Friday, August 22, 2014

The Top Writing Bug Columns of All Time

By Rich

You may have seen Kerrie Flanagan's column celebrating the 1,000th post of The Writing Bug. If not, we'll patiently wait while you do. Read it? Made a comment for the giveaway? Good.

The Writing Bug has been around since 2008. A simpler time in our lives when we still used this quirky thing called the U.S. Post Office and we were starting to experiment with this whole new "social media" environment of Facebook and Twitter. Yet, when you peruse the blogs of that time, not much has changed in the mechanics of writing. In fact, we're pretty sure many topics have been repeated numerous times over the last six years.

Still, there are a few posts out there that have withstood the test of time and become The Writing Bug's most read. Some of these still pop up in our weekly statistics. Strangely, none are mine. Do you have something against me? Am I not pretty enough?

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, the top Writing Bug columns of all time. We've gone through our records and come up with the nine most viewed columns. Instead of hiding this information we're going transparent on you and presenting links to them in this column. Enjoy, comment, relive your memories and re-read some posts from the newer contributors -- ahem -- in order for them to reach the top of the heap.

It's All in How You Slant It -- from 9/15/2010 and by Kerrie

Methods of Character Presentation -- from 1/08/2010 and by Kerrie

Shepherding Our Writing -- from 12/23/2010 and again on 12/21/2011. The 2011 version received bigger numbers. Both were by Kerrie.

Book Review: Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie -- from 7/26/2008 and by the middle school version of Laney Flanagan

Thanks Wendy (My Alter Ego) -- from 4/5/2010 and by Jenny Sundstedt

The Ups and Downs of Snowboarding -- from 11/4/2011 and by the high school version of Laney Flanagan

Angels and Demons: Books vs. Movie -- from 5/18/2009 and by Kerrie

Finally, the most popular post on The Writing Bug with approximately 3700 hits since 2011...

The Top Five Ways to Ram a Hook Into Your Reader -- from 7/22/2011 by Brooke Favero

The Courage of James Foley

by Kelly

For the last couple of days my heart has ached as the details of James Foley’s beheading hit the headlines.

I stand in awe of writers like him, ones who use their gift in spite of personal risk. Penny Sukraj, close friend of Foley and widow of journalist Anton Hammerl said: "He was passionate about getting out there and telling the stories about the most vulnerable people and the effects of the different conflicts and wars that had ravaged their lives."

Foley reported the truth about injustice and human suffering, despite the risk of imprisonment and even death. This places him in league with writers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nelson Mandela, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to name just a few. His mode of writing may have been different but his courage to draw attention to evils, to keep world citizens from burying their heads in the sand put him shoulder to shoulder with these other fearless dissidents.

Most of us will not be called upon to make the sacrifice Foley made; however his commitment to be a voice of truth in the darkness can inspire all of us no matter what our sphere.

“A great writer is, so to speak, a second government in his country. And for that reason no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.”
--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, August 21, 2014

1,000th Post!

Post by Kerrie


This can be a big or small number depending on what you are talking about.

1,000 positive Amazon reviews for your book--this is a good thing
1,000 pages in a book your BFF just asked you to review--not so good

1,000 potato chips--always a good thing
1,000 Rocky Mountain oysters--definitely not a good thing

1,000 blog posts--this makes me stop and think: Wow! Really?

It is so hard for me to believe that The Writing Bug is home to 1,000 posts. I started the blog in January 2008. My first post, called Writing Blocks, talked about my apprehension about starting the blog. A lot has happened on this little corner of the blog world since then.

We have interviewed some amazing writers like: novelist TC Boyle, best-selling children's author Debbie Dadey, Pulitzer nominated journalist/author Kevin Vaughan and T.V. icon and author Stephen Cannell, who sadly, passed away six months after the interview and after being the keynote at the 2010 NCW Conference.

In 2010 following NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I started my own challenge: ReBooWee. Which stood for Read a Book a Week. It was a lot of fun, I read a ton of books and Writing Bug readers got into it. I might have to bring this back soon.

One big change over the past 7 years is that what started out as my blog is now a group effort. After about a year of being the lone Writing Bug writer, I opened the doors to guest bloggers. Then I added a few other regular contributors, like Jenny Sundstedt.  Finally, I wanted to provide a space for other Northern Colorado Writers members to showcase their writing talents.  It was time I took a back seat, so I picked six regular contributors (including Jenny) and handed over the reigns of the blog to my amazing NCW Assistant Director, Rich Keller. Now I get to read all their fabulous posts and occasionally pop my head in for a guest spot (like today).

In honor of this big 1,000 day, I strolled down memory lane and revisited some older posts like one of my favorites from Jenny,  Writing Naked, guest blogger Laura Bridgwater's humor show through in How to Marry a Genre, I took readers on my journey to meet Donny and Marie and speaking of Journey, I do have a post dedicated to them as well.

It's interesting to see that the topics covered in my early posts are all still relevant today. A rose is a rose and writing is writing. While specific challenges writers must overcome change (I don't need to worry about running out of ink for my quill), the writing process has been the same for centuries. If you want to write you need to sit down and write.

This blog and all its 1,000 posts has hopefully provided resources, inspiration, laughter, tools and encouragement to help you and all the other writers who have stopped by for a visit. Writing can be tough, but with the right tools in your back pocket, a hefty does of perseverance and a supportive community like this one, success is inevitable.

A big thanks to all The Writing Bug contributors current and past, Rich Keller and all of you who stop by to hang out with us. I am giving away a "Just Write It" t-shirt and a copy of Write Away: A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers (which is a direct result of this blog) to one lucky winner.

Deadline: August 28th
To enter:  Leave a comment and share your favorite food or drink you must  have when you write.

Bonus entries.  Put them in the comment box (1 extra entry for each of these)
  • Leave a URL to a favorite writing related site and why you like it. 
  • What is one of your favorite Writing Bug posts and why
  • Favorite author you'd love to see interviewed on the Writing Bug in the future. 
Be sure to include your name and a way for me to contact you if you win.

Thanks for seven great years. I look forward to many more in the future!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Not Writing 101: How to Overcome Your Writing Compulsion

by Sarah Sullivan

“I write because I can’t not write” is a frequent lament uttered by writers the world round. If you suffer from this agonizing affliction take heart, you are not alone and help is available. Many writers, such as myself, find it exceptionally easy not to write. I don’t mean to brag or make anyone feel bad, but I find almost nothing easier than not writing. You too can enjoy a life  filled with many hours, days, even weeks of not writing if you follow these 15 simple steps which I like to call: How to Not Write Even If Your Life Depends on It. (I have used at least ten of these steps for this post alone.)
  1. Always delay your writing until your “to-do” list is complete and your home and/or office are neat as a pin. 
  2. Find a remodeling project in your home, the larger and messier the better. It’s especially helpful if the project takes place in your writing area. 
  3. Spend your allotted “writing time” shopping for cute notebooks and pens to keep in your car, bag and office to jot down the inevitable flashes of brilliance then quickly lose track of them. 
  4. Get up and down from your desk A LOT. Some ideas: take time to remove your contacts in favor of glasses (it looks more writerly anyway); play with cute styles for your hair to keep it out of your eyes while writing (make sure that that it compliments your glasses.); let your dog in and out constantly (more on that later); drink plenty of liquids particularly those with diaeretic properties like caffeine which will translate into frequent bathroom breaks. 
  5. Purchase a dog with excessive energy. It’s best if you pay top dollar for the dog so that you feel extra guilty if (s)he is not well exercised. 
  6. Stock your refrigerator and pantry with gobs of irresistible treats so that you are tempted to bolt for a favorite anytime the writing gets rough. Eating while writing is an especially useful tool. 
  7. Watch T.V. while writing. If your lucky you will find a Golden Girls, House Hunters or similarly enticing marathon. We recently added cable to our home, but honestly this is a more advanced form of procrastination which you are probably not ready for at this point in your recovery. Hang in there, it will come!
  8. Make sure your family and friends know that there is an open door policy at your home and anyone is welcome to stop by anytime for a visit. 
  9. If you are serious about not writing, it’s best to keep as many windows open on your computer as possible. The content is not important as along as it is tempting to you. I, for instance, tend toward celebrity sites and dream property listings but this is a strategy that you can really sink your teeth into and make it your own. 
  10. Keep all phones at your side at all times! If you are not doing this already, it's a rookie mistake but not one that can't be overcome. 
  11. Read as much as you can. Now this is a tricky one and may seem counter-intuitive since any writing teacher worth their salt will tell you that you must read in order to write. The good news is you can actually over read thereby leaving yourself no time to write. It also helps to read superior writing in order to really lower your self esteem and convince yourself that you are a crap writer so what’s the point anyway?
  12. Always ALWAYS over schedule yourself. It sounds almost too easy, but take it from me, it’s a winning strategy every time. 
  13. Wait until the last possible minute to begin a writing project. Now, I know there are those of you deep in the throes of your illness who recommend extreme writing.  You may, for instance, advocate always having an extra article or blog post ready to go. If this is you, DON'T WORRY! Better writers than you have overcome this dysfunctional tendency. 
  14. Have children. I’m not even sure you can practice not writing without them. If you are an individual that does not want children, then you are probably not really serious about not writing and/or have not yet hit rock bottom. 
  15. Spend as much time as possible dreaming up characters, plots and unforgettable metaphors but (and this is the really important part!) don’t actually write anything down! Just try to keep it all in your head.
If any of these tips can help even one struggling not writing writer to over come their compulsion than this post has been well worth my time. For those who have successfully learned to become not writing writers, please encourage others with ideas of your own. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jimmy, Tina and Justin (and James)

By Rich

I've never been a hero worshiper. I didn't have posters on my walls of famous people, I didn't wait for hours in line to get their autographs and I didn't get into fights with anyone about why person 1 was better than their inferior person 2. Maybe it was just my nature as a child or the fact I watched too much Saturday morning television.

Now people I admire -- there have been many of them throughout the years, and they have changed as I've gotten older. Lately, as my life has taken a turn to the creative and extremely productive, there have been three individuals who I've sort of latched onto. And while they aren't authors per se, they're creatives who have done amazing things to reach their pinnacles of success.

Jimmy Fallon
I know many people feel the current host of The Tonight Show is a bit immature, but I think that's why he works so well as a late night host. Young and full of energy, I admire Jimmy because he took a life with a normal childhood and moved his way up to one of the most prestigious titles on television today. In addition, he sings, plays numerous instruments, and has a humbleness and sense of enjoyment that I wish other creatives had when addressing their success.

Tina Fey
Tina is a person I admire for two reasons. One is for her prominence in the Improv world, which is another one of my passions. The second reasons is this ability to improvise in any situation allowed her to become the first female head writer at Saturday Night Live and establish herself as someone who could do anything, no matter what others said about her. Which is the reason she created the hugely successful 30 Rock and wrote the still popular Mean Girls. I admire Tina's fruition and ability to cut through all the fecal matter to get what she wants.

Justin Timberlake
Okay, Justin didn't really have a "normal" childhood considering he appeared on Star Search, The New Mickey Mouse Club, was a member of boy band 'N Sync and dated people like Brittany Spears and Cameron Diaz. Still, I admire Justin -- okay, it's more like a bromance -- because he didn't let his career as a signer bog him down from doing other things he enjoy like acting, doing comedy and, I say with a bit of jealousy, hanging out with Jimmy Fallon. My goal is to not only write but to continue my Improv work and expand my other interests, and I look to Justin as impetus to make it happen.

There's one more person I admire to a point -- James Franco. If there's anyone who can be considered a Renaissance Man it's him. In addition to acting, James directs, produces, writes novels, screenplays and poetry, and teaches at universities. I didn't officially list Mr. Franco because, frankly, just a look at the list of his accomplishments makes me tired. I can only hope my Wikipedia entry lists as many as him one day.

Who do you currently admire?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Finding My Sea Legs

By Sarah Reichert

“I am the shore and the ocean, awaiting myself on both sides.” 
― Dejan Stojanovic,

There's nothing so calming as the patient and endless sound of the ocean.  Its rushing cycles, ceaseless and salty, kiss the sand and pebbled beaches across coastlines.  I used to believe that folks are separated into two categories (three if you count the odd desert-lover) of mountain or sea.  I believed, therefore, that I couldn't be faithful to one if I enjoyed the other's company.  I grew up around mountains.  I navigated pine needle-covered forest beds.  I embraced the particular and familiar smell of earthy muck on the sides of clear-running creeks.  The delicate click of beetles taking flight and the happy short song of the chickadee were the sounds of home for me.  

When I lived in San Diego, for a short time, I didn't enjoy the ocean.  It was gray and unforgiving.  It had the overwhelming odor of fish and, and sometimes, people.  It was cold and gritty and the parking was hard to come by.  I missed my mountains.  I felt like a chickadee thrown into the sandy, June-gloom covered expanse, exposed and unsure.  But, with time and repeated tries, I learned to appreciate its language.  It’s a constant and meditative entity.  Even when we breathe, the sound of air rushing in and out of our lungs mimics it.  Its salty taste is the taste of our own sweat, and tears, and blood.  

Stepping away from what we know and embracing what is foreign to us often takes more than one try to get right.  Its learning to enjoy the process when we are thrown into the middle of it.  Its not fighting the necessary steps or shunning the different place we find ourselves in.  We may embrace the creative flow of ideas, happily chugging along in our novels, or poems, or essays without regard to commas or adverb use, but the steps afterwards (the follow up, the query, the editing, the submitting) leave us feeling like a land-lover in a rocky boat; unsure, wobbly and dissident to the process.  

If all you want is to do is write, and enjoy the feeling of creating a world on a sheet of paper, that's a wonderful thing.  But would you have really bothered with all of that hard work, if you hadn't intended for the rest of the world to know the story?  Step off the dock, dive into that salty and rushing force.  Let the sand coat the delicate skin between your toes and don't grimace your face in disgust.  It is what it is.  Enjoy the new and unfamiliar.  You will gain a fuller soul for it.

What part of the writing process is hardest for you to muddle through and why?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dystopian Delight

by Shirley Drew

Several years ago, my husband and I were browsing the shelves at a local Books-A-Million store when he handed me a book titled, Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. “This looks like something you might like,” he said. I read the synopsis on the back cover:
When a meteor hits the moon and knocks it closer in orbit to the earth, nothing will ever be the same. World tidal waves. Earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions. And that’s just the beginning. 

I love dystopian novels, so I bought it. In the following months, I read the sequels to what is often referred to as the Moon series. Before long, I was reading The Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies. Most recently I finished the first two installments of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin.

At some point I became curious about why people like to read novels about environmental destruction, oppression, and totalitarian governments. Seems kind of depressing, but this genre has been around for a long time. I think my first dystopian novel was probably Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Anyway, I started surfing the Internet for answers. I found a post by blogger Josh Corman. This is what he says:

“The simple answer (which probably, I know, also means the incomplete answer) is fear. Fear is the root of every dystopia, and it’s the glue that keeps the reader stuck to its characters and conflicts for the book’s duration. If you harbor any distrust of your government (or governments in general)…if you’re concerned about climate change and corporate power…And if you suspect that our reliance on technological devices is doing at least as much harm as good…” then dystopian novels will lure you in.

These stories are clearly metaphors for today’s problems—both large and small, and they serve an important function for us as readers. They validate our worries and the way we view our world while allowing us to immerse ourselves in them from a safe distance. And of course they provide us with brave protagonists that take the necessary risks to fight against the dangers and dehumanization of a dystopian society. Most of all, though, through the protagonists, we are allowed to hope for something better. And that makes reading dystopian stories, problems and all, worthwhile.

“Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.” ~The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Do you read dystopian novels? What are your favorites?

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