Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Interview with Irish author Caroline Finnerty

A couple months ago, my parents took a trip to Ireland for two weeks to celebrate their anniversary. One evening, they walked past a small independent bookstore in Dublin, heard laughter, turned around, went inside and followed the voices upstairs. And so it was they met Irish author Caroline Finnerty, whose book launch party was wrapping up. After a pleasant conversation, she signed a copy of her new novel Into the Night Sky as a gift for... ME! :) 

I devoured the book as soon as my parents gave it to me. It is one of those books that, as the Irish Independent newspaper stated, is "impossible to put down." Simply put, Into the Night Sky is a luminous and heartwarming story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page, and Caroline is a superbly talented and empathetic writer. You can order Caroline's books here.

After Caroline was thoughtful enough to email me about my own writing and books, I asked if she would mind answering a few questions for this blog. She kindly agreed, and I am thrilled to present her insightful answers to you now. With no further ado, here is Caroline Finnerty!

Welcome, Caroline! Tell us about your latest novel INTO THE NIGHT SKY. In what ways was this novel different from your other books? 

Into the Night Sky is the story of four people who come into each other’s lives when they are each in need of a friend and how the bonds that form change each of them forever more.

Conor Fahy is the owner of struggling bookshop Haymarket Books and is finding it hard to cope with everyday life in the aftermath of his partner Leni’s tragic death.

Conor’s best friend Ella Wilde is struggling with her own problems having just been axed from her job as a TV presenter after being caught shoplifting. She is struggling to deal with the weight of public disgrace and adjust to life away from the TV cameras.

Jack White is eight years old. He likes Ben 10, Giant Jawbreaker sweets and reading adventure books. He likes his Dad (when he doesn’t shout). He doesn’t like the bad monsters that are eating up his ma inside her tummy.

Rachel Traynor is the social worker assigned to Jack White’s case but sorting out messy family disputes is taking its toll on her. And it doesn’t help that she has had to say goodbye to the man she loves because he doesn't want to have children with her.

It’s different from my other books because the story is told through a present tense narrative and also one of the main characters, Jack, is a young child, which I have never done before.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you get into writing? 

I always loved writing but I never recognized it in myself until I entered my twenties. I was always bookish as a child and made my own "books" with illustrations. In hindsight, I was good at essay writing in school but it never occurred to me to study English and so I studied biotechnology in university. I was in my twenties when I had an idea and said that would make a great story so I just started writing it and I didn’t stop. After a while I decided to do an eight-week creative writing course by night which spurred me on a bit more. Then after I had my first child in 2009 and I had the idea for In a Moment, which was the first book I actually finished and I was lucky enough to get published.

What is your writing schedule? How do you find time to write? 

It is chaotic at the moment! I have three small children, two of whom are not yet in school so it’s challenging to find the time -- but, like everything, if you really want to do it, you have to make sacrifices. So when I get them all into bed in the evenings I stay up late to try to do a bit then or at weekends my husband sometimes takes them all off for a few hours so I can get a bit done. I am quite disciplined so if I do have some free time I use it to write instead of doing anything else.

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

Don’t be too hard on yourself when you read back over your work. Just put the words down on the page and don’t get disheartened. I used to re-read my early drafts and cringe so much that I would never go back to it again. Then I went to a really inspiring getting published workshop and the authors speaking at it said how they all think what they write is awful but that they keep rewriting it until one day they don’t want to throw their laptop against the wall and it finally starts to seem okay.

That’s the key – rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I love the saying, "You can edit words on a page but you can’t edit a blank page."   

Ooh, I love that saying, too! So very true. Who are some of your favorite writers? 

Too many to mention, but the ones that stick out in my mind are:
  • Kate Atkinson
  • Maggie O’Farrell
  • David Nicholls
  • John Boyne 
  • Marian Keyes

I read in the Acknowledgements section of INTO THE NIGHT SKY that writing this book was a challenge at times. It seems that writer's block is something every writer has to deal with at one time or another. Do you have any tips for advice for vanquishing writer's block? 

I find that usually when I am experiencing writer’s block it is because some part of the book is not working. Either the character isn’t fully developed in my mind or there is a problem with the plot.

When I was writing Into The Night Sky, I was finding it difficult to research the role of Rachel the social worker and how that storyline fitted into the book but it took me a few months to put my finger on exactly what it was that was missing. Eventually I contacted a friend of mine who was a social worker and she helped me immensely; once I had concrete facts, the story moved on again.

Usually if I can’t figure out what the problem is, then I go on to another scene that is coming easily to me and then go back to the problematic one at a later stage when hopefully it will come a bit easier then.

Great advice! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me, Dallas it’s lovely to be over here on an American blog – hello everyone!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Caroline!

Connect with Caroline at the following links:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Productivity Tips for Writers from Jason Womack

On Tuesday, I was delighted to feature an interview with author, entrepreneur and productivity coach Jason Womack. His answer to my question, "Do you have any tips for writers who want to be more productive?" was so insightful and thorough that I decided to feature it as a whole new post. Enjoy!

If you missed Jason's interview, check it out here.

Productivity Tips for Writers

by Jason Womack

You absolutely must clarify (more and more specifically) what I call your “So that…” about WHY you want to be more productive. When we started our firm, five years before I wrote the book, we had FOUR reasons to build a company:

  • to support our lifestyle
  • to earn a great salary
  • to work with clients we like, and 
  • to create products that will help people. 
All of my products are “information” pieces, including speeches, articles, videos, ebooks and books.

So, how do I do it all? I have three tips for writers who want to be more productive:
  1. Say “No” more. You see, every time you say yes to a new post, a new idea, a new piece of research, a new request, you’re adding to an already overloaded “budget” of creative output. This week, practice saying “No” to something that comes in, no matter how small it is. 
  2. Buy a pen AND a notebook that’s a little more expensive than you normally purchase. Yes, I know I’m going “old-school” on you here, but give this a shot. When I first did this, I started taking those journal entries and interview notes much more seriously. I started looking for ideas that could turn in to posts, articles, chapters and books that might ultimately help me pay for those pens and notebooks! 
  3. Find a mentor. A writing mentor is different than a coach. I don’t pay my mentors with money. Instead, about once a month, I sit down with someone who is more successful than I am AND who is willing to see me become more successful. I share with her or him what I’m working on and where I’m challenged, and then I let them tell me stories and give me advice. The one thing I always make sure to do: 7-10 days after we meet, I write them a letter to let them know what I did based on our conversation. I’ve found this little bit of “stretch-goal” conversation and accountability keeps me moving my writing forward.
* * *

Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to stop by the blog and share your wisdom and advice!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Interview with author & entrepreneur Jason Womack

I'm thrilled to feature an interview today with Jason Womack today! Jason is an author and entrepreneur who provides practical methods to maximize tools, systems, and processes to achieve quality work/life balance. He has worked with leaders and executives for more than sixteen years in the business and education sectors. His focus is on creating ideas that matter and implementing solutions that are valuable to organizations and the individuals in those organizations. Author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More, Jason shows that working longer hours doesn’t make up for a flawed approach to productivity and performance. 

Tell us about your book Your Best Just Got Better. What was your inspiration behind this book? 

About ten years ago, I started collecting stories. I continue to ask people these three questions:
  1. Has life ever been hard for you? 
  2. Has it ever been worse? 
  3. Did it eventually get better? 
Now, if the answer to those three questions was YES, I changed my line of questioning to be much, much more open-ended. And, that’s when people started opening up. I learned that there are three basic paths that people take to making their life, their our, their community and their fails better. So, I guess that I was inspired to share those strategies, and the tactics that I experimented with that work, with readers around the world.

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

Well, the book has been published in three different languages. I run a consultancy full-time, traveling up to 200 days a year, presenting eighty lectures and working one-on-one with up to ten clients at a time. I’m married, and with my wife, Jodi, I co-run another company called www.Momentum.GS -- this is an online coaching program for individuals who are on a path to professional development success. How do I balance it all? I do one thing at a time. I stopped multitasking a long time ago; also, I say no to things. I say no to anything that pulls me (or us) off course to our overall mission. I’ll tell you about that next.

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

Sixty months from now, you’ll have what you have, go where you go, do what you do, and be who you are based on the five people you meet next. Make sure that you curate your network; much like a museum has much, MUCH more than they put on display, you can "know" a lot of people, but you want to make sure the people who influence you are pushing you in a direction you want to go in for the long term. Staring as a writer means you’ve heard the voices that talk to you, and you’ve decided to allow yourself the "gift of your own attention." By putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, you’re telling the universe you’re willing. Once you do that, you WILL be tested. There will be easy "pop-quizzes" such as friends calling asking you to go out for drinks on a Tuesday night. There will also be "final-exams" when someone close to you becomes ill or falls on hard times. The one factor -- above all else -- that continues to play a significant part in/of my success is who I choose to spend time with; who I let influence me; both my thoughts, and my actions.

What's next for you?

I invite every single reader to join a community, to seek out a group of like-minded learners AND producers, that will want for your success. About two years ago, just as we were coming out of the worst recession I’ve ever lived through, we started an online-coaching program with semi-annual "in-person" leadership retreat events. If you know that change is coming, and in one year or less you’re going to already be well on the path to success, join our community. Visit Not sure if it’s for you? Email me, and I’ll send you a "Free Pass" for a 7-day membership. I’m so sure you’ll gain value in those seven days, I offer a money-back guarantee on membership. Ready?

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a writer, a painter, a poet, or a craftsman, you’re put on this planet to share of the abundance, to give of the overflow that you see when you look out and KNOW in your heart of hearts that things can be better. And, as a result of you doing YOUR work, things will be better.

You can learn more about Jason at the following links:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interview with YA author Kevin Sharp

Last month, I was fortunate enough to meet Kevin Sharp when we both participated in a reading in San Jose called the Flash Fiction Forum. Kevin read a beautiful and funny short story, "In Blackest Night," that you can read here published on 100-Word Story. We talked for a bit after the reading, and I got a copy of his debut YA novel After Dakota. I loved it!

Kevin's characters are so real and their problems so compelling that I found myself thinking about them as I went about my day, as if they were my friends. He treats every character with dignity and gives them room to move and grow on the page, making mistakes and being human. And I loved his wealth of descriptions and details, plus all the 80s references seamlessly woven through. I am so glad I read this book -- and very grateful that Kevin took time out of his day to answer some questions about writing for the blog today!

Thanks for stopping by the blog, Kevin! Tell us about your novel After Dakota. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?

The novel is about a year in the life of three teenagers in the 1980s, following the death of one of their friends in a plane crash. Although the subject matter might sound heavy, it was written as a tribute to the classic teen movies of the 1980s, like Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, and Say Anything (and so many more). Simply put, I missed seeing those kinds of stories. The characters in the book are older than I was at the time (1983-84), but I definitely have distinct memories of living through those years. I wanted to try and capture that world for a reader who wasn’t alive then, but also bring it all back for a reader who was. My target audience for the book is anyone who is now, or has ever been, a teenager.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you get into writing?

I used to write and draw my own daily comic strips (like the kind you’d find in a newspaper) as a kid. In fourth grade I adapted Star Wars into a stage play, which was performed for our class. It was about as not-good as it sounds. I went on to write a science fiction trilogy my freshman year of high school (the essay “Walking on Sunshine” delves into this painful memory). I recently discovered all three of those manuscripts but am afraid to read them. After college I got involved in screenwriting, which was fun for a while, but I got too burned out on the business side of the movie business.

What is your writing schedule? When/how do you find time to write? 

Because I teach high school, I get home from work in the afternoon. I often go to a favorite cafĂ© to write because I can find 10,000 distractions at home. Writing someplace away makes me feel like I’m going to a job, which in turn makes me more productive. I wrote After Dakota in a house with no internet & can report I got a lot more done in a lot less time. Funny how that works.

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

This isn’t some deep wisdom thought up exclusively by me, but… Finish everything you start. Even if the ending is terrible, put one on and make it better later.

Who are some of your favorite writers? 

The younger version of me devoured anything I could get my hands on by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, and Stephen King. Some of those writers I still enjoy, others not so much. I’d now add J.D. Salinger, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Grant Morrison, Jo Ann Beard, and Mary Karr to that list (all for different reasons).

What's next for you? 

A short story of mine will be appearing in an upcoming anthology, scheduled to be published in spring 2015. I’ve been working on YA sci-fi novel for what feels like a decade. After that I have another book lined up, loosely based on an experience I had in Hollywood.

How can readers get in touch with you?     

My website has links to buy After Dakota in all ebook formats, or as a “real” book. You can also find links to some of my short stories, articles, and essays at Find me on Twitter @thatkevinsharp.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Six Ways to Raise and Nurture a Young Entrepreneur: A Guest Post


By John Hope Bryant

Children are natural-born entrepreneurs. When they're toddlers, they make homemade mud pies and "sell" them to Mom or Dad. As they get older, they start to understand that adults will pay them small amounts of real money in exchange for goods or services, such as a cup of iced lemonade or walking their dog after school.  
In 2013, Operation HOPE launched a pilot program in four cities -- Atlanta, Denver, L.A., and Oakland -- to help schoolchildren in underprivileged communities learn the basics of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. In a competition, kids pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to a committee of business leaders, and the winners are given a $500 grant and help in launching their startup businesses.
As a result of this "Shark Tank for Kids," Princess, a 6th grader from Oakland, created Sweet Tooth Bakery, which sells homemade cakes and cookies to local shops. Froylan, a senior at Montbello High School in Denver, got funding for Froy's PCs, a computer repair business he runs out of his home. 
Their stories, and many others like them, show that kids, when given the education, opportunity, and guidance, can be entrepreneurial successes.
Since many schools don't teach financial literacy courses or offer similar opportunities, here are some ways parents can teach kids about money, financial responsibility, and entrepreneurship.
Show them how money grows. 
Show your kids why investing in two shares of Nike stock will benefit them more than buying one pair of Nike Air Zoom Flight basketball sneakers. Both cost around $160, but only one of those choices will be worth anything five years from now.
Support their natural entrepreneurship. 
A hot dog stand at the school football game, a car-care service, or a lawn mowing job teaches so much more than spending allowance money. When kids start small enterprises, they learn about earning, saving, budgeting, and so much more.
Teach them how credit works. 
Kids need to know about credit because it helps them understand how to plan for large purchases responsibly. A kid with little or no money can acquire something she or he really wants. For example, it might involve borrowing money from a parent and then paying off the loan each week with chores after school. 
Help them make a budget. 
Teaching kids how to budget gives them a realistic notion of the relationship between work and money, and how budgeting relates so many everyday outcomes, such as having enough for food; school supplies; clothes and shoes; birthday presents;  sports, music, and entertainment; tech toys and devices; and other important parts of kids' lifestyles.
Teach them to think big. 
In the most recent Gallup-HOPE Index, more than 87% of youth surveyed believed there was a correlation between how much education they completed and the amount of money they could be expected to earn. Help kids see that the harder they work at doing well in school, the more income and opportunities they'll have later on. 
Give them financial dignity. 
Kids who grow up in households where parents live under the constant threat of having their car repossessed or their utilities turned off intuitively see the relationship between finances and dignity. No one should have to make a choice between buying food and paying the rent. Help them understand that check-cashing joints or pawn shops take advantage of people who don't or can't belong to traditional banks or neighborhood credit unions. Help them start a youth savings account, where they sock away $5 a month.

* * * * * 
John Hope Bryant ( is founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE, a nonprofit banker for the working poor and struggling middle class, which provides financial literacy for youth, financial capability for communities, and financial dignity for all. His bestselling book, How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class (Berrett-Koehler, 2014) builds a compelling economic argument for investing in America's least wealthy consumers--and presents practical, positive solutions, with case examples of individuals and companies doing it successfully.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some Tips on Beating Writer's Block

Writer's block is a question I often get emailed about, so I thought it would be helpful to write a quick post with my thoughts about it, and some tips that often work for me! I just finished writing my third novel, which I felt blocked on quite a few times, and which felt like a giant mess quite a few times, but now that I'm on the other side I can cheerfully report that all those times I felt like just throwing my hands up in the air often precipitated a HUGE breakthrough. Pushing through the hard times was worth it one-thousand percent. The important thing is to not letter writer's block defeat you! Keep plugging away.

For me at least, writer's block usually stems from worrying that what I'm writing isn't "good enough"... when this happens, I remind myself that no rough drafts are perfect and, as one of my creative writing professors used to say to us in college, words down on the page are ALWAYS better than words just in your head.

If you're working on a longer project, maybe you simply need to take a break. Try to writing a short story featuring some of your characters, or even a short story featuring entirely new/different characters. This can help you see the idea from a new angle, get excited about the idea again, and get to a "finish line" of a shorter project. That might be just the motivation you need to dive back into the longer work with your batteries recharged!

Most of all, I always encourage my students and mentees to go after the idea that is sparking inside you, the one that makes you excited. There is no time to waste! Write what makes you feel alive.

If it's the idea you're working on now, great! If you wants to try something completely different and new, that's great too! Remember: you can always return to this idea later if you want. No idea is ever wasted or abandoned.

Finally, here's the number-one thing that works best for me when I'm battling the writer's block blues, and that has made the biggest difference in my productivity, creative energy, and happiness as a writer: write every day.

Make writing a routine. I think even trying to write at the same time of the day is best, because you train your body to prepare to write during that time -- much in the same ways athletes often practice at the same times. Then, when that time hits, you are ready to go! It's like a muscle memory you are building.

Even if you feel like the writing isn't flowing, even if you feel like every word you are writing is terrible, stay in the chair and keep pushing through to the good stuff. Because the good stuff will come, believe me. You just need to have the patience to get to it!
Here are a couple other articles I found that might be helpful, too:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Heather Waxman on "Why I Write"

One of my favorite bloggers, Heather Waxman, recently published a post titled "Why Do You Write?" As you might imagine, the title intrigued me a lot. I always love reading about other writers and their habits and thought processes. The four questions Heather answered were:
  • What am I working on?
  • How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
  • Why do I write?
  • How does my writing process work?
(Why don't we all take a few minutes to answer those questions for ourselves right now... either in your head or on paper in your journal...)

I thought Heather's answer to the last question was especially spot-on and helpful for other writers:

Three words: I show up. 
That’s it. I show up. When the urge to write comes up, I sit down and I let my fingers flow or I let the pen glide. Sometimes, I set the stage with a prayer or intention and say, “May all Divine guidance flow through me now.” But that’s it. 80% of the work is showing up to write. The rest is the technical stuff like editing and spell checking. “Just show up, babe,” I tell myself. And I do. And it flows. And then it works. When I’m writing a larger piece (like my book), I make it a non-negotiable appointment with myself. For one full hour, I write. No ifs, ands, or buts. And usually, the juices are flowing so much that I want to keep going. Try it. 
I really liked the way she phrased that: I make it a non-negotiable appointment with myself. So often, we drag our feet about writing because it's hard and scary and maybe we don't feel inspired or we don't particularly want to write in that moment. We'd rather watch TV or read a book or bake something yummy or eat something yummy. 
But life is full of things we don't particularly want to do, yet we do them anyway because we know they are the best thing for us. When you schedule a dentist appointment, you don't blow it off or not show up just because you don't feel particularly excited to go to the dentist. Nobody feels excited to go to the dentist. But it's an appointment, so you keep it. You show up, you do it, and before you know it you're done. And that's a great feeling.
So now I have a question for you: 
What would your writing life look like if you treated your writing time the same way you treat a dentist appointment?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wisdom from Anna Deveare Smith: on acting and writing

In an interview about her groundbreaking play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, playwright and actress Anna Deveare Smith says, "You're not the character, and you're not yourself. You're in the 'not not' -- which is a positive. I think this is the most we can hope for. I don't think we can really 'be' anybody else. The actor is a vehicle of consciousness, projected through a fictional character, and the fiction displays great truth."

I think this sentiment applies to writing as well as to acting -- actually, I think it apples to any creative art. When I write a piece of fiction, I am simultaneously myself and the characters I create. I give pieces of myself to my characters, but as the story progresses something magical happens: they become their own individual selves, with their own identities and desires.

Often when I set out to write a story, I have a specific ending in mind, but sometimes the main character will decide to take the action in a different direction, or a minor character will pop up and demand attention. It's as if I am merely the vehicle for expressing these various voices.

Here's a writing prompt that you might try: When I'm stuck or the writing becomes stagnant, I place two characters in a situation and let them talk to each other on the page. Often the story takes form in ways I never would have guessed before I began writing.

I also love something that Anna Deveare Smith says about the actor: he or she has "a deep desire to connect and people come to the theater because they too want to connect. The actor does not produce the connection alone, the audience has to push forward also; the two have to meet in the middle." This is true for all types of art.

One of my favorite things about the medium of writing is that once a piece is published and unleashed upon the world, it is open for interpretation from all different perspectives. The meaning of a piece of writing can shift and morph as the times change and society's needs for sustenance and meaning through literature changes.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guest Post: Motivate Yourself to Write

How to motivate yourself for an academic piece of writing

a guest post by Eileen Archer

Most of us do it wrong: we sit down at our desks about a day or two beforehand thinking that we’re going to be able to write a first-class essay without having done any preparation. Especially if it’s the first time writing an important academic piece, this is a disastrous strategy. Here is a quick guide to show you the most important skills for essay writing, how to perfect them and how to get motivated.

Practice makes perfect

Keep a journal to document your life! Do it with music! Find some joy in writing! Then, when it comes to writing academically and trying to express complicated theories or discussing your opinion, it should be a lot easier for you. If you do find it difficult to write then maybe joining a writing group will help. Try also reading related papers to help you analyze the ideas and writing of others.

Organization is key

Make timetables for every complicated aspect of your life, for example: household chores, studying, writing, being productive, and hanging with friends. Attach themes or pictures to each hence turning it into something proactive, fun and interesting, not a chore! Stick them up on your walls, or give them to your parents in case you get lazy with it. Organizing your life to this extent will serve you well for any future work you have to do, both inside and outside of academia.

Reading from the same page

Surround yourself with books -- read, read and read more. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book. But, be wise about it. Reading chick lit or trashy magazines is all well and good, but if you don’t have several books on the go at once you’ll lose that writing knowledge. The ideal book selection is obviously something light-hearted that you enjoy and don’t have to think too much about, but more importantly you should be reading something that is well-written and certainly something attached to your work. So, on your night stand and desk, even before you do some academic writing, make sure there lays an academic journal or a classroom book too. And make sure you spread the time between the books evenly, rather than just staring at it dumbly from behind your top ten apps article.

Research – no pain no gain

You’re not alone, most everyone detests research. This is why you have to do it early. If you’re going to procrastinate in any part of your life or writing work, don’t do it here. Imagine a big pile of books and papers and links to references you’ve used. That’s what you’ll end up with; a big unorganized mess in front of you that will take forever to deal with. So, the key here is once you’ve used a reference, type it in a document, fully. Use the correct referencing style and make sure it’s 100% correct and all you’ll have to do at the end is click one button to arrange them alphabetically.

Bio: Eileen Archer is currently a resident blogger and a chief writer at After obtaining a Masters in English language she decided to dedicate her time to creative writing as well as providing assistance to students. She spends her free time reading, writing poetry and studying for a PhD in an art-related field.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bay Area writers: call for submissions

Hi, friends! I just received this call for submissions and wanted to share ... looks like a neat opportunity if you're in the Bay Area!

Peninsula Literary Call for Submissions
We're now accepting submissions for our September reading. See details below.

Peninsula Literary will present the next reading on Friday, September 12, at 7:00 p.m. David Roderick and Alice LaPlante will be featured.

Readings will take place at Gallery House in Palo Alto. You can also visit our Facebook page at Peninsula Literary or view our website

To round out our lineup, we're now accepting fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry submissions for 5-7 minute guest reading slots.  The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, August 12, 2014.
Submission Guidelines:

1.  Original poetry or prose – please include all submitted materials, along with your bio, in the body of your email. Submissions may additionally include pdf or Word attachments, but all pieces must appear in the main email message or they will be returned. 

2.  No more than 7 minutes total reading time (2-4 poems or 3-3.5 pages of double-spaced prose, 12 pt. text).

3.  Include your name, phone number, and preferred email.

4.  Please send all submissions via email to Carrie and Jean at

Thanks for your support – we look forward to seeing you on September 12!

Carrie Hechtman & Jean Znidarsic, Peninsula Literary

Visit us on Facebook!/PeninsulaLiterary?fref=ts

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 here
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!

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?