12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 7

IMG_3749On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me –

7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!),

6 Asian orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

A shameless plug for UCLA? Okay, maybe a little. But even more, today is about celebrating places from our past (schools, cities, work places…) that have molded and influenced us.

The mention of a place can trigger so many memories: of people I love, wisdom I’ve learned, things I’ve done. So when I meet a fellow Bruin (UCLA), a Matador (CSUN), or a Terrier (BU), or someone who has lived in Boston, Orange County, or East Asia, I have an instant connection with them.IMG_3759

College, going overseas for a missions trip, graduate school, and maneuvering through new jobs were times I came into my own.

It’s where I discovered that journalism and writing in general were my passion. It’s where I fell in love with children’s books, like Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings in Boston’s Public Garden. It’s where I met God and His people in profound ways (thank you Cru). And it was during this time that I met my wonderful husband. And the rest, shall we say, is history.

What places bring back good memories for you? More than a vacation (I will cover this later), these are places where you spent significant time. Chances are, not all the memories were good ones, but hopefully something positive came out of even the difficulties. And with hindsight, maybe you can see its significance in your life now.

Personal history is not to be dismissed. When brought up from time to time and seen through a fresh lens, it can actually help direct our future for the better.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

Conferences and BIC

I’m a writer. To be exact, I’m a journalist. But for the past 9 months, and even more so this last weekend for 4 days, I’ve been learning that fiction writing for children is a whole ‘nother world!

Since Friday, I’ve had the pleasure of attending SCBWI’s (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) International Conference in LA. Like many conferences, it was full of information, education, and inspiration (I cried at almost every keynote.)

But for me, this conference stood out! Not only was it the first one I’ve been to, providing an opportunity to have my material critiqued by a professional in the field (a publishing house editor, agent, or published writer), but it also allowed for camaraderie between like-minded masochists. Actually, this is probably true for just about any writer: we don’t do it for the money, for fame or for our egos, lest we go insane!

But truly, this was a learned and enriching experience. One of the standout teachings, among other things, was “Show, don’t tell.” (What in the world does that really mean?) Each time this was explained in its various forms, it sunk in a little deeper.

During the critique time, my journalism background could be sniffed from a mile away! Yes, I know English grammar and diction. That’s a good start. But I’m also a little too good  at “telling,” a big “no-no” in fiction. My critiquer even indicated that I was “reporting,” even though she didn’t know my background. This old dog must learn some new tricks, happily so.

Well, at least for the beginning of my novel, where I thought I had to build the scene and “tell” the reader what it’s like, I’ll have to rewrite and “show” the environment through my protagonist’s actions. To learn this and other useful tips, I purposely filled my weekend with breakout sessions that revolved around the craft of writing for this particular market; so I can honestly say, I have been enlightened!

Equally educational and exceedingly entertaining, were the people… a wonderfully loving community of people! New friends encouraged me and gave me hope. Those who were published were once like me, searching, wide-eyed, and serious about the task at hand. I came away feeling like I can do this thing; I can write, I can share a little beauty with this world, and be content… but to show up and do it well will be a lot of work!

Award winners and others shared their journeys, their rejections, the years of honing their craft, and the victories along the way. It takes a pouring out of their guts, but it’s all worth it for them, even fun. Remember, we’re masochist – but we don’t have to endure the agony part if: we write because we’re inspired, we’re made to do it, and we create for the sheer love of doing it, then leave the fruit of our labor to God.

And we don’t create in a bubble; we write in community, cheering each other on. I have my nurturing Redbud sisters, enthusiastic blogging friends, and now I add to my community, children’s book writers. So to give a shout out to my new peeps: Victoria, Cindy, Sophia, Rita, Elizabeth, Lilliam, and Pasadena area writers… thank you for the wisdom, rides, lunches, laughter, and encouragements. Now, go forth and write. Put BIC (butt in chair) and be mad with creation, but don’t go too mad!

For a unique and inspirational perspective for the artist (in 19 minutes!), download the TED app and listen to “Elizabeth Gilbert: your elusive creative genius” (Thank you for the tip, Stella! at stellarstops.com)