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.

Friday, October 8, 2010

P&P Opps

A place to encourage writers to further their writing skills by considering:

Writing contests




Grants and Scholarships

And much more…


Poets & Writers --We may want to consider subscribing to this magazine for our group if individuals haven't subscribed. This is possibly the best thing we could do for ourselves!
Find many opps here like: mags, presses, conferences, workshops, agents

Poets & Writers, Inc., is the primary source of information, support, and guidance for creative writers. Founded in 1970, it is the nation's largest nonprofit literary organization serving poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. Our national office is located in New York City. Our California branch office is based in Los Angeles.

Take a moment to see “Tools For Writers”

Looking for accurate information? Our staff carefully sifts through piles of claims, statements, and announcements to compile resources with real value to writers.


Love those Chicken Soup for the Soul books?

Find all the info here:

Guidelines for a Chicken Soup for the Soul Story

1. Tell an exciting, sad or funny story about something that has happened to you or someone you know. Make sure that you introduce the character(s). Please know that your story should be written in the first person.

2. Tell your story in a way that will make the reader cry, laugh or get goose bumps (the good kind!) Don’t leave anything out — how did you feel?

3. The story should start with action; it should include a problem, issue or situation. It should include dialogue and the character should express their feelings though the conflict or situation. It should end in a result, such as a lesson learned, a positive change or pay-off.

4. Above all, let it come from your HEART! Your story is important!

The most powerful stories are about people extending themselves, or performing an act of love, service or courage for another person.

Stories and poems should be non-fiction, ranging in length between 300-1200 words.

Submit online only.

I wrote this out several weeks earlier but am going to be lazy and post it as is. One benefit was gaining first hand experience with the "auto reminder" feature in Poets & Writes. It was excellent! Give it a whirl.

If you have more suggestions for P&P Opps either post them with "P and P Opps" in the labels or send them to me and I will post them. This will make it easier for us to find them months or years later. Heroic writing to you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Just get started!

Sometimes, just getting started is the hardest part of writing something that's in your head.

I just read a blog about this, and I'll post one paragraph, which I thought was great, here, and you can follow this link to Scott Berkun's blog to read the rest.

"Writing is easy, it’s quality that’s hard. Any idiot who knows 5 words can write a sentence (e.g. “Dufus big much Scott is”). It might be grammarless, broken, or inaccurate but it is writing. This means that when people can’t start they’re imagining the precision of the end, all polished and brilliant, a vision that makes the ugly clumsy junkyard that all beginnings are, impossible to accept. Good voice, tone, rhythm, ideas and grammar are essential to good writing, but they’re never introduced all at once. I promise you, the first draft of Strunk and White didn’t follow Strunk and White. The secret, if you can’t start, is to begin without constraints. Deliberately write badly, but write."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Failure as Opportunity

I was reading an old Readers Digest article a few weeks ago, about how a flexible mindset helps you bounce back from failures. And of course I was tying it into writing, because that's what I do.

Basically, it says people have one of two mindsets: a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset. Fixed mindsets are grounded in the belief that talent is inborn, and that as such, a person is entitled to sucess without much effort. Failure leads a fixed-mindset person to blame, withdraw, and even avoid future challenge and risk. A growth mindset assumes that no talent is entirely inborn, and that effort and learning make everything possible. The growth mindset sees failure as an opportunity.

Opportunity for what? Opportunity to learn. Thomas Edison is famous for his growth mindset (oh, you thought he was famous for inventing the lightbulb?). One of his frequently trotted-out quotes is "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." That perfectly illustrates the growth mindset. Failure isn't a disgrace, it's just a chance to figure out what went wrong and do better next time.

Often it's hard to escape the fixed mindset. It's HARD to think of failure as a good thing, it's HARD to examine our own failings critically, when all we want to do is crawl into a hole and lick our wounds.

In writing, the classic example of this is rejection slips. Many writing books advise that the writer needs to look forward to rejection slips as an opportunity to learn. If you don't, it can be too depressing to go out there and try again, sending your work off to another market to be rejected.

I don't think any of us can do this perfectly. Sometimes I let failure get the best of me. Last year I got back my entry to the Frontiers in Writing Contest and didn't do as well as I'd hoped. The judges comments stung, even though they pointed out things that subconsciously I knew were off, and just hoped no one else would notice. I put the judge's comments away after reading them once, and went off to lick my wounds, abandoning that novel's revisions.

I still don't think I'll work on that novel again. I really do think it has flaws too big to be worth dealing with. It was a learning experience in many ways, though. But this year, before I sent out the first pages and synopsis of my second novel to the Frontiers in Writing contest, I went back over the judge's comments from last year. Lo and behold, there was useful information there, information that helped me craft a better synopsis.

So sometimes, I guess what I'm saying is, even the failure to deal with failure well can be looked at with a growth mindset. It's never too late.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Take A Break

If your writing is getting boring and cliched, it's time to take a break and gather some new inspiration; read a book, watch a movie or TV show, then tomorrow get back to the old word processor (or typewriter, or yellow tablet) after giving your brain a little time to revive.

I've seen a few movies in recent weeks which seem especially good for those of us who write:
"Stranger Than Fiction" is the story of a writer (Emma Thompson) who confronts some major problems while planning to kill off her main character (Will Farrell). This is a little more serious role for Farrell than his usual slapstick comedy style.

"Miss Potter" is a great movie for those who write for children. This biographical story evolves around Beatrix Potter of London who wrote and illustrated the classic Peter Rabbit series of children's books at the turn of the last century. Here's a lady who got things done in spite of obstacles in her path. If you rent this one, be sure to check out the extra film clips about her later life in rural England explaining how she preserved the country environment around her. A lady WAY ahead of her time.

"Shadows in the Sun" is a pretty good movie about writer's block; losing your ability to write because of of emotional trauma. It stars Harvey Keitel and Joshua Jackson. Beautiful scenery, set in Italy, with a little romance thrown in just to lighten up the story a bit.

Someone in our group, I can't remember who, recommended the book "Home Safe" by Elizabeth Berg. Surprise --- it isn't about baseball! The main character is a well-known writer who conducts writing workshops similar in scope to the writing exercises we do at P & P meets. This is another story line dealing with emotional trauma following the death of a spouse.

I also enjoyed the recent TV series "Castle" (ABC) which centers around a mystery writer who works closely with a lady police detective. Of course there is some romantic comedy involved, but you can pick up a few writing tips along the way. One such tip goes thusly: there are only three reasons to kill (murder) your main character; money, love, or to cover up a crime already committed. Interesting! I hope this series returns to the small screen next Fall.

I'll close with a quote I picked up somewhere: "Bad decisions make good stories." I'm planning to think about the worst decisions I've made during these past seven decades and write them down. I've got plenty to choose from.

Grannie Carol

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Visible, Verifiable, Virtual!

Whoops! I am late again.

First of all, wish me a Happy Birthday. I'm 46. I'm resolved to never lie about my age. It's not like I could get away with it anyway.

I'm thinking a lot about the author's platform lately. This is a concept which attendees to last years FiW Conference will recognize immediately, as -- along with the repetetive drumbeat of "More likely than not, you won't be published" -- the concept, buzz word, what-have-you seemed like an unofficial theme of the 2009 conference.

I think I only mentioned a little about your 'platform' as a writier at a PnP meeting but, like critique, I believe it's a subject that stands up to a little periodic refreshing. I want to disclaimer right now that when I first heard of building your platform at the FiW '09, I was a little miffed and put off. I mean, I want to be a writer, for goodness sake! If I'd wanted to be a salesperson, I would hit the pavement and apply for sales jobs!

Because, like it or not, that is what "building your platform" is all about. Some folks have a ready-made platform in some other area -- like sports or politics -- and don't need to work at getting name recognition to help boost sales of a book. Like former presidents don't have to be writers to get book deals, see. Some are "industry names" -- not known to folks outside of their industry, but very well known within it -- all they need to do is demonstrate their saleability to a publisher and bam! = book deal.

As it is with success breeding more success, so it is with your author's platform -- you gotta have it to get more. In the just-linked article from Writer's Digest, the author mentions visibility, and if I had to use one word to describe "platform" -- say I was on a desert island and I could only take a few words with me -- this would be the one I'd use. This can be problematic for a technophobe like me! (I don't even have a - gasp! - Facebook page!!) But like it or not, in this day and age, visibility - high visibility -- usually evolves out of digital social media.

I despise knowing this! I really do. If there were any way around it, I would take it, you betcha. But the more I look into the world of writing/publishing, the more the truth of the matter crystallizes: you must be visible, you must be verifiable, you must be Virtual! (okay, that middle "v" word is questionable, but I gotta do things in three's. It's an OCD thing.)

So, in the spirit of the subject of the above post, I encourage you to hit the highlighted links embedded in the post and get educated on how you can build your 'author platform' from scratch.

Because we can't all be Paris Hilton, now can we?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge?

Can you imagine having a name as Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge?

I am very thankful that I do not although I absolutely LOVE the book by the same name. The book has the most delightful and honest illustrations which I described in a poem:

The illustrator has the most remarkable way of capturing truth
Truth in an honest and loving and somewhat embarrassing way
A way we all look in our honest and everyday real self
Softened with watercolor gentleness displaying big bellies and skinny legs
Big lumpy bottoms, hangy down breasts and almost bald heads
Pants held up almost to necks with suspenders
Pantyhose stockings rolled down past knees with lavender dress shoes and orange dresses
Wilfred Gordon Patridge McDonald didn't mind any of these things in the least
He peers at his friends in an honest, loving and somewhat embarrassing way himself

note: This is part of a poem I wrote for the April challenge of writing a poem a day. As you can see I don't follow poetic rules but they haven't seemed to mind, so far. ;-)

As you can see the illustrator deeply warmed my heart and roused a warm "yummy" feeling for "our honest and everyday real selves." Julie Vivas is an outstanding illustrator

The story itself is a gift of warmth, love, deep longing and sadness, mixed with unabashed love that bringing the young and old together can often do. After being asked "is there actually a man living by that name? Or is it poetic license you're taking?" I, myself, became curious.
The first site listed after one Google search with "wilfrid gordon mcdonald partridge by mem fox" was

What a treasure on every level this site is. This is a precious jewel you will cherish. Do yourself a favor and relish all the finds there. This website has many gifts for the young and old. I can't wait to dig into it more.

Thank you, Mem Fox, for sharing with our world.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Writer's OTHER Full-Time Occupation

Most any "On Writing..." book published, whether authored by a famous-name Fiction author or by an academic author, will mention -- almost as an aside the fact is so unanimously understood -- that 'real' writers are also serious readers. I've come nowhere near consuming every single "On Writing..." book ever written and yet I will stick my neck out and say nearly every single one will, at very least, allude to writers being nearly tireless readers.

I invite any and all to provide me evidence to the contrary; I will happily admit I was wrong. But we'll both know I was actually RIGHT, because the author of the work you cite will have simply edited their own oblique or pointed statement to the effect of 'writers are readers' as it would be superfluous to state an obvious fact, anyway... and they needed to bring the word count in a little.

I'm the one who snapped up Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott from the Library after our meeting on Tuesday. But don't worry, those of you who were hoping to be next in reading it -- I'm already nearly half through it and will get it back to the Library in a timely fashion.

I mention Lamott's book, not to rub anyone's nose in the fact that Nyah-nyah, I got the book! but because she mentions the 'writers are readers' adage in her book -- which is very good, by the way -- a couple of times in a couple of different ways.

Anne Lamott really likes reading. And writing. And her son Sam. She's extremely relateable. I like her, I like her book, and I really like her take on writing. And reading.

I'm in something of a slump, actually. 'Well, duh!' those of you at Tuesday's meeting might be saying to yourself! Not that I'm the center of the universe or anything, but my face? She does not lie. I don't mean to insinuate that everyone was looking at me and paying attention to me and wondering what was up with me... Only that I tend to eminate my feelings in such a way that -- for those around me -- it's kind of like trying to dodge the fine mist issuing forth when someone sneezes. Only like, emotionally. So, yeah.

What I like about Lamott? She is like me. She is in over her head, confused, full of "psychological illnesses" (her ...well, if not her exact words, it's at least her concept), and all sorts of insecurities and shortcomings.

Which makes her a FABULOUS writer.

Reading Bird by Bird is like going back to the "Square One" that Heather Seller's Page after Page (huh. Bird by Bird ... Page after Page ... hmmm -- similar titles, there. Anyway -- back to the thought -- ) rescued me from almost two years ago when I was knee-deep in a deja-vu like slump as well.

Do you ever get into one of those? What does it feel like? How do you describe it? -- Here's how I describe it: Shane Falco, describing 'Quicksand'. The most important question, however, is How do you get out of it?

Well, I've obviously answered the first question, twice over (at least) just in the time I've been a member of PnP! As for the second question... well, it feels like... well, I cannot say for sure how it feels to have a limb amputated or to be paralyzed, so I'll have to go with that awful 'pins and needles' feeling you get when a limb falls asleep. As to describing it... well in addition to the 'Quicksand' quote, see the previous answer. (I'm nothing if not redundant and repetitive.)

As for the last, most important question? Well, I think I'm in the midst of developing a strategy... I think I'm going to buy those "On Writing..." books that I find especially inspirational, especially uplifting... and when I hit a slump, I'm going to close my eyes, do an eenie-meenie-mynie-moe and pick one.

Then I'm going to do that thing that Every Writer Does, and read.

Monday, March 29, 2010

W-W-W-W-W Poem

It has been a long time since I have reviewed different ways to write poems, so I've been wondering about helps since I plan to "practice" some poetry writing next month. Then, would you believe it? I was keeping the grandchildren today, and the fourth grader brought home poems he had been writing to different formats. Some of the formats I had heard of before such as Haiku. One I was not familiar with was the W-W-W-W-W Poem. I'm sure you can guess that the W's stand for--yes, one could answer the questions Who-What-When-Where-Why to form a poem. The poems should be five lines long. The poem should tell a story or give a strong picture of someone or something. Each line should answer one of the "w" questions in the same order. When you read the poem, it should sound like two sentences put together.


"A Visit"
WHO: A college friend
WHAT: visited
WHEN: last Monday
WHERE: in my home.
WHY: She just couldn't stay away.

By the way, the idea came from www2.redmondk12.com. (I think.)


Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Forget and forgive. This is not difficult when properly understood. It means forget inconvenient duties, then forgive yourself for forgetting. By rigid practice and stern determination, it comes easy."
----Mark Twain

I forgot to blog last week, and have just now remembered. What I want to talk about is audiobooks, which have been around for years, but haven't really been "on my radar" until recently. Recently, I bought an MP3 player (I may be the last person my age to do so), and besides music, it will play audiobooks, and both the Friona and Clovis library have added downloadable audiobooks to their repertoire of services.

My reading time, as all of my free time, has been curtailed by the kids' arrival, and listening to auidiobooks gives me a chance to "read" while also doing housework, or cooking.

I find it both satisfying, and unsatisfying. I am getting more "reading" done, including some classics, like Great Expectations (and a lot more junk food, like Twilight and some werewolf book I don't remember the name of). On the other hand, listening to a book doesn't allow for the re-reading and relishing of good passages, or flipping back to get things straight. The voice that is reading also affects my enjoyment a lot. Most of them seem to be quite mediocre in that respect.

What I really can't decide is whether listening to an audiobook counts as reading a book. Can I legitimately claim to have read Great Expectations, or is listening to the (unabridged) audiobook along the same lines as watching the movie? It seems to straddle a line between the two, since while the listening is a passive form of enjoyment, as is watching, it is not an adaptation being listened to, but the work in its entirety.

What are your opinions?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Writing Is Communication

We are told to write like we speak. I hope not! Our speech has deteriorated into something unrecognizable. I believe the following list of phrases should be eliminated from the English language:

"Put a lid on it." (Meaning Shut Up!)
"Not a problem." (Please just say You're Welcome.)
"We're on the same page." (Meaning I Agree with you.)
"It is what it is." (So exactly what is it?)
"A win-win situation." (There is no such thing. Somebody wins, somebody else looses.)
"Let's connect the dots." (Couldn't we just use some logic?)
"You have to understand." (I don't HAVE to understand anything.)
"Don't go there." (Go where?)
"At the end of the day." (Would that be around midnight?)
"24/7." (From here to eternity maybe?)
"Step up to the plate." (Please! I'm trying to eat here.)
"Boots on the ground." (Can't we respect them enough to call them soldiers?)

Other popular idioms that make me gag are: "Not a happy camper," "A teachable moment," "The bottom line," "Pushing the envelope," "To die for," "Bring it to the table," "Shovel ready," "They came to play," and the much over-used "Awesome!"

Wouldn't it be simpler to say what we actually mean? Y'know what I'm sayin'? Stick a fork in these --- they're done!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Revision - GO!

Okay, today I am printing out a copy of my Nanowrimo novel and I'm going to start revising that puppy. It's my New Year's Resolution. I should have started this yesterday, but somehow that didn't happen.

In one month, I want you guys to start asking me if you can read it. Seriously. Because by then, I want to have something I'm not totally ashamed to have others read.

I found an interesting writing website - hollylisle.com - that I think is a great resource, not only on revision but on many aspects of the writing life. The particular articles I am going to reference for my revision process (although I can already tell that I won't be adhering to her method entirely) are "How to Revise a Novel" and "One Pass Revision".

So I want to know - What are your writing goals for the New Year?