Writing Tip – Just Write Part 2

Good Morning! Here’s the Monday Morning Blog continued…

Check in with that teenager in your life yet this week?

On Monday, I left you with the idea of Just Write. It sounds pretty vague, I’m sure. I talked about how to brainstorm ideas to write about. Either by using writing prompts you can find online by Googling the words ‘Writing Prompt’ or by looking up or across the room and start writing about the first thing you see. In my case, it’s our family’s antique desk and chair, one which was in my parents house growing up, but is now in mine.

In the Just Write format, I just write, not much editing happens in this method. It is more to get what your mind comes up with down on paper. So, here is my Just Write exercise for this morning.

Our Antique Writing Desk

The Writing Desk

It is a writing desk with a fold down top. The one which used to be in my parents’ living room in the house I grew up in. The antique chair that is with it now isn’t the original chair. The original chair was more square with a seat covered in black vinyl. I like the antique chair better. It seems to fit the look and maybe I like the rounded edges a little bit better.

Above the desk is a picture that we found while cleaning out some of my parents things. It also has a memory as Jim’s grandfather would mention wanting a Pierce Arrow, the kind of car which is featured on the print.

On the top of the desk we are displaying my oldest son’s high school dimploma. I remember the day he received it. It was a big day! It took him a little longer to get it done, but he did. He is a smart one, just needed a little more motivation to do it. I remember the struggle to get him up in the morning to go to school each day. Steps to get it done.

The other item on the desk is a ceramic bowl. This used to be where we kept the car keys when we lived at our prior place, the condo. Now we have our keys hanging from hooks close to the back door which goes out into the garage. It used to be only one set, now it is four. That reminds me of when the kids were learning to drive. Now they are almost 21 (in October) and 19.

That’s just a quick Just Write example. I keep these writing samples in notebooks or computer files. I do use them from time to time to help build a short story or a novel. But many times it turns out to be just a writing exercise that helps me get my creative juices flowing, or brings to mind some very beloved memories.

Deep Valley Virtual Book Festival

Be sure to check out the Deep Valley Virtual Book Festival this weekend! October 3rd and 4th. I will be participating, virtually. I’m really excited about being involved and also seeing how the whole event works. They have done a great job in over coming the obstacles put into place by COVID to make the festival happen. Here is a link to their site Deep Valley Virtual Book Festival.

The Way Series

The Hard Way – Book #1 in The Way Series

Make sure you check out my author page at the festival! You’ll be able to pick up a copy of The Hard Way and if you send me a copy of the receipt, you can get an autographed book plate to put in your book! There will also be a little teaser about book two, Shawn’s Way, available on my page. Not sure what The Hard Way is all about? Check out the books tab on my website and if you sign up for my email list, you can preview the first chapter of The Hard Way for free!

Stop by my website again this Friday to learn more about Just Write.

Hope you are all having a great week!

Sunday Morning

Happy First Day of Spring everyone! Follow me on my journey through Sunday Morning, the one that I experienced yesterday. I took the time to be in the moment. And it felt amazing.

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After coming back inside from a nice morning walk with our dog Maggie, I mixed up my favorite chai tea latte and heated it up. After the microwave beeped and took the cup from the microwave, I considered how quiet the house was with Sam and the boys still asleep. I looked over and saw Maggie standing in the kitchen staring at me, wondering what I was doing. I was leaning against the counter typing the start of this blog entry, while my chai sat there waiting for me. Happy Sunday morning!

After putting the finishing touches on baseball shopping yesterday, we were trying to designate today as a day off to catch up on rest and relaxation before starting another busy week with school and work. But this week brings the first day of baseball practice for both kids tomorrow. It will also be the start of our crazy schedule with both boys in high school ball and summer travelling! We’ll be following four teams again this year. We know that’s just part of being a baseball parent. And we love it!

When I think about my writing, I love the storytelling part. I’ve had a creative mind since I was a kid and would come up with many stories on the fly. I wish I would have either recorded or written some of those down, there’s probably some good material for a book in there somewhere. I also remember the two roles that I liked to have when we all played together; teacher and storyteller. I enjoy helping people succeed and can come up with some creative ways to do it. I know that I have a passion to teach and tried to pursue it, but life directed me a different way. My life path got me a Bachelor’s in Sociology, an Associate’s in Accounting and now has me working as a Flight Scheduler for my “day” job. You just never know where life will take you on your journey.

Still standing in my kitchen, I hear what sounds like coffee brewing. It’s a typical sound that would be heard in many kitchens in the morning. However, not in mine this morning. I have my chai and everyone else is asleep. Must be the sound of one of them in deep sleep then.

I look down into the doorway and there is Maggie, checking up on me again. Dogs are one of the most loyal pets that are out there. She has been in my life now for almost twelve and a half years. I met Sam a year and a half before I got her. I smile at her and get a low growl in return. O.k. she needs a little attention. So I pick up my chai and find a place in the house to sit with her.

Our house is in a bit of chaos due to a cable rewire project. We’re still sorting and purging things to make the new cable outlet position work out and to get our house in order. As all projects seem to take longer than expected, we’re hoping to have some order before baseball gets into full swing.

As Maggie and I are sitting on the floor, she keeps trying to get my attention away from my phone, which I’m typing this blog entry on right now. I decided to set my phone down and just hold her. It’s a good thing for her and for me. As I pet her she just snuggles into my body and I can feel a calm settling into me. When I stop petting her, she starts to lick my chin, to comfort me. Dogs have a great sense of when those kinds of things are needed by the ones that they love. Many writers have written about similar experiences with their pets when they are trying to get work done on their projects.

Once she falls asleep, I’m able to pick up my phone and write again. Is this kind of like multi tasking for a writer? We snuggle like this for about fifteen minutes. I don’t know if she was ready to get up or if I shifted my body, but she woke up and laid down next to me on the floor.

With life’s demands, it’s hard to get good writing time some days. I find myself with quiet moments like this where I can just write and get into a groove with it. Once everyone wakes up though, it becomes harder to get this kind of time. Thank goodness for mobile devices! I’m able to write on lunch breaks at work or even sitting at baseball fields during the kids’ warm ups. I know that people have and still do get it all done with good ole pen and paper. I’ll do that sometimes when I’m having a hard time getting started or in a pinch when the mobile or electronics aren’t available. But I do appreciate my mobile device even more for the time savings it provides and the freedom to write when I’m away from my laptop.

Sometimes my best creative times come when I’m doing something other than actually writing. Some solutions for plot issues have come to me when out walking the dog, taking a shower or washing the dishes. All times when I’m away from the computer or phone and have no paper to write on. I try to grab my writing notebook when I get back or have dried off and get those things written down as soon as I can. If I don’t, they will disappear into the sky outside of my head.

I love these quiet mornings for several reasons. They become a great time for me to write, to stop and smell the flowers and to hear the birds sing outside the window. I really liked to be in the moment with Maggie this morning, to take that deep breath and appreciate what I have to be grateful for. My family, my house, and my life.

The Hard Way – the editing step

The name of my first manuscript is currently titled The Hard Way. I’ve been struggling to take the step of having a professional editor look at it. I’ve been checking on different editing sites and Facebook pages to understand how much it will cost. I got a little overwhelmed with the fact that it might be a little out of my price range right now. Wanting to get to the publishing step of my journey, not being able to afford it made me consider whether I really needed to do it or not. I thought, the beta readers that I asked to read it for me should have given me adequate feedback, right? Coming back to the fact that it should be done, I started spinning my wheels to come up with a way to get the money put together for it. With all of the family expenses we have, I wasn’t seeing it to even be possible until our youngest son graduates from high school in three years. This potential road block on my journey to publish a novel has been really upsetting me a lot lately.

By checking out different writing sites, Facebook groups and author pages, I’ve been trying to figure out how I would go about finding the right editor. I want to find one that I can build a relationship with, and not someone who is going to do a onetime read for me and then leave the scene. I know that I’m looking for an editor that works in my genre of YA/Middle Grade. They will be knowledgeable about how the story should read and what is required for the audience that I’m ultimately trying to get my book out to.

After thinking about how important my publishing goal is to me, I took a big step yesterday and started searching for an editor to see if I could make this work. Being a writer with aspirations of publishing a book someday, I wanted to take the right steps to get this done. Many published authors talk about how important it is to have an editor involved in your work. If it is the right person, they are able to collaborate with you to produce a successful book for the readers. The trained second set of eyes can see a lot of things the writer can’t see, like ideas or information that may be missing from the flow of the story. I realize how important it is to have those trained set of eyes on the manuscript before it becomes a book and goes out into the world to the reader.

Yesterday when I started my search, I noticed that some editors offered a free read through and critique of a few pages to provide the writer with a sample of how they edit. I think that this could be a good way to interview an editor. I looked through one of my Facebook Writing Groups and found a YA/Middle Grade editor that I decided to contact. Sending the initial e-mail set the process in motion. I e-mailed back and forth with her and it seemed to be going as expected. I sent her what she required from my manuscript for her to take a look and see what kind and how much editing it may need, in her professional opinion. I’m excited to hear what she has to say. Maybe a little scared too. But it feels good to make that step, a step I needed to take to move my project forward.

I’m sure there are things that will need to be changed and or cut out to make the story cleaner for the reader. A little anxiety wells up when I think about how much of the story the editor thinks doesn’t need to be there, but I feel that it is important to be included. I saw all of the work it took to get the story on the page, but I have to remember that the editor is going to have a good idea about how it should go. These conflicting feelings are a normal part of the process that all writers go through when they send their stories out to be edited.

To make myself vulnerable and put my work out for the masses to see has definitely taken some courage to do. I started with a few friends and had them read my story, which wasn’t too hard for me. We got together for coffee and they gave me their thoughts. Then I decided to present it to my book club for our monthly club selection. I felt a little more anxious about doing that one. They commented and critiqued it during our book club meeting and that was a bit intimidating. But I’m so glad that I did it. Now I’m working on finding a professional editor critique it for me, which is a bigger step than the other editing and feedback opportunities, but those opportunities gave me some experience going into this one.

I got to the point with my own self editing that if I read it again, I either wouldn’t be able to see anything more to change, or I would make too many revisions to things that didn’t need to be changed. In my case, the editor is going to bring objectivity and knowledge about getting a book ready for publication, which is what I need at this stage in the process. I’ve heard that writers must develop a thick skin to accept the critiques and rejections that are received from the editors and critics. But those are usually offset by the readers who love and enjoy the story. Not everyone is going to like what we create, but it must put out there if we want the story to be heard.

I was originally planning to post a segment of my WIP for the blog today. Now I think I’ll wait until I’ve had an editor take a good look at it!

Black History Month 2016 – Carter G. Woodson

After focusing on libraries, I decided to change the focus of the blog for this month. What a better topic than Black History Month, which along with Valentine’s Day, is what February is known for.

I discovered an interesting story about the origin of Black History Month. According to Wikipedia, Black History Month was originally called “Negro History Week”. It was created in 1926 by an historian by the name of Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The second week of February was picked since it was when the birthdays of former president Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (February 14th) would traditionally fall on the calendar. These two important dates were celebrated together by the black community since the late 19th century.

Carter G. Woodson has been called the Father of black history because he was one of the first scholars to have studied and published journals and books on the subject. He was the son of two former slaves and his father, James, helped Union soldiers during the Civil War. James moved his family from Virginia to West Virginia upon hearing the news that they were building schools for blacks to attend there.

Carter was one of seven children from a poor family and had to instruct himself in common school subjects. He mastered them all by the age of 17. Since he had to work to help provide for his family, he couldn’t focus on getting more education until he saved some money of his own. He entered Douglass High School at the age of 20 and earned his diploma at age 22. He went on to become a teacher and worked his way up to principal at Douglass High School in 1900. While working in the education field, he founded Associated Publishers in 1920, which is the oldest African-American publishing company in the United States.

According to Wikipedia, Woodson believed that education and creating social and professional contacts among blacks and whites could reduce racism. He promoted the organized study of African-American history partly for that purpose. I think he has a great vision here. The more personal knowledge that we have about people we work and deal with, the easier it is to talk about things that aren’t working and work together to try and make them better. It might be a good way to open communication and bring all of us Americans together as one nation.

He dedicated his life to education and furthering the knowledge of the Negro in American and World History. So dedicated in fact, he never married or had any children of his own. Dorothy Porter Wesley, was an African American librarian, bibliographer and curator. She was known for building the research collection at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University into a world class one. She said about Woodson’s dedication to his work, “Woodson would wrap up his publications, take them to the post office and have dinner at the YMCA.” He would teasingly decline her dinner invitations saying, “No, you are trying to marry me off. I am married to my work”.

In recognition of his contributions to Black History, he has many places named after him throughout the United States including The Woodson Institute for Student Excellence, a public charter school here in Minneapolis.

When I was brainstorming the theme for February’s blogging, I originally thought that I’d focus on black women. But after starting my research into Black History Month, I think I’m going to open my mind and change my idea to look at all of the people that we are recognizing this month. With my experience on the first blog, it looks like I may find some interesting people to write about on this writing journey.