Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths


Third-person pronouns are often a mask for the word “I,” as they allow us to invade our own privacy and air our dirty laundry without anyone knowing to whom it belongs.

Engage with other writers, but never at the expense of writing, editing, and submitting.

When we take the time to self-reflect, we pursue a path to self-actualization.

Nonfiction is hot; creative nonfiction, even more so.

Inspiration may not always come to you; sometimes, you must seek it out:

Be versatile in your writing, but remember, it’s the specialists that make the money.

We can live a century in a lifetime, a lifetime in a day.

You can learn as much from reading a bad book as you can from reading a good one.

Sometimes all it takes is one word:

Reading old periodicals is like opening a time capsule. It’s the difference between watching a movie made in the fifties versus a movie made today, set in the fifties.


Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Prompts


Remove one abstract from the world, be it long- or short-term memory, pain, or the ability to stay in one place. Imagine a different kind of society. The differences are interesting, but how people perceive or react to them, even more so.

Take a minor character from a novel you’ve written and create a new story. If someone likes it, they might be inspired to do a little family tree research and locate its roots.

There is more to every story you write. From one novel, I’ve written a prequel, a novella, a volume of poetry, and a preface to serve as a poetry prompt.

Alternate histories are popular. What if the South had won the Civil War, what if Jesus had never been born, what if 9/11 had been thwarted? Be provocative. Imagine a world other than the one we live in.

Popular idioms can be exceptional story starters, as the origins aren’t always known.

Objects can be interesting—a source of mystery—but they are even more interesting if there is a story behind them. It’s like seeing a stranger and wondering about their story. We are more than what people see or even think they see.

things she carried?

Pet lovers love stories that don’t necessarily personify animals, but rather showcase how they’ve had a positive impact on their life—just for being there.


Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Journalism


Journalism should be literal; fiction can be figurative.

If a newspaper clipping has significance for you, use it in a post to tell your side of the story.

As a former writer for a student-run newspaper, I browse old issues not just to learn history but to steal from it.

If you need to practice writing in AP (Associated Press) style, and you’re more of a creative writer, try writing mock newspaper stories for your blog based on the town and characters you’ve created.  

A couple of summers ago, I had the opportunity to write a tribute piece for the college newspaper. This kind of feature writing has helped me not only tell the stories of others better but also my own.

Writing for your blog will help you tell your own stories better, writing for a newspaper, the stories of others.

Sometimes, being a writer isn’t just about writing what you know but sharing what you know.

Having worked for a college newspaper, I’ve found lots of inspiration from other college newspapers. The same principle applies to why you can’t be a writer without being a reader.

If you like current events, hard news articles are for you; if you like history, feature stories are for you. Both have their place in journalism. I’m always a week late and several dollars short, so the story behind the story is my cup of coffee.

Every one of us has a story. It is up to the writer to make it interesting.  Know what to quote directly and what to paraphrase. Know what facts to use and what to leave out (but still tell the truth).  Know where to start and where to end.

“How-To” writing is in demand, but unless you’re an expert, take the time to interview those experts. Do the legwork (rather than the “click work” from Google).

Summer Writing Mini-Workshops: On Blogging


Invest in yourself by investing in your blog, losing the Having a site that is just the name of your blog plus .com is much more professional.  This upgrade is extremely affordable (just a little over $2 a month). As for the design, it’s okay if your blog is a constant work in progress.  Don’t wait until you can afford a professional photographer or web designer. Get started today!

Don’t put slideshows on your blog. People would much rather scroll down than wait for the next screen to load. 99% of the time, I click off a site that uses this device and google for the same information elsewhere.

Nothing is more annoying than going to a blog that uses gifs (things like that are for tweets and Facebook comments) or worse, music/noise.  The latter is why I keep my speakers turned off–just like I hit the mute button on commercials.

Be aware of what posts capture readers. I’ve found that my book reviews far outpace my poetry posts as books have a built-in readership (and many more read fiction over poetry).

This article got over 3500 views, and I believe it’s because it’s a “How-To” article. We live in a self-help, DIY society.

Because of the boring nature of most LinkedIn articles, I decided to close my account and focus on Facebook (friends and family I actually see) and Instagram (which welcomes a much higher degree of creativity).

It’s okay to share posts, but never reblog, as you’re only promoting them, not yourself.  Don’t give someone free real estate on your virtual space. If you want to respond to a post with your own, you can post a link back to it, and then write your own take, as you are benefitting from their “writing prompt.”

Unlike writing for a newspaper, it is better to use your own quotes in your blog post rather than someone else’s; you only boost their brand by sharing their words rather than elevating your own.

If you have an old post that would add clarity to or enhance a new post, backlink it. Backlinking is a fantastic way to bring attention to past posts.

Double check the links on your blog occasionally. Whenever I discover a broken link on another blog, I think the administrator doesn’t update their site very often, and so I won’t go back again (assuming there will be no updated content).

Here are 15 reasons why every author should have a blog.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths


Remember that colleges ask for essays, not equations, when it comes to admissions. Numbers matter, but in cases like these, words matter more.

Imitation is a form of admiration; plagiarism is not.

Behind every image, there is a story, but a picture doesn’t always have to equal 1000 words.

Sensory details don’t just inform the person but take them there.

We can perceive the same thing, seven different ways, at seven different times in our lives.

Write what you know, but don’t write about everything you know.

As mothers, we always wonder, even as our children are filled with it.

Conciseness breeds clarity.

Life is many things.

All writing matters. If the language arts didn’t matter in mathematics, then there would be no word problems.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshops: Writing Prompts


Whether it’s the periodic table of elements, a litany of every Mary Kay lipstick color, or a grocery list, you can make a poem out of it.

Life is full of unanswered questions.  For example, if your wish came true, how would that affect someone else’s life?  Would that undo their wish? 

Everything–from the days of the week to a single emotion–can be personified.

If you have a book written, a fun exercise to promote it would be to treat it as research for mock newspaper articles. Write a human-interest story based on one of your characters (preferably, a minor one—it might end up spinning off into a story of its own); this will help you get to know your characters better.

What If? poems are some of my favorites. Many of the choices I’ve made have led me to the choices I am making today. Life is rife with unintended consequences.

Our lives are full of “firsts”: First (and last) dates, first job, first child, first experience with someone close to us dying, first time trying potted meat, et cetera. Write about one of these times; analyze whether the first could have led to the last, or play around with the order of things.

Fairy tales, myths, and Shakespeare are all ideal places to start if you need ideas, but throw in something timely to freshen it up. For me, it was an ecological disaster, personified.

The newspaper is full of stories. Scan the classifieds, the advice columns, the police blotters, &, if you’re morbid, the obituaries.

Though ____ “walk into a bar” may seem as cliché as knock, knock jokes, it is endless what you can do to bring freshness to an old idea.

The Bible is full of wives & daughters, whose characters aren’t fleshed out. Give them a voice.  Write a piece of fictitious herstory or an alternate history.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Journaling and Chapbooking


Shutterfly makes incredible gift books—better than the kind you see in stores because they will come from your heart—with the words you’ve written, the pictures you’ve taken. If you’re not much of a photographer (or artist), you might want to become one. Just be patient and have the books ready weeks in advance. These “professional” chapbooks take time; I generally spend several weeks on one.  So far, I’ve done two autobiographical series of poetry, a collection of my Dove chocolate poems, a.k.a. “Sweet Little Nothings,” and a collection of community college stories.

Though there’s something intrinsically beautiful about a handwritten journal, don’t feel like you have to write your journal by hand. (Better to keep a digital journal than no journal.) There are many journaling apps online. Think about it:  Most of us already journal every day, whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, et cetera (though hopefully, we’re not posting our deepest, darkest thoughts—that should be between you and your journal, whether on paper or paperless). Journaling just privately removes the filter.

I am a scrapbooking collagist when it comes to journaling—heavy on the photography and layout and light on the writing. I’ve included newspaper clippings, greeting cards, event programs, badges (for example, my college press pass), and a myriad of other elements.  They may not tell a story, but they just might caption one.

In the film, The Secret Scripture, the main character has a Bible in which she keeps her journal, writing in between the lines, the margins, et cetera. You can do this with any book that profoundly affects you—even a recipe book!

I have written hundreds of poems. What helps me keep them organized is separating them into chapbooks.  For example, I have a collection of ekphrastic poetry, 50-words or less, “Modern Proverbs,” et cetera.

Adjacency matters. Typesetting matters. When you put together a poetry chapbook, the order of the poems should have an ebb and flow to them. What’s more, it’s not just about the way the words sound but also the way they look on the page.

Emily Dickinson wrote over 1800 poems. One a day is enough for me. Push yourself, but know your limits.  I know this is mine.

For some, journaling is their stream of consciousness exercise; for me, it’s poetry. Poetry writing is my playtime, short story writing, my work time. Poetry helps me make my writing more concise whereas short stories help me generate ideas for my poems, which make up the bulk of my blog’s content.

Just as an interior designer doesn’t have to know how to sew, a graphic designer doesn’t have to know how to draw. It’s all about having an eye for what works.  Working on the college newspaper helped me with this (see recruitment ad below).  Keeping a minimalist, non-glossy look to your chapbooks looks more professional than a busy, glossy cover (and don’t go crazy with fonts).

Recruitment poster