Guest Bloggers

Writing Through a Book’s Mushy Middle

“Advice on Writing Through a Book’s Mushy Middle” By Judy Bolton-Fasman A eulogy I wrote for my father expanded into journal entries and eventually my book, “ASYLUM: A Memoir of Family Secrets.” I long dreamt that those loose collection of journal entries might become a book, but for many years they were arc-less and therefore not coalescing. There was no discernible beginning, middle, and end. But those entries, the impetus to start a writing project—I wouldn’t dare call it a book at the time—formed my literary North Star.  As Emily Dickinson wrote: “I am out with lanterns looking for myself.” I searched for myself in every corner of my memory, soul, in every rare photo I had, in every journal entry I wrote, and in notes I jotted down. In that process, I found profound, surprising things about myself and the other protagonists in my life story.  One of the…

Guest Bloggers

3 Things I’ve Learned About Storytelling (and Life) from Performing Narrative Nonfiction

Guest Blogger Anastasia Zadeik writes: The bar is hushed. I stand at the podium, bright lights partially obscuring the crowd. I see a blur of faces and blank spaces, hear ice clinking in a glass somewhere to my right and murmurs from the back of the room where drinks are being ordered and served. I am about to start speaking when I remember a tip I was given by my first performance coach, Jon. “Before you begin,” he said, “take a deep breath and remind yourself to . . . slow . . . down.” This, I have found, is good advice and, as Oscar Wilde famously said, “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on” so… 1. Before you start a story (or anything new)—take a deep breath and remind yourself to slow down. I begin to read the narrative nonfiction piece printed on the…

Guest Bloggers

Illuminating The Essay

Guest Blogger Arletta Dawdy’s reflections on Susan Bono’s talk, “Illuminating The Essay.” Remember the bogs of Ireland or those on the moors of England in old romance novels? The one where the heroine comes to the lonesome manor to be a governess, nurse, or maid only to fall for the moody master, his neighbor or maybe the groundsman. She’s lost in the mire of boggish emotions until HE comes to her rescue. Well, I don’t see HIM rescuing this writer from her blogger’s mind-bog. If you noticed, I’ve been absent for, low, these many months and then I thought there might be hope showing on my horizon. Marlene Cullen, producer of Writers Forum, invited local heroine/publisher//teacher Susan Bono to inspire an October gathering by “Illuminating The Essay.” Susan has published personal narratives in her famed  journal, Tiny Lights, for nearly twenty years. She is an expert in the form and…

Guest Bloggers

The Joy of Creativity

By Suzanne Murray Years ago I heard Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney give a lecture at the University of Washington. In the middle of this very academic speech, he paused, threw up both his hands and said, “Oh, just write for the joy of it” and then dipped back into the lecture. I don’t remember anything else from the talk, but Heaney’s sudden burst of inspiration stayed with me because it really captured an essential element in being creative. Whether you are cooking a great meal, growing a beautiful garden, writing a poem or singing in the community choir, you likely feel a deep sense of satisfaction and a joyfulness that comes with being creative. Creativity draws on the best of human nature: perception, imagination, intellect, inspiration, courage, intuition, and empathy. The urge to create asks us to bask in the experience of the world, to see, feel, taste,…

Guest Bloggers

Good Old Writers

Today’s guest blogger, Victoria Zackheim, writes about how to keep up the energy, faith, and courage to write. I recently walked into my newly built kitchen and discovered a large, grayish rectangular stain on the quartz counter. Had I placed a hot pan there? Not likely. Spilled bleach? Definitely not. I wiped, scrubbed, gently scoured… nothing helped. And then I lifted my arm and noticed a change in the shape of the stain. I had been trying to remove a reflection of light coming through the kitchen window. This is the opening paragraph of an essay I wrote about aging. I smiled as I wrote what I expected to be the preface of my new book. However, I’ve been told by literary agents and several editor friends that writing about aging might be cathartic for me, the writer, but it doesn’t stir up much interest among the public. Really? In…

Guest Bloggers

Crafting Short Fiction

“If I had more time, I’d write a shorter story.”— Mark Twain Today’s Guest Blogger, Guy Biederman, talks about crafting short fiction. I’ve always been intrigued by the challenge of creating something small that has big power. Giacometti said he wanted to make a sculpture the size of a matchbox, but so dense no one could lift it. The first micro story I remember reading was “Coup de Grace” by Ambrose Bierce, with a gotcha ending. O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi used” a similar technique. I was astonished by the wallop a short piece could pack. As a young writer, I cut my teeth on Raymond Carver’s work. Carver’s stories weren’t always short, but they were spare and vivid, conveyed feeling, empathy and understanding, and explained very little. I didn’t know what he was doing or how he did it. I only knew that reading his work was like…

Guest Bloggers

Do you need a developmental editor?

Guest blogger, dev-editor, and author Shirin Yim Leos, answers the question she’s most often asked: What is developmental editing, does it really make a difference, do I need it and how much—HOW MUCH?!?!—can I do for myself? What is Developmental Editing? It’s the big, high level, Is the book working? edit. Does it make a difference? Resoundingly yes. Ask any author with a career. Do I need it? No writer can accurately see their own work. It’s a fact, like refraction through water or distortion through atmosphere. How much does developmental editing cost? It varies, but here are some recently published rates in The Write Life. How to be your own Developmental Editor Can I do it for myself? Try to duplicate a dev editor’s distance. They come to your pages cold and you can replicate that: Put your writing away in a drawer for 3-6 months. I can hear…

Guest Bloggers

Create a Hygge Calendar or List

We hear a lot about being grateful, giving thanks, gratitude lists, and silver linings. But what if you just aren’t feeling it? How about creating a hygge calendar? I read about this in a Facebook group. Make a list of things to be mindful about, a way to help get out of the doldrums and into a feeling of calm, care, and positivity. Pay attention to one item each day. Personalize your calendar and use it as advent calendar, or as a way of looking at old things in a new way. Hygge: A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being, regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture. Hygge Advent Calendar ideas, or a list of how to create a feeling of coziness: 1. Light a candle during meals. 2. Chalk a friendly greeting on a sidewalk. 3. Share an uplifting poem or…

Guest Bloggers

Doubt is the Devil

Guest Blogger Matthew Félix shares his rebound from doubt. “Doubt is the Devil! Show doubt, and he’ll be back!” I woke up with the quote resounding in my mind. It was as though an old woman were standing over me waving her finger, scolding me to make sure I got the point. A couple of weeks earlier, I had received the comments on my novel from my editor. Like a tsunami coming out of nowhere (or, in this case, raging up the coast from Santa Barbara), twelve pages of feedback wiped out half the world I’d spent so many years building. I expected it. I wanted it. Nevertheless, in the days and weeks that followed I was overcome by wave after wave of self-doubt, at times nearly drowning in it. Was I up for the challenge? Did I have the energy to make the changes? And, by the way, what changes? My editor…

Guest Bloggers

Rescue Your Stories

Guest Blogger Nancy Cullen writes: “I am a rescuer of stories hidden among the ordinary.  I give these stories voice as a template to inspire others with untold stories so that they will know the satisfaction of rescuing their own stories.”  – Nancy Cullen My BLOG, THE STONEBRIDGE, began as a place I could record and share stories.  Stories stemming from four areas outlined on the BLOG’s “About” page. It is my version of a Sacred Bundle, a practice began by my father. Capturing, or as I like to say, rescuing, stories from our thoughts, memories, and obscurity is a learned skill. There are processes, template frameworks, and yes, a bit of discipline involved. These are not apparent as one reads a particular post but run in the background like a good operating system in a computer. Although, not complex, nonetheless they must be identified and adapted to your own style. Once in…