Don’t Forget to Read About Writing

It’s easy to get so involved with writing, that reading can become a luxury to push aside.

But, it’s so important to read about writing for the little nuggets of wisdom and pearls of inspiration we know, but somehow seem to forget.

Finding books that resonate with our writing lives and experiences might be rare, so when you find a great book, hang on to it!

A few years ago, Diane highly recommended I read a book on the craft of writing titled Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. I loved it. And it became the first book I ever re-read.

birdbybird2Since I noticed some leaves changing colors over the past week, fall has been on my mind. And with fall, for me, comes renewed inspiration. So, Bird by Bird is back on my desk for its annual reading.

I know how important it is to get words on a page, and more than likely those first words will be junk and tossed later on, but to get to the good stuff, I have to get a lot of words on the page/screen — Ann Lamott reminds me of that — she reminds me that I need to give myself permission to write junk.

We’ve talked about books about writing a few times here. And you can look back at a few posts if you’re in need of something new.

We had the Friday Fun discussion: Should Writers Read Books About Writing. Diane and I shared our Favorite Writing Books, and Deborah had a post specifically on Bird by Bird.

Don’t read to avoid writing, though! Read to improve writing!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She’s still amazed to have a book she can re-read that gives her new insight into her writing every time she goes through it. You can connect with her on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Is the Right Writer Writing? – Guest post by Katherine Britton

We met Katherine at the Vermont Bookstock Festival where fellow Live-to-Writers Lisa, Deb and I spoke on a blogging panel. Katherine has already published two books and is currently working on a third. When she asked if we would let her do a guest post on Live to Write, Write to Live, there was nothing for us to say except “Yes. By all means, Yes!”

Enjoy.

Is the Right Writer Writing?

By Katharine Britton

I tell people it took me between two and fifty years to write my first book. The manuscript itself took two years, but I’d been gathering stories and getting to know my characters (the book was inspired by my mother and her sisters) for most of my life. What might it take to drive sisters apart, I mused, as I listened for years my mother talk about her childhood on the South Shore of Boston, in a weather-shingled house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And what might it take to bring them back together? Her Sister’s Shadow was published in 2011.
blog2Then it was time to write another manuscript. What, I wondered, as I sat, fingers tensed, staring at a blank computer screen, could I write about? “You’ve used up every one of your good stories,” I heard myself say. “You’ve exploited every single foible a character could possibly possess and exhausted every topic of interest to anyone. (And all the good lines, too.) And, by the way, you don’t have another fifty years to come up with more.”

 

My fingers began to cramp; the page remained blank. “It was all a big mistake, that first novel. Eventually someone will figure that out. Not a chance you can write another one.”
Who Asked You, Anyway?
This wasn’t writer’s b–ck (that which must not be named). It was that the wrong writer was trying to write the first draft. Every author needs an internal editor. This persona is as important to subsequent drafts as a copy editor is to the final one. Just don’t let her “help” with the first draft. They say that writing is revising. But first you’ve got to get something down on paper. It’s a bitch to revise a blank page.
Have Fun for Heaven’s Sake
For the first draft, you need to employ your generative side. Invite your kid-self to climb up on your lap and bang away at the keys. Give her plain white paper and colored markers and watch her mind-map her way to a plot. Supply her with colored index cards and see how quickly scenes present themselves. (Pink for romance, green for adventure, blue for drama. Why not?)

 

 

Strew your desktop and office with toys, open the windows and listen to birds, take her for a walk down a city street or out into nature (maybe in the rain, why not!) and see what she sees, take her out for ice cream or to a movie, and listen to what she hears. Let her mind roam free. Start transcribing.

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Later you will be grateful when that voice says, “That “fabulous” metaphor that you forced into a sentence on page 212, and then shaped into that really awkward scene? Take it out. It doesn’t work. Yes, the whole thing. Out. It. Doesn’t. Work. (Any more than Aunt Betty’s old armoire belongs in the dining room, where it’s blocking half of one window, by the way. Get rid of that, too, while you’re at it.”)
But for now, ignore her. Instead, sail blissfully through your first draft, your mind as open as a summer day. Be a kid, have fun. There’ll be plenty of time to grow up later.
Katharine Britton’s second novel, Little Island, came out in 2013. She is having fun with her third.

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IMG_0014Katharine Britton is the author of two novels, HER SISTER’S SHADOW and LITTLE ISLAND (Berkley Books, Penguin, USA). She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and a Master’s in Education from the University of Vermont, and has taught at the Writer’s Center, Colby Sawyer College, and the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth. She was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. She writes reviews for the New York Journal of Books.

Meet the Muses

This weekend, I house-sat for a friend. She needed someone to take care of the pets and I needed solitude to finish my writing. It was a no-brainer to say “Yes.” That’s what you call a win-win situation.

Even though I kept hearing from the kids back home about soccer games, plays, and parties, I did what it was I needed to do to get a project I’ve been working on for a long time, completed. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with tiny houses (I’ll be attending a tiny house building workshop at the end of June) and this weekend has only enforced the need for me to have the ability to go off somewhere, where the interruptions are limited. That’s how writing really gets done.

Butt in chair with no distractions.

However, like my chickens, I tend to rely on flock behavior. Even though I needed solitude, I didn’t necessarily *like* the solitude. It’s nice to share successes with others.

Which is why, on Friday before I went to the house, I went to a local thrift store and picked up a temporary flock. These guys sat by my computer all weekend and cheered me on when I thought I couldn’t write one more sentence.

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I’d wake up in the morning, start the coffee, and then sit down at the table.

“Good morning sheep. Good morning pig. Cow,” I’d nod to them, and then I’d get started.

They never offered any criticism and didn’t tell anyone when I indulged in a small bowl of ice-cream. (shhh)

My flock was silent as they watched me toil and listened when I talked out sections that didn’t quite have the flow I wanted. They were the best kind of flock members, there when I needed them, respectfully quiet when I didn’t, and always ready to give me an encouraging nudge.

My project is done, it’s a manuscript based on the lessons learned in my blog, but just like any newly pregnant woman knows, it’s bad luck to talk about the baby too early. So for now, I’ll be quiet, but will be sure to let you know of any progress.

***

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)

Friday Fun — The Book You Wish You Wrote

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: Most writers are avid readers? What is the one book that you wish had your name on the title page?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: There are many books over the years I’ve wished I’d written. I really dove into Peace Like a River and admired that book so much–if I’d written it I’d be very proud. Also, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and I just love the creativity of the story that JK Rowling came up with when she wrote those seven books. I admit I’m a big fan of “tying up loose ends” so I love how so many pieces of the story came together in the last book. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed Me Before You, which I would have loved to have written, and also The Rosie Project. I used to read huge epics (like The Lord of the Rings books) but in more recent years I’ve been into books that have a more narrow focus. Someday, after a long career as a writer, I’d love to have written a book that writers re-read as often as I have re-read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I have no desire to co-opt anyone else’s work and so the honest answer to this question is that I’d like to have my name on the book of mine that is published.

Having said this, though, there will always be a few books that stand out in my mind of which I would have loved to have been a part of.

Here we go again, I can already hear you guys sigh, “The Princess Bride” – hands down is the book I would have loved to have worked on. It’s not so much the story (although, let’s face it, it’s brilliant) but it’s the tone, humor, and intelligence in that book that I so respect. That is the first book that made me stop and say, “Wait a minute, you’re allowed to do this in a book?”

I would have loved to have been a part of a cookbook (I love to cook but don’t have the depth to really be a foodie.) I would have loved to have worked on *anything* with Anthony Bourdain, his wit is so sharp, it cuts my breath.

Books where people are taught life information like “The Cure Unknown” – about Lyme disease and books that are singularly stunning like the “Scarlet Letter.”

In short, I would have loved to be a part of anything that moved others.

 headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: This is a tough question and one that I see flying around Twitter and Facebook on a weekly basis. I lean towards an answer similar to Wendy’s. Though there are so many books I admire, I can’t quite imagine any of them being mine. An author’s work is a manifestation of her essence. I could no more put my name on someone else’s story than I could lay claim to someone else’s soul.

That said, there are so many writers and stories that I admire and aspire to emulate. I love Neil Gaiman for his darkly beautiful tales and mastery of a well-turned phrase. I adore Vonnegut for his ability to present the human condition with both sharp wit and deep empathy. I love Tolkien and Rowling and Pullman for their boundless imaginations and skill in world crafting. I rever E.B. White for his clear, concise prose and for the way he makes the mundane illuminate universal truths.

I could go on and on. There is truly no end to the list of writers who have inspired admiration and envy in my creative heart. But, the only book I wish to bear my name is the one I have not yet written, but will … someday soon.

Susan Nye: I need to delve into the classics to answer this one. I think it would have to be My Antonia by Willa Cather. There is a wonderful rhythm and flow to the book. And who won’t want to write something with that kind of staying power? Written in 1918, it is still read and well-loved today. Note, I said, I think it would have to be. Depending on the day, I might change my mind and wish I’d written any or all of John Cheever’s short stories.

Self-marketing does not have to be icky

I was recently talking to a friend of mine about self-marketing.

self-marketing does not require gloves

self-marketing does not require gloves

She readily admitted that she was not strong at self-marketing her book, in fact, when she said the word “self-marketing” a visible shiver went down her body. Too many people see “self-marketing” as being boastful, as something that is icky and not to be touched unless wearing rubber gloves.

Oh not true. So not true.

Self-marketing is a chance for you to share the enthusiasm you have for your work. You don’t have to say that you are the greatest thing that has set foot on the planet earth, but you do have to say that your *idea* is a worthy one, deserving of being looked at.

I love to self-market.

It’s how I got my first egg noticed (I put it up on ebay at a starting price of $729.93 because that’s how much it cost us to get to that first, golden egg.)

It’s how a story about our chicken painting a picture with her feet which was then auctioned off to help a local playground fund got picked up and shared around the world.

It’s how I’ve been interviewed on TV for things I write about.

Basically, I see self-marketing as a way to spread my word to others, in short – it’s a way to teach.

So what can you do to promote your work?

Make it timely
If there is a current event that ties in your subject then use it. Have blackberries just been discovered to contain the elixir to longevity? Then write a press release about that finding and provide a link to your blackberry cookbook published last year and then send it out to every news agency you can.

Figure out how to connect what you’ve done with what’s going on.

Create anniversaries
It’s been six months since your book was published. Have a ½ birthday party and create some buzz by having a give-away or contest. Has your book just come out in paperback – why, have another party! Give people a reason to notice your accomplishments.

Invite others to participate
I recently met Ridley Pearson who was on tour promoting his Kingdom Keepers series. For his last book, he invited fans to submit paragraphs they thought should be in the book. Out of the 55K entries, he and his team chose 60 paragraphs to use in the final book.

Did you see that first number? 55 – thousand, that’s a lot of attention for something that hasn’t even been published yet. Smart guy, that Ridley.

Promote fan fiction on your site or hold a photo contest – just be sure to reward people for their involvement.

Contact any and all publication editors you know and offer to write an article
Editors need content, if you can write about a topic, your work will be considered. Sure, you might not get paid, but you can keep it short and in your bio make sure that you point to your blog, website, and recently published book.

Be sure to include good quality photos with the articles and those editors will become your new best friends.

Get involved in the community
Donate copies of your book for local auctions. Consider teaching a writing workshop. Create a basket of items in your genre (chickens, anyone) for a raffle. Get your work involved in a fund-raiser.

Don’t just stop at donating *things* – join local groups or civic organizations. Word of mouth is an important way to get people interested in what you do. You wouldn’t want to talk only about yourself but, if in my case, the topic of chickens came up, you can bet that I would have something to say on the matter.

Talk, talk, share, and talk some more about your topic and your work, people’s natural interest will do the rest.

 

***

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)

Weekend Edition – Writing is Not for Sissies Plus Good Reads and Writing Advice

Welcome to this Saturday Edition in which I share a little of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain a little on my version of the writing life (but not so much as to be indecent).

I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own thoughts, posts, and picks in the comments. I LOVE hearing from you and seeing the world from your perspective.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

Jamie

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slow motionWorking with words is not for sissies.

As I continue to recuperate from my unfortunate encounter with this year’s flu virus, my muse has been gently reminding me that although writing may not be as physically grueling as manual labor, it can be just as exhausting. At first I was disappointed (and even a little embarrassed) that I wasn’t able to be more productive during my convalescence. I had assumed I’d be able to prop myself up with my laptop and just zip right along as usual – cranking out blog posts, case studies, and branding frameworks.

My downed immune system had other ideas.

Turns out that it’s not just my body that’s temporarily moving more slowly, my brain has also downshifted. Things that would normally take me an hour, take two. Ideas that usually come with, if not ease, at least a certain modicum of grace now have to be winched out of my addled brain.

Slowing down is hard.

But, like any working writer, I just keep plodding ahead – one word after another and then lots (and lots) of editing. It’s what we do. The thing is, even when I am feeling crappy, I still want to write. When most normal people would just want to curl into a couch coma and sleep, I’m itching for my journal or even (yes, I’m that crazy) a few minutes hacking away at a client deliverable. Even when it’s extra hard because my head is all foggy, I still want to play with ideas and words. I still want to create.

Maybe this makes me slightly insane, but I hope I never experience a day without the urge to write. I hope that on my death bed, I’m still reaching for pen and paper so I can scribble just a few more words.

What I’m Writing:

winter book

Reading the Winter Away

In addition to my client projects, I republished another of my columns on my blog. Reading the Winter Away was one of those pieces that came together quickly after many false starts.

Though I only publish these columns every other week, I always seem to be writing them at the last minute. This can be dangerous if I haven’t quite settled on a topic and don’t know exactly how to get started. Before finally getting this essay down, I started two other (completely different) pieces that I eventually abandoned because my thoughts just weren’t coming together. (This was, I’m sure, a lingering side effect of flu brain.)

What wound up helping was just sitting quietly for a few minutes and letting my brain ramble along a completely random path. I stopped trying so hard to find the “right” topic, and instead just let the topic come to me. When it did arrive, it was so simple that the writing was easier than I’d expected. Sometimes, we just have to make our brains shut the hell up so we can hear what our hearts have to say.

What I’m Reading:

Affiliate Link

Affiliate Link



So, fellow Live to Write-Write to Live blogger, Wendy, now has me hooked on the graphic stories of Nick Bantock. After reading her review of his new creativity book, The Trickster’s Hat, I was intrigued enough to start exploring his other books. Bantock’s best known creation is the Griffin and Sabine double trilogy in which a mystical story is told through a series of letters that are beautifully rendered in Bantock’s unique collage-style artwork.

This week I read the first two books in the series: Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (affiliate link) and Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds (affiliate link). I have the rest of the series on reserve at my local library and am hoping they arrive soon so I can continue the saga.

Though the letter-format has its drawbacks, it’s an interesting way to share a story. I miss the immersive nature of reading a true narrative – the sense of place and atmosphere – but Bantock’s beautiful art helps to fill that void by creating a visual universe for his correspondence.

elizabeth taylor

(Image from Wikipedia)

On a serendipitously coincidental note, I also listened to a wonderful short story called “The Letter Writers” by British author Elizabeth Taylor. The audio production of this short story was featured on The New Yorker’s fiction podcast and is narrated by Paul Theroux. Taylor is, apparently, an oft underrated writer whose domestic stories about everyday life lack the flash and verve of much of today’s popular literature. “The Letter Writers,” however, seems to touch on some very contemporary themes as it unfolds around the initial meeting of a man and woman who have been corresponding by post for ten years. I loved hearing the story read aloud and also enjoyed the follow-up conversation between Theroux and the podcast editor and host, Deborah Treisman. If you have forty-five minutes to spare (perhaps while making dinner or folding the laundry), I highly recommend the story.

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:

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Here’s wishing you a week of  story exploration, story creation, and story appreciation. May your days be filled with productive scribblings and your nights with the luxury of  free time and good books (or, vice versa if you’re a night owl). All the best until next week! 🙂 

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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

“Slow Motion” Photo Credit: bubbo.etsy.com via Compfight cc

Debra Dixon’s Book-In-A-Day Workshop

Debra Dixon is coming! Debra Dixon is coming!

Debra Dixon is a popular writer, speaker and publisher and she’s bringing her “Book-In-A Day” Workshop to Nashua, New Hampshire on May 10, 2014. Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict is required reading for anyone who is hoping to have their book published.

Debra Dixon Book-In-A Day May 10, 2014

I read Goal, Motivation and Conflict at the recommendation of several fellow writers. I started with a borrowed copy but the book was packed with such great information I had to restrain myself from using a highlighter. I knew I had to purchase my own copy. I wrote a review for L2W W2L.

The Book-In-A Day Workshop uses the 12 step Hero’s Journey to help you plan the character driven plots that make readers and publisher’s stand up at take notice. You’ll leave the workshop with an outline that will advance your book idea from concept to finished plan. You will:

  • 

Understand Hero and Villain motivation in crafting a tension-filled story.
  • Understand the difference between internal and external motivation, and why it is important to goal-setting and plot.
  • Understand the difference between hero long- and short-term goal setting.
  • Chart your Hero’s emotional journey in counterpoint to his physical journey.
  • Put the Hero’s goals in direct emotional conflict with the villain and the Emotional Obstacle.
  • Let your book unfold in stages, maintaining tension and increasing suspense, until the very end.

The workshop is sponsored by the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America, but is open to writer’s of all genre’s. It will be held at the Radisson in Nashua from 9am to 4pm. The cost is $80 and includes a lunch buffet.

Stay overnight at the Radisson Friday night, and meet fellow authors that evening from 8-11 pm in the lounge. For more information and to sign up, please visit http://www.nhrwa.com/events.html
 I hope to see you there!

Will you be attending? What books have you read on writing have drastically altered how you write?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors.  Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is a member of the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writers of America and is currently at work on her first novel.

Saturday Edition – What We’re Reading and Writing

Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading in which I  share some of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain for a peek behind-the-scenes.

I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Morning. (Yawn). How are you on this fine Saturday? I have to be honest. I’m a little sleepy. I usually like to write these weekend edition posts on Friday afternoon, but this week’s best laid plans fell all to pieces when my daughter’s sniffle landed her on the couch for two days. At the end of the day yesterday I had two options for getting this post done: forgo an evening of relaxation with my beau, a couple Boboli pizzas, and a bottle of chardonnay, or rise and shine extra early this morning. I chose the rise-n-shine option, so … here I am.

And, I have to thank you.

You see, you guys are awesome accountability partners. I love to read and I love to write, but sometimes it’s hard to make time for these things in the midst of my already busy life. Wanting to make sure I have things to share with you on Saturday morning motivates me to eke out an extra bit of reading time reading. It helps keep me on track with my blogging outside this blog and even my column writing. The fact that you are interested enough to show up each week makes me want to show up each week. In short, you inspire me to be here.

So, thank you for helping me up my game. I really appreciate it.

Now, on to the goods for this week:

What I’m Writing:

brick wall

Background Image: Wikimedia Commons

Over on my marketing blog I wrote a piece called Tell Me Why I Should Care. I took a different approach to my writing style on this one. To be perfectly honest, I was a little stumped for a topic. When you write about the same topic each week for – ahem – years, it can start to become difficult to find a fresh new angle. Sometimes you hit a wall. You get a little burnt out. Last week was one of those weeks.

I just didn’t feel like I could tackle a long-form post, and I didn’t feel terribly inspired. But, as all professional writers know, it’s not about waiting for inspiration. It’s about getting the job done by the deadline. So, I puttered around my house a bit and mulled over what was blocking me. I realized that I was having one of those downer moments that come from writing your heart out on a blog, but never seeing the results you hope for. It’s like getting all dressed up for a party, and then no one even knows you’re there.

My blog is an important part of my marketing business. It’s wonderful resource for prospects and clients alike, and I’ve had quite a few posts that have performed decently in terms of shares and comments. But, more often than not, my little blog posts get swallowed up in the echo chamber of the great social media blog promotion machine. It breaks my heart a little, because I really do care about my work and about helping people.

That’s when I landed on the idea for my post – tell me why I should care. The post is a bit of a reminder to myself and also, I hope, a thought-provoking inspiration to others who are trying to make their mark in the online space, or anywhere else for that matter. The piece is short (only 225 words), and written in the form of one side of a conversation. No exposition. No explanation. Just one half of an imagined dialog. It was fun to write, and – I hope – makes my point in a creative and memorable way.

What I’m Reading:

Affiliate Link

This week I indulged my inner child (and my inner writer who wants to write for children) and enjoyed two fabulous and classic novels by masters of the genre. The first was Eva Ibbotson’s Island of the Aunts (affiliate link). I picked this up hoping my daughter might enjoy it (and I could lure her away from the Hunger Games trilogy). Ibbotson was an Austrian-born British novelist. She passed away in 2010, leaving a rich legacy of children’s and young adult books. I had read reviews in which she was called the “Rowling before there was a Rowling,” and – since my daughter loved the Harry Potter books – I thought I might persuade her to try Ibbotson’s stories.

Though I wasn’t able to compete with Katniss, I was intrigued enough to read Island of the Aunts myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had that slightly old-fashioned feel that often seems part and parcel of British children’s stories. I can imagine the narrator as an older man or woman with a crisp accent, a wry sense of humor, and a knack for delivering back-handed compliments. The story is part adventure and part eco-tale and includes a wild cast of characters who are both startling and charming.

What hooked me was the first line, “Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done.” What a fabulous way to start a story, right?

Affiliate Link


The second book I picked up was Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter (affiliate link). I had vague memories of reading Moomin books when I was a kid. The illustrations were immediately familiar to me (in fact, I saw a couple that I remember copying into my sketch book), but the stories had long wandered out of my head to make room for other things that, upon reflection, have perhaps turned out to be less worthy.

Jansson, like one of my other favorite authors, James Thurber, does not write “down” to children. Both authors were also artists and, in particular, cartoonists, who had a wonderful way with language and didn’t skimp on their use of it when writing to the younger set. There are bits of humor and wisdom in their books that I’m still discovering at age forty-four, and I expect I will continue to discover new gems long into my golden years.

The Moomin books are set in a land that is at once unspeakably strange, peopled as it is with all manner of oddly named and shaped creatures – Little Creeps, Gaffsies, Grokes, and Fillyjonks – but it is also a place where I feel completely at home. It gives me a sort of, as Douglas Adams liked to say, an “oh, well, that’s alright then,” kind of feeling. I’m looking forward to going back to visit soon via some of the other Moomin books.

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 plot twist

And that’s all for this week. 

Thanks again, truly, for being here. Always so nice to share part of my writing journey (and my weekend!) with you. Happy reading & writing. Go create something! 🙂 

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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Saturday Edition – What We’re Writing and Reading

This is the last Saturday Edition post of the year. Since this past March, we’ve shared forty-three Saturday mornings with you and it’s been such a nice way to start the weekend.

On this Saturday morning, only a few days away from the Christmas holiday, I would like to take a moment to thank each of you for taking time out of your weekend to come by our blog and share what you’re reading and writing. It’s no small gift, and we are so grateful that you seem to like being here as much as we do.

I’m taking some time off and won’t be returning until after the New Year, so this is my last chance to wish everyone a warm and bright holiday and all the best for a brilliant and peaceful New Year. You’ve helped make my 2013 a joy and I’m looking forward to 2014.

Merry-merry & happy-happy!

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P.S. – While I’m away, here – in no particular order – is a collection of links to selected past Saturday Editions. I hope you have fun perusing the archives and maybe (re)discovering a new book for your reading list or a new blog to follow. Enjoy & see you on the other side! 

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Book Giveaway and Sage Advice for Writers from TA Barron

Author’s Note: Hello!  Nice to have you here. Today’s post is an extra long one – packed with real world insights from T.A. Barron, the real world author of  more than twenty books including The Heartlight Trilogy, The Merlin Saga, and his latest release, Atlantis Rising.

Barron is a writer whose heart is as big as his imagination, and I’m so pleased to be able to share some of the lessons he has learned over the course of his writing career so far. I’m also pleased that he has generously provided a collection of ten of his books to be given away to one lucky Live to Write – Write to Live reader. (See the end of the post for details on how to enter.)

Why do you write? What story are you trying to tell? What question are you trying to answer? What void are you trying to fill?

These are big questions.

As I rush through my days juggling deadlines, parenting duties, and all the tasks that keep my world spinning, I do not always have time to give these queries the attention they deserve. But every once in a while something pulls me up short and reminds me that these are the very questions a writer must sit with each day.

It was a kind and inspirational voice from three years ago that pulled me up short this time, the voice of author T.A. Barron.

Barron headshot

Author T.A. Barron

Barron’s stories inspire children young and old all around the world. Covering vast mythical territories, his epic fantasies draw you in and captivate your imagination while gently whispering in your ear about your own heroic potential. As a writer, he has earned bestseller status, numerous awards, and the high praise of his peers including Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, and Isabel Allende. As a man, he lives a life worthy of any one of his curious, courageous, and compassionate protagonists.

Though Barron’s life story reads something like a fairytale, it was passion and perseverance rather than magic that led to his happy ending. Barron wrote throughout his childhood and young adult years, but didn’t start writing full time until he was nearly forty. As the story goes, he made a sudden departure from a prestigious job as the president of a growing New York-based company. After assuring his shocked partners that he hadn’t lost his mind, Barron moved to Colorado. There, he and his wife raised their children while Barron worked on his novels.

Barron explains the unexpected mid-life career change, “Even when I was president of a business, I often found myself getting up at 4 a.m. to write, composing during meetings, or scribbling in the back of a taxi. Finally I had to make a choice, to do what I love best, because life is too short not to follow your passions.”

Life is too short. Follow your passions.

These statements might feel cliche or contrived coming from someone else, but not Barron.  They reflect not only themes that are central to his work, but how he lives his life.

When I met him three years ago, Barron struck me as a gentleman adventurer whose travels have occurred as much in the heart as in the world.  His genuine warmth made it feel completely natural to greet him with a hug instead of a handshake. Part philosopher, part scientist, and part artist, he sees writing as a journey of exploration and discovery that encompasses not only his own experiences, but those of his characters and his readers.

Though many seasons have passed since I had the pleasure of interviewing Barron via postal correspondence and phone, the ideas and advice he shared remain as relevant today as they were when we first spoke. I have unintentionally kept these to myself for far too long and to continue to do so would be tremendously selfish. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to share a few of my favorite writing- and life-related bits from our conversations. There’s a lot of great stuff here, so grab a cup of your favorite tasty beverage, settle in, and let me introduce you to Mr. T. A. Barron.

On what it takes to be a writer: 

Writing is a craft, something one learns by doing.  There is no substitute for constant practice.  (And that, unfortunately, requires constant discipline.)

So, write every chance you get – when traveling for work, during lunch, any time you have a few spare moments.   And don’t ever, ever, EVER let anyone tell you to stop trying to tell your stories!

On his personal writing process:

Writing is a strange, mysterious process.  After more than twenty years, I still don’t know how it really works.  But I do know it requires a special, personal chemistry.  As a writer, I approach a story with the flexibility to have the higher view and the up close scrutiny at the same time. It’s all about getting inside the story, inside the characters –  finding out what, ultimately, this is about.

Normally I need a sort of aerial photograph of the terrain of a quest so that I know the approximate beginning, ending, and the dangerous marshes or inspiring peaks in between. In this way, the outline becomes a kind of trail map. Then, I intentionally lose the map, so I can find out what the terrain is like on the ground. I wander, explore, and really get to know the place and all the characters.  Now, sometimes my characters tell me to turn right when the map says turn left. In such cases, I always listen to my characters.  They have their own integrity, and that must be respected if they are going to feel true to my readers.

On the perilous danger of distraction:

If you think of [your] life as a package of potential then you either say, ‘I’m not up for the challenge of trying to fill it and I’m going to be distracted my whole life’ (which is a choice), or you can say, ‘I want to be whatever I can be and this is going to be a journey.’ To quote one of the greatest writers who has ever lived, J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’

On the inspirational qualities of mortality:

I have always thought of every second of life as truly precious and therefore one’s job in life really boils down to this, ‘Be whatever you can be.  Grow in every way you possibly can.  Rise to whatever heights you dream of achieving and along the way really be present.  Appreciate the world. Appreciate the way a single leaf falls to the ground and makes a barely audible crunch as it hits the other leaves.’

On being a good parent (which is also great advice for how to nurture your inner writer):

It’s really about helping her realize that her dreams have value, helping her know what they are, and then encouraging her to live those dreams …  being around kids is the most energizing experience somebody can have in life because they are naturally so full of curiosity, humor, wonder, vitality, nonsense, and a kind of endless playfulness …

It’s such a rare and quickly passing experience but I find it so humbling and beautiful that for that short amount of time we get to be right beside them in their discovery of the world – in their first use of language, in their early explorations of their imagination, in their initial faltering footsteps, in their conquests and their tumbles … To see them discover a whole world that is now part of their lives.  It’s really a privilege.

On what’s really scary:

It’s always scary to do something that’s different and untried … to change a job and change location, but that is not nearly as scary as the idea of growing old, sitting on my front doorstep, and thinking, ‘Why didn’t I really go for it?  Why didn’t I really try to follow my dreams?’

On the power of following your heart: 

If you clarify for yourself what you love and then go for it, something marvelous will happen.  There is no doubt about that.  It may not be exactly what you conceived at the start (and it certainly won’t be something you can predict at the start), but it will be good.

On the truth of living your dream:

Mainly, all I know is that I still have a lot more to learn.  But I do know this much:  The first key to making your dreams come true is to know those dreams clearly.  That means looking inside – asking yourself what you truly love – rather than looking outside … Dreams come from inside, not outside.  They must be owned at the level of your soul.

Then comes the second key:  Perseverance.  Once you know your dreams, never stop pursuing them, no matter what obstacles the world throws at you.  This is your life, your soul, your dreams – the most precious things you have.  So it’s worth fighting to keep them wholly alive!  If you stay true to them, with a bit of luck, you will succeed.  And you’ll have a marvelous journey along the way.

And, now, about the giveaway …

After spending two decades crafting the twelve books of his Merlin Saga, Barron has just released Atlantis Rising – the much anticipated first book in his new trilogy about the origins of this legendary city. To help get the word out about this new work, Barron has generously provided a collection of his books to be given away to one lucky Live to Write – Write to Live reader.

The collection includes the novella Tree Girl, the first five novels of The Merlin Saga, the second book from the Heartlight Trilogy, one of his picture books, The Hero’s Trail (his nonfiction guide to a heroic life), and – of course – Atlantis Rising:

Barron Atlantis Rising

Barron Book Group

To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment below before midnight EST on Wednesday, December 4th. We will choose one winner at random to receive this wonderful collection. Please be sure to include your email addressnot in the body of your comment, but in the form you complete when leaving a comment. We will contact the winner (Editor’s update: US residents only) by email for mailing infomation and then T.A. Barron’s team will ship the books to you directly.

Even if you don’t win the giveaway, I encourage you to check out Barron’s books and share them with the young people in your life. Visit his site to learn more about his books, his inspirational Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, and his advice for writersTom is also a wonderful presence on both Twitter and Instagram where he shares his own thoughts as well as a collection of great quotes.

And before you go, here is the trailer for Atlantis Rising:

Thanks, as always, for being here and good luck! 

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 trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.