Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Life interrupted

Well, what do you know? Turns out that when writing isn't what's earning you a paycheck, what does will take precedence sometimes. Okay, well, most of the time. Sometimes, I may have an idea or two bouncing around in here, but have to treat it like an anxious child and say, "Not today, but soon....soon." Because life gets complicated and this "little hobby" of mine has to take a back burner.

But, then that little kid named Story residing in my imagination, gets tired of waiting and really starts to whine. I don't know how many parents are reading this, but I can tell you that the kids have figured out the best way to get their way is to make a nuisance out of themselves. It becomes glaringly apparent that the only way you are going to get anything done is to make good on that promise of time out for them and just do it. That's the only way they are going to shut the hell up! So, you do and they do and everything goes back to status quo....until the next time they're told to wait.

Well, obviously a story idea that has some weight to it acts the same way. Lately, it was that way for me. I had two short story ideas that just wouldn't sit on the couch and be quiet. I was quite embroiled in a hot drama in the parenthood realm (and still am really) and I just didn't have "time right now. Not today, but soon...soon". Well, those ideas just kept bouncing around the house, getting louder and louder until finally I sat down and just took them out to play until about 2AM, knowing full well I'd pay in the morning. But it was quiet when we were done and that was reward enough.

Are they good little children, my little twin short stories? Who knows? You can pop over to, check out my short story collection "Got a Minute" and look 'em up: The Passenger and HANGMAN. But it's quiet once again. Although, I do hear the teenager Novel starting to get louder upstairs.....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Art of Letter Writing

How many "writers" out there still take time to write a long letter to someone? I'm not talking a 10 slide powerpoint you're forwarding on with a "personal" comment from you. I'm talking a heart-felt, well thought out letter full of descriptive updates on the well being of family members, a "take me there" account of an important event that you know they may have wanted to be there for or how much they truly mean to you and why.

In this age of technology where we no longer have to wait for a letter to reach us through a mail carrier and where even emails are now considered too long-winded, the art of letter writing is akin to caligraphy. It's just not practiced anymore. What a shame!

Do yourself a favor and find some letters written years ago by ordinary people who had no other means necessary or readily availabe to them. Visit one of the war-time exhibits or museums and read the correspondence between husbands and wives, mothers and sons or sweethearts. It's some deep stuff! Go futher back and peruse the letters that read like short novels full of prose. It seems everyone was a writer. What era do most of our classic or contemporary classic writers come from? When people were still sending long letters back and forth. Could there be a correlation?

During that era of communication, one took time to put their thoughts and hearts into words when composing a letter. They knew what they wrote would have to take the place of words, loving glances and caresses. They were sending out themselves and every word was important. The practiced art of letter writing couldn't help but develop the skills of those doing the writing.

Become an artist! Pick a relative, an out of state friend or a stranger penpal and start writing letters. Make it your goal to write letters two to three pages long. It will help to develop two things: your ability to sit and write anything, removing the anxiety of the blank page and the ability to convey your thoughts and feelings through the written word. Practice may not make perfect; not in a writer's continuous self-editing mind, but it will make writing easier and better.

~Keep writing


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writing Through UpHeaval

How many of us only write when we have the time and everything is set? For example, for me the perfect writing environment would be a quiet morning or afternoon, a fresh cup of coffee in my favorite cup (well, really any cup would do) and a head full of stories just busting to get out. No worries, no background fighting from the rivaling siblings, no "honey, did you pay that electric bill", and no one interrupting me to play mom or "honey". Yeah, that would be nice. And on occasion, when the kids are in school, it actually happens.

But then there are weeks like this week. Where my schedule is all flipped around and I have so many "commitments outside the home and office" that I'm beginning to seriously doubt that the little green man was correct in calling me "superwoman". And then of course, there was that proverbial "other shoe" dropping moment of yesterday. Yeah, those times when life just sticks it in and twists. How fun it that?!

That's when all the ideas waiting in the writer's lounge of my brain are forced to continue flipping through their outdated magazines while the big bully of worry occupies my front office. It sucks for both of us, really. But you know what I found? Sure you do. You probably discovered this eons ago. That when I'm under stress....if I make myself sit down and write "for an hour", I free myself. That's right. Maybe it is just an hour, but it's cathartic. Many times, it ends up being a full writing session (3-4 hours). It may be late night or even the wee hours of the morning. Writing everyday, no matter what, gives structure and continuity to my life. And when the entire world is a chaotic sea around you, it's the one piece of drifting wood you need.

Keep writing,


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Writing Non-Fiction; Will They Read it?

When does one decide what they have to say is interesting enough to write down and share with everyone? What makes a true life account, one event or a lifetime's work worth telling? How narcissitic must one be to say literally, "Hey, listen to this!"?

I have wondered this myself. I have written one novel about the field of nursing, full of true stories and little human lessons I learned along the way. I am now starting to write about the struggles of raising an Asperger's Syndrome child. Why? Do I fashion myself on the next competition show of "So You Think You Can Write?". Do I seriously think my writing skills so sublime that no matter what I write, people will flock to read it? No, not even close.

As with any writer, I'm sure, I am quite positive that a "real writer" would tear my pathetic peices apart. But I can't help myself. I have to write and a daily journal entry just won't suffice. So, what do I do? I let all those stories bouncing around in my head come out to play in a Word document. That space will never be empty; although those in the know would claim it already is, perhaps. Because with all five senses up and operating daily, my mind is continuously playing the "what if" game.

And the true to life stuff? They were the bullies of my mind's playground. They were big undertakings and very, very scary. But every once in awhile, you have to face up to your bullies, maybe even try to befriend them. And maybe, just maybe, you'll find they are interesting enough to introduce them to everyone else. Maybe just interesting enough to start to line up speaking engagements!

So, will the non-fiction be read? That's not the question, after all. The question is really: is the non-fiction work worth the telling? Will it in some way benefit the reader and/or targeted audience? If you can answer "yes" to those questions, then take a minute to really look at that bully of an idea that's been pestering you. Is it time to make friends?

Keep writing ~ Karen

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sweet Inspiration

Have you ever read anything like a complete novel or short story or even a magazine article and thought to yourself "Damn, I wish I'd have thought of that!"? Similar to an invention on a late night infomercial, it seems so obvious. "A little robotic floor vacuum that cleans continuously requiring little to no work for the owner?", you say, "Man! It was such a small jump from the remote control car my son keeps running into my feet. Why didn't I think of that?"

It's called inspiration. Yeah, think about it. Some woman or man was sitting there thinking "I spend too much time vacuuming up this house because of this family. Every day, I have to lug that thing out of the closet and vacuum (or sweep the floor). I'm tired of it. There has to be a better way - Ouch! Timothy, please stop running that dadblasted car into my---Heyyyy. Let me see that thing!" Of course I have no clue how that idea came to fruition. I play to prove my point.

Here are some pointers on coming up with fresh ideas from inspiration:

1. Think of an ordinary situation; fixing up an old car, catching a cold, going hiking in the woods. Then think of what would make that an extraordinary situation. The old car is a live thing that once fixed takes on an evil life of it's own and possesses the owner (Christine by Stephen King). Or it's not a cold but a biochemical weapon let loose on an unsuspecting US and only 5% of the population is immune and still manages to divide into good and evil (The Stand by Stephen King). Or it's a little girl hiking with her family that gets separated and lost in the woods and she survives by losing her mind a little (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King). Okay, I'm a Stephen King fan, but you get my drift I hope.

2. What's your favorite story and why? What made that a good story? Was it the twist ending, the irony, the good conquering evil.....what? Now, can you duplicate that with an idea of your own? Take that "feature" that you admired or that hooked you and use it in the world you know and can write about.

3. Is there a true story from your life that makes people laugh till they cry, mist up with emotion or gasp in empathetic horror? Turn it into a fictional story and hey, here's the best can change the ending to suit you if the original wasn't your best moment. It's called fiction for a reason and you, as the author, have what they call creative license.

4. Is your life or work stranger than fiction? Would your memoirs be worth a read? Willing to share it? Write it down!

In short, there are ideas out there. I've said it before, ask yourself "what if?". When I ask myself that question and my imagination answers, I've got a story in the making everytime.

Keep writing,


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Time to Pause

The kids are back in school and I am given the freedom (when not working at my real job) to sit in front of a blank screen and create. And sit.....and sit...and....sit. *sigh*

Wouldn't it be great if we could turn our creativity on and off like our kitchen taps filling up an empty glass. Empty glass, time for a drink, turn on tap, fill with water and drink. Ahhhhhh. Empty house, uninterrupted time to write, turn on creative juices, flowing freely, fill page after page and 2-3 chapters written. Ahhhhhhh.

But, no. Here I am with a fresh cup of coffee sitting by the keyboard or laptop at 9:00am, kids at school until 3:30pm, cell phone on vibrate and an unknown number of chapters left to write on my novel in progress. Nothing. So, what do I do.

What I used to do was "take a break" and read other's work "for just a few minutes", do a household chore hoping creative lightning would strike somewhere between the rinse and spin cycle or play (blushes guiltily) computer games.

But then, I just started to write anything....whether it was good or not, typos and all, just nonsensical rambling. After all, this is the computer age and we have "delete" and "cut". And you know what, nothing happened at first - the first couple of times I did this (slow learner, I guess). But then, it did! I'd be typing along and "well, whaddya know, I think this is going somewhere. Because for me it's the getting started that's the hard part. Once I start, I can't shut up!

Give it a try, when you're blocked and let me know what happens. Who knows, there could be a story in that somewhere


Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Jungle of Writing

I read somewhere that an unknown first time author trying to get published has a 1:15,000 chance. A 1:15,000 chance! Not exactly what one would call incentive, is it? Of course, the purist would say, "It's not about publication. It is about the need to write, the need to express oneself, the need to bleed words upon a page, blah, blah, blah". And that's part of it, sure.

But, who doesn't want someone to read your work and confirm it's worth in general? Or want someone with fresh, unbiased eyes to catch the awkard phrase here or the wasted sentence there? If you can honestly say, "Not me. I write for the pure enjoyment of putting words to page and I don't care if no one ever lays on it!" Then I say to you, "Good for you! You win the award for purity...Now, get off my page. This is not for you. Take your hummus and your hemp weaved shirt and go caligraphy somewhere else."

This page and accompanying blogs are for those writers struggling to write something that someone will read and mutter, "Damn! That was a good read!". We want our writing out there and we want the feedback (good or bad) to encourage us to refine ourselves, search for the perfect word in that one sentence out of our large vocabularies.

It is said that when writing "Madame Bovary", Gustave Flaubert took five years because every word of every sentence had to say something. Wow! right? I don't hope to write as he did (I just plain don't have the patience for it), but to be able to write a short story or novel sans need for skimming? Ah, now that is obtainable!

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