January 27, 2012

Little Free Libraries! What a Great Idea.

Oh, friends, I have the most wonderful idea to share with you this week—Little Free Libraries. Have you heard of them?

These are small, wooden mini-libraries, little “houses” that can be mounted on a fencepost anywhere! Take a book, leave a book. The possibilities are endless.

The idea of Little Free Libraries began with Wisconsinite Todd Bol. He teamed up with his friend, Rick Brooks, to form the non-profit group Little Free Libraries.

The concept is simple. You make or buy a Little Free Library and install it near your house or business. Stock it with books to share, and spread the word. Neighbors and friends are welcome to take a book and either return it or replace it with a different book. What a great way to promote reading and especially to provide books for the neighborhood kids.

Take a look at this video, and read more about it here.

Little Free Libraries are popping up everywhere, and you can have one, too. The Little Free Library web page has plans for building and links to where you can buy one. Be aware, though, that buying one can be pricey.

Are there any carpenters out there willing to barter with me? I’ll do some writing/editing work for you if you’ll build a Little Free Library for me. Can you tell that I REALLY want one?!

This week's question: If you had a Little Free Library, what would you do with it and which books would you put inside?

Listen to a free Podcast interview with Rick Brooks and Todd Bol on Wisconsin Public Radio's "Here on Earth" show. The show host, Jean Feraca is one of my favorites. Check out her other show topics in the "Here on Earth" archives.

And don't forget to "like" Little Free Library on Facebook.

January 22, 2012

5 Ways To Polish Your Word Weaving Skills

One challenge writers face is knowing exactly what a word means and then using it in a unique way. Great authors are more than writers. They weave words in one-of-a-kind patterns that create specific images in their readers’ minds. Often these writers throw out the mechanical rules of writing and allow the words to lead them.

The Merriam-Webster web page offers several ways to help writers increase their word weaving skills. Give them a try. Click on each link below.

1. Most Popular Words
Each day, Merriam-Webster posts lists of the 25 most frequently looked up words from the past 24 hours, past week, or past 4 months. Words frequently appearing on these lists provide a good idea of topics that are currently on peoples’ minds. Each word links to its definition.

2. Trend Watch
Words spike in popularity based on current events. Trend Watch is where you can see which words are trending and find out why. Entries often include interesting information about word origins.

3. Top Ten Lists
This section of the web page is a word weaver’s playground. It holds 50+ word lists on a variety of topics: Top 10 Charming Words for Nasty People, Top Ten Words for Useful and Intriguing Concepts, Words for Things You Didn’t Know Have Names . . . Did you know that your “philtrum” is that little dimple between your nose and your upper lip?

4. Vocabulary-Building Quizzes
The Merriam-Webster editors occasionally post vocabulary quizzes. These short, timed tests can help wake up your brain before you begin to write. Try these:

How strong is your vocabulary?

Name that thing.

5. Videos
This is the place where the Merriam-Webster editors speak directly to viewers about confusing grammar issues, word origins, and more. Take a look at this short sample, then post a comment telling us how you feel about using flat adverbs in your writing?

Ann Voskamp is one popular author who uses flat adverbs well.
Click here to visit her blog.

If you have some free time, try playing while you increase your word weaving skills. The Merriam-Webster web site also includes a nice selection of online word games.

January 12, 2012

Are You A Quirky Writer?

Stephen King writes just ten pages a day, every day, always in the morning. Maya Angelou prefers writing in hotels instead of at home, and she asks the hotel staff to remove everything from the walls of her room. Thomas Wolfe used the top of his refrigerator as a writing desk (he was a very tall man). And Edgar Allan Poe enjoyed writing with his cat, Cleopatra, on his shoulder.

Most writers are a bit eccentric. We have our quirks. So, I’ll share some of mine with you, if you’ll share some of yours with me.

The Top Ten Reasons Why I'm A Quirky Writer

1. I don’t like paper. Paper becomes clutter, and clutter distracts me.

2. I hate writing anything by hand. I procrastinate like crazy whenever I have to use penmanship.

3. When it's nice outside, I prefer to write in my car in a parking lot at the beach.

4. Writing doesn't feel right without a cat sleeping nearby. (I have two. Neither sleeps on my shoulder.)

5. Some of my best inspiration for dialogue and character development comes from reality shows. (The Duggers and Roloffs for happy family inspiration, The Real Housewives of [fill in the city] for utter chaos and dysfunction.)

6. Classical music helps me to concentrate when I write educational nonfiction. It transports me back to my days at the university and academia.

7. I prefer a laptop computer to a desktop. For me a laptop equals freedom. I don’t like being tethered to a desk.

8. I need to write in isolation and complete quiet. Even little noises bother me. I prefer to write late at night while the world sleeps.

9. Coffee. Coffee is very important when I write, but not just any old coffee. I fill a 16- ounce travel mug with a flavored latte that I make myself, or if it's summer I make a flavored iced latte. I sip on that for hours.

10. I have unusual objects in my writing space. There’s a six-foot artificial alpine tree with white lights in my home office and a jackalope head on the wall. (I rescued him from a thrift shop, and I like to dress him up for holidays). Near my desk, I have a wonderful, ugly-face, kitchen match holder that belonged to my grandma (I store large paperclips in it, which I never use because I hate paper.)

So there you have it. I’ve shared some of my silly writing quirks with you.

What are some of yours?

January 8, 2012

Writers—Six Ways to Beat Discouragement

Did you enter 2012 feeling discouraged about your writing? Maybe one of your goals for last year was to get your work published and that didn’t happen. You might be weary of the business side of writing, watching sales figures drop, working hard to promote your work and receiving little in return. Whatever the source of your discouragement, here are six surefire ways to beat it.

1. Fine-tune your workspace. Clean off your desk, rearrange the furniture, and change your screensaver to something bright and cheerful. Treat your space to some new, whimsical writing tools. Let in the light. Soak your space with sunshine.

2. Expand your horizons. Put your WIP aside and write in an unfamiliar genre. It doesn’t have to be epic or perfect. Just write. Try a poem, a play, or write an article about beating discouragement! An hour or two of unfamiliar territory might even inspire fresh, new ideas for your WIP or set you in an altogether new writing direction.

3. Tell it to your journal. Get all your discouragement down on paper. Let out the frustration, anger, and tears. Journal a letter to the agents and editors who turned you down last year. Tell them how you really feel. Sometimes just letting the discouragement flood out helps to get rid of it.

4. Ask the “you-too?” question. Network with other writers, either in person or on Facebook or other social media venues. Ask them if they get discouraged and what they do to beat it. You might be surprised to find that you have lots of company. Even multi-published writers get discouraged.

5. Use words to chase discouragement away. Choose and meditate on one positive, uplifting word like faith, hope, courage, or success. Read and think about quotations or scripture verses that relate to your word. Let them sink deep into your soul.

6. Focus on the gift. Concentrate more on the talent you have been given to write instead of your purpose for writing. I believe, and maybe you do too, that each of us is endowed with special skills. The reason for that endowment isn’t always clear. Maybe the purpose of your gift is to publish, or maybe it is to write blog posts that inspire. Perhaps your purpose is to write something that touches just one person in a way that changes his or her life. When you put the gift of writing above your perceived writing purpose you may find encouragement in unexpected places.

Vincent Van Gogh once said, “In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.”

So, dump your discouragement. Take up your pencil and write!