Monthly Archives: November 2013

I Am Friday

I’m thrilled to be a featured guest on the I Am Friday blog. I hope you get a chance to check it out and surf while you’re there.

When I first saw this blog, I was hooked from the moment I read the tagline: Making life better, one Friday at a time. The inspirational posts made me think about working – and living – in a purposeful and authentic way.

My interview also gave me a chance to talk about my own tagline: leaving the day job for the write job.

Hope you enjoy it.




Passion and luck

A few days ago, I had a conversation with friends about careers. We chatted about professions evolving and the challenges of change, especially when the change turns your work into, well, work. The enjoyable parts of a job dissolve, leaving you with the aspects you only tolerated.

Finally, someone said think about it. At least we’re well paid. Who really gets a career that’s truly their passion?

I thought, I do.

And that’s what my blog is about – leaving the day job for the write job. Lucky me.

Phood for thought

My agent sent me information on a new social marketing site called Pheed. At first I thought it was a new online grocery store where I could order phood.

It’s not.

Pheed is a “free social multimedia platform that enables users to create, inspire and share text, photos, videos, audio tracks, voice-notes and live broadcasts.” You can find it here.

I promise: This isn’t a cutesy post about silly-old-person me and how I just don’t get the kids these days!!!

I get it. I do. Facebook has been taken over by users’ parents and grandparents and great grandparents. Young Facebookers want something newer, faster, cooler. I guess Pheed is newer, faster, cooler.

And frankly, it’s hard to keep up. It’s hard to move to something new when you’ve got something familiar, something you like. Could I get my Facebook friends to add Pheed to their daily Internet time? Doubtful.

I learn about new sites long after they’ve launched. I’m generally puzzled and a little annoyed, but I could master them if I wanted. By the time I do, everyone has moved onto something else. I finally got moon boots a few years ago and guess what? Nobody wears them anymore.

My friend and writer Rachael Hanel is the go-to tech source for our writing group. Long ago, she told us she was going to build a Tumblr presence. She described it as “Facebook meets Twitter.” I couldn’t stop entertaining myself with an imagined introduction.

Facebook: Hello Twitter, I’m Facebook.

Twitter: Yeah, I’ve heard of you. I’m the new kid in town.

Facebook: We need to talk. Together we could raise $10 billion dollars through an initial stock offering without having any revenue whatsoever. Or we could just make Tumblr.

Twitter: Cool. Send me a message on Pheed.

After Rachael’s tutorial, I felt like a techie. I told my stepdaughter about this Tumblr thing, ridiculously thinking I might possibly inform her of new technology.

She said, I’ve been posting on Tumblr for a year. Want a link?

A year. She’d not only heard about Tumblr, but she’d been posting for a year. That’s faster than Rachael.

I could do Tumblr, but do I want to?

I have a dumb phone. I could have a smart phone but why? I’m home with a laptop all day, and I hang out with people who have smart phones. I get instant access to GPS and flixster and they pay the data charges. (Thanks, guys!)

I can text – and I do, occasionally – but I don’t like it. I can Tweet – and I do, occasionally, but I don’t like it.

Someday I’ll be a Tumbler and a Pheeder and an Instagramer. Maybe I’ll Tweet effortlessly. But it’ll be on my timeline.

See, age gives me some rights, and one of those rights is staying in technology’s version of a rocking chair. I like it here.


Marketing and things we hate

My friend is a freelance writer. She doesn’t have a novel to promote, but she must sell herself as the go-to writer-for-hire. I asked her about that awhile ago: How do you cold call people? How do you pester people you haven’t heard from in awhile? What if someone doesn’t like your article/brochure/newsletter?  How do you ask someone you don’t know well to have coffee and talk shop?

She said, a colleague of mine gave me a great piece advice about networking and marketing. You have to do something every single day that makes you want to throw up.

So, aspiring writers, get yourself a bottle of Tums.

Walking Dead

As a writer, I constantly struggle with conflicting plot points, contradictions in character, and things that don’t make sense – those moments in a story where the reader thinks, oh, c’mon. Really?

Instead of using my own work as an example, let’s take on my current favorite show Walking Dead. It gave me a full night’s worth of bad dreams, so I’m feeling a little miffed. Here we go:

  • In a zombie apocolyse, when you finally, FINALLY, get to a store, would you bring a teeny tiny backpack? Wouldn’t you leave with a stuffed trunk? Michonne brings back more supplies (even comic books!) on horseback then the supply runners bring back in a van. Twinkies are back in production, for example, and they last forever. How about some toothpaste? Maybe shampoo and a clean shirt for Daryl, who’s been wearing the same vest for three seasons.
  • If Glenn paid more attention at these stores, couldn’t he steal an engagement ring for Maggie instead of cutting one off a zombie? Where’s the romance?
  • If Rick can keep his hair perfectly sculpted, can’t Daryl get those bangs out of his eyes?
  • I understand there aren’t many cars roving the country these days. Still. Our survivors need to keep their eyes on the road. This would prevent so many zombie-car collisions that result in, well, just watch the show a few weeks ago. Not pretty.
  •  It’s lovely that Beth gets to be the resident singer/nanny. But shouldn’t she learn to be a bad-ass just in case? Her sister can singlehandedly manage a zombie herd at the fence. Meanwhile, Beth knows all the words to “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” It’s the typical baby sister unfairness. (Sorry, Cheryl, but you know it’s true.)
  • Since when do antibiotics cure a viral illness?
  • Why don’t people sleep with their cell doors shut?
  • If the group has automatic rifles, why don’t the supply runners get to use those instead of knives and a bow-and-arrow contraption?

Thank you. This analysis has been great writer therapy, no co-pay required.

A day in the life of a reporter: tractor pulls and falling leaves

From Overheard in a Newsroom:

“You haven’t lived until you’ve covered a tractor pull.”

When I started writing fiction, it was all too easy to develop trite plot points and find myself satisfied. Journalism taught my to accept less-than-fascinating stories as good enough.

No defensiveness, please. Newspapers are often filled with insightful and well-written copy. But ridiculous news stories are common, especially in smallish towns with smallish daily newspapers. That paper has to go out every single day. Trust me on this point: news doesn’t pop every single day in some cities.

I know a reporter who was desperate to produce something for the paper. So he wrote a story about what to do if your tongue got stuck on metal in the winter, like that kid in the Christmas Story.

That desperation – from both reporters and editors – is why you see headlines like these in your morning paper.

  • Ice cream a cool, refreshing treat
  • Local festival draws kids with bouncy house
  • Fair-lovers flock to fair
  • No traffic accidents at downtown intersection
  • City Council takes no action at meeting
  • Neither does School Board
  • Anticipated snowfall/rainfall/windstorm did not arrive
  • Leaves this year falling early/late/on time
  • No change in crop prices
  • Six-month-old signage ordinance causes no controversy
  • Folks hit the stores for Christmas shopping
  • Holiday weekend brings rising gas prices
  • Tips for potty training/cookie baking/car maintenance/safe shoveling/party planning/gardening/household finance

Tedious to read; excruciating to write.

The right one, baby

Every writer has a superstition. I was sure I didn’t. I’m too Midwestern, too cynic-journalist. But whenever I think I’m outside the norm, I learn I’m right in the middle of the pack.

My superstition: I must have a steady supply of Diet Pepsi to be productive. No water, no juice, no coffee. Diet Pepsi in the 24-ounce bottle. Cans of soda don’t count; neither does decaf. Just a big, bubbly bottle of chemical-infused goodness. (What is potassium benzoate, anyway?)

I quit my soda habit a few months ago. I had more energy and fewer headaches. My carb cravings dropped, too, but so did my productivity and creativity. I went on my blog-cation. I didn’t get on Facebook (gasp!). Old Diet Pepsi jingles floated in my brain. You’re drinking Diet Pepsi and it shows! or No other taste attracts so much attention or You’ve got the right one, baby (featuring Ray Charles).

I’ve quit before with the same results. In college, I couldn’t master the newspaper’s photo wheel – the 1980s version of “crop photo” – without diet soda in my veins. At my first newspaper job, I wasn’t comfortable doing phone interviews without my trusty soda sidekick. Forget attending a board meeting without one. Not a chance.

My evidence isn’t exactly the stuff of Harvard research papers. I own up to the superstition. Every writer has one.

So what’s yours? she asks, taking a swig of soda.

Back at it

My blog-cation is over. I had an ah-hah moment late summer during which I realized I write kid-lit, not just a blog, and I have a deadline.

I needed to shed all distractions to shape up my sluggish novel. I wrote my first novel, The Graham Cracker Plot, in a linear fashion, and the groove never broke. 

The second book is my difficult child. The two of us are working like a crockpot instead of a microwave. Slow is fine. It takes as long as it takes, but I need to feel like the words have movement on the page. That wasn’t happening, and my normal writing strategies weren’t working.

Here are a few things I typically use in my writing process:

  • I make maps and other visual aids for setting.
  • I find photos in magazines that look like the characters I’ve envisioned. I paste those on the wall. They chide me if I succumb to distractions.
  • I outline ideas in a notebook.
  • I hang index cards with plot points. Then I reshuffle them again and again.
  • I tape inspirational writing quotes on my wall:

Discipline allows magic.

Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.

Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

Finally, I tried something different. I gave up my linear process and wrote the story in reverse. I wrote the end, then I wrote what comes before the end, then what comes before the end of the end.

Sometimes it’s not about tearing up a draft. It’s about tearing up the process.