Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Janet Fitch's Parenting Tips for Writers

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
For all you parents (or would-be, considering ones) out there, who are also writers and creators... Check out this post by Janet Fitch, author of best-selling White Oleander, among other titles. She offers some pointers on how parenthood and writing can successfully co-exist.

You might also happen to get hooked on Janet's blog!

SOS - kg

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pep Talk from Neil Gaiman

Thursday, December 2, 2010

National Novel Writing Month  (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Each year participants begin writing November 1st. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30th. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. In 2009, NaNoWriMo had over 165,000 participants. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline.

With this year's NaNoWriMo just behind us, I am passing along this pep talk that Neil Gaiman wrote for the participants during Week Three. They are words, however, relevant to all writersfor anyone deeply involved in the creative process of a written work. Gaiman reminds us what it is to be a writer, and how novels (or any piece of writing for that matter) get written. Just when you were about to throw in the towel!

SOS ~ kg

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

By now you're probably ready to give up. You're past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You're not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You're in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more---and that even when they do you're preoccupied and no fun. You don't know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you're pretty sure that even if you finish it it won't have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began---a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read---it falls so painfully short that you're pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Welcome to the club.

That's how novels get written.

You write. That's the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It's a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn't build it it won't be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.

The search for the word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm---or even arguing with me---she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, "Oh, you're at that part of the book, are you?"

I was shocked. "You mean I've done this before?"

"You don't remember?"

"Not really."

"Oh yes," she said. "You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients."

I didn't even get to feel unique in my despair.

So I put down the phone and drove down to the coffee house in which I was writing the book, filled my pen and carried on writing.

One word after another.

That's the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it's the only way to do it.

So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.

Pretty soon you'll be on the downward slide, and it's not impossible that soon you'll be at the end. Good luck...

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the author of the New York Times bestselling children's book Coraline and of the picture books The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. He is also the author of award-winning novels and short stories for adults, as well as the Sandman series of graphic novels. His most recent novels include InterWorld and Anansi Boys.

[Credit: See original post on]

Friday, November 12, 2010


Friday, November 12, 2010
PAP&RS is an exciting new literary organization that is uniting L.A.'s vibrant book community by bringing together publishers, authors, publicists, editors, reviewers, and booksellers. The inaugural October event was held in the famous historic Culver City Hotel with special guest speaker George Slowik, Jr., president of Publisher's Weekly, and successfully launched what is to be an ongoing, dynamic conversation on the future of the book. Read the follow-up article in PW.

PAP&RS plans to produce four events each year and implement other ways for us all to meet and stay connected, so stay tuned for more updates by visiting the PAP&RS website

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Creative Mornings

Saturday, October 2, 2010
Creative Mornings is a monthly morning gathering of creative types. Each event includes a 20 minute lecture, followed by a 20 minute group discussion. The gathering begins at 8:30am with the topic presentation starting at 9:00am and everyone taking off for work at 10am. CreativeMornings are free of charge!

Swiss designer Tina Roth Eisenberg first started the series in Zurich, followed by a second chapter in NYC. The LosAngeles/CreativeMornings chapter is kicking off October 8th, featuring the co-founder and editor-in-chief of GOOD Magazine Zach Frechette. But tickets are already sold out! So be sure to follow CM on Twitter for upcoming announcements:

Call for Volunteers:
Would you be interested in assisting Jon Setzen run the LosAngeles/CreativeMornings chapter? For the launch they're looking for folks who can help with taping and photographing the event. For future events they also need help finding sponsors, venues and speakers. Want to help? Email here

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Writing and Wellness

Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Writing for better, physical,
mental, and spiritual health

As a long-time journal writer, I am a firm believer in the power of writing to heal, and so I'm always on the lookout for new resources and ways to approach this work. Recently, I have been introduced to Wellness & Writing Connections, an exciting organization and growing community founded by Dr. John Evans, described as:

"A community of professionals and lay people interested in exploring the connections between overall health and expressive writing as a therapeutic practice"

This October W&WC is hosting their annual conference in Atlanta, October 22-23. This two-day event will bring together a number of powerhouse leaders in the field of writing for health and healing. Breakout sessions include writing and healing in wartime, writing and compassion fatigue, and writing in integrative medicine, in addition to topics in journaling, memoir, psychological journaling, student writings, and more!

If your curiosity is piqued, but you can't make it to the Conference, then you might check out their book Wellness & Writing Connections: Writing for Better Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Health available for purchase through Amazon.

SOS ~ kg

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Contract With Your Audience

Thursday, August 12, 2010
When you're performing in front of a live audience, you need to consider which kind of *performance style* is appropriate to your particular audience and venue.

For example, when we coach writers at Spark Off Rose (the spoken word series I help produce in Santa Monica), we often encourage our storytellers to be *less presentational* and *more conversational*. We have found that--when it comes to reading personal essays--the writers need to trust their words on the page and simply share them with the audience, as if we're in the intimacy of someone's living room. For this reason, we're less interested in the storytellers *performing* their pieces since this tends to impose an inauthentic quality to the reading. It feels like the author is commenting on the material, and as a result, this can often alienate and distance the audience. (Keep in mind... being on stage still requires stage presence!)

In this video, Beth Lapides explains the difference between doing stand-up comedy, performing a one-person show, and reading a personal essay. She underlines the importance of considering what your listeners, or readers in other cases, expect... in other words, it's about honoring the *contract* you have with the audience.

At Spark, the audience expects to be drawn into the raw vulnerability of a personal story that lives in the words... and in the person speaking them.

SOS ~ kg

Sunday, August 8, 2010

One Picture A Day

Sunday, August 8, 2010
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps for this reason, a picture is a great springboard for a writing prompt. Take this one, for example:

Credit: Posted on Wellness & Writing Connections
What stories could this tree tell? How might it be a metaphor for your own life?

Check out Creativity Portal for a daily image to inspire your writing.

SOS ~ kg

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Opportunities to Submit Your Work

Saturday, July 10, 2010
Hurry up, the time is now! Put that pen to the page... polish up a work-in-progress or write something new. Then send it off!  SOS ~ kg

Finish this sentence: “I never thought I’d. . .” Have you ever taken a huge, surprising risk? Did you climb a mountain? Go back to school? Get married (again)? Write about it, and you could have your essay published in Real Simple; win round-trip tickets for two to New York City, hotel accommodations for two nights, tickets to a Broadway play, and a lunch with Real Simple editors; and receive a prize of $3,000. Deadline: September 24, 2010.

Memoir's Ink Yearly Contest

Memoirs Ink is looking for original, well-written personal essays, memoirs, or stories that are based on autobiographical experiences. The narrative must be in first person, other than that, the contest is open to any type, genre or style of story. First Prize: $1000. Second prize: $500. Third prize: $250. All winners are published are on The entry fee is $15.

Deadline: August 14, 2010 (postmark) Late Deadline: August 31, 2010 (Postmark - Late entries require additional $5 entry fee per entry).

Own Your Story's "Cringe Story Contest"
Own Your Story is compiling *cringe* stories for a major new anthology. Think of that  moment in your life when, to recall it, even for an instant, electrifies you with a physical, cringing sensation. It could be cheating on a test, stealing from a friend, having an affair, slapping a child, or turning your back on someone in dire need. Submit your cringe story! Deadline: October 1, 2010.

The Rattling Wall
The Rattling Wall is a new journal accepting sophisticated short fiction, travel essays, and poetry; edited by Michelle Meyering and sponsored by PEN USA. The entry fee is $10. See submission guidelines. Deadline: November 1, 2010. 

She Writes Passion Project
The first ever She Writes Passion Project is a writing contest open to an emerging author and member of She Writes who has a non-fiction book project in the works.The winner will be selected on the basis of the merit of her entry, which consists of a cover letter and a 2,000-word excerpt. She will receive thorough and supportive consultations from a team of experts which are designed to help her prepare a complete proposal for submission to agents or publishers. Deadline: August 1, 2010.

Expressing Motherhood
Submissions for Expressing Motherhood will open up on August 1st for the next Los Angeles show, slated for January 2011. If you are a mom and interested in being considered, now is the time to get your creative juices flowing and put pen to paper what it is that you are thinking or feeling in regards to motherhood. See submission guidelines. Deadline: September 15, 2010.

Friday, July 2, 2010

PEN USA's "Emerging Voices"

Friday, July 2, 2010
PEN USA's "Emerging Voices" is a literary fellowship that aims to provide new writers, who lack access, with the tools they will need to launch a professional writing career. Over the course of the year, each Emerging Voices fellow participates in: a professional mentorship; hosted Q&A evenings with prominent local authors; a series of Master classes focused on genre; and two public readings. The fellowship includes a $1,000 stipend.

Download the application here. Deadline: August 31, 2010.

PEN Center USA strives to protect the rights of writers around the world, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to foster a vital literary community among the diverse writers living in the western United States.  PEN USA's membership of more than 800 writers includes poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists, as well as television and screenwriters, critics, historians, editors, journalists, and translators. Learn how you can become a member here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Grants & Residencies

Sunday, June 13, 2010
Here are a few grants and residencies applicable to a wide-range of visual artists, writers, composers, and other creative types:

$25,000 awarded to a foreign-born writer who demonstrates outstanding early achievement. Accepts poets, novelists, short fiction writers and short creative nonfiction writers. The mission of the foundation is to recognize extraordinary achievements of immigrants to the US. Must be more than 38 years of age. Must be a naturalized citizen or permanent resident. In addition, four finalists will receive $5,000. Submit up to 30 pages of your best work. Deadline July 30, 2010.

The Millay Colony for the Arts offers one-month residencies to six visual artists, writers and composers each month between the months of April and November. It is located on a seven-acre campus with meadows and forest in Austerlitz, New York, adjacent to the former Millay home and gardens and the exquisite Harvey Mountain State Forest. Deadline October 1, 2010.

Elsewhere residencies invite creatives of all kinds to experiment with context, process, and collaboration within a former thrift store turned living museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Now accepting applications from artists, curators, writers, musicians, designers, gardeners, makers, builders, scholars, producers, and creatives across media for residencies in 2010. Deadline July 31 and September 30, 2010. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Debutante Literary Ball

Sunday, June 6, 2010
Are you a female writer with a debut book being released between September 2010 and August 2011? If so, then you are eligible to apply to become a Deb at The Debutante Ball. This group blog (five debs total) is now in its fourth season. The ladies take one day to blog each week on "bookish and not-so-bookish" topics in the months leading up to their books' releases.

Act now... the applications are being accepted until June 30th. Click here for guidelines.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Profile of a Successful Writer

Sunday, May 30, 2010
So what does it take to be a successful writer?

Jane Friedman--editor and media maven for Writer's Digest--posted a fantastic piece on Writer Unboxed (a blog about the craft and business of fiction) that outlines the defining characteristics of a writer who shows promise. Surprisingly, she often doesn't even need to read a word... for her it's more about attitude.

Read the full post here

You also may want to check out Jane's award-winning blog There Are No Rules, which covers all things writing and publishing as it is changing and evolving.

SOS ~ kg

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Rumpus Book Club

Sunday, May 23, 2010
The author Stephen Elliott (The Adderall Diaries, Happy Baby) is launching a book club via his online literary magazine site "The Rumpus." It's a pretty interesting concept... The Rumpus Book Club will be distributing books pre-publication--either hard covers or advanced reader copies--allowing readers to engage in a fresh discussion about a book before the media world has put its spin on it.

First up: Josh Brandon's forthcoming book Citrus County, published by McSweeney's.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Sentence Stories

Monday, April 19, 2010
Last October I bought a unique kind of diary called One Line A Day, which asks you to capture each day in just one sentence. How is this different from our collective obsession with social networking status updates? Well, this journal is private--and that makes all the difference.

What I love is that One Line A Day is a five-year memory book, allowing you to compare your daily entries as the years go by. Each date has room for five entries... one for each consecutive year.

I have since come across several other hubs for one-liner memoirs:

Common Ties
Common Ties collects stories in response to 20 featured questions on topics ranging from Intimacy to Confessions, and then publishes their favorite 50-word answers with artwork each week. Look out for their soon-to-be-released book published by Santa Monica Press.

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. 

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
Can you sum up your life in six words? That's what Smith Magazine challenged readers to write. Six words--no more, no less. One thousand of the submissions are printed in this 300+ page biography.
One Sentence
One Sentence is about telling your story, briefly. Insignificant stories, everyday stories, or turning-point-in-your-life stories, boiled down to their bare essentials.

Do you have any other sources to add to the list?

SOS ~ kg

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Workshop Announced

Thursday, March 18, 2010
Do you have a story to tell? Well now's the time to write it...

The spring workshop for UNLOCKING YOUR STORY is taking place April 6th - May 25th on Tuesday evenings (7-10pm) at the wonderful Santa Monica Playhouse in downtown Santa Monica. Space is limited, so enroll now!

This 8-week workshop is designed for those looking to explore, develop and write their personal stories. Click here for full details

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Los Angeles: Save the Dates!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Apparently, Los Angeles is the place to be, a bona fide storytelling hub. There are two big events in 2010 that you must mark on your calendars:
Saturday, November 13, 2010

Culver-Palms UMC Complex

4464 Sepulveda Blvd.

Culver City, CA 90230

If you're interested in being a performer or workshop leader at the festival ACT NOW... the application deadline is March 17th! Click here to download the application.

Also, Los Angeles is hosting the National Storytelling Network's annual conference this year:
July 29-August 1, 2010
The Warner Center Marriott

21850 Oxnard Street
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
* early bird registration for NSN begins March 1st!

Both events will feature workshops, performance showcases, concerts, and lots of networking opportunities.

And if that's not enough, then visit the new "About Town" section on my website for a list of storytelling events across Los Angeles. Come one, come all... be an audience member or get up on that stage!

SOS ~ kg
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