Compost: Give Your Fear Away

More from my Muse, Laura:

When you ask Laura what does she want, be prepared to give her everything.

Give me your fear, says Laura. Slice it like a loaf of bread and feed it to me, one slice at a time. Spread it with guilt jam and honeyed hatred, sprinkle it with granulated anger. Serve it toasty hot or moldy cold, pour the gravy of suspicion over it, dip it in soft-boiled cowardice.

Give me your fear, says Laura. Fry it up like a hamburger patty, float it in grease laden with lust. Dust it with hot spices from jealous southern countries, and top of it, lay a couple of spiteful onions.

Give me your fear, says Laura. Mash it into puree and serve it, iced, in bejeweled dessert dishes, and garnished with a sprig of minted greed. Brew it like strong Turkish coffee, concentrated terror to make the heart race, presented daintily in tiny porcelain cups.

It doesn’t matter, says Laura, I will eat it all, and it will be delicious.
©2000, Eating Mythos Soup: poemstories for Laura

Technorati Tags: writing, muse, Laura, fear, hatred, anger, suspicion, cowardice, jealous, spiteful

Haiku Friday: Greed

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “Haiku for the Seasons I”, or “Haiku for the Seasons II.” Today’s topic is  “GREED.”  Here is my haiku:

don’t be a rodent
hollow eyes and scrabbling paws
squeaking more more more

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, topic, greed, rodent, eyes, paws

Writing Tip: Who Are Your Readers?

If you publish your work, you can’t know for sure who will read your writing.  But you can know two things about them.  You can know who is most likely to read it.  And you can know who you want to read it.

Remember, you want to find out these readers’ care-abouts. What are their tendencies, talents, passions, limitations, knowledge levels, fears, hopes?  You want to discover these things because you want to elicit emotional responses in your readers, which in turn will lead them to action.

So to figure out the ones who are most likely to be interested in your subject, and the ones you want to be interested in your subject, you need to ask yourself some categorization questions.  These questions range from general and broad to as detailed as you want.

The two broadest and most general, of course are:

  1. Gender. Are your readers more likely to be men or women? Are you writing for a particular gender? Remember writing is communicating – there have been many things written about the differences in gender communication styles.

  2. Age. Are your readers like to be under thirty? Over fifty? Mid-life, seniors, Generation X, Y, or Z?


But don’t stop there. The more detailed you make the description of your ideal or most likely readers, the better you will be able to grab their attention. Here are some other categorizations you might want to ask yourself about the readers who will most likely read your book, or who you want to read your book.

  • Knowledge level. Will your readers be experts, or conversant, with your subject, or are they from the general public whose knowledge is limited?
  • Financial status. Are your readers people with money or people who are struggling with money? Money is an important factor in people’s care abouts.
  • Education level. Are your readers mostly college educated or not? Do they have specialized knowledge, such as medical or legal knowledge?
  • Social status. Are your readers members of a particular social class or sub-culture? If so, is this status based along cultural or racial lines, or financial wherewithal?
  • Geographic location. Are your readers from the Southern States or Eastern Seaboard or Great Midwest? Or even – are they mostly Americans?
  • Interests. What are your readers’ hobbies and favorite pastimes? For example, a book about how to write one’s memoir would probably appeal to amateur genealogists.
  • Political ideas. Are your readers right-wing conservatives or left-wing liberals or middle-of-the-road Independents? And so on … are your readers outdoors people or couch potatoes? Engineers or artists? Romantics or realists? Intellectuals or jocks?

I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share? If so, leave a comment here. You might win something! At the end of each month I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “How to WOW Your Readers” or “You Can Be An Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer.”

Technorati Tags: readers, gender, age, knowledge, financial status, education, social status, geographic location, political ideas

Compost: Ghosts Who Tweet and Blog

Recently there was a discussion on Twitter about folks who have others write their tweets for them – Twitter ghostwriters.  Some people have ghosts write their blog posts for them, too.  Is this kosher?

I’m a ghostwriter. I make my living writing books for others. I believe strongly that this is a perfectly legitimate way to get thoughts, ideas, and stories out into the world where they can do some good. Why should only those with writing talent (or the time to write) be able to share their stories in written form?  You can hire decorators to help you beautify your house, and mechanics to keep your car running smoothly, and gardeners to prune your roses at the right time.  It’s just as okay to hire writers to help you put your thoughts and stories down on paper in a way that other people will enjoy reading about them.

But that doesn’t mean that I think anything and everything written could be done by ghosts. For instance, I’m not so sure about hiring ghostwriters to tweet for you.  A tweet is only 140 characters. It’s a tiny snapshot of what’s going on in your head at any given moment.  Its purpose is to build relationships with other tweeters. I don’t think this is the kind of communication that lends itself to ghostwriting.  Another obvious no-no for ghostwriters is term papers or other schoolwork.

What about blogs?  Hmm, this is kind of gray area for me.  I often ghostwrite articles, and blog posts are often short articles, so maybe this is sorta okay. But some people outsource articles and blog posts and all they do is give the ghostwriter a topic to write on – say, eagle nesting habits, or the history of Watergate, or how to grow tomatoes. But the thing is – ghostwriting is only okay – for any medium – when the ideas and stories actually come from the author, not the ghostwriter. They must be the author’s stories, ideas, tips, methods. If you outsource your articles and blog posts, you still need to tell the ghostwriter what you have to say about these eagles or tomatoes or Watergate.  Otherwise you have no business claiming that article or blog post as yours.

By the way – I never outsource my writing. These blog posts are always written by me. Always.

Technorati Tags: ghostwriting, tweet, blog, twitter, writing, articles

Haiku Friday: Diamonds

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books (link): your choice of “Haiku for the Seasons I”, or “Haiku for the Seasons II.”

Today’s topic is  “DIAMONDS.”  Here is my haiku:

make magic potions
change compost into diamonds
wear your robe with stars

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, topic, diamonds, magic, stars

Sharing History: Read these Blogs

I am a history junkie, and a sucker for history blogs. If you are interested in writing your own, or your family’s history, one of the best ways to get inspired is to read history blogs, which are often about little-known figures or events of the past that influenced how we live today.  Here are two of my favorites:

1) Great History: The Best Blogging in History. http://greathistory.com/

This site’s aim is to highlight the best and brightest history bloggers on the net. They provide a huge pool of interesting and entertaining history blogs, for every era and just about every topic. Written not just by excellent historians, but by excellent writers.

2) Wonders and Marvels  http://www.wondersandmarvels.com/

This blog’s tagline is “A community for Curious Minds who love history, its Odd Stories, and Good Reads.”  If you love the oddities of history, this blog is one of the most seductive you’ll ever read.  And she recommends the most wonderful books, also quite odd. 

Technorati Tags: writing, blogs, history, family history

Compost: Recycling

During the 1980s and 90s, I was a prolific short story writer.  I have dozens of them cluttering up computer disks (some of them on those old 3×5 floppies – my God, I’m old. Luckily I have hard copies too.) Only about a third of them have been published, most in small literary magazines that are probably out of business by now.  Another third I had never even tried to have published. I was more chicken back then.

I’m a better writer now than I was then, but still – some of these stories are really quite good. They just need a bit of tweaking here and there. (In the eighties there was no Internet. Few people had cell phones. Mr. Rogers was still alive.  It’s surprising how much these cultural changes can impact a story.)

Recently I took one of my old unsubmitted, unpublished stories to my writing group and asked for critique. I was amazed at how positive they were, and how many good suggestions they had about how to rework the story so it didn’t seem dated. Suddenly I saw that my stash of stories could come alive again; with just a little work I could send these stories out into the world.

It’s a good thing I no longer cluck.

Technorati Tags: writing, short story, published, literary magazines, writing group, critique

Haiku Friday: Crying

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.  

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books (link): your choice of “Haiku for the Seasons I”, or “Haiku for the Seasons II.”

Today’s topic is “CRYING.”  Here is my haiku:

remember to cry
grieve for your fast passing life
you won’t be here long

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, topic, crying, grieve

Writing Tip: Good Writing Blogs

So here you are, reading my blog on writing.  I’m glad you’re here.  And if you only read one blog on writing, I sure hope it’s mine.  But really, if you’re a writer you should read more than one blog.  Here are two blogs that I read regularly, and which I highly recommend:

1) The Blood Red Pencil.  http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/
My favorite blog about editing, written by editors, for authors. And by authors, for editors. They share the frustrations and the giddiness of making writing better.  They discourse on common and not-so-common mistakes, and how to avoid them, eliminate them, or at least recognize them when they rear their weasely little heads.  And they advise you on how to keep your defensive streak from spreading and ruining your manuscript. I love this blog and I nearly always learn something new whenever I read it.

2) Straight From Hel. http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/
Writing advice, publishing news, book reviews and links from writer and freelance editor, Helen Ginger. Helen is pithy, funny, and as I used to say in my youth, right-on.   And she has a big following of other smart people who like to share their knowledge by commenting.
I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?  If so, leave a comment here.  You might win something!  At the end of each month  I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of “How to WOW Your Readers” or “You Can Be An Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer.”

Technorati Tags: writing tips, blog, reading, editing, writing advice, publishing news, book reviews, freelance editor

Compost: The Shadow Box of Memory

More about my Muse, Laura:  Laura lives in a shadow box you have hanging on your wall. Inside the shadow box is a perfect tiny replica of a fourteenth century farmhouse kitchen. The walls are cool blue plaster, the floor is flagstones and through the open window the afternoon sunlight streams, bringing with it the smell of the sea. On a wooden table sits a wicker basket filled with red cinnamon pears and soft speckled peaches. Laura sits at this table and circles the basket with her arms. She cradles it against her breasts and rests her round brown chin on the fruit. Her bare feet slide back and forth on the worn flagstones as she breathes in a lush and tender French smell. Laura closes her eyes and dreams of you working in the orchards that bore these fruits. You have not allowed yourself to have this peace of a long-ago life, so Laura keeps it for you; she holds it in the shadow box of memory you have hung upon your wall.
©2000, Eating Mythos Soup: poemstories for Laura

Technorati Tags: muse, Laura, writing, poemstories, Eating Mythos Soup, shadow box, fourteenth century, memory