Monday, January 31, 2011

Neologisms (New Words and Phrases) from 2010

The American Dialect Society, a group of writers, editors and publishers, annually votes for the best new word of the year. January 7, 2011 the new word chosen was APP. It is short for application. An application is a program designed for a particular purpose on a computer or cell phone operating system. One of the reasons it was chosen was because a writer said even her grandmother knew what it was even though it is a new word to a lot of people.

APP has quickly been utilized around the world in a fast 18 months but has been used in computer technology for decades. Part of this revived popularity is due to the marketing and advertising campaign of Apple for its iPhone and tag line, “There’s an APP for that”. There are APPs ad nauseum. You can get one for calorie counting, sports scores, news, games, Harry Potter, and many others. A follow up phrase “killer app”, is an application that is so popular that people buy a computer or other device just to use that APP.

Other words and phrases, some considered by the American Dialect Society, and others found on lists of newly coined and popular words and phrases are:

Fat finger or thumbo—striking one or more keys while texting; a typo

Baggervation—feeling at the airport when other travelers found their luggage but you haven’t

Spillionaire—a person who got rich because of the British Petroleum oil spill

Phoenix firm—a troubled company that emerges under a new name

Gate rape—phrase for the pat downs in airports by the TSA

Smirting—flirting while outside the front door of a building to smoke

Skyaking—jumping out of planes with your kayak

Tombstoning—jumping or diving into water from a dangerously high perch

Nom de womb—parents not knowing the sex of their baby until he or she is born

Mouse potato—someone who spends an inordinate amount of time on a computer; also netizen

Trout pout—too much collagen injected into person’s lips

Soul patch—small growth of beard under a man’s lower lip

Cheepuccino—inexpensive, low quality cappuccino usually bought from a vending machine

Push present—gift given by husband to wife shortly after their baby is born

Menoporsche—attempt by middle aged man to recapture his youth by purchasing an expensive sports car

Noughts—decade from 2000-2010 that end in zero or “nought.”

Starter marriage—short, first marriage and divorce ending with no children, no property and no regrets

Wardrobing—buying a garment, wearing it and returning it to the store

Jumbrella—large umbrella over an outside table at a cafĂ© or coffee house

LBD—little black dress

Sources: www.learn-some-english-today.com; http://owlnet.rice.edu; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/weekinreview/19sifton.html; http://newsfeed.time.com/new-words-in-the-ode

[“Apple”, “iPhone” and “There’s an app for that” are all trademarked phrases or names owned by Apple Computer Co.]

Friday, January 28, 2011

TGIF: Writing Prompts for a Cold Winter Day

Seems to be a quiet weekend coming up in greater North Idaho. It might be a good time to stoke a cheerful fire or light some candles, settle in with a notebook and pen, and do a bit of scribbling. Here are a few writing prompts to get you going:

*Randomly choose a newspaper headline, clip it out, and dispose of the accompanying story without reading it. Write a short fiction piece using the selected headline as the title.

*Turn on the TV and watch a few minutes of the first program that you see--with the volume off. What are the characters saying? You fill in the dialogue.

*Leaf through an old magazine and choose a picture of any person. Write a description of what it might be like to be the son, daughter, parent, or sibling of that person.

If cabin fever strikes, venture out of the house and go see an American classic. Lake City Playhouse is presenting John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Lake City Playhouse, 1320 E. Garden Ave., Coeur d'Alene (208-667-1323).

Afterward, read the book and think about how the playwright translated the novel to a stage play. Is that something you'd like to try with one of your favorite novels?

Happy weekend! Stay warm.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Learning to Write, Featured Writing Instruction Resource, and a Lesson

(Today we're delighted to share a guest post from Post Falls, ID, writer Jessie Gunderson, cross-posted with permission from her fun and informative blog, Blog Schmog. Jessie writes mainly inspirational fiction and poetry. She's currently hard at work at two important creative projects: (1) a political suspense novel, and (2) her fifth child, due in February!)


Learning the craft of fiction is sometimes a tricky and expensive business. But we are on a single income budget with a whole passel of kids to boot, so "expensive" and "my own ambitions" (no matter how noble) don't go together.

That's why Amazon, the library, and author/agent blogs where the craft of writing is taught and discussed are places I like to frequent.

Although, the howling toddler flopping at my feet as I attempt to type this quick post is making me reconsider other options: check into a loony bin, fly to the moon . . . .

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman is a hand-me-down book from an author friend of mine. But don't let my worn copy deceive you. It is well-loved! This is a great instructional resource to keep and refer back to.

Each chapter addresses a topic aimed at "staying out of the rejection pile" with examples of errors, ways to fix trouble spots, and then ends with a lesson to apply to your own work in progress. From presentation to dialogue, and on to more advanced techniques like pacing, this is an invaluable resource. It also happens to be concise, and chapters move along quickly so you can learn a lot in a short amount of time, especially if you apply the end-of-chapter lessons.

Your Mission #1: Here is a lesson from my reading that I enjoyed. Join me if you like by leaving your "homework" in the comments below or on a blog post and linking back.

Lesson from the chapter on setting:

Lukeman challenges writers to train themselves to be attentive to their surroundings, and by learning to better observe, infuse richer settings in their writing. Find ten unusual details in the room you are in and write them down. It doesn't matter how small. Then see if you can convey a feeling or leave an intentional impression about the setting using these details.

Here's mine:

1. Dust clung to the blades of the fan.
2. A candle tipped out of rank on a wall sconce of otherwise tidy crimson candles.
3. Laundry spilled out of the hamper, slumped like an old man, weary and tired.
4. Neatly stacked books occupied every flat surface, holding up random wads of this and that.
5. A well-loved quilt was spread over the stilted log bed.
6. Pages from Parents Magazine littered the floor.
7. A white scratch marred the wall painted with midnight forest green.
8. Grandmother's old rugs made a cozy place for feet to land on the hardwood floor.
9. The faint smell of heated rice and lavender filled the small space.
10. A lone wooden block lay abandoned in the corner.

Your Mission #2: What can you gather from my surroundings?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Writer's Virtual Watercooler

(tap, tap, tap) "Hello? Is this thing on?"

That old saw refers, of course, to the performer sweating on stage, tapping the microphone to see if the audience can hear him . . . perhaps in the wake of a joke that has fallen flat, or a rousing speech he hoped would inspire murmurs of agreement. Instead there is dead silence--the proverbial chirping of crickets. Surely they didn't hear him, or they would have responded! (tap, tap, tap) "Is this thing on?"

In some ways, blogging is like performing on stage. You send something out to the universe, hoping it won't come back void. While some bloggers may write purely to express themselves, not especially caring to hear what others think about what they've written, we at Writing North Idaho care deeply about what the Inland Northwest literary community is thinking and doing.

One of our dreams for Writing North Idaho is that it will be a place for writers, readers, and others who love the written and spoken word to come together and share thoughts, information, ideas, opinions, and inspiration. We'd like to be a gathering place, a virtual watercooler for wordsmiths. To do that, we need to hear from you!

Now that we've gotten our sea legs at this whole blogging thing, we'd like to increase blog traffic and activity and get the conversation going. While researching ways to do this, I've learned a few interesting tidbits. Most of them are pure common sense, like paying attention to what we put in headers, linking to other blogs, joining a blog ring, and adding a blog roll to the homepage, all things to consider as we move forward.

But we also want to hear from you, dear reader. Specifically:

*What would you like to see more of (and less of) on Writing North Idaho?

*What would make the blog most useful and fun for you?

*What inspires you to comment on a blog (any blog, not just WNI)?

*What might prevent you from posting a comment? (One potential commenter mentioned being intimidated at the idea of posting on a blog for writers, worried that we're hovering here with eagle eyes, ready to swoop down and pounce on every grammar and spelling mistake. Believe me, this is not Mrs. Grundy's English 101 class! We're eager for your thoughts and ideas, not precisely placed past-perfect participles--if such a thing even exists!)

*Finally, if you are a blogger yourself, what tactics have worked for you, in terms of increasing traffic and getting comments on your blog?

As always, we're eager to hear from you!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Red Hats Provide Valuable Marketing Tool

Local author Joyce Caudel is presenting her novel, The Hat Pin Murders, the first in her Red Hat Mystery Series, to the public at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane tonight (January 21) at 7:00 p.m.

When I read the blurb about her book, I thought, "She's a marketing genius!" With over 70,000 members of the Red Hat Society, the largest women's social club in the world, she has a built-in international market - and is a publisher's dream.

Fascinated, I looked a little further into Caudel's first foray into the publishing field through her publisher, Gray Dog Press of Spokane. I discovered this remarkable woman has authored her first book at age 69, "fullfilling her lifelong dream to be a writer."

According to her publisher, Joyce is a nine-year member of the Red Hats and currently serves as Queen of her chapter. She also shares her talents as an inspirational speaker, giving a message of encouragement to women to dream the dream that God has placed in their hearts.

What a great inspiration to women in general, and writers in particular. Joyce Caudel is living proof that it's never too late to go after your dream.

If you get the chance, stop by Auntie's tonight and pick up one of Joyce's books and get her autograph. According to Gray Dog, she'll be easy to find. "Just follow the red hats."

And don't forget the smarts behind writing a series (what a publisher wants) with a ready market (what a publisher loves). Whether you're a retired teacher, a railroad buff, a veteran, or a proud Kiwanis member; tie that concept to a series of stories and you've created a valuable marketing tool.

Don't forget to check out other writing-related events on our Events page!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Power of Intention

A couple of years ago, I attended a class taught by a Hollywood scriptwriter. He urged us to share what we were working on. As writer after writer said he or she didn't want to tell for fear of somebody stealing their idea, or perhaps for fear of criticism for themselves or their project, he became perturbed.

He said one of the best things a writer can do is share your ideas because saying something aloud makes it possible, and you never know whether or not the person you tell might just be the link to boost your project into reality.

He said the feedback you get, both positive and negative, is healthy. Maybe you're wasting time on a subject nobody but you cares about. Maybe you have the next blockbuster on your hands. By sharing with others, you chance learning something new, or gaining some insight that will improve your project or help you get it sold.

What I later realized he was sharing with us is the idea behind The Power of Intention.

According to Marcia Wieder, Americas Dream Coach, "When you set an intention and then act on it to demonstrate your commitment, amazing things occur."

Last summer, I sat down next to a gentleman at a kNIFVES luncheon at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane. More at home at the White Pine Cafe in Athol, I struggled to look relaxed. The man turned to me and introduced himself as the owner of 5X5 Productions, then asked about myself.

"I'm a screenwriter," I stammered, "a- a- budding screenwriter."

I mentally congratulated myself, "Good, Mary Jane, good. Putting it out in the universe!"

"Great!" he said, "What are you working on?"

Should I or shouldn't I? This guy has production studios in Los Angeles as well as Spokane, and world-wide distribution! He's going to think my idea is dumb!

"I'm working on a story about Turkey Pete," I said with what little enthusiasm my shaking voice could muster.

The comfortable conversation that followed was broken only when the meeting started ten minutes later. He had asked question after question and shown obvious enthusiasm for my story.

Tuning out the speaker, I contemplated our exchange and came up with the delightful realization that The Power of Intention had worked for me! Just talking about my project and the interest he showed for it gave me new energy and faith in both my story and my ability to see it through to completion.

The New Year is the perfect time to put The Power of Intention to work for you as a writer. I know I'm going to in 2011!

Four Steps for Setting an Intention
by Marcia Wieder Americas Dream Coach

By setting an intention, you make it clear to yourself and others, just what you plan to do. Set an intention to redefine what it means to be serious about your dreams.

1. Get clear about something you want and write it down.
2. Share your intention with someone in a way that will supportively hold you accountable to taking action.
3. Do something today to demonstrate your commitment to your intention.
4. Acknowledge that you did what you said you would and then, take the next step.

You can find Ms. Wieder's full article on the Power of Intention at http:healing.about.com/od/marciawieder/a/powerintention.htm

Monday, January 17, 2011

Revising a Two-Time-Loser into a Winner

The New Year finds me revising a writing project...again. Just a week ago, Nancy ended her blog on the importance of revision with a question: "What is your experience with the revision process?"

It got me to thinking how important that process has been to my writing career. I've learned to step away from my writing. I let it sit for a few days, then go back and take a look. Without exception, I make a few (and sometimes considerable) changes. And each time I do this, my writing gets leaner, stronger, and better.

The story of the screenplay I'm currently working on is a story that wouldn't have happened without countless revisions. Here's how it all happened for a little two-time-loser I wrote two years ago:

In January, 2009, I entered a short story "Heading for the Big Time," in the Idaho Magazine fiction contest. I worked hard, writing and rewriting my entry a dozen times. Finally perfected, I sent it in.

It didn't win.

Although my entry didn't win, I was later notified it had been chosen for the Publisher's Choice award. Hey, I'll take it! A come-from-behind win is OKAY with me!

A few months later, kNIFVES (Northwest Independent Film and Video Entertainment Society) announced they were holding their first Short Screenplay Contest. I decided to revise the short story I had written for Idaho Magazine into a screenplay.

This was my first screenplay, and I had a lot to learn. So I got busy putting down on paper what I had learned through workshops I attended and how-to books I read.

I wrote, and then re-wrote it time and again. I spent many hours researching, learning, and writing. Once I was pleased with it, I sent it to a writing friend for editing and comments. I took her critique seriously, and made some significant revisions based on her suggestions.

Finally! My 17-page screenplay was polished and ready to mail in the appropriately-sized envelope. That's when kNIFVES announced their decision to lengthen the contest period. For some reason, I decided to hold onto that envelope.

A couple weeks later, something clicked while I was reading yet another book on screenwriting and I realized my screenplay had amateurish flaws. I took a deep breath and went back to work, rewriting it again and again. When finished, I had over 40 revisions - some substantial, and some trivial. Finally satisfied once again, I sent it in: "Root Bound," an original screenplay by Mary Jane Honegger.

I didn't win.

Alright, I didn't win. but, I did learn about screenwriting. So, it was with confidence that I began working on a full length screenplay. (Which I am still working on.)

THEN, nearly a year later, in mid-2010, I received a request from kNIFVES to produce my screenplay.

A second come-from-behind-win!

kNIFVES President WJ Lazarus wrote for and received a 2010 New Filmmaker Grant from the Idaho Film Office to produce the screenplay and next thing I knew, it was scheduled for production. Karla Peterman, Line Producer for the project, recently issued the Pre-Production Schedule. It should be completed in time to be entered in the Sandpoint Films 2nd Annual Film Festival in November 2011.

End of story? Not quite. Guess what I get to do? Rewrite my screenplay! I am expected to rewrite (and rewrite) "Root Bound" until it meets approval with the producer. But when I'm done with that - I get to just sit back and watch my little two-time-loser go into production. What fun!

Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove,you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain. Elie Wiesel

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mark Your Calendars!

There are many great writing-related events for you to attend and enjoy in the coming weeks, including a local writers’ conference in March and the Get Lit! festival in April. Here's a brief overview:

The first annual Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference will be held March 19. Keynote speaker is Jim Rubart, author of ROOMS and Book of Days. For details on workshops and other information, go to http://www.inwchristianwriters.webs.com/. This is a one-day conference and is a great value for only $50 per person. Lunch can be reserved for an additional $6. Check it out!

Also, tickets are now on sale for Eastern Washington University's 13th annual Get Lit! festival which takes place April 13-17. The festival will feature over 50 events including author presentations and readings, writing workshops, panel discussions, poetry slams and writing contests. Most events are free to the public, and individual tickets are now on sale for the headlining events. Each ticket is just $15 for the general public and free for students with a current high school or college ID. Student tickets will be available at college bookstores March 28 through April 8 or at the door as space allows. Individual tickets for the Ani DiFranco concert are $35 and student discounts will not apply. To reserve your seat for any of the headlining events, contact TicketsWest at 1-800-325-SEAT or online at Tickets West. Festival passes are still available for the headlining events. By purchasing a pass, you will save $20-$25 off individual ticket costs and service fees. Passes gain admission to see Tim O’Brien (with Brian Turner), Sam Kean, Matthew Dickman and on Friday, either Sena Jeter Naslund (with Nancy Rawles) or Ani DiFranco in concert. The regular festival pass is $45. The pass that includes the Ani DiFranco concert ticket is $60. Visit the Get Lit! website for a full list of participating authors and events.

Meanwhile, below are a few of the events happening in January.

At Aunties Bookstore, George Brinkman will sign copies of his book, Origins of Christianity; Joyce Caudel presents her first novel, The Hat Pin Murders: A Red Hat Mystery; Jesse Freels will sign copies of his young-adult novel, Murder at Foxbluff Lake; Paula Croomer will present her second novel, Dove Creek; and Donald Bradshaw will present his historical novel, Memoirs of a Counterspy.

Also, Dawn Nelson will sign copies of her books, A Cowgirl Remembers When and A Cowgirl Never Forgets at the Aslin-Finch Seed Conpany in Spokane.

And, if you have a desire to read your work to an audience, don’t forget Sandpoint’s popular, monthly, Five Minutes of Fame open mic at Foster’s Crossing.

You will find the times, locations, and details of these and other events on the Events page of this blog.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Beyond this Blog: Do You Tweet?

Do you feel like you’re lagging behind in the world of technology as a writer? If so, you’re not alone. Although many writers now use an array of social networking sites to get the word out about their books, websites, articles, events, etc., many of us are still spinning our wheels to catch up and make the best use of such sites.

One of these tools is, of course, Twitter. I have a Twitter account, but my occasional tweets fall far short of using it efficiently. So for folks like me, the Editors at Bookhitch.com published the following advice for writers who want to use the site as a platform for their work.
______________

9 Twitterific Tips

How to use Twitter to gain exposure:

Let's face it. Twitter has taken over the world. From Michael Jackson's death to earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, many people find their news out from Twitter first. What's to stop them from finding their next book through Twitter? Only your ability to tweet successfully. Malle Vallik, director of digital content and social media at Harlequin Enterprises Ltd, says that "if you are a good Twitterer, people will trust you - even if you are a brand- and will trust your recommendations. And word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool". Twitter is fast and friendly and can help you reach hundred of new readers as long as you're using it correctly. Here are some simple tips for keeping a successful Twitter.

1) Retweet. "RT" or "retweeting" is taking a Twitter post from someone else and rebroadcasting it to your followers. This pushes your @username into different social graphs, which results in clicks back to your profile.

2) Use Hashtags. These are a word or phrase prefaced by a hash symbol (#), for example #ebooks. This will group your tweet with other people who have used the same hashtag and therefore create more traffic for your Twitter.

3) Update frequently... If followers are continually checking your page and nothing has been updated in a week, you're going to lose those followers.

4) ... and make timely and appropriate tweets. But tweeting what you eat for every meal is not likely to be appropriate or interesting either. If something big happens, don't wait to tweet about it. Twitter is one of the most useful tools for instant news and you should use it to your advantage.

5) Be strategically self-promoting. No one wants to read a Twitter that constantly toots its own horn. Enter conversations tied to your book's topic and be engaged enough so that when you bring up your work, it doesn't sound like a shameless sales pitch. Otherwise your followers will feel like you're just using them.

6) Have a personality associated with the brand. If you're an author, be yourself and let your humanity shine through. The personal interaction allows customers to feel loyalty to a brand.

7) Jazz up your Twitter. Links are a great way to do this. You can link to your website, to articles that you're interested in, even to pictures of friends and family.

8) Be careful what you Tweet. Because Twitter is so instant, it's easy to fire off a complaint. But unlike a verbal complaint, a Tweet doesn't go away as easily. Before you Tweet make sure your statement reflects you as a professional and not you being irritated and wanting to vent.

9) Have fun. Invent new and exciting ways to engage your Twitter community. Have contests, polls, jokes, raffles, giveaways, whatever you can think of to entertain and inform your followers.

These tips and tricks can help you navigate your way to a successful Twitter following.

(This excerpt reprinted with permission, Bookhitch.com, June 2010 Newsletter.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back to Work: A New Year of Writing...and Rewriting

After a wonderful holiday with family, I’m ready to get my thoughts in gear and go back to work on my writing…or…um…rewriting. Over the past year and a half I’ve occupied much of my time with book marketing, article writing and other related projects (such as this blog), setting aside work on a book revision I have in the works.

Whether you write fiction or narrative nonfiction, revision is a vital part of the craft of writing, even though it can carry a writer on a pendulum swing of emotion between the wish to have a finished product to the pleasure of knowing revision will make the story better.

Early in my efforts to educate myself as a writer, the first book I read dedicated to the subject was Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction by David Michael Kaplan. I learned a lot from Kaplan, most importantly the realization of the critical need for deep revision, moving far beyond a check for punctuation, typos and spelling. Kaplan states:

Revision is the key process of writing.
That’s where stories are made.

That revelation of how crucial deep revision is for my writing reminded me of when, many years ago, I first learned to develop my own photographs. I learned that by manipulating exposure times and using burning and dodging techniques, I could significantly improve upon that first photographic impression. It was a thrilling discovery. And likewise, with intensive revision, by manipulating the various elements of my manuscript, I can significantly improve upon those early drafts.

Another important book on revision that has proven helpful is Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer can Afford to Ignore by editor Elizabeth Lyon. Lyon covers all aspects of the art of revision in depth, addressing the need to revise from the "inside-out" and from the "outside-in," the first referring to self-knowledge (plumbing the depths of your life experiences to improve your writing) and the second referring to ground level techniques common to all methods: add, delete, rearrange, enhance, transform. Lyon writes:

Whether your story needs a lot or a little work, the fact is
that revising fiction requres skills apart from writing.

Even though I write narrative nonfiction rather than fiction, with the help of these books and other resources, I have come to enjoy (yes, enjoy) the revision process. I love the hard thinking as I pull together the bits and pieces of those ideas that come to me as I reread the manuscript, as I lie awake in the middle of the night, as I drive to the grocery store or watch and old movie. I like shifting the structure, sometimes spreading the chapters across the floor in front of me, in my challenge to keep the reader interested. I enjoy the research and the organization. It feels good to improve a transition between scenes and to make sure I have ended every paragraph as strong as I can. I like the careful shaping and fine tuning of the words and phrases in my hope that the story will help someone, entertain someone, inspire someone, or possibly inform someone of something they didn’t know before.

If you’re looking to learn more about the revision process, there are many resources. In addition to those mentioned above, most how-to books on writing include at least a chapter or so about revision. In addition to books, the Internet has a variety of articles on university and writing-related websites for writers on the topic of revision.

Here are a few:

http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/revision.html

http://www.indiana.edu/~reading/ieo/digests/d100.html

http://www.csuohio.edu/academic/writingcenter/revision.html

http://www.writeexpress.com/revise-writing.html

Writers should take to heart the words of the best-selling author of Jurassic Park and many other popular books, the late Michael Crichton, who offered this on the subject of revision:

Books aren't written - they're rewritten.
Including your own. It is one of the hardest
things to accept, especially after the seventh
rewrite hasn't quite done it.

Deep revision can take your work to a higher level. It provides a learning opportunity that adds to your knowledge base about the craft of writing. And after it is complete, you will be pleased that your story has become more cohesive and compelling. And so will your reader.

What is your experience with the revision process?

Friday, January 7, 2011

TGIF: Fun Stuff to Melt the Winter Blahs

For every person who feels a little blue now that the holidays are over, there are others of us who relish that delicious freedom from overfilled calendars and overstuffed social obligations. At last, some nice long stretches of time in which to write! Still, the transition from "making merry" to "bleak midwinter" can be jarring. If the January page of your fresh 2011 calendar is looking a little too bare, here are a few ideas to fill it up:

THIS WEEKEND:
The Friends of the Library used book sale will be held tomorrow (January 8) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the East Bonner County Library. Along with a fine selection of fiction, nonfiction, travel, romance, videos, CDs, audiobooks, etc., there will also be a "Bag o' Books" sale--a special room where you can fill up a brown paper shopping bag for just 3 bucks! The library is located at Cedar and Division streets in Sandpoint.

COMING SOON:
Therese Marszalek of Deer Park, Washington, author of several books including the recent release From the Wilderness to the Miraculous, will be the featured speaker at the January 12 meeting of the Coeur d'Alene chapter of the Idaho Writers League, 9 a.m.-noon at the Jewett House, 1501 E. Lakeshore Drive, Coeur d'Alene.

On Saturday, January 15, the Sandpoint chapter of the Idaho Writers League will hold a "Story of the Year" contest at 9:00 a.m. at the East Bonner County Library (Cedar and Division in Sandpoint). Anyone can participate by reading their story, poem, essay, memoir, etc., aloud--or, just come and listen! The organizers say there are no real rules and the stories will be judged on entertainment value. For information check with the Sandpoint chapter of Idaho Writers League, sandpoint@idahowritersleague.com.

Another opportunity to read (or sing) your work aloud happens on Wednesday, January 19 at the Five Minutes of Fame open mic event, 6:30 p.m. at Cafe Bodega at Foster's Crossing, 504 Oak in Sandpoint. Show up, sign up, and perform to an appreciative audience! 208-263-5911.

Be sure to click on the "Events" tab to see more book signings, author appearances, and other events coming up in the area.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In a Writing Mood: Tips and Tricks from the Masters

I’ll admit it; I’m addicted to author interviews. I love to learn the stories-behind-the-stories. I keep a file of author interviews I’ve collected over the years. Every so often I pull them out and leaf through them, looking for inspiration. I’m especially interested in the little daily practices that authors use to “prime the pump” and get themselves ready to write. Some writers read a few pages of a favorite book. Others take walks, putter around in the kitchen or garden, pray, or meditate. Still others retype what they wrote the day before to get into the “voice” of their character. Here are some of my favorite ways to get in the writing mood:

Music

Did you know that the root of the word "music" is "muse"? If your writing muse is napping, turn up the volume and wake her up!


Novelist Bret Lott opens his writing time by listening to certain music: a different “soundtrack” for every project. He prefers music that’s complex and instrumental, so that the words of the song don’t get mixed in with his own. While writing her bestselling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon listened to Scottish folk music, “trying to grasp the cadence and charm of their language.”

The novel I’m working on is set during Prohibition. At the library I found a CD of hit songs of the 1920s, and for a while that was my writing soundtrack. Recently I discovered the wonders of iTunes and downloaded my own selections. Now when I hear the opening strains of “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” I shimmy myself right back into my story.


Objects

Some writers use objects to get into the writing mood. Kent Haruf says he writes the first draft with a stocking cap over his face, typing blind so as not to be distracted by the words on the paper. Others don a certain shirt or pair of slippers. Several writers have mentioned lighting a candle at the beginning of every writing session. I love this idea, except I tend to be forgetful, and a shrieking smoke alarm is unhelpful to the creative process. Instead, I collect old magazines from the 1920s that I find in antique shops. They’re fairly inexpensive, and the ads and illustrations are great for helping me capture the clothes, hairstyles, decorating, and even popular slang of the era. I also have an antique lipstick case that I display on my desk. It helps me conjure up an image of the “flapper” who might have carried it, back in the day.


Tastes and Smells

Catherine Palmer prepares for writing her Regency-England romances by brewing tea in an elegant china pot. Amy Tan burns incense. I don’t yet have an aroma associated with my novel, but if I did, it would probably be bootleg whiskey or bathtub gin (on second thought, I’d probably best leave well enough alone!).

How do you get in the writing mood? Do you have certain tricks, habits, or rituals that set the stage for your writing? If not, maybe give it a try. Who knows—your muse might just appreciate your lucky bowling shirt as much as you do.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Inescapable New Years Resolution Post

It's a new year, a new day, a fresh start, a blank page--insert your favorite New Years resolution cliche here. Whether or not we make formal New Years resolutions, it's hard to escape the fact that a new year inspires a writer to both take stock of what's gone before and make plans for what lies ahead.

Resolutions. Ugh. I've been making the same resolutions for so long, I can recite them in my sleep--eat better, exercise more, remember to floss, change the oil, and send birthday cards. This year I'm thinking about skipping all that resolution stuff. After all, didn't somebody say that insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.

But somehow, I just can’t let go of certain resolutions, especially writing-related ones-- goals to write higher quality pieces and more of them, seek publication in new markets, or try my hand at new projects. How about you? Have you set any writing goals for 2011? If not, may I suggest a few, to get the wheels turning?

Write a certain number of words/pages/minutes per day/week/month. Maybe Famous Author claims that the key to success is to churn out a thousand words every day before breakfast. Well, good for him. Maybe you can only write on Saturday mornings, or only on your lunch break, or only when the moon is full. Whatever your personal constraints are, plan your writing according to what works for you, not for some other writer who’s decided that a thousand words before breakfast holds some kind of magic. The point is to have a writing plan that works for you, and then get cracking.

Send out a certain number queries or proposals per month. If your goal is publication (and it’s okay if it’s not—a truth that we writers tend to forget), then vow to put your work out there regularly. You can’t control whether Dream Publisher, Inc. will accept your work, but you can control whether you sent out two queries in April and two more queries in May.

Try a new genre. Normally a novelist? Try a poem. Master of the memoir? Try futuristic fiction. The worst that could happen is you remember why you avoid futuristic fiction like the plague. The best? A whole new creative path opens up before you.

Improve your craft. Writing encompasses myriad skills to improve on. Pick one. Make 2011 the year that you expand your vocabulary, or perfect your comedic timing, or draw richer characters. Choose a favorite author and really study how he or she uses language or pacing or humor. Try to emulate it. And speaking of favorite authors . . .

Read! For many writers, reading is like breathing. But a surprising number claim they don’t have time to read. Respect your reading time, and make sure others do, too. If you have to, block out time on your calendar with, for example, “appt.. w/EBW.” Then honor that “appointment” with E. B. White as much as if he were there in the flesh, and watch the quality of your work steadily improve under his influence.

Participate in a writing or critique group. Don’t go it alone. Writing groups can inspire each other, learn from each other, and make strides toward all of the above.

Sometimes cliches become cliches because they're true! It IS a new year and a new day. So turn the page, turn a corner, turn up the volume . . . it’s time to write!