New Class for 2017 – The Book That Wants to be Born

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The Book That Wants to Be Born

……taking your book from idea to print by multi-published, best selling author Debra Parmley

Saturday, January 21st, 2017 11 am – 4 pm 
(includes an hour for lunch on your own)

Ervin Hypnosis Center – 2865 Summer Oaks, suite 100 Bartlett, TN 38134 (just outside Memphis)
$65 per person Energy Exchange

Debra will provide practical exercises and helpful information about the process and content of writing, as she shares from her personal experience to inspire those on the writing path. Come with your book ideas and leave with a valuable set of tools you can use daily to tackle common writing challenges and enrich the quality of words on the page to make your book a marketable success.

Do you have a book idea but no idea how to start?
Have you started but bogged down in the middle?
Are you having trouble finishing your book?
Do you have a finished first draft and no idea what to do with it?
Is your book finished but you’re unsure whether to self publish or to try to get in with a traditional publisher?
Are you full of questions and wish you could talk to an author trained in fiction, nonfiction and poetry who has experience writing and publishing? If so, this class is for you.

Bring your questions, a pen and notebook for note taking and writing exercises, and most of all – your idea, your book, which is ready to be born.

Best selling author Debra Parmley began her career in traditional publishing in 2008 and went on to publish with five publishing houses before opening her own Indie press in 2015. An award winning hybrid author with training in fiction, poetry and nonfiction, Debra brings a unique approach to her writing classes and seminars.

RSVP for this special experience to Madra Little at 901-827-0023 (call or text)
If you are on Facebook, here is the link to the event page. https://www.facebook.com/events/1762910250697759/

Tuesdays Word of the Day – Conversant

Last nights word at my Toastmasters group was conversant.

Merriam Webster’s definition is:

adjective \kən-ˈvər-sənt also ˈkän-vər-sənt\
: able to talk in a foreign language

Full Definition of CONVERSANT

1
archaic : having frequent or familiar association
2
archaic : concerned, occupied
3
: having knowledge or experience —used with with

Tonight as I was listening to the others work the word into their speeches, I thought about how little this word is used and how rarely I’ve heard it.

You’ve probably heard this one. “Write what you know.”

We tend to talk about and write about subjects we are conversant with. It is more comfortable for us and we have more confidence when writing about or speaking about subjects we know.

This falls into the category of what I call the “comfortable familiar”
It can feel very good to be within whatever is our “comfortable familiar” and we can stay there a long time. Sometimes that’s what we need. But there is little or less growth if we stay there.

It can be a good place for a beginning writer to start. It can be a place to return to when you feel the need.

But to grow, as writers, we have to step outside our “comfortable familiar” sometimes and try new things. Or try old things, but in a different way.

What are your “comfortable familiar” things to write about? Try writing about them in a new way and see what happens.

Threading the Web – Word of the Day – Obsession

Tonight at my Toastmasters group, the word of the day was obsession.

Merriam Webster defines obsession as:

: a state in which someone thinks about someone or something constantly or frequently especially in a way that is not normal

: someone or something that a person thinks about constantly or frequently

: an activity that someone is very interested in or spends a lot of time doing

Often we view the word obsession in a bad way, but let’s look at that third section in Merriam Webster’s definition. An activity that someone is very interested in or spends a lot of time doing.

Obsessions are those things we are drawn to again and again. These are things we can write about and if you start writing about your obsessions, the writing can get very juicy. The flow could become more like a waterfall and less like a trickle.

The things that call to you, the things that drive you, the things you return to again and again, these are worth writing about.

What do you love?

What is the thing you can never walk away from?

What is the subject of the book you wouldn’t want to put down? The subject you could spend hours watching documentaries about?

What do you collect?

What are your hobbies?

What do you spend your spare time doing? What do you like to do on your vacations?

What are your obsessions?

Start writing about them. Let them trickle into your work. Share the hours of accumulated knowledge on the page so others can learn from and enjoy your obsessions too.

What are you waiting for? Start now. Pick an obsession, start writing and see how juicy your writing can be.

Writing During Difficult Times

Writing during difficult times can be a blessing but it can also create stress. I experienced this during 2014 when my father was on hospice for eight months and then in June when he passed. This was a time when I put into practice much of what I teach my writing students.

To write is to release words we carry inside of us. Thoughts and emotions but also the words themselves. Words that we do not speak or write will lodge in the body. So it can be cathartic to write about the difficult times. This is why it can feel so good to write in a journal.

It can also be cathartic to block everything about your current reality and escape to your fictional world for a while. The tricky part is that stress can make it hard to focus on that fictional world.

So how do we move through difficult times when we want to be writing? How do we navigate a writing life when the river currents have shifted and nothing is as it was?

First, you must always take care of yourself. You come first and the writing second.
If you need to take time off then do so. If you need help, then ask for it. You might not want to write. You might not want to get up in the morning. You might feel you are the only one in the world with this problem. You might feel that no one understands. But the fact is, this is a common problem. It’s just that not many writers talk about it. We tend to go into our writing caves and remain silent. This I believe is a mistake.

Take time off from the pressure to write and don’t be hard on yourself about it. Do what you must do. You are allowed a long lunch break during these times. You are allowed a vacation. Taking a break does not mean you have failed any more than taking a vacation from a day job means you are not doing a good job. Be kinder toward yourself, not hard on yourself. Remember that you are more important than the writing. The writing will be there when you return. Your life matters and your health and happiness matter. Without you, your writings would never exist.

This is not the time to disappear into your writers cave like some mysterious author who never communicates what is going on with anyone. If you have an editor, an agent, a publicist, or anyone else that you work with to produce or promote your writing, let them know what is going on. You might be surprised how supportive they can be.

Come to the page and write something, anything. Getting the words out will help you to move through whatever you are dealing with. The something you write may not be the story you’ve been working on. It may be the thing which is bothering you today. Sometimes we need to get those words out first, before we can move on to working on that story. But write something. Five minutes a day. Set the egg timer. It may seem like an insurmountable task making yourself sit there for five minutes to write, but once you manage it, you might be surprised at the feelings of relief you will have. Give yourself small manageable goals so you can succeed instead of tackling a long project which could leave you with a feeling of failure.

It is okay to write something you never intend anyone to read. You are doing this first for yourself. Whether anyone will read it is a secondary issue. Your task is to get those words out. It is okay to write something and then delete it later. It is okay to put it into a drawer and not look at it for a year.

It is okay to only write for that five minutes a day when you are used to writing pages and pages. It is okay if you cannot produce as many pages as you are used to. You may be tired, you may be distracted, you may have interruptions you would not normally allow. Avoid putting pressure on yourself about your writing.

Are you full of emotion? If so, good. Let that flow out onto the page. If you are working on fiction or poetry let it flow into your work. Emotions are one of the ways we connect with our readers.

Allow your writing to bring you joy. Everyone goes through difficult times at some point in their lives. But you have been blessed with the urge to write and it’s there for a reason. Your writing is something that will always be yours. You take it with you wherever you go and you can write through anything if you teach yourself how. Let your writing give back to you as you give to it.

Writing through difficult times has taught me so much. I am thankful for those lessons, just as I am thankful to be nearing the end of these current difficulties. I am thankful to know that just as I have moved through this trying period of my life, I could move through the next if need be and emerge stronger and wiser on the other side. I will emerge stronger, wiser and ready to write.

A Writing Exercise – Dedicated to My Father

Two weeks ago, on my birthday, I treated myself to a Writing and Yoga Workshop taught by Valentine Leonard at Delta Groove Yoga in Memphis. It’s been a long time since I took a writing workshop. Usually I am busy writing my novels, short stories and poetry and teaching and coaching my writing students. So this was a nice treat for me, to be on the other side of teaching and to be a student once again.

One of the exercises given was to make two lists, one of places we knew well and the other of things we no longer did. Then we were to match the unlikely ones together, to pick one and to write about it. From those lists I chose my fathers house and escorting  travelers overseas.

This is what I wrote:

I no longer escort travelers overseas on long trips to my father’s house.

He is on hospice now and mostly sleeps. So I would not have time now for travelers who need escorts because they don’t know how to get their passport or what to pack and who have never stepped beyond the borders of their own country.

I used to have so much time and patience for so many people and never minded helping. They simply needed someone to go beyond pointing the way and saying this is how you do it.

Sometimes a person just needs another hand to hold and for them to say come on, it’s going to be okay. I wonder who is holding my fathers hand now and if he will be escorted in a group to the other side. He does not seem afraid, merely confused. Perhaps this is why he is lingering so long.

It’s harder to be the watcher when you are used to escorting people. I have no road map for where he must go. I do not know these border crossings. I can only stand on the shoreline waving goodbye and sending my love.

For me, this is a journey of sitting when I am used to being in movement. I should not complain. He is the one confined to a bed, never going outside to breathe the fresh air. No wonder he sleeps so much. I would sleep too if my gaze could not reach up to touch the sky. I would close my eyes and travel in my mind. Perhaps this is what he is doing. It is impossible for me to know.

Perhaps he is waiting on a slow VISA to the place he has never gone before. I hope and pray his passage is smooth, his escort kind and firm of hand. I hope his new country welcomes him like a long lost son and celebrates his coming home.

Dedicated to John (Jack) Bishop

Oct. 15, 1933 to June 20, 2014

 

Threading the Web – The Words We Use to Describe – “Writers Block”

Words are powerful things. Knowing this and making conscious choices of the words we use can change things around.

Let’s think about this one. “Writers block”

Merriam Webster’s definition of writers block as:

the problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc.

Long ago, before I become familiar with conscious language choices, I used the term “writers block” every time this problem raised its head. Before I learned how to banish it.

Let’s think for a minute about the word block and the images it brings up. Block is solid, heavy, you can’t move through it, maybe you can’t see through it, it stands in your way.

And maybe that is how it feels to you when you are facing it.

Now let’s play the “what if” game for a minute.

What if it wasn’t impossible to move through it?

We tend to believe the things we tell ourselves, especially if we tell ourselves the same thing or a variation often enough.

What if you used a different word, one that works better for you?

You will never hear me use the phrase “writers block” when describing myself and my writing. You might hear me say I am taking a writers break. Or I am taking a long lunch break. This break could be as short as a half an hour or as long as a month. It’s whatever I chose it to be.

This is where things begin to change, to become empowering instead of limiting.

Once upon a time I had a beautiful golden retriever named Trixie. She sat by my side when I wrote and she would nudge me when it was time for lunch and then we’d eat and play for a bit beforeI went back to work on my book. She lived to be fourteen. After she passed I went into what I then called a six month “writers block” It was difficult. It was painful. I simply could not write. I would hear the jingle of her tags on her collar and I would get choked up. I couldn’t face the blank page of my computer screen without her.

Then one day I decided I’d had enough. I got angry at that “writers block” and decided I was going to conquer it, it was not going to conquer me. So I took out a yellow legal pad and pen, stepped away from my computer and forced myself to write. The first pages were all about how frustrated I was about being unable to write. I wrote in every room in the house and then I went outside and wrote on the picnic table. By doing this I broke the writers block that I had allowed to develop.

I had learned that the only way out was to write my way through it.

Today I no longer believe in having “writers block” and I know how to write my way though almost anything. It is a good practice to get into. It will make you a stronger writer.

Are you telling yourself you have writers block?

Trying changing what you tell yourself, try writing through it and see what happens.

Toads, raindrops and playing in the rain with writing.

 

One day not so long ago it was raining and I was coming home from a good dinner out with my Shimmy Mob Memphis dance sisters when I spotted a toad by my back door.

He was up on the deck railing which is as high and as close as any toad has ever come before. We stood for a while, he and I, without moving as the rain sprinkled down all around us.

Of course he was unbothered by it, rain being a thing natural to him. It is this that got me thinking. Does rain feel unnatural to you? If so when did that start happening?

Children take joy in playing in the rain. Adults, well it depends on the adult. I was taking great pleasure in the plunk of raindrops on my head while I took a few pictures of my new companion with my phone. I was not listening to the adult voice in my head which said go get your umbrella first. I ignored that adult voice because I was sharing a joyful raindrop moment with my toad friend and when you share a moment, it is best to stay in it. Once lost it never comes again.

Toad in spring rain
Toad in spring rain

When we are writing we tend to write what we know and that is the advice usually given to young, new and aspiring writers.  Well it’s the advice given to all of us really, even those of us who have been writing for a while. It’s one of those things most people don’t even question but accept as factual and true. Kind of like when it’s raining out, take your umbrella.

So we walk around carrying our adult umbrellas and sometimes we forget how to play and how to reach out beyond that. If we always reach for the umbrella we miss the experiences that fall outside of that comfortable dry spot beneath the umbrella.

Let’s play with this one a bit. Splash around in the rain with me for a moment and put the umbrella down. Place the write what you know umbrella in the corner for a moment and lets see what’s splashing outside of that dry spot.

What if you were to write something you did not know, something you were in the process of learning?

What if you were to write about that learning process?

What if you were to write a fictional story while you were still researching and fact checking?

Some raindrops fall farther from the umbrella than others. It is okay to play in the rain and get wet. It can be great fun to splash around once in a while and play with your writing.

My fourth book of fiction, Trapping the Butterfly,  is set in the 1920’s in Hot Springs, Arkansas USA. I wrote it on spec. Had pitched the story idea to my editor and she loved the idea and sent me a contract. I wrote the first couple chapters while researching at the same time. As the story came together I was doing the follow up research almost til I typed “the end” Some of what I thought I knew turned out not to be historically accurate, for that town in that year. If I had held back writing the story until I did all the research first it would have been more difficult to meet my deadline.

Some might argue that the process of writing this way would lead to a sloppy or inaccurate book. My counter argument would simply say this book is now up for a RONE award. I offer this as proof the process did not hurt the book or this author. In fact it was a joy to write and is my favorite work of fiction of all my stories so far.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to write about, but haven’t because you don’t feel knowledgable enough? Try setting that umbrella aside. Step out into the rain and play a little. You might discover joy in the writing process.

You might meet a toad companion and share a joyful moment. That alone is worth stepping out into the rain.