Our Mission Statement:

The mission of Pens & Pages Writers Guild is to facilitate and encourage writers of all genres, to share resources and tips about the writing process and, most of all, to provide a positive and productive forum that will encourage and support each writer in his or her creative endeavors.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Small Town Newspapers Work for Me!

Michelle Malkin
Amarillo Globe-News
Box 2091
Amarillo, Texas 79166

December 26, 2008

Dear Michelle Malkin,

This letter is in regards to your article in the Amarillo Globe-News on Dec. 6, 2008 entitled "Just say no to newspaper bailout".

I am in complete agreement when it comes to government bailouts. I am against them. The only one I supported somewhat was the original financial sector bailout which was partially caused by our government. Our legislators know very little about financial matters. Most have not run a business, and most could not even figure their own families' cash-flow.

Your job requires that you stay on top of all news. It is, therefore, very necessary for you to sit down at your computer to read many different newspapers. Once you have that information, you can remain at your computer to write the articles which bring in your income. That is very understandable, but not everyone gets paid for writing opinion page articles.

Many people go about their own work, which may be just as important as yours, without time to read a newspaper until they take "a break". Personally, I need to prop my legs up a few times a day and that is when I read the newspaper.

Just because you get your information from online newspapers does not make your way superior. Just because others get their information from paper newspapers does not make their way inferior.

You could have made your case against bailouts of newspapers without sneering at small town newspapers. Our small town of about 3800 people gets its local news from our local weekly newspaper, which is also available online. It informs us of the plans of our city council and of our businesses. It also recognizes our students. Because we are a small town, many of our same students will be named on the school honor roll as well as in the sport programs.

Also, your phrase "in dead-tree form" was an unnecessary sarcasm. Just like wheat and corn, trees are also planted in order to be harvested for building supplies. One by-product is pulp for making paper.

Your article told as much about your urban bias as it did about federal government bailouts.


Amelia Wright
Friona, Texas

Friday, December 26, 2008


I was supposed to post a blog entry between 13 December and 19 December. And I got behind. But here I am! Never late than better. Uhm...

Christmas is once again a memory, and all the trimmings and trappings are (mostly) cleaned up. Remnants remain, alone, to remind us of the celebration. Our kids have grown bored (already?!) with the trinkets they received and we are (almost) over the headache from the late night spent as Assistant Elves. What do we do now?!


That's right, write it down. Record the day -- the day before and the day after, too, if you want -- and use the celebration as a prompt. Crack those knuckles and flex those writerly muscles and go back to what you do: write it down.

Your kids will cherish the record written down in your hand of times spent together as family, long after the distant memory of those Christmas morning trinkets has faded.

Happy After Christmas Writing, you writers!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Observations On The Season

It’s inevitable! Your level of expenses at Christmas time will always rise to exceed your level of income.

The shortest line at the check out counter requires the longest wait. Then the number of heavy packages you’ll have to carry out to the car will be in direct proportion to how far away you had to park.

Gift giving:
Children’s toys are too expensive and too complicated. Get them a basket full of batteries. They’ll need them.

Give food gifts to the people on your list who have everything. Everyone has to eat.

For the very special people, give a gift of yourself --- write a poem, an essay, or a Christmas memory, then roll it up and tie it with a ribbon. This is something they’ll cherish forever --- the cost is small but the thought is priceless.

Don’t let the problems of the season obscure the blessings of the season. You’ll find them in the sparkle of the stars in a velvet sky on a frosty night. You’ll find them in the sounds of friends and neighbors singing traditional carols at church. You’ll find them in the warm tiny hugs and moist kisses of grandchildren with innocent shining eyes.

Even Scrooge and the Grinch came to realize that “things” don’t make Christmas. It’s the feelings in the heart that make it all so special.

Wishing my sisters in writing the best life has to offer. I’ll see you all next year,

“Grannie Carol”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another site that might be helpful

I ran across Daily Writing Tips today, and it has a lot of useful information, nuts and bolts stuff like grammar and punctuation, as well as tips on fiction writing and a lot of interesting idiosyncratic articles like "40 Yiddish Words You Should Know".

Friday, November 28, 2008

Take One Moment

The forces of life flow in many directions …. good and bad, happy and sad. Don’t worry. Everything always balances out.

When life begins to fall in on us, we tend to lose our creative spark. The creative process can range from joyful enthusiasm to painful disappointment. It is coloring outside the lines, finding other ways to accomplish your goals, and not always following the rules.

True, it is hard to find the time we need to express ourselves. Becoming a hermit sounds like a good solution to distancing ourselves from daily hassles and society in general, but our computers would probably not work well in a cave. So take a deep breath and calm the whirlwinds in your minds.

Creative idleness renews the spirit. Everyone has an inexhaustible fountain of ideas, whether they know it or not. We must work to keep imagination alive. The spirit cannot thrive without the creative inner self. A person does not have to be energetic and active every waking moment, filling the air with constant chatter … “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Imagination needs slow quiet contemplation in order to achieve the freedom to grow. When you sit down to write, take one moment to breathe, to clear your mind of all the clutter, then pick up your pen or place your fingers on the keyboard and off you go.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase … just take the first step.” M.L. King

Grannie C.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Congratulations Solard! +-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*' +-*'+-*'+-*'
NaNoWriMo 2008 Winner +-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'

Monday, November 24, 2008

Changing Gears...

Thank you, madebyAmanda for posting the Orwell's Rules post -- timely information from a classic source!

Here's something I came across when satisfying a little curiosity that you all might enjoy -- since most of us have expressed interest in being published...

This link: http://www.pwcwriters.org/penpoints4.htm

Contained therein is a concise bit of information on the different approximate word counts for different types of published works. Begging pardon of anyone if you've already seen it -- I hadn't, so thought I'd share.

Happy...uhm...Day that begins with "M" day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Orwell's Six Rules

These are the George Orwell's Six Rules referred to in the article Solard linked to. This quote is from his essay "Politics and the English Language", the full text of which can be found here.

"But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous."
I think in general, these are sound principles. The key, though, is #6. Rules can be helpful, but if they're messing up your writing, BREAK THEM. The rules are only a means to an end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Now for a walk on the wild side...

Heh -- did I get anyone with the title...? Don't worry -- I'm pretty PG13, almost exclusively, and this blog post is no different.

In working on my NaNoWriMo story today, I committed the ultimate "sin" and started reading back over what I've already written (only looking for timeline stuff to keep me on track with what I'm currently writing, mind...)

But invariably, as is the case with, ahem, good intentions I found myself editing for ... wait for it -- {{{{{PASSIVE VOICE}}}}} (the little wavy brackets there? -- those are the 'echo of DOOOOM' you should be hearing when you read {{{{{PASSIVE VOICE}}}}})

Anyway, I was (hah! take that Conference Experts!!) trying to look for creative ways to replace my "was's" and such when I came across this link:

In light of our PnP group discussion last night (and all the accompanying trauma for Robin -- God bless you today, little Writer!) I thought when I read this little article "A-HA! Eureka! and other exclamations -- This MUST go on our PnP Blog!!!

So, to you, my fellow writers in training (oops -- probably should have hyphenated that last term, but what the heck -- I'm feeling rebellious today!)

Go to the link. Read it. Live it. Damn the torpedoes, cry Havoc! and let loose the dogs of WAS.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Writers Stigmata

(Iposted this on my website, some of it's redundant with y'all but thought I'd share anyway, with a few revisions!)

I am such a mess! I have some serious stigmata stuff going on! No, I do not have blood oozing out of my palms and feet. I have writer's stigmata, a whole 'nother condition.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood formon your forehead. ~Gene Fowler (1890-1960)There you have it, a condition that I have contracted. Writers stigmata.

I joked with my writing group that I taped a nail, pointy side up on my keyboard so I could self-flagellate during the writing process to manifest drops of blood. See, in Gene Fowlers era, pen and quill or manual typewriter drew blood easier when the urge to bang your head on something during the process set in. Today's surfaces are more rounded and forgiving causing only minor discomfort when head bashing ensues, hence, the nail.

See? I really thought the whole writer's stigmata thing required actual rending of skin to be legitimate. I have since learned, that's not the case. It's a mythical, spiritual rending that must be experienced if you want to hear the Heavenly Tabernacle Choir break out in refrains of "Hallelujah" while the men in little white coats are carting your slobbering self off to the loony bin during your burst of creative genius.This condition is sneaky and can hit you at the most mundane moment. One minute you think you're fine, happily typing along while patting yourself on the back for being the possible next "it" writer and then WHAM! You realize you're done. You're shit. You suck and you by God, better not quit your day job.

My name is Robin and my stigmata set in about 14 hours ago. I have a wonderful, supportive, amazing writer's group here and I was so excited that it was "my turn" to submit a couple of chapters of my WIP for critique! So, my "other" job has wound down so I had a whole day to dig out my story, polish chapters 1 and 2 and give it to my new best friends.

I was elated! Humming like a fairy tale worker bee, I opened the file...giggled and sighed over my masterpiece...printed both chapters and sat at the table with an actual pen and began to edit (again). I applied a lot of the things I've learned over the last year from the Writer's Conference in Amarillo to the "how-to" books I've purchased from the speakers there and elsewhere. I slashed scenes I liked but that did not "move the story forward", I checked spelling, punctuation....I looked at tone and tense...I questioned using first person narrative and stayed with it. I was on a roll!

By 7:00 pm I was convinced that chapters 1 and 2 would be winging their way to my loving group for their enjoyment and fantastic idea's on how to make it better! SO! I went back to the keyboard...literally typed the whole thing over from my handwritten notes...spell checked, grammar checked...and then did the unforgivable.

I checked for passive verbs (a very common rookie mistake). We speak in passive voice so it's very easy to write in passive voice. However, when we speak we have the luxury of voice inflection, facial expressions, body language and other visual signals to make our point. We don't have that with words on paper so we have to use the strongest words we can...right? So I did the "check" for passive verbs function.

This function highlights every passive verb in your masterpiece. This function is an unforgivable bastard. I am convinced this function is the germ that weaseled into my mid-brain and set the writers stigmata into end-stage.

I hit, "find" and my masterpiece came back into view....murdered. It's blood was yellow highlights. Humans have red blood (okay, it's blue without the addition of oxygen but stay with me). A manuscript has yellow blood. Mine was pricked by the passive verb function and was in danger of bleeding out.I used "was" 42 times in 2,000 words!

I became convinced that my story did not have the necessary anticoagulant so it was up to me to go in for emergency surgery and purge the passive voice...post haste. So I scrubbed up and went in. I tried to get every last tendril of the passive verb so that it would not cause any problems down the road for my precious manuscript. I sutured it up and then did a patient evaluation post op.

Sadly, my patient was sorely diminished by my radical surgery. A shell of the story she once was. (see? that damn word "was" is my demon!)In despair I railed at fate and realized I was not God, I couldn't save this manuscript from it's true nature.

I called a fellow writer moaning about the vagaries of writers stigmata. Solard had sympathy for like, one second. Then she blasted me with the complete truth. Writing is art and your voice is your voice. I told her about what I learned at the conference about passive voice and how it was a rookie mistake and about how I had fallen prey and she stated, "Robin, I am not a writers' conference veteran, but I'll tell you one thing, if a conference took the 'soul' out of my writing?....I'd never go to another one." God bless her!

I was like a surgeon who'd lost a patient and stumbled into a church with a benevolent priest. While I am wailing about my inability to save a life I was gently reminded that there is a power greater than myself. That the "creator" was almighty and the surgeon was educated, but flawed.So, I am going to give my manuscript over completely to the creator and shove the surgeon back into pre-op until it's necessary to do some minor cosmetic surgery.

But for now, I'm going to trust that the Writing Goddess (me!) knows what she's doing and trust my wonderful group.I'm kicking this out to my critique group...a first...and it sent me on this rant. If anyone out there wants to tell me that writer's are not hypersensitive and actually WANT critique...call me up and I'll call you a liar to your face.

No, I don't want critique, I want accolades and refrains of "you're a genius! This is better than War and Peace!" Hey, at least I'm honest.

I'm a writer who has never received a rejection letter...ever. That's a major point in my favor. Shadowed by the fact that I've never submitted anything for rejection kinda makes the previous statement passe.

See, right now I think I'm a good writer, maybe even excellent. If I put it out there and get shot down then I can't hold that thought and then....the men in little white coats.

That's a somewhat amended version of what I put on my blog, and I do not have an ulterior motive for posting it right before my critique session! Unless it's subconcious and then, who knows!? I just want you to know how much you all mean to me before I kick you all out of my house for not loving my writing and swooning over my brilliance! LOL!

Tough business, wonderful pursuit and I love all of you that punched your ticket and boarded this train with me! ONWARD!
Posted by Robin at 8:42 AM 3 comments Links to this post
Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Developing a Daily Writing Habit (or, How I Make Myself Crazy)

I once wrote an essay comparing my compulsion to write with an addiction, like alcoholism. I'm not sure now that it's that extreme, but in some sense I still can't NOT write. My problem is getting some control over the compulsion, to not just "binge write" when everything builds up. For years, off and on, I've tried to develop a daily writing habit. After all, most of the great writers, including Flannery O'Connor and Ernest Hemingway, had one. So I guess what I'm saying is, if I'm gonna be an alcoholic, I want to be the kind who drinks a fifth of whiskey a day, instead of the kind who goes on an awful bender every month or so.

I've tried different things, and most of them work for a little while, before something disrupts my schedule and I fall off the wagon (and here my metaphor breaks down, because the correct term would probably be 'climb onto the wagon'). When I think about it, there are very few things that I do "on schedule" of my own accord. It's just not part of my personality to be consistent.

There are things that I've found that help me:

1. Keep track of my accomplished daily writing goals with stickers or smiley faces on the calendar. At heart, I'm still five years old.

2. Write on Mondays. I give myself the weekends off, and if I don't make a resolution on Monday to get back into the swing of things, I'm prone to give myself the whole rest of the week off, too. Monday sets the tone for my whole week.

3. Do some writing that doesn't accomplish anything except to get the 'blah' out of my system. Right now, I'm doing three longhand handwritten pages a day, in the morning, just freewriting whatever is on my mind. It is called "morning pages" and is a technique from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. I've also done similar timed freewriting excercises from Natalie Goldberg's books. Doing writing that doesn't have to accomplish anything seems to clear the small nagging things out of my thoughts when I go to do my real writing.

4. When I've been not writing for a little bit, sometimes a change of scene helps jolt me back into it. I go to a restaurant or the library with the express intention of sitting and writing. I take my notebook and a pen and sit down and write for half and hour, or whatever. This is also something Natalie Goldberg recommends, although I had to get over a little bit of self-consciousness the first few times. I've also gone with my husband in the truck with the express intention of it being sort of a rolling writer's retreat. I don't go in the truck most of the time because after a very short period of time, it gets to be REALLY BORING. When I get bored, I go back into the sleeper and write. It's bumpy, though.

5. Sometimes reading about writing will get me excited about writing again. If I'm not careful though, I will substitute reading about writing for actually writing.

6. Talking about writing with other writers (Yay writing group!) makes me feel like a slacker or a poser if I'm not writing much, so I usually go home with a renewed desire to write.

How does everyone else trick themselves into writing? Or is it just me? I feel sometimes like my inner child is the one who writes, and I am a parent always getting on her case.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Writing is easy...

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -Gene Fowler (1890-1960).

Obviously, Good 'ole Gene left something out. I would assume he banged his head against the manual typewriter, or quill, before the drops formed. I find it a bit more difficult to manifest the drops of blood with our new technology, with rounded edges and more forgiving surfaces. So, I have glued a nail to my keyboard, pointed side up...and use that to self flagellate into procuring actual blood. What is a writer without a bloody keyboard? A lazy and non pious one!

I kid, really, no nail anyway...but I have found myself pacing, pulling hair, moving post-it's around on my storyboard, pacing some more before receiving an amazing epiphany, only to sit down and start banging it out and realizing. It doesn't work. That's when the head meets the keyboard in timed sequence begins...again!

Sometimes I wonder why my soul chose this profession to be the "passion". Why couldn't accounting, or law, or plumber have been "the ONE"? I knew a boy who always wanted to be a fireman. He never wavered from his goal, ever. He grew up, went to college, went to fireman school, became a fireman, met a woman, had two point two children....retired and became an arson investigator and never once questioned himself or his decisions. He's freaking even happy! If we were really smart, we would not even entertain the thought of this right?

Someone asked me once why I wanted to be a writer and I answered honestly, "It's not that I want to be a writer...it's just that I am. I have to write." It would be nice though, if I could make a living at it! Do you feel the same?

Perhaps Thomas Berger said it best, Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.

Isn't it kind of an awesome feeling to face a blank sheet of paper? Knowing that you can create a whole world, an entire cast of characters and a myriad of situations on it? YOU create an alternate universe...the trick is to make your inner fantasy believable and real to someone else. You must make other's care as much for your protagonist and consorts as well as make them fear, despise, or dislike your protagonist and company. Therein lies the challenge n'cest pas?

I often miss my characters when I don't have the time to get back to them and let them finish telling me their story. I've listened to successful writers tell me that you must absolutely control your characters and know the end of your story before you get there. In many ways, I agree. I know "tentatively" where I want the story to end up...but once my characters develop their own personalities...I find it hard to get them there just exactly the way I had envisioned. I have to make allowances for them. Yes, I control the keyboard, but there comes a point when the characters just cannot do what I originally wanted them to so in a sense. I create, throw some ink on the screen and my fictional characters and I finish together...everything I write is a collaboration with fictional people in the end! (call the men in little white coats!) As a reader, though, nothing turns me off more than a character who is set up, three dimensional, and then does something crazy just to move the story forward. My characters wouldn't stand for that!

I don't know why anyone would think our chosen passion is easy. They've obviously never tried it I suppose. But let me totally blow that observation out of the water here: Writing is easy. Simple as breathing. You just do it.

What I've learned though, is writing well enough to be considered for publication is a long, slow, arduous process and seems to take more practicality than creativeness. Part of it I know, it IS a business. At times I feel like an athlete that loved the game until it became a job.

But, regardless...I can't/won't quit. And all of you guys in "the group" have been so amazing keeping me motivated, positive and optimistic. You wipe the blood off my forehead and share your foibles and triumphs and without your support and enthusiasm...I'd be doing this all alone! I've been doing it alone for years and years and now that I've found y'all....I realize I'm not the only crazy dreamer still free!

I'll end with this. It's hard, it's frustrating, it's joyous and moving and fulfilling and it's the only thing I want to do. I hope someday to be able to earn the right to call it my only "job". Because there is nothing, to me, more fulfilling than to hit "the end" of my story. And nothing more challenging to rewrite the whole durn thing! (and make it better!) I've never given birth, but in a way, I think it might feel something like it. To hold the pages, measure their heft, and know I'm holding a world and a person(s) that I created. That has a beginning, a muddle, and an end! And hopefully people you can care about and root for and learn from.

I just want to tell stories...that's all. Unfortunately being a bard is no longer an option and I didn't' make enough being a court jester...so into the business I try to go....bloodied forehead, cramped fingers and aching neck! All of which, I could not do with you!

Thanks for listening to my writer's rant!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hey, Y'all!

DJ had a great idea and although it may have been collaborative in nature she presented it to us on Tuesday's library meeting. The idea was to have a weekly post for this blog, with each member of PnP signing on to take a week. If we all participate, we'll only have to do it about once every 8 weeks or so.

This is my week ;0)

As most of you know, after I mentioned that I'd suffered from writer's block in college and feared it happening again, madebyamanda suggested a book to me, Page after Page by Heather Sellers. At our last Monday meeting, I mentioned that the book was giving me fits because the exercises are so many and so... intense. The book is an Interlibrary Loan, and I'd already extended that IL twice so it was becoming a problem! But I vowed to make it through the book. At about Exercise 17 or 18, the "compost" (Ms. Sellers describes this in the book) really started to cook and I realized -- much to my own surprise -- that I was really doing some productive work following the exercises in this little book!

I think it's a book that a lot of y'all might like to read... and struggle through (!) as well. So, when I was up in Amarillo the other day, I ordered it from the Barnes and Noble! I want to retain ownership of it, but I will lend it out with a full heart to as many of you as wish to try to conquer it's summit! It's a tough little hardback, so it should withstand whatever we can collectively dish out. Hee.

Anyway, Ms. Sellers has some powerful exercises in the book and she backs it up with a rich and varied background-- not always pleasant. The woman has had her share of bumps in the road! But I feel it's been wholly a great experience going through the book, working the exercises -- even if I started the writing with an angry disclaimer as the first sentence: "WHAT is the POINT of this EXerCISE!!!" heh.

Hopefully, the book will be in my possession in a week or so -- and I will hand back the IL copy to Bren, finish the exercises in my newly purchased book, then offer it up to whomever wishes to try it out next.

The book will get you writing. I promise.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

You were all so kind in your critique of my essay on “Dreams” at our Sept. 22 Pens and Pages meet. I admit to being a bit nervous before the meeting; worried that you would rip it to pieces, paragraph by paragraph. Instead, you offered some great suggestions and tips that I am planning to use in the future --- not just in the rewrite of “Dreams.”

I've been reading a lot of published memoirs to get a feel for the way other writers handle the struggle. Among the memoirs I've read lately are: "Driving With Dead People" by Monica Holloway, "The Rest of Her Life" by Laura Moriarty, and "The Glass Castle" by Jeannete Walls. This last one was on a bestseller list. For a true story, it is the strangest book I've ever read.

All you pretty ladies just keep on writing. We’re making progress.

Grannie Carol

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We will write! There are two new books about writing memoirs. Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg is one I bought in Santa Fe. It has good suggestions to keep us writing in new ways. The other book is The Memoir and the Memorist by Thomas Larson, my next project to read. They will soon be available in the genealogy department of the library.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

OK, I give up!

I used to have a hard time finding things I wanted to read. Because of that, I had a lot of time to write.

Now I have too much that I want to read. With the internet and Inter Library Loan, I am able to find things to read that weren't available to me years ago.

I'm even finding great books of authors that I read as a kid. I never knew of their other books! I'm also finding a lot of newly published books on author websites. ( Deep Waters by M.D. Meyer is one of them.) Then there are the books about writing! So who has time to write?

For those of you that do, here is a website that explains many of the things writing books are frequently telling us to do, like, use the active voice, or show, don't tell, etc. This website for a high school English class explains at least eleven of these basics. So, those of you who don't mind going back to school (I could use a refresher), try out the General Writing Resources of Mr. Braiman. (And, no, you don't need to tell me where I messed up in this post... :-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Someone else please post to this blog... mcj will think I've taken over!

Thank you to everyone who indulged my leadership attempt at yesterday's meeting -- I was nervous (but not too nervous -- y'all are a nice enough bunch) and yet I got through it, and so did y'all.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The book I was telling you about is called Page After Page, and the author is Heather Sellers.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I write -- when I write -- in a fugue of intense concentration at the laptop until I reach the breaking point of near insanity or complete, cramped fatigue. (Hmmm... maybe I have just had a clue as to why I cannot seem to make myself sit down and write... very interesting...)

Like Amanda, when I tackle (and yeah...I mean 'tackle') poetry I like to use a #2 Pencil -- preferably a Ticonderoga (they just feel good) -- in a notebook... but I'll take any scrap of paper and have even pressed old receipts into service.

I think my hand gets too cramped trying to write out prose fiction longhand. The short bursts of actual writing coupled with the long, drawn-out plotting and planning of that 'just so wording' that goes into poetry writing (well, at least my poetry writing...) seems better served by the tactile pleasure of holding a pencil in hand.

As with everything else in my world, I'm a bit OCD about writing stories, and feel that I have to research until I'm a babbling idiot -- even if none of it ever goes into the story. I need to find a way to rein that tendency in, as I find (especially recently) that I'm all research and no writing.

I won't lie: I've reached a rough patch in my creative pursuits -- so rough that I'm ready to throw in the towel and say, 'Agghhh. Nice work if you can get it.' because 'never trying and thus having only the suspicion that I stink up the joint' is masquerading tantalizingly as better than 'trying and removing all doubt'...

But I promise not to be a whiney self-absorbed brat about it ;-)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

So, I am curious about how other writers in the group write.

I use the computer for the majority of my prose, but on the rare occasions I write poetry, it has to be handwritten.

I've got a composition book that I do free writing in, as well as outlining for my stories, writing down random things that might spark stories later, or might show up in one in some way. Sometimes I take it with me and write in a restaurant or the library, especially when I'm stuck on my novel. The drawback to that, of course, is that I have to write everything twice -- once in my notebook and once at the computer. It's also where I keep story ideas, research notes, quotes that I like, and whatever else comes along.

I've been keeping notebooks for years. I have stacks of them, since I can't make myself throw them away.

I prefer composition books because I like the way they look, but also because they don't have spirals to get squashed, and the pages don't fall out like the perforated pages in some spirals.

Right now I prefer blue ballpoint pens, just cheapo Bics (but they have to write smoothly), though my preference in pens changes periodically.

Anybody else? Post in the comments or as an entirely new post.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Amanda, here. I have a few writing books I'd like to trade (for other writing books, if possible), if anyone in the group is interested. I should be at this month's critique meeting to make the trade.

1. Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure, by Jesse Lee Kercheval. This book has quite a bit of good basic advice for fiction writers, and excercises at the end of every chapter. I liked it, but I don't think I'll be reading it again.

2. The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells, by Ben Bova. I haven't read this in years; science fiction isn't my main squeeze anymore, so I can't remember how good (or not good) this book was.

3. Aliens and Alien Societies: a Writer's Guide to Creating Extraterrestrial Life Forms, by Stanley Schmidt. Same as above, it's been too long since I read this to remember if it was any good.

I also have a copy of Grave Intent, by Deborah LeBlanc, who spoke at the writer's conference in Amarillo. I would be willing to trade that too.

What I'm interested in: I would like to trade the writing books for writing books, but would also trade them for something by Bob Mayer (he spoke at the conference, and I'd like to see where he's coming from). I also would like to read Deborah LeBlanc's Family Inheritance. Other than that, my current genre interests are mysteries (not so much the Patricia Cornwell-style ones, though, and I'm particularly interested in Raymond Chandler right now.) and Christian fiction (not romance).

My email is crum_amanda(at)hotmail(dot)com (except with the relevant symbols replacing what's in parenthesis.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I have found some good sites for writers recently, and I thought I would share some of them:

Duotrope Digest is a free site with market listings (many small press markets) - they've got stats such as how long the average wait for a response is, the ratio of acceptances to rejections, etc. The listings are easily searchable by pay scale, genre, whatever you want. Also if you become a member of the site, you can keep track of your submissions with a submission tracker, which I've found useful.

The Free Dictionary. I use online dictionaries quite often to look up words, both because I am lazy (you have to get up, and drag the dictionary off the shelf, as opposed to a few clicks), and because many of the words I want to look up are not in the dictionaries that I own. I just recently discovered this site, which also has word games. The entries have an icon to click and hear the word pronounced. (I know it's not always a good idea in writing to use a $50 word you know just because you know it when there is a $5 word that will do the job, but I'm a word geek, and I enjoy learning new words, useless or not.)

Free Rice. Another vocab-building site. This is a game, multiple choice answers to choose from to define a given word, and it automatically adjusts to your vocabulary level, getting harder the more you answer correctly. Plus, for each correct answer you give, rice is donated to programs for the elimination of world hunger.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hi, P&P Friends!
Last night's critique meeting was amazing. I had a hard time going to sleep after I got home because I was so encouraged. DJ asked for permission prior to the meeting then handed my story, "Singing To the Cows" to the group for critiquing. We used guidelines that helped us be effective -- yes, I critiqued it myself! The beginning comments were uplifting and the suggestions for improvements will help me have a much better story. I learned new writing terms throughout the evening as well. ;-) I felt good about the whole experience being with people that care about me as a writer and their encouragement. I know you will have a good experience as well if you choose to let this group critique your works. (Don't know if you can tell but I sure tried to implement some of those new ideas you planted in my head!)
Looking forward to more editing -- can ya believe it?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hey writing gang!
I'm pretty sure I'll be able to make it to the meetings this summer, starting in June! I'm looking forward to it. Just wanted to let ya'll know!

Friday, April 11, 2008

I promised you some links recently. OK, here they are.

For you novelists and story writers, About.com has a page on Fiction Writing. There are a lot of useful articles there, and some advertising. I found it worthwhile.

For Children's writers Write4Kids.com has a lot to sell, but between the for sale links there is still a lot of free information. I have found them very helpful. The Purple Crayon is a similar site done by an editor. I've used articles from both these sites to prepare for our meetings.

For people writing family stories and memoirs, you may like Creative Nonfiction, a site that publishes on online magazine. (They do take submissions.) My favorite is the page with Essays on the Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction. I plan to read one of these articles every day. One of the coolest articles I have ever read about journalism is The Fact Behind the Facts, or How You Can Get It All Right and Still Get It All Wrong by Philip Gerard. I just found this website today, so I can't tell you much more about it except that I have great expectations of finding a lot of good information.

Diane L. sent me a link for The Writer's Nook.

Thank you Solard for the link you put in your last post.

Everyone please continue post what you find and why you like it for the rest of us.

Let me know what you find helpful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

That was a really good meeting this morning, aside from the sensation that we were almost missing some limbs because of our members who couldn't be there! <> Come baaaack!!

Here is the link that I mentioned: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2004/09/de-gustibus-and-how-to-reply-to-bad.asp (I'm crossing my fingers it works) Background, for those that weren't at the meeting, in a nutshell: Anne Rice got uppity on Amazon.com at the critics (haters!) who posted not-so-nice reviews of her book "Memnoc": the mumbledy-something (sorry! -can't remember the rest of the title --anyway, the last in her Lestat series). Fans of Neal Gaiman (a popular sci-fi writer) comment on his blog and ask him for his take on her Response. This is his blog-answer. Scroll about half-way down to get his thoughts on that. I think it's very good advice for us as we approach our whole nail-biting critique sessions!

Oh, and upon further reflection... I'm actually glad that lady had her half of that cell phone conversation during our meeting -- I'm excited at the lessons I can learn from my gut response of "HOWRUDE!!!111!!!" in learning to use EVERYTHING as a "prompt."

(Thanks, DJ ;-)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

April is National Poetry Month. Robert Lee Brewer has a blog with Writer's Digest called "Poetic Asides". He has made a write a poem-a-day challenge in April. Don't worry about being behind if you haven't seen it before. You can start now, and you can even write poems for previous days if you like. This link Poetic Asides will take you to the current day, the previous link explains the poetry challenge. Have fun!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New look. Let me know what you think of the changes in color. (Just click on the comments bar below this post to share your opinion.)

There are also two new features. One is a place to post favorite links. We can change these from time to time if it gets too full. The other is a place for members to post blog links or member's web pages. Just email me any link you want to have posted, let me know what name you want to give it, and tell me which category it goes in. I will try to oblige you. If it doesn't show up within a week, check with me to be sure I got the email.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Again, another GREAT quote by C.S. Lewis. I love it!!! SO true!!!

Oh, it was HILARIOUS to see the looks on all you guys faces last night when DJ said,"Now, this is my pet story, so tell me something good about it." I'm still rotfl at the memory of the silence and the expressions of horror on nearly everyone's face because most of us had jumped in with almost cruel abandon, determined to not miss one problem, completely forgetting that we were also to look for what we liked about the story. ;D I'm not likely to forget it. (For those of you who weren't there, DJ didn't actually write the story that we were critiquing. DJ just threw in that twist on purpose to remind us that critiquing is not about just finding what's wrong in a piece.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I've started a blog of devotions. You are welcome to visit the page if you like. It is at http://jeremiah17.blogspot.com/. You'll have to paste the address in since this section of the blog doesn't put in links. (Or else I don't know how to put them in.)
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone Tuesday.
Voila! The blog is updated! Please let me know if there is anything else that ya'll want changed...
Also, we can:
  • choose who can see the blog. Options are anyone (what it's set on now) , members only (ya'll) or only people we choose. What do we want?
  • change background colors & text colors - is there a specific color that we want our background to be besides white?

See ya'll!


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Oh, Bren -- thank you for quoting me -- I thought I'd gone a little over the line with the comment! To me, though, the desire to write is a thing inside me which alternately cries out to be exposed to the light and shudders inside at the mere thought of the doors being flung open...so, yeah, 'innermost...sacred' are words that really apply...for me, anyway.

Glad to hear you got some chillaxing time with the hub' Robin. Maybe it recharged those creative batteries and your bravado can take the wheel, eh? Gah - I cannot even think about trying my hand at any contest at this point... I'm too busy trying to figure out if I can ever get my own bravado out of rehab! Here's to making the next deadline!

I've included some more of my Henry Crawford, Austen imitation piece in my comment on your recent post, Robin... Enjoy! -- I hope?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hey guys! We have been away on a psuedo-vacation but I was really excited to get home and check this blog and see what input we had on the last meeting and the exercise! Took a shower, relaxed, logged on and only our darling Brenda had a response?! Which, by the way, I loved! I so agree that it was amazing to see the diversity among us and how we each interpreted the exercise. Loving it!!!
Have to admit...our business hit a slow spot and we had the opportunity to go to our industries annual convention....thought we would leave on Friday (though the thing started on Thursday). My husband called me early Wednesday a.m. and said "Let's go this evening..."
I panicked, almost cried because the deadline for submissions to PPW's contest was midnight 2/29....I sooo should have managed my time better or sucked it up and put something in the mail (my bravado had the sniffles!).
But, putting an "everything happens for a reason" face on it...I am refocusing and holding to the dream and joy of writing!
Thank you all for your support and I am looking forward to some more face-to-face camaraderie!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hi, PPWG People!
Last night's meeting fascinated me! How people can do the same exercise and come away with so vastly interesting and diverse writings is amazing and wonderful. Thanks for sharing and for supporting everyone. This is going to be a great ride!

Ditto --
how's that for unique? ;-)-- Ditto Solard :
Here's to more tentative steps at revealing our innermost, protected, sacred selves to one another...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Robin! Totally cool, man -- I love the simplicity, the brevity and clear imagery of your piece. "...cleansing hallways of child like truth." speaks to me. I find I learn best through those "abstract thoughts" that startle me with a simple, child like truth. Kudos for putting yourself out there, too, sistah!

Thanks for the kind words on my imitation piece -- I've completed about three pages and find that trying to write in someone else's style is ...exhausting!

Here's to more tentative steps at revealing our innermost, protected, sacred selves to one another...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wow Julia, aka "Violet"...that's amazing! I am so digging it! Thank you so much for sharing...what's next?! I feel like I dropped my brand new book in the bathtub just when I was getting into it! OK!! The pressure is on! Thanks for putting yourself "out there" Julia...I feel like doing the same but not at the moment! Okay, maybe so...a poem I wrote many, many years ago (old enough to use two many's!)

abstract emotions;
painted intentions.

opening channels of white hot thought.

cleansing hallways of child like truth.

abstract emotions.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hi guys!
Sorry I just got here. Looks awesome Steph!
Well, just thought I'd drop a note.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hello, all!
Wow -- I hate to be repetitive, but -- Nice Job, Stephanie! It's going to be lovely to have a common place to keep in touch and keep momentum.

I haven't done the exercises yet -- but here's a paragraph of my Austen Imitation piece:

Henry loosened his cravat as he entered his closet; the blackness of his mood rendered him ill-prepared for any productive activity; he was a man adrift in unwelcome thoughts and painful sensation. He looked restlessly about the small room until he caught at and held his own gaze reflected in his dressing room glass. He was remarkably changed; his countenance revealed the effects of the preceding weeks’ intrigue and scandal. Scarcely had the influence of gossip and ill-opinion touched him; having never given a passing notice to the injury he caused to the hearts and characters of those with whom he trifled, the discovery of the ill-effects his most recent indiscretion had upon his own character and heart were marked, indeed.

(Figured I'd color it violet, as it is "purple prose" ;-)

Well, I'm very gratified to be in a group so dedicated, and now have only to hope I can keep up with you all!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Great Job Stephanie! This is so exciting! I am really looking forward to having a "forum" to go to when I need help, a sounding board or just encouragment! I think we're onto something here! Thank you!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ok - here goes!!!

Assertive but kind, she was taking charge, telling the maidservant how she wanted the room while that brute, Colm McCaffrey sat and watched.

Can't wait to read yours!
Hello everyone! Sorry I didn't get everything fixed up sooner. Let me know if there's anything you would like changed!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I love the C.S. Lewis quote, so true.
You did a nice job setting up this page. I like the layout.