Monday, August 30, 2010

Writing with Design in Mind

Today for Manna Monday, I'm the guest post blogger for Rebecca Ward Design.
Hope you enjoy.

I have this passion for writing. You know, stories, articles, fiction, poetry. So I’m sure you’re wondering: How can she possibly relate writing to interior design?

In all honesty, I was stumped when first presented with the idea of guest blogging for a designer. Some designers have the ability to write, but not all writers can design.

Then I realized, after thinking about it, that a well-designed room has a story to tell. And that these stories, the rooms or buildings, set the background information for most books. The design ends up being critical to specific scenes or dialogue because it sets the mood and temperament, and reveals detail necessary for a quality story.

This is accomplished through any and every thing: the color of the walls, the style of the protagonist’s favorite chair, texture of a bedroom duvet or even the run-down fifties-era kitchen. These descriptions all have to do with design.

How is this true? Well, look at your favorite book-turned-movie and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Take Harry Potter’s less than perfect sleeping conditions at his Uncle and Aunt’s house, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and watch how it comes alive with just a few words: “Harry found a pair [of socks] underneath the bed, and after pulling a spider off one of them, put them on. Harry was used to spiders because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.” The mixture of socks and spiders is what sets the scene. The set decorator (to me, also known as an interior designer) has to find the creepiness factor and does this by splashing the room with cobwebs and darkness. This is design and literature meshed to perfection.

Mystery writer, Michele Scott writes this in her novel, Murder Uncorked. “The furniture was done in distressed leather and warm woods. The walls were painted a gold tone, and a Navajo rug hugged the hard wood floors.” Michele’s writing and interior design descriptions make me want to go there … and live their too!

Writing and design blend well because together it sells the story; it makes the scene and characters not only come to life, but through these details we feel, smell and hear everything we read.

With that thought, I have to inform you of something amazing. What if you could see this idea of design and literature in action? What if you could go to a place with rooms designed for specific authors, mixed with elements from their works, from Virginia Wolfe to Mark Twain or Tolkien and Emily Dickinson? What if this was on oceanfront property and you could not only visit this place but stay in it?

At Sylvia Beach Hotel, in Nye Beach, Oregon, you can. This is a book-lovers hotel, inside and out. There’s even a restaurant called “Table of Contents,” and a library on the third floor that takes up the entire west wing. It’s literature and design together!

Take Agatha Christie’s room for example, it has a private deck, fireplace and ocean view. As soon as you’re a guest in this room, you can read from Christie’s books and even find clues from each mystery hidden somewhere in the room. Hello? This is incredible. And it proves that writing about interiors, and even matching it with the author and their writing, not only creates great literature but also creates unforgettable characters and authors.

Writing and design are relatable and necessary to each other. And I think without it, books would pretty awful stuff to read. The interior design is what pulls me in as a reader or writer into the story. It's crucial for vivid imagery and feeling. And it's something writers shouldn't forget about, particulaly to bond the reader to the characters. Quite honestly, if the design aspect were to disappear, it just might signal the end times.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Write This Down

I had a great conversation with a writer-friend of mine this week. She and I have been in a similar predicament for the past few years, in that most of our energy and time has gone into raising our children, and not into the world we so longingly want to delve into: writing.

Our kids, of course, and the time we give them is valuable time dedicated. We understand that. We chose to forego our passion of writing for them instead. But, we also discussed why some writers -- as busy as us --were still able to write while raising a family. Did they have extra help? Was their writing so miraculous that their brains just downloaded the stuff onto their computer in mere minutes? What did they do differently?

Obviously, many women and men raise their children and manage to write; perhaps even write bestsellers (ahem ... Mrs. Meyers). So what’s the difference between them and us? What was it that made them more productive? It comes down to something very simple: these authors wanted to write more than anything.

There's no good time to start writing. It's just like having kids. A lot of people “wait for the right time." But seriously, when is that? When you have more money? When you're done with school? When you learn the tango, travel to Japan, and master the Finnish language? There is no perfect time to have kids. Nor is there any perfect time to write. There will always be something else you “need” to do instead.

The truth is that people do what they want to do. While that may sound incredibly redundant, it’s true. And I was a victim to that laziness. If I wanted to write, then regardless of the kids, regardless of the messy house, the dishes, the husband, or laundry, I was going to have to make time for this passion or I would never get it done.

Write down your ideas.
If you're anything like me, having children has irrevocably taken your brain and turned it to mush. I can barely remember the thread of a conversation, let alone a great literary idea. So, I keep paper near me when I watch TV, read, write or even eat. Whatever it is, dialogue or storyline, I write it down.

I've made the mistake in the past saying "Oh, I'll remember that idea. I don't need to write that one down," only to have forgotten the essence of the idea within minutes. We need to write our ideas down so that when we have a little time to write, we'll have something from which to draw.

Make time to write.
If the only time we have is after the kids get to bed, then work with that! Successful people don't whine about not having time or resources. They just make it happen. Writing is no different. Write when the time is available; early in the morning, late at night. Whenever it is, do it, because books and articles don't write themselves. If you only get fifteen minutes at a time, then work with that (then read this article, "Do you want to write? Then lie to (yourself)").

People do what they want to do. I finally believe this and say the phrase all the time to my kids when they complain they can't "clean their room" or are "too tired to brush their teeth." I'm not sure that my almost-four-year old understands this fully, but really, what does that matter? If he gets the reaping and sowing concept, which is what I’m trying to teach him through my work, then he’s gained something worthwhile.

Anything worth doing is going to be difficult. Do you want to act? Then find the time to take a theater class. Do you want to design a car? Then start designing it, even if you work at a fast-food place by day.

We get to give life to our dream. And if we can dream it, then we can do it.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Striving Laundry

It's not Manna Monday, but I have a great guest post by writer Alisa Hope Wagner for which I couldn't wait. Enjoy.

I have been anxiously striving to finish edits on my first book. My mind has been consumed with writing, and I’m constantly telling myself to get to work. I feel the pressure of a deadline, and I told God one afternoon, “I can’t wait until I’m done.”

I could sense God smile and say, “Then you’ll start your second book.”

I stopped in my tracks. I realized that I will never be finished. When I’m done climbing this mountain, God will have another one for me in the distance. While I’m alive on this earth, God will always place promises for my life in the horizon.

God places promises beyond each of us; and as we move closer to them, God is able to mold us into the likeness of His son. Promises are in the core of Jesus; they pull us toward Him like gravity and slowly perfect us into our original design.

At that moment, I had a reality check. Obviously my perspective was wrong because God would not want me to be anxious about anything (Philippians 4.6).

How do we strive towards God’s promises without becoming overwhelmed? How do we find balance and joy in a life that will always be pulled toward higher goals and greater accomplishments?

I would like to answer this profound question with one simple word: Laundry.

Laundry is never done. Whenever I go from room to room with arms filled with dirty clothes, I like to sing the theme song to the 1984 movie The NeverEnding Story. If that story were written by a woman, I am sure it would have been about laundry.

I’ve learned to do a little bit of laundry every day. I don’t even think about it anymore. When I wake up, I’ll notice that the hamper is getting full, so I’ll grab the clothes and start a load. That afternoon after I put the kids down for a nap, I’ll put the clothes into the dryer and forget about them. While the kids are playing before bed, I’ll take the load out, fold it and put it away. Never once was I anxious.

I used to let the laundry build up, but I noticed that I always became anxious. The lack of clean clothes would begin to affect my life, and my mind would send me distracting signals to “get to work.” Laundry would become a big deal, when, in reality, it is such a small part of my life. If I would simply give laundry a fraction of my attention every day, it would be manageable.

This concept is the same for God’s promises. God doesn’t want His promises to become anxiety builders in our lives. His promises are supposed to draw us closer in relationship with Him. The imbalance comes when we stop daily focusing on God, and we let our relationship with Him build up, unused in the hamper.

If we hungrily seek God everyday and align our lives in His will, He would ensure that we have just enough time every day to work on His promises. As we seek God, He will groom our lives of everything unnecessary, and we will have perfect amount of time to complete His will. Also, when we focus on God, He will fill us with joy and peace that will filter through every aspect of our lives, dispersing our anxiety, worry and procrastination.

The purpose of life is to glorify God. If we are not doing that in our daily life, we probably need to ask God for a healthy dose of perspective. I decided to give up on striving; instead, I’m keeping my eyes on God and allowing His grace to move me toward His best for me.

"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46.10 NASB).

Alisa Hope Wagner

Faith Imagined

Monday, August 23, 2010

Designing Writer

Today is Manna Monday, which means a guest post from Rebecca Ward as your literary food. Enjoy!

As a professional interior designer, my job is to magically create perfect interior spaces for my clients. I take their dreams and turn it into a reality. But design is more to me than just a job. It is my passion. And because of my love for it, I have to share it with others.

One of my outlets for doing this is through my design blog, Design R. Over time, I have discovered that I am no longer just an interior designer, but an author. I publish my writings about my passion in a public format so others want to read it. But, I didn’t fully come to this “writer” realization by myself. I thank Holly Becker of the blog Decor8 and the blogging class I took called Blogging Your Way (a wonderful course for bloggers from any genre). She is a perfect example of a blogger-turned-published-writer. Through this combination of her extremely popular design blog and writing, she writes for many magazines and has now been asked to publish a book. Obviously, the writing and design work well together.

Design blogs are highly visual and often littered with tasty photos of luxe interiors and fun decorator items. But it’s what is in between those photos -- the real substance -- that brings the readers back. As a reader of other blogs, I find the rhetoric critical for linking the subject to my interest.

Most of my blog posts are based on items I see, places I go, vendors I use and emails I get. How boring would it be if every posting went as follows:

“Here are some nice throw pillows ... " (

…and that’s it. It’s cold and impersonal and the only thing my reader gets from it is my taste in pillows. And besides, it’s just a throw pillow. Who cares?

What if instead I said this along with these pillow pictures:

“Throw pillows may be the most pivotal item in your room. As a decorator item, they can play a key role in tying together accent colors in the room. Their size and cost allows them to be changed with the seasons, occasions and mood. But they are so much more than accessories and so much more supportive than providing comfort when sitting against a stiff-backed sofa.

How many times do you see people holding throw pillows on their lap while relating an emotional story, grasping tight, punching or crying into it as the narrative progresses? Throw pillows can become fast friends."

With interior design writing, I draw an emotional connection for my reader with an easily dismissed accessory. Additionally, I ask a personal question of my reader that may lead them to comment with their own story, or at the least, reflect on the role throw pillows have played in their life.

Design bloggers need to remember they are so much more than designers: they are writers.

When we “sell” our design to our client, we build a story around it so that the client can see himself in this future space and become emotionally attached to it before it becomes a reality. Description and engaging the client in our design, is key to our success.

When presenting to my client, instead of saying,

“This is the sofa I chose for you. This is the fabric and this is where it goes. Do you like it?”

I would say something more like this,

“Now look at this sofa. Notice how the style of the legs tie in the coffee table you love. The fabric is a strong and durable ultra-suede that you won’t have to worry about your children being on it. I made sure the color is a wonderful neutral tan. Since you mentioned you like to host seasonal parties throughout the year, you will easily be able to change the colors and styles with each event by incorporating throw pillows. I made sure the this seat is 3” deeper than your current sofa so you can stretch out and take a nap comfortably when you watch golf on Sundays. The frame of this sofa is high quality, so durable that it could easily outlive you.”

My client is much more likely to buy the sofa after they picture themselves living with it. The use of these descriptive scenarios are powerful tools for every designer and something design bloggers need to make sure they are using in their writing.

Though a slightly foreign medium for designers, writing is just another outlet to release our need to express creativity. I encourage every blogger in every genre of “blog-dom” to consider themselves a writer first and foremost.

Rebecca Ward

Rebecca Ward Design

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hello, My Name is ...

Right about the time when I think things will stay the same, they change. Which is a good notion, I suppose. Without change, where's the progress? This was essentially Walt Disney's Motto "... keep moving forward ...," and look at the empire he created?

Sometimes, in order for great things to happen, change is necessary. But we have to keep looking ahead, and actually implement change, if we expect an empire of our own (figuratively speaking, of course).

So here's the deal: I'm changing the name of my blog to the title I should've had months ago, Writer's Manna. I woke up to this title, one moring, after having written something with those words, and am being forced by my one-tracked and often stubborn mind to make it my blog's name. And I hope, this is a better change.

There you go. A new title, for a new day. And I'm hoping to keep this one for a good, long time. Is there a lesson in it for all of us? Embrace change -- good change -- and watch amazing things happen. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guest Blogging: Is it for you?

Hey, writers out there, I have a question for you:

Have you ever been a guest blogger?
This is where you write an article or essay for someone else's blog, so the focus is off of your own site and onto someone's else. The article can be anything, or everything. But the point is that the writing is to benefit not just your writing platform, but theirs while simultaneously expanding your experience.

I'm sure you're asking: How is this beneficial?
Well, not only is it a chance for you to write, but it allows your writing to extend to more circles, ones most likely directly related to your line of work. This means potentially new contacts, resources, friends and knowledge for you and your host. It's a win for you (since more people will see your writing), and it's a win for the host because they gain an educational or insightful article/ blog with a unique voice ... one other than their own.

I also hear you asking: Can you give me an example?
I have a friend, Alisa Hope Wagner, who wrote a great guest blog for Michael Hyatt, the CEO of the world's largest Christian book publishers, Thomas Nelson Publisher. His blog is great. Her article was great. And together, it was a perfect combination. Read it: right here. It's not only eye-opening (thanks Alisa) but a perfect reason as to why you can --and should -- be a guest blogger. You never know who you can write for, or what it will do for you, if you don't try.

Having said that, let me now say that I would love to host a guest writer/blog by any author, agent or editor. It just needs to have something -- anything-- to do with the love of writing and/or furthering the education for us literary people. This can include book reviews, funny spelling/writing errors, etc. You name it: it could quite possibly go up here. Contact me. I'll post one every two weeks ... and more frequently, as they come in.

Oh, and did I mention that I was a guest blogger today? You can see for yourself by visiting the lovely website of Jessie Mac. The article is called "Do You Want to Write? Then Lie (to Yourself). It was fun for me, and hopefully not only helpful for her, but beneficial to everyone who read it.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Write On

I can't even begin to tell you how much I learned at

What is Writeoncon? Just the best three days of interviews of agents, authors and editors from all over the country for those who live, eat and breathe reading or writing children's, middle-grade, or young adult literature. Writeoncon was the conglomeration of the some of the best knowledge, from some of the best people in the industry and all within the touch of the keyboard.

Though my head is overloaded, swirling from all the information I tried to cram in there, I'm happy to tell you that I took notes. This way, I have access to what I learned right in front of me. And if that's not good enough, hey, it's online! I can go back, listen or read again, and get even more fuel for my fire. 

What did I learn, you ask? What didn't I learn, is a more likely question. Writing is really an art form. And the more you study it, the better you become.

Well, that is the supposed theory anyway.

I think the real truth to that statement is the more you study and apply what you learn, the better writer you become. How can you not? And let me tell you, I learned a ton.

My husband is still glaring at me for hogging the computer, focusing all my love and affection toward the gracious people at Writeoncon, and for talking non-stop about how much I learned. But come on now ... Writeoncon was the con of all cons. Really. This isn't to say that cons like Comic-con, aren't great. I suppose they are. My sister (Rebecca Ward, a.k.a. interior designer extrodinaire) was just at Comic-con down in San Diego a few weeks ago. But did she learn about awesome things like how to create memorable characterization by Mandy Hubbard? Did she learn about plot and pacing by Weronika Janczuk? Or what about the important aspect of the ever-insane, but very important, revision process by Cynthea Liu?

Okay, so the cons are completely incomparable. But, I can still think mine was better.
 If you are interested in this amazing event, don't worry -- you too can check out Writeoncon after the whole event has happened. What? I know, that's like being able to travel back in time.
Oh, and did I mention that this is FREE?

That right there folks is proof to me, that this con beats them all.

Thank you Writeoncon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Need a good laugh?

This picture was the most randomly, funny picture I've ever taken ... and Hallmark kinda liked it too!

Check out Hallmark's website to not only view the card, but buy one! Feeling a little down?

Ha, ha well I think this picture will help. My winning card!

*Big thank you to my sister's legs, my cousin's laugh, and my aunt's perfect body-language.*

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer is Winding Down, Already?

So, I remember writing a blog not that long ago, about how I was stressing over what to do this summer. And how I absolutely needed to get a list going to make sure I kept busy with the boys.

Well, proof that I can't live without lists (Jen, I know, I know) and that lists work, I've been busier than I ever intended. Minus the hiking trip to Tahoe (happening next weekend) and the "Forest Buffet" at Harrah's (also next weekend), the list is finished! Check marked, over with and done. Did I mention that both of them grew about an inch or more these past three months? And that wasn't even on the list. You see how busy we have been?

In ten days, my boys --both of them-- go back to school -my youngest starting preschool for the first time. (FYI: there may be forthcoming a huge blog --with copious amounts of tears shed over my keyboard-- with that one.)

Summer may not be officially over, but I'm at a loss for words at how quickly it went by. Guess that was sort of the whole point behind the list now, wasn't it? Well, for the remaining weeks we do have, may your watermelon be sweet, your slip 'n slides slippery, and your days fun in the glorious sun.