Tag Archives: resources for writers

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?




Filed under Inspiration, News, Writing resources

Tax Tips for Writers

“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors…and miss.” Robert Heinlein

Help with taxes please!It’s tax season, and for me that always means the necessary frustration of figuring out what I owe the government on my freelance earnings. (I make enough to have to pay them something, but not enough that I can pay them quarterly throughout the year. Go figure.)

Doing my taxes is made even more interesting because my mother is my accountant. I thank her for her help when I can’t figure out what a capital cost allowance is, and bite my tongue when she chides me for spending so much on reference books.

As a freelancer with a day job and some surprisingly complicated tax scenarios, I’d like to share some key lessons I have learned when it comes to doing my taxes. (Keep in mind, these are my experiences only! Get advice from your accountant or tax preparer, or visit the Canada Revenue Agency website. I am certainly no expert.)

  • DO claim your office chair. DO NOT claim your cat’s basket just because it happens to be in your home office and your cat is your muse.
  • DO keep track of your costs from that writing conference out west. DO NOT think that you can claim the in-room massage you splurged on the first night.
  • DO consider how much of your home is dedicated to your professional activities and for what portion of the day. DO NOT say your whole house is your office just because you write in the kitchen, laundry room or TV room, depending on your mood or where the fridge is.
  • DO calculate how much of the costs of your new hardwood floor can be allocated to your home office. DO NOT assume that your accountant will agree with claiming the cost of your mammoth new walk-in closet because your “work clothes” live there.
  • DO realize that doing your taxes takes a bit of brain power and elbow grease. DO NOT giggle and say “Oh, I’m no good with math,” so your nebbishly cute tax preparer will give you a break.
  • DO file on time and as accurately as possible. DO NOT assume that because you’re not bringing in a big freelance income the feds won’t audit you. The Canada Revenue Agency likes to take a closer look at the self-employed.

I’d love to hear some more tax-related “lessons learned” from our fellow restless writers.



Filed under Life and stuff, Trials and Tribulations

Turn your “first five” pages into fireworks

If you are querying (fiction) right now, like me, you will have learned, or are about to learn, the astronomical importance of your first five pages. They must be stellar. Genius. Da bomb. According to Elizabeth Sims, the very prospect of writing these pages “should not intimidate, but excite the hell out of you.”

I am working on a new Young Adult (YA) manuscript and once again, am squaring off with my first five pages. They have gotta rock. And they must be “honest, original, and brave” (thx Liz). So, in search of inspiration and technique tips on how to make my pages rock—and roll, I find myself on Jane Friedman’s award-winning blog, There Are No Rules. This is my ultimate go-to site for help and advice from the pros. This woman is on fire; she is a vault of information awesomeness for writers, like you and me. And who doesn’t love a late-sleeping, bourbon-drinking editor?

Let’s talk about the opening of your novel. Very few agents or editors will even read beyond the first page, first five pages tops. If your opening doesn’t grab them, you are paper toast. In those first five pages, you have to establish a hook, introduce a protagonist, highlight the main story problem, and establish the story’s setting, genre, and tone. And of course, not neglect your job of entertaining the reader. Page turns. You need page turns (or finger swooshes for all you e-readers out there).  

Jane has critiqued thousands of first pages and offers a superabundance of advice for compelling openings and killer characterization. She also did this really cool thing where she tweeted a stream of tips for opening pages. Score!

My top 10 favourite tweeted tips from Jane’s First-Five Critiques:

  • Don’t start stories that start in the conditional perfect. Just get to the REAL world, please!
  • Avoid dialogue that offers mini-biographies of people (to fill reader in on back story).
  • Avoid story openings w/characters asleep or waking up. Almost as annoying: Openings w/characters watching other characters sleep.
  • Most difficult part of 1st page critiques: Many writers have not found rhythm yet. Best way to illustrate, click here.
  • Problematic: Opening up w/character’s inner monologue, contemplating themselves/life. Are you as good as Dostoevsky?
  • I love an opening that in 300 words can make me really fall in love with (or hate) a character. I’m hooked!
  • I do not recommend you start your story w/character thinking, “This isn’t happening.” (This opening is in fact quite common!)
  • Very tough: Starting your story w/dialogue & little/no indication of who is speaking or what context is. Readers get lost.
  • Most writers overwrite. More detail/description, more explaining than needed. Even I do it. But you have to go back & cut cut cut!
  • Least favorite opening: Description of perfect weather outside, w/character waking in bed, peering out window, thinking about day.

Follow Jane (@JaneFriedman) on Twitter.

Looking for additional resources?

8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs the Reader at Page One, by Les Edgerton

“Now is the time to gather your guts, smile and let it rip.”

                                                                                                    ~Elizabeth Sims

Time to go turn those first five pages into fireworks! Katy Perry would be proud.



Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing resources

Restless Writing Resources

We restless writers are always looking for new resources that inspire. We have recently updated our resource links on the site, including:

  • Inspiration
  • Staying out of the rejection pile
  • Fun dictionaries
  • Agent search
  • Query help
  • Reference
  • Places to publish

Check it out here: Resources for Writers.

If you have a favorite to add–please let us know in the comments section.


Leave a comment

Filed under Writing resources

Our superhero and scholarly friends

Do you struggle with naming your heroine? Do your dangling participles grasp the closest noun? Or perhaps, like Beyoncé, you have difficulty making sense of a ‘sweet dream vs. a beautiful nightmare’.  We can help! Check out our new and hot resources page. We have compiled a “top-30-and-growing” list of some of our favourite writing resources to help you stay out of the rejection pile. Sources like: Urban Dictionary, the Curious Dreamer, and Grammar Girl are just a few of our superhero, and scholarly friends. We invite you to send us some of your faves. Write on!

Resources for Writers: Check it all out here!


Leave a comment

Filed under Writing resources