Can We (as writers) Have Too Many Journals or Notepads?

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

I enjoyed all the responses to my post last week about personal libraries and how many books we have, don’t have, need to get rid of, and so on.

On a similar track… I’ve always enjoyed journaling and my mom and friends know that, so I’m always receiving beautiful journal books for special occasions.

I can use journals for:

  • Personal thoughts
  • Notes about individual novels I plan to write (someday)
  • Short stories that need to spurt onto a page
  • Travelogues
  • Trip planning
  • Story idea collecting
  • 5-year journal for brief snippets of my day
  • Morning pages
  • Poetry
  • Personal growth (some journals come with daily exercises)
  • Wines I’ve tried
  • Books I want, are recommended, have read, have reviewed…

I also have a collection of various types of notebooks and note pads and use those for writing workshops, writing group exercises, conferences, and so on. It’s difficult to pass up back-to-school specials on some spiral bound notebooks or pads of paper – so I have a lot!

Do you find different uses for different types of journal books, notebooks, and note pads? Do you have a favorite type of journal or notebook that you use most often?

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

Planning Your Writing Life

So, to beat a dead horse, I’m a planner. I maintain both digital and paper planners. Digital is great on the go, but there is just something about pen to paper that makes things connect in my head. I’ve also discovered the value of specific planners for specific aspects of my life. For example, I have one notebook dedicated to weekends. I have found this helps me eliminate the noise from work tasks and focus on home and family life.

Three planners: Plot Your Work 2017 AuthorLife, WriteMind Planner

Recently I found 3 different planners designed specifically for writers and our writing projects. I like sitting down and capturing all the tasks related to a particular project, but I also find I’m easily overwhelmed. Pulling tasks from a planner dedicated to writing is much cleaner that keeping them all in one place. This way, I look at the writing planner, grab the tasks I need for that week and, gently close the cover and keep my focus on what really needs to be done.

2017 Author Life Planner

The Cover of the 2017 AuthorLife PlannerBria Quinlan

Available in 2 formats

Download $9.99

Via Amazon Direct print $15.99

Bria Quinlan knows writers and the writing process. She should, she is a USA Today Best-Selling author who writes romantic comedies. It wasn’t always that way at one time, she toiled in corporate America as an HR director. She’s combined her skills to create The AuthorLife Planner. A two part program designed to help writers identify their goals and devise a plan to achieve them. Part one is a 40 page workbook based on Quinlan’s Zero to Planned workshops. I printed this part, because you know, the whole brain connections via pen to paper thing.

Through a series of detailed exercises, Quinlan walks you through identifying what you want to do, what you are currently doing, who you are doing it for (in other words who are your core readers) and whether you are on the right path. Once you’ve figured out these key aspects, she helps you identify where you should spend your time to get the results you desire. Once you’ve figured out where to spend your time, the AuthorLife Planner helps you map the tasks out weekly in the 160 page calendar and regularly evaluate your progress.

Not gonna lie, the process is a smidge daunting, but in the exciting “oh the potential” kind of way. As someone who wears many hats, I’m hoping it will help me focus and hone in on what I need to do to accomplish the goals I’ve set.

Plot Your Work

img_4992The Writer’s Project Planner

C.J. Ellison

Cost $29.99

Available Mid-December 2016

New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling Author C.J. Ellison combined her background in sales and marketing with her writing experience to develop Plot Your Work – The Writer’s Project Planner. You already have a plan hell, you have SEVERAL plans, but you need a way to stay on track with multiple projects, then Plot Your Work is for you.

Plot Your Work helps you manage up to five writing projects with

  • yearly project spreads,
  • quarterly task planning,
  • monthly and weekly task breakdowns and,
  • weekly reviews to keep you organized.

I bought a the beta version that quickly sold out. The full version is scheduled to be available this month with shipment in January. Customizations are in the works to track marketing efforts, launches, sales etc.

While there are similarities between this at the Author Life Planner, this one is particularly useful to the writer who is juggling multiple projects and doesn’t want anything to slip through the cracks.

WriteMind planner

img_4994An all-in-one, customizable idea management and project organizing system for authors.

Digital Download Edition $19.99*

Disk bound system $26.99* plus shipping.

*The system is customizable so additional modules available for extra cost.

Are you a pantser who needs to capture ideas as they present themselves?

Or, are you a planner who needs to work out all the details before you sit down at the keyboard? Either way, the WriteMind Planner is for you.

The WriteMind Planner touts itself as “An all-in-one, customizable idea management and project organizing system for authors.” You can either download the modules or buy a printed disc-bound version. I went for the disc-bound version. The disc system lets you organize things the way you like. It’s also expandable and or collapsible if you want to keep things simple.

The basic WriteMind planner contains:

  • 8 black binding discs
  • An artistic, cheerful cover page 
  • “Please Return To:” page
  • 30 To-Do list slips
  • 30 Idea Worksheets
  • Wordcount Tracking Calendars
  • The Ultimate Self-Publishing Checklist
  • Contacts
  • 50 sheets of lined paper
  • 5 Tabs

There is a place for comments or special requests on the order form. For example, I don’t like college ruled paper, so I asked that my note pages be wide ruled or plain white. They were very responsive. You can customize your planner by adding different modules. I added 2 folder pockets. I’ve been using this to capture OOOH SHINY, the random ideas that intrude when I should be focusing on my WIP.

Any of these planners would make great gifts for the writers in your life. Maybe even a gift to yourself to help you get on track and stay on task in 2017!

Have you tried any of these systems? Do you have a different way of managing your writing projects? Share in the comments.

The opinions expresses are my own and may not represent those of my fellow NHWN bloggers. I was not given any compensation nor are the links an affiliate links.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at 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 typing her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

My Experience With the Apple Pencil

My iPad was dying. In the life span of today’s technological devices, it lived a long life and served me well, but it was slow and tired. It has been retired to the kitchen as a web browser, e-reader and recipe display device. When I heard the announcement for the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil last fall, I started drooling. The Tech Gods smiled upon me and I purchased an iPad Pro at the very end of last year. I immediately ordered an Apple Pencil, but it was backordered for 2 months!

I love the iPad Pro! As I’ve mentioned many times. I’m visually impaired, so I work in large print and zoomed text. The iPad Pro gives me the added screen real estate to make working on an iPad possible without turning myself into a contortionist. When I pair it with an Apple Wireless keyboard I can’t ever see myself going back to a laptop. Everything I need to do on the go, I can do with the iPad.

My Apple Pencil arrived in late February and I’ve been playing with it ever since. Sometimes the muse is just more forthcoming when I put pencil to paper, but I despise having a thousand scraps of paper flying around. My inner organizer likes to have a digital record of all my notes. With the Apple Pencil I can satisfy both the muse and the organizer.

My handwritten draft text of this post in Notability. Blue text, yellow background, wide ruled (like a legal pad).

I already had the app Explain Everything, so that’s where I started jotting stuff. I quickly moved to Notability because I liked the “paper” selections better. I prefer a yellow background with wide ruled lines. My ideal would be to use Evernote because that is my digital filing cabinet, but I have a strong preference for the yellow background, so I stay with Notability.

I also like to edit on printed page. This is another place where the Apple Pencil comes in handy. I convert my document to .pdf and import it into Noteability and then edit. At least there, I’m saving a few trees.

The rough draft for this post. Written in MS Word, saved to .pdf and imported to Notability (yellow background, black typed text). Corrections made in red.

Apple Pencil Drawbacks

I love the way the pencil writes, but there is a disconnect. I can capture my notes and even edit them in their native application, but the technology hasn’t made the leap to translating handwriting to digital text. I think things are headed that way, and suspect that like speech-to-text, handwriting-to-text will start slow and clunky and evolve into a more streamlined process.

My Apple Pencil with a purple pencil grip and the little connector doohickey positioned beside it.As delivered, the pencil is very sleek and smooth. I have a tight grip (some would call it a death grip) and I press hard when I write. I found the pencil slipped through my fingers easily. The problem was easy to fix with the addition of a ten cent pencil grip.

Another small frustration is that there is no way to tell how much battery is left. I’ve arrived at more than one meeting only to receive an alert that the battery was low. Thankfully it charges quickly via the iPad, or via an Apple Lightning cable to a portable charger, or USB wall connector. There is a little doohickey that allows you to connect the pencil to an Apple Lightning cable and it’s well … little. I’ve managed to hang on to it thus far, but I live in fear I’ll lose it. I’m sure like most things it is replaceable, for a fee.

Apple Pencil Bottom Line

The Apple Pencil is a “nice-to-have”, not a necessity. I like using it to draft and to edit, but I *could* live without it. That said, I don’t want to. When they develop software to translate the written word into typed text. THEN, it will be a necessity.

Have you tried the Apple Pencil? What are your thoughts? What is your favorite app?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at 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.

Pay What It’s Worth (PWIW) Pricing for Writing Resources

There are so many writing-related resources available through various avenues (websites, Amazon, brick & mortar stores, giveaways, and so on), and sometimes we can find “the perfect” book, audio, checklist, what-have-you, but realize it’s a bit out of our reach financially.

The Renegade Writer is a resource for freelance writers, and its owners, Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell recently conducted an experiment with their audience that allowed people to name their own price(s) on books and other writing-related resources the authors offer. They considered it a successful experiment and are now keeping the PWIW (pay what it’s worth) pricing for everyone.

They encouraged people to share the news, and so, here I am, as I feel you may find something helpful if you are considering freelancing. I’m not being compensated in any way, simply sharing something that may be of value.

13ways_ebook_cover-188x300-188x300PWIW is pay what it’s worth to you, the minimum being $1, the maximum being whatever you like. Check out the resources at The Renegade Writer Store and decide for yourself if any of the books or other products are of interest and value to you.

Ebooks include:

  • Become-a-Confident-Freelance-Writer-COVER_188x300-188x300Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love, includes exclusive free downloads, too (originally $9.99)
  • The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success, second edition (originally $9.99) –[I have the first edition and found it inspiring]
  • Become a Confident Freelance Writer (originally $4.95)
  • Write for Magazines E-Course book (originally $29)
  • and more!

A new item in the store is a meditation called “Positive Thinking for Writers – Meditation Podcast” (originally $19.99) — with soothing music and sounds from nature, it could be something your muse enjoys.

If you find any of the resources useful, please let us know!

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

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.

Author event in Bedford, NH, Oct 30th

There’s an event coming up in a couple of weeks that is mixing two of my passions — (dark and mysterious) fiction and New Hampshire.

Dick Hatin

Dick Hatin

An author friend of mine, Richard Hatin is celebrating the launch of his second novel by speaking and doing a book signing.

Dick is a fellow Granite State Ambassador (GSA) who volunteers his time to share his passion of NH with visitors to our wonderful state.

At this event, on October 30, from 6:30-8PM, Dick will be talking about his writing and his volunteerism.

About his novels:

Evil Agreement begins in Sutton, Vermont, in 1843, when a coven was formed comprising devil worshipers recruited by Satan s servant, the purely evil Moloch. When one coven member breaks rank, she and her family are slaughtered by coven members out of revenge. One infant child survives the massacre, however, and is hunted relentlessly by the coven, but without success. Now the descendants of that first coven are closing in on Aaron Bailey, the last descendant of that surviving infant. The Evil Agreement, the Malum Pactum, may at last be fulfilled!

The hunt is on as the coven seeks to capture Aaron to complete the coven and fulfill their ancestors hideous bargain with the devil. Meanwhile, Aaron must learn about his hidden past, forge new alliances, and, with aid from an unlikely source, perhaps have a chance to destroy the coven – and even live to tell about it!

“A dark and evil legend was born in the northeastern corner of Vermont hundred of years ago. An unspeakable act was perpetrated by a hunting party of Indians.  Later, their Chief and the tribe’s Medicine Man placed an eternal curse upon them for their crime.  Now doomed, to live only in the darkness beneath the earth, their anger and hatred of all humans, grows with each passing year. Then, in 1962, a group of young boys exploring a small cave, come face to face with this devolved and hideously evil creature, and a battle for their very lives begins.  Together, they may stand a chance, but divided, they will all surely all die.  If only…….”

The event is open to the public and is at Carlyle Place – Courville Communities, 40 Route 101, Bedford, NH.

I’ll be there, as will other local writers. It can be a great time to connect in person.

Agenda for the evening:

6:30 pm – Networking and Welcome

7:00 pm – Presentation

7:45 pm – 8:00 pm – Book signing | Personal Visits | Facility Tour

I know there will be treats, too! Since it’s Halloween, well, who knows how many ghosts might make a brief appearance, but I’m sure they will all be friendly spirits…right?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

A Tool for Setting & Meeting Goals

I long ago gave up making New Year’s resolutions, but ever since discovering Bylines: The Essential Weekly Planner for Writers, I’ve been setting clear, measurable, and achievable goals every day, week, month and year. Bylines is a Writer’s Desk Calendar with 53 stories for inspiration and encouragement, and some nifty pages to help a writer set clear goals – and meet them.

I discovered the calendar through the Creative Writers Opportunities List back in 2006. When my 200-word story about the writing life was accepted, I not only scored a publication, but I was paid  – five dollars and a complimentary copy of the calendar in which my work appeared. The five dollars was quickly spent, but the calendar has been invaluable.

            The calendar is a spiral bound book with a week-by-week layout. Each week includes a very short essay about the writing life. The 2012 edition includes 53 essays by writers of all ages and stages of development from 25 states plus Ireland and the UK. These pieces run the gamut from funny to poignant. When the challenges of loneliness or rejection or motivation strike, these essays can boost me back to my desk and help me remember that my voice is important.

But Bylines is not just about inspiration. It includes some tools that helped me develop steady work habits as I’ve transitioned to writing full-time with regular gigs and a developing audience. The goals pages are the most critical of these tools. There’s a short preface about how and why to set goals, and then there’s a page for setting a goal for the year. The goal can be anything, from developing a daily writing practice by next December to drafting an entire book.

The first step is to articulate the goal; the next step is to break it down to manageable tasks. Pages for setting month-by-month goals follow with two checklists for each month: one for goals and one for tasks. The goals list is a place to commit to the small steps that will help writers advance to the larger goal, like completing a chapter or writing three poems, or sending out three queries. I’ve found that setting monthly goals has helped me both keep focused and achieve a sense of accomplishment, creating a loop of positive re-enforcement that keeps me writing more and more.

The task list includes items like Set Goals for Month, Pay quarterly estimated taxes, Back up computer files, and – my personal favorite – Clean desktop last work day of month. I confess that I don’t always complete this last item, but at least I’m reminded to. This task list has helped me become more aware of what I need to do to develop my professional, organizational muscles – because as I achieve more success with publication and reach a wider audience, I have a growing need to be able to keep track of the business side of this writing life. Using Bylines has certainly helped me work more consistently, which in turn has helped me achieve new and bigger goals.

Each year, Bylines features a different writer’s desk, a brief biography of that writer, and encouraging quotations. The 2012 calendar features American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. In addition, literary birthdays are noted each day of the year, and there’s a month-by-month list of literary holidays, which I’ve found useful both as prompts for timely essays and for chuckles. (June is National Bathroom Reading Month.) Other extras include pages at the back for tracking submissions, tracking business expenses and miles, space for Conference Notes and contact info. I’ve been using Bylines for several years now, and have discovered that each volume serves as a valuable record of my year’s work.

Bylines is edited by Sylvia Forbes, herself a successful freelance writer out of Missouri. She’s the author of over six hundred magazine articles in the past ten years, and is active in writer’s organizations throughout the mid-west. While family health issues have stymied her intention of publishing Bylines in June, she still makes that her yearly goal. To that end, she’s accepting 200-word stories about the writing life now through March first, for the 2013 edition.

To make it into the book, Sylvia passes on the best advice an editor ever gave her: “Just write the story.” She says it can be quirky, funny, inspiring – anything but an expanded biography of yourself as a writer. In addition to the payment (five dollars, a copy of the book and a discount to purchase more), publication in Bylines offers terrific, year-long exposure to a wide-spread audience of writers. Submission guidelines can be found at

My goal for 2012 is to complete a draft of a new novel, tentatively titled Ellen. What’s yours?

Deborah Lee Luskin often writes about Vermont, where she has lived since 1984. She is a commentator for Vermont Public Radio, a Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council and the author of the award winning novel, Into The Wilderness. For more information, visit her website at

Top 10 Gifts for Writers

What do you give a writer? You can’t bottle inspiration, buying an agreeable agent would probably be out of your budget, and I don’t think the antidote for writer’s block has been discovered yet (though I’m betting a placebo would do just as well).

Have no fear. There are plenty of widely available and reasonably priced gift ideas for the writer(s) in your life. Here are my top 10 picks (which may or may not be on my own list).

  • Pens and Notebooks: If you’ve been hanging out here at Live to Write-Write to Live, you already know we have a pretty strong addiction to pens and notebooks. They are, after all, the writer’s constant companion and tools of the trade. We can never get enough. Seriously. Never.
  • Online and Offline Classes and Workshops: Nothing makes writing procrastination more palatable than being able to say the “distraction” (in this case an educational opportunity) is actually helping you with your craft. Enable your writer friend with a seat in a virtual or real world classroom. There are also a lot of different book-ish courses out there in the online world, covering everything from writing to publishing to e-publishing to proposal writing. Worth a look.
  • Coffee Shop Gift Certificates: Cafes are a writer’s home away from home. Help us pay our transient rent by tossing us a few bucks for one of those fancy, foreign drinks that make our fingers twitch and our brains reel.
  • Writing Software: This one could go either way: procrastination tool or productivity booster. Writing software can be tricky to select, but I don’t think you can go wrong with the cream of the crop – Scrivener (originally only for Mac, now also available for PC).
  • Writing Books (and E-books!): Like pens and notebooks, we can never get enough books on writing. In moments of desperation, we’ll take advice from anyone so don’t worry too much about which title to choose. Just find something with a comforting looking cover. (May I suggest anything by Larry Brooks?)
  • Consultations and Services: Perhaps your writer friend could use an editor’s assistance or a professional review of a book proposal. Giving professional services may be just the fire your writer friend needs under the proverbial butt.
  • Tickets to an Event: Professional networking events, author speaking tours, and writer’s conferences can be pretty pricey. Give your writer friend the opportunity to rub shoulders or admire from afar with tickets to a special event. (Earlier this year, my beau and I went to the Portsmouth Music Hall to see Neil Gaiman speak – loved it!)
  • Reading Accessories: Writers are, by default, readers, so anything related to reading works. There is, of course, the ubiquitous e-reader, but you might also consider a subscription to Audible Books (audio books aren’t cheating), or some nifty something-or-other from Levenger.
  • Reading Material: Books, magazine subscriptions, e-books … we don’t really care about the format, we just want more good stuff to read. (And, please, try to support an indie bookstore if you can!)
  • Time: The best gift of all for any writer is time. Is your writer friend a mom who has a hard time carving writing time out of her busy day? Offer to babysit for an afternoon. Maybe your writer friend is a colleague who can’t finish his book outline because he’s always having to work late. Offer to help out at the office so he can leave on time. Maybe your writer friend is your spouse. Skip the honey-do list for a weekend and give him or her forty-eight hours of uninterrupted (and enforced) creative time.

Whatever gift you choose, something to do with writing and/or reading will let the scribe in your life know that you support that creative urge. That’s what we love to hear. So, merry-merry and happy-happy and good writing to all!

What was your favorite writerly gift ever – given or received?

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

Image Credit: Oliver Hammond (“sparkled” using iPhone app LensLight)

Review of the Kindle Fire – walk with me

I recently got a Kindle Fire.

Can I just say right here and now, that I love it? I’d had a Kindle before but it left me feeling kind of blah, lots of grays and it just didn’t feel good in my hands. Reading the hard copy of a book was still more satisfying. My older Kindle is currently in the boys’ room being used as the download accessory for all High School assigned paperbacks. They don’t care that’s it’s gray, as long as they can read the chapter for the test tomorrow. 

So when I won a Kindle Fire in Jonathan Field’s book launch party for this video, although I was excited, I didn’t have the greatest of expectations. After all, my husband had just gotten one of the $99 HP tablets and I thought, the Fire couldn’t be much better than that, right?

Except that I was wrong and it is.

The Kindle Fire is a nice size and weight to hold, you can actually hold it in one hand (unlike the tablet which would cause your wrist to get whiplash.) It’s sleek and thin. It’s also intuitive to use. The operating instructions were included as a small card in the shipping box. The only reason I even looked at them was to evaluate the design.

The first thing I did was to sync up the Fire with my other Kindle. Bam!, all my books were instantly available to read (including my sons’ school books, but I’m not going to tell them that.)

I decided to take the Fire for a test drive and downloaded The Boy in the Suitcase, a new book that’s getting so much buzz it was on my list of books to pick up next time I went to the book store. A $9.99 download is very nice compared to the $24 jacket price. $14 saved right there. (And yes, I spend hundreds, if not thousands at books stores, very often just passing the book on to friends when I’m done – that part I might actually miss (the passing on of books, not so much paying the cost.))

I’ve finished the book and it was enjoyable. In fact, at times I forgot that I was reading on a Kindle, it felt like I was just reading a book. I even read it in bed at night, no need for a lamp because of the lighting, a nice touch when you husband goes to bed early so that he can do the 5:00 a.m kids’ swim team practice drop-off (2 mornings a week.)

The only downside was when one particular chapter made reference to something in a previous chapter that I had missed, it was a little tough trying to flip back to the page I had wanted to reread. I imagine though, that as I get more used to electronic books, this will get easier.

Yesterday I was at the Doctor’s office and he suggested I read a book on Lyme Disease – Cure Unknown – Inside the Lyme Epidemic  (yup, we have several kids infected with it right now) and while I was still in the waiting room, I got on the Fire and downloaded the book. That evening I started reading it.

He’s right, the book is both well written and heart-breaking. My Fire gave me instant knowledge on the subject – something that as I writer (and mother of sick kids), I can really appreciate.

I’ve downloaded a movie on my Fire, it’s a nice personal size on which to watch (better with headphones.) Certainly not the best device to see the “big screen extravaganzas” but then, that’s why there are movie theaters. For something like The Nightmare Before Christmas it works just fine.

And please, don’t get me started on Angry Birds (damn that little boomerang one, anyway.) If you are a gaming person (I’m not, to tell the truth, it was a short and torrid love affair with those cantankerous birds) I imagine the Fire will be a better device than the small screen in a phone or the larger one on the tablet. It’s more portable, more discrete, something you can pull out when waiting for the kids’ to be done with the swim team practice in the afternoon (2 times a week.) Your very own personal entertainment center.

Don’t get the Fire if you want to use it as a writing device. You’re able to access the net and do things like search or check your email but a tablet or a laptop is still going to rule in the writing department. And if you do get a Fire, consider a protective case a necessity. I got the red zippered Marware ($29.99). As one who dropped and cracked her (un-insured) Droid the first day I got it, I didn’t rest well until my Fire was buckled and zipped inside it’s case. Consider it a necessary added cost to the base price of $199 for the Kindle Fire.

Bottom line? Love the Fire. As much as I adore holding a book in my hands, electronic books are the way of the future. It’s kind of like when we were asked to move from the literal cut and pasting of our news stories from a legal pad to that of a word processor. How many of us continued (for awhile anyway) to write the story in long hand and then re-typed it into the computer just because we didn’t trust the new process or it didn’t feel right?

I’m not sure how many writers still do that these days, just as I’m not sure how many readers are going to continue to read hard copy books just because that’s what they feel comfortable with and, for now anyway, trust more than reading their stories in electronic format.


About Wendy Thomas 

 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).

And this time, if you need me, I’ll be in my yellow reading chair with my Kindle Fire. 

Welcome home old friend

Anyone who knows me knows that there is one and only one book that I can truly call my favorite of all time. I’ve spoken of it (many times) before in this forum.

It’s a book I read in high school and I credit it for my ultimately becoming a writer.

You might think it’s something like The Elements of Style written by E.B. White (who is my great uncle) and while, yes, that is a fine book (along with pretty much every other book he wrote) my favorite, life changing book is “The Princess Bride.” (I know, I know what you’re thinking – not again!)

But yes, again. I have to tell you about this book because there is new news regarding this book in my life that I need to share with you. But before that, a little bit of back story.

I used to hang around in high school with a friend named David Kelleher. David introduced me to such delights as Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. That bizarre kind of humor would have me absolutely rolling on the floor. I got British humor. I think a dead parrot is hysterical. Each Sunday night, David and I would grab a Rolling Rock and sit crowded together in front of his family’s TV (stashed away in an alcove to make it less desirable to the kids) and laugh at all the British comedies.

Pure joy.

So when David told me that I had to read a book called of all things “The Princess Bride” I only hesitated for a few minutes.

“The Princess Bride” I asked. “Really?”

“Really.” was his reply.

I went out and bought myself a copy.

Didn’t look like much. It had a red cover with a painting of a castle on the front. I wasn’t a princess kind of gal but on David’s recommendation, I read the book.

And then I read it again.

And again and again.

All the time, I kept saying to myself “wait, you’re allowed to say stuff like this in a book?” I couldn’t believe that the author, William Goldman, could inject so much humor into a story. That he could stop mid-sentence to come out of the story in order to address the audience. That he could imply so much with his hit-the-nail-on-the-head dialog.

Goldman had turned a story about a princess, something I would have never picked up on my own (a princess? Yuk!) into a stunning, intelligent, piece of art. It was a set of wings.

As a direct result of reading this book, I started to write a little differently. I began to inject humor, observation, and personal statements in my writing (to the point where when I submitted an essay FILLED with so many parenthetical phrases that you couldn’t tell the essay text from my own thoughts, my only feedback from the teacher was “for the love of God will you just shut up and write?!”)

My teacher was wrong. I didn’t need to shut up and write, I just needed to harness that energy and focus it a bit more. I had to use the force but with direction. My voice belonged in my writing.

I would have never gotten to that point or even that realization if I hadn’t been inspired by The Princess Bride to even try.

College instructors started telling me I had a unique voice in my writing. They started telling me that my writing style “worked” and was “effective” and that my voice was “authentic.” Pretty heady stuff for a young kid. It turns out my voice had been there all along, it just took a book to let me know I had the freedom to use it.

Back story is over.

So why am I bringing this up (yet) again?

It’s because I have dozens of editions of this book, ebook, 10th anniversary, movie tie-in, one on my phone, a copy with an updated forward by the author, and even a copy in French (mais oui). I have copies all over my office. They speak to me, they inspire me, they tell me to keep it real.

But what I didn’t have was a first edition of “The Princess Bride”. Mine had been lost in my many moves and I just never had the money (first editions can go for up to 500 dollars) to replace it. The book had become a dream lost, vaguely remembered impossible to fully recall.

This fall my son was preparing to leave for college, what better gift than a copy of the book that had given me an author’s freedom? I ordered a used copy for $6.94 so that I could tuck it in his bags. A gift of inspiration from mom. Use it well.

When I received the package in the mail, I frowned just a bit, it was a little thicker than the edition I had of the first reprint of the first edition, new publisher (it’s the closest I’d come to the Holy Grail.) I slowly opened the envelope and like Charlie with his Golden Ticket, as soon as I saw the corner of the red cover, I knew what I was holding in my hands. I knew that I had won.

I was sold a first edition of “The Princess Bride” as a used book. I literally jumped up from my seat. “Oh callooh callay!” my heart sang.

The book now sits in a prominent position in my office (I gave my reprint of the first edition, new publisher to my son). I’m looking at it right now. It reminds me of my youth, of my evolution as a writer, of good times and even better times. It is my muse, my inspiration, and my raison d’etre.

I’ve already read it (did you think there was even a chance I wouldn’t have dropped everything around me to sit down and read?) and look forward to reading it again (and again). Welcome home, old friend, welcome home.

The Holy Grail


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).

And yes, the movie is good but read the book, it’s even better.