Posts Tagged ‘writing tips’


Reading Intention

January 18, 2016

The end of a year is filled with ‘best of’ book titles. Last year I composed my own list, specific to young adult literature. This year I couldn’t—not because I didn’t have any, but because I couldn’t remember. Welcome menopausal brain.

Some folks in the literary world set intentions for their reading practice; a bookish resolution of sorts. I’m jumping on that train and plan to keep a log, listing all the books I read in 2016. From time to time, I’ll post a couple of updates so you can follow along or join in. Thus far I’ve finished Brene Brown’s, Rising Strong; Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic; Raymond Carver’s, Cathedral; Emma Mills’, First and Then, and am in the process of reading Theo Pauline Nestor’s, Writing is My Drink; and Ha Jin’s, The Bridegroom: Stories.

Hopefully, next year I’ll be able to check my log and offer up my best book list like everyone else.

Now if I can only remember where I put my pen.


Dead Blog

January 4, 2016

I realize blogs are dead. That said, I continue to write them. Why? I write because that’s what I do. I can’t imagine my life without writing.

Although my blog is often informational and I write a highly controversial column for the local paper, my passion is writing fiction. When the creative muse fails me, I write in a journal for personal musings. I script old-fashioned letters and poetry and notes. I write because that’s what I do.

If you are a writer, I suggest you keep your blog going, maintain your journal, and write more poetry.

It’s a brand new year: resolve to write. Write every day. If it does nothing else than clearing your head, it’s worth it.

Happy New Year. Now go write.


Mom’s Wise Words

December 1, 2015

My mom turns 85 this month, although if you’d met her, you’d swear she was 55. This month’s blog is in her honor.

Mom loves lists. She has on-going lists for the grocery, her daily chores, her weekly and monthly activities. She makes lists of people she needs to call, to thank, and to write. She’s even made lists for all her books, her rock collection, and the kinds of flowers she’s planted. I love my mom and am sharing a list of her wisdom. She’s far too humble to list it herself, but these are five things I know she’d agree to; attributes that she represents.

  1. Love: simple and yet complicated—love yourself, love God, love your family, friends, and your enemies.
  2. Nap: rest well and take care of yourself. Naps also give you time to create.
  3. Appreciate Nature: all of the answers are there.
  4. Get a C: no one is perfect, we learn from our mistakes, and no one does well under constant pressure to get all A’s.
  5. Care: make a difference in the world. It can be as simple as making muffins for a neighbor, volunteering at an event, or writing Congress to demand better resolutions.

Thanks Mom! And Happy Holidays to all.


Space to Write

November 1, 2015

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I found a new place to work this year, at least for one day a week. My oldest daughter is living at home while ski racing and working, which is great—until she stumbles in for breakfast during my morning writing session.

We’ve worked out some parameters. She stays out of the house two days a week while I hole up and write, and I leave two days a week: one spent at a coffee house and the other at an awesome office housed in a nursery. It’s a tropical paradise, filled with plants and dirt and sunlight.

On my first day, however, I had no idea where to begin. For writers; beginnings are difficult, daunting, and often avoided. I dug through my bag, found my pens, opened my computer, and then, I sat. I found a few better pens, moved papers to the floor, wrote a few notes, and then, I sat. I changed the music, checked my emails, glanced at my notes, pulled up a few files, and then again, I sat.

My frustration grew. I was paying for the space and knew that doing a load of laundry was a more efficient use of my time than sharpening pencils. I tried again. Finally, after three and a half hours, I revised a chapter—one lonely chapter (on a good day, I’ll revise six). I left, met my daughter and puppy for a brief walk, and raced back to the office, cramming in what I could. One more chapter done. Not a good first day at the office.

On subsequent visits, things got better. My twitchy brain finally welcomed the space, and I settled in.

Now, when I arrive, I breathe in the deep, oxygen-filled air that smells of geraniums and roses, give gratitude, and get to work. Without a doubt, it is now my most creative, productive-filled day of the week. For any writers out there pondering the idea of renting one’s own place—I highly recommend it—if even for one day a week.


Walk Writing Tips

October 5, 2015

Last month, I spoke at a Walk out of Darkness event, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. When first asked, I said no way- I’m a writer, not a speaker, and standing in front of 300 people is not my cup of tea. However, a few passionate volunteers convinced me otherwise.

Our community was hit hard by suicide this year, and I wrote an article for the local paper that went viral, mostly because it struck a cord with so many people. This led to my talk at the walk. When I spoke, I offered three takeaways: encouragement, education, and listening.

After the event, I thought about how these three subjects can be used to help a writer.

Encouragement: writing is a lonely endeavor. Those who don’t write will often mistake the profession with fantastical grandeur- sipping lattes in fancy coffee houses while writing words that will be shared, making millions of dollars in the process. Not hardly. It’s tough, it’s frustrating, it’s rejection-filled work. You must love it, live for it, and endure. From time to time it’s wise to take yourself out for a treat—buy an expensive flavored coffee instead of basic drip, buy a new pen, or pat yourself on the back while indulging in a bottle of wine.

Education: writers must study. Not only do we need to research the things we write about, but also, we must read, read, read. We must take workshops and listen to other writers. It is the only way to improve our craft.

Listen: writers must observe, listen to those around them. Conversations at coffeehouses can provide rich material. Listening to your family, your friends, your community—everyone has a story. Observe body language—it is a type of language! Paying attention is key to the writing process.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the actual writing, but self-encouragement, education, and listening are key components to improving one’s craft.


Dad’s Tips

November 20, 2013

Today would have been my dad’s 84th birthday. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. Dad died three and a half-years-ago and left a legacy of lessons. He suffered a massive brain aneurism while delivering Meals on Wheels with my mom, offering an example about the importance of community service even in his final moments.

If I wrote about all the lessons Dad taught me, I’d fill a book not a blog. For this piece, I’ll focus on what he taught me about writing.

Dad graduated from the University of Michigan with an MA  in business, not English. However, he earned the honor and job as Editor in Chief of the Michigan Daily. It was through journalism and editing that he became a gifted writer in his own right.

Here are a few of his choice nuggets slightly edited with my own thoughts:

  • Write simply
  • Offer details, but not overdone adjectives
  • Be direct
  • Provide an opening for the reader to question
  • Convince the reader of your point like you would in a debate
  • Offer examples and back up your viewpoint
  • Never lie
  • Always check your sources
  • Edit your work
  • Controversy can be good
  • Write like you mean it
  • Words matter, especially your own

Not bad. Thanks, Dad.


Writing A Query: part three

October 23, 2011

This is the final blog on query writing. I hope the last post didn’t worry you. ‘Do Not’ lists tend to take on a negative tone. When someone tells me not to do something, I often do it anyway, but hopefully, you took note.

Here’s a brief rundown on what should be in a query.


  1. Be professional, in every way. This includes spelling, salutations, and structure.
  2. Begin your query with a direct connection. If you’ve met the agent before, remind her or him. If not, mention why you are writing to them specifically. Do you like another author they represent? Did you hear them speak at a conference?
  3. Give them the reason you are writing: such as, you want them to consider representing you and your book (give the title of your book here and now).
  4. Add the word-count to your manuscript.
  5. What’s the genre and who will read it? Say so.
  6. The second or third paragraph should be a summary of your entire book, complete with a compelling hook. Hard to do? Yes.
  7. In the next paragraph do a brief marketing piece and compare your book to another book or two.  If another novel with a similar voice or structure was hugely popular, that might help your book find success with the same audience. This paragraph should also prove that you’ve done your homework and know the industry. However, do not (okay, so I snuck one ‘do not’ in here) say that you will become the next JK Rowling.
  8. Give your professional credentials that relate to the book.
  9. Thank the agent for considering your work.
  10. After you sign your name, let them know what you are including (remember, only include what is asked in the submission guidelines!).

Good luck!