Your words can speak volumes, but only if you write them…and write them well.

Improve Your Essays with Amy Paturel

April 12th, 2010 by Ami

I’ve told you all how much I loved Amy Paturel’s Essay Writing e-course. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about writing personal essays and getting them published. If that’s you, now’s your chance to win access to Amy’s course for free.

The contest deadline is April 15, so head over and enter. Class starts May 3 and runs for six weeks. What are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose and plenty of information, support and guidance to gain.

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in the writing life, writing in general having 156 comments »

{Creativity Corner} Sirens

April 2nd, 2010 by Ami

ambulanceOne night, when I was home from college for winter break, I was driving home from some outing or another. Over the song coming from my radio, I heard fire sirens in the distance, but didn’t think much of it. As I crested a hill near the house my family was renting, I saw the flash of emergency vehicle lights and my heart began pounding. Were those fire trucks in our driveway? Was that an ambulance? Was someone hurt?

Without thinking, I sped up, whipping around the curve toward the house and pulling into the driveway. There was smoke coming from the basement doors and everyone was standing around. There was my mother, my stepfather, my siblings. I counted off, mentally inventorying my family to make sure everyone was safe. It ended up being nothing serious — an issue with the furnace — but ever since that day I can’t help but tense every time I hear a siren or see those flashing lights.

This week’s {Creativity Corner} prompt is a story spark.

The sounds of sirens fill your ears as several emergency vehicles pass you on your way home. You don’t think anything of it until you pull onto your block and see the police cars and an ambulance parked in front of your neighbor’s home. The yard is cordoned off with yellow caution tape and you pass the scene slowly, wondering what is going on…

Finish the story in 750 words or less. It can be serious or silly, a mystery, sci-fi or a romance. You could even use the prompt to remind you of an experience you had and write about that instead. Whatever you choose, have fun with it.

When you’re finished, please feel free to share something about your letter-writing experience in the comments. Remember, these are exercises. The results don’t have to be perfect. But to benefit from them, you actually have to do the work. Now head to your corners and come out writing!

(Image by MSVG)

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in creativity corner, luring the muse having 167 comments »

Creating a Critique Group that Works

March 29th, 2010 by Ami

I’ve mentioned before what a fan I am of critique groups. No matter what form it takes, I think a critique group is essential for the growth of a writer, and I’m extremely lucky to be a member of not one, but two, very different yet equally helpful groups. Not every critique group works for every writer, though, so how do you create a critique group that works for you?

Consider Form

While in some ways a writer is a writer, form and genre can make a huge difference when it comes to the effectiveness of critique groups. Expecting a poet to provide plot criticism or a novelist to critique poetry may not be helpful. Instead, try to build a group of like-minded writers. If you write essays, find other essayists or at least other nonfiction writers. If you’re a poet, look for other poets. Writing a sci-fi thriller? Build a group with other novelists. Joining a group of writers familiar with your form will mean everyone in the group has a common purpose and understands the elements necessary for quality writing within that form.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in the writing life, writing in general having 60 comments »

{Creativity Corner} Be the Cookie

March 26th, 2010 by Ami

oatmeal raisin cookiesI have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good cookie. In fact, I’d have to say that cookies are one of my favorite treats. Especially warm, straight-from-the-oven chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies. Mmmm…my mouth is watering just typing that.

I’m sure many of us have childhood memories of baking or decorating cookies. Normally for {Creativity Corner} we’d write about those memories. But this week I think we should try something different.

Write a scene or story from the perspective of your favorite cookie. Need some suggestions? Try these:

- You’re a Girl Scout Thin Mint traveling hundreds of miles to your new owner who will promptly open a sleeve and begin working her way down to you.

- You’re a chocolate chip cookie who starts out as multiple ingredients and evolves into a single, solid and delicious treat.

- You’re a plain old snickerdoodle cookie and your brother is a chewy chocolate peanut butter cookie. Write about your relationship.

Try one (or all) of the above suggestions, or come up with one of your own. Have fun with it.

When you’re finished, please feel free to share a paragraph or two of your writing in the comments or post the exercise on your own blog and leave a comment here with a link to your writing. Remember, these are exercises. The results don’t have to be perfect. But to benefit from them, you actually have to do the work. Now head to your corners and come out writing!

(Image by norwichnuts)

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in creativity corner, luring the muse having 90 comments »

{Creativity Corner} Letters

March 19th, 2010 by Ami

lettersA couple of weeks ago, we wrote about phone calls. This week we’re writing (or writing about) letters.

In middle school and junior high, I had several pen pals. Going to the Post Office to get the mail was always exciting because I never knew when I might get another envelope addressed to me with a hand-written note inside. The contents of the letters were never very exciting, but the act of opening and reading something written just for my eyes was worth the walk or bike ride to the mailbox.

After a long hiatus filled with emails, phone calls and the occasional card, I’ve taken to writing letters again. I don’t always get them in return, but sitting down with pretty stationary and a nice pen to write something is just as nice. Knowing that when the recipient opens the mailbox and sees that hand-addressed envelope amidst the junk mail and bills, she’ll smile and know I took extra time and care to send her something I had to put a stamp on.

For this week’s {Creativity Corner} prompt:

Write a letter to someone — anyone. It can be someone you haven’t seen in a while or someone you see every day. You don’t even have to mail it if you don’t want to. You could even write a letter to your (past or future) self.

In the letter, open up to the reader. Share a secret, a piece of advice or a story. Write as much or as little as you want. The only rule is that you must use a pen and some pretty stationary (or notebook paper, if you don’t have any stationary on hand).

When you’ve finished, consider how this exercise made you feel. I often find that when I set out to write a letter it ends up heading in a different direction than I initially intended. I’m more open than I had planned to be and more willing to share things that I hadn’t planned to share. Whether you actually send your letter or not, consider writing letters more frequently as a way to explore your thoughts and emotions. Like writing in a journal, writing a letter can be a freeing experience.

When you’re finished, please feel free to share something about your letter-writing experience in the comments. Remember, these are exercises. The results don’t have to be perfect. But to benefit from them, you actually have to do the work. Now head to your corners and come out writing!

(Image by Pink Sherbet Photography)

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in creativity corner, luring the muse having 246 comments »

Follow Up on That Lead — Now

March 16th, 2010 by Ami

I’ll admit that I’ve had some difficulty with follow-up in the past. I usually assume that if an editor or client doesn’t get back to me, they’re just not interested and I move on. Now that I’m trying more diligently to build up my freelance clientele, however, I’ve had to change that thinking pattern.

It turns out that there are plenty of reasons why a client might not get back to you, and most of them have nothing to do with their lack of interest.

1. They’re busy. It’s very possible that they just might not have found time to answer your email or return your call. After a reasonable amount of time has gone by (no more than a week) a follow-up email or phone call can be the perfect prompt to get the ball rolling.

2. They didn’t get (or forgot about) your message. Even the most organized people can overlook emails, forget items on their to-do lists, or misplace messages. A follow-up on your part can put you back on their radar. Even if the client doesn’t have work for you right away, the follow-up indicates you’re still interested and available if and when work comes up.

3. They’re overwhelmed with other responsibilities or deadlines. Again, this comes down to busy-ness, but we all have long lists of things to do. When several items on that list are urgent or coming due, things like answering emails or reading queries may fall to the wayside. A check-in via phone call or email to make sure you’re still in the client’s queue is totally acceptable. Express understanding for their delay in responding and then ask when you should follow up again.

4. The budget is tight. Clients may be uncomfortable letting you know that the money to pay you just isn’t available, so they may fail to get back to you. A quick follow-up call will let you express your continued interest in completing the work and may even provide the opportunity for you to discuss a payment plan or other options that the client hadn’t considered previously.

These are only a few reasons why a potential client might not respond to a query or quote, so follow up really is imperative to landing that business or assignment. While it takes a little extra time on your part, it really is worth the effort. Take my own recent experience as an example:

A potential client contacted me and requested a quote for some work. The client responded to the quote within 24 hours, requesting some clips and contact information for a reference, which I immediately provided. Then I waited. And waited. After several weeks with no response, I decided she must not have been interested and wrote it off as a lost opportunity.

But then my coach encouraged me to follow up anyway. After a little hemming and hawing, I finally picked up the phone and made the call. And do you know what happened? After a month of no news, that potential client became an actual client in the span of about 15 minutes.

The lesson here? Don’t let business opportunities fall through the cracks. Follow up on every query or client lead. Some of them won’t pan out, but some of them will. And that means more money in your pocket.

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in from the trenches, the biz, the writing life having 218 comments »

{Creativity Corner} Flowers

March 12th, 2010 by Ami

rose blossomIt may be the warmer weather we’re experiencing or just the spring fever I’ve been feeling lately, but I can’t get enough of fresh flowers. Since the calendar flipped to March, I’ve been anticipating the telltale sign of daffodil and crocus stems pushing up through the dirt. It’s way too early for them, but that doesn’t stop me from craning my neck to look for them.

When I was a kid, my grandmother always had tulips in beds along the front and sides of her house. In the area I grew up in, they wouldn’t bloom until mid-May, usually right around Mother’s Day. So every year, my sister and I would go over to Grandma’s house — she lived next door — get scissors and a cup of water, and go out to pick a few tulips for my mother.

A lot of my flower memories include my grandmother. She had a lilac bush in her backyard and each summer she would send me out to cut some stems for her kitchen.

I remember marveling over the tiny bell-shaped blossoms of the lily-of-the-valley plants along the back side of her house. They were so white and so perfectly formed.

And later, it was the flowers we took to plant on her grave that I remember, the purple and yellow pansies that we’d line up along her small, nondescript headstone.

What flower stories do you have? For this week’s {Creativity Corner} prompt:

Write about a time you received flowers unexpectedly, or an experience or memory that centered around flowers. Write as many details as you can remember and dig deep into the emotion, as well as the action, of the experience.

As always, have fun with this exercise. Write freely. Don’t delete and don’t judge. Just write!

When you’re finished, please feel free to share a paragraph or two of your writing in the comments or post the exercise on your own blog and leave a comment here with a link to your writing. Remember, these are exercises. The results don’t have to be perfect. But to benefit from them, you actually have to do the work. Now head to your corners and come out writing!

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in creativity corner, luring the muse having 45 comments »

{Creativity Corner} Phone Call

March 5th, 2010 by Ami

telephoneAs a transplant who lives hundreds of miles from my family and some of my best friends, I spend a lot of time on the phone. Both mundane statements and monumental announcements are made in the same manner — via telephone call — because I don’t have many other options.

I suppose I could send an email, but that’s much more impersonal. At least with a phone call the person on the other end of the line can hear my voice, my inflection, my emotion.

If I had the money and the time, a flight and a conversation over a good meal might suit some announcements better. Unfortunately, my budget and my job keep me from hopping on a 747 every time I have news I’d like to share.

So the phone it is. And it works quite well in most cases. In fact, the phone works so well, that I can think of several phone calls that have been pivotal experiences in my life. Which brings me to this week’s {Creativity Corner} prompt:

Write about a phone call that changed your life (or the life of your character) in some small or large way.

Where were you when you made or received the call? What were you wearing? What time of the day was it? What did you surroundings look like?

Who was on the other end of the line? Did you call him/her or did the other person call you? Had you been anticipating the call or was it unexpected or spontaneous?

What was the conversation like? What was said? How did you (or the other person) react? How did the conversation end?

In what ways were things different after you hung up the phone?

Use this prompt to recall memories about a particular phone conversation by free-writing your way through it. If you’re writing from your character’s perspective, don’t think too much about what your character(s) should or shouldn’t be doing or saying. Just consider the situation and then write the scene out quickly.

You can edit or flesh it out later. Right now, you’re experimenting and investigating. There’s no pressure to produce a perfect vignette or scene. Just write.

When you’re finished, please feel free to share a paragraph or two of your writing in the comments or post the exercise on your own blog and leave a comment here with a link to your writing. Remember, these are exercises. The results don’t have to be perfect. But to benefit from them, you actually have to do the work. Now head to your corners and come out writing!

(Image by Esparta)

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in creativity corner, luring the muse having 101 comments »

Want to Improve Your Writing? Join a Critique Group

March 3rd, 2010 by Ami

During the essay class I finished recently, the instructor impressed upon us the importance of finding a critique group to join. I’ve been part of a nonfiction critique group that meets monthly for more than two years now and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing, so I could certainly agree with her. And the more I participated in the class, giving and receiving feedback on pieces the class participants shared, the more strongly I came to believe that the instructor was right.

Critique groups have plenty of benefits:

1. Creativity loves company. I’m a firm believer that where two or more creative spirits gather, creativity will flow. Conversations, suggestions and even criticisms can spark ideas for new pieces. As your work (or that of fellow members) is discussed, excitement can build for writing or other creative pursuits.

2. It’s like school, only more fun. As part of a critique group you’ll find yourself learning more than you might have imagined. Some people in your group may be grammar Nazis. Some may have an eye for plot inconsistency. Others may be able to pull the real story out of you by asking the perfect questions. Not only that, but each member will bring unique experiences and individual belief systems to their writing that might expand your own ideas, thoughts and beliefs. If open to the topics, comments and suggestions of others, group members can learn and grow as writers (and maybe as people, too).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in from the trenches, the writing life, writing in general having 127 comments »

{Creativity Corner} Citrus

February 26th, 2010 by Ami

orange and lemonIt’s Friday: time for another {Creativity Corner} prompt. This week we’re writing about fruit — citrus fruit to be exact. Think oranges, lemons, limes. You know what I mean.

I love fresh apples in fall and berries in the spring and summer, but my favorite fruit fills the winter gap and grows on trees hundreds of miles from me. During the cooler months, I eat all the oranges, tangerines, clementines, and grapefruit I can stomach. I crave their tangy sweetness, the sour bite at the back of my tongue, their juicy segments that pop in my mouth. After lunch, for breakfast, right before bed, I eat them anytime and all the time.

Choose a citrus fruit and describe it in as much detail as you can. (If you don’t have a piece of the fruit at your disposal, use your imagination or find some pictures to spark your senses while you write.)

Pay attention to the light (or lack thereof), the color(s) of the skin, the scent, the shape (and irregularity of it). Once you’ve written about your whole fruit, slice it open on a plate and write about how it looks now. How is it different? The same? What does it taste like?

Try this exercise with as many types of citrus fruit as you like. Or compare and contrast two pieces of fruit. Use novel words. Practice your metaphors. Get flowery in your language and then be sparse. Take your time and dig into the essence of the citrus. Have fun with it.

When you’re finished, please feel free to share a paragraph or two of your writing in the comments or post the exercise on your own blog and leave a comment here with a link to your writing. Remember, these are exercises. The results don’t have to be perfect. But to benefit from them, you actually have to do the work. Now head to your corners and come out writing!

(Image by Muffet)

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Kirtsy
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • Technorati
  • Reddit

Posted in creativity corner, luring the muse having 34 comments »

About Write Out Loud

Got a case of the uninspired blues? Is your plot stuck in a rut? Are you having trouble creating copy for your new brochure? Afraid of failure? Unsure of where to send your work? If you're a writer looking for inspiration, direction or just a plain kick in the pants, Write Out Loud is the place for you.

Your words can speak volumes, but only if you write them...and write them well.

Read more About Write Out Loud.