Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Keeping Focus

note: Not my habit, but I think this is important enough to post on all my blogs

Is anyone else having trouble keeping focus right now?

It's not just the holidays. That's a nice distraction; but most of us have learned over the years how to closet ourselves with our muses and keep working.

No, now it's all the other things: the wars and attacks around the world, the economy -- or lack thereof, the overall animosity amongst people -- whether it be religious differences, political losses, or flatout hatespeak bred of fear and suspicion. I'm telling you, the atmosphere is downright oppressive.

Yet, and yet, as writers our first instinct is to put something down on paper (or pixels) about it. We can blog about it (self-reference there), or we can spread our words and our wings wider.

We who write have a gift that is meant to be shared. We who are citizens of the planet have a responsibility to use our gifts to protect and further our planet. We who write and are citizens are generally opinionated and completely capable of fomenting discussion and thought about the problems of the world.

Essentially, the distractions of today are the fodder for our writing, be it blog, article, editorial. or fiction. If we can help to find a solution, we should. And if writing is our talent, then that is what we contribute to the solution.

So, I say, in the words of way too many writers who get a kick out of saying it, Write on! Tidy up those distractions and put them to work for yourself and all the other citizens of the planet. Someday, somebody will get around to thanking you.

Well, I'll do it here. Thank you.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Frenzied Festivities

The holidays are here, the holidays are here! No school! Maybe, even, no work!

And with the holidays come all the joy, merriment, noise, frustration, depression, anger, loneliness, exuberance, romance, and laughter one can imagine.

Emotions! Gosh, the emotions holidays reveal. For some people, they are enough reason to duck out on the celebrations and gatherings. How does a person deal with the extremes our feelings race to during high-octane occasions like holidays?

You may choose to make yourself scarce when things get rolling. You may revel in the joy and romance. You may find a certain satisfaction in dealing with the negative feelings; there is romance in tragedy, too.

But as a writer, one thing you should do is journal. Journaling helps a person make sense of life. Writing things down lets you look at the situation and think things through. Having those things to go back to, however, helps a writer draw upon real, experienced emotions when trying to convey feelings in a written work. Besides, some of our most imaginative and poetic work is done when our emotions are raw and unstrung.

So, have a happy holiday, but also journal all the feelings, happy and otherwise. You never know when you might need them.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Built-in Gift

This is just a short reminder to young writers.

We're entering that time of year when family gatherings and gift-giving is the norm. Affordability is always a question for young people, but, let's face it, it hasn't been this bad in a long time. So, how about giving of that gift of yours? Use your writing ability to create a gift for someone.

Write a story with someone in mind. Make it funny and personalize it. Or just write the type of story you know they'll like. Or, write them a poem, a tribute to their dog or cat. Maybe some limericks about spending the holidays together.

You can even offer your services. Write a letter for someone, or design a greeting card from them that they can send their friends. This can be especially effective if you pair it with designs or photographs, then scan them into a computer to create the cards.

You can draw other members of the family into the project, too. One year we all pooled stories, essays, and pictures and created a chapbook of Christmas stories we'd created.

Even if it's written with pencil on a paper bag, a newly created piece crafted with the recipient in mind is a unique gift that most people will treasure. Of course, if you know your Aunt Debbie would prefer a sweater, maybe you better pull out the knitting needles.....


Monday, October 13, 2008

A Student Challenged Me....

by saying it took too long to write anything. Then she challenged me to write something fast.

For Carmil

5 seconds –
how long it takes
for you to tell me
what you want me to write.

5 seconds –
how long it takes
for you to decide
you dislike something
and dismiss it without appeal.

5 seconds –
how long it takes
to change a life
to fire a life
to set one’s mind ablaze.

-- rjm


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sometimes You Just Have to Please Yourself

Life is full of times when we have to please others. 'Others' like our parents, our teachers, our bosses, even our kids! When do we get to just please ourselves?

When you indulge in eating what you want, or watching the movie or TV show you feel like, or ... writing just what you think.

I always try to be honest in my writing, honest to the ideas I have and the descriptions of what I see, honest to myself. When I write that way, what I write is real, whether it is profound or not.

I get a lot of joy from reading something that I've written before, but only when I've been real and true to myself. So, ultimately, I try to please myself when I write, even if I can't please others. But usually? If I please myself, the other person is okay with it, too.


Why it's Important to be Right.....

It happened again.

You don’t know what it’s like to hear someone rant and rave until you hear my husband go at it when he’s found a spelling or grammar error in a professional article. This time it was on-line, but as Dave says, that doesn’t matter.

The reporter, a professional, was writing about prostate cancer. Please note: p – r – o – s – t – a – t – e cancer. Twice, the first time being in the headline, the word was written as prostrate . Now, prostrate is a word, and I’m sure many victims of prostate cancer are prostrate over the news, ie lying down physically or overcome by concern over it. However, the disease is prostate cancer, the prostate being the part of the anatomy affected. At the end of the article, which was complete with medical jargon and expert quotes, the writer referred to a prostatectomy as being one of the treatments for the problem. At least she got that right.

You might say that it doesn’t matter; using prostrate in this way is a common mistake. Well, it’s a common mistake because so many people repeat it. And when a professional misuses it in an article that appears to be sound otherwise, then people take that as the correct usage, and the whole thing snowballs.

And, for that matter, is the article itself sound? If a writer is interviewing a medical expert in order to pass along information, everything must be correct. If I can’t trust that writer to take the time to get a simple spelling correct, how can I trust her to get the facts straight? How can I rely on any of the information that article contains?

Point being, it isn’t just appearance. A writer has a responsibility to be as accurate with facts as possible. That includes spelling. In non-fiction, especially reporting, the reader is relying on the article for accurate information. A writer who is too careless or lazy or even impatient to check things out risks losing readers when they finally learn the truth. No one keeps reading magazines or web sites that get it wrong. But if people keep writing this way, eventually so much wrong information will be out there, readers won’t know if what they get is right or not.

It’s one thing if this is about word usage. We can live with language and grammar changing out of people insisting on using words the wrong way. But when it leads to mis-information? That’s something else again.



Just a reminder to young writers to hop on over to my writing site for young people, HOTSHOTS Workshop. Learn about what INKAS are and find writing prompts to write from.

Remember that writing well is as important as good hand-eye coordination, and it’s a skill that can last a lot longer.



Ever notice how a dog will be single-minded? He doesn’t care if your jeans are muddy, or if you failed a test, or forgot to pick up your clothes. He loves you and wants to hang out with you. Maybe he’ll want to go for a run, or wander along a creek. But mostly he just wants to be at your side. There’s a reason dog is considered man’s best friend.
Because he accepts unconditionally that at your side is where he belongs.

Have you ever given your friendship like that? Just completely? Everyone should sometime. The experience can be amazing.

And if you have, I hope you kept a journal or wrote a little something about it. Because that can make a wonderful memory later.


Love Letters

Like many sentimental moms, I keep things my kids give me. And I'm always surprised by how much stuff there is -- even tho' we have a large family!

I don't know how it started, but my kids all like to write me notes. Sometimes they're little love notes when I go on a trip, sometimes they're explanations of why they poked a sibling in the arm, sometimes they're apologies. Once I received a contract listing all the things my guilt-ridden son thought he ought to be forbidden to do to punish him for something that happened. And it wasn't even really his fault!

But what's been cool about it, is that they've been able to say things on paper (for me to read later) that they couldn't bring themselves to say in person. Knowing they didn't have to face me while they talked about personal things gave them enough space to go ahead and open their minds to me.

Sometimes I answer, more often I just go find them and give them a smile and a hug. But these notes are all precious.

Communication is important among people, but especially between child and parent. Communication makes relationships possible. It provides a path for forgiveness, for love, for understanding and belief in one another.

If talking isn't working, give a letter a try.


Feeling Weird

It's fall, and it feels weird
I haven’t been in since summer, and here it is school already.

It feels weird, not working with student writers for the 2nd year in a row. While I’m glad to have the time for my own writing, I miss the chance to hear young teens thoughts, and to see the magic as they get into writing for the first time.

As silly as it may sound, it is magic to see creation in process. The moment when the writer picks the right word, when he or she senses the power of words. It’s especially strong when the writer is young, because young people feel so much like they have no power. Finding out that their words have strength, that they can actually influence other people is pretty heady stuff for most teens.

Now that I think about it, I saw it even in the least interested of my young writers. Sometimes the only things they’d agree to write about were the trends that they were into. For the guys, I think it was when they realized they could affect which video game another kid bought. Similarly, for the girls, I think it was when they learned that what they said in their fashion column was cool, was cool. Suddenly, these kids for whom being on the newspaper was just a way to get out of a regular class wanted to get their columns in every issue, to make sure their voices were heard.

So, if you’re a young writer, I’d like to hear what you are doing, what you’re writing, what you think. Just to keep up with things.



This new blog is to replace my old site at xanga.com where I was known as 'revetisse'. That's still how I'll sign out on this blog. It is a made-up French word, and if you can figure out what I mean by it, then you're pretty good.

In this blog I'll talk about writing the way I did when I coached writing in middle school. We won't talk about grammar or spelling -- except for me to say you should be careful of both when you write. Instead, we'll discuss creativity, professionalism, getting published -- those things a young writer is curious about. Things like how to get ideas, who publishes young writers, where to find conventions and workshops.

The next few posts I'll make will be 're-runs' from my site at xanga, just for continuity. Then, we'll be on to the new stuff.

Thanks for stopping in.