Apr 022014

When I began freelancing, I didn’t have a computer. I’d write out all of my short stories and novel ideas in notebooks. Then, I’d take them to the nearest computer/coffee shop where I’d spend hours transcribing. I thought I was spending my time and energy wisely, but looking back, I wasn’t as productive as I should’ve been.

I should’ve been writing, not transcribing, but I didn’t have a proper tools or workspace. It’s easy to talk yourself out of being productive when you don’t have either.

It took me a few years, but I now have what I need: space, a laptop, software, books, a coffee maker, a routine, and the ability to say no.

This works for me, but every once in a while I dig a change of scenery. Unfortunately, I get easily distracted at coffee shops and bookstores. This leaves me with my current workspaces. I have three desk areas, but they are all very small.

Here’s what I need: space, light, color, and convenience.

Here’s what I need to do: purge and purchase new matching supplies.

When my workspace is unorganized, I find that I am mentally unorganized. I am going to fix my workspaces. My timeline to get these workspaces complete is in 1 month.

I will show before and after photos of my workspace on Monday, May 5th. Stay tuned.

Dec 192011

In September of 1999, I was traveling thru London. It was rainy, then sunny, then rainy again. One night, I decided to see what the London nightlife was all about. I went to call a cab since I wasn’t all that familiar with the Tube. Turns out, I couldn’t make outgoing calls from inside my hostel, so I left to find a phonebooth. It was 10 p.m. I was alone. I headed towards the little red phonebooths outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. They were a few blocks away, down a long, cobblestone street filled with random wine bars and the such; mildly populated. Up to that point, I was fearless. I was a Chi-town, street-smart cookie. Besides, I had just traveled to Paris by myself and I was careful, I watched my back and I always trusted my instincts. Up to that point, they served me well.

When I reached the phonebooth, I opened the door and went inside. I shut the door and began dialing with my back towards door, with my back towards the door. This is when I heard a noise; a boom-like sound. It was startling. I turned around. A man was pulling the door open. He was white. He had long, curly hair and was wearing a parka with black jeans. His eyes were black, saccadic and wild. He attempted to pull me out by the lapel of my jacket and he didn’t say a word. His silence frightened me. I had no time to think and just enough time to react. I watched the phone drop from my hand in slow motion when this voice came from my mouth; a shrill B-horror movie scream. I’d never heard it before and haven’t heard it since. And then my words: “What are you doing? What are you doing? Get off of me! What are you doing?” And then it happened; my fight mode kicked in. I lifted my hands and gave the guy one solid push to the chest. He barely flinched. I pushed again; harder this time. He flew back, feet in the air and all, and that’s when I took off running back to the hostel looking back the whole way; warning other women of a predator near the phonebooths.

When I got back to the hostel, I told the front desk what happened and they called the police. They came and took my report. They said if my attacker wanted to do something, he would’ve done something, but I disagreed. My fighting response startled him, almost as if he never anticipated it and I think this is what saved me.

I used to think my fight response came from growing up in Chicago. I was taught to always make scene, to scream fire instead of help if anybody ever pulled me into a dark alley, to fight no matter what and that’s exactly what I did. Could my fight response be cultural? Maybe, maybe not. I now think my fight response was instinctive. Where that instinct came from, I don’t know. Looking back, I’m just glad I had it.

I continued to travel from London to Krakow without any other incidences, but I was on edge after that; especially when I was in a phonebooth, when somebody that looked like him passed nearby, or if I was the only woman on the street. For a long time after, I saw that guys face in my head when I lay down to go to sleep.

The good news is that nothing physically happened to me. I am still here, alive and doing well. I protected myself the best way I knew how and for whatever reason it worked. I don’t ever think about what could have happened and in a lot of ways I have moved on, but I would be a fool to say that it didn’t scar or rob me of that safe feeling we’re all supposed to have.

Before this incident, I felt fearless and after, I was afraid to venture out in the dark alone in my own city. To this day, I’m always afraid of what could happen. I know that some people may view this as silly or stupid even, but I was the one who lived through it and in some minute way, I feel that I can control this from happening again if I’m cautious enough. Of course, I know this is just a false sense of security, but it gets me through the day. And now a cliché thrown in for good measure: I never thought it could happen to me, but it did.

Although I wish this never happened, it helped me realize what kind of reaction I would have if I were ever attacked again. I’m positive that I would fight. Do you know if you’re you a fighter or do you freeze when you feel threatened? How do you know?

For years, I retold this story in a humorous way, but it’s not humorous. It’s scary.

I’m not telling this story now to warn people to watch their backs, although I think everybody should. I’m telling this story because I think it’s incidences like these that you can pull from and use in your writing. I’m not talking about the actual account, but the feelings and emotions.

This is the epitome of, “write what you know.” It’s not writing about a specific incident that happened to you, it’s writing about the emotions surrounding those situations: the fear, the rush of adrenaline, the idea that somebody you don’t know is trying to harm you. These are the things readers relate to. These are the things that make your writing authentic. It’s the reading and knowing that you’ve felt those same things that is reassuring and appreciated by many readers.

To all the writers out there, use what you have and what you know. Dig those memories out of the recesses of your mind and put your feelings to the page. It’s your turn to create explosive pieces of art.

Feb 122011

Check out and join the: Second Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade.

Here is more about Rachael Harrie’s Crusade:

“There are so many of us out there. Aspiring authors, bloggers (whether established or beginning), industry peeps, even published authors, all of whom want to build their online platforms. We write insightful posts and articles, actively blog within the blogosphere, take part in challenges, competitions, and contests galore.

We have the passion and the drive to make it, but…we could all do with a bit of support.

So I started thinking. What if we link all these people together? What if we create a way to meet people in a similar position, people who genuinely want to help build our online platform while at the same time building theirs? People who want to pay it forward in the spirit of writerly writerness and blogging beautificity (and see it come back to them in turn).

And so my Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade was born.”

Jan 172011

It’s a new year and new years remind me of clean slates, which I love. I like being able to wipe away the past to start anew. This is why I am so excited about 2011.

I have many goals including meeting more writers, going to more Chicago literary events, attending writing conferences, finding a mentor, joining a few writing societies and associations, and publishing my collaborative children’s book. I also intend on finishing my middle grade novel. I have already put many of these goals in motion and I will do my dandiest to get it all done.

I want to do more of what is working and rid the stuff that isn’t from my life. One of the most toxic things I’ve held onto are negative thoughts. Two of my resolutions are to practice positive thinking and taking the initiative.

That said, a few awesome things happened to my career this past year. I attribute some of my success to electronic devices, writing accessories, and web sites. I decided to carry these tools into the New Year.

We all know that ideas are fleeting. They’re gone in a matter of seconds. This is why it’s important to pay attention and write them down. For me, a few notebooks and a good solid pen will always do me good. If you are a creative or obsessed with lists, then they are important to you too. Looking for a good notepad? Try any of these Rhodia products.

I am also bringing The Complete Writer’s Market Collection and Writer’s Digest Magazine into 2011. The Complete WM Collection is a C.D. consisting of Writer’s Market, Novel and Short Story WM, Guide to Literary Agents, Poet’s Market, and Children’s Writer’s, and Illustrator’s Market. Each of these guides will cost you anywhere from thirty to sixty dollars each. A single disk containing all of those books costs $100 bucks. I bought last year’s disk, which was on sale for fifteen bucks. Score! It lists almost every publisher, magazine, publication, lit agent, and children’s publisher on the market. There are small descriptions under each listing showing what the contact person, publisher, magazine, lit agent, and children’s publisher is looking for from writers and how much it pays among other things. It’s well worth buying. If you’re not interested in the listings, then get it for the author interviews and writer’s advice. It is more than worth it.

I also love Writer’s Digest Magazine. It is one of those magazines loaded with info. Trust me when I say, you will want to read everything in it. WD magazine goes through several techniques to help writers write better manuscripts and book proposals tailored to each writing genre. I find WD to be an incredible resource. Once a year, they publish a 101 best web sites list for writers. Trust me when I say, you do not want to miss this issue. I find Writer’s Market products to be the most helpful and thorough guides on the market to date.

Last year, I purchased an add-in program for Microsoft Word called My Writer’s Tools. It helps to rid each page of unnecessary adverbs and clichés and it formats each work with the click of a button. It is great.

I also purchased My Word Count, which helps you to strengthen your work by finding repetitious words. I use this program often and recommend it to those that need an extra pair of eyes. There are other comparable programs on the market, but you will be paying double or triple the cost. My Writer’s Tools + Word Count works for me, but I say look around to find the one that suits you best.

Over this last year, I found my digital recorder, Flip, and digital camera to be especially helpful. Each one of these tools has pushed me to learn a bit more about myself by helping me find my voice. My digital recorder in particular has helped me to become a better interviewer and listener. Listening to how you ask questions and respond is a lesson in itself. Nobody wants to sound like a tool. My digital camera and Flip also capture what I think is beautiful or interesting. As a whole, they have been great accessories to my articles and stories.

It is difficult to keep hundreds of web sites and submissions in order, but with these sites I find it rather easy. Writersmarket.com, duotrope.com, and delicious.com have all helped to organize my submissions. Writersmarket.com is accessible for a fee, but they offer a ridiculous amount of information about lit agents, publishing houses, magazines and journals in addition to industry information as well as a submission tracker. Duotrope.com is a free web site geared towards fiction and poetry pubs. They also have a free submission tracker. It is great and not to be passed up. Delicious.com is unlike the previous web sites, but it is invaluable. It helps you organize all of your bookmarks by tags. You have the ability to save an unlimited amount of bookmarks to your account. This way, when you are looking for a particular web site, you just look under your tags to find it. Delicious.com is an online hoarder’s savior.

These are just some of the tools I am bringing with me into the New Year. What are some of the tools you can’t live without in your writing or creative career?

 Posted by at 6:51 pm