Category Archives: Guest Posts

Look Small; Look Deep by Robin Moyer

Some questions. But do you know the answers?

Almost everyone has sprawled on a grassy hill or mountain meadow. Or simply sat on the ground in a backyard. Have you ever knelt, gently parted the grass with your hands, and looked to see what you might overwise have never seen? The sprouting seedling, with its neck curled to the sun, an earthworm keeping my yard green, a sugar ant scaling a blade of grass, a 1987 penny: yesterday in my front yard. In less than thirty seconds I looked upon a hidden world, right under my feet. Same thing, but use a magnifying glass! What all do you, might you, can you SEE?Without looking, do you know whether the last time whoever mowed the grass went back and forth, up and down or diagonal? Why not? Do the daffodils need cutting back, has the last tulip bloomed, and were your lilacs caught by the cold this spring? Do you know?

Without looking, do you know if it is sunny or cloudy outside? Is the sky a bowl of brilliant blue or pale whitish blue? Do clouds shuttle across, great sails of billowy white or are they multiple shades of threatening grey? Are there mare’s tails, or is it, perhaps a mackerel sky? Are there a million pricks of light or a blanket of thick clouds? What phase is the moon in? Is it a child’s fingernail clipping or a fish-bellies moon? Have you seen the space station skittering across the sky? Do you know? Have you?

Have you looked to appreciate the diamond glitters of dew catching the morning sun on the grass? Do you know if the birdfeeders are empty or full? Do you have one? What birds come to feed? Have the bluebirds returned? The hummingbirds? Do the goldfinches have their summer colors yet? Did you notice how the calls of the robins, cardinals, and blue jays have changed? Have you seen? Have you noticed?

Have you ever found a bench to sit on and relax in town and simply watched the throng pass by? Are they staring at their phones or looking where they are going? Do they ever look up to catch the colors of a morning sky or notice a checkerboard of contrails? Do they stride or stroll? Can they tell, without even looking, when the crowd pauses for the light as if part of a school of minnows? Do they notice the world around them or are they secure in their little bubble? Are they busy talking? Do they even hear the car horns, the clack and stomp and shuffle of feet on a sidewalk, or the sound of the vendor on the corner? How do they look? Happy, busy, sad, depressed, mad, or stressed? Are they smiling or frowning or are they blank-faced or excited? How do you move in the crowd? Ever thought about it?

If your desk is near a window, do you notice how and when the sun slants in and gets in your eyes? How it moves from one side of the window to the other as the year progresses? What is outside that window? No, not ‘just the backyard or the street. Across the backyard, we have a long, four-foot-tall woodpile. It is also the chipmunk condominium, the opossum’s den, and is half-buried in pine needles. The older wood is blackened from time, weather, heat, and cold. The newer wood is still pale browns, golds, and oranges depending upon whether it is cherry, pine, oak, or birch. Between here and there are goldfinch feeders, lawn chairs (which absolutely need new cushions) and a wide expanse of (diagonally-mowed) grass. Goldfinches, resting on the grass, look almost like dandilions.

Is your coffee cold in its cup or still steaming hot? Has the ice melted away to dilute your drink? Where are you reading this? At your desk? On your cell in the car? Waiting for the kids or on a subway? What are three distinct sounds you can hear right now? Listen …–Listen, don’t just keep reading! I can hear the furnace running and feel the heat on my bare feet. I can hear the annoying clicking my fingers make on the keyboard, (some keys click louder than others; most noticeably the space bar!) and I can hear the dog barking. It is her ‘Mom, the bunny’s in the front yard again and I want to go play with it! Can I, Mom? Huh, huh? Can I?’ whines and yips.

As writers, as poets, we need to be observant. It is most often the little things that can give poetry the nuances and levels to make a point. Poetry depends upon fresh descriptions and new ways to see things. Perspectives change and morph depending upon a vantage point. How we, as writers, describe things in the world around us requires us to become excellent observers. Otherwise, one sees (and writes) the same old cliched phrases.

Imagine, for a moment, you were a sugar ant. Blades of grass soar upwards. The root of a tree is a mountain. Then aiming up the truck, following a scent that means food, you travel upwards, for almost half an hour as you traverse bits of knobby bark, branches, knotholes. Thirty feet off the ground, something ‘big’ brushes you off the tree and you fall, covering in seconds what it took a very long time to achieve. Assuming a bird doesn’t snatch you mid-air, do you know what happens to that ant when it hits the ground? It bounces, shakes itself, and then starts a totally different journey. Assuming I could manage to climb thirty feet up into a tree, I seriously doubt I’d be able to pick myself up, dust myself on and just continue on my way collecting food!

Observation also comes into play when reading poetry. Ours or others, it is still the same. There is so much to be learned about writing poetry from reading a plethora of poems. Experienced writers tend to write in layers. The poem is so much more than x-numbers of words arranged in a pleasing fashion. Word plays, multiple meanings from the same words, a deeper meaning, a layered nuance. Poems are rarely what’s just on the surface! You need to take a deep breath, dive down and explore the multiple meanings that can be found, the deeper message. Then, get that magnifying glass back out and look again!

Then it more[hs into the MORE! Not just in our daily existence. You will find yourself seeing the stuff that was right out in the open that you’ve missed! The little things others do for you that they don’t mention. That cup of coffee brought to you just when you realized you wanted one. The haircut. The new shirt. That they mowed the yard or that there were fresh flowers on the table. Maybe someone else (for a change!) did the dishes or folded laundry. Maybe they didn’t touch their cell once while you both were talking or one of the kids did a good job on their room or chores without being prodded to do so! Little things. Tiny things. But they add up to so very much! Sometimes, you need to work for it –it isn’t just handed to you on a poetic platter! Don’t just read for the snack –read, write and –live (!) for the feast!

It may be hard in our day-to-day lives with significant others, kids, pets, work, dealing with covid on top of everything else, but once you get yourself in the habit of being a dedicated observer, it will become second nature. You will be amazed at all the things you’ve been missing out on.


Cut me: I bleed ink. There is a space, a fathomless well of unsprung thoughts that exists inside me. I write to pull forth the words; grasp and yank them screaming or dancing, from deep within and set them free upon the page. This, this is why I write, for if I didn’t, then I shouldn’t be alive at all.

My ‘Journey Collection’ is a contemporary fiction series about groups of people with a high-risk of suicide: things read when people are not mid-spiral may surface when they are – and let them break free. Nothing like a phone call from someone saying they walked away from the Golden Gate Bridge because something in ‘Journey to Jukai’ made them think again! Or receiving an email from someone wondering if I am trans or gay because I nailed ‘the who they are!’ (I am not. Intense, deep research is your friend!)

Robin Moyer is an author, poet, great-grandmother, veteran, creative writing teacher, wife, world-traveler, free spirit and book publisher. (wynwidynpress.com) She has eight books under her belt including a prize-winning series and three works in process.

Claim Your Writing Place by Deanna Rasch

Photo from Deanna Rasch

Facebook reminded me this week of a trip four years ago. I had the rare and wonderful privilege of spending almost two weeks immersed in writing, steeped in the power that place can exert on creativity and identity.

I applied, in the final year of my MFA in Creative Writing program, to a writing residency in Ireland – a place I’d always dreamed of visiting. Except for the briefest of trips across the border into Mexico and Canada, I was a Gen X-er who’d never traveled outside the United States. I had a list in my pocket of places I’d visit and a current passport, should the opportunity (and funds) ever arise.

Likewise, the MFA was a goal I’d held close for, well, decades, if I’m honest. The program ended up opening the door, as well, to this dream of international travel. My gratitude for this has only grown in the past year, through all the isolation and restrictions.

It took almost two days to make that trip from Colorado to our final destination – an inn on the island off the coast of Ireland called Inis Oirr. It was a “planes, trains, and automobiles” kind of trip. Two planes, a bus, a small ferry boat, a horse drawn buggy (for our luggage), and a hike up a steep cobbled road from the docks, to be exact. The trip was like winding back the decades, one mode of transport at a time.

I’m remembering, as I write this, the crowded Galway park, full of locals enjoying the warmth of a relatively rare sunny day. Our cohort assembled to await the ferry, lying about on the greenest of grass (which is not a myth, by the way ; ) I fell asleep for a bit, exhausted from the travelling, feeling somehow safe in the midst of all that activity. Then came the crisp, refreshing wind in our faces as the ferry boat bumped its way over the rough open sea to the island. The thrill of seeing the island rise up out of the water ahead, crowned by a diadem with castle jewels. The fishy smell of the docks as we hopped off the swaying boat. The clop of horses’ hooves on the cobbles. The lilt of a warm greeting from the innkeeper in Gaelic. The savory smell of fresh seafood chowder for dinner, served with stories from fishermen playing pool nearby about the catch of the day.

Feel that sense of place? : )

I could add a few bumps along the way, to be sure. But I find myself recalling mostly sensations, memories that make me smile. Experience again those spacious moments. Walks by the sea. Sunsets so late at night. Lovely language and kind community. The writing the immersion opened in me.

Perhaps it’s in sharp contrast with feeling so confined much of the past year, between lockdowns and perpetual smoke and ash last summer from the fires here in Colorado. The feeling of loss all around – its own sense of place.

Ireland was an embodied experience of what I’d vicariously tasted as a teen, exploring the strange new worlds of science fiction and fantasy. Places that (as a young queer person who wouldn’t find acceptance for years to come) inspired feelings of hope and belonging in a wider world. Settings and societies that expanded my definitions and horizons beyond the messy, violent urban neighborhood I grew up in. Written by authors who knew how to create new potentialities by conveying a strong sense of place.

John Varley, for example, in his classic Gaia Trilogy, transported me to Titan, the being/world whose 12 distinct lands he personified on the page. Each place – and Gaia as a whole – acted as a foil for the astronauts stranded there (and those soon to follow) requiring characters to confront their limitations and biases. Allowing them to discover fuller identities (including sexual identities). To reach unexpected potentials beyond the limited selves they were on arrival. All through sustained interaction with a place far beyond their current experience.

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series pulled me into world where the dragons, themselves, were inextricably tied to the biology of a world inhabited by a people who were (in the original trilogy) beginning to question their ancestry. Their sense of place. Where individuals were questioning their identities as this evolution began. Where young people could empower themselves, be supported in putting hard situations behind them, and pursue their gifts. Could use them in service of surviving, thriving, and creating in this place. Responding to questions whose answers challenged every assumption they’d held about their connections with each other, the dragons, and Pern.

I’ve found myself rereading these and other authors with this talent in the past year. Reaching, almost obsessively, for that expanded sense of place, as my outer world shrank to the size of my apartment. For that spaciousness I’ve always found on the page. What I’m now enjoying, again, through the pictures of my time in Ireland. Revisiting that lived experience of revising, in a deeper way, my sense of place in the world. Seeing it reflected in my writing.

We can be of service, I believe, as writers, by reaching beyond the experience of place we know. Not by appropriating others’ stories, their unique sense of “place.” Rather, by reading those stories – real and fantastic. Stretching our own lived experiences, where we can. Cleaning out head junk that likes to whisper, “What you’ve known is the only place.”

Think of the impact we can have, dear writers, if we work at conveying, as best we can, insights we glean by taking deep dives into place. Imagining less limiting futures. Creating stories and worlds our readers want to visit – even revisit – that expand their own definitions, as others’ stories have for us. The hope and resilience we can help bring to a “place” that really needs it right now. ❤


D.M. Rasch is an author of LGBTQ+ speculative fiction (and an occasional poet) who lives in the Denver, CO area with 2 sister kittens who are pretty tough in the editing department. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and balances being a working writer with her work as a Creative Coach, Mentor, and Editor (as Deanna M. Rasch) in her business, Itinerant Creative Content & Coaching LLC . Find her publications on the linked Amazon page and look forward to upcoming publications: a YA science fiction novel Freedom’s Cost, as well as the first in a series related to her story At the Movies, recently featured in Other Worlds Ink’s anthology, Fix the World: twelve sci-fi writers save the future.
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Developing Story Ideas by Avril Sabine

The Storyteller
Image by Gérard JAWORSKI from Pixabay

Neil Gaiman was once asked what quote would he put on the wall of a public library children’s area. He said, “… and then what happened?” To remind people of the power of stories, and why they exist in the first place. Questions are one of a writers’ greatest tools. Not just to ask what happens next in your story, but also to gain a deeper understanding of your characters, their motivations, their back stories, the setting and the plot. Asking questions can help both fiction and non-fiction.

Necessary Ingredients

Every story needs a protagonist, antagonist and conflict. Ideally these are set in a suitable location and the story has something unique or an unexpected twist.

Protagonist:

Also known as the hero or main character. It is their needs, desires or problems that usually drive the story.

Antagonist:

The hero’s adversary or opposition. Often their needs or desires are the opposite of what the hero wants, adding to the conflict in the story. The antagonist doesn’t have to be another character. It can be a natural disaster, an event the hero doesn’t want to face, illness, war, etc.

Conflict:

Without conflict you start with a happily ever after, continue with one and end with one. Conflict doesn’t have to be explosions, shootouts or arguments. It can be someone struggling to walk again after an accident, the loss of a job and trying to survive when faced with mounting debt and the fear of homelessness, someone undermining the protagonist at work or school, or trying to reach a destination when everything seems to be preventing the protagonist’s arrival.

Location:

Setting can add to a story. In some books it is almost another character. It can also add more conflict or put obstacles in the way of the protagonist.

The Unexpected

This needs to be a logical conclusion, but if well done, an unexpected one.

 

 

Author Avril SabineAvril Sabine is an Australian author who has been writing since she was a young child and wanted to be an author the moment she realised someone wrote the books she loved to read. Avril is the author of more than seventy titles, including the young adult series, Dragon Blood.
www.avrilsabine.com


How a Writing Planner Saved Me Last Year by Loren Rhoads

Image by Semisvetik04 from Pixabay

I am a planner junkie. For years I kept searching for a system that would help me organize all the information I need, track all my submissions, make space for my to-do lists, and keep my calendar. I would hear one of my writer friends rave about a system they were excited to try or see an ad that promised to get me organized and snatch it up. I ended up with a cupboard full of half-used planners.

I am also an inveterate list-maker. Often, when I sit down with my notebook for a day’s writing, I begin with a to-do list to clear my head. I had to-dos in my in-box, my notebook, my diary, on scraps of paper on my desk, in my unanswered emails. I had folders full of notes from conferences, tear sheets from writer’s magazines, articles I’d printed out from the internet. The weight of everything I thought I should do made me freeze.

Last year, when all my anchors were suddenly gone — no more writing in the cafe after dropping my kid off at school, no more writing in the car before I picked her up in the afternoon — I really struggled to focus and get anything done. What saved me was my planner stash. I took the planners apart and pulled out all my favorite charts: what were my goals for the year? What writing projects had I started and drifted away from? What markets did I want to pitch articles to? When were my favorite magazines open for story submissions?

Armed with that information, I made a master to-do list. Everything went on it, no matter how big or small. Which social media did I enjoy using and what was my theory behind my presence there? What were my goals for my newsletter and how could I better connect with my readers there? Since I couldn’t attend the conventions I’d looked forward to, how else could I get my books into the hands of readers?

Once I finally had EVERYTHING noted down, I could see that it was clearly too much for one person to accomplish RIGHT NOW. I used my planner sheets to pull out the little things that I could finish easily. Once I crossed those off my list, I got a jolt of pride that carried me forward to tackle bigger projects.

I made writing dates with friends over Zoom. A writer I knew set up a Tuesday morning chat for her writer friends. I joined Shut Up & Write sessions. I organized Happy Hours and went to writer’s group meetings online. Slowly, my weeks took on some structure. I needed a calendar to keep track of when everything was happening.

I’d published a novel in February (then saw all the conventions I’d planned to attend get postponed or canceled), so with my planner’s help, I managed to put together a blog tour and list of reviewers. After I attended the Bram Stoker Awards online, I was inspired to assemble a collection of my short stories, using what I’d learned from the first blog tour to promote it. Cross that goal off my list!

Inspired by my planner, I also did some major reorganization projects in my office, emptying all my file drawers and consolidating my research. I (finally!) assembled a binder of all the contracts I’d signed over my writing career. I made another binder of unfinished stories, so I could see the work ahead of me.

Having projects waiting for my attention made it much easier to deal with the discovery that the nonfiction book I’d been researching didn’t match the book the publisher wanted, one I was unable to write because of a previous contractual obligation. In another time, I would have been spun by the rejection. I would have been lost for months. Instead, because I’d been doing all this work on goals, I quickly shifted gears and began work on what became the third book I published last year. It’s no exaggeration to say that my cobbled-together planner was a lifesaver.

The upshot of this is: there are many planners for writers out there. Some focus on logging your daily word count. Others track the business aspects of being a writer: your income and expenses. Still others concentrate on calculating your available writing time and how to make best use of it. Some combine inspiration with goal-setting. Finding the right planner for yourself may take a couple of tries, but if you find a planner that supports the kind of writer you are and the work you want to do, it can change your life. It is definitely worth the effort.


Author Loren RhoadsLoren Rhoads is the author of a space opera trilogy, a succubus/angel duet, and a collection of stories called Unsafe Words. She’s the co-author of the brand-new Spooky Writer’s Planner, an undated 13-month planner designed to inspire and support writers of dark fantasy, paranormal romance, horror, and morbid nonfiction with weekly calendars, goal tracking, submission logs, and more. It’s available as a digital download on ETSY and as a paperback on AMAZON.  The book trailer is available on YOUTUBE.

Reading Like A Writer by Dora Blume


Researching to know your genre
So, everyone tells you to research in order to know your genre. But what does that really mean? Today, I’m going to discuss reading like a writer.

Francine Prose wrote in her book Reading like a Writer:

“If we want to write, it makes sense to read—and to read like a writer. If we wanted to grow roses, we would want to visit rose gardens and try to see them the way that a rose gardener would.”

So, how do we do this?

What is Reading like a Writer
I’m going to assume you are experienced readers, and you have been reading books and texts like readers for a while. But for you same readers, the concept of reading like writers–or reading to identify writing techniques–is new. It’s hard to “cook up” techniques when you don’t know what to look for.

To grow, as writers, you must be able to recognize craft in professional writing and bring it back to your own work. But this kind of reading does not come easily.

The first step in reading like a writer is to read to notice the overall ideas of the story. This could be the tropes the author is using, the theme of the story, character types, anything that adds to the overall meaning. This gives you an idea of what the writing is doing in their genre. Making sure you are matching the conventions of the genre and reader expectations should be your first goal.

Second, break down the pieces, into different techniques to focus on. When doing this, ask yourself: Why did the writer write it like that? Think about why the writer used this craft and how it enhances their ideas.The point is to examine the possibilities as to why a writer might craft a piece in a particular way. Noticing writing techniques means noticing things that are close to the words, close to the text. Examples to look for: repetition, word choice, or the structure of the text. This is different than responding to reading ideas such as “It flows” or “It has great description.”

What techniques you might notice as a writer
· Repetition: repeating a word or a phrase
· The Power of Three: three words used in a row to create emphasis
· Onomatopoeia: sound words
· Interesting Punctuation: ellipses, dashes, colon, parentheses
· Figurative language: simile, metaphor, personification
· Stretching out the print
· Intentional sentence fragments: used to create rhythm and flow
· White space (Dialogue used for pacing.)
· Hyphenated adjectives

Once you’ve discovered a craft technique, name it, then try to emulate it in your own writing. I love doing this for particularly striking sentences when reading, but you can do this at the scene level too. Break down a scene and ask what makes this scene so appealing? You can also ask, why is this scene not appealing to me?

Questions to ask when noticing craft
· What did you notice as you read?
· How is the white space used differently?
· What I noticed next was…
· Many people who write often…

Form a theory about the craft technique
· Why would a writer do this?
· How does this help you as a reader?
· Are there other places in this text where the author has done this?
· When you find other instances of this, how does that affect your theory? Does it make your more certain? Does it nudge you to reconsider?
· Does this help your theory grow? If so, how?

Explore other authors
· Do we know other writers who do this?
· Let’s explore one of these texts and see if we notice any other writers who do this.
· What do you notice in these texts?
· Consider your theory and check it in this title. Are both authors doing this for the same reason?
· Is there more than one reason to use this crafting technique? What other possibilities are you thinking of?


Author Dora BlumeDora Blume is a middle school English teacher by day, writer by night. She tends to write books with spunky, bad-ass female characters, random movie quotes from the 90’s, and page-turning adventure. She lives just outside of Minneapolis with her two dogs, Jack and Bailey.  Check out her paranormal books today!

www.dorablume.com