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

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Story Starter Card Game

One of the hardest things for students, and many writers in general, is just "getting started." I see it frequently in the classes I teach. They freeze up, sometimes their eyes just glaze over, and others get that 'deer caught in the headlights' look. This is usually the point where we talk briefly about writers block... and then we play the Story Starter Card Game.

The game is simple:

There are seven decks of cards. Each card has one suggestion to be used in a story.

In deck one each card has a dynamic character listed on it such as Ebeneezer Scrooge, Scout, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet, Katniss Everdeen, Aladdin, Jean Valjean, Edmund Dantes, Buzz Lightyear, etc.

In deck two each card reflects a fatal flaw such as pride, excessive trust, rage, blind ambition, inferiority complex, etc.

Deck three lists suggested opponents, deck four has external conflicts such as physical and environmental, deck five is a set of interpersonal conflicts (brought on by others), deck six is internal conflicts (brought on by self), and deck seven is a goal to be reached or a loss to avoid.

The rules are even simpler:

1) Pick one card from each deck.
2) Use at least three of the suggestions on your cards in a story.

I find this gives them enough guidance that they feel like they have a safety net. It also allows enough freedom for creativity.


If you'd like to play, but don't have the time or inclination to create your own cards, consider using a deck of Tarot, Dungeons and Dragons, or such... pull out a few random cards and see what ideas arise.

Have you tried anything like this? What kind of cards would you use? What would you add to your own deck?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Polka Dots, Stars, and Writers

Today is National Polka Dot Day. It's also the day Minnie Mouse will receive her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can find out more about that here.

Many of my family members are Disney fans. As you can tell from the mention in this post, the cheesy picture here, and my social media accounts I'm a little obsessed with most of Disney myself. I've also passed the sickness along to my children. My husband has accepted, and loves us anyway ;-)

I'm from Southern California, and even thought I live in Texas, we head back as often as possible to visit family and friends. I took my girls to Hollywood for the first time in July 2017. They loved it. Their favorite memories of the day there include lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe', seeing the famous Hollywood sign, and finding Daniel Radcliffe's star. You can see pictures here.

The reason I mention all of this is because the original article I read announcing Minnie's big day led me down a rabbit hole of reading. I became curious about writers who have earned a star on that famous walkway. I knew of a few, but I was surprised at the number. Some of these authors I know have brought joy to many and will be immediately recognized: Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, Stephen J. Cannell, Frank Capra, quite a few others I recognized, and a few I didn't. Here is a list the Los Angeles Times has comprised of all the writers who've earned that coveted star.

Which authors are your favorites? Who would you like to see earn a star? Are you Disney fan? Are you celebrating National Polka Dot Day?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Conferences, Workshops, and Literary Festivals: Texas and Louisiana List

I will try to provide a broader national and international list at a later date, but for now here are a few of my favorites for Texas and Louisiana:

Unconfirmed so check back - Houston Writer's Guild Conference - https://houston.scbwi.org/

2/17 - Southwest Louisiana Book Festival - https://www.swlabookfest.org/

3/3 - Jambalaya Writers Conference - http://mytpl.org/jwc/

3/9-18 - SXSW Film and writers festival in Austin - http://www.sxsw.com/

3/21-25 - New Orleans Literary Festival -  http://www.tennesseewilliams.net/

3/24 - Galveston Island Book Festival - http://galveston.bookfestival.network/index.php/component/users/?view=remind&Itemid=101

4/28-29 - Austin Writer's and Illustrators  Conference - https://austin.scbwi.org/events/austin-2018-writers-illustrators-working-conference/

6/9-10 - Dallas Writer's Conference - http://dfwcon.org/

6/29-7/1 - Austin Agents and Editors Conference - http://www.writersleague.org/38/Conference

9/6-9 - New Orleans Mystery Convention - http://www.bouchercon.com/

9/14-23 - New Orleans Story Con -  http://nolastorycon.com/

10/13 - Louisiana:Bayou Writers - A Bridge to Publication

10/25- 11/1 - Austin Film Festival -  https://austinfilmfestival.com/

10/27-28 - Austin Book Festival - https://www.texasbookfestival.org/

Please feel free to comment with any you would like to see added to this list or the national one I am working to complete. Anyone know of any in other countries besides the US? Please feel free to comment with those as well. You never know when an opportunity will arise. Right? :-)

Monday, January 8, 2018

5 Flash Fiction Goals

As I mentioned last week, diligence is one of my New Year’s resolutions. A part of my plan for this is to finish incomplete projects. In May of 2017 I set myself a goal of writing 20 flash fiction pieces in 20 days – a spin off the famous Ray Bradbury advice of writing 52 short stories in 52 days. I didn’t quite make it – you can see my results here.
I also never returned to those projects. I actually enjoyed writing these shorts since it forced me to tighten my writing. I’ve decided to revisit my existing flash fiction pieces, as well as write some new ones. In an effort to cut back on wasting time as I return to them, I’m setting five flash fiction goals I’d like to share.
1.      800 Words - Flash fiction can be anywhere from just a few words in length to 1000, but I’m aiming for approximately 800 in mine. One of my goals is to be published in Woman’s World. They publish 800 word romances and 700 word mysteries every week.
2.      Strong Beginning – The first one to three paragraphs has to establish a sympathetic character, interesting setting, and believable conflict. After all, we have less than 1,000 words to tell an entire story!
3.      Action – What a character wants, and what they need, are not always the same thing. Something tangible must stand in the way of their goals, or what they desire, and showing the actions taken by that character are essential to motivate the reader to continue through to the end.
4.      Tension – Just as with longer works, the tension should continue to increase until the resolution. Characters should earn their ending, and the best way for this to happen is by floundering and perhaps failing at least once.
5.      Satisfying Ending – The best way to ensure this is by eliminating flowery descriptions and excess wordiness, paring down characterization to just enough of a hint for the reader, and following steps two through four until finally revealing an ending with an emotional impact upon the reader.

Do you read or write flash fiction? Do you have and other tips you’d like to share?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG: Writing Schedule

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

JANUARY QUESTION: What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

MY ANSWER: Obviously, we all have little control over when we are published (unless we choose self-publishing). However, we can control our output. My resolutions this year include diligence both in my writing, and in my personal life. I want more of my decisions to be on purpose instead of just sort of letting things happen around me. I will chase my dreams and goals this year. I hope you will too!

Happy New Year everyone, and congratulations to the IWSG anthology contest winners!