Saturday, June 27, 2015

Procrastination at Its Finest

I'm not proud of this, but I thought it should be shared. I listen to bhangra while I revise my latest novel because it is set in the Punjab. And, as much as I love writing, there is something that makes me constantly procrastinate. I jump on and off Facebook, check my emails nonstop, and just about anything else that doesn't keep my butt in my chair. This particular day, I searched high and low until I found the webcam for the upstairs computer. I'm not sure why. It's not a necessity for using my upstairs office. However, it did provide hours of skyping and, as you can see, dance parties.

I'm sharing this bit of musical insanity, because I'm hoping that misery loves company. We, as writers, long for the quiet moment when we can sit at our computers with a hot cup of tea or coffee and sink into our most recent WIP. And, apparently, sing inane songs into our newly found webcams.

I hope you enjoyed this. You may now return to your writing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

You Have the Summer Off...

These are fighting words for any teacher. The summer flies by with too much to do and too little time. Plus, we don't get paid for the summer months. Most people don't know that. For me, summer is the only time I can truly devote to my writing. And there's a lot of pressure involved...

Writing in the summer is very difficult. Let's face it. The sun is shining, my most recent novel choice is beckoning. The chores that have built up all school year are taunting me, nagging at the back of my mind. And, of course, Facebook and iTunes desperately need to be updated.

Don't get me wrong. I have spent the entire school year waiting for uninterrupted hours where I could sit at my computer and simply focus on my latest work in progress. The beauty and freedom to become WRITER CATHY! And, now it is here! Let me break it down for you.

The first two weeks are spent in fighting off the Teacher hangover - residual exhaustion from dealing with the stress of late night grading and lesson planning, not to mention the nasty meanness of today's society at large. Added to that is the procrastination time - time built in to obsess over the 5 million things that need doing, while telling yourself that you've earned the right to simply read your book, sit at the pool, and/or watch Bollywood movies. (of which I've only done the latter)

Which is why, on the third week of my 'vacation', I am finally starting to make those doctor's appointments I should've made during the school year, organize the house I trashed for 9 months, work on curriculum, reconnect with friends, work on the mentorship, do something about the weight I put on, research for the story I'm writing, tutor new students, and...oh yeah...


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why the SCBWI-MI Mentorship?

Why not?
There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. When I won the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship in 2002 with Audrey Couloumbis, I was shocked at my good fortune. I was also beginning a journey that would change my writing life forever. Not only did I make a lifelong friend in Audrey, I learned more about writing than I could have possibly imagined. Generous with her time and expertise, Audrey helped with so much more than the one work of mine that had won the contest. She gave me titles of books and different techniques that still guide my craft today.

How do you apply? It's quite simple! You go to the registration form, follow the directions, send in your entry, and wait for the results. For the low fee of $30, the worst that will happen is that your piece will be critiqued by three of our amazing SCBWI-MI judges!

This year, in response to the great need for more diverse literature for young readers, we're hosting a Multicultural Mentorship. I am passionate about this opportunity for two reasons:
1. The desperate need for new diverse voices in our quickly changing global world.
2. The chance for new writers to gain valuable advice and the opportunity to work with an established author.

This year's mentor, Patricia Hruby Powell,is a storyteller, author, and former dancer. Her most recent picture book, Josephine, won The Coretta Scott King Book Award, Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Parent’s Choice Award, Wall Street Journal’s 10 Best Children’s Books of the Year List, and the Bologna Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor. For more information on Patricia Hruby Powell, please visit her website: And for more information on the mentorship, please visit:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Love Affair with the Punjab

Last night everything I hoped and believed about Diljit Dosanjh turned out to be true. He was genuinely a good, kind young man. Yes, I say young man because he's two years old compared to me. And why am I putting this in a writing blog, you might ask? Because he was one of my first introductions to Punjab culture. His songs, particularly the tracks on his CD 'Sikh', were some of the first bhangra/desi sounds I heard. I fell in love with the beat, the round sound of the vowels and the rolled r's. Later, as I learned what the Pagri and Kara meant, I fell in love with the religion Diljit seemed to follow in such a devout manner. When I began writing my novel, "Leaving Home", I really wanted Diljit's music to be a part of my main character's journey into the culture. But I couldn't get a response from him. I thought maybe he was a fake.

When I met his mother and father this past December, I once again thought he was the kind of man I wanted to use as 'the voice of Punjab'. Add to that the fact that his extended American family are my favorite people on the planet. Raj, Ravinder, Happy, Harjit, Harpal, and the rest have welcomed me into their homes, into their hearts. They are my family, mere parvaar. As Diljit's fame got bigger and bigger, I started to doubt that he was still the man who sang and meant 'Gobind de Lal'. The man who seemed so passionate about the pillars of Sikhism - giving back to community, living a clean, humble life.

And then I met him. His concert was amazing. Better yet. He was humble. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the people crowding to see him. He seemed irritated by all the fuss to keep people at a distance. When I gave him the pictures of his family, he seemed genuinely touched. Add to that all of the people who went out of their way to make Monica Harris and I feel like part of the Punjab community - Satvir, Nazmine, Jas, and particularly Deepak...

Along with Gurjeet, Manpreet, Jaswant, Harjinder, Gesu...and so many others...I am touched and honored to call all of you friends. The love affair that keeps me writing about the Punjab continues. Tujade mere pyare.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Faction Friction or The Monster Under the Bed

So, I have several non-fiction picture books. None of them any good. And none of them catering to the current 'faction' trend. I told Jodell about them and asked if she'd like to see them and she graciously said yes, but that they would have to be sent now-ish. Before her crazy season. Ha! I forgot about my own crazy season. And that is not the only dilemma:

1. I have a huge lack of self-esteem when it comes to writing a) non-fiction and b) picture books (and c: writing)
2. While trying to download a seemingly innocent app someone had told me about, I incurred the wrath of the great computer gods. They were further angered when I had the unmitigated gal to download a rogue Spyware app. I have sacrificed much time and energy the past five days at the alter of the Trojan and Malware, trying to purge many a deadly virus.
3. It's the end of the year (as we know it...). 'Nuff said.
4. My non-fiction picture books were not of the 'faction' variety which is the only thing worth sending these days...or so I'm told. Therefore hard revisions (of the perfectionist type) are ongoing...and going...and going...

So why don't I throw in the towel on this seemingly hopeless venture? I have a million notebooks filled with research and a bazillion non-fiction picture book ideas. Besides, I really want to make this work, and, in case you haven't heard, I don't give up very easily.