Thursday, October 29, 2015

When Should You Write Holiday Stories?

                             


Halloween weekend is nearly here. When you see the decorations outside homes and inside stores and other places, you might get inspired to write the perfect Halloween story. Whether for kids or adults, all the hoopla over this autumn holiday makes you want to write a scary story. 

You know it's too late to send it anywhere for this Halloween. Maybe next spring is the time to write the story and submit it for October publication. Sounds good except for one major problem. If you sit down to write a Halloween story in March, you're not going to be nearly as inspired as you are now with all those great reminders around you for weeks in October. 

Write the story now and put it in your files. Send yourself a digital reminder to pull it out in February so you can revise and edit as well as search for a good market. 

It works the same for any other holiday--Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Valentine's Day, Flag Day and more. Find the inspiration close to the holiday. Write the story but wait til next year to submit. Try submitting it six to eight months before the holiday. 

That means you'll send your Christmas stories to an editor in April or May. Send Fourth of July pieces the previous November or December. 

I know I can write a better Christmas story when I'm completely engulfed by everything Christmas. I could write a fine Fourth of July story when patriotism is visible everywhere I go in early July. Doesn't your heart beat a little faster near Valentine's Day? That's when you need to write your story about Cupid shooting an arrow into ...well, wherever you want him to shoot it. 

Yes, you can write a holiday story most any time of the year, but I think you'll write a better story if you surround yourself with the trappings of whatever holiday your topic will be. 

Meanwhile, enjoy this Halloween weekend. Some of you regular readers know that Halloween ranks pretty far down on my list of favorite holidays. You can read my personal essay about same published in The Best Times in Kansas City here. It's also been posted on the blog a couple years ago.

Editors of children's magazines and ezines say they get an abundance of stories for Christmas and Halloween. They have little need for more, unless the writer has a new approach. What they seek are stories about the other holidays, especially the ones not celebrated quite as much as Christmas and Halloween. Think about those holidays when writing. Come up with a good story that centers on Veteran's Day, Flag Day, Thanksgiving or St. Patrick's Day and you have a very fine chance of seeing it published. 




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Deadlines For Chicken Soup Stories


Chicken Soup For The Soul is one of the best opportunities for writers, as well as non-writers, to get published in an anthology that pays decently and is well-known.  I like to make readers of this blog aware of deadlines coming up for specific titles for this publisher. You do not have to be a professional writer to submit a story. Anyone is eligible to do so.

I was made aware only days ago that October 30, 2015 is the deadline for a book titled The Joy of Less. I broke one of my own rules and hurriedly dashed off a first draft of a story I'd been thinking about but hadn't gotten around to writing. Next, I sent it to my online critique group with a plea for a quick response due to deadline situation. Five people came through in a hurry and today, I will edit and polish and send it. I received a good response from the writers who critiqued the story so am feeling alright about doing this quick submission. I don't intend to make a habit of doing this, however.

It does pay to keep a check on the deadlines for each of the titles in works. Do that at the 
Possible Book Topics page on the Chicken Soup website. 

It's most likely too late for you to begin a story for this book now. However, there are other books with later deadlines which you might consider. The books with a November 30, 2015 deadline are:
  •  Angels and Miracles
  • Military Families
  • The Spirit of America
December 15, 2015  deadline:
  • The Power of Gratitude
March 31,2016 deadline:
  • The Spirit of Canada
  • Dreams and Synchronicities
June 30, 2016:deadline:
  • Blended Families
  • Stories About Teachers and Teaching
Remember to check the Guidelines page to see if your story fits what the editors are looking for. This is so important that I could repeat the previous sentence three times but I'd be accused of being redundant! Did I mention how important this is? I did and I will again in the future, I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

An Experience In Germany

Choir in Wertheim, Germany

Today, I'm going to share a story I wrote a few years ago. It's a combination of a travel piece and a personal essay that might also be submitted to a religious magazine. It's alright to combine the different kinds of non-fiction writing. It's also an example of taking a very small happening and expanding it into a full story. I hope you enjoy the story.


The Presence of God
By Nancy Julien Kopp

I’ve felt the true presence of God a few times in my life, so real it seemed that I might reach out and touch Him. Each of those events has been etched solidly into my memory. It’s safe there and I call upon it for renewal of my spirit whenever needed, my own mini-miracle.

One summer, my husband and I had the good fortune to travel by river cruiser from Amsterdam to Vienna. The trip afforded us many pleasures as we traversed the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers. Cathedrals and castles, cobblestones and cafes--we savored them all on the land excursions planned for us each day.

Early one Sunday morning, our ship docked at the small town of Wertheim, Germany.
Here, we were told by our program director, we would have the opportunity to watch a glass blowing demonstration and then visit the retail shop that Hans, the Glass Blower, operated with his family.
 
“I’m so sorry that there are no other shops open since it is Sunday, but you can walk through the town and enjoy the buildings.” Renata told us as she pointed out a Protestant church. “There is a service here at 9:30 this morning, but it will be conducted in German."

Ken and I attend church regularly in our home community, but, since this service would be in German, we elected to attend the glass blowing demonstration. How much can you get out of a service you cannot understand?

Hans entertained us royally with his demonstration and lecture about his art. When we finished admiring the fragile merchandise in his shop, Ken and I strolled through this quaint little town situated alongside the river. The cobblestone streets and the half-timber houses reminded us of fairy tale books we'd read as children. We admired the architecture of the buildings and stopped to gaze in the shop windows, regretting that none were open for business on Sunday.

“It's a good thing this art gallery isn’t open,” Ken said. “If it was, I'd buy that picture.”  Lucky for me, the door was locked, and we had to move on.

Turning from the art gallery window, we found ourselves next to the church Renata had pointed out earlier. “Let’s go take a look,” Ken said. “The service is over by now.”

We climbed a flight of stone stairs and stepped into the cool interior of the church. No cathedral this one but truly lovely. An ornate altar with splashes of gold dominated the front. Twenty to thirty people clustered near the front pews, talking softly and milling around. They began to arrange themselves with backs to the altar and facing the mostly empty pews. Their chatter slowed, then ceased as they gazed steadily at a man who faced them. 

It dawned on me that this was a choir of some sort getting ready to practice. Ken and I slid into one of the back pews, prepared to listen. We were treated to some of the most beautiful music I have ever been privileged to hear. The choir sang three songs, all in German. I could not understand one word, but there was no doubt that they were worshipping God with their music, singing from their hearts. It was as if we were listening to the voices of the angels. Joy and adoration radiated in the faces of the choir members as they sang in the near-empty church.

Ken and I moved a little closer together, our shoulders touching. The light from the windows shone on the altar giving the gold leaf a vibrant glow. The choir voices appeared to surround us; melody and harmony blended to perfection. Soft, but clear as crystal, the music flowed from front, back and sides, even though the choir sang directly in front of us. As the resplendent voices rose and fell with the melody, I felt the presence of God so strongly that it seemed as if there was nothing else in the world but this church, this choir, and the two of us.

I could not have spoken a word at that point as emotion rose high within me. My eyes brimmed with tears. One thought surfaced--that I did not want this to ever end. But end it did. The last notes of the final song floated softly toward us, then ceased. The people in the choir moved to the pews, picked up their coats and sweaters, and came down the aisle chatting in German and smiling as they passed us. They were once again ordinary humans, not the angels who raised their voices to the heavens.

We sat there a bit longer and finally rose to follow them outside. The choir members  clustered at the top of the steps posing for a picture. One of the men stood below on the cobblestone street, adjusting his camera, and we slipped by him to continue our tour of Wertheim. Before we reached the corner, I turned for a last look at the German singers who had given us a taste of spirituality and perhaps a glimpse of Heaven on a quiet Sunday morning.

Minutes passed before either of us could speak, and, when we compared our feelings, we realized we had experienced something very, very special. No, we had not attended the church service that morning, but we found something never to be forgotten. It was one of those rare times when God makes his presence known giving us His love and assurance that He is always with us. What a wonderful way to have it revealed to us—through the voices of this gifted choir as they practiced, their songs a tribute to God.

When life’s trials and tribulations seem to be closing in on me, I close my eyes and bring the memory of that Sunday morning back once more. I see the golden glow inside the church, hear the angelic voices of the choir, and feel the presence of God. A warm sense of peace envelops me, and I'm ready to meet the rest of my day.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Self-Assessment For Writers



I talk a lot about memories and writing stories based on your memories, but today I'd like to have you look at a different kind of memory. 

I'd like you to look back through the years and assess yourself as a writer. What kind of a writer were you last year? Five years ago? Ten years ago? Go even father back if possible. 

Do you write today exactly as you did many years ago? If you answer yes, be concerned. It says you haven't grown as a writer which should be a goal every writer has. An athlete gets better with practice and so should we as writers. 

If you have files filled with stories you've written over a long period, take some time and look at the ones written several years ago. Are you proud of that writing? Some of you will be but others may cringe a bit. When I read stories I wrote many years ago, I wish I could spirit myself back and write them again with what I know now. But that's not going to happen so the best I can do is to keep improving as a writer each and every year. 

Sometimes artists paint according to their mood or what is going on in their life. Years ago, we purchased an oil painting that my husband fell in love with. Quite contemporary or abstract and done in varying shades of green with dabs of blue. A few years later, we were invited to a showing the painter had at a gallery. We went, eager to see his latest work. What a shock it was to find every single painting done in somber, dark shades with angry lines slashed across the canvas. I remember turning to Ken and saying, "This guy is obviously having some problems." 

Writers can be much the same. When we're happy, it's easier to write happy stories. When we're sad or angry, that comes out in what we write, too. It's not only the mood of your writing that I'm asking you to look at today but the quality of what you wrote then vs now. 

More than likely, you'll be more proud of the writing you do today than what you wrote ten years ago. If that's the case, pat yourself on the back. If you see no difference in the quality of your writing over the years, then maybe you need to consider ways to grow as a writer. 

Self-assessment works well if you're honest. You don't have to tell anyone what you discovered. That's between you and yourself. Make a list of the areas in which you want to improve. Work on them a little at a time. Cliched as it might be, that old Rome wasn't built in a day. works well here.

Friday, October 23, 2015

When Is A Story Done?

 :

So many writing quotes appear to be quite simple. A few words with great importance for those who write or would-be-writers. Someone might read the quote above and scoff. They might say Well, duh! Isn't that a given? 

The keyword here is done. How do you know when a story you've written is completed?  When is it ready to submit to an editor in hopes that it next goes out to the world to be read and savored? 

Writers know that a first draft is only the beginning. There are revisions and re-edits to come. How many depends on how much of a perfectionist the writer is and how well that first draft was written. There are some gifted writers who can come up with a nearly-ready first draft but most of us are just happy to have enough words written to consider the draft as a foundation to build on--like I talked about in yesterday's post.

When you've gone over your story again and again and can find nothing new to add or change or delete, you might call it done. But wait! Put it aside for a few days or even a week or two. Read it again and you might see something that you didn't previously. 

As an experiment, go to your files and pull up something you've written and perhaps had published months, or even years, ago. Read it as objectively as possible--you'll never get to 100% on that when reading your own work. I think you'll find that there are things you might change. 

But back to that story you've written and revised, edited half a dozen times--when you can read it and get a sense of satisfaction, you're probably at the stage where you can call it done. There has to come a time when you say that. If not, you'd be working on one story for the rest of your life. Follow your gut reaction. I find it's most always right. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Build A Good Story







Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.– Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway and I attended the same high school in suburban Chicago--Oak Park and River Forest High School, pictured above. We both became writers. He attained fame. I did not. Still, I like to put myself in the same group of alums of our school, even though he was there quite some time before I entered its hallowed halls. There is another difference between the two of us. I got A in freshman English and Mr. Hemingway flunked it. And yet, look where he traveled on his writing journey. Look at the goals he achieved and the awards he won.

I pay close attention to quotes by famous authors. These people did something right and I'd like to learn from them.

The author gives us fine direction in the simple six word quote above. An architect builds and so does a good writer. A good writer doesn't just sprinkle a lot of flowery language through a weak story so that it appeals to readers. A good writer builds his/her story from its foundation to the very top.

A building's foundation is of prime importance. So is the foundation of the story you are going to build. Know what it is before you begin. Then add one floor after another as you flesh out the story itself. The foundation has to be strong to hold what goes above it. I'd say this is a good argument for outlining your story, whether it is a short story or a novel.

Build your story with language that stays with the reader. Use sensory details to bring the place and the time and the action right to the reader. Show the reader the story; don't just simply tell it. You can do this if you build the story bit by bit upon that firm foundation.

Strong characterization, dialogue, tension, flow--all these and more are part of what makes a story memorable. It's what good authors like Hemingway become known for. These are the bricks on top of that foundation where your story begins.

So, the big question left today is How in the world did Ernest Hemingway flunk freshman English? Maybe he was so far beyond what was being taught that he just plain ignored it. Maybe he didn't like the teacher and had that snotty teen attitude of You can't make me do this. Perhaps he had poor study habits and neglected to finish the assignment or didn't turn in half of them. He could have been a late bloomer. We'll never know but take comfort in the fact that, even though he had to go home to parents who probably railed at him, he eventually learned how to build a darned good story.






Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Quiz For Writers


 It's Fall in our half of the hemisphere but the beauty of the season has a down side to it. Falling leaves! Which means a big job for he or she who must gather and dispose of them. I'm sure you'd rather concentrate on writing today instead of raking the crisp leaves decorating your yard.

Some things to consider today before you begin to work on a writing project. Consider it a Writer's Quiz.

  • Is my writing entertaining?
  • Is my writing informative?
  • Is my writing error-free?
  • Do I use too many cliches?
  • Do I tend to repeat words rather than find another word?
  • Do I allow emotion to come to the surface when I write?
  • Do I include sensory details?
  • Do I hurry through a writng project or give it ample time?
  • Do I set my work aside and then look at it a few days later?
  • Do I do an edit or even several edits?
  • Am I willing to make revisions if an editor asks? 
  • Do I submit as often as I should? Or could?
  • Do I aim for active verbs rather than passive?
  • Is my writing filled with too many adjectives?
  • Do I check spelling?
  • Can I take constructive criticism from others?
  • Do I read about the craft of writing?
Answer the questions honestly and you'll have a pretty good idea of the places where you shine and those that need improvement. We want to grow as writers on a continual basis. I know that I am a better writer today than I was ten or twenty years ago and I imagine you are, too. But we shouldn't stop learning and growing. 



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Writer As An Artist

Are you painting with your original voice today? "Writing is the painting of the voice." - Voltaire #writing #inspiration:


This quote by author and philospher, Voltaire, reminded me of a short essay I wrote many years ago when I was overwhelmed by a beautiful outdoor view. I titled it Painting With Words which I think describes what writers do fairly well. 

I have little to no artisitc ability. Painting a picture is so far off the chart for me that I have rarely made an attempt. A few years ago, on a river cruise in France, a fine artist held a workshop to teach amateurs like me the art of painting with watercolors. She took us through the process step by step. We all attempted to 'copy' a small painting via her instructions. Oh my, you should have seen the various results. There were a few that looked quite good. Mine appeared to have been done by a kindergartener. Truly! 

I have often been overwhelmed with the desire to paint something I've seen that speaks volumes to me. A sunset. A praire scene. A lake or river scene. A mother and child. And more. I can't do that but I can describe a scene with words. My painting of the voice. 

Maybe some of you writers are also painters but I am guessing that more writers are like me--unable to transfer thoughts to canvas as well as they put words on paper (or a screen!). The poem below speaks to this topic. It's one I submitted to a state writer's contest several years ago. It placed second or third, I think. 

Artists All

Painting with oils,
watercolors brushed across canvas,
clay molded by loving hands,
marble chiseled to exquisite form

Artists ply their trade,
by the golden light of day
and velvet depths of night,
with passion and verve.

One more artist joins the rank.
The writer brushes words over paper,
molds a story bit by glittering bit,
chisels a novel to survive the ages.

The writer gathers life’s stories
from country roads to city streets,
written from the depths of a heart
bursting with intensity and rapture.

Artists all, masters of creation,
be they painters, sculptors or writers,
leaving footprints on canvas, marble and paper--

heartfelt tributes embraced by mankind.

                                --Nancy Julien Kopp

Monday, October 19, 2015

There's More Than One Kind of Rejection


Couldn't resist sharing this adorable photo and quote. A friend who owns a dance studio had it on her facebook page. As darling as the baby girl is, it was the advice that spoke to me.

I often try to give a pep talk to the writers who read this blog. One of the things we writers all have a problem with is the rejections from editors. We know we are not unique in dealing with having our work turned aside by editors and publishers but the one that has to deal with it is us. And we do through one method or another. We do what we can to move past the disappointment and hurt.

But there's another kind of rejection that might hurt even more. It's when members of your family or your circle of friends discourage you. You might get it straight from them or hear it secondhand. They may make statements like How much longer is she going to try to be a success as a writer? Can't he read the handwriting on the wall? Time to move on to some other endeavor. She'll never be able to make a living as a writer. Why doesn't he get a real job? That's only a few. I'm sure there are more.

It may be harder to handle rejection, for that is what their statements are, from people you care about. They are probably not trying to hurt you, may not even realize that rejection like this might cut deeper than being turned away by a publisher. 

It will depend on the kind of person you are as to how affected you are. If you're not a real confident person, statements like the above could discourage you to the point of quitting your writing world. If you're a stubborn person, you're going to keep right on writing and submitting and thumbing your nose at those people--figuratively speaking, please. You'll take the I'll show them! attitude. 

I would urge any of you who have received negative reactions from the people you care about to quietly ignore them and keep on writing. You must do what is right for you. Your writing is not going to hurt other people so there is no reason to quit. Those who make statements about your writing journey are generally ones who have never attempted to write for publication. They have no idea all that is involved in the creative process that you pursue. 

Hold your temper and just stay on your writing path. The day will come when you can proudly show these people what you have achieved. Do not give up.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Possibility In The Morning? Hopefully!

I love the smell of POSSIBILITY in the morning. | Unknown Source:   Isn't this a great poster? It fit right in with what has been in my mind since last night. I managed to find some real inspiration for revising something that I'd written quite a few weeks ago. It went through my critique group. They had a lot of praise and a few suggestions to make it even better. I read those critiques over again last night and was itching to get going on the revisions.

But it was after ten o'clock and my brain was mighty worn out by then. Even though my heart wanted me to get going on that project immediately, my head told me to forget it. Go to bed and think about it in the morning. I listened to myself and went immediately to bed, did not pass Go and did not collect $200. This was no Monopoly game!

After sleeping a little longer than usual, which surprised me, I awoke to exactly what this poster says--possibility in the morning. My writing project popped into my mind again as I opened my eyes and slipped out of bed. It's followed me through reading the paper, fixing breakfast, making a pumpkin pie and sliding it into the oven. Also beating in the back of my mind as I've checked email this morning and now writing this post.

It's exciting to be inspired and to know that sometime this day I will have time to work on the revisions needed. When morning comes, we have the whole day ahead of us. The smell of coffee and the possibility of what the day will bring are both most welcome.

It's so much better to wake with a plan than to get up in the morning and have no idea what you will be doing all day. If you keep a writing project going at all times, you're going to have one possibility morning after another. Many writing books urge writers to start a new writing project as soon as one is complete. It's good advice. Gives you something to wake up to each day.It's possibility in the morning.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Unique Birthday Gift You Can Give




Today is our third granddaughter's birthday. Jordan celebrates 12 years on this mid-October day. I spent some time this morning looking at pictures of this child from infancy on to her sixth grade year. What a lot of things she's done in her time here. She's an athlete, a good student, a loving sister, and more. We sent her a card and money to buy something she chooses herself.

I also thought about another gift we can give to our beloved grandchildren or even our own children. We can write a story for them or maybe one about them. It's definitely a unique gift because no one but you can write that particular story.

I have a feeling a child could go two ways when receiving a gift like this. They could act disappointed and toss it aside or they could be thrilled. Even those who ignored the value of such a gift may someday see what a treasure it is. I discussed saving letters in yesterday's post but I would also hope that a mother or dad might be sure to save the birthday story written for their child.

Considering that possible disappointment in a young child when receiving a story as a gift, you might want to add a toy or something new to wear.

What kind of story should you write for your grandchild? Or child? Or special friend? It could be a true family story with characters being people the recipient knows. It might be pure fiction but naming the heroine or hero with the child's own name. It could be a story that centers on something you and the child have done or talked about. Once again, use your writer's imagination.

Jordan is a reader so I think she'd like a story that has personal ties. Not all children are fans of reading. I'd write a personal story for that child for who could ignore a story about themself?

One good topic for your story might be retelling all that occurred on the day the child was born. Special days like that are in our minds forever. Or about other special birthday's in the child's life.

Here are a few pictures of our birthday girl. Age 3, 10 and with Willie Wildcat at KSU basketball camp.



              

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Save Those Letters




Yesterday morning, I read an article in the Kansas City newspaper about letters a woman saved and gave to her son only a few years prior to her death. The 372 letters were ones she'd received from her soldier husband during the time he fought in WWII. The son, once a reporter for the Kansas City Star, will talk and read excerpts from the letters at a special ceremony at the National WWI Museum in Kansas City.

The article made me think about the many letters that my mother and I wrote to one another  for so many years. It started when I was in college and then, later, my frugal mother preferred the cost of stamp to that of a long distance phone call. In her mind, long distance was for informing someone of a death or tragedy, not idle chit-chat. I can only imagine what she'd say about the phone habits of today.

I looked forward to her letters which let me know what was happening with the family and the area where I grew up. Her witticisms brought smiles many a time and, if she had a complaint, she could safely write to me without hurting anyone else's feelings. I wrote to her about my life teaching, then raising children, moving to a different state and then my writing journey later on.

Those letters were treasures and I am sorry to my very bones that I did not save them. Nor did she save mine. Just chit-chat we thought. No reason to keep them. I can hear Mom saying Who would want to read them again? Well, it's me now that would give anything to read those letters once more. Bits and pieces of political history landed in those letters via Mom's opinions on who was in office or who might be running. Same with new things introduced via TV and so much more.

If I had that big stack of letters now, I could write even more family stories. Far too late now. People write fewer and fewer letters today. Email is the easier way to connect with family and friends as well as other social media. Even so, if you correspond regularly with someone via email, you can save the messages in a file folder online. Or you can print them and put them in a place where you can read them again whenever you like.

Think about our pioneers who kept journals and sent letters back to families far away. What a record they left for us. What if no one had saved them?

Only last year, we received some journal entries written by my husband's aunt--his mother's sister. In one entry, she had copied parts of a letter my husband's mother had written during the Depression years. Something was mentioned that no one in the family ever knew, something his mother never wanted made public. But all these years later, it meant a great deal to my husband and his brothers to have the information. Only because that journal and letter excerpt had been saved and found later.

Think twice about tossing out a letter you get from a close friend or a grandchild or your son. You may regret not having that lasting record of what had been said between you.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Simply Write




How many of you were scouts in your growing up years? Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts learned so many skills.They also found out that giving service to others proved satisfying as well as helpful to others.

I started my scouting life as a Brownie. How I loved getting that brown uniform and the little beanie we wore with it. By fourth grade, we had the flying up ceremony to become a full Girl Scout. Time for the green uniform and the badges we sewed on. I stayed in Girl Scouts through the 8th grade. That final year, I was president of my troop. Little did  I know that it was the first of many presidencies I would assume throughout my lifetime.

My husband was a Boy Scout and worked his way up to achieving Eagle Scout status. He still has a box filled with his scout paraphernalia. We've dragged it around with us for the fifty-one years of our marriage. For some reason, he cannot seem to part with it.

We learned the pledge and repeated it at every meeting. I learned that saying that pledge meant more than spouting out mere words. Our Leaders made sure we knew the seriousness of pledging.Which brings me to the poster above.

The Girl Scout is giving writers some good advice and a pledge of our own. It's so simple but right on. Your are a writer. Write. You sure don't need an explanation for that, do you?

It is your task, your duty and your honor today.If we have pledged to be a writer, then it is all three of those things--task, duty, and honor. It is a reason to write.

Simply write. This is my favorite part. So short. So clear. So important. You may not write a full story or essay or article each day. You might write only a few paragraphs. That's fine. The important thing is to simply write.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Write For The Sheer Love Of It



 I wholeheartedly agree. Write because you love it. If you somehow become famous or make a lot of money along the way, so much the better. But, don't make fame and fortune your number one reason for writing.

I fear that people who do so don't put heart and soul into their work like the person who writes because they love it. Sooner or later, it shows. Those who write only for fame or lots of dollars might as well find some other job for I doubt writing will be satisfying to them. Sure, it might work dor a few but they probably don't get much satisfcation out of the actual writing. 

We've all heard people say "It's a job." when someone asks how they like doing whatever it is--accounting, clerking in a retail setting, delivering the mail or slinging hash in a diner. Wouldn't it be nice if they could exclaim "I love it!" If you have a passion for writing, you could be the person to say those three little words. 

We all need a break or a little vacation away from whatever work we do. When you stop writing for a few days or a week or more, how do you feel? Do you miss it? If you truly love writing, you' will. I'm not saying you shouldn't take that break now and then. It does us all some good to get away from what we do on a regular basis. I find that, after a vacation, I'm anxious to get back to writing. 

I have to admit that I often do write something when I'm on vacation. Maybe not a full story or a lengthy poem or essay, but I'll jot down parts of a poem or an idea for a story. I need to do so while it is fresh in my mind. If I wait til I get home, more than likely the ideas are still floating away on a blue lake. 

Write for the sheer love of it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Delayed Writing Journey


Sharing writing basics at a workshop

I often mention the phrase writing journey on this blog. So, to close out the week, I am going to post an essay I wrote for a contest awhile back. It didn't win but it did allow me see the long path I traversed to become a published writer. 

A Delayed Writing Journey
By Nancy Julien Kopp

As a child in the 1940’s, I dreamed of writing stories like those I loved to read. I excelled in my English classes, soaked up everything the teachers offered. During high school helping out at home and working to save money for college left me little extra time to pursue my writing passion. Later, I told myself.

When I said I’d like to work in advertising, my father squashed the idea with only a few words. “That’s not a job for a woman. You couldn’t do it.” I deflated like a pin-pricked balloon. I’d been taught not to argue with my elders, but inside, I made a vow that I’d show him what a woman could do. I had no doubts that a woman could write advertising copy but I pursued a teaching career instead, something Dad would approve of.
    
Once I started teaching, my extra hours were devoted to lesson plans, projects for my students, dating and routine tasks. Even so, I still loved words and read as often as my busy schedule allowed but didn’t place my foot on that writing path.
    
Marriage came next, more teaching, then motherhood and supporting my husband in his career. The writing dream remained in the recesses of my busy mind. Someday I’d tell myself, I’ll write stories for children. It was a goal I’d set, although I never mentioned it to anyone else.
   
I had a full and satisfying life as a stay-at-home mom. Even so, I dreamed of writing.
    
Once our children were independent, my husband, Ken, took a job in a small town hundreds of miles away from where we’d raised our family.  Once there, I found myself friendless, bored, and depressed.
    
I did all the copy work for the Education department in the local hospital, spending one afternoon every week alone in a small room with only a huge copy machine for company. I’d signed on as a volunteer hoping to meet other women but that plan didn’t come to fruition.
   
I learned there would be a Holiday Coffee for hospital volunteers, a perfect opportunity to meet others. Chairs were arranged in several circles. Great for conversation, I thought. Balancing my coffee and plate carefully, I sat down next to three chatting women. They took one look at me and pulled their chairs into another, already-full, circle, leaving me alone, humiliated and miserable. I soon left for home not realizing the experience would trigger a big change in my life.

That evening, we sat at the dinner table, neither of us talking. Finally, Ken said, “What’s wrong? You haven’t said a word since we sat down. That’s not like you.”
   
I erupted like a long-simmering volcano. “I have nothing to talk about. I don’t go anywhere! I don’t see anyone! I don’t talk to anyone!”

As soon as the words spewed forth, regret enveloped me. It wasn’t Ken’s fault. He liked his new job. The problem was all my own.

Flipping through a magazine the afternoon after my rant, I spied an ad that told me I could learn to write for children through a correspondence course. A tiny spark of interest flickered as I turned the page and then returned to the ad two more times. I talked it over with Ken that evening, checked the school’s credentials the next day and enrolled. Why not? What did I have to lose?
    
I hoped a challenge like this might help me enjoy life more. I knew I couldn’t continue on in the same mode much longer. Maybe the time had come to pursue my writing dream. Thirty-five years earlier, my dad had said a woman couldn’t work in advertising but he’d never nixed other kinds of writing. No guilt for me!
    
I finished the course in record time with great enthusiasm, wrote multiple stories geared to middle grade children, the age group I’d taught so many years earlier. Before long, Ken’s bank was purchased and they transferred him to the main bank in a larger community. I joined a small writing critique group where I found support and learned more about the craft. I sold a story and was hooked for life. Now, my life felt full again.
    
I branched out, trying fiction for adults and turned out some pretty clich├ęd, lame tales. I attempted poetry and some were not half bad. Next, I delved into creative non-fiction and many pieces were published at non-paying ezines and then magazines and finally anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Guideposts. I soon realized that my strength lay in creative nonfiction.  

Being one who likes variety in life, I wrote some articles on the craft of writing that were published. I joined an online critique group and then another one when the first folded. I gained knowledge about our craft, confidence in myself as a writer and some lifetime writer friends. My writing journey proved a continuous and satisfying process.
   
I started a blog several years ago about my writing world with the intent of encouraging other writers and found that I loved posting five days a week about a subject dear to my heart. Somehow, the old teacher in me never died, and my blog, Writer Granny’s World, allowed me to teach through the written word.
    
Lately, I’ve been selling children’s stories again and am revising a juvenile novel but creative nonfiction, personal essays, poems and articles on the craft of writing add variety to my work.
    
This second act of my existence proved to be an important part of my writing journey. With it comes great pleasure as I string words together to create a new story or poem. The loneliness and rejection I felt in that small town encouraged me to accept a personal challenge to change my life and also satisfy a longing to write.


Because I started in my mid-fifties, I needed to run on my writing journey but exercise is good for the heart and my soul, too. I wish my dad had lived long enough to see what a determined woman can do.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Read It And Heed It!



What a great list of eight suggestions for writers. Each of them will move you farther on your path to publication. I don't think I need to add anything more to the list. Each point is pretty clear.

It's such a good list that you might consider printing it, then place the list somewhere in the area where you write. Too often, we read something worthwhile and then forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind! 

Read it and heed it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Try One Or All Three Picture Prompts

Time for a photo prompt exercise. Autumn pictures are so great that I've chosen three for you. Pick one and write a story or a few paragraphs to go with it. Or, do one for each of the pictures. You might also write a poem.

This is not punishment. This is not a chore. This is a writing exercise to flex your writer's muscles. This is to help you find some inspiration. This is to aid you in writing something you can submit to a publication. Go!



Where is he going? Why? Who is waiting for him?


Who grew this produce? Who will harvest it? Who will cook it?



Who lives here? Where did the bubbles come from? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

When You Write Something That Pleases You



Snoopy has it right. It is exciting to write something that you know in your heart is well done. When that happens, you are inspired enough to start searching for a market for this wonderful piece of writing. You are pumped up and want to find a place where you can submit your work.

You submit and submit and submit the piece but receive either a rejection or no response. You begin to wilt like yesterday's bouquet. Doubt creeps in. Frustration sets up housekeeping in your mind. You even get angry at times and then you feel major disappointment. All those emotions swirl and twirl until you're dizzy with it all.

Once you get through all that, step back and try to be objective. Read your piece with an objective eye--which is not all that easy to do. Try to figure out why no editor snapped up this well-done story. There can be many reasons besides an editor not liking your work.

It's possible the publication had run a similar piece in the past few months. So, no matter how good your story is, they aren't going to repeat a topic so soon. Perhaps you tried a market that wasn't actually a good fit for the kind of story you wrote. Maybe the story itself is good but your mechanics of writing were not so hot.

The point here is that even good writing can get rejected. If you still feel positive about your story, keep submitting it. But first, do some re-editing and/or revising. It's been long enough since you wrote the story for you to be able to see it from a different perspective.

If you think the story is a good one and it still excites you, don't give up on getting it published. It's not all that often that we get an acceptance on the first submission. When you read a story in a magazine or online that you really like, do you ever wonder how many times the author had to submit before that particular work was actually published? No, we most likely don't think of that but I am certain that many of those good stories have taken awhile to find a home.

Bottom line for me is that it's a great feeling to write something you know in your heart is good. I entered a personal essay and a poem in a contest recently and neither one placed. It disappointed me but I still feel very satisfied with what I wrote and I'll start submitting to editors now. Somebody, somewhere is going to agree with me someday.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sometimes Authors Disagree On Some Points

Yesterday, I went to the final day of the Kansas Authors Club state convention in Topeka. After the business meeting, I attended a panel discussion on how to market books and yourself as a writer.

Four many-times-published authors made up the panel. Each one gave a short talk and then answered questions. At one point, one of the panel members disagreed with another. It was not like the picture above. Instead, the author who vocally disagreed with another author did it in a respectful way.

It wasn't done to put down or embarrass the other woman. What the discussion entailed would take too much space in this post, but I liked the fact that one disagreed with the other in a public statement. Why?

Because it made evident the fact that everything we hear at a workshop is not gospel truth. Some is, of course. But much of what the authors presented was their own opinion garnered from experiences they've had. Is that wrong?

Not at all. We attend writing workshops to gain information. These two authors disagreed about one aspect of selling your books and yourself. I learned something from each one.

If Stephen King tells me I must write a certain way or I'll never sell my book, do I have to throw away my own opinions and nod my head at him swearing to do it his way forevermore? No, I don't. While I might respect his opinion, I have my own experiences on which to base my judgement as well as listening to experts in the field. I would probably listen carefully and try much of what he told me to do but I wouldn't give up my own thinking along the way.

The ages of the panelists varied quite a lot. What works for the youngest might not work for the oldest one. Because of their stage of life, they most likely approach each point in a different manner. And that's perfectly alright.

Remember that we can use different methods and still be considered correct. You do what works best for you. Don't ignore the advice you receive in a writing workshop. Much of it will be of great help to you but neither should you disregard your own feelings for the way something should be written.

I know I've spoken in generalities here, but you probably get the picture. It's alright to disagree at times--even with an expert. Just do it respectfully. No book smashing on heads, please. One last point--if you are going to disagree with another person, be able to explain why, back up your statement.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Visit To Crystal Bridges



This is a photo I took yesterday when we visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR. The Walton family--of Walmart fame--has given this gift to all who wish to come and visit. There is no charge to view the permanent exhibits. The traveling exhibits have a nominal charge.

We'd heard good reports about this museum so decided to make it a stop on our way home from Birmingham, AL. We were not disappointed. The grounds and its hiking trails and the building itself are also works of art. One by nature and the other by architect, Moshe Safdie. Checking the page on the Crystal Bridges website devoted to the architecture will allow you to see far better photos than the one I have posted here.

The permanent collection takes the viewer on a historical tour of art moving from early years of our country to present day. There are many outstanding sculptures as well as paintings, all of which are displayed to best advantage. Emotions rose to the surface for me many moments of our visit.

The Traveling Exhibit we were treated to showed the works of two well-known artists--Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth. We watched a tour guide explain one of the paintings in this exhibit to a group of school children. If we'd had more time, we might have learned a thing or two.

As we strolled from gallery to gallery and along the window-lined corridors, I could not help but admire the building, both inside and out. Magnificent almost seemed too small a word to describe it.

We visited the restaurant/coffee shop area and the Museum Shop, both of which were most appealing. The outdoor hiking trails beckoned but time did not allow us to traverse the paths to see the many sculptures along the trail.

This is a museum artists would love but is also appealing to the everyday people of all ages. Writers could get inspiration to write while there or later on. Go to the website to learn more. If you plan a visit, spending time at the website would help give a better appreciation than just dropping in.

There are a lot of people who snicker or make fun of Walmart but after seeing this rare museum, they might never do so again. Instead, they might like to write a thank you note to the Walton family.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Welcome October By Writing About Fall Memories



October has arrived, the tenth month of the year. Blistering summer temps are only a memory now. Cool mornngs and warm afternoons begin the month. By Halloween, it could be downright cold. Or not! October likes to surprise us. Besides a colorful palette, she brings varying weather patterns.
October also brings thoughts of special days among the 31 on the calendar. We have Columbus Day which probably is not recognized as much now as in my growing up years. We learned in grade school why we celebrated this day, why we revered the man who discovered the land we live in. 

And who can ignore Halloween this month? Retailers make sure we don't forget it as do the children of our country who look forward to Halloween. Moms like to decorate with Halloween themes and dads help kids carve jack-o-lanterns. 

There are outings to pumpkin patches across the country and fall festivals. Chilly days bring on soups and stews and chili to warm our innards. In my childhood, October brought the aroma of smoke from piles of leaves that had been raked and set on fire. Now, that's been banned. Sad but understandable for those who suffer lung problems. 

Halloween costumes and parties, Trick or Treat nights and more highlight this month. 

I have a granddaughter who celebrates her birthday in the middle of October. And no doubt, many of you have family birthdays in this month of golden colors in our trees and bushes with some oranges and red hues sprinkled in. Glorious! 

What can you write about in October? How about some family stories or your memories of what October was like during your growing up years? 

In October:

What did you do in school?
What kinds of foods did your mother prepare?
What did your mom do with clothing? Put summer things away and get out the warm woolies? 
What kind of house maintenance was done?
What family outings did you have?
How did you celebrate Halloween?

We have been traveling this week between Kansas and Alabama. We're just a bit too early for the colors but have enjoyed the more moderate temps. Still no jackets to need in the mornings. It's a lovely month to enjoy as we wait for winter to slip up and surprise us.