Favorite Thing Friday: Setting Major Goals

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This week I attended a training workshop for National Board Certification. For three days, my brain was stuffed with information about what a teacher has to do in order to become National Board Certified. Between reading and analyzing standards to completing insane timed writing practice tests I’m pretty exhausted! However, I know it’s all going to be worth it.

Achieving National Board Certification means a lot more to me than  simply having a few extra letters after my name. It’s about validating my teaching practices and considering how I can get even better in the classroom. Teaching isn’t about settling into the status quo. It’s about constantly learning and improving for the betterment of education as a whole.

After teaching for 13 years, I felt like I was starting to fall into a rut. The last thing I want is for my students to get stuck with a teacher who is stuck and wallowing in “been there, done that.”

I realized I needed to feel the excitement of discovery, again. I got a taste of that brand of excitement during the last school year when I was tasked with creating curriculum for AP Art History. That particular challenge got the adrenaline rolling again and now I’m thirsty for more.

With that experience in mind, National Board is sure to give me a major jolt! While the process is long and rigorous, I can’t wait to see what I learn about teaching, my process, and myself.

On the last day of training, I got a great piece of visual motivation to keep on my desk as I work. The organization that offered the training closed out the event by giving away a series of door prizes that only teachers could love. I should state that I never, ever win door prizes. So, I sat in my chair looking around the room trying to guess who would win. Then, they called my name for the first prize. Cool beans!

Here’s what I won:

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I got the green one.

Is this nerdy? Yes, but I love, love, love tumblers with lids and straws. I will be using this thing every single day, which means it will be a great reminder of what I’m working for and that I have a great group of people supporting me as I jump into what is sure to be a challenging process.

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p.s. Don’t worry I’m still hard at work on the writing thing, too!

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: January Status Report

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January was a rather quiet month on the writing front, but a few surprises still landed on my doorstep in terms of my goals for this year.

1. Pitch The Muse.

Four months after sending my first batch of query letters, another actual rejection letter arrived in my inbox. I was pretty excited to receive it as any response is better than dead silence. Despite rejecting The Muse, the letter was actually quite positive.  My novel was rejected simply because it wasn’t the right fit for the agency.  Even better, the last line of the letter told me to keep trying. Don’t worry, I will!

2. Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage.

At the moment, my day job is taking up most of my time. Instead of outlining, I am planning lessons for AP Art History.  If anything, researching different styles of art is going to help me as my main character Ian has a hand in inspiring some famous artwork. I may not be able to outline at the moment, but I’ll be thinking of Ian as I head into planning a unit on Impressionism.

3. Submit writing.

My last submission was my chapbook entry to the Writer’s Digest November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge. No word yet on who won.

4. Continue to build author platform.

I have a feeling my playtime on Pinterest is contributing to my Twitter feed more than anything else, but I can learn to live with that! Over on Facebook, I haven’t been around as much as I’d like. It’s blocked at work, so that makes it hard to post! Regardless, both have grown this month in terms of followers:

Facebook Likes grew from 350 to 357

Twitter followers grew from 542 to 544

Thank you so much for the follows and the likes!

5. Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence!

Let’s not forget the sixth “invisible” goal:

6. Be Flexible.

Keeping an open mind has already paid off. This month I was contacted by an author who wants to use two of my photographs in her book. Not only am I honored to have my photographs featured, but it feels great to have my work acknowledged with a photo credit.  As soon as I have more information about when the book is being released, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

I wonder what February will bring . . .

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c.b.w. 2014

30 Reads Went Fast!

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When I signed up for the Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, I expected it to play out much like 2012. I would start out strong  by reading one book every week or two, but then summer would hit and all my time would be devoted to writing (and crafts). By the time fall hit, I’d slowly get back into the swing of things, but not fast enough to avoid a December scramble to reach my reading goals. Whew! Now that I’ve written it out, I can’t believe I put myself through this every year!

To my great surprise, 2013 turned out to be quite different from my usual reading year. On October 13th, I officially completed my goal of reading 30 books.

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An incredibly lucky streak of fantastic books prevented the summer lull from taking hold and I suspect the extra time afforded to me thanks to having a student teacher had something to do with it as well.

Some of my favorite books this year include:

The Maisie Dobbs Series

A feisty, smart, and compassionate female lead sits at the heart of this series. Set in post WWI London, historical fiction has never been more engaging with interesting (and highly accurate) insights into the culture of the time. As a mystery series, Maisie Dobbs never fails to offer up unorthodox cases of intrigue that always tie to the evolution of the main character. All 10 books are unputdownable!

Original Bliss by A.L. Kennedy

A subtle, sparsely written novel about two disillusioned people who find comfort in one another. As their impossible relationship flourishes, they find reasons to feel alive, again. A truly remarkable read.

Divergent (Series) by Veronica Roth

Easily one of the best Young Adult series I’ve read in a long time. Roth’s wholly original take on the concepts of free will and choice pushes these ideas to a new level. Her apocalyptic world of a faction-based society poses powerful questions about government, society, and truth.  Anything that challenges young people to question perception and think for themselves is well worth reading!

Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins

Rather than write another biography about Jane Austen’s life, the authors of this book instead pick apart the world she lived in. Meticulous research of primary sources reveals incredible details about marriage, childbearing, childhood, work, religion, healthcare, clothing, and death in the early 19th century.

Gabriel’s Inferno (Series) by Sylvain Reynard

The fact that this is a romance novel with an intellectual edge makes this guilty pleasure one of my favorite books. Thematic references and quotes from Dante’s The Inferno  are brilliantly linked to both the story and characters. In many respects, it is refreshing to read a romance novel that works both the brain and the heart.

The Odd Sea by Frederick Reiken

Don’t let the minimalist style fool you. Reiken’s tale of a family coping with the tragedy of a missing son is a highly emotional and powerful read. Grief is explored from multiple angles and the ending invites serious contemplation.

Even though I’ve reached my 30, I’m still reading. My lucky streak of good books is still going strong and I have the additional goal of reading 2 more non-fiction books about writing and/or the publishing industry.

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How’s your reading life?

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c.b.w. 2013

2013 Goals: May Status Report

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The craziness of the final three weeks of the school year definitely dug into my writing time, but I still managed to make some headway on my goals for 2013. As I move closer and closer to the halfway point of the year, the more I’m realizing some of my goals need to be reconsidered. I did not expect Novel #2 to maintain it’s iron grip on my muse, but here we are at the end of May and it still has a solid hold on my focus.

1) Complete final draft of Novel #2.

Uploading my novel onto my Kindle Fire has proven to be a fantastic strategy for working on clean-up edits. I read through the draft one chapter at a time, highlight all the problems, and make notations on the changes that need to happen. The pseudo-ebook format allows me to see mistakes that otherwise get past my radar while reading the draft on Word.

As of today, I have completed clean-up edits on seven chapters. Twenty-two more to go! I’ll be on a plane later this week and I plan on using the air time to get through at least three more chapters. By the end of June, I’m hoping to be at the halfway point (Chapter 15).

In addition to clean-up edits, my beta reader sent me notes on the last set of chapters she read and she is LOVING the characters and story. Her positive feedback is highly encouraging and I’ve got my fingers crossed the last batch of chapters will keep her on the edge of her seat!

2) Work on converting Novel #1 into first person.

Still on the shelf (and that’s okay).

3) Submit 5 pieces of writing.

This is one of the goals that has me thinking twice. With all my focus on Novel #2, my muse hasn’t been too inspired to work on anything else. Whenever I do sit down with the intention to think beyond Novel #2, my muse starts brainstorming ideas for the sequel to Novel #2, (I am so excited about the story that is starting to take shape!). For the month of June, I’m shelving this goal unless inspiration strikes.

4) Submit three query letters for Novel #2

I reached my May mini-goal of rewriting my query letter. The format I was using before never really felt right, so I started digging around the blogosphere for advice regarding query letters. Then, I came across a post on blog I’ve been following for a while: Amy M. Newman. She posted the actual query letter that got her an agent, (See The Actual Query that Landed Me My Agent). The format is entirely different from anything else I’ve seen, but I loved how the letter felt authentic and human as opposed to a forced sales pitch. I crafted my query letter with the same idea in mind, but in a way that fits my personality. For the first time ever, I am happy with my query letter! Many thanks to Amy M. Newman for sharing her strategy.

In addition to revising my query letter, I am in the midst of working on a chapter outline that will help me craft a synopsis. Hopefully, all those book reviews I’ve been writing will come in handy when I try to write a one page summary of Novel #2.

5) Continue building author platform

During the month of May, I was much more visible on Facebook and Twitter, which really helped boost my followers on both networks. Many thanks to the World Literary Cafe community for visiting my Facebook page and sharing the love!

My Facebook Page has grown from  284 to 301

On Twitter, my followers have grown from 528 to 534

Thanks so much to all my followers. Your support and encouragement means so much!

In addition, my blog has received a number of new followers over the last couple of weeks. Thank you so much to all my followers, old and new alike. All of you make this journey worthwhile.

6)  Read three books on the writing/publishing process.

Veronica Roth’s Divergent series currently has me reading late into the night, along with Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. Perhaps, after Sylvia Day’s Entwined With You, I’ll pick up a book on writing/publishing.

7) Inspire others to keep writing.

As always, I can only hope I am a positive presence!

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How are you doing on your 2013 goals?

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c.b.w. 2013

Novel #2 Progress: All Done!

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I’m a little early with this update, but I am beyond excited to report that after five months of relentless work, revisions on Novel #2 are complete!

Word Count Progress:

Draft #1 Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 67,994
  • End Word Count: 75,808
  • Total: 7,814

Draft #2 Revised Word Count:

  • Start Word Count: 70,551
  • End Word Count: 79,002
  • Total: 8,451

Writing Process Notes:

  • A week off from my day job certainly did the trick. With nothing else to worry about during the day, I had the freedom and the time to write!
  • I ended up finishing three days ahead of schedule, which goes to show how much determination and motivation can really push a writer to keep going.

Novel Tidbit:

The Title:

Back in January, I stated that I would reveal the title of Novel #2 when I finished revisions. I’m keeping that promise, but with a twist. Ever since the beginning, I’ve had a working title, but I’ve never been dead set on keeping it in place. So, instead of one title, I’m offering up four! One is my working title and the other three are on my brainstorm list. Which title jumps out at you?

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Thanks so much to my readers for  giving me so much support and encouragement. Your comments and advice have all meant so much as I continue this journey!

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c.b.w. 2013