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, 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.