Wednesday, April 15, 2009

 

Top 10 Joys of Writers

Previously, I shared a list of writers' top ten fears according to a survey noted in A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves. Those same writers were also asked about the joys of writing. Here is that list (with ties for some answers):

1. expressed many ways: the feeling of completeness, of being in sync with the universe, being present in the now, centered, peaceful, calm, being with myself

2. feeling that I entertained the reader, made people laugh, touched someone

3. the feeling of being creative, "in the groove," being an artist

3. telling a story, creating characters, plots

4. connecting with others

4. playing with words, using language

4. having an audience, having other people read or hear my writing

5. expressing myself, putting myself on paper, recording my thoughts

5. being with other writers

6. finding out about myself

6. producing something

7. being published

7. finishing, the feeling of having written

7. leaving a legacy, making a mark on the world

8. becoming a more discerning reader

9. finding out I'm good, that there is promise

10. the surprises, finding out what happens

I notice that many of the joys of writing have little to do with making money (although that's nice). Let the list remind you of all that writing can bring to your life. It definitely gave me a boost today.

--Marcia Peterson

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Monday, March 09, 2009

 

Fueling the creative fire

As I get geared up for offering a few local, free seminars on reconnecting with creativity, I've been diving into a lot of books on writing and, of course, books about creativity. I've been focused on lessons of creativity for the attendees. Of course, one of the elements of creativity I keep running into is the fact that reaching into creativity is often not a linear path.

I spend a lot of time writing and I know how hard I may work on a piece and how much time I may spend editing it. Spinning a creative phrase or teasing up an image. I take pride in what I write and try to fine tune it as much as possible. (Although, admittedly, I don't always catch every mistake much as I would like to!) But frequently, I wish my craft would take a back seat and let my creativity take over. Lately, I've been spending a lot of time over working and over thinking a few queries and essays and not hitting my stride on figuring out the angles to a few pitches. My creativity seemed tapped out, even though words still arrive on the page.

So, after a couple weeks of endless deadlines, frigid days, and children getting sick, I spent last week reconnecting with friends and letting e-mails pile up, instead of sitting in front of a computer. In doing so, I realized how talking with people can add fuel to my creativity. The exchange of ideas can reach inside and re-stoke the flames of creativity.

Laughing and spending time with people has not only helped re-energize me for the upcoming week and its projects, but it has given me insight into a few queries I've been working on.

Such an enjoyable week made me glad that creativity is not linear--and that sometimes we need to walk away from our creative selves to find them again.

---

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms. She is also a freelance writer spending more time each day seeking creativity in every aspect of her day. Even if that happens to be creative sleeping and dreaming.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

 

Interview with WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Second Place Winner, Emily Howson

Emily Howson is a senior at the University of Dayton, the home of humor writer Erma Bombeck. She has been devoted to reading since she was a little girl, but she only recently began to take writing seriously. She finds her storytelling voice in her family--a combination of her grandmother’s approachable charm, her grandfather’s bluster, her mother’s gushing excitement, and her father’s bizarre sense of humor. Her work with professors Stephen Wilhoit and Joseph Pici has nurtured and pruned her abilities. She is interning as an editor with Just Business, Inc. in Dayton, OH, helping to produce performing arts publications. Right now, Emily’s life is full and crazy and wonderful, and she’s spending every moment she can with her roommates and her boyfriend of five years.

Most recently, her stories have appeared in Orpheus, University of Dayton’s literary magazine, and, and the St. Anthony Messenger. She is currently attempting to create a novel for young adults. Emily will graduate in May 2009 with degrees in English and Psychology, and she hopes to pursue a life writing, reading, and editing.

If you haven't done so already, read Emily's award-winning story, Jenny, and then come back and join us for a chat. ;)


WOW: Being the second place winner is a real honor. How did you feel when you found out that you won second place?

Emily: I was actually in a bit of shock, thinking, Me? Really? But then I got very excited and ran downstairs to tell my roommates. This was somewhat early in the morning, so I think my exuberance may have fallen on some sleeping (and therefore annoyed, though not deaf) ears.

WOW: We share a common city. I was born in Lancaster, Ohio. Often we're shaped by the places we're raised. I think of Lancaster as a smaller, less-violent city, but it's been a few years since I've spent any time there. Did Lancaster have any influence on your story? Do you feel that being from there gave you a big town or a small town feeling?

Emily: How cool that we share a city! Most people outside of Ohio (and even plenty inside of it) have never ever heard of Lancaster. Anyway, I don't think Lancaster has probably changed much. It's still pretty small, pretty safe, though it finally has a Wal-Mart which is starting to kill the small-town locally-owned cobble-stone feel to some parts of it--small places just can't compete with 24-hr Walgreens and all that. But I think growing up in Lancaster (we moved there when I was in first grade) has certainly given me a perspective that is small-town and that comes out in my stories, including Jenny. I also think working at a country club for a couple summers had a lot to do with Jenny.

WOW: I remember the cobble-stone streets. I'm amazed that you have any time for writing. I admire your energy. Which do you find most challenging: being a college student, an intern for Just Business, managing your social life or finding time to write?

Emily: Finding time to write ranks second on my list of "Most Challenging Things to Do." It's right below "Dance gracefully" (think puppet in a windstorm) and right above "Eat all my vegetables and fruits." Being a college student and working (along with my internship, I also tutor writing at UD's Write Place) and managing my social life are easier because they involve external motivations (i.e., other people). But writing is all me--I either write or I don't. Unfortunately, actually sitting down and writing usually gets tossed to the wayside. So I do a lot of daydreaming/writing-in-my-head/dreamstorming (whatever you want to call it) and scribble ideas and phrases down all over the place. If and when do find time to write, I try to turn those scribbles into stories. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

WOW: Wow, I thought I juggled a busy schedule. I think you've hit onto something about writing--even when we share what we've written, the creation has to be self-motivated. What did you base Jenny on? Did you have a murder that touched your life? Was the color red representative of her death?

Emily: I'm not sure I really based Jenny on anything in particular. I've led a life pretty untouched by tragedy. There's a lot of stuff I thankfully haven't had to learn about life and about myself. So, no murders. I wanted to use the color red for a couple of different reasons, and one of them had to with its association with blood/injury/death. But it's also a popular lingerie color, and one our society associates with sex, and sexy women. So maybe there are a lot of ways for women to die, and getting shot in a gas station robbery is just one very literal way.

WOW: You really got into the narrator's head. How hard was it to write from the male perspective?

Emily: Writing from the male perspective wasn't too hard. Whether I did so accurately or not is up for grabs. I guess men and women think differently and view the world differently, but I think the degree of difference depends on what man and what woman. The line blurs sometimes, and in some situations. For instance, if a train is seconds from plowing you in the face, man or woman, we'd probably all think the same thing. The narrating voice of "Jenny" is rather simple, but I'm not sure about the degree to which that simplicity is a result of his personality, his socio-economic background, his education level, his male sex, or his masculine gender.

WOW: Women are from Venus, (laughs). Who has most inspired you in your writing? Who is your favorite author?

Emily: Tough question. My family has certainly encouraged my writing, but as for inspiration, I have difficulty pinpointing any one person. At different stages in my life and in my writing, different writers have played a huge role. In 2nd grade or so, for instance, the authors (under the name Carolyn Keene) who wrote the Nancy Drew books were my heroes. I wanted to write books just like them for girls just like me. Then I moved on to a fantasy stage in my teens, and in that genre, Philip Pullman became my new hero and inspiration. These days I am inspired by writers with distinct, humorous, and memorable voices. I like Melissa Bank, and James Thurber, and Oscar Wilde. But every time I read something good, I get inspired. I'm a pushover, really.

WOW: I see you're working on a YA novel, why did you choose that age group? Do you feel it's harder to write short stories or novel chapters?

Emily: I chose the YA age group because I have so many good memories of stories when I was that age. I'd like to enchant younger readers in the same way that I was enchanted. In terms of the writing process, I think novel chapters can be easier, because they don't have to be perfectly complete in and of themselves. Short stories are a fascinating medium, but they challenge me to be to-the-point and use the right word instead of many words. I feel a little more freedom with novel chapters, yet at the same time; I really ought to consider novel chapters more like short stories. I'm going to go back and have to edit a lot of the chaff later on because I just let myself go!

WOW: It seems that no matter how tight we write, there's always plenty of revision that needs done. Thank you, Emily for the interview. You've made me realize no matter how busy I am I need to find time to write. I believe you'll be an inspiration to our WOW readers. Do you have a final thought for writers who'd like to enter writing contests?

Emily: Click send, even though it can be terrifying. Share your writing. The first time I allowed anyone (and I mean anyone) to read some of my writing, I was literally shaking all over. I still get nervous, though the shaking has stopped. But if your story is good, and it fits the contest, by all means - send it in! The worst that can happen? You'll lose a couple dollars and know just that much more about yourself (i.e., you were brave enough to click send!)


If you haven't already done so please read Emily's story "Jenny" at http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/25-FE1-Summer08Contest.html



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Sunday, February 17, 2008

 

Bucking the Trends

It never fails. Once a Harry Potter-like phenomenon hits, dozens of YA books about wizards and magic follow. Some are successful, while others fall into literary oblivion. A huge chick lit book is made into a major motion picture with Hollywood's hottest stars slated to star in it? Expect chick lit to fill the bookshelves in the next year. This is what happens when trends hit the publishing industry. A lot of new writers will get excited and want to jump on the latest bandwagon, prompting scores of them to blindly send out queries and/or manuscripts, explaining why their book is better than the current bestseller.

This is not always the best approach and here's why:

1. Publishing is a slow business: By the time a writer gets a final draft of a manuscript finished, it could be at least six months to a year after the hot new trend debuts. (If it only takes one month to churn out a "polished" manuscript, there's small chance it's really polished.) Once you start on the querying road, it could be another six months to a year before you get a "yes" from an agent or publisher and then another year or two until the book is actually published. Guess what? The trend is probably dead by then.

2. The trend is not really your style: Say the trend is romance with a quirky heroine; she swears like a sailor and chain smokes, but is really kind to puppies and elderly ladies. If this is right up your alley, it'll show with each enthusiastic word you put on paper. If you're more the crime scene analyst type who's trying to catch the latest serial killer and you force yourself to write about the quirky heroine, chances are she won't ring true and you'll hate every word you have to write about her.

3. Many agents aren't interested in the latest trends: While some agents leap onto the latest bandwagon, some are more concerned with writing that will last the test of time, writing that will become the next generation's classics. The last thing they want to see is the next Narnia chronicle; they want a hero who readers remember long after they close the book.

Instead of spending the next year or two of your life hoping to publish a book whose premise will be outdated and tired by the time readers get their hands on it, spend it crafting a book whose characters you love, whose story is true and whose trend is timelessness.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

 

Boom...Crash...Bang...Screech...Life!

by Valerie Fentress

There always seems to be this continuous argument about whether or not writer's block exists. Each writer has their opinion, and each has their tricks to avoid such a phenomenon. But I must say I believe less in writers block and more in Life Block from the events surrounding me in the last few weeks.

It's not that my creative spark is running on the last piece of coal, but more that my mind is overwhelmed with the crazy stuff going on at my house. I won't go into detail, but I must say I feel like a character in one of my own stories heading toward the climax. Everything that could be going wrong is, and there doesn't seem to be a way out.

But how do we conquer these times of Life Block and step back into our writing life with more inspiration?

Part of it is taking the time to wade through the craziness of our own lives before sitting down at the PC to crank out character, plot, and word count. If we try to force out the things that are vital to our WIP without taking care of the nit picky items surrounding us, we won't be able to deliver quality work. I know for me the nasty to do list on the fridge tends to haunt me while I'm at my keyboard, and no matter how many words I want to get done in a day I fall short because my mind is on other things.

So sometimes you have to take a step back from the keyboard and deal with the odds and ends piling up around you in order to sit down with your WIP and have a clear head to pump out the best you can offer.

Is there something weighing on your mind, this Monday morning? Something that's keeping you from those amazing words you know are in your head. My suggestion is to take the time to push through those odds and ends in order to let your creative mind fly.


Happy Writing!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

 

It May Take Too Much Time

I worry about the amount of time that good writing takes, sometimes letting it stop me from writing anything at all. Will trying to put together this potential essay be a waste of time, I'll wonder? Won't crafting that marketable article or story take up too much time, I'll think. I'm not the fastest writer. Rather, I should say, at this point it often takes a lot of rewrites to get it right.

Looking through an old folder recently, I came across a heavily marked draft of some work, a piece of writing now finished, which I am proud of in its final form. I forgot how much work had gone into that project until I saw evidence of all the editing. Some writing just takes a lot of pondering and polishing, and viewing those particular pages reminded me that the effort in that case was well worth it.

Writers will freely admit they don't bang out first drafts that are ready to go out into the world as soon as the ink dries. Therefore, there is no need to expect perfect first pages. A certain amount of changes will be needed. If you need a lot of time to get a piece right, I now tell myself, then so be it. When it's done, you will have something in hand you're pleased with, even if it took some effort, perhaps more effort than it might take someone else.

Good writing takes time. It’s okay to create many drafts before there is something worthy to show. No one sees the process! No one knows about the earlier drafts! What matters is that you end up with a finished product that's good--no matter how long it took you to get there.

Plus, as Ernest Hemingway said, "It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way."

-MP

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

 

Preheat the Oven to 375F and Write!

Many things simply go together naturally. Song and dance. Needle and thread. Calvin and his trusty sidekick, Hobbes. And for me, it’s food and writing.

Many people have their own special writing rituals. Some have unique pens while others wear special hats. Some play music while others light specific candles. I personally like to fire up Pomeroy (my happy little Mac) and sit down with some yummy food to get my creative juices moving. And since becoming a vegan 8 months ago, so many new foods have been opened up to me and made prep time for writing all that more exciting, never mind the fact I’m healthier than I ever have been and I’m making a difference in the lives of animals all at the same time!

Being a vegan means I avoid the use of all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. This not only benefits the animals, but also other people and the environment. Luckily for me and my writing, being vegan doesn’t mean I have to avoid tasty snacks. True, I might occasionally nosh on carrots or raw almonds, but more often than not, I’ll bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies or have a bowl of Soy Dream soy ice cream (butter pecan is tops!), and this weekend I’m going to make the dreamiest of berry muffins and am including the recipe for you below.

Today also just so happens to be World Vegan Day. Do you want to open up new doors to your food (and quite possibly your writing!)? Then I challenge you to be vegan for a day. What have you got to lose? If anything, I’d love to have you write about it.

Vegan Banana Berry Muffins

2 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas)
½ cup maple syrup
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup water
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, or cranberries

1. Heat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine remaining ingredients, except berries. Pour this into flour mixture and stir until just combined. (Do not stir any longer, or muffins might be tough).

3. Add berries and stir to distribute them throughout the batter. Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins to 2/3 full. (You can line the muffin tin with paper or foil liners instead of greasing).

4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until muffin are risen, firm and slightly golden on top.

For more sinfully delicious (and fat free) vegan eats and treats, visit http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/



Debbie

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Monday, September 10, 2007

 

Find Your Striker


I’m one soccer mom among many. I’ve been cheering kids on for eight years this season. But I’m proud to say I’m a civilized one. I don’t yell at kids when they err or shout critiques across the field. I do know a few “back-seat blabbermouths” though. I’d like to muzzle them.

Being well-mannered is easy; we just focus on the positives: the good efforts, the tricky foot maneuvers, head shots, dribbles, saves, and dashes down the field to shoot a goal (whether successful or not). The plays we’re not expected to focus on are those weaker ones that make us cringe and stifle comments--the half-Charlie-Browns where the cleat completely misses the ball, the oooh-that-player’s-leg-deflected-the-ball-into-her-own-goal mishap, the keeper’s foibles when the ball gets by and rolls slowly into the goal, or any general human error. Everyone makes them, and kids on the field feel far more dreadful than the highly-paid Beckhams when they mess up.

Being a soccer parent is a lot like being an editor. In the same way that we might cheer kids forward on the field to shoot for the right goal, editors want to cheer writers forward in their work, whether they’re submitting queries, contest entries, or full submissions. We never want to discourage anyone from joining a team or playing through the toughest times. When we ask for submissions here at WOW!, we ask that prospective freelancers study the ezine to gather a sense of our voice, our focus, and our monthly themes. I think that’s the universal request in other markets. No one would ever say, “okay, take that manuscript and just shoot for all the markets, simultaneously. Eventually, one will end up on the right desk”; of course not!

All writers have days where submissions and queries “make goals”; but we also miss the target markets at times. It matters little whether a writer has many years under her pen or keyboard. What matters most is that writers never give up, never stop moving toward their personal, professional, and other goals. Sometimes, though, we need to step off the field for a water break, a walk, a day off, or a full fingertip-and-muse recharge. At some point, chocolate just isn’t enough.

Scrimmaging with kids is a lot like sending our work out. Each one of us looks down the field (researches market guides), figures out the best path to take (locates the name of a specific editor to whom we might address a cover letter or query), and passes the ball (written work) straight toward the correct striker (editor) who will then take a written work and shoot it straight for the goal (target market). Sounds simple, here, right?

It’s sometimes easy to overlook all the possible markets. It also takes time to research the markets. Every writer needs to check out submission guidelines and pay attention to any tips provided by editors, no matter where we’re at in our careers. I sent my last piece out in a huge rush, so it came back fairly quickly. If only I’d taken the time to research a better goal, I wouldn’t have ended up reading a rejection notice with a hand-written note, “Please continue to keep us in mind!” Well, I can’t be mad at any other players. I can only cringe at my poor aim. Is there such a thing as a “writer’s cheer” or a poem?

Would any of you like try to write one? I’m not a poet. But I enjoy reading them from time to time.

Cheers to each of you for taking the time to shoot for the right goal!

Sue ;-P

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

 

I am a writer!

And so are you. Yet so many times when asked what we do, we don't tell about being writers. I think that's because we know the next question will be "what have you published?" And it's really hard when we have to say nothing.

But you know what? You really are a writer, even if you haven't been published. Being published isn't what makes us a writer. Writing is. If you are learning your craft, writing and putting ideas on paper then you are a writer. Being published is just one of the things we do as a writer. Many writers don't even care about publication, they may just want to leave a bit of today for the future generations of their family.

It took me a long time to announce to the world I was a writer. The first time I admitted to being a writer, my mouth turned dry and my heart pounded so hard I thought my chest would burst. And yes, it was hard to say I'd not been published. But the more we think of ourselves as writers, the more writerly we become. Yes, I still have days when I don't feel like a writer but they are becoming fewer and far between.

Today I challenge each of you to tell someone that you are a writer. Start thinking of yourself as a writer and others will too.

Jean

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