Tag Archives: Bonnie Dodge

Coming soon a new kid’s book: ‘Billie Neville Takes a Leap’

A new kids book coming soon.

A new kid’s book coming soon.

Ten-year-old Billie wants to be a daredevil, just like her hero Evel Knievel. She also wants a best friend. Riding “the best bike in the whole world,” Billie’s desperate to enter a bike jumping contest with three boys named The Meanies and show them her cool skills. When Evel comes to town to jump the Snake River Canyon, Billie learns she has to be a friend to make friends and that not all heroes have to soar over canyons.

By Bonnie Dodge and Patricia Santos Marcantonio

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What We’re Doing When We’re Supposed to be Writing

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Managing Procrastination and Distraction

I’d like you to meet my two best friends, Procrastination and Distraction. They follow wherever I go. It’s as if they sit on the floor beside my bed, waiting for me to wake so they can tag along all day and torture me. Yesterday I rose, a hundred tasks to finish, and there Distraction was, pulling me away from my chores. After a trip to the bathroom—I left the light on because I would be back soon to take a shower—I padded into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and went to my office to check for an important email. After reading email, Facebook, and Twitter, I returned to the bathroom, ready to take my shower only to discover three hours had passed and most of my morning was gone. I had a short story to write and a deadline, and I had yet to write a single word. Distraction was howling with glee but I was furious and disgusted.

After lunch—no breakfast because Distraction was too busy to let me eat—I sat down with full intention of roughing out the first draft of my story when Procrastination wanted to play. Okay, I said, ONE game of spider solitaire, then back to work. One game became four. Then I wanted a snack. Then I had to use the bathroom. Then I needed to take that shower I didn’t get in the morning. By 4:30 Procrastination needed a nap, so I sat down at my computer and opened my file. I wrote a few sentences before Distraction pulled up a chair.

“Hello,” she said. “Let’s look up haunted mines in Idaho.”

That of course led to a site about cemeteries, which lead to a site about who was buried where. Before I knew it it was time to think about dinner so Distraction and I started looking up recipes for corn chowder. After dinner I promised I would work on my story, but then the phone rang. I had to clean the kitchen, fold the laundry, and by eight o’clock I was just too tired to write.

I was talking with another writer a few days ago, saying I accomplished so much more when I worked full time at the bank.

“Me too,” she said.

“I’m too easily distracted,” I said.

We agreed that working from home is full of caveats. A trip to the bathroom means a trip to the kitchen where a glass of water turns into an apple with peanut butter. Then flip on the TV to check the weather, when just as easily we could look out the window to see if it was snowing—we’re supposed to be writing so what does it matter?

Why do we do this? I tell my writer friend it’s because writers are creative people. They write poetry. They make sculptures and paintings. They play piano, guitar or drums. They belly dance. They are creative. Creative people like to make things then rip them apart to make something new. It’s more like play than work, and of course my two friends Procrastination and Distraction would rather play than work.

As a creative person, writing to me is like playing. It doesn’t feel like work, so I treat it accordingly. And to be honest I am a terrible boss. I don’t hold my employee accountable. I make sure she shows up at the office, but I never really check her progress. I read once that Harold Robbins was on deadline and his editor locked him in a hotel room and refused to feed him until he produced a certain number of new pages. So see, it isn’t just me.

Ah hmm. Today is a New Day. I will use a heavy hand; after all I am the boss. I will not have lunch until I finish the first draft of my short story. I will not check email and Facebook until I have my pages done. I will not play spider solitaire AT ALL, not until this story is finished. I will not turn on the TV to check the weather. I will drink water instead of coffee, which keeps me hyped and edgy. Today I will be a better boss and make sure my employee is more productive. And when Distraction and Procrastination call, I’ll tell them to go outside and jump in the snow.

What can you do to eliminate Procrastination and Distraction when you should be writing?

-Bonnie Dodge

Celebrating your writing buddies

Bonnie Dodge and Dixie Thomas Reale show off their Christmas gifts

Among the hectic days at the holidays, now is the time to also say “Thank goodness for my writing buddies.”
I say that a lot and not just at Christmas. My writing buddies are Bonnie Dodge and Dixie Thomas Reale, who are also my partners in Other Bunch Press.
Here is why they are important and why you need writing buddies.
They support and encourage me, especially on those days when I want to throw my computer out the window.
They are great critique partners. While I am good at plotting, they are good at motivation, characterization and making me dig deeper, which only helps my writing.
They understand the writing life and how it is to work on a project for months without the guarantee of a paycheck.
They are great at brainstorming ideas and ticking your imagination.
They love and respect the written word.
They are tough when they need to be, but also complimentary.
I have known many other writing buddies, but these two women are also my friends.
I have said this many times before, writing is a sometimes painfully solitary endeavor. But it helps to have people with who you can talk writing, and that helps ease the pain at making words appear on a blank sheet of paper or computer screen.
I urge all of you to find writing buddies in the new year if you don’t have any, and for those of you that do, please express your appreciation for them.

Bonnie Dodge guest on The Writers’ Block radio show

Bonnie Dodge reads her writing on the Writer's Block show

On March 10, Bonnie Dodge was interviewed by Amanda Turner, host and producer of The Writers’ Block, on Boise Community Public Radio based in Boise. If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to it here. Bonnie discussed a variety of topics, from the writing process to her involvement with The Other Bunch. She also read several of her works.

What do writer’s strive for? Stirring up emotion

Read Bonnie Dodge’s great blog on that very topic. It’s entitled Alice Hoffman, Taylor Swift and Me.

Enjoy it. I did.

— Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Question of the Month: How Do You Want to be Remembered?

One of the first exercises I tackled when I started writing was to create my own obituary. The point of the exercise was to get me to think about what I wanted to accomplish with my writing. Why was I writing? How did I want to be remembered? What kind of stories did I want to leave behind? That was many years ago and I wish I had kept the exercise because I can’t remember what I wrote. I’m sure I wrote something like “her books are entertaining and character driven” because I always wanted to see my books on the same shelf as Charles Dickens.

This may be a depressing topic for the month of December when things are festive and people are thinking about Christmas, but because it is the end of the year, it is a good time to reassess goals accomplished, and maybe set some new ones.

I’d like to share a story about my friend Mary Inman. Mary joined the Twin Falls Chapter of the Idaho Writers League back in the early 1990s, about the time I left my job at the bank to pursue writing full time. Mary was one of those interesting characters who had more ideas and experiences to recount than she had hours in the day. She was health conscious and walked everywhere she could. She was usually bubbling with energy and ideas. Always interested in life and history, Mary created Gramma Maudie, and from her rocking chair gave many presentations about life on the Oregon Trail. Mary organized walking tours of the original Twin Falls Village, and wrote a book about Twin Falls, Idaho, called Twin Falls Centurybook, 1904-2004.

Not only was Mary interested in history; she was also interested in conserving the planet. She started a xeriscaping club that met once a week at the Twin Falls city council chambers. She did all the legwork, sent out notices, arranged for knowledgeable speakers, organized fieldtrips to the South Hills to view native plants, and xeriscaped her yard to set an example.

Mary was the kind of person who wasn’t afraid to take a canoe down the river alone, or sleep in her car. Instead of shying away from strangers and “No,” she’d extend her hand and ask, “Do you have my book yet?” She was positive, full of energy, and probably had no idea how many lives she touched.

Mary Jane Inman died October 27, 2010, at her home. She was 82. At her request, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered. Also at her request, no service was held, nor did an obituary run in the local paper. She was a pleasure to know, and I will miss her.

As 2010 draws to an end, take time to reflect on what you stand for. You don’t have to write an obituary, but it would be a good time to determine what you have to say, and what you want to leave behind.

Like my friend Mary, I want to be remembered for making a difference. I want to create characters that live long after my demise. I want readers to ponder my poetry after the books are closed and put away.

What would you like people to say about you when you are gone? Decide how you want to be remembered, and then get busy and do the things that will make it happen.
-Bonnie Dodge

Journey Stories Writers’ Workshop

On September 18, 2010, the Jerome Civic Club is sponsoring a writers’ workshop at the Jerome Public Library. Bonnie Dodge will lead the workshop, which will focus on nonfiction immigration and migration stories to/within America. The workshop is in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit “Journey Stories.”

QUESTION OF THE MONTH – WHAT MAKES A GOOD STORY?

I am often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”  My answer is simple. “Everywhere.” Let me explain. Story ideas can come from a number of places such as newspaper and magazine articles, movies, plays, paintings, conversations, and landscapes to name only a few.

Take for instance the trip Pat and I took to Stricker Ranch that I wrote about in an earlier post. On one hand this outing was simply a review of local history. On the other hand, it provided a wealth of information we hope to turn into interesting stories. Why is a ghost hovering at the top of the stairs? How many ghosts haunt the dry cellar?

I read once that by the time a person reaches age 30, he/she has enough life experiences to have something to write about for a lifetime. The trick is to know how to turn those life experiences into good stories.

So the question then, is, what makes an idea a good story?

1) The idea must be interesting.

What if Shakespeare really was a woman?

2) The idea should appeal to a large number of people.

Shakespeare is a well-known playwright. Everyone has been subjected to him at least once before finishing high school.

3) The idea is specific.

Who really was this mysterious man? Did one person really write all of those brilliant plays?

A lot of people would like to know more about the person who wrote so many entertaining plays and sonnets. Virginia Woolf, in fact, speculates on that very thing in A Room of One’s Own. Thus, a story exploring Shakespeare’s gender is an idea that has universal appeal. It would make a good story.

Conversely, let’s say I want to write a story about my dog. I love my dog. My dog is cute. But she isn’t extraordinary. She can’t speak English. She can’t even sit up and beg for food without falling over. A story about my dog would be zzzzzzzzzzboring. It wouldn’t appeal to a large number of people, and there is nothing specific that sets my dog apart from any other dog, except, of course, that she belongs to me.

That’s a simplistic example, but you get my point. As a writer, everyday I am surrounded by possible story ideas. Some of them are interesting. Some of them are not.  My job as a writer is to find a way to turn those ideas into great stories that have universal appeal.

What if I told you my dog could catch mice with a butterfly net? Then you might be interested in reading about my dog. Most likely not, but you get the picture.

The best stories come from taking an ordinary situation/idea and applying the “What if” factor. What if Shakespeare really was a woman? What if my dog could catch mice with a butterfly net?

Using the “what if” factor, look around you, and at the things that have happened to you, your life experiences. Then give the ordinary idea a little twist, and you’ll be on your way to writing some great stories.

-Bonnie Dodge

Grabbing story ideas at Stricker Ranch

As a writer, I look for story ideas everywhere I go. Recently, Patricia Santos Marcantonio and I took in Fright Nights in Old Towne Twin as a way to increase our cache of stories. For two hours we heard about the history of Twin Falls County and some of the colorful people who lived there. Not only did we come away with a better understanding of the area, we also came home with several new story ideas.

What if a ghost really haunts the public library?
What if Lyda Trueblood isn’t really buried in the Twin Falls Cemetery?
What if Stricker Ranch really is haunted?

As The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz declared, “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I doooo.”, I do believe there are good story ideas all around us. All you have to do is reach out and grab one.
-Bonnie Dodge