Friday Speak Out!: How Meditation Can Improve Your Writing
Posted by MP at 1:00 AM
by Laura Carter
You wake up, take a few sips of coffee and then sit in front of your laptop expecting words to run out of mind into your hands and then appear as millions of pixels on your screen.
And, it just doesn’t happen.
Why? If you’re looking for a complex answer to this trivial question, you are wrong. It’s all because writing is hard. Writing is unique. At the same time, it is similar to every other craft in the world. It’s similar because writing requires practice and preparation. We call it reading. If you don’t have time to read, you will never have time and skills to write.
Though, it’s not all.
Finally, you have to gather all your emotions, knowledge, ideas and desires. See the angel in them. And carve until you set him free. That was a pompous way to say “create something beautiful.”
Nevertheless, it’s the most difficult part. It takes great courage and concentration to express your mind in a way that unknown people will understand you and maybe, just slightly, enjoy what you’ve written.
Great writing tool that will increase that capability is meditation.
As trivial as it may sound, you need silence to be a successful writer. Some people may disagree and say that time they spend in pubs with a pint of beer, taking notes, is usually the most productive. This is also true, to some extent. While you on the top of your game, any other activity does nothing but improves your writing. But when you hit that notorious “writing block,” meditation is your savior.
Practice 5-10 minutes every day and soon you will notice how your attention has improved. This will lead to the interesting effect that might be called “self-perception”. As a writer, it is difficult to stay true to yourself. There are so many genius writers that did what you are doing now but find the better way. So many techniques, styles that you can use, want it or not. It is hard to be yourself if you use words. But if there is something that helps to reveal the essential self – it is meditation.
With such state of mind, the fear of critics just can’t exist. You’ll start enjoying the process much more, not just the result. And this will make your life as a writer much easier.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Would you like to participate inFriday "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!
Harry Potter Fans: Many of Us Need to Calm Ourselves Down
Posted by Margo Dill at 12:30 AM
One of my dreams came true when J. K. Rowling co-authored the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and someone in the publishing world wanted to make money and decided to print and sell it as a book. I did not stand in line at midnight to buy it, but it is one of the only hard-cover books I've bought in a long time. Before I had a chance to read it, (I was finishing up another lovely book, Me Before You), I read a lot of negative tweets and Facebook posts about the story. And I'll admit I was disappointed. I was hesitant to read the book because I didn't want my excitement to go away.
But I did read it, and I loved it. Yes, it is a play and it is harder to read than one of the seven tomes all us Harry Potter fans love so much. But I thought it was an excellent story--it brought in all the beloved characters--even the dead ones, and one of the most heartbreaking plot events in all seven books, Cedric Diggory's death. Also while reading, I kept thinking: I really want to see this as a play. How will they do all this magic on stage? This will be so cool!
Then those negative social media messages really started to bother me. I put a post on my own Facebook page about how I guessed I was in the minority, but I was not afraid to state that I really liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Shockingly, I discovered I was not alone. Several of my smartest friends (wink, wink) also loved the book and were obviously not afraid to share this fact on someone else's Facebook wall (i.e., mine).
So this post is not for those of you who loved the book, although please put in the comments that you did or why you did, if you would be so kind. But it is for those of you who didn't like it and feel the need to spew everywhere your negativity. I feel you need to CALM DOWN. I mean, you are entitled to your opinion, even if it's wrong. Here's an example of a tweet, which is negative, but on the tame side:
Look, why are you fighting this? We all know J.K. (Jo above) Rowling is a genius. Her novels brought back a passion for reading children's and YA books. We also all know that if she writes book 9 or releases the next segment of the Harry Potter story as a series of haiku, written in Sanskrit, we are still going to buy and devour it, and shed more tears over Snape and Dumbledore. I mean, have you, personally, ever written an eight-book series worth more money than you could spend in your lifetime? I didn't think so. Please CALM DOWN.
Take a deep breath, write your tweet/review/Facebook post in a nicer way, such as: I just finished HP8. Okay, I didn't love it, but I did like _______________________. (Fill in the blank with something you liked.) There you go, I bet if you're a true Harry Potter fan, you can find one thing in the play that you liked.
I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I'm just trying to convince you that as readers and writers, we owe it to other authors to perhaps offer constructive criticism, but to be respectful of the talent and time it takes to create these masterpieces, and show each other a little more love.
As for me, you'll find me passing on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to my family members. My mom currently has it.
Margo L. Dill is a children's author, editor, blogger, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her and her books by visiting her blog at http://www.margoldill.com, where she is currently musing over the meltdowns of Kindergarten. She also teaches a novel writing class for WOW! in the WOW! classroom.
I’ve written in a journal off and on over the years, but have never been consistent about it. I envy people who are disciplined enough to journal as a daily practice. Many years ago, I embarked upon Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” program and took on the process of writing morning pages each day. I noticed that the majority of what I wrote about (I was newly married with no kids) centered on my job in public relations. I vented a lot about projects I was working on, daily little things that aggravated me in the office, etc. But I did notice that venting each day through those pages helped me be more focused on my work, and less irritable on the job because I had gotten my frustrations out of the way early in the day.
A few months ago I was frustrated with the weight I had gained and decided to work through Mari L. McCarthy’s workbook, 28 Days Weight Control Journaling Challenge. It was very helpful in helping me get past some of my issues with self-image and discuss in the pages of my journal why I gravitated towards the type of foods I crave. The challenge also helped me set some clear and concise goals for myself, which I met within a few weeks of ending the challenge.
While helping Mari put together the upcoming blog tour for her self-help/memoir Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live, I found myself once again realizing the power of journaling. I’ve been blocked when it comes to revising a few of my fiction projects (well, I say blocked but what that really means is that I refuse to even open the documents up) and reading the testimonials and proven physical and emotional benefits to journaling made my fingers itch to pick up my journal again. In her book, Mari spends time discussing the concept of our Inner Critic, and that little voice inside our head prevents us from working on, and reaching, our hopes, dreams, and goals. Through therapeutic writing, you can work on taming this critic by confronting the voice and standing up to it. This is similar to what I did in the weight control challenge, as I wrote down hang-ups I had with my body and then countered them with all the positive things I saw when I looked into the mirror. With my writing, I find myself saying things like “I’m not organized enough to get this manuscript ready to send to an agent. It could be so much better. Why bother? My stories aren’t going to interest anyone else, anyway.”
Reading Mari’s story of how she tackled her MS symptoms through therapeutic writing and build a successful business where she can be creative every day inspired me. I’ve pulled my journal back out and am getting ready to work through her e-book Journal Magic for Writers in the hopes that I can finally tame that ugly beast that is my own Inner Critic once and for all.
Photo by Jeanette Charlet Photography.
Mari’s blog tour for Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live kicks off on Monday, Oct. 3. If you are interested in reviewing the book or interviewing Mari, e-mail me at email@example.com. Do you journal? If so, how does it work for you and what types of things do you put in it? What do you think the benefits of journal writing are? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Interview with Maureen Brooks, Spring 2016 Second-Place Winner
Posted by Robyn Chausse at 4:00 AM
We are so happy to introduce Maureen Brooks, who just won Second Place with her entry titled “While She’s Sleeping.” Please take a moment to enjoy her story (it has a bit of a twist to it).
Maureen has considered writing to be her special gift after being recognized as a strong writer by her second grade and high school teachers. After graduating college, she entered a few writing contests and then—like so many—put her dream aside to pursue a career.
After working in the insurance and telecommunications industries, Maureen is currently a High School English teacher. Her favorite class is Creative Writing. Believing that competition can bring out the best in us, she’s encouraged and coached her students to place or win many writing contests including earning the Silver Key Award in the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest. Following the advice she gives her students, last year Maureen began entering writing contests. This is her third entry to WOW and her first time being published. She’s an active member of the FanStory.com writing community and thanks them for helping her improve her craft.
Maureen is also the proud aunt of 13 nephews and 4 nieces and excited to show them that dreams do come true if you keep pursuing them.
WOW: Good Morning, Maureen, and congratulations! Why do you enjoy entering contests; how do you feel they “bring out the best in us”?
Maureen: I truly believe that competition does bring out the best in us. Years ago, I had joined my company’s Toastmasters club. I was scared of public speaking—but knew it was a skill necessary to get promoted. After getting positive feedback, I decided I wanted to improve and entered one of their speaking contests. My initial goal was to be brave enough to compete. Overtime, I began winning some of these contests and found that entering them made me “step up my game.” I find that true with writing as well. Knowing so many people are competing makes me polish the story more before I submit it.
Interestingly, it was one of my creative writing students who introduced me to the WOW website.
WOW: How fun is that! It’s nice that you and your students encourage each other in that way. You’ve used the image of diapers to illustrate the tension and disruption of a household. Can you share with us the process you went through in choosing that focal point, and how the diapers work within your story?
Maureen: I began the story with a couple’s evening being interrupted by someone else in the house. I was thinking of a baby at first—but wanted the story to have an unexpected ending. I kept the elements that older people and babies share—such as not sleeping through the night, needing more patience, and the baby diapers/adult diapers seemed the perfect tool to lead the read into thinking the third person was a baby and then surprising the reader with an adult parent.
WOW: So many people think flash-fiction, being short, should be quick and/or easy. What would you say to them?
Maureen: Most things in life that seem “simple” are usually the result of many hours of practice and it’s that practice and skill building that make them seem easy. Flash-fiction is very challenging at first because you have to provide a full story in a short space. With practice, they do become fun to write. I find I begin with the opening and then think about it for about two days trying to make the end seem unpredictable. Then I fill in the middle and edit to the word limit.
WOW: You obviously work hard at encouraging your students along their own paths; what visions do you hold for your own writing?
Maureen: My first year teaching, I encouraged students to enter a song-writing contest as a class project. It was held by Hewlett Packard and open to students in ten states. Amazingly, we swept the contest winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd. We also earned 5 out of 10 honorable mentions in Florida. This got me hooked on aligning writing contests with class assignments so students could see the “real world value” of writing. Over 7 years, we won or placed in every contest. My vision is to take this same advice and use writing contests to improve my own writing. A year after setting this goal, I’ve placed second in this contest and have already submitted more stories online.
WOW: What do you most hope your students learn from you?
Maureen: Make every day count. I read that Jerry Seinfeld was successful because he kept a calendar and marked a red X every day he wrote. His goal was to “never break the chain” of red X’s. What he wrote each day didn’t have to be perfect—but the habit of writing every day enhanced his skill and increased the chances he would develop strong material. I started this calendar chain and it’s true, you’ll work hard not to break it. I'm sharing this tool and goal with my current students. In doing this, I want them to learn that dreams need discipline and discipline brings dreams closer to reality. I also want them to know that they should start today.
My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman - blog tour and book giveaway
Posted by Crystal Otto at 1:30 AM
My Name is Wonder is a tale of adventure that will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wisecracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach.
“…a book for the ages, with profound truths simply stated. First there was Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Yoda—Now there is Wonder…”
~ Beverly Molander, Minister and Radio Host of Activating the Power of Yes
“…an exploration of human nature and into the allegorical realm that shows us how to be wise teachers and guides…”
~ Paula Renaye, Author of Living the Life You Love
Paperback: 202 Pages
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (September 1, 2016)
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of My Name is Wonder, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, October 2nd at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
Ronald Chapman is owner of an international speaking and consulting company, Magnetic North LLC. In addition to international accreditation as a speaker and national awards for radio commentary, he is the author of two novels, My Name is Wonder (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016) and A Killer's Grace (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016 and 2012), two works of non-fiction, Seeing True: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2008) and What a Wonderful World: Seeing Through New Eyes (Page Free Publishing, 2004) and the producer of three audio sets, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2016, 2005), Breathing, Releasing and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2015), and Seeing True – The Way of Success in Leadership (Magnetic North Audio, 2005). Ron provides a wide array of social media content at www.SeeingTrue.com, content for people in substance abuse recovery at www.ProgressiveRecovery.org, and other content from his master site, www.RonaldChapman.com. He holds a Masters in Social Welfare from The University at Albany (New York.) Prior to his relocation to Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, he was a long-time resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After watching your video, I felt like we were long time friends. What prompted you to do a video for your books? What sort of feedback have you received about the video?
Ron: Thank you! That is high praise for the video and the content. My oldest daughter and son-in-law have been advising me on how to tell the story of what I do, and why. They felt the only way to fully express things was in a video which would allow me to weave the story together. And they were so right on that account. It’s just not a simple story, and I don’t seem to fit a genre very well. People have really loved the video. It seems to speak to people very effectively. Since I’m a pretty relational guy, that means a lot.
WOW: Pretty relational? You're so modest. You're very likable and that shines through to your readers and fans!
You're very open about your daughters being step-daughters who chose you. How did that look in the beginning? What do you credit for the close relationship you now have? Was there an "ah hah" moment?
Ron: Now that may be the sweetest question I’ll get since it is about the magic in my relationship with Natalie and Brianne. Someone once told us it was because I have some serious karma with them, and quite a spiritual debt to them. I’m not sure I believe that, but it would certainly explain things! At first, it was quite difficult because it was unusual. And they had every reason to be skeptical. But I remember telling them, “I came to love you, and I made commitments to you. That doesn’t change just because your mom and I are splitting.” Since it all was strange to their mom, it was initially fits and starts. Then it transcended the basis we originally had, and slowly it grew and deepened. One of my spiritual teachers told me they just love me, and that is part of the healing of our past. That humbles me.
WOW:Humbling indeed. Thanks for being so open to sharing.
Please choose one of these excellent quotes from My Name is Wonder and give us a little insight as to what they mean to you personally: “Just when you think you can no longer be surprised, life presents you with a surprise” and/or "the path is every step."
Ron: I’ll take the first! Isn’t that true for all of us? We think we have things figured out, or a clear path to some desired outcome or end point. And it becomes commonplace to us, just part of the background.
We become rather complacent about the magic and mystery of it all. Then something unexpected happens, as it always does. And if we are paying attention, we realize with surprise that it is not what we planned, or anticipated, or even dreamed. And that moment of recognition changes everything. Suddenly all our assumptions are proved to be only guesses, or approximations. With that awareness, our entire experience is altered. With time, we become more and more attentive, and more and more surprised. Life is never what we think, and perhaps we can only understand it in retrospect.
WOW:Life is never what we think - I love that. It's oh so true.
Your book blog tour for A Killer's Grace was your first book blog tour. What surprised you about the tour (good or bad)? What would you say to other authors considering a blog tour?
Ron: It was surprising the breadth of the coverage in many of the blogs. I guess I assumed mostly they would be brief, but then there was a lot of content about the book, background, author bio and in some cases even my author video. Pretty cool actually.
To be honest, I know that exposure does not necessarily translate into interest and sales, but without such exposure the possibilities are much more limited. Sure does get a lot more reach than I could easily get on my own. Thanks for excellent support!
WOW:Thank you so much for your honesty; it is definitely a pleasure to support authors.
Tell us about the cover art for My Name is Wonder. There has to be a story about how this came to be?
Ron: Great question! I was living in New Mexico and was visiting an artist's gallery. There on the wall were the beautiful far mountains above Abiquiu in lovely pastels. I instantly recognized the terrain as that which Wonder would traverse. I bought the painting that day from the artist, Jennet Inglis. Then a few years passed as My Name is Wonder was coming into being. I told a friend in Greenville, South Carolina and she loved the whole goat idea. The next thing I knew she had found me a goat and a crow to embellish it. Then my publisher, Terra Nova, brought it to final design. I love the inspirational feel of it. Very much a wonder.
WOW:Thank you again for your honesty and sharing. This has been such a pleasure.
Tuesday, September 27th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Madeline Sharples showcases My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman on her blog, Choices. http://madelinesharples.com/
Wednesday, September 28th @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Join Ronald Chapman as today's guest author at Selling Books with Cathy Stucker. Find out more about Chapman's topic: How wonder is not in the world, but in how we see, and thus the perspective we bring, and about his latest book My Name is Wonder. http://www.sellingbooks.com/
Thursday, September 29th @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverly A Baird reviews My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman. Find out what Beverley has to say about this moving tale. https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/
Friday, September 30th @ Linda Loves Chocolate
Linda Juul shares her thoughts after reading My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman. You won't want to miss this insightful review. http://lindaloveschocolate.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, October 5th @ The Muffin
Crystal Otto from WOW! reviews My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman. Don't miss this 5 star review of an intriguing and enlightening novel. http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/
Thursday, October 6th @ Renee’s Pages with Michelle DelPonte
Michelle reviews My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman; find out what she had to say after reading this insightful and moving novel. http://reneespages.blogspot.com/
Friday, October 7th @ Monika Josan
Ronald Chapman's My Name is Wonder will be featured on Monika Josan | a life path today and readers can hear Monika's thoughts as she reviews this delightful novel. http://monikajosan.com/
Monday, October 10th @ Bring on Lemons with Alison Taylor
Educator and mom of four Alison Taylor reviews My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman. Alison offers her ideas and insight about this enlightening and beautifully written novel. http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, October 11th @ Bring on Lemons with Penny Harrison
Wisconsin business woman and mompreneur Penny Harrison shares her thoughts and feelings after reading My Name is Wonder by Ronald Chapman - don't miss this insightful blog stop. http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com
Just Say No: When It’s Time to Give Up A Writing Gig
Posted by Cathy C. Hall at 3:30 AM
I just opened one of those two-in-the-morning rant emails from a writer friend. It was a legitimate rant against a demanding editor, and yet she sent another email the next morning.
Was she overreacting? Being unprofessional? Had she turned into some kind of writing diva? Basically, she wondered if the editor’s demands were unreasonable or was she the unreasonable one? She’d come to the old “Is it worth it?” fork in the road to publication.
It’s never easy, the “Is it Worth it?” impasse. In the beginning of a writing career, the idea of turning down a project because it’s not worth the time or money is…well, it’s unthinkable. Plenty of writers would give anything to snag a paying gig, and so, more often than not, the newbie writer puts up with the headaches and hassles.
But then comes experience. And with experience, a writer can afford to say no to those projects that aren’t worth it. And yet, it’s still stinkin’ hard to say no, isn’t it? Maybe it’s because we remember all too well the dry periods when we had no work. Or maybe it’s because we have friends still struggling to get gigs and we feel bad, turning down a job when they’re chomping at the bit for work. Or maybe it’s just all those writer insecurities we love to embrace.
I’m not sure why saying no is so difficult for us. But I have a couple of strategies that I use when I’m having a hard time, trying to decide whether a gig’s worth it (or walking away from a gig that’s become way too demanding). No matter where you are in your career, these strategies can help you, too:
1. Talk it out with a writer friend. Sometimes, we’re over-stressed and overworked and we really are overreacting. But we’re caught in the middle of the firestorm. Grab a friend and have a lunch, or a nice long phone call, or even a couple of ranting emails. Get a fresh perspective (and a second opinion).
2. Give yourself a day to thoughtfully consider options. Take a deep breath for twenty-four hours and do something else. When you come back to the situation, you’ll see things more clearly.
3. Ask “Is it worth it?” Yes, I know that sounds a bit simplistic, but there’s really a lot that goes into that question. Is the gig moving your career forward? Or is it just for the money? Is the money worth the work involved? Do you enjoy that kind of writing? Or is the project sucking the soul out of you? Can you see any positives with the gig or just a whole bunch of negatives?
4. Once the decision is made, do you feel good about it? Again, I know it sounds obvious, but if you feel relieved and you can finally sleep, you’ve made a good decision. If you’re still stressed and want to throw darts at somebody’s picture, then you do not feel good about the decision you made. Try again.
Yes, writing is a great job, and the idea that someone will pay you to do what you love is awesome! But sometimes, the job is simply not worth the payout. And it’s okay to just say no.
(And just for the record, my friend walked away from that gig. And she’s a much happier writer now!)
“I can’t sell because all of these editors are in the 20s. No one will buy from me because of my age.”
I’m sure the writer who said this to me is a few years older than I am. I’m also certain that she expected me to go along with what she had to say. The problem with that is that I know too many old mares who are writing and selling. They do it by providing work that isn’t dated. Here are 5 tips to help you start rinsing the grey, literal or figurative, out of your hair.
Tip #1. In your manuscript, single space after periods. Double spaces are no longer required. If they are a habit you have been unable to break, search and replace before you submit.
Tip #2. Have a social media presence. I’m guessing that for 99.9% of you reading this, social media is not an issue. Your presence doesn’t have to be complex but it has to be yours. Not a family account. Not your husband’s account. Your account. That’s what all those wild kids are doing today.
Tip #3. When you write about a broad category, such as the environment, do so in a way that is relevant today. Back in the olden days, it was all about the ozone layer. And that meteorite that wiped out all the groovy dinosaurs. Today global warming is a given. What are the cool kids discussing in high school science classes? Rising sea levels, mass extinction, and fracking.
Tip #4. And speaking of groovy dinosaurs, cut the slang. That is one of the quickest ways to ensure that you sound like a granny. The teen in your story doesn’t have to speak the queen’s English but dated slang, bands, and favorite shows will date you. So will watching television judging by the amount the teens in my family watch on Youtube.
Tip #5. Don’t assume that the editor wants to receive your manuscript by snail mail. As much as I loathe reading on screen, the vast majority of my work is submitted through e-mail or Submittables. Assume electronic and if the editor wants a hard copy, she will let you know.
You may not be able to turn back the wheels of time, but you can make sure that your work is current and relevant. In truth, that’s much more important than how many candles are on your birthday cake.
Friday Speak Out!: The Train that Almost Derailed My Writing Career
Posted by MP at 1:00 AM
by Ann Goldberg
I was devastated.
I’d already written a few travel articles for this publication; my first serious acceptances in my nascent writing career. Now I had just written another one about a train ride that operated twice a day and took twice as long as the journey by car or bus because the train tracks still wound gently round the surrounding hills, unlike the new straight roads which had been built .
This was a tourist’s train ride. It gave a leisurely look at the glorious countryside . To prove how trivial the journey was considered, every station was in the middle of nowhere, with infrequent public transport connections to the nearest town.
The train ran twice a day: 8am and 4pm.
A few weeks after I sent off the article, I heard that the 8am train had been cancelled due to lack of interest. I wasn’t at all surprised. Most tourists are still asleep at that time.
The article was published.
The blow came ten days later.
An email day from the editor stated that he had been informed by his local correspondent that the 8am train no longer operated and therefore my article was factually incorrect and misleading to their readers in suggesting a service which didn’t exist. They were therefore printing a correction and apology in the next edition and of course I would not be receiving any payment.
I was mortified, humiliated – I just wanted to shrivel up and disappear down the space between the letters on my keyboard.
After a few days of beating my chest and wishing I’d never ever thought about being a writer, I suddenly came to my senses.
How dare the editor claim that I didn’t deserve payment? How dare he print an apology and correction about my article! Almost nothing was incorrect. I wrote a scathingly indignant reply.
“Do you realize that there are exactly two incorrect words in the entire article – those words are: (The train runs at ) 8 am and (4 pm).” The 8am train was never used by tourists, or anyone else and that’s why it was cancelled. Every other word in the article is correct. I see no reason why you had to write any apology, and I certainly see no reason why I should not be paid the full amount.”
A few weeks later I received as close to an apology as an editor will ever write. They had checked again with their correspondent who admitted that it was true that the 4pm train still ran and that was the one that tourists probably use.
Under the circumstances they were going to print another correction confirming that the original article was in fact correct and the train service still operated – and of course I would be receiving my payment in full.
I learned two valuable lessons from that episode.
Always keep your editor informed of any changes in the information you sent, however small.
Editors aren’t always right.
* * *
Ann Goldberg is a writing coach helping writers and potential writers get published. She works together with you to write the best possible essay or article suitable for the market you are aiming at.
Anna also writes essays and memoirs as well as articles on Judaism, parenting, writing,home and time management and Israel travel.
For more details see http://anngoldbergwriting.com/blog/ and https://www.linkedin.com/in/anngoldberg1.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Would you like to participate inFriday "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!
How to Create a Book Review Schedule that You'll Actually Stick To
Posted by Crystal Otto at 12:01 AM
I’ve been reviewing books for a long time, but it wasn’t until I got involved in product reviewing that I got organized. Hopefully I can pass along some tips and tricks that will help you get organized without getting overwhelmed.
• Set Limits; I updated my blog and my website to indicate that hard copies of books will take priority over e-books. If I were to accept review invitations from every author willing to send me an e-book, I would have to read 3 or 4 books each day. That quite frankly is too much like work.
• Determine Your Reading Speed; each book is going to be a little different, but it’s generally safe to say you are only going to review books you find interesting and you’ll probably read 1ish pages per minute in most cases (the national adult average reading speed is 300 words per minute). If an author tells me their book is 240 pages, I know I’ll need to set aside 4 hours to read.
• Understand the Expectation; if the author has an expectation that your review will be ready in a week and you have 3 other books to read, your kids have sports, and your garden needs tending, you can respond and let them know your turn around time. If that won’t work for them, then you can pass on that book and wait for the next one. The last thing you want to do is say “I’ll let you know when I’m done” because there is no sense of urgency for you the reader, and the author will likely be waiting on pins and needles for your feedback.
• Mark your Calendar; I mark my calendar the day the book arrives (if it’s a physical book, I take a selfie and post it to Instagram too) and generally speaking I allow 2 weeks’ time for reading, preparing the review, and posting. I literally “check in” the book and pencil the review on my calendar for the “due date”. I have large colorful calendars in my office. Each book has its own calendar and includes pertinent information as well as the important dates mentioned above. It keeps me accountable to myself and helps me achieve and exceed my goals!
• Under Promise & Exceed Expectations; When I worked in the corporate world, I disliked salespeople who would over promise and under deliver. I’ve carried that through and I like to tell authors I’ll be done by such and such a date and then get in touch with them a few days or a week prior and let them know I’m completed. It’s a win for the author and it certainly will build the reputation of the reader/reviewer. There may be times you are busy and don’t get done early, but the author will still be elated you got done on time! I hope some of these tips will help with your reviewing. What have you found that works for you? What have you tried that doesn’t work? I would love to hear from you!
Crystal is a church musician, babywearing 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, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.
When a new acquaintance learns that you are a writer they invariably ask, "What have you written?"
It has been two decades since I was first paid for my writing. The list is long. I have written articles, interviews, and essays for magazines, newspapers and blogs. Companies have hired me to write everything from product descriptions to annual reports to brochures. I have led writing workshops, written speeches and promoted authors. I even wrote a non-fiction book and contributed to a dozen others.
But too often, people react to my career with an awkward, "Oh...but have you written anything I could read?"
Over the years I have come to realize that this is code for "a novel". Have you written a novel?
For much of the public writer = novelist. All of the other writing that they are exposed to everyday flies under their radar. After all, a large percentage of what we read each day has no "author" noted. Even when you are listed as an author it often goes unnoticed by readers. As I was told on my first day as a newspaper stringer so many years ago, "Only your mother reads the byline."
But novels...they have the writer's name right there on the cover. Books are even shelved according to the author's last name. People remember (sometimes) the name of the author of the novel they're reading. Is this why so many writers keep plugging away at a WIP or rue the unfinished novel, despite successful writing careers? Does a secret part of ourselves want that recognition?
On most days I'm happy being a writer that no one knows. Crafting a great phrase, delivering what a client wants, just getting a new idea is enough. But then there are days when I want the world to know I'm a writer. I want my name on the cover! So I keep plugging away at that novel even though part of me realizes that my talent may be elsewhere on the writing spectrum.
Interview with Flash Fiction Winner, K. Alan Leitch
Posted by MP at 1:00 AM
K. Alan Leitch is the author of six novels (in addition to the embarrassing one that he wrote in his twenties, to which no writer should ever admit). He has studied Technology, Education and, most recently, English Literature at Oxford University. After twenty years of teaching in high schools, it is surprising that it took him so long to discover a passion for writing Young Adult fiction: passion that he hopes will be evident in his forthcoming novel, entitled Labels. Having also written Science Fiction, Mysteries and dozens of short stories, Leitch is currently learning the slippery ropes of the publishing industry, with the support of the amazing community here at WOW.
Readers can sample one of his award-winning humorous thrillers at http://www.textnovel.com/story/Starlite-Lanes:-We-Bowl-for-Democracy/7398/, and will soon be able to access more samples of his work at k-alan-leitch-author.tk. Often an American at heart, he is actually a Canadian transplanted happily to Australia, where—along with his wife and several wild lorikeets—he watches a river that never freezes go by.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Spring 2016 Flash Fiction competition! What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash?
Keith: Not that I am any kind of photographer, but I fancy that Flash Fiction is as close as a story can come to being photographic. Readers need to know characters through their actions and words, rather than their histories, and each detail of a setting must somehow contribute to the plot or the themes. Achieving this requires, I suppose, some level of exaggeration…very much as one might emphasize color and tone in a photograph’s subject.
WOW:How do you approach a story? Do you start with an image, character, situation etc.? This particular story of yours seems like it required some research.
Keith: The core element of any short fiction is, to me, an emotion. At a moment that I am touched deeply—by a friend’s gesture, a news item or a television show—I try to examine the causes of that feeling, and a very different situation often develops that might cause similar feelings.
In the case of "Mixed Colors," though, the plot developed differently; I was actually inspired by a group of children, who told me that rainbows and policemen were opposites. Someone like my character, Kiet, emerged almost immediately: a man who wants to be kind, but has a job that largely prevents his kindness.
So, I guess that starting points vary, but it is important for an author to expand upon whatever intrigues him or her, no matter how minor.
WOW: What’s your revision process like? How much editing did you have to do on your flash fiction piece?
Keith: I probably edit too much. The version of "Mixed Colors" that won the contest was officially Version 3 of the story, with dozens of passes for each version. Part of this is due to further inspiration; I travelled to Việt Nam, and experienced the eeriness of the Loa Phường first-hand, so I had to include it. Part of this is because I am known, to some, as a “grammar-Nazi,” and I almost cannot bear to write with grammatical imprecision, even in the name of artistic license.
Of course, I also have some trusted friends, particularly one named Alison, who are willing to read the stories I write and tell me when they make no sense. Sometimes, this results in rewriting passages that my lonely author’s voice had convinced me were beautiful.
WOW:It’s interesting that you write both flash fiction and novels. Do you work on both at the same time, or do you alternate, focusing on one project at a time?
Keith: Isn’t a novel just a series of Flash with “To Be Continued…” tacked between them?
Of course, that is not true at all. Short stories, especially Flash, focus acutely on minimal elements, while good novels interweave countless details to connect them in sometimes surprising ways. Writing Flash can help me get through some writer’s block when stumped on a novel, but the two really are very different. My short stories tend to feature literary characters that reflect an average reader’s life in recognizable ways, while my novels are about a bowling team fighting a Cuban terrorist, Driver’s-Ed students preventing a presidential assassination, and a teenaged girl psychically discovering that her psychiatrist is a misogynistic murderer.
See the difference?
WOW: You also mention that you’re currently learning the slippery ropes of the publishing industry. What has your experience been like so far?
Keith: In a word: “Discouraging.” In another word, “Rattling.” I have discovered that the first contract in an author’s inbox is not necessarily the one to sign. There are publishers who are mostly hoping to sell authors copies of their own books, others who skip the editing process entirely, and still others who want to sign authors up for courses. Of course, there are many publishers—probably a majority—who genuinely want to benefit from authors’ good writing by signing fair deals, so what I have learned, above all, is that seeking the help of an experienced agent is essential.
There has been a very uplifting element to my experience, and that is the connections I have begun to forge within the very supportive writing community. Experts and “Gurus,” such as Victoria Strauss and your very own Angela Mackintosh, have patiently advised me about the standards of the industry, and what to look for in a contract. I am significantly better educated, thanks to these professionals, than I was even a few weeks ago. The blogs of such experts are “required reading” for anyone just starting out.
WOW:Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Keith. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?
Keith: Find a home for every idea. A humorous quip of dialogue, a description of a sunset, a really cool name: none of it is wasted energy. A story can be built around anything that inspires us…even a bowling ball.
*** Our Fall 2016 Flash Fiction Contest is NOW OPEN!
For information and entry, visit our contest page.
Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir -- a blog tour and book giveaway
Posted by Jodi Webb at 1:30 AM
Some days creativity feels like a geyser that will never cease. Other days it feels like a tiny trickle of
creek after a long hot summer. Nina Amir has some ideas on how to keep your creative juices flowing.
This book also helps you develop Author Attitude by setting goals, increasing productivity, refusing negativity and more. Creative Visualization for Writers will help you take the steps needed to become a successful writer.
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Creative Visualization for Writers, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes next Monday, September 26 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author: Nina Amir started as a journalist. She has a BA in magazine journalism with a concentration in psychology. After working as an editor and writer for a variety of regional magazines, a national corporation in New York City, and a small consulting firm, she started my own freelance writing and design business.
Working on other writers’ manuscripts sparked her desire to write a book of on topics she felt passionate about: personal development and practical spirituality. More than publishing a book, she wanted to build a business around those books.
Setting out to learn all she could about the publishing industry she got involved with the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and started the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge (now known as National Nonfiction Writing Month). In April 2012, her first book How to Blog a Book was published, became an Amazon bestseller almost immediately, and has remained one ever since. The Author Training Manual was published by Writer’s Digest Books just two years later and was a bestseller before any books passed through the register on Amazon. In addition she’s self-published several more ebooks, all of which have made it onto the Amazon Top 100 right away. In fact, she’s had as many as four books on one Amazon Top 100 list at the same time!
WOW: Creative Visualization for Writers combines writing and drawing. How do you feel these two activities complement each other?
NINA: The point is to find ways to help writers tap into their ability to create—to write—even if they don’t seem complementary.
Most of us realize that our brain has two sides that process information differently. The right side of the brain focuses on visual information. The left side of the brain focuses on verbal information.
As a writer, you may use your left brain—the language center—more than your right brain. Yet, the right brain is regarded as the more creative part of the brain.
But creativity is enhanced when you actively use both sides of the brain. For instance, it’s easier to ideate (and even write) if you call upon the right side of your brain. Drawing or coloring, meditating or visualizing, creating mind maps or time lines of your project, or singing or dancing help you tap into your creative energy and get the ideas and words flowing.
You’ll experience more creativity when you actively use both sides of the brain—when you write, draw, visualize, feel, and analyze. Thus, writers benefit from adopting a whole-brain approach to their work.
Also, when your writing project leaves you feeling stressed, unclear, and overwhelmed, drawing and coloring offer a means to relax and focus.
WOW:The book is divided into five sections: self-exploration, goals, creativity, visualization, and focus. How did you decide on these five themes OR which section is your favorite?
NINA: I felt that each one of these areas was important to making writing dreams real. I believe personal development is what helps us achieve anything in life. We hold ourselves back more often than any external situations. If we aren’t writing, we may need to explore or thoughts, mindsets, habits, etc. That’s where self-exploration comes in. Without goals, I think we flounder around through life. Goal setting gives us a map to follow toward the goal of successful authorship. Creativity is the foundation of writing. We want ideas! We need to solve problems and find solutions. And we need to know how to turn creativity on at will…not wait for inspiration to hit. Visualization could be seen as an outcropping of goal setting, but it goes farther. It’s a tool used by many people, including athletes, to convince themselves that they can achieve their goals and dreams. A clear vision of successful authorship, for instance, feeds your ability to bring that vision to life. As for focus, without it, you can’t write. We live in a highly distracting period of time. We need to learn to train our minds to work like laser beams. We can do this with affirmations, visualization, and constantly training our mind on what we want—not what we don’t want. Coloring pages that contain images of what we desire, coupled with the repetitive writing and repeating of self-affirming statements, helps us focus…and manifest our dreams.
The last section on focus also was born out of a desire to tap into the adult coloring book trend. But my publisher and I did not want to produce a coloring book. We both felt writers were way to busy to sit around coloring! But we agreed that they would color if it helped them focus on their goals and dreams and bring them to life. (The same for the affirmations.)
As for which section I like most…I’d have to say Self-Exploration. I’m passionate about personal development. That’s why I became a Certified High Performance Coach. I think personal development is the missing piece in Author Training and Coaching. I strongly believe it is the key to successful authorship.
WOW: Do you feel this book is just for the writer in us or can it carry over to other aspects of life?
NINA: Oh, it definitely carries over into every area of life. You could apply the exercises and concepts to your finances, relationships, health, or anything else! And I do regularly.
WOW: Why did you decide to write Creative Visualization? Were you drawing on your own needs and experiences as a writer or the needs and experiences of your mentoring clients?
NINA:I drew on several things. First, I strongly believe we all need to utilize the tools included in the book in our lives—all areas of our lives. I’ve used affirmations, meditations, visualizations, goal setting, and more since my early 20s. I find my personal growth efforts and use of “woo-woo” strategies, like vision boards, has helped me become the author and coach I am today.
I’m a big advocate of planning—you’ll notice this in both How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual—and seeing writing and publishing as a business. This is the “hard” side of becoming an author.
I work with a variety of writers and authors, as a coach and trainer. But sometimes the education and support they receive through my Author Coaching and Author Training are not enough. These aspiring authors need a “softer” way of achieving goals. They need new habits, clear goals, ways to train their mind, and the energy to move to completion of a project. They need courage and influence.
You can teach someone almost anything, if they are willing to learn. But the deciding factor on whether or not they achieve their goals comes down to their ability to understand themselves and what holds them back—and to change. They need to become the person who can fulfill their dreams.
So, I wanted to move away from the hard business books for writers and provide them with a companion to my other titles—one that would provide a softer approach. And I believe Creative Visualization for Writers provides a fabulous foundation for the strategies in my other two books.
But take note that The Author Training Manual also mentions goals, visions, and development of the right attitude or mindset. Creative Visualization for Writers just takes the concepts further.
As a side note, I got the idea for the book from the adult coloring book trend. But I wanted to give writers something more useful than a color book.
WOW:Do you think there is one particular skill or attitude that every writer has to cultivate if they want to become successful?
NINA: I often talk about the need for Author Attitude—willingness, optimism, objectivity, and tenacity.
But this leads back to the one skill writers need: the ability to master their mind.
Whether you need to turn on creativity in a moment, stop yourself from feeling not good enough, turn your fear of rejection into the courage to contact an agent, or sit down and write daily, one thing will help you in every situation. Your ability to master your mind.
You have to learn to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones and shift limiting beliefs to unlimited ones. Doing so will increase your self-esteem and self-confidence and help you discover the willpower to change your habits.
You achieve your current level of success with your current habits. To achieve a new level of success, you need new habits.
No one likes to change. Therefore, we often have to work with our thoughts and beliefs to make change happen. That’s where affirmations, visualization, and personal development help enormously.
I see it time and time again. An aspiring writer never finishes a book or publishes successfully because she is afraid, doesn’t think she can, gets overwhelmed, or doesn’t have the energy to get to “done.”
As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't—you're right.”
WOW: Our readers are well acquainted with your books on writing craft. But you also have a fictional WIP. Can you compare the process of writing to non-fiction and writing fiction?
NINA: Well…I have a novel; it’s true. It’s not done.
But I would never approach the process of writing a novel in the way I did when I wrote that one—given what I know now.
I believe all books—fiction or nonfiction—should be born out of an idea, first, and a business plan, second—if you want it to have a greater chance of the book selling well.
But in addition to creativity, to write a novel you need a great imagination and the ability to tell a story.
Now, in nonfiction, you also should be telling a story—and possibly using anecdotes and vignettes—but you don’t have to make the story up! That takes imagination.
Memoirists must write like novelists in terms of style, and this can prove a different process than writing straight nonfiction. But, as we’ve learned, putting your imagination to work on a memoir, which is nonfiction, is not a good idea.
But in both genres, you must have an idea and the ability to carry it out. That takes an Author Attitude and more!
WOW:Tell us about compiling the exercises in Creative Visualization. Where did all the exercises come from? Did you do research into what types of questions and activities would increase creativity?
NINA:Some of the exercises are ones I use. In fact, I brainstormed relentlessly to create exercises for the book—over 100 of them.
I love creating workbooks and exercises. And the majority of those in the book are my own or based on my experiences or experiences of those I know or with whom I’ve worked.
When it came to creativity, I did, indeed, do research. And many of the exercises were born out of that research.
I also researched the topics of the other four sections, and this generated additional ideas for exercises.
WOW: Anything else you would like to add?
NINA: I’m extremely proud of this book. It melds my understanding of the writing and publishing process with my passion for helping writers get past the blocks they place in the way of their success. It’s a lovely blend of all that I have learned in career as a writer and author and in my quest to learn what makes people succeed at any endeavor. It provides the best of what I have to offer as an Author Coach and Author Trainer and a Certified High Performance Coach.
Plus, it’s a beautiful interactive journal. There’s so much fun in the pages and possibilities for introspection and dreaming. And it’s pretty! I love the illustrations—all of which can be colored.
I hope writers will take advantage of Creative Visualization for Writers and find that it helps them make their writing dreams and career real.
Wednesday, September 21 @ Pen & Pro$per
Stop by for advice from Nina Amir, author of several writing craft books, including her latest Creative Visualization for Writers. http://penandprosper.blogspot.com/
Friday, September 23 @ Create Write Now
Learn what makes a writing guru tick in today's interview with Nina Amir, author of Creative Visualization for Writers. http://www.createwritenow.com/
Tuesday, September 27 @ Building Bookshelves
Looking for a book that could rejuvenate your writing career? Read today's review of Creative Visualization for Writers and enter to win a copy. http://blogs.republicanherald.com/bookshelves
Thursday, September 29 @ Santa Fe Books
Looking for a great book on writing craft? Read today's review of Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir. You'll be adding it to your "must read" list. http://www.booksantafe.info/blog
Friday, September 30 @ Choices
Need all the details on Nina Amir's latest book? Don’t miss today’s showcase of Creative Visualization for Writers. http://madelinesharples.com/
Monday, October 17 @ Lisa M. Buske
Read a review of Nina Amir's Creative Visualization for Writers today -- release date is tomorrow! http://www.lisambuske.com/blog
Wednesday, October 19 @ Beads and Books
Creative types of all kinds – not just writers -- will enjoy Creative Visualization by Nina Amir. Stop by for a review! http://www.beadsandbooks.com/
Thursday, October 20 @ Writers Pay It Forward Learn more about writer Nina Amir and how you can practice Creative Visualization for Writers. http://writerspayitforward.org/blog/
Friday, October 21 @ Android After Forty
Don't miss one of your last chances to enter and win Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir. http://www.AndroidAfterForty.com
Wednesday, October 26 @ Beverley A. Baird
Stop by for a review of a writer's book you shouldn't miss: Nina Amir's Creative Visualization for Writers. https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com
Thursday, October 27 @ Dorit Sasson
Does your writing need a boost? Creative Visualization for Writers could be just the thing you need! http://doritsasson.com/blog/
Monday, October 31 @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Memoirists need creative visualization too! Learn more about Creative Visualization for Writers from Nina Amir and enter to win her newest book. http://krpooler.com
Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*****BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST*****
Enter to win a copy of Creative Visualization for Writers! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget Monday, September 26. Also, stop by the blogs to enter into the tour-wide Rafflecopter giveaway. Winner will be announced on Friday, November 4.
I am currently holding a contest on my new blog. I don't have a new book out, which is often a reason writers hold contests on their blog; but I want to draw people to my blog to sign up for email posts or my newsletter and to make them aware that I have a new URL on the web. I decided one easy way to do this was with a contest.
Tip #1: Choose Your Contest, Making it Fun and Easy:
One of the subjects I want to write about in the next year is sayings and memes used for inspiration in our daily lives. So I decided my contest would focus on these sayings. The best and easiest way for people to enter the contest is to write their own sayings in the comments. Besides it being interactive and maybe fun to read everyone's comments, I could also use some of these for ideas for more blog posts.
Tip #2: Use Rafflecopter:
To run the contest, I decided to use a Rafflecopter form, so people can easily enter the contest and be encouraged to sign up for emailed posts or my newsletter, to follow my Facebook author page, to tweet about my contest, and more. If you want to check out how I set up my contest or enter it yourself, you can visit my website at the link here. I chose the tasks added to the Rafflecopter form based on these goals: I want to build a platform, an audience, a brand--and so I'm happy if someone likes my Facebook page to enter the contest--because I caught this reader in the one place he or she is comfortable in.
Tip #3: Offer Prizes to Fit Your Intended Audience:
Since my goal for the contest is to direct attention to my new project and build an audience, I'm offering a variety of prizes (cost about $25 in total) that will appeal to many different types of people--male and female--old and young. That $25 is part of my marketing budget, and something that every writer has to be willing to have. You really do have to spend money to make money. My prizes are not only books. I think books are fine to giveaway, but blogs and social media are inundated with book giveaways, and Amazon is full of free book offers. So for this particular project, I decided to give away a gift card to Starbucks or Amazon, a free 10-page edit, one of my books (I would love to gain a new reader or two also), R-E-A-D magnets, and a journal.
Tip #4: Advertise Your Contest--People Will Not JUST Find It:
Advertising the contest is probably the most important part of this. Yes, I should follow tips 1 through 3: I have to set up an easy, fun contest; draw attention to my blog; offer prizes, and get people to sign up for things...BUT if I don't let people know it's going on, no one will enter it. I am currently building my audience, so I have to find these people somewhere. I posted about the contest on my personal Facebook page, and I tweeted about it. I plan to boost a Facebook author page post, and I put a screenshot of my blog on Instagram. Of course, this spin-off article on The Muffin is an advertisement for it. I will also create my monthly newsletter, which will highlight the contest, the new blog, and some of my recent posts. Creating the contest or the new content will not be enough to get attention--I have to market/advertise.
I love hosting contests; it's fun to interact with people. It's great to give out prizes, and it's nice to have new people involved in my creative life. To sum up if you are thinking of holding a contest, it's extremely important to think of your goal for the contest and what type of prizes will attract the same people who will like your content. Then put your plan into action and watch the contest unfold.
Share with us in the comments a successful contest you've had to market some type of writing or project, or any questions you might have about my contests.
The show has been on the Food Network for many years, but I only started tuning in this past summer. Now, I’m obsessed. While I don’t normally watch reality television shows, this one draws me in for some reason. And it has inspired me to be a better cook. Watching the chefs stumble around the “Chopped” kitchen trying to make an entrée out of items like octopus, graham crackers, mayonnaise, and dried cherries makes my nightly forays into the kitchen seem like a breeze, and I’ve learned some great cooking techniques. While watching the Teen Tournament semifinal episode this week, I started thinking about how the lessons the chefs learn on the show can also hold true for writers. See below for some examples.
Sometimes, you have to step outside of your comfort zone. Most of the contestants on “Chopped” and “Chopped Junior” are used to cooking—that’s where they find their happy place. But not all of them are used to competing against three other contestants with a ticking clock, people running all over the kitchen, a competitor snatching all the heavy cream out of the refrigerator before they can get to it, etc. These obstacles can create a whole new dynamic. Writers also need to step out of their comfort zones. Attend conferences, find a critique group, do something daring with a chapter that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with a change of scenery.
Don’t be afraid to bring the heat. Sometimes the judges call out contestants for not using enough salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, or other spices. Bland cooking is not going to advance you to the next level, and neither is mundane writing. I’ve been guilty of it myself, especially when it comes to business or service articles. There’s no reason why you can’t put a little personality into every piece of your writing. Write an intriguing lead, or outline the article in a way that the reader isn’t expecting to spice things up a bit.
Listen to constructive criticism and use it to improve your craft. On “Chopped,” when a judge tells you something you need to work on, you’d better make sure you take it to heart in the next round or risk being chopped. You served undercooked meat? Don’t do it again. You served an appetizer that was weighed down with a soggy sauce? Lighten up on the ingredients next time. In the same token, if you are paying for a critique of your work at a conference, consider the feedback you’ve received. While we all know writing is subjective, much like cooking, there are usually a few grains of the truth in the criticism that you need to hear. The same goes if you’ve turned something into an editor and they have notes for your next assignment. Don’t be that writer who refuses to listen to advice—it will get you nowhere fast.
You are never too old (or young!) to follow your dreams. I’ve seen contestants on “Chopped” who left completely different professions to follow their cooking dreams, and I’ve also seen kids as young as 7 or 8 years of age whipping up an entrée I’ve only seen in some of the fanciest restaurants. Sometimes they have a compelling story that led them to cooking—sometimes it’s just a vocation they’ve always been passionate about. Feel that way about writing? Take it from these chefs. You’re never too old to be a published writer. Instead of sweating over the stove, sweat over your computer and get to work.
And don’t forget to eat some yummy food along the way to give you sustenance.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also enjoys a good shrimp taco whenever she can find one, but her specialty is homemade chocolate chip cookies. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com to learn more about her writing projects.
A while back someone told me my writing sometimes reminded her of Nora Ephron. I was shocked at hearing this, and while I took it as a tremendous compliment, I duck-paddled like a wild woman, realizing I didn’t know much about Ephron. I knew her work as a screenwriter and director from her hit movies, Silkwood, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally, but other than that, not much else.
Like many baby boomers, I was a poster child for pop culture. We were the first TV-all-the-time generation, raised on Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, the Addams Family and I Dream of Jeannie, sprinkled with Laugh-In and serious-movies-told-funny in the 70s, like Little Big Man.
So naturally, when Nora Ephron’s films hit our screens in the 80s and 90s I knew I would absorb scenes that quipped, “I’ll have what she’s having,” after Meg Ryan’s convincing portrayal of faking in the deli of When Harry Met Sally (I won’t say what she was faking, if you don’t know, rent the movie). How could a screenwriter write painful, personal stories about love and loss, with such honesty and unconventionality—and be funny doing it?
I set out to read all I could about Nora Ephron. What I didn’t know then, but I do now, is in addition to screenwriting, Ephron had an extensive career “…as a reporter, a profilist, a polemicist, a novelist, a playwright, an essayist, a memoirist and a blogger…” as stated in the Introduction by Robert Gottlieb of The Most of Nora Ephron. During my study of her work, I paused to watch Everything is Copy, an HBO documentary made by her son, Jacob Weinstein. I was then able to match the real-person verbal narratives with Nora’s written narrative.
I wasn’t sure what my takeaway would be. I wasn’t searching for anything specific. Just—searching, curious about her evolution as a writer and what her secret was to writing funny. I’m always curious to know what lies behind what people write.
What I found was, Ephron’s narrative style operated on the reality principle. Her own life found its way into much of what she wrote. Women identified with her because she wrote about personal things she encountered through life’s passages—and she wrote it honest and funny in her book on aging, I Feel Bad About My Neck: “You can shoot collagen and Botox and Restylane into your wrinkles and creases, but short of surgery, there’s not a damn thing you can do about a neck. A neck is a dead giveaway. Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck.”
A good example of writing funny was in Ephron’s novel, Heartburn, which later became a movie with Streep and Nicholson. She took the traumatic circumstance of her husband’s infidelity and fictionalized it in a funny way that had readers howling (except her ex-husband). She wove humorous insights into the story about the infidelities and social life in the political arenas of Washington D.C. in the late 70s, and her dad’s escapades in and out of the ‘loony bin.’
Several in the HBO documentary about Ephron said she wrote about events in her life so that she would be ‘in control’ and not the out-of-control victim. Nora herself stated, “When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your laugh.” Her sister Delia nodded at this and said, “Yup, Nora was a control freak.”
“Everything is copy,” Ephron’s mother told her. Everything, that is, except Nora’s illness and death, which she kept private until the end. Those two things she could not control.
My takeaway from Nora Ephron’s writing is this: No matter how grim or traumatic my personal circumstance may be, once I work through it and distance myself, maybe I can write about it. And why not write it funny? It’s a way we control freaks can write our stories, whether we choose to write memoir or fiction. This approach may not work for everyone. But, writing funny is one way to write about the pain of loss or whatever else life throws at us.
I’d rather tell people I slipped on the banana peel, instead of listening to them laugh when I slip on it.
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Lois Paige Simenson writes for newspapers and magazines. She is a playwright, and has a blog, The Alaska Philosophaster and web site. Her writing has appeared in The Anchorage Press, Alaska Magazine, 49 Writers and online at Erma Bombeck Humor-Writers.org. She’s working on her debut fiction novel, Otter Rock.
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