I discuss the business of writing and the pros and cons of writing full-time.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of”Sand in the Desert.”
Tell us something about yourself?
I’m originally from the UK but came to Rome, Italy in July 2001 for 3 days and ended up staying. I’ve been happily married to my lovely Italian husband since 2006 and together we have two amazing little boys.
I enjoy experimenting with my writing and trying out new genres. As well as working on my books I also do freelance writing work for clients.
I’m a social media junky. I LOVE it and have profiles everywhere. As a writer I get to combine two of my passions, writing and marketing.
How did you come to write your book?
My 4 years son asked me why I hadn’t written a book for him. I figured he made a good point and so wrote Out and About at the Zoo inspired by the first time I took him to the zoo. I decided to make it rhyming text as that’s his favorite type of book.
You both wrote and illustrated your book. Do you have any training as an artist?
I studied art and design at college and have always loved indulging my creative side. This was my first time using a graphic program though and it was a huge learning curve. I hadn’t taken into account the technical stuff like transparencies, layers, embedding etc… It was fun though and I’m already working on my next children’s picture book.
What tools did you use in creating the art work in your book?
I used Adobe illustrator. I started by drawing to-scale sketches of each page layout and then scanned them into my computer to use as a guide.
Why did you decide to write a book about zoo animals?
My son LOVES animals. When I asked him who he wanted in the story with him he just gave me a list of animals. Using our trip to the zoo seemed like the perfect solution.
How did you pick the animals in your story?
I made a list of all the animals we’d seen during our visit to the zoo and then picked the ones that fitted best with the flow of the story.
How do you feel that living in Italy and knowing Italian has affected you as a writer?
It makes me simplify more.
You have two small children. How do you find time to write?
I write when I can. It’s not easy as I have to grab 5 minutes here and there when I get the chance or stay up late after they’ve gone to bed. One of the great things about Out and About at the Zoo is that it gave me the chance to involve them in my work.
My 4 year old was a great help and not at all shy about giving me his feedback. It was an excellent motivation to get everything finished as he was constantly asking “mum is it finished yet?”
What are you working on now?
I’m working on another rhyming children’s picture about a young fairy called May that dreams of one day becoming a tooth fairy.
I’m also working on a chick-lit and a non-fiction book about social media.
What’s the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?
The best would have to be to believe in myself and not under value my talents. Luckily I haven’t been given any bad advice yet.
Where can readers find your book?
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.it and all the other Amazon European sites plus CreateSpace.com
They can also find information about the book and my current promotional tour at my website www.JoLinsdell.com
Five Ways to Cut the Distractions and Start Writing Now, guest post by Alexis MacDonald
Anyone who has ever written anything significant, whether a term paper, a blog or the Great American Novel, has had to deal, now and again, with some of the usual writers’ bugaboos, like having one’s brain turn from a rich pasture of literary abundance to a whiteboard without a second’s notice. Right up there with the empty brain issue would be the wandering mind; one minute racing along on a shiny, well-organized train of thought and then floating aimlessly like a leaf on the wind the very next, or, suddenly mesmerized by one of the gadgets on your tool bar that you had somehow never noticed until this very second.
These things happen to just about everyone, and usually aren’t totally disastrous, unless you’re on deadline, in which case they can definitely throw a huge monkey wrench into the wheels of progress. So taking the distraction issue as a start, and beginning with the assumption that there is no such thing as a totally distraction-free working environment, how can a writer control and at least minimize distractions when work is where your wandering mind needs to be at that very moment?
Some would definitely argue that it is not only possible, but mandatory to create a distraction-free writing environment. Look, if you have the kind of creative mind we’re discussing here, and there are no distractions in the environment, your brain will create some for you, so whether they’re external or internal, distractions will happen, but they can be dealt with. Here are a few things that may be helpful in keeping some measure of focus when you need to get something coherent down on paper.
1. Try to pick topics that really interest you. If the material is interesting to you, then there is a greater likelihood that you will be able to maintain your attention span on point and organize your material in a sufficiently logical progression to make it interesting to your reader.
2. Do your homework and work from notes, especially if it’s a topic on which you aren’t naturally well-informed. You can get a lot of the mind-wandering out of your system while you’re putting together your notes and doing your research, so when it’s time to put the actual piece together, the material is familiar to you and you’re not as likely to be tempted to Google yourself off a cliff.
3. Closely related to this is organization. Do not write notes on scraps of paper, folded up dinner napkins or post-its strewn across your monitor and wall. When you’re doing research for an article create a folder in your computer and put everything there. If you absolutely must write something on the back of your day-timer while you’re thinking of it, then transfer it to your computer immediately when you get home, otherwise, distractions will be the least of your worries as you’re digging for critical pieces of information that have fallen into a black hole of post-it hell.
4. If you find yourself starting to wander, stop right there and take a break. Walk around, get a cold drink, stretch a little and then come back to the issue at hand with a refreshed perspective. Sometimes the best way to save time is to take a couple of minutes away from what you’re doing. This puts up a roadblock on that winding little path your mind was about to start heading down and brings you back to the place you need to be.
5. Finally, while there are applications out there that offer a variety of ways to get you to focus on the writing task at hand, if you really need to get an app to do this you may be beyond hope. You’re a writer. You are creative. You can do this.
Alexis is a freelance writer who specializes in pregnancy topics. She is currently writing on pregnancy symptoms and putting together a period calculator that she hopes will be useful to moms-to-be!
Perhaps you are an aspiring food writer who imagines that tasting exotic foods sounds like an amazing career. Maybe you envy the food critics you see getting free food and special treatment at upscale restaurants. If you’re like most people, you imagine that a food writer’s life is one of incredible foods and great service at restaurants. The truth, as is often the case, is much more complex.
Food writers have to try out a range of dishes even if they are not particularly fond of those dishes. Some foods, such as tofu, are difficult to eat if you do not enjoy the texture. This dislike happens regardless of how deftly a chef may prepare the ingredient. Overlooking these personal preferences is a big part of learning to be an effective food writer. The question becomes “how would this dish taste if I enjoyed eating tofu” rather than the simple “how was this dish” question that most people consider when they try a new food.
For food writers who eat specialty diets, the willingness to try out new and exciting foods is even more important. Gluten-free and non-allergen dishes often have some type of attempt at duplicating the offending foods. Something that is casein-free, for example, will eliminate all dairy but also other foods with milk proteins. These chefs may try to make a flavorful cream sauce without any actual cream. Being able to try these foods and give an honest review of them for other people can be challenging, especially if the taste is good but not similar to the replaced ingredient.
Beyond just eating and evaluating food differently, writers who cover food also must expand their food vocabulary. When people eat an enjoyable meal, they often repeatedly use words like “delicious” or “amazing” or simply “wow.” Those words won’t cut it for a food writer. Instead, she needs to be able to explain the slightly sweet, nutty flavor of a specialty cheese or explain the burst of flavor from eating a well-made soup. Food writers learn over time to process food differently while they eat it.
One learns to taste the individual ingredients, rather than the whole of the food, which requires a change in the way that one eats. When eating something like a sizzling Cantonese side dish, the food writer will try to evaluate the strength of the flavor of the cabbage, the texture of the noodles, and the crunchiness of the steamed veggies added to the dish. This variety of tastes and textures requires slower eating. Taking smaller bites and savoring them helps the food writer to make a clearer evaluation of the food.
Though it requires changing how one experiences a fundamental life tasks to write about food, the rewards are indeed worth it. Food writers do get to try out fun foods, learn more about how their food got to their plate, and talk to chefs about their food preparation. These benefits make any challenges about food writing worth it for avowed foodies.
About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a grant researcher and writer for CulinarySchools.org. Along with her passion for whipping up recipes that incorporate “superfoods”, she recently finished research on .
From me: I’ve always been interested in the different ways we can view language, so this post is right up my alley.
Oh, yes, and do check out the new edition of Carolyn’s book, The Frugal Book Promoter
I am helping celebrate the release of the second edition (New! and Expanded!) Frugal Book Promoter–now available for Kindle (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkProKindle). Please read further for an essay on how we English speakers use the word “I.”
Using “I” As a Conceit
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success
I don’t know when I learned the word “conceited.” I was raised in Utah where most of us didn’t use “conceit” in the sense of an elaborate or strained metaphor but rather to mean that someone thought they were extra-super special. The little girl across the street who snubbed me because I didn’t wear long stockings with garters (which was an immediate tipoff that I was not her kind) was “conceited” rather than prejudiced. The kid who was quick to make a point of how bright he was when I made a mistake was “conceited” rather than arrogant (or insecure). Gawd! I loved the word “conceited.” I could apply it to so many situations and avoid learning new vocabulary words.
Of course, in a culture where being extra-super humble was valued, I soon noticed that our English language is, indeed, “conceited.”
I’m speaking of the way we capitalize the pronoun “I.” None of the other pronouns are capped. So what about this “I,” standing tall no matter where you find it in a sentence?
Recently as I tutored students in accent reduction and American culture I noticed that some languages (like Japanese) seem to do quite well without pronouns of any sort. I did a little research. Some languages like Hebrew and Arabic don’t capitalize any of their letters and some, like German, capitalize every darn noun. So, English—a Germanic language at its roots—just carried on the German proclivity for caps.
But the question remained. Why only the “I?” Why not “them” and “you” and all the others. Caroline Winter, a 2008 Fulbright scholar, says “England was where the capital “I” first reared its dotless head . . . .Apparently someone back then decided that just “i” after it had been diminished from the original Germanic ‘ich’ was not substantial enough to stand alone.” It had to do with an artistic approach to fonts. The story goes that long ago in the days of handset type or even teletype machines little sticks and dots standing all alone looked like broken bits of lead or scrappy orphan letters.
Then there is the idea that religion played a part in capitalizing the “I.” Rastafarians (and some others, too) think in terms of humankind as being one with God and therefore—one has to presume—it would be rather blasphemous not to capitalize “I” just as one does “God.” Capitals, after all, are a way to honor a word or concept.
Which, of course, brings us back to the idea that we speakers of English are just plain “conceited.”
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program, and author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (www.budurl.com/TheFrugalEditor ) and its companion booklet, Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy (www.budurl.com/WordTrippersPB) .But Maggie is helping to celebrate the New! Expanded! And now USA Book News award-winning! Frugal Book Promoter! http://budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo) Thank you, Maggie!
I’m in the process of creating a protagonist for a new humorous mystery series, called Persephone Cole and the _______ (insert subject here). It’s agony. Getting to know a person — even a fictitious one — takes time, thought, energy, trial and error. Sometimes they get pissed off and you don’t know why. Sometimes they laugh when you think they should cry. You thought they’d like bagels in the morning but they don’t. A living, breathing character, even one on paper, has a will of his or her own. It’s maddening.
It brings to mind the latest of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Death Runs in the Family, which debuts in May. One of the central characters takes off for Rio de Janeiro, just like that, out of the blue. I mean, excuse me? I don’t know anything about Rio de Janeiro. I’ve never been to Rio de Janeiro. I’m sure it’s a terrific place, but come on; I’ve got a novel to write. Then this character has the effrontery to park herself in Ipanema, a fancy schmancy beachside community, and at a pretty posh place. What now? So I did scads of research, which took me weeks and weeks, cursing the day this character was born, even though I birthed her. Some kids are really ungrateful.
Thank Gawd, Lee Alvarez, the protagonist for the Alvarez Family series, has never betrayed me like this…yet. I’m waiting. I need to be careful. Every now and then Lee does something I’m not expecting her to do. She isn’t your typical protagonist and it’s starting to worry me. She’s funny, impulsive, smart, talented, loves dancing, handbags and a good joke. She knows her own worth, but has moments of self-doubt. She also has a mind of her own. These are all recipes for danger for the wretched author.
Agatha Christie hated Hercule Poirot. She wanted to dump him like crazy, unwrite him, banish him. She was sick and tired of him going his way when she wanted him to go hers. Like Arthur Conan Doyle, she even killed him off. But Holmes came back four years later and I suspect Poirot is wandering around London searching for an unsuspecting author to give him voice. I say, be careful England’s writers. Avoid any egg-shaped little guy with a mustache.
But back to me and my characters. I keep creating these strong women with minds of their own who breathe disdain for anyone who tells them what to do. Pity this poor novelist. I’m in for it, I can tell.
Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. In her career, she’s written short stories, novels, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and even ghost-wrote a book.
Her first two novels of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Murder is a Family Business, and A Wedding To Die For are now out in bundle at MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=227&category_id=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1
The 3rd of the series, Death Runs in the Family, will be out in May 2012. Heather says they are a joy to write. She gets to be all the characters, including the cat! She lives in San Jose, California, with her husband and, yes, two cats.
Follow Heather’s blog at: http://tinyurl.com/4nensnp
Murder is a Family Business Youtube book trailer:
A Wedding to Die For Youtube book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE5dfVzMRzA
Follow Lee’s daily Twitters at: http://twitter. com/PILeeAlvarez
Talent Is Cheap
Stephen King said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” From a man who has published 49 books thus far, these words speak for a lot of writing experience combined with more hard work. You may or may not be a Stephen King fan, but the truth of his commercial success lies in the sales numbers, devoted fans, and bestseller list status. I believe what Stephen King says about talent being cheap. It’s abundant out in the world. There are countless writers who craft eloquent and mesmerizing stories…and they never make it. Here’s what I believe to be the magic formula for becoming a successful author: Talent + Hard Work + Opportunity = Success.
Writing is hard work. I’m not just talking about the act of putting words on paper. There is much more to the business than turning a blank page into a great story. Most of the writers I know study craft, write numerous drafts, critique for others, discuss techniques, attend writer meetings, and work a job that pays the bills.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers, The Story of Success, where he talks about the 10,000 hour rule. One of my favorite lines in the book is, “Achievement is talent plus some preparation.” Then Gladwell begins to talk about how small the role of talent is in relation to the bigger role of preparation. In Chapter Two, he mentions the names that we all know: Bill Gates, the Beatles, and Mozart. Gladwell says that research shows us a common component to the success of these individuals. They all worked hard pre-success by practicing for many hours- 10,000 hours at the very least.
Although talent and hard work are necessary in the beginning, you must then find an outlet for the story and people who will travel on the journey with you. Query letter writing and the pursuit of an agent or publisher are a must. This is the best way for opportunity to “drop” into your lap.
I have talked with quite a few people who say, “I’ve written an unpublished book.” The problem is that no one else knows about it. A book stored on your computer is about as useful as singing in the shower. You only did it for the recreation. It fulfilled you in some way. There’s nothing wrong with that if that makes you happy.
If you didn’t write the story purely for the act of writing itself, then you must take the next step and find your opportunity. You can seek opportunity by networking and research. Engage in activities where work can be submitted. The internet makes it impossibly easy to find the people who can guide, advise, critique, and discover you. Believe me when I say that opportunity is out there. The difficult part will be selecting the best resources. You might find that some hard work helps someone discover your talent.
Summer Blog Tour Contest rules: http://www.brindaberry.com/summer-2011-blog-tour.html
About the author: Brinda Berry has always loved reading about the
adventures of others. She also believes there’s a little romance in
every story ever told. Brinda lives in Arkansas with her family and a
couple of terribly spoiled cairn terriers.
Her debut YA novel, The Waiting Booth, released on July 15th, can be
found at various online bookstore links:
Barnes & Noble:
All Romance ebooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thewaitingbooth-581654-140.html
Etopia Press: http://www.etopia-press.net/shopping/pgm-more_information.php?id=51&=SID
Blurb: A missing boy, government agents, an interdimensional portal…
Mia has one goal for her senior year at Whispering Woods High—find her
missing older brother. But when her science project reveals a portal
into another dimension, she learns that travelers are moving in and
out of her woods in the most alarming way and government agents
Regulus and Arizona are policing their immigration. Mia’s drawn to the
mysterious, aloof Regulus, but it’s no time for a crush. She needs to
find out what they know about her brother, while the agents fight to
save the world from viral contamination. But when Regulus reveals that
he knows Mia’s secrets, she begins to wonder if there’s more going on
than she thought…and if she was wrong to trust him…
Focus is one’s ability to concentrate exclusively on a particular thing through effort or attention.
Determination is an unchanging intention to achieve a goal or desired end.
Perseverance takes determination a step beyond by using steady and ongoing actions over a long period of time to ensure its intention is accomplished. It continues on through ups and downs.
These elements combined with positive thinking and projection can be an unstoppable force.
I’m a huge fan of positive thinking and projection. I believe our mind has a great influence over our well being and the direction our life can take. Granted, it’s not always easy to harness that influence, but there is enough content out there, including The Secret, to at least strive to think positive and project.
For example, Jack Canfield and co-creator Mark Victor Hansen, of Chicken Soup for the Soul, were rejected 144 times from publishers. Finally, in 1993, their book was accepted. Since they were in debt and couldn’t afford a publicist, they did their own promotion. In 1995, they won the Abby Award and the Southern California Publicist Award.
In a teleconference I attended with Jack Canfield as the speaker, he said he and his co-author created vision boards of what they wanted. They even took a copy of the New York Times Best Selling Page, whited out the #1 spot, and replaced it with Chicken Soup for the Soul. They put copies of it everywhere, even in the toilet. They had focus, determination, perseverance, and they envisioned and projected success. The rest is history.
On a much smaller scale, my daughter and co-author of Day’s End Lullaby, practices the philosophy of The Secret. For ten years she dreamed of being in the audience of the Oprah show. She actually got tickets twice, but for one reason or another she was unable to attend. It didn’t stop her though; she persevered and kept trying; she knew one day she’d accomplish her goal.
Well, the weekend of May 8th, 2010, Oprah had her Live Your Best Life weekend in New York City. Robyn got a ticket for the weekend event and ended up being photographed. Her photo was up on Oprah’s website. Then, in May of 2011, through amazing circumstances and a friend who works for the Discovery channel, she got to go to the next-to-last Oprah show.
So, what has this to do with you and me as writers . . . plenty . . . the elements for obtaining your goals are the same whether for business, pleasure, or writing. Just about every writer has heard the adage, it’s not necessarily the best writers who succeed; it’s the writers who persevere. Be focused and determined on your writing goals. Project success, and don’t let rejection stop you . . . persevere.
Karen Cioffi is an author and ghostwriter. Her new MG/YA fantasy book, Walking Through Walls, is based on an ancient Chinese tale:
Longing to be rich and powerful, twelve-year-old Wang studies the legend of the mystical Eternals. Certain they are real, he journeys to their temple and begins an apprenticeship with the Eternal Master. There he enters a world of magic where not everything is as it seems, and where he learns the magic formula to ‘walking through walls.’
Walking Through Walls should now be available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and book stores. If it’s not yet listed, it will be very soon!
You can also order the book today at:
To learn more about Walking Through Walls, its touring schedule and contest, and purchasing information visit: http://walkingthroughwalls-kcioffi.blogspot.com
To learn more about Karen and her books, visit:
Please be sure to stop by Magdalena Ball’s site (http://www.magdalenaball.com) on July 25th for the next stop on the Walking Through Walls Tour.
Evaluating Online Writing Programs
Online writing programs are a great way for working adults to earn their degree without having to give up their 9 to 5 bread-and-butter. Shorter, non-degree workshops and courses also offer writers of all levels the chance to fine tune their writing and to get feedback from others. However, all online courses are not created equal. If you decide that you would like to take courses online, be sure to carefully evaluate all your options. Here are some things to consider:
Type of Program
Online writing courses are available for all needs. There are online degree programs (for a BA, MA, or MFA), as well as certificate programs and non-credit courses. Some intensive writing workshops are also available online, and they can last for a day or a few weeks. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the program. Do you just want to fine tune your writing or work on some problem areas? Or do you want an intense course of study that can advance your professional goals? Each of these programs will have a different focus and will require a different time commitment – as well as varying financial commitments.
What is the focus of the program? Some may offer guidance on all types of writing, while others may focus on particular forms, such as the novel, short story, or memoir. Make sure that your goals line up with the goals of the program. Look at all the required courses and read the descriptions. Also, make sure that the level is appropriate for your current skill set. Are the courses geared toward beginners or more advanced students with some previous training or experience? Before you commit, be sure that the program will be able to meet your needs and help you advance your goals.
Though a successful writing career is not necessarily an indication that a person will be a good teacher, the experience of the professors in your program is an important factor to consider. You will be able to draw on that experience in your own studies. The more experienced and well-known professors teach in the program, the better its reputation will be, as well. If a program has many beginning instructors, do a little research to find out more about them: What was their education? What kind of writing have they done? Have they been published?
Since you will be taking your courses online, you won’t have the benefit of face-to-face interaction or just popping by your professor’s office to ask a question or have a conversation about your work. Find out what level of interaction you will be able to have with your professors. Will there be virtual office hours? Can you e-mail or call when you have a question? How extensive will the feedback be on your work? If the course will rely primarily on peer feedback, be sure you know that ahead of time.
One of the most important aspects of any educational program – whether online or not – is its accreditation and reputation. Always look for a program that is regionally or nationally accredited. Accreditation verifies that the program meets a set of core standards, and this speaks to the rigor and value of the program. Also consider the reputation of the school. If you are seeking a degree or professional advancement, the reputation of your school can impact the opportunities you have.
Choosing an online program is based on a number of personal considerations. However, these factors make for a good starting point when evaluating a new program. Do your research and ask a lot of questions. Make sure the program will work for you and your goals.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blogger for First in Education where she’s recently written on technical writing careers along with a piece on paramedic jobs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, playing piano, and working with origami.
technical writing careers http://www.onlinedegrees.org/calculator/occupations/technical-writers
A bio is something all writers should have, whether it’s for a blog or website, byline, query/cover letter, book proposal, workshop flyer, pitch, or book jacket cover.
Want to re-work your bio? Here are some writing exercises to help you out:
1. Write, Don’t Think: Read your current bio. Put it aside. and rewrite it using free-writing/stream-of-consciousness.
2. Talk Your Bio. Either to a friend or to an audio recorder. Or, if you have just returned from a networking event, much of your experience may be on the top of your head—write it down!
3. Interview. Ask your friends and former co-workers about your strengths and accomplishments, and see how they see you.
Then, read, re-write, revise, read, polish, repeat.
Make sure your bio is written in your tone and style, because, like with a query, that is what you are promoting. Every bio is different, just as every writer is different. The point is to have fun, and let your personality come through your words.
Also, you should always have a short pitch of yourself to relay at any time. You never know who you are going to meet … so, be ready.
To help you practice “short and sweet,” the June Write On! Challenge is a Tweeting Contest. Describe yourself in 140 characters or less More info on the website. Write on!
Debra Eckerling is the creator of Write On! Online, a website and community for writers. Debra, a communications specialist and writing coach, has written for national, local, trade, and online publications. Follow Write On! Online on Twitter and “like” on Facebook.