Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Guilty of Overstating?

 
The view from my front porch. :)

5 Questions 

To celebrate the grand re-opening of the Coffeehouse for Writers, Jennifer Brown Banks is spotlighting the instructors in a 5 Questions series on her blog, Pen and Prosper. I have the privilege of teaching the Boot Camp for Writers, so I'm featured in this post.  I invite you to stop by if you have a moment. :) 
 

Overstating, Are You Guilty?

Strunk and White had this to say in The Elements of Style:

“Do not overstate. When you overstate, the reader will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in his mind because he has lost confidence in your judgment or your poise.

Overstatement is one of the common faults. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of the writer’s enthusiasm.” 


I must admit, overstating puts me off. You might say it's one of my grammar pet peeves. For example, I cringe when I get an email that includes something like this: 

"I KNOW you’ll AGREE with ME WHEN I SAY that WE MUST put an END to THESE ATROCITIES."

Why must we shout? Isn't it more civilized to simply say, 

"We must stop the atrocities."

Is it just me, or is the extreme capital emphasis distracting? My interest in the message wanes, and I feel like I'm being coerced into taking it seriously and pressured into embracing the cause. Making a point is necessary and commendable, but there is a better way to achieve respected, professional results. As Strunk and White state, overemphasis "diminishes the whole". 

The exclamation mark also suffers from overuse. Its true purpose of course, is for commands or exclamations, like: 

Stop, thief!  or Your book was published, hooray!  or I haven't had my coffee yet! 
                         
It works for informal correspondence like in social media, emails, texts, or blog comments. But I've noticed their generous use elsewhere and I wonder, how excitement worthy are these statements? Are we shouting and exclaiming when simply stating will do? 

One veteran writer's take on the subject advised counting the number of exclamation marks in a piece. He then said to eliminate all but one and to prudently consider even the lone remainder. He asked, is such emphasis necessary? I thought this advice interesting; it now factors in to my editing process.

And since we're on the topic, there's the obvious overstating with excess words and modifiers. When revising and editing I'm on the lookout for extras like very and really, and repetitive phrases such as free gift.

While there is a place for using all caps, exclamation marks, and even bold and italicized print, I believe a good balance equals better communication. Well chosen prose combined with class and common sense never goes out of style.  

What do you think? Do you agree with Strunk and White? What grammar mishaps make you cringe

If you have time, don't forget to stop by Pen and Prosper for my interview. Thanks so much!   

I'm taking a break for a few weeks, but will return on June 6 with an interview with author Sarah Sundin. Enjoy the remainder of May
 
Happy writing,
Karen :)



Photo credit: Karen Lange

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Strong Legacy





Although Mother's Day here in the United States is over, I wanted to share this tribute to my mother and grandmothers. This was a guest post on the Coffeehouse for Writers' blog a while back; I hope you don't mind if I share it with you here.

I'm guest posting at Tyrean Martinson's blog for her 5 Reasons to Write series, so if you have a minute, please hop over and see us! 

A Legacy of Strong Women 

When I reflect on how I became the woman I am today, I think of the women who were most influential in my life. These women were there from the beginning, from my infancy through high school, marriage, and beyond. They demonstrated class and style to my sisters and me as they loved, lived, and overcame obstacles.

Edith Pearl, my paternal grandmother, surrounded us with the kind of attention and love us girls relished. I remember fondly time spent at her home, when my sister, cousin, and I got to dress up in Grandma’s clothes and fancy shoes. She arranged our hair, bought us pretty dresses, and played Canasta with us. With her encouragement, we tried new and exotic foods. Imagine the giggles that ensued when she introduced us to the pu-pu tray at a Hawaiian restaurant. When she and Grandad traveled, they brought us gifts, among them pearls from Majorca (which I still have and wear). She gave us the gift of knowing we were treasured and special. 

Caroline Alicia, my maternal grandmother, wasn’t afraid to try new things. Someone told her that she wasn’t smart enough to learn to sew. What did Caroline do? She took a class and became the best seamstress around. My sisters and I would spend part of summer vacation with Grandma and Grandpa. Though this city-fied girl wasn’t keen on weeding their huge garden, she did learn a few things about hard work. How much did groceries cost in the summer of ’73? I don’t recall, but I do remember Grandma’s ability to stretch a dollar and make good meals. Time with Grandma also included games – Scrabble, Canasta, and one of her favorites, Rack-o. Even my children now think of her when the Rack-o game comes out. Caroline’s loving, caring and can-do attitude lives on. I often pause and wonder how she would handle a situation – sewing, gardening, family, or otherwise.

After I had my three children I told my mother, Linda Rae, that I owed her a million dollars. I take that back. There isn’t enough money on the planet to pay her back for all she did for us. In addition to the sacrifices she made for my three sisters and me, she was the best cheerleader a girl could ever have. As a slightly chubby preteen, she dried my tears in the dressing room at the clothing store, telling me “You just have broad shoulders like your father.” She’d make every effort to find something flattering and suitable for the occasion. 


My sister Wendy and me. I'm the one driving. :)
While she couldn’t instantly remedy my figure, Mom helped make me feel valued and pretty. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that it occurred to me that my shoulders might not be so broad. No matter, Mom’s sentiment still makes me smile. She cheered me on through marriage and motherhood lending savvy, not meddlesome advice. I think of her every day.

These dear ladies each hold a special place in my heart. They taught me to nourish the inner beauty and let special qualities shine, to learn and push through challenges, and to cherish and love unconditionally. Their legacies live on through memories and the generations of strong women they left behind. I miss them all.

Don't forget to visit Tyrean's blog if you have a minute. Thank you! :)

What women were influential in your life?

 Happy writing, 
Karen






Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, May 2, 2016

Meet the Blogger with Sandy Sieber

Author and Pennsylvania resident Sandy Sieber joins us for this month's Meet the Blogger. PA is near and dear to my heart, born in Lancaster, I've loved the state for as long as I can remember. :) So when I met Sandy, I knew we shared common interests Sandy has written numerous books, including The Flying Banana, which is a fun workbook designed to teach children the history of transportation in Pennsylvania. Her approach has kid friendly appeal, always a good thing to help the learning process.

Sandy's blog, paHis features a delightful assortment of Pennsylvania related topics - history, customs, news, and more. Recent posts include info on Centralia's mine fire, Amish customs, and products native to the Keystone State. Her posts offer interesting tidbits and links; I always learn something new 

Hi Sandy, welcome to Write Now! Why did you start blogging? How long have you had your current blog? 

Thank you, Karen! I started my blog as a way to connect with people who might be interested in buying my books. I’ve written my blog, paHis, since September, 2011, when I wrote about Blue Jacket, a Shawnee Indian. A rumor said that he had been Marmaduke Van Swearingen, a white boy from Pennsylvania. My great-grandmother would have been a descendant of Marmaduke’s uncle. DNA tests proved the legend wrong. 

Now there's a bit of interesting history, or local lore, depending on how you look at it! What is the main theme of paHis

My blog is mostly about Pennsylvania, past and present, but I also write about another topic dear to my heart, homeschooling. 

Both subjects are near to my heart as well. Have you gained any benefits through blogging? 

First of all, I enjoy local people telling me that they like reading what I write. Second, I’ve gotten to connect with some wonderful people including you, Karen, as we feature each other on our blogs. I received the greatest thrill from blogging when my post about Mexico, Pennsylvania reached over 13,000 views. 

Wow, that's wonderful, congratulations on so many views! I too, am glad we met, It is good to connect with so many great people. What projects are you working on now? 

My ongoing project is to produce a full Pennsylvania history curriculum for 4th through 8th grades. I have four workbooks finished. Right now, I’m writing a historical fiction short story collection to include in the section of the curriculum about industry in Pennsylvania. The first short story is about a charcoal furnace journeyman. In the second story, a monkey boy employed by Edwin Drake’s oil drilling rig is the main character. The last story will be about the coal industry. 

The curriculum sounds great. As for including fiction, that's the icing on the cake. There's nothing like a good story to help bring history to life.  What might people be surprised to learn about you? 

They might be surprised to learn that I walked barefoot across a manure-laden barnyard to earn a dollar from my brothers when I was young. My feet sure stunk afterwards! 

Ooooh...I bet! I hope that dollar was worth it! :) What advice would you offer a new blogger? 

Read other blogs to see what you think works or doesn’t work. Choose topics that you already know or that you don’t mind researching. Also, include pictures when you can. 

Excellent tips, Sandy. We can learn so much from other blogs and from writing about topics we know. Thanks so much for joining us this week. Wishing you well with your books! 

Thanks Karen, for the opportunity to appear on your blog!

More About Sandy

After 20 years of homeschooling her four children, Sandy Sieber now works two part-time jobs, one being a substitute teacher. She and her husband Rusty go on used textbook buying trips periodically for Follett Corporation. Sandy likes to walk, write, read historical fiction, babysit her grandchildren, and visit Pennsylvania tourist sites. Her blog name paHis stands for Pennsylvania belongs to God. Purchase her books,The Flying Banana, Phacops Rana and Other Pennsylvania Symbols, Archbald Pothole and Other Pennsylvania State Parks, and William Penn and Other Pennsylvanians on her website.

Connect with Sandy

Blog 
Twitter
Website

Have you ever lived in or visited Pennsylvania? What is your favorite vacation destination?
 
Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Free Images


Monday, April 25, 2016

Benefits of Reading

Happy Monday! Hope you are doing well. It's been busier than usual here, so I apologize if this post is a bit scattered. Have been thinking about this topic, so thought I'd offer a few thoughts upon which to reflect.

Thanks so much for coming by to visit. It's always good to see you! :)


Why should writers read? Benefits include mental stimulation, vocabulary building, and expanding our knowledge and worldview. It also helps improve grammar and critical thinking skills, focus and memory, reduces stress,  and has entertainment value. Reading helps us sample genres and illustrates good writing techniques, from plots and pacing to article elements and more.

In his post Why Writers Need to Read if They Want to Be Good, Jeff Goins says, 

"Nothing inspires a writer like reading someone else’s words."

Do you agree? I find great inspiration this way, and often have layers of ideas sprouting as I read. Words can inspire and keep us writers going. 

If I don't know the author of a book, post, or article, I focus more on the words versus who is saying it. This isn't a bad thing; we won't always have the privilege of meeting that author. (And the words of course, are often the main reason we're reading it anyway.) As a writer though, I know that reading isn't just about absorbing words. It's about a writer sharing, informing, and challenging. There are two sides to this, and being a reader helps being a writer. Make sense?

Jeff Goins elaborates further, saying we're in danger of running out of words if we don't read. This is an interesting point. I don't want to be the writer who runs out of words, do you? Reading makes our words richer, enhancing the value of our work. 

A Quick Announcement

The Coffeehouse for Writers has a new site! Classes begin in early May and topics include blogging, creating characters, freelancing, writing for the Chicken Soup series, boot camp for writers, and more. Instructors are Jennifer Brown Banks, Linda O'Connell, Victoria Grossack, Serena Wadhwa, Diana Bocco, and me (I'm in charge of boot camp!). Check out the offerings and details here.

Why do you read? Do you agree with Jeff Goins? What's on your spring reading list?


Happy writing,
Karen


Photo credit; Free Images

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Art of Writing - Making a Difference





"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

Edgar Degas


Do you think your writing is an art? 

Webster's New Explorer College Dictionary defines art as "skill in performance acquired by experience, study, or observation, an occupation that requires a natural skill in addition to training and practice." 

Do you agree? 

I do. It takes drive and dedication to sharpen skills and cultivate God given abilities. Practice, training, study, and observation - we must cultivate these essential ingredients to be successful with this art form.

Writers create. We fill the reader's mind with words that generate thoughts and images. The pen or keyboard is our paintbrush. Long or short, flowery or factual, fiction or non-fiction, we send messages, informing, stirring the mind and imagination, spurring change, or encouraging a heart.

We "make others see". And feel. And hear. And heal. Writers have a unique opportunity to enrich lives. To leave a legacy and to make a difference. Is not that one of the best kinds of art? 
 
What work of art are you creating this week? What do you hope readers will remember about your writing?

Happy writing,
Karen 



Image credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, April 11, 2016

Miscellaneous Monday




Does it feel or look like spring in your neighborhood? I hope you've had at least a glimpse of sunshine and warmth so far. To celebrate spring, I thought I would share a few links - perhaps they'll spark a little creativity. :)

In the mood for a contest? Check out the Writer's Digest 85th Annual Competition. Grand Prize is $5000, among other goodies, and the twelve categories include inspirational, magazine articles, poetry, children/young adult, and more. Entry deadline is May 6. Check out the details here.

Many of you know that I took courses from The Institute of Children's Literature years ago. Despite my initial hesitation, (I'd found their brochure at the grocery store.) the classes were excellent. They covered the writing and submission process from A to Z, in a professional and friendly manner. ICL combines top notch instruction with quality materials. I'd highly recommend them to anyone considering writing for children.

The Institute of Children's Literature has a sister school, the Long Ridge Writer's Group, that features writing classes for adult fiction and non fiction. While I haven't had personal experience with Long Ridge, I've heard good things and suspect they maintain similar standards as ICL. I've seriously considered taking classes there as well.

Even if you aren't interested in taking classes, both schools offer help for writers on their Rx for Writers page. You don't have to be a student to subscribe to their newsletter, which offers articles with tips, advice, and success stories for all writers.

Has spring weather hijacked your creativity? Jennifer Brown Banks offers advice on how to get back on track with Has Your Muse Become a Recluse...?

Fiction writers - having trouble nailing the conclusion to your story? Author Jerry Jenkins shares his thoughts in Secrets to Writing a Captivating Ending.

Are you a fan of uncommon vocabulary? Jean Fischer of Something to Write Home About invites us to guess the meanings of 26 interesting words in Quiz: Can You Guess the Meaning of These Unusual Words?

What are you working on this week? Are you enjoying spring weather?

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, April 4, 2016

Meet the Blogger with Natalie Aguirre


Happy Spring! The April edition of Meet the Blogger features the lovely and talented writer Natalie Aguirre. She's a host at the award winning blog, Literary Rambles.  Natalie has been a faithful follower here for a while, and always offers her insight and a bit of sunshine to brighten my day.
 
If you are interested in writing for children, or writing at all for that matter, I recommend visiting Literary Rambles soon. Posts highlight children/young adult publishing, and Natalie shares interviews with authors and agents, as well as book spotlights and giveaways. It's encouraging to hear about the journeys and processes of others in the writing industry.


Welcome to Write Now, Natalie! Why did you start blogging? How long have you been with Literary Rambles? 

Thank you, Karen! I had been reading and commenting at many blogs for well over a year before I joined my blog partner, Casey McCormick, in March 2011 at Literary Rambles. At that time, blogs were a more popular social media platform for writers, which is why I wanted to blog. I knew I wanted to focus on middle grade and young adult debut authors and good books, which I have done. I secretly wanted to be Casey’s blog partner but was too afraid to ask. I jumped at the chance when Casey asked for a blog partner.

How exciting! I had no idea that was how you connected. You make a great team. Can you tell us more about the focus of Literary Rambles? 

Our blog focuses on spotlighting debut authors, agents who represent writers who write picture books, middle grade, and young adult, and the publishing world. Our agent spotlights provide detailed information on how to submit to agents and their likes and dislikes. Debut authors share valuable information on the craft of writing, becoming published, getting an agent, and marketing in my interviews and guest posts, which are always with a giveaway. I also share a lot of new young adult books in book giveaway hops, which is also a way for me to network with book review bloggers.  

This last year I started offering agent and debut author guest posts that included great information in the post and includes a query critique giveaway by the agent. Casey just went on sabbatical, so I am taking over the agent spotlights and am changing the format to an interview with the agent and a query critique giveaway if possible.  I’m hoping this will be another way that I can help aspiring writers.

Literary Rambles offers great info for writers, no matter what their genre. I've learned much since I've been following. What benefits have you gained through blogging?

I have gained many benefits from blogging and know that I could gain even more if I wanted to spend more time on it. I’ve made many blog friends, who I’ve tried to help when I can when their books get published. The blogging community is very supportive, and my blog friends have really helped me through some major personal challenges I’ve gone through these last two years.
 
I’ve increased our blog's following by over 3000 since joining the blog and expanded our connections with other bloggers, publishers, and agents. It really helped that Casey was so well known already for her agent spotlights. I’m grateful for how the blog has grown, become more well-known, and received awards like Writer’s Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers  since I joined it.

I’ve also benefited from realizing that I am really helping aspiring authors in their search for agents and debut authors to promote their books. Knowing I’m helping the children’s writing community in my own little way gives me a very satisfying purpose for continuing to blog, which could otherwise turn into a chore.


Blogging can offer us much, that's for sure. I'm glad you've found it beneficial, and glad you help so many! What are you working on right now? 

Right now I’m not writing any fiction. I have a part-time job as a contract writer for a web marketing firm writing library, blog, and FAQs for attorney websites that takes most of my writing time and energy. My blog also has been and continues to be fairly time consuming, especially since I took over the agent spotlights. Both my job and the blog are satisfying my need to write. I really don’t want two jobs anymore or more writing deadlines than I have with my job. And like many writers who work at home alone, I need to balance solitary pursuits with ones that involve people, especially since I live alone. 

Your plate is very full! :) What might people be surprised to learn about you?

My life is a total work in progress. In the last two years, I lost my husband, my job, and my daughter left for college. However, I’m happy to say that you can dig out from all these major changes and reinvent your life. 

I know your journey has been a hard one lately, and am so glad to see you are doing well. As for being a work in progress - I'm one too.  I'm thinking we all are, right? What advice would you share with a newbie blogger?

I’d give three pieces of advice. 

1. Have some platform or focus for your blog. Some people share about books they’ve read, tips they’ve learned, music and films, or introduce us to new bloggers like Karen does here. Find a focus that feels right for you.

2. Have a consistent blogging schedule. Decide how many days you want to blog and what days and keep a regular schedule. If you have to stop blogging because of other things in your life—and we all have those times—announce it on your blog and come back when you say you’re coming back.

3.  Network with other bloggers. You must make friends with other bloggers by visiting their blogs and leaving comments if you want people to visit yours and have your following grow. In addition, joining a group like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group can be a great support for you and help you develop friendships with other bloggers.

Excellent advice! These items are key to succeeding in the blog world. Thanks for joining us, Natalie. It was great to get to know you better. :)

Thank you for having me, Karen!

More About Natalie 

Natalie Aguirre is an aspiring middle grade and YA fantasy writer and blogs at Literary Rambles. She’s a contract non-fiction writer and retired attorney by day, and a mother of a college student. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. 

Find Natalie 

Literary Rambles


Twitter

What projects are you working on this week? Have any questions for Natalie?

Happy writing,

Karen 



  
Photo credit: Free Images