Jan 202018
 

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a pleasant holiday!

I wanted to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart – organization.

This past December, I was looking for some business information, but couldn’t find it. I tore my office apart and still couldn’t find what I needed. I spent so much time looking for this paperwork that I grew frustrated with myself. I knew I needed to get organized and vowed to go into 2018 clutter-free. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but I was up for the challenge!

I started by writing down what I wanted from this process. I wanted to be able to find the information I needed in minutes, I wanted to go paperless, and I wanted less physical clutter in my home. My main reason for getting ultra-organized was because I knew it would help me with writing.

How does being organized help me with writing?  The less time I spend looking for items, the more time I can spend on writing. Also, I’ve noticed that when my home is clear, my mind is clear. This allows me to be more creative and focused.

I began this process of going clutter-free by gathering all of my business information and putting it in a clear bin. Then I moved onto the piles of paper in my home. I scanned each page using an app called Fast Scanner Pro. It is a genius app that everybody should have, which allows you to scan directly from your phone and e-mail it to yourself or save it on a site like Box.com.

You do know about Box.com, right? It’s a cloud content management service where you can upload, save, and share your files. You can even make custom folders on your account to house your scan’s by category and then by year, etc. It’s essential if you’re attempting to go paperless like me!

My next step was to purge. I started by placing items my family and I no longer needed into bags and then took those bags to the Salvation Army as a donation. I honestly feel a lot lighter.

Here are some techniques I use to keep my space clutter-free:

  • As soon as I get mail, I immediately decide if it gets thrown away or scanned. If scanned, I do it right away. No paper, no mess.
  • I purge. When I see things piling up, I know it’s time to sell or donate. I set it aside and take it to the donation center within a few days.
  • I delete 25 messages from each e-mail account every morning to keep my inbox maintainable.
  • I keep a single bin in the living room where I place my current journals and books so they aren’t cluttering my space.

I know what you’re thinking. Can I really do this? Yes, you can. All you need to do is set aside some time and commit to the process. Once you do, you’ll have greater focus and creativity for your writing. You can do it!

When you’re done, send me your before and after photos! I would love to see them.

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Aug 022017
 

Recently, I visited The American Writers Museum in Chicago and brought my son along for the ride.

One of the first exhibits we saw was the Children’s Literature Gallery. There is a beautiful mural painted on one of the walls along with ample seating and a bookshelf filled with children’s books. There is also an area where you can listen to Langston Hughes’ poems.

There is also an area dedicated to L.M. Alcott’s, Little Women.

Across from the Children’s Gallery is a room filled with plants! This temporary exhibit is called Palm: All Awake in the Darkness. It is dedicated to the life and work of poet W.S. Merwin. At the end of the exhibit, there is a pile of blank, white paper and pencils with a sign urging each patron to write a note. These notes are to be sent to Merwin to be planted underneath newly planted palm trees in his Hawaiian garden. This made my son and I feel connected to both nature and Merwin’s work. We wondered if a palm tree would be grown from our words. We loved this exhibit.

Afterward, we entered a room with a long hallway. There were interactive, glowing, rectangle tiles aligned on a wall. This exhibit was called the Surprise Bookshelf. My son was immediately drawn to the wall and began turning the tiles. Some were filled with more information, while others smelled like food. It was very interesting.

On the opposite side, there were portraits of writers. When you turned the tile, one could read more information about each writer including an excerpt from their work. One could spend hours here.

Here is something that has crossed my mind more than once:

Most artists find process fascinating mainly because we all do it differently and writers are no different. This area of the museum is dedicated to the mind of a writer. It is genius.

It’s been a long time since I used a typewriter, but when I sat down, I remembered how to set the paper and the margins. My son was fascinated by these ancient typing machines. He even requested one! It’s true what they say, everything old becomes new again.

I love this quote:

I found The American Writers Museum both interesting and well-put-together, which is why I recently purchased a membership. I urge you to all check it out if you live in Chicago or are in the Chicago area. It is fantastic!

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May 032017
 

For Spring Break, my family and I made our way out of Chicago and down to Key West, Florida. The weather did not disappoint as it was gorgeous!

While there, we stopped at the famous Hemingway House, which quickly became my favorite author house after the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion in Salem, the home made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The House of the Seven Gables. You can check out more information about our visit here: http://jr-williams.com/blog/?p=659.

As we walked through the Hemingway house with our fantastic tour guide, I couldn’t help, but feel Hemingway’s energy. Everything from the furniture to the typewriters, to the chandeliers, to the porch, to the cats screamed beauty and excitement. Check out some of my photos below:

Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer really loved the house and it was evident throughout each room and the grounds, but the pièce de résistance was Hemingway’s writing room. I wanted to rummage through his books, sit in his chair, and type a letter on his typewriter, but I wasn’t the only one because the entrance was closed off by wrought-iron doors.

All in all, I found Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer’s home incredible. It’s definitely worth touring if you make it down to Key West.

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Nov 272012
 

I constantly bite off more than I can chew. I know I’m not the only one. What I want to know is, why do we do this?

Every year, from October thru February, my life is insane. I have no business taking on a new project, but like many people out there, I have a superhero complex, so I do. This past month I decided I was going to give Nanowrimo another go. After all, the last time I completed Nanowrimo was in 2005.

This year, I actually had a good idea and spent time creating a chapter by chapter outline. I even wrote a character analysis. I was ready to construct my amazingly, awesome, completely thought-out novel, but after writing 1,000 words I realized that I couldn’t devote the amount of time necessary. This of course, was in addition to the fact that I needed to finish up the other projects I have in the works.

I have no business starting anything new.

This is why I’ve decided to take this new novel bit by bit. I will finish it when it’s right for me to do so and it will be right when I have finished all of my looming projects. I desperately want to give this new project the respect it deserves.

On that note, there isn’t very much time left for Nanowrimo, so I’d like to wish all of the Nanowrimer’s out there much luck. Keep going! You can do it!

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Nov 192012
 

Why does living life seem to take up so much time? There are twenty-four hours in a day to spend however we’d like, which seems like a lot, but it’s not. Not when you have to spend eight of those hours recharging. Not when you’re getting ready for work, commuting, actually working, commuting again, eating dinner, spending time with family, cleaning up, decompressing, and getting ready for bed. In that case, twenty-four hours may as well be one.

I think the lack of time is getting to people. Well, it’s getting to me. There are way too many distractions. I’ve noticed that I’m happier when I spend time doing the things I love. Don’t people seem to be happier when they’re spending time doing the things they love? It’s like a personal road map to happy.

What would happen if we took a few moments during the day for ourselves? How awesome would you feel if you did something you truly enjoyed? Now how often do you do that for yourself?

I vow to spend a few moments of each day on myself and you should too.

I made a short video about this very thing. Take a look.

Thanks for watching!

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Oct 182011
 

It’s time for R. Harrie’s third campaign challenge and here are the rules:

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:

  • that it’s morning,
  • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
  • that the MC (main character) is bored
  • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
  • that something surprising happens.

My piece is just under 300 words. YES! Check it out:

Hannah’s Tomatoes

Hannah sits on a bench; knees bent, feet firm on the seat. Sweat drips down the small of her back as tiny wet beads form on her upper lip. She brushes them away and breathes in the sticky air. There is a smell; familiar, but pungent. A dead rat maybe? Ah, the joys of North Avenue Beach. She coughs and unscrews the cap from her bottle. The water rushes down her throat, a short relief from the heat. Sweat drips from her hands. She presses them against her head and slicks down the loose strands of hair. She picks at a piece of skin hanging from her fingernail as a slight breeze presses against her body. He is walking towards her, the blur of a boy folded into the distance of the hazy sun. The closer he gets, the harder her heart beats. When he is near, she stands up. He paces towards her disturbing the morning dust with each step.

They walk off the concrete walkway into the sandbank. Her toes sink in. The gritty grains brush against the pads of her feet. Dirty, orange-colored mountains form along the sides of her heels.

They set their towels down and run towards the edge of the pier. She crashes into the water. Bing. The clasp of her bikini top flies open for all the world to see. Her face reddens like a tomato. Now two tomatoes are hanging out. She pulls her top shut trying to push one side of the clasp into the other, but it’s pointless. The thing is busted. With a hand across her chest, she runs from the water, leaps down, snatches the towel from the sand, and wraps it around her body. She shouldn’t have done that cannonball after all.

Thanks for reading!

I am #46 on the linky list if you feel so inclined to vote for me. You can place your vote for any of the entries at Rachael Harrie’s Third Campaigner Challenge blog post.

 

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Oct 112011
 

We’re having unseasonably warm weather in Chicago right now, which makes me think of this past summer and my time in Boston.

While in Boston my family and I took a day trip to Salem. Why Salem? Well, because of Nathaniel Hawthorne of course. It’s where The House of the Seven Gables is located and I just had to go. Turns out, it was pretty amazing!

Here’s what I remember from the tour:

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father died when he was just five years old. After his death, Hawthorne’s mother struggled to make ends meet and turned to her family for help.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a shy child often keeping to himself, and as he grew, so did his desire for writing. He always had a writer’s spirit.

He stayed holed-up in his room in this house and wrote. His mother and two sisters kept his writing secret as they knew how important it was to him. His mother believed in him so much that she would bring dinner up to his room so that he could continue to write without interruption. Even though he had some support around him, he never thought any of the work he produced was any good. Sound familiar?

Hawthorne’s uncle pressured him to go to college and he did go, but he hid his desire to be a writer. Choosing to be a writer wasn’t necessarily received with open arms back then either.

But he continued on and wrote two very famous books in classic American literature – The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables among other things.

And that’s what I think it means to have a writer’s spirit. He always had the desire to write despite the odds against him. He could’ve quit at any time. Many people probably would’ve, but for whatever reason, he didn’t and I think that’s kind of remarkable. To me, he is a true writer’s writer.

If you’re ever in Salem and you’re interested in Hawthorne, I say visit The House of the Seven Gables and Hawthorne’s childhood home. You will not be disappointed.

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Oct 042011
 

I’ve recently re-written my chapter synopsis and changed the storyline for my middle grade novel. This means I am in the middle of a major overhaul. I am cutting, pasting, re-writing, and adding in new bits of information. Trust me when I say, it’s for the best.

My MG novel is in pieces and it’s making me anxious. I’m second guessing and editing when I should be writing. I feel like I’m walking the line between sanity and insanity, between being normal one minute and then sputtering some bizarre thought out loud, when such thoughts should remain unsaid, between wanting to sleep and worrying.

Who knew that such an undertaking could lead to madness? Okay, maybe I knew. I was warned. I knew the signs, but the descent into madness is a slow one, easily missed if you aren’t paying attention and I wasn’t paying attention. So here I am.

I’ve completed my chapter synopsis, character analysis, and my two-sentence pitch. I started writing my proposal. I’m gathering lit agent information. I write and read every day.

I’m not worried about getting it all done. I know myself. I know I’ll get it done. I always do. I just need to relax.

Now, how do I do that?

I normally…

1. Sit in silence.
2. Breathe deep.
3. Drink a hot cup of coffee.
4. Eat candy, cheese, or nuts.
5. Read.
6. Shop.
7. Vent.
8. Go to the movies.
9. Sing songs to my son.

And if all else fails,

10. I make myself a drink.

Share with me how you did it. What are some ways you all relaxed through the novel writing process?

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Apr 182011
 

The last Crusader challenge has fallen upon us and here it is:

Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge: In 300 words or less, write a passage (it can be an excerpt from your WIP, flash fiction, a poem, or any other writing) that shows (rather than tells) the following:

  • you’re scared and hungry
  • it’s dusk
  • you think someone is following you
  • and just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: shimmer, saccadic, substance, and salt.

Here is my entry:

Her eyes grew wide, her face hot, her heart pounding. A growl roared from her stomach. Shut up, shut up. She darted forward and stepped ever so carefully on the cracked floor. Reaching an icy brick wall, she placed her cheek next to it letting the cold sink in before licking. She cringed at the saltiness and wiped the disgusting taste from her tongue.

A boom shook the place; the vibrations ran through her body like a subwoofer. Did somebody push over a dumpster? She spun around, her foot caught. She pulled on her ankle. Rubber soles slapped the floor. She yanked it out and ran.

“Who’s there?” she screeched.

The hairs on her forearms stood up as the edge of the doorway made its way under her fingertips. She reached down. A cold, metal knob saluted her. She twisted. The door flew open. Darkness dripped from the hallway. She sprinted down the corridor; her hands shaking, her eyes saccadic. She grabbed her chest and felt around the pockets of her pants. Her inhaler was gone. There was a wheeze, a misstep, a fall. Get up dammit!

A light shimmered in the shadows. She used her last bit of energy to pounce like a panther and push.

It was dusk, but the streetlamps illuminated the downtown sky. A congested sidewalk filled with laughing tourists passed. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she rushed across the street, bumping into people along the way.

“Watch where you’re going moron.”

A smile crawled on her face. She was alive and still in Chicago. She took a deep breath. It smelled like rain on top of hot concrete.

It was the substance crazy dreams were made of.

***

The end for now.  To learn more about the Crusade, please visit: Rach Writes.

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Mar 102011
 

A month is all it took to get 103 followers. That’s it – one month. I now know the secret to getting blog readers. All it takes is, wait for it, wait for it, PARTICIPATION. I believe that joining online events, commenting on other people’s blogs and re-posting your blog links on Twitter and Facebook increases your readership. And as much as I like to pretend that I don’t care who is reading, the truth is that I do. I want readers and I want people to comment.  So, I want thank all of my followers to date. Thank you, thank you!

This week I’ve been thinking about self-belief and how so many people are scared to take the next step. Well, I say don’t let fear halt your life.

I have fallen victim to the fear monster as recently as last year when I started doubting myself and my writing. I was in a funk and I needed to get out of it quick if I was ever going to create again. And then one day I had an epiphany. I know who I am and I know what I need to do. Two weeks before the New Year, I took action and made a list. Here’s what was on it:

Join writing societies or associations
Meet more writers
Attend writing conferences
Find a mentor
Get my short stories published
Go to more Chicago literary events
Publish my collaborative children’s book
Finish my middle grade novel

I’m happy to say that I’ve already completed some of these goals including joining the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Through the SCBWI Illinois Chapter, I was able to attend a writing conference/workshop in mid January. It was all about creating your own marketing plan. There was a lot of pertinent information, but one of the most important things I learned was how to generate potential sales for your children’s book. I wanted to share some of these with you. Please note that I have not tried these, but I believe they are useful for any writer.

Here are some ways to generate sales for your book:

  • Network at events, through writing groups and conferences and through social networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Create relationships/connections through your personal website or blog and get blurbs written about your book.
  • Ask blog owners and other authors if they are interested in interviewing you about your book and offer to do the same for them.
  • Call bookstores and schedule readings and book signings.
  • Be there for the book sellers as much as possible.
  • Join professional or trade associations.
  • Go to American Library Association (ALA) Conferences.
  • Guerilla market through t-shirts, postcards, bookmarks, etc.
  • Use word of mouth to promote your book.
  • Talk about your book to librarians and teachers and see if they’d be open to you scheduling a reading.
  • Schedule 30-40 school visits per year.
  • Create a swag bag for school librarians and teachers. Include a copy of your signed book and postcards of your fellow author friends that are also doing the library/school visit rounds. Think about karma and the idea of what comes around, goes around.
  • Find connections. Can you co-market your book with another product?
  • Try to get your book on Tag.
  • Put your book on amazon and have it formatted for the Nook and Kindle. Your publisher may already do this.
  • Use keywords on your web site and blog to help promote your work.
  • Send info to local chapters (Mondo Times).
  • Follow up with people constantly.
  • Write a press release about your book and submit it.
  • Contact children’s indoor playrooms and schedule a book reading/signing.
  • Think about promoting through: http://www.authorbuzz.com/kids/
  • Promote your book on home schooling and mommy web sites by purchasing ad space.

What are some other ways you can think of to generate sales for your books?

I’m also attending another conference/workshop this month and I can’t wait.

As far finding a mentor goes, earlier this year, I contacted an old professor of mine, Mark Costello. He is somebody I respect and one of the best teachers at the University of Illinois. He is a great writer and gives excellent writing advice. Most importantly, he believes in the craft.

Through our letter writing exchange, (who does that anymore?!) he reminded me that you can’t let anybody dampen your writing spirit, you need to self-teach and you need to go forward. It reignited the fire in me and for that I will forever be grateful.

I realized that although it would be nice to have a mentor, I can be my own and so can you. You just need to believe in yourself and your work. You need to keep reading, writing and submitting and you can’t stop. If you get the opportunity to mentor another writer and you have the time, I say do it. It’s always good to pay it forward.

You can check out Mark Costello’s work here:

The Murphy Stories

Middle Murphy

In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, writing and submitting. I have a series of short stories that I am editing and two are out and about looking for homes. I have also found a trustworthy and incredible editor for my work, which will help me to complete the rest of my short stories in a timely manner.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

Join writing societies or associations
Meet more writers
Attend writing conferences
Find a mentor
Get my short stories published
Go to more Chicago literary events
Finish and submit my collaborative children’s book
Finish my middle grade novel

That leaves me with half of the things to complete by the end of this year. Will I do it? I can’t say, but I’ll try.

I wanted to leave all of my readers with a few words – make a plan, take action and keep on truckin’ no matter what. Like Mae West said, “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

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