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:

Monday, April 21, 2014

NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS: Creative Nonfiction. Informational Fiction. Faction. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

I wrote a couple of nonfiction articles for magazines, but now I am interested in writing nonfiction for picture books. Nonfiction picture books must have three components:

  1. Visually appealing with attractive design and layout in a 32-page book
  2. Accurate information
  3. Engaging writing

Nonfiction picture books are written to attract the interest of young readers and get them excited about nonfiction. Sharon Ruth Gill of Reading Rockets explores this genre that is making waves in the publishing industry in her article, What Teachers Need to Know About the "New" Nonfiction.

Like picture books, nonfiction books for the younger reader must stand out in today's market. How do you do that?


But how much creativeness can you add to a nonfiction? This is where it gets sticky.

Myth: For my nonfiction to stand out, I should embellish it with interesting and fun details by weaving in a creative, made-up story.

*Truth: Once you add fiction, your story is fiction. Lee Gutkind of says it best. Creative nonfiction is “accurate prose about real people and events written in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner- true stories well told.”

Myth: If I write a story with a good plot, realistic characters and interesting facts, then I would have a great creative nonfiction.

*Truth: This all depends on what your realistic characters are saying and doing. Jan Fields of the Institute of Children’s literature writes, “Creative nonfiction happens when an author uses totally well researched facts to create a story-like narrative with no made up parts.” What you may have written is faction- blending of fact and fiction.

Myth: If I write a story about a father on an adventure through the woods with his daughter and informing her of facts about redwood trees along the way, that would make a great Creative nonfiction.

*Truth: When you have a made-up story with characters spewing out facts, or a blending of fiction with facts, then you have informational fiction- Facts in a fictional framework.


What about historical fiction? 
Many historical fiction are realistic. Characters may be fictitious, but the events and scenes are based on facts. Historical fiction is also described as a fictional account of real events or real people. Sherry Garland, children's author, talks about this and was surprised when some of her historical picture books won nonfiction awards.  

Historical fiction: Informational fiction, creative nonfiction, or faction? You will find the answer to this question on Sherry's blog, Into the Woods We Go.

What is faction? 
According to Gotham teacher, Brandi Reissenweber, faction is a blending of fact and fiction.  Author Sandra Markle defines it as "a fictional story in which all of the characters and the details are based on real facts."

Is faction creative nonfiction or informational fiction? Based on the definition above, faction sounds like information fiction to me. 

Sandra Markle, author of What if I Had Animal Teeth, classifies her books as faction. When I looked them up (What If I Had Animal Teeth, Animal Scavengers: Wolverines, and Hip-Pocket Papa) at my library, they were shelved in the nonfiction section. So faction, in this example, is creative nonfiction.

There were a few books on the 2012 Cybills nominee list for NONFICTION picture books that were categorized as FICTION at libraries: A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas and Just Ducks by Nicola Davies, just to name a few.

This just proves how difficult it can be to distinguish creative nonfiction from informational fiction or faction. Are you as confused as I am? This topic is enough to make my head spin!

Here are some examples of creative nonfiction books given by:
I.N.K. Creative Nonfiction for Kids
Sandra Markle's Nonfiction Books

NOTE: Some of the picture books listed on the blog, I.N.K. are listed as creative nonfiction, but when I looked them up at my library, there were a few that were categorized as fiction such as Move! By Steve Jenkins, Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman, and Over and Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart.

 TIP: If you can't decide whether a picture book is creative nonfiction or fiction, check out the library and search for the title. If it is listed as a PB** then it is fiction. If it is listed as J###### then it is nonfiction. Study them and see if you can figure out for yourself why it is classified the way it is.

CREATIVE NONFICTION- accurate prose about real people and events written in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner

INFORMATIONAL FICTION- facts in a fictional framework

FACTION- blending of fact and fiction

Below are some great resources that go into detail:

Do you have a great resource to share that will demystify what faction is, please share!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Smallest Library and the Story Behind it

You've heard the saying,

Books are the passport to the world!
Allow me to introduce to you a miniature world! 

My friend, Barbara Madrid, is a miniature enthusiasts and is a member of NAME, the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts. When she learned that I was interested in children's books, she gave me one of hers!
See how tiny that is? I couldn't believe there were pages with words on it. I haven't read the story yet because that will require a microscope of some sort. As a children's book lover, I thought it was the most unique and best gift I've ever received. I took a picture of the book with a quarter to give you an idea of its size.

The question that begs to be asked?

 "Where do you keep a book this small?"

On a miniature bookshelf at a miniature library, of course!

Barbara is in the process of completing her miniature library. This miniature book is one of 50 books that she assembled herself. 

I thought it would be interesting to share with you Barbara's library, which is displayed in her home in San Francisco along with her other doll houses. 

Below Barbara gives you a tour of her library and shares her story behind her craft. Enjoy the tour!

Introducing, THE LINCOLN LIBRARY, by Barbara Madrid
The view from outside the library.

The namesake displayed prominently on the wall.

The rear bookshelf are stocked with handmade books. In the bookshelves to the right are hand-painted blocks of books.

Notice the decorative wallpaper and an actual wood floor.

A librarian assisting a young boy. On the wall are reduced copies of 1910 photographs of the Grand Central Station, City Hall, and the American Museum of Natural History, which are noted New York buildings.

The Lincoln Library is located next to The Allegiance Academy where all of their students have library cards!

Thank you so much for the tour! Now let's meet the talented woman behind the extraordinary hobby...

Barbara Madrid!

Barbara Madrid is a member of NAME, National Association of Miniature Enthusiast

What got you interested in this hobby?
My interest in miniatures began when I was a small child and my grandfather handcrafted some miniature furnitures for me. I didn't have a dollhouse then but in 1997, my husband decided I should have a hobby and bought my first dollhouse as a Christmas gift. When I saw all of the pieces needed to make the 9-room house, I thought the build would be an impossible task.

Over the next 12-years, we worked on the house together and in 2009, we had added electrical lights and the house was ready for its occupants (see photo below).


When did you start crafting doll houses and what have you completed so far?
I have been doing miniatures since about 1997. I've completed 2 houses- one a residence and the other, a 3-story multi-shop building with a floral shop, dress shop, and an accountant's office. I've also completed 7 display boxes, which include a music conservatory, a bakery, and antique store, a sewing shop, a grocery store, a middle school, and the library. 

How do you decide what to build next?
I usually find a single piece of furniture I like and then build the room around it. When I found the corner bookshelf for the library, I knew I wanted more than the usual block books to fill it. A web search brought me to where I purchased paper book kits with wonderfully detailed covers.

What is the most difficult part of your hobby?
I have found the most difficult part of building a dollhouse is understanding the blueprints. That is when my husband, a skilled machinist, comes in handy. He's great at the construction and electrical parts. I do the fun part, which is the interior decorating. Installing the wallpaper can be tricky, but careful measurements makes the job a lot easier. I usually do a combination of wallpaper and paint to add a variety of textures.

What do you enjoy most about your hobby?
Selecting the furnishings is the most fun of dollhouse miniatures and I shop the internet, local dollhouse stores, and attend miniature shows for items I need. I also add homemade touches by including crochet or knitted blankets, and clay plants.

Dollhouse miniatures is a wonderful activity for any age and I'm forever thankful my husband reintroduced me to this wonderful hobby.

 It is truly fascinating to learn this enchanting world of miniatures. I've been to quite a few libraries, but never have I seen a library like this. Thank you so much, Barbara, for sharing your story!

Books bring people together!

Interesting facts:
  • In miniatures the scale is 1/12 inch = 1 foot. For example, a 6-inch miniature doll is equivalent to a person who is 6-feet tall.
  • The difference between a doll house and a display box is the size- dollhouses are generally 34" H x 12-1/2" D x 33-3/4" W; a display box is about 11-1/4" H x 10-1/4" D x 12-3/4" W.  A dollhouse has multiple rooms and a display box depicts a single room.

What is the most interesting library you've ever visited? Please share.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Perfect Pitch & Other Great Resources

What is the perfect pitch?

That's the question both my son and I ask ourselves. His perfect pitch would probably be one that strikes out the batter. My perfect pitch would strike up a deal with an agent or publisher.
My son pitching for the Stanford Junior Cardinals

Writing the perfect pitch is much like baseball. Good pitching takes practice. The perfect pitch, whether it be baseball or writing, can be broken down to five component skills:

A pitcher must grip the ball properly before throwing to get good velocity and control. As a writer, our pitch must be gripping! You want to lead with a compelling first line to entice the agent or editor to want to read more.

The pitching motion begins with the windup. It's the preparation for a good pitch. Writing a pitch requires you to know your main character, his/her wants, the enticing incident, its hook, and the stakes. Kathleen Temean goes into detail on how to write a pitch for your book.

A baseball pitcher knows that a long stride makes the ball go high; too short a stride makes the ball go low. When writing a pitch you don't want to tell the whole story, just enough to peak the interest. Too long of a pitch and you lose the reader or listener; too short and you can just forget it. A pitch should be about 50 words or a about a 30-second read. If you are participating in a Twitter pitch, you are limited to 140 characters. Know your stride.

Whether its baseball or writing, a perfect pitch is in the delivery. You want to deliver an efficient and effective pitch that will hold the attention of the agent or editor. Show your enthusiasm and confidence without being boastful. Be yourself and let your voice shine verbally and on paper.

Following Through
It is important to keep the momentum. When an agent responds with "tell me more," you owe it to yourself to be competent in your own story. You should be able to identify comparable books and explain why yours is different. Show the agent or editor that you are qualified to write your story.

Below is a list of my favorite resources to help you write the perfect pitch:
My son  pitching for the Little League, Yankees

How to Write a Pitch by Kathleen Temean
Kathleen shows you how to write a pitch for you book and shares a few types of techniques you could use to spice up your pitch. 

Writing the Perfect Pitch Author Kristen Lamb invited Marcy Kennedy, writer and WANA instructor, to guest post on her blog on writing the perfect pitch. Here she breaks it down into four meaty parts and gives explanations and examples.

How to Write a One Sentence Pitch
Author Nathan Bransford shows you how to share the heart of your book in just one sentence using three basic elements. This is great practice and comes in handy for giving verbal pitches. 

Difference Between a Pitch and a Hook by Susanna Leonard Hill
Susanna Leonard Hill, childrens author, explains the difference between a pitch and a hook and gives examples. Her blog is worth exploring. Susanna has a weekly feature, Would You Read It, posted on Wednesdays. It is a chance for writers to try out pitches for their books. 


[Thank you to Rena Traxel Boudreau for sharing the wonderful world of Carissa Taylor on FB Sub-It-Club]

Twitter Pitch Loglines: Recipe Ideas by Carissa Taylor
Carissa gives us the recipe for a good logline. Here she lays out some samples or logline formats that you could customize to your story by filling in the blanks. 

March #PitMad Requested Pitches 
#PitMad on Twitter
Carissa Taylor gives us a list of Twitter pitches from the #PitMad held earlier this month that received requests from agents. These are successful pitches, categorized by genre, that you can study as you prepare for you own pitch. Because I write things related to picture books, I thought you'd like to know that of the 236 manuscripts that got requests, 5 of them were picture books.

Pitch Generator by Carissa Taylor
For fun, you can try this pitch generator. It asks basic information about your story and characters and with a click of the mouse, it will generate several pitches for you. I tried it out and I wasn't able to find one that was worthy to use. Nevertheless, it was interesting and fun. I could still tweak the pitches a bit to make it work for me. Try it out. 

And in case you are in a position to pitch your book verbally, read this:

Pitching at Conferences Dos and Don'ts
Literary agent, Jean V. Naggar, attended many writers conferences. In doing so, she had compiled a list of dos and don'ts for conference attendees looking to pitch their book. It is a guideline for writers so they don't mess up on an opportunity.


Hope this helps. If you have other resources regarding writing a pitch that you find fabulous, please share in the comment section.
My son's hang-out


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