Author Spotlight: Julie Bogart

The Original Brave Writer: Julie Bogart

Internationally acclaimed teacher of writers and author Julie Bogart is the mind behind Brave Writer, a fantastic resource for parents and students of writing. She has authored over 200 curricula teaching writing to various age groups, helping thousands gain a better understanding of the written word, and their own voice. Her podcast is also a fantastic support for homeschool families. The same warmth and insight found in her teaching style is evident as she chats with families about their challenges and helps them find ways through the rough. We were able to score an interview and are so pleased to be able to share with our readers her work and wisdom.

TLW: Thank you so much for agreeing to visit with me about your work and approach to writing! I saw this quote recently, and felt the truth of it regarding my own writing. Even as someone who loves to write, it sometimes takes a lot of guts to put myself out there; sometimes the sacrifices required to see your work through is tough, so this really hit home:

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. 

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.” 

― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

Does this relate to your writing students?

JB: Courage in writing, in my view, has to do with showing up as yourself—your ideas, imagination, personal experience, opinions, thoughts. It takes courage to risk exposure of a self. We sometimes forget that it takes just as much courage to write a 4th grade report about dolphins as a poem—to make sure you have the right information in the best sequence, that you’ve shared it in a way you hope is compelling to read. So yes—that there are many ways to be brave resonates. What I notice is that not everyone recognizes the act of courage in writing. That’s my mission: to highlight that fact and help parents appreciate it.

TLW:  Tell me more about why you chose the name “Brave Writer” for your programs and materials.

JB: Both words matter.

“Brave”—because each of us has to be willing to be seen when we write. One of the reasons for the rampant experience of writer’s block is that everyone knows putting your thoughts into written form preserves them for scrutiny, judgment. When we talk, our words are ephemeral, easily revised and forgotten. Writing solidifies and preserves them—we must face our own shoddy thinking or incomplete understanding. The willingness to greet the blank page with openness and optimism often needs to be cultivated. Putting our words where they will be read is a brave act.

“Writer”—because we teach human beings (writers) not a subject (writing). The emphasis in our name is on the people taking the writing risks. Anyone who can externalize language is a writer—whether that person transcribes their own thoughts or gets someone else (secretary, parent, voice-to-text software) to do it. Writing doesn’t exist apart from the writer; writing lives inside the writer. Our task in Brave Writer is to help the writer discover their words within and then to coax those words forward with gentleness and optimism. Once we have the words on the page or screen, we can do lots of things with them—all of which can be shared in a friendly, warm way, which leads to power in writing.

TLW: That is so beautiful and powerful. How did you start your career in writing, and ultimately arrive at teaching writing?

JB: My mother (Karen O’Connor) is a professional author of over 70 books and countless magazine articles. I grew up writing as a natural birthright. As a young adult, I built a freelance writing career that included ghostwriting, magazine editing, and book editing. A homeschooling friend of mine shared her struggles teaching her children to write and asked for my help. When I looked at the materials she was using, I was floored. They were so out of step with everything I knew about the writing life. She then suggested I host a class for her and other home educators. We began with 15 parents and it grew over 7 weeks to 40 people. I discovered that what I taught felt brand new to most adults. That led me to realize that a book teaching parents how to be writing coaches and allies to their kids would be valuable.

Julie’s supplemental materials delve into more than just basic writing.

TLW:  You do have a very unique approach compared to most writing instructors for children. I love that you’ve set as a first priority helping writers find their voice. What advice do you have to writers still struggling in this area?

JB: More freedom, more space to write “badly.” One of the first ways I help kids who feel reluctant to write is to encourage them to focus only on their thoughts (not spelling, handwriting, or punctuation). Give complete attention to the ticker tape of ideas and words flowing through your mind and write down every single word—even words like, “I’m stuck” and “This is stupid; why do I have to write?” As the hand is trained to transcribe the mind, the blocks dissipate.

For especially stuck writers, I go one step further. I tell the young writer than no one (not even your parents) is allowed to read what you write. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and write the whole time, anything you want to say, anything going through your mind, and share it with no one. Your writing is for your eyes only. Get used to seeing yourself show up on the page without the anxiety that someone will judge you for what you put there. Some kids need months of weekly writing just like this. To help create this space, I tell parents that they, too, must write for 3-5 minutes at the same time. Let’s all take the same writing risks—a democracy of writing.

TLW: We talk often about the bravery required for an aspiring writer to become a published author. What about the bravery required for teaching?

I homeschooled my five kids who are now all grown adults. I went through many of the struggles other homeschooling families face. I had one child with ADHD, another with dysgraphia, a daughter who didn’t read until she was almost 10. My family tested the ideas I share and lived with the challenges of education at home—and I learned so much. Our Brave Writer team has worked with over 100,000 families. Over the last 20 years, the one constant in all that work is this: a parent’s loving, warm relationship with the child is the key foundation for a healthy homeschool AND writing life. It takes courage as a parent to be relentlessly optimistic, to use your friendliest voice when identifying the missing capitalization yet again, to affirm the writing risk rather than to criticize the poorly developed content. It takes faith to believe that your children can arrive on the shores of adulthood ready to tackle their futures, even if their spelling skills are still “woefully behind” at age 13.

I wrote a new book called THE BRAVE LEARNER: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschooling, Learning, and Life that expands on this premise—the notion that parents create a context for the magic of learning to take place. Fortunately, these are skills that can be learned by the parents—if they are brave enough to trust themselves, their children, and the process. The book is available through online retailers and local bookstores. Check out the website for more information: https://thebravelearner.com

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us, Julie! I’ve learned so much from your work and am so thrilled to share it with our readers.

A Crash Course in Time Management

Hands down, my greatest weakness when it comes to creative ventures is time management. I usually have at least two projects underway at any given moment and am always plotting at least one more, but I rarely complete any of them in a timely manner. Yes, I work full time on top of these passion projects, but I should still have some time left over to focus on making stuff, right?

On average, I work eight or nine hours a day and sleep about seven, so that’s sixteen out of twenty-four hours down the drain right from the start. Yes, that’s a lot of lost time, but that still leaves eight hours to carve out time to create. Oh, to have eight full hours a day to work on ANYTHING! You and I both know that’s not a likely scenario. What about making and eating dinner? The dog’s getting restless, time for a walk. Dishes are piling up, laundry needs done, gotta get to the grocery store, have some bills to sort out, oh and how about we avoid alienating everyone important in our lives? Eight hours becomes about an hour divided into inconvenient intervals just like that, and I don’t even have kids! Creative parents, I don’t know how you do it, and I salute you.

Now that we’ve identified how precious and fleeting our time is, we need to make some adjustments and mold an itinerary that works for us. A few years back, my work schedule changed from a 6:00 AM start time to 8:00 AM, and I decided I’d just keep getting up around 5:00 and try to utilize that uncluttered morning-brain to work on writing and editing. I was already on the schedule, so it didn’t feel like a seismic shift in my day to day, but it made a massive impact on my productivity, and I still get up way too early every work day. Well… almost every work day. I’ve never been a morning person, but I was surprised to find out how much I’m able to accomplish in this seemingly insignificant window. I highly recommend adding an hour to your morning routine if you find yourself struggling with deadlines or project completions If not for these morning sessions, I think my LetterWorks associates would’ve kicked me to the curb for not keeping up with the workload!

That’s a little over one hour per day that I’ve wrangled for myself, but I still needed more. I started reading time management tips and blogs, and decided to look into auditing my time. I downloaded the Toggl app and have been dutifully logging my activities for about a week now. It seems strange to record everything you do over the course of the day, but since I always have my phone handy, I can update it as an alternative to checking social media. This comes with the added bonus of sparing myself the shot of existential dread from watching society collapse in real time, so it’s already worth it! I haven’t logged my social media use specifically, but using the Screen Time app, I’ve got a few hours per week that I could at very least use for reading, organizing, or otherwise planning something related to my creative endeavors. If you’re interested in auditing your time but don’t think an app is right for you, here’s a handy printable chart you can use!

As expected, the majority of my pie chart is eaten by work and sleep, but I do have moments here and there to lock into tasks that don’t require the full focus of editing or writing, like catching up on emails. I’ve squeaked in time between getting ready for work and actually leaving (fifteen minutes on Monday!), while dinner is cooking, and then of course in the evening after my other life-essential tasks are done.

You may find as I did, that evenings are not as easy to schedule productivity into as I had assumed. There are the usual day to day activities, but then we also have our loved ones to consider. I have no desire to just abandon my girlfriend between dinner and bedtime, and generally will not unless I have a pressing deadline. I can, however, work on layout, website updates, project promotion, writing emails, or other mission-adjacent tasks when we sit down to watch TV. This doesn’t always happen, but as I continue to monitor my time usage, I get better at spotting windows like this that I can utilize.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that simply scheduling and logging time doesn’t always lead to results. In these cases, I’ve been careful to note what variables are at play so I can try to either plan around them or prepare for them in the event that I can’t reschedule. Sometimes this means skipping an early morning session in favor of sleep after a particularly long or grueling day at work.

Setting goals for each session has been helpful as well. Whether I set a word or page count for a specified period of time, or set a time limit to complete a task, I find that goals are good motivators. This would’ve been utter speculation had I attempted it before keeping track of my productivity, but now I have an idea how long it takes me to write and edit a blog post, or how much of a magazine layout I can get done in an hour. And speaking of motivators, logging milestones and completed projects is a great way to see that you’re making progress and your efforts are paying off!

Here are some helpful links to get you off and running with your own personalized time management regimen!

https://observer.com/2015/06/how-to-be-efficient-dan-arielys-6-new-secrets-to-managing-your-time/
This one is particularly helpful to anyone feeling like society is conspiring to hijack our free time.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2018/05/01/manipulate-time-with-these-powerful-20-time-management-tips/#5f72a4c757ab
This Forbes article caters more to the business-minded than creative types, but still contains some solid points. Plus, most writers are basically one-person businesses!

https://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/making-time-to-write-time-management-for-screenwriters
Here’s one for screenwriters, but applies to anyone looking to string more words together.

https://toggl.com/time-management-tips/
The aforementioned app, Toggl has some ideas on how it should be done as well.

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from the always fantastic Kameron Hurley:

“Time management has been high on my list of things to fix this year, and if I was going to get all the work done that I needed to get done, something had to go. That something was engaging with the internet. When people pop into my Twitter mentions now with a passive-aggressive response or angry point of disagreement, I just mute them. Folks forget that they are talking to a Real Human Being here, with a shitbrick of work to do and no time for their nonsense. I’ve reminded myself over and over this year that the purpose of most abuse you get online for speaking your mind (especially if you don’t present as a Generic White Dude), is done to steal your time. People want to wear you down, to break you, to silence you. And in order to keep working, I’ve had to make some changes to how I interact (or not) in online spaces. Most of the bloviating circle-jerking stuff is just not worth my time. I engage when it matters, not just in reaction to somebody being dumb and wanting me to waste my time bloviating a “response” to something patently ridiculous like “women shouldn’t vote” or “periods make women dumb.” I’m too fucking busy getting shit done over here.”

Source: https://www.kameronhurley.com/the-calm-before-the-storm/

Foreign Language: A Resolution Worth Keeping? by Catherine Foster


January: that time of year redolent with fresh beginnings, new starts, a bright future and all of those resolutions. There are a few resolutions that crop up January after January, those great promises that we make ourselves and intend to keep. Sometimes we do … or at least, we try our best to. This post concerns itself with a particular recurrent resolution that many people fizzle out on not long after they begin: learning a foreign language. For those of you who have decided that this is your year to finally conjugate those verbs in earnest: this message is for you! Especially if, as January draws to a close and February starts to dawn, your initial enthusiasm begins to wane a bit, and you’re beginning to think “Eh, what’s the rush? I’ve got a lot on my plate. Maybe some other time. Maybe next year …”

Not so fast! That resolution was a sound one, and you should keep it if you can. Learning a new language is tough, it’s true. It takes time, commitment, and effort. There’s no easy way, and anyone who tells you different is just trying to sell you their method. This post isn’t about how to learn a foreign language, but why you shouldn’t give up on it. In particular, why it has relevance and benefits to you, as a writer.

There are plenty of benefits of learning a foreign language. We have all heard them, and it only takes a second to Google the word “foreign language” before you are bombarded with endless lists detailing why you’ll be all the smarter and better for attempting it. But if you want to know how it will help you as an author, the field narrows. How does it help you write?

People who study foreign language must begin to pay attention to vocabulary, grammar, diction, syntax, conjugation … parts of speech and complexities of their native tongue that they already have through natural language acquisition as an infant and take for granted. In learning it anew, they must think about and educate themselves in the structure of not only the new language but also the native language. In short, they become an expert in their own language through being a student of another.

Language is something we acquire so early in infancy that we often don’t pay attention to it. Nor to the main purpose: communication. In becoming a student of another language, with its strange new sounds, we are forced to pay focused attention to the sounds we make as well as the sounds others make. This allows us to become better listeners, better communicators, and better writers. Writing is merely speaking in slow motion. Everything is related.

There are countless studies on the effects of foreign language on the brain, but one in particular is important to note here: a study of verbal achievement concluded that performance in reading comprehension, language mechanics and language expression was significantly higher in favor of people who study and learn foreign language than unilingual students. This study shows that the bilinguals outperform the unilinguals on a number of cognitive, linguistic, and metalinguistic tasks, even when the differences in intelligence are controlled. This is an important finding for people who are curious about how their language expression in their own language is impacted by bilingualism. The answer is resoundingly clear: it is one of the best organic ways to improve vocabulary, language expression and language mechanics, all critical skills for an author.

If you’re leaning towards learning a language, you don’t need to wait for next January or make a resolution to do so. There’s no better time for anyone, especially an author, to jump in and get started. Your brain will thank you, and so will your flagging manuscript! Try it and see!

Worth Every Sacrifice

Like most artists, the road to becoming a published author is unique for each individual traveling it. But anyone planning for success must also plan for one thing: sacrifice. Whether the path is long and arduous like it was for Michael J. Sullivan, or enviably short like Brandon Mull’s, there is no way forward without surrendering a few things.

It’s Time

The most obvious sacrifice necessary is of time. Regular, consistent, methodical, reliable, scheduled TIME. Many aspiring authors disappear into the ranks of the wistful wishful because they fail to dedicate the necessary time to see their vision through, push through the walls, and lulls in creativity between projects. If you are not committing to regular time for writing in your schedule, then you are not a writer. Even the aspiring kind.

Pride

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something” (The Princess Bride). “Get used to disappointment” (also The Princess Bride). Even some of the biggest best-selling novels in history were rejected many, many times. Harry Potter? 12. A Wrinkle in Time? 26. Kate DiCamillo received a staggering 473 rejection letters for various efforts before publishing Because of Winn-Dixie, arguably one of the most-read books in Middle School. To succeed in publication, one must sacrifice their pride, and recognize that even a well-written manuscript may not be picked up right away for publication. It’s also worth remembering that the quality of the manuscript is (obviously) not determined by how many rejection letters the author receives in the attempt to publish. It may be rejected because of that particular publisher’s goals, what kind of works they are currently interested in publishing, or because it’s just not well represented.

And Prejudice

You’ve just written the best thing you’ve ever attempted. The characters are alive and real to you, the story moves along at a good clip and has some exciting plot twists you’re excited for readers to discover. It’s perfect. With all due respect: nothing is perfect straight out of the gate. As the author you see and live the story in a way no one else can. And there’s the rub. No one else can. Which is why every published author has a favorite editor, and many a forward dedicates some space for gratitude toward their editor(s) for helping make the book the best it could be. The editor’s job is to help draw out your vision and trim back the weeds to bring into focus what the readers need to see to experience your work in the best way possible. Check your pride and author’s prejudice at the door, and let your baby grow up and move out into the world!

Worth It

To live is to sacrifice. Each moment of the day we are choosing how to spend that moment. We are giving up infinite possibilities to choose the one thing we are doing right this minute. If your goal is to be a published author, choose to leave behind whatever is holding you back from that reality. Check your pride at the door an acknowledge that rejection is just part of the process. Not everyone is going to love your work, or have room for it in their lives. That is not a value judgement, it just is. Set aside your personal preferences and listen to a good editor help you refine your work and prepare it for publication. Then get to work. And keep working.

Winter 2019 Submission Roundup!

Welcome to 2019! I don’t suppose anyone out there has resolved to publish a story this year, or more stories than last year? Anyone? I knew there’d be a few of you! Whether you’re here because of a resolution or not, if you’re looking to publish your work, you’ve come to the right place. Kick off the new year by getting your work into some of these respectable, and often paying publications!

As with our last roundup, I have not listed any magazines that charge a submission fee but don’t pay for acceptances. I may sound like a broken record, but perhaps this will become my catch phrase: “If they’re making money on your art, you should be making money on your art.”

Never, never, never, EVER submit anything without fully reading and understanding those submission guidelines first! If you’re unsure, ask for clarification via email. Some guidelines are very dense, but most editors would much rather respond to a quick email question than spend time reading something that doesn’t qualify for publication. Might I also recommend my post on making the cut with journal submissions as a fine companion for your approaching submission mission.

Godspeed! Read the guidelines!

Paying markets with no fees

Lackington’s: Outstanding speculative fiction, currently open for the “Voyages” themed issue. 1 cent CAD per word. This was featured in our last roundup and is still open, so assemble your best voyage ASAP! https://lackingtons.com/submissions/

Apex Magazine: Apex is a long-time standout in genre fiction. They publish sci-fi, fantasy, horror, speculative fiction, and genre-defying work by some of the best writers out there. Payment is $.06 per word, and there’s a chance that they’ll podcast your piece for an additional $.01 per word. There’s no specified deadline, so they will likely close soon! https://www.apex-magazine.com/submission-guidelines/

Rattle: This well-known poetry magazine is looking for poems that first appeared on Instagram, and they’re paying $100 per piece! This opportunity ends on January 15th, so get on this one soon! https://rattle.submittable.com/submit/28742/instagram-poets

Great Weather for MEDIA: Accepting “edgy, fearless, and experimental” pieces for it’s annual anthology. Contributors earn $10 and 1 contributor copy, open until January 15thhttps://greatweatherformedia.submittable.com/submit

Ruminate: A beautiful publication rooted in healing contemplation, Ruminate pays $20 per page of poetry up to $80, $20 per 400 words of prose, and $20 for visual art. Submission cycles vary, so get your poetry in by January 15th and non-fiction by May 31st. Fiction submissions will be open from February 19th-August 14thhttps://www.ruminatemagazine.com/pages/submissions

Prairie Fire: Traditionally styled, but creatively energized, Prairie Fire is looking for work-related stories for their “Work Matters” issue. Fiction and non-fiction earn $.10 per word up to $250, $40 per poem. Deadline: January 18thhttp://www.prairiefire.ca/submit/submission-guidelines/current-submission-calls/call-for-submissions-work-matters/

FIYAH: If you’re not familiar with this magazine of Black speculative fiction, get familiar, because these folks are not here to mess around! FIYAH pays $150 for short stories, $300 for novelettes, and $50 for poetry. The theme for this issue is “Hair” and submissions close on January 31sthttps://www.fiyahlitmag.com/submissions/

Event: One of Canada’s finest! Paying $30 per page up to $500 of prose, and $35 per page of poetry up to $500. Deadline: January 31st. https://www.eventmagazine.ca/submit/

Augur Magazine: This newer Canadian magazine has hit the ground running. They’re looking for pieces that defy easy genre categorization, but lean towards literary speculative fiction. Their target is to publish 75% Canadian and Indigenous artists, so while all are welcome to submit, local creators will have some preference. $.06 cents per word for short fiction, $60 for flash, and $40 per poem—all payment in CAD. Deadline January 31st http://www.augurmag.com/submissions/

Room: Another Canadian gem, this time Room is looking for a new take on “Sports” for their upcoming themed issue. Accepted pieces will earn $50-150 CAD depending on length. Submissions open until January 31sthttp://roommagazine.com/submit

Arc: Long-running poetry journal offering up $50 per page plus a contributor copy. Get your lines in by January 31sthttp://arcpoetry.ca/submit/

Ninth Letter: This University of Illinois publication is a standout in the sea of university journals. The pieces and layout design are always top-notch, and they publish a wide variety of work. The print edition pays $25 per printed page up to $150, plus two contributor copies. Submissions of fiction, poetry, and essays accepted by February 28thhttps://ninthletteronline.submittable.com/submit

Zyzzyva: Beautiful, reputable magazine. No online submissions, snail mail only! Token to semi-pro rates. Open January 7th-May 31st. http://www.zyzzyva.org/about/submissions/

The Deaf Poets Society: Not to be biased, but this might be my favorite new magazine! This digital multimedia platform publishes deaf and disabled artists, and is on the forefront of media accessibility. They’re running on donations, so payment amounts depend on gifts from fans and donors. No submission deadlineshttps://www.deafpoetssociety.com/submit/

The Masters Review: This is a big time mag known for its massive contests, but now they’re open year round and paying $.10 per word up to $200 for fiction and non-fiction by writers who have yet to release a book-length work. This is a great jump start for you up-and-comers! https://themastersreview.submittable.com/submit/26106/new-voices-free

Pseudopod: Hear your fiction in podcast form! Very cool and forward-thinking fiction podcast looking for dark, weird fiction. 6 cents per word, Rolling deadlinehttp://pseudopod.org/submissions/

Nashville Review: One of only a handful of university journals on this list, traditional format with a refreshing approach. $25 per poem, $100 for prose. Now accepting translations! January 31st deadline. https://as.vanderbilt.edu/nashvillereview/contact/submit

One Story: Exactly like it sounds, a slick magazine featuring a single piece of fiction! Acceptance gets you $500 and 25 contributor copies, so have your best, most polished work ready for this one. Open from January 15th-May 31st. https://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=submit&pubcode=os

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet: This is the best lit mag you’ve (probably) never read! A true gem by the fine folks at Small Beer Press. No online submissions—snail mail only! 3 cents per word with a $25 minimum for fiction, $10 per poem, plus two contributor copies and a discount on additional issues. http://smallbeerpress.com/about/submission-guidelines/

Beneath Ceaseless Skies: They publish a very specific style of fantasy, but they do it very well. Now publishing stories up to 15,000 words at 6 cents per word, rolling submissions. http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/submissions/

Smokelong Quarterly: Flash fiction only, no deadlines. $25 per story. http://www.smokelong.com/submissions/guidelines/

No fee, no pay

Ink & Nebula: Interesting new digital poetry mag that highlights established poets on the “Ink” side, and features previously unpublished poets on the “Nebula” side. Submit up to 5 pieces by February 1sthttp://inkandnebula.com/submissions.html

The Account: Here’s a magazine carving its own space into the digital realm! The Account is looking to explore the relationship between the words on the page, and the ideas that led the writer to those words. Each submission must be accompanied by an account of writing that submission (Read the guidelines!!!). Deadline: March 1sthttps://theaccountmagazine.com/guidelines

Crab Fat Magazine: Crab Fat might just be the hardest working non-paying magazine going. They consistently put out solid issues, plus a yearly print anthology. This is a great place cut your teeth in the lit world with the best new talents! Rolling deadlinehttp://crabfatmagazine.com/

Always Crashing: Looking for something different? You found it! Always Crashing is an ever-mutating multimedia entity that also publishes a print issue annually. No deadline listed. https://www.alwayscrashing.com/submissions/

The Wax Paper: A quarterly print broadsheet style publication inspired by “Studs” Terkel? Of course that sounds awesome! Submit by June 30th, accepted artists will get a lifetime subscription. https://thewaxpaper.com/submissions/

Asymptote: Bring your translations here! Rolling deadlinehttps://www.asymptotejournal.com/submit/

Small fee, paid publication

Witness: Brought to you by the Black Mountain Institute (who also publish The Believer), Witness is looking for innovative poetry, prose, and photography with a unique perspective. Payment is $25 for every 1,500 words, and $25 per poem and they charge a $3 Submittable fee. Submissions are open from January 15th-March 1st. https://witness.blackmountaininstitute.org/submit/

Zizzle: Flash fiction that appeals to all ages. $100 per piece with a $3 submission fee. Accepting submissions year-round. http://zizzlelit.com/submit/

Ploughshares: You’ve heard of this one, right? $3 fee, $45 per printed page with a $90 minimum and a $450 max. Deadline: January 15th. https://www.pshares.org/submit/journal/guidelines

Driftwood: A fairly young journal coming into its own. Fees from $2.99, pays $15 per poem, $75 for fiction. Rolling deadline. https://www.driftwoodpress.net/submit

There are more lit mags than I could ever hope to list here, so if there’s one you like that’s open for subs, drop it in the comments! And read the damn submission guidelines!!!

The Order of Adjectives: Do YOU Know It?

When asked about why we write or talk the way we do, often native English speakers take pause. “I don’t know,” we are forced to admit. “That’s just how it is.”

Many of the grammar rules we learned in school—or even earlier, when we were first acquiring the language—stuck in our subconscious and we can’t even explain why some things are the way they are. We just know to use them instinctively or else it somehow sounds wrong to our ears, but we aren’t sure of an exact rule that would explain it. An example of this is the order of adjectives. Every native English speaker naturally employs the order of adjectives, but someone first learning English must learn this, or else they are in danger of sounding strange to us when they speak. We would certainly understand them, but they would stand out as being different, and we would correct them. For instance:

“That’s a red beautiful shirt you are wearing,” your classmate might tell you.

“Beautiful red shirt,” You would correct them. “Thank you.”

“Why?” They would ask. “What does the order matter?”

Here is where you would be stuck. What does the order matter? And how do you know where to put beautiful in relation to red?

The fact is, despite a lot of research many grammarians and linguists alike, no one can pinpoint the origin of the rule, but it is, indeed, quite important to our language. So much so that people learning English spend a great deal of time committing this particular rule to memory even though we take it for granted. The order of adjectives is as follows:

1. Opinion: nice, awful, gross
2. Size: small, large, gigantic
3. Age: ancient, young, old
4. Shape: square, round, triangular
5. Color: blue, pink, purple
6. Origin: American, Canadian, Japanese
7. Material: velvet, cotton, leather
8. Purpose: writing (paper), school (shoes)

Another thing to keep in mind is that, according to the rule, you wouldn’t use more than three adjectives in a row. According to this chart, you might say that you have a blue cotton shirt, but you wouldn’t say that you have a leather purple coat. Going up the chart always works, but if you go backwards, it immediately sends of klaxons of wrongness in the brain. In The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase, author Mark Forsyth discusses both this rule at length and also uncovers more idiosyncrasies about the English language, such as the “I before E except after C rule,” which is commonly taught to children to help them remember how to spell, but for which there are only 44 words that follow the rule as opposed to 923 exceptions. These rules and their exceptions make us one of the most fascinating languages on the planet, but also the most maddening. Even for native speakers, you may not know why you know what you know, and it’s never too late to stop learning about our beloved language. Keep reading and editing and from those of us at The LetterWorks have a happy New Year!

Hygge Writing Prompts

As the winter solstice approaches and the nights lengthen to their darkest and most forbidding, I am inclined to go dormant along with the trees and squirrels. The Danish concept of Hygge (hoo-ge) has a way of embracing that desire to bring things down a notch, while remaining pleasantly productive throughout those dreary days of winter. It’s all about connecting with nature, friends, and all that nurtures the soul in the colder months. Here are four writing prompts inspired by this way of living that just might help you find joy in the beautiful coziness of our shortest days.

 

Winter Walk

A winter walk can be inspiring.

When temperatures drop, our human instinct tells us to stay as comfortable as possible at all times… which generally means we collectively become homebodies if we weren’t already. Less time outdoors means less daylight and vitamin D, which means lowered seratonin production, which encourages scroogey attitudes. Don’t let it affect your writing mojo!  Bundle up and head outside. Notice the changes of the plants in your area. Is it peacefully silent in your neck of the woods? Or busier than ever on your street with the impending holidays? Notice everything. Take notes. When you get someplace you can really write, flesh out vignettes of the places you went and the scenes that were most interesting. Was it that one tree stubbornly insisting on autumn with one vibrant leaf still clinging to a twig? Was it the stressed-out convo overheard? An act of kindness observed? Post your experience here or on our Facebook page!

 

Cozy Cups

Awaken your senses.

Hot drinks warm you up from the inside out and just feel right at this time of year. Prepare an assortment of hot drinks and some nibbles. Something familiar is nice, but be sure to include something you’ve never tasted before. Find a comfortable place to sip and write without distraction. Describe each tea, cocoa, or even soup, in detail. Finding the right words to accurately represent the complexity of flavor is the challenge! If it’s a hot toddy, how does the alcohol affect your senses? Include any memories that pop up in association with each concoction. This exercise is almost meditative as you learn to slowly savor each sip and decipher the language of your palate.

 

Friends and Food

Collaboration with friends.

One critical element of Hygge is self-care; understanding the need for kindness to ourselves. While many here are already paring back their meals in penance for the holiday feasting, the Danes embrace all that  brings comfort and joy, especially friends and good food. Gather some of your favorite people, prepare some of your favorite foods, and play some of these improv games. Thinking on your feet and collaborative storytelling encourage you to think outside the box in ways staring at a blank page just doesn’t.

  • One Word — Sit in a circle and tell a story together. If you’ve ever played “Fortunately but Unfortunately,” this is similar, but as you go around the circle each person contributes only the next single word to the sentence/story. Don’t overthink! Just say whatever pops out. The result is hilarious fun.
  • Telestrations — This is a game that can be purchased, or done simply with paper and pencils for the group. The first person writes a sentence, then folds the paper so that the sentence is covered, and passed to the left. The next person peeks at the sentence and illustrates it. If you are a horrible artist, no worries! It just makes the next part more fun. Fold that paper the other way, so your art AND the sentence are hidden, and pass it to the left. Now look at ONLY the illustration, and write a sentence to describe what you see. Repeat this process, passing the papers until you get your original paper back. Sharing and laughing together by firelight feeds the soul, and the whole shenanigan improves creativity.
  • Yes and No… with a twist– This message will self-destruct after you finish this page. Well, maybe not, but the game can really only be played once with any particular group of friends. Tell your friends it will be a storytelling game, where half of you will be creating a story, and they have to guess what it is asking only questions with yes and no answers; then send half the group out of the room.  The remaining half is told that they are actually NOT going to create the story, the guessers are. For every question that starts with a consonant will be a yes answer, vowels will be a no. When the other half returns, the incognito collaboration begins.

 

Luminaries

“There are two ways of spreading light:

to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.”

Edith Wharton

Hygge culture thrives by candlelight. So light a candle, find a cozy fireplace, and contemplate those who have given light, illumination, a brightness to your world of some kind. This can be someone you know very well, a child, an artist who has inspired you, a historical or religious figure who lit a figurative fire in some way; anyone who has been a luminary to you personally. Write a quick character sketch based on that person. What have been their biggest challenges and how did they overcome them? Write their biography from your limited perspective. Write them a letter thanking them for their influence in your life. This can be four writing opportunities in one if you let it.

 

Snuggle into the rhythms of winter. Writing practice can include creative collaborations and silent contemplations. Be kind to yourself, embrace friends and comforting traditions. And keep writing.

Rising Above the Noise: Writing Social/Political Commentary

We’re all painfully aware of the inexhaustible barrage of social and political commentary these days, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and social media buzzing like starved flies around a cesspool of absurd political chaos and indefensible partisan posturing. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all and write about gumdrop fairies and unicorns dancing on rainbows, and while that’s perfectly fine, that’s not the objective here today.

You may ask yourself, “why bother?” If social or political writing consisted solely of punditry and opinion pieces, I’d be right there with you. Unless you are bringing something completely revolutionary to the table, pursuing straight commentary at this point will all but guarantee you’ll be lost in the shuffle. Fiction with a political or social bent, however, allows plenty of space to say your piece and offer new angles on situations most assume have been wholly explored. A special piece of art can change the world, and the most impactful art tends to draw from the world around us. Luckily, writers have numerous methods that can stir readers’ consciousness without preaching or force-feeding a set of preconfigured ideals.

We’ve all read something that feels less like a story or conversation and becomes a diatribe that strikes the wrong nerve and sets an uncomfortable tone. Once a reader reaches that point, there’s rarely any turning back. The one major exception here is satire. That said, satire is one of the most difficult genres to get right, but the payoff is by far the most rewarding. If you’ve got a satirical piece materializing, make sure you go back and re-read Jonathan Swift’s legendary “A Modest Proposal” one more time to ensure your grasp of the form is firm. Swift’s convictions are steadfast, but instead of pounding his readers over the head in an attempt to force compassion, he challenges us to reckon with a ludicrous darkness and find our own way to the message.

One of the biggest challenges to writing a timely commentary is that it can come with a giant expiration date, but using allegory avoids a head-on collision with overt hot topics. Like satire, allegory can be hard to pull off without irony or being too obvious, but again, you can weave a very rewarding tale with enough work and the right vision. Think of allegory as a metaphorical narrative, in which you tell the story as directly or indirectly as you like, but masking the actual details with characters, settings, and events that don’t have any clear correlation with the underlying narrative. For the most basic examples, think Aesop’s Fables. For something that goes a little deeper, try George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

For a less restrictive foray, take a stab at genre fiction. I know science fiction and fantasy (SFF) have long been the poster children for escapism, often denounced as being universally unimportant or just for kids, but just in case you were unaware, people who make these sweeping judgments could not be more wrong. Several classic novels are now categorized as literary fiction, even though they are SFF: 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Farenheit 451 are just the tip of the iceberg. In more recent years, “speculative fiction” has risen to prominence as a division of SFF that leans more socially conscious and forward thinking, with writers like N.K. Jemisin, Jeff Vandermeer, Nnedi Okorafor, and many others forging a strong path.

With SFF, you can write direct representations of reality filtered through alien characters or situations, and while your audience will (hopefully) pick up what you’re throwing down, you won’t be stuffing it down their throats, and they’ll be all the happier for it.
If this style of genre fiction simply doesn’t suit you, just extract your subject and inject it into an unexpected place. This way you have more freedom than you would within an allegory, but you still have an interesting structure to build on. If you have a raging diatribe about the current administration, shift to a setting with lower or considerably different stakes, like a family owned theme park, a corner store, underground snake wrestling club, or whatever you see fit.
Whichever direction you take with your sociopolitical work, begin with a clear, original, truthful stance. Write with honesty and integrity, respect your readers’ intelligence, and don’t tell them what to think—show them what happens when characters think in certain ways.

Surviving Burnout! A Must-Read for the Holiday Season

As November winds down and brings NaNoWriMo to a close, it’s time to discuss an important subject that many writers face but don’t like to talk about: writer burnout. All of us have or will come across this dreaded feeling; it’s akin to a sailor being stranded in the doldrums. One minute you’re flying along on the giddy wings of inspiration, and your fingers can’t keep pace with your ideas. The next, you stumble and stare at a blank page. What was effortless a second ago is now a drudge. The words are there, but they jumble inside your mind and they won’t come out. Is it writer’s block or are you tired? This happens to us all. It’s unexpected, it’s not preventable, it’s frustrating and there is no way of knowing how long it’s going to last. The only cure is patience. Writer burnout can strike anyone at any time. So what can you do when it happens to you?

We’ve talked a lot about how to use strategies to overcome writer’s block, but burnout is different. The definition of burnout is: “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” It’s important to identify the events or times in your life in which you may be suffering high amounts of stress that could contribute to sudden and unexpected burnout. NaNoWriMo is a big culprit. The holidays are another. Tests, exam dates, family visiting, changes to a schedule … these are all valid reasons that one might suffer burnout, especially at this time of year.

But writing is how I combat stress in my life, you might say. I agree, as writers do. It can be a cathartic outlet and is a form of stress relief. So why then would one be burned out from doing the thing they love? It is when there is a schedule involved, such as writing for a deadline, editing a project, contributing to a literary journal, composing an academic paper, contributing to a competition or hosting a blog which one might find pressure building. This brings a different sort of expectation to the writing than one would have in writing for pleasure. Typically, writers take pride in their skill and they are so at ease in their craft that they are writing far more than they realize. They may craft a paper for school and discount that as “writing” because it was so easy for them. They may put out a quick blog post but not consider that “real writing.” Then when they come home to work on their novel, they don’t realize that they have been using their talents all day. It may not seem like much, and it may be enjoyable, but it is still writing and requires work. When we are under stress from different areas of our life, the words dry up and we are left wondering if they will ever return.

A big contributor to burnout is the holiday season. Whether you love it or hate it, it is tough on the life of a writer. Most cultures celebrate holidays of some kind, and no matter what time of year they fall, they tend to involve a disruption of schedule. Writers need time to practice their craft, and they require uninterrupted concentration. This is in short supply when relatives are visiting and the flow of the day is different due to celebration. Increased responsibility and attendance at festivities means that writing needs to take a backseat to whatever event—or events—are occurring. These events could be a day or even span the course of several weeks. Some families are accepting and accommodating of writers’ needs during this time, and others are less so. This can lead to frustration and guilt for the writer. This slurry of disrupted scheduling and emotional havoc is a major contributor to burnout.
What can be done? Be patient and forgiving of yourself, especially during a time of year when you expect to have increased responsibilities that will take away from your writing time. Plan when you can write and set aside those moments so that you can be assured to have time for yourself in the chaos of the holiday season, but know, too, that you might not be able to keep to your regular output. Understanding that beforehand will alleviate anxiety. Many people who participated in NaNoWriMo choose to take off the month of December. A pause is something to consider, and know that you may come back in January invigorated and refreshed.

Understanding that burnout doesn’t just happen to some—it happens to all—is a helpful point to remember. This is something that is stress-induced and can be managed, but in the end every writer has been in this position, and you are not alone. From Shakespeare to Virgina Woolf, if you wield a pen, at some point you will feel betrayed by your inspiration. It’s the badge that marks you as an author, and something only time and patience can cure. But by keeping in mind that you are in good company and you, too, will survive, hopefully your holidays will be a little less stressful to begin with.

December Events

Hey everyone! Hope y’all had a great Thanksgiving! With the passing of this holiday, December is quickly approaching, so here is the monthly events article! This article consists of a list of 10 free writing events in Michigan, yeah you read that right, they’re all FREE. As usual, please comment on this article if you attend these, or any other events not listed! We’d love to hear from you!

1st – Beyond Breakthroughs Vision Board Party – Detroit

While this isn’t exactly a writing event, creating a vision board can help you visualize the settings and overall feel of whatever piece of writing you’re working on, whether it’s a novel, short story, or even a poem! Check out more details through the link!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/beyond-breakthroughs-vision-board-party-tickets-52405026846?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-source=strongmail&utm-term=listing

 

2nd – Novel Revelry: “The Big Sleep” Raymond Chandler – Ann Arbor

This little book club is perfect for anyone who is looking for a sense of community! This month, they are discussing the book “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler! Click the link for more information!

Novel Revelry: “The Big Sleep” Raymond Chandler

Sunday, Dec 2, 2018, 10:30 AM

A delightful home Ann Arbor
xxx Ann Arbor, MI

12 Revelers Attending

We’ve all seen the movie now let’s read the book: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. then we’ll have a discussion held at an address to be announced. Note the time change: 1030am.-1230 pm, Sunday, 12/2/18. Coffee available. Bring snacks or not. Here’s a little bit about Chandler and the Big Sleep. The 100 best novels: No 62 – The Big Sleep by Raymo…

Check out this Meetup →

3rd – How to Quiet the Inner Critic – Ann Arbor

Jeannie Ballew will be giving this awesome presentation all about how to deal with your inner critic, and get back to writing! With different activities and snacks, this is jammed packed! More information is available on their MeetUp!

How to Quiet the Inner Critic

Monday, Dec 3, 2018, 6:00 PM

Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room
114 South Main Street Ann Arbor, MI

16 Awesome Writers Attending

Every writer, and I mean every writer, struggles with self-doubt. Since those doubts aren’t going to go away (sorry), how do you keep going, especially when the mean voice in your head gets really loud? What will give you the courage to dig ever deeper in the face of that nagging doubt and soldier on? Come join us to discover the two questions you …

Check out this Meetup →

5th – Open Mic Poetry – Farmington Hills

It’s exactly what the name says! Come share your poetry at the Open Mic Poetry night, or just listen! Click the link for more info!

Open Mic Poetry

Wednesday, Dec 5, 2018, 7:30 PM

Kola Lounge & Resturant
32523 Northwestern Hwy. Farmington Hills, MI

4 Members Attending

POETRY IS A RHYTHMIC CREATION OF BEAUTY IN WORDS. -Edgar Allen Poe Don’t be shy! We invite you to share an original poem or just sit back and listen. Join us for an evening of artistic expression in spoken word. (Novice poets welcome!)

Check out this Meetup →

6th – Pagodaville Book Release – Kalamazoo

Ellen Bennett will be celebrating the release of her new book, “Pagodaville”. It’s sure to be a memorable event! More info through the link!

https://www.evensi.us/pagodaville-book-releaseauthor-signing-ellen-bennett-224-michigan-avenue-kalamazoo-49007/278674818

7th – Critical Studies Writing Worshop – Bloomfield Hills

This event will look into a variety of topics, provided on the Eventbrite link that’s listed below, and a writing workshop, all presented by John Corso, author of “New Subjectivities in Fiber Art and Craft: Shadows of Affect”

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/critical-studies-writing-worshop-tickets-50671985272?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-source=strongmail&utm-term=listing

13 – YA Book Club – December Read – The Fearless – Goodrich

The Cottage Used Bookstore Book Club will be discussing  “The Fearless” by Emma Pass. This book club focuses on YA (Young Adult) Novels, but welcomes all ages! Click the link for more info!

YA Book Club – December Read – The Fearless

Thursday, Dec 13, 2018, 7:00 PM

Cottage Used Books
8331 S. State Road Goodrich, mi

2 Members Attending

Join us for a fun evening discussion of this action packed YA book!

Check out this Meetup →

16th – Meet & Greet: Welcome Writers & Filmmakers – Dearborn

This is a great event to go and network at! Meet tons of writers, filmmakers, and many more professionals! Through the link is more information!

Meet & Greet: Welcome Writers & Filmmakers

Sunday, Dec 16, 2018, 2:00 PM

brome burgers and shakes
22062 Michigan Ave Dearborn, MI

4 Members Attending

Come enjoy great food and get to know other aspiring writers and filmmakers. This will be an informal meeting to share ideas and career aspirations, create an outline for future meetings and begin developing OUR film project.

Check out this Meetup →

19th – Author – Book signing and story telling. Wild Shot. – Cheboygan

This book signing will feature Andy Lieber, the author of “Wild Shot”,  his book is about traveling the world and his experiences with Olympic athletes! Don’t miss this cool event!

https://allevents.in/michigan/author-book-signing-and-story-telling-wild-shot/20002559953676

22nd – Author Signing: Mark Stormzand, Stormy Outside: The Adventures And Misadventures Of A Forester & His Dog – Traverse City

Mark Stormzand will be discussing and signing copies of his book, “Stormy Outside: The Adventures And Misadventures Of A Forester & His Dog”! This is sure top be a fun and lighthearted event! Click that link to see more information!

Author Signing: Mark Stormzand, STORMY OUTSIDE: THE ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF A FORESTER & HIS DOG

Have a great December everyone, and good luck on all your Black Friday shopping!