Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday and Black Saturday

I didn't venture out at the crack of dawn in search of specials yesterday.  Instead, I ventured out at the crack of dawn to work at LifeWay behind the counter.  I got up at 4 a.m., got to work at 6 a.m., and we opened the doors to a hoarde of people who swarmed in, grabbing up specially marked items.

The nice thing about working in a Christian bookstore is that everyone behaved.  No one fought over copies of Jesus Today (and that was one of the "hot" items) or $10 Study Bibles.  And we did something different this year that our store didn't figure out until well into the Early Bird Specials time of 7 a.m. until Noon (it was probably around 8:30 or 9 a.m. before we figured it out).  Some of our specials weren't ringing up correctly...and that was because they were supposed to be Early Bird Specials for Black Saturday...not Black Friday.  We'd never had that before and I've been working for LifeWay for six years in Greenville and four years before that in Houston.  The ad was very confusing.  So we had to pull the signage and go around and tell all our customers in the hour-long line that what they thought were specials didn't happen until the next day.  They actually were all forgiving!

Out of the hundreds of customers I waited on, I had only one grumpy customers.  Mr. GrumpyPants didn't say anything rude, but his body language screamed "I don't want to be here!"  He drummed his fingers, stamped his feet, frowned, snorted, rolled his eyes while I checked him out at the register.  For a moment, I thought I was dealing with my sons when they were teenagers.  But Mr. GrumpyPants was probably in his late 40s or early 50s...and probably in need of a nap.  Not bad, not bad at all for Black Friday.  I have gotten much ruder customers on a regular workday.

While I don't love Black Friday because of all the craziness, I do love working in a bookstore.  I love seeing what sells and what doesn't.  I often can predict correctly.  We had a bunch of books on sale for crazy prices...$1.99 for a Karen Kingsbury double book, for example.  I usually wait all year to buy some books and movies, because I'm pretty sure they'll be offered super cheap on Black Friday.  So, after my shift was over at 3 p.m., I picked up some excellent deals on books that I've been wanting to read for a very long time.

With the busy Christmas season on us, I may have to wait until January to read them.  Now *that* is really hurting my personal bunny.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I spent today getting LifeWay ready for Black Friday and Black Saturday.  It, of course, took way longer than we expected.  After work -- even though it was late -- I went over to my son's home and we sampled the smoked ham and fried turkey that we're having for tomorrow.  It was awesome!!!

This year we decided to have both ham and turkey.  My son had voted on the smoked ham, and it definitely is incredible.  But, I just couldn't stand the thought of not having turkey.  My whole family loves turkey and everything about Thanksgiving dinner.  So we decided on having both.  Did I mention that we also love Thanksgiving dinner leftovers?  They're even better the next day.

I can't wait to have the official Thanksgiving dinner!

What are you having for Thanksgiving?

Writing Patterns

When I look back on my writing career, I noticed a pattern.  I don't know if this pattern is true with others, but it made me smile how my writing follows my life.

Before I had children, I wrote mainly nonfiction for newspapers and magazines.  I enjoyed interviewing people and doing research.  I had a Canon camera and turned my nose up at automatic settings.  Even though I was also working full-time as a technical editor for Boeing, I still found time to write.

Then I tried my hand at romance when my children were very young.  Perhaps I wanted more romance in my life because I was a stay-at-home mom with two toddlers.  It seemed to me that there was an awful lot of messes to clean up...from poop to vomit, from blood to shampoo poured out onto the carpet, from spilled milk to toys everywhere.  My husband and I were worn out from hard work and little sleep.  Romance?  Ha!  I tried writing, but I have to admit that it was very frustrating.  I'd been used to having lots of time to write, but now I wrote as soon as my two boys fell asleep for their naps.  I'd have about an hour or two at my typewriter.  I'd given up on trying to write nonfiction, because I didn't have a way to go out and interview people or spend much time at the library.  Remember, now, this was in the early 80s and before computers and internet.

As my boys got a little older, I started really looking at the books I was reading to them.  Picture books?  Yeah, those seemed pretty easy to write.  So I tried my hand at them.  By this time (late 80s), I had a computer and more time.  The internet was just starting and I joined some writing groups online.  I wrote a lot of "picture books" that didn't sell.  Then I got a wild idea and submitted some of my "picture books" to kids magazines.  And, wow!  They sold!  It turned out that my picture books were really short stories.  I sold so many that I got a nickname:  the magazine queen.

Then an editor told me that I had a good middle-grade voice and I should try writing a novel.  So I did.  My boys were in upper elementary and middle-school when I wrote my first one...which didn't sell.  Change that.  It hasn't sold yet.  So I wrote short stories and nonficiton articles for kids magazines during most of the 90s.  I sold my first middle-grade novel when my boys were in high school.  I've sold 40 children's books since then, some fiction, some nonfiction, some picture books, some middle-grade novels, and one nonficiton YA biography.

My boys grew up, went to college, and got married.  I continued writing kids stories, but a couple of years ago, I decided to try my hand at writing for adults again.  I wrote a devotion for Gary Chapman's Love is a Verb collection and a true story for James Stewart Bell's collection.  After 30 years of marriage, I'm now divorced and maybe looking for romance again, because that's what I'm reading again, and I'm trying my hand at writing it.  My queries have led to editors asking for proposals. Oh happy day!

My boys have given me grandchildren:  3 girls.  One is 3 1/2, one is almost 6 months, and one will be born in February.  I'm reading picture books again.  I've got ideas for stories.

Hmmm.  Anyone else see a pattern here?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kelly Bennett's Newest Picture Book: One Day I Went Rambling

Kelly is a good friend of mine and I want y'all to know more about her.

Kelly Bennett writes books for children--both fiction and non-fiction. Her work also has appeared in national magazines and newspapers.

"I write what I know about--friendship, pets, family life," says Kelly, "But I also write about things I want to know about. While I'm writing, every story is a mystery--a mystery waiting to be solved. And who doesn't love a good mystery?"

Sometimes, the real mystery is what name will Kelly use on this book? Some of the names Kelly has written under are Kelly Goldman, Kelly Goldman Bennett, Patty McAndrews, Kate Donelly, and Jill Max, the pseudonym used for work co-written with Ronnie Davidson. (For more about "Jill Max" go to

A native of California, Kelly graduated from Huntington Beach High School in 1976. Upon receiving an Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts from Fullerton College, she continued her education at the University of California at Fullerton and California State University at San Jose. Kelly is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adult Program.

As a child, Kelly wrote her feelings rather than speak them aloud--a practice which led to the writing life she enjoys today. Her greatest inspiration springs from adventures with her children, Max and Alexis, and her husband, Curtis. Kelly divides her time between her home in Jakarta, Indonesia and Houston, Texas.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Where to Find Research Material for Your Manuscript

Your article or book should contain information that a child or adult cannot find for himself by casually consulting an encyclopedia or surfing the net or going to the library.

1)      Encyclopedia, almanac, or dictionary – Use as a starting point in your research of a topic.

2)      Internet – Be careful of your sources here.  Incorrect information is often repeated word-for-word on many websites.  Generally speaking, the information found on a college/university website (.edu) or those sponsored by a museum or historical/professional society (.org) or the government (.gov) are usually reliable.

3)      Children’s books – Use these first to better understand your subject; however, don’t use these exclusively.  Children’s books give clear, concise information about a subject, but you will need to know more detailed, complex information before you can write your article or book.

4)      Newspapers and magazines – These may give you more up-to-date information on your subject that hasn’t been published in books yet.  They will also show you different slants and approaches to your subject that you might not have thought of before.

5)      Government documents, public records, reports from organizations or companies – These may have statistics you can use.  They may also help you spot trends or attitudes of the public and private sectors.

6)      Classical books – These are books that have been used as references because of their accuracy and/or subject matter.

7)      Current books on the topic – Use the most up-to-date adult books you can find on your subject.

8)      Your local librarian – He or she can be a wealth of information.

9)      Interviews – Talk to people who work in the field of your topic.  Be sure to use interesting quotes and anecdotes from them.  These people have an in-depth knowledge about your subject.

10)  Expert reviews – The expert may be one of the people you’ve already interviewed, or else it’s someone from a college or university, from a museum, or perhaps from a professional or historical organization.  Ask this person to read your article for accuracy.  You can also ask this person for quotes and/or anecdotes to include in your article.  (Try for experts who don’t charge.)