Writing Throwback: Participating in Writing Showcases

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Image: Merelize (freerangestock.com)

Having been blessed with so many amazing writing opportunities in the past couple of years, I feel it’s time to revisit a few of them. This week, I’m going to talk about Pen and Muse. I stumbled upon this writing website back in 2013 when their Twitter account showed up in my “Who To Follow” box. Curious, I followed them. At the time, I had a poem published in my community college’s literary magazine a year earlier and was looking for ways to build my writing connections.

Over time, I got to know the founders of the website, Jolene Haley and Kristen Jett, and began reading articles about the use of pen names for authors, publishing tips, and more! Soon, the website held Writing and Illustration Showcases for writers and artists to submit their own short stories and art. The stories centered on themes and holidays including Halloween, Christmas, and spring. Having the opportunity to participate in these showcases helped build credibility for my writing, try out short stories, and learn about writing great stories with a limited word count and set deadline. Routine was established, and so was taking time to edit and revise my work. If you want to check out my showcase stories, just go to the Portfolio and click on Short Stories.

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Image: Merelize (freerangestock.com)

What I really appreciated about Pen and Muse’s showcases was the chance to show off my work. I’ve read articles over the years from magazines and websites that have debated the issue of submission fees for contests and submitting work, so it was nice for a website to give writers free exposure to their gifts and not having to worry about paying a fee.

In 2014, I had received an email revealing that the stories and illustrations from the Dark Carnival showcase in October 2013 were going to be put together in an anthology and published as an e-book! I was stunned. This would be my first publication for the masses. The e-book was later released through Amazon and Goodreads in November. Even though I wasn’t paid, I had my very first publication credit outside of a showcase. Plus, it did very well, reaching #1 on Amazon for the horror category, surpassing Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft!! Recently, the anthology was featured in an article on Bustle after the film version of Stephen King’s novel, It, was released.

Although the website is no longer active as of 2015, you can still access some of their past articles and stories from prior showcases. Now and then, I still keep in touch with Jolene and Kristen. Jolene is still writing, running blogs and a small publisher called Hocus Pocus & Co., while Kristen is running her own marketing business called Starlit Strategies and helping people find success. I am forever thankful to them for what they did with Pen and Muse and am so happy about their recent endeavors with writing and business!  Please lend them your support and check them out! If you go to their websites, you should be able to find them on their various social media accounts.

Happy writing!

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A Soundtrack to Your Work: Writing to Music

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Image: Chance Agrella (freerangestock.com)

I write this just as I hear the news that Icelandic composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, has died. He composed music for films including Sicario, Prisoners, Arrival, and The Theory of Everything. I had the chance to watch The Theory of Everything in college and was mystified by the beautiful soundtrack. So hearing this news today shocked and saddened as I’m sure it has for many of his colleagues and fans. In tribute to a man gone too soon from this world and to focus on the idea of writing, I want to dedicate this post to music.

As a writer, I always found myself looking up music from movie soundtracks, particular composers, and more to help me get a feel for a scene I was writing. My creativity would be motivated by the music and sometimes even create ideas I never considered before! If I wrote in silence, I always found it harder to come up with anything even though I could hear my own thoughts better. Music took away those distracting thoughts and allowed me to focus on my work a lot better, too.

Music while writing first entered my life my first year of college during a Creative Writing for the Theatre course. My professor always started off our class by taking five minutes to free write. He had instrumental music play during the duration so we could focus on our writing. Some days we were given a specific prompt, others were up to us. I always found these free writes stimulating and our class discussions interesting because we all had our different styles of creativity. We also came up with some ideas we never considered and sometimes kept them for later use. As the semester went on, using music to write helped me produce scenes for my monologues and short plays, pieces I still hold on to to this day. Since that class, music while writing is a part of my process.

If you need ideas for composers to listen to, here’s a list of my favorites:

  • Hans Zimmer (he also has a MasterClass on Film Scoring)
  • Alan Menken
  • James Horner (RIP to him as well, he passed away in 2015 :'()
  • James Newton Howard
  • Craig Armstrong
  • A.R. Rahman
  • Two Steps from Hell (you might have heard many of their pieces in your favorite movie trailers)

To make your search easier, consider looking up playlists of the artist in question or looking up your favorite movie. Sometimes you have to play around with the music you hear until you find ones that fit your scene, or entire story, well. I know not everyone listens to music while writing, but if you’re someone who does, I hope the habit has been productive for you as it has for me!

Do you listen to music while writing? Who are some of your favorite composers? Feel free to share! Also, in honor of Jóhann Jóhannsson, please consider looking up his music online.

Happy writing!

The Multitasking Reader: Does Reading a Lot of Books at Once Decrease Interest Later On?

A quick note before I write this week’s post:

I apologize for no post last week due to suddenly losing my Internet and a busy schedule. Also, thank you all for your suggestions on what I should talk about in my blog this year. I appreciated your feedback! Keep your ideas coming!

Now back to the blog…

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Image: TomasAdomaitis (freerangestock.com)

This thought may be a given because it’s a struggle us writers and avid readers face every day: reading multiple books at once. I am guilty of this, especially because I find when I focus on one book at a time, I lose interest faster than if I focused on other stories. On the other hand, multiple books at once means you might take longer to go through a single book.

Some of you may have a Goodreads account like I do and use the site to keep track of your to-read list, what you’re currently reading, leave reviews, and so on. My Currently Reading list contains four books right now, including one I decided to reread with Valentine’s Day coming up. Before the end of 2017, I had as many as ten books I was reading at one time!

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Image: GeoffreyWhiteway (freerangestock.com)

That was pretty overwhelming. A few were later abandoned because by the time I resumed reading them, I lost interest and deleted the book from my list. I also wanted to start 2018 off by tackling books I haven’t read yet and any new ones I got for Christmas, so any books that were still on my list had to be read FAST. That extra push to try and complete that goal made the reading experience more difficult, and leaving me wondering why I had left so many books unread or unfinished.

I don’t want to do that again. Books are meant to be enjoyed, not read just to achieve Reading Challenge goals (even though it’s fun to try and beat the goal you set). Books help us escape from life for a while. make us laugh, cry, or feel inspired, and maybe even inspire us with our own writing.

This year, I’m trying to limit how many books I read at one time so all can be enjoyed. Two of the books I’m currently reading, for example, have been on my list since last year: The Pharaoh’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews and Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson. I’ve also decided to make time for rereading books I loved because they shouldn’t be collecting dust after only being read once. Plus, when you read a book a second or third time, you remember things you forgot and pick up on little twists you might have missed the first time. You also remember why you loved a certain book in the first place.

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Image: Merelize (freerangestock.com)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read multiple books at once. I think reading a couple books at one time keeps your mind busy and you explore different worlds. But, keep the number limited to what you’re comfortable with so you don’t lose sight of books and eventually have to get rid of them because you lost interest. Also, setting reasonable goals, like the number of books to read this year for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, are another good rule of thumb; I keep mine at 15 to 20. Sometimes I raise the number if I feel I can do more.

So whatever your style of reading multiple books at once, what should matter most is what you’re comfortable with and that you get something out of the story you read.

How many books do you usually read at one time? Have you stopped reading a few because of reading so many?

Share your thoughts!

Happy writing!