Saturday, August 27, 2016

JOIN: Celebrating Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars 2016!

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

Two years ago around this exactly time, I finished up a revision of my first novel. I felt pretty good. Getting through a revision of a whole manuscript is a feat. It's truly a feat. So I got through it, realized the submission window for Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars was coming, and on a whim, I submitted. 

Maybe on a whim isn't the right was more like it felt scary but worth it and brave and right. The best part was it seemed like a win-win no matter what. If I got in, I would get to experience working with a mentor and have the opportunity to share my work at the agent round. If I didn't get in, my writing life would go on, I would revise and decide what to do next.

Well, I did get in. (Yay! Here as my Celebration post about getting into Pitch Wars in 2014!) I was fortunate enough to work with two brilliant women, Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver. They gave me great feedback, I revised like my life depended on it, the agent round came, I got one request, my life went on. 

I didn't get an agent through Pitch Wars but it did move me way further along in my writing journey. I started actively querying after Pitch Wars and since then that manuscript has been through a few different revisions...I don't even know how many at this point. 

This summer I decided to try for Pitch Wars again. I finished up a pretty big overhaul, tightened up my query, and submitted again. The same thoughts went through my mind, it'll be a win-win either way. If I get in, I get great support in revising my manuscript, if I don't get in, I reread, revise, reach out to my reader friends, and I go from there. Well, mentors announced their picks this week and I didn't get in. I was sad for a bit but I'm okay with it. 

Two things I've learned about writing since I was in Pitch Wars in 2014 
(even though I've learned waaaaaaaaaaay more than two things!):

1. People make it possible. (At least for me.) I wouldn't still be writing if it wasn't for people who support me, believe in me, show me what's possible, encourage me, celebrate with me, and see the writer in me. As much as I believe in myself and the stories I have to tell, I'm immensely grateful to all the people who agree with me. 

2. Writing is about perseverance. I love the term win-win because it defines perseverance. I make a move, I see what happens, I make another move. Maybe I have an idea of what I hope and dream and wish will happen when I make a certain move but it doesn't always go as I plan. That's okay, I make another move. See? Win-win. 

Getting to live the writing life with all my writer friends is winning. Writing is the art of keeping on. I'm always somewhere in the writing cycle but as long as I keep riding along, I win.

Thanks for being here to write with me! You win, too!
What are you celebrating today?
Have you taken a risk in your writing life?
And what are some things you've learned along the way?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

JOIN: ¡Bienvenida Elena, Disney's First Latina Princess!

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

Maybe you've heard, and maybe you haven't, but Disney now has a TV show based on their first Latina princess! The show is called Elena of Avalor and is a spinoff of their show Sophia the First on Disney Junior. Here's more about her debut at

I first heard about Elena when we were in Guatemala and my mom was excited to show me that Guatemalan singer and songwriter Gaby Moreno sings the theme song. Here's a link to Billboard talking about how Gaby Moreno Sings Theme Song for Disney Channel Latina Princess Show 'Elena of Avalor'. And here's the title sequence so you can see it (and hear Gaby) for yourself!

Friends! I'm so so so excited!

I messaged my mom yesterday asking if she would help make an Elena of Avalor costume for me to wear for Halloween...because, seriously, this is the first Disney princess who looks like me!!! My mom was a little confused but willing to help. 

I've always been a Disney fan. Disney World is one of my favorite places. We watch every Disney movie that comes out when it's still in the theaters. I can sing along to almost any Disney song you throw my way. We watch Disney channel more than any other channel. 

I love Disney!

I didn't think it was possible to love Disney more. 

Then they introduced Elena. 

And I'm nine again. 

Who knows? School is starting soon. I'm working on my ESL endorsement and participating in a pretty intense teaching workshop this year too, but I would love to have an Elena dress to wear someday. 

Also, if you aren't familiar with Gaby Moreno, her music and her voice is beautiful. Here's a duet with fellow Guatemalan singer and songwriter Ricardo Arjona. The video is filmed in Guatemala too and you can see places like Antigua and Tikal. 

Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with me this week and every other week. I'm so thrilled to be sharing new of a Latina Disney princess! It just brings the biggest smile to my face. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

JOIN: nErDcamp Michigan 2016!

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

The Sunday before last, I drove the few hours to Parma/Jackson, Michigan to join my fellow Nerdy friends for nErDcamp Michigan! Later, I told my neighbor all about it and she interrupted me to ask, "Is it really called nErDcamp???" Why, yes, it is!
I've gone every year to nErDcamp since the first one in 2013. It's morphed from one day to two days and has become more amazing every year. This year, we watched Most Likely To Succeed: A Film About What School Could Be to kick off all the nErDcamp fun on Sunday night.
On Monday morning, I helped with registration so I didn't run the 5k or eat the pancake breakfast but it sounded like a great time. I did, however, get a great seat to listen to six remarkable women share their stories and their inspirational words: Kathy Burnette, Teri Lesesne, Raina Telgemeier, Pernille Ripp, Donalyn Miller, and Kate DiCamillo.
Monday afternoon I presented with author Louise Borden on getting real with research and inspiring students to explore their curiosity and to offer opportunities for authentic research because of it. After that I also led a session on living the life of a coach.
And then it was off to the Nerdy dinner and more great conversations with Nerdy friends. Look at the goodies Debbie Ridpath Ohi shared with dinner guests!
Tuesday it was time for the more traditional Edcamp-style unconference at nErDcamp where I threw out the idea for a session on Pokemon Go...and people came! It was super fun to learn more about Pokemon Go with others who were curious too. 
Two years ago, one other teacher from my previous district came to nErdcamp and we met there for the first time when we realized we taught in the same district. Last year, one of my really close friends came. But this year, we actually had six people come and that was pretty awesome. It was fun to be able to share nErDcamp with them! And so I give you...a Nerd balloon picture with my U-46 friends:
After all the sessions on Tuesday and hugging friends goodbye, I stayed Tuesday night to lead a group of students through their nErDcamp Jr experience. It's such a great way to end nErDcamp because everything we do is really and truly about the students.

All the kids gathered together in the auditorium to watch as Jerzy Drozd led Raina Telgemeier, Jenni Holm, Aaron Zenz, and Eddie Pittman through an illustrating challenge. Then they were off with their groups to read and write with authors and illustrators. How cool is that!?
My group was able to write and draw with Erica Perl, Liesl Shurtliff, and Laurie Keller. So fun!
It's energizing to be around people who are part of my tribe! Being with others who are passionate about learning buoys me up as I get ready for another school year. Today I'm celebrating the people near and far who share my love of reading and writing but who also share that with their students.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

JOIN: Celebrating Guatemala 2016

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

I'm so excited to be celebrating this week! I've been in Guatemala for the last two weeks having a completely blast and soaking up my Guatemalan heritage. It was amazing to finally be able to visit the country where my mom and her side of the family is from and to see where my mom grew up and all that she has told me about Guatemala first-hand. 

Here are a few pictures from our trip when we stayed in Antigua, Guatemala. We visited ruins that were left after big earthquakes destroyed many of the buildings there in 1751 and 1773. Antigua was the capital of Guatemala before they moved the capital to Guatemala City in 1776. 

These men are playing the marimba which is the national instrument of Guatemala. My mom remembers marimbas being played at major events like weddings and my oldest son thought the musicians did a great job. It's pretty amazing how well they play and how they all coordinate with each other. 
One of the highlights of the trip for me was climbing a volcano! I wish we had gone closer than we did but it was definitely a hike to even get up to where I was in this picture, you can see the actual "peak" behind me. We climbed the volcano Pacaya which is an active volcano and one of over 20 volcanoes that Guatemala has.
Another highlight of the trip was getting to meet or reconnect with family. My kids met some cousins they had never met before and had a major blast playing with them. They played Uno and Rock, Paper Scissors, Splits and easily enjoyed each other despite not speaking the same language. It was so cool to watch. 
This next picture pretty much sums up most of the trip. After Antigua, we went to the Pacific Ocean and stayed in a resort on the beach. We played in the waves and loved the black sand. Then we went to a resort that had an amusement park and a waterpark and amazing pools. And after that we went to Lake Amatitlan and stayed at Santa Teresita that had thermals pools heated from the volcano. It was like swimming in a bath and it was lovely. 
At the end of our trip, we stayed in Guatemala City where we experienced some of the city life there. We walked to their big mall which was huge and gorgeous and had a Starbucks! I did miss my Starbucks while I was in Guatemala so I was excited to get to enjoy a Frappuccino there. They actually have a Churros Frappucino which was excellent. 
I'm sure I'll be sharing more pictures and stories from our trip but I'm so filled up with even more love in my heart for Guatemala than ever before and was so excited to at least share some of the highlights. I already can't wait to go back!

Do you have a favorite vacation or traveling memory?
Where did you go? What did you do?
I would love to hear about it! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

JOIN: Say Cheese - Character Snapshots

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

Two weeks ago my husband surprised me with a mini-shoot with a photographer for some family pictures. We were pretty adventurous and took the dog with us...and she did better in some pictures than in others but overall I'm so happy with how the pictures turned out. I just love my sweet family. My boys crack me up. They are so different and yet so full of their own unique personalities.
I might take a day this summer and write down everything they say, just watch them and make note of their mannerisms and the phrases they say all the time. My oldest just turned nine and my youngest will turn six soon. We had so many firsts with these kiddos when they were babies but there are still so many firsts worth noticing and celebrating and remembering. 
My youngest just this week started going down the big slides and jumping off the diving board at our local waterpark. On his first jump off the diving board, he walked to the end of the board, smiled, gave me two thumbs up, and jumped a giant cannonball jump, his face scrunched up in happy expectation of hitting the water. After he splashed into the crystal pool and his little head popped up out of the water, he doggy paddled to the edge. I laughed the whole time at his pure pride and shook my head as he danced his way back into line.

Everyone is full of his or her own personality if we stop and notice. This week I'm stopping to celebrate these little people in my family who bring us so much joy. Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with me!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

WATCH: Dean James Ryan's 5 Essential Questions In Life

Life has it's ups and downs, it ebbs and flows, we experience highs and lows. 

But if we can hold onto what's most important to us through it all, we just might feel like it was all worth it in the end. I thought about this as I listened to James Ryan's essential questions because if we can hold onto these questions - ask them and continually come back to them - our lives just might feel fulfilled. See what you think, here is the excerpt from Dean James Ryan's speech at the 2016 Harvard Graduate School of Education Presentation of Diplomas and Certificates where he shares his 5 essential questions in life.

5 Essential Questions In Life:

1. Wait, what?
2. I wonder...?
3. Couldn't we at least...?
4. How can I help? 
5. What really matters?
And did you get what 
you wanted from this life, even so?

And here's the Raymond Carver poem he references:

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

I'm good at asking myself what really matters: spending time with my family and friends, living healthy, encouraging others to believe in their dreams, reading, writing and having fun. Pretty much in that order...but not always.

Even though I know what really matters to me, I have to purposely make time in my life and find balance (as much as I can) amongst it all. But it's not easy!

Life is short. I believe in making the most of it so I definitely connect with these questions and hope to keep them close and come back to them often. I might need a poster of them...

Watch and decide for yourself if these questions seem as essential to you as he claims them to be. Take a few minutes to write down your answers to each of them and even write down your thoughts about the questions themselves. Then stop and reread what you have written. How does it feel? Then reassess, do these questions seem as essential to you as he claims them to be? Do they resonate with you or do you have variations to suggest? 

I would love to hear your thoughts...
and your answers to my questions:
What really matters to you?
How can I help you when it comes to what really matters to you?

Sunday, June 5, 2016


Mindfulness through writing is a powerful thing. 
I invite you to take a few minutes. 
Free write, 
make a list, 
write a poem, 
craft a blog post, 
draw a doodle, 
take a picture. 
You pick. 
CURIOUS is your word to explore this week.
Share your story in the comments! I can't wait to read about your week!
Thanks for exploring your story with me!  

Psst! Yes, you!
Wanna read what I wrote about when I explored the word curious this week?
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