Monday, February 27, 2012

February Round Up

It's been a fun first month for us and we're looking forward to March and some new (secret, shhh!) segments. There hasn't been enough time to post about all the things we've been thinking about. So! Follows a compendium of interesting tidbits. How's that for fancy talking?

The ridiculous is serious and sublime in Russia, where people who are afraid to protest - afraid of being bullied or worse by the police for speaking out against Putin - find beanie babies and plush bunnies a good substitute. Genius.

Everyone's talking about Pinterest (after all, Nathan Bransford does it) but I'm still not sure.
When I was in art school I kept an image journal, old school ripping out pictures (using scissors is so bougious!) and glue-sticking them into a cheap journal. These images weren't like scrapbooks - they weren't supposed to be neat or art in and of themselves - these images were supposed to contain, like Pinterest, things that would spark my imagination. But the web being what it is- can you really grab an image from somewhere else - a copyrighted image, an image someone else created, other people's art?- without asking? What about credit? It's a sticky wicket, no doubt. Are you using Pinterest, or following writers who are? What do you think of it?

PC World has an article about using Pinterest while being mindful of copyright.

Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Fiction Open; 2,000-20,000 words
-       First Place Prize: $2,000, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue
-       Deadline: March 31, 2012
-       Details here.

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       81st Annual Writing Competition
o   10 Categories
o   First Place Prize: $3,000 and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference
o   Deadline: May 31, 2012
o   Details here.

Narrative Magazine
-       Winter 2012 Story Contest
o   Fiction & Literary Nonfiction: 15,000 words or less
o   First Place Prize: $2,500 and considered for publication
o   Deadline: March 31, 2012
o   Details here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Becoming a Writer Again

Posted by Greg Hardin

To be a writer, you’ve got to write. Simple statement; no one would argue. But how many people consider themselves writers who haven’t written yet today? Or yesterday? Or since last week? Or maybe they were a really good writer in college, and even though they haven’t done much since, they’re still a writer at heart. I’ve been there. It doesn’t really work.
If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. You can have a knack for writing. You can be better than average at helping your kids with their English paper. But if you’re not pursuing it, it’s not who you are. An Olympic skater who is 20 years post competitive skating would not still be considered a skater. You’ve got to exercise your skills for them to stay strong and in shape.  You’ve got to write if you’re going to make anything of it.
So, write. If you were once good, you will be again. But how do you find the time? How do you get back in the habit?  That’s both the easy and the hard part.  It’s easy, because you can always go with less sleep.  You can always watch one less sitcom.  Surf the web for 15 less minutes a day.  Finding time is not as hard as we make it out to be.  The hard part is having the energy to make use of the time.
Yes, writing takes energy.  It’s draining.  After working, taking care of kids, facing the house chores and responsibilities, the last thing you want to do is plum the depths of your mind for material to put down to paper. 
To that, I say writing is the same as exercising. 90% is showing up. (Or something like that.  Maybe they just say that about yoga.  Do I sound like someone who works out?  No, I spend that time writing, now. ((Someone, remind me after I sell my first book to start exercising again.)))  If you start, something will happen.  If you continue starting day after day, you’ll continue getting better.  It will get easier to sit down at the laptop. It will get easier to plum the depths of your mind.  You will look forward to that time of writing.
Soon enough, you will be a writer again.  Not just in your mind, but in actuality.  Now, whether any of us writers will be any good, I make less than no promises.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flotsam + Jetsam

Posted by Alex Villasante
Inspiration is Flotsam and Jetsam

I know you've heard it before, that you can go to any diner or coffee shop, nurse your third cup of joe and second slice of cherry pie and just listen. Stories will come to you, snippets of conversation that you can use as dialogue, strange situations from someone else's real life that seem perfect for fiction. 

That's never worked for me. I've heard interesting stories, unbelievable ones and sad ones. But I never heard a story that made me think - that's it, that's my inspiration.

For me, ideas come from the collision of the floating garbage in my head. Let me explain. I hear a snippet of an interview on NPR, something about albino eels and how there's a legend that killing these eels will bring bad luck. I can't bookmark the page, or write anything down because I'm driving to karate and littlest is singing the Caillou song really loud, but it sticks, that detail, just a piece of driftwood.

Then there's the fact that eldest and I are making a metal detector for the science fair. I read up on the science of metal detectors and a fragment of an idea - the ability to find things - is added to the hopper. Finally, I'm thinking about Sleeping Beauty and how something can be taken from a child (a future) or given to a child (the fairies gifts) before she's even aware of it. 

When I sit down to write, these are the kinds of details that flood my mind and, although I'll often throw an idea back into the ocean that is my head, sometimes they'll fit, like dovetails or hinges, perfectly into what I'm writing. That's how I've ended up with a girl named Mop who can't remember how to read but can find any lost thing - except the one thing she wants to find more than anything - her father. I'm pretty sure the albino eel will make it in there - at the bottom of a stopped up well. My work in progress is going nicely, thanks.

So what works for you? How do you get your inspiration? And have you ever gotten inspiration from overhearing someone in a coffee shop?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sit Down and Write

Posted by Laura Campbell
Sit down and write. Yeah, ok. It’s much easier to say than do. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve perfected the art of dodging for the sake of chores or errands that need to be done. Your writing gets pushed aside, neglected. Then, you miss out on contests or extend your manuscript query deadline. Your self-confidence suffers. That’s when you know it’s time to devise several crafty strategies to ensure you sit and write every day before getting sucked into the daily grind.

With art, comes discipline. For a writer, discipline means putting words down on paper EVERY day. This isn’t easy for me to do, especially when the ebb and flow of my emotions tend to block my creative flow. In order for me to maintain a successful writing routine I need to find a way around my moods and into my writing. Lend me a few minutes of your time and I’ll share a few strategies I use to get my butt in the chair and my words on the page.

My most successful strategy is writing as soon as I wake up. My computer is set up in my room, so I just get out of bed and sit down. This way the TV, food or dirty dishes downstairs do not distract me.

Unfortunately, I often find my mind crowded with the daily list of tasks and errands when I sit down. So, I write them down in a list and meditate to quiet my mind. I usually listen to Asian Serenity or The Zen Relaxation Collection and focus on my breathing.  

Another strategy I use to keep my motivation in gear is writing a specific amount of words, leaving off when I’ve reached the goal. This way my creative flow is on pause, ready to push play the next day.

Sometimes, I find myself stuck in my story; unsure where the character or plot needs to go. Taking a walk helps, forcing the fresh air into my brain. The exercise gets my blood flowing, which allows me to think out my story. Or I can just completely relocate my writing area to a bookstore, library, park, etc. The change in scenery will often waken up my creativity.

No matter what obstacles I create to dodge my daily writing, there are always strategies to tackle the roadblocks. Start thinking up of some crafty sit-and-write strategies for yourself. Your writing deserves it. 

What strategies do you use to sit down and write?