the gift-giver in your life asked you what your heart's desire is this holiday season?

Did you tell them it's attending the 11th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC? Especially since the iconic Jane Yolen (yes, that Jane Yolen!) has been added to the faculty roster and will wrap up, what is sure to be, an amazing conference.
Early registration pricing will be in effect during this holiday-shopping season (perfect!). You can register HERE.

And you can the Official Conference Blog HERE.
Wouldn't this image look great with a big, shiny bow around it?

Let us know if we'll see you there.