Teaching Writing in Africa

Ah, the stories they tell!

IMG_0643MeTeachOn a recent short-term mission trip to Malawi for my church, I had the opportunity to teach Writing classes to two groups of home schooled MKs (Missionary Kids). These were children from American, Canadian and South African families. There were nine in the 3rd-4th grade group and seven in the 5th grade and up group.

Two years ago I taught most of these kids “How to Write A Short Story.” Their creations were marvelous, and in fact, I posted some of the stories on my blog, Here’s How It Happened. (See the mystery, “The Tay Diamond”,  the action-packed, “The Adventures of Timmy, the Squirrel”,  and the creepy, Twilight Zone-esque “The Mirror”)

IMG_1133Booklet coversAfter reviewing the stories and talking to the other home school teachers, we all agreed that the kids needed help in character development. The action was amazing; the worlds they created were vivid, but the heroes, helpers, and villains were flat and hard to imagine.

This would be my topic then. I prepared workbooks for each of the classes. We did some work in them in class, but there were “homework” assignments for them to do at home as well.

IMG_0645MeTeach Young classBefore I arrived I asked that the kids (both classes) bring the first several paragraphs of a story they had written to class. In class, I had them each read their paragraphs aloud.  There were Captain Jack, Commander of a Starship, twin girls named Peace and Harmony, and a 20-year old girl named Ella who wanted to become a princess (and a dozen others).

I asked the listening students how they “pictured” each of these characters. There was either confused silence or vague and differing descriptions.  I then asked the authors to describe how their characters looked in their own mind’s eye. They came up with a lot of colorful descriptions that were not in their stories. Suddenly they “got the picture,” and from there I showed them ways and examples of taking the images of their characters from their minds and putting them on paper for their readers.

IMG_0640MeTeach Micah,TylerFor the younger class, I had them draw in their workbooks a circle for a face, then slowly add features (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair) and write a description of each as they went. Next they drew bodies with any kinds of clothes and shoes (or not) they wished.  I had them write why these “characters” were smiling, wearing… glasses, a soccer jersey, a swim suit, a long dress, a tutu, and had on sandals or swim fins. They began to see how to show what their story characters looked like by writing descriptions, and in the process developed more interesting information about them.  (I could see “light” dawning in their eyes!)

We talked about what a boy’s face and posture would look like if he were angry, sad, or excited, and how to describe that in words.  Then I had volunteers come to the front and walk like someone angry, sad, sick, old, or excited. The class called out descriptions of the body movements (facial features, arms swinging, shoulders slumped, stumbling, skipping, marching etc.) that portrayed the emotion.  Suddenly they began to see how they could “show” these actions in their stories instead of simply “telling” the reader that the character was sad or happy.

We talked briefly about similes (and metaphors for the older group). Wow, did they come up with some doozers! At this point I had to remind them not to overload the story with these, but to sprinkle in descriptions as the story progressed in action or conversations.

Character traits 71T4QNm+soLNext, we had fun with thirty-six Character Trait cards (ten seen at left) that I purchased from Amazon.  I had them each choose a positive trait and a negative trait and to explain their choices. I asked them to describe the animals in the picture illustrating the trait.  We talked about how they could write about the kind of person (animal) their character was by using these traits (such as, mischievous, responsible, persistent, mean, honest, loyal, etc.)

As an exercise I had them use these two opposite traits and write a short paragraph in their workbooks, describing how that character trait would look in actions.  “Harmony was dishonest because she….. or  Timothy was peculiar because he….”

For another exercise, I had them draw a large “T” diagram on one page, labeling the left side “What a character looks like” and the right side” How a character behaves.”  They made a few comparisons from their own story characters. At home, they would make more of these diagrams and fill them in for other characters, or ones from books they liked.

IMG_0654 Older writing classFor the older class (all boys, and most writing sci-fi or fantasy) we delved a bit deeper into making their characters memorable by using various ways to describe physical as well as personality traits. They practiced describing a character in an action scene (showing fear or bravery without actually using those words) and played around with using an occasional quirk, flaw, or unconscious mannerism to reveal hidden traits.

We talked about body language and how personal beliefs and moral standards could affect their characters actions and words in certain situations.  These t’weens and teens also enjoyed acting out emotions and physical limitations while the rest of the class called out descriptions. It’s a great exercise in noticing small things and putting them into words. Their favorite was imagining a large magnet across the room, and a piece of iron stuck on various parts of their body (forehead, stomach, etc). They were to show being pulled by that force and trying to resist. (Some were hilarious!)

IMG_0651MeTeach MatthewIMG_0653MeTeach AndrewThese boys also wanted to read from their stories, using some of the descriptions they’d learned inserted here and there.

I think they got it! By George, they got it!  

(I can’t wait to read the complete exciting, imaginative tales!)

At the end of the two-hour sessions, I sent both groups home with assignments to sharpen their skills. Hopefully they will follow through and I will have a new pack of stories to post on my blog, with characters you can clearly imagine, love, or love to hate.

I love these kids, and I really had fun…. as you can see!

IMG_0667MeTeach fun

 

Post Script:  I used several limericks in the classes, to illustrate teaching points, add humor, and keep the class attentive.  One of the kids in the older group took one of these limericks, combined it with a vocabulary assignment from his home school writing class and came up with a HILARIOUS story – The Virtuous Walking Fish.  Check it out too, and leave a comment for Jacob K.

 

 

Those OTHER Blogs on Writing

signHow many blogs besides this one do YOU read regularly (daily, weekly, monthly)?  Yes, you can confess. We don’t mind. Reading them will help you become a better writer.

Of course there are thousands to choose from. Just Google a topic and you’ll see. Bloggers will give you tips on everything, from where to get ideas to how to publish and market your final product, be it a book, short story, poem or article.

Some writer magazines and blogs publish lists of the Top 50 or 100 from the previous year.  Here’s a link to the Top 50 Blogs in 2018

I have THREE blogs that I read daily and usually take notes on. Okay, sometimes I only peruse them, if the topic is not relative to my needs right then.

  1. Mia Botha’s Writers Writehttps://writerswrite.co.za/

Every day, Mia posts links to articles on a wide variety of subjects. Each article will offer other links to follow on related subjects in an Alice In Wonderland type trail that is positively addicting! And time consuming.  Watch out!

Her daily Writing Prompts will tickle your imagination and sometimes get a story going.

There are usually cute (or smarmy) writing cartoons to make you chuckle.

Finally, there is a list of “famous” authors whose birthday is that day. Each gives his/her advice on some aspect of the writing life.

Writers Write also hosts the “12 Short Stories Writing Challenge” each year beginning in January.  Using a monthly prompt that they supply, you write, finish and polish a 1500 word (exactly) story to submit. You comment on 4 other stories and receive feedback on your own piece. One a month for 12 months. Whew!

Writers Write also offers a variety of online classes which you need to pay for.

 

  1. Edie Melson’s The Write Conversationhttp://thewriteconversation.blogspot.com/

Each day Edie, or one of 10 or so guest writers, presents short articles that inspire, encourage, inform, and teach you all facets of the art of writing and publishing. It is a Christian site, but usually only one in seven posts talks about the author’s beliefs in her writing process.

Here are some topics on recent posts: (You can click on these to go to the blog.)

YOU HAVE A GREAT SCENE, BUT WHAT TO DO WITH IT?

7 TIPS TO MAKE YOU A MORE OBSERVANT WRITER

WHEN AN AUTHOR SHOULD SEEK PERMISSION FOR QUOTES

QUOTATIONS—HOW WRITERS FIND THE ORIGINAL SOURCE

WRITING SO THEY CAN’T PUT IT DOWN

GET YOUR BLOG READY FOR 2019

Edie also uses a technique for readers to easily sharing her posts on Twitter. She types the title of the post or another phrase that describes the topic, and gives it a hyperlink. Readers can click on this and it takes them to their Twitter account. The title and ping-back to the blog posts are already there. They click on “Tweet” and voila’, they have effortless shared your message!

She calls them TWEETABLES.

I tried it in a blog post I wrote on The Writers In Residence about a year ago. It takes a little effort the first time you do it, but it’s a great tool!

 

  1. Tara Lazar’s Story Writing for Kids with January’s StoryStorm Challenge https://taralazar.com/storystorm/

What is StoryStorm? It’s an amazing, month-long, story idea brainstorming event. It’s designed for children’s books mostly, but can be useful for any genre. The weird and whimsical, and sometimes serious topics by a new author each day, are really wonderful!

The Challenge is to create 30 story ideas, one or more each day in 31 days. Maybe it will be a clever title idea, or a lovable character, or a skeleton of a plot. If you follow through, you’ll have a list of at least 30 new, fantastic ideas to flesh out at the beginning of February.

And…. if you read it each day and post a brief comment, you are eligible for a bunch of prizes and free services.

From the topic “Double Story Lines” …. I came up with “I know an old woman who lived in a shoe…store. She had so many shoes she couldn’t fit in any…more.

Enter Old Mother Hubbard who went to the display case to buy some soft slippers for her poor aching “dogs.” But she found nary a moccasin or “mule”.

Enter a Fairy God Mother who felt sorry for the old ladies and turned every shoe into a slipper.

Ms Hubbard bought all 365. The Old Woman sold her shoe store and moved to Tahiti, where NO ONE wears ANY kind of shoes at all!”

From the topic “Stop, Look, Listen” …. I came up with a tale of a musician who paid for an extra seat on an airplane to carry his very valuable and fragile guitar in its case.  But his seatmates complained – I can’t see over the top of it, it’s on my armrest, etc., and caused a near riot. Crew and pilot intervened so the plane could go up on schedule. Ends with the man strumming and all the cabin requesting songs and singing along.

StoryStorm is a really fun Challenge, one of many throughout the year on a colorful, kid-friendly, idea-stuffed blog.

 

And then there are blogs that are more like OUR blog – The Writers In Residence – where multiple member writers and the occasion guest, wax eloquent on some aspect of their writing life.

Here are a few examples, check them out:

Make Mine Mysteryhttp://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/  –  Mystery writing ladies.

Ladies of Mystery https://ladiesofmystery.com/  –  Mystery writing ladies.

Pens, Paws, and Claws http://penspawsandclaws.com/  – Animal loving ladies and gents writing about pets, mystery and other topics.

eat poto

 

I hope this post has whet your appetite for reading OTHER blogs besides ours.  If you already indulge in this “sweet” pastime, will you share some of your favorites with our readers?  Or… if you write one of your own, please share a link to it. Our readers might like to “read you” too!

 

PS: I’m adding a few “OTHER” blogs that I remembered after posting.

Creative Writing Nowhttps://www.creative-writing-now.com/  –  They offer Writing tips, Ideas, Courses (free and paid)

Penny Sansevieri’s  Author Marketing Expertshttps://www.amarketingexpert.com/book-promotion-blog/   –  Wonderful articles about promoting/marketing your book.  You can also sign up for a free weekly “5 Minute Book Marketing Tip” via email or more extensive and personal, direct coaching on selling your book (for a fee).

A Boost Up!

By Jackie Houchin

Boost up2“A boost up”….when someone holds their clasped hands together next to a horse, and you put your foot in like a stirrup, and they propel you upward into the saddle.

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Sometimes a beginner (or lazy) writer needs a boost up into the writing saddle.  That’s where The Write Practice came into the picture for me. (I’m one of those lazy ones!)

The Write Practice

”If you want to become a better writer, you need to practice,” says Joe Bunting, creator of The Write Practice organization and blog. What’s involved? Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week, practicing with fresh writing prompts, unique lessons on technique, and getting feedback from a supportive community.

There are over 1000 practice exercises and lessons on the blog in such categories as; better writing, genre & format, characterization, grammar, journalism, plot & story, writers block, inspirational writing, publishing, and blogging. And it’s free.  http://thewritepractice.com/about/

I’ve attempted two lessons so far in the Short Story category. The first lesson was to read at least six short stories from the many magazine links supplied. The second lesson was to free-write for at least 15 minutes, post what you wrote in the comments section, read three of what other people wrote, and give them brief feedback.  Simple as that; practice writing and give feedback. It’s really the basis for everything Bunting does.

I wrote a short ditty on ‘Pig, Porcupine & Pineapple.’  It was totally fun!  Now to see with my fellow writers say about it

The Becoming Writer Community & Challenge

 If you are ready to go to the next level and start writing finished pieces (and get published), then the Becoming Writer community is the next step. Bunting compares this with what the “Inklings were for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the expats in Paris were for Hemingway, and the Bloomsbury group was for Woolf.”

I discovered Becoming Writer because membership in it (yes, it does cost a little) was a requirement to submit to The Write Practice’s quarterly short story writing contest. But what you get with membership is a lot more than the contest.

Like the free practice lessons above, you share your writing with a community of writers to get and give feedback.  Actually giving feedback on another’s work helps you when it comes time to edit your own piece.

The Challenge is to write ONE piece EACH WEEK, submitted on Fridays.  It can be a short story, blog post, poem, essay, or a chapter in a book.  This is what us “lazy” writers call accountability.

And finally, besides actually finishing your pieces (Yay!), you get opportunities to submit to magazines like Short Fiction Break, Wordhaus and others.

The feedback on my first piece, an essay I wrote about Africa, brought a suggestion for submission to a specific online magazine. I submitted it and am waiting to hear.  http://thewritepractice.com/members/join

The Fall Contest

This is what caught my attention at first, a writing contest that promised cash prizes, free books, and publication. The theme was “Let’s Fall in Love.” Stories had to contain the two elements FALL and LOVE and be no longer than 1,500 words.  I told myself, “I can do that.”

The name “Autumn Gold” sprang to my mind and I quizzed my writer friends on Facebook as to how a girl with that name might look. The first answer – a stripper – caused me to cringe because that’s not what I had in mind. But when another person confirmed what he said, it left no doubt.

The story I eventually wrote keeps the title “Autumn Gold,” but the girl’s name is Audrey Gould.  I wrote an outline of sorts, showed it to a friend for her opinion, and then pounded out a story about LOVE that takes place in AUTUMN. It was 1,948 words. Lots of cuts and edits later, I submitted it to the Becoming Writer Contest community.

For the contest (548 entrants) the community is divided into ten groups, A–J, with about 40-50 writers in each. I landed in Group D. There are 46 of us, and we’ve become a close-knit group.

I’ve gotten about nine feedbacks on “Autumn Gold,” and I’ve given at least many more on other stories.  Some are VERY good! Others will need some work.  Reading my story’s feedback and the feedback on the other stories has opened my eyes to what works and what doesn’t, and what readers “get” from what you write, even if it’s not what you intended.

Invaluable!

I’m considering rewriting the ending and running it past them one more time. The final deadline to submit the story to the judges is September 4.

Other Programs

The Write Practice offers other programs for writers and authors on building a platform, publishing & marketing, Twitter, and the 100 Day Book challenge.  http://thewritepractice.com/products

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Now I’m up in the saddle. I’m trotting around and loving it. I can’t wait to press my calves against my steed’s sides and rise into a canter.  I needed that boost up.  Do you?  Perhaps you should consider a writing community.

I suggest The Writing Practice. Take advantage of the discipline and the getting and giving of feedback.  Pick the lessons you are interested in and go for it. They are free! You might also consider Becoming Writer.

Or join a critique group and begin giving your work over to new eyes and opinions.

Get up there and get galloping!

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Currently the Becoming Writer and the 100 Day Book programs are closed until next semester.  Future contests in Becoming Writer will be on Flash Fiction, Essay writing, Novels, and Poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips from the 2015 California Crime Writers Conference, by Jackie Houchin

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            AS A MEMBER of Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America, I’ve attended all their combined conferences so far, and agree with everyone (even Anne Perry), this was the best one yet.  I love the camaraderie of fellow writers. I eagerly chat with them and sit in on their panel discussions. I commiserate with their anxieties and failures, celebrate their successes, and take note of the hard-earned tips they offer.
            The key note speakers – Southern belle, Charlaine Harris and British maven, Anne Perry – were the icing on the cake.
            I usually follow the “Craft” track because I’m a journalist with only an occasional dip into short stories. But the Industry, Forensics, and Marketing tracks were all well-attended, and for the first time this year CD recordings of each were made available for purchase.
            To order any of them, follow the links at http://vwtapes.com/sistersincrimewritersconference.aspx or contact Patrick Von Wiegnandt  at pvw@hawaii.rr.com.
NOTE: In order to be sure I did not misquote any of the authors from my scribbled notes, I listed their names on the panels, then used unattributed quotes. To hear just who said what (and more) check the CDs. 
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“Addressing Fear and Other Plagues of the Writing Life” — Tyler Dilts, DJ Adamson, Terry Shames, Terri Nolan, moderator: Dennis Palumbo
            About anxieties for beginning new projects: “I let my alter self rant for about 3 minutes (maybe journal) then say ‘Shut up and get up.'” “Just get the words on the page. I do about 2,000 daily. When you have a draft the fear is gone.”
            About procrastination: “I do writing activities (email, etc.) other than writing on my book.” ” My kids say I’m circling the computer.” “I don’t call it procrastination, but preparation.”
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“Thrills & Chills” —- Laurie Stevens, D.P. Lyle, Craig Faustus Buck, Paul D. Marks, moderator: Diana Gould
            About creating the elements of suspense: “I make characters sympathetic, then put them in jeopardy.” “Write thrillers only in 3rd person POV.” “Tell readers things the protagonist doesn’t know.” “Cliff hangers on most chapters.” ” Pace is critical.” “Short chapters.” “However, NEVER end the book with a cliff hanger.” “Don’t end chapters with ‘She had no idea what was coming’. It’s author intrusion.” ” I punch up violence in 2nd drafts.”
            About writing processes: “I do the 1st draft as a screenplay, an outline of sorts, I guess.” “I write the crime first, then write the psychological parts.” “When finished with the 1st draft, I do passes on what concerns me, like characters or pace.” “Anyone who doesn’t use Scrivener” is crazy!” http://bit.ly/1G5W0Q4
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“Miss Marple’s Rules, Traditional Mysteries Today” —- Jill Amadio, Susan Shea, Gay Degani, Carole Sojka, moderator Susan Goldstein
            About labels and rules: “There’s more bloodshed in a Divorce Practice than in traditional mysteries.”  “Solving a puzzle. A whodunit.” “No graphic sex or violence, an amateur or private detective, justice rules in the end.” “Multiple suspects and a small town setting.” “Victims are usually odious people.” ” No killing animals, no harm to children.” Traditionals are more cerebral, more analytical of human behavior.”
            About changes in traditional mysteries:  “Technology, cell phones, the internet.” “The basics don’t change (structure, clues, a puzzle, suspects).” “Authors today like to break some rules along the way.” “Today’s world – travel, social settings – can work its way into mysteries.” “Less likely to stereotype (maids all the same, etc.).” “More humor.” “Some authors today like to have a niche, a “craft” of some kind in their mysteries (quilting, cooking, bookstores, tea shops).” “You can usually tell a niche-type cozy by its cover.”
            (A hot topic: Most in the audience said these types of popular mysteries were “cozies.” However publishers and book stores do not distinguish them from the more traditional (Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot) “whodunit” mysteries.  They refer to ALL traditional mysteries (niche or soft-boiled) as COZIES. Women in the audience, as well as the authors, thought this was a bad rap, because men are less likely to try soft-boiled traditional puzzle/sleuth mysteries if they think they are reading “cozies.”) 
            A question from a gentleman:  What is it about a woman liking to write mysteries?  “Women are more willing to listen to others.” “They are more apt to ask a lot of questions.” “Maybe they are more intuitive.”
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“Short and Deadly” —- Bonnie Cardone, Andrew Jetarski, Gay Kinman, Donna May, moderator: Kate Thornton
            Why write short stories: “Immediate gratification.” “I was trying to make a living and had no time to write a novel.” “My first short story was the first chapter of my novel, slightly changed; the second one, the second chapter condensed. I wrote the third story on my own.” “Writing short stories was a way to put off writing my novel.”
            About the importance of Short Story anthologies:  “It’s how I began.” “I saw the announcement for submissions and thought ‘I know I can do that.'” “I wouldn’t be writing today without that opportunity. I like that when the theme is announced, everyone starts at the same time, no one has an advantage.”
            About short story markets:  “Anthologies, they get you started.” ” Kings River Life always needs themed stories.”  http://kingsriverlife.com/  “Duatrope.com has searchable databases for fiction and other genres.” https://duotrope.com/  “Woman’s World is another good place; very strict guidelines, but pay $500 for 500 words + a clue/question.” “Alfred Hitchcock & Ellery Queen magazines.” “Try joining the online group, Short Mystery Fiction Society, they even give Derringer Awards.”  
            About free or paid submissions”  “If you submit to non-paying markets, try to do it in places that give awards.” “I want them published before I put them into my own anthologies.” “You can put short stories on Amazon Kindle for 99c.” “Free to anthologies is good, it’s for a good cause.” “I introduce the characters in my novel in free short stories to see if people want to read about them” “Published (free) short stories can act as calling cards to other venues.”
            About regrets:  “I sold all the rights to an online market, then later when a film company wanted it, I couldn’t sell.” “I didn’t quite make the deadline on a story, then just let it go.” “I have a great story, but I can’t figure out the end!”
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“Traveling Through Time, Historical Novels” —- Jessica Ferriday, Anne Cleeland, Ona Russell, Bonnie MacBird, moderator: Rosemary Lord
            About what started you writing historicals:  “Scrapbooks. Clippings of my husband’s grandfather who was a judge in the 1920s. When I researched him, I found a wonderful Jewish woman who worked in the courts, perfect as my protagonist.” “I have Sherlock Holmes and the Victorian Era in my blood.” “I love linguistics and languages. My stories are in 1890s London.” “I love Regency novels. You’re supposed to write what you read, so I write 1814 Jane Austin.”
            About the language and style of historical speech: “I was trained as an actor, I learned to mimic. I listen to a CD every morning before writing.” “I get British people to vet my writing for Americanisms.”
            About research facts: “I  realized everything moved a lot slower (communications, travel, etc.)” “Hats! No one wears hats today.” “They had more ways to entertain themselves with each other – singing, instruments, dancing, storytelling.)”
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“Putting Your Blog to Work” —- Sybil Johnson, Patty Smiley, S.W. Lauden, moderator Mar Preston
            About expectations of a blog:  “I’m a member of a multiple author blog (MAB), so there’s no pressure to write a post every day or week.” “When I hung up my shingle as a writer, I created a place for other to find what I’m doing – opinion , author interviews, short stories to music videos.”
            About blogging to sell your books: “If I don’t, people won’t buy my books.” “I create a voice and style, but a blog won’t make you famous.” “I’ve gained readers.” “I announce my books on FaceBook and Twitter, but never talk about my books on the blog. I have conversations with people there.”
            About writing that blog post:  “We write from 1,500 – 6,000  words.” (WOW!) “I write 400-1,000 words.” “Begin your blog as if beginning a thriller.” “Offer content about YOU, your life, funny and entertaining stuff, not just about writing.” “Ask, ‘Would people care to read this?'” “Respond to comments.” “Make blogs visually attractive. Use photos and graphics. I imbed videos and book covers, use pull quotes. Use fewer words: people see a wall of text and don’t stay.” “Pay attention to ‘Keywords’ for your posts. Choose them carefully.”
            About all those blog hits from other countries:  “Creepy.” “How? Why?”  (An answer from an audience member cleared this up. The International Institute of English encourages their students to find blogs by using keywords. They print them out and use them to study English and English/American idioms; reading and rewriting them.)
            About getting started and keeping going:  “Join a MAB, or guest post on one.” “Write a dynamic essay.” “Keep a list of things that are happening to you, choose the interesting ones.”
Keynote speakers
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            From Charlaine Harris: How long does it take to churn out a book?  As long as your editor says. Being a writer means completing the book. It’s a business. If you don’t sell, you’ll be cut. No, I don’t outline. Outlining makes me feel like painting by numbers. I write maybe 250 words about the book, then get to it.  My biggest challenge? Personal malice towards me!  Sweet me!
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            From Anne Perry:  Do you ever wonder why crime writers are such nice people? If we really don’t like you, there are other things we can do with you. The great thing about being a writer is that you are allowed (expected) to be eccentric. You can write your mysteries about anything you like, as long as there are the elements of crime and somebody to solve it. (Photo: with Rosemary Lord)
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Keynotes discuss Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, Moderator Craig Faustus Buck
Harris and Perry agreed with most of Leonard Elmore’s famous “Ten Rules of Writing,” with exceptions.  “It depends…” prefaced many of their answers, and then they often explained how they broke that rule! Or avoided breaking it by using other means. A perfect wind-down to the conference. 
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Sisters In Crime Anthology “LAdies Night” authors & editors —- Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton, Jeri Westerson (editors), Julie G. Beers, Julie Brayton, Sarah M. Chen, Arthur Coburn, L.H. Dillman, Bengte Evenson, Cyndra Gernet, Andrew jetarski, Micheal Kelly, Susan Kosar-Beery, Jude McGee, Gigi Pandian, Wendall Thomas

Jackie Houchin Went South

In June, 2012 we sold our horse ranch in Sun Valley, packed up our four cats, and moved to South Orange County. We’ve never looked back or regretted our escape from LA County, not even once. (Apologies to those of you still living there.)
My hair is gray now. Such freedom! No more pale roots and horrible dye jobs. Moving to a new community was the time to do it too. 
Since we moved, I’ve been to Africa (Malawi) twice with short-term mission teams from our new church. I hope to go again this spring. I wrote a dozen journal posts on my website about that first trip.
Unfortunately, six months later my website was hacked beyond repair and I took it down permanently. It was a traumatic experience; a lot of publishing history gone in a flash.  I eventually realized it was time to let it go and move on.
I’m thankful for the journalism experience I got writing for newspapers in LA, and while I’ve posted a few articles on the Mission Viejo Patch and considered a story for the OC Register, I think I’ve pitched my last newspaper.
So, you ask, what are you doing in the WRITERS in Residence blog?  Because I’m still writing! 
I have two other blogs. “Here’s How it Happened” is a mini-website, with a variety of articles. Check out the recipe for homemade Snickers. Yum!  “Morning Meditations” is a more serious journal blog of my early morning quiet times in the Bible and prayer.
I do proof-reading and copy-editing, which is SO appropriate for a perfectionist nit-picker like me!  I’ve worked on a couple mystery book manuscripts, a doctorate thesis, a “how-to” craft manual, and an African children’s novel translated from Dutch.  And I still review books for Mystery Scene Magazine!  
Look for my future posts on WinR about “The Agonies of Book Reviewing: A 12-step plan” “How Lillian Jackson Braun’s ‘Cat Who’s’ Inspire Me” and “Start Writing Cereals…er…Serials!”