Thursday, March 27, 2014

Post up on Savvy Authors Blog

Hi, everyone! I'm excited to share that I've written a guest post for the Savvy Authors Blog. It's called "Write to Please Yourself" and here is the opening few paragraphs:

About ten years ago I was fortunate enough to get the chance to meet Elizabeth Berg when she gave a talk at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Afterwards, as she signed my copy of her terrific novel Durable Goods, I asked if she had any advice for a young writer like me. After a moment of thought, she wrote underneath her signature: “First, please yourself.”

I didn’t understand what she meant. That was her biggest suggestion? Those were her magic words for building a life as a writer? It seemed a little… selfish. Shouldn’t writers think about their readers and fans? Editors and agents? Parents, friends, spouses, children?

Yet, the older I get and the more I write, the deeper Berg’s advice rings true to me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with James Patterson, author of "Living with the Bully of Crohn's Disease"

James Patterson is the author of the just-released book Living with the Bully of Crohn's Disease, which is available on Amazon here. James is a native Southern Californian who grew up enjoying the wonderful weather, the beach and surfing. He did his undergraduate work at UC Riverside and received his MS in Biochemistry from Michigan State. He migrated back to California and, after spending time in the San Francisco Bay area, settled in Ventura County thirty years ago. His initial career focus was the research lab but his interest in interacting with people led to various sales and marketing roles in medical companies. This evolved further as he became a medical recruiter over twenty years ago. James says, "It is perfect blend of working with high-technology medical companies and people. I thoroughly enjoy the counseling aspects of my work as I interact with others and help them find meaningful work that is nourishing and rewarding." James has recently become an author with the publication of his book Living with the Bully of Crohn's Disease. He was kind enough to take a few minutes of his time to answer some questions for the blog. Enjoy!


 
Tell us a little bit about your book. What was your inspiration behind it?

I was impacted by Crohn's disease at the age of thirteen and never knew it. I recognized that something was wrong with me but it took almost four decades to identify the issue. Crohn's is a disease that waxes and wanes and makes life difficult; not understanding that you have it only makes it worse. have met and read about many people, especially young adults, who have been devastated by this ailment and I observed that while the physical elements of the disease were challenging, the emotional issues of sadness, grief, fear and anger were even more pronounced. I recognized that my almost fifty years of experience with Crohn's gives me a wealth of knowledge that I can share with others in the hope that they can benefit from my mistakes and the mental and emotional processes I used to manage this disease and build health. My hope is that other patients will recognize their lives can continue to be full and rich, even with a disease likes Crohn's.

How do you balance writing with all the other things going on in your life, like your work, family, health?

Once I made a decision to write this book, it took about a year. Just like we take time to eat and sleep, writing became a requirement and a part of my regular process. While the project was large, I recognized that the best way to manage it was to work on a consistent basis. Some days I did more than others and there were periods when work and family did not allow time for writing. I think my motivation to write about a topic that would help others was a major driver for me to complete the task. I felt the message of the book would be medicine for people with Crohn's to help cool their inflamed and distressed minds and I wanted it to be available to those who need it.  

What is your writing process like? 

I try to write during the morning when I feel most alert, rested and creative. I use a PC and rarely take written notes because I cannot read my handwriting! If I have the time, I prefer to write in 2-4 hour bursts. I work off of an outline but once I start to write I do not pay much attention to the outline, grammar or exactly where I am going. I tend to get large chunks of ideas that come forth and I continue to write until they stop. This can go on for some time and the ideas and thought trails take me in various directions. During these times, I am not so concerned about the exact content of my thoughts but want to get things down on paper. I will go back later and clean it up but these creative thought bursts contain the best ideas and I allow them to continue unabated and I don't get in their way with too much concrete thinking. 

What is your biggest advice for other writers, particularly young writers just starting out?

I think it begins with having something meaningful to say. I never considered writing a book during the first five decades of my life. I started writing this book when a number of people told time that I had something that could help others and this serviced as my motivation to start writing. Once I made the commitment to write, the next issue for me was organization. I spent time outlining the main themes and points and did this before I did any writing. I wanted to have the bullet points in mind and then build out the rest of the story. I had forty pages of outline before I wrote my first sentence.

What are some of your favorite books? 

I love science fiction and read a lot of the old books byArthur C. Clarke, Lester Del Rey and Ray Bradbury, among others. I also read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy when they first came out and thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter. I have many interests in nonfiction as well and enjoy authors like Caroline Myss, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Robert Leichtman. 

What's next for you? 

I have started outlining two more books, one on how companies can hire and retain great people while creating a culture of excellence and support. The other is about how people can find meaning and nourishment in their life's work. Both of these relate to what I have done for over twenty years and I think I can add value in writing these books. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Writing is a wonderful opportunity to go into detail on issues and ideas that can impact people's lives. As the writer, you have control over your message and do not need to be concerned about brevity. You can take the time to develop the idea and then express it in its fullness. 

You can connect with James Patterson online here:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seventh Annual Summer Writing Camp is Open for Registration!


This year is the SEVENTH ANNUAL Write On! Summer Writing Camp!
What: Students will have FUN while learning how to improve central components of their writing, including dialogue, characterization, plot and setting, through various creativity-inducing writing exercises.
Who: Students ages 8-18. Poets, playwrights, short-story writers, future novelists – all are encouraged and welcome to join!
When: The weekends of July 19 & 20, 26 & 27. There are two time sessions available: mornings from 10 am-noon or afternoons from 1-3 pm. It is perfectly all right if you can only make one of the weekends, or even just one day — I’d love to have you join us!
Where: In the conference room of Jensen Design & Survey in Ventura at 1672 Donlon Street (near Target).
How: If you’re interested in getting signed up, simply download, print and send in the PDF of the registration form (link below). There are early-registration and sibling discounts available! Proceeds benefit Write On! For Literacy, my organization that empowers youth through reading & writing projects including an annual Holiday Book Drive for underprivileged kids.
Download the registration form herehttp://writeonbooks.org/?page_id=2
Price breakdown: SPACE IS LIMITED!
Early Registration Special (before June 30)
All four sessions: $125.00 – BEST VALUE!
Three sessions: $100.00
Two sessions: $80.00
One session: $40.00
Regular Registration (after June 30)
All four sessions: $150.00 – BEST VALUE!
Three sessions: $125.00
Two sessions: $100.00
One session: $50.00
Hope to see you there!! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Terrific Writing Prompt from William Lychack

William Lychack is a fantastic writer, and an extremely generous and kindhearted person -- I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was a student at Purdue and he came to give a reading as part of the Visiting Writers Series. His short story collection The Architect of Flowers is simply marvelous!

I recently came across this writing prompt from William, who now teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Pittsburgh, and I wanted to share it with you because I think it is terrific!

Choose a piece of your writing that you particularly like or need to think about in some way. Rewrite the piece by copying down the opposite of each word in the excerpt (except, perhaps, for "little words" like articles and prepositions). Because most words don't have exact opposites, the possibilities are endless, and that's the point. Your story or poem or letter or postcard probably won't make much sense at first, but continue writing your inversion until you have your own draft. Work quickly on this first draft, letting your unconscious decide the antonyms. Now put the original away and see what you can make of your draft. Look for a sense of place, character, or subject to develop. Cut out what you can't make work. Alter details as much as you wish. 

Isn't that a neat exercise? I am going to try it for myself today! Will you join me?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Great quote

"The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying."
-Steven Pressfield

What are you going to sit down and try this weekend?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Make 2014 Your Best Writing Year Yet!

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because that is, actually, what the fox says to do.



Happy New Year, everyone! I love the brand-new slate a new year brings. A chance to reflect on where we've come and where we want to go.

Here are some of my goals for 2014:

Writing Goals
1. Establish writing routine. 400 words. Every day. No excuses.
2. Revise thesis manuscript and send to agent.
3. Complete memoir manuscript.
4. Complete 200 pgs of new novel.
5. Write a new one-act play.
6. Write a full-length play.
7. Finish Verna novella & put out as an ebook.
8. Write three blog posts a week.
9. Read at least one short story a week.
10. Read at least 40 books.

Write On! For Literacy Goals
1. Send out a newsletter every other month.
2. Become an official nonprofit organization.
3. Teach a summer writing camp.
4. Teach a winter writing camp.
5. Teach a college essay/app seminar.
6. New ebook of work by young writers.
7. Compile Writing Camp ebook/program
8. Hold a Holiday Book Drive.

I'm inspired by this story shared by Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive: "When my father-in-law was 58, he volunteered with a group that assists disabled athletes. Fit but no marathoner, he agreed to run the first half of the New York City Marathon tethered to a blind runner who'd flown all the way from Thailand for the race. At mile 13, another volunteer would take over. Except: That other volunteer never showed, and there was my father-in-law, exhausted, with 13 painful miles he'd never trained for ahead of him. 'What did I do?' he recalls now. 'I kept going!' All the way to the finish line -- inspired by the even more heroic efforts of the blind man beside him. I think of that story often, and not just while running. With the right motivation you can almost always go farther, accomplish more, reach higher than you thought."

What motivates you to go farther and reach higher than you thought possible? And how can you stretch that motivation past the sparkling new shine of 2014, into the coming weeks and months?

Here are some habits that work for me, to help keep me motivated:
  • Keep a gratitude journal to remind yourself of all the things going well in your life.
  • Keep a list of all your successes to look over whenever you feel discouraged.
  • Set goals that are based in ACTIONS rather than results. For example, instead of setting a goal to win first place in a writing contest (something you have no control over) set a goal to enter x number of writing contests. Entering contests is an action you can control; the judging process is something you have zero control over.
  • Remind yourself of the "big picture" -- what are the bigger underlying reasons you are going after your goals? For example, maybe you want to write a book this year. Who is the audience you are writing for? How might they be inspired by what you have to say? Imagining a reader picking up your book and being moved by your words can be enough to banish ever the worst case of writers block!  
I'll leave you with this quote, one of my favorites, from Sallie Krawcheck of 85 Broads: "Plant seeds, plant seeds, and don't ask for anything. The seeds will grow." 

What seeds can you plant today?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Writing advice from author Jennifer Donnelly

I just finished reading the wonderful, sweeping historical epic The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. At the end of the book there is a Q & A with the author, and I thought her advice for young writers was terrific, so I wanted to share it with you! Below are quotes from Donnelly about how to become a writer.



  • "There's only one thing that makes you a writer -- and that's writing."
  • "Writing -- any kind of writing: journals, term papers, letters to your grandmother -- will hone your ability with words. As you keep writing, you'll learn how to do more with less. You'll get a feel for simplicity and elegance, when to let rip and when to hold back, and how the subtle art of suggestion can lend incredible power to a paragraph or scene."
  • "Reading is also incredibly important. It shows you how other writers do it, how they succeed, and where they fail."
  • "Whether it's a novel, a newspaper article, or the copy on the back of a cereal box -- it's all writing. Someone had to think about it and make choices. It's your job as a reader to decide how well the author did."
  • "You may not be aware of it, but every time you get lost in a story, or intrigued by a magazine article, you're also picking up pointers on structure, plot, and style."
  • "Lots of kids, and older people, too, tell me that they have so many stories started. Started is good. Beginnings are good. But you have to finish. Finishing is what makes the difference between ideas and books."
  • "Force yourself to sit down at your desk -- glue your butt to your chair -- and work through the problems. It's very important. It's very good discipline. It forces you to see an idea through from beginning to end and to do the hard work of bringing the various threads of the story together in a satisfying way. Do this and you'll become more confident in your ability to tell a story."
  • "Listen to your own thoughts and feelings very carefully, be aware of your observations, and value them."
  • "When you're a teenager -- and even when you're older -- lots of people will try to tell you what to think and feel. Try to stand still instead all of that and hear your own voice. It's yours and only yours, it's unique and worthy of your attention, and if you cultivate it properly, it might just make you a writer."

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