Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do You Shine?

 Poor writers make excuses for their work. 
Good writers revise and polish their words 
until every point shines.
 Lee Masterson
What more can we say? Mr. Masterson is right! 
How do you make your writing shine?
Happy weekend!
Quotation Credit: Masterson, Lee “Excuses, Excuses.” Worldwide Freelance Writer Volume X:
Issue 36  9 Sep 2009 
Photo credit: Samplediz

Monday, April 25, 2011

Writing Contests!

If you were to hold a writing contest, what theme would you choose? Who would you choose to judge the entries? Would it be fiction or nonfiction?

I think it might be fun to sponsor a contest, what do you think? Sure, it would require a fair amount of work, but I think it would be a good experience for the organizers, judges, and writers.

Are there benefits to entering a contest? I think so. First, we gain experience by producing and polishing while writing to specifications. Second, we can get objective feedback. If we don't win, we still have something that can be refined and marketed. Thirdly, we process this feedback, good or bad, and move ahead to strengthen our writing. And fourth - we just might win! 

Speaking of contests, I ran across these recently:

Writer's Digest Annual Contest deadline is May 2, 2011 (late deadline May 20) so there's still time to get entries in. With cash prizes of $3000 and a trip to NYC, I'd say that might be worth some last minute writing! Click here for details.

The Writer's Weekly Spring Contest is a 24 hour short story contest. Apparently it works like this - you sign up prior to April 30, 2011. At noon CST, the topic is announced and you have 24 hours to write and submit the story. First prize is $300, Second prize is $200. Cost to enter is $5.00. Check out the details here.

Poets and Writers has listings of contests and grants, here, on their site. There's a varied assortment of genres and prizes including one contest for Maine residents that offers a $13,000 prize. keeps us up to date on the latest contest details. Visit their site here for more info.

And Slightly Off Topic :)

If you or anyone you know is homeschooling, Carol Alexander is giving away a copy of my booklet about homeschool co-ops on her blog this week. Visit her blog for details. Thanks, Carol!

Do you like to enter writing contests? Have you entered any lately? What kind of contest would you offer?


Image credit: Billy Alexander 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review - A Heart Most Worthy

A Heart Most Worthy       

by Siri Mitchell
Bethany House Publishers

Anyone who's anybody in 1918's Boston goes to Madame Fortier's gown shop. After all, elite society must be attired correctly. Everyone knows that. Madame Fortier does not do all the work herself, of course. In addition to seamstresses, she employs three Italian immigrants, Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana.

A marvel at embroidery, Julietta is dedicated, yet a bit on the rebellious side. No, more than a bit. She's downright reckless and defiant at times. Yes, you guessed it, she's a recipe for trouble.

Annamaria brings expert smocking skills to the shop. In contrast to Julietta, Annamaria is shy and quiet, and wouldn't think of being defiant. Her lot in life, as the oldest daughter in an Italian family, is to remain single, and to live to care for her parents and siblings.

Beadwork is Luciana's ticket to the third floor workroom. A tragic event haunts her past, and she struggles to survive while supporting her grandmother. They recently immigrated to America in hopes of escaping horrific memories. Surely in a country as large as America they can find refuge. Can't they?

Not surprisingly, their lives become intertwined not just because of their Italian heritage, but due to unsettling events in their lives and at the shop. Madame Fortier is forced to sort out some of these entanglements, while struggling to maintain her own balance.

Meanwhile, Julietta finds herself torn between two suitors, one stable and secure, and the other, well, not so much. Annamaria begins to question her position in her family, and sets a daring (or daring for her, anyway) plan into motion. Luciana just tries to keep her head above water, but finds it necessary to keep looking over her shoulder.

I enjoyed this book. At first, the point of view threw me a little, but once I got my bearings and figured out which character belonged to what family, job, and neighborhood, it was fine. Ms. Mitchell includes a helpful list of characters in the beginning, which made things easier, and was handy when I needed to check back and see who was who. Engaging characters and abundant twists and turns give this story personality. I look forward to new releases by this talented author.

I received this copy from Bethany House for review purposes only. No compensation was received.

Happy Reading!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

How's Your Conference Mentality?

Writer's conferences provide numerous benefits. Good speakers, helpful workshops, meetings with agents and those in the industry, fellowship with other writers - the list goes on. Just soaking in that "writerly" atmosphere has great inspirational perks.

What if we cannot attend one, or are in need of a conference-like motivational boost? There are ways to maintain that conference mentality all year round. How? I'm glad you asked. Here's my two cents:

1) Read good articles, blogs, and books on the craft.

2) Subscribe to writing newsletters, ezines, or magazines.

3) Join a local or online writing or critique group. If you can't find one, start one.

4) Get to know other writers through groups, blogs, forums, Facebook, or other social media.

5) Take a class. Online, correspondence, or local offerings abound.

What did I miss? Toss in your two cents!

Real Live Conferences

Note to anyone who lives near the north central Kentucky area - the first conference listed is sponsored by the Clear Creek Writers, my local writer's group. I'll be attending. Would love to see you there. :)

Confessions of a Working Writer - May 21, 2011, Shelbyville, KY. Keynote speaker is Laura Resnick. Other speakers include Annie Jones, Ann Gabhart, Lisa Samson, Virginia Smith, Mark Brown, and Billy Reed. Preregistration cost for non-members is $40. Seating is limited, preregistration is advised. For info, visit the CCW blog here or contact me at and I'll email you the brochure.

Orange County Christian Writers Conference - April 29 - 30, 2011, Irvine, CA. Speakers include Simon Tolkien, Mary Demuth, Kathi Macias, and many others. Online registration ends April 26; click here for details.

Write On Con -  August 16 - 18, 2011. Free, live, online conference. Varied lineup of great speakers. Registration required. Other regular events and speakers; sign up for their monthly newsletter here to stay in the loop.

What do you do to maintain a year round conference mentality?

Have a great weekend,


Image credit: Christinica

Monday, April 18, 2011

Writing Rewards

Happy Monday! I am excited to welcome guest blogger Carol Alexander of Everything Home with Carol. Carol and I met through blogging, and it's a treat to have her share her wisdom and insight with us. I encourage you to stop by her blog and say hello. She'd love to see you!

The Sweet Rewards of Berries and Writing
In my neck of the woods, wineberries are the mother lode. They beat all wild berries hands down. The wineberry is related to the raspberry, but bigger, juicier, sweeter, and with seeds soft enough to go unnoticed. Our family purposes to find and pick these tasty morsels every summer.

One day last summer, while hip high in briars picking berries, I thought how this practice is much like my writing career.

The first similarity I realized between berry picking and writing came as I walked along the mountain road looking for fruit on my right. After some distance, and not finding any, I stopped to look back for my husband. I then saw a flash of red from the other side of the road.

“Wow. What a stash,” I said. “I never even thought to look on the other side of the road.”

How often do we do that with our writing? We are so accustomed to writing on the same topic that we never consider the other side of the road. Just because I, for the most part, write articles on homeschooling doesn’t mean I can’t venture into other areas. To remind me of this I posted a large note on my office wall that reads, “What Did I Do Today? Write It.”  In response to this charge, I’ve written about buying a washing machine, running a flea market business, and reaching out to my neighbors. Remember, for more story ideas look on the other side of the road.

Today the whine of the gnats was deafening. They weren’t just swarming around our heads, either. They were crawling all over us—in our ears, eyes, mouths. B-l-l-a-a-h-h-h! I could have gone nuts! But wineberries are worth it. I just had to focus on those berries—that sweet reward.

In writing, publication is the sweet reward. And the gnats are those telling us we can’t do it—the rejection slips, unsupportive families, and critics. But if we ignore them, if we focus on the reward, we can do it. If we waste time and energy fanning the gnats out of our face and slapping them off our arms, no berries go into the bucket.

That reminds me of another thing. When picking berries, and when writing, you must focus on what you are doing. Mostly I pick berries with little boys. A little boy typically picks a berry from a cluster as his eyes travel to the next cluster. Consequently, his hand leaves nine berries here to get one berry from over there, and so forth. He travels down the road that way, leaving scads of berries behind. Fortunately, I am aware of how little boys operate and follow along to retrieve the berries they miss.

In writing, losing focus leads to losing opportunities. If you sit down at the computer to write, but end up on Facebook, you’ve lost your focus. If you’re working on a story about growing tomatoes, but find yourself writing about eating tomatoes, you’ve lost your focus. Don’t be like my little boys. Don’t leave so much behind that someone else scoops up all your berries.

Picking wineberries involves trudging up dusty mountain trails and hanging onto steep hillsides. Hip high in brambles and poison ivy you constantly wonder how far lurks the nearest snake or bear. Often, you come to a great stand of berry canes that have been picked clean. Someone else beat you to them.

Just so in writing—the way is steep, it’s a lot of hard work, and the competition is fierce. But if you persevere, you hit the mother lode.

Carol J. Alexander picks berries and writes stories in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her articles have appeared in Urban Farm Magazine, BackHome Magazine, Grit, Home Education Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse, Funds for Writers and Writing for DOLLARS! Visit her blog for more information on wineberries.

Many thanks, Carol, for sharing your thoughts with us!

What's the latest writing idea you've gleaned from everyday life? How did you use it?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: foobean01

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review - Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint

Just in case you wanted to know, the Coffeehouse for Writers blog has a feature entitled  
On Our Bookshelves.  I recently shared this review there, and thought it might be of interest to
some of you. :)

Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint                           

By Nancy Kress
Writer’s Digest Books
Need help with characters? I do. Since non-fiction is more my thing, I was hoping that this book would assist me with character development.  It does! Author Nancy Kress makes good on her promise to provide “Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints”.

The author of sixteen novels, Kress is well versed in what makes characters tick. From defining what readers want to putting it all together, she outlines everything needed to create compelling characters. She defines how to assemble your cast of characters and put each one in their proper place. Chapter one includes a mini-bio sheet listing traits, marital status, and other important elements so brainstorming can begin immediately. I like handy tools like this –  it helps us hit the ground running, putting things into practice.

We are encouraged to “audition our players” to consider, for example, if we are genuinely interested in the character. Kress also challenges us to ask:

“Is this character or situation fresh and interesting in some new way?”

“Do I find myself thinking about him/her in odd moments…inventing bits of dialogue?”

These kinds of questions, she says, help determine whether or not a character will make the grade for a great book.

Chapters include clear how-to details on point of view, dialogue, emotion, backstory, how characters “learn”, and more. Exercises are sprinkled liberally throughout to help bring motivation, turmoil, and depth to characters. Kress covers how to develop and use humor, love, and action – including how to handle fight scenes. The appendix contains a checklist of critical character points which acts as a handy rubric to guide the process.

I enjoyed Kress’s friendly style and encouragement. I came away knowing that I had the tools to create good characters. This is a book that will remain on my shelf in the trusted resource category.    

For more Coffeehouse book reviews and other good stuff, click here.

What books are on your "Must Have" list? 

Have a wonderful weekend!


Image credit: bluegum