Accountability

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By B. Lynn Goodwin

Writing is a lonely business. Sometimes. Other times it’s a joyous celebration with friends or a slog through one’s own unique valley of despair.

Frankly, I’m glad I’m not on a writing team at the moment, though that might be an interesting project if the subject matter was right. Since I work alone, though, it’s up to me to keep myself motivated.

Lately, my husby has helped. He became my accountability partner last night when he asked, “Did you put in two hours on the memoir today?”

“No. Not today.”

I got up and got in the car by 9—okay 9:10—so I could give my journaling workshop for the Family Caregiver Alliance over in Menlo Park at 11. Then I was going to find a Starbuck’s on or near the Stanford Campus, but frankly, I was too exhausted, so I got in my car for the long trek home, and when I got here I was so tired I fell asleep for an hour and a half.  “I didn’t get it done because of the workshop. I don’t mind your asking though.”

I never mind accountability, except when it makes me feel small or irresponsible. I won’t mind if he asks me tonight, but he won’t because I already e-mailed him that I put in two hours. I might not have done that without his asking me about it last night.

If you don’t have an accountability partner right now and you need a little encouragement, here’s my question: “What did you write about today?” If the answer is nothing, think about your reason. You know I’ll understand. Why not post an answer below, and then you will have written today.

If you need a little encouragement, here’s something I shared yesterday in the journaling workshop, where I encouraged caregivers to vent, rant, process, discover, and find peace. I offer them to you, because every time I read them, I remember the value of what we all do.

Why Write?

“It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating.”  — Gustave Flaubert

“For many of us, writing is a form of prayer, and when our lives become too busy and we don’t give ourselves time to write and develop our writing, we feel diminished.”    –Sheila Binder

“We cannot live through a day without impacting the world around us – and we have a choice: What sort of impact do we want to make?” ~ Dr. Jane Goodall 

“Problems are opportunities in work clothes.”  – Thomas Edison

“Words, like eyes, are windows into a person’s soul, and thus each writer, in some small way, helps to enrich the world.”   –Mark Robert Waldman

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.Samuel Johnson

“A birddoesn’t sing because it has an answer,

it sings because it has a song. — Maya Angelou, poet

“There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”  —– Edith Wharton

BlynnP B. Lynn Goodwin is the owner of Writer Advice,http://www.writeradvice.com, and the author of both You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers (Tate Publishing) and TALENT (Eternal Press). Her blog is athttp://blynngoodwin.com. Goodwin’s stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; The Sun; Good Housekeeping.com and many other venues. She is currently working on a memoir about getting married for the first time at age 62.

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The Journey from Aerospace Writer to Creative Writer

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by Madeline Sharples

I worked as a writer/editor and proposal manager in the aerospace business for a total of twenty-eight years. I had a reputation for being a good writer so I got some of the plum jobs – working on newsletters, websites, award applications, and even ghostwriting letters for top managers, but the writing style for any of those tasks was nothing near creative.

However, I learned a lot about writing and revision while working on deadline-oriented, and super stressful proposals. We wrote a little, we edited, we reviewed, and then we revised. And we’d repeat that sequence many times throughout a typical three-month proposal effort. I also taught proposal teams how to write their text, emphasizing the importance of keeping their fingers moving until the writing is finished, then stepping away from their prose for a bit before editing it. I think that advice works for all kinds of writers. If you don’t have another person’s eyes to look at it and edit it for you, leave it be for a while, make yourself a hard copy, take out a red pen, and move to another location in your house. It will be like having a fresh pair of eyes looking at your work.

All that is practical advice. But the actual difference in writing to address technical requirements and writing a creative story or poem or essay is harder to address.

I think the main requirement – at least for me – is that I wanted to make the transition. I had wanted to be a writer since I was in grade school. I studied journalism in high school and wrote feature articles for the high school newspaper. Then I took all the course work toward a degree in journalism in college though I ended up with a degree in English because I transferred schools just before my senior year (that’s a story all its own). So, when I got out of college I wanted in the worst way to write for a magazine or newspaper. After a few attempts I turned to the aerospace industry. I got a positive response after one call and asked, “Do you ever hire people with a degree in English?” Easy, right? But hard on my dream to become a “real” writer.

And though I never gave up on that dream, for the next several decades I took creative detours. I learned to draw and paint, I learned to sew, I made needlepoint pillows, I quilted and gardened. And, I co-authored a non-fiction book, Blue Collar Women: – a little less technical than my work in aerospace. Anything to keep my hand in creativity, until finally I could stand it no longer.

I took a workshop called, “Writing about Our Lives” at Esalen in Big Sur, California in the late 1990s. It was there that I wrote about my misgivings about ever being able to make the transition. Here’s what I wrote: “My writing is so factual, so plain, so devoid of descriptors, feelings, and imagination.” Later I learned that was okay. Once I discovered a private instructor in Los Angeles who taught me to “write like you talk,” I knew I was on my way.

Madeline Sharples1During her 30-year professional career, Madeline Sharples worked as a technical writer/editor and proposal manager in the aerospace business and wrote grant proposals in the nonprofit arena. She started to fulfill her dream to work as a creative writer in the last few years. Her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, was released in a hardback edition in 2011 and released in paperback and eBook editions by Dream of Things in 2012. 

She also co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994), co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1,2, and 3, and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Her poems appear online and in print magazines, several appear in the Story Circle Network True Words series. The 2016 Porter Gulch Review and the Yellow Chair Review’s 2016 ITWOW (In the Words of Womyn) anthology will publish two new poems this year.

Madeline’s articles appear regularly at the Naturally Savvy and Aging Bodies websites. She also posts at her blogs, Choices and is currently writing a novel. In addition, she produced a CD of her son’s music called Paul Sharples at the Piano, as a fundraiser to help erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. It was released on the fifthteenth anniversary of his death in September 2014.

Madeline studied journalism in high school, wrote for the high school newspaper, studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin, and received a B.A. degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles.

 

Permission Slips

by Jude Walsh Whelley

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Every Sunday I meet with my tribe of four women writers for a morning of what Eric Maisel calls Deep Writing. It is a lovely, centering time where we sit side-by-side and write. During occasional breaks we share information on craft, submission, and building platform. The shared writing energy keeps us focused and productive. On my drive home, as I process what I wrote and what we shared, I am frequently inspired. At those moments, I use the voice memo function on my phone to record my thoughts. I may listen to that voice memo and tranfer it to written form immediately or, if life grabs me when I get home, the memo may sit for a while.

In a recent burst of decluttering energy, I decided to review those waiting memos. I found this gem and want to share. I was looking for ways to honor my muse and prioritize time for writing. These are the permission slips I wrote for myself. Perhaps you might like to take a few moments and write some permission slips of your own?

I give myself permission to do what I love

I give myself permission and encouragement to pursue my writing dreams

I give myself permission to devote time to my writing first

I give myself permission to buy the things I need to help me accomplish my goals

I give myself permission to say no to favors or meeting someone else’s needs that distract me from my purpose

I give myself permission to do this without guilt

I give myself permission to write my truth without concern for how it makes anyone else feel because it is my truth, my writing, my story, and no one is going to keep me from speaking my truth.

I give myself permission to put myself first

Jude Walsh Whelley writes fiction, memoir, and poetry. She lives in Dayton, Ohio. This post was previously published on her blog, Writing Now.

Beyond Rain Man Gives Unique Insights: Excerpts from an Interview with Anne K. Ross

By B. Lynn Goodwin

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It takes courage to write a memoir about family. An author exposes herself and her loved ones to observation and criticism as well as appreciation. Anne K. Ross has taken a close look at her family’s unique situation in Beyond Rain Man. She looks at his condition as both a mother and a school psychologist.

An accomplished writer who looks at the diagnosis from a unique perspective, Ross brings a full gamut of emotions to her observations. She compares her own reactions to the parents of students on the spectrum. This is the story of how they cope, survive, and come to terms with a condition that was barely recognized when her son was born.

LG: Tell us a bit about your writing background. When did you become a writer and how do you balance the lives of a school psychologist, a mom, and a writer?

AKR: I’ve always written, starting with a diary in fourth grade and then writing for my school newspapers. Later I got busy with my career as a school psychologist and always wanted to get back to writing creatively (school psychologists write thousands of words a year crafting psycho-educational reports, but it takes a different part of the brain to do that writing).

Then I had my kids and it was even harder to find time to devote to writing. But my eldest son’s behavior was so challenging—tantrums way past typical ages for them and resistance to certain types of clothing—so I started writing again, in a journal. I wrote it all down because I felt like I was a bad mother and I was going crazy. But as I learned more about the autism spectrum through my work, I became a better mom. And as I understood my son more and more, I became a better school psychologist.

LG: What is Beyond Rain Man: What One Psychologist Learned Raising a Son on the Autism Spectrum about and why was it important for you to tell this story?

AKR: It’s about my partner and me raising our two boys, our eldest who finally got the diagnosis of Asperger’s at age eleven, and our youngest, who is neurotypical (doesn’t have an autism spectrum disorder). It’s about all the things we learned along the way, how we did cope, how we raised two boys who have turned out to be wonderful young men.

I wanted to tell our story in order to help other families who are going through this extra challenging parenting journey so they wouldn’t feel so alone and so they could learn how to get the supports and services their children might need at school and in the community. Since I’m a school psychologist, I know the ins and outs of special education and wanted to share that knowledge.

I also wrote Beyond Rain Man in order to help educate professionals in the field—pediatricians, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists—about the breadth of the autism spectrum and how not everyone on the spectrum fits the type made famous in the movie, Rain Man.

LG: What was the most challenging part about writing this memoir and what was the easiest?

AKR: Probably the easiest part was writing it all down in my journals. The harder part—and it took me about eight years—was to form that writing into a true memoir, with a solid structure, well-developed characters, and a narrator with an appealing voice who has some distance from the events and who could look back with a balanced perspective and be both self critical and forgiving.

AKR: Be ridiculously tenacious. Find a writing community in person or online. Ask for and accept feedback. Write for the pleasure it brings you and not for any dreams of fame or riches.

LG: Where can people learn more about Beyond Rain Man and where can they purchase a copy?

AKR: The Beyond Rain Man website (www.beyondrainman.com) has links to reviews, an excerpt, and ordering links. Beyond Rain Man is available as a print and ebook.

LG: Thank you for sharing and inspiring, Anne.
Read more of this interview at http://www.writeradvice.com.

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BlynnPB. Lynn Goodwin is the owner of Writer Advice, http://www.writeradvice.com, and the author of both You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers (Tate Publishing) and TALENT (Eternal Press). Her blog is at http://blynngoodwin.com. Goodwin’s stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; The Sun; Good Housekeeping.com and many other venues. She is currently working on a memoir about getting married for the first time at age 62.

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Literary Citizenship Tips

By Jude Walsh Whelley

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Writing can be a solitary occupation. At the heart of the matter, it is sitting down alone, putting words on the page, crafting them carefully, and revising until ready to release the words into the world. How does one prepare the world to receive these words?

Today’s writing universe has most of us doing our own platform building and marketing and for that we rely on help from fellow writers and readers. I like to think of my obligation to help another writer as more a priviledge than a duty. The best term I have heard for this kind of help is literary citizenship. In today’s post I am going to suggest fifteen ways to practice being a good literary citizen.

1. Buy books! This can be a print version, or Kindle, or book on tape, but by buying that book you are providing income for a writer.

2. If you enjoyed a book, take a few minutes and write a review. The more a book is reviewed, the better!

3. If you blog, offer to host an author when her new book is published.

4. If you read a blog post where an author is interviewed or her book discussed, write a comment. Nothing thrills a writer more than having someone want to talk about her work.

 5. If you belong to a book club, recommend your writer friend’s book for club reading and discussion. Most of the authors I know love to talk with book club groups and with skype or google chat, this can easily be arranged.

 6. Go to book signings. The author usually reads from her work and often shares information about how she got the idea, how it evolved, her publishing journey, and her life as a writer. This is also a great way to find out what her next book is about.

 7. Post on Facebook any  upcoming publications, book signings, author updates.

 8. Also on facebook, “like” all author pages.

 9. If a writer publishes links to her blog posts, share them.

 10. Twitter is our new friend! I am just learning how to manage twitter posts with tweet deck and know there are other ways of managing it but bottom line… tweet and retweet if you can.

 11. Volunteer to be a beta reader. A beta reader is someone who is not familiar with the manuscript and will read the entire document and respond in the manner the writer requests. This is a huge time committment, so it truly is a gift to the writer.

 12. Be an encourager! If someone tentatively mentions that she might like to write, encourage her to try. If a person is blocked, remind her that this too shall pass and the words will again flow. When a rejection is recieved, be the soft place for that writer to land until the disappointment passes and the urge to write and try again returns.

 13. Join writing organizations like the Story Circle Network (www.storycircle.org) or National Association of Memoir Writers (www.namw.org). It is the easiest way to find your tribe and many offer deep online connection possibilities.

 14. Attend writing workshops. I love the annual Antioch Writers’ Workshop (www.antiochwritersworkshop.com) in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I can reccomend Story Circle Network’s Stories From the Heart (www.storycircle.org/conference/) held in Austin, Texas every other year. Eric Maisel (www.ericmsisel.com) offers Deep Writing Workshops all over the world. Just google writing workshops and your city and you will be amazed by the possibilities.

 15. Take writing craft classes! This is great self care for a writer but is also a fast track to building your writing community. You will find kindred spirits and you can support one another as you learn. As many writers supplement their income by offering classes you are again helping a writer make a living.

 These are just my thoughts, please share any suggestions you have!

Jude Walsh Whelley writes fiction, memoir, and poetry. She lives in Dayton, Ohio. This post was previously published on her blog, Writing Now.

The Secret Story Behind LOVING ELEANOR

 

 

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By Story Circle founder and president, Susan Wittig Albert

Some stories beg to be told; some books beg to be written.

For me, the story of the long and intimate friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok was one of those stories–and Loving Eleanor was one of those books. Of all the many responses I’ve had when I’ve discussed the book (forthcoming Feb 1) with readers, the question I most often hear is some variation of “Why didn’t we know this already?”

The most important reason is the most obvious one: the over 3300 letters that document the women’s 30-year friendship were intentionally kept secret. Most of Lorena’s letters to Eleanor were destroyed, probably by ER’s children, after her death. However, Hick kept ER’s letters (and some of her own).

In 1962, after Eleanor’s death, Hick (then in her 70s), realized that she had to find a way to keep the letters safe. The most important threat came from the Roosevelt children, who would not have wanted evidence of the deeply romantic nature of their mother’s friendship with another woman to become public knowledge. They would have destroyed the letters, as they almost certainly located and destroyed the letters ER wrote to her longtime friend, Earl Miller. Another threat came from Joseph Lash, who considered himself the “official” biographer of the Roosevelt family. If Lash acquired the letters, he would likely solidify his relationship with the Roosevelt sons by destroying them. And of course, publishing them herself was not an option at the time, as you can guess.

Hick chose the best and most prudent course. She had a personal relationship with a curator at the FDR Presidential Museum, who urged her to leave her collection to the library. She took his advice, stipulating that the letters be sealed for ten years after her death. She trusted the professional librarians there to keep the letters safe, and they did–although it is fair to say that they had no idea what was in them. Hick died in 1968; the letters were opened to the public, without any announcement, in 1978.

To be continued… Watch this space for another installment of the story. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from the novel and view my Pinterest photo collection on the book’s website.

Loving Eleanor will be published on Feb 1, 2016. It is available for preorder now on Amazon. Susan Wittig Albert is the founder and current (2015-2017) president of SCN. Susan is a New York Times bestselling author who is publishing her biographical/historical novels under her own imprint, Persevero Press.

Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert is a best-selling novelist, memoirist, and author of both adult and young adult fiction and nonfiction. She lives on a 31-acre Texas Hill Country homestead with her husband and frequent coauthor, Bill Albert. She founded The Story Circle Network in 1997. Her website:www.susanalbert.com

30 Days, 50,000 Words, and the NaNoWriMettes

Facebook gifted me with a memory moment from November 2012, the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I had made a commitment with two fellow women writers to each complete the 50,000 words in 30 days challenge and had playfully coined the name NaNoWriMettes for our little cadre, harkening back to 50’s and 60’s girl groups. The photo Facebook reposted was of the three of us draped around one another at The Emporium, our Sunday morning writing haunt.

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WriMettes 2012 (003)

Aside from my dissertation, I had never written anything longer than a few thousand words and while I had plenty of ideas for a novel, the thought of actually writing one was intimidating. Making the commitment with two fellow women writers to hold my hand, write beside me, and encourage me made it seem possible.

And it was! In 2012 we all completed those crucial first drafts. I’d made a vow to myself that at 40,000 words, no matter where I was in the story, I would stop and write an ending. I had heard many cautionary tales about folks who wrote their hearts out and got their 50,000 words done but not a complete draft. At the end of the writing marathon they lost their forward motion and never returned to the manuscript, never writing the ending. When I got to that 40,000-word point, I was unsure about how the story would end, and thought it necessary to write the rest of the story before I would know. My compromise was to write three possible endings. That put me over my 50,000 words and gave me both endings and the desire to write my way to one of them! I kept writing and at about 115,000 words finally had a full draft with the perfect ending chosen. That book is now in its third revision and looking better with each pass. And thanks to NaNo 2014 and my NaNoWriMettes’ sisterhood, there is a solid first draft of a follow up book in what I am now envisioning as a series.

There are plenty of critics of NaNo. I know one woman who claims she will never read or buy a book that was written during NaNo, implying that it would be shoddy work because who could write a draft of a novel in 30 days?  I find that an unwarranted supposition and unfairly judgmental. NaNo is not designed to have you complete a finished work. It is the exact opposite. The mantra is “Keep writing, no matter what.” Do not reread, do not edit, and do not revise. Just keep going! The goals are to get into the writing habit, to stay on the page, and to get words down so you have something to revise. NaNo writing is not meant to be polished; it is rather the often referred to messy first draft. Some well known books that began life as a first draft during NaNo include: Sara Gruen’s Like Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, and Hugh Howey’s Wool. I’m certain none of those writers published their first drafts. I’m certain all were revised and edited numerous times. The point is, you can’t revise what you haven’t written and NaNo gets you 50,000 words to revise.
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I am with my beloved NaNoWriMette sisters again this year but I am writing in a different way. I have committed to writing 50,000 words in a series of drafts for essays and short stories, even a few blog posts. I am staying true to the philosophy of not stopping to edit. I brainstormed a long list of topics and whenever I feel stuck or have a first draft completed, I just go to the next topic. This is working well. I have no trouble getting the 1,667 words per day needed to get to 50,000. On most days I exceed that number. The beauty of this is that post NaNo I will have so much writing ready for revision. If I revise a piece and need to set it aside for a while before I try again or if I have sent it to another writer for feedback, I have a plethora of other pieces to work on. I am RICH with words and I thank the National Novel Writing Month process and my writing tribe, the NaNoWriMettes for that.

Write on!

Jude Walsh Whelley writes fiction, memoir, and poetry. She lives in Dayton, Ohio. This post was previously published on her blog, Writing Now.