Posts Tagged ‘Unforgettable Roads’

I’ve spoken to a few groups recently about the importance of journaling not only as a means to organizing thoughts, but as a family treasure. Several years ago, my sister-in-law passed away. One of the most cherished things she left behind was her journal. We all enjoyed flipping through the pages, seeing her handwriting and getting inside her head. It’s also like having a conversation with her.

Paper doesn’t forget.

writing pics 009

Journaling isn’t just about the ‘Dear Diary’ level of writing. Journaling is, on every level, a conversation. If you are interested in writing for your children and grandchildren, much like Graypay does in Unforgettable Roads, here are a few pointers:

1. Relax. It’s just a notebook and a pen.
2. Don’t over spend. It’s not because of the leather bound beauty of a $50.00 journal that it will be treasured. It’s all to do with the words within.
3. Relax. I sense your shoulders tensing.
4. Writing in a journal takes three things: Pen, Paper, and Commitment.
5. Keep the journal visible. You will be more likely to commit to writing if you see it.
6. Set a time each day (10 minutes is enough) to write.
7. You don’t have to be a writer to write in a journal. Begin with a prayer to be honest and just write how you talk. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. It’s the story, the memory and the lesson that are important.

What do you write about, you ask?

1. What’s the earliest memory you have?
2. Describe your parents.
3. What did your bedroom look like when you were 16?
4. Who was your best friend in second grade? In high school?
5. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did that happen?
6. How did you meet your spouse?
7. What did your parents think of your spouse the first time they met?
8. What was/is your favorite holiday tradition?
9. Did you have any pets growing up? If you have pictures of them, add it to your journal.
10. Looking back over your life, what was your best day? Can’t pick one? Write about them all over the next few days.
11. A little negative, but important: what was your worst day?
12. Did you play a musical instrument? If not, what did you want to learn to play?
13. What are the lyrics to your favorite song?
14. Who was the first person you ever danced with? (parents not included!)
15. First kiss?
16. Wedding day? When, where, what you wore…add a picture.
17. The first funeral you ever attended…who was it?
18. Share an embarrassing moment.
19. Write about a valuable lesson you learned the hard way.
20. What books have you read that you think other should read?
21. Favorite movies?
22. What stories do you wish you had from your parents? Write that version of your own life.

Years ago, I met a mom who had five sons. Instead of spending the evening in front of the TV, she, with the help of her family, recorded the day’s events in a journal. I thought that was a good idea. I’ll admit, even as a writer, I never made that a daily event and oh! how I regret that.

It’s not too late. Start writing now.


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Added 4/26/13: The response to this blog hop has been, well, extremely under-whelming. I’m reposting in hopes that you’ve been taking this time to write and edit. Why a Blog Hop? Because it helps us all find new readers, to share our writing, to discover new writers. Join in and have fun! I hope to hear from you all soon!

Original Post:
blog hop badge 2013

In anticipation of the release of my new book, Unforgettable Roads, coming soon from Martin Sisters Publishing, I’m hosting a photo/essay contest & Blog Hop. This is not to be confused with an essay told through photographs, but one photograph paired with one essay.

The theme? You guessed it. ROADS.

dirt road

Pretty roads, sunlit roads, dirt roads, city streets, cozy neighborhood roads, lanes, boulevards…anything goes. The essay can take any format: poetry, fictional, memoir, steam-punk or urban fiction…whatever your heart desires, where ever the picture takes you. (Keep it decent though, folks. No erotica or extreme violence.)

Email me two things: 1) a picture of a road (one you took with your camera – let’s not infringe on copyright laws here…or anywhere!), and 2) the link to your blog/website with your essay. The winning entry will recieve a copy of Unforgettable Roads and Gateways. My email: JessicaSchaubWrites@gmail dot com

Photo and essays will be judged by bloggers – so this is where you come in. I will post all the entries. Followers (mine and yours) can vote for their favorite. All entries should be to me by May 1st, 2013. The Contest will match the release date of Unforgettable Roads – that date will be announced soon.

Why this is a good idea:
– As you tour the roads, taking in the breathtaking scenery and reading about the journey of others, you’ll discover new writers, new ideas, and new connections.
– Any networking Indie Authors can do to help each other is valuable.
– Traffic to your blog will increase.
– Free books. What’s to lose?

There is no obligation to purchase anything. Of course, I hope you do 🙂 I will include a link to preview and/or purchase Unforgettable Roads in paperback, Kindle, Nook, or any eReader.


What’s in it for me?
If you are a writer, public speaker, photographer or anyone looking to build a platform (a base of readers and followers), this is a great event to help you with that. In terms of writing, the publishing world is transforming from one dominated by a few big publishing houses to a beehive of Independent and Small Publishing houses. The need to ‘get your name out there’ falls on your shoulders. Participating in Blog Hops is an effective (and fun!) way to do that. I will share this will all my followers and on all my social networking plugs. You and every other participant can – and should – do the same. Your writing will reach hundreds of new readers. If they like what the read, they might follow your blog.

Is there an age limit for participants?
Nope. I only ask that the person who takes the picture also writes the essay. It is necessary that all entrants have a blog or a website on which to post their essay and photo. That page will be the link you send to me to connect to the Blog Hop.

What is a Blog Hop?
A Blog Hop is just like it sounds – readers can ‘hop’ from blog to blog, reading posts related to a similar topic. It’s a great tools to share book releases, discuss current events, or compare writing styles and voices.

You said no extreme violence. What if the road I’ve been on recenlty was overseas in the war?
By all means, share your story! Our veterans are a great treasure to this country. I look forward to reading your essay and seeing where you’ve been. Just keep in mind that I have many young followers/readers of this blog.

Is there a word count limit?
The recommended amount for a blog post is between 300 – 700 words. Nothing too long or too short. Going along with the statement, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words” let’s keep it under 1,000. If you want to really crank this up to improve your writing, after you finish your first draft, try to trim the word count by half.

Why would I do that?
Every word in excellent writing packs a punch. Knock your readers out with a highly concentrated essay.

What is Unforgettable Roads about?

back cover pic

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Exciting News! My book, Unforgettable Roads, has been offered a contract for publication from Martin Sisters Publishing! I’m still giggly-happy and am trying to not stress over the amount of work that is presented on this silver platter 🙂

One of my tasks was to write the back cover blurb, the jacket flap summary of the book that announces key points and the major theme of the book. In preparation for writing my own back cover summary, I spent several hours at the library reading just that backs of books and making notes. I’m sharing what I’ve learned.

First, I learned it’s easier to write an entire book than to condense it all into a 150 word synopsis. It’s a necessary task – not a necessary evil. And it’s a task that when written well before you begin writing the novel, can keep you focused on your overall goals of the story.

That is Focus Point 1 – Have the goal for the story stated in the summary. Have you ever listened to a friend go on and on about something that happened to them, but they forget why they were sharing that story with you in the first place? Do you want that for your story? Is your goal for readers to finish your story (if they make it that far), set it down and think, “Now, why did that author even put ink to those sentences?” Our goal as writers is always to share a slice of life that will educate, entertain, tug at heart strings, leave a mark on the minds of the reader. Make that clear right in the summary. Think about that as you write. While there are certainly unexpected moments during writing when you see that the story needs to move in a different direction than originally planned, be sure that you don’t move so far off focus that the essence of your story is lost.

Think about what it is that draws you to purchase or borrow a book? Mostly, it’s a recommendation from friends or our eagerness to pick up a beloved author’s new work. But all those books were first picked up by an unsuspecting reader who felt intrigued by the promises on the back cover. Be a good person – make a promise and stick to it!

Focus Point 2 – Leave the reader with a hook. It’s like fishing for readers. Bait your hook with an enticing offer. A perfect last line of a summary should lead the reader to sit down right in the bookstore and start reading. Test out your summary on people who are not familiar with your story. If that respond with, “Sounds interesting,” go back and try again. The response you want is, “OH! Can I read this?”

Focus Point 3 – Stay focused on the true main characters. Your novel will be rich with characters, both siding with the protagonist or the antagonist. You’ve spent weeks perfecting their qualities, speech, behavior patterns and you want to share that with the world. You will. But not in the jacket-flap summary. Main characters (2-3 at most) and the main conflict are the only two points you should reveal on the back cover.

Note: there are back cover summaries and then there are elevator pitches. The summary is designed to give the reader a nice sampling of the story to sink their teeth into. Sometimes this is done with an exerpt of the text itself. Can you find a slice of your story that would serve well to draw the reader in? If you can’t – make that happen! An elevator pitch is a two sentence summary that intrigues a reader. It’s quick, short on details but rich with conflict.

Samples: So now you can see what I wrote for my back cover summary for Unforgettable Roads. Did I take my own advise?

Elevator Pitch:A story of coming-of-age and aging, the mystery of discovery, the revealing of old truths, Unforgettable Roads follows Alison Elliott as she is granted her greatest wish, uncovers her grandfather’s darkest secret, and tries to reunite a family that never had a chance.

Jacket Flap Summary: (I’ve included a few drafts to share the ‘trimming’ process of editing a summary)

Draft One:
Jack Elliott has Alzheimer’s . To preserve his mind, he has written his life’s story: the lessons, the gains and the losses he has lived through, in hopes that as his granddaughter, Alison, comes of age, she will not make the same mistakes he did. For her birthday, Jack takes Alison on a journey to the places in the West where he found his independence in life, his dependence on God, and fell in love for the first time.

When Jack’s journals are stolen, Alison realizes that nothing will protect her grandfather from the evils of Alzheimer’s. Victims of a hit-and-run, Jack is seriously injured. Desperate to find a piece of his past to bring to him, Alison continues the journey, searching for answers, seeking the people and places her grandfather once knew. As Alison follows the stories she grew up on, she realizes that she’s looking for Jack’s first love…and it’s not her grandmother. Will this woman be enough? Will she be the ‘kiss’ that wakes him up?

Draft Two: (There were actually many drafts inbetween. I’m just sharing my most recent one.)
Jack Elliott has Alzheimer’s. To preserve his mind, he has written his life’s story: his youthful westward journey and discoveries. When Jack’s journals are stolen, his granddaughter, Alison, realizes that nothing will protect her grandfather from the evils of Alzheimer’s. Victims of a hit-and-run, Jack is seriously injured. Desperate to find a piece of his past to bring to him, Alison continues the journey, searching for answers, seeking the people and places her grandfather once knew. As Alison follows the stories she grew up on, she discovers her grandfather’s darkest secret.

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When I visit schools, the students always ask where I find ideas for stories. The answer is complicated. I don’t find stories in one place or by doing one thing. Sometimes stories find me.

1. Reading. As part of my education as a writer, I spend a great deal of time reading. I read books and magazines and blogs. I love reading non-fiction books when I’m researching a story. I love reading stories that are well-researched. Reading is one place I find ideas. My current project, Circle of Pride, came to me when I started reading Dante’s Inferno. I thought, “What would happen if Pride escaped from Hell and started hunting people? Where would he go? What would he use as bait? Is it a He or a She?”

Many blog posts end with an ‘About this Writer’ summary. I read one recently that punched me in the gut. Without stating names, this blogger lives in London and travels the world collecting stories.

How nice for her!

2. Wishing. The thought of traveling the world to collect stories sounds dreamy. I would love to see what story awaits in Morocco or Spain or on the coast of New Zealand. Instead of traveling the world, I wallpapered my dining room wall with a National Geographic map. My children, the daughters of a writer, think it would be great if we could just touch the map and magically go to that spot. I think there’s a story there.

map 007

3. Listening. I live in Michigan. I most recently traveled to Northern Indiana (an hour and a half drive). Next month I will go north 3.5 hours to do a school visit. I will collect stories along the way, mostly because I will travel with my four kids. My two-year-old son is a never-ending source of comedic fodder. I have several short stories for children that I wrote for my own children simply because they asked me a question that I answered with a story. That’s the case for Frog’s Winter Walk, a picture book coming out later this year. My daughter asked me where frogs lived in the winter. When I told her they hibernate, she was sad for them. “They’ll never see a beautiful snowy day.” Presto! A story was born.

illustrator: Sarah Aman, all rights reserved

illustrator: Sarah Aman, all rights reserved

4. Hoping. Other times, writing becomes a means to find the good in a bad situation. Unforgettable Roads is my effort to make something beautiful from Alzheimer’s.

5. Inspiring. Gateways is the result of a dream I had when I was nine years old that found it’s voice when I felt compelled to write a positive story for young adults in response to an aethiest’s effort to convince all young adults that God was dead.

Stories can emerge from childhood memories, from snippets of overheard conversation, from dreams, music, and vacations. If you are a writer are looking for ideas, keep your eyes open and listen to the world. Ask, ‘What if…?’ and test the boundaries. Keep a notebook handy. Tuck a digital recorder in your pocket to take notes when you’re driving. Surround yourself with books, readers, good music. Turn off the TV, avoid Netflix and WRITE!

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Bucket List. Kind of depressing when I think about it; a list of things to do before I die. The image I have is one of an older generation rushing around, trying to tick off adventures and experiences before the big dirt nap.

Which lead to me to think about lives and how we live. The key word being LIVE. How would the idea of a bucket list change if it was called a LIFE LIST?

The items on the list would no longer be checked off before one dies, but experienced as one lives. What if, instead of creating a list of things to do, we kept a list of things must do, but do them with a joyful heart? The bucket-list-turned-life-list becomes an exercise in optimism.

I’m anxious to try this because I’m a stay-at-home mom, blessed with four children, and encouraged by a husband who completely supports my desire to home school these little ones. My life is not a movie-worthy adventure. We don’t vacation in exotic places; in fact the farthest we’ve been from home on vacation was a five hour drive away when we camped for a week. However, if I could find the joy in the mundane I would be a better mother, a better wife, and a better friend.

This year I’m changing my bucket list to the Life List, taking the challenges of parenthood, of home schooling, of writing, and flipping the negative thoughts on its head.

Bucket List: Retire as a millionaire.
Life List: Grocery shopping trips will become adventures as I shop for an entire month with four kids in tow and stay under budget – putting the money I save in our retirement account.

Bucket List: Tame a wild animal and perform with it at a Circus.
Life List: Train a toddler to be still during Mass.

Bucket List: Become a Psychologist and create a new treatment for behavior disorders.
Life List: Become a parent and train your children to respect authority.

Bucket List: Skydive.
Life List: Watch your daughter drive away in your car on her sixteenth birthday.

Bucket List: Visit every state capital.
Life List: Visit your city’s Soup Kitchen on Thanksgiving Day (better yet, once a month) and serve a meal.

Bucket List: Have picture taken with (insert favorite celebrity here).
Life List: Become a child’s celebrity by becoming a reliable mentor.

Bucket List: Write a book.
Life List: Write a book.

Hey, whatdoyaknow? Sometimes Bucket Lists and Life Lists line up!

I recently wrote a novel based on this idea of a life list. Here’s the back cover blurb: Jack Elliott has Alzheimer’s. To preserve his mind, he has written his life’s story: his westward journey and discoveries. When Jack’s journals are stolen, his granddaughter, Alison, realizes that nothing will protect her grandfather from the evils of Alzheimer’s. Victims of a hit-and-run, Jack is seriously injured. Desperate to find a piece of his past to bring to him, Alison continues the journey, searching for answers, seeking the people and places her grandfather once knew. As Alison follows the stories she grew up on, she realizes discovers her grandfather’s darkest secret.

To sample the first few chapters of Unforgettable Roads here. Unforgettable Roads has been offered a contract from Martin Sisters Publishing and should be released mid-2013.

Writing and actively seeking publication creates a whole new list of Bucket List adventures. Here’s my list for 2013:
1. I’m going to figure out how to use Twitter to reach readers.
2. I’m working towards completing 3 manuscripts that have been in the works for some time now and really need to be finished.
3. And then the editing, revisions, and submissions of those 3 manuscripts.
4. I’m going to read more books written by Independent authors and write reviews for them.
5. The blogging experiences is coming together for me and I love it. It’s more of a community than I expected. To this, I hope to work at my blog, connecting with other writers and readers to network, compile information about writing, research, publishing, and seeking publication.
6. And somewhere in all this, I hope to keep my house a little cleaner. Well, we all have dreams right? Maybe I can do it all…I am a woman. That’s what we believe 🙂

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June 20

The police station is tidy but dust bunnies lurk in corners affirming only a clean surface. It smells funny too, like sweat and coffee and stale sugar. A young woman whose desk is in front of an open window obviously doesn’t smell like this room either; every now and then a wisp of her fruity perfume wanders over to me.

It wasn’t been a long drive from the hospital to the station, but the officer said it was necessary for me to do the line-up. Trey stayed at the hospital, so at least Graypay wasn’t alone; not that he knew where he was or what had happened. I wasn’t even sure I knew the answer to that; we had traveled so far so quickly that it was impossible to remember what state we were in; North Dakota or Montana. Maybe it didn’t really matter.

I was here now, in this station, because I had seen his face. It was only for a few seconds, but I could still see the depth of his blue eyes, and the long crease across his forehead, and the way his face glared with surprise when he looked at me. And then he left us there, confused and bleeding.

A police officer sat down opposite me and smiled weakly. “We’ll do this as quickly as possible, Miss Elliott. They are getting the line-up ready. The men will not be able to see you. You just need to look at their faces and tell us which one you remember seeing.”

I nodded.

“There’s just a bit of paper work to fill out while we wait,” the officer slid a clipboard across his desk.

As I reached for the pen, the officer saw how badly my hands were shaking. “Here,” he gently took the pen back. “I’ll help you. When is your birthday?”

May 17th


The morning was perfect. I woke to the smell of bacon and eggs, found a new fuzzy robe on the end of the bed, and a card that had been slipped under the door. My seventeenth birthday was off to a good start.

The kitchen sizzled with excitement. As I stepped onto the tile floor, Mom, Dad and Graypay broke into a boisterous chorus of “Happy Birthday”. I couldn’t pronounce ‘grandpa’ when I was two-years old and ‘Graypay’ stuck. Mom poured my first cup of coffee, sweetened with milk, vanilla, and sugar. For years I woke to the smell of coffee. The rich aroma was delicious. Despite all my requests for a sip, I was denied, told that when I was an adult, I would join the ranks of the caffeine addicts. Until then, it was water, milk, or juice. All the years waiting were not in vain. Although I imagined the taste to be different, richer and less bitter, I drank it all. The warmth of adulthood spread through my arms and legs and I sighed, feeling very pleased.

Seventeen. I know what you’re thinking. Seventeen is not the legal age for an adult. Eighteen is. But my parents married when they were seventeen. They started their own business after seventeen months of marriage. I was born seventeen months after they moved into this apartment. And yes, I was born on the seventeenth of May. Sadly, there is no seventeenth month of the year – that would round it all off quite nicely. Luckily, they didn’t go so far as to name me Seventeen or some equally horrible name. Alison suits me just fine.

Graypay sat in his usual chair, drinking his coffee from the same mug, wearing the sweater vest he always wears in the morning to ‘keep the chill off his heart’. He looked to my dad, eyebrows raised. “Now?”

Dad breathed in, a slow, deep breath. He was stalling. Or preparing for the wind to be knocked out of him. “Now.”

Graypay smiled widely and leaned forward. “Alison, Do you remember what number 17 on your list is?”

     This time I took a deep breath. Was he about to say what I thought he was about to say? “Yes.”

     “Happy Birthday!” He raised his arms and stood up. “We leave when school’s out.”

     My reaction at this was…well, I’m not proud of it. I’ve been raised to respond to things calmly. But Graypay was handing me one of my dreams and it was, without a doubt, the best birthday present I have ever received – or ever will receive. But still, I pride myself on being unlike the other girls, all giggly and silly.

What did I do that I’m so ashamed of?

I jumped up and down, screaming and crying. I hugged Graypay and screamed some more.

Next month I can cross the first thing off my list.

Alison’s List of Things to Do and Places to Go…

1.    Tour Washington D.C.

2.    Put a penny on Abraham Lincoln’s knee.

3.    Make a wish in Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy.

4.    See Old Faithful.

5.    Hike through a mountain pass.

6.    Follow the trail of Lewis and Clark.

7.    Take my picture in front of a Redwood tree.

8.    Be a missionary for at least a year in a third world country.

9.    Ride a steamboat down the Mississippi.

10. Visit the pub that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien frequented.

11. Write in my journal at least once a week.

12. Read every book on the banned list.

13. Be an ‘extra’ in a movie.

14. Go to Christmas Mass at the Vatican.

15. Graduate from college.

16. Have an article published in a magazine.

17. Drive across country. Not on highways, but back roads. And never on a toll road!

18. Work on a cruise ship.

19. Read from the Bible everyday.

20. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen each Thanksgiving.

21. Take the tour through Anne Frank’s Secret Annex.

22. See the Great Wall of China.

23. Listen to what my body is telling me; my health is my choice.

24. Drink a mug of beer in a German pub.

25. Buy a bottle of olive oil in Italy.

26. Visit every state in the United States.

27. Learn the provinces of Canada.

28. Speak another language well enough to have a conversation and not be thought a fool.

29. Learn sign language.

30. Write a book.

31. Never eat ‘fast food’ again.

32. Go camping at least once a year.

33. Sponsor a child in another country.

34. See every Shakespeare play performed on stage.

35. Read the book before seeing the movie – in all cases.

36. If and when I meet a celebrity, I will not act like an idiot.

37. Solve a real mystery.

38. Drive on Highway 1.

39. And Route 66.

40. If I do become a mother, I will do it right, making my children my first priority.

41. Drive Highway 2 from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Pacific Ocean.

42. Buy books in hard cover.

43. Buy Christmas presents for children in foster care.

44. Rescue a dog from the Humane Society and give him or her life filled with love.

45. Always tip 20% at restaurant

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