Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Humiliation--A True Story

Longtime readers of this blog will know that Halloween is one holiday I have never liked--even as a kid with costumes, parades, Trick or Treat and the sweets it brought. No, I disliked it all. Didn't like having to get my own children ready for the much-loved-by-others holiday. Kind of enjoyed the little kids who came to our door for treats. That was the best part of the ghosts and goblins holiday. 

We all remember the times in our lives when we felt humiliated. No one likes to be laughed at. When I was in fifth grade, I finally had a costume to wear to our school party that was not something created out of a closet at home. We used what we had to come up with a costume. Year after year, I fashioned some kind of outfit that labeled me as a Gypsy while the brother next in line to me turned himself into a hobo. 

But that year, I had a costume my aunt had made for my cousin to wear the previous year. I got lots of Carole's clothes so why not a hand-me-down Halloween costume, too? I would spend the whole day in my class and Trick or Treat time that evening as Martha Washington. How I loved the colonial dress with the long skirt. To make the costume even more real, a wig made out of white cotton batting went with the dress. I dressed with excitement that morning. Finally, I would have a real costume.

Joy turned to anguish when I entered the classroom to hoots of laughter. It wasn't the dress. The wig had set them off. No one said, "Hey, that's really neat." Or "You really look like Martha Washington." They laughed and jeered and pulled at the wig until I had tears in my eyes that I refused to allow to spill over and a heart that felt filled with the darts of humiliation tossed by my classmates. 

Our wonderful teacher, Mr. Biddinger, soon settled the raucous group and the work of the day began with everyone counting the minutes and hours until our school parade and class party began later in the afternoon. The teacher had stopped the loud hoots and hollers about my wig but there were plenty of snickers and faces made, enough to make me wish the day was over. 

Somehow, I survived the day despite hating to be in the all-school parade and playing the silly games at the party. How in the world are you suppose to bob for apples with a cotton batting wig on your head? I opted out. I had a hard time swallowing the Halloween sugar cookies over the lump in my throat. 

Finally, the last bell rang and I could go home. I told my mother that I wasn't wearing the 'stupid costume' for Trick or Treat that night. She made it quite clear that it was wear it or don't go. I pushed down my humiliation and went out that evening with my brothers. No one laughed at me at the apartments and houses where we sought the treats everyone had waiting for us. It was only at school with my classmates that the teasing and jeering had reigned. 

The next day at school proved to be quite normal. No one mentioned Martha Washington's wig. Not that day or ever again. The next year, I was back to being a Gypsy again with a full skirt, lots of necklaces and bracelets from my mother's trove of costume jewelry and a scarf tied over my hair. Nobody laughed and I had a great time at the party. 

I got over that humiliating experience but, as you can see, I never forgot it. Writing about it today made me squirm a bit. Looking back, however, I think it was a pretty clever costume and I must have looked kinda cute in it. Sadly, my peers of the time didn't think so. Or maybe they were a wee bit jealous. Nah! Just being kids.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Grouchy Reader!

Being the avid reader I am, I am a firm believer in the Snoopy poster above. I need books to read every bit as much as actual food. One nourishes my mnd and heart while the other feeds my body. I am rarely without a book nearby. I snatch moments out of my day to read and sometimes hours in the evenings. I consider reading to be one of my greatest pleasures. 

As a writer, I read with two mindsets. One as merely a person who wants to enjoy a good story. The second one is reading with the eyes of a writer which sometimes causes me to be too critical. On the other hand, it also allows me to fully appreciate beautiful prose. 

Last week, I started to read a book that I had brought home from the library. The opening chapter left me wondering about the rest of the book. "This is a dumb book!" I said to my husband who was watching tv. One more chapter and I slammed the book shut and left it on the coffee table to be returned to the library. What drivel it was. It made mo sense, brought no questions to the reader's mind, was just plain boring. 

This week, I brought more books home from the library, all of which sounded like something that would appeal to me. I read 30 pages of one and ended up with the same scenario as the other one that I didn't like. Mumbled to my husband and slammed the book shut and tossed it on the coffee table. 

It is rare that I don't finish a book. Granted, I like some better than others, but I do read from beginning to end. Both books had authors who are far, far younger than I am, but they were historical fiction which is my favorite genre. It's why I brought them home, even the frontispiece summarizing the story had appealed to me. 

So, what was wrong with them? It may be that authors who are very young look at the world in a different perspective than I do. Remember the phrase generation gap that we heard over and over a few years ago? Maybe that was one problem. The other was that the writing itself was boring. Oh yes, I do mean that. Paragraphs to say what could have been said in one sentence. Describing the scene until the reader wants to scream "Get on with it!" 

What amazes me is that books like this get published. I am fully aware that not all books are for all people but I would be surprised if either of these two particular books found happy readers on a large scale. I know that there are many good writers hoping to get published but run into a brick wall with every attempt. I know that because I've read some of them in my writing groups through the years. Good stories, well written but no contract. Yet, some poor writers get published.

I am going to start reading a new book this evening. I have high hopes that it will be one I like. I hope I'm not disappointed once again. I need the nourishment books provide.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Is Grammar Important Or Not?

Today's poster tells us we are judged by our grammar, then gives a list of common errors people make when writing. What is your thought on that statement? Are we judged by the grammar we use? Does it matter if we are careless to the point of making many grammatical errors when we write? Is it alright to make one or two now and then? 

I readily admit that I am one of those people who catch grammatical errors when I read and cringe just a bit. Sometimes more than 'a bit.' I was the fortunate student in grade school and high school who found grammar easy to learn. English, both grammar and literature, was the subject in which I excelled. Straight A's. That's not bragging; it's a fact. 

However, I struggled mightily in every math class I took in high school and college. And I do mean 'struggled.' So, I understand that some people had a hard time learning all the grammatical rules and that some just plain didn't care. 

If you're going to be a part of the writing world, the grammar part is pretty important. Even if you were one of the strugglers in every English class you took, it would be to your benefit to review the rules of grammar on a regular basis. Buy a basic grammar book and keep it close to the place where you write. 

There are also websites that will check your text for grammar and spelling errors. I googled to find a couple. One is here and called Grammar Check. The other one, Instant Grammar Check is here. There are many others that you can try until you find one you like best.

Editors and publishers do find grammar important and so should we, as writers. Some readers will gloss over grammar mistakes while others will find them immediately and utter a tsk, tsk! (That would be me.)

I'm not saying that I have never made a grammatical error. I know I have but not a great many. We should all aim for error free grammar if we want to be published and build a bevy of readers. 

What do you think about the importance of grammar in our writing? Are we judged by our grammar as the poster says? Do you agree or disagree with me? I'd love to hear from anyone who has an opinion on this topic. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Writers Never Stop Learning

All of the situations in the poster above offer a time to learn. In my writing world I've learned more things than you can put in a vast abyss. Well, perhaps that is a bit of exaggeration but please remember that writers are know to be creative. Still, I have acquired a whole lot of knowledge about this writing business.

If you have learned nothing along your writing journey, you either are not looking as you traverse the writing path or you were a phenomenal writer at the very beginning. There are, however, very few of us who have no reason to learn anything more about our craft. 

Develop the habit of asking yourself what you can learn each time you receive a rejection. The lesson is there but it's up to us to decipher it. 

What else can writers do to learn more about the writing craft and their own writing? Here's my list: 
  • Read about the craft of writing on a regular basis
  • Read other peoples' writing frequently
  • Go to conferences
  • Study the pieces that have been rejected for the 'why'
  • Continue writing regularly--the more you write, the more you learn
  • Analyze writing of others that you don't like as to the 'why'
  • Join a writing group and actively participate
  • Listen carefully to what others in a writing group say
  • Study guidelines of places where you want to submit
  • Do one on one critiques with another writer
  • Join a local or state writers' association
  • Learn from your mistakes
The last in this list is probably the most important. I can honestly say that the more I write, the more I've learned. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

One More Struggle For Writers

Ever been somewhere when inspiration for a new story hits you. You can view the entire story in your head. You see the plot, the setting, the characters, even sensory details. You can hardly wait to get home and start tapping away at your keyboard. You even jot down some notes that will help you remember your vision. 

Hours, or even days, pass before you have an opportunity to write the first draft of this fab new story. You write and write and write until the this first effort is finished. Not a finished product. You accept that but, still, it should be a great story after all that came to your mind earlier.

You know you should put it aside for days or a couple of weeks but you just have to read it. You sit back in your chair and read the story from beginning to ending. You deflate like slow-leaking balloon--a little at a time. The story on the screen, or in your notebook, is not the same as the one you envisioned during that moment of inspiration. What happened?

The what happened? part is not easy to figure out. I think that one problem is that we see so clearly in our mind but when writing the draft, we aren't putting in all those little details that we saw so well mentally. We know what the characters should look like, how they hold their knife and fork, how they dress, how they laugh or cry. We've seen it in our mental images. But molding those characters with all those little bits and pieces in our writing is hard. We're often working with minimum word counts so how much detail about each character can we put in the story? 

Consider this--maybe the story that seemed so great when it came to you isn't as good as you thought it was. Once down in print, it somehow isn't quite the same story. Or perhaps reading the words rather than creating the mental images weakens the whole thing. 

If you have a problem like this, ask yourself what is lacking in the print version compared to the one you created in your mind. Then answer yourself honestly. If you can pinpoint the problem, you can fix it. But mending the cracked version will take time and patience and a lot of probing of your own mind. 

Ask a writer friend to read your first draft. Tell them you need an honest answer as to what is lacking in the story. Or, if there really is something lacking. It could be your own assessment is different from that of another person. One of the reasons I love being in a writing group is to have objective eyes on my work. They see so much that I, the writer, do not. 

As the poster tells us, it IS a struggle to get what's in our head to the pad of paper or on the screen. But sometimes, it flows incredibly well from brain to print and that's when we color ourself happy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Indigo Girl--A Review

If you like historical fiction, then you'll be delighted with The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd. The book is a fictionalized version about a few years in the life of an actual woman who lived in South Carolina in the 1700's. The book covers the years 1739-1744. The author uses actual letters written by Eliza Lucas as she weaves the young woman's story. The letters were part of Natasha Boyd's research but she also incorporated them into the book.

Eliza's family owned three small plantations. When she was only 16, her father left her in charge of running the family holdings when he sets sail for the Caribbean islands to pursue his military ambitions. Eliza has been his helper and he has no qualms about leaving the young woman in charge. As time goes on, Eliza does her best but her father mortgages one plantation after another to further his military career and creating one financial difficulty after another for the family in South Carolina.

Her mother wants nothing more that to return to England, the original home of the family and the country where Eliza's two brothers are living and being educated. Eliza has grand plans to make the plantations profitable which will maker her father proud of her. She comes up with an idea to grow and process indigo as there is a market for it overseas. Knowing little about the crop or how to make the dye, she seeks help from a neighbor and asks her father to send one of her childhood friends who knows about the crop to help her. That friend is also a slave owned by a man who is a fraud but passes himself off as an expert on indigo.

Eliza's mother cares nothing about the business side of the plantation. Her only aim is to find a husband for Eliza and she doesn't care about his age or character. Eliza resists the idea of marriage over and over.

The story, written in first person, moves among Eliza's women friends, the slaves on the plantation where she and her mother and younger sister live, and Charles Pinckney, a lawyer whom she admires along with his wife. Eliza, at 16, is young and naive with grandiose plans. She is thwarted over and over, despite the help of her childhood friend, Ben, and a few other loyal slaves. 

Her feelings for Ben bewilder and frighten her especially when he rebuffs her attempt to rekindle their friendship.

The frontispiece on this book, published in September 2017, tells us that the story is about romance, intrigue, hidden friendships, threats, ambition, betrayal and sacrifice. All of that, besides being based on a true story, makes for an enticing read. I found myself stealing moments here and there to continue reading. 

Being a writer myself, one of the things that appeals to me in a book is lovely prose and Natasha Boyd offers plenty of that. Some of the phrases stopped me long enough to read them again.. One example is I was a butterfly pinned by my wings to the canvas of my mistakes. 

I found this book on the New Books shelf at my local library. Definitely pleased that I brought it home to read. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Writer's Journey--Potholes and Smooth Road

Pamela Morsi, author of The Cotton Queen, created a character by the name of Babs Hoffman. It's a mother-daughter story and Babs is the mother. One of her quotes in the book is our poster for today. 

It's good advice for writers. You all have hit the potholes in your writing journey. Some years, there are more than others. Instead of hitting them head on and jarring your brain into insensibility, look for them and then swerve right around each one. 

Stop if you must and deal with whatever the pothole holds but don't dwell on it. Take care of it as best you can and then move along on your journey and enjoy it. 

Once you have addressed the problem in the pothole, don't let it take over your thoughts. Instead, think about the smooth parts of your writing path. There are plenty of those. Think about the acceptances and publications you've had. How about the praise from your writing group? Or perhaps you've won a contest or two while on your writing journey.

You've made friends with other writers and maybe even some of your readers. You've enjoyed a great many of the writing projects you've tackled. Even derived a lot of satisfaction from some. 

Worrying about what is in those potholes behind you doesn't change a thing. Whatever happened will always be a part of your past writing journey. But it's done. Keep pedaling along on the smooth sections of the road. 

Most of us continue to write because we do find pleasure in the craft. We develop a passion for the written word. Sometimes, we write because we absolutely must; something inside us lets us know that writing is a major part of who we are. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ekphrastic Poetry--A Challenge

Lady in the Mirror

One of the exercises at my online writers' group conference last spring featured Ekphrastic poetry, which is merely a poem describing a work of art. The writer takes the visual and makes it verbal. There were a number of postcard sized photos laid out on a table. We each selected one and then had ten minutes to write a poem using the photo as inspiration. 

This is the poem I wrote: 


She gazes at herself
looking so pensive,
shoulder bared,
beads falling on
snowy chemise

She ponders 
her pregnancy
just now known,
who to tell
and how.

She hates this
seed within
planted by him,
the one hired 
only to drive their car.
                   --Nancy Julien Kopp

I challenge you to write a poem using the artist's work shown below. Even if you've never written poetry before, give it a try. Free verse works well for beginning poets and those with experience, too. 

Waiting For The Stage (Richard Caton Woodville 1851)

Find other works of art to use as inspiration for an ekphrastic poem. It does not need to be a painting. Sculptures, carvings, and any other work of art can serve.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Who Can Give Good Writing Advice?

Lucy, the expert, is here to give us all some writing advice for the price of a mere nickel. Have you ever seen her on a street corner? I haven't, even though I keep an eye out for her wherever I go. Haven't seen Snoopy on top of his dog house tapping away on his typewriter either. 

But what about writing advice? Who is qualified to give it? I think there are three main groups of people who are qualified to help writers with tips and also some encouragement. 

Other Writers

Who knows better what works and what doesn't than other writers? It's why it's beneficial to read books on the craft of writing written by those who have been there, done that. Do I digest every bit of what they tell me in their book? Probably not, but many times certain parts stand out and are ones that I remember and try to incorporate into my own writing. All those little things I learn from other writers help me grow as I continue my own writing journey. 

Listen carefully to writers who present workshops at conferences. They've had some success in their field or they wouldn't have been invited to conduct the session. It's in places like this that you get some of the best tips about our craft. 

Reading the critiques from writers in my online writing group helps me learn, too. I view a sub in one light and another person sees a different perspective. It opens my eyes to new possibilities. We also learn from group discussions of writers, whether it be online or at a conference or having coffee with a writer friend. 

Those in the Publishing World

Who better to tell us what kind of writing has a chance of being published than those who work in that field? Editors and publishers have seen it all. They know how to weed out the good from the not-so-good and the perfectly awful submissions they receive. 

These people know what readers like. They are aware of the trends in the publishing world and watch for changes. They seek writers who are willing to work with them to make a good piece even better. 

Writers need to listen to editors. It's not a given that you'll always agree with them but do listen with eyes and heart open and willing to make changes. It's the writer's choice, of course, but consider being published versus a piece of writing languishing in a file and you can see the benefit. 


Yep, the readers give writers good writing advice in subtle ways. Readers love a certain genre for just so long and then, they move on to something new. Writers should pay attention to what it is that readers are purchasing, or borrowing from libraries. 

Readers sometimes write a fan letter to a writer. Glean all you can if you receive one. They may not say it exactly but a writer can read between the lines and gain a lot of understanding about how to write what readers want. 

Readers write reviews and cause ratings. Every writer should learn from watching both. 

If you can't find Lucy on a street corner, pay attention to the three groups listed here today for advice. Absorb it, then put it to use as you start new projects. The advice is yours for the taking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Thoughts On Taking Time To Write


This poster could absolve all guilt about time taken away from other things in life so you can write. If you're a hobbyist writer or a part time writer, one who doesn't depend on writing for a full-time income, you probably do feel some guilt about stealing time to do something you love--writing. 

I like Gloria Steinem's philosophic quote. I imagine she is like many writers who shut out all the everyday parts of life when they write, as though a giant bubble surrounds them. They hear nothing nor see anything outside that protective, comfortable bubble. Not every writer can do this, however.

Think about the many times in your day that you waste time on silly little things. Something on tv catches your eye and you stop to listen. The minute or two could stretch into half an hour. You are putting laundry away when you suddenly decide to rearrange your closet. You open your junk drawer and rummage about searching for something you know is in there. Time to clean out the drawer when you cannot find it. When we're doing these little bits and pieces in life, we could be writing.

I know what you're thinking--I can't write every minute of the day. Of course, you can't but, when you do sit down to write, don't feel one bit guilty. All those other tasks are not going to go away. When you finish that first draft of a new essay, you can take up the household chores again. Believe me, they will wait for you. 

If you want to be successful in the publishing world, put writing high on your priority list. I know too many people who truly want to write but they let day after day slip by without writing a word. Other parts of their life take priority. It's why I urge writers to write something every day, even if it is nothing more than one paragraph or a 10 minute word exercise. Each day you don't write is one more day of delay. The longer you delay, the harder it is to get back in the swing of writing. 

Make writing an integral part of your day. There could be days when you spend hours tapping that keyboard and other that find you putting thoughts in print for only moments. However long, do it. Those who journal on a daily basis develop good writing habits. Most of all, feel no guilt about taking time to follow your passion. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fear Of Submitting Your Writing

I have noticed several articles lately on having the courage to submit your writing for publication. It's obvious, then, that this is a major concern for those who write. Why and what can you do about it?

No one likes to be put down. That's what writers feel like when a rejection comes flying back after a submission. I've had some come within an hour of the submission. Like an arrow soaring from the bow of an editor straight into my heart. Why put yourself in position for that kind of response? When those rejections arrive, whether immediately or months after submitting, we experience so many things--deflated, defeated, slapped in the face, punished, scolded, dumb, humiliated and more. There's no logical reason to feel those things; it seems to be human nature that we do so. 

Instead, we need to look at the reasons for the rejection. Many editors will soften the blow with some soothing words. Others will not. Just a blatant NO. Remind yourself that it is not 'you' personally that is being rejected (no matter how much it feels that way). The piece you submitted might have not been right for that publication. They may have published something similar recently. It was not on the theme. It may have been good but they accepted one that was better. 

What can you do about it?
As the quote today tells us, we need to believe in ourself before we ask someone else to do the same. It's easy to tell someone to do this but we have to practice what we preach, too. 

I have always taken the attitude that I will submit my work and take what comes as a learning experience.  I learn from both acceptances and rejections. And I do feel disappointed when a piece does not work out but I don't let it stop me from submitting again and again and again until that piece finds a home. Some never will but I can't know that unless I keep on sending it out. 

Writers sometimes dwell on the negative side instead of the positive. Work on breaking this habit if that is what you do. If you feel like what you've written is worthy of publication, keep pushing it. Steel yourself to the possibility of rejection. We know we will get more of those than acceptances. It's the nature of the game and you are most certainly not alone. You have plenty of company.

Quote about self-confidence - She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Writing and Rainbows

Rainbow, Rain, Arch, Toad River, Rainbow Colors

What is it about rainbows that bring us joy? Maybe it is because after a dark, gloomy sky and some rain, they brighten the day. We can read all about the scientific reasons for a rainbow--light refracting through water--raindrops--but that is not what speaks to our hearts when we witness the short-lived arc of glorious colors. We have heard myths about rainbows over and over, most especially the pot of gold that is said to be waiting at the end. Aaaahhh! Would that it were so! The famed song "Over The Rainbow" has helped our mental image of this glorious arc and helped create a certain love for it.

For me, the rainbow is something special that draws my attention and holds it.

You need to have a little something special in your writing, too, if you want to grasp your readers and hold them to the very last word of your story.

Think of the thousands of stories written each and every year. Only a few will be published. Many will be lost. Some will be forgotten. Which ones will be published and remembered? The ones that have a distinct difference from others.

How do you incorporate that rainbow in your writing? Try to find a twist or turn, a surprise of some kind, a lyrical way of writing the prose, or sensory details that make the reader experience each one. Do something that is totally different than what other writers produce. Not so easy but with practice you can accomplish it.

One help is to read, read, and read some more. What writers have caught your attention and kept it? Analyze the stories and learn what the writers did to capture you.

Don't write a predictable story. We've all read them. And I imagine many of us have written them. All a nice and cozy package, tied with a ribbon, waiting to be opened with no surprise inside.

I just finished reading a historical novel in which the villain turned out to be the very last person I would have suspected. Learning who it was took me by such surprise that I had to stop reading for a moment to digest it, then hurried back to learn the how and why of it.

Bring a rainbow into your writing to give your readers something special. Whether it is fiction or memoir, personal essays or poetry, make your readers want to keep reading what you write. They may not find a pot of gold at the end but they'll certainly enjoy what they read and come back for more.

Friday, October 13, 2017


Why is Friday, the 13th filled with bad omens? Fear of Friday the 13th  has its very own term-- paraskevidekatriaphobia. I dare you to try and pronounce it. 

I recently read that around 21 million people are superstitious enough to fear this occasional day in our calendar year. I have a brother born on the 13th but I don't think he's ever given it a thought. Then again, maybe he has but never voiced it. 

It is widely thought that fear of this date originates way back to Christ's crucifixion which occurred on a Friday and the night before there were 13 guests at The Last Supper. It fits, doesn't it? But who is to say the theory is right or wrong? Other cultures ignore the whole idea while a few hark it back to things of a nonreligious nature. 

What does this day have to do with writing? How about using the topic to write something that you can later submit. What can you write? 

Write About Superstitions:
  • nonfiction for children 
  • fiction for adults with superstitions highlighted
  • poetry lends itself to this topic
  • slip it into a Halloween story
  • how to give a Friday the 13th party
  • a memory piece of something that happened involving superstitions
  • a list of superstitions and how the belief in them came about
  • an article on foods/cooking for a Friday the 13th party
You may think of some others to add to what I've listed. 

Am I superstitious? My head tells me it's foolish but childhood experiences make me a wee bit wary. I do not walk under ladders. I do not open an umbrella inside. A beloved aunt admonished me often enough about either of those things that I still watch carefully. I don't mind being on the 13th floor of a building or in the 13th seat somewhere. I plan a pretty normal day on Friday the 13th. So, I guess I am not a full-fledged superstitious person. 

How about you? Believe it or laugh at it (and at those who truly are superstitious)? 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Writers Need To Read

Four people reading. What if they are also writers? What do you think they are reading? 

It makes sense to me that writers should read a lot of the same kind of writing that they do themselves. It's a learning process as well as pleasure.

A man who writes suspense thrillers could benefit from reading other authors of the same mind. 

One who writes personal essays can only learn more techniques by reading a myriad of personal essays.

Memoirists should soak up as many memoirs as possible to know what approach to take when writing their own. They should note which memoirs attracted them the most and then figure out the how and why.

Poets should immerse themselves in the poetry of others while they continue to write their own.

Writers of children's fiction should scour the library shelves in the Children's Department to see what the trend is, what made the classics so popular, how other writers reach out to children and more.

Nonfiction writers will be better writers if they also read a lot of nonfiction. Again, it's wise to see which articles attract you and then find out why. 

If you write How-To articles or books, read multiple article or books o the same nature. Which ones are the clearest in instruction; which inspire the most? Pattern your own after the winners.

No matter what type of writing you do, be sure to read a lot of the same. You'll be glad you did. I'm not advising you to neglect all other kinds of writing. Far from it. You need to take a break and read for pure enjoyment, too. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Do I Dare Try Writing?

Do I dare?

The guy above represents a whole lot of people who would like to write. They love to read, so they want to try their hand at writing. But thoughts like Do I dare? run through their minds. Can I do it?
Where do I begin? Am I too old? Do you need a degree like MFA to be a writer? Where do I go for help?

Let's take those questions one at a time.

Do I dare? Of course. There are no rules that say only certain people can be writers. The field is wide open to anyone who has the drive to pursue success in the field. There is no guarantee that you'll be a smashing success, but there's also no guarantee that you'll fail. If you don't try, you'll never know and you might always have that nagging I wish I had... doing flip flops in your mind. 

Can I do it?  There's no absolute answer to that question. The bigger thing is that, if you don't try, you'll never know if you can do it. You will be able to do it if you have both patience and perseverance, if you are willing to give time and effort, if you're open to learning from others. 

Where do I begin? Begin by trying some writing exercises. Use a search engine to find them or purchase a book on the basics of writing that includes exercises. Move on to writing sketches of places and/or people. Move to short stories or personal essays or memoir pieces that are not too long. Shorter is always better when beginning. Too many people want to write a novel for their first project. Nothing can be more defeating. Start with baby steps and work up to the big race.

Am I too old? No one is ever too old to become a writer. I harbored a longtime desire to write for many years. I finally started when in my fifties and I've never stopped nor do I want to give up writing. As long as my mind cooperates, I'll be at my keyboard and so can you. I interviewed a number of writers who started late in life for an article several years ago. Every one of them wished they'd started earlier but were pleased they'd finally followed their dream. Age makes no difference.

Do you need a degree like MFA to be a writer? Having a Master of Fine Arts certainly can be beneficial but it is not a necessity to enter the world of writing. Should you take workshops and classes to help you become a better writer? I think it is very beneficial to do so. Aim for one or two per year, whether in person or online. That old 'can't hurt, might help' comes into play here.

Where do I go for help?  There are lots of places for new writers to get help. One is a blog like this one. There are lots of them but stay right here and you're bound to learn something from reading on a regular basis. There are vast numbers of books about writing written by writers and editors. Make a habit of reading them. Join a writers' group, whether a social thing or a critique group. It doesn't matter but develop relationships with other writers. They'll answer questions and offer suggestions if you ask. Read, read, read what others have written. Don't pattern your own writing after a specific author but by reading the work of others, you'll gain a lot of insight into the type of writing that appeals to you, the how-to and lots of little things. 

Let's go back to the Do I dare?  Be bold, be brave, become a writer. You'll never succeed unless you try.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Makes A Successful Writer?

What more do I want, Maxine? A lot. 

I want you to write with passion. 

I want you to write using sensory details throughout your piece.

I want you to eliminate unnecessary words.

I want you to use active verbs

I want you to open with a great hook.

I want tension, whether it is fiction, creative nonfiction or a poem. Make me want to keep reading. 

I want tight writing that carries the reader along smoothly.

I want writing that evokes emotion in the reader.

I want the reader to feel satisfied at the end of the read.

I want a variety of sentences, long and short.

I want the same tense used throughout--no hopping back and forth.

It's not a lot to ask, Maxine. All these points are what makes a successful writer. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

New Beginnings In Writing

Have you ever been hit with inspiration like a bolt of lightning? Has your muse tapped you on your shoulder and whispered in your ear that it's time to get moving on that idea that has been swirling in your mind for much too long? Have you been stopped in the middle of a household chore knowing it's time to begin that big writing project you've toyed with off and on?

There are times when we know that the time for a new beginning is here. When it happens, you'd better listen and make that first big step by sitting down and doing whatever you do when writing something new.

Some outline while others dive right into the first draft and let the project pull them along. Do you trust the magic of beginnings as the last part of the quote above says? 

That brings us back to that old concern--self-confidence. You need to have some of that if  you are going to trust the magic of beginnings. Give yourself some credit for past projects when you start another one. Have the attitude that you've done it before and you can do it again. Do whatever it takes to boost your self-confidence. Put those rejections behind you and begin again.

You've often heard me say that I love new beginnings. I think of it every month when I turn the page on my calendars. Brand new month--push the old behind and move on. I love starting to read a book. There is a perfect new beginning. Same with seeing a movie. And yes, I do love starting to write a new essay, story, or poem. There is something quite satisfying about doing so. 

When that feeling of knowing it's time to begin something new hits you, stop and listen, then proceed to the writing process. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Thoughts About Marketing Your Writing

This man is marketing his fresh fruits and veggies. They aren't just any fruits and veggies. He has something special to offer. Organic produce grown without chemicals of any kind. His stuff is a draw to those patrons who are into healthy eating. 

We writers market our stories, essays, poems and articles instead of food. Wouldn't it be nice if we could set up a stand on Saturday morning and have a hundred editors file by to test our wares and pick out which ones they want to purchase? An impossible dream but why not give yourself a few minutes to think about the joy it would bring. 

Now, let's move on to the way to actually market your work. Yesterday's post was about what to do when our submissions don't make it to the first place we send them. You thought it a perfect fit but you and the editor were walking down different paths. So, what do you do next?

Where to look for markets:

1.  Subscribe to  several writer's newsletters that list markets 

2.  Try a few search engines with the topic of your story as part of the keywords

3.  Ask other writers for suggestions

4.  Use a search engine (or more) with keywords like markets for writers or freelance writing markets

5.  If you read a magazine that you like, check out their writer guidelines to see if you might fit with them.

6.  Don't simply scan or read the guidelines of markets you find. Study them!

Writers today have advantages that those of long ago did not. Years ago, writers purchased huge marketing guides that were darned heavy, cost more than you wanted to part with and became outdated very quickly. Some went to the library and painstakingly copied the information needed from those guides. Took time and effort but saved the price of the guide that came out annually. 

There was a time when all submissions were made by snail mail and had to include a SASE if you wanted any kind of answer. A lot of steps in subbing that way. Then, writers waited and waited for the mailman to bring them the envelope that held good or bad news. 

We take our technological abilities in making submissions and hearing from an editor for granted. Maybe we should be a bit more appreciative. Technology has made the submission process simpler and cheaper. 

The farmer above offers something special. How about you? What is unique about your writing that will up your chances of your work being published? Look for something special to offer an editor and you move many spaces up in the long line of hopeful writers who submit. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

When Your Submission Doesn't Make It

Last night, I received a monthly newsletter from the editors at Chicken Soup for the Soul publications. One small part stood out like a neon sign on Broadway. One of the newest titles is about stepping outside your comfort zone. I had sent three stories for consideration.

It seems they received over 6,000 submissions and were able to select 101 of those. Guess what? My three stories went to the wayside. No go! Disappointed? Of course. We all get a bit deflated at first when a story we believe in doesn't make it. 

Consider this, however. The odds of making it are huge which should make anyone who has had work in a Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology in the past feel very proud.  It should also not act as a depression trigger when your story does not make it. 

Think how difficult it is for the people selecting the stories to choose that very small number of stories for the book. More than once recently, the CS publisher has decided to have a second book with same theme and 101 more stories that didn't make it into the first book. 

Does it mean that the more than 5900 stories that did not make it are poorly written, uninteresting or just plain awful? Of course not. No doubt there are some that might fit one of those three categories, but most of them are marketable elsewhere.

When a submission (anywhere) is not accepted, get through the initial disappointment, even anger, and then get busy looking for another place to send your story. If it didn't fit the first place you submitted, that doesn't mean it is no good. Move on! There is no guarantee that the second place you send it will scoop it up but you'll never know unless you submit. Market like a madman, without abandon, and an intensity to rival a political candidate. You're in charge of whatever you wrote from the initial draft to this marketing process. 

You cannot get accepted if you don't submit your work. It's as simple as that. No one ever said this writing game would be easy. 

The best thing to come from my three stories not making it into the comfort zone book is that I have three finished stories that I can submit to other publications. How about you? How many finished stories that didn't make it do you have sitting in your files gathering dust? Comb through to find out, then give them a final edit. After not seeing them for awhile, you'll find places that you might want to change, eliminate or add to. Then, get moving on searching for a new place to submit to. 

Tomorrow, we'll look at finding markets for your writing. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Perfection For Writers--Does It Happen?

Author, Margaret Atwood, gives us food for thought in today's poster. Can you see yourself poised in front of your keyboard waiting for that perfect story, perfect poem, perfect essay? If so, see yourself growing old and tired before you ever tap out enough letters to write a word, sentence or paragraph, let alone a full piece. 

Perfection is a nice goal but achieving it in a flash is a mere dream. When I was around 4 or 5 years old, my mother signed me up for a tap dance class at our local playground recreation place. I was excited because I would be able to dance just like Shirley Temple, the famed child star of my era. 

I went to the first class,shiny new tap shoes in hand. What a disappointment that I did not come home after class #1 being able to tap, tap away like Shirley in the movies. We didn't 'dance.' We did practice steps over and over again. I grew tired of it quicker than a mouse can dart back into its hole. I quit! 

I'm happy to say that my attitude toward learning something new had changed considerably by the time I attempted writing. I didn't expect perfection on my first few tries. I would have welcomed it but definitely did not expect it. Cliches may be trite but that old one Practice makes perfect says it all. 

Given all that, we have to practice our craft over and over to become better writers. I doubt that any writer will tell you that he/she has gotten to be a poorer writer over the years. Instead, most of us can look back at our early pieces of writing, compare them to what we have written recently and honestly say that we are better writers today. 

That happens if we keep practicing, keep working at our craft. Sit in your chair and wait for perfection before you begin, and you'll never find it. Nor will perfection find you. Write every day, write from the heart, and write what inspires you and you might come close. I doubt any writer achieves complete perfection. Nor would it be any fun if it came so easily. Maybe satisfaction is a better goal.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Three Little Words For Writers

I'm beginning to feel like a Sunday morning preacher who brings the same message in slightly different words to his parishioners. The poster for today are words that I've preached to you over and over again, even if slightly different words, another arrangement. The message is the same.

My keywords on this blog and in my own writing journey have always been patience and perseverance.  It's rather obvious that only those who believe are going to have the first two traits, as well. 

The believe part is not always easy. What does it take to believe in what we're doing on our writing journey? 

A positive attitude:  Yep--the Negative Nellies aren't going to achieve being positive whenever and wherever possible. When you find yourself in the No corner, ask yourself what you need to do to get out. What is the opposite of the negative thoughts you might be having? Turn it around and see if you can stay up more than down.

Some success:  There is no doubt that each success you have on your writing journey will boost your self-confidence. Don't wait for the big publishing contract for a book to consider that success. Start with the small things. Publication in small venues, compliments from your writing group, reader appreciation. Each time you experience a positive thing in your writing world, you are one step farther in believing in yourself.

Passion for your writing:  I watched a highly lauded but also highly criticized football player on the Kansas City Chiefs team last evening. My comment to my husband was "You have to admire the guy. He plays with such passion." It's why he is a top player; it's also why his celebrations are a bit too exuberant for officials and other teams and gives his coaching staff a headache, most likely. I have no doubt that he believes in himself. You will harbor that same kind of belief if you are passionate about writing. If you are wishy-washy about your writing life, it will show in what you write and it will poke holes in the believing in yourself balloon.

Work on the belief  part of today's quote. Continue to have patience and perseverance. If you achieve all three, your writing world can look mighty pretty. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Writers--On Your Mark, Ready, Go!

Did September fly by as fast for you as it did for me? It sailed past me with lightning speed. I did spend 8 days of it traveling which always helps the days zoom. Some of the groups I belong to ended their summer break with a meeting, bridge groups started up again, stores began to show fall clothes and fall produce in the supermarkets. 

I wondered what I'd accomplished in my writing life, so I checked some of my records and saw that I:
  • submitted 4 pieces of writing to publications
  • received an acceptance on one submitted earlier
  • did 5 Random Word exercises in my online writing group
  • Submitted 1 piece in my online writing group
  • critiqued 5 pieces in my online writing group
  • posted on my blog 5 days every week of the month
  • read a book on writing
  • read parts of another book on writing
  • encouraged a new writer friend
  • wrote the first draft of two personal essays
  • wrote a poem
  • checked market listings multiple places, multiple times
  • interviewed a poet
For a fast month, that's not too bad a list. How about your September? What did you do in your writing life? Anything exciting? 

Let's look ahead to October. We have 31 days to best the September list. What are your goals for this month?  

I have always liked turning the calendar page to another 1/12th of our year. It's brand new, pages are blank at this point. It's up to us to fill them with positives. I challenge each of you to produce more this month than last. On your mark, ready, go!