Stockpile People


Stockpile People

By Rory C. Keel

 

A writer needs to have a stockpile of people. No, not like in the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but a file full of descriptions, characteristics and quirks of real people.

The truth is that all characters are based somehow on actual people. Think about it, even the characters you invent are based on elements taken from real people. The people you place on the page come from someone that you, as the writer, have seen or come in contact with, either personally or by hearsay.

The Gathering

To place these characters on your page, you must own them, every part of them the good, the bad, and the ugly. To do this you need to try and understand real people. Interact with them, watch them and observe their condition in life. When you finally know them, they are yours. Gather them up and stockpile them by writing them in a file. They will be glad to repeat their behaviors on the pages of your writing.

Roryckeel.com 

 

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TEN YEARS FROM NOW


TEN YEARS FROM NOW

Natalie Bright

“In ten years, do you see yourself as a middle grade author?” An editor posed this question to me at my very first pitch session. I was terrified, so of course I squeaked out a ‘yes’.

Many, many years later I’m older and wiser, toughened by rejection, and ever hopeful, which is why I can honestly say ‘No.’ I see myself as a productive, published author who is not afraid to write the ideas that are in my head.

This past weekend I heard a speaker who is a retired rodeo, bull rider. Chimp Robertson has written a family memoir, two volumes of rodeo tales, short stories, freelanced for magazines, and is currently working on a western fiction series. Also, he happened to know someone who knew the country singer Chris LeDoux. Long story short, LeDoux recorded two of his songs. Chimp Robertson is a former rodeo cowboy who writes.

His program at the Texas High Plains Writers meeting inspired me to think about a memoir I wrote about a devastating loss. I published it on Smashwords as an eBook, but have had numerous requests for a hardcover edition. It’s time to explore all of the possibilities that this book might become. (Stay tuned.)

I understand now that, if you let them, words can take you on a journey to places you’ve never thought possible. I know that a jumble of sentences can become a short story. I’m rethinking an unmarketable middle grade idea that might work better as a picture book. Your family memoir could lend material for a fictional series. As writers, do we have to be labeled?

Author. Songwriter. Poet. Creative. Playwright. Published. Freelancer. Wordsmith.
Happy. Successful. Writer.

In 2016, I hope you write and realize all of the labels you can ever imagine.

Natalie

Stockpile People


Stockpile People

By Rory C. Keel

 

A writer needs to have a stockpile of people. No, not like in the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but a file full of descriptions, characteristics and quirks of real people.

The truth is that all characters are based somehow on actual people. Think about it, even the characters you invent are based on elements taken from real people. The people you place on the page come from someone that you, as the writer, have seen or come in contact with, either personally or by hearsay.

The Gathering

To place these characters on your page, you must own them, every part of them the good, the bad, and the ugly. To do this you need to try and understand real people. Interact with them, watch them and observe their condition in life. When you finally know them, they are yours. Gather them up and stockpile them by writing them in a file. They will be glad to repeat their behaviors on the pages of your writing.

Roryckeel.com 

 

The Grail


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Grail

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I found it on line, filled out the order form and typed in my payment information. Then I sat back and waited. I didn’t have to wait long. It came in the mail this week; I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get home from work and open my package. And I was not disappointed.

Of course, it’s nothing more than a plain, simple coffee cup. It has the name of my favorite author printed around the cup and a print of his signature. That’s all it is. But to me, it might as well be the Holy Grail. It looks really cool in my hands, the coffee tastes better, and suddenly my words flow much better.

There is an old story about a child who wants to learn to do something, but they have no self-confidence. They are given some little trinket and told that it has magic powers and they are immediately able to do the thing they want to do and believe it’s because of the magical object they hold. Then, in the middle of a very intense moment, they lose their magical possession, but are able to continue what they’re doing.

The intelligent side of my brain knows this story and laughs at the creative side for believing it. But I guarantee that since receiving my new cup in the mail, I have been able to write again.

Sometimes we just have to do whatever it takes to get the words on the paper.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

THE VERY BUSY SPIDER


THE VERY BUSY SPIDER

 by Natalie Bright

 

A recent Publishers Weekly article announced a new initiative involving publishers and more than 30 communities working to make popular eBooks available for free to children. The Open eBooks app is being developed by the New York Public Library. More kids reading and discovering stories is so exciting. I hope the ConnectED Library Challenge is a huge success.

For the Love of Books!

Remembering the joy I found as a child from my favorite books makes me think of Eric Carle’s THE VERY BUSY SPIDER.

My son loved that book. His father and I took turns reading it out loud. Every. Single. Night. Never mind that I joined a book club and received 2 to 3 new picture books each month. Our boy wasn’t interested. The sheer drudgery of reading Mr. Carle’s book over and over for many years became almost unbearable. My husband and I took turns talking in goofy voices for the animal parts, seeing who could keep a straight face the longest.

Being desperate, I offered a brilliant compromise. We would read two stories every night. One of his choosing and one of my choosing, from the growing pile of book club treasures. My son thought this over for several long seconds. “O-tay,” he says. “But we wead busy spider two times.”

So that’s what we did. One new book and then the spider book every night. Twice. Outsmarted by a three year old, I admit it, but who can argue with that logic when someone you care about loves a book that much?

Dyslexia Diagnosis

Several years later, when my son was in elementary school and struggling, we discovered he had dyslexia. After training sessions and classes which included parent’s participation as well, I understood his fascination with THE VERY BUSY SPIDER. It has clean lines, simple yet detailed illustrations, pages filled with white space; that book literally relaxed his over active brain. The story calmed him down after a day of sensory overload.

Honestly, I still cringe every time I see that cover. No matter how much I dreaded reading that book, what if I had insisted on reading the other books instead? His heart would have been broken, and his over-active mind would have never settled down for sleep.

Readers Have to Connect

As a writer I stand in awe of THE VERY BUSY SPIDER. I learned two lessons from my son and that book:

  1. Some readers may not connect with your stories. Every reader is different.
  2. Stop writing to catch the latest trend. If you’ve never reached the end, it might be time to start something new. If you’re not really into it, how can your readers connect? Write the kinds of books that burn in your heart and mind.

When I dropped the drudgery of writing to what’s popular, my clip file and pub credits grew. The characters that spoke to me gained me a literary agent.

Book Lovers to Do List:

Long before I was a writer, I was a book lover and reader. Here are a few ways we can all promote the joys of reading.

* Recommend a good book to a child or parent, even if it’s not yours.

* Post a book review for an author.

* Comment on an industry related blog and share the link.

* Keep writing the stories of your heart.

Stockpile People


Stockpile People

By Rory C. Keel

 

A writer needs to have a stockpile of people. No, not like in the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but a file full of descriptions, characteristics and quirks of real people.

The truth is that all characters are based somehow on actual people. Think about it, even the characters you invent are based on elements taken from real people. The people you place on the page come from someone that you, as the writer, have seen or come in contact with, either personally or by hearsay.

The Gathering

To place these characters on your page, you must own them, every part of them the good, the bad, and the ugly. To do this you need to try and understand real people. Interact with them, watch them and observe their condition in life. When you finally know them, they are yours. Gather them up and stockpile them by writing them in a file. They will be glad to repeat their behaviors on the pages of your writing.

Roryckeel.com 

 

Something to Sit On


Something to Sit On

By Natalie Bright

It’s plush pleather (fake leather) mixed with springy black mesh, arch support, and swiveling arm rests. You can adjust the arm rests out straight for when you write or closer in if you’re holding something to read. The back and seat can tilt either way for maximum comfort. It’s a serious piece of office equipment. It’s beautiful and it’s my new desk chair.

Tools of the Trade

The reason I invested in an office chair is credited to Dusty Richards, SPUR award winning author and president of Western Writers of America. He said, “If there’s anything you remember from my talk, I hope it’s this: buy a quality office chair, because if the writing’s going good you have to stay put.” He explained that he’s logged in 10 to 12 hours straight before and walked away from it just fine. What a great piece of advice. If your back hurts or if your legs go to sleep you can’t keep writing. Something to sit on is an important piece of equipment essential to an author’s office.

The current work in progress is burning a hole in my head. Kids are back in school. Casseroles are put-together and stacked in the freezer.

Deep breath. Begin.

Blank.

My computer screen is blank. Well, it wasn’t blank a minute ago. I had just started reshaping chapter one because I’m making a huge revision for my character’s motivation…and then a blip. No, not a blip. A major, heart wrenching snafu.

Noooooooooo….

Some days, it really sucks to be a writer.

Exercise


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Exercise
By Nandy Ekle

My list of mood creators used to be pretty big. In fact, at one time I could close my eyes and say, “Okay, characters. What happens next?” And I couldn’t write fast enough. My best ideas came to me as I was driving down the road, or sitting in the bathtub, or laying in bed at night trying to sleep. And usually I would get so excited over the voices and actions in my head I could remember word for word exactly what to put on that paper.

These days, however, it takes a little more romancing to get those words to stick. I’ve got the ideas, but my characters have tape over their mouths. Instead of yelling and screaming for me to write, they just sit in the heap where I left them waiting for me to say, “Okay, how about this?” Then they just look up at me and frown as if to say, “You gotta be kidding.” And of course, this is just a sneer on their faces because their mouths are taped shut.

I have a playlist of certain songs/music that can get them moving a little, but usually when I’m in the middle of something really intense during my day job. And the little imps are so lethargic they usually just tell me in sign language, “Whatever.”

I’ve got a favorite author who, in my opinion, is the pure definition of talent. When I read some of his work, I think about how easy he makes it look. I’m sure I could do that. I have the story. Why won’t my words stick together and sing so pretty like his do.

I’ve got a support group. The Wordsmith Six group, the best critique group, friend group in the world. I’ve got time since the kids are grown. I’ve got computers, paper, pens, pencils, pictures, current events, life problems, life greatness, prompt books, everything I need to write these stories.

But these days the words are more like rocks than bubbles. These days my characters are lazy lethargic mimes.

I need a word gym to get these guys moving again.

Congratulations. You have just received post card from the muse.

Agents: What They’re Good For


Agents: What They’re Good For

by Natalie Bright

Agent, editor, publisher, market researcher, promoter, bookstore seller, book author relations manager, graphic artist, publicist, website designer, book reviewer, marketing exec, critique partner, event scheduler: do you have an understanding of the work done by each of these people?

If you’re a writer, these folks are important. They are your team of professionals in the publishing industry. If you’re a published author, you’re probably doing one or most of these jobs yourself.

At a BookFair event, I was asked “Where do I find my agent? I probably should get one.”  No, this author didn’t have the book finished, and no, they couldn’t identify the genre. But, they wanted their book on the New York Times list and that’s what an agent does. These types of conversations always leave me surprised at how confusing the world of publishing can be. So, let’s talk about agents.

Agents bring people together: the publishing house and the author; the story idea and the screenplay writers; the artists and the book designers; the dreamers and the publishing executives.

The Hard Sale

When I consider all of the jobs listed above, I think the most difficult is the literary agent based on my experience as a licensed real estate agent.

A real estate salesman brings people together; the buyer and the seller. The frustrating part is we’re not privy to any insider information that might help us close the deal. The homeowner has done everything right. The property is in pristine condition. What are the potential buyers whispering about in the back yard? The wife tells me she loves the house, but hates that color of beige in the kitchen. I point out that walls can be painted. She just can’t envision it, which makes we wonder what’s the real reason? I haven’t a clue what to say or how to reach a compromise. No sale.

I gave up my real estate license years ago because I did not have the patience for the business. And then I changed my focus to a career in writing (talk about a test of patience).

Bringing People Together

Even though authors are the creative energy behind this whole process, we can’t know exactly what editors and publishing houses are really looking for.  We’ll never be invited to the internal team meetings. We’re not privy to the insider buzz about long-term business plans or the new imprints, but literary agents are the people with an inside track to this information. Editors say “we’re looking for” and literary agents work to fill those slots.

I can’t imagine getting hundreds of queries every week. How do you know which ones have the potential for greatness? Which manuscript is worth an agent’s time to provide direction with revisions? How can they determine which story a particular editor will feel a connection to? How can they decide whose career has the greatest longevity? And remember, agents don’t get paid until there’s a contract.

Literary agents have the ability to bring all of the players to the table and if a publishing contract is signed, the result is something magical, or that’s how I feel about books anyway (when I finish reading a great story it’s like magic to me). What a satisfying feeling that must be for agents knowing that they are the key to who knows who.

Publishing in an Uproar

As I read the news and deals on Writers Marketplace, I’ve come to realize how much the industry is changing. Yes, there are many opportunities out there for agented and un-agented authors, but the playing field is in an uproar. I think having a literary agent on your side is a good thing. Who knows if your story will find a home? It might not. Who knows what the next hottest genre will be? That’s impossible to predict.

When you read the list of industry professionals above, you might have noticed I left one person off of the list: writer. That would be you – the only thing you can completely control is getting words on the page and it’s the hardest work you’ll ever do. And in today’s world, the options are mind blowing for writers who have a good understanding of who’s sitting at the table and the roles they play in building a career. I have a self-pub book, an inspirational eBook on Smashwords that will be a softcover soon, and I have a knowledgeable, capable literary agent who is shopping a middle grade novel. We can have it all, I think, if you’re willing to work 24/7 to reach your goals.

Whatever your goals, go for it, have confidence in the story that only you can tell, and good luck in reaching your dreams! Thanks for being a part of WordsmithSix.

www.nataliebright.com

Filet Mignon


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Filet Mignon 

By Nandy Ekle

In the bible Jesus tells a story about a rich man who fares sumptuously every day.

Several years ago my husband and I bought a side of beef to feed our children and any visitors who happened to grace our home. Our beef came in the form of roasts, hamburger meat and steaks. We ate steak and ate steak and ate steak until I finally thought if I ate one more bite of steak I would be sick. That’s when I thought about the story from the bible about the rich man who fared sumptuously.

The thought of the bible story has come back to me recently because of my reading list. My favorite author has numerous books published, a lot of which I have read, some of which I have not. The ones I’ve read instantly become my some of my favorite stories of all time. Suddenly it seems that every book I have, audio, virtual or paper, is by him, and I love them all. In fact he has two new books coming out this year that make me feel like a starving person with a blank check walking into a restaurant.

But the other day I looked at my stack of books waiting to be read and thought, “I’m tired of steak. I need different flavor.” So I’ve been shopping for new authors. This is sometimes a difficult thing to do, but can turn up some surprising finds.

Once I discovered a book written by a British author. It was her first novel and was so amazing that it pole-vaulted to the top of my favorites list. To this day, I don’t think she has another book out, but if she did, I would be first in line for it.

Writers write, but writers also read. And sometimes what we read inspires what we write. Add some variety to your reading diet and new ideas and styles will pop up all around you.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.