Would Hemingway, Fitzgerald or London Have Joined a SM Writers Group?

white fang

Source: Google Images/raptisrarebooks.com

I Often Wonder…

Did the great writers of the early to mid-20th century, like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Jack London, share their works with each other? If available, would they have joined social media (SM) like FB or writers’ groups? Sure, they drank (all three), sometimes together (Hemingway and Fitzgerald); caroused together (the same two); even shared a few women (Hemingway) with other men. But would they have wanted or needed SM? In their day, and for centuries prior, writing was a solo activity relegated to dark offices or the corner table at a local café. Maybe that’s why so many were heavy drinkers or alcoholics… maybe some contact with other writers outside of bars to discuss their works would have made it less lonely – or more sober.

Maybe.

No Time Except for Writing

Jack London was too busy living his stories to have sat around and kibitzed online. Fitzgerald and Hemingway knew each other and were friends in Paris in the 20s. They certainly drank together and partied till the wee hours. It’s what many of the great writers did back then. When they weren’t partying or off on an adventure, they were hunkered down in front of their typewriters or pencils/pads, scratching away at novels now considered some of the greatest literary works. Would/could a FB group have improved on that? Or are writers in the 21st century more insecure or more reliant on others’ opinions? Is that insecurity a result or side effect of SM? Or is the thought of toiling away, all alone, too frightening? Do we really NEED someone else’s input to craft a great story?

Social, To a Degree

Yes, we are social creatures by nature but writers have survived for eons working on their own… or have they? Perhaps there were many discussions among writers about plot, characters and settings. In the end, though, each writer must go it alone to write the story. It’s the last bastion of solitude enjoyed by fickle artists.

I often wonder, if any of them were alive today, what they would think of SM and its effect on writing. Hemingway might have enjoyed the celebrity SM offers (he did have a bit of an ego); perhaps Fitzgerald as well. But Jack, in my opinion, would have poo-pooed the notion that he needed to join a group for ‘support.’ After all, he wrote a thousand words a day on his own and often while out living one of his stories – tinker, tailor, oyster pirate, WRITER.

A life of WORDS from a life LIVED. All without social media. Amazing.

#ErnestHemingway #FScottFitzgerald #JackLondon #writersoninstagram #authorsoninstagram #fiction #greatnovels #novelists #tuesdaytwocents #thegreatamericannovel #socialmedia #facebook #instagram #twitter #authorsontwitter

Lingo is Just as Important as Location in Your Writing

harvard yard lingo

Source: Google Images/spreadshirt.com

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of references for Boston, MA (not unusual since I’m planning to move home soon and it’s always on my mind) and it got me thinking about the lingo (aka slang) in our American English and how it differs depending on where one lives. In a previous post I discussed the importance of weather to set scenes and overall stories; for characters, it’s vital for writers to research the local vernacular where scenes will be set. Just as important is the time period in which the story or scene takes place and research in this area is integral to getting the right feel for both the character dialogue and setting.

For Example…

In Massachusetts, those tiny candy sprinkles you put on cones are not sprinkles, they’re ‘jimmies.’ A ‘packie’ is a liquor store and anything you like is ‘wicked’ (very, really) good. ‘Dungarees’ are blue jeans and I called them that through the 70s. Having lived out here in the western part of the U.S. for so long I have finally replaced ‘grinder’ (pronounced ‘grindah’) with ‘sub’ (which I will stop as soon as I get home). A remote control is a ‘clicker’ (pronounced “click-ah”). But I refuse to refer to soda as ‘pop’ as it’s just plain silly. 

In Chicago, they eat ‘haht dahgs’ not hot dogs; ‘frunchroom’ is the front room or a room used for entertaining. They call soda ‘pop’ and ‘the’ becomes ‘da’ as in ‘Da Bears’ (football). In Texas and other parts of the south, ‘dad gum it’ and ‘ya’ll’ are popular. Smaller towns will have their own slang words, different from bigger cities. When possible, it’s a good idea to travel to these places to meet some of the people who live there to get an idea of what life is like for them.

No Time Like the Present… or Past…

Time periods are representative of language current to that time. In the ‘roaring 20s’ words like ‘copper’ (police), ‘bee’s knees’ (extraordinary person, thing or idea) and ‘behind the eight ball’ are just a few slangs made popular by 20s-era gangs, flappers and prohibitionists. A good international example is Shanghai. At one time, in the early-mid 20th century, Shanghai was so dangerous that the slang ‘shanghai’ meant to kidnap (and still does).

Writing this post helped me realize that the dialogue in my fiction stories is not location-centric. This means I need to research the local lingo based on where my stories are set. Funny how that happens – one minute I have an idea for a blog post and next thing you know I’m thinking about what I missed in my own writing. Sometimes we learn as we go, I guess.

Isn’t that a ‘wicked pissah.’wink #authorsoninstagram #writers #languages #englishlanguage #fictionwriters #mysterywriters #boston #slangwords #writersoninstagram #saturdaystories #amwriting #bookworm #grammarnazi #blogger #creativity #writerslife

What’s So Wrong with Ordinary Anyway?

Simplici_Tee_Staples

My “Simplici-tee” logo – copyright © 2021

An Ordinary Life Is Good Enough After All

I have to ask: what’s so wrong with ordinary anyway? Why do we always strive for MORE? When is it ENOUGH? As my logo above states, a simple life brings more happiness; the Chinese characters translate loosely to ‘simple qi, happy life’. (I’m working on getting the logo larger, ready for t-shirts.)

This has been a theme I’ve thought a lot about the past several years. As we mature, we gain wisdom and seek out simpler lives. I no longer desire the activity and complications of my youthful life. My days of chasing dreams and reaching for the proverbial brass ring have, thankfully, come to a close. It was an exhausting run that never really came to fruition in the ways I’d hoped. As is the way for many of us, I think.

Many chase dreams; few catch them; fewer have the courage (or energy) to live them. The rest of us settle for ordinary – and that’s good enough for me.

Ordinary Is Extraordinary

Why can’t ordinary be extraordinary? The story of ordinariness is one of a simple life, not reaching for the brass ring, finding happiness in the simple moments. Ordinary means seeing the beauty in the everyday, which can seem extraordinary. The Covid lockdown taught many that the small moments are the most precious. Mantras preaching entitlement abound but in reality you must EARN what you have (physically, emotionally, financially) and you’ll appreciate it more because you did. Ordinary, in this modern, over-ambitious, over-the-top-living, Kardashian-obsessed world, is possibly the perfect remedy.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” 

Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching

One can derive enormous pleasure from simple daily rituals. There’s a difference between living a ‘rich’ life and living an ‘enriched’ life – which have you chosen?

Keep It Simple

In my experience, artistic/creative people can be comfortable living a simple life. To focus on our art, our writing, on whatever gets us through each day is what matters most. Some may still strive for the limelight as it’s how artists can support themselves. Some strive to create and believe that the creating is what’s important, whether they support themselves with it or not. You have to choose which is best for yourself.

No matter what you choose, let it be extraordinary in the most ordinary way. That’s where true contentment lives.

#happiness #qi #simplelife #livesimply #laotzu #taoteching #writers #artists #creativity #chinesephilosophy #balancedlife #beextraordinary

I’ve Had It Up to Here So I’m Gonna Write About It

steph-up-to-here-1135x540

Source: Google Images/pinterest.com

As the saying goes (hence the title of this post), I’ve had up to HERE.

Enough Already

The war in Ukraine, Covid and its various affects on people and society (protests, “anti-vaxxers,” “vaxxers,” anti-maskers, fear-mongerers, lingering symptoms, community safety vs. individual rights, etc.), the lack of good paying jobs (despite what our government is crowing about, only low-paying retail/restaurant jobs are truly in abundance because nobody wants to work the crappy hours with rude customers who’ve been locked away in their homes for two years and have forgotten how to behave in public), the lack of affordable housing (having recently uprooted myself I’m experiencing this in a major way and it won’t resolve until I find a job where I earn what I’m worth which means I have to leave CA – and gladly, as I’ve already reserved my escape); the list goes on and on (as I could, trust me). I’m exhausted and frustrated with all of it.

Luckily, writing is a good outlet for those frustrations. 

So Tired…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older that the world’s busy-ness gets to me more easily. Maybe it’s because I’m artistic and sensitive and need more quiet in my life. Maybe it’s because our species seems to find immeasurable joy in violence and destruction, even if it brings about our own annihilation.

Lately, I find myself searching for feel-good movies instead of my usual action-driven films. I’m tired of the good guy/bad guy stories that repeat over and over (as if real life reflects that because it doesn’t). Perhaps I’m searching for a sense of inner quiet not found in outer society. Searching for that inner serenity that so many seek yet few rarely find. And it’s getting harder and harder (e.g., when I was 9, the global population was at ONLY 4 billion; life was slower, quieter, less crowded; no wonder I pine for “the good old days” – there were fewer of us).

…But There is a Way

Again, this is where writing can provide that much-needed inner peace and balance. Writing can be cathartic; driven by imagination and/or real life, stories abound. As writers, we can choose to reflect society and current events; we can choose to tell historical pieces (fiction or not) that help put our current lives in perspective; we can choose to shoot for the moon in fantastical stories of heroism laden with strong characters; we can choose to share pain and sadness, our characters weeping, surviving and overcoming great obstacles. We can choose.

Writing for ourselves (even if we’re just venting) and our readers (to inform and entertain) is what we do and how we find inner peace.

#writerslife #writersguild #writersdigest #fiction #nonfiction #authorsoninstagram #authorsontwitter #thewritinglife #writerblogger # #meditation #writersblog #wednesdaywisdom #literature #peaceandserenity

Update-Upgrade-Uproot-Upshot-Upbeat

PhotoFunia-1647029531

It’s that time again, when I take a closer look at my website and SM accounts and make some UPDATES. I tweaked this site a bit; I altered of some of the fonts and colors because I got bored with the way it looked. An updated site can help improve traffic flow as well as make it more aesthetic. That’s smart marketing.

I’m going to UPDATE my Twitter and Instagram user profiles over the next week from writer.mestengo to writeratmestengobooks (if it’s not too long for a username). I feel the new moniker speaks more clearly to who I am (writer) and where I’m located (mestengo books). Often it can take time to see when something as simple as a username needs to be updated for better results. More smart marketing.

I’m looking to UPGRADE Mestengo Books to a different layout, something more modern and up-to-date. I can’t seem to find a workable layout I like with both photos and text for my posts in WordPress, so I will consider the option of moving the site. Again, that’s smart marketing for writers if it brings in more readership and increases the readability of pages and posts.

At the end of this month, I will once again UPROOT myself. My current living situation has run its course. Due mainly to COVID, the cost of living on one’s own has become exorbitant and places to find are more scarce. Many of us are forced to share our living spaces to make life more cost-effective but not necessarily less stressful. I find that, as I get older (senior status now), living alone provides more satisfaction and peaceful solitude. I thoroughly love having a private space away from the rest of the world where I can do as I please, when I please, without explaining to anyone why or for how long. I paint more, I write more, I create more when I have that space to call my own.

Writers are solitary by nature. Do you find that living with others affects your writing? Positively or negatively? The UPSHOT for me is that I’m far more creative in my own space. Being cramped into a room in someone else’s house can be difficult, for a number of reasons. Perhaps that other person’s energy is not compatible and the feel of the house is stifling (like my current situation that I’m finally escaping). That can affect anyone’s creativity.

I remain UPBEAT, however, in my quest for that personal space that allows me to FLOURISH.

#fridayfunfacts #writingfiction #writingnonfiction #writersdigest #sololiving #amwriting #writerslife #fridayreads #followfriday #lovetowrite #lovetoread #writersofinstagram #writersontwitter #mustread #selfpublishing #bloggerlife #bookworm #bloggersgetsocial #instagram #twitter #goodreads

Can David Beat Goliath? FCRA Case Against Google Dismissed

David and Goliath

Source: Google Images/zacharyfruhling.com

I published a post on March 10, 2021 on data mining and our loss of privacy in this digital world. In that post, I mentioned a lawsuit filed by attorney Matthew Sandofsky against the mega-giant Google. In January of 2021, Matthew filed the lawsuit claiming that Google and similar companies “violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because employers and landlords can use the search engine to learn about a potential employee or tenant.” In the post, I wrote:

“I don’t know if his lawsuit has any teeth but I’m very curious what the District Court will decide. “

Toothless After All

Turns out the lawsuit didn’t have any teeth. On Tuesday, July 13, 2021 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts (Boston), the case was dismissed:

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 5 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“The complaint does not contain sufficient allegations of a FCRA violation to survive a motion to dismiss. Crucially, it contains no information providing a plausible basis that Google actually is a consumer reporting agency. Instead, it merely asserts, in conclusory terms, that “[i]n as much as [Google] returns search results on consumers not generally the subject of publicity, [Google] is a credit reporting agency under [the] FCRA.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). It therefore does not plead sufficient “factual content” for the FCRA claim to be plausible on its face. See Iqbal556 U.S. at 678. Rather, it “merely recite[s] the language of the [FCRA] in an attempt to come within the confines of the FCRA, or stretch the statutory language beyond its intended purpose,” and therefore must be dismissed. In re Sony Networks & Customer Data SecBreach Litig., 996 F. Supp. 2d 942, 1011 (S.D. Cal. 2014).”)”

(for full reading of the dismissal, click here)

Too bad. I was kind of rooting for the guy – hoping David would once again beat Goliath.

But Matthew aint givin’ up.

Takin’ One More Shot

He filed an appeal on August 23, 2021. Having read most of the dismissal, I’m not sure he’s got any chance of righting this perceived wrong. Sure, it’d be great to bring a Goliath like Google to its knees for some long-needed reckoning. I’m not hopeful it will happen any time soon. Can’t blame the guy for trying, though. Maybe the negative press will lead to something better down the road.

Sometimes all it takes is one unlikely hero…

Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 6-7 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“In any event, the complaint does not sufficiently allege that Google provides the information “for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f). While it does not appear that the First Circuit has addressed the question, at least three other Courts of Appeals have concluded that the FCRA mandates that an entity must have the specific intent that the information it furnishes be a consumer report in order to qualify as a consumer reporting agency.”)”

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 8 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“There is no allegation that the “employers, landlords[,] and others” who allegedly obtain consumer information from searches are charged a fee for obtaining that information. Simply making money—from advertisers or other sources—is not enough.”

“Accordingly, defendant’s motion to dismiss the FCRA claim will be granted.”)”

#Google #lawsuits #USdistrictcourts #Massachusetts #Boston #FCRA #saturdaystories #thedigitallife #datamining #consumerreports 

Whether the Weather is Important to Your Novel

First draft of book cover for Rescue on White Thunder

Today I read an interesting post from a fellow writer/author about using weather in our stories (thanks for the inspiration, Damyanti). That got me to thinking… about how every story needs atmosphere (figuratively and literally) and how weather can define a plot or reveal something about a character. And oddly enough, after reading Damyanti’s post and a couple articles on this subject, I realize that I don’t pay all that much attention to weather in some novels and I’m not sure why. (But now I will thanks to that post!)

“The setting of a story informs the mood, the attitude of the characters, and the presentation of the themes. One of the most important elements of the setting is the weather. In literature, weather plays many roles such as a plot device, a way to set the atmosphere, a symbol for cleansing or misery, and much more.”

Hannah Aster, Weather in Literature: Rain Is Never Just Rain, at https://www.shortform.com/blog/weather-in-literature/

My personal favorite is fire. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been transfixed by fire. It has a hypnotic quality about it whether it’s coming from your fireplace or blazing through a forest. I’m not a pyromaniac; I simply enjoy and respect fire for its beauty, danger and power as one of nature’s indomitable forces. Which is why I made it a running theme throughout both of my fiction novels (1 unpublished, 1 unfinished):

“Braddock and his team reached a grove of pine interspersed with hemlock and western red cedar above the trees burning to the southeast and dug as if their lives depended on it (because it did). The ground was still a bit hard from a cold winter and the digging was arduous. Fires spread quickly over a fresh, loose layer of humus covering the solid ground. Tree trunks caught fire one after the other as flames overran the surrounding brush and now-dead timbers toppled from last year’s big storm. The crackling roar of the fire amplified and they had to shout to hear each other. Braddock knew they would soon be forced to move to higher ground. Some of the firebreaks held but winds were increasing in strength and velocity, propelling fresh embers to other areas. More trees and small brush ignited, creating walls of flames that nearly licked the upper branches of the tall pines.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Fire in a story is a powerful motivator as it can often connote a life or death scenario: 

“Unaware of the situation below, Braddock scanned the perimeter. Flames were everywhere, from the pine needles and grass on the ground, to the upper branches of the trees. He hadn’t fought fires in a long time; but it’s something one never forgets, he reminded himself as he struggled to figure a way out. He had to find Annie – it was the one thing that drove him to do what he did next. He choked on the smoke so he grabbed a bandana from his pocket, poured water on it, and held it over his nose and mouth. Pockets of blackened earth began to appear as the fires burned the forest floor clear and Braddock saw their opportunity: a narrow stretch of burned over ground leading upwards between two patches still ablaze. 

He looked down at Smoke, “Think we can do this, boy?” 

Smoke looked at the tight space between the towers of flames; he winced and tried to wag his tail in support.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Just following this last quote from my first novel, another character (the second protagonist) used the smoke from the fire to hide in as he snuck up on antagonists. Like two birds with one stone, eh? Using a force like fire in a story ratchets up the action. It can make heroes out of likely or unlikely characters. Fire speaks to one’s primal fear of being trapped in a blaze (in a house, in the woods, etc.) and brings readers to the edges of their seats.

Weather, in short, can be the tie that binds a story together and bring it to an exciting or unexpected conclusion.

#thursdaytips #writingtips #writersdigest #authorsoninstagram #fires #wildfires #fridayfuntips #saturdaystories #fictionnovel #writingfiction #hotshots #firefighters #mountainrescue #howtobuildaplot #literati #mestengobooks 

A ‘Workiversary’ Worth Noting

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Source: Google Images/dontgetserious.com

Well, I made it through another year without ending up dead or in jail. I call that a win.

Anniversaries have a funny way of creeping up on me. Over the years, I’ve paid little attention to the milestones in my life. Probably came from the fact that my parents barely celebrated our birthdays beyond a cake after dinner. No parties, no balloons, no star-spangled celebrations with friends and neighbors. I learned early on that my birthday and other events were treated equally with my parents’ nonchalance. Perhaps it was because they were too exhausted from working such long hours; down time was at the end of long, arduous days, rewarded with a pilsner glass of Budweiser before dinner (mom) or vegging in front of the TV (dad) until an early bedtime.

Stickin’ With It Ain’t My Thing… But It Is For Now

In a few days, I’ll mark my 6th ‘workiversary’ of Mestengo Books. Honestly, I’ve surprised myself, as I rarely stick with anything this long. It’s a form of adult-ing in which I rarely engage; I can blame ADD and an artistic slant for that. Once I’ve learned it or learned what I need from it, I’m gone, on to the next adventure/project/task/person/city. I have found a sense of comfort in having some regularity in my life, in having my blog/website. Even though most of you don’t comment or respond to questions I still feel like I’m sharing stories with willing listeners.

And for that, I thank you all for taking the ride with me these past 6 years.

I don’t know how much longer Mestengo Books will be around but I do know this: both your presence and your absence has bettered my writing and clarified my creative process. 

#happyanniversary #Mestengobooks #writerslife #blogging #storytelling #creativity #selfpublishing #writersdigest #writersofinstagram #authorsontwitter #fictionwriters #nonfictionwriters #writingcommunity #tuesdaytips

A Time for Storytelling and Rest

cherokee bonfire

Source: Google Images/visitcherokeenc.com

Winter is a special time, a time of quiet, a time of slowing down and doing more indoor activities like yoga, reading and writing. It’s also the time of year for storytelling in many traditions, especially for Indigenous Peoples. In the old days (and still, for many nations), it was a time marked by the first snowfall or the Winter solstice. Bands of tribes gathered together to share their stories and pass their histories on to the next generation.

Days of hunting and gathering food for winter stores were over; cold winds blew across the prairies and mountains and the days were shorter. What else was there to do? Stories both entertained and informed; they carried a people’s history with them wherever they went. Oral tradition is still revered today. Regardless of your ancestry, storytelling is alive and well in many cultures around the world and you would do well by touching base with yours. Storytelling long preceded the written word, which forced people to use their brains to retain an amazing amount of detail surrounding important events in their lives.

Do you and your family or friends gather for the purpose of sharing during the winter months? In these modern times, we’re busy working, running errands or are too tired. Storytelling traditions force us to slow down and take the time to LISTEN. When we allow ourselves to participate in this ancient form of socialization, we are energized and connected to something much larger than each of us.

Winter is also a time of rest though skiers and snowboarders might disagree. When was the last time you bundled up (assuming you don’t live in FL) and took a walk in the snow? It’s one of the quietest, most Zen experiences I’ve ever had. If you listen very carefully, you can even hear the snow fall.

This is the embodiment of winter: slow down, listen (to family, friends, your body), rest (to rejuvenate for the spring) and eat deeply nourishing meals (soups, stews).

Indigenous Peoples have had this down for eons and I think it’s time the rest of us catch up. Take some time out for yourself this winter. Rest (it may be four letters but it’s not a dirty word). Read. Write. Appreciate the shorter days and quiet moments. It is in these spaces where we can find peace and contentment to last us throughout the year.

#writers #wintersolstice #storytelling #restandrelaxation #authors #yogapractice #reading #writingcommunity #writersgottawrite 

Will The Real Rudolph Please Shine His Nose…

Rudolph book cover

Source: NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

I came across this NPR story some time ago on an IG post. What is Christmas without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? How many of you know the real story of how he came about? Let me summarize…

The Real Story

It all began in 1939 (yes, that long ago and on the verge of WWII) when Montgomery Ward execs asked one of their ad men to come up with a story for MW’s children’s book, an annual holiday promotion. The ad man, Robert May, made a list of possible names before settling on Rudolph. So May, an aspiring novelist and known for his wit at parties, came up with a story of a reindeer underdog named Rudolph. His boss wasn’t very impressed but May, undaunted, went to a friend in MW’s art department to draw up some sketches to go with the story.

Names of Rudolph

Courtesy of NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

Then something awful happened. May’s wife died of cancer. He was devastated but forged ahead, telling his boss that he “needed Rudolph now more than ever” after his boss offered to give the project to someone else. Rudolph was a big hit and copies sold around the country. But by now May was in deep financial straits from his wife’s medical bills and was trying support himself and his child on a copywriter’s salary.

The Big Hit

For reasons that remain unclear, the CEO of Montgomery Ward gave May the rights to Rudolph after WWII. May’s brother-in-law was a songwriter, so May enlisted him to write a jingle about Rudolph. Miraculously, it was loved and picked up by none other than the famous singing cowboy Gene Autry. As a result, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer sold over 25 million copies and was later picked up by Rankin/Bass, who made the stop animation film we all adore (I watch it every year).

If you’re curious, you can follow this link to the whole story, including reading the original book/story that was changed oh-so-slightly for the Rankin/Bass film:

https://www.npr.org/2013/12/25/256579598/writing-rudolph-the-original-red-nosed-manuscript

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to one and all. Stay safe and healthy and prosperous wishes for the New Year.

#Christmas #Rudolphtherednosedreindeer #RankinBass #Christmastime #holidayseason #RobertLMay #holidayclassic #fictionwriters

The Long and Short of It

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Vintage Alphabet Source: Google Images/pixiepaperstore.com

Growing up before the Internet and a digital world, my generation learned much via “the old-fashioned way” – like cursive and script writing. I have vivid memories of the Roman alphabet in upper and lower case bordering the chalkboards of my grade school classrooms.

Sister Rose de Saint Marie taught our second-grade penmanship classes and she was a typical hard-nosed teacher/Catholic nun. I religiously (pun intended) practiced my penmanship at school and at home. (Which is why, all these decades later, I’m still complimented on my handwriting.) There were two classrooms for grades 1 through 8 and penmanship was taught daily at least until sixth or seventh grade in our Catholic grammar school. I even remember the paper we used: solid lines on the top and bottom for the upper and lower parts of the capital letters and dotted lines in the middle for the lower case letters. 

This morning, as I filled out my student loan recertification document, I realized that a pen in my hand felt a bit strange. I don’t like that. I spend less and less time writing longhand, whether in cursive or script, unless I’m leaving a note to myself on my desk. When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory. It’s as if I’m forgetting how to sign my name with the characteristic loops and artistic flairs that have long been my mark. Losing my longhand skills means, to me, losing a sense of myself.

We are losing the personal touch, the individual-ness of each human, becoming less so as AI infiltrates our lives. Google is the answer to EVERYTHING, it seems. Can’t spell a word? Google it. Not sure if it’s a verb or adverb? Google it. The internet has short-circuited our ability to learn via sensory memory (touch, taste, smell, etc.) and in the process something very personal, unique to each of us, is lost.

“When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory.”

J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books in longhand and still writes that way. Imagine the difficulty in maintaining the pace of your writing with what’s whizzing through your mind as the story unfolds. How many writers today are even willing to attempt such an undertaking? Still quite a few, thankfully.

“A friend of mine who’s a film director turned me on to the Blackwing 602. What I like is that it sharpens to a really fine point, and it’s got a great feel to it that I just can’t describe. It’s like when you taste a really good wine or a cognac: You know it’s good stuff.”

Andre Dubus III, author of Bluesman and House of Sand and Fog

For me, the Digital Age provides too many shortcuts, too many quick ways around learning what we need to learn. Forget working out a math problem with a pencil and paper; now Brainly will do it for you. But what is lost in the process? We lose the concept of critical thinking; how to get from point A to point B. Working out a problem, like writing in longhand, allows our brains and minds to problem-solve, which translates into many other areas of our lives as we grow. We can’t afford to lose it or I fear we’ll lose some of our humanity.

“A pen is a much more primitive instrument. You feel that the words are coming out of your body and then you dig the words into the page. Writing has always had that tactile quality for me. It’s a physical experience.”

Paul Auster, author (https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/)

Writing longhand is a form of sensory memory and connects us to each word in a story and the story itself, as a whole. It fortifies memory and the ability to spell, to slow us down enough that we get the story on paper without too many revisions. We become more deeply engaged in our stories.

“Studies have shown that writing (and rewriting) information in longhand is one of the most effective ways to retain new information; this is apparently because writing the old-fashioned way stimulates a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or the RAS.”

Fred Johnson, at https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/ (and yes, he “Googled” this information)

Laptops may allow for the collection and storage of information – but on the laptop, not in our brains. Efficiency is nice but LEARNING and RETENTION are more important. So in the best interest of humanity – pick up a pen or pencil and have at it.

Deepen your writing, deepen yourself.

A quick post-script (11/4):

I was so enamored with the thought of getting back into longhand I purchased some sleek cedar-scented graphite pencils. What a joy to use! Brought back some nice childhood memories… and inspired me to write this little ode to pencils:

The Poetry of Pencil

Smooth charcoal, cedar scent

a cherished childhood of homework spent

writing and re-writing until perfection or corrections attained;

Mathematical problems, grammatical errors

erased with ease;

Sharpened stylus dulled with use,

scratching numbers and letter in columns and rows,

learning my ABCs and 2+2s.

#ABCs #handwriting #longhand #scriptandcursive #writinglonghand #writerswrite #pencilsandpens #charcoal #romanalphabet #sensorymemory #RAS #artificialintelligence #grammar #harrypotterbooks #authorswhowritelonghand

Write for Magazines and Get Paid Too!

nat geo travel_istock

La Jolla, California, USA – September 16, 2011: National Geographic magazines taken in a studio. Source: pixabay.com/istock

be a bigger needle

It’s a subject I’ve come back around to several times over the past few years. These days, competition for publishing articles in the digital world is both astounding and depressing; a writer trying to get his/her articles published online is like the proverbial needle in the haystack. Only the haystack is now steroid-sized and the needle ever more microscopic. You need to be the bigger needle.

not all the same

Magazine readers (like me) are an entirely different audience than people surfing the web. Sure, there’s an occasional overlap, but not much. To me, printed publication readers are more patient, more likely to read as a relaxing pastime, and probably more educated or white collar. If we writers don’t find a way to get our articles into printed publications, that’s a whole different audience whose readership we’re losing.

There continue to be many faithful magazine readers, just as there are faithful readers of the physical book (I’m one of those on both counts). While the online life is definitely for the younger generations, many older folks have smartly adapted, even succeeded, online. 

Think about it: your articles in those printed publications will increase traffic to your blog, increase your number of followers, even help you build a fan base or at the very least better connect with other writers. It’s a win-win situation. Do you keep an updated bio on hand? I do, and I tweak it from time to time as my experiences increase. This is an amazing opportunity for magazine readers to find out more about YOU.  

you gotta start somewhere…

Gigs can pay as low as $.10 a word up to $2.50 a word, depending on the magazine and/or your storytelling skills. These gigs can also help you get other writing gigs, as editors routinely communicate, maybe even socialize, with each other. Wouldn’t you love to be the topic of discussion at one of their business meetings or social gatherings? I certainly would.

Use previous blog posts as a basis for a magazine article; use that magazine article as a basis for a future blog post. In a previous post, I wrote about turning your blogs into a book (and vice versa). Once you pick up steam, there’s no stopping. It’s also a path to book deals, partnerships, maybe even speaking engagements.

other options

Trade magazines don’t pay much (if at all) but it’s good exposure if you have knowledge to share in one of these publications. Then there are custom publications like Costco or Sam’s Club, maybe a local bank or insurance agency. Get creative (after all, you’re writers, for heaven’s sake) and make a list of magazines/publications that interest you. Check out their query criteria, then go for it. Nothing lost, only gained – regular gigs, quitting the day J-O-B, earning a living while freeing up your schedule, increased traffic to your blog, etcetera, etcetera.

What are you waiting for?

#thewritinglife #author #nationalgeographictraveler #blogging #selfpublishing #writeformagazines #costco

Like, Um, Well, You Know…Seriously, To Be Fair…

crutch words1

Source: Google Images

Grammar Still Rules

Grammar rules still apply to your writing and speaking and always will. Especially if you want to keep readers and listeners engaged.

Today I’m writing about a few of my pet peeves that have become far too prevalent in today’s writing and speaking. I’m talking about crutch words and fillers: like, well, you know, ah, um, uh, etc. 

My biggest issue with these overused words and space fillers is that they make the writer/speaker sound less intelligent, less able to think or speak quickly or clearly. Which equates to poor writing and speaking skills. And poor communication skills take away one’s credibility, which means people won’t read your books or listen to what you say. Is this how you want the world of readers and listeners to perceive you? 

Ditch the Crutches

While some crutch words and fillers are acceptable in written dialogue, they should be left out of interviews and other professional conversations. If you listen to podcasts, you know what I’m talking about; fillers and crutches take up way more space in a conversation. Listen to an interview, maybe even record it to your computer. Then edit out the fillers and crutches and listen to what remains – the actual conversation sounds quite different when it’s cleaned up. It’s more direct and to the point and it’s the same with writing. Remove the fillers and crutches (except when necessary in character dialogue) and you’ll find the reading succinct and clear. And credible.

“A” Interesting Peeve

Another of my pet peeves of late is the incorrect use of ‘a’ and ‘an.’ Far too often, even on the evening national news, I hear professionals using ‘a’ where ‘an’ is required.

Here’s the rule: if the word begins with a vowel or a consonant with a vowel sound like the h in hour or in abbreviations/acronyms such as MBA, use an. If the word begins with a consonant or consonant sound as in book or PTA, use a. I’m annoyed every time I hear phrases like “a airplane” or “a interested party” because the speakers come off as not very bright or particularly attentive to their grammar. Or they have lazy copyeditors!

Modify This

The next peeve on my list (which I swear grows with age) is the overuse and incorrect use of what are called vague modifiers. Vague modifiers are also crutch words and fillers and don’t belong in good writing or clear speeches: A lot, kind of, perhaps, truly, somewhat, quite, seemingly, suddenly, rather, fairly, etc.. There are more, but you get the idea. How often do you use these in your writing/speaking? Are you even conscious of whether you use these or not? Here is a link to a funny article on crutch words that “literally” made me laugh out loud.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of falling prey to the occasional crutch and filler. However, I have become more conscious of my spoken words as a result of doing a podcast last year. That, in turn, has made me more aware of written words and their impact.

Those Catholic grammar school nuns beat good English grammar into me and my classmates – quite literally, actually. To this day, I can’t finish a project and ‘turn it in’ (publish) unless it’s perfect.

Seriously. 😉

#grammarrules #thewritinglife #communicationskills #writeagoodstory #podcasting #Englishgrammar

2019, Remembered

farewell 2019.2

Source: Google Images

Once again, another year has passed (happens this time every year!)…

Did you accomplish your writing goals? I didn’t. Due to both welcome and unwelcome changes (it’s called life), writing more than this blog has been put on a back burner. And I’m once again considering whether to continue working on current projects (have I been away too long?) or to consider them practice for something new. How does one decide whether to publish or keep the work hidden away, a precursor for something better? Always a work in progress, I suppose.

But I digress …

2019 was a year of changes in the writing and publishing worlds. I posted about new laws effecting freelance writers in CA (and on the horizon in other states as I write this). I blogged of the import of online safety and preparing your Digital Legacy and, more than once, I discussed a variety of self-publishing options for practiced writers and proletarians. I even waxed philosophically as the mood struck me (as it so often does these days; elder wisdom, I suppose). After much deliberation (and discussion on my blog), I left certain SM sites and I don’t miss them. I blogged on writing skills and perfecting scenes and I discussed the value of proper grammar for writers who want to be taken seriously.

In short, I covered the basics and then some. Now I have to come up with all new topics in the coming year. I welcome the challenge.

It Was A Good Year

All in all, it was a good year where writing was concerned. I was consistent with blog posts, for the most part. A few of you have taken the ride with me – thanks so much, by the way, for your online support. Some of you have had the good fortune to have your book on a bestseller list; others have completed their it-took-me-a-year-to-write-it novel. Congrats. Kudos. The new year will obviously bring some much-deserved accolades to some very deserving people.

Yet my work – and yours – is not done. A new year dawns; take it as an opportunity to renew your commitment to writing your stories, publishing them to the world and then moving on to the next one. It’s how life works. We must remain in motion, always moving forward, as idleness rusts us (and our stories) from the inside out.

~ Peace to All in the New Year ~

Picture Perfect Opportunities

overcast sky3-hiveminerdotcom

Source: Google Images/hiveminer.com; photo from Norfolk County, MA

Autumn is finally upon us here in NorCal. The sweet smell of decaying leaves is everywhere, as are the crisper days and cooler nights. Only thing missing is the flat gray cloud cover back home that I aptly call a “November sky,” as it is a regular weather pattern seen in a mid-season New England autumn. I find myself pining for that back lit cloud cover; for any clouds at all. California has nice weather – perhaps too nice, as in too much sun and not enough clouds. Growing up in New England, I learned to appreciate the overcast autumn days as a signal to spend more time indoors with a cup of hot cider or chocolate, hard at work at whatever hobby/task needed attending. Like spending more time writing and editing. Sunshine beckons me outside, leaving my writing and other hobbies for the all-too-rare-in-NorCal cloudy days.

Speaking of Spending Time Inside…

It’s NaNoWriMo time! How many of you are partaking this year? It’s the perfect opportunity to “get your write on”. Sadly, I’m working a new gig that keeps me out late every evening so I’m not working on anything other than an occasional blog post… deep sigh… I think if that overcast sky would show up, I’d find a way to hunker down and write. Or edit. Or both… sigh…

Test yourself; see how much you can complete before Dec. 1 gets here. Maybe I’ll make a half-hearted attempt if some cloudy weather shows up!

A New Marketing Angle That May Be Picture-Perfect

I purposely don’t spend much time online. Life is short and I’d rather be experiencing something like nature instead of staring at a computer for hours on end. But this was an interesting article I came across from a book marketing site I used to follow.

There’s an online business called Cameo Marketplace – perhaps you’ve heard of it? I haven’t so I’m sharing it with you. Ever dream of some famous person talking up your book? Do you fantasize that you’ll sell a gazillion copies on the word of that famous person? Well, here’s your chance – kind of.

Cameo Marketplace (cameo.com) offers a personalized shout-out from your choice of their famous clientele in a ‘cameo’ video. Yep. For a fee, you can have, say, Charlize Theron plug your book. (I don’t know if she’s actually a client.) Or Tom Hanks. (Not sure if he is, either.) Point is, you can find a well-known (or quasi-famous) personality, one that fits your book’s style and image, to say something positive about it in a short video. The actor earns money and you get more sales, so you earn money. Sounds like a win-win situation, right?

Unless you pick someone who won’t exactly influence the right people – your target audience. You need to know who they are before choosing your celebrity. Prices range from $5 to about $150 for a personalized video and promotional videos cost more. Probably not a good idea to invest in the prettiest face. Make sure the actor you do choose can have a positive effect on your book marketing and sales; otherwise, it’s wasted money.

So there it is, my advice for the week. It’s not much but who knows, it may help you find the perfect face to sell your book.

 

Post Script: I only just realized that I didn’t title this post and put too much space above the pic… oops. And wouldn’t you know, that November sky I referenced is here today, on my day off! Yippee!