Monday, April 05, 2010


My Reasons for Wanting to Win a Scholarship to Attend the Backspace Writers Conference

Recently I interviewed one of my childhood heroes for a magazine pitch. It was a thrill to visit his art studio and see decades of his work on display. He started his artist's career when a friend suggested he move from real estate development into another field. Needing some educational backing, he worked to receive his MFA.

He taught during his graduate studies, incorporating his business background and instructing his students on how to manage a career in art. The school's administration balked. He related to me that the administration told him artists need to create and not to worry about the business aspects of art. He left academia, but not before befriending many of the students he had helped.

Since that interview, I've wondered where I would be if I could have learned about the business aspects of publishing from someone like him. Echoing in my brain are inspiring and creative words from many of my MFA professors. Unfortunately, few words come to mind about navigating the business aspects of the publishing world.

Novel ideas continue to percolate in my brain. However, income-producing writing assignments hold my daily focus. For me, the day-to-day joys of writing are to learn something new each day, to converse with someone who also loves books, and to know that I can apply my backspace key liberally. But my long-term goal is to earn a living as a novelist and a writer.

While trying to publish my first novel, finding an agent has become discouraging and, regretfully, has taken a backseat. After initially enthusiastic responses from agents, I've had my novel rejected numerous times and other proposals have failed to engage anyone’s interest.

I am turning to conferences to help find caring communities to help move my agent search into the front seat while filling the gaps in my knowledge of the business of writing. In addition, I hope to find a group that can help me learn and grow as a writer, enabling me to exchange my skills as I gain experience.

With the Backspace Writers Conference, which covers craft and navigating the tricky terrain of the publishing world, I’ve found the right outlet to support my growth as a writer. By incorporating the practice of writers helping writers, Backspace’s founders have recognized the importance of building a community among writers. (As have the creators of Women On Writing!)

One of the many things that appeals to me about Backspace is the opportunity to connect with people in the publishing world and to discuss writing without the pressure to pitch. Backspace will allow me to learn what I need to present my best work and publish. This conference gives me an opportunity to speak with publishing world pros, to learn from them and to find a common ground and positive direction.

I would like to attend the Backspace Writers Conference and its Agent-Author Seminar because it is the next step in my education in the business of writing while meeting a great community of supportive publishing people.

What about you? Is there a conference you would like to attend and why?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. When she is not researching and trying to win scholarships to writers' conferences, Elizabeth contributes to AOL's ParentDish and she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010


Exercising the Write Muscles

I'm watching snow fall in Denver as I write this.
My family and I have been on a vacation of sorts for more than a week. I've been enjoying my childhood haunts and playing with my kids. I've had a chance to finish reading a novel and start another one. A client re-configured assignments, so I've had only e-mails to draw me near to the computer. No deadlines to interfere with my focus on fun.
While the play and fun has helped to revive some of my creativity, staying in a place that is not conducive for writing for more than a week has dulled my writing abilities.
I have always had an understanding about how important it is to write regularly, but because I write regularly, I rarely have had a chance to test that understanding.
Now I have.
My writing muscles feel sluggish. My brain feels slushy.
I'm enjoying my vacation, but writing this post is making me realize how I may have to start exercising my writing muscles before returning home.
Otherwise, I may need a to take a writing vacation once I'm back from my family vacation.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. When she is not on vacation, Elizabeth contributes to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Books and Water: Combining our greatest resources

When The Muffin sought reviewers to write about "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization" by Steven Solomon (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers; $27.99; ISBN 9780060548308) I jumped at the chance.
Why would I want to dive into more than 500 pages about water?
Sure, I appreciate a good non-fiction read. But wouldn't a book on water be, well, ahem, a little dry? Admittedly, "Water" may not always be the most riveting read, in places trickling a little slowly.
However, Solomon understands the global and historical importance of water--how our planet with 70 percent water sets us apart from our solar system neighbors. He takes such a regular and taken-for-granted resource and, in a well-researched and well-written book, brings his readers along for an epic ride.
Solomon, a respected journalist, has succeeded in tackling a serious book about an amazing substance that affects all of us, no matter how much of your daily intact you actually drink or where you live. And water has impacted societies from the earliest times--and continues to do so.
Divided into four parts, Solomon takes his readers from the ancient times, explaining the importance of water and irrigation for early civilization. He incorporates the importance of water in early trade and the age of discovery. Water plays a role in the industrial society, giving way to the rise of our international focus. The fourth section, with the lens developed throughout the previous sections, brings readers into the "The Age of Scarcity." Solomon also addresses the politics of water in the twenty-first century.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Solomon's consideration of the importance of sanitation and clean water. England in 1858 was not the cleanest place to live and 25,000 Londoners had died from two cholera epidemics in the previous 10 years. Clean water was at a premium and, that summer, the heat and stench increased, giving rise to "The Great Stink." The stench succeeded where years of politicking had failed forcing Parliament to pass legislation (in 18 days) to "construct a proper sanitary sewerage system befitting the world's leading city."
Solomon writes: "Throughout history, water's life-giving indispensability had always been double-edged. On the one side, drinking two to three quarts of clean freshwater daily sustained each person's existence.... Yet simultaneously, drinking contaminated water and exposure to stagnant water bearing an infiltrating army of diseases also was the main source of human illness, abbreviated life spans, and physical miseries."
Those words may seem obvious to some, it is that accessibility coupled with the historical intricacies that makes this book so fascinating to read.
While the book may not be for everyone, I can see this book flying off shelves and becoming required reading in academic settings (perhaps an environmental studies course or two).
If you desire a captivating and accessible work about something we often take for granted, you should add this one to the top of your reading list.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. When she is not drinking the recommended daily allowance of water, she contributes to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010


Silencing the negativity

A friend approached me about some negative comments a customer had said about her successful business. The comments had stopped her in her tracks for days. The negativity crept up and took hold of much of her energy.
Amazingly, I often seem to remember negative comments much more than positive ones. My friend with the business agreed. No matter how many customers she had, the one critic's comments nagged at her.
It's almost as if we have an inner critic that lurking in our mind. Then a person says something that adds fuel to a spark that consumes our self-esteem. Dousing that raging inner critic is often hard.
This has happened to me. In the past couple weeks, I've been working to silence an inner critic of my writing after someone made a negative--not constructive--comment about something I wrote. It didn't bother me at first. But then I gave the negativity too much room to roam in my mind--too much space and fuel--and the critic overtook many positives I'd been feeling.
Instead of giving into the critic (for too long), I gave myself a boost without tapping away on my keyboard. I called a friend. A writer/editor with an understanding of the writing process and a wicked sense of humor. After 10 minutes, she had me laughing so hard that all negative thoughts were pushed out of my mind. She didn't stroke my ego but she brought back a sense of humor and play that I needed to regain my balance and squash that flame of the inner critic.
What do you do to return balance to your writing after feeling the pinch of an inner or external critic?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. She would rather spend time alone with her keyboard than to roam the desolate, dusty fields of negative writing comments. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Can Plagiarism Be Creative?

The same week I read about a German author who is defending her plagiarism, J.K. Rowling is being mentioned in another case of an author who believes Rowling heavily borrowed from his books.
In the instance of the first case of plagiarism, the author Helene Hegemann believes that her use of another's author's work is an art form. According to the Salon article I read, Hegemann reportedly told a German newspaper: "I myself don't feel it is stealing, because I put all the material into a completely different and unique context and from the outset consistently promoted the fact that none of that is actually by me." However, as Laura Miller points out on Salon, Hegemann did not give the author of credit for the passages taken from "Strobo."
Please note that I have no first-hand knowledge of either case of alleged plagiarism, but I am interested in how reading someone else's work can or might influence my own work--maybe even creeping into my writing?
Many writers state that by reading the masters, they improved their own writing. When studying the greats, often a professor will suggest copying the words of the master to learn the cadences, word choices, and rhythms. I'm sure my novel writing career would do much better if I were to borrow heavily from the greats. I also understood that as civilization has moved along, we build on the shoulders of those who came before us. Some even argue that there are no original stories, just a re-hash of stories that have come before.
But sometimes, that line blurs. I have taught college students whose academic careers could be destroyed due to one instance of plagiarism and yet the students seem unsure what constitutes plagiarism--and why it would be such a big deal.
I think that as an exercise and to understand the world it is vitally important to be aware of the work of those who have come before. From the standpoint of creativity and our own interaction with creativity, I'm not sure that plagiarism is the best method of rising to the occasion and meeting our muse. Or is it?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Defining a "perfect" distraction

Perfection is one of the most, well, perfect writing distractions. It is well suited for the creative person shaping and molding. After all, don't we all want something we create to be perfect?
How many of us write a draft, only to find ourselves stuck over a word, a phrase or the perfect shade of ink. We're seeking, searching for something perfect.
One of the elements in improving our own writing is to move past some of the distractions that crop up. Wrestling with perfection seems to work against what we truly want to do.
But what is perfection, really? Who dictates what is perfect?
One of my graduate school professors discussed The Great Gatsby as the perfect novel.
I have some perfect novels in a desk drawer, but a few literary agents didn't think them so perfect.
The Great Gatsby, my professor explained, may be perfect, but it is a flawed perfection because no writing can be absolutely flawless.
That's what keeps me at my computer tapping away or taking hours to scratch out my ideas in my notebooks. The search for perfection, even with some marred facets. Do I think I'll attain perfection in my writing? I don't know.
I do know that I won't let it get in the way of my sitting down to write.
How about you? What are your biggest internal distractions when you look at the blank page in front of you?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010


Why a blogging conference?

Last year, as I started a blog for myself and was hired to blog for someone else, I decided to go to a blogging conference. When I mentioned my intentions, one friends quipped: "Shouldn't a blogging conference be held online? And why, if you are a writer, are you going to a blogging conference? That seems so techy."
I really didn't have an idea of what was in store for me when I did arrive at last year's BlissDom. I mainly selected it because Nashville is closer to my North Carolina than other blogging conferences (Texas, Illinois or California). And the timing fit with my start of my creativity blog and a parenting blog.
What I never expected was how excited I would be to return--so much so that as soon as the dates were announced, I let my husband know not to count on me for this weekend.
Why shouldn't I be trying to go to a writers' conference instead, my friend asked me. I enjoy writers' conferences, but there was an energy at the blogging conference that was infectious. At a gathering of writers who are trying to make a living as writers, sometimes the feeling be less congenial. After all, many of your fellow writers are your competitors for a finite number of editors. Even if they may not pitch one editor, they are certainly going to stand in line for some face time.
In the social media world/blogosphere, bloggers visit and comment on each other's sites. Many become virtual friends and finally meet up at blogging conferences. After last year's conference, I had a renewed focus and energy towards the Web--and I think that helped my writing.
I need some of that again. Now. And it doesn't hurt that they are bringing in Harry Connick Jr. for entertainment.
I'm still looking forward to attending a spring writers' conference. But, for now, I'm going to have a little fun.
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who suspended the search for her copy of Bird-by-Bird to attend this weekend's BlissDom. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Monday, January 25, 2010


It's time for some exercises!

While interviewing an author recently, she mentioned she had enjoyed Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott so much that she tries to read it each year. That sounded like a wonderful suggestion so, I went to work to find my copy of Lamott's book. Along the way, I found a couple interesting writing books I thought I'd recommend:
One of my favorite books for fiction writing prompts is "What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers" by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. Published in 1990, they released a revised edition in 2009. I like the book mainly because it was one of my first fiction writing exercise books, which I then recommended to my writing students. I've continued to enjoy it because of the approach of the authors as they lead the reader through 83 different exercises ranging from beginnings to mechanics to plot. The book sets out the objective of the exercise and uses examples from either a published writer or from a student. If you are a beginning or an advanced writer, there are element that will keep you busy. Often these exercises seem to serve the author who is writing a story.
Another book that I've started relying on when I feel the need for a fiction exercise is "The 3 A.M. Epiphany" by Brian Kiteley (2005). In Kitely's introduction, he explains that when he uses exercises in his workshops "to derange student stories, find new possibilities, and foster strangeness, irregularity, and non-linearity as much as to encourage revision and cleaning up after yourself." Kitely's 201 exercises guide his students and readers to have a better understanding of why you're writing what you are writing. These exercises--or pairing them up--can be used in the service of a story or not.
Sometimes doing an exercise without having a goal in mind is the best way to release your creativity.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who is still looking for her copy of Bird-by-Bird. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010


Pushing past...and getting to the good stuff

Recently, when I was working to finish revisions on a long project I started thinking about how a writer sometimes need to push past an area of revision or of writing that isn't working. Just getting to the next page, paragraph, sentence or word can help bring clarity to what the writer is working toward.
But what happens when nothing is coming? When you just can't think about it anymore?
Often what works for me when I'm stuck within a piece of writing is to stop in the middle of the process and to give myself some distance from that particular piece.
But I don't move away from my computer. I pick up another piece of writing. One I've been procrastinating getting into and start working with it. Ideally my first project is, let's say, nonfiction and the second project is completely different, perhaps fiction or poetry or corporate writing.
I find the change in the projects can be refreshing to my brain. The shift in gears helps me delve back into a project I've been putting off, whereas my brain also gets a different workout for a while.
In the end, I feel productive, regardless of how many words actually stay on the page and in the draft. That peace of mind, knowing that I've continued working, helps me return to the first project with less resistance.

What helps you to push past resistance in your writing?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who wishes she viewed a a lush forest from her writing window. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Caution, friends, I want your opinion!

Some days I don't know what comes over me. Basically, a friend threw down the challenge for me to enter a writing contest. Convinced to do so, I became so happy to oblige that I managed to write two entries.
Since I don't have a writing group I belong to (because of time constraints), I decided to send out a draft of the essays to friends and family--I wanted to know which essay worked better, based on the contest guidelines.
That's it.
Like most writers, I appreciate constructive criticism when a reader stays on topic. However, I wasn't interested in line edits, digs at a friend's own spouse, my "poor" selections of reading material or contests, my faulty memory or negative comments about my choice of friends and their challenges.
I think the responses shed many lights on the joys of writing: the subjectivity of one's readers and the inevitability of leaving one open to criticism, no matter the subject.
But when I run into someone who has read my blogs or one of my newspaper articles, I hear how wonderful the piece is...and then, why won't the newspaper do a better delivery job in their neighborhood. Interestingly, I never hear the negatives and just glowing accolades (which seem slightly unrealistic, but who am I to fight that battle?).
But, ask someone by e-mail and you learn a lot more about your friends and family than about your writing or the topic of your essay. It was certainly an eye-opening experience, probably one I'll hesitate before trying again, especially since voting is running neck-and-neck between the essays. It will be tough to decide which essay to submit. I'll have to rely on my own faulty subjectivity. Yikes.
So, next time a friend convinces me to enter a contest and I decide to send out the essay, I'll just leave my more vocal family members off the e-mail list. They can just read about it on my blog...and comment, nicely, in person.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who wishes she could use her delete button a lot more than she does. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009


Are your characters believable?

Of late, I've been reading lots--and reading about lots--of different children's fiction. Throw in some of adult reading and nonfiction, assigned writing and many imaginary (and real) protagonists have invaded my mind. While not all are memorable or seem true to their own characterization, many authors succeed in doing both.
Often when constructing a fictional character, we borrow bits and pieces from life. But how frequently do you learn something in real life--someone's romantic difficulties or a high-profile heist--and think to yourself, no one would believe this if it were in a novel?
When developing my stories, I start down one road, sometimes making a flamboyant character, and question whether the reader will believe in her or in course of events. Sometimes I pare down how I might portray a person or an event thinking that by doing so, the reader will trust my fiction more. By doing so, I often find that my readers think the character less believable. Then I read someone else's fiction--a character in an incredible situation. The author has handled it so deftly, that a reader becomes engrossed...and, for pages and pages, believes. That's what I'm striving for.

What about you? When developing your own believable fictional characters, do you stray from your own experiences and embellish elements? Or do you stay close to reality, maybe sticking close to the facts of an event or how people you know would act?

"Happy Holidays!" to all the readers of WOW! Women on Writing. Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Friday, December 11, 2009


As a writer, what battles are you fighting?

"The picture that looks as if it were done without an effort may have been a perfect battlefield in its making." Robert Henri from The Art Spirit

This quotation comes at an excellent time for me. I've just witnessed a plasterer put the final touches on a couple large holes in our home's 1916 walls. Almost 10 years of living in this home, we've been working on many remodeling projects and the plastering helps to move us to complete one of the last big ones.

Except we asked the plasterer to finish his work rough. It was difficult, he told me, because he was accustomed to make everything "smooth as glass." But our walls are the old, rough plaster. Make them smooth and they will look out of place to the rest of our home. We were asking the plasterer to do something he was unaccustomed to doing, but a technique he knew how to do because of his experience. Smooth or rough, the end result hides the cracks and the "battlefield" beneath it.

Do you ever read someone's work and wonder about how many drafts it took to get to the rough or smooth finish the author was after? Do you ever wonder what "battles" needed to be fought in order to achieve the effortless read you enjoyed? Then look to your own work. What are you fighting when you fight the "battles"? Are you able to achieve the desired, perhaps, effortless results--rough or smooth? Or is the battle still being fought among the words as you try to finish your work?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. After writing this blog, Elizabeth plans to stare at the walls to watch the paint and plaster dry. Literally.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009


Your (Christmas tree) fiction process

As many writers have pointed out, sticking to a routine and writing every day at a set time and letting yourself just write makes you more apt to come into contact with your inner self, your unconscious self.
In the spirit of the holidays, is your self--as it is set out on the page--a spare, seemingly unloved, basic Christmas tree with a few lights and fewer ornaments? Or are you one of those Christmas tree loaded with colorful blinking lights and enough ornaments to have sent Charlie Brown's petite Christmas tree into a state of shock? Or do you find yourself to be a cross-section of both, depending on the day or time of day?
For me, I find that I tend to edit as I write, ending up with a basic tree with a few ornaments. Fortunately, I think my inner editor replaces my inner critic. Generally, I spend time formulating in my head and then getting the idea on the page, but often I hesitate over the keys, contemplating the word before I press each letter. Thinking twice as I begin a sentence, visualizing where it will take me.
I had a professor who, if I remember correctly, characterized fiction writers in two groups based on drafts' needs: putter-inners and taker-outers. I'm a putter-inner. I write the bare bones and need to put-in more, decorating each bough with more ornaments or tinsel as I review each draft. Frequently, when I end up with a spare tree of a fiction piece, I sometimes envy the taker-outers. Although they need to take out, their tree is lushly decorated.
So, are you a putter-inner or a taker-outer?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. She is looking forward to sharing the Peanuts' Christmas special with her kids, as well as the Heat Miser song.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


All the best laid plans...for next year's writing

I am a serial NaNoWriMo wannabe. Each year, I plunk onto the site as a willing and able writer. Blink and I find myself at the end of November. I've lost my train of...well, maybe I've just missed the train.
I spend time preparing for the monthly excursion and decide what I'm going to write. I find that the ideas are easy to come by, especially since, for me, it is an exercise in getting the words down. A cowboy story that morphs into a romantic children's book about frogs? No problem. To me, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is its function of writing that is important. Just like setting aside time for daily writing is important.
So, how many of you do just that? Every day, without fail?
Unfortunately, I find that I might make every other day...sometimes every third day. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm often writing, but I'm writing the stuff that comes in between the fiction. Sometimes I'm writing and I take a sideways glance at a book on the shelf and I'm re-reading a passage to help me through a writing dilemma. I count that towards my writing muscle, but not toward my fiction muscle. And none of it shows on the NaNoWriMo counter.
I like setting a goal and following through with thousands of like-minded strangers. But this November, with all the best intentions, my NaNoWriMo experience quickly derailed when a family member died. The funeral took place the first of November and it took a few more days to get back into regular life afterwards. Writing assignments piled up and, once again, I've spent a days getting ready for NaNoWriMo...2010.
I plan to be on the train with a first-class ticket and no derailments. In fact, I'm going to start practicing today and keep it up as long as I can and training so I can remove the wannabe title from above.
In the meantime, I'll stand here from the sidelines: Go NaNoWriMo writers! Make it to the finish line and I'll see you at the starting line next year.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. She is also kicking off the New Year's Resolution season early, to shake out all the ones that don't fit for next year.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009


Reading aloud uncovers all sorts of treasures and pleasures

Perhaps it is the cooler, rainy weather fall has brought along, but lately I'm spending a lot more time cuddling and reading to my kids. The children's books I'm opening up are inspiring me...I love to hear the cadence of the authors' voices and see the brilliant colors and luscious brush strokes of the innovative artists.
In between cuddles and giggles, I ready my ear to focus on word choices and the authors' selections and pacing. Definitely it is a great exercise as a writer (and, as a mother, a wonderful experience).
My kids are old enough to pick their own books, but young enough to be able to enjoy our time reading together. Like hearing a new song, letting my kids' interests guide me has opened up new arenas for me and helped challenge my own writing. Seeing what books attract them, other than some action-packed comic books attractive to the almost-a-reader, the books have been fun, colorful and lively. It's been fantastic to discover or--in some cases--rediscover some children's books.
A few weeks back, when we bought boxes of books from our local library book sale, I selected a few that might be "reading-list books" in the future. However, my ulterior motive is that I might get a chance to read them. There are those I have never read, such as "Johnny Tremain" and those I remember enjoying (although the plot may be hazy to my 40-something mind), such as "Island of the Blue Dolphins."
On the flip side, I've been trying to interest my oldest in some classic Beverly Cleary. When I finally coaxed her to give "Ribsy" a try, she refused to put it down and, in short time, devoured it from cover to cover.
While she has been encouraging me with her titles, I have to pace our exchanges. As soon as she finished "Ribsy," I found other Cleary books at the library, but (so far) she has refused these. So I am reading them.
I'm now devouring "Dear Mr. Henshaw" when I should finishing an article for one of my clients, not to mention spending time with my own writing...and listening to my own cadence. But this reading has become a "guilty" pleasure I'm not willing to give up--whether reading aloud or devouring silently.

What's a recent reading "guilty" pleasure you've been experiencing lately? Or one you wish you could take time for?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. Today might be another good day to visit the library, don't you think?

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Thursday, November 05, 2009


Are you a procrastinator?

Some days I procrastinate more than others. You know those days. Five million assignments due and you decide it is the perfect day to clean the lint from your computer keyboard.
While, for me, one of the best ways to get through procrastination is to take small steps each day toward completing a project, I sometimes don't quite do as I suggest.
On those days with the to-do list bursting forth to a second page, take a deep breath and plunge in. What works for me is to take the one assignment I'm really dragging my feet on and pair it with one I'm excited to be writing or researching.
Then I promise myself that I cannot work on the "exciting" assignment until I've finished the one I've been dragging my feet on.
Re-ordering my assignments gives me a different priority list while allowing me to see the progress. Often I find that tackling a more difficult assignment also gets my writing muscles warmed up making the other assignments go that much faster.
What has worked for you when tackling a bout of procrastination?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places and is planning a series of workshops. She is planning to wrestle with her to-do list ... tomorrow.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009


Finding--and keeping--the love of reading

Paddington Bear, to let you in on a secret, started my love of writing. Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington Bear series, became my hero when I wrote him as a 9-year-old and told him I wanted to be a writer. While he was never my mentor, his approachability has left a mark through my reading and writing career.
We carried on a correspondence--heaven knows what I wrote him as a pre-teen fan--and each time he kindly responded and sent along a note from Paddington, as well. I remember discovering each new volume of Paddington and then being led into other books by my growing enthusiasm for reading.
As I watch my children devour books, it makes me wishing for the first blushes of a first favorite childhood book. Although I get it secondhand in the wide-eyed discovery I witness as my son checks out all the Magic Tree House books as the characters take him around the world or watching the hours my daughter spends alongside Nancy Drew as she unlocks another mystery.
Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy finding a new voice in literature. I love reading a well-paced mystery or an excellent magazine article ... any author who is able to bring me out of my day-to-day life and transport me to Brazil or to a farm in France.
But there is something magical about that first book crush.
And, while I miss reading my old friend Paddington and his creator, or exchanging letters with them, they taught me so much. In fact, those two are the beginnings to my long-term love story with books, which continues to this day.
What was your first book love?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. She also blogs at, delving into creativity in everyday places and is planning a series of workshops. She plans on taking at least one scrumptious book while her husband is traveling. Any suggestions?

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Sunday, October 11, 2009


Results of my local writing mini-retreat

Let's face it. As I drove to my secret writing location, I was skeptical about what I was trying to accomplish. I was setting forth to write as much as possible, without outside distractions (including the Internet!) for as many hours as my fingers could be chained to the keyboard.
I didn't think I would accomplish anything and that maybe I had just been looking for a day to duck out to the mall without my band of ever-present accomplices.
Last weekend, this mom of three, accustomed to pouring milk over cereal, changing a diaper, making lunches, wiping a nose and taking a shower (but only on an odd-numbered day that starts with the letter 'M') with one wide swoop, found taking time for my own personal, creative writing more daunting than the daily juggles of parenting.
How many of you can relate to this statement (even if you might not be willing to say it aloud)?
I'm always ready to drop my creative project for the good/needs/wants/desires/strange requests of someone else.

But for part of one day, I understood and lived what it meant to block out that sentiment.
So, while I sat on a sunny deck and breathed in fresh air far from the charming screams of "MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM," I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
I stopped for a few pauses and to plug in my computer or to stretch my legs or to eat a bit. And it was glorious. For several hours, I crafted a character or two, I set up scenes, I plotted the twists and turns of my novel. I actually made progress that had been creeping along in my head for weeks.
During the week, I was able to refer back to chunks of text and sketch more of the plot. For once, in a long, long while, I felt like a fiction writer again.
And it felt good.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at, delving into creativity in everyday places. She is already planning her next writing escape...and shower.

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Friday, October 02, 2009


Shifting your writing from one type to another

When do you decide to shift your focus? When and how do you determine that this week you should focus on your fiction or your nonfiction or your paying work? And once you have decided it, how do you make it all work? Do you ever steal away for a day-long writing retreat?
As a freelancer, I've found it is sometimes tricky to shift from the paying work to the non-paying work. I'd like to write more of my own fiction, but I also work for a client that pays me per piece I complete. It certainly helped to get through this year during slower times, but it is a blessing and a curse. If I didn't have any work, I could engage my fiction muscle more; without the work, I would have to focus on getting a job to help pay for my fiction "hobby" and the kids' clothes.
But do you ever say, "I've had enough of the treadmill of someone else's writing, I need to get back to my own." Or do you just start building bits and pieces of time into your day that satisfies your own needs?
This weekend will start a new experiment for me and my family. I will get off the treadmill momentarily.
Because my fiction time seems to fall victim to sick kids or juggling family needs, I asked my husband for time to write for a project I've been fleshing out for a few months.
I will leave early Saturday morning, stealing away to an quiet corner...away from an Internet an undisclosed (to my kids) location, for a chunk of writing time. While I'm excited, I'm also worried I won't know what to do in the silence. I'm not sure we can afford to do this every Saturday, but I am certainly excited we are going to start trying to do it more regularly.
I need the time and space to work on my projects. What would you need to get off the treadmill? And, if you already have figured it out, what has worked for you?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, delving into creativity in everyday places. She'll let you know how the writing project is going next time...after her luxurious day-long writing retreat.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Navigating the black hole of writing job applications

I love writing. Really I do. Which is why I have chosen to write for a living.
As many freelance writers do, I don't put all my clients into one egg basket. Among my clients I count newspapers, electronic media, book packagers, TV producers and custom publishers. When I don't query well or when I feel I'm spending too much time researching, then it is my fault. The guilt can pile on. But I generally feel okay if I've done my best.
However, sometimes a job catches my eye and I apply for it. In ordinary times, I hopefully assume, all the applicants would be contacted. However, in these extraordinary times of MediaBistro and CraigsList postings, e-mail boxes at hiring companies are overflowing. So I am thrilled when I have applied for a writing job and have been told I've reached the first cut of writers. Contacted by the company, I know that the pool of applicants has grown a bit smaller. But that's when things get a little fuzzy.
Then, it seems, I fall into the black hole of job applicants. It's a lonely hole--not because one is actually alone, but because you don't know who your fellow travelers are. To make the journey even more awkward, you don't want to be a very squeaky wheel. In this world of social media, you become a social media pariah if you tweet your unveiled frustrations.
I know the saying is that squeaky wheels get the grease, but what if the person you squeak to uses a delete button on a whim.
"Ugh, a second e-mail from this job applicant, we'll take care of that!"
What if you remain stuck in the black hole even after a stellar interview where you "connected" and yet the potential employer never contacts you again?
"We'll let you know on Monday."
In fact, the employer refuses to respond to direct e-mails but continues to write pithy tweets while you scan for any mention of a job hiring. Do you un-follow them?
Herein lies my dilemma, I love writing for the versatility and the sheer energy I can expend on my assignments. But it is the business of freelancing that gives me a woozy feeling. One that makes me wish that I'd never applied for the job because then I wouldn't be watching my mailbox like a shunned lover. I enjoy the relationships I've built with my editors and, yes, some of them stem from blindly sending a letter of introduction. But sometimes, like today, I want to know who my fellow travelers are so I can commiserate with them and, maybe together, we can become a squeaky wheel that tells employers to give us some love...or at least some writing jobs.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, delving into creativity in everyday places. She will try not to check her e-mail and Twitter every minute today...well, maybe just every other minute. Just in case.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009


Learning about your character

Okay, what is it you REALLY want to know about your character(s)? Do you really know everything about him/her? You are writing a piece of fiction and you have already pegged a character's eye color and her eyebrow plucking habits. But where do you go from there? How do you share the inner thoughts of a character? Yes, she does have them. How do I know? Because you created her to be well-rounded, multi-dimensional...and someone to jump off the page.
So, I'm staring at the words describing my young adult character as he reacts to something. I'm excited. I feel I've captured the essence of something incredible. And then I shared the scene with someone, whose reaction deflated my character, right there on the page. I then felt the air go out of me, as well.
Disheartening? Yes, definitely. But it also gives me the opportunity to return to my character, breath some more life into his actions, rifle through his pockets, find out what he carries in his backpack, traipse through his room (as only a mother can) and learn every dimension of his life.
Will I need all of that? Probably not within the actual story, but I am convinced that the brand of jeans he wears will probably inform what kind of summer job he has or if he even needs a job. The reaction he has to extra homework will add shading and texture to his reaction to losing something dear to him.
The picture is painted of him, complete from his favorite chewing gum to his well-worn socks. I need those images of him to make the dimensions tangible to my reader so the next time I share the character's reaction to a monumental event, my reader is with me and can feel the anguish I know he feels, as he jumps off the page.

One fiction exercise I have loved giving and receiving is emptying out your character's pockets or purse. What is in there? Why? And if that seems too tiresome, you might do what I do: instead of writing, I clean out my own pockets and purse and ask why.... ;)

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, delving into creativity in everyday places. She is looking forward to introducing you to her well-drawn character someday soon.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Sometimes inhabiting a fictional world makes me cranky and impatient. Other times, as I am building a fantastical world to share, it makes me joyful and hopeful.
Excuse me, but lately I've been in the cranky and impatient stage.
When I write fiction, I don't pull out the index cards and start plotting until AFTER my characters have started inhabiting the pages. I don't write the complete draft without some outline, but I like to start taking notes and writing to get to know my characters.
Sometimes my characters make me a little cranky because I can't quite figure out how the scenes are to play out. I have an idea in my head and characters to inhabit a storyline, but we haven't all quite figured it out yet.
For months, on this particular story, I have been taking notes, mind mapping, doodling and clutching a pad of paper to catch all my character and plot notes. In the other hand, I am clutching kids forms for school, my 2-year old and other real world reminders. Some days, it gets a little messy. So yesterday, I took a small break from my family (both real and fictional).
I went to the bookstore. I walked amidst the aisles of the books I hope mine will someday inhabit. It felt good to get away and remind myself that reading lives on (even for those without a Kindle) and to remember what it is I hope to accomplish. My crankiness subsided as I returned to my notebook, my research books and my family.
Even when in the throes of creating, sometimes it is restorative to to get out and away from all the projects demanding your attention and just have a quiet experience. Hopefully, it will chase the crankiness away and put you in a good mindset to plop into your writing seat, which is where I am now and feeling joyful again.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, delving into creativity in everyday places. She appreciates your patience with her cranky start to the week.

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Monday, August 10, 2009


Surrounded by paper...and computer keyboards

We've all been there, looking for the magic bullet of writing. Even though I've studied writing and been a reader my entire life, I think: If only I write with this pen on that notebook, I'll have a best-selling novel. My desk overflows with the fun notebooks I've picked up, in my quest for the "right" one that will inspire me to tell a story. I purchase pens that I've seen other writers use. Perhaps I've been using the wrong tools, I tell myself.
I'm fascinated with how some of writers still take pen to paper, writing longhand until their thousand-page manuscript is finished. One successful novelist told me that he wrote while feeding his infant, legal pad and pen propped between baby and bottle. With three kids, I've never quite managed that, but I have dabbled. One writer told me of his use of index cards. Shortly thereafter, I am clearing out the office supply store of its stock of legal pads and index cards. Sketches and words flow over the notepads and stray pieces of paper. But the stories remain on the pages and my computer screen remains blank because, I think, the novelists haven't worked that way. They have sold his books while I have not.
Finally, it dawns on me that instead of basing my end result on what anyone else does, I need to embrace that the notepads and scraps of paper are a part of my process. I collect the notes I've made on one project or another and create a notebook for each novel idea. When the pieces of paper overwhelm or take over my desk, I then turn to my trusty keyboard. But before I get to that point, I doodle, sketch or write plot overviews in a funky notebook picked up in a SoHo paper shop are part of my craft.
The paper and notebooks I choose become a part of my storytelling process. The story of a small boy won't appear in my flowery notebook, which, instead contains the story skeleton about romance, love and longing. But neither of them seems to come alive with just a cursor blinking at me. They need the love and support of my taking the time to play in the beginning and embrace the organic nature of a story--including the notebook as a vehicle.
Now, as a separate issue, I need to work on that success thing, which won't take the pens or notebooks of anyone else. Just me.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, where she contemplates finding creativity in everyday places She is getting ready to dive into another fun fiction project, notebook in hand.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I really, really don't mean to do it

I really, really don't mean to push my deadlines to within minutes of, uh, well, their deadlines. But sometimes, things just happen that way.
Last week, I was inundated with the annual family visit. (The pleasure and curse of living in a coastal town...a gathering of 31 in various locations around the beach.) The week before, I had incredibly good intentions that were washed aside as I landed on a half dozen calls for various projects.
All I wanted to do was sit down to write.
With deadlines looming ahead, I was trying to write long before my articles were due. Generally, I try to build a bit of cushion so I don't feel anxious and in a rush about my writing. My interviews were mostly done. Alas, with the pressure building as if in a popcorn popper, I flitted about on business call after phone call the days before the onslaught of relatives.
In Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching, we encourage people to take small steps. That Friday, I was lucky if I could even consider any small actions. But, before I fell asleep that night, I had made a list...a list of all that I needed to do (which probably used up a good 50 words that might have made it into one of the stories I needed to write). But I took my list into my week of vacationing revelers and made progress, trying to write each morning before everyone woke. It was progress, albeit small progress.
A colleague once gave me a magnet with the Douglas Adams quote: "I love deadlines. I love the wooshing sound they make as they fly by." I've never enjoyed the whoosh, so I tend to get my articles written on time. But every so often, I need to release some of the built up steam. And ask for an extension. Last week, I did that a couple days in advance of the deadline--and asked for a couple extra days. It was granted.
The articles are now written and turned in. But my to-do list still looks longer than a novella.
But, day by day, word by word and small step by small step, I'm making progress.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, where she contemplates finding creativity...and time to write!...each day.

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