Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Check out my gigs on fiverr

I've been blogging over at my new blog, https://carriemonroewrites.wordpress.com but I wanted to post an update here as well.

I am offering copywriting, beta reading, proofreading, and editing services on fiver.

Please head over and check out my gigs.






I am an aspiring children's book writer, editor, proofreader, and copywriter. I love helping people make their writing the best that it can be. I enjoy writing web copy and emails to promote your business. Contact me for writing, editing, or proofreading services.



While I'm just getting started on fiver I find I enjoy doing writing projects, proofreading, and editing gigs on the site.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Moving to a new blog

So I've been a little quiet over here but part of that is because after all this time I've decided to start a new blog. I am currently blogging here http://carriemonroewrites.wordpress.com I would love it you would check it out.

So, why am I moving to a new blog? Well, for one thing I wanted something that would be associated with my name. I mean don't get me wrong this site is great and I am not completely ready to cut ties with my blog here because it represents a lot of work over the years. 

The name for this blog was inspired by my college roommate's sister who has always called me Kiwi Niiks. The name kinda stuck and Will and Mary's family calls me Kiwi to this day. But let's face it, when I started this blog ten years ago I wasn't thinking agents and editors being able to find me when I queried them. 

But it is time for change. I blogged about the online copywriting course I took. I wanted a site that I could use to promote copywriting services and I just didn't think that my Kiwi's Life blog was the platform from which to do that.

The copywriting course got me thinking about how I could put my writing skills to use which led to Julie Hedlund's How to Make Money as a Writer e-course. The advice on Julie's site led me to finally make the decision to start a new site.

I am not sure my plans for this blog. There is so much here that I may continue to leave it up or I may eventually migrate everything to my wordpress blog. 

I hope you will come and check out my new site and follow me there.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Reluctant Reader

Spending time with my younger stepsister this summer was the first time that I'd really spent any time with a kid who "hates reading".

I don't know if that is just a thing she says because she thinks it's cool but since I was raised going to libraries and bookstores the idea that someone could "hate reading" is beyond me.

As a reader and a writer of MG and YA having this 13 year old stepsister who isn't a reader is eyeopening. 

Even my father, who has a totally different brain than me (math and science vs. art and literature) and would likely have been diagnosed with ADD if he'd been born later, likes reading. My dad reads all the nonfiction books, obsessively, about whatever subject he is into at the time. 

Even though my dad isn't as able to form connections with fictional characters the way I am and I don't read books about rocket surgery, herbology, and Texas Hold Em the way he does I was still able to benefit from his reading habits. My dad's idea of spending quality time together is going to a bookstore where he can look at rocket surgery books while I get lost in the fiction section. Then he sits in one of those comfy chairs in the middle of the Barnes and Noble reading the books he's probably going to buy. Eventually I find him, holding a stack of books I want to buy, and since he is Dad he adds my stack of books to his.

Even though my dad isn't a fiction person he's raised readers, lovers of words and books. But my 13 year old stepsister, dad's stepdaughter is different. She doesn't like reading. 

I always send her books I think she will like, books I've liked, books with a lot of buzz around them. If the book has been made into a movie she won't read it because why would she go to that amount of work when there is a movie she can watch? 

This weekend she discovered The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han and at least for a week we will share a common love of reading, a love of books. She can't to read the next book. I am so excited that she found a book she likes and hopeful that she continues to discover that she likes to read.

Do you have experience with a reluctant reader? Was there a book that turned them into a reader?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Copywriting Class review

I recently began exploring ways to earn some part of my living from writing. Of course there is the obvious, write books and sell books. But that road takes time. Meanwhile having a second job to cover the times when my full time job is light means less time for writing.

Last year I had less work from my full time job than I've had in previous years and during one of the times when my stage was dark I spent 6 weeks working a day job. The pay was much less than what I make at my full time job and an hour commute each way left me feeling drained at the end of the day. It was really heartbreaking for me because I felt like I had failed at my dream of becoming a writer. But it also made me start asking myself how I could use writing to support myself.

A brainstorming session with my writing partner gave me several avenues to explore, including copywriting and copyediting.

After exploring several options I finally decided on a Writer's Digest class called Breaking into Copywriting. This class was a four week class that promised an introduction to copywriting. The goal of the four week class was to create a spec ad that we could use to start a portfolio.

This class did not disappoint. I love taking online classes because I love the freedom of being able to do the course work anywhere. This class was $200, which was less than other copywriting classes from sites like MediaBistro. The fact that I've already had some good experiences with Writer's Digest in the past, hello Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market guide, made them the right choice.

I am still in the beginning stages of building a portfolio of this type of writing. I just reached out to my second client this week and have a follow-up meeting with my first client next week. I am hopeful that this could be the part time gig or side gig that would allow me to have more time to write and be less concerned about ups and downs and uncertainty in my current career.

Like all online classes I believe that this class is largely what each individual brings to it. The class consisted of readings and homework. There was also an online discussion forum. The instructor was wonderful at providing feedback for the homework, encouraging discussion topics, and answering questions. I think if you do the readings, do the homework, and participate in the forums you will get all you can get out of the class. 

I left the class with a spec ad and a desire to explore more in this field. I actually managed to line up my first client when my friends heard I was taking the class. While July has been extremely busy and not left much time to reach out to other potential clients I have reached out to my second client and am really excited to see how it goes. The fact that I have two jobs means that I am taking things slow for now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time with kids

I write for kids despite not having any children of my own. 

I sometimes wonder if this puts me at a disadvantage. While I may have more time to write than I would have if I was a parent, I am not spending time with a kid 24/7. So all those story ideas and insight into a child's mind a view of things that parents see in their own kids I don't really get the opportunity to see.

I do teach swimming lessons, babysit for friends, and cherish any time I spend with my niece, nephew, or any other child in life. 

So when my dad called and asked if my 12 year old stepsister could come and visit for a week this summer I said yes.

Our week was full of fun things including a day at the Mall of America, seeing a play at the Guthrie Theater, a trip to the zoo, daily visits to Mercado Central for tacos, tamales, and dulces- all things my stepsister misses from her life in Mexico, and a day at Valleyfair.

The zoo was such a great experience because she has only been to one other zoo, three years ago when she was 9 she went to the San Diego zoo.  Seeing her excitement over seeing these animals in the zoo, taking videos, and instagramming every animal was a lot of fun.

I thought that having a fame obsessed 12 year old staying with me for a week would be wonderful for my MG project in which one of the characters hopes to go viral. Although my step sister knows she wants to be famous she would not divulge her reasons to me. But observing how she gets energy and feeds on the approval of social media as she goes about her activities was interesting to see.

The week had our ups and downs as I think she was homesick, missing her friends, and involved in some Facebook drama which led me to try to limit the time she spent online.

I realize that when people see me with my stepsister they probably make assumptions about us and our relationship to each other.  I am, after all, the age of a parent in relation to her. I'm sure people have lots of questions about our family but I just try to go through the day confidently and being a good sister to her. 

If I thought she'd be interested in reading something I've written I was wrong. She is obsessed with horror. Scary movies, scary stories, and has no time for anything outside of this genre. "I wish you wrote scary stories so I could read them," she told me.

If my 12 year old sister was quiet and reserved, trying to hide any evidence that she was having a good time by quickly hiding any smile and complaining. My seven year old niece who came to visit the opposite week was the opposite. Seeing these complex emotions will definitely give me some perspective as I work on my MG novel. 

My niece loves her aunt Carrie and seeing her pure joy as she experienced The Little Mermaid at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, dinosaurs at the Science Museum, and animals at the Minnesota Zoo was amazing. She charmed every person she met on the bus and train as we travelled around the city.

My niece is so honest with her emotions. She was so excited about some jellyfish that swam near us during The Little Mermaid that she spilled her diet coke on me while waving her arms around in excitement. 

Seeing her fall in love with a spider at the Big Bugs exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo has sparked the seed to this month's 12x12 picture book manuscript. 
I head back to work today feeling blessed and lucky to have the chance to spend time with such wonderful kids.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Exploring Other Forms of Writing

I love taking writing classes. 

Over the years I've taken numerous classes in writing for children. The most recent class I took was an online class and even though I missed the face to face interaction and some of the real life connections that have come out of my previous classes taking an online class opened me up to the possibility of taking more classes while not being limited by location and time.

I love how the simple act of taking a class can make me think about writing in a new way.

Over the years I've taken many classes in writing for children and they have all been great. In addition I've taken other classes- Writing the Personal Essay and now Copywriting 101.

I've been doing some research and have been exploring the field of copywriting.  It's exciting to learn about an area of writing that I haven't given much thought to. 

It's also fun to think about the possibility of writing and maybe getting paid for my ability to string words together in a coherent fashion while I'm writing and submitting kid lit stuff.

Last year some financial issues meant I had to work during a 6 week layoff from my main job. While I'm lucky to have built the connections where I was able to have work during that time it was really difficult to leave my writing for all that time. After factoring in commute time, long days, and hypothyroid I had very little energy to write at the end of the day. I felt like I was abandoning my characters, my stories, and my dreams. I felt like I failed and that I let myself down.

I really hope that I don't have to do that or make that kind of choice again and I'm hoping that eventually copywriting could provide me with some work so I wouldn't have to make that choice again.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How to Make a Marshmallow Peep video

If you've been reading my blog for a while you know that spring is my favorite time of year because it involves making things out of marshmallow Peeps. 

Maybe it all started back in 2006 when my coworker and I hot glued Peeps to one of the wardrobe stations at work. 

It took me a while before I found someone who loved hot gluing Peeps as much as I did but when Sara and I worked on MacPeep I knew I'd found a friend for life.

Peeps love the Guthrie Theater
The following year hot glued and giggled side by side as we each worked on our own separate projects. I created Princess Peep of the Milky Way to celebrate my love of the Minnesota State Fair and Sara created Repeep Harlequin! said the Tick Tock Man inspired by a Harlan Ellison story. Seriously this is one of my favorite dioramas ever because it is awesome.

In 2012 I was on my own again because my partner in Peep crime had moved to the Sunshine State but that didn't stop me from creating an amazing Zombie Peep Crawl diorama.

Photo by Amy Wurdock
This year I decided to try my hand at something different with my beloved Peeps. Video. See the Pioneer Press also has a video contest. 

It's not like video is a new thing but in my current WIP one of my characters has a youtube channel so I've been trying to learn more about that. In addition I hear more and more about book trailers and writers using video to market their books. So this year's video is inspired by Veronica Mars. 

Veronica Peep, she's a marshmallow

camera, taser, locker

Logan Peepcholls

Peeps investigations

I used the voice talents of one of my coworkers and the photoshop talents of Jenn James to create the opening credits of the film in Peeps. 

What is your favorite thing to do with Peeps? Peep s'mores, Peeps brûlée? stale Peeps? Fresh Peeps? Hot gluing Peeps to cardboard?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Iowa SCBWI conference recap

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Iowa SCBWI spring conference.

My friend, illustrator Emmeline Hall, arranged for three of us to car pool and room together.

The conference started on Friday afternoon with presentations from Julie Ham on picture book beginnings and nonfiction picture books.

The next day included a keynote from Donna Jo Napoli and presentations from Carter Hasegawa, Laurent Linn, and Linda Skeers. After Donna Jo Napoli's speech I am reminding myself of my right to write. Despite the fact that I am not a morning person lately I've been carving out writing time for myself in the mornings. I'm sure the "morning" I'm referring to is much later for real morning people but that's what I've got.

I really enjoyed Laurent Linn's presentation and am looking the covers of the stack of books sitting on my coffee table with a little more perspective.

I'm using the advice in Linda Skeers's talk to improve the humor in some of my funny stories.

On Sunday the Illustrators spent the morning in an illustrator intensive and the writers spent the morning in a writers intensive. Julie Ham talked about Charlesbridge and Jessica Regel talked about queries and hooks. People in the audience shared their hooks and Jessica let them know what worked and what could be improved.

Overall it was a great conference. One of the things I really enjoyed was that it was very picture book friendly. I've been to conferences that seem very YA focused in the past and this felt like a good fit for the things I'm working on right now.

The conference was held in this old hotel called The Lodge. It has this sort of German, ski chalet, bavarian, castle theme to it. I know, a lot of those things don't go together. This hotel used to be the place to go in its hey day. Sadly it has fallen into disrepair. They also serve powdered eggs on the breakfast buffet with the exception of the omelet bar. But despite the fact that the hotel was a little like something out of a Stephen King novel I got some fun pictures.


Seriously, these castle windows
Another great thing about this conference is that it happened to be in my hometown. Now I don't get back to B-dorf often enough because my parents moved to Des Moines but my best, dearest, friend lives there so I got to see her for two nights in a row.  I read books with her kids, had a dance party, and built a lego gas station.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

How Thyroid Disease Changed My Shopping Habits

Recently my Facebook feed was full of people sharing an anti-union video from a big box retailer. The industry I work in is represented by unions so several people were sharing the video vowing to "think harder" about where they shop and questioning the choices of the actors in the video.

I used to shop Super Big Box. Several years ago friends called them out on FB for supporting an antiunion or anti-GLBT  candidate or cause vowing to "think harder" about where they shopped. Back then I didn't think I could stop shopping at Super Big Box. Like anyone else I could go into Super Big Box only needing a couple things and end spending $80 on a cart full of stuff.

But it got me thinking about my shopping habits, which radically changed when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's. Actually that isn't completely true,  they had been changing before I was diagnosed. See the thing about having hypothyroid disease is that it makes you tired. Unbelievably tired.

Before I knew what was wrong all I knew is that I was tired. Too tired to drive to the nearby Super Big Box to get groceries. Too tired to trek across a huge parking lot and make my way through the sprawling grocery section. Too tired to walk through the other sections- pets, health and beauty, and get other things I might need. Too overwhelmed by all the choices. By the time I got home from shopping and putting away my groceries I was exhausted and needed a nap.

I actually started shopping at a local grocery chain that was probably more expensive because it was less exhausting for me. The thing is, I knew it was more expensive but it was worth the extra expense not to feel as tired as I felt after going to Super Big. The stores are probably the same distance from my house- about 15-20 minutes but this smaller grocery store was all I could manage. I no longer had to walk what probably amounted to an entire city block to get to and from my car. I didn't have to push a massive cart around because they have smaller carts.

When I was diagnosed with thyroid disease I decided the best investment I could make was joining a CSA. This year I did a winter CSA as well. Let me tell you kids, when you get a giant box full of vegetables that you've already paid for the week before a major holiday plus you get recipe and meal plans from your CSA's Pinterest board and newsletter it takes some of the stress away.

After my first summer of CSA membership I decided to join a co-op. Like the local grocery chain my co-op is pretty small compared to Super Big Box. I had been eating a mostly gluten free diet by then so it seemed like a good plan. Like the local grocery chain my co-op is nice, and small. The parking lot is nice and manageable and the carts are small. Because co-ops are all about organic, non-gmo, healthy, free range, fair trade, grass fed goodness the selection is different from Super Big Box and that is nice I am not overwhelmed by all the choices. After my first year of co-op membership I earned back my membership fee in profit sharing.

I don't go to Super Big much anymore. I get almost everything at my co-op and the cats get their stuff at the neighborhood pet store. When I pick up the occasional item at Super Big Box I often find that the gluten free, grass fed, organic items are slightly more expensive then they are at my co-op and they never go on sale. I suspect that they know that they can charge a premium for these items and that they do. In addition these are the items that go out of stock more often. There is nothing more frustrating than crossing a giant parking lot, pushing an oversized cart around and having no gluten free waffles to show for it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Out like a lamb

It's been a while since I updated here.

For me, March definitely came in like a lion.

This last month has been a bit of a roller coaster as I've been dealing with things on the health front and figuring out how to bring a little more balance to my life in the areas of health, work, and creative self.

In January I blogged about my thyroid journey only to find out at the end of February that my thyroid disease is the autoimmune kind and that my numbers were a little high for me. I guess the most frustrating thing about that is knowing that I have changed my diet drastically in an effort to improve my thyroid health and that apparently my body is still attacking my thyroid.

This combined with another health thing that turned out to be no big deal means I've been spending a lot of time with my journal lately. Writing about what is important to me, trying to figure out how to find more balance in my creative, work, and financial life.

In addition I discovered that while my thyroid has been slowing down my cat's thyroid has been speeding up.
Aww buddy, you don't have to make all the T4

I've been reaching for my journal a lot over the last couple months as a way to deal with stress and it's been really soothing. 

The good news is that all this scribbling away in my journal has had the wonderful side effect also keeping me on track with 12x12. There is something sort of freeing about writing on paper with a pen the way nature intended. 

I'm looking forward to going to the Iowa SCBWI conference in April. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thyroid Awareness Month- Staying Healthy

January is Thyroid awareness month and last week I blogged about my experiences with hypothyroid.

One of the big things I've struggled with is staying healthy. I used to think I never got sick. I used to think I had an amazing immune system but hypothyroidism kind of changed all that for me. In the last few years it has not been unusual for me to get every single cold or respiratory thing that is going around. 

This year, after much reading and following a lot of thyroid communities on Facebook, I decided that the best thing I could do was to eat well and cook for myself. I always feel great in the summer because I get a CSA share from Burning River Farms and I cook and eat lots of vegetables but around the time that my veggies run out is when I start getting sick. Sure I still buy veggies at my co-op but it isn't the same. 

This year I decided to get a winter CSA share from Featherstone Farm. This has kept me eating good, locally grown veggies long after I might have slowly decreased my veggie consumption.  Having these veggies all winter has been great for continuing to eat healthy and cook for myself. I was able to make an amazing meal for my family at Christmas using veggies from my CSA. I find that I love the creative challenge of using the veggies in my CSA box. Cooking for myself has become one of the main ways I take care of my health.

Now my biggest dilemma is deciding which farm to use for the summer. I have been a CSA member of Burning River Farms for three seasons and I love them but you guys, Featherstone Farms has a pinterest board

In addition I have been taking vitamins and the vitamins actually make me feel better. I'm taking the Rainbow Light Women's One vitamins. To give my immune system and extra boost I have also been taking Vitamin D. In addition I've been taking  a Black Elderberry supplement since echinecea does nothing for me and my actually make me worse.

I have also been diligent about getting enough sleep. I know I do best with 8 hours a night so I aim for that no matter what. 

So far I have managed to stay healthy. 

What are your tips for staying healthy?

Monday, January 06, 2014

Thyroid Awareness Month- My Thyroid Story

I know everything has a month these days and this is a little off topic about writing and books but January is Thyroid Awareness Month and since I have hypothyroid I thought I'd try to take some time this month to post about my experiences with hypothyroidism and changes I've made in my life since I was diagnosed three years ago.

When I was still in high school or college my mom began having issues with her thyroid. I remember her telling me at the time to be sure to start getting my thyroid checked sometime in my mid thirties. Since my mom had hyperthyroid I was totally on the lookout for those symptoms. I'd always tried to avoid some of the things I thought brought on my mom's symptoms. So while I was waiting for the rapid heart beat, bulging eyes, and weight loss I missed some of my own symptoms. Lesson- thyroid problems run in families.

I'm not exactly sure when my symptoms really began. I know that even though I go to the gym, ride my bike, and sometimes my job is fairly active it is still pretty difficult for me to lose weight. Even during a time when I did workouts that are now well known for results such as kettlebells and running I still carried a bit of extra fat that I just couldn't get rid of. Lesson- love your body the way it is and be proud of what it can do and not what size it fits into.

I often took naps in the afternoon and usually set an alarm so that I would be able to wake up in time for work. Sometimes waking up from these naps was really difficult.

Many of my friends were starting or had started families at the time and I have to confess that just spending an afternoon babysitting or even hanging out with my friends and their kids was often enough to exhaust me. I totally understand that kids have a lot of energy but I think at some point I began to understand that parenthood wouldn't be a thing I could do because somedays I didn't even have enough energy to support myself much less meet the needs of a small person.

An injury and a car accident put a stop to my intense workouts, which often amounted to two hours a day. At first I put on weight slowly like one might expect to if they stopped doing kettlebells and running three to five miles. But I was still active, still biked, still went to the gym, still had an active job. At some point in time I started gaining weight when all the math would have said I should have been losing weight. During a two month run of a show I gained ten pounds and I was biking to work plus working on a really active show. Lifting costumes, running around like crazy backstage, picking up costumes, carrying laundry baskets full of clothes around. Yeah, this is the kind of show I should have been losing a few pounds on.

As time went on the napping only got more frequent. At first it was just a nap in the afternoon, then it was a nap in the morning after I'd gone to the gym. Sometimes in the morning I was too tired to shower so I often took baths instead because I could sleep or close my eyes or at least I wasn't standing up because I was sooo tired.

Also I was hungry. All. The. Time. But I wasn't eating irresponsibly. I wasn't eating junk food. I was eating healthy, tracking my calories. It was just that my metabolism wasn't working so my brain was telling my stomach that I was still hungry, or something like that. During this time my interactions with people were often crabby and I know that I was crabby because I was hungry because yeah my metabolism wasn't working.

At a certain point I stopped making the effort to get together with friends because I was so tired. I knew that I needed to nap before work and meeting up with friends would have gotten in the way of that. I basically couldn't commit to anything socially because I knew I would be too tired. I remember once telling a friend I couldn't get together because I knew would be too tired and I remember that friend being really hurt about that.

In my writing life I would often sit down to write only to find myself needing to lay down and take a nap.

Finally a friend got me to sign up for a fitness competition at my gym. I managed to gain weight while tracking my food and increasing my activity level. I made an appointment with a doctor and asked to have my thyroid levels checked.

When I went to the doctor I asked to have my levels checked based on weight gain. I don't remember if I even mentioned all the napping because that had, over the years, become normal for me. Because of the mentality of people towards weight and the idea that weight gain is attached to poor choices it was hard for me to ask to have my thyroid checked based on weight gain I knew shouldn't have happened. But I'm glad I did.

My levels came back saying I had subclinical hypothyroid, some doctors will treat this, others won't. Thankfully my doctor did treat me. The difference was  amazing. I didn't need to nap all the time, I wasn't hungry all the time, I wasn't tired all the time. I have to say that while things aren't perfect all the time and in addition to my medication I take several vitamins and supplements to keep my energy levels up I'm thankful to have supportive doctors.

In addition to medication, vitamins, and supplements I have made a number of other changes. I eat gluten free, try to avoid dairy, and yeast as well. I shop at a natural foods coop and get a summer and winter CSA share so I have vegetables I can cook all year round. I cook for myself all the time.

Here is a list of some thyroid resources that I've found helpful over the last few years.
Gena Lee Nolin's website- Gena is a celebrity who is open and honest about thyroid issues.
Hypothyroid Mom- Another great blog and resource
Mary Shomon's articles

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

Last time I blogged was in November. One day I was happily working on my NaNoWriMo project the next thing I knew I was working on Christmas Carol. Craziness.
Needless to say with the unexpected change in my schedule in November I didn't finish my NaNo project but I did get a good start.

2013 brought a sort of rock bottom moment as far as my writing goes. I feel like I've been at this writing thing for a while but the only thing I have to show for it is drafts in various stages and rejection letters. I made the tough decision to stop working on a project. In addition I spent a lot of 2013 worried about having less work at my day job- really night and weekend job- and had to make choices that took me away from my writing in order to keep the bills paid.

2013 has seen a lot of changes in my writing groups. My PB critique group has not met for most of the year. I might need to reach out and find new critique partners. My MG/YA novel writing group has also changed a lot with two of the members going back to school.

I confess that the thing that kept me going was 12x12. Not only did I have a goal to write 12 picture book drafts but the opportunity to submit to a different agent each month was amazing. Learning about these agents and what they are looking for really helped me grow as a writer. The agents who were interested in nonfiction really inspired me to explore more pb biographies. I've been reading more pb biographies as well as researching subjects I find interesting and trying my hand at writing drafts of pb biographies.

I plan to sign up for 12x12 again this year.