May 20, 2018

raining on a parade

I wanted to cry when my alarm went off Saturday morning. It was 4:15. I'd gone to bed little more than two hours earlier. With guests expect to arrive at 5, I had a number of last minute tasks to care for before they arrived. Egg bakes to make and place in the oven. Finger sandwiches to assemble and slice. Scones to place in a basket. Cocktails to pour. Plenty to do, so, sleep had to wait.

Seven years ago, a few of my good friends and I woke up similarly early to watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton. We made complimentary, but still unique, T-shirts. We sipped mimosas and commented on every hat and dress as they appeared on screen. We teared up at touching moments. Sighed during the fairy tale. And we went to work at 8, still buzzed on the spirit of the festivities (and, okay, the mimosas).

With nothing but happy memories from that day, I eagerly looked forward to holding another Royal Wedding watch party when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. There are few things I love more than a themed party, so coming up with a menu, decor, and activities to commemorate such an occasion is one of my greatest joys. I started planning them all months ago, though I didn't get serious about it until about two weeks ago.

By the time my first guest arrived right on time, my vision had almost completely come to fruition. In the kitchen, I had a table set with Pimm's Cups and mimosas, English Breakfast Egg bakes, fresh scones with clotted cream and preserves, fruit, finger sandwiches, and even my take on the lemon and elderflower wedding cake. In the living room, I had a build-your-own fascinator station, Royal Wedding Bingo, and a ridiculous British photo booth.

Ain't no party like a Laura Chapman party,
'cuz a Laura Chapman party is themed.

My guests arrived. We chatted. We laughed. We teared up. We gossiped. When it was over, even though I was physically tired, my emotional and mental cup ran over. I was happy to have spent a fun morning making memories with my friends. My inner romantic was sighing at watching love declared. (I'm a sap at all weddings.) I was so pleased with how my plans for the party had come together. It's been a crazy few months at work. I've been on an emotional roller coaster of sorts for the better part of a few years. I'm a writer, but I can't find the precise words to explain how nice it was to have a few hours where I wasn't worrying about anything but what hat some stranger was wearing and whether or not anyone would flub their lines. It was fun. It was more than that.

Of course with anything that happens in this world, there were people who didn't care about the wedding. When I logged onto Facebook after my last guests left, a little of the feel-good wind behind my sails was knocked down when I saw a series of posts from people trashing everyone who watched. I hid the comments and kept scrolling, but the sentiments stayed with me.

It didn't bother me that someone else didn't want to watch or read anything about the wedding. That's fine. It's their right not to care. It's their right not to watch. But I wondered why we feel this need to say something rude or snarky about something harmless that brings another person joy. Whether it's about a game, a race, an awards show, or a royal wedding, why do we need to make public declarations to say we don't care? Is it to make ourselves feel better or seem better than other people? Or do we have to make every thought, every emotion known now for the world to hear it?

(I'm doing that now by writing this post.)

I don't really know the answers to those question. They're probably simpler than I'm making it, but maybe they're even more complicated than I can imagine. Thinking about this, though, has made me determined to do better at keeping my thoughts to myself (or to a private chat among friends). Whether or not something is my cup of tea, it might be someone else's. Maybe that person watching a game or show is feeling a little blue and this adds a little light and joy to their life. As much as it's my right not to care, it's their right to enjoy it without having someone diminish or dismiss it in any way.

Life can really suck sometimes. It's also too short. Maybe we should let each other enjoy our little pleasures when we can without raining on anyone's parade. At least that's going to be my goal.

Anyway, cheers to the couple. If you watched, I hope your experience was as enjoyable as mine. If you didn't, I hope you had a lovely Saturday all the same.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 19, 2018

the writers write olympics

Last week I was once again invited to be an author mentor at Writers Write, a morning workshop for local eighth grade students sponsored by the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association. I participated in the program as an eighth grader, and it has been a particular honor to come back as a mentor the past three years.

Like countless others, I have Olympic Winter Games fever.

Lady Jane and I surfing the sofa and cheering on
the women's relay. Like. Bosses.

When I'm not watching the Olympics, I seem to be reading up on them. Even the book I just finished reading centered around the Olympics. When it came time to figure out the focus and theme for my break-out workshop, it hit me like Marai Nagasu landing her triple axel in the short program. I needed to celebrate the Olympics.

It was so. Much. Fun. The students--even the shy ones--seemed to get into the spirit of the whole thing. They broke out into their randomly appointed teams and seemed to create tight-knit units immediately. They brainstormed and shared and wrote some pretty spectacular pieces off the cuff.

I wanted to share the script I created as well as a few pictures from the day. (No photos of the students as I don't have their parents' permission to post them here.) I actually stuck to it pretty faithfully, because I was trying to kick a nasty cold, and it took most of my energy to stay upright and be peppy in intervals. I also had a slide show with gifs and videos, but I'll only include where necessary.

Here it is, the 2018 Writers Write Olympics . . .

[Play Olympics Theme Music]

Welcome to the inaugural Writers Write Olympics, where everyone is a fierce writer and everyone wins. I’m Laura Chapman, your master of ceremonies, coach, and biggest cheerleader. In today’s Olympic games, we’ll discuss what it takes to be a champion writer and chase writing gold for ourselves and our teams. Are you ready, writers?

You can practically see the cold medicine radiating from my pores.

OPENING CEREMONY 

Before we begin today’s games, we need to create some teams. Please select a slip of paper from the Olympic Cup and go to the table with that color of folder and star. Go ahead and introduce yourself to your team members. Share your name. Where you go to school. And the best book you’ve read this year.

[Pause for introductions]

Now it’s time to make your team stand out. Go ahead and select a name and write it down on that star. You’ll also need a motto. Write it on the Post-It note on your folder. And take that poster board and make a flag You have five minutes. Before we begin the Parade of Nations, open up your folder and pull out the single sheet of paper with word prompts. Fill those in quickly as a team, selecting nouns, adverbs, adjectives and so on. You’ll need those later.

PARADE OF NATIONS 

Let’s meet our Olympic Teams. Bring everyone on up. One of you will be the flag bearer. One of you will share the name and motto.

[TEAMS SHARE]

Thank you all for representing your schools and teams. I officially declare the Writers Write Olympic Games Open. Let the games begin!

TEAM PRELIMS 

For our preliminary round, we’re going to do a team writing activity. Before we begin, let’s watch a brief clip from this year’s Olympics.

[PLAY: https://youtu.be/RvEFtNYVQVI]

That’s Mirai Nagasu, a 24-year-old from Team USA. This week she became the first American female figure skater to successfully land a triple axel at the Olympics. She’s only the third woman to do so at the games. Can you imagine what that’s like? With your teams, write what you think was gong through her mind and how she felt during these 30 seconds.

One of the slides I created under the influence of a fever and meds.

Work together to show and tell those thoughts and feelings in a short vignette. You can do this together as a team by discussing. Or you can do it Round Robin style where each team member writes one sentence and passes it on. The choice is yours, but you have five minutes. Are you ready? Begin.

[WRITE]

Please select a member from your team to share what you’ve written.

[TEAMS SHARE]

Well done, teams. You’ve done a great job working together to fulfill your goals. Writing can often be a solitary experience, but it’s good to have a network of friends. They can help you brainstorm. They’ll keep you motivated. And sometimes you can work together to create a project. 

INDIVIDUAL COMPETITION 

Now it’s time to move on to the next phase of our games, the individual competition. Please open up your folders again and remove the folded sheets of paper. When you sit down to write, you don’t need to have have an outline. But it’s beneficial to have an idea of what you will write about. It helps you be more productive and reduces stress and anxiety. Open your folded sheet of paper and look at your picture. Use it to inspire a scene or poem. You can write about the person or people it in it. Or perhaps you’re writing from the perspective of someone witnessing it. Or maybe it’s the setting or activity. It’s your choice. You’ll have two chunks of time to write. I’m going to set the time for the first one now. I’ll let you know when you have 30 seconds left. Are you ready? Go!

[WRITE]

COMMERCIAL BREAK

That’s time. We’ll get back to our writing, but first we’ll be back after a word from our sponsors. When writing, it’s a good idea to give yourself breaks. Not only is it good for your body and health to move around, but it helps stir the creative choices. Everyone stand up. Go ahead and shake it out a little. Now for our first stretches.

  • fingers 
  • wrists
  • arms (up, across, out) 
  • calf raises 

Now we’ll march in place, moving our arms like so. Does everyone feel a little more loose?

Great, let’s get back for Round 2. Again, think about what you’re writing. Think about how that person reacts to their setting. What are they feeling? How can you show it? I’ll set the timer again and let you know when we’re up to the final 30 seconds.

[WRITE]

Okay, that’s it for this writing session. How did it feel writing in those two bits of time? Writing in short, timed writes like the ones we just did are called sprints. The idea is to set a timer for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes and take breaks between. It’s based on a productivity tool called the Pomodoro Technique. Setting out to accomplish a big goal, like writing a story or poem, can be daunting. But when you break it down into smaller chunks like that—and take breaks—it becomes more manageable. Now it’s time to share our work with each other.

Have everyone at your table go around and share your stories with each other. When you’re done, select one person who will share his or her story with the room. Ready? Go.

MEDAL CEREMONY 

The "medals" I gave each student after reading. They're the colors of
the teams they'd worked with all morning.

Do we have our three representatives? Let’s go around the room and share.

[Almost everyone ended up sharing, which was awesome.]

Thank you all for representing your teams. Would you each please come up here. In recognition of your bravery and good work, please accept this medal. Please take these others back to your tables and present them to your teammates.

CLOSING CEREMONY 

Thank you all for participating in the Writers Write Olympics. I hope you had fun. If you think about it, we writers have a lot in common with Olympic athletes.

For all of us, success begins when we turn our dreams into plans. It’s one thing to say we want to win the half pipe or write a story. It’s another to come up with a way to make it happen. How do we accomplish this as writers? We make outlines, develop characters, and brainstorm.

It also takes hard work and dedication. That means sitting down with a pen and paper or a computer to write. It means making time for it and committing to your words. We have to practice doing that. Like skiing down hill or skating at high speed, writing takes muscles. To get your muscles in top shape, you have to do it often and practice, practice, practice.

It can be scary to create a story or a poem then to turn around and share it with others. Just like it must be nerve-wracking to skate a routine on ice in front of fans around the world. It’s okay to be afraid. That doesn’t make you a coward or weird. We’re all scared. But we become champions when we don’t let that fear hold us back from going for what we want.

And all of us have to ignore the haters that try to keep us from doing what we love. Sometimes they’re people who say mean things. Other times they’re the self doubt that make us question whether or not we have what it takes. Whatever they are, you have to ignore them and focus on the prize—a finished piece.

So this is my advice to you, writers:

Dream big and turn those dreams into plans.

Work hard and dedicate yourself to your craft.

Make time to write and make it a habit.

Don’t let fear bring you down.

Be fierce. Be brave. Be daring.

And ignore the haters.

Don’t let them keep you from dreaming and writing.

Thank you for being here today. Keep going and keep believing your words matter, because they do. Now, to end on the moment you’ve perhaps been curious about from the beginning. Why did you write down those random words with your teams? While you were writing away, I wrote them into a Mad Lib. Here it goes:

It actually made some kind of sense!


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 13, 2018

what i'm loving this february

After a month spent going to and renting movies, reading books, and basically living my best life, there are so many things I'm loving right now. It was difficult to narrow it down to a top five, but here we go.

 Right now I'm loving:

Playing Catch-Up on Hallmark movies. 

While watching TV during cardio, I discovered a couple of new favorite Hallmark movies. I apparently missed out on a lot of new flicks the last year or two. Several were charming, but my hands-down favorite was Birthday Wish. This has one of my favorite tropes: a newly 30-year-old woman makes a birthday wish and gets a glimpse at what her future looks like, and it isn't what she expected. This movie did it with a fresh take, and I found myself totally swooning for the couple and their story. I liked it enough I've already re-watched it and saved it to my DVR for another future viewing.

World War II movies and research. 

Following my now annual binge-watch of The Crown, I was particularly drawn to a couple of this year's Oscar-nominated films from just before that time period. I went to see Darkest Hour after work one evening and came home to watch Dunkirk on Prime. Both were well done, and I appreciated seeing more of what the war was like before U.S. involvement. (I admit, I knew almost nothing about the conflict before Pearl Harbor.) While reading up on World War II, I also found myself having conversations with my parents to learn more about family members who served. I channeled the former journalist who lives inside me and scrolled through digital archives to find their draft papers, and in one case POW information. Just last weekend, my mom and I looked through old family photos and materials. One of my favorite pieces is a personalized prayer book my great uncle received from the Ladies Aid at his church just before he left for training.


Victoria on Masterpiece. 

I'm behind on watching Season 2, but I've spent the past week re-watching Season 1 on Prime. And oh my goodness! I'd forgotten how dreamy Tom Hughes was. Oh me, oh my, I might have a little crush on Prince Albert. Or Tom Hughes. Or Tom Hughes playing Albert. Or all of the above. Note to self: Find out if the prince was dishy in real life.

Learning about the Plantagenets.  

I'm taking forever to read Dan Jones's book on the subject, but I'm enjoying every moment. I've only made it to King Richard returning from the Crusade to a less-than-stellar homecoming, but friends, there's so much drama. Who knew the middle ages were so compelling? Well, probably you if you've read up on the subject yourself, but isn't it fascinating. And here's a little fun fact . . . Reading this book also qualifies as research of sorts for the book I'm writing now. Tuck that little fact away for later.

Green Giant broccoli and cauliflower tots. 

Trust me, when you're watching what you eat, there are few things in the world that taste better than bits of broccoli or cauliflower mashed up into the shape of a tater tot. So. Good.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 8, 2018

ready to hop?


Are you excited about Valentine's Day? The authors at Chick Lit Chat HQ are, and we know quite a bit about romance, not to mention gorgeous guys and swoonworthy storylines, which is why we've put together a fun-filled event that celebrates all these wonderful things.




That's right, book lovers, it's time for the Sweet Treats & Yummy Reads Hop! Starting February 12, 40+ Chick Lit and RomCom authors will be throwing a fabulous, Valentine-themed bash on Facebook and each of them will be offering a GIVEAWAY--books, gift cards, author swag, and lots of other wonderful prizes will be up for grabs!



(Including a little something from moi. Visit my Facebook page on February 12 for details!)

But wait, there's more! You know we have the "yummy reads" covered (this group is nothing if not crazy talented), but what about the "sweet treats?" Hold on to your hats, peeps, because CLC HQ has outdone itself this time. We'll be giving away not one, not two, but THREE Grand Prizes for this hop and each of those lucky winners will receive a 6-pack of Wicked Good Cupcakes!*


And the best news of all? You get to choose your own sinfully delicious flavors. (Commence happy dance now.)

So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to the Sweet Treats & Yummy Reads Hop on Facebook and join the group page where you can meet and chat with fellow readers, as well as some of the most popular authors in your favorite genres, plus find the lists of participating authors and enter to win one of the Grand Prizes. We look forward to seeing you there!


*Wicked Good Cupcakes only ships to destinations in the United States, so the Grand Prize portion of this hop will not be open to international entrants. However, the 40+ individual author giveaways will be open internationally.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 5, 2018

my name


In the past year I've spent time with a couple of friends from my past. As we were catching up on years' worth of news and developments, talk would turn to my writing. And in a couple of situations,  I was asked the same question: Why did you choose to publish under your own name?

It's a totally legit question. In college I made no secret that I planned to be an author who potentially wrote in different genres. And if that came to be (the writing in different genres; writing in general was always a given) I knew I'd probably need a pen name or three for branding purposes. Apparently more on my game as a 21-year-old than I am now as a 32-year-old, I talked about these kinds of things at the bar and parties. (I know. I constantly prove how cool I am.) With that back story it makes even more sense why they'd raise this question.

Truth is, I'd planned to use a pen name. When I signed up for National Novel Writing Month in November 2010, I chose the username Elle.Chapman for a reason. Maybe Elle Chapman would be my pen name.

It wasn't that I hated my name. I actually have a lot of love for my name. My dad liked the name Laura, because it was his grandmother's name. And my mom liked it because, as a little girl, she remembered the most beautiful, put-together woman at her church was Laura, and the name always stuck. I don't even have qualms about my last name. Well, besides being called Laura "Chapwoman" or "Chapstick" by some of the other kids on the playground growing up. It's a perfectly good name. It just didn't (and sometimes still, to my ear, doesn't) have that star power like Nora Roberts or Agatha Christie. There's also the small fact that Laura Chapman is a fairly common name, and I knew I'd never be able to afford to buy out the domain name for laurachapman.com or any of the social media handles.

So, while I wrote my first two novels and learned a bit more about the industry, I toyed around with potential names.

By the time I started querying agents a year later, I hadn't come up with a pen name I liked. And by the time I found my first publisher a few years later, I'd been blogging under my name. I didn't even think about it when I signed that contract. And so Laura Chapman's book career was born. Like many things in this world, it just happened. There's no great story, not a lot of thought. But now that it's done, I do feel a lot of pride seeing my name on a book cover. I look at it, and I know it's me.

Of course, I still fully plan to use a pen name or two down the road when I get my act together and diversify my writing. Hopefully I put a little more thought into it the next time around.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***