Saturday, September 30, 2006

Care to Wager?

Have a strong opinion on who will win the next Nobel?

Here’s a chance put money on who you think will carry that cute little statuette home.

Ladbrokes Nobel Prize Bet Site.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Thinking Outside the Book

Here's another author's web site, this one promoting Marisha Pessl's debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Gimmicky and fun. Note that it includes a link to the -fictional- character's myspace page. Now THAT's marketing! Thanks again to Sammi for the tip. (Um. Sammi. Hurry up and find your blog so I can link to it!)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

20th Anniversary of _Writing Down the Bones_

Did Bones change your writing life? Here's your chance to celebrate in Taos, New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg!

Filmmaker Mary Feidt and authors Rob Wilder and Eddie Lewis have planned a November bash to celebrate the 20th Anniverary of Natalie's groundbreaking book, Writing Down the Bones.

The party begins the evening of Friday, November 10 with a viewing of “Tangled Up in Bob: Searching for Bob Dylan,” a documentary featuring Natalie Goldberg. A Q&A and reception with Natalie and Mary Feidt will be held after the film.

On Saturday, November 11, Mabel Dodge Luhan House will host a limited seating luncheon with Natalie. In the afternoon, Natalie will lead a discussion about the book. A benefit champagne dinner will follow to support Natalie's scholarship fund which brings people of color and other disadvantaged individuals to her workshops in Taos.

Natalie will read Saturday evening and then all guests are invited to the Sagebrush Inn for dancing.

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is located in historic Taos, New Mexico on the edge of pueblo land.

For more details, call Mabel Dodge Luhan House at 1-800-84-MABEL or go to Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Enneagram Builds Character(s)

I'm feverishly working on a "short paper" for my first semester in Goddard's MFA program. Since personality typing systems have intrigued me for years, I decided to focus on using one in writing.

I chose the Enneagram, a nine point system which includes many different levels of health and integration because of it's dynamic nature. Not only can an author use the Enneagram to create a character, the flexibility built into the Enneagram allows an author to track a consistent arc of character development.

As with most of my brilliant ideas, I found that somebody else had "my" brainstorm first! There's even software available. To learn more, check out Judith Searle's book, The Literary Enneagram: Characters from the Inside Out, and Character Pro 5. Software. Searle provides a short essay on the nine personality types and examples of characters, actors and their Enneagram types at

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More Marketeering

Here's another note from Sammi (blog to be revealed at a later date when we find it!) on a website that shows how to market a book:

Author David Skibbins of course does all the usual marketing stuff. His web site, though, is not your typical two-dimensional, electronic brochure. He writes mysteries, using the tarot as his theme. The web site gives readings -- but in the voice of his main character, a fellow with attitude this thick!

The web site also includes lists of upcoming personal appearances at book stores and teleconferences with guest writers. It contains archives of past teleconferences, so that if you missed out, you can still download the interviews. He has coordinated these monthly talks with fellow writers. Readers and fans can call in and ask them questions. It's recorded so that it can be uploaded to the site later as streaming audio, podcasts or whatever.

A lot of the stuff he does is similar to what we do for clients [Sammi's day-job provides management services for non-profits], so I know how cheaply some of it can be done, like creating teleconferences and podcasts. I just hadn't thought of applying those marketing techniques to promoting books or that all-important platform.

Very cool, and something to file away, my fellow scribblers, toward that day when you want your books to stand out in the crowd and want your web site to generate buzz, favorite bookmarks and sales!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Newbie's Guide to Publishing

Ready to market your book? Check out J.A. Konrath's blog entry titled "Do Something." His pithy, timely suggestions are a welcome change from the usual "How to Sell Your Book" fodder. I'm tucking it away for future reference.

BTW - According to my friend Sammi Soutar, "JA Konrath's blog is the winner of the 2006 Genny Award and has published several books. I like his breezy, practical writing, Heck, I even like his favorite quotes [e.g. "There's a word for a writer who never gives up... published.]"

I tried to link to Sammi's blog, but neither of us could find it! Thanks for the tip Sammi.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What She Said

Many of the comments my Goddard MFA advisor, Aimee Liu, made on my manuscript (working title: Memorial) apply to any piece of writing.

I thought I'd share them with you:

       * What gets our attention is the promise of a struggle among equals - a good fight with an uncertain outcome. If your story can't deliver that, you have no story.

       * We need to know everything that's at stake in your [main character's] death. To know that, we need to know as much about those losing him as we do about him.

       * Where is the conflict?

       * Think of your [characters] as sparring partners. Show us how they spar. What are they sparring about?

       * How is [the setting] a metaphor?

       * Dialogue should read like a game of ping pong.

       * What does each detail mean emotionally?

       * What were you thinking? What was each main character thinking?

       * Where is the conflict?

       * Whether or not you [the author of a memoir] were actually there, we need to feel that we [the readers] are in the room with these people.

       * Search for all the imperfect verbs (would be, etc.) and change them to past tense (was, etc.).

       * Why should we care?

       * Give us the moment.

       * How did what he [the main character] said or did affect you? How did you react? How did the other main characters react?

       * Where is the conflict?

       * Give us the split perspective. (e.g. your viewpoint of an event when it happened contrast with how you see it now)

       * Where is the conflict? Where is the conflict? Where is the [you guessed it] conflict?

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Writing Life - Nita Style

Lest you think my writing life is any easier than yours, here's a glimpse of what actually happened this week as I attempted to quickly get back to writing after receiving input on the first thirty pages of my memoir, Memorial: Our Last Year on the Links.

Tuesday afternoon comments from my Goddard MFA Advisor, Aimee Liu arrived in the mail. Tuesday night I lay on the sofa calling friends to moan about what an awful writer I am. I spent Wednesday reading over her eight-page letter and highlighting it extensively. Yesterday I typed up questions gleaned from the heavily highlighted letter. So now, instead of an eight page letter, I have five plus pages of single-spaced questions.

Last night I emailed her for advice. Things like, "Should I drop out of MFA school?" and "Should I collect the 37 drafts of this 300 plus page document, shred it, and use it to wallpaper our 2.5 bathrooms?" Immediately thereafter I began pacing the house, checking my email every five minutes. At two this morning (eleven PM her time), I received her response which essentially said, "Stop worrying. Let's talk later."

This morning I'm heading somewhere that doesn't have wi-fi. I intend to copy my manuscript to yet another new document, read the comments she wrote on the actual pages, and begin making changes. I keep telling myself that this is my process and that it will all be okay in the end, but right now it feels like having several root canals without novacaine. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Writing is Rewriting and Rewriting and . . .

. . . just more [expletive deleted] rewriting it seems. Yesterday I received the thirty edited pages of my memoir, Memorial: Our Last Year on the Links, from Aimee Liu, my advisor through Goddard's MFA program in creative writing. Let's just say I'm glad she doesn't use red ink.

When I first ruffled through the pages and saw her notes, I felt slightly ill. But today, sitting at Stauf's Coffeehouse and reading her comments more closely, I value her opinion. All it means is that there's more work to do. If she's anything like me, her multitude of comments simply means that she can see the possiblities the work offers. Mine must have a ton of promise!

Okay. So I'm committed. I want this book to be good, not just good enough. I'm back at it and ready to do whatever it takes. Curse my ego. Pass the bumglue!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Theme Songs

My latest secret weapon is music. When I get to the coffeehouse and I'm all settled in, laptop on, edit pages out, ready to rock and roll, I put on my headphones and point my mouse to the instrumentals from Firedance that I downloaded onto my computer from a CD.

Firedance has a strong drum line, a punchy Celtic rhythm, and the tempo increases incrementally throughout some of the songs. As soon as I hear the first few chords, my feet are tapping and my fingers begin to dance on the keyboard. I also have several CD's of Bach Adagios and some Beethoven to turn to when I want a different pace.

A friend told me about this technique several years ago, but it didn't make sense at the time. I thought I needed silence. Now, when I point media player to Firedance, my writing juices begin to flow!

What's your theme song?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

So Much Material . . .

. . . so little time. I spent the afternoon at a multi-generational in-law and out-law family birthday party. Once you're a writer, family gatherings are no longer boring. Stay awake and take good notes! You'll have enough fodder for a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Getting Back at It

For today, just one truth from Annie Dillard:

When you are writing full-time (three to four hours a day), go in the room with the book every day, regardless of your feelings. If you skip a day it will take three painful days to get to believing in the work again.(emphasis mine)

For me, "the room with the book" is a coffeehouse. Today I'm thinking Cup O' Joe. I'm packing up and I'm outta here!

Monday, September 04, 2006


The good news is that I’m feverishly rewriting my memoir, Memorial: Our Last Year on the Links. The even better news (which the faithful readers of this blog already know) is that both an agent and an editor are interested. The bad news is that in order to stick to my deadlines, something must go. The thing that’s going is my participation in the monthly Writers’ Roundtable.

I’ve been thinking about turning the Roundtable reins over to someone new for awhile. Book writing, graduate school, teaching, and family illnesses leave little time for anything resembling a life. When I discussed this with Roxanne Martin (who I dub “Saint Rox” since she put her job on the line for Michael Wilson and I for several years by paying us when she shouldn’t have), she explained honestly that eventually the powers that be at Barnes & Noble would get wind of our arrangement and cut off the funding. It happened sooner than we anticipated. The Easton Barnes & Noble store has become a training facility and, as such, all the staffers, including Roxanne, must now play by the corporate rulebook. While I never facilitated Roundtable for the money, this seemed the time to make the switch.

Fortunately for all of us, two willing souls (also being sainted) have stepped forward to take the completely unpaid helm. Many of you know Valerie Chandler and Sammi Soutar as regular Roundtable attendees. They are working writers, experienced writing group coordinators, and Sammi pinch hitted for me several times.

I’ll end my Roundtable stint with the October group, but don’t worry. I’m not going far. I’ll still teach classes at Lifelong Learning and Leisure, publish this newsletter, and regularly update my blog. And hopefully, before long, I’ll invite you to see me at another venue - a reading and signing with copies of my finished book. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Even writers need a day of rest. I met my deadline for sending my first packet of grad school materials to my Goddard College advisor and tomorrow is publication day for my monthly e-zine, Write Now Newsletter, so I'm taking the day off. See ya tomorrow!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Now Write!

Does your fiction need a boost? My friends Tania Casselle and Sean Murphy were asked to contribute to the book NOW WRITE! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers published by Tarcher/Penguin this month.

In addition to great material from Tania and Sean, the book includes lots of inspiring ideas from authors like Robert Olen Butler, Steve Almond, Alison Lurie, Amy Bloom etc.

There's a direct link to the book from Tania's website: or it can be found in the usual bookstores.

Here's some writing practice prompts plucked from the book title/chapters:

          Now Write!
          A map to anywhere
          Once upon a time
          Look backward, angel
          Why I stole it
          A very, very long sentence