Too Much Coincidence Not to be Part of the Cosmic Plan

By Trish Wilkinson

In the face of academic demands ratcheting higher, stressing out children and their parents, seven years ago, I set out to write Grade by Grade: A Guide to Raising Smart, Happy Kids, K—5. The book would be a What to Expect When You’re Expecting for elementary school. I wanted to help bring families closer in this techno-hustle world and support parents in raising well-adjusted kids.

I’d collected a boatload of convenient games for parents and children to play on car rides, at the doctor’s office, or in line at the grocery store at each grade level—activities to strengthen relationships and help kids thrive, whatever their learning environment.

After twenty-three years of teaching in the classroom, three years of reading studies and articles, and doing interviews with lots of professionals and parents, I decided I was ready to take an online class with Media Bistro to write a killer book proposal.

But once I started sending out queries and talking to agents and publishers at conferences, the response was always the same:

“It’s a great idea,but parenting books written by teachers don’t sell well.”

It didn’t matter that I’m one of the few teachers who has taught all the grades, from kindergarten through sixth, so I could speak from experience. I didn’t have a PhD or several thousand blog followers, so the book wasn’t worth publishing.

My plastic file box, jammed with folders of notes, articles, research studies, and interviews, collected dust in our garage for three more years.

When our older daughter graduated from Cal Poly, and our younger daughter was in her senior year at Williams College, my husband and I decided to move to Bend, Oregon to put 94.9 Central Oregon Fox Sports Radio on the air. To make the move from San Diego, California, we threw out eighteen years of accumulated non-essentials—including my box full of research.

But no effort is wasted.

I often remind my clients of this. Our endeavors don’t always get rewarded in the time-frame we expect. Sometimes the skills we learn on a project apply to the next one that gets the results we’ve been seeking.

Shortly after my husband and I moved to Bend, I arranged for Howard Shulman to give a presentation on his book Running From the Mirror and to teach a workshop with me on how to write a memoir at the San Diego Southern California Writers’ Conference in February 2016. His publisher, Sandra, of Sandra Jonas Publishing in Boulder Colorado, called me to coordinate promotions for the book.

And the two of us hit it off.

Sandra is an incredibly conscientious, passionate hard-worker—like I am.

After the conference, we kept in contact, and she asked me to do a developmental edit for one of her authors. This author’s novel had a fabulous premise, but the story and characters needed fleshing out—which we did, and it’s awesome now!

Watermelon Snow by debut author William Lippett, an intriguing story of scientists, melting glaciers, catastrophic egos, treacherous journeys across the ice, and a bit of romantic tension, chock-full of suspense that’s sure to keep you turning pages, will be released in June 2017.

When wrapping up the edit for Watermelon Snow, Sandra mentioned one of her other authors, Jacqueline Frischknecht. Jackie was a PhD who’d done a ton of brain research related to how function and development affect children’s education. She wrote a manuscript called Boosting Brain Power: Leveraging Students’ Learning Abilities.

“What a fabulous idea!” I said and gave Sandra my one-sentence summary of the Grade-by- Grade project, so she would know I had the background to provide whatever help she needed.

Sadly, Jackie passed away while working to develop the manuscript for publication. It still needed focus, organization, and a friendlier tone.

Jackie’s dying wish had been to publish the book, and her family wanted to see that wish granted. Sandra asked me to read the manuscript to see if I could do a content edit that would: a) make Jackie’s writing sound more conversational, b) hone the focus, and c) flesh out the work to make the book user-friendly for parents and teachers. Excited to work with Sandra on another project, I told her I would be happy to read the manuscript and come up with a plan to get it in shape for publication.

Jackie’s research was excellent and her ideas empowering.

Digital Image by Sean Locke
Digital Planet Design
www.digitalplanetdesign.com

However, to make the book an effective resource, the material needed to be geared for parents or educators, not both. Experts all over the country train teachers to use brain research to drive curriculum, such as Dr. Eric Jenkins who has written many books for educators, Dr. Carol Dwek, and veteran teacher Pat Wolfe, so I told Sandra that Jackie’s work may best serve parents.

 

Still, to create such a manuscript, I would have to read more recent studies as brain development has been a hot topic over the last decade in the research community. I’d have to almost rewrite Jackie’s book to make it work.

“Would you mind sending me your Grade-by-Grade book proposal, so I can get an idea of what you’re talking about?” Sandra asked.

Although I’d tossed my magic box of research, the proposal had been saved on a flash drive, so I said, “Sure,” and attached the file to an email without much thought.

A week later, Sandra called and said she loved my book proposal: my voice, the grade-by-grade progression, how I present what will be expected of kids that year socially and academically, the games, the “Real Deal” (goofy true-life stories), the tips for everything from communicating with teachers to family organization to healthy snacks on the go…

And Sandra had sent the proposal to Jackie’s family. She asked them how they would feel about me co-writing the book with Jackie; that is, using Jackie’s brain research and ideas for capitalizing on current brain development and function to my grade by grade structure, integrating my information on social development, games, tips for organization, and all the rest.

Jackie’s family liked the idea and even paid me a stipend to work like crazy for five months (in the proposal, I’d given myself a year) to complete the manuscript. I mourned the loss of the box I’d thrown out in the move, but truthfully, the more recent interviews and research will better serve parents anyway.

THIS is the book that was meant to be published.

Jacqueline Frischknecht 1932-2015

Though I never had the pleasure to meet Jackie in person, we share our passion for educating and empowering children and families. At times, I felt her looking over my shoulder, guiding my research, nudging me to include this or that as my fingers flew across the keyboard. I learned so much about brain development and the nuts and bolts of how humans learn.

BRAIN STAGES: A Grade-by-Grade Guide to Raising Smart, Happy Kids, K-5  by Jacqueline Frischknecht, Ph.D. and Trish Wilkinson will be released in March 2018.

The original release date was in September 2017, but after careful consideration and further planning, Sandra and I decided an extra six months will give us the time we need to make this book the best possible resource for helping families develop a solid mental, emotional, physical, and social foundation for kids in the elementary school years.

Parents who have children at various grade levels are reading chapters to give feedback, and we’re fine-tuning the manuscript now. But mostly they say things like: “I used to get annoyed with my daughter, but knowing what’s going on in her brain takes away the judgement. Our house is so much more relaxed than it was before I read that chapter.”

Simon Tucker, a friend and media intern at Compass Church in Bend, is working with me to develop an awesome Brain Stages website. We plan to make videos of kids and parents playing some of the games in the book as well as post all kinds of helpful hints for raising smart, happy kids, so stay tuned…

I’ll let you know when the new site goes up, show off the cover art when we make a decision, and inform you of upcoming events.

I’d say, “Wish us luck,” except there have been too many “coincidences” involved with this project.

Whatever your beliefs, providence or the cosmos,

 BRAIN STAGES

A Grade by Grade Guide to Raising Smart, Happy Kids, K—5

                                              was simply meant to be.

One Mom’s Ultimate Example

Margarita Jimenez
Margarita Jimenez

Margarita Jimenez’s father unexpectedly passed away when she was eleven years old. Her mother and three older siblings wondered how they would survive in Torreón, a desert city in Coahuila, México. Margarita remembers her own grief, but more vivid is the pain and fear of those around her. She had always known money was tight, but without her father to provide for them, soon bills went unpaid and food became scarce.

 

Sadly, the wages her brothers procured from part-time jobs, while they attended the local university, couldn’t meet expenses. Her mother forbade the boys to quit school to work more hours. It had been a point of pride for their father, a humble handy man, that their sons would earn college degrees. A few months after their father’s death, Margarita’s 18-year-old sister resolved to go to the United States, determined to find work and send home money.

 

As an undocumented immigrant to the U.S., Margarita’s sister encountered obstacles which sometimes put her life in jeopardy. Earning enough to support herself as well as provide for her family in Mexico became overwhelming. Margarita’s mother couldn’t bear the burden she had become to her children any longer. The 42-year-old widow packed up Margarita and migrated to the United States to find work cooking and cleaning, two skills she’d spent decades honing while raising a large family.

 

Arriving in San Diego was so alien that Margarita’s first eleven years in Mexico seemed a distant memory. Nonsensical sounds came out of people’s mouths. No matter how their voices grew louder or they repeated themselves, she couldn’t figure out what they tried to tell her. The other kids had alternatively lighter or darker skin and eyes than her friends in Coahuila. She encountered cultures, religions and lifestyles she didn’t understand.

 

In time, Margarita made friends. She learned to communicate in English and became accustomed to living in the United States. She discovered, though, that after she completed middle and high school, as an undocumented student, she wouldn’t be able to afford to attend college, the way her brothers had in Mexico. No way could her mother scrape together enough money to pay the much higher tuition for non-resident students on a housekeeper’s wages.

 

After high school, Margarita took a job at a delicatessen. She worked extra shifts, countless hours, to earn as much money as possible. One day, she would reach her dream of going to college to get a degree in Business Administration.

 

 

By the time she was 20 years old, she obtained her legal residency in the U.S., but by then, she had married her husband, David, and delivered her daughter, Samantha. She continued working as her family grew; her son, David Junior, was born two years later, and in four more years, Karla arrived. It seemed Margarita would have to give up her dream to pursue higher education. With a family of five, she had to work to help with household expenses.

 

David, Jr.; David, Sr; Margarita, Samantha, Karla
David, Jr.; David, Sr; Margarita, Samantha, Karla

Then fifteen years after high school, with encouragement from her husband, Margarita decided to go back to school. In 2010, she enrolled in classes at the University of Phoenix to earn her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business. She juggled school, work, and family, and more than once, she wondered if she could keep up the frenetic pace. Her husband helped in every way possible; picking up kids from school, taking them to soccer games and practices. He also took over his uncle’s landscaping business on weekends to make extra money, so she could work fewer hours. Their children were understanding when she had to cancel or opt out of family gatherings to complete assignments.

 

Although going to school, studying, writing essays in her second language, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, doing laundry, and trying to meet her children’s needs left little time for sleep, Margarita’s family was her motivation for finishing her classes and earning her degree. She wanted to show her children the importance of getting a college education by being their example. Along the way, she changed her major and received her Bachelors of Science degree in Finance in July, 2014.

 

“That day I will never forget, seeing my family cheering for me [at the graduation ceremony],” Margarita said. “They were proud of my accomplishment.”

Margarita graduation

Margarita credits her tenacity to her hard-working mother and supportive husband. Her mom modeled how to be a strong woman, to appreciate every blessing in life, and to never give up. David senior’s optimism, belief in her, and his commitment to their family got Margarita through those times when the finish line, holding that college degree in her hand, seemed too far to reach.

 

 

Since graduation last June, Margarita received a raise at the accounting firm where she works. The most satisfying accomplishment, though, is the light she sees in her children’s eyes. The kids have historically done well in school, but now they have witnessed, first hand, how goals and dreams can come true.

 

“Regardless of how old you are or your background, everyone deserves to be successful in life,” Margarita points out. “Challenges may [arise]…but don’t give up…obstacles only make us stronger.”

From the Pittsburgh Projects to Prosperity

Nick Nixon
Nick Nixon

Today, Nick Nixon, successful businessman, lives in Carlsbad, California in a beautiful house overlooking the ocean, but he was born in 1953 to young parents in Pittsburgh, and at times he lived in foster care.

“Thankfully,” Nick says, “my extended family kept the details of my parents’ whereabouts from me – [a] gift because I never held negative feelings toward them. I enjoyed life wherever and however I lived [although]…I remember the sadness of being separated from my younger brother.”

 

Eventually, his immigrant grandparents took in the boys. Nick delighted in becoming fluent in Greek and experiencing two cultures. Then in the middle of first grade, his mom showed up at his grandparents’ home to move him and his brother to a subsidized housing project. They grew up poor, often living on welfare, but he recollects a noisy, happy family, rich in love, caring, and hope. At his new elementary school, he tested above grade level, so they put him in second grade. He says he never thought about it until he couldn’t drive a car like other high school juniors. People didn’t expect much from kids who came from the projects, so Nick became competitive with grades to be as good as or better than the “rich” kids.

 

“To me, being rich was defined as anyone who lived in a house and/or had a car…,” Nick recalls. “No woe-is-me story here. I had a very good life – happiness was a choice I made early. And did I mention how very lucky I am?”

 

Coming from an immigrant, blue collar environment, he was expected to finish high school (maybe) and then go to work at the local steelNick at Dinner mill. Fortunately, he’d been too young after graduation to work in heavy industry, so he went to a local college during the day and worked nights at a mental health hospital as an aide. In witnessing some of those sad souls’ lives disintegrating, he learned to appreciate his own circumstances, however, the experience doused his aspirations to go into medicine. Since math had always come easily, he switched to engineering – except he soon realized he couldn’t afford to pay for school and support himself.

 

With a vow to finish college part-time, Nick packed up his car with everything he owned and drove to Hampton, Virginia to become an apprentice at Newport News Shipbuilding. He loved building submarines and aircraft carriers by day and going to school at night. College units slowly added up over the four years he worked in Virginia.

“They taught me how to work…,” Nick says. “I learned not only to be a starter, but more importantly, to be a finisher.”

 

Then recruiters came from another shipyard and offered Nick a job for almost double the money in Galveston, Texas where he worked on Jacques Cousteau’s ship “Calypso” and built offshore drilling rigs. Night school continued, but slowly, as the company shifted him between jobs in Galveston and New Orleans. It was then Nick discovered his wander lust, and he decided to travel the world before settling into a steady career or getting married.

 

In the 1970s he lived in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Connecticut. He settled in California in 1977, but along the way, he visited every state in the USA and province in Canada, traveling in his “Nick-built” van camper. He also backpacked in Europe for three months in 1976 and took an around-the-world journey for a hundred days in 1978.

 

“The word ‘xeno’ in Greek means ‘stranger,’” Nick explains. “I was xeno, a stranger, throughout my late teens and twenties, because I lived on the road alone…I learned happiness gets you past loneliness and …helps with making new friends, but loneliness can also lead you in the wrong direction. In my case, it contributed to making a very poor choice in marrying the first time.”

 

After 14 years of night school (without computers and on-line study) Nick completed his bachelor’s degree in 1984. Nick diversified his skills into transferable trades: as an iron worker, a production planner, a manufacturing engineer, and lower to mid management positions. All that education and experience led to founding his own businesses and eventually designing useful commercial products.

 

Nick’s motto: “Decide what you want and pay for it, not just with money [but] by working hard.”

 

Nick and Kathy at the Frozen Bar in Russia
Nick and Kathy at the Frozen Bar in Russia

Nick’s advice:

  • Be patient with your plans and goals, but be assertive with your actions.
  • Don’t fear change.
  • Learn skills that serve a worthwhile need to keep you employed (or become an employer).
  • Embrace a varied education to become a producer and life-long learner.
  • Surround yourself with those who are experienced and heed their advice. “Everyone can be a mentor if you listen and watch,” he points out.
  • Treat everyone with respect and awe (yes, awe) – unless they give you reason to fear – then run.
  • And finally, marry when you are emotionally ready. There’s no hurry. Marry your friend that dreams with you and cries with you; marry the friend that builds with you and fails with you. Plan together – and produce together. Change together – and love together.

 

Although Nick may not ever retire completely, because he’s always got his fingers in several pies, he enjoys family, friends, and beautiful sunsets in Carlsbad, California; that is, when he isn’t traveling the world with his truly lovely wife of thirty years and best friend, Kathy.

Shout Out for Sharon Cooper: Writer On Her Way Up!

Legal Seduction – Did You Know?

Did you know that RT Book Reviews (Romantic Times Magazine) chose LEGAL SEDUCTION as one of their “Top Picks” for June 2014?!

legal seduction - book cover

Okay, so a few weeks ago, other authors started shooting me emails and inboxing me about LEGAL SEDUCTION, my debut Harlequin Kimani novel (coming June 1st). They were congratulating me because LEGAL SEDUCTION was chosen by RT as one of their “Top Picks” for June 2014. Now me, being me, didn’t have a clue to what that meant. So I shot a quick email to Candace Shaw and she’s the one who told me that RT was Romantic Times, but neither of us knew what the “Top Picks” was all about.

After receiving several emails, and a few people inboxing me via Facebook, I started to think – I need to know more about this RT thing. NOTE: That was my exact thought. Mind you, I was getting a little more excited with each email, inbox message and super excited when I talked with one of my critique partners (one of several) on the telephone who subscribes to the magazine. She’s kinda like my own personal “Hype Man”! No joke – I think she was even more excited than I was because she actually had access to a digital copy of the June 2014 magazine. Oh, but getting back to the “Hype Man” part. In hip hop, a hype man typically gets a crowd hyped up…kinda interjects here and there during a song. Well this particular critique partner is usually the person who gets me hyped up about my stories (good and sometimes not so good). I could go on and on about her. She’s the one who talks me into writing stories I had no intention of writing and quick to tell me if she likes…or if she doesn’t like something I’ve written. Lol! And she HATES the word “it” (which I use ALL the time)! Needless to say, she drives me nuts! But I can’t imagine my writing journey without her! But I digress…

So after one particular author inboxed me (my excitement even higher), I made the comment – “So this must be a big deal, because several authors have reached out to congratulate me.” I can’t remember her exact words – but it was something like – Uh…yeah! This is a big deal! Then she sent me a screen shot of the review page. For whatever reason, whenever I tried to log-on to the RT site, it would time out – not let me on. At any rate, before that day was over, several people had sent me the actual review. Here it is:

RT Review – Reviewed by B. Nakia Garner

After growing up in the foster care system, Iris Sinclair has dedicated her life to defending teens in courts. Her latest client is Tania, niece of millionaire Nash Durpree. The case brings Iris and Nash closer than either of them ever thought possible when Iris becomes the temporary guardian of Tania. While Iris tries to convince herself that she is worthy of a man’s love, Nash must decide if he’s ready to love again. Steamy sex scenes that will have you flushing with heat make this tale a must-read. The passion leaps off the pages, and readers will get lost in the romance. You won’t want to put this book down.

I thought – this person must’ve really enjoyed the book. Then I saw that it had received 4.5 stars! Of course, me being me, I wondered what I needed to do to get a full 5 stars since it sounded like the reviewer really enjoyed the story. Now this part is funny – The person who edited LEGAL SEDUCTION congratulated me and I thanked her for all of her assistance with the story. I went on to tell her that next time, we’ll see if we can get 5 stars instead of just 4.5 stars. Now those of you who are familiar with RT’s rating scale are probably laughing right about now. The editor said to me, I can’t remember her exact words, but it was someting like – actually 4.5 is the highest rating you can get. Now at this point, my excitement level was off the charts! I had to bust out with my happy dance!!

So hopefully you’ll enjoy LEGAL SEDUCTION as much as the RT reviewer did! Here’s a description of the story:

legal seduction - book cover

 

When it comes to desire, they’re both pleading guilty.

In the courtroom, criminal defense attorney Iris Sinclair is cool and confident.Yet, around her new client’s guardian, she loses all composure. Atlanta club owner Nash Dupree is an infamous playboy who could compromise Iris’s heart as well as her case. For once, she feels like a curvy goddess instead of a strait-laced lawyer—even if the evidence suggests what he’s looking for is strictly short-term. No matter what the tabloids claim, Nash has made his teenage niece his first priority, and without Iris’s help he’ll lose guardianship. What began as seduction, a sweet thrill, has turned into something more—now he wants Iris forever. But proving his intentions means winning her trust before his reputation drives away the only woman who has ever captivated him, body and soul…

*

The official release day is June 1, 2014. You can find LEGAL SEDUCTION in paperback in bookstores or purchase an e-copy. You can also pre-order through Amazon or B & N.

Re-posted from Sharon’s blog, “Just Thinking”

Obstacle or Opportunity

20131226_D800_trishwilkinson_family_5526_chuck_trish_8x12My husband just lost his job. The company he worked for sold to a competitor, and unless the vice president of the larger company gets hit by a bus, there won’t be a position available under the new ownership. One of the former bosses, who shares in the purchase price of a few hundred-million dollars, called to say a check for a couple months’ salary would arrive in the mail. Somehow management viewed this appropriate compensation for my husband’s ten years of service generating millions in assets as well as adding value to the purchase price. Oh. And as of May 1, COBRA will require $1400 in monthly payments to maintain our Kaiser Health coverage for our family of four.

My initial reaction was to panic. I looked up teaching positions in as many school districts as possible within commuting range, because owning a writing/coaching/editing operation doesn’t include healthcare benefits. Though the idea of reentering the classroom excited me, my stomach knotted, and anxiety dreams woke me up all night long. Don’t get me wrong, I can get behind the National Core Curriculum Standards, but I find it almost impossible to write novels and articles while teaching full time. By the end of a day of working with kids, collaborating with other teachers, assessing student work, and on and on and on, my creativity gets used up. There’s no time to coach other writers or edit their work during the school year either.

Then I remembered one of my favorite writing buddies, a fellow Page-a-Day writer and an award-winning columnist, Claire Fadden’s sing-song voice in my head. “Obstacle or opportunity,” she likes to say with a shrug as she looks for ways to use life’s little setbacks to propel her toward her goals.

time-managementSo how can our family’s lack of regular income and health benefits transform into a catalyst toward becoming a traditionally published YA novelist? My husband and I decided I would hold off jumping back into the classroom. I’ve got one more school year, this small window, to pour on the energy and get my manuscript published. It’s amazing how a narrow time frame can make the world seem like an entirely different place.

I’ll keep you posted on how this turns out. In the meantime, tell us about your obstacles that have become opportunities. Believe me, a story like that would be really welcome right now.

Time May Not HEAL All Wounds, But it Helps

If you saw my last post about my disappointment in the critiques I received from an editor and a literary agent on the first fifteen pages of my novel a couple weeks ago, you know I stockvault-man-with-clock127680was ready to quit writing. Obviously, that wouldn’t have been the Bad Ass thing to do, so I decided to give myself a break from my novel for a couple weeks.

I recently read their comments again, and it’s amazing how differently I can see things with a little time buffer. Okay, so I’m not ecstatic that they didn’t love my pages and ask for the full manuscript, but they did give me some helpful suggestions, sure to strengthen the opening of TWO FEET, NO SHOES. Further, they clarified what Get Known Before the Book Deal - Katzwasn’t working in my synopsis with their feedback as to where they saw problems in story structure. Truthfully, the structure is solid, thanks to Larry Brooks and his book:  Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies. Writing a synopsis, on the other hand, is a skill in itself, and I haven’t totally gotten that down yet.

I’ve started revising, and now I can see how the things that were missing (that I didn’t realize were missing) needed to be there. It amazes me how I can see other writers’ work so clearly, yet my own can be so elusive.

Now I’m back in the saddle (more like my favorite chair at the formal dining room table), pounding the keys on my laptop, and lining up new readers to help me figure out when I’ve nailed it.

If anyone else out there has had a setback and is coming out of a slump, or you’ve made it through whatever difficulties you ran into, I’d love to hear about it. It can’t just be me who has experienced things like this, right?

Sharon C Cooper Gets it Done

legal-seduction-book-coverCongratulations to Page-a-Day Writer, Sharon C. Cooper, weaver of romance extraordinaire! Her newest book, Legal Seduction, will be released June 1 by Kimani Romance, a subsidiary of Harlequin, but you can preorder a paperback or e-book at this very moment! Get a sneak peek at the storyline on her blog, “Just Thinking…”.

A couple years ago, Sharon decided to take the self-publishing route, so she started “Just Thinking…” and began to build a following. She posted regularly, giving insights about her life experiences, hosting interviews with other writers, doing blog-hops with writers of the same genre, holding contests, and offering giveaways.  In the meantime, she finished her first novel, revised like crazy with feedback from other Ignoring Your PassionPage-A-Day writers, and got a professional content and line editor to help her fine tune the manuscript to get it ready for publication.

Something New, a sweet romance, came out in April, 2012 and became a bestseller on Amazon! Whoot! Whoot!  It’s a great story that totally deserved to sell a lot of copies and receive recognition – and this is coming from someone (me) who doesn’t generally read romance. I’m always up for authentic exchanges between three-dimensional characters, plot twists, and a satisfying ending, though.

Since then, Sharon has been busy. She’s published Blue Roses (July, 2012), Rendezvous with Danger (April, 2013), and Still the Best Woman for the Job (2013), all of which have enjoyed great reviews and sales. Is it a wonder how an editor with Kimani Romance contacted Sharon to offer her a contract with a traditional publisher?

We’re all waiting for Sharon to tell us about the differences between self and traditional publishing after Legal Seduction comes out, so stay tuned to get the inside scoop from one Page-A-Day author’s perspective.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on self vs. traditional publishing!