Monday, October 27, 2008

Some Great Opportunities for Students

There's a great writing contest opportunity every year for junior and senior high school students.

Go to for more details about the following:

- Patriot's Pen, a youth-essay writing contest endorsed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals' and is a nationwide competition that gives students in grades 6,7 and 8 the opportunity to write essays expressing their views on democracy. Annually, more than 115,000 students participate in the contest. Contestants write a 300-400 word essay based on an annual patriotic theme. The first-place winner receives a $10,000 savings bond and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. The top national winners each receive a savings bond anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.

- Created in 1947, the Voice of Democracy (VOD) scholarship program is an audio-essay contest for high school students in grades 9-12 that annually provides more than $3 million in scholarships. The first-place winner, who competes with all the first-place VFW Department winners, receives a $30,000 scholarship that is paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school.Besides competing for the top scholarship prize, as well as other national scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $16,000, each Department's first-place winner receives an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by Target. The VOD program is endorsed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals' and is designed to foster patriotism by allowing students the opportunity to voice their opinion in a three to five minute essay based on an annual theme.

- The VFW's Military Scholarship program provides 25 $3,000 scholarships annually to VFW members who are currently serving in uniform or have been discharged within the 36 months before the December 31 deadline. The scholarships will be awarded to servicemembers from each branch of service (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard) during the first quarter of the year following the deadline. Note: For 2009, the program has been renamed to VFW Military Family Scholarship, and servicemembers may elect to use the scholarship for their spouse or child to attend school. Click on the VFW Military Family Scholarship Program brochure at right to apply and find out more information.

If you miss it this year - remember there's always next year so keep checking out the VFW website for details.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's been a while BUT

I have a darn good reason. I finally submitted by query letter and synopsis to a publisher for my first novel - a Romantic Suspense. Two weeks ago I went to the post office and with pride and fear mailed off my precious envelope containing three sheets of paper that I hope will bring a response asking to see my completed manuscript. I toyed with sending it with delivery confirmation then decided against it. Wish I had done that now. I just want to know that it was received and when. Of course there's no way of tracking or timing where it goes and how long it stays at each stop within the publishing company.

As writers (published and unpublished) who have submitted know, it can take awhile to receive a response from any publisher. During this time I've tried to remain focused on my writing even browsing my numerous notes for other story ideas to start working on my next novel. I'm choosing to think and act optimistically. Of course, peppered in all of this have been fears and bad dreams that the post office lost my envelope, that it's sitting in some huge stack on the assistant editor's desk, or in the stack waiting for the form letter stating - thanks but no thanks!

As time has dragged by I've also gone back to my manuscript making one more pass to reassure myself that it is truly ready for an editor's desk. Like making bread, I have to be careful not to work it too much or the end product won't be as ready for consumption as I want it to be.

Other large events have been looming in my life as well so there's lots of pull on my time and attention. I'm on several boards related to writing - and one with a motorcycle club. The Love is Murder Board is increasingly busy as we ready for our 11th conference in June 2009. Check out our wonderful guests at

I'm also the program coordinator for my local chapter of the Windy City Romance Writers of America (RWA) and of course I have a full-time job. If that weren't enough I trained for and ran the Chicago Half-Marathon on Sept 14th and did pretty darn good - if I do say so myself. I clocked in at 2 hours, 17 minutes and 19 seconds. I'm very happy with my results. Two years ago it took me over three hours to run and I'm hoping to break 2 hours next year. In the meantime I'm readying for two 5k and one 10k race in November, two of which are fund raisers for veteran causes.

I aslo have a West Highland Terrier - Rocky the wonder dog - who is 15 years and 5 months old. Months are important for a dog when you think of the ratio of 7 dog years to one people year in terms of how fast they age. So, I'm spending as much time with Rocky as I can. So far he's looked and acted great for his age. Even the vets marvel at how well he looks when I take him in but I think this winter is going to be hard for him as he's showing signs of arthritis and his vision and hearing are degrading. He's already on high-blood pressure meds, but he has top-rate health care. I often joke that he has better health care than most of the people on the planet. Sad but true. Still, he's been a good friend and companion all these years - actually better than some human beings have been - so I'm enjoying being a good companion to him these days.

Then there's my yoga classes - twice a week. I've dabbled in yoga and pilates over the years but this time I'm in it for life and I'm enjoying every moment of it. I have two different instructors and while they both teach some of the same movements the energy they communicate with is different. I'm actually liking this difference right now as it challenges me in some interesting ways but my one instructor has this incredible ability to inspire and motivate people without pushing too hard. I walk away from his class feeling like I've grown spiritually, emotionally and physically. I rarely miss his class. I resumed yoga classes because running has become increasingly hard on my aging body and I'm finding out that I can run less in my practice runs because yoga is proving to be a challenging workout. I've added a yoga routine before and after my runs and while this has been tremendously beneficial, I find that having an instructor benefits me even more. I think everyone will benefit from yoga - give it a try!

Well, back to my last run through my manuscript. Wish me luck and send hope and positive energy that the publisher requests the completed manuscript. It's not a guarantee but it's a foot in the door. I hope to have good news to share in the not-too-distant future.

Take care and have a blessed and uplifting day and week.