Category Archives: writing resources

Coloring: Stress Relief & Creative Inspiration

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writer's coloring bookI recently saw an ad for Rachel Funk Heller’s, The Writer’s Coloring Book. If you click on the link to visit the website, it states: “Harness both sides of your writer’s brain with The Writer’s Coloring Book® and write better stories with less frustration.”

Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel and founder of Donald Maass Literary Agency, said, “Rachel Funk Heller’s book doesn’t ask you to color between the lines. Instead, it gives you great worksheets and visual tools to draw your own unique story.”

I purchased the book in PDF format from the website for $10. However, if you can’t afford that (which I can’t, but you know…) you can find similar coloring pages with inspirational quotes by doing a simple search. Google “inspirational coloring pages for adults” or search Pinterest for “quote coloring pages printables.” Here’s one from ColoringShapes.com I plan to try: “Today is going to be awesome.”

The best part: coloring helps you deal with stress. Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala says, “When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres. The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity when mixing and matching colors.The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.” This isn’t new information, as Carl Jung was “one of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique.” (“Coloring Isn’t Just For Kinds. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress,” Huffington Post)

So, take a break and color today! Then, come back here and let me know if it helped!

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What Every Writer is Talking About

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NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareNaNoWriMo 2015

Today is November 1st–day one of NaNoWriMo. The goal: write an entire novel in 30 days. This is the first year I will be participating in the madness. If you want to join the fun, you can just do it or go to the National Novel Writing Month website and sign up. At this site, you can track your progress, get support, and meet other writers. Either way, come back here and let me know how it’s going. We can encourage each other along the way!

Let the games begin! And may the odds be ever in your favor!


If this is your first attempt at writing a novel, here are a few resources to help you get started:

10 Simple Habits to Help You Write Your First Book (Life Hacks): Simple tasks to put your writing potential in action.

How to Write Your First Book (BuzzFeed): 21 successful writers share their stories about overcoming writer’s block, completing, and selling their first books.

How to Start Writing a Book, 1st Chapter (Writer’s Digest): A sampling of advice, tips, and guidelines to inspire your “first steps from blank page to finished piece.”

Calling all YA Writers

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I thought I’d take Robert Lee Brewer’s advice, as his challenge for Day 10 was to include a call to action. I’m hoping to connect with fellow young adult writers, including writers who are currently young adults. I hope to create a community here, where we can help each other by sharing resources and advice, possibly even coordinating workshops where we can read and comment on each other’s writing. I’m also in the process of searching for an agent for CHILDREN IN THE HOUSE OF VENGEANCE, so let’s exchange stories–success stories and soon-to-experience-success stories. We’ll inspire and support each other. If this sounds good to you, comment below or send me a message here.

Joy & Sorrow: The Early Days of a Writing Career

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Last week’s Prairie Schooner e-newsletter featured an interview with Adam Zagajewski titled, “The Border Between Sadness & Joy,” where Zagajewski discusses success:

I think success is the enemy of the poet. Poetry arises out of inner life; out of some contemplation, sometimes out of lament, and success creates an artificial reality. It’s not you− if you happen to be acclaimed. I haven’t reached this degree of success, luckily, but I can imagine there is a degree of success that cuts you away from real life, from real people.

Last time, I mentioned contacting fellow writers. In her response, Lisa Fay Coutley said, “It’s exciting, those earlier days of meandering and working your ass off. If that’s where you are, in a lot of ways, I think that’s the best part. It’s like new love. Enjoy it!”

For me, this adventure is like being a new mother. No one can possibly articulate how difficult it will be. On the same hand, no one can possibly describe how rewarding it can be.

As K.M. Weiland describes, “The magic ingredient in fiction is that special something that socks readers right in the gut and leaves them breathless with joy or sorrow (or maybe wabi-sabi, the Japanese term for that impossibly beautiful combination of the two).” (Outlining Your Novel, 66)

This July I will deliver my fifth baby. Because they arrive without specific care instructions each child is a beautiful mystery. Like Adam Zagajewski, I haven’t reached the degree of success that removes a writer from reality. I only know the magic of discovery involved with each new creation of poetry or fiction, and the overwhelming feeling of wabi-sabi that inevitably comes each time. And I will take Lisa Fay Coutley’s advice and enjoy it while it lasts.

~ Jennifer

Reaching Out

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I’ve been inspired by many wonderful contemporary poets, some only in the first stages of their careers–like me. I recently contacted many of them, along with some whose careers are established. To my surprise, everyone replied! Some were humbled by my note and all were delighted to hear I enjoyed their work. Both Eric Torgersen (author of the poem “Not Literature” in Pleiades, among many other works) and Joe Weil (whose Mar. 21 publication with Boston Review, “My Mother Reading in the Land of the Dead,” first compelled me to initiate contact with these writers) expressed relief that someone had read their poems. More partial to readings than publications, Joe said, “I like direct contact with an audience, and publication is often like putting a message in a bottle. You have no idea how the work is being received.”

I often wonder if anyone sees what I have published. I want to belong to a community of writers, but I have the problem Eric mentioned in his reply: “If you live in a somewhat out of the way place, it’s hard to sense that anybody out there is reading these things we put out.” I write for our local newspaper, and often get complimentary notes from loyal readers. With a limited readership, though, I want to reach a larger audience. I hope to impact fellow writers the way they have influenced me. In short, if you’ve read something I’ve written and either loved or hated it, please contact me. No writer wants to place their work in a bottle and sail it off to some unknown land without discovering who it actually reached. So let me know you’re out there reading away, and tell me about your journey of toil and creation.

~ Jennifer

Organizing My Ideas: yWriter and K.M. Weiland’s “Outlining Your Novel”

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I’m beginning a new YA novel that threatens to be a complicated mess if I don’t figure out a good way to organize it. As a college composition instructor, I continuously preach the importance of prewriting exercises, including the great and wonderful outline. I searched for a book to help me with this, because I felt a little overwhelmed by all of my ideas and didn’t know how I should organize them into a coherent storyline.

I happened upon K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success. I’m only three chapters into it, but she’s already provided some priceless help. Thus far, I’ve written my “perfect review,” based on her advice:

Often, when we begin writing a story, our ideas are hazy, and the final shape of the story is only a dim outline in the mist. The story we put on the page will never be a perfect representation of the story in our imagination, so it’s little wonder we aren’t always aware of where our stories fall short. But here’s a little trick to narrow the gap between your idealization of your story and its printed reality: Write yourself the “perfect” review before your story ever hits paper. (36-7)

She also recommends downloading yWriter from spacejock.com. This program provides an organizer that allows you to enter chapter summaries, scene descriptions, character bios, and a plethora of other information about your projects. It took about two minutes for it to download and it was completely FREE! I’ll spend some time playing around with it, but it looks like an asset to anyone who needs a bit of extra help organizing their thoughts. ~ Jennifer