Monday, May 25, 2015

Reads for Writers: A Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel Provides a Masterclass

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

Eric Maisel has penned a fabulous love letter about Paris and all her charms to every writer in the world. After reading A Writer’s Paris: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul, most of us will want to jump on a plane leaving for France immediately. Maisel makes us believe it’s not only possible, but essential for all writers to go there and write.

If you can plan, save, risk, and believe, Paris is yours….you can not only go to Paris—you can make your writing dreams come true. (page 96)

Who doesn’t dream of sitting at an outdoor café table writing for half the day then picking up your notebook and pen and heading for a bench in a tiny park square known only to locals or the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore for more inspiration? Generously, Maisel shares his favorite writing spots all around the city.

 Each time I arrive in Paris I head directly for the Place des Vosges, the most beautiful square in the world…Once discovered, it becomes a place to be remembered. A working artist can spend whole days there—writing, soaking up the ancient and the contemporary…it is lively, quiet, shady, safe, inviting and gorgeous. (page 5)

 …I like to write at the Gallieni bus station…Every few minutes a drama unfolds. (page 34)

 If you are serious about going to Paris, a Planning Checklist is thoughtfully provided on pages 195-200. Published in 2005, some of the information will be out of date, but it includes goals, costs, and housing tips to ensure a “perfect” visit. (See also pages 91-97.) Locations for bookstores, markets, cafés, day trips, museums, parks (see also pages 85-90), and fun places for children and families are listed on pages 201-210, (more family fun is discussed on pages175-178), followed by Resources for Planning Your Trip on pages 211-213. Researching Paris Online information is listed on pages 98-101.

 While partially a guidebook to amazing sites, A Writer’s Paris really guides you to go there to write.

…Paris is the place you go when you mean to put your creative life first…Paris feeds an artist, motivates her, galvanizes her…Paris is the place to write. Since it is the perfect place to write, it is the perfect place to commit to writing…make Paris one of the stopping points on your creative journey… (pages 1-4)

Come to this perfect park [the Jardin Saint Gilles Grand Veneur]—not to have your heart broken, but to write poignantly and well. Perhaps, close to tears, you will conjure up something beautiful… (page 88)

I love A Writer’s Paris although readers may not agree with all the author’s opinions. However, his passion for writing in Paris shines through.

The black and white illustrations and photographs are eye-catching on the heavy-stock, glossy pages. When I read it, I’m transported to Paris ready to write. I only wish the cover and monochromatic splashes of color inside the book had been more tailored to the City of Lights. Instead of the dull mustard gold, why not a vibrant green representing springtime in Paris or an electric French blue? The beauty of Paris is one of the author’s themes. A lovelier color would have better complemented his vision in this otherwise gorgeous book many will reread any time they feel the need to get away and write—or use as a guidebook should they be lucky enough to find themselves writing in Paris.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Plan to Write!

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

Summer means more sunshine and, therefore, longer days. Does this equate to more writing time? Only if you plan for it.

          If you have children, maybe they’re going to day- or sleepaway camps. At the very least, hopefully, they will be playing outside more. There’s some good writing time during the day and some at night as the kids should be tired and go to bed earlier or maybe they will sleep in.

I read in a magazine about three couples who rented one cabin for six weeks. All of their kids stayed at the cabin for the entire six weeks. However, the couples stayed one at a time spending their two weeks’ vacation in fun chaos there, but the other payoff was a month at home childfree—plenty of time to rest, relax, and write!

Now plan a summer writing schedule taking into account your significant others and your responsibilities. Your writing schedule should be reasonable. You can always write more, but you don’t want to over plan and then feel like you failed.

Your writing time is your own. Write using a laptop or notebook on a deck or patio, or under trees, or on a beach, or poolside, or at cafés, or at your desk—whatever feels right for you. The important thing is to write.

I highly recommend having a copy of The War of Art: Breakthrough the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield nearby. Having trouble getting started? Randomly open and read this book until you are inspired. I have a copy in every place I write. (See posts on 8/30/12, 12/2/13, and 12/17/12.)

Plan to write!


Monday, May 11, 2015

Reads for Writers: A Cup of Comfort for Writers edited by Colleen Sell

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Even if writing is a better way to spend your day, it can be difficult and frustrating. Sometimes we just need a few words of encouragement, support, or inspiration to keep us motivated. Having A Cup of Comfort for Writers: Inspirational Stories that Celebrate the Literary Life edited by Colleen Sell on a shelf nearby can help.

          Writers write for a variety of reasons. Writers who continue to write in spite of obstacles, rejection, and loss are inspiring. These are their stories.

          This is a book of short essays you dip into. I like to open anthologies like these randomly and read until I’m ready to write if I can’t get started or if I’m questioning myself. Writing is solitary work, but support is essential. Take it where you can get it.

          If you believe in signs from the universe, read “Hummingbird’s Journey” by Cassie Premo Steele on page 1. If you want to believe in yourself, enjoy “The Day I Turned Scarlett” by Kathleen Gerard on page 49. If you live with other people who interrupt your writing time, learn from “A New Point of View” by Samantha Ducloux Waltz on page 76. And if you want to see family support for writers in action, “The Write Mother” by Judy L. Adourian on page 269 teaches many wonderful lessons.

          Every essay offers wisdom, views from other paths taken, and /or moments all writers can relate to—good and bad. Being a writer isn’t easy, but it’s the choice we’ve made. We are in this together. Sharing our experiences makes the choice clearer and our resolve stronger.

          I received this book as a gift from a writer friend. I will be giving copies as gifts to other writer friends. It’s that kind of a book.

Please note: If you read my post on graphology dated 4/6/15, I discussed the literary trait in handwriting—any e’s and cursive lowercase r’s that look similar to a reversed 3. On the cover of A Cup of Comfort for Writers, three of these r’s appear in “for Writers”.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Better Ways to Spend Your Days?

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I read a lot so I cannot remember where I read about someone questioning whether there were better ways to spend your days than writing. I do remember thinking I should answer that question.

          For many, the answer is yes. Otherwise there would be many more books and blogs. On Kristen Lamb’s blog, WarriorWriters, she recently wrote that only 5% of writers finish their books.

          For me, the answer is no. I’m a writer. I’ve always been a writer. I’m sad/cranky/bored when I don’t write.

          Writing makes me think, makes me observant, makes me connect life’s dots.

As I go through my days, I take note of moments I want to write about later. As I pay more attention to my surroundings, my subconscious picks up on things I may miss at the time.  

When I have blank pages to fill, I rack my brain for these moments. My thoughts and observations help me make sense of life, especially my life.

That’s living at a deeper level than when I worked 9-5 at jobs I hated. I wasted time after work doing mindless things and being angry because I was unhappy—not better ways to spend my days.

          Is it difficult to fit writing into your days? Yes, there are often more fun things to do or more important things or more necessary things—laundry and dishes come to mind. Most ways to spend your days make your life a blur. You remember milestones, special events, tragic moments, but not a Thursday in September eight years ago. But if you write, you have a journal, a notebook entry on that day.

When I look back at my early notebooks and articles, part of me cringes. I hadn’t found my voice. I wasn’t organized. I used awkward phrases. I made mistakes—lots and lots of mistakes. But I can also see over many years of filling notebooks that I did find my voice. I organized my thoughts. My writing became less awkward and I made fewer mistakes.

Writing makes you a writer. If I’d been writing more through the years, I’d be an even better writer.

I had plans. I was excited about writing several different genres, but I gave in to unhappiness, anger, and exhaustion and gave up. My notebooks contained more whining than writing for a while.

For the last ten years, between writing articles and now blogging, I’m writing more. The more I write, the more I want to write. The more I write, the faster I write which creates time for even more writing. Want proof? I used to spend four or five hours on each of my posts when I was a new and nervous blogger. Now I write three posts in that same amount of time.

Recently, I’ve branched out into two other genres which I will write about in future posts because writing is a better way for me to spend my days.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Reads for Writers: Running from Safety by Richard Bach Provides a Masterclass

From Kate’s Writing Crate…


As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.
            Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice and/or creativity.


          Richard Bach has written about two dozen books, most of which I’ve enjoyed, but my favorite is Running from Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit.

From the back cover: If the child-we-were asked us today for the best we’ve learned from living, what would we tell, and what would we discover in return?

          How would you answer?

If you take this up as a writing prompt, it’s an enlightening experience. You might want to set aside an entire notebook or two to complete it.

In Running from Safety, Richard Bach has written a first-person mystical tale where the child he was is a 10-year-old character named Dickie. Together they reminisce, argue, discuss, agree and disagree about the past, present, and future. Richard is astonished to discover what he has forgotten or rewritten in his mind about his childhood.

As he considers Dickie’s observations and questions, both mundane and profound, he defends and explains himself. Even if the questions are painful, the child demands honesty. Bach's soul-searching answers contain mind-expanding wisdom.

The insights shared include:

“…Childhood was not something I was much trained to treasure. The point was to get through it. Learn as much as you can along the way, but hunch in, hold your breath, coast down that long powerless hill of dependence till you’re rolling fast enough to pop the clutch and start your engine on your own.” (page 49)

…Never had I understood that I command, with absolute authority, the ship of my life! I decide its mission and rules and discipline…I’m master of a team of passionate skills to sail me through hell’s own jaws the second I nod the direction to steer. (page 106)

“Like attracts like. It’ll surprise you as long as you live. Choose a love and work to make it true, and somehow something will happen, something you couldn’t plan, will come along to move like to like, to set you loose, to set you on the way…” (page 204)

          No! I thought. Don’t tell me that my security comes from somebody else! Tell me I’m responsible. Tell me security is a by-product of the gift I give of my skill and my learning and my love into the world. Tell me security comes from an idea given time and care. I claim this for my truth, no matter how many stable solid paychecks might come from the Accounting Department…Dear God, I thought, don’t give me a job, give me ideas, and let me take it from there! (page 214)

“…We build our personal world calm or wild according to what we want to live. We can weave utter peace in the midst of chaos. We can destroy in the midst of paradise. Depends on how we shape our spirit.” (page 222)

“Marriage is like nothing else you’ll ever live…brought together by miraculous magnetizing, found by incredible coincidence, soulmates discovered in the mystery of romance, you still have to work out problems together. Fascinating problems, it’s true, spicy tests lasting year after year, but lose romance and you lose the power to go on through hard times… (page 261)

 “Everything in the world of my consciousness, which is the only world that exists for me on earth, gets there through my consent…” (page 274)

          “…What matters, though, is how I use what I know every minute of every day; how I use it to remember… (Page 311-312)

          Running from Safety is one of the books I reread every few years because I get more out of it each time I consider Bach’s thoughts:

          How come we don’t know the answers until we find the question[s]… (page 140)

“…You don’t want a million answers as much you want a few forever questions. The questions are diamonds you hold in the light. Study a lifetime and you see different colors from the same jewel. The same questions, asked again, bring you just the answers you need just the minute you need them.” (page 141)

Who couldn’t use those questions?


Monday, April 20, 2015

Blogging Etiquette

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I love blogging. I have no plans to stop anytime soon although some weeks are easier to post than others. Deadlines for paid work, family matters, illnesses, emergencies, etc. can all cause disruptions, but I persevere.

I also love reading blogs. However, a couple of the blogs I follow have faltered and seemingly ended. No warning, just no new posts. And several others have gone from weekly to sporadic.

I keep checking to see if there are new posts—daily the first week without a post then weekly for a couple of months then randomly. It would be nice to have closure.

What is the etiquette for ending a blog? Put up a “Gone Fishin’” sign if the writer is taking a break? How about "Bisy Backson" if you are an A. A. Milne fan? Or pen a farewell?

The blogs I read just stopped. The same old posts come up every time I check. They’re like ghost sites—sad and kind of creepy.

What happened? Did the bloggers get bored? Overwhelmed? Uninspired? Sick? Injured? Or worst of all, short of death, stop writing altogether?

How many of these ghost sites are out there?

All bloggers will stop writing eventually so it would be helpful to have a standard goodbye. As writers, THE END seems appropriate.

          But for now on this blog, I’m going with CONTINUED NEXT WEEK.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Waiting for My Life by Linda Pastan

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          April is Poetry Month. While poetry in general may not be of interest when you are reading for fun, reading it is a wonderful way to improve your writing.

          Poets have unique ways with words. Reading their poems make me want to expand my writing vocabulary. I know many more words than I use. Writing poetry gives me a place to put them. No one has to know you write poems, long or short, in your notebooks. They are merely writing exercises. In fact, you can just write fragmented phrases as they come into your mind.

Poets convey thoughts and emotions in mind-bending ways. I always look at the world differently after reading poetry. I write differently, more deeply, too.

          I highly recommend writers read poetry by Billy Collins and Mary Oliver. (See posts dated 4/22/13 and 4/28/14 respectively.) And this year I recommend Waiting for My Life by Linda Pastan.

          Read "Secrets" on page 12. The first line: The secrets I keep from myself…tell me you couldn’t fill pages and pages with that writing prompt. It’s the core of a novel or play.

          Her poem, "Elegy", on page 24 shares where misplaced words never written down lurk and tarry.

          Trees are gnarled magicians in her poem, "November", on page 54.

          While words and images are the heart and soul of poetry, the presentation on the page adds to the impact. See the poem “blizzard” on page 59 where short lines pile up upon each other just like snow.

          Read poetry. Write poetically.

Writing poetically requires an open mind, observing eyes, and an expanded vocabulary. Deeper impressions appear on the page.

See what you can create using these tools.