Monthly Archives: January 2015

Three Thing Thursday

Cheryl Van Eck

A beautiful quote from Ray Bradbury on writing:      

“To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.

“You must write every single day of your life.

“You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.

“You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.

“I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime.

“I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.

“May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories – science fiction or otherwise.

“Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”


Brenda Bensch

So you tell yourself, “If I could just get this one book/story/poem/play/screenplay written, I think I could really take off. I could really soar!” In other words, I could prove that I’m a “real” writer. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. I’ve certainly taken writing classes, gone to workshops, joined writers groups. I’ve even written blogs. Lots of them. Mostly about writing. Now, “if I could JUST get this ONE . . .”
The next thoughts come: “I’ll never get this done. The story’s squirreling around in circles. I can’t even make sense of it. How can I expect a reader to stick with it?”
You turn to a favorite writer. Not to his/her books. Just to a little quote, like:
“You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” ~ Ray Bradbury
Now you know: “Oh. I get it . . . just keep at it. You’ll figure it out . . . IF you just keep going. . . trying . . . working . . . writing . . . “
What do your wings look like? What quotes keep YOU motivated? Please share: they’ll help all of us!
Carol Lynch Williams
Since we have a Ray Bradbury theme (and I didn’t know we would!), I asked Michelle Hubbard what we should read of his. She said, “All Summer in a Day.”
So get reading.


Filed under Uncategorized

My House is Cleaner than Yours.

Often people ask me how I keep my house so clean.

Just kidding. No one ever, in the history of the world, has ever asked me that.

In fact, no matter how hard I try, my house is perpetually a mess. And I know I’m supposed to write that it’s okay and we all should let things go and be content. A time and a season, etc. but right now, it’s not feeling okay. Like I am literally wading through laundry and boots and spilled milk and not-so-clean-underwear and legos and banana peels and bags for goodwill (I’m triying!!) and bags for recycling (I’m so responsible!!) and towels and backpacks and cords (why are there so many cords?) and little men and crayons and on and on and on.

It will never end.

I get that.

But you know what will end? The book you’re working on.




you’re willing to tear it apart.

Sometimes when I’m in the middle of a draft, a revision usually, I’ll think that the mess I’ve made with my manuscript is so big, so unmanageable, that the thing will be a mess forever. One small change messes up other things down the road and once I fix those, I have to go back and fix things in the beginning again. Over and over and over again. It gets so bad, in fact, that at times, I’m tempted to quit. To think I can’t finish it. To decide the idea was no good in the first place or to talk myself into moving to the newer shinier novel idea.

If you are at this stage, where the book is so messy and no matter how hard you try, it just seems to get worse and worse and worse, take heart! There is an end. It’s one of my favorite things about writing. Sometimes the book has to get messier to get better and if we’ll have courage, be willing to deal with mess after mess after mess, the end result, when it’s “done” will be so much better than you ever dreamed it could be.

It’s not like laundry at all, thank goodness. It’s like tearing down a pretty good house and getting all dirty and horrible and then, with the help of writing friends and editors and our own gut, putting it back together again–seeing  possibilities, cutting unnecessary scenes and creating new avenues in the process.

So worth the effort.

Do not give up and be grateful for revision. GRATEFUL! I feel like books become what they’re supposed to be in this part of the writing process.

The end.

Off to do laundry as she steps on an orange slice.


Filed under Uncategorized

Back from Vermont College

It’s that time of year when students are coming back from Vermont College where one can attend the low residency and walk away (after lots of writing and reading, a few dances, plus invaluable lectures) with an MFA. Ten-ish days learning at the feet of greats. Here’s what Colin Murcray says about his experience.

In late 2014, after finishing a draft of my fourth novel, I found myself floundering in a well of self-doubt and fear.  My draft had turned out really rough, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that my writing was getting worse, not better.  I know I’m not the first writer to have such feelings, nor will I be the last.  But what I didn’t know at the time was how normal they were, nor did I have any idea on how to move past them.  So I didn’t write.  And the more I didn’t write, the more I panicked.
Then I received a promotional email about the writing for children and young adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  I’ve looked at that program numerous times, but not until I hit rock bottom did I consider actually applying.  Fast forward to January 8th, 2015, when I found myself on a plane in route to Montpelier, Vermont and my first semester residency.
It had been twenty years since I had been a college student, and it was with no small amount of apprehension that I walked into my sparse dorm room and plopped down my belongings.  I was far from home and family,  on a campus that seemed frozen in both time and ice, and surrounded by strangers. But before long, those strangers dragged my story from me, nodding with understanding and sympathy and offering words of encouragement.
As I attended lecture after lecture on the craft of writing, listened to an inspiring speech by the legendary Katherine Paterson, and workshopped pieces with a dozen other writers, I felt a flicker of hope.  By the end of the residency, I was ready to get back to work, armed with two dozen new friends and a confidence that my work was much better than I’d thought.  More importantly, I had the knowledge and support group to help me make it even better.
This experience has led me to understand the importance of community.  While not all of us can afford the time and costs to attend a two year writing program like VCFA, we can take part in the next best thing.  Conferences and workshops offering a less intensive, but immensely valuable alternative for recharging our batteries.  We can also find our support group among the people who attend them.  My two closest writing buds I met through conferences.  The point is, we are better writers when we rub elbows with other writers.  Sitting in our home offices, just us and our keyboards locked away from the rest of the world, may seem like a romantic writing life.  The truth is, it’s darn lonely, and the only voice we often hear is the one telling us we are no good, that we are wasting our time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s Okay to Take *Little* Breaks

by Lisa Sledge

There were days when I was in high school that I would be so overwhelmed by everything that needed

to be done I would freeze up to the point I could do nothing at all. Being a perfectionist, if I couldn’t get

everything done the way I felt it should be, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but cry if I fell behind.

My mom, however, was wonderful. On those occasions where I had four projects coming due, she could

feel the stress building in me and threatening to take over. Without fail, she would call the school and

tell them I was sick.

We called it an “emotional health” day.

I would sleep in extra late, then spend the day calmly getting caught up on to-do lists for each project.

And I would breathe.

Sometimes everyone needs to take a little guilt-free break. Give yourself a mini-vacation. Stay in bed all

day. Turn off your phone. Give yourself permission not to write a word for one day. Read something

trashy. Eat ice cream and brownies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Get caught up on a project, but only

if you feel like it. Nurture a relationship that needs tending.

And don’t feel bad. Schedule time to work on that manuscript the next day and stick to it.

You’ll write better when your mind is clear and you feel rested.

Leave a comment

Filed under CLW