Friday Fun – 2016 Favorite Books and Movies

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:  The end of the year is coming up fast, and pretty soon everyone will be posting their “Best of” lists for 2016. We thought we’d get started early by asking about favorite BOOKS and favorite MOVIES (after all, both involve writing and both are all about stories). 

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I’m not ready to choose a definitive favorite book for the year, but I can name a FEW favorites: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

As for movies … I’m not even 100% sure which movies I managed to catch this year, but I did love Swiss Army Man with Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame;  the Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; and I have to admit that I also enjoyed Suicide Squad.

I still have SO many 2016 book and movie releases to catch up on, though … LOTS to read and watch! (I can’t wait!)

Deborah headshot

Deborah Lee Luskin: I hardly ever watch TV or go to the movies, but this has been a banner month for both: I watched The Crown (Netflix), which made me feel sorry for the royals – not something I ever thought would happen. The series makes it quite clear that the monarch has little power, even over her personal life, which is filled with private heartache that no number of fabulous dresses can compensate for.

At the movies, I just saw Arrival, which I thought was stunning – and I thought I was allergic to sci-fi! But the lead is Louise Banks, an academic linguist who can function outside the Ivory Tower, under pressure, in ordinary clothes, and is female! SPOILER ALERT! And there’s a great twist to the usual invasion of the aliens: they come to help humanity, not destroy it. Most intriguing of all, however, is that this narrative is told without any connection to chronology. Are there flashbacks or flash forwards? I’m still not sure, but I’m surely intrigued.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: My favorite book of the year (so far!) is Love Warrior: A Memoir, by Glennon Doyle Melton. I admire her honesty and her humor. As far as movies, I’ve only seen a few, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching Bad Moms on my computer in a hotel room one night when I was at a review course. It was a great laugh break!

LL HeadshotLee Laughlin: There is no way I could pick a favorite book, I can however pick the book that has the most impact on my well being, Dan Harris’s 10% Happier. It’s about his efforts to begin a meditation practice. It’s at turns honest, poignant and funny.  It has also been instrumental in my beginning a meditation practice. I’m up to 10 minutes!

Movies. Hmmmm, I think I saw a few in 2016. The only one that comes to mind that was actually released in 2016 was Finding Dory, loved it. I also saw The Big Short and Walk in the Woods with my mother-in-law while she was recovering from a broken hip. They were both great movies.

Friday Fun – Gifts for Writers

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.


With the holidays coming up, you know that people are out there buying presents. There’s nothing wrong with presents, in fact I love getting them, but I’m at the point in my life where I don’t really need anything. I’d rather get something that’s thoughtful and that I can use as opposed to something that just sits and looks at me. (I’m talking about you large clay chicken.)

I recently participated in the reddit Secret Santa event and after a few messages back and forth, my Secret Santa, knowing that I was a writer sent me the following items:

  • A Moleskin notebook – because I told him I carry a notebook everywhere
  • An incredible Gel pen – because ball point pens create too  much drag for my hand
  • Pen/pencil grips – for the days my hands ache
  • A chicken USB drive – because I use my laptop to compose and my desk computer to edit.
  • Walking by Thoreau – because he knew I was writing about my walking trip and that I plan more.

How perfect was all that?

It got me thinking.

As writers, what would *you* like to get as gifts?  Let’s all create a list that we can share with others.


Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I really like Wendy’s list, especially the Moleskine notebook! As a writer, you can never have too many notebooks/journals/yellow pads/post-it notes! I also think a 5-year journal is a great gift for any writer. I’m almost done with my first one and I love looking back over the past 5 years. Each entry is only a paragraph, so it’s not too overwhelming to thumb through–unlike my Morning Pages journal, which is definitely a task for a long winter’s night curled up by the fire.

LL Headshot

 Lee Laughlin: Whooo boy. My greatest challenge is time. I am a writer who works better without the interruptions of day-to-day life to distract me. The perfect gift for me would be a weekend (or even a day) at a space with a desk, and a nice view. Other suggestions:

  • Pens, I like FriXion & Ink Joys
  • Notebooks – This is Midori Notebook is my current favorite
  • Literature and Latte’s Scrivener App is amazing, but it does need a good user manual so I recommend Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez.
  • A Kindle – I know some like paperbooks, but my Kindle is one of my prized possessions.
  • A membership to their genre’s professional organization (i.e. Romance Writer’s of America or Sisters in Crime).

dsc_3083Julie Hennrikus: Time would be a great gift for a writer. Time where she is forced to write. Aside from that, wonderful writing books (like Bird by Bird, or On Writing, or Plot Perfect). A notebook. Scrivener.

Back to the time thing. The need for writing time is real, so if you can offer help with childcare, or offer a place for a retreat, or give her a gift card for a local coffeeshop where she can write for hours. Those are great gifts. Really great.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson:  Journals, books, pens, notecards, coffee, post-it pads of various colors, plaque with inspirational saying on it, word magnets for fridge, waterproof writing board and pen for shower, gift cards where any of the above can be purchased.

Or, this can about cover it:


Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin: Lee & Julie’s ideas for how to give the writer in your life time are tops. Also, encouragement, especially if there’s a writer in your life who is not yet published and/or scared to make the commitment to the page. If you have a friend/loved one who says s/he wants to write, believing in them is the best thing you can do. Faith, Encouragement and Support.

Friday Fun: Goals Met? Goals Missed? How did you do in 2016?

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:  If you set writing goals at the beginning of 2016, have you met them and/or missed them? And now what?

wendy-shotWendy E.N. Thomas 

In 2016 I had wanted to get a manuscript done – completed from top to bottom. Not a NaNoWriMo one but one that was planned, thoughtful, and that followed a storyline, an arc. One that I could then shop around to agents and publishers.

Then my mother got sick and I spent two months shuttling between her in Connecticut and my family in New Hampshire.

Then my mother died.

Then I went on a New Hampshire border-to-border walk with my son.

Then I ran into some health problems.

Then the election happened.

Then it seemed that with everything going on, the world has finally fallen apart.

But guess what? In the spare hours (and sometimes minutes) that I could carve out of my daily schedule, I ended up writing a manuscript. It wasn’t the one I thought I was going to write, but it turned out to be the one that was important for me to write.

I have a full manuscript of my 220 mile 16-day walk with my son and the lessons we learned along the way.

Am I Super Woman for getting this done?  Not at all, normal-as-they-come-Wendy – glad to meet you.

But I did state my intent and even in the midst of chaos I set the time aside to work on it because it was so very important to me. Writing also grounded me and kept me on balance – it has kept me sane this past year. Add to that a burning desire to succeed and I ended up making my 2016 goal.

Yeah I know – it surprised the heck out of me as well.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I purposely focus on my writing business and got a lot of new writing through that this year – so in that regard I met the goal of new clients and a certain income level even before December arrived. Several happy dances during the year to celebrate various milestones for those goals!

I’ve gotten back to my fiction writing, which was a goal, but I haven’t (yet) republished 2 novellas. I started NaNoWriMo this year and got a few words on the page — but didn’t hit the 50,000-word goal. However, I do have a fabulous story idea that has legs and so it’s a new goal to finish the first run-through in December (sort of doing NaNo a month later than planned).

I never seem to hit the exact goals I set out to do, but I end up with many things I hadn’t imagined and they are just as, or more, sweet than the goals I imagined.


Friday Fun – Biggest Writing Fear

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: Halloween is only three days away, but we’re not scared of ghosts or bogeymen. That’s nothing. We do, however, each have our own worst nightmare scenarios when it comes to our writing …

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Oh, yeah. Writing fears. Creative fears. Life fears. I have all the usual fears about rejection, but I’d have to say that my absolute worst nightmare is reaching the end of my life and knowing that I didn’t do everything I could … everything I wanted to, that I didn’t put myself out there, express my ideas, share my inner world, let my freak flag fly. And yet, that fear isn’t always enough to motivate me to DO the things I need/want to do. I guess maybe I should let myself taste that fear a little more deeply … really put myself in that place and believe that there isn’t any more time. Ugh. Chills just went up my spine. For real.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: Pushing out of the comfort zone and trying something totally new is always scary, but so rewarding. Like Jamie, I don’t do it enough — even though I’ve done it in the past and know how great the results can be! For instance, with writing, I belong to a great writing group for years where you’d show up weekly, decide as a group on a prompt, write to that prompt for an agreed-upon amount of time, and then read your result out loud. “Reading a first draft out loud!?” ACK! Who would want to do that? But it was a great exercise – even got my heart rate up. But the terror of reading first-draft-crap was the most wonderful feeling in the world after a while. I mean, everyone knew it was a first draft; everyone had individual fears and dislikes about what they wrote — the “act of” writing and reading, though, that was the inspiration.

Arrive at the group with nothing, leave with something. Face a creative fear and come out on the other side with a happy muse.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas – I’m not so much afraid of rejection as I get angry at myself (yeah I know) for not being able to figure out *exactly* what was expected. For some reason I’m always disappointed when I don’t have the super-power of mind reading.

But my biggest fear is similar to one of Jamie’s – that I will have ended my life without having put forth all that I can do. Acting like a true monster, this fear goads me, it keeps me up at night, and no matter what I accomplish in order to feed it, it still taunts me by wanting more.


Friday Fun – Writerly Halloween Costumes

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: Halloween is only ten days away. Will you be dressing up, and – if so – who will you be this All Hallows’ Eve? For bonus points, if time and money were no object, which favorite character (of your own devising or one you’ve read about) would you like to become for the evening?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I love getting dressed up, but, sadly I haven’t spent any thought or money on a costume for this year. Though my daughter and I have enjoyed two trips to Salem, MA and she has invested a great deal of effort and funds in her own costume, I just haven’t gotten around to it. So, I will doubtless be scrambling on the afternoon of the thirty-first to throw together some kind of hodgepodge creation to wear as I stroll with my daughter, her friends, and myriad parents up and down the main trick-or-treating thoroughfare in town. Luckily, I have a collection of beautiful masks, some miscellaneous items of costume-y clothing, and a number of props to choose from.

As for who I would be if time and money were no object, I’m going to go with the Disney version of Maleficent, complete with animatronic wings. I was impressed by this costume,  and this one, and this one, and … well, you get the idea. Maybe next year.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I haven’t dressed up in years! But I enjoy seeing how creative people can be with costumes. I’ve actually never lived in a place conducive to trick-or-treating, so haven’t seen a lot of costumes over the years as kids go door to door. I’d love to get to Salem, MA, as Jamie has – maybe this is the year for me.

As for who I’d be, no particular person or character comes to mind. The rational side of me says it would be a functional costume – one I could easily sit in and move around in and that fits in the car. Edgar Allen Poe comes to mind, as do some characters from books I love, but those aren’t very conducive to ‘costumes’ as they are people and it’s more personal characteristics than outerwear that makes them stand out.


Friday Fun: How many hours do you write in a day?

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: People often assume that professional writers clock in at 9AM each day for a full eight hours of hammering diligently on the keyboard, but usually that’s not even close to the reality of the working writer’s typical day.  In your real-life experience, how many hours do you actually spend writing each day (on average), and what do you spend the rest of your working time doing?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: So, I’ve been freelancing full time for about the last nine years, and I’d say that – on average – I typically spend about three to four hours each day either working on a first draft or revising my work. Don’t get too excited. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my share of days when I’m cranking at the keyboard for six, eight, or even ten hours (I do), but most days, my actual writing time doesn’t add up to more than half a day. This is, in my humble opinion, a reasonable target for any writer, whether it’s someone who is writing fiction or someone who – like me – is primarily working on copywriting and content marketing assignments. Writing is hard work, both physically and mentally.

I will clarify, however, that just because I’m only writing for three or four hours a day does not mean I’m done at noon. Not at all. I routinely work a longer day because there are lots of other, non-writing tasks that are a very real part of my writing business: interviewing subject matter experts, intake calls with clients, research, outlining, client correspondence, general project management, meeting documentation, schedule development, and (everyone’s favorite): administration (e.g., answering emails, tracking my time, preparing invoices, following up on payments, etc.). In addition, most freelancers will tell you that a sustainable business depends in great part on your ability and willingness to invest time and effort in prospecting for new clients and projects. I probably spend two to three hours each week following up with leads, networking, doing introductory calls, and preparing proposals.

Though some of my non-writing tasks can be tedious, I’m actually grateful for the variety in my day. I don’t honestly think I could hack more than my three to four hours of writing each day. Sitting in front of the screen is pretty taxing, and I’m usually relieved when my Big Writing Task for the day is finished and I can switch gears into something less intense.

Deborah Lee Luskin at the US-Canadian border marker 592.

The end of the Long Trail a the US-Canadian border.

Deborah Lee Luskin: Like Jamie, I do my hardest, best, writing work in the morning, between eight and noon, though I write my Morning Pages earlier than that. Since returning from the Long Trail, however, I’ve developed routines and often write in the afternoons as well: drafting posts, commentaries and editorials. These are often very rough drafts and extremely useful guides for later. Depending on what else is on the docket, I’ll spend some of the afternoon doing research, reading, staring out the window or walking the dog.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: As a part-time writer, I only spend a half day writing once or twice a week. The rest of the time I’m coaching clients, parenting, daughter-ing, and snatching writing time in short periods like waiting in the car pool line to pick up my son and in the hour before he wakes up in the morning. I also head to the library in the evenings to get some writing done if I don’t have a meeting or a client (and my husband is home.) I dream of spending all morning writing every day, but that’s not the reality of my life right now and that’s the way I want it. My family and my work are priorities and my writing comes in a very close third.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My days are so varied with different client work and bouncing between writing and editing, I can’t really say how much is writing – although as a business owner that is one metric I should absolutely have a handle on! 3-4 hours is a minimum. As for my own personal writing, that’s not on the radar at the moment because of my focus on business. But I plan to do NaNoWriMo next month and get my fiction kicked back into gear!