Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Reviews that Teach

Book reviews. I've been getting a few of them lately for my new book, "Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones" and a few things have remained consistent.

  • Wanting to read the book--again.
  • Taking notes in the margins.
  • Wanting to gather their own stones to remember what they have learned.

My second book

  • Desiring to use what they have read for their current struggles.

Yes, all writers need a little pat on the back and I'm happy for those I have recently been given. I am also grateful for those reviewers who have struggled with certain aspects of my book and haven't been afraid to share their feelings. These views help me too. For I will be writing and publishing again, you can be sure of that.

I'd like to think that all writers are continually learning, growing and perfecting their craft. Now that winter is over and the spring buds are peeking through the soil, I am thinking again of the growth and learning I have received through the years by writing and by getting reviewed and critiqued.

Sometimes it's hard to hear, but I am grateful for the challenge to improve my next work.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writing for Money?

Much has been said on this topic, but I wanted to take a different turn on it.

I think it's important to write, I also think it's important to make money. But it's more important to me that I write without being absorbed in the end result--money.

Photo by: tnarik, courtesy of Flickr
If you're dreaming about becoming rich as a writer, quitting your current full-time job, raking in the dough after only a few short months of writing, think again. I don't want to burst any bubbles here, but the truth is, writers rarely get published that first year that they begin. And if they do, it's because they have their own blog or have published their own book. Writing for money rarely comes until the writer is seasoned, and even then, it comes slowly and intermittently, sort of like a dripping faucet.

Photo by: Jeff Golden, courtesy of Flickr
When I began to make some real money writing I wasn't focused on the money anyway. I was more focused on the project, the person I was mentoring, the opportunity to share what I had written. When the money came it was because of the timing of the project as well as the attention I'd given to the piece. When I worked with a writer, I focused on their strengths and opportunities for growth, and less on the money they'd be handing me.

The money came, of course. But it came only after I'd prepared myself to receive it. I had to focus in a different place; my concern had to be for others more than it was for myself.

If this sounds a little "far out" to you, try it anyway. Focus on ways to improve your writing. Take classes. Be open to ideas that come to you. Let go of fear when you write and find your voice. Be assured that your distinct voice will come, just as the money will come, in its time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Free Writing Conference!

I love things that come free, among them: samples through the mail, invites to special events that I have been invited to as a guest, and free writing conferences.

The last free option doesn't come around too often. Most conferences are quite pricey. But not this one.

I learned about the Write Here in Ephraim conference just a few months ago. I was asked to teach a couple of writing classes (which I am doing). When I learned the conference was free I could hardly believe it!

Here's a rundown of events:

Date: April 14, 2012
Time: 7:45 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Place: Snow College in Ephraim, Utah

All classes will be taught by published authors. There will be door prizes and an author panel, including a "First Page Shred" panel. Classes and workshops include: Writing memoirs, suspense, romance, and science fiction/fantasy.

Learn how this book applies
to your writing!
Learn about comedy writing, self-publishing and short story writing. Find out how to get ideas, show instead of tell, grid your story, avoid cliches,create a fascinating plot and more. Discover how to get your finished project out there through various classes on manuscript organization, marketing, publicity, and branding.

I will be teaching two classes. The first will be on writing your first book, the second will be a two-part inspirational class on conquering your writing Goliaths.

Experience some writing exercises from
this book!
For more information visit: or

Monday, March 26, 2012

Using Emotion in Your Writing

I love trees. They are beautiful things. But even beautiful trees carry sap.

And the truth is, so do many writers. I am among them.

Photo by: jrsnchzhrs, courtesy of Flickr
It is easy, far to easy, to get sappy in our writing. We think that our beautiful love scene is perfect; but we let it sit for a couple of weeks and wala! the beautiful stuff we thought we'd written sounds more like that gooey stuff coming from a tree.

The kiss is not quite as perfect as we thought, the actions of the main character and his beloved are far from romantic, and the very spot in which they are standing might just have turned itself into an unwanted cesspool for its UN-connectivity to reality.

How did it happen?

Photo By: Alex Groundwater, courtesy of Flickr
I'm not really sure, but I think emotion in writing has a way of getting away from us if we're not careful. It floats away and dances on its own and before long we realize that we are no longer connected to what we have written. I have read far too many romance books that are like this, but many people still read them anyway and it scares me.

I am reminded of a soap opera that I used to watch. I could count on two things: Breakups and getting back together. I wondered why my life wasn't as exciting. Not that I wanted to go through a break up, it's just that my life seemed so boring in comparison.

I have since realized that what most readers want is some sort of grounded reality in the midst of fantasy, or a western, or a modern romance. They want emotion that is real and emotion that they can relate to. Life isn't all about breakups, it's about sacrifice and truth. Giving and getting. Being real.

And the best books I have read where emotion (and not sappiness) are at the center, do just that.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Scheduling that NECESSARY Writing Time

Man, is it really 4:10 in the afternoon? I'll be thinking of dinner soon. Where does the time go?

I've often heard that professional writers make an increased amount of money because they know how to schedule their writing time. They take it serious, like eating or going to see the dentist because the pain is winning the war.

How do we feel about our writing time?

Yes, I make time for mine every day, but sometimes I find that the time has slipped from my fingers (like today) because I haven't planned my day out ahead of time.

Photo by: Joe Lanman, courtesy of Flickr
So you know, each and every day of my life is different. It's hard for me to say that I'll have the same time in the morning on Monday as I will have on Tuesday, for example. My writing time comes in-between errands, and last minute emergencies, and the not so favorite grocery shopping trip. I plan my writing time around what is already graven in stone, but I wonder what would happen if I got up early every morning at the same time and wrote.

What would happen if I made time for writing; scheduled it out like a well-needed check-up?

You've probably heard of Franklin Day Planners. I used to have one of those, too, but found that the scheduling just made me feel as if I couldn't breathe. Maybe I wasn't using the planner right, but I found my life sort of lackluster, like the old ring that I thought was genuine silver plate.

I got rid of the planner. Now I have a nice calendar with big squares to write stuff inside. (No, I haven't yet converted to a cellphone calendar). I make mention of the most important stuff of the day, but usually neglect to record when my writing time will be.

I think other folks around here know that too. My daughter said today: "My mom has a hard time scheduling anything, her life is so crazy."

But crazy or not, it's my life. Still, the thought of planning out my morning and making time to write at the same time every day (It's now 5:07, had to do some last minute errands) sounds a bit refreshing, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Compassion in the Midst of Chaos

An idea came to me this morning and I believe it bears repeating.

We get so busy with life. We complain about not having time to write because we have housework to do, or children to cart around to school and soccer practice. We think that our lives are as disorganized as our daughter's bedroom floor.

Photo by: Rubbermaid Products, courtesy of Flickr
Or we can have compassion in the midst of it all.

I'd like to think that writers are even better writers when they see that life is more than dirty socks and an old banana peel smushed underneath the bed. If we have compassion with ourselves we can also be compassionate with others when they do not live up to our expectations.

Photo by Archangel_raphael, courtesy of Flickr
We can let it go.

This morning when I was down on my knees in prayer, I felt a warmth from my window. With my eyes still closed, I knew it was the light coming from the sun. In the midst of my chaotic morning, getting children ready for school, trying to find matching socks, reminding my grandson that he really needed to wear clothes before he left the house, the Lord fed me with a little compassion.

In the midst of my chaos.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Keeping Up with the Jones'

I just had to write about this subject. Not just because my last name is Jones, but because we're all so fired up as writers to outdo one another. Why can't we just be friends?

Photo by: Nono Fara
I love it when someone asks me to share my heart. I love it when they reach out. I love it, because, yes, I feel heard, and if I'm heard, I've been read.

I don't have to keep up with someone else's work, I just need to enjoy their journey. Thinking less of my own work because someone has written a book that I've always dreamed of writing doesn't serve me, but appreciating what I CAN LEARN from them is fantastic!

So, you need to know this right now. You don't need to keep up with me--yes, even though I'm a Jones and and a published writer. You just need to keep up with you and what you feel in your heart is your soul's direction.

And because you're also reading this, I thank you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sentence Structure

Since I began writing and publishing almost 30 years ago, I have learned a few things about sentence structure; what to do and what not to do, and what may just be your particular form of writing--something you don't mess with.

When it comes to writing, each of us (hopefully) has our own voice. What we say and how we say it is unique to us. We write, and someone else doesn't think we are trying to mimic C.S. Lewis, for example, though it feels like a great compliment to be like him.

We have our own voice. Our own style. The words we write come from our heart and we're less concerned about writing great and more concerned with writing authentically.

Part of writing authentically means we get everything on paper (or computer) and then return to edit and improve. This is where sentence structure comes in. Some questions I ask myself at this stage are:

  • Is the sentence clear? When I read it out loud, does it make sense to me?
  • Do I have short sentences interspersed with long sentences? The long and the short of it is that short sentences are better for a blog. Long sentences work better for a novel. Yet, you don't want to over-run the reader with lengthy sentences without breaking them up with short ones. (Take a look at paragraph 3 of this blog. See how I've woven short and long sentences into one paragraph).
  • Do you favor long paragraphs? For most readers, they get lost in long paragraphs. If you have a particularly long paragraph, shorten it into two. You don't want to lose your reader by not providing them with enough white space. (White space is the space on the page empty of words). White space gives a rest to the reader's eyes, and makes the page more pleasant to read.
Hawaii, 2007
  • What is happening with my grammar; with my word choice? While it's important to keep our authentic voice in everything we write, it's also important that our word choice is the best we have--even if we have to  flip through a thesaurus. 
Though sentence structure, ultimately, is the building blocks of or voice, it's important to send our words out as clear and undiluted as possible. Like a vast ocean, we want to see into its depths. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Writing as Therapy

I love writing, but (smile) I have also needed therapy in my life. I'm not sure if there are any other writers out there who have had to visit a shrink, but I'd like to think that I'm not alone.

What I've learned from a few great (and not so great) therapists is that they may not have the answers either. They may give you direction, suggestions, they may even tell you what's not working in your life and what you can do to change your situation, but they can't do it for you.

Photo by Tony Hall, courtesy of Flickr
Therapists are expensive, too, When I went, therapy ran between $25 and $50 an hour; I'm sure, some 20 years later, it's spiked a bit higher. Though it cost me, for the most part, I gained from the experience. I learned more about myself and more about relating better to certain individuals in my life.

It was soon after the therapy experience that I learned the power of writing my feelings down. I realized that writing was just as powerful as speaking, and I would often find myself solving my own problems with a bit of reflection and an open heart to God.

Perhaps that's why I continue to keep a journal today. Even when it hurts, and especially when it hurts, I can get my feelings down on paper. Words written down never go away unless there's a flood or some other natural disaster; the words are there the next time I am struggling and I am reminded that this is what life is all about. Yes, it's about struggling, but it's also about overcoming and becoming better. And I read those too.

Some days writing is the only thing that keeps me going. And on other days, I am filled with knowledge and direction almost too powerful to write about.

But I do.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Simple Outlines Create Success

You've heard of those (far out) outlines and profiles; those that specify hair color, eye color, habits, and speak about the details within each chapter, etc. But what I want to talk to you about today is putting together a simple outline--one that will get you writing instead of researching.

While I think it's important to research a story, I know that it is also easy to get stuck in the planning stage forever. That's why I like to use a simpler outline method.

Photo by Ed Yourdon, courtesy of Flickr
It goes something like this:


Start by thinking of your main character and the traits and physical characteristics that apply to them. Get a fairly good idea of who they are by keeping your thoughts to one paragraph.


Now, take this character through a setting. Where would this character typically live based on their traits and physical characteristics? Focus on the main setting; where the primary character usually frequents.


What is your main character's problem? What issue are they trying to solve?

When it comes to plot, you'll not want to make it easy for the character to succeed. Based on who they are and where they live, and their specific problem, you'll want to take the main character through some trials. In a book of say, 200 pages or more, expect the main character to go through at least five episodes that they must overcome to face the next obstacle. If everything is smooth sailing through your book, you don't have a story, and you don't have a life. Think about your own life. Is it free of challenges?

How does your main character try to solve their problems? After listing the five challenges that must be overcome, list their accompanying solutions; solutions, by the way, that don't necessarily work, but lead the main character forward.


How is the problem finally solved? Is the answer realistic based on the trials that the character has already overcome? Endings are just as important as beginnings, probably even more so. Have you ever read a book and the ending seemed forced? Did you hate the ending because it didn't appear realistic? The right ending is important for your book, and based on the trials overcome, you should be able to place the main character in the right ending.

When it comes to outlining a book, we all have our ways of getting the information down. Some writers I know use magazine pictures for all the main characters of their book; others use a poster board for all of the chapters and scenes of the book. On the board they can move (with sticky notes) what is going to happen in each chapter. If they decide on something else later, they just move the sticky notes.

But I happen to favor this method. It's simple and to the point. Plus, you're not spending hours and hours organizing (maybe even getting burned out) before you write that first line.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The First Line

I love talking about the first lines of stories, mainly because they're the hardest to produce.

She died yesterday.
Even macaroni and cheese can prove to be deadly.
She ate, but it wasn't heartily, sort of like shoving boxed macaroni and cheese down your throat without cooking it. 
In death, came life, and Mrs. McGrayer Jones believed in life.

Photo by: Moriza, courtesy of Flickr
If you were going to write a fiction story with a hint of mystery, what beginning would you use? Not one of them is "correct." What they are are the sort of options we make when deciding on that first line. Do we want it short and sweet like the first line? Something with a little bit of mystery, like the second line? Do we want to express more of the main character's thoughts like the third line? Or do we want our first line to be a bit more symbolic like the fourth line?

Interestingly enough, you may not get to a line like this until the third page or the fifth chapter. What you may think is your first line rarely turns out to be the first; rather, it's just some sort of lead in to the real story. And I like that idea.

After all our cruising around in our new sports car, we find that it's not so sporty after all. The stuff we've written at the beginning of our book is more like a used car, blue, with old pinstripes that have begun to wear off. And maybe that's okay.

Sometimes we have to wait for the good stuff.

Photo by: Unlisted Sightings, courtesy of Flickr
As you've heard, the best stuff not only needs to be at the first of your book, it has to be. And so choosing the best first line that leads into the first paragraph and the first page, needs to create in the reader a desire to keep reading beyond the children playing in the background, a husband's love of sports blaring in the next room, even (dare I say it) someone sitting next to them eating chocolate cream pie!

A good first line is kind of like your ticket to read. Without that good first line, the reader is working his/her way into the book, trying to find the ticket. Don't make them wait until chapter 3!

So, what beginning do you prefer? One, two, three or four? Today, I give you permission to choose one you like (or one you've created on your own). Today I give you permission (though you've never needed it) to write that stunning first line.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writers Need Time for Fun

Okay, all of you writers! I've written about fun before; those times we need to take a break to clear our head and get ready for the next wave of ideas.

But it's true, you know?

Photo by: wanderingYew2, courtesy of Flickr
Today my husband and I are leaving for a getaway. We're not going very far, but we're going. I look forward to these times to re-evaluate our life together. I LOVE them because something magical happens when a couple is away from the day-to-day 'hectics' of life.

I may actually have time to THINK!

If you feel stuck in your life, or stuck in your marriage relationship, or just plain and simple stuck in your writing, plan a few days away to rev up. It's the least you can do.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Best Quotes at the Story@Home conference

Sometimes, great opportunities just seem to fall into your lap.

Such was this past Friday and Saturday. I attended another great conference. This one was specific to genealogy, family history and blogging. I learned some great things and met some even greater people!

Allow me to share with you my favorite quotes; quotes, by the way that you can apply to your life, whether you're a writer or not!

"Never miss an opportunity to give a compliment" (Carol Rice, owner of Cherish Bound) AND "Sharing stories provides others with a safety net."

Photo by Jacob Varghese, courtesy of Flickr
"There is a time for you to take care of your children, and a time for your children to take care of you" (Syd Lieberman, Storyteller).

(In regards to your weight). "If you can't lose it, decorate it" (Kim Weitkamp, Storyteller).

"'Fire' the naysayers in your life" (Rustin Banks, BlogFrog).

"Whatever I don't know, I'm going to find out" (Heather Madder, Inspirational Speaker).

"Remember the 90/20 rule" Jana Parkin, (Inspirational speaker and artist). I LOVE this rule. In a nutshell, it goes like this: You work for 90 minutes and take a 20 minute break. That way you don't get burned out and actually have more energy in your day; you feel as if you've been given extra time.

Photo By: anemoneprojectors, courtesy of Flickr
"What kind of writing do you like reading? What you enjoy is probably what you've good at writing" (DeNae Handy, Inspirational Speaker).

"Balance out your blog with original content, another's content, and fun stuff (conversation)" (Michael Reynolds, President/CEO of SpinWeb).

Enjoy your day!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Power of Words

Many years ago I had the privilege of reading a pretty powerful book on words. It was called, "The Power of Little Words." In this little book by John L. Beckley, I learned why short words are important. Why short sentences leave the reader thinking instead of lost. Most of all, I learned I how long winded I can get as a writer.

Getting long winded is a little bit like running a long race. Except, we don't take a break, we keep going even when it hurts. But sometimes, even in races, it's a good idea to slow down.

I remember one such race a few years ago. We always have a race right before the Days of '47 (pioneer) Parade in Salt Lake City. Every year, runners run the track that the floats and bands will be traveling soon after.

One year, as I was watching these runners, one of them left the track, and just a few feet away from me hurled his breakfast. Luckily, the tree got it, but I also realized, he was at his limit. It was time for this runner to slow down.

He left the tree and continued to walk. I don't know how long he walked, but I hope he walked until he felt better. I hope he got a few drinks of water before running again. I hope he took care of himself.

Writing is a bit like (you know) but it is also about slowing down. Writing short. Paying attention to the simple words rather than the dramatic. It's getting your point across as succinctly and powerfully as possible.

And some days it's a good idea to take a look.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing Interruptions (Hugs)

You're probably wondering what this title is all about. I'll tell you. Yesterday, while getting my blog post ready, my granddaughter ran into a chair. She cut her head by her left eyebrow and we ran her to the doctor's office for stitches.

Bekah colors
Since she was so uncooperative, we went to the hospital. There they could give her the anesthesia to relax her enough so that the work could be done.

We spent most of the day at the hospital, hugging her, trying to console her scared feelings about doctors and nurses. Even though she got stickers, coloring pages, more cartoons than I'd ever want to see, and a stuffed rainbow fish, the experience wasn't one that I'd ever consider a "favorite".

Still, as this little miss was coming out of her sleepy condition on the table she had the wherewithal to ask for hugs. She asked her mom and she asked me, her little arms wrapped around my neck as she held me as tight as she could so I wouldn't go away.

There was some major comfort in this, must have been, because it took a half an hour before she was back to normal and could drink something. She wasn't hugging anymore, at least not as tightly, and she was ready for all of the wires to come off so we could go home.

Yesterday, when I could have been writing, I was receiving hugs, and lots of them, too. I had nothing to complain about.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Prepare & Deliver Your Class

In this last segment of teaching a writing class or workshop, I wanted to go into the specifics of preparing for and teaching your class. This arena, far above anything else you do, will bring in future participants.

I like to think of preparing for a class like outlining a book. You decide when and where your information is going to be placed so that you have a guideline for your presentation. And as I mentioned in my first post on teaching, you need to teach in a way that all participants enjoy learning. That mean hand-outs won't do if you also have in your class learners who like active participation with others or who enjoy music as a way of stimulating their thinking.

Photo By: Cristiano Betta, courtesy of Flickr
Remembering this, write a rough draft of how you would like your class to go. Don't get too detailed, just sketch it out; brainstorm if you will. What do you want you class to include? How much of it will fit in the time you've allotted?

Once that is done, you'll want to tighten your ideas and get clear about your purpose. What do you want the take away value to be for your writers? What do you hope they will learn? Both of these questions will help you to get your ideas to a solid state.

Practicing your delivery is great, especially if you have a way to record both your voice as well as your speech. Personally, I hate to do this, because I have a fear of cameras, but those who take the step up find areas in their delivery that they can improve upon.

If you're using PowerPoint, make sure the slides are simple. Too much on the individual slides will bore your participants. The best slides offer phrases, even pictures and video that add to your presentation or help writers to remember key points.

Photo by: PawPaw67, courtesy of Flickr
Use index cards if you need to to remember material; it's best to use as little paperwork as possible so that you're not reading your presentation. If you've memorized your material, that's even better.

Give space for asking and answering questions. Don't be in hurry to get through key points in the presentation. Adjust your presentation as you need to depending on the needs of the class. End your class with a question and answer period.

When you prepare and then deliver a class, no matter how expert you will become, there will always be mistakes. Count on them. Perfection is not a reality, and you will make fumbles in your presentation every time you give it. It may be that you forget to tell a particular story, or you find yourself nervous and stumble over a word or two. Do your best, and learn to laugh at your mistakes. Your audience will remember you for your realness with them, and your ability to continue forward no matter what.

Monday, March 5, 2012

6 More Tips on Teaching a Writing Class (Part 2)

If you've read Part 1 of this blog you'll realize I didn't get to Part 2 when I said I would. Sorry about that.

Here we go!

1. I first take a good look at chair set up.

Photo By: UK in Italy, courtesy of Flickr

If there are merely chairs (and no tables) to set up for your class, and your class is more of a lecture and less of a workshop, make sure that the chairs are set up close together horizontally, and vertically, that there is plenty of leg room. That means that the arms of the chairs are touching and the space between the chairs has some room. You want the situation to be tight, (to fit in the most chairs, and for participants to get to know their neighbors) but you also want your participants to be comfortable, especially if they're tall like me.

Photo By: EPP Group in the European Parliament (Official) 
No center isle. Make sure that the chairs extend across the room and leave a few feet on the sides and back  of the room to walk around. What happens when there's an aisle? Much of the energy of your presentation goes down the center isle and you find yourself talking to two groups of people instead of one. Where do you stand? Where do you focus your attention? Leaving out the center isle helps.

Using tables is a great way to give a class, but be aware that the class will have to be smaller, and this is okay seeing as it's probably going to be a workshop anyway. You can have a center isle here, but keep all chairs to the back of the table; no chairs on the sides and no chairs in front.

2. Make sure that if you're not giving a lecture, that you don't stand behind the podium the entire time you are giving your presentation. (And even if you are giving a lecture, be careful of being completely glued to it). Move around the room if giving a workshop. Make some eye contact with the individuals in the room. I try and make sure I've given eye contact to everyone attending my classes at least once during class time.

3. Your classes can be as long as you want, but I try and break up segments about every two hours, even if it's just for a five minute potty break. I enjoy putting on two-day seminars. I start them at 9:00 a.m. and we end at 1:00. That way I can fit in one break, but I don't have to worry about lunch.

4. Have books to sell? Place them right at the registration table, or right as you enter the room if there is space to do so. The back of the room works too, but participants may or may not walk back there. If they have to pass the table before sitting down, you have additional exposure.

Photo By: Jurvetson, courtesy of Flickr
5. Writers of all persuasions will be attending your class. Unless you've specified the class for beginners or intermediate or advanced writers, you will get writers who have started writing this week, have written for two years, or have written for ten. Make sure your presentation incorporates all of your writers and doesn't leave anyone out.

6. Be flexible in your teaching. If you can't get to something in your presentation, don't be hurried and worry about getting to it. And don't tell the class that you're going to have to rush through a part to get to the next one! There are times when more discussion is needed on a particular topic. Give some extra time to the subject if you need to.

I haven't given you all there is to know about teaching and setting up a writing class, but I hope these ideas have helped. Giving your presentation itself is an entirely different category altogether and I haven't mentioned everything that you should do to prepare and deliver.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

6 Tips on Teaching a Writing Class (Part 1)

So, you're thinking you have some things to share--some writing tips and tricks you'd like to pass on to other writers. How do you get your name out there? How do you set up a class? How do you get interested writers to sign up?

I am also in the running for teaching some writing classes. I've taught them before, but for the last few years I've been focusing my time on mentoring and attending college, and from what I hear, some things have changed in the "teaching" department.

Here are some things I am either re-learning or learning for the first time:

My backyard is small, but I was able to hold a
small class for teens here last year
  • Start small. Your classes can be held at home; even in your back yard. My first few classes for teens were held this way. The library is a free venue though they usually don't allow you to sell your book(s). Places like art centers are also good to host your first few classes--and you CAN sell your books here.
  • Because you're going to have varied students in your class, with different learning styles and different levels of writing, it's a good idea to teach with more than one method in mind. For example, you may use hand-outs at the appropriate times (more about that later), but you may not have an idea for experiential exercises that would engage students a different way. Experiential exercises include talking to a neighbor about your writing, sharing with the group your writing style, or being given an opportunity from the instructor to share your work. 
    • I focus on 3 areas when I am teaching:
      • 1. Hands-on opportunities--this includes music, writing and drawing
      • 2. Experiential sharing exercises
      • 3. Learning--information is given from the instructor to expand the writer's thinking
  • Workshops work better if your numbers are under 25 students; over 25, you're looking at a lecture type of presentation.
  • Your first few classes may need to be free. Until your name is out there and enough people have taken your courses, you might find it difficult to fill a room. Or you can try piggy-backing on other writers through conferences that have been successful. Teach a class at a conference, and if it's well received, there's no doubt that future numbers will improve. 
  • Advertising is BIG but it is also expensive. Use your already established resources first when advertising your class. Social networking sites are excellent but so are your church related resources as well as those people you associate with within the community. Fliers don't usually work to bring in writers. What brings them in (until you're established as a speaker) is others talking about what you do. 
Guidebook I use for "Conquering Your Writing
Goliaths Workshop"
  • Hand-outs are great for a class, but use them only when you'll be discussing the hand-out. If you bring the hand-out out too early, students might be reading over the hand-out instead of listening to you. If you're using a manual or workbook like I am, this makes things a bit more tricky. (If anyone has a suggestion for this one, please let me know).
Teaching tips and tricks in teaching are abundant on the Internet. What's important, is that you try a few ideas on the first class, see what works, and use the same tips in the future. Not every tip or trick is going to work for you and that's okay. The best presenters, present themselves as well as the material. People continue to take their classes because they are not only informative, but the class is fun and engaging. 

Tomorrow, I'd like to talk a bit more on setting up a class, how long your classes should be, and what you can expect from writers in a writing class. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Making Time to Write

I think it's important that we take writing seriously if we want to become a writer. And taking writing seriously means we make time for it.

We may make time for errands
For doing our chores, and that includes household and outside work responsibilities
We may even make time to watch our favorite movie on television

Photo by: Martin Pettitt, courtesy of Flickr
But do we make time to write?

We do if we want to see success in our writing. Without the motivation and action to actually DO something, we're like those folks who are always saying, "I've always wanted to write a book," and then, you guessed it, they never do.

Writing is a job too. We may not think of it as a job because we enjoy it so much, but the best jobs out there pay us to do what we love to do.

Today, if you're using "excuses" rather than "action" to write, take a moment and consider what you can do today that will relive some time for writing.

And then do it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Receiving Writing Critiques

Today I'm thinking about critiques mainly because I'm still getting them.

The interesting thing about critiques is that you continue to get them, even when you believe your writing is, well, fairly established. And you can't let the critiques "get to you." In fact, if you use them as stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks, it's amazing how your writing can improve.

If someone tells you that you need to be more clear here, or shorten your sentences there; or even, "you need to follow the guidelines" you need to listen up and take action; yes, even when it hurts.

Photo By: jorgempf, courtesy of Flickr
I don't know what it is about critiques but they have a way of getting underneath our skin and seeping inside our hearts. Suddenly, we're not quite "good enough" our writing "sucks" or we find ourselves getting a bit miffed that the person reading our stuff somehow missed seeing us.

It's kind of like meeting someone for the first time and then seeing them again for the second time on the same night and they can't remember your name. It's sort of like writing your best stuff, at least, what you believe is your best stuff, and having someone else tell you it isn't your best stuff--you can do better.

And I guess that's the point about the best critiques. You learn how you can improve your writing, or not. If  the critique is specific enough in its explanation, you know where and what needs to be looked at. You have the courage to make changes.

Photo By: n0nick, courtesy of Flickr
If you don't agree with the person who critiqued your  work, that's fine, but if you can see past your own heart and skin, you may find that the "criticizer" was right.

Those writers with the greatest perseverance have the courage to LOOK.