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

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

July Scribbler Box: Conflict and Chemistry

The July box from Scribbler has arrivedYou can learn about previous boxes, and why I subscribed by clicking the "Scribbler" link in the labels below.

This month the box offers a double theme: Conflict and Chemistry.

As always, the first thing you see upon opening the box is a writing exercise/contest postcard. Each month provides a new challenge for writers to practice. The deadline for this month is August 13th. 

The "Curated Writerly Gifts" this month include a "the WRITE stuff" patch to sew onto a fabric of your choice, a "Character Notes" pad, an invitation to the SCRIBBLER editorial service, and a third book THE CURE FOR WRITER'S BLOCK by Andrew Mayne - one of the two authors highlighted this month. 

As usual, this box also came with an inside look at the publishing process for this months author, and an exclusive invitation to chat with a publishing professional: Agent, Erica Silverman.

Also included  are two collectible 'Writing Passports' with the author(s) discussing this months themes of CONFLICT and CHEMISTRY.

This months new releases include:

THE ROGUE KING by Abigail Owen.

Kasia Amon is a master at hiding. Who―and what―she is makes her a mark for the entire supernatural world. Especially dragon shifters. To them, she's treasure to be taken and claimed. A golden ticket to their highest throne. But she can't stop bursting into flames, and there's a sexy dragon shifter in town hunting for her...
As a rogue dragon, Brand Astarot has spent his life in the dark, shunned by his own kind, concealing his true identity. Only his dangerous reputation ensures his survival. Delivering a phoenix to the feared Blood King will bring him one step closer to the revenge he's waited centuries to take. No way is he letting the feisty beauty get away.



An Amazon Charts bestseller.
For a Florida police diver, danger rises to the surface in an adventurous thriller by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Naturalist.
Coming from scandalous Florida treasure hunters and drug smugglers, Sloan McPherson is forging her own path, for herself and for her daughter, out from under her family’s shadow. An auxiliary officer for Lauderdale Shores PD, she’s the go-to diver for evidence recovery. Then Sloan finds a fresh kill floating in a canal—a woman whose murky history collides with Sloan’s. Their troubling ties are making Sloan less a potential witness than a suspect. And her colleagues aren’t the only ones following every move she makes. So is the killer.
Stalked by an assassin, pitted against a ruthless cartel searching for a lost fortune, and under watch within her ranks, Sloan has only one ally: the legendary DEA agent who put Sloan’s uncle behind bars. He knows just how deep corruption runs—and the kind of danger Sloan is in. To stay alive, Sloan must stay one step ahead of her enemies—both known and unknown—and a growing conspiracy designed to pull her under.

But when Kasia sparks a white-hot need in him that's impossible to ignore, Brand begins to form a new plan: claim her for himself...and take back his birthright.

Have you read anything from these authors? Do you subscribe to any boxing services? What do you recommend? Have you heard of SCRIBBLER? Are you tempted to join?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

6 Critical Skills Every Educator Should Cultivate

Teachers today are working with increasingly diverse populations with a diverse set of needs. In the past, those included learning about gender, race, and ethnic diversities. We also began learning about addressing the needs of gifted, standard, ESLL (English as a Second Language Learners), Special Education, Behavioral Education, etc. all happening within the same classroom environment. Then educators learned about addressing a variety of additional educational barriers and safety issues such as dyslexia, autism, bullying, suicide prevention, online predators, etc.

Yet again, this year, we are learning how to adapt to teaching in the age of a pandemic. This has meant overcoming a variety of obstacles, such as technology barriers – access and availability. Schools all across the nation are being encouraged to resume classes, many are doing so but virtually as they did in the Spring. Some are not. Each decision seems to incur just as much anger as comfort.

Here in Texas, out Governor has asked schools to resume in person. Supposedly, Texas now has one of the highest count cases of Covid in the United States, and as such many schools are choosing not begin classes until September, or October, and even then, beginning virtually.

The school district where I teach currently plans to resume classes in person in just a couple of weeks. Teachers are now starting back for training purposes, and students are expected to be back on August 3. This has obviously caused a myriad of reactions, and will continue to do so.

No matter how you feel about this issue however, continuing to hone a solid set of essential skills makes for a more effective, and successful teacher. These are the reasons most of us continue our work regardless of the current climate.

1. Genuine Interest in Others - This one is an essential component of a teaching career. When we wake up in the morning, we have the drive and energy to sit with people through their best and worst. We try to be fully present for our students, however difficult or long the day becomes. Will hope we still can ten/twenty years down the road. A sustained commitment to facilitating positive transformation and human-to-human connection while imparting necessary skills is key to a successful and fulfilling career in education.

2. Self-Reflection - An effective teacher knows that it’s just as important to look within themselves as it is to carefully observe others. The idea of “Self Care” isn’t new, but is essential. By feeling well, a teacher can relate well and empathize with students. Thinking well means to think creatively as well as critically, to conceptualize in theoretical terms, and to demonstrate great academic skills. To act well means to conduct oneself in the service of others and the professional field to facilitate positive change when needed.

3. Ability to Listen – On Multiple Levels and to Various Audiences. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but effective listening as a teacher is a skill. We need not only to listen to what is being said, but how it’s said, why it’s said, and what it means in that particular context – i.e. content, delivery, and context. We listen “between the lines,” so to speak, for those things that aren’t being said. What a student, parent, or colleague omits from a discussion can speak just as clearly as what is communicated out loud. Perhaps most importantly, we should know how to listen without judgment or evaluation when needed, but also to know when they ARE needed.

4. Accessibility & Authenticity – An educator must be accessible to all students in order to gain their trust, but perhaps more importantly, a teacher needs to be genuine and empathetic—in his or her communication, listening, and professional persona. Developing a connection with each student is key to moving forward in the educational process, and is the core of an effective classroom experience.

5. Flexibility - A good teacher has flexibility in world views and a strong understanding of multicultural issues. Each student is going to be different in his or her background, experience, and engagement in the classroom. Each individual student approach may even change from one semester to the next. Being able to communicate, or find a variety of approaches that may work for each is the hallmark of a good teacher.

6. Sense of Humor - Educators sit through some uncomfortable, difficult, and often strenuous days. That said, it’s alright for both students and teachers to laugh along the way. Timing is, of course, everything, but knowing how to form a relational connection with someone, or a group, to the point of developing a shared sense of humor is a skill that shouldn’t be overlooked. Humor and a nuanced understanding of its uses in the classroom environment is a valuable tool.

Obviously, there is no formula for the perfect teacher. There isn’t even a formula for a perfect day. Some days, semesters, years, or pandemics are particularly difficult. All we can do is our best. Hopefully, these six skills will help.

What are the schools in your area doing for this school year? What do you feel is the right decision and why?

Monday, July 6, 2020

5 Short Story Tips Supported by the Greats

Many people assume that short stories are easier to write than novels, or novellas, because they are "short." Less pages means less work, right? Not according to every novelist I've spoken with about this topic. (I myself have only published short - no novel length works published so far - the longest pieces I've written are around the 70,000 mark which would be straddling the novella and novel word count range.) 

Mark Twain himself famously said, I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” As Mark Twain suggested I think writing a hundred words probably requires more mental effort than writing a thousand — particularly if you want it to be meaningful.

So, if writing short isn't necessarily easier, what are some tips that might help?

1. Less is more - Be concise. "Precision of language, please!" (Check out THE GIVER by Lois Lowry.) Only include the necessary elements. Remember that your readers are not stupid: You don’t have to spell everything out for them. The adage, "Show, Don't Tell" rules here. For more on this idea, check out Show Don't Tell! But Wait! I'm a Storyteller!

2. Message or mood - To make a short story good, there needs to be at least one main message, mood, or idea that you work up to. I think Edgar Allan Poe explained this concept well: “A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” He wasn't alone in this ideology, Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's not a strictly male perspective either. A short story is confined to one mood, to which everything in the story pertains. Characters, setting, time, events, are all subject to the mood. And you can try more ephemeral, more fleeting things in a story – you can work more by suggestion – than in a novel. Less is resolved, more is suggested, perhaps.– Eudora Welty

3. Recurring ideas - One common element I’ve noticed in all good short stories is that they each have a recurring thought, idea, theme, piece of dialogue, etc. It can be as simple as the way you describe the rain pattering on the roof. It can be a common phrase a character uses that means one thing in the beginning and morphs to mean something entirely different by the end (Woman's World seems to be fond of this idea with their fiction pieces.). A common string strategically placed throughout the story can give it extra power. It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things – a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring – with immense, even startling power.” – Raymond Carver

4. Pathos is King - Want to draw a reader in quickly and effectively? I have one word for you: pathos. Play your readers emotions, make them identify with the situation or feel for your characters within the first few pages. If you can do that, then you're doing it right. It also becomes something that stays with the reader for years, maybe even calling upon an as yet, undiscovered truth. A good short story crosses the borders of our nations and our prejudices and our beliefs. A good short story asks a question that can’t be answered in simple terms. And even if we come up with some understanding, years later, while glancing out of a window, the story still has the potential to return, to alter right there in our mind and change everything.” ― Walter Mosley

5. Read - Read some good short stories. A few I’m personally fond of sharing with my students include The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, and Indian Camp by Ernest Hemingway. However, there are thousands of great ones out there, all of them different, but many with common ground that can help you pinpoint exactly what makes a good story. When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you.” – George Saunders. What are some of your favorite short stories?

If you've ever written a crappy short story (and really, haven't we all?) there's advice for that as well. Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” – Ray Bradbury

What are some tips you have to share when it comes to writing shorts? What are some of your favorites to read?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Fourth of July!

Today, the United States celebrates its Independence Day! I pray you all enjoy some relaxing, fun time with family and friends. Happy Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

IWSG: Industry Changes

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.

JULY QUESTION There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

MY ANSWER - I feel that as a result of the pandemic, we are seeing an increase in the return to people reading large amounts for entertainment. As a result, I would subsequently love to see an increase in the number of publishing houses, and the material they are willing to print. I would also love to see the publishing houses taking a risk on newer authors as well.

What industry changes would you like to see?