Category Archives: Creative Non-Fiction

A Quick Update for Freelance Writers

These last few days have been a bit hectic, but then, the month just began.

I thought some of you might be able to use some of the information contained in my latest article–this one for freelance writers from Working Writer’s Club.

It has some helpful tips for those looking to enter the non-fiction arena, as well as resources that some of the pros might not know about or haven’t explored.

Take a few minutes to see if any of it can help you to get a new perspective or a new market.

I’ll be back later in the week with something else from the cooker.


WWW Article

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 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. 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, 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 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.

Logic and Language


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?



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.

At Home—Writers, Readers, and Characters


If you’re a reader, you aren’t necessarily a writer. But, if you’re a writer, you’re always a reader. Between the two are the characters of whatever story is in view.

Writers may have penned their stories since childhood, as I did. Others come to it later in life. All read books early, and for many like me, the choice of reading material wasn’t dictated by genre or age group. At age ten, I was reading my mother’s lit book from high school. My favorite selection in it was Tennyson’s Lady of the Lake.

By age twelve I’d moved to Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. Thirteen brought on the complete works of Shakespeare, thoughtfully provided by my father, who’d never read of word of the Bard’s work. Other masters from around the world followed the Bard. The one, though, that stayed closest to my heart was Omar Khayyam’s The Rubaiyat, which was later supplanted by The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Because of the era in which I grew up, most of the main characters were male. I longed for female characters that went on quests, made serious decisions, etc. I’d long written my own heroines, but the desire to read those written by others kept the spark of writing alive for many years until such characters began appearing in books and films.

stock-photos-v2-004-008Now, this is my question for you. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, which types of female main characters do you prefer in books? Is she the gentle-souled, romantic who lives the good life, working hard to bring harmony to her world? Is she the Lara Croft type, who wades in, guns blazing, ready for any event and then some? What about the girly-girl, who’s more interested in her appearance at the next event, but who can’t change a light bulb to illuminate her surroundings?

It’s my belief that we all have a favorite type of female lead, just as we have a favorite male lead. The question is: what does that say about the reader?

For me, I like strong female characters; strong in personality and in body. Why? It could be vicarious in nature. I was always strong in both. I was the protector of weaker kids on the playground and the school bus. It was a role I took on voluntarily. I still do it to some degree.

stock-photo-2-011I crave the adventure and excitement of the hero’s journey, regardless of story setting or timeframe. I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation of who-done-its. Truth to tell, I’ll read just about anything that can’t move faster than my questing hands. It was a joke during my adolescence that there was a dictionary in the bathroom for my benefit.

What about those girlie-girl characters? If they’re being put into situations that require stamina, intelligence, and a Wonder Woman outlook, no problem exists. If she’s going to whine through the whole story, this reader lays down the book, never to return. Call it a personal quirk. Like most readers, for me to enjoy the story, there must be character growth along the plotline.

Now, after all this discussion of my personal preferences, have you taken a moment to compare yours? What conclusions did you draw?

Tell me, what type of female characters do you prefer and why do you like them? Leave a comment and tell me. I can’t believe I’m the only one out there with character preferences.

Above all else, readers enjoy reading for the sake of the mental pictures, the characters, and the possibility of learning something. Enjoy a story today.

Virtual Blog Tours Come in Pairs


I was invited to do another blog tour this week. Imagine!

I’ve posted my second blog tour invitational at Claudsy’s Blog on my other website. Pop over if you’d like to see a bit more about how I function as a writer, or something more about my life in general.

Enjoy your trip and your landing there. Feel free to look around and find something different to read.

And don’t forget to drop in on other bloggers working the tour. You won’t be disappointed.

Links to virtual blog tour venues and other fun blogs:


At Home–Day 3 of 500 Word Challenge

Courtesy of BJJones Photography

Courtesy of BJJones Photography

Today was one of errands, lunch with friends, and a short nap after a bit of shopping. We topped off the day with dinner out. I had no time for writing earlier. Nor did I really have a specific subject to work on.

I got home and dived into unresolved emails, as well as Facebook comments and post. I found my subject when I opened an email from one of my groups—Publishing Syndicate.

The update referred to this year’s bi-annual Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop held in Dayton, Ohio. The promo piece also announced the submission requirements for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Yes, it is another challenge. There are many this month. If things keep up, I won’t be able to polish my armor fast enough for the jousts. I’ll have to hire a squire.

Anyone of an age will remember Erma and her syndicated columns and her books. Her humor set a new standard for housewives/mothers everywhere. Her irreverence toward traditional attitudes concerning housekeeping and mothering duties bordered on scandalous satire.

For myself, I thought she was a hoot and wished that I could write just like her. She had a freshness of phrase that kept humorous points rolling around in one’s mind until they stuck somewhere inside to a projection of one’s sympathies. That sense of universal connection was the key to her staying power and her humor.

Whether I enter this contest later or not, I want to try for a hint of Bombeck with a flash piece here. Since she worked in daily memoir, I’ll draw from my own past.

Lessons for Kids

Compared to today, growing up in the rural Midwest during the 50’s and 60’s was like living down the road from Laura Ingles. If our food could come via fishing pole, shotgun, or picking from foliage, it filled our freezer and canning jars. The local bird population held strafing sorties around our house to keep us from what berries we’d managed to miss in our foraging.

Snapping turtles and frogs didn’t actually enjoy our hospitality, but they didn’t argue for long. Mom had a way with kitchen utensils. And I learned that fish scales can add sparkle to kitchen tile for weeks without them popping off.

Now, I have to say that brother and I learned early that the earth was our friend and provider. We also learned that Mom never handed us anything to eat that would kill us. We might wish to die after ingestion of whatever offering came to hand, but it wouldn’t kill us. Lots of kids back then learned how to recognize things like wild lettuce, wild garlic, wild onion, and wild radish without hesitation through the same rites of passage.

The lesson is called survival for preppers today. We had a different term for it—something to do with slow torture, I believe.

Mushrooms left the forests in our gunny sacks and old pillow cases in early spring—mostly morels, but sometimes puffballs tagged along. Spotting poisonous fungi species meant a lecture on their habitat and special circumstances. Their looks were examined, not for praise, but for certainty of recognition. Case in point—“’Shrooms with blackcaps announce your end, kids. Think funeral.”

Early summer had us foraging along railroad tracks for those succulent little morsels, wild strawberries. Mom would hand us each a small bucket with the instruction to be careful around the tracks and to keep an ear open for train whistles.

What is it about train tracks and wild strawberries? Did the regular train schedule and vibrating rails encourage plant growth or what? Mom believed our young eyes were better than hers, plus we were closer to the ground already. That was her reasoning for handing the buckets to us. We were just sure of it. It would be easier for us to spot those berries that were barely bigger than a large pea.

When sugar peaches ripened and wild plums readied themselves for plucking, brother and I had lessons in the easiest way to carry large, heavy harvesting sacks across fields and along tractor lanes without bruising the fruit. I didn’t realize until much later that we got our physical fitness training for free, while those who had money had to spend it on expensive gyms and golf. Think of all the money my folks saved themselves.

The autumn brought harvesting from native black walnut, hickory, butternut, and hazels. Crisp air, tainted with rising tannin levels from all those nut hulls laying all over the ground, greeted us each time we went to do battle with the squirrels for the bounty. Late autumn had Mom and me slaving at the kitchen table, knives and nut picks whittling down the piles of cured and cracked nuts for the treasures inside.

As blisters rose on my thumb pads and my fingers grew shaky, Mom would tell stories about when she was a kid. She used one story regularly to point out the joys of doing a good job the first time ‘round. It went like this.

“Your grandmother always had me, or your aunt, peel the potatoes. If our peelings were too thick when we finished the chore, we got to peel the peelings. Potatoes were too hard to grow and harvest to allow waste in the peeling. I hated peeling potatoes, but I got very good at.”

I learned not to complain. I was sincerely grateful she hadn’t put me on potato duty yet.

Growing up with an outdoorsman for a father and a mother who could have taught Euell Gibbons a few lessons gave us a solid appreciation for knowing how to disappear. Barring that, one could concentrate on reasoning skills for those times when logic might prevent another lesson in the woods. Failing that tack, stoicism became a mantle of honor.

*  *  *

Before I hear from any who would berate me for this portrayal of my mother, know this. I loved her deeply until the day she died. Her lessons in life and in the natural world have bolstered my abilities to adapt to time, circumstance, and environment. Hers and my father’s teachings never failed me and have kept me strong throughout my life.

If she read this piece, she’d chuckle all the way through, and she’d point out a few lessons I’ve not included.

As for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, I haven’t yet decided if I’ll submit to it. If I do, I still don’t know from what portion of my life I’ll write. I might just go for something from my tenure on a guest ranch in Jackson, Wyoming. Possibilities abound from that job.

For those who want to look into this opportunity to express personal humor in memoir, you can follow the links provided in this post to get all of the latest info on the event and the workshop.

Happy writing, all.



Dreaming Up a Great Writing Prompt

Be a Star photo

Everyone dreams during their sleep cycles, whether they actively recall those dreams the next morning or not.

Some dreams are bizarre, taking us to places we would not otherwise imagine. If you’re like me, you have entire movies roll past your inner eyes. Sometimes you are the heroine, or the villain, and have a terrific adventure. At other times, you are the spectator, watching from the front row seat, popcorn in hand, soda at the ready.

I have dreamed entire, new episodes of a favorite TV series–I wish I could remember later all the details on those. Screenplays here I come would be my rallying cry. Also, new science fiction movies have graced my mental theater. I never remember all of those details, either.

Family members and old friends pop in for cameos or return engagements .

On occasion a dream will haunt me for days, lingering on the fringe of awareness as if to plan an ambush when I least expect it. That occurrence can foster frustration and anxiety if allowed.

The peculiar quality about dreams, though, is that they belong to us, exist as a part of our psyche in amorphous form. We created them while we weren’t in conscious control. Whether we want to or not, we must claim them as our own.

All of which brings us to the subject of writing prompts.

The profound and the banal, the inspired and the mundane, and the puzzling and the humorous each take up position in the wings of our mental theaters. And each is can act as a writing prompt.

This morning ushered in the puzzling prompt. It arrived in the form of a statement that my dream-self said to someone else in a dream I don’t remember. Why did I say it? That’s the puzzle.

Here’s the statement. “There is no such thing as a gentle carnivore.” 

I invite those writers out there, regardless of genre, to take this prompt and put together an answer as to the meaning of this line.

What could I have talked about to use this line? In what context would this have been true, or is there only one context where this would be true? I can think of dozens of questions about the “why” of it.

As a prompt, though, can you think of dozens of ways to use that line in a story, poem, essay, plot, etc.?

Drop a comment here. Tell me what comes to mind for you. Make suggestions for its use. Steal it for your own and tell me about it.

Above all have fun. And if you have a similar “dream line,” share it here so that everyone can play with it, too.


NaNoWriMo and Other Projects

NaNoWriMo and Other Projects

November 1st marks the beginning of chaos for many writers along several genres.

Poets are setting rhymes and other verse to rhythms lyrical or pulsating in Poetic Asides’ PAD Chapbook Poetry Challenge.

Fiction writers registered for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) assemble in groups or sit in solitary confinement, pounding keyboards to complete a requisite number of words to get a novel finished in the month’s 30 day duration.

Non-fiction writers have their own version of a November challenge, called National Non-Fiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo.) The goal is the same; only the genre is changed to fit the group of writers assembled.

Those who have just come out of challenges in October have been weighing the pros and cons of continuing to drive toward seemingly impossible goal-tending. As you know, I’ve just finished one on memoirs, even if mine were a bit unconventional.

No matter. I’d decided to forego NaNoWriMo this year and simply work on those projects I knew had waited far too long for my attention. That’s when the rebel re-emerged in me. Last year I took a short story I’d written a few years before and expanded it into a YA novel of the urban fantasy variety. Ergo, I’d taken something I already had in hand and built on it during NaNo.

Why couldn’t I do something similar this year and satisfy two efforts at one time? The key here was to set completion goals and strive to make them without compromise.

Okay. In that case, I’ll go for a doozy. My choice is to take five/six of my projects that were nearing completion and get as many of them out the door to publishers/markets/competitions/etc. as I possibly can by the end of November.

Here is my list of contenders:

  • A book of poetry for competition—needs final edit and formatting before submission. Estimated number of days for completion and submission = four.
  • A short collection of five flash fiction stories (to complete a short writing course) and get it formatted, with book cover, and submitted to Kindle Singles for publication. Estimated number of days for completion = seven.
  • A cookbook that is only 18 months overdue for submission for publication—needs final edit, special formatting for cookbooks (I have to learn that format and duplicate it,) create a book cover, and get it out the door to Kindle Singles/Kindle KDP. Estimated number of days for completion and submission = five.
  • A second writer’s dragon book in my series for Kindle needs complete rewrite and expansion (it’s bare bones at present.) Estimated number of days for completion and submission = six.
  • One science fiction short story needs expansion to novelette/novella length, plus full edit and proofing for submission to Tor Books. Estimated number of days for completion and submission = twelve.
  • Write at least two articles and ready a flash fiction story to fill an editor’s request and have them submitted before the end of the month. Estimated number of days for completion = three.

I know I’ve put more on my proposed calendar than any sane person would consider. My on-going novel work on “Dreamie’s Box” also continues. Where does all this insanity leave me?

My answer is this: I’m left in reality mode. I know that I can’t possibly complete to my satisfaction all of these projects in 30 days. I am rational, after all, albeit a bit of an over-achiever. Ask any of my friends. They’ll corroborate that personal trait of mine.

However, I’m also someone who needs outlandish deadlines for projects to keep me motivated to produce. In this challenge I can’t take the time to putz with a story until the originality of it is beyond resuscitation, or tweak an article until all claims of freshness are denied in court.

This way I am forced to perform, to produce, and to do it on a deadline. Focus becomes the only word in my work vocabulary for the month. And telling everyone here what my intentions are acts as a catalyst that enforces that focus requirement.

Each day I intend to post an update as to what I’m working on and where I am in the process. I need that accountability this time, more than ever before. I need to know that I can do this my way. On the table is my integrity.

I know I’ll not get them all finished. I understand that, but if I can get three of those projects plus those requested by an editor, finished and out the door, I’ll be ecstatic.

I hope you’ll stop by occasionally to see how I’m doing on my quest for personal accountability and perseverance. Until then, have a great month, folks. Do what makes you happy and what gives you satisfaction.