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.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why I participated in 2009 NaNoWrimo

*As a fluke
*Just for fun
*To have the experience
*To see if I could do it
*To see if I would do it
*To participate with Solard
*Solard was so passionate and involved in it last year and I wanted to be a part of that (she participated the previous year, also, but I don’t remember hearing her talk about then)
*I wanted the growth as a writer

What are some of the benefits I have gained from it:
*Persistence- (about the third day I came home from work, very tired, thinking “Do I really have to do this?!? I just want to eat a bite and go to bed!)
*Perseverance- esp. after losing my first 25,166 words half way into November…then choosing to continue
*Deeper friendships- with people caring about me and trying to help me recover my 25,166 words
*Deeper understanding of God- and his ways, how big He is, His grace, mercy, love and the meaning of the sacrificial blood shed for all of us
*Joy- from sticking with it and seeing the word count reach the 50,000 mark
*Commitment- I am showing my family and friends that I can commit to something and stay with it to completion.
*Respect- from Pens and Pages group They already loved and respected me but showed it often during this experience. I love them so dearly for it.

*Being able to say this: I did it! I am a novelist. I will not doubt myself about being a writer anymore.

Thank you dear writing friends for your encouragement and support in this endeavor!

Anyone care to join me for FAWM?
February Album Writing Month
Goal: Write 14 original songs in a month

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Feminine Spirituality

When I signed up to write a blog in November, I thought I would write about "being thankful" because that's where my focus is in November. And I do have much to be thankful for this year! However,I've just read an interesting book called The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It is her first novel, and all the while I was reading, I kept trying to figure out why her name seemed so familiar. I finally googled her name and found out that she used to write for Guide Post. She is now known as a contemplative, feminine spiritualist--thus the title for this blog. I found it interesting that Dr. David Jeremiah of "Turning Point" lists her along with Rick Warren and Brother Lawrence and others as "people who have discovered how we can bring real living excitement into this life".

One thing I find especially interesting about her is that her first full length publications are highly acclaimed memoirs. Regardless of what one might think of her "theology", I think The Secret Life of Bees shows a rich imagination at work. Lily, the main character will "stay with me" for awhile.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nano Bits

I should have known better than to sign up for a blog in November, when I planned to do NaNoWriMo. SO I am a week late. But if we're all a week late, we'll be on time, right?

The good thing about having the external motivation of Nano is that I'm getting more writing done than I think I've ever done in such a short amount of time.

The bad thing is that it is at the expense of other important things in my life, like housecleaning. Luckily I'm not expecting a lot of guests this month.

SInce I haven't had time to organize a coherent thought that doesn't involve my novel, I"m going to link to some resources I've found during the course of this month.

First, I was relieved to find this article on "Dialogue Spines", because it is something I'd been doing in my first drafts anyway. Now I know it isn't just lazy writing to let my characters yammer on and then add the scenery and flesh out the scene later.

Something that bothered me a lot in my first novel was the unwieldiness of using Word (or the shareware equivalent, Open Office, which is what I actually use)for the two-hundred page plus document that was my novel, plus the multiple smaller documents that were things like scene lists and character lists, plus my handwritten outlines and character studies and such. After I put that novel aside, I sort of forgot about it.

Last week I stumbled across a computer program specifically for novelists that has all those features and more. It's called Liquid Story Binder, and you can download it for a free month trial, which is what I've done. There are so many features that it's overkill for me, actually, but if I can at least figure out the basics that I would need and use, I think it will be just what I need. I'm going to try to master it enough to figure out if it is indeed what I want by the end of the month, as it is on sale half off for November.

The Nano Pep Talks are available online here and are good reading even if you aren't doing a Nanowrimo novel.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I missed my blog post deadline, but forgive me: I'm NaNoWrithing.
Yes, you read that right. I'm doin' the NaNoWriMo, and I'm at the point (it hits me late, I guess) where I'm going, "WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!" So, yeah. I'm NaNoWrithing.

For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanowrimo. It's wikipedia, so not the final authority, but a pretty good start.

If you think you might want to participate (you'd be starting kind of late, this year, but it's not unheard of either) go here: www.nanowrimo.org.

It's the best thing I've ever seen other than Dr.Wicked's "Write or Die" (here: http://writeordie.drwicked.com/)for slapping those words down on the virtual paper (or real -- many people still do it old school) and turning off the crabby little internal editor.

If you wanna write, you'll write, but sometimes you have a hard time getting over that hurdle of perfection. The NaNo helps with that.

So does Dr. Wicked...but you better be prepared to suffer if you don't keep typing...

Write on!

Edited to Add: (and show I don't endorse without trying first ;-)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dueling in Purple

Violet Black and DJ just finished a purple prose competition.

Purple prose is over-writing. It is when a bubbly, over enthusiastic writer uses far too many exciting, colorful modifiers; sensationally sizzling verbs; and excessively dramatic hyperbole. Well... you get it!

Purple prose is bad writing.

But, purple prose has many good uses.

Here are some we discovered:

1. Purple prose is great for loosening up and overcoming writer's block.
2. It helps a writer discover colorful words.
3. It stimulates new ideas.
4. It can be used to breathe life or fun into a piece, and edited for the best portions.
5. Purple prose is fun to write, and creates momentum and energy in the writer.
6. It is great for inspiring melodrama and humor.
7. It is a fun way to explore plot twists and turns.
8. It is especially useful in November when fatigued and starving Nanowrimo competitors are gropingly desperate for words to count!

We had a competition to see which of us could create the worst (or would that be best?) purple prose in three categories. We decided to post it here and let you determine which ones are the most purple. This will get long, so feel free to skim or skip if you like. That is typical of purple prose anyway.

We hope you are inspired, or at least laughing. We challenge you to duel as well. To participate, pick a winner for each category, and leave one or more of your best efforts in the comments. (You don't have to be a member of this blog to participate.)

Category 1: Where you live

She looked out her kitchen window at the miles and miles of glorious, flat, spacious, open land. Only an occasional tree or house interrupted the horizon. Nowhere else in all the remaining sphere of the earth could one find the vastness of this marvelous free ranging land!

B: The wind lashes through like a death angel: uprooting all plants except the most strong, demonic weeds. The land is saturated in brown death; the air at times putrid with rotten grain and fresh, brown pies. The sun glares, often bleaching the sky like parchment. The air is so dry you feel as though you are suffocating. Hawks circle, ravens chortle, and the doves sob. But in the midst of this desolation... a spot of green sheltered by elms, and willows, and pines. And there stands a brick house the color of sand -- the place I call home.

Category 2: Where you shop

I pushed open the door, and stopped to take in the intoxicating smell. My eyes caressed the items surrounding me, longing to touch and hold everything. Colors were dancing and prancing, trying to snatch my attention. I basked in it all for a moment, taking in deep luxuriant breaths. Joy and passion swelled inside me, longing for just one piece. "Fabric! Oh, how I love you!"

She entered Porky's. The grocery store was the only respectable, genteel, gracefully aging business on one side of a shabby, old, run down shopping center. The strip mall, appropriately called, had been stripped of all usefulness, beauty, and respectability. The grocery store was the one remaining spark of life and goodness in the area. Compared to the overblown parasitic commercialism of the larger supermarkets; Sandy loved the smaller, cozy size of this store, and the ever gracious, hospitable, solicitous helpfulness of the employees.

Category 3: Your transportation

She climbed into the red monster of a vehicle. At her age, getting into the suburban was like climbing Mt. Everest, and about as dangerous. She furtively reached up to grasp one of the hand-holds. It seemed to be light years away from her desperately extended fingertips. Finally, with gasping, choking breaths, she stretched far enough to grasp it. She lifted her leg up to the floor of the monster, then pulled with her arm and pushed with her leg to lift herself past that vast gaping chasm between the gravel and the vehicle. She pulled and pushed with all her strength, stretching every sinew, straining every muscle, bursting capillaries and veins until at last she heaved herself onto the seat of that cavernous beast. In exhaustion, she looked out over the blood-red hood of the vehicle, imagining that it had gotten its scarlet color by slaking its thirst with her life-blood, which now flowed dripping off its vast cold side.

B: I am sleek and red as a poppy. But I am tough and dignified like an army tank. I prefer to call myself Gladiator, but the ignoramus who orders me around calls me "Suburban". What an indignation!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sending Up a Test Balloon

Being a writer, I can't just sit back and enjoy an experience. Some part of me is always living in the third person, writing about it, looking for metaphors and interesting imagery.

Today we (Brandon, the kids, and I) are in Albuquerque for the balloon festival. Today is one of the days where the shaped balloons are highlighted. We got up at 5:30 (but it sounds more impressive if I say we got up at 4:30, which is what it was New Mexico time) in order to eat breakfast and get out there in time to see the balloons go up at sunrise.

Row by row, the balloons billowed as they filled with hot air and slowly rose. The shape and colors of each balloon weren't fully discernible until they were completely full and ready to take off. What is that black and white one? Felix the Cat? No, Mickey Mouse. It turned out to be Pepe le Pew.

Then, amid cheers from the crowd, they would rise and float away, seemingly as effortlessly as soap bubbles (and there were vendors, coincidentally, selling soap bubble guns).

A couple of unflattering comparisons arose in my mind about writers, ego, and hot air, but I discarded them in favor of this:

An idea is like an empty hot air balloon. In fact, for me, it's like a balloon that someone else has given me, that I didn't work for at all. I have a lot of ideas, more ideas than I have time or energy. I don't know where they come from, and I don't take full credit for them.

The hard part isn't the idea (for me, but that may vary from person to person, I'm sure), it's making something of it. A hot air balloon isn't much to look at until a lot of energy has been expended to fill it up and flesh it out. Features become obvious that were previously hidden. Finally, the work is finished, waiting to be set free like the balloons bobbing, tethered to the ground.

Then a pilot and some other crew members are needed to make sure it gets up in the air. The final completed work, published, looks as effortless as a soap bubble, but in truth it took a lot of work and guidance by various individuals along the way, more than any casual observer could understand.

There was also something particularly appropriate about this metaphor since many of the balloons that we saw this morning were completely fantastic­--a gargoyle, a goldfish, a steam locomotive, a witch, a haunted house—imaginations set loose in reality.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Out of Time...

I started to read a book by that ^ title (or one very like it) but I just couldn't finish it. It's at the Book Shoppe, now, probably ;-) The subject was time travel -- apropos, yeah? -- a subject, I think, which is very hard to tackle. (I've only ever read one that I really liked -- The Time Traveler's Wife -- so, so good! (Sigh!) I'll lend it, but I must have it back)

Anyway, I'm way off the beaten path, here. So, back on track, here.

Do you ever feel that you are just out of step with time? Like everyone around you is moving on one scale and you're just a half-beat off? That's how I feel sometimes.

I remember seeing a sketch on Saturday Night Live once using that premise. It starred the host, Rob Morrow (Doc. Joel Fleishman on Northern Exposure) as a guy who, while lunching with his friends, attempted to engage in the conversation and interject jokes or funny anecdotes...but his attempts kept falling flat. Like they were just a hair off, one half-step too late. The friends at his table kept looking at him in that uncomfortable way, trying to muster a genuine laugh, yet only managing half-hearted, embarassed chuckles. After several failed attempts, he finally excuses himself to the restroom and instead goes into a time machine sort of booth, resets his time, steps out and rejoins his friends at the table. Now, magically, everything he says just...fits right. And the sketch fades out.

That's how I feel about my writing... like my perspective is just...a hair off; not needed... out of sequence. Like my observations and viewpoint are just...out of time. Almost as if the time for my writing/ viewpoint/ perspective has, sadly, passed.

Now I sound like I feel sorry for myself. That's not true. I can't see anything other than how I see it, so there's no use in lamenting the fact, yeah? Maybe ...my viewpoint isn't commercially viable. So what? One could make the argument that Jane Austen's small worldview didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Her writing was critiqued by the Bronte's (blech. Can't stand them.) as being too naive and innocent. She was criticised for not venturing beyond her limited country upbringing for subject matter. Yet look at the impact her little world -- with the limited society and restricting manners -- has had on the larger literary world.

Now, I'm not saying I'm a Jane Austen, my ego will never be healthy enough to make that claim. What I am saying is this... if Jane Austen hadn't shared her talent with the people in her life -- because she shared her writing with her family and a few select close friends, at least for the most part -- if Cassandra had burnt all her stories in addition to most of her personal letters...imagine what we would have lost! Thank God, Austen showed her stuff to her family. Thank God they thought enough of her writing to seek publication on her behalf posthumously. Thank God her little world and her way of processing it has a treasure trove of interests for those of us who read and reread her works...treasuring them as the priceless legacy they are.

I have no such hope for my own stuff, because I'm 1) realistic and 2) ridiculously unintuitive. Austen had a grasp, in her short life, on the motivations and idiosyncracies of the people who populated her world. I am not sure I have either her intuitiveness nor her fearlessness in portraying, faithfully, the people who populated her world.

It takes courage to write what you know; to be true -- especially if you think it's uninspiring or uninventive or lacking in creative initiative -- to your own viewpoint, world view, 'limited' experience. Yet, you are the ONLY "You" in existence. No one else can have your unique viewpoint, no one else can inhabit your specific time/space continuum, no one else can hold the exact opinions and insights you hold.

Share that "You" in whatever way you can. Someone will find their life enriched by your gift.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Harry's New Book

Saturday I attended the Panhandle Professional Writer's meeting. It was good to see Harry Haines again. I was also looking forward to attending his book singing later in the day. Unfortunately, his books will not be ready until October 15th. Still, it is exciting to know that he will soon see the completion of his second book of a three book series.

It is hard to believe that we had him as a guest speaker just last February. Then he was singing copies of Orphan, the first book of the series.

Orphan tells the story of a colt that is the only survivor of a fatal accident. The colt is taken to Dr. James Robert Masterson, a local veterinarian, for care. They name the horse Orphan. It seems that the horse will become another member of the family, and Masterson's daughter finds Orphan to be the therapy she needs to help her face a deadly bout with cancer. Then it is discovered that Orphan was sired by a valuable race horse. Soon the Masterson's are embroiled in troubles they never dreamed of.

Harry has a talent for keeping a reader in the story -- wondering what is going to happen next. In his upcoming book, Texas Panic!, he again has Dr. Masterson embroiled in more trouble than any of us would want. Here is a brief quote from Harry's web site:
This is the health scare with everything -- a gruesomely exotic disease, unknown dangers, bungling bureaucrats, and a common food item found in virtually every home. ...the sensation-hungry American press finds the story irresistible.
But we don't have to deal with it. Instead, we can settle into our favorite chair to enjoy another adventure as we see how Dr. Masterson deals with this new set of trials and tribulations.

You can find out more about his newest book here, or look at his schedule for book signings and speaking engagements here.

I look forward to reading his new book when it comes out. If you get a chance, send him an email of congratulations!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I believe in twilight
The end of day beginning of night
When most of creation sleeps
Resting for a new day tomorrow
Rain is washing away this day
Refreshing the streams and flowers
Before bedtime
The sounds I hear sing a lullaby
Putting me to sleep.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Submitted for mcj by Solard...

It's a humpty dumpty fence - a wall fence
I've been intrigued with it these days
Looking out the sunporch windows
It is held together, the mountain rocks
With red mortar - a standout scene
And I picture humpty dumpty sitting there
Watching the cars and trucks go by
Until one day he turned too quickly
And lost his balance and fell
Being an egg or egghead
And needing glue and reconstruction
We all took turns trying to match
His parts - just like a puzzle
Well, (deep subject) one piece was
Missing when we finished
And we hunted everywheree
In all the grass and under the rocks
Where bugs hide
But the missing piece has never
Been found
So humpty dumpty won't sit on the wall
Without that piece to balance him.

Can you find it?

prose poem by mcj

Friday, September 11, 2009

Life's Interruptions

I've heard somewhere that--life is what happens when you're waiting for it to happen--or something like that. Anyway that's how I often find myself --waiting for "real life" when "real life" is right now. Then along comes something unplanned and takes me out of my routine and leaves me floundering for awhile. Ordinarily I'm a person of plans and habits, and I feel secure when routines are established. And then I ask, "What is real life?"

Anyway, since my husband had a couple of bypasses and spent six days in the hospital, I was forced to get out of my routine. It's been good for him to need me in a new and different way, and it's been good for me to focus on him. And although it's been difficult to focus on a specific writing project, journaling has again been my "salvation" and caused me to think about LIFE and it's many blessings.

I also found a "new and right spirit" within...


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is it stopping you?

Some of you may know that I attended university, majoring in Speech with a minor in Theatre, and was one class -- three credit hours -- shy of graduating. That was seventeen years ago! My catalogue has long since changed and in order to get my sheepskin at this point, I'd have to make up about a year and a half's worth of classes, at this point... Which is a topic for another blog -- namely not this one ;-) but serves to introduce the topic I'd like to blather on about in this post.

Most of the teachers and professors in Ole Miss's Theatre department had all, to some varying degree, been professionals in the field either before, during and/or after their tenure at the U of M and most of them recited a mantra on a regular basis that stuck with me, in me and went through me during my time as a ...ahem... scholar there. This mantra shaped everything about professional theatre that I still, lo these many years, believe to my core... This mantra was the very reason I suffered depression, battled hopelessness and ultimately why I, to this day, do not pursue a career in professional theatre.

That mantra was this: If there is anything -- ANYthing -- you can do and be happy in this great big world other than theatre? Do it. Leave the acting to those who simply cannot do anything else.

I knew there was a love, a passion lurking in the backstage (see what I did there? hee) of my heart... a desire much deeper and longer standing than any other that came before and, save for my husband and two children, still trumps anything else in scope or magnitude in my view.

That thing? Writing. (of course, you knew I was going to say that!)

At the FiW this year, I was reminded of that oft-repeated mantra of my former theatre professors and teachers because -- and don't ask me who, because I can't remember -- someone said it. They said, "If you can do anything other than write, do it, because you probably aren't going to make a living at it."

Now, in university, my reaction to this identical statement was, as I said, depression, hopelessness, and the sure knowlege that I'd never be a professional actor.

My reaction when I heard that mantra repeated at the writer's conference? "Pfft. I write because I HAVE to...doesn't matter if I ever make any money at it."

I hated that mantra in school -- it stripped me of my future (oh, so the drama!) and I bristled at hearing it repeated at the FiW...until I realized, Heh. It had no power over me anymore.

So...I'm not going to repeat that mantra to you today. Instead, I'm going to ask this question... When you read "If you can do ANYthing other than write and be happy, do it."

Is it stopping you?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Driven To Distraction By Deadlines

Oh Gosh! Is it my turn to write the blog? Did I miss the deadline? We were just talking about meeting deadlines (or not) earlier this week as we gathered around the kitchen table at GrandMary's place for our evening meeting of Pens & Pages.

That very descriptive word "deadline" was born in the POW camps of the Civil War. Just a few feet inside the outer fence surrounding the camp, a line was drawn. When a prisoner stepped a foot or even just a toe across that line, the guards patrolling the outer fence assumed this prisoner was making a break for it and he was immediately shot dead, no questions asked. Thus the dreaded DEADLINE.

I don't know at what point the term morphed into being the final moment in time when something must be completed. As writers, we are now most familiar with it being the time after which a written document can no longer be accepted for publication. In the old newspaper days of melted lead type and linotype operators, it was when the backshop foreman in his ink blackened apron would stick his head through the door to the font office and yell, "Sorry Kiddo! I had to kill that story you turned in late. Not enough room anyway." So the story you had worked so hard to finish was just as dead as the fellow trying to escape from the POW camp.

At Monday's P & P meeting we pondered why our best writing is most often produced when we're working against a deadline, hurrying to finish up in time to turn it in. We had weeks to prepare but dawdled away the time, while the germ of an idea sort of tippy-toed around in the nether regions of our brains. Then with a final burst of creative energy, a lot of stress, a lot of self-reproach, a lot of coffee or something stronger --- Voila! The masterpiece!

Why do we put ourselves through this? Does anyone know a good psychologist who would attend our P & P meetings and offer free therapy for one and all?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writing When You Can't Write

Her chest was tight and her breathing difficult. Breathe. Relax. Go back to sleep.... She coaxed herself to be calm. It was no good. Anne hugged her stomach. She felt like throwing up. The clock said 3 a.m.. She needed rest, but the exhaustion that first allowed her to sleep was gone. She wouldn't rest anymore... not until fear wore her out enough for fatigue to again release her.
What is Anne afraid of, cancer, a new job, foreclosure, a stalker? I don't know about Anne, but sending my son off to college this week terrifies me! So I get up and read a book until I can't resist sleep any longer, and the next morning I capture all my feelings in a journal entry for later use.

Times of change bring stress. Life careens out of control--much like entering a curve too fast. All you can do is deal with the moment and hold on. Such times often devastate our writing intentions, but they can be a foundation for better writing in the future. The key is to focus on the type of writing that can best be done in the situation, rather than to give up writing all together.

For me, the busyness and stress of sending a son off to college drove out the time and the motivation to do my mystery rewrite or romance rough draft. I don't have time to remember where I am in a story, let alone focus on it. Will I lose days, or weeks of writing, until the crisis is past? When life interrupts my writing goals, journaling keeps me from being unproductive. By journaling in times of crisis, I capture the tension of those times. I step into my writing mindset and examine my feelings. What better time to grapple with describing what it is like to be uncertain, terrified, or harried than when we are feeling that way ourselves?

Life's interruptions can be a writer's road block, or they can be our on-the-job training. Learning to communicate the intensity of difficult moments will bring our writing to life. So step back, observe, write, and maybe, just maybe, you will manage to preserve your sanity in the process. Sane or insane, you will have made the most of the moment as a writer.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Short Story

It occurred to me as I was composing my first "serious" short story that perhaps I should see what I could find out about writing a good short story. How does it differ from a full length novel?
"Well, duh", you say, "It's shorter".
"Yes", I respond.

But are there differences, and is there some "secret ingredient" to being a successful short story writer?
Anyway, I googled "writing a short story" and found many useful sites. I even learned a new word--you serious, seasoned writers will laugh, but I had never heard of "denouement". I figured it meant something about resolution to the plot by the way it was used. And sure enough, it's a French word meaning a final revelation or occurrence clarifying the outcome of the plot.

No, I didn't find that there is a "secret ingredient", but I did learn that one should have a "narrow subject line" with a clearly understood point (theme) with not more than three characters. Also, one should make every word count while making "rich" believable characters.

And I loved what one site stated: Writers should "Put a man up a tree. Throw stones at him. Get him down."

Other advice I loved about writing in general. When writing a rough draft, don't continually censor. It's easy to mentally project "our mothers or other relatives looking over our shoulders."

So just write--ok?


Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Day Late and a Dollar Short...

The statement that stands out to me from the PPW conference was said in a session lead by DaWanna Pace. She said, "How do you know when to quit?" After she asked the question she paused and said, "Only YOU can decide when to quit (trying to be published.)" She told us that Madeleine L'Engle finally sold her first book to the 29th editor that she approached and said, "What if she'd quit at the 28th?" She said if we wanted to be writers then nothing should make us want to quit...we should keep doing it.

I liked the positive outlook of her statements, and the fact that here was this very successful writer encouraging other aspiring writers to keep up the good fight. I tend to not care for published authors who abjure aspirants to "do anything other than write, if you can." It seems to me they're just trying to clear out the competition. I much prefer my icons be those who reach the summit...

And then throw down a rope.

I got an email from the founder of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) reminding all former participants of the impending count down to NaNoWriMo '09 in 96 days. Goodness! That's only three months away! (This year has gone by sooo fast.

I'm not into high pressure sales or anything...but I will again encourage all my PnP buddies to at least think about participating in the NaNo '09. I'd like to testify, that even when I didn't "win" the NaNo '07, my participation in it yielded me a third of a novel (which garnered me an honorable mention in the PPW FiW contest) and showed me that I could structure a story and invent characters and have something real on which to work. The lessons I learned and the encouragement I received participating gave me the courage to try again in '08, and I DID "win" that year!

I've already got two characters and a rough storyline sketched out for this years NaNo -- I'm highly motivated after my "success" of last year -- so y'all will have to bust a move to catch up with me ;-). But I see no reason why anyone in our group can't try their hand at NaNo. And really...isn't it just practice?
Well, that's my mixed-bag blog post. email me if you want the link to the NaNoWriMo homepage...but whatever you do? Get your pen to the paper, pals.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rewriting, Revision and Recycling

To achieve revision and rewrite for the wonderful little piece you've just written, you'll need to print it off, read it, then set it aside for a few days, then pick up your pages and read them again.  You don't just compose your tome, run it through spell check and email it off to a contest or a publisher.  It must first be printed off.  It reads quite differently on paper than it did on the screen.  You'll make corrections and revisions, then print it off again.  At some point you'll decide it might be ready for critique by your fellow scribes in P&P, so you run off about eight more copies.  My, My!  Are we using a lot of paper here?

Have no qualms about clicking that print button, Ladies.  The paper mill companies have been heavily into reforestation for many years.  Personally, I was recycling paper products long before recycling ever became popular.  There is a stack of used paper beside my printer.  It will be flipped over and the backside will be used for printing again.  (Note: put a big X on the pre-used side.)

My people had struggled through the Great Depression of the early 1930s before I came along.  They reused everything, fixed what was broken, and never threw anything out.  When clothing became unwearable, buttons were clipped off and saved in a jar.  The fabric became part of a quilt or a braided rug.  Shoes were re-soled, tires were patched, and new cars were bought only every ten or twelve years.  There was an electric appliance repair shop in every town in America.

We only became a "throw away" society when manufacturers built planned obsolescence into our appliances so we would have to purchase new ones as soon as the warranties ran out.  You need take no blame upon yourself for those landfills choked with rusting refrigerators, TVs, ovens, washer and dryers, etc.

Neither do you need to blame yourself for the superstition of so-called global warming.  This is being used as a political tool to control nations and their peoples.  Read "Meltdown" by Patrick J. Michaels.  After that, if you still believe in global warming, just be comforted to know that your old pal Grannie Carol has spent seven decades building up enough carbon emission credits for all of you in our little writer's group to be guilt free for the rest of your lives.
So write and click that printer button.  Write, print!  Rewrite, reprint!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forming, Thinking, Writing

In the book, Talking, Drawing, Writing, the authors credit Berthoff with the quote, "You can't know what you mean until hear what you say". Although I don't know for sure, I think this is the author, Ann Berthoff, who wrote Forming, Thinking, Writing. I've been thinking about these words in relation to the writing process. Does "talking" help the "forming", and "drawing" help the thinking? Is this process the reason many are reluctant to write? Is it too much work?

This same author has written two books about Andrew Marvell's poems. One is called Marvell's poems, The Resoved Soul and the other The Resolved Self, A study of Marvell's Major Poems. I don't know much about Marvell, but from the little I've read, he seemed to be a deep thinker. I found two other titles by Ann Berthoff called, Reclaiming the Imagination and The Mysterious Barricades: Language and Its Limits. Finally, I found a book of hers titled Too Late for the Fontier, a Family Chronicle.

I find the titles of these books challenge my thinking mainly because they seem to encompass such a wide variety of topics. I'm thinking about what Amanda shared with us about publishing. What is Berthoff's platform? It seems to me it would be--Language and Its Importance, Keep Forming, Thinking and Writing.

Thanks to the Pens and Pages writing group for challenging me!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thoughts on Platform from the PPW Conference

Well, I wasn't able to make it to the last PPW meeting, and who knows about the next, so I'll write a blog about some of the thoughts I had on the conference, before they are driven out of my head by too much potty talk (yes, we are potty training here, and I am mildly appalled by the amount of time that I spend discussing bodily functions every day).

This year, as last year, one of the main messages I got out of the conference was that publishers, even the big name publishing houses, expect writers to spend a good deal of their own time and money promoting their own books.

Part of your ability to sell books depends on what is called your "platform". Your platform is basically the pre-existing audience for your books, and/or the things about you that would make people want to buy your book. For example, a person who is a medical doctor has a better platform for a book on health than I do. A famous child psychologist with a national column has a better platform for a book on discipline than an equally experienced child psychologist with no column, because the psychologist with a column has a pre-existing group of readers who are likely to buy her book.

Platform doesn't necessarily depend on professional credtials, however. Platform depends in part on what you are an expert on. If you are a mother of five, that can be compelling experience to sell a book on dealing with sibling rivalry. Your hobby can make you an expert. Mark Williams, one of the speakers at the conference, has several books on fly fishing published. His passion for fly fishing and finding the best spots to fish made him an expert in that area.

Having several shorter articles published also helps build platform when trying to sell longer pieces or a book manuscript.

Web presence can be a part of platform. I personally follow two blogs by writers. One of them has a novel forthcoming that I will buy the instant it hits Amazon. The other has a book I may or may not buy, but will definitely look for in the library.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thank You

Our blog has been featured in a post called Other Encouraging Words .

I have been following Bonita's blog for over a month now. It's a great place to pick up frequent tips and reminders for your writing. She has a lot of good information and encouragement. If you're in a writing slump, you may find just what you need at Encouraging Words for Writers.

Thank you Bonita!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Random Thoughts

No one is signed up for a post this week. Since I have missed several of mine, I thought it would be a good time to catch up. Here are two brief pieces created during our Tuesday morning writing prompts.

For those of you attending reunions this summer:


Thread--so fragile and seemingly insignificant. "Just a thread..."

"Just a thread" can be holding something together. Many threads can be a whole garment.

Our lives are tied together with the threads of relationship, chance meetings, common experiences, and common times. Simply being in the same place at the same time with someone else can form an unexpected life-long thread of connection.

We often try to retrace the threads we've collected over the years. We go to class reunions, family reunions, and write memoirs. In these, we try to pick up the fabric of the past and revisit it.

We may want to return to former comfort and security, or we may want to mend a hole--find something that was missing. One person may hope to bask in the warmth of past esteem. Another person may wonder if people from his past will ever validate him. Will he finally gain their approval? Will they even notice him?

We try to return to relive something we wish we still had, or to change what we didn't like. Neither is likely.

The threads are there just the same. What if we pick up those connections and make something new of them? Then we may breathe new life into them again.

* * *

For those of you that can't fit any writing in because you are too busy attending reunions and other summer activities:

Time to Write

Many of us dream of having stretches of T--I--M--E in which to create a masterpiece. However, the masters, like us, had other responsibilities. They too had to write as they went about their daily tasks of life.

By all means, we should take advantage of every opportunity to carve out blocks of solitude; but if we only write in those times our output will be very meager indeed. We must also make the most of the moments snatched here and there throughout the day: the thought scribbled in haste on a scrap, the idea born in a conversation. Our writing will be much richer if we collect these things as we go and then make use of them in those larger blocks of time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Well, I think I managed to miss my scheduled blogging week again. In my own defense, a lot of things have been slipping by me since the kids arrived. One of the nifty unforeseen benefits of the laptop is now I can be on the computer, writing (or more often, surfing the internet) while still keeping an eye on the kids, though.

I did manage to get to the writing conference in Amarillo, and I found it very enjoyable and inspiring. I also bought a bunch of books.

One of the things you hear over and over at the conference, or anywhere writers meet, is this: what makes a writer is writing. Planning to write, talking about writing, and thinking about writing won't do you any good unless at some point you apply the seat of your pants to a chair and your fingers to the keyboard (or pen and paper, or whatever).

My favorite new quote (not from the conference, I found it online), posted by my computer, is this:

"The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write."
--Gabriel Fielding

So go forth and write!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lord Willing

Close your eyes.

Imagine a person described using these words:
rugged man, rough skin, long beard, long gray hair in a ponytail, unwashed, old jeans, drives an old beaten up, rusted out pickup with a NOMAD license plate, and a topper that doesn't match.

Tell me what kind of person comes to mind. Would you talk to him, strike up a conversation with him?

Close your eyes again.

Now imagine a person described using these words:
kind, unassuming, humble, very thankful, very appreciative, soft spoken, faithful, peaceful, sincere, hard working, simple.

Now what kind of person comes to mind?

Could these images be of the same man? In your mind, could they?

My husband and I met a man that fits both descriptions. He is an exceptional "cement man" that knows his craft well. He lives in the hills of Kentucky and walks by faith like no other we have ever met. This unassuming man touched us as he worked along Kent's side and others in the Colorado mountains helping add a Family Life Center to a very special "church on the hill."

One day several weeks ago he counted all the money he had. $600 was the total and it was in his right hand. His phone rang with a man asking if he wanted to be a part of the team to build this center. The man said the only catch is that you have to have money for the plane ticket immediately. The cost? $600. The cement man looked at his right hand and decided it must the Lord's will so he said yes.

He touched our souls by his walk with God and we will always remember him and he will always remember us. He has many stories to tell and I hope to hear them all some day when our paths cross again. Lord willing.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Since many in our writing group are interested in journaling, I want to mention that Dr. Kimberly Wulfert has some timely comments on the topic in the introduction to the "Changing Times: Women's Stories 1902-1942" Ebook on page 4.
If you're interested in reading the Ebook and don't have time or don't want to read it on line, I have printed a hard copy, and I'll be glad to share.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Never too late...

Rose was an only child. Her only sibling, a brother, had died in childbirth. Her parents had been among those who helped settle midwest America. Oh, the stories they could tell! Her father, a farmer, had been left crippled after a bout with diphtheria as a young adult. Her mother began a career as a very young woman as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. As Rose grew and matured, she continued the educational path and became a writer. She wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, a practice begun by her mother. Rose became a well known journalist. A skilled writer, she would later also write several novels.

Rose began to encourage her mother to record the wonderful stories of her youth growing up in a pioneer family. Her mother had produced only one story through the years. Rose, by then a professional journalist, encouraged and assisted her mother with the writing and editing. In 1932, when she was 65 years of age, Rose's mother published her first book--a success! Over the next eleven years, mother and daughter would collaborate to write seven more books. The world had been given a gift--the series we know as "Little House on the Prairie" that began with "The Little House in the Big Woods". Rose Wilder Lane was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Monday, May 18, 2009


What prompts us as a society to write? Is it not life itself with all its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, changes and transformations--i.e. the journey of it all? Sometimes along this journey whether you are a writer, a poet, a singer, an artist, a musician telling a story, many hands affect the way a 'masterpiece' is born.

Beauty, it is said, is in the 'eye of the beholder', the ears of the listener, the voice of a singer, the talent of a musician or the interest of the reader. The touching words of a songwriter's pen can be transformed by the singer's voice and vice versa. The words of a writer can come to life through the art of an illustrator. Sometimes these collaborations can become the perfect match.

It was his song; he wrote it--the words and the music, but she sang it and made it famous. Crazy? Yes, that was Willie Nelson's song transformed into great hit by singer Patsy Cline, the 29 year old country and western singer killed in a plane crash in 1963. The song still resonates today when you hear it, a powerful song making a powerful statement. We are moved by the emotions the songwriter and the singer evoke in us. Awesome--the power of the pen and the human artists who write.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Who among us cannot relate to either our favorite animals or our favorite animal stories?

Remember Black Beauty, Old Yeller, National Velvet and Hank the Cowdog. Whether the stories are about dogs, cats or horses, we all love them. As Kentucky Derby Winner "Mine That Bird" with his trainer from Dalhart gets ready to run the second race in the Triple Crown, other famous horses come to mind. Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown in 1977, one of only 11 fine horses to do so since 1919. When Dr. John Hill, Co-owner of Seattle Slew, met Walter Farley, the author of the Black Stallion series, Mr. Farley told him that he had been looking for the black stallion all of his life--and that "Seattle Slew is my black stallion."

As the recent movie "Marley and Me" attests, animals touch our lives in so many ways, it is only natural for us to want to write of our experiences with them. These stories can be among the most touching.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hi There!

Ahhh, I like me some Peter Gabriel. A lot of my fellow PnP'ers may not know who he is, and that's okay; I think I can fix that ;-). He's a singer/ songwriter, once the frontman for a band called Genesis, before Phil Collins (he of the Disney "Tarzan" soundtrack fame) took over who, oddly, followed in Phil's footsteps and became Peter Gabriel, he of the Disney "Wall-e" soundtrack fame.

Either Genesis and Disney have a 'very special arrangement' or it truly is a Small World After All, isn't it... (heheheh -- you just knew I was gonna go there, didn't you?!?)

Anyway... I bring up Peter Gabriel, not just because one of my favorite of his songs ("Big Time") starts with a very British, very cheery, very fake, "Hi There!" like my title, but also because something that happened to him has made me think about us...

It seems that the song he composed for Disney's Wall-e, called "Down to Earth" (oi! such a sweet song -- as a matter of fact I'm putting a link..... here ;-) was nominated for an Oscar along with a few others (don't know how many, sorry)

Great, right? Wow -- what an honor, right? This great little tune, with really sweet, earth-friendly (without being anti-human, a rarity, I think) lyrics from a song written for a Disney movie -- an animated one, at that -- in the cesspool of unoriginality that is Hollywood (oops -- I think my true opinion is peeking out, sorry) What could be more of an honor for a singer/ songwriter? To be able to perform your composition at an award show for movies, in front of what is, arguably, the US's royalty? That's just WONDERF-

What? What- what's wrong? We can't...uhm -- we can't perform the whole song? We have to edit a portion of it into a special truncated medley of all the nominated songs?!?

So, let me get this straight. You have time for your self-indulgent presenters to rail against half of the country for being too conservative for your tastes for 10 minute stretches at least three times during the 4 hour broadcast...but you can't spare five minutes a piece for the nominated songs to have their "moment in the sun"? Emmmkay.

You have a plethora of laboriously over-produced song and dance numbers and inane "comedy" sketches scheduled during the broadcast to bolster the insatiable egos of your denizens...but won't allow a song you yourselves say is the absolute cream of the crop for the entire year to be played for this audience of self-absorbed dwellers of the shallow end of the pool? Hmmmm.

Guess what Peter Gabriel said? "Em, thanks...but no thanks. An incredible amount of work goes into producing that five minute song, by a load of very talented people...and I think, as the songwriter, they deserve their due. Their full due, thank you." (my interpretation -- not his exact words, but you get the drift.) I don't know how it ended up, but I don't think Peter Gabriel was in attendance at the Oscars...

Now, if you're like me, and you have a little bit of the cynical "stick it to the Man" in you, you might be agreeing with Peter Gabriel in a show of fist-pumping support. I know I did, at first.

But then I thought. Hmmm. How many peeps didn't go see Wall-e, 'cause they dismissed it as a "kids' movie"? How many have never been exposed to that gem of a song, which really celebrates not just the earth...but our fitness as people to take good care of it? And I think that's a shame. Many would love that song, who would watch the Oscars but never think to go to a ...kids' movie, who could have been exposed, at least a tiny bit to the song -- even truncated, in a medley.

So... I guess what I'm saying is -- and Nana's story getting published in the e-magazine (an e-magazine was something I just ...kind of discounted, I'm sorry to say -- I know better now) really kind of spurred me to this conclusion, so thanks for sharing your success, Nana! -- don't automatically dismiss an avenue that opens up -- even if it doesn't look "perfect" to you. You never know who could be exposed to your gift, if you relax your ideas a little and take those little avenues.

Anyways... Peter Gabriel is huge so he doesn't need the stinkin' Oscars -- Yay! Peter for stickin' it to the (hollywood) Man! hee -- but the rest of us, well, maybe lets get huge first, eh? ;-)

Friday, April 24, 2009

What Do You Do?

Aren't we nosey?  People meeting for the first time often ask "What do you do?"  Translated this means, "How do you make a living?"  Or you might be introduced to someone new as, "I'd like you to meet my friend Brenda; she's a librarian and a writer."  In our society, your vocation seems to define you as a person.  I guess we just automatically "profile" those around us, putting people into various categories:  this person is worthy, this person is unworthy.

I know we are not supposed to judge people in this manner, but I think it is just human nature to do so, at least to a small extent.

There are so many catalogs coming to my mailbox every day.  Some are deemed unworthy and go immediately into the trash.  Others end up in a stack for thumbing through later.  Especially during the Christmas season I see many interesting, cute and funny gift items you can order to give your friends and/or relatives who are associated with such professions as:  doctors, nurses, dentists, fire fighters, teachers, policemen, beauticians, secretaries, artists, musicians, lawyers, etc.  Never have I ever seen a single gift item especially designed for a writer or editor.  Why is that?  Are we deemed unworthy?  Of course I know none of us need one more dust catcher to deal with, but still it would be nice to know that we writers are being included in some of those goofy gift items in the catalogs.

Grannie Carol

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April Poetry Challenge

I am enjoying the Poetry Challenge again this year. It's great to develop the discipline of working on a new idea each day, even if I sometimes have to post them later. I am also enjoying the companionship of several other writers in the challenge.

You can find the prompts at Poetic Asides, and you can enjoy the poems that are posted by clicking on the comments link under each prompt.

You can read poems from our group or post your own on our new Pens & Pages Poems .

Here is one I wrote about writing, and what has been written:

Silence Overflowing

Papers bound together with a wire
waiting for ink to give them meaning.
Pens are river channels of the mind
leaving marks in layer after layer,
like fossils caught in leaves of slate.

Walls overflow with ideas
sandwiched inside cloth and boards--
fibers smeared with ink.
Little bits of other's lives
touch my mind across the gaps of miles and time.

I speak with silent marks on empty pages,
and listen to pages full of marks that make no sound.

There is one more week to National Poetry Month. Plenty of time to jump in and write a poem if you haven't already.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Copyright and Manuscript Rights

In Tuesday's meeting, I talked about copyright and handed out a sheet of the online resources I got my information from. I thought I would post them here for those that didn't make it to the meeting. Even if you were at the meeting, clicking through these links would be easier than typing in each article's web address. :)

A Novice Writer's Guide to Rights, by Claire E. White

Rights: What They Mean and Why They're Important, by Marg Gilks

Writers' Guide to Permissions, by Lynn Chu

Understanding Rights and Copyright, by Moira Allen

Rights, Rights, Rights: What Do You Own and How Do You Sell It?, by Mary Freeman Rosenblum

On Google Books:

Getting Permission: How to License and Clear Copyrighted Materials, Online and Off
by Attorney Richard Stim

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Background

Hello PnP ladies,
This is your friendly neighborhood computer geek. ;) With Mrs. M's permission, I've changed the background. Comments? If you don't like it, it's very easy to use a different background, instead. Let me know your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Women on Quilts Story Contest

I ran across a short story contest that some of you might be interested in entering. The deadline is April 20, I believe, and the complete rules are here. It could be based on true life stories of you or your relatives, however, it must be presented as fiction. I do not believe there are cash prizes, however there would be publication, and I think an interview as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


 At the last P&P meeting I took a survey of the members who were present, asking them to answer in a sentence or two "Why do you write?  What makes you do this?"  Their answers were beautifully diverse.  See for yourself ............

D.J. said:  I write because I have to or I would go crazy!  I think I have something to say even though I'm not sure what!

Amanda said:  I write because stuff is in there and it has to come out.  It's something I have to do, but I don't know why.

Nana said:  I write usually with a specific purpose in mind.  I also write to relieve stress.

Brenda said: I'm intrigued, completely intrigued, by the effect writing has on me, the writer, and those who read my writing.

Solard said: I write because I have no other effective way of dealing with or processing my desire to make the story end the way I want it to end.

M.J. wrote in her 'free verse' style:
I write to figure it out    What happened, what I thought
What that happening    Means today.
I am writing     And I haven't figured it out
I'm thinking, still thinking
Life is still happening   Meaning I'm here today.

Darla said:  It soothes my soul -- word pictures come to my mind and I have to write.  It fills a void.

My thoughts on the subject are:  We are the creative ones.  We have that creative spark, or maybe it is a gene acquired from our elders and we pass it along to the next generation.  We see visions in our heads and hear music in our hearts.  I can't remember a time when I did not feel the urge to create something that wasn't there before.

Not everyone has this creativity, but those who have it are usually talented in more ways than one.  I know some of you also sing, play instruments, dance, sculpt, paint, act, design, photograph, quilt, knit, scrapbook, etc.  The ability to do these things doesn't just happen overnight.  It requires some talent and a lot of "want to" which calls for study, practice, determination and focus to accomplish.

I think our creative energy makes us feel the need to leave something of ourselves behind --- something which will help us be remembered in future days.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."   ----John Keats

Grannie Carol

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Envy and Creativity

Sometimes when I read something I enjoy I have to be careful of envy. In one sense envy is a sign of admiration for the great job a writer has done. The problem is that such envy can stop me from trying to create my own pieces. I can never be another writer or create what came from their personality. See more in my post Envy and Creativity.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Request it!
Anxiously await it!
Insist we must have it!
Notably--crave it!


Freewriting Exercise

During our latest Tuesday meeting we had fun doing a free-writing exercise from Creative Writing by Kathryn Lindskoog. We took some small pieces of paper and each of us wrote an abstract word on one paper and the name of an object on the other. Then we mixed up each pile of papers and drew one slip from each. Then we were to tell how the two were alike. We enjoyed it so much, we decided to publish! Here they are in their mostly unedited forms:

Birds with humor tease the squirrels in my trees. Of course this thought presumes that birds are like humans and capable of thought. Humor exists in creation in like manner as birds do. It takes flight in the mind of the observer or communicate and lands where it is safe in the minds of joyful people and singing birds. The humor of the world is wrapped up in bird songs-making fun of us with their sounds.

A Toenail is Like Honesty
A toenail is always just what it is, so it is "honest".
One can paint it, cover it up, or hide it, but it will still be a toenail. Therefore, a toenail is like honesty.

Lemons & Depression
Not the bright elegant yellow of a lemon, but the sour taste of the inside of the lemon.

Is this how we present ourselves .... happy, sunny on the outside, but depressed, sour, introverted on the inside?

Depression will eventually turn a person's sunny side sour if it is allowed to take over our thoughts, our very being.
Grannie Carol

Kleenex & Intrigue
Kleenex is like intrigue because it is made up of layers, tissue thin, which build upon each other to become opaque. At least the good kind of kleenex. I guess cheap kleenex is like a failed attempt at intrigue - it tears and you can see right through it.

Sculpture & Humor
Humor is molded like an artist molds clay. the artist presses and shapes until he gets the effect he wants. In the same way people play with words and ideas, pushing them and shaping them to have a specific effect.

Humor is like a sculpture that was chopped apart and put back together carelessly or absurdly. The sculpture had one message and was morphed into a different message.

Faith and Hat
A hat covers your head, keeps you warm, protects your vulnerability to the elements. I've heard a hat on your head is more effective than a coat in keeping core body heat in.

Like faith, which seems so small and insignificant, yet the Bible says that if it's like a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Faith, like the humble hat covers you more effectively than any single component in your belief system. It protects you from the spiritual elements that seek to "lower the core temp" of your soul.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TGIF ;-)

I was supposed to post this on Friday, but it's Tuesday. I have a good Writer's Reason for being late. On Friday I was finishing up my editing to get two submissions into the Frontiers in Writing contest sponsored by the Panhandle Professional Writers!

Other than contests that were entered on my behalf by College directors, this is the first writers contest I've ever entered and, on my personal journey of writing, another step I can mark off that little "To Do" we all carry around in the back of our head.

In talking it over with some fellow PnP'ers I solidified in my own mind the Good Things (tm/ Martha Stewart) that I can get from taking this important step. And none of them include winning ;-)

First of all, I performed the steps to enter the contest -- including following all the rules, checking and double checking the items to include, etc. and that is good for me, because I have a little trouble -- like most moms of a certain age -- with covering all the bases, and keeping all the balls in the air that I juggle.

Second, I am looking forward to receiving -- no offense, fellow PnP'ers -- completely objective critique from people who have no stake in sparing my feelings, or stroking my ego. Just straight feedback as un-subjective as it can be on stuff I've written. I look to this to give me some useful stylistic and even grammatical pointers.

And Finally, I did it. The fact that I did it at all is a 'uuuge step in my pathway, as I'm usually one of the "also rans" who woulda, coulda, shoulda entered...but, alas (a big sigh always accompanies this admission) I didn't. The reasons vary, but usually follow a loosely prescribed subset of parameters. "I didn't have time", "I wasn't ready", "I'm too chicken", etc, etc, etc.

The lessons I learned in simply entering the contest have me looking forward -- even more -- to the benefits to come from the critiques when the contest is over.

Like: a synopsis isn't a four-letter word. It may be tough to summarize a full-length novel in a two-page, double-spaced, 12-point, Times New Roman font...but once you have, full-blown clarity opens out to you like a clearing in the woods. A synopsis becomes like a road map that gives you a bird's eye view. It lets you look at the novel in a different light, not from the inside where everything you're looking at is distorted because you're too close to it. A synopsis lets you spot, almost impartially, those places where the scenery surrounding your novel's path is a little...how shall I say this... uhm, thin. I am now a fervent believer in writing synopses... like my trusty road map when I embark on a road trip, I'll never "leave home without it" again. As a matter of fact, I think I will start every book with a synopsis.

The most important thing that happened, though, is that I have "ripped that band-aid" off. See, as I said before, this is the first contest I entered myself... even though I wanted to I've always let some excuse prevent me. Like an old dirty band-aid, long past it's usefulness, my fear needed to be pulled away, and fast, in order for me to progress in my writing life. So, I've done that now. I've gotten over the hurdle, and any contest I enter from here on won't be that dreaded first.

So...no matter the outcome, I've already "won".

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Better late than never?

Last week was my week to blog, and I wrote it on my calendar, then didn't look at it again until yesterday.

I love quotes, so I am going to list some good quotes about writing here, to inspire and maybe amuse you. They were culled from all over the internet, so the attribution given is the attribution that the website gave them.

  • There's only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that's a writer sitting down to write. --Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966
  • Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. ~George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947
  • There's a great power in words, if you don't hitch too many of them together. --Josh Billings
  • Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never! --Edna Ferber
  • The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. -- John Steinbeck
  • Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it... -- Michael Crichton
  • I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I'm one of the world's great rewriters. --James A. Michener
  • Unless a writer lives with a periodic delusion of his greatness, he will not continue writing. He must believe, against all reason and evidence, that the public will experience a catastrophic loss if he does not complete his novel. The public is just clamoring to give him his fame. --From the book, "Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction" by Leonard Bishop
  • Writers have to simultaneously believe the following two things:
1. The story I am now working on is the greatest work of genius ever written in English.
2. The story I am now working on is worthless drivel.
. . . . Of course, believing two contradictory facts at the same time is sometimes referred to as madness---but that, too, can be an asset to a writer.
- Orson Scott Card

  • The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~Mark Twain

  • Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What's Literary Fiction?

This is for Julia, who asked about it at Harry Haines' reading. I am on the Writer's Digest mailing list, and one of their bloggers linked to it. Wonderful timing!

Defining Artless Fiction: 24 Basic Differences Between Literary & Mainstream/Genre Writing
y Janet Paszkowski

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Typewriter, Where Did You Go?

"Do I need a laptop?" I asked at a recent meeting of Pens & Pages.  "I get pretty tired of sitting in front of a computer."

That's when Solard reached into her tote bag and produced the Dana.
"You need this, or a Neo," she replied.

Turns out, Dana and Neo are the two latest USB writing gadgets from AlphaSmart; primarily light weight word processors which can go with you anywhere.  Really "plain Jane" with no frills or distractions ..... just writing---format it later---no internet---no email.  Just writing!

Sounds good.  So back in my office I surfed the net to find out more and came across the sweetest blog -- more like a forum: http://www.strikethru.net/2009/01/rebound-typewriter.html.  It twanged on my heartstrings like a comfy pair of old house slippers.  In addition to pros and cons re. Dana and Neo, there's much discussion (reminiscing, really) about trying to hang onto the days of pecking out stories, articles, essays, homework, etc. on the old Remingtons, Smith-Coronas, Royals, IBMs, and such.
The mission statement on "Strikethru" says:
"This blog heartily approves of typewriters, fountain pens, junk cameras, retrotech, ---- woodcase pencils, ephemera, Polaroid, rubber stamps, and fellow paper-based romantics who like the sound of a typewriter bell at the end of a sentence."

Doesn't that conjure up images of famous old authors pounding out best sellers one after another?  How many of us learned to type in school on one of those big old ugly cast iron Underwoods that weighed about 40 pounds and required ten pounds of muscle just to get the keys to hit the paper?  And you had to type 50 words per minute to pass the test!  Yes, we've come a long way BUT I don't know how anyone can manage without a typewriter.  There is surely some way to address a single envelope or print off a short note using a computer, but I haven't figured it out yet.  There are three IBM Selectrics at my house.  One is in the garage storage closet, one on the floor in my office and one still in operation on the desk.  I'm holding my breath on that one.

I guess each individual has to examine what's out there and be aware that the new mediums might actually be better.

Thanks, Solard.  I'll probably get a Neo once I've saved up a few extra $s.

Keep on writing, one way or another.
Grannie Carol

Monday, January 19, 2009

Passionate Dreams

Do you ever think about a situation you are in or listen to others tell about their situation and wonder how do we get past this? How do we move on? How can we resolve this without being drug down in the mire...again? Authors Sara Orem, Ph.D., Jacqueline Binkert, Ph.D., and Ann Clancy, Ph.D. say, "Appreciative Coaching derives from the positive philosophy known as Appreciative Inquiry, created to guide change in organizations. Recent developments in positive psychology and organizational development suggest that people and organizations flourish when they focus on human ideals, achievements, and best practices. Appreciative Coaching uses positive questions, mindfulness, and other tools to acknowledge people's strengths and help them realize their own big dreams.

"This all sounds a bit "teachy" but it's really a beautiful positive way to set the tone with one person or groups of people. You set the tone by finding people's passions, dreams, the things they deeply care about. As they begin to share their successes you see their strengths and abilities. Their eyes sparkle with life and emotion. They feel hopeful and like their is a way to improve their situation.

You see ways to encourage them to think through these things and make their own choices according to what they see in themselves and others see in them. People often revert back to negative thinking but with reminders of their strengths and passions they have more hope of moving on.

Sara Orem, Ph.D., Jacqueline Binkert, Ph.D., and Ann Clancy, Ph.D. have written "Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change." This book gives many tools to use in working with people. It has some technical, teachy stuff but also some very simple and practical suggestions that apply to yourself or helping others.

I saw a film at a Sweet Adeline Summer Music Camp, "The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life" by Rosamunde Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. They have a book by the same title which can be found easily and is excellent. The film is harder to get hold of. Benjamin Zander is a dynamic speaker as well as the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. I have never witnessed a more passionate speaker. He not only is passionate himself but he gets the passion to bubble and burst out from people he works with. After he has works with a person they are illuminated; glowing from within. He speaks for groups far and wide. This film was a very special arrangement with Sweet Adelines and I believe may not be available. As I write this I want to have him come inspire my chorus! I will look into this however big a goal it may be. Would Pens & Pages members like to come? I believe we will need a larger group than just our 30 or so chorus members so it might be a possibility.

Whether you are a writer, singer, stay-at-home mom, philanthropist, baker, butcher or candlestick maker find ways to use your passion to help people and yourself. We all need it and the world will benefit from your contribution.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Well--here goes!

I feel like I'm wandering in the wilderness with this bloggin' business, but I'm eager to learn (I guess.)

The subject of communication and how best for it to happen has been the topic of several conversations I've had recently. My feeling is that communication is so important whether one is dealing with a husband, a child, a grandchild, a friend, or an organization. Maybe posting blogs helps to clarify thoughts. Do you think my Hubby would read my blog??


Monday, January 12, 2009

These post-its are my novel, in condensed form. I'm trying to organize things, and it is a pain. I didn't write chronologically - I wrote whatever I felt like that day, and so it has some problems that need fixed before I should even bother doing the line-editing.

Does anyone have any tips or resources for this? It seems terribly unwieldy.

I remember Robin had a nifty little board with little dividers, but I don't know that I have a board big enough for all the dividers I'd need...

Friday, January 9, 2009


(overheard at salebarn)

"Six years he's been my father-in-law, and he despises me. And I have bought pigs after pigs after pigs. I hate pigs, and he still ain't my friend. I guess I can't buy my father-in-law...my mother-in-law thinks I hung the moon...

Kept buying his pigs...I was trying to buy his love, that's what I was trying to do. I even mowed his lawn.
(Background noise, I lost the thread of things for a minute)
...super athlete, I'm everything he doesn't want in a son-in-law. I told him, 'We need to go to counseling'. He said 'Counseling, why?' I said, 'Cause there's a lot of love lost here.' He said, 'It ain't love, it's hate"

On the one hand, it's bad manners to eavesdrop. On the other, you hear some great stuff that way. And some people obviously don't care whether you hear them or not; that conversation was basically a monologue delivered by a slightly drunk guy to his friend in a very loud tone of voice. I was sitting behind them at the salebarn, where there is a lot of ambient noise, and I had NO PROBLEM hearing most of what he said.

I had a notebook in my pocket and was sort of scribbling down these notes, thinking that basically it was like hitting the jackpot. My husband looked at me and said "What are you doing?" I said "Are you hearing this?" And he hadn't noticed it at all. Apparently I eavesdrop more than the average person.

I'm not sure if I have always been that tuned in to people around me, or if it is a habit I've cultivated as a writer, to the point that now I don't even think about it. If I catch interesting bits of conversation, I try to remember them and write them down later, to use as a detail in a story, or even the basis of a whole story.

Over Christmas, I was reading a book that I've had for awhile, which is about writing dialogue. I bought it years ago and remember reading it the first time in my freshman year of college. I don't know about when the eavesdropping became a habit, but I do know that is when I started scribbling down what other people are saying. The author recommends it, as a way to both catch interesting and unusual ways people have of saying things (to give your dialogue a more interesting and realistic flavor) and just to get a feel for the patterns and flow of real-life dialogue.

Dialogue in your stories shouldn't imitate real-life dialogue exactly, because when you study how people actually talk, you find that:

#1 - People hem and haw a lot and say umm... and you know.... a lot in ways that will drag your fictional (and memior) dialogue down and lose your reader's interest.

#2 - People say a lot of cliche things, and as writers, we need to avoid cliche most of the time. We live in a media-saturated culture, in which life often imitates "art", or media, at least. High school and college-age kids are especially prone to this, with whole conversations that consist almost exclusively of quotes from movies and TV shows.

But if you weed out the cliches, people often say things in interesting and unique ways, which reveal their character, background, and personality (Sometimes, though, a characters reliance on cliche and pop culture could say a lot about their personality. The important element here is that you know they are spouting cliches, and you intend for it to show something of their personality.) The trick is learning to pick out these gems and then learn also how to create similar gems of your own for your characters.

I think it is easy for a writer to slip into TV-style dialogue where the characters are revealing information to each other that they already know, for the benefit of the reader/viewer more than the benefit of the story. Some of that is necessary in TV, because of the limitations of the medium. There are commercial breaks, everything has to happen in 22 or 45 minutes, you can't show the inner workings of character's minds without using voice-overs or dialogue.

I found a site with episode transcripts of a variety of shows, TwizTV. It can be useful to go through a transcript of a show and notice where the dialogue works and where it doesn't.

I am curious about what others think about this habit of eavesdropping and recording it: is it something you find rude, something you do yourself, something you would consider doing? It's a pretty ingrained habit for me now, and one I don't think I will be changing. Until I saw Brandon's reaction, it didn't even seem like something that might be unusual.