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Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Was Your Writing Life In April?

I used this lovely springtime photo poster at the beginning of this first full month of spring. Was it only 30 days ago? Today, we should be saying Good-bye April. I searched and I did find a poster saying exactly that. You'll find it at the end of today's post.

But what is in-between the Hello and Good-bye to April? It's all about Time. Look how very quickly this past thirty days has gone by. What have you accomplished in your writing life during that period? Are you proud of all that you did regarding writing this month or are you wishing you had some of those days back again so you could plunge headfirst into the project you neglected?

It might be a bit of both for many of us, and I do include myself in that. Sometimes, I feel like I'm preaching this and that to other writers but I should listen to myself, as well. When I ask if you did this or that and wished you'd really done this or that, I definitely include me. There is no perfect person nor is there any perfect writer.

We're flawed in various ways. Use of our time for writing is only one on the list. Using April 2015 as a self-check, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did I take full advantage of time alloted to writing?

2. Did I fritter away time I might have used for writing?

3. Did I place other things and other people higher than my writing time? (not to worry if you did as there are times when we all need to do this!)

4. Did I start a new writing project?

5. Did I make at least one submission this month?

6. Did I update my writing records?

7. Did I feel inspired to write this month?

8. Should I set a higher goal for next month?

May is almost upon us and delivers 31 days for you and me to do our best to write, to submit, to gather in the various rewards that might be due us. Set yourself a goal for these next 31 days but remember to make it attainable, not something that is so high in the sky you'll never reach it.

And now, it is time to say:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Fitting Finish To National Poetry Month

Tomorrow is National Poem in Your Pocket Day and a fitting finish to National Poetry month it is. I hope that many classroom teachers across our nation will plan for and celebrate the day with their students. If they don't, they are passing up a golden opportunity to teach children that poetry can be fun. 

If you're not familiar with this day, read about it at the Academy of Poets website. The gist of it is that we should each select a poem, copy it, fold and put in your pocket on April 30th. If you have the opportunity to pull it out and read it to someone during the day, so much the better. Not everyone would have the courage to do that. 

Stop and think about it. If I went to the butcher case at my grocery store and, before I ordered the meat, I pulled out my poem and asked the butcher if I might read it to him, he might be polite enough to nod his assent but he might also think What kind of a wacko is she? Or, suppose you stopped to pick up a prescritpion at your pharmacy and you inquired of the pharmicist May I read a poem to you for Poem in your Pocket Day? If there wasn't a line of people waiting, he might agree. Maybe he, too, likes poetry, and it would make his day. Or he might politely tell you that he really didn't have time as others are waiting. So, choose your person, place and time wisely. It could be someone in your own family--a poem over cereal and toast early in the morning perhaps.

Of the millions of poems in our world, what one will you choose to put in your pocket tomorrow? A limerick? A haiku? A sonnet? A lengthy free verse? A poem from a long-ago poet or one who writes today? A nursery rhyme? A narrative tale poem? We all have our favorite poets and favorite poems. No, I retract that--all those who enjoy poetry have their favorites. 

Only people who like poetry will participate in Poem in your Pocket Day. Even if you don't copy a poem and put in your pocket or read it to someone tomorrow, you might think about a favorite poem. Maybe it's even one you've written yourself. 

One point about poetry was brought home to me only last night. A poet friend in my online wrirter's group has a new poem published at a sci-fi website. She had read it to those attending the conference this month that I had to miss. The webiste showed only the Table of Contents so I commented that I'd like to see the poem, too. She kndly sent it to me last evening. I  read it before closing down the computer for the night. I read it twice more this morning. The more I read, the more I saw in the poem and the better I liked it. So, don't read a poem once and move on. Give it a second and third read. I can almost guarantee that you'll enjoy it more with each reading. 

I'm writing about tomorrow's celebration today so that you will have time to prepare.

I read several poems this mornng at a poetry site while considering what to write on the blog today. Here's one I know I first read in high school. I think I appreciate it far more today than way back then. It's a very familiar poem--simple yet visual and thought-provoking and written by a famed poet. 

Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here 
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer 
To stop without a farmhouse near 
Between the woods and frozen lake 
The darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake 
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound’s the sweep 
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Week With Publishing Syndicate

The Publishing Syndicate has been a big part of my life this week. Yesterday, my story, Off the Hook,
was shared on facebook. It's a fun, but absolutely true, story about having that all important birds and bees talk with our son. You can read it here at the Publishing Syndicate blog.

I've had stories in three of the Not Your Mother's Book on... and have had one of my blog posts published in Publishing Syndicate's monthly newsletter. Today, the April issue is out and I am the author of the featured article. Go here to link to the newsletter and to read my article titled Deadlines and Achievement. Once again, my son is part of the story, photos included. The rest of it is advice to writers. This was once one of my blog posts and among the most popular so it might be worth a second look. 

The Publishing Syndicate monthly newsletter is a worthwhile read for writers. Read some
 back issues and then consider signing up to receive the newsletter on a monthly basis.

Ken and Dahlynn McKowen know a lot about anthologies and writing. Dahlynn worked with the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers prior to starting her own venture with husband, Ken. Besides the Not Your Mother's Book on... anthology series, they have published travel books and wine country books. You can read more about Dahlynn and Ken at an Amazon page that gives a fine bio of Dahlynn--not exluding Ken, of course. The page also lists books the McKowens have stories in or have published. Check it out here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

How Do You Save All That You've Written?

Ernest Hemingway Creating Fine Fiction

Ernest Hemingway wrote books that became classics and are still read today. I have a feeling he had lots of writing projects that never saw publication, as well. What do you suppose he did with them? Where are they now? In a museum? In some collector's home? Gone? He didn't have the file capabilities that we have today in our technological world. No doubt some have been saved but surely there are many that have been lost.That point was brought home to me yesteday.

My son and I were having a nice phone chat when the subject of a family writing project came up. ""Mom," he said, "do you have everything you've written saved electronically?" 

"Well," I responded, "I have a hard copy of almost all of the things I've written in two very large three ring binders. And of course, all my blog posts can be found at the blog site." I thought a bit longer and then told him that I also have a huge My Documents file and have duplicated that in Dropbox. 

"What about an external hard drive that would have all your writing on it?" he asked. I then had to admit that I'd bought one but never figured out how to use the darned thing! "Maybe you could help me with it the next time you're here." I'm not sure I received more than a grunt from him on that suggestion but I'm sure he will help me out. Look at all the years I fed him, dressed him, kept him in clean clothes and more. It's payback time!

Those hard copies in the binders will yellow with age eventually, so maybe that's not the best way to save my work. Still, I started doing it when I was a new computer user and feared losing everything on my pc. I've kept on with saving this way as well as electronically. I guess part of me lives in the 21st century while some of me is still back in the 20th!

What provisions have you made to save all your writing projects forevermore? I got to thinking more about this as the day went on. I wondered if it would be worthwhile to set up a personal website and leave a copy of everything I've written on it. Would that be opening myself up to some unsavory people taking my work and passing it off as their own? Does it work if you put a disclaimer on the site saying none of the content can be used by anyone without permission of the author? What are your thoughts on doing this?

Maybe the things I've done so far are almost enough. If I do what Kirk said--putting it all on an external hard drive--that might finish it. There are times when I feel I am very computer literate and times like this when I know I'm not 100%. 

I'd love to hear what some of you who write do to save all those precious words for eternity. And for your family many years down the line. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Writing Hint I Learned From Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy
Maeve Binchy

I've beem reading a book of Maeve Binchy's columns that she wrote for The Irish Times newspaper over the years. This beloved Irish novelist wrote for the newspaper for a long time. The title of the book is Maeve's Times with a subtitle In Her Own Words. She wrote her columns with the same warmth, wit and humor that characterize her many successful novels. She died in 2012 and had one novel published posthumously, and now this collection of her columns. I have so enjoyed seeing life through her eyes as I read.

Last night, I ran across one of the columns that dealt with the craft of writing. That is the one I'd like to share with you today. The column's title is Develop Your Own Style.  The gist of the whole article is that writers should write as they talk, not try to use flowery or impressive language. She says that we don't have to use elaborate and complicated words. 

She gives an example of one youg woman's offering and then her own suggestion as to how to say it in a different manner. The young woman wrote the following sentence:

Untimely fingers of frost in what should have been the sesaon of mists and mellow fruitfulness nipped Ann O'Leary as with furrowed mien she proceeded from the domestic portals and directed her steps to the main thoroughfare. 

Maeve goes on:

"She was trying to say It was a cold autumn day when a worried looking Ann O'Leary left her house...or something like that."

It appears that the young woman was attempting to write literary fiction style while Ms. Binchy suggests writing in the way we talk to one another each and every day. Perhaps there is a place for both or a happy medium. For me, the way Maeve Binchy writes speaks to me. I feel like I might be at lunch with her and she's telling me a story. She's real people! I much prefer her style to the flowery language of the first example.

Which style of writing can you, as a reader, relate to better? Which one appeals to you as a reader the most? Which type of sentence would you choose to use as a writer? 

It's possible that you choose the one that is going to speak to the audience you seek. It seems to me that Maeve Binchy made the right choice. Would she have been as successful if she wrote her books like the young woman's sample sentence. I think not.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Kind of Writing Space Do You Have?

My Writing Space

My online writing group has a new privae group facebook page where we can handle chatter instead of cluttering up our actual writers group inbox with our chit-chat. One of members who lives in Australia posted a picture of the place where she writes and asked others to do the same.

What fun it's been to see where we all write, whether in Australia, Japan, Ireland, Canada or various parts of the USA. A few were reluctant to 'show' the area because it was so messy. Not a problem with anyone--it shows you're working said one person. The most unusual writing space was on a commuter train that one member spends 2 hours each way to get to work in Washington, DC. She posted a picture of the train seat with her laptop on it. 

Another member who has written nonfiction books and many articles works mostly from her bed! She scatters files and other necessary items around the bed on the floor, sits up against some pillows and tap, tap, taps away on her keyboard. My body would not work well after an hour or two of that position, I'm sure. But it is her favorite spot.

When I first started writing, my place was on the ktichen table with an electric typewriter. That meant I had to clear all my 'stuff' away before my husband got home from work so we could eat dinner there. A real bother on days when I the words were coming fast and furious and I really wanted to leave it as it was so I could hurry b ack to it in a short while. 

In the house we live in now, we turned one of the bedrooms into a home office as per my request. We bought a desk that has a nice shelf unit above it, then a computer desk for me, two small bookcases, an office chair, the computer and printer plus a small file cabinet. This allowed space for both Ken and me. He seldom works at the desk, however, so this room as turned into mine. How could I be so lucky? 

It really doesn't matter where your writing space is or how large the area is either. Designate a corner somewhere if you must. But let it be a spot where you can leave your work scattered around you, easily found when need be. If you still have an active family life--kids coming and going--husband hollering for help in finding something--let them know that your corner is your corner. Nothing there is to be moved or even touched. Set the ground rules early on so there's no I didn't know! statements forthcoming. 

It would be great if every writer had a specifically designated entire room in his/her house for writing--a place where no one else was allowed to come in. That might happen once you're a famous writer but for the majority of us who are working our way up the ladder of success, we're happy to have a corner somewhere to call our own. 

What kind of writing space do you have?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Few Thoughts On Writing Backstory In Fiction

Over the many years that I've belonged to writing groups, whether face-to-face or online, the question of backstory in fiction comes up and is hotly debated. 

Some writers love using backstory as a technique while others think it detracts from the main story. The poster above brings out another viewpoint. I wonder how often this occurs. How many writers end up with a better story in the backstory than they do for the main event? 

Before we go farther, maybe backstory should be defined. It's everything that happened before the current story you are writing. Those things that have a bearing on your characters' lives and the eventgs in the main story. So, yes, it can be an important part of your novel or short story. Oviously, it's easier to incorporate backstory into a novel than a short story. I think some short story writers who write the 2,000-3,000 word stories can do it but those short-shorts leave you no room to do so.

Writing a large chunk of backstory often ends up with a lot of telling rather than showing. I have read books that choose to use large amounts of the book with backstory and all too often, I begin to lose the main story. As a reader, I don't like jumping around from time to time. But that's me. I'm sure there are readers who don't have any problem whatsoever with it. 

My personal choice would be to weave the backstory into the main story. It helps build your characters in a reader's mind, dribbling bits and pieces of what occurred in the life of the character. 

When you want to use backstory, ask yourself:

1. Why is it necessary to the main story?

2. Do I trust my reader to pick up on backstory that is interwoven in the main story?

3. Do I want to make sure my reader gets all the facts?

4. If I write a lot of backstory, will I end up with two separate stories?

5. Why do I like writing backstory?

Writers have varied opinions on the use of backstory. They are individuals who look at this topic from various perspectives and when the subject arises, many argue vehemently for one side or the other. Anyuone have thoughts to share on this topic?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Are Your Go-To Reference Books?

Today's photo is of the first cookbook I ever purchased. I bought this basic cookbook in 1961 at a Book Fair sponsored by the PTA in the school where I had my first teaching job. It's still my go-to cookbook for the basics of preparing foods. There are recipes that are spotted with this messy cook's splatters. I have lots of cookbooks but there are a few that I use on a regular basis while some just look nice on the bookshelf. 

How about the books that deal with writing in your bookcase? Do you have one or two that you refer to more than the others? I certainly do. I'll list just a few of the ones that I especially like and are not those I read this once and that's enough kind of books. Look them up on Amazon for a full summary and review.

1. Self-Editing For Fiction Writers (second edition) by Rennie Browne and Dave King

2.  On Writing by Stephen King

3.  Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott

4.  The Power of Memoir by Linda Joy Meyers

5.  Writing and Publishing Personal Essays by Sheila Bender

6.  Seven Steps On The Writer's Path by Nancy Pickard

Your list may be quite different from mine. If you write nothing by novels, reference books in that vein will head your list. If you are a short story mystery writer, you'll look for books that help you come up with the best mystery stories possible. If you are a poet, your list will be filled with poetry help books. 

Every now and then, we should take some time to leaf through some of the favorites on our list. Just becasue we read the book and thought it wonderful does not mean we retained everythikng in it. Read it again for a reminder and perhaps to inspire you, as well. 

Every writer should have one section of their home library reserved for books on the craft of writing. It's your home tool box! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Grab Your Reader At The Beginning

The importance of first things that a reader sees cannot be emphasized too much. The title and the first paragraph are two major parts of any story, essay, article or poem. This is where the reader is drawn in. The writer's aim here is to capture the reader's interest and push them to want go farther. 

When I was in high school, back in the '50's, English teachers all taught that you needed an introductory paragraph when writing an essay. Your topic sentence must be in that first paragraph so that your reader knows what will come within the body of the essay. Someof those introductory paragraphs were just plain boring! All dry facts, no sensory details, nothing to create a sense of looking forward to what came next.

Today, we teach new writers that ya gotta hook 'em fast! We live in a speeded up world with all our techie gadgets that get us to where we need to go as quickly as possible. Time is the enemy. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! It's a fact but it also gets a bit wearing at times. Even so, I believe in diving right into the story in that all-important opening. 

Let's look at titles. The title is the first thing a reader sees. The other day, I was at the library scanning titles in the New Book section. I didn't have time that day to pull umpteen books from the shelf to see which ones appealed to me. Instead, I scanned the titles and the ones that grabbed me were the books I pulled out and read the frontispiece. When you are selecting a title, don't wait til one pops into your head and go with it. Play around with titles. Make lists. Decide what is in the story/essay that you want to bring out through your title. 

Time and again, when members of my online writing group sub a new story, they ask for help with a title. They might use a working title and then ask others to help formulate one that works better. It's difficult for the writer because they know what the full story is about so how are they going to choose one that appeals to myriad readers? What do you like best in a title? Short and sweet or a question or a hidden meaning? Author's choice!

The other place to hook your reader is in the opening lines of a poem or the first paragraph in prose. Some use dialogue to pique interest. Others use an action scene making the reader wonder how the character got there in the first place. Including sensory details in that opening paragraph brings the reader right into the scene. The most important thing for me is to make itvisual and make it interesting. 

How often do you edit and re-edit your opening paragraph? Maybe not as many times as you should. Make that opening bit count bigtime. In my juvenile novel, chapter 1 begins with the following:

Will flicked a blue and white marble with his thumb and followed its path with one eye closed. Before the marble found the target, a loud voice interrupted his concentration

Only two sentences. The reader knows that a boy is shooting marbles, that a loud voice interrupts him. I hope the reader wants to know A. who that voice belongs to and B. what it says.

Remember the opening of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens? 

It was the best of times. It was the worst of time,

That paragraph continues with more comparisons. What it does is make the reader want to find out why it was both the best and the worst of times. It also hints at tension or conflict to come within the novel. It is not an action opening which we see more of today but it did its job in hooking the reader.

Put first things first and concentrate on your title and opening when you write your next story/essay/article/poem.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Other Libraries In My LIfe--A Photo Essay

Yesterday, I posted an essay about the first library I used and loved. Today, I have a few pictures of other libraries in my area. The one above is the Kansas City Library in Missouri. It's so unique that I wanted to include it. 

This is the Manhattan Publice Library in Manhattan, Kansas, where I live. Only a small part of it is showing.  A recent enlargement of the Children's Department has made our library a building of impressive proportions. 

This is the atrium area of the Manhattan Library that leads to the Children's Department on one side and the main library on the other. An elegant metal sculpture depicting several of Aesop's fables graces the wall area.

Another library in my community is Hale Library on the Kansas State University campus. Made of native limestone, as are the majority of the buildings on campus, it is a magnificent piece of architecture and houses a very fine collection within its walls. Many a student fondly remembers the myriad hours he/she spent here.

The last photo for today is one of the libraries I shall always remember. We were staying in a small English village a few years ago. Ken went out for a walk in the early morning. When we were getting ready to leave the B&B, he said, "Come over here, I want you to see what I discovered this morning on my walk." We strolled around the building until we came to the road side. And there stood an old telephone booth that had been turned into the local library. I wanted to go inside and explore the books on the shelves but we had to get on the road so I didn't get to do that. My dear husband knew that, if I once got inside that little library, it would be difficult to get me out again! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To Celebrate National Library Week

Adele Maze Branch Library Oak Park, IL

This is National Library Week. Today, I'm posting a personal essay I wrote about what the library has meant to me throughout my life. The photo is of the very first library I ever went to and continued to use for all of my growing-up years in suburban Chicago.

My Second Home
by Nancy Julien Kopp

In addition to my regular residence, I have a second home. My mother introduced this special dwelling to me when I was only six years old.  She held my hand, and we walked several blocks in warm autumn sunshine, stopping only when we approached a square brick building. Graced by trees and shrubs and a patio-like courtyard, it had a certain elegance and air of importance that I recognized, even at so young an age.

We entered the building and stepped into a cool, quiet atmosphere. The first thing to meet the eye was a large, wrap-around desk that extended across the entryway. A stout woman stood behind the desk, gray hair severely drawn back and caught in a small bun. No make-up adorned her face, and there wasn't a smile there either. I moved instinctively closer to my mother, my hand nestled in hers, until I looked up into the woman's eyes. What I saw made me smile at her. Blue eyes, the shade of cornflowers, sparkled with a smile of their own, softening her otherwise stern appearance. Soon, the smile in her eyes spread to her wide mouth.
"We've come to get a library card," my mother announced. The woman had the application card ready in a flash and passed it over to me to sign my name. I proudly printed it for her and slid the card back across the desk. Not only could I sign my name, I could read, as well. Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot had shown me the way.

"Alright, Nancy," she said as she read from the form, "come with me."

She came around the desk and offered her hand, saying, “I am Miss Maze.” I grasped the hand this corseted woman in the black dress offered. My expectations were great, and I was not to be disappointed, for this kind woman led me to the Children's Department and patiently showed me all the books that stood on shelves like soldiers at attention. She spoke with wonder and awe as she explained the kinds of books that rested before us, making me eager to read every one.

It was a land of enchantment, a ticket to exotic places.  My mother and Miss Maze introduced me that day to the fascinating world of books and libraries, and thus began a love affair that continues to this day. I became a voracious reader and still am.

I was the child whose nose was always in a book. When old enough, I walked to the library alone at least weekly, sometimes more than that. I strolled past the conservatory that was home to a tropical rainforest, then on by a city park, across the railroad tracks and down a cinder path that ran behind the train platform. By the time I reached that cinder path, my pace increased, even though I carried a stack of books. I was in a hurry to reach the riches awaiting me at the library.

The grade school I attended had a separate library, which we could use when we reached fourth grade. I visited it regularly but also continued going to the public library. I felt at home in both places and felt much the same when I moved on to the high school library, then one on my college campus.  The libraries provided necessary information for all the papers I wrote during those years, as well as hours and hours of entertainment, as I read book upon book. The building I had frequented near my home during my growing up years was renamed when my old friend, the librarian, died.  The South Branch became the Adele Maze Branch Library, and every time I saw the plaque bearing her name, I thought of those cornflower blue, smiling eyes, and her kindness to me and other children through the years.  How I wish I could thank her for what she gave to so many. 

During the years since I left my home community, I have made a habit of making a visit to the library one of the top priorities whenever moving to a new place. Within the first week, I have fled the packing boxes and sought out what has become a second home to me. Over 50 years of marriage, we have lived in five different towns, and, in all of them, the library has been a sanctuary and a haven.

Now, when I open the big glass door to my local library and walk through the atrium to the book-lined shelves, I feel just like I did when Miss Maze took my hand and led me to the children's books. I am happy and contented, as though loving arms have surrounded me with a great big hug. Best of all, I still feel an exciting anticipation of the unknown treasure waiting for me amongst the volumes that line the shelves in my second home.

I am so grateful that I had a mother who led me to one of the greatest treasures in my life, the public library.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Nice Surprise For Me

I entered a contest sponsored by the Winfield (Kansas) Arts and Humanities Council. This is the 26th annual Kansas Voices contest. I had entered once a few years ago but did not place. Maybe, I told myself, it was time to try again. I decided to enter three pieces. 

One was a poem that my online critique group particularly liked and so did I. The second was a fiction story that takes place in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The third was a creative nonfiction story called Christmas Spirit--Lost and Found that could be classified as memoir. 

The winners were to be notified by Friday, April 10, 2015. There was no notice on any of my entries on that Friday. I felt a bit disappointed as I thought maybe one of the three might place. I knew that this is a prestigious contest in our state and quite competitive but was hoping to be successful. Apparently, it was not to be. 

However, on Monday afternoon, I received a phone call from someone involved with the contest. I wasn't home but the woman left a lengthy and very nice message. It seems that my creative nonfiction story won Honorable Mention. I was invited to attend a reception and awards ceremony on May 2nd, 2015 in Winfield. The writers of the winning entries would read their story at that event.

Today, I received an email with a list of the winners. It seems this contest does not give 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Instead, they have 1st place and two Honorable Mention awards. Mine was right below the 1st place winner which pleased me. Monetary awards are given to all 1st and Honorable Mention winners. 

You who read this blog regularly know that I have said many times that you cannot win a contest unless you enter nor can you have a piece of your writing accepted by an editor if you don't submit it. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Self-Doubt Is Often Self-Created

Self-doubt might easily be termed a curse. At times, it certainly feels like some wicked old witch had placed a 7 year Curse on our heads. The problem is that we can't put the blame on others when we begin to doubt ourself. It's definitely a one-on-one, like it or not.

You've all heard that old plant a seed and it will grow. That works in both positive and negative ways. If you plant the seed of self-doubt, it is probably going to grow unless you perceive it as a giant weed on your writing path and stomp on it.

What creates self-doubt in writers? Here's a list of a few possibilities:

1. Multiple rejection letters

2. Poor critiques of material submitted to a critique group

3. Not liking your own writing

4. Past experiences in other parts of your life

5. Age

Let's look in more depth at the list, one by one.

1.  Dealing with rejection is no fun, nor is it easy to whisk away the feelings they bring like yesterday's bread crumbs on your kitchen floor. I've written more than once that rejections can have some positives. If you're getting rejections on the same piece of writing multiple times, take the hint. It needs revising. It doesn't mean you can't make it better.Tell yourself that all writers get rejected so you're no different than thousands of others. The key is to not get dragged down to a place where you can't crawl up again. We all get down when we get a rejection. That's human nature. Let it feel crummy for a day or two, then move on.

2. When you get a lot of negative reactions to the writing you submit to a critique group, it hurts. You probably went to the meeting with hopes of high praise. When it doesn't work out that way, it's tough. The best attitude here is to use the experience as a learning situation. Ask yourself what the group saw that you didn't? Ask yourself if their suggestions might improve the story or essay. It's a fine opportunity to grow as a writer.

3.  This one's simple. If you don't like your own writing, how can you expect readers to like it? If you don't like the things you write, take a step or two back and view your writing with more objective eyes. Ask yourself what it is that you do not like. Is the writing flat? Boring? Filled with mechanical errors? Rambling?

4.  If you've let past experiences in other aspects of your life lead you into doubting yourself, it's very likely you might do the same with your writing. I'm a believer in making a list of pros and cons of any situation. Then start emphasizing the pros and working on correcting the cons. And no, it doesn't happen overnight. It's a work in process forevermore for some people.

5. Age? I don't buy that one at all. I didn't start writing until my mid-fifties. The nice thing was that any editor who received my submission had no idea what my age was. She judged me on the words I'd strung together. When I started my blog, I chose the name Writer Granny's World. In retrospect, that was pretty dumb. Why advertise to the world that I'm a granny? On the other hand, it lets people know I've been around long enough to be an experienced writer. I hope to be writing as long as my mind holds out. I won't let my age be a factor until, and if, that time comes.

Be like the little engine that could. Every time you feel that self-doubt creeping up, just repeat the little train's mantra I think I can. I think I can. Worked for him, and it might work for you, too.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Find The Golden Nuggets In Freewriting

I found it rather interesting that this poster on freewriting included a picture of the Statue of Liberty. For the uninitiated, freewriting is a warm-up or exercise. Pick a word at random--open a book and point your finger--then use whatever word you hit. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Wrtie the word and then start writing whatever comes into your head. Pay no attention to the rules of grammar and punctuation. Just write without stopping! Open your heart and mind.

When the timer goes off, stop--or keep going if you're on a roll. When you read what you've written, you may be in for a surprise or two. This kind of writing exercise tends to release thoughts that may have been buried for a long time in the recesses of your mind. It can also produce a whole lot of nothing!

My online writers group does this as a weekly exercise. One member is responsible for selecting the words for one month. She can choose them in any way she likes. Some do the 'open and point' method and others keep a running theme. Last month, I chose all words that began with 'fr' and they brought forth many interesting pieces of writing.

This weekend, we were given a word that few of us knew but I certainly do now. The word and it's meaning is:

frangible:  adjective--easily broken; breakable 

My first thought was that it appeared to be a combination of the words tangible and fragile. I put fingers to keys and came up with ten minutes worth of interesting thoughts.

A freewrite exercise can lead to bigger and better things. A number of times, members of our group hit on an idea while freewriting and expand the exercise into a full story or essay.

Give it a try today. Use this word that we don;t use in our everyday conversation but is a very good one. Maybe we should try to use it now and then.

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Write the word: frangible. Put fingers to keys and let your brain start the exercise. Don't worry if what comes out is all drivel. Sometimes it will be but a golden nugget can come through, too. Freewriting does set your voice free. You can write anything you want to, no judgement from anyone.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writers Should Set Social Limits

I love the poster/quotes at The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life.. You'll find some interesting essays, quotes and other info at this site. And it's not just for women. The advice given covers all genders.

Edna Ferber wrote novels that have withstood the test of time---they're classics.  Among the best known are Giant, Show Boat, Cimarron and So Big. The entire list of her works is lengthy. Perhaps that is because she practiced what she preached. She gave up some things in life so she could continue working on her novels. She put work before self.

Sounds so easy, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. Those who write at home have multiple distractions through the day. Phones, doorbells, kids coming home from school, dogs needing to go outside. Then, there are the social events calling us. Lunches, teas, civic meetings, shopping with the girls. Add to that the social media most people use today--ie twitter, facebook and all the others like it. Yes, life has a whole lot of distractions to sidetrack writing time.

To say no to invitations and some of the other things I've mentioned takes determination on the writer's part. She/he must make a decision as to what takes greater importance in life. If it's writing, then you're going to have to learn to be strong enough to politely turn down many invitations. You'll need to set limits on the amount of time you spend on social media.

I'm not suggesting that you say no to everything. Far from it/ For our own mental health, we need some of these social distractions but we need to know when and where to draw the line.

One of my writing friends worked long and hard on a nonfiction novel in her home office. Because she was there, her retired husband popped in and out with comments and quesions through the day. She told me she'd be working like mad and there he was again, wondering about this or that. She finally put a sign on the door that said WRITER AT WORK and he learned, that unless it was an emergency, he was not to bother her when the sign was in place.

It's up to you (and me), as the writer, to set the guidelines. Others in our family or circle of friends can't be expected to know how much time we want to devote to our work and how much to our social life.

In closing, let me add one thing--Ms. Ferber probably didn't have nearly the number of distractions in her day as we do now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Are You Up For A Challenge?


I saw this quote the other day while waiting in the x-ray area of my doctor's office. There were several others on the wall behind the receptionist's desk, but this one kept popping out for me. The more I read it, the more it made sense.

As writers, we can get complacent about our work. If we have a little success here and there, maybe we've satisfied. We've chosen our seat at the concert and like it well enough to reserve it for the season. Why move? I like it right here.

Change for the better is a good thing. It might only add to whatever else we've done. But to make some changes, we need those challenges. We need to try working on a project that's harder than ones we've done before.

Putting a challenge in front of ourselves may be good but it can also be pretty tough. Strive for something more than you've done in the past and, if you achieve the change, it will be ever so satisfying. To say nothing of the fact that it can put you ahead in your writing journey.

My friend, Grant Overstake, author of Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, had a post on facebook last night that fits right in with my topic today. He spent part of yesterday as a Teaching Artist at a magnet school, where he visited third grade classes. These kids are writing, illustrating, and publishing their own novels! I think Grant had as much fun as the kids did.

Think of the challenge the teachers of those third grade classes put before their students. Sounds to me like they rose to it quite well and I have no doubt that it will change each one of them in many ways.

I challenge you to challenge your own writing world and see what changes come from doing so.