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Are you ready?

Think you might try your hand at poetry this year during National/Global Poetry Writing Month? You only have three more days to wait/prepare!

If you are looking for ideas, NaPoWriMo.net has great suggestions and resources, including links to over 300 (so far) participating blogs and websites.

Most April prompts don’t get posted until March 31, but if you want a bit more of a head start, these might fit the bill:

Sharpen your pencils and charge up your laptops — it’s going to be a creative month!

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Happy Short Story Day!

In honor of the shortest period of daylight in the year, the northern hemisphere celebrates today as Short Story Day. (The southern hemisphere celebrates it on 21 June.) I was woefully uninformed about this holiday until the good folks at Writers Write, a wonderful, South African-based resource for writers, posted about it on their blog. They included links to other posts about the short story, and I’ve highlighted some below that I thought might be of particular interest.

The Long and the Short of It touches on some crucial differences between novels and short stories. This observation resonates with me most: “Rather than length as a dividing line, short stories – the good ones anyway – have a stronger sense of unity than a novel.” Novels can afford to meander; short stories have to make every word count.

Cut to the Chase offers great tips for beginning a short story. My favorite: “Read over your opening page and cross out every single line that is not indispensable. When you get to the line that simply cannot be left out, you’re at the start of the story.” This is a great editing tip for fiction of any length.

20 Unforgettable Quotes is just that – a list of clever, pointed, wry, and even soulful quotes about the short story. My favorite is from Stephen Colbert (#15).

It seems fitting to end with words of wisdom from the king – Stephen King. My favorite bit from Stephen King on Writing Short Stories is, “You need to take out the stuff that’s just sitting there and doing nothing.” Words to live by, my writing friends.

Short stories are my favorite prose form, so I intend to spend the day binge-reading Neil Gaiman and Ursula Le Guin. Happy Short Story Day!

 

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Doris Settles and co-author Dixie Hibbs (the first woman inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame) have written Prohibition in Bardstown, KY: Bourbon, Bootlegging and Saloons which came out May 2 from History Press. First-person stories collected a quarter-century ago, legend, recipes and more abound in this fun, provocative book. Learn both the intended results and the unintended consequences of the temperance movement, which had been around since the birth of this country. This is the story of America’s only native spirit: Bourbon–and it’s afficianados, as well as its detractors from the ancient days of distilling in Babylon to the current Bourbon Craft resurgence we are experiencing today.

Doris and Dixie have copies to sell, and books are available from Amazon, Joseph-Beth, Morris, and local gift shops!

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Whether your summer is busy or relaxed, chances are it brings a shift in activities and schedule. Why not incorporate something to stimulate your writing life?

Poet Jeannine Hall Gailey offers a short list of easy (and fun) ideas for shaking the cobwebs out of your brain this summer: “Five Things You Can Do to Up Your Writer’s Game Over the Summer.”

I’ve already started on number five, making a summer reading list. Hey, if the kids are going to sit around reading, I might as well do the same. Do yourself a favor and make a new habit (one that feeds your writing habit) this summer.

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Writing is often described as a solitary activity, which is both true and misleading. Many aspects of the work of writing are best done (for most of us) in solitude, though there are exceptions to every rule. But even the most reclusive of writers needs other people to do her work: editors, agents, publicists, dog walkers, baristas, family members, printers, postal carriers, etc.

Today’s post at Positive Writer highlights some of the most essential members of a writer’s team: Four People You Positively Need in Your Writing Life. It’s a quick read, but if you can’t come up with a name for each category, you owe it to yourself to spend a little time thinking about who you might recruit. Because good writing is most definitely not a solitary activity.

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When we participate in a critique session, whether giving or receiving, we want to make the best use of everyone’s limited time as well as provide and come away with the most useful information. We can do both if we keep the essential things in mind.

Writing professional Janie Sullivan has posted a great article about the art of literary critique on her blog, Center for Writing Excellence. The key thing to remember is that a critique is an opinion, rather than an edit. Be sure to read the whole post (which is brief and wonderfully concise) because the devil is in the details, as we all know.

http://www.janiewrites.com/the-art-of-literary-critique/

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Chuck Sambuchino, editor of Guide to Literary Agents and Writer’s Digest’s Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, will be the featured presenter at a workshop in Louisville on Friday 6 February. Entitled “How to Get Published,” the day-long event will include sessions on publishing options, queries and pitches, critique, and marketing. Agents and editors will be also available to meet with authors throughout the day.

For more information and registration, visit http://kentuckywritingworkshop.com/.

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Book coach and publishing expert Peggy DeKay will lead a workshop on self-publishing Saturday, 17 January, from 2:30-4:30 at the Village Branch of the Lexington Public Library. To get more information or make reservations, call 859-246-1607.

SelfPub1-page-0

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caution signOnce again, paranormal romance author Jami Gold has posted some terrific tips for fellow writers. This time she tackles story flow at the sentence/paragraph level, where it often goes undetected by authors. A writer’s knowledge of the story tends to neutralize the jarring effects of small cause-effect reversals before the brain even registers them. Jami offers some practical ways to bring them to our attention.

The post (Cause and Effect: Understanding Story Flow) does a nice job of explaining how and why small speed bumps in our writing can have an undesired effect on readers. It then outlines a handful of techniques for locating potential speed bumps in our work. Best of all, the post discusses how selectively breaking the rules, with intent, can expand our writer’s toolbox.

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Paranormal romance author Jami Gold’s blog (http://jamigold.com/blog/) is chock-full of great ideas and tools for writers. Her latest post on beta reading (Introducing the Beta Reading Worksheet!) offers tips that apply to critique groups as well. She lists a number of phrases that can help shape feedback into something both concrete and useful to the author. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • I don’t understand….
  • The detail seems….
  • The (character, setting, etc.) comes across as (feisty, depressing, important, etc.)
  • This (detail, phrase, etc.) conveys (irritation, happiness, etc.)
  • It’s not clear how (Sally got to the store, John sawed down the tree, etc.)
  • I would expect a character (with such and such a trait) to do/not do (such and such)
  • I’m confused about (what happens here, this character’s motivation, etc.)
  • I really liked…. *it’s very important to identify strengths!*

She specifically notes that “why” questions tend to bring out defensive responses. For that matter, questions of any kind encourage dialogue with the author, which isn’t the objective in a critique group. The author needs to be able to hear everything the group has to say, and answering questions takes us out of a listening mindset.

The post includes a worksheet that could be used by writers returning to their work for revision as well as by beta readers. Accompanying the worksheet is perhaps the most useful advice for any writer to keep in mind: take what works and don’t worry about the rest.

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