Tag Archives: digital world

Live to Write, Write to Live

Inspiration is all around us.

Yesterday was one of those days when I thought, why write? Staring at the future, instead of staying in the moment, I pouted through the morning. I wrote anyway (it was Wednesday, I had to), and I felt better.

Today on The Writing Vein blog*, I watched this video about art, its mystery and its draw:

art manifesto

How the future unfolds doesn’t matter so much. I just love to write.

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* I don’t know where Dot finds such lovely music and videos, but I’m glad she posts them. I could watch this one again and again (and I have) Thanks, Dot!

Passing It On: Prolific Times Three

There’s no better way to finish off the weekend and start a new week than with an award.

Mary Campbell shared her Happiness 101 award with me a few days ago. Today, Linda Cassidy Lewis honors me with the title of Prolific Blogger (you can read about the award itself, here).

More than a testament of my writing, both these awards are evidence of the strong connections we find with other writers, whether online or in person. Mary’s award gave me an introspective opportunity to ask myself what it means to be really happy. Linda’s award offers me a chance to ponder the word Prolific.

I’m a big fan of the thesaurus. Some writers refuse to use it, but I love it. I’m a visual person. When I see one word in isolation, it sometimes appears flat to me. But, when I read through the word’s synonyms, the word takes shape in a more meaningful way for me.

Prolific: fruitful, generative, innovative, plenteous.

The maker of the award ask that recipients pass it on to seven other bloggers. Seven is a big number. Three is more magical for me. I hope Advance Booking will keep me on the list of winners even as I side-step that rule. At any rate, here are three bloggers I love who deserve the title of Prolific:

  1. My friend Sarah, Ms. Celiac in the City, is a wealth of information about gluten-free living. I can manage gluten, but I have to consider a nut-free, egg-free diet for one of my kids. Sarah and I talk food quandaries as often as we can, and she provides resources to other sites with food allergies at the forefront.
  2. Dot Hearn, whom I mentioned in my last post, is a writer out west. Though we’ve never met in person, I love having her as a friend and writing colleague. She keeps her website rolling with writing prompts and news about literary and arts events all around town. I wish I lived in Oregon or – at the least – had a large disposable income within reach, so I could fly out there whenever I darn well pleased.
  3. E. Victoria Flynn is a fellow SheWrites author and a Mother Writer. She recently began a weekly post on What to Read This Weekend where she highlights an interesting or inspiring blog. And, she created a great logo for every Mother Writer out there.

Like I plan to do, you can buy a t-shirt, a messenger bag, maybe even a magnet. My dream would be to buy a book of temporary tattoos, so I could slap the logo onto my bicep for some added sass.

***

Thank you, Linda, for acknowledging my blog. It’s an honor to display the badge. I only wish I had the kind of writing space in the picture…minus the dog. I’m terribly allergic. I doubt I’d get much writing done with a furry friend stirring up dander just below my feet.

Still…the coffee, the printer overflowing with finished works, and the light bulb going on daily with amazing and creative ideas…dreamy.

Three Reasons to Workshop

Maybe because it’s Monday and the start of a fresh new week, or maybe it’s the way my coffee kicked in with that handful of M&M’s I just ate, but either way, I’m excited.

Last week, I signed up for a Novel Workshop. The workshop speaks to writers who “have a good portion of their novel on paper and want some constructive feedback…instruction, support and discussion.”

Perfect.

Perfect for me for three reasons:

1. I’ve been all talk lately about rewriting the first draft of my novel — talking on my blog, talking in my morning pages, talking out loud to myself in front of the laptop too late at night. But now, this workshop guarantees firm deadlines, and there’s nothing like accountability to force the issue and say, “Rewrite. Or else.”

2.  Ann M. Lynn commented on my post on patience about the fact that beginning writers often spend the majority of their time studying the craft and less time writing. She said:

New writers are slowed by learning activities: studying published works, experimenting with techniques familiar to the old pros, fumbling with prose in search of an understandable or unique style, squeezing writing time into already busy schedules (or developing the habit or sitting down to write), and working through emotional blocks (all those mountains and sinkholes we create for ourselves).

I have sat in that place of more contemplation and study and less writing for months. Now, I want to ride the pendulum back to center and apply some of my new insights. I want to write stories as often as I study the craft of storytelling.

3. One of the peripheral reasons for taking this course is connection. So far, all my writing and learning has happened online where “face-to-face” means interacting with avatars. The internet is a great security veil for me. I’ve taken more risks than I thought I could, and I have been rewarded with new writing friends and great resources.

However, I’m still hiding. If I want to be taken seriously as a writer, then it’s time I show up in the real writing world. In “Close, but No (Literary) Cigar” (from the Writer’s Yearbook 2010), Rachel Estrada Ryan says:

“…Universities, bookstores, libraries and the occasional coffee shop often bring in established writers and agents…I highly recommend showing up to such events; they offer a great way to meet (and, with hope, endear yourself to) successful people who might be able to help further your career” (p. 31).

I doubt I’ll meet any agents in this workshop (though you never know). But, I’m sure I’ll meet other local writers, some of them established writers with their own – local – connections.  I can’t wait for the chance to sit among them, listen and discuss, and introduce myself. Not as a “writer on the side.” Not as a “writer- wanna- be.” But, a Writer.

If you signed up for the same workshop, you’ll recognize me even before introductions. I’ll be the one holding a strong cup of coffee, wearing a giddy smile, and sporting a brand new fancy pen with paper.

***

Hoffman, Scott and Ryan, Rachel Estrada. “Close, but No (Literary) Cigar.” Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Yearbook 2010. Special issue: 28-31. Print.

If I Get Lost, the Story Falls Flat

There’s been a lot of talk online* recently about craft and voice and when to know if your work is publishable or best kept in a drawer.

Linda Cassidy Lewis posted about the fact that everyone can write a story, but a writer hopes to craft one.

Jennifer Stanley and Donald Maass posted separately on voice. If you stay true to your voice, the work, according to Maass, will read “authentic and passionate.” The story, Stanley believes, will “outshine” all the others.

Rachelle Gardner said that rejection after rejection may imply a writer needs more than just good grammar skills. That writer should sign up for a class on the craft of writing with a good teacher who isn’t afraid to say, “This doesn’t work. At all.”

I wrote a story a while back that was a good story. I remember sitting in a diner watching a scene unfold across the restaurant in a way that I thought, “somebody should write about that. That’s crazy!” So I did. I made up a story that paralleled the scene I witnessed, but I didn’t tell the story well. I wrote it with a particular literary magazine in mind. And, I wrote it in a way I imagined a particular famous author would write it. My voice was lost, along with the passion. The story read flat, no matter how hard I infused it with vivid details or realistic dialogue.

I know better now, but I still have much to learn. I do recognize when a story is becoming my own – when it’s a story that I enjoy reading myself. That sounds narcissistic, but when I read my own story and think, well, I might pick it up, but I hope they will pick it up, then I need to go back, rework it, and find the place where I got lost.

There’s still no guarantee my well-crafted story will get published. But, I can lean on the belief that if it’s authentic to me, it will at least stand out next to another writer’s tale.

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* If you’re on Twitter, consider following Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows. She rolls out tweet after tweet of great links, resources, and retweets.

It’s Midnight Somewhere

Everyone is asleep at my house, except for me. NaNoWriMo begins at the strike of midnight, and I hope to get at least half an hour of writing in before I crash. NaNoWriMo kick off parties are happening everywhere tonight, and while I’ve never been to one, I can imagine the scene.

A door opens into a surge of energy, a waft of fresh-brewed coffee mixed with the smell of cookies and the sight of candy wrappers scattered across a table, and stories of last year’s NaNoWriMo. Cords stream from laptops to extensions to outlets, creating a web of connections between writers. Minutes before midnight, conversations crescendo, and then – at 12:01 – the noise dips to a low hum of hard drives and the curt click of keystrokes. The race is on.

I wish I were sitting with my friends, Dot and Jenny, in Portland, with a pot of coffee and giddy smiles between us. Instead, I face my laptop alone. The cursor blinks at me, and my thoughts bounce from NaNoWriMo to my pillow and warm blanket and sleep. I may be in for a long 30 days.

***

If NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing but you kind of like the idea of setting high goals in compact amounts of time, then check out Linda Cassidy’s recent post. She and a few other writing pals have designed their own Nano contest, one that promises sparkling clean results.

Or, if you’d rather just write – on your own terms – but need a firm deadline on the horizon, here are two writing contests to consider:

The Collagist’s 2009 Flash Fiction Contest
Women on Writing Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest

I work better under pressure, so I love deadlines.  That explains why I’m staying up past my bedtime, waiting for the two hands of the clock to flip to 12.

Right now, it’s 11:01 my time. Somewhere on the east coast, it’s after midnight. A host of voices just rose and fell, wooo!

The Importance of Shades of Gray

I love this week’s theme on Wordsmith.org: eponyms.

Today’s word, as quoted from Wordsmith’s site:

manichean. adjective: Of or relating to a dualistic view of the world, dividing things into either good or evil, light or dark, black or white, involving no shades of gray.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Manes/Mani (216-276 CE), Persian founder of Manichaeism, an ancient religion espousing a doctrine of a struggle between good and evil.

***

I heard it or read it somewhere: writing is a solitary act, but it cannot be done in isolation. If you’re not a writer (and of manichean tendencies), you might think that sentence contradicts itself. Writing is, or it isn’t, a solitary act.

But, I find, in writing, there are no black and white, right or wrong answers most of the time.

Two writer’s whose blogs I frequent, Linda Cassidy and Cathryn Grant, both posted this week on the subject of genre descriptions and the struggle to find the right category for your novel. Linda posted a link to AgentQuery’s genre descriptions, and, though my novel is several rewrites away from being agent-ready, I could relate to the struggle of choosing a genre. AgentQuery starts out by comparing the job of classifying a novel to the question, “Where are you from?”

I’m from Wisconsin. Well, really I was born and raised in Texas. So, I’m from Texas. Right? I’ve lived in Wisconsin long enough, but my heart is still….

You get the point. It’s a tough question that only I know the answer to, and the answer isn’t one or the other. In the world of genre categories, nothing is clear-cut either. Genre descriptions overlap and interweave and can drive an author mad.

My struggles with my work-in-progress henge on my resistance to rewrites. I’ve been sitting on the premise that a rewrite must go from beginning to end and back again. After several encouraging comments from other writers on a recent post of mine, I thought, okay, I’ll break it down, piece by piece, and address those parts that don’t work. But until I read Linda’s and Cathryn’s posts, I stared blankly at the story and wondered, which parts don’t work?

What does all this have to do with queries and categories, you ask? Let go of the linear, and hear me out.

Linda’s and Cathryn’s posts, and AgentQuery’s descriptions, gave me pause and shed a new light my novel. I asked myself, in what genre would my story fit? I came up with an answer of what I don’t want, and then my mind flashed through several scenes in need of fixing, or deleting. That may be a minute part of the writing process for some authors, but, for me, the experience was like a jump-start.

In the last several months, I’ve connected with a number of great writers online, my own mini virtual salon. In this online community of writers, our experiences overlap. One writer’s struggle highlights my own, but in a different way. Even if I read others’ posts that describe steps and struggles in the publishing process that are well beyond my reach, I learn. When they comment on my posts, I grow in the same way as a writer who might be sitting in a cafe, sipping coffee with my colleagues, reading our work face to face. As a mother of two young children with little time to write – much less, time to get out for coffee, alone – I cherish these relations and their dialogue.

Gearing Up for a 30 Day Workout

nano_09_red_participant_100x100_1“[W]riting is physical,” Natalie Goldberg says in her book, Writing Down the Bones (p.50). I, along with many of my other NaNoWriMo participant colleagues (I think), would agree.

Last year at this time, I dove – head on – into writing. I’d been talking about writing all summer. I registered for a writing class that would take place just after the new year. And, in a rare move contradictory to my no-risk personality, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Even more surprising, I wrote a somewhat lucid story that inched passed the 50,000 word count. Up until the moment the purple NaNo word meter hit the 50,000 mark and flashed “you’re a winner,” I authored only short, undeveloped stories that barely registered 1000 words.

This year, I signed up for NaNoWriMo by accident. Really. I logged on to my account to check up on an old message in my inbox. When a window full of legalese popped up and asked if I would accept, I thought, sure, I’ve been here before. Click.

Wait. Accept? Accept what? Oh, boy.

I tabbed over to my author info page. Sure enough, that little purple line was back down to zero. It stared me in the face, like a digital taunt, daring me to try again.

I’ve had to remind myself, as the days inch toward November 1st, that NaNoWriMo is another exercise in writing. Natalie Goldberg emphasizes the importance of exercise when she says “[t]he rule for writing practice of “keeping your hand moving,” not stopping, actually is a way to physically break through your mental resistances and cut through the concept that writing is just about ideas and thinking” (p.50). She, of course, means pen-to-paper. But, I believe, in translating her philosophy to hand-to-keyboard, NaNoWriMo offers a 30-day plan to whip my writer’s mind in shape: “cut through” my tendency to think too hard about a story, pound out 2000 words a day (on a good day), and see what becomes of the characters and the work.

NaNoWriMo is initiation by fire for those writers who want to come out of hiding. It’s a test of tolerance and discipline. And, it’s an intervention with your mind’s editor, a reason to send her away for the next 30 days. If writing 50,000 words of one story makes you want to take a nap, if you’d rather dream up your story than put it down on “paper,” remember writing is an art to be learned and practiced. No good story comes out perfect the first time around. I’ve heard it over and over, but my stubborn (sometimes egotistical) mind refuses to listen.

To combat that stubbornness, I’ll take on another 30-day challenge of late nights, fast typing, sweat, and a maybe a few tears. Oh, and fun. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun!

***

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc, 1986), p. 50.