Do you have something you've been putting off for a long time? Something you want to change about your life--perhaps, a bad habit--but you keep ignoring that little nagging voice inside your head? Maybe it's time to listen to that voice and take action.
Two weeks ago I quit smoking for good. I'd been smoking a pack a day for at least six years. I started smoking when I was twelve-years-old and actually quit a couple of times for a few years, but somehow I ended up picking it back up again. I know, I know...it's horrible!
I also quit drinking, since the two go hand-in-hand for me. I don't plan on giving up drinking for good, but until I can have a social drink without wanting a cigarette as soon as the buzz sets in, I know that I can't have that lovely glass of wine. That makes Italian food worth avoiding as well. There's nothing more I love than a glass of Cab or Merlot with my pasta.
I was inspired to kick my bad habit after reading Jennette Fulda's book, Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir. Her book is incredible. It's not the weight loss that inspired me; it was her journey and self-discovery. Well, okay, losing 200 pounds did inspire me in the sense that, if she could do that, I could surely quit smoking. Addictions come in many forms--from food to checking email, even--but if you don't acknowledge them, they'll never go away. You also have to want to fix them for good. Don't think of it as a temporary fix, like dieting to lose weight, think of it as a lifestyle change.
So, I changed my life because I read a book that was unrelated to my problem, but it inspired me. And that's not the only book. I've been having a lot of "book epiphanies" lately. For our August issue I interviewed Jill Butler, author of Create the Space You Deserve. Jill's book inspired me to give my messy office an overhaul. You’ll have to wait to read the story. ;)
The point is...the written word on the page continues to amaze me. I really don't think TV could have the same affect. I can't imagine changing my whole lifestyle because of something Chef Ramsay or the Bachelorette said, LOL. Maybe it's because we process the information differently. While TV bombards your senses and shows you what it wants you to know, books invite your brain to participate and make our own reasoning, constructions, and epiphanies.
One thing I do know...kicking a bad habit, such as smoking, is sure making my writing ramble! But that's okay because I know it will pass.
Now I want to know, have you ever read a book that inspired you to make a lifestyle change? What was it, and how did it help you?
The question of the day: What are you doing? It's simple enough to answer--but you can only use 140 characters to do it.
That's the premise behind a growing social networking phenomenon at Twitter.com.
The posts are called "tweets" and they allow you to let friends and colleagues know what you are doing at times throughout the day (or night). It's fast and easy microblogging that is much like an instant message that can be sent from your computer or your mobile phone.
But, what is the point of adding just one more thing to do to an already overflowing social networking calendar? That's a question you will have to answer for yourself. There is only so much time in the day to research, write, market, pursue publication, and...oh yeah, have a life.
What can you do to make Twitter a productive social networking choice for you?
Meet and network with fellow writers.
Follow posts about topics or people of interest.
Promote your own book, blog, or articles.
Post mini lessons or tips that help establish your brand.
Keep track of trends.
Reach out to your audience.
And my personal favorite: keep yourself accountable for what's on your to-do list. Nothing will keep you on task like announcing what you are working on to the entire list of your followers! Take a peek at who is saying what on Twitter. Go to Summize.com (bought by Twitter). Type your topic into the search field and you can see who is talking about writing, blogging, book promotion, parenting, cooking, gardening, relationships, etc. It's a great way to have an immediate finger on the pulse of your topic.
I'm collecting stories about how successful writers get their ideas. Here's a good one for non-fiction writers:
"You can't sit there and wait for ideas to smash into you. It's not a passive process. So much of being a nonfiction writer is forcing yourself to find things to write about. It's an active process of looking at something in the newspaper, or some thing that's going around, and thinking, 'How do I feel about this?...Can I get anything out of this?...Can I push myself a little further on this topic?" - Nora Ephron
Great advice--and stay tuned for more suggestions from the experts!
Did my character use a Kleenex? Perhaps it was a Puffs...
When my protagonist reached for a tissue to dry her eyes in a scene in the young adult novel I'm writing, I first wrote the word "Kleenex." I knew I needed to use tissue, but I wanted to be specific. I wanted to write Kleenex. I could visualize her hand reaching for the boutique box, pink in color, and pull a perfect pink Kleenex-brand tissue out of the cardboard square.
But could I write Kleenex? Or did I need to use the generic form of the word?
Truth be told, many generic-sounding words and phrases are trademarked brand names. And if your household is like mine, we substitute the brand name for the generic form quite often. Perfect example: Can you google how to raise brussel sprouts?
Writers can use trademarked words, but make sure you use them correctly. Check and double check spellings and capitalizations prior to penning those words on the page.
It's also a good rule to avoid specific product names if you are using it as a generic term.
A great resource to check out is the International Trademark Association. The organization offers a list of trademarked words and phrases, and I've found additional information on the site that I've to put good use in my non-fiction writing.
So the next time you are faced with a trademark vs. generic word choice, consider checking out the INTA site and decide if the choice strengthens your writing or if a generic serves as a sound substitute.
As for me, I'm going to grab a Cheez Whiz sandwich, go outside and twirl the Hula Hoop around my waist for awhile (it's great exercise) and then hit the Jacuzzi.
Or maybe I what I really need to say is I'm going to grab a processed cheese spread sandwich, go outside and twirl a plastic toy hoop around my waist for awhile and then hit the whirlpool bath (which is really a plastic kiddie pool).
Some of you have been asking questions about eHow ever since we sent out a special announcement on the market, so I thought I'd answer some of those today. Please keep in mind that I'm not an experienced eHow writer, but I did sign-up for their Writer's Compensation Program and have already written my first article! You can see that here (shameless plug). Here are some questions we received:
Q: Is eHow for experienced freelancers or for newbies?
A: I'd say eHow is for writers of every level. As part of the Writer's Compensation Program, you have the ability to continue earning off of writing one article. Please note that it does not pay you up front like a traditional freelance gig. Instead, you earn money from the amount of times your article is viewed (pageviews), and from ad clicks, etc. So, if you have a killer article with content that people are interested in then you have the ability to make more. So, in that sense, I'd recommend being a fairly good writer who is familiar with keywords.
It works like this: you pick a "How-to" topic, write about it in simple steps, and then pick your categories and keywords. The template is super easy-to-use and the articles are short. You don't have to craft an elaborate article with an introduction and conclusion since it only allows you to write "steps" of how to do something. In fact, the simpler, the better.
Q: How much can I make writing for eHow?
A: As I said, I'm still a newbie, but I'm sure it varies, depending on how many articles you write, the accuracy of your keywords, and the "stickiness" of your content. Recently, we had a chat about this on the Premium-Green listserve, and one of our members said, "I get a little bit of money (around $75) each month from that [Writer's Compensation] program. A few of my articles seem to earn me most of my revenue. It's nice to get that money coming in for no work."
Now, there are no guarantees. So remember, as with anything, to read the fine print and decide whether it's right for you. In my experience, there's no such thing as "easy money," so I'm sure you get out of it what you put in. For instance, I would recommend publicizing your content on your own blog and making friends within the eHow community. Friends return pageviews and comment on your articles, thus making you money.
Q: What's the difference between writing for eHow and writing for Demand Studios?
A: You have to apply and be accepted to write for Demand Studios. They pay a flat rate of $15 per article you write for eHow. You do not earn residuals from your article. With eHow, you pick your own topics, write on them, and get paid by pageviews.
There is a rumor that in the past, writers who signed up for Demand Studios could earn residuals through the Writer's Compensation Program as well. That is no longer possible. But you can sign up for both and keep the accounts separate. You just can't make any further money from the articles you write for Demand. I hope that makes sense!
Tip: if you are an author looking to promote her book, I'd definitely check out the program. You can put a link to your website on your profile and on your articles. I'd recommend writing about topics that are related to your book. That way, if a reader is interested in that topic, they'll be more likely to visit your website and purchase your book.
I'm using it as a promotional tool for WOW! We'll see how it works! If you do end up joining the Writer's Compensation Program, hit me up. My username is AngelaKnows. Happy writing!
Perhaps I’m somewhat addicted to school, but I am very tempted by the lure of a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing. It sounds great to once again learn and stretch my mind in a rigorous classroom setting. There is a cost though, in time and money, to pursuing and achieving an MFA. Karen Rigby, recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and author of the forthcoming chapbook of poetry, Savage Machinery, shared with me some of her insight into the costs and benefits of Master of Fine Arts writing programs.
(By the way, keep an eye out in our August issue for an interview with Karen discussing writing poetry and getting it published.)
WOW: The deeper a writer delves into the literary world, the more she hears about this mysterious degree called the Master of Fine Arts. You have an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. What did getting your MFA do for your writing and your writing career? What did you take away from it?
Karen: In terms of career—I’m not sure what it’s done for me. I’m one of those single-minded people that knew what they wanted to do starting from the first grade, so I might have become a writer through some other means even if I hadn’t pursued an MFA, though it might have been a more circuitous route. What I can say that I took from the experience, apart from meeting people and being enriched by the environment and the usual things like that, was the knowledge that I am capable of continuing. Once you leave a program you no longer have that built-in workshop that meets regularly (unless you go out and seek such a workshop again through some other means, usually informally, among colleagues) and you no longer have an artificial deadline about when a poem is due. So you have to be disciplined or give yourself the day or week or month off, as need be, and keep writing, which I’m doing.
WOW: I’m sure that the workshop atmosphere of an MFA program helps keep you writing. Now, can you tell us a little about the workload of a typical MFA program?
Karen: The workload varies. There are 1, 2, and 3 year programs. A shorter program will by necessity mean you’d need to finish your thesis—usually a book—that much sooner. Programs also vary in their requirements—some ask you to take a certain number of literature courses along with your writing classes, and so on. Some programs offer stipends in exchange for teaching courses, which is a great opportunity, especially when you get to teach the subject you’re most interested in, be it fiction or poetry or non-fiction.
Having to think about distilling and gathering information, to think about methods of explaining and teaching writing to someone else, makes you examine that subject more closely, perhaps more analytically, too. But as much pleasure as there is in teaching, that also adds to the workload, especially if you’re new to teaching and thus trying to find the balance between planning, grading, mentoring and doing your own work.
There are low-residency MFA programs if attending full-time isn’t a viable option. There are writers that must attend to their day jobs, families, or other responsibilities simultaneously, too, so I think it’d be reasonable to say the workload is going to be as intense as you make it, especially since much of the time will be spent outside of class, too, working on your writing. How you organize that time is largely up to you.
I attended an MFA program directly after graduating from college, largely because I knew, right then, that I had the time I might not otherwise find later in life. There were classmates in the program that were older, who’d been writing for a long time, and had other careers first—some related to writing, some not. For them, that was the right time, and it’s inspiring, that the dream of writing hadn’t been abandoned. There they were, and now they’re continuing to succeed at it. It’s never “late”.
I think only an individual would know when in life they’d find the moment to deal with the workload.
WOW: It’s great to know that, should one choose, you can enroll in an MFA program at any stage in life. In your opinion, is there a certain type of writer that would benefit most from enrolling in an MFA program?
Karen: If there were a common denominator it might be to love writing, to want that writing life, that period of time to contemplate and read and write and most importantly, to be surrounded by other people who are just as excited about writing.
An MFA is an investment of time. It isn’t necessarily going to turn into a ticket to something else. It might. It might not. Not everyone has the desire to teach creative writing after the MFA, either, which is one of the reasons for an MFA—it’s a terminal degree in Creative Writing, and it’s what you’d need, along with published books and so much more, to one day become a professor.
But there are many who return to whatever line of work they were in before, or who go on to work in publishing or in something entirely different, so the usefulness and the mileage—as an advanced degree—is going to depend largely on you, what you want to make of it. If you go into the program thinking about it in terms of “What will I do with this afterwards?” the answer may be a lot, or not as much, or even nothing, since there are always stories about writers who stopped writing once they were done with the MFA. The flip side of the coin exists too: people who never went through an MFA program who succeed at writing and never give that up.
It might be more useful to think of an MFA program as a chance to participate in a conservatory environment for a few years. Then see what happens next. If you know writing is what you want to do, life-long, you’re going to find ways to keep doing that regardless.
WOW: What is a good way to go about researching MFA programs to find the best fit?
Karen: I’ve encountered this question before, and one of the most astute answers I’ve heard given was by a peer, who said to consider the alumni that have been published. Why? It doesn’t necessarily mean the program was that adept at teaching them how to go about getting published (pursuing an MFA is no guarantee of publication), nor that the faculty taught those writers everything they know, by far, (how could we measure this, or ever tell for certain?) but it does say a lot about the program’s ability to attract talent in the first place. After all, if the program can attract very strong writers, these are the very writers that will become your classmates, the people you’ll have dialogue with, and that’s important in terms of reading each other’s work and getting feedback.
There are other factors to consider too—where you are in life right now, if you’d be willing to move across the country if need be, if the program offers enough funding for those who are admitted. Do you prefer a relatively large program a smaller one? Does it matters to you whether or not that program also has a literary journal (which can be a nice benefit if you have the opportunity to become a reader at a journal, both for the experience and for the ability to really see what is being written by others). I think by the time a writer has decided to pursue an MFA seriously, they will have acquired an understanding of the process—by reading, by word of mouth or recommendation from teachers or from other MFA students.
Thanks, Karen, for giving us great information and some direction about MFA programs. We look forward to the August issue to hear what you have to say about getting poetry published!
I'm not a big fan of celebrities, who are writing children's picture books and getting them published. I don't think I'm alone in this opinion. I bring this subject up today because this week, I received a children's writers' newsletter and was informed of yet another "star" who has written a RHYMING picture book. Josie Bissett, best known for her stint on Melrose Place, has a book on the market called Tickle Monster. Some of the verse is on her website, http://josie-bissett.com. Let's just say she rhymes "a matter of factLY" with "exactly."
Anyway, since reading this newsletter and Bissett's picture book, I can't get the subject of celebrity authors out of my head, which is why I thought I would post on it today. Why does it make me so mad? Is it jealousy? That's probably some of it. I work on my picture books, take them to workshops and my critique group, and go to conferences to meet editors and agents--and I still get rejections. Do these stars ever get rejections? Anyone want to bet?
Is it because I think their writing is terrible? Sometimes, it is. But sometimes, it is not so bad. Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow are good writers, and I love their children's picture books. But others, and I'm not going to name names because I wouldn't want someone to name MY name if they thought my book was bad, are horrible and terrible! If their names hadn't appeared on movie billboards first, their book manuscripts would be collecting dust in their desk drawers.
Stars get all sorts of unfair treatment--free meals, ridiculously expensive gift bags--these people get free things when they are the ones who could afford to buy stuff themselves. So, why does it make me so angry when they use their star power to get a children's book published? I'm not sure. But it just irately ticks me off. I feel like they should go through the trenches just like the rest of us. And do parents really buy these books because their favorite actress from Melrose Place now has a picture book? Really, do they? Do you?
One last point, everyone thinks it is so easy to write a children's picture book. It's not easy--and it's especially not easy to write a rhyming one. I know wonderful, un-celebrity-type, children's authors who took years and years to get an agent or their first picture book published by a New York house. I know authors who have spent a year trying to find the right combination of words to express what they want to say to children. So, all I can say about MOST celebrity picture book authors at this point is, "UGH!"
Am I alone out here? Does anyone else feel this way? Anyone know what to do about it?
Thanks for listening. I'm going back to try to find some rhyming words for a new, picture book idea I have called, Backyard Bonanza. I should be back out in public in about a year.
We’re all looking for ways to improve our health, such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough rest and exercising, among other things. After all, our bodies and minds benefit from being in the best condition possible. But, have you ever thought about your writing health?
Yes, you read that correctly---your writing health. I know, here’s another thing to add to an overflowing plate of priorities. Yet, if you’re serious about your writing, you can’t afford to overlook it. So, now that you know of such a thing, how do you achieve it?
I found the answer in the July 15 issue of the Writing For Dollars newsletter, where writer Kathryn Lay’s article, ‘Become A Healthy Writer’ was featured. In the piece, Ms. Lay presents six areas for writers to focus on as they set out to develop and maintain their own writing health. You’re probably going to be familiar with much of the tried-and-true advice she offers, but it’s interesting to see it from a different perspective.
For instance, under ‘Run’, Ms. Lay encourages writers to set goals, work on them, and not give up in the midst of rejections or any other kind of challenge. Like an exhausted runner’s pushing through the physical ‘wall’, and finding out there’s a sudden reserve of energy on the other side, writers must continue reaching and achieving those goals.
I said I would be a writer when I was a child, but it wasn’t until I became an adult that I took a step towards that dream. I had to force myself through the fear and doubt to begin making simple goals. As I accomplished one goal, I moved to another, and so on. It’s not an easy race by far, but I’m running it, and that’s what counts.
Runners need to ‘Rest’ too, and under that area, Ms. Lay emphasizes the importance of building in a necessary break to help refresh a writer and appreciate the craft more. That could mean spending time reading for pleasure, participating in a non-writing hobby or activity, or anything else.
Recently, rest for me has included the aforementioned pleasure reading, cooking, and a weekend beach getaway with friends.
Joining our writer community is fast and simple. Once you register and opt in to our Writer Compensation Program, you can immediately start uploading articles and making money.
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WOW! Women On Writing Columnist, Margo Dill, writes for eHow: "I plan to continue to write for eHow and Demand Studios for an indefinite amount of time because it has been a rewarding and valuable experience. eHow's template and easy-to-use format makes it simple to write articles for the whole world to read." ~ Margo L. Dill
I clicked on this news article after reading a teaser on Yahoo.com which said “Study shows people who did this one thing lost twice as much weight as people who didn’t.” I was expecting a miracle drug or an amazing exercise machine to be at the focal point of this study. Boy was I wrong, and gladly!
The study showed only that people who kept a diary of their food intake were more likely to do something about that. It reaffirmed my belief that writing things down is the ultimate path to changing something about ourselves.
I anticipate some people, like me, will click on that article and at first feel a tinge of disappointment. Lots of people are looking for the holy grail of instant weight loss—myself included! It’s normal (if immature) for us to want someone to prescribe us a cure to things that ultimately can’t be cured away.
We don’t want to hear that our goals are completely a product of our planning and output. And writing things down shatters the fantasy world that would tell us our goals are only achievable with this substance or that equipment. But thank God for that! Writing has the ability to free us from our own chains and remind us that the only thing contingent on accomplishing our goals is ourselves.
The fact remains, those people who expect to change through some expensive new diet are not thinking hard enough for themselves and are putting their faith in solutions that somebody else tells them to try. If you want to pay someone to do your thinking for you, the only thing that’s going to get any thinner is your wallet! But the people who keep a diary of their food intake begin to take personal responsibility for it, and because they are more serious and thoughtful about it they are more likely to succeed. The only entities that are making a difference here are thought, determination and choice.
As writers, we know that writing things down produces awareness of ourselves and a sense of responsibility for what we see. It also generates ideas and inspiration for what we might do about it. Many times the simple act of writing one thought prompts another. It’s not just about watching calories; it’s about coming up with creative ways to change those habits. Maybe you wake up one morning with a better low-fat idea for cooking your favorite recipe. Maybe you begin to feel a greater determination to hit the gym. Whatever it is, writing will prompt creativity which will prompt change.
In the article, it’s mentioned that Weight Watchers has begun incorporating diaries into their program. That’s great, but again, you don’t have to join Weight Watchers to do this. And you certainly don’t need some Weight Watchers brand diary! But since I understand people’s need for special space and organization, here’s what I suggest: go to any grocery store and buy yourself a two-dollar pocket notebook.
This will be your goal notebook—for the goal of losing weight. You will probably only fill a page every couple of days so consider it a year’s investment. Keep it in your purse, take it out whenever you have a few minutes after lunch or dinner and scribble some notes about what you ate. Try to estimate the calories when you don’t have access to a nutrition guide, and then let your mind’s own creative process do the rest. Your own mind will then be your guide and your trainer to the best weight-loss solutions for you. You will want to try lots of things and experiment. And when you do, write those things into the journal too. Write about your goals, your dream body, your hopes for fitting into that stunning dress…
Be your own personal mentor; your journal will keep you on track. If you are honest with yourself in what you write, your writing will always be a mirror to show you where you are and where you need to be. Try it! Let your creativity take you to achievement and weight loss, totally free of cost.
Ladies, there is a lot going on behind the scenes at WOW!, so I thought I'd post a bit of news to keep you in the loop.
SPRING FLASH FICTION CONTEST UPDATE
For all of you who are dancing around in anticipation of the contest results, we know you are excited and we look forward to revealing the winning stories soon. We've had so many amazing entries this quarter! As you may know (and for those of you who don't), the critique option was a new feature we offered to contestants. Unfortunately, we underestimated the amount of time it would take to do all the critiques--so it has put us a tad behind schedule. I'm sorry we don't have a set time line for you, but just know that we are running like manic hamsters in a wheel to bring you all the wonderful WOW! content. When the results are posted on the site, we will send out a notification email to everyone. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter (in the upper right corner of the WOW! home page), so we will have your email address and you can receive the newsletter and contest updates.
NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
WOW! Classroom Workshops Within our community, WOW! has so many talented and diverse professional writers who teach others how to navigate the writing and publishing world. Whether you are searching for an agent, looking to break into freelance writing, wanting to learn how to perfect your query letter, or planning to take that first step to novel writing, WOW! wants to provide you with the resources to reach your goals. So, to do this, we will be launching the WOW! Classroom in September! We have many wonderful instructors already on the slate and once their curriculum is finalized, we will be announcing the list in a special email blast, so make sure we have your email address! Class sizes will be limited, so if you see a workshop you want to take, you'll have to jump on it! We do have a few spaces available for additional instructors, so if you teach a professional course for writers and would like to join the WOW! team, feel free to submit a query and your course description for consideration.
Holiday Gift Guide We are always looking for ways to bring you useful content and products that will help you with your writing, publishing, and promotion journey. But we also know there are ways to combine what you love (books) with the other aspects of your life. So, we've come up with a new product we think will be a great resource and time saver for the upcoming holidays when you will be looking for great books to give as gifts or buy for yourself. It's never too early to get a jump on your gift shopping--or wish list making!
This holiday season we will be publishing a free Holiday Gift Guide as a downloadable PDF from the WOW! site with information about great books in 15 different categories of fiction and nonfiction from male and female authors.
And One for You – novelty gift books Business Minded – business books Dark & Stormy Night – mysteries, thrillers, suspense, crime Food Festival – cookbooks, entertaining guides Funny Bones – humor books Heart Sleeves – romance, chicklit Help is Here – advice, how to Inside/Outside – health, fitness, nutrition, spirituality Kid’s Corner – picture books, middle grade, young adult On the Road Again – travel books Picture Perfect – coffee table books, photography, film Story Weavers – mainstream and literary fiction Tech Deck – computer books Trend Setter – fashion, music, pop culture Who, What, Where – history, biography, memoir
The Holiday Gift Guide will be available in the November issue and will be the perfect resource for finding the hottest titles on the market to add to your wish list or give as gifts.
2009 Surprise Announcement Preview It's in the planning stages, so all I can say is two words to give you a hint: WOW! Retreat. It's going to be the must-attend event in 2009. And one you definitely won't want to miss!
Stay tuned for so many wonderful things we have planned for you, our loyal readers.
OH, YEAH... And it has recently come to our attention that many readers don't know how to navigate the WOW! site to find all of the back issues of archived articles, interviews, etc. If you haven't had a chance to read and explore the back issues, you are definitely missing out! Go to the WOW! home page and look in the left sidebar above the fold. Find the gray button that says "Quick Links"--it will give you a drop down menu that will allow you to find everything by column and issue. Happy reading!
We recently had a discussion in the Premium Green subscribers group about confidence, courage and faking it when you need to. At times, many of us have had the feeling of being an imposter; of wondering whether we should really call ourselves artists or writers, or feeling not quite worthy of the writing assignments we seek, or even obtain.
Creativity coach Dave Storer has some helpful thoughts on feeling like an imposter. He reminds us that we have to grow into any new role that we take on, writing or otherwise. For awhile, we may need to act more confident than we feel we have a right to.
"…the best philosophy to live by is 'fake it 'til you make it.' That's true whenever you enter into any kind of new identity. It happens when you graduate and start your first 'real' job, it happens when you change overnight from a worker to a boss; it happens when you get married or when you have your first child. These are times when you just have to grow into your role before the identity involved seems completely real to you, let alone those around you."
'When I say 'fake it 'til you make it,' what I should more accurately say is, 'even though your chosen creative identity feels unreal somehow, if you keep doing it—keep working at your art with all your heart and muscle—sooner than you think, you will be perfectly comfortable with that identity and so will most everyone you know.' The identity comes from the doing of it."*
Several members of the PG group seem to have taken this approach, utilizing the "fake it 'til you make it" motto in any new endeavor until they felt "legitimate." If you're an aspiring writer (or a writer taking on bigger challenges), the key is to just keep on doing, taking action and making progress. You will get more and more comfortable over time, but as with any new role, you grow into it.
I love nachos with jalepeno peppers piled high on top of the melted cheese served with a side of guac.
In each of the sentences above, there is a distinct degree of difference in the meaning of the word "love". In sentence number one, I love my husband; he is my life partner and I trust him completely.
In sentence number two, I love my family and friends, but it is not the same kind of love expressed in sentence number one. These are caring relationships too, but they don't elicit the same feelings as the love expressed in the first sentence.
Sentence number three stands apart from the others. Why? OK, I admit that I don't really love nachos; I enjoy eating them. I like them. And no, I'm not going to marry them (the proverbial answer to the question always asked by my kids).
My "love" for nachos provided new insight into amor. In a query, I used sentence number three to illustrate a point about cravings. A few weeks later, I received an offer from the editor; however, she had "the talk" with me about using the 'L' word. And after contemplating her words, I have to agree: the 'L' word is overused and therefore, it becomes overrated because one can never truly tune in on the intended degree of love.
When writers constantly use the word "love" as an expression when the real intent focuses on liking something, the true meaning of the word losses significance. In a culture that loves pizza, loves how a certain pair of jeans make us look in the mirror, and loves celebrity gossip, perhaps we, as writers, need to take that editor's words to heart.
I decided to experiment with the editor's premise. After perusing a copy of a popular woman's magazine targeted at 20-somethings, I found 78 instances of the word "love" in articles, headlines, and captions. The word was only used correctly four times. Love loses its impact when you are bombarded with it.
One of my college English profs used to bark at my creative writing class, "Write what you mean." By using accurate words that show the emotional connection we're establishing with the topic we're writing about, our writing will only become better. And readers will certainly like it.
I love to travel. I even love to fantasize about traveling. Sometimes I borrow Rick Steves’ travel videos from the library and watch them while I fold laundry. When my husband gets home I demand that we start saving for a 21-day backpacking trip through Great Britain and Amsterdam. (I think my husband is going to try to hide my library card soon.) When I read Barbara Hudgins’ article, How 2 Create a Travel Piece from Your Visit, in WOW’s July issue, I was once again smitten and glassy-eyed at the thought of combining my two great obsessions: writing and travel.
I have been stymied from becoming too excited about travel writing for a number of reasons. First of all, who doesn’t want to get paid to write about their vacation, thereby paying for some of the Mai Tai’s consumed at the pool or for Swiss chocolates nibbled on while gazing at the Jungfrau in the Alps? Travel writing is a competitive market, requiring writers to produces copy that snaps, is distinctive and informative all at the same time.
Another reason I’ve been hesitant to avidly pursue travel writing is because, when I do go on vacation, I want to relax and not think about deadlines or keeping research straight. What would I do if I get back home and forgot to see something or talk to someone significant to my story? This seems a bit stressful. Are there any travel writers out there who have found a good balance between work and play when vacationing and working on a travel writing piece?
After reading Barbara’s article I did a quick Google search on travel writing and found what seems to be a very alluring conference for the beginning travel writer. The Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference will be held in Corte Madera, California August 14-17, 2008. If you check out the conference schedule, you will find a diverse set of sessions taought by professionals in the craft of travel writing.
Is Your Email a Help or Hindrance to Your Writing Time?
What I mean by this question is: do you spend hours reading and answering emails each day? Does time get away from you when you are "checking your email?" or Do you use email to follow up with contacts, keep up with the latest markets and writing trends, or submit queries and manuscripts? I have found that email is both a help and a hindrance for me, and here are a few ways that I am trying (Really, I am trying!) to cut down on email time and do more writing when I am sitting at my computer.
With listservs and email groups, get your emails as a daily digest, or even check them on-line. I used to get an email from four different email lists each time someone, from the list, sent a message. I had hundreds of unread emails every time I opened my inbox, and this totally distracted me. OR I would hear the ding of a new email, switch from Microsoft Word back to my email, and read this message, which usually was never urgent. So, I changed the way I received messages from all my lists by going to the home page, clicking on options, and finding the daily digest option. I also know writers who go on-line once or twice a day and read the discussions directly from the group's home page, instead of having them sent to their inbox. These online writing groups are important and valuable, but they don't have to take up a bunch of your daily writing time.
Don't read every forwarded email from Aunt Betty. You don't have to feel guilty if you delete these emails before you even read them. You will not be cursed if you don't send them to ten people. No one will even know unless you tell them that you never read these jokes or sob stories or urban legends. I will, every once in a while, open and read one if it is from my husband or another friend because they never forward them unless they know I will really like the content.
Skim email newsletters for important information. I also subscribe to email newsletters, and I try to read them in a timely fashion. Most of these have a "table of contents" at the top of the email. I skim this first to see if there is anything that will pertain to my writing career, and then I jump to that topic instead of reading the entire email newsletter from top to bottom.
Clean out and file old emails. I know some people leave every email in their inbox. They can never find an old email they want to read again, and they have trouble keeping track of which emails they've answered or which ones they still need to answer. I only keep emails in my inbox that I still need to deal with or that I haven't answered yet. Otherwise, I file them away within my email system. I usually use aol, so my old emails are saved on aol in different files such as WOW!, writing work, editor 911, and so on.
I hope these four tips can give you more writing time and less time with your inbox. Make email a help for you and your career--don't let it waste your time!
Last month, Marcia Peterson’s blog post “Loving the Sport” suggested that writers might want to start thinking of writing as not just an occupation or a means to an end, but as something we take great joy in participating. We should do it because we love it and the reward it gives. She included advice from author Anne Patchett, actor Bradley Whitford and Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee as motivation.
With the Beijing Olympics approaching, I’ve been glued to the T.V. as the Olympic Trials have aired. Besides watching gymnast Shawn Johnson, runner Alison Felix and swimmers Katie Hoff and Michael Phelps shatter records in their quest to go to the Games, another athlete has inspired me as I place fingers to keyboard.
Dara Torres is twice the age of many of the elite swimmers she competes against and as a forty-one year old mother of a two-year old, many dismissed her attempt to win her way to a fifth Olympic Games as a long shot, at best.
A couple weeks ago, she clocked in phenomenal times in her races, speeding through the water and leaving her competitors literally in her wake. Crowds roared their approval, commentators marveled at her and the world took notice. Including me.
The only way Ms. Torres attempted and succeeded was because she enjoyed her sport so much that she spent hours honing her body into prime condition. There may have been times of struggle, but she pushed through, for the love of it. Watching her, you get the sense that even if she didn’t make the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, her love of swimming would live on.
As a writer, I must continually stretch and hone my craft. There will be times where I’ll have to struggle just to pick up a pen or turn on the computer. But I too must push through.
So next month, I’ll remember how my love for writing will sometimes cause me to turn from the Olympics to write, not just for the money or to be published, but because I enjoy the reward.
That’s how I’ll go for the gold in my writing. How about you?
We received this call from editor, Cornelia Durrant, for her upcoming anthology about Women and Horses:
Description: We are looking for original, real-life stories by women about a deep connection, or extraordinary experience, with a horse. They can be stories from the barn, the trail, the racetrack, or the outback, but they will all in some way explore the nature of the relationship between women and horses, and its challenges, gifts, and surprises.
The anthology will be published in 2009 by Seal Press.
Pay: $200 will be paid for the essays included.
Length: Submissions should be between 2,000 - 4,000 words.
Deadline: October 15, 2008
How to Submit: Please send submissions or questions to the editor, Cornelia Durrant, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The other day a visitor stumbled across this blog and posted a comment:
"Just found your neato blog for the first time, and I want to know WHO? WHY? WHEN?--It would be lovely to find an "about" page for you... I did finally find a list of contributors at the B-O-T-T-O-M of the page, but I want to know what WOW is. Tell me??"
When I read that comment, I immediately thought, can't you see the info on the right-hand sidebar? There are links to the WOW site, archives, Google search, newsletter sign-up, feedburner widget, etc. But the truth is, they couldn't see it.
Different browsers display information, pictures, text, and layout in various ways. In fact, each browser looks different. Webmasters have the tricky job of setting up the content to look the same across all platforms. And as bloggers, we have that dilemma as well.
A while back I added some widgets to the right-hand side of our blog, and in doing this, I "broke" the template in certain browsers. I can't see it because I use Firefox and Safari on a Mac, but IE users on a PC sure can. If you've ever added anything extra to your blog, you may want to check and see if you accidentally broke your template as well. The good news is, it's easy to check!
Click the browsers you'd like to check, or just leave their default selections, and click submit!
It'll start queuing up the screen shots, and give you a time estimate of the project. After it finishes, you'll see the browser shots loaded in small pictures across your screen--like the image at the very top of this post. You can then click on each image to make it larger and check out the details. You'd be surprised at how different your blog looks in other browsers! You can also check to see if you have a broken template, like ours. And if you do...yikes! You may have to rebuild the template, which is what I'm going to have to do with our blog...but when I do, I'll be sure to post a walk-through for others that have the same problem. If you've ever added any widgets to your blog, you may want to check this site out. The best part is, it's free!
When it comes to grammar, word usage, and the finer points of writing (or speaking) the English language, there are so many rules to remember--and so many opportunities to make mistakes.
Here are a few basic tips to help you understand the more frequent causes of slips, trips, and face-plant falls in your writing.
Lie/Lay/Lain and Lay/Laid/Laid This is one of the top 10 most common mistakes.
INCORRECT: I like reading more than laying around watching TV. CORRECT: I like reading more than lying around watching TV.
PRESENT TENSE Lie/Lay Lie means to rest. (The dog lies in the yard.) It's an intransitive verb and doesn't need a direct object. You can't lie something; however, you can lay something.
Lay is a transitive verb and means to place or to put. Use lay when you can substitute the word set. (She lays the book across her lap.)
PAST TENSE Lay/Laid The past tense of lie is also lay. So, this iswhat those sentences would look like in past tense: The dog lay in the yard. She laid the book across her lap.
PAST PARTICIPLE Lain/Laid The past participle of lie is lain. The dog has lain in the same spot in the yard for a week. (Yes, she's still alive, it's just her favorite spot.) ;-)
The past participle of lay is laid. She has laid the book across her lap at 3pm every day since Sunday.
The best way to avoid making a lie/lay mistake is to memorize how the two verbs function: Lie/Lay/Lain I want to lie on the beach. I lay on the beach last Saturday. I have often lain on the beach.
Lay/Laid/Laid Lay the book on the table. She laid the book on the table. She has laid the book on the table many times. Subject - Predicate(Verb) Agreement There are 12 different rules of subject/predicate agreement, but I'll only cover the most common rule that trips many writers.
INCORRECT: The cost of basic necessities such as gasoline and groceries have risen exponentially. CORRECT: The cost of basic necessities such as gasoline and groceries has risen exponentially.
It's common to mistakenly pair a plural predicate with a singular subject (or vice versa) when the the subject and predicate are separated by a phrase containing singular and/or plural nouns.
In the sample sentence above, the cost is the subject that has risen exponentially. Always keep your eye on the subject. Who vs. Whom
INCORRECT: Whom shall I say is calling? CORRECT: Who shall I say is calling?
This rule is easy to understand when you take a minute to mentally rearrange the sentence and exchange the who with she and whom with her.
Who = she Whom = her The correct choice is who because she is calling. It also works with whoever/whomever. INCORRECT: Tell the story to whoever you want. CORRECT: Tell the story to whomever you want. Whoever = she Whomever = her The correct choice is whomever because you want to tell the story to her. Between You and I vs. Between You and Me
INCORRECT: Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and I. CORRECT: Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and me.
The first sentence may sound correct, but between is a preposition and prepositions must be followed by an object. (Remember the preposition tree from grade school? A preposition can be in a tree, on a tree, near a tree, under a tree, over a tree, for a tree, etc.)
I is a subject/nominative pronoun (as are he, she, we, and they). Objective pronouns: me, you, him, her, us, and them follow a preposition.
INCORRECT: Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and they. CORRECT: Everyone overheard the disagreement between you and them.
Me vs. I I know... You thought we covered that confusing usage in the last example. Well, not quite. Some people automatically assume that if the sentence sounds more formal, it must be the correct word choice. Wrong.
INCORRECT: He brought pizza for Angela and I. CORRECT: He brought pizza for Angela and me.
Again, think about the preposition tree. In this sentence, Angela and me are direct objects. Another grammar slip often occurs in sentences when than or as is used. INCORRECT: She is smarter than me. CORRECT: She is smarter than I.
In a comparison using than or as when the last portion of the sentence is dropped, just tack on the missing words and the proper word choice will be obvious.
She is smarter than I am.
With a little practice and a true love for the written word, grammar really can be fun! I had an early start. On Saturday mornings, in between my favorite cartoons, the 1970's Schoolhouse Rock! commercials took my Generation X mind on a musical grammar train with songs like "Conjunction Junction," "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here," and "Verb: That's What's Happening." As a matter of fact, I remember having quite a crush on Verb Man.
But I'll save you from listening to me reminisce while singing the lyrics; instead, I'll share a list of 31 random writing tips emailed to me by a fellow scribe. I'm sure it's making the rounds like the urban legend about the tourist's missing kidney.
1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
17. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
18. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
19. The passive voice is to be ignored.
20. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
21. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
22. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
23. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
24. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
25. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
26. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
27. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
28. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
29. Who needs rhetorical questions?
30. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
And the last one...
31. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Although written to help those with academic writing goals, such as dissertations, theses, and publishing, the ideas in this article apply to the rest of us too. Read on to find out an easy and painless way to increase your writing output. I related to many of the excuses, but I'll try it if you will!
"How can I stop procrastinating?"
This is by far the most frequent question that I get from graduate students and professors. As a dissertation and tenure coach, I’ve come to realize that everyone in academia, whether writing a dissertation, completing an article, or doing research, struggles with procrastination. Why is this so prevalent in such a well-educated, intelligent population?
You've Got the Wrong Attitude
Your belief system is what may be standing in the way. Most academics cling to the belief that they must set aside large chunks of time, do a lot of preparation, and be in the proper frame of mind to be able to write.
What this means is that when you finally sit down to write, it's going to be an unpleasant marathon. You have placed such importance on this writing session that you feel anxiety about it living up to your expectations. And you know it's going to be difficult. After all, there are thorny issues you haven't addressed, articles you haven't read or reread, and a lack of coherence to your thinking. You need to solve those problems. And if you don't do it now you'll be quite disappointed in yourself.
How unpleasant! And how counterproductive!
What Should You Believe Instead? Or "Oh, The Irony!"
Research by Robert Boyce actually shows that first and second-year professors who participated in a study on writing productivity were able to turn out more publishable pages in a year by
• Writing 30 minutes a day • Only writing on workdays • Shoehorning that writing into small gaps in their busy schedules
The difficult part, it turns out, was convincing these professors to try this low-key method in the first place. Ironically, they all insisted that the only way to get real work done was to do it in the marathon way that I described above.
The second irony was that when Boyce actually measured the amount that they were writing per week (before the intervention,) it was less than 30 minutes per week! This was much less than their retrospective reports of how much time they had been spending writing.
The third irony was that those who most adhered to the idea that you must write in large doses were the least productive.
The fourth irony was that although these professors considered writing a private activity, they did best when they were accountable to someone for maintaining their 30-minute writing habit. Do It Already!
So what's stopping you from learning from these professors and writing a small amount each day?
Here are typical excuses:
• It's just not rewarding writing in small amounts. I feel like I've gotten nothing accomplished. • I have a big issue to work out. It will take more time than 30 minutes. • I feel guilty if I don't work more each time. • I'll never complete my dissertation/paper/research project at that pace. • I've waited until it's too late and I can't afford the luxury of that small amount of time per day. • It just doesn't feel right. • I've got more time than that, I should be putting all my time to good use. • It's so overwhelming that I don't know where to start, and by the time I figure it out my 30 minutes will be up.
My answer to those responses? Bull! Except for the emergency deadline, there is no reason not to try this technique. Give it time to see if it works for you. If you're like every other academic I've worked with, you will resist the idea. I suggest that the more resistant you are, the more problem you've probably had with procrastination in the past.
An Action Plan
Try it for a week. Select a time each day, preferably not the evening unless you're a night owl, and write for 30 minutes, without email, reading or other distractions. Don't listen to the voices in your head saying you "should be getting more done," or "you should be writing more than this." I'll bet at the end of the week you'll be pleasantly surprised at your output, and pleased with the increasing ease with which you can sit down to write. You’ll start to see progress on your dissertation or article and maybe come to believe that you will finish one day.
Furthermore, don't forget about being accountable to someone. Let someone else know that you're going to be doing daily writing. Perhaps you can find a writing buddy, or someone in your dissertation group. Or join one of my coaching groups – our listservs allow for lots of accountability during the week! My membership site, CafeAcademia.com (stay tuned,) will have a place for finding writing buddies.
Don't forget, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Start setting yourself up for success starting right now!
So, you call yourself a writer. But if you have friends or family who are similar to mine, they want the specifics: what exactly do you write? Calling myself a writer is fine. But sometimes I say I'm a freelancer, and that's still not specific enough. I could try one of these: author, biographer, calligrapher, columnist, composer, copyist, correspondent, critic, dramatist, editor, essayist, fabulist, hack, journalist, lyricist, novelist, playwright, poet, reporter, reviewer, scribe, scrivener or wordsmith.
Surely somewhere in that list of possibilities is a word that explains what I do for more than half of each day!
I have found a great source that cuts my frustration when I know what I want to say but the right word fails to come to my mind. Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.. weights in at 692 pages and offers more than just specific words that separate a mundane sentence from a descriptive and accurate line.
Let's say I'm interested in writing about war. When I turn to that entry, not only do I get a list of specific words and related terms, but I also have a list of wars that have occurred throughout time.
This book has rightfully earned its place on my desk. It's been useful and guided me toward the word I couldn't think of several times!
Check it out and see if it can assist you when you can't think of the exact word you want to use.
I’m sure this statement needs a little qualification. There is this rogue rumor out there that librarians are stuffy, book guardians or silence- mongers intent on throwing you out of the library for the smallest audible infraction. But watch the face of a librarian when you say, "I want to learn how to research better." Their eyes will light up like Christmas morning.
When I began my freelance writing career in earnest, I called my local library, desperate to find out the best and fastest ways to find research for articles. I realized that five years of college had only showed me how to research to please professors, not produce a thoroughly researched piece of writing that would be scrutinized by hundreds, nay, thousands of pairs of eyes. Because of my “mommy-hiatus,” there were new, more powerful research tools available that I knew nothing about.
So I met with a librarian one-on-one. (Make note that if you would like to do this, call ahead and make an appointment to make the best use of your and the librarian’s time.) He showed me two library sections and one electronic resource that has helped me gather the information I need for writing.
#1 Where the Style Manuals Dwell
In the Dewey Decimal System (D.D.S) you will find writing style manuals starting roughly at 808.2. You can go to the nonfiction books and find style manuals to check out, or go to the same call number within reference section. I found it great to be able to test drive these often colossally priced books by looking through them at the library. Usually, the reference section will offer the most current edition of any of these books. On the self at my library were titles such as 2008 Writer’s Market, 2008 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, The Chicago Manual of Style and the AMA Manual of Style (this is used primarily in medical and scientific writing).
#2 The Marketplace
Around 050 and on in the D.D.S. is a section that contains books primarily about the publishing industry. Here lies the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media which could be considered a phonebook of sorts for print, radio, television, and cable companies. Nearby is also Literary Marketplace 2007, a contact book for over 14,000 listings of publishers, literary agents, distributors and events within the U.S. publishing industry. If you wanted information on the on the world-wide publishing industry, you could also look at the International Literary Marketplace 2007 on a shelf nearby.
The Encyclopedia of Associations lives in this section as well. This set of books is helpful to writers for two reasons: not only can you look through the book by topic to find a source for an article, but you can find associations with newsletters or publications within a certain field that you may want to query.
#3 Research in Your Underwear
The last, and I believe most helpful, tool that I discovered was my library’s online research database. An online database is a search tool that allows users to access millions of periodicals and academic journals. For instance, I did a quick search on breast cancer. I entered that exact term into my library’s database search field and it came up with 44,195 article s. Obviously, you would want to narrow that number so you can easily view the information specific to your article. The database offers suggestions to add to the breast cancer search, such as risk factors, treatment, and genetic aspects. When I click on risk factors, my results went down substantially to 1529. I can then pick between academic journals, magazines, or newspapers, sort by date or add another keyword to be more specific.
For me, as a wife and mom, having an online database at my fingertips means I do not have to drag two toddlers to the library for research. Most databases can be accessed via the Internet from home. All I need is my name and library card number to use the database (of course this can vary from library to library, so check it out.) I can put my hair in curlers, eat some chocolate, blare Norah Jones, and do research for my article without annoying one single, librarian.
While doing research for this blog, I spoke with a librarian who said they took whole, semester-long classes on the best keywords to use within database searches. (Can you even imagine?) I believe that most librarians are excited to share their knowledge of how to research effectively. After all, that is what they went to school for. Let these beautiful, noble people give you the tools to research well.
Interview with Stephanie Haefner - Winter 08 Contest Runner Up
Stephanie Haefner is an aspiring novelist dreaming of the day she'll see her name blazed across the cover of a book! She is currently working on novel #3. Her favorite types of stories to write (and read) are those that take the reader through every emotion. If she can make a reader cry on one page and laugh hysterically on another, her story is complete! Among several WOW! contests, her publishing credits also include an anthology about the city of Buffalo, NY, where she was born and raised and still lives today. When Stephanie is not writing, she spends her days caring for her husband, 5 year-old daughter and infant son and also tending to a serious scrapbooking obsession!
If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Stephanie’s story Have A Nice Day, go ahead and click on the title. Come on. You know you want to read it!
WOW:Welcome back, Stephanie. You're a multiple WOW! contest winner. Any secrets to offer readers who might be considering entering one of the WOW! contests?
Stephanie: Definitely go for it!!!! Especially with the open prompt!! Make your piece as descriptive as possible. I feel it's best to write about a very simple event, then use your words to describe it in as much detail as possible. Never ever has the phrase "show, don't tell" meant more!! Show as much as you can...make those 500 words count for so much more!!
WOW:Good advice! You definitely make the words matter in your story. What was the inspiration for Have A Nice Day?
Stephanie: It was actually a prompt for an online writing class I was taking at the time. There was a list of three objects. When I envisioned a plastic bag, an image of a ragged one blowing in the wind on a dark and dreary winter day popped into my head. I wondered why it was blowing, where it had been, what led it to it's current status. The story took from there.
WOW:I like the anticipation the bag feels prior to being "sacked" and how that theme of anticipation of the unknown traverses throughout the story. It builds a feeling of suspense. How do you determine the direction that roller coaster of emotions will travel when crafting a story?
Stephanie: When I write, I always like to take the reader through a range of emotions. I think about my own life, the feelings I've had, the ups and downs, the unknown. Everyone feels that way at one time or another. I think readers can really identify with a character, even an inanimate one, who has felt the way they did at one point in their lives. I don't think there's anyone on this earth who hasn't had fears about what the future holds for them.
WOW:Playing on the reader's emotions can create a powerful story. What else do you draw upon for inspiration for your writing?
Stephanie: Many things. My mind seems to wander a lot and starts to ask questions..."What would I do if this crazy situation happened to me?" Many of my completed fiction stories and story ideas that are waiting to be written are based on mini daydreams I've had at one time or another. It's the things I see and experience around me. I started traveling with a notepad in my purse. There have been times where I was stopped at a red light and pulled it out to jot things down! I get some of my best thinking done while I'm driving around town! As for non-fiction pieces, many are written about events taken directly from my past.
WOW:Drawing from personal experience enhances the direction a story takes. A tinge of irony always piques my interest. I sensed the use of irony in the title. What tips can you offer for titling a piece?
Stephanie: I struggle with titles very often. I love when a title gives the reader an idea of what the story could be about but then surprises them when there's a twist to what they originally thought. I love to surprise the reader!
WOW:Great idea! Being surprised gives readers a chance to contemplate the various aspects of the story. I see you spend a lot of time scrapbooking. To me, scrapbooking is a visual storytelling. Do you ever draw inspiration from any of your scrapbooking endeavors for a storyline?
Stephanie: Yes! I have many stories that are based on my own life and the twists and turns that could have happened! Usually my stories are a bit more dramatic than my real life, but that's the fun, isn't it?
WOW:Oh, most definitely! Building dramatic elements is vital for an effective storyline. What are some of the similarities in the creative process between scrapbooking and writing?
Stephanie: Scrapbooking to me is an art form, just like writing is. In scrapbooking, the storytelling is done with photos. The creator is showcasing a memory by arranging photos and adding artistic elements of color and design. With writing, words are arranged and the reader forms their own mental picture.
WOW:Stephanie, you are a very busy woman! What projects are you working on now?
Stephanie: I just finished yet another edit of my second novel and am trying my luck at finding an agent for it again! It is extremely hard for me to throw this story on a shelf and walk away! I am also about halfway through my third novel and have tons of little essay pieces I've been working on over the past few months.
WOW: Good luck with finding an agent! And thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your writing passion with WOW! readers.
At a recent critique group meeting, we had a discussion about adjectives. Actually, we seem to have a talk about adjectives and adverbs each time we meet. Some of the members put a bunch of these describing words into their work to paint a picture of exactly what they want the reader to see. Other members of my group sprinkle these words throughout their stories, but they use more specific nouns and strong verbs. So, which is better? I'm not sure if there is a clear-cut answer.
I tend to go with the school of thought that the fewer adjectives and adverbs a writer has in their writing, the better. Then when these cute, little words pop up, they really stand out without someone having to point them out to you. :) So, when I am critiquing manuscripts for my group, I am constantly marking out adjectives (even more than adverbs), especially if there are a bunch of color or size words together. This probably drives the members of my group crazy, but they still let me come each time anyway.
How often do we REALLY need to tell the color of something unless the color is unusual or important in the novel or story? For example, one writer I know has orange creatures that live in an orange village and eat only orange food. Okay, this is important and interesting to the story--most creatures aren't orange and only eat one color of food.
But is it important that the creature has on a red and blue striped shirt and wears green tennis shoes? Probably not, and then there are a whole lot of colors the reader has to keep track of, too. Kind of like the Lego picture above. A whole lot of colors coming together and almost overwhelming the senses. Couldn't the orange creature have on a striped shirt and high tops? Sure, I might see a yellow and green striped shirt and black high tops while another member in my group might see a purple and pink shirt and periwinkle high tops. But my point is, does that matter to the story? Just something to think about.
Less is more is a cliche, but one that holds true for writing, in my opinion. Stephen King agrees with my adjective/adverb theory in his book On Writing, and he's had just slightly more success than me. :) Do you need to tell us that the huge, enormous, brown, spotted snake wrapped around the tree? Or could you say instead: The boa constrictor wrapped itself around the eight-foot tall tree, and none of the trunk was showing?
So, in my writing group, I will keep with my theory, and others will keep with theirs. This leads to a good discussion each month and hopefully, improvements in all our writing. After all, that is what is important--creating a story some reader will love (and some editor will buy.:)
Just finished reading the July 3 issue of the Writing World newsletter, edited by Dawn Copeman (which I recommend, by the way). Under the ‘News From the World of Writing’ section, I was intrigued by one of the listings, ‘Books That Make You See Red’. The article, which appeared in The Sunday Times’ (London) June 22 issue, featured a number of authors and critics who listed books that they not only hated, but couldn’t bring themselves to read again. They sought feedback from the paper's readers, too.
Of course, I had to check it out for myself. If there’s any doubt that reading can ellicit strong emotions, those doubts will vanish! Comments such as "harrowing and pedestrian", "putrid morass of unreadability", and "waste of time" came from readers, authors and critics regarding various known and lesser-known works peppered the article.
Now I’ve read some books that I couldn’t get through myself, but I have the tendency to forget what they were. Subjective amnesia, I guess. I do recall two that I came across in my teen years. The first was Herman Hesse’ ‘Sidhartha’, a required read for our English AP Honors class. We tried everything to get through that novel, but 11 of us hit the wall. Even Cliffs and Monarch Notes did nothing for us. However, John, the 12th student, was able to breeze through. We were astonished. He was our rescuer, helping his brain-addled classmates through the text. We couldn’t wait to celebrate once we finished the thing. Can't say that I hated it, though.
The second book was ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert, which I received as a Christmas gift. I tried, but after a year, I gave up, surprised that I hung in for so long. I didn’t even make it to the middle. As for the whereabouts of the novel, I couldn't tell you. As with 'Sidhartha', there was no love, but definitely no hate either.
It was amusing to read The Sunday Times article and experience such strong responses, but I've yet to encounter books that made me see red. I would add the pair of books I mentioned to that list, though.
Want to take a peek at the article yourself? Go to: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4170954.ece
Let me know if you find ‘favorites’ among the trashed tomes or any you’d like to contribute to the list. I'd be interested to hear what you think.
Stress: physical, mental, emotional strain or tension on the body and mind.
That is only one of many definitions of the word stress.
I know lately I have had a huge level of stress and I thought for sure I would just fall apart.I thought I was in a world all by myself that no one knew what I was going through or what I was doing.It amazed me how this one little word could trigger such fears and anxieties in my body that literally became uncontrollable.It physically made me ill.Now, mind you, my body was already hit with heat exhaustion, I have been working in a very warm building trying to get it set up with my tea and coffee shop housed safely inside of it, then leaving to pick up whatever little things we needed to complete certain jobs, this of course meant going into extremely cold buildings making my body temperature go completely crazy.Not fun.
Then came along our wonderful friend…..STRESS!With my mind racing uncontrollably, my fears so out of control, I wanted to scream. It was getting to a serious level where I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink, and I just wanted to be put out of my misery right then and there.My whole insides were screaming at me to do something to fix this huge mess that was causing so much turmoil in my body.
With my head sinking deeper between my shoulders with my huge problems, I turned to writing a few friends for some help or advice on what to do, because I felt that I just couldn’t let go. I just didn’t know what to do to get things turned around the way I wanted to right then and there.I wanted immediate satisfaction, and was just not getting it.This was making me feel even worse with my problems.
Then a wonderful friend, (you know who you are)told me to let it go.To just be patient and let things happen.She said that eventually things would fall into place and that I wouldn’t need to worry.At first, I wondered how I would do this given my problem.Then she told me about hers and I found that they were very similar and was amazed at how calm she was compared to me.Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening and sharing with me the stresses that are in your life as well.
Well, now you are probably wondering why I’m shedding all this on all of you.Because all of us are facing huge struggles right now in our writing, in our financial lives, in our families, heck, let’s face it, even our economy is stressed. We all need to find ways of release.
For us writers, that can be easy. We can just pick up a pen or pencil, or start tapping on the keyboard to get some of our tension out.But, there are times, that this doesn’t always work. I got to thinking of other ways to help relieve some of our stresses.Even though our problems will still be there, we still need to find ways of maintaining our bodies, minds, and spirits. I know that I surely wasn’t thinking about it. I was just focusing on my problems, thinking they were never going to go away, that it was only going to get worse, and wondering how I was ever going to make it given everything that has been happening.
Now that I have gotten my emotions under control somewhat, I’m able to focus a little better on other things.First and foremost, my writing, given my current situation, that has led to this article.
I began looking at different websites that I thought might also help each of you relieve some of your stresses as well. That way, all of us can find a restful medium within ourselves so we can still remain active in what we need to do and not curled up under our covers crying.
I also think it would be wonderful if everyone could share a special way that they try to relieve stress.We all know exercise can help tremendously.Our partners sure appreciate it as well.(blushing a lot right now)
Yoga-Yeah, I know you are thinking: But I’m not flexible.Well, you don’t have to be. If you at least try some of the positions, although like me you won’t be perfect at it, you will be amazed at how well it helps to relax your body and mind.
Stress management- We all try to find ways to manage the stress in our lives.But, sometimes they don’t always work and it's always nice to try to find other ways to manage our stress.I actually got a little giggle at some of the suggestions.
This article not only gives you some simple ideas, but it also gives you information on the effects of stress and much more.
Interested in the art of Feng Shui?This site gives you information on how it relates to relieving stress.The article is quite interesting I won’t spoil it for you, I want you to enjoy it for yourselves.
GET UP AND MOVE!-That’s right, the simple art of walking can help relieve some of the stress from your body.Go for a nice long walk in your neighbor hood.Don’t try to think about what’s bothering you though, focus on things around you, a small flower, a dog that is currently running loose in someone’s yard, the rusty old car that’s been sitting on the side of the road for the last 4 years.Focus on something else, it helps get your mind to relax and to help open up to solutions for what may be stressing you at the time.
Turn on some music and dance around the living room, you will be amazed at how music can help move your body and release tension.You don’t have to be a good dancer either, just let the rhythm take you away, hey that leads to another idea there is a website called Jams Bio that is neat.You can write about different songs that you have heard over the years.They ask that you write about a particular memory and how the song relates to your life, etc.the website is http://www.jamsbio.com
There are tons of interesting ways to relieve stress on the web.I know that some of the ideas that I’ve given might not help everyone, or maybe you find something new and fun to help you relieve your stress.
What ever you do, no matter how hard it can be, find a friend or someone that might listen, talk about what’s bothering you get it out of your body.That is one of the first steps.Sometimes the art of talking can have profound affects on what we are dealing with.You would be amazed at what others might come up with that can help you too.
Happy 4th of July!! To celebrate this fun-filled day, I'd like to turn you on to some other writing blogs out there that have recently mentioned WOW! Thanks bloggesses ~ enjoy your independence, and write on!
Jennifer Mattern's All Freelance Writing is a great resource for the freelance writer focused on web content. Her site includes a job board and writer's markets.
Revision Notes by Darci Pattison provides solid information for the fiction writer in revision mode--which is where we always should be. ;)
Lori Calabrese Writes! is a fun and informative blog for the children's picture book writer. If you're looking to purchase your next picture book, Lori has recommendations! The blog also features children's book writing contests, writing articles, and writer's resources.
E. Lucas-Taylor's Freelance Job Board is for the hungry writer looking for freelance gigs and resources.
The Education & Tech blog has information-packed posts that focus on teaching, writing, and tech topics. If you're into learning more about blogging, SEO, and social media, check it out.
Cathy C.'s Hall of Fame has a variety of writerly topics written in a fun and conversational voice. If you get a chance, check out her blog on Wednesdays where she writes a column, "What Not to Do Wednesday." Great stuff!
The Coffee & Critique Writers Group has great energy and the feel of a writers group...because it is! It offers bite-size posts on writing tips, contests, book publicity and submission opportunities.
Danette Haworth's blog, Summer Friend, is a fun blog for writers, with a focus of writing for children and teens. Danette, the author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning, has a great voice and her posts are always full of great description. If you get a chance to stop by her blog, check out the pic she snapped of one of WOW's contest prize packs!
Ann-Marie Nichols' blog The Write Spot is a great resource for authors, freelancers, and businesses who want to promote their business by using social media and Web 2.0. And really, who doesn't? And in other recent mentions, we thank the following for giving WOW! a shout out on their blogs:
Would you like to be featured in our next Blog Love post? All you have to do is write about the WOW! ezine or this blog and we'll find you! I do a monthly check on bloglines to see who's mentioning us. Thanks again to everyone who gave us a shout. :)
Believe it or not, we've just dipped into the second half of the year 2008.
Instead of flogging yourself for goals not met, try out New York Times bestselling author Cheryl Richardson's idea, which is to acknowledge the positive steps you've taken so far this year. In her recent newsletter, she suggests that you reflect on the last six months by answering the following questions:
1. What hidden part of you have you awakened this year? 2. What positive changes have you made to your home or office? 3. Are you getting your creative needs met? How? 4. What changes have you made to better honor your integrity? 5. Have you added any small pleasures to your life? If so, what are they? 6. Have you forgiven yourself for something you did that's been bugging you? 7. How have you taken better care of your body, your mind, or your heart? 8. How have you been a better partner, spouse, friend, or co-worker? 9. What have you done to help others improve the quality of their lives? 10. Are you letting things be easy?
If you'd like, share some of the positive changes you've made so far this year. What's working for you?
Andrea Dennin has been creating stories for as long as she can remember. It all started with inventing places and situations for her Barbies to showcase their clothes. Eventually, her ideas escaped to the blank pages of countless notebooks and stayed there. Though recently addicted to flash fiction, she enjoys writing novels and short stories. Andrea has a B.A. in English and is pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a M.A. in Psychology. She enjoys teaching, jewelry making, and hiking. She currently lives in Las Vegas.
If you haven't done so, please read Andrea's entry, The Tenth Wife. Afterward, come back and join us for our interview with Andrea to find out more about her and how she created such a winning read!
WOW:Congratulations for being chosen as a runner-up in the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest! How do you feel?
Andrea: I feel great! I’ve never placed in a contest before, so this is very exciting for me. I couldn't believe all the great things I received when my goody bag arrived. Best of all was a hand-written note addressed to me. It felt like a letter from a friend; like I’d won first prize. It's rare for a runner-up to be recognized that way, in my experience, anyway. I would have been happy with just that, so everything else that came with the card was like a bonus.
WOW:Your characters in the The Tenth Wife were so realistic! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What inspired you to write your entry?
Andrea: What inspired me? Hmm. I can't say one particular person or event inspired such an out-there story. I’d read the guest judge was an agent for romance novels and looked open to zany stories, and I thought why not? I sat down and thought about something fun and light that would still contain a universal truth/struggle that all women can relate to. How many women feel like their spouse puts other things before her? How many let it build over time, then do something crazy because the guy’s clueless? I’m always fascinated by the battles between the sexes and knew a story emphasizing neglect rather than nine other wives might be interesting. And I knew it’d have to be alien because no human woman would be a tenth wife; there would be bloodshed.
WOW:You really succeeded! I had to keep reminding myself that your piece was fantasy and not someone I might know. Is this the first time you’ve been published?
Andrea: Yes. Excitingly enough, this is the first time I've been published. And I feel really blessed to be among the other runners-up and finalists, because all the stories were great! It's wonderful to place with all of these awesome writers!
WOW:You definitely earned it! Your story encompassed the essence of flash fiction: concise and capable of sustaining interest. It certainly held mine! How were you able to achieve this?
Andrea: I had just started writing flash fiction when I found the guidelines for this contest. I had signed up to be a member of an online writer's group specifically for flash fiction and I had no idea what I was really getting into. But everyone in the group was very helpful and honest, so I learned what I was doing wrong. I’d been in this group about two weeks when I saw the contest information. After that, it was just a matter of finding the right idea, then using the ruthless editing skills I’d learned from the group. Because I was shy and new, I didn't show anyone this story. No one critiqued it. I edited it on my own, thinking it was good practice. Still, I wanted the best story represented, so I went over and over and over the story until I could recite it from memory. Only then did I send it in. I knew it was cute and different, but I never expected to place in a contest with only a few weeks worth of experience! Talk about shock!
WOW:You didn’t let your relative inexperience in the genre intimidate you. You went ahead, created a piece, rewrote and edited, and submitted. I’m impressed and encouraged.
I’m also impressed that you’re pursuing both a M.A. in Psychology and a M.F.A in Creative Writing. When do you come up for air? What do you plan to do after you’ve received your degrees?
Andrea: When do I come up for air? Well, I'm actually up for air at the moment, LOL, since I'm on a hiatus from school. Right now, I’m writing full-time, but I plan to start working on the Psych degree this fall and continue on with my MFA in the spring of '09. I'm a writer first and foremost, so I want a job where I have time to write, whether on the weekends or at night, just so I have the energy and time to write. I strive to be published regularly, as both a short story writer and novelist, so energy and time is key.
I also like to teach, and hope to pursue my Ph.D. in English in later years. Then I can teach English and Creative Writing at the college level and write at the same time. Yeah, it sounds ambitious, but I’ve wanted to write since I was twelve; the interest in teaching and counseling came later.
WOW:That’s great that you want to inspire and guide future writers. How about you? What kind of writing inspires you?
Andrea: What kind of writing inspires me? Well, anything with emotions where people deal with changes in their lives--love, loss--anything I can relate to or that affects me. I have to analyze why I'm affected; why a story or character or situation hit me that way. If I'm not emotionally drawn to writing, then it won’t inspire me. That's not to say I don't like science fiction or fantasy, because I do, I love those genres and have great fun writing them. But for me to sit down and write a 80,000 word novel… It's gotta be about people, how they deal with things happening in their lives. I guess that's why a degree in psychology would be natural for me--because I'm nosy. Also, it has to have a satisfying ending. Yeah, I love HEA, but it’s not necessary for a great story. Plath’s “The Bell Jar” really inspired me in my younger years.
WOW:Do you have any current works-in-progress?
Andrea: I have a lot of works-in-progress. Right now, I have more unfinished flash stories than novels and short stories put together. Since I write in almost every genre, I have several works that need to be polished or edited or read by a critique group to see what’s missing. And I hate having unfinished work, so I try to keep it to a small number. But sometimes I’ll get stuck on a particular idea/character/plot that seems dead, but when I go back months later I find it’s still breathing. I have to look at it with fresh eyes and know what needs to be added or edited to get finished. I have two novels I’m working on right now; I hope to finish them and start submitting them to agents before I start my Psych degree in August.
WOW:Your bio mentioned that you started writing stories as a child so that your Barbie dolls had places to showcase their clothes. What were a couple of those stories? Have some of those plots found their way into more recent works?
Andrea: Oh, what a question! I can't recall any specific stories, because I was probably five or six at the time, but I do know a lot of plots revolved around Ken and his car, LOL! They definitely have not worked their way into my recent stuff.
WOW:Do you have any advice for aspiring women writers?
Andrea: Any advice? I still consider myself an aspiring writer, so I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask! But I will say this: if you feel like your life is interfering with your writing, then you’re a writer and you should never let anything stop you. If however, writing interferes with your life, then it's probably a hobby and you should keep a regular job. I can't remember who told me that or if I read it somewhere in one of the many writing books I always read, but it's the best advice I can give.
Like every starting out writer (that I know of) I’ve wondered if I can do it, if I have enough talent, if I have enough passion to sustain me. And most days I still wonder these things and have to remind myself how lucky I am to love something so much. Most people live. But I write.
WOW:I have to ask one last question. Who’s the adorable doggy pal with you in your photo?
Andrea: The puppy in the picture is my dog, Loki. He's almost two years old. I named him after the Norse god of mischief/trickery, hoping he would be sweet. So far, it really hasn't worked, LOL! But I like to include him in most of my pictures because he’s so cute. When I’m writing, sometimes he’ll jump on my lap and play with the keyboard, so I guess you could say he’s my mascot.
WOW: Andrea, it was a pleasure speaking with you. You’re such an inspiration to me and our readers! Thank you so much for such a great interview and we’ll be looking out for more of your work! Good luck!