Category Archives: Writing resources

Me & CBC

This Huffington Post article by Amy Wruble, 40 Effed Up Things About Being 40, is making the rounds on my Facebook feed. It made me laugh. I just turned 40 last year but found myself relating to many of Amy’s observations – the correlation between the ingestion of pancakes and my waist size in particular. May my old metabolism rest in peace.

There is one more item I would add to this list – not so much “effed up” but definitely in the category of a “new trend” for me since I turned forty. I have become a fan of CBC Radio. That’s right, I said it, I am a late bloomer to CBC Radio.

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It’s not that I didn’t know it existed, it’s just that growing up I largely considered CBC Radio to be “boring” and for “old” people. I like to think I was just wrong all these years, of course it may be that now I am old and boring but either way CBC Radio is suddenly appealing to me and often the first thing I put on the radio when I get into the car.

I’m still learning my way around the programming schedule but am super happy when I land on shows like The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers or Writers & Company hosted by Eleanor Watchel. These programs offer up a great forum for discussions with authors. I love hearing about what compels them to write and inspires their stories and characters. Studio Q with Jian Ghomeshi is also a great place to hear fantastic interviews like this one with Khaled Hosseini  (Kite Runner, And the Mountains Echoed) last week.

Turns out there’s a whole world of radio/talk shows for writers out there, just opening up to boring-old-40-year-old me. Here are just a few that I found. I’d love to hear from others about their favourites.

Talk Shows for Writers (www.freelancewriting.com)

Best Podcasts for Authors (http://www.bookbuzzr.com)

5 Must-hear Podcasts for Writers (http://www.fromthewriteangle.com)

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Filed under Author Interviews, Inspiration, Writing ideas, Writing resources

A picture paints a thousand words: how to use Pinterest as a writer

pinterest-catsThe last thing I want as a writer is another social networking platform to worry about. I have enough distractions, thank you very much. And so it begins…

With a little persuasion from Maria, I have started “Pinning.” I’m using Pinterest for my writing research. Sure, I’m creating personalized boards and pinning my favourite DIY ideas but I’m also pinning research visuals and catching on to why this popular online space might just be a useful resource for me as a writer.

Unlike most social media platforms, Pinterest is all about the imagery, and not the text. And who doesn’t love pictures! With its visual focus, it may seem counterintuitive that Pinterest would be great for writers, but I’m quickly learning how this tactic is proving to be a rich resource, particularly in the creative stages.

Creating visual pin boards can be a great way to help fuel your imagination and give readers a glimpse into your creative process. Here’s a glimpse at my board to give you an idea.

Now it’s your turn to “Pin It!”

Here are 8 ways that Pinterest can be useful to you as a writer.

1. Research. People (actors that represent your characters). Places (images of similar settings). Things (objects or time period references). Mood (scenes that create atmosphere and emotional overtones).

2. Motivation. Inspirational quotes and wisdom as a way to inspire and remind yourself why you write and what you want to accomplish.

3. Collaboration. Invite other writers to pin to your board and make comments. Organize writing teams and pitch ideas. Provide incentives (free books) to fellow writers.

4. Booklists. Market research and comparables to your book. Or books you want to read!

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5. Promotion. Images of your blog, posters, flyers, business cards, book covers, and book tour photos.

6. The Writing Life. Pin the view out the window from your desk. Your bookshelf. Your real-life storyboard/pin board. Or even your cat asleep on your laptop.

7. Stay current. Using the “Popular” feature on the Pinterest home page, you can instantly access the latest trends from all genres.

8. Connect with your fans. Pin boards show your personality and interests. It’s a great way to connect with others and express what you care about.

How do you use Pinterest? Feel free to share links to your pin boards in the comment section. We’d love to check them out!

B Jas

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Keeping it short: A contest and some resources for on-the-go inspiration

Isolated pencil with bite marks on“Short fiction seems more targeted—hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them.”

Paolo Bacigalupi, American science fiction and fantasy writer

Here’s a contest for those who like to write in short form—the Little Bird Writing Contest. Created by award-winning Canadian author Sarah Selecky, Little Bird showcases the work of emerging short fiction writers. Submissions will be accepted until March 31, 2013.

The first step is to sign up for Sarah’s daily writing prompts—your story must feature one of the prompts.

Next, take advantage of the free resources on Sarah’s website. Her Deep Revision e-mail series, designed to help you refine your story, is already underway. Her e-book, “The Incomparable Short Story,” has some essential tips for writers. You can also listen to a recording of the March 1 Little Bird Salon, a teleconference where she and contest judge Alix Ohlin answered questions from callers-in around the world. If you’re looking for a targeted online writing course, read more about Story Is a State of Mind.

And finally, submit your best work! Check out the Little Bird web page for submission guidelines and resources.

Looking for short inspiration on the go?

  • Every Day Fiction: Every Day Fiction is a magazine that specializes in presenting fine fiction in bite-sized doses. Every day, they publish a new short story of 1,000 words or fewer. You can sign up to receive a flash fiction story in your inbox every day. http://www.everydayfiction.com/
  • The NUB: The Nub is the first independent arts and culture smart phone/tablet application in Canada. The Nub provides users a new piece of writing each day from five of Canada’s top independent arts and culture magazines: Broken Pencil, Geist Magazine, Subterrain Magazine, Matrix Magazine, and Taddle Creek Magazine. Get the app for iPhone/iPad or Android devices today: http://www.brokenpencil.com/thenub

Maria

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Filed under Awards and contests, Writing Contests, Writing resources

Confession Time

I dumped the entire contents of my purse on the floor of my doctor’s waiting room this week. Embarrassing? Yes. But there was a silver lining. While I was crawling on the ground (in a skirt!) gathering up the little pieces of my life, I made a few choice discoveries, including a $50 gift card for The Bay that was MIA since last Christmas and the head of my son’s much-coveted Darth Vader Lego figurine. Better than this though, I also found my ideas—long-forgotten writing ideas for book plots and characters that I’d jotted down on the back of receipts and sticky notes.

I have a habit of doing this. If you came to my house, you would find more of the same random notes on my bedside table, my phone, my laptop and in the back of my agenda for work.

This system for organizing my writing ideas is about as effective as it sounds – chaotic and unreliable. My notes, if I even remember that I’ve made them, are never where I think they should be when I want them. In fact, right now I am leafing through my agenda in search of a bright yellow sticky note that had some great ideas on it for this blog post. Ah, actually found it—crumpled at the bottom of the bag I cart back and forth to work every day.

Clearly, I am in need of some sort of system to help organize my writing. 

I turned to my fellow Restless Writers to see how they keep track of their projects.

Maria wondered if a binder qualifies as a system—I say yes. In her binder Maria says she keeps hard copies organized according to the working title of the piece, including previous versions, all dated.  Beckie relies on file folders, storing notes and papers in folders, one for each writing project.

A quick Internet search tells me there is a myriad of stuff out there for people just like me. Programs like Evernote, Mindjet, and an eBook The Oraganized Writer that promises 30 days to more time, money and less frustration. There is even a mobile app Werdsmith, created for writers to help them keep track of ideas whenever inspiration strikes.

Do others have organizing systems they’d be willing to share? What works for you?

 

 

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Filed under Organization, Trials and Tribulations, Writing resources

Spread the Light

Do you like to write poetry? Are you on Twitter?

Consider joining in a collaborative Twitter poem Wednesday June 20, 8 – 10 pm EST, in celebration of the solstice. The theme, naturally, is Light.

How does this copoem work? Simply get on Twitter and tweet a line or two of original poetry. Make sure to include the hashtag keyword #copoem in your tweet so it doesn’t get lost. (If you search using the hashtag key you will be able to see what others have written too.)

Afterwards, the tweets will be gathered and stitched together – perhaps with an edit or two – and the final poem will be posted at www.karenkachra.com. Who knows what we’ll come up with…it’s an experiment!

Thanks to Tara T. @tara_in_canada for this fun idea and Karen Kachra @karenkachra for organizing everything!

Happy Solstice,
The Restless Writers

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Filed under Author events, Calls for submissions, Inspiration, poetry, Writing ideas, Writing resources

If You Want an Agent, You Need Backspace

I learned about the Backspace Writer’s Conference the way I learn about most things: Twitter. An author I follow tweeted about his new agent and his blog detailed the experience (Backspace played a huge role).

I cannot emphasize enough what an amazing opportunity this conference provides to authors looking for an agent. Unlike most writing conferences that offer a couple of anxiety-ridden pitch sessions, Backspace provides genre-specific workshops where authors spend hours having their query letters and opening pages critiqued by agents seeking new clients.

Not all participants receive offers of representation, but at the very least they should come away inspired and informed enough to make their manuscript query-ready. I received multiple requests for my women’s fiction manuscript, but of equal importance was the opportunity to connect with writers who have become beta readers, cheerleaders and swoon-worthy drinking buddies.

I’ve also completed a children’s chapter book that I’m ready to query, but only YA was being represented in the workshops. Luckily, Backspace offered agent/editor panels on both days and writers were able to pitch their work to them following the sessions. This allowed me to connect with agents who represent children’s fiction (more referrals and requests for pages).

Since I went totally budget on the accommodations and was able to score a cheap flight, the entire conference cost me just over $1,000—obviously a significant chunk of coin, but think of it as an investment in yourself…that’s how I sold it to my husband 😀

LD

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Filed under Author events, Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Writing resources

New online community for Canadian writers: Canada Writes

Portrait of a woman using her laptopThe Restless Writers have been tipped off to a brand-spanking-new online community for writers. Canada Writes, which was launched by the CBC at the end of August, promises to be a useful kick in the pants for those of us who could use a little motivation.

Some features of Canada Writes include:

Literary Prizes: Formerly the CBC Literary Awards, the CBC Literary Prizes, in partnership with Canada Council for the Arts and enRoute magazine, are now made up of three separate competitions that take place throughout the year. The CBC Literary Prizes are now three separate competitions with three different deadlines:

  • Now open! Short Story (open September 1 – November 1)
  • Poetry (open December 1 – February 1)
  • Creative Nonfiction (open March 1 – May 1)

The First Prize winner in each category will win $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and publication in AirCanada’s enRoute magazine, as well as on the Canada Writes website. Four runner-ups will also be chosen and receive $1,000 each.

Challenges: I just missed the Autobiography Challenge (thereby missing the chance to win an iPad 2—boo). This challenge asked writers to come up with the title and back blurb of their autobiography. I loved the entry by Alexander McKinnon, DAMNED BAD BASTARD.

Features: Some of Canada’s top literary names will pen tips, essays and insights for Canada Writes’ readers. I loved Andrew Pyper’s article on why there is no such thing as writer’s block—great advice!

I’m looking forward to exploring more features to come, which I understand will include more challenges with prizes, online writing workshops, and interviews with writers from all genres. I hope you’ll check it out too.

Maria

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A love letter to my library

*We interrupt this regularly scheduled post about writing and the writing life to express incredulity about the proposed cuts to public libraries in Toronto.*

As part of the city’s business planning process, Etobicoke Councillor Doug Ford is proposing cuts to public libraries across the city, including the closure of branches in neighbourhoods that need them the most. And it’s not going to win him too many votes.

Canadian literary legend Margaret Atwood is raising no small hell about this on Twitter—despite Councillor Ford’s assertion that he doesn’t know who she is. She’s urging Torontonians to sign an online petition to save public libraries: http://ourpubliclibrary.to/

As a writer, reader and lover of the written word, I can’t say enough about public libraries. (I wish I could say that I met my husband at the library, but no, he picked me up at a bar.)

I thought I’d share the top ten reasons why I love my local library:

1)      Free books! Where else can I browse, sample, devour, and skim through as many books as I like, for as long as I like, and even take some of them home with me. Yes, I know our taxes pay for this privilege. I will subsidize libraries, gladly.

2)      Free magazines! I am a magazine junkie. It just doesn’t make sense to pay for subscriptions to dozens of print copies of magazines when I can read them at my leisure at the library. Makes more sense financially and environmentally to read them at the library too.

3)      Free Wi-Fi! While I may not have trouble accessing the Internet at home or work, not everyone is as connected as I am.

4)      Infinite research resources! Not only does the library hold pretty much any reference book I would ever need, it can also help me access online resources (through databases and indexes) and access to books at other libraries through interlibrary loan.

5)      There’s coffee! Yes, many libraries have gone the Chapters route and brought beverage and snack vendors into their branches. And even if your local branch doesn’t have an on-site coffee house, most libraries are located in areas with easy access to fast food and drink.

6)      No judgment! Libraries are long-time champions of freedom of speech. Hearing librarians speak out against censorship brings out my feisty activist side.

7)      Events for writers! My library hosts writing contests, programs for young writers, book signings and readings, and connections to the literary community, all in one spot.

8)      The next generation of readers and writers! That little huddle of toddlers listening to a book being read aloud or planning their Stuffie Sleepover (so cute!)? They’re going to be the readers, writers and reviewers of the future.

9)      It’s not just about the books! Get all your culture in one spot with CDs, DVDs and even movie screenings at the library.

10)  It’s all about community! My local library is a meeting spot, a quiet place to study, a living room, a neighbourhood hub, and the literary and cultural soul of my city.

Chime in, writers—why do you heart your local library?

Maria

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Your Beta Readers Don’t Have to be Toilet-Trained

For a variety of reason, we Restless Writers have been a bit lax of late, both in our meetings and pages, so I’ve been e-mailing my WIP (a chapter book aimed at those aged 7 to 10) to the ladies for some eFeedback.

This latest project is very dear to my heart, not to mention heaps of fun, because the entire family is involved: my husband came up with the initial character; my three-year-old daughter coined some catch phrases; and my eight-year-old son has provided me with key plot points.

When I received suggestions from Beckie and Maria, they were as usual, spot on. However I’ve noticed after reading the outline to my son that he had very similar comments regarding the pacing, characterization and even setting.

Obviously he didn’t use these terms; more often than not they were along the lines of, “That part’s boring, mommy…” or “Why wouldn’t they do (insert his better idea here) instead of (my idea)?”

I mentioned my son’s critiques to Beckie and she offered me some sage advice: “Listen to your kid!” I’ve decided to do just that. He doesn’t realize it, but my son and I have been having regular editorial meetings at bedtime.

I’ll still need my Restless Writers as I complete this manuscript, but they won’t see any pages that haven’t already passed the kid test.

LD

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Just Duet. Tips for working with a writing partner

For two weeks now I have been in La-La land…really, truly. I have been writing my pants off with a writing partner, and let me tell you—it’s scrupulous and painstaking, yet incredibly rewarding.

Writing is generally considered to be a solitary occupation, but not always. Collaboration can be an intimate creative relationship, a lot like love, friendship, or even film in its experiential nature. And you never really know if it will work with someone until you try it.

First, you will need a partner with similar sensibilities and a complementary strength. This is what gives the collaboration a unique richness and a range of talent. This person should be a writer you respect (and vice versa). It should also be someone who “plays well with others,” recognizing that disagreement is an invaluable part of the collaborative process.

There are many reasons why a partnership can be beneficial. Inspiration for one—there is a certain rush from bouncing creative ideas around with others. Perspective as well. Often a second opinion can help clarify plot inconsistencies or typos and keep the story on track. 

The most important factor in a writing collaboration is the ability to trust your partner. You are trusting them with your creative vision and that they will carry their share of the workload. You need to be able to compromise and settle disagreements. And you need to trust that they will handle the story with a style and creative flair that complements yours. 

One of the best places to look for a writing partner is online, perhaps a writer’s group or a workshop. This type of forum gives you a chance to get to know other writers and evaluate their style of writing before jumping into a partnership. Or you can always tap the blogging community, Twitter, or perhaps duet with say, a spouse, a friend, or an ex-boyfriend (gah!). Choose the most promising partner and see if it clicks. The journey of collaboration begins with one story. Here’s more on how to find your perfect writing partner.

Before your efforts begin, be sure to set a few simple ground rules; this will leave little room for miscommunication that could cause hard feelings and ruin not only the friendship but the writing partnership as well.

THE GROUND RULES:

1) Ego: Leave your ego at the door. Writing is deeply personal for a lot of writers and inviting another person in on that creative process isn’t easy. You have to be able to communicate your interests for the shared work. This isn’t a time for egos, but a time to share equally.

2) Responsibility: Who will be responsible for writing each portion of the work? Will you write together? How? (in person, by phone, online chat)? Will each person write a chapter at a time? Will one partner do most of the writing and the other partner most of the rewrites?

3) Deadlines: Set a deadline for each portion of the work. This should be a team effort, and you should be working to a schedule that mutually suits you and your partner.

4) Revisions: Any editing or alteration of the manuscript or characters should be agreed upon (where possible) by all authors.

5) Payment: Have a written agreement for how payment will be divided. Decide up front and before any writing has begun. If this can’t be agreed upon then there is no point to writing together.

6) Next steps: Decide who gets control of the finished work, who will be responsible for marketing and where. Who will find an agent or publisher?

A collaboration can teach you much about your own writing and can be a very rewarding experience—both for you and for your writing career. Just be sure you select your accomplice carefully!

BJas

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Filed under Group meetings, Inspiration, Writing ideas, Writing resources