A Poem a Day

Jane Yolen is one of the most prolific and lauded children’s writers of our time. She has written more than three hundred books including many picture books and middle grade novels in a variety of genres and worlds of her own imagining. Her awards are many including (from her website), “the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.” She is also a generous supporter of other writers, often speaking at conferences, teaching, and maintaining a lengthy For Writers page on her own website.

My favorite Yolen book is one that seems to be out of print called The Wild HuntIt’s one of my favorite winter reads and a story that I come back to again and again, and with each reading discover something new.

I recently discovered another small treasure from this woman of letters, stories, and fairy tales – an email project that she’s been running for several years now, in which she sends subscribers a poem each and every day. The poems range widely in style and subject, but I love that they arrive without fail in my inbox each day – a delicious morsel of art to brighten my day.

It’s easy to subscribe, just email Yolen at janeyolen (at) aol (dot) com, and she’ll add you to her list.

Yolen is also a fabulous follow on Twitter at @JaneYolen. She’s very engaged with her followers and just a lot of fun.

So, that’s my treat for the day. 🙂

I hope you enjoy her site and Twitter feed and maybe sign up for her poem a day.

Happy reading (and writing)!

 

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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. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Show Up – Then Decide

keepmovingAs a bit of an introvert – okay, more than a bit – I sometimes let the voice in my head talk me out of showing up for events.

These can be networking events, business meetings, 5K races, sip & paint nights, meetups, and generally any activities that involve several people (whether I know them or not).

This also extends to starting/trying new writing-related projects or activities – personal or client-based.

There’s always inspiration and excitement when first agreeing to do something, but when the date arrives to actually “do” that something, excuses can pour out of the ceiling like rain drops. Do any of these sound like the voice in your head?

  • Oh no, that sniffle might be the start of a cold. Skip it.
  • It’s going to rain, you don’t want to get we. Skip it.
  • It’s going to be hot and humid, you might die. Skip it.
  • You won’t know anyone there. Skip it.
  • You aren’t fully prepared. Skip it.
  • There’s no time to grab a meal first. Skip it.
  • There won’t be anything good to eat. Skip it.
  • You can attend the next one. Skip it.
  • You’ve never done that before so you’ll look silly. Skip it.

In 2016, I talked myself out of numerous activities for reasons like those above – basically, no good reason. I always said out loud, though, “I am purposely choosing not to go,” so that my true self wouldn’t pile on the guilt. However lame the reason was, I purposely chose to avoid activities, so took responsibility.

However, choosing to skip things resulted in numerous missed opportunities to meet new people, try new things, achieve new goals, and push myself out of my comfort zone. Negative results were particularly obvious from the physical activities I avoided.

This year I have made the commitment to myself, and told others, that I will at least “show up” for everything I commit to. And then once there, that is when I can choose whether or not to participate. I’m 99.9% confident that making the effort to show up will result in full follow through.

Isaac Newton said, “An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by a equal or stronger force.”

I challenge you to stay in motion and “show up” for any commitment you’ve made – in person or online, whether personal or work-related – “then decide” whether or not to at least give it an honest try.

lisajjacksonLisa 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 and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One word at a time

A beach, the waves and a orange and pink setting sun in Hawaii

I took this in Hawaii two years ago. I keep it handy because it reminds me to breathe deep.

I don’t like to whine, but I do like to keep it real.

I am having a creative crisis.

I think I’ve mostly worked through it, but there are still days …

As I’ve mentioned before, like most of us, I do not write full time. I am a caregiver, and I work in marketing and communications for a boutique technology firm, that specializes in digital signage for airports. And, I write personal essays and fiction.

I finished the first draft of my novel a little over a year ago. YAY! I knew when I finished it that there were more holes than a fishing net, but I was okay with that. I gave myself another year to finish the second and third drafts. I had goals, a schedule and deadlines.

Then 2016 happened and the universe laughed as my deadlines whizzed by unmet. Come the turn of the new year when I sat down to map out my goals for 2017, I had the same goals I’d had for 2016. I felt defeated and overwhelmed.

Why am I bothering?

Yes, I want to write, but CLEARLY I am not making it a priority.

The self doubt crept in and I’m a planner, so of course I forecast disaster.

I mean publishing is soooo hard to break into. Plus I keep reading all of these writer enrichment materials that talk about building your platform even before your published and I talk to friends who ARE published (even NYT best sellers) and it’s always something. Do I really want to expose myself to that level of stress?

Add to that the current state of U.S. and world affairs and I just wanted to pack up my toys and go home. As a matter of fact, I did. For about 24 hours, I threw in the towel and said “I’m done, this book just isn’t going to get written.”

As it happened the day after my meltdown I was already scheduled for an overnight away. Originally it was to write, but then I was just going to snooze and catch up with some friends because, you know, I was going to set my writing aside for a while.

When I got to the hotel, the pen and the paper mocked me.

I took a nap.

It was still there staring me down.

I did some yoga.

Still there.

I meditated (can’t sit still longer than 10 minutes, but I’m getting better. More on that in another blog post).

Finally, in a calmer relaxed state, I gave in, I picked up the pen and I opened the journal.

I emptied my head on the page. It was drivel, but it felt so good to get it out. I did not solve the world’s problems. I didn’t erase my deadlines, I didn’t even solve any plot problems.

I did remember that I truly love to write and I gave myself another chance. I looked back on all the work I HAD done to strengthen my story and I forgave myself for missing my deadlines.

My truth is this:
Life is complicated.
I’m a good writer.
I have a story to tell.
It’s just going to take me longer than I expected to tell it. I’ll worry about the problems that come with working in publishing when the book is on track to be published.

I’ve added a little more to the book since I got back, but I’m in the midst of my busy season at work and we have a family vacation scheduled at the end of the month. Oh, and there’s that little issue of our world going to hell in a hand basket. All those negative aside, I registered for the Romance Writer’s of America National conference today. That is my carrot. My reminder that yes, I am a writer and I do have a story to tell and dammit I’d better make some time to tell it.

Have you ever quit writing? What got you back into it?


Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

KeepCup – a great way to warm cold fingers

 

As you know I live in New Hampshire and as you *might* know, we just got hit with a big snow storm. It wasn’t as bad as was predicted (30 inches predicted, we got around 16), but we still need to shovel out from under the snow and it’s cold again.

As would have it, right before the storm hit I did some errands and one item I picked up was this reusable glass KeepCup from a local organic food/salad/yummy restaurant.

KeepCups originated in Australia. I thought it looked cool and the fact that it was glass and reusable appealed to me. I try to stay away from all mugs made in China as more often than not they use paints and glazes that contain lead.

The cup I got was the small size. It’s a round little tub without handles (but it does have a protective band that prevents you from burning your hand when you pick it up.

Here’s what I discovered. Because there are no handles you have to essentially cup the cup, which means that it warms your hands when you drink.

As one who during winter months sits in front of a heater and who has been known to wear Bob Cratchit fingerless gloves, I find that when I type for a long time my fingers can get ice-cold (seriously , I’ll put them on my husband’s neck and he’ll reply “how are you even alive?”) It turns out that this little cup is a God-send.

I fill it and pick it up often just to warm my hands.

The downside? It’s not insulated and the coffee (or tea) doesn’t stay hot for a long time, but with the small size I got, it’s hardly an issue (plus it limits the amount of coffee I drink, 2 or 3 small cups is enough and then I switch to herbal teas.

The upside? My hands get warm while I get caffeinated – that’s called a win-win.

I don’t expect anyone to run out and buy this cup, BUT if you are a writer and you suffer from cold fingers when you type for an extended amount of time or if you have arthritis in your fingers, you could do worse than look into these KeepCups.

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I am not affiliated with Keep Cup in anyway. Just sharing good information when I find it.

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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.

Take a Writing Class with Steve Martin

I’ve taken a lot of online classes, but I’ve never taken one taught by Steve Martin. So, when I learned about the upcoming Steve Martin Teaches Comedy from Masterclass, I was understandably intrigued.

It’s not that I’m itching to become a standup comic. I’m not. In fact, even just thinking about being on a stage and trying to make an audience laugh is enough to give me hives and push me pretty darn close to a panic attack. But, as a writer, I’ve always wanted to learn more about how to infuse my work with humor.

I mean, everyone loves to laugh, right? And right about now – based on how crazy the world has become – we could all definitely use a good chuckle if not a downright guffaw. Even in the best of times, stories that make me laugh always earn high marks in my book. And, more often than not, humor is just a less painful way to explore the tragedies of our lives.

Take Jenny Lawson’s two memoirs: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy. Lawson describes her blog and books as, “mainly dark humor mixed with brutally honest periods of mental illness.” She struggles with some very real health issues, but uses humor to share her experiences, open up the conversation, and – ultimately – let other people dealing with similar challenges know that they are not alone.

Most stand up comedy is built on translating our shared pain into something we can laugh at … together. But there are lot of story-based mediums that use comedy and humor as a supporting element rather than as the central element. Take The Moth – True Stories Told Live. This live event/radio show/podcast features stories by professional writers and performers as well as “everyday” people. The show’s stated mission is “to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience,” and much of the time the telling of these stories involves humor. Humor helps to draw people in, establish common ground, and forge connections between the storyteller and the audience. It’s a powerful tool for any writer.

That’s why, even though I don’t have any plans to step onto the standup stage, I have preregistered for Steve Martin’s class. If you decide to check it out as well, look me up. Maybe we can share a laugh.

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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. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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How to begin writing when you can’t

 

My son had to write a paper for his college class. He had a week to do it and while he did write some notes over the weekend, he left writing the bulk of the report until the night before it was due. It wasn’t that he’s a bad writer. It wasn’t that he didn’t know the subject.

It was that he was overwhelmed and he didn’t know where to start.

We’ve all been there before thinking how on earth can I write anything that’s going to be judged (in this case graded) by someone else? It’s too big to do, so I’ll just sit here and do nothing in my fear-induced paralysis.

The problem with ignoring the challenge is that it doesn’t get done. And if you want to get a project done (or pass a class) then you’ve got to buckle down and get started. This is how I advised him:

First step – write an outline. It doesn’t have to be a complex outline just put the general points.

  • Introduction – definitions, relevant history, purpose of paper, layout of discussion
  • Part One – definitions, how it relates, good things, bad things, graphic
  • Part Two – definitions, how it relates, good things, bad things, graphic
  • Part Three – definitions, how it relates, good things, bad things, graphic
  • Summary – bring it home baby, repeat your purpose and state why you have proved it.

He knew what he wanted to say, he just hadn’t known how. Using this format, my son banged out an outline. But even though he now had a structure, my son was still stuck.

Second step – write. “So what’s the easiest part to write about?” I asked. He pointed to Part Three of his outline which described a type of technology that he found interesting. “Well then go ahead and start there.”

As long as you have a structure and you’ve identified your purpose, you never have to start at the beginning if you don’t want to. Have a killer idea for a summary?, well then jot that down first. Feel more confident about one particular topic? then write about it. You don’t have to worry about complete sentences, or even coherent paragraphs, you simply need to capture what it is you want to write about.

Because once you start writing, you start writing.

Following this approach, he was able to crank out a first draft. But as we all know, first drafts are not meant to be judged by anyone. He knew his paper had holes and he knew that it didn’t transition well from one topic to another but he didn’t know how to fix it.

Third step – get feedback. This is where a trusted confident comes in handy. My husband sat in the room with my son and while my son read the paper out loud my husband asked questions like Why? and How? when it appeared that information was missing or was confusing. When you are so close to the subject you can be guaranteed that you’ll miss things. A second pair of eyes is critical.

There was no judgment, there was no criticism. There was only a desire to make the document stronger.

The paper got done, it was passed in the next day and my son let out the breath he had held since it had been assigned. This is the method my son ended up using to write his assignment, but take a look at the steps:

  1. Outline
  2. Write
  3. Get feedback

And you’ll recognize that the process he used for his paper is the exact same method every writer uses for every piece of writing. It’s not magic, it’s just a path to the goal. As a writer, you need to step back in order to break your work down *before* you put pen to paper – you need to know where your words are going. Once that’s done you then work to coherently build the parts into what will become the glorious whole that is your piece.

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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.

Are Writing Contests Valuable?

blueribbonLast Sunday, I attended the awards ceremony for Vermont’s Scholastic Art & Writing Contest at the Brattleboro Art and Museum Center.

The art and writing on display was fantastic; no wonder The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are considered “the most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7 – 12.” These kids have talent!

The museum was buzzing with teenage energy as kids and their parents from all over the state saw their work hanging on the museum walls or read award-winning writing published in binders for all to read.

At noon, the crowd sat for the ceremony, which included exhortations from both Danny Lichtenfeld, the museum director, and from Roberto Lugo, a potter, social activist, spoken word poet and educator. Each in his own way, they told the kids to keep breaking the rules and fixing social and global problems they’re inheriting from us.

Vermont Scholastic Awards

Roberto Lugo

Lugo’s remarks were, well, remarkable: In a combination of rap, poetry and prose, he conveyed the story of his trajectory from urban poverty to academic and artistic achievement in language bordering on song – and received a standing ovation. Truly inspirational.

Then came the awards. Those earning Honorable mention were asked to stand; then the Silver Key winners; finally, the Gold Key winners came forward for a group photo.

This is where the event went sour for me. I wished all three groups had a photo op.

I attended the awards ceremony because this was the second year I’ve been a writing judge. Even though judges are given guidelines, which are very helpful, the process is still, ultimately, subjective. But more than that, I wanted the Honorable Mentions and Silver Keys to stand in front of the audience and have their photos taken in acknowledgement of their efforts. I didn’t want the awards to be quite so stratifying.

This has brought the entire enterprise of contests for artistic creation to a head for me. Even though my first novel won a prestigious award, I’m suspect of contests turning literature and visual arts into a kind of artistic World Series.

Scholastic Awards

Artistic expression is not a horserace; it’s neither limited nor competitive.

Artistic expression is not a horserace; it’s neither limited nor competitive. And while the Scholastic Awards are meant to acknowledge excellence and encourage youthful talent, I fear that the way in which we do so will backfire, on both the developing artists and writers and on the very essence of artistic expression, which creates its own rules, shows us a new way of seeing, and tells its own story.

Is making art its own reward? What do you think about writing contests and awards?

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin posts an essay every Wednesday at www.deborahleeluskin.com