Margie Lawson – Empowering Characters’ Emotions

Margie Lawson offers excellent lecture packets on powerfully editing and writing your work.

I purchased the “Empowering Characters’ Emotions” packet and I am impressed with her teaching.  I’ve learned how to back-load sentences, use word cadence, give emotional authenticity, use nonverbal communication, edit effectively, avoid clichés, add psychological power, write fresh and MORE. I highly recommend utilizing her materials.  I’ve noticed a difference (and my critique group has noticed a difference) since I began applying her techniques to my writing.  And surprisingly, these lectures are very affordable at just $22 per packet.

Margie also offers online courses (which include the applicable lecture packets).  There are several courses scheduled for the coming months.  Take a look at all she has to offer: www.margielawson.com

An Interview with Caleb Jennings Breakey

Caleb Breakey is passionate about life, God and writing. He is a speaker/teacher for teens (and non-teens) at writing conferences across the country.

CM: Thank you for joining us today, Caleb. I noticed you have experience in a wide variety of genres including sports writing, reviews, and fiction. Which is your favorite and why?

Caleb: Tough one here. Can I say just fiction and non-fiction?

Fiction is wonderful because it’s so incredibly difficult and rewarding. No one knows precisely what makes a great story. You learn from the best, you learn from the worst. There are rules to be followed, and rules to be broken. You never know which words and scenes will etch themselves into the minds of your readers. You just write until your mind hurts and your fingers ache and you couldn’t possibly make your story any better.
Writing fiction is the ultimate marathon with the ultimate reward.

Non-fiction, meanwhile, boasts pages upon pages of some of the world’s deepest passion. I’m currently bleeding my first non-fiction book onto the page and I’m finding that 1) the writing comes easier than fiction; but 2) channeling passion into words is like funneling the Amazon into a barrel. It takes an extraordinary amount of discipline to guide the
outpouring of one’s heart.

CM: What major truths do you strive to communicate through writing?

Caleb: Life is beautiful chaos—beautiful because of faith, hope, and love, and chaos because of our reaction to that faith, hope, and love. This is my writing in a nutshell.

CM: What or who keeps you motivated? 

Caleb: The thought of doing something I’m meant to do. Contributing to this world. Writing the exact words I believe God wants me to write. I can get up in the morning and fight Resistance not only with my own will but with what I believe is the will of my heavenly father.

One of the key things I’ve learned is that motivation doesn’t produce words. Words produce motivation. It’s the doing–the writing of words–that kick-starts the part of our mind that says, “Yes, this is what I was meant to do.”

CM: What aspect of the writing process do you most enjoy?


Caleb: This might sound rudimentary, but . . . writing.
That’s my final answer. Sometimes I get so caught up in editing and researching
and marketing that I forget the utter joy of just writing. To watch words,
scenes, stories and meaning grow in front of me evokes a feeling so rich and
textured that I cannot help but create and explore more and more.

CM: What challenges do you face in writing, from coming
up with an idea to getting it published? How do you overcome them?

Caleb: Ideas tend to come to me quickly because I read a lot. Reading stretches your imagination, which in turn creates room for your own ideas to grow into something greater.

When it comes to writing, my greatest challenge is focus. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the “do this” and “do that” mentality of social media and marketing. While these aspects are certainly important, nothing can replace the bum-in-chair time at the computer or notepad.

CM: Writing is more than inspiration. It takes discipline and hard work, as you know. What does your typical writing day look like?

Caleb: I keep a list of scenes (fiction),  thoughts (non-fiction) and to-dos (freelance work) handy at all times. I always  start with writing and sometimes clock myself. If I’m trudging too slowly, I hit my research in search of nuggets that will either inspire a burst of 2,000
words or simply add depth and texture to what’s already written. Then it’s back
to writing. Back to the clock.

If I’m still going slow, I might try a quick writing prompt or something quirky. Sometimes I take a minute to draw something on my whiteboard. Or write longhand or talk into my recorder. All three trigger certain parts of my brain. And it’s totally worth it.

At the end of the day, it’s all about word quota and moving forward.

CM: Great ideas! When and how did you discover your interest in writing?

Caleb: Writing piqued my interest when I was 10 or 11 years old. I remember penning a story about my family’s three-wheeler and how  going “full throttle”—a blazing 15 miles per hour—shook me to the core. To this day, my brothers won’t let me live that story down.

Being a sports lover, I also followed my church’s softball team as if the players were Major Leaguers. Even before the season started, I loved assigning positions, creating batting orders, and wondering which player deserved the most lucrative contract (should they ever get paid).
So I started writing a fictitious newsletter and distributing it to the church mailboxes. I wrote to entertain myself and, in turn, entertained others.

I remember thinking to myself, “I could do this forever.” 

CM: How about a few just-for-fun questions. What is your favorite pastime outside of writing? 

Caleb: Rock Band, anyone? I’ve been known for getting into songs with a gusto more suitable for a break dancer, and I’ve been warned to never again use a coffee table as a platform. What can I say? I’m passionate. =)

I’m also a lover of improv. My wonderful wife and sister-in-laws often create scenarios for me to act out, and it usually ends up with all of us falling on the floor.

And for all those competitors out there, I love playing baseball, softball, basketball and football.

CM: What was your favorite subject in school?

Caleb: Up until college? Probably Legos, G.I. Joes, and building forts. I didn’t find the wonderful creative outlet of writing until my 17th year, so action figures and forts it was.

CM: What kind of music do you like?  

Caleb: Being a man of faith, I gravitate toward music that magnifies the faith, hope and love thriving inside me—bands such as Casting Crowns and Kutless, and Mercy Me. I also get onto weird music kicks (much to wife’s chagrin). Just this past year I started writing to Mozart and Beethoven and other classical artists. I think they’re brilliant.

CM: Thanks Caleb!

If you’d like to know more about Caleb and his speaking schedule, visit him on Facebook.

Guest Post – The Write Time is Now

Today’s guest post is provided by Pat Jeanne Davis.

“I’m going to take a creative writing course,” I told my husband.

“When does it start?” he inquired. “I know how much you’d like that.”

At last at age fifty-two I was getting serious about this. Most of my life I’d dreamed of becoming a published author. The time never seemed right to pursue my goal. So I satisfied my yearning by being an avid reader.

Getting a late start has been my experience. I got married at forty, adopted a baby at forty-six and gave birth at age forty-eight. Motherhood is fulfilling for me. But I still had my dream of getting published.

Again I was back in school at midlife. An experience I found exhilarating. I wanted desperately to learn the craft of writing because I had an inspirational true story that I knew would be helpful to someone else. This motivated me to attend my first class that autumn day. During the course I was introduced to the basic steps in the writing process, and I learned how to use them. With the help of a class critique, I worked on my story readying it for submission.

If I thought writing would be easier than being a stay-at-home mom and homeschooling, I soon found out otherwise. Anyone who writes knows it’s hard work. I wanted to be a professional writer nonetheless. So after many rewrites of my story I submitted my manuscript to a national print magazine and waited. I felt that  I’d  accomplished something. I’d actually sent my work off.

I joined a writing/critique group for mothers who combine parenting with writing. Here I found new friends with a common goal of becoming more professional. We read one another’s work and offered helpful criticism and suggestions for improvement.

I became better informed about publishing and marketing my work through writing groups, the Writer’s Market, other “how to” publications and from just the experience of submitting. The Internet and e-mail became invaluable tools. I slowly realized that writing for publication required a commitment of time, perseverance, organization and actually learning by working at it. I had some success in small non-paying markets. But I wanted to write for larger publications, too. This wasn’t happening yet.

As the months went by, I learned to carefully read each prospective publication and to study their writer’s guidelines to determine what they wanted and the preferred way of submitting material. I realized the necessity of carefully following these instructions. I discovered how to submit a brief but detailed query letter to interest an editor in my work.

I tried not to take personally each rejection, but to see it as part of the writing process. I kept a list of possible markets for each manuscript. On occasion an editor would write a few encouraging words or useful suggestions on the letter. This was always an encouragement and provided an incentive to persevere. After each rejection–and there were many of those–I would rework, refocus and send the piece out to the next publication on my list. I became a better writer in the process of redrafting my piece. Anticipation is always a driving force. I discovered that not only moms, but writers live in the future.

Eventually, after numerous submissions I found an editor who was thrilled with my first piece and wanted to publish it and pay for it.

This was such a boost for me–not only did she love my story, but she praised my writing. And I now had a published clip when querying or submitting to other paying markets. Since then I’ve gained more confidence, and my work has been accepted by other publications.

My husband built a web site for my writing, I joined a professional organization for fiction writers, attended conferences and completed an historical inspirational novel.

I realize that more of life’s experiences and the inspiration that my family provides enables me to be a better writer. Gaining a family and learning the craft of writing has made life more fulfilling. I’ve discovered that with God’s help and guidance, it’s never too late to realize a heart’s desire and never too late to learn and to grow. I know my boys and husband enjoy seeing me writing at the computer, too.

“My Mom is a writer,” I heard my son tell his friend.

Pat Jeanne Davis lives in Philadelphia, PA.  To learn more about her and her writing, please visit: http://www.patjeannedavis.com/

An Interview with Jane Kirkpatrick

Jane is internationally recognized for her lively presentations and well-researched stories that encourage and inspire. Her works have appeared in more than 50 publications including Decision, Private Pilot and Daily Guideposts. Jane is the author of 20 books including 17 historical novels. Many of her titles are based on the lives of real people or incidents set authentically in the American West. Her first novel, A Sweetness to the Soul, won the coveted Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have been finalists for the Christy, Spur, Oregon Book Award, WILLA Literary Award and Reader’s Choice awards. Several of her titles have been Book of the Month and Literary Guild selections.

A Tendering in the Storm won the 2007 WILLA Literary Award for Best Original Paperback and A Flickering Light, a story based on her grandmother’s life as a turn of the century photographer, was named to Library Journal’s Best Books of 2009.

CM: Jane, thank you for joining us today.  What prompted you to start writing?

Jane: I’ve always written but mostly little poems and short essays about things that were bothering me or that I felt passionate about. I didn’t start writing for other people to read until we made our historic (for us) move to a remote ranch.  Writing was something I thought would keep me sane as we undertook this grand adventure.  And so it did. 

CM: Has your work ever been rejected?  And have you ever felt like quitting?

Jane: Early on I had lots of rejections.  Mostly I wrote non-fiction at that time, articles and essays, short pieces and features for magazines and newspapers. So I’d query and get a go ahead but then the article wouldn’t be what the editor wanted. A couple of times they allowed me to “try again” which was great. Much of getting published is having a better understanding of what the publisher/editor is looking for and then meeting that need in an innovative or fresh way. I had one novel rejected, which is another story, but it was reworked and bought by another publisher and it comes out next month as Barcelona Calling.  Did I ever want to quit?  No.  I started writing so late in life that I knew if I wanted to experience what writers did I’d have to keep going.

 CM: Please share with us your writing schedule and how it fits into your day.

Jane: I like to say its seasonal. Since I have a contract with manuscripts usually due in early April, I try not to schedule events after December so I can write full time for five months. Then it’s 8 to 5 everyday but Sunday and sometimes it’s 1:30 AM until I get tired and go back to bed at 7:00 AM for a couple of hours. It gets really spacey but my husband and the dogs seem to understand. After April I’m promoting my latest book release and researching for the next novel.  Then my writing tends to be early morning for an hour or so, taking lots of notes, sketching out characters and ideas, living in the real world instead of my fictional one.

 CM: Where do you find your inspiration and what keeps you going?

 Jane: Inspiration means the act of breathing in so that’s something to do metaphorically and physically and spiritually.  I have an exercise regime that helps; the dogs are a great joy to me; I have private prayer time that always gives me strength even in the really difficult times. I read poetry often before I start writing and my four prayer partners keep me focused and I know they are there for me. Having contract deadlines keeps me going!  I have this paper weight that says “the ultimate inspiration is the deadline” and sometimes, I think that’s exactly so.  I have a note on my computer that says “you don’t have time for that” as a reminder to not dwell on the awfuls and terribles but to instead find gratitude in the every day. I also believe that I am not writing by myself and that’s a huge inspiration especially on days when I think I should have found another occupation years ago!

 CM: You’ve written so many books – how do you keep from using the same descriptions and metaphors over and over? 

Jane:  My editors help :).  Without realizing it I might use a phrase that becomes associated with my work which can be good but if used too much, becomes its own cliché. I challenge myself to find fresh metaphors and ways to describe people and landscapes.  When I’m stuck in traffic I think of new ways to finish “as white as….” or “lazy like a….” hoping to find the perfect words that go with the character and yet are new. They also have to be period specific so “as stiff as a wagon tongue” works in the 1850s but in a contemporary novel who would know what that means or be able to imagine it the way a character might who experienced wagons every day of their lives. I write them down so I always carry a pad with me because I might find the perfect words and then forget it when I’m no longer stuck in traffic.

CM: What, for you, is the most difficult obstacle in writing and how do you overcome it?

Jane: I think it’s the negative voices that haunt me.  I call them harpies and just when I’ve come up with a way to silence them they come up with new insults, worries, unworthiness comments. I have great admiration for writers who keep submitting after getting rejections or who have written dozens of novels without having them published. I’ve been so fortunate to have my works accepted and published but each new book is a challenge because I haven’t written THAT particular novel. Remembering how I got through those anxieties before helps.  I remind myself that everything new creates anxiety whether taking up tennis or writing a novel and that it is not my job to write the Great American Novel.  It’s to tell the stories I’ve been given the best way I know how and to trust that I’m not alone in the telling.

CM: Which book brought you the most satisfaction in researching, writing and completing?

Jane: Oh, not a fair question!  I’ve learned something from each book, things I didn’t think I needed to understand about myself but I did. I could tell you with each novel what insights the writing gave me but I’m not sure that any one novel stands above the others in offering that satisfaction.

 CM: Any chance we’ll ever see a co-authorship with your husband, Jerry?

Jane: Jerry laughed when I asked him that. He is a huge part of my writing life both as someone to bounce story ideas off of, to get a feel about a scene to see if I’ve captured the emotion that I want. His engineering background makes him a whiz at details and he catches things I might miss in those important details. We have collaborated on a book…he did most of the photographs for Aurora:  An American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft and that was great fun to see his artistic photographic side blend with mine. We had a few moments of annoyance but got through them. He is also a staple at my events and people look forward to seeing him as much as they do me I’m certain.

CM: What advice would you give to someone who has just finished their first novel?

Jane: I’d tell them to take a moment to celebrate (plant that tree, buy a hat, take your family out for ice cream, etc.) and then begin the next one while you’re making up a plan to get an agent, editor or publisher to notice.  I’m very fond of writer conferences that bring in agents and editors so writers can pitch their work. When I went to my first conference I feared everyone would know what a fraud I was being there but apparently there was no red Fraud written on my face and I found it very inspiring to listen to how others were dealing with their craft, how they approached marketing and sales and research etc. There’s also a great interest now in self-publishing and ebooks and conferences are great places to explore those options and avoid pitfalls by learning from the mistakes of others. By the way, I find writers very generous in sharing those pitfalls and in offering encouragement for the next steps on our writing journey.

CM: Anything else you would like to share with us?

 Jane: Enjoy the writing journey as much as the pleasure of being published.  It’s a privilege and a pleasure to tell the stories. Author Wendell Berry once said of parenting that it was “a vexed privilege and a blessed trial.”  I think the same could be said of writing.

CM: Thank you Jane, that’s good advice.  I’m going to share with readers where to go to sign up for your newsletter, Story Sparks, which includes information on your upcoming workshops, book signings and speaking engagements: Go to www.jkbooks.com

Fulfilling Dreams – First Steps

Writing down your dreams gives them substance. It provides you with a goal.  Tuck your notes into a safe place where you can refer to them often.

Consider those goals when making choices for yourself – will this choice get me closer to my dreams or take me further away?

Share your dreams with someone you trust. Ask them to keep you accountable.

In the beginning stages your dream may seem too large to comprehend.  Take small steps. What can you do today, this week, this month that will take you a little closer to fulfilling your dream?

Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read on the subject?  A person you meant to speak with, but fear you’ve lost the opportunity? A class you intended to take? Take a moment to write it down.

Share these steps with those in your social circle. (They don’t have to know the reason behind it or the ultimate goal.) The right people may have insight, wisdom and connections for the direction you are going.

As you progress toward your dream, over time, you’ll find definitions begin to form and clarity will bring greater insight into your next step.

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.   Proverbs 16:9