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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: Whichever holiday you celebrate, this time of year is filled with traditional and not-so-traditional tales about the magic of the season. Which story is your favorite?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I love The Night Before Christmas the best. Second favorite is The Polar Express.  :)

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: I have SO many beloved picture books, but my pick for this favorites post is one that may be a bit less well known than some of the others. The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien is a collection of the letters the author’s children received from old St. Nicholas over the years . Each missive from the North Pole arrived in a beautifully decorated envelope and was accompanied by a painting or sketch depicting some of the adventures Santa and his friend, Polar Bear (often referred to simply as PB), had  had during the previous year. And, oh, what adventures! This Santa has much more to worry about than burnt gingerbread or naughty reindeer. The calamities that befall Santa and PB and their retinue of elves include goblin attacks, floods, and premature fireworks explosions. But despite these less-than-idyllic escapades, there is a warmth and charm to these stories that I find deeply comforting. Many of the letters were sent during World War I, and it seems that some of the troubles Santa faces are a reflection of that dark and difficult time. But, despite the shortage of toys and incursions of goblins, everything always comes out alright in the end and hope is never lost. This is a delightful read and, for Tolkien fans, a lovely way to share in some of the holiday magic he created for his family.

Tolkien Xmas LtrTolkien Xmas Pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wendy-shotWendy Thomas Ms. Literal here thought that this question was asking about our favorite family stories around Christmas, so as a bonus, I’ll give you both.

Favorite story: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum  – I read it out loud to my kids when they were little and it has filled their lives with the magic of Christmas. Absolutely love that one.

Favorite family story – When the kids were old enough to understand threats, we let them know that if they opened their bedroom doors before the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, they might just catch Santa in the act and if they did, he would disappear before leaving all the gifts. So they’d BETTER NOT!

One year we were awakened by all six kids jumping on our bed around 5 in the morning because the oldest had assured everyone it was okay as he was convinced he had “heard the crack of dawn.”

Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick

I had been hearing about the birthing pains of The Art of Social Media for some time. Peg went to school with my husband and as a result is one of my Facebook friends so I’ve been able to vicariously watch the book’s progress as it developed. Of course, I was intrigued.

art of socialAs a little bit of author background, Guy was the special adviser to the CEO of the Motorola business at Google. Peg is a social-media strategist and director of digital media for Kreussler Inc. Both of these people live and breathe social media and they know their stuff.

A few weeks back, I reviewed a book on social media specifically for writers. It was a good non-overwhelming start into the basics of what a writer needs to do in order to be visible on the internet. The Art of Social Media is the next step. It’s what you need to do to take your social media presence beyond basic and to the next level.

The Art of Social Media is organized into 123 tips for marketing and promoting what it is you want to “sell” using Social Media. As writers, and as writers who fervently desire to be published, you’re going to need to know this information at some point, so pay attention.

Peg and Guy have many effective suggestions and tips based from actual experience. In fact, there are so many suggestions that you might feel like you’ll never have enough time to do your social media, as well as do your writing.

But here’s the thing, you don’t have to do it all. You need to pick and choose what will work best for your platform and don’t do what won’t. To that end, you need to know what’s out there to use because as we all know, you can’t use it if you don’t know about it. Peg and Guy do an outstanding job of explaining what tools are available and how best to use and manage them. Some of the tips are common sense (or at least should be) like “Don’t Swear.” Other tips give you a bit more to chew on, like the tips for managing Pinterest and SlideShare.

The book was originally written as an ebook that contained many hyperlinks (up to 6 on a page) that if clicked, will automatically take you to the reference on the internet. This obviously doesn’t translate well to a hardcopy. Although it would be fairly easy to locate the links (using searches and going to websites) for some this might be an unforgivable annoyance. If that’s you, purchase the ebook and stay away from the hardcopy.

Chapter 12, though, ties everything together and, in my humble opinion, is worth the price of the hardcopy just so that you can have the list in front of you. It’s titled “How to put everything together.” In the chapter the authors spell out what needs to be done for a non-fiction book release, starting with Building the Foundation, Amassing your Digital Assets and then Going to Market. It is a detailed step-by-step online marketing plan.

Here’s another tip, this very same plan could also be used for a fiction book, a series of magazine articles, or virtually any product you’ve created that you want to sell to the world. That chapter is a gold mine for anyone who plans to self-market.

If you tried to use every tool in the book, I’m afraid that you might be spending too much of your time doing social media and not your writing, however, if you followed some of the guidelines, especially those for sharing blog posts on various platforms and cleaning up your biographies – you’d pretty much be guaranteed to increase your numbers.

And like it or not, in the end it’s your numbers that potential publishers will find truly impressive.

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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.

 

Write your first draft with your heart. Rewrite with your head.  - Finding ForresterI have made a solid commitment to completing the first draft of my romantic fiction novel by the middle of February, 2015. Dear Lord! What have I done? Some days I’m ecstatic, fingers itching to get the keyboard. Most days it’s just Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard making the painful march towards my daily word count goal.

I’m a little over one third of the way to my word count goal and I gotta tell ya. This story SUCKS, but you know what? I’m ok with the suckitude. I’m learning that what matters is getting something, ANYTHING down on the damn page.

That doesn’t mean I don’t push myself, it just means I’m learning to be less of a perfectionist right out of the gate. I’m getting the words on paper so I can go back and edit them and make them better. Because without the first draft, there is no story to edit, there is nothing upon which to improve.

For now, I am doing my best to enjoy the process. The story meanders and the characters are alternately bland or excessively verbose, but I’m capturing it.  All, while trying to heed the sage advice of my friend and fellow member of New Hampshire Romance Writer’s of America Susan Ann Wall, “Turn off the inner critic and just write!” *

That’s not to say I can ever completely mute my inner critic. She loves to remind me that I am a terrible writer. Rather than let her impede my progress, I paste on a smile and gently remind my inner critic, that she’ll get her chance to flaunt her brilliance and fix my mistakes later, but first, she must step aside and let me MAKE those mistakes.

I need to get back to my drafting, but before I go, I’m going to leave you with some thoughts on first drafts from some famous writers. I’m going to start with Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird. If you haven’t read this book, you must. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll become a better.

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

Anne Lamott Bird by Bird

 

Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.

~From the movie Finding Forrester

 

I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them – without a thought about publication – and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.

Anne Tyler

 

I dread first drafts! I worry each day that it won’t come, that nothing will happen. – Judy Blume

Happy Drafting!

*As an aside, another NHRWA member who shall remain nameless passed on advice she’d received “Write drunk.” It hasn’t come to that yet, but who knows what the future holds.

 

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

What’s your opinion on being a specialist versus a generalist?

Do you think it’s best for a writer to focus in a single area or subject of interest and have a honed knowledge, or are there more opportunities for a writer who can write about anything and everything?

It’s a common quandry that all writers need to answer at least once. I find myself considering the options a couple times a year.

I admit to hearing more often than not that it’s beneficial for a writer to focus only 1 or 2 areas from the get-go — that becoming an expert in an area (or a couple areas) can lead to the most successful career.

The exceptions are journalists — and possibly ghost writers — who can make a living writing about a wide variety of topics.

Focusing on a single area and developing an expertise enables you to develop your platform as a writer.

And then once you have that platform established and start getting known for a particular area, writing opportunities within that area will find their way to you.

I admit it’s exciting to have work coming to you through different avenues rather than having to seek work out.

I haven’t selected a particular niche or area of expertise, probably because I’ve always enjoyed variety and have several years in journalism. I still enjoy trying different types of writing and learning about new products and technology.

Do you specialize? Or do you think being a generalist is the way to go?

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. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Managing the Writer Brain

director sculptureI’m coming (gods of keyboards and first drafts willing) to the end of some particularly intense copywriting projects. While I am infinitely grateful for the work (not to mention being able to do it from the comforts of my cat-run home office), my decidedly finite energy reserves are clearly reaching critical levels. If I am going to survive the holiday season without a major implosion, a bit of a respite is definitely in order.

It’s at times like these, when I’m all strung out on the pressures of “shipping,” that my split-personality surfaces.

On one hand, there’s the diligent, task master who has had me rising at 4:30 (yes, AM) to get a couple hours in before my daughter wakes up. This nose-to-grindstone gal suffers no fools and is savagely generous with the guilt she dishes out should my mind wander for even a moment. She keeps up a sharp and disapproving diatribe designed to keep me moving forward via an endless poke-poke-poke approach to motivation.

On the other hand, there’s my inner rebel. For a rebel, she’s actually quite placid, but she stages small, frequent protests in the form of daydreams and other cerebral interruptions. While my knuckle-rapping teacher persona paces back and forth behind my chair, my inner rebel slips me surreptitious notes about story ideas and characters.

It is challenging to maintain a high level of productivity during times like these. My brain crackles with the constant firing of adversarial synapses and my focus is caught in the crossfire.

It seems a bit unfair that my inner rebel seems happiest to release her creativity when I am least able to take advantage of the inspiration. She always seems to wait until the most inappropriate moment to start filling my head with visions of scenes and bits of story lines. Though it’s clear that I am up against a deadline and haven’t a moment to spare, she sashays up with a new (and very intriguing) character in her wake. Ignoring my protestations completely, she makes the introductions and leaves me to deal with the awkward silence that ensues.

It’s all rather intimidating. I mean, I’m only a mere mortal. Who am I to stand up to either of these divas?

I’m the writer, that’s who.

Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes, I let these two fool me into thinking that they are the ones in charge. It’s easy to get swept up in their drama, especially when they are almost always flanked by supporting cast members like Doubt and Fear. It’s amazing what a few stage whispers from Doubt does to heighten my stress levels.

But, I’m learning to take charge. Instead of letting these prima donnas boss me around, I am figuring out that  – like a director handling Hollywood-sized egos – I just need to manage them. I need to convince them that I’m not only listening, but letting their rants drive my actions. Even though, in truth, I am just humoring them and staying focused on my own priorities.

My technique is far from perfect. There are still days when the muse, in either of these forms, gains the upper hand. Sometimes I have to throw my hands up in surrender or resort to bribery. Sometimes I just have to get up, get out, and clear my head so I can start fresh.

Though we may hate to admit it, the writer brain is not a place where balance and harmony can reign long. Our gray matter is a seething hotbed of conflict and tension. It has to be. That’s where the creative energy comes from. That’s what takes us to the place where great stories live. Though we may find brief moments of peace in the chaos – days when both the task master and the rebel are satisfied – for the most part, we exist (more or less happily) in the bubbling cauldron of creativity. It may be messy and hard to manage, but – let’s be honest – we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What I’m Writing:

sunrise computerThis week has been spent (almost) 100% working on the copywriting projects that pay my bills. Though my inner creative rebel rails against these corporate assignments, I’m trying to show her that even though they seem to be all business and no fun, they can still provide the opportunity to practice our creative craft. And, more pragmatically, they keep a roof over our heads so that we’re not left to sit outside in the cold with no WiFi.

In addition to working on website content and ebook copy, I am preparing to record a marketing podcast with my colleague Jon Buscall. I’ve had the pleasure of appearing on his show a couple of times, including a fun episode called Bringing Branding Back. I’m very much looking forward to our next on-air chat and am excited about writing up my thoughts on the creative topic we’ve decided to discuss.

Finally, I’m also incorporating a bit of writing into some of my holiday gifts, but I can’t say more than that in case any of my family members are reading this. My last weekend edition talked about the gift of your writing in a much more metaphorical way, but this week I’m being very literal about it. And, I’m having fun.

What I’m Reading:

book cascadeJust last night, I finished a book by Maryanne O’Hara called Cascade. Once again, my book club coerced me into reading a book that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Set around the time of the Great Depression, the novel is loosely based on the true story of a small town that was destroyed and flooded in the process of building a reservoir that would provide water to the city of Boston. Even the woman who selected the book for our club admitted that the beginning was a bit slow, but I was hooked by the artistic dilemma of the protagonist – Dez – a young woman painter who is struggling to pursue her art even during times of economic disaster, war, and personal crisis.

Though the book tackles many larger issues, the intimate passages that describe Dez’s relationship with and pursuit of her art are the ones that stay with me. For instance, in one such passage, she thinks about the dangers of succumbing to domestic urges as a way to avoid a creative challenge,

“She knew better: when artistry seems most elusive is when you must focus, dig deep, and force yourself to think about how to give form to an idea that seems almost too vague to express. The worst thing is to give in to distraction, to chores that need doing, to anything that deludes you into pretending you are so busy you can’t focus on your work.”

Ain’t that the truth.

The story is something of a Shakespearean tragedy, beautifully written, and very evocative of that difficult time in American history. O’Hara blends the details of Dez’s life almost seamlessly with the larger maelstrom of changes happening in the world around her. I recommend this book as a good story, a lovely piece of writing, a bit of a history lesson, and an inspiration for anyone pursuing art despite challenging circumstances.

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:

want to read

Here’s to learning how to manage your own unruly muse, and to good books, and all the writing that you do -even the things that are just for money. It all counts. 

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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.

Director Sculpture Photo Credit: Sharon Drummond via Compfight cc

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: So, the holiday season is pretty much in full swing, and we’re wondering – what does this time of year do to your creativity? Are your creative urges drowned in the flood of holiday to do’s, or does this magical time of year inspire you to new heights? 

 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: My answer is a bit of a mixed bag. There are times when I am absolutely inspired by the extra sparkle and shine of the season. In the course of my holiday shopping (most of which is done through local shops and galleries and online havens of handmade goodness like etsy), I often find myself wanting to get out my own arts and crafts supplies and do a little messing around with paints or clay or wool. I am suddenly aching to create homemade gifts of my own (like the year I made altered books for my family, a project that took so long I couldn’t present them until April). On the other hand, the season is so exhausting and so chock full of social events and obligations that I find I am very short on both time and energy. It’s a catch-22. Mostly, I just try to notice my creative urges, but not feel pressured to act on them until after the chaos of the holidays is behind us. That’s part of why I look forward to January as much as I do.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I agree with Jamie. My creativity is sparked by everything about the holidays, but I don’t necessarily have the time to act on all the (writing) inspiration. I try to take notes here and there, and I definitely look forward to the quiet after the holidays, but I also enjoy doing things like baking new desserts this time of year. I’m going to make apple butter, which I’ve never tried before. My aunts make it and it’s always wonderful, so I’m excited to try it. Hopefully, the results will be good enough to make gifts with. This time of year reminds me of all the goodness and generosity that’s all around me, and it inspires me to count my blessings, which I tend to think allows me to be a little more creative in everything I do.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin: I used to knock myself out crafting gifts, baking cookies and decorating the house. This year, with adult children spending this holiday with their partners, I’m relieved to attend other people’s parties and keep writing.

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hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: This holiday season has crept up on me. My halls are not decked. Not a single cookie has been baked. Not one present has been bought. Cards? Ha! And you know what? I think that’s OK. I sent an edit in last week that wiped me out. I’ve been playing catch up with life ever since. I’m spending Saturday with the nieces, and I have no doubt that will get me in the spirit, and inspire me at the same time. Book 2 needs to get started, so writing wins this season.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I am pretty  much dead in the eggnog. I have all of these ideas around the holidays, but the kids and the parties, the baking, and the obligations all suck it out of  me. My goal from Thanksgiving to New Years is to simply hold it together enough to submit what’s been requested. After New Years, I’ll regroup and plan a new creative direction.

Last night I gave a presentation on Accomplishments and Goals. We reviewed our accomplishments from 2014 and set goals for 2015.

I asked my participants to make a list of 50 accomplishments from 2014.

You might be thinking, but I didn’t accomplish 50 things in 2014.

I bet you did. I bet you accomplished many more than 50 things.

In order to get people thinking, I wrote a list of categories on the white board, with heading such as Body and Wellness, and Creativity and Learning (lifted directly from Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map, which I’ve written about before.) Under each heading were a number of different categories.

Look for any list of categories to help you come up with your own list of accomplishments.

After we’d made our lists of 50 accomplishments, we spent the rest of the evening talking about and clarifying our goals for 2015.

In order to create our goals for the next year, I think it’s really useful to look back over the past year.

Here are the goals I wrote down last year at this time with regard to my writing:

  1. Rewrite my novel.
  2. Submit a short story to Level Best books.
  3. Submit to a writing contest 3 times.
  4. Schedule and complete a writing retreat.
  5. Set writing goals every week—put in calendar.
  6. Submit to critique group twice a month
  7. Host a writing retreat.
  8. Do JaNoWriMo, setting a writing goal each day.
  9. Write 12 blog posts for FDNH blog.
  10. Start nonfiction book.

Here are the goals I accomplished from this list:

  1. Schedule and complete a writing retreat.
  2. Host a writing retreat.
  3. Do JaNoWriMo, setting a writing goal each day.
  4. Start nonfiction book.

Here are the goals I made progress on from this list:

  1. Set writing goals every week—put in calendar.
  2. Submit to critique group twice a month
  3. Write 12 blog posts for FDNH blog.

If I hadn’t already written out 50 accomplishments, this list might be a little discouraging. Because I had my list in hand, I could see how many other things I accomplished that moved me toward my overarching goal of becoming a published writer. For example, I didn’t include my goal of blogging for Live to Write-Write to Live every other week, but I definitely had that goal and accomplished it by signing up on the calendar and writing the blog posts.

When I look at my list of writing accomplishments for 2014, I feel really good.

In January of 2014, I also wrote: I want to feel excited, capable, and peaceful about my writing.

I do feel that way about my writing. Given all my priorities, the fact that writing is something I focus on every week (if not quite every day) is wonderful and each blog post I write or page of my story I edit is an accomplishment.

Now I’ll take a few days to bask in the glow of my writing accomplishments before I start the process of writing down my 2015 writing goals.

What have you accomplished in 2014? Take the time to write your accomplishments down, and celebrate!

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