18th Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawaii’s Children

04-green-streepsI’ve been juggling two boys under two and working on an upcoming article for Hawaii Business magazine. Plus, I’m still writing for Psych Central. I won’t lie. It’s a lot. Some days feel near impossible. But there is joy and pleasure in pursuing the written word so I do so happily even if I have to muster stored energy (which may or may not require a cup of Jo).

This weekend I got to do something thrilling. Taking a break from dirty diapers would be a vacation in itself. But I also got to attend the 18th Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawaii’s Children: Imagining Worlds, Fictional and Real at Chaminade University. I only had time for one session and it was a good one.

I attended the Saturday afternoon talk with Kailua raised author Graham Salisbury. If you’re not familiar with the name, he’s the guy behind the book turned movie Under the Blood Red Sun. I found him humble, and inspiring in his down to earth, practical wisdom on writing a book. I hope his savory bites of wisdom will inspire you to keep writing as well.

The most important part of writing a book is answering the question why?

For most of us wannabe writers, we’re zoomed in on the what. Salisbury says that the why, (e.g. why are you doing this book/ideas/project?) is the key to not only persevere through reject and blocks, but to create successful work.

Play with possibilities.

Instead of just one action or ending, Salisbury says he writes up plausible situations on three by five index cards.

Keep a notebook and pen by your bed.

When you’re not sure what to do next, ask a question before bed. Salisbury says to leave a notepad and pen on hand. If you wake up with an inspiring thought, keep your eyes closed while writing it down. He believes that once you open them, the idea will be lost.

First drafts suck.

For all those that want to give up after the first draft, you need to hear this. Salisbury says, “First drafts are a struggle cause you’re creating something that doesn’t exist.” After three hours of working on the initial draft, he’s burnt out. After he reads it, some of his thoughts are: “Nobody’s going to want to read this junk. It’s garbage.” Sounds familiar? Yep me too. Thank God it’s normal and not more reason to give up.

Revision is magical.

Salisbury says he enjoys the revision process because “things happen that didn’t exist the first time.” Working to make your first draft into something publishable is where all the magic happens.

Listen to your characters.

How do you know which point of view to use? Salisbury says, “The person you hear the most” is the best person to tell the story.

First pages are everything.

Writers make sure you spend adequate time on that first page. Salisbury says, “By page one, you’ll know if you’re in the hands of a good writer.”

Writer’s block doesn’t exist.

Salisbury doesn’t believe in writer’s block. When he feels stuck he does two things: 1) He writes anyway even if it’s drivel. 2) He’ll read other people’s work and mark passages that work well. That will get him from stuck to inspired.

Lastly, he shares this: “If you just want to write a book-that’s just words on paper. Passion is needed to make you put your feet on the floor in the morning.”

Top 10 Productivity Secrets of Famous Authors

writing desk

{guest post by Linda Craig}

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a novel, an article that’s about to be published online, a script for a film or anything else; you’re probably bound to a specific timeline. As any other writer, you would probably want to write as much content as possible in a shorter period of time.

If you’re looking for productivity boosters, maybe you’ll get inspired by the practices of some of the most successful writers known to this day. Here are 10 secret practices that have helped authors to become more successful:

  1. Word count goals

Anthony Trollope, one of the most prolific novelists of the Victorian era, had a productivity practice that works well for everyone: he set goals to write 250 words every 15 minutes. That’s 500 in half an hour, and it seems like a lot of work. If you don’t think you can achieve such productivity, feel free to lower the word count or increase the time frame. The important thing is to set a goal and work towards it.

The National Novel Writing Month, a famous contest that requires writers to write at least 50,000 words in a month, is based upon this principle of productivity. Although you’ll be focused on quantity, you mustn’t forget about quality. For that purpose, you can try assingmentmasters.co.uk – a writing service that will help you maintain the quality high while produce more content.

  1. Writing about terrible things

There is hardly something that will inspire you to write more than terror, horror, and suffering. Daniel Handler, an American novelist we know by the pen name Lemony Snicket, had a peculiar inspiration for writing A Series of Unfortunate Events: he thought about all horrible things that could happen to orphans. His publishers doubted the first novel would sell, but the author ended up publishing a series of 13 books on the same theme.

  1. Picking the right tool

Did you know that Charles Dickens was a little too attached to ink in a specific blue color? This type of ink dried faster, so the author could write as fast as he could without making a mess. The right tool is crucial for productivity in writing. If you have a favorite type of pen and notebook, then stick to them. If you prefer using specific type of writing software, then you can stay within that comfort zone.

  1. Hiring a fast typist

When Dostoevsky had to write a book by a really close deadline determined by his publisher, he hired a talented young stenographer – Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, who later became his wife. With her help, he finished The Gambler within a month. Have you read that book? It’s a true masterpiece we are able to read thanks to this magnificent woman.

Maybe a typist can help you achieve much greater productivity, too. He/she will write as fast as you can talk, and the entire process will start flowing effortlessly once you get used to each other. Don’t worry; you don’t have to marry your typist if you don’t want to.

  1. Staying in the dark

If we had to pick the strangest productivity method, Marcel Proust would definitely win. When he wanted to get into productivity mode, he covered his windows with dark curtains and shutters, and he lined the ceiling and the walls with cork to make the room soundproof. He slept through the day and wrote in the night, so he was disturbed by sunlight.

If you’re a night person, you can try this technique, too. You don’t have to make it that drastic; just find a way to make the room dark throughout the day, so you can sleep without being disturbed. Then, you’ll have the entire night for writing.

  1. Isolation from the world

Victor Hugo also had an extreme method when he wanted to force himself to finish The Hunchback of Notre Dame – he asked his servant to lock all his clothes away. Some people say he stayed naked, and others say he wrapped himself in a huge grey knitted shawl. Whatever the case was, he couldn’t get dressed to go out, so all he could do was stay home for months and do nothing but write.

If you notice that the outside world is getting you distracted, then find a way to stay at home and work patiently on your piece.

  1. Getting a cat

You need someone to support you, don’t you? People talk too much, and dogs can get too happy sometimes. A cat, on the other hand, is the perfect companion of a solitary writer. Edgar Allan Poe knew best – he was supervised by his cat Catterina. He adored this cat!

When you love a pet and you care for it, it will believe in you. It will make you feel loved and safe, so you’ll gain more self-confidence and you’ll find more pleasure in writing.

  1. Renewing the bond with nature

Isolation works for some writers, but sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air before you can continue writing with full speed. Did you know that Herman Melville took long walks when he needed to get more creative? He owned a 160-acre farm in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he wrote Moby-Dick.

No, you don’t have to buy a farm and walk the fields when you want to write more. However, you do need to take a walk and renew the bond with nature. Breathe and observe the world that surrounds you. There is nothing that can inspire you more than the world itself.

  1. Getting inspired by scents

Friedrich Schiller kept a drawer full of rotting apples in the desk where he used to write. That aroma probably reminded him of something that triggered his creative juices. You’ll be surprised to discover what scents can do to your brain. Take an old perfume, smell it, and it will immediately take you back to some scenes that mattered. You’ll experience old memories all over again.

Find the scents that inspire you and surround yourself with them when you write. It can be a candle, some meal or dessert, or anything else that makes you want to write something right away.

  1. Organizing the desk!

Alexandre Dumas used different colors to organize the types of literature he wrote. If your desk is full of books and paper, then you need to find a method that will introduce some order into your life and work. Keep things uncluttered and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by any unnecessary objects around you. Order will certainly speed up the process of writing.

So, are you ready to try some techniques that will make you a more productive writer? Take action today!

Linda1Linda is a professional editor at Assignmentmasters assignment writing service. She is currently working on her PhD project and writing useful articles for broad audience. Feel free to reach her by Twitter.

3 Lucky Breaks That Led Me to a Freelance Writing Career

TypewriterA lot of people want to know how to become a freelance writer. “How do you get paid for writing?” is what they often ask. When I think about what got me here, three lucky things needed to happen in order for this to occur.

  1. I met the “right” people. When I first decided to switch gears from therapist to writer and as a new freelance writer in Hawaii, I got lucky only because I met the right people. For example, I connected with a newspaper writer from San Jose Mercury who connected me with another writer. This writer ended up being friends with a business owner who just so happened to need a copywriter. Knowing someone in the industry, upped my reputation and helped me to land my first gig.
  2. I asked the “right” questions. A lot of times we don’t succeed not because we ask the wrong questions, but simply because we don’t ask. When an opportunity comes up, take the risk. If this comes to you in the form of a new acquaintance who is living your dream job, ask him or her how they got there. If you meet an editor, ask them if they’re looking for writers. It’s not asking that will prevent you from getting that freelance writing gig.
  3. I got the “right” gigs. I did my hard work. At the beginning, I didn’t always get paid to write. I didn’t always get paid well to write. But I did it. Over time, my portfolio grew and I could be more choosy. To become a freelance writer, you have to work hard like every one else. Sometimes this means rolling up your sleeves and writing about things you don’t really care about. Over time, you’ll get to choose.

I hope you catch what I’m saying here. To be honest, while there may be some luck involved, a lot rests in your hands. Instead of waiting for opportunity to come your way, make your own. Go to networking events (I only went to one before I scored my first paid magazine writing opportunity in Hawaii). Contact people in the area you’re interested and ask if you can do an informational interview (Talking with an expert in the field landed me my first copywriting job). And tell everyone you know you’re looking for writing opportunities. But most importantly, write whenever you can and about anything, just write! Every single thing that you write matters, because it’ll make you that much better of a writer.

What Editors and Agents Really Want

{Photo by hotblack}
{Photo by hotblack}

All the rejections from articles, essays, and poems lay in a heavy heap over my heart. They are evidence of one thing that I have to keep learning repeatedly.

Success doesn’t come from replicating successful writers.

This I have to tell myself after yet another agent/teacher recommends I read a bestselling book in hopes their innovative ideas, voice or style rubs off on me.

This after my insecurity makes me succumb to Oprah’s often told lesson of trying to imitate Barbara Walters. But she learned, “I can be a better Oprah Winfrey than a pretend Barbara Walters.”

But no matter how tempting it is to try to follow in your idol’s successful path, you will not fulfill your purpose until you have the courage to step out on your own two feet.

After almost a decade of being a freelance writer, I’ve learned that while you can get jobs by writing like everyone else, you become irreplaceable when you learn to hone in on what makes you you. You become valuable when you stop trying to write like everyone else and let your own voice shine through. You will become the sought after writer who doesn’t have to actively search for work when you have the confidence to write like you.

This may take years to build up courage.

It may take awhile to find your voice and your audience.

But you will find it.

I started a writing career first in Hawaii, then in California and back to Hawaii. I also write for a company on the East Coast. But what sets me apart from the gazillion other writers around the world is my experience, story and style.

That doesn’t me you don’t follow rules or listen to editors and agents. I’ve actually spent several years getting a BA in English learning how to write like everyone else so that I could afford to write like myself. But once you get it, once you learn the basic skills so that you can write, let yourself go. Stop comparing your writing to every successful writer/blogger/author out there. You won’t get very far if you adapt the style and tone of a writer you envy. Your writing will take off only when you let the words be indicative of your personality. When you risk showing who you are to the world, that’s when people will take notice. That’s when your writing will blossom.

5 Stages of the Writing Process

{Etsy wooden steps by A Rustic Garden}
{Etsy wooden steps by A Rustic Garden}

There are developmental stages for ages. Stages for grief and loss. And even stages of sleep, pregnancy and labor. So I thought why not writing? Here are the 5 stages most writers go through from idea to publication.

Stage 1: Eureka!

Stage 1 is probably my favorite part. It’s when ideas form from nothingness. They’re conceived when showering, walking, and time spent zoning off into space. It’s an exciting part of the process when I can’t wait to get to my laptop or a notepad to jot down the crazy thoughts bouncing around in my head. It might be days or weeks until you get to stage 2. I had an idea for this blog post several days before I pondered it long enough to put it into a post.

Stage 2: Outpouring {For Your Eyes Only}

Stage 2 is a time when only you and your computer should be savvy to your work. Don’t try to edit it. Don’t read it aloud to a friend, your partner, to any one. Give yourself the freedom to write without your thinking cap on, without your editor, without limitation. This part is pretty fun. When you can quiet the censor, you’re completely free to explore.

Stage 3: A Little Here, a Little There

Stage 3 is when you invite the editor for a cup of tea. Just long enough to make sure what you wrote the day before on your stage 2 high, makes any sense. Let her weave in and out, cut here and there, delete a few misspelled words. Then leave it and return when you’re ready to do some heavy duty revising.

Stage 4: Down and Dirty

This is where the hard work comes in. It’s not usually my favorite part because it involves left-brain critical thinking. Send your right brain creative side on vacation and get critical. Be harsh, demanding and discriminating. If you don’t, your editor will. Read it objectively. Would you continue reading after the first paragraph? Would your eyes glaze over after that page? Does that word feel uncomfortable like a too tight shirt? Take it out. Read. Reread. Now is the time to share it with those you trust. Get your markers out!

Stage 5: You Can See the Light

You’ve spent days, maybe even weeks on stage 4. You’ll know you’re reading for stage 5 when you’ve read it without wincing. There are a few choice words that can be shifted, removed and replaced. Do it now! Put on a fresh pair of eyes after you’ve set this one aside at least for a day. Read each sentence as a separate entity and then each paragraph, then page. Does everything flow? Yes? Then you might be ready to send it out.

Why All Writing is Good Writing (even the bad ones)

{Etsy journal by CraftColorfully}
{Etsy journal by CraftColorfully}

What you write is worth the effort.

Even if it never gets published. Anywhere.

Even if not a single person lays their eyes upon it.

Even if no one emails you, calls you or messages you that it’s the best thing they’ve ever written.

It’s worth it even if it’s the worst thing you’ve ever wrote.

Even if it follows hundreds of rejection slips.

Even if it’s tucked in a drawer, never leaves your computer or your laptop.

It’s worth it simply for the act of writing itself.

Let your words write itself. Don’t judge it. Don’t tear it apart. Don’t pull at it the way you would a loose thread which would unravel the whole quilt before it’s even complete.

It’s worth it because all writing is a work-in-progress.

Respect your words. Let it be the unfinished canvas. Love it for what it is though it may not buy you fame, wealth, or prestige. It will buy you practice. It will give you confidence. If you let it be, one day you will understand its purpose.

Cruisin’ to Make the Muse Come In

{By OhMafelt}
{By OhMafelt}

Your muse. That nefarious, unpredictable, fickle elf (but don’t tell her that, I want to get on her good side!).

Many writers say you don’t need one. Just put fingers to keyboard and type.

Me? I need one. When I write when I’m fatigued, when I’m ill, when I’m uninspired, my work is kind of trashy. Ends up being deleted the next day. In my opinion, sick days are best for transcribing and editing.

But there are secret ways I’ve learned to ease the muse out. It’s the reason why I’ve been bubbling up with ideas lately. I can’t write them down fast enough. I thought I’d share the things I’ve learned with you. Things like…

1) Visiting a museum. 

Museums are mecca for inspiration. Drown yourself in the artistic splendor of another and it’s difficult not to be inspired. They’ll quench even the most thirsty creative.

2) Lying down.

When you’re lying down and resting, your mind suddenly floods with ideas. Believe me. It’s happened every time I’m about to go to sleep. Keep a notebook nearby.

3) Taking a shower.

Maybe it’s the sound of the water or the fact that like the one above, your mind is suddenly excited that you’ve stopped playing with your smartphone long enough to listen to it.

4) Exercising.

Why is that the best ideas come when I’m swimming, on a treadmill or doing something else where I can’t jot down an idea with a pen and a notepad?

5)  Pouring over books and magazines.

I’m notorious for this-I’ve got a stack of books and magazines piling up on my nightstand or spilling over my Kindle at any given time. And it’s not just on one topic. I’ve got non-fiction and fiction in there and everything from healing illness to taking care of kids because I know it only takes one idea to inspire another. And when you’re not paying attention, that’s when the muse is in.

What about you?

What do you do to invite your muse in?


How to Live Happily Ever After With Your Editor

{Etsy sign by CastleInnDesigns}
{Etsy sign by CastleInnDesigns}

It’s not over once you get that writing gig. To sustain a prosperous freelance writing career, you need to do more than get a job. You’re going to need to work hard at cultivating a mutually satisfying relationship so editors and clients will want to call you the next time a writing job comes around.

How do you do it?

Here are 4 agreements (inspired by Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom) to help you be that editor/client’s next go-to writer:

1) Be impeccable with your word. Being impeccable with your word means more than just being honest. It means delivering what you promise. If you agree to submit a 900-word article by Friday, make sure you do it. To develop trust, your actions and words must match up.

2) Don’t take anything personally. No one likes rejection. But when your idea or even your article gets canned, it sucks. And rightfully, so. But the only way to make it worse is to think that every person who doesn’t like your work, doesn’t like you. It’s difficult not to equate your own self-worth with your creative endeavors. It’s hard because everything you create feels personal. Let the process be personal, but be like a parent and when it’s all grown up, let it go. No matter what critiques you get back, don’t let someone’s words take away the power of what that piece did for you.

3) Don’t make assumptions. Just because you haven’t heard back from an editor in a few weeks, don’t assume they didn’t like your work. Most likely, they’re drowning in manuscripts and paperwork and just haven’t had a chance to respond. Check in with a quick email to see if you can help in anyway.

4) Always do your best. It doesn’t matter if what you’re working on pays $$$$ or $. You should provide every project with the same effort. You can’t control a lot of things in life. But what you can control is the quality of your work. Continuously show up with great content and you’ll get noticed.

Do all 4 and you’ll be on the right path toward freelance writing success.

Wooing an Editor

{Etsy greeting card by dekanimal}
{Etsy greeting card by dekanimal}

Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I’d thought it’d best to cover the topic of how to make an editor fall in love with you your writing. The key is to approach your new connection as you would a new relationship. Most writers take for granted how busy editors are and they send off an email as if they were already well-acquainted. But it’s a process. Take it slow and you’ll skip the fling and end up in a long, mutually satisfying relationship.

1) Get to know them.You don’t want to come across as a stalker so tread carefully. What you do want to know is how to spell their name correctly, and what their editorial needs are.

2) Get to know their audience. You’ll impress any editor if you can deliver ideas that are unique, are spun in a new way or that really speaks to their audience. Tip: Imagine you’re that publication’s biggest fan, what content would you wish they would cover that they haven’t already?

3) Get to know their publication. It helps if you’re a long-time reader. But if you aren’t, at least read a few issues and search their website to get a feel for the tone and style of the magazine.

4) Be enthusiastic. Just like people can tell how excited you are on the phone, I’m certain editors can read your true emotions from your email. You may be eager to just get published, but if you find a publication you really adore, it will come through in your writing.

5) Follow their guidelines. These days, it’s pretty easy to go searching online or through books like Writer’s Market to find out just what publications are looking for. Make sure you dot your i’s and cross our t’s. Because of how busy they are, some editors will quickly hit delete on anything that doesn’t match up with their rules and expectations.

6) Be persistent and patient. You don’t want to annoy them. But sometimes editors mean well, but get so busy they forget to respond. Give them enough time to let you know what they think of your pitch and then follow up. If that idea doesn’t work and you really want to write for that magazine, continue to query. It’s how I ended up writing for a few major publications. I just didn’t give up.

That’s how you get your foot in the door, but how do you maintain a relationship once you get it? I’ll cover it in my next post. But how about you? Was it a helpful tip? A kind note? Going out of your way to provide a perfect pitch? What tip(s) do you have to get an editor to fall in love with your writing?

5 Unexpected Ways You Should Be Looking For Writing Gigs

Etsy Glass Pendant by BayouGlassArts
Etsy Glass Pendant by BayouGlassArts

Finding writing gigs used to be a job on its own. I needed a full-time job to pay for the full-time writing job I was supposed to have. It was a ton of work and not much return. But that’s sort of to be expected when you’re just starting out. However, I quickly learned there were avenues of the freelance writing job search other writers were not taking advantage of. Here are a few less travelled paths that could help you find more freelance writing work no matter what stage of the writing game you’re in:

1.  Online ads: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Craigslist has been a surprising god send. It’s where I landed my first copywriting gig more than 6 years ago and where I continue to find reputable work from well-known companies. Not many writers like to dig through the scammy stuff to find gold. But it’s like going to a discount store. Spend enough time searching through the junk and you might find a gold mine.

Secret tip: If you want to make sure it’s a legitimate job, cross-check the contact info usually listed on Craigslist. These days with sites like LinkedIn, it’s easy-peasy to do so.

2. SEO: When I first started out, SEO sounded as foreign to me as UFO. Thank goodness it’s a lot less complicated and intimidating than it sounds. And surprisingly, it works! I’ve caught a lot of fish by making sure to draw in the right visitors through my site via appropriate keywords.

3. Be a big fish in a little ocean: While I was living in the Bay Area, I was like a tiny little goldfish swimming in a BIG ocean. There was a ton of competition there. Amazingly, I still landed a good number of lucrative writing gigs. But I also found much more success when I ventured outside my neighborhood. Don’t limit yourself to your hometown especially if you’re hometown is brimming with talented, experienced writerly folks.

4. Attend meetups and local events: I admit my true intention for going to meetups and events in my new hometown (Hawaii) was to network with potential clients. But I didn’t come across that way. In fact, I approached every social event as an opportunity to meet someone new, not to sell my services. Although I’m an introvert at heart and was completely nervous to do so, I have to say the one event I went to a year ago has paid off in multiple writing gigs. And not just from the publication that sponsored that one event. Once I got my name out there, I was able to capitalize on a writer’s favorite way of getting work effortlessly-referrals.

5. Believe in the power of a cold call: This surprised me too because I’ve cold called several times without any success. But then cold calls turned into internet emails and that somehow worked. It did take almost a year, but it was worth it. Imagine my surprise when a short email a year ago materialized into a writing project. What’s more amazing is that the editor who contacted me wasn’t even the person I initially cold called. Somehow my email was passed along into the hands of another editor. It’s always worth the effort to get your name out there. You never know when a short email or brief conversation could pay off down the line.

How about you? Any surprising ways you got a writing gig? Share please!