Sunday, May 30, 2010

Guest Post by Tisha Morris: A Writer's Guide to Feng Shui Your Workspace

One of the best things about being a writer is that there is virtually no overhead. All you pretty much need is a computer and some discipline. However, it is for this reason that a designated office space is often overlooked for writers, not to mention a feng shui-ed office space.

Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, blogs or books, a writer spends her day pouring herself out, emotionally and intellectually, onto paper and into the world. It can be a very vulnerable place. This is one reason why having an office space is so important and, more specifically, having your own office space – a space that is yours and yours alone without distraction.

Writers usually work from home, again, thanks to the low overhead. But, finding adequate office space comes with challenges. If square footage is an issue, then home offices become an afterthought only to find themselves sharing space with a guest room, kitchen table, or the corner of the living room. And so it takes some creative planning of a space to make a home office work for writers.

The first step is to select one location for your workspace. Ideally, this is a designated home office. But, it could be a sitting chair, your bed, or the kitchen table. Whatever the space, it is important that you make this your space. In other words, this is the place you go to write. Similar to meditation, when you use the same space, it will help you drop in quicker to the flow. Also, in doing so, you are making writing a priority. A note about writing in coffee shops: Some people need the stimulation of other people around them to get motivated to write. For others, however, it can be very distracting. So, experiment and notice what works best for you.

To recap my article, Feng Shui for the Workplace: Where to Place Your Desk, there are a few things to keep in mind when setting up a workspace. The most important consideration for any office is desk placement. When sitting at your desk, you should be in “Command Position”. Simply put, this is the position that makes you most ‘in command.’ The Command Position emerges from our instinctive need to have visible control of our environment. The ideal Command Position would be with a view of the door from your chair, a view out a window, and a solid wall behind you. This may mean moving your desk into the room away from the wall. If this is absolutely not possible, then place a mirror to where you can see the entrance in the mirror. If you do not use a desk, but instead a counter or even your lap, it is still important to face the door entering the room. You want to feel in power and confident in your space – whether you are home alone or working amongst a 100 colleagues in a business office.

In this photo, the writer’s office also doubles as a guest room. The desk faces the door, but is not directly in line with the door (that would result in too much chi energy coming in). It would be better if the window was not right behind her. Why? A wall behind you provides support and for writers in an isolated profession, feeling supported is crucial. Keeping the blind closed is helpful so that there is not a feeling of being exposed. Also notice in this picture the lack of clutter. It is imperative to have an uncluttered space when writing. Our mind is directly affected by our environment. So once you designate your workspace, then declutter it.

The size of your desk will depend on your preference. Everyone likes or requires a different amount of surface area. For some, an executive-size desk makes them feel more powerful. For others, it’s just another place to collect clutter. I prefer a desk that will fit my laptop, tea, and my cell phone. I work virtually paperless and prefer to keep everything either on my phone or computer. In this picture of my office, you can see that while my desk is relatively small, it takes center stage in my office. It faces the door without being in direct line and not being right in front of the window either. Find a desk or surface that fits your style and is comfortable. If you are physically cramped, then your creative juices will not be free-flowing.

As said in Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come," and so is the case if you designate a workspace that feels good to you. You will be more likely to write, enjoy writing, and be successful in your writing.

Tisha Morris is a certified life coach, feng shui consultant, energy healer, and author of 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Home (Turner Publishing). She practiced law for ten years and holds a Fine Arts degree in Interior Design. Tisha’s transformational journey from attorney to healer has given her invaluable experience in which to help others make desired changes.

Tisha’s passion is healing spaces by blending traditional feng shui techniques and interior design aesthetics with healing energy. In doing so, not only does the space undergo a transformation, but all those who occupy and encounter the space as well.

Tisha is based in Nashville, TN with most of her services available in-person or distance at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Contest Looking for the Next Breakout Children's Book

Are you a secret storyteller? Now is the time to let your talent out in the open. The Times and Chicken House are on a mission to discover another great children's writer, whose book will be published around the world by Chicken House.

How to enter: Your full-length manuscript (no more than 80,000 words) must be received at The Chicken House by October 29, 2010. The address, submission criteria, terms and conditions and tips can be found at

The shortlist: The Chicken House reading team will select a shortlist of five entries, to be announced in February 2011. The judges will choose a winner from this shortlist, to be announced at Easter 2011.

The prize: The winner will be the entrant whose story, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates the greatest entertainment value, quality and originality suitable for the children's age group. The prize is the offer of a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House, with a royalty advance of £10,000.

The judges: Barry Cunningham, publisher, Chicken House. Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo and Running on the Cracks. Amanda Craig, children's book critic, The Times. Neil Blair, partner at the Christopher Little Literary Agency. John McLay, literary scout and director of the Bath Literary Festival. Damian Kelleher, author, reviewer and children's media consultant. Rebecca Wilkie, Booktrust. The Waterstone's Children's Bookselling Team.

Additional rules: Entrants must be aged 18 or over. Entries must be the original work of the entrant and not previously published. The entrant must not have previously published any book in any country, whether fiction or nonfiction. The entry should be suitable for a children's audience aged between 9 and 16. Picture books and graphic novels will not be accepted and illustrations will not be considered. Before entering you must read the full terms and conditions at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Websites of Interest for Young Writers

Markets for young writers:

* Prufrock Press, Inc. is looking for the very best material by students (ages 8–16). Material may include cartoons, songs, stories between 500 and 1200 words, puzzles, photographs, artwork, games, editorials, poetry, and plays, as well as any other creative work that can fit in the pages of the magazine.

* CyberKids is looking for stories, poems, articles, pictures, and other creative work. They do not pay for submissions, but if they use your work, they will send you an email telling you when it will be published.

* About Teens publishes articles, short stories, essays, book reviews and jokes.

* Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine is a great place to send fantastical short stories:

Resources for young writers:

* Write Away: a forum with writing prompts, contests, author interviews, book reviews, and more.

* Teenage Writers: an online community for teen writers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Interview with Marcia Meier

Marcia Meier has been writing professionally since she graduated from college. She worked for daily newspapers for nearly twenty years, first as a reporter, then as a copy editor and assistant city editor, and finally as editorial page editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press. She left daily journalism in 1995, but wrote a Women and Business column for an Orange County magazine, penned a coffee-table book on Santa Barbara and has continued to write for newspapers and magazines ever since. She also taught journalism and writing for four colleges for more than ten years, and continues to work with other writers as a coach today.

She writes poetry and short stories, and had her first poem and her first short story accepted for publication in 2008. She also is at work on a novel and a memoir, but says,"They are going much slower than I would like. The journalism and nonfiction books come first."

I met Marcia four years ago when she was Director of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and brought me in to lead the Young Writers Program. Not only is she a writing and publishing guru, she is also an incredibly warm and generous person. I greatly admire her and feel fortunate to call her my friend. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her new book, Navigating the Rough Waters of Today's Publishing World.

Tell us a bit about the book.

The subtitle is Critical Advice for Writers from Industry Insiders, and that is the focus: It's a book about the upheaval in the publishing world and how writers can best take advantage of the changes. I interviewed more than two dozen experts – agents, editors, publishers and authors – to get their thinking on what's happening in publishing. The book identifies four major trends and then offers advice for using those trends to further your career as a writer.

Sounds like a very important read for every writer! So how did you discover your love for writing?

I was in junior high school when I began to write in a journal every day. It was a way to sort out my teen-aged angst and try to discover who I was and who I wanted to become. Writing and my horse got me through adolescence. But I always found writing came easily to me. I liked English and loved to read. It all seemed to go hand in hand. When I was a senior in high school I worked on the yearbook, but didn't write seriously again until I discovered journalism toward the end of my sophomore year in college. I took a reporting class and was hooked. I changed my major to journalism in my junior year, did two internships the following summer and fall, and got my first newspaper reporting job two weeks after I graduated. I have been in love with writing ever since.

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day?

Yes, I do write every day. I begin every morning early with at least a half-hour of journaling. I’m a big fan of Natalie Goldberg (author of Writing Down the Bones) who recommends some form of what she calls "morning pages." Then I write a poem. (I made a commitment to myself last December to write a poem a day. I haven't quite made that, but I'd guess I write at least four to five poems a week.) Then, depending on what freelance deadlines I face, I will either conduct interviews or write for most of the morning. Afternoons are a little more scattered. I spend a lot of time answering emails, and I also have regular meetings – weekly or biweekly – with the writers I coach. When it comes to short stories and longer works, I tend to pack up my computer or notebook on a Saturday and go off to a coffee shop at least half an hour away from my home.

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about the writing life? What advice do you have for beginning writers?

I wish I had known/understood the importance of sticking to a writing routine. When I left the newspaper business my daughter was three. I found all kinds of excuses not to write, and got pulled in a number of directions (teaching, volunteering at school) that seemed important at the time. I don't regret those experiences, but I think I might have been further toward what I say are my highest goals for writing if I had stayed focused on them. Today, I'm rededicated to my personal writing. (It's also a little easier since my daughter is just graduating from high school and will be heading off to college soon.)

As for advice, stay true to yourself. Commit yourself to whatever time you think you can devote to writing and do it. But don't beat yourself up if you fall short of a writing goal. Forgive yourself, revise if need be, and begin again. Life happens.

What is the editing process like for you?

Initially, arduous. With my own work, I have to force myself to get started. But once I'm in the moment with it, it comes easily. I typically begin at the beginning and read everything through, editing as I go. If I am working on someone else's manuscript, I read it with an eye toward line editing but also structure, content, characterization, plot, etc. I will read a ms. two or three times if necessary to get a really good sense of what it needs overall.

What "life lessons" have you learned through writing?

Lord! Think of every parable and saying you can imagine and I've probably learned it through writing. I love this Teddy Roosevelt quote: "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."

That's so true and well-put. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Only that as writers we need to believe in ourselves and our work. We aren't typically going to get support from our families or friends (unless they are also writers). I once had a friend ask me when I was going to get a "real job." Geez! Who needs friends like that? It's not easy, but you are the only person who will always believe in your dreams, 100 percent. So seek out people who understand and support you, and ignore the rest. And be persistent. If you don't send out that poem, or that short story, or that novel, there is only one certain end: It will never be published. So give your work a chance – release it to the world.

Thank you so much, Marcia!

Order your own copy of Navigating the Rough Waters of Today's Publishing World at

Learn more about Marcia at and

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Tracy Krauss: author, playwright, artist, teacher

Tracy Krauss has finished four novels and eleven full length plays, and has three other novels in the works. She is also currently working on an illustrated children's book based on a song her mother used to sing called "The Sleepy Town Express." In addition to writing, she is a high school teacher of Art, Drama, and English; she is also an artist and theatre director. "Life is pretty full!" she says. "I have four grown children, so I have more time for writing than I used to, but it still seems like there is never enough time in a day." Tracy took the time to stop by and talk about her writing life. Her new book, And The Beat Goes On, is available at her blog:

How did you first discover your love for writing?

I always enjoyed making up stories and in my childhood years I would draw elaborate story boards to "tell" them rather than write them down. Later, in high school, I had a teacher who encouraged me to hone my craft. It wasn't until I had finished University and was married, however, that I really began writing seriously.

I have been writing for more than twenty five years simply because I love to write. In the early days, I wasn't sure where it all would go, but my compulsion kept me clacking away! I had stories to tell and I needed to get them on paper! About five years ago I started seeking publication. As the procrastinator that I am, I just never got around to it sooner. Boy, were my eyes opened once I started down that track! Getting published is a very competitive endeavor. One has to be very thick-skinned and be able to take criticism and rejection and learn from it.

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?

Wow! I wish! Because I teach full time and am heavily involved with my acting troupe of teenagers, I don't write as routinely as I would like to. I find I go in spurts (thus the twenty five year thing!) I spend most of my summer vacation and spring break writing, and then I try to squeeze in whatever I can during the rest of the year. Not the best recipe, I know, and not one that I would recommend. However, it's the best I can do at the moment.
I have been known to scrawl on bits of paper while in airports or hospital waiting rooms, but most of the time it is in my office at home. I also enjoy taking my lap top out doors in the summer. Once, while on a fly in fishing trip, I spent the whole time on the deck writing while my husband and our friends were out fishing!

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about your writing life? What is your biggest advice for writers just starting out?

Like most things in life, writing is not something you should do if you are doing it for the money or the fame. Neither of those things might pan out. I write for the pure enjoyment I get from it and that's it. For me, it is almost more of a compulsion than anything else. I wish I would have tried breaking into the marketplace sooner, but then again, I believe that everything happens for a reason and at the right time. So I guess I'm on track.

What is the editing process like for you?

I go back and write and rewrite umpteen times. If I haven't been at it for awhile, this takes even longer as I have to get back into the "mood" or the moment of what was happening. I also think it is invaluable to get other unbiased opinions. We can get so attached to what we've labored over that we don't see the flaws and can't be objective. This is another reason why coming back to something that has been sitting for awhile can be a good thing. I think it is why I have always had more than one project on the go at once. When I come back to something after an extended break, I can be more objective. As far as grammar and style, that's what editors are for.

What "life lessons" have you learned through wrting?

Do what you love to do. Make time for what is important. Be true to your own calling and don't try to fit into a niche just because it might be marketable or trendy. I'm not really a romantic, although my writing could be categorized as "Romantic Suspense." I also like to present things in an "edgier" style than would normally be considered for the Christian market. However, I believe there is a market out there for my style of writing.

It's a philosophy that I've tried to carry over into every aspect of my life. As a former pastor's wife, I have had to face the unrealistic expectations of many people. It can be a bit of a fish bowl existence and it would be easy to try to play the part. However, as an artist and writer I've tried not to succumb to that way of thinking. Shakespeare's words "To thine own self be true" have been my motto in both writing and in life. People ultimately respect that. Nobody likes a phony.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for having me on your blog. Hopefully, I can inspire other fledgling writers - even those who have been at it for awhile - to persevere if it's their passion. You can visit my blog at

Thanks, Tracy! It was a delight to have you on the blog today!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Soul Calls for Submissions from Young Writers

Chicken Soup for the Soul is an amazing opportunity for writers to share their true personal stories with the world. I have published stories in eight Chicken Soup books and the experience has been great.

Now, the Chicken Soup editors are collecting stories by young adults in high school and college for preteens who are caught between childhood and the tumultuous teens -- a time when bodies are changing, friendships are forming, and everyone's just trying to find someone to sit with at lunch. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Preteens is going to be a companion for kids, whether they're looking to laugh or be told everything will be okay.

What was your experience like as a preteen? Did you fit in with the popular crowd, or were you left behind to eat your peanut butter and jelly in the library? What kind of humorous or embarrassing things happened to you when you were that age? They want stories about friendship, family, learning to do the right thing, and all the mistakes you made along the way.

The editors are looking for true stories and poems written in the first person of no more than 1,200 words. Stories should not have been previously published by Chicken Soup for the Soul or other major publications. These must be your personal stories -- things that happened to you or someone you were close to.

Here are some suggested topics to get you started:
  • Dealing with tough stuff
  • Acts of kindness
  • Teachers, parents, and friends who gave you guidance
  • Embarrassing moments and funny stories
  • Beloved pets
  • Changing schools and being the new kid
  • First crushes
  • How technology influences your life -- texting, instant messaging, and emailing
  • Sibling relationships
  • Learning to be comfortable in your own skin

If your story is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it.

Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cheerios is Looking for the Next Big Children's Author - It Could Be You!

Cheerios is once again sponsoring its Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest. They are looking for stories geared towards readers ages 3 to 8 and no longer than 500 words. They can be written in either English or Spanish. (Spanish entries will be translated into English.)

Winners receive cash prizes and a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster. Not only that, but the published book of the grand prize winner will be included in specially marked boxes of General Mills cereal!

For more information, full guidelines, and to enter the contest, visit

Monday, May 17, 2010

Interview with Gayle Trent

I am absolutely delighted to have Gayle Trent join us today! Gayle writes the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery series for Bell Bridge Books. The second book in that series is Dead Pan. Both Thorndike and the English publisher BBC Audiobooks will be releasing the first book in that series, Murder Takes the Cake, in large-print, hardcover format in the coming year. Gayle also writes an embroidery series under the pseudonym Amanda Lee for NAL/Penguin. The first book in that series is due to be released in August of 2010.

Gayle was kind enough to answer some questions about her life as a cozy mystery writer.

First of all, what exactly is a "cozy mystery"?

Cozy mysteries usually take place in a small community and involve a relatively small number of people. The reader knows that someone within the intimate group will turn out to be the killer. Think Desperate Housewives with one of the cast turning out to be the killer as opposed to Criminal Minds or CSI. Cozy mysteries also feature an amateur sleuth as opposed to a professional detective, and the heroine has an interesting profession or hobby.

Tell us about your book Dead Pan.

Dead Pan is the second book in the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series. When the book opens, a police officer is questioning Daphne about a cake she took to the Brea Ridge Pharmaceutical Company Christmas party. Many people at the party got sick, but most recovered after being treated with a vaccine manufactured by the company. Only one, Fred Duncan, went into a coma and died. Coincidence? Or did somebody have it in for Fred?

What would you like to overhear people saying about your book?

"I laughed so hard when--" A local book club selected Murder Takes the Cake as one of their books, and when I attended the meeting I was delighted to hear that they thought this or that part was funny. I also love it when people say, "I never guessed ______ was the villain." Also, there was a review where a woman said she loved the main character's relationships with various members of her family -- that they were beautifully or realistically drawn. I felt like, "Oooh, she got it!" Actually, I'll take anything that's not negative. :-)

What inspired you to write Dead Pan?
I was reading an article in Wired magazine about clinical drug tests. I did some further investigation, and I came across some fascinating stuff.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read the genre you're interested in writing. For instance, when my agent pitched my first three chapters of the embroidery mystery to the editor, the editor said she liked it but didn't love it. I needed to revise it to make her love it in order for her to buy the book. I asked my agent who the editor had published recently. With two names in hand, I went to the bookstore and bought two books. I read them and found they were more descriptive than my own books. I went back, added more description and gave the heroine a bit more spunk, and the book sold. Sometimes you have to be flexible.

Any funny writing stories to share?

I once tried to "write" using my laptop's voice recognition feature while baking brownies and peeling potatoes. Great multi-tasking, right? BUT, there is a drawback to using voice technology gadgets when you have a Southern drawl. Although, the exercise helped me get unblocked and continue on through the chapter I was struggling with, the computer misunderstood most of what I said. AND, to add insult to injury, when I read back over what it said and laughed, the computer translated that as "a a a a a a a a."

Last but not least, do you have a favorite quote that inspires you on those hard-to-write days?

"It's not enough to stare up the steps. You must step up the stairs." – Vance Havner

Thank you, Gayle! It was a delight to have you join us!

For more information about Gayle or to order her books, visit her website and her blog.

Also I know Gayle will be stopping by the blog today to answer questions, so please don't hesitate to leave your comments! You can also share the love on Twitter by retweeting this post -- just click on the button below. :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guest on "Your Book is Your Hook!" Radio Show

I am thrilled to be a guest this week on the fabulous radio show "Your Book is Your Hook!" hosted by the inspirational Jennifer S. Wilkov.

The show will air LIVE on Tuesday, May 11 at 9 a.m. EST. You can listen any time after that. Here is the link to listen:

I also wrote an article for Jennifer's blog about how I went from writing a book to starting Write On! For Literacy. It's called "Start Small, Start Today!" You can read it here:

Finally, Jennifer created a marvelous YouTube video about my appearance on her show. (I'm delighted and honored to appear on the same show as Lt. Col. Rob "Waldo" Waldman, best-selling author of Never Fly Solo.) I've embedded the video below:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guest Post by Maria Rainier: Staying Motivated

I became a writer when I was seven years old. My mother bought me a journal and I never looked back. Fifteen journals later I am on my way to becoming the writer I want to be, but it isn’t easy. I endured lapses of time when I didn’t write, but like an empty car I am in need of the fuel that will carry me on. I have to work hard on my writing skills, but there is nothing I enjoy more.

Here are a few of my own philosophies for staying motivated to my writing. Just like staying in shape it is a work in progress, but having a starting place is always handy.

1. Read. Read. Read. I have never met a good writer that didn’t read and read often. Writers who do not read lack an attachment to their readers which is evident in their writing. It is our responsibility to draw our readers in, and when we lack the focus, we can call upon others to show us the way. Use it, stretch it, and be proud of whatever your own flavor becomes. Creativity is at our core and seeing it in others helps us tap into its wealth. When we are lost, we can find inspiration in others.

2. Find your voice and stick with it. An incredible writer, my father, always tells me that the core of my writing lies in the voice that shows through it. Always be open to the criticism from those around you, especially those you respect, but learn to know what is yours in your writing and do not compromise it. Improve it.

3. Figure out why it is you want to write. And then write. It really is as simple as that. Growing up I wrote because it was my way of dealing with life. Writing has served a different purpose throughout the years and every change has helped me to grow differently. A few years ago, I decided to give my life to writing and that is my new purpose. Whether we want to write books, publish articles, put together a screen-play or simply get lost in our journal, knowing why you want to write will help keep you writing.

To me, writing is one of the greatest gifts I have been given in my life. When it comes close to becoming a burden, or I feel my inspiration slipping away I return to these three simple things. Be inspired by others, shout or whisper with the inner-voice inside, and always remember why you are writing. Everything else will fall into place.

This guest post was contributed by Maria Rainier. She frequently writes on the topic of online degrees.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Radio Show This Friday!

This Friday, May 7th, I'm going to be a guest on the popular Internet radio show "Kitchen Chat" -- I am so delighted! Host Margaret McSweeney is a fabulous and inspirational woman and I look forward to talking with her about food, writing, reading, and following your passion.

Listen in at

Be sure to check out the website for my recipe for Magic Cookie Bars, a delicious dessert that is super easy and quick to make!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Great Contest for Aspiring Writers!

Write On! Online Query Contest: Books

In the continuing effort to help writers jump-start their careers, Write On! Online is pleased to announce the 2nd Annual Write On! Query Contest. The winner in each category -- Fiction and Non-Fiction -- will have their query letter read by Los Angeles-based literary agent Betsy Amster. They will also receive a gift certificate from iScript.

Authors Amy Friedman (Syndicated Columnist, "Tell Me A Story") and Dennis Danziger ("A Short History of a Tall Jew") will select the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners from the finalists!

Email your 1-page query to Debra Eckerling -- -- by Monday, May 31. Winners will be announced on Monday, June 7, on Write On! Online, and in the June Write On! Newsletter.

For details, prizes, and full submission guidelines, go to:

*Note: This contest is through a great organization that also has the name Write On! :) Dallas Woodburn and Write On! For Literacy have no part in this contest. Sorry for the confusion!