Saturday, December 29, 2012

Writig resolutions

In his post yesterday, Scott asked who does resolutions.

Maybe I’m an old fashioned kind of guy, but I like making New Year’s resolutions. The start of a new year is a time to reflect on what has been accomplished the last twelve months and how things could be improved. It’s a new beginning on the same old life. A fresh start is a chance to break old habits and establish new ones.

Not that I stick to them.  Sometimes they are out of here as fast as the Christmas tree waiting on the pick-up curb. A stroke of genius on December 31 can become a hazy memory on New Year’s Day. Some may make it a few weeks out. That new gym membership gets used for a couple of weeks but by March is a waste of money. Good intentions. Lousy follow-through.

After failing consistently for the last umpteen New Years, I’m becoming an expert at making resolutions. General, overall goals seem better than specific, time-dated ones. For example, if I resolve to exercise daily, then I give up on it after the first day I miss, usually around Jan. 3rd or 5th. When I tell myself to walk three or four times a week and fit in a yoga class here and there, I am more successful.

A few years back I took stock of things and resolved to write that book that had been on the brain for twenty years. Look where I am now. I thought I had talent and could write and made a rough draft. A friend suggested WYFIR. I learned there’s a difference between talent and writing skill. Six years later and I’m still learning the craft.

So, be it resolved:
-of course the usual: end to world hunger, lose twenty pounds, fast car, etc., etc.
-and the more doable goals: garage cleaned by 2018, think about what I'm eating once in a while, and what-not.

My Writing Resolutions for 2013
1. Finish revising project A by the end January.
2. Research agents and editors, find the best fit for my manuscript, create a killer query, and turn off writer mode and switch to salesperson.
3. Get Project A signed on with an agent or publisher. (Out of my hands. I know. Had to throw it in.)
4. Figure out project B. That is my new NaNoWriMo story and it is far from finished.
5. Attend a writing conference. I’m going to WIFYR again this year; that is a given. I’ll make it two conferences then. I did Cheryl Klein’s plot class in November. Nothing better to inspire writing than a workshop on the craft.
6. Stay connected with my critiquers. You guys are great.
7. Write daily. I do best with a 60-minute a day goal. Some days it doesn’t happen, but the goal itself keeps me there even on those days when you can’t squeeze in an hour.
8. Read daily. Someone once said that reading counts as writing time. Though most people my age read adult fiction, we children’s writers tend to go for something aimed at younger audiences. There are a lot of excellent children’s stories out there and reading them makes your own better.
9. Establish an online presence. Publishers want to know the writer is doing what they can to promote their book.

All this and yet balance it out with the rest of my life. Oh, and one more. I resolve to have my Saturday posts finished by Friday evenings.

Friday, December 28, 2012


by Scott Rhoades

It's my last post of the year, and I almost forgot to write it. In fact, I almost forgot it was even Friday. one of the great things about the holidays and working for a company that gives us the week from December 24 to January 2 off with pay is that, for a short time, the calendar barely matters. Truth is, right now, I don't really have any need to know what day it is. And I like it like that.

So, what I want to know is, do you make New Year's resolutions? I don't. Not really. But the change of the calendar (and several carefree days off) gives me time to reflect and, since I don't like to spend a lot of time looking backward, to think about some of the things I want to do next year.

In 2012, I set a couple of reading goals. One was to continue my three-to-four year plan of rereading John Steinbeck's novels and selected non-fiction in the order written, to study his development as a writer. I've read all but a couple of his books, but never in any particular order. I started this quest last year, after taking three years to read all of Shakespeare.

My other reading goal was to read at least ten frequently challenged books. I exceeded that one, and in the process read some truly great books that I had either avoided or had not gotten around to.

For 2013, I don't have any really specific reading goals, other than to continue my Steinbeck reading, but I'm formulating a mental plan that has to do with reading more award-winning authors, particularly Nobel prize winners. I haven't set a number yet. I'm thinking about adding the Newbery Award to this goal. I still have a few days to figure it out, and I can always modify the goal as the year moves on. I also want to read some of the longer books I've been avoiding because I self-identify as having a short attention span.

I also, of course, have some writing goals, although they are not particularly specific. As members of my writers group, Sharks & Pebbles, can tell you, I've gotten really bad at querying and submitting lately, for no good reason. So I have to set a goal to keep them off my back, and the only way to do that is to send stuff out. I grew up on the West Coast, so I know that it's always a good thing to keep the sharks away.

Next year I will reach the end of my current novel in process, again thanks to Sharks & Pebbles. if I'm calculating correctly, my group will probably see the last of this draft in March, maybe April. That means I have some writing and a ton of revising to do, and I need to start thinking about what comes next. 

And, I recently rediscovered some of my old short stories and poetry. I think I'd like to get back to writing those, and maybe see about doing something with some of those old pieces that aren't as embarrassing as others.

Writing this, I realize (not like I didn't know it before) how important my group is, so I want to do a better job keeping up with the group, provide better critiques, and generally do a better job as the token dude in the group.

But, mind you, none of these are resolutions. I've found in the past that messing up on a resolution makes me prone to say, "Well, I blew that one," and move on to breaking the next one. So I don't make resolutions. I just have a mental list of Stuff I Wanna Do. If it's not formalized, I no longer have a good reason to fail when I reach a rough patch. I just pick back up and work on getting it done.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Power of Story

by Deren Hansen

There’s a powerful story at the heart of this holiday season for the Christian world—and no, it doesn’t involve a charitable trespasser or a bioluminescent proboscis.

Setting aside distractions, like the claim that the event we celebrate didn’t actually occur when we celebrate it, the Nativity—also called the greatest story ever told—is, in fact, the most common story ever told. Until the dystopian clone factories open, I can say with absolute confidence that all of us have experienced this story as one of the major characters. And many of us have experienced this story as one of the other two main characters.

What is remarkable, as a writer, is to consider the way in which this story transformed the most common of events into something of world-changing—and some would say eternal—significance that has echoed through two millennia and counting without losing its potency.

Many of us simply hope someone will notice our stories. And none of us can predict which of the stories now being told will still be told in a hundred or a thousand years. But there are stories that resonate across time and space, illuminating the very core of who we are or hope to be.

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

By Julie Daines

Have a wonderful Christmas and Holiday Season! In the mean time, enjoy this Norman Rockwell painting titled "The Discovery." Nobody does expressions like Rockwell.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Season's greetings


I don’t really have a topic to write on today. ‘Tis the season, but the loss of innocents has put a damper on the festive mood reserved for this time of year. Why do we do these things to ourselves? Answers seem elusive. We are a culture of gun violence. Unfortunately, we will have to learn to accept such episodes until we re-examine our principals.

As it seems impossible to solve, at least we can take minds off of it. We have language and we are imaginative. We can create stories. We write for kids.

Are you working on a story? I’m involved with two of them and the distraction from the senselessness and the punditry is completely welcome. My latest project has something there. It’s still a WIP, but I can get lost in it. Today is NaNo - day 52. I’m 30,000 words shy, but at least I’m finding story.

My other diversion is an old project; a re-vise after my critique group went through the beta-read. Being away from it for November and part of this month was good. I just revisited it today. The goal was to finish this rewrite and have it ready to push in the new year.

The brain likes two stories going on at once. Each slows the other from completion, but letting them both stew is good. You stir one for a while then put the lid back on and stir the other. Dive into a story, a different life and the crazy real world recedes into the background. I like two pots bubbling on the stove.

Season’s greetings. May you find the peace a good story affords and the time to escape into it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jack of all Trades, Master of None

by Deren Hansen

For the vast majority of our history as a species, humans were content to live in relatively small groups and spend their time hunting and gathering—and no wonder: most hunter-gatherers work about twenty hours a week to get their living. Yet in the last 10,000-year blink of the evolutionary eye we suddenly have cities and civilizations exploding all over the planet. The culprit, according to a number of anthropologists, is the specialization made possible by agricultural surpluses.

The power of specialization is obvious to every writer who dreams of walking away from the oppression of the day job and devoting his or her full-time to the craft. Imagine the all books we could write—perhaps two or three a year—if we weren’t limited to an hour or two of writing each day.

If you think artisan publishing offers a shortcut to becoming a full-time writer, I have bad news for you: artisan publishing is actually a shortcut to becoming a full-time publisher.

The difference between a writer who is published and a publisher who writes begins with the contrast between the passive phrase, “a writer who is published,” and the active phrase, “a publisher who writes.” One of the reasons for the traditional separation between authors and publishers is that it allows each partner to specialize: the writer delivers a finished manuscript and then the publisher goes to work.

There’s so much to do as an artisan publisher that you can’t afford to specialize. Serious writers understand how much time and effort it takes to go from idea to finished manuscript. Publishers understand how much time and effort it takes to go from finish manuscript to book for sale. You’ve got to be a generalist if you’re going to do everything that needs to be done between the idea and the book. Even if you engage freelance editors and designers you still need to understand enough of what they do to be able to review and approve their work.

But it’s worse than that. You actually need to become a serial specialist. Many of the nontrivial tasks—like writing and design—require focus and skill. And yet just as you’re getting the hang of it you need to move on to something else. In practice this means you’re constantly relearning things. If you feel like you’re being pulled in too many different directions when you try to write now, you’ll find artisan publishing more frustrating than fulfilling.

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Believe in Yourself and Your Books

Joining us today is Author Shirley Kufeldt. After growing up with four sisters in Illinois, then raising two daughters, Shirley Kufeldt and her husband left Illinois and her daughters to retire to Northern Wisconsin in 2007. Having participated in Bible studies for over 30 years and hearing of the efforts of so many others over the years to document their personal walk of faith, she developed the Bible Bites series.

Believe in Yourself and Your Books 
by Shirley Kufeldt
All my life I’ve worked as an office admin, many times as a temp as our two daughters grew up. I’ve switched careers now and compile Bible verses for publication in small topical devotional journals called BIBLE BITES. Reading one or two topical verses each day and writing down your prayer response to Scripture is what BIBLE BITES is all about.

My first writer’s tip is to research something that you want to learn. I participated in a support group to learn about codependency, learning that what you fear controls you. Two simple examples: First, A students study hard, fearful of poor grades and less-than-desirable employment. Second, we diligently work at employment, fearing job loss.

Like many others I feared angry people, till I finally discovered the source of my fears: my second grade teacher shook me over a homework assignment. An angry comment by any authority figure turned me into a fearful seven-year and I was easily manipulated for 45 years.

My second tip for writers is to realize you are who you are five years from now unless two things change: the books that you read and the people you spend your time with. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be what you’ve always been,” is quite true. 

Imagine your current relationships five years from now. Are they great? Can communication be improved? Are you ready for a career change? What books are you reading and who do you hang out with? What are you willing to change that will improve your life? What are you afraid of changing? And do you know why?

My third tip for writers is that happiness is the result of doing something significant with your life. By examining the fears in your life, the books and relationships that bring you joy or grief, you have the opportunity for significant changes. During the years I attended a support group, I definitely changed the books I read (my Bible) while meeting new people who overcame similar challenges. 

Each support group meeting brought new opportunities for those who chose to change, reading, doing homework, participating in discussions and applying new skills. But no discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way Hebrews12:11(NLT)

Journaling in BIBLE BITES devotionals enhances your relationship with God, matures your faith and is a significant aid in conquering fears. After years in support group, the result is a unique happiness by doing something significant with my life for the BIBLE BITES series. I choose Bible verses for specific topics and compile them for publication.


BIBLE BITES booklets are small pocket-sized monthly journals that include current prayer requests and focused daily Scripture for journaling and reflection.   
Places where your book(s) are available for sale:
(Verses come from the New Living Translation)

You can find out more about Shirley Kufeldt and her books at
Thank you Shirley for sharing your thoughts today.