Friday, February 29, 2008

Writers groups: the main ingredient

If you want to make serious progress along the writing road, then you need to be in a writers group, a.k.a. a critique group.

That is easier said than done.

I am blessed--and I chose the word "blessed" because that's exactly what I mean--to be in a writers group for five years. I would not be where I am today as a writer without my writers group. I am writing regurlary. I am publishing regularly. I have a book on the bookshelves and articles coming out in publications I am proud of. I am a better writer than I was 5 years ago.

That said, being in a writers group is not easy. Why? Because there are other people in the group. And each person has a personality--and sometimes those personalities blend like your favorite selection at Starbucks. And sometimes they don't.

When they don't--Yuck. A critique group is about as pleasant as taking a sip of coffee and filling your mouth with the bitter dregs of the bottom of the pot.

The main ingredient for any successful critique group is trust. It's not the writing ability of all the members. It's not finding the best time to meet or even the best place to meet. It's knowing that you are safe with one another.

Let's face it: Writing is about pouring blood, sweat and tears out onto paper so that they forms words and sentences and paragraphs--and ultimately they become an article or a book. And when I am bleeding and sweating and crying, I want to know I am safe.

I want my critique group to accept me when my writing is rough and unedited and lousy. And I want them to help me to believe I am a good writer and that I can craft this draft into a smooth, polished article that is "singing." (That's what my group says when an article is on-target.)

But if I am going to show other writers my first drafts, which usually contain too many "buts" and "justs" and no conclusion to speak of and a rabbit trail or two, then I need to know I can trust them. I need to know they are not going to critique me into embarrasssed silence or make me feel inferior. I need to know that, as my writers group says, "they've got my back." That in some odd way they care about this article almost as much as I do.

I'll be talking about writers groups in the next few posts. Maybe Scoti and Tiffany will chime in. Anyone else out there is invited to join the discussion. What's your writers group like?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stepping From My Culture into Another Mindset

While the United States is still recognized as the No. 1 place to do business in the world, as well as home to an attractive popular culture (No.4), and creator of desirable brands (second only to Germany), it ranks dead last in cultural heritage—a score associated with maturity, wisdom, cultivation, humanity, and intelligence. That’s below Turkey, China, and Egypt.”— Linda Tischler, Fast Company Senior Writer
Are dem thar fightin’ words?

My parents were born south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When I was two years old, mom and dad moved “north.” It hurt my feelings that aunts, uncles and cousins called me a “Yankee.” I felt like an outsider in my family.

Eight generations ago, my family and Abraham Lincoln shared the same grandfather. Learning about the Civil War in the Midwest was stressful. Some facts conflicted with viewpoints I overhead the other side of the family discuss. As a child, I’m thankful I observed cultural differences, which encouraged my curiosity.

One of the most humorous-to-me, serious articles was published in the liberal Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram. A Palestinian, who was raised in America, tried to help readers understand the mindset of the Christian religious right. And that’s not even easy for Americans!

Stretch Your Perspective

* Read the country’s history.
* Learn about its religious and political groups.
* Read popular publications, online English edition newspapers, editorials and cartoons from that region and books written by that country’s authors.
* Subscribe to emails from foreign media outlets.
* Read details about the country on the official embassy site.
* Find a breakdown of the country’s demographics, which includes government, economics, religion, population.
* Find out what’s considered culturally or religiously respectful or disrespectful.
* Read travelogues written by Americans.
* Interview people from that culture. Explore their perspective.
* Compare and contrast the same news event or issue from opposing religious and political media sources. To identify the writer’s viewpoint or biases, observe the text. How are opposing parties described?

For national and world events, I compare reports from different news sources report it, for example, Al Jazeera, Reuters, the BBC, and US sources. To better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Middle Eastern and Asian anti-Semitism, I read the Palestinian Electronic Intifada, the Jerusalem Post, and Al Ahram, plus other online news sources from the Middle East, Middle Asia, and Asia.

I’m fascinated how people’s biases reveal themselves.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Writing Help from Bob Hostetler

Bob Hostetler is a busy guy. He's an award-winning writer, editor, speaker and pastor from Ohio. He also taught an excellent class, "Your Best Nonfiction Book Now!" at the Writing for the Soul conference. (Yes, I'm talking about that again!)
During the class, he taught 10 Self-Editing Exercises that Will Produce Your Best Book Now. The list included:
  1. Ask, "Who Cares?" In other words, identify if there is a need for your book.
  2. Learn to edit for personal weaknesses. Every writer has a few glaring weaknesses--glaring to everyone but herself. Some of mine? I overuse the word "just" and I love em dashes.
  3. Do onscreen exercises. In other words, use spell-check and grammar software.
  4. Read your writing aloud.
  5. Proofread your work at least 3 days later. If you proof it sooner than this, you'll read what you meant to write. The world can wait three more days!
Here's the rest of Hostetler's list. His Web site is worth bookmarking on your computer!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

30 Signs That Indicate You May Be a Writer

"I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I would die."
Isaac Asimov

You Know You’re a Writer When You...

1. Finish your deadline but your head, neck and shoulders are killing you.
2. Wake in the middle of the night with the perfect sentences or paragraphs.
3. Cannot remember those words in the morning.
4. Scribble down night thoughts on scrap paper in the dark.
5. Cannot read what you scrawled at morning light.
6. Take notes during a movie unaware that your pen is empty.
7. Are unable to read impressions on the paper when the theatre lights come on.
8. Sleep with your laptop on and ready to write.
9. Threaten to buy a tape recorder to record night thoughts.
10. Keep a bulging writing file.
11. Journal incessantly in your journal, on napkins, on bill envelopes.
12. Notes your thoughts in the margins of books you read.
13. Forget to eat, but you finished your article.
14. Are in your “zone” and fail to hear your kids destroying the house.
15. Cannot wait to write the next article or book.
16. Write down notes or ideas while driving.
17. Read at stoplights and feel naked if a book isn’t in your purse.
18. Hear your character’s voices in your head.
19. Get upset when one of your characters is in trouble with no way out.
20. Entertain yourself by writing when the pastor’s sermon is boring.
21. Cannot wait to leave work to get home and write.
22. Plan your article or book while cleaning.
23. Feel irritated when finishing chores because you can’t wait to get to your computer to see what you will say.
24. Love the color red and receiving honest feedback from your critique group.
25. Lose all track of time when writing.
26. Find time to write.
27. Process your thoughts and observations on paper.
28. Write down thoughts of the moment on any paper fragment you can find.
29. Insomnia fills your mind with words.
30. Passion burns in your heart to write.

Let the words of William Wordsworth encourage you, "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

Monday, February 25, 2008

How to use less red ink

That's Scoti, me, Jerry B. Jenkins, and Tiffany the last morning of the Writing for the Soul conference.
As the driving force behind the Christian Writers Guild, Jerry was the conference host. Scoti, Tiffany and I decided to provide a little humor and wear our "Don't make me get my Red Pen" sweatshirts. They got laughs--and nods of agreement from our fellow writers.

When people asked about our slogan--we call our critique group The Red Pen Society--I told them our goal is to help each other shine as writers. We aren't cruel with our red pens, but we will use them if a manuscript needs editing.

Jerry and Andy Scheer, the Guild's managing editor, offered a Thick-Skinned Critique workshop, where they did hands-on edits of writing submitted by conferees. Jerry and Andy also provided "Thick-skinned Presciptions for Writers." which are their suggestions to help you use less red ink when editing your manuscript. Here are a few tips:

  • Omit needless words.

  • Choose the normal word over the obtuse.

  • Usually delete the word that.

  • Avoid the words up and down--unless they are really needed. He rigged [up] the device. She sat [down] on the couch.

  • Avoid telling what's not happening. "He didn't respond." "She didn't say anything."

  • Avoid being an adjectival maniac (A.M.) Good writing is a thing of strong nouns and verbs, not adjectives.

  • Avoid hedging verbs: smiled slightly, almost laughed, frowned a bit.

  • Avoid subtle redundancies, like: "She nodded her head in agreement." The last four words could be deleted. OR "He clapped his hands." What else would he clap?

In my next post, I'll share some more suggestions to help you write better. Remember: Writing is rewriting. And rewriting is editing--over and over again.

Friday, February 22, 2008

How Do Beginners Begin Researching?

Confessions of a Researchaholic

The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man [or woman] will turn over half a library to write one book. — Samuel Johnson

The Writing Compost Heap

Reading is compost for the mind. It is one of best ways to mulch and amend your writing soul. No writer is complete without his research compost pile. Research expands your thinking, improves your writing and vocabulary, and creates a rich environment for ideas to grow. Research scraps decompose then fertilize the mind’s soil from which rich writing emerges. How can you start building your compost writing bin?

* Follow your curiosity. Ask questions.
* Observe! Observe! Observe!
* Interview or listen to experts or interesting people.
* Be aware of cultural trends.
* Develop a nose for interesting, unique details.
* Journal your responses to what you read, see, and hear.

Fueling Writing Ideas Read! Read! Read!
* Use general reference books—atlas, dictionary, almanac, encyclopedia, historical time line—to add interesting details.
* Read newspaper, magazine, journals, and Internet articles.
* Read biographies and autobiographies.
* Read online English edition newspapers on every continent.
* Read editorials and editorial cartoons on the Internet on every continent.
* Check out the bestseller lists for books, movies, and music.
* Contact or visit museums, historical societies, colleges and universities.
* Buy or check out pertinent books from the library.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Contest for writers: Are you willing to share a writing faux pas?

The Writer Magazine's online edition has a contest you might want to look into.

New Writers' Exchange contest

"Writing is serious business. But funny things do happen. We all make silly mistakes, some more humiliating than others. At the time, your blunder probably seemed unbearably embarrassing, but looking back on it ... it was pretty funny."

The magazine is looking for your favorite faux pas from your writing career. Send your story in by May 31, 2008. Word count: 50 to 250 words. The most entertaining entries will be published in a future issue of The Writer and/or online at WriterMag.com. If your piece is published, you will receive $50 and a year's subscription to The Writer.

Go to the Web site to get all the details. And yes, I'm already working on my entry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Citing Discipline Specific Styles

"I read in order to write. I read out of obsession with writing. . . . I read in
order to find out what I need to know: to illuminate the riddle."
— Cynthia

Confessions of a Researchaholic

In order to write, I research. To be honest, some details related to writing are boring, but necessary.

Did you know that there are discipline-specific styles? If you compile footnotes, endnotes or a bibliography for any of the disciplines listed below, log on to the appropriate web site for citation details.

Anthropology: University of South Dakota's Citations and Bibliographic Style for Anthropology Papers URL: www.usd.edu/anth/handbook/bib.htm

Biology/CBE Style: Bedford St. Martin's Online!'s Using CBE Style to Cite and Document Sources URL: www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/cite8.html

Engineering and Sciences: Virginia Tech offers a guide for engineering and science students that covers formatting, citing sources, and other elements of style. URL http://www.writing.eng.vt.edu/

Government Publications: University of Memphis Libraries’ Brief Guide to Citing Government Publications. URL: http://www.lib.memphis.edu/

History: Melvin E. Page's essay on A Brief Citation Guide for Internet Sources in History and the Humanities. URL: www.h-net.org/~africa/citation.html; Maurice Crouse's Citing Electronic Information in History Papers. URL: http://www.people.memphis.edu/

Medicine: AMA Style Guide: A brief introduction to the American Medical Association style for citing print sources. URL: http://healthlinks.washington.edu/hsl/styleguides/ama.html; NLM Style Guide:A brief introduction to the National Library of Medicine recommended style for citing print sources. URL: http://healthlinks.washington.edu/hsl/styleguides/nlm.html; Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: This is an authoritative site by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) that includes citation styles. URL: http://www.icmje.org/

Political Science: APSA Documentation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Writing Center. URL: www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/DocAPSA.html

Sociology: The Cal State L.A. Libraries' ASA Style Guide contains electronic citation formats. URL: www.calstatela.edu/library/bi/rsalina/asa.styleguide.html

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wondering About Query Letters?

As some of you may know, my son Josh is a copy editor/writer. He writes fiction. I write nonfiction. Josh also has a blog, Through a glass, darkly. Occasionally, I steal one of his blog posts and use it in my blog.

Today is one of those days.

If you're a writer, you will have to write a query letter asking an editor or agent to consider looking at your book or magazine article. Odds are, you'll write lots of query letters in your writing lifetime. Your goal, of course, will be to write a good query letter. All beginning writers ask How do I write a good query?

You may now thank Colleen Lindsey, an agent at FinePrint Literary Management for answering your question. She spent the day going through a slushpile--a mound of unrequested submissions--and found some pretty interesting queries. Let's just say the writers shouldn't be expecting a book contract any time soon.

If you're interested in finding out why lingerie and bribes don't belong in query letters, check out Colleen's blog.

**Karin, you win the copy of Trish Berg's book, Rattled. Send me your address and I'll drop it in the mail to you.**

Monday, February 18, 2008

Citing Online Sources

Confessions of a Researchaholic
“Take the whole range of imaginative literature, and we are all wholesale
borrowers. In every matter that relates to invention, to use, or beauty or form,
we are borrowers.”
—Wendell Phillips
Do you utilize google.com, ask.com or internet sources? If so, you must cite your sources in your bibliography, footnotes or endnotes. The order varies, which can be confusing. The following websites include the who, what, when, where, and how of documentation style.

URL: http://library.duke.edu/research/citing/workscited/: Lists various works and what details to cite.

URL: http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/citex.html: Illustrates documentation styles for MLA Style, APA Style, Chicago Style, CBE Style, and other styles. Includes guidelines for citing electronic media sources such as web pages, chat room and listserv postings, email messages, home pages, etc.

URL: www.apastyle.org/elecref.html: The electronic media changes rapidly. APA updates this page regularly with additions, changes or clarifications.

URL: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/start/cite/index.html: This guide helps users prepare citations for electronic resources available from the Library of Congress Web site, which include: cartoons, films, legal documents, maps, newspapers, photographs and drawings, sound recordings, special presentations, and texts.

URL: www.lib.memphis.edu/instr/style.htm#citing: Cites online sources for different disciplines.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Book Review: Rattled by Trish Berg


The first time I met Trish Berg, I liked her. She's upbeat and encouraging.

When I read Rattled, I could hear Trish's friendly voice in the words written on the pages of her book--and I smiled.

If you're a mom, you know how we moms need one another. Rattled is a huge dose of "You Can Do It!" encouragement, with ample amounts of honesty and humor thrown in. You've got to love a woman who describes motherhood as "a breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, twenty-four-hours-a-day on-demand job that will drain every ounce of energy you have--and then some."

Chapters include Mapping Out Motherhood (The First Three Trimesters), Camouflaging Your Imperfections (Becoming the Mom You Want to Be), and Reviving Your Friendships (The Emotional Life of a Mom).

Trish packs each chapter until it's overflowing with information: personal stories, helpful lists, quotes from other moms, Scripture quotes and even study questions.

Here's a favorite "Food for Thought" list from the Discovering Camp Palooza chapter, which focuses on finding fun in the every day.

What's Your Baby's Play Personality?

  • The Joker finds humor in all aspects of life.

  • The World Explorer is curious about the world and loves to go on adventures.

  • The Physical Explorer is a wilderness traveler, climber, skier, base jumper, scuba diver.

  • The Intellectual Explorer uncovers the frontiers of science, computer technology, medicine, literature, art, philosophy, psychology.

  • The Competitor plays to win, regardless of the game. Can be an athlete, entrepeneur, video gamer, stock market player.

  • The Artist finds beauty in any form, creates art, designs buildings or clothes, writes.

  • The Director runs the whole show. Some direct films; others direct countries.

  • The Storyteller creates worlds of imagination for the enjoyment of others.

  • The Collector is one who collects for fun and sometimes for profit.

  • The Peformer puts on a show for others. Includes actors, models, musicians.

  • The Craftsman loves to make things. Includes cooking, carpentry, quilting, model building, sewing, fly tying.

Trish provided a copy of Rattled for me to give away. So, post a comment today and you'll have a chance to win a copy of Trish's fun, informative book on motherhood! This book should be in your To Be Read pile!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pitch the Book Proposal Part 2

I started talking about Pitch Sheets two days ago, telling you why I think pitch sheets are the best thing you can take to a 15 minute editor appointment at a writers conference.

Yes, better than a book proposal.

I told you what information went on a pitch sheet:

  1. Working title

  2. Synopsis

  3. Author bio

  4. Format

  5. Marketing

  6. What's new or different about your book OR what need your book addresses

I promised to give you more details on the components of a pitch sheet. So, here goes:

Working Title: Make it a good one, even though 90% of working titles are changed. You can use your working title as a chapter title or as title for a workshop.

Synopsis: Three to 4 sentences max. If you're writing a nonfiction book, include your hook, define the need and include benefits. If it's fiction, still use a hook to grab an editor's attention.

Author Bio: Tell why you are the one to write the book. List your most pertinent writing credits. This is not the time to share personal information--unless that somehow relates to the book. For instance, the fact that I had a baby at 41 definitely increased my credentials to write a book about late-in-life motherhood. Write what you know, right?

Format: Here's where you list how many words your book is and include some chapter titles. You also might include a quick glimpse at some topics you'll cover in your non-fiction book.

Marketing: Don't say "I'm available for book signings and I'll go on Oprah!" That's not marketing--it's wishful thinking. Tell how you are going to help sell your book. Who do you know that will help you market your book? Do you have a blog, Web site, speaking platform?

What's new, different or what need does your book address: What does your book offer that other books don't?

If you'd like to see a sample pitch sheet, e-mail me and I'll send you one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why Watch Book TV C-Span2?

Confessions of a Researchaholic
I enjoy Book TV C-Span2. I’m fascinated by the strangely English-sounding American accents of scholarly experts. Some interviews are endlessly boring. Others provide explanations spoken in dull tones as they drone on about their subject matter. Still, my brain catalogs interesting tidbits. Often, they forget to address or look into the eyes of the listener—the camera.

Why Do I Enjoy These Writers?
They make me feel normal. Am I boring? I hope not. Guess it depends upon whom you ask. Do I look into a far corner of the room instead of into my listener’s eyes? Nope.

When I watch television or films, I visually look past the interview, plot, or the action to scrutinize antique furnishings and the d├ęcor. The authors on Book TV C-Span2—

  • talk about why and how they write.
  • are surrounded by scads of books.
  • share helpful research organizational tips. Sometimes their researchaholic eccentricities are mine.
  • discuss topics that may be foreign, but within their hearts beats the same passion—they must write.

    And these are the reasons they make me feel normal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pitch the Book Proposal

If you're a writer and you're writing a book, at some point you'll have to write a book proposal. There's no getting around it.
But before you go polishing your proposal and lugging a dozen copies of it off to a writers conference, may I make a suggestion?
Take a pitch sheet instead.
A pitch sheet is a brief, one page summary of your book idea. And, it's the best thing to take with you when you schedule an appointment with an editor or agent at a writers conference.
Better than a proposal?
And here's why:
1. A pitch sheet helps you hone in on what your book is about--what is your passion. You are distilling your main ideas down onto one piece of paper and this helps you focus on what is most important.
2. A pitch sheet helps you polish your elevator speech. What's that? An elevator speech is a verbal pitch of your book idea that can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride--about 30 seconds. Often while you're perfecting your written pitch you discover a great verbal pitch.
3. A pitch sheet helps you use your time better during editor/agent appointments.
  • Most editors won't take your book proposal. They don't have the extra luggage space to lug home lots of different proposals. If they want your proposal, they will ask you to send it to them. So why take all the time, effort and money preparing something that you end up hauling back home with you? Most editors will take one piece of paper from you.
  • A pitch sheet is a quick read, so you aren't left looking at the top of an editor's head while they read through the multiple pages of your book proposal.
  • And since a pitch sheet is a quick read, you can begin to develop a relationship with an editor or an agent. You can talk to them about your book. You can make eye-to-eye contact and interact with them.

Next time I post, I'll go into detail about what you put on you pitch sheet. Until then, here's a basic list:

1. Working title

2.Synopsis of your book

3. Author bio

4. Format of your book

5. Marketing information

6. What is new or different about your book OR what need does your book address?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Writing Seasons of Life

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” Henry David Thoreau

Organizing Your Writing Life

Pursuing the writing life is different in each season of life. As a newly-singled parent, it took the form of angrily screaming on paper—trying to make sense of change. As I healed, my writing evaluated misconceptions promoted by non-solo parenting ‘experts’ whose authoritative voices left me feeling helpless and hopeless.

Writing with Purpose

Without the benefit of court-ordered child support, I worked two or three jobs to barely survive. One freelance writing job encouraged others who found themselves facing the same dilemmas that I did. It included researching, interviewing, editing, and writing for Single Adult Ministry Journal. My life and writing found purpose—to encourage others.

When my primary job did not include writing, my soul shriveled. During those dark days of the soul, my spirit struggled to survive—not because being a solo parent is so very, very hard, but mainly because my life drains away when I cannot write.

The Joy of Writing

When I write, time flies. Hurts disappear. Writing heals, nourishes, and energizes me. I am so grateful that I have finally found a way to focus on expressing the passions God placed in my heart—without interruption.

What about you? What season are you breathing, drinking, and tasting in your writing life?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Eavesdropping on a Writers Conference

I wished you'd been with me and Scoti and Tiffany last weekend at the Writing for the Soul Conference. It was time well spent. Sure, the location was beautiful--the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. But the best parts were the people we met and the speakers who poured their hearts and souls and passion into us. How could we not want to be better writers?

I'll let you eavesdrop on some of the things we heard during general sessions and workshops. Get your pens out and be ready to take notes!

  • Take advice from everybody--even your editor. ~ Author Lee Strobel
  • The worse part is the dreading it. Write! ~ Author Sandra Aldrich
  • A Loose Outline for a Novel: Tension, Tears, Triumph ~Sandra Aldrich
  • Jesus never bored anyone--and we don't have that right, either. ~ Dr. Dennis Hensley--and he's worth the price of admission!
  • Write as simple as possible, but no simpler. ~ Author Richard Lederer
  • Metaphor allows us to exceed our grasp. ~ Richard Lederer
  • Don't just write. Say something. ~ Richard Lederer
  • We've been gifted to write, but we still have to do the work. ~ Sandra Aldrich
  • God is the author of your life story. It won't look lik you think. It will be a journey of humility. ~Author Robin Jones Gunn
  • Read. Pray. Write. ~Author Bob Hostetler
  • Write because you have to. ~Bob Hostetler
  • 2 kinds of writers: Hobbyists and Professionals--and both are valid. Hobbyists write what they want to write. Professionals write what others want to read. ~Bob Hostetler
  • Writing involves hard, hard work. ~ Bob Hostetler

And that abouts sums it up.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why Attend a Writer's Conference?

Organizing Your Writing Life

I set a goal to get out of debt, so I could focus on writing—unhindered by financial stress. As a single mom, I spent far too many stressful years paying a monthly budget every month and a half. Not fun. To give me more writing time, I signed up for electronic withdrawal. Now my bills are paid automatically. Painless.

Last year some friends and I agreed to attend a writer’s conference in the fall. As the time neared, I realized there was no way I could squeeze one cent from my budget. After committing every penny of my paycheck to debt reduction, my house, car and teeth started falling apart:

Month 1: The dishwasher conked out. Cost? Minimum $250 if I install it myself.
Month 2: A crown on a molar broke. Cost? Minimum $1000 buckaroos. Superglue will not work.
Month 3: The oven burned out. Cost? $250 to replace burners.
Month 4: My front tooth chipped in two places. Cost? $150+
Month 5: My car broke down. Cost? $800+

Can I Afford Not to Attend?
When Beth mentioned attending Writing for the Soul, $800 was nowhere to be found in my budget. Plus, it did not fit on my financial get-out-of-debt calendar. Next year might be doable.

Then I thought, For too many years I’ve said, ‘I can’t afford to attend a writer’s conference.’ I need to invest in my future. If I could sell some articles or received a book contract, the advance would more than cover my investment in my writing.

So…I left the car at the shop, extended my date to get out of debt and practiced smiling and talking to hide my humiliating snaggle tooth. The result? I—

  • asked editors what writing holes they see in the market.
  • discovered new writing markets.
  • received invaluable feedback from editors.
  • obtained editor contact information.
  • found out what topics about which I write interested which publishers.
  • gave my pitch sheets to interested editors.
  • met and encouraged other writers.
  • learned invaluable information for marketing my writing.
  • discovered new ‘stuff’ to hone my writing.

Writing that has been languishing in my computer may find a new home—publication.

At the end of the conference, I cried. I was grateful for the doors God may be opening. Beth, Tiffany and I happy danced together. The dance is over and the work has begun: We are madly writing articles, book proposals, critiquing, and polishing sample chapters to submit.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2 Contest Winners!

There's nothing like insomnia to help me get some things done!

So, I can finally announce the 2 winners of the January contest:

"Praise and Coffee" (a.k.a. Sue) won a copy of Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues.

"Anna j" won a year's subscription to Writer's Digest.

Contact me via my blog and give me your information and we'll get those prizes on their way to you!

It was fun to go back over the posts and see all the comments from y'all. Sorry, a little leftover accent from my 8 years in the south. We had quite a few visitors to The Writing Road blog--and we hope to give you plenty of good reasons to keep coming back.

Tiffany decided to veer away from the this blog, but I think you'll catch a glimpse of her now and then in the comments. Check out her personal blog at www.teawithtiffany@blogspot.com.

Thanks for visiting The Writing Road.

Is there anything you'd like us to talk about?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Is Your Creativity on Writer's Strike?

Confessions of a Researchaholic

“The pen is the tongue of the mind.” —Miguel de Cervantes

Does your brain ever suffer from writer’s strike—creative paralysis that stifles your writing? Author of over 170 books, Jerry Jenkins does not believe in writer’s block.

I confess…when someone talks about writer’s block, I am at a loss. I do not relate. Currently, thirty-eight books fueling my imagination are within fingertip range of my bed. I’m frustrated because there is not enough time to develop every writing idea that grabs my heart.

Avoid Writer’s Strike—Read. Read. Read.

Bob Hostetler, a keynote speaker at Writing for the Soul put a face on what “read” looks like. He mentioned that Lauren F. Winner, who wrote Girl Meets God, does not watch TV and owns 4000 books in her library. Immediately, guilt induced by my book-buying obsession flew out the window.

Draw Up a Reading Plan
Hostetler made these points:

  • Writers are careful about what they read.
  • What they read is what they know.
  • What they know is what they write.

A partial list of the hundred books on Bob's yearly reading plan includes 1 biography, 4 classics, 2 writing books, 1 memoir, 1 poetry collection, and 2 new authors. Read books by favorite authors, in a new field, in leadership, that are inspirational, about prayer, books about books—plus more my writer’s conference-carpal-tunnel-impaired-hand failed to write down.

No longer will I be embarrassed to say, “I sleep with my laptop, plus the ten books I am reading this week.”

Monday, February 4, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

I'm back from the Writing for the Soul conference. My brain is overflowing with information and I'm motivated about the writing life.

More on that later this week.

I received a wonderful surprise when I got home: my author's copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms. My story, "Of Lizards and Laughter and Love," is published in the Special Moments section.

I browsed through the Table of Contents and discovered my writing friend, Celeste Palermo, also has a story in the same section. It's called "Cappuccino Tacos and Bubble Pie."

As a writer, it's always a joy to celebrate success--both your own and someone else's. What a marvelous ending to a weekend overflowing with blessings.

**We'll announce the winner of January's contest this week.**

Friday, February 1, 2008

Writing for the Soul Conference

Scoti, Tiffany and I are attending the Christian Writers Guild's Writing for the Soul conference. I met Tiffany at a Guild conference 5 years ago. I still remember asking her, "Why are you here?"
Her answer?
"I don't know."
Five years later, Tiffany knows what she is called to write and she's pursuing her passion.
We're at our fifth conference--and now we're sitting back and watching Scoti enjoy her first one--and refinding her passion.
Author Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Faith, was the keynote speaker last night. He's a great storyteller, and he shared some things he's learned through the years as a writer.
One thing he said bears repeating:

If you run into a wall, look for a door.

That statement could be true about a lot of areas in your life, but apply it to your writing.
Are you running into a wall with your novel? Are you stalling out on your articles? Can't get an agent or editor interested?
Then stop banging your head against the same wall, the same way.
Step back and look for a door.
Think of another way to get through to your goal of publication. Rethink your plot or your main character or your book proposal or your query letter.
If you can't think of new ideas or angles, brainstorm with some writing buddies. Maybe they'll see something you don't.

See you on the other side of the conference.

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