All posts tagged Writing

Life is Beautiful

life is beautifulI was really taken with this image….

 

Stacks of books with a small handwritten note, ripped from a page, and peeking out from between two novels with a small heart and the inked “life is beautiful.”

It perfectly captures ME.

I was always a bookworm growing up, and found quiet refuge in reading. As soon as I opened a book, the rest of the world fell away. And as I read “The End”, as much as I missed the story and the characters, I knew there would always be another book to open. I was always happily searching for the next one.

As I grew, I continued to read and it still brought me happiness. But I also paid attention to all the small things in life that are joyful – my daughter giggling in her sleep when I tickled the soft skin under her chin, my husband reaching for my hand, and finding it, without having to look, the comfort of sinking my head into a fluffy pillow at the end of a long day.

I think that my thirst to read, my (continually refining) powers of observation, and my inclination to always try to look on the positive side of things will serve me well as an ever aspiring writer.

What special qualities do you have that are important to your life as a writer?

Photo Source: http://daytobeyou.com/stay-strong/life-is-beautiful/

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Writing with Honesty

Neil-Gaiman-Rules-of-Writing

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From the CanLit Queen…

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”
― Margaret AtwoodThe Blind Assassin

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Book Launch of The Poisoned Pawn!

My friends Tara Hollister and Sarah Atchison accompanied me to the book launch of Peggy Blair’s The Poisoned Pawn at the Orange Art Gallery in Ottawa. It was a very fun evening with a Cuba theme and not only did we get to chat with Peggy again, Tara was able to cozy up to the Mayor – Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa).

Fun all around, and some interesting art to look at too!

See my review of the Poisoned Pawn here.

To come – an interview with the author.

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Any way to the coast…

Just Keep Going!

Ignore your inner nagging thoughts. They are seldom accurate perceptions of what you are actually achieving. It is deeply unfair to criticize your navigation skills when taking a journey into unknown territory. Try not to demoralize yourself. I call my first draft “the Lewis and Clark.” Any freaking way to the coast – is the correct way! Do not criticize yourself for the odd wrong turn, the weather slowing you down, having to stop for supplies. There is no bad route when you are on a voyage of discovery. Just keep going!

PEN DENSHAM

originally posted at: http://www.advicetowriters.com/

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The only writing rules you’ll ever need!

Hi!

You may have noticed that I’ve been missing in action for a few weeks – but with good reason.  I have been working almost daily on polishing my novel.  I have even found some readers to provide editing and feedback before I start sending out my manuscript to publishers (with fingers crossed and a bottle of wine for good measure).  Though my little baby MJ keeps me quite busy these days, I am finding a rhythm now that she is almost 6 months old…and it includes my writing, reading and even attending a writer’s festival event here in Ottawa (more on that soon).

In the meantime, I found this cute list of “Writing Rules” – since aspiring authors seem to be always looking for tips.  The most important advice is always to WRITE SOMETHING.  I found over time as a writer that inspiration and opportunity do not always intersect.  Sometimes one must make time for an opportunity to write.  Then write.  And allow inspiration in.

Source: http://anovelapproachto.me/category/writing-tips/

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Novels…A woman’s universe?

PUBLISHING

When it comes to novels, it’s a man’s world but a woman’s universe

 

JOHN BARBER

From Saturday’s Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Mar. 09, 2012

 

When Mary Anne Evans wanted to be taken seriously as a novelist, she gave herself a man’s name and wrote an essay, Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, lacerating the “feminine fatuity” that she saw cluttering the literary landscape of her day.

Needless to say, George Eliot was never invited into the Oprah Book Club. But 150 years after Evans made her debut under that name, her gender-switching strategy remains all too plausible.

To be taken seriously as a novelist in the 21st century, an era in which the making and reading of fiction is dominated by women, being a man is as important as it ever was. And after suffering centuries of condescension and outright oppression, women are taking notice like never before, boldly claiming ownership of a genre that has long served their sex as a liberating force.

A series of simple pie charts released recently by VIDA, a U.S. women’s literary group, illustrates the complaint: Classifying book reviews in the most prestigious American and British periodicals according to the sex of both reviewers and the authors reviewed, the VIDA charts are a rogue’s gallery of voracious male Pac men chomping at minority wedges of female participation.

Males outnumbered females almost three-to-one in the 2011 book pages of The New Yorker, according to the VIDA Count, with an equal or greater disparity in Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books and the New Republic. Among major publications, only the New York Times Book Review approached parity. And of all the publications surveyed, only the British magazine Granta showed a slight tip in favour of female authors and reviewers.

Meanwhile, in bookstores, women rule – responsible for as many as four out of every five novels sold – and more than twice as likely as men to read them, according to various surveys in the English-speaking world. With so-called “literary reading” declining sharply among both sexes, women have become even more prominent as supporters of the art – while at the same time the Great Men still presuming to bestride that shrinking world become more nakedly vulnerable.

Women’s leadership in reading begins in elementary-school classrooms, where girls continue to exceed boys in reading skills and enthusiasm in virtually every measured jurisdiction. Some observers blame an overly “feminized” early-school curriculum – too much Jane, not enough Dick – for the gap.

But the scruples that might make educators reconsider the Hardy Boys are unknown to publishers, who teeter on parody feeding voracious book clubs such titles as The Time Traveller’s WifeSecret DaughterThe Tiger’s WifeThe Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Midwife of Venice. Huffington Post blogger Randy Susan Meyers, a strong advocate of the VIDA Count and its cause, is author of The Murderer’s Daughters.

The new literary front in the age-old gender war first appeared in 2010, when “women’s fiction” authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner lambasted the mainstream media for its fawning treatment of “serious” novelist Jonathan Franzen – the same author whom Oprah Winfrey had abruptly de-clubbed almost a decade earlier due to his infelicitous remarks about the women’s fiction ghetto he hoped to avoid.

Like VIDA, Weiner blamed “a very old and deep-seated double standard” that considers male-written novels like Franzen’s The Corrections and Freedom as “literature with a capital L” while treating books by women on the same subjects as “unworthy of a serious critic’s attention.”

More recently, Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul destroyed what’s left of his reputation (after foolishly deciding to reveal all to his official biographer) by condemning all women novelists, including Jane Austen, for their “sentimentality” and “narrow view of the world.”

“I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not,” Naipaul said. And all of it, he added, “unequal to me.”

Snobbism about women’s fiction “goes back a long way,” according to Belinda Jack of Oxford University, author of the upcoming The Woman Reader. And before snobbism stretch millennia of active suppression during which women were prohibited from writing almost anything. “Public speech and harlotry were very closely associated,” Jack said in an interview, describing the very narrow range and reading and writing permissible to women up until the 19th century.

Some psychologists and neurologists trace the origin of the fiction gap to women’s demonstrably superior capacity for empathy, which is thought to enable them to occupy the minds of fictional characters with greater ease than men. And profit: New theories of literature see an evolutionary advantage in the ability to infer the motives of others, a talent that sharpens with reading fiction – and would seem to depend mainly on women to function.

Jack explains women’s historical affinity for the novel in terms of its role as a liberating force. Trapped in a domestic space that forbade self-expression, women traditionally turned to novels “to see more of the world,” according to her. “The amount of life that could be seen at first-hand was limited, and so seeing it at second-hand through reading was attractive,” she said.

Reading novels was in itself an act of subversion, and themes evolved to suit the enterprise. “A lot of the novels that many women would say were the greatest novels do explore unconventional patterns of female behaviour and female life,” Jack said, adding that history is repeating itself today among women in Muslim countries who risk severe punishment in order to read imported novels by, for and about liberated women in the West.

Meanwhile, back home, the Internet regularly launches new literary careers without interference from any gender filter that might once have operated in traditional publishing houses. It made 27-year-old Amanda Hocking, a lonely outcast from the U.S. Upper Midwest, a millionaire with her 99-cent tales of paranormal romance. It shocked and appalled British clerics by making former British call girl and blogger Belle de Jour a national sensation.

They still get no respect, but no literary force has done so much to change the world – nor continues to do so – than the historic team of women novelists and their eager, overwhelmingly female readers.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/when-it-comes-to-novels-its-a-mans-world-but-a-womans-universe/article2364396/singlepage/#articlecontent

THOUGHTS???

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CBC Books – Canada Writes – Poetry Prize!

Competition is now open!
Deadline to submit: May 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET

This prize is awarded once a year to the best original, unpublished, poem or poetry collection submitted to the competition. All Canadians can participate.

The competition is blind. A jury composed of well-known and respected Canadian authors will select a 1st place winner and 4 runners-up.

The First Prize winner will receive $6,000, courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts, and will have his/her poetry published in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and on the Canada Writes website. He or she will also be awarded a two-week residency at The Banff Centre’s Leighton Artists’ Colony (details about the residency here), and will be interviewed on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers.

The 4 runners-up will each receive $1,000, courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts, and their stories will be published on the Canada Writes website.

Submissions to the poetry category must be between 400 and 600 words.

For more information:
http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadawrites/literaryprizes/poetry/

My two cents:

I am surprised that this competition has a word minimum of 400 since Poetry of all the written forms can tend to be quite short.  I can’t submit anything I’ve posted here on my blog since according to the rules, it counts as “previously published” (does that mean I can tell people I am a published author? heh heh).  I am going to work on one new poem this week and see what happens.  This should be interesting since I am not used to writing what I consider to be “long” poems.

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The Power of Simple Words, Animated

by 

Getting from “no coordinates exist like one’s domicile” to “there’s no place like home.”

“Use the right word, not its second cousin,” Mark Twain admonished. “Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs,” David Ogilvy advised.

Last week, my friends at TED launchedTED-Ed — a wonderful new series of short animated videos for high school students and lifelong learners, using visual storytelling to deliver compelling messages in equally compelling ways. To kick off, this lovely video by copywriter Terin Izil, animated by the one and only Sunni Brown (remember her?), makes an appropriately succinct case for using simple words and brevity in writing, in just two minutes.

 

 

“Variety may be the spice of life, but brevity is its bread and butter. So when it comes to $10 words, save your money and buy a Scrabble board.”

Then again, even E.B. White — the quintessential champion of brevity — felt compelled to play devil’s advocate against brevity for brevity’s sake:

“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound. How about ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’? One tomorrow would suffice, but it’s the other two that have made the thing immortal.”

SOURCE: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/03/20/the-power-of-simple-words-ted-ed/

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Novel writing tips – PLOT

The following is an essay that Sarah Pekkanen, author of Skipping a Beat and These Girls, wrote for Writer Unboxed, a writing website that I will be adding to my personal resources as I finalize my own novel.  I thought her writing tips were very useful – particularly with regard to making sure scenes have lots of tension!  You want to make your reader care about the people and the situations in your novel and tension-filled scenarios will certainly help accomplish that.

 

What I’ve Learned About Writing a Novel

There’s one type of person I always meet at my booksignings: Someone who approaches my table with a mixture of frustration and hope in their eyes. They pick up my novel, but they don’t seem to really see it, because it isn’t my book they want to talk about – the book they desperately want to discuss is the one they’re struggling to write.

They’ve got the best of intentions. They’re smart, accomplished people – but they can’t quite get started. Or they have an idea, and maybe they’ve even written a dozen or fifty or a hundred pages, but then they smash into a mental roadblock. Or they’ve finished a draft, and even they know it’s terrible, despite the fact that their mother loves it. The book they produced is nothing like the book they imagined.

I understand, I always tell them – maybe too well. I’ve been there myself.

For years, I worked as a newspaper reporter, and I penned free-lance magazine articles on the side, but even with all that training, I found writing a novel to be … ahem, challenging. In the same way that running a marathon in high heels, backwards, might pose a slight challenge.

It took me a long time, and a few terrible drafts of books, to pinpoint the source of my problem: I hadn’t studied my craft well enough. For that, I blame conventional wisdom. After all, doesn’t conventional wisdom tell us that writers are born, not made? That being able to create a book is a God-given talent, similar to coming out of the womb with perfect pitch? I didn’t know you could learn how to write a book. I figured either you had it, or you didn’t. And I was beginning to suspect I didn’t.

I credit my agent, a sassy New Yorker who doesn’t hesitate to dole out critiques or praise when necessary, with leading me to the light. I’d turned in another terrible draft of a book, and she slogged through it, then she called me.

“I guess I could try to send it out as a character-based novel,” she said. I think it’s accurate to report that enthusiasm was not ringing through her voice. In fact, she kind of sounded like she wanted to shoot herself.

“Let’s wait,” I said. I wanted to give it one more try, and suddenly, I thought I knew how to do it.

Here’s what I took away from that phone conversation: I had my characters down – they were in good shape. What was missing from my novel was plot.

I set out on a quest to learn how to infuse my books with plot. I began by searching for books about plotting, and I bought every single one I could find. The stack still stands on the top of my computer hutch, and if it ever comes crashing down, it might take a few days for them to find me in the rubble – I have that many books. I read every single one, scribbling notes in the margins and folding down the corners of pages when I came across particularly helpful points.

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The most important thing I learned is that putting together a novel, for most of us, is difficult – but with certain creative tools, it can get easier. You may never achieve perfect pitch, but you can definitely be taught how to write a book.

The two finest guides I found were Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, andWriting the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read his terrific Writer Unboxed contributions). Here are some key points I learned that helped me write a novel my agent was able to sell:

    • Real estate agents have a credo: Location, location, location. Here’s the writer’s credo: Tension, tension, tension. Fill your novels with it. Stack tension into your scenes until it’s as high as my wobbly tower of plotting books. You can never, ever have enough tension.
    • Learn the rules for writing a successful commercial novel. Start with a likeable protagonist, give her a goal, throw obstacles in her way, throw bigger obstacles in her way, and then see her through to a bang-up finish. You need to start strong, and finish stronger.
    • Turn the books you love into writing courses. Take some novels you admire, a stack of index cards, and a pen. Re-read the books and chart out every scene – the character and the main action – on index cards. Lay the cards out in order and study them to figure out how the author constructed their brilliant works. You’ll demystify the process.

This is just the beginning; the books by Bell and Maass taught me so much more, and every time I re-read them, I come away with new tips. The best part of all? Now I have three novels of my own on bookstore shelves, and I’ve just turned in the fourth to my editor. But it never would’ve happened if I hadn’t learned to plot – and for that, I’ll always be grateful to the authors who took the time to show the rest of us how it’s done.

 

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