Category Archives: The After Hours Writer

NaNoWriMo in the library

National Novel Writing Month, more commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo, is under way. Have you considered inviting participating writers into your library for an “open swim” writing event? The official website offers a publicity kit for the price of shipping but you could always create your own promotional materials as well.

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Story Starter: Smithsonian Flickr

I recently posed this Story Starter to Story Problems and I thought I’d share it with you too. It was inspired by this post on the Smithsonian’s blog.

Visit the Smithsonian’s Flickr (or your favorite Flickr page) and select an image (like above?) that intrigues you.

Write about (choose one of the following):

  • What’s happening at that moment, or, if you’d prefer, what is about to happen.
  • Imagine you’ve just found this image in your grandmother dusty attic. Do you recognize it? Do you not? What’s your reaction? Oh no! Don’t tell me a deep and troubling family secret has been revealed at a most inopportune time?
  • You are very, very old and used to be very, very famous. One day a reporter comes to visit you and asks you about the photo. What do you tell them? What do you keep to yourself? What do you only tell us, the reader of your tale?

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Filed under Adventures in Tutoring, Story Starters, The After Hours Writer, This Business of Writing

Duotrope

I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under but I only just learned about Duotrope. It’s a “free* resource for writers that primarily offers an extensive, searchable database of current fiction and poetry markets.” (So, yes, a little like the Poets & Writers database.) If you’re interested in submitting your writing to literary journals and magazines, it’s worth checking out. You can create an account to track your submissions, as well as view average acceptance stats (although beware that the stats are skewed thanks to voluntary responses.) It’s also a handy way of bookmarking journals you’re interested in who aren’t currently accepting submissions and tracking contest deadlines.

So, take these words to heart and, with Duotrope’s help, join the game!

* For now, at least. A donations tab alerts you that they’re struggling to make ends meet.

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“Things like getting rejected were the way to know that you were in the game”

Credit: Ball State English Department

“…when I arrived [at grad school], I hadn’t ever finished a publishable short story, and the types of discussions I was used to having about literature were more of the dead-important-people variety. At Arizona State there was suddenly this community of people swapping the names of up and coming writers, hero-worshipping authors I’d never even heard of. They revised their stories and them put them in envelopes, sending them out to editors. They collected rejections on little slips of paper and put them on the wall like trophies. I wanted to have those little slips of paper. I wanted to know the authors they talked about. This never felt competitive to me—just participatory. For three years, I was in the type of club I wanted most to join, and things like getting rejected were the way to know that you were in the game.” — Caitlin Horrocks, author of This is Not Your City. From an interview on PhD in Creative Writing.

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I’m teaching a found object workshop on May 19th at 826michigan

Inspiration Sold Separately: Storytelling through Catalogs and Found Artifacts
Ages: 12-15, 15 students
Saturday, May 19, 2-3:30pm (one session)

Catalogs aren’t junk mail! They’re actually on-going sagas in disguise. Just who are the people buying those clothes and furnishing their homes? What are their stories? In this workshop, we’ll explore how the things we collect tell volumes about our inner lives. Taking inspiration from real life auctions and fictional found object narratives, we’ll re-purpose images from catalogs and magazines to tell stories visually and with minimal text. You’ll never flip through J. Crew the same way again!

Visit the 826michigan workshop page to sign up!

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Filed under Adventures in Tutoring, Field Trip, Housekeeping, Professional Practice, Story Starters, The After Hours Writer, This Business of Writing

Bridget Zinn’s Sort of Naughty Methods For Getting Writing Done

The young adult author and librarian Bridget Zinn left us much too soon when she lost her brave battle with colon cancer earlier this year. I never met her but I was (I am) a fan of her blog. One of my favorite entries concerned her “naughty methods” for motivating herself to write. I’ve included highlights from the entry below. I hope you find Zinn’s advice as charming and inspiring as I do.

P. S. Keep an eye out for Bridget’s debut novel, Poison, in summer 2012 (Disney/Hyperion). I’ve heard it’s reminiscent of The Princess Bride.

Bridget Zinn’s Sort of Naughty Methods For Getting Writing Done: 

1) I am a sneaky writer. I like to think of writing less as something that should be done (and done with a capital “W”) and more as something sort of naughty that I absolutely should not be doing because there are other capital letter (and lame) things to do like Cleaning.

I think it’s sort of like the Catholic school girls (like the one who raised me) sneaking out for a smoke. It just feels a bit bad and yet oh, so good. Writing when you shouldn’t is just like eating cake for no reason at all.

After a while, it seems like writing weaves itself into your life and you don’t realize that you are spending all of this time Writing with a capital “W”.

3) I never force myself to sit down at a desk. It feels naughtier and less like Writing to write in random places. I sometimes end up at a desk after a while, but I like to just “play around” and take my laptop or notebook wherever seems like the most fun at the time. Right now my favorite sneaky writing spot is at the table on the back porch with a big pot of tea (and a lot of cushions under me), but sometimes I write in bed with a cat cuddled up with me or on the couch (ignoring the dirty laundry) and I used to write all over Madison depending on when I had a little break between jobs, classes, etc.

4) Rewards. I am a huge huge huge believer in rewards. For big things, little things, in between things. If I write so much as one word a day, I get a reward. This sounds so impossibly inefficient and yet I can look back and say it must work because I’ve written quite a few novels with this method. Some days one word is enough. Usually, my reward for writing is to spend some time reading whatever novel I’m currently in love with. I get bigger rewards for finishing things. Like cake! (Reward Cake is not to be confused with No Special Reason and Feels a Bit Decadent Cake — both are good but you enjoy them differently).

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Treat Writing Like A Second Job

Oh dear. Sorry for the inadvertent silence! Some professional interests and, you know, life things have been competing for my time. I shall aim to be better about getting around here more often.

When you work 40 hours a week like I do, it can be hard to carve out time for writing. (See aforementioned blog silence.) I try to write every day, at least for a little bit, but things often get in the way. I’m always on the look out for advice and so I thought I’d start up an off and on series about balancing writing and a full time job, composed of advice I’ve encountered.

The first in the series comes from novelist Ellen Baker. I attended a reading for her latest book, I Gave My Heart to Know This, about a week ago at Nicola’s. Baker, who worked as a museum curator and bookseller before selling her first novel, shared that she motivated herself by treating her writing as a second part-time job. Every week she challenged herself to write for at least twenty hours, keeping track of the time she worked to hold herself responsible. (Bless her for admitting that she sometimes fell short of her goal, with only seventeen or so hours.) I think this is great advice and plan to follow it for myself.

Writing can feel frivolous, especially if you haven’t published very much. Holding yourself accountable for the hours you work at writing is a good trick for keep your commitment alive. Because of course it is a second job.

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