Thursday, November 28, 2013

Writing Quotes to be Thankful For

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

As Thanksgiving Day 2013 winds down, I am quietly reflecting on all the blessings I have in my life.  I am the mom to eight healthy, happy, wonderful children.  I have an amazing mother, sister and three brothers who I can count on no matter what.  And I am blessed dozens of times over with all the terrific friends in my life who make me laugh, support me and also keep me humble!

And I'd never not give thanks for having my two fun and feisty dogs, Molly and Gracie!  

Just as I'm thankful for the fantastic people in my life, I'm also very thankful for the gift of writing.  I simply cannot imagine my life without being a writer.  Writing is me!  I am a writer!

Because I spent much of my time during the past few days in the kitchen (that turkey didn't cook itself!), I didn't get to spend as much time as I usually do creating my blog post, so today, in honor or the special holiday of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share some of my favorite writing quotes with you.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who support The Writer's Crate by visiting us every week, and I hope that no matter how busy you get during the holiday season, you still find the time to feed your muse and write!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Give the Gift of Written Words

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.

        Since it's the time of year to celebrate with family and friends and exchange gifts, why not use your writing talent as part of your presents this year? Pick a favorite cookbook and make delicious treats for loved ones. Then write each person a note. Make them smile, laugh, or even tear up. Capture fond memories and make future plans. Add a photo. Who wouldn't love to hear how much they mean to someone else?
        I've always loved to read about or see love letters tied up with a ribbon and kept in a drawer. Often looked at and occasionally reread, what a lovely remembrance of a courtship. Most of us have saved a few cards or letters, but not many people write love letters any more. It's a real loss as we can say things in letters we cannot say in person. Why not revive the tradition?
        A friend of mine found her recently widowed mother burning a stack of love letters she received from her husband over fifty years ago. Surprised, she asked her mother why she wouldn't want to keep them. Her mother said she knew them all by heart. She didn't know when she would pass away and they were too private for anyone else to read. What devoted and ardent thoughts he must have written to her—and how priceless for her to know not just that she was loved, but how deeply.

        How to Write a Love Letter: Putting What's in Your Heart on Paper by Barrie Dolnick and Donald Baack can help you write some of your gifts. According to the flyleaf: "Love letters are largely a lost and forgotten art…Fan the flames of a fledgling romance, or tell your husband of forty years that you still adore him as much as you did the day you first married him. Words are sexy, romantic, and wondrous. Letters are legacies. Learn the art today, and improve your life."
Love letters are the perfect gift for writers to give! On page 2, the authors note: "No one can resist a love letter. Not a cool teenager, not a grumpy old geezer…Receiving a love letter and the thrill of reading it can spark one of those moments in your life that lingers forever in your memory, a warm secret."
        Love letters and friendly, caring notes are wonderful gifts all on their own, but if you're looking for cookbook suggestions for the treat part, I suggest Tate's Bake Shop Baking for Friends: Over 120 Scrumptious Recipes from Southampton's Favorite Baker by Kathleen King and Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea's of Bloomsbury by Bea Vo.

I love these cookbooks because every recipe starts with a personal note about the delectable concoction or the mention of family members and friends who love it. This makes me feel like friends are giving me treasured recipes, not just something to take a chance on. Especially because of these personal notes, the cookbooks themselves make great gifts, too.
Do you write notes to loved ones?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Three Reasons to Write During the Holidays

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

As I approach my 50th birthday (May will be here soon enough) I’ve found myself really studying my routines and habits.  I’d like to think I’m a disciplined person who values taking care of my health, certainly my family and home, as well as someone who makes time to give back to areas in my community where I know I can make a small difference. 
If you’ve never taken the time to stop and analyze how your hours and days are spent on a regular basis, I think you’ll find as I did that you might not be spending it the way you think you’re spending it.   It can be a definite eye opener as well as a wonderful vehicle with which to get excited about making some positive changes.
For example, I learned that the majority of my “free” time has been spent mingling and such on social media sites.  While I find my three favorite spots—facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to be invaluable resources as a writer and a cutting edge way to stay connected to friends and family I’ll be the first to admit I often get carried away and fritter too many of my precious hours per week away doing so.  I also noticed I’m not half as rigid about keeping our home as tidy as in years past.  (That’s actually a good thing—believe it or not, I used to be “one of those” people who organized her pantry and spice cabinet alphabetically!)  I’m still spending the majority of my days caring for my family and working my day jobs, so not much has changed in that respect.
What this self-evaluation did provide me with was valuable insight as to where I’m missing the boat with my schedule and as always, for me, that’s creating more time to write.  I’ve gone stretches where I write each and every day and when I do so, I notice that my craft is definitely benefiting because the words flow, my ideas make better sense, and I’m always in my “happy place” because of this daily routine.
And then—life happens.  It might be a sick child, a work assignment that takes more time and energy than I anticipated, recently—a death in the family--and now the holidays are here!  When these setbacks arrive, the first thing to go is my sacred writing time, and I have no real good explanation for why this is what I cut back on first.
What I do know is that I am thankful to always get back on track, usually within days or weeks, so with the holidays coming down the pike I’m going to remind myself of these three things when I feel like writing should be the thing I cut back on due to time constraints. 
Here are three reasons I will make time to write daily during the holidays:
1. The Hustle and Bustle of the Holidays Provide Story Ideas
During the holidays, we spend more time around people than any other season. What better time is there to study people’s desires, histories, and actions?  I’m going to take this busy time of year to ask people about their traditions and goals for the New Year. I’ll pay close attention to the details of their responses and embrace their passion and or concerns about this time of year.   Being in tune to others during the holidays could definitely inspire dozens of new stories.

2. Holidays are Transformational.
Christmas and Chanukah are periods of liminality.  Liminal space is called the space betwixt and between, which means that it is not normal time. It is special time, and most importantly, it is the period when all transformation occurs.  I know I personally love to read about people who change, and during this holiday season, I’m going to embrace personal transformation as well as sincerely look for ways to write about how it affects myself and others.

3. Holidays Beckon us to pay Attention to Detail
On my way home from my morning walk today, I saw a deer eating from a fir tree beside my house. She was graceful and poised.  I stood and stared at her for several minutes and then took a picture.  She looked at me and then went back to eating.  I didn’t intimidate her at all.  It was as though we had a mutual understanding that we both have special places in this world and admired that about one another.  I went inside for breakfast and smiled for minutes.   The holidays are not about buying and exchanging gifts, they’re about counting our blessings and noticing the rich details that surround us every day.  I’m looking forward to capturing these types of moments in my morning page journals and I’m even going to give poetry a try this holiday season, a form of writing I usually shy away from.
How will you let the holidays inspire your muse this year?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Stages of Writing in My Life


From Kate's Writing Crate…

        When I first learned to read and write, I dreamed of being a writer without any idea of how to become one. I knew I needed a desk, pen and paper. I pictured rows of my own books on the shelves behind my desk in my own home office, but I had no idea how what I wrote by hand turned into bound books.

        When I was a few years older, my favorite thing to do whenever I visited my grandparents was entering my grandpa's book-lined study (how I wished I had one of my own) and sitting in front of his ancient typewriter and pretending I was a writer. He kindly put paper in it so I could peck away writing about their all-white cat, Puffy.

        As a good student, I was praised for my essays so I thought, "I can be a writer." When I made my High School English teacher—a gruff, stern man who scared me—laugh, I thought, "I am a writer." But what's the next step?

        I took as many English classes as I could in college. I wrote in journals but sporadically as inspiration hit me. Then I discovered Natalie Goldberg's advice to fill a notebook a month in her book Writing Down the Bones. That got me writing regularly.

        Years later, I started off as an unpaid proofreader after my corporate day job. I worked my way up to staff writer and editor of one, then two, then four publications. Now I had to write on deadline. No procrastination. No waiting for inspiration.

Being new to the professional side of writing, the pressure of deadlines forced me to write. Eventually, I could complete three to eight articles a month as needed. I could also turn out last minute articles if something fell through. Now I felt and acted like a professional writer.

        Then Cheryl suggested we start this blog where we would encourage anyone interested in writing to become a writer. Excited and apprehensive, I made a list of topics I wanted to cover. The new weekly deadline made this a professional endeavor, but I wanted it to be fun so I started waiting to be inspired.

I publish on Mondays. Sometimes I started writing on Thursdays or Fridays or even Sundays. I finished up my posts between my weekend activities.
However, my paid writing and editing assignments had to take priority, so I didn't always have time to wait for inspiration for my posts. I had to become a professional blogger. I had to write posts when I had the time to write posts not just when I was inspired.
As most professional writers note, the simple secret is to put your butt in a chair and write. Writing on demand is an important discipline to learn. Furthermore, as E. M. Forster wrote, "How do I know what I think until I see what I say."
Now I have reached that stage of writing—and it is surprisingly fun and inspiring!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Making The Most of Our Time

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

Last week I didn't post my usual Thursday morning thoughts on this blog because my father-in-law passed away suddenly.  He was 88 years old, and although he lived a full, healthy and inspired life, he became ill very quickly and died within just a few days of his diagnosis.

My father-in-law was a high school history teacher for over 36 years.  He never tired of teaching all those years and cherished the time he spent with his students and as a football coach.  He truly knew how to appreciate how special each and every day was, and I honestly can't remember ever hearing him complain about anything that didn't go his way.

One of his favorite expressions was a quote he used every time someone in the family got a bonus like getting to spend an extra warm day in late November walking the beach, or enjoying kayaking on a delightfully sunny afternoon when rain was the predicted forecast.  That quote was "No one can ever take that extra pleasure away from you now that you've spent it."

I really gave that quote of his a lot of thought during the past week as our family prepared to say good bye to him at his honorable and very touching Military funeral.  When you spend your time doing things that make you happy, no one can ever take that away from you.

In light of my father n law's favorite expression, I thought I'd share the words below that I have framed in my own writing crate, because I think they personify the very essence of how he lived his life--with purpose and no regrets.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

How do you live your life with zeal and purpose?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Reads for Writers: The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield

From Kate's Writing Crate…

The Authentic Swing: Notes from the Writing of a First Novel is the third book about writing by Steven Pressfield who has written a dozen books including The Legend of Bagger Vance, his first novel. He based it on the mystical novel Golf in the Kingdom by Michael Murphy, a favorite book of mine as well. Whether you're writing a novel or not, there is great writing wisdom in The Authentic Swing.

I recommend Pressfield's first writing book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, every chance I get as it supports/challenges writers to complete their projects like no other book I've read. His follow up, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work, continues this support. The Authentic Swing concentrates on writing novels, but is helpful for most writers.

On page 69, Pressfield states, "My mantra for first drafts is "Cover the Canvas." What I mean by that is that our supreme priority is to get SOMETHING down from Page One to The End—no matter how incomplete or imperfect.
Don't stop.
Don't think.
Don't look down.
The enemy of the first draft is not incompleteness or inexactness or imperfection. The enemy is Resistance. The enemy is self-sabotage."
On page 108, Pressfield notes, "…the struggle of the golfer…is the same as the struggle of the writer.
It's the struggle of any artist or entrepreneur, any athlete or warrior…any person, male or female, in any creative or ethical field.
What is this struggle? It's the quest to connect with one's true ground. To become who we really are.
It's the search for our true voice."
Writing is a struggle. You have to trust the process. You have to face blank pages over and over again and keep filling them until you reach The End. It can take a really long time so it's easy to lose our way.
On page 131, Pressfield writes, "…You discover who you are as you go along.
What defines you is what you have done, but the weird part is you never know until you do it.
The trick is: Do it.
Then you'll know.
Do it again, and you'll know more.
Keep doing it again and again."
Writers usually work alone so it's comforting to have Steven Pressfield's writing guidebooks, The War of Art, Turning Pro, and The Authentic Swing, on a shelf nearby to comfort, inspire, lead, or support us as we work hard to become authors ourselves.

Pressfield is offering free online discussions about writing his first novel on his web site. I also love his inspiring and thoughtful “Writing Wednesdays” blog posts at

What writing books inspire you?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Well-Defined Writing

From Kate's Writer's Crate…
        Writers have tools for their craft: words, grammar, and punctuation. We study them, but few, if any, of us remember all the definitions and rules off the tops of our heads.
        I don't claim to be a grammar or punctuation expert. When in doubt, I look up answers in The Chicago Manual of Style or at
        It's more of a challenge for me to take the time to look up definitions of words I think I know.
Being clear and precise are the signs of a professional so it's crucial to make sure you are using the correct words. This is why I have a dictionary in every writing spot in my home or my e-reader nearby. If I'm writing without a dictionary at hand or I don't want to interrupt my train of thought, I circle words to look up definitions later. Better to take the time to check than feel foolish once mistakes are published.
        In following my own advice, I've been surprised at the exact definitions of words I thought I knew like prone. I thought it meant lying down, but the exact meaning, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, is lying face down or front turned toward the surface it rests on.
        I'm not alone in my error. I recently read a mystery where a murder victim was found in a prone position but the blood stains were visible on the front of his shirt.
        The wonderful part of this research endeavor is discovering how many words we have to describe exactly what we mean. Supine means lying on one's back. Prostrate means lying down in either position. Recumbent means lying down, but in a position of comfort or rest.
        In another example, I thought baleful meant resentful, but it's a more intense word. It means harmful or malignant, portending evil.
Imagine how many clues you could scatter throughout mystery books in plain sight which readers would miss if they were not aware of the exact meanings of the words used.
        I hate seeing misused words like flack (meaning the sound of the flapping of laundry on a line or a repetitive noise) instead of flak meaning antiaircraft artillery, bursting shells, or excessive abuse. The Webster's Third New International Dictionary does list flack as a variant of flak, but as the fourth listing so not common usage. The American Heritage Dictionary doesn't list flack.
        As writers, we need to be careful. Mistakes can be embarrassing, humorous, or even deadly. I have read scenes where characters force brandy, coffee, or other liquids down the throats of unconscious people. The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook by Kathleen A. Handal strongly warns not to do this.
        Writers are people with responsibilities and power. Be well-defined and accurate. You may even save a life!