Just Write

Myths and Realities of Blogging

I recently spoke at a meeting of the Writers of the Mendocino Coast, a branch of the California Writers Club, on the subject of blogging. I recommend the blogs and books mentioned below. And of course there are many other blogs, books, and information about blogging on the world wide web. Highlights from my talk on “Myths and Realities of Blogging” If you don’t have a blog, but think you should, something to think about is why? Why should you have an author blog? “Blogging is simply a medium that allows you to connect with people who love the same books, hobbies and activities you do.”  — Gabriela Pereira, May/June 2018, Writer’s Digest magazine Author Blog Find Your Target Audience: Read the reviews of books in your genre on Amazon or Goodreads. Use words from the reviews for your headlines and tags in your posts. What to Post Stories about…


Pacing . . . Prompt #447

When you read the next ditty, read “d-o-e-s” as in female deer. Mairzy Doats Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy a kid will eat ivy, too wouldn’t you? Say it fast and it becomes: Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you? Link to what this sounds like. I think of this rhyme when I think of pacing – paying attention to the cadence and rhythm of writing. How and when to increase the pace when writing. Paraphrased from Make A Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld: By pacing your scenes well and choosing the proper length for each scene, you can control the kinds of emotional effects your scenes have, leaving the reader with the feeling of having taken a satisfying journey. Pace should match the emotional content of your scene. First scenes should get going with an…


Edges . . . Prompt #446

If your life was surrounded by a frame, what would the edges look like? Sharp, soft, curvy, plain, straight? Brightly colored, small, large? Dull, deep, shallow? Stand out? Plain, simple, fancy? Blend in? Fierce? Protective? Describe what the edges of your life’s frame would look like. Does your frame help you or hinder you? What kind of edge does your life hold? Write about a frame that borders your life.

Book Reviews

Talk Before Sleep

Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg. In the beginning of Talk Before Sleep, at a party, Ann Stanley tells her husband, “I hate that woman.” She points to a “raven-haired, blue-eyed, neatly petite” woman. Her husband asks, “How do you know her?” Ann answers, “I don’t. But I know about her. Can’t stand her.” And then Ann meets The Woman, Ruth, in the tiny downstairs bathroom and everything changes. “I knew we had a lot to talk about. I could forgive her good looks. She was capable of a scary kind of honesty I was ready for, although until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I’d been needing to meet someone I might be able to say everything to.” And so, they become best friends. Ann, a former nurse, takes care of Ruth, navigating her last days through the maze of cancer. Elizabeth Berg : “I lost a very…


Character’s Voice . . . Prompt #445

Your fictional characters should be as different from one another as the real people in your life. One way to show differences is in their voices. Years ago, returning home from Aqua Zumba, I drove past Hermann Sons Hall and remembered the German woman who managed the building as if it were her immaculate residence. On our early morning walks, my husband and I watched as she polished door knobs, washed windows, and replaced gravel in the driveway. Her mission was to keep “her” building spotless. You didn’t want to cross her. How does a writer establish “voice” for characters?  If your character is a stoic German woman who manages a building as if it were her pristine cottage, picture what she looks like. Short hair, stern features, sensible shoes, tailored clothing. Then you can imagine what she sounds like: sharp, clipped sentences, uses precise words sparingly. Contrast that with…


Three-dimensional characters . . . Prompt #444

You have probably heard about the importance of knowing your fictional characters so well that you know what he/she had for breakfast. Readers don’t need to know this, but the writer does. You don’t need to include everything you know about your characters in your story, but as the writer/creator, you need to know a huge amount of information about the people (and animals) who populate your story. The challenge is to create memorable characters rather than one-dimensional characters. Your fictional characters are like actors in a scene. Some fictional characters seem shallow while others seem richer. The difference could be that the writer knows the characters/actors so well, that the dialogue and the details fit the character. Your fictional actor may want to step out of character and exhibit new behavior. This is fine, as long as it’s credible. Your job as writer is to drop convincing clues so…


The neurological impact of sensory detail.

Stories should be aimed not at our heads but at our hearts. “And this is where things get interesting, because description actually allows access to our hearts in a neurophysical way.” I have wondered why reading something with sensory detail leaves more of an impression than writing that doesn’t have sensory detail. According to studies, “when we read about an odor, it engages the exact same part of the brain as actually smelling it, and those parts of the brain reside in the lower region, alongside our emotional centers. . . When you write using smells, or images, or sensations, you’re actually gaining access to the emotional area of the brain, and this is why stories can take such precise aim at the heart. Words like lavender, cinnamon, and soap, for example, elicit a response not only from the language processing areas of our brain, but also those devoted to…

Book Reviews

Durable Goods

I spent the summer of 2019 re-reading books by Elizabeth Berg, reminding me of my pre-teen summers when I read Nancy Drew books. Like the Nancy Drew books, Berg’s writing also transports me from my world to fictional worlds. I suppose Durable Goods, published in 1993, can be considered an oldie but goodie. It has a timelessness quality covering issues many face: a difficult home life, the challenges of growing up (changing bodies, confusing emotions, loyalties and betrayals, friends, commitment, making and losing connections with one another). — Marlene Cullen, The Write Spot Blog, editor, The Write Spot anthologies “Elizabeth Berg writes with humor and a big heart about resilience, loneliness, love, and hope. And the transcendence that redeems.” —Andre Dubus

Places to submit

Mid-American Review

Mid-American Review publishes works of fine literary art from a diverse body of artists. “We are on the lookout for work that has the power to move and astonish us while displaying the highest level of craft. We dedicate ourselves to encouraging, nurturing, teaching, and learning from the writers we meet through careful consideration of their work and meaningful dialogue. The writers in each issue shall include both well-established poets and authors and brand new voices. Because the acts of writing and reading force people to slow down and examine the world and their part in it, MAR is in a position to foster peace and understanding and to make a positive difference, and we fully embrace the challenge of making the world a better place through literature. We are dedicated to finding new audiences for contemporary writing and to building the audience for our journal, while also providing an outlet…


Describe an item. Prompt #443

In “The Art of Fiction,” John Gardener describes “the fictional dream.” This is when the author has described a scene so viscerally, the reader can see, feel, hear, taste, or smell what’s going on in the scene. Sensory detail is important in writing, but how to achieve it? Practice! Try this: Study an object for ten minutes. It can be something you are wearing, an item on your desk or on a kitchen shelf. It can be something you use every day or a special item put away to keep it safe. You can describe the glass flower decoration above. Notice the details of the object — the shape and texture. Explore the pieces that make up the whole. Hold or touch the item. Notice the texture, the heft. How does it feel? Does it have a smell? Look at the object from all angles. After ten minutes, write a…