NaNo’Ers, I’m With You in Spirit

October 28, 2013

Although I usually take one year to “recover” between attempts at NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at November the same way again.

This year, I’m on “recovery,” still working on the novel I pounded out last November (I’ve discovered that novels written in a month take two years to revise). But as November draws nearer, NaNoWriMo is still very much on my mind. On Wednesday night (October 30), I’ll be leading an online chat about NaNoWriMo at New Moon Girls, which is free for members. I’m also leading, “So, You Want to Write a Novel?”, a webinar for girls ages 8-14, in which I’ll share some of my tips for writing and finishing novels.  Girls need not be members of New Moon to attend. The webinar is offered twice — once on November 5 and once on November 7. If there’s a girl in your life who is tackling NaNoWriMo or novel-writing in general, send her my way!

As for me, I’ll be finishing up my Dark Crystal submission in November, while a friend is working on producing one short story a week. May this November find you keeping the winter writing spirit in your own way!


It’s Here: The Nov/Dec Issue of Verily Magazine

October 21, 2013

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a long time. The November/December issue of Verily Magazine is finally for sale, and it features my article, “Natural Wonder: Understand Your Cycle to Regain Your Sanity and Appreciate Your Body,” on page 87. In case the title doesn’t make it clear (and I think it does), the article is about the Fertility Awareness Method, focusing on the non-reproductive benefits, and how understanding it can give women tons of insight about their bodies.

I’m thrilled about the article, and I’m also thrilled that Verily Magazine exists. Its tagline is: “Less of Who You Should Be: More of Who You Are.” While not as overtly feminist as magazines like Bust or Bitch, what it adds to the genre of women’s magazines is distinctly refreshing. The Nov/Dec issue includes articles about female bullying, an examination of dating “rules,” the effects of pornography on women, men, and relationships, and the prevalence of rape as a tactic of war. There’s some great advice about keeping your sanity in the sometimes-insane holiday season. It has some fashion spreads and tips, too — which feature real women instead of models. There are no ads and no airbrushing.

Its target audience is women ages 18-35, which is probably why so much of it resonated with me. It reminds me of the “grown-up” version of New Moon Girls, a magazine and web community for girls ages 8-14, which I’ve worked on in various capacities for 11 years. New Moon Girls is also ad- and airbrush free, featuring girls as they are and not as the world tells them they “should be.” Both publications would make great gifts for the girls and the women in your life this holiday season.

To Outline or Not to Outline: A Question Only You Can Answer

September 17, 2013

A few weeks ago, as I fretted over my Dark Crystal submission (which I still haven’t started), one commenter authoritatively told me I must write an outline for it. I did, and I am, because it’s such unfamiliar territory for me that I just feel a lot safer going in with a map. But that’s not always the decision I make.

Currently, I’m reading APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, which recommends outlines and disses authors who don’t use them handily in one tidbit of advice:

“Many authors find an outline too constricting, but an outline sets me free. If you can’t write an outline, perhaps your thoughts are insufficiently organized.”

I had to bristle at this. It’s one thing to offer advice to would-be writers, quite another to imply that they are lacking if they do not follow your advice. The March/April issue of Writer’s Digest featured a wonderful article on “organic writing”; that is, writing without an outline, seeing where the story might take you. I used to be an outliner, but then I met NaNoWriMo, and I discovered the joy of flying by the seat of my pants. That’s when I learned I could be an organic writer, too, and now I often write without an outline. The advantage is a heightened sense of discovery; the disadvantage is the potential to panic if you don’t know what’s next, which can perhaps lead to an increased risk of writer’s block (at least, it does for me.)

A friend in my writer’s group has recently begun writing his short stories without an outline. There is no difference in quality between those that were written with or without outlines; if anything, the ones written without outlines are better, because he continues to develop his skill as a writer.

I once read something about Stephen King in which he said he no longer used outlines, that he could “feel” when the story was getting off-track and self-correct it. I find that writing without an outline has developed this sixth sense in me as well. If you think of an outline as a map, it makes a lot of sense to use it in unfamiliar territory to keep you from getting totally tangled in your jumble of prose. But after you’ve been writing for years, especially in a particular genre, you probably will get through the thicket just fine without a map to guide you. Your intuition will tell you when you’re going down the right path, and when you aren’t. And if it doesn’t? Revision is your friend.

I’m currently working on a novel-writing webinar for girls that I will offer in partnership with New Moon Girl Media. I plan to start with the idea that there are two types of writers: “planners” and “pantsers” — those who plan in advance of writing, and those who get by “by the seat of their pants.” Both types can and do win publication, popularity, and acclaim. I recommend trying both methods to see which you prefer, and more importantly, to get a sense for which approach is appropriate for each particular work. And if you ditch the outline? It doesn’t mean your thoughts are too “disorganized” to make a good book — only that you’re brave enough to tackle your adventure without a map.

“Bikini Bods” for Ten-Year-Olds?

May 6, 2013

I subscribe to the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) newsletter, which includes daily calls for interview subjects and experts in various areas. Earlier this week, Girls Life put out a call titled, “Top teen mag looking for pro/celeb trainers for a bikini body Faceook chat.” When I went to the Girls Life website, I found an image of a barely pubescent girl in a pink bikini playing with a beach ball; her position makes her bikini top ride up so you can just see the underside of her new breasts; her hipbones jut out above her bikini bottom, and her ribs are visible. (So, too, are the ribs of the pubescent boy she’s playing with.)

Girls Life magazine is aimed at girls ages 10-16, but with the plethora of girls’ magazines on the market that cater specifically to the “teen” crowd (ages 13 +), it’s probably safe to assume that many of Girls Life readers skew on the younger side of the demographic. And I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of an 11-year-old worrying about her “bikini bod” to be a little troubling.

Something very crucial happens to girls’ bodies between the years of 10 and 16. Namely, they go through puberty. They gain significant weight, because for the first time they have breasts and hips, and because their body begins to store fat differently. This weight gain is normal and healthy–you can’t continue to weigh what you did before you had breasts after they develop–but it can still be pretty freaky. I remember being devastated when, over the summer between 5th and 6th grade, I gained 20 pounds. I was afraid that I’d suddenly gotten “fat.” I hadn’t. I’d just “developed,” as we used to say.

This is why anything aimed at girls this young advocating attaining some type of “perfect” body really distresses me. Statistics already tell us that 81% of ten-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. With this figure, it might be easy to say that Girls Life is just responding to what girls “want,” but I’m not buying it. We know that looking at magazines makes girls and women feel worse about themselves, so I feel that media like this is part of the problem, causing these alarmingly high statistics when it comes to body dissatisfaction, rather than helping girls address it in a healthy way.

Luckily, there is an alternative. Since 2002, I’ve worked in various capacities with New Moon Girl Media, a magazine and web community for girls ages 8 – 14. Right now, New Moon Girls’ 25 Beautiful Girls issue is on the newstand. The 25 Beautiful Girls issue highlights girls for their kindness, intelligence, bravery, and heart–the things that make them beautiful on the inside. Although it began as a protest to People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, it serves as an appropriate protest to Girls Life’s “bikini bod” obsession, too. Not only does New Moon Girls offer positive content that steers girls’ attention away from body-criticism, but it also helps girls see through “the sell” they become confronted with more and more in our society, the lie that tells them they must look and be a certain way to be “happy.” And in honor of New Moon’s 20th Anniversary, you can get 20% off new subscriptions in the month of May by using the promo code anniv20. If you, too, cringe at the thought of eleven-year-olds being preoccupied with their bodies or wondering “how to get a boyfriend” (another feature currently on the Girls Life homepage), New Moon Girls is for you and the girls you love.

Free Access to New Moon Girls

July 23, 2012

This September will mark my ten year anniversary of doing work with New Moon Girls in some capacity. When I started as an intern back in 2002, New Moon was a bimonthly, black-and-white magazine. Now, it’s an online community for girls accompanied by a full-color magazine, which has recently been made available as an e-magazine as well. Nancy Gruver, found of New Moon Girls, has this to say about the addition:

We’re adding new opportunities, growing our community, and helping more girls join. Plus we’re making NMG more sustainable in terms of our environmental impact and our finances. I want you to know about the changes and why we’re making them.

Along with the changes, I’m asking you to support NMG more than ever and help keep our unique community alive as we innovate and adapt to the changing economy. Since the recession, we haven’t gotten the number of members we need to keep our community financially healthy. We’re very thrifty but it still takes plenty of money and non-renewable resources to make the magazine & social network and get them distributed.

Our first change is adding an e-magazine to the membership choices. Girls can read it, click on the links, share it, print out pages, search it, add notes to pages, and get connected much more easily—but still safely—than with the paper magazine. It works on all kinds of computers + iPads and other tablets including Nooks & Kindle Fires.

And for the months of July and August, you can view the e-magazine for free. I encourage you to take a look, share it with the girls in your life, or consider ordering a subscription or donating one.  There are lots of membership options, including combinations of the e-magazine and online community, paper magazine and online community, or either the magazine or the online community alone. This allows pricing and membership plans that are flexible for a wide variety of budgets and needs.

Here’s how to see the July/August issue.

  1. First, click here:
  2. Enter in the ” Coupon/Token” field : 13413-2010-79688
  3. Leave the “LogIn” & “Password” fields empty.
  4. Feel free to share the link and coupon code with your networks, too!

If you’re not familiar with New Moon Girls, here’s a few things you should know:

  1.  New Moon Girls is completely member supported and doesn’t contain any ads; the reason for this is twofold. One, New Moon Girls is accountable to its members first and foremost — not to advertisers. Two, correlations have been found revealing connections between advertising (especially advertising targeted at girls and women) and reduced self-esteem. At New Moon Girls, girls come first.
  2. New Moon Girls is girl-led. Girls ages 8 – 14 work with adult editors to produce the magazine and the social network. The website and the magazine serve as a place to  showcase girls’ creations–from videos to artwork to poetry.
  3. New Moon Girls builds healthy resistance to inequities, fosters media literacy, and provides a physically and emotionally safe space for girls to explore their identities, needs, talents, and concerns. The online community is adult-moderated, meaning that there’s next to 0 danger of girls encountering online predators or cyber-bullying on

To keep New Moon Girls available into the future, it needs to receive only 30 new memberships or renewals a day. These are a few suggestions from Nancy on helping New Moon reach that goal:

  1. EachOneReachOne: With our current members and friends, we can easily get the members we need. You just need to get ONE friend to join or give ONE gift of membership during the month of July or August.
  2. SponsorAMembership for your school, library, a club or organization you belong to. It’s quick & really easy – plus you feel great helping girls who don’t get NMG on their own.
  3. UsethisEmailexampleEmail is great to share and spread the word—especially to other adults, family and community members. Get ideas from this email or use it as it is to let friends and family know about us and how they can support NMG.

Clickhere for more ideas.

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog — now make your next stop New Moon Girls!

Get it Written

June 4, 2012

While I was traveling after my wedding, New Moon Girls members were chatting with Victoria Holmes, better known as Erin Hunter (or the “main” Erin Hunter, as it were, since Erin Hunter is a pen name for a team of writers), author of the popular Warriors series for middle grade and young adult readers. Although I wasn’t able to attend the chat, I read the transcript afterwards.

One of the best parts of my work with New Moon is that I get to bring authors and the girl readers of their books together about once a month — and the conversation that ensues always ends up inspiring MY writing, too. About one third of the way into the transcript, Erin insightfully asks:

How do you motivate yourself to write when you don’t feel like it? That’s where I have trouble.

You and me and probably almost every other writer on the planet, Erin! Throughout the years, I’ve come up with various tricks to keep me writing (many of them involving guilt), but I think it’s a testament to Erin’s maturity and understanding of the craft that this is the question she chose to ask. In the question is the implication that she understands something very important about writing: namely, that you MUST write to be a writer, and as such, you must learn to do it even when you don’t feel like it — because you don’t always feel like it.

Victoria Holmes’ answer to Erin is just as valuable:

I tell myself, “Don’t get it right, get it written.”

In fact, I read this at a time when I was still leaning on the crutch of the recent transition in my life to “excuse” my lack of productivity on the writing front. This reminder, so practical, standing for no excuses, was just what I needed to shake me out of it. (Mind you, I’m still writing this very blog post about two weeks behind schedule, BUT I’ve been writing again just the same. I’m finally revising that Rumplestiltskin story, meeting with my writers’ group, and making my deadlines for the Young Adult Catholics blog.) And as a reminder that productivity does invite more of the same, when I started writing again was also when I learned that SUNY Press will be publishing Unruly Catholic Women Writers, Volume II, in which I have an essay entitled, “Where I First Met God.” And the reason the essay is being published? Because back in 2008, I got myself to sit down and get it written.

Thanks for the reminder, Erin and Vicky.


NaNo Congrats, Writing Advice from a 12-year-old, And Poem #3

November 4, 2010

I’m pleased to announce that all the friends I’m spying — er, cheering — on at NaNoWriMo now have words to their names. Yay!! The public guilting shall abate for a time.

This morning I programmed this article to run on the homepage of Check it out — this 12-year-old will cut through all your wimpy excuses for not writing (I don’t have time, I’m not a good speller, my grammar sucks, etc.)!

And, here’s my poetry attempt from last night, using the help of my picto-journal:

Religious though he is, even he can see the

hyporcrisy of praying to the Lord Almighty

when no one has a prayer

left anyway. They mostly all

turned away the summer the

war tanks rolled over the

many fields so pains-takingly planted that spring,

taking away the one thing that had

always made them trust in the

Goodness of the Lord,

from whom came the soil, the rain, the growth.

“Too much sin,” proclaimed the preacher.

God has his reasons,” the old women’s voices murmur

as they rock on front porches

just as they’d said when Baby Dawn was born

with her parts all in the wrong places

when Mary’s husband left for groceries

and never came back

when Nyla’s son got so drunk

that he didn’t think to check for the train.

This is bigger, perhaps, but no different

makes no more sense,

so they clack rosary beads between their fingers

which tremble from palsy

or explosions.

The image was from some religious publication — a pic of an old preacher in a black robe with a massive cross spreading his arms in prayer while a tank rolled over a field in the background and with an explosion in the distance. The caption said, “Religious hypocrisy has turned many away from God.” I used the words from the caption as the original “spine” of the poem, although I think the poem would be better off without them in later drafts.