January small stones

I've been faithfully writing my small stones every day - even though my time has been limited the past few weeks. I took on a consulting job three weeks ago back working at my old day job - helping engineers write and produce a proposal to the U.S. Government. It's always interesting and fulfilling and very busy, but doesn't come close to the pleasure I feel when I'm doing my creative work. I'm happy to say the job will be over on February 21. That said, here are my January Gems - my daily attempt at writing a short piece every day of the month. They aren't meant to be masterpieces. Just a way to jump-start my writing for the day. January Gems Happy New Year everyone. I love that we're still keeping up with our small stones. Let's make 2017 a great writing year. The floats in the Rose Parade are spectacular. They're getting more elaborate and tech-y every year. After our recent heavy rains, it's gotten unseasonably cold here in southern California. But not so cold … [Read more...]

Fresh eyes are important to our writing process

After a three-week break, I went back to my consulting job on August 3 and worked 17 days straight. That is until today when I got a little mini vacation - a few hours off to go out to lunch and get a much-needed manicure and pedicure. Tomorrow I'll  be back on the job for another 20 days or so until the work is finished. I can't tell how much I look forward to going back to my writing life and playing with all my writing friends out on the networks. I really apologize for being such a dropout these last few weeks and months. Once back I'll probably get so involved again, you all will want me to get a work gig again. However, while I've been working I looked at how similar writing a proposal is to writing a book. Right now  a review team is looking at our product. That's what I hope most of us do with our draft books: ask a team of fellow authors to review our book and give us comments pick our team carefully for their expertise give them a list of specific things to look … [Read more...]

Comparing writing a proposal to writing a book

I finally have a break from work. Yes, it's Sunday and I have the day off. For the last five weeks I've been knee-deep in working with a team of engineers writing a proposal to the U. S. Air Force. And, I'd like to share some of the steps they have gone through some very similar to those we take as fiction and nonfiction authors and some not. Plan. Start with an outline or a plan the engineers produced annotated outlines and planning documents called story maps that showed where on each page of their sections their graphics and text will layout on the page. I started both my memoir and novel with outlines. I know some of you are panzers, but I like to have a plan before I write. Review. We spent a lot of time reviewing these plans for compliance with the proposal instructions and technical soundness. I was very fortunate to have a friend review my original memoir outline and another person review my revision plan when I was getting it ready for publication. Having fresh eyes … [Read more...]

Ageism doesn’t apply

I'm Going Back to Work I wasn't looking for consulting work when I retired in April 2010 at the age of seventy. I was intent on working as a creative writer rather than a technical writer and proposal manager. For me it was either now or never. And I succeeded. In the last four and a half years I had my memoir published, I've written for several websites, I've written poems for two books of photography, and co-edited three poetry anthologies. Now I'm knee deep in revising my first novel. So really I have no time to work a day job, as they like to say. Actually, in the last couple of years I worked a couple of short-term consulting jobs helping a group of engineers write proposals to the U.S. government. And it was easy-going back. I found that once I walked in the door I got into the swing of the work immediately. It was like I'd never been gone. Of course after doing the kind of work I did for almost thirty years, I shouldn't have had any doubt that I could still … [Read more...]

How technical writing helped me write memoir and fiction

I fell in love with writing in grade school and took journalism and was on the newspaper staff in high school. I attended the University of Wisconsin as a journalism major, then transferred to UCLA my senior year to complete a degree in English. Because jobs for women journalists were few in the 1960s in Los Angeles, I began a long career as a technical writer and editor, proposal manager, web designer and content developer in the aerospace industry. And I must say that was a great choice because my job paid very well, and I'm still able to work from time to time as a consultant years after I officially retired (I'm just about to embark on a four-month job to help a group of engineers write a proposal to the U.S. Air Force). Plus, I've been able to transfer what I learned as a technical writer over to my memoir and fiction writing. Here are six things I learned: Plan before you write. I had an outline before I started my memoir and a list of scenes that guided my fiction … [Read more...]

Some old stories

In 2012 and 2013 I contributed to a website called Storylane. It inspired me to write very short pieces about a variety of subjects. Unfortunately, Storylane no longer exists, but packrat that I am I saved every piece I submitted. Here's a few: How I Got My First Job Out of College I graduated from UCLA with a degree in English and had no idea what I would do professionally after getting it. I had wanted to work as a journalist and actually completed all the course work for a degree in journalism at the University of Wisconsin. But family illness caused me to transfer to UCLA for my senior year, and UCLA didn't offer a BA degree in journalism. So I was stuck in a city I didn't know, and hardly knowing anyone in it. I tried valiantly and unsuccessfully early on to get a writing job and then gave up. It was 1962. Not a lot of jobs for women writers in those days, especially in Los Angeles. Then someone suggested I try the growing aerospace business in southern California. And I … [Read more...]

Gathering inspiration for your novel

I like Cate Russell-Cole's great advice about gathering inspiration for historical fiction. I've been googling all morning to get inspiring images for my historical novel. Her way is much better. Thanks again Cate.   The Power of Day Dreaming in Fiction #Writing by Cate Russell-Cole Set Building I am a fantasy writer, who has hassles with description. Day dreaming and visualising is the only way I can cut through all the one sided fuzz that runs through my head. Otherwise my writing just sounds like a monologue! For me it's a challenge as I am very analytical. I am more interested in the ˜why' and ˜how' of the story, than telling it. I have a few tricks for getting over this: Pinterest, story boarding and set building. The last two set my ideas in concrete; Pinterest shows me things I can mull over, and all these techniques expand and improve my work. I find I rarely click on the links in Pinterest, it is the images or quotes which give me the ideas, so … [Read more...]

Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera’s creative writing journey, Part Two

Thank you for returning to read the rest of Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera's story. I'm so pleased she offered to write a guest post here on Choices. In Part Two she relates how she wrote Quiet Water, the first novel in her Golden Raven Series trilogy. Part One was posted on January 22. Part Two The Writing of Quiet Water and the Golden Raven Series The following week in Dr. Miles' class just as usual she started with a guided meditation. When I relaxed into meditation I saw an image of a woman sitting on a curb. This woman started talking to me. She said her name was Tess Whitaker and she just moved to the apartment she was sitting in front of. I was surprised by what I was being shown but I told myself to just allow the images and words to come. I wrote quickly what she related to me and then over the next six months she spoke to me daily telling me her story. Some days I could not type fast enough. Quiet Water was born. I finished the book and it was published in September … [Read more...]

Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera’s creative writing journey, Part One

I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera to Choices. I find her background, research and writing about past life regression fascinating. What do you think? Do you believe in reincarnation and past life regression? Do you believe past life regression therapy can heal? Whether or not you do, I'll bet you'll be drawn to this topic as much as I. Here is Part One of Dr. Rivera's journey in becoming a creative writer and how she wrote her first novel, Quiet Water. *** Part One How I Found My Creative Writing Voice After what felt like a lifetime of school and the all-consuming doctoral dissertation I had something akin to empty nest syndrome.  Some have called this phenomenon Post Dissertation Stress Disorder. For years I had structure, purpose and a goal and then finally the day arrives and I receive the letters I dreamt about many times . . . PhD. In an instant my life completely changed. No more books to tackle, no more tests to cram for, and no more papers to write … [Read more...]

Renewed hope for 2014

For our belated holiday lunch our writing group leader asked us to provide each other with the  "GIFT OF WORDS!!! - give everyone a gift of a short essay less than 1000 words that reads to the theme of New - as in Newness, New Year, new promises, memories of new years past, debauchery of new years past, hopes for the new year, new cars, new loves, anything that evokes the freshness & hope of something new!" Here's mine. About how my hope was renewed even in the face of deep sorrow. 2013 was a year with too much traveling, too many surgeries for my husband, and the deaths of two long-time cherished friends. Because those deaths happened in December   one funeral was on New Year's Eve day, and Shiva took place in the first few days of the New Year I haven't had much enthusiasm for writing about newness and the freshness and hope of something new. However, while thinking about writing this piece I've realized how much children babies all the way up to adult children have put … [Read more...]

David Hockney works like a writer

We just spent a few days in the San Francisco area and a highlight was seeing the David Hockney: a Bigger Exhibition at the De Young museum in Golden Gate Park. The exhibit is so large it takes two floors of the museum to show it. Gorgeous Hockney Trees To me Hockney seems to work like a dedicated writer. He always has his ass in the chair or his feet on the floor with paintbrush, charcoals, computer, iPad, iPhone or video camera in his hands. Yes, he works in all those media never too old, though born in 1937, to learn and use the new technology. What impressed me is that he paints and draws and makes art as a writer writes everyday. We saw paintings that he created only one month before we were there to see the exhibit huge portraits. And while I don't especially like his portraits I like the bright colors he uses primary blues, reds, yellows, oranges. We also saw a series of charcoal drawings he made in 2012 and 2013 in East Yorkshire, England at Woldgate. Each … [Read more...]

Welcome to my guest blog fest

For the next three and a half weeks I'm going to turn Choices over to the voices of other wonderful and experienced writers. I've asked twelve people whom I've either met personally or online to tell you about their lives, their writing, and their marketing experiences. I feel so fortunate that they have agreed to be my guests and participate in this blog fest. I hope you will keep coming back to read more and more as the days go by. You'll find the information interesting and very helpful. Here's my guest blog fest lineup in order of appearance:   August 24: Susan Weidener An author, editor and former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan leads writing workshops and started the Women's Writing Circle, www.susanweidener.com a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia.       August 26: Deborah Kalan Deborah has been writing about real life since she was in the fifth grade and received a diary with lock and key … [Read more...]

Proust’s Thirty-Five Questions to Ask Your Characters

I've been reading the Write Practice for several months and always find the posts informational and provocative. I was particularly taken with today's post about delving into the lives of your novel's characters. I'm in the midst of the first revision of my novel and I'm looking for ways to round them out. Marcel Proust's Thirty-five Questions to Ask Your Characters will definitely help. Here's his list, written in the late nineteenth century. By the way, his answers sold in auction for €102,000 in 2003. 1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? 2. What is your greatest fear? 3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? 5. Which living person do you most admire? 6. What is your greatest extravagance? 7. What is your current state of mind? 8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? 9. On what occasion do you lie? 10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? 11. Which living person … [Read more...]

The talking rock

My five days of writing at Esalen at Big Sur, California were some of the most wonderful days of my life.  I wrote five poems and heard some valuable new writing information, of which I plan to share with you over the next couple of weeks. Esalen is getting more and more into the twenty-first century. They've added Internet service in the dining room; this is where everyone congregates whether there is a meal or not.  We were lucky to have the same Internet service in our meeting room as well. However, there is no cell phone access anywhere on the property. I usually take a walk first thing, as I do at home. Last year I saw a young man, probably an Esalen staff person, standing on top of a large rock by the side of the highway talking on his cell phone. So I decided to investigate and, sure enough, I got cell phone reception.  It was not the best, with  only three little bars, but it was definitely enough to make a call. Also, it helped that the young man told me which … [Read more...]

Getting into revision

I took a workshop in novel revision last February and began my revision work in full force in March. My first job was to make sure every chapter was complete. In many cases I found I needed to add descriptions, research details, and dialogue, Once I did that, I could finally say I had a complete novel draft ready to be revised. That became revision 1 which I collected in a computer folder called 02. Novel Chapters.Then, as advised in the workshop, I printed out a hard copy of the entire draft and read it through, taking notes in a notebook not on the draft material itself to indicate what fixes I thought I needed to make. I also took a couple of detours. I inserted the Prologue into Chapter One and changed the tense in that chapter from present to past. However, I still haven't yet decided to keep or integrate the Prologue into the main text and/or to change the entire novel into past tense. Hopefully my beta readers will advise me on that. At this point I'm working through my … [Read more...]

Welcome Ace Antonio Hall

I met Ace Antonio Hall when I first joined the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society. He was Vice Chairman then, and he generously took me under his wing until I got to know more about what the group and what it has to offer great writing programs and conferences and great folks to network with. Maybe he took to me because I, like some of the influential women in his life, have gray hair. Whatever the reason, I am proud to know Ace and share him with you. I asked him why I should read his zombie novel. Here's his answer.     Shades of Gray: Why I Honor, Love and Owe My Life to Women Over 60 by Ace Antonio Hall Truly, I would've never published my young adult zombie novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher, if it weren't for women over sixty. I was five years old when I left my parents in New York to live with my Grandmother in Jacksonville, Florida. My grandmother, who told me to just call her Nana, was 70. Strangely, it didn't dawn on me until I reached my … [Read more...]

Thoughts about novel beginnings

Chuck Sambuchino is always a wealth of information about writing, about publishing, about platforms, about finding an agent. In a guest column on the Writer Unboxed website today, he quotes many agents' thoughts about: What Not To Do When Beginning Your Novel I'll just share a few quotes that resonated with me. Please go to Writer Unboxed to see the full list. I just signed up to get it regularly. You may want to as well. Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead! - Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land. - Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary I know this may sound obvious, but too much ˜telling' vs. ˜showing' in the first chapter is a definite warning sign for me. The first chapter should … [Read more...]

Back to writing work

What a relief to not have to drive an hour to Anaheim and back anymore. I finished my consulting job - which I loved - but I'm very happy not to have to do that stressful drive anymore. So instead, I'm using my time to catch up on my writing work. The first order of business is gathering my November 2012 challenge poems into a chapbook. Robert Lee Brewer's instructions are to submit no more than twenty by January 7 - this coming Monday. I went through them this afternoon and picked out fifteen. I have a little editing left to do, and then I plan to get the document off tomorrow. After that I'm on to the next item on my list. It gives me great joy (there's my word Joy that I picked for 2013) to tick items off my to-do list. Here's a preview of a couple of poems I'm submitting. This prompt was to write about something just beneath my skin. Just Beneath My Skin Unfortunately those miracle creams that are supposed to get rid of age spots fine lines, deep … [Read more...]

WOW blog tour stop No. 13

I'm over at NAMW today with a blog post about my journey from aerospace writing to creative writing. Please go over and take a look and leave a comment. I'm so proud to be part of this wonderful organization for memoir writers. It makes me feel like I've "arrived" to be in such good company. I'll also be with them again in September with a blog post about memoir writing to deal with grief and as part of a roundtable on the same subject in September. I'll let you know about dates as the time gets closer. In the meantime please go to the following links to see my post: http://www.namw.org/news/the-journey-from-aerospace-writer-to-creative-writer/ and NAMW's news section: http://www.namw.org/updates/madeline-sharples-author-of-leaving-the-hall-light-on-to-make-a-blog-tour-stop-at-namw/     "About the National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW) The National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW) is a membership organization that invites memoir writers … [Read more...]

Getting ready to retire — it’s hard work!

I thought once I made the decision to retire, the rest would be easy. I'd go through a few papers, toss a few, keep a few, and that would be it. Not so. I've found this process of packing up and moving out very slow going. I've already dumped piles and piles of documents into a huge trash bag, and my office still doesn't look like I've made a dent. No shelves are completely empty, no drawer is void of papers or supplies, and every wall and table and desk top still has things. I've packed up one box of personal things and left it on the floor for two weeks. Why don't I just pick it up and bring it out to my car and drive it home? Then I could fill up another box and another and another. Why am I so hesitant to break up this office and make it look like I'm actually moving out? Well, for one thing, assembling all my personal things in here and taking them home means finding a home for them there. There is definitely no room for all of this stuff there. I only have a small home … [Read more...]