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Guest Blogger Shannon Wiersbitzky on Focus & Giveaway of The Summer of Hammers and Angels

Happy Wednesday, everyone. I have a wonderful guest post on focus by Shannon Wiersbitzky. Shannon is also offering a copy of her YA book, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, to one lucky commenter. Please read her post and the giveaway details below!

In order to read this post, you’ll need to focus. For less than five minutes, you’ll need to concentrate on only this. Whether you’re on a PC, tablet, mobile phone, or reading an actual printed copy, you’ve got a thousand other distractions clamoring for your attention.

Go ahead and post an update to Facebook with a photo of yourself reading this post. Get that out of the way. Then update Twitter, “Awesome post on #focus @Casey_McCormick”. Scan the CNN headlines, see if you have any new emails, check out my website to learn more about me, and make your next moves on any open games of Words with Friends.

Now stop.

What I’ve highlighted is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can kill even the best intentions to focus. Add children, spouses, pets, worry over some impending deadline, television, radio, laundry, and no wonder we all have trouble finding a few minutes to simply concentrate!

For writers, the ability to focus is critical to getting words on a page. Defining a character requires thought. Shaping a plot isn’t something you do while watching the latest reality show.

If you ever struggle with finding your own focus, keep reading.

1. Give yourself a gift. We all love gifts and that’s exactly what time to think is. Treat it that way. Think of time as a vacation, make the most of every minute.

2. Ditch the devices. Turn off everything. Then put devices away, or move yourself. Physically removing distractions is one of the easiest ways to get them off your mind.

3. Time box. I write for 2 hours every morning before heading off to my “real job”. I often time box, simply setting guidelines (in my head) for what I’m going to do when. Think of it as a personal writing agenda.
• Work on Chapter 4 until 5:30
• Research question on Wikipedia (until 5:45 at the latest!)
• 5:45 back on Chapter 4 Then hold yourself accountable.

4. Toss the to-do’s. Forget about the laundry, the kids, the dog, the dishes in the kitchen, and the car that needs an oil change. This is your time.

5. Relish the routine. If you’ve ever put kids to bed, you know the power of routine. Bath, pajamas, read a book, play soft music, lights off, and voila, they’re sleeping. Create a routine for your writing time. Burn a scented candle, wear a special sweater, use a specific journal or font. It could be anything!

6. Establish a spot. As part of your routine, find a writing spot. Over time, the link between writing and that place will grow stronger. I’ve used my guest bedroom as a writing zone for about six years. As soon as I shut the door, my brain focuses on fiction.

7. Visualize. Olympic athletes visualize a competition before it starts because it can lead to greater success. Imagine holding your finished book, reading it aloud to a class of kids, or clipping a great review. Whatever your goal, picture it clearly in your mind. It can help both motivation and focus.

8. Be Realistic. No one can focus for an entire day. I spoke with an award-winning writer I admire and was so pleased to hear her say that. Target an hour or two at a time, and then give yourself a mental and physical break.

9. Reward your rigor. Rewards can be highly motivating. Force yourself to earn them. “I’ll work on Chapter 4 until 6:30 and then check facebook for five minutes.” The reward can give you the mental energy needed to focus again.

10. Break a goal into bits. Think about turning your big goal into smaller parts. Then focus on just one of them at a time. You’ll get the satisfaction of making progress more quickly and maintain a clear direction on how to proceed.

Some of these suggestions may work better for you than others. We’re all wired in different ways. So give several a try and good luck!

Additional articles and resources:

Breaking big goals down

Shannon Wiersbitzky is a middle-grade author. Her first novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was published in June 2011 by namelos. In addition to writing, she manages a full-time job, a husband, two young boys, and four fish. She is currently working on two new novels with her editor, and is completely focused on getting them finished so she can start a fourth. 

You can find Shannon at her website, Facebook, and Goodreads

And now, some info on The Summer of Hammers and Angels!

Most folks have never seen an angel.
I know, because I’ve asked them.
I asked Miss Martha at the post office.
“Maybe someday, Delia, God willing.”
God does a lot of willing in Tucker’s Ferry, West Virginia.

Delia's summer is getting off to a terrible start. First, an inspector shows up at the house and threatens to condemn it. Then lightning strikes, literally, and Mama ends up in the hospital. To make matters even worse, with no other family to speak of, Delia is forced to move in with her nemesis, Tommy "as-dense-as-a-stump" Parker.

Not one to sit around doing nothing, Delia huddles with her best friend, Mae, and reluctantly recruits Tommy, to help. The three of them resolve to tackle the long list of repairs, one by one. But Delia quickly discovers that it takes more than energy and willingness to handle some problems. When things go from bad to worse, Delia has to take another tack, one that starts with admitting she just can't do what needs to be done without a lot more help.

The Summer of Hammers and Angels is the story of an amazing summer in a girl's life, a summer of surprises and challenges, of shocks and recovery, of discoveries and friendship, and of loneliness and community.

*Note: A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to Habitat for Humanity.

What kind of person will enjoy this book?
If you believe the world could be a better place if we all helped one another a little more, then you’ll enjoy The Summer of Hammers and Angels.

Book Review excerpts:

2012 Recommended title, Kansas NEA Reading Circle

“This debut novel of self discovery and the power of prayer coupled with hard work is a must for everyone who loves story. It excites, stimulates, and, yes, it is also a tearjerker. A young adult book that would be a good read for adults, as well.”
     —Catholic Library World

 “….down-to-earth life struggles combine with inspiring generosity of spirit in this uplifting debut.”
     —Publishers Weekly

“...will leave readers hungry for fried chicken and Coke from glass bottles.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of The Summer of Hammers and Angels, please be a follower and leave a comment by Monday, July 23rd, midnight. Us only. If your contact info is hard to find, leave your e-mail address with your comment. Thank you and good luck!


Steve MC said...

Great list. I keep forgetting the visualize tip, though it definitely helps Olympic athletes, and I've used it in the past. Just to visualize yourself writing that day's work and getting through an important part can help take away the doubts and give you momentum.

But I never forget to reward myself with some chocolate chips. :-)

Paula said...

Love the list. And the book sounds great, too!!!

mshatch said...

Definitely a wonderful list. And this time of year it's a treat to get outside and enjoy the sun and summer.

And I'd LOVE to win a copy of The Summer of Hammers and Angels!

Stefanie Wass said...

This book sounds right up my alley!
Exactly what I love to read. (and write!)
On the edge of my seat, just thinking about the possibility of winning a copy of THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS. Posted this on Twitter, if that gives me any extra chances! :)
Habitat for Humanity is one great cause.
Did I mention that I LOVE books with powerful messages about giving back and helping others?

Kim Aippersbach said...

That is a very timely post (she says as she stops to check her email and looks up and notices the dishes that need doing). Thanks!

And the book sounds like a great story. I'd love to win it.

aippersbach at shaw dot ca

Cristy said...

Argh! I've just spent three weeks of leave desperately trying to focus. The only thing I don't like about this post is that it came two and a half weeks late.
Now, to just find a way to disconnect myself from my technological shadow and get back to work...

Jeanette W. Stickel said...

Thank you for your fabulous post. I work in the schools so my summer is full of unstructured time. I'm going to put your suggestions to work tomorrow morning.

I'd love to win your book. It sounds like one I could introduce to my older students in the fall. I write about kid-lit, language and literacy on my blog, SpeakWell, ReadWell & I'm always looking for good stories to share there as well as with my students.

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Visualize the writing and then the chocolate. :-)

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Thanks for commenting Paula!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

I agree...taking a break in the sun always spurs my creativity. Good luck!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...


Thanks for tweeting! Good luck with our own writing as well!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...


I should have added "yell at self"...when I find myself getting distracted the word "focus" said aloud does help me get there. Best of luck in the drawing!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Cristy - Oh no! I recently learned there are even technology solutions that will block you from technology. :-) Ironic...

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Jeannette- I've done school discussions with grades 5 and 6 and they definitely "get" the story. Hope the tips make you extra productive tomorrow!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great list, now all that I need to do is adhere to it and I will get most of my writing done.

Rosi said...

Ah. Wonderful list, Shannon. I will post this in my office. Thanks. The book is wonderful. Since I've read it, please let someone else win.

Martha Ramirez said...

Ooh your book sounds awesome! Love the Miss Martha star * wink wink*
Lots of great tips in this post. I enjoyed it very much. I think I need to tape the words FOCUS on my keyboard. Excellent reminder that you cant focus all day. Breaks are necessary.

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Rachna - That's the trick isn't it?! Always a challenge.

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Rosi- Hope it helps! Glad to "see" you again!

Linda A. said...

I grew up in a family that remodeled or torn down houses like most people go to the pool. I want to read this one. Please register me!

Ellen L. Ramsey said...

Going "offline" to focus on writing for half an hour before heading to the office. Splendid post, Shannon!

Carl Scott said...

This book sounds like a little gem, I'm kind of surprised that I was unaware of it until now.
I think a lot of people would enjoy it, please enter my name for the chance to win this copy.
I'm not really hard to find but, just in case, my email is: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

Wendy said...

So glad to hear about this book. Habitat is one of our favorite charities so I'm excited to see how it features in the plot. You can find me: wgreenley(at)comcast(dot)net.

DMS said...

I loved the tips in this post. There are some bits that will help me to stay on track. Thanks!

I enjoyed learning about The Summer of Hammers and Angels. It sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway.

~Jess (I sometimes show up as Jess or Fairday in Google0
haightjess at gmail dot com

Lydia Kang said...

Those are some awesome reviews! I love her tips, but the one about rewarding oneself..."I'll check FB for 5 minutes" would turn into one hour if it were me!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Good luck Linda!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Hope you had a productive morning Ellen!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Carl- Thanks for the kind words!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Wendy - Glad to find another Habitat fan! Good luck!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Jess- Hope the helpful bits work for you!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Thanks Lydia! As for FB...well, maybe that one wouldn't work for everyone. (grin)

Denise Covey said...

I love these tips and the hard work has been repaid with publication! The cover is gorgeous and it sounds like a great book.
So hard to stop the networking and concentrating on writing.
I'd better get back to it.


Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

The cover IS lovely...thanks to the great designer, Helen Robinson. She completely captured the spirit of the story. Good luck writing Denise!

sarah said...

Wonderful post! It's always easier to focus on reading when laughter has you hooked from the start :-)

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Thanks Sarah! Good luck in the drawing!

Cathy Mealey said...

Ten terrific tips! Thanks for the concise and sensible list.

Would love the book for my 9 yr old DD. She's burned through her summer reading list and is begging me to let her read The Hunger Games, Graceling and Bitterblue. not ready for that yet!

cathy54321 at hotmail (dot) com

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Hooray for the young readers! Wishing good luck to your daughter.

Beth said...

Great advice on focus! Some days I've got it under control, and others? Well, I could reread this article.

This book sounds terrific, and the cause is wonderful.

Margo Berendsen said...

I love the sound of this book - the combo of angels and hammers is intriguing!

berendsen70 at yahoo dot com

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Hope the advice helps you have more "under control" days!

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Good luck Margo!

Anonymous said...

First off...thanks for your advice! Especially on the routine. Totally makes sense. AND--your book sounds amazing and I will be absolutely sure to get it.

Shannon Wiersbitzky said...

Thanks Deb! Good luck with the routine!

collkosinski said...

Great list! Your book sounds wonderful.

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