Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: writing (page 1 of 2)

Having a Home You Can Really Write In

If you consider yourself a writer, whether professionally or not, you will probably be keen on having a home, where you can practice your craft. It is especially important if it is your living, of course, and that goes for you bloggers, too. The eternal question of what makes the ideal writing space is something all writers have considered at some point. As it happens, there do seem to be a few key characteristics which most writers would agree are essential. Let’s take a look at how you might be able to find a home that you can actually write in for hours on end or create this environment in your own home.

A Quiet Area

If there is anything that many writers adore, it is peace and quiet. Being able to work in a quiet, uninterrupted space is often golden, and it’s one of the first things you should look into at your home. This will usually mean that you need to try and find a room with a door away from a busy street, as being overly distracted can really detract from your craft. If you are lucky enough to be starting fresh and looking for a home or a condo, then you might benefit from using the help of professionals. Find a real estate agent and tell them what you are looking for. They should be able to inform you of a few key areas, which are likely to have what you are looking for.

Comfort

What do you need to be comfortable when you write? Make a list and see what you can easily fulfill. When you are uncomfortable, it can make it incredibly hard to keep writing, and certainly to produce anything of real value. We have all probably had experiences of writing in cramped little rooms in small homes or even in dorm rooms. While there might sometimes be a certain charm to such places, they are much less likely to be good for your productivity levels. What is usually much more beneficial is somewhere that is able to provide a good level of comfort with a desk, proper lighting, and a comfortable chair. The more comfortable you are as you write, the less distracted you are. This will enable you to not only get more work done on the whole, but also make it more likely to produce good work, too. After all, quality is everything.

Space

It’s possible that you will feel a need for some space as well, or at the very least, a space that you can call your own. This is not just in terms of being able to stretch out or walk around while brainstorming, although that can be useful! It’s also about having room for the many tools that often go hand-in-hand with the writer’s life.. As a writer, you will almost certainly build up a cornucopia of relevant (and not so relevant) paraphernalia. Having the room to store all of your books, papers, brainstorming tools, pens, and so on will mean that you can feel much more at home in the space. That, in turn, can most likely lead to more writing, which is something that everyone can truly appreciate.

It’s a great feeling when you feel you can genuinely write in your home without any worries – and for the professional, it can even be essential. In your home, what is your writing space like? Have you changed it over the years? 

(contributed article)

If you are in need of editing services, I am having a sale. Check out my other site, http://www.editor-911.com here. Prices are good through 1/31/2018. 

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Writing and Editing Packages from Editor 911

Besides blogging on here about parenting, writing, and whatever else comes up, I also run my Editor 911 business. I have a site for Editor 911 right here. In honor of Cyber Monday, the holiday season, and designing my new site, I am presenting a few packages and sale items–the prices are good through January 31, 2018. Here they are: 

These sales and packages are good through January 31, 2018. Email Margo at margolynndill (at) gmail.com to request your package and receive an invoice. Payments can be made through Paypal or with a check/money order.

20 percent off any editing/proofreading service

Check out the regular editing prices by clicking here to visit the Services page. Through the end of January, you will receive 20 percent off these prices. Email Margo at margolynndill (at) gmail.com to receive a quote for your project and find out how much you can save.

 NaNoWriMo Package

Did you spend November writing a 50,000-word manuscript, which may be the beginning of a novel? Did you get halfway done and think–this is a mess–what am I going to do with it? Are you lost on how to turn your draft into a novel? Are you too close to it? Margo can help! In this package, she will

  • Read through your draft (up to 55,000 words). (Printed pages snail-mailed are preferred.) (Value $200)
  • Create a bullet point list of what works in the draft and what doesn’t. (Value $25.00)
  • Write a one-page letter on suggestions for revision and what to do next. (Value $25.00)
  • Schedule a 30-min Skype, in-person (depending on your location), or phone call meeting to discuss suggestions and answer questions. (Value $30.00)
  • 25 percent off on future services on this manuscript only (no expiration date). (Value= hundreds of dollars in savings depending on your future needs)
Cost: $199.00

Writing Coach Package

Writing coach sessions can be used to discuss writing career goals, hold yourself to a specific deadline, figure out where (and how) to submit your work, talk about your brand and marketing platform, create a marketing plan, or brainstorm plot ideas. For example, writers have used writing coach sessions to discuss a novel and stay on track with word count, to figure out how to market a book and follow through on these ideas, to discuss where to go next in a writing career, and more. These sessions currently cost $30 for a 30-min phone or Skype conversation and $50 for 60 minutes. If you purchase a writing-coach package, you receive a discount on the regular rate, and you can use the sessions at any time, where Margo’s schedule and yours coordinate. Margo will meet people in person if you live within 25-miles of her and are purchasing at least an hour at a time, and you would prefer in-person sessions. (She lives in St. Louis, MO). Sessions DO NOT have to be used before January 31, 2018, only purchased before that date–packages do not expire.

Package 1: THREE 30-minute (90 min total) sessions  for $75.00  (Value $90.00)
Package 2: THREE 60-minute (180 min total) sessions for $125 (Value $150.00)
Package 3: FIVE 60-min (300 min total) sessions for  $200 (Value $250.00)

Blogging/Website Help Package

If you need help setting up or maintaining a website, Margo can help with this! She uses WordPress and GoDaddy for this site and margoldill.com. She also uses Blogger to blog for WOW! At one time, she was the MO-SCBWI webmaster, and she also updates some pages on the Missouri Writers Guild website, as a member of the board. Websites are a necessity for today’s writer. She can also help you come up with content for your blog/website and write it. She is NOT a website designer, so these would be websites/blogs using the tools provided by WordPress or Blogger.

Regular cost is $50 an hour. Through 1/31/2018, you can save 20 percent–cost is $40 an hour. You can purchase hours ahead of time to save and use later at the sale rate.
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What’s So Hard About Being Nice? A Guest Post by Author Mary Maurice

Today, I welcome a WOW! Women on Writing blog tour author, Mary Maurice, who is celebrating the publication of her book,  Burtrum Lee.

Synopsis of the book:

Coated with a life of lies and deceit, Burtrum Lee Conner is sick to her stomach. Dozens of times throughout her life, the feeling of not being who she is has tormented her. But she kept it to herself, believing that maybe it’s just a chemical imbalance of some kind, considering she is one of the first artificially-inseminated babies of the 1960s. Now, there’s more though, something much deeper, much more maniacal than she could have ever imagined. She’s not the first test tube baby at all, but the first….

Burtrum Lee Conner, born into a world of scientific mystery, discovers that the life she’s been leading for the past forty years, is the wrong one. Her parent’s Jed and Jane Conner, stealing her as an infant, brought Lee up as their own. Even her devoted grandmother, Clair Conner, kept this secret close to her chest until they were found out. And now, Lee Conner’s biological mother, Katie Lee, wants her back, but not before the diabolical Dr. Stone has his say.

Paperback: 219 pages

Genre: Scientific Mystery

Publisher: Silver Leaf Books LLC (August 28, 2017)

Check it out on Amazon here! 

About the Author, Mary Maurice:

When I was a child growing up in the Detroit area, I thought I wanted to be a painter; and then as a teenager, the idea of being a musician intrigued me. Then as a young adult, I realized that I’m a writer.

After attending Western Michigan University for two party-filled years, I decided to leave academia and explore the real world to learn what life is truly about. For fifteen years, I traveled the country working in restaurants, writing and doing readings wherever I was welcome.

While living in Minneapolis during my twenties, I was fortunate enough to be tutored by Dr. Jonis Agee, who was at the time head of the creative writing department at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul. Her lessons were imprinted in me for all of these years, and have influenced my writing ever since.

My adventures landed me in San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oregon, finally leading me to the Land of Enchantment, where I’ve resided since 1994. Living in Santa Fe, and the beauty and isolation that surrounds me, has inspired my creative muse in ways that no other place has. While still working in the hospitality industry, my passion for the craft of writing has never been stronger. And I know with each sentence I write, and every paragraph I compose, my ultimate goal is to find the perfect word.

Find Mary Online:

Website: http://www.marymaurice.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marymauriceauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MMauriceAuthor

Now, a few words from Mary: 

What’s So Hard About Being Nice?

The other day I had the TV on and an episode of Leave it to Beaver was airing. I couldn’t see the screen, but I listened to the dialogue and found myself hearing words of politeness and kindness. I thought to myself how long gone those days are. There were no vulgar words or soft porn themes, no selfish acts, no tossing a friend under the bus, no grabbing one’s crotch, or calling a woman a bitch. It was all clean cut and tension-less.

I miss those days when our world was PG, slowly and surely turning into an R rated society, and now swaying on R/X.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in Pottersville from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. At what point in our existence did being nice not matter any more? When the cool thing to do is to be rude and insensitive to the troubles of others. Where did compassion go or empathy disappear to? Or just doing the right thing, not because you want to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Is it too hard to open a door, pick an item up that somebody dropped, tell a random person a silly joke just to make them laugh, buy a donut for someone just because they’re having a hard day? What is so hard about being nice? It’s very contagious, and I believe more people should be stricken with it. To me, there’s nothing better than making somebody feel good.

Don’t forget to check out her book, Burtrum Lee! 

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Making a Commitment to Morning Pages

I’m doing it. I’m making a commitment right here and now, to anyone reading this, that I’m writing Morning Pages every single morning!

What are Morning Pages? If you have read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, then you’re familiar with Morning Pages. OR if you have ever been to just about any writing conference or creativity workshop, you have probably heard about them. If not, Morning Pages are:

 Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.  (From Julia Cameron’s website/book)

I started today (and actually wound up with FOUR pages). Day one down. I’ve had a creativity block for a while now–although every once in a while I am inspired to write something like this post, “A Letter to a Narcissist” I wrote this week. So, today during Morning Pages, I came up with a first sentence for a short story. No idea where that will lead me, but since then, I’ve been thinking about this line and who could say it and what the conflict for the story could be.

I did a Google search for “morning pages”, and I happened upon Chris Winfield’s site. His tagline is “take back your life.” He has a free ebook (in exchange for your email address) titled How to Save 23.3 Hours Each Week. His site is all about working smarter, not harder. But he also has this amazing page about Morning Pages, which you can check out here. He starts the post by saying he never thought he’d have time in the morning to write three pages by hand, but he made a commitment to do it; and since then, he says that some of these amazing things have happened in his life:

  • I’ve come up with ideas that changed my businesses
  • I’ve worked through issues that were bothering me and seemed overwhelming
  • I’ve been better in tune with my intuition and listening to my heart
  • They have shown me what’s most important in my life and helped me to focus on that
  • and more….(check out the link above to see what else he says)

Pretty amazing, right?

So I’m making the commitment. I also recently made the commitment to read something for enjoyment EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now I read a lot. I read a lot of online articles, blog posts, unfinished manuscripts, emails, kids’ books (to my daughter), and articles about agriculture. But I haven’t been reading for myself. My creativity and writing have suffered because of this. So, since last Sunday, 11/12/2017, I said: “Enough is enough.” Katie and I went to the library. I found a novel written by an author my friend suggested. And I’m happy to say that I have read at least one chapter every day.

Surely, all these positive steps–reading and Morning Pages–will continue to feed my creativity and renew my spirit, and soon that first line I wrote during my Morning Pages will turn into something more.

By the way, for some people, journaling (which is what Morning Pages is) can give you results in your life. If you have never checked out Mari L. McCarthy’s Create Write Now site, then you should. Start with this post I did on her book–all the links you will need to find out her amazing story are in that post here

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What Is Something You Wrote About That You Never Thought You Would?

(Some of this post originally appeared on WOW! Women On Writing in September 2017)

I know everyone who reads this blog is not a writer, but you have had to write in your life for college entrance essays, papers for school, journal entries, or exercises for professional development days. So, have you ever found yourself writing about a topic that you never thought you would? If you are a writer, I bet this has definitely happened to you because as we change and grow as a person, our writing also changes and grows.

When I decided to pursue writing as more than just a hobby, I was set on writing fiction for kids. Short stories, poetry, novels, picture books–whatever a kid, who loved fiction, would read, I wanted to write. I was naive and didn’t understand how the writing world worked–that nonfiction sells better. If you want a paycheck as a writer, you might have to write something else than your dream manuscript.

One thing I did right was find a critique group of writers who did not just write for children, who wrote essays, articles, adult novels, romance, horror, and more. I began to dabble in nonfiction and short stories for adults, and guess what? I was having fun! I didn’t give up my dream of writing fiction for kids, and I did publish 3 fiction books for kids and teens; but I also expanded my portfolio and wrote about some subjects and for some publishers that I never thought I would.

I wonder what some of  you have written about that you never thought you would. I’m curious what your story is, how you got where you are today, what you thought at the beginning of your writing career if you are a writer, and how it turned out in the end–and how you feel about your writing. Maybe you wrote about a painful time. Maybe you wrote something funny. Maybe you wrote an editorial for the newspaper, and it received a lot of attention!

For example, I worked as a stringer for The News-Gazette in Champaign, IL, and I had a Sunday book review column for over five years. I never dreamed that I would do either one. I wrote about a 90+ year old garage sale volunteer, a reindeer ranch and a baby reindeer who survived only because she was bottle fed by the owners, and a beaver dam that was backing up a creek in a little bitty town–but there was nothing the people could do because the beavers were protected. I wrote a villanelle about the Trail of Tears, and it was published, as well as a funny romance short story for adults that won first place and $250 in a magazine contest.

And my point? I am a much better writer because of these experiences.

Even my personal blogging has changed over the years. When I first started a blog, it was called “Read These Books and Use Them”, and it was only about children’s books. Now, I am writing about being a single parent, practical parenting, self-esteem, writing inspiration, and more on “Look to the Western Sky.”

So…what have you written about that you never thought you would? 

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Learning From Margaret Atwood, Author of The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood (c Jean Malek)

On Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to hear Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale) speak and be interviewed on stage after receiving the St. Louis Literary Award, which recognizes a living writer with a substantial body of work. (If you want to read more about this award, please go here)

The whole experience was very surreal because tickets were sold out to this free event, and St. Louis (as many of you know) was in the middle of another round of violent protests over a police officer found not guilty of 1st degree murder of an African American male. As a matter of fact, three nights before, I was supposed to attend the U2 concert, which was canceled because of the protests.

If you have watched or read The Handmaid’s Tale, you know the themes are  abuse of power, feminism, sexuality, gender roles, religion, individual vs society, misogyny and more. Another huge theme is the rights of the powerful over the rights of the not.  But the funny thing about this experience, and trust me, I am not comparing myself in any way to Offred, is that people who did not request tickets (the not powerful) from SLU early enough received a ticket to sit in the Sheldon ballroom and wait. We started at a stage with a huge screen, which showed two empty chairs and two glasses of water, instead of receiving a ticket to sit in the concert hall (the powerful), where this famous author would be appearing in-person.  The idea was that if you wanted to hear Margaret Atwood, then you would be in the same building as her and view her entire speech and interview, as opposed to the segment of it, which will air on PBS sometime in October. And…if you had a golden ticket into the Sheldon concert hall, where she would be appearing live, you had rules you had to follow, or you were cast out. You had to be in your seat by 6:55pm, or they were giving it away to the hungry, feisty wolves up in the ballroom.

My friend, Lisa, and I arrived before the doors opened and received wait tickets–number 35 and 36. At first, we were told we were not allowed to even go on floor two (where the concert hall and BAR and bookstore were), but we decided to fight the establishment (HA!) and push button two on the elevator (instead of four). Believe it or not, there was no one standing there telling us to go straight to our ticketed ballroom. Yes, the Sheldon let us spend our money at the bar and at the bookstore before ushering us up to wait in the ballroom with the other lovely slackers, who also did not write SLU early enough to get two tickets to the concert hall.

While waiting in line for wine, I had decided there was no way we were getting in. Numbers 35 and 36?  How could there be that many people who didn’t show up for their concert hall seats? Yes, it was unseasonably hot and yes, we were in the middle of protests, but still…So Lisa and I would sit with the other disappointed folks, who decided too late that this wonderful, lovely, funny, humorous, important author would be amazing to hear, even if we were doing so on a big movie screen two floors above where she actually was.

And then the moment of truth came. A man with a wire in his ear and a device in his hand said, “Numbers 1 to 10 line up. You are going in.”

Lisa and I turned to each other–Oh well, we couldn’t have gotten here any earlier anyway. Traffic, work, appointments, heat. . .

And then that wired man went crazy–he started calling all kinds of numbers, including 35 and 36. We shot up from our seats, giggling and excited. We rushed down the back staircase (I am not joking about this–the people from the ballroom to the concert hall took the back staircase), and Lisa and I even found two seats together in the concert hall for the ceremony. I felt elated and lucky and shocked.

Let me tell you, Margaret Atwood did not disappoint. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, do it. I actually think that’s true for just about any author–I realize I am a writer, but I have never been disappointed about hearing any author speak. I always learn something about life and writing.

This post has already gone on long enough, but I’ll tell you that Margaret Atwood’s dedication to her craft, her career, and her life was inspiring. Her humbleness about being at the Emmy’s two nights before was refreshing. And her passion for literature and teaching were something I can only hope to show the world myself soon.

 

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Winners, Andrew McCarthy in St. Louis and Practical Moms Unite Update

Book Giveaway Contest Results

Thank you to everyone who entered the book giveaway contest for Claire Gem’s books. I have 3 winners, whom I am in the process of contacting:

  • Chynna Laird
  • Brenda McCommis
  • Jeanne Felfe

(contest graphic above by Angela Mackintosh from WOW! Women On Writing, a great resource for writers here. )

Andrew McCarthy in St. Louis at the Library

I saw ANDREW MCCARTHY (yes, 80’s heartthrob from Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire) at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters last night, and it was amazing! This is not because he was so charming and I have loved him since the 80’s. But it’s because he was inspiring as an author. Here’s the beginning of my blog post I wrote about him on WOW!: “I Heard Andrew McCarthy Speak at My Local Library” True story. (Doesn’t my blog title sound like one of those titles from a “true story” magazine?) I live in St. Louis, and last night–actor, director, travel writer!, and now YA novelist Andrew McCarthy gave an inspiring talk about being creative. Once I got over the fact that I was in the same room with this man I loved on the silver screen since 1986 as Blaine in Pretty in Pink, who starred in my favorite comedy Weekend at Bernie’s and my favorite guilty pleasure, St. Elmo’s Fire, I listened to what the man had to say, and I was pleasantly surprised.

As writers, we know that we sometimes look at celebrity writers with disdain. It’s true because we know what it takes to slave over a manuscript and try to get an agent and then hope for some kind of book sales if we are lucky enough to get published. Then there’s this celebrity, who already has all the connections, and probably on some whim decided to write a book, and now is living our dream. Writers can be a spiteful bunch. (winks)

But guys, Andrew McCarthy is the real thing! To find out how he is the real thing and the inspiring things he said, go here. 

Practical Moms Unite

I know you are all anxiously waiting for practical mom blog posts, so you can be a practical parent, too. No worries. They are coming–and I am currently working on two of them. If you haven’t signed up to have posts emailed to you when they go up, you should do so RIGHT NOW. 🙂 Look at the sidebar, scroll up just a bit, and fill out the very simple form titled, “Want new blog posts emailed to you?” to make this happen.

 

 

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Unofficial Writing Week Kick Off with Claire Gem Book Giveaway

Hi! This is writing week on my blog. I know I have several people who read my blog who are also writers, so welcome to The Unofficial Writing Week (I’m sure it’s national something week out there–it always is, but I’m choosing to celebrate what I want when I want.) We kick off with Claire Gem and her new book perfect for writers:  The Road to Publication: A Writer’s Navigation Guide (available by clicking here). You can find out more about Claire and her fiction books on her website here.

A brief bit about this book: The multi-faceted, complex, and somewhat mysterious world of the publishing industry can quickly turn into a maze, ensnaring aspiring or new authors within the twisting alleys of its labyrinth. Multi-published, award winning author Claire Gem spent the first five years of her career floundering, wandering through a tangled jungle without a guide. In The Road to Publication, Ms. Gem takes charge and assumes the duty of cartographer—map-maker for the aspiring author. You know your goal, right? You want to publish your book. Ms. Gem provides a comprehensive, entertaining tour of the publishing industry and its many facets. It’s then up to you decide which route you’re willing to take to reach your pot of gold—your published novel at the end of “The Road to Publication.” “This is a great book, and I believe a necessary one…so much more entertaining to read than a straight how -o guide.” Allie Rottman, Editor

I am lucky enough to have an interview with Claire AND then don’t forget to enter on the Rafflecopter form below to win a prize! 

Margo: Welcome, Claire. Thank you for joining us today. When did you discover you were a writer? What was that initial spark that made you type “Chapter One”?

Claire: I’ve always loved to write, particularly essays and research papers. (I was a lone wolf in high school and college, let me tell you!) But I was particularly moved about twelve years ago by an encounter I had with a family of hawks nesting behind our barn in Texas. I actually developed a “relationship” with the rapidly growing baby birds, and (incredibly) they interacted with me. I wrote a creative essay about the experience, and it won a contest and was published in a literary journal in 2005. That was the impetus that made me believe in my ability to write—not only nonfiction, but fiction as well. Shortly afterward I wrote “Chapter One” on my first novel.

Margo: It seems like we all have some defining moment where we realized: We are a writer! Do you write your first draft longhand or on a computer?

Claire: I’m a computer junkie, all the way. My cursive isn’t legible, and it takes too darn long to print my thoughts out on paper. I can’t even type fast enough to get the words out sometimes!

Margo: Ha! I am the same way! How do you feel about marketing? Is it a love or hate relationship?

Claire: I’m actually a rare bird in that department as well! I guess it’s because my daddy was a door-to-door salesman: Marketing is in my blood. I enjoy the marketing aspect almost as much as the writing—which can sometimes be counterproductive, because I tend to “waste time” marketing when I’m having trouble working on a particular manuscript. A valid, though still sometimes counterproductive, excuse.

Margo: Any advice for new writers just starting out?

Claire: Yes! Tons, as a matter of fact, which is why I wrote my first author resource book, The Road to Publication. When I first started out writing, I felt as though I were abandoned in a jungle without a road map. The Road to Publication is just that: a guidebook for the new or aspiring writer who knows what they want—a published book—but has no idea which route to take. It’s the book I wished I could have found when I first started my career as an author.

Margo: That sounds great! I agree–if i could go back. . .btw, what genres do you write?

Claire: A little bit of everything. I started out writing historical magazine articles, and my features have appeared in magazines such as Renaissance, Herb Quarterly, The History Magazine, and The Family Chronicle. After winning the creative writing contest in Whisper in the Woods, I went on to write my memoir, which was published by High Hill Press in 2015. The same year, my debut novel, a supernatural suspense, was released. In 2016, I self-published three novels, the first of which won the New York Book Festival. Two of my short stories (also supernatural in nature) came out in Centum Press’ One Hundred Voices Anthologies, Vol. I and II. I have gravitated toward writing mostly supernatural (ghost) stories, as they have always been my favorite genre to read.

Margo: Claire, thanks again for stopping by and letting us know about your new book and journey. WRITERS! Watch the book trailer about The Road to Publication and then enter to win on the Rafflecopter form below! There are THREE prizes being given away (2 ebooks of any of Claire’s novels–winner can live anywhere in the world.  1 paperback copy of The Road to Publication–winner must live in the United States).

Stop by all week for FUN writing posts in the first Unofficial Writing Week on Margo’s blog. 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Greatest Gift . . . for Writers (Guest Post by Karen Kulinski)

I’ve known Karen many years, through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) , and then I was lucky enough that she submitted her wonderful manuscript, Rescuing Ivy, to me when I was working as an editor for High Hill Press. If you need a book for children ages 9 to 12, Rescuing Ivy is amazing–it’s about two kids who attempt to rescue a circus elephant from near death when she is wrongly accused of killing a man. Here is a guest post from Karen and a little more about her book, along with a link to Amazon, where you can order it. Perfect for kids who love to read or teachers for grades 3 through 6. 

The Greatest Gift . . . for Writers

by

Karen Kulinski

During the holidays, people with writer friends buy them things like books, workshops, maybe even a session with a writing coach.  Fine gifts all, but the best gifts a writer gets, to paraphrase the Grinch, “come without ribbons, packages and tags.”

The best gifts are ideas.

Of course, the above-mentioned books, workshops and writing coaches often help our minds produce these ideas. I know because over the years I’ve been gifted with writing ideas, many involving my new middle-grade novel, Rescuing Ivy. 

While searching for information on cabooses 13 years ago for the railroad museum for which I am curator, I came upon a horrific incident where they hung a circus elephant in a railyard in 1916.  I tried writing about it, but couldn’t. Unbeknownst to me, however, my mind was working on it because five years later, I was gifted with the idea for Ivy, which ends much happier for the elephant.

In the two years I did research for the book, I discovered fascinating information that my mind turned into ideas for the book.  Among them, a couple of plot points, a major human character, and a quirky little chicken named Fayree.

Recently, my mind has been working overtime providing ideas.  In March, I had a book contract canceled the day before I did a school visit.  Needless to say, I was pretty down on writing at that point, but at the end of the first presentation, a student asked what book I was working on now. I wanted to say, “I don’t want to think about writing, let alone try to do some right now.”  Instead, I found myself talking about a ghost book I worked on unsuccessfully for years, and the students got really excited about the story’s premise.  I was asked the same question after the second presentation, and mentioning the ghost book got the same results.

As I drove away from that school, I knew I had to work on that novel again.   A couple of weeks later, I got an idea for a new beginning to the story that made a radical difference in my main character that no one liked before.  My friend and beta read said, “It was like the character had an attitude adjustment.”

This past week — in the midst of all the crazy activities preparing for the holidays — I sat down and wrote a picture book that I’ve been trying to write for two decades.  I had consulted with a writing coach about the book earlier in the month, and told her that I wouldn’t be able to get to revising the story until after Christmas. Obviously, my mind had other ideas.  Really good ideas, it turns out, because my agent loves the book, saying, “It’s terrific.”

So when you’re telling people what you’d like for Christmas or your birthday, be sure to whisper, “Please, mind, I’d love a writing idea or two.”

You never know what will come next!

Bio: Karen Kulinski’s life has been filled with family, trains, and writing. A railroad man’s daughter, she is curator of a railroad museum in Northwest Indiana, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Karen’s passion for trains and love of history flavors many of her books, including her new middle-grade historical novel, RESCUING IVY, from High Hill Press.  The mother of four sons, Karen lives in Griffith, Indiana, with husband, Alan, and two spoiled dogs.

Rescuing Ivy: Readers will quickly turn the pages of this tautly-plotted, heart-grabbing 1916 adventure story, caught up in young Danna’s plight to save her beloved — and innocent — circus elephant, Ivy, from being hung for killing a man. This book forays into a time when hoboes rode the rails, which add to the action as well as the intrigue. An excellent read-aloud, bolstered by pages of vintage circus photos and an extensive “Author Notes”. You can buy it on Amazon here.

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Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir (Review)

Nina Amir, the author of How to Blog a Book, has a new release out titled, Creative Visualization for Writers: An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas and Your Writing Career to Life . In this interactive book, writers will find over 100 exercises designed to get your creative juices flowing, move beyond writer’s block (if you have it), and stretch your mind. In other words, this is a book that gives you permission to be a little eccentric, weird, over the top and encourages you to be more creative than maybe you have ever been in your life. It’s a book we writers have been looking for because we have already read many of the fantastic books about the writing craft–how to construct sentences, when to begin a novel, and what to use instead of adverbs. 🙂

So how is this book set up? There’s a short foreward from Dinty W. Moore, and then an introduction from Nina, where she exclaims, “Become a visionary,” and explains how the brain works, including a diagram of the left and right brain–most of us know that creative people spend a lot of time in the right side of their brain. Nina says that in this book the exercises help you to use both sides of your brain. Basically she’s encouraging you to get out of the limits we all seem to set for ourselves when we say: I can’t or I’m too busy or I’m stuck. What writer doesn’t need something like this book in their lives?

After the intro, she gets into the exercises. You will want to buy a print copy of this workbook, in my opinion, because the pages are full of questions and activities; space is provided for you to write down your answers and ideas. There are even writing-themed coloring pages (I know some of you are going to get this book just because of that!) and affirmation pages, where you can write down how you are a successful author or how you promote your work well. She quotes Muhammad  Ali, who said, ““It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

The exercises are grouped into themes: Self-Exploration, Vision, Goals, Creativity, and Focus. Here are a couple snapshots of them:

nina-page-1 nina-page-2 nina-page-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I read through this book quickly for this review and only did a few of the exercises, I can not wait to start at the very beginning and take my time with every single exercise–it’s one of my New Year’s goals, although I’m beginning it now. My writing life has not been in the forefront for a while, due to all the stuff I’ve written about on this blog, and so I can’t wait to stretch my mind and find my creative self again.

If you want to join me, you can buy the book here.

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