Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day

Mount Rushmore doesn't really have anything to do with Memorial Day. But it reminds me of the great things in our nation.

Today, services will remember those who died while serving this country. The number has sadly grown in the last decade as we have actively been in two wars.

Years ago as a journalist, I remember the most recent deaths came from Vietnam. Then, the terrorists attacked us on 9/11. Now there are thousands more war dead added to the monuments across the country.

Memorial Day is often used to remember those who have served or are serving our nation. I know that's not the holiday's intention, but it never hurts to thank those who serve or have served.

Enjoy the day. We can thank all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our ability to enjoy it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Good Blog is Hard To Find: Memoir 101

A Good Blog is Hard To Find: Memoir 101: " -by Lauretta Hannon Writing a memoir is a powerful, life-changing act, whether you ever publish it or not. This little missive presents..."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Twitter

Two years ago, I didn't know what to do with a Tweet.

Today, I'm loving the process of trying.

I like Twitter, because:
  • It forces me to edit and revise to get my point across.
  • I can connect with people I know.
  • I exchange ideas with folks on politics. Some points we agree on and others we agree to disagree.
  • I meet new people.
  • I can find information about writing, books and the publishing industry without trolling the entire internet by myself. I follow other writers, agents and publishers. They do a lot of the searching and sifting for me.
  • It reminds me that I am not writing at my computer alone — there are millions (or gazillions) more people tapping away at the keyboard just like me.
I discovered 140 characters can be liberating.

Look me up. I'm @StacyWrites

How do you feel about Twitter? If you don't tweet, what's stopping you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm struggling with a first draft

This week I continue to struggle to create a first draft — shitty or otherwise for a picture book retreat in July. I must submit my manuscript for the small group work by the end of the week.
I'm flailing around with this, but am pushing through to get something to submit. A few weeks ago,  I had a blank page. Today, I have two pages with a variety of words that need a tweak here and there.

While it may not be great, it is a beginning. The retreat has pushed me to do something, which is a start.

I thought this might be a good time to share a video On Writing a Novel by James Andrew Wilson.

I never find this stuff on my own. It was posted on Anne Mulligan's Southern-fried Musings blog.  I'm a Georgia native, so it makes me homesick for Georgia when a writer says: "I'm an official Georgia peach. Go Dawgs!" Plus she has a great post up about God's wonderful sense of humor.

Back to my first draft (that really is about the 10th version), but you know what I mean.

Monday, May 23, 2011

There are stories in the newspaper too

The newspaper used to be for reading.

I used to work at them — another lifetime ago. I know reporters, graphic designers and sales people who worked their butts off daily, weekly and in between to provide a good product to the community.

The economy and technology have played a role in the recent changes in newsrooms. Although my career was in paid circulation newspapers, I find myself reading more free sources these days in digital form.

I used to always say: there is something for everyone in the newspaper — news, people stories, society, births and obituaries, sports and classified ads. A newspaper could inform you and help you find a new cat all in the same issue.

So, with that philosophy, I don't know why it bothers me — downright makes me sad — when I read on coupon sites about people buying up dozens of papers or holding off to purchase a paper based on whether or not the coupons are worth it.

I use coupons and appreciate the extra value when the newspaper has them.

But, I still enjoy the newspaper for its original purpose. I read local and state stories mostly. The Gazette has a number of nice columns and features. Their editorials alternately inspire and infuriate me. So, I think they are doing a good job.

When I see a post where someone says, "I just bought six papers." It saddens me, because people used to do that when their son pitched a no-hitter or their child's name was listed in the honor roll.

Times have changed, but I just want to say: "There are stories in the newspaper too."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thankful Thursday: For Son - Who Turns 1

My son Enzo arrived one year ago today. After months of waiting, swollen feet, hours of labor and an unexpected C-section, our little guy appeared.

We are blessed — he's healthy. On most days, he's happy. He laughs. He giggles. He tries to get into drawers, boxes and bowls. He's determined. He sleeps well. His baby death grip rivals the Incredible Green Hulk.

The most common question about Enzo is: "Where did you get that name?"

My response:  "He's named after a dog in a book. A very noble dog ..." I typically trail off at about this time, because the person who asked has moved on and I've just realized it.

For the record, he's named after Enzo, the main character in Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. A great book. Here's the book trailer.

Andy and I listened to the audio version of the book on the way to the Grand Canyon. We had a girl's name picked out. Andy jokingly chose "Festus" as a potential boy's name. The book and Enzo hooked us both.

Now, we love our real Enzo —

I wrote an explanation for Enzo about his name in January 2010.

Here it is:

Your Name
By That Lady Who's Always With You 

It happens to all of us.

We don’t get along or we step on someone’s toes.
Before we know it, we’re nose to nose.

Then our name gets flipped,
And we become unzipped

Don’t fret we planned ahead,
So your face doesn’t have to turn red.

We thought about a special name,
That would not be lame.

A name so great,
It would be hard to berate.

Dad originally called you Festus,
Which sounds like asbestos.

He also suggested David or Dave,
Which is like your uncles who are fun and behave.

While on a trip to a great big hole,
We listened to a story and developed a goal.

We named you Enzo after a dog in a book,
Because he was just off the hook!

Others tried to persuade us,
With their lists and fuss.

Mr. Mike picked out a name,
That would bring you no shame,
Especially when you arrived in a Texas bar and exclaimed:
“Hi, I’m Rio Sam.”

 Friends suggested we call you Paxton, Andy, Billy Joe Bob or Sean
But those names left us with a yawn.

Uncle Scott tried to think of something clever,
But when he spoke, Mom said, “Whatever!”

So you have the name Enzo Christian Jensen,
We promise it was a well thought out decision.

Enzo means ruler of the house,
And we suspect you will be for many, many years.
We certainly don’t expect you to be a louse.

No matter what background —
Whether it’s Italian or Spanish —
We hope you like the sound.

Now, one day you might not like it.
You may even have a fit.

Especially, when you discover it’s a pain,
To find your name on a souvenir key chain.

We’ll go ahead and warn you,
We found only one thing with your name before you were born — 
it was red and had a shine, 
it was a bottle of wine.

 Jan. 13, 2010

Today and every day, I am thankful that my husband Andy and Enzo came into my life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What's your career goal?

"I want to get a publish my book."

Where's the gong? That's not a good answer.

Over the past three years, I've read several blog posts about career goals. Last week, WordServe Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner talked about this in her blog post: Multi-book contracts do you have to sign one?

When I get closer to a finished manuscript, I'll worry about the contracts. I focused on this part of her post:
But there is a larger issue here: It's not usually good business for an agent or a publisher to commit to an author who may only have one book in them.
I'm working on a memoir, it made me wonder: "What else do I have?"

Gardner later says:
So, while you may only be offered a single book contract to start with, be aware that agents and publishers typically are looking for authors, not just books. They're hoping you'll have something else for them after this one.

It's a good reminder that writing is a business. If you want your manuscript published, you need to be thinking of your next book. You need to have a plan.

When I worked in journalism, I always thought about my future. What path should I take to continue up the chain of command? What's the next logical step for me and my family? What training do I need to do my job now and in the future? How do I earn more money?

I think it's difficult for writer's to think this way. There are no supervisors monitoring your daily keystrokes. You are flying solo. In my case, my manuscript is creeping by with rewrites, directional changes and outside commitments. Despite that, I need to think about what I want to do after this manuscript is complete.

I can't allow writer's insecurity, block or rejections to slow me down. We each must think about our writing as a business, because agents, editors and publishers do.

My goals include finishing my memoir, beginning work on a fiction manuscript with a friend and attending a summer retreat on a completely different genre. 

So, what are your career goals?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Brace yourself

Last week, I got a brace for my right hand.

It could be early signs of Carpal Tunnel. It could be the side effects of carrying around an almost 24-pound boy who turns one this week. It could be that I turn 40 this week.

No matter what the reason for the pain and the brace, I still have work to do.

To take a little break from typing (so much), I'm sharing a few  posts I found last week on eBooks:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thankful Thursday: iPhone

Yesterday I misplaced my iPhone. I searched for a few minutes. Stopped and went to my computer. I logged into my "Find my iPhone." Within a few seconds, it showed my phone at my home address. I sent a message to my phone with a beeping noise.

I ran downstairs — no noise.

I went to the garage and heard a beeping noise in my car. The phone was hidden in a black floorboard mat. The locator saved me a frantic trip back to JCPenney.

I know there are some people who can't live without their iPhones. Some days, I fall into that category, but on other days I fall into the I make the most of it category.

I use it to Facetime with my sister or my husband when one of us are away. I take instant videos and pictures to send to family. I read blogs, respond to emails or post Tweets and Facebook status updates.

I use apps in a variety of ways. I read a number of news sources. I have children's books to amuse my son. I have learning apps from my time as a reading tutor. The alarm is a great way to remind myself to set out pizza dough or that I need to leave for an appointment. The note app is used multiple times throughout the day to jot down ideas or write short lists.

I use the Safari internet often. We're watching a TV show and I want to know more — I look it up. Someone from my hometown dies and I can't figure out if I know them, I search for an obit online.

I use it as a regular phone, too. I enjoy the speaker feature so my son can hear his grandparents and other family member's voices.

My life would be fine without an iPhone, but I'm thankful I have one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do you have 25 hours or 15 minutes in a day?

What would you do if you had an extra hour each day? Would you write? The extra day isn't going to happen, but you can make time to write in the 24 you have — even if it is in 15 minute increments.

Springs Writers Director Scoti Domeij spoke Monday night at the May workshop on how to get a handle on your schedule and find time to write. Her program: Edit Your Life:  Setting Realistic Writing Goals helped me this week.

Before I ever stepped foot in the Stone Chapel at Woodmen Valley Chapel Church, I typed out a list of all my immediate and upcoming commitments (family and church), then deadlines for in progress writing projects and a variety of events I want to attend such as the monthly Springs Writers group, toddler story time at the library, etc.

At the meeting, Scoti gave us a seven-page handout and a whole lot of real life examples of how to get our writing life organized.

We talked about things that sabotage our writing dreams? Lack of inspiration. Lack of trying. Lack of energy. Lack of persistence.

We identified excuses that sabotage our writing dreams? Mine. Well, almost a year after my son's birth, I haven't found my routine. I have a list of things I want to do, but haven't figured out when to do them.

Scoti shared a great chart — Sunday through Saturday with a block for each hour of the day. She encouraged us to make writing an excuse not to do other things. On the chart, we blocked off non-negotiable times that's scheduled each week. I marked off times for sleep and meal times. There is a lot of time left over for me to schedule for writing.

She shared a whole sheet on ways to track the time we spend online. Social networking is a drain for me as well as the internet research. Three sources to help you self-control:
Track your time for a week or two to get a real picture of what you are doing. She suggested writing it down in 15-minute increments. During various times, I have used the same method to track daily food intake or my daily spending. After you do this, you can find spots to carve out time to write.

Other ways to find time include taking an inventory of what you do and what you'll trade off to write. Scoti suggested looking at our excuses for not writing, our time wasters, obstacles that keep us from writing and ways we procrastinate. Then, look at things we love to do that we'll say no to so we can write.

We looked at areas we need to focus on to achieve our writing dreams? Like the number of hours we write, the genre we read, the queries we make and ways we advance our writing skills through books, conferences and critique groups.

Another big topic is WHO distracts us from writing. Do you have a Debbie Downer among your friends? Scoti shared 10 ways to deal with people who distract you from writing. My favorite:  Set boundaries.

She also gave us a chart to track our goals. The rules: Create no more than three goals. Write each one in the positive. Make the goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

So, you don't need a whole new hour in the day. I'm glad Scoti shared all her time tricks. I'm using the 15 minutes (here and there) that I already have to write.

When do you find time to write?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tidbits on writing

I continue to decompress from the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference. I don't want to be a broken record, but I want to share a few final tidbits from workshops I attended.

Debra Dixon, president of Belle Books, used a cough drop and $10 to show Goal, Motivation and Conflict. She asked for volunteers, then offered a cough drop and added $10 to the pot. With three volunteers, she threw the cough drop in the air. Imagine a bride throwing a bouquet at a wedding. Conflict was minimal, but one person dove toward the floor to claim the cough drop and the $10.

Dixon talked primarily to mass market commercial fiction, but I took notes with the idea of how to apply this to my memoir in progress. She has a whole book on Goal Motivation and Conflict. It can be purchased at her website.

Her primary example of GMC came from the Wizard of Oz. Dixon recommended breaking down movies for their GMC and reading scriptwriting books.

At a lunch, I heard author Beth Kendrick speak. I listened. I laughed. I learned. I didn't take notes, but I understood her point about housekeeping. Sometimes, it doesn't get done.

Andrea Brown of Andrea Brown Literary Agency Inc. talked about query letters in one session. I think she said they were like skirts, "long enough to cover everything and short enough to keep it interesting." This was a packed session and I was in the backed into a corner — no exaggeration.

On the issue of noting that this is a multiple query in a letter, Brown said she took that as a sign of professionalism and you are taking your career seriously. She said when her agency signs on a client, they look at a five-year plan. She emphasized publishing is a business.

"Don't give up. Persistence pays off," Brown said.

A neat feature of the conference included a final lunch where you could meet with people in critique groups, professional organizations or discuss a variety of topics such as web design or editing services. I sat at the ebooks table with Barbara O'Neal. I continue to be amazed at how electronic readers have made out of print books available again and how first-time authors are going this route instead of seeking a traditional publisher.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Conference Connections

I'm still on the Blaze the Write Trail post-conference wagon.

In addition to the great faculty at the Pikes Peaks Writers Conference, I enjoyed making connections with writers.

I giddily met Debbie Maxwell Allen. She writes Writing While the Rice Boils. I found her through the Pikes Peak Writers member directory months ago and have been grateful every day I get an email that she has a new blog post. Her blog provides "resources for writers with little time and even less money, who are on the journey to publication." She even wrote about meeting her virtual friends, including me. So sweet.

Other connections at the conference were random:

I met Mona Hodgson on my first day when I inadvertently laughed out loud at something she said about chap stick. She turned around to meet the person giggling behind her. She introduced herself at "Mona from Arizona" and I didn't forget her. She writes historical novels and children's books.

Shannon Lawrence witnessed it all as she sat next to me (the giggler). She writes at Shannon survived the A-Z Blogging challenge.

Then, right behind me was @wbterrien. She recognized me as @StacyWrites on Twitter. And, I felt like a stalker because I mentioned her two dogs that I saw on her website. 

I found several folks at the beginning of the conference by looking for the hashtag #ppwc. Turns out it was really #ppwc11.

I don't know why it gave me a little tingle to see that @FakeEditor was at the conference. Ah, to discover who tweeted from "under deep cover." Clever tweets continued throughout the conference and @FakeEditor's identity remained a secret. I'm happy to know the mystery continues.

I worked part of Saturday with Anne Randolph at the pitch desk. Oh, what fun to help funnel other writers to pitch to agents and editors. There were a lot of nervous, happy and anxious people.

I met @ianmdudley through a Tweet about conference food. Then, I got to talk with him a bit more at the final lunch as we shared a table with @BarbaraONeal about ebooks.  @patsyterrell also shared cool information at the table.

I met Ian T. Healy for a second time at the conference. In February, he shared his knowledge about writing better action scenes at a  Write Brain Session. At the conference he tweeted and I saw him in person before a pitch session. It's difficult to miss his hair. And, on Wednesday, I saw Tweets and Facebook updates that he had exciting news — he accepted a contract for Mustang Sally from New Babel Books.

Some folks I met aren't set up for blogs, Twitter and Facebook yet. I'm thankful for all the new connections I made in-person and through social media.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writing Your Life

"So what are you writing?"

It's a common question among writers. I hear all types of answers — many are genres I don't understand.
Today, I safely say, "Memoir." That's why I attended Karen Albright Lin's workshop on "Writing Your Life" at the Pikes Peak Writers conference last week.

The workshop offered great examples of memoir, autobiography, personal essay and a novelization of your life. I'm writing a memoir, because I'm covering a specific period four-year span of my life — the time between my late husband's stroke and his death. 

During the workshop Lin touched on the issue of truth in our writing through a series of short exercises. We wrote about an event. Later, we altered it by adding in details that did not happen. It was a mini-lesson in memoir vs. novelization of your life.

Telling the truth about our lives was timely as another memoir was in the news for questionable facts.

Lin said a disclaimer is a good idea for memoir. In this, you note that your memory of the event is yours and it may be different from others. For example in my story, I have a completely different experience than others during my husband's ER visits. I dealt with nurses, communicated with my husband through our spelling method and argued with ER staff while a sister-in-law or brother sat in the waiting room.

Her key points on memoir were:
  • Begin at point of change
  • Set scene
  • Set tone, theme and point of view
  • Implicit promise (must keep it)
  • Use vivid details
  • Don't state, illuminate (show don't tell)
  • Don't sugar coat
  • Work toward climax, denouement, hopeful ending
  • Leave reader wanting more
Lin also talked about personal essays. These mini-memoirs, as I like to call them, are marketable through publications and contests. Lin encouraged writers to not hold back while writing. "If you try to be safe, your writing will be flat."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Motivation, Focus and New ideas


I found motivation, focus and new ideas all over the place at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I love the mix of exhaustion and revitalization after a conference.

I attended workshops on Thursday and Sunday. Later this week, I'll share a few highlights once my hand recovers from all my notes.

I helped at the pitch desk on Saturday. This was an awesome experience. Many folks were nervous  — as most are before a pitch to an agent or editor. It was nice to hear about their successes post pitch. And, I heard positive rejection stories. I know rejection is negative, but some agents and editors offered helpful advice to tweak stories or perhaps another agency to contact. Information is always positive at conferences.

One of my co-workers called the waiting room, a room of opportunity. I agree. That name could be used for the entire conference.

I laughed a few times when I heard, "Hey you're @StacyWrites from Twitter." Mainly, because my husband sort of wonders what I'm doing when I Tweet.

What's the value in Tweeting? Those casual connections made before those pitches were priceless to me. On Friday while at home, I utilized the #PPWC or #PPWC11 hash tags to follow along with comments and found writers tweeting at the conference.

By stalking, er, following the hash tag, I met new writers. Since moving to Colorado, I've found making those connections a little more difficult. This weekend helped change this and a few other things in my writing journey.