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!

What Would You Like to See Here?: Open to Suggestions for the Blog!!

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Image: Jack Moreh (freerangestock.com)

For those of you who have followed the blog from its inception, I have focused on the writing process, shared some prompts, gave writing tips, and reviewed numerous books. At times, I have considered what my readers would love to learn more about: self- publishing v. traditional, specific genres and word counts, thoughts on writing contests, and so on. When I wrote about Hallmark Publishing last week, I was intrigued by the views for the post! I will definitely consider spotlighting more publishers in the future as best I can. I know some ideas have been more interesting than others, but I would love to hear from you, my readers!

Here are some goals I want to do or look into:

  • Have a book reviewed every single month.
  • Start a newsletter.
  • Share a little more about my past writing adventures, including writing showcases.
  • Maybe some author interviews?
  • Guest blog posts?

So what would you like to see on this blog for 2018? Let me know in the comments, tweet me, message me on LinkedIn!

Writing for Hallmark: Consider Hallmark Publishing for Your Next Story!

 

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Image: commons.wikimedia.org

After writing my first Book of the Month post for 2018, I feel compelled to share with you all a little more information about Hallmark Publishing, a branch of Hallmark Channel.

Hallmark Publishing is another way for Hallmark fans to enjoy their favorite stories, in e-book form! Besides Moonlight in Vermont (my Book of the Month for January), other stories available include Christmas in Homestead, Journey Back to Christmas, A Heavenly Christmas, and Love You Like Christmas. Another e-book, A Dash of Love, is forthcoming.

Even though I enjoy reading a classic (Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens), a modern romance (Nicholas Sparks), latest bestsellers (Nina George), some mysteries (Mary Higgins Clark), and some Christian Fiction (Karen Kingsbury, Rachel Hauck, Becky Wade, to name a few), there’s a place in my heart reserved for Hallmark Channel and their movies. Wholesome stories centered on family, friendship, finding love in the unlikeliest of places, and great messages, never get old. I actually talked about a Hallmark Channel Original Movie, “A Novel Romance,” in a post last year.

So when I found out Hallmark Publishing was looking for bloggers to review their books, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I want to again thank the publisher and Stacey Donovan for the chance to read some amazing books. Another thing I’ve appreciated is their Twitter account taking the time to answer questions about what they’re looking to publish and the submission process. If you want to see their complete guidelines and submit your own story, you can click here.

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Image: StartupStockPhotos (freerangestock.com)

I feel we need to take time to support publishers no matter how big or small whether it’d be buying their books, reviewing your favorites, sending a message to one of your favorite authors, or simply promoting them on social media and your personal blog. I hope I did my best accomplishing this feat here.

If you want to follow this amazing publisher, check out their Twitter and Facebook. Fellow writers, if you have a wholesome romance or mystery to share, consider Hallmark Publishing!

Happy writing!

Back in the Habit: What’s a Good Word Count?

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Image: StuartMiles (freerangestock.com)

Happy first week of 2018 everyone! I hope you all are well and had a quiet, safe, New Year’s. Back to business with the blog and everything else in my life!

There’s one thing I’m feeling positive about this week:  I’m writing again :). For the past few days, I have been writing at least 500 words a day, with the exception of yesterday. In a span of three days, 1,500 words were written. I’ve been working on a fiction piece for one of my writing opportunities and gave my piece a 1,500 word limit, feeling that was enough for a short story. The interesting part is that this piece has been giving me a hard time, and I walked away from it for a couple of months so I could focus on other projects. When I came back to the work on Tuesday, I felt the ideas come alive without any struggles! Now I’m giving it a day or two before I go edit and submit.

As I thought about my own word count, I’ve considered how many words other writers aim for with their own projects. How many words do they target in a week? How many a day? A month? For example, for those of us who’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, you have to write 1,667 words a day in order to reach the goal of 50,000.

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Image: Chance Agrella (freerangestock.com)

If you do a simple Google search, you will find numerous articles advising you about how many words one should write every day. Except, the word counts vary! For example, Writers Write, a website dedicated to providing writers with resources, writing prompts, and courses for creative writing, blogging, and business writing has an article titled “The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors.” Here, we are given a list of 39 famous authors including Ernest Hemingway (500 words) and Stephen King (2,000 words) with their daily word counts and routines. Here are a couple others:

  • Nicholas Sparks: 2,000 words
  • Maya Angelou: 2,500 words
  • Ian McEwan: 600 words
  • Anne Rice: 3,000 words
  • Sophie Kinsella: 1,000 words
  • Michael Crichton: 10,000 words
  • Lisa See: 1,000 words

So how can you figure out what word counts best suit your writing style and schedule? Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Start small! Achieve little set word counts and then increase the number by 100 (or 50) until you find a comfortable amount to balance with your day.
  • Time yourself: use a timer to calculate how many words you can write in an hour. Use this as a starting point for developing a routine schedule.
  • Writing prompts: a writing prompt can help you jump-start your creativity. Some have a minimum word count while others do not. Try both ways and see which ones are more productive.
  • Make a list: Try writing every day and see how many words you reach each day. Choose from the list and try reaching that word count until you find the one that’s most comfortable for you. This gives you options to try out instead of sticking with one particular word count.

So what word count works for you? What strategies help you figure out what word count is best?

Happy writing!

The End of 2017: Remembering the Little Things in Life

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Me, December 2017 (after first big snowstorm of the season)

It’s hard to believe that 2017 is finally coming to an end. For some of us, we’re thrilled and can’t wait for 2018 to start. For others, we have a lot to be thankful for and just want the final days of the year to slow down so we can reflect.

This year-end reflection will be different. I don’t want to talk about the things that dominated the news cycles, the tragic stories that left us questioning our faith in people and God, and other stories that left us feeling a whole range of emotions. Instead, I want to talk about the things I learned, the reminders I received, and the lessons that helped me remember that nothing is impossible.

Good things still happen to all of us in this life. We just need to look for them.

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Me Before You (audiobook version) by Jojo Moyes

In terms of writing, I have been blessed with new opportunities to find my footing again through my current work as a Contributing Writer for HEAL(er) Mag and as a Content Creator for YAYWORLD. Having the opportunity to write for an online literary magazine and content creation marketplace where stories of positivity, healing, sharing your voice and opinions, creativity, and finding light are encouraged has been an absolute gift. These opportunities helped me dig deeper, consider my audience, and find reassurance of the route I want to take in writing my first novel. I want to thank Isabelle Marsh and Colette Bellier for these amazing opportunities and encouraging me with my gift of writing and story ideas. I’ve also been blessed to tutor my pastor’s daughter in English and see her blossom in just a short amount of time and do a 3-month internship with CourseWorld.

Another great thing writing related has been reading more books. Once again participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, I read 38 books, 10 more from last year. Some of my favorites included The Little Paris Bookshop and The Little French Bistro by Nina George, Cross Roads by William Paul Young, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans, Her One and Only by Becky Wade, and The Tomb: A Novel of Martha by Stephanie Landsem. I also looked into eBooks more courtesy of the Kindle store, BookBub, and some great deals on Amazon. Audiobooks have recently piqued my interest, too, after receiving a free copy of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (which I hope to finish later today) in exchange for a free trial on Audible. Thanks to an unused iTunes gift card, I found 5 audiobooks that I can’t wait to start listening to in the new year! I can’t wait to see what books will be memorable for me in 2018.

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David Archuleta, Time Out for Women Worcester, September 2017

On September 16th, I became a believer in the impossible coming true through God’s Grace. As some of you may know, my dream of seeing my favorite musician and role model, David Archuleta, was put on hold in 2016. Frankly, I wanted to give up altogether. Where some dreams and prayers were being answered, this one seemed to elude me. Yet, I didn’t want to quit. I somehow dared to hope in the impossible when at that point, the dream was, well, just a dream.

After 7 years of praying, hoping, and doubts, the hard-fought dream finally came true. I was blessed to see David at a conference he’s spoken and performed at in the last few years called Time Out for Women. Along with him, I was inspired by the other incredible speakers/presenters there including Brad Wilcox, Laurel C. Day, and Alissa Parker. I also made some new friends! For the first time in over a year, I was smiling, laughing, and feeling really good about myself and my relationship with God. I would drive home that evening filled with peace, closure, hope, joy, and…some much needed perspective. Now over 3 months later, I still process that day and how God took a dream I wanted so much and transformed it into an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

But that wasn’t all that happened. Besides seeing David perform and speak…I also met him. After 7 years of seeing him just through pictures on social media and videos on YouTube…I was finally standing before him myself. He was worth the long wait. Plus…he really is one incredible man. If you ever get a chance to see him near you, go. You will be glad you did. You can check out his official website for his upcoming tour dates for 2018. Thank you, David, for being one of the people to restore my faith in goodness and in the impossible. Again, it was an honor and privilege to finally meet you. Also, a special thank you to the organizers at Time Out for Women for coming to Worcester and being awesome!

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Image: Jack Moreh (freerangestock.com)

Another big highlight was a little article I wrote on LinkedIn. As I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with the job search, I decided to write about it. I didn’t think much of it because I also felt my words didn’t matter to people, that unless you were super famous no one would care. I wrote what I did to get it out of my system and finding no other way to really express myself.

The response was unexpected. About a week after posting the article, it went viral in a sense. Soon, I was overwhelmed by numerous comments, views, and likes of my post!! For those who love numbers, here are some stats as of this writing:

  • 8,287 clicks/views
  • 807 likes
  • 90 comments
  • 111 reshares

But that wasn’t what caught my attention when my article was gaining traction.

The stories did. People from all walks of life, whether a recent college graduate like myself to mid-career professionals, read my post and shared similar struggles in the comments. Others offered me encouragement and spoke about the feelings they’ve had during the job search. I even had one person say my article gave them a boost to try one more time.

I cried at my desk. That article, for me, was reassurance that my words mattered, my words impacted many people, and my words helped others. My article also helped me make a connection or two to redefine my career going forward. Like those who shared with me that they felt heard and less alone, I felt that as well. We really never know what struggles people are going through with certain things, and it takes quite a bit of courage to express those thoughts at the risk of receiving a negative reception. To all who read, commented, reached out, and so on, thank you. I am forever grateful my words were a comfort to you just as yours were to me. Please keep going.

Things will work out.

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Some of my books

A few other highlights of 2017 include my best friend returning home safely from studying abroad in Italy, stepping out of my comfort zone and getting more involved in my church, and some much needed cleaning. I’ve also been checking out opportunities book and writing wise to help me get writing again, including Hallmark Publishing. I look back on this year as the year of adversity; some things fell apart but others came together.

But the biggest lesson was appreciation for the little things. After catching up with my best friend before Christmas, we spotted a gentleman playing Christmas songs on the saxophone. He was amazing! After donating some money, I found myself saying to my best friend how things in my life could be a lot worse than they were, realizing how grateful I need to be for some of the things I have. I may not have gotten everything I wanted this year, but there are people who have little to nothing right now, and they deserve as much love and compassion as everyone else. My problems will never compare to the ones others go through every single day, and that’s been one lesson I really needed to understand.

My final highlight is this blog. Over a year later and this blog is growing, had a makeover, will be looked over for further improvements, and so on. I am thankful to all of you who read and check out this blog. It is much appreciated and I hope you gain insights into your own writing life, find some books to check out, and feel comforted when times get tough and find the strength to try again.

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Image: StuartMiles (freerangestock.com)

I’m not sure what 2018 will hold for me, and for once I will not worry or dwell on it. I will not make resolutions or plan anything. I do have opportunities to consider and will do my very best. I will find my heart in writing again. I will become stronger and grow from all this.

This is a time to trust in God. I’ll end this with some lyrics from one of David’s new songs, “A Little Goes a Long Way,” from his latest album Postcards in the Sky:

“Oh, it’s been a long road
To learn ‘bout the little things” (Source: genius.com)

Oh it certainly has been that’s for sure!

God Bless You all this New Year’s weekend, and I wish you the best for 2018.

Happy writing!