Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

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Anything Writing #5 Montclair Write Group Update

This was posted about me in the Write 45601_430095069628_1997314_nGroup Update – Montclair, New Jersey. 09/09/14


“Donna O’Donnell Figurski doings – spends her not-so-leisurely days working on her “Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury” blog (, which is growing daily. She pdancing_girl_cartoonublished an article, “Prisoner Without Bars – Living With A Traumatic Brain Injury” in an online journal, Disabled Magazine ( on 6/24. She recently became a talk radio host on Brain Injury Radio Network. Her show, “Another Fork in the Road” ( airs each 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month at 5 pm Pacific Time. She also co-hosts with another BIR host every 5th Sunday in a month. AND the “Native American Anthology” in which Donna has three chapters in two books is still scheduled for a 2015 publication date.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing and the Write Group.)

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Anything Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anything Writing #4 Books About Writing

(reposted and revised from my website, Nov.2009)

Here are some of the many books in my professional library. I’ve separated them into categories to make the list more helpful. I’ve read many of these books from cover to cover. Some I use as reference books. Many I have read for motivation and inspiration. Bookshelf thThey all offer helpful and interesting information about the mysterious world of publishing.


For Sale SIgn Cartoon




Beginners Guide to Getting Published by Editors of Writer’s Digest Books
You Can Write for Children by Tracey Dils
How To Write a Children’s Book & Get It Published by Barbara Seuling
Writing for Children and Getting Published by Allan Frewin Jones & Lesley Pollinger
The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
How to Write and Sell Children’s Picture Books by Jean E. Karl
Writing for Children & Teenagers by Lee Wyndham
Writing and Publishing Books for Children in the 1990s by Olga Litowinsky
Book Editors Talk to Writers by Judy Mandell
How To Get Happily Published by Judith Applebaum
If You Can Talk, You Can Write by Joel Saltzman
How To Be Successfully Published in Magazines by Linda Konner
Writing for Children by Catherine Woolley
How to Write & Sell Your First Novel by Oscar Collier with Frances Spatz Leighton
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown and Lynn Rominger
Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin
The Everything Get Published Book by Peter Rubie
                                                                          BOOKS ABOUT the CRAFT of WRITINGCraft of Writing pencils3
Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble
Elements of Fiction Writing: Plot by Ansen Dibell
Writing the Novel From Plot to Print by Lawrence Block
On Writing by Stephen King
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Wild Mind Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
Women Writers at Work edited by George Plimpton
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brand
Depositphotos cartoon toolkit-250x250BOOKS ABOUT the MECHANICS of WRITING
The Children’s Writer’s Reference by Berthe Amoss & Eric Suben
A First Thesaurus by Harriet Wittels and Joan Greisman
Punctuation Plain & Simple by Edgar C. Alward and Jean A. Alward
Putting It In Writing by Steve Otfinoski
Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary by Sue Young
Writing Handbook by Michael P. Kammer, S.J. and Charles W. Mulligan, S.J
The New Oxford Guide to Writing by Thomas S. Kane
1001 Pitfalls in English Grammar by Ruth Parle


(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Anything Writing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anything Writing #3 I Write — Sometimes, I Read

I Write — Sometimes, I Read
              (reposted and revised from my website, November 2009)



My writing group, the Write Group of Montclair sponsors Open Mics every month. Twice a year we meet at Barnes and Noble book store to read to the public. I am reading a chapter from my book in progress. It is about my husband, David, and the traumatic brain injury he suffered and survived in January 2005. The picture I am holding is David on Christmas morning just three weeks before his trauma.

Reading to strangers gives me a sense of well-being. They encourage me with their intent interest in the story and their  amazement at David’s survival.

donna-david-pict-2-b&nDavid comes with me to the readings. He is living proof and testament to my words.

The first draft of the book is completed. I am  working on revisions and will send it to a publisher when done.


Update: My book, Prisoner Without Bars: Conquering Traumatic Brain Injury is completed and is now searching for an agent.

(Photos compliments of ME.)

Please check out my Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury blog to learn more about my book and read interviews from Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors and Caregivers.

June 14, 2014 Posted by | Anything Writing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anything Writing #2 So You Want to be a Writer

So You Want to be a Writer
(Reposted and revised from my website, February 2010)

Many hopeful children’s book writers believe that after they finish the text of their story, they need to find an illustrator. That is a myth and probably the biggest misconception of beginning writers.

Female student writing at deskBelow I offer insight that I found along the way. I hope that these suggestions will be helpful to new writers for children. And … yes, I was one of those beginner writers (many years ago) who thought I had to find an illustrator.

You do NOT need to find an illustrator.

Once you have completed the book in its most finished form, you may begin the search for a publisher or an agent. This is a daunting experience because publishers and agents receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of manuscripts daily, depending on the company and their size and popularity. Unfortunately they only publish a very few of those. The larger, more popular companies, may publish about thirty titles a year; while the smaller companies may publish between two and three titles. This is where your hardest work begins.

Here are several suggestions below:

You need to do your research to find out which company would be the best fit for your story. To do that, you should go to the library or bookstore to find other books that are similar to yours. Then target those companies. Since you can only send your manuscript to one company at a time, and they usually take between three to six months to respond, if they respond at all, be sure to make good choices.

Since the business of publishing a children’s book has so many facets, you really need to do your homework. One of the best resources is the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market – the current version. Sometimes you can find this in the library, but I recommend purchasing your own copy so you can mark it up.

There are two comprehensive books on the market to help you find the perfect agent. Guide to Literary Agents  by Chuck Sambuchino and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over. Chuck also has a great blog online with the latest on agents’ wishes. Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog. Unfortunately, finding an agent can be just as daunting as finding a publisher, so you have to decide which route to take. An agent usually requires between 10% to 15% of your book earnings. A good agent is worth every penny.

This is probably the best suggestion of all. Go to writer’s conferences and join the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. (SCBWI)  You can join for about $70.00 a year and they provide an immense amount of information. There are also local chapters. For example: scbwi – Arizona or New Jersey SCBWI, I think all of the states have a chapter. There are even international chapters in Australia East/New ZealandIndonesiaMongolia, and Japan to name a few.

Joining a local children’s book writer’s group can also be helpful to get feedback on your writing.

You can check out my website for a list of very helpful books about how to publish your children’s book. My Writing Life This is actually the page you are on. Just scroll down.

Probably the best advice I can give to you is – if you believe in your book and this a dream you really want to happen, then be PERSISTENT and be PATIENT. It is just about the hardest field to break into. It can be done. Many have done it.

I hope that this information will help you.

Wishing you the best of luck.


(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)


If you have some time, check out my Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury blog.

June 14, 2014 Posted by | Anything Writing | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anything Writing #1 History of the Children’s Writers Workshop

We were all very sad to see the WRITERS CLUB on AOL dissolve, and especially our CHILDREN’S WRITERS WORKSHOP. I had been involved since 1994 while Anne LeMieaux, (Swan522) Roland Smith, (RSmith) and Barbara (TwisterB) were moderating. When Barbara retired, I stepped into her position as Greeter for Anne and Roland. Some time later Anne and Roland retired, turning the chat over to Marilyn Singer, (WriterBabe). I continued as Greeter and Chuck Galey, (CGaley) came on board as my back-up. Then he eventually moved into the co-Host position. This made way for Sue Eden, (BOEDEN) to cover Chuck’s vacated position as she took over as my back-up. During this entire time our silent partner, Joan Holub, (JOANWRITE) faithfully logged each chat and uploaded it to our archived library. I know that many of you are not able to attend the chat in person, but I’m aware that the libraries are well used. As a team, Marilyn, Chuck, Sue, Joan, and I discussed a variety of ways to keep the chat alive and intact, but AOL made it very difficult for us. Although they readily offered another forum area where we could open our workshop, they required us each to take additional hosting courses. (AOL COLLEGE ;)) Since ours are purely voluntary positions and since we have each been in our respective positions for many years, we found this offensive. Unfortunately AOL would not budge on their requirements so it was either take the courses or allow the chat to slip into cyber blackness.

Fortunately for me, this changeover occurred during the summertime while I was not teaching 1st grade, so I decided to bite the bullet, take the additional 14 hours of classes, (I already had 12 hours.) and move the chat to its new home at CAREERS & WORKPLACE. Sue, who was also required to take additional classes, agreed to join me as the Greeter for the chat, while I act as Host/Moderator.

Many years later AOL had another drastic change and Sue and I handed the chat over to a faithful attendee, Carolyn M. Johnson (LynWriteBk). You can find Lyn hosting the Children’s Writers Workshop at Pro Writers Workshop on AOL each Thursday night at 9:00 P.M. You won’t be disappointed if you stop by Lyn’s chat. She offers valuable information on the many topics of writing for children.

Phhewww– History lesson is over. But, I wanted you to understand how the CHILDREN’S WRITERS WORKSHOP has evolved since, I believe, its beginning in the early 1990s. If I have inadvertently omitted anyone involved in the chat’s history, I greatly apologize.


(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

September 9, 2012 Posted by | Anything Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TidBits About Donna #37 Hold the Liver and the Onions, PLEASE!

Hold the Liver and the Onions, please. That’s what I would have said to my mother when I was only about thirteen-years-old … if I had even known the phrase or had the savvy enough to say it. But, no use, it wouldn’t have done any good.

Who likes liver and onions anyway? Well, I suppose there are some brave souls out there – somewhere- who like it – or why would that combination even be around?

It’s NOT the onions! I love onions. It’s the liver that I abhor. I mean I really don’t have anything against liver … except that it sounds gross and tastes terrible. I rate it right up there on the scale of hate with kidneys,  tongue, and pig’s feet, which I have never had and plan to keep it that way.

But, one fateful night, my mother made liver and onions for dinner. The house reeked! She had never prepared it before; and I have no idea where she got that idea, but it was not one of her best.

My family gathered at the table with inquisitive and wary eyes. “You’ll like it,” she told us.” “I doubt that,” I thought. And by the dubious looks on the faces of my siblings, I was not alone. All except for my newly-born sister, San (Suzanne), Judy (11), Jackie (John) (9), and Mark (6) stared right along with me at the brown blob with slimy white worms draped over it. I vowed that that concoction would not pass my lips and I clamped my mouth shut. But, before I did, I proclaimed the same … and the battle lines were drawn.

I suppose my mother made a vow too, and her vow was in direct contradiction to mine. You will eat your liver and onions or go to bed hungry. It’s a common refrain of mothers eternal. (Not the liver and onion part – just the You will eat your ________ or go to bed hungry. Slot in whatever food you hated.) They are words of wisdom passed down from generation to generation – from mother to mother to mother – endlessly. Be honest! I bet you have some of your own motherisms you could add to this blog. Remember – eat all of your food because there are children starving in _______. Fill in the blank. I never understood how my eating my unwanted food would help children on the other side of the world. Actually I still  don’t, but I would gladly have given them my liver and onions and I would have welcomed going to bed hungry to spare the insult of liver and onions.

When my mother’s tactic did not work, she raised her battle cry to, “You will not leave the table until you finish your dinner. After all she had  spent good money and time preparing it – with love- for us. Didn’t she know I had homework to do – a test in math, English, science, reading, and geography in the morning? Did she want me to fail? Well, I tried. She saw right through my earnestness.

So I did the next best thing. I rolled my food around  my plate trying to make it look like less – trying to make it look like I had eaten it. I accidentally, (yeah right) dropped a few choice pieces under the table. It joined several pieces that my siblings accidentally dropped, too. Why didn’t we have a dog?

We sat! And we sat! It seemed like hours. It probably was. I realized that I had lost the skirmish. I tentatively put a piece of liver and onions in my mouth. I bet you are thinking that I saw the light and discovered the wonderful experience of L&O. but, NO, as I expected, I hated it. It was beyond the hate scale of 10. I did the only think left to do, I swallowed each piece … WHOLE – like a pill. It was bitter medicine. But my mission now was to clear my plate so I could be released  from the table. My siblings stared at me. Probably waiting for me to keel over. Liver and onions is not edible for children. No child should be required to eat it. It’s in the realm of  torture. But, I ate it. As I swallowed the last piece, my mother sighed and said, “Put your plates in the sink.” My siblings dashed to the sink. I gaped at my mother. Not Fair!  It couldn’t be true … but it was! Who ever said life was fair?

PS. I have NEVER ever, allowed liver and onions to pass my lips since.

(Clipart compliments of

June 24, 2011 Posted by | Anything Writing, TidBits About Donna | , , | 9 Comments

TidBits About Donna #36 Taking Center Stage

It’s been years – too many years – since I took center stage. When I was 16 years-old, I had the lead in a play, entitled Marcelino Pan y Vino. The play was put on by the Spanish Club at my high school, Villa Maria Academy, in Erie, Pennsylvania. The entire student body of freshmen through seniors attended. The auditorium was packed. I played Marcelino, a young boy, who lived with the friars. I don’t specifically recall what the play was about, but I do remember that I was on stage the whole time – that is once the nun, Sr. Marietta, got me out there. And, that was no easy feat.

Rehearsals posed no problem. I let loose. All inhibitions were nonexistent. I memorized my lines and missed none. I loved being on the stage. I loved the exhilarating feeling, but when my fellow students assembled in the auditorium on opening afternoon, and the lights went low on the first scene with the friars sitting around the long, wooden slab they called their dinner table, I had serious misgivings. What had I gotten myself into?

It was my job, as the young lad, to run onto stage and greet each of the friars – but my words were trapped behind my lips, my legs were like icicles as I clung to the curtains at stage right, just out of audience view. Sr. Marietta coaxed and threatened and finally peeled my fingers one by one from the curtain, and with a low hiss – just above a stage whisper –  she sent me with a not so gentle shove onto the stage.

Once there, everything fell into place. I never missed a cue. I was in my element. The forty-five minute play seemed to be over in less than five minutes. Where did the play go? I didn’t want it to end. But it did end to resounding applause.

I can tell you that Stage Fright is a real and palpable feeling. I can tell you, too, that the accomplishment of  acting on a stage brings a real rush! The next time I would take center stage was during my freshman year in college.

(Clipart compliments of

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Anything Writing, TidBits About Donna | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Musings by Donna #28 Bittersweet is Today!


It’s the mix of heavenly sweetness followed quickly by harsh reality. It’s pleasure mixed with pain. It’s happiness and regret. That’s bittersweet!

Bittersweet is today!

Today – six years ago on January 13, 2005, with no invitation, bittersweet moved in with David and me. He was an uninvited guest.

He ripped David’s and my lives apart. – Bitter!

We won’t let bittersweet beat us. We are building them up again – together. – Sweet!

David suffered a traumatic brain injury. He endured an operation that lasted about 5 to 6 hours. He wasn’t supposed to live – Bitter!

He lived! – Sweet!

David endured two more open-brain surgeries in less that two weeks and slept the sleep of coma for more than that. He wasn’t supposed to live. – Very Bitter!

After several weeks he began to respond to the world around him. He wiggled his toes and blinked his eyes. – Sweet!

For three months he was in hospitals learning to walk, learning to talk, learning to feed and dress himself again – learning to be a part of society. He desperately missed his job at Columbia. He did not know when or if he would ever return. Bitter-very-bitter!

Columbia welcomed David back with an article about him in the newsletter of Columbia University called, In Vivo-CUMC At Large. Very Sweet!

And by conferrring upon him in 2006, at the Medical School Commencement, the Charles Bohmfalk Award for teaching in clinical years. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!

David still has difficulty walking, talking, swallowing, and seeing. His right arm shakes erratically. He remains a prisoner of his body. Bitter-oh-so-bitter!

He wont let anything get him down. Life has become as normal as it can with all of these disabilities. He exercises to strengthen his body. He works to strengthen his mind. Improvements are being made – slowly, but they come. Sweet!

David has lived six years longer than any of his doctors expectations. Sweet! Oh-so-Sweet!

I have my best friend with me. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!

Bittersweet move over. There is not enough room in our lives for you.

(Picture compliments of ME)

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Anything Writing, Musings by Donna | , , , , | 6 Comments

Musings by Donna #26 Trekking Through the Parks

( A two-part post – beginning in the summer – ending in the winter.)

It was a glorious day. The weather was perfect. I was free. No pressures. I met my friend, Renee, (picture included) to trek through the parks of our town. We have seven beautiful parks – adjacent to each other. We walked for 45 minutes, then stopped at a favorite coffee cafe. We sat in their garden sipping coffee and tea for an hour and a half  – just talking, talking, talking. Then we trekked back through the neighborhood streets oohing and ahhing at the variety of beautiful homes. Three hours later we officially declared our walk/talk ended and went our separate ways.

Renee and I try to meet on weekends as often as we can – spending time together, exercising, and soaking up our Vitamin D … and talking, of course.

With the plummeting temperatures, typical of the winter months in New Jersey, we still try to get our Vitamin D and our exercise.

Last week we walked though the beginnings of a blizzard which dropped nearly 20 inches of snow on the ground. Even with the clouds blocking the sun and the melting snow making a slushy mess on the ground, we walk. We rarely miss our Sunday walks.

We still trek though the parks. Sometimes we walk to a store to do errands or to shop … multi-tasking, I think. Michaels is a favorite now since we are both interested in making jewelry. (More on that later.) When we are pressed for time, having only an hour, we walk through our neighborhood. Most of our walks total about three hours with an hour stop for coffee/tea.

(Picture compliments of ME.)

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Anything Writing, Musings by Donna | , , , , | 2 Comments

Musings by Donna #25 Jared – Otherwise Known as Dr. Kid

Jared was my second child and my first son. He’s my favorite son and I am proud of him. (Actually, he’s my only son.) On December 8th, 2010 Jared officially became Dr. Jared Figurski when he earned his PhD in Marine Biology at the University of Santa Cruz in California.

It was no surprise to either me or Jared’s father that this would be his path in life. He started down this road many, many years ago when he was just four-years-old. And so the story goes …

Jared became interested in underwater life when he caught his first fish on a paper clip and a string in a stream in the woods behind his grandfather’s house in Pennsylvania. He was about 4 years old.

Jared soon graduated to a plastic fishing rod that he got at his grandfather’s pharmacy. It worked wonders. He still caught fish with it – cementing his life career.

As a teenager Jared oversaw about ten fish tanks of various sizes in his bedroom. Once he even devised a contraption to separate brine shrimp babies from their mother to avoid their demise. He made the contraption with a coke liter bottle and plastic tubing. Somehow this invention allowed the babies to live.

Jared grew up with no TV (no sets in the house at all). This gave him hours and hours to work on his tanks and read the countless fishing and wildlife magazines that we subscribed to for him.

During his high school summers, Jared worked at the Maria Mitchell Marine Aquarium on Nantucket. There he cared for all of the salt water tanks. He went out in the Zodiac to collect specimens to add to the aquariums. He also gave tours of the aquarium.

Jared’s whole life has revolved around fish. He even dragged me along many times to the Oradell Reservoir where we would sit on the banks and catch sunfish. The deal was he had to bait my hook.

So, it’s no wonder that Jared, after all these years and preparation, holds a degree in marine life. Rarely a day goes by that does not find him clad in a wet suit diving on his research project or surfing the waves of the Pacific  Ocean for relaxation.

Jared’s thesis was entitled Patterns and Sources of Variation in Drift Algae and the Ecological Consequences for Kelp Forests. It was very impressive. The room was packed with more than a hundred professors, students, family, and friends to hear Jared speak. Though I didn’t understand a word of his talk, it was beautifully delivered and I was beaming with pride.

CONGRATULATIONS … Dr. Jared David Figurski!

(Dr. Kid). I am so proud of you.








(Photos compliments of Me.)

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Anything Writing, Musings by Donna | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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