Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections, Piece of Cake, The Insightful Wanderer

Don’t Scoff, #JusJoJan

There is so much rotten stuff going on all around us. But there is also so much that is wicked good and lovely, so much that makes one’s very being tingle. Just look for it.

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan – Tingle

I recently read an essay written by a favourite editor of mine, in Creative Nonfiction Magazine, about writing and happiness, joy, pleasure. These topics interest me.

What are the experiences in life that most make us feel alive?

I know a lot of what feels awful and unpleasant. I am aware of that. I know there will inevitably be both in the human experience.

I am asking and pondering on that as I continue to experience life, both the good and the bad, in 2017 as a newly begun chunk of time. The year makes something of my experience and my willingness to let go and not forever analyze every little detail so much.

What is it that makes life worth putting up with? It’s the experiences that make you supremely pleased to be alive, that’s what. And, when they wash over you, don’t push those feelings away. Don’t shrug them off as problematic or unworthy or meaningless.

I think philosophically. I ponder and overtly over think, like usual.

I was recently given or shown one piece of really wise advice. It feels counter intuitive to me, but there are those who don’t let Facebook take up loads of their time. There are those who don’t spend their time dwelling on things. It sounds hard. Can it be done? Can I do that too? Some might scoff.

Of course I can, if I want it bad enough.

I long for those truly tingly nerve-to-very-soul experiences in life. It’s looking like I am destined for some of those in this first month of the new year. I am trying not to let long sewn character flaws, let’s call them, for the sake of this musing on anything that’s worth tingling for in life – as opposed to those stresses I can’t seem to shake. I will try.

I can do that.

What really causes any of us to feel truly tingly with vitality in this life? It starts with a twinge perhaps. It spreads outward then, from there. Just be open to it, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. It’s not often that we feel that, certainly not every day, so why not let that come if and when it may?

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Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Shows and Events, TToT, Writing

TToT: Vanilla and Peppermint – Ringing in the Season, #10Thankful

“You look like you’ve been run over by a steam roller and left on our doorstep.”

–Dr. House

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No, not that Dr. House. The real Dr. House is alive and well and a nephrologist, a kidney transplant doctor in Ontario, Canada.

I feel like I should add, before I go any further, he is nothing like the grouchy, dysfunctional, fictional doctor people can’t help mentioning when they hear the name.

The above quote is the first thing he said to my brother, when he visited him, on his Sunday morning rounds. A real word mincer.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

The season has begun. Whether it begins: (in retail) immediately after Halloween ends, after November 11th (as is the respectful way), at Thanksgiving (for Americans), or on December 1st is really up for debate.

All I know is: I attended my local Santa Claus Parade, there’s snow on the ground, and the Home Alone movies are being shown on television.

Christmas is on its way.

Ten Things of Thankful:

For the common cold.

Okay, well I’m thankful that that’s all it was for my brother.

He was unwell at the beginning of the week. He was dehydrated. He had been sleeping somewhere between 16 and 20 hours a day, every single day the week before. He hadn’t been to school in days.

But once he was where he needed to be, in hospital, they began to assess him. They gave him intravenous fluids and antibiotics, plus a specific treatment for

CMV.

CMV is more common after transplant, but he is more than two years out from his. It took a few days to test for, but he did not have it. once they discovered he didn’t, when the fluids had a chance to work, once his blood pressure wasn’t so low, and once he could eat again he was released. Such a relief. Transplant patients just must be careful. My brother’s case is proof that even a common cold can cause a lot of problems.

For vanilla bean everything!!!

One thing I love about the start of the Christmas season is my favourite scents.

I stocked up on everything vanilla bean at

Bath & Body Works.

No photos or words can do it justice. If I could send the scent of my vanilla bean shower gel, hand lotion, fragrance mist, hand soap, and lip balm to all of you, through the screen, I would.

🙂

Or better yet, the products themselves. They make excellent Christmas gifts.

For more red.

My favourite scent may be vanilla, but my favourite colour is red. I have been working on finding red appliances for my kitchen.

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This week I found a microwave that would fit the theme.

For some wonderful praise of my writing.

It was my second time at the writing group I’ve started attending and this week’s mystery object, fittingly, was someone’s ticket stub for the Eiffel Tower.

I like this group. Wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but I like that I am put on the spot. We all are. We find out the answer to the mystery object question and, within minutes, we’re all writing furiously.

We have about an hour to come up with a piece of writing, based on that object. This week I brought my Braille Display and was able to read what I’d just come up with.

Silence. Crickets, if there had been any crickets in the library.

🙂

And then someone in the group told me they were silent because they were still imagining the scene in their mind. It was one comment, but it meant a lot to me to hear it.

For a Saturday afternoon writing workshop.

More writing. Yes, I could spend lots of money on classes and workshops. Seems, these days, like every writer or editor teaches them. I’m sure it’s a good way to make money, as there isn’t always money to be made in literature.

I went on a whim. It was a workshop on dialogue. I learned things, as logical as they are and I should already know them, and got to share my writing with an old guy who is working on his own novel, crime I think he said it was.

These things, whether I learn a lot or not, are great places for me to practice writing and meet and hear from other writers, all at different levels of writing in life. It gets me out of my shell and feeling a little less afraid.

For snow.

In this case, for the first real snowfall, accumulation of snow for the season.

I love that smell. Maybe someday Bath & Body Works will figure out how to bottle it, but nothing will ever compare to the real thing.

I wish it wasn’t so cold though. I love to run my hands along a railing covered b snow. Unfortunately, my fingers won’t tolerate the soft, powdery texture for long. Gloves just cover up its wonderfulness.

For one cold Saturday evening family activity to ring in the holiday season.

The Santa Claus Parade was a favourite holiday ritual of mine growing up. We’d get our spot, all bundled up, and watch the floats slowly pass, with their Christmas lights, music pumping from loud speakers, and all the kids on the floats, yelling or singing.

And then always return somewhere warm and be thankful for heat all the more. I know I always was. And was again last night.

Well, so what if the parade from two years ago had us out in hardly a coat at all. This year, with the blankets, hoods, and gloves was better. It started out with rain, but by the end of the parade the snow was falling steadily. It had to be shook from our umbrellas.

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My nephew thought, upon hearing the first sound of sirens in the distance, that we should hurry up and run. He’s still figuring out parades and Santa Claus, for that matter, but I hope he grows up with as much wonder for all these traditions as I did.

For my trusty little iPhone 5 and for the fact that it still works.

I “may” have dropped it, a short drop, after I lost use of its original case. It was a short drop from the porch swing, onto the porch, but it still operates.

However, if you were to shake it just hard enough, a shifting sound inside the phone would make things seem worse than they apparently are.

Every time I receive an email though, the sound it makes to notify me causes the phone, if I am using it at the time, to reverberate throughout. It is a strange sensation, if I happen to be holding it at the moment, and, let’s face it – I’m holding it most of the time.

😉

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For a book review.

After the Scars #bookreview

A friend, writer, and blogger read my short story and the anthology it is in and wrote her review on both.

I haven’t heard a lot of feedback, so this was important, I believe, for me to grow as a writer.

She also wrote a post, on one of her multiple blogs. This one,

3 Writers Dine Together

is a lovely summary of our very first in-person meeting in Toronto.

For my fellow Lord of the Rings nerds, especially when they’re Stephen Colbert.

No One Confuses Smeagol & Gollum On Stephen’s Watch

The man makes some excellent points and uses humour to make them.

🙂

And…on that note…

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and let it snow, snow, snow!!!

“November-with uncanny witchery in its changed trees.”

–L.M. Montgomery

Yes, I know I include a lot of Lucy Maud Montgomery quotes in these TToT posts, but the woman had a way with words.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Spotlight Saturday: Interview With Writer Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Today’s Spotlight is author/editor Jordan Rosenfeld.

I have been following an online magazine for a while now: Sweatpants & Coffee.

Who doesn’t love those two things?

🙂

I must say that title caught my attention.

Then I read an essay she wrote, which was published on one I visit weekly:

Full Grown People.

After I read her there I decided to contact her, at her website, to see if she might agree to do an interview with me.

Lucky for me, she said yes, and here we are now.

Here is a sample of her writing, one of the most recent articles she has written:

http://www.rolereboot.org/life/details/2015-01-motherhood-broke-addiction-busy/

And now I welcome Jordan.

***

K: What can you say about yourself? If you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself a little first.

J: How funny is it that I draw a blank here? I guess most people know of me as the author of some books, two novels, some writing guides. I’m a writing teacher, as well as the mom of one 6 year-old boy and a teller of dirty jokes. I live in Northern California with my husband and son. I’m a born and bred Californian, in fact, though all my family hail from New York. Writing is the only thing I”m really good at and my one great love.

K: How long have you been writing?

J: In earnest, as in writing stories and such, since the age of 8. Yes, I still have those scribbled on binder pages and hundreds of journals. In pursuit of a career? About 20 years, since I was 20.

K: What education/training do you have in it? How important do you think formal education in something like writing is?

J: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts, and a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Literature. Education is good and I never think you can go wrong learning more, but I have come to believe that the best education for writing is reading widely and writing a lot. Writing is a craft you learn best by doing it. 

K: Do you think, to be a good writer, you must open up and reveal as much as you can?

J: I think if you’re writing non-fiction, essays or memoir, you must strive to tell the emotional truth and be as vulnerable as possible. That means that you don’t write from a position of judgment or blame, but rather look at your own part and experience. I don’t think “confessional” writing is particularly interesting, either, unless there’s a lot of strong craft involved–imagery, language, and a goal of the writing. A good essay or memoir should take the reader on a journey. In fiction, which is actually what I’ve written most of in my life, it’s much different–then, you’re crafting experiences through the eyes of a fictional character. In which case, you want to make sure you understand plot/story structure and keep your language interesting.

K: What do you think is the most important quality for any writer to have and why?

J: Persistence. I’ve written an entire book on it, forthcoming in April, called A Writer’s Guide to Persistence. Why? Because if you don’t persist through the many challenges of being a writer, you will give up, or feel depressed, or waste time. Life’s too short to feel sorry for yourself.

K: It can be very hard out there, with so many writers and material for readers to choose from. How would you advise a writer who is just starting out, to get the experience often required for literary magazines and online publications to give them a chance?

J: Read the places you want to be published. Really read them and try to understand their aesthetic. My success as a writer in placing pieces went up exponentially when I finally started doing this. Otherwise, it’s like any craft: practice your craft. Keep at it. Don’t hurry. Rushing something to publication is a form of self-sabotage. 

K: Do you think writers must have a lot of struggles in their life to be good? Why or why not?

J: No. I think writers are often just people with a keen sense of observation, or born storytellers. Not all art comes from suffering. 

K: Which do you prefer: fiction or non fiction? What do you like about both?

J: To read: I’m drawn most to fiction, which is my first love, which rescued me from difficult things as a child. As such I wrote mostly fiction, predominantly novels, for years. But in the past year I’ve been writing personal essay (and reading them) and have fallen in love with the form, so I’d have to say I love them both for different reasons. I like taking the messy raw materials of life and shaping them into a crafted essay that makes meaning of them.   But I will always love a good page-turning story, to escape, to become another character, to travel to other worlds and places.

K: Can you explain a little about Sweatpants & Coffee and your role as Persistent Optimist over there?

J: We are an online magazine dedicated to inspiration and comfort in an often uncomfortable world. We share content that fits our mission. I pen a column called The Persistent Optimist, since I am a natural optimist, that tries to offer some of that optimism back to my readers.

K: What is your writing routine, if any? Do you work best on a deadline?

J: I am pretty self motivated, but I do work well under deadline, yes. My writing routine USED to be rise at 5:30 and write until 8 and then begin my paid work. But once my son was born 6.5 years ago that all changed. Now after my husband takes my son out the door to school around 7:20, I get to work on whatever is most pressing, be it paid work or my own fiction. When I start a fiction project, I write every day as is possible.

K: What tips would you offer a new writer? What is the best way to learn and to get your writing out there?

J: Write constantly. Read widely. Be open. Don’t wait for inspiration and don’t believe in writer’s block. Don’t assume you’re too talented or not talented enough–just keep writing. Persist. Love your writing practice. Ask questions and submit your work when it’s done, widely. 

K: Have you had anyone in your own life, a mentor of any sort, who has taught you about writing or supported yours? Or have you been that for someone else?
How can this benefit a newer writer? What does the mentor get out of the relationship?

J: I have had many mentors in and out of school. I always gravitate to people who can teach me. It behooves the young or new writer to ask questions, be open to feedback and realize that others have already trailblazed the path. 

K: How do you handle rejection in your writing?

J: I see it as a sign that I either need to go deeper into the piece that is rejected, or take it elsewhere. I used to have a thinner skin but quickly realized all that does is keep you from writing, so I got over myself. I mean, there are days, and occasional rejections that hurt worse than others, but overall, I’m okay 

K: How do you think writing has changed with the growth of the internet and social media?

J: I don’t think writing itself has changed all that much, though trends and genres go in and out of popularity, but how authors have to market themselves has changed. Social media is necessary if an author wants to sell books or share online pieces. 

K: What sorts of things are you working on now? What would you like to see happen in your writing in the future?

J: I’m working on half a dozen articles or essays and about to begin a new novel. I’d like to have a new agent soon and sell some novels. 

K: What do you love about writing? What do you like least?

J: I love everything about writing: the thrill of new ideas, organizing information, the lure of language and creating imagery, the power of making meaning out of things with my own brain…I love using it to connect to others, and to calm and soothe my own brain and heart. I love revising and I love drafting new material. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t love except maybe trying to write to the specifications of someone else when I don’t quite know what they want.

***

I love all those things about writing too Jordan. Thank you.

While some things about writing are fairly universal, I learn something new each and every time I interview a writer who has something valuable to share.

For anything and everything Jordan (list of all blog posts, articles, essays, books, and courses offered), visit her website at:

http://jordanrosenfeld.net

Follow her on her author page, on Facebook:

Here.

And on Twitter:

Here.

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Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, NANOWRIMO 2014, Poetry, Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Review of One Word at a Time

“A successful writing career will humble you more than almost anything else I can think of.”
– Eric Vance Walton

Welcome to this mid-November edition of Spotlight Saturday.

I have several author pages on my Facebook newsfeed, but one such author stands out as I scroll through.

Eric Vance Walton, Author has written novel “Alarm Clock Dawn” (his debut) and, his newest book, “One Word At a Time: Finding Your Way As An Indie Author” is out now.

Being smack-dab in the midst of November and NaNoWriMo, I thought this would be the perfect time to introduce a practical, how-to guide on how to reach for success as an author in the new, developing, and always changing world of indie publishing.

Author’s Publish Press knows all about that and they have brought, along with Eric, us some useful tips and advice and an insightful step-by-step guide for how to navigate through the world of writing and publishing.

Eric says:

“Writing isn’t just something we do. It’s something we are.”

Truer words have never been spoken and after reading this in the first few pages of the book, I already felt comfortable and able to relate to this writer and his experiences.

He tells his story to help others avoid mistakes he, himself has made. He knows about the struggle to manage the events of everyday life with the need to write.

Here is a frank, honest, and open account of the life of a writer. It is a refreshing look at the possibilities of indie publishing, straight from the mouth of one who has traveled the journey and come out on the other side.

All the years of unfocused writing while living life brought him to the awakening he had on turning forty. Sometimes this is just the sort of push we, as writers need, to take that step and he did..

He has been living the writer’s life and he speaks openly about how he climbed that ladder of success. This is a story of the adventure he embarked on, over the last twenty years and he has the firsthand knowledge any working writer can surely use.

He has written novels, children’s stories, poetry, and freelance articles. Many writers are doing this, getting by, but they lack the awareness and the push forward to truly tell the story they are meant to tell.

Eric has a blueprint that he is very willing to share. that is what this book is all about.

He shares achievable strategies such as developing structured blocks of writing time, the perfect writing nook, how to work through writer’s block by walking the dog and getting fresh air and jus the right amount of physical exercise, and ways to keep both mind and body healthy so that the best writing can be produced without the help of artificial substances such as alcohol, drugs, or caffeine.

He relays the tools he has found to be most useful in producing his best work: adequate amounts of sleep, the right environment for a peaceful night’s rest, and one of his biggest tips being meditation. Exercise and a reviving walk, meditative gardening, yoga or Tai Chi. These things that have worked to relieve stress for him are mere suggestions for any writer looking for ways to bring forth their best work.

He shares his battle to walk that fine line between a day job to bring in a steady paycheque and finding the time to truly devote to the writing life he wanted. It wasn’t all roses all the time and he shares his triumphs as well as his defeats.

He shares how the biggest mistake, to not have a concrete plan and set out goals, will leave you unsatisfied and unable to reach any attainable writing career success or fulfilment.

Sometimes, more often then not, sacrifice is required and compromise is the key. He makes it clear that you must decide what is your end goal and what are you willing to give up to get it, such as satellite television or material items and how to be frugal while walking the fine line of giving up something such as the steady pay from a day job, for the somewhat uncertain life of a full-time writer.

“Clear goals and dicipline,” he says. “Smarts, luck and persistence,” are, according to Eric, what it takes. HE is offering another path to the starving artist path a lot of writers and other creative types often go down. He shares his concrete plan that worked for him, exactly how to save enough money and to give a specific amount of time to get a novel written.

He compares novel writing to military bootcamp and proposes that writing can be a formula, with such tools as NaNoWriMo to help get the words down on paper or on the screen.

He shares tips for bringing in multiple revenue streams while walking the road of being an indie author, how the two big things to consider in this journey are time and money. His tips on making money through blogging and how to build confidence and experience through public speaking are direct and specific, with directions and clear-cut references to Google and other surveys, showing evidence on how to be successful as a writer. Having a budget and being mindful are his best pieces of advice on how not to be that dreaded starving artist.

Marketing and promotion are just as important as the writing. This book speaks on social media, on other authors who have done something right and have made a name for themselves, in this day and age and in the digital world we now live in, how important a blog can be in making a name for yourself in writing.

Motivation is an important topic he speaks about throughout and how the “non-writing” and the fear of never producing anything, by the end of his life, are the best motivators for him and perhaps for you too, to get the writing done now, and not to wait for tomorrow.

Mentioned are important tips on becoming a better writer: polishing, tweaking, and learning. He advices taking classes, reading books, and brushing up on proper grammar rules. It takes time to become a good writer and his years of practice have brought him to this book.

He talks about the fundamentals of fiction: proper story pacing, writing realistic dialogue and proper dialogue tags, and communication and body language. All this and more are the mechanics of writing and are at the heart of it all. With this, he includes actual examples to help anyone who wants to learn to grow as a writer.

Consistency. Continuity. Creativity. Characterization. Clarity.

One of the most important pieces of advice, in my opinion, is the one about not falling for the lure of social media and the urge to publish before giving a piece of writing all the attention and clarification it needs. this is the biggest problem with easy access to technology and the revolution of the indie writing universe.

He provides resources and offers tips on finding the right beta readers and the best editor to fit your needs, for your particular book project.

He quotes and refers to Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, Veronica Roth, John Green, J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter and others when talking of creativity and how to tap into it. He lists reading, going to plays, and listening to music, all things that inspire to surround yourself constantly with creativity from all sides. This includes being around others in the creative fields, for a learning experience from others who have the same sorts of interests.

“Creativity is self-doubt.”

Here Eric quotes Sylvia Plath, and this single, simple line becomes an important topic throughout this book.

Voice, genre, brand. He offers a lot of advice on what is badly needed for creative people who can’t seem to get out what they want to say. This book outlines a strategy for discovering, developing, and growing an author’s brand.

It is easy, for most writers who are naturally loners, to stay hidden, but this last piece of becoming an author is key. Learning how to work with other people is strongly recommended and is the last thing to be discussed in this book.

It was a friend’s question about how his first novel was going that sparked something in Eric, a seriousness toward the task of completion.

He is honest about the reality, the highs as well as the lows, and he is grateful for all who have assisted him in his writing journey.

He provides real-life examples from his own life on what success in writing meant to him as a younger man and how that definition has changed over the years, offering practical advice on setting goals and adjusting expectations.

He is open about the fear and self-doubt that often plague writers. He is genuinely appreciative to his readers. Finding his niche audience, launching and releasing his novel, and receiving reader reviews; he speaks about all the stages of writing his first novel in a relatable way that any fellow writer can see themselves in.

Although he, like most writers, first dreamt of being published by a traditional publishing house, he lays out a writer’s alternate options: self-publishing or through a smaller, independent press.

He explains writing in a clear and concise way, with the help of quotes and websites for more information, he lets the reader know that it isn’t always a smooth road with self-publishing, that a writer must be all things: writer, editor, graphic designer, etc. However, this can only be the case up to a point, and then hiring experts becomes necessary for a more professional looking product. This, however, is becoming, more and more, the way to go if a writer wishes to hold control of their own work.

He is up front about the costs that still go along with indie publishing and the pros and cons of having both hard copies and ebooks created. These pros and cons still do apply to making the decision to go the indie route and then, in future, changing to the traditional route if it suits.

He speaks on technology and how it can be utilized in ways (Facebook/Twitter) that weren’t possible only a few years ago. He knows, realizing his responsibility as a writer, to offer advice to others who are where he has been and who hope to be where he is now.

Balance and gratitude are the two key elements, that stood out to me when reading, for success as an indie author or a traditionally published author. This book is part writer’s memoir and part mechanical writing guide.

I have enjoyed Eric’s Facebook page for a while before reviewing this book. Eric posts poems which are beautiful and moving and he has a lot to say on his many years growing and developing as an indie author himself, what it took him to get to where he is today.

On Saturdays he opens up his author page to others who want to share links to or bits of their writing: Showcase Saturday. He is generous enough to give others a chance to shine.

Find Eric at his website:

https://ericvancewalton.wordpress.com

You can check out his book here,

One Word at a Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon.

Or you can follow him on Facebook,

Eric Vance Walton, Author on Facebook.

I promise you won’t regret it.

I was given an early version of this book to review. I am sure there have been final touches and fixes since then and now this book has been released and I recommend it for anyone looking for a guide for writing success, especially in the indie world.

You can be a writer and produce your best work, one word at a time.

“Although writers spend lots of time crafting fictional characters, ironically, the act of writing develops the character of the author more than anything else.”

Thank you, Eric Vance Walton, for that and for this helpful guide on writing.

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