December 30, 2009

A New Tax Deduction!!!

Our wonderful niece and nephew, Kim and Nick, had a baby girl, Samantha, this morning.

(Nick and Kim)

Nick is definitely prepared. He has his baby care tool belt . . .

(Nick is an amazing carpenter; he built an entire room in our home by himself in less than a week.)

The entire family is so happy and proud, but none moreso that my brother-in-law, Michael. Since Michael is an accountant, he responded to the happy news by saying, "Congratulations, you have a new tax deduction!"

(Proud grandpa, Michael, with his daughter, Kim.)

Welcome, baby Samantha! We are so proud of your parents.

And so very glad to meet you!!!

December 26, 2009


'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Gephart house . . .

We were watching holiday-appropriate movies, like Inglourious Basterds and The Hangover. Mhmm.

We woke at a reasonable time on Christmas morning because for some reason, teenagers don't run shrieking into your room at 5 a.m.

It was a Christmas miracle that we were all up by 8 a.m., opening presents beside our Charlie Brown tree. The stand broke a couple nights ago, and we found our tree splayed across the living room. I came up with the idea of plopping the thing in a big planter and wedging it in there with towels. It's being held up by the wall at the moment, so we try not to sneeze too hard near it.

Our boys received some clothes, which they are actually old enough to appreciate. Our youngest son got an MP3 Player and a digital camera. He's a whiz with taking creative photos. Our oldest got what he'd hoped for -- DJ Hero.

Lady, our pooch, will not let her new lobster chew toy out of her sight.

And Jaz, our 17-year-old cat couldn't possibly care less about her new toy mouse, but the dog went after it once. (Poor mouse.)

I got hubby a CD, guitar books and a promise of a trip to Austin, TX to check out the music and literary scene this summer. (Thanks to those Austinites who helped me with planning!)

Hubby got me a PURPLE IPod Nano. It's so cool. Did I mention it's purple? And he gave me a bunch of books that only a writer could love . . . and I do.

1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up
by Julia Eccleshare.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book by Anita Silvey.

House of Cards (Love, Faith and Other Social Expressions)
by David Ellis Dickerson, because as some of you might know, I used to work as an editor at a greeting card company and have since sold greeting cards to many companies.

We also opened cool gifts from faraway family. Wonderful, thoughtful gifts that made us all smile.

Then I took a stroll with a friend at a nearby park and had an amazing holiday gift -- I saw two manatees! They are the coolest, biggest, most gentle creatures. And we haven't seen any manatees for years. If you want to help save the manatees, this is a great organization to support.

Then, after all the planning and preparing, it was over . . .

Hoping your holidays were filled with joy and peace . . . and, um, manatees.

December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays and Thank You!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our annual children's book drive. The Amazing Todd, an 8th grader and his lovely mother contributed 100 books this year. (To read about the time Todd contributed over 300 books, click here.) With Todd and his mom's donation and the very generous donations of friends, writing buddies and the fine folks where hubby works, we collected 191 books for children this year. These books will be added to those for the Wood Memorial Book Drive, which should number in the thousands. These books will be distributed through a variety of programs from the Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition. Hooray!

Wishing you a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season.

All best,

December 20, 2009

What's New and Exciting for the New Year?


Is it really almost 2010? What happened to 2009? And for that matter, what happened to 1986? I was way too busy trying to get my hair to be sufficiently poofy to pay attention to anything else.

Here at Wild About Words, January will ring in a BRAND NEW FEATURE -- The Top 6 1/2 List. Book publishing professionals, triathletes, clowns and others will share their top 6 1/2 ways to excel at whatever it is they excel at. It's going to be fun. It's going to be informative. It's going to start soon!

We'll also have our third annual Big Book Blog-O-Rama -- a list of the books I read/listened to in 2009. In 2007, I read 45 books and in 2008, a whopping 78 books. This year, my list of books falls somewhere in between. I'll share the whole list with you in January.

Care to guess how many books I finished in 2009? How many have you read? Any standouts to share?

December 11, 2009

Happy Hannukah . . .

and many menorah!

May your year be filled with abundant blessings.

And if one of those blessings might be a book contract, check out the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. (Get those manuscripts ready!)

I received a blessing the other day when Tina Nichols Coury let me know she named my first novel a top pick. Thanks, Tina!

With all good wishes,

December 4, 2009


My agent sent me a copy of I CAN'T KEEP MY OWN SECRETS, six-word memoirs by teens. (Thanks, Tina!) Fascinating! Each entry feels like the germ of a novel idea.

"That river trip forever changed me." -- Cora C.

"Read the thesaurus on the toilet." -- Dan R.

"Token Asian, fat friend. Lovin' it." -- Jenny S.

"Found out I had cancer. Damn." -- Cornelius L.

"Allergic to reality; compelled by fiction." -- Ally O.

"Nerdy, obsessive, awkward. So much fun." -- Samantha P.

"Defined by numbers: Age, weight, SATs." -- Jocelyn P.

"Live in Arkansas; parents aren't related." -- Shane G.

Here's my six-word memoir: Will write for food. And Newbery.


December 1, 2009

Calling All Humor Writers

It happens only once every two years. No, not elections. They're not funny!

The Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop takes place April 15 - 17, 2010 at the University of Dayton. Registration opens today, December 1st, at noon E.S.T. (Two years ago, the workshop sold out in three days, and there was a waiting list of 200 people.) If you'd like to attend the workshop, register RIGHT NOW!

There will be distinguished faculty and, um, me, teaching various workshops. My workshop will include tips and tricks for writing humor for children of all ages. Here's the workshop schedule.

Hope to see you there,

November 30, 2009

6 1/2 Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo

1. Hard work is good medicine. Not writing, false starts and "wasted" days made me feel crazy. Working hard every day on this novel made me feel decidedly less crazy.

2. Know when to say "No" but also when to say "Yes." Writing should be your priority over watching TV, diddling around on Facebook and organizing your Chia pet collection. But family, friends and your health trump writing.

3. Don't beat yourself up over unproductive days. Your brain might be doing important behind-the-scenes work. My "unproductive" days were often followed by fat page counts.

4. Don't forge ahead blindly. NaNoWriMo suggests you keep writing and not go back over what you've already written. Not me. I needed to go back down my writing trail sometimes to make sure I hadn't diverged from the path I'd created. The important thing to remember is don't linger too long on those back pages; forge ahead!

5. You can accomplish pretty lofty goals one day (page) at a time. What's your lofty goal?

6. A person can write a salable novel in a month. There is a list of writers who sold their NaNoWriMo novels, including Sara Gruen who wrote Water for Elephants, which landed on the New York Times Bestseller list. I was determined not just to write a novel in a month, but to make it to that list of writers who sold their NaNoWriMo novels. Today, pages and a synopsis go to my agent. (Fingers crossed.)

6 1/2. Say thank you. NaNoWriMo came at the exact time I needed to sit down, shut up and write my next novel. What a valuable tool. I've sent them a donation. I also sent a donation to 826 Valencia because I love what they do to foster and encourage young writers. And to you, a huge THANK YOU because there were many times I sat and wrote only because I knew I'd have to blog about it afterward and be held accountable to you. My gratitude goes out to you for following along on this literary journey.

Now, for the last time, here are the numbers:

Today's word count: 0
Total word count: 52,746
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 0

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Penultimate means next to last.

Thanks, everyone!

November 29, 2009


Guess who wrote a novel in a month?

Sixteen pages today, seventeen yesterday and twenty-seven the day before.

Felt like the sprint at the end of a marathon. Now it feels strange to be done running, er, writing.

But I am officially done (until I begin revising, of course). Typed the final words at 10:30 this morning.

Here are the numbers:

Today's word count: 4,077
Total word count: 52,746
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 1

Today's Trivia Question: What does penultimate mean?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Most babies are born in the month of August.

Tomorrow, I'll share what I learned during National Novel Writing Month.

November 28, 2009

Caution: This Might Be Habit-forming

They say it takes 28 days of doing something every day to make it a habit, so I guess this writing thing has become a habit for me.

I cranked out about seventeen pages today . . . and am in spitting distance of my goal now.

A big barrel of thanks to hubby for making this easier for me -- driving the kids places, buying and putting away the groceries, etc. so I can keep cranking out the pages. These little books I write aren't mine alone; they're ours. Our hopes and dreams lie within their potential.

Thanks to Carilynn for today's lovely distraction -- watching The Blind Side at Muvico in West Palm Beach. Very uplifting movie. Great movie. Great friend.

Shout out to Lori and Mary Jane for having us over for yummy berry cake. Just the nutritional boost this writer needed.

And since I'm plumb out of words for today, I'll let the numbers speak for themselves:

Today's word count: 4,305
Total word count: 48,669
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 2

Today's Trivia Question: In which month are the most babies born?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Coulrophobia means fear of clowns.

November 27, 2009

No Clowning Around

And speaking of clowns, did you watch the most recent episode of Modern Family? Let me just say it involved a kick-ass clown, a cross bow, a scorpion and very dangerous beads. I've already watched it twice and still laugh until it hurts.

I wasn't clowning around with my work today. Broke the record for most words this month written in a single day. Wahoo!

And I didn't even write all day. No sir. It was way too beautiful outside for that nonsense.

I took a break to walk with my friend Deb, who isn't a clown, but is very funny. And we got lost only twice -- an improvement for us!

And I took another lovely break to walk with my friend, Riley, who in fact is a professional clown. Sometimes. When she's not writing or performing in live theater for children or the other bazillion things she does so well. We finally had cupcakes at the Cupcake Cafe. Mine was red velvet with cream cheese icing. And so was Riley's.

During the rest of the day, I did three writing sessions -- one as soon as I woke, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

So, if you don't mind, I'm outta here. It's time to play Scrabble with hubby. Maybe I'll make the word "clown," worth ten points, unless it's on a triple word score. Look out!

Here are the awesome, astounding, astronomical, amazing numbers:

Today's word count: 6,782
Total word count: 44,364
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 3

Today's Trivia Question: Coulrophobia is the name for the fear of what thing?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: A group of turkeys is called a rafter. (Also, the staff at Fox News. I'm just saying.)

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for chugging along on this literary journey with me. Some days, knowing I'll have to post on this blog and be accountable to you, is the only thing that gets me to the keyboard. So, thank you for following along and for your support.

Happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Here are today's numbers:

Today's word count: 470
Total word count: 37,382
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 4

Today's Trivia Question: What are a group of turkeys called?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: It takes 43 muscles to frown, but only 17 to smile.

November 25, 2009

Brain Engaged Today -- Hooray!

So my brain wasn't on vacation. It was working hard, just in a quiet, behind-the-scenes sort of way. (The human brain, by the way, is 85% water.)

Within half an hour of waking today, I had all the plot problems ironed out and knew exactly how this puppy is going to end. I figured out enough to write a three-page synopsis. And I had a wonderful call from my agent, who is excited about this project. Very excited.

Here are today's lovely numbers:

Today's word count: 1,454
Total word count: 36,912
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 5

Today's Trivia Question: Does it take more muscles to smile or frown?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The extremely popular board game invented in 1979 is Trivial Pursuit.

November 24, 2009

Brain on Vacation

Try as I may, I could not get my brain to fully engage in writing. I sat at the computer three different times today for long stretches, but alas . . . my gray matter pooped out on me. I suspect my brain is secretly working out a plot problem, but then again, it might just be sipping margaritas on a cruise ship floating somewhere off in the Carribean.

I'm hoping tomorrow will be better. Much better. That deadline is closing in on me like . . . oh, see, I can't even come up with a simile. That's how much my brain is on vacation!

Here are today's pitiful, painful, paltry, positively poopy numbers:

Today's word count: 989
Total word count: 35,458
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 6

Today's Trivia Question: What extremely popular board game was invented in 1979?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Dolphins sleep with one eye open and one eye closed.

November 23, 2009

14 Pages. Not Too Shabby.

Another good writing day.

Wish I could keep at it, but alas, life gets in the way. Or is it the other way around? Regardless, I've penned about 14 new pages today and hope to get even more done tomorrow. The deadline nears, and I'd like to get this puppy squared away before the holiday, which is probably impossible, but one never knows.

Let's just hope the ideas keep flowing.

Here are today's numbers:

Today's word count: 3,483
Total word count: 34,469
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 7

Today's Trivia Question: What sea creature sleeps with one eye open and one eye closed?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Statistically, the safest age is ten.

November 22, 2009

Hit It Outta the Park Today!

Broke my record so far this month for the most words written in one day. Usually, the writing is fast and furious as I near the end of a novel because I know what's going to happen and I want to see it unfold.

Tune in tomorrow to see if I can make today's total look like chicken scratch.

Here are the numbers:

Today's word count: 5,139
Total word count: 30,986
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 8

Today's Trivia Question: Statistically, what is the safest age of life?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Bono's real name is Paul Hewson.

November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Came Early

This morning, my guys and I did the thing we've done every third Saturday for the past three and a half years.

We took bags of canned goods, pasta, cereal and bread to distribute to people in Riviera Beach, which sounds like a really lovely area, but is actually a place plagued by poverty, crime and neglect.

For a long time, I was scared of the people who showed up to receive the food. I couldn't wait to give out the food and leave.

That changed as soon as I took the time to get to know these people -- their names, their stories. Now, spending time chatting and hugging and laughing is my favorite part.

There is Ms. Barfield, who recently survived breast cancer and chemotherapy, but is scared and shaky still. There's Sheba, with her son who couldn't wait to tell me how he dressed as a Transformer for Halloween. Etta May turned 91 recently; she shows up dressed like she's going to church every single time. Curtis is happy when we have corn bread for him, and last time, he gave up his bag of food to a mother who showed up late with four children. Tony helps his blind brother, Matt, navigate the crowd. And Eva brings us sweet potato pie each and every Thanksgiving.

I was nervous to eat Eva's pie the first year. But once I did, I was a goner. Best-tasting thing on Earth.

As soon as our van pulled up today, Eva rushed over and handed us a pie wrapped in silver foil. "I didn't want to forget you," she said.

I stashed the pie on the passenger seat and got busy handing out very heavy bags of food -- packed extra for the Thanksgiving holiday.

When we were done and wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, I saw Eva walking with her bag.

"Eva," I called. "Do you have a ride home?"

"No," she said. "Curtis is out of town, visiting his sister."

"Hop in," I told her, holding the van door open.

As we followed her directions toward her home, I couldn't believe the distance.

"Eva," I said. "What time did you leave your house to get here this morning?" (We give out the food at about 10:30.)

"Six o'clock," Eva said. "But walking is good for you."

I looked at the huge highways we were traveling over and the skinny grassy areas afforded walkers.

"Eva," I said. "Thanks for that pie. You know we love your pie."

"To make that," she said, "I woke up at 4 o'clock."

Onto the numbers . . .

Today's word count: 800
Total word count: 25,847
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 9

Don't count me out yet, folks. I finally got myself unstuck from that mucky middle. Starting tomorrow, tune in to watch my fingers fly. Of course, what I write might not make any sense, but write I will. After all, a publishable novel doesn't emerge from the first draft, it evolves during the revision process.

Today's Trivia Question: What is Bono's real name?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The thing that is missing from all the casinos in Las Vegas are clocks.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make a cup of tea, join my hubby and have a lovely slice of sweet potato pie.

November 20, 2009

Halfway There, Peeps!

Can I get a "Woot, Woot!" people? I passed the 25,000-word mark this very minute.

Now, can I get an, "Oh, Poop!" people? According to the National Novel Writing Month Web site, I'm supposed to be at 36,674 BY THE END OF THIS WEEKEND.

What's with that? Don't they realize there are friends to eat lunch with? (I'm talking to you, Pam and Nancy?) And neighbors to chat with? (I'm talking to you, Lori.) And teenage children to yell at? ("Clean your room already!") And books to read? (I'm talking to you, Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.) And a husband to whoop in Scrabble. (Um, was I talking to you, Dan?)

But nooooooooo, I need to glue my phalanges to the laptop. Whatever!

Here are the blasted numbers:

Today's word count: 312
Total word count: 25,047
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 10

Today's Trivia Question: What is missing from ALL the casinos in Las Vegas?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Due to a surgery, Alfred Hitchcock was missing his belly button. (Um, EWWW!)

November 19, 2009

Pizza, Anyone?

Are there really only eleven days left in November?

How am I supposed to write more than 25,000 words in only eleven days?

I'm not even halfway there.

So, I think the appropriate course of action is to celebrate with pizza.


That's right, Skippy! I've got a pretty good chunk 'o novel going and I like pizza, so why not?!

I'd share some with you, but, well . . . did you write 24,735 words so far this month? I didn't think so.

Unless you're Mindy Alyse Weiss. Honey, she pumped out 53,660 words in just seventeen days. You go, girlfriend!!!

Mindy, I'll share a slice of pizza with you . . . even though you've made my word count today look a whole lot like chicken scratch.

Today's word count: 655
Total word count: 24,735
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 11

Today's Trivia Question: Which body part was Alfred Hitchcock missing?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The first actress to receive two Oscars before turning 30 was Jodie Foster.

November 18, 2009

I'm off . . .

to pick up older son from the bus, so here are today's numbers:

Today's word count: 1,719
Total word count: 24,080
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 12

Today's Trivia Question: Who was the first actress to receive two Oscars before turning 30?

Answer to Yesterday's Question: The musical instrument that has 46 strings and seven pedals is the harp.

November 17, 2009

The Writing Mojo is Back!

After doing the bazillion things I had to take care of earlier today, I sat with my computer, a pen and spiral notebook to jot ideas and notes and Bach, Unaccompanied Cello Suites by Edgar Meyer playing in the background. And I stayed put, fingers flying over the keyboard until it got dark outside.

I'm moving forward again. Yippee! But will I reach the halfway mark by tomorrow? Tune in to find out.

For now, here are the numbers . . .

Today's word count: 1,901
Total word count: 22,361
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 13

Today's Trivia Question: Which musical instrument has 46 strings and seven pedals?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The first film to be totally computer generated was Toy Story.

November 16, 2009


I was afraid this might happen. Past the mid-way point now, I should be at 25,000 plus words. I'm not.

I've got to kick it into high gear this week and plow through this mucky, murky middle . . . or else I won't reach my goal by the end of the month. And I want to reach my goal by the end of the month.

Okay. Jet lag is officially banished. Writing brain is fully engaged. Can't wait for tomorrow's writing session!

Today's word count: 302
Total word count: 21,460
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 14

Today's Trivia Question: Which film was the first to be totally computer generated?

Answer to the Trivia Question from Two Days Ago: Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13.

November 15, 2009

Quick Update

Hi, Folks!

Writing this from the Houston Airport. Yay, free wifi! But the flight's delayed, so I won't be able to post by the end of the day. Rest assured, I've been writing . . . and eating . . . and writing . . . and, well, mostly eating.

I'll post a regular update tomorrow, and you can laugh at all the mistakes I'll make because of jet lag.


November 14, 2009


Today, we celebrate my wonderful nephew, Ethan's, bar mitzvah.

Accordingly, there will be only two words written: Mazel Tov!

Here are the numbers:

Today's word count: 0
Total word count: 21,158
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 16

Today's Trivia Question: Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of what?

Answer to yesterday's trivia question: Nicole Kidman is afraid of butterflies.

California, Here I Come!

In California, where I am, it's currently 10:15, p.m., so that means I squeaked this post in today. Right?

Airports aren't the worst places to write. Same for planes. I managed to craft a couple scenes I'm really happy with.

Here are the numbers:

Today's word count: 1,378
Total word count: 21,158
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 17

Today's trivia question: Nicole Kidman has a fear of what?

Answer to yesterday's trivia question: In Australia, a wonga wonga is a white-faced pigeon.

November 12, 2009

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

My favorite poem is Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." I love the last lines: "And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep."

Figuratively, that's what this part of the novel-writing process feels like. I know where it's going. I have a solid start. But it's going to take miles of words to get there.

Literally, I have miles to go because tomorrow I'm flying 3,000 miles so I can attend my nephew's bar mitzvah in California. He's an amazing guy. And it will be lovely to spend time with family.

I'm not travelling the farthest, though. One of the guests is coming from Australia. (See trivia question below.)

I'll take our laptop and keep up the daily updates (as Internet access allows).

Today's word count: 128
Total word count: 19,780
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 18

Today's Trivia Question: In Australia, what is a wonga wonga?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The European country in which their national orchestra is larger than their army is Monaco.

November 11, 2009

Bad Writer. No dessert!

A writer deserves one day off, doesn't she?

"No!" you say.

You're absolutely right!

And you are in charge of not letting it happen again. If my word count doesn't climb tomorrow, you have my permission to write mean things in the comment section. (But not too mean.) Just help me stay focused and on track to reach my 50,000 word goal by the end of the month. Thanks!

But it wasn't exactly a day off. I did other writing-related work. Really. Don't look at me in that tone of voice.

One of the things I did was work on material for a conference I'll be speaking at this coming April -- the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop at the University of Dayton. This conference, inspired by the late, GREAT Erma Bombeck takes place only once every two years. I'm honored to be on the faculty for the upcoming conference.

If you're interested in attending, registration opens on December 1st and fills up fast. The last conference sold out in three days.

Here are the faculty bios and the workshop sessions.

Okay. Here are the embarrassing, pitiful, shameful numbers: (You might notice they look a lot like yesterday's numbers, except that one whole precious day is gone and there's a big goose egg for today's word count.)

Today's word count: 0
Total word count: 19,652
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 19

Today's Trivia Question: Which European country's national orchestra is larger than its army?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The most common dog name is Lady, which just happens to be our dog's name.

November 10, 2009

Soon-to-Be Famous Guest Blogger

Olivia Bean here.

That lady who writes about me every day is so busy scribbling, crossing out and scribbling again that she asked me to fill in for her today.

I told her I didn't mind as long as it didn't keep me from watching Jeopardy! I love watching Jeopardy! and playing along with the contestants. Do you?

Anyway, that lady wants me to tell you how many words she wrote today for some stupid reason. I'd rather tell you about the world's smallest country -- Vatican City -- or the color of spider blood -- transparent.

Trivia is so much more fun than some dumb numbers, don't you think? I do, too, but I promised, so . . .

Here are today's numbers:

Today's word count: 233
Total word count: 19,652
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 20

My little bother, Charlie Bean, wants to give you today's trivia question. I told him I'm the queen of trivia, but he said he'd dunk my encyclopedia in the toilet if I didn't let him.

So, I let him. Well, wouldn't you?

Anyway, Charlie's been trying to talk Mom into getting him a pet lately. He told Mom that an armadillo can be housebroken (which is true), but Mom's not buying it. So, Charlie's trivia question today has to do with pets.

Charlie's Trivia Question: What is the most common dog name?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Arnold Schwarzenegger bought the first Hummer manufactured for civilian use.

November 9, 2009


Oh, hi. I wasn't sleeping. Really. I was just checking to make sure the insides of my eyelids were okay. How could I be sleeping when there are 50,000 words to pound out by the end of the month?

But boy, those NaNoWriMo folks are right. The second week IS harder than the first.

Last night, I did a bunch of research. So today I needed to go back and kick some things to the curb while enhancing other things. It's slow-going work.

But it's going.

Today's numbers:

Today's word count: 272
Total word count: 19,419
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 21

Today's Trivia Question: Which actor bought the first Hummer manufactured for civilian use? (Hint: He makes a surprise appearance in my novel, As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!)

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The first character to speak in Star Wars was C-3PO.

November 8, 2009

Murky Middles, a Flashlight and Star Wars Trivia

A big shout of "THANKS" for all the support I've received via comments on this blog, notes on Facebook and thoughtful e-mails.

It's not the easiest thing to to slog through the murky middle of a novel. But as my friend, Dan R. says, "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."

At this point, I feel like I'm exploring a dark forest with only a flashlight for company. But my battery is dimming. The light illuminates only one bit at a time, and I take a tentative step in that direction, hoping like heck I haven't veered completely off course.

When I finish and can illuminate the whole work in the light of day, I'll know where I stepped off course and where I needed to forge a new path anyway.

But for now . . . I'm up to my knee caps in the murky middle . . . and I'll creep forward with my flashlight, the one with the dying battery -- and, of course, all your candles of support, shining light where I need it most. Thank you!

Here are today's numbers:

Today's word count: 3,569
Total word count: 19,147
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 22

Today's Trivia Question: Who is the first character to speak in Star Wars?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: "E" is the most common letter in Scrabble.

November 7, 2009

15,000 Words Makes One Weak, er, Week

I have officially completed my first week of National Novel Writing Month. According to the site, we are supposed to have 15,000 words by end of the day Monday. I'm already there.

It's a good thing, too, because Week #2 is supposed to be the hardest.

I can see why.

1. My book is approaching the murky middle -- a tangle of possibilities that must be figured out and artfully executed.
2. I'm leaving soon for an out-of-state trip.
3. Hubby's leaving after than for a separate out-of-state trip.
4. And I'm getting sick.

Wish me luck for getting through Week #2.

Here are the numbers:

Today's word count: 982
Total word count: 15,548
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 23

Today's Trivia Question: In the game of Scrabble, which is the most common letter?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The average worker bee produces 1/12th a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

November 6, 2009

The Story Revealed

Didn't have time for exercise this morning, and writing felt like pushing a stroller through wet sand.

Managed to walk the pooch, though, and met the lady whose house was nearly broken into earlier in the week.

She filled me in on the story:

Her husband had been laid off, so he was home when a man climbed their fence (and broke it) and busted a window on their back door.

Hearing a noise, her husband ran to the back yard and was greeted by a twenty-year-old guy with his arm stuck through the window of the back door.

The home owner screamed some words I can't say on this family-friendly blog, charged and tackled the guy. He managed to land a few punches to the kidneys before the man wriggled free and vaulted over the fence.

Running back into his home, the man called police on a portable phone and went out to watch where the man went.

The intruder didn't run, but walked down the street while calling someone on his cell. He was nicely dressed, too. A few blocks away, he slipped into a car and sped away. The same car, the man realized, that has been cruising around the neighborhood lately.

The intruder still hasn't been caught.

Those people now sleep with baseball bats at the ready.

We are extra grateful to have our large, loud dog by our sides.

I wish people realized that when they break into someone's home, they steal a lot more than "things."

Onto the numbers:

Today's word count: 3,414
Total word count: 14,566
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 24

Today's Trivia Question: How much honey does the average worker bee produce in a lifetime?
A. 1/12 teaspoon
B. 12 tablespoons
C. 1-3/4 cups

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: The first vegetable to be canned was PEAS.

November 5, 2009

The End

It was a dark and stormy . . . day.

I woke to an ache behind my left eye, gray clouds outside and the painful memory of the Phillies NOT winning the World Series last night.

I had to take our son to the bus. I had to walk the pooch. But I did not have to write.

So instead, I enjoyed my two favorite drugs (at the same time):

1. Music
2. Exercise

After a kick-butt workout at the gym, I came home and affixed butt glue to my derriere. Then I revised and wrote for four hours.

During that time, something amazing happened -- the kind of something that occurs only when one shows up, applies butt glue and puts in the sweat equity. The amazing thing that happened was this: THE END of my novel came to me. The whole thing -- dialogue and all. I could hardly write it down fast enough. And then a few threads that will lead to that ending showed up, too.

At THE END of the four hours, I looked outside and guess what? The sun had come out.

Today's word count: 1,511
Total word count: 11,152 (It's over 20% complete!)
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 25


Today's Trivia Question: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Oh no, that's not it.

The real question is: Which vegetable was the first to be canned?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: Fear of public speaking or stage fright is called glossophobia.

November 4, 2009

Out to Lunch?

Woman cannot live by books alone. Sometimes, she needs to eat actual food. And sometimes she needs to eat that food in a giant room with balloons and music and hundreds of other literacy-loving people.

Today, I took a break from scribbling to attend the National Family Literacy Day Celebration Luncheon with my fabulous, fun friend, Riley Roam. We sat next to a woman who has been a teacher and principal longer than I've been alive.

We were treated to a ballet based on Eric Carle's book, From Head to Toe.

Then a woman came to the podium and reminded me -- reminded everyone in the room -- the transformative power of words, of books, of reading. She said she was from Mexico and is the single mother of a seven-year-old boy. She said she chose to join a program offered at her son's school -- Parent Power. There, this woman studied hard and learned English. Then, she worked a little harder and got her G.E.D. Now, because of her efforts and choices and a scholarship, she is heading off to college.

I nearly cried right into my mixed greens salad.

This woman was a great reminder of how important language is, of how words have the power to transform lives.

I came home after the luncheon and got right back to work (after an itty bitty nap).

Hooray to those who work hard to increase literacy . . . and for those who are following, here are today's numbers:

Today's word count: 3,303
Total word count: 9,641
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 26


Today's Trivia Question: There are many types of phobias. Fear of public speaking or stage fright ranks among the most common. In fact, some people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. What is the technical name of a person who is afraid of public speaking or stage fright?

Answer to Yesterday's Trivia Question: There are 516,000 bacteria per square inch in the human armpit. (This gross factoid appears in my next book, How to Survive Middle School. If that doesn't make you want to pre-order it, I can't imagine what will?!)

November 3, 2009

Rebel Without a Clue

I'm not saying I'm a rebel or a rule-breaker, but when National Novel Writing Month gurus suggested charging ahead with one's novel and not stopping to go back and edit, I choked on my own saliva.

50,000 words in a month? Sure.
Not going back to revise until I finished the whole thing? No flippin' way!

That's not how I roll. As I learn more about my characters, I go back and make necessary changes. Otherwise, I might as well be writing a grocery list.

With that in mind, I spent much of today revising the pages I've written so far. Characters made themselves known. Conflict arose on the very first page. Funny dialogue needed to be written. Was I to turn my back on all that? Of course not. Through those revisions, my main character's voice broke through loud and clear today. And I'm lovin' this nervous, nerdy, hula-hooping trivia geek.

Of course the revision and research this morning meant that it took me a solid five hours to get my paltry word count.

And it seems I'm not the only rebel in our house.

Last night, our teenage son was asked to step out of his friend's car by local police. Our son was polite to the officer, but confused about the reason for the stop. The officer mentioned a broken taillight, but nothing else.

Within minutes, our theater geek son, who spends many Saturday mornings feeding the hungry, was frisked. His crime? Um, being a teenager with long hair. If I had a broken taillight, would I have been frisked by a nice young police officer? Unfortunately, probably not. But what I'm getting at here is this -- stay with me, people -- wouldn't justice be better served if this officer, instead of frisking my innocent son and his buddy, were using that time to find the creep who tried to break into a home on our street yesterday?

I'm just sayin' . . .

And as promised . . .

Here is today's trivia question. The answer will be revealed in tomorrow's post. In honor of my trivia-loving main character, I will include a new trivia question daily. Make a guess. Tell your friends to make a guess. And tune in tomorrow to see who's right.

Trivia Question 1: On what part of the human body will you find 516,000 bacteria per square inch?

Today's word count: 1,947
Total word count: 6,338
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 27

November 2, 2009


Today's writing was interrupted by a few, ahem, distractions. Here they are in order of importance:

1. A doctor's appointment. (Never fear. All is well.)
2. The need to do some research. (Oh, thank you, Wikipedia!)
3. An attempted home break-in ON MY STREET! (That's right. Police cars abounded when I returned home from my doctor's appointment. But it was the police helicopter flying overhead again and again that freaked me out. I don't know all the details yet, but I don't think they caught the perp. And I'm super grateful that I have a loud, barky dog. who would give up her life to protect me. Isn't that right, Lady? "Yawn." But seriously, did I mention THERE WAS AN ATTEMPTED HOME BREAK-IN ON MY STREET?)

Since I haven't yet been deputized to fight crime, I decided the best way to handle the situation was to make sure our doors were locked and, well, write. So that's what I did. And every so often, I stopped to say, "Good dog, Lady! Look fierce!"

Today's word count: 1,851
Total word count: 4,391
Goal: 50,000 words
Days remaining: 28

Tune in tomorrow for a fun trivia game . . .

November 1, 2009

Bad Friend. Good Writer.

On your mark.
Get set.

Today begins National Novel Writing Month!

I've signed up to complete a 50,000 word novel by November 30th. Think I can do it? Tune in each day to find out.

In order to write today's pages, I canceled on a very good friend. I'd signed up weeks ago to do a volunteer stint with her at our kids' school this afternoon. All afternoon. I realized I had to choose between honoring my commitment with my friend or honoring my commitment to this novel. So I picked up the phone yesterday and cancelled.

Sorry, H.T.

Today's Numbers: 2,540 words
29 days left

October 31, 2009

Write a Novel in a Month? Sure. Why Not?

I am hereby announcing my intention to complete a novel in a month. Just me and a couple hundred thousand other people at National Novel Writing Month.

Here are the rules:

1. I can't start writing until November 1st and must stop by midnight November 30th.
2. A novel, for their purposes, consists of 175 pages.

That means about 6 pages a day, but I know I'll have a couple days when I can't write -- like my nephew's bar mitzvah mid-month -- so I'm going to aim for at least 7 pages a day.

I'm going to blog about the experience every day. Why? Because the fear of public humiliation is a great motivator.

Please drop in daily to check on my progress, cheer me on or make fun of me, if it's warranted.

And if you're feeling brave and have always wanted to write a novel -- JOIN ME!

Can't wait to begin the writing adventure tomorrow, but for now . . . I'm grabbing a bucket of lollipops and heading outside to enjoy a spooky night filled with trick-or-treaters.

Happy Halloween!!!

October 26, 2009

What Makes a Book a Best-Seller?

While a big promotion budget helps, it does NOT guarantee a best-seller.

Creating a compelling character who faces obstacles and grows as a result is essential, but doesn't mean you'll rise to the top. Excellent books sink without a trace all the time.

Working your tush off by speaking at schools, conferences, book festivals, etc. will mean more books sold, but probably won't be enough to rocket you to best-seller status.

So, what's a writer to do?

Write the best damn book you can. That means digging deep, facing emotional truths, paying attention to structure, revising till it hurts and then revising some more. Do all those things and more. If you do all those things, you may be fortunate enough to have your book published. If so, celebrate. You've come a long way, baby. Then? Let it go.

That's right. It's not up to you anymore. Sure, you'd better be out there promoting and letting people know your book exists. Write articles. Get on the blog-o-sphere. Do interviews.

But the ultimate success of your book is in your reader's hands now.

What makes a best-seller? This: The moment your reader puts your book down, s/he is compelled to tell someone else to pick it up. When this happens, your book will gain traction organically. And if it happens often enough, you may just find yourself sitting pretty on a best-seller list.

Which books have you read that you felt compelled to share?

Here are three children's books and three adult books that compelled me to tell someone else to pick them up the moment I put them down . . .

Children's Books:

1) A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
2) Rules by Cynthia Lord
3) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Adult Books:

1) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
2) The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
3) The Help by Katheryn Stockett

I found out about these books through reviews in magazines, on blogs, with a YouTube video sent by a friend via e-mail, on the shelf of a favorite indie bookstore, via an article written for Writer's Digest Magazine. I felt compelled to pass these books on because I was riveted by the stories, utterly emotionally involved. I laughed or cried or shook my head in wonder and wanted to share those feelings with friends.

What are your top three books? What drew you to them in the first place? And why were you compelled to pass them on?

New Title and Book Cover Revealed . . .

How many authors have both a singing hamster and a photo of a toilet on their book's cover?* Even J.K. Rowling doesn't have that claim to fame.

I was delighted when my editor sent my new book's cover design.

Here it is: (The photo of the toilet is on an inside flap, but trust me, it's there).

Recently, my editor told me the powers that be wanted a shorter title for the book. We ended up with HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL.

That change, of course, required a new cover. Here it is:

Which cover/title do you prefer?

* No hamsters were harmed in the making of either cover. (No toilet seats, apparently, were harmed either.)

October 23, 2009

Fun on a Friday

Does this thing come with a user's manual?

Have a fun, fabulous weekend,

October 21, 2009

Do You Know Leo?

My neighbor did something yesterday that reminded me of Leo Buscaglia.

Leo Buscaglia was a warm, wonderful man who spoke passionately about living well and loving one another. After watching him on PBS, I felt inspired to live my best life.

Here's one of Leo's videos about love:

Leo once told a story about how some of his college-aged students came over to his home for a meeting, and while they were admiring the beautiful fall leaves in his yard, a blustery neighbor marched over and said, "Leo, this is unsightly. You'd better get rid of all these leaves. Rake 'em and bag 'em like the rest of us."

Leo didn't rake 'em nor did he bag 'em. He and his students carried them all into his living room and dropped them. There, among the colorful, crunchy leaves, they continued their meeting.

That's how Leo lived. That's how I want to live.

Last night, my neighbor, Pam, knocked on my door. She handed me something wrapped in paper towels. "Leaves," she said, smiling. "And a couple acorns from our trip to New Jersey."

Autumn leaves! Pam knew how much I missed the lovely leaves of autumn, so she brought the leaves to me.

What else could I do with them? I spread them on the living room carpet.

Thank you, Pam. Thank you, Leo.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” -- Leo Buscaglia

October 16, 2009

How to Write a Novel

Want to write a novel?
Hmm. Me, too.
It's got to be easy, right? Just string a few thousand words together and . . . ta dah . . . you become the next J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King.
Small problem: They have to be the right few thousand words in the right order.
Hmm. I think we need some help.
Let's turn to prolific writing guru Meg Cabot.
She's got this awesome video to tell YOU how to write a novel.
Stephenie Meyer, look out!

October 9, 2009

12 3/4 Ways to Have a Successful Author Visit and Book Signing

Step 1: Work with a talented, dedicated media specialist like Lisa Petroccia, for example, who may or may not be mentioned in my next novel. :)

Step 2: Show up at the school's cafetorium and discover someone's forgotten lunch on the stage, along with a table displaying your books and a lovely purple orchid.

Step 3: Talk to 400 6th graders about the embarrassing things you did when you were their age. Throw in a story or two about how you sold your book. (Be sure to include all the hard parts like the, er, 9,756,832 rejections you've received.)

Step 4: Read the part of your book that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger. If your book doesn't include parts with the California governor, why not? Stop reading because the bell rings. Leave all the kids wondering what happens next so they HAVE to buy your book.

Step 5: Show up at Barnes & Noble approximately on time. Sit at a table piled high with your books. Direct people to the bathroom when they ask.

Step 7: Act a little bit like an idiot when your son's kindergarten teacher shows up.

Step 8: And when one of your besties comes to support you.

Step 9: And your husband . . . because he has to, plus he's really nice and likes hanging out in bookstores.

Step 10: Sign books for approximately 5,293,285 girls and one boy. The girls will want you to sign their books with a purple pen, if you have one. Have one. Sign the boy's book with black ink. Trust me on this.

Step 11: Have a great time talking with the kids and their parents, especially the parents who happen to be high school reading teachers or come from Philadelphia, like you. "Go, Eagles!"

Step 12: While chatting with the children, remember why you love doing this so much.

Step 12 3/4: When the books are gone, go home.

October 4, 2009

Check Out the Sunday L.A. Times

I didn't realize how excited I would be to see my story in the Los Angeles Times newspaper this morning. But I was!
You can read my short story here.
Big thanks to my editor, Jennifer James, for the great lay-out and nice bio.
Hugs to my friend, Marjorie Flathers, who told me about the opportunity when we met at the 2005 SCBWI conference in L.A. Marjorie has sold oodles of stories to the Times.
And I love Patricia Cantor's illustration.
If you're a writer and would like to try your hand at a story for the L.A. Times, here's the info:


Main Stories

One 600-700-word story

Submission via e-mail is preferred
Payment is $250 per story, if and when it is published

The target audience for these stories is six-years to nine-years old. We are primarily interested in fiction, but if you submit an interesting nonfiction story with at least three references to each fact, we will take a look at it.

In order to get an idea of what kind of stories we like we advise you to study the Kids’ Reading Room page. It appears in the Sunday comics part I.

If you are out-of-state you can access the stories online at

Please send submissions to:

Best of luck!

September 30, 2009

Philly Phamily . . .

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of spending time with family and friends in PA and NJ. It was fantastic to reconnect, but went way too fast.

Here are some happy snaps from the weekend . . .

Bro-in-law, Mike's 60th birthday celebration
(I swear it was just yesterday we were celebrating his 40th!)

Gypsy and Rose, hoping someone throws them pizza crust

Leigh and Denny

"The Guys" in religious observance of THE EAGLES. They must have prayed extra hard because their team won. Hallelujah!

Leigh, learning all about dinosaurs from the adorable and brilliant Matt

Baby Charlie, with proud mama, Susan

Someone poked this Eagles guy cake in the eye. Okay, okay. It was me!

Baby Charlie, with Proud Papa, Steve

Nick, Kim and a stowaway -- Baby Samantha is due this January. Hooray!!!

The apt bumper sticker on my dad's wife's car

Dad, 82, with his very own copy of an ARC of my new novel.

Dad and the dudes

Man, it's tough to live 1,200 miles away from such an awesome family!

September 29, 2009

William Safire (December 19, 1929 - September 27, 2009)

I was at a bat mitzvah this weekend. The rabbi said that when a person dies, the most important part of the birth and death dates is the hyphen between the dates, because that represents what the person accomplished during his lifetime.

William Safire accomplished much. Among other things, he was a political columnist for the New York Times. And he contributed to "On Language," a New York Times Magazine column about words and language.

Two things he wrote that I'd like to share are:

1. His "Rules for Writers."

2. His column, "Never Retire."

September 24, 2009

Need a Laugh?

This shouldn't be funny, but it is. And the cute little fellow makes me think of the hamster in my upcoming novel.

September 23, 2009

A Few Things to SMILE About

Yesterday, a magazine editor called to tell me her budget was slashed. Again. And even though she liked my submissions, she's now unable to purchase them.

I thanked her and told her I understood, because I do. Budgets are being cut. Jobs are being cut. And people are being asked to do more for less. I get it. We all get it.

So, instead of wallowing in the negative news, I found a few things to smile about . . .

1. Someone dedicated a book to my husband. Type "Dan Gephart" into the search engine at Amazon and this book comes up. Clifford A Ramirez told Dan he appreciated his guidance and inspiration. Thanks, Cliff!

2. Yesterday, I got separate e-mails from a mother and her daughter, who each read and enjoyed my book. They live where my novel is set -- Tallahassee, Florida -- and the mother told me I got the facts right so she could enjoy the story. Whew! All that research paid off. And the daughter said she wished she could be best friends with my main character. What a day-brightener!

3. And the best reason to smile? Our youngest son GOT HIS BRACES OFF. . . after more than three years.


September 19, 2009

Home Sweet Home

When I was a kid, travel wasn't in the family budget. A day at the Jersey shore was about as good as it got.

Now, as an adult, I really enjoy travelling. I feel fortunate to have done so much of it lately -- New Orleans, Los Angeles and now Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, etc.

Three planes took me to my friend, Maggie's house in Idaho. Here's Maggie . . .

And her dog, Izzy . . .

And the view from their deck . . .

We drove to Gold Creek, Montana to Camp Mak-a-Dream. Usually host to children and teens with cancer, Camp Mak-a-Dream hosts an ovarian cancer survivor's retreat. It was amazing.

We climbed a mountain . . .

And a rock wall . . .

And a million other fun things. We ate like royalty and had a blast in the town of Missoula. But mostly, mostly, we forged bonds of teal between each other.

It was hard to say so-long when the long weekend ended.

But Maggie and I and her daughter, Katie, piled into the car and drove to Yellowstone National Park.

We got up close and personal with elk . . .

And bison . . .

And pools of water that were so hot they boiled . . .

And of course, Old Faithful . . .

Had a blast driving through the Grand Tetons and in the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming . . .

Then I had to say so-long to Maggie and her lovely family and get on those three planes and head back home to flat-as-a-flapjack Florida.

It's great to get away and experience interesting places and meet new people.

And it's great to be home, too.