Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Get Published This Year!

2013 Writer's Market Deluxe

Make this the year you get published and get paid for your writing by picking up either the 2013 Writer's Market or Writer's Market Deluxe Edition and/or subscribing to WritersMarket.com. I just recently received my desk copies of the 2013 books, and they look great.

Click here to read my post on the WritersMarket.com blog about both books.


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Monday, August 6, 2012

The Importance of Word Play

I'm pleased to welcome Khara House to the house (I'm sure she hasn't heard that one before). She's covering one of my favorite subjects: playing with words! Khara is a poet, freelance writer, and educator. She just finished her first year teaching at the university level, teaching First-Year Composition and an Intermediate Poetry Workshop. Khara says, "I have been writing for as long as I can remember, though only recently have I started working to share it more seriously, and more widely. I am currently focusing a lot more on both my poetry and my blog, through which I hope to share many of the rich experiences I have been blessed with through writing." Find Khara online at www.kharahouse.com.

Khara House, poet, freelance writer, and educator

When I walk into my poetry class, I hold a small pile of poems in foreign languages. As class begins, I pass out the poems, tell my students to pick one, and begin translating it. For a moment, I am met with disbelieving glances that tell me my students are officially convinced I'm insane. But then, as I lower my head and begin my own translation, I hear a few murmurs, a collection of giggles and groans, and finally the movement of pens over paper.

Poetic Serendipity
Word play is, for me, one of the essential tools in a writer's toolbox. When I talk about word play in a workshop, I usually also talk about poetic "serendipity"—that is, letting words guide you rather than you trying to guide the words. Too often we, as poets and writers, try to force words—or characters, or scenes—into line when all along the words are just waiting for us to let them do what they do.

There is a story about Michelangelo that I think speaks to this process of letting creative juices flow as they will, when they will. A man came into Michelangelo's studio and found him staring at a block of marble (that, the story says, would eventually become his statue of David). When the man asked Michelangelo what he was doing, Michelangelo simply replied, "I'm working."

When I asked my students to do the translation exercise, I was asking them to become Michelangelo and simply wait on the words within them to form themselves: to stop worrying about what the poem should mean, and instead allow themselves to express themselves freely. An exercise like this, and word play in general, allows us to step outside of the world of sense and engage in a world of play. It practically forces us to accept that sometimes the best poems are the ones that are completely out of our control; they will only settle into what they are supposed to be when we stop trying to force them into being.

Sample translated poem (in Armenian)

Same Poem Different
As the activity ended, my students and I took turns reading our poems. After discussing the prompt's purpose, I revealed my "big secret": despite the fact that they worked with ten different languages, they had all been translating the same poem … and it was one I had written! What made it such a fun surprise was that when I read them the original, one student pointed out that even my translation was different than the original! This only further emphasized the point of the exercise: stepping out of the familiar, and letting the mind run wild.

I encourage you, whether you are a writer of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, to take some time and step out of your writing's way. Free write for an hour. Write a fake dialogue with a character; let yourself be surprised by what he or she has to say. Play with the words you are writing—you'll find they make excellent playmates!


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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Where Should I Focus My Time? Tips for Social Media Use

As many of you Not Bob regulars know, I unplugged in July. It's something I just needed to do to finish up some projects, spend time with my family, and re-charge my blogging batteries. However, I took my time off very seriously and let my e-mail build and found the following problem hidden in there.

During the summer, I spent time with family.

Problem: Where Should I Focus My Time?

A reader of the Not Bob blog contacted me to let me know he's getting serious about his social media and blogging usage. He already had some social media accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn (with as many as 1,000 connections), but he didn't seem to be getting the traction he wanted. As a result, he was considering joining some other social media sites, including RedRoom, Twitter, and Pinterest. His basic question was, "Where should I focus my time?"

On the surface, this seems like a good question to ask. After all, if site A is more profitable than site B, then it would make sense to spend more time on site A and less (or none) on site B, right? This saves time and energy if you know which site works best.

That's the big IF usually: How do I know which site works best?

Problem: How Should I Focus My Time?

When the reader mentioned the more than 1,000 connections, he let slip that he only really knew about 10% of them. I think this is fairly common for people with large social networks: They know some, but not all of their online connections. So maybe the question shouldn't be where should I spend my time, but instead, how should I spend my time?

Maybe instead of thinking where to go next, think about how you should act once you are on a social network. Send messages to new friends explaining why you friended them, or ask why they friended you. Comment on status updates or tweets. Try to engage your connections and really pay attention to what they have to say.

Sometimes, I think we get so focused on the end result of our investments that we turn into social media robots shoveling information and sales pitches out to our "friends" and "followers," instead of doing the thing that's more important, and that's being human.


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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Overcoming Clinical Depression (Life Changing Moments series)

Overcoming depression is no joke. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people ages 15 to 44, and it's nearly twice as common in women as it is in men. I'd like to thank Sarah Negovetich for sharing her personal story related to overcoming an unexpected failure caused by clinical depression. Sarah is fairly new to the online writing community, but that didn’t stop her from creating a blog and expecting other people to read it (insert shameless blog plug here). When she isn’t ignoring her children to write, Sarah is a marketing consultant for a national non-profit children’s charity. Find her on Twitter @SarahNego. www.SarahNego.blogspot.com

Sarah Negovetich

My senior year in college started out exactly the way I expected. Deciding what classes I needed to graduate, getting measured for a cap and gown, and figuring out where to apply for law school. Everything about my life, from my spacious sorority house room to my wonderful boyfriend, was perfect. I like to think of myself then as the not-so-skinny brunette version of Elle Woods.

So no one was more surprised than me when I suddenly lost all interest in everything. I changed almost overnight from an outgoing social butterfly to a hermit style couch potato.

After several months of sitting around in my pajamas, staring at the unplugged television and eating Crunch 'n Munch from the box, my roommates staged an intervention. A forced visit to my family doctor resulted in a diagnosis of Clinical Depression.

Handling Depression
I started working with the school counselor and figuring out a medication dosage to get my brain chemicals back on track. By the end of the school year I was almost my old self. Unfortunately, months of tuning out the world meant I didn't have enough credits. I wouldn't be graduating with the rest of my class. I had failed and for the first time in my life that failure came with real consequences.

I moved back home, but constant remarks about my inability to graduate weren't helping. My family loves me, but they were convinced the depression was all in my head and I'd just gotten lazy. After a few months of hits to my frail ego, I moved in with my wonderful boyfriend (who is now my wonderful husband) and tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life.

Working a series of odd jobs including everything from Waffle House waitress (Do you want those covered and smothered?) to insurance telemarketing (Did you know we offer a multi-car discount?) provided me with ample life lessons. Most importantly I learned I needed to get my degree…now.

Making Up For Lost Time
It would take me a year and a half to make up for those lost months. And unlike the first time around, I now had to balance a full course load with a full-time job. Classes were crammed in before my shift in the mornings and stretched late into the night. It wasn’t uncommon to leave my house at 6 a.m. and not come home until 10 p.m. Weekends weren't any better since that was my only available time to power through homework and class projects.

Going back to school was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It forced me to face a failure that had become a defining part of my life. It pushed my time management skills and required a level of dedication I had never reached before.

Finishing my degree brought new meaning to the word 'challenge,' but other than my children it is the one thing I am most proud of accomplishing. After three semesters of sweat and tears (there may have been blood) I finally put on a black polyester robe and shook hands with the dean as she handed over my shiny new diploma.

Anything Is Possible
Now, when I’m faced with a difficult situation, I know I can get through it. A scene I can't get right, feedback that cuts me to the core, yet another round of edits. Hard stuff, but not as hard as going back to school.

There are times in life when I think "I can't do this," be it writing or learning how to knit (a skill I still can't master). But when those moments crop up I remind myself of that muggy day in May when I shook hands with the dean in front of my friends and family and changed a failure into success.


If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.


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Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series: