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Showing posts from March, 2017

Deadlines Are Your Friends

Writers Keep on Writing Writers who got their start as journalists, working for newspapers and magazines, are a little different from those who started right off writing books. I know. I'm one of them. My first paid writing gig was a column that I wrote for a suburban newspaper. It's Not All Gravy was a humorous column patterned after the great Erma Bombeck - who was my inspiration when it came to parenting - and it ran for several years. Keep in mind that I wrote this column while raising five kids, the youngest a set of twins age three. So I don't want to hear any of you moms with one baby whining out there. Okay, you can whine, but you also have to write. Every day, if you truly are a writer. While the twins napped, I wrote my column on spiral notebooks - I still have a few of them - then in the evening I typed them up on my trusty Smith Corona, which had replaced my 1942 Royal manual. The next day, I loaded all the kids into the van and delivered the column to

Manual Dexterity, Revisited

Image by Agne Kveselyte Hello, darlings! It seems that the downsizing trend applies to more than houses; our beloved CMOS is also on a reducing kick. You may have heard that the soon-to-be-released Chicago Manual of Style, 17 th Edition, has officially dropped the capitalization of Internet and removed the hyphen from e-mail . “Pshaw,” I hear you cry. “I’ve been doing that for ages!” This, duckies, is one of the beautiful things about the CMOS. Rather than an arbitrary change from the depths of left field, or a hard-nosed “Thou shalt not,” the CMOS takes the evolution of language into account and responds accordingly. Hobble skirts were once the height of fashion for ladies, right up until said ladies discovered that being able to move more than three inches in any direction was rather useful. So it is with language and style. To your devices! Send email via the internet to your heart’s content, secure in the knowledge that you can save a few keystrokes for somet

Writers: Is Your Life Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Illustration by R. Crap Mariner , via Flickr Did you wake up? If yes - Your life could be either. Continue the quiz.       If your answer was no, please let me know how you’re reading this. Who made your breakfast? If the someone was human: NON FICTION. If the someone was a house elf or woodland creature: FICTION.       Note: If your situation is the latter; when was the last time you gave them a pay raise? Just a soupçon of non-fiction in your fictional life. You dragged yourself to the computer and are sitting there now with a large mug of coffee/tea, reading this post because you are procrastinating: NON FICTION.  You danced to your computer and are reading this post before noon because 5,000 words have already flowed onto your keyboard and you’re taking a wee break before you spew out another 5,000 before creating a gourmet meal with organic vegetables from your garden: FICTION. Your pet sits at your feet/on your lap/on your keyboard demanding attention: NON-FICTION. Yo

Headstone Humor

The other night, on a TV news show, Shirley MacLaine was pitching her new movie, The Last Word . Those of you familiar with cable news will recognize on which show she appeared. The premise of the story is a successful older woman hires a young journalist to write her life story, including her obituary. Coincidentally, one of the non-fiction ideas for this month’s column was obituaries. I did a little research and found some funny epitaphs I thought I’d share. For some of us, these are dark days. Humor is essential to keep from crying. So, with no further ado, here are parts of obituaries I thought chuckle-worthy. Thurman was a loving husband and father with a big heart open to everyone. He had a passion for cars, motorcycles, and entertaining family and friends, hunting, fishing, and remodeling. His motto, “Accomplish what you can today because tomorrow ain't promised.” He stayed busy. He leaves to cherish his memories, his wife, children, and grand kids, a host of back stabb

Impolite First Drafts

Photo by Tambako The Jaguar , via Flickr Here’s a writing suggestion that you may find difficult, or you may find fun: don’t be polite. In fact, you don’t even need to be kind. Write what is not politically correct. Write what you really think, but never had the courage to say. You don’t have to read it aloud if you don’t want to. You don’t have to keep it. And you can always edit later. Courtesy and tact are important virtues, but if you invite them to have free reign while you are writing, they can paralyze you. So in your first draft, swear, tell a dirty story, write down the words to the first racist chant you heard. Write what you really thought about your brother’s first girlfriend, or the time your mother forgot to wear her underpants, or where you were when you got your first period. Write a story about your Uncle Henry’s alcoholism, or the year your cousin Jennifer spent in prison, or about how your father cheated on his income taxes. Write about how you are secretly jea

Finding Form: Making Sense out of my Yemeni Journey

It seemed straightfoward enough. Live life. Write life. But the reality has turned out to be very different. First of all, there are the many ways to tell a story. I picture early storytellers sitting around campfires after all the day’s work was done, telling of the bear they saw while gathering berries, the old man they met up by the cave on the hill, the lightning that frightened their babies in the middle of the night. Stories with gestures, actions, and, at some point, words. Next, I would guess, would be poetry. Condensing experiences into words that ebbed and flowed and had meanings beyond the obvious. This would naturally lead to song, ballads of deeds great and small, carried from town to town in the hearts and minds of travelling bards. Writing, of course, came along at some point, and made the lives of storytellers both easier and harder; they could remember and tell stories the same way every time, and share them more widely, yet the written word is so final, so

Cookin' Up a Storm

Have you ever considered writing a cookbook? You've created some super recipes—family favorites that everyone begs you to fix again. Do you think other families would enjoy them, too? By writing a cookbook, you can share them with lots of folks as well as make a few dollars in the process. Is writing a cookbook difficult? Like most projects, it takes time. However, when you already have your recipes, you've completed the most time-consuming part of the process. If you don't yet have them perfected, however, you will need to complete that phase. Be sure to take detailed notes as you work on them so you can share the little tidbits that make your recipes special and delectable. Several years ago, my daughter wrote a cookbook. While it is no longer in print (I'm encouraging her to update it so we re-release it later this year), it was both a major learning experience and a joy to be among the beta tasters of her luscious entrées and desserts. For years, several o

3 Ways Non-Fiction Helps My Creativity

I loved reading Dani Greer’s " Word " yesterday; it spoke to me on many levels. One thing I particularly liked is that she makes us aware of non-fiction writing we might tend to overlook because it might not be seen as the "real writing." As for my "real writing," like Dani, the number of words I’ve written for any fiction project can be counted on one hand. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing, however. And the writing I have been doing has helped to keep my creativity thrumming while I’m on a fiction writing hiatus ("writer’s block" just sounds so harsh). How has non-fiction writing helped my creativity? I connect with people . Last year, I joined CLMOOC , Connected Learning MOOC - a massively open online collaboration. During one of its cycles, I participated in a postcard exchange where we all sent postcards to random people who signed up for the cycle. I received postcards from the US, Canada, and overseas, and the postcard writ


Word counts. Fiction writers worry about them, sometimes incessantly. I know I do. Last week, I obsessed over the few words I'd written since NaNoWriMo . None. Not one more word on any of my novel projects. The question is why? When I got to thinking about it, I haven't had a lot of time to write because I've been... writing. But only non-fiction, and that doesn't count. Wait. What? All our words count for something. I'll bet every one of you have written a lot more than you realize. Here's a list of writing projects I've touched in the past year, starting with the Blood-Red Pencil: Blogging Amazon reviews Facebook posts Emails Twitter tweets Book blurbs Biographies Query letters Dedications Obituaries Author notes Lesson plans Reader guides How-tos Thank you notes  Lately, that writing load has increased to include postcards like this: Letters to the editor Letters to Congress Other rants And... I haven't a

#fridayreads Edward Unspooled by Craig Lancaster

Edward Unspooled Craig Lancaster File Size: 3117 KB Print Length: 286 pages Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited Publisher: Missouri Breaks Press (July 23, 2016) Publication Date: July 23, 2016 Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC Language: English ASIN: B01I2D7HU2 BOOK BLURB:  Change keeps stalking Edward Stanton. He and his new wife, Sheila, have retreated to his small house in Montana after an unsuccessful attempt at operating a motel in Colorado. That failure has left wounds, especially for Sheila, and now they face a bigger challenge: pregnancy and impending parenthood. Edward begins penning notes to the child (ever precise, he refers to the gestating being as “Cellular Stanton”) as he navigates married life with Sheila, who is unhappy and unfulfilled in Montana; a work partnership with his friend Scott Shamwell, whose own life is teetering; and the emergence of a long-buried family secret and the effect of this revelation on his relationship with his overbearing m