Monday, July 2, 2018

Deadline: Nine Pages a Day

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

              I gave up filling a notebook a month in June. I thought it would give me more time to work on my other writing projects, but I just proved to myself again that it is not more time I need, but more deadlines.

              Deadlines and pressure are my driving forces to write. If I have a deadline, I don't miss it. Projects just for fun or on spec don’t create enough pressure although I enjoy finding out what I have to say. I need deadlines.

              Since no editor or publication is waiting for my projects, I need to write for more disciplined deadlines. Word counts do not work for me, but page counts do. I write about three pages a day in my notebook to fill one each month—this keeps me unafraid of the blank page and exploring ideas.

              I’ve now given myself a nine-pages-a-day deadline—three to fill a notebook a month and six on other projects. These can be handwritten or on the computer as my muse demands.

              Cheryl and I are discussing working on a project together so I’m adding that to my list. I finished a short story. I’m working on my book (90% completed), my screenplay, essays, and another short story.

              These nine pages are in addition to my monthly articles and essays for the magazines as well as my editing responsibilities.

              I’m a writer/editor. All of my working time and some of my spare time should be spent writing and editing. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. But it’s not enough. This nine-pages-a-day deadline is the only way I’m going to accomplish my project goals.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Creative Deadline

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I just completed another short writing project, but still have many other unfinished projects I’m working on. Why is completing creative projects so challenging? 

          In my case, it comes down to time and deadlines. I meet all professional writing deadlines, but for my projects without “real” deadlines I don’t always make enough time in my schedule.

          Also, I’m a queen of writing short pieces (under 1,500 words). I can get those done in seemingly no time as long as a deadline is looming. 

          However, I want to know what I have to say in longer formats. The only way to discover the answer is to write past my longest word count—about 10,000 words—and see where I end up.

While rereading Steven Pressfield’s essay “The Artist’s Life” on page 165 of his book The War of Art, I’m now inspired by this creative deadline:

“…Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

That’s a deadline I’m excited to meet.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Writers' Retreats and Future Plans

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

              Cheryl and I meet on a regular basis to share what we are writing, books and articles that inspire us, and plans/dreams for the future.

              At our meeting last week, I brought a list of topics and publications we could submit pieces to along with a raw cookie dough hack—replace the egg in any chocolate chip cookie recipe with an egg-sized amount of vanilla OR butterscotch pudding from a pudding cup. You cannot bake this dough, but no chance of salmonella while eating the raw dough. Delicious! (No eggs in the house, but I did have a pudding cup and so this hack was born.)

              Cheryl shared she wants to go on a writers’ retreat. She’s dreaming of an uninterrupted week or two in a cabin to work on both of her books: a novel and a nonfiction manuscript. No one can blame her as she is the mother of eight and uninterrupted time is rare.

              After a long lunch and exciting discussion, we each went back to our regular working lives with family obligations, errands, and waiting for repairmen, etc.

              A few days later, I was out with another friend and we decided to shop in Barnes & Noble. I took the time to peruse several sections and selected four books. I also wanted some writing magazines, but I didn’t want to hold my friend up so I just grabbed my favorites and got in the checkout line.

              Later when I arrived home, I pulled out the magazines. In a sign of “it’s meant to be,” Poets & Writers’ cover story was all about writers’ retreats. I immediately emailed the websites of the closest ones to Cheryl. Don’t know if she will get there this year or next, but planning is half the fun.

              In the next three weeks, I am submitting two pieces to two of the magazines from my list. If they are published, I will let you know.

              In the meantime, keep writing and submitting your work, too. Look into writing retreats near you. In the summer, some colleges offer MFA programs as well.

              Stay inspired. Keep working on your writing careers in any way you can.     

Monday, April 2, 2018

Writing Advice from a Successful First Time Author and a Songwriting Couple Who Just Won an Oscar

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

CBS Sunday Morning highlighted writers today: a first-time author as well as a husband and wife songwriting team. They gave some great advice to other writers.

Ready Player One was written by Ernest Cline. It’s his first novel and his first published work—and he won the author jackpot! In just 24 hours he accepted a lucrative offer from a publisher. He was also told that the movie rights were being auctioned. Steven Spielberg bought them. Cline then wrote the screenplay and was the technical expert for the movie on all things about the ‘80s.

As described on CBS Sunday Morning, Ready Player One envisions a dark future in which people spend most of their time plugged into a virtual online world. The plot is a high stakes scavenger hunt with clues from 1980’s pop culture.

Cline notes, “I am a testament to what happens if you be free about what you love, and why you love it, and not afraid or worried about what other people think about what you love or your passions. Just be bold and celebrate the things you are passionate about and amazing things can happen.”

He’s still amazed every time he speaks with Steven Spielberg, a hero from his childhood.

In the segment titled “In Harmony,” Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are highlighted for writing eleven songs for the animated movie Frozen. (They credit their two daughters for the inspiration.) The couple is working hard on the Broadway version now after winning an Oscar for their song “Remember Me” from the animated movie Coco.

They met at a songwriting workshop in 1999 where Bobby was working on his puppet musical “Avenue Q” which Kristen loved. It was a big success. At the beginning, their romance had ups and downs, but their career together has produced many hits.

Bobby’s advice, “You need to create from joy, from the part of you that loves what you are doing.”

I just wanted to share this advice from writers living their dream lives.

(There were several other stories worth watching in the episode—a profile of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was killed 50 years ago on April 4, an American tragedy; a heartwarming story about Jamarion Styles, a 14-year-old basketball player who lost both hands and most of his arms to an infection when he was a baby; and actor/director John Krasinski, a self-described scaredy cat, working with his wife, Emily Blunt, on the horror movie A Quiet Place. Also a segment on innovations in stained glass and a look at Google and Facebook and how they can affect people.)

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Power of Lists

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I love lists. I love writing down the things I have to do, but I love crossing them off the list even more. Mostly, I make lists for big projects, deadlines for the magazines, family stuff, and events.

          My daily errands and chores don’t need to be on a list. I know what I have to accomplish, but I decided to start making the lists anyway—why not? I love to cross off things. I’m now including on my lists small things I always mean to get to but don’t like clean out the junk drawer or donate some items.

          Funny, if it’s on the list it gets done a lot sooner.

          So now I’m making different lists—a bucket list for this year as well as for my life; places to visit with family and friends, a list of writing projects; a list of books I really want to read; cleaning/organizing lists for office and kitchen; and anything else that comes to mind.

          On my daily writer's list:

write at least three pages longhand in my monthly notebook;

read a page of The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters each day for a year;

randomly open Writing Fearlessly by William Kenower and read a passage or a page or a chapter for inspiration;

read from at least one other book as well as articles, essays, and/or poems;

write for at least one of my projects—book, screenplay, essays, or articles;

write my weekly Thursday essay for magazines and my blog posts or at least come up with topics;

fill out my Thought a Day Journal;

and plan, write, and/or edit the magazine issues for next month.

I do cross off every item on this list every day. I use The Ultimate Author’s Editorial Calendar and Writing Planner by Jennifer Ruggiero Schultz to keep organized. [Unpaid recommendation] It is big and unwieldy, but her daily page layout of lists works for me. Plenty of room to add tasks and track projects as well as record titles and page numbers of what I read, topics for essays and posts as well as what I wrote for specific projects, essay, blog, etc. Also places for lists of meetings/appointments and calls/emails, too.

There is a lot I want to see and do and accomplish—and I will get to all of it if it’s on one of my To Do Lists because I can’t wait to cross it off!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Reads for Writers: Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

            I am reading Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Timothy Ferriss who asks over 130 people from all walks of life the same 11 questions including: What book do you give as a gift the most or what one to three books have most influenced your life? What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life? How has failure set you up for later success? If you could have one gigantic billboard, what would it say? In the last five years, what new belief or habit has most improved your life?  

Here are some of my favorite quotes by authors/writers:

“…Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something—the book you’re writing, the album, the movie—and staying there a long, long time,” says Steven Pressfield. (page 9)

“…Obsess over figuring out the funnest, most exciting, most natural shape of yourself as a writer and start doing that…” Tim Urban (page 47)

“…Don’t let someone knock you off course before you reach your destination. Trust the work. Always trust the work,” says Soman Chainani. (page 72) “Make sure you have something every day you’re looking forward to…,” (page 73)

“…the metric I now use to judge my efforts and goals is: Did I do my best, given who I was and what I knew at that particular time? And what can I learn from the outcome to make my best better next time?” says Neil Strauss (page 98)

“Courage over comfort,” says Brene Brown. (page 233)

“Don’t let the weight of fear weigh down the joy of curiosity,” says Peter Guber. (page 281)

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear,” says Aisha Tyler quoting Jack Canfield (page 432)

       Thanks to Tribe of Mentors, I have many new titles on my reading list as well as a lot of good advice from writers and many other successful people.

The book is a great gift idea, especially for new graduates. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

For Avid Readers: Books That Recommend Themselves

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

All of these books have characters or the author recommending many other books. As an avid reader, I can never have enough book recommendations. Enjoy!


          Ann Hood’s memoir, Morningstar: Growing Up with Books, is a perfect example. As she shares her childhood memories of growing up in West Warwick, RI, she also discusses books she read that expanded her horizons. As the daughter of immigrants that couldn’t or didn’t have time to read, there were no books in her home so Hood cherished any book she could get her hands on at school, the library, or, joy of all joys, a bookstore.

When she was only four, Hood had one thought: “I want to live inside a book.” Later, she decided to be an author and make her wish come true.

          Join her as she reminisces about Little Women, Marjorie Morningstar, The Bell Jar, A Stone for Danny Fisher, The Harrad Experiment, Rabbit, Run, and many more books that impacted her life and career.

          Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Dirda shares his love of books in Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books. In his essays, Dirda covers favorite authors, books, and thoughts on writing and the times we live in as well as what he reads while traveling. His On Conan Doyle memoir is also a great read. (See post dated 11/23/15.)


If mysteries are of interest:

The Secret, Book & Scone Society, by Ellery Adams, is set in Miracle Springs, a delightful town that is known for a healing spa that attracts many tourists. There is also a bookstore run by Nora, a bibliotherapist—a person who knows just which books customers need to read—and a bakery owned by Hester that specializes in off-the-menu comfort scones—original, made-to-order scones with the fragrance and taste guaranteed to bring back fond memories to each customer.

One visitor who meets Nora on a bench in town needs her help, but first he takes her advice to buy a comfort scone then head to the bookstore for recommendations, but he never arrives—suicide or murder? The disreputable and misogynist sheriff deems it suicide without much of an investigation. Nora, Hester, June, a worker at the thermal pools, and Estella, a beauty salon owner, are determined to get answers and so the Secret, Book & Scone Society is founded.

          Ellery Adams has written many other books including a book retreat series, starting with Murder in the Mystery Suite, set in a small town in Virginia. It’s the home of Storyton Hall, a 50-bedroom mansion privately owned, but run as a hotel for bibliophiles. There are several libraries and reading rooms for visitors including the Jane Austen Parlor, the Ian Fleming Lounge, the Isak Dinesen Safari Room, the Daphne du Maurier Morning Room, and the Beatrix Potter Playroom.

          Owned by Aloysius and Octavia Steward, their widowed grandniece, Jane, manages the hotel as well as her six-year-old twin boys. She is also planning a murder mystery event which, of course, turns deadly seemingly over the book given to the winner of a scavenger hunt.

          Jane is shaken by this event, but her life turns upside down when her aunt has a stroke and the Steward family secrets about Storyton Hall are imparted to her.

          The adventure continues in Murder in the Paperback Parlor and Murder in the Secret Garden.

          The Three Pines series by Louise Penny is set in a tiny village in Canada just north of the Vermont border. Centered around a village green, there is a gourmet bistro, a B&B,  a general store, a bakery, and a bookstore owned by a retired therapist.

Residents are friendly as most have lived there their whole lives, but how well do people ever really know each other when one of them is a murderer? Inspector Gamache and his big-city homicide team are going to find out in Still Life.

          The 13-book series continues with crimes that lead back to or take place in Three Pines, but Inspector Gamache and his team are also under attack from within the police force. Mistakes are made. People die. But through it all, Inspector Gamache stands for justice. (See post dated 8/14/17).


          Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver includes poems she has written during her over 50-year career. Known especially for her poems about nature, this book gives readers a feel for her work as each section is based on one of her previous books. If you enjoy any of them, you can read even more by going to the original books. As a dog owner, I am a big fan of her pieces from Dog Songs, but most of her poems speak to me so I’ve read a dozen of her books.

          I also recommend Blue Pastures for all writers. Selections from this book are not included in Devotions, but Blue Pastures tells the story of how Mary Oliver came to be a writer and poet. (See posts dated 3/21/16 & 4/4/16.)

          Just for Fun:

          I’ve discovered a series of inspirational paperback journals (Write Now Journals) with fun and/or thoughtful quotes and drawings on the covers and throughout. Among my favorites are: “I must be a mermaid..I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” –Anais Nin; (a dog-themed journal) “…our friend for always and always and always.” –Rudyard Kipling; and “Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” –Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati.

These are fabulous pages for jotting or recording books you’ve read or books you want to read.