Writing takes different muscles (and some magic)

Writing is connected. From tweets, emails, and status updates to novels, newspaper articles, and ads.

The world sees writing in four types — expository (to explain), descriptive (to paint a picture), persuasive (to convince), and narrative (to a story) — but I see a million types.

I see the journalist who’s also a poet.

The marketer who’s a blogger.

The novelist who’s a tweeter.

We’re wizards, casting words as spells, always inventing new ones — pithy, funny, sassy, heart-wrenching. We’ve got so many tricks.

We’re chameleons.

I’m part journalist, part storyteller, part social media engager, part email queen, part critical reviewer, part grammar stickler, part website copy slinger.

I started out as just blogger. I learned. I grew.

Every muscle, every skill feeds into another.

The clouds take on different shapes.

Writing is fucking magic.

You’re always discovering.

Yep, this is how schools kill creativity

poetry gene Phil Nel

So you’re a high school student. At that time in your life, maybe you’re writing poetry about lots of darkness and death, or maybe you’re a football player who gives little thought to anything inside the classroom.

Emily Dickinson 1Or, okay — let’s ditch the stereotypes. Say you’re a football player who writes a poem with actual emotion behind it. That’s more than a lot of people can do when they’re being forced to churn out a poem for a grade. To the untrained, creativity — writing — isn’t something that can be done on command, without the spark of inspiration.

But one high school football player from Rittman, Ohio actually channeled his thoughts and feelings (in this case, frustration) into his poetry assignment — and he got punished for it. The 16-year-old Nick Andre wrote about his team’s losing season and how the star wide receiver gets more perks than he should because he’s the coach’s son and quarterback’s friend. Andre titled his poem “Stupid.”

Emily Dickinson 2The school called it “hazing” and “harassment,” suspended him for four days, and made him sit out the last two games of the season.

Andre’s response is actually smart, which isn’t surprising considering what he did with his poem. “Who am I harassing or hazing?” he told local news. “I mean, I didn’t state any names.

“It’s like wow, just over doing my school work, I get in trouble, get thrown off the football team, you know get suspended for four days, which could potentially really mess up my grades” (emphasis mine).

So this is how schools kill creativity — by misinterpreting it as misbehavior. It’s like the kid in the back of the class who draws nasty pictures of his teacher, but the art is really, really good. Should that be confiscated and discouraged, or should the teacher make an exception? The difference to a future could be huge.

God forbid a kid write a poem and like it.

10 essential holiday gifts for book lovers

Winter reading

December is almost here, and that means it’s time to shop like it’s nobody’s business — and groan at all the prices.

This top 10 list contains items that range from the ridiculously affordable to the slightly pricey, but it’ll cover all the readers on your gift list this year. So whether you and books are strangers or total best friends, your life this next month is about to get a whole lot easier.

Continue reading 10 essential holiday gifts for book lovers

Awesome book cover Friday: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

Happy Friday, everyone! Did you enjoy that Wednesday break? I vote to have those every week.

Anyway, today’s book pick is The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J. R. R. Tolkien with illustrations by Pauline Baynes. This version came out in 1978 and collects 16 poems. Only two of them have anything to do with Mr. Bombadil.

Do you like this cover? What’s cool about it? Let me know in the comments!

$1000 writing competition at PUBSLUSH Press

PUBSLUSH Press is calling all manuscripts for a writing competition that will award $1000, “the chance to be published” (in other words, it’s not a sure thing), and a featured spotlight on their website. The submission period is open from now until March 31, so finish those manuscripts and good luck! The winner will be contacted by email in April.

Manuscripts will be judged on “style, content, and commercial viability” and include but are not limited to the following genres: “Biography, Chick Lit, Children’s, Comedy, Fantasy, History, Horror, Mystery and Crime, Poetry (compilations only), Politics, Religion, Romance, Sci-Fi, Self-help, Teen, and Thriller.”

This is a great opportunity for aspiring novelists and poets to market their book, even if actual publication doesn’t happen. Remember, word of mouth goes a lot way, and so does an extra thousand bucks in your pocket. If PUBSLUSH doesn’t pick up your book, someone else might take notice.

PUBSLUSH sounds like a good publisher to be involved with, too: According to their About blurb, they let readers decide what books get published and donate a book to a child for every book sold. That’s something worth more than seeing your book in print.

My novel’s stuck in Revision Hell, so I doubt it would be ready by the competition deadline. I’ll give it my best shot, though! I’m trying out Scrivener (on Windows since 2011 and Mac since 2007) thanks to blogger Aly Hughes, who convinced me to finally give the trial a download, and revision is already more appealing. Juggling Word documents was becoming a job in itself, and I was torn between typing in my preferred composition style (my desired font, etc.) and a traditional manuscript presentation (I’d just have to do the work later). Scrivener leaves the compiling and formatting as a final step, so you can type the way you want without worrying about the dirty details. Plus, the program gives users a generous amount of options for putting together and organizing ideas via outline or visual flowchart (aka the Corkboard, which is one of my favorite features). It’s great for getting a better handle on your structure and concept and exposing weaknesses in your plot.

The written tutorial was lengthy but very useful and informative, so if you give the trial a chance (no personal info needed), definitely take the time to familiarize yourself with all the available features.

My only problem initially was the Scrivener wants you to type your manuscript without indenting paragraphs and without skipping a line between them; otherwise it messes up the standard manuscript look, and this is the only thing that can’t be easily changed in the compiling process. I’m fine with not indenting, but not having spaces between paragraphs was throwing me off—all the text looks packed together. My solution? Go to Format –> Text –> Spacing, and set the spacing “Before” and “After” to at least 5 pts each. This doesn’t actually double space, but it does make your paragraphs a little roomier.

Are you a Scrivener wizard? Feel free to share your expert tips with me.