Article · Creativity · Stories · Writing Craft

How to Write when Life Bites, Like a Shark

Amber Victoria was a guest speaker at the California Writers Club in September. She introduced her topic about illustrating and publishing her children’s book, Twins European Adventure, by enumerating all the small towns she called home. This was followed by a lengthy resume of everything she loved about her education, interests, hobbies and life. Just as worried if, and when, she was ever going to talk about books, she veered into the oddest transition. She talked about her childhood fear of sharks, a fear so debilitating that she trained in competitive swimming to gain confidence.

And then it clicked. A swim race was like writing, she explained. How you talk to yourself is what gets you across the finish line. “Don’t negate yourself,” she warned, “or you will never finish.” Writing means you’re an independent entrepreneur and since it’s about learning, every step takes you towards an obstacle. You will find a way around it. Don’t be afraid of launching yourself in too many new directions, it may feel as if you are stalling, but, in reality, you are developing something new.

Victoria took a breath, and shared another obstacle, a very personal one. She is dyslexic. I was intrigued, dyslexia would be a significant obstacle when writing a book! It explained something else too. While coordinating the presentation schedule I noticed that the quality of her texts and email was uneven. At first I assumed she was a typical Millennial, perusing ebusiness on the fly. I even wondered if English were a second language. I did not catch a single error in her PowerPoint because her personal narrative was so compelling, but an English teacher spotted several distracting mistakes.

“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.”

Victoria shared a motivational quote from the Dalai Lama, “Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” Grammar issues would not be a surprise to her, and if a comment about grammatical imperfections were passed along, it would not have discouraged her. Belief and mindset was key to Victoria’s concept of success. She reminded the audience that bestselling authors received bad reviews. She mentioned a fellow writer who ranted about recommendations he disliked. She cautioned the audience, “You have to make sure you don’t absorb advice in a way that makes you the kind of negative person you hate.” Keep writing, she urged. Write what feels closest to your heart. Ask yourself, what is the outcome? What does my audience need to hear? What are the “what ifs”? Where are the morals and emotional growth issues? What are you teaching? And to whom?

She finished by giving specific examples of how her past influenced her present work, adding technical tips about the market for children’s literature. Her talk picked up speed and held together with verve and impact.

An audience member described Amber Victoria as an angel. “I embrace how she keeps inspired in her life, what an accomplished soul! What a blessing to have her on the planet and hear her speak about her love and putting it on pages.” Proving, once again, that when a storyteller effectively communicates his or her vulnerable moments, they leave their audience with the most memorable impressions.

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Article · Writing Craft

How to find more time? It’s kinda like cleaning, and taking out the trash.

I read a recent post about decision making from marketing guru, Seth Godin. He calls his process to goScreenshot 2015-05-16 18.25.06 faster “decision hygiene.” It reminded me of principles I use for sorting mail and housework. My clean-up knowledge is based on hand-me-down wisdom like “touch things once” and “everything in its place” but in reality, anything that takes time is a decision making process.

Godin had five points to move things along faster: make decisions faster, do them in the right order, do it once, don’t look for help once you’ve started and triage the decisions.

So If I am going to write I’m going to:

  1. Decide what I am going to write about, and do it as quickly as possible.
  2. Do all organizational activities involving committees or other people’s permission first.
  3. Follow through with my idea, even if I start to hate it while I’m typing.
  4. Workshop the results only with people who will improve my writing.
  5. Decide what to write: a blog, novel scene, or schedule twitter feeds. If any of these items do not matter to the project at hand, I’ll choose not to focus on it.
Article · Memoir · Stories · Writing Craft

Why write in the first place?

“Why write in the first place?” Paula Priamos, a professor at University California, San Bernardino, questioned her students, all intermediate level writers. The responses spun around the notion of self-expression, the importance of free expression without judgment and how writing is a calming, enjoyable way to articulate ideas. For a few people it was also tied to compulsive need, or to practical goal like developing a skill that they were “half-way good at”, or the opportunity of a portable job. Paula discovered that self-expression it is essential to all writers.

writing gives people a sense of empowerment because it gives voice to something that would not otherwise be heard.

In her keynote address at “Another Bloomin’ Writers Conference” in early May, Priamos argued that writing gives people a sense of empowerment because it gives voice to something that would not otherwise be heard. This was true for Priamos. Her memoir “The Shyster’s Daughter” exposed family secrets. Writing was not an easy process, sometimes she felt she ‘ripped out her heart and left it pulsing on paper.’ Her memoir was a very personal tribute to the “no-name” women who endure traumatic experiences. When the book was published and people (including family members) thanked her for sharing, Paula realized that her writing had given a voice to the weak.

When a published writer gives a presentation they invariably disclose an underlying theme, the “why” for their writing. I anticipate this moment like the makeover reveal at the end of a reality show. Readers connect to universal truths, to the greater worldview that writers expose as stories. Writers like Priamos have honed their voice, exposed their hearts, and are passionate about their truths. Successful writers capitalize on this sense of empowerment. Empowerment gives writers personality and fuels their works. It is something to build a social platform around because it attracts fans.

Article · Creativity

The Nine Muses of Inspiration

The first time I noticed inspiration it was sculpted into the sides of a sarcophagus in the Louvre museum. Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, and Zeus, the great womanizer, had nine daughters together; the Muses of Inspiration. These muses were carved for prosperity into the cold stone slabs of a marble coffin. The most famous are Thalia and Melpomene, comedy and tragedy, best known by their theatrical masks. The Greeks had oral tradition of literature, alive with music, including a muse for dance, Terpsichore. A writer was mostly about poetry, and they had several variations: Polymnis who fostered musical poetry (or hymnody); Erato, the muse of love poetry; Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry, and Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. The muse Clio holds a writing tablet while she records history. The odd one out is Urania, the muse of astronomy. She’s the lone scientist and placeholder for future generations of academic publications.

Screenshot 2015-04-27 21.43.39

The muses characterize the ancient ideals of a cultivated man, as represented by the likes of Socrates, or Homer. “According to a belief attested in Greece as early as the fourth century BCE, the practice of literature and philosophy, or daily intercourse with the Muses, ensured immortality and the soul’s salvation.”

Some things never change.

The moral is, since the earliest times, writers prayed or drank wine while yearning for inspiration. And, not content to be a legacy just in their own minds, they’ve all craved the immortal success of a best seller.

* Image courtesy of Sarcophages des Muses, copyright 1993 RMN, Herve Lewandowski

Article · Uncategorized · Writing Craft

The worst competition? Yourself.

New Year 2015With each New Years Resolution focused on writing, I step further out of the safe and dreamy world of wishful thinking and into the messy complications of action and imbalance. I am killing myself with writing activities. These activities sabotage the act of writing by keeping me away from the keyboard yet when I sit in front of the computer I’m not working on manuscripts but managing social media and organizational activities.

Last night I researched publishing trends for 2015 for a panel discussion I am moderating for the California Writers Club. Guess what the experts say? There’s gonna be more competition in the ebook universe.

Groan.

Today’s improved technology means there is a screen in every pocket, tablets and computers in every household, and an easy way to access digital content. eBooks have become an established in libraries, elementary schools, and are willingly adopted by seniors. The five traditional publishing houses are paying attention, but, while the IT world of content and distribution is growing, the ebook trend for 2015 is going to flatten out due to more competition.

To find readers, authors must be at the top of their craft, producing attractive books, and building marketing platforms. Time-management in the world of social media will be crucial for all.

Exactly how does that work? I work part time as an administrator but I want to maintain my writer’s lifestyle. Last year I cut out evening meetings unless they were about writing. This year I’ll stop relaxing in front of the television. Sad face. After work I’ll go to the gym to pump oxygen into my tired brain so I can read at night, and get up earlier to write at work. Some perks; I have an expansive desk, nice view, and the boss arrives late to work and doesn’t do social media…

Funny thing is, writing is like spending money on your kids. No matter how bad things get, you always find a way to fund those activities and needs. Daughter’s university education is paid by taking out a loan, ignoring home maintenance, my part-time work, eating at home, and shopping second hand or thrift. It gets done. Writing is like raising a kid, you muddle through the things that are important, and it happens.

Article · Interview · Stories · Writing Craft

Debra Eve and other later-blooming writers

Debra Eve, always wanted to write but started her career as a technical engineer, training lawyers in technology. She tired of the corporate milieu and returned to school to become an archeologist only to discover that she didn’t have deep enough pockets to finance any digs. Disappointed, she attended writing workshops, martial arts classes, and traveled. She was learning, exploring, taking mental notes, but not writing. One day, when she was fifty, she asked herself when she’d get around to it. There was never a good time. She’d have to make the decision to write.

So she did. Not knowing where to start, she researched any other writers that got off to a late start. Contrary to the myth of gifted “born” writers, many successful authors “got around” to writing well after the age of forty. Eve wrote mini biographies about these well-known writers and posted their stories on her blog, laterbloomer.com. She had created one of the first repositories that listed “re-invented” writers. In 2012, she published these biographies as an anthology and it is still a high-ranking seller on Amazon.

What do these late blooming writers have in common? They are people with too many disparate interests. Often, they are unusually industrious and responsible people, working and slaving away even if they feel stuck in unsatisfying careers until there is a change in their jobs, routine or personal life. They take this opportunity to reflect and release themselves from their duties to explore new directions. Like writing.

Hmmm, I wonder what percentage of bloggers are later bloomers?

This article was compiled from a presentation Debra Eve gave at the California Writers Club – Inland Empire Branch in October 2014.