What is your writing life–and how did it begin? Once upon a time, you began to write–to capture stories that flew like butterflies in the thin air of your imagination. You brought to the page a richness of color, charm, curiosity, and quest. Your writing life had its own existence, whether in a journal, personal letters, blog posts, short stories, poetry, novels, or a memoir.
There are so many magical ways for words to come together for those amazing 26 letters to form into words, paragraphs and stories. It seems there are distinct stages of our writing lives–all of which overlap and combine, inviting us to tune the instrument of our creativity forever.
The first stage is a kind of pregnancy–when we are full of ideas, and are motivated to write, when our writing is driven by inspiration.
Next, perhaps the “be a writer” bug has bitten. We want to write, but now we wrestle with the “should, ought to and going to” phase. This wrestling leads us to understand the concept of “inner conflict,” and will someday appear in one of our stories.
We come to understand that either we write or we don’t. We decide to apply ourselves to the desk chair, we outline, muse, and take classes. Our projects form in our imagination and end up on the page. We write with inspiration and perspiration. This phase is the one that revisits and repeats, if we are lucky, and if we keep writing.
After completing a short story, flash fiction, some poems we send out our work. One day, someone validates our efforts and we are published! Warm glow, happiness, and more writing follow. Then, rejection slips and depression, along with the realities of the Cycles of the Writing Life.
Finally, the larger work that we spent years writing–we thought it would take only a few months–is complete. Depression sets in at the idea of writing a proposal and finding an agent, but now, in 2010–we know there are so many ways to share our work–from traditional publishing to blogging, self-publishing, Scribd, Facebook, and Twitter, among others, and we decide to find out everything we can about all these options.
And our recent interview with New York Times Best Selling Author Naomi Wolf is now available on the NAMW website. Ms. Wolf is graciously extending NAMW members a discount on her upcoming webinar and she took the time to speak with me about the depth of her passion for sharing her knowledge. Be sure to listen to the interview to learn more!
For our upcoming Roundtable this Thursday, you can now send us your questions in advance via email or by posting them in the comments section on this page on the NAMW website. Be sure to participate live on the call or by posting or email your questions! And if you can’t make it, and are not a member, be sure to sign upto receive a link to stream an audio version of a recording of the Roundtable. As always, our NAMW members will find the mp3 to stream or download from the member dashboard, along with nearly 60 other audio recordings from the experts on memoir writing, publishing, working with agents, editors and marketing your book and self!
Remember–be brave, write your stories!
We have several events and new workshops that are being planned for the coming months at NAMW that will be helpful to the development of your skills as writers, memoirists, or personal historians. You can find all the finalized events outlined below, but please be sure to visit the NAMW website often for new additions!
NAMW Day-Long Writing Conference: October 15, 2010: Emerging Trends for Successful Writers in a Digital Era – 5 Sessions with Audio Recordings of Each Session Available for ALL Pre-registrants & NAMW Members! Cost: FREE for EVERYONE: Pre-Registration Required–Click Here to Learn More!| Can’t Make the Live Event? Click Hereto Receive an Audio Recording of Event!
Session3 Making Meaning with Memoir While Using the Latest Tools with Hyla Molander, Author of Drop Dead Life: A Pregnant Widow’s Heartfelt and Often Comic Journey through Death, Birth, and Rebirth | Start Time:12:30 PM PDT | 1:30 PM MDT | 2:30 PM CDT | 3:30 PM EDT | Session Length: 1 Hour
Session5 How to Use Narrative Arc and Its Importance in a Digital Erawith Adair Lara, Award Winning Columnist, Author of 10 plus Books including Naked, Drunk & Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay Start Time: 3:00 PM PDT | 4:00 PM MDT | 5:00 PM CDT | 6:00 PM EDT | Session Length: 1 Hour
Memoir Writing in the Wine Country: October 29-October 31, 2010: 2010 Harvest Writing Retreat with Linda Joy Myers. Weekend Writing Workshop with Wine Tasting and Spa Treatment Options.Visit the NAMW Website for full details including new lodging & entertainment options!
November Writing Roundtable Teleconversation: November 11, 2010: No Limits: Realistic Tips for Turning Your Writing Into More Than a Hobby, with Sara Morgan, Author No Limits: How You Can Escape the Clutches of Corporate America and Linda Joy Myers, Author and NAMW President | Cost: FREE FOR EVERYONE |Pre-Registration Required: Click Here to Register | Can’t Make the Live Event? Click Here to Receive an Audio Recording of Event!
December Writing Roundtable Teleconversation: Thursday December 2, 2010: Knowing When You Are Ready to Write and Tips to Help You Stay Motivated to Move Forwardwith Mary DeMuth, Writing Coach and Author of Multiple Books including How to Write a NonFiction Book Proposal | Cost: FREE FOR EVERYONE |Pre-Registration Required: Click Here to Register | Can’t Make the Live Event? Click Here to Receive Audio Recording of Event!
We are pleased to announce that Christine McDonald has been selected by the NAMW Advisory Board as the NAMW Featured Member of the month for October 2010! You can visit the NAMW website to read our interview with Christine and watch for her guest blog post coming soon to NAMW!
Congratulations, Christine! We are very proud to have you as an NAMW member!
I’ve been feeling irritable and nervous about my book manuscript–unsure how to pull it off and unhappy about a constantly receding deadline. For a variety of legitimate reasons, the project has been on the back burner for nearly two months. Now, my pile of note cards that holds the wisdom of weeks of research reading sits on my desk, looming like Mt. Everest.
I’ve lacked both energy and focus to tackle it and incorporate new-found wisdom into the existing structure. I’ve dabbled at placing bits and pieces, but I knew the whole manuscript needed to be torn apart and reorganized. Rather than begin that daunting task, I’ve played endless hours of Bejewled2, knitted, organized my office, even cleaned the kitchen cabinets.
Today I arrived in Squirrel Hill fifteen minutes before my dentist appointment and immediately found parking directly across the street. Rather than plunking an extra quarter into the meter, I pulled out a scrap of paper and began outlining a new structure. I didn’t think, I just jotted down an outline. For five minutes I wrote without specific thought or effort. At the end of the five minutes, I had a flawless outline for the new structure. Moving the existing pieces around to fit it will be easy, and I’m guessing that the new material can be incorporated in several days, not lots of weeks.
On one level I knew I was incubating the idea. I understand how the brain percolates below the level of awareness, and I even believe that some of this work is done “out there somewhere.” Ages ago I became aware that much of my writing comes from some source beyond my awareness, whether that’s my own subconscious or some higher intelligence. I know all these things. I believe all these things. I’ve experienced this phenomenon. And yet, on the surface level, I still felt anxiety over the uncertainty.
I also knew that I’d set myself a deadline for returning to the project with enthusiastic engagement. That deadline was today, after the completion of a visit from our daughter with her husband and tiny daughter. This morning I wasn’t yet up to the task. I didn’t expect to be up to the task before Friday, and had anxious feelings about my ability to reengage even then. So, in spite of everything, the unanticipated outpouring of creativity in the car today was an awesome experience. It reminds me to trust my gut feeling that it isn’t time to write. When it’s time to write, the writing will emerge as certainly as a baby is born. These moments of epiphany are energizing and affirming.
This is my style of writing, based on my personal beliefs and temperament. I can’t assure anyone else that the same thing will happen for them, though I do believe that the same energy and forces are available to anyone. I believe that it takes trust in your own intuition, trust in the process of the human brain, and trust in the pervasiveness of a Universal Intelligence, known to most of us as God, who will put the perfect message and words in your mind if you leave it open and waiting.
How do you tap these resources? I can’t give you a complicated formula. I sense a need to tell a particular story, and maybe I jot down a few sentences. Then I leave it alone. I may think about the story now and then, but I leave it alone. Eventually I’ll feel compelled to sit down and write about it, and the result is the story that needs to be told.
Writing Prompts for Fall 2010
As the seasons change, our senses are bathed in golden light, crimson leaves and the threads of cool air that pass over our skin. New seasons give us rich sensual data that remind us to draw upon them as we write our stories. Sensual details ground us in a place and time. When you use specific details you invite your readers to your writing with a universality of shared experiences of the seasons.
Write about fall smells, colors, and sounds. Use sensual details of all four senses: color, sound, smell, texture.
What were your family rituals in the fall? Raking leaves, the start of school, or getting ready for the holidays. Show through action these rituals, and how you felt about them. Be sure to use those sensual details so we can feel the scene.
How did you feel when you were alone on an autumn day? What did you do? Where would you be? Include details of place and setting in your writing–as they ground us in time and place.
Write about teachers–did you look forward to school? What were your favorite subjects and teachers, and why.
Is there a spirituality of this time of year for you? Talk about how and when you experience this and what you do.
Editor’s Note: Snow Day was originally written by Billy as a memoir. Learn more about this truly authentic author at our 2010 Fall Telesummit–Sign Up Today!
From the book jacket:
Awakened by radio broadcasts urging the residents of a small Virginia town to take a snow day rather than travel to school and work, Peter Boyd finds himself with both an unexpected day off and an opportunity to find big truths in small moments and surprise encounters.
Peter believes he has a good life, with a decent job and a family he loves. But he’s quietly worried he’ll be cut when downsizing takes effect at the factory, his family will lose the home they love, and his faith will crumble along with his bank account.
Through the course of one day, Peter finds himself revisiting his past through old friends, finding out there is a Santa Claus–though he drives a truck instead of a sleigh–and rediscovering that whatever comes in life, hope is the only choice that makes sense.
In lyrical writing, debut novelist Billy Coffey offers a heartwarming and beautifully crafted book about the faithful way God speaks even when we won’t listen. Like Peter, you’ll reaffirm that faith is worth having and your worst fears are no match for an astounding, loving God.
Praise for the Book:
“This is a gentle read and a sure bet with its even pacing, descriptive language, and humor. Look for more by this talented author in the future.” (Library Journal 2010) “SNOW DAY is the kind of book you savor, then read again. Simple, yet profound. Spare, but beautiful. I loved this book.” (Mary DeMuth, author of the Defiance Texas trilogy and Thin Places 2010)
“Everybody needs a snow day! To slow down and take a breath of what really is important.” (Don Mattingly, 1985 American League MVP 2010)
“Author Billy Coffey weaves a poignant and poetic tale of a man rediscovering his faith and purpose. Told with charm and humor, SNOW DAY reveals how unexpected detours, ‘chance’ encounters, and everyday experiences lead to life’s most valuable insights.” (Laura Cross, author, screenwriter, and writing coach 2010)
“SNOW DAY invites readers to shift into slow gear and engage in people’s lives. Through the narrator’s charming, disarming personality, I’m reminded how important it is to ask good questions, listen closely, and see beyond the surface talk into a person’s heart and soul. Billy Coffey has created a town full of winsome, appealing characters with strengths and struggles, faith and foibles-they’re so realistic, I wish I could pick up and move to that fictional town in Virginia in order to get to know them better. But the message of this novel is that no matter where we live, those people and their insights are all around us; meaningful stories are just waiting to be told. All we need to do is slow down enough to pay attention…all we need is one good snow day.” (Ann Kroeker, author of Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families)
About the Author
Billy and his wife, Joanne, live with their two children in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. A product of his small-town locale, Billy counts as assets his rural authenticity, unwavering sense of purpose, and insatiable curiosity–all of which tend to make his front porch a comfortably crowded place.
Writer’s Digest Presents: How to Write Your Lifestory or Memoir: Exploring Truth, Memory and Craft with Linda Joy Myers
Register today to attend this live webinar!
Session date: Thursday, October 21, 2010
Starting time: 1:00 pm Eastern
Duration: 90 minutes
Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 1 year–Click Here to Learn More Or Sign Up
South Bay Writer’s Present: Truth or Lie: Writing on the Cusp of Memoir & Fiction with Linda Joy Myers
November 6, 9:30-3:30 | Lookout Restaurant
605 Macara Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Registration @ 9:30; workshop begins promptly at 10; continental breakfast and lunch included.
Women of Faith 2010 Writing Contest Submission Period: August 1, 2010 through January 15, 2011. All writers of previously unpublished full-length books, fiction or nonfiction, of any genre, subjects, and/or memoirs are eligible to enter.Click Here for complete contest details.
How to Find and Apply to Writers’ Colonies
By Alexis Grant, NAMW Featured Contributor
Editor’s Note: This article is re-published with permission from Alexis’ blog
Since announcing that I’ll head to The Hambidge Center for an artist residency this fall, several writers have asked for advice about how to find and apply to similar programs, places where writers gather to produce and share creative energy.
I’m no expert. Remember, I applied to five colonies, and was accepted at only one. But here’s what I learned from the process:
Join the Alliance of Artists Communities. There’s a $25/year fee, but it’s worth it for access to this organization’s searchable database of residencies. You can also sign up for monthly e-mail alerts about upcoming program deadlines.
Aim high, but be realistic. Use the same strategy as when you applied (or helped your kids apply) to college: Pick a few “reach” residencies (programs that will be difficult to get into) and at least one “safety” (a sure bet). My mistake in my first round of applications was picking only super-selective colonies, including MacDowell, the most prestigious program in the country.
After receiving rejections from three of the four programs I initially applied to, I decided to give it one more shot, with a different strategy. Using the AAC database, I found a program — Hambidge — that met my desires but also had a higher acceptance rate. And what do ya know, I got in. [Click Here to Read More & Visit Alexis' Blog]
I loved Linda Joy's two-hour workshop on memoir writing! She gave us such terrific information--all of which was helpful no matter what stage of memoir writing we were in. She has such an embracing style--this was not like most teleseminars I have taken, in that Linda Joy encouraged participation of the audience (she did not mute us), and no matter what participants said or asked, she always made everyone feel like their contribution or question was valued.