Friday, April 09, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: Why to be a Writer, Guest Post by Amy O'Neil

‘Why’ to be a Writer

by Amy O'Neil

Look on the internet and you will find a million different sites talking about ‘how to draw’, but how many of them discuss the all important question of why to draw? The same goes for writing.


I found myself asking this question today, right before I was about to embark on a commission for four large drawings.


I found a few vague answers, such as “We draw to express our creativity and expose it to the world”.


But today these answers didn't really satisfy. What is your creativity, why do you want to expose it, and why does the world need to be exposed to it? What does it ultimately achieve?

Is this just a stock phrase that merely sounds like it could be answering the question, or is it the truth of why to draw?

In our present times we have access to people’s talents, skills, stories and creations in the billions over the internet. We are literally swamped with exceptional and puzzling works of the mind, and not always in a good way. Can your work really contribute anything meaningful? Is the reason to create really ‘to add something to the world’? Or is it to feel like your existence is necessary?

It's a hard pill to swallow when you consider that the world would be okay if you weren't here, that literature would still be great and that art would continue to shock and delight. Films would still be moving and extraordinary, food would still be delicious, music would still sound wonderful, the earth would still spin.

So is it important that you draw, or write?

For me, today, the truth was no.

Is it essential for our already overwhelming culture?
Chances are slim.

So why do it? It's the same question as why bother existing. We exist because we exist. Existence is not necessary but it's a gift.

To be able to be here and taste delicious food, and read wonderful books, and watch breathtaking films and have complicated relationships is a one-hundred percent bonus.

Why draw or write? It is part of the gift. You do it because you can, because you're here and you have thoughts and opinions and were born into this tiny slither of time and place that nobody else was. And for some reason you fell into it; it happened, like when a flash of colour catches your eye.

So when you sit down to do that very important piece of writing today, or that ‘essential’ work of art, remember why you’re doing it. I mean, why you're really doing it.

Perhaps it’s because when you were a child you had an idea, and you decided to put it on paper because it seemed fun and natural, not because you were driven by adult fantasies of self-importance.

It is a gift. All you need to do is relish it.

Photograph courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt.

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Amy O'Neil has a BA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design, which she completed in 2007. Since then she has been taking private commissions for drawings from photographs, but has found her interests have turned more towards short fiction writing. Her stories have been placed in several small competitions, as well as being recently short-listed for the Fish Short Story Prize. You can contact her at amygraceATgooglemailDOTcom.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, February 26, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: "Voice," Guest Post by Jodie Gonzalez

Voice

by Jodie Gonzalez

I have always been a writer. Letters, diaries, speeches, To Do lists. I love words. And the feel of ink on a clean sheet of paper. But recently, I have become a different kind of writer. A conscious writer. I have begun to study craft, read mountains of books on the subject of writing, taken a class, started a blog.

Through these experiences I have become aware of voice. As a speaker, this was obvious. Years of communication courses, business presentations, teaching public speaking to teens, I was always conscious of my voice. But in my writing…I didn't seem to make the connection. It has only been through my study that I've come to appreciate the value of an authentic voice. And though not as strong as the sound from my lips, I am beginning to stand shakily on writer's legs.

Through our writing, we are invited to explore our true selves, and from that journey emerges a new voice. One wise with tales from the road, a bit ragged from unexpected bumps along the way. And it propels us forward, further on our quest for authenticity. Through my writing I offer myself, my individual perspective—as a woman, a social worker, sister, wife, a resilient soul in search of connection. To do this, I must be vulnerable, honest, open to possibility in my writing.

Each of us writes for a different reason, from a myriad of perspectives, with a symphony of voices. It is this unique piece of ourselves which we offer to the world, it is this that gives our words power.

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Jodie is a medical social worker and newbie blogger. Check out her adventures in art/writing at http://jodiekim.blogspot.com.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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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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Friday, February 19, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: "Three Easy Steps to Getting Back on Track," Guest Post by Connie Hebert

Three Easy Steps to Getting Back on Track

by Connie Hebert

Who are your "Side-trackers?" You know, the experts at derailing your creative goals. The detractors who create storm centers and disrupt the focus of creative beings like yourself.

Often long on problems and short on answers, many of these rabble-rousers are famous or frustrated artists themselves. In the wake of your Side-tracker's latest drama, your creative work gets placed on the back-burner...again.

Don't let these trouble makers get the best of you. It's springtime––a time for new beginnings. Here are three easy steps to help anyone get back on track.

First, learn to recognize Side-trackers. Here are some specific behaviors common to this group:

~ Disrespect for your reality i.e. calling with a problem even
though you have a deadline of some kind, and they know it.

~ Break agreements by being late (or too early) and demanding
allowances which wreck havoc with your schedule

~ Spend your money and/or time by needing to be rescued,
often in the middle of a workday

~ Blame others (you) when something goes wrong

~ Go ballistic if someone points out one more broken promise

~ Deny they are Side-trackers

Second, learn how to diffuse Side-trackers.

~ Admit you are involved with one. Denial only prolongs
the agony.

~ Be brutally honest. Why are you entangled? Are you getting
anything out of it? Does your Side-tracker enable your
procrastination? Are you afraid of failure?

~ Accept that keeping them around is self-destructive.

~ Ask yourself what creative work you'd be doing if not involved
with your detractor.

~ Stop dancing to the Side-tracker's tune. If you can't, get help
such as counseling or support from friends who've been
through the process.

~ Keep in mind the consequences of putting your needs
aside such as cheating your of your birthright, devaluing
yourself and your talents, holding back your Gift to a world
badly in need of it, and losing out on the richness of an
existence filled with peace and the joy of self-expression
and self-fulfillment.

Finally realize it's your choice. Choose wisely. Your creative life depends on it.

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Connie Hebert, MSW, is the owner and author of her "True Inklings" website. (See link below.) Retired from a successful career in psychotherapy, education, and seminar training on human behavior, she now writes full-time. Her current work in progress is a nonfiction novel with the working title of "Converting the Maiden; a Memoir of Surrender." She's also published short pieces in trade magainzes and in "The Shine Journal," an online publication.

Follow "Connie's Blog" on her website: www.trueinklings.com
Connie can be reached at: conniehebert@me.com



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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, February 12, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out: Why I Write, Guest Post by Susan Remson

Why I Write

by Susan Remson

I never really retired. I just stopped working. After forty-five years of work, including all the years while raising my family, I was ready. Over those years, my jobs ranged from my first as a Christmas gift wrapper to Operations Manager of a clinical laboratory. A few years ago, when my husband’s work took him to different cities for extended periods, I decided to accompany him. I quit my job, and except for the lack of income and the social life work had always provided me, I was not sorry. But what would I do with my time?

It was about then that I heard a speaker ask folks on the verge of retiring, who were dealing with the same “what will I do” question that I was, “What did you like to do when you were a child? What gave you pleasure when you were eleven or twelve years old?” The speaker went on to suggest that whatever that activity was, retirement might be the time to go back to it.

When I was a child, I loved to write.

So I began writing again. I had written in my professional life, but that writing was all technical. I journaled, too, but I began to write essays and short stories. I wrote fiction and non-fiction. I wrote poetry. I took classes. I went to workshops. I spent hours reading writers website. I read books about and by writers. But when people asked me what I was doing now that I wasn’t working, I couldn’t yet say, “I am a writer”. I didn’t feel like a writer; I felt like a wannabe.

When I finally got up the courage to read at a writer’s conference, I was terrified. I know my voice was shaking when I read my brief essay. In my piece, I compared my son’s life with an afghan my mother had made for him, and told how his life, filled with substance abuse and antisocial behavior, and the afghan were both unraveling. I pondered whether either of them would ever be whole again. When I finished reading, the room was silent. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, Susan, so much for being a writer”.

But I was wrong. I later learned the room was silent because of the impact of my words. Afterwards, several women came up to tell me how they could relate to what I was saying. Their words delighted me, and saddened me, too, because it meant that others were dealing with the same issues that I had been only a few years earlier. Still, if I could touch someone with my words, I was happy.

Their comments also made it possible for me to say, “I am a writer.”

Since that time, I have shared, in writing, other experiences, including stories about my mother and her knitting, my son and his struggles, and my daughter and the year planning her wedding. I write two blogs. In one, I am sharing my thoughts on being 64 years old and “muddling through to Medicare”. I also have thick file of short stories and essays, and two half-written novels.

These days, I have no problem calling myself a writer. I still love to write, now more than ever.

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Susan Remson is retired from a career in health care and biotechnology and now devotes herself to her writing. She lives on the shore of Lake Michigan in Kenosha Wisconsin . where she writes two blogs. In Great Lakes Views (www.greatlakesviews.blogspot.com) she comments on environmental, political and cultural issues of the Great Lakes . When I’m 64 (www.whenim64-susan.blogspot.com) she is documenting what it is like to be a woman of a “certain age”.


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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out: Use Your Intuition to Reach Your Subconscious Mind, Guest Post by Kelly L. Stone

Use Your Intuition to Reach Your Subconscious Mind

by Kelly L. Stone

"Women’s intuition” can be a useful tool for aspiring women writers because it’s a link to your inner resources of creativity and wisdom. Intuition is your subconscious mind attempting to communicate with you and get creative material or guidance into your conscious mind. You might experience hunches, flashes of insight, or feel you should take some action. Your dreams may give you characters, plot ideas, or entire stories. Some people get a “gut” feeling. You may be guided to do something unusual. The late photographer Dorothea Lange got a gut feeling that she should turn down a deserted road in California while driving home from work one day. Even though she was exhausted, Lange yielded to her intuition and discovered a starving woman and children whose haunting photo became the face of the Great Depression.

Intuition springs from your subconscious mind, and there are several ways to connect to this part of yourself that often goes unheeded and unexplored. You can direct your subconscious mind to give you a dream solution when you find yourself in a spell of writer’s block. Keep a notebook by your bed and tell your subconscious mind before you fall asleep to allow you to dream about the next section of your story. Don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden burst of inspiration. That’s what the notebook is for.

You can also induce the hypnagogic state to get in touch with your subconscious resources. The hypnagogic state is a naturally occurring phase of sleep that is characterized by altered consciousness; some people hear their name being called, others see flashes of light. What’s important for writers is that ideas that are not normally connected are seen as associated in this state. It’s a time fertile with creativity. To access it, lie down and hold one arm straight up while you attempt to doze. The tension in your arm required to hold it up will keep you on the verge of wakefulness even as your mind slips into an alpha state, which is conducive to creativity. Again, write down in your notebook any ideas or insights that come to you.

Stream of consciousness writing is a good way to access your subconscious mind. I used it while writing my novel, Grave Secret (Mundania Press, Sept 2007). One day, after a period of several difficult writing days, the character of Billy Powers simply walked on to the page. This character was not known to my conscious mind; he sprang from my subconscious. As it turned out, he was so integral to the plot that his appearance saved the story.

Heed your intuition because it is the golden key that opens the gate to your vast subconscious mind. Your writing will thank you for it.

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Kelly L Stone (www.KellyLStone.com) is a licensed mental health counselor and the author of three books, including TIME TO WRITE: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing Into Your Busy Life (Adams Media, January 2008) and THINKING WRITE: The Secret To Freeing Your Creative Mind (Adams Media, October 2009). Her third book for writers, LIVING WRITE: Creative Strategies for Maintaining Your Enthusiasm, Motivation, and Dedication to Your Writing Goals, will be released in Fall 2010.

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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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Friday, January 22, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out: 10 x 12, Guest Post by by Tami Richards

10X12

by Tami Richards

There’s a nook off my kitchen that I’ve been trying to claim for myself for over twenty years now. While raising four children, I’d shared that ten by twelve foot space with kids doing homework, playing video games, making Lego masterpieces, and searching the Internet. I thought I’d properly and fully claimed it last summer when my youngest child reached adulthood and I felt that I was free to do as I wished with the house. My husband and I replaced the two windows and laid down beautiful new blonde bamboo flooring. I happily painted the walls, and moved my bookshelves in, loading them up to bursting. I was bubbling over with excitement as I was finally able to organize my own space.

Instead of using a writing desk for the main furniture, I decided to build a heavy-duty craft table for my grandchildren and I to share. The table was a big mistake. I was no longer making the room my own, the craft table made the room everybody’s. I invalidated my own needs. After the room’s completion, I did not spend much time writing in my new office for I’d done the unforgivable and I knew it; I’d forsaken myself.

By the time that I’d finally figured out my error and came to understand that for me to be happy and creative, my office needed to be my own office not a shared craft room, I lost ground on possession. My adult daughter hit a rough spot in her life and she moved back home, bringing my granddaughters with her. Being that they were moving from a fully furnished three-bedroom house it was impossible to find space in our small home for all of their belongings. A barrage of housewares, clothes, games and toys took up the entire floor space of my office.

Being the consummate adjuster that I am, the person who arranges the needs of others to a place above her own, I carried my laptop into our bedroom and set up office on an old desk that I’d set up in front of our dresser. This worked out for me for several months until my husband was switched from swing shift to night shift. Because he needs to sleep before work, my time alone in my bedroom had gone out the window. At this time, I had nowhere else to go but to remove the long ago boxed and stored treasures of my children’s childhood from the storage loft above the garage and hoist my daughter’s and granddaughter’s belongings up in their stead.

Then began the internal battle of the mature and wise woman with the self-sacrificing and meek grandmother. What I have is a war between “why should I move and store all her stuff for her,” and “she’s going through a tough adjustment, my grandchildren need their things.” The bottom line, if I allowed myself to reach it, was that I needed to reclaim that space for my own well being and I needed to take action to get it. I’ve been moving and adjusting things in that ten by twelve foot space for over twenty years in futile attempts to claim it as my own. Having accomplished that, I needed to maintain it and start putting my own needs above those of others.

Yes, I’d brought it on myself. I’d allowed it to happen by not being insistent enough, by not explaining my needs, my rights, my value. The fault lies squarely with me. It became time for me to clean up that room and claim my space. It took a lot of time and energy that I didn’t think that I could muster, but I am typing these words while sitting in my own space.

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Tami Richards is a writer of articles and essays concerning women's history, health and social issues. Visit her blog at http://tamilkrueger.blogspot.com/

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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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Friday, November 27, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: "Some Thoughts on Writing," Guest Post by Jayne Martin

Some Thoughts on Writing

by Jayne Martin

At 60 years old, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. A writer.

This is actually the second time in my life I have realized this. The first was when I was in my 20’s struggling to be an actress despite my extreme discomfort in actually standing up in front of anyone and performing. This was about the same time that Sylvester Stallone was achieving his “overnight” success as writer and star of the first “Rocky.” I naively figured if he could write, how hard could it be and I started writing scenes for my acting class. To my great surprise, they were very well-received and I suddenly went from being the worst actress in the class to someone regarded with a certain amount of respect, it felt good.

While earning my living typing the screenplays of others, I became exposed to literally hundreds of scripts – some exceptionally good, like those by Alvin Sargent and Fay Kanin, and some exceptionally bad by writers never to be heard from again. I learned from all of them. My forté became the realm of the TV-Movie. I would either pitch an original idea or I would get an assignment to write a script from someone else’s idea, or from a true-life story, or adapt a book. The great thing about working on assignment or from a pitch is I got paid whether the movie got made or not and if it did get made, I actually get a bonus payment. My career as a TV writer spanned almost two decades and I was fortunate to have several of my scripts made into movies.

I wrote my last movie in 2004 and for the longest time I felt no creative drive to write anything. Until recently. It started with the discovery of a few new authors and the re-discovery of some old favorites, and their voices inspired me. So with the encouragement of some friends, I started a blog, injaynesworld, and darned if people didn’t start showing up, although where they got the idea there’d be refreshments served I have no idea. Oh, yeah, I might have said something about that in my shameless effort to lure readers. Most importantly, my creative juices are flowing again and I’m meeting and making friends with some wonderful writers.

Since I am no longer completely dependent on writing for a living, I am once again free to write for the pure pleasure and love of it, and I had forgotten how much I truly do love it. Not that I would turn money down. I’d love to get a paycheck for writing again and maybe I will. In the meantime, it’s such a joy to write directly for an audience and get that immediate feedback. A writer needs an audience. Because if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around, it really doesn’t make a sound.

Jayne Martin is an unapologetic, bleeding-heart liberal who loves good horses, good friends, and good wine. A TV-writer in a former life, her credits include "Big Spender," for Animal Planet, and "A Child Too Many," "Cradle of Conspiracy," and "Deceived By Trust" for Lifetime. Visit her blog, injaynesworld.

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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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Monday, November 23, 2009

 

Remembering Rejections


On The Muffin, we've posted about rejections before. As a writer, you've probably heard all the standard rejection advice: personal rejections are good, a rejection is at least a response, and everybody gets rejected.

That's what I want to focus on today--during Thanksgiving week--

Everybody gets rejected!

I received an e-mail over the weekend, reminding me of this fact, and I thought it would be great to share it with my fellow women writers as a reminder not to give up, not to see one rejection as the end of your career. Look at this list:

Dune by Frank Herbert – 13 rejections

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 17 rejections

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 29 rejections

Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections

A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections

Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book

John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book

Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – around 800 rejections before selling his first story

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book

So, when you open your mailbox and see the thin envelope OR open the e-mail and see, "Thank you for your submission but. . .", remember this list, don't give up hope, and be thankful that you can go back to the drawing board.

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



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Friday, November 06, 2009

 

Mining My Mind for Inspiration

By Jill Earl

I was pleased that this year’s Muse Online Writers Conference offered a workshop on pet writing. I appreciated the brainstorming assignments the instructor gave, where I could dig into some of those dusty memories. And since I belong to an online critique group, I’ve got a great way to shape them into submission-ready pieces.

So what am I working on? My time at a now-defunct pet store in a local mall, where animals ranging in age from a few weeks weaned to about a year old. Pair that with on-the-job training for very green employees (except for the managers) and workdays were seldom dull for this former kennel and bird technician.

For instance, there was Harry the mynah bird, who we discovered could tell the difference between human males and females. A male would walk by and the bird would call out a cheery, “Hello! Hello!” When a female walked by, she heard, “Hel-LO!” in a definite ‘come hither, baby’ way. Nothing like being hit on by a bird!

Then there was the time when a know-it-all new employee refused to heed advice on cleaning birdcages properly. A cockatiel escaped one day and shortly after, we heard a series of screams as women in various stages of pregnancy flew out of the maternity shop next door. That day, the new guy learned the joys of netting a frantic cockatiel.

We had killer hamsters too. They delighted in leaving---umm---souvenirs of their victims in their tank for us staffers to deal with. I leave the rest to your imagination.

Many more memories lie in wait for me to excavate and take note of, and my draft folder’s filling up with ideas ready to be worked on.

So when you’re at a loss for what to write, try a little mining expedition. You’ll soon be unearthing your own writing treasures.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: A Revelation!, Guest Post by Jennifer Flaten

A Revelation!

by Jennifer Flaten

A few days ago, I finished my usual day of writing. I was proud of myself I completed almost all of my to-do items. This is a big deal for a procrastinator like me.

One item scratched off my list, a short profile piece on Patsy Cline.

As I clicked send on the piece, I realized I really enjoyed writing it. Not only did I learn about Patsy, but also I thought I managed to make the profile interesting, not dry.

It was fun and I looked forward to doing another one.

Later as I was telling my husband about my day and talking animatedly about my work, I realized just how much I liked what I did.

It was a wonderful feeling. Too bad, it had been missing for so long.

Prior to writing, full time I worked as an office manager/administrative assistant.

I loved what I did. My heart went pitter-patter at the thought of spending the day wrestling bank statements into submission and making journal entries.

I knew I was good at what I did I always came home with sense of accomplishment.

Then one day I was laid off. In an instant both my job and identity vanished along with my steady paycheck.

I turned to my writing which up until that time, was a little sideline that I did for fun and spending money. Now I was trying to turn my writing into my full time job.

I spent a lot of time building relationships with clients, looking for gigs and writing pieces that paid money but I wasn’t enjoying myself.

There was this little voice was whispering in my ear that I wasn’t a “real” writer. I worried about “making” it, about being a “real” writer and being good so I could get more work.

I wasn’t having fun. Each day I just worked away with no sense of love or feelings of accomplishment.

Even publication didn’t lessen my feelings. If I was published I still worried it wasn’t good enough. I wondered would a real writer read it and think Pffft who gave this woman a keyboard.

I couldn‘t shake the worry. I was drowning in what ifs-what if this isn’t good enough, what if this leads nowhere.

I still felt like I was pretending to be a writer.

Then came that fateful day, when I finished a piece that I really had fun writing that I knew was good piece.

I realized that-Hey, I am pretty good at this and I like it.

This came in the same week that I had some other small, yet exciting, offers come my way.

All of sudden I knew that I really liked what I was doing. I wasn’t just pretending to be a writer I was a writer.

Jennifer lives with her husband, twin daughters and son in Wisconsin. She is a freelance writer. She has found the kids provide and endless source of amusing and not so amusing topics. When she is not in front of the computer, she and the kids can be found baking, cooking or playing outside. Read her work at Baby Chapters, Life123.com, Examiner, and Grubstreet.

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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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Friday, August 14, 2009

 

Guest Post: An Unexpected Reaction, by Kim Smith

An Unexpected Reaction

by Kim Smith

I recently had an article published on Friday's Speak Out. Naturally, I was thrilled, and promptly fired off the link to sundry friends and family. All of the reactions were positive (oh, I love those strokes!) with one notable exception.

My father.

When I didn't hear from him, I phoned and asked him what he thought of the article. After a brief pause he said in an unenthusiastic tone, "It was great."

That wasn't enough for me. "Did you like it?"

"Well, I learned something about you that I didn't know before."

Expecting some sort of positive remark, I asked, "What's that?"

"I didn't know you were unhappy all your life." He sounded angry, and I immediately felt terribly small. I know he said more, but I blanked out and can't remember his exact words. I tried to laugh it off and change the topic, but when I hung up the phone, a flood of anxiety washed over me.

You see, I worked for my dad all my life. He hired me first as an office assistant, and eventually I became the bookkeeper for our small retail business. In my article, I wrote that I was unfulfilled all those years, and that I felt trapped. Not because of work or any external factors; it was an internal battle I was fighting.

Does my dad think that I'm not grateful? Does he feel resentful or annoyed? Or is he merely surprised to learn that I wasn't happy? I don't know what my dad actually feels; I am afraid to ask. The worst part about this conversation was that it made me doubt myself. I reread the article, berating myself for writing it in the first place, and for not anticipating every possible scenario.

His reaction, then, was unexpected and rather upsetting. In an ideal world, everyone would love every word I wrote, but alas, there is no such world. I never stopped to wonder how he, or anyone else, would interpret this particular story - I thought it was obvious what I meant - and I thought wrong. As with all experiences, good and bad, I walked away the wiser for it. I know that other writers must have similar experiences, and I wonder how they react.

Several people have commented that my stories are too dark/sad/depressing and have advised me to write 'happy' stuff. I never know how to react, so I just bite my tongue, though I feel that their advice akin to telling Tim McGraw he should sing pop. My husband, to my chagrin, is from this camp. While he enjoys my (very few) humorous writings, he dislikes many of my stories because of their serious content. Tactful man that he is, and keenly aware of my sensitive nature, his reviews usually sound like this: "You're a fantastic writer, honey, but I didn't really like it. Why don't you write a funny piece, for a change?"

Regardless of others' opinions, I do encourage them to point out awkward or confusing sentences; I've often taken their advice and made corrections. I especially am grateful when some alert soul points out grammatical errors, especially if it's a story I'm about to submit to a contest or for publication.

Then there are the writers who bare it all in their memoirs. How do they do it? I wonder. Do they prepare their family and friends ahead of time, or do they just fling it out there, daring to face the wrath of one or many? How many rifts are formed, permanently or otherwise? It is one thing to reveal one's less than stellar thoughts and actions, quite another to reveal another's. I doubt that I shall cross that particular bridge in this lifetime, so my family may rest easy.

My family and friends have been hugely supportive of my writing endeavors, and I value their support. Else why would I offer up my few published stories and wait eagerly for their responses? I realize that I have to accept certain comments at face value, and know that they are usually well intended, and to realize that I can't please everyone. Sometimes, I just need to remind myself: this is who I am, this is what I'm writing, this is what makes me happy.


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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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, August 07, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: Got Blog?, Guest Post by Pat Wahler

Got Blog?

by Pat Wahler

For a long time I resisted the idea of launching a blog. After all, I’d only started to dabble in creative writing a few years ago. How in the world could a beginner like me entertain others? Besides, I’m a tech-know-not. Setting up a blog certainly must require expertise that I did not possess.

But soon after a writer friend launched her blog, I decided to explore the concept by visiting Blogspot.com. The step by step instructions demonstrated that even I, the most inept of computer users, could publish a pretty darn professional looking blog. Best of all, the site didn’t charge a dime to participate, so why not? My favorite topic, animals, seemed the perfect platform for me, so on November 15, 2008, I launched Critter Alley into the seemingly infinite blogmosphere. Here are a few things I’ve learned since.

Blogging is a wonderful writing exercise. I don’t journal, but now practice the discipline of producing an interesting (I hope!) critter-related story each weekday. The thought of writing for others gives me incentive, and knowing that literally anyone in the world might read my words is an empowering feeling. And since daily stories require material aplenty, I’ve learned to observe life a new way, from a writer’s point of view.

When you report factual information, research is critical. People will be quick to let you know if something you’ve written isn’t quite right. For example, when I blogged about Jim the Wonder Dog, a reader emailed me. He claimed that Jim should have been described as a setter, not a spaniel. I verified his comment and made the correction. Although locating reliable sources and supporting material without violating copyright protection can be a challenge, it’s a habit worth acquiring for your next writing project.

Most of us don’t have publicists. Writers must market themselves. Getting your name out for others to see can only help when the time comes to sell that first novel. After posting a favorable review on a critter related book, I emailed the author to let him know. He not only mentioned my review on his blog, but posted a link to mine. Pretty cool stuff for a novice like me!

Perhaps one of the best things about regular blog posting is witnessing the evolution of your own work. Successful authors preach over and over that the best way to improve skills is to write consistently. My commitment to Critter Alley forces me to write daily. At best, my work turns out to be something noteworthy or thought provoking. On a not so great day, I’ve written coherent sentences with a beginning, middle, and end. Both help make me a better writer.

In short, anyone who expends the effort to blog will learn from it. If you’re a writer and haven’t taken the leap yet, don’t make more excuses. Get yourself to that keyboard and create your opus.

What have you got to lose?


Pat Wahler is a multi-published freelance writer. She lives with her husband, dog, and cat in Missouri where it is not unknown for them to entertain a guest critter…or two…or three. She writes about all things animal on her blog, Critter Alley. http://critteralley.blogspot.com/

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, July 24, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: Writing - It’s There When I Need It, Guest Post by Marci Mangham

Writing - It’s There When I Need It

by Marci Mangham

My life took what you might call a turn for the worse about a year and a half ago. My physical and emotional health suffered, and I’m still trying to put myself back together. One of the things I left behind was my writing. It wasn’t by choice or planned; it simply fell by the wayside, along with many other things that made me happy and healthy. I was advised to put my feelings in writing, which made perfect sense. Even if I didn’t have any fictional tales brewing inside of me, at least I could write about my pain. No one ever had to see it, but it would be cathartic. Writing as therapy. But I couldn’t even bring myself to do that.

As I slowly began to emerge from the darkness, I started to wonder about myself. How could I call myself “a writer” if I didn’t turn to writing during the dark times? How could I be “a writer” if it didn’t come naturally to me, if I didn’t NEED it? I read about so many other writers who need to write to feel whole. They would write on the sidewalk in chalk if pen, paper and computers ceased to exist.

Years ago I wrote a novel that in the end I decided was terrible, and I threw it in a Dumpster. I didn’t write for a few years after that. When I started again it wasn’t really a decision. I just began, and it felt natural. Eventually I realized that I had enough short stories to put together a collection, and I published it. It seemed so easy at the time: write stories, enter contests, publish book.

A few months ago I suddenly felt that I needed to end the dry spell. I entered a 24-hour short story contest; I felt the challenge of having 24 hours to finish, and the starting point of a prompt was just the right recipe. I was right. After a slow start, the words began to flow again…naturally. What was wrong with me those preceding months?

I got an honorable mention for that entry, but the real accomplishment was getting my perspective back. Sure, it feels good to have gone a few rounds my nemesis writers block and won. But most of all I realized that I don’t control my writing; it controls me. I know I can’t force it, and I can’t keep away from it when I need it. While I may envy those who spend hours every day, writing any and every chance they get, I realize that I am not like them. Writing means different things to all of us, serves different needs at different times and durations.

Whether I spend every day of the next three years finishing the novels I’ve started, or if I don’t eke out another short story for five years, I will embrace the process of writing, and the end result, whenever it graces me with its presence.


Marci has been writing (when the mood strikes!) for 29 years. Her short story collection, "Both Ends Burning," was published in 2007. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her neurotic dog, Charlie. For more information, visit www.marcimangham.com


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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

 

Friday Speakout: Never Too Late, Guest Post by Kim Smith

Never Too Late

by Kim Smith

For years, I did not write. For those same years, I felt angry at this failure, and I mourned the writer inside me that I thought I'd lost forever. It wasn't until I'd made a life-changing decision that the writer's block was shattered, and only then did I realize why I had not written a single word.

As writers, we need to create a life that will encourage and inspire us to put pen to paper, or in most cases, sit in front of the computer and type our little hearts out. Only recently have I created this life for myself.

As a teenager I wrote volumes of angst-ridden poetry. I didn't care how sappy or ill written it might be; I wrote for the sheer joy of writing, and for releasing the vast amount of emotion that dwelled in my tormented soul. It wasn't good writing, but it was honest writing, and I never seemed to run out of things to say.

As an adult, I stopped listening to my inner muse. Instead of pursuing my dreams of traveling abroad, of becoming a journalist, of living my life to the fullest, I became a bookkeeper for our family business and remained in the small town I grew up in. In hindsight, I know I could have made this life a better one, but I did not. Fear ruled my life. I married and divorced, and remarried again. I never traveled or did anything exciting. I stopped learning. No surprise I was bored and unhappy; there is nothing worse for creatives than being stuck in a rut, and to not pursue the gifts we are born with.

But finally, something snapped. I knew I had to change my life, or die a miserable, unfulfilled person. I found myself on the internet, searching for cheap, rural properties located on the other side of the country. There were so many to choose from. I scanned the acreages and showed the best ones to my husband who, thank goodness, is a wonderful supportive man. When I suggested that we buy one of these places, quit our jobs, and move thousands of miles away from family and friends, he immediately agreed, as he, too, is a stifled creative.

This was the first adventure I'd had in thirty years. My husband can drive big trucks, so we bought a semi-truck and trailer to drive across the country. We packed up our belongings and our three cats, and drove from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, staying at truck-stops all the way across. It was the most fun I'd ever had, and for the first time since I was a teenager, I felt myself awakening.

This last year we've been building a house and developing our 25 acres. I've started my very first vegetable garden, and I've discovered the joys of hanging clothes to dry. We've got laying hens now, and hope to eventually raise rabbits, turkeys and sheep. Every day I wonder at the peace and serenity this new life has given us.

But, best of all, this change has released my muse at last. I've started writing again, joyously, fervently. I've rediscovered the pleasure of creating, and I know in my heart I will never let it go again. I've seen and learned so much on this journey; it's no wonder I couldn't create when I lived in that self-imposed box I called a life.

But finding the inspiration to write needn't be as dramatic or as expensive as this. Take a course or class that will challenge you. Become a volunteer. Drive a different way to work, or explore parts of your town you've never been. Take lots of unusual pictures. Stop doing the same old thing and start shaking up your life: a new restaurant, a live performance, or music in the park. Change needn't cost money. Take a walk every night and vary your routes, walk a neighbor's dog, sit in the park and observe the humans that pass by, stroll through the mall and take note of the noises, the colors, and the smells, watch birds from your window, bake some cookies and take them to a neighbor. Reach out and touch the world around you.

Don't be shy, or afraid, or hesitant. Life truly is too short. Get out and live a little, or a whole lot! Do not mourn the time you have lost; celebrate who you are now, and forge ahead with a smile on your lips. Inspire yourself, and the words will flow.


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. Her only claims to writing fame are placing second in a local writing contest, and publication of a short story in a local writer's magazine


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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

 

Throw Off The Bowlines

By Jill Earl

Periodically, I turn to my growing list of quotes when I need a laugh or for inspiration. This quote, attributed to Mark Twain, led me to take a deeper look at what I get out of writing.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off your bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I’m not in the safe harbor as much. The trade winds beckon and grow stronger. And I'm okay with that.

This year’s explorations include learning more about scriptwriting and photography. I dream of possibilities as I continue to devour various books on the subjects. Then, I throw off the bowlines and discover.

Earlier in the year, I entered a 30-second radio commercial challenge that was sponsored by a writing forum in Britain, and had 24 hours to submit my entry. While I didn’t win, I was tied for their ‘Highly Commendable’ designation, with only half a point separating me and another person. This will come in handy as I gain more experience in crafting scripts.

I hope to cast bowlines later this year as I fit in my first photography class, either at a local college or online school. I bought my first digital camera and have been getting acquainted with it at every opportunity, including using it while on a recent work-related trip to Miami. I can see some of those images being used as inspiration for fiction stories, or accompanizng articles.

I don’t want to look back twenty years and see myself in the same harbor, disappointment mounting as the trade winds sweep by. I plan to keep on exploring, dreaming and discovering writing. I signed up for this adventure and I’m sure not backing out now.

How about you? Have you thrown off the bowlines?

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

 

Writing: Pursue It 110 Percent

By Jill Earl

“If you have a passion for something, take no hesitation to pursue it 110 percent. It’s about focus, intensity, perseverance and believing in yourself and what you are capable of.”

I came across this quote from Alissa Augustine, a Native American deejay, while reading Language Is A Place of Struggle: Great Quotes by People of Color, edited by Tram Nguyen. Here’s a quick check-up to see how Ms. Augustine’s words can be applied to writing.

Focus. Making the time to actually write. Researching markets. Taking classes to acquire new skills and sharpen existing ones. Tightening dialogue. Getting out to network with fellow writers. That means putting down the remote when the new season of your favorite show’s starting. Or when your social networks are calling. Even when you’re about to reach a juicy section in that fab book you’re reading for pleasure.

Intensity. Do you live and breathe writing? Are you excited when you pick up a pen or turn on the computer, because you’re about to do your favorite thing? You can’t be lukewarm in this business and succeed. Well, you can, but do you really want that?

Perseverance. Are you willing to stick with your writing when the only thing you’re producing is blank pages? How about when the naysayers outnumber the supporters? And when the income is less than the outgo? Press through that wall. The ending to your novel might be waiting on the other side, along with payment from those articles you submitted weeks ago.

Believing in yourself. It’s a continual process. But if you don’t think you can be a successful writer, how can you expect anyone else to?

Look at the quote again. Are you willing to pursue the writing life 110 percent?

I am. How about you?

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

 

Take A Happy Break

by Jill Earl

Got an email from a friend a couple of days ago about a site called 'Things To Be Happy About'. Curiosity piqued, I headed over for a look-see.

The site is based on author, lexicographer and archaeologist Barbara Ann Kipfer’s 14,000 Things To Be Happy About and other books she’s written. My cutesy tolerance tends to be pretty low, but I found myself smiling at the illustrations on the homepage.

The site’s a gold mine of little-known facts, ideas and things to lift your spirit.

You can get started by clicking on the current day’s date to find things for that specific day. Today (April 19th), get happy over tiny, cozy restaurants. Take it a step further and find one to go to, alone or with a friend.

Want to put together a wish list of things you want to do? Check out ‘Wish Upon A Star’, based on ‘The Wish List, for dreams both attainable and a bit more far-flung.

Who doesn’t need a bit of guidance in life? Get thee to the 'Wisdom Well' and see what you can find.

There's a search function in each section so that you can plug in random words or thoughts to see what comes up. I typed in 'chocolate' under the 'Life Needs A Menu' section and the results were rather mouth-watering!

And while you’re scoping the site, you just might find a few ideas for your writing.

So when your eyes are crossing from market research overload, frustration’s building over articles that won’t come together, and you’re weary of characters insisting on doing things their way, give yourself a break and head over.

http://www.thingstobehappyabout.com/

Because we writers can all use an occasional visit to that shiny happy place.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

 

A World of Inspiration

By Jill Earl

As writers, we’re always looking for inspiration to get us back to the keyboard or notepad, or to expand on an idea (or several) already percolating in our minds.

While exploring HOW, an online magazine for graphic design professionals, I came across an article by Sam Harrison, author of a number of books on creativity and editor of his site, ZingZone.com. Titled ‘10 Ways to Get Inspired by the World Around You’, Mr. Harrison suggests that close examination of what’s around us may reveal more ideas than we can handle.

I daresay that most writers already practice number five, ‘Observe and Take Note’. After all, how else would we get, retain and develop all of those ideas we come across? Mr. Harrison mentions two of the world’s more notable notetakers, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison, whose books were filled with diagrams, sketches and notes.

Not too long ago, I came across a worn notebook filled with expansive family trees of characters I had created when I was in high school. This book became a ready resource to flesh out characters for scripts I wrote for an online radio drama I used to work for.

You could look at number two, ‘Explore the Masters for Material’. The article points to artist Willem de Kooning, who was inspired by Rubens to combine classical and modern into a new form of art. Does Dali do something for you? Perhaps a gaze into his life may inspire you to create a graphic novel.

Sometimes as number ten states, you ‘ Stay Where You Are’, which is what Charles Pajeau did as he watched his children build structures with pencils and thread spools they found around their home. What was the outcome? A classic: Tinkertoys.

And for the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, go here: http://www.howdesign.com/article/worldinspiration/

The world provides such rich inspiration for the writer. Get out there and get them!

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

 

A Thought (or Two) on ‘Top 10 Fears of Writers’

By Jill Earl

Last week, fellow WOW! woman Marcia Peterson’s encouraging post, ‘Top 10 Fears of Writers’, couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Allow me to elaborate.

Recently, a writing site sent out an announcement that they would be conducting a week of daily challenges for its members to tackle, where the winner would receive writing software as the prize offered for a specific day. Entrants had to become a member of the site and only had 24 hours to submit their pieces.

I got over to the site to sign up and read through the guidelines for my chosen challenge. Then I got to work on my 150-word entry.

The result? I tied for runner-up with another person and we were told that there was only one point separating us from first place. The next day, Marcia’s post appeared online and I chuckled as I read through and paused at number four: that I'll get stuck and nothing will come out. This time around, that certainly wasn’t the case as I saw the words jump to the screen!

Some opportunities for writers to challenge themselves appear below:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is the most familiar, with participants writing a 175-page, 50,000-word novel during November.

With Script Frenzy, you write 100 pages of scripted material (including screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, radio, graphic novels, etc.) in the month of April.

There's even National November Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), where bloggers post every day for a month, no word limit. This one's year round, and in November, participants can look forward to a random prize drawing.

I may not have won the contest I entered, but I rose to the challenge. That’s what we writers must do to overcome our fears, and meet our goals. It’s all part of the process to become a better writer.

Just a thought---or two.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

 

Freewriting: What Happened To My Passion?

Have you ever felt the need to listen to a particular song and find yourself scouring YouTube.com? You locate the video and remember exactly what it meant to you--where you were, what you were doing, and why it's still important, or should be--and afterward, you notice those little links that pop up recommending you to view other related videos. Sometimes they're by the same artist, sometimes they're merely similar, but before you realize it, you're following a trail of breadcrumbs and looking up old favorites from decades ago.

That just happened to me.

I started looking up Kate Bush songs, then progressed to Peter Gabriel, and that led to the 1986 Amnesty International Concert, "Conspiracy of Hope." I worked for Amnesty at that concert as a volunteer and passed out flyers. I was fourteen-years-old. After my duties were finished, my friends and I crept up to the fourth row and enjoyed face-time with the performances of Peter Gabriel, U2, Sting/The Police, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Miles Davis, Madonna, Sean Penn and Bob Geldof. Funny thing is, I'd almost completely forgotten about the concert until I saw the related link on YouTube. How could I forget something as important as that? After all, my friends and I started the Amnesty International club at our high school, and if I'm not mistaken, it still remains today.

When I was fourteen, the issues pertaining to human rights were extremely important to me. I wrote poems, stories, performed spoken word about Steven Biko for my speech class, and painted to serve the cause. After years of moving around, I've lost those paintings. But as I viewed the concert on YouTube, I remembered each one of them vividly. I painted abstract figures wrapped in barbwire, trees engulfing buildings, and black lines of imprisoned figures holding flowers between steel bars. Those paintings either went into a dumpster when my father's house sold, or are hanging on a free spirit's wall somewhere. The latter makes me smile.

The thing is, as I got older and "busier" I forgot about my passions as a teen. Is this something that happens to everyone? Do we simply evolve, or in my case, "devolve," and forget about the things that really stirred us in our youth?

I'm happy I checked my insecurities at the gate when I entered my thirties, but what about those things that instilled a sense of passion and place in my teens? What happened to the young activist? Did she meet an early demise by the hand of her family and daily duties? I sincerely hope not.

Yeah, we grow up and have different mindsets. It's for the better, I'm sure. But somehow, we seem to relinquish the fresh perspective that can be such a gripping tool to the writer. Lately, I've been looking back at my writing and wonder if I've de-gressed. I know what the cure is, and I've been ignoring it. It's simple. It's organic. It's non-edited, non-structured, and nonsensical. It's freewriting.

Freewriting allows us to let go.

If you haven't freewritten in a while because of obligations, responsibilities, or the need to make every word count because you're a freelancer, take a moment and rediscover the art of letting your words flow recklessly and carelessly onto paper. Embrace every thought.

This post is a freewrite. I had no idea where it would go. I started with one idea and hoped that I would find a resolve. I think I did, and maybe next time, I will find my passion.

Freewriting Exercise:

  • Start with a blank page and type one topic idea at the top.
  • Set a timer for ten minutes. You really don't want to do it for any longer than that because freewriting is a warm up for more focused writing.
  • Begin to type anything that comes into your head. Don't stop until the time is up.
  • When you are done, see what you've written and pull any ideas or phrases that you can use later.

Think about it: if you have ten minutes to spare, you may be able to get back your passion.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

 

Writing Inspiration Through Abraham Lincoln

On President's Day, I thought we could learn a little about perseverance and hard work through Abraham Lincoln. When I taught fifth grade full time, I used to have a poster about this very subject. I find Abe's spirit and story absolutely motivational and inspirational! Here's what I'm talking about. . .

1832 --Lost job, Defeated for state legislature
1833 --Failed in business
1835 --Sweetheart died
1836 --Had nervous breakdown
1838 --Defeated for Speaker
1843 --Defeated for nomination for Congress
1848 --Lost renomination for Congress
1849 --Rejected for land officer
1854 --Defeated for U.S. Senate
1856 --Defeated for nomination for Vice President
1858 --Again defeated for U.S. Senate
1860 Elected President
Of course, he had success along the way, or he would have never made it to president. You can see all his successes through that link above. But the point is that any one of those failures would have stopped many people from pursuing a career in politics, especially running for president. Some of his successes were small, and some were large, but each kept him going.
Are you celebrating your small and big successes? When you accomplish a writing goal, celebrate. When you win a writing contest, go out to dinner. If you get a book contract, open your front door and shout and scream and tell your neighborhood!
OR
Are you letting a rejection stop you from sending out more stories or queries? Is your novel in a drawer instead of working through it with a critique group and finding an agent? Are low book sales, due to the economy, making you doubt your career choice as a writer? Anytime you feel discouraged, remember there are people who have faced defeat. And in the face of defeat, they stuck out their tongues, wiped off their brows, and kept on going in spite of what anyone else thought or suggested.
Happy birthday to our former presidents. May we learn from history, so that our futures are even brighter!
Happy writing!
Margo Dill
photo by Seansie at www.flickr.com

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

 

The WOW! Archives: Mining for Writing Ideas

By Jill Earl

While looking for new sources of writing inspiration, I decided to check the WOW! Archives recently. On my visit, I came across a post by former WOW’ser Jean Lauzier that caught my eye. Titled ‘Dare I Say It? Time to Exercise!!!’, her post presented a few ideas to exercise the reader’s creative muscles. One in particular suggests getting a 'workout' at the mall or shopping center by listening to conversations or people watching.

I’ve always been a people watcher, and have both my notepad and Palm handy to jot down ideas from conversations I may tune into, whether I’m at Panera or waiting for the bus after work. I was inspired to dig up some character development notes I have regarding scenes from a café I frequented back in the day. I can easily rework them and gather more data to be crafted into new pieces. Hmm, I’m sensing a trip to Panera in my future---for research, of course!

I’m going to try the other suggestions Jean offered, too. For more of her post, skirt over here: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2007/09/dare-i-say-it-time-to-exercise.html#links

And for more WOW! posts worthy of a look, the Archives can be found on the left side of 'The Muffin' blog page.

So dig into the WOW! Archives. It’s a great resource to jumpstart your writing.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

 

A Quote A Day Brings Inspiration Your Way

By Jill Earl

Found a very interesting blog a few days ago, ‘Quotes on Writing’, created by writer Jim Harrington. Each post begins with a favorite quote of his, then addresses a specific writing topic that he’s used to help him grow as a writer.

Mr Harrington stated in a sidebar on his blog, “My purpose in writing this blog is to clarify in my own mind some of these topics and, hopefully, to stimulate the reader to do the same.” He pulls those quotes from resources such as articles, other websites and books.

In my opinion, he’s accomplished his goal. In the short time I’ve been checking out the blog, I’ve been stimulated by his thoughts and inspired by the quote on a specific day’s topic.

For instance, a quote from Kay Marie Porterfield’s article, ‘10 Reasons to Write Flash Fiction’ is the stepping-off point for the January 14th post, ‘Curing Prosaic Diarrhea’. Here, Mr. Harrington discusses how writing flash fiction helped him write in a concise manner, and he also offers tips to get started. I’ve already bookmarked that particular post for future reference.

Interested? Take a look for yourself at: http://quotesonwriting.blogspot.com/

And let some quotes a day bring some writing inspiration your way.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

 

Looking to Uncle Wiggily for Inspiration

By Jill Earl

Every so often, I like to turn to children’s and young adult books for a break from adult reading material. In reviewing 2008’s reading plan, I included a section specifically for this type of reading, but I ended up bypassing it for other sections. That won't happen this year.

Why? I find writing inspiration and ideas in the pages. I get to do some serious stretching of the imagination. It’s an opportunity to examine the writing styles of the various authors. And finally, it’s fun!

Top choice for my reading plan will be Howard R. Garis’ Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book, about the ‘bunny rabbit gentleman’ and the adventures he and his animal friends shared as they helped children through day-to-day experiences, such as toothaches, cleaning up after falling into mud puddles, and having safe, homemade fun for the Fourth of July. Even more fun, the edition I have comes with the original black-and-white illustrations from the 1920’s.

Joining Uncle Wiggily will be From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Reading about Claudia and Jamie’s adventures living in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art helped prepare me for my first visit there as a child. It also awakened in me a deep love for art.

What about you? Do you have a favorite children’s or young adult book (or several) that you return to for inspiration, education or fun? I’d love to here about it!

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Friday, December 26, 2008

 

Five's the Charm

By Jill Earl

While checking out Erika Dreifus' Practicing Writing blog a couple of days ago, I came across an interesting exercise, which you may have seen out on the blogosphere. Called an exercise in fives, it’s easy and can be used to get your creativity going. I've listed my responses to two of topics that particularly reasonated with me below:

What were you doing five years ago (December 2003)?
1. Working as an employment & training counselor with a county agency providing outplacement services for displaced steel workers
2. Packing for a missions conference in Illinois
3. Experiencing my first Christmas with my first tree.
4. Working as a voice artist, writer and editor for an Internet radio drama
5. Looking forward to holiday vacation time

What are five jobs you've had?
1. See #1 under ‘What were you doing five years ago?’
2. Kennel and bird technician at a pet store
3. Staff writer at a media production company
4. Orientation program assistant at a local university
5. Reading tutor

Five years doesn't seem that long ago, and it really isn't, but I was amazed that I had forgotten some of the things I did back then. And while working at the pet store, I was reminded of the adventures I had with the animals there. Puppies and hamsters and parrots, oh my!

To see the rest of the list, and see how others answered, here's the link to the post:
<http://practicing-writing.blogspot.com/2008/12/tagged-on-tuesday.html#links>

Give it a try. Who knows, you might discover a story or article idea hidden among your memories!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

 

Tiny Chunks of Time

At this time of year, your calendar is probably booked with extra chores. So where does that leave your writing life?

Don't worry! You can keep it alive and kicking by using the nooks and crannies of your day. "Even tiny chunks of time, reclaimed, can add up to the hours necessary to write," says David Fryxell, author of How to Write Fast (While Writing Well).

Here are a few inspiring examples from his book:

*The French Chancellor D'Aguesseau, it's said, once noticed that his wife was habitually ten minutes late coming down to dinner. He decided to make use of those ten minutes (3,650 minutes a year, or more than sixty hours). We he waited for dinner, D'Aguesseau wrote a three-volume book, which became a bestseller when it was published in 1668.

*Anthony Trollope spent most of his life working as a postal clerk, but he would get up at five o'clock each morning and write 3,000 words in the three hours before beginning with the mail. If Trollope finished penning a novel before it was time to go to work—and he finished nearly fifty books this way—he'd simply begin another.

*More recently, the British crime novelist Michael Gilbert managed to craft twenty-three books during his daily fifty-minute commute to his "real job" as a solicitor.


Your situation may be different from the men in these examples, but I'll bet you can find a way to adjust one of the scenarios to fit your life. Grabbing small parts of your day, whether ten minutes or an hour, can be enough time to make good things happen with your writing.

--Marcia Peterson

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

 

Got Writing Leftovers? Clean Out the Fridge!

By Jill Earl

A couple of days ago, I got rid of the past-their-prime leftovers in my fridge that needed to be trashed. I’m doing the same with my writing space, files, and library. It’s been a slow, somewhat overwhelming process. Then I found inspiration through an article called, ‘Cleaning the Freelance Fridge’.

Written by freelancer Beth Bartlett, the article offers tips on how to perform a major cleanup of your writing files by checking to see if those forgotten manuscripts, dog-eared notes and cluttered folders can be reused or permanently disposed of to make room for new files.

For instance, under the ‘Freshen it up’ heading, Ms. Bartlett suggests examining old research to see if it can be revamped for a new article or story you may be working on. I’ve got a short piece about a neighbor’s dog that needs reworking, so it’s getting pulled from the recesses of that draft folder on my laptop.

The ‘Toss it out’ heading is pretty self-explanatory. If, after following Ms. Bartlett’s suggestions on revamping your files, you find the material truly unsalvageable, it may be better to let go and start fresh.

This packrat hears and will obey. I’m determined not to bring this year’s clutter into 2009. It really is so much easier to find what I need when my writing files are orderly!

Want more? Check the rest of article here: http://www.writingfordollars.com/2008/VOL12NUM49.cfm

Deal with your literary leftovers—by cleaning out your freelance fridge.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

 

Monday Motivator: Bird by Bird

Looking through some of my writing books, I picked up an old favorite: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Many of you are familiar with this national bestseller, which is filled with helpful, funny and sometimes provocative advice. Here are just a few of the sections I highlighted in my copy:


"A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up."

***

"Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can't—and, in fact, you're not supposed to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing."

***

"Take the attitude that what you are thinking and feeling is valuable stuff, and then be naïve enough to get it all down on paper."

***

"In the beginning, when you're first starting out, there are a million reasons not to write, to give up. That is why it is of extreme importance to make a commitment to finishing sections and stories, to driving through to the finish. The discouraging voices will hound you—'This is all piffle,' they will say, and they may be right. What you are doing may just be practice. But this is how you are going to get better, and there is no pointing practicing if you don't finish."

***

"Annie Dillard has said that day by day you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects. If you give freely, there will always be more."


--MP

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

 

It's Cube-Breaking Time!

By Jill Earl

I’m about to step into a new genre of writing, that is, new to me. A local screenwriting competition has just begun. The early deadline is about a month away, but I’m going for the late deadline next January. Think I’ll need the time.

Screenwriting has been in my thoughts for some time apparently. I’ve only just realized that I’d been reading books on the genre, and had attended sessions at past conferences. I’m signing up for another workshop at a conference next month and have looked into taking classes.

I’m definitely doing something new with my writing life. Fits in with the theme of WOW!’s September/October issue, ‘Breaking Out of Your Cube’. As mentioned in the ‘Editor’s Desk’ section, it’s about ‘taking a chance on writing, believing in yourself, and shifting your focus’.

Did I feel the need to do some cube-breaking? Not really. I’m taking a chance on trying a genre I’ve never written in before, and entering the contest because I want to see what I can produce. The competition will be intense and it would be great if I place or received an honorable mention. More than likely, that won’t happen and that’s okay.

Then again, my screenplay may win another screenwriting contest. Or I might place in the local competition in the future. For any of that to happen, I have to believe in myself. Take classes. Attend workshops and conferences. Write and gain experience.

What about you? Have you broken any cubes in your writing lately? Tell me about it!

And, don’t forget to check out ‘Breaking Out of Your Cube’, the September/October issue of WOW! for some great ideas and inspiration!

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Friday, October 03, 2008

 

Reading 'Letters To a Young Artist'

By Jill Earl

I’m about to re-read ‘Letters to a Young Artist’ by Anna Deavere Smith, noted actress, teacher and Tony-nominated playwright. The book is a series of letters written to ‘BZ’, a fictionalized teen painter who, through an auction, won her services as a mentor for a number of years. The author candidly shares her thoughts, heart and wisdom and readers are invited along in the process.

Ms. Deavere Smith is succinct, while challenging both the reader and ‘BZ’ to consider the cost of a creative life. With sections such as ‘Basics’, ‘Work’, ‘Keeping The Faith’ and ‘Art & Society’, she offers her own struggles and victories to educate and encourage.

The best part? You don’t have to be a young artist to read the book. Artists of all ages and stages can benefit from not only the author’s insight, but artists from a range of disciplines. Photos of their works are included, along with their thoughts on how the process worked (or didn’t work) for them. And Ms. Deavere Smith closes her book with resources to assist artists in finding financial support for their art.

One of my favorite passages can be found in the ‘Relationships’ section. Under the ‘Struggling Artists’ chapter, Ms. Deavere Smith writes about her arrival in New York City in the 70’s, and how her friendship with fellow artist Randy helped her to adjust and grow into her new life. She ends the chapter with these words, “Find a spiritual twin to walk the city streets with, to waken the dawn with, to construct a world with.”

Those words resonate deeply. Connection to the spiritual twins in my own life have truly made the writing path less lonely, as we've walked those streets and constructed worlds together.

So, check out ‘Letters to a Young Artist’ to be encouraged and challenged in your pursuit of writing.

Because sometimes we all need some ‘straight-up advice’ from one who’s been there.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

 

Add A 'Nudge' to Your Writing Life

By Jill Earl

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need just the right ‘nudge’ to get me going when it comes to my writing life. One time, I might need an idea for an article I'm working on. Another time, I may be pondering the best way to market myself. Yet another time, I may need some guidance on networking.

Turning to a writing coach or mentor would be ideal, but what if you don’t have access to one? ‘The Morning Nudge’ might be the answer for you.

Created by freelance writer and writing coach Suzanne Lieurance, ‘The Morning Nudge’ delivers advice and inspiration to your inbox to help your career. I like the variety of emails I receive and I can count on being motivated to focus on one area of writing each day.

For instance, the May 13th email, ‘Read To Become A Better Writer’, suggested taking at least 30 minutes out of the day to read something of interest to you and read the types of materials that you wish to write, two things I already do.

And if you want to keep being paid for your writing, the April 9th email points out that you need to be either looking for or completing freelance writing jobs all the time. I can use some work in that area.

There are other times when an email prompts you to pull out paper or laptop to set up goals for the near future.

Just some simple ways to keep the momentum going in your writing career.

Interested? Get ‘The Morning Nudge’ at http://www.workingwriterscoach.com/

Because, sometimes, we all need just the right nudge in our writing.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

 

Hooray for 'I Love To Write Day'

By Jill Earl

Okay, I have to admit that I’d never heard of this event until I read about it a couple of days ago in a newsletter. The article, written by the event’s founder, John Riddle, gives the story behind ‘I Love To Write Day’.

A freelancer for 30 years, Mr. Riddle has written for numerous newspapers, magazines and websites. He’s also the author of several books and presents at writers’ conferences nationwide. Involved in coordinating special events while working in fundraising, including an attempt to assemble the largest number of people dancing the Twist for Guinness Book of World Records, he came up with the idea of holding the ‘world’s largest party for writers’.

Mr. Riddle’s goal of ‘I Love To Write Day’ is “to have people of all ages spend time writing. They can write a poem, a letter, a greeting card, an essay, a short story, start a novel, finish a novel…the possibilities are endless.” The event continues to garner attention since its inception in 2002 and November 15, 2008 will mark its seventh anniversary. Even governors of several states (including my home state of Maryland) have proclaimed November 15 as ‘I Love To Write Day’.

You‘ve probably got some ideas of your own. It doesn’t have to be a major writing project---unless you want it to be. It can be a simple as writing an encouraging note to someone. Community-wide, you can join schools, bookstores, libraries and many others in celebrating the day through various programs.

To join in the festivities, simply go here to http://www.ilovetowriteday.org to read up on the day.

And, let’s get this party started!

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

 

More On Filling Your Writing Well

By Jill Earl

Last month, Annette wrote a post, Fill Your Writing Well, encouraging writers to take time out to go gather sensory details to help us create vibrant characters and settings. She offered ten ways to help you get started, such as people watching at a sidewalk cafe, attending a live music event, and stretching out on a blanket in the park under a tree. It was fun to go through her list and see how many activities I’ve done, and keep in mind ones I want to try in the future. I have a couple of suggestions of my own below.

1) Special events
With weddings, graduations and other social events in full swing during warmer months, you’ve a perfect opportunity to do more people watching and listening in on conversations as you hit the buffet line or waltz with your significant other. And you never know what might happen while you’re doing the 'Cha-Cha Slide'.

2) Photo-ops
Ever thought about taking your camera out for an impromptu shoot around the neighborhood? Try it and see what images you catch. Take a couple of shots of a pair of cheeky squirrels chasing each other around a tree, their claws scrabbling on the bark. Or how about the squealing kids watering down each other more than their lawn?

3) Farm visits
Whenever I can, I go to a local pick-your-own farm for fresh produce, during cool summer days and especially during fall. I like going in June to pick strawberries and blueberries, smelling their sweetness lingering on my fingers as I drop them into my container. In the fall, the tang of apples surrounds us as we pick and snack on the crisp beauties. I’m dazzled by the vivid greenish-blue of broccoli and run my hand over their bumpy heads. In the market, I admire the bright colors of the preserves and relishes as I select which ones come home with me to perk up meals. And I chat with other pickers as we exchange recipe ideas.

Those are some ways I’ve restocked and refreshed my image well, while enjoying life outside my writing space.

Now, it’s your turn.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

 

You Too Can 'Become A Healthy Writer'

By Jill Earl

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.

You can find the rest of the article here at:
http://www.writingfordollars.com/2008/vol12num28.cfm

I don’t know about you, but this is one health plan I know I’m going to stick with!

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