Chicken Soup for the Soul’s “The Queen of Parking Spaces” Now Available on Podcast

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Queen of Parking Spaces by Debby Zigenis-LoweryChicken Soup for the Soul is a great market for writer’s wanting to break in. Want to know how I know? Well, when my only publication credits so far were with Cricket magazine (for which I will be eternally grateful; I don’t mean to put them down at all–it’s just I felt I needed to branch out a bit) Chicken Soup for the Soul bought my very first submission to them–“The Queen of Parking Spaces,” inspired by my relationship with my Aunt Judy. (Sorry, I know that’s a capitalization error, but I just can’t make myself type a lower case “A.” For me, “Aunt” is part of her name.)

What Chicken Soup for the Soul Wants

Here, in their own words, is what Chicken Soup for the Soul looks for:

…an inspirational, true story about ordinary people having extraordinary experiences. It is a story that opens the heart and rekindles the spirit. It is a simple piece that touches our readers and helps them discover basic principles they can use in their own lives….

Chicken Soup for the Soul stories are written in the first person and have a beginning, middle and an end. The stories often close with a punch, creating emotion, rather than simply talking about it. Chicken Soup for the Soul stories have heart, but also something extra—an element that makes us all feel more hopeful, more connected, more thankful, more passionate and better about life in general….

Keep your story to 1200 words or less. Tighten, tighten, tighten!

You can learn more about their criteria for submissions at their “Guidelines for Submissions,” and you can sign up for their free newsletter, here.

“The Queen of Parking Spaces” Podcast Goes Live Monday

To my delight, I have learned my “Queen of Parking Spaces” will have a new life. On Monday, it will become part of Chicken Soup for the Soul‘s podcasting program.

New podcasts will appear each weekday, featuring stories from their many books. Each day is themed:

  • Motivational Monday
  • Tip Tuesday
  • Wow Wednesday
  • Thoughtful Thursday
  • Friend Friday (Which will feature an interview with one of their writers.)

So if you need a little pick-me-up, you can tune in and listen to your heart’s content

What About You?

Have you had your short story, personal essay, or creative nonfiction accepted in Chicken Soup for the Soul or any other anthology? If so, please use the comment space to let us all know. Give us your name, the title of the anthology, and the title of your piece so we can support each other.

Do you enjoy reading Chicken Soup for the Soul or any other anthology? Use the comment space to share the title. Everyone can always use another recommendation of a good book.

Whilst I Lie Here Sick–My Life on Pinterest

Asthma! Grrr!

I am now on week 4 of lying about the house in an effort to recover from an “asthma exacerbation” brought about by high humidity and a respiratory virus. Basically I’ve been living at levels 1, 2, and 3 on the “Pain Scale” I adapted from the Samn-Perelli 7pt. Fatigue Scale.


Too Tired to Read! Don’t Want to Watch T.V.!

While being in the state of “Extremely tired, very difficult to concentrate,” let alone move around and do the simplest of chore,  yet highly susceptible to boredom, what have I been doing? Pinning. It is my favorite “brain-dead” activity. All I have to move are my fingers and my eyes, and as someone who loves visual imagery that is pleasure enough.


What Have I Done on My Pinterest Boards!

Follow the links if you would like to check out any examples.


Why I Love Pinterest:

As I already said, I am a very, visually oriented person, and so I love feasting my eyes on the beautiful images.

Better yet, Pinterest is eliminating my need for additional file cabinet space. No more clipping and filing writing information, historical references, recipes, and teaching, craft, and holiday ideas.

As a fiction writer, it has provided a quick and easy way to save other types of inspiration like art and photos for settings and characters.

And, it’s just a great place to collect things I love, all without having to take up physical space collecting them!

I think it has saved my sanity in these long boring days when even journaling felt like too much. Pop in on any of the links and take a peek. (Oh, and feel free to pin whatever you want; my boards are about sharing.)

Your Turn

Are you a pinner? Leave a link to your pinboards in the comment box. I would love to check them out!


Thanksgiving Conversation Starters


Earlier this week I read a great blog post by Chad Allen that suggested conversation starters for Thanksgiving gatherings. Allen reflected on how holiday gatherings can be both heartwarming and challenging. His idea was to create a list that could lead to meaningful and non-stressful conversations.

I liked his idea and I liked his list. So, I decided to create a list of my own:

  • Is there something unexpected that you are grateful for? What was it? What does it mean to you?
  • What is something wonderful/beautiful/marvelous that you have witnessed? What made is so superlative?
  • What one, simple, everyday thing are you grateful for? Why?
  • What is something new that you are grateful for? Why now?
  • What do you hope to be grateful for next year? Why?

As I look over my list, I realize these are not easy questions to answer. They take some thought. They also require more than a monosyllabic response. One could journal, in-depth, on any one of these topics (which could also be a worthwhile exercise).

One useful approach might be to print out the list, put a copy at each place setting, and let your guests answer whichever questions they choose. Or, you can toss out the questions one at a time and just see where the conversation goes.

It seems to me, if we can listen and share the answers to these questions with those who are dear to us, what an increase in understanding can unfold and what a blessing our Thanksgiving conversations will be!

Have a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving! (And indulge in some great table talk!)

P.S. Feel free to chime in with more great conversation starters of your own!

*The image above is a  jpg image. You may click on it, copy and paste it to whatever document you wish, and make it whatever size you’d like. Enjoy!

The Support and Nurture of Lovers of Reading and Writing

J Tower LogoToday, as I moved, tortoise-pace, through my day, I felt a deep sense of sweetness in this slowing and reorienting of my life as a result of last week’s visit to the ER. I savor it. I want to hang onto it, and fear I will forget it as my health improves. And so I memorialize it, in hope I will not completely forget.

I don’t want to hurry anymore. My spirit has been so at peace while unburdened by deadlines. I feel so much more open to and able to embrace the people in my life. And I am convinced the world cannot experience peace if we are all running and grabbing.

One of the cares that has driven me these last few years is a burning desire to be published. I have been writing fantasy novels for a long, long time. While my hopes for publication have not changed, I pray, as I re-embark on my routine pursuits, I can cease to rush after it with such urgency. I want to write and reach readers, but I want to write, revise, and submit my novels in a sustainable manner. Let God’s timing rule. Patience is sweet.

And, I want to return to blogging regularly. When I started Literate Lives, and again when I interviewed for my job, I said, “I love to encourage readers and writers.” But tonight, it feels like so much more. I long to nurture and encourage readers and writers. I want to be an instrument of blessing in your lives. I want to provide ideas and encouragement to help you embrace stillness, reflection, gratitude, and peace; facilitate your engagement in a literate lifestyle as a way to experiencing these things; and support the teaching and spread of literacy as a means toward a life well lived.

I want to love and nurture lovers of reading and writing. I want to support you in developing your own literate lifestyles and fostering literacy in your homes and classrooms.

So tell me, what would you like to see here? How can I support and nurture you?

Critique Partners Release Books! Books! Books!

Confessions of a Lousy Critique Group Partner

I have been a lousy critique partner. I feel terrible, but there you have it. The concussion I received last spring not only knocked me off my blogging feet, but knocked me off my cheer leading feet as well.

Books! Books! Books! New Releases!

Three of my writing friends have released books these past three months and I have failed to support them. (I even missed a launch party, yikes! My apologies, Diana.)

I intend to remedy this, TODAY. We’ll go chronologically.

When Sparrows Fall by Diana Blackstone-Helt

When Sparrows Fall

by Diana Blackstone-Helt

Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Sometimes doing the right thing means risking it all.

After her mother’s arranged marriage to her recently deceased father’s bitter brother, thirteen-year-old Susanna Stutzman faces a crisis of faith. Everything seems to be going wrong in her life.

As if her new father’s nasty temper isn’t enough, her cousin Mary, now her stepsister, hates her, as does her new teacher.

When Susanna’s discovery of a strange nighttime visitor at her mysterious neighbor’s home leads to the unveiling of secrets, Susanna is forced to make a choice between her conscience and her Mennonite community.

It has been my privilege and pleasure to watch this book and my friend grow–the book, from an idea to a rich, middle grade novel, and Diana from a fellow teacher with dreams of writing to a full-fledged novelist. I recommend both the book and Diana’s blog “Passing Notes.” Her most recent post, “The 8 C’s: Practical Steps Toward Publication” can be found here.

51L7bUgCkML._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Babylon: Center of the World

by B.G. Brainard

Biblical Fiction

Babylon: Center of the World opens with the biblical Daniel living in the city of Babylon, which is about to fall to the invincible Persian army under the leadership of King Cyrus. The wise man Daniel is an interpreter of dreams, signs, and visions, including the handwriting on the wall heralding the end of the Babylonian Empire. The novel traces the high stakes final days before Babylon falls, as foretold by Yahweh, the God of Israel and Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. In the midst of this confluence of divine activity, the prophet Daniel lives an exemplary life and stays true to the God of Israel.

Babylon: Center of the World provided our critique group a fascinating journey, Bev shared each chapter in the order that she wrote it, not in non-chronological order. (However, you don’t have to read it that way.) Bev is devoted to her Biblical studies and through the novel provides fascinating detail to help readers understand the times of this beloved prophet. You can visit her here.

The Body Institute modified for Liz approvalThe Body Institute

by Carol Riggs

Young Adult Science Fiction

This is a new, new, new release–just out Monday!

Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute. Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body–leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…

For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…

Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti-Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…

Carol and I have been roommates at SCBWI Oregon conferences and retreats for more years than I can count. I heard about this book while it was in the works, read it as a beta reader, and cheered for it in its odyssey toward publication. The Body Institute is a well-imagined, exciting read. Like many young adult novels, this one will appeal to more than just teens. Carol is a gifted writer and artist. Find out more about her here.

What About You?

Have you or any of your writing friends published a book lately? Feel free to share it in the comments. Give us the title, author, and brief summary. Who knows, I might have to add it to my reading list!

Literate Lives Summer Hiatus

Desire by Jane Kiskaddon

Desire by Jane Kiskaddon

Despite my best intentions, I seem to have stumbled into a summer hiatus.

I had intended to get back into regular blogging once school got out and I finished my revision of The Swallow’s Spring for gerunds and non-simultaneous “as” statements. (I thought this would take a week after school let out. Ha ha, the joke is on me. Due to ongoing issues with my concussion recovery, I only finished yesterday.)

This does not mean I will be ignoring the blog this summer. I need to do some behind the scenes work on the site in general and some organizing of my “Inspirations” system (which right now is little more than a folder that says “blog this”).

I hope to track down and create some original art for the blog.

And, I need to dream up a workable “rotation” for next year. Some things I would like to do include:

  • share interesting and inspiring quotes with you
  • share interesting and inspiring articles with you
  • reflect on my writing and teaching practices
  • update you on my writing projects
  • encourage engagement in literacy in the home
  • provide “Play with Your Words” exercises every week or two
  • provide reading response exercises to use with your child, your students or for your own journalling
  • begin a very slow, but somehow, still irresistable-to-me, exploration of Greek and Latin roots.

What a wish list! Please let me know what you would like to see. Look for a fresh start in September–a new adventure in nourishing our literate lifestyles.

About the Artwork, Ms. Kiskaddon  writes:

My name is Jane Kiskaddon  and I am a painter. Please walk with me for a while in a magical inner landscape of color and light…

Working from my imagination, I conjure up interesting landscapes, drawing from all the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit (Vietnam, Peru, Egypt and the Australian rain forest). Walking in beautiful Marin and traveling in my Airstream also informs my paintings.

Most of the time I use only five colors… black, white, yellow, orange and purple (once in a while I’ll sneak in a little magenta or blue).  Because these colors have become so familiar to me it’s as if they’re in my blood.

The forgiving nature of acrylic paint (its rapid drying time) allows me the freedom to make quick decisions and run with them. I build up many layers of paint to give the painting a richness and depth.  Reproductions are available.

My Portland Writing Workshop Experience

Chuck SambuchinoLast month, I found a notice for the Portland Writing Workshop, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. Now, I have been following Chuck’s blog, Guide to Literary Agents Blog, for several years. It has been a great resource for building my literary agent database in preparation for The Swallow’s Spring and Set in Stone to begin making their way out into the world.

I knew this was a workshop I needed to attend because, frankly, whenever I come across the option to take a marketing or a craft class at a writing conference, I just can’t resist the craft class. The sole focus of the Portland Writing Workshop was on getting your finished book published. No distractions.

So, Friday found me and a member of my critique group shooting up I-5 to Portland.

The day was divided into five sessions:

  • Your Publishing Options Today
  • Everything You Need to Know about Agents, Queries, and Pitching
  • Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique Fest
  • How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Author Platform and Social Media Explained
  • How to Get Published: 10 Professional Writing Practices that You need to Know NOW to Find Success as a Writer.

Chuck is a dynamo. These were information-packed sessions, that confirmed many things I had been picking up through my reading and conference attendance. I don’t feel like it would be fair to go into detail on his content. Just rest assured, if the workshop comes to your area, it is worth your while to go.

What I will share, however, are my notes from the Chapter One Critique-Fest, which was actually a page one, on the spot critique done by the editors and agents in attendance. My notes consist of a list of things to beware of on your first page ranked from most frequently cited to least.

On your first page watch out for:

  • lots of exposition/telling
  • a voice that does not match up with the genre
  • not being original enough
  • point of view errors
  • no conflict, tension, or action
  • starting out with what should really be back story
  • the narrative voice being too detached
  • not making the gender of the point of view character clear
  • interrupting the momentum of the story with a pause to tell about something else
  • leaving out sensory details that help pull in and anchor your reader
  • using unnatural, elevated language
  • using even a single adverb

That last one really got my attention. The pros all raised their hands for Chuck to stop reading when the writing included its first adverb.

I really got a lot out of this one-day event. Thank you, Mr. Sambuchino, for taking the time to do this, and thanks also for your wonderfully useful and educational blog. Both have been well worth my attention.