Monday, September 30, 2013

Writing is Always a Win

From Kate's Writing Crate...

          One of our dogs always has a tennis ball in her mouth. As we play with her, she runs ahead and drops the ball and then backs off it a foot or two. We try to kick it past her so she can chase it. However, she is part goalie so blocking the ball is as big a thrill to her as chasing it down so she always wins the game.
          I, of course, only count it as a win if I get the ball past her so she runs and burns off more energy, but I should join her in celebrating every kick as a win because she is happy as long as we are playing. That's an excellent life philosophy.
That's how I need to think: Writing every day is a win. I am always happy to have written. Now I can be happy writing whether I love what I write that day or not. It's a better mindset and helps me overcome my resistance to start writing.
          It's a hard philosophy to believe, though. We live in a very success-oriented society. No one wants to know about all the hard work and time it takes to write, just whether you are published or not or what your book sales are or how many people read your blog. Higher numbers equal importance.
Hard as it may be to remember, it's our writing that matters. How do we feel about it? Did we bring our characters to life? Did we keep the story momentum going? Did we make our arguments persuasively? Did we capture the moment? Did we write well?
Sure we want people to love our articles, books, poems, and blogs, but it all starts with the writing. Are we happy with our work?
I was surprised to find out how happy I am writing a blog. I love the inspiration I feel as I discover topics to write about and search for books to review. Writing each post is a highlight in my work week.
I will share a secret with the readers of this blog. I am very grateful you take the time to read our posts and occasionally comment, but when Cheryl brought up the idea of a blog, it wasn't the readers I was most excited about, it was the weekly deadline.
I need hard deadlines to get me writing. Because I accepted the challenge of becoming a blogger, I have written 57 essays and counting that I never would have written otherwise. I am proud of this work. My writing has improved due to my self-imposed 500 word count maximum which forces me to make every word tell. And I write at least six days a week.
I am happy with those numbers and any number of readers, too. However, the win, for me, is in the writing.
What numbers about your writing make you happy?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fruit For Thought

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

Currently, I'm at a point in my life where I'm a bit overwhelmed.  Not only am I adjusting to the new school year with 6 of my 8 children, I've also taken on two new jobs (both of which I absolutely love) and am at the tail end of a home decorating project that I started nearly two years ago.  Throw in the mix three sick kids who all have sinus infections and horrific coughs and a dishwasher that is still on the fritz and I wonder to myself "what will be next?"

Wait--don't anyone answer that question!  Pretend I didn't say a word!  

Last week I decided I needed a "writer's time out" because I felt my creativity was stifled due to all the things in our home that had been breaking down.  My fix was quite simple--I took an afternoon off and headed to the beach.  I can't think of a more wonderful time to hit the seashore than after the summer crowds have all dwindled down and resumed their "normal" lives.  Not only is the beach absolutely beautiful at this time of year, but it also acts as a source of peace and comfort to me--a person who is usually on the go 24/7 and doesn't know when to slow down.

With sick kids, a bum dishwasher and new job responsibilities all thrown in the mix I realized I hadn't made any time for my true passion--writing, for at least the past three weeks.  With literally no extra time to spare this week I decided I would kill two birds with one stone and visit our local farmers' market to gather up some of our favorite seasonal fruits and veggies but to also tap into my creative writing juices.

I went with a list in hand of what I needed to purchase for my family's meals, but I also brought along my favorite pocket journal and gave myself a little challenge to complete as I shopped--to write a short story about the farmers' market and the mysterious discovery of $100,000 worth of diamonds mixed in with a crop of butternut squash.

I know--silly right?  I thought so at first also but the more I thought about the possibility of finding a hidden treasure of diamonds amongst a crop of squash, the more excited my mind became as it raced furiously to come up with a short story that was interesting and believable all at the same time.

This exercise was very random but very cathartic.  It took my mind off of all the small troubles I'm currently experiencing and helped me tap into my most creative self.

I am enjoying thinking outside the box to stoke new ideas to write about but also realized that no matter how busy I am or how many things in our home aren't working quite up to snuff, there will always be new experiences and people I've just met to focus on and bring to life on my pages.

Does visiting your favorite store inspire your muse?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sandford Lyne 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, back stories, plots, settings, voice and/or creativity.

        As soon as I read a book that immediately gets me writing, I want to share it with every writer I know.
Before I go into more detail, I want to stress I am a writer, not a poet. However, I think poets have a lot to teach all writers as they capture minute details and moments in time using gorgeous turns of phrases.
Author, poet, and teacher Sandford Lyne believes everyone is a poet so they should start writing poems now. "With courage and honesty you initiate yourself as an artist-seeker, a lifelong learner, a worker in depth, in vertical perceptions, in discovered truths."
In his book Writing Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry, Lyne advocates poem-sketching [as] "it is a playful, open-ended approach; it draws upon and uses the wealth of our experiences, provides a vehicle for the specialized intelligence and expressiveness of the emotions, occupies the mind with simple puzzles to solve (the mind enjoys puzzles), and, finally is built on and requires the use of our intuition. And all of this happens in a blink of an eye; simultaneously, naturally, without having to think about it."
The key to beginning poem-sketching is to look at the over 50 pages of four-word groups until one grabs your attention. Then write phrases or sentences incorporating those four words. Sounds simple, and it is, and it works.
I was hesitant at first thinking I am not a poet. This is not going to work for me…and then I saw four words that inspired me. I flashed back to when I was nine and then a poem poured out of me. It was in rough form, but I worked on it until I was surprised with the satisfaction and joy I felt with my finished poem.
Lyne also encourages writers to make up lists of words for more advanced poem-sketching. He gives specific directions for different types of words to include in each four-word grouping to make them powerful, attractive, and inspiring.
This is another way for writers to hone their craft. It's crucial to find exact words. To notice specific details, feelings, actions, and surroundings. It forces us to use and expand our observation skills and vocabularies.
Then we use our original voices to combine the words into poems. "One function of poem-sketching is to awaken your ability to produce images in words…writing poetry is about playing with words, exploring the possibilities of combining words into sentences and fragments, rearranging lines into finished poems."
Lyne notes: "…the happiest, most successful, most fulfilled people I know are the ones who, over time, gave themselves the most permissions—in all areas of their lives…The best writers give themselves the most permissions."
Give yourself permission to try poem-sketching. "Along the way, each person on the path of the poem finds his or her own vocabulary, his or her own metaphors for recognizing and naming the experiences."
Poem-sketching makes us better writers. It's also fun!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Writing Time Out

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

Have you ever had "one of those weeks?"  I'm talking the kind of week where nearly everything you go to do turns into a complete disaster?  Well, this was one of those weeks for me, and it's far from over!

Within the past week my laptop (only two months old!) which happens to be my lifeline to just about everything in the outside world crashed!  With no warning at all, I went to turn it on and it flashed a very ugly message--something about pressing a blue key to continue--and guess what--I don't have a blue key on my keyboard!  That started the party of unfortunate electronic failures, where next, our dishwasher (only one year old) decided to quit on me as well.  (I've been doing dishes by hand for one week--and let's not forget I have 7 kids at home!  Yikes!).

Next up is my son's new (well, new-used) car.  He's only had it for three weeks now and it has given him nothing but grief.  Finally, yesterday, it had to be towed back to the dealer because the "Starter" won't start!   So, that in turn gave me an extra chauferring duty--picking him up from football practice every day at 5:30--smack dab during dinner time.

So as not to depress anyone, I'll stop there, but there have been a handful of other incidentals that could literally cause a grown woman to cry, but because I don't have the time for such a luxury, I've chosen another route instead.  A time out!

That's right--I've given myself permission to take a "time out" and for me, that's not an easy thing to pull off.  Today, Thursday September 19th is my "time out" day.  As soon as this post is finished and uploaded (thank goodness my kids all have computers that they don't mind their mother borrowing from time to time) I'm taking my journal (yes, a good old-fashioned paper journal), my favorite pen, the novel I'm currently reading, a small picnic lunch and heading to the beach for the afternoon.  

Once I get settled into my comfy beach chair with my newly painted toes all snuggled beneath the cool September sand, I'm going to close my eyes and just "be".  I'm so excited just thinking about it.  I don't know about you, but I don't sit and think quietly very often.  When I do, I usually have one of my playful dogs or one of my energetic children trying to get my attention.  I'm not complaining, I'm just stating the facts.  If you have pets or kids, I bet you understand.

I'm going to let my mind dictate where this "time out" will take me.  If the muse strikes and I want to write in my journal, I will.  If my novel calls to me to be read, I will.  If the cool ocean breeze beckons me to walk along the shoreline, I will.  If I end up taking a two-hour nap, I'll know that it was meant to be.

Having never really taken a "time out" before, I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm eager to let the afternoon unfold in it's own way.  When I return home later this evening, I may not have a working computer or dishwasher, but my hope is that my senses will be rested and refreshed so I'll be able to handle the next little crisis with a bit more enthusiasm.  And if all goes really well, I just may have to incorporate these "time outs" into my regular schedule which might end up being one of the best gifts I've ever given to myself as a writer, a mom, and especially as a person who is used to always "doing" instead of "being" every once in a while.

What type of "time outs" work for you?

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Reality of Writing

 From Kate's Writing Crate…

          For most of us, writing is a calling we answer sporadically. We live busy lives and writing is more of a dream than a priority. 

          The reality is writing is work. It's something we need to do on a regular basis; if not 9-5, then at some point 5-7 days a week. We each need to face a blank page and fill it—and continue filling them until our projects are complete however long it takes. We have to pay our bills, but we also have to pay our dues.
          The reality is writing is hard work. Writing down random thoughts, ideas, and feelings are a start. Shaping them into essays, posts, articles, short stories, poems, songs, scripts, novels, and books takes time and effort. Rewriting and editing them takes even more time and effort, but that's what makes us working writers, paid or not. When you finish a piece, you have succeeded. (Sending it to agents, magazines, or publishers is additional work, but that's what it takes to get paid.)
The reality is writing is really hard work. We not only have to face blank pages, we also have to face our insecurities, detractors, and fears. That's a heavy load to pick up along with our pens and laptops, but we have to be brave and dedicated. We have to believe in ourselves and in our projects. We have to work to finish them.
          The reality is writing is really hard work we love. What is more exciting than having a character we created come to life on the page or the stage? A feature article? An inspiring stanza? Moving lyrics? Holding your book in your hands? What's not to love about writing?
The reality is writing is really hard work we love and hate. There are frustrating days where words will not come, characters will not talk, and inspiration does not strike. Discouraged, we don't want to be alone facing blank pages. Projects seem too big or too insignificant. Deadlines are too far away or too close. Life's joyful, tragic, and mundane events affect us, too. No matter what, keep writing. It's just that simple. 

The reality is writing is really hard work we love and hate but do anyway. That's what makes us writers in reality.

Are you a working writer?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Stuck on Pinterest

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

Those who know me well know that I'm a little bit addicted to social media.  I'm not saying I need a constant social media fix or I can't perform my writing and other computer duties without it, but I am admitting that I really enjoy the ability to share "chosen" information with friends and family members, writing colleagues, and even professionals I admire but don't know personally thanks to this venue.

Although facebook has ranked #1 in the world of social media for several years now, there's  a relatively new social networking site that allows users to create online image collages, then quickly and easily share those collages — called “pinboards” — with other Pinterest users. 

As explained on, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the interesting things you find on the web whether it be for your home and family life or your professional life. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests. 

People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, share their favorite recipes, quotes and hobbies, and as a writer you can share favorite authors, favorite writing blogs (say like The Writer's Crate), tips about character and plot development and so much more.

As a busy mom and a gal who loves to tackle home projects, Pinterest is a Godsend.  As a passionate writer, however, Pinterest is a must, and I'm going to share several reasons why:

1.  Pinterest has nearly five million users, and is rapidly growing. Nearly 1.5 million unique users visit Pinterest daily, spending an average of 15 minutes a day on the site.

2.  It allows you the opportunity to share your name on your profile for maximum exposure.

3.  When you create a new board, get creative by coming up with interesting board names. They get shared whenever you pin something, so make them enticing. But try to  keep your board names short. There isn’t a lot of room for long descriptive titles, but this makes it a fun challenge to make your words count.

4.  Tag other Pinterest users in your pins by using “@username” in your descriptions. Network with other professionals and authors in your field by using this feature. Not many people are doing this yet, so it’s a great way to build your following and stand out.

5.  Become an information curator for your writing niche. Gather the newest and best resources on your boards. Become a trusted source of information on Pinterest, and your following will grow by leaps and bounds.

Have you checked out Pinterest yet?  How do you use it to enhance your writing?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Online Writing Events

From Kate's Writing Crate…

        I love The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. It is the writing book I most often reread. He has written a sequel, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work, plus other non-fiction books as well as the novel The Legend of Bagger Vance 

I love his inspiring and thoughtful "Writing Wednesdays" blog posts at If you have not read his August 7th entry about "Why (and How) Creative People Say No" by Kevin Ashton, you need to do so and hand out copies to anyone in your life who does not respect or understand your need to say no to social events and other requests. Learning to say no will give you a lot more writing time.

Due to family events I did not want to say no to, I fell behind in reading his posts, but I have caught up now.
On August 21st, he wrote about the Foolscap Method he uses to complete all his books. He is starting an online course to teach this method to all interested writers who want to complete their books and novels.
You do have to sign up your email address to receive the video lectures, but he promises no spam or unwanted emails. I leave it to you to decide whether you want to learn from him or not.
I also read Kristen Lamb's blog, Author of Are You There Blog, It's Me, Writer, she and many other writing friends, including several best selling authors, offer online writing conferences. A new one, with a fee, is offered October 3-5 if this is of interest to you.
Writers are solitary creatures so it is good to occasionally make contact with and learn from others in our profession. I have no contact with either of these authors except I have read and learned from their books and blogs. I am sharing the news of these online events only in case any reader is interested in them.
Let me know if any online writing events inspire you.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy Anniversary Writer's Crate!

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

It's with great appreciation and joy that I write these words--"Happy Anniversary Writer's Crate"!  In essence I'm wishing both myself (a little pat on the back never hurts every now and again) and my inspiring blogging partner, Kate, these anniversary wishes, but for those of you who have followed us on this insightful, thought-provoking and above all enjoyable one-year blogging milestone, it's your anniversary as well!

I can still remember the very day that Kate and I almost "fell into" this idea to blog.  We were returning home from one of our infamous 'Literary Adventures' or LA's as we like to refer to them, and the conversation was bouncing back and forth to different authors we were reading, the exciting new authors we were meeting (hey, we take our LA's very seriously!), our goals of both writing and publishing our own earth-shattering novels (which we will both do!), and one of our common loves in life--our dogs.  

I believe I was sharing my housebreaking woes when the discussion turned to dogs because my compassionate daughter who now lives in NYC wanted to make sure a sweet, utterly adorable, cuddly, did I mention adorable, Pomeranian puppy born to a litter from someone she worked with would find a loving home.  Need I say more, that sweet puppy, Gracie, came to join our family of 10, well really 11, because our 9th child is our black lab, Molly, who is now 10 years old.  So Kate, also an avid dog lover with two dogs of her own and I started discussing the crating process for housebreaking puppies and just like that, a light bulb moment occurred and we began chuckling that if we as writers had a crate to snuggle into when we wanted to get some serious writing done, we'd be authors in no time.  

And with that, The Writer's Crate blog idea was born and after a few short months of researching how to start a blog from scratch we launched our first post, written by Kate, on Labor Day in 2012.  My first post followed several days later and since that very first week, both Kate and I are proud to say we have not missed a single post!    Kate posts every Monday, and I post every Thursday.  Looking back over the past year, the feeling of accomplishment is one I don't take lightly.  Both Kate and I have had some personal struggles during our first year of blogging, but truthfully, if it weren't for either of our intense passion (Kate, I hope it was alright to speak on your behalf on this topic :) ) and love of writing, I don't think we would've coped as well as we have.

My "new vision" for my Writer's Crate

I hope you all had a chance to read Kate's anniversary blog post, because not only was it heartfelt, but it was chock full of great tips on blogging.  I want to take a moment to thank you, Kate, for being such a terrific blogging partner.  You have helped make this journey not only fun, but such a great learning experience as well.  I look forward  to each and every post of yours and am continually inspired by your thoughts.

One of my favorite posts this past year was 7 Tips on Making Your Blog a Positive Experience.  One of the benefits of blogging is having published content to re read and review.  That, of course, is just one of many pluses of starting and keeping a blog so I invite you to continue this journey with Kate and I so you can read about  the many other benefits that we are eager to share with you.

Have you ever dreamed of starting your own blog?  What's stopping you?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy 1st Anniversary

From Kate's Writer's Crate…

        Happy Anniversary Cheryl! We accomplished our writing online goal! Now, while continuing with our blog, we will accomplish our other writing goals to become novelists.
        If you want to be a writer or you are a writer, start a blog. Do it today. It's not difficult—and it is one of the best gifts you will ever give to yourself! I recommend following the easy step-by-step instructions in Publishing a Blog with Blogger (second edition) by Elizabeth Castro and the encouraging text of Are you There Blog, It's Me Writer by Kristen Lamb.

        Start with a weekly post. That's not intimidating. A committed deadline motivates me like nothing else.
I recommend limiting yourself to a maximum word count like 500 per post. Again, that's not intimidating. However, it is fun work to make all the points on a given topic in that tight word count. You will be forced to stretch your vocabulary, but it will make you a better writer. However, as many famous writers have noted, it takes longer to write shorter.
Then share your thoughts on topics you love: books, authors--anything that inspires you. Since every writer has a different process, write about yours.
Writing this blog has meant I read more, too. I want to recommend writing books to encourage other writers. Also, I am always on the lookout for well written books to share with our blog readers. Writers can learn from authors even in genres we don't normally read.
Blogging has added so much to my life. I write more often. I write about topics and books I love. Writing about the things that make me happy, makes me even happier.
And when tragic and sad things occurred this past year, I had my blog to keep me writing in spite of the pain and anger. It is too easy to put writing aside for another day or week or year. I committed to Cheryl and this blog that I would publish a weekly post by midnight each Monday and I only missed that goal once by a few minutes due to technical difficulties (a frozen notebook). I take great pride in meeting my deadlines which is why I am so motivated by this blog.
I have written 53 posts now. I hope to write hundreds, even thousands more. Now that is intimidating as I cannot think of thousands of topics off the top of my head, but once a week I expect something to spark my imagination and inspire a post. That's all it takes to be a blogger. Now you know how to be a blogger, too!
Send us your blog addresses!