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Thursday, November 23, 2017

 

Don't Forget To Thank Creativity

You read a lot of posts about being thankful at this time of year. You will often see a long list of the typical items: family, shelter, food, health, financial security, and so on. It's good to be grateful for the blessings we have and to look at life with an optimistic and grateful attitude.

Have you ever been thankful for your creativity? 

I feel like we should take a moment today and be thankful for our imaginations, for the gift that we have been given to use our right brains and make fantasies come alive whether its with words or paintings or music.

My creative one
I am thankful that I see my gift of creativity coming alive in my daughter. At 7, she has a notebook, where she writes lyrics to original songs. She has made several stapled books full of words and illustrations. She pretends to be characters from her favorite shows. I can often overhear her talking to her "YouTube Channel Fans" on her made-up Katie channel. Sometimes she even ends that creative play with, "Don't forget to leave a comment below on how you liked our video."

Because I am thankful for creativity, because I am a writer, because creativity is important and celebrated in our house, she is carrying on the tradition. I suppose I am responsible for molding another creative mind, and I couldn't be more thankful for this opportunity!

I am also thankful for the outlet my creativity provides for me to work through the tough times, to express myself through humor, to share what is important to me with the world.

So this Thanksgiving, while you fill your belly with turkey and stuffing and you give prayers of thanks for your many blessings, don't forget to also thank the powers that be for your gift of creativity and your freedom to express it. I certainly will be, and I might just be doing that on Katie's pretend YouTube channel, where I will ask her viewers to leave a comment below on what they are thankful for this year or how their creativity helps them. 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, teacher, and mother living in St. Louis, MO. Don't let your creativity and progress on your novel stop during the holiday season. Consider taking her WOW! novel writing course, where you will be turning in sections of your novel every Friday for critique. Next class starts December 1. Sign up here.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

 

Giving Thanks to a Writer

Ah, Thanksgiving. The day we shove food in our faces, drink that extra glass of wine, and plop ourselves down on the couch to watch football and catch up with family. We deserve that delicious food, that extra sip, and that glorious relaxation, of course, but we shouldn’t forget the purpose of the holiday, which is to give thanks for everything we have in life.

This Thanksgiving, I also propose we thank a writer. There are many ways to do this.

Review a Book

Publishers want to see reviews. Reviews make them happy. If a publisher isn’t happy, chances are the writer isn’t happy either. So, help them out this Thanksgiving and leave a book review on Amazon or Goodreads. It doesn’t take long, but is a lasting way to help a writer’s career.

Buy a Book

There is one thing better than leaving a review from an author, and that is purchasing their book. Sure, you could borrow it from the library, but buying the book helps the writer score bonus points with their publisher, and puts a little extra green in their pocket in time for the holiday season. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to support our book stores as well. With Borders already gone, they need us more than ever.

Promote!

Until I published my first novel, I didn’t realize that promoting it would be harder than writing it. I’m so grateful for my friends and family who talked it up and shared it on social media. If you have a blog, invite a fellow writer to do a guest post, or do a spotlight piece. Hand out bookmarks at work. Even the littlest thing can help a writer get their name out there.

Read a Draft
We all have that amazing writing friend who reads our drafts and provides feedback. Why not take time to thank them this Thanksgiving by offering to read their latest manuscript? Writers thrive on feedback, and each revision is a step in the right direction.

“Book club” Their Book
I consider this the ultimate thank-you. Perhaps you’ve already read and reviewed their book, but want to take your level of gratitude one step further. Why not use the author’s book as a book club read? Not only are you increasing their readership, but you’re promoting their name and their sales. Better yet, ask your book club members to review the book when they have finished. The “thank you” that keeps on giving!

What do you say? Ready to give thanks to your fellow writers? I’d love to hear other ideas!



Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

 

Fight the good fight

We've all heard stories about editors who "passed" on manuscripts that became best sellers. We wonder how they could have been so blind. We think we would never make such a terrible mistake. But to be honest, when faced with the unfamiliar, it's easy for anyone to "pass."

We may rationalize anything that doesn't make sense with a critical response. "It can't be me, so it must be you." However, the ones who persevere through negative responses are the true artists, those not swayed by others.

Artists and leaders are unique in that they offer their vision to the world with every word, melody, product, or system they create. Writers also are on the forefront of change. We may have a new or unique vision, and the critics may not be ready.

My advice is to be kind to the critics. Give them time to catch up to you. They may not know you, and may not be ready for what you have to say. There is no right time for creativity, and it may strike you in an unlikely place in an unlikely way. You need to be ready to defend your work, and explain or rewrite it in a way that makes it more relatable, and hopefully, marketable.

Critics also have not had time to keep up with the information in your head. Your idea may have been percolating for a long time, but most of it is beneath the surface inside your brain, like an iceberg. You've seen the part sticking out of the water and the huge foundation underneath, because you built it. But others may come upon it like the Titanic approached that other fateful iceberg. They weren't expecting it, and may need a time to figure out what's happening. Give them a minute to catch up. Help them readjust their thinking.

Fighting the good fight to get your ideas out in the world can take many different forms, like a book you've been writing for months, or the perfect essay that has been rewritten 15 times with help from your writer's group. It also may take the form of conquering rejections by sending out a manuscript immediately to someone else.

Artists consider rejection a challenge that comes with a decision. The choice is yours. Listen to the critics and take what you need, or ignore them altogether. You have to decide. It's your view, and that view may be different from every other view in the world, but it's up to you to defend, explain, or rewrite.

So fight the good fight, however you see fit.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Mary Horner's short story Shirley and the Apricot Tree appeared in the latest edition of Kansas City Voices. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

 

An Attitude of Gratitude: 10 Reasons to Give Thanks

Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons so an attitude of gratitude is natural for me this time of the year.  Fortunately writers have a lot to be grateful for all year long. Here is my Top 10 in alphabetical order so I don’t have to prioritize them.

Family – Larger
My father’s family is from Mississippi and West Texas so I come from a long line of southern story tellers. I grew up listening to the men spin tales of the desert, ranching and the mountains. These tales weren’t 100% true, they were True, something I needed to understand to write fiction.

Family – Smaller
I’m also profoundly grateful for my immediate family. These are the people who support me daily in my quest to write.  They also drag me out of my comfort zone which every introvert occasionally needs.

Knitting and Crochet
What do they have to do with writing?  It is a great way to occupy just enough of my brain so that I can sit and noodle a solution for some writing problem. Handwork is also how I recharge.

Library
My library system has a huge collection of books, magazines, e-books, e-zines, DVDs and more. This is how I keep abreast of the latest developments in publishing. They are also a huge help as I research my nonfiction projects.

Monkey Mind
This is a yoga term for an unfocused mind. Mine has been referred to as a “barrel of monkeys mind.” With my scattered thoughts, I can generally find something that interests me when my editor asks if I want to write about a particular topic.

PC
Yes, my computer. I started writing on a clunky electric typewriter at the kitchen table. It wasn’t long before my super supportive husband bought a computer for me so that I didn’t have to retype every draft. I am so grateful to write on a computer!

That’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It is the best organization around to help you network with fellow children’s writers. Writing for children really is a different beast. I’ve found the majority of my writing gigs, including WOW, through SCBWI contacts.

Spellcheck
Again, this may not seem worthy of Top 10 status but I’m dyslexic. Spell check is my friend!  Grammar check is a close second since it catches some of my mistakes that spell check misses.
  
Treadmill Desk
Although I’m not coordinated enough to write on the treadmill, it is where I read e-mail, blog posts, contest manuscripts, magazines and books to review.  Because I’m working on a fair sized monitor I can enlarge things enough to read as I’m bobbling around while walking.

WOW
Last but not least, WOW and the Muffin are definitely on my list. Writing for children may be a specialized field but it’s important to be in touch with the industry as a whole. Ironically this is also where I met both Margot and Sioux. Margot writes for children. Sioux lives in the same county I do. And this really is a top community in terms of information exchange and support.

So, what are you grateful for as we head into Thanksgiving? 


--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 8th, 2017.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

 

Using a Style Guide

Have you noticed more and more people using social media for a Q&A session? Group Administrators are having to remind members not to come to their groups seeking medical advice, technical advice, and the like. Similarly, writers may find peer or reader groups helpful when seeking feedback and ideas but when it comes to style guidance, let’s should turn to a reputable source. I personally feel the Chicago Manual of Style is the most comprehensive style guide, but depending on your purpose for writing, you may find others better suited to you.

If you are intimidated by the size of the print version of the Chicago, you may prefer the online version (some say the online version is easier to search as well). Regardless of which manual or version you choose, it’s a much safer source than the online community. For example, a friend recently inquired about the correct way to note time. Answers varied greatly from: I like 6AM, I like 6 I’m the morning, I’ve seen 6a.m. and the list goes on. Grabbing your style guide will get you the best answer the first time with no time wasted for debate.

Which guide do you use? Which version? What led you to use this particular guide? Do you have any funny stories about online advice? We love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

Hugs,
~Crystal

Crystal is a council secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering
mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, five young children (Carmen 10, Andre 9, Breccan 4, Delphine 2, and baby Eudora, two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

 

I'm (Fabulously) a Failure for 5 Reasons

          Yes, I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. I'm also planning on failing at it. It's a 100% guarantee that I'll be a loser, and that's just fine with me.



        Why am I okay failing at this challenge? Well, I have several reasons.

1. This challenge gets me out of my comfort zone. Normally I write creative nonfiction. Short memoir stuff that averages 1,200 words. A book-length piece is not my usual. NaNo pushes me to become a long-distance runner instead of sprinter... at least for this month.

2. I get to write surrounded by my students--4th-8th graders--and as I tap away and stare off into space and delete lines, I'm modeling what a writer does. Most of them are sailing along and meeting their word count goal. They share their word count with me, and ask about mine. Even though I'm pathetically behind the almost-2,000 words per day I need to get down, I don't stop. I share my low numbers, and I keep on creeping along. (Young writers--lucky them--have a smaller word goal. They actually get to set their own goal.)

3. So far (at the moment this post was published) I have 14,099 words. If I hadn't started NaNo on November 1st, I'd have 0 words down on this project. 

4. At the end of October when I was trying to figure out what in the world I was going to write about, I struggled. I considered a couple of ideas. When November 1st rolled around, I began the story from a teacher's perspective. (It's historical fiction, a kind of fictional mash-up between 1955 and 2017.) 

It was all wrong. After a day of writing, I realized it. I scrapped what I wrote and started anew. Now I'm telling the story from one of my students' viewpoint, and it feels right. And that's what writers do, especially if they have a deadline. They stumble. They revise. They change directions. They "make it work" as Tim Gunn says.

5. If I "win" at NaNoWriMo, I'll get 50,000 words down on paper. However, I'm writing a book slated for middle-grade readers. Most of those books are 20,000-30,000 words in length, so I know by the time I get to the end of my manuscript, the 50,000-word finish line will still be too far ahead for me to see. That's fine. If I manage to finish the first draft in a month  in a couple of months by the twelfth of never, I'll be thrilled. Really.

       So, perhaps you're not doing NaNoWriMo. November's short, there's Thanksgiving, the word count goal is crazy-big--I get it. I understand. However, maybe you might come up with your own month-long (or summer-long, or year-long) challenge. Set it up. Make it your own. And make it public and post your progress. (Your writing friends can prod you along if they know about it.)

       Hi. I'm Sioux, and I'm a failure. And I'm totally cool with that...




Sioux is too busy working on her NaNoWriMo project right now to write a clever bio. If you're interested, check out her writer/dog rescue/teacher blog.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

 

Going "There" With Your Writing

Pexels.com

Because it’s National Novel Writing Month (no, not participating this year!) I’ve noticed all the writing trade magazines and websites are chock full of inspirational articles on how to write a great plot twist and craft a page-turning dilemma. One such piece of advice centered on writing what scares you—you know, dig into those deep, dark fears a la Stephen King It style. Here are a few examples:

Fear of Not Fitting In. The fear of not being liked by others can push people to do things they would never have imagined. When I was a teenager, I read the novel Killing Mr. Griffin by author Lois Duncan. One of the main characters is a young woman named Susan, the straight-A student who doesn’t cause her parents any trouble. But she’s lonely, and when the boy she’s always had a crush on starts to pay attention to her, and invites her to spend time with his social circle, she finds herself being pulled into a kidnapping plot that goes against her beliefs and ends in tragic consequences. If Susan hadn’t felt so isolated and invisible in the first place, she may never have been led astray and put it an impossible position.

Fear of Being Watched. I had a stalking experience in college that sticks with me to this day. It was made worse because it was someone I knew—someone I had classes with and who often hung out in my circle of friends. Before I realized what was going on, I told him about an apartment that came up for rent across the hall from mine when he mentioned he was looking for a place. For the next nine months, he showed up everywhere I went. He knocked on my apartment door all hours of the day, and it got so bad that I would literally come home from work, tiptoe up the stairs with my key poised, and try to slip into my apartment as quietly as possible. He would knock on my door seconds later. It took me years to get over that experience and I still look over my shoulder everywhere I go. When I decided to write a young adult novel for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, I honed in on the paranoia one feels after an experience like that, especially when you’re a teenage girl already in a vulnerable state. Toss in that the stalking is coming from the most popular boy in high school and you’ve got something to work with.

Fear of a Place That Caused You Heartache. Have you ever been to place where you had such a bad experience it made you never want to visit there again? For Jenny in the novel Forrest Gump it was her family home where she was abused by her father. In Elin Hilderbrand’s novel The Matchmaker, it was the main character Dabney, who had a pathological fear of leaving Nantucket. It stemmed from an experience she had as a child, where her mother took her for an outing in Boston and left in her in a hotel with someone from the maid service after she decided she didn’t want to be a mother any longer. Dabney’s refusal to leave the island of Nantucket causes a strain on the relationships in her life—her high school boyfriend leaves to become a foreign correspondent and she won’t travel with him, she marries a professor at Harvard University but is content with him living and teaching at the campus throughout the weak, and (slight spoiler here) but it keeps her from taking care of herself properly and traveling outside of the island for medical care. Fear of places can overtake our lives, and it is yet another area that is ripe for exploration in our writing.

Have you ever explored a deep, dark fear in your writing, or read a book where someone else executed it beautifully? I’d love to hear about it!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works in marketing and development at a nonprofit theatre company, where she hears many stories that would make for plays within themselves. Visit her blog at finishedpages.com.

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