The Almost Perfect Birthday Party Giveaway

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The Juggling Hoffmans

birthday party ideasSnag a copy of The Almost Perfect Birthday Party: A sanity-preserving guide to planning a party your child will love when you enter the Goodreads giveaway going on now through Monday, Feb 3rd.

You aren’t a Goodreads member yet? Sign up here for free and find out where all the readers are.Goodreads

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SCBWI MD/DE/WV Spring Writers Conference 2014

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Writing for childrenDespite the snow and frigid temps outside, the SCBWI MD/DE/WV Spring Writers Conference is gearing up with some great speakers and events for children’s writers and illustrators. Whatever your stage of writing, newbie to experienced author, this conference will have something for you. Speakers will include editors, agents, published authors, and an art director. Here is the info about each taken straight from the conference announcement on the MD/DE/WV SCBWI website:

Alex Arnold
Editorial Assistant, Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Twitter:  @AlexYArnol

Giuseppe Castellano
Art Director, Penguin Group USA
Twitter: @pinocastellano

Sara D’Emic
Associate Agent, Talcott Notch Literary
Twitter: @SaraDEmic

Rori Shay
MD/DE/WV SCBWI Member and Author of The Elected Series
Twitter: @RoriShayWrites

Alyson Heller
Associate Editor, Aladdin, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing
Twitter: @EditorAlysonH

Christa Heschke
Agent, McIntosh and Otis, Inc. Literary Agency
Twitter: @ChristaHeschke
Blog:  http://christaheschke.blogspot.com

Debra Hess
Author, Senior Editor, Highlights for Children, and faculty, Highlights Foundation

Shelley Koon
Writer, artist, MD/DE/WV Critique Group Coordinator

Tara Lazar
Author and PiBoIdMo Creator
Blog:  taralazar.com
Twitter: @taralazar

Lesléa Newman
Author
Web site: lesleakids.com
Twitter: @lesleanewman

You will have an opportunity to get a critique on your polished manuscript, listen to some sage advice from the pros, and meet other writers and illustrators who share the same ambitions and struggles. It’s worth the time and money from the motivation alone. Do your career a favor and sign up.

The conference is scheduled for Saturday, March 29th from 8am-5pm at the Claggett Center near Frederickburg, MD. Registration opens on January 27th.

If you have been to a SCBWI MD/DE/WV conference before, please share your thoughts. We would love to hear from you!

The Almost Perfect Birthday Party

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The Juggling Hoffmans

birthday party guideI am very excited to say that I published my first ebook! The Almost Perfect Birthday Party: A sanity-preserving guide to planning a party your child will love is the gathered experience of many years in the children’s entertainment and event planning business. This book is for all of the moms and dads and other party planners who, like me, are a little less than perfect. You’ll get lots of tips to make the event go more smoothly, but more importantly a guide to help you and your child be happier in the end.

For the book launch this weekend, the book is FREE! On Saturday and Sunday only, you can hop on Amazon and download this book. It is available in the Kindle Store, but you don’t have to have a Kindle to read it. You can download the free Kindle app or read it on the Kindle Cloud…

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The Circle of Life

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Circle of LifeThe phrase “circle of life” seems like a misnomer. I saw The Lion King on Broadway last weekend where to the phrase was transformed into melodic triumph and celebration. The hunter and the hunted stood side by side and recognized their place in the continuity of the savanna and the world.  Although sad in parts, it elevated the passing of life and miracle birth to showstopping grandeur. Yet, circle doesn’t aptly describe the transition.

Last night, I joined my friend and his family at his parent’s house. His dad is dying. Sent home with Hospice a few days ago, the 89 year old laid in a hospital bed in the living room surrounded by his family and friends. His life is truly a celebration of joy and love. That feeling, along with lots of singing and laughter, filled the room. His ultimate passing will no doubt be sad for all of us who knew him. However, he has left so much of himself behind. It’s hard to count the total of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that bear his name, embody his joy for life and will carry his memory in their hearts.

Just as Simba took his place as king of the savanna after the passing of his father, there is the next generation waiting to take their place as the matriarch and patriarch of the Sullivan clan. As Sully passes, there are new Sullivans waiting to be born, too. Still, “circle” doesn’t seem to hit the mark.

Life’s journey is more like a spiral – constantly spinning, imitating the last loop, but never really being the same. Each of us add our own contributions and our own memories to build upon the loop of the past generations. Even if we spin our life in a similar orbit as those that come before us, it is never really the same. What we do and think and say makes a difference to the upward spiral of life.

It’s a shame that it often takes death to remind us what life is all about. Hug your family. Help someone across the street. Write. Create. Share your talents with the world. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and in turn, you inspire others. Celebrate life.

Every Word Counts

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I’ve been revising the same 25 words for 3 weeks. As a picture book writer, I’m forced to care, forced to be precise.  Every word counts.  With only 500 words to tell an entire story, every word must develop the character, define the plot, and move the story forward.  If it doesn’t, it’s out.

While it may be easy to tell a child a story that they like to hear, it is quite another to write a manuscript that an editor wants to publish. Picture book publishing is trending toward spare language. Most are now fewer than 700 words and the greatest percentage of those are under 500. A walk through a bookstore will reveal this reality.  Wordy picture books are out.  That is a little disheartening for those of us who have a passion for words.

At the same time, using fewer words creates a fantastic challenge.  It’s a game.  In the same vein as Name That Tune, I can write that story in 300 words or 200 or 100.  Can you?

Many of us write a free flowing style of draft and then chop words off to get to the desired (or tolerated) length.  Try this:  Write your story from the least amount of words and add a few as you need them. For example – Harry. Beach. Scared. Sharks. Jellyfish. Crabs. Teddy bear drowning. Harry saves him. Harry loves water.

OK.  It’s not a good story, but an illustration of how few words you need to convey a story.  I bet your mind even filled in the description of the scene and the characters. If each of you used this template for a story, we would end up with dozens of different stories.  And if each of those stories were given to different illustrators, the variations would become even greater.

Go ahead.  Take the challenge. Then let me know how you do.

Pardon Me While I Hyperventilate

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We all know that dirty little 6-letter word…change.  Whether it occurs through our own conscious decision or is thrust harshly upon us, change carries with it varying amounts of anticipation and consternation. Often, we have to endure the hard part before we get to the reason we get out of bed every morning.

In the past 2 weeks, my son turned 18 and graduated from high school.  It’s truly a celebratory time in our family, but also a time of reflection.  He’ll be off to the College of William and Mary in the fall leaving his childhood behind him. More importantly, he’s leaving us behind him. It’s everything that I could have ever dreamed for him yet it may take a crane to dislodge that lump in my throat.  There it is. Change.

This post isn’t really about him or me (although I could go on).  It’s more about using change as an opportunity.  The Comic Toolbox equates comedy with pain. The emotional upheaval that comes with change is an opportunity to make your writing deeper, richer and perhaps funnier.  Your characters will come alive with real emotions once you have experienced them for yourself. The results of change may not only shake you out of your box, but send you into a different orbit altogether.  You may be seated behind your keyboard with from a totally different perspective.

Of course, the changes may be more subtle.  For me, after the initial sadness (and subsequent bottle(s) of Chardonnay) with sending my eldest off to college, there will be a time of joy and pride for a job well done. The long term difference will be the time I have that used to be used for soccer games, band concerts, and the art of constantly feeding a hungry teenager. So, what do you do if you have more time?

Maybe that time is best used writing your manuscript or blog or a letter to your mother.  Maybe it is taking the time to get inspired. Take a walk in nature. Take a few pictures. Take yourself to a museum.  Maybe it is spending some time with those you love and meeting some people you don’t yet know.  The one thing that you can control in an uncertain time of change is you.  You will change, too.  How and how much is up to you.

What changes have occurred in your life that have affected your writing or writing life?

Recommended Reading:  Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

What’s in a Name?

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NameYesterday, I changed the title of my blog. I also changed the domain name of my blog. And lastly, but most importantly, I changed my name. Why, you ask?  Age bias.

My given name is Lois. My mom just always liked that name. Since I started writing seriously, I set up a Google Alert and receive an email every time Lois Hoffman is mentioned on the web. The problem lies in the fact that nearly every week I get an email with an obituary for Lois Hoffman. Lois is an old fashioned name and I’m not old.

Publishers and agents are looking for writers that have their careers ahead of them. If you are not famous now when writing your first book, the people in charge of your fate as an author want to make sure you have the time and the energy to promote your book and write that next one. When they open up my manuscript, do they look at the name Lois Hoffman and trash it? Has a judgement already been handed down before my work has ever been read?

So, as a person who looks at life as a glass half full, I have made a choice. It’s an experiment really. While I can’t erase all existence of Lois without starting from scratch, my writer self can become someone else. I thought about J.K. Hoffman, but ultimately decided against it. Instead, I’ve become Emily (my middle name) – the younger, more vibrant, most definitely alive Emily Hoffman.

It’s going to take some work. I still have to change my bio, my twitter account, and who knows what else. Will it be worth it? Only time will tell. Look for me soon @emilyhoffmanDE on Twitter.

What does your name say about you? Do you think you are prejudged by your name in this fiercely competitive business?