Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't Let Life Pass You By

Ever wonder how a writer’s perception differs in terms of events, circumstances and the seemingly insignificant, mundane things of life? Writers take mental snapshots, if you will, of people, places and events, and we hold them in our memories, imprint them on our hearts. Years later, I still remember some of those fleeting moments. Long before we had cameras in our phones, I remember a scene as I rode the bus through the streets of Dallas on the way to work. An abandoned pair of well-worn cowboy boots sat on a step in a narrow alleyway. That “picture” stuck in my mind. I wondered about the man who’d worn those boots, and how they’d come to be abandoned.

I’ll always remember the handsome, young Italian priest, arms outstretched in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, the children running to him while other children ran alongside us, holding out their hands, hoping for a coin or two. It was like The Thornbirds revisited. Just a man of the cloth reaching out to the children. Right. Likewise the gondoliers in Venice cleaning their boats, singing along to Rod Stewart’s “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” Just a group of guys doing their job. Right.

One of the most interesting things I ever wrote was on a tray liner at a Burger King while sitting in London’s Piccadilly Circus as I observed a man interacting with a series of young women who slid in to the booth across from him. It was pretty clear what his relationship was to those women. My heart ached for them, and it opened my eyes a bit to the ways of the world, that so-called “seamy underbelly” a small-town girl from Indiana had never glimpsed before. Then there was the bride outside a suburban Boston Marriott, dressed in her finery, running down the street alone – at midnight. These are the kinds of mental images that stay with me. I remember saying after the bride incident, “Now there’s a story!”

Take the time to watch and observe carefully over the next few days, and you might be surprised. Let me tell you what I noticed recently on my twelve-mile morning trip across a double-decker bridge stretching across the Ohio River dividing Indiana from Kentucky. This is a sampling of what I saw:

*An older man using a long metal stick, pointed at the end, to pick up trash on the side of the road. I see him most mornings as I turn the corner onto the main road from our neighborhood. He does his part to keep that portion of the road clean and litter-free. But he always looks somber, sad, the lines on his face etched deep, his mouth downturned. I wonder if he lives alone, how he came to pick up the debris so faithfully as his daily mission, what he thinks of those who throw their trash out car window with no regard.

*Four elderly women standing outside the Catholic church, hands clasped together, waiting until it was safe to cross the street. My eyes well with tears, as they often do, when I see these women. It’s their morning routine. They’d been to church, and I can’t help but wonder about them. Are any of their husbands still living? How long have they known one another? Where did they meet? What I see is deep friendship, and the caring and protective spirit they share.

*A four-car pileup. Didn’t look like anyone was hurt, thank the Lord, but a couple of cars were most likely totaled. Some drivers waiting to get past the accident scene were impatient, others bided their time. But almost all were on their cell phones calling work to say they’d be late. What did we ever do before cell phones were invented? They’ve changed the entire way we communicate. In some ways – like immediacy – it’s good. In other ways, it’s self-limiting and perhaps cuts us off from interacting and reaching out to new people.

*A woman pulling down her rearview mirror and applying mascara as she waited to turn onto a busy downtown street. Is this grooming in the car part of her usual routine? Why would she risk poking her eye with a mascara wand? What could she possibly have been doing before leaving home? Is she single, married, with or without children? Perhaps she stayed up late the night before and opted to sleep later. Maybe she’d been so busy taking care of everyone else in her family she hadn’t taken time for herself.

*A homeless man, a cart loaded with his worldly possessions beside him on a downtown street, poking in a trash can for leftovers. Puffing on a cigarette. I thank the Lord it wasn’t too cold. What kinds of things run through this man’s mind? How does he spend his time? Does he know about the local mission and nearby shelter? What kind of daily existence must he lead? That one’s difficult for me. It’s beyond the scope of my understanding, but at this point, I do what I can for him – I pray.

*The Coca-Cola driver unloads his truck in front of my office building, chatting and smiling with the office worker headed toward the revolving doors. The man with the Volvo station wagon stops to ask for directions. A noisy group of tourists heads to the Visitor’s Center to hear the life story of Colonel Sanders or the Muhammad Ali Center to hear more about The Champ. Multiple school buses line up by the Kentucky Center for the Arts, with children lining up by the front steps, smiling and chattering, ready to see a special play. They’re happy, full of the innocence and boundless faith of youth. Some of these children might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a performance here. Their excitement shows in their body language, their facial expressions. It makes me smile as I turn into the parking garage.

I’ve seen a lot in one trip to work, but I’ve seen things I’ll imprint on my mind, in my heart. We can let the world pass us by, or we can stop and pay attention and use what we see to enhance our lives and our writing. Feel the emotion. Glimpse the beauty in life, the hope and the joy, to balance out the inevitable sadness, the loneliness. All the emotions that make up life. Until recently, I also worked part-time at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. One of the volunteers I worked with there on my last night – a beautiful, Christian woman and one-year breast cancer survivor with a headful of gorgeous, new curls she’d never had before – stood up at the end of “Mamma Mia!” to join in singing along to the finale, “Dancing Queen.” She had the most joyous smile on her face, winked at me and said, “Sometimes you just gotta dance!” Indeed.

Blessings, my friends, until next time!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Starting Your Story from the Title

Good Sunday to you! Today’s topic is one that continues various themes in several of my previous posts on how to spark your imagination, strengthen your creative muscle, and brew up a whirlwind of brainstorms.

Although I have several different writing exercises in my trusty writing toolbox (a box of never-ending ideas it seems), I really enjoy just coming up with a title that I think sounds “cool,” and then start writing a story from that point. If I see something during the week that forms a title in my mind, I keep a list on my iPhone as I think of them. Then, several times a week, I pick a title and start writing from that point. It’s possible I may have already put some thought into it back when I came up with the title, but usually very little. The point being that I do not create a title from a story idea, but create the story from the title I came up with.

During this exercise, what you write can either be a narrative outline - a description of what your story is about - or it can be the actual story. Don’t be afraid to stop and start, enter notes to yourself, or start something new as it pops into your imagination. The goal is to let it flow (be one with the keyboard). All of what you are writing is just the creative possibilities for a more collected, focused storyline. You are throwing out the seeds of creativity and seeing what grows.

If you REALLY want to stretch the brainstorm mechanics, come up with a title at the time you sit down to do this exercise and go from there. Case in point: This will be a real example - live as I am writing this blog entry. So, let’s see. Ah Ha! Let’s say, for example, that I just sat down (well I did) and came up with the title “Not My Reflection.” Boom! That’s it. That’s the title. Ready. Get set. Go! Where do I go from this point? Ok, title in place. Start typing…

“Not My Reflection” I see a middle-aged woman staring at her reflection in the mirror. “That’s not me,” she says. Her name is Lacy. She has tears running down her face. She is sad at the loss that she is feeling. It has been five weeks since she was told that her baby may or may not make it. It’s been touch and go. The doctors have been trying everything they know to bring this baby out into the world. Lacy and her husband already agreed on the name “Hope” for their daughter. They didn’t want to know the gender of the baby, but with the extent of the tests, there was no way to avoid it. Lacy and her husband pray that the Lord’s will be done, but they want the blessings of this baby in their lives...

Ok, back to my reality. This came from the first thirty seconds of my exercise. It came from the far realms of my imagination…I don’t know where…as I cannot think of anything in my life that resembles the chronicle of these events. As you can see, this is more about the story than the story itself. I came up with a story based on the title. But now, I have a story idea that I didn’t have before. Whether you write your story or write about your story, you will have new ideas.

There are many different variations of this exercise, but each one can offer you a new challenge every time. I find that listening to music helps this process, much like listening to music helps in your physical workout routine. Give it a try and report back and let us know how it went for you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lesson 3: Lease, Don't Sell

You've found a publisher for your masterpiece, and you want to be sure that it remains YOUR masterpiece. That's why the grant-of-rights clause is so important.

If you sell your house, you give up control. The new buyer can remodel your "perfect" kitchen or even tear the house down, and there is nothing you can do about it. If you rent it out instead, you can restrict the tenant's ability to make changes, say how long the lease will last, and even provide for early termination if the tenant trashes the house or falls behind in rent payments. While it isn't a perfect analogy, the same is true for copyrights.

Copyrights are property, and you can sell them. You can also rent ("assign" or "license" in copyright lingo) some or all of the exclusive rights that go with them.* These include the right to reproduce your book and to distribute it to the public. I'll deal with others next month when I cover subsidiary rights.

A grant-of-rights clause establishes who owns the copyright and who gets to exercise which of the rights that come with it. At a minimum, royalty publishers expect authors to assign them the exclusive rights to reproduce a book and distribute it to the public. And they should expect that. These rights are the main thing a royalty publisher receives in exchange for taking the monetary risk from publishing the book: a risk that wouldn't be worth taking if the author could compete with the publisher.

While a royalty publisher expects to have the benefit of these exclusive rights, it can protect itself by renting them from the author; it does not need to buy the copyright. If the publisher is responsible for registering the copyright, the contract should say it will be registered in your name. Personally, I would never sign a contract giving the copyright to the publisher. That is a sale rather than a lease, and if I wrote it, I want to own it.**

This is one place where the house analogy breaks down, however. A contract that sells the copyright to the publisher may contain provisions limiting what the publisher can do with it and providing for the publisher to return the copyright to the author if certain events occur. This is how some academic publishers handle the situation. So if you do decide to sell the copyright, make sure you can live with the terms of the sale.

The copyright lease may be, and often is, for an indefinite time, but the contract should contain some provisions for terminating it. I will talk about those clauses in a later post.

If you are paying to have the book published, there is no reason to lease out your exclusive rights. You can give the publisher permission to reproduce and sell books on your behalf and to register the copyright in your name without giving up your ability to find a different publisher or distribution method any time you want.

But if you are entering into a contract with a royalty publisher, you will have to give up some of your rights. That's just the way it is. So what do you look for when deciding whether to sign a particular contract?

For me, it's as simple as "lease, don't sell."

Kathryn Page Camp

* The term "exclusive rights" is misleading, because the law allows certain fair uses. Absent a fair use, however, these rights belong exclusively to the copyright holder unless the copyright holder assigns them to someone else.

** The one exception is a work-for-hire, which I talked about in my November 25, 2010 post.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Echoes of Praise

Photo credit: Billy Alexander

The movie August Rush tells the heart-tugging story of an abandoned boy longing to find the parents he’s never known. He hears melody and harmony in the world around him and seems unable to contain the music that lives inside of him. August believes the music is the key to helping him find a place where he belongs.

Through a string of events, he is recognized by The Julliard School as a musical prodigy. The dean of the school seeks to understand August’s talent at such a young age. In a poignant scene she questions him about his unique mastery of music:

“How do you do it? How does the music come to you?” she asks.

August answers, “I just hear it. It’s like someone calling out to me. Writing it all down is like I’m calling back to them.”


“The ones who gave me the music.”

What a beautiful picture of the life of a Christian. Each one of us is born with natural abilities and talents that whisper of the One who knit us together in the secret place. We use the inborn talents we’ve been given and we bless the world, in turn blessing Him, with the echoes of praise for what He’s created in us.

He calls out to us, speaking love and grace into our hearts, drawing us to Himself. We submit to His gentle nudging and dive into a relationship with our Creator. We surrender our hearts and lives to Him and His Spirit gives us additional gifts, gifts to strengthen the Body and woo unbelievers. We edify and strengthen His Bride, and again, He is blessed.

When I organize, or teach, or write, I’m calling back to the One who put those gifts within me. With my hands, my body, my life, I give Him praise. With those gifts, He validates my position as His child. With my careful use of them, I verify His position as my LORD.

It is a carefully orchestrated song, a beautifully choreographed dance, a holy echo of love. Our small, humble lives reverberating with the love and power we’ve received from the One who gave us life.

What, in addition to your writing, can you use to echo your praise to God today?

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

Friday, March 18, 2011

What if ...

What if the lights went out in the factory in 2 a.m., and no one remembered I was still there?

Could I find my way out without falling or tripping or getting lost? A few work station lights were still on but the bright lights for the whole place were out.

That really happened a few weeks ago while I worked night shift to train some new people. Everyone clocked out but I stayed behind to finish up a few things.

When I turned around from my workroom and looked out into the main floor, it sure was dark! I have never been in the factory when it was dark and quiet at the same time.

Good thing I don't let my imagination runaway with me.

I found my flash light and started picking a careful path through the black, echoing industrial maze between me and the door.

I passed down rows of hulking two story equipment with randomly flashing lights. The machines made some occasional pops and hisses from the shadows, sounds I had never heard before because of all the other equipment, fans, voices and machinery.

Anybody could be in here, I thought with my mouth going dry. My next thought was, What a set-up for a story!

What if I had a stalker at work? Maybe an evil ex boyfriend? Or the evil ex-girlfriend of my current squeeze?

What if they lay in wait among the shadows?

How could I run through the darkness?

What if I dropped my cell phone, or the battery went dead, or I couldn't get a signal? Would I hear a stalker coming up behind me? Or would they trip over stuff as much as I was, and give themselves away?

I finally made it to the time clock about seven minutes after everyone left. I thought the situation would make a good incident for a story.

It was a pretty vivid experience. I don't know when or if I will ever use this nugget, but it did get me thinking about my favorite questions: what if, and why. One what-if leads to another, and pretty soon creativity kicks in. It's fun when that happens.

What are you guys' favorite ways to kick-start creativity?

PS ... I will be back after work ... only I am back on days and will be clocking out mid-afternoon as usual.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Angst Project

My book club is reading The Happiness Project, in which the author journals her month-by-month progress in nailing down attitudes and habits that will give her a better appreciation for the happiness she already has. You know, a beautiful house … but it’s cluttered. A wonderful husband … but she nags him. Good health … but she’s always tired. And so on.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m salivating over her to-do lists and am tempted to carbon copy her journey. My bookclubmates, however, are muttering vague, disparaging remarks, and their chins are drool dry. Since I’m not as far along in the book as they are, I figure either the author goes where no sane woman would dare to go, or my mates simply aren’t devout to-do-listers. Whatever, I know better than to get caught up. I’m a good beginner but a poor continuer. Every month I throw away my to-do list and start over.

Nevertheless, I like the concept of dealing with obstacles that are … well, stupid. Stupid that they’re hindrances, stupid that I allow them, stupid that they even exist in the first place. In particular, I’m thinking of why I let myself get distracted from writing. Last week I had two whole days—TWO WHOLE DAYS!—free to write, with no one and nothing to divert my attention. And what did I do? Yep, wasted time with distractions.

So I did a bit of analysis and came up with the fact that I let myself get distracted because I’m anxious. Is my writing good enough? Will I show not tell? Get the scene goal expressed? Tilt the tension up? Draw the reader in? Avoid my fav expressions? Get my MRUs straight? Reach a dark moment? Remember to have a sequel?

The more I learn about writing, the more my angst increases.

Remember when writing used to be fun?

But I can’t go back. I don’t want to go back. I actually do love making progress, painful as it is.

So I’ve started my own little project. The Angst Project. What attitudes and actions will help reduce my anxiety and up my productivity? So far I’ve come up with five.

1.     Work on more than one writing project at a time. I have four—two fiction and two non-fiction. When I slave over just one of them, my angst is high and distraction operates at peak level. Now I select at least two projects and commit to them for the day. I don’t know why, but spreading out the angst reduces my stress. I don’t need distractions. Only coffee. And chocolate.

2.      Allot a minimum of an hour to each project. Progress on one encourages progress on another, which stimulates a can-do attitude that keeps me energized.

3.     Feel free to jump back and forth between projects. No biting the bullet to get one project out of the way, only to end up with high angst over the remaining project.

4.     If a project starts to roll, go for it! Where there’s no angst, there’s no need for restraint.

5.     Have a planned, profitable distraction ready to go. Laundry, a few bills to write, a sink full of dirty dishes—something to fuss over if my distraction-addiction needs feeding. Something good that needs to get done, but that I’m glad to set aside as soon as I can.

So, I’m curious … do you know why you let yourself get distracted?

by Steph Prichard

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Would You Marry a Writer?

by Rachael Phillips

God has played major matchmaker ever since He introduced Eve to Adam: "Have I got a nice girl for you!" (Sam Levenson). The Almighty used thirsty camels to bring about Rebekah's marriage to Isaac. He mastermined Boaz's marriage to Ruth, the great-great-great-grandma of King David and, ultimately, Jesus Christ.

But finding a spouse who will stick with a writer? That task might even make God scratch His head.

Some on-line dating services insist they can find the perfect partner for anyone--even writers. One Web site includes 29 dimensions by which future mates can be measured. (Does this number bother anyone else? Why not a nice round number like 30? Or 30,006? Just sayin'.)

These surveys never include the correct questions for potential writer spouses. I submit the following prompts in hopes of helping these experts increase the reliabilty of the profiles they create. Do you want to marry someone
  1. Who wears a baggy sweatsuit and feather boa to work?
  2. Whose yard has been officially declared a landfill?
  3. Who will awaken you at 3 a.m. to brainstorm a few dozen new book titles?
  4. Who works 80 hours a week and nets 2.4 cents per hour, minus Xerox and Prozac costs?
  5. Who wants to invite poison experts and chain saw murderers over for coffee?
  6. Who maxes out credit cards attending conferences where hundreds of people study "beats"?
  7. Who crashes weddings, funerals and Rotary meetings in order to develop his characters?
  8. Who needs years of psychotherapy to recover from her last fiction plot?
  9. Who drinks espresso to calm down?
  10. Who vandalizes signs with apostrophes in the wrong places?
  11. Who robs a 7-Eleven, crashes your car and sleeps in a dumpster in order to "feel" a crime story?* **

Some claim anyone who agrees to these conditions rates the dependability index of a Jell-o sidewalk.

Exactly. Down through the ages, God, in His matchmaking wisdom, has designed special lunatics who voluntarily take on the impossible task of marriage to a writer.

Civilized society should be warned: these often appear normal. My own husband of 36 years wears beige cardigans, eats plain Cheerios every morning and serves as the rational voice on church and community boards.

Yet he regularly rescues my manuscripts from the black holes of cyberspace.

He shows up at my book signings--a sure sign of mental instability--and hauls and hovers as needed.

When I was writing biographies, he didn't mind sharing breakfast conversations with dead people.

Finally, he told me money and success weren't important, as long as I was doing what God wanted me to do.

And they say writers are insane.

* Note: If a potential spouse boasts lots of rich relatives who can post bail money, the survival chances for the marriage increase exponentially.

**Note: Yes, I've listed 11 questions, not ten. This format should fit perfectly with researchers who are all about 29 dimensions.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Habits of a Writers Heart

I have two favorite Friday afternoons. Twice a year my son’s school invites parents to an end of the semester reflection. Students orally answer

What habit have I most grown in?

How do I know?

What habit do I most need to improve in?

What step can I take?

Students are remarkably humble and candid. I walk away every time thinking we parents could go and do likewise.

So what heart habits would make your list?

The twelve- through fourteen-year-olds focus on










As a writer, what do you want to cultivate? You might adopt some of the middle schoolers’ list. You may also want to deepen






When you have your list ask yourself

What are the evidences of these habits?

In which habit am I lacking?

What steps can I take to shore up the lack?

Think on these things. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I thought I might be in trouble last month when I recklessly promised to share ten reasons not to luv a Kindle this month – and I was right! I’ve been trying to scrape together ten reasons ever since. I asked some of you to help me out, so let’s see if together we can reach ten. . .

FIRST REASON: A Kindle is more expensive than a book. For that price, I could get about ten books. AH, but a Kindle is more than one book – it’s hundreds, and I can easily get enough free books to read forever. . .

SECOND REASON (from Kathryn Page Camp): “It’s so easy to download books and have room for them, that I’m more likely to buy books I have to pay for but don’t have time to read right now. It’s great that I can download the free ones and read them when I get to them, but when I pay money, that’s something else.” Like Kathryn said to me when she suggested this reason, it’s pretty weak. . .

THIRD REASON (also from Kathryn): “I can’t read it in the dark. My Kindle is a year old, so maybe they have a backlight option now. Actually, I would rarely use the backlight option – the Kindle is much easier to read in normal light – but it would be nice to have.” I (Millie) have yet to try to read mine in the dark. In fact, I’ve found mine easier to read than regular books, partly because I can change the font size. And there are special reading lights for Kindles.

FOUR: (also from Kathryn – THANKS HEAPS for your three reasons, KPC! I needed them to try to reach ten!): “If I am reading along and want to go back and check on something, it’s much harder to do than with a paper book. YEP, I sure agree with Kathryn here! However, since Kindle has recently added page numbers, maybe that will help a bit. But still, there’s something about flipping pages here and there in a book to find something or to reread a passage that I just can’t do easily on the Kindle – A HUGE NOT TO LUV. . .

FIVE: The Kindle “spoils” or prevents my usual reading style that I learned from my beloved Mom – I read the first chapters, then read the last few to see if I want to take the time to read the in-between ones. Philosophy behind that: time is too precious to waste. . . (I know, I know – this causes LOTS of debates in reading groups I'm in, so I’ve plenty of rebuttal answers, plus LOTS of "converts," too (try me. . . :-)

SIX: Hmmm, I'm looking through my notes. . . oh yes, my Kindle is just black and white, no color, at least not yet. And I do miss color. . . a teeny bit anyway, especially for book covers. But thankfully, I have a great imagination, so it doesn’t take black and white long to become color in my mind while I’m reading.

SEVEN: I can’t give away or loan my Kindle books. I hear with the Nook you can exchange unlimited numbers of books with other Nook users. Supposedly, we Kindle users can now share a book with one other Kindle user, but I haven’t done it yet. Have any of you? Oh well, my kids and grandkids will probably be glad not to get any more boxes of “Mom’s old books”. . .

EIGHT: I can’t show and pass around the next book/s to read in my book club at church, and that’s a rather nice ritual. Luckily, so far someone else has always had the book to show. I wonder what we’ll do when we all have Kindles? Choose a designated reader to bring the book/s from the library?

NINE: Hmmm, I’ve looked through all my notes, and all I find are more reasons to luv a Kindle. So how about this? I can't see or lovingly touch my book friends on my Kindle like I can my real ones on my book shelves. That’s really weak, I know, but I'm trying to reach ten. . .

TEN: Nope, I truly can’t think of a tenth reason not to luv my Kindle, not even another weak reason like “nine” above. You won the bet, friend Bob Burns! So hey, help me out someone, please, with another reason not to luv our Kindles. . .

YAY, it's bedtime, and I can’t wait to get to my evening Kindle read – I’m on about my sixth book since last month, Angel Time by Anne Rice. It’s a marvelous read, and a great testimony about an unusual Christian conversion experience.

Millie Samuelson

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Keyboard Shortcuts for the Busy Writer

Even though I’ve taught computer for ten years, I’m still surprised at the increasing skill level of students each semester. Every year I have to raise the bar and increase the workload for students because they continue to complete the projects before the semester is over. One of the most valuable strategies I use, which always seems valuable is the use of keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Office programs.

Most of us know a few keyboard shortcuts; While you hold down the CONTROL key, press P and it brings up the PRINT window. Hold down the CONTROL key and press S and it saves your work. Hold down the CONTROL key and press O and the computer opens the open file location window.

But there are dozens of other useful shortcuts, which can be used as time-savers for writers. Below are a few favorites. Many of these also work in programs other than Microsoft Word. I hope you can find something you can use. Keep in mind that text must first be highlighted before applying the shortcut. (To highlight all text in the document; hold down the CONTROL key and press A )

CTRL+A Selects all words in document.
CTRL+B Make the highlighted text bold
CTRL+I Make highlighted text italic
CTRL+U Make highlighted text underline
CTRL+SHIFT+< Decrease the font size of the highlighted text
CTRL+SHIFT+> Increase the font size of the highlighted text
CTRL+C Copy the selected text or object
CTRL+X Cut the selected text or object
CTRL+V Paste text or an object
CTRL+Z Undo the last action (up to 40 moves backwards)
CTRL+Y Redo the last action (the opposite of above)
CTRL+N Create a new blank document
CTRL+W Close a document
CTRL+SHIFT+W Underline words but not spaces
CTRL+SHIFT+D Double-underline text
CTRL+SHIFT+K Format letters as small capitals
CTRL+1 Single-space lines
CTRL+2 Double-space lines
CTRL+5 Set 1.5-line spacing
CTRL+E Center a paragraph
CTRL+L Left align a paragraph
CTRL+R Right align a paragraph
LEFT ARROW or RIGHT ARROW Move one character to the left or right
SHIFT+LEFT ARROW Select or unselect one character to the left
SHIFT+RIGHT ARROW Select or unselect one character to the right
CTRL+BACKSPACE Delete one word to the left
CTRL+ENTER A page break
ALT+CTRL+C The copyright symbol
ALT+CTRL+R The registered trademark symbol
ALT+CTRL+T The trademark symbol
SHIFT+F3 Change the case of letters
F7 Choose the Spelling command (Tools menu)
F12 Choose the Save As command (File menu)
Shift + F7 Opens the thesaurus
ALT+F4 Quit Microsoft Word
F12 Opens the save as window
CTRL+LEFT ARROW Move one word to the left
CTRL+RIGHT ARROW Move one word to the right
CTRL+DELETE Delete one word to the right
CTRL+SHIFT+LEFT ARROW Select or unselect one word to the left
CTRL+SHIFT+RIGHT ARROW Select or unselect one word to the right
CTRL+END To the end of a document
CTRL+HOME To the beginning of a document

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Networking Is Just Another Word for Making Friends

Indiana Chapter of ACFW at a November Meeting
Are you networking with your fellow writers? I've heard plenty of people say they are busy writing and don't have time to "network" with other writers, but there are good things that come from knowing groups of writers. There is a time to write and a time to make writing friends!

Writing is one of those industries where knowing the community can be a good thing on many levels. Ask a published author. Each has their own story of how she connected with this person and that person in writing. Soon, like some crazy patchwork quilt, it all fit together to make this beautiful story come into print.

Like anything else, balance is good. Write in solitude. Rewrite in community. Some of my best friends, or at least those who know me best in my heart, are writers. It's a great boost to my creativity and productivity to connect with people who understand me. They connect me to the right people,but also help me brainstorm, get a chapter right, or cry or rejoice with me. We're human. We need human connections. So, I ask again--who are your writer peeps? Who is your tribe? If you need a little help connecting in that area, we are here for you, right here in Indiana. Do you write Christian fiction? Have you been going it alone and wonder if anyone out there knows some more about this, knows who to send your manuscript to, or just knows answers to your questions?

We have a national organization and this will be your first stop on to connecting to a great community of all the people you need to know in Christian fiction. Go to the American Christian Fiction Writers web page to get started. The dues may seem pricey, but you get a lot for your money, and it's actually not as much as some other national professional organizations. You instantly connect with those in your genre, those who know a great deal about writing, and all those editors and agents. You get questions answered, a prayer group, free courses every month, can connect with critique groups--and you'll make life long friends who know exactly how excited you are to make a word count.

Are you wanting to meet up with fellow Christian fiction writers in Indiana? We have a group that meets statewide a few times a year, but we also connect on a writers' loop and many of us connect locally, too. Meet up with us at our state meeting April 9th, 2011. You may come as a guest or you can join our group after joining the national group. I'm including the information for our state meeting below, but do RSVP to me, Crystal Miller, by emailing me, or you can ask me questions about American Christian Fiction Writers.

Indiana State Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers
Meeting time: 12:00 Noon -- 2:30 p.m. on April 9, 2011
To RSVP email Crystal Miller crystal.mrsinewaATgmailDOTcom (fill in AT with @ and DOT with .) We reserve a room so we need a head count.

There is an entry fee of $10 for non-member guests, but members who are paid up on dues get in free and pay only for their meals. All are responsible for your own meal.

The location for our luncheon meeting is now locked in at a wonderful location: Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria in Greenwood, Indiana, just south of Indianapolis. (You can peruse their website here:
Physical address: 100 Byrd Way, Greenwood, IN 46143. Their phone: 317-881-8888.
Literary Agent, Amanda Luedeke with MacGregor Literary Group
I’m very excited to announce that AMANDA LUEDEKE, agent with MacGregor Literary Group will be our speaker. See her bio below. She will be speaking and will answer questions.

About Amanda Luedeke

Amanda wrote her first book — a picture book entitled A Cat — when she was 5 years old. Though the scintillating masterpiece never made it to bookstore shelves, it solidified her dream to one day work in the book industry.

Amanda was a 2006 graduate of the acclaimed Professional Writing program at Taylor University Fort Wayne. Since college, she's made her living as a writer, working as a freelancer for local newspapers and marketing companies, while operating her own writing business.

Her love for writing and ability to think strategically landed her a full time job in marketing at an agency in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Since starting there in 2008, Amanda has written web and print copy for Vera Bradley, Baekgaard and Peg Perego. She's also assisted in marketing strategy for these companies, conducting research, launching social media sites and proposing and working on major projects targeted at the online consumer.

Yes, she knows ... she's one of those people.

She met Chip at an author signing in Barnes and Noble in 2008. After realizing they had a commonality in Taylor University, one thing led to another, and before she knew it, she was helping him with projects, research, and all the little stuff she now assumes he just didn't feel like doing.

Shortly after, Amanda was hired on as Chip's Assistant. She handled his slush pile, worked with his authors, researched projects, did the occasional writing project and realized that she just may have found her place in the industry.

Now, on board as an Agent, Amanda brings unique interests to the MacGregor Literary team. She represents general market and CBA spec fiction, YA, children's fiction, post college-aged fiction and non-fiction, and literary fiction.

Having lived all over the Midwest, from Iowa to Minnesota to Illinois, Amanda considers the Chicago suburbs to be 'home', though she's currently settled in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her husband, Tad.

Come join us!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Poodles and Prose

Chevy and my Granddaughter, Trinity, a few years ago.
What do John Steinbeck, Walt Disney, Clare Booth Luce and Karla Akins have in common? 

As you can probably guess from the title, they're all writers--and they own(ed) poodles.

I find this extremely encouraging. I always look for an excuse to identify with someone successful.  Such comparisons give me hope. 

"Steinbeck had a poodle, and I have a poodle, so that must mean I'll be a best-seller like Steinbeck, right?"

Okay, fine. That's a fallacy. But I still like the idea of owning a sort-of-poodle-really-half-a-golden-retriever-dog.

His name is Chevy and he's taught me a lot about courage.

When I found him on the Internet, the owners wanted no more of him. I had been looking for a "Golden Doodle" to rescue because I believe in rescuing dogs rather than buying them from breeding programs. 

Golden Doodles are half golden retrievers mixed with standard poodles. I first "met" one on a vacation trip several years ago and fell in love with their gentle personalities, intelligence and zest for life. Everything is joy, hot dog treats and felicity to Doodles who leap like gazelles (or young bulls if the china tea cups are nearby) at the mere thought of a ball or the long-awaited return of their master from the mailbox.

Doodles don't look like poodles if you don't trim their coats in the prissy-poodle style. I keep mine fluffy. He’s the sweetest dog I've ever owned (I've owned a lot of dogs--I have three now). When he wants to say hello he gallops up to me and lays his giant head upside down in my lap. The magnitude of this endearing gesture is nearly more than my heart can stand. It's a huge responsibility to be loved this completely by a helpless creature, don't you think?

But, in spite of all my love and pampering, he remains thoroughly dedicated to the emotion of fear. If there's a grocery sack out of place, or a coat, his deep, colossal bark fills the rafters. When we travel anywhere with him he trembles like a young bride on her wedding day. He's utterly terrified of life because he didn't get to experience living in all its fullness as a pup. Because he was rambunctious (as puppies should be) his owners kept him caged for the first eleven months of his life. Imagine solitary confinement as a puppy. The isolation must have been harrowing.

We've carefully introduced Chevy to the outside world, but it remains a true challenge. His anxiety level is especially high when he steps outside of his comfort zone. It's been nearly three years and he's still extraordinarily afraid. But as his masters, we know he needs these experiences to help him heal and grow and be the wonderful dog God created Him to be.

He's taught me a lot about courage and trusting my Master. I feel exactly like him some days when I'm staring at my computer screen, reading blogs about the things I need to do to be successful. It's scary to enter contests, go to conferences, and talk to people I don't know. I like being in my "cage" i.e. writing cave. I'd rather snuggle in and hide here wearing my pajamas and avoiding the makeup mirror. But my Master is asking me to take a few risks, and learn more about what's out there in the big wide writing world. Instead of being married to fear, I need to be committed to Him, and the plans He has for me.

Chevy and I will learn together.

Puppy steps for him.

Baby steps for me.

 “Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip” Psalm 18:36, KJV.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Short Stories—the SWAT Teams of Literature

Yes, yes, I know… When it comes to writing, many people aren’t impressed with anything less than a full-length book. However, even though I’ve got a couple of published novels under my belt, I still enjoy hammering out short fiction. If you’re a fiction writer who has never attempted a short tale, I encourage you to try your skill at crafting some short stories, which I consider the SWAT teams of literature.
S.W.A.T. stands for “Special Weapons and Tactics.” It refers to highly trained paramilitary tactical units engaged in law enforcement that falls outside the routine duties of police officers. A SWAT team may face heavily armed criminals, or barricaded suspects, or they might rescue hostages. But whatever the situation, these units apply special tactics to get in, to do their job effectively, and then extract again. By analogy (but minus the classy uniform), that description parallels the task facing a short-story writer.
The ticking clock. In a hostage situation, the bad guy might give only so many days, hours, or minutes in which his demands must be met. The same is true of a short story. Before launching your short-fiction plot, be sure to check the word limits of the magazine or journal to which you plan to submit (and don’t you dare write a story without planning where you’ll submit it, or you practically doom your work). One publisher for whom I’ve written quite a few short fiction pieces sets a 1,800-word limit. I know this before I sit down to write. Inevitably, however, my first draft misses that mark and lands at 2,100 or 2,200 words. So I slice, dice, and tighten until I hit my bull’s eye. This is excellent practice at precise writing, in which verbal fluff is verboten. It’s also fun—and potentially profitable. For stories of 1,800 words, I’ve captured checks of $350 to $400.
Stay on target. A SWAT sniper who knows he might have to take out the dangerous desperado also understands that his duty leaves no room for admiring pretty, cauliflower clouds, the blooming daffodils, or a myriad other details. Likewise, the short story writer must focus on the plot at hand. This type of literature offers scant opportunity for wandering thoughts or emphasis on trivial details.  
Do the job; then exit. Sure, novels provide ample room for a climax, followed by a leisurely dénouement. But in short stories—as in a hostage situation—you need to perform the job and then get out. End with a decisive bang if that’s what’s best, but realize up front there’s no time for extensive character development or other fiddling around.
An impressive number of famous writers contributed really dynamite short stories to literature. O. Henry, Jack London, Isaac Asimov, Anton Chekov, Ray Bradbury, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bret Harte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Heinlein, Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley, Rudyard Kipling, Washington Irving, and a host of others have enriched our imaginations with short, well-targeted tales.
How about you? Got what it takes to write short?
Rick Barry

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whose Skin Are You In?

by Mary Allen

You were influenced by writers from the first time the printed word whisked you through a magic doorway into other worlds and other lives. Mimicking those authors, you conjured up people and worlds of your own. Your craft developed still bearing the stamp of those you admired. Eventually you become a writer with your own style. You have “voice”.

Read through recent Hoosier Ink blogs. Notice how often you can identify a writer by their style, word choice, or tone. What you recognize is that person’s personality. They have gifted a bit of themselves to the reader.

Some may think voice is the flag we capture at the summit of publication, the prize in which our name becomes our trademark. I suggest that voice happens earlier, when we risk revealing our selves through the written word. Then publication, brand, and trademark rise from that which God created in you uniquely for a specific purpose within a particular time frame.

What you have to say, the lessons you carry from your experiences, and the very essence of your genetic makeup all unite to create you. Your Life Voice will be strongest when it lines up with God’s will and your Writer's Voice will emerge from your Life Voice.

What experiences have notarized your personality? Are you hiding these or letting them endorse your words with power? Have you accepted your God-given individuality? Have you incorporated values of your favorite authors in a way that strengthens and nurtures your Voice?

If you are still looking for your Voice check to see whose skin you are in. Are you disguised as someone else? Are you cloaking your strengths by copying literary heroes? Are you envious of how God uses his other servants? You will never be more powerful than when you are who God created you to be.

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit or stand. When far away you know my every thought. You chart the path ahead of me, and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment, you know where I am. You know what I am going to say before I even say it. You both precede and follow me, and place your hand of blessing on my head. This is too glorious, too wonderful to believe! I can never be lost to your Spirit! I can never get away from my God!” Psalm 139: 1-6