Thursday, September 29, 2011

Checking in on the Go...

We've now got a mobile template for this site!

So now, you can check in and see what's happening from your cell without having to deal with pages being too large to load, font being too small, etc.

Yay for technology.

And tune in tomorrow (from your phone if you like!) for Writing Wisdom Wednesday on Friday (running behind this week...surprise, surprise...)

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's on the playlist Friday

Another song that I enjoy listening to while I work--especially in the sentimental, drippy-emotional scenes!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writing Wisdom Wednesday: Finding your voice

“A writer's voice is not character alone, it is not style alone; it is far more.
A writer's voice, like the stroke of an artist's brush,
is the thumbprint of her whole person,
her idea, wit, humor, passions, rhythms."--Patricia Lee Gauch

After I graduated with my B.A. in English, I was at a loss for what to do with myself. I knew I wanted to write, but that was accompanied by a restless sense of not knowing what the next move should be. So, approaching the dilemma from a scholarly angle, I decided I would go get my MFA in creative writing.

So I picked out my top school and began to prep the required application materials. After writing my first piece of short fiction, a piece I knew would swing wide the doors to this prestigious program, I sent it to my former advisor (and now VBFF).

I was shocked at her response.

Umm, Mandy…what was that?”

At first, I assumed she was in awe of my fiction-writing ability. While she had been my professor for numerous writing courses, Cheryl had only read my creative non-fiction. Perhaps she was dazzled by the brilliance of my work.

Yeah…that wasn’t it. At all.

The piece was a disaster. It was pretentious, abstract, and…awful. I had written what I thought would be impressive to the admissions board. I stifled my own voice for the sake of adopting someone else’s.

A while back, I wrote about the importance of being yourself as a writer. So to build on that concept, today, I’m going to give four practical tips to help you find your writing voice. Now, as a preface, let me say that there is no foolproof way of finding/developing your these tips are just things I think will aid you in the journey to discovering who you are as a writer.

1) Read.

Read everything you can get your hands on. The best writers are usually avid readers. Read your favorite authors; figure out what it is about their way of writing that entertains you. Read some authors you can’t stand. Try to pinpoint what you would do differently to make the story they’re telling more appealing to you. Use this as a way to strength your own writing.

A word of caution here: The point of this part of the process is not to find someone whose style you can copy. Readers can tell if your voice is authentic or is a pale imitation of someone else’s.

2) Analyze your personality traits.

Are you witty? Serious? Talkative? Introverted?

If you’re not certain, ask your friends how they would describe you.

This step may seem silly, or unnecessary, but understanding your personality is an important step to finding your voice. The way you are in real life is going to manifest in your writing. For example, my talkative nature tends to crop up in my writing as wordiness. I never use only three words when I can describe something in twenty. So I know I'll never write like Hemingway, who never uses more than like 5 words in a sentence.

3) Read what you’ve already written.

Go through previous stories, essays, etc. that you’ve written. If you’re new to the writing world and are trying to find your voice, go through anything you can get your hands on, journal entries, even old emails. Also, pay attention to how you verbalize information…how you relay a story to a friend.

This step is important because it gives you the opportunity to read how you write when you’re not worried about how it’s going to be perceived by an audience (or an admissions board!). Perhaps you’ll realize that you’re incapable of using words with less than four syllables. Maybe you’ll discover that you tend to address any issue with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Whatever it is, the traits you’ll find are your best tools to building your own authentic voice.

4) Write.

Always the most important part of being a writer!

To quote the cliché, “Practice makes perfect.” And practicing writing makes for a polished voice as well. So, write, write, write. And when you’re sick of writing, do it some more!

There's my advice (for what it's worth) on finding your voice. And I have to say, I never did apply to that school. Instead, I worked on fiction that I loved, that was me. And while I may not have an MFA, I have to say, I'm not disappointed at how everything ended up!

So what about you? Any struggles finding your voice? Any tips on getting there?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quote for the day

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.

You can only see as far as your headlights,

but you can make the whole trip that way.”

E.L. Doctorow

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Marcus' book is up on Amazon


For those who have been waiting for Marcus' story, I have good news!

The book is up for pre-order on Amazon now. (That always makes it seem "official" to me!)

So, if you've a mind to, check out the link below...

Happy day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

What's on my playlist?

Like it does for pretty much every writer, music helps me get "in the zone." While I'm sure no one is ravenously curious as to what I listen to...I think I'm going to start posting different "playlist" songs from whatever project I'm working on at the moment.

So today's song combines the nostalgia of the 90's, the dying breed of boy bands, and some super creepy dancing at the end of the video [which doesn't usually affect me as I just listen to it on iTunes].

And please, don't judge me too harshly =)...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My September 11th thoughts...ten years later

Flags at half-mast today at the University where I work.

First, let me warn you that I have nothing of unparalleled eloquence to add to the remembrances and memorials of September 11, 2001. Others have put the overwhelming grief, the incomprehensible tragedy, and the unflagging determination and resilience of the human spirit into much finer words than I ever could.

All I can offer is yet another perspective, another lament for the countless lives lost and forever changed.

At 27, I look back on the events of that black day and see things differently than my 17-year-old self did. Back then, I mourned with the rest of the nation, without understanding--truly--the depth of loss that had occurred. I spent that day, during classes and then later at home, transfixed by the images on the screen...watching in mute horror as smoke filled the sky and ash rained down on one of the most vibrant cities in the world, turning the bustling metropolis into a gray shadow of itself.

But now, as the television stations have re-aired footage from that morning, I find I can't hardly bear to watch the images at all. I don't want to see the desperate people jumping from the towers, choosing in their final moments, to exchange one horrifying death for another. I don't want to have images replaying in my mind of grieving friends, family, coworkers, covered in dust, watching from the street below and powerless to do anything to help. I honestly don't think I could stand to see again the second plane, flying low and with a nefarious intent to topple the second tower.

These are important images. Crucial moments in our history.

They exist and are replayed so that we don't forget. Although, if I'm being honest...sometimes I wish I could. Because now, as a wife and a mother, my heart grieves again--and more deeply this time--for people who waited to hear if their spouses were okay. For mothers and fathers who sat by the phone hoping for a call from their children. For children, who lost their innocence, when they heard a parent wasn't coming home.

So on this ten-year anniversary, I just want to leave my thoughts.

We can never forget. Not just the atrocities committed on American soil, but those abroad as well. Terrorism is world-wide and people from all nations, all walks of life have experienced their own 9/11's.

We must pray. That God will heal, restore, and bless. And that through Him, the hearts of those seeking to do evil will be changed.

We must be thankful. I know I'll squeeze my daughter a little tighter and for a little longer tonight (and probably every other night to come), and while I know she'll protest and try to wiggle out of my grasp, someday she'll understand my reluctance to let go. And I'll make sure my husband knows that he and Brie will always be in my heart and on my thoughts, even--and especially so--when my own last moments come.

We must find peace. Things happen outside the realm of our comprehension, of our ability to deal with them. So to close this post, I end with my favorite Bible verse:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33