Recently in You Are Not Alone Category

Retreat!

2015KSRetreat.JPG

Recently, I visited Kansas and Missouri friends for a writing retreat where we each worked on our own projects. Four of us were writing and one illustrating. Because this group used to write together once or twice a week, it was easy to fall into a comfortable rhythm. During meal times and evenings we chatted, played games, and chatted some more. Of course, we took breaks for bird watching, stretching our legs, seeing the fish in the pond get fed, etc.

One of the advantages of a retreat like this is limited cell service and limited household chores (only cooking and cleaning up after meals). That meant dedicated time to focus on work. I caught up on a bunch of rewrites I wanted/needed to do and moved forward in my WIP. I saw others doing research, writing, planning a future book, editing, drawing and painting. Work!

Another advantage of a retreat is the shared information. One gal is working on a low residency MFA in children's writing through Vermont College of Fine Arts. She shared tidbits from lectures. We urged her to get her submission in for an award. We all encouraged another gal not to give up writing. And, of course, we exchanged information about good books--now my "to be read" list is even longer. ☺

A task I was doing was comp titles for a picture book I'd written. One friend asked me how I found them. "I just used Amazon," I said. I showed her there was a lot of nonfiction on my topic, but only one fiction picture book and it was from the 1980s.

The same gal asked a question about her new Mac (she's switched from PC) and the result was I and another made changes to our word doc default, too.

So, work, exchanging information, good friends, fun, food, all equaled a great time! The others enjoyed it too and we unanimously decided to repeat the retreat. THANK YOU, Heather Trent Beers, Kate Barsotti, Jenn Bailey and Lisha Cauthen. It was so much fun being with you all.

Recommendations for planning and enjoying YOUR personal creative retreat:

  1. 1. Choose people you trust and respect. Everyone at our retreat paid her agreed upon share. I love that my friends were considerate and said to the two of us with knee problems, "take the downstairs bedrooms."
  2. 2. Don't invite people who do drama. No one fussed about where she sat, slept, what she ate, sharing bathrooms, etc. People drank, or didn't drink, alcohol as desired, but no one got drunk. A peaceful atmosphere goes a long way to make a productive retreat.
  3. 3. Plan at least two full days for work not counting arrival time and departure time. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and settled in and didn't worry about serious work that day, although we talked about writing and the publishing business. (Of course!) This let everyone unwind. We left Monday morning at check out time--again since we were packing up, no creative work was done. Loved having two solid days of accomplishments.
  4. 4. If you're not used to working with these people, agree on an informal schedule.
  5. 5. Bring some fun games or relaxing activities. But if someone wants to continue working when everyone else is recreating, no nagging.
  6. 6. Keep your group small enough that you can share a bed and breakfast or retreat cabin/vacation house and be the only guests.
  7. 7. Someone needs to be the point person to find and book a venue. We started planning two plus months in advance.
  8. 8. Decide whether wi-fi at your location is important to the group or not. We wanted it.
  9. 9. Share the food expense, meal planning, preparation and cleanup. The only problem we had was too much food. For example, ladies kept adding items to bring that weren't on the agreed list, so we had duplicate snack foods, which returned home. (Or choose a venue that provides food, although you'll still probably want snacks.)
  10. 10. Arrange carpooling because it's a lot of fun to talk while driving, too.

My local writing group and I have been talking about a retreat. I think we need to quit talking and plan!

Are Listserves a Service or a Waste of Time?

cat clock.jpg
It depends on you and on the listserve.

There are usually several types of people on a listserve: posters and lurkers. Posters are the ones that keep a listserve alive. They ask questions. They share information of interest to the group. They answer other people's questions. They encourage others. They share ideas. Lurkers are the people who are reading, but not participating in the conversation. They don't comment, nor start new topics, nor share good and bad news. Does this mean they can't get anything out of the posts? Of course not. They can glean lots of information from what others are saying. But...if they have a question and don't ask it on the listserve, how will they get it answered?

One of my friends had been lurking on a listserve and because I "out"ed that she was there (she had invited me to it), she decided she'd better introduce herself. Nervously, she wrote a post of intro and commented on a topic that the group had been discussing. She asked me to look over her post before she sent it. "Is it okay?" she asked. "Definitely," I told her. "Go ahead and post." She did, and guess who commented?! Andy Boyles of Highlights. Just by making an intelligent comment on a listserve she had a short conversation with an editor.

By chatting with others, I've also made friends on listserves. This Saturday I get to meet one friend face-to-face for the first time. Is that cool or what?

Listserves come in a variety of kinds: regional, topic or genre, general writing, organizational. What's the right group for me, may not be the right one for you. I like trying out a listserve. It's like going to a club meeting. If you enjoy the people you meet and the topics of conversation, you'll come back. If not, you won't. If your focus changes, you may need a new listserve and may let an old one go.

They can become timewasters if you are involved either in ones that are very busy with many many conversations, or if you're involved in too many listserves. I like getting my listserves in digest format versus individual emails. I can scan the topic headers and skip any that aren't of interest to me. It also helps me limit the time spent.

So how do you find listserves? Most of the ones I participate in were by invitation or through a writing organization. But you can also find them by searching yahoo or google groups. Here are some I found that way:

childrensbookandarticlecritiquing - the title says it all

Childrens-FandSF-Writers - the F stands for fantasy and obviously SF is Science Fiction

childrens-writers - a discussion group

childrenswriterstoday - a forum for writers, poets, illustrators, editors and publishers of all genres in the juvenile to teen market to announce their latest news, reviews, columns, books and publication works

fantasyweavers - an online critique group for writers of middle-grade and young-adult fantasy and science fiction

internetchildrensstories - this is a club devoted to writers of children's stories and their readers

Northwest Independent Writers Association - for writers of any kind

When searching make sure you check the statistics (latest activity; members; and if it is important to you, whether the group is moderated or not). Some groups will be open and others closed. Some groups may want to know something about you before adding you; others have no vetting process.

If you've never tried one, ask other writers or illustrators what listserves they like. Then join one or two. Lurking at first is okay, but remember you'll get more out of it, if you post, too.


image courtesy of morguefile.com

One of 75 finalists

top75writingaward_fin_125x125.gif

It was exciting to become one of eCollegeFinder's Top 75 Writing blogs! My website is listed on their site as a student resource on this page. I don't know how they found the nominees for this award. One day I just received notice that my site had been nominated. Each of the nominees was asked to describe the blog and answer this question: "What advice can you offer students aiming to improve their writing acumen?"

Then eCollegeFinder posted the finalists' answers and had a voting period to determine the top 3. They got so many votes it overwhelmed their system and they had to do some technical scrambling to get their site back up!

The top winner is someone I follow myself! Miss Snark's First Victim by Authoress. She deserves the number one spot!

Number 2 is A Writer's Life with Liz Fielding and number 3 is Unwritten by Mysti Parker.

Here are the other 71. Of these, I'm only providing links to the sites specifically by or for children's and YA writers (or blogs about those type of books). It's not that I dislike adult writers, it's just that my blog focuses on writing for children and teens. To see the other links, go to the eCollegeFinder's link above. From what I can discern, all the blogs are from the US or the UK.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
All Things Writerly - A Blog
Anne R. Allen's Blog with Ruth Harris
Author Julie Cohen
Author's Echo
Blog of Horror Author Matt Nord
Bluestalking
Bob Sanchez: Writing, Reading, and a Bit of Travel
Book Chase
Brightwriter60
Charmalot Chronicles
Clifton Hill - Writer. Artist. Head thoroughly lodged in the clouds.
Cornflower Books
Country Lite
D.J. Kirkby
Daily Dodo
David Powers King
Diane Fordham
Donna Newton's Blog
Elizabeth Baines
Ella's Edge
Fabulosity Reads
Fish Publishing
Fonts and Fiction
Glynis Smy - Writer
Helena's London Life
In Time
Janet Sumner Johnson: Musings of a Children's Writer
Janice Horton
Jean Bull's Writing Blog
Jessica Hart: Writing Romance Around The World
Kaye Manro
L'Aussie Writer
Lexi Revellian: my writing and other related matters
Literary MacGregor - an agent's site
mainewords
Medeia Sharif
Melissa's Imaginarium
My Journal
Mystery Writing is Murder
Mythik Imagination
N. R. Williams, The Writing Craft
Non-Fiction Chronicles of a Fiction-Filled Life
Not Only In Thailand
Paris Breakfast
Patsy Collins
Rach Writes
Rachel Morgan Writes
Rachna's Scriptorium
Reading and Writing
Shallee McArthur
Silver's Reviews
Sometimes, the Wheel is on Fire
Steven Chapman (writer)
Tara Bradford Writing and Photography
The Alliterative Allomorph
The Book Addict
The Eagle's Aerial Perspective
The Girdle of Melian
The Leaky Pencil
The Paperback Pursuer
The Writing Bug
This Writer's Life
Thoughts in Progress
Untroubled Kingdom
Write Now
Write Up the Hill
Writercize
Writing for Woman's World Magazine
Writing to the Edge of Darkness

However, although this could be a good resource, and you may find some sites to follow, remember if you are reading many blogs on a regular basis, make sure you reserve time to write!


Down with Discouragement!


(Thanks to Dave and morguefile for this picture!)pro_author.jpg

Do you ever get discouraged about your writing and/or illustrating? I do. Sometimes it's after reading a fantastic book and I think, I'll never be able to do that well. Or it might be after another rejection, or when I'm struggling with my work in progress. Or even seeing a published book I think is terrible.

I remember asked another writer if they knew about Madeleine L'Engel's experience with A Wrinkle in Time. They didn't. She got rejected, rejected, rejected. When the book finally got sold and published, it won a Newbery Medal (1963). I heard her tell how one editor told her, "I wish that had come across my desk." Madeleine answered that it did. Read A Circle of Quiet to learn about her ten year dry spell!

In the early 90s a friend and critique group partner of mine sold a book. We were all excited with her. She got her advance. An illustrator illustrated the text. Then, the book was cancelled! Can you imagine her disappointment? Suzanne Williams went on to resell Library Lil (published in 1997) and Steven Kellogg illustrated it!

Susan Patron talked to her husband about giving up . . . the night before she got the call about her Newbery Medal (2007) for The Higher Power of Lucky.

I know I could find many other examples. Instead, let's talk about what you can do when discouraged. Here's what works for me.

Hang out with your writing peeps! I have a group of writers who meet with me to write. We aren't collaborating per se, we're just holding each other accountable to show up and be productive. It's helpful to know someone else is struggling with a chapter or scene or query letter. We share, ask questions, encourage each other. I started out with only one writing partner, so all you need is one person to do this with you.

Make sure you are in a critique group. I know, you probably think I'm playing a broken record (kind of like a CD for you younger folk). I mention critique groups a lot. It's because I believe they are so important. My writing grows because of my critique group. My work in progress deepens because of suggestions from my critiquers.

Attend a workshop or conference or writer's talk. I'm usually inspired when I hear others talk about writing. Sometimes a magical thing happens and I suddenly "get it"--that thing I've been puzzling about for months or years. I meet and connect with fun people, which is encouraging.

Go on a writing retreat. Organized ones are great, but they can be expensive. A writing retreat can simply be a casual get together with others of like mind where you get to work and/ or critique. I went on one several summers ago. I met with ten other writers at a northern Missouri farmhouse. Our hostess, Patricia, provided beds, places to sit, and the internet. The rest of us provided the food and it was a very productive two days. Not only for us as writers, but for the cows as well--two calves were born while we were there.

Meet other writers online. Find your tribe wherever you can, whether it be list serves, writers' blogs and websites, twitter, facebook, or google+. I use all of these, plus reading writing newsletters. Often I get encouragement from them. A recent post on Shannon Whitney's blog was about the importance of "writing like me!" http://ramblingsofawannabescribe.blogspot.com/2011/11/writing-like-me.html

Try something new. Go somewhere you've never been before. Try a hobby or sport you've never tried. Read a book in a genre you don't usually read. Let new experiences stir your mind.

Write something. It doesn't even have to be on your work in progress. It could be something new such as trying a different genre, or writing a "how to" on something you've learned. It doesn't have to be intended for paid publication. Write an article for a newsletter, or write a blog entry. All writing is good practice. And you get the immediate reward of a sense of accomplishment.

Eat some chocolate. My preference is dark. Or I drink a cup of tea. Do whatever little thing lifts your spirit - a bubble bath, a silly movie, playing with a kid.

Give yourself some grace. I often feel discouraged when there are too many other things going on in my life, when I'm missing sleep, or I'm not feeling well. Don't expect too much when you are overwhelmed or stressed. Don't make a decision about your writing when you are discouraged--that's when you're apt to make the wrong one.

Keep going. Here's a quote I heard at a conference years ago: "In the end you can Give Up or Keep Going. Those are your only choices. The only good thing about giving up is that there's less competition for those who keep going." -Bruce Balan

I'm going to stay in the running. What about you?

What Would Sue Do?



WWSUED crop.jpg
My dear friend and writer buddy (1) just gave me this shirt. Isn't it a crack up? Jenn has called me her writing mentor and comes to me with questions. She's my social media mentor and got me started on twitter. When I have twitter and tweetdeck questions, I go to her. We encourage each other in our writing as you can tell by this gift. Thanks again, Jenn!

What Would Maggie Do?
A former critique partner (2) recently gave me this testimonial: "I worked with her on a picture book draft that she suggested I make into a chapter book based on the voice and age of the character. When the manuscript was complete, she helped me with my query and final revisions. I just sent it out and I am already getting requests from agents!!" So we've joked, "You should listen to Sue."

What Would Lorie Ann/Joan/Sue Do?
Years ago I was in a critique group with two great writers and friends (3). We met every three weeks and got each other's voices in our heads. I remember once during a critique when one of us commented on a manuscript, the writer said, "I knew you were going to say that." The gal spoken to responded, "If you knew I was going to say that, why didn't you fix it." We all laughed.

What Would Dan Do?
I hear a current critique partner (4) when I see sentences like this in my own or in my student's writing: She heard the cat meow. Dan would say, "Don't distance your reader." From him I learned to write: The cat meowed. It's more active and more immediate. One of his other sayings is, "What's the purpose of this chapter?"

What Would Lisha Do?
Pursue her goals and learn the writing craft. I met Lisha (5) when she was a writing newbie. Not only had she come to our Kansas SCBWI workshop, but when she heard we were looking for volunteers, Lisha raised her hand. She has grown so much over the years by going to conferences and workshops, participating in two critique groups, researching agents, etc., etc. On top of that she's a terrific hardworking volunteer doing the fabulous Sunflower Scoop, our region's list serve.

What Would Donna Do?
When I first became a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in Washington state, I used the conference notebook my predecessor (6) provided and followed her advice on handling volunteers. Still used same info when I did a stint as RA in Kansas.

What Would NAME Do?
Sometimes my What Would NAME Do is something I learned from a speaker. One I recalled recently from 20 years ago was Peg Kehret, mystery author saying, "Give the kid the good lines." Another of her recommendations that has stuck with me is to use the terms from whatever the main character's hobby or interest. For example, a baseball fanatic not only will talk about baseball itself, but can use baseball terminology in other areas, too. That character might say something like "foul ball" when someone makes a mistake at school.

What Would Dorothy Do?
Most of us need support in our writing. We all need others in our lives in other areas, too. One of my life long heroes is my aunt (7). She sees something that needs to be done and quietly does it. She's not afraid to tell you something you should do either.

What Would Kathy Do?
It was my sister (8) who got me started many many years ago on a laundry process that didn't leave my family with baskets and baskets of clean clothes to fold. Now it's a good habit--hang them up and fold them from dryer--but at first it was hard and I'd have to remind myself to do what she'd do.

So in life and writing who are your inspirations? Feel free to share about them in the comments, and/or tell them yourself how they've inspired you. (To comment: if you don't see comment box, click on the title above. It's "What Sue Would Do.")


(1) Jenn Bailey - her blog, her social media site
(2) Maggie Viles - on jacketflap
(3) Lorie Ann Grover and Joan Holub
(4) Dan Schwabauer
(5) Lisha Cauthen - her blog
(6) Donna Bergman - her books on Amazon
(7) Dorothy Uhlig, missionary to Thailand since 1951! (facebook)
(8) Kathy Bender

Retreat!

Are Listserves a Service or a Waste of Time?

One of 75 finalists

Down with Discouragement!

What Would Sue Do?

Don't Throw in the Towel

Bloggers Supporting Other Bloggers

Give up or press on?

After the Critique

CUT IN THE CRITIQUE

Critique Methods

THE SANDWICH OF CRITIQUE

CRITIQUE GROUPS: GO FOR IT!

Organizations and Groups