Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thought You Should Know ...

Normally, I don't like to toot my own horn. It just doesn't sound right, doesn't ring right, doesn't jab with me or float my boat.

Cup of Comfort on Amazon
That being said, I'm going to do all of the above.

I have to tell you about a little book that published me. Okay, so the book isn't just about me. It's also about 40 other ladies who wrote fantastic words and essays and were chosen to be in the Cup of Comfort line of books, called A Cup of Comfort for Christian Women.

This book is seriously inspirational. I had more fun reading through it than writing my own story. It is a wonderfully encouraging book for other women, touches the soul, ministers to the heart, and puts a little more happiness into all of us.

The book is great as a gift, great for yourself, and great to have around when you need specific encouragement in a specific area.

Okay then, enough said. I am happy to be officially "published" in a "real" book (a national bestselling one at that) even if my name is hidden, small, shrouded and insignificant.

The editor, Colleen Sell, was a pleasure to work with, I learned a lot, and I'm most happy, knowing and hoping that my little story called "A Test of Tithe" will help others out there with their lives, as much as my experience helped -- and shaped me -- for the rest of mine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grand Grammar

I'm always forgetting correct grammar rules. I mean, always. And did I mention my punctuation is pathetic? Well, it is.

There's a really cool website that I just found, and it's called "Grammar Girl." Well, actually it's really called "Quick and Dirty Tips," and I'm certain I am not italicizing and parathentizing correctly here. But, if I really want to know the right way to write, this lady has the answers. There are a bazillion tips for careers, work, lifetstyle, pets, etc. Hence the name "Quick and Dirty Tips."

But, it's the grammar section that really spoke to me. This section is filled with quick tips, written in a way that will make me always remember a particular rule the next time I need to use it. Like, How to Speak English like the Irish, or How to Write Grammatically Correct Photo Captions, or Commas with Adjectives. Useful, funny and insightful ... all at the same time. Way cool!

There's always a quick tip, or a point I needed to remember in my editing and writing. And this little website has it all. Check it out and bookmark it.  Because a wealth of information -- especially grammar information -- should never be hidden.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maximizing Your Time

So, I'm sure many of you out there could use a little ego boost with your writing. What if there was a great way to do this, and maybe make a little money (really little money) from it at the same time? You can.

I just recently signed up to be a part of the Yahoo!Contributor Network. What this means is that I am able write about whatever I want, whenever I want and have it all (almost) published.

Some of you may think this is a waste of time, or maybe even beneath you. But, I don't look at it like that. In order to be a better writer, we have to actually write, as often as we can, when we can, and learn, learn, learn the craft -- from content to editing. And to be published during that journey? Wouldn't that be swell?

Well, here's an example. I reworked an article I wrote months ago about how just doing a few simple things to your house, can make it look new again. I called it Live in a New House (... without having to move). It was published almost immediately, and I got a couple dollars for it.

Then, they just accepted an article I wrote about thrift stores in the Sacramento area, because I not only live in Sacramento, but I love thrift stores. I combined what I know, with what I love, and an article was born! Here it is: Top Three Thrift Stores in Sacramento

When publications are few and (very) far between, or if perhaps you have yet to be published at all, having the opportunity to write what you want to write about -- and have it published -- is like finding a pot of gold.

Yes, you have to write. Yes, you have to edit. And yes, by all means, you have to make it look like professional journalism. But, through trial and error and through looking at other folks' writings, you can certainly find a few things to write about, in short quantities, and have fun with it all at the same time.

You'll not only learn how to write better, but think critically, perfect your editing, and have your name published on the World Wide Web. And if you're extra lucky, you might make a few dollars a month.

I highly recommend doing this, even if you only write one article. What's not to love about seeing a great article --with your name on it -- in print (er ... online. But, hey you can print it out, right?)

Happy writing!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Can I see your I.D?

Are you in love with writing? Or just in love with the idea of being a writer?

This is a question everyone who writes, or wants to write, needs to keep at the forefront of their mind before they sit down and decide to make a career out of it.

I think someone famous said, "If you want to act like a writer, you can ... find a black turtleneck, act depressed all while hanging out at the local cafe." But, I don't know who said it, or the right wording or any of those important things.

However, I do remember the meaning behind it. The gist is this: Are you a real writer or a pretend one? Are you an author because you can't live without writing -- because it's in your DNA -- or are you just playing dress up?

A friend of mine gave me an article to read about a Belgian author, Amelie Nothumb who spoke of this same perplexity. What it comes down to is this: Writing, or being an author, isn't perplex. We may be perplex people -- and incredibly eccentric -- but the simple notion is that even if we aren't super-wonderful writers, that doesn't not make us a writer. It has everything to do with learning, trying, failing and continuing to write ... regardless.

Ms. Nothumb said this: "I found out that the question was not 'am I good enough to write?', because of course I am not. The question was 'am I able to live without writing?'. It is," she says, with another charming smile, "the only question."

And that truly is the only question. If you can't live without writing, etching words out of thin imagination --whether or not your work is published -- then this makes you a writer. If you can live without it (if the concept of looking like a writer is the most intriguing part) then perhaps you need to dig deeper into what it is you really want.

Not everyone can write. Everyone may say they "want to write a book" but that doesn't make one a writer until the book is written -- not published -- but written. And even then, the actual written word doesn't make you an "author" until it's published.

But, published or not, you're a writer when you can't go a day without thinking of dialogue, or character development, or if you edit your minds' conversation while drifting off to sleep. Or, in my case, when the casual day to pick up your kids from school becomes fodder for your next scene.

Writing is hard. But what's harder is acting like you're a writer when you aren't truly in love with your words. Love your writing, and the writing will come to you, on paper, on the computer screen, and always in your heart --no matter the final outcome of those words.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Life in Non-fiction

Whenever the writing bug isn't as pesky as it should be -- bugging me until I write something long --sometimes I go for little bits - like short story little bits.

Chicken Soup for the Soul
If writing novels or long stories is your thing, then writing a short story is going to be difficult. Having to think about dialogue, background, imagery and plot in 1500 words or less, is a challenge that many people have a hard time with -- me included.

However, this is where you have a chance to work at your skills. By writing in a few words, what would normally take a paragraph or two, we learn to activate our passive writing, condense our wordiness, and perfect our action scenes to precision.

Of course, what I'm talking about mainly has to do with fiction. And going from long fiction to short fiction is tough; it's almost like using a completely different side of our brain.

But, let me throw a wrench into this mix: what if you wrote a short piece of non-fiction?

If the thought terrifies you, it shouldn't! Now's the time to expand your repertoire of writing genres. Non-fiction -- something I'm working on more often -- is fun. It's real, it's now, and it's a world of fantasy I don't have to create ... because it's already here.

A great way to get your feet wet, and a fantastic way to gain writing prompts, is to visit the Chicken Soup for the Soul website and check out their submissions page, or their "Possible Books" page. This tells you what they are looking for, what they want to read, and what they want to print in their next books.

There are usually at least 5 different subjects one can write on. Not all of them will be something you know about, but probably one or two. Use this to your ability and write something good.

Try one of their topics today. Use it as a prompt to dole out 1200 words, edit it, and take a good look at it. If you like it, and it seems publish-worthy, why not send it in after a day or two? If you think you need to master your non-fiction craft a bit more, set it aside, and write something else.

The point is to write something that you're not used to writing, in a style you're not used to writing in. This will stretch you, teach you and make you learn more about writing well than ever before.