Category Archives: writing

O-o sayy cannn youuu C?

No, not time for the National Anthem or to play ball….but there are some valuable lessons here as we look to what we’ve known since we were small that enables us to be great writers.  Let’s start with the anthem shall we? 

The anthem was, and still is a rallying call to remember that we persevere through adversity (definitely a writing trait), but also the anthem was one of the first pieces that talked about the nation with a sense of oneness, of community.  We became a “Land” of people and the “Home” of us all.  Writing is that and more, a community.  While writing is very much a solo endeavor at the writing stage, every last one of us is an individual practitioner in a community of writers…and what a community it is.  Community and a sense of belonging is something that we learned in kindergarten too.  The notion of where we fit and where our circle isn’t a life long learning curve, but the foundation was laid long ago as we learned our likes and dislikes.  What a tremendous thing that as a writer we get the whole community, like them or not.  *grins*  Writing takes learning, and sometimes the best teacher is the one who stands in another circle normally, but is available to us through the writing community that is its own great big circle.  The great thing I’ve found is that I haven’t met a writer yet who didn’t have something to offer if I was willing to hear…This willingness to be open or not brings us to another C – our Character.

Character is a compilation of several other traits together, also C words…confidence, care, and conceit.  We want the first two but not the last.  Confidence in our work is something that we need to have or find as we go from the writing to the networking and publishing part of our world.  An editor, agent or publisher can give you a morale boost, but if you don’t have confidence in your writing or your ability to tell the story and sell it, you will be walking a long lonely road as that empty spot inside cannot be filled by others.  Our friends and allies can help bolster us, but in the end we have to find the inner strength and fathom how to employ it to our purpose.  Fake it til you make it, but make it.

Care is not only about our writing, but also about the writing community too.  The people you meet and aid or enable in their work are the ones who are going to be there for you.  The writing community is a giving community and the benefits are there for all to reap, but leave care at home when you come to the community and you will have to rebuild any ground you had gained as the community of nurturers will and do close ranks to aid those who are in need, but not those who prey upon others.  Care is tantamount to success.  You need to care about your work, your world, and the community at large.  The urge to fan your feathers at the first great review is in us all and while being the proud parent of the work of wonder, we have to remember to reign back the conceit that can come.  Pride is one thing, conceit is another, keep the difference clear in your mind and your heart as you go forward.

Last up today, we’re going back to baseball as the final “C” is a biggie and one we learn in sports, in kindergarten, in life.  It is that as a writer we must be coachable.  Participating in the community, giving care and encouragement to others, having confidence in our work and remembering to couch our pride before we get too big for our britches is all important, but we can lose it all if we fall short on this last big C. 

We must learn to be coachable.  Writing in some ways is a school of hard knocks.  Ask any writer how many rejection slips they got before they were published and there’s sure to be a story there.  Ask any writer how many revisions or edits had to be done before the work was final and publishable and again, you’ll get a tale.  The point of having an editor, an agent, beta readers and ARC copies is to give you feedback on what’s working…and what’s not.  It is what you do with the information about what isn’t working that will define your reputation in the writing world.  People talk.

Sure, we all fell head over feet in love, lust, or hate with our latest and greatest and now someone wants us to change it.  Before you have a tantrum and kick your feet on the floor remember a few things.  One, we asked these people to give us feedback because???  We value their opinion and their place in the community.  Why would we knee jerk to “no” if these are the people we are entrusting to get us, AND THEM, to the top with our story?  They are not saboteurs, they are doing what we tasked them to do.  Two, sometimes because of the labor intensity of the writing, we are too close to the story to be objective. 

Passion is important, being able to moderate it to drive the passion so others can experience it too is the role of the coach.  Choose your coach wisely and remember – they don’t send the star quarterback in against a defense carrying machete’s, they evaluate the situation, and call the play that is best for the situation to promote their team to a win.  Likewise, you are not a lamb to slaughter and need to trust your coach to do their job as you do yours.

There is so much about writing that is simple if we are willing to look at it with fresh eyes and the wonder of our first day of school.  So far we covered A, B & C and found some pretty simple but significant things that we have in our arsenal that have been there since we were learning the alphabet.  I wonder what we’ll find next.  Til then…


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Author Interview…

I had a chance to sit down with Ellie Mack and answer some questions about writing and writing challenges.  Take a peek.

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Writing….it’s the state of “B”

As we embark on week two of our journey through the things we’ve known since our youth that enable us to be great writers, I began to think about exactly what qualifies one to claim that they are a writer?  Is it that you are published?  or is it something simpler…is it that you have shared?  I actually don’t know that this distinction matters as many who are definitely writers don’t claim the title.  It is like many things, just a name.

Instead, I think that being a writer or an author is about something much bigger.  It’s an attitude, and not the circle with three snaps variety.  The great writers I have encountered, may or may not have the best stories on the market, or maybe even a fresh idea for one, but what they all have in common is something intangible and amazing to behold.  It is a zen like state of “B” and being. 

So what is this state of “B” you ask?  Simply, it is a willingness to be adaptable.  This flexibility of belief and willingness to stretch is something that can be found in every child.  Why is it that young have invisible friends and it’s cute, older people have them and its mental illness?  I think that the running joke about hearing voices being a trademark of a writer, is misplaced.  It is the trademark of an open mind.  To be a writer, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone.  You have to sometimes reach far within to find the piece that makes the story compelling and complete.  You have to be willing to see the story in the single shoe in the middle of the pavement and not just see the shoe.  You have to be willing to be coached, encouraged, corrected and criticized.  You simply have to be open and willing to take it all in and then share it with the world, THAT is the state of “B”. 

When we were young we played house in a room, and monsters on the playground.  We learned about the moon from a story at nap time, and flowers with construction paper and glue.  We learned sharing was nice and everybody got a turn.  We learned that there was a world that existed beyond our home and parents, and we learned that if we wanted to, we could be anything right where we stood all we had to do was imagine it and it was. 

These are the trademarks of being a writer.  To dream, to reach, to be.  Are you?

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Everything I needed to know to be a writer I learned in kindergarden and it started with “A”

For some of us the notion of sitting at a keyboard or with pad and paper, pecking out or scribbling out a tale is the most daunting, ominous, overwhelming task imaginable.  I am here to tell you that is poppycock.  Everything you ever needed to know to do it and do it well you knew before you were ten, and much of it was learned in kindergarten.  Don’t believe me?  We’re going to begin at the beginning and I’m going to show you.

In kindergarten we learned many many things and over the next few months we’re going to pull that treasure trove of knowledge out and plumb the depths of memory for the things that we have known all along and forgot how to apply.  Starting here and now today, with “A”.

Many of us knew the alphabet before kindergarten, and those who didn’t, had a wall of magic symbols displayed when we walked into the room each day to help us on the journey to this knowledge.    “A” is significant in many ways, but for today it is the most important letter because it signifies the beginning…the only place to start.  Julie Andrews spoke to the musical beginnings of do, re, mi….and compared them to A, B, C.  Whether by rote memory or impassioned effort we learned that you always begin the alphabet at A and end at Z.  Writing is no different.  You begin at the beginning, be it an idea, an image, or a dream.  Without the beginning the tale is lost and wandering as we all would be if we had to recite the alphabet from M out…it is a far more difficult task.  Not impossible, but much more complicated and who needs that?

In kindergarten we learned another important “A”, accountability.  Sharing, shame, homework, or shoe tying we became responsible for our spot on the rug and the things we were tasked with.  We became the center of a microcosm where the world revolved around us, but we in turn revolved around others and had influence.  We could bring joy or tears and at the end of it all when it was time to take out our towel and nap, we were responsible for doing it right then too.  Little things became big things, but not all at once, instead step by step as we learned cause and effect of our actions or inactions.  The unquestioned affection of our parents took a backseat for a time as we learned to play with others and exist in a world where our parents weren’t.  These are all important beginnings and all translate into writing. 

Accountability, Action, Affection, and the Alphabet.  These four “A” words have tremendous impact on how we are as storytellers.  Our action or lack of action will be the driving force behind the tale we tell or keep to ourselves and the accountability to finish the task will in fact determine if the tale, though perhaps written, ever sees the light of day.  Affection for our work and the work of others as we learn that writing is a solo act in a community of others committing solo acts will influence the scope of our voice in the larger dynamic.  Will we have a best seller?  Will our story teach, or deter?  What it will be is determined by the affection we have to grow it to its potential beyond the begining, but just like “A” is where the alphabet starts, so must we.

So, with our beginning and the big “A” words, pick up your pencil and begin.  Any beginning is a good beginning.  Any beginning is a place to jump into the magical symbols and create something bigger than ourselves.  Will the world revolve around you when you are through?  If you never begin the answer is a resounding “no”.  But, if you begin, and remember that we crawl before we walk before we run, the cheer of the crowd and the tape across the finish line is one step closer than if you never do.  It’s up to you.  Find “A”.


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Magick is what you make it

As we bandy about looking for the last-minute gift or preparing for the end of the world, I have just one word for all of us today.  Magick.  Be it a child’s eyes at the gifts, or the love to be lost and communication unspoken, Magick is everywhere around us and is as simple or complex as we need it to be at any given moment.  I wish for us all a moment of quiet magick, today and always.

In other news, It’s STORYTIME boys and girls….enjoy!

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State of Mind

Where are we?  What are we doing?  What are we thinking?  Me, myself, and I are swimming with the mix of excitement, melancholy, insanity, gratitude, and a plethora of others unnamed today.  Why?  Because I’m alive.  I live.  I breathe.  I make strides and mistakes and stop to smell coffee and flowers.  I run headlong into things and end up with too much and topple the plate too…but at the end of it all, I live.

Recent thoughts are about thinking.  What do I think?  Why do I think what I think, and how did I come to think them?  A grand circle to be sure.  I am also thinking HOW?  How will I get it all done?  I have finished my Storytime Trysts flash pieces and they are edited and ready to go for the 19 th – 21st.  There is a pending commitment for weekly work on ST in January that I haven’t been able to bring myself to think on yet.  I am finishing up The Red Queen, the follow-up to Swingers, and working on Oracle, and the NaNo piece Racing the Rip-tide.  UGH!  I believe I’ve met myself at my pillow too oft of late.

I’m also thinking about gratitude.  Swingers continues to swell and has recently gone from 160,935 in November to Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,766 Paid in Kindle Store.  I have no words for the elation.  Gratitude is me.  I hope it is you for whatever it is that makes your day and brightens your smile, your heart, your step.

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The Maestro and the child

After a long journey through NaNo land, I am watching as others cram to finish, to push the final leg, and am reminded of a tale that was shared with me long, long ago.  I do not know the original author, nor am I certain I will tell it as well as it is from memory now, though I’m certain to have the original somewhere.  I hope that it instills the same motivation and powerful awareness of the power you hold within you.

A mother, frustrated with her young son for his apparent lax attitude toward his lessons and practice took him to the concert hall.  The Maestro was giving a concert and she hoped that he would take inspiration from seeing someone so accomplished.  As they walked down the aisle to their seats, she cautioned him to remember his manners, not fidget in his seat, and to be on his best behavior.  The crowd was all decked out in the evening finery, men in coat tails and women in gowns bedecked in jewels.  This was a momentous night.  Sitting uncomfortably, trying not to fidget, looking around at all of the adults and taking in the noise of the crowd his young eyes fixed on the stage and the immense black grand piano sitting at the center.  As his mother turned to converse with those around their seats, he was fascinated.  Fixated.  Drawn and compelled.  He just had to know.  Before anyone was the wiser as no one was watching him, he quietly slipped from his seat and followed the gravitational pull of the beautiful instrument that called him.  Making his way onto the stage he walked carefully, doing nothing to break the spell.  Sitting up on the bench, his feet could not touch the floor or the pedals, but the circle was complete when he laid his hands on the keys.  Being rather averse to practicing he knew nothing by heart, save Chopsticks, and so he began plucking out the simple tune.  The hall slowly stilled as the guests in the audience turned toward the stage, a pulsing shock as they discovered the boy, and then a barrage of noise as they exclaimed their outrage.
“Get that child off the stage.  How dare he touch The Maestro’s instrument.  WHO brought a disrespectful child here?”  And so on.
The Maestro backstage, heard the commotion, quickly ascertained what was happening, clicked his cuff links and walked briskly onto the stage amid the commotion, quieting the patrons gently with his hands.  As he reached the piano and the small boy sitting there he leaned over him and said,

“Don’t stop.  Keep going.  Whatever you do, don’t stop.”
The boy continued playing while The Maestro leaned over him and then sat beside him, improvising a counter melody to the simple Chopsticks.  Over an over that night they played, not the program as stated, but an improvisation on Chopsticks.  At the end of the evening The Maestro thanked the boy for his assistance and handed him off with a few quiet words to a stunned mother.

Now, I am not The Maestro, but I say to all of you who are remiss in your lessons and out of practice in your craft, or just a little behind, a bit frustrated with the journey ahead, still dreaming, or well on your way to a new success…

Don’t stop.  Keep going.  Whatever you do, don’t stop.  Keep dreaming.  Keep reaching.  Find the magic and share.

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