Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Writers Conference

I just returned from a wonderful writer's conference at Mount Hermon, CA. I'm tired, inspired, and have lots of ideas about what to write and things to post here in the future, but they'll have to wait until my brain gets some rest.
Do you ever put things off until you have more time or energy? Is doing that a problem or a help to getting them done well? I'd love to hear your ideas and experiences.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Steve Tremp

Today I'm interviewing, Steven Tremp, about how he became an author. Steve, can you please tell us about your favorite things to read when you were a kid?

As a kid I loved to read most anything. In elementary school I read Marvel comic books. I think this helped develop my imagination for developing fascinating plots and interesting characters that go far beyond mainstream media. The characters are so diverse, each possessing their own distinct personalities and demonstrating unique conflicts and short comings. Many had two personalities, one behind the mask they wore and one for their normal, non-super hero life. Hence the internal and external conflicts writers could use to develop new twists and turns in the plots.

But they all have one common thread: they are overcomers, even in failure. Somehow they need to go beyond their super abilities and rely on something deep down inside their soul or the help of friends to escape danger and save the day.

I also read a lot of Hardy Boys books. I loved books about mysteries and haunted houses. I remember my first book report was on Mystery by Moonlight by Mary C. Jane.

Did you have an active imagination back then?

I had an over active imagination, one that often distracted me from everyday reality. I was always day dreaming, especially in school. I'd gaze out the window and make up things in my mind happening outside. There could be a fight between good and evil, a raging storm on a clear sunny day, or an alien invasion landing in the schoolyard.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an artist. An animator, a painter, or even a tour guide at a world-class museum. Over time I learned to write what was transpiring in the pictures I drew and hence began my writing journey.

How old were you when you decided to become a writer?

Although I wrote a lot as a kid, art was my first love. It wasn't until shortly after high school I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Did any thing you learned in school help you succeed as a writer?

I was blessed with many terrific teachers who not only taught the ciriculum, but took a personal interest in me. I think my art teachers had the most impact on my life. They demanded much from me, even returning certain projects if I plateaued for a rework. This development of the right side of my brain ultimately helped when I transitioned from drawing and painting to writing.

What about books you read?

I read biographies about interesting people like Einstein. I like overcomers, like Abraham Lincoln. I appreciate any work that is well researched and uncovers something out of the ordinary yet significant.

Are there any children in your book?

I do not use kids in my books at the moment.

I have three taboos, I do not use God's name in vain, I don't use f-bombs, and I don't exploit children to further the plot or try to make the villain more evil. I understand a writer needs to develop an antagonist the reader loves to hate, but using children isn't necessary to accomplish this.

But I would like to write YA sometime soon. Of course, no kids would be exploited, abused, or killed.

If a kid wants to become a writer what advice would you give him or her?

Begin by writing short stories. Don't be concerned if your first efforts produce less than average results. The key is to keep writing. After you write a number of short stories using a core of characters, you could them together and actually have an outline or a draft for a much longer story.

Also, draw animation freehand or with computer software for your stories. This will help you fill in gaps with clever and interesting details that you may not think of by simply typing.

Start a Web site or blog and let the world see your stories. Ask for and receive feedback without being offended. Join a Yahoo! Group and use Facebook and Twitter and network with five or ten new people a week. In a few months you can have a nice core of followers and your viral advertising has a platform to take off.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Finally, regarding feedback from numerous agents, I've hired an editor to re-edit BREAKTHROUGH. I'm focusing on placing everything in the Third Person Point of View. BREAKTHROUGH will be re-released in April. So for those interested in purchasing a copy, please wait until next month. It will be worth the wait.

BREAKTHROUGH will be available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders Books and Music as well as their brick-and-mortar stores.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More About Teachers, etc.

I had a couple of terrible teachers; the one in first grade who scared me so much I'd throw up every day before school, and the high school algebra teacher who always spoke in a monotone and was so boring I could hardly stay awake in his class.
But most of my teachers were good and quite a few were wonderful. The best ones had one quality in common; they all cared a lot about helping their students learn. Most of the good ones were strict and they were all enthusiastic about the subjects they taught and changed the lives of many students as a result.
In a time when hundreds of teachers are getting laid off it must be difficult for any of them to be enthusiastic about their jobs, but I hope they'll care enough about their current students to continue doing their best.
Like many people, teachers who get laid off might have to take jobs they don't really want because that's better than being unemployed. But the ones who can be enthusiastic about the new jobs and strict about getting the details right will probably be good at them, too. And they may even make a difference in people's lives.
Come to think of it, people who aren't teachers can make a difference with the right attitude, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Some people think it's fine for teachers to have their salaries cut. After all, they only work about six hours a day and have lots of vacation time, right?
Wrong! Teachers must work far more hours than those when students are in school. Besides meetings, parent conferences, and attending performances and events outside of school hours teachers must do a lot of other time consuming things.
Preparing lesson plans takes quite a bit of time, especially if the curriculum has changed or the teacher is working at a different school or teaching a different grade level than he or she is used to. And there's lots more involved than simply following a book. Good teachers adapt the lesson plans to the specific needs of their classes. and with dozens of students in each class that isn't easy.
Teachers need to set up and arrange their classrooms and keep bulletin boards and displays relevant to the current topics their classes are studying. Those who work with younger kids might need to do those time-consuming things more often than those who teach teens.
Of course High School teachers must spend more time reading and grading papers and tests and recording the grades than those who work with young children do, but all teachers spend many hours a week doing those things. Ten hour work days aren't unusual.
Teachers must already have at least four years of college and a year or more of post graduate studies to qualify for the profession, and they get paid less than people in other professions requiring that much education.
But that's only the beginning. Often when schools are closed and students have vacation time the teachers are attending training sessions, learning to use new curriculum, etc. and lots of them take more graduate level college courses during the summer to learn how to do their jobs even better. Of course they must pay for those classes themselves.
One teacher influences hundreds of students who may go on to influence hundreds, or even thousands, of other people so teaching is one of the most important jobs in the world.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Parenting Problems

What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a parent? Sleepless nights with a crying infant? Potty training? Tantrums of terrible twos? Sending kids off to school and worrying about grades? Getting them to eat healthy foods? Teaching them obedience and common sense? Getting them to do chores? Paying for childcare, sports, and lessons? Dealing with puberty, curfews and teenaged rebellion?
All those things and many more can be difficult but with each of them you know, "This, too, shall pass."
In my humble opinion the hardest thing about being a parent is having your kids grow up and move out on their own, because they'll never go back to being children.
But, if you're lucky, eventually they'll present you with grandkids.
If you're able to see them often you'll get to enjoy the cuddly babies, watch them learn to smile, walk, and talk, help them explore and enjoy the world as they grow, play with them, read to them, and enjoy all the other great things about children. Even grandparents who have custody of their grandkids have already been through the hard stuff with their own kids and that experience makes it all easier to handle.
As parents it's hard to imagine becoming a grandparent, but when and if that finally happens you'll be amazed at how much fun it is.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


My name is Janet Ann Collins and I am a pickle addict. Yes, really. (Well, sort of.)
Because of my food allergies I couldn't eat pickles for years and about a year ago I was delighted to find some with no ingredients I'm allergic to. My husband and I eat them nearly every day in sandwiches for lunch and I chop the pickles to put in tuna and potato salad in the summer.
But that's not all.
I've discovered that many foods taste delicious when cooked in pickle juice. For quick, homemade meals I often pour pickle juice over fish or chicken parts and microwave them. That's an easy way for kids to prepare a main dish.
And celery, cut up and boiled in a mixture of pickle juice and water, makes a tasty vegetable that might appeal to some fussy eaters.
If kids like sweet pickles, a few of the tiny ones are a good green veggie to pack in a school lunch.
I hope some of these suggestions appeal to other people. Maybe there will be more pickle addicts as a result.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Nick of Time

It's not usual for me to blog about YA books, but here's one I enjoyed so much I couldn't resist sharing it with you.
Although the protagonist in Nick of Time by Ted Bell is only twelve years old, the book isn't appropriate for most young readers because of the violence and gore. I'm not fond of those factors either, but in this book they're essential to the plot and setting and not gratuitous.
The book is also longer than most Middle Grade novels.
So, what kind of book is this? That's hard to say. It's an adventure, it's a fantasy, and it is historical fiction happening in two different periods of time. Nick and some other characters move back and forth between 1939 and 1805 but all the events occur in the English Channel while England is threatened by enemies they are not fully aware of.
The book carried me back and forth between both of those realistic and believable times.
The characters seemed alive, too. (I especially liked Nick's smart but naive little sister.) Kids who read Nick of Time will love the courageous choices they make. Anyone who likes to experience fictional worlds of scary adventure will enjoy this book.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"When You Grow Up"

For some reason adults often ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Since we realize most children and many teens don't have enough information to make such a decision the question is simply intended as a way to get to know the kids better.
When I was a kid there were several things I wanted to become. When I was two-and-a-half years old my brother was born and I decided to become a mommy. And later I wished to get a Victorian house and "fill it full of kids."
I've achieved both those dreams, but not quite as I had envisioned them. Instead of giving birth to lots of babies, my husband and I raised three foster kids with special needs in addition to our one birth daughter. And the Victorian house where we lived for decades was, indeed, filled with kids, but not our own. In order to be a stay-at-home mom for our daughter I ran a preschool family daycare home for many years.
But one childhood dream was fulfilled exactly as I had hoped it would be. As soon as I had learned to read well I'd decided to become the author of books for children and, after years of writing articles in periodicals for adults, I was thrilled to have two fiction books for kids published last year.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Did your dreams come true?