Articles

Tips for Improving Academic Writing

by Dr. Lisa Lines

Academic Writing, like any skill, can be improved with practise and discipline. Mastery of content is only half the battle where academic writing is concerned. The ability to showcase your knowledge in written form is essential. Here are our tips for improving your academic writing.

To read on, click here.

Top Seven Reasons Why Aspiring Authors Fail to Publish

by Michael Neff
Published in Authorsalon.com, July 23, 2016

 

 

At a conservative estimate, upwards of 250,000 writers in the U.S. are currently struggling to write or find an agent for their first commercial novel or memoir. If you understand this business, you also know why an enormous percentage are unable to make it happen. Below are the top seven reasons why otherwise passionate writers will join the 99.9% never to become commercially published.

To see the rest of this article, click here.

 

How to Find Your Nonfiction Niche 

by Terry Persun
published February 24, 2017 in PNWA Writer's Tips

 

 

 

Whenever someone asks me about writing articles for magazines, the first thing they tend to say is that they don't know what to write about. Although I have the opposite problem, I do understand what they're saying. And that is that they're having trouble focusing. There are plenty of things to write about.
 
So, to get started, I always suggest that you take out a notebook and create two columns. In the first column write down all the things you know a lot about. This usually includes anything involved with a job you've had, from packer at the grocery store to your present profession. It also includes raising children (if you've done so, or are presently doing so), cleaning, changing the oil on your car, and all things relationship oriented that you've gone through and have some experience with.
 
You may not be a professional at some of these jobs, but you've done them and you have an opinion about how to do them.
 
In your second column, you write all the things you are interested in or passionate about. Again, this could include some of the items in your first column, but also anything else you can think of that you're curious about. Maybe you've always wanted to know more about model trains or Abraham Lincoln, but haven't done the research. Now's the time to include those things on your list. Maybe you love to look at clouds, maybe that would be an interesting subject to research. Or you always wondered what all those items were on the policeman's vest.
 
Now compare your lists, pairing things together. If you've done something and know a lot about it, and you're also interested in or passionate about it, put it at the top of a third list. Now, go through everything and prioritize your lists based on what would be the easiest to pursue. At the bottom of the list might be items that are merely an interest, not a passion, and not something you've ever done. Then again the bottom of the list might include something you've done, but never really wanted to talk about or explore.
 
There you have it, maybe twenty to forty ideas about what to write about. Once you have a subject matter, it's fairly easy to break the idea into segments and to write articles about each-or a long article about several. I'll use my work as an example. At the top of my list is to know more about some of the research they're doing at NASA. In doing some research, I find that a company in California was instrumental in creating a 3D model of a new space suit design. I understand 3D technology, so all I had to do was interview a few people from the company and at NASA to get enough information about the new design. Once the article was written, I was able to get it published in a design engineering magazine-my go-to list of magazines that publish things I'm interested in.

Book Covers that Sell

by Gerri Russell
reprinted from February 10, 2017 edition of PNWA Writers Tips

 

Investing in a great cover is non-negotiable for any author who wants to make a living with their writing. Readers do judge a book by its cover, and they won't read your blurb, download a sample, or buy your product without connecting with your cover within the first eight seconds that they see it. Eight seconds. That's all the time you have before that potential buyer moves on or dives deeper into your product description.

A book's cover is the first thing a potential reader sees and it makes a lasting impression. It is a scientific fact that the human brain processes images faster than words. An image leaves an impression-it makes us feel something. It's a gut-level, emotional response that either draws us in or turns us off. And when it comes to deciding on a cover for your book, you need to be brutally honest with yourself. What's your goal? Do you intend to publish your book for only your friends and family, or do you want to attract as many readers as possible?

If the latter is true, then treat your cover as though it were as important as your story, your characters, your editing, or your formatting. Whether you decide to create that eye-catching cover yourself or you hire a professional, there are a few design tips to keep in mind.
  • Tip #1: Your cover must communicate something. If there's no message, no story, no concept, no narrative, or no useful experience to be had, then your cover won't sell your work.
  • Tip #2: Choose fonts (only one or two) for specific purposes. Think about the words on your cover as images. How can the title and your author name be styled so that they enhance the overall imagery of your cover?
  • Tip #3: Think about your brand. If you have multiple books, do you make it easy for readers to find you when browsing? Not only should covers in a series be similar, you as an author should be recognizable by your name in the way it's typeset and by the overall look and feel of your covers. 
  • Tip #4: White space on a cover is magical. Create it, don't just use it up.
  • Tip #5: Write for readers-design for them, too. Target the right audience with the image on your cover. If you don't, not only will you miss out on your readership, but you'll end up targeting readers who aren't interested in your book which leads to disappointment and negative reviews.
  • Tip #6: Symmetry is boring. Symmetrical visual arrangements are generally static and offer little movement. Try arranging the images/title/author name on the cover so that it creates an S-shape starting at the top of the cover. This type of layout causes the eye to naturally flow from one part of your cover to the next, creating a dynamic interaction.
 Try these tips to give your book the greatest visibility and the greatest chance for success.

What to Do (And Not Do) After Attending a Writer’s Conference

By: Irene Goodman, Irene Goodman Agency
Featured in Writer's Digest, January 23, 2017

Everyone can tell you how to prepare for a writer’s conference–how to pitch, how to schmooze, what to wear and what to say. But no one tells you what you should be doing after the conference is over, and how to enhance and get the most out of your experience there. This article features some insider do’s and don’ts.

The Scary Synopsis

PNWA Writer's Tip, January, 2017 issue

Today we're tackling the dreaded eight letter S- word...synopsis.Take a deep breath, maybe grab a cup of coffee or tea, relax and let's get started.   

If you plan to submit your work to an agent or editor or enter our PNWA Literary Contest (categories 1 - 8), you will need to have a tight one-page synopsis for your book. Yes, you read that right - one page to summarize the whole story.

What to Include
First, you'll need to include what we here at the Cottage refer to as the movie trailer ingredients.  We're talking setting, genre, major characters, central conflict/major goals, major plot points, character arcs and resolution.  

What to Leave Out
And of course, there are plenty of things to leave out - overly specific descriptions of the setting and genre,  supporting characters, secondary conflicts and goals, sub-plots and exhaustive detail about the resolution.

Your synopsis should be written in third person, present tense. Here's how to break it down.   

Opening

  • Begin with an overarching statement about what your novel's premise. This should communicate setting and genre. Example: Even in small-town Iowa,  an unexpected encounter with a stranger can change your life. 
  • Introduce the main character with a few words that describe him or her and then describe what that character wants. For example : Susan, a shy, prim waitress daydreams about being swept off her feet by a handsome stranger.
  • Include the inciting incident - what happens that launches your character on his or her journey.  Example: When Susan is sent off to deliver an order, she is ambushed by a handsome young man that grabs the take out order and runs off.

Middle Paragraph(s)

  • In this section, lay out what happens in the bulk of your story from first plot point to the midpoint and through to the climax.  
  • Stay focused on the main characters - the protagonist, the antagonist, perhaps a sidekick or love interest. Be sure you detail the major conflicts along the way.  
  • In our example, what does Susan do after she's ambushed? How do her actions propel the story forward?  What obstacles are thrown her way and how does she overcome them?  What conflict does she face at the midpoint when she has a 'mirror moment' and decides something has to change? What is the climax of the story - the blackest moment when everything seems destined to fail?

The Closing
In the final section of your synopsis,  spell out the resolution. You do not need to go into every twist and turn, but do provide a summarized account of what happens.  
 
Additional Resources 
Here are some additional blog resources to check out.
How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis by Pub(lishing) Crawl.  Click here for the article.
How To Write A One-Page Synopsis from the Writers Write blog. Article available here.
Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis by editor, Jane Friedman. You can find her site here.
How to Write a Book Now blog- by Glen C. Strathy.  The link to his post about the synopsis is here.

No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear:

Toni Morrison on the Artist’s Task in Troubled Times
by Maria Popova
November, 2016 in Brain Pickings

"Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom.” Toni Morrison

"Only an artist can tell … what it is like for anyone who gets to this planet to survive it,” James Baldwin asserted in contemplating how the artist’s struggle illuminates the common human struggle. "War and chaos have plagued the world for quite a long time,” wrote a forgotten defender of E.E. Cummings and the artist’s duty to challenge the status quo, "but each epoch creates its own special pulse-beat for the artists to interpret.” Often, the pulse-beats of chaos that feel most unsurvivable are those which artists must most urgently interpret in order for us to indeed survive.

That task of the artist as a grounding and elevating force in turbulent times is what Toni Morrison (b. February 18, 1931) explores in a stunning essay titled No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear, included in the 150th anniversary issue of The Nation.

Click here to read more.

The Benefit of Having Others Edit Your Work

by Chandra Clarke
November, 2016 in Scribendi 

Writing a paper is different for everyone. For some, it may seem like a simple task. For others, it may seem impossible. For everyone, though, the trick to creating a consistent, clear piece of writing is good editing. However, your editing abilities may not be enough when it comes to improving your own writing.

Editing is the process of reviewing a piece of writing to correct any errors. These errors could be as simple as spelling or grammar mistakes, or they could be as complex as the flow and clarity of your writing. Many writers find that an editing checklist is useful when correcting their own work. An edit may be done by the writer or by an outside source; either way, every piece of writing should go through an edit of some kind.

Read more here.

[Many thanks to the students in Mrs. Vickers class on Bainbridge Island for this great recommendation!  They found this page very interesting and filled with a lot of useful information.]

Submission Strategies

by Kim Winternheimer
November 10, 2016 in Masters Review Blog 

Submit with abandon? Send out a story that’s already received 20 rejections? Keep going? Call it quits? Should you send an edited piece to a magazine that passed on an older draft? Kim Winternheimer talks submission strategies

How I Tricked Myself Into Writing My First Novel

by Victor Pineilo
November 3, 2016 in Medium

"I’ve tried it all. I spent a year trying out the Snowflake Method, writing a hundred-page outline only to freeze two paragraphs into writing the actual novel. I tried Stephen King’s "excavation” method, jumping right into the writing of another novel only to get completely blocked after fifteen pages. Then that happened four more times.

"Three years ago I realized that the only way to write a novel was to trick myself into doing it. And over the next few months I concocted a plan that ended up working better than I’d hoped."

Read more here.

The Third Self: Mary Oliver on Time, Concentration, the Artist’s Task, and the Central Commitment of the Creative Life

by Maria Popova
October, 2016 in Brain Pickings

"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”  Mary Oliver

Two hundred years before social media, the great French artist Eugène Delacroix lamented the necessary torment of avoiding social distractions in creative work; a century and a half later, Agnes Martin admonished aspiring artists to exercise discernment in the interruptions they allow, or else corrupt the mental, emotion al, and spiritual privacy where inspiration arises.

But just as self-criticism is the most merciless kind of criticism and self-compassion the most elusive kind of compassion, self-distraction is the most hazardous kind of distraction, and the most difficult to protect creative work against.

How to hedge against that hazard is what beloved poet Mary Oliver (b. September 10, 1935) explores in a wonderful piece titled "Of Power and Time,” found in the altogether enchanting Upstream: Selected Essays.

Click here to read on.

How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit

by Rebecca Solnit
September 13, 2016 in LitHub

"The process of making art is the process of becoming a person with agency, with independent thought, a producer of meaning rather than a consumer of meanings that may be at odds with your soul, your destiny, your humanity, so there’s another kind of success in becoming conscious that matters and that is up to you and nobody else and within your reach." Rebecca Solnit

Read more here.

 

In the Master's Review: Stories That Teach series, authors discuss effective craft elements of a particular story. Here is a contribution from the venerable Adrian Van Young, who dissects Laura Benedict’s masterfully unsettling tale "When I Make Love to the Bug Man.” In Benedict’s creepy story, a woman becomes mysteriously enthralled with the exterminator hired to rid her house of a spider infestation. You won’t quite believe what happens next.

Read the article here.

Internal Dialogue: The Greatest Tool for Gaining Reader Confidence

by Elizabeth Sims
July, 2016 from Crafting Dynamic Dialogue, Writer’s Digest Books

"Not long ago, one of my elderly neighbors lost several thousand dollars to a con artist. A stranger phoned with a convincing sob story that ended in a plea for money. My neighbor actually filled a paper lunch sack with twenty-dollar bills, drove to a nearby grocery store, stashed the bag behind a vegetable bin as directed, and left. Even when a friend explained that it was a trick, my neighbor was serene, believing he had done a service for someone in need.

"The best con artists don’t begin by asking for your confidence—they give you theirs first. Here’s my story. I want you, you especially, to hear this. The request for help comes later. There’s the short con—one quick deception and out—and the long con, which takes time and patience to execute. But before either compassion or greed can be exploited, the mark must feel something for the con artist.

"When you think about it, what is fiction but one beautiful long con? The reader—the mark—opens a book craving a good story, thirsting to be part of something special. We, as writers, do everything possible to gain the trust of our readers so we can entertain, shock, delight, and amuse them all the way to the end.

"And the greatest tool for gaining reader confidence is internal dialogue. Because when a character reveals his thoughts, he’s confiding in the audience. I’m counting on you to understand me—and possibly even help me understand myself. Suddenly readers are in the thick of it; they feel involved and invested. They have some skin in the game."

Click here to read more.

Elizabeth Sims is a bestselling author and writing authority. Booklist described her crime fiction "as smart as it is compelling," and Crimespree magazine praises her "strong voice and wonderful characters." A contributing editor at Writer's Digest magazine, Elizabeth's craft-of-writing advice has appeared in those pages since 2006, and she's a sought-after speaker at conferences around the U.S. When time permits she coaches aspiring writers individually and through workshops. She loves to help fledgling authors find their wings!

An Interview with Jonathan Evison

with E.C. Murray

Jonathan Evison, whose novels include All About Lulu, West of Here, and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, writes with emotional resonance and offbeat humor. His works have received the Washington State Book Award, the 2012 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, the Booklist Editor's Choice Award, and was named Book of the Year by Hudson Booksellers. Born in San Jose, California, Evison has lived in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Missoula, Montana. He now lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington with his family. NOTE: Since this interview was originally published, his book, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance, has been published.
 
1.) Did you really bury your first six novels? Were you tempted to self-publish them? How many rejections did you receive before you gave up?
 
I only buried the first three , and salted the earth so nothing would ever grow there. Believe me, that was more ceremony than they deserved. The others are figuratively buried in drawers and closets. I was never
tempted to self-publish them. Too much time and energy. Easier just to collect rejection notes. I'd estimate I received about three hundred rejections, the majority of them well deserved. To be honest, the whole
enterprise was only vaguely discouraging. At the end of the day, it's all about the work for me.

2.) Have you taken any formal writing classes? If so what?

I took a Field's End workshop once about ten years ago, where I met my friend Carol Cassella. I've never been much of a classroom type (my high school teachers will be happy to corroborate on that count). I guess I'm
a believer in good old fashion trial and error.

3.) I find your writing minimalistic. For example, you mention Bond and Hostmark and other places I know without any extra description. But readers from Indianapolis, for example, get it! How much, many times do you slash/revise?

The process of rewriting is so fluid, that it's hard to say how many drafts of something I write. Twenty, maybe? As far as description, I've always felt it is more effective to describe one element of something that speaks to its essence. If you can do this, the reader will complete the picture. The more latitude you give the reader, the more you invite their involvement, the more engaged they are going to be.

4.) How much does your agent or editor help with revising?

 Both are hugely helpful in helping me write the books I want to write. Occasionally, we don't see eye to eye on something, but usually they are right. Generally speaking, they just point out where there is a disconnect or a problem and leave me to find a solution. The important thing is to know exactly what you are trying to achieve with the work, so that you know good editorial insight when you hear it.
  
5.) "You know exactly what you are trying to achieve with your work." That seems like a tall order. What does it mean? Do you mean your theme - for example "overcoming grief and letting go" or "surviving as a damaged person"-is that what you're trying to achieve in Fundamentals and Lulu, respectively? If not, what?

I'm just trying to create an effect for the reader, to provide them with a genuine experience. The experience of surviving tragedy, for instance. Or, as in Lulu, I wanted the reader to feel the velocity and immediacy
of adolescence.
    
6.) How do you start your writing? With an idea/theme? With a character or characters in mind? Or does the theme come to the surface after rewrites?

Always the characters. They embody everything--the story, the themes, the emotional arc. I just start with flawed characters who are trying to correct or reinvent themselves in some way. Really, this is my only
theme: reinvention.
 
7.) Why, in West of Here, do you use the names Port Townsend, Aberdeen, Dungeness Spit, etc., but call Port Angeles "Port Bonita?" (That's pretty funny that we can Google "Port Bonita Chamber of Commerce" and get a link to your Web page. Who came up with that idea? I find it pretty brilliant.)

I wanted to be as ambiguous (and playful) as possible. I wanted to put the onus on the reader to find out what was real and what was not. I'd like to think that partially as a result of West of Here, Woods "Crossing the Olympic Mountains," which is the first book listed in my acknowledgments, is back in print. The chamber of commerce page was my idea--again, to be playful. I had a woman in Boston insist that Port Bonita was a real place, because she had been to that very page.
    
8.) Lulu and Fundamentals were fast reads for me. Fast, because I hid in myself in my attic office reading and ignoring my "to do" list. Can you share some tips for aspiring writers on creating "page turners?" Your books aren't mysteries per se, but readers want to know what's going to happen next.
 
Simple: remember the reader. The reader, being you. What kind of book do you want to read? How do you want the story to be told? I like narrative momentum, so I'm very aware of it when I'm writing my stories.
 
9.) West of Here was both a personal and historical book. Which do you prefer writing - a "plain" novel or historical fiction and why? (Would you call West of Here historical fiction?)

I like writing two types of narratives: intimate, and sprawling. My plan for West of Here was not to write a historical novel, rather a novel about history, what it is, how it is not made up of great men, and events, and legislation, so much as it is embodied in the vividly realized moments of our own lives. I wanted to subvert and frustrate some of the tropes of historical fiction-- linear timelines, Shakespearean characters, wide angle lenses. Thus, I created a non-linear timeline peopled with working class characters, employing dozens of tiny apertures, rather than one wide angle lens. The result: historical fiction readers hated it, mostly. People who approach the novel as a novel of place, love it. Really, there is only one character: the place. All the other characters are there to serve the character of Port Bonita.
 
10.) West of Here has so many characters and plot streams. Do you create charts? Graphs?

I wrote all over my walls and ceiling. I filled at least a dozen notebooks. I made physical maps, thought maps, checklists, flowcharts, you name it.

11.) How do you keep the voice of each character so unique and consistent throughout the whole book? Do you write extensive character sketches before you start?

I just shed myself as much as possible and inhabit the character fully. I try not only to be in their head, but their whole body. I jump through an empathic window and become them.

12.) At the end of Fundamentals and West, you describe your impetus in writing each book. Do you think that authors who touch on powerful emotional events from their own lives write more substantial books? Do you?

It just all depends on how good the storytelling is. Powerful events in my life have tended to inform a lot of my fiction, but I'm not sure there's any kind of prerequisite. I think a healthy facility for empathy is the key to writing a powerful story, whether or not the author has lived it. In a sense, by writing it they've lived it.

13.) What's your opinion of Bigfoot?

I think he should write a memoir.

14.) Going back to the books you've buried, burned, whatever. Do you ever use scenes or characters from those dead and gone books in your new books?

Nah. There's a temptation to part out your old darlings like automobiles, but the truth is, every story is (or should be) so specific and singular, that such a tactic would not work effectively.
 
15.) One final question which we ask all interviewees:
What are your tips for aspiring writers?

Sit your butt in a chair and get over yourself. Write with a sense of urgency. Develop disciplined work habits. Don't preoccupy yourself with publication. Write because you have to.

Note: Netflix changed the name of the movie slightly from the book. It is The Fundamentals of Caring.

From Sonder, a SAL Blog:

6/10/16: Friday Roundup
Twelve fun links from around the web:

A rare interview: Annie Proulx on her new book "Barkskins"

Want to learn the secrets of a book designer?

Lucy Ives on Margaret the First and "archival fiction.”

Missed Forrest Gander at our Neruda event? Here he is chatting about Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda on All Things Considered.

Have you heard about the Seattle Art Museum’s book club?

Drool.

Sherman Alexie on running away, the definition of "family,” and the children’s book that made him want to write.

The director of Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman, on adapting Jane Austen.

Ocean Vuong discusses learning English, plus the first poem he ever wrote.

J.K. Rowling just can’t let Harry Potter go (and we don’t want her to!).

Author Lidia Yuknavitch's phenomenal TED Talk on how stories can save lives.

LARB‘s short take on Helen Oyeyemi’s latest book.

Ursula K. Le Guin on Power, Oppression, Freedom, and How Imaginative Storytelling Expands Our Scope of the Possible

by Maria Popova
May, 2016 in Brain Pickings

"We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

"We must always take sides,” Elie Wiesel urged in his spectacular Nobel Prize acceptance speech. "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” And yet part of the human tragedy is that despite our best intentions and our most ardent ideals, we often lull ourselves into neutrality in the face of injustice — be it out of fear for our own stability, or lack of confidence in our ability to make a difference, or that most poisonous foible of the soul, the two-headed snake of cynicism and apathy. How, then, do we unmoor ourselves from a passivity we so masterfully rationalize, remember that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and rise to that awareness with moral courage and imagination?

That’s what Ursula K. Le Guin (b. October 21, 1929) examines in one of the many magnificent pieces in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination — that trove of her clear-headed, bright-hearted wisdom on subjects as eclectic and essential as gender, the sacredness of public libraries, the magic of real human conversation, and what beauty really means.

Click here to read more.

Writing For a Better World

by NY Times bestselling author Christopher Golden
April 25, 2016

We never really grow up. Never really leave behind the children we were, or forget the lessons we learned then—at least not for long. We change, though. THAT, we do. Common wisdom suggests that people do not change, but we do. We can. And the simplest and most difficult way to do that is to choose it.

As a kid, and later in college, and later in adulthood, I have met people who have accused me of being perhaps a bit over-earnest. There’s a dichotomy there , because anyone who knows me will tell you that I am one sarcastic son of a bitch. Growing up in New England, you learn sarcasm around the same time you learn to walk. That’s just sparring. Keeping your wit sharpened. But when it comes to things I care about, I am often painfully sincere. Some people are made uncomfortable by that sincerity. Others distrust it, presuming it hides some ulterior motive. Still others deride sincerity as terminally uncool. Well I’m guilty of giving a damn. And I’m not ashamed.

Which is why I can begin, un-ironically, with this.

Continued here.

How I Did It: 'Crocodile'
Focus on Craft: Insights into writers and their process

by Sarah Howe, originally published on CAMPUS by The Poetry School

In this blog, poet Sarah Howe—whose win of the T.S. Eliot Prize received recent scrutiny by a sexist literary community—explores how her poem "Crocodile” (included in the award-winning collection) came about by a convergence of a museum visit, instinct, and memory. Read the article here.

Excerpt:
"Around these two natural-historical particulars, the narrative of ‘Crocodile’ began to form. The story of the human couple—the pea soup, the chilly summer restaurant, their dinner conversation—was all reverse-engineered out of the simile I knew would be the poem’s climax... ‘Crocodile’ was one of the first poems to come to me after a long fallow period following the publication of my debut pamphlet. With speed—and a sense of relief—I set down a first draft in one sitting.”

Make ‘em Laff–Free-falling into funny–How I Write Comedy

Focus on Craft: Insights into writers and their process

by Hedgebrook alumna Suzanne Kelman, originally published on her blog

I write comedy and I personally don’t know of the perfect equation to create spontaneous howls. You know, something like a snigger plus a chuckle equals a guffaw or anything like that. Now there are many books out there that claim to help people write hilarious stuff, but the ones I have read, I found drier than an Amish man’s liquor cabinet. What I can do is give you some insight into how I write.

First, I can’t force it. Forcing is like forcing someone to love you. Before you know it you’re boiling their bunny.

The more obsessive you become over the comedy, the harder it becomes to work. This is not good. I met a very straight laced, old school teacher type once, who looked me dead in the eye over her half moon glasses as she handed me her manuscript and said in one long monotone, "I can write funny.” I hadn’t the heart to tell her SHE was funny, her saying it that way WAS Funny, but alas, after reading it, her writing wasn’t. | READ MORE 

Catherine Harris-White: Writing for Change
Hedgebrook's Women Authoring Change Series

Catherine Harris-White is a singer-songwriter and a Hedgebrook alumna. We asked her about her work and about being a Woman Authoring Change. Below is an excerpt from her interview.

"When creating I let the format come to me in whatever way it may be. Sometimes freewrites that become songs, lyrics that become stories, tweets that become articles. I love a challenge; it’s the best way for me personally to grow.

I pray ... my creative presence encourages more to take their craft to the next level and to expand their experience on this planet. My hope is that my words leap off the page/song/stage and into the souls of many, transforming into positive action. 

Read the complete interview here

Coping With Writer’s Jealousy
by Liz Lazzara
March/April 2016 issue of Writer's Digest

Stephen King said, "If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” It’s true: If you want to become a writer, you have to read authors you admire—works that you feel are better than your own. This is how you grow.

When you read others’ work and follow them online, however, it’s easy to slide into jealousy—where reading and connecting stops being joyous and becomes an impediment to progress. Indeed, never-ending awards shortlists or humble brag-ridden Facebook posts can arouse the green-eyed monster in the most grounded writers. Fortunately, you can leverage envy to your advantage.

For more of this fascinating article, click here.

Ten Top Writing Tips and the Psychology Behind Them

by Josh Bernoff

There are plenty of folks happy to tell you how to write better, just as any doctor will tell you to "eat right and exercise.” But changing your writing (or eating) habits only happens when you understand why you do what you do. I can help you with that.

That proposal or email you wrote must now compete for attention with Facebook and the Huffington Post. Here’s how to compete more effectively, and why you’re not doing it already. (The wall chart for these is at the bottom of the post.)

Click here for the rest of this article.

Is the Writer’s Only Responsibility to His Art?

Zoë Heller and Francine Prose discuss the obligations of artists in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, January 19, 2016. This article takes on "the belief that artists are entitled to be morally careless...one of the more tenacious parts of our Romantic inheritance."

With So Much Writing Talent in Seattle, How to Get it into Print?

by Nicole Brodeur
December 18, 2015 in the Seattle Times

An interview with Jen Worick and Kerry Colburn, who run "The Business of Books." This article details programs which help local writers realize their ambitions.

The Work Habits and Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Recently published from Antioch University, a short essay on work habits of famous creative people.

Hedgebrook: 4 Reasons Aspiring Authors Should Get to a Bookstore

Featured post from the Farmhouse Table Blog
By Jen Worick and Kerry Colburn

Well, duh, right? Writers are readers and haunt bookstores the way Nearly Headless Nick haunts Hogwarts. But savvy aspiring authors know that the bookstore or library is also the best place to gather key intel when creating a book proposal or query letter. Here are just a few invaluable things you’ll unearth when visiting your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore.

1. Consider how your book should be positioned.

It’s fine to use the interwebs when researching your book, but nothing beats actually beelining to your local bookstore or a Barnes & Noble. Look at the various sections where you think your book might fit in. Is it a travel memoir that could fit into both Travel and Memoir/Autobiography? Are you writing a novel with a teenage protagonist that might fit better into Young Adult rather than Fiction? Scanning the shelves can offer insight on how your book should be pitched. READ MORE

Hedgebrook: How to Get Book Reviews (or How to Run Your Own Book Review Campaign)

Focus on Craft: Insights into writers and their process
By Beth Barany, originally published on Writer's Fun Zone

Many authors think that it is totally time-consuming to find reviews for their books. I admit, just like everything else, it takes time. You can get book reviews.

If you want to develop a long-term relationship with one of the key influencers in our industry—book bloggers—then you’ll want to learn how to get reviews for your books.

In this article I will cover how to get reviews from book bloggers. They are people who love to read and have started their own blog or video blog, are active on social media, and love to connect with authors. This article does not cover how to get industry reviews from such publications as Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, newspapers, or magazines. | READ MORE 

Writing Begets Writing, from the PNWA Newsletter

Here at the Writer's Cottage we have the opportunity to meet a lot of writers in various stages of their writing journey.  Some are just getting started, hit with the bug that compels them to start putting word on a page, others are best selling authors many times over. Regardless of where we are on the journey, we all struggle from time to time getting words on the page. Here a few suggestions to try the next time you're stuck (and there will be a next time):

Set a timer & go -  like exercise, every bit counts.  Set timer for 10 minutes or even an hour and don't stop writing till the bell rings

Scribble before you start - If you're struggling with a scene, take a moment and scribble out what's supposed to happen in the scene before you hit the keyboard.  It may be all you need to loosen up the flow.

Speak your writing - Take advantage of all the technology readily available and speak your story into your phone or your computer. Voice recognition to text has come a long way - and it counts as writing.

Go retro - If you usually write on a computer, try switching to pen and paper.

Take it on the road - Try writing in a new place like a coffee shop, a park, a mall, the car.  It's a great way to train your brain that you can in fact write anywhere.

Binge & Nibble - Sometimes you have the luxury of a large block of time to really dig in and write till your fingers are numb.  But if binge opportunities aren't readily available, nibble. Take small bits of time and go for it.  As any dieter will tell you, nibbling can add up.