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.

Monday, April 6, 2015


From Kate’s Writing Crate…

           We all remember the stubby pencils we were given in school and the really wide-ruled paper with the extra dashed lines so we would learn where lowercase letters mostly started. Posted on the wall was the alphabet written A a B b C c D d…Z z so we had a model to follow as we copied the letters on our pages. Soon we could write our own words down. A few grades later, we learned cursive, switched to pens, and then the fun began.

          Printing is useful, but cursive is beautiful. I loved everything about writing in cursive. I loved pens more than pencils. I loved all the colors of ink though I mostly used blue and black. I loved the embellishments that made my handwriting unique. And I loved that I could write almost as fast as I thought.

          Everyone’s handwriting should be uniform. We all learned the same alphabet with the same standard letters. Yet once we graduated to cursive, we went our own ways: easy to read or difficult, large or small letters, slanted or straight up. We wrote in ways comfortable to ourselves.

I never thought any more about it than that until I learned about graphology, the analysis of handwriting.

          Decades ago, I was reading The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman—a murder mystery that starts with a written clue found hidden inside a hurdy-gurdy. Needing more information than just the words in the note, the lead character decides a graphologist’s opinion would be helpful.

          I had never heard of a graphologist, but I thought it was a fascinating profession. After I finished the book, I looked up graphologists to see if there were any nearby. There were five in the closest big city and one was a woman so I called her.

          I explained to her that I had just finished a book with a graphologist as a character and that I was interested in learning more about graphology. As most people do when they are passionate about a topic, she started to explain what she did. I asked her how she was trained, who hired her, and what she could tell about people she’d never met.

We talked for about twenty minutes. Then she said she would examine my handwriting if I filled out a form and mailed it back to her which I did. Her analysis was spot on and I was hooked. I signed up for a class on graphology immediately and bought books on the subject. I learned how to “read” handwriting. Graphology is an amazing, insightful field of study.

When I worked as an accountant, one of my bosses discovered an embezzler. I didn’t know about graphology then, but I remembered the person wrote with very unusual o’s. They were more like upside down u’s, open at the bottom. I had never seen this before. While I was studying graphology, I discovered this can be a handwriting trait of an embezzler.

The way you write your letters like m’s, k’s, capital I’s, etc. is revealing as is the overall look of your handwriting. Slant, size, and strength (how deep is the impression on the paper) can tell how empathetic, detail-oriented, and emphatic you are among other things. There is a literary trait in handwriting, too—any e’s and cursive lowercase r’s that look similar to a reversed 3.

Graphology is a great tool for learning about character traits in general as well as in people you need to deal with on a regular basis. This knowledge can help you get along better with them.

So dot your i’s and cross your t’s then study how others do the same. The similarities and differences are illuminating.


Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 Writer's Market

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Each year the Writer’s Market contains contact information for publications, literary agents, and contests & awards as well as helpful advice on a variety of topics.

One of the most useful chapters in the 2015 Writer’s Market is “How Much Should I Charge?” by Aaron Belz. He gathered his information/rates from 17 writers’ organizations. (See the list of organizations on pages 115 & 116.)

          On his well-organized, easy to read Rate Table on pages 117-131, Belz lists Hourly, Project, and Other (including per word) rates across the top breaking them into High, Low, and Average.

Down the left side of the chart, he lists categories of writing including:

·        Advertising & Public Relations

·        Book Publishing

·        Business

·        Computer, Internet & Technical

·        Editorial/Design Packages

·        Educational & Literary Services

·        Film, Video, TV, Radio, Stage

·        Magazines & Trade Journals

·        Medical/Science

·        Newspapers

·        Nonprofit

·        Politics/Government

In total, these 12 categories are broken down into 165 specific assignments like press kits, ghostwriting, paid blogging, web editing, copyediting, proofreading, rewriting, grant writing, and speeches. Now it is easier to charge clients a fair rate for your time and expertise especially if it is a new type of writing project for you.

Unfortunately, writing is an underrated talent. Non-writers do not realize how much time it takes to write well plus proofread, rewrite, and edit to make sure the project is letter perfect (or as close as we can make it). Time is money so we need rates that cover all the work we put into our assignments.

There are many other useful chapters like “Pitch Like A PR Pro: Turn the Blinking Cursor Into Cash” by Dana W. Todd on page 40;  “Earn A Full-Time Income From Blogging” by Carol Tice on page 50; “Balancing Your Writing and Your Platform in 8 Simple Steps” by Krissy Brady on page 132, and "Author Platform 2.0" by Jane Friedman on page 169.

If you want to be a professional, well paid writer, the 2015 Writer’s Market is an essential investment.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Christina Bartolomeo's Novels, Filled with Insightful Asides, Provide Masterclasses

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.
I love novels filled with insightful asides. If they also appeal to you, try one or all of these novels by Christina Bartolomeo:
The Side of the Angels: A novel about the good guys, the bad guys, and how a woman learns to tell the difference is the story of Nicky Malone whose past and future come together during the cold of winter and the warmth of the holidays.
…Sometimes it seems to me that, for every happy couple fate brings together just in the nick of time, there are five other pairs who miss each other by inches or miles. Do human beings just not want to be happy, deep down, or is it that we snatch at the easiest, most comfortable happiness, not the hard-won kind? (page 29)
…With a stack of books by your bed, you can survive any heartbreak. In the watches of the night, reading soothed me as hot toddies or Valium never could have. (page 65)
...I wished I had the sort of memory eraser that aliens use when they are returning abducted humans in science fiction films. But that’s life, I guess. There’s never an alien handy when you need one. (page 91)
…Maybe I was just suffering that strange malaise that affects people who have seen love end badly. It was powerful and enchanting, this wish to rewrite history, this wish to make it all come out the way you thought it would when you first found him, when you were all in all to each other. (page 214)
…You see couples like this. You see them at a coffee shop or walking slowly along a paved path at the river’s edge, or helping each other up the steps of a medical office building, talking and talking. I wanted to be half of one of those couples…I wanted code words again and secret language, midnight fights and long car rides filled with mishaps. I wanted that joyous ease. (page 270)
Snowed In is the poignant novel about love lost and found in the life of Sophie Quinn.
…In some bedrock, unspoken way, my parents loved me. As long as they lived, I wouldn’t be in want or entirely alone. That can make the difference between courage and despair, in those moments of decision that every life holds. I felt that such moments were coming for me. (page 209)
…Well friendship was much less complicated than marriage. You could always call a friend and say, “I need this,” and there’d be no questions asked. You couldn’t always tell a husband what you needed, or count on him to listen if you did. (page 220)
…A woman who doubts her husband is not a woman who should be meeting a man she cannot trust. (page 241)
…We laughed a little and I sensed it again, that current between us, that sense of being two people who spied on the world from our own secluded vantage point. (page 315)
Cupid & Diana: A novel about finding the right man, the right career, and the right outfit is about Diana Campanella, her vintage clothing shop The Second Time Around, and her complicated family.
…For real value, give me a guy whose face has character and who had to wear glasses at an early age; that’s the sort of thing that instills sweetness and empathy. (page 20)
…I like hearing lurid accounts of other people’s breakups. It makes me feel less of an underachiever. (page 52)
…All the delicate negotiations and trials of love were ahead of us, if we were among the lucky ones who lasted more than a month. (page 218)
          I think we are lucky Christina Bartolomeo wrote these lines (and many more) as they are timelessly true.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Make Time for Rewriting

From Kate’s Writing Crate…


The best way for me to write well is to write essays, columns, and posts as quickly as possible. Get down every idea. Capture the energy I feel about the topics on the page. I don’t worry about punctuation, perfection, or organization; I just write. This is the exhilarating part. Be fearless! It’s fun!

If I’ve interviewed someone for an article, I also write the first draft quickly as I weave the person’s quotes into my prose.

When I run out of thoughts while writing, I stare at the ceiling or out the window. If no new thoughts come to mind, I start to rewrite.

          At this point, rewriting means I read my first sentence looking for unnecessary words and awkward phrases then omit or improve them. I move on to the next sentence and then the next until a new thought comes to me. Then I go back to writing.

I repeat this process until I reach my daily goal for long projects or “complete” the essay, article, column, or post by getting all my thoughts down.

But no piece is finished until I rewrite it.

Since I’m also an editor, I love this process. However, I wait at least a day, usually longer, before I focus on rewriting. Errors and awkwardness jump out at me when I work with fresh eyes.

Again, I reread my sentences omitting unnecessary words and rewriting or deleting phrases and sentences, but now I also look for clarity. I reorganize sentences and paragraphs as leads are often buried two, three, or more paragraphs into the piece.

Rewriting means letting go as well as improving what stays. I delete or save for another piece between a third and half of my work.

Then I concentrate on spelling, punctuation, and word choices. For ideas, I refer to The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale or the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. (If interested in these books, see my post dated 6/9/2014).

Reading pieces aloud helps with rewriting, too. I’m often surprised when what reads well on the page doesn’t work when I listen to the words so I don’t skip this step.

Rewriting helps keep errors from living eternally in published pieces so it can be difficult to stop, but deadlines must be met. To submit the best work I can produce, I schedule in the time to put pieces aside then go back and rewrite them.

Be aware that rewriting takes more time than writing. I timed myself in a post dated 10/7/2013. Roughly, I spend one third of my time writing and two thirds rewriting. 

I’ve never regretted a minute of the time I spent rewriting. It not only elevates my writing, it’s the mark of a professional.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradury

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I think anyone interested in becoming a writer should read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury.

These books will also energize anyone who is already a writer. I often pick one of them up, flip open to a random page, read for a while then jump into writing.

          In Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury not only encourages writing, he also shares his story of becoming a writer then working hard to become a better writer. Read his work. His dedication and creativity are astounding.

He’s inspiring—hard not to be when he begins his essay “The Joy of Writing” on page 3 with:

Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.

          Bradbury notes on page 13:

In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon the truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.

Tiger-trapping. How exciting that makes writing sound! We are brave. Capturing truth. Following wherever our creativity leads us. Zest and gusto indeed!

However, sometimes writing is a quieter craft as seen in one of my favorite essays, “How to Keep and Feed a Muse” on page 31. On pages 32 & 33, Bradbury states:

…to keep a Muse, you must first offer food. How you can feed something that isn’t there is a little hard to explain. But we live surrounded by paradoxes…

…in a lifetime, we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events…These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows.

…Here is the stuff of originality. For it is the totality of experience reckoned with, filed, and forgotten, that each man is truly different from all others in the world.

          Bradbury also makes this recommendation to writers on page 36:

Read poetry every day of your life…it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough…it expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition.

          In this book, I discovered Ray Bradbury also wrote poetry. Eight of his poems are in the back of the book including my favorite “What I Do Is Me—For That I Came for Gerard Manley Hopkins” on page 137. I think a framed copy should be in every nursery and read nightly to every child so he or she can be “the only you that’s truly you on Earth.”

          For a writer or not, that’s the best life goal.