Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Chautauqua Experience--Highlights Writers Conference

I just returned from an adventure in learning--nine days in Chautauqua, New York at the Highlights Workshop for Children's Writers and Illustrators. Check out this link to find out more about the conference.

There were 97 students in attendance from all over the United States and also places as far as Hong Kong, Spain, Uganda, and Guam. The staff was amazing and there were so many wonderful authors, editors, publishers, etc. that students had a chance to sit and talk with the staff and ask as many questions as we wanted during our meals, around classes, and other activities.
For one full week, I was entrenched in a professional and FUN experience where I could take classes in nearly every realm of writing, from characterization to voice to writing for children's magazines. I am 28 weeks pregnant and I went to New York, where it is HUMID, very, very humid. A little crazy, I know, but that is how much I wanted to attend this conference. I even stayed in a place with no air-conditioning! I am definitely dedicated to this writing thing!

I met a great crowd of talented authors. My mentor was Sandy Asher and she gave me some wonderful feedback on the chapter I submitted for critique. I was also lucky enough to speak with the Newbery Medal winner, Jerry Spinelli, and he gave me some wonderful advice on the middle-grade reader I'm working on. Check out this link to see more about the fabulous faculty in attendance. Here's a picture of me with Jerry & Eileen Spinelli.

I mentioned before that I received a scholarship that enabled me to attend this conference. I want to mention this again to encourage those of you who might be salivating over this conference the same way I used to. I still had to pay for my airfare and lodging, so if you want to go, you'll need to save, but without the scholarship there's no way I could've attended. I talked with several other students who also received scholarships and we learned where a good chunk of that scholarship money comes from on Thursday night.
After dinner at the golf course, there was an auction with all kinds of wonderful items: books, paintings, bags, hand-knit shawls, jewelry. Most of these items were donated by other authors and members of the staff. The items went for generous amounts and the money will go to fund next year's scholarships.
The highlight of my evening is when my own book went up for auction! I donated a copy of Wrong NumberWrong Number and renowned children's author, Eileen Spinelli, won the bid at $50.00!!!
My week in Chautauqua was unbelievable. I missed my family a lot--I've never been away from my kids that long and it made for some lump-swallowing when I talked to them on the phone and they told me how much they missed me. I consider last week to be a chance in a lifetime experience for me. I'm excited to share some of my notes and pictures from the week in future posts, but I would like to leave you with a few nuggets of inspiration passed on from the staff at the Highlights Writers Workshop:
  • Don't ever give up!
  • The worst thing you can do is leave a finished manuscript in the drawer
  • Take advantage of every opportunity, every open door.
  • Stay true to yourself--your goals--your dreams.
  • Write, write, write!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I've been updating my book reviews, so if you'd like to see more of the books I've read please check out my sidebar under Rachelle's Book Club. All of the titles I've reviewed on my blog should be there.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle)

I finished this book a few months ago and wanted to get my review up because I've told a few people about this book recently. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows were the authors of this delightful read--
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This book was excellent! I love books that are a work of fiction but convey fact at the same time. I had no idea what it was about and when I started reading I wondered if I'd be able to get into the book because the entire thing is letters! But I did enjoy it and most of all because I didn't even know the Channel Islands existed or anything about the German occupation of Guernsey during WWII--I know I should be a better historian--but I'm telling you to read this book so you won't have to be ignorant of this amazing piece of history either.

I also want to add that this book is delightful and funny--I was laughing out loud several times while I read and I love it when I read a book and the corners of my mouth are perpetually turned up in a smile.

Have you read this book? What did you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday Thought: Good Things To Come

I saw this video on my friend, Danyelle's blog, and had to share it with you. It touched me because my family has definitely been there and some members of my extended family are there right now. It's a wonderful reminder.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Highlights Writers Conference in Chautauqua, New York

This week I'm attending the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua and I'm so excited for this opportunity.
I've been on an email list receiving writing tips and conference info from the Highlights organization for over a year. I often drooled over their conferences, but never thought it was a possibility.
Back in January I read about how there are scholarships available for this amazing weeklong conference and so I decided, What the heck, and I applied for a scholarship.

A few months later, in late March, I received word that I had been awarded a scholarship. I was excited, amazed, and didn't know what to do because when I had applied I wasn't pregnant. I have difficult pregnancies, but I also have 3 little kids at home so I didn't know what to do. I asked my husband, "Do you think I should go?"
He said, "You'd better go. It's the chance of a lifetime."
Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE my husband? He is so awesome--I love you Steve. So I began making plans and arrangements and now here I am in New York about to start an amazing experience.
I've never been to New York before, I'm in the southwestern part of the state and the weather is a bit cooler, so that's nice.
When I get back I will write some posts and share some of the writing tips that I'll be learning. Check out the amazing faculty at this conference and you'll know why I'm so excited.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday Thought--wonderful thought

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Incredible! Good luck on your course today--may you find the courage to follow your dreams!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Words Won't Make it All Better

A close friend of mine is going through yet another miscarriage and I paused to think about how hard it is to say the right things. Even though I've gone through miscarriages I still worry about what to say.
I guess I worry because so many people said exactly the WRONG things to me when I had my miscarriages. You know some of them,

"Your baby would've probably had too many birth defects."

"Don't worry, you'll have another baby."

"It's not the same as a death."

"It's been six months, aren't you going to try to have another baby?"

"... "
And sometimes the worst were those that said nothing at all, but ignored me because they didn't know what to say.

It's okay, I know how they felt and I don't harbor ill feelings to anyone. In fact, I've forgotten much of what was said and if it wasn't for my journal and writing my book, Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage, I probably would've forgotten all of them.

The one blessing we all have is our fading memory. For some, that causes fear and anxiety because you think,
No, I don't want to forget my baby.

You won't forget your baby, but hopefully you'll forget the raw edges of pain cutting into your heart when you lost your baby. Hopefully, you'll remember the bond that was formed the moment you discovered you were pregnant and not the sadness and sorrow associated with loss.
Forgetting the fine details is one way we cope as human beings, otherwise life as a whole would become overwhelming.

Just remember probably the easiest and best thing to say is, "I'm sorry."
But you could also say:
"Is there something I could do to help?"
"Would you like a hug?"
"I'll pray for you."

You don't have to say something to make it all better, because it won't be. The love you share helps heal a hurt.

I mentioned that it's hard to know what to say, but something that can help relieve the stress and discomfort is to know that words won't make it all better. It doesn't matter what you say to a person who has experienced a miscarriage or any kind of grief--it's not going to miraculously change their situation.
But in the same vein, words can definitely make it worse. So how do you find a balance?

I think the key is in realizing that you can't fix the problem so don't try to say something to fix it. This usually ends up in statements that diminish the other's loss and causes added pain.
Instead, be sympathetic and if possible, empathic. Sympathy is expressing compassion, concern, or care for another's situation. Empathy is when you offer sympathy from a viewpoint of experience. You've experienced the same situation and so you recall how you felt and offer comfort.
Both sympathy and empathy are needed. But sympathy is not telling someone, "At least you know your baby would've had birth defects and died anyway."

That is a person's attempt to make themselves feel better about the situation--not the person mourning. For some reason, no matter what the situation, humans automatically grasp for a reason to provide justice or explanation to the occurrence. What you must realize is that if you are offering comfort to someone, you can't share with them what comforts YOU. You can't explain to them why something happened, offer philosophical insight into how the world is just, etc. and hope that they will smile and say, "I feel better. I'm not sad anymore."
No. Those are things that cross your mind and help you understand the world you live in, but they don't comfort someone who is grieving.

So next time you're in a situation where you need to offer comfort, make sure that is what you're offering. Not advice, reasons, justification--offer comfort.
And shake off the worry of needing to say something that will make them feel all better and realize that you're not going to make them feel ALL better, but if you're wise and offer heartfelt expressions of sympathy/empathy you might make them feel better for a time--feeling ALL better is something you can't give to another person. It's up to them and it takes time.

I'd like to share a thought I shared with one of my readers:

I understand the feeling of a breaking heart and I wish I had magic thread to stitch it back together for you. The only magic thread I know is time.

Let time be your comforting companion on your journey through grief and trial and let fading memory be a salve to help you overcome your sorrows and put on those "rose-colored glasses" and look back in time and see only the good parts.

You can find more information about coping with miscarriage on my other blog: www.copingwithmiscarriage.blogspot.com and in my book Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage for Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The First Recipients of The Creative Brilliance Blog Award

To launch the new Creative Brilliance Blog Award, I'm excited to present this award to some special bloggers.

Each of these bloggers has influenced me with their Creative Brilliance. This list is filled with so many creative people: writers, crafters, scrapbookers, seamstresses, and all around super-moms and wonderful friends.
I would like to thank each of you for the bits of inspiration that you have added to my life through your varied talents. I hope this award will stir up even more Creative Brilliance in your life.

Nichole Giles
Ashley at Make It And Love It
Cindy Beck
Connie Hall
Tristi Pinkston
Angie Lofthouse
Homemade by Jill
Priscilla Styles
Vanilla Joy
Capadia Designs
Life as Lou
Kim at Crafty Makes
Kerri at Lovely Little Handmades
Amy at Park City Girl
Stephanie Howell
Michelle at Auntie Thesis
Danyelle at Queen of the Clan
Little Birdie Secrets
The Mommy Files
Cristena at Gettin Crafty
Mommy Mandy
Cricut Christmas
Heather Justesen
Suzanne at Italian Girl in Georgia
Christine Bryant

Please visit THIS POST to find out more details about this new bloggy award, why I thought you deserved it, and the *prize code* attached.

Rules for the Creative Brilliance Blog Award:

  • Each Creative Brilliance Awardee must in turn pass the award on to 6 spectacular Bloggers.
  • Each Creative Brilliance blogger must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom she/he received the award.
  • You must display the award on your blog and link to THIS POST which explains the award and the *prize code* attached.

  • Each Creative Brilliance Awardee must visit THIS POST and add her/his name to the Mr. Linky List on the post so we can keep up to date on everyone who receives this Creative Brilliance Blog Award.

  • Each Creative Brilliance Awardee must post these rules on her/his blog.

Congratulations and thank you for letting us celebrate your Creative Brilliance!
The Original Scrapbox
Brilliant Storage Solutions
RachelleWrites and www.rachellechristensen.com

Creative Brilliance Blog Award

I'm happy to introduce a fantastic new blog award from The Original Scrapbox

The Creative Brilliance Blog Award
Brilliant Storage Solutions from The Original Scrapbox

This award is for you, for thinking outside the box when it comes to all things creative, and for adding brilliant works of art to the world.

You have impacted many lives with your creative touch. You have made a difference in the world, made someone's day a little brighter, and the world appear more brilliantly beautiful because of your creativity.
Thank you for sharing your Creative Brilliance. May you wear this badge with honor and pride because you deserve it! We hope this award will help to boost your creative juices and we look forward to seeing more brilliant works from you.

*As a recipient of this award, The Original Scrapbox -creator of Brilliant Storage Solutions--has a special gift for you. Until October 31, 2010, for all orders in the 48 contiguous United States, you will receive free shipping when you enter the code: FreeShip1025
Check back for updated prizes attached to this blog award.

Rules for the Creative Brilliance Blog Award:

  • Each Creative Brilliance Awardee must in turn pass the award on to 6 spectacular Bloggers.
  • Each Creative Brilliance blogger must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom she/he received the award.
  • You must display the award on your blog and link to THIS POST which explains the award and the *prize code* attached.

  • Each Creative Brilliance Awardee must visit THIS POST and add her/his name to the Mr. Linky List on the post so we can keep up to date on everyone who receives this Creative Brilliance Blog Award.

  • Each Creative Brilliance Awardee must post these rules on her/his blog.

Congratulations and thank you for letting us celebrate your Creative Brilliance!
The Original Scrapbox
Brilliant Storage Solutions

Okay, add your name to the Mr. Linky List and make sure you include http:// in your address or it won't work. Then leave a comment

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stopping to Smell the Roses

June brings out the most beautiful roses in my rose garden. I wanted to share one of my bouquets that I cut a full week ago and is still looking lovely on my counter.

They continue on through the summer as long as I keep deadheading them--something I learned after I moved into my house with an established rosebed. If you don't know what I'm talking about, "deadheading" is when you trim off the spent rose blooms. You must look at the stems and find the first grouping of 5 leaves and cut right below that grouping. This will keep your roses blooming all summer long. If you don't deadhead your roses, you will not get to experience an abundance of blooms. I'm not an expert and am still trying to learn how to keep the bugs from getting a select few rose varieties, but I wanted to remind you to stop and smell the roses and keep trimming all summer long.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thursday Thought

Failure really isn't terrible if you can say to yourself, "Hey, I know I'm gonna be successful at what I want to do someday." Failure doesn't become a big hangup then because it's only temporary.
--Jerry Della Femina

Man, this guy must've read my mind or pulled it from a writer's creed or something. :) Isn't that what every writer says to themselves after they receive their 50th or 100th or 250th rejection? Honestly, this is what I said to myself on my path to becoming a published author and I continue to keep plodding away and learning from every "failure" that comes my way.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rachelle's Book Club Review: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

I love getting book recommendations from others and then finding a treasure in a book that I might not have otherwise read.  The Book Thief The Book Thiefby Marcus Zusak is one such treasure. This book was so amazing that I'm ordering myself a copy from Amazon. It's one of those that I want on my shelf to refer back to and read again. Zusak has a talent for describing things and showing emotion that I've never seen before. When I began reading the book, I wondered a bit if it would hold my attention--after all the narrator is death--how weird is that? But my goodness, as I continued to turn the pages I found gem after priceless gem of intricate storytelling from Zusak in a way that made each and every scene come alive.

Everything about this book is different. The point of view, the descriptive metaphors, even the names of the chapters make you stop and think about what the author is trying to tell you.

I enjoy reading about the history of World War II and since this is the time period of the book, perhaps that is another reason I was so drawn into the story. It's a thick book, so don't be scared about the length. Once you allow yourself to experience the magic of "The Book Thief" you'll be forever changed. This book has humor, action, danger, strung-out emotions--all the things I love in a story but is written as a type of literature that is fantastic.

If you've read The Book Thief, I'd love to hear what you thought. Have you read any of Zusak's other books? If so, what did you think? I haven't heard too much about the others but am certainly going to put them on my "to read" list.

You can see some of the other reviews in Rachelle's Book Club here. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrating America

Happy Independence day! I'm grateful to be an American. Yes, I am, even in these tenuous times of crashing economies and questionable leadership, I still believe that The United States of America is a wonderful place to live.

I'm grateful for the freedoms that I enjoy, the privileges I have because I'm an American. I know that America can look different to every person who lives here because of their circumstances and/or choices, but I believe that my life has been blessed with the opportunity of being born on this continent.

The United States of America still has nearly every problem that every other country has in the world, but what separates this great nation from the world is the multitude of opportunities that overshadow those problems. A person with determination and resources really can accomplish just about anything with the opportunities available in America.

If I had been born in another country, I might have been discouraged from seeking higher education or I might have faced many wars by the time I reached my teenage years. In a third-world country, I may not have even learned to read or write--that thought sends a shudder through my body--to think of having the magic of the written word taken from me.

So today I feel blessed to live in this great nation. I pray that our leaders will make wise choices to keep this nation great. I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Jungle Cat

I keep trying to catch up on everything, but my blog keeps falling behind. I'm going to make a better effort to keep you up to date. I am working on my writing though--new books in progress!

Something fun for today.

I've introduced Bagheera on my blog before, so some of you might know that I like cats. I had to post a few pictures of our feline today.

He is a silly cat and very friendly.

If you've ever seen the Disney movie, The Jungle Book, you'll know where Bagheera got his name. I swear he must've watched the movie too because he's posing just like the real black panther in the movie--The Jungle Book (40th Anniversary Platinum Edition) in my peach tree.
Have a happy day!


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