Another great Texas PTA Leadership Conference

For the fourth year, I attended the annual Texas Parent-Teacher Association Leadership Conference. This year it was in Houston, Texas. Last year it was in my hometown of San Antonio which was awesome as it allowed us to send more board members. (It rotates every year between Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.)

Most of us in attendance are officers on our local PTA boards though any PTA member can attend. For this upcoming school year, I will be an officer on two different PTAs. I am on my second (and last) year as first Vice-President (in charge of programs and parent education) for my daughter’s elementary school.  I will also be the treasurer at my son’s middle school PTA. It is his (and my) first year at this school.

There were classes to fit every interest level – from the basics of how to do your position (Treasurer, Parliamentarian, President, Fundraising, Secretary, etc.) to PTA issues (how to deal with contentious meetings or other drama, expanding membership, getting volunteers) to parenting issues (Lice, cyber bullying, talking about sex, online safety) and even personal things such as what to cook for dinner and how to save for college.

Even though the middle school PTA was footing the cost of my trip, I tried to take classes and lectures for both positions.  I have been treasurer before so it wasn’t too big of a priority to take too many classes on that topic.

Here are the Classes and Discussion Groups that I attended.

Classes

You are what you tweet: The importance of teaching kids to be safe and responsible online – This was an awesome course taught by a British magician. He used magic not only to keep our attention but to get across his points about the importance of teaching your kids to be responsible online no matter if they are using an app, posting on a website, emailing or chatting.

Five Foundations to empower you kid for life – This class was taught by a former wrestling coach. With all the media stories about kids being entitled, this class talked about ways to empower your child by balance supporting them and letting them struggle.

Common Cents – This is the one treasurer class that I decided to take since it promised to touch on topics not covered in the resource guides or the BASICS: Treasurer class. Unfortunately, I don’t think I learned anything that I didn’t already know. And to top it all off, this speaker wasn’t interesting at all but at least he did know his stuff.

BASICS: Programs – This one I hoped would give me ideas for programs or parent education. There really was nothing wrong with this class and if I was new to the position or new to a PTA board this class might have helped. But for me the only good thing is I got to hang out with a friend who moved away last year.

Discussion Groups

Kick the Middle School Blues – Parent involvement declines as kids get older. At this discussion group, other PTAs shared what worked for them in getting parents involved at the Middle School level. I had been thinking more about volunteers but the discussions really focused more about how to get parents to events. Since I am new to the middle school, I will have to wait and see if suggestions help.

Every Member Counts: Connecting with all Parents – I will say that this was probably my favorite discussion group because it was lead by a great leader. I love every one of her lectures that I have attended and she did a good job here. She shared ways to get more parents involved such as having the parents in the car pickup line do micro-projects. And she was great at balancing sharing ideas with taking questions and having others shared what worked for them.  

Meetings, Motions and the “PTA” way – This discussion group was lead by the president of the PTA. She first went over how a meeting should go and how to make a motion but then opened it to questions. Overall it was very enlightening.

There were many other classes or discussions I would like to have joined, but there is only so much time. And this doesn’t include the vendor fair, the regular PTA annual meeting, special lunches and banquets. (Of that last list we only made it to the vendor fair for the free samples.)

It was fun, informative weekend but since I have been for four years in a row, I don’t plan to come back next year when the conference returns to Dallas.

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Today’s Featured Author – Michelle Stimpson

Please welcome author Michelle Stimpson to my blog. Michelle currently is on a virtual book tour for her short story, Who Killed My Husband?, which was released in June.

Guest Post – Advice for first time authors

The publishing industry has changed tremendously since I first became an author in 2004. In fact, I would say that anything written about publishing/marketing books before 2012 is pretty close to obsolete.  Here’s what I would tell first-time authors who are entering the market in this digital age.

  • If you’re writing non-fiction, know the purpose of the book before you publish. Did you write this book to get clients? To establish yourself as a fresh, innovative voice in your field? If your goal is to use this book to validate your expertise, use it that way—not necessarily as a money-making tool. You might end up giving away more copies to secure radio/TV appearances than actually selling them online to the general public.
  • If your goal is to become a full-time writer, realize that also means become a full-time marketer. This doesn’t mean you have to become a sales person, per se, it just means you have to be serious and deliberate about reaching your market with your message. Be prepared to pay money in order to get in people’s faces on social media and Amazon. Free advertising is just about over these days. Can you post stuff on your page? Yes. Can you make and share memes? Yes. But the question is: How many people will get to see them? These days, not many unless you pay for the exposure. Don’t be afraid of this. You can start small ($2-5 a day for 7 days), then gauge your success. If it’s not working, quit and try something else. When it does work, scale up to $10 and more a day for as long as it works. You’ve got to think of this like: Somebody’s selling 20-dollar-bills for $10. The only catch is you have to wait 60 days to get the $20. If you’re in it for the long haul, this is not a problem.
  • If you really don’t have a goal for your book, that’s okay, too. Whatever happens happens. It’s all good. Write because you want to have fun with it. If your book helps just one person, you’ve succeeded in your own way. This is what matters most. You won’t have to live with regrets your whole life about not ever writing the book that’s been sitting on your heart.

Book Blurb

Ashley Crandall finally convinced her husband, Allan, to attend the Christian men’s retreat…but he ends up dead there. What happened to him on the campgrounds? Who would want to kill Allan? And why are the detectives pointing fingers at Ashley? In her quest to solve the mystery and clear her name, Ashley will learn something about her husband that she didn’t want to know and something about her Christian faith that shifts her life.

About the Author

Michelle Stimpson is an author, a speaker, and an educator who received her Bachelor of Science degree from Jarvis Christian College in 1994. She earned a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2002. She has had the pleasure of teaching elementary, middle, and high school as well as training adults. In addition to her work in the field of education, Michelle ministers through writing and public speaking. Her works include the highly acclaimed Boaz Brown, Divas of Damascus Road (National Bestseller), and Falling Into Grace. She has published several short stories for high school students through her educational publishing company, Right Track Academic Support Services, at http://www.wegottaread.com. Michelle serves in women’s ministry at her home church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, in Dallas, TX. She regularly speaks at special events and writing workshops sponsored by churches, schools, book clubs and other positive organizations, and she has taught writing classes at the University of Texas at Arlington. Michelle lives near Dallas with her husband, their two teenage children, and one crazy dog.

You can find out more about Michelle on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Who Killed My Husband? on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Google.

Book Sale for my 5th Blog Anniversary

Happy Anniversary!

Five years ago, I began this blog to discuss a few things that are important to me – parenting, writing and publishing.

To read my very first post and why I choose the name “Into Another World,” click here.

Since that day, I have written…

General posts – 48

Parenting posts – 268

Quotes of the Week – 261

Recipes on the Months- 59

Writing posts – 166

Publishing posts – 105

Number of Authors Hosted – 286

This post count doesn’t include my promotional post for my own books, recaps, holiday messages or calls for authors to be on my featured author spot. (If you are an author and want to be featured, then please contact me.)

Looking at those numbers all I can say is “Wow! I certainly have been busy.” I enjoy writing for this blog and hope to be able to keep doing this for many more years. If any of you have suggestions for topics related to writing fiction, publishing or marketing a novel, please suggest away in the comments below.

Now on to the book sale….

SummonedFINALSummoned

Regular price – $2.99

Until August 10th  – 99 cents!

You can purchase it on Smashwords (all e-book formats – use Coupon Code NA58U) or Amazon.

box setThe Elemental Box Set

Regular Price – $5.99

Until August 10th – $2.99!

You can purchase it on Smashwords (all e-book formats – use Coupon Code SU59U) or Amazon.

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverThe Heir to Alexandria

Regular Price – $2.99

Until August 10th – 99 cents!

You can purchase it on Smashwords (all e-book formats – use Coupon Code YM36V) or Amazon.

 

Exploring options with my new Cricut Air Explorer

My friend Misty has a Silhoutte while my friend Kim has the Cricut. For those of you not into crafting, these machines are die-cutting machines. They can cut paper, card stock, vinyl, leather and poster board.

Misty makes T-shirts and personalizes bags and other items with hers. Kim only has used hers for cutting card stock letters and shapes.

Now I don’t do a lot of crafty projects. No scrap booking. No making cutesy little cards or other craft projects. If I make a custom card it is more likely on my computer than a cut intricate design. Even the party supplies – banners, name cards – that I have done were done on the computer.

But I love the die-cut machine at the school and liked seeing Misty’s shirt designs. I began looking into their differences between these two machines with the idea of maybe getting one.

And then my husband took the choice away when for Mother’s Day this year he bought me a Cricut Air Explorer.

But what was I going to do it?

I installed the software on my laptop and gave the tutorial project a try. (That is the card in the above photo.)

After that, the machine sat on the bedroom floor for the next two months. (What can I say…I was busy with other things, and I didn’t have any projects going on that needed a die-cut machine.)

But in the back of my head, I was planning to make an Imagine Dragons T-shirt for the concert in November. However, I knew nothing about making my own shirt with vinyl or how to use the design program that came with the unit.

So I watched some videos, ordered some supplies and cranked out four projects in two days.

Cell Phone Cover – My very first project was to cut some vinyl and make a decal for my new iPhone 7 Otter Box case. If you have read any of my books, you know I love dragons so that is what I wanted for the decal.

Lesson learned – The fine detail of the dragon’s tail and the curly parts of the letters proved to be a little difficult when removing the excess vinyl. This probably shouldn’t have been my first project but it worked out.

Toiletry Bag – I recently put an emergency toiletry bag together for my husband to keep at work. (He is an attorney but mostly dresses in jeans and a T-shirt. He keeps a suit at the office for sudden court meetings or meetings with clients. I decided it would be fun to personalize the bag. I choose his initials and a Star Wars rebel symbol.

Lesson learned – For my first iron-on project I should not have chosen something as cumbersome as this small bag. Also the black vinyl on the dark grey fabric is very subtle, and if I had to do it again, I would pick a different vinyl color.

So yes, this means the first two projects I did were not the easiest of projects. But the next two were shirts so a tad easier.

 

PTA shirt – This past weekend I attended a PTA conference. I just recently became the treasurer for my son’s middle school. The problem was since it was a new school for him, I don’t have a PTA shirt and decided to make my own.  I loved being able to use a soft lady’s shirt instead of the standard T-shirt material.

Lesson learned – Double and triple check to make sure the design is straight on the shirt. I still can’t decide if it is slightly crooked or if the “Rocks” word just makes it look that way.

Imagine Dragons shirt – As I said before, I wanted to do a shirt for the concert, so I came up with this design based off their latest album Evolve. Again, I choose a unique women’s shirt (It has a crisscross design on the back) rather than a T-shirt. Of course with months before the concert, I may just make another one – perhaps a long-sleeve one in case it is cool in November.

Lesson Learned – Don’t try to double cut the vinyl. I had read this suggestion somewhere, but the cuts didn’t line up properly. I ended up having to use the other half of the sheet of vinyl to get the correct cut.

So there are my first four projects with the Cricut. I am sure I will keep learning new lessons as I find other fun projects to try. Hmmm….everyone may be getting personalized gifts for Christmas this year.

Today’s Featured Author – Nikola Dimitrov

Today I welcome author Nikola Dimitrov to my blog. Nikola is on a virtual book tour promoting his non-fiction book The Four in One Gospels of Jesus that was released in May.

Book Blurb

The Four in One Gospel of JESUS is the Four Gospels compiled chronologically and contextually, this giving the fullness of each Bible story in the Gospels. This unique material is describing the life of Jesus in its fullness, without the repetitions. It stores all facts about Jesus and comprises a full biography of Jesus Christ. It’s a chronological Bible project, but also a contextual one, featuring subjects such as: Jesus in the Old Testament, the story of the birth of Jesus, Jesus life, Jesus saves, Jesus Cross, Jesus crucifixion, Jesus death, Jesus blood, Jesus tomb, Jesus resurrection, Jesus in Heaven, Jesus works, Jesus miracles, Jesus baptism, Jesus crown, Jesus call, The Jesus teaching, the Passion of Jesus, etc. It shows us how we can be walking with Jesus – the Anointed One, and how we can be servants of Jesus. The book will show You that King Jesus loves You, and will trigger our falling in love with Jesus as well. It’s a one of a kind material indeed, the result of thousands of hours of work in compiling, referencing, structuring and fitting all details in this easy to read, yet, fully referenced edition of the Four Gospels of the Bible.

About the Author

In 1992 Nikola Dimitrov experienced a miraculous conversion, receiving Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Since 1995 he has been a full time minister of the Gospel, serving as pastor, Bible teacher, preacher, and Christian educator. He started his first church in 1994, which is still standing today, and in 1998 he began his traveling ministry. Nikola is currently pastoring several church groups in Bourgas, Bulgaria and is frequently sought out as a speaker around the country. He also serves as a Bible teacher at the Apostolic Kingdom Institute in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.

As editor-in-chief of Vetil Media Ministry, Nikola has translated and published more than thirty books into Bulgarian, as well as writing some himself. He is passionate for a glorious Church, without spot, wrinkle or any such thing. Nikola’s dynamic preaching pointedly encourages believers to be everything the Lord created them to be. He then encourages his congregations to take responsibility in word and deed toward that end.

As a translator, Nikola has also produced and distributed around the nation nearly 1000 Bulgarian versions of audio and video teachings by famous foreign preachers and teachers.

As part of a charity in Bulgaria, along with other volunteers, Nikola takes care of needy people from the minorities, distributing clothes, food, medicine, and school materials to children.

Nikola is married to Helen, and they have two lovely young-adult daughters, Annie (which means grace) and Mikaela (which means who is like God?). Both are part of Nikola and Helen’s ministry, serving in the area of music.

You can find out more about Nikola on his website or follow him on Facebook.

You can purchase The Four in One Gospels of Jesus on Amazon.

Tackling the Second Draft (Novel Writing)

The first draft is done! Whew. But now the real work begins. For many authors, the first draft is just where they jot down the story. Maybe they had an outline to guide them, or maybe they simply wrote whatever came to mind. In either case, there will be a lot of rewriting and cutting coming up.

My first drafts take a long time because I spend time both writing and editing at the same time. I am constantly rewriting and refining as I write my initial draft. This means I don’t have as much to cut out or change as some authors might have.

Now every author approaches their second draft different. For me, this is a time to check the consistency and where I can amend the story either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots.

To do this, I cannot stop on every page to fix and worry over every word. That will come later. To begin, I need to read through the first draft without stopping to correct every flaw. Yes, I may add a missing word or fix a spelling error, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. I want to read it straight through first. As I read, I am making notes of areas that need work, whether it be adding something, deleting the scene or polishing. I am checking the timeline and looking for consistency in travel time or character behavior.

Now once I have read through and made my notes, my second draft isn’t done until I go back and make all those changes. For me, the second draft is about re-writing, expanding and cutting scenes. Descriptions are added to bring the story and characters to life. Scenes that don’t advance the story are deleted – even if they are well-written or your favorite.

Sometimes you will re-work an area once or twice. And sometimes it will take many more tries until you get it right. This part of editing where you take away and add to the story can be very messy, and you may need to be ruthless but it will make your story better, stronger.

It may take many read-throughs to finish this stage. (Which depending on how you count them could be considered additional drafts.) If you do multiple readings, you should take a break between each one. This will allow you to view your novel with “fresh eyes” and will help you catch more things that need to be changed.

And when you are done perfecting the story, the timeline, the characters, it is time for the third draft where you will further tighten your writing, perfect word choices and descriptions, cut unnecessary words and fix punctuation. (For help on the third draft, check out my revision outline).

Ah but at least we have the basics down and ready to turn into a well-written novel!