Friday Speak Out!: Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know About Writing, Guest Post by Brenda Moguez
“Write what you know…”
“Write stories like the ones you enjoy reading…”
“Find your voice….”
“Writing a shitty first draft is OK…”
“Don’t write stories in first person present…”
“Follow the rules…”
“Words simply fall onto the page…”
“Writer’s block is real…”
“Anyone can write…”
“Writing can be taught…”
“Writing takes discipline…”
“Writing is a solitary pursuit…”
“Family, friends, and coworkers, will support your pursuit and understand why you write…”
“You will be rich…”
“You will be poor…"
“If you BLOG you will land an agent…”
“If you have a 1,000 followers on Facebook you will land an agent…”
“If you self-publish you’ll be labeled a loser…”
“If you write romance you’ll be labeled non-literary…”
“If you write literary fiction, you’ll be revered by 1,000 readers, and possibly the New Yorker…”
“If you write romance (any genre) your chances of discovery by the masses is far greater than if you wrote literary fiction…”
“If you write seriously and religiously, your bum will expand exponentially, as will your consumption of chocolate…”
“If you become a writer you will get lost in thought, be prone to staring at the wall, and will comb your life for snippets to write about…”
“As a writer you will become easily agitated if internet connectivity is lost for seconds…"
“As a writer you will need to choose between reality television and the blank page…”
“A writer’s best friend is the household pet—they LOVE everything the writer writes…”
“The writer’s worst enemy is the writer her/him self…”
“Fame and fortune will follow the first novel…”
“If you want it bad enough don’t stop believing…”
“Writing is hard…”
“Writing requires an investment of 10,000 hours…”
“A writer must keep journals…”
“Write honestly and authentically…”
“A writer must submit…”
“A writer must attend writing conferences to find an agent…”
“A serious writer requires an MFA…”
“A writer needs an outline to write a novel…”
“If you’re going to be a writer be prepared for rejection…”
Some, all, none are true. Each is relevant depending on the writer who is doing the writing.
The one item on this list I believe is fact for all writers: to be a writer requires an investment of time. Honestly, I wonder if ten thousand hours is enough. Other items on the list be aware of: chocolate or wine consumption might increase, your pet will adore you even if you split an infinitive here and there, and your ego will never, ever, except rejection gracefully.
Do you have anything to add to the list?
* * *
Brenda Moguez lives in San Francisco. She writes fiction with quirky, strong women, with non-formulaic endings because life isn’t always perfect. She writes by the light of the moon and between conference calls. She has aspirations for a fully staffed villa in Barcelona and funding aplenty for a room of her own.
While she rides the agent query coaster for a women’s fiction novel, she’s working with The Wild Rose Press on the release of Luna Love, Loving is Good, a romance novella. When she’s not working on a story, she writes love letters to the universe, dead poets, and Mae West. You can find her at http://www.brendamoguez.com and https://www.facebook.com/BrendaMoguez, where she explores passionate pursuits in all its forms.
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!
Labels: Brenda Moguez, Friday Speak Out, writing rules
I'm a writer. I'm also a teacher.
It doesn't make teaching writing any easier. It creates a lot of questions about the how and why of writing instruction and even more questions about applying that instruction to my writing life.
Here's what I mean: how much should a student write every day? What types of writing should students master? How will finetuning the writing process help them succeed today and in years to come?
For example, two of my children were lucky to have the same kindergarten teacher. She taught the girls the five basic steps of the writing process, and even though my girls couldn't always spell a word correctly, they could verbalize a story that had exposition, rising action, climax and resolution. As the year progressed, both girls wrote narratives, informatives, expository...they just did not know those were the types of styles they were experimenting with.
In this kindergarten classroom, students wrote every day, beginning with a journal prompt first thing in the morning, along with language arts writing (mentioned above), as well as writing in core content areas, like math and science.
It was one of the finest examples of language-based education I've seen!
When I taught high school English classes, I taught those same types of writing, expanding on each strand (or register, the current/hip educational term) so students had a wide variety of writing experiences.
My students also wrote every day in class, beginning with a journal prompt, along with writing instruction - breaking down the process, step-by-step. The basic 5-paragraph essay had been mastered by seventh grade, major research projects by freshman year, and when the students hit that final year, they were formulating a hypothesis, conducting research and writing papers similar to the ones I penned for my grad studies Intro to Research class.
Unfortunately, time didn't always allow for in-depth studies in the art of revision or the intricacies of a thorough edit (and yes, there are major differences between revision and editing), but students knew enough to revamp a paper, if necessary. They were trained to take the writing instruction they'd received and apply it to life outside the classroom, whether they attended college or went directly to work.
I'm wondering about all this for a couple reasons:
- Not every student receives the type of writing instruction mentioned above.
- The Department of Education in the state where I live is restructuring its language arts standards, hoping to boost writing instruction and how it's taught. I'm in favor of that because we, as writers (parents, grandparents, teachers) should want to teach and encourage all types of writing and the process of writing.
- As a writer, I wonder how many of us continue to learn about the process, finetune our skills. For example, I think I'm good at revision but only average when it comes to editing. But, what do I do to sharpen my editing skills?
- Every child/writer learns in his/her own way. By structuring writing, are we stunting a student's creative process?
Are schools restructuring the way writing is taught so students succeed on a standardized test? Or are they restructuring writing education because communication - whether written or spoken - is one of the most important life skills a student needs to succeed?
I want students to be able to have the writing skillset that will help them find success, no matter what direction they choose after school.
But that's just the writer and teacher in me.
How has your writing education (grade school, high school, college) prepared you for real-world writing experiences?
by LuAnn Schindler
Labels: education, how to teach writing, LuAnn Schindler, teaching writers, teaching writing
Handling Description Through Your Point of View Character
When I edit and teach other writers, one common mistake I find (and in my own writing too) is changing point of view characters without realizing it or meaning to. This happens more often when someone is writing in third person limited and accidentally leaps into the mind of the non-POV character. But there are already tons of posts on this subject and how to fix it. So, hopefully you continued reading this brilliant introduction to get to the meat of what this point of view post is about:
Handling Description Through Your POV's Character's Eyes
I'm going to specifically target children's writers, but this really applies to any writer for any genre. If you pick one POV character, which most of us do in a section or chapter anyway, all the description of the setting, the other characters, and the events have to be through the POV character's eyes.
Here's an example:
Let's say you are writing a middle-grade mystery novel (like I am) about an 11-year-old boy who is at his grandma's house for a family reunion in the summer. BEFORE writing a single word of description about the setting, you have to think to yourself: What is an 11-year-old boy going to notice about grandma's house that the reader needs to know to understand the setting/plot/conflict?
Patrick saw his grandma's rose bushes growing alongside the freshly painted white farmhouse and wondered when the three-legged race would start, so he could beat his sister and her 12-year-old friend, Nicole. He waited by the ancient, towering oak tree, while wiping sweat off his brow from the sweltering heat.
I say that is a bad example because although it gives you some details about the setting (grandma's yard in the summer), events (three-legged race), and characters (his sister and her friend), this description uses language that doesn't sound like an 11-year-old boy or focus on things Patrick would notice. The word choice is off.
Try this instead:
Patrick trampled through his grandma's garden, careful not to touch the huge rose bushes he fell in last summer. He got a drink from the hose in the front yard and noticed a wet paint sign hanging on the house. His grandpa was so funny! Looking for shade, he hurried under the tall oak tree, while he waited for all the slow pokes in his family to get outside for the three-legged race. Sweat dripped into his eyes, and he blinked as he thought about beating his dumb sister and her friend in the race.
If your main character is a 16-year-old rich, city girl and she is put in a rural area by her parents for the summer, what is she going to notice and how would she describe it? Would this be different than a character who was 8 and had grown up on a farm? Yes--the age and life experience change word choice, what the character notices, and how he or she notices it.
If you are a wordsmith and you are writing children's or YA novels, be careful. As adults, we have a tendency to use words WE would use to describe something. But to hold your readers' interest, your character has to do the describing--not just the talking and the thinking.
Margo L. Dill teaches novel writing and children's writing classes for WOW! On Thursday, January 30, a session of Writing a Children's and YA Novel begins (online class); and on February 7, Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach begins. She is the author of Finding My Place (middle-grade historical fiction, 2012) and the upcoming young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses, due out in March 2014 from Rocking Horse Publishing.
photo above by mRio http://www.flickr.com
Labels: children's writers, fiction writing, Margo L. Dill, point of view, point of view character, writing description, young adult
Janet Cannon, Runner up in Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest
Welcome fellow Missouri writer (my fellow Missouri writer anyway!) Janet Cannon and her winning story in the 2013 Summer Flash Fiction Contest: "Planning, Peppers, and Push-up Bras or Daddy's Three Essential Rules for Success." If you haven't read this humorous piece with an amazing title, yet, you can do so here
Although her undergraduate and master’s degrees are in English, Janet
Cannon somehow successfully teaches math and computer skills to both
children and adults. She is proud of the fact that repeating, “Do you
want fries with that?” has never been a job requirement. She edits her
school’s newsletter and the Missouri State Writers’ Guild newsletter,
runs 5ks and half-marathons, sews rag-rugs, composes world drumming
pieces, and tries to learn new skills as often as possible while still
finding time to spend with family and her awesomely supportive husband
Mike. Her publishing credits include a technical manual, many short
stories (one just published in Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories
available on Amazon.com), inspirational essays, and quite a few pieces
of Twitter fiction.
She is currently working on a YA urban fantasy novel about a young
woman who is afraid of everyone when, in truth, everyone should be
afraid of her!
You can find Janet’s metaphorical/satirical commentary
on life as a writer at http://revisionisadishbestservedcold.blogspot.com
and can contact her at http://www.facebook.com/janet.cannon.10
or janetcannonwriter (at) gmail.com .
WOW: Congratulations, Janet, on your contest win for "Planning, Peppers and Push-Up Bras"! Where did you come up with the idea for this story?
A friend of mine is a single dad. He's great with his daughter, but she can be a handful at times. He posted on Facebook one day that he hoped his daughter appreciated that children didn't come with a return policy and that got my mind to spinning. What would be a worst-case scenario but still funny? I let him read the story, and he thought it was hysterical.
WOW: Inspired by real life! Do you have any tips for writing flash fiction? What's your process like?
I usually start with the punchline or ending and work backward, as I did with this one. Then I try to come up with at least two or three twists that surprise the reader. The hardest part is analyzing each word to make sure I need it. You can cram a lot of content into a story by stripping out the fluff and only leaving what is truly meaningful to the reader.
WOW: So true! Why do you enter contests? What are the benefits?
I'm a competetor, but probably not for the same reasons others are. I compete against myself: not for a prize or an award--although those are always nice--but because I need to challenge myself to improve. I've learned from the discipline of running that there are many talented people out there that can run (write) just as well as I can, and many of them better. However, if I push myself to compete, to expose myself to criticism, to risk losing, I gain experience some of those people miss out on because they are too fearful of disappointment. Failure is the best teacher. Ask any highly successful author.
WOW: You are so busy! How do you find time to write?
My job as a teacher is a huge part of my life. I won't lie: finding time and motivation to write is a daily struggle. However, I've realized that I have to make time, not find time, if I want to be successful. Good writing is like an iceberg. What you see published is tiny compared to all the bad writing, pre-writing, planning, first/second/third/etc. drafts that came before it. When you realize the amount of work that has to go into getting that tiny bit of good writing published, it can be overwhelming. It's also satisfying when you think back at all the hard work you've put into a story, and people say it touched them or made them laugh.
WOW: Yes, you spelling it out like that really makes it seem completely daunting! Do your activities or experiences while teaching ever make it into your writing work?
Definitely! I work with many students that come from less than perfect homes, that have learning disabilities, that suffer from bullying; and let's face it, they ALL suffer from pre-teen hormone drama in fifth and sixth grade. I never single any of them out when writing, but my current novel pulls elements of these issues and tries to tackle how my main character begins to deal with her problems. We write what we know, right?
WOW: Right! You also belong to writing groups. Why is this important to you?
It is impossible to edit your own work. You know what you mean to say; but when it's put on the page, sometimes you don't adequately convey what you mean. I think it is essential to have a small group of trusted writing friends to circulate your work to help you clean up the rough spots and give you perspective. It's not a sign of weakness. It's a realization that real writers understand the power of the beta reader/editor.
WOW: Anything else you'd like to add about writing or contests or even your novel-in-progress?
Writing contests can be a great motivator to continue writing new pieces. Even if you don't win anything, it keeps your skills honed for following directions and writing to prompts. If you do win, those are credits you can put in your query letters when trying to pitch your novel to an agent or publisher.
As for my novel-in-progress, I'm so excited to finally be getting this baby completed. It's a YA urban fantasy novel about a young woman who is afraid of everything...but shouldn't be. She's built her life in the shadows, avoiding people and living on the fringes of society until one day, to help another little girl, she has to step out of the darkness and into the light. My beta readers are almost finished; and as soon as I make revisions based on their recommendations, I'm sending it to a professional editor. I plan to pitch it at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference
in April. This "iceberg" has been several years in the making, and I can't wait to share it with the world.
WOW: How exciting! And I can't wait to read it. Thanks, Janet!
Labels: Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest
Revision: A Necessary Evil
|Using a shrunken manuscript to assess my work.|
I love revising. I get to see the changes that a manuscript goes through, starting with my first clumsy attempt and eventually reaching the point that I’m willing to send it out into the world.
The best techniques I know for revising fiction is the Shrunken Manuscript. I found this technique in Darcy Pattison’s book, Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise.
In a shrunken manuscript, you reduce the font and margins and single-space your text. You want your manuscript short enough to see all at once when you spread it out on the floor. No, you aren’t going to be able to read it but you will be able to take a visual survey because shrunken manuscripts are meant to be marked up. What you mark might include:
- Main plot vs subplots. If you suspect various subplots come into play too late, are resolved too early or simply disappear for lengthy periods of time, mark the text that deals with each. Then you can look at your marked up manuscript and see which parts of your plot come into play, page by page.
- Narrative vs action vs dialogue. This is a good one if you have problems balancing these three elements. My early drafts tend to be action heavy with little space given over to either narrative or dialogue. I can’t lie to myself about this balance when the evidence is spread out before me.
- Dialog. If a sidekick has a tendency to talk over your strong, silent main character or your villain is prone to monologue, mark the dialogue for each of your primary and secondary characters. You’ll see when someone is stealing the show and when your main character needs to speak up.
- Individual Characters. Do you introduce characters early on and then lose track of them? Or perhaps you suspect two minor characters are attempting to highjack the story. Mark where each character is present and check your character balance.
- Character details. Does your critique group comment that your characterization feels slight? Then get out your highlighters and mark the details given for each character in your story. You may be surprised to find that too much remains in your head and never makes it into the story.
- Emotion. Mark each emotional shift in your story and you can survey the emotional variety in your overall story but also the variety to be found in each character.
- Description. Suspect your setting is weak or possibly even nonexistent? Then mark all of the text that plants your story in a specific place or describes this setting.
Prepping a shrunken manuscript can be time consuming, but it is well worth the effort. It is a technique that lets you see for yourself what is in your story as it now stands. You’ll see where the balance is off and be able to judge what you need to do to fix it. And, who knows, maybe you’ll come to enjoy rewriting as much as I do.
Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey
Labels: Darcy Pattison, Novel Metamorphosis, rewriting, shrunken manuscript
Are You an Intuitive Writer?
“I don't know myself where the ideas really come from, what makes them come, or whether one day they'll stop,” says writer Neil Gaiman
This is a common answer from writers and storytellers when asked about the origins of their stories. “They just come to me,” they’ll say, or even more likely: “I don’t know.” Writers may say that story ideas come from life experiences, but they have hundreds or more experiences every day: how do one or more of them manifest into a story?
It would be easy to default to the common response “I don’t know.” And maybe it is true that many storytellers and writers do not consciously know where their stories come from. Their bodies, however, may intuitively know which stories to tell and when and how to tell them.
reflects this idea when she says of her most recent book, In the Body of the World
: “I feel like the book kind of wrote me. It was like a fever that passed through me.”
As a writer and composition instructor, I am interested in intuitive storytelling/writing and how to coach these kinds of stories from students to help them become better writers and enjoy the process. But how is it possible to find that intuitive space?
What is Intuition?
|photo courtesy of|
Intuition is a complex, often misunderstood, and challenging concept to articulate, but it can be described as a form of embodied knowing in which the body is aware of a phenomenon before the consciousness perceives it. Intuition, says Randee Lawrence
, is a subconscious yet bodily sensation: “a gut feeling or knowledge that is unexplainable. We just know." For example, our body may feel pain or tightness even if we do not consciously know why. However, if we further examine the feeling, we can often trace it back to a specific event or experience. Writers and storytellers may not consciously know where their stories come from, but it is likely that given time to reflect, they may be able to trace the story back to a previous event or experience.
The Body, Intuition, and Writing
This definition of intuition describes what Ensler and Gaiman said above about their writing processes: Ensler describes hers as a bodily feeling, “like a fever,” and Gaiman defaults to the indescribable. It makes sense that writers discuss their stories in this way because research has provided evidence that artistic forms of expression—like writing and storytelling—can help people access their intuition.
Nancy Mellon, author of Body Eloquence
, describes the connection between stories and intuition:
Stories make us more aware of ourselves as part of feeling, creating, laughing, crying, curious, courageous humanity. Together they have a cumulative effect, broadening our inner knowing, our compassion, and our sense of self. They can also help us to nourish the body’s natural intelligence by speaking directly to and from the intricate weave of our bodies.
also relates storytelling, specifically listening to a story, to the body. She says that becoming entranced in a story can help the listener to reduce stress and muscle tension and enhance relaxation. So stories help people to communicate with their bodies and tap into that intuitive/embodied power.
Do you think you are an intuitive writer? Do you write from your mind or your body?
Written by Anne Greenawalt, writer and composition instructor.
Labels: Anne Greenawalt, Eve Ensler, intuition, Nancy Mellon
Writing a Best-Selling Novel
|A copy of "Success with Style" research|
Photo credit | Elizabeth K Humphrey
I’m embarking on a new novel and my writer’s antenna is now
up to any mention of a best-selling novel.
I want one of those.
Before I get there, I know I need quite a few things:
- Conflict…and lots of it!
- A realistic protagonist who also provides an
element of escapism
- An antagonist who gives my protagonist reasons
- A fabulous setting and, of course,
- The language of a best seller
I can hear you asking: What is
best-selling language? A Grammar
post last week mentioned a published study
used an algorithm to study styles used to produce commercial success. The
results produced suggestions of words that might produce more success than
others. Researchers culled the books…and words…from the Project Gutenberg
to study the style of
these publishing winners.
The study, in itself, is a fascinating bit of research. For
example, within adventure books, books using the word recognized apparently fared better
than those works using words with a more emotional tone. But this also got
me thinking--and considering--how a writer might implement such a list. And I decided to return to the list of what my novel needs and add one more item. In order for my book to move into the
stratosphere of a best seller:
- It needs to find its readers
The report suggests words or parts of speech from successful
works, but it doesn’t tell me how to put them together to reach my audience.
That’s up to me. That's for me to figure out and put word after word after word to convey something to my readers that connects with them.
So, if the next time you sit at your desk ready to write,
are you looking for an external list of words to plug in? Or are you choosing
the words that come from within you? Are you selecting words that resonate from
your own years of experience? Or even from your character taking over the plot
and fighting with her nemesis?
Sure, writers study books on craft and workshop their
writing. But using an algorithm to determine a best seller seems far removed from my heart
that I pour out on the page, day after day.
The study is interesting, but I’m going to let my characters
tell their own story in their own words. best seller or not.
Labels: bestsellers, bestselling author, Elizabeth King Humphrey, how to have a bestselling novel
Friday Speak Out!: Embracing The Writer in You, Guest Post by Karen Mae Zoccoli
So here I am, writing an entry for Friday Speak Out
, not feeling very qualified but nevertheless thought I would give it a shot. As a pre-published writer of picture books, I am guilty of holding back. I battle with that little voice that taunts me— I’m not good enough, too old, not qualified, lacking the education, etc., etc. But, lucky for me, I’m stubborn as all get out. When I want something, badly, really really badly, I may just never quit. And I think that’s the mentality writers have to have. It’s knowing that you write because it’s just who you are.
On the flip side of this, I make it a practice to envision the feeling of being published, visualizing one of my stories becoming a reality and seeing it sitting on the bookshelf all shiny, new and magical! I feel awestruck by lively illustrations, but more than that, I feel moved by the expressions of the young reader. That’s really what drives me—envisioning that smile on an eager face, wide eyes immersing a child, laughter, touching a heart. Making that connection, that’s where it’s at for me.
So I’ve kicked off the New Year by doing a few things. Getting better acquainted with Twitter. It’s a great place to find info and opportunities with other writers, agents and editors. I’ve also put together a dream board, something I have always wanted to do but never seem to have the time (I used Oprah’s online app—fun and easy, mine’s here at kz2014
). More importantly, I have gotten over my fear of being seen. Isn’t that odd? To be afraid of being seen? But it’s a real fear for many of us who perhaps are shifting gears mid-life to embrace the writer in us. Our friends and family may not know this part of us. It can be scary to show it to them. We all know people who would just assume squash you like a bug rather than see you shine. Keep yourself away from negative people, from the naysayers.
As women, we often put our dreams aside. I like to think that our dreams, however, never forget about us. Whatever your dream is, protect it, embrace it! Show up in life as your authentic self. Someone else might just be waiting for your inspiration, your example.
So what does all this mean? For me, it means I keep writing, keep working at my craft, keep connecting with others, finding blogs, contests, webinars, workshops. SCBWI has been a great professional group to be a part of. My writer’s group is a place to be seen, to be heard, to be vulnerable. I actively seek out my ‘tribe’. All of these things add fuel to my fire, driving my passion and improving my writing, and help me push forward. Will I make it to publication? Anyone’s guess. But I know I may never quit. Because at the end of the day, it’s just who I am.
* * *
Karen Mae Zoccoli grew up in the valleys of central New York state and now resides in Connecticut with her family and loyal dog Buster. An admitted late bloomer, she is working towards making her dream of writing for young children a reality. Growing up in a divorced home on welfare, she believes, has helped her with her writing. “Difficult situations can force a person to see things with new eyes and find their inner strength. It helped me to see the small things, to observe the spaces, the little details and nuances of life, that others might overlook.”
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!
Labels: doubt, Friday Speak Out, Karen Mae Zoccoli, visualization, writer inspiration, writers' community
Review and Giveaway for Not the Mother I Remember by Amber Lea Starfire
When Amber Lea Starfire discovers boxes containing a lifetime of her mother's journals and letters, she realizes she's been given a rare chance to unlock the enigma that had been her mother--but will her mother's writings reveal the woman she remembers, or someone else altogether? Not the Mother I Remember
tells the story of a sensitive girl raised by an exceptional and unconventional woman during a time of social change, gradually exposing the true nature of their relationship and their extraordinary bonds.
Not the Mother I Remember
is available in paperback and e-book at Amazon
and Barnes & Noble
About the Author:
Amber Lea Starfire, whose passion is helping others tell their stories, is the author of Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations
(2011) and co-editor of the anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s & '70s
, released in 2013. A writing teacher and editor, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and is a member of the California Writers Club in Napa and Santa Rosa, the Story Circle Network, National Association of Memoir Writers, and International Association for Journal Writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors. www.writingthroughlife.com
Book Review of Not the Mother I Remember
By Renee Roberson
I began reading Amber Lea Starfire’s book Not the Mother I Remember
on a Saturday afternoon and was already halfway through it before I went to bed that evening. Simply put, I quickly became immersed in the story of Jacqueline “Jackie” Carr, a teacher, writer, and mother of six, and a woman determined to experience all life had to offer, despite how it affected her relationships with her children.
The memoir begins with a preface describing how Starfire and her brothers make the decision to place their mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, into an assisted-living facility. During the course of cleaning out her mother’s apartment, Starfire opens a storage closet and discovers boxes and boxes of her mother’s writing and correspondence. While elated at what she has found, she is also scarred from years of battling with her complicated mother and knows she is not yet ready to face the story behind who Jackie Carr really was. Only after her mother’s death in 2007 does she begin the arduous process of sifting through the letters and journal entries. It is then that she also officially changes her name from Linda Peterson to Amber Lea Starfire.
I was fascinated by the story of how Carr sold all her belongings after divorcing her husband and took two of her children (including the author, who was 10 years old at the time) on a 365-day world tour that included Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Japan and many other places. But that fascination turned to disbelief as I discovered that Jackie also left her children with virtual strangers at different times throughout that year as she went off on separate adventures of her own. I questioned how a single mother during that time period could balance supporting herself and her children and be actively involved in as many things as she was. (The progressive Jackie also earned her pilot’s license at one point, purchased a small plane, and took Starfire and her brother on a whirlwind summer flying tour).
Starfire describes the anger she felt toward her mother as “the Tar.” She writes, “Sometimes, when she pushed me too hard, it cooled and solidified and shone like brightly polished obsidian, with painfully sharp edges. And during those times we tried to make up with each other, it became watery and brown, weak as tea.”
What makes this book unique is how Starfire layers her own narrative with excerpts from Jackie’s letters and diary entries, which takes the story to a whole different level. She also includes photos, copies of her mother’s typewritten work history, real estate transactions, publishing history, travel excursions and more. Readers can also get a glimpse of an obituary that Jackie wrote for herself in 1998.
The book is best summarized with the following observation from the writings of Jackie Carr:
“I played life as if it were a race with “winning” as the goal. I won: twenty-five years with one man, several mad love affairs, six children and sixteen grandchildren, two advanced degrees, eight books, travel around the world. I wanted to be financially secure. I won that race too. I loved winning just as I loved loving—for the feel of it.”
Not the Mother I Remember
is no ordinary memoir, and because of this, I highly recommend it. Starfire’s writing is clear and strong and she tackles this difficult subject matter in a way that is both poignant and cathartic. I think this book will appeal to readers who also enjoyed The Glass Castle
by Jeanette Walls.
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: MoonSkye Publishing (November 2013)
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Labels: Amber Lea Starfire, book giveaway, memoirs, MoonSkye Publishing, Not the Mother I Remember
10,000 Hours of Writing
Even if you don’t know much about skiing, I’ll bet you’ve heard the name Picabo Street
, the Olympic Gold medalist. I heard a sound bite from her recently, referencing the 10,000 hours that any Olympic hopeful should expect to put in, and I thought, Holy Super G
That’s ten years
Maybe you’ve also heard about the 10,000 hour rule,
that it requires that kind of effort to master a skill. And though I know writers who haven’t put in quite that many hours before finding success, I also know many writers who would say they’d put in at least
ten years in their craft—and they still have more work to do!
I’m not sure that I’ll ever master writing, but I’m working on my 10,000 hours. Still, it’s a daunting task. And I thought maybe some of you might be working on 10,000 hours as well. So here are just two of the techniques I use to rack up writing hours:
Ditch the Electronic Distractions
Back on January 1st, I resolved to cut back on social media (again). I didn’t want to give it up completely because I enjoy hearing from friends, both personal and professional. So I set limits—7 minutes a day—and I’ve been successful. Here’s why: I quit clicking on links.
Oh, my word, how I love an interesting link! I mean, I’m a writer with a dangerously high level of curiosity. I could literally spend all day, following one fascinating link after another (and honestly, I think there may have been quite a few days in 2013 when I did).
I stayed my hand on the mouse and slew my distraction dragon. You can, too. Take a good look at your electronic habits and cut back. I’ll bet your writing hours will Super G explode.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Do you think Picabo Street became an Olympic skier because she only practiced when she was in the mood? She hit the slopes, no matter what. So, too, should you schedule words on to paper if you want to get in those practice hours of writing.
But Cathy, you say, I don’t always have something to write about. And I say to you that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you schedule time to write—and write something during that time
. And here’s what will happen: you will train your brain.
Schedule an hour or more, every day if you can manage it, and sit down and write something. Start a blog, try a prompt, revise that stinky under-the-bed manuscript. Work on your writing and watch your hours snowball.
The most important technique in getting 10,000 hours done is not over-complicating the process. You don’t have to win a gold medal, after all. You just have to write. And before you know it, those hours will pay off with much
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: 000 hours, 10, Cathy C. Hall, daily writing schedule, electronic distractions, Olympics, perseverance in writing, Picabo Street, writing tips
My Story and Review of 28 Days Weight Control Journaling Challenge by Mari L. McCarthy
Ever since I hit the big 4-0, I’ve struggled with my weight. I took up jogging, zumba, cardio yoga, even boxing and kickboxing! No amount of exercise seemed to do the trick. I may have built up some muscle and possibly lost inches, but the scale didn’t budge and neither did my belly—my biggest problem area.
I finally lost 19 pounds in a little over a month this past September. I lost the first 10 in a week and the other 9 over the next four weeks. How I did it is another story—involving a Living Social Deal, a strict diet, fat burning vitamins, and daily exercise—but keeping it off has been a bit of a challenge. I gained back 4 pounds over the holidays and resumed some of my bad eating habits. And while a total weight loss of 15 pounds is still good, being on my own without a strict diet made me realize that I still have an issue with food. So when I was presented with the opportunity to review journaling guru Mari McCarthy
’s new book, 28 Days Weight Control Journaling Challenge
, I embraced it like I would a juicy cheeseburger.
Before beginning the challenge, Mari advises you to start a food journal to keep track of everything you eat. I was already ahead of the game. I’ve been using an app on my phone called MyFitnessPal
that I highly recommend. It’s free and has almost every type of food you can imagine in its database, and includes the nutritional information and calorie count. The one thing I didn’t consider was noting how I felt when I was eating and where I ate, which I discovered was frequently in front of the computer or TV. So I would use the app during the day to record my food intake, and later in the evening I would journal through the book’s exercises and note how I felt and where I was at each meal.
At first, I didn’t think I was a good candidate for this challenge. I’d already lost the majority of the weight I really needed to and had minor weight loss to go, and I exercised six days a week. But as I went through the challenges, I realized I had a lot to learn about myself. For instance, I didn’t make any solid health or fitness goals, which Mari encourages you to do right away. “In one month, I want to cook healthy dinners at home five days a week. In three months, I want to run a 5k.”—Goals that didn’t have anything to do with a scale. I also realized that I have somewhat of a negative body image . . . I mean, who doesn’t, right? When I looked at myself in a mirror, I always searched for the flaws instead of my strengths. Mari helps turn these negative messages into positive affirmations. She also helps us examine the past and where these issues stem from.
Many of the journaling prompts are about food and exercise; and from everything I’ve learned over the past few months on my weight-loss journey, Mari’s advice is right on. She promotes fresh over processed, small portions, healthy alternatives, and staying active—no matter what type of physical activity you choose—and gives you the journaling exercises to motivate yourself. One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my weight-loss battle is my family’s eating and activity habits. She helps you deal with these issues, too. If you’ve been one to try every diet under the sun and found that you couldn’t stick with it or it just didn’t work, then I suggest trying Mari’s 28 Days Weight Control Journaling Challenge
for a fresh, new approach to weight loss. Mari also offers a private Facebook group for those taking the challenge and the opportunity to get positive feedback. Her next challenge starts February 1, and you can find out more here: http://www.createwritenow.com/28-days-weight-control-journaling-challenge/
I’d like to personally thank Mari for helping me form some healthy new habits! Thanks to her journaling exercises, I realized I’ve been eating way too much sugar, and not really enjoying my meals as much as I should. So now I’m making time to sit down at a table and eat (instead in front of the computer or TV) and savoring the tastes and textures that we writers love to describe. I’m also staying away from the junk food aisle and doing the majority of my shopping at Sprouts—a great little farmer’s market chain that has lean meats and fresh produce, and
is easy on the pocketbook. What makes Mari’s book so successful is she helps you deal with the underlying issues that are holding you back and gives you the tools you need for a healthy lifestyle change.
Labels: Create Write Now, diet, exercise, food journal, health and nutrition, journaling challenge, Mari L. McCarthy, weight loss
E-books: And or Only?
So today I have good news and bad news (I think). A publisher wants to look at my novel! I was over the moon until I realized this publishing house only publishes e-books. That’s it. No print. No paper. Just e-books.
I didn’t even know publishing houses like this existed. I’ve always thought of e-books as an “and” not an
“only”. You published a print book AND and e-book. Not only an e-book. Sure, I know lots of people read e-books. I read e-books. But lots of people don’t. Like my mom (who is a total Luddite).
So I did some searching to find out what the story is on e-books. And here’s what I found:
- 28% of Americans read at least one e-book in 2013
- 5% of Americans read only e-books in 2013
That all sounds good to me. But how will people find my book when I don’t have any other fiction books to my name? I can understand making your name as a writer and then writing a few books that come out only as e-books. But someone perusing their local bookstore won’t see my e-book stacked up on a table by the door. How likely is it that people will find my e-book while they’re perusing an online bookstore? Not likely. So I’ll have to rely on other ways to get the word out about my book. But there can’t be any book signings, can there? Of course I often hear that most readers are finding their new reads through online sources: blogs, e-mags, tweets, etc. Will readers want to enter a giveaway if it’s just an e-book?
Does publishing as an e-book only leave too many people out? Readers who only read print books. Readers who read some e-books but prefer print books. Readers who want to give a book as a gift. Readers who buy books spontaneously when they see them in a store.
So many questions. Very few concrete answers.
Just one more question: do you think an only e-book is a good option for a debut novelist?
The Heart of a Story
Where do your stories come from?
I always enjoy reading interviews with authors regarding where they get the inspiration for their books, particularly fiction. If you look hard enough, you can spot a seed of where that original idea bloomed. You might even find a correlation between something in the author’s life or history that inspired their fictional work.
Yesterday, I came across an article
about the late V.C. Andrews, author of the Flowers in the Attic
series. I never knew Andrews had been crippled by rheumatoid arthritis at a fairly young age and confined to a wheelchair. I also didn’t know that Andrews lived most of her life with her mother in a large, Victorian house. With those new facts, I could easily see where a fictional story about siblings locked away in the attic of a grand old house most likely came from.
For me, I have yet to write a novel that didn’t include some personal element from my life. In my middle-grade novel, it’s the setting, both a physical place and a time period I'm particularly fond of as well as the two main female characters. Through writing those pages and the scenes within, I recreated situations very similar to things I had gone through as a 10-year-old, and worked to resolve them in ways I never could in real life.
In my YA, the story is set in the place where I spent my formative years, but the aspect of the novel that resonated the most with me was the theme of depression and isolation, two very personal issues I have struggled with throughout the years. Through the main character’s voice, I felt like I finally had the chance to say things I’ve never been able to say to anyone else before, to vent out the frustration of not always having someone there to listen when I needed it the most. I think it added a deeper layer to the story, and to the character development of the book, but it was cathartic at the same time. It was so cathartic I haven’t been able to pick up the draft for revisions since I finished it.
Have you ever written something that poured out of you so freely and openly that it scared you? That it made you feel like you were exposed for all the world to see, even though it was a work of fiction? I found this interesting passage in the book Writing Down the Bones
by Natalie Goldberg:
Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of the beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we are done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something that is real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.
Yes. Where do your stories come from? What do you do when the words that are pouring out of you become a little too real? Do you pull back or keep going?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.
Labels: natalie goldberg, the heart of a story, V.C. Andrews, when writing gets personal, writing fiction, writing inspiration
Friday Speak Out!: You Deserve a Break Today, Guest Post by Sioux Roslawski
Okay, some of us have been snowed in recently. And you'll see in a moment how that precipitation (which was at first a beautiful white blanket but now is a bit dingier) comes into play, because today I'm encouraging you to take a break...from your writing.
Oh, not a long break. Don't leave that manuscript or that article long enough that it collects a thick layer of dust. No, I'm advocating for a short leave...just long enough to jar your thinking and get your creative juices flowing again. And here are some possibilities:
If you knit/crochet/carve Justin Bieber statuettes out of prune pits, moving away from your computer and—for twenty minutes or so—doing something else frees up your mind. You're using your fine motor skills in a different way than tapping away on your keyboard. Then, return to the piece you're working on.
Cook a quick side dish or toss a salad. If it's a dish that evokes lots of memories, your culinary creation might lead to future writing ideas. Varied textures and tastes, along with distinct aromas, occupy our minds in unique ways. Then, put your butt back in your chair...
Okay, here is where the snow reappears. Getting away from your writing and doing something that makes you sweat (like shoveling snow) or gives you some immediate gratification (like scrubbing your bathtub) lets your mind loose, allowing you to return to your writing—rejuvenated.
I have a friend who writes letters—dozens of handwritten letters every week, and she is a fierce writer. There must be some method to her madness, so there there are occasions when I put aside whatever submission I'm working on and write a letter. Yes, I'm still writing, but I'm using a completely different process, and as I see the inked (and sometimes illegible) words form on the paper, it gets my brain headed in new directions. Then, get back to your draft.
This could mean running back and forth between your chair and the cupboard, getting a handful of chocolate chips each time. It could mean lifting some weights. It could mean doing a bit of Pilates or taking a brisk walk. Then put your rear end (and it might be leaner, after enough “breaks,” unless you take Hershey breaks) back in your writing chair.
Talk to a writing friend about what you're working on. This could be over the phone or in person. Taking the time to discuss your writing obstacles, whether it's just a quick chat or a critique session, is extremely valuable. And listening is just as important. Hearing what other writers are working on can spark something in your head.
Obviously, it's crucial we stick to our writing. We have to remain firmly tethered to our goals and keep deadlines circled on our calendar. But if we find ourselves rooted in front of our keyboard and don't move—and do something different occasionally—we might find ourselves getting stagnant.
And stagnant things stink....
* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a freelance writer, a 3rd grade teacher, and a member of the infamous writing group, the WWWP's. She is keeping her fingers crossed about her 9th Chicken Soup for the Soul story, and rescues dogs for Love a Golden. You can find more of her writing at http://siouxspage.blogspot.com.
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!
Labels: Friday Speak Out, Sioux Roslawski, taking a break, writer inspiration
Dear Self, I'm Sorry
Why is it we are so hard on ourselves? Is this a woman thing or a human thing? I don’t really know the science behind guilt, but so many of us walk around beating ourselves up you’d think someone would come up with a cure.
Those who know me know I journal. Sometimes I journal out of fear I might forget an important milestone. I am an advocate for finding a cure to end Alzheimers and my journaling is often driven by a fear of living with the disease (I think about the notebook and figure even if I don’t remember my life someday, I can read about it…). Well today as I sat at my desk to journal I decided to write an apology letter to myself. There was something very therapeutic about apologizing to myself. It also reminded me to go easier on myself. I am quick to forgive a friend and I should be just as quick to forgive myself.
Next time you find yourself getting down about what you should have done, try apologizing and allowing you to be exactly who you are.
If you aren’t sure exactly what I’m driving at here – take a look at my letter and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
First of all, you are beautiful. Those extra few pounds are nothing compared to the lovely baby you just brought into the world. Sorry for hassling you about fitting into your old clothes; maybe you should just go shopping and buy something new that flatters your post-baby figure. No one noticed the kitchen floors weren’t scrubbed; sorry for making you feel guilty about using the Swiffer instead of scrubbing on your hands and knees. Sitting down and enjoying that cup of coffee was a good idea today. You deserved the rest after being up all night.
You looked absolutely peaceful rocking the baby and instead of reminding you about the laundry I should have just let you enjoy that moment. The last thing I wanted to apologize about was the breastfeeding guilt. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be. It’s really not a big deal if you decide to stop before getting to the one year mark. Goals were meant to be adjusted and you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Hopefully if I stop making you feel guilty all the time you’ll have more time and energy to get back to writing. I’m sorry I’ve been standing in the way of you enjoying things lately. Can you ever forgive me?
That Little Voice of Self Doubt
This is just what I wrote and it fits exactly where I am in this moment. If you had to write an apology letter to yourself today, what would you say? How would you be easier on yourself? PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW - WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 6, Andre 5, Breccan 16 weeks), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging, mommy-ing, and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Labels: acceptance, forgiveness, goals, healing, journal, journaling, love, self forgiveness, self love, self talk, therapy
Meet Lynn Nicholas, Runner-Up in WOW's 2013 Summer Flash Fiction Contest
Today we have Lynn Nicholas with us who placed in our 2013 Summer Flash Fiction contest for her humorous story, Mi Amore. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, click on the story title then come back here to join my chat with Lynn. Grab your favorite bevvie and have as much fun as I did getting to know Lynn.
Lynn Nicholas, a prior technical editor, lives in Tucson, Arizona with her supportive husband, two dog companions, and a black cat who keeps everyone in line. He takes his job very seriously.
She is the ultimate late-bloomer. Since adolescence, Lynn has used writing as a means of self-expression, but she didn’t begin writing stories and essays for public scrutiny until her late fifties. Her more recent flash fiction and nonfiction can be found in the e-zines Every Day Fiction, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, Long Story Short, Gay Fiction, Rose City Sisters Flash Fiction and Believer Life Christian Magazine. A short essay appeared in the October 2013 issue of the AARP Bulletin.
Lynn is a strong animal advocate and volunteers for a no-kill cat shelter. She also spends several hours a week taking both ballroom and country-western dance lessons.
WOW: A very warm welcome to you, Lynn. Welcome to The Muffin! Please give us a peek into your background.
LYNN: I was born and raised in Canada. My parents were British immigrants, who emigrated again when I was sixteen, this time to the American southwest. My father, traditionally old-school, didn’t believe in college educating a daughter. I married at nineteen, worked while my husband finished his B.S. and then an M.S., and then finally, when I turned twenty-seven, I registered as a fulltime college student. I’ll never forget the feeling of gratification when my test scores in botany and geology beat all the men’s scores in my classes: straight A’s, a few perfect 100s, a moment to celebrate.
It was in college, writing papers for anthropology assignments and essays for writing classes, that I found my niche. I discovered that when I wrote, I could express my thoughts and ideas clearly and cohesively, and my instructors seemed to think I had great potential. No one had ever believed in me before.
I never finished a four-year degree. Marriage(s), work, and a child took precedence. But I continued to write and to learn. Every job, from administrative assistant to marketing administrator, required good writing skills. Every employer took advantage of those skills. I finally worked my way into a position as a technical editor for a geotechnical engineering firm. On the side I wrote resumes for people and did a bit of freelance editing just for fun.
I ‘retired’ early, in 2003 at 54, and although elder care for family members took up much of my time, I continued to write: letters to the editor and politiciansJ, poetry (especially when stressed), personal essays, book reviews and articles on BookCrossing, etc. I discovered Live Journal, then entered and finished NaNoWriMo three times, and joined FanStory where I could edit/review, submit stories, and even take online classes. The BEST discovery was Wow! Reading the work submitted for WOW’s Flash Fiction contests and finally submitting some of my own stories and learning from the critiques helped me grow tremendously. Placing in two WOW! contests last year (2013) means I can turn sixty-five this year feeling somewhere between ‘it’s never too late’ and ‘I’ve only just begun’.
WOW: What a fantastic history! Thank you for sharing. You’ve been writing for quite awhile. What genres do you enjoy the most, and why?
LYNN: My comfort zone is essay and commentary. I like to wax philosophical–let’s just say I’m relatively opinionated and need a non-confrontational outlet. J Flash fiction is a genre I wanted to break into and have. It’s been both a great learning experience and a forum to experiment with breadth of range, from the dramatic to the amusing, while staying concise. I’ve never written a true short story: something between 3000 and 5000 words, but would like to try. I have three draft novels, each ranging from 56K to 64K words. Creating these longer works gave me the opportunity to address more complex relationships and issues through my character’s voices. I tend to be intense. Even my choices in TV shows lean more towards dramas than comedies. I like to dig a bit deeper. (I hate small talk.) With my writing, I try to stay true to myself and create something with substance, while exploring the humorous side of the human condition. If we couldn’t laugh at ourselves we’d all just have to jump off the nearest cliff, like lemmings.
WOW: HAHA!! No kidding. And I truly appreciated your style of presenting the humor and fun side of life in your story, Mi Amore. It caught my attention right away. Please share with us how this story came to be.
LYNN: Thank you. I’m still pleased and surprised that the WOW! editors liked this story. I had no expectations, besides a critique, when I submitted it.
Two years ago I jotted down a few notes for a story that incorporated song lyrics. I made up a verse, wrote a few lines and ideas, but then nothing clicked; so, I closed the file and forgot about it. I was scrounging for a story idea in late summer 2013 when I came across the forgotten song-story file. As soon as I read the first few lines, the embers of that initial idea sparked a flame that kept burning until I’d written a finished story. Timing is everything.
In the two years since my initial idea for this story, I’ve begun taking country-western dance lessons. I think ‘Mi Amore’ is the product of me spending so much time listening to Country Western music. It gets to you with its sad lyrics and super-macho male CW stars (and CW dancers). I live in the southwest where guys drive pickup trucks with gun racks, and wear cowboy hats, and carry side arms. Their macho-ness (is that a word?) can get tedious, so I thought I’d have some fun with it with this storyline.
Florence, a small town close to Tucson, hosts an annual country-western music festival called Country Thunder. All the big names perform. It was on the heels of that festival that I began to work on this story again, and I decided to connect the bar’s newcomers to the music festival and make my main character a CW Star wannabe. The song lyrics developed as the story developed. One side fed the other. I wish I could tell you where the ‘Julie’ idea really came from. She just happened. I think a psychologist would have a field day in my head.
WOW: Too hilarious. And yes…’macho-ness’ is a word. I thought I was the only one who used it. LOL! Do you have a specific writing routine? Give us an idea of what it’s like when you sit down to create.
LYNN: I hate routine, which is a bit odd because I am a confirmed list-maker. But I am sadly schedule-impaired. The only constant in my life is my morning coffee, without which I cannot function. Days can pass without my writing anything more than Facebook posts or emails to friends. Ideas for stories come to me at the oddest times and rarely can be forced. I have a digital folder called ‘Working’, full of WORD files. Some are comprised of just a sentence or two, fragments of ideas and thoughts; some are ideas or outlines for storylines that just haven’t completely jelled as yet. I am constantly adding notes to files and reviewing them for ideas. When a concept connects with me on an emotional level—when I can feel it, see the characters or the setting like I’m watching a movie—then I become obsessed and write almost nonstop. I lose track of time. Nothing else gets done. Once I get a story ‘finished’, I begin to self-edit. I cut, sharpen, re-arrange, ask someone else to read for input, decide I hate it and walk away, then wander back to my computer to tackle it again and do more fine-tuning. Without a doubt, I have to become more disciplined if I am ever going to take a draft novel to a final, which is my goal for 2014. I need to unplug the phone (yes, I still have a landline), ignore Facebook, let the laundry pile up and, good or bad, just write, and do it consistently.
WOW: Good for you! And think many of us here have one of those ‘Working’ files full of half-finished stuff. It has been a lot of fun having you here today, Lynn. Before you go, I would love for you to share any writing pearls of wisdom you might have for our future contestants, as well as our budding writers out there.
LYNN: I am flattered that you’d ask. I’ve had a bit of luck this past year with pieces being accepted, but I am still a novice writer myself. I can pass along what seems to work for me, and hope I can help someone else in some small way.
First, set your ego aside. Be ruthless about your own work. Cut and edit. You can’t become so married to your words that you can’t stand to cut them. If you have to cut phrases you can’t bear to lose, copy them to a file and save them for another piece. Writing flash fiction is a great way to learn how to pare down a story to its most essential elements.
Second, learn from others. Read books like ‘A Memoir of the Craft’ by Stephen King and ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest. Read a broad range of books by a broad range of authors. Pay attention to critiques you receive on your own work.
Third, don’t take critiques personally and don’t expect everyone to like everything you write. My best friend didn’t ‘get’ Mi Amore at all. I didn’t take it personally. Every story is not for everyone. You have to believe in yourself and understand the difference between a valuable critique and someone’s opinion. If you like it then submit it and hope that ‘the people who count’ will agree with you. If they don’t, pay attention to their critiques and consider doing some serious rewriting. The critiques from WOW! helped me rethink and write cleaner.
Fourth (for new writers), get into the habit of playing ‘what if’. Let your mind play. My first FF called ‘Two Hours’ came to me while sitting in a waiting room while my husband was in for a colonoscopy. I started thinking, ‘what if a woman’s only chance to get away from an abusive husband was the two-hour window she had while waiting for him ….’ My story wasn’t super good, but got my feet wet, and my husband still tells people about it.
WOW: Fantastic pearls, Lynn. Thank you for sharing them. Congratulations again on placing in our contest and the very best of luck to you with your future works (not that I think you need much).
Labels: Chynna Laird, flash fiction runner up, Lynn Nicholas, WOW 2013 Summer flash fiction contest