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Last Wednesday, the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) announced the nominees of their Regular Categories for their Annual Writing Competition. The DWAA, formed in 1935, continues to support and reward writers, bloggers and authors who capture the essence of the human-canine bond on so many levels.

This year, for the first time ever, winners of Regular Categories, and those of the Special Awards category, will be announced before the DWAA Banquet in New York City held this year on the evening of February 10th. So, many of my fellow nominees, and DWAA members, will be excitedly watching on Wednesday, December 13th, at 7:00pm (EST) on the DWAA Facebook and Twitter sites as the results roll in!

Yes, I said fellow-nominees, because for the third year in a row, I was thrilled to discover that my writing had garnered notice. In 2015, my biography of DWAA Co-Founder, Will Judy, was nominated in the Reference Book category and last year I was honored with three nominations, taking home a Maxwell in the Short Fiction category and The North Shore Animal League America Award for my blog post on the topic of Spay and Neuter.

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Teddy models the Maxwell: A very Sirius occasion!

This year, I’ve been nominated in the Short Fiction category for my short story On the Scent of Life about the personal struggle of a Cadaver dog handler, and for a guest blog post titled Fostering Ginger. Special Awards are “super secret” with no nominations, just that “And the winner is” moment! No matter the outcome, I’m honored to be nominated among such talented colleagues and wish all nominees the best.

Also last Wednesday, just after these announcements were made, I tuned into a webinar to reunite with fellow students and instructors from the Middle Grade Mastery course I’d enjoyed this past spring. The MGM course is one of many classes offered by Mira Reisberg of the Children’s Book Academy, and was co-taught by author Hillary Homzie. During the MGM course, I revised a Middle Grade novel with the personal input and one-on-one editorial guidance of Mira and enjoyed critique groups with fellow-writers from around the world, many who have remained in my Writing Universe.

During this hourlong gathering, those in attendance spoke about their journeys in securing agent representation and their submissions and subsequent review by editors. Mira and Hillary offered helpful insight to get us unstuck if we’re in a rut and suggested ways we can improve our chances of making 2018 a success for our projects.

Hillary reminded us to be mindful of our time by restricting time spent watching TV (sorry binge watchers) or on Social Media. She rightfully pointed out that even by writing one or two paragraphs a day, we are heading toward completion be it a Picture Book or a 45,000 word MG Novel. I also liked her reminder that when we’re unsure of where our character and plot are going, to stop and interview our characters to fully flush them out.

Mira encouraged us to mine our imaginations for all the possibilities and outcomes of a plot by asking the simple question, “So, what’s your premise?” It’s a deceivingly simple question, but one should be able to let an audience know the essence and purpose of your book in just a few sentences enticing readers to want to know more.

I’ve met many aspiring writers who feel that they don’t need writing instruction because they think all you need to do is think up a story and sit down at the keyboard. That’s a great start, but there’s so much more to it. Even with a gripping, well-executed manuscript, it isn’t easy to engage overworked literary agents and editors, or small presses and The Big Five publishers.

Part of the appeal of the MGM course, and others offered by the CBA, are that they include the involvement of some well-established agents and editors. Scholarships are also available and some students even receive a Golden Ticket from a participating agent, or editor, with an invaluable invitation to submit a Full Manuscript for serious consideration! The CBA courses use Facebook as their meeting base, so if you do take a course, be advised you’ll need to set up an account to participate.

My MGM project has endured many revisions, title changes and winding paths, but with each turn, it becomes a stronger story and I’m hopeful that it will find the right home in the coming year, embracing the mantra that it will land on “the right desk, at the right time”. While there is no course to find the exact moment of that winning combination, taking writing courses like those offered by CBA just might make that match a reality.

For the entire list of DWAA Writer’s Competition Nominees:

https://dogwriters.org/2017-nominees/

For more information on the Children’s Book Academy visit:

http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/

For a free webinar and Scholarship info: https://wj168-366180.pages.infusionsoft.net/

Work hard and practice Enlightened Persistence. To be continued!

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As summer’s distractions set in, and other writing projects call for my time, I am reprinting a post from the archives.  So many people ask me about my writing, and many say this wish they had the motivation to write.  It isn’t easy, it’s time-consuming, and the rejection, silent, and wordy, is unlike anything many can imagine, but we write, and love it anyway.  I thought that this might inspire those who have thought about making writing a part of their lives.  This weekend, as you enjoy your favorite author, thank him, or her silently for hanging in there during the daunting publishing process.  Here once again….I tell about a bright spot in my evolution.

Last October, on a grant made possible by the Highlights Foundation, a not for profit organization, I attended one of their Founder’s Workshops, “The Art of Biography: Real People, Great Stories.”  The Highlights Foundation was established in 1985 with a “mission to raise the level of the offering of writing and illustration for children.”  The organization offers workshops for writers who are just starting out, as well as those who have been published, but wish to hone their skills.

Most people are familiar with the Highlights for Children magazine of their youth, or now have young children who enjoy its quality content at home, or in doctor’s offices across the nation.  If you are a writer for children, a Highlights for Children credit is something to be very proud of.

My four day Founder’s Workshop began on a Thursday with a tour of the Highlights offices and facilities in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.  Meeting the editors of the magazine, and those of their book imprints, was a great experience, putting a smiling face on the people who read all those submissions that are sent their way in droves.

After our tour, we drove up to the little town of Boyds Mill where we essentially cut ourselves off from the world, and got down to the business of writing, and had some fun, too.  But not until I settled into my beautifully appointed modern cabin nestled in a rustic, picture postcard setting.  On my bed, I found a tote bag filled with reading material and my itinerary that included times for three full meals each day, and yes, a wine and cheese gathering before dinner each night.  The meals I might add, like the accommodations, were first rate! Move over Martha Stewart.

All settled in, I made my way down the hill to a welcoming and warm farmhouse where all the workshop sessions would take place.  There, I met my fellow writers, seven woman from all over the country, some who came from as far away as California, and the workshop facilitator, Carolyn Yoder, Senior Editor of the Calkins Creek imprint.  Carolyn, an engaging, entertaining, and exacting writer, and editor led the workshop with non-stop energy, a constant treasure trove of information.  That first evening, we enjoyed a presentation by Gail Jarrow, author of the Middle Grade book, Robert H. Jackson: New Deal Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, Nuremberg Prosecutor.  Gail gave us an intriguing behind the scenes account of her experience researching and writing her book which was edited by Carolyn.

The next day, it was our turn to get writing.  I have to admit, I approached my one-on-one critique session with Carolyn with a mixture of excitement, and dread.  When our time was up, she had torn apart and discarded most of my submission, leaving a kernel of the original story.  Did I dispair? No!  For in that one kernel, the possibility of a better, stronger book emerged.  I was elated, ready to start anew.  I ran up the hill to the computer cabin for more research, and some quick rewriting.  By the end of the workshop, I had a hook and the start of something exciting.

Those four days filled with, writing, revising, talking, listening, and sharing ideas and experiences with my writing comrades passed too quickly.  By Sunday, it was time to come off the mountain, and out of the clouds.  But I appreciated that rare opportunity when all I really had to do was get up, get down the hill and immerse myself in the literary world!  I left with a sense of purpose, and a signed copy Of Gail Jarrow’s book, and one of Carolyn Yoder’s excellent John Adams:The Writer-A Treasury of Letters, Diaries, and Public Documents.

I  hope to return some day, many of the attendees I met were happy and satisfied workshop “regulars.”  Many a great project has evolved from these sessions.

As I work on my National Dog Week project, I keep a folder I maintain for a special idea that was hatched in that farmhouse on a hillside in Pennsylvania on a bewitching Halloween weekend.  May the spirit of a Highlights Founder’s Day workshop inspire you some day.

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”

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