Friday, May 27, 2011

The loss of Bridget Zinn, cancer, and sadness

For Bridget's 33rd birthday, I gave her this Lord of the Rings action figure. I told her Eowyn reminded me of her - beautiful, strong, courageous. I often imagined Bridget, battling the big, ugly monster cancer with her sword, fighting so very hard, but always with a smile on her face.

Ask anyone what they loved about Bridget and you will probably hear many wonderful things. However, all will say her bright and sunny outlook on life, even in the midst of horrible, difficult, painful stuff. Truly, that bright and sunny outlook rarely wavered.

I want to share with you something she wrote on her blog back in 2010. I remembered this post, went looking for it, and found it. You can find the entire thing HERE.

Bridget wrote, "I'm lucky that my 'neutral' is happy. It makes everything a whole lot easier and I realize that a lot of people have to work to get there. I don't know if I was born that way or if it was a product of reading too many Zen Buddhism books at a young age -- I remember being so blown away by the Eternal Now, but then thinking, hey, if it's always now, I don't have to wait until later to be happy. Because there is no later. It's always Now, so unless circumstances overwhelm me otherwise, I'm just going to to always choose to be happy Now."

So you can understand why those of us who knew Bridget are reeling after her death on Wednesday, from complications due to colon cancer. We are going to miss this bright and sunny young woman SO very much.

And many of us are reeling AGAIN. Because of cancer. Again.

Talk about putting things in perspective.

Get a bad review? At least it's not cancer.

When your son drops your laptop and breaks it? At least it's not cancer.

Frustrated you're not losing a few pounds along with the inches when you're working out so hard? You are healthy and alive and thank God you do not have cancer.

In December, my friend Lisa and I got together for coffee, just a week or two before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At the time, they thought she had developed pancreatitis. She was getting used to the idea of a life of on-and-off pain, of having to be careful about the kinds of things she ate and drank. I commiserated with her, imagining a life of avoiding certain foods I loved, like chocolate and other things, and most of all, feeling so bad for her that she had to figure out how to live and work and write around the pain.

She looked at me and said, "At least it's not cancer."

And that's the thing. It can change on a dime. All of it. Any of it. For you, for me, for anyone. All we have is now. And so we think, I better make the most of it.

It's hard though, isn't it? When the sadness is so overwhelming at times.

In a note Oprah wrote on Facebook yesterday, she talked about a passage from Mark Nepo's Book of Awakening. The passage is called "Being Sad."

"The best thing for being sad, replied Merlin, is to learn something. ~ T.H. White

The idea here is not to divert the sadness, but to give it a context from life other than what is making you sad. Just as ginger can lose its bitterness when baked in bread, sadness can be leavened by other life. When feeling the sharpness of being sad or hurt, it helps to take new things in. This pours the water of life on the fire of the heart. So when exhausted from expressing all that hurt, listen to music you've never heard, or ask someone to tell you an old story from before your birth, or take a drive down a road near a ridge you've always meant to look out from. Look with your sad eyes on things new to you that will give you something to do with your sadness. Your sadness is the paint. You must find a canvas."

So that is what I am doing. Looking for the canvas.

For those of us who write, certainly, the pages we write on will be our canvas at times. It is a good place for all of that emotion.

Bridget, of all people, wouldn't want us to be sad for long. After all, she'd be the first to tell you she had a good life, even it was much too short. She was loved and she was happy.

In fact, I think it's safe to say, she would want us to be happy *now.* I'll try, Bridget. For you, I'll try.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Win THE DAY BEFORE and other COOL prizes!!

Oh yes, please, let's splash into summer, shall we? Thanks to Kathy at I am a Reader, Not a Writer and the Page Turners Blog for hosting another fabulous giveaway hop. 

What am I giving away, you ask?

My ONE AND ONLY ARC of THE DAY BEFORE. That's right, I'm going to part with it and hope my author copies come very soon! 

But that's not all. You see, I want you to have an amazing reading experience, so I've also bought some lucky person P!nk's greatest hits CD to listen to while you read. The book was inspired by her song, "Glitter in the Air" (which is on this CD) and you'll see she's one of Amber's favorite musical artists. AND, because jelly beans are in the book, I bought you your own bag so you'll have something to snack on as well.

Don't know what THE DAY BEFORE is about? Here is the summary from Amazon:

Amber's life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of her family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.

Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he's also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.

The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she's drawn to him. And the more she's troubled by his darkness. Because Cade's not just living in the now--he's living each moment like it's his last.

"The Day Before is lyrical, vivid and poignant. Like hidden gems that sparkle in the sand, each verse tells its own story; a heartfelt reminder that life's treasures -- friendship, love, and compassion -- are often discovered when we least expect them. ~ Sarah Ockler, bestselling author of Fixing Delilah and Twenty Boy Summer


1 easy entry - leave me a nice comment

+1 blogging about this contest (tell me in the comments)
+1 tweeting about this contest (tell me in the comments)

Please make sure you give me a way to contact you if you should win. The contest runs from May 25th all the way through 11:59, May 31st, and is open to anyone who has a US address. 
I will announce the winner on June 1st!!

If you're new to my blog, thanks for stopping by! If you're one of my regular readers, thanks, as always for reading!

To see a list of all the blogs participating in this hop, please visit the link below:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photos from my elementary school visit

I had so much fun at my school visit a couple of weeks ago.

I took the kindergartners, first, second and third graders on an Imagination Safari, and Little Chimp from my picture book LITTLE CHIMP'S BIG DAY helped us find writing secrets in the jungle.

Here's a picture of me in my safari hat. (Behind me is my Powerpoint presentation that brought the safari to life for the students)

For the fourth, fifth and sixth graders, we talked about how writing is similar to baking cupcakes and I went over the "essential ingredients" necessary to make the students' writing simply delicious!! For that presentation, I wore my cute cupcake apron!

We gave away signed posters to some of the lucky students.

Over three lunch periods, eager readers and writers were selected by their teachers to come and have lunch with me. I made my way around the tables and gave them signed bookmarks and tried to answer all of their questions.

Such a fun day! Thank you Oregon Trail Elementary School students and staff for having me!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Motivation - on revision

"By your third draft, the main plotline and subplots ought to be clear. If your novel at that point is still muddy and changing enormously from draft to draft, then it's time to stop exploring the story and start looking into yourself. What matters? Who counts the most? What in the story frightens you into avoidance? What is the most essential thing your readers most need to see and understand?" ~ Donald Maass, THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST

I have a big revision ahead of me. I've been turning plot lines and character traits over and over in my head for a month.

It's time to sit down, tear it apart, and then put it back together again. I have a love/hate relationship with revision. I love it because it challenges me. I hate it because it challenges me.

I have a talk I've given to writers at conferences on revision. In it I say, the real writing happens in the rewriting. And it's true. So why are we so scared sometimes to get started?

For me, when I'm deleting old scenes and writing new ones, I'm often scared I'm making the book worse instead of better. And it's so messy - all that deleting and moving things around. When I'm drafting a book, it's not hard to get up and walk away. But when I'm revising? I *hate* getting up and walking away. I feel like I'm leaving behind this huge mess, which I am in a way, and I can't stand messes.

It's painful. It's hard. It's messy. But it's necessary.

Today, I begin. The only way out is through! In the coming weeks, my plan is simple:

Keep up my exercise
Set a time to be done every day, before dinner, and stick to it.
Eat well
Take a short break every hour - get up and walk around outside
Free write in another document if necessary and don't feel bad about it
Remember I've done this before and every time, the book has become so much better

How do you psyche yourself up for a big revision?

Friday, May 20, 2011

A little spring from me to you!

The sun is *finally* shining here. So I must get my work done this morning so I can spend the afternoon outside enjoying it!

Happy weekend!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Five on a Monday

1. Thanks to everyone who nominated someone to receive a paperback copy of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. I'm going to the post office today with ten packages making their way to TX, NC, VA, NY, SC, WI, ME, NE, MI and more. How fun!! I hope the recipients are excited to get a little surprise in the mail.

2. Last week was busy as I prepared for a school visit on Friday at Oregon Trail Elementary School. Oh my goodness, it was so fun! I signed lots of books, met a bunch of kids over three lunch periods who were selected by their teachers to come and spend some time with me, and did three presentations that received some nice feedback. I worked hard to make them fun as well as educational and the focus, even for the kindergartners, was how to become a better writer. Thanks to everyone who helped make the day a success!

3. My youngest son turned 14 yesterday. We've been celebrating on and off for over a week. But that's okay, he's totally awesome and we are so glad he was born!

4. It's only a little more than a month until THE DAY BEFORE comes out. Eek!! At this point, I have one giveaway planned, and that will be happening May 25th featuring the only ARC I have along with some other cool prizes. So stay tuned...

5. Over at the HelpWriteNow auction to raise money for the South's storm victims, I'm offering up a critique of your first three chapters of a MG or YA contemporary novel. You can bid HERE.

Check out the other auctions as well, Because even if you aren't interested in a critique, there are signed books, hard-to-get ARCs and much more!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Give the gift of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES

Yesterday, I was looking at the weather report, as we had plans to go to a tulip farm with my in-laws for Mother's day.

80% chance of rain, chance of thunderstorms and the possibility of hail in some areas. Awesome, I thought. Just SO awesome. Well, we went anyway. It was the last day it'd be open to the public, and I desperately needed a good dose of spring in my life, even if it came with some rainy spring weather that I'm so very sick of at this point.

Last spring was a horrible, soggy mess. This spring, it's even worse, and I'm pretty sure I didn't think that was possible.

If only it were raining cupcakes instead! So, I'm going to make it do that, in my own special way. Because, whenever I start going "Woe is me" it's time to do something for other people.
I have ten *signed* copies of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES I want to give away. YA author Matthew Quick did this last week with his fabulous teen novel, SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR (which I loved and HIGHLY recommend), so yeah, I'm pretty much copying him. But I checked with him, and just as I thought, he's the kind of person who doesn't mind if I borrow his great idea. Because really, can there ever be too much giving in the world? I think not.

Send me an e-mail at lisaschroederbooks (at) and tell me the name of a friend or family member or perhaps a teacher, librarian, or student - anyone who you think might like this book, along with a sentence of two as to why you are nominating this person to get a signed and personalized copy. Please send a mailing address along for the person as well. I promise all mailing addresses will be deleted as soon as the mailing is complete. If you are unsure about giving out someone's address, please do check with them first. The last thing I want to do is make someone angry!!

From those e-mails, I'll choose ten people and send them each a book.

You have until Friday, May 13th to send me your nomination.

And let me take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have purchased this book, or read it and recommended it to other people. I *really* appreciate it!! Remember it is available in paperback now, so if you haven't had a chance to read it and you've wanted to, you can visit your local bookstore and pick up a copy. The new paperback edition has a sneak peek of the companion novel, SPRINKLES AND SECRETS, at the very back of the book.

OH, and if you shop at Barnes and Noble this week (through May 14th), make sure to use code bookfair #1048605 (on-line or in the store) because 10% of sales using this code will go to the United Way's West Alabama chapter to help tornado relief efforts.

In other news, look what I baked this weekend! Do you know what these are? I'm not going to tell you quite yet, but I'll give you a hint. I get asked for this recipe more than any other one from all of the cupcakes mentioned in IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. And in the next couple of months, I'm going to tell you all about this recipe and how you can get yourself your very own copy! (They are really good. Even my son, who wasn't sure if he'd like them, said so!)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Do your best and forget the rest

I cannot take credit for this saying. It actually comes from Tony Horton, P90X guru. But I love it.

My son is taking the AP US History exam tomorrow. And all week he has been stressing about it. He's been studying a ton and still he says, "It's crazy, Mom. It's almost impossible to pass. I don't see how I'm going to pass."

The statistics for this exam are not good. Only 40% of those who take it pass. Some say it's the hardest of all the AP tests. I don't know if that's true or not, but I know there is a heck of a lot of history these kids have to know, so they can answer 90 multiple choice questions and 3 essays. If they go outside the time period an essay question is framed in, it's an automatic zero.

So I keep telling him, "Do your best and forget the rest."

I could take a little of my own advice. As the release day draws nearer for THE DAY BEFORE, I find myself thinking - It's crazy how many YA novels there are these days. In June alone, there are an incredible number of amazing books coming out. Why would anyone spend money on mine? They can only buy so many books, after all. It's impossible. Having good sales for my book is pretty much impossible.

Yeah. Like mother, like son, obviously.

I worked really hard on this book. I did my best. Now it's time to forget the rest. Whatever happens, happens, and it will be okay.

My strategy for dealing with the stress is to work on other things. I have a secret project I'm writing that no one knows about. It's for me and me only at this point, which makes it fun.

Do you have any sayings you tell yourself to combat the worry? Any strategies to help keep your mind off the thing you're worried about? I'd love to hear them!

And for those of you who would like to read a nice review of THE DAY BEFORE and enter to win your very own copy, hop over to Shannon Messenger's blog!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When you get a bad review, eat chocolate and keep writing

Yesterday my editor sent me the Kirkus review for THE DAY BEFORE.

Now, we all know Kirkus is known for being harsh, although some have said they've softened up the past year, since the sale. Still, they remind me a bit of this guy.

Well, I skimmed through the review quickly, with one eye practically closed, because I knew more than likely, it would be a bit painful. Mostly, I was looking for something nice. Something I could use in a quote on my web site. Just a little something. The closest thing I could find was:

"Sometimes the poetry just tells the story, and other times it is almost too precious."

That's not really a compliment though. It's like the reviewer is saying between the lines - give me a break! Haha. Beyond that, there's not a thing. It's just... not a good review.

A few years ago, I probably would have been upset by this review. But now, not so much. Part of it might have to do with the fact that I went to Lisa's memorial service on Saturday. For months, my thoughts have been filled with cancer, loss, and grief, and I've been so very aware of how precious life is. There isn't any time to be upset about a silly review from Kirkus! I have so many other things to do - things that matter.

But part of is just... I get it now. I understand these basic principles that come along with the business of being published:

1) Not everyone is going to like your book. No matter who you are, what you write, it's impossible to please everyone.

2) Some books are going to be more universally appealing than others. It's just the way it is, and my books are a bit different, in style and format.

When I go to schools and speak to kids, I tell them, "Don't be afraid to be different. In fact, dare to be different! We may get some flack for it, but we are being true to ourselves, and that's the most important thing." At the end of the day, I know my books speak to some kids in an important way, and I'm proud of that.

3) It is better to be reviewed with a not-so-great review than no review at all. I know librarians are smart people. They're going to be able to read through the reviewer's opinion and see that the premise is unique and surely some teens are going to want to read this book.

4) It is possible to get so-so reviews and still find success. It is also possible to get lots of wonderful reviews and have your book die a painful death. Reviews don't really guarantee anything. Yes, good ones are nice to have. But they aren't necessarily essential. I bet if I tried, I could find lots of NYT bestsellers who didn't get any rave reviews.

5) It seems I quote Sara Zarr all the time, but I love this thought she shared with Cynthia Leitich Smith in an interview: Can you separate your identity as a writer from your popularity as a writer? Because they are not the same thing.

Okay, so what if you're reading this thinking, but Lisa, it HURTS! They said mean things about my book!

Repeat after me. It is just ONE person's opinion. Just like not all agents liked your book, not all editors liked your book, neither will all reviewers like your book. It doesn't mean you're a bad person! And it certainly doesn't mean your book is bad.

Tuck it away, eat a bit of chocolate, move on, and KEEP WRITING. It'll be okay. It really will be. Write more books!! PROVE THAT REVIEWER WRONG!

 That's what I'm going to do.