Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fun historical resources for writing about YOUR life


Good details can make all the difference in whether you draw readers into your story—and pull them in you must.

Think back: Do you remember reading a book in which you felt you were in the story with its writer? You tasted what he tasted. You smelled odors she smelled. You saw events he witnessed. You heard sounds she heard. You felt the textures or temperatures he felt. We call those sensory details.

But if you’ve ever read a book that kept you at a distance—a story that made you feel like an observer on the outside, unable to get in—then you know how much richer it is for a reader to live inside a story.

That’s what you want to do for your readers—write your memoir so they get “zipped into your skin,” says memoirist Mary Karr.

You can also zip readers in by including historical details of the era. Besides establishing your story’s historical backdrop, such details help create a sense of place and time

  • prominent values/philosophies
  • that time period’s passions and culture
  • the nation’s or culture’s major turning points (Pearl Harbor)
  • the place’s and era’s economic conditions
  • scientific, technological, and medical advances
  • political leanings
  • the nation’s struggles or victories
  • major stories in the news, and so on.

You are a witness to history. So am I. By age 25, I’d witnessed man’s first walk on the moon, Sputnik, JFK’s death, the Civil Rights Movement, rock ‘n’ roll, the Beatles, the hippie era, the feminist movement, and the Vietnam War. They all influenced me and shaped me.

Your historical setting influenced and shaped you, too.

And have you ever thought of this? You influenced and shaped history, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways. Like Biff Barnes said, you are “part of the sweep of history.Don’t overlook roles you played in molding and sculpting history.

Let me tell you about a fun tool you can use to enhance your story’s historical context:

Check out a website from The Atlantic called Life Timeline.

When you enter your birthday, you’ll see a list of historical events that occurred during your lifetime. And you’ll find links to articles about that event.

Use this fun tool to enhance the vibrancy and power of your memoir.

But wait! I have more for youanother way to enhance your story’s historical context. Have you created word lexicons? Word lexicons = collections of words and phrases.

In her delightful book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor, Priscilla Long describes the enjoyment and value of word lexicons. Especially significant are word lexicons that pertain to a specific piece—your memoir, for example.

Priscilla can tell by reading a person’s writing whether he or she collected words and phrases—what she calls The Lexicon Practice.

“Writers who do the Lexicon Practice have left in the dust what I call ‘conventional received diction.’ Writers who don’t do it . . . are pretty much stuck with television words, newspaper words, cereal-box words.”

Priscilla, a writing instructor at the University of Washington and a widely published author, collected words from her childhood for a collection of stories she planned to write: “greenbriar, dirt road, Neil Lindsey’s pig, 4-H Club… calf barn, gutter, manure pile, manure spreader, marsh grass….”

Each memoir—your memoirhas its own lexicon, its own unique set of words and phrases. Use them to define your story, to enrich it, to make it come alive for your readers.

Which words and phrases belong in the lexicon for your memoir?

You’ll want to compose several lexicons because, Priscilla points out, individuals have lexicons, places have lexicons, and “every craft, trade, profession, or job….”

I especially enjoy her lexicon for the Pacific Northwest, my home: “crow, Puget Sound, Steilacoom Tribe, western red cedar, Smith Tower, Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar, Starbucks, Northwest jellyfish, geoduck (pronounced gooey duck), Stillaguamish River….” She nailed it with those words.

Now it’s your turn: Choose sensory details—details readers can smell, feel, hear, see, and taste.

Think about these possibilities for your story’s historical setting and physical location:

  • iconic geographical references (rivers, mountains, deserts…)
  • prominent buildings
  • popular restaurants
  • food trends
  • lingo (“That’s a swell hot rod you have there.”)
  • clothing and hair styles (poodle skirts, saddle shoes)
  • popular songs
  • popular hobbies/sports (hula hoops)
  • specific car models
  • weather
  • typical sounds (birds, insects, factories, trains, children’s laughter)
  • colors
  • vegetation and wildlife, and so on.

Collect other words and phrases for main characters in your memoir, and professions/occupations.

Create as many lexicons as you need to enrich your memoir and draw readers into it.

If you're age 65 or older... I mean or better, you'll love Words and Phrases Remind Us of the Way We Word by Richard Lederer. And his post will give you a head start on compiling your own lexicon.

Just remember: avoid “television words, newspaper words, cereal-box words.”






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Your story can change someone’s life





“Stories are our lifeline to inspiration, awe, and hope.
(They) entertain us and introduce us to characters with immense courage.
When characters overcome a challenge
that mirrors the reader’s own circumstances,
their story provides a lifeline of hope to the reader.”


Your children, grandchildren, and great-grands
need to know your stories.

And perhaps your friends do, too.

And how about colleagues, neighbors,
aunts, uncles,
nieces, nephews,
and cousins?

Write your stories! Write them now!


Are you writing a memoir? Let us know.

Have you published your memoir? Be sure to tell us.

Writing
and rewriting
and publishing
and marketing
can be a daunting task,
and we want to cheer you on.

Leave a comment below,

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A must-read for you: Avoid scams and schemes


"These days, there are more people making money off new writers than there are writers making money," says Anne R. Allen.

Read that again: "These days, there are more people making money off new writers than there are writers making money."

"Recently," Anne continues, "I've run into a lot of new writers who do the very things that make them fall prey to unscrupulous scammers."

Don't let yourself fall prey to scammers and fakes.

How do you do that? By becoming a wise, energetic student of writing, publishing, and marketing. Start here with Anne R. Allen's post.

There's a reason Writer's Digest listed Anne's blog among their 101 Best Websites for Writers, and there's a reason Author Marketing Experts, Inc., listed her blog among their Top 50 Websites for Indie Authors, and several others. Week after week, year after year, Anne R. Allen shares information we all need to know.

In her blog post, Don't Fall Prey to Publishing Scams: 7 New Writer Mistakes to Avoid, she covers these and other points:

Writing-in-a-Garret Syndrome: Such people avoid writing classes, writing groups, writing books, critiques, beta readers, editors, and writing blogs and magazines. They fail to educate themselves on the publishing industry, self-publishing, and book distribution. Nevertheless, they believe they're brilliant writers and will soon find their books on bestseller lists. Anne says, "These people are prime targets for bogus agents, editing scams, overpriced marketing schemes, and ruthless vanity publishing companies because they're so easily flattered and bamboozled."

Trying to Publish Too Soon: Here Anne addresses those whose manuscripts "have pacing and structure problems,... cliches,... saggy middles, slithery points of view." She warns, "Bogus agents are happy to take them, though. For a fee. Then maybe they'll sell them to their own bogus 'publishing company,' which will be happy to take more of your money...."

Read the rest of Anne’s valuable post in which she discusses Obsessing about Marketing before you Learn to Write and Expecting to Make Money with a First Book and several other relevant topics.

“Every phony publisher, bogus agency, and scammy editing service with a slick website is waiting out there, ready to pounce,” Anne says. “So do your homework…. Even if you’re only writing as a hobby, if you want to publish at all, you need to learn how the business works or you’ll pay a lot of money for something embarrassing.”

 Don’t miss Anne’s final piece of advice, “Always check out a company at Writer Beware, and never sign a contract without running it by a legal professional. For real self-publish advice, follow Joanna Penn’s blog and The Alliance for Independent Authors. Reedsy and Writer’s Boon can give you lists of vetted service providers. And David Gaughran’s book, Let’s Get Digital, gives a great overview of indie publishing."

Many thanks to Anne for the consistently rich resources she provides with every blog post. I highly recommend you read her blog and follow her on Facebook. Also check out Anne's book, How to be a Writer in the E-Age.


Anne’s bio: “Anne R. Allen writes funny mysteries and how-to books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. She’s a contributor to Writer’s Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market. Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.”


Read Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros' blog post, Five Minute Friday Retreat: A Reflection.





Monday, September 4, 2017

TODAY: Sign up for a free online course with NAMW

Dr. Linda Joy Myers of National Association of Memoir Writers announces a FREE online course that begins tomorrow, September 5. Sign up today! I did!

Dr. Linda asks, "Do you have a story to tell? How many times have you told yourself, When I have time, I'll write about my childhood. I want to leave a legacy for my family. Or perhaps you are drawn to write to discover more about yourself.

"Whatever the reason you want to write a memoir, I know from my years of teaching and listening to aspiring writers that those other voices can pop up: you don't know how to write, you don't have a good memory, your life was ordinary, your story would be boring.

"If you're reading this," she says, "it's likely you want to try writing your story, [or are] interested in experimenting with the idea....

"A Taste of Memoir Writing is a free online course that will help you begin your memoir....

"The best thing to do is to start, and these lessons will guide you. You work at your own speed and write whatever you want. When you sign up for this quick taste of memoir writing, for the next four weeks, you will find a lesson in your inbox. It's like a present. You open it and enjoy! Click here to sign up."

Thanks, Dr. Linda!


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fun writing contests for you!


Have you ever entered a writing contest? If not, give it a try!

“You don’t have to be an expert or published in [your] genre or have entered a lot of contests, you just have to try,” says Angela at WoW (Women on Writing). “You may think your writing is not good enough or other things your inner critic may whisper in your ear, but the truth is if you don’t put yourself out there, consistently, you’ll never know.”

A couple of years ago I invited you to enter a First Paragraph contest hosted by Pamela at Women’s Memoirs.

Did you participate?

I submitted an entry and—whoa! Women’s Memoirs honored me with a Silver Award! (Click on Silver Award to read more about it.) In Pamela’s post announcing the Silver Award recipients, she included each person’s paragraph and gave a brief critique of each.

Reading the other submissions and Pamela’s comments further educated me about fine-tuning that all-important opening paragraph. Click on First Paragraph Silver Winners Revealed for your own enrichment.

But let’s get back to YOU. If YOU have never participated in a writing contest, please give it serious thought.

Here’s an opportunity for you: WoW—Women on Writing—hosts quarterly creative nonfiction writing contests. The next deadline is October 31, 2017. Check here to learn more.  

Don’t miss Chelsey Clammer’s post, Writing Contests: You Have Nothing to Lose. She lists reasons most of us talk ourselves out of entering a writing contest. And then she points out, “Someone has to win…. Contests are created so someone wins, and you are someone.”

And even if you don’t win, Chelsey shares this wisdom: “Contests aren’t about who wins…. When we enter a contest knowing that we probably aren’t going to win, it is at that exact moment when we hit ‘submit’ that we know contests aren’t about who wins.”

She goes on to list what writing contests are all about, things like believing in your writing, meeting a deadline, and resisting the thought that your writing is about a dollar amount.

Chelsey concludes with this encouragement: “…there is one thing you’re guaranteed to obtain with each contest submission: just by believing in yourself enough to enter, you’ve already won.”  Click on Writing Contests: You Have Nothing to Lose to read Chelsey’s post.

Click here to download Women on Writing’s PDF about word count, deadline, guidelines, etc.

In The Ultimate Guide to Finding Christian Writing Contests, Jerry Jenkins offers lots of tips and wisdom, and also lists the following contests:




Take note: Beware of scams! Kelly Gurnett urges this caution: “Some legitimate contests do charge a small entry fee or ‘reading’ fee, but often a fee can be a red flag or a scam….” (Read about one such scam in Kelly’s blog post.) 

Jerry Jenkins recommends checking with Writer Beware to help you determine if a contest is legitimate 

Do consider entering writing contests.
In the process,
you’ll improve your writing, editing, and proofreading skills,
and if you win, or even get an honorable mention,
the publicity helps build your platform.

God has given you stories to tell.
They’re important.
Others need to read them.

Write your stories.





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Before it’s too late!


Who can look into the future to know what will arise? 

In my July 27 post, I told you I was taking a break for family matters—but I didn’t anticipate being away for three weeks! 

Neither could I imagine what would happen to my heart.

My husband and I spent time with a parent nearing death. A few days ago, we said goodbye, celebrated his life, and comforted loved ones left behind.

Another precious relative, after enduring way too many tragedies in the past few months, ended up in the ER.

Three days ago, a special uncle died.

And we also continue to watch another dear one who has only days—or maybe hours—to live.

I’ve been experiencing some hiraeth moments, especially after my uncle’s death.

Do you remember my posts about hiraeth? Pronounced HEER-eyeth (roll the r), it’s a Welsh concept which, according to the University of Wales, can include “a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness….”

It has to do with a strong attachment to a homelike place and a hankering to return to it. That’s what I’ve been experiencing—a longing to return to the halcyon years I spent with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Love, joy, kindness, and fun filled those times. And total acceptance. And safety. That’s why something in me longs to return to those people and those days.

Hiraeth:
It calls our names: we recognize the voice,
and it tells us that place is where we belong,
that place, where our roots go down deeper than our roots.
That is our home of homes.


But I digress. Anyway, now you know why I’ve been away from SM 101.

And little did I know how relevant that July 27 post would be—the last post before my break. Do you remember it? I encouraged you to write the important stuff before it’s too late.

I asked:

What wisdom can you impart to your kids and grandkids before you die?
What balance? What perspective?
What reassurance?
What can you demystify for them?

And I suggested you include those accounts in your memoir. (Click here to read Write the important stuff before it’s too late.)

With these recent reminders of life’s fragility, I’m even more convinced we need to be intentional about writing our stories—for the benefit of those who come after us. Not because you and I are so great, but because God is so great.   

“The greatness of old age is that it has wisdom, which is . . . important for young people. A young person who is about to face life has thousands of problems, but an old man can demystify many of those problems.” (Father Aldo Trento, quoted in Why Grandparents Matter)

My experience with loved ones these three weeks reminds me:

Life is short.
You don’t know how much longer you’ll have good enough health—
or even life—
to put your important stories into writing.

Don’t put it off!