Thursday, April 29, 2010

Contest Tips and Links

Entered any writing contests lately? Beth Revis, of Writing it Out has a great post about Entering Contests. Beth shares links, quotes, and her thoughts about the benefits of entering writing contests. Good stuff. I need to go back and check out those links.

My poetry writing friends might be interested in Terresa's poetry contest over at the Chocolate Chip Waffle. Poems must have a spring theme, and she has a sweet little prize for the winner. Hurry, deadline to submit is May 3rd at midnight.

I shared this link the other day, but since we are on the topic of contests, thought I'd toss it out there again.  K.Dawn Byrd has an extensive listing of 2010's contests on her blog. Contests are organized by month, with links provided. Most are for romance writers, but there are other categories too, such as flash fiction and the Delacorte Press Contest for First Young Adult Novel.

Came across this Writing Contests site recently. Haven't had a chance to thoroughly check it out, so I can't endorse it nor tell you about the features, but it did look promising. A quick stop there indicated contest listings for children's, young adult, and adult fiction, non fiction, and poetry.

What do you think of writing contests? Have you entered any lately? What were the results?

Have a blessed weekend. Happy contest writing!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Interview with Author Gayle Roper

Author Gayle Roper

Gayle Roper was the speaker at a writer's seminar that I attended some years ago, and let me tell you, she was fabulous! From developing characters to writing great fiction and beyond, the info was helpful and  memorable. I still have my notes from that conference, it was that good. Imagine how pleased I was when she agreed to an interview.

Karen: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Gayle: Becoming a writer was one of those God-surprises that turn out to be absolutely perfect. I come from a family of teachers and was a teacher after I graduated. When our boys came, I stayed home with them, but I quickly got bored. I started to write to keep my mind active. I’ve always liked to read, so writing seemed something I might like too. Needless to say, I loved it and have been doing it ever since.

Karen: How did you get into writing for publication?
Gayle: At first I just wrote little scenes or descriptions for the fun of it. Then I thought I might as well try something of value and see if I could sell it. I wrote a short story for teens based on something that happened when I was teaching, sold it to a teen magazine, and made ten whole dollars! I was a writer. Then I tried a mystery novel since I loved to read them. It actually sold too. I was off, though the ride hasn’t been nearly as smooth along the way.


Karen: What kind of research did you do for the Amish Farm Trilogy?
Gayle: As someone who has lived in this area for more than forty years, I have watched and read and thought about this fascinating culture for a long time. When I see a young Amish woman gliding along on her inline skates, I wonder if she knows they are a product of the very technologically dependent petro-chemical industry. When I watch a buggy with Mom and the kids fighting heavy traffic on US 30 so they can go to Walmart, I wonder if keeping the legalism is worth the danger. When I see the little schoolhouses and think about education stopping at eighth grade, I wonder what an Amish child with a high IQ and an inquisitive mind does to scratch the yearning for knowledge itch.
To make certain that my observations and thoughts were accurate, I read material by sociologists like John Hostetler and Donald Kraybill. I asked questions all over the place. I had lunch with artist Susie Riehl and her friend and agent Shirley Wenger to learn Susie’s story.

Karen: What kinds of characters are your favorites to develop?
Gayle: I like characters with a past, flawed people who have found and are still finding freedom in Christ. If they are also a bit eccentric, all the better, but the eccentricity has to have a direct effect on the story or it’s just fluff.


What book (to date) was the most difficult to write?
Gayle: Whatever book I’m writing at the moment. Certainly some have special issues, like Allah’s Fire which I co-wrote with a former Army Ranger. I’d never co-authored before and was used to being in charge. It’s hard to learn to play with others. That special challenge aside (which I think we resolved into a very fine book), it’s whatever I’m currently working my way through.
Karen: Thanks for sharing with us, Gayle. 
Gayle: It was my pleasure.

Gayle's books include the Seaside Series, mysteries set in a seaside town much like where I grew up. I bought Book One at the conference and of course had to buy the other three. :) I highly recommend them.

I'm looking forward to checking out the Amish Farm Trilogy. Book One is out; Book Two will be released in September 2010. Visit Gayle's website for more info.

Thanks for stopping by. Blessings to you all. Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blogging Thoughts

Since I passed the one year blogging milestone in March, I've been doing a lot of thinking about my blogging routine, style, layout, and goals. Where am I headed? Do I keep going the same way or change things up? Can I still keep up my blog visiting schedule and maintain my sanity? The progress on my quest for answers has been slow, but these blogging friends have provided great food for thought.

Elana Johnson's recent posts have been similar to my thoughts. Blogging For You touches on viewing blogging like sitting around a table and talking with friends. Another post, More to Consider, offers more thoughts about what makes a good blog. Elana encourages us to consider the time factor; our visitors' time is at a premium, so make their stay at your blog effective and efficient.

Jody Hedlund has offered good blogging tips too. A recent favorite was How Can We Tell if Our Blog is Good?  Jody touches on followers, blogging and selling books, and how to measure how good (or bad) our blogs are. Key points worthy of consideration, she says, are numbers, connections, and feedback. The million dollar question that she poses to readers is "What makes a 'must read' blog?"

So what do you think? What elements are key to a successful blog? What do you like to see when you visit a blog? How do you build and maintain your followers? As always, I welcome and appreciate your input.

Coming next week - an interview with author Gayle Roper, hope you can join us!

Blessings and Happy Weekend:)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Searching for Words

Word Choices

While making up a word search puzzle for a student that I tutor, I pondered how we choose words when we write. I usually just write, letting the words come as I go, but sometimes I begin with a certain word or phrase and build around it, or brainstorm and play with different ways to say something. How do you choose your words?

Angela at The Bookshelf Muse regularly shares a Thesaurus Entry on various topics, such as setting, color, or description. Her posts are full of great words, phrases, similes, and metaphors that generate wonderful word pictures and inspiration. I encourage you to check out her blog; it might be just the word catalyst that you need.

Unpublished Author Contest

A friend alerted me to the Spoonfuls of Stories, a New Author Contest sponsored by Cheerios. Enter an original children's story for ages 3-8 for a shot at winning the Grand Prize of $5000 and a possible contract with Simon and Schuster.  Runners up receive $1000. Deadline to enter is July 15, 2010. One catch - to be eligible, you can't be a professional writer who writes for pay, such as a novelist or journalist. So this may take many of you out of the running, but perhaps you know someone who might be interested. Official rules and details can be found here.

Don't forget to share your thoughts on how you search for and choose your words when you write. Thanks a bunch, and have a great week.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Greeting Cards and Sunshine

Greeting Card Contest
The Hallmark Greeting Card Contest  is looking for anniversary card entries. The winner receives $250 with an additional $250 if they decide to put the card in stores nationwide. Deadline is April 26, 2010. See the site for official rules and guidelines.

Have you ever written for a greeting card company? I know that a few of you have. What tips would you share for success? Whether you've written for a card company or not, what do you look for when purchasing a greeting card? Have you ever gone through the racks, looking for the perfect card, only to think that you could write a better one yourself?

Sunshine Commenter Award

Laurel, of Laurel's Leaves supplied a lovely surprise by awarding me the
Sunshine Supportive Commenter Award. Thank you, Laurel, I needed some sunshine this week. Laurel's blog is a fun and helpful stop on my blogroll.

I pass this award along to all of my faithful followers and regular commenters. Your  kind thoughts and input are always an encouragement. Feel free to post this on your blogs and pass it along if you wish. If not, please know that your support and friendship bring sunshine to my life.

Don't forget to share your thoughts about greeting cards. We're all ears, and ready to buy your card if you win the contest!

Blessings and Happy Weekend to all! :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Contests and Tags


The Writer's Digest Annual Writing Contest offers a grand prize of $3000 and a 'meet the editor or agent' trip to New York City. Categories include memoirs/personal essays, magazine articles, poetry, plays, scripts, short stories, inspirational and more. Entry fee is required; submission deadline is May 14.

Also, check out K. Dawn Byrd's listings for writing contests for 2010. She's got quite a listing; perhaps a few will appeal to you.

I've Been Tagged!

Laurel from Laurel's Leaves tagged me with a like/love/hate meme. In case you aren't familiar with it, someone tags you and you share a list of things that you like/love/hate on your blog. Then you share it with other blogger friends.

Thank you,Laurel! It was sweet of you to think of me. Forgive me for not posting it sooner.

Let the fun begin:
  • I like the satisfaction of completing a writing project.
  • I like learning new things about writing.
  • I like chocolate chip cookies.
  • I love to write.
  • I love to hear a good sermon.
  • I love to breathe clean, crisp fall air.
  • I hate injustice.
  • I hate saying final earthly goodbyes to loved ones.
  • I hate feeling pressure to be something I am not.
  • I love my blogging friends.
I'm passing this meme on to these fab blogger friends. If you feel inspired, join in the fun, if not, just know that I love your blogs and appreciate your friendship.

Raymonde of Everyday I Walk With You
Jill at Jill Kemerer
Becky at Inside Out
Dorothy at Ink Dots
Emily at Benedictions

Have a wonderful week. Happy writing! :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Writing Dialogue

   "Do you write good dialogue?" Maybelle asked.            
   "Of course I do," Hubert said. 
   Maybelle squinted. "Are you sure?"
   "Yes, I am," Hubert huffed. "Why do you ask?"

How do you feel about writing dialogue? Love it? Hate it? Not sure how to do it?

Laura Pauling's recent post offers help. Entitled Questions to Ask Before Cutting/Adding Dialogue, it outlines ten points to consider when writing dialogue. It's a great listing of advice and ways to enhance and self edit dialogue. Laura also invites readers to share their dialogue hang ups and solutions.

My favorite is point 9, not because the contributor and I share a first name, but because it asks something I remind my writing students to consider. What is it? It discusses the overuse of exclamation points in dialogue. This is a pet peeve of mine, not just in dialogue, but in all writing. Too many of them dilute our intended point and make our writing weaker. Ah, I could go on...perhaps I'll save that for another post...

Laura's got me curious now; I'm interested in hearing what dialogue tips you have, and what challenges you find (or not) when writing dialogue. Please share, and don't forget to hop over to Laura's blog too.

For bonus brownie points, rewrite the dialogue above. No real brownies are at stake, but surely you can make Maybelle and Hubert's exchange sparkle more brightly than I did.

Happy weekend and happy writing:).

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's a Mystery

How do you write a good mystery? I've pondered this, and wondered if I had the stuff to pull it off. Stephen Tremp's recent post on Breakthrough Blogs took some of the mystery out of writing one.

The Seven C's of Writing a Great Mystery highlights tips found in Gillian Roberts book, You Can Write a Mystery.

Stephen offers pointers based on these Seven C's that include characters, conflict, casualty, complications, change, and crisis. Sounds like a good recipe for a mystery to me. I may just have to give it a try.

How about you? Have you ever written a mystery? If not, would you like to try? Do you have any mystery writing pointers? Please share!

Happy Writing!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Saturday Thoughts & Giveaway Winner

Thank You

Thanks to all for your kindness and condolences over the passing of my Mom. Although my heart aches, it is a great comfort to know that I will see my Mom again in heaven.

We returned to KY late last evening, and although it was a whirlwind trip to NJ, we were blessed to see friends and family that we'd not seen in a while. One neat little blessing - I got to see my fifth grade teacher from elementary school. She had taught with my Mom, and came to the funeral to pay her respects. She was a favorite teacher; so that was an unexpected bit of sunshine for the day. I'm so grateful; God's grace and mercy abounded throughout the week.

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Susanne Dietze, the winner of the final Blogoversary Giveaway. Susanne will receive a copy of William Henry is a Fine Name and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke. If you missed the interview posts this week, please check out Part One and Part Two. It was a fun interview, and Cathy is a fabulous writer.

Upcoming Week

My sister and her family are coming for a visit this week. They'd had plans to do so before Mom's passing, so decided to follow through and come. I will be busy entertaining and reminiscing with my NJ family, and also processing recent events, so it is doubtful that I will visit your blogs for a bit. I will miss you all, but will see you soon.

Blessings for your weekend,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cathy Gohlke Interview Part Two

Today's feature is Part Two of the interview with Christy Award winning author Cathy Gohlke. If you missed Part One of the interview, click here to check it out. Don't forget that Cathy is joining the Blogoversary fun by offering our Giveaway winner a copy of her books, William Henry is a Fine Name and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires.
Interview, Part Two:
Karen: How much research did you have to do for both books? Did it involve travel?
Cathy: I wanted the time period to leap off the pages, along with the story.  I was able to do a great deal of research through reference and history books, old newspapers, diaries, letters, documentaries, at historical societies, historical sites, living history museums, and through interviews. 
Nothing replaces walking the land your characters walk, cooking their food, singing their songs, and viewing the world through the information they had at hand in the time and order in which they received it. 
For research purposes for these two books I traveled through North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D. C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts and several New England states (not mentioned in the book) and to the Canadian border.  My travels to South Carolina were done through memory and interviews. 

Karen: Can you tell us a little about your next book, or is it to be kept under wraps? I know there are those anxiously awaiting its release (myself included!). When is it expected to come out?
Cathy: I’m working on a novel I call (working title) The Legacy of Owen Allen.  This is an adult novel, though I think teens will equally enjoy reading it.
It is the story of Michael Dunnagan, an abused Irish teen who stows away aboard Titanic (1912).  When Titanic founders, Michael is offered, through the sacrifice of his friend, Owen, not only a seat in the lifeboat, but Owen’s family and future in New Jersey, and is given the charge of his sister, Annie, in England.
Michael, who carries his own dark secret, finds that learning to live with such an amazing and unmerited gift is not easy.  Nor is it easy for Annie to forgive Michael for having taken her brother’s place. 
Annie’s immigration to America is thwarted when German submarine warfare (WWI) makes the Atlantic dangerous to sail. Michael, in an effort to fulfill his vow to Owen, and in acknowledgement of his growing feelings for Annie, sails to England, determined to watch over her throughout the war.  But when he arrives, he finds that Annie has mysteriously disappeared. 
Through correspondence and experience Annie and Michael both learn forgiveness, sacrifice, and find redemption.  But will they survive the war to share the joy and love they’ve finally discovered?
I have just completed my first draft and am working on revisions now. 

Karen: It sounds absolutely wonderful! I enjoyed your other books so much I can't wait to read it. What advice do you have for those interested in writing a novel?
Cathy: For writing basics, grasp the rudiments of language—grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.—and add a standard reference manual to your home library.  Both will serve you well. 
Fiction writing courses, both local and through correspondence, are helpful.  Writers’ conferences provide teachers, recorded sessions, opportunities to network, and new friends who share your writing passion.
In general: Read all you can—both as a reader and as a writer.  Take the stories of other writers apart in your mind and examine the nuts and bolts of how he/she put the plot together.  Be aware of the rising tension and timing. 
Read (and write) poetry and examine the beauty, mystery, symmetry and rhythm of words.  It will change the way you write prose. 
Learn from writers whose writing you admire.  Ask questions.          
Write, write, write—constantly.  Capture ideas in your head and translate them to paper. Do not self-edit—just write.  Editing comes later. 
Dream—let your story develop freely in your mind.  Play the “what if” game with your characters before you fall asleep.  You’ll be surprised the ideas that morning brings.
Do not manipulate your characters but get to know your characters intimately.  Imagine what and how they think and respond to given situations—then allow them to tell their story.  This marks the difference between writing that is organic and writing that sounds contrived.
Do not be afraid of criticism.  Develop a thick skin and learn all you can, wherever you can, whenever you can.
Beware of letting too many people into your “writing head.”  It is one thing to learn from others, and another to allow outsiders to squash the seedlings in your creative garden.  Nurture your writing as you would your child.  It is a gift from our Creator, precious and worth loving and protecting.
Love and embrace your life.  Live generously, graciously, and appreciatively.  Everything we have and are and hope to be is a gift—a gift to receive, to enjoy, and to share with others on our journey.  That mentality fosters freedom of thought and “clears the pathways.”
Bitterness and pettiness stifle creative energy and act as cancers in writing, as in everything.  Avoid them and/or get rid of them.
Do not fear failure.  We all fall.  When you fall, get up and begin again. 
Do not fear “writer’s block.” Know that you have many, many stories within you.  This life is not long enough to write all of your stories, for stories beget stories.  Turn the key and the door will open.
When you fear your novel is too big to write and your ability is too small, know that you are in good company—writers everywhere fear the same thing.  Write your story one day, one page, one paragraph, one word at a time.  Trust that the words will come—but know that they rarely come easily.  Know that writing is work and not an illusive muse to be captured on the wind.  Think of the old Nike commercials—“Just do it.”
Specifically—In writing a novel choose a story that you feel compelled to write—both for your sake and for the sake of your readers.
Write out your story’s premise, purpose, and plot.  It will keep you on track.  Whatever does not fit those three does not belong in the story.
Create a timeline or flowchart.  I’m using a simple grid of months and years for the book I’m writing now.  For less complicated stories I have used flowcharts or simple timelines.  A writing friend uses sticky post-it notes across a bulletin board.  These tools are especially helpful when writing historicals, mysteries, or suspense—anything where timing is key.  They also provide a good place to note things I want to bring into the story later.
I’ve found outlining before writing helpful—a general summary of the story, and then a chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene outline  (a simple paragraph for each chapter or scene).  I don’t refer to it while writing unless I wander off track or forget where I am going.  Often I find that my story has taken a different turn—and that is okay.  That keeps the story fresh; they are ideas and words on paper—not commandments chiseled on stone or in time.
When I am finished (after rewriting and polishing) I ask a trusted group of readers for their critique.  I listen carefully, use what I believe is helpful, then rewrite again.  This happens before submission to an editor or agent.  The process begins again after submission.
Be kind to yourself.  Writing requires self-discipline, hard work, persistence, and can be a lonely profession.  It takes a long time to write a novel and go through the publishing process.  Build into your life time for family and friends, and for fresh air and sunshine. 
Above all, remember Whose you are and why you write.  It is the best tonic I know.
Blessings on your writing journey!

Karen: Cathy, thank you for sharing about your writing journey with us. I appreciate your insight and advice. Blessings to you and best wishes on your continued writing success!

Thanks to all of my blog friends, too, for stopping by to visit. I hope that you enjoyed this interview with Cathy. I highly recommend her books; if you are a fan of historical fiction, they are a great read. If you are not a fan, you might want to give them a try, you may become a Cathy Gohlke  AND an historical fiction fan. 

Giveaway Details:

Blogoversary Giveaway ends tonight at midnight, and entry details can be found here. Leave a comment and your email address on this or Monday's post for an entry into the Giveaway. FYI - More than one entry is available; see Monday's post for details.


Blessings to you all, and as always, Happy Writing! :)