The Great YA Debate: #YASaves Revival

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ya fiction, young adult fiction, ya literature, ya authors, #yasaves, ruth graham, meghan cox gurdon, slate article ya readers, #amreadingRaise your hand if you remember the #YASaves hashtag frenzy that blazed a trail across the Internet back in the summer of 2011. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? (as an aside, can you believe it’s already 2014? I still find myself writing “2010” on things!)

But I digress, if you don’t remember, that’s OK. Allow me to refresh your memory:

Meghan Cox Gurdon wrote an article on WSJ about the darkness of YA literature, claiming (quite honestly) that much of young adult fiction is “rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity.”

I say “quite honestly” because she’s right—more and more YA fiction touches on grittier subject matter. But Miss Gurdon’s belief that a penchant to read dark YA fiction “does not merely gratify taste…but creates it” is a bit absurd to me. I don’t believe the darkness is gratuitous or unnecessary or in any way influential of real-life abuse, violence, or depravity.

What we choose to entertain ourselves with, no matter what the media says, is not a direct reflection of the morals and values we hold. Nor do I believe for one minute that seeking out darker subject matter to lose oneself in is an absolute perpetuation of a hunger to do evil, which Miss Gurdon seemed to allude to. Perpetuating that kind of thinking is nothing more than fear-mongering and reduces our society to spineless jellyfish with our morality shaped by musicians, movies, video games, and…wait for it…YA authors.

*Head scratch*

The #YASaves hashtag and social media firestorm that followed Miss Gurdon’s WSJ article was an incredible testament to the power of a reading (and writing) community that banded together in support to show just how amazing YA fiction can be…and not just for adults. Some very notable authors of YA fiction got in on it—Maureen Johnson, Ellen Hopkins, and John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars. Even Cheryl Rainfield responded, whose own novel, Scars, was one of the YA books Miss Gurdon used to illustrate her point.

Now Ruth Graham, like Miss Gurdon, has a problem with YA fiction on some level. Graham recently wrote an article on Slate, taking issue with adult readers of YA fiction. She believes that adults should feel ashamed for reading YA novels because they were “written for children.”

I don’t profess to know the minds of the great YA novelists, like John Green and Suzanne Collins, but I am quite sure that as they were click-clacking away at their (probably cleaner than my) keyboards, they weren’t saying to themselves, “Gee willickers, I really hope no adults read this,” while shaking their fists in mock rage at the very idea that anyone over the age of seventeen would dare pick up their books.

In fact, I’m pretty sure it was quite the opposite. I mean as a writer, I know that I personally want to appeal to a broad audience…and no matter what age my characters may be, I want their struggles and their triumphs to be celebrated by anyone that can sympathize or understand them. After all, we write to create. We write to express. We write to connect.

And YA fiction allows us to connect…to our youth, to each other, to ourselves. Because the beauty of YA fiction is that every single adult that reads it was once a child. It’s not like we’re reading something we know nothing about—we experienced the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, some of us with more trials and tribulations than we’d care to admit.

And as a thirty-something adult, my life is already too grown up for my liking. Honestly, don’t we spend the better part of our adult lives looking back, wishing we could redo certain things? We want to recapture our youth. And as youths, we are looking to understand our paths, to get a sense of direction, to not feel so damn alone. Because adolescence can be a lonely, scary place.

YA fiction has bridged gaps that no other genre has done before. It is an ageless, genderless, factionless genre—an all-encompassing genre. As a writer of YA fiction, my love for it lies with the limitless possibilities of subject matter. There is no pretentiousness about YA literary fiction versus YA paranormal fiction versus YA science fiction versus YA romance. YA fiction does not discriminate. It loves. It nurtures. It inspires.

And why would we want to close ourselves to that because our birth certificate has a particular set of digits? Isn’t anything that gets us reading beautiful and amazing? Shouldn’t we nurture literacy without discrimination? What are we showing our youths if we tell them that reading matter is segregated by age?

And while I’m at it, I’m the mother of two teenagers. YA fiction has not only given us common ground to build on, it has also fostered an environment for conversation and discussions about the things they’re witnessing or dealing with: bullying, unhealthy relationships, violence, drugs, discrimination, sex. It helps to remind me that their struggles are just as real as mine.

YA fiction does many things, none of it shameful in my opinion. It gives us—adults AND children—a reason to read, to be creative, to see things in a new light. It breeds compassion and empathy. It inspires thought processes that are not rigid. And it offers possibilities and hope and a sense of fellowship with one another.

The truth is it’s hard to pigeonhole any person’s reason for what they read. And anyone who shames another person for their creative choices should be ashamed themselves.

Read what you love. Write what you love. And everyone else can, in the great words of the Violent Femmes, kiss off into the air.

 

5 Gifts for Writers: Father’s Day Version

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father's dad, gifts for dad, gifts for writers, dad writing, publishing, #amwriting, #writers, #amreadingJune means Father’s Day, and like Mother’s Day, it falls on the second Sunday of the month. While Mother’s Day is one of the most celebrated non-religious holidays in the US, Father’s Day is still a pretty big deal. There are more than 70 million fathers in the world, and according to the US Census Bureau  there were an estimated 1.96 million single fathers in 2012.  And with the rise of caretaker fathers and stay-at-home dads (189,000 in the US alone), there’s even more reason to celebrate Dad. Especially writer dads.

So what do you get for the writer dad in your life?

You can always get him a sweet tie, but if you’re looking to celebrate your literary papa in a more unique way, here are a few gift ideas you can get him for Father’s Day.

These nifty little literary cuff links that just scream style (and literary genius):
literary cuff links, gifts for writers, father's day, #amwriting, book nerds, writing gifts, dad gifts,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This totally unique book rest and toilet paper holder for the king’s throne room:

toilet paper, bathroom reading, dads gift, father's day, #amwriting, gifts for writers, reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some noise-cancelling bluetooth earbuds to block out all those noisy distractions:

bluetooth earbuds, headphones, headset, music, writers, gifts for dads, gifts for writers, #amwriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (note: papa doesn’t need to be an easy rider to read this!):

Books, reading, gifts for writers, dad gifts, father's day, #amwriting, #amreading, #zen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A personalized pocket watch to help him keep track of time when he’s lost in Writerland:

gifts for dads, gifts for writers, #amwriting, #amreading, writers, Father's Day, pocket watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, if you don’t like any of these gift ideas, you could just publish your novel with Kbuuk and give him the best dedication a dad ever did see.

What are you getting your writer dad (or your dear old regular non-literary dad) for Father’s Day?

6 Google Chrome Apps for Authors and Writers

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google chrome apps, apps for writers, #amwriting, productivity, white noise, text editor, evernote for writers, authors, kbuuk, publishing, blogging, creativity, mindmap, mindmapping, brainstormAs a writer, I need all the help I can get being more productive and limiting procrastination. My preferred browser of choice is Google Chrome. The apps and extensions for Google Chrome have probably inspired me, helped keep me organized, kept me focused, and saved my butt more than I’d care to admit (I say that in all honesty!). If you use Google Chrome, you can also become more productive as a writer (and hopefully less distracted by the Interwebs).

Six of my absolute favorite Google Chrome apps and extensions for writing and productivity are:

Writebox – Writebox is a text editor that works offline. It works with Dropbox and Google Drive for easy syncronization. You can use it directly in your browser and helps you concentrate on writing without a ton of distractions. The writing environment is simple and text is saved automatically with every key stroke. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but that’s the allure. It has to be one of my favorite text editor/writing apps that there is. There are a few other text editors that offer similar features, such as Write Space and Quite Writer. Check them out to find out which one you like best!

Evernote Web Clipper – Probably one of the most used extensions in my browser. And it’s the go-to extension for industry leaders like Michael Hyatt. You can easily highlight text from any webpage and add it to your folder. You can add any of your favorite content and access it from any online computer, phone, or tablet. Find a line you love? Highlight and add. Find an entire page with info for your next #NaNoWriMo novel, highlight and add. And it’s versatile enough to use for anything else. Shopping, studying, researching, marketing. Just highlight the content you’re interested in and add it to your Evernote folder. It’s that simple!

MindMeister – MindMeister allows you to create, edit, and share mindmaps—all online. It’s an awesome mindmapping app that allows you to brainstorm and mindmap to your heart’s content. Even better, it works for collaborative projects. So you and your co-authors can mindmap the next great nvoel you’re writing! Some of the other uses listed are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Project planning
  • Competitive analysis
  • Notetaking
  • Innovation
  • Lists/Task management

You can also export to Word, PowerPoint, PDF, and image, and more. There’s live chat between collaborators and offline editing and syncing with your Google Drive! Also available for Android, iPhone, and iPad.

White Noise – I don’t know if you’re like me, but I need the buzzing of a fan or humming of an appliance—or some other white noise—to keep me going. Now, this app isn’t for everyone of course. Maybe silence makes you more productive, or classical music…I don’t know. But if white noise helps to drown out the outside world, this app is pretty darn amazing. “Some people find that a white noise source improves their ability to concentrate by covering over irritating or distracting sounds like an annoying neighbor’s stereo or the loud traffic outside.” If you aren’t one of those people who finds white noise soothing, this app isn’t for you. But if you are, it will definitely help you to relax, reduce stress, and increases focus while enhancing privacy.

StayFocusd – Is a wonderful extension, and one of the best in my opinion. It’s also a godsend during Nanowrimo. “StayFocusd is a productivity extension for Google Chrome that helps you stay fofucsed on work by restricting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.” This definitely helps to cut down on unnecessary Imgur browsing, Facebooking, and time-eating YouTube watching so you can focus on your writing.

ScribeFire – For bloggers, this extension is a full-featured blog editor allows you to easily post to any and all of your blogs. You can also edit, update, schedule, and delete blogs, as well as tag, categorize, save drafts, upload images, use html—you are even able to post to multiple blogs. This is great for those with author websites in multiple places. And if you’re serial blogging a part of your novel, this makes posting to multiple blog platforms easy peasy!

There you go, six Google Chrome extensions to help you stay focused, productive, and creative as you write that novel. And once you’re done polishing that manuscript, you have Kbuuk to help you publish and market! Isn’t technology amazing?

What are your favorite writing or productivity apps?

10 Writing Lessons from The Wizard of Oz

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writing lessons, wizard of oz, ruby slippers, wicked witch, auntie em, writers, #amwritingThe Wizard of Oz is probably one of my favorite movies of all time. I was always enraptured by the story of Dorothy traveling to a lush beautiful land, full of magic and wonder, only to want to go back home in the end. The message in The Wizard of Oz is timeless. We’re all a work in progress, each and everyone one of us, and we’re all on some kind of journey. And there are always lessons to be learned in everything we experience. Especially when it comes to us writers. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to juice the muse again.

So, here are 10 writing lessons from the Wizard of Oz to help you get back on track.

  1. Running away doesn’t solve anything. When it comes to writing, some of us run away by procrastinating, some of us do it by feeling sorry for ourselves, some of us do it by getting is distracted, giving in to writer’s block, etc. Whatever way you “run away,” know that the only way to get back to your writing is to write (trust me, this is a lesson I learned the hard way).
  2. Sometimes you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. Yes, things happen. Tornadoes can literally and figuratively rip through lives, disrupting things, throwing us off our game, halting our progress. That’s okay, just remember that it doesn’t last forever and make sure to hold on tight while it’s happening.
  3. Don’t get sidetracked by your opponents and naysayers. Writers are feral creatures. We are overly-sensitive, neurotic animals and we’re going to occasionally run into one or two people that want to get us and our little dog, too. Don’t waste time on mean, green witches and flying monkeys. What goes around comes around, and you’ll be a better person if you stick to your yellow brick road.
  4. Listen to the little people in your life. They’re the ones that will help you reach your destination. Whatever your goal or destination, don’t forget the ones who helped you get there. Be thankful for all the help and generosity of everyone along the way.
  5. Follow the yellow brick road. We all have our own path to follow. Don’t let yourself get sidetracked along the way (whether by someone or something). Many of us stray from our path at some point, but that’s okay, just don’t stray too far for too long. It might seem like it takes forever to reach your goal, but it’s worth it in the end.
  6. Friends help you get where you’re going. We all need friends to help us on our way. And true friends will accept you for who you are—flaws and all. Especially if you become a coffee-guzzling keyboard monster whose eyes have turned red from staring at a blank screen for three straight days (not that I know what that’s like!). True friends will also be the ones to help you find your way home when you need it (or give you a swift kick in the pants when you aren’t writing like you should be!)
  7. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Authenticity is important and pretending you’re something you aren’t will come back to bite you in the butt. Don’t try to write in a genre that you aren’t comfortable with or try to be a certain kind of writer when you aren’t. Follow your own natural flow. Because it’s entirely too much work keeping up with your created persona. Be true to yourself and the right people will adore you (and hopefully you’ll sell millions of books!).
  8. Don’t give up your ruby slippers for anyone. Hold tight your values and principles. Keep a good rein on your own passions and don’t let them get watered down by someone else. In the end, those “ruby slippers” may just be the catalyst to get you where you’re trying to go.
  9. The real power is within you. It always has been. Don’t let yourself be fooled by gimmicks and props. You are the key to reaching your goals, you just have to believe…and stop playing on the internet.
  10. Dream in as many colors as you can. Dorothy said it best. “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” So don’t limit your imagination. Dream big and dream hard. And write like there’s a storm a-brewin’!

There you go, 10 writing (and life) lessons from The Wizard of Oz.

Do you have any others to add from The Wizard of Oz? What’s your favorite writing lesson from a book or movie?

8 Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel

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editing, self-editing, novel, writing, #amwriting, #MyWANA, self-publishing, authors, indie authors, writers, editors, freelance book editor, createspace, amazonAs a book editor, I’ve edited my fair share of novels, with clients that have ranged from self-published authors to international bestsellers. I’ve even worked as a contract editor for Amazon’s Publishing Imprints. And while I recommend hiring an editor for anyone seriously considering publishing as a source of income, I know that it’s not always financially feasible to hire an editor—at least until that first book sells like hotcakes.

So, whether you hire an editor or not, here are a few self-editing tips to help you polish up that novel for publication:

  1. Read your work aloud – This is the most important tip! You’d be surprised how much this helps…and how many people don’t do it. It’s one of the easiest ways to spot errors—spelling, syntax, and other grammatical issues. Read it aloud to yourself or a critique partner. Read it more than once. Use inflection when you read. Ensure it all makes sense, that the story moves forward, that your grammar and spelling are correct, and that the language doesn’t sound weak or repetitious.
  2. Use spell check…but don’t rely on it – Spell check is great for finding spelling errors—most of the time. But what happens when you spell a word correctly—but use it incorrectly—and spell check doesn’t catch it? You end up with a sentence that reads: “Check your infection” instead of “Check your inflection.”
  3. Eliminate unnecessary words – Unnecessary words, such as fillers, zombie nouns, adverbs, fish heads, and fish tails should be eliminated…stat. There are some common culprits that can usually be deleted without worry (as long as the sentence/meaning still makes sense without them). Words like: was, were, had, that, and, really, then, and then, just, about, so, but, like, against, all, little, totally, suddenly, just then…and many more are just fillers. Read the sentence aloud without the word. If it still makes sense without it, delete it.
  4. Check your tenses – Whatever point-of-view you choose to write in, make sure that your tenses are consistent with that POV. If you write in First Person Present Tense, ensure that your usage reflects that consistently. You don’t want to write about Johnny Sexypants with: “He looked longingly at her lips as she bit them, so he grabs her arm, pulled her to him, and kisses her passionately.” That’s all kinds of wibbly wobbly timey wimey messed up.
  5. Beware your dialogue tags – First of all, you don’t always need a dialogue tag. If you set up a scene well enough, your readers will be able to figure out who said what without you saying “he said” or “she asked” after every piece of dialogue. In addition, try to avoid using dialogue tags that aren’t necessary. If your character says, “How dare you, you harlot!” you don’t need to say she screamed. Nor should you use an adverbial dialogue tag—“How dare you, you harlot!” she screamed angrily. The exclamation point, word choice, and inflection already let the reader know that a) she screamed and b) she did it angrily. And “show, don’t tell” works well with dialogue. You can show how a character is speaking through their accompanying actions (did she cross her arms, roll her eyes, tap her foot?). Use dialogue tags wisely and sparingly.
  6. Repetition – Check for repetition. Check for repetition. No, really, make sure you aren’t using the same words over and over again. A classic example of this would be “mercurial” and “inner goddess” a la Fifty Shades of Grey. Repeating words too many times makes for a poor read—and it stifles your story, limits your characters from growing, and tells your readers you lack a varied vocabulary.
  7. The words were written in passive voice – Please, for the love of all that is scrumdiddilyumptious, do not write in the passive voice. When you write in the passive voice, things happen to things, instead of things doing things. “The chair got kicked by him” gives that darn inanimate chair capabilities it actually doesn’t possess. “He kicked the chair” flows better, is more immediate, and gives the action to the person or object causing it.
  8. Sentence Structure – Make sure your sentences are varied, without weird syntax or odd rhythms. Try to change up the start of every sentence. “He jumped. He fell. He was in pain. He died. He went to heaven.”—this is repetition, and it makes your language weak. Watch out for present progressive verb tenses, -ly adverbs, possessive pronouns, prepositional phrases, and those silly dangling modifiers.

These tips are just a start to help you polish and tighten up that writing. Consider hiring an editor if you plan to publish for any reason other than the gratification of having your name in print. A book worth writing is worth writing well, and sometimes that means outside help.

May the muse be kind to you today, and all the days forward (and if not, feed her chocolate!).

6 Unlikely Places to Write and Find Inspiration

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writing, places to write, laundromat, free wifi, best places to write, where to write, writers, muse, writing promptsAs a writer, you know how important setting is to your stories. But what about your own setting—the place(s) where you do most of your writing? Where you write can be just as important as what you are writing (poetry, psychological thriller, vampire unicorn dystopian novella?), how you’re writing (pen and paper, laptop, old Remington typewriter?), or even when you’re writing (morning, noon, midnight, 7:33 p.m.?). Sure, you can plop your writer butt down in a coffee shop and attempt to bang out the next great American novel, but why be like everyone else? You certainly don’t want your writing to be like everyone else’s, do you? Of course not, so open your mind, think outside the proverbial box, and try some place new. You just might be surprised where you find inspiration…

Here are 6 unlikely places to write and find inspiration:

Laundromat

Yes, the Laundromat. Nowadays, many of them have free Wi-Fi and little tables—some even have full-blown cafes. Which means you can order a croissant and an Americano while you clickety-clack away on your laptop. And the spinning of your delicates can be quite mesmerizing as you’re brainstorming about who killed Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.

Train Station

It may seem counterproductive to drive all the way to the train station to sit amongst the comers and goers. But trust me, the hustle and bustle of real people coming to and fro can lend quite a bit of inspiration—and reality—to whatever you may be working on. And many train stations now have the old Internet up and running, so there’s a win. Plus, if you get stuck, you can just people-watch until the muse is back. Not to mention, Amtrak now offers a Writer Residency Program, which means you can write that novel AND have a mini “moving vacation.”

The Airport

While you probably can’t get up to the gates without stripping down and getting a hands-on meet-and-greet from a TSA agent, you can sit in a designated lobby. Like train stations and laundromats, many airports offer free Wi-Fi (which may or may not have a time limit). This is a great way to people-watch and glean a little inspiration for new characters. And you can always daydream about hopping on one of those planes and flying away to Paris for a real coffee and croissant.

The Gym

OK, so maybe you’re allergic to exercise. I’m not saying you should get on the treadmill or anything. But going to the gym (if you have a membership or if they allow non-members in certain areas) can be another great source of inspiration. And if you’re writing a novel about an ugly-duckling-turned-swan who finally gets the guy (or girl), well, you’ve got inspiration at every elliptical. Plus, possible free Internet, a café (with healthy shakes to keep your brain boosted!), and the whirring of exercise equipment can all be meditative and foster some serious creativity.

The Mall

The go-to place for people-watching. Families, couples, teenagers, old folks—you name it, there is character inspiration everywhere. And the dialogue of mall-goers is generally unfiltered, so feel free to take some snippets here and there from anyone walking by. Again, possible free Wi-Fi, tables (or even those awesome massaging recliners), and Auntie Anne’s (because pretzels and writing go together like…pretzels and writing). Just try not to go on a shopping spree in the middle of your writing session.

Cemeteries

Yeah, this can sound creepy. Unless you’re writing a creepy novel, in which case, creep on. Some cemeteries are well-kept, with beautiful grounds. And if you’re writing a ghost story or zombie novel, well, you’ll already be smack-dab in the middle of inspiration. Plus, it’s peaceful and quiet and you’ll have a plethora of names to choose from. And at least you know the “patrons” won’t bother you—well, let’s hope not.

Honestly, you can find inspiration anywhere—even the bathroom…sometimes it just takes a change of scenery (and a little peace and quiet) to get the words flowing.

Just use your imagination. Put on your raincoat or your swimsuit, slather on a little sunscreen, and pop in a CD of ocean sounds and boom, you’re on a tropical island. Do whatever you need to do to trick your mind into thinking you’re somewhere exotic and get those creative juices flowing.

Where are your favorite—and unlikely—places to write and find inspiration?

12 Gifts for Writers: Mother’s Day Version

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Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May. It’s one of the most celebrated non-religious holidays in the US. According to Hallmark, it is the third-largest card-sending holiday in the US—nearly 133 million Mother’s Day cards are exchanged per year. And phone calls increase up to 37 percent on Mother’s Day—with approximately 2 billion mothers in the world, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most celebrated holidays.

So what do you get for the mother who is also a writer?

Writers are generally easy to shop for, right? Notebooks and pens and we’re as happy as clams. But that can become as tiresome as a tie on Father’s Day. And you don’t necessarily want to get your mother a composition book and a cheap Bic pen, do you? You want to get your writer/mother something unique, something amazing, and something useful.

Here are 12 gifts for the writers (and/or mothers) in your life:

Typewriter jewelry

Typewriter Mother Bracelet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Mugs (because Writers <3 Coffee!)

Literary Mug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This “Please Don’t Make Me Mock You in My Novel” T-shirt

Mock You in My Novel T-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quotable Chocolate Bars (Who doesn’t love chocolate? Evil people, that’s who!)

Quotable Chocolate Bars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This “Procrastination Pen-in-a-Box”

Procrastination Pen-in-a-box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration Dice

Inspiration Dice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A handmade journal covered with writing prompts

Journal with Writing Prompts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aqua Notes (because don’t all great ideas happen in the shower??)

Aqua Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gorgeous handmade metal bookends

Nerd Bookends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These 18K Gold Costis Pencil Bracelets, Pencil Pendants, and Pencil Shaving Earrings

18K Gold Pencil Jewelry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personalized Writer’s Keepsake Box

Personalized Writer's Keepsake Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or anything from The Literary Gift Company

Vintage Typewriter Scarf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day—written as Mother’s Day (not Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day) because founder Anna Jarvis wanted to celebrate each mother, rather than the collective “mothers”—falls on May 11th this year (a little more than a week away). So there’s still plenty of time to get out there and find the perfect gift for the writer/mother in your life!

(And as a writer/mother myself, I plan to show this post to my kids)

12 Tips for Writers to Become More Eco-Friendly: Earth Day Version

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green, eco-friendly, environmental, fair trade, green earth, climate, global warming, eco, earth day, natural cleaners, green writers, environmentalists, green office, ecofriendly, Unless you’ve been living under a rock (in which case, you’re probably already very “eco-friendly”) you know that today is Earth Day, an annual event that has sparked global demonstrations every year to bring light to environmental issues. What better way for writers to celebrate Earth Day than to take steps to become more eco-friendly.

12 Tips for Writers to Become More Eco-Friendly:

As a writer, it stands to reason that you use a combination of laptop (or other mobile device) and pen and paper to do your writing. Maybe you work from a home office and have a printer, fax machine, and shredder. If you’re a freelance writer or published author, you might even have a file cabinet full of invoices and important business documents. Maybe you have a home office, or maybe you make a daily commute to an office or a coffee shop where you do most of your writing. Whatever your setup, there are some surefire steps you can take as a writer to become more eco-friendly.

  1. Use ENERGY STAR® appliances. Ensure your electronic office equipment (such as laptops, printers, fax machines, etc.) and other home appliances are energy efficient (look for the “energy star” label). Using appliances with energy star label can significantly reduce your energy consumption.
  2. Use Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs. Use CFLs instead of incandescent, halogen, or LED bulbs. CFL bulbs are more energy efficient and reduce electricity use by up to one-third of traditional bulbs. And CFL bulbs last nearly 15 times longer than other bulbs.
  3. Leave the lights off. As soon as you leave a room, make it a habit to turn off the light. And try leaving the lights off for as long as you can, using natural light instead. Open the curtains or work from a well-lit room. You can even work outside on the porch. It’s also a great way to get some fresh air!
  4. Turn off your computer. Too often, we leave our computers on at night. I know I’m guilty of this. Turning off your computer not only saves energy, it’s also good for your computer. Leaving them powered up can result in heat stress and mechanical wear. Make sure to unplug other unused chargers and appliances to save even more electricity.
  5. Use a green web host. If you have an author or business website or blog, consider using a green web host, such as iPage or HostGator. You can find reviews of the top green web hosting companies here.
  6. Consider the green cloud. Use cloud storage to save your files and other important data. Cloud storage is not just eco-friendly, it is convenient and can be a lifesaver in some instances (like when your laptop is stolen or you get the BSOD and need instant access to all your files).
  7. Go paperless. This is a bit more involved, but going paperless in an as many areas as you can will help reduce your carbon foot print and foster more eco-friendly practices. Call your utilities to see if you can get paperless billing. Use your debit card instead of writing checks. Pay your invoices with Paypal or other online payment services, such as Dwolla or Chase QuickPay. Use accounting software like Quicken or FreshBooks to reduce your paper trail.
  8. Use less paper (and reuse scrap paper). Going paperless doesn’t completely eliminate the need for the use of paper. You’ll still need to print certain papers, write letters, address envelopes, etc. Use less paper by printing on both sides when possible. Reuse scrap paper for notetaking or cut unused portions of old scrap paper to use as index cards. And be sure to recycle any unused paper that you can’t repurpose.
  9. Use eco-friendly furnishings. Furnish your home office with repurposed or recycled furnishings as often as you can. Use a secondhand desk. Buy an eco-friendly office chair made with natural materials. Reuse old Mason jars and cookie tins for office supplies like pens and paperclips.
  10. Don’t waste coffee. If you make coffee at home, make a full pot and refrigerate the rest to reheat for later. Making less than a full pot each time you want coffee uses unnecessary electricity. You can also use a programmable coffee pot or the magical Keurig, which has an Auto-Off feature that when selected turns the brewer off after the last brew. (Keurigs and other single-serving machines can save up to 20% more energy than regular auto-drip coffeemakers).
  11. Switch to an eco-friendly coffeeUsing eco-friendly coffees with “Fair Trade” and “Rainforest Alliance Certified” labels can reduce deforestation, ensure coffee farms continue to provide habitats for birds, and help to support farmers in developing nations.
  12. Use natural home office cleaners. Using eco-friendly cleaners for your home and home office can eliminate harmful toxins and help the environment in the process. Luckily, green cleaning supplies are becoming increasingly available. You can also opt for DIY natural cleaners such as baking soda, vinegar, water, and borax.

There you have it, an Earth Day guide to becoming a more eco-friendly writer. And remember, if you’re self-publishing, consider using a site like Kbuuk, with features that help reduce your carbon footprint by offering full-service account plans that allow you to take care of all your publishing efforts from one place.

5 Reasons to Write Poetry

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poetry, #poetry, #NaPoMo, national poetry month, #poetrymonth, poets, poetic, writing, journaling, sonnets, shakespearePoetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn. – Thomas Gray

Did you know April is National Poetry Month?

There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to poetry: those that love poetry and understand it, and those that don’t like it and can’t understand a lick of it.

For those that don’t like it and/or can’t understand it, it may seem like a frivolous and overly prose-y way to express something better said plainly. Or as Jess in Gilmore Girls said, “I can’t get into poetry. It’s kind of like, geez, just say it already, we’re dying here.”

But for those that understand and find beauty in poetry, it can be a wonderful outlet for emotion or thoughts, a catalyst to inspire other creative areas, and it can even be a great form of therapy for some.

For me, poetry was an outlet for the raging hormones of my teenage years: first loves—and the subsequent first broken heart(s), the ups and downs of friendships, the curious and callow way I viewed my world. Poetry was an abstract way to journal through my emotions, and often, it was cathartic being able to safely express the sorrow or rage or euphoria.

As Irene Lantham said, poetry allows us to explore emotional terrain in a safe manner. Says Lantham:

Poetry is compressed emotion. The whole point is to create an emotional experience for yourself…Poetry is the place for the most sustaining and destructive emotions. Your job is to be passionate. This passion is the vehicle that will take you toward your own emotional truths.

While I admit that I have lost a bit of my poetic inclination over the years, I do believe poetry is still very much essential as a craft.

Here are 5 reasons you should write poetry:

  1. There are no “writing” rules for poetry as there are for other writing forms. With poetry, you have much more freedom to express yourself and your art in a way that is congruent to your deepest need. You don’t need to worry about linear storylines or run-on sentences or “show, don’t tell”—you simply write what is in your heart and mind…whatever the form, whatever the length.
  2. Poetry is a form of therapy. You give yourself permission to express your story in a way that acts as an outlet, a comfort zone, a healing space. Poetry is a conversation with your deepest self, a monologue that can be both incredibly personal and amazingly exoteric.
  3. It can act as a catalyst to inspire other creative areas. Whether you write, paint, sculpt, teach, dance, or just live, poetry can inspire creativity in all areas of your life. It can open your mind and your heart to see and feel things outside the boundaries of normal social limitations.
  4. Poetry fosters understanding and compassion. As an abstract art form, poetry causes us to think differently about our expression of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It encourages us to think deeper about our communication and how we interact and engage through the language we use.
  5. Poetry forces us to be brave and confident and invites discovery—of self, of life, of others. As Jane Hirshfield said, “Writing takes down all protections, to see what steps forward. Poetry is a trick of language-legerdemain, in which the writer is both magician and audience. You reach your hand into the hat and surprise yourself with rabbit or memory, with odd verb or slant rhyme or the flashing scarf of an image.”

Whether you understand poetry or not, it is a valuable and rewarding art that is too often underappreciated. And the most beautiful part about poetry is that you don’t even have to like it or understand it—the simple act of witnessing a poem come to life is what gives poetry its validation.

 

3 Writing Resource Books You Should Own

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wild mind, stephen king, natalie goldberg, bird by bird, anne lamott, writing resource books, writing resources, writing books, authors, inspiration, writing muse, writing exercises, writing promptsI am a writing resource junkie. I love any and all books about the craft of writing, publishing, editing, style—you name it, I buy it. I buy them almost as often as I buy notebooks and pens (I know I’m not the only one that does this, only to never write in them. Right? RIGHT?)

I consider myself to be a perpetual student when it comes to writing. I don’t think anyone, even the bestselling authors with hundreds of books under their belt, knows everything there is to know about writing.

Some books I like more than others. My three most favorite writing resource books of all time are (in no particular order):

Stephen King’s On Writing is one of my favorite writing resource books, and I know I’m not the only one. It is written mostly in memoir-style, but it is one of the most brilliant writing resource books there is. King, whose own simple writing style has continued to sell millions of books, touches on all the aspects of writing that tend to plague us writers from time to time (or constantly, if that’s the case).

One of my favorite passages is:

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad,” is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

Beautifully said!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one of the most well-known writing resource books out there. It’s not just a great writing resource book, however. It is also “instructions on life.” Told in a similar memoir-style as King’s On Writing, Lamott regales the reader with stories about growing up and relates them to writing in a way that is both inspirational and instructional.

One of my favorite passages is:

One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing everything as material. Sometimes you’ll sit down or go walking and your thoughts will be on one aspect of your work, or one idea you have for a small scene, or a general portrait of one of the characters you are working with, or you’ll just be completely blocked and hopeless and wondering why you shouldn’t just go into the kitchen and have a nice warm gin straight out of the cat dish. And then, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives. Some will float into your head like goldfish, lovely, bright orange, and weightless, and you follow them like a child looking at an aquarium that was thought to be without fish. Others will step out of the shadows like Boo Radley and make you catch your breath or take a step backward. They’re often so rich, these unbidden thoughts, and so clear that they feel indelible. But I say write them all down anyway.

Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind is still my absolute favorite writing resource book. Given to me in my senior year by a beloved English teacher (the kind they make movies about), this book has become what I call my writing bible. I have come back to it over and over again throughout the years.

One of the wonderful things about this book is that it teaches us to keep our hands moving. It’s the number one rule of writing practice. Through “Try This” exercises and prompts in the book, Goldberg inspires writers to write—and live—by letting wild mind take over, instead of sitting safely in monkey mind.

Goldberg describes the concept of monkey mind and wild mind. Monkey mind is the conscious mind, the inner editor we always listen to, that stops us, that limits us in our expansive thinking. Wild mind is the unconscious. Wild mind is everything, everywhere. Wild mind is the fiery, passionate muse that lurks underneath monkey mind. And Goldberg believes if we can live in wild mind, we can find our true creativity.

One of my favorite passages is:

At the back of every word we write is  no word. Only because no word exists is there space enough to write some word. So when we write about our feelings and perceptions, it is writing practice when we also touch the place where there are no feelings, no perceptions, there is no you, no person doing any writing. In other words you disappear, you become one with your words, not separate, and when you put your pen down, the you who was writing is gone. This is why I do not call my notebooks journals. They are simply blank pages I fill.

These books are always on my desk. They have been dog-eared, highlighted, filled with sticky notes and napkins or envelopes as bookmarks—they have been used, lovingly, over and over to the point they are barely held together anymore. That is the mark of a good writing resource book—or a good book, in general.

What are some of your favorite writing resource books? (No really, please, tell me, I need more!)

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