Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links


Paper lantern lit by the sun just before dusk #night #magic #light

Last weekend’s autumn “Illumination” festival didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was lovely, nonetheless. Despite conscientious testing, floating the paper lanterns on the river atop mini inner tube rafts was a concept that had to be abandoned the morning of the event. Mother Nature was kicking up a bit of a breeze, and it turns out that paper lanterns are built to sway in the wind, not withstand it. Structurally, they just couldn’t hold up against even a gentle air current.

So, instead of sending the lanterns out onto the water, we hung them in the trees along the riverside path that was the main thoroughfare for festival goers. The effect was lovely. More than one person commented that it looked like a fairyland come to life. Just goes to show that even when something doesn’t quite turn out as you’d hoped, there is still beauty and magic to be found.

_jamie sig



 My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:





book-productivity-for-creativesSundry Links and Articles:

I’m a longtime reader of the Lateral Action blog, so I was delighted to come across author Mark McGuinness’ post, Get My New Book FREE: Productivity for Creative People. In the post, McGuinness describes the book as follows:

The book is designed to help you take advantage of the benefits of our hyper-connected society, while staying true to your creative path.

It’s a distillation of my writings on creativity and productivity over the past decade, here at Lateral Action and elsewhere, plus brand new material and a structure that will help you redesign your working week for maximum creativity and minimum drudgery:

  1. Laying the Foundations – making big-picture decisions about your priorities and working practices
  2. Doing Creative Work – in spite of the demands and distractions of 21st century life
  3. Dealing with the Rest – in a timely and professional manner

All the ideas have been extensively road-tested – in my own life as a writer and coach, and in the lives of the hundreds of creative pros I’ve coached over the past 20 years.

I haven’t read it yet, but I have downloaded it and am very much looking forward to sitting down with Mark’s words and a mug of tea.

 ··• )o( •··

messy-nessy-chicIf you’re looking for a little visual inspiration, you may want to check out You’ve Never Seen 1930s & 40s America Like This from @messynessychic. This collection of more than 1,600 color slides from the Library of Congress provides an intimate and almost surreal look at life in America in the 1930s and 40s. From still life compositions to portraits and candid shots, these images offer a feast of story inspiration.

Here are a few of my favorites complete with the captions from Messy Nessy Chic:

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, “backstage” at the “girlie” show, Sept 1941, photographed by Jack Delano

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, “backstage” at the “girlie” show, Sept 1941, photographed by Jack Delano

Commuters, who have just come off the train, waiting for the bus to go home, Lowell, Mass, 1941 Jan, photographed by Jack Delano

Commuters, who have just come off the train, waiting for the bus to go home, Lowell, Mass, 1941 Jan, photographed by Jack Delano

Children on row house steps, Washington, D.C, between 1941 and 1942, photographed by Louise Rosskam

Children on row house steps, Washington, D.C, between 1941 and 1942, photographed by Louise Rosskam

Finally, a quote for the week:


Here’s to being dangerous.  
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.

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

Writer’s Weekend Edition – The Power of Story in the “Real” World


Alice: Another character embracing the great responsibility that accompanies her great power.

About a month ago, I published a piece here called, Remember. The World Runs on Stories.  It was mostly a note of encouragement to writers who felt that their pursuit of the writing craft was either a waste of time or a selfish indulgence … or, perhaps, both.

But, there’s another aspect to the idea of stories running the world that’s been nagging at me.

··• )o( •··

My daughter was home sick from school on Thursday, and we watched the 2002 Spiderman movie starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. One of the most quotable lines from that movie is when young Peter Parker’s uncle tells the emerging superhero that, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

It’s a great line.

While it’s reported to have made its pop culture debut in the Spiderman comic back in 1962, the origins of the quote go much farther back in history. Some researchers  cite similar phrases showing up throughout history: in 1793 at the French National Convention; in 1817 at the UK House of Commons; in 1854 in a text published by Reverend John Cumming, a Minister of the Scottish National Church, and so on.

Clearly, this isn’t a new concept.

··• )o( •··

A while back, a Livingston Taylor song inspired me to write a piece called It’s Good to Be the Writer. The funny, little song about an author arguing with his protagonist over the storyline highlights the power an author ultimately has over the creation of worlds, characters, and plots. Writers are, in a way, like the gods of our own realities.

But, what we sometimes forget is that the worlds we create can develop lives outside the confines of their reality. In fact, that’s their purpose, isn’t it?

··• )o( •··

While some may argue that certain stories are nothing more than “pure entertainment,” I’m not sure I believe that. Stories are the writer’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs packaged up into a format that is entertaining; but the fact that the format – whether written, audio, or visual – is entertaining does not strip a story of its meaning.

When I read Mario Vargas Llosa’s Letters to a Young Novelist, I was intrigued by the idea expressed in this quote from the book:

What is the origin of this early inclination, the source of the literary vocation, for inventing beings and stories? The answer, I think, is rebellion. I’m convinced that those who immerse themselves in the lucubration of lives different from their own demonstrate indirectly their rejection and criticism of life as it is, of the real world, and manifest their desire to substitute for it the creations of their imaginations and dreams.

Rebellion? Interesting.

··• )o( •··

I have always been especially drawn to and enchanted by works in the “speculative fiction” genre – science fiction, fantasy, alternative history, surrealism, and magical surrealism. While many relegate these kinds of stories to that “pure entertainment” category, they are, in fact, some of the most influential and persistent narratives in our culture.

Storytellers working in these genres have an unparalleled ability to explore alternate realities and possibilities, spinning tales off in unexpected directions in pursuit of a particular line of reasoning or “What if?” scenario. These writers can push characters and storylines beyond the boundaries imposed by “real” life, and yet their fantastical stories often put us in closer touch with what’s happening in this world, right now. And, often, their works turn out to be startlingly prophetic.

··• )o( •··

As writers, we are responsible for the stories that we put into the world.

I’m not, by any means, advocating for a world full of morality tales. I’m saying that writers need to be aware that each story they create becomes part of the fabric of reality. Stories are not exactly inanimate. When a reader’s mind encounters a story, a chemical reaction takes place that changes both reader and story. We cannot consume any story without internalizing some aspect of it … hero, villain, belief, possibility.

The stories we internalize color our reality, throwing shadows of themselves across our experience on both a conscious and subconscious level. Some stories offer wish fulfillment, others serve as cautionary tales. Some stories give us courage and motivate us to step more fully into our potential. Some stories make us slow down and rethink the reality we’ve come to take for granted. Some stories help us cope with pain and fear through laughter, acceptance, and shared experience. Some stories provide forgiveness, others hold us accountable.

··• )o( •··

It doesn’t matter if you write for an audience of one or a readership that spans continents. Your stories make a difference. Just by writing them, you change yourself, and the effects of that change ripple out from you into the world via every interaction you have with others. And when you share your stories, the effects expand exponentially as each reader takes a little piece of your world view and incorporates some aspect of it into their own.

The world really does run on stories, and each one has the power to change the world. Remember that when you’re writing and when you share your writing with others. There is great power in words and stories. Wield the power wisely. Take responsibility.

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.

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

Exercise for the Mind

There’s a short problem-solving exercise I do whenever I go on a Wordless Walk. It works for big problems, tiny problems, and it also works for my character’s problems.

Here’s the exercise:

As you’re walking, close your eyes for a second and take a deep breath. Open your eyes and notice whatever your eyes fall on first. Could be anything: A tree, a rock, a path.

Of course, you can also do this exercise sitting in your living room or anywhere else, and you’ll get a different object, such as a lamp or a stool.

Whatever your eyes notice first, ask this question about it: How is this tree (rock, path, lamp, stool) like my problem?

Then, as you walk, (or sit,) notice whatever answers come to mind. It sounds clunky, but this exercise has never failed me.

A couple of years ago, when I was having trouble finding time to write, I did this exercise while on a wordless walk and my eyes landed on a bird when I opened them. I thought, How is this bird like my difficulty finding time to write? These are the answers that came:

  • The bird is up at dawn and goes to sleep at dusk.
  • The bird follows her own natural rhythms.
  • The bird doesn’t worry about having enough time.
  • The bird has enough time to do whatever it wants.
  • The bird stays present to whatever is going on.

From these thoughts, I came up with some very helpful insights: I am a morning person; I should stop trying to write at night. I need to follow my own natural rhythm and focus on writing in the mornings or during the day when I am fresh and awake. Staying present will show me where there is time I can use to write. I have enough time for the things that are important to me.

Even though I’m a morning person, I’d been trying to write at night after all the business of the day was done and it wasn’t working. Thinking about this bird made me realize how silly it was for me to continue to push myself to do something not in my nature. I relaxed about writing at night and found different islands of time during the day to write, starting with the early morning. This new insight has served me well in the last couple of years.

To use this exercise with one of your characters, you do the exercise the same way but ask yourself: How is this object like my character’s problem?

The brain is a very effective problem-solver, and the structure of this exercise allows the brain to easily build the answers and show us the result.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Hello, I’m a writer, blogger, master life coach, and family physician. Please let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to cover in this blog.




Julie’s Pearls of Wisdom

This post was originally on Wicked Cozy Authors last April. Enjoy.


julies-pearlsI have a few different jobs. I run an arts service organization called StageSource. I write the Clock Shop Mystery series as Julianne Holmes. I also teach arts management classes as adjunct faculty. I only started teaching eleven years ago, and I really love it. In fact, if I’d known how much I love teaching I likely would have rethought some of my earlier career and gone on the academic track, but I digress.

This time of year, with classes winding down and graduation looming, part of my job is to calm the seniors down, and get them ready for their next adventure. The advice I give is applicable to other fields, and all ages, so I thought I’d share some of it here.

Be Curious. Never stop learning, questioning, thinking. Find new ways to do things that are routine. If you don’t know an answer, find it.

Lead with Kindness. Once I turned fifty I stopped being nice all the time. But I always try to be kind. A subtle but important distinction. Snarkiness and cynicism is easy, but also lazy. Be kind.

Once You’re Done Learning, Move On. A former student reminded me of this piece of advice, which (we think) came from Michael Kaiser in the Art of the Turnaround. You can keep doing a job when you are done learning, but it is really tough to stay fresh and on point. I’ve been in arts administration for thirty years, and I keep learning. I’ve changed jobs, but I keep learning.

Be Brave. You will be afraid–afraid to make a mistake, afraid of rejection, afraid of being laughed at. The key is, do it anyway. Be brave.

Don’t Lose Sight of Adventure. So many folks are so focused on the path/career plans they are pursuing, they lose sight of the side paths, other opportunities that may actually be the better choice. Life is full of side paths. Explore a few.

Be the Person You Aspire to Be. Be classy. Dress as if you are the boss. Manage your social media profile/life well.

No One Cares About Your Career As Much As You Do. Don’t look for outside validation. Listen to other people, but make your own decisions. Then live with the decisions you make. You have to take care of you.

Don’t Be Afraid of  Change. Making change, or being the change that folks need.

What are your pearls of wisdom? What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Hooray for the rare birds

I was recently at a restaurant waiting for my meal to arrive when I pulled out my ever constant friend – my notebook. I had a thought that I didn’t want to escape and so I began to scribble it down using one of my favorite gel pens

A waiter walked by my table. He suddenly stopped and addressed me “You write?”

“Yes,” I told him. “I’m a writer.”

He shook his head, “No, I mean you write in a notebook?”

“Yes,” I confirmed, now a little confused and thinking I was missing something here. “I write in a notebook.”

“You’re a rarity,” he told me apparently amazed at my extraordinary skill of being able to write using a pen.

We both smiled.

That’s where technology has brought us. If you write using pen and paper, if you read using a paper-based book, if you tell time by a wristwatch and not by a phone that beeps on the hour, then you are a rarity. Those aberrations to our hectic life are the quaint behaviors that have now become notable and worthy of social commentary.

Well I say – hooray and hats off to those of us who insist on rocking the boat of what’s expected! How interesting we all make the world as full-fledged members of the rare bird flock.

Write and read on.




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.

Building Confidence As a… Writer (2)

Last week was the first in a series of posts about how to build confidence as a writer. I use the ellipsis to show that the tips can be used in almost any area of life, not just the writing portion.

The first post was about starting your day off with something that makes you happy / gives you a smile. Several readers responded with wonderful habits they have to kickstart their days.

The second tip to building confidence as a writer is – no surprise – write!

the-more-you-writethe-more-you-will-improve-your-writingWrite on a napkin. Write on paper. Write on a pad. Write in a notebook. Write on a sticky note. Type on a keyboard and see it on a screen.

Write often. Write whenever you can. Write every day. Write on specific days.

Write for 5 minutes, an hour, or until your fingers cramp. Set a timer and write until it goes off. Write until the child wakes up from his nap. Write during your lunch hour. Write between customers. Write between loads of wash.

Write what you know. Write about what you’d like to know. Write what makes you feel uncomfortable. Write the way successful people in your chosen area write.

Write whatever interests you – business, finance, non-fiction, how-to, fiction, poetry, speeches, children, middle grade, adult.

Write 120-character phrases, play around with headlines, practice closing paragraphs.

Write short. Write long. Write somewhere in between.

Write. If you call yourself a writer, you need to write. If you want to build your confidence as a writer, you need to keep writing. If you want to be a successful writer, you will be writing as often as you can.

Write to specific prompts. Write to an assignment (in class or make one up on your own).

Playing with words on a daily basis enables you to become more comfortable with the  writing process overall. Having a habit of writing gives you the mindset to embrace words – no matter how they may come to you – as a magazine article, a short story, blog post, tweet, poem, process guide, marketing piece, customer or company profile.

As writers, we write. The more we write – the more we try different styles of writing – the more we can hone our individual strengths and narrow in on what we excel at and what we are most passionate about.

Are you working on building your writing skills each day? What are your challenges?

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.

Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links

Autumn Vignette: And in the faerie bower they slept amidst petals of every hue and dewdrops that shone like jewels.

Autumn Vignette: And in the faerie bower they slept amidst petals of every hue and dewdrops that shone like jewels.

Hello, and happy third day of fall!

I’m keeping today’s post pretty short since it’s my birthday today, and I’m trying to spend as little time as possible behind the keyboard. I told all my clients in advance that I was going to be unavailable this weekend. (I’ve had a summer’s worth of working Saturdays and Sundays, and even freelancers deserve a break once in a while.)

Instead of working, I will be part of the volunteer team that is putting together our town’s annual “Ipswich Illumination” night. I think this is the third year we’ve held this autumn festival, and it’s become one of my favorite local events. Usually, we have bonfires floating on the river; but, because of the drought, our fire chief very sensibly decided to ix-nay the floating fires. As a replacement, we’ll be using paper lanterns lit with a non-flammable light source.  So, on Saturday morning our volunteer brigade will be spending several hours hauling eighty specially assembled inner tube rigs out into the low tide muck where we will anchor them with bricks. Hopefully – if all goes well – when the sun goes down, we’ll have eighty paper lanterns glowing softly as they bob on the surface of the river on their rubber rafts. Should be quite a sight.

I look forward to being back into my usual groove next weekend. Until then, I hope you enjoy the links below. Have fun exploring & I’ll “see” you next weekend!

_jamie sig



 Books I’m Reading:

book-androids-dreamI love when a book surprises me.

Such was the case with The Android’s Dream, which I just finished listening to on Audible as read by Wil Wheaton. (Yes, that Wil Wheaton.) I had never heard of the book’s author – one John Scalzi – before, which may or may not be a terrible oversight seeing as the man has (according to his brief biography) won many awards (including the Hugo and the Locus), worked as a TV consultant and a video game writer, and also been the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (for three  years). Wow. Busy guy.

I picked up The Android’s Dream because it was on sale and the Audible write-up was intriguing:

A human diplomat creates an interstellar incident when he kills an alien diplomat in a most unusual way. To avoid war, Earth’s government must find an equally unusual object: A type of sheep (“The Android’s Dream”), used in the alien race’s coronation ceremony.

To find the sheep, the government turns to Harry Creek, ex-cop, war hero and hacker extraordinaire, who with the help of Brian Javna, a childhood friend turned artificial intelligence, scours the earth looking for the rare creature. And they find it, in the unknowing form of Robin Baker, pet store owner, whose genes contain traces of the sheep DNA. But there are others with plans for the sheep as well: Mercenaries employed by the military. Adherents of a secret religion based on the writings of a 21st century science-fiction author. And alien races, eager to start a revolution on their home world and a war on Earth.

To keep our planet from being enslaved, Harry will have to pull off the greatest diplomatic coup in history, a grand gambit that will take him from the halls of power to the lava-strewn battlefields of alien worlds. There’s only one chance to get it right, to save the life of Robin Baker – and to protect the future of humanity.

Sounds fun, right?

It totally was.

This book has a lot going on: political intrigue, alien coups, snappy dialog, technological geekiness, convoluted subterfuge, spiritual quests, epic fights, and enough snarky and from-the-hip one liners to keep a smirk on my face for the whole 10+ hours of listening. Several times, I found myself making comparisons to the works of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut. Yep. I went there.

The Android’s Dream may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There is a LOT of swearing. (I mean, a LOT.) There is also a fair amount of exposition in which the narrator provides somewhat opinionated backstory or general explanation about how such-and-such a thing works. Interestingly, while most schools of writing will warn you to steer clear of exposition, I found some of these passages to be very entertaining … even laugh-out-loud funny. There is also plenty of violence.

That said, this is also a book that made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy. Weird, I know, but true.

If you’re intrigued, but unsure, you can read the first chapter of the book for free on Scalzi’s website here. Love to hear what you think!

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:





Sundry Links and Articles:

I have been enjoying the “micro” reads on Jenny Maloney’s blog, Place for the Stolen.  According to her About page, she has sworn to write 365 “Little Stories” in 2016. Lucky us! Here are two of my recent favorites:



Finally, a quote for the week:


Here’s to celebrations, changing seasons, and telling stories – big ones and little ones. 
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.

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