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Guest post: Creativity and Healing by Fran Dorf

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of how writing can be therapeutic, is brought to you by psychological novelist Fran Dorf.

Creativity and Healing: Let The Little One Inside You Sing

Why do we feel so satisfied when we engage our creativity?  Why is singing, writing a play, cooking a wonderful meal, designing a building or outfit, composing a song or sonata, capturing a particular moment in a photograph, or coming up with a new idea, method, or a way of looking at things in the brainstorming session at work so fulfilling?  Why does using our imagination feel so wonderful? Why does making the metaphor that perfectly describes something by comparing it to something else feel so gratifying?  Why do people make art anyway?  Why do people write?

A man is struggling to go on after losing someone he loves.  A beloved wife.  I ask him to try a simple writing exercise, and he runs with it.  He is not a “poet,” but he produces poetry, beautiful and true.  He has turned pain into beauty, and he finds the process satisfying, cathartic, healing.

Or take my own experience.  I was already a writer when I lost my son in 1994, and yet afterward I simply refused to write for a number of years.  I refused because writing was what I did before, and that life seemed over.  But the problem was I was cutting off my most available path to self-healing: my writing, my own creativity. It was only out of sheer desperation that I began writing again three years later.  It turned out that the process of writing (my novel, Saving Elijah) was the very thing that helped me free myself from the prison and the merciless solitude of my sorrow.  Writing that book saved my life.  Everything I write now contributes in some way to my own self-healing process.

And it isn’t the applause we might crave at the end of our creative process that drives us, or that heals us.  It’s the process itself.  A writing mentor of mine always says, “Writing is a process, not an event.” This is, of course, true of all creative acts.  If you’re worrying about how what you’re doing will be received, your desire for acclaim, or your fear of rejection, you simply aren’t in the process.

I was recently honored and thrilled to be a part of an extraordinary gathering in San Rafael, California called The Healing Art of Writing.  The conference drew physicians, medical students,  psychologists, social workers, poets, a musician or two, and other helpers, healers, artists, and writers interested in the healing power of creative expression, in this case writing.  Just being in the presence of so many people accessing their own creativity or learning to facilitate creativity in others to heal was incredibly moving and healing.

Why is the creative process so healing?  I’m convinced that when we engage in creative expression–through writing, art, coming up with that new idea, or in whatever way we can–we feel healed because we have moved back into or toward our original state of creative bliss, a state from which we gradually separated in response to the reality of life and the demands of a sometimes harsh world.

Consider my grand daughter.  She’s two, and her creative spirit is still completely pure. Every moment of every day she is deep into her own creative process, she lives in a wellspring of pure joy at her own imagination and creativity. When she walks down the street, she doesn’t just walk, she claps, dances, or skips, and she sings or tells herself a story at the top of her little lungs.  Her song might be one she’s making up or one my daughter taught her, and her story might be about the moon and stars, or Elmo, or a purple cow.  She doesn’t care that cows are black and white, in her mind and creative imagination they can also be purple. Everyone on the street smiles, as if to acknowledge how adorable she is, maybe to share in the knowledge that children are such creative little souls who unlike the rest of us can live so in the moment, so in the creative process, unconcerned with outcome.  Watch my granddaughter now as she becomes angry and has a tantrum when you tell her to do something other than the incredibly creative thing she is doing at this very moment.  She doesn’t care that you might be trying to save her life when you insist she stop clapping and hold your hand because you’re going to cross the busy street. All she knows is that you’ve interrupted her creative process, her joyous in-the-moment creativity.

You can see the effect this kind of interruption has as a child gets older.  Few ten or fourteen-year-olds would skip and dance down the street singing at the top of their lungs, for fear of the outcome, the rejection.

A loving, nurturing, encouraging environment in childhood supports a person’s ability to appropriately access his or her own creativity as a source of self-healing. I always feel so sad when I sit with people who were subjected to a non-nurturing, restrictive, neglectful, abusive, traumatic, or rigid environment that stifled their once-brilliant creativity, and even made them lose their ability to connect back to it as a way of self-healing. Some are virtually paralyzed by self-condemnation, just as I was after my son died.  Some cannot even begin imagine their lives differently.  They continue to think the condemning thoughts and feel the hurtful feelings others have foisted upon them, a process that destroys rather than creates.

So remember that no matter what field you’re in, or where you are in your life, or what trauma you’ve experienced, you always have the power to connect to your original state of creative bliss, and even use the process of creating as a way of self-healing. That little child is still in there, singing blissfully at the top of her lungs.  All you have to do is find her.

That was really touching. Thank you, Fran.

Fran Dorf is a psychotherapist and writer, most notably author of three highly acclaimed, internationally published psychological novels, ‘A Reasonable Madness’ (Birch Lane/Signet), ‘Flight’ (Dutton, Signet), and ‘Saving Elijah’ (Putnam). ‘Saving Elijah’, which a starred Publisher’s Weekly review called, “Stunning, spellbinding, crackling with suspense, dark humor and provocative questions,” has just been released on Kindle. Fran’s essays, poetry, and articles are published in a variety of lit journals, anthologies, and online sites, and she’s currently working on a memoir.  She blogs on life, grief, creativity, healing, psychological topics, and “surviving this crazy life,” at www.frandorf.com, THE BRUISED MUSE. ‘Saving Elijah’ is available on Amazon.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with children’s author and illustrator Carrie King – the four hundred and eighty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

 

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Author interview no.401 with non-fiction writer Kim Dalferes

Welcome to the four hundred and first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Kim Dalferes. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.

Morgen: Hello, Kim. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.

Kim: I came to be a writer, in part, because of my nana’s apple pie recipe.  Nana made the best apple pies, but she never wrote down the recipe.  Now she’s gone and no one in the family has been able to recreate her masterpiece.  I came to realize that if I want my side of any story to be remembered, I better put it in writing.  I’m based in Virginia and I’ve lived here for seventeen years. However, I consider myself a native Floridian, having lived the first 30 years of my life in Florida.

Morgen: That’s a new one – becoming a writer because of a recipe… I love it. :) And Florida, how lovely, all that sun we Brits are missing at the moment. I heard on the radio this morning that our summer will start in September… just as the school’s go back! What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?

Kim: I’m a non-fiction writer, mostly essays.  I’ve done technical writing in my professional field (criminal and juvenile justice) for over twenty years.  It’s just in the past four years that I’ve branched out a bit into essays and stories.

Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?

Kim: My first book; I Was In Love With A Short Man Once (Friesen Press) was published in November 2011.  I’ve also had stories published in online literary magazines such as Hippocampus Magazine and Marco Polo Arts Magazine.

I do not write under a pseudonym.  However, you will see a few references to my nickname: Kimba.

Morgen: I have. :) Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?

Kim: Oh, tons!  At first, when they started rolling in, it was very deflating.  But after awhile I’ve come to find that rejections can be very useful.  I’ve looked back over rejections from a few years ago and they were right (!); with a little perspective I can see where I needed to improve my writing and my voice.

Morgen: Second opinions are vital aren’t they, a shame when they have to come in that form but as you say, they help us grow. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?

Kim: My story for Hippocampus Magazine was voted most memorable by the readers for June 2011.  That was a nice ego boost.

Morgen: I bet. :) Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?

Kim: I would love to work with an agent.  But, so far I haven’t connected with the right person.  I do think that agents can vastly improve a writer’s chances of working with a top-notch publisher, especially for the new writers out there, the publishing industry can seem very daunting.  That being said, there are also some great Self-Publishing or Print-On-Demand companies out there who can help you navigate the terrain.  I work with Friesen Press and they have been just terrific.

Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks?

Kim: Yes, I Was In Love With A Short Man Once is available both as an e-book and as a Kindle download.

Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

Kim: Any author these days has to be willing to self-promote and market.  Even if you have a great agent and an amazing publisher, you have to be willing to put yourself out there: book signings and readings and radio interviews, etc.  People want to connect with the writer, so it can’t just be about selling books.

I’m considering some product development and branding to go along with the book: bumper stickers, buttons, magnets, etc.  I’ve received some great feedback for a few key catch phrases.  We’ll see how that goes; I think it would be kind of fun if one of the funny phrases from the book ended up on people’s cars!

Morgen: Absolutely. I’d have one. :) Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?

Kim: What a fun question!

Morgen: Thank you. :)

Kim: Since I Was In Love With a Short Man Once is an essay collection that is written in a memoir style, it would be a bit narcissistic to say I was my own favourite character!  However, I do have favourite essays or book chapters.  I love Naked In a Hot Tub In Vegas because it highlights the fun I have with my favourite gal pals.  Rubberbands describes my wonderful husband; so that is also a favourite.  And, Zamboni is a story about my son and all-time favourite subject Jimmy, so that story would have to be included on my all-stars list.   As for who would play me in the movie, I think Allison Janney would be a perfect fit.

Morgen: West Wing fans will know her well. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book? How important do you think they are?

Kim: A wonderful cover designer, Colin Parks, designed the cover of I Was In Love With a Short Man Once, and he did a remarkable job of creating something that was whimsical and funny, without crossing over into too-cute territory.  As for the title, it’s a very integral part of the book, and you have to read the final chapter of the book – PS, What’s the Deal With the Title? – to fully understand its true meaning.

Morgen: Intriguing… What are you working on at the moment / next?

Kim: I’m currently working on my second book, tentatively titled Magic Power Fishing Panties, the Continuing Tales of a Crazy Southern Irish Gal.  Any agents out there; I would love to talk to you about this next book! :)

Morgen: Let’s hope they’re reading this. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Kim: I do manage to write most days, either for my blog, or stories for the second book, or freelancing for other publications.  I also have my day job to keep up with, which requires more technical in-field writing. I don’t seem to often suffer from writer’s block; it’s more just a lack of time.

Morgen: Oh yes, I know that feeling (she says with 192 emails waiting for my attention). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?

Kim: I outline stories on my Blackberry at very weird moments.  I’m working on one right now that is based on the notes I wrote on my Facebook status while I was trapped on a city bus for five hours during last year’s blizzard.  I had been working all day as a facilitator for a client meeting in DC and then, afterwards, I was trying to get back home to Fairfax.  I found myself surrounded by strangers in just the most surreal situation.

Morgen: Wow. Do you have a method for creating your characters and their names?

Kim: I actually have to sometimes change the names of those in my stories to protect the innocent (and the sober!).

Morgen: :) Do you write any poetry or short stories?

Kim: I would love to try fiction, but I’m just not that talented.

Morgen: Ah, how do you know? A German friend once said she couldn’t but I said that I love the not knowing what’s going to come out so maybe you could try. It’s all about practice and you write a lot anyway… I’d say the 5-hour bus blizzard would be a great place to start. :) Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?

Kim: I’ve found that this method works best for me: outline, write, re-write, self-edit, walk away for at least a day, and then have someone else edit.  I do find that as I progress more as a writer I need less copyediting and more content editing.

Morgen: Good plan. Do you have to do much research?

Kim: I have to do more research than you would expect.  For example, for I Was In Love With a Short Man Once I had to research things such as the exact wording and word count of the Preamble (fifty-two words, by the way) and the legislation that created the Free Lunch Program.

Morgen: :) What point of view do you find most to your liking?

Kim: Most of my writing is in first person.

Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?

Kim: Favourite: when a total stranger – someone not obligated to me by blood, marriage, or friendship – contacts me and tells me that they love my writing or it inspired them to do something.  Least favourite: thinking a piece is completely finished, and then finding a minor typo like a misplaced period outside of a quotation mark.

Morgen: I’d agree with your favourite, although it’s right up there with the aforementioned creating something out of nothing. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Kim: If possible, write for yourself.  I know it is a bit of a cliché, but if it’s an important subject for you, the story will write itself.  Oh, and secure yourself a good copyeditor – they are worth their weight in gold.

Morgen: You have to be happy with what you write – if you’re not then readers likely won’t be either. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?

Kim: Erma Bombeck, Chelsey Handler, and Mae West (did you know that Mae West was a playwright?).  I would serve fabulous, decadent desserts and lots of wine.

Morgen: I didn’t know that about Mae. She was a very clever lady. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?

Kim: Erma Bombeck is my personal hero.  Here are her words to live and write by: “Hook ‘em with the lead. Hold ‘em with laughter. Exit with a quip they won’t forget.” 

Morgen: I love that. :) What do you do when you’re not writing?

Kim: My day job is that I work as a criminal and juvenile justice public policy consultant.  I am also a crazed Estate Sale Addict.  Drives my husband nuts – he equates it to scavenging through dead people’s trash.  I love the hunt for a bargain and a treasure.

Morgen: We have car boot sales over here. I used to go every Sunday (sometimes to three or more in a morning) but less so this year. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?

Kim: Friesen Press has a terrific blog – The Fearless Self Publisher – where they offer great advice to writers. I also love the website of Duolit and I highly recommend following them on Twitter – they offer great advice and tips.  I also find myself re-tweeting quite a bit of the information from Elizabeth Craig. Writers Digest chose this site as one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” in 2011.

Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?

Kim: I find forums very valuable and I’m involved in quite a few through both LinkedIn and Writer’s Digest Community.

Morgen: I didn’t know Writer’s Digest had a community. LinkedIn is brilliant and came to my rescue when I was getting low on interviewees (hence the 192 emails and booking into January 2013!). Where can we find out about you and your work?

Kim: My website is www.kimdalferes.com and it provides a lot of useful information including upcoming events, a synopsis of my book and where it can be purchased, my blog, an About the Author, and a few other fun items such as an Author’s FAQ and Questions for Book Clubs.  From my website you can also contact me and follow me on Face Book and Twitter.  I also just added a Pinterest icon so you can “pin” I Was In Love With a Short Man Once to your boards.  If you’re not on Pinterest, go check it out – it is crazy addictive!

Morgen: I’m not and interviewee Phyllis Zimbler Miller guest blogged for me so I’m certainly going to. :) Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Kim: Just that, in addition to my husband and son, the stories in my book were inspired by my girlfriends. All women need “get-out-of-jail” girlfriends.  The type of women who will bail you out of jail, no questions asked, or be sitting right next to you in the cell.  My get-out-of- jail girlfriends are my soul mates and my source of power.  I also recommend that in addition to surrounding yourself with gal pals, every woman should own at least one red coat.  You put on a pair of boots and a red coat and you can rule the world.

Morgen: What a wonderful image. I do indeed own a red coat so I’ll have to dig out some boots next time I wear it. Thank you, Kimba.

Kimberly “Kimba” J. Dalferes is a native Floridian, but has spent the past sixteen years pretending to be a Virginian. She is a bit worried that much of her current writing focuses on public transportation and she has no rational explanation as to why this is true. Her accomplishments have included successfully threading a sewing bobbin, landing a 35 pound Alaskan King salmon, and scoring a Chinese vase at an estate sale for $1. She recently discovered that she might be related to Princess Margaret Tudor, the sister of King Henry the VIII (on her mama’s side). A proud Florida State University graduate, she often sings the Seminole fight song out loud for no reason other than she still remembers all the words. She currently lives, works, and writes in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband Greg, dog Taz, and occasionally her son Jimmy, when he is home from college.

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If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.

If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.

Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel, which is being serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.

As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome critique for the four new writing groups listed below and / or flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays. For other opportunities see (see Opportunities on this blog).

The full details of the new online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, are:

Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group

We look forward to reading your comments.

 

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Author Spotlight no.87 – Garden Urthark

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the eighty-seventh, is of poet, essayist, short story author and novelist Garden Urthark.

Garden Urthark is the author of the Life Trilogy, which consists of three books illustrated by his wife, Sung Kim.

These books are Portraits Deep in the Castle, a collection of poems, stories, and essays, Self-Portrait of Somebody, and Other World, an epic mystery in five parts.

They present experience and analogies of experience in the life of an individual over a period of forty years (1970-2010).

A garden is an ideal or archetype that gives the Earth (Urth) a human shape.

Garden Urthark is an enterprise that contains, as in an ark, the revolutionary process of transforming reality into a vision of human love and freedom.

And now from the author himself:

Biographical Influences on Other World

In Other World, I wrote about the world I knew best, a world set in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.  When most people think of Washington, they think of politics—the White House, Capitol Hill—and politicians.

What they don’t think about, or are not likely to think about, is that Washington is also home to about 5.6 million people, that is, who live in the Washington metropolitan area, which includes suburbs in Virginia and Maryland, the two states that border the city.

I was born in a hospital in the suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, although our family actually lived in Northwest Washington for the first four years of my life.  Our family moved for one year to Norfolk, Virginia, then we moved back to Washington (the suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland) before we moved to Bethesda, where I did most of my growing up.

I went to college and graduate school locally, attending the University of Maryland in College Park for college (BA, English) and George Washington University in Washington, DC, for graduate school (MA, American Literature).

After graduate school, I remained in the Washington area.  I have seen the whole spectrum of people who live here, from the homes of the very wealthy, which I visited as a friend to boys who attended the prestigious Landon School with me, to the very poor, with whom I shared an apartment building on the shores of a vast ghetto while in graduate school (my apartment there was even robbed).

In order to gain experience as a writer, I have worked every kind of job in too many places possible to name.  Among these many jobs, I have worked as an English tutor at Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university in the world for deaf people; a copy boy for a major newspaper and editorial assistant for an editorial service, both in the National Press Building in Washington, DC; and an investigator on court-appointed cases handled by my uncle, a public defender in DC Superior Court.

These positions proved to be highly influential on the development of my novel Other World, particularly in that my uncle was murdered in 1990.  The murder translated into the murder of my main character’s (Moody Santo’s) deaf brother.  While a tutor at Gallaudet, I met my future wife, who is deaf.  She became the model for my deaf, Asian heroine, Norma Kim.  My experience in the National Press Building translated into my two journalist characters, one simply called Milstein, the other Dick Gilman (the suspected murderer of Moody’s brother).

I wrote about the world I knew best, hoping thereby to share the excitement, challenges, and drama of that world with readers, wherever they might be, through the hypothetical vantage point of Moody Santo’s epic quest for love and revenge.

Thank you very much, lovely to ‘meet’ you both. :)

Portraits Deep in the Castle is available in paperback from Amazon.com;

Other World is available as an eBook from Smashwords.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with multi-genre author Robert Spiller – the three hundred and seventh-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in ebooks, novels, poetry, writing

 

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Author Spotlight no.86 – Kathryn Jones

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the eighty-sixth, is of Christian and cozy mystery author Kathryn Jones.

Kathryn has been a published writer since 1987. She has published various newspaper stories, magazine articles, essays and short stories for teens and adults.  She is the author of: “A River of Stones”, a young adult fiction novel dealing with divorce published in 2002, and “Conquering your Goliaths—A Parable of the Five Stones”, a Christian novel published in January of 2012. Her newest creation, a “Conquering your Goliaths—Guidebook”, was published in February of 2012.

And now from the author herself:

I used to believe in writer’s block. It was a good excuse for not writing; kind of like the excuse I gave (and still give) for neglecting to mop my floors. I hate to mop floors because it takes so much time, and I used to have writer’s block because it took so much time to come up with something to write about. No more.

For the last few years I have decided there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Instead, I have many great ways to get my writing moving. Here are three of my favorites:

  • I have a binder filled with magazine pictures that I find interesting in one way or another. Most of them are ads. The great thing about ads is the words used to define the picture, words that help me to get started on my writing. The picture helps too because I can visualize a scene associated with it. One of my favorite pictures is of a man and a woman at the spa. Both have cucumbers on their eyes and a drink on a small end table to quench their thirst. They both seem content, but I can’t help wonder if the man is as content as he seems. Is it macho for a man to go to a spa, even with his wife? Would he really put cucumbers on his eyes? Thoughts like these get me writing.
  • A book is a good resource for ideas. Just open the book to any page and point to a sentence without looking at it. These are the first few words of your short story or novel. Just now I picked one up. It read: “Mama kept glancing at Mary Toy and finally dabbed at her face with a lace handkerchief” (Cold Sassy Tree, Page 53). The idea here is not to actually use the line you point to in your final draft; it’s to get you thinking about your own story.
  • When was the last time you rode the bus? When was the last time you wrote about what others said while traveling, how the city looked from the bus windows, and who got on and off the bus? This is a great exercise to get your writing moving. The last time I did this exercise, I came away with two story ideas—the first I wrote almost entirely on the bus. It was about a young girl’s conversation with a homeless man and her offering of her coat to keep him warm during the bitter winter.

Not believing in writer’s block is only half the battle in writing your next piece. The other half must be filled with options to get you writing again. Something all writers want.

Thank you Kathryn. I run a fortnightly writing workshop and we often use magazine pictures. If you know how to get ideas you should be able to never run out of stories. :)

You can find more about Kathryn and her writing via her website: http://www.ariverofstones.com.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with sci-fi and fantasy paranormal author Caron Rider – the three hundred and seventy-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 

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Short Story Saturday 009: ‘The Awakening of George Mahooney’ by Kathryn Jones

Welcome to the new Short Story Saturday review slot and the ninth review in this series. This week’s is of 1,323-word story ‘The Awakening of George Mahooney’ by Kathryn Jones.

A story of any length should have a great hook, and this piece’s (‘George Mahooney hated flies.’) certainly grabbed my attention. In just four words it tells us about the character and already we’re asking questions: why, and who is he?

The detailing is then intricate as we learn more about him and his wife. We get a feel for the characters right from the start (finding out George is a frail nonagenarian in the first paragraph) but then when the husband and wife are in the kitchen the reader (me) gets even more emotionally involved, all the way to the end.

I love inanimate objects taking on a life of their own and here we have weeds taunting George (and mine are me at the moment!).

If I had to ‘pick’ (this is a review after all), I did notice that quite a few of the sentences started with a pronoun (George, He, His, Cleo) but it’s something I’ve only recently become acutely aware of in my own writing and it’s so easily done that I’m sure if I picked up any book I’d find heaps of them. I did also spot a couple of tense slips but again, so easy to do.

Good stories often entertain and educate, and this story certainly ticks those boxes. Occasionally they should even have you scurrying to the dictionary – this one sent me to Grammar Girl as I thought ‘all right’ to be a spelling mistake but sure enough, it appears that our Englishism of ‘alright’ has been wrong all these years (like my obstinate use of ’til instead of till for until).

Stories should also contain as many of the five senses as possible and we have four of them: sight (description), sound (flies then dialogue), touch (flies and birds), smell (cinnamon – one of my favourites – and beautifully used here). Just missing is taste, although the food is so wonderfully described that I almost feel as if I have. :)

The writing is tight and I especially liked the phone metaphor. All in all, a moving tale, relatable however old you are.

Thank you Kathryn for inviting me to review your story.

Kathryn has been a published writer since 1987.  She has published various newspaper stories, magazine articles, essays and short stories for teens and adults.  She is the author of: “A River of Stones”, a young adult fiction novel dealing with divorce published in 2002, and “Conquering your Goliaths—A Parable of the Five Stones”, a Christian novel published in January of 2012. Her newest creation, a “Conquering your Goliaths—Guidebook”, was published in February of 2012. Kathryn graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Mass Communication and a minor in Creative Writing. Her studies included work in creative writing, public relations and journalism.

Kathryn’s website is http://www.ariverofstones.com and ‘The Awakening of George Mahooney’ can be read here: http://www.ariverofstones.com/awakening.html.

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.

Next up is the spotlight of lecturer, novelist and co-founder of Creative Writing the Artist’s Way Sarah Jane Dobbs then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction author Ted Vestal – the three hundred and fortieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. My eBooks are also now on Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s ‘Contact me’ page or plain and simple, email me. I also have a second-person viewpoint story in charity anthology Telling Tales.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in articles, novels, short stories, writing

 

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Author Spotlight no.64 – Jeff Rasley

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the sixty-fourth, is of non-fiction and thriller writer Jeff Rasley.

Jeff Rasley is author of Light in the Mountains — A Hoosier Quaker finds Communal Enlightenment in Nepal, Islands in My Dreams, Nepal Himalayas — in the Moment, False Prophet? and Bringing Progress to Paradise.

He practiced law for thirty years in Indianapolis, Indiana and was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.  He has an outstanding academic record: graduate of the University of Chicago, A.B. magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, All-Academic All-State Football Team and letter winner in swimming and football; Indiana University School of Law, J.D. cum laude, Moot Court and Indiana Law Review; Christian Theological Seminary, M.Div. magna cum laude, co-valedictorian and Faculty Award Scholar.

Jeff is currently President of the Basa Village Foundation USA Inc. and U.S. liaison for the Nepal-based Himalayan expedition company, Adventure GeoTreks, Ltd.  He teaches classes for IUPUI Continuing Ed. Program and Indiana Writers Center.

For chairing the Indiana-Tennessee Civic Memorial Commission, Jeff received Proclamations of Salutation from the Governors of Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania and he was made an honorary Lieutenant Colonel Aide-de-Camp of the Alabama State Militia, a Kentucky Colonel and honorary Citizen of Tennessee.  He was given a Key to the City of Indianapolis for his report on the safety conditions of Indy Parks.  Jeff received the Man of the Year award from the Arthur Jordan YMCA.

Jeff has published numerous articles and photos in academic and mainstream periodicals, including Newsweek, Chicago Magazine, ABA Journal, Family Law Review, Pacific Magazine, Indy’s Child, The Journal of Communal Societies, The Chrysalis Reader, Faith & Fitness Magazine, Friends Journal and Real Travel Adventures International Magazine.  He gives programs about adventure travel and philanthropy to service clubs, community organizations and churches.  He is an avid outdoorsman and recreational athlete.  He leads trekking-mountaineering expeditions in Nepal and has solo-kayaked around several Pacific island groups.  Jeff also loves to read and considers completing Marcel Proust’s 3600-page Remembrance of Things Past as one of his most enjoyable accomplishments.

Married to Alicia Rasley, Jeff is a multi-published author, RITA Award winner, and University professor.

And now from the author himself:

I started writing bad poetry as a teenager and graduated to short stories and feature articles in college.  I honed my craft at feature article writing as much as time permitted through graduate schools, practicing law, domestic husbandry and raising two sons.  My loves other than wife, kids and writing have been sports and what has been called adventure travel.

After one semester I dropped out of college and hitch-hiked across the country.  I spent the next summer traveling around Europe by any means necessary.  The following summer I motorcycled from Northern Indiana to Mexico City.  Career, marriage and kids slowed me down somewhat, but I have set foot in over 40 countries.  I’ve climbed several Himalayan peaks and have been leading Himalayan trekking and mountaineering expeditions for a decade.  I managed to survive an avalanche and getting lost at sea in a solo kayak in the Palau Islands.

Eventually travel for the sake of adventure and personal curiosity was insufficiently meaningful.  I began to “philanthro-trek” – combining travel with philanthropy in the new millennium.   A special relationship developed with a remote Himalayan village.  Two friends and I were only the third group of “white people” to visit the village.  Leaders of the village and I established the Basa Village Project, which has grown into a Nepal-based NGO and a U.S. nonprofit corporation to benefit Basa and other Himalayan villages.

Three of the books I have written tell the story of how I came to have a special relationship with the Rai people and the wisdom I have gained from them about environmentalism, spirituality and community.  I have tried to give a truthful account of the 3 Cups of Tea received from my friends in the Nepal Himalayas.

A fourth book, Islands in My Dreams is an anthology of personal essays about unique island cultures I have experienced in my travels.  For example, Tonga has the fattest kings and the longest ruling family dynasty of current monarchs.  Palau is the most litigious society on earth with three lawsuits for every citizen.  Islands are where dreams and nightmares come true.

False Prophet? is my first attempt at fiction, although it is inspired by a case I handled twenty years ago.  It is an inspirational mystery, romantic suspense and political / legal thriller; a story of love lost and found and a rant against the inequities of the legal system.  The story is gritty but uplifting.  It reveals the seamy underside of local politics in Indianapolis.  But it also shows how white folks and African-Americans can work together for justice.  The love story is one of frustration and self-destruction, but ultimately understanding, reconciliation, renewed intimacy and a baby.

Thank you, Jeff. :) You can find more about Jeff and his writing via his website www.jeffreyrasley.com

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with editor and novelist Jennifer Ciotta – the two hundred and ninety-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo (Amazon to follow). And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.

 

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