Friday, September 23, 2016

The Way We Look At Books

by Tamara Passey

When you attend a writer's conference you can hear a buffet of advice--use active voice, not passive, no info-dumping, and so on. But not all writing advice is created equal. Every now and then you can come across some wisdom that can fundamentally change your writing life, if you let it.

J. Scott Savage
ANWA 2016 Keynote
The ANWA conference keynote speaker this year was J. Scott Savage. One of the things he said was "Your writing will change people's lives." It reminded me of something I heard him say several years earlier. He was speaking about his personal writing and publishing journey up to that time and said something I hadn't heard before. Something that changed the way I think about books and that I haven't forgotten since.

It went a little like this:

"If you've ever read a book and thought, 'how did that book get published?' thinking only of what was awful about the book, what you could be asking is 'how did that book get published?' with an eye for what was good about the book."

"If an agent liked the book and an editor worked on the book, and it is selling--look at what is working. Look for what the author did to reach an audience and connect with readers. That is what you want to emulate."

Maybe this had an impact on me because at that time I had written the first draft of my first novel and I was hoping for publication sooner rather than later. Instead of reading books for pure enjoyment, I began reading them with a critical eye and found myself wondering how or why certain books ever made it to the shelf. I thought it was my high standards for writing, but I'm sure there was some creative jealousies at work too. 

And so the way that he turned that question around changed my entire attitude. For the better.

Asking what works about a particular story or novel opened me up to positive energy. Focusing on the good and what the author did right, made a place in my mind for me to do the same. Looking for techniques that resonate with the reader made it possible for me to learn those techniques. And I'll take it one step further, being happy for the success of another author--helped me achieve my own.

Me--finally having a chance to thank Jeff Savage for some really great writing advice!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fall Wreath Non How To - Repost

This is a re-post in honor of the first day of autumn. 

I could probably come up with a better post title, but it's late and the heat wilted me today. So I went for the straight-forward approach, tell it like it is. 

First: The "Non" How To Make a Wreath that doesn't cost $50.
Why is it a Non-How-To?
Because I am NOT an expert. This is my first attempt at making a wreath. I don't even call my self crafty, unless we're talking about hiding chocolate. But I wanted a fall wreath and one that didn't cost more than a trip to see real foliage. So this is what I did. And if you are brave enough to copy my non-expert craftiness, please send me a picture -- I'd love to see new and improved versions of my beginner's luck. 

Straw wreath - a couple of dollars at WalMart
One bunch of fall foliage flowers and leaves - $5 - conveniently next to the wreaths
One roll of burlap ribbon - $5, maybe a little more
One package of wreath making pins - totally forget how much but they were also right next to the wreath bases. 

And heavy duty wire cutters. I borrowed a pair from the kindest neighbor on the planet. If you don't own any, you will have to use different flowers that don't require cutting.

I clipped the flowers and leaves from the bunch that I wanted to use. I removed the plastic from the straw wreath. A lot of straw went flying. Probably could have made the wreath in a barn instead of on my table, but that's hindsight for you. One note of caution (this is code for how I almost ruined the entire project): don't cut the twine that is responsible for keeping your straw wreath base in tact. It's not pretty. 

I chose to wrap the burlap ribbon around the entire wreath (mostly to help secure the section I cut loose--see above caution) - but if you want to conserve ribbon, you could wrap the exposed side only-(this is a personal choice somewhere in the realm of how to organize your sock drawer--at the end of the day you are the only one who will know or care :)

Secure the flowers with the extra long looking wreath pins as you see fit. That's right, I don't have a flower placing pattern for you to follow. This feels like stating the obvious, but I don't have any flower-arranging credentials so you are better off figuring out this step on your own. 

Tie or create a bow with the burlap ribbon. 
Hang on your door. Pretend it isn't 100+ degrees and enjoy!

Written in the fall of 2011 in AZ while reminiscing about the fall seasons of my little growing-up years in MA.

Hand Picked Fun

I don’t know what happened to my bathing suit
Summer up and left                                                                                       
Mom moved the sweaters
From my big sister’s drawer
To mine
And the sun inched west a little sooner each day
Taking all the fun with him

Until we piled into the maroon station wagon
And drove north
Long enough for us to wonder if Dad got lost

We found the trees. Green leaves gone to yellow and orange.
Did the colors bring the cool air?
I thought so, but they told me it was the other way around.

Rows and rows of heavy laden trees.
We picked for hours, climbing, stretching
Dropping, joking
With cold noses and fingers
We filled our bags and bushels full of red, ripe apples.

And the country store had heated, fresh pressed cider.
One sip and my brother laughed at my eyes
Popping from the burst of flavor
Sweet and spicy
And warm.
Like those apples had figured out a way
To store all the rays of summer sunshine.
Just for me.

Tamara Passey

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quotes and Not-So-Deep Thoughts from the ANWA Conference 2016

Another great ANWA conference. I'm still reveling in the joy of it, and maybe the nerdiness too.

Not-So-Deep Thoughts

Advice: Check the chair before you sit on it. If it looks wet, it probably is. And you won't have time to run back to your room and change before you have to stand up and teach.
Yes, that happened. To me. Because I didn't look before I sat.

Philosophy: Overspending in the bookstore is really not overspending at all.
It's an investment in your mind. And we all know a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Thanks: To the woman who won my book as a door prize and stood up and cheered with so much enthusiasm I almost cried. I owe you a hug!

Observation: Pitches by the wall-sized water fountain--genius. No one could hear the 1,000 windmills churning away in the hearts, minds, and stomachs of all the pitchers!

Peggy Urry - Pitch Master

Quotes from the wild:

"In between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows is the magic." J. Scott Savage

"Your writing will change people's lives." J. Scott Savage

"Middle Grade readers have gatekeepers--don't offend them." J. Scott Savage

"Teens do not tolerate exposition." Heather Flaherty

"An author should never be satisfied with the limitations of someone else's world." Katherine Cowley

"Where is a good place for backstory? When the character is naturally thinking about it." Patricia Nelson

"I WILL Google you. Not one page, five pages of google results." Patricia Nelson

"You can't please everyone. You are not pizza." Anika Arrington

"We betray our readers when we wish away our own voice." Anika Arrington

J Scott Savaage - ANWA 2016 Keynote Address

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Birthday Cake, Two Hearts, One Day

Another birthday poem.
This one about cake and heaven and being connected in the best of ways.
Sometimes the best gifts are the unexpected ones.

Two Hearts, One Day

Baking the cake
We will share
Has come to mean more to me
Than flour and eggs
(Though I do love the way vanilla wakes up my kitchen,
The way velvety batter falls into
Reliable and waiting cake pans
Like liquid ribbon.)
It means more to me than mixing and frosting.
This is the cake I will share with my
Not-so-baby girl, born on my birthday.
Reminding me there are no coincidences
In heaven or on earth. That we are connected
Through time and space.
That we share memories and hearts full of love
For the gift of life,
For the best and permanent birthday gift heaven can give.

Previous Birthday Posts

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Repost: 19 Things I know on my Birthday

Anne Lamott recently posted in advance of her birthday "every single thing" she knew. 
I haven't lived as long as she has, and I'm sure I don't know as much as she does. But in keeping with my previous years of posting poems on my birthday, I thought I'd mix it up and write down some things I know. In no particular order. . . 

1. When I find myself outside at night, I look up, count a few stars, and let myself feel wonderfully small.

2. I believe in the magic of hugs. 

3. Happiness can come quietly, but it can come.

4. I'm not sure if friendship means more to me than anyone else, I just know that I've been blessed with caring friends that have made all the difference in my life. 

5. I haven't given up expecting the best possible outcome. For life, for everything. 

6. Neither the young or old stay that way for very long. I've learned (the hard way) to slow down and spend time with both in my life.

7. (Mini-rant) People need to stop buying murder--in movies, in TV, in books, in video games, and on and on. In some literature, we can learn from it. In most entertainment, we become desensitized to it. And I think we are beyond desensitized. The national appetite is growing unchecked, unbridled, and what will it take to fill it? What will it take to stop it? Can't we remember our humanity that we are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters? 

8. I start making progress when I pray for the ability to forgive as much as I pray to be forgiven.

9. Every now and then I get the sense that marriage is even more grand and sacred than I can imagine. 

10. (Mini-rant #2) What's the deal with stilettos? Just say no.

11. The soul is healed by being with children. (Okay Dostoevsky said this, not me, but I believe it.) Let me add here there may be curve on this one. As in: first child in your arms=healing, then all the hectic years=who knows what is happening to your heart, then the last child comes along and likes to give hugs and play "I spy"=healing again.  

12. Social media: well I use it, so I can't exactly bash it but I am still a fan of eye contact, hand holding, and hugs, see #2. 

13. Prayer and scriptures. They work.

14. Writing is thinking and thinking is living. So Writing=Living.

15. Kindness is the unassuming quality that changes lives and hearts in the economy of a smile, a soft answer, an unexpected visitor, a withheld "I told you so." 

16. Read. Read for pleasure, for learning, for research, for adventure, for curiosity. But seriously, read. 

17. Most of the people that have been examples to me--created in me a desire to do and be better--weren't trying for that at all. 

18. Life is holding on and letting go, happiness is knowing when the right time is for each. 

19. When all else fails, take a walk or take a bath or take a trip, as the situation allows. 

Previous Birthday Poem Posts

Friday, December 25, 2015

On The Twelfth Day of Christmas ... Another Giveaway

This is Day Twelve in the 12 Giveaways of Christmas Blog Tour!
Hope you have a very merry Christmas!
Marianne Sciucco Guest Post

Fill Your New Kindle! The 12 Days of  Giveaways
Did you ask Santa for a new Kindle by any chance? If you’ve been a good reader this year you probably got it, and I bet you can’t wait to fill it with an assortment of great new books. If you’re like me that device will soon be bursting at the seams with a treasure trove of titles guaranteed to keep you entertained to infinity and beyond. Seriously, that ereader can hold more books than you can read in a year, in my case a lifetime! I often say I hope I live long enough to make it through my TBR list.

To get you started on building that digital library I invite you to join me and 23 more authors in The 12 Days of Giveaways, an opportunity for you to meet some up and coming new authors, discover great new reads, and win fantastic prizes including ebooks, paperbacks. On each of the twelve days two authors hosted a giveaway on their blogs.  

Today is my special day and I’m offering a free Kindle copy of my novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story to anyone who joins my mailing list. Blue Hydrangeas is the sad but beautiful story of a pair of retired Cape Cod innkeepers struggling with Alzheimer’s. Find out why one reader said “I read it twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything,” and another said “The drama reaches out and grabs you.”  I’m pretty sure you’ll love the ending. Sign up here to receive your free book.

Starting tomorrowDecember 26 – my short story Collection will be FREE for two days so you can add that to your collection too. Story: A young girl and her family accompany their housepainter father on a trip to collect his wages from a slow-paying customer, and encounter surprising consequences.

To find out what the other authors are offering, curl up on the couch in a fluffy blanket, grab that Kindle and a cup of hot cocoa, and check in with them to see what’s happening:

I'm part of the Romance/Mystery group. To visit the authors in the Fantasy group, check the link in the brackets.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On The Eleventh Day of Christmas ... Another Giveaway

This is Day Eleven in the 12 Giveaways of Christmas Blog Tour. 
Frances Hoelsema Guest Post

Title is: My Christmas Gift to You!
 For those of you not familiar with who I am or my work, I am Frances Hoelsema. I am a wife and work-at-home/homeschooling mom of two boys that has a passion for writing. A few years ago, after I had gotten a kindle and started reading all kinds of different books, I had the bright idea to write my own novel. This wasn't the first time I got an itch to write something, it was just the first time I did something about it.
My favorite type of book to read is romance, the kind that has a happy ending and makes you feel good about love. And that's exactly what my debut novel, Growing Up Neighbors, does.

Here's a blurb: Little Deborah Harrington stared across the street the day the Michaels family moved in. Who was this family? Would she even like them? Nicholas Michaels hated the fact he had to move away from everything and everyone in his life, but his feelings change when he meets the Harringtons. Deborah and Nicholas become the best of friends, and as the children grow up, their friendship deepens. But then tragedy strikes. Will this cause them to part ways? Or will it perhaps make them realize they may have stronger feelings for one another before it's too late?
Growing Up Neighbors will embark you on a journey through various life experiences; the final destination is discovering love.
Christmas is my favorite time of year, and anyone who knows me knows I love to give. So my gift to you this Christmas is a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Growing Up Neighbors. To enter the contest, please visit this link:


I'm part of the Romance/Mystery group. To visit the authors in the Fantasy group, check the link in the brackets.

Angela Carling -]


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