Last Day of FEARS Workshop

Today is the last day of my FEARS workshop.  Did you miss it?  No worries.  You can still check it out on the Forum.

You can continue to ask questions and I’ll ask them as they come through.

Hope to see you there,

~Tina

Writer Wednesday – The Dangers of the Echo Chamber and Why Handwriting Is Important

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We are surrounded more and more by media – social media, augmented reality games, television commercials at gas stations; the list goes on.  I’m the first to admit that the internet can bring people together – I am, after all, writing this on  blog I started with some friends, all of whom are geographically scattered.

But I have noticed the echo chamber can have an unhealthy effect.  Psychologists call behavior that pushes against another person “impinging,” and it’s my belief that, if we’re not careful about our inflow, that can happen.  I noticed, for example, that when I had Facebook on my phone, the constant dings or buzzes of incoming alerts would break my train of thought.  As I checked in, I would get drawn into whatever was trending:  racist politics, cop shootings, and cats.  Lots of cats.

I don’t mind cats.  I like them, as it happiness.  But I’m a novelist, and the first casualty in the war for attention is sustained train of thought.

As a social experiment, I took Facebook off my phone.  My daily round got calmer.  I stopped drinking as much coffee and focused more on my journal.  I noticed a couple of things:

  1. Writing by hand disciplines my mind to hold a train of thought, since I don’t write as fast as I think.
  2. It felt like I woke up from a collective hallucination.  I don’t need strangers’ opinions in my daily round.
  3. I started writing more – always good news for a novelist.
  4. I started thinking more deeply about issues like politics, body image, feminism, and philosophy.

This Writer Wednesday, I invite you to try it:  turn off the inflow and let your own thoughts loose on the page.  Nanowrimo’s coming.  Let’s be ready.

Write on!

Darla’s Writer Wednesday – Inspiration

Dear friend and gifted writer Nicole Gordon once gifted me an inspirational book. It’s called “Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing” and offers all sorts of open-ended writing experiments, encouragement from writers and poets, and enough blank pages to let your words roam.

That’s taken from the cover, by the way, and fittingly descriptive. Karen Benke and company clearly wish to instill a love of words in children, a worthy endeavor, while also entertaining this adult with some very clever suggestions.

One involves quirky phrases which Ms. Benke suggests we cut apart and put into a little container. Then, when a writer wants something to get creative juices flowing, he or she simply pulls out a slip.

So that’s what I did today. My phrase ended up being “It’s like a slow collapse of words”. That curious imagery resulted in a bittersweet ficlet to be posted on my Darla M. Sands blog.

What inspires you? I’d enjoy reading your suggestions in the comments.

Whatever fires your creativity, I hope you build a bonfire. Happy writing!

The Writer Zen Garden – Tools From A to Zen: Reflections on the A-Z Challenge

2016-05-09 A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

Wow.  It’s hard to believe it’s already well into the second week of May already.  It feels like it should still be April.  Or, if I’m being honest, January.

Of 2010.

But I digress.

We all know that time seems to whizz by.  No sooner do we put away the holiday decorations and it’s time to take them out again.  So, too, for writing groups.  I’ve noticed small groups tend to wax and wane, some succeeding and thriving, others burning brightly for a short time and then fizzling.  There’s an old adage about groups, that they have several phases:  “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.”  It’s an idea that a guy by the name of Bruce Tuckman proposed way back in 1965 and it’s still true today.  Some folks add “Adjourning” at the end, to signify that not all groups survive through the performing state to continue.

That’s why I’m so pleased about Writer Zen Garden.  The group as it is today is the merging of two different groups; the original Writer’s Retreat that started in March of 2008, and the local Meetup group and international online forum of Writer Zen Garden.  We’re still going, and we launched this new website, where you’re reading this post, in March of 2016.

One reason I keep coming back to the A to Z Blog Challenge, is that I find it pulls the team together.  Even if we’ve slacked off from posting on the blog, by doing the challenge, we come together as a group and gather ideas and write.  Since on of the central missions of the Writer Zen Garden is to Help Writers Get On the Page, this is all to the good, as far as I’m concerned.  Next year, we might even come up with a joint theme ahead of time – we’re still noodling ideas for what to post for this year, so it’s definitely a work in progress.

I want to thank you, Dear Reader, for visiting us and leaving comments for the various authors of the Garden.  We sure appreciate your interaction.  We invite you to join the discussion in other ways, if you’ve a mind; we have a Facebook group; a live in-person Meetup group in Chicago, if you’re in the area;  a Twitter stream; and an international writers forum.  We’re glad you’re here!

Write on!

The Writer Zen Garden Facebook Group

The Chicago Area Meetup

@writerzengarden

Forum*

*Note: if you’re interested in joining the forum, please let me know in the comments or PM me on Facebook, and I’ll reach out to you by email.


For your reading pleasure, here are the posts for the challenge:

The Writer Zen Garden, From A To Zen

A:  A is for Artist’s Way…, by Tina Holland

B:  B is for Blogging!, by Darla Sands

C:  “C” is for Crayon, by Evey Brown

D: D is for Day Dreaming, by Grace Kahlo

E:  E is for Emergency, by Rachel Wilder

F:  The F Word, by A. Catherine Noon

G:  G is for Goals, by Tina Holland

H:  H is for Hens, by Darla Sands

I:  Is It Inspiration, Invention or Insight? or, Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?, by Evey Brown

J:  J Is For Just in Case, by Rachel Wilder

K:  K Is For Using Krav Maga To Kick the Inner Evil Critique Away, by Grace Kahlo

L:  For the Love of a Library, by A. Catherine Noon

M:  M is for Man-titty, by Tina Holland

N:  N is for Nice Girls Writing Naughty, by Darla Sands

O:  Things My Grandpa Taught Me – O for Orion, by Evey Brown

P:  P Is For Prepper, by Rachel Wilder

Q:  Q is for Writing Quotes, by Grace Kahlo

R:  Whoops! R Is For I Gotta wRite Something Quick!, by A. Catherine Noon

S:  S is for Sex Scenes and Story, by Tina Holland

T:  T is for Tastiness, by Darla Sands

U:  How to Create an Oral History for your Family; or Unforgettable and Unfortunate Things my Kids have Done, by Evey Brown

V:  V is for Viking Swords & Fantasy World-Building, by Grace Kahlo

W:  W is for Why Do I Prep?, by Rachel Wilder

X:  An Alternative to Xanax, by A. Catherine Noon

Y:  Y is for Yoga, by Tina Holland

Z:  Zen, by A. Catherine Noon


Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

The theme on my main blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join me as I explore Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

Y is for Yoga

YogaSome of the benefits of Yoga are:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Increased muscle strength and tone.
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
  • Maintaining balance.
  • Weight reduction.
  • Cardio and circulatory health.
  • Improved athletic performance.
  • Protection from injury

While I love Yoga…I really do, in this instance I’m using it as a metaphor for writing. Now how can you apply these wonderful benefits to your writing.

Increased Flexibility – Whether you are trying to finish a book or trying to find a home for a manuscript.  Its important to be flexible.  Life interrupts the writing process.  Sometimes your dream publisher doesn’t accept your manuscript.  It is important to be flexible, remember the important thing is to try again, to be stronger and not break.

Increased Muscle, strength and tone – Have you heard the phrase “Use it or Lose it”?  Writing frequently, dare I say daily, increases your muscles.  If you type on a keyboard, you will type faster due to muscle memory.  If your write daily in a journal, or on a manuscript, poetry, etc., your process is strengthened,  and the tone of your work improved.

Improved Respiration, energy and vitality – Just Breathe.  When you are blocked or your just not feeling it, take a break; A breath if you will, and work on another creative project.  Often times when I “scrapbook” or when I’m cooking, I get ideas for my story.  Writing without other creative outlets can drain your energy.  You need to fill your creative mind.  This will give you vitality, and passion for all your creative works.

Maintaining Balance – As with all things in life, writing is also a balancing act.  When you are an Aspiring Writer, you are balancing work, writing, and whatever life throws at  you.  These same things apply when your are published as well, and then you get to add in promotions, book signings, blog tours, etc.  It’s important to try and balance to the best of your abilities, and what is important to you.  I still work full time so my priorities are Family, Work, Writing.  I know, writing is in there last, but it is where it fits today in my life and I still manage to find balance.

Weight Reduction – Okay writing won’t make you thinner.   But you may need to think about making your book thinner before sending off for publication. 🙂  Basically, “Cut the Fat”.  You want your book to be a lean, mean, selling machine.   Not to say you should write short stories, but make sure your 155,000 word novel doesn’t have redundancies in it.  Be sure you are using strong vs. passive language, and it is the very best it can be before you publish.

Cardio and circulatory health – Go with the flow.  When life throws you an obstacle, handle it and then get back on track.  In my opinion – not all writers can deal with life crisis and write.   I’m one of those writers…life’s challenges often derail my writing.  However, some authors excel at it – Using their writing as a tool to deal with life’s issues, or utlizing it as a means of escape.  Whatever writer you are – Go with the flow.  There is no right or wrong answer to how, or when you write.

Improved athletic performance – Over time all writers seems to innately learn things about craft, genre, editing, publishing, and other business items.   Not all writers will be good at all things, and some writers can zero in on one thing.   We learn to spot passive voice, or what genre a book falls into.  We can craft perfect prose, or create a list of potential publishers with ease.  What we don’t know, we learn from others.  The point is…we improve over time and not just at putting words on a page. We become literary athletes and excel in our performance of specific tasks.

Protection from Injury – Remember that rejection letter, horrible review or jealous writer who made it personal?    Writing doesn’t protect you from these initial injuries,  but writing groups and fellow authors often support those who fall down.  I belong to three groups, and all are very supportive.  RWA – Romance Writer’s of America Online Chapter, F-M Word Weavers – A local writing group and this group Writer Zen Garden.  For any of my rejection letters, bad reviews or other slight I may have felt, there was a support group for me.  They helped heal my wounds, cherish my soul and free my creative spirit to move past the hurt.

Yep, I love Yoga, I think I’ll go do some poses to get some of the benefits.

~Tina

 

 

 

An Alternative to Xanax

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Writing can serve as a path to the self.  In troubled or stressful times, we need this more than anything, but our society’s advice is to avoid the problem – take a pill, a powder, and do anything but face it head on.  As news of Prince’s death trickles out, and his possible addiction to prescription medication, it’s become even more apparent to me that we are a nation addicted to drugs – legal and prescription drugs are just as bad, in some cases, as the street variety.  There were over 25,000 deaths from prescription medications in 2014 alone, according to Drug Abuse.gov (1).

I am not a doctor.  I’m aware that if someone requires medication for their life, then by all means, take it.  But there are alternatives that we can use to supplement medications and, in some cases, supplant them.  For me, writing has provided some of the best psychological assistance in dealing with childhood trauma that I have found in my arsenal.  So, too, has qualified psychological care by a licensed provider; exercise; and a steady, healthy diet.  But it’s writing that I wanted to talk about today.

When we write, we begin a dialog with ourselves in a way that we cannot in other mediums.  And by “write,” I mean literally putting pen to paper.  Studies have shown we access different parts of the brain when we handwrite vs. use a keyboard, and some theorize that using a keyboard is “cross-hemispheric,” meaning using both sides of the brain simultaneously, and therefore is fundamentally different than using just one side of the brain by using the right or left hand to write.

I have kept up a pretty constant journal since about 1986, and in bits and pieces before that.  It’s safe to say I’ve written all my life.  I wrote my first story at the age of nine.  But I didn’t truly encounter my own story, for myself and by myself, until after forty.  This is not uncommon, I’m told, for child abuse survivors, because our stories are coopted by our abusers.  In my case, family complicity and tolerance compounded the problem, because if I tried to speak about what was happening, I was punished for being “mean,” or told that I didn’t understand how much my parents loved me and how hard they worked for me.  And when it came time to talk about me and the family, the narrative was always the same.

In journaling, though, I gradually began to hear glimmers of truth from myself.  I’d seen them my whole life, but was scared of them.  This, too, is common to trauma survivors.  Sometimes the truth is too terrifying to admit, too terrifying to even speak much less write.  But as I began to tell my own story, and to realize the official story was a lie, an interesting thing started to happen:  my PTSD symptoms lessened.  PTSD doesn’t go away entirely, not ever; it fundamentally changes the person who has it.  But we can learn to cope with it, and to develop mechanisms that help us to minimize stress and normalize our daily round.  For me, writing served as a gateway to that new self.

What startled me was the fact I was terrified of this new self.  I’m told this, too, is normal among trauma survivors.  We’re taught that our selves are scary, bad, or any of a number of other things; none of which are accurate but to a child’s mind, they take on the weight of Truth.  We learn to internalize this abuse and become self-abusers as we become adults, perpetuating what was done to us as children.  Journaling serves as a kind of mirror for this behavior, allowing us to peel away those layers and to reveal the self within.  In my case, that process has taken forty years.  I’m not done yet.  But what I’ve learned is this:

Keep writing.  Trust the words.  Trust time.  Tell your truth, if to no one else than yourself.  Write what you See.  Story is God.

Write on.

 

Resources

“Overdose Death Rates,” National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse; December 2015, from the following link, accessed 04/28/2016.

Your Life As Story, Tristine Rainer

The New Diary, Tristine Rainer

Life’s Companion:  Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, Christina Baldwin

What It Is, Lynda Barry

V is for Viking Swords & Fantasy World-Building

Photo from http://www.coldsteel.com/
Photo from http://www.coldsteel.com/

Have you ever envisioned a certain weapon for your character that was so specific that nothing compared to it in reality? I faced that problem in my WIP, and it’s kind of like going on a shopping spree with an exact image of the perfect outfit…. I set myself up to fail. I had in mind an image of a large sword encrusted with gold and jewels. It needed to be light enough for my heroine to wield and perform some deadly choreography.
I’m a panster, so I write first and research later. And when I discovered that the weapon I envisioned was a cleaving sword, I had a problem, because in real life this type of weapon is too heavy for my heroine to wield. Not to mention that all the gold and jewels I imagined adorning the sword are, well, heavy. So, after consulting with Rayne Hall during her workshop about choosing weapons for you characters, we decided on a Viking sword:


But, do you know what I forgot? I’m writing fantasy…that means I can give magical elements to any weapon, I can make a cleaving sword light and I can make a dagger as heavy as a mountain. So long as I have an explanation and a solid world-building I’m good. And that’s the fun part about fantasy! I can play around with different things that have no connection in reality and mesh them together. I can play at being a surrealist, and have some fun. That’s the most important aspect of writing, right? And I feel inspired to try any kind of different combinations of weapons after visiting a Salvador Dali exhibition yesterday. There’s nothing more inspiring than basking in the creations of a great artist.
So, now I’m working on the Viking/cleaving fantasy sword mesh. I was thinking…it’ll be as light as a Viking sword, with the strength of a cleaving sword, and it’ll grow poisonous ivy thorns on command. It may, or may not, grow a parachute out of the tip. AND, if someone uses the wrong command, the sword will melt into resin and will trap the amateur sword wielder inside. It might be fun to trap my heroine inside and see how she gets herself out of this blunder. 🙂

What about you? Have you ever invented a weapon for your characters?

How to Create an Oral History for your Family; or Unforgettable and Unfortunate Things my Kids have Done

How to Create an Oral History for your Family;  or Unforgettable and Unfortunate Things my Kids have Done

by Evey Brown

It happens almost every time my family gets together, someone says, “Mom, tell us again about the time…” and a certain child is singled out for embarrassment.  The whole family laughs and the forenamed child groans in pseudo shame.  And then everyone sits back as I retell the tale that has become a part of our family history.

Like the story when Brad put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in our VCR just like it was a tape.  (Yes, I know some of you are a little too young to know what a VCR was, think of them like very fat CD’s.)

Or when Kris took a hammer to his bedroom wall just below the light switch so he could see why the light turned on and off.  I was secretly proud of his curious mind but at the time couldn’t overlook the hole.

And who could forget the time Jenny lay on the couch and played ‘airplane’ with the dog?  She lost her balance and managed to toss him right through the huge picture window of our house.  Luckily the dog was fine, but it cost a fortune to replace the glass.

There’s also the day Alex put an arrow, yes I said arrow, through our computer monitor.  In his defense both the bow and arrow were handmade and he says his brother put him up to it.

Holly never likes it when we talk about how we broke her of her tattling habit.  She entered my bedroom and informed on her sister who had hit her, “Just like this,” she said and whacked herself hard on the forehead.  My husband called Jenny in and had Holly repeat her accusation, and yes, she hit herself again.  This was repeated over and over with each of our children until Holly finally said, “Hey… are you teasing me?”

Max’s story is more recent.  He was playing video games with his girlfriend when I came in and addressed him as ‘Princess’.  In ‘my’ defense, okay, I don’t have a real defense, but the name has stuck.  Poor boy.

These stories are still as accurate as I can remember but in all honesty I am sure they have become exaggerated over the years.  I need to put them all on paper so they will not be forgotten.  And there are new ones being created each day.  In the meantime, we tell and retell the stories together.  They make us laugh and bind us together and what could be better than that?

Whoops! R Is For I Gotta wRite Something Quick!

2016-04-21 R

So, I have a cold.  I went hunting around in my archives for a funny picture and came across this gem, snapped by my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder.

With friends like these, …

Of course, it captures perfectly how I feel right at this moment, even though it was taken some time ago when I’d just gotten out of bed and was trying to do morning pages.  🙂

Today is my day to post something crunchable having to do with the letter R.  I totally forgot until right now.  I shall endeavor to come up with something through my cold-medicine-induced fog.  Here, then, without further ado is the World According To Noony (on Cold Medicine):

  1. No, Boria, you do NOT need to sing me the song of your people at six in the morning.  Nor at seven.  Nor at seven-twenty.  I’ll get up at the last possible moment – meow – to – meowow – go to work – meeoooowwowowow – so I don’t need Felini in the Morning!
  2. Dogs take up entirely too much room on the bed when there’s only the two of you and it’s a queen-sized mattress.
  3. Cold medicine tastes yucky, but it keeps me from coughing.
  4. I cough the more I talk.
  5. I had THREE client phone calls – hack – scheduled – cough – for – wheeze – today.
  6. Tea is my friend.
  7. Don’t make a whole pot of caffeinated tea because you like the “hibiscus” part but forgotyoualreadyhadyourcoffeefortheday.
  8. The bus is late when I’m in a hurry.
  9. The bus is packed with people when I want to sit down because my head is pounding.
  10. It’s getting warm outside.  WEAR DEODORANT!

(No, really, #10.  Please.  Yes, Mister Big Fat Dude, I’m looking at you.  And holding my nose.)

And remember:  Zen mind, beginner’s mind.  Except when on cold medication.


Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

 

The theme on my main blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join me as I explore Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

Q is for Writing Quotes

To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong

One of my most recent addictions is Pinterests. I love browsing quotes and there are so many! Inspirational and motivational quotes for the days when I feel I need a boost to get into the writing zone. Funny quotes for the times when I need that laugh to keep me going through the next writing hurdle. And the advice infographics that help me when I feel a little stuck. There’s everything there, and I complied tons of boards. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to share only the memes I created.

For every time someone tries to tell you to be a realist:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars. ~Les Brown
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars. ~Les Brown

For the times people ask you ‘why do you want to b a writer?’:

I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say. ~Flannery O'Connor
I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say. ~Flannery O’Connor

For the times when we need an affirmative boost of reassurance:

If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage. ~Cynthia Ozick
If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage. ~Cynthia Ozick

My favorite writing quotes for when I’m feeling as if I’m not going to make it to The End:

A writer is a writer, not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing shows any sign of promise, you keep on writing anyway. ~Junot Diaz
A Writer is a Writer

 

And if you’re looking for some more quotes, I have some on my website, on my Pinterest account, and if you feel like taking it to the next step I recommend Sarah Andersen’s funny webcomics.

What about you? Do you have favorite writing quotes?