Month: December 2009

Spines Instead of Staples

Freckles dotted her skin like punctuation on the chalkboard during an English lesson. She had thick, frizzy hair; the color and texture reminded me of Little Orphan Annie’s hair, curls unfurled. Her name was Miss Hudik, and my fifth-grade class was her first when she began her career at Center Road Elementary. She assigned a short story with illustrations. I wrote a tale inspired by The Red Balloon, an award-winning children’s film directed by Albert Lamorisse.

On a rainy fall day in France, Pascal finds a balloon, round and red. The balloon, which has human qualities, is a companion to lonely Pascal until his jealous classmates steal it. One of them hits it with a slingshot. Hundreds of balloons escape, fly to Pascal, wrap their strings around him like a harness, and lift him in the air. This is where the idea for my first story came from.

My character, Holly, flew in a red hot air balloon with a brown woven basket, despite her fear of heights. Various situations threatened to pop the balloon. She landed unharmed, a braver girl. I used 11” x 14” white paper, folded in half to look like a book, silver staples at the seams. I traced lines with a ruler, four to a page; I printed my best handwriting with a black crayon. Above the words, I drew a stick figure with yellow pigtails and blue eyes, the sun, clouds, V-shaped birds. When I wrote my name on the cover, I felt, for the first time, like a writer.

I remember the immense joy creation brought. I couldn’t draw but I didn’t care; the words were much more fun to play with than the crayons. Miss Hudik confirmed it for me; she told me I should write stories. I started to dream about books, real books, bound with spines instead of staples, my name on the cover. When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “An author.”

A red balloon inspired me to create; a red-haired woman encouraged me to continue. She gave me the guts I needed to write on my own. Miss Hudik was my last childhood teacher. She sent me into junior high, and the rest of my life, armed with the core of my identity: writer.

What you just read is an essay I wrote in 2005 that won second place in the Lea Leever Oldham essay contest. The late Lea Leever Oldham founded the Western Reserve Writers’ Conference, held each March and September at Lakeland Comminuty College. The topic in 2005: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I invite feedback from everyone, and for the writers, an additional question….when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Let Your Light So Shine

Today I read this in C. Hope Clark’s December 13th, 2009 FFW Small Markets newsletter:


Everyone starts small. We have to begin somewhere. In our writing, we struggle with whether to write for free or not, whether to pitch to teeny websites or not, whether to write for a dollar per 500-word article for some writer mill. Regardless, we have to start small and work up.

Start small, but be the best darn person there and give it your impressive all. Make people read you and wonder why you are writing here instead of in a larger publication. Be a wonder, even if it’s on a no-name blog.

Be good enough to make people marvel at the work.

All professionals took on small roles in the outset, just for the chance to put on a show. They had a passion and would rather start small than not start at all.

However . . . these successful professionals moved on once they left an impression. They made a splash and graduated to a larger pool.

With Craigslist and writing forums stuffed full of nickle and dime writing offers, insecure writers have all the opportunity in the world to get stuck writing for trickle-pay venues. It takes guts and a desire to earn a living at this crazy craft to keep climbing, climbing out of the rut of small-time jobs.

Start small and shine big. Wow and amaze. But once you’ve become a known quantity in that teeny arena, step out and up, stretching your writing muscles and pulling those new-found fans with you.

Start with a tea light. You can keep replacing it with other teeny tea light candles as each burns out. However,you could replace it with a larger candle, then a bigger
one until you have a bonfire going that stays lit for many more folks to see.

Hope Clark

I love the analogy at the end. Now I’m ready to go write some more of the first draft of my essay for the Procrastinating Writers Blog essay contest. You still have time to enter if you’re so inclined.

Speaking of first drafts, I loathe them. (Although I do write them.) I’m always curious about the approaches other writers use to write first drafts. Readers who write out there, do you have any tips or techniques you’d like to share?

How to Achieve Success

“Putting aside fears in love, in life, and in writing is the only way to have a shot at achieving any measure of success.”
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, from her book, Pen on Fire, which I started last week after I read Sara Lancaster’s blog post The 8 Books I Wish I Read in 2009. I bought Pen on Fire in April of 2009. As Sara writes, “What am I waiting for?” You’ll be hearing more about this book as I read it and once I finish it. I’ve read two chapters so far and I’m in love. Which doesn’t surprise me, since I’m a huge fan of Barbara’s weekly radio show, Pen on Fire (previously known as Writers on Writing).

What fears in love, life, or writing have you put aside and as a result achieved success? Tell us your story.

A Saturday Morning Post: Scrambled Eggs With Leeks

Every Saturday, my husband Mark and I traditionally wake up and cook a large breakfast, which usually consists of some form of eggs, bacon, wheat toast, coffee (our favorite is KC Coffee), and Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice, No Pulp, Calcium + Vitamin D (which is my pick, Mark indulges my persnickety approach to orange juice. I hate pulp!).

One Saturday in November I decided to try something a little different. I made scrambled eggs with leeks, a recipe pulled from a book called Energy Food: Energy-Giving Food Solutions to Keep You Fully Charged Throughout the Day, by Beverly le Blanc.

I found this book grocery shopping and bought it because I thought it might help me eat foods to keep the hypoglycemia under control. I have what is called mild hypoglycemia. When I eat foods that are high in protein and whole grains, I don’t feel jittery, sweaty, cranky, and clammy. This book is not specifically written for people with hypoglycemia, but it’s the best cookbook I’ve seen to help incorporate foods to keep my blood sugar steady.

Here’s the recipe for Scrambled Eggs With Leeks. It’s simple, delicious, and filling.

Serves 4

8 large eggs (we like brown eggs)
1 tbsp sunflower oil (we use olive oil)
2 tsp butter
1 large leek, trimmed, thinly sliced, rinsed, and patted dry
4 wholewheat muffins, split, toasted, and lightly buttered
salt and pepper
(we use a little sea salt and pepper)

Put the eggs in a bowl and use a fork to whisk together until blended, then set aside.

Heat the oil with half the butter in a large skillet over a medium-high heat until frothy. Reduce the hear to medium, add the leeks, and stir around for about 5 minutes until wilted. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leeks from the skillet and set aside.

Add the remaining butter to the oil in the skillet. Season the eggs to taste with salt and pepper, then pour them into the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring, for 1-1/2 minutes, or until the eggs begin to set. Return the leeks to the skillet and stir into the eggs until the eggs have reached the desired consistency.

Spoon the eggs and leek mixture over the hot muffins and serve.


This recipe was my first experience with leeks. I love the mild onion-like flavor. After you slice them you can push them up from the middle like a wooden circle tower. It’s also fun to trim them, as Mark displays with his creation, Benton the Rastafarian Leek:


If you try this recipe, I invite you to tell me your thoughts! If you have your own Saturday traditions or breakfast recipes, please share those too!

Happy Saturday, everyone! I’m off to make some breakfast.

Alanna Klapp’s Four Guest Host Podcasts for The Writing Show in 2009

My name is Alanna Klapp, and if you’re reading this, thank you! I’m a writer and guest host for The Writing Show, a podcast which provides information and inspiration for writers. I love to read and write, and to explore the vast online opportunities that exist for writers of all levels.

My friend, neighbor, and fellow writer, Jenny, e-mailed me the link to the 43 Most Inspiring Writing Advice Posts of 2009, posted on the Procrastinating Writers Blog. Jenny’s aunt, Darrelyn Saloom, is a writer who made the list of 43 with her piece titled The Battle of Resistance. The inspiration for this list is the group writing project proposed by Daniel Scocco on Daily Blog Tips. The project? To write a 2009 Year in Review post.

I’d pondered a blog of my own since September (even wrote a short list of ideas for posts last month), but this is what motivated me to start. Through this project, I can introduce myself and share what I’ve done in 2009 as my first blog entry. What better way to begin than to reflect on an end?

So, with this in mind, here’s the list of Alanna Klapp’s Four Guest Host Podcasts for The Writing Show in 2009.

1. Writing Fiction, with author John Derhak, posted on February 8th

John Derhak is the author of two hilarious and scary novels, Tales from the moe.Republic and Tales to Chill Your Cockles.

2. Writing Fiction, with Thrity Umrigar, posted on July 5th

Thrity Umrigar is the national bestselling author of four novels, including The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven.

3. Writing Memoir, with Deanna R. Adams, posted September 27th

Deanna Adams is the author of the memoir Confessions of a Not-So-Good Catholic Girl.

4. The Importance of Detail, with Erin O’Brien, posted December 5th

Erin O’Brien is the author of the novel Harvey & Eck, written numerous nonfiction pieces for various publications, and blogs at The Erin O’Brien Owner’s Manual for Human Beings.

Some of you know me and have listened to these interviews, and I thank you! If you’re new to The Writing Show, I invite you to listen to these podcasts along with the other 2009 shows, and the archives that date back to 2005. There’s a show for you no matter what you write.

I also invite your comments and feedback. If you’ve listened to any writing podcasts in 2009 that you found informative and inspirational, please share them!

Thanks for reading and listening, and Happy Writing!