Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking back, stepping forward

As the hours of 2010 wind down, I think of the old saying, “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”

Although this wasn’t a particularly prosperous year for me, it was an amazing education. I’ve learned more about the art and business of writing in the last twelve months than I have in the previous five years. I’ve tried new things that scared the crap out of me, kept going when things felt rough and discovered a sense of accomplishment I never thought possible. The world of queries, proposals, partials, short stories, anthologies, beta reading, critiquing, marketing, branding and yes, rejection, has opened new possibilities for me. Thanks to all my friends for the sharing, caring, advising, poking, sympathizing, urging and laughing on Facebook, Twitter, Absolute Write and real life.

2010 may not have given me what I wanted, but it gave me something better than I could imagine in the first place. I became an Erma, a zombie poet and a braver person. To those who saw their dreams come true this year, congratulations! To the rest of us, 2011 has left the door open wide. All we have to do is charge in, jump on the couch and order room service. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Three (Free!) Gifts for Writers

There are so many wonderful gift lists to help you surprise your favorite writer this year (Stacey Graham and Cindy Myers wrote two of my favorites) but what if you’re short on cash and have extra time on your hands? If you can’t swing the latest must-have gadget or even a B&N gift card, don’t sweat it; there are three things you can do for a writer that will mean more to them than anything you can buy. Try one or all three this year; I guarantee you’ll make it a holiday to remember.

Make a space. If your writer has been balancing the laptop on unstable knees while perched on the couch or waiting until dinner is done to steal a little tabletop real estate, make some room for a desk. Rearrange the furniture and create an area just for your wordsmith. You don’t have to buy a desk, but you do need some ingenuity. Erma Bombeck wrote her columns on a door balanced on cinder blocks. Make it yourself if you have some spare lumber and know your way around a hammer. If you don’t have anything suitable, check Who cares if it’s particleboard? It will be a little slice of Heaven for someone with a vivid imagination. Like a writer. Extra points if you can round up a few office supplies too, like a mug from the kitchen to hold a few pens or a couple of file folders from the dollar store.

Help with research. You can do this a couple of ways: go the traditional handmade coupon route with redeemable certificates for an hour’s worth of web engine searches, or, if you know what kind of material your writer needs, clip or print articles and interesting tidbits year-round and give them occasionally in a brightly decorated folder. Extra points for rounding out a coupon book with an afternoon of child care when deadlines threaten, a few mandatory days off, a walk in the park when the plot is stuck or (if said writer is your sweetie) a sexy coupon good for a little afternoon delight. After all, everyone needs a good Googling now and again (bow-chicka-wow-wow!)

Ask to read some work. Then read it. Take your time. If he or she wants a critique, fine. Find one good thing for every bit that needs attention. Writers work in solitude, and they always end up asking people to read their stories, articles, poems and posts. Sometimes they feel awkward about it. If you volunteer to read for them, it’s like showering them with sunshine. Your attention and interest in a writer’s scribblings will make his or her day complete. Extra points for family members: collect your writer’s clips after they are published. A scrapbook made up of articles or stories not only show how far a writer has progressed, it demonstrates that you care. What better gift is there, really?

Photo credit: Idea go and