Monday, December 2, 2013

My Pitch Wars Mentee Bio

Welcome visiting Pitch Wars mentors to my Writer's Dojo!
Kick off your shoes and feel free to look around.
Inspired by Christopher Keelty & Phil Stamper's creative posts,
I give you my Pitch Wars Mentee bio.

Due to the fact that there are four mentors, to whom I submitted my entry, here are four reasons you want to pick me as your Pitch Wars mentee:

 1. I literally kick butt. I am a black belt and sensei in Isshin-ryu karate.  Studying martial arts takes dedication, perseverance, spirit, and patience.

 (In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m still working on the patience piece, but I’ve got dedication, perseverance, and spirit in spades!”

2. Fearless, Focused and Flexible  In 2009, I competed in the Isshin-ryu World Championship Tournament. At the last second the judges had me perform with a staff bo that was longer and heavier than my bo. During my kata, a child ran through my ring as I was swinging the six foot long staff. I adjusted my swing, so I wouldn’t hit the child, finished the kata, and left the tournament with two first place trophies.
(So we could add "I don’t hit kids with sticks" to my pros list.
That’s a definite plus!)

 3. Time spent studying my target group in their natural habitat. I have several years of experience teaching eighth grade English. Teaching middle school is a full immersion program into the teenage culture. During my time as a teacher, I have observed the interactions of teenagers in the classroom, cafeteria, at their lockers, sporting events, dances, parent-teacher conferences, play practices, assemblies, and in restrooms (Let me clarify, that those observations took place only in the girls’ bathrooms and only when the staff bathroom was occupied during my 2-minute break between classes.)
                            Chocolate letters of recommendations from my students
     In addition, thanks to my 13-year-old son, I now have the pleasure of studying a teenager in his home habitat.  All of these observations serve as rich, authentic fodder for my YA writing.

4. Team player Instead of describing my strengths in this category, as I have so humbly done in the categories above, I asked Anywar Ricky Richard to describe how I work with others. Ricky inspired the manuscript, FINDING OBENO, which I’ve entered in Pitch Wars. Here is what Ricky emailed in response to my request:

I have been working directly with Keely close to three years now on my personal life story as a child soldier and how I am using my freedom and personal story to heal others with the same experiences so that they can find their home.

I would personally describe Keely as an extra-ordinary gentle person, for she applies herself with absolute dedication to her writing, she is social and has strong analytical skills and hand on approach to her writing.

Keely has demonstrated high level of maturity and commitment towards her writing while working with me.

She has strong personal motivation, interpersonal skills and ability to work effectively with people across all ranks and cultures. She has demonstrated strong writing skills and is very action oriented.

Keely always keeps time with her writing and is very cooperative, hard-working, very patience and kind.

I am enjoying working with her, especially her skills, experience and flexibility, being self-motivated, cooperative, highly sound minded with good proven integrity.

I strongly believe that Keely writing career is strong and she will be writing many books in the nearby future to come.

Anywar Ricky Richard, Founder of Friends of Orphans

As you can see, I work well with others and pour my heart and soul into our collaboration. It is also important to note, that according to Ricky, I am of very sound mind, which is good. You don’t want to be working with a crazy mentee.
Okay, sometimes I can be a little nutty.

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my mentee bio.
If it made you laugh and you are enthusiastic
about my Pitch Wars entry,
I would love to work with you.




Monday, November 11, 2013

Writing Process Questions

This post was inspired by the amazing Fiona McLaren's blog about her writing process. Based on my current work-in-progress, I have answered the same questions Fiona addressed in her blog. Once you've read through my responses, please answer the same questions on your blog. Be sure to post a link to your blog in the comments section, so that we all may visit and learn about your process. Alright, here we go...
1. What are you working on right now?

I'm finishing the rough draft on a YA mystery thriller. This poor middle manuscript has been sidelined several times over the last five years while I worked on other manuscripts. Now is its time. I've gained a whole new respect for mystery writers while working on this project. 
I’m having a blast fitting together the puzzle pieces of this genre and swooning over the romance thread woven throughout the murder and mystery.

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

Though my main character is the target of a killer, she is no victim. Unlike other female MCs in thrillers with a romantic element, my main character is not looking for a knight in shining armor to swoop in and save the day.
She’s no Snow White.
She’s Megara.
 "I'm a damsel. I'm in distress. I can handle this. Have a nice day."

3. Why do you write what you do?

Characters dictate where my stories begin and where they go. I’ve always been fascinated with the events and forces that shape people and motivate them to do what they do and become who they are.
As a reader, I enjoy many different genres. It is the same for my writing. I love variety and tackling new challenges. 

4. How does your writing process work?

My writing process differs based on the project. My first manuscript I just wrote. No plot charts. No outlines. Just butt in the chair and wrote. My second manuscript necessitated an outline and plot chart as it is based on true events. It was imperative that I kept myself on-track and authentic to Ricky’s story. My current WIP is a combination of both approaches. I have plot charts and chapter breakdowns plastered on my writing space wall, but some days I just write.
It's comforting to have a road map to follow, but sometimes the best writing takes place when my characters veer from the path and take the story off-roading.

The only approach that has maintained consistent in my three manuscripts is that I always start each project by writing the first and last chapters. I need a clear starting point and ending point. The journey may be a mystery, but the destination never is.  

So there you have it. My writing process in four responses. Now it's time for you to share yours!


Monday, October 21, 2013

The Qualities of a Good Uke

            In the dojo it is important to have good sensei (teachers) guiding you on your physical, mental and spiritual journey in the martial arts.

There is; however, an equally important role in the dojo: the uke.

Uke is Japanese for partner for working out in class. They are used in basic drills, self-defense exercises, kata and sparring.
In most situations, an uke will be a fellow student; however, it is not unusual for a sensei to step into the pivotal role.

A good uke will possess the following qualities:

Control: Deliver a strike or kick, so that it is felt, but does not injure.

Focus: an uke’s chu (mind, body & spirit) is present and centered on helping her partner’s progress and well-being.

Knowledge: Understanding of the role of uke, the skills being developed, and her partner (strengths, weaknesses, perceptions of both, personality & learning style).

Insight: Recognition of one's own limitations and willingness to embrace the opportunities to learn and improve. Recognition of your uke’s vulnerabilities and willingness to help your uke recognize them, as well (without causing injury – see control)

Hindsight & Foresight: These go hand-in-hand. A good uke is cognizant of her partner’s past journey and has an understanding of her partner’s future goals. This knowledge gives an uke the foresight to devise the best plan to assist her partner in achieving his/her goal by holding/setting challenging, yet attainable targets. Once a goal is reached, a good uke adjusts the targets, so that her partner does not plateau or become complacent, but continues forth on her journey.

Quiet Humility: a good uke does not shame, embarrass or injure her partner. She understands her role is to help her partner improve, even if her partner’s success means the uke’s defeat. Success is not defined by leaving the sparring ring with the most points, but by leaving the ring with the most knowledge and growth.

Passion: a love for the skills, concepts, philosophies, & process, as well as a desire to pass that knowledge & experience on to others.

Patience: an understanding that everyone learns, processes, works, & succeeds at his/her own pace. It is not an uke’s role to push or drag her partner along, but to walk beside her and encourage each step.

Selflessness: a generous heart to give of one’s time, knowledge & passion. A selfless heart to celebrate the achievements and success of others.

Flexibility: the ability and willingness to alter your perspective, position and approach to best meet your uke’s needs.

Strength: the fortitude to challenge your partner to reach beyond what she sees as her limitations, and the courage to acknowledge the potential, to which your partner is blind.
Trust: the honor of your partner’s faith in your abilities, knowledge, control, & intention, as well as your own belief in the process & your instincts.

And Respect:
Respect your uke.
Respect yourself.
Respect the truth that what works for you, may not work for others.

Respect the process of discovery and growth.
Respect the fact that we are all Works-in-Progress. Help the progress of others. Don’t hinder it, or you hinder your own.

The admirable qualities found in a good uke in the dojo are the same qualities writers should seek in a critique partner, agent, or editor.
They are the same qualities one should embrace in any partnership, whether it be in karate, writing or life.
If someone does not possess these qualities, do not step into the ring with them. A bad uke can do more harm than no uke. In the end, we should strive to seek out these good uke qualities in others and, more importantly, in ourselves.  
In closing, because I love this song so much and it shows both the harm of bad ukes and benefit of good ukes, I leave you with this:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Self Defense Against Doubt

Doubt is a writer’s most formidable and dangerous adversary. It waits for the moment you are most vulnerable and strikes without mercy, leaving you hurt and afraid.

So, what can you, as a writer, do to protect yourself from doubt in a business that feeds doubt with long periods of waiting, rejections and criticism?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Today I’m going to give you a crash course in Self Defense Against Doubt.

I have been writing for eight years, so I have a great deal of experience with doubt. I have also been studying Isshin-Ryu karate for seven years. During my journey from white to black belt, I’ve learned several ways to defend myself against attackers. Doubt is an attacker, so many of the methods against a person intending to do you harm, may be used against doubt.

Self Defense Against Doubt Tips

In karate, the number one rule of self-defense is to NOT put yourself in a position to be attacked. Attackers love areas that are not well lit and where they can catch a victim alone. They also look for victims, who do not carry themselves with confidence.

Doubt is the same. As writers, when we receive a particularly harsh critique or rejection, or when the days of waiting for a response on a submission stretch into weeks and months, we tend to mope. And when we mope, we like to do so alone, curled up on the couch with an obscene amount of chocolate...ok, maybe that's just me, but you get the point. When we mope, we make ourselves the perfect target for doubt to strike.

 TIP #1 : DON’T put yourself in harm’s way. Just as you shouldn’t walk to your car alone at night in a poorly lit parking lot, you shouldn’t isolate yourself in a dark room when you receive a rejection. First, put down the chocolate and get off the couch.
Get outside, go for a walk, soak up some sun, get together with a friend, preferably one who understands the ups and downs of writing. Do something so that you are not caught alone with Doubt.
TIP #2 : Keep your senses alert and don’t ignore your instincts. You know the warning signs of doubt. The punch in the gut feeling of rejection, the whisperings of uncertainty that grow louder as the days progress, the urge to consume your weight in chocolate. Pay attention. Watch for hints that doubt is sneaking up on you, and avoid it by referring back to the suggestions in Tip #1.
Tip #3: Use your voice!

When we teach self-defense at the dojo, we give students an arsenal of effective weapons to use against an attacker. Of all of the weapons, the most powerful weapon in self-defense is your VOICE.

Attackers do not want attention drawn to what they are doing. Be loud! Scream so anyone and everyone around you can hear. The karate shout is called a KIAI. You’ve probably heard it before in martial arts movies and most likely mocked out the strange cries emanating from the actors’ lips as they fight.
In Isshin-Ryu karate, white-brown belts all use the same kiai: Osu! (pronounced “Us”) When you earn your black belt, you choose your own kiai. Mine is “Hi!,” which sounds friendly, but when screamed as I punch and kick, it loses some of its warmth.   
Despite its sometimes comical sound, the kiai has very important purposes in self-defense.

I memorized the purposes of a kiai with the acronym P-SAFE. I know, kind of gross, but I have two sons, and the acronym is nothing if not memorable.

When you kiai loudly during an attack, you do the following:

1. Protect the inner organs from harm by quickly exhaling and tightening the stomach muscles.

2. Scare off an attacker, who does not want attention drawn to the act

3. Adrenaline rush. A strong kiai will force a surge of adrenaline through your body and psyche you up for defense.

4. Focus your mental and physical Energy

In self-defense against an attacker, we recommend a kiai that will draw attention to the attack. Effective self-defense kiais are “No! Stop! Police! Help! and for kids, “You’re not my Mommy/Daddy!”

As a writer, you may effectively use a kiai with the same results as P-SAFE. My personal kiai against writer’s doubt is “I AM a Writer!”

Pick a kiai that will pump you up and use your VOICE! Shout your kiai at the top of your lungs and send doubt scurrying back into the shadows.
TIP #4: Figure out your “Go-To Moves” against doubt.

As I stated earlier, in the dojo we teach students a variety of ways to defend themselves in an attack including punches, kicks, breaks, locks, holds, and sweeps. Though they learn a myriad of moves, we stress that they choose 2-3 moves that they feel will be most effective for them. I am partial to elbows and knees. Others like palm heels and hirakens. Whatever moves are chosen, they need to be moves that can be executed swiftly with little to no thought. They are “Go-To Moves.”
Personally, I keep an arsenal of the following 5 weapons/moves in reach at all times while writing:

Go-to Move #1 - Copies of positive notes, emails, feedback I have received about my writing.

Go-to Move #2 -  Inspirational quotes. I love Disney quotes!

Go-to Move #3 - Visuals: plot diagrams, chapter breakdowns, SMART goal charts of my work to remind myself that I can do this and have made progress on the days when it feels I’m at a standstill.

 Go-to Move #4 - Music! When doubt grabs hold, I pump up my favorite inspirational songs, sing along at the top of my lungs and dance it out or hit the heavy bag in my basement.

My Current “Go-To” Playlist

I Lived - OneRepublic
The Fighter – Gym Class Heroes w/ Ryan Tedder

Hall of Fame – The Script w/ wil. i. am

One Step at a Time – Jordin Sparks

It’s Time – Imagine Dragons
You're the Best - Joe Esposito

Go the Distance - from Hercules

Go-to Move #5 - Best friends and writing buddies phone numbers & emails at my fingertips.

Use your “Go-To” moves in combinations. Hit Doubt with a powerful 1-2 punch!

In addition to the above 4 tips, here are 10 “Mental Self-Defense” Techniques written by the amazing Renshi James Snow for Fairport Karate Academy. They are techniques used in our dojo that may be applied to protecting yourself against Doubt.

1. BREATHE: Breathing helps connect the mind and the body, calming both and soliciting power. Exhale tension, inhale power.
2. ATTITUDE: Recognize its importance. If you say, “I can’t”, you won’t.
3. COURAGE: Be courageous. It is human to be afraid, but you CAN control your fear. True courage is not a matter of eliminating your fear, but doing what you know to be right despite fear.
4. COMMITMENT: Make a commitment to your goals. The Samurai burned their ships when they attacked a distant foe, since knowing they could not turn back enhanced their commitment to victory. (NOTE: This IS not the same as burning your bridges)
5. RESPECT: Treat everyone with respect, including and especially yourself. While it may be worth ignoring bad behavior from strangers, do not accept disrespect from people you deal with frequently. Let them know such behavior will NOT be tolerated and has a consequence.
6. FLEXIBILITY: Be flexible. Emulate the willow that bends with the wind, but does not break. Adapt and overcome.
7. STAND IN BALANCE: Stay centered and focused on what is important to you. Do not let others sucker you into losing your focus, and learn to deflect an attack by disrupting an adversary’s physical or mental balance.
8. THE BEGINNER’S MIND: From Zen, a term that masters give to the humble state of always being open to learning new things.
9. BE POSITIVE: If you exude positive energy, positive things will come to you.
10. RESOLUTION WITHOUT FIGHTING: Reserve physical force as a last resort if in danger…you or others. “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.”
With these weapons now in your arsenal, the next time Doubt attacks, scream your self-defense kiai at the top of your lungs, and KICK Doubt’s sorry, cowardly BUTT!!!
And when Doubt has been beaten, get back to what you love to do, what you’re meant to do.

Photo from my Self Defense Against Doubt for Writers demo at RACWI talent show.