Shoo Fly, I’m Writing

How do you conquer the blank page? Are you a cat or a dog (or perhaps a bug aficionado) person? We don’t have any pets right now, other than some free loading spiders in the garage, but I spend a lot of time drawing animals.

Hope you have a smashing weekend! *


* No creatures were harmed in the making of this cartoon. 🙂

P.S. – Just listed 2 new illustrated cards in my Etsy shop! For the rest of April take 10% off your order with this coupon code: SPRINGCOLEEN10

NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Life is for Enjoying

It’s National Novel Writing Month and I’m participating again.  It’s so exciting starting a brand new project.

Although, I have to admit, I’ve never juggled this many writing projects at one time.  I’m thinking about buying brand new outfits–one for each story.  Then I could just change wardrobe when I open a different Word document (I assume my brain will make the transition as well).

Totally makes sense, right?

Even without the new outfits, I’m having fun.  This NaNoWriMo quote sums it up for me:


“Thirty days and nights of literary abandon”

national novel writing month

November 1st-30th

Literary abandon.  For me that means locking my inner editor in the tool shed outside–and really enjoying the fun of just making something up.

Last year I blogged about my NaNoWriMo inspiration–about how my brother inspired me to not only pursue my writing, but really enjoy my life.  The information still applies. 🙂  So here’s that post.

Life is for Enjoying

I first heard about NaNoWriMo five years ago, and used the general principles to write my first middle grade story.  I’d been filling notebooks with stories for years, but I did it strictly for the fun of it.  But I wanted to do more, and NaNo seemed like the perfect way to launch that spark.  So I started writing with more of a purpose.  The only person I told at the time (other than my husband) was my brother.  I remember him being fascinated by the idea of writing a thousand plus words a day.  He was a creative type–he drew, wrote, cooked (even went to culinary school), so he was the perfect person to understand the need to do a writing marathon in a month.

When I finished that first draft, I put it away to read it at a later date with fresh eyes.  Then, when the time came to go back to it, I decided I didn’t really want to write.  So I went out and got a job, leaving the story behind.

I was afraid.  Afraid to read the rough draft.  Afraid of what it would mean to move forward with my writing.  So I went about life and work without it.

And then a couple of months later, my brother died.

It was sudden–a brain aneurysm.  He was 31.

My brother was so funny.  He did the best Chewbacca impression ever.  He was also incredibly kind.  Maybe it’s the sharp finality of death that smooths away the rough edges of a life, but I truly can’t remember him ever being anything but nice to me.

But I think he was hard on himself.  He had unrealized dreams.  He had physical obstacles, like when he stopped working in restaurants because he couldn’t be on his feet for that many hours (he battled Type 1 diabetes starting from the age of 11).  But I think maybe some of his biggest struggles were more internal.  He got bogged down by dark moments, the kind that show up to shadow your plans and leave you filled with self-doubt and fear.

I know that fear.  I think we all do.

I have one of my brother’s journals.  In it there’s the beginnings of a story, some sketches, and some personal notes he wrote to himself.  One of those notes stays with me:

“Write damn you! Write! Anything, something, Please!”

My first instinct is to feel sad at that personal plea to his self, but then I realize that goes against what he wrote.  Because he didn’t want to get stuck in those paralyzing fears.

In fact the first line in the journal he wrote is: “Life is for enjoying.”

I remember my aunt said at his funeral that she was sad because she couldn’t learn anything more from him and I get that because I would love to know what he would have thought of the LOST finale (our last conversation happened to be about the beginning episodes of season three and the oh so random subject of peanut butter).  I also am curious what his thoughts would be regarding Twitter, the Kindle or his take on the whole new world of publishing.  I would love to hear his opinion on all of this crazy writing stuff I’ve been pursuing. Plus I wonder if he too would be blogging, putting his writing and drawings out there. Tweeting.

my brother daniel patrick opt

My brother Daniel 

But then again I know now, five years later, that I am still learning from him.

I am learning not to be afraid.  I am learning not to worry about regret.

And I am learning to enjoy my life, from random peanut butter moments to marathon writing months.

What are you enjoying this week?  Are you participating in any of the creative marathons this month?  Do you think I need to go shopping to keep my writing projects straight?

Have a great week!









Literary Hobnobbing: Let Yourself (and Your Dreams) be Seen

courage quote_opt

I used to say I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid.  Out loud.

I even brought my stories to school for my fourth grade teacher to critique.  I proudly wore, then displayed the button she gave me.  I still have it.

i am an author_opt

My kid badge of courage.


Sometime after high school, that courage deflated a bit.  I still wrote, but I filed it all away in a large Rubbermaid container.

Part of it was a lack of direction.  Part of it was fear.

fear quote poe_opt

Because it takes courage to put yourself out there–whether you are making new friends, trying something new, or setting goals toward your dreams.  Maybe you hesitate, fill in all the unknown factors with worry, or maybe you paralyze yourself with fear, imagining your hopes floating unattached, like the fluffy bits from a dandelion.

What happens when you put it all out there?

Sure, there are scary things, like rejection.

But, you also leave room for opportunity.

This past week I got the chance to be a literary judge for a local elementary school’s PTA Reflections program.  They were looking for a writer.  My dandelion bits made their rounds (thank you Andrea!), and they asked me.

The writer.

I don’t think it had anything to do with my once upon a time literary connections.

coleen meets babar_opt

Hobnobbing with Babar in the 80s.


The opportunity presented itself because I put myself out there.

 It’s not always easy to be open, but YAY for new opportunities!

But wait–what does a children’s literary judge wear?

Something classic, maybe Suess-ian or Potter-esque?

 Or, perhaps someone more inspired, more representative of Life and the Great Quest . . .

coleen finds waldo _opt

I found Waldo.  In my own backyard. 


Then I settled down to read the reflections of future artists.  The theme this year is Magic of a Moment.

Reading the stories and poems reminded me how much courage abounds in the young.

So, of course, I carefully swept the “magic of a moment” essence off those papers with my unicorn tail hair brush.  That sort of pixie dust is akin to the Fountain of Youth.

So if you’re looking to reclaim some of that gutsy kid attitude, I’ve left some on a dandelion in the Jungle of Nool.

Waldo will lead the way.

What are you mustering courage for this week?  Are you more of a TRUTH, or DARE person?  If you could dress up as any literary character, who would you be?

Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Putting the You in Blogging: What I’ve Learned So Far

first year blogging coleen patrick_opt

 Putting the YOU in blogging.

A year ago this week I started blogging.

Before that, the idea of me blogging seemed practically other worldly, like getting stuck in an elevator with Ian Somerhalder.

Just another dreamy idea.  Sigh.

But the more hours I set aside for writing, the more the business/public side of this job of writing became apparent.  I’d read an author’s blog, and somewhere in the cramped corner of my mind I’d think:  I might have to do this someday.

Still it seemed like something other people did.  Not me.

But then the idea planted itself and then grew until it poked at my gray matter.  It was time to do something, time to take another step.

writer evolution typewriters are heavy_opt

Time to EVOLVE.


So after stumbling across Kristen Lamb’s WANA blog, and then reading her books, I decided it was time to experiment with this blogging thing.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I followed her advice (note: all mistakes are my own) and started learning how to BUILD A PLATFORM.

And very quickly learned –and this is going to sound ridiculous coming from someone who writes a blog–that I don’t really like talking about myself.

Okay I will wait while you laugh.


So if that’s the case, then how do you decide what to blog about, especially when the blog’s brand is YOU?




“You’ve got to recognize, there will never be another you. It has nothing to do with ego; it happens to be the truth. There will never be another person the same. There’ll never be another you.”

~ Mickey Rooney

So be you.

Okay, but what about boundaries?  The internet knows none.  But not me.  Filter is like my middle name, and TMI is a VERY distant cousin.  This means I’m naturally less inclined to tell you what color underwear I am wearing. Doesn’t mean I don’t like underwear, or don’t wear underwear or don’t read blogs about underwear.  Underwear can by a VERY funny thing to blog about (don’t believe me? Check out the very lovely Jenny Hansen at More Cowbell).  Now maybe one morning I will wake up to hear the Today Show revealing a study that says:


Well then I’m going to have to reconsider the whole underwear thing, because I love me some inspiration.

Yup, I learned I DO like to sprinkle in some inspiration when I blog, but still I started somewhere WAY SAFER.  I started with bonnets.

baby Coleen Patrick bonnet_opt

This is like the opposite of underwear.


There’s no place like the prairie.  That was my first post.  I blogged about my favorite books from when I was a kid–the Little House on the Prairie series.  It kind of summed up a big part of me as a kid, as a reader.

And that’s okay.  You have to start somewhere.


And unfortunately I’ve learned that I’m a PANTSER when it comes to blogging.  No, I’m not talking about underwear again, being a pantser just means that I spend most Sunday afternoons with my face scrunched up in front of my computer writing Monday’s post.

Because I don’t plot or plan my blog posts.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the idea of outlines and planning ahead–and let me say I’ve planned and executed some amazing and detailed family road trips, but setting up a blogging calendar?

Um, so far hasn’t worked.  At all.

I’ve got my idea stash, but every week the only idea that sticks is something current, something with at least a tiny emotional connection, so yea, forget planning ahead.

It’s one reason why I do a lot of quoting around here.

But from other people.  Sure I’m a source of wisdom here at my house.  I’m handing out life lessons on a daily basis.  Why just this morning I got to impart this little gem:

Diarrhea will never be convenient.

With jewels like that, you see why I like to stick with Maya Angelou or Albert Einstein.

Besides that sort of quote might not translate my brand all that well on a Google search–which brings me to:


Search Engine Optimization.  If you blog, then you will know at least a little something about this.

Me? I’m still struggling to understand this—The Real Housewives franchise (and even the LOST finale) make more sense to me than this, but I’ve managed to think of SEO like this:


search engine building author platform


The more posts I write, the more information I have floating out there in search land–and eventually the repetition of me AS A BRAND should add up in the center.

Okay this is rudimentary and quite possibly wrong (and did I just call myself repetitious?), but I can pull up the searches that have directed people to my site and get:

Teenager washing dishes (a parent can dream)

Teen stockade (ditto)

These are searches that would be in the outer circles, because while I write stories about teens, it’s not quite right.  Like these searches:

Cooking with Pooh and liking it

Patrick written in poop

Toilet cake ideas

Again, not exactly at the core of what my blog is about, but I kind of like it because these searches also hint that somewhere in this blog is something funny.

Funny is important to me.


“Comedy is defiance. It’s a snort of contempt in the face of fear and anxiety. And it’s the laughter that allows hope to creep back on the inhale.” ~Will Durst

Funny is like a balm to me.  Sometimes life just sucks a big lemon.  People that I love are dealing with divorce, recovering from disease, suffering with pain, or money problems.  The world is filled with insane people.  And of course I’ve got my own obstacles to figure out—from the unexpected (my health) to the expected (but not easy) evolution of parenting (learning to add more “let go” to the love equation).  But it doesn’t even have to be BIG issues, it can be lots of tiny ones that kick up into a terrifying dust bunny of the mind.


too much on my mind


So yea, funny is good.  And sometimes you read a blog because you just want to know that someone else feels the same.  When I see searches like these collecting in my virtual Venn diagram:

How to find the courage to try something new


Embrace your story

I feel happy.  Because it’s positive and what I hope is a big part of the core of this blog.

Which brings me to another lesson I’ve learned:


Yes, there are weeks when I think—maybe I don’t want to do this anymore, maybe I don’t have something to say.  Especially when all the hard things about life come to wrap themselves around me, poking at my heart, making me want to fold up instead of sharing.

Except I belong to an AMAZING community of writers and bloggers.  Friends who randomly tweet things like this:


awesome blogging friends



And then I’m reminded that what we do, what we say or even what we blog about MATTERS.  Maybe we will never know the impact of our words in any given moment, but if it matters to you, it probably matters to someone else.  Maybe it’s someone at home or all the way across the world in Australia.

I have been lucky to come across amazing writers and bloggers first through Rachael Harrie’s writer’s platform building campaign, and then Kristen Lamb’s WANA (we are not alone) community (click on her site link above or see #mywana on Twitter or click on the beautiful peacock graphic in my sidebar).  It’s like your key to a writer’s Narnia.

I told myself I was going to do this for a year, an experiment of sorts, to not only see what I could do, but what could happen and also give myself the footing to be able to make the best decision for me when it comes to publishing.

I am learning as I go.  I am remaining open and curious.

Which leads me to my favorite part:  Question time!

I love when you take the time to read–and I love every comment and email.  So if you are a blogger, it would be super cool if you share with us in the comments how you put YOU in your blog.

If you don’t blog, then tell us why you read blogs, or Facebook posts or tweets or watch YouTube videos.  Do you do it for inspiration, motivation, laughter?  I’d love to know.

Thank you!!





Balderdash: A Writer’s Guide to Making Stuff Up

balderdash definition_opt

 “Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I’m delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever.”

 ~Baron Munchausen


This weekend I was reading some posts over at Catherine Caffeinated and found a particularly entertaining one on the subject of book reviews.

In it, she included this excerpt from an Amazon customer review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett:


“Where was the editor for this book? In the end notes the author confesses to playing with time. For instance, Shake ‘N Bake is mentioned but didn’t hit the shelves until 1965. A Bob Dylan song is referenced but wasn’t released until 1964. Okay, but why did they have to be included? They certainly weren’t plot points but is a writer allowed to just make stuff up?”



Well, it’s kind of in the job description.


fiction writing:

1.  any kind of writing that is not factual.


So um, what’s a writer to do?

I mean, how do you tame the pesky imaginations that long to smear the pages with historical inaccuracies?  How do you stop yourself from throwing your head back and laughing maniacally as you plot to twist facts and screw with the universe’s fancy logic and statistics?

Sounds daunting.  It’s enough work keeping a steady supply of coffee and ignoring the vacuum.

Besides, what about artistic license?

Check out what Picasso had to say on that subject:


We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

~Pablo Picasso


Okay, upon first skim that quote kind of reads like a riddle.  I think he meant something along the lines of this:


Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.

~Khaled Hosseini


So breathe deeply dear writers.  You are not merely a liar making stuff up, you are dealing in GREAT TRUTHS.

And this is a safe place, where nonsense knows no boundaries.  Your knowledge and creativity are revered.

In fact in the spirit of the board game Balderdash, let’s lie create.  Below are a few words.  Use one, two or all three to create a FAKE fact or statistic.

Chocolate       Elephant        Season     


 Let your imaginations frolic in the comments!


Embrace Your Artistic Voice, There will Never be Another You



Recently I met a writer who said she gave up on the book she was working on because another writer published one with a similar premise.  I don’t know what her story was about in particular, but she was adamant that there would be no reason for her to bother finishing hers.

It got me thinking.  How many books have been published about vampire love stories or teens fighting dystopian governments? A lot.  And I could continue on with the list of similar premises.  Because when readers like a book, they usually want more.

But even working with the same topic or premise, no two writers will end up with the same book.

Because artists have their own style.  Your experiences, your opinions, where you live, who you grew up with, what you do with your day–everything that makes you uniquely well, YOU, weave together and mesh to make up your tone.

It’s your voice and it is influenced by the tapestry of your life.

And we all come to the page, the canvas  or whatever medium with which we create, with our special voices.

For example, check out the difference in perspective on these Alice in Wonderland covers:






Creativity is open for interpretation.  (more on creativity here in this post.)


We writers, as we work our way deeper into our craft, learn to drop more and more personal clues. Like burglars who secretly wish to be caught, we leave our fingerprints on broken locks, our voiceprints in bugged rooms, our footprints in the wet concrete.
~Ross MacDonald


Your art is ready for your fingerprints.


A part of me wonders if maybe there were other reasons this writer abandoned her story.  Maybe she was afraid of not measuring up. I don’t know.

But I think it’s important as artists to embrace our uniqueness.

Stop comparing and start celebrating.

Because there will never be another YOU.


You’ve got to recognize, there will never be another you. It has nothing to do with ego; it happens to be the truth.

There will never be another person the same.

There’ll never be another you.

~Mickey Rooney



What are your thoughts on the artistic voice?  Do you have any advice for a writer/artist who gets stuck comparing their work to others?

 I love it when you comment, so please share your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂




Eleven Questions and Evidence from my Writing Cave


Game time!

The awesome YA author Fabio Bueno tagged me in the Eleven Questions game.

The rules:

1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions on your blog–or if you don’t have a blog, feel free to answer in the comments! Then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3.  Tag eleven people and link to them.
4.  Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Here are Fabio’s questions and my answers:

What is your favorite historical period and why?

Probably the Tudor, because of all the drama surrounding King Henry VIII.

List your top five favorite movies.

The first 5 that come to mind–When Harry Met Sally, Pride & Prejudice, My Cousin Vinny, The Sandlot & Rat Race

Your house is on fire. Your loved ones–humans and pets–are already safe outside. They have your driver’s license and a flash drive with all your backups (files and all the media you own). You have time to save one more object. What would you get?

A box that has notes to me written by my kids.

You can invite any three people in the world for a dinner–anyone alive. Who are your guests?

Funny people–like Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig

Congress/the gods/smiling extraterrestrials said you can only have one type of food every meal for the rest of your life (they’ll supplement your diet with vitamin pills). Which food would you choose?

If it’s aliens, they probably have a thingamabob to zap away my food sensitivities, so I’m gonna say pizza.

In an episode of “Friends”, they all reveal their freebie list: Who are your 5 celebs?

Ian Somerhalder, Jimmy Fallon, Rob Lowe, Jake Gyllenhall, Ryan Reynolds

(Huge spoiler alert.) Some people think the Hunger Games is bloody. In Harry Potter 6, fifteen characters die. In HP7, the body count is over fifty (see here). JK is rewriting the series, and she let you choose one character from any of the seven books to get a reprieve. Who would it be and why?

I can’t choose! Cop out I know, but I’m not messing with HP.

What’s your worst fear?

Being unable to keep my kids safe.

You can choose your own nickname, with an assurance that no one would ever mock you. Tell us your choice.

Since I’ve changed my first and middle names legally before, I don’t want another name 🙂

What’s the best vacation you have ever had?

Family road trip to Niagara Falls and points in between.


Hiking in the Finger Lakes region, NY

Congress/the gods/smiling extraterrestrials said you must move to any fantasy or sci-fi setting (books, movies, videogames, rpgs) of your choice—permanently. Where would you go?

I love the setting in the movie Mama Mia!

Thanks to Fabio for the fun questions!

And here are my 11 questions for you to answer on your blog (or here in the comments if you don’t have one):

1.  What 3 books would you take with you into your zombie apocalypse/alien invasion bunker (I’m assuming you all have one)?

2.  What was your first job?

3.   What song is stuck in your head right now?

4.  What celebrity would play you in the movie about your life?

5.  What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

6.  If you could go back in time for one day, what time would you revisit and why?

7.  What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

8.  What’s your favorite movie snack?

9.  What TV show is most like your life?

10.  If you could get on a plane right now, where would you go (all expenses paid)?

11.  If you could tweet to your 13 old self, what would  you say?


Anyone can play, but I tag:

Sophia Chang

Lisa Hall Wilson

Marcy Kennedy

Stacy Jensen

Sarah Pearson

Myndi Shafer

Jennette Marie Powell

Ruth Schiffman

Catherine Johnson

Emma Burcart

April Plummer


Oh and I also got tagged with the Lucky 7 meme by Catherine Johnson and Debra Kristi.  It’s been bouncing around the blogosphere for weeks and it’s been awesome reading bits of everyone’s WIP (work in progress).  The rules  are:

 1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP

2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.


I’m not going to tag more people–I think everyone has been tagged anyway!  But I will play along–so here’s a bit from my current YA Contemporary WIP:


     Liquid seeped through the neckline of the tank under my jacket and I shifted, noticing the open beer bottle Kyle had apparently left at his side.  I picked it up, holding it for maybe a little too long, enough to feel that the label was missing a corner–probably from Kyle picking at it.

  I moved the bottle to the floor. 

  Kyle stretched and opened his eyes and when he saw me he turned and scooted closer until we were face to face.   “Hey, you’re back,” he said as if I’d just stepped out to pick up take-out food.  “You’re head doesn’t look any smaller to me.”

  He pressed a palm to the top of my head, checking for psychiatric shrinkage, and I smiled.  I couldn’t help it, I felt missed. 


Have a spectacular weekend!!


The Indefinite Future of Someday



At the start of last year, blogging and social media were not on my to-do list, let alone part of any resolution, but they were something I imagined I would do someday.

You know, someday, the indefinite future.

As in someday I will travel to Italy and Greece, or someday I will use that trapeze school gift card (yes, I really have one of these).

Or maybe someday is dusting that stupid cobweb at the top of the family room ceiling fan–you know what I’m talking about, the one that can’t be reached without stopping to get a step stool or a broom.

So time goes by and that cobweb starts to dangle, it may even mock you a little by blowing in the breeze of the fan as you sit on the couch, but still you ignore it, push it off until the indefinite future, and then one day it’s gone.

Must’ve fallen off you think, some point between Masterpiece Theatre and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills . . .

But what if  left unchecked, that cobweb bans together with others of its kind, and is lurking close by . . . a giant, zombified dust bunny of regret?

*cue Psycho music*

Indefinite inaction = Dustus Bunnicus

Then again it’s only dangerous if that action was something important.

Like say fulfilling a long-standing dream.

So when the idea of building an author platform presented itself last year, I thought, But I’m not ready . . . someday my blog will come.

But I was curious, so I Googled and researched and read Kristen Lamb’s books We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer, and the next thing I know . . .

Domain.  Blog.  Twitter.  Facebook.  I was out there.

And yes, it was way out of my comfort zone and not what I had planned, but then again:


“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”

–Jane Austen


Now okay I cringe a little at the words “foolish preparation,” because let’s face it, I am really more of a planning kind of gal. I like neat stacks and files and research.  I don’t just hop on Amazon and buy something without researching it first (well, mostly–beware of that tricky Amazon 1-click setting.)

But even neatness and research can backfire and turn into Preparatory Procrastination.

Who knows what evil lurks behind clean desks and brand new notebooks?


Anyway, procrastination aside (please!) being out there was kind of the point, unless I was writing all those stories for the dust bunnies.



Maybe blogging is only a part of the dream, but the funny thing is now that I’ve gone and done it, well it makes the rest seem like it’s right there within reach.

Like a sparkling, clean ceiling fan.

I just need to go and get that step stool.


What someday is dangling over your head?



Novel Inspiration

It’s the second week of the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest and the talented Juliana Brandt has offered up another task:

“This week, we’ll cater to those of us who are completely possessive over our WIPs (work in progress) and don’t want to give anything too telling away. Instead of posting something intimate about our writing, post a picture or piece of music that describes your WIP.

What do you look to when you write? What inspires you? How else do you use your creativity? Music? Pictures? Art?”

When I write, I often have a playlist.  Here is a music video (and lyrics) for one of the more influential songs in my contemporary YA WIP (the one in the editing stages, NOT my NaNo project).

So let me know what you think my story is about!


Send a wish upon a star
Do the work and you’ll go far
Send a wish upon a star
Make a map and there you are

Send a hope upon a wave
A dying wish before the grave
Send a hope upon a wave
For all the souls you failed to save

And you stood tall
Now you will fall
Don’t break the spell
Of a life spent trying to do well
And you stood tall
Now you will fall
Don’t break the spell
Of a life spent trying to do well

Send a question in the wind
It’s hard to know where to begin
So send the question in the wind
And give an answer to a friend

Place your past into a book
Put in everything you ever took
Place your past into a book
Burn the pages let them cook

And you stood tall
Now you will fall
Don’t break the spell
Of a life spent trying to do well
And you stood tall
Now you will fall
Don’t break the spell
Of a life spent trying to do well