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It’s almost November 1st—a thrilling time of year! I love the idea of National Novel Writing Month and I love that the only criteria for winning is to “have written” 50,000 words by November 30th.

Quantity over quality for one month gives you a lot of material to work with for the next eleven months.

I know this and that’s why I’m excited about NaNo—even though I haven’t signed up.

When I look at my life realistically, I know I’m not going to be able to write 50,000 words this November, so I’m not even going to try.

What I am going to do is host a couple of write-ins for those brave souls in my area who make that amazing commitment. While I’m with them, I’ll put aside my regular life and write with them as if I was on my way to 50,000 words.

20,000 words in the month of November would be a win for me. So would 10,000 words.

I’m using the energy and excitement of NaNo to fuel my writing. Just being in the month of November prompts me to do word sprints, to shut off my computer screen so I can’t edit as I write, and to turn off the Internet so I can get some words on the page.

Are you doing NaNo? If yes, congratulations! I’m cheering you on. If no, what are you doing this November with your writing? And I’m still cheering you on!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, physician, mother, and stepmother. I love contributing to this blog because it helps me keep my writing a priority when I know so many others are out there getting the words down on the page! Happy Halloween!

 

 

Stop SignIn my haste to post Planning A Blog, I rushed to find free images to illustrate it and inadvertently used a photograph without permission or credit. I didn’t see the photographer’s name in the link, which is just about the same as running a red light.

A few days after the post was up, the photographer contacted me and sent me a bill for “release from liability of copyright infringement for unauthorised and uncredited” use of his image. I apologized and appealed, to no response. So I’ve paid the fee, and I’m writing this post both to make amends and to warn others not to make the same mistake, even unwittingly.

There are images available to use for little or no cost, and there are images that are owned by their creators. These artists deserve to be credited for their work and have the right to charge for it, and it is up to the user to find out and know. That would be me.

 That said, the world of rights is confusing, and I don’t pretend to know all there is to know by a long shot, but here are some basic things you must know:

  • There are free photos available online through Creative Commons, a non-profit organization “that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.” Creative Commons has rules about attribution and links; follow them.
  • There are images in the public domain (i.e. out of copyright). Wikimedia is a good place to look, but you still have to check each image for its particular rules.
  • There are services that stock Creative Commons photos and automatically upload credit and links to the images. Wylio has been recommended to me. $36 a year for the service is significantly less than paying a fine.
  • There’s lots more to learn. Some of the sites where I found helpful information:

My advice for all bloggers:Image

  • Schedule the time to ask permission and/or to find available images before rushing your post online (i.e. Don’t speed.)
  • Take your own photos.

I’m not the first person in the world this has ever happened to, nor am I likely to be the last. I hope this post will prevent others from using images without permission and help artists receive full credit for their work.

Comments?

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

As part of her practice of Restorative Justice, Deborah Lee Luskin takes full responsibility for her wrongdoing and hopes this helps make amends.

Have you run short of ideas for articles, your blog, or perhaps a client’s blog? Here are four places to look for inspiration and ideas.

Google Alerts – https://www.google.com/alerts

This is a quick and easy-to-use resource for getting ideas. Just enter a search term (1 or more words), hit that ‘Enter’ key, and voila, some ideas will (most likely) show up. You actually don’t even have to hit ‘Enter’, as it’ll start searching on the words as you type them into the search field.

The first random word that popped into my head was ‘applesauce’. Here’s a quick peek at what Google Alerts found:

Applesauce_GoogleAlerts

 

The first reference that came up was under News:

A Walking Dead Halloween party: Long pork and blood orange cake

Communities Digital News
Here at CDN we can’t vouch for that, but if it’s true, applesauce or a cherry sauce would probably be the best condiments to serve with a human roast.

No way I expected that to pop up, but it triggered a short story idea or two.

The next 2 references came from the Web — one was a Facebook post talking about how jarred applesauce may be convenient to purchase, but it’s easy to make your own; the other was a Pinterest reference to Spice Applesauce Cake.

Google Alerts will offer you variety at a minimum and maybe give you just enough to kickstart your ideas again.

Tip: if you set up an account, you can receive summaries of the alerts sent to your e-mail as they happen, daily, or weekly.

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com

You can use Amazon in a similar manner to Google Alerts, in that you type in a search term (or phrase) and then read through the options that pull up. Using applesauce again, here’s what came up:

Applesauce_Amazon

 

At a minimum you’re going to see different brands of applesauce, applesauce for babies, fruit butters, and so much more (that I never thought about in relation to applesauce). And if you start clicking off boxes on the left side of the screen, you’ll narrow your search and have new ideas leaping off the page at you.

The dropdown arrow in the main search box lets you select different departments. I left applesauce in place, then clicked the dropdown and selected the ‘Beauty’ department. Yes, there were items that popped up. 4 GoGo Squeezes, 1 Mott’s, and 1 Kirkland Optifiber. The avenues to travel down for applesauce keep widening, don’t they?

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com (requires an account)

And just for fun, if you have absolutely no ideas whatsoever, why not scroll through the posts you see on Facebook?

With Facebook, you get to eavesdrop on numerous conversations. See what posts are getting a lot of comments and a lot of Likes. Those could be great topic ideas for articles. If a simple Facebook status update can generate a lot of feedback, people will be curious to read more about it.

Where do you go for ideas?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. If anything, she has too many ideas, but when the muse needs a quick boost, there are many places to look for ideas. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Find Your Quiet Place

My quite time view

My quite time view

I love to be alone.

It’s not that I dislike spending time with other people, but I find that solitude grounds me. Quiet time by myself has always been the best way to reboot my system and recharge my batteries. It’s much too easy, in the rumble and buzz of our daily rounds, to let the external noise drown out our own thoughts. When that happens, we feel overwhelmed and unmoored. At least, I do.

And then, a funny thing happens. Instead of stepping out of the fray and back into our own head and heart, we plunge further into the noisy world around us, reaching and grasping for something to bring us home to ourselves. We seek guidance from experts and search out the advice of authorities. We tune into distractions of all kinds, hoping they will help us relax and find our balance again. We assume that the answers are out there somewhere.

But, of course, as Dorothy discovered, the answers are never “out there.” They’re right here.

Solitude helps us untangle ourselves from the rest of the world so we can rediscover our personal truth and reality. This is important for any human being, but nonnegotiable for writers.  Our work, our best work, comes from that place inside us. Though our writing is influenced by the outside world, the core of what we have to offer in our stories springs from our personal well of experience and being. That is where the magic comes from.

Spending time alone gives us the chance to gently or aggressively slough off the layers of otherness. It might hurt. It might be scary. But it will bring you home and it will give you direct access to the source of your stories. I invite you to make solitude part of your writing practice. It’s not easy to carve out even a small pocket of alone time in our over-scheduled world, but it’s worth it.

My private haven of choice is the early morning, before my daughter is awake and before I let the world in through my computer screen. I sit with my journal and a mug of tea. I watch the sun rise, and I do my best to bushwhack my way towards the place inside my mind and heart where the really good stuff is. Some days I can only dance around the perimeter of the forest, but other days I find a narrow track that leads me right to the core. It’s never the same journey twice and never an exercise I regret.

And, I find a lot of stories there, just waiting for me to come into the quiet so I can hear them.

 

What I’m Writing:

sidewalk sproutLast Saturday, I had planned a luxuriously long, uninterrupted block of  writing time during which I hoped to write a story. I was scheduled to submit this yet-to-be-written story to my writing class on Tuesday morning. I had the seed of an idea, and assumed that, with a few solid hours’ work, I would have something suitable for sharing with gentle beta readers.

Oh, a writer’s best-laid plans.

Life intervened, of course, in the form of several, unavoidable distractions that quickly and efficiently consumed several hours of my carefully hoarded time. I had the sensation of watching them evaporate in puffs of white smoke the same way apps disappear off the dock on my MacBook. Though the loss of time was painful, I could have gotten past it and written through the remaining time except for a much bigger problem: my story idea wasn’t fully baked.

I had that seed of an idea, but I hadn’t taken the time to plant it, water it, and help it grow. So, I sat there in front of my blank screen with an inert seed in my hand, and I wondered what to do. I started researching. I started playing with the idea – trying to figure out what I needed to germinate it. I had new ideas. Different ideas. I had questions. Lots and lots of questions.

In the end, I didn’t write a single word.

For class, I dredged up an old piece (the first chapter of a middle grade urban fantasy) and did some editing. At first, I was disappointed that I’d been unable to whip up something new. But then I thought about why I’d been so stumped, and I realized that my stuckness was actually the result of my growth as a writer. I’d learned enough that I couldn’t be satisfied with my half-baked idea. I knew there was something better. Something more worthy of my effort. It wasn’t a matter of worrying about perfection. I was ready to write a shitty first draft. It was about sensing that there was more to my idea than met the eye.

The good news is that I have a second chance to submit a piece in class. And, even better than that, I’ve been nurturing my idea over the past week and I think I’m on to something. I think I’ve started to unravel a new twist that will give me a stronger, more interesting story. I’m so excited and can’t wait for next weekend’s writing time.

 

What I’m Reading:

impossible wolvesThis week hasn’t left much time for reading, but I did gift myself with a story by the writer who is teaching the Grub Street class I’m taking. On her site, Darkness Loves Company, KL Pereira invites readers to “Get Dark” …

Darkness is so much more than the things that lurk–darkness drives our deepest selves, our desires, passions, deviances. It’s the true surrender to the shadow self that lives just inside, in the oldest corners of our bones.

How could I resist such an invitation, especially around the Halloween holiday?

So, I picked out a story called Impossible Wolves. I was able, at the time, to purchase it as a very cool, little chapbook, but it seems to have disappeared off her etsy website now. Still, if you are interested, she has a number of other stories available for perusing on her site.

Pereira’s Fiction I class has done much to not only improve my understanding of the writing craft in general, but also to increase my appreciation for the short story form. The pieces we’ve read in class are fascinating examples of how something that appears simple can, in fact, be dizzyingly and gorgeously complex. There is an undeniable elegance in the shorter forms. The paring down seems to reveal a story that is, in some ways, more pure. I’m rambling, but the point is that sort stories are worth reading.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin solitude

Here’s to finding your quiet place and having time to spend there communing with the stories inside you. Happy reading. Good writing. See you on the other side.

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We all have them, those ‘things’ we did that family members can’t help but share at every opportunity… what story does your family tell about you whenever they can?

 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: My family’s favorite story about me would probably be the cream of tartar story.

Now, you have to understand that I am not a cook. I can count the number of “dishes” (and I hesitate to use so formal a term) that  I’ve “mastered” (again, using the term loosely) on the fingers of one hand. (I still use a recipe to make pancakes. From a mix.) Despite this culinary handicap, I make the effort each year to bake a batch of snickerdoodles.

Giant Snickerdoodles are a holiday tradition in our family. They are, I believe, the first cookie recipe featured in the handmade cookbook that my mom put together for me and my sister to take out into the big, wide world. There, on pale green copy paper, is typed the ingredients list and step-by-step instructions for making these sweet and tangy treats.

It was my first year living away from home. I pulled out the cookbook, copied the list of ingredients, and headed to the market.  At the grocery store, I quickly assembled the necessary fixings except for one thing – cream of tartar. Again and again, I studied the labels on the shelf trying to locate this elusive item. Finally, I admitted defeat and phoned my mom who, at the time, was living all the way across the country. When she figured out why I was having so much trouble, you could have heard her laughter across all three-thousand miles.

I was looking for the cream of tartar in the dairy aisle.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: Funny, my family story is food-related, too! I have often said the kitchen is the least-used room in my house. It always has been. Like not having a green thumb (I’ve even killed an air plant), I have a severe lack of talent when it comes to food preparation.

I took Home Economics in middle and high school. As a teen, I prepared dinners when both my parents were working. I can cook.

The family story most often mentioned at the most embarrassing time is how I burnt soup. “How is it possible to burn soup?” No one knew until that time when I managed to do it. And it wasn’t because the burner was too high. Oh no, that would be easy to understand. The flame was ‘just right.’ The problem was (and seems to always be) that I start cooking, then walk off and forget it. In the case of the soup, the liquid burned away and the noodles started to get crispy, someone smelled something burning.

That was decades ago, but the story is still told. And just recently, I posted to Facebook that I need to go to Cooking 101 because the neighbors no longer find it funny to hear the smoke detector. (It’s how I know dinner is ready.) I can make a divine apple pie, a delectable grilled cheese sandwich, delicious red mashed potatoes, and a fabulous bowl of perfectly buttered and salted popcorn – but much more is needed for survival. :-)

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: Alas, from having grown up in a large family and then making another one in which to live, I have become a pretty good cook. No food stories from me.

Instead, my story comes from  when I was a toddler (I must have been around 2.) I was put down for a nap, but decided that I’d rather explore, so I got out of my crib and went into the room that was being painted (the painter, my mother, was taking a break.) As the story goes, apparently I felt that the yellow paint would not only look good on the walls, but on the carpet, bedspreads, the dresser, the wooden floor leading to the stairs, and even myself. As my family tells it, I left little yellow footprints all over the house.

I have no memory of this event (except for the fact that I really hate – and I mean despise – the color yellow), but *every time* my family is together, you can bet money that someone will mention the time “Wendy stepped in yellow paint.”

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

This is THE story that gets told again and again – about the time my husband and I became separated overnight on the Long Trail. Remarkably, we’re still married. You can listen to me telling this story of A Touching Reunion at VPR’s Commentator’s Brunch.

 

When I write, sometimes I listen to music. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wear my jammie pants and sometimes I write while wearing a skirt and sweater.

IMG_20141018_143815382When I was young and trying to be an angst-filled writer, I used to think that I couldn’t write anything worth anything unless I was wearing a very specific ratty green shirt and had a cup of Earl Grey tea in front of me. I had to have routines. If I had a personal (and sacred) routine it meant I was serious about my craft. Often it would take me an entire evening to get the first paragraph out on paper and perfected, and I couldn’t ever write anything else until that very first paragraph was worthy. Because, well that was the way I worked… and this was how I envisioned real writers did it.

But times have changed. I’m not even sure if I have that old shirt anywhere (it might be hiding in the back of a closet, but I doubt it) and although my drug of choice has changed to coffee, I don’t keep it near where I write having ruined far too many keyboards from reaching over a pile of books and spilling drinks over the years. Keyboards cost money, something that that earlier writer might not have been so concerned with (Dear Mom and Dad, somehow my typewriter broke…)

My point is that writers grow up, just like everyone else. We evolve. We mature. We realize that writing is a job and not just a fanciful, artistic quest. We realize that mortgages have to be paid, school sports equipment has to be purchased, and if you want to drive, you’d better purchase some insurance.

No longer do I have to try and struggle to force a thoughtful perfect phrase from my mind. Instead I sit down and say to myself – “Okay, let’s begin” and then I do. From hours and hours and hours of practice, I have learned how to craft a story and I know where the beginning is, the middle, and the ending. I may not even start at the beginning because often I don’t need to, by the time I sit down to write, I know where I’ve come from and I know where I’m going.

Of course this all begs the question – whatever happened to that angsty young writer of yore? Did she disappear with the roles and responsibilities of life (it’s tough to be angsty when you have a slew of young children who’s needs trump yours) or does she now just face the inevitable music?

Now, if an editor wants me to change a sentence or cut a paragraph, I say “yes, m’am” and I make the cuts. No questions asked. Although my words and thoughts are important, at the end of the day, it is my audience that matters most.

I’ve learned to write for my readers instead of for my personal release. Oh to be sure, I put my personal stamp on my writing and it is definitely unique to only me. But I’ve come to accept something that I hadn’t ever bothered to consider in my youthful ambition and it is this: much like a tree falling in the woods, if no one is there to read your words, then is it really writing?

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

 

rectangle_magnet

Introvert merchandise at the link!

Last week I posted a T shirt on my Facebook page that said “Introverts Unite. We’re Here. We’re Uncomfortable. We Want to Go Home.” My message was “I need one of these.” I got dozens of “likes” and several comments, most of which were “me too!”.

Now, if you saw me in action, you wouldn’t think I was an introvert. I lead a extroverted life, teaching, running meetings, and being “on” at events. Last weekend I co-hosted a workshop called “Networking for Fun and Profit”, and it made me think a lot about skills introverts can develop to help them navigate the world of networking. Networking happens at conferences, at book readings, at workshops, at meetings. It can be informal (like at the post office, or after a service), or formal. It can be work related or completely social. It can be planned, or accidental. You should always be prepared, and for introverts, that may take a little extra effort. Here are some of my tips:

  • Make an event plan. Can you make a goal for yourself? Meet one new person? Get one business card? Talk to three people about your project/job/writing? Make the goal achievable. And try to get it taken care of early on.
  • Fake it till you make it. Literally look at your networking self as a role you need to play. Dress a little nicer than you need to. Always default to smiling. Work at eye contact. After a while it gets easier, but it is never easy for us introverts. So you play the part.
  • Work on the small talk, and talk to everyone. Networking is about making connections. Sometimes those connections can come from expected quarters. But in other instances, connections could come from unexpected places. The person you chat with about the stuffed dates–maybe she is best friends with someone you should meet. If nothing else, as a writer, talking to everyone is research.
  • Have your tool kit ready. I have a stash of business cards (writing and my day job), bookmarks (for Wicked Cozy Authors, Crime Bake, and Sisters in Crime New England), stickers, and buttons in my bag at all times. If you don’t have a business card, have one made. Even if it has your name and email and nothing else, it gives people something to take with them after you meet.
  • When you get a business card, write down how and when you met the person on the back. Send them a note, or an email, as a follow-up. Don’t be a pest, but keep in touch.

These are some tips. There is technology that can help (LinkedIn, for example), but nothing replaces in person meetings. So get out there, and network. Then go home, and take a long nap.

BOSTON BOOK FESTIVAL: Are you going to the Boston Book Festival this Saturday? I am moderating a panel called “The Whydunnit in Crime Fiction” at 10AM. If you’re there, make sure and say hello!

*************

J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series. Julie Hennrikus teaches and runs an arts service organization.

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