Sunday, August 31, 2014

Catching Up

By Rich

Dear Time,

We need a confab. Yes, right here on this public Interweb column. I think everyone out there should know what you've been doing over the last few months. Don't look at me like that! You can't tell me you haven't been shaving off several seconds, if not whole hours, from the summer. You're worse than Jimmy the Greek. Yes, I'll wait until the Millennials look the name up on Google.

You've chiseled away more portions of the summer than a professional bodybuilder on Red Bull and steroids. Between my trip to Costa Rica, prepping for the new school year and some medical items to address, my schedule has been torn into shreds and discarded in the incinerator of life. I've barely written any new material, the to-do list for Northern Colorado Writers and Wooden Pants Publishing is several arms long and my email queue hasn't cracked the below 300 mark in weeks. I'd pull the hair out of my head if there was any left.

I'm not sure why you pulled so many stretches of consecutive numbers out of the summer. Yes, many of us parents wished for school to get back in session the minute it ended, but that's not a valid reason for what you did. And I'm not the only one complaining. Many of us writers went to bed on June 1st and woke up on September 1st. Sure, some did this due to a massive benders where they woke up in the middle of the International Space Station snuggling next to a pig. Yet the rest of us were just going about our daily business when you pulled the minutes and hours away from us.

Now we need to waste the glorious days of late summer-early fall clearing out our email queues and writing thousands of words at one sitting and 15 extra large coffees. This doesn't mean you'll add the seconds back onto the clock. Frankly, I have a feeling you'll strip even more numbers out. Before we know it we'll be wishing each other a Happy New Year.

We'd like to work with you, Time. How about giving us those infinitely long minutes that passed by during our days in elementary school, or those elongated hours we experienced during uncomfortable blind dates? Maybe you can transfer some seconds from the early morning hours to the daytime. Heck, we barely sleep anyway! In exchange for this restoration, we'll make sure we use you wisely and don't waste any seconds on reorganizing junk drawers or watching a marathon of Rehab Addict. Unless, of course, we're watching the show for research purposes.

Work with us, Time. Help us creatives meet our deadlines and become successful folk.

With much respect and several minutes behind

Rich Keller

How did you and Time work together this summer?

Self promotion alert: You have until September 3rd to pick up a FREE copy of Paradise Not Quite Lost for your Kindle. It's a tale for those of you who enjoy science fiction, romance, comedy, would-be-galactic conquerors with a hankering for sugary snacks.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lighting The Fire

By Sarah Reichert

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo

I started reading the first Harry Potter book to my girls this week.  I was ecstatic. They were less so.  It’s thicker than they’re used to and severely lacking in pictures.  But my excitement seemed to transfer in such a way that by the end of the first chapter, they were amused by Albus Dumbledore, wary of Voldemort and curious about the boy who lived. 

Having suffered through my share of Bernstein Bears and Fancy Nancy, I understand the way a young mind can hear a tale countless times without tiring, even after my eyes are rolling back in my head and I’m on the verge of a two year old tantrum myself.  (As Gru from “Despicable Me” said, “Ugh, this book is taking for-ev-er!”)

But no matter how many hours of suffering I endure of repetitive formulaic children’s books, in the back of my mind is always the end game.

Children need books.  Even nonsensical ones.  Children need people to read to them, and not just read, but also be excited about it.  Reading to kids is important.  Reading to engage them in a story, even more so. 

No matter how many times you’ve read a story, a child’s brain needs it portrayed with highlights of excitement and joy.  “The Tawny Scrawny Lion” needs to sound like he’s as a fat as butter and sleek as satin, because it helps their fresh neurons to paint a more vivid scene.  It encourages our kids to not only follow the story but to see it in their minds.  Kids gain emotional experience from even the silliest of tales, which translates into more compassionate, empathetic, and thoughtful individuals.  And the more vigor we inject into the imaginations of our future leaders, the more possibilities they will create for the world. 

Writer’s write.  But at some point on our timeline, some one read to us.  Someone cultivated the power of written words, and encouraged our brains to elaborate on the unseen, the imaginary, and the possibilities.  These are the skills that bolster our ability to create new worlds on paper.

Sit down and read to your kids or your grandkids.  Volunteer at the library for story times and reading programs.  A well-read population, and the next generation of story-tellers, begins in little hands flipping pages and tiny ears tuned to hear. 

What was your favorite book as a child, or what is your favorite children’s book to read to now? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's Never Too Late!

post by Shirley Drew

Sometimes I worry, that at the ripe old age of (well, let’s just say over 50), that’s it too late to start writing for audiences outside of my profession. That is to say, to write in a completely different way than I’ve been accustomed to for most of my life. Then I stumble on stories about writers who started late in life—in some cases, even later than me. Wow!

For example, one of my favorite authors, Sue Monk Kidd, debuted her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, when she was 54. Belva Plain, published her first novel, Evergreen, at 50. Raymond Chandler was 51 when The Big Sleep debuted. And Norman McLean wrote A River Runs Through It at 74! Yes, I said 74 (s-e-v-e-n-t-y f-o-u-r)! There are many more examples, but I think I’ve  made my point.

Of course there are the show-offs. Writers who’ve published their first novels before their thirtieth birthdays. Jack London published The Call of the Wild when he was but a young lad of 27, Truman Capote published Other Voices, Other Rooms when he was only 24, and Stephen King published three novels by the time he was 30. And Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was a girl (yes, a girl) of 19. But they’re ruining my argument.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s never too late. We’re writers. There's no statute of limitations on starting a writing career and no mandatory retirement age. We have lots of time to develop and sharpen our skills, try out our many ideas, send out our stories or essays, get rejected, and then do it all again. So stop reading this blog and get back to your writing!
Are you inspired by writers who were late bloomers? If so, who?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Perseverance, Again and Still

Post by Jenny

Wow, 1,000 posts and counting! I’m so pleased to have helped The Writing Bug reach that milestone! Thanks to everyone who has read my posts and commented over the years. In the interest of nostalgia, here is the very first post I contributed as a guest-blogger, way back in January, 2010.

Ever since reading the story of South Korea’s Cha Sa-soon, I’ve been thinking about the value of perseverance. Last November, Cha finally achieved the minimum score of 60/100 needed to pass her written driver’s license exam. It was her 950thattempt.

Nearly every weekday since April of 2005, the 68-year-old woman rode the bus to the licensing agency, paid the application fee…and failed the test. (This does beg the question of whether Cha should drive at all, but I’ll leave that to her local authorities.)

I can’t help but wonder what roadblocks, if I may, Cha encountered on the way. Unsupportive friends and relatives? Snide, eye-rolling license employees? Illness, inclement weather, general I’m-so-sick-of-this-I-could-just-spit malaise? Certainly the license fees totaling the equivalent of $4,200 couldn’t have been easy for a woman who makes her living selling vegetables. But she kept at it. "I felt so ashamed of myself for failing so many times but I simply could not give it up," Cha told the Yonhap News Agency.

Cha’s perseverance blows my mind and makes me feel a tad bit ashamed. I’m so fortunate to have few significant roadblocks in my life. Nevertheless, I can think of nothing—other than telling my boys I love them, and, hopefully, basic hygiene practices—that I’ve done on a near-daily basis for four years and counting. Not even writing. If I had, my writing career might look different these days. Maybe I’d have an agent. Or even a book deal.

Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” I suspect he was being modest, but I like the message that determination pays off. So, at the dawn of this new decade, I am recommitting myself to perseverance, especially in regard to my writing.

It often seems necessary or appropriate to make resolutions based on guilt or obligation, but now feels like the time to find true inspiration in the genuine, worthy goal of crossing one finish line, celebrating madly, and focusing on the next. After all, anything is possible. Just look at Cha Sa-soon.

(And on the days when I’m disgruntled and frustrated and have received my fair share of rejection, I hope I can laugh at how the wonderfully de-motivational Despair, Inc. defines perseverance: The courage to ignore the obvious wisdom of turning back.)

Who or what inspires you to persevere? 

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!


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