Monday, November 29, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Danielle Novack

~*~ Winter Holiday Edition ~*~

I am Jewish, my husband is Catholic, and we celebrate holidays from both faiths with our two daughters. A couple of years ago, I noticed that my daughter’s book collection included books about Hanukkah and books about Christmas, but nothing that talked about both together. I started looking for a good children’s book about celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. To my surprise, there was very little out there.

So, I decided to write my own. I have been writing stories and poetry my whole life, but this was my first try at a children’s book. Writing the original version in verse was both challenging and lots of fun. I printed it out, added some stick-figure illustrations, and read it to my daughter. This opened up a conversation about how and why we celebrate both holidays in our family.

My training and experience as a clinical psychologist helped me capture Sam’s emotional journey as he struggles with embarrassment and confusion during a discussion about holidays at school. His mother provides the comfort and explanations that ultimately allow him to embrace who he is and how his family celebrates.

I toyed with the idea of trying to get it published, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I also didn’t have much confidence that such a dream would actually come to fruition. For a while, I put it aside and focused on other things. My two young girls keep me endlessly busy, and I am in private practice three days a week. Common sense told me to focus on my practice and to write for my girls and myself. However, I kept thinking about the fact that my book was something different and new, and much-needed in a world where many families blend cultures and traditions.

I was incredibly lucky that the first publisher I sent it to showed interest. It just so happened that they had been in the market for a new dual-celebration story, and mine fit the bill. Then the editing process began. The first thing they had me do was rewrite the entire story in prose. Then there were other tweaks and changes. I learned that there is a right amount of text for each page in a picture book. I also learned that not everything needs to be spelled out in words, because the illustrations will help tell the story.

The final version of MY TWO HOLIDAYS is something I continue to enjoy with my children. I have been busy sharing the book with local schools and organizations, and I hope that lots of parents and kids out there will love it too. In the meantime, I have been working on other children’s books that are quite different, experimenting with different genres and styles. I am looking forward to the next chapter of my new career as a writer for children.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

For more information about Danielle and MY TWO HOLIDAYS: A HANUKKAH AND CHRISTMAS STORY (Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, September 2010), please see her website,

Thank you Danielle for sharing your book and what went into writing it with us. I know many families that celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. I'm sure they will be very happy to have your book in their personal libraries. The first day of Hanukka is December 1st and it lasts until December 9th. To all of you celebrating I wish you a Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Holidays!

Kristin *<( :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Julie Anne Lindsey

I’m a believer

As a little girl, the only thing I wanted to be was a mom. By college, or at least freshman year, I wanted to be a counselor. By graduation, I knew I wanted to work specifically with young girls and women as a motivational speaker. I still carry that dream, but as it turned out, my first wish was granted in a hurry and I’m now a mother of three.

I left the workforce in 2003 to raise and teach my children, and like many mothers, my dreams were benched – temporarily. The truth is, my time was so spoken for that until a couple years ago I hadn’t read a book for fun in more than five years. Sure, I read, but I read ‘how to’ guides and parenting books, and plenty of homeschool materials, nothing that inspired or enchanted me.

Then, it happened. Late one night, I saw a movie about a forbidden love, about a girl and a vampire. Yes. I just heard the collective readership groan and plenty clicked away, but it’s true. I saw Twilight on the movie channel, while bleary eyed and nursing baby number three. The next day, I bought the book and devoured it. That was the day something inside me clicked.

I caught the writing bug. A long lost love of mine, buried under diapers and cheerios and sleepless nights was resurrected. I began to make notes of the stories I’d rolled around in my head for years. (As an only child, I’ve been telling myself stories for three decades, so I have plenty to work with). For the past two years, I’ve been reading and writing and blogging and tweeting. I’ve met fabulous writers, agents, editors and some of my closest friends. It’s true. I’ve unleashed a ‘me’ that was pent up too long.

Though writing has added another task to my already chaotic schedule, it has freed me of things I found simply weren’t that important. It’s given me a place where I am a writer not a mother. I am me. I believe that seeing my passion for writing is giving my children a real and tangible example of the importance in following your dream, against whatever odds. I also believe if we have a desire in our hearts, we must embrace it, chase it, live it. Life is too short to wonder. One day, when one of my manuscripts makes it onto shelves, my children will see that all things are possible for those who believe, and I am a believer.

Julie Anne Lindsey was born and raised in rural Ohio, where she lives today with her husband and three small children. She received a BA in psychology from Kent State University, and credits her obsessive interest in people for bringing her into writing. She is a hopeless caffeine addict, and her work is now in the hands of a super-fabulous agent. Julie blogs her journey at: .


Thanks for this inspirational story Julie. I hope that you'll come back and share your first book with us once it hits the shelves. Also, thank you to all who took the time to stop by for another great Writer Wednesday.

Happy Writing and Reading,

Kristin : )

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

i Simplfy: Pt. 2

As I shared in my very long introduction post, I am doing a big clean out of our home. Going through room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, and getting rid of any excess or unused thing I can find. Why? To get rid of the clutter that has taken over every hidable space we have. But more importantly, to simplify.

Clutter makes life more complicated. It takes a simple task like hanging a picture and turns it into a project. By the time I have found the nails, the hammer, and the masking tape (we have plaster walls that will shatter without tape) I can't remember where I put the frame down. Which sounds like a memory problem, but is another side affect of clutter. It's a proven fact that clutter affects your thinking, productivity, relationships, and your health. Check out this article I found on line. De-Clutter Your Brain.

My progress...

I started in my two younger kids' rooms and am now working on the kitchen and have gotten rid of the following.
  • 5 bags of clothes to be donated to Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • 2 bags of toys
  • 2 bags of garbage

These amounts amazed me. Like I said, this was all basically from closets and drawers. I still have a ways to go, but I can feel the difference when I walk in their rooms.

I'll update again soon.

Kristin :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cake Boss Birthday: recap

We had a great party. Meg and I worked on this monkey cake, complete with banana pudding filling ...YUM! Well, we hope it's as good as it sounds. We haven't tried it yet. By the time the girls were done decorating their mini cakes and cookies they were too full to eat the cake.

This is our fake cake, made out of play dough. Meg and I had fun on this project. We made a lot of fake and real baked goods to transform our kitchen into a bakery. I think the last time I played with play dough with my kids I had to check their mouths every time they chewed. This was much better :)
Now the girls want to get together for craft parties and make ornaments. I'll think about that after I get the coating of sugar off of my kitchen floor.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

i Simplfy (Part 1)

I have been talking about, complaining about, and have even given a half hearted attempt once or twice to do a complete clean out of my house. The joke of wanting to rent a large crane so I could pick my house up and shake it out into a larger dumpster became a secret fantasy of mine. How easy would that be? No decisions to make, no guilt felt? Then I met a woman who had the entire contents of her house stolen, along with the moving van they were traveling in. To loose everything would be devastating, not to mention expensive when some necessities had to be replaced. And what about those irreplaceable things? The baby pictures and those handed down items that have such a rich family history that they invoke whole stories and vivid mental pictures of loved ones lost? No, there is no easy fix to the mess I find myself in. I have the memories and clutter of many years to get through and if you want I'll take you along on my journey.

While raising 4 kids and living under the same roof for over 16 years I have a hit a point when my home has lost breathing space. Sure, from the outside we keep it clean and on most days neat, considering the steady tide of people that come and go. But cleaning has become more of a moving pattern than anything else lately. If there's clutter building up in the kitchen we just move it to the porch, where my desk makes a great catch all for everything from school papers to shoes so the dog can't chew on them. Mind you, we have a shoe box, which is apparently filled with the shoes of other people since no one claims ownership when it comes time to clean that out. You get the gist, we have packed every nook and cranny of our home with things from yesterday and do not have room left to live comfortably or efficiently today. We're in a constant cycle of overflow and tucking away.

I talked about this on Twitter a while ago (yeah, ok, I complained) and was told to get the book It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh (TY to @BillHarper). I recently picked up the audio version and have been listening in the car. It's been a very helpful guide to finally letting go of all of the things we've accumulated. So, I started to put this long time coming project into action...starting with the bedrooms of my younger two kids. Why there? It's always easier getting rid of some one else's stuff, right? Plus, I had done a complete overhaul of my older boys' "man cave/bedrooms" this summer.

First thing Peter Walsh says I need to do is figure out why I keep the things I do. What do they mean to me? Do they have a place in the life I envision for me and my family?

One thing I've come to realize is we have a lot of clothes clutter. The kids' closets and drawers are bursting with them, as well as the extra closets in the house. For a long time it made economic and practical sense to save things that my older children used and grew out of for my younger children. This is not the case any longer. My kids are all so different from each other that even if their sizes were similar, which they are not, their tastes are at opposite ends of the fashion spectrum. A big down fall with me when getting rid of clothes is what to do with them. That's an organization project in itself. Some get put aside to be given to younger nieces or nephews, others donated to Good Will, while the ones that have really been worn to death get tossed. This is where I want that crane to step in. It would be so easy to throw everything away, but I can't. I really can't. I have the words, "Waste no, want not" emblazoned into my head (thanks to my Gram) and I might have been a victim of the Great Depression in a past life, but then again that could have come from Gram too. I grew up hearing things like, "Eat all of your food. There are starving children in China." and, "Yes, you do have to wear that hideous dress. There are kids who have nothing to wear." Another thing I've come to realize is I may have subconsciously feared that my kids would become one of those naked children I had heard about so many times ;)

My grandmother taught me, in her own eccentric ways, to be thankful for what I have and my mother taught me that no matter how bad things get, there is always someone worse off than you in the world. Both of these women saved EVERYTHING, one for the proverbial 'rainy day' and the other with intentions to deliver to someone less fortunate. Considering this, it's not a surprise that every attempt to purge my house of excess has ended with me walking away feeling overwhelmed.

It was at this point that I brought Peter Walsh's CDs out of my car and into the house. I needed another voice in my head, sorry Gram and Mom, but I needed a rational voice to help me. Peter talked about the emotional value that we put on our things. I didn't really care about the clothes my kids outgrew, but still felt overwhelmed with the process of getting rid of them. I think Mr. Walsh would say that I have transferred my mother and grandmother's emotions onto my things. I can sit and look at this puffy, forest green jacket, with the rubbery outer shell and the 5 inches of insulation and think, "Hmm, someone might wear this if we have an extreme winter." (Alaskan children would cringe at this jacket) The rational side of me knows NO ONE WANTS THIS JACKET, but the other side (that's been led to believe that eating a plate of liver and onions will somehow stop children in China from starving) begs to differ.

So, that's where I am. I have made progress and had a few fall backs (the above mentioned jacket is hanging in our cedar closet downstairs, to be dealt with later. If anyone needs it I'll be happy to pass it along ;). I'll keep you updated as often as possible. If you're feeling the need for a complete household purging please let me know about it.


Kristin : )

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Donna Cavanagh

The Never-ending need for Laughter

The first question people ask me when they find out I write humor is “Why?” I have no real answer to that question because I did not go into writing aspiring to be a humor writer. I was a reporter – a night shift general news reporter who covered the horseshit beat. Sorry, for the language, but that is how my editor described my beat area when he assigned me to it. My beat included farms, more farms, a state penitentiary and a nuclear power plant. Let’s just say, with that lineup, humor was bound to ensue.

In the newsroom, we joked around quite a bit. We wrote fake stories (not for publication) to make the nighttime hours go a little faster. My editor caught wind of one that I wrote for the newsroom Christmas party, and he laughed so hard, he almost choked on a shrimp. Once the oxygen returned to his brain, he demanded I see him in his office the next day. I went home and told my husband that I thought my days of being a reporter were done.

Fortunately, despite his brush with death, my editor wanted more humor to print. These few articles started me off on my journey into humor. I eventually resigned as a reporter for the paper as night time living was killing my family life. I started to send humor columns out to other newspapers, and another daily paper in the area asked me to be a bi-weekly columnist. That gig lasted five years. With a humor portfolio building, I sent new pitches to national magazines and newspapers and ran into other editors who liked humor. These editors were eventually killed off and replaced with editors who liked sad, poignant tales of disease, divorce, abuse, addiction and anything else heart wrenching.

During my reign as Queen of the Humor Writers for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Region (Yes, I made this title up), I realized how important it had become to me to make people laugh or at least smile. Humor writing became the dominant focus of my writing. Yes, I still freelanced for business magazines and newspapers, but it was humor that breathed life into my writing day. Even now, if I have the choice between writing 1,000 words on some daily event in my life that I find funny and 1,000 words on political races or the latest craze in technology or what NFL team is primed to win the Super Bowl (yes, I write on the NFL – I know I am eclectic ), I opt for humor. It is definitely my comfort zone.

Humor writing has its ups and downs. Sometimes magazines and newspapers deem it fashionable to carry humor, and sometimes they reject it as being a silly waste of space. I keep plugging to get better known. I almost got a national syndication service to sign me, but I was rejected at the last minute for a celebrity who felt the need to share her romance advice with others throughout the free world. Was I bitter? No - well, I did get a slight twinge of satisfaction when that celebrity was arrested for some kind of money laundering scheme.

Humor is again a tough market for many reasons. First of all the economy has done a number on print publications, and editors at these publications do not have the space to “waste” on humor. However, they do have the space to explore the life and loves of every reality star that has graced MTV in the last ten years. Okay, I guess I might get a little bitter. Another reason why humor is tough for me personally is that I am still a relative unknown. In today’s world, a recognized name brings in the big bucks, so unless I can get arrested or sent to rehab, I might remain too anonymous for most editors.

Will this stop me? Absolutely not. Humor is in my soul. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is why I write. I love to make people laugh. I love that people send me comments on my essays that appear on various sites or in online women’s magazines. I love that both men and women have enjoyed my humor books and tell me that they giggled out loud reading them. That makes my day. Those comments actually make my week and year!

So, I will keep writing and keep hoping that my writing continues to find a welcoming audience. I am encouraged. This year, more doors then ever have opened up. My book Life on the off Ramp was named as an award-winning finalist in the humor category of the “Best Books 2010” Awards -- sponsored by USA Book News. I also was named as a recurring guest humor writer for, and I am frequently featured on I took a daring plunge this year and started an Internet radio show to introduce people to my humor called Wicked Wednesdays at I read a humor piece at the beginning of the show and have fellow humor writers sit in with me to discuss whatever is on their minds at the time. It is, so far, a great deal of fun.

Well, that is the story of my continuing journey into humor writing. I have learned a lot from living and breathing this genre. Mostly what I have learned is that we need humor to be human, and because of this fact, humor to me is serious business.
More information about Donna Cavanagh and her writing stop by her website, My Very Own Fan.

Thanks Donna for being my Writer Wednesday guest this week and for sharing your writing journey. Laughter is an important part of life so I hope this post inspires more writers to release their inner clown. Thanks to all you readers who stopped by.

Happy Writing and Reading,
Kristin : )

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We have a winner! After the Falls book giveaway

Congratulations to Aisley Crosse for winning a copy of Catherine Gildiner's After the Falls. You should be receiving it soon. Hope you enjoy.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RE: Pulled Post

As you may know I pulled today's Writer's Wednesday post from my blog to further investigate some serious accusations made against my guest. This is all new to me and I want to be fair to all involved. I want this series to be inspirational, not controversial. First, I'll let you know that my guest is being accused of plagiarism, among other things. I'm sure we all agree, this is a serious allegation.

After following some of the links I was given by a handful of pretty heated people I've decided not to repost it. This does not mean I believe that my guest is guilty. Only the people who claim to have been plagiarized and the courts can determine that. This only means that after doing some research I had too many questions of my own to repost with a good conscience. But to be honest, I'm not sure if this is a case of a writer reinventing himself and trying new ventures when one fails or if it's an attempt to avoid being caught stealing other writer's work. There are a few people that have made it their crusade to make sure everyone knows about this. From what I can tell, none of these people are directly involved. They are going to a lot of trouble nonetheless. I have no way of knowing if they are concerned citizens wanting to protect the rights of other writers or not. I can't find time to read my favorite blogs, never mind scour the Internet in search of blogs that mention another person. But that's me.

You'll notice I didn't use my guest's name. I do not support any form of plagiarism, but nor do I promote condemning someone of it without proof. If you decide to dig deeper I can not stop you. The Internet is permanent, and there are always ways of finding any information. I only hope that you get all of the information you can before taking action, should you feel moved to.


Kristin : )

Writer Wednesday--- ON HOLD ----

In light of information that has been presented I have to decided to remove today's Writer Wednesday blog post until I can further investigate. In the event these serious accusations are found to be true I will apologize to you readers. In the event that they are not I will republish the original post with an apology to this week's guest.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Memoir Monday: After the Falls

It's been a while since I've posted a Memoir Monday. This is an interesting one to jump back in with. Catherine Gildiner takes us to relive some very personal and public experiences that molded her into the author and person she is today. After the Falls: Coming of age in the Sixties by Catherine Gildiner follows a girl's journey from the simplicity of childhood to the complexities of adulthood. It's the follow up to her first memoir, Too Close to the Falls (New York Times bestseller).

Life for Cathy was idyllic in the mist of Niagara Falls. She was happy working in her dad's pharmacy, making deliveries with Roy, causing havoc in school. Life was simple. Then they moved to Buffalo. Catherine was 12 and her life was turned upside down. She had to figure out who she was in a new town, in a new school, and did this with same anger and angst that most kids carry through adolescence. Her father seemed to be suffering from his own identity crisis and her mother remained detached from it all.

There were many pivotal moments that propelled Cathy from a child to an adult. She witnessed the cold and abusive loss of innocence of a girl, grieved with the country over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, enjoyed friendships that literally rose out of ashes and had to turn from others that went up in smoke. But nothing forced adulthood on her faster and more cruelly than finding out her father's behavior changes were caused by a brain tumor. His short term memory was nonexistent and it was slowly eating away at his long term memories. She had spent so much time being angry or embarrassed that when his illness was revealed, it was too late to apologize. He couldn't understand day to day that he was sick. Her mother pulled further out of touch, unable to cope, leaving Cathy to take control of her family's welfare.

Eventually Cathy's mother pulled herself together and pushed her to go to college. Through her writing she meets her first love, Laurie. With him she learns to expand her vocabulary and thinking. Together they champion for the Civil Rights Movement. He would also break her heart when his double life is revealed.

These are just some of the experiences Cathy shares in this moving memoir. I'm always amazed when writers are able to open themselves up so completely on paper for the world to read. Catherine Gildiner did not hold back. This is a powerful read.

Now, as I like to do in my Memoir Mondays, I'll talk about what this memoir taught me about writing.

Write Honestly: There were parts in this that I'm sure were hard to write, those are the parts that made it so powerful. Those moments of guilt, embarrassment, fear, grief are what grab the readers and helps them to celebrate the lighter, happier moments along with the memoir writer (or fictional character).

Expand vocabulary: If I come across a word I don't know the meaning of I write it down and look it up. Here are some of the new words that caught my eye while reading After the Falls.

1. anachronism - something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time.

2. tickey-boo - term used to describe an event that is proceeding quickly.

3. idioglossia - Speech or other vocalizations unique to an individual and generally incomprehensible to others.

I'd love to hear some of the new or strange words you've come across in your reading lately.

After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties by Catherine Gildiner is now on sale at Amazon , Amazon.CA , , Mobipocket eBook , and more.

Thanks for stopping by.

Kristin : )

** One lucky commenter can win a copy of After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties. Simply leave a comment to be entered. This giveaway is limited to USA and Canada readers, but all comments are welcome to discuss the book or to share new words.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Pat Brown

New writers studiously study how-to articles online, in writer's magazines and in the hundreds of books published on how to write in the belief that there is some secret that all published writers know and if only they could find it, they'd be published too. I'm afraid it's not true. There is no magic wand that can transform you from unpublished to published. The process is the same for everybody, for some it's just longer than others. Even when the dream is realized, it's not the end. You publish one book, one short story or perhaps an article. The next one is not a shoe-in. You might get more consideration for having been published, but you can just as easily be rejected again for you latest work.

It took me 33 years between the first book I wrote at 17 to having my first book published when I was 50. In that time I wrote at least 8 novels that were not published, in some cases probably weren't publishable. But each one was a learning experience I built on until I produced a book that someone wanted. But after that there was more rejection. The second book in the series was rejected and I ended up taking it elsewhere, to a small, independent publisher, which was a step down from the New York publisher I had started with. I'm still glad to be published by them and have continued with them since then. But I still want to break back into the New York publishing world and I've been pursuing an agent for the last 6 months. So far I have 95 rejections on one book I'm querying. That's 95 times I've had to read 'Sorry, not for us' since most of the rejections have been form letters. But I haven't stopped querying and I haven't stopped writing. I still send out queries on that book, and wait for a response. I have also started an even larger, more ambitious project, a noir historical which I will also be querying on when it's finished.

My point to all this is, though I have 8 fiction novels published and several short stories, I am no more guaranteed the next book I write will be published by anyone. Publishing is a business going through a lot of changes right now, and no one knows where it will be in 5 years, let alone 20. Publishers want sure things, and since there is no such thing, they compensate by being cautious. Which means more rejections to all but the upper tier of proven best sellers.

So why do it? I do it because I can't NOT write. Whether or not I get published I will always write because the stories are in me and have to be told. With that compulsion I will keep writing no matter if the next book or the one after that is never published or I decide to self publish an ebook, I will write.

As a new writer, only you can decide if this path is for you. No one else can make that decision or stop you from trying. If you want to write, despite the odds, then I say go, write.

My motto is taken right out of Galaxy Quest -- 'Never give up, never surrender'

Pat Brown

Award winning author of the L.A. crime novels.


I'll admit I held back on publishing this one. I thought it was too real to inspire new writers, but reading it again I have changed my mind. Writing and being published is not easy. It would be unfair to lead anyone to believe otherwise. Like any job, it takes dedication, incredible stamina, and thick skin to deflect criticism and rejection. And still, even with that some writing dreams won't be realized, while others will exceed all expectations. There's no way to predict which path your writing will take until you do the work and hand it over to the world. There are no guarantees, even for writers that have been published. These are depressing facts, but things all writers should understand. So thank you Pat for telling it like it is. I was wrong, this post is inspiring. It inspires me to keep learning, improving, and trying to reach my writing goals. It inspires me to never give up...

Thanks to all of you who took the time to stop by for another great Writer Wednesday.

Kristin : )

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cake Boss Birthday Pt. 1

Look what we made!

My daughter's birthday is coming up and she is addicted to watching the show Cake Boss. So, I get this great idea that we can transform our kitchen into a bakery for her birthday. The plan is to let everyone decorate their own mini cakes like they do in the show. That's the plan, we'll see how the reality turns our :)

As part of the decor we wanted to have some real cakes and pastries displayed, but that's a lot of work and honestly would end up being a waste of my much treasured baked goods. I decide that we'll make these "real looking" cakes using more creative ingredients. So we pulled out some cardboard, my trusty glue gun, and started making nightly messes in the living room while we put our plan into action. As the plan came to life, it really became a lot of fun. I got another great idea. We'd use play dough in place of marzipan and fondant (those magical items Carlos uses to create incredible edible artwork).

Tonight, my daughter and I created the animal heads that will be added to our 3 tier fake cake, and I have to say, I'm amazed how well they came out. The whole thing has been fun. It's been years since I've actually sat down and played with play dough with my kids, and that crafty mom of yesteryear, well she had hung her keep the children busy hat a while ago too. Ok, before I get all nostalgic and weepy, I'll stop. We'll keep you updated on our progress.