Favorite Springtime Reads and Writing Exercises

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:  Although Old Man Winter seems loathe to loosen his grip on those of us living in the northeast of the United States, Spring IS coming. In fact, the official first day of Spring was earlier this week on Monday, March 20th.

So – with hope in our hearts, sunshine on our backs, and the persistent and triumphant chirps and whistles of feathered friends in our ears – we’d like to share with you our favorite springtime stories, novels, poems, and writing rituals. (And then, of course, we’d love to hear yours!)

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: My favorite spring poems are by A.A. Milne. I read them as a child, and when my daughter was a little girl we would listen to them over and over on a cassette tape in the car. (Yes – my old car still had a cassette player.) There are so many to choose from that I could never pick a single favorite: Daffodowndilly, Water Lilies, Spring Morning. I love them all.

I never thought about having favorite Spring reads. Winter reads seem much easier to come by. Spring seems to call for something light and humorous, even frivolous. I’m not one for romances or so-called “chick lit,” but I could do with something witty and fresh. I recently picked up an autographed copy of Lost Among the Birds by Neil Hayward. That might be just the thing.

As for a Spring writing ritual … I’m going to go with just getting outside and letting Mother Nature inspire me. I get out plenty in Winter (and am duly inspired by snow and ice and the amazing adaptive abilities of nature’s denizens), but Spring invites a closer inspection of the world around us. Spring opens up our minds as it opens up the earth and plants. I look forward to that.

P.S. ~ If you’re looking for some poetic inspiration of your own, I found this handy collection of Spring poems on the Poetry Foundation site. Enjoy!

Deborah Lee Luskin: I get so much inspiration from tilling the garden, from planting vegetables, and from weeding, which I find to be deeply contemplative and tremendously satisfying.

 

How to Sustain Political Activism and Write a Book

Activism and Writing both take persistence and self-care.

Like at least half the American population, I’ve been distressed by current national politics. I went into a deep funk of disbelief back in November; then I became hyper-active, making phone calls and writing letters. After that, I needed a vacation from both work and politics. Now, I’m trying to find a sustainable way to continue to support issues I care about, like civil liberties, social justice, and ethical government.

Jen Hofmann’s Weekly Activism Checklist

Lucky for me, a friend forwarded a link to Jen Hofmann’s Weekly Activism Checklist. It’s been a big help.

As I read it, I realized immediately that the ways to sustain political activism are almost identical to the methods necessary for tackling a long writing project.

The Weekly Checklist

Hofman’s Action Checklist for this week starts with current congressional bills and issues that need immediate attention.

My writing checklist for this week includes a meeting, a phone call and a writing assignment for my long narrative about learning to hunt. This checklist helps maintain forward momentum on a project that will take at least another year to complete while I continue to write, broadcast, teach and talk.

These days, I also create a checklist of the political phone calls I will make:

  • Senator Leahy about the Supreme Court nomination;
  • Senator Sanders about the Budget and Healthcare;
  • Representative Peter Welch about the unresolved conflicts of interest between this president’s private businesses and public office.
The Rule of Three

I’ve written about the Rule of Three before: Choose three manageable and achievable goals each week.

Every week, I limit myself to three projects, and every day I limit myself to three tasks related to those projects. More than that and I’ll just stare out the window and not lay down the words. Same thing with phone calls to politicians. I can make three every week.

Three phone calls won’t change the world quickly, but if I make three phone calls every week, they add up, just as writing three sentences, paragraphs or pages adds up.

Worse, not making phone calls equals silence, as in “everything is okay.”

Everything is not okay. So I make three phone calls each week, minimum; more than that’s gravy.

Take Good Care of Yourself

You can’t write from your heart any more than you can change the world if you don’t take care of yourself. Self care includes measures to maintain your general health, sustain your emotional health and nourish your spiritual health. So do whatever it is that keeps you whole, whether it’s reading a book, sleeping, eating well, fishing, sky-diving, going to church, or some combination thereof.

Persistence and Self-care: They make a difference when it comes to writing book or changing the world.

In addition to making phone calls, Deborah Lee Luskin frequently comments about current affairs on her blog and on Vermont Public Radio.

A Poem a Day

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

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

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

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

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

So, that’s my treat for the day. 🙂

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

Happy reading (and writing)!

 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One word at a time

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

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

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

I am having a creative crisis.

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

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

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

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

Why am I bothering?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I took a nap.

It was still there staring me down.

I did some yoga.

Still there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

KeepCup – a great way to warm cold fingers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Take a Writing Class with Steve Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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