A Rainbow of Writing Advice and Inspiration from the SCWI Oregon Conference

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: May 22, 2013
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So much colorful advice from the 2013 SCBWI Oregon Conference! Just like this box of vintage thread recently given to me, it's very hard to choose which piece to follow and use first. I just want to stare at the lot in wonder and revel in the beauty of it all.

So much colorful advice from the 2013 SCBWI Oregon Conference! Just like this box of vintage thread recently given to me, it’s very hard to choose which piece to follow and use first. I just want to stare at the lot in wonder and revel in the beauty of it all.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the annual SCBWI Oregon Conference in Portland, Oregon, where I heard a virtual rainbow of writing advice and inspiration from outstanding literary agents, editors, and authors.  Here is just a portion of the colorful words that stuck with me…


“Your goal is to get the character to tell you the TRUTH!”


“Write what you love.  What you are called to write. It’s the voice and character that matters.”


“Strive for what John Gardner calls, ‘the fictional dream.’”


“Practice sculpting language.”


“Here’s my advice to you…don’t listen to advice.”


“Make up your own rules. Or better yet, have no rules.”


“Discover the world around you with your writing.”


“If I were to write what I know, this is what my book would be..  got up, made stuff up, went to bed.”


“Read a hundred books of the one you want to write. Or a thousand!”


“The story is what matters!”-


“What is the big story idea?  What is pushing it forward?”


“Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Let go of the outcome.”


I highly recommend our blog readers to attend a local SCBWI conference if you can.   Being around other professionals and lovers of children’s books is an invaluable experience!


Happy writing!


-Nicole Marie Schreiber

A Little Writerly Therapy

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: April 16, 2013
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In need of some “Writerly Therapy” due to recent events? Read on…

As I sit outside on my porch swing right now during a rare springtime sunbreak here in the Pacific Northwest, I am truly “counting my blessings.”

I know… this term is SO cliche.

Then why am I using it in this blog post of all places– when I could come up with some other unique and clever way of saying the same thing as a good writer should?

Because I don’t want to waste my time today trying to think of something else after another day of horror has happened, this time in Boston. I simply want to get down to the business of appreciating what I have during this precious time that I am here on this earth, which is funny, because our last blog post by Amber touched on what she appreciated in her writing life. I guess we Scrivas are like-minded in that way.

My list dives a bit more into my “other life” besides writing, because of where my mind is currently due to recent events, so I hope you will bear with me. Here goes… (and this list is in no particular order and is not conclusive, but it’s what’s on my mind right now.)


I am thankful for my husband, my children, and my extended family.

I am thankful for the air I breathe, my home in beautiful Oregon, and my neighborhood.

I am thankful for my health and my family’s health.

I am thankful for the sunshine warming up my legs as I write this.

I am thankful for every word, every sentence, every paragraph, and every story that I write, no matter what the outcome of them happens to be.

I am thankful for every idea that I have.  They are gifts.

I am thankful for my wood-burning fireplace and my slippers.

I am thankful for spring in Oregon– trees, azaleas, “rhoddies”,” and tulips blossoming into such vibrant colors—with my favorite, the lilacs, soon to follow.

I am thankful for my part-time day job where I work with children and read aloud the very best in picture books everyday.  What a fabulous way to study them, even if it does take writing time away.  And being around the kids isn’t bad, either!

I am thankful for being a part of the world of children’s literature and playing a part in its content.

I am thankful for my writing community, including the Scrivas, other writers I have been in critique groups with, writers I studied with at Vermont College where I earned my MFA, and new writing cohorts and acquaintances that I am getting to know.

I am thankful for my husband’s oatmeal cinnamon chocolate chip cookies (which I am eating right now.)  I want to remember to appreciate the little luxuries in life.

I am thankful for being 40 years old now.  I actually like myself more than at any other time in my life.

I am thankful that my Boston cousins and family are all safe.

I am thankful for still being in “the writing game.”  I pray I can be for the rest of my life.


If you’re feeling down because of recent events, writing your own simple “thankful” list today or in the next few days may help ground you. Consider it a little “writerly therapy” and give it a try.  I’d love to hear a bit of what you’ve come up with in the comments, too, if anyone feels compelled to share.


Happy Writing.


-Nicole Marie Schreiber












Manuscript Shape-Up: How to Get Your Story Ready for Critique

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: March 16, 2013
Categories: Craft, Other Topics
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Today I was pleased to present a workshop called, “Manuscript Shape-Up: How to Get Your Story Ready for the SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference.”  The talk focused on how to get a piece of work ready for a conference critique if you have never been critiqued before.  I covered everything from proper manuscript format to critique groups and beta readers to correct critique etiquette.

Also, I shared my favorite self-editing and style books along with these self-editing tips in order to help writers new to the critique process get their manuscripts in the best shape possible before attending the conference and having their consultation with another author, an editor, or an agent.

Hopefully,  these tips will be helpful to our blog readers as well.  Enjoy!


Quick Self-Editing Tips:

1. Spelling and Grammar

Having another reader really helps with this. Don’t just rely on Spell and Grammar Check on your computer! Use them, but check each line carefully yourself and hopefully have another pair of eyes do it, too.

2. Show/ Don’t tell

Use active verbs and sentences
Circle all of your “to be” verbs in your manuscript and really try to use another verb.
Keep dialogue tags simple instead of using too many “inflated words”
(she admonished versus she said)

3. Point of View and Verb Tense

If using a single Point of View, do you stay in that same point of view the entire time? Do you keep the verb tense you have chosen the entire time? (such as third person omniscient, third person past tense, first person present tense, first person past tense, etc…)

4. Watch out for Adverbs!

This goes back to show, don’t tell. Try to show what is happening in your story with action, not an adverb.

5. Basics of Story Development

By the end of your piece, can a reader decipher who the main character is and his/her age, approximately how old the main character is, the setting of the story (including time period), the genre (can be a mix), the intended audience of the book (picture book, middle grade, YA), and what the character WANTS!

Don’t avoid conflict, even on the first page.

Make sure your main character is an active participant in his/her life. Don’t just have things “happen” to them.

6. Read Your Piece Out Loud

Does your piece flow well? Can you hear the VOICE of the piece? If your not sure about whether the piece even has a voice, you many want to go back over your work and try to decipher it. Listen to not only your main character’s distinct voice, but the voice of the entire work. Watch out for an “adult” or an “authority” voice trying to tell the story of a child. Also, don’t talk down to children (your readers), either.

Listen to the pacing of your story. Is it too dialogue-heavy in some places, or narrative-heavy? Sometimes, just looking at a page of text and noticing how much or how little white space there is helps.

Check the beats within your dialogue. Do you have too many? Not enough?

7. Remember the Five Senses!

Use the five senses in your description to really make it come to life.

8. Read Your Very First Line Again!

Does it grab you? Does it make you want to keep on reading? IT SHOULD!

On Writing– by Abraham Lincoln

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: February 18, 2013
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In honor of President’s Day, here is a quote from President Abraham Lincoln himself on his thoughts about writing.  Enjoy.


“Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind through the eye, is the great invention of the world…enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.”

― Abraham LincolnSpeeches And Letters Of Abraham Lincoln, 1832-1865


-Nicole Marie Schreiber


Inspiration from Chagall

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: January 15, 2013
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The Angel and the Reader by Marc Chagall- 1930

On a recent trip to the Portland Children’s Museum with my two boys, I came across an exhibit for children about Marc Chagall.  There were marvelous quotes from him posted all around copies of his work and the many interactive exhibits. One in particular really caught my eye, because if you change the word “color” in it to “stories,” the meaning becomes very close to my heart as a reader, a lover of books, and as a writer.

Here is my interpretation of Chagall’s quote.

“The same can be said about STORIES as

is said about music: the depth of STORIES

goes through the eyes and remains within

the soul, the same way music enters and

stays in the soul.”

Of course, changing the word to “writing” makes the quote just as powerful to an author.

Have a look:

“The same can be said about WRITING as is said about music: the depth

of WRITING goes through the eyes and remains within the soul,

the same way music enters and stays in the soul.”

 Someday, I hope to achieve the kind of depth in my writing that can be found in Chagall’s colors and art.  Maybe then, my stories will enter someone’s soul and stay there.  I’m sure the Scrivas would agree that it is the hope of all of us to be such a writer.  If that is also your dream, we hope it comes true for you, too.
Happy writing.
-Nicole Marie Schreiber

Great Advice for Writers of All Ages

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: October 15, 2012
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THE ELDERLY WRITER by Paul Ponce Antoine Robert


Being that I am a teacher/mother/writer about to turn forty in a couple of months, this article from Psychology Today about creativity being “ageless” came at just the right time! It was shared by children’s writer Deb Cushman through an Oregon children’s writing community listserv called Toad Hall, and it really made my day.  I hope it can be an inspiration to all of you whether you are young or young at heart.


Enjoy this foray into the creative process as we age!



Starbucks and Sensibility: A Love Story

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: September 16, 2012
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Next month on October 13th and 14th, my city of Portland, Oregon, will be hosting its annual Wordstock Literary Festival.   This year, I was invited to contribute a short essay/literary piece to a book that will be sold at the festival titled, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life.  My particular piece speaks about “where I write,” as I was asked to choose one of the five “W’s” of my writing life (who I am as a writer, what I write, where I write, when I write, why I write…)  For those of you not able to attend Wordstock, here is my piece.  Enjoy!  🙂





By Nicole Marie Schreiber


“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of children and a day job must be in want of a perfect place to write.”


My Dearest Starbucks:


I am writing this letter as a token of my love, affection, and devotion to you.  ‘Tis not your tall nonfat chai frappucinos with whip, your dark chocolate graham crackers, your grande tea lattes, or your sugared almonds that have captured my sensibilities (though all are quite delightful to the tongue.)

I am addicted to you as a place for me to write— away from PlayMobil spy missions, Lego landmines, bickering children, mounds of laundry, and a Labrador that keeps stealing shoes.

You have been my savior for the past two years, since I received my first gift card for Christmas upon my return to teaching. Seeing your name meant only one thing to me—creative freedom.   When I was too tired in the evening and too distracted during the day after work to even think about my manuscript, and with no money to go to retreats or conferences for inspiration, you were there for me.

Soon, the smell of coffee beans meant new words on the page.  I tried to make my time with you last, buying the least expensive drink on the menu that I liked (tall Awake tea).  I soon discovered that your gift cards are very popular with parents.  The writer in me collected and relished each card I received, and when family found out about our affair, instead of having an intervention, they enabled me with more cards for you.

My beloved, whether we rendezvous at 5:30 am or on a day off, you have given me more pages that I could ever dream of completing.  I pray our affair lasts, and it is with my most sincere regard that I shall ever humbly bow before you,

and be known to all as your loving servant in word scratchery…


Nicole Marie Schreiber



Five Tips for the Attention-Deficit Writer

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: August 16, 2012
Categories: Challenges, Other Topics
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Adult Attention Deficit DisorderI’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but I am going to say it again even if I have–
I am a TERRIBLE multi-tasker.
Of course, I do multi-tasking every single day because I must and it is a part of life, but I really think that there is something in the way I am designed that isn’t cut out for it. And in this day and age, it really feels like multi-tasking has gone through the roof.
We live in a time of mult-tasking to the tenth exponent due to our smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and constant logging in.  We are “on the grid” even in our minds, and I don’t know about you, but it takes a toll on me.  Add that to my day job, my family, day-to-day living/errands/ volunteerism/ etc…, and it amazes me that I get any writing done at all.
Thankfully I have been getting writing done.  How?  Here are five tips that I have been following.
Tip #1-TURN OFF THE INTERNET when you write (at least for a set period).
Tip #2- Write in the early, early morning or late at night for two hours. (When school starts again, I will be back on the 5 am-7 am shift.)
Tip #3- Make sure to set up writing time just like you make time to read (hopefully all writers do read!  I know that my closest writing friends read a TON, and sometimes it’s easier to curl up with a book than to work out a scene that isn’t right in a WIP, but don’t let that happen.  Make writing a priority like reading that latest awesome book you just added to your to-be-read pile.)
Tip #4- Write down new ideas that come to you and keep them in another file on your computer, in an actual notebook, or in a TEAPOT! (great idea courtesy of Stephanie Burgis, the author of the KAT, INCORRIGIBLE trilogy)
Tip #5- Do some “quick writes” or “morning pages” for a set time (maybe 15 minutes) where you write about anything to get your mind cleared of all of that other “stuff” invading it to make room for your WIP.
I hope to share more tips with you soon.  Good luck with “tuning in” to your WIP!
-Nicole Marie Schreiber

Inspired by “Team GB”

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: August 3, 2012
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August has finally dawned on me, and my beloved daily writing sessions, though only three hours long, will soon be drawing to a close with the coming of the new school year.


But, instead of agonizing about how I’m going to be able to squeeze in writing time when my teaching job starts up again, I shall instead follow my Anglophile tendencies (brought front and center during the Olympics in London) and listen to some famous advice given to the British people during the Second World War…






Inspiring words for all of us writers!  I think I’ll print this out and tape it on the front of my laptop.


Carry on!


-Nicole Marie Schreiber




(And if you haven’t seen the Queen’s arrival at the Opening Ceremonies, you can check it out here. She definitely keeps calm and carries on!)

The Picture Book Manifesto

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: June 21, 2012
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I recently participated in the SCBWI Oregon conference in May and attended a break-out session with Kristi King, an agent from Writer’s House who also works alongside Steven Malk.  She shared with us “The Picture Book Manifesto,” and it was my very first time hearing it.  It comes from http://www.thepicturebook.co/.

I LOVED it!  What an inspiring piece for a writer.   It’s been out for a while, but since I am usually knee deep in paint and glitter teaching preschool alongside writing my WIP and taking care of my family, somehow I missed it when it first came out.  But now that I have heard it I want to share it with the world!  I think you could even change the term “picture book” to “historical fiction,” or any other children’s genre in a sales slump, and the proclamation would work for the most part, give or take a few lines (which is what I did, and the proclamation took on a whole new meaning. I teared up from being so moved by it.)

So to those of you in need of a bit of inspiration with your writing, here you go– “The Picture Book Manifesto.”  Enjoy!


-Nicole Marie Schreiber











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