Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lilly’s "I Am From" Poem

My daughter started middle school this week.  Her back grew smaller as she hefted her backpack and walked into the morning sun with her friends.  I hung in the doorway waiting for her to turn around.  When she didn't, I shouted, "Goodbye girls!   Have fun storming the castle!"

She still didn't turn around.

I felt a little bit lonely for her, knowing she would face the potential horrors of middle school on her own.  But some of the best times as a parent are the ones where you send your children off into the world armed only with the love you instilled, and they come back to you not only unharmed but exhilarated by their own independence. 

That’s what I told myself.

But this morning, groggy from an overnight ER trip with my oldest (diagnosis pneumonia) and groping for my coffee, I came across a poem piled atop a stack of  homework on the dining room table.  I read the poem.  Mid-poem, my husband came out of the kitchen and found me weeping all over my children’s schoolwork.

“I know!”  He said, wrapping his arms around me.

Then Lilly breezed through.  “Oh my God,” she said rolling her eyes.  Then she scooped up the cat, turned on her heel and left us howling and clutching each other.

My Lilly had been given an assignment in her new middle school English class – to write an “I Am From” poem.  If you follow the Swagger blog, you might have noticed that each of us has posted an "I am From" poem on our individual pages.  Months ago, on our second writing retreat, Gina prompted us to excavate our souls.  The creation of these poems was transformative in their content and in the bonding that took place when we shared them with each other.  An "I Am From" poem forces the writer to sculpt an image of themselves with words. 

And if this is where Lilly is from.  If this is who Lilly is, I think she is ready for whatever the world has in store.

I am from books

From ukuleles and small pink bows
I am from the brick house by the Swedish Bakery
That always smelled like cats
I am from the raspberry bush in the backyard
And the wall tree far away

I am from the Germans with the big brown eyes
From the dorky English teacher and the musical professor
I am from swearing and singing
And box collecting

I am from Lillabear and Boogaboo
And Love You Forever
I am from corn holing in Galena
And the bar at The Lodge

I am from Evanston and Italy
Porcupine meatballs and chocolate cake
From the frostbitten puppy
Forgotten outside
In the living room the shelves of photo albums
Full of family and friends from long ago
I am from Home.

Friday was Lilly's birthday.  We like to create “movie” birthday cards.  
This year, we used her own writing to wish her a happy birthday. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Introducing Anassa Publications, LLC

by Melissa Kline

I have been a busy little writer and have now added publisher to my growing list of titles. I am the proud co-founder of Anassa Publications, LLC!
It all started with a desire to give the Rocky Mountain Women Writers the opportunity to become published in a compilation. I wanted to give back to the hard-working, dedicated writers who make an effort to help our fellow members and writing community. The idea to put together a collection for the RMWW had been brewing for years, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to piece it all together.

After self-publishing a book for my son, I was inspired to go ahead and begin with the process of creating an anthology that would showcase the works of the Rocky Mountain Women Writers. I teamed up with my good friend, fellow author and RMWW member, Diana Dolan, and together we made it happen!

Diana and I had a vision for a company that would help communities thrive and give writers an authentic publication experience  - thus, Anassa Publications, LLC was born!

We are currently accepting submissions for our first project titled,  Anything Prose…and Poetry, too!an anthology that will give special recognition to the Rocky Mountain Women Writers. If you are interested in contributing a story, (or two!), please check out our SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

The submission deadline for the Anything Prose  anthology is September 30th. I hope that you’ll consider sharing your stories with us!
Be sure to check out our website, as we will be announcing exciting news and projects in the coming months.

Happy Writing! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interview with Debut Author Molly Backes

When I first met Molly Backes in 2010, my friend Jill introduced her as “Molly whose first YA is being published next year.”  This is how authors introduce each other.  It’s sort of like how dogs get to know one another, only more direct.  Authors, like dogs, prefer to hone in on what is truly important about someone new.

And what is important about Molly is that she is talented, funny and wrote a fab YA, which captures teen angst and the trails and tribulations of friendship with a fresh voice.

Her debut novel The Princesses of Iowa, focuses on perfect Paige Sheridan whose life is just dandy until a few too many beers and a car crash change everything.

Molly was kind enough to let me pester her with questions, erm, I mean interview her for the Swagger blog.

Me:  I just posted my picks for the top five YA novels of all time, what would yours be?

Molly: You know this is an impossible question! I’m going to cheat and just list the first five YA books that really made an impact on me: Rob Thomas’s Rats Saw God, Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk, Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever, John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Me:  Your main character was a prom queen type who has a sort of fall from grace and then realizes that the prom queen kitten-heels she used to wear, don’t so much fit anymore.  What was it that inspired your empathy for the much maligned prom queen trope?

Molly: I started writing this book when I was teaching 7th and 8th grade English, and I spent a lot of time thinking about the “good girls” in my class – the girls who got up at 5am to curl their hair and do their makeup and got straight As and played sports and worked so hard to be perfect – and I always wanted to ask them if they were happy, if all that effort was working out for them, you know? I wasn’t like that; I was doggedly pursuing my own creative weirdo interests all through middle school and high school. But as a student, I always kind of assumed that those other girls had their shit together, and as an adult I realized that no one has her shit together in high school. So I wanted to explore that.

Me: You included a (totally awesome) prologue in your book.  I’ve heard from various experts that prologues are a “no-no” for fist time authors for whom a prologue might land their manuscript in the nearest slush pile.  Did you run into any resistance to your prologue?

Molly: Not at all, and I’m happy I never heard that advice! I think the prologue is what helped me sell the book, actually, and it was helpful for crafting later plot points as I moved through the revision process.

Me: You are currently a regular contributor to and member of the fabulous blog The Debutante Ball but your tenure is almost up.  How has this experience informed your writing and furthered your success?

Molly: My year at the Debutante Ball forced me to write a blog entry every week, which was a good exercise, and it led to some little essays I wouldn’t have written otherwise. Plus, I became good friends with my fellow Chicago Debutante Rachel Bertsche, author of MWF Seeking BFF.

Me:  You are the assistant director at StoryStudio Chicago, a fabulous resource for writers in the Chicago area.  How did you become involved in StoryStudio and how does your work there inform and improve your writing?

Molly: I started taking classes at StoryStudio shortly after I moved to Chicago in 2007, and started working there about six months later, in the spring of 2008. I was a part of the Advanced Fiction Workshop for three years, and extensively workshopped parts of early drafts of The Princesses of Iowa, which was enormously helpful. Now I teach writing, which helps me to think about my own process. I’ve learned a lot from my students.  

Me: And Now I Will Morph…

The fabulous blog Forever Young Adult posts interviews with YA authors under the subtitle “Between Two Lockers.” This is especially yummy reading as they ask the kinds of questions teens might ask each other.  In tribute to them, I’d like to ask you a few questions my own inner teen might like to pose (though she would never have used the phrase “like to pose” – jeez.)

Who, in your book, deserves to be “Carrie-d” (pigs blood, creepy scepter etc.) in the end and why?

Molly: Ha! A lot of people seem to hate Paige’s mother, and others hate her friends Lacey and Jake. But even though they’re all totally flawed, I think they all have redeeming characteristics, too. I don’t think anyone’s irredeemable enough for pigs-blood. YET.

Me: In your own personal, real-life YA story would you rather end up with the boy or save the town/whales/children/vulnerable baby bunnies?
Molly: I would totally save the whales and bunnies. The town, children, and boy are on their own.
Me: What five songs would make the playlist for your book?
Molly: Songs that are actually referred to in the book (and/or that I listened to obsessively while writing): Dar Williams, “Iowa;” James Taylor, “Fire and Rain;” Saving Jane, “Girl Next Door;” Sting, “Fields of Gold,” and the Cure, “Jupiter Crash.”  
Me: What five songs would make the playlist for your actual high school experience?
Molly: Songs that I listened to obsessively while writing (in high school): Sarah McLachlan, “Possession;” Indigo Girls, “Fare Thee Well;” Dar Williams, “As Cool As I Am;” Hum, “Stars;” Sheryl Crow, “Strong Enough.” Bonus track for the summer after high school: "One Song Glory" from Rent. Musical theater nerd! 
Me: Who is in your shower?  (If you don’t know this game, you get to choose three people with whom you would willingly, nay, enthusiastically, take a shower.)
Molly: I would totally shower with a bunch of elephants

Monday, September 17, 2012

Flashback to High School

by Kim Van Sickler

For those of you with kids, you've probably spent plenty of time at their schools. Whether volunteering, attending open houses and parent/teacher conferences, dropping off and picking up the kids, or supporting them by watching their music concerts/sporting events, there's plenty of opportunity to hearken back to our own school days.

And I have. Plenty of times. Probably more than I should.

I still have those nightmares where I forget where my locker is, can't remember my locker combination, misplace my school schedule and don't know which class to go to next, forget to attend a class all semester and now it's finals time and I need to study and take a test in a class I know nothing about.

But this year something new has been added to the equation. High school football games.
First home game of the season had the benefit of a blue moon
Football games are different than any other type of school event. They are huge social outlets. HUGE. And this year, as I traipse from football game to football game to watch my brilliant daughter play mellophone in a competition marching band, I find myself re-living a particular high-school experience I didn't even like the first time around.

That experience of needing to hang out with other people at football games.

You see, I've discovered that at these highly social affairs I just don't feel comfortable sitting by myself watching the game.

Because no one else does. And I guess I'm too concerned about being seen as a loser.

That is a total high school reaction.

Guess who hasn't progressed as much beyond high school as she'd like to believe she has?

I fight it tooth and nail, but my high school self always wins out.

I refuse to make plans to meet with anyone ahead of time, telling myself I'll just show up to watch the band.

Then, I get to the game and resort to panic at the thought of everyone having someone to sit with/talk to and me being that annoying third wheel.

OMG. For real? Why do I care? Why can't I just go to a game and watch my daughter perform? Teenage angst. Maybe there are some experiences that we are destined to re-live over and over and over again.
Some Willoughby South marching band members
I swear, I'm going to go to her next game and not care who I see and who I sit with.

Does anyone believe me?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pitch Polish Blog Hop

AUTHOR'S NAME: Kathy Cannon Wiechman
GENRE: YA Contemporary
word count: 43,000

THE PITCH: Both overweight Hannah and brainy TL are victims of school bullying, but Hannah doesn't think blowing up the school is the answer. The hate-crime murder of a twelve-year-old and a mysterious new girl play a part in fifteen-year-old Hannah's struggle for acceptance and her dilemma over TL's deadly plot.


KeShawna Wright reached into the cold case for a Diet 7-Up. She heard the footsteps before she heard the voices.

First laughter. Then the words. "Hey, Nigger!" More laughter. KeShawna had heard the N-word more than once, and Daddy's words sounded in her head: Ignore it. Walk away. Don't sink to their level.

The boys were older teens, maybe even twenty, checking her out over the top of the chip and pretzel racks. She didn't make eye contact, just acted as though the scuffed linoleum floor held her interest, as she carried the soda to the counter and plunked down her handful of change.

"Hi, KeShawna, how's your grandma?"

"Feeling better, Mr. Sloane. I'll tell her you asked."

KeShawna felt, more than heard, the two white boys step close behind her, and a shiver brought more of Daddy's words to her mind: If you don't feel safe, call me.
For more information on the Pitch Polish Blog Hop, part of GUTGAA, visit Deana Barnhart's blog at

Please leave your constructive comments for Kathy!

Monday, September 3, 2012

GUTGAA meet 'n greet!

GUTGAA is here! Welcome to Swagger and our GUTGAA representative:

MEET Kathy Cannon Wiechman:
I’ve been a writer since I was five. I made time over the years to be a student and a reader, a babysitter and a friend, a teacher and a PTO president, a caretaker and a mentor, a wife and a mom. I took up hobbies and studied history, but I never stopped being a writer. I never will. My poems have appeared in Ladybug magazine and on the Meadowbrook Press website, and my short stories have won prizes from the Children’s Writer.
Kathy Cannon Wiechman
Q & A:

Where do you write?
Anywhere and everywhere, but mostly in my “Good & Plenty” office. (It has pink walls and is decorated in black and white, the colors of Good & Plenty candy.)

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
A folder with the first 157 pages of my Work In Progress, waiting to be completed

Favorite time to write?
Between lunch and supper. (God bless the crockpot.)

Drink of choice while writing?
Water or Diet Coke, depending on whether I need caffeine.

When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Neither. I write to the sounds of my house (the fan running or heat kicking on, my husband rummaging in the fridge or my neighbors’ voices), but once I get going, I’m usually too focused to notice any of it.

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
The idea for my Work In Progress was an exhibit at the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, OH. It was a story that spoke to me and inspired me to share it.

What’s your most valuable writing tip?
Become your characters. Once you do that, point of view, setting, story, and voice will all fall into place.

For more information on GUTGAA, go to

GREET Kathy Cannon Wiechman. Leave a comment or ask a question.