What’s on Your Shelf Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Jul 23

I don’t think they run them anymore, but I always kind of liked Capital One’s “What’s in Your Wallet?” campaign. My fondness for the ads might have something to do with the fact that Alec Baldwin and Samuel L. Jackson make excellent spokespeople. I’m just saying.

Anyway …

I thought it might be fun to put a writerly spin on the tagline by asking, “What’s on your [writer’s] shelf?”

Here is my writer’s bookcase in situ, so to speak:

on your shelf 1

It’s a utilitarian piece of furniture that I found via Craig’s List many years ago. It sits to the left of my cat bed-adorned writing desk. (You can see one of my two cats in the photo. She looks surprised and slightly guilty because I caught her in the middle of a catnip snack.)

And here is a closer look at the contents of my shelf:

on your shelf 2

  1. This section is a mish-mosh of writing-related books including classic  favorites like Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones as well as less well-known works like Jessica Abel’s Out on The Wire and Christina Baldwin’s Storyteller. It also includes some fairly new works including Don Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel and Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. I’ve also got a couple of books that are more about story in culture: The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall and Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.
  2. Section two is comprised of books about structure and inspirational books. On the structure side, we’ve got Story by Robert McKee, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up (on creative nonfiction) by Lee Gutkind, A Story is a Promise by Bill Johnson, Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland, and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. On the inspirational side, we have Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargos Llosa, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, The Trickster’s Hat by Nick Bantock, and Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech.
  3. This section is books that I haven’t really read, but which I keep around because I have good intentions: First Words edited by Mandelbaum, in which we get to read the earliest works of favorite contemporary authors; the workshop edited by Tom Grimes, in which we explore seven years of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; the Norton Anthology of Poetry (probably a hold over from my college days); and Short Novels of the Masters edited by Charles Neider, a book I bought through a book club more than a decade ago and haven’t yet opened. <sigh>
  4. These are not writing books. These are orphan books that couldn’t find a home on any of my other bookshelves, so they landed here: Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin, Irene M. Pepperberg’s Alex & Me (about her work with an African Gray parrot), Emma Ford’s Fledgling Days (about falconry), Hand Wash Cold by Karen Miller (Zen), French Women Don’t Get Fat (don’t ask), and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison (a book I am terrified to read because I am sure it will make me bawl like a baby).

on your shelf 3

  1. Most of these books are also not about writing, but about other creative practices including graphic design, zentangles, drawing, and painting. There are a few, however, that have to do with the written word including a couple of quote anthologies, a book of Regency and Victorian insults (Deadlier Than the Male, compiled by Michelle Lovric), Rotten Rejections (a collection of literary rejections edited by Andre Bernard), and an odd little collection of lessons for grown-ups from children’s books called What the Dormouse Said collected by Amy Gash.
  2. Style and grammar books: The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition; Strunk and White (of course!); Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Trauss; Lapsing into a Comma by Bill Walsh; A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker; The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi; Roget’s International Thesaurus, and the beautiful (and hefty!) American Heritage Dictionary.
  3. These are mostly marketing-related books, but my collection includes a few writing-related references: Everybody Writes by Ann Handley, Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, and The Well-fed Writer by Peter Bowerman.
  4. This last section is also a bit eclectic, most notably including No Plot? No Problem! by NaNoWriMo founder, Chris Baty and a fun little flip book of writing prompts by Jason Sacher called The Amazing Story Generator.

So, that’s my collection.

If you’d like to play along and share your writer’s book shelf, please share publish a blog post (and share the link below) or post an image to either Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #whatsonyourshelf … I’d love to see what you’ve got!

_jamie sig



 Books I’m Reading:

I am actually reading books (four at once, actually … a bit more than I usually tackle, but there are extenuating circumstances), BUT I still haven’t FINISHED any. Next week. I promise!

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:





Sundry Links and Articles:

friedman cohenThis coming Wednesday – July 27th – Jane Friedman is partnering with Bryan Cohen to present a free training about writing sales copy that will help you sell your book. The sign-up page for this free event lists the following as part of the presentation:

  • The foolproof system for writing compelling book descriptions
  • How to turn your new description into a click-worthy ad
  • How to boost your ad results with a few small changes
  • Plus… Live Q&A with Jane and Bryan

I’m a long-time fan of Friedman’s work, so I’m betting this will be a worthwhile event, even if there is a sales pitch at the end of the presentation.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin trapped library

Here’s to appreciating our own libraries and dreaming about all the libraries we have yet to explore.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Summer Bucket List

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

QUESTION: We’re just about halfway through the summer. How are you doing on your summer bucket list? 

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: *hangs head in shame* Not so great. I’ve been unusually busy for the summertime. While I’m delighted to have a full work schedule, I am bumming out a little about the summertime fun I haven’t yet had. I wanted to spend more time at the beach with my daughter (she’s been getting plenty of time by the shore with friends, but not with me), go on a whale watch, get more daily walks in, spend a few afternoons just reading, take some more day trips into Boston and up the coast … oh, so many plans!

I still have hope, but I also realize that it’s going to take some proactive effort on my part. I’m going to have to put my foot down and cordon off some time – with an alligator-filled moat if need be. When you’re a freelance writer working from home, it’s just too easy to say, “yes” and to do “just one more thing,” which then leads to one more “one more thing,” and suddenly the whole day is gone. Clearly, this is an area where I could use some work.

I think I’ll look into that whale watch this weekend. Maybe I can get it in before the month is out.

Deborah headshotI’m at the opposite end of the spectrum from Jamie and have had lots of play, but am woefully behind on two writing projects. That said, I’ve been busy at work, especially lectures and planning future classes; it’s just that I’ve been busier at play with family visits from grandnieces (In Love In Vermont) and other relatives, visits from my three adult daughters, visits from Old Friends, hikes in the White Mountains, and the most beautiful and productive vegetable garden ever. The party continues this week, with my thirtieth wedding anniversary and my dad’s ninety-first birthday. Then I buckle down to clear my desk before taking off for a twenty-five day through-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail. I’m hoping that this will be a Reset for me, and that I’ll return ready to tackle the long form again. Summer rocks!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I didn’t/don’t have a bucket list per se, just the goal to have fun. And to that end, I’m succeeding quite well. I’ve been hiking, cycling, and swimming. I’ve been to the beach, had a long stay in a nice hotel, have had wonderful seafood. Have been to a few country concerts – after not having been to concerts in several years. I’ve found a new place to live and look forward to the move. I have a week-long vacation with my brother (and his family) in a couple of weeks. Have spent quality time with my parents – fun stuff with Mom, helping both folks clean out the years of collected clutter in their house. I’ve done quite a lot and still more to do! And I’ve been blessed with a lot of great client work. Glorious season all around!



Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Gather Momentum

define momentum

I don’t know about you, but I often have trouble getting started on a writing project. I have no trouble with the pre-writing work – thinking about, exploring, and playing with an idea – but when I’m finally sitting in front off the blank screen, fingers poised over the keyboard, I freeze. I am suddenly gripped by self-doubt, fear, and indecision about what to do next.

This is to be expected. Getting started is hard. It’s like stepping off a cliff or out of a plane into … nothing. You’re on your own. You’ll probably fall for a while before you remember that you’ve got wings. It helps to have a process to get you going – a series of steps that you can lean on when you’re not really sure what to do first. (Here’s a 12-step process I use for many writing assignments. Feel free to borrow it!)

But, while starting is hugely important (I mean, you obviously need to do that first), it’s also important to KEEP GOING once you’ve started. This is where MOMENTUM comes in.

Say it with me: “Mo-men-tum.” It’s kind of fun to say. It almost has a rhythm that feels like you might be able to dance to it.

As defined by Merriam-Webster, momentum is:

  • the strength or force that something has when it is moving
  • the strength or force that allows something to continue or grow stronger or faster as time passes

I like the sound of that. Don’t you?

Think about it in terms of your writing. Have you ever been working on something and suddenly feel like you’ve reached the downside of a hill? You know – you’ve been slogging along and then something shifts and the words come more easily and your fingers can barely keep up with your brain? That’s momentum. It’s what happens just before you find “flow.”

So, how do you gain momentum?

You write. And you write and you write and you write. You don’t get up every two minutes to get a drink or check your email or dust the curios in the cabinet. You write. You get yourself started however you can, and then you keep going. You don’t give in to the temptation to step away. You don’t let the demons slow you down. You just keep putting one word after the other, even if you’re worried they might not be the right words. It doesn’t matter. You just keep climbing up that hill, one sentence at a time, and then – all of a sudden – you’ll feel a force at your back, pushing you forward and making the whole process easier. You’ll feel like you’re tripping lightly downhill instead of clawing your way up a steep slope. That’s momentum.

And it doesn’t just apply to the piece you’re working on right now. It also applies, on a larger scale, to your whole writing life.

Momentum. It’s a beautiful thing. Go out there and create it today.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Our Summer Vacation: Editing

OUR WRITING ROADMAPWeek three of our summer series, and a topic I know very well. Editing. I just submitted book #3 of my Clock Shop Mystery series, and the editing is still raw. Before I go into more specifics about my process, let me frame what editing is/when it comes in.

For some people, a first draft is a slog through molasses going uphill in January. For others, it is an easy brain dump that gets you to the shaping part of your novel.Everyone has a different first draft experience, so have your own. But always remember two truths. First, no matter how wonderful a writer you are, editing is part of the process. Give yourself time to do it, and don’t shortchange that part of the process. Second, someone said you can’t edit a blank page, and they were correct. I am a firm believer in moving forward while writing. A reminder, I am a plotter, so my first draft has some surprises (you can’t anticipate everything the muses offer), but I have a roadmap moving forward. I have learned to trust that, and keep moving.

Editing is an art. As a writer, you can do a lot yourself. Here are some of the layers of editing I’ve discovered.

Developmental. This layer of editing is big picture, first reader editing. Does the story make sense? Are there plot holes? Are the characters consistent? Does the scene order make sense? Do things need to be shifted around? I have a trusted first reader who is a friend, knows the genre I write in, and gives me some tough love. I find this to be a vulnerable time in my process, so I have chosen this first reader carefully.

Structural. I had a tendency to make leaps of logic that make sense to me while I am writing, but I don’t always connect the dots for my readers. Or I make a change in my story (he becomes a she, he goes from married to single, her cat becomes a dog) and the change isn’t consistent throughout the novel. Maybe a subplot needs to be fleshed out, and interwoven with more elegance. This phase of the editing makes sure the frame of the story is strong.

Enriching. He said. She said. He said. They did. All great for scenes. But add some physicality to the scene. She’s making dinner. He’s folding laundry.  That grounds the scene. Add descriptions. Help the reader understand your intention not by telling them, but by showing them. This layer is where the art comes in. For my most recent manuscript, I was thinking about the theme of the novel, and how each scene supported it. Then I realized that one of the subplots could be tweaked and would better serve the overall theme. It was fun adding that layer to the work.

Polishing. Final layer of editing is cleaning things up. Spell check. Reading not for content, but for words. Checking grammar. Triple checking punctuation. Doing a “find” for words that you overuse, and getting rid of them. (This blog post is a big help in finding some of those words.)

Final step? Letting it go. There comes a point where you need someone else to look over your work. You can get an editor at any one of the above stages. But you will need to know when to let your work go, either for querying to an agent or submitting it to your editor. I try to stop working on my manuscript before I screw it up. Sounds like I am being funny, but I’m not. Tweaking and adjusting becomes addictive, but at some point practically perfect becomes a hot mess. Let it go before it gets to the hot mess stage.

Spend time on editing–all phases of editing. It is where the fun of writing lives.

Dear readers, do you prefer one phase of editing over another? Where do you bring in others to help?

As Julianne Holmes, Julie writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. The second book in the series, CLOCK AND DAGGER, will be released on August 2.

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing


I was recently asked by a student – “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

My answer to this question is – Behold the power of time.

clockThere are so many instances where I’ve budgeted time to write and then *something* happens. The kids need a ride, I get a call in the middle, I’ve clicked on one too many articles on the internet, etc.

I’ve learned that if you want to write, really want to write, then you have to write. If that means closing a door, so be it. If it means going somewhere else to write, setting a timer so you stay in your seat to write, if it means you do anything you can in order to write then so be it.

Because you can’t be a writer if you don’t write.

I’ve also recognized that a written piece needs its own time. Time to mix and muddle – until its purest essence comes out. When I was in college I never did much more than 1 draft (why should I? I knew my writing was already amazing.) Now with years of experience behind me, I know that I have to do at least 3, if not more drafts on every publishable piece. Turns out I’m not as amazing as I once thought I was. You’d be surprised at how many typos I catch (my mind is already racing to the next sentence that it knows is coming.) And how I can whittle a piece down when I have some distance from it and I can begin to see redundancies and areas that need clarification. I’m a much better writer when I have reflection.

I’ve also realized that some pieces take longer than others. As a journalist I’m used to working on deadline.

“Wendy, have a 1500 word article in to me by end of day.”

“Yup, you got it, getting started on it right now.”

While I can do articles and assignments fairly quickly, (they follow a familiar template) my own creative writing takes a little longer. It needs to be coaxed and sometimes even pulled screaming with protest from the depths of my soul.

Different types of writing take different amounts of time.

So my answer to that question is -Time. It’s what I’ve learned is the most important thing about writing. You have to have it and you have to manage it well.

How about you? What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?


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

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

Word of Mouth and Other Marketing Options

I see this statement on the back of business cards all the time now:


“The finest compliment I can receive is a referral from my friends and past clients.”

Personal referrals are definitely (the most?) powerful when it comes to  building a business. And when referrals become the driving force that brings you new business, well, it might be time to have a staff!

However, word of mouth marketing can’t start until you’re established, so having it be your only method of marketing probably won’t work well. I mean, people can’t refer you until they know you can deliver what they need when they need it, right?

So, what other marketing options do you have? You want to use the best method(s) for getting the word out about your writing service that enables people to get to know, like, and trust you — with the goal of them deciding to work with you.

A great place to start is to think about a recent purchase you made – especially for a service – how did the business owner attract you? What captured your attention enough to pursue picking up the phone (or e-mailing) for more information? What did you find most important and particularly appealing?

  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Blog
  • LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter / Other social media
  • Print ad you received through the postal service
  • You met and spoke with the business owner at an in-person event
  • Article you read written by the business owner
  • A webinar or other online event you participated in
  • A book you read
  • Business card

You can also look at a competitor to see what marketing methods they use for attracting business. Ask yourself these questions and how they relate to your target market:

  • What is it that I like about what they are doing?
  • What is it that I don’t find particularly appealing?

These are just some overall questions to ponder and ideas to consider to get you started in marketing your business.

It’s insightful to realize what pulled you in enough to ‘make a purchase’ — and a great way to start connecting with your market, since what you find attractive is probably what your target clients will find appealing.

What is one of your go-to marketing methods that works well for you? (mine is LinkedIn)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Always Writing and Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links July 17

ocean sky

Go ahead – stare out over the ocean. It’s still writing.

When I sat down to write this post yesterday, I wound up spending a good hour beating myself up because I couldn’t think of anything worth writing. I set the time aside, as I do each week, to come here and write a post; but I ended up just typing and deleting, typing and deleting. I tried four different ideas, but nothing would stick. While I’m not one to rely on the muse, it was clear that I just wasn’t feeling it (whatever “it” is).


We all have these days. Part of my problem is that I didn’t, as I typically do, take the time earlier in the week to do preliminary brainstorming and mind mapping for the weekend edition. This means that I came to my desk without a plan – a speed bump, to be sure, but not usually a deal breaker. Despite my lack of preparation, I expected that something would pop into my head. (It usually does.) No such luck.

It has just occurred to me, that the bigger issue at hand is that I’ve let myself get worn out. I’ve been extremely busy with freelance projects for the past couple of months and keeping up has required a sustained level of hustle that’s a bit more intense than I like. It’s no wonder I’m having trouble finding a writing topic! Not only am I physically and intellectually exhausted, I’ve also been running at top speed for so long that I haven’t had any time to think. And, writers need time to think.

Sometimes we need a gentle reminder that some of our most important “writing” time has nothing to do with keyboards or notebooks. When we sit down at the computer or pick up a pen, that moment is the culmination of many hours engaged in the non-writing part of writing. It’s the moment when all the internal work that we’ve been doing – daydreaming, questioning, ruminating – is transformed into words on the page. It is the moment that our work becomes tangible to someone living outside of our heads.

But don’t be fooled. Those words on the page are only the tip of the iceberg. The real work of writing includes everything that brought you to that point where you felt ready (and inspired!) to put those words down. So, don’t beat yourself up for a lack of “inspiration” if you haven’t given yourself the opportunity to do all the work that must come before the words. Slow down. Step back. Give yourself the gift of stillness and solitude and time to think. Breathe for goodness sake!

And then see how creative and inspired you feel. I bet you’ll see a world of difference. Good luck!

_jamie sig



My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:





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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin cleese play.jpg

Here’s to giving your creativity some TLC by making time to play. :) 
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.