Wednesday, December 7, 2022

#ISWG: What I've Learned Lately + December Question

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

December Question: Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writing goals?

I do write more over the holidays usually because I’m a teacher, so those two weeks off are golden. But there are also a lot of family activities and events, so I often don’t get as much done as I’d like. So far, I haven’t been getting as much writing done this month, but Winter Break is coming.

Making Mistakes
from Bob Ross Incorporated

My husband recently asked me, “What if writers saw their mistakes as happy accidents?”
I’ve been also thinking of how I approach my other artistic pursuits. I crossed a huge hurdle with painting when I told myself, “I will make a mistake with this project. But that can be fixed (or made part of the painting).” What if we did that with writing? I’m doing that right now by writing in longhand first. It’s allowed me to treat this draft as a practice run, and that’s helped me deal with my perfectionist tendencies. 

Writing from the Heart


I'm currently reading A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, which is amazing. I really liked Saunder’s commentary about Turgenev’s "Singers." This story is about a singing contest where a technically correct singer loses to the singer who sings imperfectly but with soul. Saunders talks about how this story gave him insight into his own writing. For a long time, he wanted to be a “classic” writer and write “important” stories. Then he caught his wife laughing at a funny poem he’d written. He realized that maybe he wasn’t the next Hemingway, but more like Dr. Seuss. This made me think about my own writing. Am I trying too hard to be like one of my writing idols? Or am I writing what is in my heart, even if it doesn’t seem as great or important?

It’s okay to say no.

This year I’ve taken on an extra position at work where I mentor other teachers. I love this, but one problem is sometimes I’m so busy helping other people that I neglect my own teaching and planning! With writing, I often get so busy with helping other people or doing social writing stuff (conferences, webinars, etc.) that I don’t actually write. I’m learning it’s okay to say no, to put that oxygen mask on, so to speak, so I can get my own writing done. I’ve stepped back from critiquing at least for a season. And that’s allowed me to put more energy into my own stuff.

What about you? Do you write more or less during the busy holiday season? What is helping you this month with your writing?

Wishing all of you a lovely holiday season!

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

#ISWG: Finding Time to Write


Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

I’m having a hard time figuring out what to write this month.

I read so widely, that it’s hard for me to pick a genre for this month’s question.

But I’ve had a win lately. After years of struggling to find time to write, especially since I returned to work full-time, I found a solution.

1.  I write in the mornings before work. I set the bar really low for myself. I try to get up a half hour earlier than normal. It's been working. I don’t write every day, but I write most days.

2.  For my morning writing sessions, I handwrite. I draft and brainstorm ideas in a notebook. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’m finished with the rough draft and move on to editing, but I’m thinking about printing off my chapters and editing in longhand as well.

    Why longhand? I find it hard to add any more computer time to my day. And I can write a couple pages long-hand in 15 minutes, but I’m not able to do that typing. I also find I feel more willing to experiment when I can cross something off. Typing is different. It feels permanent and harder for me to change—or take risks.

3.  On the weekends, I input whatever I wrote during the week into my computer. I do some light editing, but I’m not going crazy since it’s a rough draft.

4.  Another thing I’m trying, since I’ve set aside too many writing projects lately, is that I’m keeping this one a secret. I haven’t even talked to my family about it, which is unusual for me. I have learned that both criticism and praise can kill my momentum.

5.  I am gentle with myself. Some days I’m too tired to write. Some days the words just don’t come, and I write notes or read a book instead. That’s okay. The road to creating anything, especially writing, is never straight.

Aside from actually getting some writing done, a few of the fringe benefits:

1.  I’m happier. I have a job that’s a giving type job and a family. It’s easy for me to feel burnt out sometimes. But getting even 15 minutes to jot down part of a scene or some ideas makes me feel like I still have a life outside of being a teacher and a mom.

2.  No more excuses. I’d become really good at coming up with reasons for why I wasn't writing regularly. Now I feel so empowered. I can do this—even if it’s just a few pages at a time.

    Yes, I’m still battling insecurities. My feelings about this project go up and down from day to day or minute by minute. Like always.

    But I finally feel like a real writer again. And that, my friends, is priceless.

    What about you? How do you find time to write in your busy schedule (because we’re all juggling a million things)?

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

#ISWG: What Would You Never Not Ever Write?

September 7 question - What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

At the beginning of my first writing class, the wonderful Meg Jensen asked, “What kind of books do you like to read?”

I thought it was a bit of an off-topic question. Most people shared a genre that they liked: romance, sci-fi, mystery.

I, a former English lit major, answered in my hoity-toity voice, “I like the classics.”

“Well, that encompasses a lot of genres,” Meg said. “What kind of books do you really like?”

I couldn’t give her a clear answer.

Later she explained that she asked that question because we tend to know the genre we read the best. It tends to be the genre we write.

What did that say about me? It’s not like I’m Dickens.

I’ve thought about that question over the years and realized something. The reason I couldn’t answer is because I’m an eclectic reader. I read a lot of things, and not surprisingly, write in a lot of different genres.

This fits my personality. I get bored easily and always like trying new things.

This month’s question was hard to answer. What genre would be the worst one for me? I’m not sure. I’ve tried almost all of them, but I have to say, the one I least enjoyed was dystopian.

I’ve never written a straight sci fi, though, and due to my lack of interest in outer space, maybe that’s another contender.

Dystopian was just too depressing for me. It made me live in “worse case scenario” land. And after that experience, I decided something. I want to write books that give people hope. Not that dystopian cannot give people hope. It should, and often it does.

Wading through the darkness in the middle was just too much for me.

Is there a genre you would never write?


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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

#ISWG: For Whom Do You Write?

This month's question: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

This month’s question got me thinking about how much I think about my audience when I write. I know the cardinal rule is to keep your audience in mind. But for better or worse, it really varies for me…

Middle Grade: I tend to have a specific person in mind when I write, usually a student, one of my sons, or a child of a friend. The common denominator is this child is struggling to find books they want to read. Or sometimes I’m inspired by a gap I see in MG books.

YA: These have generated the most enthusiasm from my adult critique partners. I usually start with an idea from my own life, so I feel like I’m writing more for myself, the book I would like to read. It's rare that I’m thinking of a specific teen…even though I'm pretty much surrounded by teens in real life.

Short stories: These are my experimental works. I try things in short stories I’d never do in a novel. Like writing from the point of view of a book!

Nonfiction Articles: I don’t write these much anymore, but I always wrote specifically for the publication, either off their wish list or theme list. But since I write for kids, I enjoyed the challenge of finding a way to explain an obscure historical tidbit in a kid-friendly way.

PBs: I'm just dipping my toes into this genre. Of course, I do have to please the reader, but I like the shorter form and word play involved.

I don't think it has to be either or. There is originality even when you have a strict form. Think of the sonnet! (Something I have never attempted.) The wonderful thing about writing is that even when I’m writing for other people, my story will be original just because I am the one writing it. It will be colored with how I see the world. I’m always looking to get better at my craft and engage the reader more…but  writing is also fun for me too. It's an adventure, no matter what I write.

My answer: Both!

How about you? Do you write to please the reader or yourself?

*Just a note that I won’t be able to be online for much of Wednesday. I will probably be late in reading other people’s posts and returning blog visits. But know that I do treasure every comment, and reading your posts inspires me to keep going!

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

#IWSG: Escaping to the World of Fiction


Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

When I was a little, I used to ask my mom repeatedly (as young children tend to do!) if we’d ever go back to living like they did in the “Little House” books. I imagined with glee the thought of electricity disappearing, growing all our own food, and cooking over a fire. I even liked to pretend our wood stove was the stove in Laura’s log cabin. Alas it never happened, and now, all grown up, I couldn’t do without electricity, thank you very much.

Me at 8, reading with my Grammie and longing for life in Little House land

But I still long for simpler times. Of course, the world in books is often a glorified rendition of another age, the hard parts smoothed over, but these are the books that I long to live in:

Anne of Green Gables


I can identify with Anne, because I flub big words and idioms just as much--and she's a writer too. My childhood was much like hers: playing pretend in the abandoned lots and creek near our house. I have a childhood friend, like Diana, who is like a sister, even though she lives too far away for me to see her often. Maybe I’m not longing for the world of the book, but to continue that carefree world of my childhood.

Jane Austen


I love this world because of the manners. I like how the characters don’t engage in TMI, and there’s a challenge to figure out about what people are saying behind their words. And people are always spending time together: house parties, balls, and teas. Unlike the Bennetts, we probably dine with less than four-and-twenty families.😀 But I still I long for a time when seeing people in person is more common than social media.


Moosepath League novels

I recently discovered this wonderful series set in Maine in the 1890s. Imagine a cross between P.G.Wodehouse, Garrison Keiller, and Dickens. There is always tons of word play (Sundry Moss and Capital Gaines are names of characters) and high jinx. The Moosepath league members are  kind to a fault, eager for adventure, and willing to help others. In the afterward, the author says he bases his characters on people he knows. It's nice to know that people like the Moosepath League still exist today. Perhaps I just need to look harder to find the good in others or aspire to be more like the Moosepath League myself.

As I look over this list, I am reminded of one of my goals as a writer: to write books that I want to read. 

I want to create a world where readers want to live. 

And as we’ve had more than our fair share of darkness in the last few years, I would like to be more like Van Reid of the Moosepath League and remind readers of what is good and true.

What fictional world would you like to live in? If you're a writer, how does that impact your writing?

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

When Writing Gets Tough, Write Differently

Sometimes it takes a village to get a writer unstuck!

Many years ago I attended an education workshop, Don’t Try Harder, Try Differently. What a great title! Although it may have been intended for teachers, it applies to writers too.  Don’t keep doing the thing that doesn’t work!

It used to be when I got stuck, I would just try harder.

This chapter or scene isn’t working? Just write the next one.

Keep getting rejections? Just send out more queries.

The novel isn’t working. My critique partners hate it, and maybe I hate it too. Just finish it.

But none of these things worked all that well.

What has worked:

1.    Accepting limits. Very few writers have the luxury to just write. Most of us are juggling work and family obligations. Recently, I’ve lowered my expectations for myself to writing one chapter every 1-2 weeks. I may be able to accomplish more in the summer when I’m not teaching. But I’ve also been exploring shorter types of writing: picture books, short stories. There’s something about taking the pressure off that makes me more creative.

2.    Take a break. It used to be when I hit a tough spot in my writing, I’d just press through. But I ended up with a whole mess of a novel. Now I see there’s always a reason for getting stuck. Sometimes it’s a plot hole or character acting out of character. It’s better to stop and regroup before I barrel through the end.

3.    Write outside your normal genre or write something just for fun. If I’m stuck with a novel draft, it helps to focus on shorter works, blogging, or maybe just writing in response to a prompt. (I’ve published two short stories from writing prompts!) It gives me a quick win. Poetry and journal writing are also good outlets.

4.    Read! When none of the above works, I read for fun. Sometimes a story will inspire me to go back to the project I’m struggling with. Sometimes it just reminds me why I write: to create for others the wonderful experiences I’ve had while immersed in a book.

5.    Community! I’m an introvert, and I don’t like group projects! But I have found that I really need other writers to keep me writing. Whether it’s swapping chapters over coffee, attending SCBWI webinars, or connecting with the #ISWG group each month, I need that outside accountability and inspiration to keep me going in the trenches.

How do you deal with the rough patches with your writing?

Photo credit: Aubrey Odom-Mabey, Unsplash

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

#IWSG: Writing Highs and Lows



This month's question this month is a good one.
It's the best of times; it's the worst of times.
What are your writer highs?
And what are your writer lows?


 1.    Seeing my words in print

 2.    Patching a plot hole—those nasty little beasts!

 3.    Finding the “just right” word

 4.    The people I’ve met along the way.  Kindred spirits (a.k.a other writers) are not as scarce as I used to think. (as Anne herself says)

 5.    New ideas, a.k.a. “The Shiny New Manuscript” syndrome

It's sparkly! It's new! Look a shiny new manuscript!


1.    Rejections or harsh critiques

2.    People who look at me like I have three heads when I tell them I’m a writer.

3.    Pounding on the keys even when I don’t feel like it.

4.    Writer’s block/getting stuck--Even though I've overcome several spells of writer's block, it's hard not to get discouraged.

5.    Condescending editors/agents--I understand their job is hard, but making fun of authors, especially in public, is not professional. 

What about you? What are your writing highs and lows?

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.