Book Reviews

A Painter’s Garden: Cultivating the Creative Life

A Painter’s Garden: Cultivating the Creative Life, by Christine Walker is one of my all-time favorite books. But don’t just take my word on it. Here are what other readers think. ***** The parallels between lessons in the garden, the studio, and life in A Painter’s Garden ring true. Christine Walker’s writing is intelligent, evocative, elegant, and articulate. She addresses universal truths about the creative process in an accessible and fresh way. And she renders very complex emotions in beautifully simple terms—weaving her experience of motherhood into an examination of her working methods in the studio, “feeling a cadence as measured as the breathing of a sleeping child.” —Eleanor Coppola is an American documentary filmmaker, artist and writer. She is the director of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse and other documentaries. Eleanor is  the writer and director of the romantic comedies Paris Can Wait and Love is Love is…

Book Reviews

Story Power

If you’re looking for a guide to the art of storytelling, look no further than Kate Farrell’s Story Power. Using examples and advice contributed by over twenty successful writers, Farrell shows us how and why they succeed at transforming life events into distilled, impactful stories. Each chapter provides tips, examples, prompts, and exercises to help you select significant events from your own life—early childhood to adult life, family secrets to family lore—and craft them into compelling oral or written narratives.  Story Power shows you how to find the layers of meaning in your stories as well as how to shape them using the basic elements of setting, character, conflict, narrative arc, and resolution. In addition to guiding the story creation process, Story Power dives into the age-old reasons for oral storytelling: self-discovery, connection, inspiration, influence, and passing on family or tribe traditions. In today’s social-media world, Story Power stands out as a resource to help us…

Guest Bloggers

Details Add Zing

Guest Blogger Lisa Alpine shares tips to spice up your writing. I encourage you to infuse your writing with detailed imagery, passionate feeling, poetic depth and evocative sensual description. Here are some writing suggestions I use when teaching Spice Up Your Writing at workshops globally. These writing tips will show you how to weave poetic description into your prose; cultivate the five senses in describing a place or experience; and develop emotional imagery. 1: Pick a scene from an event in your life that you know has a heart or seed of a story only you can write. Now blurt and spew! Messy is okay. You can clean it up later. Sometimes graceful, sometimes awkward, sometimes downright ugly. Tell the story. Understand what is really going on by exploring and uncovering the deeper currents of the river of life. 2: Set the scene. Describe the weather, doors & windows, environment, horizon. God…

Guest Bloggers

History Through The Lens of The Teller

Guest Blogger, Bev Scott, has an interesting perspective on bias of our history. She brings up provocative questions. The following is based on a session Bev attended at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June 2017 by James J. Cotter, titled “The Lone Ranger was Black: Reintegrating Minority Viewpoints into Historical Fiction.” “The title intrigued me,” wrote Bev. “Was the Lone Ranger modeled after Bass Reeves, the first black U.S. deputy marshal who worked thirty-two years in the Arkansas and Oklahoma territories in the late 1800’s?  He may have been.” History Is Biased The conference session addressed the issue of bias in our history. That bias impacts authors of historical fiction. Today we no longer view history as “the truth.” Rather, history is a story told through the lens of the teller. Did you love the Lone Ranger when you were growing up? I did. Audiences assumed he was a courageous (and white) lawman.  That’s…

Guest Bloggers

Understanding 4 C’s: Being a Successful Author

Guest Blogger Joan Gelfand writes: I never set out to write a novel. I mean, really? I had cut my literary teeth on Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Kurt Vonnegut, Gunter Grass and Wallace Stegner. I was satisfied being a poet, known to my local community. Writing a novel seemed terribly pretentious, a misguided idea. No. I did not start out to write a novel. I started out with a story that, after two years, and much encouragement from my writing instructor, grew into three hundred pages. I had written my first novel without planning to do so.  It was with that first novel that I began to understand that becoming a successful writer wasn’t just about writing. It was several years after my first attempt to find a publisher for that first novel that I understood the business of writing. I learned that the letter I got…

Prompts

I wasn’t the first . . . Prompt #288

Today’s writing prompts are inspired by author Julia Park Tracey, Alameda’s Poet Laureate. Part 1: Quotes from Veronika Layne Gets The Scoop by Julia Park Tracey. “I wasn’t the first reporter to arrive at the scene, but I wasn’t the last, either.” “A Victoria house — one of those multihued beauties with turrets, fish-scale shingles, gingerbread trim, iron railings, a weathervane, a trim of every description on widows’ walks and sun porches —a majestic painted queen from the late 1800s —burned like a marshmallow too close to the coals.” “You finally get a story, the story, and it changes before the ink is even on the page. And then it’s past, it’s history, and there’s not enough to cover for the following issue. On to the next assignment.” Note from Marlene: When you look at writing prompts, you can look at the entire quote, or take a section, or a…

Guest Bloggers

Ingram Spark? Bookbaby? CreateSpace?

Guest Blogger Shirin Bridges sheds light on Ingram Spark, BookBaby, and CreateSpace. The following is an excerpt from Shirin Bridges’ June 24, 2016 blog post on Goose Tracks. I was recently asked for the pros and cons of Ingram Spark vs. BookBaby. The answer, I quickly realized, is a complex one, greatly dependent on the particular publishing goals for the book. I also thought that in any decision tree, Amazon’s CreateSpace would have to rate a mention. So what follows is my attempt to delineate the decision tree I would adopt in choosing between these three services . . . [Note from Marlene: For the full post, please go to Shirin’s informative blog, Goose Tracks]. How important are bookstores to your sales strategy? If NOT VERY, skip to 4. If VERY, keep reading. Self-published authors will find it almost impossible to get wide distribution in bookstores. Period. The reasons are legion but boil down to two words: workload and risk. Most self-published authors…

Quotes

Force yourself . . . and don’t stop . . .

“Force yourself to begin putting words on the page immediately, and don’t stop until the timer goes off, even if you have to write about the weather.” — Jan Ellison, inspired by Ellen Sussman I read this quote in the 12/4/15 Writer’s Digest guest blog post, “9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel,”  written by Jan Ellison. Since Ellen Sussman was scheduled to be a Writers Forum presenter and since I also believe this philosophy . . . my ears perked up. . . .  Daydreaming about how “ears perked up” would look and could it really happen? I think so, in a Fred Flintstone kind of way, when he’s . . . Oops, I’m taking the writing advice to put words on the page too literally. And the timer is ticking. Brian Klems, host of The Writer’s Dig Blog where this post appears, gives this introduction to the…

Guest Bloggers

Literary Agent Mary C. Moore has personal experience with The Rejection Form

Guest Blogger Mary C. Moore (literary agent) writes about the rejection form letter. I recently wrote a short story, my first in over a year. Inspiration struck and I listened. Unlike novel writing, short stories are short-term rewarding because you reach “the end,” while you are still loving that muse whispering in your ear. I was particularly excited about this story, as I knew exactly which magazine I was going to submit it to. A few years ago, said magazine had rejected another story of mine, but with glowing praise and a request to see more of my work. I kept that in mind, because this magazine is a professionally paying market and one that would be quite a feather in my writing resume. Thus after some furious late nights, anxious waiting for the beta reads to come back, and a lot of editing, I sent off my beautiful 3k-word…

Guest Bloggers

Is serialization in your future?

Guest Blogger Daedalus Howell reveals a tried and true method to reach new audiences. The revolution will be serialized. As it’s always been. Much of episodic entertainment, from our favorite shows on Netflix or premium cable to the summertime superhero blockbusters, are issued in discrete elements that comprise a whole story. Comic books have long functioned in this manner, ditto popular literature, which was once serialized in newspapers. And, of course, there’s the staggeringly popular Serial podcast, which not only popularized a new storytelling medium but so embraced the concept of serialization that it branded itself with it. Clearly, serialization is back, representing to some, a vanguard in publishing. It can also be an integral part of your creative process. This is what I’ve found creating Quantum Deadline, a sci-fi crime romp that comically explores the death of newspapers through the foggy lens of a reporter tripping through the multiverse….