Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A writer knocked on my door

A funny thing happened while my son napped on Tuesday.

I heard a knock on the door. The dogs barked.

It wasn't a salesperson or a missionary from a church.

It was a writer.

Christi stopped by unexpectedly to drop off a book I loaned her. I  had thought about her and wanted to send her an email, but failed to do so. I wanted to see how she was doing, see how that "send it" from the April conference played out and see what she had been up to with her writing.

Christi and I randomly met at a writer's workshop. We met again before conference. Later, we met to get her hooked up with a few Social Media accounts.

During our brief visit, we stood and chatted about the path our writing has taken over the summer. We are both submitting things. She has a finished manuscript. My memoir is incomplete right now. And, I have a few picture book drafts. We talked about the need for a critique group.

She said she's decided she's not into the Social Media stuff. I get that. It can add another layer to writing that doesn't seem writerly. For me, I like the relationships I've found and look forward to the ones I've yet to make.

So, she'll do her thing and I'll do mine. We'll both be fine.

The random visit reminded me of how nice the in-person relationships are too.

When I returned to my computer, I totally forgot what I was doing before I heard the knock. I sent Christi an email with links to the Springs Writers group, so I wouldn't forget my promise to her. Hopefully, I'll see her at one of those meetings this fall.

I'm happy a writer knocked on my door.

Have you had any surprises this week?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Now where is my Twitter DNA?

I made a bit of a change this week.

I shed my Twitter handle @StacyWrites for my name.

My new Twitter handle is @StacySJensen. If you followed me before, you still do. I just appear with my new handle in your list.

If you aren't on Twitter or don't really know how to use it, the Writer Unboxed blog via @NinaBadzin  has answers to your questions. She shared two posts about The Art & Science of Twitter. If you struggle to use Twitter, take a moment to read the posts.

Badzin mentions you shouldn't go for cuteness or anonymity when choosing your Twitter handle. Two years ago, I picked a name that expressed what I do since my first and last names were taken. Honestly, I didn't know what Twitter was when I joined. Dropping the @StacyWrites made me feel like an adult shedding a beloved nickname. It was time to grow up. 

I enjoy connecting with people through Twitter. I like the challenge of crafting a message in 140 characters. The process helps me edit and stay focused. 

My personal take away from Badzin's posts? I need to:

  • Put people I follow into lists. So I can more easily follow them. Badzin explains lists more  here
  • Utilize a program to spread out my Tweets. She mentions HootSuite, Tweetdeck or Ubersocial. I'm referring back to this post by Alexis Grant on the difference between Tweetdeck and Hootsuite before I make my decision. Why use a program? To avoid multiple tweets in a few minutes and then no tweets at all. I tend to Tweet in bursts and that might tick some followers off. 
  • Turn off notifications. Why bother with the emails when I can check notices when I'm on Twitter. I may keep the new follower notices, just to help me make sure I don't miss them.
One thing Badzin's posts don't mention is where your Twitter handle ends up on the Internet. After I changed my Twitter name, I made a list of places to check, change and retype my Twitter name. 

As I began this post, I remembered the link on my contact page. Oh, my. I don't want my cyber DNA to leave a broken link. 

How do you use Twitter? Be sure to leave your Twitter handle in your comment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Rebels

I'm grateful this week that the Libyan rebels made it to Tripoli. 

A few months may not seem like a long time, but it was as rebels worked to take one city after another. Imagine what it must be like for regular citizens, who are trying to live and stay out of harm's way as government troops fought the rebels. War raged around them.

I pray the nation can organize itself after all this turmoil. 

The other day, I heard an NPR report about a father and son from the United States, who traveled to Libya to help. Mabruk Eshnuk and his son Malik left their home in Pittsburgh to return to Libya. 

Sadly, after a few weeks of training they died during a battle. I missed the initial report of their efforts to help the rebels. The news of their death struck me. I've found myself thinking about them as I see TV reports of the success in Tripoli. 

I'm thankful there are people willing to rise up to a tremendous challenge — no matter what the personal consequences.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What happened after the "send it?"

I've been seeing lots of post recently about conferences.

Last week's WriteOnCon Conference lives on in cyberspace and in several recap blogs. 

Beth K. Vogt wrote about the upcoming ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference this week on her blog In Others' Words. She shared a few tips on some reasonable expectations for this conference. 

The Writers Alley has also been talking about ACFW and conference preparations. I enjoyed this one on how to Design and Conquer: The One Sheet. 

 I had never heard of this one sheet business until I read a post from Edie Melson over at The Write Conversation. She posted a series of ways to get organized and ready for a writer's conference. Go to the search button on her blog and look for them. 

So, this made me wonder. How did your last writer's conference go for you? 
  • Did you get a "send it" or a request for your work? 
  • Did you send it?
  • Are you waiting for a response?
  • Did you rewrite your manuscript?
Care to share your experience?

Monday, August 22, 2011

I just did it

Time always escapes me.

So, last week, I quit "planning to" change this blog and just did it. 

I added a few elements over the weekend. 

New pages include:
  • About me — Yes, you can read the whole goofy thing if you want to. 
  • Contact — I listed as many ways for people to reach me as I could imagine.
  • Thankful Thursday — All of the Thankful Thursday posts are linked here (fingers crossed). 
  •  Resources — Instead of a blog roll, I share a list of sites I read and use. The list will evolve as I discover new sites (and remember the ones I accidentally left off). I include writing resources, organizations, challenges and market sources. 
  • Awards/Challenges — I hope this list grows to include a lot of successful writing challenges, awards, publications and guest blogs.
I explained my posting schedule more prominently under the email subscription form. 

In the side column "About Me," I list my current writing projects include a memoir and picture books.

I plan to add more photos. I continue to investigate different sources. That's still a work in progress.

Any thoughts about all this? What source do you use for photos?

Let me know what you think in the comments or you can contact me

If you are new, "Hi."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

I read about the last campaign too late to participate.

So this time, I'm joining in the fun. Can't wait to meet new people.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thankful Thursday: @WriteSuccess

Do you ever look for contests or places to submit your work? I do, because deadlines keep me motivated to submit. I use several sites and groups to find organizations or publications accepting work.

For contests, I primarily go to Mary Anne Hahn at Write Success.

I get a weekly email on writing contest news. I sort through the list and see if anything interests me. Some week several contests jump out at me.

A recent post included this contest:

2011 Family Circle Fiction ContestAuthors are asked to submit an original fiction short story of no more than 2,500 words.
Prizes: 1st: $750; 2nd & 3rd: $250. Winners receive prize packages including memberships.
Deadline: September 16, 2011
Fees: None
Mary Anne lists a wide variety of contests — here and abroad. According to her About WriteSuccess page, her WriteSuccess site has an audience in the U.S., Canada, France, the UK and Australia.

When submitting your work, be sure to read the contest rules. Some have fees. Others don't. Some want rights for a one time use. Others ask for a lot more. If you aren't comfortable with a contest's rule, go with your gut and don't submit.

If you aren't interested in contests, the list might spark a new story idea. I randomly will write short, short stories about an organization or topic I find through this list.

Mary Anne is on Twitter at @WriteSuccess. Her Twitter bio also mentions she is founder of the International Association of Professional Ghost Writers.

What's your go-to list for contests or publications seeking submissions?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm at WriteonCon

Today, I'm going to pop in over at WriteonCon, a free online writer's conference.

It began on Tuesday. I wasn't able to watch any sessions live, but followed up with ones I wanted to see later in the day.

The neat thing about this conference — I provided my own childcare. Heck, my son watched the videos with me. He prefers funny baby videos, but he remained amused at the author presentations we viewed. Some even had handouts — downloadable PDFs to accompany their workshop.

If you want to hop on over, here is the full schedule of events.

The WriteonCon continues through Thursday, Aug. 18 with the final live chat at 10:30 p.m.

If you have time, it's a wonderful opportunity to talk to agents, pitch your work and learn more about the craft of writing. Writers can also chat in forums, etc.

And, if you enjoy the conference consider making a donation. For a minimum donation of $5, you can be entered into a drawing for a critique from a literary agent.

Enjoy the next few days, I found out about the conference through several bloggy friends like:

Debbie from Writing While the Rice Boils
Julie Hedlund from Write Up My Life
Lynda from W.I.P. It
Clar from Clarbojahn's blog
Kathryn from Kathryn Apel
Catherine from Catherine Johnson

Monday, August 15, 2011

Three ways I revised a PB story

Last week, I finalized revisions of a picture book manuscript I wrote for a retreat I attended in July. The retreat offered through the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators was awesome.

Author Linda Ashman led the picture book workshops. I love reading her books. Her new one No Dogs Allowed! illustrated by Kristin Sorra released on Aug. 2. On Ashman's site, she has a post about how she wrote the nearly-wordless picture book and you can download her manuscript. Very helpful.

Since I didn't know what I was doing before the retreat, I decided to invest in a post-retreat critique.

I applied Ashman's tips and techniques from the retreat classes to my manuscript before I submitted it for critique.

  • I wrote it from a different point of view. My third person turned into first person, but I didn't like the feel of the story.
  • I rewrote it in prose, not rhyme. It's been decades since I studied meter. So, I checked out several books on writing poetry from the library. I'm studying them in baby steps. I didn't like the story in prose, so I returned to rhyme. 
  • I removed some repeating phrases. I added them in again. Then, deleted them.

During the retreat, participants broke into small groups. I received lots of feedback from my group. In general, members liked my story idea, but not the execution — bad rhyme.

Ashman is a super rhymer. She addressed some crimes of rhyme at the retreat. I am guilty, guilty, guilty. Thankfully, no one will put me in jail for bad rhyme. No one will want to read my story either, so I recognize I have a problem and am working to address it.

I lost track of the number of revisions I did post-retreat. I asked my nine-year-old niece to be a beta reader. When I asked a specific question, there was a pause. She decided to regroup and read it again. More feedback followed.

The book editor's critique will arrive in about a month. In the meantime, I've worked on a first draft of another picture book idea. This one — written in prose and first person. Plus, I'll attend a local SCBWI chapter meeting and critique group.

I still don't know completely what I'm doing, but I am studying, reading and trying.

How do you revise your work?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thankful Thursday: @GeoffTalbot

Can you write a blog posts in seven sentences? Most days I don't, but it's a regular feat for Geoff Talbot.

His Twitter bio @GeoffTalbot is to the point:
In Seven Words... I write a seven sentence creative blog...
 His Seven Sentences blog is ... for bloggers, artists, dreamers and believers.

At Seven Sentences, his blog posts are short and to the point. If you aren't into what Geoff has to say, it's worth looking around and seeing how he says it.

Under the tab 7 Sentences, he explains the blog is posted at 7:57 a.m. Pacific Coast time. I get my dose of "daily creative inspiration" in my inbox.

I follow Geoff on Twitter and he sometimes sends direct messages asking for input on a post. Call me a sheep, but I comment almost every time he sends a note. Why? He's taking time to connect.

His blog features posts on creativity, Social Media, Holy Filth, Filmmaking, Writing, Poetry and Guest Blogs.

A few recent posts:
If you have time, visit his site and roam. I love seeing how Geoff presents a topic in seven sentences.

Could you write your blog in seven sentences? I failed with this post. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

MIA: I enjoyed it

Last week, I took a break from writing, social media and routines. I traveled with family to Idaho to visit more family.

My parents flew to Colorado from Georgia. Then, we crossed Wyoming, drove a bit in Utah and found ourselves in the welcoming arms of family in Pocatello, Idaho.
At a Wyoming rest stop with a book (part of a contest) and fuzzy blue bear.

The break from the Internet resulted primarily in my efforts to downsize my stuff. The laptop seemed like a luxury when I had to pack toys, board books and major stuff for my toddler.

My iPhone turned into a camera as I had limited phone service and Internet. Every time I realized my cousins could hook me up to their Wi-Fi, it was time for bed.

Instead of the Internet:

  • I watched my son play with his older cousins. 
  • I talked with family members.
  • I learned more about my cousins.
  • I visited with my aunt and uncle and my mom and dad.

I thought it was a good trade off and had fun doing it. I returned to all my writing projects refreshed.

Just living is nice.

Did you take a break this summer? How did it impact your writing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A fun look at one writer's life: Parnell Hall

I discovered this video "Signing in the Waldenbooks by Parnell Hall" through a link shared in an online writer's group.

Mystery Author Parnell Hall stars in this catchy video that offers a few fun and sad insights about being a published author. I don't want to give anything away, but the person he sits next to at a conference is hysterical.

If you have a moment, watch this.

 Or this "King of Kindle" video.

My thanks to Parnell Hall for sharing the life of a published author and selling his books in way that certainly makes him stand out.

Would you do something like this to sell your books?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thankful Thursday: The Writing Bug

I found this gem in my inbox the other day:  Waiting to Write by Edna Pontillo.

I said, "That's me." And, re-read and saved it to read again.

Pontillo's piece was published on The Writing Bug:  A blog for those who have caught it. The posts are written by members of the Northern Colorado Writers.

The blog post schedule includes Jenny Sundstedt on Mondays, Kerrie Flanagan on Wednesdays, Brooke Favero on Fridays and a guest blogger on Saturdays.

Recent posts I've enjoyed include:
In addition to these posts, the blog includes links to member blogs including Patricia Stoltey's blog, where she shares "Thoughts about writing, Colorado authors, social networking, and getting published." I followed her blog while in Texas before I ever dreamed of living in Colorado. It's a small world.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I paid more for a Borders book

My family stopped at one of the Borders in town. All the stores are going out of business now. Our stores were spared earlier this year when the company filed bankruptcy. Then, last week the news hit that the remaining stores would close.

My husband and I always enjoyed visiting a Borders in San Antonio, Texas. It was three hours away. I loved its multi-levels and books, books and books. The chain bookstore in our city's mall had shut down.

Then, we moved to a larger town with two Borders. I rarely visited. Why? Well, the Barnes & Noble stores were a little closer. Writing groups also used Barnes & Nobel. Plus, I recently restricted myself from buying books. My "to read" pile is greater than my "finished" pile.

I thought a Borders discount was incentive to buy a few books for me and for Christmas gifts.

I created a wish list of books I would like to add to my collection including authors, who recently led workshops and a few author bloggers I follow. I left the store with one book. My husband left with several regional books on hiking and fishing.

Why only one for me? The store either didn't have the authors I wanted or the discount wasn't good enough yet. Most books were at the 10 percent discount point when I visited.

Here is the book I purchased:
A Message For Julia By Angel Smits
Back in March, the author Angel Smits taught a workshop I attended on novel beginnings. I then missed two book signing opportunities she had in town.

I paid almost $3 more for her book at the going out of business Borders vs. purchasing it from Amazon. However, score! I found a "Signed by the Author" sticker one. It's not the same as showing my appreciation at a signing, but I now have her book.

As we checked out, I was reminded of the You've Got Mail scene where the Shop Around the Corner is closing. People checking out at Borders had similar conversations with the young clerk as those in the movie did with Kathleen Kelly. "It's so sad," a woman told the man behind the register. In the movie, the independent store closed due to a chain bookstore. Now, the chain bookstore is closing due to  ... well lots of reasons.

This pilgrimage for discount books made me wonder if my son will ever have a neighborhood bookstore — where he can hold a book in his hands, crack open the cover and read the first page.

Will you visit a Borders in the coming days or is it just too sad to see another bookstore being dismantled?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Facebook comments: A struggle over words

I've been struggling with comments recently.

Not here. Primarily on Facebook — my personal account.

This account is a mixture of family, friends, writing friends and old acquaintances. I post things about family, random thoughts and photos. Typical stuff.

A couple weeks ago, I posted a status update from my Twitter account. Political in nature — it was something I wanted to say.

The Tweet/Status update:
I'm sorry #Bachmann suffers from migraines. I don't think that disqualifies her from the White House. There are probably other reasons
As I wrote this blog post, there were 43 comments in response to the Facebook status update. This doesn't include one I deleted. I had never done that until this incident. Of those comments, 40 included the argument between two people. Three of those 40 were from me saying things like "moderation is all I ask."

I should know better. Politics can be a polarizing topic, especially now. But, I was so tired that day from all the reports about whether a female candidate could be president due to debilitating migraines. I shared my thoughts and tried to be nice to the candidate.

My two Facebook friends posted their feelings on the topic, then on another topic and another topic. You get the picture. If you Facebook, you know that everyone who bothered to comment once got notices every time these two posted.

I dreaded checking my email.

I wondered if I should delete the whole feed, because I don't agree with plenty of things either of them had to say.

I decided to leave it — minus the one comment I deleted.

My conservative friend and I disagree on a lot.

My liberal friend and I disagree on a lot.

While I may agree to disagree with them, they cannot do that amongst themselves. They just post and post some more. You think it's bad in Washington, D.C., you should see these two on Facebook. They randomly cross paths one of my status updates.

I enjoy keeping up-to-date on political issues, because I believe decisions made in D.C. impact our lives. Some decisions make me happy and others not so much.

I want to be able to comment on my personal Facebook page. I'm not sure what I'll do in the future, if there is another blow up.

What do you do about comments made on your personal Facebook page — do you allow people to converse or do you shut down the conversation?