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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Surrendering to The Story

reading in bedIt has been a while since a book swept me off my feet.I had forgotten what it feels like to get so lost in a book that time slips away and chores go undone. It’s a lovely feeling. Secret. Intimate. Delicious. The temptation and the anticipation. The savoring and the rationing – how many chapters left? How many pages? I can’t wait to read the next bit, but I don’t want the affair to be over.

I bought the book on Sunday afternoon and our whirlwind tryst was over by Tuesday night. Four hundred some odd pages devoured in a matter of hours. The story drunk down in stolen sips and unabashed gulps, leaving me intoxicated. For the two weekdays that I was entangled in the book, it was difficult to concentrate on any task – domestic or professional. I sat at the desk in my home office, feigning focus on the screen but really just counting down the minutes until I could find an excuse to sidle up to the dining room table – only a few feet away – and read just one, quick chapter.

The television didn’t have a chance. Though it tried to lure me away with the promise of mindless relaxation, I was having none of it. I wanted the real thing. The one-dimensional screen wasn’t enough. I wanted to slip between the pages and into the story. I didn’t want to just watch. For three nights, I went to bed early, clutching my book in eager hands. In the dark of my room, I curled up in the glow from my booklight and surrendered to the pull of turning page after page until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I felt like a kid again.

Sadly, it was over too soon. There were only so many pages to read. I knew it had to end, but was still bereft when I turned that last page and had to bid the characters and the storyline farewell. I know there will be others, but not many will conjure that feeling of unmitigated, literary ardor.  Still, like any hopeless romantic, I will never stop believing and searching. I know that someday soon I will stumble across my next great bookish crush. I can hardly wait.

 

What I’m Writing:

write what you want to readAs usual, life is keeping me awfully busy. I have precious little time to do any writing beyond my client work, column, and various blogs. I am still, however, always writing in my head. This week, that “writing” consisted mainly of noticing (perhaps for the first time) a few of the story attributes that I find almost irresistible. As I am starting to think more and more about the kinds of stories I want to focus on writing, learning about the kinds of stories I love is turning out to be very enlightening.

Though I have what some might consider eclectic reading tastes, my most recent read made me notice some common themes and elements that consistently make me swoon:

  • An Element of Magical Realism Though my younger self was most interested in literary fantasy and quality SciFi, grown-up me has developed a taste for stories that are based in this world but have elements of the magical.
  • An Element of Mystery Though I don’t read many books in the mystery genre, I do love a bit of mystery. Many of my favorite stories include a puzzle that needs solving – an unidentified character, an unknown origin story, a mysterious artifact.
  • A Poetic Voice Though I know little of poetry proper, I love when a book includes poetic prose and/or unorthodox structure. Though some people dislike a disjointed flow, I love finding and falling into the rhythm of a unique narration style.
  • A Female Protagonist Though I have loved plenty of books with male protagonists as well, I am particularly smitten with stories that tell the tale of a girl or woman. I suppose this is because I can relate to the story more easily.
  • True Transformation Though I am not immune to the allure of action and comedy, my favorite stories are the ones about the evolution of a heart, a mind, or a soul. I’m a sucker for a good before and after.
  • A Satisfying but Open Ending While I like closure as much as the next reader, my favorite endings also leave me with a sense of what might come after the words “The End.” It’s not so much about hoping for a sequel as it is about feeling like the story and its characters live on beyond the pages I’ve read.

It has been an interesting exercise to think about how to define what makes me love a story. I felt a bit like an archaeologist or a detective. Now that I’m starting to paint this general picture in my head about what my favorite story “looks like,” it’s easier for me to develop and prioritize story ideas. I’m sure I’ll still experiment, but I like knowing (roughly) where I want to go with my own writing.

Meanwhile, if anyone can recommend any books that fit the above criteria, lay them on me!

What I’m Reading:

art of floatingSo, at this point, I hope you’re curious to know the name of the book that sent me tumbling head over heels. It’s called The Art of Floating and was written by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe. I “discovered” O’Keeffe this past Sunday morning while waiting for my beau to pick me up for a drive. O’Keeffe had penned a cover story about magical realism for the latest edition of Writer’s Digest magazine. It was odd that I read it since my writing magazines are usually doomed to the lonely fate of The UnRead. On this morning, however, the planets aligned and I got all the way to the end of the article where I noted O’Keeffe’s website and went to take a look.

I was intrigued by the teaser about The Art of Floating and downloaded a sample to my Kindle for later perusal. My beau arrived and we headed to Portsmouth where we enjoyed a lovely, waterside lunch at The Oarhouse, complete with rather delicious rum punches. After our repast, we wandered to our favorite stores. Well, if I’m completely honest they are my favorite stores. He’s just endlessly patient. After picking up a few beautiful letterpress cards at Gus & Ruby, I casually meandered in the direction of Portsmouth’s indie bookstore, RiverRun Books.

And what do you think was perched in a stand on the near edge of the center display table? That’s right – one copy (signed) of The Art of Floating. Though my recent move had inspired me to swear off new book purchase, I took the fact that I’d read O’Keeffe’s article and then come across what appeared to be the last copy of her book in one of my favorite book stores as a sign from the literary gods. This book was meant for me. I picked it up and read the first couple of chapters standing right there at the table. I was immediately hooked. There was no maybe. The book was mine.

My beau bought it for me (perhaps to keep me from feeling too guilty about breaking my promise about no more new books), and I went home feeling that warm and fuzzy feeling that a new book always brings. Later that night, I started to read in earnest and that was when I knew I’d found a keeper.

O’Keeffe’s style manages to be quick and thoughtful at the same time. Though many of the chapters are very short and the story jumps lightly between several timeframes, there is a comfortable weight to her story that grounds the decidedly magical story in a very worldly context. Though the characters are quirky, their emotions are rendered beautifully. I also enjoyed the fact that, unbeknownst to me when I bought the book, O’Keeffe is a local author and the story was set in nearby Plum Island. My own town of Ipswich even has a very brief cameo in a jump rope rhyme.

If you like stories like Chocolat by Joanne Harris, The Art of Floating might be right up your alley. This is a book I will hang onto and definitely read again.

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 drunk on writing

I hope each of you finds a new favorite book and gets to enjoy the luxury of stepping into another world for a little while. Happy reading. Happy 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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit – reading in bed: Vivi Calderón via Compfight cc

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The Purpose of an Artist

Image from mayaangelou.com

Image from mayaangelou.com

I had never read Maya Angelou before this week. I cannot account for this gap in my education, a gap which until Angelou’s passing this past Wednesday had gone mostly unnoticed. I had heard, of course, many of her famous quotes, my favorite being, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” But I had never read so much as a single poem.

Still, I felt the loss the world suffered with Angelou’s death. As the great, boiling cauldron of the Internet overflowed with grief and mourning for this artist, I could not help but feel an echo of the sorrow that others voiced through articles, blogs, and social media posts. This, I thought, is the legacy of an artist and a person who knew how to be in the world. Her sudden absence illuminates the depth and breadth of her imprint on our collective and individual souls and psyche.

Though I was touched by this outpouring of love and recognition for a woman and a writer who clearly influenced so many lives, I was also disheartened by the lemming-like flood of empty lamentations from people who, like me, clearly knew little about Angelou’s life or work. Sandip Roy’s Huffington Post piece, When Maya Angelou Becomes a (Facebook) Status Symbol sums the situation up brilliantly if somewhat cynically. On the other hand, my friend and fellow writer Angela Raines wrote a lovely piece in which she shared a personal story of how Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Woman had given her courage at a young age. The poem Angela shared gave me my first experience reading Angelou. So, thank you for that, Angela.

Writers, painters, singers, dancers – all artists have the same goal. Though we employ hundreds of mediums and countless voices, we all work to accomplish one thing: to touch peoples’ hearts. Everything we do, we do for that purpose and that purpose alone. Yes, art is something we see or hear, touch, or even taste, but ultimately art is something we feel. The song that makes your heart ache, the painting that makes you long to walk the moors of Ireland, the ballerina’s soaring leap that makes you feel as if you have taken flight … all of these things and an infinite number more exist only to help us access our own emotions and sense of existence. Art is the physical manifestation of the soul. It is a finely crafted reflection of the human experience. It helps us know who we are.

Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps not, last night my beau and I watched (for the second time) a documentary about another artist who touched many people with his life and his work. This Is It is a behind-the-scenes film about the development of what was to be Michael Jackson’s farewell tour, the tour that never was. I was and am a fan of Jackson’s music, but more than his music it was his sense of love and his boundless dedication to his art and to creating an experience for his fans that put me in awe of him as both an artist and a human being. Like all of us, he was flawed, but the feelings he was able to evoke through his art transcended much. Watching the clips of rehearsals, I could not help but be swept up in rolling waves of emotions, both high and low. There are few things that touch me more deeply than watching an artist break open in the attempt to give everything, to capture the raw reality of what it means to be alive, to courageously stand before an audience and deliver a performance that is simultaneously so vulnerable and so powerful that people are moved to tears without even knowing why. This is what Angelou wrote about in her tribute poem for Jackson.

Though I do not yet have the ability to put the quote in the context of her full body of work, I cannot imagine that Angelou ever got it so right as she did when she said that people will forget everything except how you made them feel.  I have only realized just now that this is the reason I cannot let go of certain books. Though my recent move forced me to once again cull my library, I have resigned myself to the fact that there are some volumes that I will always carry from place to place. It isn’t necessarily the books themselves, many of which are tattered and torn. It is the aura of experience, of something each one made me feel, that binds me to them. Each one is like a touchstone in my emotional history, too precious to give away.

This is what we seek as writers, as artists – to bestow the gift of deep and lasting experience. That is what Angelou and Jackson

 

What I’m Writing:

pin agatha dishesThere are few artistic experiences more delightful than being woken in the night by a good idea. Though I have not yet put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I have spent part of the last few days considering just such an idea that arrived, unbidden, at about two in the morning. Happily, I had the good sense to snatch my iPhone from the bedside table and quickly peck out an email to myself on the tiny, glowing keyboard. Idea captured.

Though I am sometimes discouraged that most of my fiction “writing” these days does not involve any actual crafting of sentences, I am encouraged that I am at least able to find time (and the creative energy) to come up with and slowly nurture story ideas. I recently read a great quote (which, despite spending the last twenty minutes on Pinterest has eluded me) that went something like “ninety percent of writing happens before you ever put pen to paper” … or, something like that. (Damn. I wish I could find it.)

I believe that’s true. I believe we spend our whole lives developing – subconsciously and then, one glorious day, consciously – the stories we must tell. Each day of our lives goes into the making. Though I would like to be closeted with my ideas and vast stretches of free (and uninterrupted) time to write, I am content at this stage to be collecting my thoughts, making notes, mulling ideas. I know that this is all part of the process. I realize that it cannot (must not) last forever, but I am also not so anxious that I feel I must rush through this stage of creation. Already I have latched onto and then discarded dozens of story ideas. Each time, I save the good bits and work them into the next iteration.

So, though I am not engaging in the physical aspect of writing, I am still working on my writing. I am reading. I am learning. I am developing ideas. It’s all good.

What I’m Reading:

book fantastic imaginationHaving finished (mere hours before our meeting) my book club’s latest pick, Finding Colin Firth, I had the pleasure this morning of selecting my next read. There is something so delicious about choosing a book to read. I have at least a dozen contenders sitting on bookshelves and bureaus around the house, to the task wasn’t an easy one, but in the end I decided to indulge in a thick fantasy novel that had earned raving cover blurbs from not one, but two of my favorite fantasy authors: Ursula K. LeGuin and Anne McCaffrey. I’m not yet ready to reveal the title, but let’s just say that one chapter in and I’m already hooked.

While I’m not sharing this latest read until I’ve finished it, I would like to share an “oldie but goodie” – one of those beaten up paperbacks that I’ve been carting from home to home for more than three decades. The Fantastic Imagination is a fantasy anthology that I bought at an indie bookstore somewhere along the Pacific Northwest coast. I was on a thirty-four day road trip with my family. Mom, Dad, my sister, and I were touring the states in our VW Rabbit. I was, if I’m remembering the dates accurately, just out of sixth grade and an avid reader of all things fantasy and SciFi. This book includes stories from the likes of George MacDonald, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Peter S. Beagle, and Lloyd Alexander. I have such fond memories of escaping into its pages even as I was enjoying a real life adventure. Holding it in my hands today, I still feel a sense of being a young girl in search of magic … and that’s a kind of magic in itself.

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:

writer window

 Thanks, as always,  for sharing part of your weekend with me. Here’s to your writing practice, whether today’s work is reading, or writing, or just staring out the window thinking about your story. 
 
 
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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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I won’t grow up.

peter pan shadowThough Father Time tells me I’m, as they say, “over the hill,” I decided long ago that I would never be a grown up … not entirely, at least. Though the years stack up against my intention, I’m not afraid. “Young at heart” is something no clock or calendar can steal from you. That is all I want – not changeless beauty or undying vitality, but only to be forever possessed of a pliable and open mind, a mind that can see and believe in magic, a mind that perceives truth instead of accepting assumptions.

I recently listened to another episode of The James Altucher Show via podcast. The guest this time was Stephen Dubner, co-author with Steven D. Levitt of the New York Times bestseller, Freakonomics. The duo’s latest book, Think Like a Freak was the subject of the Althucher interview which included some great commentary on the advantages of a young mind:

Once you stop admitting what you don’t know, you also stop gathering good feedback … you stop experimenting …

When you make [an] assumption, you stop actually trying to embark on creative ways to gather feedback and experiment and find out. People should be much more willing to admit what they don’t know because that’s the best way to figure things out.

The young mind is more plastic than the older mind. Perceptually, we are always getting duller and duller.

Adults are great at paying attention … laser-focusing on a task at the exclusion of everything else. … It can also be valuable to have a really diffuse attention where instead of focusing on the one thing … you’re taking in other stuff.

As writers, we must retain our ability to perceive and think like a child. We must hold onto a sense of awe and curiosity. We must ask questions and not be afraid because we don’t already know the answer. We have to gather ideas and thoughts and experiment to see “what happens if.” A writer must observe with the wide open, unbiased eyes of youth – eyes that are not prone to showing you only what you expect to see. That particular kind of blindness is one that too many of us develop as we “grow up.” We think we know everything. We assume too much. We lose our ability to see that which baffles us because we don’t want to have to say, “I don’t know.”

A writer must be willing to explore the I-don’t-know. That’s our territory.

I will never grow up. I will always ask questions. I will always notice the things that “adults” pass by. I will always ask “what if?” and not be worried if I see a little magic in the world. I will always play. This, for me, is the great joy and responsibility of a writer – to live in the world always as a child and to share that experience with anyone who cares to read my words.

 

What I’m Writing:

journalistI continue on my usual rounds – Morning Pages, client projects, and my column. I still have not decided how to handle the issue of my multiple writer personalities online, so I have no easy way to share my latest round of columns with you. I would, however, like to share a particular kind of writing that I’m just beginning to explore: brand journalism.

I currently make the vast majority of my income as a “marcom” writer – a marketing and communications writer who provides copy for businesses. In this role, I work with a variety of business types on a variety of project types. I help companies develop their brand messaging and content strategy. I also write the actual content for websites, ebooks, point-of-view papers, blog posts, and other marketing collateral.

I enjoy the work, but as a student of fiction and creative nonfiction would love to be able to work more of that craft into my daily grind in, as my friend calls them, the “word mines.” I was particularly intrigued, therefore, when I came across a post titled What Kind of Brand Journalist Are You? and – more specifically – this description of what the post’s author calls “The Storyteller:”

  • Your Job: As a storyteller, you bring readers on a journey. You share powerful moments, capture compelling anecdotes, and introduce readers to inspiring characters. Your approach to writing is deeply human, and your articles help convey the values and beliefs of the brand you work for.

  • Your Articles: As a cupcake storyteller, you get to publish pieces such as: “How a Cupcake Helped One Man Overcome Tragedy,” “The Little Bakery That Could,” or “Why We Aired That Commercial Last Night.”

  • Your Specialties: You make people feel. Through your writing, you have a knack for capturing ordinary moments in extraordinary ways and connecting with people on a human level. Your style has personality, and you turn almost anything into a great story.

I am only just beginning to explore this avenue for my professional writing, but the above description fits the column writing I love to do more or less to a “T.” If this seems to be of interest, I’ll continue to update you on what I learn. Meanwhile, if anyone has experience in this field, I’d love to hear your story.

What I’m Reading:

finding colin firthI haven’t quite finished it yet, but I’m more than halfway through Mia March’s novel, Finding Colin Firth. This is another pick for the book club my friend recently started. Like the detective story/police procedural that was our first read, Finding Colin Firth is not a book I would have picked up on my own. Once again, however, I’m kind of enjoying this foray into unfamiliar territory.

Finding Colin Firth is, as you might guess by the title, a fairly light read; but it seems that a light read is exactly what the doctor ordered. As the dust settles from my move (both metaphorically and literally … lots of cleaning to do today), I’m taking great comfort in reading this decidedly chick-lit story about three women who have come to a small Maine town for different reasons. Though I’m sure I could happily curl up on the couch or a beach chair and read the entire novel in one sitting, it has been almost equally enjoyable to consume it in small bites as I munch my morning toast, wait in the pick-up line at my daughter’s school, or catch a few pages at the very end of my day just before I fall asleep.

I look forward to discussing the story with friends at next Thursday’s book club meeting, a gathering which we recently decided would feature primarily liquid sustenance. Wish me luck!

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:

Hat tip to my friend and fellow writer,  @AbbyKerr, for this find:

pin procrastination

As always, thanks for being here to share part of your weekend with me. To those of you celebrating it, enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend. Remember to play like a kid and then go back to your desk (or chair or treehouse) and write all about it. 

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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit – journalist art portrait: The PIX-JOCKEY (visual fantasist) via Compfight cc
Photo Credit – Peter Pan art: Cardboard Antlers via Compfight cc

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You’re too old for that.

pin lengleI was in the children’s room of my beloved library earlier this week and was horrified to hear a mom tell her son to put a particular book back because he was “too old” for it. She said, “That’s too easy for you.” I actually winced.

I’m sure this mom was very well-meaning. I’m sure she just wanted to encourage her son to try something a little more challenging. But, you are never – NEVER – too old for any book. I’ve shared it before, but I’m going to share again the wonderful quote from the fabulous Madeleine L’Engle, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

I am, by chronological reckoning, a full-fledged adult, but I will never, ever stop reading so-called children’s books. Some of my most profound reading experiences have sprung from the pages of middle grade, young adult, and even picture books. Adult readers are, as a group, less able to suspend disbelief than children. We have more specific expectations and are often unable to enjoy a story if it doesn’t fit neatly into the assumptions we have about such things.

Authors who write for children, have a greater challenge and a more diverse palette. Children will not stick around for a story that is less than mesmerizing. They will not abide characters or storylines that boring or predictable. Though they are willing to believe all kinds of crazy things, they will abandon a book if it doesn’t make sense within the context of its own world. In short, children are much harsher critics than adults who can easily be swayed by beautiful prose, public opinion, or author celebrity.

I will never tell my daughter that any book is “too easy” for her, and I hope with all my heart that she never considers herself too old to enjoy the magic of the stories that have captured her youthful imagination.

 

What I’m Writing:

steal artistThis week I did manage to do a little bit of noodling on ideas for a fiction project. Instead of doing a freewrite, as I have been attempting to practice for a few minutes each day, I used my allotted time to jot down some notes about a story idea that had been rattling around in my head. I am giving the idea some time to ferment before I decide if I’ll pursue it further, but it is still buzzing in my brain a bit (which is a good sign).

As I scribbled in my notebook, I was struck by all the different things that had come together in my head to form this seed of an idea:

  • The team structure and dynamics of the Robin Hood-esque band of “bad guys” turned good on the TV show Leverage
  • The three-woman point-of-vie structure of my latest book club read, Finding Colin Firth
  • The tone and “feel” of the movie Practical Magic (one of my favorites), based on the book by Alice Hoffman
  • A series of characters and plot ideas plucked from two different story ideas that I’ve been circling around for the past few years
  • A recent and rather serendipitous meeting with two local friends and the unexpected conversation that ensued

My point is that each story you create is made up of a mash-up of your thoughts and beliefs, experiences, and all the other stories you’ve ever heard.

As artists, as writers, we often get mistakenly caught up in the notion that we must create something “original.” This is folly. There is nothing original. Every story has already been told thousands upon thousands of times. The best you can hope for is to find a new way – your way – to tell an old story.

I listened to a great podcast this week all about the idea of repurposing different things in “mash-ups” of your own creation. James Altucher interviewed writer and artist Austin Kleon about his books, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work. On the episode, How to Be a Creative Genius (also available on iTunes or via Stitcher), these two talked about what it means to be creative, how to find your inspiration, and the importance of sharing your work … every day.

I have not yet read Kleon’s books, but they are now on my list to check out. Lots of food for thought in there. Lots.

What I’m Reading:

healthy smoothieI have something a little different to share this week, a sort of a cook book called The Healthy Smoothie Bible. Here is the review I posted to Amazon and Good Reads:

When I first became interested in juicing and healthy smoothies, it was Farnoosh Brock who inspired me to take the plunge and give it a go. Because of her deep knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm, I gained the confidence to start my journey into what was then a strange, new land. Through her online community, I learned so much and got tons of support. Today, I enjoy healthy smoothies four or five times a week and it has changed my life. 

The Healthy Smoothie Bible is perfect for both newbies and seasoned experts. Farnoosh has done a wonderful job of compiling not only an impressive collection of tasty recipes (including some from her community), but also includes some great “behind-the scenes” information that you need to really “get” healthy smoothies. From the different types of machines to the wide variety of ingredients and their properties, this book covers it all. She even shares specific brand names for particular ingredients so you don’t have to worry about being confused by all the options on the market.

This aptly named “bible,” includes sections on the lifestyle benefits of healthy smoothies; how to select, prepare, and store your ingredients; which tools you’ll need in your kitchen to make smoothie prep a snap; and which smoothie recipes are best for different kinds of needs (from detox to meal replacements to a quick fix – there’s a helpful “smart recipe tag” page that lets you quickly find just what you’re looking for). And after all that, there’s still room for 108 fabulous recipes! 

Before I integrated healthy, green smoothies into my diet, I had a variety of health issues that had gone undiagnosed for years. From general discomfort to a couple of incidents that landed me in the emergency room with a morphine drip, these pesky issues had become an unpleasantly persistent part of my world. With Farnoosh’s support and guidance, I successfully brought green smoothies into my diet and am delighted to say that all those health concerns have vanished. Instead of having to resort to a long-term “diet” of over-the-counter meds, I am able to “treat” myself (both in terms of my health and my happiness) to natural, fresh food that makes me feel good. 

I gave this book 5 stars not just because I’m a fan of Farnoosh and her dedication to helping people live healthier, happier lives, but also because it really is an all-in-one resource for anyone interested in learning how to make the best, most delicious, healthiest smoothies. Whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for a while and want some new flavors and recipes to try, this book will be a great addition to your kitchen library.

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 by the light of stories

I hope that you always embrace the stories you love without guilt or shame or fear of ridicule. And, I hope that you always WRITE the stories you love, because those are the stories the world needs. 

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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Thanks, Mom.

Me and Mom

Me and Mom

I am not certain whether nature or nurture has more influence in the development of literary tendencies. I am positive, however, that my mother played a pivotal role in my own emergence as both a bibliophile and a writer. By sharing her own love of the written word, she inspired me to explore the world of stories and the stories in the world from a very young age. And that, as they say, has made all the difference.

My mother read to me and my sister not just when we were little, but even as we were beginning to tread the dark and tangled edges of the teen years. As we grew older, bedtime stories evolved into dinnertime stories. My dad worked as a VP at a bank a few towns away and was often stuck late at the office. My mom would give my sister and I our dinner early, but wait until my dad got home to have her own evening meal. To keep from inadvertently eating two meals, she took to reading aloud while my sister and I dined.

In this way, we were gifted with dozens of wonderful stories, each of which still holds a special place in my heart. Mom read Little Women, Swiss Family Robinson, Mistress Masham’s Repose,  all the Anne of Green Gables books, and many more. Her obvious love for the written word seemed to fill the room as she read those tales out loud over our kitchen table. Each novel also provided a rich opportunity for conversation, giving us all kinds of characters and situations to explore by asking the questions “Why?” and “What if?” over and over again.

Although she had little time for leisure while we were growing up, I do remember seeing my mom read for pleasure. My mom stayed home while we were young, but she always had part-time jobs, plenty of housework, and eventually worked side-by-side with my dad on their own businesses. There was not a lot of down time in the day, something I now relate to only too well as a single, self-employed mom trying to keep up with an active ten-year-old. Still, I saw my mom reading all the time. More importantly, I saw that reading was something she clearly loved, something that brought her joy and comfort. By watching her, I learned to find the same solace and adventure between the pages of a good book.

My mom is also a writer – always has been, always will be. When I was growing up, she kept journals and diaries. She often penned handwritten letters to me and my sister, even though we all lived in the same house. She wrote stories and a mystery novel. Today, she is a professional marcom writer and also a kick ass editor who can whip any manuscript – fiction or nonfiction – into shape with the loving but firm hand of someone who truly treasures the artistry and power of the written word.

And my mom is always my first reader. She’s the person I go to with any piece that is important enough to warrant a second set of eyes. Even as I write this post, she is editing a piece of copy I wrote for a client. Though we are years past the evenings when she read aloud to me over dinner, we still talk almost every day about writing and reading. We discuss books, the craft, stories, and life as a writer. It’s part of her DNA and now, largely because of her support and encouragement, my DNA as well. I have many writer friends who have struggled to pursue their craft while their parents tried to dissuade them from “wasting their lives” on such “frivolous pursuits.” I feel so lucky to have a mom who not only approves of my writing, but helps me to be a better writer.

So, thanks, Mom. Thanks for all those hours of reading aloud and teaching me by example about the beauty, power, and magic of the written word. Thanks for instilling in me a reverence and a hunger for good stories. Thanks for enlightening me on the comforts of solitude and the value of critical thinking. And thanks for patiently teaching me (again and again) when it’s proper to use a hyphen. The things you have taught me and the love you have inspired in me have changed the way I see the world and they way I live in the world. By generously sharing your love and knowledge with me, you really have made all the difference.

 

What I’m Writing:

You can't make it, but you can take it.

You can’t make it, but you can take it.

Post-move life has been pretty hectic, but I’m happy to say that I am making progress on my goal of integrating more fiction and creative nonfiction writing into my routine. Though most of my writing time is still, by necessity, allocated to the marcom (marketing and communications) projects that pay my bills, I am stealing small pockets of time for other writing. The recent piece I did for the regional arts and culture magazine, Artscope, was a nice diversion and also garnered me a lovely email from one of the gallery owners I interviewed. She said that I was “helping to spread [the] joy” of art. That made me feel good.

I am also finding that my subconscious mind is tuning in more and more to the fiction vibe. Even while I’m working and running around taking care of the tasks of my daily rounds, my brain is processing and parsing ideas. There is a quiet debate going on in the back of my head about the merits of short stories vs. those of novels. I have begun to formulate a theme for a collection of short stories, and started to revive my exploration of the outline for a middle grade fantasy series that I began work on a couple of years ago.

The wheels are turning, and that’s an important part of the process.

 

What I’m Reading:

Affiliate Link

Seeking comfort as I continue putting my world back together now that we’re in our new space, I was delighted to stumble across a follow-up novel (perhaps the second in a developing series … oh, I hope so!) to Charles DeLint’s lovely, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. In Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale (affiliate link), DeLint continues the fairytale be began in the first Tanglewood book.

This is a tale of bee fairies and ‘sangmen (Ginseng root fairies), royal  courts, herbal folklore, long lost loves, sisterhood, and the magic that lives in the old hills. I absolutely loved the narrative voice of Sarah Jane Dillard. My heart was warmed by the young girl’s close relationship with the elderly “Aunt” Lillian, and again by Aunt Lillian’s relationship with the reclusive Apple Tree Man.

Though this isn’t the kind of story my daughter goes in for, it would make a wonderful read aloud book if you have children who enjoy these kinds of tales. And, of course, the illustrations of Charles Vess are just beautiful.

Affiliate Link


Another book I read this week was one that did pass mustard with my daughter. We read Operation Bunny: Book One (Wings & Co.) (affiliate link) as a bedtime story. Though this was also a story about fairies, they weren’t the usual kind. These were witch-fighting, sass-talking fairies. There is also a huge, talking cat with an equally huge vocabulary of odd yet charming, fish-themed colloquialisms.

My daughter is already begging me to get the second book in this series by Sally Gardner. Though I did not love it quite as much as she did, it was a fun read that did – I’ll admit – leave us both giggling.

 

I also read (yet another) amazing essay on Full Grown People. Persuasion, by Nicole Walker blew me away with the content, the voice, and the structure. It’s a piece I will likely return to again. Lots to explore here.

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:

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to do this.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to do this.

Have a lovely Mother’s Day weekend, everyone. Enjoy your stories – the ones you read, the ones you write, and the ones you have created by living. xo
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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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camp readerA good story is a port in any storm.

I missed you all last weekend. Even as I was sealing boxes and hauling load after load of books and clothes and unwieldy furniture up two, long flights of stairs into our new apartment, I was looking forward to being back here today. And, even though I am still surrounded by as yet unpacked boxes, I am happy to be typing this missive from our bright new space. Our home may not be fully put together yet, but I have my laptop, an Internet connection, and my two cats – one on either side of me on the couch. Life is good.

Like any move, ours was not without drama. The low point came in the afternoon of the “Big Move” day when we thought the younger of our two cats had escaped the house and gone missing. After an agonizingly long twenty-minute search in the rain (replete with hand wringing and tears), we found the little rapscallion under the kitchen sink (a hiding spot several of us had checked multiple times).

All’s well that ends well, they say, but it’s hard to maintain peace and calm when you’re right in the thick of things. Throughout the packing and moving, I was very glad to have a good story to distract me from the high stress of my situation. My long To Do list, anxiety, and exhaustion all seemed to melt away as soon as I surrendered to the tonic of the page. Slipping into the story helped me escape, for a moment, from the demands of the Real World. Though part of me chided that I didn’t have time to read, a wiser (and thankfully more persuasive) part of me insisted that taking time to read was exactly what I needed most. She was right.

No matter your worry or woe, a good story will always offer comfort. Never forget to take the time to indulge your inner reader, especially in times of chaos and discord.

What I’m Writing:

old red truckThese past two weeks have provided the perfect opportunity to practice cutting myself some slack. Instead of dishing out a self-destructive guilt trip because I’d come up short on all my writing goals, I gave myself a pass. I was, after all, moving house and home. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you need to let things go or risk losing your sense of sanity. This was definitely one of those times.

A friend of mine shared a great metaphor on this subject. She likened life to a truck that’s packed with all the things we are responsible for, obligated to, and want to do. In my mind’s eye, I pictured an old-fashioned farm truck – candy apple red with broad, sweeping curves and a deep bed that’s bounded on three sides with wooden slats. My friend said that every once in a while you need to look at everything you’re hauling around in your truck and decide what should stay and what should go. You need to consider which things are valuable, which are useful, which are nourishing, and which are just taking up space. Then, when you’ve figured out which things have ceased to serve a purpose, you simply throw ‘em off the truck.

I love this idea.

Maybe it’s my recent move combined with the seasonal urge to do a major spring cleaning, but I’m starting to see lots of things that need to be thrown off the truck. This week, I had to toss unrealistic expectations about my writing schedule. Next, I’m thinking about tossing some social media habits that aren’t providing any return on the investment of my time … but that’s a story for another post.

What I’m Reading:

The book that got me through my move week was a little gem by one of my favorite fantasy authors, Jane Yolen. Yolen co-authored Pay the Piper: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale (affiliate link) with her son, musician Adam Stemple.

The tale was a fairly simple one, based on the lore of the Pied Piper, but with a contemporary twist. It was a quick read, but one that kept me engaged from start to finish. This was another book that reminded me how much I enjoy reading (and would like to write) urban fantasy for kids and young adults. Though I am less drawn to the high fantasy that I devoured as a child, urban fantasy has become more and more interesting to me . I love the way it blends the mythical and the modern, bringing a little magic into our ordinary world.

If anyone has any suggestions for great urban fantasy, I’d love to hear them.

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 creativity fun

Glad to be back. Happy writing. Happy reading. :) 
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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
Camp Reader Photo Credit: Spencer Finnley via Compfight cc
Old Red Truck Photo Credit: aussiegall via Compfight cc

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In Search of the Perfect Writer’s Home Office:

2 cat deskAs I mentioned last week, I’m moving next Saturday. Our new place is about six hundred square feet (give or take) smaller than the place we’re in now, so downsizing is the name of the game. I’m fine with this (even excited about it), except for one thing: my desk.

My work desk is a huge drafting table. It sits up high, has a span of nearly five feet, and is a remnant of my (much) younger days when I thought I was going to be a visual artist. Though I haven’t sketched much in the last twenty years, I kept the desk. I like it partly because I can spread out, but mostly because there’s space for two cat beds. Having one or both of my feline companions curled up within arm’s reach is, without doubt, my favorite thing about my current home office.

But the new place doesn’t have space for this mammoth piece of furniture. So, I find myself in need of a new arrangement and – very likely – a new desk. I began my online research earlier this week when I should have been nose-to-grindstone on a deadline. All I did was an innocent search for “computer desk,” but – whoa! – talk about going down the rabbit hole. There are SO many different styles, materials, sizes, configurations, features, brand names … the list of variables goes on and on (… and on!).

I’ve been looking at corner desks, L-shaped desks that just might tuck into a corner, desks with hutches, hutches with hidden desks inside, and every other possible solution. It’s not that I need a great, new desk. My first nine months as a freelancer my “office” was my lap and  a ratty chair that I picked up off the curb.  Still, a new desk would be nice. I spend so much time at my desk, it might as well be something beautiful, right?

Though the options are mind boggling and many of the prices intimidating, I’m determined to find something I love. I may find it on Craig’s List. I may create my own, one-of-a-kind set up by combining flea market finds. Either way, I’m definitely going to invest in a really nice chair and a keyboard tray. Good ergonomics are key.

I’m curious to hear about other writers’ home offices. We wrote about our writing desks last spring in the Friday Fun, What does your writing desk look like? But, what about you guys? Do you have a home office? What’s your set-up like? What’s your dream situation?

What I’m Writing:

artscopeSo, with our move just around the corner and deadlines looming on all sides, I did what any red-blooded writer would do when a new editor called with a trial assignment. I said, “Yes.” Though I am ridiculously busy and stressed (just ask my friends and family), when the editor of a regional art magazine called with a small, event-related assignment, I decided that I would just make it work. And, I did.

Though the piece was short (600 words), I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview a couple of gallery owners and then put the story together so that it covered the event, represented the two galleries (with quotes), and also provided a bit of a travelogue flavor. These are all writing skills that I don’t use on a regular basis with either my marcom (marketing and communications) or column writing, so I was happy to have an excuse to flex these little-used creative muscles.

 

What I’m Reading:


As you can imagine, reading time is scarce this week and will be next week as well. Though I miss my reading time, I’m not beating myself up over being too busy to curl up with a book. There will be time for that after we’ve settled in our new place. For now, I’m looking forward to listening to my audio books this weekend while I’m purging, packing, and cleaning.  I’m almost halfway through Life After Life: A Novel (affiliate link) by Kate Atkinson.

I’m still not quite sure how to describe this book. I was telling a friend how even though I’m halfway through, there have been long stretches of the story where nothing much is happening. The funny thing is, I don’t mind. I enjoy the language (and narrator performance) so much that any lag in the story isn’t really affecting my appreciation of the work. And the concept is so interesting (not to mention the story structure).

 

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:

So … not so much a quote as an image. I found this on Pinterest, and loved it. I wish there was any attribution tied to the piece, but I couldn’t find any, not even via a Google image search. Anyway, this is pretty much how I feel – like I want to hide away with all my books and just get myself lost in a good story.

pin book hideout

Since I’ll be moving next Saturday, I am going to (grudgingly) give myself the week off. SO – next Saturday there will be no weekend edition. I’ll miss you guys, but I’ll be back on May 3rd. Until then, keep writing & keep reading! 
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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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libraryGrowing up, our local library was almost a second home to me. Both my parents worked, so in the afternoons my sister and I would often walk the short distance from school to the library and spend a couple of hours tucked away in what was then a modest children’s room. Though the library has undergone several major renovations, including the children’s room, I can still see that room in my mind’s eye.

The circulation desk was in the center of the room and was flanked on two sides by tall, metal bookshelves that never seemed quite firmly rooted to the floor. On the third side was a bank of lower shelves whose configuration created a small nook in one corner of the room. The tiled floor of that nook was made slightly cozier by the addition of several rather worn vinyl recliner cushions. I loved that little corner and those dilapidated cushions.

Though I likely read hundreds of books while curled up in that spot, for some reason I have particular memories of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, and Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Pyrdain. (I really must read those again.) I also wistfully recall a book whose author and title have long escaped me, but whose heroine I still remember – Kira, the girl who could talk to the animals of an enchanted forest. I wanted to be Kira.

Across the hall from the children’s room was “the stacks”, an eerie, dimly lit place full of old books that smelled of dust and mildew. Ours is an old New England town and many of our books are quite venerable. Back in the day, the stacks was where you went to kiss boys before your mother picked you up to go home for dinner. Today, the stacks have been replaced by The Archives Room, a sealed chamber which can only be visited by adults and only in the company of library personnel who can ensure the safe handling of the records and volumes stored there.

Above the basement abode of children’s room and stacks is the library proper. Broken into several rooms, the space is reminiscent of a grand house from a bygone era. Beyond the modest foyer is what would be the great room, the largest space in the building crowned by a balcony that runs around all four walls. Upon the balcony is where some of the oldest books reside, ones not quite old or rare enough to warrant climate controlled storage in the archives, but still quite interesting. I recently found a charming late nineteenth century book all about the origins of different meanings. And somewhere on those shelves is (I hope) a tiny volume on unicorn lore. It used to live downstairs, on the main floor of the library, just to the right of the circulation desk and quite near to the Tolkien books. It has been decades since I’ve seen that book, but it has never left my memory. I can still see the etchings that illustrated what appeared to be a field guide. I wish I could find it again.

Anyway, years passed. I outgrew the children’s room and once I was in high school, I visited the town library less and less frequently. Not only was the school library nearer to hand, I was also working at my parents’ print shop after school. After graduation, the library and I experienced a long dry spell. Life got busy. I was rarely home. I went to Boston College for a year. I worked in Boston, then Gloucester, then Wenham. Years passed. I got married and, eventually, had a little girl of my own. Finally, it was time to come home to the library.

My daughter is ten years-old now. We have made weekly trips to the library since she was about two. Though she thoroughly enjoys the books we bring home for bedtime, she has never liked choosing them. She prefers to wander around the upstairs library where our friend, Laura, works. So, while they visit, I peruse the shelves in the larger, modernized children’s room. The ambiance is not quite the same, but I swear that the vinyl cushions are the ones I sat in as a child. I will happily spend an hour running my fingers along the spines of the books, all lined up and waiting. Many are new, but just as many are clearly relics of an older age – clothbound with yellowed pages and filled with quaintly outdated stories. I wonder what the characters from those books would think of today’s heroes and villains.

One of my favorite things about the old children’s room was the entrance. Though you could get there from the main library, it was much more fun to enter by the side door which was tucked down behind a cast iron fence on the corner of the building. I always got a little thrill descending those stairs. There used to be a roof which gave you the feeling of being in a tunnel. It felt like I was entering a subterranean hideaway.

But time marches on and things change. Though I miss the charm of the old place, I’m grateful almost beyond words that we not only still have a library, but our town and citizens have seen fit to invest in it. Our library is one of the lucky ones, and it’s lovely to be back.

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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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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: A recent post on Writer Unboxed asked the question, “Should You Read About Writing?” It’s an interesting topic for discussion, so we thought we’d pose the question here. Do you read books about the craft of writing? What kinds? How many? What sorts of things do you hope to learn? Do you think reading these books has helped or hindered your development as a writer?

P.S. – If you’re interested to know which writing books we’ve previously touted as our faves, visit this Friday Fun post from the archives on writing books that make a difference.

 

headshot_jw_thumbnailwriting booksJamie Wallace: Guilty. I think. Here’s the thing, I definitly BUY books about writing, but I don’t always actually READ them. Apart from the favorites I mentioned in the post noted above, most of my Writing Books Collection consists of partially-read or never-read books that seemed like a good idea/lifesaver/font of wisdom … at the time. I don’t have any particular prejudice against these books, nor do I believe they contain the secret formula for success. As the author of the Writer Unboxed post pointed out, if reading books about writing was all it took to be a great writer … well, you get the idea.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I love reading books about writing. I love reading magazines about writing (wasn’t that last week’s question?) My favorites are the ones like Bird by Bird and Writing Down the Bones, the ones that just say, “get your butt in the chair and write!” But I also enjoy books on craft and process, and even grammar books. I love grammar books: Sin and Syntax and everyone’s old favorite, The Elements of Style. Also, I love a gem I found in the UConn bookstore when my stepson was there: A Troubleshooting Guide for Writers: Strategies and Process. I don’t read writing books but I usually take one or two of them when I go on vacation.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin: First of all, I don’t think it’s helpful to “should all over yourself.” I do, however, read writing books when I need the inspiration such books offer. I’ve reviewed a few on this blog: Bird by Bird, Writing to Change the World, Unless it Moves the Human Heart. I’ve also enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing, John McPhee’s essays about craft that have been running in The New Yorker lately, and Michel de Montaigne’s Essays (not strictly about writing, but inspirational). My caveat: the books on writing have to be well written themselves.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Stephen King’s On Writing and Annie Lamont’s Bird by Bird are both favorites of mine. For mystery writing, The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, Hallie Ephron’s Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, and Chris Roerdon’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery are all great. I don’t read them as much now (though I will be looking at the editing chapters again soon), but I found them very, very helpful. Just remember that there isn’t a right way to write. There’s your way.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: This one is easy, the answer is YES. Absolutely. And not only should you be reading books (and magazines) on the craft of writing but you should also be applying what you learn to what you read (which will eventually allow you to apply it to what you write.) Honestly, because of my craft reading, I can no longer read a book without seeing how it was constructed. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen.

Not only should you read books about writing, but you should find a co-writer confidant with whom you can discuss what you’ve discovered. My writing has gotten so much stronger because I have a friend who loves to dissect writing as much as I do and we share ideas and articles with each other.

Some of my favorite resources? Anything Larry Brooks writes (Storyfix.com) He’s currently offering a free ebook that breaks down his last published novel. Invaluable information on the mechanics of story construction. He also write Story Engineering and Story Physics which are two of my writing bibles.

I also like Blueprint your Best Seller – it’s a very mechanical book that describes exactly how to design a story and the technical writer in me loves the approach.

And of course the monthly  writing magazines, I still pick up a tip or two from each issue.


Susan Nye:
At this point, I’m so busy writing, reading fiction and memoir and living that I don’t have time to read about writing. Or at least, I don’t make time to read about writing. Perhaps it’s the rebel in me, if it’s a should – it’s not for me.

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ripplesYou may never know …

I wrote earlier this week about how writing is a way of life. Each of the comments on the post made me smile, but there were a couple in particular that gave me insight into how my words had become a part of someone else’s day. These comments related when, where, and how the reader had stumbled across the post. Those small details brought me into their experience and gave me the chance to see my writing “out in the wilds,” so to speak. It kind of gave me chills (the good kind).

Writing is often a lonely business. Even though the Internet has given writers a powerful set of tools to connect directly with readers, it isn’t always easy to make those connections. Though we may pour our hearts and minds onto the digital page, our efforts are often met with the disheartening sound of crickets.

You have to remember that just because you don’t see or hear the reactions to your work, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. The Internet is both a blessing and a curse for writers. On the one hand, it gives us the ability to put our work, quite literally, in front of the whole world. On the other hand, it has burdened us with unrealistic expectations about the kind of response we will get. Where once we simply wrote and set out writing free without any assumptions about if or how people would react, now we get caught up in anxiously waiting for some kind of response in the form of likes, shares, retweets, comments, and so on.

But sometimes the deepest connections and biggest influences are the ones you never hear about or don’t discover until years later.

Last night I had my heart strings plucked by just such a latent discovery. A woman I went to school with came up to me in a bar and shared a very personal story of how something I had done all those long years ago had inspired her. Though we were only kids and though I was only doing what came naturally, that small thing had stayed with her throughout her life. And I had never even known. I had been completely oblivious that anything I was doing was making any difference for anyone else.

So, I guess what I’m saying is you just never know. Even if all your hear are crickets, your words might still be making a difference in someone’s day or life. Don’t stop writing because you fear the silence. Instead, imagine the magic that might be happening just outside the realm of what you know.

 

What I’m Writing:

way of life appI continue to focus my client writing projects (you know – the ones that pay the bills), but I also took a little time this week to practice my fiction writing. I’m starting small – just trying to take five minutes out of my day. Just five. Truth is, if I make five minutes, I’ll usually end up stretching it to ten or fifteen. I have no particular objective and I’m not working on any particular project. I’m just doing “sketches,” so to speak – short, quick scenes.

My only intent is to get my creative writing muscles working a little bit more each day … and then a little bit more … and then a little bit more.

In a recent weekend edition, Vy Chazen commented about how she is using the Writeometer app to track her word count. I was immediately intrigued. (I’m a sucker for a good writing app.) Sadly, it turns out that Writeometer is only available for Android and I’m on an iPhone. <sigh> BUT, my searches in the App Store turned up another cool, little app called Way of Life. It’s not particularly about writing, per se, but it IS about forming new good habits (and breaking bad ones).

It’s also elegantly simple. It’s based on the “Seinfeld productivity hack.” All you do is track (on a daily basis) whether or not you’ve done a particular task. I’m currently tracking things like yoga, meditation, fiction practice, reading, and … um … flossing. The app tracks each item and color codes your entries (green if you did it, red if you didn’t, and blue if you intentionally skipped a day). The idea is that you will want to create an unbroken chain of positive checkmarks.

Maybe I’m a lemming, but it’s really helping me to stay on track with my good habits.

 

What I’m Reading:

fish soupI have several “big reads” underway, but I’ll wait to share those until I’ve finished them.

Meanwhile, I have one quick read that I just had to share because it was, to me, such a perfect little story. The book is called Fish Soup and it is by Ursula Le Guin, an author who captured my young heart and imagination with her Earthsea books and who continues to charm and enlighten me with her insightful (and often irreverent) essays.

Fish Soup is a children’s picture book charmingly illustrated by Patrick Wynne. The story begins, “There was a man called the Thinking Man of Moha, and there was a woman called the Writing Woman of Maho, and they were friends.” I will not spoil your experience of this magical story with any attempt to distill it into a few sentences. Suffice to say that I found it to be full of both humor and wisdom. Oh, and there are winged mice, too.

Sadly, the book appears to be out of print, but it may be available at your local library. I highly recommend it. Your day will be better for having read it.

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:

books are better

As always – thanks for being here. I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with good reads and time to write. Enjoy each minute and remember that your words may travel far and wide without you ever knowing. 
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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
“Ripples” Photo Credit: Mark J P via Compfight cc

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