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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Muse Online Writer’s Conference

I just registered for the Muse Online Writer’s Conference! It is scheduled for October 11 – 17.  Because it is online, you don’t have to pay for hotels, transportation, food, etc.

There are workshops, pitch-sessions, presenters, even a book store – all the things you get at a physical real-time conference. It looks pretty cool, so check it out. If you are planning on attending, let me know because it would be nice to connect with other writers before the start date.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing Accountability Partners

When I was working at Miyazaki International College I had a wonderful accountability partner. Laurie was writing a collection of stories about powerful Scottish women from the 17th century and I was writing about the Rwandan genocide. We wrote a chapter or story each week and left it on each other’s desks. Then a day or two later, we would meet at a small coffee shop framed by rice paddies to give feedback and share ideas. Both of us completed our projects and published our work in journals.

Without Laurie’s collaboration I seriously doubt I would have gotten the work done. We shared equal admiration for each other’s work. We liked each other and held one another in high esteem. I didn’t want to let Laurie down so I felt responsible both to produce and to provide meaningful feedback to her work. I am certain Laurie felt the same. We agreed to write regularly and promised to read each other’s work faithfully. This kept us both accountable.

Having a writing accountability partner keeps you writing through dry spells. It keeps you focused and keeps your “eye on the prize”. Accountability partners motivate one another, provide inspiration, and help you think and process. Accountability partners also aid in the things that don’t come naturally or that you don’t particularly like. For example, I don’t like to look for publications to submit my work to, but Laurie loved that, so she took leadership for that aspect of my work. My strength is in description and expansion, so that was one of my gifts to her.

Accountability partners play a vital role in keeping writers writing. I would love to hear about your accountability partners and/or how you have found one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I write two blogs for a jeweler in Israel – one focuses on bracelets and the other on necklaces. The client makes hand-blown glass bottle pendants with religious symbolism and enhanced with sterling silver and crystals. The bottles can be filled with holy water from the Jordan River or from a natural spring that is sacred to followers of Islam, or with a scroll with a favorite scripture written on it. They are really cool pendants and quite unique.

This week I was pleasantly surprised as the client sent me two necklaces as a gift (not instead of, but in addition to) my monthly fee. What a wonderful surprise! Below are pictures of the necklaces I received this week in the mail:

You can see more at the Holy Secret Jewelry website. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SEO = Findability

I want to be found!

When I first started blogging about three years ago, it was more like a little secret I had with myself. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it and I actually worried that someone I knew might somehow find out. I struggled with issues of ego and hid behind self incrimination:

Why am I doing this?
Who’s to say my words matter?
I’m nobody and only nobody cares.
My thoughts don’t matter, my opinions are irrelevant, and my experiences aren’t “cool” enough.

But I did it anyway.

Then I let the secret out. First I told a few friends, then some people in my family. Before long, I was talking about it openly. After a year or so, I posted a few links to my blog on facebook. A few people were reading it, but most were not. By then, I didn’t care anymore – I didn’t care who read it and I didn’t care that most of the people who knew me and knew I was doing it didn’t read it. I just cared about fostering my own passion to write. Though not highly recognized and certainly not very well read, I knew my blog was public and therefore, it kept me aiming for quality work. It also kept me committed to my daily writing practice. That first blog was, and still is, purely personal.

The more I wrote and posted on my blog, the more I learned about blogging in general. As a result, themes emerged and I became anchored on a few specific areas of focus. Eventually I launched the Nitty Gritty of Writing blog to practice blogging professionally.

Now I am finally ready to be found!

SEO articles posted to article directories are my latest focus because the SEO keywords in those articles will bring more visitors to my blog. I want the traffic for three reasons:  
  1. When people leave comments it helps me to find them and I want to find others so I can learn from them and build community; 
  2. I do believe I have significant things to share and I want to help others to learn; and
  3. I want to be found by people who can lead me to the next level in my work.

Yes, SEO = findability 
and I want to be found. 
Don’t you?  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Propelling the Dream with Sacred Space

Recently a fellow writer friend wrote about the process of dreaming and imagining and its power to transform and make manifest that which we do not yet have. She described her behavior as “pretending” as she is currently moving into a new venture with her art: Audrey is making some of the most beautiful hand-made greeting cards I have ever seen.

She set up a work studio in her home an das she works late into the night, she practices her “pretending”.

“Buried in all of my patterned paper, glitter and ribbon I pretend to be a successful stationary designer. I imagine that is my creative headquarters – just a satellite of my empire... I pretend that I am designing and creating cards for high profile clients. When the home phone rings during my creative process, sometimes I don’t answer it because I am ‘at the office’” (Crafty Cupcake).

We talked about the importance of her work studio – the space – not only to create the products, but to nurture the dream.

Workspace is sacred space!

So I decided again to post more pictures of my office because te space where I work provided the first surge of power in me to claim the title: WRITER. Declaring that I am a writer fueled the practice and the practice birthed new confidence. Confidence, in turn, provided the guts it took to start this blog, apply for writing jobs, submit to contests and various publications, and to justify my price. All these things happened in my sacred space and propelled the dream.

paintings by my daughter: age 7 and 8

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blogging Intensive: Concluding Review

What a wonderful week we have had! Five of us shared in a total of 12 hours of intensive blogging lessons. As participatns set up new blogs, we learned about the Blogger platform – the dashboard, settings, design, how to compose, edit, save, and publish; how to follow, leave comments, and subscribe. We learned how to link and how to upload pictures and videos. We brainstormed for ideas and followed up by writing out drafts of posts, profiles, and bio-boxes. We learned about gadgets – whaqt they are, how to find them and how to put them on our blogs. As we learned about SEO, article writing, and how to build traffic, we explored various examples already on the web and various sites to upload and publish promotional articles. We talked about the value of online and blogging communities and participated in some as practice.

We stayed focused on our work making the most efficient use of our time. It was an amazing and energetic dynamic because we learned about each other as well, but never allowed personal interjections to stray us from the main focus of learning about blogging.

Thank you, Ladies, for a wonderful, productive week! Thank you for your meaningful input and questions and for all your enthusiasm. I am especially greatful that you have joined me in this endeavor.

I look forward to our monthly gatherings and continued learning. Until we meet again, blog on!

Comments I received from the workshop:

I am having fun with blogging, thanks for the help with it!!

Thank you so much, River, for teaching us during our blogging workshop. You did a fantastic job. Our group will be posting a lot and making links to others because of your efforts. You are the best.

Your blogging contributions are priceless. I look at my blog a new way thanks to you. I
got my book in the mail called: The Everything Blogging Book by Aliza
Risdahl. I will share it with you.

Participants' Blogs

Friday, August 13, 2010

Writing Colleagues

Writers need writer friends. We need to tell other writers what we are doing and hear what other writers have going on in their minds and lives. We need to ask questions to writers because only other writers know what it’s like to write. We need to listen to writers. We need to build one another up with words of encouragement and stories of our own persistence.

In most other professions people get colleagues simply by going to work. Writers however, have to make an extra effort to find colleagues and nurture the relationships alone because we go to work alone. We writers covet our alone time and are very hesitant to give any of it up, but we must have colleagues. The rewards of having quality writing colleagues are absolutely priceless.

Here are some tips to help you find writing colleagues
  • Join a local writing group
  • Participate in online writer’s forums
  • Attend conferences and workshops
  • Go to open-mic readings
  • Call/email an author you like and invite him/her to coffee
  • Start your own writing group
  • Give more than you take

Writers do need writing friends. Seek writing colleagues and honor them – their time, knowledge, and their craft. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blog Posts Vs. Articles: What’s the Difference?

When I am free writing from brainstorming and prompts I sometimes get confused as to whether I am writing a blog post or an article. They are similar, or can be, and the lines of definition are blurry and vague. I can’t answer the question exactly, but I do have a current option that I am using now as a guideline:

Blog posts are more personal; they center on personal experience, opinion; they are written in a style that is more interactive by engaging your readership. Blogs are chatty. Articles on the other hand, are informational, centered less on personal knowledge and more on legitimate research. Articles fit into established formulas and can be written to specific templates. Blog posts can have structure, but it isn’t required; articles need to be structured. You can get away with writing a blog post that lacks a main point and supporting points, but an article needs these things. Blog posts can be anything including pictures, links, video, text, or any combination. An article must have text and the other things have to be relevant in the supporting role. A blog post might be commentary on an article or someone else’s blog post whereas an article would be more of a critical review.

You will find your own definition as you write them both, but maybe this brief summary will help you determine where to post the stuff you are writing. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blog Intensive in Progress

Here we are! Blogfest participants in action. Check out their new blogs.

Andria's blog: Words From the Parsonage
Andria's blog is about her life outside the parsonage doors.

Sandi's blog: Sandi's Impressions
Sandi's blog is about life lessons and inspirations from God.

Audrey's blog: Crafty Cupcake
Audrey's blog is about handmade cards.

Norma's blog: Scrappy Grams
Norma's blog is about grandmothers reaching out.

Blogging Intensive

I just started teaching an intensive blogging workshop. We met on Friday for 3 hours at Panera and began with brainstorming and planning, talked about promotion, and ended with everyone setting up their own blog. It was so exciting to see participants “get it” and to share in the joy and excitement as they created their visions. I’m going to eventually turn our work into worksheets and information to post here along with a comprehensive ebook about blogging.

Today we’ll have our next session and work more on blog designing including layout, widgets, etc., and what you can do with a blog. We will also learn about SEO writing. We’ll follow up at our third session with an emphasis on article writing.

I’ve learned a lot in the last 2 years of online writing, but I have so much more I want and need to learn. I’m at a point now that I need human interaction and feedback, so this workshop is aimed at sharing what I know and asking for help with what I hope to learn.

We are off to a great start: four committed and enthusiastic participants, each with a specific direction, all with similar dreams. The fourth session will be focused on tying up loose ends, follow-up and review. At that time we will also deal with questions regarding what we still want and need to learn. It is my hope that we will continue to meet regularly to continue our learning and to share with each other to foster the learning.

I would really like for us to each take responsibility for several of the questions generated by our meetings and research on our own with the promise to come back to the group to teach what we have learned.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Writing Prompts

I found this link for some good writing prompts. This is a great place to get you started. Set your discipline and simply write for 15 - 20 every day ~ or even just 5 minutes will do. Start at the beginning of the list and see where these prompts take you.


Creative Portal

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Writers Write

When introduced to a new acquaintance who exclaimed, “oh, are you a writer?” a friend recently commented that “writers write”. Her statement was a preface to her main point that no, because she hasn’t been writing much lately, she isn’t really a writer. I merely observed this exchange and rode along as the conversation move on to other things, but the phrase, “writers write” lingered in my mind for several days thereafter.

It’s true: writers do write. We are compelled to write. It seems we might suffocate and die of we don’t put voice to all those thoughts in our head and all those sensations that stir in our souls. We love the feel of pens between fingers that never seem to move fast enough, and our eyes pop wide with the trill ignited by the smell of a new notebook. We write when we should be listening (or cooking or cleaning or mowing the lawn…); we write when we can’t sleep. We write in the car with the light turns red; we write in our heads when no paper can be found. Yes, writers write.

But I have to say, there are times when writers don’t write. I call it incubation. It isn’t a conscious thinking of a project or an active searching for the right words; incubation is often silent, dark, and it may feel stale. Nonetheless, incubation is necessary for writers to eventually be able to write. Sometimes incubation is meditative and reflective and when incubation is in this stage, you can actually feel the tender life of your writing being silently nurtured. Most often however, incubation takes place in the unnoticed parts of your heart and brain when you are so busy doing life that your notebooks are closed and your pens are… where are they!? (Yes, this question stirs panic.)

Here’s the thing: writers will eventually return to these busy times in their memories and when life slows down then the epiphanies are revealed. When this happens, you realize you’ve been incubating and the muse alights on all the moments of your days and suddenly, you are again writing frantically.

My point here is not to give you permission to resolve yourself t the idea of writing as a fantasy or a luxury and therefore shy away from the identity that you are a writer, but rather to claim your title and simply the stale season in the writing life.

Know that you are in a stale season because you are busy incubating and anticipate the birth of beautiful new stories that will one day emerge from these busy, hectic days. Yes, writers write, but not always. My friend’s comment made me know that she isn’t a writer wannabe, but truly a writer in incubation.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Blogfest – 2nd Notice

If you want to get your feet wet with online writing, check out ~~ blogfest! This is a great opportunity to:

 Meet a deadline with your writing
Write for a specific purpose/audience
Follow some very general guidelines (500 word limit)
Submit something  online
Have your work read by others
Connect with other writers
Enter cyberspace and the blog-o-sphere
Win some cool prizes!
Here’s the LINK
Scroll down to the Wednesday, July 14 post for details about the blogfest.