Monday, December 1, 2014

Crossing the PiBoIdMo Finish Line!

I did it!

I crossed the finish line!

My First Marathon- The 2006 Honolulu Marathon

No, not another marathon.


I completed Tara Lazar's annual PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) with not 30, but 32 ideas!


Winnah, winnah, SUSHI dinnah!

I love sushi. 

Coming up with ideas wasn't easy. I splashed in puddles, tumbled through a pile of leaves, and slid down slides, narrower than my hips to find my ideas.

What does it mean to cross the finish line? You can read about my first marathon and find out how that transformed me. But that's a different story.

Completing the PiBoIdMo challange means I belong to a select group of writers, armed with 30 ideas. But crossing the finish line doesn't end there. The real challenge is to transform the ideas into completed stories. 

Who is ready for the next challenge?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mentor Text and Readability Scores

It's been a while since I've posted on my blog. It's because I've been burying myself in nonfiction picture books!  

I blame Kristen Fulton's wonderful nonfiction picture book writing class, Nonfiction Archaeology, for my fixation. 

I am familiar with writing nonfiction for magazines, but writing nonfiction picture books is a different animal for me. To help me get into the zone, I've immersed myself in nonfiction picture books. Below are few of my favorite (recent) reads that I am using as mentor text. 

What I find challenging is writing for my target population. It's so easy to want to present all the facts that sometimes I get carried away with words. To make sure I stay on track, I found a wonderful site that helps me assess my work-in-progress:

What you do is copy and paste your completed text in the box and hit enter on your keyboard. The site will analyze your story and give you the following information:

What's useful about this information is that you will know if your writing is targeted to the population you intended to write for. 

The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease tells you the difficulty of your text:

90.0-100.0 Easily understood by an average 11-year-old student
60.0 - 70.0 Easily understood by an average 13-15-year-old student
0.0 - 30.0 Easily understood by a university student

Grade Level or Readability Formula Score: There is a mathematical way to determine these scores. You don't have to get caught up with each of these. All you need to know is the average grade level of the student your text is appropriate for.

Text Statistics is always fun, but the most useful is word count and words per sentence. As a writer, you want to make sure you vary your sentence length and keep within the word count that is suggested on submission guidelines. 

Here are a few more sites I found helpful for studying mentor text:

  1. Identify whether you are a student, parent, teacher, or librarian (it doesn't matter)
  2. In the "Quick Search" tab, enter the title of the book you are studying
  3. Your result will look like this: 
  4. Click on the title and you get an expanded form of the results: 

  1. Go to the "Quiz Store"
  2. Enter title of the book you want to study and hit "Go!"
  3. Select the correct title displayed

I apologize for the small and blurry screen shot

To help you decipher the codes, here is a cheat sheet:

Interest Level (IL): This indicates the grade level the book is appropriate for, based on book content (theme, character, plot). Lower Grade indicates grade level K-3, Middle grade: 4-8, and upper grade: 9-12.

Book Level (BL): This represents the difficulty of the text. It means the text could be read independently by a student whose reading skills are at the grade level indicated.

AR Points (Accelerated Reader Points): This is based on the difficulty and length of the book. A point value system measures how much reading practice your child is getting. Not important, but thought you'd want to know.

The difference between the Renaissance Learning site and the AR Book Finder is that the AR Book Finder includes a rating of the book, judged by students based on enjoyment. It also includes a topic-subtopic, which is useful to know if you want to know how the book is sorted or categorized.

My top three Readability Score sites:

Renaissance Learning

Give the links a test ride and tell me what you think!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Squeezing Writing Into Summer

Squeezing writing into summer is like squeezing into a bathing suit.

It was that kind of summer. 

There wasn't enough hours in a day...

                    ....days in a week...

                                     ....weeks in a month...

                                                          .....and months in a summer.

There was    Workbaseball gameschauffeuring kids to various activitiesfamily reunionstravels

But wait. There's more!

I managed to squeeze in some writing time too.

I enrolled in Mira Reisberg and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen's The Craft and Pleasures of Writing Poetry for kids, participated in Sudipta and Kami Kinard's Kidlit Summer School, and signed up for Kristen Fulton's Nonfiction Archaeology class.

Enrolling in these classes kept me writing by helping me get into a routine. I  was forced learned to manage my time.  I didn't need to diet to squeeze my writing into my summer. All I had to do was loosen up the strings. I made time to write. I wrote whenever and wherever I could. It was the prescription I needed to keep my writing active and healthy.

Here is my review of each of the classes I've taken this summer:

From Storyteller to Exquisite Writer: The Pleasures and Craft of Poetic Techniques
This 5-week course is packed with information. It is perfect for beginner and seasoned writers. The course covered the basics of writing picture books and focused on rhyming and poetic techniques to make your story sing. The weekly webinars are perfect for questions and answers about writing in general. Mira also has a wonderful segment called Mondays with Mira in which she shares with you her favorite picture books and explains what makes it a great book. Included in the course are generous bonus materials which was a course in itself. 

The most valuable is the one-hour critique session you get from Mira and Sudipta. The critique groups formed within the class is optional, but I highly recommend it.
The online class costs a bit. If you don't have the funds, Mira has been generous in offering scholarships for her classes.

If you aren't able to enroll in the class, here are a few resources I highly recommend:

Rhyme Weaver by Lane Fredrickson
Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers

Nerdy Chicks Kidlit Summer School 
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Kami Kinard are a dynamic duo! They put together a blog-based, four week writer's workshop that runs during the months of July and August. The daily blog posts are filled with writing advice and information on improving your craft that is written by various authors and writing professionals. Their faculty includes award-winning PB, MG, and YA authors.
Their summer session will motivate you. Each day you are given homework that will inspire your own writing. This summer's focus was on character development, which I found to be extremely helpful. They also offer weekly webinars where Sudipta, Kami, and other guests answer your burning questions about the craft of writing.

I have to confess that I could not keep up with the homework and ended up dropping out mid-way. Okay, I admit it. I am a summer school drop out. Shhhh....don't tell.  Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile session and I enjoyed the camaraderie of the summer school group. It's just that half-way through, I was inspired to take a nonfiction class which I will review below. 

The best part of Kidlit Summer School? It's FREE! It can't get any better than that. 

Nonfiction Archaeology
This is a four week class that is offered monthly by author, Kristen Fulton. She hosts a weekly webiner and daily blog post. This class is still going on. I am three weeks into the class and have gained a wealth of information. I have to say that I am loving this class so much! I am in awe of Kristen's intelligence, writing, passion, and organization skills. I want to be her!
The class is so organized in that the lessons are introduced in a sequential manner in which you would write a nonfiction picture book from beginning to end. So as you are taking the class, your are already on your way to writing and completing a nonfiction story. In the webinar, Kristen discusses the lessons for the week and the blog posts that follows reinforces everything that she's covered. I can't say enough about this course.

If you are thinking of writing a nonfiction picture book, I highly recommend Kristen's class. It is worth more than the price you pay for her class. Kristen is so generous in sharing her wealth of information and has gone over and beyond what I expected. 


So there you have it. If you need to ignite your writing, consider taking a class or participating in a challenge offered by generous writers. Don't worry about squeezing writing into your summer. Make the summer fit into your writing! 

"Writing is like a vacation. I get to travel anywhere my imagination takes me" ~Romelle

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meet My Character

I've been tagged by my good friend Jennifer Chow for the Meet My Character Blog Hop!

I love blog hops, but sometimes life gets too busy so I have to pick my battles. With my busy schedule and limited time, I try to focus more on my writing. Well, this blog hop was particularly interesting because the questions asked is great for character development of future works-in-progress. I thought I'd take advantage of the opportunity and practice answering these questions. It is also an opportunity for me to introduce you to the character of my new eBook, RUNNING BOY.

Jennifer is the author of The 228 Legacy, a 2013 Foreword Reviews' Book of the Year Finalist in the multicultural category. You can meet the character of Jennifer's upcoming book, Seniors' Sleuth on her blog at Jennifer J. Chow.

On to my character questions:

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

RUNNING BOY is about a fictional character named Markus who is 8-years-old and is loosely based on a true story of my son. 

2. When and where is the story set?

The story takes place in Markus' neighborhood where we find him running to the playground, the park, the beach, and the redwoods. 

3. What should we know about him/her?

Markus loves to run! He runs so much that the neighborhood kids call him Running Boy. He is a free-spirited boy who enjoys being outdoors and is full of energy and life. 

4. What is the main conflict? 

RUNNING BOY is a concept story that builds on the curiosity of the neighborhood kids. Markus, who is Running Boy, keeps on running and each time he passes a friend, they can't help but ask, "Running Boy, why are you running?" Markus is not about to stop so the kids end up following him on his run.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Markus keeps on running. What he wants is for the neighborhood kids to join him and find out for themselves why he runs.

6. Is there a working title for this book, and can we read more about it?

RUNNING BOY was written in 2005. Yes, you read right. That was 9 years ago! I the story idea came to me during my training for the Honolulu Marathon. It was also a time when my eldest son started running and I was looking for a picture book on running for kids and could not find any so I wrote one! 

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I'm glad you asked! RUNNING BOY has just been released on June 9, 2014 by MeeGenius. The eBook can be viewed on iPad
 iOSAndroidWindows 8Amazon , Nook, and the web. It's so great to finally see my story in pictures!

I hope RUNNING BOY will instill the love for running in the hearts of children. For you runners with young kids, I hope you join me in sharing the wonders of running with our children.

It's summer time so what better time to get excited about running & reading!

I’m tagging Rebecca Colby, to continue this Meet My Characters Blog Tour. Rebecca is the author of There was a Wee Lassie who swallowed a Midgie. Stop by her website on June 30th to see what she’s working on!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Look What I Won!

Guess what I won.

No, not a writing contest.

Not a free critique.

Not a blog award.


I won Lori Degman's newest picture book, COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS!

Thanks to my friends at Kidlit 411-
 a one-stop resource for children's book writers!

Look, it'signed to me!

(I had Lori sign it to me instead of my sons, don't judge)

I was so excited to win this book because I've been wanting to get a hold of it since I heard of Lori Degman's new release. How can you not pick up a book with a title like Cock-a-Doodle Oops!

Winning this book revealed three things about me that I am embarrassed to share with you, but here goes.

Confessions of a writer:
1) I love entering contest! 
2) I have books signed to me instead of my sons (because I'm selfish that way)
3) I can't help but read the book before my kids despite them telling me to wait for them (because I am impatient)

Let's just say I'm a kid at heart. 

I just received this book a few days ago and already I've read it 5 times.

I give this fun and entertaining book 5 roosters!


Here is my review from Goodreads:

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cock-a-Doodle Oops! is a rhyming picture book about a rooster who takes a week-long vacation leaving his cock-a-doodle duty up to the rest of the farm animals. One-by-one they attempt to wake up Farmer Peeper (who is a deep sleeper).

Author Lori Degman's brilliant rhyme and lively plot, paired with Deborah Zemke's fun illustration style, makes this one of my favorite picture books.

The story encourages interactivity, which makes it a great read-aloud. Children can't help but crow along with the farm animals, finishing the rhyme and guessing the sound the farm animal makes: cock-a-doodle ________!

Cock-a-Doodle Oops! is an enjoyable and entertaining book for the whole family. Full of humor and surprises, children will be asking to read this over and over again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What to Do When The Agent Calls You

So far I shared some helpful links on how to find an agent, whether or not you should submit to an agent or publisher, how to write a query, and how to write a pitch. You've submitted your queries and so now the wait begins. 

What happens when you finally get the call

Do you know what to expect?

How will you react?

Do you know what questions to ask?

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young /
Here's a scenario:

Agent: Hi wonderful writer, this is so-n-so from Blank Agency.

Wonderful writer: Who?

Agent: So-n-so from Blank Agency. You sent me a couple of your manuscripts in hopes of seeking representation.

Wonderful writer: OH! Yes, now I remember. 

Agent: I'm calling to let you know that I see a lot of promise from you and I'd like to represent you. Are you interested?

Wonderful writer: Ahhhhhhh!!!! EEEEeeeee!!! Woooooootttttt!

Agent: I take that as a yes? Now do you have any questions for me?

Wonderful writer: Uhhhhh.....Ummmm...Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Can I get back to you?

Don't let this be you!

I haven't had the opportunity to be in a situation like this, but I thought it would be important to prepare myself to avoid the awkwardness. 

By being prepared with what to expect and asking smart questions, it'll make your conversation with your agent a smooth one.

I've collected some helpful links for your convenience. I've summarized the posts and organized them in order of use for easy reference.

What to do when the agent calls you- before the call, during the call, after the call

Before the Call
What to Ask Literary Agent When You Get the Call by Casey McCormick
Casey of Literary Rambles gives some sound advice on being prepared. She shares a list of questions found on other sites that she's created for herself. This is an exhaustive list from which you can pick and choose the ones that work for you. Of course, it's best to study your agents before hand. You should have some knowledge as to how your agents works. This will help you reduce your questions to the most important ones.

Questions to Ask an Agent by Kathy Temean
Kathy shares the top 10 questions that agent Linda P. Epstein of Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency deems as the most thoughtful questions she's been asked by her client Lesley Cheah and others. If you don't want to go through an exhaustive list, then this list is for you.

During the Call
Taking a Call...The Call by Heather Ayris Burnell 
Heather, Creator of the Sub-It-Club, gives advice on how to respond to an offer for representation. In other words, how to tactfully tell an agent that you need time to think about it or to notify other agents who have your manuscripts.

After the Call
Handling Outstanding Queries When an Agent Offers Representation by Lisha Cauthen
What about the other agents whom you've never heard back from? Lisha of Sub-It-Club has a checklist made out to help us handle a situation like this. She also includes a sample letter that you can send to the agents who are still holding on to your manuscripts. 

You Have an Agent Now What
The Agent/Client Contract by Mira Reisberg
Agent Mira Reisberg of Hummingbird Literary Agency addresses some of the important aspects that are listed in an agent/client contract. 

Now That The Dust Has Settled
How to Fire Your Agent by Jenny Bent
This is something we hope we don't have to do, but it can happen. Jenny goes over some points to consider before we make the decision to fire an agent. She also shares some tips on how to go about firing an agent with dos and don'ts and includes other helpful links

So there you have it. I suggest going through the links in this order. Prepare your questions for the agent who calls, have a letter to other agents ready to go, and practice your happy dance!

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I had the opportunity to attend a class by registered nurse, Deidre Rogers of in ergonomics last week. The lessons I learned helped me be more aware of my posture.

As writers, we spend a lot of time in front of the computer so I thought the ergonomics of the writer would be a valuable topic to share with all of you.

Here is a summary of what I learned:


  • Most desks are made to fit men. This means the average height of a desk is 27 inches from floor to elbow. It's advisable to use an adjustable desk that you can elevate or lower according to your position/size.
  • A keyboard tray is most useful since it will likely place your keyboard at the level of your neutral elbow/wrist positions. Your elbow must rest comfortably at your side with wrist 1-2 inches below your elbows when typing.
  • It is helpful to purchase an adjustable desk which can be raised or lowered to fit your needs, especially if multiple people are using one desk.


  • A chair with a convex back supports the back better. and Ask Ergo Works offers a wide range of modular chair systems which you can adjust to fit your body. 
  • The arm rest of a chair must be in a neutral position. Again, find a chair that is not too wide. Your arms should fall naturally on the arm rest without you having to spread your arms wider than your shoulder width.

  • When sitting, your back, head, and neck should be in a neutral position.  To help you with this, visualize your head as a bowling ball balancing on your neck/spine. Your head too forward or back can cause strain on your neck and shoulders.
  • Your hips should be 1-2 inches above the knee. Your back should be supported. Women tend to sit straight, perched on their seats. Make use of your backrest. That's what it's for.
  • If you use a gym ball, again make sure your hip bone is 1-2 inches above your knee height. Deidre Rogers, RN advises using gym balls to no more than 20 minutes at a time and 3 times a day at maximum.

Note: While the gym ball helps engage core abdominal muscles, improves stability, and strengthens lower back, the  absence of an arm and back rest can cause neck and shoulder strain. The gym ball  also may not be tall enough for your desk putting your wrist and elbow in a compromised position.


  • Your eyes lead your posture. The top line of your text on the screen should be 2 inches lower than your line of sight. In other words, your eye sight should be looking at a 15 degree angle downward towards the top line of your text.
  • When sitting at the screen for long periods of time, the computer glare can be straining on the eye. Give your eyes a rest and follow THE RULE OF 20.
    • After 20 minutes of viewing, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
    • The body also needs to refresh itself. After 20 minutes sitting in front of the computer, loosen your limbs, stretch, or take a walk.


  • If you are small-boned like me, the smaller your carpal tunnel bone is. This can lead to poor circulation and cold hands. So in small-boned people, it is important to be mindful of your posture to prevent future problems that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome- "A disorder that causes numbness in the hand and pain in the wrist due to the compression of the median nerve, which runs down the arm to the fingers."

  • Your wrist should be straight and in line with the rest of your arm.
  • With your fingers on the keyboard, your elbow should be slightly above your wrist at an almost 120-degree angle.

Here is a photo of an ergonomic keyboard that positions your wrist and arms in a neutral position. Notice the angle of the keyboard.
Available at Ask Ergo Works

  • Your keyboard length shouldn't be wider than your shoulders. Otherwise, the reach of your mouse will be unnatural.
  • People with broad chests will benefit with the split keyboard design.
  • The use of your mouse can develop a thumb disorder called De Quervain disorder.

De Quervain's tenosynovitis (dih-kwer-VAINS ten-oh-sine-oh-VIE-tis)- "is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, it will probably hurt every time you turn your wrist, grasp anything or make a fist." (Mayo Clinic)

Note: A mouse that will position your hand and wrist in a neutral position to reduce your wrist of developing De Quervain disorder will look like this:

Evloluent mouse available at 
  • Your mouse should be placed at the level of your keyboard and close to it so you don't have to reach for it. Reaching can cause problems to your rotator cuff.
  • Shortcut keys eliminate mouse use. Deidre advises you use shortcut keys as much as possible.  It's best to use two hands when using a shortcut key combination to avoid straining either hand with awkward finger and wrist positioning. Here is a list of Shortcut keys.


  • Do not rest your wrist on the keyboard unless you have a wrist cushion for your keyboard. 
  • Practice wrist-floating-style of typing and keep your arms in a neutral position- elbow bent comfortably by your side with wrist 1-2 inches below your elbows.

Wrist Cushion

  • When typing, use a light touch on the keys.

"The tendons from your fingers connect near your elbow so striking the keys too hard can lead to problems you might not associate with your keyboard like pain and inflammation in your elbows (Epicondylitis)." (Healthy Computing)

Now that you are comfortable in your chair, type away my friends!

Note: If you are more of a pen and pencil kind of writer, be sure to use a light grip. Let your ink flow as do your thoughts.

I hope this topic was helpful to you as it was for me. 

Wishing you all a healthy body and a creative mind!

Here is a summary of the resources I've used:
Ergonomic Consultation:


Ergonomic Information:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...