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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Know it was Blue – Thoughts on Organizing Memories by Author Rosemary Lord

Rosemary Lord wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!
She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.


I Know It Was Blue

I was de-cluttering. Anything to delay writing the next part of my new book. Many writers have clean, tidy fridges for this very same reason…

I was going through an old box of scraps of paper that needed purging. “Cary Grant: 11 am, Tuesday,” I had long ago written on the back of an envelope. As you do.

Then I picked up a tariff from the Hotel Aguadulce in Almeria, Spain. “Yul Brynner – top floor, Charles Bronson, Raquel Welch –” scribbled on the top. A tattered Boarding Pass LA – New York. The name ‘Richard Dreyfuss’ was in pencil. A metro ticket from Paris with Charles Aznavour’s name on it. My souvenirs all told a story.

Goodness, I realized, my writing has taken me all over the place. What fun. In those days I earned my living writing for various magazines, interviewing movie stars (the real sort) and writing about people in the film industry, especially Old Hollywood. A receipt from the Palm Bay Beach Club in Miami was next. Columbia Pictures had flown me there to interview Muhammad Ali and also James “Jimmy” Stewart. Both were making movies in Florida. I had my portable Olivetti typewriter, a small tape-recorder and a passport. ‘Have typewriter – will travel’ was my theme.

I’d forgotten about this part of my life. I remember I was almost always broke, as we were paid peanuts for such interesting work. But you usually got fed. That was a priority. Otherwise I lived on a diet of spaghetti (very cheap) with grated parmesan cheese.

After a while, racing from one appointment to another, running for a train somewhere, the typewriter got left at home. I had created my own short hand in which to hand-write my pieces. I still have the typewriter and a large box of tapes of those interviews. I realize that one day I should attempt to de-clutter these, too. Big sigh. Not sure if I could ever part with them or the stack of well-thumbed notebooks filled with quotes and notes.

Today – I harrumph – journalists have the ease of minuscule, assorted recording devises that even type up the spoken word. But I would not swap my ‘journalistic clutter’ or the memories of those struggles, frustrations, fun, exciting and sometimes dangerous adventures, for anything.

But I digress: the scraps of paper that I should be clearing out. Focus, Rosemary!

You see, I have a habit of writing notes on the nearest things to hand. Paper napkins, paper tablecloths, the most obvious. Old receipts, used envelopes are a favorite, too.

Friends are used to seeing me with an array of paper scraps on my desk as I pull together some semblance of a story or article. (You should see my desk right now. Please, no! At least I have a desk these days.)

I do have a good selection of notebooks – even beautiful, leather-bound books – with pages of eventually published pieces and several yet-to-be published stories. Yet, when my ever-busy mind comes up with another great idea, or a solution to a scene I am writing, the notebooks are not usually close enough. So I dig in my pockets and bags for anything to write on. My challenge is to collect those scraps of literary pearls and to transfer them to the notebooks and ultimately onto my computer – where I can cut-and-paste to my hearts’ content. I am getting much better, but still not efficient enough for my own demands.

Dare I ask my fellow bloggers and readers if they have any similar organizational challenges? Any ‘helpful hints’ are welcome! Or must I remain drowning in a sea of scraps of paper?

I love a quote from the late Professor Randy Pausch’s wise little book, The Last Lecture. Knowing he had not long to live, he wanted to develop a good filing system, in alphabetical order. But his wife, Jai, felt this way too compulsive. He told her:

“Filing in alphabetical order is better than running around and saying, ‘I know it was blue and I know I was eating something when I had it.”

I confess I still spend a lot of my time muttering to myself, “I know it was blue and I was eating something….” Help!!