Monday, May 31, 2010

Take Time To Rmember

Last night we watched the annual Memorial Day Concert in Washington, DC. This outstanding tribute to our military and their families is something Ken and I try to watch every year. The one we saw last evening ranks as one of the very best. The music and the performers were top-notch as always, but the individual stories they chose to highlight were exeptionally well done. One was of two soldiers who had been in the Korean War while the other showed us another side of war, that of the widows left to grieve a husband who gave his life for his country. And yes, I did need to go get Kleenex more than once. I find these tributes extremely moving, and no matter how hard I try, I can't keep the tears from falling.

Ken and I talked about how fortunate we both were to have been raised in families where patritotism ranked high on the list of values our parents taught us. From the time we were very small children, we learned to love America and all she stands for. We learned to support and honor our miitary, whether actively serving or veterans or fallen heroes. Our schools re-enforced those same teachings. We both went to grade school during WWII and high school during the Korean Conflict, as it was termed. Not a war, only a conflict.

When these patriotic holidays come around, we know we will see countless songs, stories, essays, articles and poems that highlight the day. The writers who have shared their words commemorating holdiays like Memorial Day write with emotion and even passion, so there are some excellent pieces that have been published. Newspapers often feature a story relating to Memorial Day. Take time to read them. They'll do your heart good.

Last year, an essay of mine was published close to Veteran's Day that urged people to remember that the military men and women are more than a number. They are real people like you and me. I shared the essay here at the blog. For those who may have missed it, you can read it today. It's one I'm proud of, one I wrote from the heart. Take time in the day's activities to pay tribute to the military who represent all of us around the world in conflict after conflict. And remember families who wait at home, praying for their  safe.return.

More Than A Number

                                                                By Nancy Julien Kopp

The men and women in our armed forces are not numbers in a newspaper article. Each one that deploys leaves behind parents, sisters and brothers, spouses and children, as well as myriad friends. They are not numbers; they are people. They laugh, they cry, they love, they endure hardships, they work hard. They are human beings with all the emotions you and I experience. They sweat, they like to eat three times a day or more, they enjoy fellowship with others, they pray, they shake with fear more often than we’ll ever know. They are warm, living beings—not numbers in a newspaper account.

How often do we read that another brigade has deployed? Numbers? No, not numbers, that brigade is made up of people who smile, cry, tell jokes, treasure the photos they carry of loved ones. They have headaches and stomachaches like you and me. They get slivers in their fingers and bruises on arms and legs. They’re no less vulnerable to physical ailments than you or I, but they face dangers we have never dreamed of.

I live near an army post, so I see uniformed soldiers everywhere I go. They stop at the grocery store on their way home from work just like teachers and attorneys and librarians do. They pick up their children at soccer fields as a civilian mom or dad does. We are all very much alike, except for one thing. These soldiers, male and female, have volunteered to serve, to protect our country at home and in foreign lands, to perhaps put their life in danger while doing so.

Have you ever thanked a soldier or marine or sailor? Maybe you’d feel uncomfortable walking up to a total stranger and saying, “Thanks for all you do for me and the rest of America every day.” What a great gift it would be if you could say that or something like it to a member of the armed forces. Think about it the next time you see an American in uniform.

A couple years ago, my husband and I were returning from a European trip. We were tired and anxious to get through customs when we landed in the USA. As we approached the passport checkpoint, a door opened and an entire unit of uniformed soldiers filed through. They were returning from Iraq, an even longer flight than we’d had. We stopped and watched these fatigued young men and women as they walked by us. Some nodded and smiled, others stared straight ahead. Some I could barely see for the tears that had filled my eyes. I wanted so badly to say Welcome Home to them, but the lump in my throat didn’t allow it. The pride that encompassed me at that moment cannot be described. I was every soldier’s mother for just an instant.

And what about the ones who didn’t return to walk through that airport door? The ones who came home in a body bag or a wooden coffin. My pride in them is every bit as strong along with a deep and abiding gratitude in what they gave for the rest of us. They sacrificed so that we can keep living in a free country. Yes, we Americans have many disagreements, but, even so, we are blessed in numerous ways.

Don’t wait for Veterans Day or Memorial Day, take time to say thank you to a military person. Say it in person or say it in your heart, but please say it.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Sharing The Joy

I received an e-mail this morning from a writer friend who has an essay in a brand new anthology. She is going to New York City June 8th for the book launch and is going to read her essay aloud that evening. I would love to be there to hear the essay. I read it some time ago, and it's very well done. I'm delighted that she is going to have some recognition for her work.

Which brings me to today's topic. Writers like to share their successes with family and friends, but also with other writers. After all, who better to understand the complete process of a published piece? Family and friends are happy about a book or essay or article being published, but another writer is more than happy--they're the ones who know about the beginning, middle, and end of it all. They can 'feel' the joy the writer shares when she/he sends out a notice about the newly published book or story.

I had a hard time sharing my good news when I first started being successful and had work published. I was elated and really wanted to share the good news, but something held me back. Would my family and friends think I was bragging or trying to lord it over others? I wasn't sure, and I didn't want to take the chance that someone might feel that way.

As time went on, I realized that a bit of a 'brag' was a good thing. It's a way of building up your writer's platform, of marketing your work, and getting your name known. At 'writersandcritters' we all send a Brag message to the group when something has been accepted for publication. Rather than looking at it as a brag, I prefer to think of it as sharing the joy. The women in my critique group know how long I've worked on a particular story, many of them have helped critique it, as well. They're happy for whoever gets published, and seeing those successes encourages them to keep plugging away so they can be on the 'sharing the joy' end the next time.

Don't keep good things like publication to yourself.  Share the news!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More On The Writer's Eye

A little incident in my kitchen this morning made me think about yesterday's post.

There was only a small amount of milk left in the container, so I moved it from the fridge door to the top shelf, then went out to the garage fridge and got a new half-gallon to put in the usual spot.

A few minutes later, while I was busy responding to an e-mail, Ken got out the milk. The brand new one, not the one that needed to be finished up.

When I got back to the kitchen, I said, "Why didn't you finish up the old one first."

"I didn't see one," said he

"It was right there on the top shelf. How could you miss it when you opened the door?"

"Why would I look there?" He looked at me like I'd lost it. "That's not where we keep the milk."

Well, he had a point, which I conceded as I put the almost-empty milk container on the counter. But it did make me think that perhaps writer's do look at things a little differently. Maybe our brains are focused on finding a story, so we do look at our surroundings in a manner that others do not. When I open the fridge door, my eye takes in everything on that top shelf, as it's right at eye level. Am I going to find a story on the top shelf of my fridge? Doubtful in most cases, but look what happened here. I had a story involving that milk container.

If you don't have that writer's eye yet, work on it. You can train yourself to have it. When you go outside for a walk, look around and ask yourself questions like "what if?" and also try to see more than a tree with a limb hanging down from last night's storm. What if that tree had been planted at a special time in someone's life? How would they feel when they saw it? What kind of tree is it? How big? How old? Anyone can walk by and see a tree, but a writer can find a story there.

Exercise your writer's eye throughout your day.

One last thought on the milk container. Either Ken doesn't have a writer's eye, or it's jut a guy thing. I'm inclined to think the latter is right. How many times has a man stood in front of a cabinet with door open hollering to you that he can't find _________. Then you walk in and pluck it from the shelf and hand it to him. That whole scene could turn into a full essay someday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Writer's Eye

Yesterday's post revolved around traveling and a post-trip  article I'd written that was recently published. It set me to thinking more about travel and writing.

I think writers are more observant than the majority of people because they're always looking for the next story. I find myself looking for stoies when I'm at Walmart. There are a whole lot of stories amongst the other shoppers and the people who work there. Just yesterday, I read about a Walmart employee who foiled a shoplifter, saved a $600 computer from being carried out the door. And what did she get for it? She lost her job because it is against Walmart policy for anyone other than a manager to apprehend a shoplifter, or something along that line. There's a story waiting to be written. Had I witnessed the apprehension, I could have hurried home to write about it. On a personal note--the entire episode made me darned mad, and I hope Walmart gets lots of letters from people who agree with me.

But back to the travel stories. The next time you take a trip, whether to another state, within your own, or overseas, use a writer's eye to see what's there. Don't just be a tourist moving from point A to point B. Delve into the story behind the historical marker you've just read. Look at every facet of a scene that you might exclaim over for its beauty. Just saying "How beautiful!" doesn't give you a story. Often, something you notice in scenery can trigger a memory which can lead to a story. Even a detailed description of somethng like the Grand Canyon can become a travel essay.

If you want to write a travel story, consider what someone who has never been to the place you're in might like to learn. Write the story with enough detail so that the reader feels like she's made a visit through your words. I read a travel article yesterday written by a man who spent a week in Hanoi. He took me to tourist spots, his hotel, the meals he ate, and right into the streets of the city. Streets that a tourist should cross only if he has a death wish. He whisked me through the giant outdoor food market, adding details that made me feel as if I'd walked alongside him. The man obviously travels with a writer's eye.

Keep a notebook handy to jot down notes as you travel. The excitement of something you see tends to fade as you move through your trip. Definitely keep a daily journal when you travel. Write about your entire day, and write about it with a writer's eye. A journal like this will be a tremendous resource for writing travel articles when you get home.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oh, To Be In Ireland Again

Blarney Castle

I'm going to a luncheon bridge group today at the home of a friend who recently spent three weeks overseas, much of the time in Ireland. Another member of our group was with traveling with her, and I'm looking forward to hearing about their trip. Partly because it all happened at the time of the volcanic ash fiasco. The two couples were to travel separately and meet in Paris. One had miles to use up, and the other went with best price on another airline. It turned out that Doris and her husband never left the USA--flight cancelled. But Barb and Mike had taken a very early morning flight and made it as far as Rome, where they were grounded. It was over a week later when the two couples finally met in London. All the Normandy and Paris sights were lost to them. Instead, they visited parts of England and then went on to Ireland. I'm sure the lunch conversation today among the eight women will be of great interest.

It's made me think of our own trip to Ireland in 2007. Being half Irish by heritage, I'd always wanted to visit the country where my great-grandparents were born. It lived up to all my expectations. When they sing of the green, green hills of Ireland, it's no fairy tale. The depth and breadth of the green and rolling countryside is awesome. I know that hearing about Ireland this afternoon will make me want to return there for another visit. We bypassed hotels and stayed in B&B's, most of which were absolutely charming with exceptional hospitality from the hosts. We enjoyed the food and the people as well as the scenery. I can think of nothing negative about the entire two weeks spent there.

We did the tourist things some days, Blarney Castle being a must-see. It turned out to be a most interesting day. I had no idea that kissing the blarney stone meant you had to climb a zillion steps to get to it and then become a contortionist to perform the act. The whole experience impressed me enough that I wrote a couple of stories about it. A short version was published in a senior newspaper in Springfield, MO this past March. A longer version was published in A Long Story Short ezine this month. You can read it at   Your travel experiences are great sources for essays, articles and even fiction stories. Travel with a writer's eye.

A few pictures that go along with the story are below.

High on top of the castle, reached by climbing until your legs turn to jelly.

Kissing The Blarney Stone (Read the story to see if I did it)

Me going back down the many, many stone steps.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spreading the Sunshine

What a nice surprise I had this morning. Helen Ginger, a writer who blogs and is editor of a writers' newsletter, gave me the Sunshine Award. In the blogging world, this is an award a blogger gives to Followers of their choice. I've been a Follower of Helen's blog   I like her good advice for writers, her easy conversational writing style, and the friendly approach to a serious subject.

Quite some time ago,, Helen published an article I'd written titled "Why Join An Online Critique Group?" in her Doing It Write newsletter. Helen is an editor, book consultant, writer and public speaker

I'd like to follow her example and pass the Sunshine Award on to a few of my own Followers. And speaking of sunshine--a follow-up on last Friday's post. We packed at Karen's house for 3 days and kept watching the skies for signs of dreaded rain. It seems they did have the pit for the septic tank at the new house dug, but it is filled with water from the drenchings of the past couple weeks. Today they are going to pump water out and see what's what. Can they put the tank in or not? The scary thing is that there is possible rain in the forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday. But only a possiblity. I'd like to spread the sunshine all over the Kansas City area for at least a full week.

But on to those I've selected for the Sunshine Award:

1.  Michelle Meyers  Michelle is a fine artist and a sometimes writer. Right now she's concentrating on her painting and a business called Wallflowers Art. But once a writer, always a writer, so I know she'll continue her interest.

2.  Virginia Allain: Virgiina is a writer, photographer, and book designer  She has featured Wrter Granny's World at her Squidoo page on a regular basis

3. Gail Martin:  Gail is the editor at a website where anyone can post their writing. She has also written a book about her Kansas childhood years

4. Molly Samuels:  Molly is a writer who also quilts. But sometimes she's a quilter who also writes. She spreads a lot of sunshine herself with her sunny personality

Friday, May 21, 2010

Up In The Air

A step away from the writing world today. Our daughter and her husband have been building a new house since early last fall. They decided to act as their own general contractors with the help of a good friend who has been in the building business and could give some good advice.
They put their old house on the market in October, and there it sat, month after month, while the new house was moving along step by step. I mentioned to Karen one night that there is a legend that if you bury a St. Joseph statue in your yard, your house will sell. In early April, Karen decided it was worth a try, so she went to a Christian gift shop and bought a small St. Joseph statue, buried him in the front yard and said the prayer that came with him every day.

Three weeks later, they sold the house! Happiness! But it meant they had to be out by May 27th, and the new house was scheduled to be done in early to mid-June.

What to do? Move into high gear, and they did that. Everything is done now except for one major thing. They have not been able to dig for the septic system, and the county inspector will not pass them until that is done. Which means they will have to put all their worldly possessions into storage, if only for a week or two and then move again. Not what anyone would choose to do.

But, the sun is to come out today, and the temperatures are to hit high 80’s to 90. Could it, would it, might it dry things out enough that the man with the equipment sitting on their property can begin to dig? If he can, would it be possible for the inspector to pass them and let them move in on Tuesday/Wednesday? It’s the question of the week.

We are going to their old house today to help pack and clean out the house over the week-end. It may be Tuesday before they know if their belongings will go to the new house or into a pod for storage. Stay tuned for final details next week.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Importance of Setting

Fiction writers sometimes get so wrapped up in plot, characters and theme of a story or novel, they overlook another important part to the puzzle of putting a complete story together. Setting adds to all the other things.

It may seem to be a small part in comparison to the rest, but it's the small things like sensory details and setting that make a good story a great one. The writer needs to give a picture to the reader of the kind of place, the era, the weather and more.Don't write an entire chapter telling the reader all these things. That gets boring in a short time.  Little snippets can be woven into the story so that the reader sees the setting without even realizing it.

The next time you have a rainy day, (I'd be glad to send you one. We've had more than our share lately!) spend a few minutes writing your observations about this kind of weather. Do the same for a cold, snowy day or even one of those glorious blue-sky perfect kind of day. Keep them in a file and when you need to add something of this sort to your story, you've got it. Or at least enough to trigger your thoughts.

Do the same thing when you visit the mountains or the beach or a major metropolitan city. The things you observe on your visit can come in quite handy when you're home at your computer writing fiction.

Or look at buidlings when you travel or even in your own community. How can certain kinds of buildings help in the setting? Are you writing about a place with skyscrapers or old, dilapidated barns? Keep a file of these notes, too.

The next time you read a novel or short story, look for the things that give the setting. Train yourself to watch for it and you'll soon be adding good settings to your own work.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding A Place To Write

Where you write is important but not life-threatening. If at all possible, find somewhere that you can spend some time alone during your writing sessions. A computer at your kitchen desk isn't going to be the best place to concentrate with kids and husbands running through the kitchen to get snacks, put dirty dishes on the counter, bringing friends in through the back door. With all those distractions, your powers of concentration are going to suffer.

If you're lucky enough to have a home office, savor the amenities it offers. You'll have your own place, quiet, a spot for your files and a bookshelf for your professional books about the writing world. You can leave notes to yourself stuck up here and there and no one cares. It's your space. It's the best of all choices. I have a writer friend who has her own office in her home where she works on a nonfiction book. Perfection? No, because her retired husband pops in and out to tell her something or ask where this or that is. She finally put a sign on the door that stated in big letters WRITER WORKING. It helped but didn't eliminate the problem.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to have that extra room. Walk around your home and see if there might be even a corner you can claim for your own. Maybe it's a corner in your bedroom. That works if you aren't sharing a room with a spouse or partner. If you do, you can still call a corner your own, but you might not be able to use it late at night or very early in the morning for fear of disturbing someone else.

The family room and living room have almost the same problem as the kitchen--too many distractions. A TV blaring in the background doesn't help make the creative juices flow. If you have a large laundry room, you might be able to set up your writing world in there. Fine when the machines aren't running.

I know people who take their laptop to the local library or a coffeeshop where they can work. Quiet reigns in the library, but coffeeshops can offer their own distractions. If you have the ability to tune out the things going on around you, try it.

There are mothers who write in longhand while waiting for their children in front of school. Professional people sit on park benches at lunchtime to write during those precious moments.

Your place to write will change as your family life changes. Children grow up and leave home. The empty nest may be a bit sad in some respects, but it gives the older writer a place she can call her own for writing.

The point here is that you can find all kinds of places to write. Find a place where you are comfortable and , can be productive and change it if you like as your life situation changes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ten Books You Might Want To Read

This morning my Book Club selected ten of our favorite books from a long list of titles read over the last ten years or more. The reason we did this was to enter a contest at  Our group will be put with many others who send the list to this website, and 10 winners will be chosen at random. The prize for each is a $200 gift certificate to a bookstore of our choice.

We spent some time today going over the list of books we'd read, and soon someone would say, "Oh yes, that one for sure." or "I loved that!" The ones we liked best seemed to jump off the page. The problem was that we could have listed far more than ten books as we had many 'favorites' among those we'd read. So, we stayed with the first ten that came to us, figuring there was a reason those titles came to us so quickly.

Our list of ten books we liked is below, and in no particular order. They might be ten books you'd enjoy reading if you haven't already done so. There is quite a variety of types of books.

1. The Book Thief
2. People Of The Book
3. The Girl With A Pearl Earring
4. Correlli's Mandolin
5. Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress
6. Sara's Key
7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
8. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
9. Franklin and Winston
10. Bel Canto

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wite In Your Comfort Zone

In my writersandcritters critique group, a number of different genres float about like flotsam in an open sea. We are not all mystery writers, nor are all of us romance writers. You'll not find every one of us writing significant and poignant poetry. We are an assorted group of women from around the world who write many different things.

While I enjoy reading the mystery novels a few are submitting, I would not attempt to write one. And I wouldn't try writing science fiction or horror or erotica. Simply because it isn't me. It's not within my comfort zone. That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy reading the submissions in those fields. Many times, I do.

I write fiction for kids, an occasioanl mainstream fiction story for grown'ups, essays, memoir and poetry as well as articles on the craft of writing. I write those things because I am comfortable with them, and that means I do a better job.

Think back to high school days when the English teacher assigned a 750 word science fiction story. Maybe there were 25 people in the class. How many of those 25 would be happy or comfortable in writing a science fiction story? Probably only a generous handful. What if the teacher had assigned a story in the horror genre? Or romance? Again, only some of the students would be proficient in that type of writing to come up with a genuinely good story. I would prefer that the teacher assign the story giving a list of several types that the student might choose from. They'll gravitate to the one that they feel comfortable with, the one that they would choose in reading material.

There are some writers who would tell you to move outside your comfort zone or you'll never grow as a writer. I can see the merit in that argument, but if I don't like horror stories, why in the world would I want to "grow" into them?

I believe that you will do a significantly better job when writing in your comfort zone. It may take you awhile to discover exactly what your own personal comfort zone is, but once you do, write and grow in it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Be Careful of Trends

Write from the soul, not from some notion what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal.

Jeffrey A. Carver

Writers watch book reviews and articles on all things literary in newspapers, book publishers news releases, TV news shows--anywhere that the written word is discussed. What's hot? That's what they feel they must write.

Books and short stories move along a roller coaster of trends. Look at the Twilight series of books for young adults as an example. No sooner did it break the bestseller list than thousands of writers sitting at their computers in their jammies said to themselves, "Eureka! I've found it. I'll write a vampire story, and it will sell immediately." Consider one small problem. If thousands are thinking the same thing and thousands are writing these stories, how many are going to be picked up by publishing houses? Only the very best which boils down to a precious few. And even these tend to be copycat stories of sorts.

As science fiction writer Jeffrey A. Carver says in the quote above, "...the market is fickle." Here today and gone tomorrow. What's hot now may not be by the time you finish a complete novel. A novel is not written in mere days or even weeks, so the marketplace may be promoting something entirely different by the time yours is finished. So what should you do?

Instead of writing trendy things, do what Carver suggests, write from your soul. Write the kinds of thngs that you want to write, the ones that bubble up from deep within you, the ones you can no longer keep hidden away. Maybe your special novel or short story will begin a trend all its own. Don't follow the leader, move on a path all yours. The writing will most likely be superior to the copycat kind. And don't kid yourself, even though your vampire story is totally different, it's still followint the Twilight trend.

I remember some good advice given to me by my parents when I was a gullible, dying to be like my peers, high school student. The advice was simple, only two words--Be yourself. It works in the writing world, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where Does The Story Begin?

I've been going over some essays and articles in my files to see which ones might be possible entries in our annual state authors contest. It's kind of fun to go back and read work written months ago. I see it from a new perspective, and I don't always like what I see.

In one nonfiction story, I read through the first two paragraphs and found myself wondering where in the world it was going. And then in the third paragraph, the story began. Light bulb moment! Scratch the first two paragraphs completely and begin with number three.

Don't bore your readers with long introductions that probably only mean something to you, the writer. Time is of such importance in our hurry-up world of today that readers want to get into the meat of the story immediately. And let's face it--getting right into the action of the story hooks the reader. (And the editor!)

When I wrote those introductory paragraphs long ago, I probably felt they were needed as a way to move into the story, to set the scene, or to tell the reader the universal truth I hoped to reveal. Reading those paragraphs again all these months later, I knew immediately they were worthless.

I've seen so many critiques at writersandcritters that suggest the writer do away with the first two, three or even more paragraphs. "This is where you story begins." the critiquer will say when pointing out the specific spot. It's a common error that is easily fixed.

The next time you write a short story or a piece of creative nonfiction, step back and ask yourself "Where does the story begin?" Then make it the beginning. Don't bury it somewhere beyond the first page. Your readers and editors will applaud you. Now, if I can only remember to follow my own advice!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't Take Freedom Of The Press For Granted

I read a short article this morning about the controls China is putting on publishing e-books. They also control which blogs the citizens of China can read.

When I first started my blog, I announced it to my online critique group, and most of them hurried right over to the site to check it out--loyal friends that they are. But a day or two later, I received an e-mail from one of the wac members who lives in Shanghai.

She wrote that my blog had been blocked in China. Probably because of all the evil things you write, she finished. I was laughing here in the USA and she was laughing about it in Shanghai. But somehow, it's no laughing matter.

The article I read today and the memory of my friend's dilemma made me think that we sometimes take our freedom of the press issue a little too lightly. When you have it, you don't think about it. It's only when you are denied that it becomes an irritation. Rub a sore long enough, and it ends up a painful wound.

In our country, writers can write what we want in most instances, although we need to consider libelous statements, unethical or hurtful things when we write for publication. Libraries guard the right to put all books on their shelves. Even so, an occasional library makes the headlines when they remove a book deemed inappropriate, and if it goes so far as a courtroom, they usually lose. Rightly so.

I hope you'll think about the many precious freedoms in our country. Don't take them for granted. Many of our ancestors fought in various ways to attain and preserve those freedoms for us, our children and our grandchildren.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More On 101 Best Websites for Writers

As we sped north on Interstate 35 yesterday, I spent well over an hour studying the list of 101 Best Websites For Writers, which I had mentioned here in my last post. The weather was foggy and drizzly, so it was nice to have something else to occupy my mind. Ken drove and I read my new magazine and then started a novel I need to read for my Book Club discussion next week.

I put a checkmark next to the sites I wanted to look at, and there were a great many of them. Some of the ones listed I am already a subscriber/reader, but there were a lot of new sites--new to me, at least. I found it interesting that a good many were blogs written by both writers and editors. Some had specific genres that they wrote about and others were about writing in general.

The sites were grouped under specific headings including Creativity, Writing Advice, General Resources, Jobs & Markets, Online Writing Communities, Everything Agents, Publishing/Marketing Resources, Genres/Niches and Just For Fun.  It appears that there is something for everyone. The intro to the article stated that 3,500 nominations had been received, which means the editors had a major operation in cutting it down to only 101.

The farther I went down the list, the more I looked forward to spending some time looking at the various sites and blogs. If I can even check out two each day, it is still going to take a long time to get to all of them. I'll have to choose the ones that I want to return to on a regular basis, for there isn't nearly enough time in the day to go to all of them all the time. That can be a trap for writers that keeps them reading about writing more than writing. We need to keep writing our number one priority and bring the other things in around it.

Later in the evening, we learned that tornadoes had followed the very route we had driven on our way home. Ten or eleven tornadoes hit in Oklahoma City and Kansas, all very near the interstate we drove on, but it was later in the day after we were closer to home. How grateful I am that we missed the devastating storms that created such destruction and took several lives.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

101 Best Websites For Writers

I'm posting Monday's entry on Sunday night as we will be traveling home to Kansas on Monday, dodging storms all the way, or so it seems from the weather site.

One of the nicest parts of my Mother's Day was an hour spent at a large Barnes and Noble store in suburban Dallas. First, a good cup of coffee at the cafe followed by a time to browse to my heart's content. I  feel so at home in both libraries and bookstores.

My only purchase was a copy of the May/June issue of Writer's Digest which features the 101 Best Websites for Writers. This prestigious list comes out once a year, and it's something all writers should check out. Make a checklist of the ones that appeal to you and visit them one by one. Some may only be interesting, but others may be a means to mining gems in your writing life.

On the almost 8 hour drive we have tomorrow, I plan to study this issue in depth, and I'll check the ones that are of particular interest. Then I'll read the Master Your Genre section and the interview with Anne Lamott, the author of Bird By Bird, a book that every writer should read at least once.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to our drive home as I have the entertainment all lined up.

Look for my next post on Tuesday, May 11th.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day Week-end

Taking a break from my writing world this week-end and spending time with both my children and their families. How lucky can a mom be?

We are at our daughter's home near Kansas City. Drove over yesterday and this morning Karen and I are attending the Mother's Day Tea at Jordan's school. There will be music, readings, punch and goodies followed by a visit to the Book Fair. Jordan goes to a school that has nothing but kindergarten classes. She is to be one of the readers at the program today, so she picked out a special dress to wear. At first, she said she would wear white tights with it, but then she changed her mind. "No," she said, "I'll just have plain legs." A much nicer description thatn 'bare legs' I think. I'm looking forward to attending the tea with Karen this morning. Living 2 1/2 hours away means I don't get to go to school functions very often. Jordan's little brother, Cole, was not too happy about not going with us, but when he found out his dad and Poppy were not going either, it was fine. Off he went to his daycare sitter's home.

When the festivities of this morning are finished, Ken and I are driving to Dallas to our son's home to spend the remainder of the week-end with his family. I'm looking forward to spending time with our 11 and 14 year old granddaughters.

Being a mother and grandmother are one of the nicest parts of my life. Being able to spend time with both families this week-end is a blessing and to be savored.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms and grandmas.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Time I....

My writing group tried a writing exercise that sounded so simple, maybe too simple. It turned out to be a very productive exercise. The directions were to make a list of 20 Firsts in your life and then make a second list of 20 Lasts in your life. So how does this help a writer?

As I made my List of 20 Firsts, I found all kinds of memories surfacing, and when I read my list, I could see possibilities for creative nonfiction stories in several of the items. A fiction writer might see story possibilites, too. The same goes for the List of 20 Lasts. Now, that might not be the very last time something is done but the last time you had done a particular thing. Like the last time you smoked a cigarette.Or went bowling. Or had a baby. Once again, this list can trigger memories or thoughts that may turn into a story.

I'm going to make my list of 20 Firsts below and see what I come up with this time. Some of them may have been not only the first time, but the only time, too. I hope you'll try a list of your own and see what memories are triggered.

Nancy's List of 20 Firsts

The first time I...

1.  was spanked
2.  gave birth
3.  was a bride
4.  won something
5.  drank alcohol
6.  smoked a cigarette
7.  yelled at my father
8.  read a book
9.  sat in a college classroom
10.  traveled on a wartime troop train
11.  flew in an airplane
12.  went overseas
13.  taught in a grade school classroom
14.  had a paying job other than babysitting
15.  had a boyfriend
16.  got engaged
17.  appeared on TV
18.  sold a story I'd written
19.  was mother of the groom
20.  was mother of the bride

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cutting Words

I have a job to do today. I need to cut 200 words from an article called "Contests Calling--Are You Ready?" I submitted the article to an editor who responded immediately that she thought it was a terrific article but she was no longer using them on her ezine. She suggested I send to another publication which she named.

I scoured the internet looking for writers guidelines for this particular publication that is a part of a large national organization of childrens' writers. I found the website but nowhere did I see anything about guidelines. Guidelines are important as they give word counts, format, whether reprints are accepted and much more. There was a link for Contact Us, so I clicked on that and sent a query regarding the article to the address that popped up.

Much to my surprise, only hours later I received a response from the editor saying he'd published a piece on contests about a year ago but would be willing to take a look at my article. Then came the killer statement--:"...of 750 words or less."  My article is 945 words.

A writer hates to cut words they've written. We sometimes take it rather personally. Those words belong to us. It takes a good eye to find the right words to cut and still leave the main idea and something of interest to the reader. On the other hand, cutting words can make a good article even better.

I had some options in this instance. I could send the article as is, and the editor is probably going to toss it aside in a hurry because I didn't follow the guideline he set. I could send the article as is and tell him that I would be willing to cut it to 750 words if he is interested in the article. That way, I will find out if he has interest in the article before I go to all the work of cutting those words. And third choice--I can revise the article, dumping 200 words and send it to him.

I had pretty much decided which of those three options to take, but I sent a message to my online critique group for some help in deciding. Every one of them said to cut it to the 750 words and send it, which is exactly what I'd decided to do. But having them all say the same thing made me feel it was the best choice.

Now--to cut and slice and chop at those words.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Freewrite To Start Your Creative Juices Running

I've talked before about freewriting. It's a process where you select a word, then write about whatever it brings to mind for a full ten minutes. Don't stop and think--just keep writing, whether it makes sense or not.

You can open a book or the dictionary and point to a word to use as your basis for this exercise. Or make a list of words and try one each day.

When you read what you've written, it's possible you'll find some hidden gems. You may have written something that can be turned into a fiction story or an essay later on. Or at times, it may all look like gibberish. That's perfectly alright. This exercise is meant to get your creative juices flowing. Like most things, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

That's not the important thing. It's enough that you've spent ten full minutes writing, and more often than not, that's what's needed to keep writing. You can move on into a project in the works or somethng brand new. But you've primed the pump with the freewrite.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A New Book About Writing Memoir

You don't have to be a professional writer to write memoir pieces. You don't have to write an entire memoir book either. Bits and pieces of your life can be written in a few hundred words. Looking at the past tense of our lives and our families has become a popular pastime. Check any bookstore for the myriad number of memoir books on their shelves. You've probably all read more than one. And, if you haven't, try one or two. They can be fascinating reading.

Anyone can write a memoir piece, but maybe you're not sure how to begin, how much to include, or where to end it. There have been a lot of How-To books published that will help the lay person in this endeavor. One of the very best has been published in 2010. The Power of Memoir with a subtitle of How To Write Your Healing Story was written by Linda Joy Myers, PHD. Dr Myers is a psychotherapist and also president of the National Association of Memoir Writers. So who better to bring us a very worthwhile How-To book like this?

Not all memoirs are written as a means to healing the hurts and puzzles we endured in our growing-up years, but some are. Dr. Myers book helps those looking for this healing but also those who only want to write a memoir of their 'never had a problem in my life' kind of story. I have a feeling there are fewer of those people than the ones who had some obstacles along that road to adulthood and beyond.

I had read a review of Dr. Myers book and it interested me enough to have my library find a copy for me. When only a third of the way through the book, I ordered a copy from Amazon as I knew this is a book I will read more than once and will use to refer to over and over again when I'm writing my family stories. I wanted it on my bookshelf.

The book gives an 8 step program. When I reached the third step, which is Planning Your Memoir, I found that the many sections listed acted as triggers that opened my memory bank to thngs that may have been buried for years. I became excited about the many stories that I might write based on those oft-forgotten memories.

You can write a memoir story now or wait until you have read this book. Or write it now and then write it again after you've read the book. Compare the two. Write the story for your family but more importantly, write it for yourself.