Monday, April 30, 2007

Get organized... and make more money!

If there is one thing that can be a time waster (read: money waster), itis disorganization. Last year I was exploring the nether-regions of my email program's archive folders and I found an acceptance from a regional parenting publication on an essay I sent out.

Now, I haven't sent anything out in a long, long time... this email was from 2003! I hadn't followed up and I had definitely not received a check. Had I been more organized and remembered to follow up, I would have made more money and maybe even broken into a market that I have been considering for a long time.

Here's now I became more organized.

Organize your week by having certain tasks set for certain days:

Monday: Querying
Tuesday: Accounting
Wednesday: Refueling
Thursday: Admin/Filing (this includes your email inbox!)
Friday: Idea Harvesting
Saturday: Market Search

You only need to spend an hour on each task, maybe less. Then you can spend more time writing and you won't have to worry that those icky details are taken care of each week.

Querying: Look over your notes to decide which idea (or ideas) you'd like to query today. Match them up with your target market and craft at least one query.

Accounting: Check on overdue invoices, calculate your expenses from the previous week.

Refueling: Take time to read a book of fiction, pick up your bible and read or watch an inspirational movie. Recharge, it's that horrible Wednesday slump!

Admin/Filing: Clean up that desk and make sure everything is filed away.This also includes your email inbox! Check on pending emails or phone calls you are supposed to return.

Idea Harvesting: Read every magazine or newspaper that you subscribe to and make notes on topics you might have something to say about. Read your bible for ideas, pick your favorite bible story and see if there's a correlation between it and your life. Put these notes aside, let them stew over the weekend and see which ones you can query on Monday.

Market Search: Couldn't you just get lost in this task? Identify a few target markets and read about them, make notes, bookmark and highlight those you are interested in.

As today is Monday, I sent out three queries. Two are still out there and one was retured with a rejection but a request for a requery. YAY!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Velocity of Writing

The definition of velocity is the distance traveled per unit of time. Or it can mean rapidity or speed of motion; swiftness.

This is a key ingredient to writing effectively. You must increase the velocity of your writing.

Some people 'free write' or do 'freefall writing'. Some people write morning pages ala Julia Cameron. (I've been trying those myself, but I am not a morning person so my pages tend to be quite negative.)

It is all related. The key to get writing, it to git to gittin' it and git writing.

Oh would that we could all do that, right?

You can.

It's not easy. I've sat there, staring at the blank screen, being mesmerized by that blank, white space that seems to be swallowing my confidence and drive whole and without pausing to chew it. The only way I've found is to make yourself write. It may be crap. It probably will be crap.

There have been many times that I've started off with:

"Put witty beginning here that pinpoints the market challenges."
"..something here about background info..."
"In XXXX, Paul began buying up property around WHERE THE HECK DID HE LIVE and building LOW INCOME?ECONOMICAL?..."
"something about the horses blah blah blah.."

As I'm writing my book, I often come across parts that need further investigation. But I know that if I stop to research it, I will find myself surfing and wasting time. So I highlight an area and write CHECK or RESEARCH in block lettering so I won't miss it when I'm editing or reviewing what I've written.

You must increase the velocity of your writing if you ever want to get writing with kids around. You may only have five minutes while waiting for school to get out, or ten minutes when both kids are blessedly down for their naps, or a half hour before everyone gets up.

If you ponder and wonder about the perfect way to write that opening sentance, you risk losing important minutes - seconds even! - of writing time.

By increasing your velocity, you increase the word count and increase your odds of finding the perfect wording, the perfect sentance. Sure, you'll have to prune and edit away the crap, but you have something to work with. You have a body of work, fat, plump and ripe for the carving. It can be hard to carve a blank page.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Low Spot

There are many, many boys in my son's Kindergarten class. All of them full of snails and puppy dog tails and mischievious looks as they shoot bad guys with their fingers and spray spittle around the room.

My son, as I may have mentioned before, is the shortest in the class. He had a rough beginning at the start of the year. He has my temper but not the three decades of anger managment work under his belt. (Well, almost three decades.)

Yesterday he was supposed to go to a playdate with another boy in his class. He'd never been to this boy's house. I just met his mom for the first time last week on the day the two boys decided they liked to hang out. She seemed ok, so we said that Thursday my son would go over to their house. There are three brothers all together and I thought that perhaps my son would enjoy the rough and tumble afternoon. He'd probably come back with a war wound, but it'd be a long way from his heart, I'm sure.

But yesterday, Thursday, came and went and I just sort of forgot. I remembered half-way through the day but I figured my son had forgotten and there was a little boy here I was watching for the day, and, well, I just didn't think about it. My mom picked up my son and brought him home and he didn't remember it at all.

Except I found out today that the other boy did. He asked over and over when my son was coming.

I found out today that this other little boy has been having trouble in school. Suddenly his friends don't want to be friends with him. Suddenly they push him away and say "we don't want to play with you". And apparently his teacher (not my son's teacher) isn't much help.

She said sometimes he comes home from school and cries. He doesn't want to cry at school, even though it would bring attention to his distress. The teacher just doesn't believe that he's gone from the popular kid to the outcast, it seems (there are always many sides).

But where my son wears his feelings right out there on his sleeve, this little boy keeps them hidden in his pocket.

I feel horrible. I can only imagine that this poor guy felt rejected when we didn't show up, with no explanation. In my defense, I couldn't find his mom's number, but I could have looked harder. I found it today.

I asked my son to go say sorry to his friend and to promise that we'd get together next week. I need to fix this.

Monday, April 23, 2007

By the fingernails I tell you

I am hanging on to my twenties by my fingernails. I do not want to let them go. I am going to miss "my twenties". So full of mistakes and trips and falls and wringing of hands... you'd think I'd want to bid them fond farewell and open my arms wide to my thirties, wouldn't you?

Not so.

I am afraid of my thirties. Afraid of not doing all those things that I said I'd do "before I'm thirty". Can I cram them all in in the next two months? Or maybe if I do them by the time I'm 31 I can say I did them "when I was 30".

Goodness I can still remember when I wanted to write a novel by the time I was 20!

So I bring you 20 things I loved about my twenties:
  1. Having children when my body still (sorta) bounced back.
  2. Reconnecting with the love of my life (read: stalking him back down and roping him for good)
  3. Finding two wonderful careers that I loved and figuring out a way to combine them.
  4. Learning that it's not all about my opinion.
  5. Learning that it's not all about your opinion either.
  6. Turning a hobby into a career and finding some great hobbies to replace it.
  7. Learning how to manage my own money before I had to manage money with someone. Again.
  8. Getting over (sorta) the fact that I didn't get to do the whole "college in my twenties" experience and deciding (definitely) that I'm better for it.
  9. Accepting the fact that there is no correlation between who I am and what size of jeans I wear.
  10. Learning that I am responsible enough for children... but not responsible enough for a dog.
  11. Learning what it truly means to support someone else's dreams when they need you to.
  12. Learning how to ask for help.
  13. Discovered my faith again.
  14. Forgave myself for the mistakes I made as a teenager.
  15. Found a husband who has done his own laundry for his entire adult life.
  16. Figured out how to accept my friends for who they are and learning how to let the ones go that didn't accept me for who I was.
  17. Learned that people will always show you who they are, if you listen and observe.
  18. Learned how to trust my gut instinct.
  19. Gained control of my temper.
  20. Learned how to let go.

Actually, writing out that list has helped me a little... I'm more at peace with watching my twenties go bye-bye when I realize that they have brought me so much and prepared me for my thirties.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Podcast: Secrets of The Writing Mother

This week I participated in an interview with Lyle Lachmuth. I credit Lyle for helping me to get a little 'unstuck' creatively. I may not be following his suggestions exactly (it's too coooold to go out for a walk!!) but I did take them to heart and think on them.

Part of getting unstuck is finding a catalyst. It's like getting your truck stuck in the mud. Sometimes you just need a little something to get some traction and then you need to get out on your own.

The podcast is up on The Writing Mother web site, right on the front page...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Examples of Creative Non Fiction

As per your request, here are some examples of Creative Non Fiction.
  1. The essays that won the recent Erma Bombeck contest.
  2. Christmas letters.
  3. Chicken Soup stories.
  4. Autobiographies.
  5. Biographies.
  6. True Crime stories.

Please go read the essays that won the Erma Bombeck contest, they are truly great reads. I enjoyed every one of them!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Good-bye Ms Callwood

Today, June Callwood died. She was 82. This woman was an amazing pioneer in Canada. She was the original Writing Mother. She and her husband were both writers and they worked from home. They had four children together. The Globe and Mail wrote a marvelous recount of her life. I offer some exceprts.

Motherhood, which Ms. Callwood embraced fulsomely, also turned her into a freelance writer as a way of earning money while staying home with her children.
She wrote her first magazine article (for Liberty Magazine, earning $50) about Violet Milstead, the instructor who was teaching her how to fly a single engine Aeronica Superchief.

She wrote her way through the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70, 80s and 90s. Yes, over six decades of writing. She wrote past the millenium and continued to be an activist in many areas. Not all I personally agreed with, but what does that matter, really. She had a style about her.

When she went to the aid of a demonstrator who was under arrest, she was herself
arrested, hauled off to the notorious Don Jail and charged with obstructing the police. Pierre Berton (obituary Dec. 1, 2004) testified on her behalf at her trial and she was acquitted, but the experience turned her into a social activist, albeit one who was always dressed to the nines complete with earrings, high-heeled shoes and matching handbag.

There is so much to be said about her, so much that I wish I'd known before her passing. You can read a transcript here of her appearance before the Senate in 2004.

We freelancers have been having a very difficult time, because the newspapers and magazines on which we depend — because you cannot make money on books, unless you are privileged to be Margaret Atwood — are depending more on their staff. It is cheaper to hire a freelancer than it is to hire staff, because there are no benefits and, for all the obvious reasons, it is the easiest job to cut.

She was such a beacon.
If you see an injustice being committed, you aren't an observer, you are a
participant.” That didn't mean you had to intervene, she explained, but you
couldn't pretend that you weren't a part of what was happening in front of you.

Her death is a loss. I think the writing community still has much to learn from her.

Friday, April 13, 2007

You should know...

... I am not immune to panic and procrastination.

Right now I have deadlines. Two or three or four... this weekend is my deadline, well today is my deadline for some...

But instead I'm wandering, making more coffee, checking email... ripping some music from my cds...

Do you do this?

Here's what you do. You just sit down and write. Just sit your butt down and write. I preach it. And now I'm going to go practice it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Someone slow down the world please. Pretty please?

Last week my baby girl, 8 months, got her first tooth. This week, my big boy, 5 years, is losing his first tooth.

Why are they growing up so fast!?

I may have overscheduled us for the spring/summer... or the sprunger as it's known in Canuckistan.

My son is enrolled in Gymnastics, T-Ball and Soccer. The baby is enrolled in swimming lessons. We're scheduled Sunday to Thursday. Ooops. I was just talking the other day about getting some 'me' time in a couple nights a week. Then I paid all the fees up for these sports... tonight I was talking to a friend and mentioned my me time plan.

And remembered the upcoming schedule. Crap.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TV Addiction

I think I have it.

I've talked to a few writers who have given up television so that they can become better, more productive writers.

My first reaction is "uh, no, not for me". How would I know if Kate chooses Sawyer or Jack (totally Sawyer), or if Meredith is no longer dark and twisty this week, or if Kitty is a horrible step-mother, or where the heck ER has gone to?

I don't so much love day time TV. I watch 100 Huntley Street at 9 am, that's really my only show. But still the TV is on all day. I have to have that background noise.

But what if I didn't? What if I stopped watching all television during the day and I really did become a better and more productive writer?

A big hurdle would be the kids. My son is five. He knows about Sponge Bob. He knows about Teletoons. I don't think he'll take too kindly to the "but it's better for us, honey" spiel.

I'm not sure what my hang up is. I like the shows, I like TV, I don't want my kids addicted, but I'm so intrigued (and a little jealous) of those that have the fortitude to cut it out of their lives.

Friday, April 06, 2007

What is Creative Non-Fiction?

This question came up in a group that I belong to. The answers varied and the definition couldn't really be agreed upon. However, I offer to you some ideas of what I believe creative non fiction is:

It uses fiction techniques such as characterization, plotting, setting and dialogue to write a piece of non fiction.

It uses actual people and events to tell a story.

It is written from personal experience or it tells the story of someone else.

It uses forms such as letter, memoirs, blog posts, biographies, autobiographies...

Wikipedia defines it as:

Creative nonfiction, also known as literary journalism and narrative journalism, which uses literary skills in the writing of nonfiction. A work of creative nonfiction, if well written, contains accurate and well-researched information and also holds the interest of the reader. Creative nonfiction is contrasted with "research nonfiction" which may contain accurate information, but may not be particularly well written and may not hold the attention of the reader very well.

If you are interested in joining The Writing Mother Creative Non Fiction group, head over here!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Just another day at the office

What does your writing space look like?

If it's anything like mine:

Then it's probably messy!

I do have a desk in my bedroom, it's a corner desk and my regular computer is there. But for actually getting writing done during the day, I need to be out among the masses. (The desk in the room leaves little room for kids)

So I sit here, in the living room with a TV tray in front of me. I sit on the piano bench. The kids play around the rest of the room. My five year old isn't always up for playing with the baby, but the mornings are usually spent together. (The TV isn't always ON, I should mention.)

Notice that the baby has copious amounts of padding around her. She's in this kind of spastic, body-flinging phase.

In fact, I have a confession to make. Yesterday she launched herself off of the bed. Yes. Off the bed. I managed to go five and a half years without dropping a kid and I've let this one fall twice. Gah.

I saw her do it and I just wasn't fast enough. She was sitting in the middle of the bed, kind of cross legged. She leaned forward and I thought, "oh, she's going to try crawling". At that moment she kicked her feet and FLEW off the bed. She landed on her cheek, which I thought was going to bruise, but hasn't. Yet.

This is another reason why I won't be writing in my bedroom any more, unless she's asleep, I can't turn my back on her while she's sitting on the bed.

I remember when I could just lay her down and she'd fall asleep on the bed behind me, but we've entered a new era now. The Mobile Era.

You will also notice TWO bouncy chair-type thingies. The Jumparoo in the top pic and the exersaucer in the second. We perfer to call them the "Circle of Neglect". I still baby wear, I still have my sling, but it doesn't work as well now, she's a little bored playing with my lips, nose, eyes and hair... and to be honest, it hurts like heck when she does. So she gets to play with things now... on her own.

I don't actually neglect her, when she cries or fusses, I pick her up, foresaking the writing. I find that if I do that (let her play independently until she wants me) then she goes for longer periods of time playing on her own. It's amazing that she can be entertained by a stuffed animal or single toy for twenty minutes.

So there you go. I feel like the internets have seen my underwear or something... anyone else want to share?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It's going...

It's going and going and going.

I wonder if I have any advice on "how to write a book". I mean, I am actully writing one, right?

Sometimes writers ask how they can write a book, a query, an article and I feel like I have no answer for them.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

This book gets written one word at a time. If I get up from this chair once, I get up a hundred times. There's the baby to right (after she topples) and the kindergartener to pick up from school and coffee to make.

One word at a time until at least 1000 words are written each day. Sometimes I write more, sometimes (but rarely) I write less.

It's not easy. Even the most boring topic is still writing, it's still creating. Creating takes energy, sweat, tears even. The guy who flips my burgers can still flip them when he's distracted, tired and cranky. Have you tried to write this way? But you still must do it.

One word at a time. That is the only way.

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

Tax Tips for American Writers

Now, I'm Canadian, so I don't know one whit about the US tax system except for one thing: Americans get to write off the interest on their mortgage.

Well, that and Americans pay way less tax than I do!

But the Paperback Writer has some more information for you as well as some resources. Check her out!

Also posting tax tips is Debbie Ridpath Ohi on her blog Will Write for Chocolate. I have only JUST found Debbie's blog, so I shall go peruse now... seems she has some tips for those of us North of the 49th as she's a Canuck too.