Friday Fun–Three Questions

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: These are actually three questions, but they go together!

  1. How do you feel about your writing (and/or your writing life) right now?
  2. How do you want to feel about your writing (and/or writing life) right now?
  3. What do you need to think in order to feel the way you want to feel about your writing (and/or your writing life) right now?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD:

  1. How do you feel about your writing (and/or your writing life) right now? I feel excited and frustrated about my writing right now. 
  2. How do you want to feel about your writing (and/or writing life) right now? I want to feel excited and satisfied about my writing right now.
  3. What do you need to think in order to feel the way you want to feel about your writing (and/or your writing life) right now? I need to think: I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now. Every word written is a step toward my goals. 

I’m going to write these words on a Post-It note and stick them to my computer. I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now, and every word written is a step toward my goals.


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: 

  1. How I feel about my writing right now: Open-minded, optimistic, curious, committed
  2. How I want to feel about my writing: I am actually pretty happy with how I’m feeling, but I would like to feel more productive and more profitable.
  3. What I need to think to feel the way I want: I have time to write, and people are willing to pay for my creative writing.





Step-by-step creating a project in Scrivener

Last time I posted, I told you about how I was going to learn Scrivener by designing and writing a book in Scrivener (trial by fire.) As I am at the end of the semester (with papers to correct and final projects to discuss) I don’t have a heck of a lot of time, but I did manage to set up part of my project.

scrivener-512As an aside, I want to remind you that I’m writing a non-fiction book. Using a non-fiction project to learn this tool is a heck of a lot easier than using a fiction project. Although there are many similarities (memoir/fiction) I don’t have to worry about characters and plots as much.

Also, I’m learning this tool with the book Scrivener for Dummies in hand. It may not be the most creative approach to writing a manuscript, but I’m killing both of those birds with one stone, aren’t I?

Creating a project in Scrivener

When you start a project, you need to choose your template. Scrivener offers a few including non-fiction, fiction, and blank.

This was my first little bump in the road. Technically my project is non-fiction but because it will be written in a memoir style, it would follow (to a degree) a fiction template.

I chose non-fiction and quickly realized that non-fiction was intended for a reference book. I’ve since tried to switch the template but am having difficulty doing that.

Advice #1 – think about your story structure *before* you choose a template, if your story does not fall solidly into one of the template categories go with Blank.

Action item #1 – figure out how to switch templates or just start a new project.

Naming your project

When you create a project, you’ll need to name it. Give it a name (title) that you’ll be able to recognize (don’t call a project something like Wendy’s book.) When you get to the point where you might have multiple projects to choose from, you want to be able to quickly identify the one you want.

In my case, I’m calling this project – Clear the heart, clear the house

Advice #2 – create a descriptive title.

Filling in the title page

Go ahead and fill in the title page. It has a blank spot where you can enter your literary agent’s name. If this doesn’t give you incentive to work on your project, not sure what will.

Advice #3 – as soon as you define your project, fill out that title page. It will give you major motivation.

Including previous material

If you’ve written about your project, if you have notes (I cut and pasted my description of my project from an earlier post) put then in your project folders.

When you click on the binder level of your project, you’ll see the index card “tiles” that you’ve created so far. In my case I have that all-so important title page and I’ve put a piece I wrote years ago about my previous decluttering experience in as a forward.

I’ve since realized that it shouldn’t be a forward, but should instead probably be Chapter 1. See what I mean about choosing the right template? I should have gone with Blank and just created parts as I needed them.

Advice #4 – load in what you’ve got baby, get used to keeping all your material in one spot.

That’s it. That’s as far as I’ve gotten in this project. The semester ends in two weeks and when it does, I plan to spend a lot more time figuring this tool out and creating my project in it.

Until then, write on.

Oh and if any of you are following along (time to learn Scrivener yourself? – you can get a free 30-day trial) please post questions and/or comments on your progress, I’m sure we’d all like to hear.


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). ( She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Conference 101

I have the great good fortune to be working on the committee for two different conferences right now. The StageSource Theater Conference will take place on June 7 at the Boston Opera House. It is geared towards theater administrators, artists, and theater lovers. It is a full day of workshops, panels, and networking opportunities.

I am also co-chair of the New England Crime Bake (November 6-8). Crime Bake runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and the programming committee is working overtime to provide a full day of panels, some workshops, and networking time.

I am 0attending Malice Domestic next week. Whereas the StageSource Theater Conference and New England Crime Bake are smaller conferences (250-300 people), Malice is huge–over 500 people. The focus is also different for Malice, since it is mainly for fans, though there are a lot of authors there. Malice Domestic is very specifically focused–for the lovers and authors of cozy and traditional mysteries. I am thrilled that I will be moderating a panel on Saturday afternoon at Malice Domestic–a great way to be introduced to future readers of Just Killing Time, my debut cozy mystery.

Since I am in conference mode these days, wearing multiple hats, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a successful conference. Here’s my top five must-haves:

Programming. As you go to more and more conferences, you spend less time in the workshops and more time talking to people. That said, I need to learn something at a conference, so programming matters. It also says a lot about he conference planners, and their priorities.

Location. There are two ways location can work. First, it can be a destination that makes the conference itself more attractive. A conference in a place I’ve never visited, for example, can be really enticing as long as I can get there with my budget. Second, the conference site can be easy or inexpensive to access. The New England Crime Bake, for example, had been in Dedham for a few years. Not very sexy, but easy to get to, inexpensive, and with good amentities.

Food. Food isn’t just about the meals themselves, though that is important. Food is also about coffee access, snacks, breakfast options. At the last StageSource conference we had a “make your own trail mix” bar for the afternoon break. Bowls of pretzels, nuts, M&Ms, dried fruit, and other items like that. Everyone got a bag, and made their own trail mix. For some, it was the hit of the conference.

For writer’s conferences, make sure there is a well staffed bar close by.

Amenities. Is there free Wi-Fi? (This used to be an option, but now is critical for social media interactions.) How is the room temperature? (I bring layers of clothes these days.) Can people go outside? Is there a gym for overnight conferences. (I always ask, I never go.) How is the sound? Is there water available? How comfortable are the chairs? Can people get around easily?

Talking Time. Otherwise known as networking. Sometimes, often, the best part of conferences are the conversations outside the meeting room. Is there enough time built in for people to talk to each other? To socialize? When you start going to conferences a lot, you get to know people in the circles. Chances are you want to catch up with them, and you may not want to miss a session in order to make that happen.

What would you add to this list? What makes you leave a conference, and say “that was terrific”?


Julie Hennrikus is an arts manager. J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series, which debuts in October.

Need Help with Social Media or WordPress? Meet Barb Drozdowich

If you’re in need of help getting started with promotion through social media, and/or help in setting up a WordPress author page, I’d like you to meet Barb Drozdowich, a social media and WordPress consultant who *loves* working with and helping writers at whatever stage they are at in creating their writer’s platform.

You can meet her at a free online event this Sunday night.

Barb has taught at colleges and universities, trained technical personnel in the banking industry and, most recently, used her expertise to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world.

Barb owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular romance book blog, Sugarbeat’s Books.

Her Building Blocks to Author Success series, currently containing 6 books, was born out of her work with authors once she realized there weren’t a lot of non-technical how-to books slanted towards the needs of authors.

AuthorsGuidetoWorkingwithBookBloggers BookBlogTours FacebookForAuthors GoodReadsGuideforAuthors WhatsYourAuthorPlatform







She also has several free WordPress and blogger-related tutorials on her Website you can check out.


You are quite welcome to stop in for the live chat and conversation with Barb this Sunday night, April 26, from 7-9pm EST at The Writer’s Chatroom: No password or registration is needed. I’ll be moderating. We’ll even have virtual drinks of all kinds, chocolate, and other goodies.

–>During the chat, Barb will be raffling off a free 1-hour consultation on any of the topics covered by her books or her blogs.

If you have questions for Barb in advance of the chat, feel free to send them to me at, and I’ll make sure they get asked and answered!

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Weekend Edition – Planting the Seeds of a Writing Life Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Planting the Seeds of a Writing Life

seedlingThere is no short cut to creating a writing life.

There is no 3-step process, no silver bullet, no magic spell.

You plant the seeds. You water. You wait.

Sometimes you say nice things, nurturing words of encouragement and inspiration.

Sometimes you slip up, and mutter dark, sharp things under your breath. Cutting things that slice carelessly into tender green shoots.

But somehow, the seedling survives.

You say you’re sorry. You add some nutrients to the soil. You let some sunshine in.

You keep writing.

Some days, you think you know how this writing life will turn out. You feel like you have a plan. A purpose. A path. It all makes sense, and you work away – pruning and fertilizing – secure in your sense of certainty.

But then, one day, a new blossom appears, and you don’t recognize it. It doesn’t match the picture on the seed packet.


You forgot that this writing life of yours is not a domesticated species. It is of a genus and variety unto itself. It is a one-of-a-kind creation – exotic and constantly mutating. You forgot that there are no guarantees about the kinds of flowers and fruit it may bear, or the types of hybrid offspring it might propagate.

Throw away the seed packet. The picture doesn’t mean a thing.

Throw away your expectations. The adventure is better without them.

Tend the garden of your writer’s life with care. Give each seedling a place to grow. Spend time coaxing each new bud and leaf and bloom out into the bright world.

Take delight in the wildness. Bask in the colors. Surrender to the scents. Swing from the vines.

Amazing that such an Eden could spring forth from one, small seed.

That’s all it takes.

One. Small. Seed.

What I’m {About to Learn About} Writing:

I’m planting a new seed of my own next month. I’ve registered for a course on flash fiction. 6 Weeks, 6 Stories is an online class offered by the fabulous Grub Street creative writing center in Boston. I have participated in several workshops and classes there (all of them fabulous), most recently Fiction I taught by KL Pereira. 6 Weeks, 6 Stories will be, however, my first online Grub Street experience. I’m kind of excited.

book field guide flashTo prepare for class, I’m reading A Field Guide to Flash Fiction, edited by Tara L. Masih. Pereira recommended this book during last fall’s Fiction I class. Some of our in-class readings were flash fiction, and one of the students wrote some fabulous flash pieces of her own. I knew little about the genre, but was intrigued.

Though I am only about a fifth of the way through the Field Guide, I have already learned that flash fiction (sometimes called postcard, micro, sudden, or “short short” fiction) is not a new literary genre. The practice of condensing stories into a handful of words (the jury is out on exactly if or how word count should be used to define flash fiction) apparently goes back to the 1800s in the states and Europe, and potentially much further back (as early as AD 220) in China, where these tiny stories are often referred to as palm-of-the-hand or smoke-long stories.

I have also learned that there are many ways to define and describe flash fiction. A few of the themes and ideas that I’ve already heard repeated in the various essays in the Field Guide are:  short (obviously), surprise endings, twists, exact attention to detail, poetic prose, ambiguity, slice of life, sketch, vignette, true to life, lyrical, strong imagery, irony.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the history and craft of flash fiction. And, I’d love to hear what you know of this unique, bite-sized genre. Have any stories to share?

What I’m Reading: The Red Pony by Steinbeck

book red ponyFor years, a small, battered, paperback copy of John Steinbeck‘s The Red Pony has been among the books on my shelf. Through several moves and a number of yard sales, this book has remained on my shelf as a “to read someday” book. Last week, after abandoning a contemporary novel, I opened this classic and found myself pulled into the small, but deeply felt world of Jody Tifflin.

This series of four, linked short stories showcases Steinbeck’s realism to great effect. The sparse language, specific details, and storytelling through concrete observations are all part of a style that is very different from most of today’s fiction.

Reading Steinbeck’s stories felt like an invitation to slow down and feel something. There is much in these stories that is harsh and tragic. Through his experiences on his family’s ranch, young Jody learns important lessons about the way of the world and the people in it.

This isn’t what I would call an enjoyable read, but it is a masterful example of realism in writing. There’s a reason they are called “classics,” and they are always worth revisiting.

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:

A lovely quote from one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin. If you have a half hour, do listen to the BBC broadcast of their interview with Le Guin on her 85th birthday: Ursula at 85 which I came across because of a tweet from @neilhimself.

pin leguin writer is

I hope you are enjoying the garden of your writing life. Plant those seeds. Love the words. Embrace the fear and delight. 
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), 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.

Friday Fun — Memorable Scene

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: Name one scene from a book that has stuck with you long after you first read it. Bonus points if you have any idea why it’s been thumbtacked to the inside of your brain all this time. 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Chapter 11 in Douglas Adams’ novel, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Gordon Way has just been shot to death. Someone popped out of the trunk (or, “boot,” as Adams says) of Way’s rather expensive motorcar and fired his own shotgun at him. It’s nighttime and the road is covered in mist as Way, in his new and unwelcome non corporeal form, begins to make his way slowly up the highway.

He trudged despondently from lamppost to lamppost, stopping at each one to look at bits of himself. 

He was definitely getting a bit wraithlike.

At times he would fade to almost nothing, and would seem to be little more than a shadow playing in the mist, a dream of himself that could just evaporate and be gone. At other times he seemed to be almost solid and real again. Once or twice he would try leaning on a lamppost, and would fall straight through it if he wasn’t careful. 

I have no claim on any bonus points, because I have NO idea why this little snippet of a scene has been lodged in my gray matter since I first read this book as a teenager. But, to this day, I think of it whenever I am driving down a misty road. I look for Gordon Way, slouching along the shoulder of the road, examining the fading opacity of his one solid being. Maybe someday I’ll actually see him.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I hucked The Once and Future King across the room when I got to the part, three-quarters through, about the unicorn. If you’ve read it, you’ll know the scene I mean. It’s stayed with me and I read it when I was 12.  I can think of a lot of other books I think of often, but no particular scene comes to mind (other than that awful, well-written, vivid one I just mentioned.)

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: Interesting question…one scene that leaps to mind is in Stephen King’s It, the first description of what ‘it’ looks like and how totally creeped out I was (because the imagination is a powerful tool). Then when the novel was turned into a TV miniseries, the scary factor dropped significantly.

There was a scene at the end of a manuscript I edited a few years back (do not recall name of author or book title). I was totally enthralled by the novel, loved the entire story, the suspense, the characters, everything. I was so curious about how the book would end – if it would be open for a follow-up, become a series, or remain a standalone. And, holy moly, I practically threw my laptop out the window when the novel wrapped up — the last paragraph or two — saying the entire thing had been A DREAM! It was worse than that whole Dallas (TV show) and “who shot J.R.” mystery. I have never had such a physical negative reaction to a novel before or since then. So, so disappointing. The author was “going for a strong reader reaction.” He succeeded at that! It still gets my blood boiling how manipulated and cheated I felt as a reader.

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin: So many! And for so many mysterious reasons! Here’s a random compilation:

  • The paragraph that describes “It” in Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. I read this so long ago, all I can remember is loving this paragraph and rereading aloud to anyone who would listen when I was in fifth or sixth grade.
  • The garden scene in Jane Eyre, when Mr. Rochester’s cigar is smoking a cigar. Or the first time he and Jane meet, while she’s walking into town and Mr. Rochester’s horse spooks and throws him.
  • When Elizabeth Bennett is visiting Pemberly and thinks to herself, “Of all this, I might have been mistress.” (Pride and Prejudice)
  • The conversation at the White Hart between Anne Elliot and Captain Harville about who suffers longer when all hope is lost, men or women, in Persuasion.
  • Time Passes, the middle section of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse.
  • Dicken’s description of the Veneerings near the beginning of Our Mutual Friend.
  • The rape scene in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, when the daughter is locked in the bathroom and the father is locked out.

And my “throw the book across the room” moment: The end of Jodi Picoult’s novel, My Sister’s Keeper, which I used for a Literature and Medicine course. After animating the difficult moral and ethical issues of medical emancipation the entire story is hijacked by a fatal auto accident – essentially giving a too-easy ending to the problems so carefully laid out. I felt cheated – and have never read another Picoult novel as a result.


The First Quarter of 2015

It’s the beginning of the second quarter of 2015, and I took a look back at my goals for the year and at the progress I’ve made. In many areas of my life, I’m plugging away at my goals, on track to accomplish many of them by the end of the year.

Some of my writing goals are not going so well.   Some are.

I’m on track to do two one-day writing retreats this year, which was a big goal of mine. Another goal, submitting to Level Best Books, should have happened by now–but it didn’t. If I’m honest with myself, polishing that short story was not my highest priority.

And that’s okay. Because when I look at my highest priorities, I wouldn’t change them.

I’m not going to waste time beating myself up about it.

I’m looking at the second quarter of 2015 and I’m ready to continue to work on my writing goals, with a little reshuffle in there to reflect where I currently am.

One of the things I realized in the past few months is that it’s important for me to connect with other writers, even when I’m not writing a lot.

Even though I haven’t contributed writing pieces to my critique group as often as I’d like, I’ve continued to be a part of the group, and I’ve critiqued my fellow writers work to the best of my ability.

Being in that group has been such a gift. Two of our members recently submitted rewritten work that we’d already seen in first draft form. The changes were inspiring. Seeing how smooth the writing became with reworking (and reworking) motivated me to get back to my story, which was still in first draft form at the beginning of the year.

Meeting up with other writers randomly and on purpose has also been a gift. I ran into Julie, who also blogs here, last Sunday, at ImprovBoston, the comedy theater where I take classes. We had a short but inspiring conversation about how theater informs our writing and vice versa.

Lisa, another blogger, and I meet regularly about things other than writing, but the conversation turns, inevitably, to our writing. What we’re working on and what we’d like to prioritize in the next little while. Our conversations always energize me.

So my writing goals have shifted a little since the beginning of the year–I’m writing more website copy than I thought I would–but it’s all writing and it’s all good.

Every word counts. Looking forward to the next quarter of 2015.

How did the first quarter of 2015 go for you, fellow writer?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD, is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I’m in the process of rewriting my website, which is very personal writing, and a good exercise for me as a writer. I’ll let you know when the new website is ready to launch.