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Grammarly (www.grammarly.com) conducted a study with 3,000+ participants to settle an existential question that has been plaguing mankind for centuries (or maybe a few years here and there):

“Which gender has the better writers?”

They published the results to the question above in an infographic (below) and I got permission to share it here with you. I thought it would be fun for some discussion.

 

Grammarly_MenvsWomen_Writers_infographic

 

The results for characters question splits out equal from both perspectives — I think it’s only natural that we include bits of ourselves in our writing, since that’s a person we know best!

Pronouns & Determiners are pretty evenly split, too.

What do you think about the plot vs character and long vs short sentences? Would you put yourself in the majority in those categories?

I would for the first – I like (try) to develop my characters and have the plot follow. For sentences, I do my best to write short active sentences, but there are times when long works better!

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From their website: Grammarly’s online grammar checker is the most accurate tool for grammar correction on the market. 

Disclosure: This is an online tool you have to pay for (minimum is $29.95/month); I’m not a subscriber, but it can’t hurt to check it out when you have a minute or two if it’s something of interest — they do offer a 7-day free trial period. Remember to read all the Terms and Conditions!

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LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She enjoys sharing writing resources when she finds them. You can connect with her on Twitter,FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Conflicted. A writer torn between duty and dreams.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

- E.B. White

three geese flyingI love the fall. It is, by far, my favorite season of the year. I love the cooler weather, the blazing foliage, and the return to routine. I love the sense of industry that comes in September, even though I am well past my school years. And, I love the prospect of curling up in cozy environs with a good book and a steaming mug of hazelnut truffle tea. (Fall and winter reading has always held more appeal for me than sticky, sandy summer reading.)

But, most of all, I love this season because, falling as it does at the three-quarter mark on the calendar, it is the perfect time to reflect on the year’s progress and, perhaps, find a new beginning. Autumn’s bittersweet quality brings me a sense of quiet peace and acceptance with a sharp edge of urgency and angst. The column I wrote for my local paper this week reflected on how this season’s inclination towards gentle assessment and intentional redirecting differs from the champagne-sipping pressures and sequin-clad expectations of the January New Year:

September is a much more appropriate time for a progress report. You are almost a year older (and presumably wiser), so you have greater perspective than you did nine months ago. The end of the year is in sight, providing a sense of urgency; but there are still a few months left in case you discover that your best intentions have, inexplicably, come off the rails. There is still a chance for the little GPS-inspired voice in your head to whisper reassuringly, “Recalculating.”

With the happy chaos of summer behind us and the joyful insanity of the holidays still far enough away to be safely ignored, we steal a moment to catch our collective breath. The turning foliage, a subtle reminder of our own mortality, prompts us to consider all the things we have put off for another day.

While no one would blame you for sighing with resignation at the enormity of everything left undone, September’s New Year is not without hope. After all, remember, there is still time before the end-of-year reckoning. You still have a chance to resurrect your resolutions from the rubble. Go ahead – pick up your lucky writing pen, lace up your running shoes, call about that cooking class. Whatever you had hoped to achieve, it’s not too late.

And herein lies my conflict.

Looking back at the year, I am mostly pleased with what I see. My business is doing well. I had a wonderful summer with my daughter and beau. I have done a better job at prioritizing time with friends and making space in my daily rounds for self-care. I have, most recently, taken baby steps towards increasing my commitment to “my” writing (as opposed to the writing I do for my content marketing clients). But, I still feel like I am, as Tolkien describes, standing on the edge of a knife.

Another year has gone by – flown by, in fact. 2014 is winding down and while I have lived a good year, I am really no closer to the Big Goals I set for myself. Though September invites quiet reflection, I also feel an urge to take fierce action – to make an abrupt correction that will send me careening back to the path I envisioned in January. But the risks associated with that kind of move are great. While the impulsive child in me would like to grab the wheel and burn rubber back toward her intended destination, the responsible adult in me knows that a more gradual realignment is a safer, saner course.

I don’t know which one to listen to.

Life is short and time runs fast. How are you feeling at this point in the year? Do you have any desire to do something a little crazy in order to get closer to realizing your temporarily neglected dreams? Or, are you feeling bound to duty and considering a more subtle approach to getting yourself back on track?

 

What I’m Writing:

nanowrimo shieldMy writing output these days is the usual bill-paying content marketing (websites, and ebooks, and case studies, oh my!), bi-weekly columns (thank the gods for a small, creative outlet), and morning pages. Nothing super exciting, but not too shabby either.

As September draws to a close, however, November and NaNoWriMo loom large on the horizon. A writer friend invited me to indulge in this international month of insanity with her. In the past, I have completed my 50,000 words to cross the NaNoWriMo finish line a “winner.” I have also give up halfway through and refused to even try. Talk about feeling conflicted.

IF I decide to do NaNoWriMo this year, I want to have something specific to work on. In other words, if I’m going to make this work, I need to make some time in October for planning and outlining.

Yeah, I know that kind of goes against the “no plot, no problem” spirit of NaNoWriMo, but if I’m going to invest 40 – 60 hours, I’d at least like to come out on the other side with a sh!##y first draft that’s worth editing.

So – what about you? Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Are you thinking about it this year?

What I’m Reading:

book toujours provenceAfter recently re-read (via Audible) Peter Mayle’s wonderful A Year in Provence, I found I was reluctant to leave the south of France. I returned, again via Audible, to indulge in more culinarily inclined essays in Mayle’s follow-up collection, Toujours Provence. The duplicity of the season may cause my heart and head to dance back and forth between the shoulds and wants in my life, but plugging back into Mayle’s world of pastoral scenery, five-course lunches, and gastronomically experienced neighbors reminds me that what really matters is living in and savoring the moment.

book lord lady bunnyMy daughter and I also finished reading another follow-up book, this one from Polly Horvath. In Lord and Lady Bunny Almost Royalty, we once again get to ride along as the intrepid Mr. Bunny and ever-stylish Mrs. Bunny journey from their home in Canada to the realm of Queen Elizabeth. As with the first book, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire, this tale is a fun read aloud with characters who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. I especially enjoy the good-natured ribbing between Mr. and Mrs. Bunny (or, perhaps, I should say, “Lord and Lady Bunny”).

book empowerFinally, I also read a few short stories from a couple of anthologies on my Kindle. The first, Empower: Fight Like a Girl is a collection of short stories by women TV writers. As its title suggests, the book’s theme is about empowering girls and women. I discovered the collection via Kam Miller’s (one of the contributing writers) and am enjoying doling out the stories over time. Though the genres (supernatural, crime, horror) are not my usual fare, it’s been fun to see how each of these writers chose to embody empowerment.

book irregular creaturesNext, I read the first story in Chuck Wendig’s Kindle Single, Irregular Creatures. I’ve been reading Wendig’s blog, terribleminds, for a while. I am by turns fascinated, impressed, and offended. Wendig is not the type to pull punches. His style is in-your-face and completely unapologetic. I bought Irregular Creatures after reading his blog rant titled, A PSA About Nude Photos. Though it is rife with, shall we say, colorful language, I thought it was spot on and passionate and worth the read. It made me want to support him as a writer, to learn more about the kinds of characters and stories that might come from such a mind … so I started small with the $0.99 collection of short stories. So far, I’m enjoying it and already considering additional purchases from his impressively prolific pen.

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 reading quiet

Here’s to hoping you find your own quiet time to accept the season’s invitation to stop and muse a while, to get all introspective, and to look ahead at the next adventure. Happy writing and happy reading. See you on the other side! 

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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.

 

Quote sourced from The New York Times on the Web

Friday Fun — Chores

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: What chore do you absolutely dislike doing? Conversely – do you have a chore that you absolutely enjoy?

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I absolutely hate housework. All kinds. (and if you walked into my house it wouldn’t come as a surprise.) It’s not that I don’t like living in a clean and tidy house, I do, it’s just that it can be so bone-crunchingly frustrating to spend time cleaning up an area and then have the rest of the family walk through and drop things here, leave dirty dishes where they had last used them, and not pick up anything. And the stuff that comes into a house when 8 people live there, it is often overwhelming and it seems to spontaneously grow. I mean why even bother, right?

I’d rather be writing or reading.

I suppose this is the universal cry of all mothers, but I also think that this is what drives my desire to live in a tiny house by myself someday (you can visit, you just need to knock first.) I just want my things in the places where I expect them to be.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I put off cleaning as long as possible. For me, cleaning is like shopping — I really need to be in the mood for it. (Yes, I’m a woman who doesn’t enjoy shopping – for anything.) Once in the mood, I love to clean — what’s not to love about making dust, grime, and ickiness into shiny and bright, right? But it usually takes me a while to get into a mood to clean. September and February are cleaning months for me – Sept because I feel it’s a time of renewal and I enjoy swapping out regular sheets for flannel sheets – February because by that time of year I’m ready for winter to be over and warm weather (and color) to come along. I don’t need to dust or vacuum or do anything else on a regular basis since my cat really doesn’t care how the place looks. ;)

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Susan Nye:
Love to cook … hate to clean.

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: My favorite chore is laundry because it mostly does itself. Sure, I have to put forth a little effort to load the machine, separate the dryer-safe items from the drip-dry ones, and – eventually – fold the clean clothes; but – overall – it’s a chore that requires comparatively little elbow grease. Scrubbing the bathrooms, on the other hand, is the epitome of an elbow-grease job. Yuck.

Still, although I always feel WAY behind in my domestic chores, I actually enjoy doing them when I have the time. There are few things more satisfying than making our little corner of the world extra cozy by spiffing up and straightening, freshening and brightening. A little spit and polish goes a long way to bringing me peace and contentment.

I love me a good book recommendation, so when a fellow writer Facebook friend (hi James) let me know about a memoir that he said was teaching him how to write his memoir by its example, my ears perked up.

walkingnatureBut what really made me pay attention was when the author joined in the conversation and left these remarks about the art of memoir writing.

It’s what you’ve learned from your life, not so much what you’ve done. A well-considered life is often more compelling than a dramatic one….

And

If I had to define the art of writing a memoir in a few words, I would say it’s in the reflection and storytelling. Memoir translates what you’ve learned from life into a story so compelling that it inspires even those who had no idea they would be interested in what you write about.

Twins daughters from different mothers. That author, Susan J. Tweit managed to say so clearly what it is I have been trying to say for years –

A memoir is not about climbing the mountain. It’s about how you climbed it, the stumbles along the way, and what you learned when you finally reached the top.

I ordered Susan’s book Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey and started reading.

Walking Nature Home is the story of a woman who, diagnosed with a non-specific connective tissue disease, was given 2 to 5 years left to live. The book tells of how she connected (intentional pun) with her body and nature to get the strength to move on with her life. Susan’s story is uplifting and it gives hope to others who might be in similar life-challenging situations.

My Facebook friend was right. Susan does a masterful job of keeping a solid theme running through her book, the red thread of her life that begins in childhood when her father taught her about the constellations and ends with her gazing out a skylight at the stars content with her life can so clearly be followed throughout the book.

Each chapter is centered on a major star constellation which is introduced with the stars’ history and mythology. These stories of the stars are then personified by Susan’s life experiences and insights.

The organization and woven structure of this memoir is a tapestry to behold. It’s one of those stories that becomes a meditation in reading. Never once does Susan veer from her stated theme of nature, in fact, she keeps it as deeply ingrained as her breathing is to her body. Like meditation, Susan constantly comes back to her breathing- her connection with nature, the reason for her being.

If memoir is your genre (and even if it’s not), I highly recommend taking a look at Walking Nature Home, both for the inspiring story, as well as its brilliant memoir structure.

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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.

 

I think I may have found the answer to my day planner woes. It has been a long search throughout the years. I have invested in several paper systems. I have done trial periods on several web-based systems. Recently, I even devised a system using 3×5 cards with different colored tops. All of these have failed for a number of reasons. Too cumbersome to carry with me all the time. Bits and pieces that were easily misplaced.

And the digital systems? I love technology, and am a proud Samsung Galaxy Note 3 user. I am all in with Google. And I have discovered a number of systems that could work. But there is something about writing down tasks, highlighting an event, or taking notes during a meeting that is deeply satisfying. And also works the way my brain works, with lists, arrows, circled items, and references to other notes.

Last week a colleague told me about a system she had just discovered, the Bullet Journal. The tagline is that it is an analog system for a digital age. It uses a blank notebook with grid lines, though you could use any type of notebook. You create a index page, a monthly layout and monthly task list, and then daily journal entries with tasks, events, and notes. Every entry is a line that can be expounded upon later, but for the daily entry, is just a line. Many systems work similarly.

But here’s the difference. Within the bullet journal, you can write longer entries as needed. And keep track of them on the index for future reference. It is the perfect system for a writer. Need a list of books? Keep one. And add it to the index, so you can always find it. Working on notes for your story? Write them in the journal. Have a few minutes between meetings? Daydreaming during others? Use the same journal for it all.

I find that fall is a time for change for me. I am thrilled to discover a new system, one that works with a Moleskin, that may keep me a little more organized. Given that I am plotting book #2 in my series, working on a couple of website projects, and planning a writer’s conference this fall, and a theater conference next spring, I need all of the organizational tools I can find.

How about you, dear readers? Do you have a organizing system that works for your entire life? And, do you also feel like this time of year is actually a new year?

Here’s a video about Bullet Journal.

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J.A. (Julie) Hennrikus is the Executive Director of StageSource. Her short stories have appeared in the three Level Best anthologies, Thin Ice, Dead Calm and Blood Moon. She tweets under @JulieHennrikus, and group blogs on nhwn.wordpress.com and with the Wicked Cozy Authors (wickedcozyauthors.com). She is the 2014 President of Sisters in Crime New England, on the national board of Sisters in Crime, and a member of Mystery Writers of America. As Julianne Holmes, the first in her Clock Shop Mystery series will be published in 2015 by Berkley Prime Crime.

September 22, 2014

Happy First Day of Autumn

I’m looking forward to the fabulous foliage colors this year.

Here are some favorite pics I captured last year.

LisaJ_fall leaves

LisaJ_fall_red_leaves

Lisa_Nashua_fall_tree

Lisa_GreenAndRed_leaves

I love the myriad of colors we get in New England. And Fall is when I start my serious planning for the upcoming year. It’s a time of renewal for me.

Do you see a lot of colors where you live?

Dan’s right. It is later than you think.

paris clockDo you ever feel like the Universe is conspiring to send you a message? I do. All the time.

This week, the theme was “Life is Short.”

I began the week with a little getaway that was inspired by the truth of life’s brevity. Along with my beau and my daughter, I headed north to the elegant and enchanting Mount Washington Hotel – an idyllic, turn of the century hideaway in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Knowing how quickly the next few years will pass (and how, soon, my daughter may be less inclined to spend quality time with her dear mother), I took my fifth grader out of school for the three days so we could revel in the delights of slightly forbidden joys. We went on a horseback ride, hiked to a waterfall, and she and my beau spent hours performing aquatic acrobatics in the pool while I sat nearby, reading. It was a wonderful, if brief, escape from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.

On Friday, as I was wrapping up my short work week, Dan Blank’s newsletter arrived in my inbox. In It’s Later Than You Think, Dan relates the heartbreaking story of a late blooming author who passed away suddenly, leaving so many projects unfinished. In his retirement, this writer had finally begun to see clearly what his true life’s work was, only to have the opportunity to pursue that work snatched from him by an unkind fate.

Later that day, I came across a tweet linking to a Time article called Happy Thoughts: Here Are the Things Proven To Make You Happier. The piece, written by Eric Barker, includes a list of the five regrets people are most likely to have right before they die:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

With all of this swirling around in my head, I’d like to ask you …

What does a life true to yourself look like?

How can you work less and enjoy life more?

How can you find the courage to express your feelings?

Who can you reach out to today so you can keep in touch?

What makes you happier and … can you find it in your heart to allow more of that into your life?

What I’m Writing:

What do you do when your intentions come off the track?

What do you do when your intentions come off the track?

Sometimes I want to pull this section from the Weekend Edition template. It feels like I have little to share here. However, I have made each of you an accountability partner of sorts. While I realize that life is short and I need to take steps toward accomplishing my own life’s work, day-to-day responsibilities often distract me from the Big Picture.  Though I start the week with the best of intentions, by mid-week I have more or less surrendered to the reality of time constraints and the need for sleep. Coming here on Saturday morning helps me reconnect with those intentions.

I am still waiting to find out if the Fiction I class I signed up for will go forward. They need one more person to register in order to run the class. I’ve got my fingers crossed that some fellow writer will step forward and fill that final slot. Even though a little part of me would breathe a sigh of relief at having those eight Tuesday’s back for my paying client work, most of me would lament the chance to strike a blow for my creative side by stealing those Tuesdays for her sole delight. We’ll see soon enough how things play out.

I’m curious. What gets you back on track when you’re writing intentions go off the rails? Do you have an accountability partner, or is there something else that pulls you up and sets you at your task again?

What I’m Reading:

book spirits keyThis week I had the unusual pleasure of guilt-free reading time. While we were away in the White Mountains, I enjoyed several hours of reading time while my daughter and beau played in the pool. (I have never been much of a water person, so I was grateful that my other half was willing to don his swim shorts and dive in.) I had charged up my Kindle before we left, but had yet to make a reading choice from my seriously overstuffed collection of downloads. In the end, I chose a book that I’m pretty sure I discovered via a tweet from Sharon Abra Hanen (@wellfedpoet), a writer and creative coach whom I met at the last Grub Street course I took.

Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn is a middle grade novel that tells a unique and beautiful story about coming into your own, “facing your today,” and learning to find common ground. From Cohn’s site:

By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.

I will be sharing this one with my daughter and hope she enjoys the story as much as I did.

A quick aside – there is a lovely acknowledgement at the end of the book that gave me, as a writer, a serious case of the warm & fuzzies. Reading it, I was once again reminded that “birthing” a book is never a solitary effort. As with a human child, it takes a village.

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 courage to ask

Here’s to being brave, facing our todays, and finding happiness. Happy reading & writing. See you on the other side! 

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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.
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Train Track Photo Credit: jjMustang_79 via Compfight cc

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