"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Saturday, July 27, 2013

4 Craft Lessons for Writers

There are so many rules, tips, and exercises being touted as ways or shortcuts to becoming a great writer.  However, if you want to be a good writer, no matter what stage you are at now or genre you prefer, there are only four things you need to do.

1.      Read - a lot. And read a variety. If you read good work, good works will come out of you. It’s not easy, but if you want to learn something, the quickest way is to go directly to the source.

2.      Listen – to what you are reading, to what you are researching, and the people and places you visit. Let the patterns, rhythms, forms, and even their uniqueness imprint themselves upon you.

3.      Write - a lot. Practice makes perfect. Not everything you write will be read, or liked, by others. So, always write for yourself first. When Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek The Next Generation fans gave him a lot of grief about Wil Wheaton’s character Wesley Crusher. They shouted about a child having no place on board a starship. Roddenberry rebuked them saying, “You are all under the impression I write for you, but I write for me and I like the character…”

4.      Don’t think too much – be patient, don’t worry, keep going, and stop comparing yourself to others. You have no idea what others went through before they found the “success” you envy so much. There will always be someone “better” or “more successful” than you. You can’t control what editors are looking for, or at what point in history an idea will appeal to the masses, but you can control what you create – so enjoy your craft.

In short, immerse yourself in the real world as well as the written as often as possible. And keep your own pen (or keyboard) moving.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Winnie the Pooh as Darth Vader and Dark Wing Duck assistance...

Many writers have been criticized for cross genre writing or combining genres. However, some highly entertaining things can happen when you do so. Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Speed Dating Pitch Session

Sitting across the table from an editor or agent and pitching an unpublished manuscript is scary enough, but to do so for a room full of those professionals can be even more daunting. More and more editors and agents are participating in conference “speed dating” pitch sessions.

You sit down with a literary agent or editor you choose, and take approximately 90 seconds to pitch your work.
You’ll immediately get about 90 seconds of constructive feedback, tips to improve your pitch or storyline, and possibly - a request to see more of your work.
Then you move on to the next agent or editor and start the process all over again. I get nervous just thinking about it!

Writer’s Digest is just one of many conferences offering this form of “speed dating pitch slam.” For a list of editors and agents participating in the September conference or to see tips on preparing for one of these sessions, read here: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/61986/117549/

Have you ever participated in a “speed dating pitch slam”? How did it go? Would you ever consider signing up for one?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Writing Is Not a McDonald's Hamburger

“Writing is not a McDonald’s hamburger. The cooking is slow, and in the beginning you are not sure whether a roast or a banquet or a lamb chop will be the result.”

-Natalie Goldberg Writing Down the Bones
I recently picked up a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I’m only about 45 pages into to it, and I’ve never read anything else she has written. I am enjoying her voice immensely.
While books on the craft can be helpful, I enjoy the ones that are part biography and offer a glimpse of the author’s personal space, process, and lessons. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing are two others I enjoyed.

Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? What are you reading now? Do you have any recommendations?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Love’s New Beginning

A few months ago, I attempted a flash fiction piece for a woman's magazine. The requirements: modern day romantic fiction of 800 words with a perceived problem in the beginning to be overcome by the end. It was rejected by them and then by a second company. I'd like to share it with you and I hope you'll offer an HONEST critique.

Love’s New Beginning

This is it. The night Kevin is going to break up with me.
            It was only a matter of time. Four months ago I lost my job. Unable to find another I had to move back in with my parents. My car had been repossessed the week before, and this morning I realized I had gained twenty pounds since the holidays. As I slipped further into a depression, I couldn’t imagine how someone like Kevin would want to stay with a loser like me.

            When he picked me up, Kevin was full of meaningless chatter as we headed for town. Now, thirty minutes later the car became uncomfortably silent.
            He must be trying to figure a way to break it to me gently.

Perhaps I could forestall the inevitable or try to change his mind, but could I do that to him? I wanted him to be happy, not get drug down into my misery.

I studied his profile while he wove in and out of traffic. He’s so handsome, smart, and fun. I should break it off before he has to.

The problem is, I’m a coward and I want to hold on to him as long as possible. I sighed, shifted my weight to turn to look out the passenger window.

Realizing I had no clue where we were, I asked, “Where are we going?”

“Oh, Julie, I’m sorry. I forgot to mention I promised a friend I would stop and feed his dog while he was out of town tonight.”

“Who do you know that lives in the city?”

“I didn’t tell you Mark bought a house?”

“No,” Already failing to share part of your life with me.

We lapsed back into silence until we reached the house two miles later.

Kevin shut off the ignition, turned and stared at me.

“Julie, would you mind coming in with me?”

“You need help to feed a dog?”

“I might need help finding the food. Mark didn’t mention where he kept it.”


I turned, pulled the handle to open the door, and stopped to stare at the home.

“It would be nice to live in a place like this.”

“You think so?” he asked.

“You don’t?”

He stared at the house for a moment. “Maybe.”

My shoulders drooped. Here I was imagining a home with him one day. He obviously wasn’t in the same place.

I followed him up the path from the street to the front door. He had the key ready and turned the lock immediately. Then, he just stopped and turned to stare at me.

“What’s wrong?”

“Julie, I should have talked to you about this before…”

Oh God, he’s going to break up with me on the front porch of his friend’s house.

I stood frozen, unable to speak or move, until he motioned me to lead the way. I took three steps into the living room before stumbling to a stop again; this time in astonishment instead of terror.

In the center of the room a round table had been dressed with a white tablecloth. Two candles burned in their holders next to a bucket of ice and a champagne bottle. A plate of chocolate covered strawberries sat to one side.

I vaguely registered the sound of the front door closing. When I glanced at Kevin, he took my hand and led me to the side of the table. We stared at each other a moment, and I could feel nervousness and anticipation gathering my stomach muscles tighter and tighter.

“Julie, this house doesn’t belong to Mark. I bought it – for us. You are the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. Your beauty is surpassed only by the kindness and love in your heart. I can’t imagine going another day without asking you to be mine.”

Tears flowed down my cheeks as he lowered himself to one knee and pulled a box from inside his coat pocket.

“Julie, will you do me the great honor of becoming my best friend, wife, and lover for as long as we both shall live?”

“Yes,” I whispered shakily sinking down next to him so I could pull him close.

He kissed me fiercely before pulling back. “You haven’t even seen the ring yet.”

“I don’t care about the ring, just you.” I laughed.

“Well, I hope you’ll like this one.”

He opened the box and I had to wipe my eyes again before I could focus on what lay inside.

I gasped as he pulled out the beautiful band. He was offering me his grandmothers’ wedding ring. An heirloom I had admired before the wonderful woman passed the year before.

“She wanted me to give it to you if I ever worked up the courage to ask. She knew how much you meant to me even before I did. I love you.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Independence Day Writing

Happy Fourth of July! I found two writing opportunities for you. I'll be spending the next four days with family and friends - hopefully I'll squeeze in a little writing time as well.

TRIBUTE TO OUR SOLDIERS ESSAY CONTEST - Deadline July 4, 2013. Salute the soldiers by submitting a 200-word “Tribute to Our Troops” essay for the chance to win a beautiful Speidel timepiece. Twenty winning essays will be selected by our editors and posted on saturdayeveningpost.com, and winners will receive a Women’s Tortoise Shell Fashion Watch or Men's Pilot Watch. Speidel is donating a portion of its sales to American military and their families in partnership with Operation Homefront. https://apps.facebook.com/easypromos/promotions/79941

Summer 2013 Independence Travel Writing Contest http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/writing-contest NO ENTRY FEE. The theme for the Summer 2013 contest is “Independence: A Place You
Feel Free.” We hope your article will inspire others to travel more and find freedom! Deadline July 4, 2013. Travelers of all ages and from all countries are encouraged to participate. Each individual may send up to 5 entries that are 500-800 words with 1-5 photos. Your article must be an original and previously unpublished piece. All posts, which meet the requirements, will appear on WeSaidGoTravel.com. 1st Prize – $500, 2nd Prize – $350, 3rd Prize – $150.

How are you celebrating this holiday?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Writers Workshop

Join the TCGW for their first workshop, a series of sessions with professors from Lamar University, each with experience in a different area of writing or publishing. The workshop will conclude with a Q & A time with the panel of  speakers and will provide opportunities for networking and socializing.

Saturday, July 13, 2013
8:00 a.m.— 2:00 p.m. (lunch included)
Lamar University, Maes Building, Room 101
$20 for TGCW members,
There will be an additional $10 charge if the fee is not paid by July 8.
A registration form is below.

Our distinguished panel of speakers includes:
    Dr. James Sanderson—an author published in multiple genres, Writing Director of the English Department of Lamar University, member of the Texas Institute of Letters https://sites.google.com/site/jim2sanderson/home
    Gretchen Johnson—her fiction has appeared in Amarillo Bay and she has a collection of stories recently published by Lamar University Press. You can see it: www.lamaruniversitypress.org
    Dr. Jerry Craven—member of the writing faculty at Lamar University, Press Director for the Lamar University Press and for Ink Brush Press, Editor-in-Chief for Amarillo Bay, and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters (www.jerrycraven.com)

2013 TGCW Workshop Registration Form 
Mail payment with the following information:

PHONE ________________________________________________
EMAIL ________________________________________________
_________ $20 for TGCW Members (Must be received by July 8)
_________ $30 for Non-Members (Must be received by July 8)
_________ Additional $10 at the door on July 13
You can mail this with your payment to:   
Texas Gulf Coast Writers
P.O. Box 252 
Bridge City, TX 77611 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Taking a Bite Out of Illiteracy

The two year anniversary issue of Southern Writers Magazine releases today.

This issue features my interview of children’s author Tommie Townsley. She is a strong advocate of reading with children. To learn more about her, you can visit her website: http://kidscajuntales.com/

You can order a digital or a print version of the magazine at http://www.southernwritersmagazine.com/ While a bit expensive per print issue, you can order a subscription (six issues) a bit cheaper, and the digital version is slightly cheaper than that. This magazine is printed in beautiful and high quality.

What magazines do you enjoy? What projects are you working to complete or publish?