Janet Sumner Johnson
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A Talent I Don’t Have

Mar 16, 2015 Uncategorized 3 comments

Words. I love them.

Pickle.

Asparagus.

Platypus.

Spigot.

Serendipity.

Calamity.

Simple words with fun sounds. And oh don’t get me started on cognates and lexical gaps and all the fun things that amuse me because I’m a language geek. I LOVE WORDS! Let me shout it out from the rooftops!

So you’d think, given all that, that I’d be a fabulous cross-worder. You’d think.

Every now and then I dive into the foray of a puzzle because I’m certain this time will be different. Except it never is. <sigh> And I’m scratching out letters, and sneaking cheating peeks at the answers until I bang the magazine shut. Because who thought that was a good clue anyway?!? No one could have guessed that!

And so I move on in frustration, swearing them off forever. Or at least until the next time . . . When the glorious blank spaces call out to me and the need to find a pen (always a pen!) overcomes.

It’s complicated.

And all this makes me think. Have you ever let a character struggle with something that by all rights should have come easy?

Hmmm . . . and now if you’ll excuse me, I have some revising to do.


The Rest of the Story

Mar 09, 2015 Uncategorized 8 comments

Friday night we had a family night. Dinner at the “Train” place (where you order on a phone and then a little train delivers your food) and then Disney on Ice.

It was awesome. My husband and I have been gone a lot lately, so the kids were excited to be spending time with us. The train delivery of our food was just cool. We smiled. We laughed. We even let the kids get light up toys for the performance. We were just happy to be together. And even my 11-year-old was loving the ice skating.

At intermission I posted a happy picture on facebook of our super fun evening, and if that was all you ever heard, you’d have an idyllic picture of our family evening. Maybe you’d be a little jealous and wish you could do the same. Maybe you’d roll your eyes and doubt it was that great anyway. Whatever your reaction, my “story” is out there exactly the way I told it.

See, the first half of our night really was that idyllic. I just never got around to posting about the second part.

Just after intermission, 8-year-old began complaining that his stomach hurt. He really wanted to wait it out because we were having that much fun. But shortly before the end it was too much. Husband took him out, and shortly thereafter the rest of us followed and met them at the car where 8-yo was holding an empty grocery bag and moaning.

We hurriedly got on the road (thankfully we beat most people out of the lot), but it wasn’t long before the puking began. The other kids immediately complained of the smell, and though it was a chilly night, but we unrolled the windows and did our best to ignore the shivering. Well, that worked right up until the skunk smell hit. I couldn’t decide what was worse.

At home we began the process of cleaning up the child, doing laundry, scouring the car seat, finding a suitable place for him to sleep (with low clean-up factor and easy access to a toilet). Oh, let me tell you that it was the polar opposite of the first half of our night. Not fun.

Not fun at all.

Except I was cracking up the whole time. Because polar opposite! Hahaha! Okay, well, I think the irony is funny.

Point is, the rest of story completely changes everything. Yes, we had fun, but it wasn’t the idyllic evening that was potrayed in that facebook post (even if that WAS an honest posting at the time). And this is like the writing world (and any other world, but since this is a writing blog . . .).

We read stories about writers getting agents, making book sells, doing class visits, signing books at overcrowded book signings, whatever, . . .

. . . and maybe we think that’s really cool, but maybe we compare ourselves just a little. And maybe a little jealousy creeps in. And we wonder why we don’t have what they have. Why haven’t I found an agent yet? Why didn’t my book sell that fast? Why don’t I have crowds and crowds of people at my book signings?

Not that I have ever felt this way. 😉

Here’s the thing: We may know all the good stuff, but what we don’t know is the rest of the story.

Because I guarantee you that everyone has their struggles. Surrounding those idyllic moments are doubts, and concerns, and HARD THINGS. Things we really, really, really wouldn’t want to go through.

And I sometimes need this reminder. We are all different. We have different successes and different trials. And that’s okay. We take the bad with the good, and we are grateful for what we have.

So let’s stop comparing ourselves. Stop thinking we aren’t good enough because we don’t have what they have. Let’s remember The Rest of the Story.

And then let’s laugh a little. Because that’s so much better than the alternative.


Just Keep Writing

Feb 23, 2015 Uncategorized 10 comments

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.”

-Edgar Rice Burroughs
 
This is a truth I keep reminding myself of when I am certain that everything I’ve ever written is horrible. Just keep writing. And may the odds be ever in your favor!! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). ;)

Blog Tour Kick-off: Olive and the Great Flood

Feb 16, 2015 Uncategorized 19 comments


Today I’m thrilled to kick-off Connie Arnold’s blog tour for the release of her latest book: OLIVE AND THE GREAT FLOOD.

This is a Noah and the Ark story told from the point of view of the dove:

Olive is a gentle friendly dove who wants to help her friends Noah, his family and the other animals with her on the ark. She tries to soothe them during the rain and has an important assignment, to discover when it’s safe to venture from the ark after the flood.

With fun rhyming verses and bold artwork, kids are sure to love Olive. I appreciated her up-beat outlook (despite the hardships of the ark), and her spirit of serving others. It’s not just about enduring the hard stuff, but enduring it well. (Definitely something I strive to do).

Connie agreed to answer a few questions here today. Those who comment will be entered into drawings for two prizes, a signed copy of Connie’s first children’s book, ANIMAL SOUND MIX-UP, and a gold dove windchime. Just saying, but the windchime is beautiful! Visit her blog for the details.

And here we go!

Me: Congratulations on the publication of Olive and
the Great Flood! So what inspired you to tell this story from the perspective
of the dove?

Connie: I have read this story many times before,
heard it as a small child and was always fascinated about all those animals
going onto the ark and surviving the flood. Children always seem to enjoy
animals and stories about animals. I see things a little differently now that I
have grandchildren and have started writing for young children. It just struck
me how important the dove flying out to bring back the olive leaf was to the
story, and she suddenly had a personality and a mission!

Me: The dove is essential, for sure! And I love the character you created in
Olive. Your readers can see Olive’s efforts to help others and that she takes pride
in the important job she is given. Have you ever had an Olive in your
life—someone who influenced you by their service and good attitude? Can you
tell us about him/her? How did he/she influence you?

Connie: A teacher I had who was always
cheerful and seemed to really care about each student influenced me in a
positive way. As a shy, quiet child it was hard to express myself to others,
and she encouraged me in gentle ways much as Olive gently soothes the animals
on the ark.

Me: And now look . . . you are sharing your voice with countless others! My High School English teacher was like that for me. She probably has no idea the impact she made. Hmmm . . . must amend that. Anyway, so now that you have the opportunity to influence others, what do you hope your readers will take
away from Olive and the Great Flood?

Connie: I hope a sense that even the small
things you do during your life can make a big impact on others. Doing your best
and helping others can give your life greater meaning and joy. Also, remember
the promise of the rainbow and God’s love!

Me: I completely agree! The small things really add up. We shouldn’t be afraid to do what we can because we think it’s too small, or wouldn’t have a big enough impact. 

So as I writer, I also wanted to talk a
little about you and your writing process. It’s such a personal thing for each
of us. What inspires you in your writing? Or put another way, how do you
develop your ideas?

Connie: My grandchildren and other children
inspire my writing for the young ones. Once an idea is born, it grows and
blooms into a story or dies a natural death. I think you and other writers can
relate to that. When it grows and develops it is worth all the efforts of
changing, redoing, editing, cutting and writing again that make it be worth
reading and enjoying.

Me: I can definitely relate. Many, many ideas never make it past the idea stage. But the ones that do are without a doubt a labor of love. Even so, I still struggle sometimes getting the story into readable shape. How about you? What has been your biggest struggle as an
author?

Connie: My health and energy level have caused a
struggle at times. I have lupus and some other issues that leave me very
painful and drained at times. It is hard to focus and be productive at those
times. I find the promotion of my books much harder than the writing
actually. 

Me: My aunt has lupus, so I’ve seen how draining that can be. It just makes me all the more amazed at your accomplishments and determination. And I can definitely see that about promotion. I feel I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me where promotion is concerned. So with all you are doing, what legacy do you hope to leave as an author?

Connie: Since I feel that my writing ability and
being a published author are because of God’s help and blessings, I hope to
leave inspiration, joy and a blessing to those who read what I have written.

Me: What a great legacy. If we could all just leave the world with a little more inspiration and joy, this world would be a better place. Okay, and now a fun question or two: If you could get any book signed by the author
(alive or dead), what would it be?

Connie: Can I say the Bible? It is one book,
but think of all those authors. Wouldn’t that be fantastic!

Me: It would be! A worthy choice, for sure! Actually, given the topic of your book, I had a feeling you’d say that. 😉 And of course, because this is me, you
knew I had to ask this . . . what would Olive’s personalized license plate be?
😀 

Connie: COO2U 

Haha! I love it! Thanks so much for letting me be part of your tour. 🙂 And to the rest of ya’ll, don’t forget to comment for a chance to win the aforementioned prizes!

Have a great week!

Links for OLIVE AND THE GREAT FLOOD:

Amazon

Guardian Angel Publishing

Connie’s blog for tour schedule and prizes

Happy News and Lost Voices

Feb 09, 2015 Uncategorized 10 comments
So last month I came down with this nasty cold that not only left me miserable, but completely stole my voice. I could barely even whisper. It was crazy! Alas, a mom’s job is never done, so I couldn’t just stay home. After dropping my boys off at Tae Kwon Do, I took Girlie to gymnastics and found a spot on the bleachers where I could sit on my own and not have to talk.
 
I pulled out my phone and there it was. An email from my agent.
 
My stomach flip-flopped. I stared at it, debating if I should open it right then or just wait.
 
But I’m a firm believer in ripping bandaids off fast. Just get it over with.
 
Deep breath. I tapped the phone.
 
I read the short note. Read it again.
 

“You have an offer!”
 
I wanted to scream, but of course I couldn’t. I texted my husband, and instantly my phone rang. I totally had to decline the call. Stupid monster, voice-stealing cold!
 
But guys!!! That gif up there has been me ever since. Every time I remember the news again.
 
MY BOOK SOLD!!!

 


The Super Bowl and Stinky Endings

Feb 02, 2015 Uncategorized 4 comments

So last night was the Super Bowl.

I haven’t watched one in years, but I saw last night’s game. Confession, I actually really love watching football. I only do it on rare occasions, but when I do, I’m all in. I even yell at the tv and everything.

Yep. I’m one of THOSE people.

And last night’s was a great game. Patriots in the lead, then the Seahawks. And middle of the 4th quarter, the Patriot’s pull it out and take the lead. All they have to do is hold the Seahawks. Keep them from getting a touchdown. That’s all. Because a field goal wouldn’t be enough.

But the Seahawks were playing well, and Russell Wilson (their quarterback) was on fire. Mr. Dead Aim himself. THEN, in addition to playing well, the Seahawks caught a long bomb that is the LUCKIEST catch I have ever seen! Ever. Like, I had to watch the re-play more than once to believe it really happened. The Patriot got a hand on the ball and both guys tumble to the ground, except the ball doesn’t hit the ground!!! It hits the Seahawk and bounces up! And the guy—I  don’t even know how since he just took a huge fall—has enough sense to reach out and catch the thing and jump up and start running again!

Seriously! That catch will be re-played for YEARS to come. Years!

Anyway, so there is 1:30 on the clock. All the Seahawks have to do is move the ball 3 yards to get a touchdown. First down they get a two-and-a-half yards. So second down and all that’s standing between them and another Super Bowl win is a measly half yard. A HALF YARD!!

And Tom Brady (the Patriot’s quarterback in case you don’t know) is watching with his stoic face, and you can practically hear what he’s thinking. Like, I did everything I could and it comes to this because of a lucky catch. Unbelievable.

So the ball is snapped, and Wilson launches the short pass for an easy touchdown, except WAIT! A rookie Patriot reads the play and INTERCEPTS!!! With twenty seconds left!

I mean, you can’t write this stuff, people. It was amazing! Of course in the last 20 seconds, there was the penalty for illegal motion, and then another for the fight that broke out, but that’s all pishtosh. The game was over with the interception. The Patriot’s won!!!

So you’re probably thinking, why did you tell us all that? This is a writing blog, not a sports blog. Well, of course I have a point.

The thing is, the Seahawks have this amazing running back named Marshawn Lynch. They had been moving the ball really well all night. And I’m only guessing here, but I bet they thought, Let’s change things up and throw the ball because they won’t be expecting that!

Well, clearly that didn’t work out for them. And now I’m just guessing again, but I bet they wish they could just go back and re-write that ending. Go back to what they should have done, and run the ball the mere half-yard that they needed to win.

Stinks for them, because that’s not possible . . . BUT it’s totally possible for us as writers! We can go back, erase what didn’t work, and rewrite a more satisfactory ending, or beginning, or middle, or whatever it is we need.

Rewriting can be hard, but it’s SO AWESOME! All the possibilities are open to us. We’re never trapped in anything. If a story isn’t working, we can fix it.

We can fix it.

And that is my point.

So did you watch the Super Bowl? What did you think?


Keeping Perspective

Jan 27, 2015 Uncategorized 5 comments

I took a little trip this weekend with my husband and five-year-old daughter. We stayed in a hotel on the 9th floor, and we got to take the elevator up. The kind with a glass back, so you can see out into the open central area of the hotel. Wasted space, for sure, but pretty awesome view.

Having 5-year-old with us changed everything. She was jumping-out-of-her-skin excited to be staying in a hotel. And Oh! The elevator! And it was so high! And then to glass wall in our room looking out over the city, and we could practically see everything from up there! We pulled out the couch bed and squee!! It’s a couch! And it turns into a bed, and she got to sleep in it all on her own!! Plus she had her own tv! Then we ate breakfast there, and SO EXCITING! And look at all the blueberry muffins, and Wow! A waffle maker that turns over???

Everything was new and an adventure.

And her excitement was catching.

But let’s imagine we stayed in this SUPER EXCITING hotel for a year. . . Yeah. Even for Girlie, the place would lose it’s charm, its newness. It would not be the same.

Now imagine that we stayed the one night then when back home. And in a year, we spent the night at that hotel again. . . . WE’RE BACK! And remember the glass wall? The view from our room? And ohhh, the waffle maker!

This is the same with writing. First drafts are so cool. Everything is so exciting! And getting to the end of the story is an adventure. It’s new, and fresh, and I just want to spend all my time with it.

But when it comes time to revise, I will lose the fresh perspective if I don’t take some time away from it. It will become mundane. Same old. Hard to tell one chapter from the next. And didn’t I like this once upon a time?

It’s hard to put something aside. Especially something you love. But a little distance can go a long way in giving perspective. In remembering and rekindling the love we had for something.
Do you take time between drafts?


Wise Words

Jan 19, 2015 Uncategorized 3 comments

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope you all have a great day, as we remember the wisdom of a man who understood the power of love.


When We Know Too Much

Jan 12, 2015 Uncategorized 9 comments

Some of you may know that for my day job, I do translation. French to English. An interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed is that sometimes my brain doesn’t register when there is both French and English on a page I’m supposed to translate. I’ll keep typing away, and a couple paragraphs later realize what I’ve done.

In fact, several year ago I was doing some interpretation for a small group. It’s a pretty tricky fete learning to talk and listen at the same time. Anyway, there I was spouting off the English as the speaker continued in French when suddenly they stopped and looked at me. The people I was interpreting for stopped and looked at me.

“You don’t have to translate the English for me. I already understand.”

My brain hadn’t registered when the speaker switched from French to English! Presumably because I understand both languages, and to my brain it’s all the same. I understand it.

Writing can be like this too. When we write a story, we know everything there is to know. We know who the secret bad guy is. We know what terrible things are going to happen. We know how it will all resolve itself. We know.

Which is why it’s sometimes hard to know what is coming across to our reader. The experience is completely different for someone who doesn’t know. Things that may seem obvious to you, aren’t necessarily obvious to your reader. Or perhaps something you wanted to be sure your reader understood is coming across all too loudly for them.

This is why we need beta readers and critique partners. This is why we can’t do this writing thing alone. Sometimes we just need someone to stop us and tell us, “I already understand.”

Do you use beta readers and critique partners?


Happy New Year!

Jan 05, 2015 Uncategorized 4 comments

So I popped off for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and then the
boat left the dock without me, and I missed all of December. Family and Writing
(Well, revising, but same whatever).

My writing space

Anyway, it’s the new year, and we’ve had the discussion of Resolutions vs. Goals, so today I’m listing a few GOALS (nothing so wishy-washy as a
resolution for me, thank you very much!).

1.     
Write
5 days a week
. I don’t write on Sundays, and I need some leeway for the
other 6 (I’m all about not feeling cramped). However, to keep myself from the
path of insanity, I’m adding this: I get a smiley face for as little as ONE
page (written or revised). For the record, I usually do more, but this keeps my
mind free from feeling weighed down by the burden of it. It lets me enjoy. Oh yeah! And I’m giving myself 1
month of vacation, too. It’s only fair. Yeah I’m weird. But I’m totally owning
this.

2.     
Finish
revising my 2 WIPS (Works in Progress)
. After spending all of November
and December revising, I am confident this is doable. (Assuming I really stick
to goal #1). 😉

3.     
Finish
a first draft of a new book
. I have the book in mind, and it’s actually
started. I can do this. I can!

4.     
Write
at least two picture books
. I wanted to just say one. But I want to
push myself a bit. Plus, after my September class, I’m really excited to do
this. It might be a summer thing, but I have at least one idea ready to be developed.
And just maybe I’ll take that class again to help me along. J

5.     
Attend
at least one writing conference
. Okay, I’m taking the easy way out
here, because I’m all signed up for LDStorymakers in May. But we all need at
least one gimmee, right?

And I think I’ll stop there because all of that will keep me
plenty busy. So how about you? What are your goals (writing or not)?