Sunday, February 21, 2010

 

Need Writing Inspiration? Think Celebration!

by LuAnn Schindler

Writers discover inspiration in the strangest spots. Actually, stretching intellectual limits beyond the typical-article-idea mill will result in increased sales. It may also mean you guide your creative juices in a new direction and work in a new genre.

One of my favorite ways to increase the bottom line and develop timely stories and articles includes perusing lists of monthly holidays and celebrations. Some are sponsored by organizations promoting an idea or cause while increasing awareness; others are fun days that may only be celebrated by a handful of observers.

But, for writers, these celebrations are the perfect fodder for a researchable and marketable idea, and sometimes, they allow me to write something for fun...and still get paid!

Need examples? Let's take a look at some of February's celebrations. The second month of the year isn't just a time to celebration Valentine's Day or the Super Bowl.
  • Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month - Sponsored by House Rabbit Society (HRS) and Petfinder, the group encourages the adoption of rabbits that have been rescued. Possible story angles: interview someone who adopted a rabbit for a local paper, create a list article showing why rabbits make wonderful house pets, write a children's story about an adopted rabbit.
  • National Cherry Month - Why not write a health article touting the health benefits of cherries? Have a great cherry recipe? I do. I had my recipe for Cherry Pie Cake published in a cookbook. Or what about settling the argument about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree in an article or prose piece for a children's magazine?
  • Just Say No To Powerpoint Week (February 7 - 13) - Pen an article for a local newspaper showing the pro's and con's of using PowerPoint in the classroom. Or submit an editorial piece of work to a business magazine that shows how the presentation software is misused in the business world. Or, why not write a how-to list that shows the best methods for creating a presentation for an educational outlet.
  • Cowboy Poetry Week - (February 23 - 28) - Know any cowboy poets? I do, and let me tell you, they have many funny stories about rural life. Interview one for a writing magazine. Or better yet, try your hand at penning the poetic form.
  • National Condom Day - February 14 - The American Social Health Association recognizes this day for promoting healthy choices. How about a factual article with relevent examples for a teen magazine. What about a comparison of condom types and brands? Sounds like an good article for both men's and women's magazines.
  • National Tooth Fairy Day - February 28 - Use the tooth fairy to explain why dental hygiene is important. For a children's magazine, why not compare and contrast mythical do-gooders (the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc.). Write a personal essay about when you figured out how the tooth fairy made the money-for tooth trade.

Don't feel limited to writing something in your usual genre. Use these creative and informative celebrations to build a lucrative database of ideas!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

 

Beating Writer's Block

by LuAnn Schindler

Stuck in a rut and unsure of how to get the creative muses to delight you once again? Try these surefire sensory tips that will let the words flow.
  • Move it. When I lose concentration or when the words don't come easily, I move to a new location. Sometimes, I take my laptop and move from my office to the kitchen or bedroom. Other times, I saunter out to my deck and take in what's happening outside. And yet on other occasions, putting words on paper instead of typing, makes all the difference.
  • Look around. Pictures may be worth a thousand words. Or maybe even an entire novel! Those times when I can't seem to get a handle on a character trait, I look through my photo albums and look at what's going on. Another visual attack on writer's block is to visit a museum. You'll be amazed at how details stand out.
  • Read it. When I find a publication I think I would like to write for and I can't come up with a topic that will translate into a sale, I peruse the newspaper and look at every advertisement. I've come up with several articles from ideas generated off a 2x2 ad.
  • Listen carefully. Working in complete silence does not bother me, but when I'm developing ideas, I like music to blare in the background. I have an eclectic mix on my iPod, and it generally takes a couple songs to pump up the volume - and the possibilities.
  • Taste it. Trying to come up with specific details? I'll grab a piece of fruit and slowly note the details of what I'm tasting. I usually amass a sizable list of words I can add to what I'm working on.

How do you beat writer's block?

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Friday, November 13, 2009

 

Writers' Conference Anxiety

This weekend, I am going to a one-day SCBWI-IL workshop in Chicago called Prairie Writers' Day. Is it a good idea to travel to a writing conference on Friday the 13th? Let's hope so! But even it if was a different date with no superstitions, I would still have "writers' conference anxiety!"

I shouldn't have this problem--I've planned and taken part in writers' conferences before. I even wrote an article for WOW! about how to be prepared for a writing conference and get the most bang out of your buck. But I still seem to suffer from anxiety before every writers' conference.

Here's why I think this happens to me: 1. I'm too busy to properly prepare myself for the conference. So, I don't know the speakers, schedule, or venue as well as I should. 2. And this is the biggie. . .I worry about what I will do if I meet an editor/agent in the bathroom or at lunch or in the hallway. It's almost like meeting a celebrity, especially since this person, if she likes your work, has the potential to change your life.

So, while I am sitting in the workshops and lectures, dutifully taking notes, I am trying to come up with some sort of brilliant thing to say to this person, so that I do not sound desperate or pushy or weird. But I want to be confident and funny and leave an impression. Believe me, all the worry, anxiety, and half-eaten lunches have still not created a witty opening line. Usually, I say something like: "I really enjoyed your talk."

And she says, "Thanks."

That's it--that's it. Then another person at the lunch table will say something about one of their clients or the latest award-winning book or even the editor's favorite TV show, and the editor will eventually ask the writer, "So, what do you write?" If that could only be me. . .

When I follow with my query letter after the conference, I will write something personal about the talk or the lunch table (even though I'm sure I made no impression). Hopefully, my work can stand alone as it should!

So, I am telling myself this time, I am going to this conference, leaving on Friday the 13th of all days, with a new attitude. I am going to have fun with my writing critique group members, celebrate and talk about writing, and soak up as much information and inspiration as I can. If I meet a speaker in the hallway or in the bathroom, I am not going to worry about being witty or wise or standing out in the crowd. (I am also NOT going to picture the person in his or her underwear as is the common advice for people who suffer from anxiety when giving speeches.) I am just going to say the first thing that comes out of my mouth--just like I would say to anyone I meet while waiting in one of the longest bathroom lines ever when you are at a children's writers' conference. (For those of you who don't know--at least 95% women, at least.)

I really, really am.
(I'll let you know how it goes.)

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
http://margodill.com/blog/
"Read These Books and Use Them"

photo by rhcrayon www.flickr.com

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Friday, September 11, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: My Ultimate Inspiration, Guest Post by Kim Smith

My Ultimate Inspiration

by Kim Smith

Like many writers, I often hit a stumbling block, or ten, when it comes to making time to sit down and write. Either I lose interest in my current project, or I am too busy or tired, or most likely, I just can't think of anything interesting to say.

However, there is something that happens, albeit infrequently, in my life that is guaranteed to spur me to write pages upon pages of inspired words, and this headiness usually lasts for a few months.

I'm talking about placing in, or glory be, actually winning a creative writing competition. In recent weeks I was lucky enough (dare I say talented enough?) to place second and fourth in two well-known provincial writing competitions. I think my screams of joy were probably heard well into the next town.

After those first dizzying days of recognition, I came to several realizations. One: I could finally admit to myself that I am a good writer (and oh, it's so difficult to say that) and that my skills as such are real, and not merely some weird cosmic fluke. Two: Winning makes me want to write MORE! Of this, I have no doubt.

All sorts of ideas and visions are jostling about in my head; I'm jotting down dozens of potential story plots. I've enrolled in an online writing class AND an online critique group. I've pulled every book on writing from the bookshelves, and am scouring the pages for information, tips, and advice, anything that will improve my writing skills. And I'm even, gasp, considering writing an anthology of short stories. To this end, I've taken the plunge and signed up for NaNoWriMo, something I would never have considered a few short months ago.

For me, this is nothing short of amazing. Only a few weeks ago I was suffering from the "I'm not very good. I'll never get anywhere with this," mentality, and had retreated to a large stack of novels and an equally large stash of chocolate. Little did I know that I was soon to receive those two fateful emails titled, "Congratulations!"

Such is the adrenalin rush of being recognized as a 'real' writer. It doesn't happen often, and even if it never happens again, I will still plug along and write my stories. But while the thrill lasts, I'm making the most of it, and perhaps I'll churn out a first-place story this time - you never know!


Kim lives in the country with one needy dog, three perfect cats, one long-suffering husband, and far too many chickens. She tries to write on a regular basis after a suffering a writer's block of thirty years.

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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Saturday, March 14, 2009

 

Words of Wisdom

by LuAnn Schindler

The other day, I told one of my friends that I needed some inspiration. Usually, it's everywhere, but on that particular day, I didn't feel it.

The next day, I tore off the page on my Page-A-Day calendar and found these wonderful gems about writing. And yup, they provided a bit of inspiration.

  • Never do a "pot boiler." Let one of your best things go to boil the pot. ~~ O. Henry
  • Originality does not mean oddity, but freshness. It means vitality, not novelty.~~ Hapgood
  • Pluck feathers from the wings of your imagination, and stick them in the tail of your judgment. ~~ Horace Greeley
  • Quintessence approximates genius. Gather much thought into few words. ~~Schopenhauer
  • Revise. Revise. Revise. ~~ E.E. Hale
  • The first principle of composition of whatever sort is that it should be natural and appear to have happened so. ~~Frederick Macmonnies

Sometimes, reading the words of others sets of a creative domino effect. My calendar certainly did for me!

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Monday, January 05, 2009

 

Someday is today

"I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's."
-Henry Moore


Perhaps you've made some New Year's resolutions—big goals like writing a book, losing 20 pounds, or finally getting organized. So how do these goals come to pass? By daily attention.

The choices we make each day are what add up to a year-end result. Think: What could you give up in the next 12 hours to fit in some writing? How could you eat lighter just for this day? What if you set a timer for 15 minutes and cleaned up one space?

When you realize that your days are the building blocks of a year's dream, you won’t let them slip by. Doing something now, even a small change or a baby step, will add up. Over the course of twelve months—almost imperceptibly—real progress will be made.

What could you resolve to do today?

--MP

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

 

What You Can Learn from NaNoWriMo Winners

National Novel Writing Month ends today, so I thought I'd share an article with some final thoughts about NaNoWriMo. How did everyone do with the challenge this year? Any success stories to discuss? :) --MP

by Rochelle Melander

...NaNoWriMo winners will finish a 50,000-word novel by midnight on November 30th. Earlier this month, I interviewed several NaNoWriMo Winners by email. Every writer can learn something from the success of these writers. Here are my favorite tips:

1. Busy is not an excuse. In fact, many of the NaNoWriMo Winners keep chaotic schedules. Winner Elizabeth McKinney from Winston-Salem wrote her novel while also writing professionally for her full-time job. Winner Nicole Gustasa from California said, “Not only did I finish National Novel Writing Month last year, but I did it while I was moving, finalizing my divorce and working a 60-hour a week job!” Never whine about being too busy to write. If you want to write, you’ll find time to write.

2. No MFA? No problem. Many of the wannabe writers I meet put off their writing careers until they can get more education or experience. Don’t wait. Educate yourself by reading and attending workshops. Get experience by writing. Winner Susan Drolet said, “When I actually finished an entire novel, I realized that you don't have to be a professional writer or have a degree in journalism to put words together to make a coherent story. I am so proud of my accomplishment!”

3. Success creates success. Every NaNoWriMo winner I talked to was proud of their 50,000-word accomplishment—and they should be. NaNoWriMo success boosted the winners’ writing confidence and spilled over into other areas as well. Winner Kristine Augustyn said, "Because I actually completed the novel I feel that I can do many more things. It has given me greater confidence and inspiration and in turn I have inspired others to try things." Kristine gained the confidence to start a new business, Badge of Intent. For me, the discipline of writing gave me the knowledge and the confidence to create and stick to an exercise program.

You don’t need to be a National Novel Writing Month winner to know what successful writers know. Take a look at your own writing successes. Perhaps you committed to and finished a journaling program. Maybe you finished a big writing project on time. Or you got that first big article published. Ask your self, “What practices led to that success?” Make a list. Do more of the same—and you will be more successful. It’s that simple.

Resources:
Visit the National Novel Writing Month website for more success stories.
Kristine Augustyn’s website is Badge of Intent.

Right Now! Coach Rochelle Melander supports people in writing to transform their lives and businesses. If you’re ready to establish credibility, make more money, and market your work by writing a book, blog, or Web site, get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.rightnowcoach.com

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

 

Quote Starters

When you're not sure what to write about, pondering a quotation can be a useful way to get started. The easiest thing to do is pick a quote you like and let yourself freewrite for ten or fifteen minutes. When you're done, you'll probably find the makings of an essay, article, or short story!

Below are some quotes you can use to spark your writing. Take a serious or a humorous approach with your response, whatever you prefer. I can envision some good stuff coming from any one of them.

For fun, try picking a number between one and ten, then doing a timed freewrite based on the corresponding numbered quote below.


1. "The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well." -Joe Ancis

2. "The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3. "If you have a job without aggravations, you don’t have a job." -Malcom Forbes

4. "There is no such thing as 'fun for the whole family'." -Jerry Seinfeld

5. "The beginning is always today." -Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

6. "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." -Benjamin Franklin

7. "Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?" -Phyllis Diller

8. "Ever notice that 'What the hell' is always the right decision?" -Marilyn Monroe

9. "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." –Margaret Thatcher

10. "Only time can heal your broken heart, just as only time can heal his broken arms and legs." -Miss Piggy

--MP

*image courtesy of tomswift46, flickr.com

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Monday, August 18, 2008

 

Write Now!

It's not often that inspiration shows up on my mental doorstep, insisting I stop whatever I'm doing and indulge the urge to spill creative juice all over the page.

As a matter of fact, I haven't had a creative writing burst in years. Sure, I've penned articles, interviewed authors, and blathered about one thing or another in blog posts, but I'm talking about the act of storytelling--the writing process that makes my heart sing.

I miss the early mornings when I dove headfirst into the first draft of my memoir, The Break-Up Diet and the next time I looked up from the screen it was dinnertime and my husband was standing over me asking, "Have you eaten or had anything to drink today?" It always felt like waking up from a dream and realizing the world was still functioning outside of my writing bubble. I don't think I've ever been quite so content as when the images were forming in my mind and the words were filling the pages.

A couple days ago, inspiration showed up. The scenes of a new book flowed through my head: the settings, the characters, the dialogue--it all came in a rush like water over a broken levee. I stared at the ceiling of my bedroom and it continued from 1:30am to 3am when I finally willed it to stop, promising I would get up and write it all down in the morning.

But I didn't.

When morning came, there were too many other things that needed my attention. Duties. Responsibilities. The never-ending, daily To Do List. I've always honored my commitments to others before my needs, but I can't help feeling a little slighted--even when it's my own doing.

So, I've decided I'm going to give myself permission to write because it makes me happy. I've promised my muse that I will enter NaNoWriMo this November. And it's a promise I intend to keep.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

 

Positive Changes Inventory

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?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

 

I'm From...Finding writing topics

by LuAnn Schindler

When I was a high school English teacher, one of my favorite activities to kick off the school year was when each student would write a poem that was titled I'm From....followed by a single word that described his or her personality.

The poem followed the following format:
  • Stanza 1 listed foods or drinks that we liked or had specific memories attached
  • Stanza 2 listed tangible items that are significant
  • Stanza 3 described the area where each person lives - either the house or the area in general
  • Stanza 4 offered a look at people who have made a difference in each person's life
  • Stanza 5 contains a list of phrases that each person grew up hearing

My model for the students looked like this:

I'm From....Individuality

I'm from German chocolate cake for my birthday, pickled cherries, any Swedish dish (as long as Grandma Larson made it), sliced tomatoes, and tall glasses of iced tea laced with a lemon wedge.

I'm from my Josie and the Pussycats diary, a football autographed by the Husker football team, an emerald ring passed to the oldest granddaughter, and an extensive collection of 45s.

I'm from an oak-lined, middle-class neighborhood in small town Nebraska, where people left their houses and cars unlocked, where we'd play outside until the moon glistened in the evening sky, and neighbors were friendly.

I'm from god, my parents, sister, favorite aunt, and impressionable teachers.

I'm from groovy, far out, peace, and if so and so jumped off a bridge, would you follow?

Throughout the year, we would return to the writing exercise and pull one of the topics for a brainstorming session. Eventually, the topic would evolve into another story, poem, or sketch filled with details.

I wrote with my students and shared my writing as a model. My simplistic poem produced an essay about a favorite teacher that eventually was printed in an anthology, a poem about playing games as a child, and a sketch about a birthday party.

Inspiration is everywhere. Pulling particular pieces of our lives together to shape a story or other writing form is easy if you know where to look. Give this exercise a try and see what old memories and new pieces you produce!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

 

Need Some More Inspiration? Go Fly A Kite

By Jill Earl

On a Saturday earlier this month, I found myself up before the crack of dawn heading to the outskirts of Ocean City, a resort town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’d been invited by Lynn, a close friend, and jumped at the chance to get away for an overnight to her parents’ place. Great opportunity for inspiration to strike, which it did of course.

Now, I don’t do the beach, prefer to take it in small doses. Actually, I don’t do summer---the heat, the humidity---the heat. In fact, if I could hibernate from June until the end of September, I’d be fine.

Anyway, Lynn, her foster son D’Andre, Paul and I reached the retirement community Lynn’s parents’ live in and settled in to luxury. We rested, had great conversations, ate wonderfully big breakfasts like waffles and french toast in the sun room, saw a great blue heron as we explored the nature reserve, and went to the beach. We were caught in a huge thunderstorm on the boardwalk, trapped in a chocolate shop for an hour or so. A chocoholic’s fantasy, with samples.

Sunday found us heading for the dunes of Fenwick Island in Delaware, a short drive away. Under the gaze of curious sunbathers, we launched the trio of kites Lynn always keeps in her car’s trunk. I got the seagull one, and after some false starts, it soared skywards. It was so very cool watching it catch the air currents, rising higher and higher. Even better, the kite caught the attention of real gulls, who drifted in the check out the newcomer. The kite stayed airborne for a good long time, and when I was done, it glided to a perfect landing on the sand. We headed back late, sad to return. But I came back with some great ideas.

Take advantage of inspiration, keep that notepad handy to jot down ideas. You’ll never know when it’ll strike.

Maybe even when you’re flying a kite.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

 

Another dose of inspiration

by LuAnn Schindler

I'm working on some queries this morning, and I'll show you how I came up with some of the ideas I'm pitching. Inspiration is everywhere!

Sometimes, you need to step outside your comfort zone and write. When I taught creative writing for a local community college, I could write a couple poems during a class period and work on revisions later. Poetry was easy for me and I wrote a lot of them. Of course, now most of those pages are in three-ring binders and need more revisions. Later in my writing life, I became more interested in newspaper and magazine writing. I like telling a story through nonfiction. I haven't written a poem in five years. It seemed like the muse had disappeared. But recently, I stumbled upon a contest for a 50-word narrative poem. I opened my binders and found a selection that I thought told a solid story in limited words. But I still revised some here and there and submitted it. Stepping back into the poetry shoes wasn't an easy fit, but it opened a shoebox full of ideas. And hopefully, the contest judges will appreciate my efforts, too!

Yesterday, when I was cleaning my office, I found an old notebook from my teaching days that I used for brainstorming. When I opened the pages, I discovered a list of topic ideas using a method I used when I taught writing and when I first started freelancing. It works like this: Across the top of a page, I write 10 topics I'm interested in. Underneath each of those, I list 10 subtopics. Then I use the subtopics as the headings on a new sheet of paper and list 10 more subtopics. You can keep using the subheads as new headings until you run out of ideas. I literally had hundreds of ideas in this notebook. As I was flipping through these pages, I found a topic that I just had received a press release about, did a bit more research and drafted a query. This morning, I'll be emailing it to an editor at a national food magazine.

The new phone books arrived the other day. I was flipping through the yellow pages because I needed to find someone to fix my vehicle. On my way to the automotive section, I found an ad for a new air conditioning business. Since the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer heat will soon be upon us, I called and asked about tips for preparing the air conditioning unit for summer use. Then, I wrote a short article and sent it to the local paper. If you leaf through the pages, all kinds of article ideas stand out.

And sometimes, you just need to take a break. This is a hard one for me to do because if I'm not writing, I feel like I'm wasting time. But, a break - an afternoon outing with friends or family, time away from the computer and email, reading a book, exercising, cooking - can reignite the inspiration. The tricky part will be giving yourself permission to relax and take some time off. Hey, there's a possible article idea in that thought!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

 

Finding Inspiration - Again

by LuAnn Schindler

Need help finding inspiration for stories or articles? Here are four additional ways to jumpstart your creative muse.

Sure, you don't want your inbox flooded with junk email, but by subscribing to various e-newsletters, you should be able to find a wealth of information that leads to inspiration. I have been trying to break into the food writing market. I subscribed to several cooking newsletters from reputable sites, including Chef 2 Chef and Hungry Girl. The leads, and in some instances, the discussion boards, have offered a bounty of ideas. I even started writing a food blog that includes a specific food for each entry and shares the history of the delicacy and recipes.

Travel writing can be a tough market to break into, but consider traveling the area you live in. Consider how your travels fit other genres, too: restaurant reviews, human interest stories, a historical overview of an event or place. Visiting new or even older establishments in your town or state can spark all kinds of ideas. In a town I formerly lived in, there is a manufacturing plant that makes the yard flags that utility companies use to mark water lines, utility lines, etc. They are the largest manufacturer in the world. A quick phone call and a tour of the plant led to an article that was featured in a regional magazine and a large pay check.

Is there a college or university located near your residence? Check out the website and sign up for press releases. When you consider the variety of events that occur on campus, you have a good chance of finding something that sparks your interest for an article or story. A faction in the local university's agriculture department led me to an article about the poultry industry.

Consider nonfiction as a spark. I like to look through the history books when I visit bookstores, and while thumbing through a book about jazz, I discovered a singer from my home state. After digging a little deeper, I found out she grew up in a small town not too far from where I resided. That inspiration led to a story about this jazz singer and also opened the door to additional articles with the magazine who bought the singer's bio.

Inspiration is everywhere. The power of observation and curiosity can lead you to your next story.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

 

Getting Ideas from Total Strangers

Writers often hear the question "Where do you get your ideas?" The more famous you are, the more often you probably hear it. We can get ideas and find inspiration from so many different places. Maybe you read the newspaper every day to spark a story idea or you tackle a tried-and-true storyline from a fresh angle. It doesn't matter where the ideas come from, it only matters that you use them wisely.

One of my favorite ways to get ideas is to people watch. For one thing, it gets me out of the house and out of what can be solitary confinement. You can go to the park, the bookstore, coffee shop, mall...anywhere that a large and varied number of people are likely to be. Then just sit and watch them (but don't be obvious!).

Although these people are total strangers and I don't know a thing about them, I make up stories based on what they're doing or eating or drinking. The woman playing with her baby? She can either be a stay-at-home-mom who loves to read and garden in her spare time or she can be incredibly unhappy and on the verge of divorcing her husband. Why is she ready to leave her husband? That's where it gets interesting...maybe she discovered he was unfaithful or maybe she's romantically involved with someone else. Perhaps his family has never accepted her and now that she's a mother, she can't stand to have her daughter grow up in such an environment. The point is to generate ideas and it doesn't matter how ludicrous they are; you're simply gathering them and hopefully, can use them to start a fresh piece of work.

Because I often sit in my house working, with little to no interaction with the outside world, I like it when I can get out and look at something new and interesting. People really are fascinating, whether they're walking their dogs or talking on their cell phones, listening to music or sipping coffee and reading. I'm still involved in a solitary activity, but I'm not holed up in my office, which is refreshing.

Ideas and inspiration are everywhere. It's just up to us to find them.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

 

Finding Inspiration - Part Four

by LuAnn Schindler

Need ideas? Here are four additional ways to generate ideas.

Look at the covers of popular magazines, and it appears that "lists" are popular: the top 10 gifts for Mother's Day, 15 ways to spice up your life, 5 tips for packing for summer vacation. Think of an area you have experience with and create a list of tips. As a former classroom teacher, I put together a list of five tips to keep children actively learning during the summer and sold it to a website.

Opinions are a good place to generate articles, letters to editors, or op-eds. They even make great fodder for letters to companies - either praising or offering advice. I've written a fair share of op-eds and letters to the editor. But I want you to consider letters to companies for a moment. Two years ago, I wrote a letter to the company that made my favorite spaghetti sauce and explained why I preferred it to the competition. I wasn't expecting anything in return; I just wanted to share why I liked their sauces. Imagine my surprise when I received a one year's supply of coupons for this product. At $2.69 a jar, that resulted in a savings of $139.88. One more example involves a soft drink company. When I worked in corporate America, the product I preferred was sold out for three weeks from the only vending machine in our building. I sent a letter to the company asking why the machine hadn't been stocked. Yup, 52 coupons for a 20-ounce soda = $56.68.

Talk to friends who write. Talk to friends who don't write. When I'm stuck, I talk to my parents, both former classroom veterans, who dabble in writing. No matter what path our conversation takes, I'm always inspired with a new idea. They have a beautiful but spoiled Snowshoe Siamese named Nash. My parents rescued him from an animal shelter they volunteer at. I wrote a story about Nash and the shelter and submitted it to an animal magazine that runs this type of monthly feature.

When I was taught, one of my favorite writing prompts was to have students find a quote and then write about it. Quotes are a good place to generate ideas, especially if you can put a twist on a well-known quote. I recently read this statement: "The more you love music, the more music you hate." I wrote a personal essay about my appreciation of music but came to the realization that as I've grown older (or maybe wiser), I appreciate small snippets of silence since they provide restful relaxation. Quote sites abound online or pick up a quote of the day calendar.

Read, read, read. Most importantly, read something new. It is 60 miles from my house to the closest bookstore, so when I do get the chance to stop there, I always peruse the magazine racks and pick up one or two I've never read before. With the comfy chairs available there, in addition to a wide selection or flavored teas and cappuccinos, it is easy to take some time to look at a new market. Even the local library has an amazing selection of magazines that delight all age groups. I find time to stop there, too.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

 

Finding Inspiration - Part 3

by LuAnn Schindler

Feeling stuck in a rut? Need to generate new ideas? Here are four more ideas for generating new articles or stories.

Checked your snail mail lately? Or even your junk email folder? I usually toss the junk mail I receive, but a pink flier advertising a new workout gym for ladies only caught my eye once. A short company profile for a local newspaper netted $50.

I like to clip articles and collect brochures that catch my attention and place them in a 3-ring binder. I even sort them into categories. About every six months I go through the file and see if any spark ignites and guides me toward a new article. Sometimes, I save the "weird" or "bizarre" news stories and later use them to practice my short story skills. An article of this type led to an idea for a poem and I earned $75 (12 lines and about 30 minutes of writing)!

As a former teacher, I truly enjoy the classroom experience and learning. Consider classes or hobbies that interest you. Turn those experiences into money-making articles. Even seminars you've attended for a 9-5 job can be developed into an article. I took information I learned about financial aid and divorced parents at a meeting for guidance counselors and turned it into a quick sale.

I'm also magazine junkie. Flipping through past issues gets my mind racing! When I first started freelancing, I perused the pages of back issues of a regional magazine I wanted to break into. Studying market trends and story ideas was a good lesson in editorial design. Take a look through periodicals where you want to see your writing published. Familiarize yourself with story length, topics, and audience appeal. I knew I had a good story about a comic book collection, and after scanning the magazine, I submitted an article and photos. It was my first major sale.

Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. You just need to keep your mind open to the possibilities and a notebook and pen close at hand.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

 

Journal Insights

Many writers keep a diary or journal, even if they don't write in it consistently. I try to update my journal at least once a week, but sometimes, I only write in it when I'm having a horrible day and I need something to vent to that's not going to judge me or gasp at my choice of bad language. When I have time, I read my old journals and am often surprised by things I had forgotten about or by how much I've changed over the years.

Recently, a friend of mine said she was feeling unmotivated and uninspired to write, so I encouraged her to journal. What she wrote wasn't important, just the fact that she wrote. She could ramble and go off on tangents and not make any sense at all--it's her journal and no one has to see it.

I've found notes for story or novel ideas in mine; life goals I set for myself; resolutions; and a whole lot of rambling nonsense that must have made sense at the time. I love being able to express myself with no reservations in my journals. I write a lot of things in them I wouldn't say out loud. Just writing it down really helps. It's like having a personal therapist, except you don't have to pay by the hour and your appointment is anytime you feel like it. Instead of a therapist offering insights into your personality, however, you have to discover those insights yourself.

If you've kept journals for a long time, go back and read your early ones. You might not only find some ideas and inspiration, you might also find out some things about yourself you didn't know.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

 

The Power of Words

By Valerie Fentress

Okay, bear with me. This maybe a little deep for Monday morning, but it’s something that hit me over the holiday season. My family was watching the movie ‘The Kingdom’ with Jamie Fox and Jennifer Garner, and the scene just before the credits hit me hard. I’m not giving away any spoilers, I promise, but the last scene focuses on four words that were the driving force of the entire movie, which got me thinking. What kind of power do words have?

Now we’ve all heard the adage, the pen is mightier than the sword, but it's not so much the actual pen that is mightier, but the words the pen scribbles on paper. As ‘keepers of the written word’ as I like to say, this is a question for each of us to consider. So how do we apply this concept to our daily writing routines?

When I sit down to start a new project there’s one phrase I like to fill in before I get started. This phrase helps direct my writing throughout the entire process, almost as a motivation and encouragement all in itself. The phrase is:

I write to you _____________, that you might know________________.

Filling in the blanks help give me an audience and a purpose for my writing, because no matter how you boil it down, writing is about conveying knowledge, fiction and non-fiction. Whether you’re a big reader or not, words etched in stone, stories on parchment, journals or scrapbooks each fascinate us to some degree. It is in our very nature, as human beings, and defiantly as women, to spread knowledge. So let me ask you, what are you sharing?

I know this is a personal question and each one of you will answer it differently. But I know the desire I have for all the WIP’s in my head is for each of them to make an impact. To challenge people to look at their world differently and I know many of you feel the same way or you wouldn’t call yourself writers.

Words have the power to tear down and uplift, to challenge and encourage. Take the time to consider your impact, whether small or large. Being writers is not an easy calling, but the ripples we can make in the world is alarming.

Here’s another movie that proves this point. M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Lady in the Water’, is about a muse that is sent to the human realm to inspire an author to write a book that will be the driving force behind a great world leader in the future. And that’s the impact writer’s have. We have the power to inspire others, encourage people to think differently, and pull them from the world that surrounds them. It is an awesome power, and ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. (Sorry, I watched a lot of movies over the holidays)

So what will your impact be as a writer? How will your words encourage the people around you in 2008?

Happy Writing!

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

 

Deck the Halls

By Cher'ley Grogg

I invited my grandchildren for a decorating party so we could share pizza and memories.

We carefully unwrapped each ornament. I always get a little misty-eyed when I hold the first ornament my husband and I shared during our marriage. My mother presented it to us on our first Christmas together. The white plastic Santa and Mrs. Clause are so happy as they dance through the holidays. Next, we examined a felt Humpty-Dumpty and a yarn poodle. Our son crafted Humpty and our daughter cut and tied the yarn until she had the perfect poodle. With great pleasure, I shared the Paintbrush Santa, which my oldest grandson had made when he was in pre-school. Other cherishable (my word) items like the glitter covered Clothespin Reindeer, the Styrofoam-cup Angel and various paper and cardboard ornaments crafted by my other grandchildren made their yearly appearance.

I could tell the kids' hearts were not into the overall scheme of decorating. The oldest three grandchildren are boys, a 16 year old, his brother at age 13, their cousin also age 13 and his sister who is age 10. The children only came to the party to please their grandparents. It started out as a chore, but to their amazement, it grew into a great-shared experience.

After placing the last ornament on the tree, we played charades, ate pizza, popped popcorn and did crafts. The party, a huge success, lasted late into the evening. You can view the photos on my webpage: http://www.freewebs.com/cherley/index.htm

The next day I looked at the remaining containers of decorations, each bearing a different label. My collections of Christmas bric-a-brac have their own large containers for storage. Included in these are my Manger collection, my Reindeer collection, my Angel collection, my Santa collection, my Snowman collection, my Poinsettia collection, my Bell collection, my Rocking-horse collection, and my Christmas Village collection. Other containers bulge with miscellaneous decorations for the windows, doors, bathrooms, porches, table and floors. There's throw blankets, pillows, table runners, shower curtains and bedspreads stuffed in big bags.

Some of the containers found a new home yesterday. I passed on my Rocking horse and Reindeer collection to my daughter and daughter-in-law. I also gave some of the odd and end decorations to charity. Today, I may, just maybe I will re-box one more collection and send it to bless another family.

One item in my Snowman collection stands out from the rest. It's a clock with a Snow-people family on the face and it plays a Christmas Carol every hour. I've listened to three different Carols as I wrote this blog and it's getting ready to sing another one. Yesterday morning, as I read my email, I listened to two songs. Last night I sat down to write, but decided I should first read a little from some of the sites I belong to and perhaps respond to a couple of posts, the Snow family sang four songs.

I got up at two am this morning in order to write a chapter in my novel. Well, first I uploaded my digital pictures and organized them a little, all 400 of them. (They still need resized.) As I uploaded the photos, I realized there are many files in My Documents that really needed their own folders and of course, once they're in folders, the folders need to be backed up.

Shh, listen, another Carol is playing.

by Cher'ley Grogg

http://www.freewebs.com/cherley/index.htm

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Monday, November 19, 2007

 

Writing is Like Mud Wrestling?

Recently, I came across a box of lesson plans, syllabi, handouts, and miscellaneous student assignments that I had saved long ago. I'll share some of them here today, but I have to keep them anonymous. As a side note, most of these students were the traditional freshmen--younger than twenty years old.

In this assignment, I'd asked my students to work in groups to describe writing using similes. I found it interesting as I looked back through these examples. These are not only young writers, but many of them had zero interest in writing, period:

"Writing is like pulling teeth; it hurts your head."

"Writing is like a river that flows words. Like thoughts they widen and narrow, get full, and get empty. Sometimes, words are just like river water, clear or murky, and shallow or deep. Obstacles are also encountered, but can easily be overcome, and more calm waters can be found. Like the river, writing has to come to an end."

"Freewriting is like turning on a faucet."

"Writing is like sports--in order to succeed, you need all the practice you can get."

"Writing is like learning a musical instrument; it takes time and practice and patience, lots of patience."

"Everything starts with a thought. Whether you're painting a picture or writing a story, an image always comes to mind. The pen is your paintbrush and the paper is your canvas. With that creation begins."

"Writing is like the growth of a tree: the topic is the seed, the writing process is the maturing of the seed. As the writing process continues, ideas flourish into branches and the tree grows. It's a continuous process that takes a lifetime."

"Writing is like mud wrestling. The intimidation of the mud, the fear of your beastly opponent. Just grab on and never let go. Slip and slide. Go in for the kill. Lose control and don't worry about losing your top! Hold your ground and don't worry about finesse."

The last one above sounds like a perfect advertisement for NaNo! What do you think NaNo wrestlers?

Keep going NaNo writers! You can do it! Don't give up! ;-)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

 

Look Up


Have you noticed when people are stressed they tend to look toward the ground? I know I do it. Maybe I’m “odd” this way. But when I feel exhausted by my kids’ moods or trivial-but-annoying problems, I just tend to curl up like knotted ball of yarn. Most people smile where I live--mild climates are conducive to them--especially when people are walking their dogs, golfing, playing soccer, or simply talking to a neighbor.

But the stress balls can be spotted easily: eyes turned down, tight lips, and a fast-paced walk that shouts, “don’t talk to me; in fact, don’t even look at me.”

Sometimes, though, if we force ourselves to uncurl and look to the skies, we can find a little inspiration…it could be the clouds in their infinite number of shapes, birds, tall trees, or the sun rising over the top of a mountain, burning away a light morning fog.

As the weather gets colder, I need to look up. Or I look for something new and different to write about, like a local event.

Every October in Albuquerque we have the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. During this 9-day event, hot air balloons pepper the skies with rainbows of color, waving and smiling people, and the classic sounds of the propane burners. Hundreds of balloons rise to the occasion (pun intended). It’s simply an awesome sight. The only tough part is in trying to rise by 4:30am to beat the mad traffic, find parking, and secure a great cup of hot cocoa, funnel cakes, and a good seat before the Dawn Patrol goes up. They verify that the balloonists have the right conditions before the Mass Ascension.

Anyway, when I need a spark, I write about the things that make me uncurl, open up, and think with a smile.

Every city has something amazing, homey, or unique. What is your town or city known for that makes it different? What events do you look forward to every year? Have you written about these events? Let us know. It might spark a great new idea for a story, or remind you of an event that would be perfect for our current contest prompt.

Write Up!

Smiley Sue

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

 

Mailbox Letter! From Carrie Hulce

We received the most inspiring letter from Carrie Hulce, and we just couldn't wait until our next issue came out to post it!

Honestly, this is the reason why we strive so hard to make WOW! what it is. If it were simply monetary, we'd have abandoned our mission long ago. WOW! is something greater than just us... it's about you and where you are in life. And this letter brought tears to our eyes and a big warm smile to our hearts. Thank you Carrie, and we're backing you 100%!!!

Carrie's Letter:


Hi Everyone at Wow,

I normally don't make "New Year's Resolutions;" Honestly, how many of us stick to them. But, I did set a specific goal for myself and that is to "stick to my guns" about my writing.

I have always found it difficult finding time to write. But, I am determined to surpass. I am the mother of 3 boys, one teenager of 14 almost 15 (he loves Football), one 12 about to be 13 (an almost teenager, YIKES), and a soccer buff of a 10 year old who will soon be 11. Now mind you two of my children -- the actual teenager and the youngest have a lot of activities constantly going on where I am having to run them around for their sports. (What is a mother to do???) I found I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of my car and no real time for much of anything else.

I have been writing for many years. I've taken classes, the works, to improve my writing skills. Even though I have done so, I have fallen short on myself. There has been one thing holding me back: A drawer filled with rejection letters. NOT ANY MORE! I am taking back my writing. Instead of letting those letters get to me, which I have now thrown away, I am listening to my co-workers, friends and relatives who have told me that I have a skill to use, picking up my pen. :) Well, the pen and the almighty keyboard is raised and working.

Thank goodness for Winter break and well sorry to say surgery on my knee, I found WOW! I am so happy I did, your website, since I have been laid up, has helped inspire me to write more. I am now setting appointments with myself to write, research, do anything I can for my writing. I am looking forward to entering in my first contest with WOW! and hope to continue to enter contests through your site. Big HUGS! to all of your staff for their hard work and dedication to the ART of writing. I commend each of you for the fabulous job you have done with this site. :)

Sincerely,

Carrie Hulce
New Reader of WOW!

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Dear Carrie,

Your letter has inspired us in so many ways and on so many levels!

When Beryl and I (Angela) read your letter, it brought tears to our eyes... sincerely. To think of all the things you, as a dedicated mother, are going through -- Wonder Woman comes to mind! You represent the spirit and soul of WOW! and we are thrilled you've joined our family of writing women!

We're sorry to hear about your knee surgery, and we wish you a quick recovery. I know how devastating that can be... my husband had one last year. So, while you spend your time laid up, we'd like to do something special for you. We're sending you a personal e-mail to get your mailing address, and sending you out a gift-pack of treats, goodies, and brain-food to help you through your time of recovery and re-birth into the writing world! We want to give you everything you need to recharge, re-energize, and meet your personal writing goals for the New Year!

All of us writers have received rejection slips, and we know they are painful, because writing comes from the heart. Some of us choose to paper the walls with them and some of us shred them into tiny pieces for our kid's hamster cages... but whatever the case, we've all been there and will continue to be there; it's part of the writing process. But keeping that in mind, we try to take a different approach at WOW! -- one of encouragement and growth. We all know that each one of us has something to share, whether it's a feeling or a story, something to write about, to pass down, to communicate with others who relate or enjoy our views, get moved or shocked by them, or saddened... and that's what we're here for -- that experience that helps us to understand one another as women and writers. We ALL have it in us! Now we need to shine!

Carrie, that's what you've done in your letter. You've shined. You've shared your heart and soul and we commend you for it, and thank you. You've made us laugh and shed a tear, and we're rooting for you, as I'm sure all of our readers are. Keep going and don't ever lose sight of your goals. We KNOW you can do it!

Warmly yours,

Angela & Beryl

Your new friend, and Editors of WOW! Women On Writing

PS. ~* BIG HUGS *~ Keep that almighty pen raised high and that keyboard tapping!

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