Using educator skills to build fictional characters

Cheryl Carpinello, our Choices WOW! Women on Writing book tour guest today has used her years as an educator and observation skills to create characters her young readers can relate to. Author of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, Cheryl shares how using the traits of her students helped her build believable characters for her award-winning fiction.   Being an Educator Helps Me Build Believable Characters By Cheryl Carpinello Writing characters that readers can identify and bond with is difficult at the best of times. When writing for young readers, I transport myself back to my classroom where I watch my students working and discussing. I wander the school hallways and observe students’ interactions with each other and with other teachers. Doing these exercises helps me develop characters that my readers can relate to and see pieces of themselves. As an adult writing for ages 9-15, it is important that my characters come across true. Kids are really amazing and at t … [Read more...]

WriteGirl – a huge success story

I am contemplating volunteering to be a writing mentor at a Los Angeles-based nonprofit called WriteGirl. Launched in 2001 by Karen Taylor, #WriteGirl provides weekly one-on-one mentoring, schedules monthly workshops on a variety of writing genres, shares mentee work in public meetings, and publishes books with writings by its mentees. Where do WriteGirl mentees come from? WriteGirl mentees come from high-density public middle and high schools in central Los Angeles. These girls are recommended by their English teachers and are both low and high achievers. Where do I fit in? WriteGirl searches for professional women writers and women with strong communications skills who use writing in their careers in all genres – some like me, who work in multiple genres – who will volunteer to mentor these teen girls. I first heard of WriteGirl at a friend’s birthday party. My friend asked for donations to WriteGirl instead of gifts and hosted WriteGirl staff, volunteers, and mente … [Read more...]

Querying and editing again – oh my!

It's been almost two months since I declared my novel finished, and I still haven't sent out one query letter. That is not to say I haven't been working up to it, but it's been a long process. I've been googling small presses - ones that specialize in feminist books, and so far I found only one that might work. I've also been studying how to write a query letter. To that end I found a short book called, Literary Agent Secrets Revealed: Create the Perfect, Unrejectable Query Letter, and it has been quite helpful. It's main advice is that the letter should have two main sections - a two-paragraph novel synopsis and an author biography. And no matter what, the letter should be no longer than one page. Sounds simple, right? Not so simple I found out. Here's a few other hints: In the synopsis, introduce your main characters, lay out the main plot points , and make your writing exciting and engaging Create a one-paragraph author biography that only contains relevant in … [Read more...]

13 TED talks that will make you better at business

I don't normally discuss TED talks or business here, but since I'm a daily follower of Seth Godin, I thought I'd share Website Planet's pick of the following TED talks that will help make you better at business. And if you scroll down a bit, you'll see a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, about changing the way we view creativity. Seth's talk about how to spread ideas is way down toward the end of the list. I think there's something for everybody on this list. Please let me know what you think. Website Planet > Blog > General > 13 TED Talks that Will Make You Better at Business 13 TED Talks that Will Make You Better at Business by Esme Mazzeo 18 SEP 2018 Based on the TED founding principle, there is one qualification to being a speaker at a conference: having an idea worth spreading. The company was founded in 1984, but has seen a surge of popularity in recent years. TED talks are free to distribute and pretty short (about 12 minutes o … [Read more...]

More about the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is so much in the news these days, it's time to mention her on Choices again. The Los Angeles Times reported this morning: "The latest in RBG fever: The first museum exhibition about the justice’s life and work, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” opening Friday at the Skirball Cultural Center." Ari Richter's "RBG Tattoo II" (2018) is on view at the Skirball Cultural Center as part of “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg," opening Friday. (Courtesy Ari Richter and the Skirball Cultural Center) Why an exhibit now: the people at the Skirball feel "there’s an urgency now to her message, and the message of the exhibition, which is ‘work hard, stay the course, things will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean they’re hopeless.’" The exhibition, co-organized by Skirball associate curator Cate Thurston and the co-authors, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik of the book Notorious RBG, marks the 25th anniversary of Bader Ginsburg … [Read more...]

My 60-year high school reunion already – oh my!

This weekend I’ll be attending my sixtieth New Trier High School reunion. Sixty years! Really! Amazing! And besides this excitement, four couples will stay together at a high school friend’s house. One of each of the couples were in the same class at New Trier, took a journalism class from Dr. Robert R. Boyle – still a long-time friend, and all worked on the school newspaper together. Since reuniting at our twenty-fifth reunion, these friends and their spouses and my husband and I have remained very close. We gather together at each other’s homes besides attending reunions together. Unfortunately, though, a couple of news team members are no longer with us, and one dear friend, who was the editor-in-chief of our paper, is too ill to travel. Events for the reunion start on Thursday night with a get together at the famed Hackney’s on Lake in Glenview IL. It’s a restaurant I used to love to go to with my family. Friday morning is golf – my husband will participate i … [Read more...]

Water disaster aftermath

I am very happy to say that we’ve been back in our house one day less than two weeks, and things are almost all back to order. Just a few stickies up in the kitchen to remind my contractor and his crew that they still have a little bit of work to do. A preview of our new kitchen My main concern since Servpro, the water and fire cleanup and restoration company, brought back our furniture and boxes of our possessions that they moved out while the demolition and restoration was going on, are the broken items and those pieces that at this point seem to be hopelessly lost. Right now as I sit at my desk in my writing room, the file folder stand that used to sit to my right is not there, the black scotch tape and stapler set that used to be on my left is missing, and the Relax the Back foot rest that was under my desk does not make sitting here more comfortable, since my feet don’t touch the floor without it. One of the broken items is a silver floor lamp that had been in my fam … [Read more...]

Wine while you write

Ha ha! Needless to say I'm thinking about a glass of wine as my alcohol fast ends in a few days!   … [Read more...]

Welcome! Mary Maurice, author of the Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe

Choices is very pleased to have Mary Maurice visit while she's on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour of The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe. She has also given us her thoughts about the failing use of the word, Please - a word that has always been well-used in my family - along with its companions, Thank You. At least Ms. Maurice has a sense of humor about it. Here are her thoughts! PLEASE, WHERE ARE YOU? by Mary Maurice Has anyone seen, Please? You know, to please or not to please, that is the question. Whether it is pleasurable to please, or polite to say please, is becoming a mystery to people, at least that what it seems to me as I pace through this unconscious society. Just another word that’s lost its meaning and status in our vocabulary. I can still hear Mom saying. “What’s the magic word?” Or maybe it’s what the techno world is turning humans into. Rude, insensitive, self-indulged individuals, who think because they have the world at their fingertips, as they thumb … [Read more...]

A favorite recipe

Here’s a change of pace. Enough of the writing stuff for moment. Instead I’d like to share a recipe I made for a dinner party of twelve last night. The event was scheduled to take place in our house but since we’re still not living there since our water damage, our dear friends offered their beautiful home and their always gorgeous table settings and flower arrangements. That left my husband and I, who were still considered the hosts, to organize the dinner. As hosts we were responsible for the main course, side dish, wines, and other libations. I was also responsible to give cooking assignments to the other couples who brought delicious appetizers, salad, and dessert. However, cooking my dishes in two strange kitchens was a challenge. I did some prep work in our temporary home’s kitchen, which lacked some essential equipment – measuring spoons and cups and a citrus squeezer. While I was out shopping for the needed ingredients for my recipes I bought those items too, knowing full … [Read more...]

My novel is finished – now what?

I had every intention of submitting my finished novel to a small press I heard about a few years ago that publishes American Jewish Experience fiction. I kept checking back and kept checking back to see if they were still around over the years. But when I pulled up their website again yesterday, I found a new note pertaining to their guidelines - they will only look a fiction works that are represented by an agent. That of course stopped me dead. Now I am on the lookout for a small press that will be interested in coming of age/immigration/feminist themes and maybe willing to go with the American Jewish Experience theme as well. Looks like a very tall order to me. I'll also make friends with the agents I've met through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, whom I've heard on panels many times. Maybe I can persuade one of them to represent me. In the meantime I want to thank all of the people who helped me with the book along the way. The following  is what I wrote for the … [Read more...]

What! An alcohol fast in September…

Whether it is scotch, chardonnay, even coconut liqueur, or my favorite red zinfandel, I’m going off all of it in September. About 30 years ago after too many celebrations in December leading up to the new year, my husband and I decided to take an alcohol fast in January. And believe me that wasn’t easy. We had both been used to a glass or two or wine every evening, so not reaching our for that fine crystal stem and pouring in a beautiful red liquid alcoholic substance into its bowl took a conscious effort. But after a few days we both liked the results – more clear headedness, less sleepiness during the day, better sleep at night, a nice cleansing feeling inside, and of course a great feeling of accomplishment when the month was over. After a few years of fasting in January I decided on a two times a year fast – every January and July, which often led me to ask myself if I would let go of alcohol all together. Though I never took that big step, I’ve kept up the alcohols fasts e … [Read more...]

My thoughts about the film The Wife (spoiler alert!)

The new film, The Wife, with Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, brought up a lot of memories of my writing career. Early on in her studies, Joan Castleman, the character Glenn Close plays in the film, was told she could get nowhere as a female author. It was the year 1958 – the same year I started college as a journalism major. Castleman, already recognized for her writing skills, says she couldn’t live without writing. I too was hell-bent on having a career in writing though I was discouraged as well. My father made it clear I should study to be a teacher – after all that’s what girls in my generation did – or skip college altogether and become a secretary. Of course, the Castleman character in movie and I were on totally different paths in our writing. My forte was journalism; hers was fiction. I persisted and got a job right after graduating from college at a fashion trade magazine, which I quit after three weeks because my male boss verbally abused and harassed me. A few w … [Read more...]

Please welcome award-winning author Fiona Ingram

Our Choices guest today is Fiona Ingram while on her WOW! Women on Writing tour of The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper - the third in the series of award-winning books for middle grade students. Please help me welcome Fiona. I also welcome her thoughts about writing for kids - something I've never attempted. Here are her wise words about how to create characters kids will relate to. Writing and Creating Characters by Fiona Ingram Creative writing for kids is one of the most challenging and fulfilling aspects of the classroom. Many teachers who are not writers may struggle to explain the nuts and bolts of writing in relation to the imaginative and creative process involved in making a story. Children may also not grasp the solid hard work involved in creating the structure and plot of a good story. Here are some easy tips to make the creative writing process both successful and fun. Writing can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of your life. There are … [Read more...]

What’s next to write?

Now that my novel is going through a final professional edit and hopefully getting ready to shop around. I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my writing life. For a long time, I’ve thought that there isn’t another book in me, but now I’m not so sure. Could I write another memoir? I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on, so I could write a memoir from an old wise woman’s approach to turning eighty. I could write about the secrets of staying married to the same man for over forty-eight years and living in the same house for thirty-nine years. Really where have all those years gone? And really that brings up another big question – how much time do my husband and I have left anyway, and what are we doing to prepare for our last years? Or better yet, how we’re handling our lives right now as we age – at different paces. Yes, another memoir or even two are a real possibility. The options are endless: how we're still working at surviving the loss of … [Read more...]

Got poem?

It's been a while since I've shared some of my poetry with you. The following pieces have been published in the Story Circle Network's True Words section of their quarterly journal. I've had a wonderful response to my poems from Story Circle, certainly motivating me to keep submitting. And, as I've said before, I'll only post  poems here that have been already published so as not to lose an opportunity to get any unpublished ones accepted. So many contests and journals won't accept poems if they have been published elsewhere - even on a personal blog like this. I hope you enjoy these four: Nadia We sat across the table covered with a crisp white cloth. Her face glowed in the light, her radiant smile punctuated by deep, long dimples in each cheek. Simply dressed in black slacks and a white sweater she looked comfortable in her own skin. She spoke confidently in English. And, when speaking her native Italian, she spoke slowly so we could understand her words. At … [Read more...]

Please welcome JoAnn Simon, author of Rose Colored Glasses

JoAnn Simon's experience taking her first art class reminds me of mine. I went with two girlfriends, straddled a sit-down easel, and began to draw a still life, using a charcoal pencil. The teacher came around and showed me almost immediately what I was doing wrong. But, I continued taking that once-a week-class for years and years progressing from charcoal to pastel to oils and then to acrylics. The bonus: after class we always stopped for coffee and dessert. So I very much welcome JoAnn here today as she shares about her first art class experience that has continued on for the last twenty years. Her memoir, Rose Colored Glasses: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Hope, launched on July 23, 2018. I also thank WOW! Women on Writers for inviting Choices to join JoAnn's blog tour. “Seeing Art Through the Artist’s Eye” by JoAnn Simon I always appreciated art and often wondered how the artist became so inspired to create a piece that evoked so many emotions and feelings.  Then I took an … [Read more...]

More about our water damage

Part Two As planned, the water mitigation folks from Servpro arrived early Monday morning, June 25, with water testing devices in hand, which they scanned over all walls and floors to determine the extent of the damage. As they found damage, they marked the areas with dark blue masking tape. By the end of the day I saw dark blue masking tape in the kitchen, the hall backing up to the kitchen, parts of the dining room, and essentially the whole first floor, including Bob’s office, the laundry room, the bathroom, and my office. The only room not affected downstairs was the guest bedroom down at the end of the hall. That meant they would need to pack out all our stuff from our kitchen cabinets, the china closet that stood in the upstairs hall, and everything from the laundry, bathroom, and our two office closets downstairs - including removing our closet built-in cabinets and shelves. The next step was taking the affected walls and ceilings down to the studs and pulling up the r … [Read more...]

We had huge water damage at our house

Part One On June 22 2018, while my husband and I were out-of-town, I got word from our son Ben that there had been a “minor emergency” in our house. He had just heard from our cleaning lady, Elma, that water was pouring out of our bathroom ceiling like rainfall. In her words, it was a “total disaster.” I immediately called our go-to home contractor, and since this was a Friday afternoon, none of the staff was available. I was referred to a plumber who had worked at our house before. He too was out-of-town and unavailable. But he suggested I get the water turned off as soon as possible. My next thought was to contact our next-door neighbor, Ron (we call him Ron Next Door). Since his house has the same floor plan. I thought he’d know where to turn off the water at our house. Sure enough he did. Also, he could see from his yard that part of our outside wall was already wet from the leak. Thankfully, about an hour later Ron called me back. He was able to get his plumber to come … [Read more...]

Some more quotes about writing – and life

I can never resist a good quote - or sharing them with you. Hope you like this batch. Please let me know how these quotes relate to your writing. … [Read more...]