Crying in Restaurants

Crying in Restaurants by Suzanne M. Brazil
Crying in Restaurants by Suzanne M. Brazil

Flickr: loungerie / Via Creative Commons

This is going to be my thing: sharing work that’s been previously rejected.

The following is a true story. The idea for the piece came from a writing exercise while on a writing retreat at Ragdale, an artist community on Chicago’s North Shore. Oh, and the title is courtesy of Dani Shapiro.

I submitted it twice and received two rejections: one with a personal note that they’d just published something similar; one with some suggestions for changes.

Writing is revision, and I’m arm-pit deep in revising my novel. So I’m not suggesting that we all run out and post our crappy stuff that couldn’t hack it elsewhere.

But I loved this piece. I loved that it happened. I loved writing it. I cried writing it. I’m glad it’s out of me, and I don’t want to work on it any more. I want to share it for whatever it’s worth.

The writing of it was the point. Not the publishing of it. Sometimes that’s enough.

 

Crying in Restaurants by Suzanne M. Brazil

My newly formed writing practice is fueled by a medium iced tea and a shortbread cookie at the local Panera coffee shop. In these two hours carved out of a busy weekend, I aim to add 500 words to the first draft of my novel, and I vow to stay off the Internet. But first, I reinforce my commitment with writing tips and encouragement from my favorite authors.

still writing

I begin with a chapter from Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro. In its pages, I see shades of myself in a description of her mother, a frustrated, middle-aged woman, clickety clacking away furiously on a typewriter.

My eyes fill with tears and my stuffy nose blocks the yeasty aroma of the café’s freshly baked bread. These hours with my laptop in the corner booth are my attempt to finally pursue a passion long denied. I’ve written my whole life but never allowed myself to believe I was a real writer.

I’ve written my whole life but never allowed myself to believe I was a real writer

Maybe the catalyst was an emptying nest, age spots on my hands, or preparing to celebrate my own mother’s 70th birthday. Whatever the cause, a few months ago, I realized I had to give writing everything I had, or regret it for the rest of my life.

Still Writing was a reward for meeting my word count goals. It joins Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and other sources of inspiration on my shelves.

For years, instead of writing, I’ve collected lives of real writers; living vicariously through Natalie Goldberg, Brenda Ueland, William Zinsser and many others.

For years, instead of writing, I’ve collected lives of real writers

Long ago, after reading Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, I filled countless yellow pads with morning pages. There were flashes of stories in those pages I didn’t yet have the skill or courage to tell.

Back then, I marveled at King’s brazen recounting of his rejection slip collection. What nerve to believe he had something to say, and how fortunate for his “dear readers” that he never gave up.

I’m part of the tribe because I write

In a later chapter of Still Writing, Shapiro recalls sending an early manuscript to author Tim O’Brien, one of her literary heroes. His unexpected and encouraging endorsement symbolically welcomed her into the tribe of writers.

A chill passes over me. Maybe it’s the air conditioning on this hot summer afternoon, or maybe it’s that this morning my son handed me a copy of his favorite reading assignment for the semester: O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

I close Dani Shapiro’s book and open my slim silver computer, prepared to add pages to my rough draft knowing I’m part of the tribe because I write. I allow myself one foray into social media to message the author who inspired my writing session today.

I click on Shapiro’s Facebook page not knowing who manages her account or if she’ll see it. I thank her for Still Writing and confess that reading her words and pursuing my passion has unleashed a flash flood of tears in this very public place.

Hours later, my laptop timer and the condensation on my watery iced tea signal it’s time to head home and make dinner. I’m satisfied with 873 words added to my manuscript. Before packing up, I check Facebook and see the message waiting icon. It’s from Dani Shapiro.

I wipe away new tears and take a screen shot of her generous, encouraging comments. As to my crying in the coffee shop, she empathizes and says she once thought of writing a book based on similar experiences. She’d call it Crying in Restaurants.

Dani Shapiro Facebook Message

 

 

 

6 Thoughts on “Crying in Restaurants

  1. Barbara Armstrong on April 5, 2016 at 7:51 am said:

    This will be copied and added to my files from my WRITER daughter and when she has her novel published, I will show it to her and we will probably be in a restaurant and we will both be crying!!!!!

  2. This is a great piece, Suzanne! I love those seemingly random synchronicities that give you chills. They’re kind of like trail markers, letting you know you’re on the right path. …I’d say you’re not only part of the writing tribe, you’re part of that tribe of encouraging and inspiring writers who welcome others into the fold. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  3. Daisy Wawrzonek on April 6, 2016 at 12:06 pm said:

    What a wonderful story!! Thank you for sharing.

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If You Want to Write, Ignore this Advice

metal and wood chair
Worst Advice Given to New Writers by Suzanne M. Brazil

Image used courtesy of www.bilerico.com

What is the most common advice professional writers give to those just starting out? If you want to write, you must read lots of books. Sometimes it’s the only piece of advice given. Usually, there’s no expanding on why or how or what. In interviews on podcasts or in magazines, they repeat it over and over:  If you want to write, you must read. As Nike says, “Just do it.”

I think everyone should read all the time, constantly, every day, whenever they can. But, I find this advice given to new writers to be almost totally useless and enormously frustrating. Over the years, I kept wondering how this metamorphosis was going to happen? Magic? Osmosis? I’ve been reading and writing for most of my life.

I’ve read many classics, hundreds if not thousands of novels, literary criticism, etc. In addition, I’ve been reading books about writers for at least the last 20 years. Natalie Goldberg? Check. Brenda Ueland? Check. William Zinsser? Check. Anne Lamott? Check. Stephen King? Check. You get the idea.

In dedicating my energies and passions to becoming a professional writer comparatively late in life, here is what I’ve learned:

Reading does not teach you to be a writer any more than sitting in a chair teaches you to be a carpenter.

The more chairs you sit in, the more you know what you like, which species of wood visually appeals to you, the curve of the seat or angle of the back you find most comfortable. You may even come to recognize various styles of famous furniture makers and the historical periods in which they worked.

But none of this makes it possible for you to physically build your own chair.

Rocking chair

Despite all the novels I’ve read (famous, critically acclaimed, accessible and obscure), it took completing my own first draft for me to realize I knew nothing about writing a book.

A novel is a specific thing with infinite variations. All of my English and American Lit classes taught me how to find symbolism and recognize a theme but they did not teach me how to build a scene, reveal character, build tension or weave in backstory.

A writer needs tools and the knowledge to use them which is why writing is often compared to craftsmanship.

To build a functional, aesthetically pleasing chair you need to learn how a chair is constructed. You need to know the materials and tools required and you need instruction and practice in using the tools. Is this wood strong enough? Should this be joined with pegs, biscuits or glue? What saw blade works best?

Now, after you’ve got the basics down and haven’t chopped off any fingers, you can loosen up. You can improvise, play with shapes and materials and ask what happens if you try this instead of that.

creative-flower-shaped-design-for-children-chairs-decoration

I’ve learned it’s the same for writing a book (story, article, essay). You need to take them apart and watch someone putting them together. You need classes in construction, or a manual on story structure. You need to know what parts make up the whole. And not just one class or one practice session.

The truly great writers aren’t purposely leading us astray when they simply tell us to read more. They’re just not expounding on what they mean by “read a lot of books.” And I really wish they would.

You have to read to know your market or genre to know what has become trite or cliché. Most importantly, you have to read to find out what you enjoy, what books you’d love to write. You should also learn to read like a writer at times, looking for how favorite novelists pulled off a certain point of view or climax.

metal and wood chair

Reading is a different skill. Reading is a joy. Reading is entertainment. And, yes, reading can teach. Reading will enrich your vocabulary and, as you learn more craft, will expose an endless array of possibilities in your own work.

If you want to write, you must apprentice yourself to the craft of writing. Sitting in a lot of chairs never made anyone a carpenter and reading a lot of books never made anyone a writer.

Click on any of the above authors for some of my favorite books on writing.

12 Thoughts on “If You Want to Write, Ignore this Advice

  1. I fully agree, Suzanne! Like carpentry (of which I have some knowledge – my hubby is one!) the only REAL way to learn and perfect your craft, is simply this: Just DO it! Making many a mistake/losing literary fingers along the way! 😉

    Thanks for a thought inspiring and well argued post!

    Hugs from the little Swiss Hedgehog x

  2. barb armstrong on June 16, 2015 at 3:36 pm said:

    I just will say there is nothing more powerful than the written word!!!!

  3. I was of two minds when I first read it, and am still of two minds, a day later. What’s fun is that you wrote this after I asked my question about recommended books On Writing. Thank you!

    I think you CAN write without reading, but who’s to say if anybody will read it or, having read it, like it? Readings helps a writer determine what they like and don’t like–what styles are attractive, what genre makes their heart beat faster or stops it altogether, what topic or destination they can’t get enough of. Reading keeps a reader striving for perfection; to create something as wonderful or better than their favorite stories.

    Tools help and have their place, and I’m sure 95% of us learn how to make our writing even better when given the proper tools, but I won’t rule out the ability or possibility of a chair builder who comes along and make something wholly beautiful and potentially useful simply by studying other chairs and figuring it all out on his/her own.

    • Well said and I am absolutely sure you are right…there’s always a savant out there making the rest of us feel less special 🙂 My experience has been that I could not, nor would not, want to be a writer if I were not first a lover of books and stories. But all my love did not help me to know that novels were made up of scenes! I still can’t believe that. It’s like discovering water is wet. My post was indeed in response to your question and several recommendations to “read good fiction.” I believe it is crucial to read good fiction if you want to write good fiction. But telling a new writer that without adding the why or the how is like telling a new driver “step on the gas”…OK, and then??? But yes, there’s a 24-year-old (or 90-year-old?) debut novelist out there who did it by feel, by heart and just by reading…oh how I wish that were me! Thanks for the very thoughtful comment and great points! Nothing better than talking books and writing!

  4. Chrstine Kelly on June 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm said:

    Great motivator Suzanne, thank you. And being a visual person I have to tell you that I loved the images you chose. They really spoke to me along with your true and thoughtful words

  5. Love the carpenter metaphor 🙂

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How to Find a Writing Community

Finding a Writing Group
Finding a Writing Group

By Leesa from southtown, usa  Wikimedia Commons

You’re getting serious about this writing thing and you need to bounce ideas off someone. Your family’s eyes glaze over when you ask for their opinions on your new opening paragraph and your friends don’t understand why choosing a name for your main character is such a big deal. You need new people. Writing people. But how do you find them?

This was me last year. I was on the outside looking in and didn’t quite know where to start. I spent hours on various internet searches trying to find like-minded people. I’d like to save you some time.

While some websites like www.Meetup.com offer possibilities, the most promising options come from other social connections. In other words…it helps if you “know a guy.”

Hints for finding your community…

Take a class – Ask the students and teacher for recommendations and introductions. You chose the same class and have at least that in common. The teacher has some level of expertise which promises a wider circle of contacts. A good teacher will know the importance of a community and will want good word of mouth about the class. She will want to help.

Haven Writing Retreat

Photo by Author and Haven Host Laura Munson

Go to conferences/retreats – This works much like a class but in a more concentrated and often more intense environment. You can’t be a hermit though. Take down email addresses and cell phone numbers and reach out after you return home. Before I submitted my essay to Chicken Soup for the Soul, a fellow writer I met at a retreat ‘read it and offered invaluable feedback.

Hire a coach/mentor – Most offer a free consultation. A coach can be a sounding board for your writing goals, story ideas, or even help you conquer self-doubt.

All of the above require an investment of both time and money. If writing is your passion, you’re worth it.

Low-cost and free options also exist.

If coaching or classes are out of your financial reach, consider your local library. Many offer free monthly writing groups. These may have members at all different levels of skill or commitment. I found my first paid writing gig through the leader of my local library’s writing group.

Tell everyone you know that you’re a writer. Your friends and relatives have circles of people in all walks of life. Writers are a helpful bunch. A dear college friend introduced me to her cousin, a journalist. We met for coffee and she ended up passing on my name to her editor. A few months later, I was hired to do a freelance piece for their paper.

Social media is free and full of writers. It can be a huge time-suck so beware. If you’re disciplined and enjoy Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – search their writing groups. Most have writers at all levels (both traditionally and self-published) who are happy to answer questions, suggest critique websites, or just boost your spirits on a tough writing day.

Websites like www.Scribophile.com and Women Writers, Women’s Books offer  active communities with opportunities to share work or even contribute content.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Writing can be lonely – but it doesn’t have to be. Finding a writing group or community requires that you take risks. The rewards are incisive feedback, links to opportunities, and old-fashioned friendship. Where did you find your people? If you have some hints or shortcuts not mentioned here, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

4 Thoughts on “How to Find a Writing Community

  1. Great post. Yes, we writers need writers. I don’t think there are any shortcuts as what we need is to build trusting relationships where we feel safe to share our work and receive constructive criticism. Trust takes time to build.

    • Thanks so much for reading. Couldn’t agree more about your point on trusting. Writing makes us vulnerable and we need to feel that it’s a good fit before we can share.

  2. I love Women Writers, Women’s Books! I have been keeping in touch with this group, led by the fabulous Barbara Bos, on Facebook. What a fun group of amazing women who happen to be writers. They help me feel less alone as I am busy writing away. Thank you for posting this. I did attend a writing critique group for a while at a local library and I loved it, I’m just so busy writing that I haven’t gone back yet. I’m also fortunate to get lots of support from others in my writing adventure. Happy writing, everyone!

    • Barbara has been an inspiration! The main website is full of inspirational and informative pieces designed to help every level of writer. Like you, I love the support on the Facebook page. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Much appreciated – Best of luck with your writing!

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview

Fia Essen

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

 

Have you been enjoying the tour? Feel free to pass on the links you find here to other readers or writers in your circle. These authors have a range of accomplishments along with insight and tips for writers of any genre!  Welcome and let’s meet Fia!

Fia Essen

Fia Essen – that’s me. I grew up on the move, and then I kept going. I still haven’t really settled down anywhere. I’m not ready to say I’ve settled. You could say I got lost in transition. But I’ve found some great people and places on my journey to… well, destination unknown. And my journey through life is what gives me ideas for the stories I write.  Fia Essen

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

I wrote a short story when I was nine years old. I had just started a new school in Dubai and I was still learning English. Predictably, the story was about the adventures of a girl from Sweden who had just moved to “The Desert of Arabia”.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

The best thing about being a writer is being my own boss. It’s also the worst thing about being a writer. It’s not a “regular” 9-5 job, and I don’t get a regular paycheck. Nonetheless, I’m serious about my writing. Writing is my job and I give it my all.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I can’t say I believe in writer’s block. Having said this, I can only speak from my own experience. As I mentioned above, writing is my job. I sit down and I do the work. Every day! I don’t expect inspiration to hit me out of the blue. I’m not that kind of writer. I don’t get struck by sudden flashes of brilliance. I work hard to create a story that I hope someone will ultimately enjoy reading.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

At the moment, I’m working on a novel called Ariel, which is about a woman who has lost control of her life and finds herself stuck in a rut. Currently, Ariel is being looked over by an editor. Personally, I think the editing process is one of the most challenging aspects of writing. It requires patience and an open mind. The thing to remember is that both you and your editor want the same thing – for your story to be the best it can be.

What supports you in your writing?

It’s not a what. It’s a who. Her name is Sanna, and she’s my mum.

What are you currently reading?

Blogs. I’ve recently started blogging myself and I’m having a wonderful time reading what other bloggers are writing. If you’re a writer or interested in writing, there are plenty of both established and aspiring writers that share tips and useful information on their blogs. Much appreciated!

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

You can find my 100 Word Blog at https://essenfia.wordpress.com/ . As soon as Ariel is released, I’ll write an overjoyed post about it. Meanwhile, I’d love it if you drop by and take a gander at my daily posts.

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Interview Author Kara Jorgensen

Kara Jorgensen

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Friday’s stop on the tour is with Kara Jorgensen:

Kara Jorgensen

Kara Jorgensen is an author and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. An anachronistic oddball from birth, she has always had an obsession with the Victorian era, especially the 1890s. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of Kara Jorgensen literature and science through science fiction or, more specifically, steampunk. When she is not writing, she is watching period dramas, going to museums, or babying her beloved dogs.  She is a proud indie author, who has one novel published, The Earl of Brass, and one forthcoming entitled The Winter Garden.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

The earliest story I can remember writing was a sort of Sherlock Holmes fanfiction when I was ten or eleven.  My grandma had given me a YA Sherlock Holmes story by a modern author, and I fell in love. I dove into Conan Doyle’s short stories and began to write my own, but with the addition of a love interest, much more adventure and drama, and probably a bit less crime.  I think this sparked my love of historical fiction and is why I write historical fantasies set in the Victorian era.  As I grew up, I moved stayed in fantasy, traversing time and countries, before finally settling on the 1890s when I began writing The Earl of Brass.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

My favorite aspect of being a writer is being able to create worlds and characters my readers look forward to and love.  I love to write, but it is much more rewarding when readers ask when the next book is coming out or what happened to so-and-so.  My least favorite aspect is marketing. It’s hard work and not always the most rewarding part of writing.  I have a hard time figuring out how to creatively market my books and not become one of those people who spams their “buy my book” ads on social media.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I’m unsure where I stand with writer’s block.  There are some days when I am severely stressed and know there is no way I am in the right frame of mind to work, but the block is usually within our control.  If you have things that are stressing you out, try to take care of them.  Walk the dog, clean the dishes, do your homework, do whatever you need to in order to settle down and get back to writing. If there doesn’t seem to be anything externally bothering you, then, it may help to do some pre-writing.  Try outlining the scene or jotting down the points that you need to cover.  If there is a scene that will come later and is knocking at your brain, write that and then go back to the one you are stuck on.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

At the moment, I am finishing up the writing and editing of my second book, The Winter Garden.  I’m stuck on the final battle. Choreographing the really important scenes sometimes gives me performance anxiety, especially if the scene is not clear in my mind.  At this point, I think I need to write out an outline and work on that before I can actually write the scene.  What I’m struggling with specifically is keeping track of everyone in the room and the cause and effect of each decision.  Note to self, have a “final battle” with less participants next time.

What supports you in your writing?

Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.  Actually, my boyfriend and best friend are very supportive of my work.  When I have a scene I am stuck on, I can always come to them and pick their brains.  Neither of them has ever told me to give it up or pick a more lucrative career.  It also helps that I am working toward an MFA in creative writing.  Many of friends are writers or poets, and my professors want nothing more than for us to succeed.  Surrounding yourself with a network of authors and poets definitely makes me feel more secure.

What are you currently reading?

Currently, I am reading two books, which is very odd for me as I am typically a monogamous reader.  I am nearing the end of The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman.  I honestly am not enjoying it, but because I bought the His Dark Materials trilogy as a box set, I’m finishing it anyway.  I’m also reading Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk.  In the past, I have really enjoyed her Whybourne and Griffin series, and from what I have read of Restless Spirits, I think I have a new series to enjoy.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

http://karajorgensen.com

http://amzn.com/B00L4CWBVE

The Earl of Brass

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Day 2, Kate M. Colby

Kate M. Colby

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

DAY 2 – Introducing the other Kate!Kate M. Colby

 

Kate M. Colby

I am a writer of multi-genre fiction (because I could never limit myself to one genre) and creative nonfiction, as well as a writing craft blogger. My most reputable writing street cred comes from my recent college days. I graduated summa cum laude from Baker University in May 2014 with my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology. While at Baker, I was a member of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, and my creative nonfiction essay, “It Began with a Car,” placed third nationally at the 2014 Sigma Tau Delta Convention. I am also a three time recipient of the Moorman Prize in Prose from Watershed, Baker’s literary magazine, where my creative nonfiction and poetry have been published.

After agonizing about whether or not to pursue my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for months, I have finally decided I would rather pursue author entrepreneurship and independently publish without further schooling. I plan to publish my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, which I wrote over NaNoWriMo 2014, this fall.

When I am not writing, I enjoy devouring fiction, playing video games, and doting on my feline son, Thomas. I am happily married to Daniel N. Gullotta, a budding Early Christian historian, and spend my days with him in lovely Kansas, USA.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

The first story I remember writing emerged from “free-writing” time in the second grade. I was about seven years old, and we had just finished learning about the United States Civil War and slavery. My story was a picture book about a young girl who escaped from a plantation and followed the big dipper to freedom in the North.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

My favorite aspect of being a writer is the creative freedom. When I sit down to write, I can create anything I choose. Maybe I’m a bit egotistical, but I really love “playing God” with my characters and seeing what they do in impossible circumstances. I love naming them, too.

My least favorite part of being a writer is that, until you are published and no longer need a “real” job, people do not take your ambitions seriously. Even if they do support you, you are still likely to hear phrases like “writing can always be a hobby” or “but what will you really do to make money.”

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I do not believe in writer’s block. For a long time, I did. However, upon reflection, I truly think that writer’s block was merely an excuse I used to justify why I wasn’t writing. When I finally got my life in order, dedicated myself to writing, and actually wrote a novel, I never once experienced writer’s block. I don’t think your creativity can ever be “blocked,” but I do think other aspects of your life can distract you and keep you from reaching your creative potential.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

Currently, I am editing the first draft of The Cogsmith’s Daughter. The most challenging part of this is being patient. Editing is quite tedious, and I am anxious to start writing my next manuscript. My next book is tentatively entitled Desert Child, and it is another dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel.

What supports you in your writing?

As far as “what” supports my writing, I suppose the best answer is Scrivener, my day job, and my unswerving dedication to reaching my goal of being a full-time author entrepreneur. Who, on the other hand, supports me is my amazing husband, parents, and writer friends.

What are you currently reading?

I’m in the middle of a few books, but my current favorite is The Earl of Brass (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #1) by Kara Jorgensen (whose interview you will see Friday!).

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

You can find me and links to all my social media on my blog: http://katemcolby.wordpress.com

As of yet, I don’t have any books on the market. But you can keep up-to-date on my publishing progress here: http://katemcolby.wordpress.com/books

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Favorite Writing Resources, Books and Websites in 2014

#amwriting

If your New Year Resolution was to get serious about your writing, then you’ve come to the right place! Last year I dug myself out of a frustrated pit of wanna-be-writing into the Land of Writers That Write. But I didn’t do it without help. Below is a list of the tools I found most inspiring, informative or at least entertaining. After all, writing can be a lonely endeavor and we all need to laugh more.

Disclaimer: These are the tools that helped me. I make no claims to their magical powers for muggles. I’ve received no compensation for mentioning them, nor do they necessarily want to lay claim to my transformation.

Books (new to me)

I’m endlessly fascinated by the lives of working writers. Invariably, I find out that they’re human beings that sit down and type or scribble on paper. That’s the one thing they all have in common. Yet, we all have different tastes and some offer savory quotes on creativity while others offer sturdy bites of craft. Some aren’t about writing specifically but shed light on the human condition–and my desire to suck more out of life–in a way that resonated with me.

 

book stack

Books (revisited)

These are comfort books. Reminders to be brave and work hard for what we want.

Websites, Blogs and Podcasts

There you are, alone in your kitchen wondering how they do it? How do you find the secret door to the writers’ world? Google of course! The sites listed below are the ones I returned to time and again for the how-to stuff and the why-should-we stuff. They are the ones I visit during my lunch hour at the day job when the inner critic tells me I’m not a “real” writer.

  • Funds for Writers by C. Hope Clark – Excellent insights on craft and professionalism along with listings for paying markets, contests and submission calls.
  • Writers On Writing with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett – A weekly podcast with one or two interviews with authors on the craft and business of writing. Archives include past interviews for replay or download.
  • Helping Writers Become Authors by K.M. Weiland – Podcast with several years of archived episodes on specific elements of craft. Short and to the point.
  • Women Writers, Women’s Books – A mixture of craft, inspiration and business advice. This group also has a thriving social media presence and welcomes newcomers.
  • Writing Prompts That Don’t Suck – Really, they don’t. Wrote one of my favorite things based on a prompt featuring appetizers, Jesus and a unicorn.
  • Your Writer Platform – No, you don’t need a platform if you’re just starting out. But building a website and connecting online has provided writing opportunities that wouldn’t have been available to me otherwise. It’s also a nice place to call home.
  • The Write Life
  • Ellen Brock on YouTube – short videos on craft
  • Writers on Writing by Knopfdoubleday.com on YouTube

Doing of the thing quote

Organizations 

Social Media

Facebook – Established a professional page and connected with various writers groups. Two of my favorites require approval to join:

Women Writers, Women’s Books – Page of the website mentioned above.

Calls for Submissions – New posts everyday on established and emerging publications accepting work from all genres.

Twitter – My favorite for writers. Some hashtags to follow are #Amwriting, #Amreading, #FridayReads.

Google+ – I’m on it but it isn’t my favorite.

LinkedIn – Changed my profession to “Writer” and made it official!

Add subtitle text (1)

The Bottom Line

Reading about and tweeting other writers will not make you a writer. But these resources answered questions, taught me things and gave me outlets for my work. My hope is that sharing them with you might help you connect with a community of creative people that support your determination to write.

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you think about these or other resources you’ve come across. And treat yourself to a subscription of either Writer’s Digest or Poets & Writers magazines, or both!

 

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To All the Doubters, Disbelievers, and Fraidy-Cats: An Open Letter

cinderella getting dressed

Dear Undecided:

I can tell you you’re a writer, and your bff, mother, or creative writing teacher can tell you you’re a writer. But that doesn’t count for anything. That uncertainty about whether or not writing is the thing or your thing, whether or not you’re really “called” to do it, “driven” to do it, etc., is all the inner gremlin.  It just is. It’s the voice of doubt and fear masquerading as a logical, practical mind-friend helping you not to waste time.

For example: If writing were your thing, you’d wake up with fully formed stories in your brain and bluebirds would remove your nightdress and usher you into your writing sweater. The friendly cat would rub your ankles and nudge you to your gold-plated writing chair where with ink and parchment or blood and rice paper, you would let flow all the fully formed, writerly thoughts that would bring instant fame and gratification.

cinderella getting dressed

Or, if you really had a passion, surely you wouldn’t hem and haw or see and saw or procrastinate or start and stop or leave things unfinished.  Surely, if writing were what you were called to do, you wouldn’t go months and days and weeks and hours without writing and you wouldn’t feel like you had to push yourself or make yourself do it. If you loved it, you would be doing it.

That is all self-doubt, commonly known as the inner critic. By now, your mid-40’s, or your mid-20’s or late 70’s, you know you have a way with words. You’ve impressed enough customers, friends, relatives, etc., by your ability to craft a well-turned phrase or disarm someone with wit. Not knowing if it’s your thing is really just fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that you won’t be good enough. Fear that you’re not far enough along.

Meow

 You have much to say. You have a unique way of saying it. All of your characters will be you at least a little, at least at the beginning. You are protecting your squishy milk-chocolate center with a hard candy coating of “I’m not sure I should be writing.” But you have something to say or you wouldn’t be reading this.

Or, you’ve already written many things but not submitted. Or submitted but haven’t been published. Or published but not by a “real” publisher. Is this you? Moving the measuring stick as soon as you reach it? Or maybe not finishing things. Filing them away in the drawer or on a bad day, in the trash.

It isn’t perfect. It can stand a good edit. It is emotional, evocative, descriptive, intriguing, surprising. Don’t be a chicken. It’s time to do some writing every day or five days a week or one weekend every month or whatever works in your life.

#BAWKBAWK

Most “real” writers aren’t all called to write. They make themselves write. If I’ve read anything consistent in all the different methods of world-famous writers that is it. They force themselves to go to the desk, cafe, kitchen table, etc. No bluebirds drop a quill in their itchy palms then dart out of the way of their brilliance. They commit to skipping The Good Wife until they hit the 750 word mark. They cancel lunch with their friends and keep the bottle of wine chilled until they end that chapter.

OK – I realize now I’m ranting….but I had to call you out on the “not sure” thing. You say it comes and goes. Hmmm – is it possible that it comes when you’re actually writing and goes when you’re actually not? If so, you’re not alone.

 

epiph·a·ny noun -i-ˈpi-fə-nē-

I found that I had all this longing surrounding writing. I wanted to know that I had talent or that I could write or that it was just a pipe dream. So I started keeping a mental accounting of when I felt least fraudulent or most like a writer….and I had an epiphany.

I felt most like a writer not when I saw my name in a magazine, not when my uber-talented sister told me I was brilliant and not when I got a laugh sharing a piece in a workshop.  I felt most like a writer during the act of writing. If I was sitting at my laptop typing or with a notebook and a pen and words were coming out of my fingers – I felt like a writer.

SECRET TO WRITING

Now it’s much less dangerous and we’re less vulnerable when we’re thinking about writing or talking about writing or any of the activities that aren’t really writing. To quote Amy Poehler “The talking about the thing isn’t the thing.The doing of the thing is the thing.”

Don’t wonder or wait for any kind of confirmation that it is your passion. Just do it passionately and you will have your answer. From the outside looking in, I know you haven’t been able to live without it for very long. If that’s not the definition of a calling I don’t know what is.

Thanks for listening. Now go write something. Start here…send me a note.

 

 

3 Thoughts on “To All the Doubters, Disbelievers, and Fraidy-Cats: An Open Letter

  1. Pingback: If You’re Doing This, Knock it Off! | Suzanne M. Brazil

  2. Suzanne – You continue to impress me with your words! I’d say this idea could be applied to a lot more than just writing! Keep up the good work.

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An Invitation: 2015 Writing Goals and 2014 Results

are-you-scared-of-heights-resizecrop--

 

Why Do You Write or What Will Get You Writing in 2015?

Do you aim to inspire, motivate, entertain or release your creativity? Is there a story you’ve been longing to tell? Last year, I finally got off my ass and committed myself to living a writing life. After 40-plus years of stops and starts, all it took was a powerful concoction of Envy, Jealousy, Fear and Regret.

writing

 ENVY

It’s a cold March morning in 2014 and I’m due at a stupid new job with unfriendly, pinched-face women I detest. I put off getting up long enough to check Facebook and read my younger sister’s announcement. She has started a blog.

Without talking to me. Without getting my advice. This woman – who has supposedly looked up to me her whole life as the writer in the family – followed instructions in a book, bought a domain name and started a blog. I am turning 49 in less than six months and she has beaten me to it.

poison-envy-POSTER-SM

 

JEALOUSY

And it’s freakin’ hilarious. It evokes emotion and sets a scene and makes me laugh and I want it to be me. Sure, I’ve been dabbling longer but she committed.  She has a website and everything! She will be famous before me and everyone will now say that she’s the writer. Everyone knows there’s only room for one writer per family. I will lose my special identity and this upsets me despite my realization that I’m usually talking or thinking about writing instead of doing it.

FEAR

There is jealousy but also fear. I’m afraid of losing my special writer status. I’m afraid of averageness. I’m afraid of dying without testing myself, realizing my potential, finding my passion. My stated purpose in life was always to create a loving family which I’ve done. But secretly, I know there’s an individual component I’ve neglected. I know I could do more, do better and I’m afraid it might be too late.

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REGRET

Despite the powerful if unattractive emotions of Envy, Jealousy, and Fear, the strongest is Regret.

A story comes to mind about a man who dies and goes to Heaven. In this Heaven, everyone gets the room best suited for them. His is a library lined floor to ceiling with wood shelves brimming with books. He will spend eternity with those things he treasures most. He selects a volume and cracks it open to find its pages empty. He sets it aside and chooses another and then another. All of them filled with blank pages. He asks his angel guide why this is happening to him. The guide explains that these are the books he was supposed to have written.

I am momentarily paralyzed by regret for the time I’ve wasted without writing anything more than the family Christmas letter. I feel dread and urgency to take action, to create motion.

regrets

 

RESULTS

By 10:30 this March morning, I will quit my job with my husband’s blessing. Within a week I will be writing at least five days a week and will sign up for the first of many workshops. I will start a new job that allows me to squeeze in writing during down time. Within three months, I will start a story via email that I will turn into the first completed draft of my first novel. I will sign up for a writing retreat, treat myself to weekly meetings with a writing coach, and I will seek out an editorial evaluation of my manuscript.

By year’s end, I will commit to rewriting the novel, I will publish numerous book reviews and author interviews and two flash fiction stories. I will submit several pieces and perform one live on stage. I will have business cards and a website and join Twitter.

diver

 THIS NEW YEAR

And on January 1, 2015, I will be lounging around in my pajamas with my husband trying not to watch Denzel Washington’s latest film (love him, hate all the blood). I will check my email and see that a writer in Canada has mentioned me in a post on her website. She will mention me by name saying that an essay I wrote spurred her to set her writing intentions for this year.

I will pause the movie and try to tell my husband why I’m crying about this. He will chuckle at my tears and somehow understand what I can’t say out loud at that moment. In many ways 2014 has been a challenging year for me and my family but in this one thing, in my pursuit of this thing, I am figuring stuff out. And one person, in a country I’ve never visited, is reacting to something I’ve written. I’m laughing and crying…it’s like a magic trick.

fear4

 

INTENTION

In 2015, I will write in comradery with my sister and with the support of a network of biased relatives and friends. I invite you to join me.

I will write with boundless gratitude for lessons I’m learning and the professional writers sharing their experience. I invite you to join me.

I will write with pride in my own efforts to improve and an urgency tinged with joy and excitement instead of fear and regret. Yep, you’re invited to join me in this too.

My writing intention for this year is really a warning: Watch out 2015 – I’m coming for you and I’m going to kick your ass!

 

 

 

2 Thoughts on “An Invitation: 2015 Writing Goals and 2014 Results

  1. Betsy Gibson on May 21, 2015 at 9:56 pm said:

    Fabulous!!!!!! Good for you. Now I have to do the same thing….you have inspired me! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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After the First Draft or I Wrote a Book, Now What? The Editor’s Assessment

edit all the words

So did the editor like my novel? I promised to give you an update and share some information on selecting an editor. What follows is a breakdown of the assessment I received along with my Top 10 Tips for a Manuscript Assessment.
Book Cover

There are plenty of websites out there telling you how to select an editor and that will describe the different types of editing. If you’re a beginning writer, know that you can you can Google this just as easily as you can Google the most popular Christmas song of all time. Silent Night, by the way, is more than twice as popular as the #2 song.

I selected Warner Coaching, Inc. and Editor Brooke Warner to review my manuscript based on a referral from a published author I met in a writing class. During our email exchange, I got a feel for how prompt she was; how open to questions (I’m new, remember?!); what the report would look like; and how payment would be handled.  I paid about 40 percent when I sent the manuscript and the balance after I received the evaluation. The process took about three weeks from the time I emailed my manuscript.

What follows is a little bit like showing you my underwear

Brooke’s assessment started with an overview and then flowed into specifics. She was direct but encouraging and most of all, she was professional. Sections in italics are excerpted directly from the assessment.

edit all the words

 www.memegen.com

Overview

Tell Me What You Want is a solid effort at crafting a broadly appealing, suspenseful page-turner. At this stage, additional developmental editing will help you to ensure that the book is more streamlined and nuanced and that the characters who shepherd your readers through these pages are as distinctive as possible.

Key Themes/Reader Takeaways

Some of the valuable lessons that you share in the manuscript include the following-

I won’t give away all my secrets here. This section was 7 bullet points detailing what the editor thought my story was about. Good news – she got my messages.

Structure/Plot Flow

The book is structured ambitiously, as it alternates between different points of view, but very consistently. It is easy to follow and proceeds chronologically.

Details in this section included some recommendations regarding a main character and eliminating one POV for streamlining.

Pacing

The pacing of the book is fluid overall, but it suffers at times from unnecessary repetition of details and ideas that bog down the plot.

(p. 71): “Jenny had told her a couple of times that she’d done some amazing things in her life but Shelly never seemed satisfied.” We already know that Jenny feels this way, because Shelly has already shared this information with the reader.

The paragraph above is one of seven Brooke wrote citing specific page numbers and quotes directly from the manuscript along with her recommendations for improvement.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” 
― Dr. Seuss

Dr.-Seuss

www.sockitmama.com

Character Development

Shelly’s character has the most dramatic arc in the story and is well done, as is Greg’s. In particular, Jenny’s character, albeit likable, feels quite one-note, which is part of the reason why her point of view doesn’t add significant value to the narrative. A developmental editor can help you to tease out each of these key characters’ unique attributes to make them more distinctive.

The editor included several paragraphs of examples here both positive and those needing revision.

Scene Development

You have a good instinct for developing scenes, most of which are fluid and well wrought in this book. The primary exceptions are the scenes involving the following plotlines:

Again, specific examples of unbelievable coincidences or unlikely events were detailed with page numbers, quotes and recommendations for improvement.

Dialogue

The book’s dialogue is quite strong overall. It feels natural and both true to life and true to your characters’ distinct personalities. My one recommendation in this area is to eliminate the use of the nicknames…etc. Eliminating this language from these women’s conversations would serve both conversational flow and character development.

Brooke commented not only on the wording that sounded forced but also how it didn’t mesh with some characters’ personalities that were previously established.

Point of View

Your current approach of using three alternating points of view is successful in the sense that it is consistent and comprehensible. However, I do not think that Jenny’s point of view enhances the manuscript significantly (although I would not remove her character from the story entirely).  In addition, on p. 81, there’s an abrupt POV shift.

The editor pointed out why she thought this POV should be eliminated and suggested either reworking it myself or with the help of a developmental editor. She explained why it wasn’t working or wasn’t necessary as well.

Tone and Style

Your writing style and tone are consistent but at times you employ clichéd language. In addition, you sometimes rely on telling the reader what your characters are feeling, rather than showing it.

Here she gave page numbers and quotes as well as suggestions for more nuanced language and fresher descriptions. Much of this I would have caught as I began revising but it is helpful to have the examples to follow as I check through the manuscript.

Grammar and Punctuation

The book needs a medium to heavy copyedit after all of the developmental work is complete, to fix grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors.

Was it Worth it and What’s Next?

In a more extensive developmental edit, the editor would go into even more detail. This was the right step for me taking my goals into consideration. I am using this book as a learning process. I wanted to get professional feedback from someone that had read the entire manuscript instead of just excerpts. Now I know what my strengths are and where I need to focus for the most improvement.

My revision process has started with character profiles. I’m trying to make my characters more three-dimensional. I have applied and been accepted to the Novel In a Year program at Story Studio and my plan is to work on and finish the second draft in this class.  So that’s where I’m at. Leave me a note to let me know where you are with your latest project.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for a ManuscriptAssessment

  1.  Ask for referrals, send emails or call explaining your project and what you need
  2. Make sure you understand what is included, ask questions
  3. Decide what level of help you need
  4. Receive feedback with an open mind – anything can be fixed once it’s on the page.
  5. Pay on time. This might be your first time dealing with professionals in the publishing industry. You want to project professionalism.
  6. KEEP WRITING. Whether it’s short stories or an outline for a new project, keep working while the editor is reading your manuscript and preparing the assessment. Don’t sit and wait.
  7. Read it and ignore it. That’s right. You will be curious and anxious and excited and possibly distressed. Read it and then let it, and your ego, rest. Go on to something else and come back to the assessment when you are ready to begin revisions.
  8. Follow the editor’s advice. You paid him. He’s an expert. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring his advice.
  9. Don’t follow the editor’s advice. It’s  your story and if you think they’re dead wrong about a beloved character or plot twist, follow your gut. Take a risk.
  10. Exercise your rewriting muscles remembering that anything can be improved. Make use of the information you received for future projects as well.

 

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