Something Wonderful

Something Told the Wild Geese
Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, — “Snow.”

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, — “Frost.”

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,–
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

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New Hope

“Each dawn holds a new hope for a new plan, making the start of each new day the start of a new life.”   Gina Blair

What an inspiring, hopeful thought to light our way! Just consider the possibilities of bringing this sense of adventure — this openness to new beginnings — to the page today. What might it mean for us all?

A fresh beginning: Whatever project we’re working on and whatever stage of it we’ve reached, we can come to it full of potential and with a sense of wonder. All the oportunities it offers are available to us, waiting to be plucked like ripe fruit.

A release from the past: Whatever problems have bedeviled us in our writing wouldn’t really matter. We’d shed them the way a snake sheds an old skin and leaves it behind. We wouldn’t be captive to them because we’d have let them go.

A new approach: Instead of being captive to the past and whatever struggles and problems we’ve encountered there, we’d be free to chase down new ideas, to find a new approach – a new and better way to deal with whatever thorny plot tangle or character we are working on.

A child’s sense of wonder: New life: what beauty and potential are held in these two simple words! Think of a baby encountering all the wonders of the world for the first time. If we can bring that childlike sense of wonder to the page, where would it take us? What might we find? How bold and unfettered we’d be!

A chance to shine: When we start a new day with a sense of openness and possibility, we give ourselves permission to bring our A-Game to our work, unburdened by our past struggles or old disappointments. Like Athena bursting from the head of Zeus, we can give birth to anew self. Why not? At the start of a new life, anything is possible!

I know, I know. These musings have a pie-in-the-sky flavor to them, you may be thinking. It’s not a new day, it’s just another day. But here’s a thought: Why not choose a different story? Why not choose to believe, just for today, that you have the power and the energy to come up with a new plan, a new approach? Why not choose to believe in your own capacity for renewal and creativity? Write on!

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Jenny Jangles

“A gothic unraveling of a novel, as moody and atmospheric as the isolated island on which it’s set.” Jodi Picoult

Jenny and Jodi — perfect together! What a terrific review for The Second Mother, my gifted friend Jenny Milchman’s just-released new thriller! “Moody and atmospheric” — this perfectly describes Jenny’s nerve-jangling novel (https://www.jennymilchman.com/).

Jenny is truly a source of inspiration and encouragement for me. She traveled a rocky road in her pursuit of a writing career:It took her more than a decade to get her first award-winning novel, Cover of Snow published. Since it launched, she’s virtually written a book a year and her new thriller is garnering exciting praise. What a hard-fought success and how well deserved!

Whatever the genre we’re writing in, we can learn a lot about pacing and story set-up from a gifted thriller writer. In the first fifty pages of The Second Mother, Jenny uses four techniques to build momentum:

Problem planting: Problems, problems — we all struggle with them every day and know what it’s like to feel we’re drowning in them. In the first pages of Jenny’s novel, she gives Julie, her protagonist, a boatload of problems. We see Julie’s life unraveling on the page, wonder how she got where she is, and keep reading to find out.

Mystery making: By page three, we learn that something terrible has happened to Julie. We know what it is, but we don’t know why or how it happened. Was it fate? An accident? Julie’s fault? We have no idea, but feel compelled to read on to find out.

Stake setting: Now that we know why Julie’s life is falling apart, we know what’s at stake: survival. If her downward spiral continues, she’s lost. If she can somehow rescue herself, she has a chance. High stakes create high drama — and keep us reading.

Character conflicting: Jenny afflicts Julie with a raft of conflicting emotions. Julie fights with guilt, her relationships, her circumstances, her demons. She’s fiercely flawed and we can’t help but keep reading because she’s either going down or clawing her way back to life.

Problems, mystery, high stakes, conflict — all the ingredients of a successful suspenseful story. Bravo, Jenny — write on!

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“Trust Yourself”

 

Don’t be afraid to live in your head. Write the very best piece you can. It’s just you and the page — just focus on that.David Goodwillie

What a delight to hear David Goodwillie share his author’s journey at a Write Group event! Kings County, David’s newly published novel, is attracting exciting attention. He’s also authored a widely praised novel, American Subversive, and a memoir, Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (https://www.davidgoodwillie.com/). Highlights of his wide-ranging talk on the writing life:

On becoming a writer: “Every single writer has a strange journey to becoming a writer. There’s no writer I know who went to Harvard or got an MFA and became a big success.”

On the writing process: “Every single writer treats writing differently. Some people are at their desk from 9 to 5. Others smoke weed and write at midnight. There’s no one way to do this. I see writing as a discipline, as a job. I have an incredibly difficult time sitting down and writing — it’s so difficult to rewire your brain, to commit to yourself and your ideas. In that way, it’s a discipline, a practice.”

On his technique: “I like to write on that tightrope between character development and plot. I don’t outline. I go scene by scene…. Every writer’s different and there’s no right way to do it. I’m more free flowing. I’m optimistic…. I’m not afraid to write myself into a corner. I have faith that the book will get there.”

On revision: “I do lots of revision — 75% of what I do is revision.”

On getting published: “Just remember that there are tons of editors and agents who are looking for fresh voices.”

On why he writes: “There is something about the challenge of it that makes the reward so much sweeter. There is something so gratifying about getting where you want to go because it’s so challenging.”

On what it takes to keep going: “Inner drive and ambition and belief in yourself. The realization that there is nothing more important that you want to do.”

On finding your way: “Trust yourself. Let yourself be alone with the work and then send it out. A lot of people want advice and affirmation — that can slow you down. Be kind to yourself and just be true to yourself and your story.”

Heartfelt advice from a committed writer — what a gift to us all! Bravo, David — write on!

 

 

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Keep Improving

“You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues. Do not think of your faults; still less of others’ faults; in every person who comes near you, look for what is good and strong: honor that; rejoice in it; and as you can, try to imitate it; and your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.” John Ruskin

What a powerful punch this paragraph holds for us! As writers, who among us doesn’t feel that we have bad habits or weaknesses that we’d like to overcome so we can improve our writing?

How easy it is to become discouraged or mired in these aspects of our writing life! Ruskin offers us a better way — let’s unpack his words:

“You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues….” — Science has proven Ruskin right: It’s easier to overcome a “fault” or poor habit by creating a more positive one than it is to try to root out one that isn’t working for us. When we focus on creating a new, positive writing habit, the poor one fades away.

“Do not think of your faults; still less of others’ faults” — Let’s not waste vital energy and creative power obsessing over our writing flaws or anyone else’s. This kind of negativity only results in frustration and a downward spiral.

“… in every person who comes near you, look for what is good and strong; honor that; rejoice in it” — Instead of draining our motivation by focusing on the negative, let’s accentuate the positive. Let’s focus our energy on celebrating what’s working and strengthening it — both in our own work and the work of others.

“… try to imitate [what is good and strong] and your faults will drop off” — When we find a writer with a flair for dialogue or for fast-paced momentum or great plot twists — if these are areas we need to work on and strengthen — let’s “imitate” their approach. Let’s study it and learn from it and make it our own.

Improving our craft takes focus and resolve. Let’s find fruitful ways to supplant writing habits that may not be serving us with ones that will as we all write on!

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Something Wonderful

Exultation is the Going

Exultation is the going

Of an inland soul to sea,

Past the houses—past the headlands—

Into deep Eternity—

Bred as we, among the mountains,

Can the sailor understand

The divine intoxication

Of the first league out from land?

— Emily Dickinson

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E-book Awards

From time to time, with the goal of keeping us all up to date and in tune with what’s happening in publishing, I like to give a heads up on awards and contest that might prove of interest. Here’s one to consider: The Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards. Submission deadline: September 21. The genres for submission are:

• Contemporary Fiction
* Nonfiction (General, Cookbooks, Reference, Guidebooks, Textbooks)
* Romance
* Memoirs
* Fantasy
* Science Fiction
* Mystery/Thriller

* Young Adult

The Grand Prize winner will receive:

• a $5,000 cash prize;
• cover exposure and a feature story in the May/June 2021
Writer’s Digest;
• a paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference;

One First Prize winner in each category will receive:

• $1,000 in cash
• Announcement in the May/June 2021 issue of Writer’s Digest

Every entrant this year will receive a brief critique from one of the Writer’s Digest readers. Entries will be evaluated based on craft, category relevance, and quality of production, including cover.

You must register and submit your e-book online. You may enter more than one book and/or more than one category; however, you must submit each book separately and pay an additional fee for each entry. Entries will be evaluated on content, writing quality and overall quality of production and appearance. All self-published e-books released between 2015 and 2020 are eligible.

So if you have an e-Book you’ve polished until it shines, why not consider throwing your hat in the ring? For more information, visit: http://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions Write on!

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Dream On

Robert Louis Stevenson came up with the plot for the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde during a dream.

Paul McCartney discovered the tune for his hit song “Yesterday” in a dream.

Mary Shelley’s dream at Lord Byron’s villa inspired her Gothic tale, Frankenstein.

Dreams have always been a powerful creative tool in artist’s arsenal. And studies confirming the importance of sleep to our long-term health continue to pour out: They’ve determined that our neurons fire almost as often when we’re sleeping as they do when we’re awake. But here are a few findings about sleep and creativity that may surprise and stimulate you:

There’s growing evidence that our minds tend to be most creative just as we are emerging from sleep: During the half-waking, half-dreaming state known as “sleep inertia,” our creativity seems to surge. This is why coming up with ideas and writing them down as soon as we wake is a proven technique for enhancing creativity that’s been used by everyone from writers and poets to Ben Franklin.

The theory behind this: When we’re in a post-sleep, dream-like mental state, we can bridge the gap between sleep and wakefulness, and bring insights and inspiration from our sleep state into our consciousness. Once we’re fully alert, our waking consciousness assumes total control, making plans and doing things — and we pass out of the more fluid, expansive state we enjoy when we’re just emerging from our rest.

Sleep can also be a powerful creativity booster because the mind, in an unconscious resting state, can forge surprising and innovative new connections that it might not make in a conscious, waking state. In fact, a study by the University of California at Berkeley found that sleep can foster “remote associates” or unusual connections in the brain. And these connections can lead to exciting “a-Ha” moments upon waking. According to the study, upon emerging from sleep, people are 33 percent more like to make connections between ideas that seem only distantly related.

So why not test this all out and give your creativity a helping hand by having a paper and pen by your bedside, so you can jot down any hot ideas before they slip away? Write on!

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Persistence Pays

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” Calvin Coolidge

Here’s how Barry Farber, an author and motivational speaker, describes persistence:

“Things are rarely accomplished in one great burst of energy; success comes when we continue to work day after day, tirelessly putting in the effort even if it takes far longer than we’d ever imagined.

“Persistence pays off. Those who steadily pursue a course of action despite any obstacle along the way have a far greater chance of success that those who get fired up — and then quickly burn out and lose energy and interest.

“In fact, persistence is one of the most powerful traits shared by successful people. Successful people do not give up. They’ll try over and over again and do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. When they meet rejection, they use it to motivate them even more to move forward, coming up with new ideas and approaches. When they meet obstacles, they find ways around them. When they get tired, they find a way to rejuvenate. Successful people don’t quit; if they stumble, they always start again.”

Whatever it takes — WIT — that’s what persistence is all about. When we hit an obstacle, we need to go over, under, or through it to realize our dreams.

According to Barry Farber, there are two ingredients to persistence:

“…the first is having a goal — and the second is moving toward it. Once a goal is etched in your heart, you dream about it, believe in it, livid it … and you’ll do anything to reach it.”

Getting there, takes time. It also requires constant improvement. As Barry says so well, “If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, in just the same way, you’ll always get the same results. Instead, learn from every step you take — and find shortcuts or make other changes as needed. Then, as you continue your efforts, you‘lol increase your efficiency and every action will become more meaningful than the one before.

“Develop these traits of persistence, and in time you will find success. Step by step, you may even achieve greatness.”

Persistence pays off. Success takes time. Great advice as we all write on!

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“Three Writers”

You know the feeling: Sometimes you come across something someone else says, a way of looking at things, that enriches yours own. That’s how I felt when I came across a description by the gifted memoirist and writing coach, Lorraine Ash. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Lorraine speak at several Write Group events, as she’s a blessing to us all — a kind, compassionate guide whose mission it is to help other writers unlock their own writing power and share their stories: http://lorraineash.com/services.htm.

In a nutshell, here’s how Lorraine described “the three writers inside every writer” — an intriguing and fruitful concept:

“The Artistic Self” — This is the writer who wants to share experience and deep lessons learned from life. This writer feels called to find his or her unique voice and to channel it in the form of stories through a variety of mediums — from memoir to short stories and novels.

“The Genius Self” — This is the writer who emerges when we put aside our conscious, thinking mind and realize that there’s a deeper, truer story within us. When we find the tools to tap our subconscious, from dreaming to journeys of the imagination, we can delve into this part of our writing self and mine the gold it offers.

“The Business Self” — This is the writer who is willing and able to understand and work with the realities of the publishing industry. Work can be shared through many different channels and finding the best, most fruitful path to publication is part of the author’s journey.

As Lorraine says so well, we need to “strengthen our knowledge of the three writers for a couple of essential reasons. One, only when we understand their various roles will we become completely conscious and in command of our own creative process. Two, when their respective roles are clearly delineated in our mind, each can enhance and protect the others instead of interfering with them.”

What a valuable way to approach depending our craft as we all write on! Bravo, Lorraine!

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