Category Archives: Organization

What I learned this week…

Through surfing the net, posting on other blogs and scanning Twitter, I will post each Friday the valuable lessons I’ve learned about writing, marketing, teaching and living : )

Marketing

  • Just linked to this great post by Thursday Bram, who will be blogging daily this month on how to market yourself. Be sure to bookmark this and come back daily through July. Great tips on building your niche.
  • Yesterday I pounded the pavement in downtown Downers Grove getting to know the community shop owners and passing out flyers on my Young Writers Summer Studio: I met some helpful book sellers at Anderson’s BookShop, the manager at My Favorite Toy Store and an eclectic artist at Poe*m Art House (get out there and get to know your neighbors!  Support local vendors and they will reciprocate!)

Organizing/Time Management

Refresh

  • Earlier this week, I posted about hitting the  “refresh” button on your writing career. I urged everyone to take a day or two to just “play” and refresh their well of creativity. I found that my kids are a huge source of fun and inspiration for my writing; my husband helps me to focus on my true writing and teaching goals and to by-pass the busy work and fluff; and being outdoors fills me with hope and peace.
  • I also stumbled upon this amazing blog: The Happiness Project. I’ve added this to my favorites and have been reading archives here daily. Author Gretchen Rubin has her own set of Ten Commandments and urges others to create their list of 10, as well. Dont’ we all need a little more happiness in our lives?

Thanks for stopping by Writers Inspired.  Please share what you learned this week in writing, marketing, teaching and life!

Happy writing!

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Filed under Advice, Believe, books, Education, Inspiration, Organization, Platform/Marketing, Rest, writing inspiration

Monday Muse

Have you ever left your house with all the good intentions of returning in twenty minutes? I’m not talking about running to the bank or returning a rental. I mean walking out and breathing the fresh air, intent on finding your muse.

I am an avid planner, to the point of it being a sickness. Some of you may wish for an organized mind or schedule, but it comes with a price. Overload. I take on too much; my brain spins in multiple directions; my tasks multiply with every “yes, and then…” new idea I have. The sounds and lights and people swirl around me like an out of control twister and I picture jumping feet first into a deep dark body of water to drown out the world, my mind.

Refresh. Just like the curly cue arrow at the top of our computer screen, I need to Refresh.

So, I left my house intent on finding inner peace, calm and, if lucky enough, my muse. Twenty minutes into my walk, my mind is still conjuring up upsetting conversations, impossible requests and the week ahead with all its tasks. So, I kept walking. Finally, breakthrough. Characters crept into my mind. Titles and words that excited me. Plot twists and thoughts of November and the thrill of writing a novel in a month (even if it’s just a mad dash to capture floating words and reach a word count goal.)

Then, I come back, somewhat refreshed, having walked in the twilight and inhaling the sweet summer air. But all these new ideas, this lassoed muse: what do I do with it? When can I use it? There are lunches to make, work clothes to iron, kids to tuck in and the day job to wake early for.

But then, I refresh my email and find a small answer: “The Five-Minute Writing Career.” Will I use my minutes to blog and surf, Twitter and respond? Or will I follow the real reason behind all the  busy work – – and Write?

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Filed under Advice, Believe, emotion, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, procrastination

Book Blog Tour: Mindy Friddle, Author of Secret Keepers

mindyTALK3-797755Today, I am excited to introduce novelist, Mindy Friddle, who brings a seasoned writer’s expertise to the muddle of writing we all face.

Bio: Mindy Friddle’s first novel, The Garden Angel(St. Martin’s Press/Picador), a SIBA bestseller, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program in 2004, and was a National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition summer reading pick.Secret Keepers, her second novel, was published by St. Martin’s Press in May.She lives, writes, and gardens in Greenville, South Carolina where she directs the Writing Room, a community-based nonprofit program she founded in 2006. skeepersorder2

Mindy will be checking for your comments, it’s her “favorite part of blog touring!” So, be sure to leave a comment or question regarding Mindy’s novels, writing in general, or even gardening!(She’s a Master Gardener.)

 

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

 
   1. Wow, Mindy, your list of credentials are a novel in itself.  Let’s talk about your fiction awards.  Are you always on the look out for contests that suit your writing style, or is this something your agent or publisher does for you?  How do you prepare your work for a particular contest?  What about a residency contest?

Something I love about entering writing contests: the deadlines. Sounds funny, maybe, but consider two important points:
1. You have to prepare and submit something by a certain date—which can motivate you to finish or polish.
2. You’ll find out whether your manuscript made it or not within a certain time frame. Even if your work didn’t make it this time, take heart. So often when you submit a story or article for publication, you wait a loooong time to find out if it was read, much less accepted. At least in contests, you’ll know for certain if your work was considered or not. And you can move on.
Poets & Writershas an excellent calendar and listing of contests. You can find it at bookstores and also online.

 
 2. I, myself, sit on the board for a national non-profit for young writers and volunteer my teaching for a local non-profit organization for children.  So, your non-profit program, the Writing Room, touches my heartstrings.  Can you tell us how you founded this program, and how much time you now are able to devote to the Writing Room?  How do you seek out reliable volunteers or do they seek you out?

I talked to a local arts foundation, the Emrys Foundation here in South Carolina, that was willing to sponsor a program for writers. So I agreed to direct the program, which offers seminar and workshops to writers of all levels. I’ve recruited some terrific writing teachers, and we offer at least one seminar or class at no charge every season, as well as multi-week intense workshops (from fiction writing, flash fiction, writing for children, and screenwriting) for a range of fees. One of our goals is to eventually raise funds to offer one or two scholarships every season for folks who want to take in-depth writing workshops, but need some financial assistance. It’s a new program, which I spearheaded because I sensed we had an untapped literary community. Our mission at the Writing Room is to “build a community of writers.”

 

 3. Aspiring novelists are often curious how much of a platform one needs before tackling the marathon that is a novel (both the writing and publishing.) “Where to focus our energies?” Can you tell us about your fiction writing credits and platform prior to landing your first book deal for The Garden Angel?

 
I didn’t have much at all, as far as credits. And no platform, really. I hope aspiring novelists will take encouragement from that. You can’t go wrong with focusing your energy on the writing. Easier said, than done—I know! But a set schedule—writing several times a week no matter what—and reading a lot—that will get you far. Also helpful: attending writing conferences and forming a supportive group of fellow writers to read each other’s work.  After winning a fiction award in my state—the first contest I’d won—I attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference. There, I met Julianna Baggott, a generous writer who recommended that I send my manuscript–when I finished it–to her agent. I followed up and queried, and was fortunate to acquire my agent that way.

 
 4. Back to your latest novel, Secret Keepers.  Where did you get the inspiration for Emma’s character and what kind of research was needed to write from the POV of a 72-year-old woman?

 
After I got to know Emma—her background, her yearnings—and observed her actions (which sometimes surprised me) it wasn’t hard to get into her head. I like to think that age, gender, race, class, etc. aren’t obstacles to writers. Yeah, I know– that’s one of those Big Ideas that crops up on panel discussions: Can you really write about characters outside of your own experience/age/gender? YES. Imagination. Empathy, Curiosity. They go a long way.  Also, the omniscient point of view in Secret Keepers allows the reader access to the thoughts of a cast of characters: Emma, but also her adult children, her teenage grandson, a landscaper, and a homeless guy.  I really loved using the omniscient point of view, with a narrator who occasionally chimes in.  I hope the reader does, too.  I have more about the story behind SECRET KEEPERS on my website.

 

   5. On your tour post at The Muffin, you gave great bulleted tips on the process of novel writing: how to be a “weekend writer” and get through the first draft of your novel before focusing on revisions.  What method(s) do you use to keep all of your writing, research and notes organized while pummeling through that first draft? Do you outline; use note cards; have a favorite writing software?
Organize…not one of my talents. I manage piles. I don’t outline, really, but I do take notes on subsequent drafts and revisions. I use notecards to keep track of characters’ basic bios—when they were born, for example—and also to track scenes. If I think a scene is missing—a conversation between two characters that needs to explain something that will figure in later, for example—I make a note of it on a notecard. “Dora and Jake need to talk about Will’s death before we know Bobby remembers…” something like that. Occasionally, when I want to see the big picture and step back, I’ll use flip chart pages to note when things happen—sort of a crudely drawn timeline. That usually happens in revision, when I’m having to nail down details. I think you can find out what works for you as a writer—I love colors, for example. Highlighting my notecards by character is helpful, and using the “highlight” function in Word to figure out what needs to stay [green for me], what needs to be cut [pink], what needs to be moved somewhere else [yellow].  It’s always interesting to see what works for different writers. I’ve interviewed a number of authors, and this topic often comes up. The interviews are posted on my website, on the Interviews with Writerspage, and there’s more commentary on my blog here, and here. I wrote about the zen of writing– you just walk the path– at A Good Blog is Hard to Find
 

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights!  Please tell us what is on the horizon and where we can find more of your work:
I’m drafting a novel….and between drafts I sometimes turn to writing short fiction. Please feel free to visit my website and blog for more information on writing and reading, and drop me an email with questions or comments. Happy writing and reading everyone!


SECRET KEEPERS:  strong storytelling, comic touches, prickly family dynamics, and the magical power of nature.

St. Martin’s Press
Read an excerpt at www.mindyfriddle.com
On Sale: 4/27/2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-53702-9
ISBN-10: 0-312-53702-6
Also available: THE GARDEN ANGEL (St. Martin’s Press & Picador)

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Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, characters, Fiction, Get Published, goals, Inspiration, Novels, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, writer markets, writers, writing inspiration

Summer lovin’

Happy Summer!

Coppertone - 1953 ad

Coppertone - 1953 ad

OK, Summer doesn’t “officially” begin until June 21, which is also Father’s Day this year (and my mother-in-law’s birthday – Love ya, Rose!) But flipping the calendar page to June just sets my warm-weather clock a-tickin’.

School will be out, my work hours will shorten and hopefully the “lazy days” will be relaxing but productive for my writing.  A plan of action needs to be in place, not just for the next few months, but leading into fall and the new school year, as well.  Geez, Mary Jo, you’re saying, isn’t it bad enough that school supplies will be on sale soon? Can’t we just relax and enjoy this slower paced time of year?  

Sure, if you want to starve. Maybe not starve, but you will fall behind while other freelance writers are working their way up the ranks.  Businesses don’t close down for the summer and neither should you. If you’re taking your writing seriously, as a business, that is.  I’ve already emailed the principal of my son’s middle grade school to discuss the possibility of starting an after school writing club. And began plans for National Novel Writing Month, which isn’t until NOVEMBER!

Adjustments to your regular writing routine may be needed and beneficial to you and your family – but don’t STOP writing!

So, what are your writing plans for the summer?

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Filed under Advice, emotion, goals, Inspiration, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, Rest

“There ain’t no free lunches in this country…”

“…And don’t go spending your whole life commiserating that you got the raw deals. You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it bad enough I can have it.’ It’s called perseverance.”

Lee Iacocca, Businessman and Former CEO of Chrysler

Love this quote. I think we all have our moments of the “life’s unfair” attitude. But seriously, how would we know our true passions if we didn’t hit a bump or two (or ten) on our way to success?

Perseverance is the path that we must take to develop and live our true passion.

What struggles or speed bumps are hindering your writing goals today (this week, this month)?

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed in my day job as an Executive Assistant to the Regional V.P. This drags me down, body and mind, for any creative work I had planned for the evening.

I’ve also been procrastinating tedious technical work I need to get done to move forward with my young writers’ summer studio plans for June. And I’ve been putting off a rewrite of an article that should have been finished by now.

Distractions in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Blog surfing & commenting keep me from moving towards my goals, as well. These social medias are excellent tools, when used correctly and in moderation, so as not to take up all of your “working” time.

Perseverance rounds her head again when I sit in my day job cubicle, or in traffic going to or from said job. I know I can’t get different results from doing the same thing. Perseverance is what will blast through those bumps of distraction, overwhelming feelings and procrastination. The innate desire to write and teach full time as a way of replacing my current income  – that big carrot dangling in front of my nose is what will get me through one more day, week or month. To success. To my goal.

But dreaming and wishing and musing is all a bunch of fluff if there is no action behind it.

I learned the other night that just by speaking about my goals of teaching and the local organizations and schools I plan to contact lit a fire under my ass. Talk about it!

I have decided to open my MS Word doc’s ONLY when rewriting or crafting a rough draft of an article. Email and the internet as a whole is too tempting for me if opened in a tab at my bottom toolbar. Set up blinders to focus and blast away distractions!

The technical issue I’m having that is holding back my next steps for my young writers studio is the time to figure out adding a Paypal button to my writelikeCRAZY blog for easier payment of tuitions.My husband, with his knowledge of all things techy, said to ask if I needed help. Well, I asked, I delegated. Get more info to get past the procrastination (or delegate a task you don’t want to do!)

Please share your bumps and how you’ll use perseverance to get over or around them!

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Filed under Advice, emotion, goals, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, procrastination, writers block

Plow through the paper piles

It started with a dining room set…doesn’t it always?

With the stipend I earned for my teaching and speaking engagements, I bought a few inexpensive but efficient pieces of furniture for my dining room.  That purchase resulted in switching around the living room, my bedroom and my boys’ room. Nice and tidy, everything seemed to have its place.

paperpile

Except the piles of paper, file folders, binders and notebooks which looked even more overwhelming in a “cleaner” space.  I’m a saver. But I needed to purge. So, I used this system, which will be evolving as I tweak and grow with it.

  1. PREP: I moved my desk chair to another part of the room and aimed all lamps to the floor, desk and bookcase I would be organizing. Grabbed a big garbage bag and tall cool drink (water, the wine comes later when the job is done.)
  2. BABY STEPS: My writing and teaching opportunities have grown quickly in the last few months, and with them, the paperwork.  So, I started with one lil’ pile at a time.
  3. CODE IT: I used 4 colored Sharpies (love those babies!) to create an organizing system: code and zone each item properly.  Blue: teaching items; Green: markets for my writing; Yellow: books/resources; Pink: CCYW, the nonprofit organization I volunteer with.
  4. PRIORITIZE: As I color-coded, I sorted out the items I knew needed immediate action (or within the next week) These items were later looked over and given a deadline date and a day on my weekly to-do list with a big green “A” circled on the front for “Action”
  5. FILE: Sorting each item to its coordinating colored “zone”, I used my other favorite office tool: the Dymo label maker, to name and file items simply for easy retrieval later. (i.e. Teaching items were sorted under “Lessons Plans” either as workshops I did or want to borrow from; Resources were those loose post-its and note cards I wrote book recommendations on or links to cool, helpful sites. These were then filed in one big red folder labeled: “Research on-line”)
  6. DIRTY LITTLE DRAWERS: I emptied the two small side drawers and the pull-out keyboard drawer of my desk. I restocked the right hand drawer with post-its, 3×5 note cards, a stapler, Dymo Label Maker and 2 colored highlighters, all for easy reach when I’m in the middle of working.  My left-side drawer holds a big Websters Dictionary and small Thesaurus, my business cards and cute Mary Engelbreit note cards w/envelopes.  The keyboard pull-out drawer holds two piles:  the Action pile and a pile of almost full spiral notebooks, each opened to stories, essays or fillers I need to type up and find markets for. This way, my to-do’s are right where I need them without appearing overwhelming and messy.
  7. AT MY FINGERTIPS: I have  a portable plastic file organizer where I keep my most referenced files. Currently those have to do with my young writers workshops and projects and the Capitol City Young Writers organization which I board (tracking meeting minutes and editing the qtrly newsletter.) I keep this close to me and clear of clutter, so there’s no excuse not to replace a file.  If I seem to get a few paper items all pertaining to a similar topic, it gets a file folder named (i.e. Board Meeting Notes, Events, My Education, Teaching Characterization, Setting, etc.)
  8. BOOK ME: With my  growing library of writing books, I now have a small, cheap but efficient bookcase near my desk to house all of these resources. I no longer have to dig behind my husband’s Dean R Koontz paperbacks to find Writing Down the Bones for quick inspiration.
  9. WORK IT: As my writing goals and schedule changes, so will my set-up. But for now, I can write, read and research in an organized environment. Now, my only time-waster will be Facebook!

Do you have any organization or spring cleaning tips to share?

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For the Young Writers in your life

If you’ve been visiting this blog for any length of time, you know my passion for teaching young writers. Blessed with friends in the industry that also have faith in my abilities, I’ve been paired up with some incredible people and given door-opening introductions.

Announcing…a great new opportunity for young writers worldwide!

I have the extreme honor to be on the Board of Directors and serve as Secretary for this cool new non-profit organization for young writers:  Capitol City Young Writers.

Read all about it here.

Let me know if you or a young writer you know would like to get involved!

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Filed under Inspiration, Organization

FREE Workshop by bestselling author Brooke Noel!

changeyour-life Did I say this was going to be the Year of Zen, or what?!  Facebook has its advantages and one was being invited to join a week long free workshop offered by Brooke Noel, author. But you can go to her site to sign up for free!

“Join bestselling author Brook Noel for a free week-long interactive workshop to help you manage time, hone in on your goals, live by your priorities, reclaim energy, and create contentment.

rook Noel shares how simple change can be with six proven and practical strategies to help women manage time effectively, get organized, decrease stress, live by their priorities, and get 2009 off to a balanced and exciting start.” (Courtesy of maketodaymatter.net)

Interested?  Go here! to sign up.

Want to hear more from Brooke Noel?  She’s appearing on Chicago Morning News tomorrow, Sunday Jan 4 at 10am CDT on CBS, Channel 2

Here’s to success, health and happiness in 2009!

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Filed under Education, Give Aways, goals, Inspiration, Organization, Writing Space

Write Guide to Holiday Shopping!

christmas-gifts-1383

{photo courtesy of wallpaperez.info}

I love anything “writerly.” And if you’re reading this, chances are you do too! Whether you’re buying for yourself, a writing buddy or conveniently “linking” to this post in an email to your loved ones, ideas for great gifts are always a bonus!
So, let the list of joyous writer’s gifts begin!

  1. If your magazine stockpile has become a dangerous pillar of paper – get organized! I LOVE this fabric wall-mount magazine organizer, priced about $15 from The Container Store.
  2. Keep your files neatly labeled with a Dymo Letratag Label Maker. Buy it on-line or at any office supply store for about $30. You can change the font style, size and color.
  3. Every writer needs pens, even if they primarily type their work. I love the smooth non-skip flow of the Pilot Precise V5 in black and red ink (gotta edit sometimes!)
  4. A Digital Voice Recorder is great for recording those plot twist ideas when stuck in traffic. Also beneficial for recording interviews to later transcribe. The one I use has a setting to record in separate “files” for easy tracking. RCA RP 5120-A runs about $30 and can be found at Walmart, Target, Circuit City, etc.
  5. Books! Of course, the highly acclaimed “Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids” by Christina Katz is a fav of mine. This book got me thinking seriously about the non-fiction market. Another on my own wish list: “Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page” by Sheila Bender. The market for personal stories is growing by the day and I intend to join them!
  6. Of course, general office supplies are always in need, since we use these up! Post-it’s, notecards, notebooks, binders, file folders, mailing labels are good staples (staples, too!) But for something fun and funky, try wrapables.com for cool bookends and such.
  7. If you’re getting serious about your writing and ready to take it to the next level, I recommend “Get Know Before the Book Deal“, another gem by Christina Katz. And in the meantime, order some inexpensive but quality business cards from Vistaprint.com. They have great sales and freebies!
  8. Maybe you’re a writer who’s going more techy. Some ideas would be: WritersMarket.com subscription to help find and organize all those markets, Storyright.com – a nifty software (free trial!) which helps the plotting, outlining and writing of your fiction, especially novels!, a flashdrive to save your valuable work, or a gift certificate to one of multiple on-line writing courses. I found my niche in writing short stuff and getting my first clip by taking “Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff,” valued at $199.00, you can get in the class for FREE, check out the details here.
  9. Of course, there are always the unconventional gifts writers need like time and space. Read this eye-opening article titled “Writers’ Wish Lists: More than Office Supplies,” by Melissa Mayntz in the Funds For Writers Small Markets Newsletter, (12-07-08 issue.)
  10. And if you’re still stumped, go here for a whole book of ideas, compliments of WOW! Women on Writing!

Happy shopping and remember…Santa’s watching.

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Filed under Advice, Education, Fiction, Fun Stuff, Give Aways, Markets, Non Fiction, Organization, Rest, writer markets, writers, Writing Space

Coolest writing software EVER!

Thanks to my Naperville Region NaNoWriMo’s wiki page, I linked to a wicked writing software site.  The download is free and it says you have a 14-day free trial, not sure the cost to buy, but I’m definitely  going to purchase this puppy.

StoryRight is a place to create and save characters, plot, subplot, themes, settings and chapters. This is PERFECT for NaNo’ers. Until last night at approximately 10pm, I was in a funk over the plot for my November Novel. I signed up on StoryRight and was immediately led through creating a Main Character, complete with her name, gender, physical description, wants, fears, etc.

I then proceeded to answer a one page questionnaire from her perspective and learned she is a bitter teen who longs for her absent mother’s love and approval. She’s also an avid water skier and housekeeper at her family’s lake resort. Wow! This interesting character was born and fledged into a real person with emotions and a  past and secrets lurking under the surface – all in a matter of about 20 minutes.

What’s cool about this software is the ability to create multiple stories and/or characters all in one site, yet each separated from the other. If you get a hankering for writing a setting, with no plot in mind – go there and just save it for later. Same with a character or theme. Each page you create has the ability to be saved as a Word doc. I’m sure there’s more this software can do, I just touched the surface last night.

This is the first writing software I’ve tried, I know there are many more.  Have you tried any? What are the pro’s and con’s?

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Filed under Advice, Education, Fiction, Novels, Organization, writing inspiration, Writing prompts