Book Festivalling Episode One

Book festivals are not everyone’s thing. I get that.

Okay, maybe I don’t. What’s not to like? Books? Authors? Festivalling?

This month, I traveled to three different festivals. I learned something at each one. I’d planned to write about all of them in one post, but upon reflection, I realized that each experience was so different, I need to give them equal time. So, this is the first of three posts on my book festival tour.

The first festival I attended was in Williamsburg, Virginia. I traveled there with a dear friend, beta reader, book & wine lover named Gina. I had no expectations for this festival, I told Gina. In doing my research, I’d talked to three authors who attended in years past. One was enthusiastic about the experience, saying it was well organized and the crowd was lovely. She sold many books.

The second author I contacted said it was awful. She was stuck in a side room and no one could find her table. The people who did were just looking for free stuff. Hmmm. Continue reading “Book Festivalling Episode One”

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What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?

I started teaching a new course of Creative Writing this week. I forgot how much I love it. My class last spring didn’t fill and was canceled. At the time, I was busy preparing for a book launch, so I was somewhat relieved.

Driving home after class this week, I was energized. It’s so exciting to work with writers who are just beginning their journey. The possibilities are fresh and exciting.

The knowing nods when we talk about the urgent need to write, reassure me. I’m not the only crazy person in my town who feels this compelling urge to bear witness to all the little oddities in my life and heart.

pexels-photo-115782We talked about what we write and why. So many echoed the same sentiment—a voice running through their heads aching to get out on paper. I recognize that insistency. It’s their creative spirit. Everyone has one. That spirit can find its way out in a plethora of ways, but when its left trapped inside, unrecognized and unfed, it can lead to a confused despondency, a sadness borne of a day-after-day sameness. Continue reading “What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?”

How Not to be Boring: 8 Tips for Writers

Be honest. Don’t pretend you know something you don’t, feel something you don’t feel, or are something you’re not. Just be heart-exposingly honest and readers will appreciate it. Honesty is never boring.

Write your passion

write with passion

Write what you love. Write what you are committed to. Write about the topics, stories, people, issues that get your heart aflutter or make your pulse race. When you write your passion it comes straight from your heart. Passion is never boring. Continue reading “How Not to be Boring: 8 Tips for Writers”

Writing Without a Net

It’s a bit of gamble, this writing thing.

I write and write and write and write.

And then I edit and edit and edit and edit.

writing

And then I edit even more.

And when my latest masterpiece is all shined up and ready, I send it out into the world.

Sometimes (okay, many times) it comes back to me with words of rejection.

It feels like judgment. Probably because it is judgment.

And I say – Continue reading “Writing Without a Net”

Write.

It’s summer.

The kids are underfoot.

The house is a mess; it’s noisy, too.

The garden is a tangle of weeds and the blueberry bushes are so full, the berries are bending the branches low enough for the mice to feast.

I drank too much wine last night; I can’t think clearly.

I’m not feeling it.

I’m tired.

I’m sick of this story.

I’ll just take today off.

What’s the point?

That’s just a small sampling of my excuses. What are yours?

There’s never a good time to write, but if you’re a writer that really doesn’t matter—write.

Some days the words circle your head like invisible gnats, and while you can hear them buzzing, you can’t catch them—write.

Other times the grocery list and the thank you notes are nagging around the edges of your brain; they can wait another day—write.

Even when you have nothing to say and what you do want to say is everything you wish you’d said to someone who belittled your belief yesterday – write.

Maybe the only coherent thought you have is, I hate this. Write.

As Elmore Leonard, arguably one of the most successful, working class writers, puts it—

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

What are you waiting for?

Sit down and write.

Verbizing (yes, it’s a word!) (okay, it’s my word)

What’s the most important part of a story? The plot? The characters?

How about the verbs?

Okay, maybe they aren’t the most important part but wow, they can make or break it.

Secret wisdom of the earth by Christopher ScottonI’m reading The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton and I am dumbfounded (love this word – oh, and what a great verb!) by how he simply makes up verbs. Out of thin air. He takes ordinary words and he verbizes them (there! I just did it too! I verbized the noun, verb.).

Watch how he does this:

I remember watching my mother from the backseat as she stared at the telephone poles flishing past us, the reflection of the white highway line in the window strobing her haggard face.

The first time it happened, on the first page, mind you, I thought – flishing? huh, never heard of that verb.

But then again and again (and again) he simply created verbs where there were none. Jounced? (okay, that one’s real, but who uses it?) Vigiling? Birth-defected?

How empowering, I thought.

The verb you choose for a sentence can be the difference between eating vanilla store brand ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food flavor ice cream. Totally different experience.

For example:

He walked slowly along.

He lollygagged.

The bird flew across the grass.

The bird flashed across the grass.

She thought about it.

She sloshed the idea around in her head.

See? It’s easy. And what Scotton has proven to me, is that if you can’t think of a verb, you can simply make one up. Nobody minds. Really.

The toddler wasted time.

The toddler fiddle-de-dooed.

Cake? Right?

If you need a few lists of verbs check out foxhugh.com who teaches ESL and has lists of action verbs, PLUS a cat and the hat rap video and a number of other interesting posts. You could also check out ResumeGenius.com which claims to be the longest action verb list in the universe, although I’m quite certain that Fox Hugh has it beat.

If worse comes to worse, you can also right click on a boring verb in your document and look at the possible synonyms, there could be a more interesting alternative there.

Want to pump up your manuscript? Search out words like was, is, walk, sat, run, read, stand, etc., you know the standard stuff from your first grade primer, and see if you can liven up your sentences by plugging in more interesting verbs.

It used to be we had to stick to Webster’s for our word choice, but I’m pretty sure that rule is long gone. I can’t imagine how spell check or auto-correct keep up. That’s their problem, though, because clearly best-selling writers make up words everyday—why can’t you?

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to read more, meander on over to my website. We’re just getting my Street Team (Cara’s Cronies) off the ground. I’d love to have you on my side!

Oh, and if you’re totally into dogs, check out my blog about fostering rescue dogs!

Enough of the shameless self-promotion. Have a blueberry pie with fresh cream kind of week!

Blessings,

Cara

 

 

May the Power of Literature Change Your Life (Week Two of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)

Okay, I’ve changed my mind.

dsc_7650
This is a picture of my cat Hermoine, because she changes her mind frequently and never apologizes about it (she also sits shamelessly on the heater vent and hogs all the heat in the kitchen). Please do not take note of the filthy floor, focus on the cat.

 

 

Story Genius and Lisa Cron are pretty genius.

After sharing my disdain last week, I take it all back. Digging deeper into this book, I’m finding nugget after nugget of gold.

Maybe I was a bit sensitive after her comments about pantsers (those of us who write by the seat of our pants as opposed to careful outlining). I’ve decided that Lisa Cron actually does have room for pantsers in her heart. At least my kind of pantsing.

She’s not shoving an outline down my throat (at least at this point), but she does want me to know exactly what it is my protagonist wants and what is keeping her from it. The intersection of those points is what she terms the ‘third rail.’

While I may have no idea what’s going to happen in any story I start, I do know my protagonist inside and out and am very certain of what she wants. I even know the first obstacle which will throw her into a tailspin and start my story. After that, though, all bets are off, but inevitably obstacle after obstacle will present itself.

In my novel Girls’ Weekend there were three protagonists (although Cron has helped me see that there is actually an ‘alpha protagonist’) and I knew what those women wanted (even though not all of them did) and what stood in their way. In reality, looking back, that could have been three books. A nice little series. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

So, yeah, enjoying Story Genius.

The other books are also inspiring me, even Donald Maass. Here’s a line I’ve been ruminating on from Fire in Fiction:

“Like a handshake, an opening and closing line can create impressions and expectations. They can set a tone.”

I’ve gone back and begun looking at each chapter and studied my opening and closing lines. It’s one way to be certain my story is bringing the reader along purposefully. He also talks about being certain there’s a purpose in every scene, not just artfully rendered sentences. I’m a serious proponent of that direction, and I chuckled at his line about the purpose not having to be obvious. There’s no need to “squat atop it like an elephant on an egg.” Totally going to steal that line at some point.

And then this from Fierce on the Page:

“This is the power of the written word. As we take in a story that affects us, we meet ourselves more deeply.”

Yes. That’s exactly it.

Natalie Goldberg echoes this sentiment:

“A responsibility of literature is to make people awake, present, alive.”

Doing all this reading about craft and purpose and style and function some days makes my head spin a bit and makes me feel like not only do I not know what I’m doing, but maybe I should apply for a job at the new Burger King that just opened in town. But Jordan Rosenfeld was there to catch me when she wrote:

“Trust your gut about what resonates and what does not. Know that you’ll know what to cut and what to keep…..You will find the alive passages, and you can even choose to build on them. Those are the words you are meant to write; similarly, the life that flows is the one you’re meant to live.”

I think she might have more faith in me that I have in myself, but I’ll borrow it for now.

May the power of literature change your life this week.


And now for all the self-promotional whoo-ha (cause this way we can be more connected, maybe even best friends…):

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