Saturday, June 10, 2017

Scary Words in Social Media Waters

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Publish. Send. Post. These can be scary words for writers who use social media, especially if they choose to share some of their creative work there.

Everyone knows I’m a writer. What if what I wrote is boring, meaningless, or (my favorite) stupid? What if I didn’t see a (horrors!) typo? What if I “forgot” to make sense?

Well, so what? Not everything we write is great. Not everything we write goes through a professional editing process (but I highly recommend routine self-editing to protect the writing reputation you have or hope to build).

We all make writing mistakes, especially if we’re typing on our phones with those tiny keyboards. But writing is meant to be read. And anything we write that can be accessed through social media will be read, even if only by our moms, third cousins on our dads’ sides, and people who in high school seemed kind of like stalkers, but we’ve connected with them on Facebook anyway.

Besides, look at the benefits. In brief posts, you can practice making even a single sentence beautiful with elegance and clarity. Twitter is a great challenge for that because of its character limit. You can dive into the social media waters with an effort to be brilliantly funny or inspiringly serious and see what floats—or doesn’t! You can encourage your friends and acquaintances with a new insight. If you share a link to a lengthy piece—a blog post, a short story, an essay—you might be able to test the waters with a new genre, a new audience, or a brand-new concept you’d like to develop. You can even devise a concise, to-the-point survey to learn what might help you propel your writing career in some way.

Or you can just have some fun and make your mom proud.

Sure, you must be prepared for no “likes” or “shares” or “comments.” But writers gotta write, and social media like Facebook and Twitter and easy access to blog platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it easier than ever to gain the benefits of putting your writing out there.

All you have to do is get past the scary words and dive in.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.


photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=7781&picture=water-plunge

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Pill for Writer's Block


In last month’s issue of The Smithsonian Magazine, Robert Anthony Siegel told how he overcame his chronic writer’s block with a pill. Not just any pill, but a custom-designed placebo. A researcher prepared the medication for Siegel, who knew full well that the pill contained nothing more than cellulose.
He took the medication for two weeks before he noticed any change in his behavior. When he felt a strong urge to quit, he took a couple of extra pills instead. (“I was way, way over my dosage,” he confided.)
Gradually, his episodes of writer’s block became less frequent and debilitating. So did his panic attacks and insomnia. His experiment contributed to our knowledge of the placebo effect.
A few insights into the placebo effect may help you overcome writer’s block, even if you don’t use a placebo:
1. Your expectations shape your experience. Robert’s researcher did everything to make the prescription look like a real pharmaceutical: He gave Robert a written prescription for his druggist, who then gave him a labeled medicine bottle with the pills, a disclosure sheet about the medicine, and a hefty bill of $405. (“The price increases the sense of value,” the researcher told him. “It will make them work better.”)
You could do several things to heighten expectancy when you sit down to write. Draft a cover letter to accompany your submission to the editor or critique partner who’ll read it. If you’re going to meet that person to discuss your manuscript, make the appointment before you start to write. And so on. What if I don’t finish? you may be thinking. But if you anticipate failure, guess what happens.
2. Find an empathetic caregiver. The researcher filled that role in Robert’s case. He listened attentively to the consequences of writer’s block, helped Robert imagine how his life would change without it, and checked on his progress throughout the trial.
If you keep getting “stuck” with your writing, find a critique partner or mentor to help you. Your conversations with that person tell your subconscious mind: I am not well, but I’m taking steps to get well. This condition is not normal, but I have a capable friend who’ll help me return to normal.
3. Continue therapy when you see no results. At first, Siegel's writing remained “stuck” and his anxiety began to build. He emailed his lab worker one night to pour out his frustration, and got the reply: “As with any other medicine, it may take time to reach a therapeutic dose.” So he kept on taking the placebos as directed--and he began to write.



Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Writing Bug

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Do you remember when the writing bug got you?

My grandchildren are victims, and I'm thrilled.

I was with three of them a couple of weeks ago while their parents were out on a date. The two boys were eager for me to read their most recent creations. The five-year-old, Benjamin, had dictated his fifty-word story about a hero and a monster as the seven-year-old, James, typed it for him. (Now, that’s writer support.) Then James typed his debut novel's chapter 1 for himself.

“What’s your book about?” I asked him.

“It’s a mystery.”

“What’s the mystery?”

“The family is going camping, but the kids don’t know where they’re going camping.”

As I read it out loud, I could see the first chapter had a lot of packing and camping paraphernalia in it. But sure enough, the kids in the family didn’t know their destination.

“What’s going to happen next?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Ah, a panster! Meanwhile, his ten-year-old sister, Connie, writes about horses, her current passion. They are all writing "what they know," but if their interest in writing continues, I imagine they will incorporate what they learn about life as they experience it. Most writers do. Or maybe they'll incorporate what they think is someone else’s experience.

“What do you think your parents do when they go on a date?” I asked the three of them as they munched popcorn.

“They go to movies and eat all the chocolate they want."

“And they kiss!

Today I read a story my other granddaughter wrote on a tiny piece of paper and left behind in her parents' van. Ellie's imagination, it seems, had been in full play.

"I live in texas," her first-person story began. She lives in Indiana. "The texas flag looks like this." She'd inserted a drawing, which for all I know may be accurate. She finished with, "I am part of the rocking rangers. I am 13." She's seven, and I'm not sure what the rocking rangers are. But as far as I'm concerned, she's rocking with the writing bug and I love it! Meanwhile, her brother, Simon, almost five, is impressed with printed books because they "don't have scribbles" like the ones he sees in his own handwritten creations.

Scribble away, my boy. Scribble away!

When did the writing bug get you?


Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.
photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=147906&picture=children-on-a-hammock; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=177876&picture=paper-and-a-pencil

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Sense of Awe

My wife Maribeth and I sat on the balcony of our hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sipping our morning coffee and watching waves break on the beach.  Our day’s devotional text was Psalm 27:13, “I believe I will enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,” so the scene prompted a prayer of praise and gratitude that God had placed us in such a beautiful world.
I believe a distinguishing characteristic of Christian fiction is this sense of awe at the natural world. Not a moralizing commentary on the weather, scenery, or other physical phenomena, but an awareness that the environment of our story demonstrates the presence of a creative, compassionate God.
   Perhaps the heroine is riding in an ambulance with her husband, who’s struggling to hang onto life after a heart attack. When a paramedic tries to jolt him back into a regular cardiac rhythm, she looks away and sees the majestic Cascade Mountains illuminated by the first rays of dawn.
   A teenage boy waits for the bus that will transport him to another state where he hopes to escape the abusive scorn of his alcoholic father. A Canadian goose crosses the highway with a single adolescent gosling behind it—not a pair of parents but one, not a brood of goslings but one.
   It’s not necessary to tell a reader what conclusions to draw; in fact, spelling out conclusions would betray a distrust of the reader’s spiritual sensitivity and limit his ability to draw more transformative conclusions than you have imagined. Simply note what’s happening in the natural world and let the reader discover God in it.
   “The heavens are telling the glory of God,” the psalmist said. Like the poet, a Christian novelist doesn’t tell readers what to see in her imaginary world, but she renders such a world so faithfully that readers feel a sense of reverent wonder.

Joe Allison is a retired Christian editor living in Anderson, Indiana.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

They Had Me at “Jane Eyre”—To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Did you see the recent PBS presentation To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters? Perhaps British television is not your “cuppa” tea, but this one had me at “Jane Eyre.” If you’ve ever read that book by Charlotte Brontë or Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, for instance, you might have been drawn in too. (I confess I’ve never read Anne Brontë’s work, but now I think I must.) 

Here’s more of what I loved about the nineteenth-century Brontë family as portrayed in To Walk Invisible and how I think we, as writers, can be inspired by them:

·       In this drama, one of the sisters says something like, “I feel most alive when I write.” For twenty-first century writers who express a similar passion, her proclaim produces a stir of kinship across the centuries, doesn’t it?

·       The sisters wrote even when they thought they, especially as women, had little hope of publication. When, however, they saw an opportunity to be published (as well as to earn some much-needed funds), they went for it—although at some cost to them, and in Emily’s case, with great reticence. The lesson? If you feel led to publication, you must try if you hope to ever see it a reality.

·       In one scene, Emily, finally on board with the secret plan to pursue publication, is shopping with Anne. As they walk, she tells her sister a compelling story someone relayed to her. Then she halts at a shop and says, “If I’m going to write novels, I’ll need more paper.” I can’t quite explain all the reasons that scene inspires me, but her willingness to invest is one of them.

·       The women’s beloved brother, Branwell, destroying his life with drugs and alcohol, was central to how these sisters thought and felt and lived. Branwell never realized his artistic dreams, but his sisters were so aware of his misery that they hid their success from everyone so as not to hurt him. This, I believe, took extraordinary compassion and humility. They could have let their accomplishments come between them and their brother, but they made another choice. If and when writers are successful, sensitivity to others who might be struggling is a good choice.

·       Currer Bell, Ellis Bell, and Acton Bell were the pseudonyms the sisters chose, retaining their own initials despite their choice for absolute anonymity. They had poured their hearts and souls into those handwritten words, and I think this was one way they chose to hang on to that truth in a harsh world. This, perhaps, is one reason seeing his or her name on the cover of a book can be so meaningful to an author. There’s the heart. Right on the cover.

·       When Charlotte, Emily, and Anne at last told their father they were the authors of published books after Jane Eyre’s phenomenal success, they held the printed volumes before him as though they were an offering. He told them he was extraordinarily proud of them, and had always been. May every writer have supportive family and friends! But if not, finding someone or group of someones who will offer support can make a difference.

·       Charlotte had been afraid to tell their father about their books. As she’d told her sisters, “He’ll read them.” Most writers can relate to feeling some apprehension before letting those whose opinions they most value read their creative work. But Charlotte decided to be brave, and every writer can be too—at least eventually.

·       The sisters told their father their novels were different because they showed what the world was really like. You’d have to be the judge on whether, as some critics said at the time, their novels are “coarse” (I don’t believe they are), but truth is a worthy goal for any writer.

·       Anne and Emily died before they reached thirty, never having known public acknowledgment of their work under their own names. Charlotte died at thirty-nine. What we call early death today wasn’t uncommon then. What if they had given up on their dreams, waited too long? The lesson? It’s never too early or too late to start writing, especially if writing is a calling. The time is now.

Thank you, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, for sharing your God-given talent with us, even here in the twenty-first century. But also for your courage, your compassion, your tenacity, your inspiration.







Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries

(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.