Wednesday, August 31, 2016

We Write For Our Readers

One of my Chicken Soup stories was featured at The Good News Factory earlier this week. The editor posted on facebook this morning to let me know of some of the positive comments she'd received about my story. So, color me happy!

I responded to the editor, Ellie Braun-Haley, that one of the reasons I write is to reach out and touch the lives of others in some positive way. When a reader writes to me that my story helped them face a situation or was something they could relate to or came just when needed, I rejoice.

That's why today's photo is one of thanks. I appreciate my readers on a daily basis. Without them, there would be little reason to try to write well enough to be published. When the positive comments arrive, I know that the time spent writing and marketing was well worthwhile. It is also an inspiration to continue.

We all like to hear good things about what we write but it's more than that with me and with many of other writers, too.

Fifty years ago, our first child died when she was only seven weeks old from complications of birth defects. I wanted to write the story then because I hoped to help other parents who had lived through the heartache Ken and I had experienced. I didn't, no, I couldn't, write about it then. Three years later, we lost our third child who lived only one day because his lungs were not full developed. Again, I wanted to write about our experience but I couldn't. It was thirty years before I wrote about those sad times. I have written several stories about those two children and how they affected our lives and our extended families as well. Every one of the stories was published, partly because the editors knew that this was a topic other parents could relate to.

Even though long-delayed, I'm so glad that I finally did write those stories because I received so many responses from readers who related to the topic. I didn't write those stories to gain sympathy; I had come to terms with the losses long before. I wrote to help others.

I wrote a story about missing my mother on Mother's Day. I was interviewed on a Topeka TV station about the Chicken Soup book the story appeared in. The host asked me to read the story aloud that day. The next morning, I received a phone call from a woman who had seen the show, heard the story and wanted to tell me she had lost her own mother within the year and she had been dreading Mother's Day. She said, "After hearing your story, I know I can face that day and get through it just fine." It meant a lot to me that the woman had cared enough to find my phone number and make that call.

We do write for our own satisfaction but we also write for our readers. It does not matter whether you are writing fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry. Our aim is for others to read what we've written, for readers to find something of use or pleasure. The sad thing is that we only get feedback from a very few.

So today, I send bunches of thanks to my readers of this blog and to those who have read the many stories I have written over the years. The next time you especially like something you've read and have the opportunity to make a comment, take a minute and do it. It means so much to writers to hear from their readers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ever Make a To-Be List?

I like lists because they help me keep organized. Lots of writers blogs or reference books suggest keeping a To-Do list of things pertaining to your writing world. They're fine but there are other kinds of lists for writers, too.

Today, I'd like you to make a list of who or what you want to be in your writing world. It's a To-Be list. Start it with the following heading:  I want to be...  Then give some real thought to what you are going to put under your heading.

There are any number of things we can be in the writing world. Maybe you'll write some of these:  famous, published, admired, satisfied and many others. What do you want to be as a writer? 

Whatever it is will take hard work. None of it is going to happen with the snap of your fingers. If only! Much of it will require starting with small steps and moving up a little at a time. It most likely will demand passion and drive. It will take my two keywords--patience and persistence. 

Make your list and keep a copy in your writing area to remind you of where you want to go, who you want to be in the writing world. Writers hear the advice that they should write something every day. They also need to strive to be the writer they want to be each and every day. 

No time like right now to begin your list. You can add to it as other thoughts are bound to come to mind as the day goes on. So, here's the heading for you. Now you add the rest. If you would like to share with others, do so in the comment area. 

I want to be...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Writers and Poets--Call for Submissions


Calling All Writers and Poets

Chicken Soup for the Soul has some deadlines looming for books in the planning stages. If you're like me, you have been meaning to look at that list and see if you either have a story that would fit or have an idea to write one. Life gets in the way all too often, so perhaps a reminder from me today will get you moving on this one. 

If you're a fiction writer, you can write a true story, too. You have all the tools, just follow the Chicken Soup guidelines and be sure it's a  true story. Poets can submit, also. A narrative poem on the topic is fine, as long as it's true. 

The Curvy and Confident submission date is August 30th. That's tomorrow! If you have a story for this book, push all other things aside and work on it. No time to write a first draft and let it simmer a few days on this one. Maybe you have a story in your files that can be revised and edited in time to submit to this book.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident: 101 Stories about Loving Yourself and Your Body by [Newmark, Amy, Emme]

The Random Acts of Kindness book deadline is September 15th. That gives you a full 2 weeks and 3 days. I've been mulling over a story idea for this one long enough. It's time to get going on it if I want to write carefully and edit and then submit.

Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Random Acts of Kindness

The Spirit of Canada book deadline is September 30th, over a month from now. If you're not a Canadian but you have a story that illustrates the spirit of the Canadian people, send it in. Many of us have traveled to our neighbor to the north. (No book cover found for this one)

The Best Mom Ever book deadline is September 30th. I have a feeling that there will be a large number of submissions for this book. We all have stories about our moms or grandmas that could be submitted.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Four opportunities if you get moving today. You cannot be published in any of these books unless you submit. Those of you who say you've submitted over and over again to Chicken Soup and never made it need to do two things. Study those guidelines and keep submitting. One of these times, you will be the one whose story is selected. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Everyone Has A Story

We moved to a senior living community seven months ago. We eat at the restaurant here a couple times each week. If there is an empty place at a table, anyone can join those already there. It's a good way to get to know the other people living here.

Life stories get shared across the table that is covered with a white linen cloth and contrasting color linen napkins. A small vase of flowers sits in the center of each table. It's quite nice but even better are the people who sit at our table. Ken and I have heard some of the most fascinating life stories from the people who eat with us.

One woman seldom talks; she says she'd rather listen to others. But one evening, she told us about being a Navy nurse during WWII. She met her husband on a ship in the Pacific theater during that period of time. Anyone seeing her in a grocery store checkout line would be so surprised at the life-changing experience she had during wartime. No doubt in my mind that she could have written a book if she'd wanted to.

Another woman was married to a funeral director for many years. She has a great wit and can tell a story so that everyone stops eating to give their full attention to her. She says she wishes she could write a book about some of the experiences she and her husband had in the funeral business but being in her nineties now keeps her from doing so.

When you pass people on the street, you make a mental assessment of them. You know what they look like physically, how they are dressed, whether they made eye contact or not. But you don't know their story. Pass ten people in one block of walking and you've moved by ten life stories, ten people who have gone through something that changed them. It might be huge or minuscule but they all do have a story.

To help you create a fictional character, make a point of talking to the people you meet. Learn about their background. Ask about the work experiences they had. Or what happened while they raised children. Talk to people and ask questions. Many times, they'll answer and keep on talking. All the things you learn can be filed away to use when you write.

I've found that real people are far more fascinating than those we make up in a story we write but they can also help us create fictional characters.

Years ago, I started posting many of my stories on a website called Our Echo. At the top of the page, it says Everyone has a story. What's yours? Maybe your own life story will give you material to create a fictional character. It's certain that many fictional characters have been based on a real person, or a combination of people.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grab Your Grammar Hat

Grammar is probably not the topic you would list as something you wanted to learn more about as you move along your writing journey. Boring? Maybe. It's also something that might make an editor toss your submission in a hurry if you write with too many mechanical errors or grammar no-no's.

The people in my online writers group are not beginners but I have seen many submissions where the writer changes tense in the middle of a paragraph, then reverts back to the original in the next. I will venture to say that most, if not all, of these writers know better but they get wrapped up in the content and errors slip by. It's one very good reason to have others critique your writing for both content and mechanics.

The three main categories of verb tenses are Past, Present and Future. I'm sure you all know that but if you are writing in past tense, then suddenly switch to present in one or two sentences, it throws everything off. Consistency in verb forms is not just a nice thing to do. It's mandatory.

I frequently suggest--even urge--writers to wait a couple days or even longer before editing whatever has been written. It's the little things like verb tense that will show up then. If you start revising and editing immediately after writing the first draft, you're less likely to catch the errors.

Strive for harmony with your subjects and verbs. If you have a singular subject, you need a singular verb. A plural subject requires a plural form of the verb. 

I remember grammar exercise sheets that my 7th and 8th grade English teacher handed out at the beginning of every class, five days a week. We had to fill in the blank with the proper form of verbs, adjectives, adverbs and other grammatical subjects.  It's a known fact that we learn through repetition. Some students hated those exercise sheets but I know that they helped me learn proper grammar. Ok, I have to confess that I enjoyed doing these exercises while many of my classmates did not. I have always been a word person while many others claim title to being a numbers person. For them, those grammar sheets caused a lot of misery.

There are far too many articles on this topic for me to link to just one. Use your favorite search engine to find them, then take some time to review the proper usage of tenses in writing. You'll find good examples of subject and verb agreement as well as the usage of different tenses of verbs. My aim here today is to make you aware of these two parts of grammar so that you will see them when you write, then edit, your own work. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Believe In Yourself

Yesterday's post centered on turning negatives into positives. One way to be able to do so is to believe in yourself. It's obvious that the kitten above has great plans for her life. She's going to be Somebody. She believes it!

If we grow up with parents who encourage us to try new things and to challenge ourselves, we'll have an easier time of achieving that attitude. If we had parents who consistently told us we couldn't achieve this or that, we might start believing that we didn't have the ability and stop trying. What a shame that would be.

Parenting books urge moms and dads to instill an attitude of I can do this! in their children. We should tell our daughters they could be president of a big company someday, or even president of the USA. We should let our children know that anything is possible if they work hard and have a passion for whatever field they choose to work in. Once again, the positives outweigh the negatives. 

My dad was definitely a male chauvinist and he readily admitted it. Nothing would convince hm that a woman could work in a man's world and achieve big things. As a teen, I once thought I'd like to work in the advertising world. Dad burst that bubble in a hurry. "That's way too competitive for women," he told me. I didn't agree but I knew better than to argue with him. I never did work in advertising but I pursued the one thing I was truly passionate about--writing. 

I knew that I had the basic tools to be a writer. I loved my English classes in school, from the early grades on through college. I had good grades in that subject and encouraging comments on the papers I wrote for those classes. That helped me believe that I could be a writer. I knew that it was a tough field to work in. More writers hope to be published than the number that actually achieve that goal. I never worked as a writer on a career path; instead, my writing is as a hobbyist, but serious, writer.

Even so, I did believe in myself as I worked my way along the writing path. Every rejection felt like I'd fallen down and couldn't get up. But I did make it to my feet and moved on. Part of what helped me move on was that self-confidence I had. There are lot of falls along the way to be a successful writer but you can overcome them. Bumps and bruises perhaps but also experience. 

We learn from our experiences and we also boost our self-confidence if we concentrate on the positives of those situations. When I joined my first online writing group, I knew I might not be as professional as some of the other members, but I told myself I would learn from them and reach a new level in my writing. That is exactly what happened. That group gave me the self-confidence to submit more and more of my work for publication. I still got plenty of rejections but I also received numerous acceptances and placed in many contests. Small contests, to be sure, but I tried bigger and better ones as I moved along my writing journey. 

If you believe in yourself, your writing will probably show it. If you believe in yourself, you'll make it in the writing world eventually. You'll achieve those small goals along the way and maybe you'll hit the big ones someday, as well. If you believe in yourself, others will, too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Turn Negatives Into Positives


We encounter a lot of negatives in our writing world. Things like writers' block, rejection, fierce competition and lack of growing as a writer--they can all evoke anger, sadness, or actual depression. I doubt that there is any writer who has not had to deal with any or all of these problems.

We can deal with them by having a furious temper tantrum, thereby alienating anyone who happens to cross our path. What we are seeking is to vent our frustration and maybe to get some attention from a family member or friend. Unless they are also writers, we aren't going to have a lot of sympathy from them. They might easily adapt the attitude that you wanted to be a writer, this is part of it, now deal with it. They might come up with a superficial phrase like It will get better. Remember that they can't understand what you're going through.

We can handle the problems by being the saddest person on the planet--too sad to get out of bed some mornings, too sad to clean the house, too sad to carry on a normal conversation with others. Sadness tends to expand. The longer we have it, the harder it is to rise above it. We can fall into the 'poor me' syndrome pretty easily.

Some writers fall into a real depression over the problems in their writing life. It would be a relatively small number but if you're there, you know how debilitating it can be. At this stage, professional help is needed.

One way to fight the problems cited above is to turn the negatives into positives. Instead of falling into the anger mode or the sad situation, adopt a I'll show them attitude. Make I can do this! your mantra.

Rejections mean that you need to find a different market to submit to or start revising and editing the piece until you know it is improved. Look at it as a challenge. Ask yourself how you can make the story better than it was. I think every story, essay, poem or article can be made better. None are perfect; some come close but there's always somewhere to up it a bit.

If Writer's Block is getting you down, walk away from writing for awhile. Do other things that you've been putting off. Inspiration often strkies when we least expect it. When the urge hits, hie thee to thy keyboard and start writing again. Don't try writing an entire story or chaper. Write a scene. Move on a little at a time.

As for fierce competition in the writing world--don't let it trigger an attitude that you're not good enough. Remember that those writers at the top of the game had to learn and grow in their own writing world just like you and I are doing now. They didn't become hotshots the day they started writing. You are as good as anyone else if you have the passion for writing that they do. You're as good as any other writer if you have the drive to learn and grow. Compettion is a good thing. It can only spur us on to improve as writers.

That final negative listed above is lack of growing as a writer. That is something you can control. You are the one who should read craft of writing articles and books. You are the one who should attend an occasional writers' conference or workshop. You are the one who must write on a constant basis so that you improve over time. You are the one who should read the work of other writers extensively to see how it's done.

Don't let the negatives become an excuse for not finding more success as a writer, Promise yourself to turn the negatives into positives. You'll feel better about yourself and you might have some success in your writing world. I'd like to see you smiling and dancing like the guy on the right.