Mill Park Publishing of Eagle, Idaho was created in 2003 by author Elaine Ambrose.
The company facilitates fee-based book publication and marketing for local authors
and organizes writer's retreats.

 

 Illustration by Patrick Bochnak - Image from new book The Magic Potato

Children's Writing Challenge for Idaho Potato Drop

 

Mill Park Publishing of Eagle is sponsoring the “Children’s Writing Challenge” in conjunction with the 5th Annual Idaho Potato Drop on December 31, 2017 in Boise, Idaho.

We expect hundreds of submissions so to avoid disqualification, please follow all the instructions

1. The writing contest will be open to children between the ages of 8-12 living within 50 miles of Boise. Students in public schools, private schools, and home schooling programs are eligible. Winners will receive cash prizes and the opportunity to read on the Main Stage at the event on New Year's Eve.

2. Stories must be original manuscripts from 250 to 500 words and include references to potatoes. Entries can be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Content must follow acceptable guidelines for family-oriented publications.

3. Stories must be submitted in an email, one entry per person, between September 20 and November 1, 2017. Hand-written stories can be scanned and attached to the email. There is no entry fee. A panel of judges from the local writing community will select the winning entries by December 10 and winners will be notified by email. Winning stories could be published with attribution in prominent newsletters and websites.

4. Each entry must include name, email address, school, and age of the student writer. If the student doesn't have a personal email address, use the email address of an adult or school contact.

Idaho Potato Drop - Children's Writing Challenge

https://idahopotatodropwritingcontest.eventbrite.com

6. There are two ways to submit an entry:

Click on the "Contact the Organizer" link at the bottom of this Eventbrite page. Include student's name, email address, and add the entry in the "Message" box. Hit send.

Or, send separate email with entry embedded in the body of the email, not as an attachment, to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Write in the Subject Line: Children's Writing Challenge

18 Winners!

The top 18 entries each will receive a certificate, $25 from Mill Park Publishing, and a copy of the award-winning books Gators & Taters: A Week of Bedtime Stories and The Magic Potato. The top 18 winners will be introduced during a special program on the Main Stage at 6:00 pm on December 31.

Five of the top 18 winners will be chosen to read their winning entries at a special ceremony on the Main Stage in front of the Capitol on December 31 at 6:00 pm.

 

 

Mill Park Publishing was established by bestselling author Elaine Ambrose, a third-generation Idahoan who grew up on a potato farm near Wendell, Idaho. She is the author of 10 books, including two children’s books: Gators & Taters and The Magic Potato. She organized the children’s talent show for several years during the Idaho River Festival and now organizes writing retreats in southern Idaho. Find more details at MillParkPublishing.com.

 

Published in Elaine's Blog
Monday, 26 September 2011 18:37

Liberals, Laughter, and Larry the Cable Guy

 I had intended to write about the recent Elizabeth Warren quote that many of my intelligent, creative friends are promoting as “the best thing ever written. Possibly ever.” I had intended to gently but respectfully explain how this Marxist philosophy of class warfare seeks to take from the hard-working job creators, the achievers, the entrepreneurs, the risk-takers, inventors, and major tax-payers and give in larger proportion to the underachievers, the mediocre, the government, the lawyers, and the constant complainers. In my opinion, Comrade Warren is the Pied Piper of the new Proletariat.

But then my brother gave us tickets to see Larry the Cable Guy in Jackpot, Nevada. I laughed until I hurt, and now I feel so good that I don’t care if my friends become dedicated followers of the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung. (Just don’t take away my factory, if I choose to build one.)

The world is bloated with chronic stress, angst, and anger, and the only cure is a massive enema of laughter. It truly is the best medicine. Last night, the audience sat in cheap, plastic chairs in front of a bare stage as a chubby guy in combat shorts and a sleeveless, plaid shirt made them cry and howl for ninety minutes with his irreverent jokes and saucy humor. And, they paid their money in exchange for the joy of being happy. Last night, Larry the Cable Guy made thousands of dollars and flew away in a Lear jet. He earned every penny.

During the show, more than 3,000 people in the audience didn’t care if they were the boss or the employee. They didn’t care that it’s the factory owner who takes the risks to create jobs and pay the salaries that are taxed so that roads and schools can be built. They came to forget the political and social manipulation of organizations on the left (and the right) that seek only to divide, distract, and destroy our country.

I can’t convince my liberal friends to understand why I believe organizations such as MoveOn.org are promoting the Elizabeth Warren speech in order to penalize and diminish entrepreneurship and to advocate dependence upon the government. Conversely, my liberal friends can’t convince me that the individuals who created great inventions and took risks to start businesses should pay even more to those who didn’t try or sacrifice as much.

Instead of wasting time and energy on unproductive debate, friends should go to comedy shows and laugh until milk (wine, beer, water) runs out their noses. Friends who laugh together can acknowledge and honor their individual differences. Then they can walk away lighter, happier, and momentarily stress-free. And, if someone continues to argue, in the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, "Just call 'em a peckerhead." 

Published in Elaine's Blog
Friday, 02 September 2011 13:16

Here Comes the Bride's Wedding Dress Book

Today with the simple click of the send key, 133 pages of our new book, Little White Dress, are magically traveling through cyberspace to the printer, less than one month from the evening we gathered to write about “the dress.”

Technical details: The book will be 4-3/4 inches by 7-7/16 inches, with a perfect binding, black ink on 60# white paper, and have a four-color cover with gloss UV coating. ISBN is 978-0-9728225-7-2. Price is $10.

Creative details: The book shares cheers, tears and fears from 24 women whose relationship with a wedding dress (or two) made a profound impact on their lives.

The book’s authors include physicians, photographers, television producers, best-selling authors, filmmakers, professors, and stay-at-home moms. We have never-married, divorced, gay, and happily married women, and even a former nun. Ages range from a high school teen to grandmothers. The stories will touch, inspire, and surprise.

Little White Dress will be printed, bound, packed into cartons, and delivered in October, less than two months after Liza Long wrote a post on Facebook about finding used wedding dresses at thrift shops. Liza’s message prompted powerful responses from women who wanted to write about “the dress.” So, of course, we decided to write a book and invite other authors to contribute. With an added hook, we decided to write it in one day and complete publication by October. Done.

Liza set up a Facebook page and sent a call for entries. Then we met at my house on August 8 for the initial writing. Some of the authors are from out of state, so they emailed their stories and poems.   Liza formatted the text and designed the cover with a dynamite photo from local photographer Amber Daley. I secured a printing bid and other publication details and then laughed and cried my way through the stories. Our talented friend Amanda Turner assisted with copyediting. We expanded the book by 33 pages, and decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to Dress for Success. We finished the final edit at Liza’s house on September 1.  

Our stories and poems about wedding dresses incorporate our passionate dreams, some fulfilled, some destroyed. The stitches of our dresses create significant pieces in the fabric of our lives. (Cue Carole King singing “Tapestry.”) Stay tuned for book signing events and festive holiday parties. Wedding dress, optional.

Published in Elaine's Blog
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 14:38

Pins on the Map: Life as Travelogue

I survived childhood on an isolated potato farm near Wendell, Idaho (population 1,000) by reading about adventures and faraway places. Back then, it was a big deal to go to Twin Falls, and the 100-mile trip to Boise demanded weeks of preparation. Sometime during those formative years, I made a personal promise to explore the world, and since then I’ve been fortunate to travel to more than thirty countries. Soon I’ll leave on another journey to celebrate six decades of wonder and wander.

My journal is the first priority on my packing list. I used it to write poetry after exploring Coole Park in Ireland and walking in the same woods that inspired William Butler Yeats. My writing is more frantic after riding on the back of a bull elephant and witnessing a tiger kill a water buffalo during a wilderness safari in Nepal. While floating the Nile, I wrote of the breathless excitement I felt descending into the tombs in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Each visit, each discovery is an essential part of my own journey through life.

My journal reminds me of the good times - I’ve swilled beer in Germany, haggled with a jade dealer in Hong Kong, flown through the trees on a zip line in Costa Rica, hiked across a volcano in Hawaii, and sang Handel’s Messiah with a concert choir in the American Cathedral in Paris. Some places I never want to see again: Thailand because I didn’t feel safe, South Africa because it’s just too darned far away, and India where a beggar tried to sell me a baby in the shadow of the opulent Taj Mahal.    

I have three favorite places: The Duomo in Florence, Italy stirs my soul. I wept there while standing in Mass and then lit candles for my family members. (Yes, even Presbyterians can attend Catholic Mass.) My second favorite place is Galway, Ireland where somber, intelligent villagers swear that magical fairies live in the trees. I believe them. My third place is home, in Idaho.

Many of my trips were inexpensive. I sang with the Vandaleer Concert Choir at the University of Idaho, and we toured six countries in Europe in 1971. Much to my daughter’s chagrin, in 1995 I volunteered to chaperone her high school tour of Europe. Years later, as the volunteer president for the University’s Alumni Association, I hosted alumni tours through Ireland and Spain. After that, I purchased packaged trips through Egypt and Italy, and yes, I was in a group of gawking tourists that obediently followed the tour guide with the obnoxious flag. But, then it was the best way I could afford to travel.  Now I’m grateful for the opportunity to plan and chart my own trips.

As I pack for the next adventure – a two-week excursion of islands in the Mediterranean – it’s easy to pick the regular necessities: comfortable shoes, drip-dry clothes, and my journal. And I’ll make room for my Ipad, digital camera, cell phone and their chargers. Throw in the blow dryer and adapter and I’m ready. This trip will inspire some interesting writing because it’s with my soul mate. After we return, there will be several more pins on my wall map that connect and complete the dots of my personal path.

Published in Elaine's Blog
Thursday, 18 August 2011 14:14

Random Words: Rejoice, Despise, Pickle, Fart

I was grounded for most of my childhood, mostly for being sassy. I thought my brilliant and clever command of vocabulary and rapier wit should be universally admired, but my parents thought otherwise. I never quite understood their admonition to, “Don’t get smart with me, young lady!” They never appreciated my retort of, “So you prefer I get stupid?”

 

A typical conversation from my teenage years:

Father: “You're grounded for a month.”

Me: “So what? I never get to do anything anyway.”

Father: “You're grounded for two months.”

Me: “Come on, do I hear three?”

Father: “Three.”

The exchange deteriorated from there. My brothers learned from me and never talked back, so they got to go into town while I stayed back on the farm assigned to random chores or exiled to my room. But, being forever grounded provided plenty of time to write short stories and poems full of anguished souls who struggled for freedom. My 15-minute poem “Revenge” won top honors at the state high school speech declamation competition. (Sorry, Dad.)

Words always have fascinated me, and I’ve used them to make people cry, or laugh, or react with a variety of anticipated responses. I love the word “rejoice” because it inspires a positive eagerness for joy. “Despise” makes me snarl. “Pickle” is just too cute and fun, and the word “fart” brings laughter, especially from the 12-year-old crowd. Other favorite words: suddenly, shudder, gargle, snot. I value the onomatopoeia that links sound to subject, and as writers know, the right word can make all the difference in transforming an average sentence into a splendid one.

 Sir Alfred Tennyson integrated onomatopoeia to bring the sounds of birds and insects into the reader’s head. In his poem “Come Down, O Maid” he crafts the lines,

…the moan of doves in immemorial elms,

and murmuring of innumerable bees.

This eloquent example is so much better than tritely writing:  Birds and bees moan and buzz in trees.

Several years ago, I spoke at my father’s funeral. I told jokes that made people laugh, and I read a poem that made them cry. Maybe all those turbulent, formative years provided the foundation for my goal to be a writer. Then as now, writing is freedom.  Rejoice. 

Published in Elaine's Blog
Wednesday, 27 July 2011 14:33

Deadlines Annoy my Creative Freedom

How does a creative person perform to peak potential when strict deadlines demand 2,000 words by Friday? I know there are writers who have the discipline to rise early, go directly to their offices, and passionately produce a poem, chapter, or short story by lunch. I have the concentration of a deranged ferret, and I’m easily distracted or I'm working on a sassy essay about the humor of elder care while writing a novel about the dramatic angst of greed and betrayal. But, now it’s my goal to focus on producing more coherent content before my eyesight fails, my fingers are too gnarled to fumble on the keys, and I forget where a preposition is at (and to never end a sentence with one.)

During my career, I've written for television news, newspapers, magazines, advertising clients, and corporate communications. The shortest turnaround was for a daily television news program, but the stories were only 30 seconds long so the text wasn't much more to write than who, what, why, and where. The longest assignment was for a non-fiction book, but the intensity and reward were much greater.

My contract in February of 2007 with Adams Media for Menopause Sucks required me to write and submit 70,000 words by June 30. I dabbled and researched through the spring, and didn't begin Chapter One until April. But during May and June of that year, I wrote and edited almost 12 hours a day until I met the deadline. Then I waited, somewhat impatiently, until the book was published and released in August of 2008.

As many students do, I honed my last-minute, burn-the-midnight-oil skills in college when I would start a term paper around midnight before it was due the next day. My manual typewriter was reliable in the wee hours of the morning, and I never had to worry about a power surge erasing all my text. Now I rely on computer features that allow me to check spelling, research synonyms, copy and paste, and find and replace. Also, the word count is always there to remind me to keep going or stop now, please.

I recently enjoyed a short story class taught by local author, poet and film maker Ken Rodgers. We were assigned to write five short stories in five weeks. I proudly presented my story every Monday, but now the class is over and I haven’t written another story. I’m trying to focus on setting my own deadlines so I continue to write. And, who knows what great stories are just waiting to be written if only I would sit down, turn off the worldly interruptions, open my imagination, and connect my brain to my fingers? Today’s goal: 1,000 words before cocktail hour.    

Published in Elaine's Blog
Wednesday, 13 July 2011 13:27

STOP YELLING AT ME !!!!!!!!!!!!

Every time I need to choose between hitting my head with a hammer or reading online message boards about various political and social issues, I usually pick the latter. Then, it’s with great annoyance that I realize I made the wrong decision.

I only allow myself an hour to read online “news,” but I can’t avoid clicking on the “Comments” section after I read a provocative item. That’s where I’m thrown into the sordid realm of anonymous people who communicate like deranged savages: Every capitalized sentence is just one more slobbering grunt, and every additional exclamation point becomes a series of belches and farts from their overloaded, underdeveloped brains.

I’m amazed at the horrible and nasty phrases that humans actually write to complete strangers. And they prove their enormous inadequacy by hitting “Send” so the entire world can know that their only contribution to society is to help with the deterioration of the culture. Here are a few examples, followed by my more refined commentary:

“SHUT UP UR DANMMD TRAP!!!!!!!”  

We’ve got some anger management issues here. Why would someone be so mad at someone they will never know? And, it’s about an issue over which they will never have any control.  We won’t discuss spelling because no one cares about that.

“YOUR A FU**N IDIOT!!!!!!!”

Again, we must marvel that someone this illiterate has the capacity to turn on a computer and actually find the Internet.   He doesn’t understand the different between “your” and “you’re,” and it’s probably not a good idea to inform him that the abbreviation is wrong.   Five syllable words would be beyond his comprehension.

“EAT SHT N DIE!!!!!!!”

This comment came after another anonymous poster defended a high-ranking politician. In my humble opinion, the task doesn’t make sense. But, perhaps logic isn’t the issue. Also, I’m guessing that this person doesn’t write thank you notes.

Most of the sites do have restrictions stating that inappropriate comments will be removed for violating the rules. That makes me wonder just how bad the culpable comments had to be. We’re witnessing an entire sub-culture of professional posters, people who earn badges for their popular online comments. To prove that civilization is, indeed, teetering on extinction, unnamed but prolific people who regularly post comments on HuffPost can achieve various levels of popularity and obtain separate Facebook pages to expand their fan base of other unidentified "writers."  I imagine lonely, dark rooms full of hunchbacked gargoyles pecking away on grease-stained keyboards, chuckling insanely at their own wicked messages.

Yes, I know that I can avoid all this mental anguish by refusing to read the message boards on various sites. Or, maybe I could initiate another option for those who wish to communicate through a more sophisticated, genteel, and enlightened debate that could salvage what’s left of civil discourse.   But, just as NASCAR isn’t any fun without wrecks, and fans scream for the defensive line to take down and hurt the quarterback, sometimes we enjoy our roles as spectators in life’s dark satire. Can the gladiators be next?

Published in Elaine's Blog

 “Boris Stuchenko would be dead in less than nineteen minutes. And he had no idea why.”

 The first two sentences of The Ezekiel Option by Joel C. Rosenberg captured my attention, and I was hooked. I read the 413-page book over the weekend, and the contents were as powerful as the opening lines. It’s the kind of book that lingers in thoughts long after the next book is opened.

 "It was a dark and stormy night" is now a cliché for trite first lines, followed by "Once upon a time.” Other notable beginnings that challenge the reader’s intellect include this sentence from the first page of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code:

 “On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.”

 Just because a book sells millions of copies doesn’t mean it’s well written.

 Studies indicate that readers are attracted to a book by its cover, then they turn it over to read the back, and if they’re still interested, they turn to the first page. All in about eight seconds. As a writer, you should view the first page as a literary seduction, a series of pick up lines to snare the reader. They may not get to your dazzling chapter four if page one is a dud.

 I've been taking a short story class from poet, writer, and film maker Ken Rodgers. He guides us like a wise sage as we discuss various authors and read our own stories. For our last assignment, I wrote this sentence to begin my story:

 "Tara Swanson desperately needed to get across the river but the old man kept shooting at her."

 Then I wrote the story around that scenario. The opening vision prompted the plot, the characters, and the setting. I edited one of the two characters several times, but the main theme remained the same: survival. I didn’t know the ending until I had written over 1,000 words. But, the entire story was driven by the first line, and I, the writer, enjoyed going along for the ride.

 As you begin to write and then edit your work, think of the experience as complicated and daunting but also rewarding. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it can be the best of times, it can be the worst of times, it can be the winter of despair, or the season of hope.

Published in Elaine's Blog
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 13:59

The Stories that Surround Us

Recently I was playing with a gaggle of giggling girls. We were telling stories, and they squealed with delight at each silly suggestion in our creative plot as “Once upon a time….” encouraged them to imagine without restriction.

“And then the princess turned into a beautiful butterfly.”

“She waved her magic wand and poof!...there was a purple horse with wings!”

“The little girl fell down a long tunnel and landed in a big meadow. She could understand what the animals were saying.”

Of course, the pretend princesses always survived their adventures and the endings always were happy, except for the conclusion in the Fable of the Farting Princess, but by then it was time to take a break. Such is storytelling with children.

Every day, we are surrounded by potential stories. Those of us who can still remember the 1960s can’t forget the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel’s song “America” as the couple turns ordinary situations into imaginary stories:

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces.

She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy.

I said, “Be careful his bowtie is really a camera.”

If you need inspiration to write, you should go sit in the park. Observe a happy family playing and laughing, and then allow your imagination to wander. Who is that dark stranger slowly driving around the park? Why is the woman yelling into her cell phone? Did you see the lonely custodian laughing as he went down the slide? Is the little boy really talking to a squirrel?

I find story ideas while waiting at stop lights. The obnoxious guys in the noisy car next to me are certain to be smuggling something illegal. The old woman ahead of me must be on her way to her best friend’s funeral. That's why she’s driving so slowly.  Her friend's name is Erma, and they used to process jars of pickles together in Erma's farmhouse kitchen.  The old woman craves a fresh tomato. 

I also use newspaper headlines to create short stories. The Idahoan Who Speaks for U.S. Sheep Industry.” So, what do the sheep have her say? Do they have a meeting in the pasture and discuss issues over bowls of fresh grass and pitchers of water from the canal? N.Y. Pet Cemeteries Told to Stop Taking in Humans. Will Fifi really care? The old dog’s been dead for 20 years. And, what if those really aren’t Fifi’s ashes?

Every day presents an adventure waiting to be told. The real ending can’t be controlled, but with enough creativity and imagination, writers can add some festive, mysterious, tragic, inspirational, and amazing elements to make the journey less mundane. After all, it’s what we do. We are storytellers.     

Published in Elaine's Blog
Wednesday, 25 May 2011 14:15

The Raw Realities of Writing

We know the thrill of plucking words from our brain and scattering them onto the page or computer screen and then repeating this process until we have created amazing sentences, paragraphs and pages that, in our opinion, reflect awesome talent, enlightenment, or validation that we can call ourselves writers.

The raw reality of writing comes when we expect or need someone else to appreciate our efforts.

More than 120,000 books are published every year in the United States. According to industry experts, more than 70 percent of those books don’t earn back their advances paid to the authors. And, 80 percent of families in this country did not buy or read a book last year so they won't even see your work.

More discouraging statistics: a literary agent receives approximately 6,000 queries a year. Less than one percent of those authors receive requests for more chapters, and less than one percent of them are chosen to be represented by the agent who then needs to sell the book to a publisher. After all that, it can take more than two years for the book to be released.  And then you're on your own to market it.

Even with those daunting odds, 65 people attended last weekend’s All About Agents workshop sponsored by the Idaho Writers Guild. The participants had ten minutes to present their book ideas to one of four agents. Some of the new and naive writers expected to be offered a contract that day; the experienced writers knew they would be fortunate to be asked to send a few chapters for the agent to review later. When we present next year’s conference, it will be interesting to learn if any of our eager and talented writers are working with an agent. I’m convinced that some will go onto the next round.

There are ways to avoid the publishing circus: self-publish, start your own publishing company, or just keep writing with no expectation or desire to publish. The key phrase is: keep writing. If your goal is to be nationally published, take comfort in knowing that you have one in 10,000 chances to sign the contract with an agent which is a lot better than having one in a million chances of winning the state lottery.

Published in Elaine's Blog

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