Sharron Blezard:

Here’s a wonderful essay by friend and fellow author Julia Park Tracey. Check out her book website (links provided) and then get a copy of the book. You’ll enjoy it!

Originally posted on Adventures in Thanks-Living:

(This is a guest post by friend, author, and fellow Compactor, Julia Park Tracey. Be sure to check out the website for the book. Enjoy!)

For the past year I have been sharing snippets and excerpts from the “Doris Diaries,” a collection of diaries from the 1920s through 1940s that I inherited from my Aunt Doris. The first volume of these has just been published as I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). It has been an unexpected pleasure to spend time in the presence of someone I miss very much, and whose presence in my life was akin to a fairy godmother.

When my great aunt Doris, who passed away in 2011, was beginning to fail, starting to lose some steam in that last of her 101 years, she asked me to take care of her private things, not to…

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Sharron Blezard:

Here’s the latest book I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) during my recent convalescence.

Originally posted on Adventures in Thanks-Living:

Occasionally a book comes along that just flat out tickles my fancy and keeps me turning pages in anticipation and delight. This is the kind of book I don’t want to put down. I want to savor certain snippets so much that I find myself turning again to particular quotes  and scenes. I find myself torn between galloping through to the end or savoring each page. A book like this is an experience, one that leaves the reader wanting more. Such is the case for me with I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen.

Doris Louise Bailey began keeping a diary in 1925, at the tender age of 15. Chronicling her adventures became a practice she would continue throughout her long life. After her death in 2011 at the age of 101, her great-niece, author and editor Julia Park Tracey, found herself in…

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Thanks, Cristian for this wonderful post. I think variations on these eight rules apply to almost any kind of narrative writing.

A Poem a Day Helps the Words to Play

Note: If you’re a writer of prose (fiction, non-fiction, or both) this post is particularly directed at you. If you are a poet, enjoy the vote of appreciation for the wonderful work you do with words and images.

Want to polish your prose, dust off your diction, and give wings to your words? If you do, then read a poem every day. If possible, commit to write one every day or at least every week.

Why poetry to improve your prose? It’s simple. Poetry is like condensed soup. The poet packs more meaning into each word than the average prose writer does in an entire sentence or paragraph. For the poet every word is a gem that must be polished, cared for, and shown in its best light.

Reading and writing poetry will help the prose writer reduce verbosity, heighten meaning, and maximize metaphor and imagery. Integrating poetry into your daily discipline will help your words sing with renewed freshness and light.

What does it look like to integrate poetry into your daily prose routine?

1) Sign up to have a poem delivered each day to your inbox. Here are a few to consider.

  • Poetry Daily  (features a daily poem, poet, and poetry journal)
  • (from the Academy of American Poets)

2) Lay hands on a good book about poetry and writing poetry. More importantly, put it to use! Three books to use as starting points are:

Most importantly, take every opportunity to hear poetry read aloud or performed. If you don’t have access to local outlets for poetry readings, you’ll find plenty of good YouTube videos. Hearing poetry allows it so seep into your skin and weave its way into your creative heart. The more your hear, read, and write, the stronger and more vivid your prose is likely to become. Now, go play with words! Make art. Spread beauty. Have fun.

P.S.: What about you? What are your favorite ways to incorporate poetry into your daily life? I’d love to hear from you.

Photo by chillihead used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!




Burn, Baby, Burn

Enough of these phrases, conceit and metaphors,
I want burning, burning, burning.

Am I writing from my head or from my heart?

From reason or from intuition?

From my rational, need-to-make-a-living mind or from my place of greatest, deepest passion?

Do you ask yourself these questions? If not, you should. Call it checking your creative temperature. If you find your head and reason responding more loudly than your heart and soul, chances are the difference is showing in your writing, too.

Beginning writing students often tell me they can’t find any approach to a particular topic, saying “Nothing about it interests me,” or “I don’t know anything about that.” They allow a temporary lack of inquisitiveness and curiosity threaten to stifle creativity. They let fear of failure and inadequacy build fences between them and their words.

I believe that if you look hard enough and long enough at almost any topic and you’ll find something about it to pique your interest. If you observe, listen, taste, and feel your way around a subject, you WILL find entry into the world of that particular story or song or character.

Life is fascinating. Humans are amazing and frustrating and complex. The world is beautiful, ugly, dark and light. You, dear writer, are gifted with an ability to see, to tell truth, to craft story from air and dust. So get to it. Don’t tell me (or yourself!) that you can’t kindle your words and images from the tiniest spark.

Sure, you may be able to write cogent, precise, and even elegant prose. But I want fire. I want to hear your heart sing and read the music of your words. I want to immerse myself in your story–be it real or fiction. Give me truth either way. Make me burn with you. Ignite my curiosity and stoke my energy. Help me see between, around, and through your words.

Go now. Dig deeply into your place of passion and fire. Take any kernel of reality or fantasy and set yourself on creative fire. Don’t tell me you can’t. Do not rely on your head and your reason; they may only disappoint and stifle you. They will tell you 1,000 reasons you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t. Go now. Create a conflagration. Tell me. Show me. Make fireworks of those words. Burn, baby, burn.

(Photo by matthewvenn used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)



The Curious Case of the Missing “T”

Not too long ago I sent a news release to the local newspaper about a Girl Scout in our parish who completed a meditation garden on church property as her Silver Award project. I try to be conscious of the fact that small town papers are notoriously understaffed and will usually print something that is decently written and provides solid information and quotes. Photographs are almost always welcome, especially if they show action instead of a posed shot with people lined up like smiling bowling pins. Anything the submitter of the news release can do to make life easier for the editor is a good thing and enhances one’s chance of seeing a story in print.

I was delighted to see a week later that the paper had printed our story in its entirety with minimal editing–photo included. It looked like every “i” was dotted and “t” crossed. But wait! Surely not! Oh, yes. The omission of one lower case letter “t” in the headline had changed our lovely m-e-d-i-t-a-t-i-o-n garden into a m-e-d-i-a-t-i-o-n garden.

Most people probably never even caught the error. Our eyes and brain cover a multitude of proofing sins. Yet all it took was the careless omission of one letter to change the meaning of an entire headline. It was an error that eluded the spell checker and the copy editor, and truthfully it almost eluded my own eagle editing eye.

So what’s the point? Proof. Proof. Proof some more. Never assume that spell check has your back. Find the best strategies for proofing your work word by word. I prefer to read from the end to the beginning one word at a time when copy editing. I also find it helpful to read aloud when hunting for mistakes and grammatical errors.

Mistakes happen. Some are more costly than others. Minimizing the potential for careless errors through diligent proof reading is crucial–whether you are a copy editor at a small town newspaper, a staff editor at a major publishing house, or a blogger. Make the most of your words and treat them with care. Oh, and don’t let random letters go missing.

I suppose one could participate in mediation in a meditation garden. The only question that comes to mind is this one: could the result be silent mediation or lively meditation? Perhaps we’ll never know. That may be just as well.

(Photo by Looking Glass used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)

But I Don’t Wanna . . .

Ever felt like this? Have you ever sat down at your desk to write and been struck by a mental thunderbolt of the “me no wanna” variety? Most of us have, I suppose. The question is what should one do in response.

Basically you have two choices: to write or not to write. There are advantages and disadvantages to each decision. Only you can decide what works for you.

If you choose to growl, grumble, and get on with it, you will end up with words on a page, even if they only resemble something like this:

I do not want to write today.
I do not want to write today.
I do not want to write today.

If you are lucky and your muse is helpful, you will transcend the doldrums and produce some weighty and/or wonderful words–perhaps mediocre ones will even suffice.

On the other hand, if you decide to put down your pen or put your computer to sleep you may get some much needed time to recharge your creative batteries. You could:

  • Take a walk along the lake shore. (If there’s no lake shore nearby, you’ll just have to improvise; after all, you are a writer and creative thinker.)
  • Eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream without so much as one minute shred of guilt.
  • Go take a nap in your hammock or lawn chair or bed. Heck, the floor will do in a pinch.
  • Check out a movie at a nearby theatre. If it’s hot and you have no air-conditioning, this could be an excellent choice. Do yourself a favor and choose an Indie film like Moonrise Kingdom.
  • Dance in your underwear to ridiculous music. Laugh out loud. Chase the dog or cat around the house. Play the drums on pots and pans in the kitchen with Benny Goodman’s big band playing “Sing Sing Sing” in the background. Do something completely out of character but completely legal.

Whichever path you choose on a “no wanna” kind of day, trust it is the right one for the present moment. If you do decide to walk away for just one day, that’s o.k. Sometimes a break is the only option for your creative and mental health. Just be sure to sit back down tomorrow and get back to the business and passion of your craft. You are, after all, a writer. And writers write.

Photo by Valentin Ottone used under Creative Commond License. Thanks!