Category Archives: Writing

Writers and Authors

writer-vs-authorLately I have been working hard on a novel. It is not the first time I have tried to write a novel, but this is the furthest I’ve ever come. And it is still going strong. This is a miracle to me.

And suddenly it feels like I should have been doing this all along. I can talk to other writers with real knowledge of what they are going through, not just a sympathetic ear. I feel like I’ve crossed a border. I am creating a whole world that didn’t exist before, and peopling it with beings I made up. They say words I made up, they make movements I made up. It’s incredible, really.

One thing I didn’t expect: the stark contrast between being in that writing world, and then having to re-enter the Real World. I find myself drifting back to my fictional world in the middle of my days. Oh sure, I’ve heard of this from other writers before, but I didn’t think it was such a visceral, physical tug.

This explains a few things for me. There is, of course, a real difference between the life of a writer and the life of an author. A writer is in their own world, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. They are alone in a room, most of the time, or at least not talking to other people. They are pulling their mind in a different direction from anything that they would normally be forced to consider in daily life. The laundry, dinner, the dishes. Deadlines, bills, work. It’s all extraneous.

And I know this. Intellectually, I know this. I have heard people talk about it. One author I know gave a great keynote a few years ago about this exact thing. But to me, in the audience, not having entered that world in such a way, it was all academic. I knew what he was talking about, sort of, and I even referenced that in my work with other authors. I knew they would suffer as he did.

What I did not know was the depths to which the suffering would go. I thought I understood, but I didn’t. The difference between being a writer and an author is… well, the only thing I can think of that would be analogous is being born. Being whipped out of your comfy safe cocoon, warm and cozy, into a sea of bright lights and noise and demands. Ugh.

That is what an author must do. An author (as opposed to a writer) must push themselves through the birth canal (to use a rather mucky metaphor) and once they have done that, they cannot quit – they must live! They must navigate the ways of the media, they must self-promote, they must speak in front of groups.

This must be why I have found in my promotional work that many writers quit once their book launches. (And not just self-published writers, though they suffer from this more than traditionally publishers authors, I think.) I have worked with many writers who simply cannot or won’t do the work of promotion. They will blog and send out postcards and do events right up until launch month, but then, they just quit. They are done. I have seen this time and time again. It always puzzled me.

What I think is going on is that they didn’t anticipate this dichotomy. They enjoyed the writing so much, but didn’t realize what came after. There was some disconnect there that no one else could address, because the writers themselves didn’t even realize it existed (I’m guessing).

Oh my. What have I got myself into? It is the price we must pay, I guess, for that lovely place you find yourself in when your fictional world comes alive. Well, at least I know what’s on the other side. I mean, intellectually, anyway.

Sucked into the research vortex

time-and-space-vortexIf you are a writer, you must do research. That is sort of a given. One of the staples of the writing life. Even if you write fiction, and purport to make it all up, there will come a time when you will want to know the definition of a given word, or the infinitesimal difference between one word and the next. Then you must consult something, whether it’s a quick internet search or a large tome on a stand. It’s surprising, actually, how much research you will find yourself doing.

But if you are writing historical fiction or any nonfiction, or really, even most fiction, you will need to know more. You can make up a whole world but you will still need to know how people do certain things given certain parameters.

And in my world, with my story set oh so many years ago, there are many parameters.

I had always written essays and poetry. I had tried writing a novel a couple of times, but it just fell flat. Then I got an idea, and I realized it was an idea that could actually work. It was something I was interested in and that I wanted to know more about, and there was a story there. However, it required me to find out an awful lot about a time and place that I knew little about. Lucky for me, I was obsessed.

Because when you start to pull that world together, and the words flow onto the page, it’s like magic. When you have created a scene where something happened, where before there was nothing – that’s a kind of magic, isn’t it? Probably the closest I’ll ever come to doing magic. Conversations that never existed, until now. And if you’re a pantser like me, each day brings these new surprises. New delights, but at the same time, the whole thing is playing like a movie in my head.

Until, of course, it’s not. When a time comes that the character must do something concrete, like take off a shoe. And I have to figure out what that shoe looked like. Laces? No laces? Leather or fur? Or the boat they ride in, or the dishes they eat off of. It’s all so fascinating to me, I can’t help but describe it.

After I spend hours looking it up. Oops. Sucked into the research vortex, I made the oft-repeated mistake of falling in love with my research. I pitched the book at a conference and couldn’t help myself from telling the agent all about the archeology it was based on. I caught myself, but it was close.

I have seen cases where the author’s research was showing. Where the corset of the character was described in too much detail. Where we know they spent time researching something, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and yet here they are describing it. It doesn’t add anything.

This is something to be wary of, my friends. What your story is about, and the backstory research that you have to do to make that world come alive, should not intersect. That backstory, though, is so very necessary. You must fully flesh out the world yourself, before you can fully bring it to life. And it shows, but not in ways that are obvious. That is known as depth.

So be careful out there. Do a lot of research, but not so much that you don’t write the story. And write the story, but don’t show so much research that the story takes a backseat. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips or guidelines for realizing you are in too deep and pulling yourself out, or where that fine line is when the research overtakes the story. I am just starting out here, and I hope that I can tell the difference. I already know that the time has come to stop doing the research for a little while. We’ll see how that plays out on the page.

How many of you have been sucked into the research vortex? How did you haul yourself out of it?

Why we write at times like this

Men_reading_the_Koran_in_Umayyad_Mosque,_Damascus,_Syria
How can anyone, after watching the horrific events of this past week, this past month, this past year, think that putting imaginary worlds down on a blank page could have any meaning?

I will tell you.

It is precisely in times like this, precisely in times when all fabric of humanity seems to be unraveling, when we are struggling to make sense of actions that seem senseless, when we are determined to overcome fear and uncertainty, that we need to write.

Because it is precisely at these times that we need to read.

Because it is stories that most concisely encapsulate our human condition. It is stories that show us that there is good in the ogre; there is beauty in the ugly duckling; and that there is no place like home. It is stories that show us that no matter how awful or black the world may seem, there is some light in it. There is good behind the scenes, there are those attempting to right wrongs, there are those who will fight for the underdog, the downtrodden, the ones left behind.

It is times like this that story becomes even more important.

It is times like this, when the television becomes a weapon, delivering a slew of hate and violence until we just can’t take it any more, that we must unplug, turn it off, drop out and open a book. Who hasn’t lost themselves in a good book when life got just way too overwhelming? Who hasn’t sought solace in a favorite story, the one almost memorized, the go-to imaginary world of prose or poetry that softens the blows, that reminds us that yes, everything will be all right.

It may seem frivolous to pull out the laptop. It may seem even silly to again enter that world you are creating, to create more myths, more monsters, more heroes. But it is those monsters that we can slay. It is those heroes that we can root for. And reading these stories will help us to enter into our own narrative with a fresh perspective, give our mind a little space to process all that it has seen, all the unanswerable questions and perplexing nastiness.

So go. Write your stories. Write your poems. Work on the ideas that are playing in your head. Don’t try to imagine how things in this world can get worse or get better. Control the world you are creating. And when you come out of that world, this world might seem a little more manageable. You may have some answers, some solutions that you hadn’t thought of before. It’s a slim hope, but we need that.

We need to hope that the dragon will be vanquished. That traffic stops won’t be a death sentence. That scuffles won’t turn into vigils. That people will not be blown up as they pray. That some sense will prevail, as we write the most far-fetched story we can think of, the one in which color doesn’t matter.

Submit or Die: Join A Hashtag Community

You may have heard that in certain circles (largely academic), you must publish or perish.

Well, isn’t the same thing true of any writer? And if you are primarily a writer, and not, say, one who concerns themselves with the esoteric functions of some industry or industrial complex, then you really must publish or perish.

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Submit or die

And what do you need to do first, before you can publish? That’s right. Submit. So really, it’s Submit or Die. And that can mean several things.
You can submit your work to journals, websites, contests and the like. Or you can submit queries to agents, publishers or magazines to publish your articles. Really, the how or what doesn’t matter (I mean, yes, ultimately it does matter), because the bottom line is that you must submit something in order to get started.

There are many people who write and do not submit. They exist in a netherworld of anonymity, known as writers only to themselves and close friends and family (and sometimes, not even that). Sometimes, they think they are not good enough. Sometimes, they don’t think their work is ready or they say they simply don’t have time. There are as many reasons for not submitting as there are writers out there.

But the end result is that only those who submit get published. And those who talk about writing but do nothing about submitting are doing a disservice to their writing.

“So I played softball in high school for four years and utterly sucked at it. Like I was embarrassingly bad. That said, I stuck with it. Something about that practice of persistence in spite of continuous failure *read rejection letters*, has fully prepared me for my life as a writer. Thank You, Softball” – Sagirah Shahid

Recently, I saw a post by a poet friend on Facebook, telling how her experience with being bad at softball – but sticking with it – helped to prepare her for life as a writer. She graciously agreed to let me share it. Resiliency. Gotta have it.

But sometimes it’s easier to do other things, and no one will really notice, right? Well, that’s where a support group comes in. Encouragement and accountability might be the things you need to get yourself on a submitting track.

There are some who say that a true writer must write every day; but also some who say that you should just write whenever you can – but above all, make time for it. I have belonged to two groups over the past 9 or 10 months that have helped me do just that. They both offer Encouragement and Accountability. But no judgment.

The first one that I joined, and I would suggest everyone do this, goes along with the principle of writing every day. It is a monthly writing challenge, centered around a hashtag on Twitter, and I wrote about it here. The second one is a Facebook group that operates on the make-time-for-it option, called #1kTuesday, run by the talented and generous Molly Beth Griffin. Both encourage writing and have another thing in common: no judgment. We all have our demons. But we can still celebrate our successes, even the smallest ones, because small successes tend to pile up to be big successes.

Facebook group #SubmitSunday

What I would like to do is build up a similar kind of encouragement aimed at submissions. I will do this more on the model of #1kTuesday, with a Facebook group and a hashtag. I am calling it #SubmitSunday – though in reality there will be no penalty for submitting on other days. The idea, though, is that you will know as you are spending some time on a Sunday morning, afternoon or evening working on submissions that there are others out there doing the same thing. Make time for it.

And when you are done, you can head on over to the Facebook group and enter your accomplishment. I will ask anyone who is a member of the group to submit each Sunday (or any day) what they did, then I will tally them every Monday. It could be “Submitted to x number of journals,” or “Submitted “so-and-so” piece to x journal” or it could be “Worked on a proposal for a writing grant/residency for one hour.” It could even be “Researched markets with x resource for an hour.” It’s okay to do research, but Extra Brownie Points will be awarded for those who are actually submitting work, and who can name the piece and pass along the market that they submitted to.

Occasionally I will share resources that I know of and trust, and I would encourage others to do the same – places where markets, contests and grants are listed that others will find handy. I always share this kind of information with my students and it is nothing but a good feeling. If you are an editor of a publication or director of a program that awards grants or residencies to writers, I would love to see you post the details in the group or simply with the hashtag on Twitter. Open reading periods, deadlines for contests, requests for proposals – all is game.

I have already started the Facebook group, so please join #SubmitSunday. You don’t have to be a Friend of mine on Facebook, and you can invite anyone you want. Also, use the #SubmitSunday hashtag on Twitter (follow me there at @LindaWonder if you don’t already), and tell your friends! I hope that you can join me!

A Mini NaNoWriMo

GrandMLake
This past weekend, I took part in the inaugural North Shore Readers and Writers Festival in Grand Marais, MN, along the North Shore of beautiful Lake Superior. It was stunning, it was magical, it was invigorating and informative. I met people, reconnected with people, had fun with friends and learned a lot, as well as enjoying teaching sessions to other writers. It was a very centering experience in a place that has long held an other-worldly quality for many.

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but I know that many are. If I were, this would have surely given me a shot in the arm to spur me into a flurry of writing. But I’m not worried about it – I’ll be sitting down and writing this week anyway. NaNoWriMo is a great idea, and works for a lot of people. The idea of being surrounded by like-minded individuals, even virtually, is a great motivator. And lots of places hold meet-ups, in-person writing sessions at coffee shops and so on, where you can meet your fellow local NaNoWriMoers.

But for many, it just doesn’t work to try to play by the calendar. November is a busy month, particularly if you have kids, book-ended by two holidays and full of the logistics and preparation that the holiday season often entails. It is also a busy month for me personally this year, with two conferences and several author events. I simply would not be doing myself a favor if I tried to hold myself to it.

But I can make my own little NaNoWriMo, riding on the coattails of the North Shore conference and the cooling weather outside to put my butt in the chair and make some headway on some projects. I’m currently working in three genres, but my focus right now is on the first draft of a novel.

I got a good start on it when I participated in my own little Writing Month in August. I had purposely arranged my schedule and prepared myself mentally to sit down and write in August. I didn’t clear my schedule as much as I would have liked, but enough to give me mental and physical time to get a good start. I found the online Writing Challenge group, which I mentioned earlier, and that, I think, was the game-changer. So I wrote over 20,000 words in August. Amazing what a motivation a hashtag can be.

And I encourage you to do the same. Someone asked me this weekend when I found time to read. I simply said, “At night, or in the evenings, instead of watching TV.” The honest truth is that you have to prioritize – you have to decide what kind of life you want. If you want to focus on writing, you are going to have to give something up. And truly, how sad would you be to give up The Voice? Will you be less of a person if you do not watch that?

This goes for any big goal you have, of course. Sit down and think about your goals and how you want your life to play out. How do you want people to see you? What do you want to leave behind in this mortal coil? There was a session at the conference called The Writing Life. I didn’t take it, but I have a pretty good idea of what she covered. Take a look at A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. These are not so much writing guides as they are guides to building the life you want as a writer. Ultimately, of course, building that life is as individual as the leaves on the trees. And it’s up to you.

Joining the Writing Club

“I’m not a writer”

I have been teaching classes at the Loft Literary Center for about five years now, and there is something that I always run into. These classes fall on the career side of things – how to promote yourself, how to build an online platform, how to use social media, how to find speaking opportunities, that type of thing.

DarkStormy

Invariably, in any one of my classes, as we go around the group and do a little pre-class discovery, the same thing crops up. At least one person – and usually more than one – will indicate that the project they are working on, having written or at least hope to promote does not really qualify them as a writer. They always start out by saying, “I’m not a writer, but I wrote this book… “ Maybe it is a collection of stories their grandfather told, maybe a memoir about their childhood, maybe it is a series of essays on living in the northland. One woman collected and edited 2,000 of her mother’s letters, wrote introductions to each chapter, footnoted the whole thing, collected photos (including getting permission where necessary) and then told me she wasn’t a writer.

writers-group

My response to them is always the same. “You are a writer. Get over it. Own it.” I feel like they will not make great strides in promoting their project until they take ownership of it and realize that it came out of their own head. Never mind that it was a collection of letters, or stories someone else told them on the front porch, or just a little column that they scribbled for the weekly newspaper. It’s all writing – fiction isn’t the only thing that counts – and I want them to accept that.

I have always written, and I have always self-identified as a writer. I always saw myself sitting at a desk writing. There was never any doubt that my career would have something to do with writing. But then, it often did not. I wrote copy. I wrote press releases. I wrote tons of blog posts, social media posts, and articles. Still, that’s writing. Except when someone asks what you do, and you say you are a writer, and their question is always, “Would I have read anything you’ve written?” And the answer is well, no, not unless you’ve read the Cold Weather Rule brochure for the Public Utilities Commission, or the many press kits that I’ve written over the past several years, or perhaps the series of job search posts I wrote over the span of a year and a half for a careers blog. And no, they hadn’t.

Still, I couldn’t blame them. Because I knew there was something else in me, something else brewing. I just didn’t know what. Imagine my surprise when I finally started writing a big project, and it felt like I was butting into the club.

The Writing Challenge

Oh sure, I’d taken my stabs at writing a novel. I had started several when I was younger. I even tried to write a play once. I did NaNoWriMo in 2009, and barely got half way before I realized that the inane dribble I was spouting was going nowhere. I just wasn’t feeling it. I always maintained that I was a poet and essayist first.

Then this past April, I did a blog post challenge. I wanted to kickstart this blog, and it was somewhat helpful in doing that. But most of all, what it taught me was that if you are going to write, and you need to write every day in order to write, then you had better make it a priority, and you had better do it first thing. And it’s helpful to have support, accountability, and check-ins. So that’s a great lesson learned.

Still, I didn’t have an idea for that great novel. Then one night I stayed up late to watch a show on PBS on one of my favorite topics – ancient peoples. This one was about a series of discoveries just made in the last couple years, of Neolithic villages in the north of the British Isles. At the very end, the host made a comment and used a phrase that seared itself right into my very brain. I watched the end of that show with my mouth hanging open. I knew that I had a story.

I thought about it for a few weeks. Then I saw the August Writing Challenge hashtag (#AugWritingChallenge) on Twitter (there are other months, too, just check the website). I went to the website and read the whole thing. It was already August 1, and I didn’t have time to write anything that night, so I started the next night. I had already written the opening scene (or at least the first scene that came to my mind) on a legal pad. I typed it out. I typed some more. I got over 1000 words that first day. And I’ve been loving it ever since.

Giving Yourself Permission

The idea is to write at least 500 words a day, every day, for the whole month. There is an online participation log, and shout outs on Twitter. I love the log. I get to see all those numbers marching across the row, for every day I have written. There are a few zeros on there, but there are far more that are over 1000 words, and I know it will take a while, but it feels great. And the shout outs are really sweet, too. What better for someone sitting alone in a room with the blinds drawn on a summer day?

And now, hey. Guess what? I’m writing. I’m writing nearly every day. I’m writing this novel, and I’m writing blog posts for this poor neglected blog, and articles on my Books column on Examiner.com, and things that I have long promised to other people.

But sometimes, when I post my word counts on Twitter with the hashtag, I still feel like I’m play-acting a little bit. Like maybe those ‘real’ authors out there are going to somehow call me on it. I fall into the old trap: “I’m not really a writer, but I wrote this book.”

But that’s not true. I’m not play acting. I’m actually doing it. I’m giving myself permission. So, to quote another Twitter hashtag #TenThingsNottoSaytoaWriter, my contribution was “Would I have read anything you’ve written?”

Not yet. But some day, you just might.

Find me on Twitter at @LindaWonder and @PubBones and let’s talk about writing… !

Z is for Zombies

I know, kind of a stretch, right? This is my final post for the April A to Z Challenge, and hey, Z is tough. But let me reassure you – I am not into that whole Walking Dead thing. Zombies just never have done it for me. However, there is one way in which they relate to what I’m doing that I can discuss. And that is the old writing maxim: Write it like they’re dead.

This typically applies to nonfiction work: memoirs, biography and the like. Most of the time, someone writing a biography has the cooperation of their subject, so it’s not an issue. But what do you do when you want to write a memoir – ostensibly about your own experience – and in come all those other people in your life, and you find you have to write about them, too?

I went to an excellent panel at AWP (I know, really, this is the last mention!) on Privacy of Secondary Characters. If you are writing creative nonfiction, memoir, or even poetry, you have to consider this. Or if there’s a chance that your best friend will recognize herself in your novel, I guess it would apply there too. But the bottom line is, it really doesn’t matter.

If you are worried about how others will respond to your work, then you have two choices: either don’t write it, or write it like they’re dead. You can’t create this work worrying about what others will think, even if they are explicitly mentioned in the work. One quote from the panel stands out: “The only authorization is the ethos of art.” Which is to say, you will get no authorization, nor do you need to. Unless you are portraying someone as criminal, you can’t worry about it. (And if you are, that’s a whole different story.)

Other tidbits from this session (it really was excellent) include:
1. Make the writing worth the cost (if it’s that good, who’s going to argue?)

2. Don’t worry about defacing the Family Scroll (a hypothetical scroll of family history on which you don’t want to make a black mark)

3. There’s no such thing as writing honestly about yourself and not doing justice to others.

4. You cannot ultimately predict how anyone will respond (panelists had stories of responses very different than they had envisioned, some good, some from different people than they had expected)

5. Compassion + mercy + forgiveness can come back around to the authors.

6. The subject and writer are in this together, even if the subject has a lot more to lose.

7. We do it, we do it imperfectly, but don’t kid yourself there’s no cost to anyone.

I guess then it’s all about your risk tolerance. How much of a risk are you willing to take? What might the costs be of your craft? There is, of course, always a cost. How do you weigh that against not performing your craft?

As I said, this has mostly to do with nonfiction, but you might also consider this if you are writing fiction. I had an idea for a novel a while back that would have been very transparent to my best friend, about a woman whose dad was dying of cancer. The new book I’m working on is actually about my best friend, who herself died of cancer. It is nonfiction. I have considered how her mom might feel about it, or her husband or her son. But I honestly can’t worry about that. Also, they don’t read much or go to book events, or read reviews. So there is really little chance that they would actually know about the book unless I told them. I am torn.

What is your responsibility to your subjects? Is their story just out there for the taking? How do you reconcile that if your story is inextricably intertwined with theirs?

There are so many questions. It’s an ethical question, to be sure. And a good discussion could be had on ethics in art.

What say you?

P is for Patience

The idea of patience in publishing is a double-edged sword. It requires patience to publish traditionally, and it requires patience to successfully self-publish. Note that I say successfully self-publish, while traditional publishing requires patience no matter what the outcome.

When publishing traditionally, it is necessary to have patience to wend your way through the labyrinth of hurdles you will encounter: how to write the book, get an agent, see the book sold (patience, patience), and wait for it to come out, all while still maintaining your online platform and hopefully writing your next book. I recently had a client who, while giving a presentation, was asked, “How long did it take you to get an agent?” His response: “Lucky 151.” He had compiled a list of appropriate agents, and had submitted his query to 150 agents before receiving a response. Now that’s patience.

But it paid off. His book was released in October by an imprint of Penguin Random House that specializes in mystery, and he received great pre-publication reviews. He has made the finalist round of several awards around the country, and even carried home many of them. He is, of course, having a ball, but he also approached this methodically and carefully. He knew he needed help; he had a day job that he didn’t want to give up, and he couldn’t navigate all the way himself.

There are many other stories of the travails of successful authors. The internet is replete with rejection letters of famous authors. One letter to Dr. Seuss read, in part, “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” What do these best-selling authors have in common? They didn’t give up. Some of them actually went ahead and self-published (you have to imagine, out of utter frustration). Beatrix Potter was one of these. We wouldn’t have The Tale of Peter Rabbit if she had given up.

Now, as to self-publishing, this also requires patience, in order to do it successfully. It is my belief that in order to be a successful self-published author, you must follow the blueprint of the traditional publishing houses. This can be very difficult, especially since many people who self-publish do so explicitly because they do not want to wade through the morass of the traditional publishing maze, taking the year or more that it typically takes to do so.

This is why self-published books often aren’t available as advance copies, why they don’t have firm release dates, and why there are now often not even print runs. With print-on-demand (POD), you may save yourself from having boxes of books stacked up in your garage. But not having a release date or a print run also leaves you with less of a commitment, and this is transparent to the media.

I know, there are self-published authors out there who have done well without following the usual timeline of traditional publishing: advance copies out six to three months ahead of publication, reviews in all the major industry pre-pub journals (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, et al), a media campaign that ensures the largest portion of interviews and appearances the month of the book’s release. It’s possible to be successful if you have a great platform and method of distribution.

But while self-publishing may soon overtake traditional publishing in pure numbers, it will take longer for the entrenched media to adjust their methods. I, as much as anyone, would love to see some new innovative way to capture readers’ attention. As we all know, though, it does not take just one big hit, but many, many drips over a condensed period of time to stick in the minds of readers. And this, again, takes patience.

I’m not saying that everyone should publish traditionally, but I am saying that they should take a cue from the traditional publishing world to get the attention of media. And then, the beauty is that you can do things quicker, even with the advance copies. And you retain all of your artistic control. Often, it comes down to what you want to spend your time doing.

There is a great big world of readers out there. You can reach them if you take the time to learn how. Amanda Hocking had a built-in audience, selling her stories online (admittedly poorly copyedited), until she decided that she wanted to spend more time writing than answering emails. Now she’s with St. Martin’s Press, so she can focus on what she does best. Seriously, though, read the interview down to the bottom: that’s the key.

The only difference between a writer and an author is time. And the only difference between a successful author and an unsuccessful author is equal parts patience and tenacity.

atoz-theme-reveal-2015

April A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal

Some of you, if in fact you are still out there, may know that I have not posted in quite a while. You may remember that I had a hard time with some personal and health issues last winter. The health issues have persisted throughout 2014 and now into 2015. Last year, it was rounds of tests, scans and appointments that made going to the doctor seem like a part-time job. The persistence is that every couple of months, I lose a couple weeks to some medication reaction. It’s better now, as that seems to be the only issue. But it throws me and I am so far behind on so many things.

Well, that leads me to my admission that I have not taken my own advice. We should do this, shouldn’t we? Take our own advice. I always tell authors that if they are thinking of starting a blog, they should have enough material in the can to cover at least a couple of months. Well, I didn’t do that, did I? I also tell authors not to start a blog unless they are going to stick with it. I’m here to tell you that on that score, I mean to make good.

To that end, I am going to be participating in the April A to Z Challenge. What is this, you ask? It is me getting kick-started, a boot in the ass to make good on what I set out to do. But actually, no, it’s a blog-writing challenge where you follow the letters of the alphabet. Everyone writes a post beginning with A, and then on through the month (we get Sundays off) until you have covered all 26 letters. People sign up on the website and they are encouraged to check out each other’s posts. The organizers are heavily into Twitter and will be sharing post tweets and offering general encouragement to keep us going.

I have also volunteered to be one of the minions who helps out with checking blogs (we are called the Alliance). Because we are held to a standard – you have to actually post, or your blog will be taken off the website. This is meant to be a traffic boost, a great way to get to know other bloggers, and only those who are really making the effort will get the exposure. So I’ll be checking out lots of great blogs, and tweeting out my posts, and working my way through the alphabet.

Possible And Impossible Keys Show Optimism And Positivity

I’ll start with A is for AWP. We are having AWP in Minneapolis this year, and I have never been. I couldn’t pass this up, since it’s in my own backyard. For those who don’t know, this is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference. It is highly academic, but also offers a lot of information and networking for writers. I’m going as a writer, just for myself, never mind industry stuff. I want to meet editors of journals for my poetry and go to sessions on writing creative nonfiction for my book.

My focus for posts for the Challenge will be on publishing and writing, as befits the Publishing Bones, and I’ll toggle between the two. So if that’s a theme, then I am picking it. With over 20 years of experience in publishing and well, lots more years as a writer, I know I can come up with some helpful and interesting material here. My list of ideas includes distraction, fellowships, patience, Twitter, and lots more.

I know lots of other folks are doing all kinds of other themes, so if you are curious, head on over to the A to Z Challenge website and check out the theme reveal – which is today! I might get mine up there, but I’m a little late, so I don’t know. The complete list of participating blogs is at the bottom of the page.

Hopefully this will get me turbo-charged (with AWP right in the middle of April I am sure to be inspired!) to get my blog up and running again and to keep it going. I am looking forward to it! Please feel free to leave comments below if there is a topic that you want me to cover during the April A to Z Challenge!

Spring has sprung!

I don’t know about where you are in the world, but where I am, spring is taking its sweet old time getting here. Last year we had a very late spring, so this is nothing new. But we do get a bit inpatient when it starts to get into April and there’s still snow on the ground (and in the forecast!). We had another six inches last Friday, but it’s all melting fast now.

And this brings up a common conundrum for me – and I think for writers everywhere. The Minnesota Book Awards were last Saturday, and I attended, as I’ve done for the past few years. It was lovely. One comment by one of the presenters struck me especially. It was Alexs Pate, and he was talking about the writing process (as presenters are wont to do). He said something like, “We writers know what it is to battle between the allure of the glowing screen and the lure of sunlight.”

Oh, don’t I know it! The trouble for me is that I cannot work outside. Too many allergies, plus there’s that bee phobia. I always attract bees. And there’s too much glare and the wind ruffles my pages and so on and so on. Distractions. We built a new deck last year so I am hoping that helps somewhat, but I just don’t see myself as a ‘work outside’ kind of person. Which is a shame, and makes this a time of year when it’s especially hard to be productive.

It’s very sunny out right now, it is probably 60 degrees, and the sun is glaring right off the side of my white garage into my window and straight at my eyes. The sun is verily searing my eyeballs. How am I supposed to combat that?

Well, I start by opening the basement door to block the sun. And I keep my window blind down in my office all the time. It’s south facing, so it is better that way. Pity, I know, but what are ya gonna do?

I often find that I have no idea how heavenly it is outside until I turn on the news at 5 or 6 pm and hear them raving about it. (We pay a lot of attention to the weather here.) Unless I think to step outside for a minute myself. I used to get outside to check the mail, but since my husband is home days, he has taken over that duty. What to do?

I know. I’ll eat lunch outside, once we get the patio table out of the shed. That should do it, right? Or just set an appointment on my phone to remind myself to look up every now and then, and not only because the sun is blinding me. Once the garden is in, I can step outside to pull a few weeds once in a while.

There’s that morning walk I’ve been meaning to take all winter. Maybe it’s time to start that.

What do you think? Are you ever torn between getting words down on the page and heading out to enjoy a beautiful day? What do you do to deal with that? Is there a happy medium?

I’d love to hear tips and tricks. I’d also love to hear that I’m not alone! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love nice weather as much as the next guy. It just makes it hard to get work done (especially the type of work that does not have an immediate paycheck).