Category Archives: Writing Space

Place to write, writers tools, preparation, asking for time

a.p.a.p.a.d. day 2

(a poem a pic a day)

Writing Buddy

Half pint of dynamite

My Sam

Sass and spice

My Sam

Shake him up – watch him blow


His eyes will melt your heart

His words will melt your soul

His giggles will fill you with faith

in beauty and lightness and sprite

He is my writing buddy

He is My Sam ❤

*I’m aiming to post a poem and a pic a day for the month of April

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Filed under Poetry, writing inspiration, Writing Space

5 prompt Friday

         Here we go again…

  1. The empty feeling in my stomach spread to my chest and head, threatening to pull me inside out.
  2. How do I say this to you?
  3. On her wrist was a bracelet made from multi-colored paperclips.
  4. His voice crackled through the walkie-talkie, “The Eagle Has Landed.”
  5. Are you ready to do this?

Have a story or prompt to share? Post it here : ) Happy writing!


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Happy Place

photo courtesy of fotosa

photo courtesy of fotosa

This weekend, my husband and I escaped to my parents’ cottage in Sister Lakes, MI for our anniversary get away. Just the drive from Chicago through Indiana to the state line of Michigan helps me feel lighter. It is a physical sense of leaving behind the news, the phones, and the email. It is literal, as well, since there is no internet, phone or cable connection at the cottage. (I suffered minor panic and email withdrawals, but recovered quickly.)

 It was dark by the time our tires crunched over the gravel road and backed onto the large front lawn. The air was fresh and cool; the stars twinkled white and bright in the black sky, like the mini pegs on a Lite Brite game. The cottage has a faint musky smell, which itself is a comfort. The cozy enclosed front porch has large windows on each side and a skylight where the sun pours in from rise to set.  An old-fashioned refrigerator buzzes and gurgles in the kitchen, the tap water sputters cold until the fuse for hot water is turned on and a selection of Dad’s favorite movies are spread out on the bed: Into the Wild, Fargo, Lonesome Dove, Jackknife, The Man from Snowy River, to name a few.

 We spent our days talking, taking walks along the winding roads, stopping at still water ponds to look for tadpoles, we’d bring home to raise with our sons.  We never did find any. The few boats that were buzzing on Magician Lake were the backdrop to our weekend soundtrack. That and the different calls of birds and the pecking of woodpeckers. The quiet breeze sifted over our bodies as we curled together on the futon in the porch and napped. We found peace, comfort and quiet.

Recharging my batteries to prepare for a busy few months ahead was just what I needed.  The cottage has always been my place of solace. My happy place.

 Where is yours and how does it help nurture your creativity and your soul?


Filed under Creative Essays, emotion, Inspiration, Little Things, Rest, Writing Space

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.


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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Filed under Advice, emotion, Organization, Writing Space

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

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

Giving Back


There are many, many deserving causes to give to. Here’s one more:

“826CHI is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.”  They have locations in Chicago, Valencia, CA; NYC, LA, Boston and Michigan.
If you feel so inclined, to help bring the gift and wonder of writing to children, link here to give back.

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Filed under Believe, Education, writing inspiration, Writing Space

Write Guide to Holiday Shopping!


{photo courtesy of}

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 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 They have great sales and freebies!
  8. Maybe you’re a writer who’s going more techy. Some ideas would be: subscription to help find and organize all those markets, – 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.


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


As a full-time working mom of two, finding time to write, organize and submit is a challenge.  I know many of you can relate. 

In one of the writer groups I belong to a fellow “writing mom” posed the question: how do you find time to write?

My suggestions are:

  1.  Set realistic goals. If you have two kids under the age of three, maybe sending out two queries a week isn’t possible.  I use the “Sidetracked Writer’s Planner” found here to help keep me organized, focused and forward moving. Or just jot down your goals, be specific: i.e. write an essay for Skirt! Magazine following their theme list and deadline.
  2. Get a support team: talk to your spouse or partner about your goals and the uninterrupted time you need to accomplish them. Switch off dinner duty or the bedtime routine. Last night my dear husband had a movie night with the boys. I locked the bedroom door, turned on the fan for white noise and had a solid 90 minutes to write a rough draft and organize my calendar and deadlines.
  3. Some great tips are being posted on Christina Katz’s Writer Mama Blog, not to mention her inspiring and realistic advice given in her book: Writer Mama (Writers Digest Books.) I used the tips given in her book to sell my two first articles!
  4. Be selfish. OK, maybe “selfish” is too harsh a word. But I am a firm believer that I can only be a better mom, wife, friend, person if I am pursuing my passions. I am more pleasant to be around. I am practicing what I preach to my children: “Never give up!”


One month Challenge update:Progress! I completed 6 project sheets, with action steps needed to complete each project; I found three contests with October deadlines and mapped out a time table to write and rewrite; I transferred all the floating pages, note cards, etc. of ideas into the binder under Idea Inventory; I labeled the covers of my notebooks to better sort my writing according to genre: Essays, Fiction, Non-Fiction Articles (so far!)

What’s on your to do list? How are you accomplishing your goals?

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Filed under Advice, Believe, Deadlines, Organization, Perseverance, procrastination, Writing Space

The One Month Challenge

Kind of a weird date to start a month long challenge, but regardless.  I have been preoccupying myself with all kinds of busy work: blogging, surfing other blogs and sites, bookmarking contests, markets and cool tools for writers.

But I have not been writing! Well, not as much as I’d like. So, I’m using one of the resources I stumbled upon and I’m challenging you to do the same.

The Organized Writer site offers great help in focus, streamlining the mundane tasks and sorting all the loose ends of a writing business: assembling a binder to hold all of your “stuff” so there is one central place to go to for ideas, submission tracker, query tracker, accounting, weekly goals, deadlines, etc.

Last night, while watching the Democratic Convention, I assembled my Organized Writer binder (subscribe to Julie Hood’s free newsletter and get the ebook “The Sidetracked Writer’s Planner” for free!) And today begins Day One of the challenge: to get my writing mind, space and files organized which will allow more free time for the actual writing.

I will keep a daily word counter here. Why don’t you join me in the challenge to get organized and get writing? It’s a great back-to-school commitment you can make to yourself!

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Filed under Organization, Writing Space

Ready to write?

How do you prepare your mind and your muse to write? Do you have a routine? A certain nook in your home or maybe a booth at the coffee shop? Do you hand write first or go straight to the keyboard? Do you have a schedule and deadlines or whenever the page is calling?

For me, I hand write my fiction in cheap spiral notebooks (back-to-school sales are a great time to stock up!) and I type my nonfiction; maybe because I’m toggling between my word doc and the internet for facts and names. Either way, I have created a safe haven: at my dark wood writer’s desk in the niche under the window in my bedroom. The courtyard spreads in front of me, a sweet summer breeze blows in through the screen and my two rambunctious sons pop in every twenty seconds. “Mom, can I go on the computer?” “Mommy, can you pour me something to drink?” “David hit me!” “Sam erased my saved Zelda game!”

I may never have that perfect place, time or desire to write. But something in my blood calls to me: Go in your “happy place,” turn on the white noise in your mind and write with stopping.


Filed under Writing Space