Monthly Archives: August 2015

Writer Rebecca Barray: An Interview

Writer/Photographer Rebecca Barray

Writer/Photographer Rebecca Barray

Today, I have the pleasure to introduce you to Rebecca Barray, writer/photographer, blogger and active “groupie”. I first met this lovely and talented lady several years ago. Since then, I’ve remained amazed at her creativity, persistence, and support to fellow writers.

Please join me in welcoming Rebecca to our Working Writer’s gallery of inspiring individuals.

Claudette: You’ve got a lot going on in your life, Rebecca. You’re a mother and wife, a working photographer and writer, and actively involved with writers groups. And those are just pursuits that are obvious on the public side of your side of your life. How do you manage to juggle so many demands on your 24 hour day?

Rebeca: Honestly, it’s really tough. I almost never get through everything I want to do each day. I just have to prioritize. Some days, I’m running the kids around nonstop. I have a teenager in a high school marching band. It’s a huge time commitment. Then, I have two kids in elementary school.  One does dance all through the school year and both play t-ball in the spring.

I have to squeeze writing, reading, and photography into the cracks, along with laundry, cooking, gardening, and any other chores that need done. Some days, I have made tough choices, like which pair of dirty jeans are the least dirty so my kids don’t have to go to school naked. 😉

Claudette: <<chuckles>> I can relate to that, and I haven’t had kids. So tell me, how long had you been writing when you became a founding member of Wordsmith Studio; and also, how involved have you been in the group since you became a founding member?

Rebecca: I’ve been writing my whole life. I have a folder of poems and short stories I wrote for school, as early as 7th grade. It’s actually funny to look at them. When we first created the group that would later become Wordsmith Studio, I think I’d been professionally writing only a year or so.

wsfounder2I’ve always been very involved in the group; I was actually the one who created the group in the first place. A few of us doing Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge on his blog My Name Is Not Bob, discussed in the comments how creating a Facebook group might make it easier to support each other, ask questions, and just be fun. And since I had known how to do it…I did. 😉

Claudette:  We certainly all had plenty to say back then about our trials with platforms, didn’t we? Could you explain how did you come to publish what amounts to a weekly newspaper for the group? Do you know how many subscribers it has now?

Rebecca: We have the public WS page for members to post/link to anything they want to share, but it’s easy to forget to do that when you’re sharing a blog post across various social media sites. So the WAG wanted to create a newsletter that contained what the various members were up to. We explored a few options and found that the free version of Paper.li best suited our needs.

We only have 18 subscribers that get the newsletter delivered to their email every week, but I consistently have people sharing the link across social media and get around a 100 views a week.

Claudette: That’s really pretty good since it gets so little promotion. Could you tell us how you developed the Wordsmith Studio publication and how it publishes itself? That was certainly news to me and I’m a member.

Rebecca: I looked at a few different free online newspapers. Paper.li was the one that best fit our needs. The setup was pretty simple; I just had to define the sources of relevant news and how often I wanted the paper to be published. Sources can be Twitter feeds, Google+ feeds, rss feeds, and YouTube channel feeds.

If you find feeds confusing, you can add sources by searching keywords and there’s even a bookmarklet you can add to your favorites list. When you are on a website that you think has valuable content you’d like to add to your newsletter, you click on the bookmarklet and a little menu pops up that list all the feeds available on that page and you can choose which one you want to add to your paper.

For the Wordsmith Studio paper sources, I added the blog feeds of our members that have blogs and the feed for a twitter list of all of our members’ Twitter accounts. After that, paper.li is fully automatic. It collects new information (posts and links) from the sources every week and publishes it in the newspaper every Monday morning.

Claudette: Did you get help from other writers or experienced publishers as you were feeling your way through the initial stages? In other words, who did you go to for answers to your questions?

Rebecca: The process was pretty easy on the Paper.li site. There are tutorials and step by step instructions.

Claudette: That would make it an option for anyone who wanted to do something for their website to help keep their subscribers coming back for more. Hmm, I may have to think about that one myself. Away from the group, and back in your real life, tell us about what are you working on now.

Rebecca: This past spring, I formed a writing partnership with a very good friend, Tobi Doyle Macbrayne, and in June, we signed a contract to publish our first team-written book with Boroughs Publishing Group! We are both very excited. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in December.

Claudette: That’s fantastic. Congratulations. You’ve won an award for your flash fiction, and your photography is published in many venues, including newspapers. You have plenty to say about both. Do these two loves of yours aid each other or compete for your time?

      Rebecca: Probably both, lol. Some of my flash fiction was actually inspired by pictures I’d taken. And I love coming up with images for all my stories, as well. Unfortunately, I can’t write and take pictures at the same time …

Claudette: Taking stories and poems from images is its own reward, I think. Now, I know you read fantasy and romance. You like YA and adult books. Have you ever thought of using your writing/photography to create a newsletter centered on those two categories to add to your blog? And if you chose to do that, would you approach it the same way as with the one for Wordsmith Studio or develop a different format?

Rebecca: I never really considered making a newspaper for my blog. It sounds like a great idea though. I’d probably use the same strategy of hand-picking my favorite sources of relevant information. If I could only find the time to do it …

Claudette: I’ll bet you make the time, Rebecca. You have talents that many would envy, internet savvy gal that you are. Have you ever thought of offering classes or workshops to people who want to learn how to use their hobbies or working experience to connect with others with similar interests?

Rebecca: My original profession (before becoming a mother for the second time and rediscovering my love of writing) was teaching. I’ve always loved teaching, and I actually taught an online class on setting up a free WordPress blog a few times last year. Being a terminal introvert, I’m not so great at self-promotion, and interest in the class fizzled out. I’ve thought a lot about putting together a short introduction to photography course, and I’d really love to do it. But my social anxiety has kept me from actually doing it. Maybe someday …

Claudette: You’ve given us some terrific insights into your life, Rebecca. Only one last query. What are your dreams for your future now? What horizons do you have in your sights?

 Rebecca: Right now, I’m staying busy writing with Tobi. Besides the book under contract with Boroughs, we have a novel in the final stages of editing, one that we’re about halfway through writing and a novella for a Christmas anthology about halfway through the editing process. And after those are finished, we have three or four ideas for novels lined up.

So I guess the horizon in my sights right now is my name on the cover of that book in December. And my dreams for the future would be to line up a few of those on my shelf. :)

Claudette: Thank you, Rebecca, for gracing us with your time and your thoughts about your personal journey down the writer’s path.  You’ve given us all a few things to think about, not least of which is the fact that a busy life doesn’t have to mean an unbalanced one. I’m looking forward to seeing your first novel come out and getting my hands on it. Keep me posted on its progress, please.

For those who’d like to keep tabs on Rebecca’s journey on a regular basis, go to her website, Rebecca Barray, Writer/Photographer. For books by Rebecca Barray, go to her Amazon page.

WSS-logo-260x260For those who’d like to explore Wordsmith Studio, please do so. The Studio is always open to new members and interested spectators. Members also have weekly tweet chats to keep abreast of member doings, industry changes/issues, and other writerly subjects.

Shifting Mental Gears

gear-wheels-vector_zylHRlDu

Sometimes, a writer has to take stock of a situation and begin shifting mental gears.

Now, I’ll give you the skinny on why things have slowed down on my Wisher’s World Series. I tried to pull up the completed final revision of Volume One last Sunday. The only thing available was a corrupted copy in a temp file on my hard drive. The Digital Gods had decreed that I should begin a totally new revision of the novel.

Wisher's World Vol. 1

Prelim Cover

The space beside me was occupied by my clone, who was freaking out about the situation. The anger, frustration, and normal emotional responses were being handled by the clone. The rest of me went through every retrieval procedure possible in an attempt to find the good copy.

No such luck.

What I did have was a beta reader copy that had been sent back to me with corrections, suggestions, and questions embedded in it. And another full beta reader assessment on file that I could add to the first one. Also, there was a hard copy I’d used to transfer all of those proposed changes, suggestions, etc.

I pulled up the corrected beta file and began again. I should have a new revision finished—barring more trouble—within a couple of weeks. Even though an anticipated edit should have begun this week, the delay isn’t too great. At least, not yet.

abstract_2008012903-1113int.epsMy clone still resents the interruption in the writing process. The rest of me came to a refined conclusion about the incident. Being forced to return to the beginning with fresh memories of the changes already made once, creates an opportunity to make the story better, fuller, richer. Maybe that  shifting of mental gears is a sign of writing maturity.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Anyway, that’s how things stand with that series right now. Believe me, I have new copies of each chunk of revision done on a flash drive as well. Two other short projects wait in the wings for their time in the spotlight—a short tales chapbook of flash fiction, and an updated edition of my Writer’s Dragon book. With luck I can get all three projects out within the next month, plus a few others to outside markets.

Writer-Photographer Rebecca BarrayOh, and I’ll have another article for you on Sunday/Monday. It will be an interview with writer/photographer Rebecca Barray. We’ll be discussing her handling of the Wordsmith Studio Newsletter and what it takes to put a good newsletter together on a regular basis.

I hope you’ll stop in to learn how Rebecca does it. Until then, take time to breathe, look over your own writing process, and how you intend to work for the rest of the year. Have you looked at your goals lately?

Related Articles:

How To Develop an Editorial Calendar

Photo/link by A Grande Life http://agrandelife.net/how-to-make-an-editorial-calendar-free-template/

Photo/link by A Grande Life http://agrandelife.net/how-to-make-an-editorial-calendar-free-template/

Every working writer should know how to create an editorial calendar. Several different types of calendars exist. Each helps the writer track her time and efforts throughout a given working period.

Some types of calendars for use are:

  1. Spec calendar for fiction/non-fiction, requiring queries/cover letters (No assignment contract involved)
  2. Social media calendar to track time and effort spent on social media sites and the types of status updates used on each. (Hootesuite is an example for those who need to promote a product, book, blog, or event or who have little time to use for social media attention.)
  3. Assignment calendars for articles/stories to be written and submitted to specific editor for magazines/journals/news media. (Work related to editor assigned/contracted work with specific deadlines)
  4. Writing calendars covering deadlines for rough drafts, revisions, edits, and formatting for screenwriting/self-publishing/traditional publishing (For those who concentrate on novella/novel-length fiction and need to keep their work moving at a specific pace)
  5. Professional blogger/content marketer calendar to organize and deliver specific topics and formats in regular blog posts/newsletters (For bloggers who make at least a partial living from their blogs, who need to manage their posts and their time effectively)

As you can see, each type of calendar has a specific kind of user. There are also other types (i.e. speaker’s calendar)

One of the hardest decisions to make is whether you need a calendar.

Analysis

Analysis

I finally came to that conclusion three years ago when I was overwhelmed by blog posts, spec work, course work, and assigned work. Organizing what needed to be accomplished in a given week helped sanity reign.

If you fall into any of these categories, you might need a calendar.

Health Work Career Friends Signpost Shows Life And Lifestyle Balance

Health Work Career Friends Signpost Shows Life And Lifestyle Balance

  1. You have a busy life with few short breaks in which to do writing.
  2. You have too many projects sitting on heaped back burners waiting for your attention.
  3. You get distracted easily and waste your writing time.

Don’t kid yourself. It takes time to set up a calendar and there are plenty of considerations to take into account. For this article, the assumption is that you’ve never created one and the steps are kept as simple and non-threatening as possible.

Here are 3 tools to help develop your calendar.

  1. Microsoft Excel—this spreadsheet tool is fairly easy to use and takes little time to learn the basics that you need for calendar use.
  2. A simple (often free) large-cell calendar to hang on your wall or desk calendar to fill in all those blank spaces with your writing projects.
  3. The ether zone—for WordPress users, several calendar types with instruction are available as plugins. Also Hootesuite for media work and status updates, with or without promotion.

One key element to consider is the time frame of your calendar.

Time is money concept with clock and coins

Time is money concept with clock and coins

Will it cover a week, a month, a year, or something in-between? This decision determines how to determine your scheduling, but also how much work you place within that time frame. For editors, illustrators, novelists, and others, a year-long calendar is often used. For writers, like me, who work on both short-term and longer projects, a multi-month calendar is preferred.

Pick your preference.

If you have little time to write but many chores and obligations to fill your day, you might only need a small calendar on your refrigerator/desk/nightstand as a reminder.

Work In Progress Sign Held By Construction WorkerIf you’re buried by writing projects and a couple of blogs, and use WordPress, take advantage of their plugins and save time and effort. Those calendars are saved in Cloud and available online anytime and via your mobile device.

On the other hand, if you prefer something tangible, you can tackle Excel and do a printout of your writing schedule. (NOTE: If you choose this route, keep things simple and on a single page of a short, vertical  calendar.)

I use both a material calendar and one on Excel, each with a specific purpose. A weekly overview of writing tasks goes onto Excel. Long-term projects, anything with a deadline, and writing-related seminars, conferences, readings, etc. all find a place on a large, print calendar, where I can look at an upcoming month and see what needs preparation.

Choosing what to put on your calendar is easy.

  1. Anything with a deadline/event date attached—assigned work, contests, submission guideline closures, etc.
  2. Scheduled blog posts with topic
  3. Any guest posts with topic
  4. Milestone projects—novels, novellas, etc. with revisions, edits, beta reader work, etc.
  5. Prospective short story/article/ebook projects
  6. Admin work—website maintenance, course studies, learning new software, marketing research, query development

Avoid burying yourself.

Girl Taking A Nap On Her Notebook Computer As Exhausted

Girl Taking A Nap On Her Notebook Computer As Exhausted

Calendars are marvelous tools and can help simplify your writing life. There can also be a danger attached to them. They have so many luscious empty spaces to fill. You can easily fill in too many of those blank spaces and find yourself slaving under the whip of WIPs that aren’t critical or necessary.

Save yourself pain, anguish, guilt and burnout by scheduling down time. Take a break every hour throughout the day. Get up, move around, talk to someone, or whatever gets you away from the computer. Your brain and body will thank you for it.

Also schedule at least one, but preferably two, days away from writing altogether. Writing is a job, just like any other and has its demands. With jobs comes weekends to get away and do other things. Burnout is a real danger for many people, and it’s not easy to recover from it. Having been there, I can attest to that reality.

With that cautionary note ringing across the land, here’s a recommendation.

Try a monthly calendar until you see if one will benefit you. Take it slow at first. Ease yourself into it, unless you’re accustomed to scheduling your day/week already.

Begin by organizing all of your prospective blog/website posts for one month. Then, add small projects and admin work—say a short story or article, with its rough draft, revision, edit, and submission. If you’re doing course work, schedule your study sessions. Don’t worry about anything else for your calendar.

After that month has passed, evaluate your work during the previous scheduled time.

Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Did you get more done and more effectively?
  2. Did you feel less stressed? Did you find spare time you could have used for writing or other activities?
  3. Did using the calendar help you each day to stay on track and feel prepared to tackle upcoming work?

At this point, you can decide whether using a calendar all the time is for you. You can also tweak those additions or subtractions that could be useful to you. Whatever you decide to do on a regular basis, you will have learned something important about your work life and your non-work life.

Giving yourself one month to experiment with schedules can teach you much about yourself. Take the time and chance to organize your work to produce for you. Most of all, don’t stress over it. Everyone has her own approach to what helps and what doesn’t. Find what works for you.

Related Articles:

 

Weekly Challenges in August

stock-002-021

 

Hey there, all,

August is full of challenges. August 1st saw writer,coach, and entrepreneur Suzanne Lieurance issue a challenge to all of those within her Working Writers Club.

Each week had a specific blog/site challenge to be completed, shared, and promoted throughout the club and to all of our readers.

004-stock-photo-oThe first week required a list article. These  articles are simple ones, which list a series of steps, resources, etc. that can be used by readers for research, problem-solving, and the like. Hence, my article titled “3 Tricks for Tapping Muse’s Goldmine.”

Last week ushered in the tips/tricks article. I posted “6 Tricks for Taming Writer’s Block.” I hope you try those. They work like a dream.

Close up of glasses on research concept

Close up of glasses on research concept

This week features a “How-To” article. This will  be a much longer article with clear, easy-to-follow steps to do a specific task or create a specific product.  We’re being encouraged to use video, if possible. I have to admit defeat in the video department.  With my vision as it is, that requirement is out of the question.

All of the participants are in the dark about next week’s entree. You’ll just have to wait and see what comes along.

In the meantime, I hope I’ve provided interesting, as well as helpful, articles for you all. I’ll see you in a few days with my challenge article. In the meantime, scroll back in case you’ve missed one or more offerings. Enjoy.

art

6 Tricks for Taming Writer’s Block

director-chair-business-cartoons-vectors_GyG7my_O

I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. Others, though, struggle with it on a regular basis. I thought I’d share  a few tricks with you that helped me  tame the beast. And I didn’t have to use a whip and a chair.

  1. Always have a list of writing prompts for all occasions—holidays, writing subjects for the blog, story ideas (fleshed out enough for clarity and in different genres), and questions to which you’d like answers. Think like a casting director and choose good performers.
  2. Create another short list of what I call Angle    Inspirations. These can be anything from proverbs or adages to old regional sayings. Even old tongue twisters will work. Try to select ones that spark a alternate meaning. Exp: I once used Little Suzie Down by the Seashore as the inspiration for a children’s poem with a twist.
  3. Play with the chosen list item. Tear it apart, give it a contemporary twist, and string it back together into a workable, marketable piece.
    Analysis

    Analysis

    HINT: This also works for non-fiction when you start asking pertinent questions about the list item, such as “tropical fish.” Ask this question; what’s the big deal about red lion fish in the Caribbean? That question and answer is good for an entire book.

  4. Always carry a small notebook with you. As you move around the world, jot down things you witness. Exp: peculiar-looking behaviors in stores, fender-benders on the highway or street, arguments between people, conversations overheard, etc. When you get home, transfer your notes to a file titled Bits of Business for Fiction, or something similar. When you get stuck in a scene or without a catalyst for a character, dip into your “Business” file and look for something to plug in. Oddly enough, this works well, regardless of genre, historical period or audience age.
  5. Drag out the photo album and begin a slow perusal of its contents. Each image has a story from your life. Memories, emotions,IMG_9027and occasionally old conversations, surface. Use those for flavor and color in your story. Alternatively, you can get a nostalgia piece of non-fiction to use for an article, a memoir story, or a blog post.
  6. And last, but certainly not least, if all else fails, pull out your stack of personal mail, including junk mail. Study each piece. What emotions surface from your electric bill—004-stock-photo-oespecially during those cold winter months? Did you laugh or groan at the price of new mattresses on the local furniture store flyer? How would someone who was struggling, just to eat, feel when looking at that mail? Each envelope can spark a different story idea, if you allow you mind to unfocus on you and refocus on someone else and alternate reactions.

And there you have it–six ways to stomp out writer’s block Take a chance. Build your own lists, files, and quirky sidesteps. Take these stock-photos-2-026tricks and gamble on yourself and on your abilities. Most importantly, never believe that you don’t have ideas. Ideas come from conscious thought, and if you’re awake, they’re running around loose in your head. Writer’s block need never be a problem again.

3 Tricks for Tapping Muse’s Goldmine

 

stock-003-007

Muse has a goldmine. Wordsmiths get writer’s block unnecessarily.

Every day, from the time we’re born until the day we die, our minds are bombarded with information, sensory stimulation, and our own associations created by incoming data.

What does this mean for the writer/artist? In a word, plenty. We experience this tsunami of ever-changing data. Our creative minds vacuum it in as fodder for whatever we do.

The danger lies in a lack of focus on specifics. News stories change every few minutes. A simple trip to the grocery store garners usable scenarios, characters, etc. Unless, of course, it only generates frustration, at which time some benefit is lost.

For Muse, this constant stream of information and impression is a goldmine. Like many goldmines, tapping Muse’s vein isn’t always the easiest of tasks. Ask any writer who’s been challenged on the battlefield by that nemesis of all contenders, WRITER’S BLOCK.

Here are 3 easy tricks to gain entrance to Muse’s gold mine:

  1. Never believe the mine is empty. If you do, you might as well hang up your hard hat. Instead, allow yourself to sit in that dark shaft of possibilities and listen. That’s all. Listen. What do you hear? Your heartbeat? A neighbor outside working in his yard? The cat in the litter box? A faint tune coming from somewhere far away?

abstract_2008012903-1113int.epsWhatever it is that you hear, or that impresses you the most, focus on it for a few minutes. With your eyes closed and your focus locked on, take up a pen and write everything that crosses your mind during the focus. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to impress. All it needs to do is find outlet. After a few minutes of writing, you will have something unique that can provide the core of a story, a poem, a painting, a song, or an article; all because you closed your eyes and listened.

  1. Think back to a memory from childhood. Pick a vivid one. Close your eyes. Allow yourself to sink back into it, to feel those moments. Are you with someone? Who and why? Where are you, where did you just come from, and where are you going? What’s the conversation about, if you’re speaking with someone else? Why is this memory important to you? Did that experience color your life in a way that led to the present, and how did it influence your life? Write it down as you’re watching it in your mind. It’s your personal movie.
  2. Give yourself permission to stare out a window and allow your mind to float wherever it wants. Take notes of mind’s journey.
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Each of these exercises asks the mind to play for a while. It’s asked to ignore the world outside your chosen parameters. Disconnecting in this way can free those impressions, personal memories, and extraneous gems of the outside world, leaving the writer/artist with a cache of usable plotting elements, characters, settings, etc.

The only limitations to these mining excavations are the ones you place on them. Play. Remember to take your hard hat.

 

Logic and Language

5b6-052714-akp

Writing and logic are always paired. Oft-times wee, niggling logic puzzles run inside our heads like so many gears inside a box. They crop up in all sorts of locations, including our own work. Communication is, after all, a writer’s business.

I refer to the pesky oxymorons that test everyone’s logic. Army Intelligence is one of the best examples and one of the most widely used in a comedic sense. Here, though, are questions about a few frequently overlooked examples.

First one up–Is it good if a vacuum really sucks?

Now think about this. Is it? Of course, you say. That’s its function–sucking up the dirt. But, that’s not the point. This is a description with two meanings. In the vernacular, if it really sucks, it’s not doing its job, now is it? Stated in an excited, enthusiastic tone of voice, it could mean that’s exceptionally efficient. So, which is meant here with the original question?

Second up–If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

This question takes some consideration. It asks a legitimate question related to the roots of language. If your dictionary has always spelled a word a certain way, with a specific definition, can you be certain it’s spelled properly?

What if the thesaurus spells it a different way? Isn’t it a case of tear and tier. The words mean entirely different things. Yet, how can we be certain that the word originally used for that meaning was spelled that way. Language evolves over time, after all. In effect, consensus tends to rule usage.

Next up–What is a whack and how can something be out of it?

Anyone know? Please, clue me in. I’ve always wanted to know what a whack looked like.

flash fiction picGoing on—Doesn’t “expecting the unexpected” make the unexpected expected?

Tongue twister time. Logic dictates that this is an impossibility, yet we use it, understand its meaning and its directive. Living by this motto, we also began our slide into nervous exhaustion, insomnia, paranoia, and assorted other disturbing conditions. If you’re always expecting something to happen without warning, aren’t you constantly in fight/flight mode?  Therefore, the very act of being prepared brings us to our knees with a variety of psychological problems.

And last for today–If all the world’s a stage, where is the audience sitting? This one is a real teaser in its own way. Its underlying meaning says that each of us is both actor and audience member in the same instant. How can we possibly criticize those around us, or applaud them, if we are being judged for each moment of our own lives in that same moment? Makes a person think, doesn’t it?

Analysis

Analysis

So, consider some of those oxymorons that have cluttered your brain’s logic center for a while. Question their meanings. Along the way, you may find a story that takes you to unforeseen horizons.