Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing Critique Groups

For the last month or so, I have been participating within a writing critique group and I have to say that it has added a much needed dimension to my creative writing experience. The group grew out of the shared experience of doing the Poem-A-Day Challenge on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog Poetic Asides. One of the ladies that also participated in that challenge sent messages to two of us other ladies and asked us if we would be interested in forming a group. And just recently we added our fourth member. Our group consists of women who live in three different countries, some who have children at home, some who have grown children and all of whom have a tremendous passion for writing.

If you are a writer and you would like to add a new dimension of understanding as to how your potential readers will view your work, then I highly recommend joining a similar group. Whether you meet with local friends every week or get together with some regional folks once a month or do as I do and “meet” online, your writing will benefit greatly from the insight of trusted and talented people. Not only has this group helped me perfect my work based on the other member comments, it has given me insight in to how others write as well as inspired me to write different types of things than I have ever written before.

Here is how our group is set up. We have decided that we will keep our group small. We currently have four members and I don’t believe that we will be adding any new members any time soon. Each member has a certain week that they submit some piece of written material – in our group, it can be any written work: poetry, short story, part of a novel, an essay, even query letters if someone is needing help with the correct wording. That person submits their work on Sunday, then the other members of the group critique within a few days and send comments back to the author. At that point, the author reviews the group comments, makes revisions based on what they feel does or doesn’t make sense from the comments and sends revisions back to the group for another round of comments. Next week is another member’s turn and we begin the process again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

e.l.f. & False Forwards

I got my e.l.f. cosmetics order in today. I am super excited. I have tried a couple of the lip products already and they are nice. I have yet to know if I can recommend any of the other products. There was a little bit of a problem with the order in that they didn't ship a couple of things, but I called them, got a person to answer on the first ring, explained the problem, got a good response and shortly thereafter had a credit refund show up on my card for those items.

BUT, while I was searching on their site for their contact information, I came across a little About Us section which included a note about why they sell their products for $1 and it listed an entirely different reason from the one that they had stated on the Fox 10 morning show back in May. According to their site, they sell their cosmetics for a dollar for the simple reason that they don't sell in any retail outlets, but strictly from their own site. Hmmmm....this is a bit different from the information I garnered from our local Fox station. So I did a little digging at one of my favorite sites - Snopes - and apparently the morning gals over at Fox got duped by an email or one of the numerous blogs (I found about 4 in a cursory search this morning) that have picked up on this false email rumor. Now as any of my email friends can tell you this is one of my pet peeves…false forwards I often call them. Almost any email forward that comes my way that claims to be a true story gets checked by me on Snopes.com or truthorfiction.com. Both of these sites do fact checking and try to get to original sources to get the information straight. Nor do I believe any email that comes to me with the claim that ‘this email has been checked on Snopes.’ Too often I find that some prankster has included this line just to make you comfortable about passing it on without doing the fact checking yourself. This particular instance is not a major situation. I went to e.l.f., ordered some of their products, and will now enjoy them. In fact, now that I know that this site exists and that they are actually quite good at customer service as opposed to some internet based companies, I will be likely to order from them again. However, I have been forwarded emails which were either full of downright lies told about a political candidate or full of indecent rumor that could ruin an innocent person’s reputation or full of silly confusion such as the one that purports that a mid-eastern hotel is the palace of a sheik making millions off of us poor duped Americans buying all of his oil. Though they range from slanderous to silly, they are all false and far too many people see fit to just hit Forward and send them on without ever stopping to consider the consequences.

I am highly disappointed today. Not with my order or the quality of the product I received. Nope. I’m disappointed with myself. I fell for one of the oldest lines in the book and one that I now for a fact is patently untrue – “If they said it on the news it must be true.”

*If you are interested in seeing the e.l.f. line for yourself, you can go to www.eyeslipsface.com. As I said, I haven’t yet tried all of the products that I ordered, so I can’t make any recommendations. If you’d like to read what snopes has to say about this erumor, you can go to http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/elfcosmetics.asp.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Summer Savings Idea

Gina Conroy at Portrait of a Writer…Interrupted has instituted a new Summer Savings ideas share on her blog. The idea is to go to her blog and post a link to your summer savings idea post. Here is mine. My mom and I were just discussing it this morning as we trekked into town to get our groceries. We live in a rural area with only one very small grocery mart, so we travel to the nearest town to do our big shopping runs about once a week. Because of that we came up with the idea of starting a neighborhood grocery buying co-op. This idea is ideal for our rural neighborhood, but with the rising cost of gasoline and groceries it would work just as well in a town or city neighborhood. The idea is that once a week everyone turns in their grocery lists to the ‘designated buyer’ for that week. Then that person drives to town, buys everyone’s lists and brings them home. One thing that we are also going to take advantage of in this co-op is our Costco membership. We will be able to save a ton by splitting our Costco purchases between multiple households. Just this morning we compared Del Monte cans of corn - $0.88 a piece at Wal-Mart or $0.48 a piece at Costco. One household might not want a case of corn, but two or more can split it and save $0.40 a can! The grocery savings, coupled with the gas savings of only having to drive to the stores every few weeks instead of every week combine to make a real money saving idea. The other aspect I like of this plan is that instead of dragging my two year old out for an all day shopping trip every week, we will only have to go every few weeks, so the aggravation factor drops tremendously as well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


We are home. And we had a blast!

Nicole traveled better on this trip than on any previous trip and I believe that this is due to her new found freedom in her booster seat as opposed to being so confined to a two strap car seat. We had packed various “surprise” toys for her and they also went a long way toward ensuring everyone’s sanity in the many long days on the road. Besides the wedding, which was the reason for and the center point of our trip, we also stopped in New Mexico for two days to see family, spent some time with my sister in Denver, got to go to the Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite, Red Rocks Ampitheater, stopped to shop at a large outlet mall in Castle Rock, went to the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, saw an aunt and uncle in Albuquerque and explored Old Town Albuquerque. We packed a lot of stuff and way too much driving into 6 days and made it home a day early so that we had one day to spend at home unpacking, unwinding and doing a couple of small home projects.

I am including a few of our photos. We plan to make a family vacation an annual event, as we believe that it was a bond-strengthening, family-developing occasion. The only downer on the week was an infection that developed in my impacted wisdom tooth just as we were leaving. This kept me in some pain and made me eat funny as it hurt to open my jaw. I’m sure it was quite entertaining to those around wherever we ate, including the very nice wedding reception. I have an appointment with the dentist first thing tomorrow morning.

As soon as the whole dental pain thing is done, I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things around here, get the house in order and get back into a regular writing schedule. I am excited to see what this summer will bring!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

PAD Challenge Awards Ceremony

Robert Lee Brewer conducted the first annual PAD Challenge awards ceremony on his blog Poetic Asides yesterday. As you can see at the right, I received a badge indicating my completion of the challenge. Yay! I did it! To see the awards that were given check out the blog at: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/April+PAD+Challenge+Awards+Ceremony.aspx

To join the poetic discussion forum that resulted from this fantastic challenge, you can go to: http://forum.writersdigest.com/forums/forum-view.asp?fid=44

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Character Issues

Wouldn’t it be great if all of our characters were beloved family friends to our readers? I remember a story about a woman calling a pastor for some counseling. After talking with the woman for several minutes, the pastor was quite concerned. The woman had related multiple stories of adultery and murder. The pastor, upon further questioning of the woman, felt quite silly at having been so duped. The woman had been relating stories from her favorite soap opera. She was quite concerned over their fates.

If only all the readers of my stories felt so much connection with my characters. Apparently the readers of Craig Johnson’s stories about a fictional Wyoming Sheriff feel that connection. His main character, Walt Longmire, received 13 write-in votes in the recent Johnson County, Wyoming Sheriff’s election. :-) You can pre-order Johnson’s latest offering – Another Man’s Moccasins – at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Another-Mans-Moccasins-Longmire-Mystery/dp/0670018619/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211428575&sr=8-1


Well, that last blog post was written from the road. Our family has set out on our first annual family vacation. We have made a stop in New Mexico and then we are on to Denver. As I'm not sure when we'll be at a computer next, I don't know if I'll be posting anymore until we return next Tuesday the 27th. Hopefully, I'll be able to give you some good blogs and updates from the road, but if not, I'll be sure and give you a whole travelogue when we get back! :-)

Reader's Websites

Here are a couple of cool little websites that any reader can use. Have you read every last one of your favorite author's published works and you can't wait until their new release comes out? Then you need to go to www.literature-map.com and put in the name of your favorite author. Click continue and a cool little map will be built. The author's names that are closest to your favorite have a writing style similar to your favorite and you will be likely to enjoy their work. www. whatshouldireadnext.com works much the same, except for this site pulls up reader recommendations based on reader created lists. Here you can even register and begin building your own list for the benefit of your fellow readers. So, next time you are looking around for your next great read check one of these sites before you head to the bookstore.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Journal Wreckage

In my continual struggle with the perfectionism that was handed down to me through the ages from first born to first born to first born, I have always struggled to actually finish writing a story. I often begin composing a piece and then decide that because the story is set in Las Vegas during the 1950’s that I must research every aspect of the area, the mob involvement, the atom bomb parties, etc. Soon, I get bogged down in all of the petty details and I forget who my characters are and why they were in Las Vegas during that time frame to begin with. The creative writing class that I recently took was a good first step in breaking that nasty habit, but I continue to work on this aspect of my writing. The other day, I was sitting around trying to come up with some good exercises in training my brain to just write and leave the editor out of it to begin with. Then it dawned on me – I already own a fantastic tool for just this type of training. This tool was given to me as a Christmas gift. My mother gave me a journal. But this is no ordinary journal. It is called Wreck This Journal and it was created by Keri Smith. Having been raised with a very healthy respect of books, this book was at first quite intimidating. Rather than being a regular journal with blank or lined pages on which to record your innermost thoughts or the happenings of your day, this journal comes with detailed instructions on almost every page as to how to destruct it. Yep, that’s right, I said the journal has instructions for destruction. Instructions such as “sew this page”, “bring this book in the shower with you”, and “collect your pocket lint – glue it here” are enough to give any journal lover a heart attack. The benefit of having a book like this for me to work on is that I will be forced to be “imperfect.” One of my favorite pages is the one titled “Space for Negative Comments*”. The note at the bottom of this page reads “*what is your inner critic saying?” I have a feeling this might be the page that fills up first, because my inner critic can rage out of control. :-) Another page which will encourage my more creative side is the one which says “Write Carelessly. Now.” I have already started making some entries in the journal, although I haven’t exactly brought myself to do any of the really, really destructive things. But it will come. I look forward to seeing how this tool will release my inner creative self and force my inner editor to take a back seat for once. One thing I’ve already tried to explain to that pesky editor is that this does not in any way mean that she is being fired – only demoted. :-)

(If you are interested in getting one of these wonderful journals for your own use, you can order one online from Amazon.com by clicking here: http://www.amazon.com/Wreck-This-Journal-Keri-Smith/dp/039953346X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211239759&sr=8-1 Enjoy!)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Newpaper Blackout Poems

Now this is cool! I heard about this on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog Poetic Asides. It seems that he heard about it from someone who heard about it from someone that heard about it on NPR. So it goes in today’s world – news travels fast. Poet Austin Kleon blacks out words in the newspaper to create fabulous poems. http://www.austinkleon.com/category/newspaper-blackout-poems/

This idea puts a whole new spin on a quote that we discussed recently in my creative writing class:

It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. –William Carlos Williams

So take a look through your local papers and if you come up with some gems please share them here in the comments!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Interruption Anyone?

As a fellow blogger and fellow mommy writer, Gina Conroy’s blog title is quite appropriate. Portrait of a Writer…Interrupted is a fantastic blog that I am coming to look forward to reading on a regular basis as I embark on my new writing adventures. Boy, did I feel the Interrupted part today. I had just finished cranking out about three pages of work on my new short story when I realized that in my writing zeal I had failed to notice the extreme quiet that had settled over the house. Uh-oh… Quiet is never good with a two and half year old around. Upon entering the bedroom where I had last seen Nicole happily drinking milk out of a sippy cup and watching her Country Elmo DVD, I now found her sitting in the middle of my bed covered in “Daddy’s cream.” My husband has issues with dry legs, so he keeps some extra-thick heavy duty skin cream on the nightstand. For the third time in a few months, she had it from her head to her toes and today it was all over the bedding, including on the mattress and the bed skirt, all over the floor on his side of the bed, and a little bit on his Bible, his copy of a Bible-study workbook and the portable DVD player.

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!! I was just really getting into the story. Now, I got to take time out for discipline, a bath, stripping the bed, laundry, carpet scrubbing and taking a shower after all was said and done. Sitting back down at the computer, after having put the offender to bed for a nap scrubbed clean of all white stickiness, I thought immediately of Gina’s blog and how apropos it was. I also thought of what a great blog today’s incident would make. And the story is still sitting there in the other Word window – waiting for me to pick right back up where I left off when I was interrupted!

(The picture is a few months old, being from the first of these ‘cream’ incidents. The creamy temptation has now been removed from that bedroom altogether. :-) )

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Your Personal Brand

As a freelance writer, it is important that I pay attention to good marketing principles. As many writers know, it is easy to neglect the business side of our craft and focus only on the creative. But, without a good marketing strategy, a freelance writer’s business is unlikely to prosper. One of my favorite marketing blogs recently posted a white paper on a subject that I think is especially important for us writers. That is Personal Branding. As a corporate employee, I used to be able to somewhat rely on the reputation of my companies brand for my livelihood. As a freelance writer, however, I must be much more vigilant to preserve my own reputation. For more information you can take a look at the My Creative Team THINKing blog here: http://www.my-creativeteam.com/blog/?p=706 and read the white paper. Please be sure and leave them a comment with a word of thanks!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

NEW Poetic Asides Forum

I was recently blessed to have the chance to participate in a fantastic challenge at Robert Lee Brewer’s blog (http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/default.aspx) for National Poetry Month called the Poem-A-Day challenge. Robert challenged his readers to write one poem a day throughout the month of April. Using prompts provided by Robert, hundreds of poets, both seasoned and brand new, wrote fantastic first draft poems and posted them for all to read. One of the unexpected side effects of the challenge was a small community of people who began not only posting poems, but commenting on each other’s work, encouraging each other through some serious issues (surgeries, accidents) and teasing each other through some less serious issues (hiding snakes!)

Almost immediately it was clear that this community was here to stay and the folks at Writer’s Digest created a brand new forum in their already established forum community for the Poetic Asides crowd. To check out this fantastic group you can go to: http://forum.writersdigest.com/forums/forum-view.asp?fid=44 Enjoy!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Let's Get This Party Started!

I have had a love of writing for many years. The physical act of putting pencil to paper thrills me. It has held this allure since I was very young. I have a secret stash of old journals full of everything from fiction writing, diary type entries, poetry, unfinished letters, and other general nonsense. The oldest of these dates back to the year I turned six. It’s a travel journal of sorts, chronicling a trip that our family took from New Mexico to Kansas. During my high school years, I bought a copy of Writer’s Market every year for about three years and submitted a handful of fiction pieces and non-fiction queries. I received back the usual spate of rejection slips and two acceptance notices. As soon as high school was out, I moved on to building a career as a billing specialist in a niche of the construction industry and did quite well. Writing took a back burner for about ten years. Recently, with a husband and a young daughter and a complete change of scenery (from the Las Vegas high-life to the country quiet-life) I made the decision to stay at home full time – and to pursue a writing career full okay at least three-quarter time. (C’mon, cut me some slack, I have a two and a half year old, okay?) This blog will be the narrative of this new journey.

In that vein, here are the writing notables of my recent months:

  • I have almost completed a semester long online Creative Writing course at Yavapai College
  • I participated in and completed the month long PAD challenge at Robert Lee Brewer’s blog: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/default.aspx
  • I have been retained to compose monthly newsletters for two businesses email marketing efforts
I also hope, through this blog, to network with other writers, blog authors, and poets (especially some of the wonderful community of people I have been privileged to get to know through the PAD challenge) as well as to share useful information that comes my way through this pursuit.

So come along with me and we will grow together…from the Roots up!