Monday, April 25, 2016

Benefits of Reading

Happy Monday! Hope you are doing well. It's been busier than usual here, so I apologize if this post is a bit scattered. Have been thinking about this topic, so thought I'd offer a few thoughts upon which to reflect.

Thanks so much for coming by to visit. It's always good to see you! :)


Why should writers read? Benefits include mental stimulation, vocabulary building, and expanding our knowledge and worldview. It also helps improve grammar and critical thinking skills, focus and memory, reduces stress,  and has entertainment value. Reading helps us sample genres and illustrates good writing techniques, from plots and pacing to article elements and more.

In his post Why Writers Need to Read if They Want to Be Good, Jeff Goins says, 

"Nothing inspires a writer like reading someone else’s words."

Do you agree? I find great inspiration this way, and often have layers of ideas sprouting as I read. Words can inspire and keep us writers going. 

If I don't know the author of a book, post, or article, I focus more on the words versus who is saying it. This isn't a bad thing; we won't always have the privilege of meeting that author. (And the words of course, are often the main reason we're reading it anyway.) As a writer though, I know that reading isn't just about absorbing words. It's about a writer sharing, informing, and challenging. There are two sides to this, and being a reader helps being a writer. Make sense?

Jeff Goins elaborates further, saying we're in danger of running out of words if we don't read. This is an interesting point. I don't want to be the writer who runs out of words, do you? Reading makes our words richer, enhancing the value of our work. 

A Quick Announcement

The Coffeehouse for Writers has a new site! Classes begin in early May and topics include blogging, creating characters, freelancing, writing for the Chicken Soup series, boot camp for writers, and more. Instructors are Jennifer Brown Banks, Linda O'Connell, Victoria Grossack, Serena Wadhwa, Diana Bocco, and me (I'm in charge of boot camp!). Check out the offerings and details here.

Why do you read? Do you agree with Jeff Goins? What's on your spring reading list?


Happy writing,
Karen


Photo credit; Free Images

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Art of Writing - Making a Difference





"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

Edgar Degas


Do you think your writing is an art? 

Webster's New Explorer College Dictionary defines art as "skill in performance acquired by experience, study, or observation, an occupation that requires a natural skill in addition to training and practice." 

Do you agree? 

I do. It takes drive and dedication to sharpen skills and cultivate God given abilities. Practice, training, study, and observation - we must cultivate these essential ingredients to be successful with this art form.

Writers create. We fill the reader's mind with words that generate thoughts and images. The pen or keyboard is our paintbrush. Long or short, flowery or factual, fiction or non-fiction, we send messages, informing, stirring the mind and imagination, spurring change, or encouraging a heart.

We "make others see". And feel. And hear. And heal. Writers have a unique opportunity to enrich lives. To leave a legacy and to make a difference. Is not that one of the best kinds of art? 
 
What work of art are you creating this week? What do you hope readers will remember about your writing?

Happy writing,
Karen 



Image credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, April 11, 2016

Miscellaneous Monday




Does it feel or look like spring in your neighborhood? I hope you've had at least a glimpse of sunshine and warmth so far. To celebrate spring, I thought I would share a few links - perhaps they'll spark a little creativity. :)

In the mood for a contest? Check out the Writer's Digest 85th Annual Competition. Grand Prize is $5000, among other goodies, and the twelve categories include inspirational, magazine articles, poetry, children/young adult, and more. Entry deadline is May 6. Check out the details here.

Many of you know that I took courses from The Institute of Children's Literature years ago. Despite my initial hesitation, (I'd found their brochure at the grocery store.) the classes were excellent. They covered the writing and submission process from A to Z, in a professional and friendly manner. ICL combines top notch instruction with quality materials. I'd highly recommend them to anyone considering writing for children.

The Institute of Children's Literature has a sister school, the Long Ridge Writer's Group, that features writing classes for adult fiction and non fiction. While I haven't had personal experience with Long Ridge, I've heard good things and suspect they maintain similar standards as ICL. I've seriously considered taking classes there as well.

Even if you aren't interested in taking classes, both schools offer help for writers on their Rx for Writers page. You don't have to be a student to subscribe to their newsletter, which offers articles with tips, advice, and success stories for all writers.

Has spring weather hijacked your creativity? Jennifer Brown Banks offers advice on how to get back on track with Has Your Muse Become a Recluse...?

Fiction writers - having trouble nailing the conclusion to your story? Author Jerry Jenkins shares his thoughts in Secrets to Writing a Captivating Ending.

Are you a fan of uncommon vocabulary? Jean Fischer of Something to Write Home About invites us to guess the meanings of 26 interesting words in Quiz: Can You Guess the Meaning of These Unusual Words?

What are you working on this week? Are you enjoying spring weather?

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, April 4, 2016

Meet the Blogger with Natalie Aguirre


Happy Spring! The April edition of Meet the Blogger features the lovely and talented writer Natalie Aguirre. She's a host at the award winning blog, Literary Rambles.  Natalie has been a faithful follower here for a while, and always offers her insight and a bit of sunshine to brighten my day.
 
If you are interested in writing for children, or writing at all for that matter, I recommend visiting Literary Rambles soon. Posts highlight children/young adult publishing, and Natalie shares interviews with authors and agents, as well as book spotlights and giveaways. It's encouraging to hear about the journeys and processes of others in the writing industry.


Welcome to Write Now, Natalie! Why did you start blogging? How long have you been with Literary Rambles? 

Thank you, Karen! I had been reading and commenting at many blogs for well over a year before I joined my blog partner, Casey McCormick, in March 2011 at Literary Rambles. At that time, blogs were a more popular social media platform for writers, which is why I wanted to blog. I knew I wanted to focus on middle grade and young adult debut authors and good books, which I have done. I secretly wanted to be Casey’s blog partner but was too afraid to ask. I jumped at the chance when Casey asked for a blog partner.

How exciting! I had no idea that was how you connected. You make a great team. Can you tell us more about the focus of Literary Rambles? 

Our blog focuses on spotlighting debut authors, agents who represent writers who write picture books, middle grade, and young adult, and the publishing world. Our agent spotlights provide detailed information on how to submit to agents and their likes and dislikes. Debut authors share valuable information on the craft of writing, becoming published, getting an agent, and marketing in my interviews and guest posts, which are always with a giveaway. I also share a lot of new young adult books in book giveaway hops, which is also a way for me to network with book review bloggers.  

This last year I started offering agent and debut author guest posts that included great information in the post and includes a query critique giveaway by the agent. Casey just went on sabbatical, so I am taking over the agent spotlights and am changing the format to an interview with the agent and a query critique giveaway if possible.  I’m hoping this will be another way that I can help aspiring writers.

Literary Rambles offers great info for writers, no matter what their genre. I've learned much since I've been following. What benefits have you gained through blogging?

I have gained many benefits from blogging and know that I could gain even more if I wanted to spend more time on it. I’ve made many blog friends, who I’ve tried to help when I can when their books get published. The blogging community is very supportive, and my blog friends have really helped me through some major personal challenges I’ve gone through these last two years.
 
I’ve increased our blog's following by over 3000 since joining the blog and expanded our connections with other bloggers, publishers, and agents. It really helped that Casey was so well known already for her agent spotlights. I’m grateful for how the blog has grown, become more well-known, and received awards like Writer’s Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers  since I joined it.

I’ve also benefited from realizing that I am really helping aspiring authors in their search for agents and debut authors to promote their books. Knowing I’m helping the children’s writing community in my own little way gives me a very satisfying purpose for continuing to blog, which could otherwise turn into a chore.


Blogging can offer us much, that's for sure. I'm glad you've found it beneficial, and glad you help so many! What are you working on right now? 

Right now I’m not writing any fiction. I have a part-time job as a contract writer for a web marketing firm writing library, blog, and FAQs for attorney websites that takes most of my writing time and energy. My blog also has been and continues to be fairly time consuming, especially since I took over the agent spotlights. Both my job and the blog are satisfying my need to write. I really don’t want two jobs anymore or more writing deadlines than I have with my job. And like many writers who work at home alone, I need to balance solitary pursuits with ones that involve people, especially since I live alone. 

Your plate is very full! :) What might people be surprised to learn about you?

My life is a total work in progress. In the last two years, I lost my husband, my job, and my daughter left for college. However, I’m happy to say that you can dig out from all these major changes and reinvent your life. 

I know your journey has been a hard one lately, and am so glad to see you are doing well. As for being a work in progress - I'm one too.  I'm thinking we all are, right? What advice would you share with a newbie blogger?

I’d give three pieces of advice. 

1. Have some platform or focus for your blog. Some people share about books they’ve read, tips they’ve learned, music and films, or introduce us to new bloggers like Karen does here. Find a focus that feels right for you.

2. Have a consistent blogging schedule. Decide how many days you want to blog and what days and keep a regular schedule. If you have to stop blogging because of other things in your life—and we all have those times—announce it on your blog and come back when you say you’re coming back.

3.  Network with other bloggers. You must make friends with other bloggers by visiting their blogs and leaving comments if you want people to visit yours and have your following grow. In addition, joining a group like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group can be a great support for you and help you develop friendships with other bloggers.

Excellent advice! These items are key to succeeding in the blog world. Thanks for joining us, Natalie. It was great to get to know you better. :)

Thank you for having me, Karen!

More About Natalie 

Natalie Aguirre is an aspiring middle grade and YA fantasy writer and blogs at Literary Rambles. She’s a contract non-fiction writer and retired attorney by day, and a mother of a college student. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. 

Find Natalie 

Literary Rambles


Twitter

What projects are you working on this week? Have any questions for Natalie?

Happy writing,

Karen 



  
Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, March 28, 2016

Is Editing Fun?




 
"So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, 

is making a chore for the reader who reads."

Dr. Seuss


How do you feel about editing? Love it or hate it, it's part of the package. Even if you hire an editor to help polish your work, you can't avoid it on some level.

In last week's interview, author Rachelle Rea said, "Editing is such fun!" Her happy statement made me stop and think, Do I like editing?

Guess what? After tossing it around, I came to the conclusion that yes, I do like editing. Mostly, anyway. There's something about setting things to rights and polishing words that brings great satisfaction.

Editing can have its down side too, like when I'm pushing to meet a deadline, or overwhelmed by the direction to take, or by the enormity of a project. But even then, there's gratification - attaining and savoring the finish line.

What checkpoints are you mindful of when editing? Perhaps they are similar to mine.

  • Check for grammar/spelling errors, consulting sources like Strunk and White's “The Elements of Style” as necessary. 
  •  Check content for excess words/phrases/sections that stray from the point or just don't fit. 
  • Aim for content that makes sense, progresses logically, and provides a satisfying reading experience. This includes a good balance of descriptive words/sentence variety, and a healthy dose of class and common sense. 
  • In addition to reviewing content on screen and paper, read it aloud. The ear is an excellent editor; it helps improve flow by catching rough or confusing spots.

While simple and often done without conscious thought, these points aid the process, polishing words for all to see. After all, writing that shines won't be "a chore for the reader who reads."

Thanks to everyone who stopped by this month to help celebrate my blogoversary. You are a blessing and I appreciate you all! :)

Do you like editing? What helps you better navigate the process? Do you agree with Dr, Seuss?

Happy writing,

Karen 
  


Photo credit: Free Images