Tag Archives: inspiration

A working retreat helps you realize you love writing

This summer and fall have been madness.

My daughter’s wedding. The Other Bunch Press release of “Hauntings from the Snake River Plain,” our new ghost anthology.

Then the release of my new book, “The Weeping Woman.”

Hustle, Hustle.

So when we talked about taking our annual retreat, I balked. Usually, I love going. We go to a friend’s cabin, eat well, drink wine and talk and yes, write. In the past, we have gone on excursions such as to ghost towns.

But this year, I had no time. Still, I am happy we went.

I relaxed. With my partners, we celebrated our hard work on Hauntings, of which we are very proud. We took time to work on new projects. We did writing prompts to get the writing juices pumping. We took walks and were inspired to write. I saw the salmon spawning and wrote a poem. We just talked about life  and our families. We ate well. (Fortunately my writing partners are great cooks.)

It made me again realize how much I love writing and although life gets in the way, and business of writing must get done–the marketing, the book signings, etc.–at the heart is still the love of writing.

So when you feel life pressing down on your chest like a sumo wrestler driving a forklift, take time for a retreat, a weekend one or one-day event. Then you can remember why you are putting yourself through such pain.

You love writing.

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

Question of the month

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours?

You may think you have nothing to say but, did you ever consider the sheer miracle of your birth, your existence, your identity? Contemplate for a moment — when a specific sperm penetrated a specific egg you were conceived and began to grow. If for some reason your parents had not had intimate relations at that fateful moment you would not exist.
Now take it back a generation — if one of your grandmothers had had a headache and said “not tonight dear”, either your father or your mother would not have been conceived and would not exist. If one or the other of your parents had not been conceived you would not exist either. This thread of conception goes all the way back to the beginning of time and if it had been broken at any point along the way you would not be. Talk about unique.
I have two dogs who are about as different as possible. One is a beautiful specimen, a Russian blue bull terrier, 50 pounds, with nicely defined muscles. She is a princess and knows that she is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. She poses a lot and allows her admirers to enjoy the view when she is around. My other dog is full sized, 45 pounds, with practically no legs at all, they are so short. She is a clown, a cross between a lab and corgi, with floppy ears and a tail. She looks like she should have a round red rubber nose and oversized shoes on her feet. If my dogs could write, their stories would be interesting each in its own way.
Whether you are a beautiful princess, a clown, or a mere human being you are the result of a million years of selective or chance breading, have a unique story to tell, and an obligation to tell it. It is one of a kind never to be duplicated.

Dixie Thomas Reale

Love writing? How about movies about writing?

In addition to writing, I also love movies so what’s better than movies about writing? Here are just a few of my favorites. Please share yours.
Shakespeare in Love
Wonder Boys
Copote
Infamous
The Hours
Finding Forrester
American Slendor
Adaptation
Something’s Got to Give
Sleuth (the old one)

So after a hard day at the computer, sit back and watch one of these.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Make that novel happen this month

Today is the start of National Novel Writing Month and the challenge is to write a novel within the month of November. It’s a fantastic way to get that idea that’s been rumbling around your head onto paper. You just charge ahead every day and at the end of November, you have a great start. It’s fun and free. So what are you waiting for.

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano

Quitting the Day Job

On Oct. 1, 2010, I quit my day job to focus on full-time writing.
Was I excited? You bet.
Was I ready to get to work? Oh yeah.
Was I terrified? Certainly.
Let me tell you how it came about.
One day I decided that I was not going to wait until I was sixty something to focus on writing. I paid off all my credit cards, let go my housekeeper, saved up dough and quit work.
My family and friends were so supportive, particularly my husband Jerry, who is still at his day job. It did take some good talking on my part. I told him that instead of being holed up in my office writing in the evenings, that I would write during the day, so we could spend more time together. We would save money on me not driving or buying work clothes or lunch, or going out to dinner because I was too damn tired to cook.
I got us used to living on his salary.
There will be sacrifices, like not going out to buy exactly what I want. But I pray the old saying — The more you make, the more you spend — will hold true.
While it will take time to get used to my new work schedule, I can hardly wait to start. (On the advice of my daughter, I took a day or two off to decompress and it was a great suggestion.)
When I am ready to start my newly revised career, I have four writing projects ready to work on. I also will save time during the week to market my writing. Hopefully, those projects will pay off with money, as well as personal reward.
I am so fortunate that I was able to quit the day job, to tell the stories that are bursting inside me. To try and fail, to do and succeed.
Now the real work starts, but it is what I love to do. And what more could any writer, in fact, any person ask for?

Patricia Marcantonio

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

Question of the Month

The phrase “show me don’t tell me” has confounded beginning writers for years. What does it mean?

Remember in English Composition 101 the professor admonished the class to avoid loaded words at all costs. Then in Creative Writing 101 the instruction was “show don’t tell”.
I think it is impossible to do both so I ignore those warnings. Avoiding loaded words is a good idea when writing “how to” instructions but otherwise the writer needs to be aware of and use loaded words to his/her advantage. As you recall loaded words like “mother” and “love” carry emotional connotations.

When writing fiction, poetry or creative non fiction, emotionally loaded words are desired, even necessary. As an author you need to be free to pick among the variations and nuances of meaning that words carry.

Imagine — you are writing a story. The main character is alone in the house when the doorbell rings. You need to get her to the door. If you say Mary went to the door it gets her there. However, if Mary stormed to the door, we understand more. If Mary wandered aimlessly to the door, we understand something else. And if Mary strutted to the door it presents another vision of Mary. We don’t have to tell the reader that Mary is mad, preoccupied, stoned or proud — we show it.

I always keep my thesaurus close by when I write so I can sort through the infinite variation of connotations and nuances of meaning of words that basically do the same thing in widely different manners.

Dixie Thomas Reale

Philosophizing on writing

During dinner one evening, my friend and I talked about family, what’s happening in the world and our backyard, but ultimately the discussion turned to writing. Our usual chat over sushi.

We each had stories that we were working on, so we brainstormed ideas, ironed out character bumps, filled in plot holes.

But that night, the talk turned deeper, to the basics of why we sit in front of the computer and produce thoughts, characters, words, stories, essays and poems. The question was what do we want to get out of writing.

It was a damn good question.

My friend said that while having her work published would be great, she strived for perfection. To make each word and sentence count, to make each meaningful and to make the story go forward. That was what was keeping her writing.

“And you’re writing for the money,” she said.

“No,” I answered. I wrote so that I could get to a place where I would have the freedom to write full-time.

I think we both said aloud something we had probably been thinking for a long time — What we wanted to get out of the writing.

That is a good question for all to ask.

Do we want recognition? Or to see our name in print? Do we want the joy of expressing those thoughts and feelings that seem out of place if we speak them?

I have friends who are freelance writers who must write to pay bills, while others want to tell the stories within them as only they can and want satisfaction from that process.

Others may want an outlet for creativity, as music and painting is for others.

My friend reminded me of what Joanne Pence, a best-selling author, said at the workshop sponsored by The Other Bunch in April. Joanne said that writing and publishing are two separate things.

That makes total sense because the discussion was not what we wanted out of publishing, but what we wanted out of writing. That indeed makes them two different things with two different directions and sometimes, the twain will never meet.

What do we want out of writing?

Our answers may change over time, or not. But there is no wrong answer.

There is just the writing.

– Patricia Marcantonio