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.***

February 1, 2018

harper's guide to your best super bowl

Blogger's Note: Whether you're a football enthusiast or a fair-weather spectator, the Super Bowl can be a time for gathering with friends and family to scream at a TV screen. Though intended to be a day of fun, it can be beneficial to go into it with a plan to make the most of this holiday. With Super Bowl LII on the horizon, who better than the Queen of the League herself, Harper Duquaine to guide us? Please enjoy her tips and suggestions for living your best Super Bowl.

A Guide to Hosting Your Best Super Bowl

By Harper Duquaine

It's funny how something like the Super Bowl can sneak up on you. When you consider that I work, live, and (ahem) sleep with men who are obsessed with football, it seems like I should have been more on the ball about this Sunday.

(Okay, quick note. I need to point out that I'm only sleeping with ONE man. Not a group of men. This might have been unclear just now. I live with my brothers. I work with half a dozen grown children masquerading as men. And I'm romantically involved with one really good guy. None of this has anything to do with planning a Super Bowl party, but I just have to make that point clear before we continue. Got it?)

As the token woman in a fantasy football league (and one who's earned a reputation for getting shit done) it usually (more like always) falls on me to plan our weekly football watch parties. So it comes as no surprise that I've been drafted to put together a Super Bowl party for twenty people.

No problem. I could do this in my sleep. But in case you're at all worried about the upcoming Super Bowl (and, okay, I am kind of freaking out a little, and obsessing like this helps me calm down), here are my tips and best practices to help you plan your best Super Bowl party. 


#1 Decorations

You can use as many mason jars or crystal chargers to try to shabby-chic your Super Bowl watch party. But let's face it, at the end of the day, it's easier to just embrace the reality of the situation. Balloons, plastic table covers, paper plates, napkins, and cups in the team colors and so on are going to be your friend in the end. While these aren't great for the environment (Sorry, Mother Earth. Seriously.) at the end of the evening, it's so much easier to do clean-up if you aren't doing dishes.

I tend to hit-up the party stores a few days before the big game and grab utensils in the opposing team's colors. I also have some reusable plastic trays and plates for serving, which frankly matches everything better than my fancy stuff.

Try creating a photo booth with streamers and balloons as a background and props like footballs, trophies, and pom-poms. Word to the wise: Use an inflatable football. One of my friends had a few too many drinks and broke a picture frame when we used a real football last year. Yikes.


#2 Menu

Did you know the Super Bowl is one of a handful of days when calories don't count? It's true. I'm pretty sure I read or heard it somewhere (and now you're reading it here). So on this most blessed of days, channel your inner Texan and go big.

Of course there are tried and true staples, such as pizza and nachos. I suggest making at home, using frozen, or ordering carryout hours in advance to make sure you have it all on hand before kick-off. While delivery pizza is both amazing and everything, this is one of the busiest days of the year, and it might take a while for your food to come through. You also can't go wrong with opening up a bag of chips or having a meat and cheese platter so people can build their own sandwiches.

If you're like me, though, this isn't going to be enough. You're going to feel like you have something to prove. Don't worry. I have a whole list of tried-and-true dishes ready. You'll note most of these are vegetarian friendly, because I'm a pescetarian, but you can easily adjust for carnivores.

Here's the list:


These have all gone over well with my crew, and hey--you can't really do better than a Philly when you have the Eagles playing. I suppose if you wanted to represent New England, you could make some clam chowder or offer up Sam Adams beer. Which brings up the next point . . . 

For beverages, we go for a BYOB approach, but I always have plenty of bottles of water and freshly brewed ice tea for the non-drinkers. (Or the drinkers who maybe need to slow it down a little.) Consider having a few ice chests set around your living area for your guests to use. This is convenient for them and it frees up fridge space.



#3 Wardrobe

We've already established that we're going to overdo it in the food department. That's why it's absolutely imperative you wear comfy clothes with a loose waist. I'm talking leggings, sweatpants, heck, even a tutu (try this tutorial), but please, for yourself, avoid wearing skinny jeans. Or, if you're someone who feels like you have to live in khakis (I'm looking at you, Brook) make sure your top is long enough that it will cover your stomach when you inevitably undo your top button to make room for more nachos.

Here's what I suggest for a night of stylish comfort to mark the occasion:

  • Oversized football jersey (Any team will do. I'll be wearing a Packers jersey, because I'll never wear an Eagles jersey again, and I'm not cheering for the Pats. #sorrynotsorry) 
  • Leggings. Paired with the long jersey, you'll be super comfy. If you choose correctly, you can be stylish too. While it isn't totally important (but it certainly doesn't hurt) this look really seems to work for my gentleman friend.
  • Thermal socks. It's February. Even if your toes are painted cute for the occasion, it's going to get cold. Plus, let's be serious, who has time for a proper pedicure when there's so much else to do before your guests arrive?

This is one part of the evening you don't have to worry about. Choose comfort, my friends.



#4 Activities 

Okay, we're all going to step into the trust circle here. And you all absolutely have to promise not to tell my friends what I'm about to admit to you. Ready? Okay, here it goes. Sometimes, I find the Super Bowl boring. I know, I know! But, seriously, some years I don't care who wins or loses and the commercials are kind of lame.

Fortunately, my friend Amelia and I have come up with a few little games to pass the time.
  1. Place bets on which party guest will spill his beer first.
  2. Create a drinking game where you take a drink every time: a) there's a first down b) a Budweiser commercial airs c) a washed-up celebrity makes a cameo d) an announcer says "controls the line of scrimmage," "take care of the football," "deep penetration," or "ball carrier" (it's also okay to laugh like a thirteen-year-old when you hear these) e) your fellow party attendees let out a shout of disappointment. Finish your drink when the x or there's an obvious malfunction during the half-time performance. 
  3. Play "who would you rather" or F***, Marry, Kill with the starting line-up. (We're not particularly proud of this, but desperate times, you know.) 


#5 Conflict Resolution

It happens. Sometimes fans get a little too passionate. Maybe someone has a few too many. Perhaps your significant other says you make a better door than a window while you're trying to pick up trash, and you spend the fourth quarter passive aggressively making faces behind his back. Whatever the situation, sometimes we have to take five and get to the bottom of the issue. As quickly as possible so you don't miss any big plays or commercials.

I suggest waiting until a play is being reviewed and the commentators are yapping on about how so-and-so is a real fighter or yadda-yadda chokes under pressure to quickly resolve any issues at your party. To do this, you need to follow these five easy steps:

  1. As calmly as possible, make sure the conflicting guests mutually recognize there's a problem.
  2. Make sure both individuals agree to fix the problems.
  3. Have each person try to understand the other person's perspective.
  4. Establish what behaviors or attitudes each needs to change to prevent future altercations.
  5. Quickly hold a thumb-wrestling match, and declare one person the winner, because it looks like we're about to go to a commercial break.

Yeah, unfortunately, I don't have a ton to offer here. I just say, get through the party as best as you can, knowing it's perfectly okay for you to take as many bags of trash to the dumpster as you need to give yourself a break from the insanity. And, if you play your cards right, you must might be able to get that jerk-face significant other to put away all the leftovers and do the dishes, because he feels bad for hurting your feelings.

Hope these tips help you with your Super Bowl Party Plans. If you're hosting, be sure to share you pictures on my creator's Facebook and Twitter pages. Enjoy the game and, oh what the heck. I don't care that they're not playing. GO PACK GO!


About the Queen of the League Trilogy
When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way). Follow her journey and mis-adventures through three seasons as she proves she's worthy of the championship trophy and true love.



***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.***