Planning a Writing Trip with your Kids, Plus a Free Printable

Ten Days Until a Pretty Exciting Announcement.

This is probably the hardest thing for a writing parent. I face it all the time. You want to go out of the house to write, and drink coffee you didn’t make. You envy those writers who can just head off to the library, or small restaurant, or Starbucks, and just spend hours writing their stories. Just them, their laptops, and a big mug of Pike Roast.

That’s not a luxury you’ve got when you’ve got little ones in tow. Sitters are hard to come by. And if you’ve got a day job, it can be really hard to argue that you have to spend even more time away from your family. If nothing else, that’s a hard sell for your co parent.

The thing is, sometimes I need that time, especially in rough draft mode. There is a reason why coffee shops are such a popular place to write. Sometimes the dishes are too loud, and I can’t hear myself think. That’s when I pack my little monsters up, and take them on a writing trip with me. This was especially true when there was just one little monster, and I was a single mom with no co parent at all. After eleven years of trial and error, I’ve discovered the secrets to a successful writing trip with the kids. You’ve got to remember three basic rules.
1. Whatever you are doing, your younger kid wants to do too.
2. Your child will be hungry,thirsty, too cold, too hot, or whatever is least convenient at that time.
3. No matter what, kids get bored with anything.

So the problem becomes how to correct for those three rules. Here are my biggest weapons; a good location, a good time, and a well stocked bag.

Good Location

Some coffee shops are great for kids. The two in my town know my monsters by name, and are constantly telling them how big they’re getting. I even get a discount on cookies when I bring them in if this one nice barista is working.

This is not going to be the case for every coffee shop, especially if it’s near a college. Just like you’re there to work, others are there to do the same thing. Or to have a first date, (wanna make sure they use protection? Sit a screaming child in the next booth!), some are have a grown up play date. Some people are just trying to snag a quiet lunch hour. I know this might be hypocritical of me, but it really pisses me off when I get a chance to go somewhere without my monsters and there’s a kid throwing a fit. It’s that I just got some grown up time, now I’ve got to deal with someone else’s little monster.

If you’re wondering if your favorite haunt is a good place to bring the kids, consider these three things. (Yes, three is my number of the day.)
* Do you often see other kids there?
* Do they have a kids menu?
* Are there booster seats available?

If the answer is no to at least one of those, this is not a child friendly establishment.

Now, the library is great for a writing outing. There’s a children’s section that is often stocked with picture books and quiet toys. Some libraries have free wifi. And there’s some great writing resources right there.

The park is also a good place to settle on a nice day. Honestly, if you’re like me, you could use some sunshine.

The point is, be realistic.

Good Timing

This one might be a no brainer, but you’ve got to consider two things with your timing. What time of the day is your child most likely to tolerate playing by himself quietly for an extended period of time, and how long is that going to realistically be?

That’s fluctuated as my monsters have gotten older. When my one was a baby, and still fit in her car seat, oh that was a breeze. She’d play with her hanging toys, or I could rock her. If I was editing, I’d read my stories out loud to her.

Then she got a little older. The best I could hope for was forty minutes, at home or out and about.

Now that they’re older, I can get a good two hour writing session in. Any more than that, though, and I start hearing, “Are you almost done? We’ve been here all day!”

As for good timing, you know your kid. You know when they’re likely to be hyper, and when they’re fussy because they need to sleep. I even know that one of my kids is an introvert, like me, and gets worn out when she’s around people. She, and I, need time alone to charge our batteries. The point is, don’t ask more of your kids than they are capable of.

And Finally, a good stocked bag.

Two of them, actually. One for the kids and one for you.

Now, we’ve already discussed what should be in your writing bag, here. Let’s talk a little bit about what you should pack for the kids. This is the big thing that makes this possible, by the way. My monsters will tolerate any place so long as we’ve got our bag.
To make your very own writing bag, you will need-
* Anything that would normally go in a diaper bag, if your still in that stage.
* Some extra cash, because your kid will want the most expensive thing on the menu.
* Something for your child to pretend that she is ‘writing too,’ with. Pens, a notebook, a pretend computer. That sort of thing.
* A quiet, age appropriate toy. I like building sets for this. And here’s the secret. This is not an every day toy. Not something they can play with whenever. This is a ‘we only get this when we’re on a writing trip toy.’ That way they don’t get bored as fast. (Remember rule #1)
* If your kids are old enough, an MP3 player.
* Coloring books.
* A book that they can read themselves. Those interactive touch and feel books are great if you’re little one isn’t a reader yet.
* Snacks that do not require you to help open or consume them.
* Video games. The monsters outgrew their LeapFrog, and I gave them my old DS.
* A sweater. Remember, a lot of these places are air conditioned, and kids get cold if they’re sitting still.

To make it easy, I’ve even created a nifty printable for you! It’s designed so that your kid can help cross things off. You can laminate it, and use it every time, too. You know, environmentally sound and all.

Writing Trip CheckList!  Download.

If you’re interested in more tips on balancing being a parent and a writer, don’t forget to sign up for the Road to Full Time newsletter. Published about once a month, it’s all about taking real, measurable steps to becoming a full time writer.

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Keeping Your Children Out of the Spotlight

I’ve been doing Paper Beats World for about ten months now.  I’ve learned so much, and met so many awesome people.  You’ve probably learned a lot about me, too, because I am really fast to share my business.  It makes sense for me to talk about my life, since I’m writing a blog about being a writer with a day job and a family.  So you hear about my day job, and about fitting twenty five minutes into my day at random intervals.  You hear about the struggle to finish my fantasy series while raising two little girls.  You hear about all my little tips and tricks to cheat the clock and all the blogs I’m obsessed over.

What you don’t hear is a lot about what my kids themselves are up to.  I’m not the only one, either.  Bloggers that write about parenting and family life don’t do it either, even though you’d think that it would come up more.  There are a lot of reasons why.

  • My daughters will have their own lives one day.  I don’t want my life to overshadow theirs.  If they end up being famous scientists or singers, I don’t want people to meet them and say, “Hey, you’re that writer’s kid.”
  • I’m a loudmouth.  I’m pro gay rights, pro choice, an equal rights activist, Unitarian, Democrat.  I am going to have people disagree with me.  Some of them will decide to tell me of their disagreements, using four letter words.  I don’t want my kids to attract bad attention from my mouth.  They’ll get their own, I’m sure.
  • The internet is forever.  If I were to write about something embarrassing my daughters did now, it would still be on the internet when they got older.
  • Look, I don’t want to get creepy on you, but there are some sick people online.  I don’t want anyone seeing a picture of my little girls online, and grab them while they’re playing outside.  Maybe that’s a little paranoid, but maybe I’m okay with that.  Pedophiles are something I’m allowed to be paranoid about.

Especially if you intend to make a name for yourself, you’ve got to do your best to protect your kids privacy.  Here are some things to avoid.

  • Don’t ever give your kids real names.  Obviously, not even their first ones, since your last name’s already out there.
  • I’ve seen other bloggers show pictures of their kids, but I avoid it.  I do show pictures of my cat, though.
  • My daughters show all sorts of talents and interests.  You will never see them on this site, though.  As much as I encourage my kids to get out there themselves, I and show off all their talents, and I love to brag on them, I want them to do that on their own.

So no matter how much you’re chasing the spotlight, keep your kids out of it.

Writing Prompt Saturday, When My Children are Older

I think we all spend more time then we should, dreaming of what our children will be when they grow up. Honestly, the only thing on that list should be ‘happy’. But we all dream.

Today, write a list of all the things you want for your kids when they are grown. Not what you want them to be, what you want for them. Here’s mine.

* I want my girls to have a lover who makes them see the best in themselves.
* I want them to have a passion in life that they can use.
* I want them to be healthy.
* I want them to have great friends who support them, and compete with them just enough to keep them both sharp.
* I want them to be able to enjoy a beer, or a hand of cards or a saucy book without losing themselves to those things.
* I want them to grow up, but not lose childhood joys. Never should they think themselves too old for an ice cream.
* I want them to mind their health, but never their pant size.
* I want them to always be happy on their birthdays.
* I want them to vote every single year. I want them to be with people who vote.
* I want them to stand up for others, but also stand up for themselves. Too often we see one but not the other.
* And finally, I never want there to be a day where they don’t laugh.

Writing Activities to do With Your Kids

I am a writer.  I love writing, and it’s my job so that’s a pretty good thing.  I have always loved writing.  I remember being in fifth grade, and being the only kid in class even a little bit happy when the teacher assigned us a writing project.

One of my daughters feels the same way.  The younger of the two.  She likes to write, and honestly she’s not bad at it.  I have high hopes.

The other one, the older one, has other feelings.  Writing is a chore, a bother, it suuuuuucks!  (She just turned eleven, and so far, everything about being eleven has sucked for her.)  Writing fiction? I can’t think of anything!  Writing an essay?  But I can’t find enough information!  Why can’t I use Wikipedia as a source, you do it! (Haha, no I don’t.)  Writing in her journal at night?  But whyyyyyyyyyy!  It’s a constant struggle.

Here’s the thing, though.  I don’t want her to be a good writer because I want both of my daughters to become professional writers and grow up to be just like me.  I don’t care what they do when they go grow up so long as they’re happy, it’s legal and they keep all their cloths on.  Here’s why I care if she’s a good writer.

  • I have yet to find a situation in which being able to clearly express myself on paper in a professional way has not helped me.  I’m talking about at the day job, and every single day job I have had.
  • Writing in a journal has kept me sane, saved my marriage, and made me a better person.  I want her to have those same things.
  • Writing letters is a lost art.  I write letters to my friends, but more often I write e-mails.  She is going to have long distance relations in this day and age.  And I know we’re from the foothills of the Appalachia mountains, but that doesn’t mean her e-mails need to read like it.
  • My daughter is very opinionated (wonder where she got that from).  She will be involved on internet chat rooms, and she will get into arguments there.  People who can not express themselves in a grown up way in that situation have lost before anyone can even hear their opinion.  I want to give her a leg up over the trolls and fools.

The problem becomes, how in the hell do I do it?  Just telling her to do it does neither of us any good.  I’ll get mad, she’ll get mad, and there goes some lovely mother daughter bonding.

So, here’s what I’m doing to make writing a fun activity for my kids.

  1. I am starting in the summer, when they don’t have a metric ton of other homework.  That’s a big one.  When they’ve already done an hour of Math, read a chapter in their Science book, and copied all ten vocabulary words from Social Studies, they are not enthusiastic about writing ‘just because Mom thinks it’s a good idea.’  Mostly they are enthusiastic about Dr. Who, Portal, and dinner.
  2. I am letting them write about fun things, that they would not normally get to write about in school.  We are not writing ‘how I spent my summer vacation’, unless we are writing a review of the Tiny Toons Movie.
  3. I am writing in front of them.  Kids do not hear what you say but they see what you do.  This I have seen more and more now that my daughters no longer see me as the all omnipotent Mommy Goddess. (I really do want that back, though.  I was Hestia for like five years.)  They see me write, edit, write again, write after long days at the day job, write while they’re watching tv.  They see that it’s a passion for me.  I don’t know if this helps them want to write, but I damn well hope my work ethic sinks into them.
  4. I am giving them a goal.  There are a lot of young writers contests.  I’ll be posting one every Friday for the rest of the month with my normal market.  For older kids, this can be a really cool incentive, especially if they’re the competitive sort.
  5. I praise the hell out of their work, even while going through it with a red pen.  I am a firm believer that your parents should be your biggest fans.  But I am a fan of my kids like I’m a fan of Joss Whedon.  I love you like hell, Man, but what were you doing those last few season’s of Buffy?  And Serenity?  Mister, you need to take that one back to the editing desk.  I only say this because I love you, and you’re better than that.
  6. I gauge their energy level before suggesting some writing time.  And the timing can be tricky.  If they’re too energetic, they’ll never sit still.  This is especially true for my older one, because she’s got ADHD.  If they’re too tired, they will get nothing done, because it’s too hard.  This is especially true of my younger one, because when she’s tired she’s a giant pain in the ass. (she came by that naturally, by the way.)
  7. I set a pomodoro timer, which I’ve actually been using for myself and my older daughter all school year for my writing and her homework.  Let me tell you, I’ve got adult ADD, and she’s got ADHD, and this thing is a Godsend.  Focus for twenty five minutes, and then you can get a drink, go to the bathroom, check my twitter feed, wait weren’t we talking about the kids?

And so, here are some of the writing activities I plan to do with my kids this summer.  Some of them are my idea, some I found on Pinterest, and some are just time honored things that I heard somewhere and can’t remember who to give the credit to.

  • Keep a journal, especially on vacation.  So many awesome things happen during the summer!  Friends are made, adventures are had, new ice cream flavors are discovered.  And while my kids will have lots of summers, they’ll never have this summer again.  I want them to remember it.  Especially for my younger one, we scrapbook our journals.  Ticket stubs, pictures, drawings, ado graphs of new friends, that weird leaf we found, it all goes in.  I don’t consider a summer journal complete without some pool water, dirt and at least one out of state visit.
  • Critique something.  Don’t do it like a book report.  You don’t need to prove to me you read the book by telling me the main characters and the plot, and the turning point of the story.  Tell me what you thought of the book, and why someone else should, or should not, read it.
  • Have them write a campfire story.
  • Have them write an urban legend.
  • Have them write a fanfic about their favorite tv show.
  • Write letters to family out of state.  Grandparents love that sort of thing.
  • Write a letter to a local politician.
  • Write a letter to a company who’s product you like,(and you’ll probably get some free swag).
  • Write to an author you really like.  (James Patterson, you wrote my younger daughter’s favorite book, Treasure Hunters.  Expect some fan mail.)
  • Write an illustrate a comic book.
  • Write and act out a little one act play. (Expect to get roped into making scenery and acting.)

Let me know if you have any luck with this.  And if you’ve found some super great way of getting your kids to write, please post it in the comments section below.

Plans for June 2015

Welcome to June on Paper Beats World. And this month? It’s going to be awesome. Because we are going to be talking about one of my favorite topics.

Balancing Writing With Being A Parent.

As I might have mentioned about a thousand times, I have two beautiful daughters. And after eleven years of fitting writing between nap times, dinner and dentist appointments, I have learned a ton.

But I bet there are a lot of you out there who know more than me.

And I want to hear from you. If you’ve got some great writing parent advice, please let us hear it.

So, here’s what we’ll be talking about this month

* Writing activities to do with your kids.
* Keeping your kids out of the spotlight.
* A special thanks to fathers.
* And a play by play on how I find writing time with my kids.
I’ll also be talking about some apps that help me be a writing mommy, reviewing some indie books, and talking about parenting on the Paper Beats World Facebook page.

Finally, I am starting my Path To Full Time Writing newsletter. If you’re trying to quit your day job and become a writer full time, well so am I. I’m using the newsletter to share what I am doing to make that dream real. If you want to join us for some real world tips, please sign up here.

I am so looking forward to all of the awesome things we’re going to do together this month, including another class in Writing 101! See you there.

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