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Literacy Muskoka Novel Marathon Novel Novel Marathon On Writing Writing Writing Life Writing Retreat

It’s a Novel Writing Marathon – And You’re Invited!

It’s time, once again, to register for the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON!

I have been attending this event for years! Pride Must Be A Place was written at a Muskoka Novel Marathon.

Every July, for 72 hours, a group of 40 or so writers have gotten together in the small but glorious northern Ontario town of Huntsville. Every July, they hole up in a space together and they each attempt to write a novel over the course of a three-day weekend.

THIS YEAR it’s the 20th Anniversary of this event!

Some of the 2017 Muskoka Novel Marathon writers!

Sadly, it’s also the 2nd year that the writers aren’t quite getting together. At least, not in the same way. Last year was our very first ONLINE EDITION. And this year will be our second online marathon.

There are AWARDS handed out for BEST NOVEL in Adult and Young Adult/Juvenile categories. A panel of industry judges reviews each of the manuscripts submitted at the end of the weekend. Invaluable feedback is given to each manuscript.

I’m not going to lie. IT’S NOT THE SAME. Imagine the energy of having 40 writers in one room together for 72 hours. It’s frenetic, it’s chaos, it’s practically euphoric. We help each other with plot bunnies and holes, we urge each other on, we tease and joke and laugh and cry. And we also break bread together…as we are served 3 meals a day. All we have to do is stop writing, leave our writing stations, and go to the mess hall for food. It’s all set out and ready for us hungry writers to dig into.

You just can’t get that online.

BUT…it’s still an amazing journey. Writers meet through Zoom frequently. We have smaller breakout groups. We support each other. We even have silent Zoom meets where all those who attend just quietly type out their words together. Trust me…those are super helpful. I got a lot of words down during the silent Zooms. I didn’t think it would work, but it did.

The gorgeous dock at the in-person event space. Sadly, we will miss this in 2021…but it’s there waiting for next year!

We make the best with what we have. What we have during this pandemic is online camaraderie.

The good thing about ONLINE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON is that it’s open to more than the usual 40 writers…and you don’t have to travel to HUNTSVILLE to attend! You can register and participate online in the comfort of your own writing space! AND you can be from anywhere in the world.

So think about spending a productive writing weekend with a group of writers dead-set on writing an entire novel in 72 hours.

The details (from the MNM website):

The 20th Anniversary of the Muskoka Novel Marathon is Open for Registration!
Save the Date: July 16 – 19, 2021

Due to the on-going situation with the pandemic, we will be holding our second (and hopefully last) all online Muskoka Novel Marathon. Join us for a ZOOM event. No seat limit! Tell all your friends!

This event is also a fundraiser for local (Muskoka) literacy programs. READ THE ABOUT PAGE HERE FOR ALL DETAILS AND HISTORY OF THIS EVENT.

There IS a nominal fee to register. This will cover all the expenses the organization incurs for organizing the event. Registration is $25 and there are also cool MNM T-shirts you can pick up if you wish.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Think about joining us this year. It’s so much fun to get online together and urge each other on! There’s also an evening during the weekend where anyone who wants to can read an excerpt from their MNM work-in-progress in a safe nonjudgmental environment.

You’ll have to make your own coffee…but what this organization puts together for this weekend is worth your attending. It got me through in 2020…and I’m looking forward to attending the 2021 event. It will be an opportunity to see old friends from previous MNM events…and meet new ones in this safe virtual creative space!

I’m guessing a good portion of my blog posts on this site are about the MNM. This will be, I think, my 13th marathon! I’ve written about many of them. Just search Muskoka Novel Marathon on this site to read more about it. And spend some time at their site:

MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON WEBSITE

I hope you’ll join us for the 2021 marathon! Take advantage of this burst of creativity this July!

Categories
Asian Author Alliance Hate Is A Virus Kidlit Against Anti AAPI Racism Auction On Writing Stop AAPI Hate Writer Writers Writing Writing Life

Kidlit Against Anti-AAPI Racism Auction – Feb 26-28 2021

The ASIAN AUTHOR ALLIANCE has created an Auction Fundraiser to support both the STOP AAPI HATE and the HATE IS A VIRUS organizations. Here is a note on the auction directly from the ASIAN AUTHOR ALLIANCE KIDLIT AGAINST ANTI-AAPI RACISM AUCTION website:

“We are a group of Kidlit writers and publishing professionals who are horrified about the intense rise in anti-Asian violence  after a year of xenophobic rhetoric and racist attacks. “The NYPD reported that hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment jumped 1,900% in New York City in 2020.” (Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Are on the Rise. Many Say More Policing Isn’t the Answer,Time.com) We are running an auction to raise funds for two organizations that work against anti-asian racism and racism of all kind: Stop AAPI Hate & Hate is a Virus. Auction is open from February 26, 2021 @ 12AM EST until February 28, 2021 @ 11:59 PM EST.”

You have to act fast if you want in on items in this auction, as it only lasts for 2 days!

There are over 400 items to bid on. Here’s a link to the page that breaks those items down by category…for easier navigating of what there is on offer:

Items by Category

SIGNED BOOKS, BOOK BUNDLES (US ONLY | US/CAN | INTL)

BOOK SWAG

CRITIQUES BY AUTHORS

CRITIQUES BY EDITORS/AGENTS

WORKSHOPS, WRITING RETREATS

CALL WITH AUTHOR & CLASSROOM VISITS

CALL WITH EDITOR/AGENT

NAME A CHARACTER

MISC

I have items in this auction. UNDER THE CATEGORY OF SIGNED BOOKS, BOOK BUNDLES, you will find the following (Click on link to see my auction offering):

#254: Signed copies of The Camino Club & Pride Must Be A Place by Kevin Craig + $20 Gift Certificate for the online bookstore at Interlude Press | Kidlit Against Anti-AAPI Racism Auction

The opening bid on my auction package is $25 and it’s open for bidding RIGHT NOW. Ships for free to USA or CANADA. Please consider making a bid on this and all items in the auction!

Please spread the word to your writing and reading friends…to all your friends! This is over in 2 days. This is a tremendous and important cause! Happy bidding…

Categories
NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month On Writing Writing Writing Life

When is a Writer Not A Writer, Because It’s Not When They’re Not Writing. Or is it?

Did that make sense? I mean, I always defended my right to call myself a writer whenever I go through long stretches of not writing. I get defensive and prove–with novels and plays and stories and poems already written–that I am indeed a writer. Even when I am not anywhere even remotely nearby the actual literal act of writing. But is that all just one big cop out? Am I justifying the owning of the title by pulling up historic data that makes it seem like it’s so when it isn’t actually so?

Wisdom from graffiti found on the Camino de Santiago…

By that measure, I should call myself a professional double-dutch skipper. I mean, I was REALLY good at it 45 years ago…so I should in fact still call myself a double-dutcher, no???

Maybe we should consider ourselves writers only while we are writing. The act of writing makes it so. I am writing at this very as we speak moment, typing these words out…so, therefore and ergo, I AM A WRITER. But once I click PUBLISH on this post…maybe I should just become Breather again. Human. Non-Writer.

Would it motivate me more to only call myself a writer while in the act of writing? I need something to get me to keep on track. I am between novels. One was just released. Three are near completion. One is completed and without a home. And I sit and do nothing writing related for far too many hours of the days I have left.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

I keep hoping for an Elves and the Shoemaker scenario. I mean, aren’t the statistical odds in my favour that this could eventually one day happen? I’ll wake up one morning and all three WIPs will be completed! Perhaps the elves will even leave a lovely pair of slippers across the top of the manuscript, which will be neatly tied with a pretty purple ribbon, and finished off with a bow. Or, no…that is perhaps asking too much. Maybe they’ll just leave me a chocolate. After all, I can’t expect them to make me a pair of slippers and finish the drafts of all three manuscripts, can I?

See…this is me typing words now. I am fulfilling my claim that I am a writer, simply by typing this gobbledygook. Thereby tricking myself into not being required to dig into those manuscripts and get cracking. I’m so good. There should be awards for WRITERLY PROCRASTINATION!

How’s your writing going? Are you on task? Are you getting things done? Are you calling yourself a WRITER?

It’s NANOWRIMO 2020 in precisely 9 days from now. Are you participating? Are you planning? Are you going in with an outline or cold turkey pantsing it once the day (NOVEMBER 1st) arrives?

I need to commit to something, so I suppose NaNoWriMo it will be. Sometimes just thinking about calling myself a writer when I’m not in fact writing is stressful enough to motivate me to get back into the game. I keep thinking about that little saying, if you don’t use it you lose it. Man, I would hate to lose writing just because I’m too lazy and unmotivated to write RIGHT NOW.

Once I stop writing this post, I will be a non-writer again. Until the next time I write something. Here’s to motivating myself to have less time in between these two realities. Or at least slipping into WRITER now and then. I’ve been so bad lately. Let’s see if waving this threat of removing the title from myself is the trick that gets me back in the business of word slinging. Wish me luck!

Oh! And good luck with NaNoWriMo, if you’re imbibing! And don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s the journey, not the destination. It’s the writing, not the having written. It’s the time spent in the web of words, not the word count. Just enjoy yourself this NaNo! 2020 is enough of a mess without imposing self-inflicted punishments on ourselves for something as arbitrary as word counts. Just enjoy the words you DO spend time with.

Happy NaNo, writers who are writing!

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon Novel Marathon Novel Writing On Writing Writing Writing Camp Writing Life

My After-The-Marathon Post

This past weekend was the 2020 Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was the…wait for it…QUARANTINE EDITION. Cue the creepy crawling dark and dreary music…

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The novel marathon is usually 40 writers getting together in one intimate space and writing 40 novels over the course of a 72 hours weekend in July. It occurs in Huntsville, Ontario, the heart of the Muskoka region. Cottage Country.

This year? Not so much. We sat in our own houses. We wrote on our own.

But the Marathon organizers did a SUPER FANTASTIC ABSOLUTELY AMAZING JOB motivating the housebound writers! They are to be commended for thinking outside the box during this, the year of impossibilities. Covid-19 changed EVERYTHING, including the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON.

I know we won’t raise as much money for the YMCA literacy programs this year. It’s pretty much a given. But writers still did their best, we still did some fundraising. Hopefully, we raise enough to keep some of the programs funded. The yearly injection of funds that the Y gets from this marathon is no small change. We often raise upwards of $30,000 per marathon year.

The other elements of this event, outside of the fundraising? The WRITING. The camaraderie. The silliness. The emotions. The food. The coffee. The love. The words. The sunshine and the rain. While in Huntsville every year, the writers usually sneak out to explore the town…either on their own or in groups. We have a pub night, we take the old fashioned train at the historical HERITAGE PLACE TRAIN STATION. We do an amazing BAREFOOT CREATIVITY WALK with BAREFOOT SUE! We do all these things and more. We are a family gone on a long weekend vacation together. 40 of us. We click and clack in the writing room day and night. We stop writing long enough to break bread together three times a day (Called to the kitchen by the flickering of the writing room lights and presented with delectable food for every meal provided by volunteers and sponsors). We huddle in small groups and large ones, talking about writerly and nonwriterly things. We do a MIDNIGHT READING on the SUNDAY NIGHT…sitting around a large table in the kitchen (let’s just call it a mess hall) reading the fresh unedited words from our manuscripts to the other gathered writers. We are, for 3 short days every year, a family.

Enter 2020.

MNM2020
A screenshot of yours truly during one of the MNM 2020 Quarantine Edition WRITING SPRINTS. I chopped out all the other little Brady Bunch ZOOM squares. Our screens were filled with writers writing…quietly together. ❤ It really works, people! Motivates!

We did ZOOM meetings this time around. We wore pajamas and goofy hats and ate together and laughed. It was different. It was very different. But thanks to the gracious and tireless organizing committee, our family found to a new way to be together…to reach out and share. We even did the Midnight Reading.

MUCH THANKS AND LOVE TO: Karen Wehrstein, Colum McKnight, Jennifer Turney, Heather Cotic, Krystyne Taylor-Smith, Shellie Westlake, Sharon Bacon, and, David Bruce Patterson. These generous souls brought our happy family together in a new and vibrant way. Much things have been cancelled during Covid-19. Thanks to this group who thought outside the box and made the changes necessary to keep our little light aflame. The MNM did not happen in Huntsville this year, no. But we carried on…we came…we wrote words. We persisted.

There’s always next year, right? HUNTSVILLE CAN WAIT.

See you there, MNM family!

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon Novel Writing On Writing Writing Writing Camp Writing Life Writing Retreat

Muskoka Novel Marathon – Online Covid19 Edition

Well, now I’ve gone and done it! I told myself I was going to take a year off from the Muskoka Novel Marathon. I have a new book coming out (THE CAMINO CLUB) and I thought the 72 hour marathon less than 2 months before launch was just too much me-time to take. I wanted to remain open, just in case.

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The Active Living Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada—where the yearly Muskoka Novel Marathon magic usually happens.

As it turns out, a pandemic has struck. So everything has changed. The whole world has changed. Including the magic of the Muskoka Novel Marathon. For the first time ever, this event will not take place in one room in one building in one little northern Ontario town. This year’s MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON will not be 40 writers in one room writing 40 novels in 72 hours.

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I will be sitting in the WRITERS’ ROOM in spirit only this year. Writing from home will definitely not be the same. I’ll miss my fellow MNM participants greatly. Here I was planning to give those poor people a break from my ME-ness this year!

We will be spread far and wide, in our own homes, eating alone or with our loved ones. It’s strange and shocking. I can’t fathom the world without the yearly escape of the MNM. It’s a rare event that, if experienced, all writers cherish. Writing in one room together, stopping for meals to break bread together, to laugh, to compare words, to cry, to vex, to prank. Sigh.

But I did say WE. As it turns out, I guess I do have the schedule that would afford me the ability to participate. I mean, I’ll be home anyway, right? ALSO—full disclosure: The biggest reason I wasn’t going this year was that I felt like I should give my fellow participants a break. I can be a little MUCH sometimes. When I’m doing something that is high intensity–SAY, WRITING A NOVEL IN 72 HOURS–I get a little high intensity myself. I know I can be exhausting at these things, because I exhaust myself. So, I was going to sit this one out to give them an extra year to recuperate.

Usually the marathon registration costs $100. This may sound like a lot of money to fork over for the opportunity to spend 72 hours writing. To those people, I just say, “You’re crazy!” Value your words. That $100 buys 3 meals a day for 3 days, as well as unlimited coffee and snacks. AND a place to stay for 3 days. AND the magical camaraderie of like-minded people. You’re camping in a room with 39 other writers for three days and being fed and caffeinated non-stop. Take my $100, please!

This year, registration is free. And though they ask registrants to participate in fundraising, it is not mandatory. As important as LITERACY is, there are a lot of people out of jobs right now–either permanently or temporary. Fundraising for literacy could prove to be a heavy unfruitful burden for sure. There are a few very important causes right now that should not lose our focus, including bail funds and Black Lives Matter.

So, the usual push for fundraising is gone. And as the marathon is online for the first time, I guess it opens it up for people outside the immediate area as well.

This will be my 12th marathon. I’m registered and counting down the days. Hopefully I can stay on track and get a few words written from home. I hear there’s some online things being planned too, where participants can interact. Maybe some ZOOMS, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing what the organizers come up with.

I DID ask for a DONATION PAGE. So if you’re so inclined I would be thrilled if you were to sponsor this cyber-MNM. I’m certain the marathon will fall WAY SHORT of its annual close to $30,000 fundraising achievement. Any amount will help support the ongoing literacy programs of Muskoka/Simcoe county YMCA.

We are WRITERS HELPING READERS READ. You can be READERS HELPING WRITERS HELP READERS READ if you wish. Do you have it in you?

I will be receiving a donation page soon and will share it once it’s live. In light of the current world situation, I will not be doing very much canvassing for funds. But I will make the link available. STAY TUNED!

Thanks so much in advance!

Categories
Huntsville Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing Ontario Writing

Attention Ontario Writers! Writing Escape Opportunity

I’ve been talking about the Muskoka Novel Marathon for about 12 years now. I’ve attended the novel writing marathon 10 times and I’ll be heading back up to Huntsville, Ontario in July for my 11th marathon.

Today, I wanted to highlight the marathon as an incredible writing escape opportunity for writers. This event usually fills up quite quickly. This year, however, there are still a few available spots. If you have a free long weekend in July, a need for writing space, and a desire for an unforgettable life-changing writing opportunity to fall into your lap, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE MNM!

Here’s what you have to do and what you can expect at/from the Muskoka Novel Marathon.

  • First, here’s a link to the MNM Home Page.
  • The marathon takes place from July 12th at 8:00pm to July 15th at 8:00pm, 2019 at the Active Living Centre in downtown Huntsville, Ontario, Canada.
  • Here’s a link to the Registration Page if you’re a writer wanting to secure your spot at the 2019 Marathon. Writers must register online and pay the fee when registering (see next point).
  • There is a $100.00 fee for writers to sign-up – Please keep in mind that you will be given all your meals and snacks for the entire 72 hour marathon, as well as all the coffee you can drink in that time. (Often writers also bring their own snacks) Also, you can choose to stay at the facility and bring a sleeping bag or a blanket or a tent or a gravity chair or whatever you wish to sleep on during your stay. (no hotel fees)
  • You will also be expected to collect donations for the fundraising side of the marathon. We collect funds for the YMCA’s literacy programs (They set up an easy-peasy link which you can then direct your donors to for easy online payment—or you can collect funds the old fashion way). Organizers would probably like each writer to collect somewhere between $500-$1000 each…but all efforts are appreciated
  • Each writer begins a brand new novel at the marathon at 8pm Friday July 12th. They do NOT need to write an entire novel to enter the BEST NOVEL AWARD contest at the end of the 72hr marathon. They can arrive on day one with a ONE-PAGE OUTLINE for their novel. No writing written prior to the marathon can be entered into the contest. Only what you write on the premises during the 72 hours will be considered for the competition.
  • You will be able to eat your meals with your fellow writers, talk about your projects, encourage each other on, etc. The community that writers find at these marathons is incredibly helpful. Writers form lasting bonds that go on for years and years after the marathon closes. Writing groups and critique groups and critique partnerships have forms from these marathons. Novels have been published that began their lives at these marathons. The community of writers–the family of writers–that you will become a part of is life-changing.
  • Occasionally we escape the premises and head into town for a meal at one of the summer cottage restaurant-bar scenes down the hill. It’s a lot of fun storming a bar with 15 new friends who all also happen to be writers on a word-high. NOTHING LIKE IT!
  • Right in the middle of the marathon, at around midnight on the Saturday night (possibly Sunday—I can’t even remember which night as I type this) those who wish to participate in a reading of their fresh new work are invited to do so. This is an element of the marathon that has become more and more popular every year. It began in 2007 with me and two other writers. Last year we had probably close to 25 of the writers participate. We go around the table and we each read some pre-chosen excerpt from our works in progress to read aloud in a friendly non-judgemental environment. It’s a special time in the marathon for me. I enjoy hearing what others have come up with.
  • At the end of the 72 hour marathon, you have the option of submitting your piece in its category for BEST NOVEL AWARD. Also, there are peer nominated prizes such as BUM IN CHAIR AWARD and SPIRIT AWARD and ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD, as well as a few awards from the organizers, such as the REMY AWARD for most funds raised, the ROCKSTAR AWARD and others. Past Winners can be found here.
  • This will be one of the best things–if not the very best thing–you will ever do for your writer-self. You will not regret the camaraderie, the vast amount of writing time, the beautiful atmosphere, the connections you’ll take with you into your life.
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Muskoka Novel Marathon. 2016. The building behind me in this shot is where the Muskoka Novel Marathon takes place. This hillside hike is less than 5 minutes from the front door. There are beautiful escapes nearby even as you escape to your writing weekend.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section. Registration is still open…and I’ve been told there are a few spot left. Take the plunge! I never looked back after that first year. It’s so worth the trip to Huntsville, Ontario! And it’s for a most worthy cause. We’re WRITERS HELPING READERS.

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For the past few marathons we’ve had the pleasure of Sue Kenney’s presence. Sue has lead us on a barefoot nature walk every Marathon Sunday for a few years now.  It’s not just writing that happens at the marathon. Magic is everywhere.
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You owe your writer self this blissful 72 hour weekend getaway writing retreat! Register today!

AGAIN, HERE’S THE WEBSITE – CLICK NOW TO REGISTER

 

Categories
Book Giveaway Burn Baby Burn Baby Contest Giveaway GoodReads Half Dead And Fully Broken Instagram Novel Novels Paperback Win Writers Writing Writing Advice Writing Life Writing Tips YA YA Lit YA Reviews Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

A Sure-Fire List to Help Motivate Your Inner Writer Into Actually Writing! Follow This List Carefully and You Will Be Writing Again!

Have I done a list lately? I should keep a list of the lists I list. Or is that list the lists I keep?

In a writing slump? Finding it hard to finish that Great Canadian (American, Armenian or otherwise) Novel? Trying to dedicate more time to writing this year because you’re one of those people who makes New Year Resolutions? Follow this list to a tee and you should find yourself back on the writing wagon. If you’re already on the writing wagon and you follow this list, you will find yourself even more connected to your writing. My point? Follow this list and you will write more.

The questionnaire
Do not skip items on this list. Follow it closely, or there is no hope for you. If you falter, you might go gently into the night and get lost forever in the vast vacuous land of NOT WRITING. Proceed with caution and a willingness to adapt yourself to the points made on the upcoming list you are about to read…

How to Write When You’re Not Feeling Writerly (OR When You’re Feeling Stabby and Murderous Towards Words, How Do You Embrace Them and Make Them Work in Your Favour…Even Though You Hate Them)


  1. Turn OFF the social media and Click the wifi to OFF. I know it’s impossible to imagine, but these things are distractions…killers of the imagination, even while they are stimulating it. If you follow this first item in this list, you will significantly increase your outflow of words. The increase could quite possibly be tenfold.
  2. See the first item in this list. Quite frankly, if you got this far in the list you aren’t following the steps properly.
  3. ARE YOU STILL HERE. Stop reading this. Turn off the internet and write.
  4. Don’t make me yell at you. SIT. WRITE. Open only one window…whatever program it is you use to write with.
  5. I’m gonna keep this list short and to the point. Only 5 items. Item 5 is CLOSE THIS WINDOW. SIT. WRITE. <<This advice works if you’re a beginner writer, or if you’re someone like that up-and-comer Stephen King…who has a couple books under his belt.

If you’re still here, clearly you’re not heeding my warnings. If you’d rather read than write, click on the image below to get yourself over to GOODREADS to enter to win a paperback copy of my latest novel, BURN BABY BURN BABY. The contest ends JANUARY 11, 2015!

goodreads

If you’re on INSTAGRAM, follow the steps in the picture below to win a paperback copy of BURN BABY BURN BABY in the INSTAGRAM contest! The easiest way to enter this one would be to go to Instagram and repost this image from my account. Instagram is sometimes tricky with resizing, etc.

Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!
Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!

Okay…now there is still a chance for you. Turn it all off. SIT. WRITE. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. No magical equation. No tricks or gimmicks. To write more all you need to do is write more. One word in front of the other without the everyday distractions that weigh you down and mess with your creativity and drive. SIT. WRITE.

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Christmas George Bailey Prose Writing Words Writers Writing Writing Advice Writing Life Writing Tips Zuzu Bailey

Zuzu’s Petals! Make Your Magic Authentic to Your Readers!

Unless one has never heard of the invention of a television, it’s fairly safe to assume that we all know the reference ZUZU’S PETALS. In case one among you (AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) has not yet seen a particular movie, I shall explain Zuzu’s Petals before going into the point I want to make about writing. (-:

ZUZU’S PETALS. They are perhaps the most glorious evidence of magic that we have in the universe today. Let’s just go right to it, shall we. Behold! Zuzu’s petals!

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ZUZU and her PETALS!

 

Aren’t they glorious!? The most beautifully gorgeous symbolism in all of moviedom! Yes…I’m excited. Of course I’m excited. I get excited every time I think about those petals. And tis the season.

In the above picture you will see Zuzu Bailey and her father George Bailey. They are characters in the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Zuzu’s story is a sad one. But it’s also one that is, at first glance, such a small insignificant role in the vast scheme of things. At first glance. I’m going to forgo the announcement that a spoiler follows here. Because all but maybe one of you have seen It’s a Wonderful Life.

Zuzu comes home from school with a beautiful flower and can’t wait to show her father. But some of the petals have fallen off. George, in his infinite desire to please everyone–and especially his lovely Zuzu–pretends to reattach the petals. But he secretly slips them into his pocket. Zuzu’s tragedy is averted, and her love and adoration for her father grows three sizes that day. Her flower is returned to its beautiful self and her tears retreat.

George Bailey then falls into the rabbit hole. He is taken into a world that would be the world how it would exist if he had never been born. It’s a much bleaker, darker world. It’s quite frankly a terrible world. It’s also a world in which Zuzu’s petals do not exist–no George means no Zuzu. Folks, don’t ever shout to the universe, “I WISH I WAS NEVER BORN!” That’s a rabbit hole you will not want to go down, right there.

As the movie wraps up, George is allowed to reverse his error and come back into the world he left behind. He has seen the vast changes his life-force has created in the world. He knows that the third rock from the sun is a better place with him in it. His faith in humanity is restored and he feels glorious.

Of course, he must be thinking, ‘Wow. What an awesome dream!‘ Because something otherworldly like that just can’t happen, right? But lo and behold…George Bailey reaches into his pocket and what does he find there? You guessed it! ZUZU’S PETALS. They were a huge symbol the whole time. Right in front of our noses. George IS. And how does he know he is? Because ZUZU is. Because…Zuzu’s petals!

“Zuzu’s petals…Zuzu… There they are!”

Today’s lesson for writers is simple. In truth, I just wanted an excuse to talk about Zuzu’s petals. Because they’re glorious and what not.

Firstly, did you know that It’s a Wonderful Life is based on a short story called The Greatest Gift. Written by Philip Van Doren Stern, it was privately published. I have to wonder if that means self-published.

My point? I do have one. No matter what magic you write into your story, it must be authentic. I use the term magic loosely here, because this can apply to any genre…not just magical realism or fantasy or paranormal or anywhere you would normally find MAGIC. I’m talking about anything from coincidences to ghosts to flying to world-building to Zuzu’s petals. Put clues in your work to authenticate the reality you want your reader to step into. Subtle clues. Tidbits of information that they can reflect back on when they reach the story’s conclusion. Something that will make them go, “AHA!”

I don’t know about you…but I eat that stuff up. I was just a child when I first watched It’s a Wonderful Life. And, for me…the most magical part wasn’t George suddenly running through a town that was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the same town we were just previously shown. The most magical part wasn’t the way people who lived as adults had suddenly died as children and lived-in houses became empty haunted spaces and even the TOWN became renamed in the blink of an eye. The most magical part were those petals. Placed lovingly into a pocket in the most subtle way…so that I would both remember their significance and forget their significance. Those petals were a glorious flower themselves…planted as a seed in a threadbare pocket. And when they blossomed, when George reached into his pocket and discovered those beautiful babies…well, my world stopped.

So the lesson for writers today is this—do that! Give your readers a whole boatload of Zuzu’s petals. Be like Hansel and Gretel. Leave glorious breadcrumbs throughout your story…breadcrumbs that will validate the story itself, make it more authentic. Every reader loves a great AHA moment. Just don’t manipulate them. Your breadcrumbs can’t have huge glowing neon signs on them that scream, “LOOK AT ME!” They need only be a few crumpled petals placed lovingly in a pocket in an effort to staunch the tears of a loved one.

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Samsung Tablet Writer Writers Writing Writing Tips

I’ve Gone Mobile (Or, Writer Gone Wild!)

I have made the move. And it feels great. I wasn’t sure if it would work out or not, but I’m LOVING it!

No more laptop, no more desktop. No more pens, no more pencils, no more books…no more teacher’s dirty looks. Oops. I didn’t mean to go there. It just happened. What I’m trying to say is I made the switch from laptop to tablet. And I’m loving it.

samsung

I thought I would give it a try because it’s ridiculous how quickly we get used to the downsizing of our electronic lives. The desktop computer seemed impossibly large when the laptop came into existence, and now…just the mere thought of carting my humungous laptop around exhausts me. (-;

When I got my new tablet, the first thing I thought of was writing. I was excited to get the closest app to MSWord and see if it would work for me. I immediately downloaded the free version of OfficeSuite, and loaded my latest manuscript to the app to see what I could see. It’s a go. The onscreen keyboard works well, the functions are similar enough in the app that I was comfortable transitioning without feeling lost in new technology. I began editing and writing. And I did so for a couple of days. Once I was sure that I could work in the new environment, I upgraded to the full version of OfficeSuite. For $21 a year, I felt it was well worth the investment. I now have writing on the go. Right there at my fingertips, wherever I am.

It feels liberating. That laptop–at least in my mind–was beginning to weigh a thousand pounds. With the tablet, and its functioning and acceptable 10″ screen, I have the freedom of mobility with the comfort of a bigger size than the smartphone I was considering using as my go-to writing implement.

To be perfectly satisfied, I created a new file and switched it back and forth between my laptop and my Samsung tablet. Just to make sure that formatting didn’t get messed up, or anything untoward would happen to the files compatibility-wise. It’s all good. It’s a go. I am now a tablet writer. (-:

I’ve been wanting to try this for quite some time, but I was leery. I thought it wouldn’t work out, for some reason or other. But I’ve gone mobile. This writer done gone wild…

Now…time to write.

I leave you now with Mr. Writer, by the Stereophonics. Because all writers are beautiful clowns…

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Writers Writing Writing Advice Writing Life Writing Tips

Solitary by Design – The Writing Life

Yesterday I talked about writers and community by sharing some information about the writing community I myself am entrenched in. Today, I wanted to talk about the solitary life of the writer. Because when it comes right down to it, we need to be solitary while in the thick of things. Putting words on the screen is done by a committee of one. In today’s social media based universe, it is becoming more and more difficult to focus long enough to put words on the screen when those words are in a manuscript. IF you’re easily distracted.

Guess what. I’m extremely easily distracted. I could easily write 3,000 words in an afternoon. And suddenly realize that all 3,000 words were shot off into the social media stratosphere…while my manuscript lies dormant.

That’s not a good thing.

I sometimes wonder how many of Mark Twain’s short stories (or novels, for that matter) would not have been written had he had a Twitter account and/or a Facebook account.

Wondering about things is what often gets me into trouble. If I had my TWENTY MINUTES back every time I wondered about something and ran to Google, only to be lost in a vortex of wondering and searching and reading, I would have hours of writing time accumulated. I’d be able to write a novel in one sitting with that lost time. Sadly, lost time stays lost. One of the biggest skills a writer can possess in today’s information epoch is CONCENTRATION and an unflappable ability to FOCUS. Please God, give me focus!

I sometimes go days…no, weeks…without opening a manuscript. I intend on writing every day. I used to write every day religiously. I still conceptualize myself as a person who writes every day. Man, I’m bad. I have this ONE THING. And I mess it up.

And what am I doing about it. Writing about the fact that I’m not writing. I’m participating in the social media phenomenon of blogging as a way to distract myself from writing. I feel like somewhere inside that runaround logic I should declare myself a winner. But if I stand up and shout to the universe, “WINNING!” I might be declared insane. What I need to do is give myself structure so that I’m back to an every day writing schedule. Maybe I can limit my social media time better if I schedule it. Maybe I can fly to the moon with the wings on my back, too.

You have to WANT it. Wanting is winning, IMHO. Right now, I’m not as hungry as I used to be. But I’m coming to the conclusion that social media IS killing some of the best writers out there. Proof? Oh, I gotcher proof. Let’s go back to Mark Twain, shall we…

EXHIBIT A
EXHIBIT A

Above, you will see exhibit A. I offer this as proof that some of the world’s greatest writers are being gobbled up by their own egotistical need to spam, blather, purge, gab, selfie themselves, and pontificate on social media. I came up with the theory and it took about six seconds on Google to prove it!

When was the last time you witnessed new work from Mark Twain? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?! Yet, he has all the time in the world to tweet about his life. He’d rather tweet past quotes and reflections than sit down and put new words to the screen. Social media has swallowed Mark Twain whole. We may never see another new work by this great author. WHY? Because he’s too busy tweeting, Facebooking, and pontificating. I won’t even search out his snapchat account. Heaven help us!

Are you a writer?

It’s time to take a pass on some of the distractions of the modern social media frenzy. Give yourself a daily scheduled block of time where you ONLY work on your Work-In-Progress. Don’t multitask inside this time-frame. Choose writing! Leave all your other windows closed…because you know if you don’t a little birdie is going to fly in at just the right moment to take you away from your work at hand. Twitter can wait. Facebook can wait. Blogging can wait. Tumblr can wait. Forums can wait. The NYT can even wait. Make YOUR writing the priority…at least once a day.

We have witnessed the decline of one of the world’s greatest literary treasures. Mark Twain may never again come out of the social media spiderweb long enough to give us new material. We all lose there. Don’t rob us of any other great works of literature. Sit. Write. Repeat…

 

Remember that it’s great to be social. Writers together is an awesome thing. To a point. Sooner or later you need to leave the party long enough to write. Writing–the actual act–is solitary. By design. Like I said. Sit. Write.

The party will wait for you…