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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

The Vicissitudes by Jason de Caires Taylor was installed in 2007 at the Moliniere Bay Sculpture Garden in Grenada, at a depth of 14 feet. It is Taylor’s most recognized work in the park, a ring of 26 standing children, holding hands and facing outwards into the current. The design took six months to make, weighed 4 tons in dry cement and was constructed to withstand strong currents and tidal motion. The ring symbolises the concept of life’s ongoing cycle and highlights the importance of creating a sustainable and well managed environment for future generations, holding reference to the ability of children adapt to their surroundings.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Answers to FAQ for Bloggers

Like many bloggers I'm often asked many questions when approached by other bloggers that are just getting started or that may have a very small following. So I've decided to cover six of the most common questions I'm asked by other bloggers. If you have some of your own questions, leave them in the comment section and I'll will try to answer them on the next round of FAQ's.

How do you keep your readers interested in what you write?
I don't know if I can answer this thoroughly, it's probably best suited as a question to my readers. But I would like to think it's a combination of being informative, personable and sorta funny on a good day. :-)

My advice to interesting. Be odd if necessary. But don't be mediocre. Offer your readers something. That something can be updates on current trends, news or reviews. It can be giveaways, contests or information about giveaways or contests on other blogs or websites. It can be funny joke to brighten their day, a picture that puts a smile on their face or even a rant about current trends or something that ticked you off that we can relate to on a daily basis.

How long should my blog post be?
However long it needs to be. But shorter is better every time. Readers come in a combination of skimmers, voyeurs and hungry word consumers. I'm a combination reader. I look around like a peeping tom and then I skim til I find something interesting and then I read the complete post if it keeps my attention. So the shorter the better. But whatever the length make every word count, so I would say one to two paragraphs. And don't forget to add some photos. Readers love visuals. We want to know how the photo relates to the post. It also helps readers decide if the post is something we are interested in reading in the first place. Think of it as a book cover.

Can you tell me where to go to get free photos for my blog posts?
Use your camera. Try Getty Images for royalty free photos, Picnik (Picnik will be free until April 19th. After April it will be taken over by Google Creative kit.) You can also use the Creative Commons search tool, FIST (Free Image Search Tool for Wikipedia) and Instagram.

What are some ways I can get more visibility for my blog?
Try guest posting. Guest posting gives you an introduction to new readers, provides backlinks to your blog and it's a great addition to your blogging credentials in the blogging community. To get a guest post, research blogs that may be similar in content to your own. Introduce yourself to the blog owner via email and politely ask if they'd be interested in hosting you as a guest blogger. Make sure and provide your blog URL, the theme of your own blog and the topic you had in mind. Or you can be open and state that you'd be happy to write according to what their own theme may currently be. Bloggers are fairly protective of their blogs, so make sure you have something to offer when approaching a blogger. Have some great ideas handy.

Another way to gain visibility is to visit other blogs, frequently. I personally believe you should visit other blogs more than you visit your own to foster a community of blogging and relationship with other bloggers. Once you make your post for the day, make a list of blogs that you will visit each day or every other day or weekly. Whatever the frequency is, just be consistent.

How do I get more comments on my blog?
Simple. Ask. Don't publish your post without asking a question, asking for feedback or ask the readers for help with a current task or future post. Also, remember when I said, visit other blogs? Well, when you visit other blogs, leave a comment. Hopefully, they'll reciprocate.

How can I grow my blog?
One post at a time. If you get involved in the blogging community, you will learn something from other bloggers. You'll find out about new gadgets, informative blogs to visit, innovative blog designers, new books being released or you may find a post on how to fix a particular bug on your own blog that you've been trying to figure out since day one. But you must be active. Every time you leave a comment on a blog, you leave your calling card...basically your blogging profile for others to see or visit, which in turn leads them to your blog. So tell the world in a meaningful way who you are. They don't know you have a blog if they don't know you exist.

Have questions or advice for other bloggers? Please share.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Alabama Writers' Conclave Conference 2012

I will be a speaker at the annual writers conference held by the Alabama Writers' Conclave, partnered with the Alabama State Poetry Society. The Alabama Writers' Conclave was organized in 1923 and has been in continuing existence since. Through the years, the Conclave has moved its conferences around the state to provide writers everywhere better access to its resources. The Conclave is today one of the oldest continuing writers' organization in the United States. Writers, aspiring writers and supporters of the writing arts may join. Sharing information, developing ideas, honing skills, and receiving practical advice are hallmarks of their annual meeting. The Conclave is also responsible for nominating, for the governor’s appointment, Alabama's Poet Laureate, a post currently filled by Sue Brannen Walker.

The Alabama State Poetry Society was founded in 1968 and is a member of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS). Their purpose is to promote poetry as a vital cultural medium, to improve their own skills, share opportunities, support one another, join with others who enjoy the written and spoken word and to delight in good poetry of every form and persuasion.

I will be conducting two workshops at the conference this year. One titled, Low Cost Creative Marketing Strategies for Authors. The other workshop is titled, How to Blog, Tweet and Facebook Your Way to Book Sales. The conference is held for three days and there is always a tremendous amount of information shared amongst authors and writers. If you're looking for a writers conference to attend this year, please consider attending the writing conference held this year with the Alabama Writers' Conclave. For more information you can go to the website at Also please take a moment to Like their Facebook Page and tell them Lena sent you. :-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Top 20 Sites for Free Ebooks

Well, with a heavy heart, I have decided to suspend Friday's Free eBooks. The reason being, it's very time consuming. Even with the help of my book loving friend, Ollie Moss, it still consumes the better part of my day to format, link all the books, double check to make sure they are still free the day of and to cross check and see if they are available on other formats aside from Kindle. Another reason is there are tons and tons of blogs and websites that are solely dedicated to informing readers about free books that I'm just a tiny drop in the bucket. So I've decided to list the several sites that list free ebooks for your enjoyment. This list is in no particular order. I've used many of the sites, some may require that you register for free first like Smashwords and Amazon. You can bookmark this page and use it as a reference.

Thank you for tuning in every Friday for past weekly lists. Hope you'll still check back throughout the week for other book related news, resources, updates and giveaways. Thanks again for staying with me on this journey! You can still keep up with Ollie on Twitter for her daily updates about free ebooks. If you know of some other great free ebook sites please leave a recommendation in the comments section. So here's your top 20 sites for free ebooks, plus a bonus one. Blessings!

Google Books
This Google mega ebookstore is loaded with books, most of them aren't free. However, there are a lot that are. Scroll down and look at the Best of the Free section.  

Amazon Free Ebook Section
A great listing of the most popular free Ebooks available on Kindle.

Project Gutenberg 
Project Gutenberg is the place where you can download over 33,000 free ebooks to read on your PC, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, Android or other portable device and too in different formats. 

Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers, agents and readers. They offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device. 

Scribd is the site where the world comes to read, discover, and share reading. It's like Youtube for documents.

An online source for free ebook downloads, ebook resources and ebook authors. Besides free ebooks, you also download free magazines or submit your own ebook. We tried the search function and weren't really impressed. Instead, try clicking on the categories or headings and browsing. 

The Online Books Page 
A listing of over 1 million free ebooks. It is hosted by the Library of University of Pennsylvania.
You can browse through the most popular titles, recommendations, or recent reviews from the site visitors. There are more than 29,000 free eBooks available here. 

Neotake is a new eBook search engine which has indexed several eBooks in various formats like ePUB, PDF, LRF, TXT, Mobipocket etc. It also has a mobile version of the site. More than 200,000 eBooks have been indexed currently. 

Free Nook Books (Barnes and Noble)
The creators of the nook ebook reader have a spot on their ebook store called Free nookbooks.

Get Free Ebooks
You can download free books totally free. The ebooks which you find within this site are collected from all over the net or either personally compiled by founder. 

A search engine to help you find out the ebooks that interests you. 

Open Library
The world's classic literature at your fingertips. Over 1,000,000 free ebook titles available. While the home page looks like it's filled with ancient texts, try out the search function and you'll be surprised at the newer ebooks you can find. 

This site is Connecting authors with open-minded readers, digitally. This site provides a great platform for new and evolving authors to reach a wide audience and for readers to give them direct feedback. 

Ebookee is a free eBooks download search engine where you can find relevent links for numerous e-books. 

Website offers thousands of free books for students, teachers, and the classic enthusiast." Lots of free classic books and literature here.

Bookyards has a total of 17,008 books, 41,784 external web links, 4,197 news & blogs links, 384 videos, 32,963 Ebook links and access to hundreds of online libraries (800,000 Ebooks) for your reading pleasure. 

They have links to loads of specific ebooks sites for kids, so well worth a visit.  Their selection seems to be largely Out Of Copyright ebooks, so thus not the latest writings obviously, but some jewels none the less.

Globusz provides a platform to new authors to get their writing skills test by the actual readers. And readers don’t have topay anything to read or download the content. 

Ebook Junkie
You can get number of free downloadable ebooks from this site. You also have the option of variuos categories to choose from. 

On this site you can download free ebooks for students and travelers in PDF format. All the books can be downloaded without registration. These ebooks are legal and written exclusively for Bookboon 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interview with Author Bernice L. McFadden

National bestselling author, Bernice L. McFadden, probably didn't expect being laid off would lead to a rewarding career as a bestselling author. But it did. McFadden was laid off and unemployed for twelve months. She says this was a turning point in her life because during that year she dedicated herself to the art of writing. And even after she found another job, she kept on writing. Nine years, a depleted savings account, and three jobs after being laid off, and hundreds of query letters later, she sold her first novel, Sugar. The novel, which is about a woman with a shady past who moves to a small Arkansas town in the 1950s, became a national best-seller. Since then, Bernice L. McFadden has gone on to write eight novels and one novella. You can visit her blog, Naki and visit her website for more info. Her latest novel is titled, Gathering of Waters.

Ms. McFadden, would you classify your most recent works (Glorious, Gathering of Waters) as historical fiction? And why the change in genre from your other genres of work such as Loving Donovan, The Warmest December and Nowhere is A Place?

I've always tried to include some historical content in my novels, but it wasn't until I started writing Glorious that I realized how much I enjoyed creating fiction around fact. This realization was a blessing. It was also an "A-ha" moment for me. I knew I was put here to write - but was not sure of my purpose for writing. I now know that historical fiction is my purpose.

In your novel, Glorious, you cover a large time, 1910-1961, what was your reasoning behind that? And is the main character, Easter, in any reference to you as a writer?

I love backstory. Every character has a past and I think It's important to include as much of the past into the storyline. It makes for a well-rounded character and full-bodied story. I would say Easter does have a bit of me in her. We are both black, female writers trying to make a way in the white world.

Explain to the readers the significance of the pink boa and type writer on the book cover Glorious?

The pink boa represents the character Rain in the novel and the typewriter represents Easter.

Sugar began as a poem and then evolved into a short story before becoming a novel. Do you foresee a short story collection or anthology of poetry in the near future?

Funny you ask that question. I've been thinking about returning to the short form. I do have some short stories that I would like to write and publish.

How do you choose the setting in your novels? Such as Mississippi for Gathering of Waters, Arkansas for Sugar, Brooklyn for Loving Donovan, etc?

I don't chose the settings. I allow the story to form at it's on pace. As the plot, characters and come together, the "place" reveals itself and I go with it. If it's a location that I am unfamiliar with such as Arkansas and Mississippi, I research the area so that it will come across as authentic in the story.

Can you briefly explain Seg-Book-Gation and how can readers help eliminate it?

Seg-Book-Gation covers a number of things:
  1. The separation of books written by Af-Am authors from others in bookstores.
  2. The absence of Af-Am authors at major literary festivals.
  3. The absence of books written by Af-Am authors reviewed in major publications.
  4. The fact that many books written by Af-Am authors are marketed soley to the Af-Am reading audience. Which of course limits the sales potential of our books.
I just returned from the Literary Feast Book Festival in Broward County, Florida. It was a lovely event. I was however, the only African-American author there. Readers need to make their voices heard. Call up the organizers of these literary festivals and demand that they include Af-Am authors to the roster. If the bookstore they frequent happen to have a separate "black book section" - talk to the manager and ask that the titles also be carried in the general population of the book store. African-Americans are not a genre! If you happen to be a book blogger who is not Af-Am - ask the publishers to send you titles written by Af-Am authors, so that you can review them for your readers. Contact you favorite magazine and ask why it is they rarely review books written by Af-Am authors?

Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her role as Minny in the film, The Help. You said you saw the film, and enjoyed it. But did not read the book because "African-American writers had tackled the same story numerous times - and those writers weren't given the opportunity to have their stories read by Ms. Ann and Mr. Charlie (white people). And when I say given the opportunity, I mean to say that their books were not marketed/promoted over that seam that has turned into a chasm in the literary community - known as the color line. " Do you still feel strongly about not reading it? And who's responsibility is it to change the "machine behind the book?"

I finally broke down and bought the book. I have not finished reading it. But I think Stockett is a strong writer. The book is certainly engaging. We have to create our own machine. If we get behind a book - the publisher will automatically follow. It's all about sales and numbers.

You also write racy, humorous fiction under the pseudonym, Geneva Holliday. What has your alter ego, Geneva Holliday, been up to?

Geneva Holliday is on an extended vacation. Last time I heard from her, she was hanging out on a beach in Bequia.

I recently saw a photo of actress Kimberly Elise reading a copy of Sugar and I instantly became excited just thinking of Kimberly playing the role of Sugar. There is speculation in the literary world that Sugar may finally come to the tv or the big screen? Is this true? Please say it is so.

Yes, Kimberly Elise has optioned the stage and film rights to Sugar. I have my fingers crossed that something magical and wonderful will come of this!

You have a short story, Keeper of Keys, available via Kindle on Amazon for .99 cents. What are your thoughts about books and stories set at a low price point, especially when so many traditionally published authors seem to have an aversion to selling eBooks at .99 cents?

It's difficult. People price their books low in order to gain attention and of course make some money. I priced Keeper of Keys for .99 because it's a novella - a long, short story. I hope that people will read it, enjoy it and then seek out and purchase my higher priced worked.

If you could recommend only one of your books to a reader unfamiliar with your work which book would you recommend? And why?

That's so hard!!! I guess I would recommend The Warmest December, to start with. Only because it's a contemporary story that closely mirrors my own life with my father. I think it's a great introduction to my work.

What are 3 things every aspiring writer should do and 3 things they should not do or avoid doing?

Aspiring writers should: Read, read, read!!!
Aspiring writers: Should not be dejected by rejection. They should not worry about what's trending in the literary market place. They should not feel that if they don't write every day - that they are not "real" writers. I write when I'm inspired and that may be once or twice a month.

What's the best advice you have ever been given?

Keep the faith - all will work out in the end.

What are you currently working on?

I'm thinking about writing a book about the holocaust.

What do you want readers to know about Bernice L. McFadden that they may not already know?

That in my later life, I'd like to open up an artist colony near a beautiful beach...

Thank you Ms. McFadden for sharing with us today. It is truly in a honor and a highlight for me.

To view an video of Ms. McFadden discussing her book, Glorious, watch the Youtube video below. 
She is also on Twitter and Facebook, so stop by and drop her a comment. :-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

This beautiful baby's photo has been circulating on Facebook.
I thought this photo was taken by photographer
Rachel Vanoven. But it wasn't.  :(
Still don't know who took it, let me know if you find out.
But you can still visit Rachel's blog and see a gallery full of beautiful
baby photos. Makes a great writing prompt. I was instantly thinking
is this baby asleep, how did they get her to be still and where did she
get the cute crochet hat? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Review

It's been a week since I attended the AWP Annual Conference and Bookfair. I took plenty of notes, met some fantastic people and got inspired to write, write, write. Which is what I've been up to lately, lots of writing. I completed a few writing assignments and projects and I began some new ones.

There were dozens of workshops to choose from every day. I attended with my friend and we decided to split up the entire duration of the conference in order to cover more topics and then go over our notes together at the end of the weekend. And the planned worked out great.

Here's the list of workshops I attended during our four days at the AWP Conference. The workshops with asterisks were most helpful and insightful.

R113. New Media for New (and Old) Authors and Writers *
(Priscilla Long, Matt Briggs, Waverly Fitzgerald, Rebecca Agiewich, Cynthia Hartwig)
Private Dining Room 2, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
What do writers need to know about blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LibraryThing, Goodreads, YouTube, SheWrites,, and author pages on these sites and other new media? What is essential? What is too much? What about that book trailer? What considerations and issues should we authors and writers reflect on as we negotiate these new ways of connecting and communicating? Is ignoring all of this an option? What is the downside?

R127. Ideas That Always Work; Solutions That Never Fail: Best Practices for the Creative Writing Workshop
(Christopher Castellani, Ethan Gilsdorf, Lisa Borders, Jill McDonough)
Continental A, Hilton Chicago, Lobby Level
Every workshop has problems: the dude who won’t stop talking; the lady who keeps psychoanalyzing; the inappropriately dirty/violent/creepy story. Every workshop needs new ideas: unique exercises that always yield worthwhile pages; rules that structure conversation without squashing spontaneity. In this panel, instructors of all genres will share case studies of how they deal with common problems and also reveal their best strategies for maximizing the effectiveness and fairness of workshops. 

R161. Behind the Scenes of Implementing a Successful iPad and Tablet Publishing System
(Rajesh Padinjaremadam, Paul Joseph)
Marquette, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
iPad and other tablets are evolving as an important channel for publishers. However, publishing to these tablets presents multiple challenges for business models, technology roadmaps, content creation, and reformatting workflows. This session speaks about the best practices in publishing content to tablets for newspapers and magazines, based on our experience working with a number of publishers.

R179. Nikki Giovanni: A Cave Canem Legacy Conversation
(Alison Meyers, Nikki Giovanni, Thomas Sayers Ellis)
Grand Ballroom, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor
Called the Princess of Black Poetry in her early career, Nikki Giovanni has for four decades engaged deeply with the political and the personal. A popular poet whose versatile work inspires and challenges both adults and youth, she has received over twenty honorary degrees and numerous literary awards. Following Ms. Giovanni’s brief reading, Thomas Sayers Ellis will conduct a wide-ranging conversation with the distinguished poet who declares, “Writing is... what I do to justify the air I breathe.” My Favorite Workshop! I met Nikki Giovanni and took a photo with her. It was fantastic. She is full of insight. She was witty and engaging. I was on the edge of my seat listening to every word.

R221. What about Blog?: How Blogging Can Propel Your Career and Polish Your Craft
(Sarah Klenakis, Turi Fesler, Claire Bidwell Smith, Rachel Vogel, Caitlin Leffel)
State Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor
Sure, lots of writers blog, but what can you do to actually capitalize from your daily posts? A writer, editor, literary agent, and blog sponsor come together to discuss what appeals to them when reading online, how you can better attract followers, make money from your blogging, and possibly even find a job. From sharing success stories to blogging “don’ts,” this panel will clarify the murky waters that surround online writing.

R241. You Wrote It, Now Promote It: DIY Publicity for the Busy Writer
(Brendan Constantine, Kim Dower, Janice Eidus, Elise Paschen, Douglas Kearney)
Empire Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, Lobby Level
At a time when publishing is in a profound state of flux, there is no one right way to promote a book. Whether you do fifty events in fifty days or six in six months, there are ways to find and connect with an audience. Each panelist in this diverse group has stories to share of the modern marketing tactics they’ve used to promote their work. Join them for a wide-ranging discussion on the hazards and unexpected pleasures of juggling a new book with a new baby, family, jobs, and sanity. 

Off-site Events We Attended That Evening
Join BLOOM for the launch of DIvining Divas, a poetry anthology of poetry by gay men (many of whom have appeared in BLOOM). Contributors reading from anthology: * Richard Blanco ENDORA/Bewitched * Jericho Brown DIANA ROSS * Regie Cabico NINA SIMONE * Bryan Borland MAYA ANGELOU * Joseph Campana AUDREY HEPBURN * Steve Fellner MISS PIGGY * Charles Flowers BARBRA STREISAND * Michael Klein LAURA NYRO * Paul Lisicky JONI MITCHELL * Lonely Christopher GERTRUDE STEIN * Angelo Nikolopoulos GRETA GARBO * Ruben Quesada OPRAH WINFREY * Douglas Ray DIXIE CARTER/Designing Women Special guests include: * Sarah Browning * Elaine Sexton * Dorianne Laux * Kathie Berquist * Ana Bozicevic (Really enjoyed meeting new people. There were about 6 women in the entire club and the club was packed, my friend and I were probably the only two single straight ladies. It was so much fun though. I don't think I've ever been in a club full of men that weren't looking for women. Loved it. I met a great writer there as well. Hey Josh!)

AWP 2012 Karaoke Idol 
Held at the Beauty Bar
After readings and other literary events, presses from Chicago and beyond will battle for the AWP 2012 Karaoke Idol throne, followed by Karaoke-dance party. Karaoke Idol Judges: Amy Guth, Joe Meno, and Patrick Sommerville. Presented by Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), Artifice Mag, Curbside Splendor, Featherproof Books -- contestants, more info to come... (This was hilarious. Attendees really let loose and had fun. The only thing I didn't like was the long line outside to get in. It was freezing cold and I was not happy about it at all.)

F105. Behind the Book: Debut Authors Reveal the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Kristen-Paige Madonia, Alexander Yates, Amina Gautier, E.C. Osondu)
Continental B, Hilton Chicago, Lobby Level
From requesting book blurbs to receiving first reviews, authors discuss the road to publication and the speed bumps they stumbled on along the way. Panelists will address the pros and cons of publishing with large houses versus university presses and will focus on the mysterious window of time between signing contracts and launching their debuts by discussing things they wish they’d known, things they never expected, and tricks they’re glad they used to prepare for their first book publication. 

F125. Writing for Young Adults *
(April Lindner, Marilyn Nelson, Helen Frost, Curtis Crisler, Meg Kearney)
Astoria, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
Young adult literature is as diverse and ambitious as any literature. What is the appeal of writing for a younger audience, and what are the practical concerns of the author who writes literary YA poetry or fiction? A panel of poets and novelists will explore the vibrant world of YA literature and examine the many ways in which it literature can be relevant, experimental, traditional, and necessary.

F155. How Far is Too Far? Facing Self-Censors and Publishing Censors When Writing about Coming-of-Age for Young Adults *
(Laura Otto, Ann Angel, Daniel Kraus, Penny Blubaugh, Ricki Thompson)
Joliet, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
When writers work to capture the emerging adult at the end of the young adult journey to independence, they find their characters exploring the forbidden adult world. These stories often depict experimentation with drugs, alcohol, and sexuality. How do writers, compelled to tell the truth of the adolescent’s journey respond to the interior voice that warns, “You can’t write that”?

F205. Bridging the Gaps of Race, Gender, and Culture in Children’s and Young Adult Literature *
(Kekla Magoon, René Colato Laínez, Debby Dahl Edwardson, Bridget Birdsall)
Joliet, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Caucasians will be a minority in the U.S. by the year 2020. The new multiracial face of America is bridging cultural divides on many levels and embracing a brave new world where geeks, freaks, and queers can likewise no longer be hidden in literary closets. As reading rates decline, children’s writers are uniquely poised to promote a literature that better acknowledges who we are becoming. This panel will help writers give voice to the other in a meaningful way.

F241. The Literati: Deconstructing Publishing Myths for Writers
(Ben Pfeiffer, Danielle Evans, Brian Shawver, Joe Miller, Jacinda Townsend)
Empire Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, Lobby Level
Authors address misconceptions about publishing, including how agents are found, the importance of networking, and publishing as it relates to writing. Unpublished writers often become consumed with anxiety about the world of publishing, asking questions such as: Why is no one publishing me? Do I not know the right people? The panel seeks to return the focus of publication from gimmickry to writing itself, emphasizing craft, hard work, awareness of form, and the mechanics of language.

F153. A Reading and Conversation with Jaimy Gordon and Rebecca Skloot 
(Jaimy Gordon, Rebecca Skloot, Donna Seaman)
Grand Ballroom, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor
A reading and conversation by best-selling authors Jaimy Gordon and Rebecca Skloot. The conversation will be moderated by critic and editor Donna Seaman. (I met Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I took a picture with her :-)) She's very pretty.

F247. A Reading and Conversation with Esmeralda Santiago and Jesmyn Ward, Sponsored by Columbia College Chicago Poetry & Nonfiction Programs
(Esmeralda Santiago, Jesmyn Ward, Samuel Park)
Grand Ballroom, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor
A reading and conversation by best-selling authors Esmeralda Santiago and Jesmyn Ward. The event will be introduced and moderated by Columbia College faculty member and novelist Samuel Park.

F248. A Reading and Conversation with U.K. and U.S. Poets Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Philip Levine, Sponsored by the Poetry Foundation
(Don Share, Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Levine)
International Ballroom North & South, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor
The Poetry Foundation presents a reading and conversation by the current United Kingdom and United States poets laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Philip Levine. The event will be introduced and moderated by Poetry magazine senior editor, Don Share. (I met the Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate, Philip Levine. He is very charming and witty. Would've loved to have a sit down with him. There was a crowd of people waiting to see him, so I didn't get a chance to take a photo with him. But he did autograph a copy of his book that I purchased :-))

S103. Connecting with Readers via Your Website and Social Media
(Michele Wolf, Kim Addonizio, Leslie Pietrzyk, Matt Bell, Paul Lisicky)
Boulevard Room A,B,C, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor
Having a vibrant, user-friendly Web presence—via your own website (supplementing a publisher’s and/or employer’s page for you), blogging, Facebook, and other social media—has become a key asset for engaging readers and students, being part of the conversation, and expanding interest in your work. Learn how to create an appealing, fun-to-click site that best represents your books and passions, what resources and social media contact that readers most appreciate, and what pitfalls to avoid. For me, this workshop didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Was really basic :-(

S140. Queer Voices in Young Adult Literature **
(M. Molly Backes, Meagan Brothers, Alexandra Diaz, James Klise)
Crystal Room, Palmer House Hilton, 3rd Floor
Do queer and questioning teen readers recognize themselves in young adult literature? How does our culture of book banning affect the queer stories we tell? What counts as queer, anyway—does the term include gender identity as well as sexuality? This panel brings together five YA authors whose books feature LGBT, questioning, and cross-dressing characters for a lively discussion of inclusion, visibility, censorship, what we owe today’s youth… and what we can deliver. Loved, loved, loved this workshop. Did I mention I loved this workshop? The panel of speakers at this workshop were friendly, insightful and very encouraging. I left this workshop wanting to write immediately. 

S168. Kids Today: Teaching and Administrating a Young Writers’ Conference
(Juliana Gray, Carrie Jerrell, Rahul Mehta, Susan Morehouse, Margo Figgins)
Red Lacquer Room, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor
How do you teach teens the elements of literary craft then sing karaoke with them later the same night? Join teachers and administrators of the Alfred University Creative Writing Summer Institute, the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, and the UVA Young Writers Workshop—and a former UVAYW student—to find out. We’ll discuss pedagogy, activities, and how young writers’ conferences can recruit promising undergraduates to your university. 

S191. Coloring Outside the Lines *
(Sandra M. Yee, J. Michael Martinez, Jamaal May, Dina Omar, Jane Wong)
Red Lacquer Room, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor
Poets and scholars who identify as writers of color explore connections between racial/ethnic identity and writing. How do we respond to the pressure to represent our cultures? How can we create better support systems for each other? Can (should) we initiate healthier dialogues on race, and who is obliged to take a leadership role in initiating this kind of dialogue? And what does our own writing reveal about how we’re redefining the boundaries of racial and ethnic identity?

S203. Writing About Social Issues in Children’s & Young Adult Books **
(Renee Watson, Coe Booth, Shadra Strickland)
Lake Michigan, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor
Though the language of children’s literature might be simplified for its audience, the content and craft does not have to compromise its substance and complexity. In this session, panelists talk about the importance of presenting social issues in children’s literature. They will speak about preaching vs. storytelling and share how books about sensitive topics provide a starting place for conversations with children. Authors will read excerpts of their works, followed by a discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop. Imagine my surprise to see Coe Booth on the panel. She is the author of the YA book, Tyrell. My kids have all read this book and I was so disappointed they didn't have books to sell to have autographed. I didn't know she would be there, (oversight on my part) and so I didn't bring my kids copy. But she and Renee Watson offered some of the best advice at the workshop about censorship and writing for young adults facing social issues.)

S218. The Dome of Heaven: Making an Independent Film
(Diane Glancy, Thirza Defoe)
Boulevard Room A,B,C, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor
Independent filmmaking is in. Every time I open my e-mail, I find a new festival. In 2010, I made a film. Several components came together: money, actors, crew, and location. Two weeks and $200,000 later, I had a film, The Dome of Heaven. Independent filmmaking is much like writing a book. It's harder, of course, because many people are involved, but completing draft after draft in filming and editing, submitting the film to festivals, and being accepted or rejected, is similar to the writing process.

This conference was beneficial and rewarding. I learned to prioritize my writing assignments. I was inspired to get back to the passion of writing and to complete some projects I had put on the back burner. I met some fantastic people from all walks of life, from different points in their writing career, some voracious readers and some great bloggers. I will share some more of that in the future. To learn more, go to the AWP website.

Stay tuned this week for my interview with award winning author, Bernice L. McFadden, author of Sugar, This Bitter Earth, The Warmest December, Glorious and Gathering of Waters, just to name a few of her titles. She had some interesting things to say as we discussed the publishing machine behind books and her book Sugar coming to the big screen.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lunar Love Giveaway Hop

This hop begins on the day of a full moon and will feature books with paranormal, supernatural, science fiction or space travel element or books that have something to do with the moon or have a moon on their cover. This hop is sponsored by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer and Bookworm Lisa. This giveaway runs from Thursday, March 8th til Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at midnight.

How to enter:
1. Must be a follower of my blog
All other options on the Rafflecopter form are optional. If you choose to Tweet about the giveaway, you Do Not have to enter the url address back into the form. It's not necessary, I will receive a notification when you tweet it :-)

(1) $20 Amazon Gift Card or up to $20 in purchases from the Book Depository. That way you can choose whatever you like.

Who can enter: 
Open to U.S. and International Participants.

There are nearly 200 blogs participating. So don't forget to hop on over to the other blogs and enter their giveaways as well. You may just win some great prizes. For a list of other blogs participating, click HERE.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wordless Wednesday

Me and Nikki Giovanni

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I'm at the 2012 Annual AWP Conference!

Each year, The Association of Writers and Writing Programs holds its Annual Conference & Bookfair in a different region of North America in order to celebrate the outstanding authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers, and small press publishers of that region. The Annual Conference typically features 400 presentations: readings, lectures, panel discussions, and forums plus hundreds of book signings, receptions, dances, and informal gatherings. The conference attracts more than 9,000 attendees and more than 550 publishers. It’s one of the biggest and liveliest literary gatherings in North America. 

This year the conference is being held in Chicago from February 29th - March 3rd. I'm so elated to be in attendance. The Keynote address will be given by Margaret Atwood, author of The Blind Assassin, Bodily Harm and the Year of the Flood to name a few of her works. Also in attendance will be Audrey Niffenegger, who is the author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, along with Pulitzer Prize winner and the current United States Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, as well as Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and wait...wait.....Nikki Giovanni. Yes, Nikki Giovanni! Do you remember my interview with Ms. Giovanni last year? If not, click here to view the three part series we did together. And that's not all, there are so many other talented and distinguished authors in attendance. To find out more about the presenters, authors, workshops or the conference, go the AWP conference site. And if you are here at the conference, let me know so I can say hello! I'll keep you posted on everything going on over the week here in Chicago. Have a wonderful week.
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Lena's Ramblings

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I am a writer, filmmaker, wife and a mom of five beautiful, intelligent, quirky kids. This blog is for writers, aspiring writers, filmmakers and movie lovers. Bringing you my favorite books, films and photos, as well as giveaways and updates on my journey. I'm currently in the process of producing my first short film from my collection of short stories titled, If I Had My Way. The first story to be filmed will be Tandarin Drive. My award winning book, If I Had My Way, is available now. You can purchase a copy at and You may contact me via email at:

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