Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Review: Nightingale by Susan May Warren & Contest

I'll just say it right up front: I loved Nightingale. RITA award-winning author Susan May Warren's writing improves with every book she publishes--and Nightingale gripped me from the opening scene to the last page.

As a writer, I've attended three of Susie's writing retreats where she challenges attendees to write breathtaking stories. With Nightingale, and the previously published Sons of Thunder, Susie puts into practice what she teaches.

The main characters in Nightingale, Esther, a nurse, and Peter, a German POW, are complex and compelling. The challenges they face are daunting--and the choices they make sometimes aren't between right and wrong but rather two things of equal value.

Sounds like real life, doesn't it?

At one point while I was reading Nightingale, I talked with Susie and said something like, "There better be a happy ending!" Susie smiled and said, "Well, I like happy endings too."

But sometimes the happiness we're looking for--the love we long for--is a long-time coming. And Susie doesn't write fluff. She writes about characters facing disappointments and heartaches--and having to make the choice to live a life of faith or one of doubt.

Flip Nightingale

The Letters From Home Giveaway!

Enter the Contest: Nightingale is about letters, the power of written correspondence to convey thoughts and emotions to those far away. And sometimes near. Letters are forever, they are something we savor and pull out to read again and again. They are often cherished and kept in a special place.

To celebrate the release of Nightingale, Susan would like you to write a letter. One grand prize winner will receive a Flip HD Camcorder. Five runners-up winners will win a signed copy of Nightingale. There are two ways to enter the contest by writing letters:

1. Write a letter to a soldier. At the end of the contest we’ll print out and mail your letter for you.

2. Write a letter to a friend, loved one, family member, enemy. Tell them something you wished you’d told them before. Tell them you love them, or maybe how they touched your life. Perhaps an apology is in order or a thank you. Or perhaps you'd like to relate a funny tale or just share life. Whatever it is, submit it here along with your email address and we’ll send it for you.

Enter here or at the SHARE page on the Brothers in Arms website. Or simply click on the button above.

Read what others are saying about Nightingale here.

*I received a copy of Nightingale to review, but was not compensated in any way to post a positive review of the book.*

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Writing Letters of Thanks

Photo by chappy14

Like many of you, I want to be a published novelist. November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. Skimming the website’s history doesn’t reveal exactly why this month was chosen. Whoever heard of expecting anyone to write a complete, 50,000-word novel during November? Don’t they know how busy people are? Of course, it’s hard to say, in the twenty-first century, when we’d ever slow down with nothing left to do with our time except write a novel. None of the other months during the year seem to be lazy and carefree, either.

But November is also the time when our hearts turn to thanking those people we are grateful for every month of the year.

When my husband was alive, I’d periodically remind him about the “just-in-case” letters to our children (and one to my husband) that were stashed in my sock drawer. Every few years, I update the letters, mentioning current interests or skills and spiritual gifts I’d see in their lives. I hope to encourage them and remind them of my love if there is ever a time when I’m not here to do that.

One trying school day, a math teacher, Franciscan Nun Sister Helen Mrosla, departed from the curriculum and asked students to list the nicest thing they could think about each classmate. She compiled the comments and gave a personal list to each student. Years later, after one of the students, Mark Eklund, died in Vietnam, the list was found, taped and re-taped, in his wallet. At the funeral, many of the other students also revealed they’d saved the list as one of their prized possessions. The inspirational tale of Sister Helen Mrosla, “the teacher who made a difference,” has been widely circulated all over the internet and featured in numerous books, like Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can read about it here.

Instead of worrying about reaching a self-imposed NaNo word count, I propose taking time to write a letter to at least one special person in your life telling how much he or she means to you. Who knows? Maybe your letter will be more meaningful to someone, more used by God, than the words in any novel you ever write.

Roxanne Sherwood

Taking time to be thankful: There are so many people who love and encourage me: seven wonderful children; a mother; siblings & their spouses; precious friends like the Ponderers; and a new man in my life. I love, appreciate and thank God for each of you!

Second photo by lusi

Christmas Writing Contest!
Janice Thompson, along with www.freelancewritingcourses.com would like to announce a Christmas Writing Contest! For more information, click here: http://www.freelancewritingcourses.com/christmas-writing-contest

Monday, November 22, 2010


“Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.”—Edward Sandford Martin
Do you celebrate Thanksgiving or ThanksLiving?
Recently, I hyperventilated myself into a near panic attack about living single for the rest of my life. And I came to this conclusion: Instead of allowing longings and worry about my future to crash on my today, I needed to live one thanksliving day at a time.

When unfulfilled desires torpedo my heart and my day, I remember. I’m choosing to thankslive today. I’m thankful for today. I will have a great day.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:15–17
Happy ThanksLiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Take Five: A Dose of Writers Quotes

"A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter . . . . A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy, true, not false, lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down." ~ E. B. White, American writer

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success--but only if you persist." ~Isaac Asimov, author

"Writing comes more easily if you have something to say." ~Sholem Asch, novelist and playwright

"Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it." ~Colette, French novelist

"Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped." ~Lillian Hellman, writer

Monday, November 15, 2010

Living, Breathing and Writing Sustainability

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”—Franz Kafka
In ecology, sustainability—the capacity to endure—describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. In the Greek, the definition of perseverance means "a hopeful looking towards the future without regard to the circumstances"

Yet, daunting circumstances—the changing publishing industry, finding time to write, receiving honest feedback from a critique group, securing an agent, developing a platform—can discourage an eager, bright-eyed writer. Some stop writing before they even start. Other writers just quit.

As a writer sustainability makes me ask myself these questions. Am I:
  • inhaling God’s Word, His written gift to me, to nourish and replenish my inner life? 
  • using God’s insights and words in my writing?
  • pursuing the gifts God embedded in my creative DNA?
  • willing to learn, practice and hone those skills?
  • teachable enough to receive critiques that improve my WIP?
  • productive when publishing prospects seem dim?
  • asking God for the capacity to endure?
  • writing about significant issues?
  • choosing to encourage, stimulate, challenge, strengthen, inspire or confront through words?
William Shakespeare observed, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” Like an axe, the truthfulness of the Bible breaks through the frozen soul within. Just as I reached back to my spiritual forerunners who shaped my fundamental values, will the sustainability of my writing life and legacy reach out to my children and their children?

Has writing so gripped you that you feel like Isaac Asimov who said, “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I would die"? What oxygen of the soul does God want to breathe out through your writing?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Take Five: A Dose of Writers Quotes

"It's the writer's job to stage confrontations, so the characters will say surprising and revealing things, and educate and entertain us all." ~Kurt Vonnegut, author

"The great wisdom for writers, perhaps for everybody, is to come to understand to be at one with their own tempo." ~Alan Hollinghurst, English novelist

"To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment." ~Galway Kinnell, poet

"So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity, which used to be said the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison." ~Virginia Woolf, in her essay on women and literature, "A Room of One's Own," (1929)

"Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down." ~Ray Bradbury, author

(With thanks to my delightful friend, Pennie, who shared her list of quotes and also the link to The Writer's Almanac.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Amazon's Top 100 Books for 2010

“Reading surrounds us, labels us, defines us.”—Rich Gold
EditorsPicks and Customers’ Favorites
What books do you recommend to friends and family? The editors at Amazon.com chose their top 100 books for 2010 just in time for Christmas. The list is based on:
  • "Is this a keeper?
  • “Is this book worth telling people about?"
  • “Is this what we tell each other to read?”
  • “Is this what our customers talk about too?

This list contains books for all ages and interests from nearly two dozen categories. Below you will find the top 25. To peruse the entire list, click here
  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2010.
  2. Faithful Place: A Novel by Tana French. Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2010.
  3. Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes. Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2010.
  4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010.
  5. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
  6. Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) by Jonathan Franzen. Amazon Best of the Month, August 2010.
  7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2010.
  8. To the End of the Land by David Grossman. Amazon Best of the Month, September 2010.
  9. Just Kids by Patti Smith. Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2010.
  10. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
  11. The Imperfectionists: A Novel by Tom Rachman. Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2010.
  12. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green. Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2010.
  13. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson. Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2010.
  14. Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre
  15. The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt. Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010.
  16. The Passage by Justin Cronin. Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2010.
  17. The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell. Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2010.
  18. Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell. Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010.
  19. Worth Dying For by Lee Child. Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010.
  20. WAR by Sebastian Junger
  21. Skippy Dies: A Novel by Paul Murray. Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2010.
  22. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel by Charles Yu
  23. One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original) by David Nicholls
  24. Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler. Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2010.
  25. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King. Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Take Five: A Dose of Writers Quotes

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~ Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist and short story writer

"How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live." Henry David Thoreau, American author and poet

"You have to learn how to use your energy and not squander it. In the writing process, the more a thing cooks, the better. The brain works for you even when you are at rest." ~Doris Lessing, British author

"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, Pulitzer prize winning American novelist

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finding Your Voice--The Fundamentals

At the My Book Therapy Storycrafters Retreat, Best-selling Author Susan May Warren shared the fundamentals for finding your voice.

Clarity. Don't try to make your manuscript more valuable by filling it with million-dollar words.

No overwriting.
Avoid redundancy whether it's restating an idea, words, or sentences.

Simple sentences
create impact.

Use active voice
and delete was in your writing.

Use specific nouns.
Choose details and specifics that matter. This will reduce multiple adjectives and -ly adverbs.

Write positively.
Show what you want the reader to see, not what you don't want them to see. For example, "There was no light inside the cave" negatively shows there isn't light in the cave. Here's a stronger, more positive sentence: "The darkness in the cave seeped inside her."

Avoid cliches
like the plague. ;-) They are for people who are too lazy or tired to reach deep.

Use 5 senses.
Show how a POV character feels by building the 5 senses though the character's perspective.

Put punch words at the end of a sentence.

If you follow these fundamentals, you'll soon be on your way to creating your own voice.

~ Roxanne Sherwood

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Save Time. Get Organized to Write

“Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.”—William Pollard
I decided to finish a book I’m writing. However, I felt frustrated. Years of writing compost—research, documentation, word pictures, illustrations, biblical word studies—plus every version of every WIP chapter and every critiquer’s document with their feedback littered one main folder titled with the book’s working title. Umpteen folders and miscellaneous documents filled the main folder. I even had another “main” folder containing everything recovered from a hard drive that crashed. I didn’t know if the recovered documents were duplicate files.

At one time I knew why I’d created every folder and oodles of documents and which chapter the information went with. But I no longer knew why I’d saved some of the information or what chapter I was thinking about when I saved the file. No longer a benefit, my writing compost pile was a burden.

I surveyed the confusing electronic folders and documents. When I wanted to write, I couldn’t find what I needed. Every time I started a new chapter, I opened and searched document after document trying to find the research or illustration that I knew I’d saved. When I wanted to polish a chapter, I wasn’t sure of the latest version of the WIP. I like to make the most of my precious writing hours. Trying to find specific information amidst the jumble of documents seemed like such a waste of time.

I’d completed a first draft for a new chapter and received critique feedback, except for a three or four paragraph illustration from Saint Augustine’s life that I still needed to write. To make sure the context from Augustine’s life worked, I wanted to re-read his book Confessions. When I discovered that I’d already downloaded Augustine’s book, but forgot Confessions sat in my unorganized folders, I decided it was time to bring order to disorder.

Before cranking out any more chapters, I ignored the urge to finish the Augustine chapter to spend a week organizing every file. I created folders for:
  • “stuff.” I dumped every folder and document into the stuff file, and then systematically opened every file to decide which chapter that information went with. If I wasn’t sure where to dump a document, it stayed in the stuff folder until recapturing my original vision.
  • the finished book proposal and pitch sheets. I placed the latest versions of the book proposal and pitch sheets in their respective folders.
  • each chapter. I created a file for each chapter (Chapter 1: Working Title) and then dumped every document into the respective chapter folder, including critiques. For each unwritten chapter, I created a working document that includes the chapter summary, problem, solution, and value statements and placed it in its chapter folder.
  • endorsements. I dumped all the endorsements already received, sample endorsement request letter, plus names and contact information for those I intend to ask.
What are some ways you organize your files, enabling you to find info fast while you write?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Take Five: A Dose of Writers Quotes

"Ambition is putting a ladder against the sky." ~ American proverb

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." ~Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. Senator

"The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." ~Benjamin Disraeli, British author and politician

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals." Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motors

"If it were not for hope, the heart would break." ~Thomas Fuller, English churchman and historian

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Storycrafter Retreat and NaNoWriMo Time!

I'm packing my suitcase with warm, comfy clothes, my laptop, and chocolate. (How can anyone expect me to write without chocolate?) I've got the nugget of an idea for a new novel, and I'm heading to the My Book Therapy Storycrafters Retreat Friday through Sunday in Minnesota, where it's already a bit chilly for this Texan. Storycrafters is a working writing retreat where participants will arrive with an idea and leave with a story plotted out -- just in time for NaNoWriMo!

Have you registered for NaNoWriMo yet? Don't wait! There's only a few days left in October.

After you register for NaNoWriMo, head over to the 2010 MBT NaNoWriMo Celebration where you'll get a ton of encouragement and be eligible for great prizes.

If you're not one of the lucky few registered for the Storycrafter Retreat, don't fret. Susan May Warren will teach a one-day Storycrafter Seminar on Saturday, November 13, 2010, near Denver, Colorado! Susie is packing in all the essentials of writing a novel, plus adding a hot, new class - Managing the Muddle (middle!) - into this intensive, one-day seminar. Hurry, the registration deadline ends November 1st!

What are you waiting for? There's never been a better time to write the story of your dreams!

~ Roxanne Sherwood

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Secret of Impressive Writing? Keep It Plain and Simple

"Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the product of simple minds. A simple, unpretentious style has both grace and power. By not calling attention to itself, it allows the reader to focus on the message"—Richard Lederer and Richards Dowis

Daniel M. Oppenheimer, an associate professor of psychology at Princeton University's Department of Psychology, won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature for his paper entitled Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly. Aren't you glad he added the subtitle? I found the title of his paper laugh out loud hilarious. His paper argues that simple writing makes authors appear more intelligent than complex writing. His research found that those who stick with basic vocabulary and plain text are seen as less intelligent.

Writers love learning new vocabulary, but if it sends your reader to the dictionary in the middle of a tense chase scene, it defeats your purpose to engage your reader. Smart writers use words their readers understand.

Erudite Vernacular (a.k.a. gobblygook)
As writers, I thought you’d enjoy common clichés transformed into “erudite vernacular” (a.k.a. gobblygook.) In 1944, Texas Congressman Maury Maverick coined the word gobblygook in reference to prose of politicians that sounded like the senseless gobbling of turkeys. So if you enjoy using big words that others don’t know, see how many of these sayings you can figure out. Don’t peek at the answers below.

And if you’re tired of dumbed-down silly games at wedding and baby showers, give your guests this entertaining list to decipher. The person who figures out the most sayings wins a dictionary.

  1. Pulchritude possesses solely cutaneous profundity.
  2. A futile superfluity of culinary aid destroys nutritious liquids of osseous tissues made.
  3. Never enumerate ere fractured are the shells of bipeds gallinaceous, lest suddenly thy calculations prove utterly fallacious.
  4. Members of an avian species of identical plumage congregate.
  5. Selecting on the part of mendicants must be interdicted.
  6. Surveillance should precede saltation.
  7. That prudent avis that matutinally deserts the cosiness of its abode will ensnare a vermiculate creature.
  8. It is fruitless to become lachrymose over precipitously departed lacteal fluid. 

  9. Freedom from incrustations of grime is contiguous to rectitude.
  10. The stylus is of greater potency than the claymore.
  11. It is fruitless to attempt to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers.
  12. Eschew the implement of correction and vitiate the scion.
  13. The temperature of the aqueous content of an unremittingly ogled saucepan does not reach 100 degrees Celsius.
  14. All articles that coruscate with resplendence are not truly auriferous.
  15. Where one detects visible vapors having their provenance in ignited carbonaceous material, one is certain also to find conflagration.
  16. A plethora of individuals with expertise in culinary techniques vitiate the potable concoction produced by steeping certain osseous tissues and comestible herbs and vegetables.
  17. Eleemosynary deeds have their incipience intramurally.
  18. Male cadavers are incapable of yielding testimony.
  19. Individuals who make their abode in vitreous edifices would be advised to refrain from catapulting petrous projectiles.
  20. Neophyte's serendipity.
  21. Exclusive dedication to necessitous chores without interludes of hedonistic diversion renders Jacques a hebetudinous fellow.
  22. Missiles of ligneous or lithoidal consistency have the potential of fracturing my osteal structure, but appellations will eternally remain innocuous.
  23. A revolving lithic conglomerate accumulates no congeries of a diminutive, verdant bryophitic plant.
  24. Elementary sartorial techniques intitially applied, preclude repetitious actions to the squares of three.
  25. Abstention from any aleatory undertakings precludes a potential escalation of a lucrative nature.
  26. Persons of imbecilic mentality navigate in parameters which cherubic entities approach with trepidation.
  27. A person presenting the ultimate cachinnation possesses thereby the optimal cachinnation.
  28. Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific.
Fain do I fathom your nature specific.
Exaltedly set on the aether capacious
A reasonable facsimile of a gem carbonaceous. Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific.
Fain do I fathom your nature specific.
  29. A research team proceeded towards the apex of a natural geologic protuberance, the purpose of their expedition being the procurement of a sample of fluid hydride of oxygen in a large vessel, the exact size of which was unspecified. One member of the team precipitously descended, sustaining severe damage to the upper cranial portion of his anatomical structure; subsequently the second member of the team performed a self rotational translation oriented in the same direction taken by the first team member.

  1. Beauty is only skin deep.
  2. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  3. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.
  4. Birds of the feather flock together.
  5. Beggars can't be choosers.
  6. Look before you leap.
  7. The early bird gets the worm.
  8. Don't cry over spilt milk.
  9. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  10. The pen is mightier than the sword.
  11. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  12. Spare the rod and spoil the child.
  13. A watched pot never boils.
  14. All that glitters is not gold.
  15. Where there is smoke, there is fire.
  16. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  17. Charity begins at home.
  18. Dead men tell no tales.
  19. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
  20. Beginner's luck.
  21. All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
  22. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
  23. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
  24. A stitch in time saves nine.
  25. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  26. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  27. He who laughs last laughs best.
  28. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in gobblygook.
  29. Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill in doublespeak.

Friday, October 22, 2010

When All Else Fails . . .

We all have those days when we don't know what to write about. Call it writer's block. Call it laziness. Call it boredom with the whole antagonist-protagonist-plot process. Whatever it is, nothing's showing up in either your brain or your work in progress.

That's kind of how I felt about this blog post. Tired. The old "I've got nothing" feeling that hangs over you when a deadline's looming.

So I did what any desperate writer does--I started surfing the Internet. And I stumbled upon a fun Web site: Creative Writing Prompts, which was voted one of Writer's Digest's 101 Best Web Sites for Writers in 2006 and 2007.

Click on any one of the numbers 1 through 346 for a writing prompt or idea. Here's a couple of samples:
114: Write about a time your pampered yourself. (Hhhm--could I do some research instead of writing about this from memory?)
254: Why would an antiques dealer leave town?
311: Use the following words in your story: photographer, needle, dormitory. bicycle
340: Melinda Alcott and Dwayne Modderman meet in a bank. One of them is a loner. Describe how they meet.

You can also subscribe to CreativeSparks!, the e-zine of CreativeWritingPrompts.com and download a copy of the CreativeSparks! E-book (volume 1) for free.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go figure out how Melinda and Dwayne meet. But first, which one of them is the loner?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just Do It!

Fitness Guru Tony Horton is so dedicated that he plans his exercise schedule six months in advance. Horton, who has one of the most toned bodies for someone over 50, encourages others to plan their workouts. If you want to workout five times a week, he says, then plan which twenty days you'll workout this month. Then, commit to do it!

A friend revealed her goal-setting strategy. She places round stickers--the kind you find in Walmart for pricing garage-sale items--on her calendar with her writing goals. So, sit down with your calendar, spread sheet, day planner, whatever (I've been accused lately of over-using that word), and write down your incremental plan to reach your writing goals.

Then, just do it!

On Writing and Dentists

"I sometimes wonder when I read what even knowledgeable people say about writers and writing if they have any conception of what the life of a writer is like . . . . What they don't know might include: a visit to the dentist . . .

My plans for Monday were to complete a chapter to send to my critique group. An aching unbearable tooth made other plans for me. I called the dentist office. His receptionist said they’d work me in, so come to the office ASAP. I printed out the compost for the chapter, packed up my computer, and headed off to the dentist. 
     After analyzing the situation, the dentist could either give me antibiotics and I could come back on Thursday or he could work me in during the day. Since I came prepared, I opted to stay and let him work me in. Antibiotics that disagree with my intestinal tract didn’t appeal to me. And after looking at the infection pocket on the X-rays, I felt anxious for it to be out of my body.
     Well…three paragraphs, four thousand dollars (I don’t have health insurance), a lot of gas at party level and five hours later…I was more than exhausted. I wanted to go home, crawl in bed and suck my thumb. Except the dental assistant said, “Don’t suck on a straw”, so I figured the thumb was out also. The pain of my dentist’s reparative replaced the cause of the pain. 
     Today I return with Ibuprofen in hand to work on the chapter. Ahhhh…the life of a writer.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Take Five: A Dose of Writers Quotes

"You can't wait for inspiration to come. You have to hunt it down with a club." Jack London, author of Call of the Wild

"Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without exercise, the muscles seize up." Jane Yolen, children's book author

"I am always talking about the human condition--about what we can endure, dream, fail at and survive." Maya Angelou, poet

"Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience." Henry David Thoreau, author

"I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms 39 times before I was satisfied." Ernest Hemingway, author

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For Fiction Writers, Fall Means NaNoWriMo Time

God paints the landscape red, orange, gold, brown, and deep green. Grocery stores prominently display bright Indian corn, orange pumpkins, and decorative gourds in a variety of shapes and colors. Halloween costumes appear, fitting every imagination and personality.
Crisp days and chilly nights put a bounce in our steps after summer's heat. Maybe, the season's first fire blazes at the hearth. But, for fiction writers, fall brings NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). From November 1-30, writers attempt to complete one 50,000-word (175-page) novel. You may sign up at the website at any time, but the novel must be written in November.

Um . . . It's still October. Why post about NaNoWriMo now?
Though your novel must not be started before November 1, it's okay (and preferable) to begin thinking about the book. You may create character sketches, plan outlines, and research your story now. But you'd better hurry, you've only got two weeks.

What's the big deal about NaNoWriMo?
I can write a novel anytime.
Sure, you can. And regular readers of this blog are writers. But so many people say they want to write a novel, yet few people actually do. NaNoWriMo encourages everyone from auto mechanics to zoologists to actually write the book of their dreams with a community of other writers all spurring one another to victory.

How many people participate in NaNoWriMo?
In 2009, over 165,000 ordinary people started to write a novel. By November 30, more than 30,000 individuals had become novelists. How cool is that!

What happens after November? What's next?
First, do the Snoopy Dance and celebrate! Whether you crossed the finish line with a completed 50,000-word manuscript or only came close, your book is still a first draft. You'll need to continue reading this blog and others, like The Ponderers and My Book Therapy, and study books on the writing craft. Your novel will still need to be fleshed out--no one really buys a 50,000-word manuscript--then polished and edited. But that's really the easy part. You can fix any problem. But you can't fix a blank page.

So, what are you waiting for? Begin pondering your story and get ready to NaNoWriMo!

~ Roxanne Sherwood

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Not Like Me

Book Review: Not Like Me
Author: Eric Michael Bryant.
Paperback: 256 pp.
Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN: 0310329965
Price: $14.99

A smart book that looks at those hard, emotional issues spawned by an uncivil religious war with reason, compassion, humor, plus a refreshing “love your neighbor as yourself” perspective.

Cohabitors. Gays. Muslims. Freaks. Homeless. Liberals. Unbelievers. Your neighbors. Your co-workers. Your family? What stereotypical picture pops into your head preventing you from touching others-not-like-you with Christ’s love?

Fear? Anger? Repulsion?

If you are wondering how to make ministry happen with others who make you feel uncomfortable, then this book is a must-read. Eric’s uncomfortable laugh-out-loud encounter with his wife’s fellow classmate’s lesbian partner is worth the price of the book.

I was provided a review copy of Not Like Me by Eric Michael Bryant.

What’s This Book About
We live in a diverse world filled with unprecedented opportunity. According to author Eric Bryant in Not Like Me, formerly titled Peppermint-Filled Piñatas, we can become agents of change creating genuine unity among people from a variety of backgrounds and belief systems through our relationships.

Through humorous stories and pointed insights gleaned from Eric’s own personal experiences and failures, the experiences of others and the life and teachings of Jesus, you will discover how to move beyond ethnic, racial, cultural or ideological barriers towards genuine friendship with others.

In addition, spiritual seekers will find that when stripped away from the religion created around him, Jesus’ dream for our world is remarkable and refreshing. In this new world, we can discover how to resolve conflict, overcome bitterness, create a better future, develop diverse communities and enjoy our diverse world.

Not Like Me includes a brief article after each chapter with practical applications and questions for small groups. For more small group or sermon resources, visit www.NotLikeMe.org.

Eric Bryant’s Bio
Eric Bryant serves as an elder, speaker and navigator with the leadership team at Mosaic in Los Angeles, a church known for its creativity and diversity. He is part of the core teams for the Mosaic Alliance and The Origins Project. Bryant completed his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership with Bethel Seminary.  He lives with his wife, Debbie, and two children, Caleb and Trevi, in the middle of Los Angeles County.

Inside the Life and Mind of the Author
Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.
I was born in California while my dad was in the Air Force. From Kindergarten through college I grew up in Texas.  I am fortunate to come from a Christian family, but I struggled to follow Jesus as a teenager. Just after college I got married to Debbie, and we moved to Seattle where we helped plant a church which had 4 senior pastors in the first 4 years. Twelve years ago we moved to Los Angeles to volunteer at Mosaic to experience a healthy church before planting our own.  Instead of planting elsewhere, I was invited to help with the youth group, then college ministry, then starting new venues, and then about 5 years ago I became a navigator.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
I love watching movies, playing Wii with my wife and kids, traveling, and performing stand-up comedy.

 If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
I would want to have the same super power that Bruce Willis had in Unbreakable. I want to be able to play basketball into my 70s.

What has God been teaching you lately?
I have been reading through the prophets and have been reminded of God’s passion for people.  Even as stubborn as they were (and they were really stubborn), he would continue to send messengers to warn them of the consequences of their continued rebelliousness.  Ultimately, God loves people so much more than we do.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a professional basketball player. At 5’8” I would have had a better shot at becoming a gymnast or jockey.

Where are you headed next?
My passion remains communicating and catalyzing community for the mission of Jesus wherever I may be.  Right now at Mosaic I am helping as the campus pastor at both the Pasadena and West Los Angeles campuses, but our roles are always changing according to what is needed.

How did you get involved in writing?
I wrote my first book in 5th grade.  It was an intergalactic adventure called “Thysar and the Benay.”  It was never published.  In college I wrote a devotional book which was also never published.  Most of my writing has come in the form of my journal and my blog posts.  Writing has always helped me to express better what I am going through, experiencing, and learning.

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?
I am an extrovert to the highest degree, so sitting still to actually begin writing poses a challenge to me at times.

What did you enjoy most about the writing process?
By taking the time to sit still and reflect, I hear God’s voice more clearly than when I don’t do that. I learn from Him when I take the time to write.

How do you find time to write?
I try to write a little bit each day, mostly in my journal, on my website, on twitter, or when working on a message.  When writing a book or my dissertation, I would sneak away for longer periods of time to really make progress. At times I would pull together what I had written elsewhere to include in the book.

What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Learn to enjoy writing. I have written a great deal more that is not published than what has been published. Share what you are discovering with the people already in your community (family, church, friends, etc.).  If they don’t find what you are writing helpful then other people probably won’t either.  Give them permission to help you revise your work, and be willing to edit over and over. It took me 15 years and dozens of rejection letters or conversations before I had a book published, so I would also recommend perseverance as well.

Where did you get the idea for the book?
Erwin McManus, the lead pastor at our church in Los Angeles, encouraged me to write a book on diversity. What we have experienced here at Mosaic is quite unique in terms of the diversity of people we have reached and/or who have become leaders in our community.  People come from such ethnically, spiritually, and socio-economically different places, yet for far too long, even in diverse cities, churches have remained homogenous. I have personally failed and seen some successes in reaching out to others not like me, so I wanted to be able to help others become more effective in their own mission fields.

What are the major themes of the book?
In essence the book describes how to allow people to belong before they ever choose to believe. Too often Christians view those who do not follow Jesus as outsiders or as people to be avoided. My hope is that through this book, people of faith could become more known for their love of people no matter what they might believe, look like, or the choices they may make.  In many ways, I am advocating for the rights of those who do not yet believe.  In addition, the book helps people move from social conversations to spiritual ones.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
I share a great deal of personal stories from my experiences as a youth pastor in Texas, as a church planter in Seattle, and as part of the leadership team at Mosaic in Los Angeles. At the same time, I include insights from the Scriptures, seminary textbooks, and pop culture.

With which character do you, personally, identify most and why?
The biggest issue is that we don’t even try to get past cultural barriers. Sometimes we confuse the ideas of being “set apart” and being “sent out.” We are supposed to be “set apart” in our behavior but “sent out” into our relationships. Sometimes we do the opposite. We become “set apart” from the very people God has brought into our lives to love, serve, and influence. It’s human nature to spend time with the people who are most like us because of our self-centered tendencies. Another big part of the problem would be our more consumeristic view of the church. At Mosaic, we strive to go against that. Our lead pastor Erwin McManus  says: “The church is not here to meet our needs. We are the church here to meet the needs of the world.” If our relationship with God was all about me and Jesus, then my pastor should have just drowned me during my baptism so I could go straight into His presence. Instead, he brought me out of the water because there is much more for me to do. I now represent Jesus everywhere I go.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
My prayer is that those who read the book will be able to love, serve, and influence at least one person they had overlooked before reading the book. One of my favorite responses to the book is when I hear that someone who read the book went on to have a real breakthrough with a neighbor, co-worker, or friend. That is the best result possible!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Read this . . . and this . . . and, oh yeah, this too!

Several different posts on the Internet worth your time this week:

1. Literary agent Chip MacGregor posted A Reading List for Writers. Thanks, Chip! My Kindle is going to get quite a workout today as I start downloading some new reading material.

2. My writing friend and fellow Ponderer, Melissa Tagg, wrote a must-read column over at the MBT Ponderers' blog: Scary Prayers and Patience. I smile the minute I begin reading anything Melissa's written. I just love her voice! And FYI: Melissa, aka M-Tagg, was the first-ever winner of the MBT Frasier award.

3. I'm now a MBT Special Teams blogger, which means two things: a) I get to have a fun photo of me wearing a Broncos football jersey (thanks, Marty, for help with that!) and b) I'll be writing about editing. My other teammates are Tiffany Colter and Edie Melson. My first post is up today: Placing a Ban on the Writer vs. Editor Mentality.

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