Posts

Showing posts from 2013

Tis the Season to Tally Up

Image
Regardless of your religious or non-religious beliefs, these last days of December offer all of us an opportunity to tally our debits and credits not only financially, but also emotionally and spiritually. As we literally count down the days until January 1, 2014, it makes sense to tally all the good in your life.
List the events that have made you happy.Note the new things you have learned. Focus on what you have achieved. Think about the small things that give you great pleasure. Remember a friend or family member you have lost. Add that new person you have met to your plus column. Calculate all of your small achievements.Include any big accomplishments or upgrades. Write down three things you would like to aspire to accomplish in 2014. Careful, make it simple, do-able, and something that you would enjoy doing.  Think about a small activity you can do in 2014 that can change some one's life.

I hope for now that you are catching my drift. We sometimes spend time and energy focusin…

Holiday Survival Tip - Punt When Plans Go Astray

Image
Twas a bit more than a week before Christmas and all through the house boxes, lists, and ornaments were strewn...
       Now I don't know the condition of your home, but this weekend was disrupted when I torn a ligament in my leg on Friday and have been lying in bed with my leg above my heart.  The doctor's instructions: "If you want to be walking by Christmas you must keep off your leg for four to six days."  I obediently took the shot for pain. (The pain was so great I could hardly speak.) He adjusted a pair of crutches for me so I could hobble about the house. It is maddening to sit in your home, drugged, knowing that there are cookie doughs to make, gifts to wrap, cards to write, and of course a blog to write. The safest task was to write my blog.

      I use to get upset when things were disrupted, when my plans didn't go smoothly.  I learned soon enough that there are things in life you can control and things you can't control. When an out of control e…

Holiday Survival Tip - Pamper Thyself

Image
Okay, if you look at the calendar, you have two weekends before Christmas arrives. Now I'm not talking about any pre-parties. I mean Christmas Eve and the big day-Christmas.

If you have young children, you probably have all the gifts wrapped and hidden. If your family is grown and participates in a Secret Santa, then you may still be scurrying for that gift within in the designated price range for your Uncle Max.

But, these matters are not the big worry for me. I am concerned about making it to Christmas Eve. Each year someone takes a picture of me as I am opening gifts on Christmas morning with dark circles under my eyes and my hair not combed. I am sure that my progeny will view years of video and wonder what I was doing to look so unkempt. Well, for the record, that is how women who don't pamper themselves through holiday preparations look at the big moment - tired, listless, and sometimes a little out of it.

So, this is a reminder to all planners of the joys, surprises, m…

2014 Holiday Survival Tip - "Google" It

Image
December 1 is the first day that Christmas becomes a topic in our home. Now readers, I realize some of you may have already hung your Christmas lights on the outside your homes. You may have your Christmas tree up and decorated. You may even have your Christmas shopping done, wrapped, and hidden.

Don't think us late starters are nonchalant about this entire Christmas event. Personally, I have learned organization is my friend during these 24 frantic days preceding the Christmas day.

My husband and I have planning meetings about Christmas. After years of juggling the holiday demands of three children, we still plan holidays.We take out the folder from last year and write a plan.

Originally I was going to share my Christmas checklists with you.  Until I started researching for this blog.  You see I found this website http://christmas.organizedhome.com/  You may want to take a look at some of the great ideas on it. I thought that I was an original with my planning ideas, but It seem…

Thanksgiving 2013

Image
First of all, drum roll please. I am thankful for making a grand total of 51,066 words five days before deadline. NaNoWriMo is said and done. No, the novel is not done yet. No, it will not be published next month. Remember there is six levels of editing yet to be done. A few reviews by alpha readers and then the beta readers have their turn to review.

Now, I am grateful that I can focus on the break Tim and I are taking in Sun Valley, Idaho. The weather has been lovely. The area has changed dramatically since we last visited one of our favorite places.

We decided we needed to retreat and regroup.  Our entire family is coming home for Christmas. We are so excited it has been a year since that has happened. We are using this time to relax and plan. (Okay, I wanted to get NaNoWriMo completed, also.) There is merit to going some place that is different from your regular routine.

It took us three days to learn our way around an area we thought we use to know. It was amazing to see what o…

Week 2-NaNoWriMo 2014-Pushing Through

Image
This second week has been tough. Many outside distractions and personal hits attacking my focus. Family issues: a sweet person who had experienced some terrible demons died this week. I still see her big smile, hear her laugh, and I'll never forget her big brown eyes that twinkled when she talked to me. I've known for more than forty years. She is at peace. I pray her family is at peace also.

Last week I had workmen finishing up on the updating of our furnace, air conditioner, and hot water heater. This week the painter has arrived. There have been color decisions, lighting decisions, the elimination of more "stuff," and the moving about of furniture in two small rooms to get this paint job  done.

Then there is the writing, oh what a story is being woven.  I think I like being a "pantser." I find it is a process that suits me for NaNoWriMo. I like rereading what I wrote the day before and then just picking up the story.

Yes, my novel has characters, confli…

NaNoWriMo-Week 1:Characters Takeover Story

Image
This is my second year participating in the worldwide writing event known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This event dares participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This year I vowed I would be prepared. I would have an outline, storyline, and characters flushed out. I diligently read all the advice leading up to November 1 on the NaNoWriMo.org website.

When the clock struck 12:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time on November 1, my computer was opened on a "new blank page."  I took a minute to visualize the story: the beginning, middle, and the end. I began typing.

Three sentences into the story and three new characters showed up. Yes, you heard me. They appeared on the page. By the time I had keyed more than 250 words two more new characters showed up. Once again, my original idea was hijacked my story.

This is a relatively new phenomenon for a veteran non-fiction writer like me.  I like organization when I write. I like to know where  my writing is going, who i…

NaNoWriMo is Dawning

Image
Are you ready?  Have you cleared your November calendar? Have you registered for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)?  If you have you can officially call yourself a "WriMo."  If you want to know how I really feel about this great event click on the link below:

http://www.heliumnetwork.com/nanowrimo-acronym-pat-w-coffey/#!

Happy writing to all WriMos!

"You Can't Go Home Again" or Can you?

Image
Each time I arrive in Chicago I recall Thomas Wolfe's book You Can't Go Home Again. The Chicago I visit today is not the city I  once knew. The landscape in some ways is the same and in so many ways it has changed. Significant buildings have had their names changed. The people, though still friendly, look tried and worn down.

"The Chicago Public Library" was located on 78 E Washington St.  Its construction lasted from 1893-1897 under the designing hand of Robert C. Spencer and J.L. Holzer. It was renovated and updated in the 1970's. Today it is known as the Chicago Cultural Center.   The Harold Washington Public Library (now the main branch of the Chicago Public Library System) is located at State/VanBuren. It is ablaze in metal, lights, and technology. As it should be, hey, everyone knows the card catalogue drawers are all but gone. 
 The train station I use to sell donuts at on Veterans Day as a young Camp Fire Girl is no longer in existence. My son recently b…

Where do I write?

Image
My ideal setting for writing is a room full of inspiration. It is clutter free, equipped with a pot of fresh coffee or tea  (depending on the time of day). There is large dry eraser board for me to write notes to myself as inspiration strikes. Of course large sheets of paper sticking to the walls, so I can write story lines, avail myself to spontaneous character development, or left my muses spark new ideas on the papered walls while I am writing.

In reality, the room I call my office,  the room I seek calm and serenity to write is smack in the middle of the family photo storage (as in pre-digital photos). My grown children's mementos that "someday" I am going to place in a scrapbook fill a cupboard/bookcase. It has novels that I have read and kept because I like them. (I donate my books at the end of the year if I don't think I will use again).

My writing reference books occupy an entire book shelf. Another bookcase is filled with cookbooks (that's another blog…

October: Show Your Colors

Image
It's October and officially one month before National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Now is the time for all writers to prepare for the challenge: 50,000 words, 30 days with no excuses.

Mimic Mother Nature. Use October to prepare for the NaNoWriMo challenge. Generate your ideas, devise your plot, develop your characters, loosely plan the setting, stock your refrigerator with your favorite beverages, store snacks in your cabinets and pantry. Warn your family and your friends that you are accepting the gauntlet and will be writing throughout the month of November.

Check out www.nanowrimo.org Join the millions of writers around the world who participate annually. Sign up "to write with wild abandonment." This event is a "significant emotional event"(Maslow) for any writer.

Observation: Springboard of Inspiration

Image
Observation is the springboard for all INSPIRATION.  The simple act of watching the trees move, a cat stretched in the sunlight, children playing, a couple holding hands, a headline, or a date on the calendar commemorating an event can catapult me to place pen to paper.  Observation allows one to look for the soul or the spirit of an action which transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. It sounds simplistic, but stop, watch, listen, and take in the ordinary. You will experience the more by just being present in the moment. You may become inspired.

"Rain isn't just water in the desert, it is a religious experience.  It is life's nourishment." (Coffey).

When a clerk asks, "How's your day?" and you answer back "Great, how's yours?" Be open to observe the richness of that person's life unfolding before you. Even the crowded streets are more than the impersonal masses in a hurry to a destination. Close scrutiny of the crowd reveals ind…

Recharge:Attend a Writers Conference

Image
Writing is a solitary activity. Writers need to get out and talk to other writers struggling with time lines, outlines, characterizations, plots, point of views, editing, publishers, queries, marketing, etc.
Conferences are the place where writers get this type of support. Yes, critique groups, small writing chapters are supportive, but the synergy of a conference cannot be measured by dollars and cents. A unique aspect of a conference is its energ. The exchanges of conversations between fledgling writers and published authors, presenters and struggling wordcrafters, the one on one exchanges fuel the gathering.

It doesn't matter if you attend a conference of 65 attendees or  500, it is those intimate exchanges which make a writer take stock. It is in one of those moments an ideas arrives, a timeline is adjusts, the "knotty" problem with your character or villain unravels.

Like all learning, which I personally believe is continuous, one needs to be open to it. Sophie Li…

Word Choice: Demographics or Competition

Image
As part of my prep work for my next book, I am reading classic and contemporary romances and short stories.  One of the most glaring observations is the vocabulary used in the books I have read. Perhaps it is my choice of books, but the more contemporary the writer the few syllables their words contain. It seems at some point either the writing schools or the demographics have changed how writers chose words.

Here are some examples of words used in early twentieth century writing (left side) and (on the right side) the words used today.

voluminous – biglanguorous –  slowluminous – brightunwholesome- nastyimmeasurable – vastunilluminated – dark (today unilluminated is not considered a verb)ludicrous- ridiculousruinous – harmfulmomentarily –shortlycoquette – teaseproposition – planabjure – avoid What caused the change in word choice? Is it brevity? Is a faster paced world? Is the demographic of readership changing? Is it competition with technology? I would be very interested in learning…

Research:The Thrill of the Hunt

Image
Once the story and characters start bubbling up, I begin the hunt known as research. Why? Because you never know where your research is going to take you. The initial research can authenticate locations, eras, maps, and buildings.  Focusing on places real to help create the imaginary is helpful. Even fiction or fantasy bursts from the page when a bit of truth is sprinkled among the make believe.

I use my computer, history books, and actual descriptions from individuals who lived or experienced the time period. I love to go to the location itself, if it is possible, to experience the sights, sounds, and smells. Sometimes I have to use my imagination. Sometimes a chair, a storefront, or a building sets the stage for a scene or perhaps the climax of the story. I like location trips because they give me a view from my characters' eyes.

If my story isn't contemporary, I try to find someone who lived during the time period. The current series I am writing calls for a description of …

The Evolving School Supply List

Image
As I purged my Sunday newspaper of all the advertising, I was amazed by the "Back To School" inserts. It is so hard to believe that this information is no longer pertinent to my survival. Backpacks, lunchboxes, No. 2 pencils, loose leaf  packs, pens, construction paper, scissors, notebooks, and composition books (never confuse the two) are not part of my annual budget.  The fulfillment of  "Back to School" supply list was interpreted by children as the ultimate measurement of success on the first day of school.  No, it wasn't the clothes, we were lucky. They wore uniforms for 12 years. The supply list was the determining factor of a good impression on the first day.

This ritual  took up 26 years of my life. (It's possible if you have a child born in three decade like I did.) School supply shopping changed dramatically on several levels from the late 1970's into the mid-1980's. Some items dropped off the list and were replaced with fees (art supply …

Writers Among Us

Image
Writers pass themselve off as ordinary folks. If you are standing in line with a writer in the grocery store, you won't be able to identify him or her. They sit next to you in church. They teach your children or serve our country. They come from all walks of life.

With today's technology, you don't even have to hold a pencil or know how to type to write. There is software that allows the writer to speak his or her words aloud.

All writers have a voice. Whether they plan on having their work read or not, once the words are placed in an medium it permits another pair of eyes to read it. The writer becomes vulnerable to the reader. Writers are artists who reflect the sum of their creative processes to fulfill a driving passion within themselves, to entertain an audience, to meet a deadline, to pay the bills, or all of the above.

Writers generally work in isolation. Although research, observations, interviews, and editing can be a communal effort.

We talk about writing. We talk…

Fruit of the Garden Produced with Love

Image

Manuscript Submission: QueryLetter Tracking

Image
The process of tracking your query letters requires planning. If you want to build a table or set up a tracking system in EXCEL, you owe it to yourself to check out QueryTracker™
(www.querytracker.com ). It is a free site offering writers the opportunity to learn more about publishers and agents while keeping track queries. QueryTracker™ currently has 1829 literaty agents and 173 publishers on its data base. It is user friendly.  It offers a premium level for a fee. I have not chosen it. I am still learning about the steps involved in submitting my manuscript.

This site will give you the opportunity to explore the submission expectations of agents and publishers. Not all submissions requirements are equal. You need to be prepare to have the following documents ready for each submission situation:
"The Query Letter" - If you think you have accomplished a miracle writing your first novel, you haven't made your bread and butter until you master the art of the "Query Let…

Submission:Step One - Preparing for Submissions

Image
The quest to submit my manuscript is teaching me how to step out the process. Now some of this may seem very basic to many of you. My submissions in the past were products created for someone else. They were assignments to make someone, someplace, or some event look good. The road to creative writing is a different plane from my old writing endeavors. Much of my writing in the past had to be succinct, void of emotion, instructional, and often just plain informative. I wrote in a world of "turn around" deadlines, proofreaders, corporate style guides, and final sign offs.  Working on my own in the creative writing field is like landing on Mars and it's filled with land mines.

First of all, the ideas are mine. They do not attempt to be aligned with any corporate goals. They are the product of my imagination.   My fiction and poetry tries to entertain or evoke emotion. I want to give the reader a place to go that is different from their current space. The process of submissi…

Writers@Work Conference Elevates Writers

Image
When my friend Brandon asked if I knew about the "Flash Fiction" panel being sponsored during the "Writers@Work" Conference, little did I know his question would take me to new heights, literally. The conference was held at Alta Lodge. It was four days of reintroducing me to the "awe and wonder" of my soul as a writer.  If the altitude or the scenery didn't make me "heady," the energy of the participants and presenters elevated my thoughts about writing and about being a writer.

The faculty and participants were diverse and generous. "We are writers. We work in a solitary setting. We need to come together." (John Dufresne) This was the culture of the conference. The mix of small group workshops, faculty panels, and readings. There were repeat participants and newbies like me.  Local writers and out of state participants made the atmosphere electric with enthusiasm and energy. Here were artists from multi-genres of prose and poetry. …