About Bonnie Neubauer
Here's a short and sweet bio:
Bonnie Neubauer is the author of motivational writing books: The Write-Brain Workbook Revised & Expanded: 400 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing (Writer's Digest Books); 303 Writing Prompts: Ideas to Get You Started (Fall River Press/Sterling Publishing); and Take Ten for Writers: 1,000 Inspiring Exercises (Writer's Digest Books). She is also the inventor of Story Spinner, a handheld and digital tool for generating millions of creative writing exercises.
When she's not dreaming up writing prompts or running fun and funny workshops, Bonnie can be found playing, teaching, demo'ing, or designing board games. With her love of words and language, it's no surprise her first published game, ADJitation (BreakingGames.com), contains sixty-four cubes with different adjectives on all sides.
Bonnie lives in suburban Philadelphia surrounded by more than a few of her favorite things, including her books, games, iPad, cats, extended family, and wonderful husband. Feel free to follow her on this website, www.BonnieNeubauer.com or on Twitter at @NeuBon.
Here's a looong bio that provides way more info than you might ever need -
written in first person because it feels creepy to write about myself in the third person for more than a few paragraphs!
I was born June 29, 1958 in Philadelphia, PA to Arnold and Sandy Neubauer. Back in those days, Dads paced waiting rooms and, in delivery, Moms were knocked out cold. After I was all cleaned up, the nurse brought me in to meet my brown-haired parents. When they saw a baby with a full head of thick, curly, bright red-orange hair, my Mom exclaimed, "That's our baby?" And so my life began.
Three years later when my sister Hope was born, my reign as only child and spoiled first grandchild ended. She had straight, fine blonde hair. But by now, my parents were used to miracles. Three years after that, our sister Kim was born. Finally, a brown-haired baby!
I was an early talker, starting with phrases and shifting quickly to full sentences. I have not shut up since; just ask my husband, Gil. Words and language have played a major role in my existence. So have games.
In school I was a very good student - teacher's Pet on occasion, always the goody-two-shoes. I went to a wonderful Kindergarten through 8th grade school in Philadelphia called Finletter Elementary. As an adult I had the honor of being on the board of a non-profit organization, 2andC Cares, that raised almost $20,000 to give back to that school.
I have always been very impressed with humor. Alan Sherman (Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah) was a staple in our household. I STILL pull out the old vinyl LPs and sing along, even though I was one of 2 girls in my elementary school class not chosen for chorus. I also adored Carol Burnett and the Smothers Brothers. If I could have been any character in a TV show, I would have chosen Rhoda - both in her self-deprecating, frumpy side-kick to Mary Tyler Moore days, as well as in her svelte, sharp-tongued, own-series days.
Fast forward now: High School was okay. My first year was at Philadelphia High School for Girls of which I remember little, except that there were pink marble bathrooms. There was also an eight-week teacher's strike which meant I got two summer vacations that year. In tenth grade we moved from the city to Upper Dublin, PA. What a shock that was to my system! One day I was riding inner city subways to school, the next I was on a yellow bus that went by a sheep farm on the way to my new high school. One highlight of these years was my adulation for Harry Chapin. I saw him in concert as often as I possibly could.
My first 2 years of college at Temple University, commuting from home, were all right. Then, in my Junior Year, I lived in France with a fantastic program from Rutgers University. Every minute was an exciting learning experience or, at worst, a 20-pound weight gain. A diet of Camembert cheese, baguettes, and wine covered all my favorite food groups not to mention my hips and waist. Rutgers let me attend their campus in New Brunswick, NJ and graduate with only one year in-residence. This was an exception to a school rule, provided I would agree to live on the French floor of a dormitory my senior year. What a weird scenario that was - being in a triple with two freshman roommates! But many of my friends from my junior in France decided to room in the dorm, too. It turned out to be quite a fun year.
I paid a lot of my way through school by working retail jobs where I sold everything from shoes to vitamins to toilet seats. I loved those retail jobs, especially at Christmas when the malls were crowded and stayed open late. Since we didn't celebrate Christmas, this was the only way for me to get my dose of the holiday decorations and excitement that I always craved.
I attended one year of graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania where I studied Sociolinguistics. If you're wondering "What's that? What do you do with it?" I asked myself the same thing one morning and dropped out shortly thereafter. True confession: The night before my Master's Exam I bought a book on String Figures and learned how to make an Eiffel Tower out of string while crying over not knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and contemplating how to gracefully bow out of the program.
I then had careers in apartment management, advertising sales, telemarketing, and consulting. Nothing jazzed me. Nothing ignited my passion.
In the midst of a very dark, phobic, depressed part of my life, during a telemarketing sales call, I met a man named Randy who had just started a business-to-business greeting card company. Something clicked (and no, it was NOT call waiting) and out-of-the-blue I knew from the bottom of my being that I wanted to write greeting cards for him. After a bit of out-of-character persistence from me, he agreed. Three days later I sold him 11 card concepts.
THAT WAS WHEN I CAUGHT THE WRITING BUG! The only 'D' I had ever gotten in all my years of school was in Freshman English Composition. What a surprising shock to my system to find out my niche in the world had to do with writing.
I immediately started reading more fiction, reading about writing (especially books by Natalie Goldberg) and actually writing. I wrote resumes for friends and family, hundreds more greeting cards, telemarketing sales scripts, ghost-written articles, handouts for public speakers, scripts for seminars, advertisements, catalog copy (my favorite was for a company that sold erotic chocolates) and brochures.
I also loved timed-writing exercises and the magical pieces they prompted me to create. So much energy in such a short period of time; never knowing what was going to come out of my pen. I attended some workshops using this technique. I even started a novel, Carly's Diary, using this method.
Before I knew it, I was leading the workshops. I developed my own style using lots of sensory stimulation, visual prompts, combining unlikely subjects, and not knowing your topic until right before you pick up the pen to write for 10 minutes. Watching a new writer catch the spark is a magnificent moment. Helping a writer get unblocked is a gift. Some folks turned their exercises into published stories and articles. Everyone kept mentioning how they wished they had these types of exercises to do at home.
I thought about writing a book of exercises, but that seemed daunting. Then I remembered a toy I had as a child where you turn wheels with sections of characters' heads and faces to make funny and weird-looking facades. I used that premise to come up with my first invention, Story Spinner, 3 joined wheels (starter, setting, words) that generate millions of creative writing exercises. On this site you can try an online version of Story Spinner or purchase a hand-held one.
The biggest challenge I met with Story Spinner was that it wasn’t a book. All the retailers and catalogers liked it, but wanted it to be in a traditional form so they could sell it easier. Even though I had originally thought that writing a book of exercises was too overwhelming, I did it anyway. Two agents and a nice healthy dose of rejection letters later, in 2005, that book, The Write-Brain Workbook, became a reality. (A big thank-you to my fantastic agent, Jennifer DeChiara and to Jane Friedman at Writer's Digest Books / F+W Media who acquired it!) In 2009 I wrote a follow-up book of writing prompts, Take Ten for Writers which has thousands of exercises geared toward building momentum in the craft of writing. It's quite a thrill and an honor to read blogs, reviews, and postings about these books and how much they help people discover their writing voice, get unblocked, or move a stalled project forward. I adore running creative writing workshops for people of all ages and levels. Note: Please contact me if you'd like me to present interactive workshops to your group (any size at all) or at your conference.
One day, while trying to figure out why time seems to move more quickly the older you get, I realized it had been almost ten years since The Write-Brain Workbook had launched. On a whim, I dashed off an email to my agent asking whether she thought Writer's Digest Books might be interested in a 10th Anniversary Edition. She made an inquiry and they immediately agreed. It's officially called The Write-Brain Workbook Revised and Expanded: 400 Exercises To Liberate Your Writing. And it is big and beautiful. All the complaints I had about the original - it was too small to write in, the art was too dark to write over, and a few of the exercises were not PG-Rated - have been fixed. It is now truly a write-right-in-the-book-workbook with lots of new content. It is spectacular!
In the middle of all this creativity, I also met my husband through books and writing at a bookstore. Aat the age of 41 for me and 36 for him, on April 2, 2000 we were married at the Borders Books and Music Store in Springfield, PA where we met. He wore a kilt and I wore a bright red gown for our "storybook" non-traditional wedding. It was written up in all the local papers and even appeared in a national women's magazine. No one falls asleep during out wedding video because it is the 2-minute piece that one of the local news stations filmed during the wedding. We were so sad when Borders closed its doors. Although we can't stand in the exact spot where we said our vows - the store still remains empty - for our anniversary we stand out front of the shop and have a big kiss.
Books, writing, and my husband aren't my only loves. There are also board games!
As a kid I was very into playing card games and board games (especially Mystery Date, Clue, Yahtzee, and Scrabble), doing puzzles and word games, playing tag, Chinese jump rope, and even play-acting games of school with my best friend, Melinda. (What a sucker I was; when we played school, Melinda was the teacher and I was the student.) As a side note, I never understood dolls. Barbie only became interesting when my friends and I locked her nude in the case with GI Joe. I did, however, think the idea of using straight pins for earrings was pretty clever lbeit a bit dangerous.
Thanks to my enthusiasm for the hobby, it's impossible for a gamily gathering or evening with friends to go by without playing at least one game. aAlmost every Friday evening you can find me at open gaming with all my favorite meeples at the area's best games store, The Games Keep, in West Chester, PA, where we play much more gamerly games. As of this writing, my favorites are Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Vegas Showdown, Lords of Waterdeep, Liars Dice, Ra, and Ivanhoe. That will likely change before I hit the buttom to upload this. And those games are just the tip of the iceberg of the hundreds I own.
The part of gaming that I truly enjoy the most is designing them. Although I typically have a short attention span, when I design games I can focus for hours upon hours. In the past my poor husband was the only one who got to play test my prototypes. (What a good sport; some of those games were real clunkers.) Now I belong to the UnPub Newtork and the Game Makers Guild where I regularly attend designer meetups. The community is amazingly supportive and friendly and everyone goes out of their way to help you make connections.
This is how I signed my first game to BreakingGames.com. It's called ADJitation and it's a party word game with 64 cubes with different adjectives on all sides and a dozen games to play with them. It's also how I now have another game circulating with a publisher. Fingers crossed they like it. In a given year I can come up with dozens upon dozens of game ideas. Some of them never leave my head, but most get sketched (more like scribbled) in a notebook. The ones that have potential get the cut-and-paste prototype treatment. I sort of pseudo-test them myself by playing all the players' hands. If they still seems promising, I then flow chart the games to see which parts are a bit extraneous or where there might be weak spots. Then I take the games to other designers for a an official test. Many end up on a shelf in my closet (which has expanded to a chair in my office), but the ones that make it this far get a name and the royal treatment.
Another related hobby is going to thrift stores where I look for older games. I like to learn the mehanics and then scavenge the parts. I have many drawers that are overflowing with bits, pawns, dice, and cards from games that were either incomplete or not particularly enjoyable. Some nights when I am thinking of a solution to a design challenge I will rfle through the drawer with my fingers, letting all the different color and size chips and chits cascade in and out of my hands. It somehow relaxes me.
Speak of realxing, I think it's now time for me to stop writing and get back to work. I will leave you with this quote by Henny Youngman: “Triumph is just oomph added to try.” I urge you to go ahead and take that first (or next) step. It's how I live my life and it feels great to wake up every morning knowing I am living my dreams... and sharing them with you.