Saturday, January 24, 2015

About the Author

       Last summer I finally kept my promise & went over to my parents' house to start cleaning out my childhood bedroom. Unlike most of my friends, my parents have not moved, nor have they turned my old bedroom into a gym/office/crafting room. It's pretty much exactly the way I left it when I moved out. 

       Going through boxes, I came across my 5th grade entry into the Young Author's contest. I LOVE that I found this, and I also love the irony that I am now co-director of the Young Author's contest at my school. Full circle, people, full circle. 

       "Emerald" is a fantasy story in which the main character falls asleep and enters a magical world in order to find and save her missing father. The number of similarities to my current MG manuscript actually kind of weird me out. In my room-cleaning endeavor I also came across several other stories from as young as 2nd grade with similar themes ("My Trip to Cowzoomy,"and "Bubble Land.") I think it's really cool that the type of story I loved writing as a child--fantasy/sci-fi set in different worlds--is still the type of story I love writing as an adult.

       However, my favorite part of this find is my "About the Author" page at the end of the story:

       In case you can't read my stellar cursive: "Nicole Benoit was born at Evanston Hospital on August 27, 1980. She has a dad, a mom, and a brother. She has a dog named Rowdy, and two goldfish named Polky and Gumby. She is ten and will be turning eleven this summer. Other stories recently written by Nicole are The Search for the Devil's Head, Christmas Magic, The Selfish Peacock, and Pumpernickle. She attends Hubbard Woods School and is in the 5th grade."

       I think when I get published, this should be my "About the Author," no? 

       Anyway, I think finding my old writing at this time in my life is pretty much the definition of's meant to be. Look for my books "The Search for the Devil's Head" and "The Selfish Peacock" at a bookstore near you.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Make Your Resolutions Stick (Writing or Otherwise)


        I've had a love/hate relationship with New Year's Resolutions for the last several years, but not for the reasons most people have. Here's my beef: if there's something you want to change about your life, why wait 'til January to get started? I get it, it's a fresh start, a new year, the same reason all diets start on Monday. 

       As a regular gym-goer, I always dread the January New-Year's-Resolution onslaught. No parking spots, no free lockers, and 15-minute waits for the ellipticals. Don't get me wrong--I applaud all the people trying to make a positive change in their lives. But, why now? And, why don't I see the same people come June? 

       My big thing recently is to just go ahead and get started on whatever change you want to make as soon as you think of it. I think we've all heard enough stories to realize that our time here is finite; so I say, let's get to it! 

      But, since so many people love the New Year as a time for resolutions, I'd like to offer a few tips I've found useful in actually carrying them out:

1. Do it now. (See above)
2. Make it small and specific. "Lose weight" is an awful resolution (note I said awful resolution, not intention). To make these things attainable, start small and avoid vague goals. Better resolutions might be "Stop drinking sugary soda," or "Work out twice a week." When you have something to work towards, and can then see yourself reaching your goals, it's much more motivating. 
3. Focus on one at a time. Most of us have lots of areas of our lives we'd like to improve: work, health, family, friends, hobbies, finances. But if you try to tackle them all at once, you'll only get overwhelmed and end up accomplishing nothing. Choose one area to start with, and once you've tackled your small & specific goals there and feel comfortable maintaining them, then move on to another area. Or--don't! Relish your success and relax for a while. Good job, you!
4. Get a buddy. If you can't find a friend with a similar goal, then at least tell others about your resolution. Being accountable is a HUGE factor in carrying out your goals (see my previous post about this). If you're the only one who knows about it, it's much easier to just say "forget about it." But if you have someone striving toward the same thing you are, someone to ask you about your progress, or someone to remind you when you slip up--you can't just forget about it. My husband recently had a resolution that he didn't want to tell me because he knew I'd bug him about it if he didn't do it. Well, he's right. But now that I know it's something he's really trying for, I want to support him rather than nag him. 
5. Mistakes are okay. Just because you botch it up and eat that whole package of Oreos does not mean all is lost. Enjoy the Oreos, and start again the next day. Making changes is hard, but don't ditch your resolution just because you aren't successful at it 100% of the time. Didn't anyone notice that I didn't write a blog post for over a month in November/December? Yeah, oops. But here I am, back at it.
6. Reward Thyself: I am a firm believer in giving yourself a little pat on the back for a job well done. Celebrate your successes--and not just at the end of the year. The summer I was training for my 1st marathon and writing my master's thesis, I'd tell myself I'd get an ice cream for every 10 pages written or after the really long runs (note: this reward is not ideal if your goal is losing weight. Maybe buy yourself new shoes or get your nails done instead).  

And now, to follow my own advice on accountability, here are my small, specific 
Writing Resolutions for 2015
You hereby have permission to bug me if I don't do them....

-Read more blogs about writing, and make comments. Goal: one new blog/comment per week. 

-Do at least two rounds of queries for my middle grade novel (for non-writers, this means sending it out to agents).

-Begin new middle grade manuscript (I have two ideas I'm kicking around...will let you know which wins). 

-Write 2 blog posts per month. 

Meet you at the ice cream shop!