Motivate Yourself by Submitting to a Writing Contest

Today’s post is as much for me as it is for you. You see, I’ve been quite lethargic about writing fiction lately, as my business has been so pleasantly busy that I don’t have time to write for fun.

I put don’t have time in italics, since, we all know that we make time for what is important to us. I do have time. I have the same amount of time as everyone else and if I truly want to write fiction, I will find a way.EnterWritingContests

Today’s post is my self-motivation for finding that way.

Submitting to contests is a great way to be inspired to write, to actually write, and to actually submit. I’ve done it. I know it’s always fun and challenging and a unique way to get the must to come out and play.

My all-time-favorite contests are the quarterly 24-hour contests by WritersWeekly.com, where you register in advance (this is for the July 9 contest) and pay the modest $5 fee, then on the date of the contest, you receive the writing prompt, the word count, and the guidelines. You have 24 hours to write, polish, and submit a short story.

It’s up to you if you want to pay a fee or not. $5 is the most I’ve ever been willing to part with to enter a contest, but there are all types of contests available.

Here are some contest lists to get you started

I hope you try a writing contest, or two, to shake off cobwebs, exercise the muse, or to have some plain old fun for no other reason than you want to!

Deadlines are a great incentive in themselves, but you could win a prize (money, publication, or some type of gift), improve your writing and editing skills, and even give your self-confidence a boost — which is where I’m at.

Feel free to share your thoughts on contests, and if you have a favorite, please share!

(I’ll talk about contests from a judge’s perspective next week.)

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.

Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Apr 17

On the Beauty and Magic of Details

instagram first blossomI have always paid attention the “little things.” I notice things other people don’t, like the door-shaped opening nestled at the base of an old tree, the first tiny blossom on one of my modest houseplants, or the way my younger cat’s ears look like maps to some magical kingdom.

Details matter. Minutia makes the moment.

instagram cinder earsAs writers, it’s our job to notice the details. They are part of our stock in trade. We must absorb them and squirrel them away for later … the way the veins of a fallen leaf are traced in brilliant white frost, the way a husband places his hand on the small of his wife’s back to guide her even though she’d know the way to their favorite corner table with her eyes closed, the particular shade of emerald and lime green glistening on the back of a frog as it croaks out its song of spring from the edge of a vernal pool, the barely audible sound of the grandmother’s knitting needles clicking down the hall as the grandson drifts off to sleep …

Instagram tree doorWe can miss the details if we move too fast or write too fast. Speed causes the world to blur into generalities and gray spaces. In our haste to get from here to there or started to finished, we gloss right over the best bits.

Slow yourself down. Savor the details. Bask in the discovery of all the little things that have been there all along like an invisible treasure. And then share those jewels with others – write them into your stories so that others can discover their magic, too.

_jamie sig


 What I’m Reading:

tapasOnce again, the week has denied me much time for pleasure reading. I feel guilty about complaining since the reason I’ve been short on time is because I’ve been so busy with client work. I miss quiet time with my books, but there’s something to be said for being gainfully employed.

While I’m working on making more reading time  so I can finish the three novels I’m enjoying at the moment, I thought I’d explore a new mobile reading app that I learned about via Jane Friedman’s blog.  Tapas is a San Francisco-based media company that publishes “bite-sized content” via its mobile app. Designed for readers who typically only have small pockets of time to read and want to have reading material available on their mobile phone or tablet, the platform is proving to be quite popular. According to the company’s press page, since they launched in the fall of 2012, they have garnered more than 600 million views from more than 1 million readers.

tapas screenTapas serves up serialized stories and illustrated comics that cater to “story fans.” I’ve only just begun exploring the available stories, but I have to say that – so far – I’m pretty impressed. The quality of the writing seems better and more consistent than what I’ve found, for instance, on Wattpad. And though I’m not a regular reader of graphic novels or comics, the examples of those genres on Tapas are beautiful and engaging.

The stories are organized into collections such as Top 10, Queens of Comedy, Tapastic Favorites, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Staff Picks, New and Noteworthy, Holding Out for a Hero, Inherit the Earth, In a Mood, and more. You can also choose to filter the content by Books vs. Comics, so that you only see one or the other.

There is also a gaming element to the app, but I haven’t quite figured that out. You can earn points to unlock new installments in the books or comics you’re reading. I’ll have to do more research on that. But, for now, I’m just enjoying exploring a new story space.

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Sundry Links and Articles:

Every once in a while, I come across a new version of the “digital notebook.” I’m always a little intrigued by these devices that promise to combine the old-school feel of pen and ink with the modern convenience of digital documents. This latest entry into the market is from legendary notebook company, Moleskine. This is the Moleskine Smart Writing Set:

Though the promotional video focuses on a design use, I can see how this could be very practical for writers as well. The tutorial video on the product shows lots of great features and use cases, but the $199 price tag still seems a little hefty.

For now, I’ll stick to my DIY “digital notebook” by using my phone to take pictures of notebook pages and then uploading those pictures to Evernote where I can archive and sort them. I can’t search text the way Moleskine’s Smart Writing Set allows, but I seriously doubt if any digital notebook could read my horrendous writing, so it’s probably no great loss.

Curious: Have you ever used a digital notebook? If so, what did you think?

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin armani details

Go forth and revel in the details, maybe enjoy a micro story on tapas, and write – definitely write! 
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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. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Weekend Edition – The Secret Truth About Writing

Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty, 2003

Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty, 2003

In the summer of 2007 my fourteen-year marriage was limping toward what would turn out to be a less-than-amicable divorce. I split my days between denial, mild panic attacks, and desperately trying to figure out what I would do to support myself and my three-year-old daughter. At the same time, my paternal grandmother passed away. After months of being in and out of rehab for various illnesses related to diabetes, she spent the end of her life in a hospice facility. I was there the day she died. We were not close, but she was the first family member I’d lost since I’d been grown-up enough to really understand what was happening. Only a few, brief hours before she passed, my Korean grandmother had gripped my hand in hers and told me earnestly that she was ready to take charge of her life now.

In the midst of all these big, traumatic events in my little world, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. The release of a shiny new piece of technology may not seem, at first glance, to have much to do with death and divorce; but that sleek device captured my imagination and quickly became the focus of a not entirely rational obsession.

With so many aspects of my life spinning out of control, the iPhone seemed to be an almost magical key to the life of order and control that I so desperately wanted.

··• )o( •··

On the day of the release, my daughter and I queued up outside the local Apple store along with hundreds of other shoppers who were eager to get their hands on this technological wonder. It took us three hours to gain entry into the bustling, white-on-white interior where Apple staff were delivering beautifully packaged new iPhones into the hands of customers who were as anxious and excited as expectant  parents.

Luckily for me, my mom and dad arrived to entertain my daughter just as she was beginning to lose patience with my constant admonitions about touching things and standing still. As my parents whisked her off to a less constrained environment, I finally took receipt of my own embossed box and the device that I was certain would give me all the tools I needed to organize, manage, and reinvent my life. I was ready, like my recently deceased grandmother, to take charge.

··• )o( •··

My ex-husband will tell you that I’m a control freak, though – from where I’m standing – my “managerial” tendencies pale in comparison to those of his current wife. I will admit, however, to having Type-A personality traits and maybe even a touch of OCD. These characteristics make me more susceptible than the average person to the allure of devices, software, and procedural practices that promise superhuman speed and efficiency. I have been known to swoon upon discovering a new piece of software or iPhone app. As a writer, I sometimes worry that my fascination with technology and systems might compromise my creative spark; but I’ve also come to accept that this is who I am.

As you’ve probably already guessed, that first iPhone did not give me the ability to effortlessly transform my life into a well-ordered, Zen-like existence. Neither did any of next three iPhones that I purchased.  Nevertheless, my love for Apple’s crown jewel remains undiminished. I’ve just had to learn to temper my expectations. Now that I’ve been around the block a few times, I have a more realistic sense of what an iPhone can and cannot do to improve my life.

··• )o( •··

I’m starting to learn a similar lesson about writing.

For all it’s creative and inspirational glory, writing is, at it’s core, an act of control. As writers, we create worlds, characters, and the plots that send our characters careening through our worlds on adventures of love and discovery, triumph and tragedy. We manipulate words into sentences and sentences into stories, controlling what our readers see, hear, smell, and feel. Writers are, in a sense, the gods of our own realities.

Writing is also a way to exert control over our own lives and emotions. The process of writing grounds us, offering solace and comfort through the ritual of regular practice and the relief of cathartic release. Writing gives us a set of powerful tools with which we can plumb the depths of our own feelings, attempt to make some sense of the world around us, and even reshape perceptions – ours and those of others.

Ultimately, writing is a bid not only for control of the here and now, but also for a certain kind of immortality. Like any artist, the writer seeks to create something that will live on after its creator is long gone. It’s not enough, apparently, to control the creation of alternate realities, our emotions, and perceptions. Writing also strives to control time itself by allowing the author’s voice to time travel across years or even centuries to whisper its story into the hearts and minds of new readers living in another era.

··• )o( •··

I don’t pass any judgments on the controlling nature of writing. It is neither good nor bad; it just is. Mostly, it makes me laugh to think how long it’s taken me to figure this truth out.

I’m also learning to laugh at the futility of any effort to control life. I’m finally old enough to realize that even if we do everything we’re supposed to, life always gets the last word. There are no guarantees. There are no silver bullets. There are, however, plenty of plot twists. Even the best laid plans can go awry, and even the perfectly planned story can turn out differently than you expected.

I haven’t yet fully grasped the nature of the relationship between life and writing. I don’t know if I ever will, and that’s okay. For now, I’m just grateful that writing is such an important part of my life. Though I can acknowledge that the control it gives me is only an illusion, I can’t think of a worthier or more lovely illusion to pursue.

A story can cast a spell, but writing is not a magic wand. Words have undeniable power, but they are only a reflection of life, not the real thing. If you can recognize the distinction and still write with joy and enthusiasm, you’re on the right track.

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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. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Friday Fun – Publishing Poetry

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: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:

FriFunQuestion6

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: If you’re interested in having your poetry heard, seeking out open mic nights at book stores, cafes, and such places can be a good start. Asking your local librarians about other poets… searching meetup.com for local poets may also be an option. Coffee shops and poets seem to go together, too.

As far as getting poetry published, Google various terms such as “publishing poetry”. I found Poetry Magazine that way, here is a link to their submissions page. Lots of magazines use poems as fillers. Here’s a list of publications willing to accept online submissions. It’s quite long, so perhaps a good place to start.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Hi Renee Nichole! I don’t have anything to add to what Lisa wrote, as I’ve never tried to get any poetry published, but I just wanted to say I love reading poetry, especially when I find it unexpectedly (like in a non-poetry magazine, as Lisa mentioned.) Good luck with finding a place for your poetry. Lisa’s list looks like a great start!

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: Renee, you raise an important distinction: the difference between “being published’ and being “read by someone.” Before sending poems out for publication, I’d suggest finding other poets to work with. I think you’ll learn a lot by doing this, including where other poets submit poetry. Good luck!

Writing Process

writingprocessSMALLBack in college, I had an English professor who talked about her “process” all the time. She talked about slaving over a piece day and night until worried friends finally took the type-written pages from her sweaty hands and turned them in for her because she never felt like her writing was good enough. Of course, once it was submitted, it was accepted and praised. The message my eighteen-year-old self took from hearing a semester’s worth of this kind of talk was that a writer’s process was necessarily difficult and even painful. I didn’t take any more English classes during my undergraduate career.

For years I thought all writers had the same process and I thought it was more difficult that a career in medicine.

Now, many years later, I realize each writer has their own process, and it’s up to each writer to figure out what process suits them best. Over time, I have come to see when and how I write best. Not just whether or not I’m a “seat-of-the-pants” writer or a “plotter,” although that’s good to know. (I’m more of a “seat-of-the-pants” writer, although I have been known to outline. Every writer has a different process and what works for one writer doesn’t work for every writer.

Here are some aspects of “process” my English teacher never mentioned:

Environment: What kind of environment do you like to write in? I write best at my desk in my home office, but if I have an idea and a few minutes, I can write almost anywhere. I like cafés unless there is a very loud conversation going on right next to me. Many conversations are much better than just one as they all become background noise. I also need to be physically comfortable—not too cold, especially. If a café is so cold I don’t want to take my coat off, I get my coffee to go. Driving home takes some time, but sitting in a cold café focusing on how uncomfortable I am takes a lot more time—and energy—that I could have used on writing.

Timeframe: Do you have to plan out your writing or can you just dive in any time? I write my best when I’ve given myself a chance to think about my topic over a few days (or a few weeks.) Then I take the pressure off by telling myself “I’ll just write about this for 15 minutes and see what happens.” If I carve out a big block of time to write on “this,” (whatever “this” is,) I will stall until I’ve wasted the precious time and have nothing to show for it. Even if I know I have two hours to write, I’ll tell myself I’m only going to spend 15 minutes on “this.” It’s my version of Anne Lamott’s “*&%$ First Drafts.”

Time of Day: What time of day or night works best for you? I know I do my best writing early in the day, but I now often write in the evenings, too. I just don’t rewrite and polish at night because my brain isn’t at its sharpest then. If I have thoughts or ideas waiting to be written, I can spew them out onto the page in the evening and rewrite in the morning.

Rewriting: How do you approach the rewriting process? Once I have something down, I can go back in and rewrite and add to the piece without feeling the pressure. My fascination with words, from grammar to style to creativity, kicks in and I can keep going. I always enjoy returning to a piece because I’m usually surprised at how much I like and want to keep. Even if I don’t like what I’ve written, I can usually see what’s wrong after a break from the piece. I recently came back to a blog post that wasn’t coming together and immediately saw that it had two major ideas in it and needed to be broken into two different blog posts.

Managing Distractions: How do you do it? At last fall’s New England Crime Bake (a mystery writer’s conference), a best-selling author I admire said her latest book would have been published a year earlier if it wasn’t for Facebook. Since that comment, I’ve been much more careful about eliminating distractions. I sit at my desk and use the Post-it Note method. If I think of something that needs doing while I’m writing, I just put it on a Post-It note (or, if I’m at a cafe, I put it on my phone under Reminders.) Once “buy toilet paper,” or “pick up salad greens” is out of my head and on a note somewhere, I can get back to writing.

Knowing how and when I work best has helped me arrange my day better to increase my output as a writer. It also gives me permission to put my laptop away and move on when, say, a loud conversation starts at the table next to me in the café.

Do you know what your ideal writing process is?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, master life coach, and family physician. I just discovered Bookbub and immediately downloaded six books to my Kindle app. Is this yet another distraction I’m going to have to manage?!

Putting It Together

killing timeI’ve written about this before–the difference between being an author and being published is vast. By published, I mean being engaged in the business part of writing. While it is, and remains, a thrill to hold a book I wrote in my hand, the business is fraught. Publishing trends, consolidation of publishing companies, e-books, making a living. I firmly believe that remaining grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given is the best path forward. However, I need some help navigating that path.

Help comes from many places, including Jane Friedman. She teaches, blogs, speaks at conferences, and offers a variety of services. Her blog posts are terrific. A recent post was called “4 Lessons for Authors on the Current State of Publishing“. It is definitely worth reading the entire post, but today I want to focus on one piece of advice she offered.

“An author’s online presence is more critical than ever to long-term marketing strategy.” She has a good deal of advice in this area, but supported one of the decisions I made early on. I don’t separate my online lives. J.A. Hennrikus short story writer and Julianne Holmes author of the Clock Shop Mysteries–you may take different roads to get there, but you will end up in the same place.

I am on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I have a url for J.A. Hennrikus and one for Julianne Holmes, but they both end up the same place. I blog here and at Wicked Cozy Authors, and both places I use both names. Am I doing this all perfectly, or even well? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am trying, and in this publishing climate, trying counts for something.

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J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. Just Killing Time, the first in the series, has been nominated for a Best First Agatha award.

The art of writing about pain

 

20160407_100121

I have been absent from this blog for a while. My mom transitioned into a short-term hospice facility and I’ve been dividing my time between New Hampshire and Connecticut. I’m a little stretched thin these days.

I’m telling you this not for sympathy, (but I will take any and all support) but rather I’m letting you know that as writers, when you are going through a particularly painful time – that’s when you should be picking up your pens and writing. Some pretty honest and gut wrenching stuff will come out.

Everyone handles adversity and grief in their own way. For me, it’s writing about it.

Writers all know that writing is and always will be the best therapy. When I write, all of those jumbled thoughts of insanity in my head become clear. I can pull them out and create some semblance of sense. When I write I start to breathe.

I have not had the time to sit down much at my computer (when I’m in New Hampshire  I teach and when I’m in Connecticut I’m with my mother) but I have been taking notes. At the end, I want to (need to) share with others what an incredible journey this has been. I want to explain what happens in hospice (I’ll tell you right now, I was a hospice virgin and didn’t have a clue.) I want people to know that although as a young woman I fought my mother and told her “I’m never going to be like you!” at the end, what I’m actually discovering is that I am indeed my mother’s daughter.

I want to let people know what a privilege it is to spend time with those who have limited time.

My mom is in a room with up to 3 other women who are all in different stages of their journeys. We all talk, we laugh – I bring bagels and coffee. And we mourn when yet another one leaves.

At the end there are no defenses left. You are stripped down to your essence and from that place empowerment, integrity and clarity emerges. And from that experience also can come powerful words.

It’s not time for me to fully write about this (I have been writing a little on my blog), but when it is, I’ll take out my notebook and will try my best to put into words what this incredible experience has meant and what lessons I have learned as I travel alongside my mother while she in on her final journey.

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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.