Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekend linkup

Time to link up a favorite post! Try to visit as many as you can. It's a great way to find new blogs!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Villains

MWAHAHAHAHA!

In honor of Halloween, let's see all your bad boys and girls and, you know, other creatures.

Link up and go trick-or-treat at as many blogs as you can!



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Everything you need to know about NaNoWriMo

Today's guest post is by Cheryl's brother. Andrew has recently completed the first novel he's going to submit for publication and is participating in NaNoWriMo for the fourth time. He is here to share his wisdom with us. He blogs about writing over at Write Runner.


What is NaNoWriMo?


NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to writing a 50,000-word novel (or longer) during the month of November.

How do I sign up?

Simply go to http://www.nanowrimo.org and sign up. Be sure to register with your local region.

What’s the prize? What do I win?

The first draft of your next masterpiece. Seriously, it’s just a challenge, not a competition. Yes, if you go to the NaNoWriMo site there are all kinds of friendly wagers and challenges, but it’s all in the spirit of motivation.

So, why should I do this? How?

Here are my top 6 reasons for doing NaNoWriMo:

1. At the end of the month, you will have the first draft of a novel. From there it’s just a short step to edit, polish, and sell it! (but not really...I’ll save editing and marketing for another blog post or ten). The point is that you will have something to work with. And even if you never touch it again, it may inspire you to write other works. It may become the seed for a new project.

2. It’s the start of a great writing habit. Most “habits” take 3 weeks or so to take hold. By writing 1667 words a day (7 pages) for a month, you may start a writing habit that lasts a lifetime.

3. It’s just a month. And a boring month at that.

4. The pressure of forcing your brain to generate that much prose in such a short time is a major spark to creativity. I find that it actually adds a sense of urgency to my characters and forces them to get stuff done.

5. The pace of NaNoWriMo also does not allow your brain to rest, meaning that you will start to think about your story all the time. During breakfast, important meetings, in bed.

6. For me, I like using NaNoWriMo to explore new areas of writing. Last year I wrote my first Steampunk novel. This year, I’m planning on writing a contemporary Mystery.

How do I come up with an idea?

Usually I start with a character or a conflict, sometimes setting. For character, think of 2-word descriptions. Ex. Heartbroken romantic. Desperate spy. Hungry artist. Weatherbeaten retiree. Think of what situations those simple descriptions evoke.

For conflict, use “vs”: Man vs wilderness. Love vs responsibility. Mother vs daughter. Loyalty vs desire. Or use those descriptions above. Deperate spy vs weatherbeaten retiree.

For setting, think of something romantic yet dangerous, using 2-word descriptions: Forgotten Island. Abandoned Spaceship. Mother-in-law’s bedroom. 

Now put all three together: Desperate spy chooses between love and responsibility when faced with caring for her weatherbeaten retiree mother-in-law who lays dying, refusing to reveal the secret that could stop the alien invasion.

Uh, so how do I do this thing?

Tips for a successful NaNoWriMo

1. Do a little pre-planning. Some people literally sit down on Nov. 1 and start from a blank page. I suggest that you have at least a bare outline of the plot and a few character sketches. Who is the main character? What are the major conflicts? Who are the “bad guys”? What are the stakes? What’s the genre? Where does it take place?

2. Write every day. Even if you only squeak out 100 words, or half a page one day, it keeps the story alive in your mind.

3. Turn off the TV, internet, phone, spouse, kids. I know, easier said than done. Just find a way to dedicate some time each day to uninterrupted writing. Go out for “coffee”. Sit in a park or library. Participate in “write-ins” organized by local NaNo-ers.

4. Do not go back and edit. If there is stuff you know is wrong and needs fixing, just jot down some notes and keep moving. Editing is for December. Characters may change names and disappear entirely. Missions are forgotten. Conflicts unresolved. You kill off your main character. Don’t worry about it, just keep going.

5. Crap is good. Especially if this is your first fling at novel writing. They say it takes a writer 1,000,000 words to expel the crap from their system. Well here’s an easy 50K. Seriously though, don’t try to make every word perfect. Your first draft is more like a detailed outline, subject to revision and wholesale cuts. Polishing it now is wasted effort, since you don’t know what you’re keeping or tossing.

6. Do not give up. The first week is amazing. You’ll have great characters and conflict. Week 2 kinds of drags. By week three, you’ll have no idea why you started. That’s kind of where the magic happens. That’s when you sit down with yourself and figure out how to drive the story to its natural end. If you get past that barrier, then week four is a delight as everything comes together in a thrilling conclusion.

7. Backup your work! It’s amazing how often people lose their entire novel because they never saved it, or their disk dies on Nov. 29. Email it to a friend, save it to the cloud (Google Docs and Windows Skydrive offer free online storage of docs), or print it out.

Why do you NaNoWriMo?

I just work better under pressure. I keep charts and things to measure my progress. I spend so much time editing, that I literally have very little time to write something new. This is why I love NaNoWriMo so much. It’s just one month out of my life to create something new. I also like the comraderie of 100,000+ people all working towards the same goal. It makes me feel that I’m doing something important.

How do I find out more?
NaNoWriMo website: http://www.nanowrimo.org
My NaNoWriMo blog page: http://blog.dawnsrise.com/p/nanowrimo.html
Includes a summary of my past NaNoWriMo projects, as well as links to all my blog posts on the subject.

Add me as a friend here.

Good luck, and good writing! See you on December 1!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Featured Blogger - Jane from Aging Mommy

Today we are very excited to feature Jane and her thoughtful, inspiring blog Aging Mommy.

Tell us about yourself: I'm a 47 year old stay at home Mom with a 3 year old daughter. I spent 22 years building my career in finance and business management mainly within the Telecoms Industry, climbing the corporate ladder. I am a transplanted Brit who came here from England via Belgium and Ireland six years ago when I was offered what I thought was the job of my dreams as a Director of Sales Operations at the Global HQ. I never thought I would be a Mom, I was too busy having fun, traveling the world and living a very self centered life. But then at the age of 43 I found myself free falling from that ladder into the very different world of Mommyland. I love good food and eating out, good wine, photography, keeping fit and hiking. None of which are especially compatible with life with a 3 year old unless you class pasta and pizza as good food. Life now is certainly very different but I honestly would not want it any other way.

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: Hmmm....when I started my blog in February I wrote in my bio that I was looking to poke my head over the parapet of Motherhood out into the world again and was also hoping blogging would suffice in lieu of some much needed therapy. I had no clue about the blogosphere when I started blogging, so for me the biggest surprise was finding this amazing community of fellow bloggers. The therapy became a very real attainment as I found myself talking about my experiences of Motherhood, the highs and the lows and realized there are so many fellow bloggers who have had similar experiences and "get" where I am coming from. Also blogging reignited a love of writing which I had parked at the school gates some 30 years ago. So what started out as a place to record my thoughts and experiences as a Mother has become a place where I do that but also now I am increasingly posting photos, stories and even poems as I try to figure out where I want to take my writing and photography.

What literary character would you be and why?: Alice in Wonderland - wouldn't you just love to go to the Mad Hatters Tea Party and meet all those amazing characters. Of course, if the Mad Hatter turned out to be Johnny Depp in disguise then that would be even better :-)

If you could carve your initials in a tree, what tree would it be and why?: Those of you who already know me know that I am a lover of nature. So it will come as no surprise to know that I love trees. I think they are beautiful and awe inspiring accomplishments of nature. So I really could not bear to carve my initials into any tree. But I wouldn't mind having a tree planted above my grave. My favorite tree is the Acer, so one of those would be just perfect.

What animal does your husband look like and why?: I had absolutely no idea how to answer this question as after almost 17 years together he just looks like my husband to me. So I thought I would ask Mirabelle. Her first answer was pooh pooh diaper and her second was wee wee (toilet humor is a big thing around here at the moment). Her final answer was a growly silly bear. I think that is a pretty good answer although I think if my husband does resemble anything other than a basic homo sapiens then it is definitely a Hobbit. 

If you could save only one post in a fire, which post would it be and why?: There are lots of posts that mean a lot to me for many different reasons - be it because they are about Mirabelle or my experiences as a Mother or about getting to grips with PPD and finding myself again. This is a really tough one to answer. I know the most popular post of all time was my Thankyou For Being a Friend post, about a play date that went horribly wrong. But I would have to say my favorite post is Will you still need me when I'm 64.I  submitted this post to Write for Charity along with a couple of other posts and it was accepted for publication in the anthology recently published entitled From The Heart. The stories I submitted represent my first ever appearance in print and all profits from this publication go to Children's hospitals. Seeing something I had written in a book was almost surreal. This particular story was about the ways in which parents embarrass their children and I included some stories from my childhood. I blog anonymously and none of my friends or family know about my blog. A few weeks ago on a skype call with my parents I told them about the book and they asked me to read one of my stories to them. As I read about my father wearing long wool socks, short shorts and Jesus boots to cut the grass in summer my parents laughed. As I read about my Mom coming to pick me up from school when I was, in my opinion, too old for such nonsense, my mother said "I remember that day, it was raining and you had just a thin cotton summer dress on and no coat." My mother is not one to heap praise on anyone. Ever. As a child I wrote stories and poems all the time. Throughout my life my mother has repeatedly said how she used to love reading my stories and that I should write a book some day. As I grew older it used to annoy me - it seemed like such a ridiculous and impossible notion. But she persisted. When I finished reading my story to my parents my mother said "that's a good start but now you need to write a book." So I guess I'd better get on with doing just that.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Just one prompt this week, people. But it can be done fiction or non-fiction. We hope you have fun with it.

Your assignment is to write a character sketch of a villain.

Good stories have a villain or a nemesis. Which isn't to say there's an evil witch or bogeyman in every tale (like I tell my kids, a stranger isn't always a scary person, it's just someone you don't know). But you do need a character or characters who create friction, who go against the grain of good.

Sometimes these characters are truly bad, bad people (or machines or aliens. You get the picture.) but sometimes? They can be regular people; anyone or anywhere. Look around you. Maybe it's your kid's crossing guard who snarls at you every morning. Or the overbearing PTA or soccer mom. Maybe it's a teacher you had in school or a boss or a frenemy or a barrista.

Take their unpleasant traits and exaggerate. Make them as nasty as you wanna be. Tell us what she/he/it looks like. What are her/his/its motivations? No one is all good or all bad, which makes a villain complex and interesting. Tell us everything you need to know about this character.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Guest Post - Allison Tait

Allison Tait has been working in the magazine industry for around 20 years and freelancing (around her kids) for the last seven. She blogs at Life in a Pink Fibro about writing, being a Work At Home Mum, and… whimsy.

Creating the perfect pitch

When I tell people I’m a freelance writer, the first question they ask me is "Do the magazines tell you what to write?" My response: I wish.

The next question is "Where do you get your ideas?" I think that’s the wrong question. It should be "How do you sell your ideas?"

Being a successful (and I define successful as "working regularly, not having to sell your children on eBay") freelance writer is not so much about crafting words in the most artistic way – although this can help – but more about taking a commercial approach to words.

If you are a writer, you have ideas. It’s how you get those ideas to your potential market that makes the difference to how much work you get. There are many factors at play – a professional attitude, diligence, reliable delivery – but the single most important is the pitch. Get the pitch right, and chances are you’ll get the job.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when it comes to pitching:

1) You have to pitch all the time. If you don’t like the idea of pitching, or your ideas being rejected, it might be time to consider another field. A 95 per cent rejection rate is normal, particularly when you’re starting out. Heck, any time. I remember patches where it seemed that every single idea I sent out was rejected. It drove me nuts. It depressed me. But it also made me think long and hard about where I was going wrong with my pitches.

2) Email is excellent. Most editors prefer this form of pitching. But you have to grab their attention up front – and leave them wanting to see more.

3) There is no point in sending your pitch to the editorial assistant. Find the right person for your pitch. Larger publications have different editors for different sections, smaller publications will have one, but you need to find out if it’s the features editor, the deputy editor or the editor who makes the decisions. Ring up and find out.

The actual pitch for a story idea should be no more than 100 words or so. If you can’t explain it in one paragraph, you haven’t refined your angle enough. Tell them:

*What the story is about (snappy one-liners work well here – think about what kind of heading the publication would put on the story and try to write it)

*Who you will interview for the story, or where the source will be

*What the ‘hook’ is

*If you’re planning to have case studies, have an idea of who these will be – there’s nothing worse than being asked to turn a story around in two weeks and realising you need to find four couples willing to discuss their sex lives in detail (with photographs) to make it happen.

*If you haven’t written for the publication before, tell them who you are and why you’re the best person to write this particular story.

So far, so good. Before you press Send and start fretting about whether your pitch is successful, however, there’s one more consideration. Have you pitched the story to this particular publication? It’s not enough to have a great story idea, it has to be tailored for the publication you’re targeting. Think about the audience the editorial team is targeting. Think about the ‘voice’ of the magazine, newspaper or website – the words they use, the attitude they convey. Your writing needs to be your writing, but it also needs to fit within the publication’s voice.

An example. I had a call from a magazine aimed at younger women asking me to ‘look into’ a story on egg donors. They had seen an overseas story on how young women were selling their eggs to get through uni, and wanted to know if it happened here. Great idea – except that women in Australia aren’t paid to donate eggs, and they like you to have completed your own family before you do so. The mag decide they didn’t want the story.

But I’d done enough research at that point to almost have the story in place, including finding a couple of case studies (always the hardest bit), so I pitched it (with permission) to a different publication with a new angle. I thought the really interesting thing about egg donors was why they did it – what’s in it for them? The other publication bought the story and it worked out really well.

Moral of the story? If one editor says no – and they do, you know – take another look at your idea, try a different angle and think about where else you might send it. Then start all over again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend linkup

It's that time again. Link up your favorite post and try to visit some others, too. It's a great way to find new blogs!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Afternoon Party

Okay, we can't wait to see which prompt you chose - describe your 80th birthday party or spending an afternoon with someone who is no longer living -  and what you've done with it. So link up!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Constructive Criticism, Your Friend and Mine

We're so pleased with the amazing response that we got to the post Your Turn. We thank each of you who offered feedback and suggestions. We'll be working through your requests in the upcoming weeks, so if you haven’t had a chance to add your ideas yet, please do so!

A recurring request was for more helpful, constructive comments to our Red Writing Hood posts each week. Many of you asked that we push ourselves as readers to be more helpful by offering true constructive criticism.


Purely positive feedback is flattering, but how do you feel when you get a comment that says, “Great post!” and nothing else?

So, what exactly is it that we’re looking for… do we really want honesty?


Do we want it watered down or straight up?

As we prepare to link up our posts tomorrow, it would be helpful to know what we are seeking here. If we’re hoping to get something authentic out of this connection that we share, we should be on the same page.

Since I don’t believe that we’re all just here to collect a pat on the back, let’s talk about constructive criticism. (For a great piece on this topic, see Lori's guest post, How An Education Can Ruin Your Writing.)

What exactly is constructive criticism? Well, we all know that it’s not, “this is terrible” or “wow…amazing!”

It probably looks more like this, “I love your opening line, but you use several clich├ęs that weaken your writing,” or, “Your story is engaging, but your paragraphs are far too long. Try breaking them up to help your reader.”

Constructive criticism, while helpful, can be tough to hear. It may not make you happy to read it and I can guarantee that you won’t get the warm and fuzzies.

But you will learn where you need to grow.

Remember, although you may not like the feedback you receive, entertain it. In the end, you will choose to use it, or choose to lose it, but I encourage you to truly listen to it.

You may find that you even have an "ah ha moment" and come to appreciate the helpful feedback as you see yourself growing.

But, if you disagree, try not to get upset or defensive. Just simply and sincerely thank the commenter, as they have spent their time trying to help you.

Now I hand it back to you all. How do you feel about constructive criticism, both offering it and receiving it?


(If you aren't looking for criticism right now, that's completely fine. Just make a note at the end of your post that you'd prefer for us to just read and encourage you right now.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Featured Blogger - Amy from Never-True Tales

Please welcome Amy from Never-True Tales.

Tell us about yourself: Holy open-ended question, Batman! Let's see: I'm Amy. We'll start there. I'm a thirty-something wife and mother and early reading teacher in the beautiful state of Oregon. I'm a distance runner. I'm a Search and Rescue volunteer and a wilderness EMT. I'm a daughter and a sister and a classroom volunteer and a soccer mom. I'm a writer. I edit and administrate a successful travel website and have published poetry and essays in obscure literary journals that no one reads. I finished my first novel two years ago. I'd like to run a marathon. I'm still working on the Great American Novel, alongside everyone else. I'm Type A to the core. I can be obsessive. I love TV and books and ice cream. I'm happy. Side note: It's telling how, when asked this question, we peel back the layers of ourselves like the skin of an onion, isn't it? It takes us a while to get to the heart of it (and there's sometimes tears involved).

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: The Never-True Tales is all about superheroes. Ok, not really. But sort of. It's all about us: mothers, fathers, writers, bread winners, kids, babies, brothers and sisters. It's about the roles we play. It's about being a hero to the people we love in our corner of the world, saving the day, every day. It's about the happy ending. And the not-so-happy. And either way, it's about meticulously recording the tale in both the broad brush strokes and the minute detail.

What literary character would you be and why?: I have so many favorites, but this question isn't about favorites, is it? Who I would be is much tougher. I know who I wouldn't, couldn't be: Scarlett O'hara. Tess d'Uberville. Rebecca de Winter. Katniss Everdeen. Who I could, possibly be, maybe, in another life: Anne Shirley. At least I like to think so. She was a dreamer. A writer and reader. She had life goals, that girl. Some were fulfilled, and some were not. And that was ok. In the end, she had her imagination. She had her family. She had her Gilbert. And I have mine.

4. If you could carve your initials on a tree, what tree would it be, and why?: This question is hard, because I can't quite get past the fact that I'd never deface a tree in this way. When I was a kid, I scraped my initials into a wooden picnic table outside our local frostee freeze on impulse, and felt guilty for a week. And that was a picnic table. With gum stuck to the bottom and sticky soft serve hardened on the top. If I must answer, I suppose it would be ponderosa pine, because that's my favorite tree in the world. (So why would I do such a thing to my favorite tree? Nope, can't get past it. I'll have to take a pass on this one. Can I do that?)

5. What animal does your husband look like and why?: This one I can do. My husband is a dog. Now, before you get all up in arms, trust me when I say my husband will know this is the highest of compliments. I love dogs. Adore them and every doggy trait about them. I also know he'd like to think he's a cat, lazing about and not caring what anyone thinks, but he's not. He's entirely too loyal for that. Too hardworking. Too quick to jump on board of a good time, a laugh, a moment, any moment, with the people he loves. So yes. Dog. Definitely.

6. If you could save only one of your blog posts in a fire, which one would it be, and why?: Oh, evil, evil question, why must I answer you? I think, if such a Sophie's choice came to pass, I'd have to save my very first blog post. My first post is not my best crafted (not even close). It's not my most poignant or insightful or humorous or heartfelt. But it's the one that began it all. But if you asked which one I am most proud of, which one speaks the most of my life and what my blog is all about, I'd have to pick this one.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Red Writing Hood

One quick note before we get to it. Apparently you have to actually click on a post to comment or to read comments.

Now on to this week's prompts. That's right. I said prompts. Plural.

We're trying something new this week and giving you two choices. We are feeling crazy! Woohoo!

Ahem.

1. Describe your 80th birthday party.

2. If you could spend the afternoon with anyone who is no longer alive, who would it be and what would you do? (And yes, we mean someone who has died that you would want to spend a day with, not that you would spend the day with an actual dead person!)

Pick whichever you like. Combine them, if you want. You can also do it as fiction or non-fiction.

Also. let us know if you like having two choices or if we should just stick to one.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guest Post - Elizabeth Flora Ross

Those of you who belong to our blog are familiar with today's guest poster. Elizabeth blogs at The Writer Revived and is currently working on a non-fiction book about the Mommy Wars.

A calling

OK, gentle readers, prepare yourselves. I am going to say something controversial. You may not like it. It may even make you mad. But it needs to be said.

You cannot learn to be a writer.

What?! How can I say such a thing? Aren’t there skills that can be learned? Can’t you work hard at a craft and become good at it? Maybe even great?

The answer is yes. You can learn to write. You can study mechanics, technique, style. You can hone those skills and continue to work on them. And you should. I believe we never stop learning, and if you care about your craft you must work to perfect it.

But none of the above makes you a writer.

Being a writer is something that is within you. It is innate. It is part of you. It cannot be learned, or developed or forced. You either are a writer or you aren't. Period. Sorry if that upsets you. But it is an absolute truth. And I didn't make the rules.

Writers don't write because they want to. It is far more than a desire. They don't write for fame. It is not about recognition. They don't write for money. In case you haven’t already heard, they don’t normally make any. They don't even write for a sense of achievement. They write because it is their calling.

Writers are writers because they have to be. They have no choice. It is not what they do; it is who they are. Writing is in their blood. They can't help but write, and they would do it even if there were no chance their work would ever be published or read by anyone.

If you are a writer, you understand this. You know exactly what I am saying. But there are a lot of people out there trying to be writers. And they don't get it. Some actually think it is a quick way to make big bucks. Or become well known. Others try their hand at it because they believe it makes them look cool.

They may write well. They may even enjoy success. But they are nothing more than wannabes. Writing is a lifelong endeavor. You don’t just decide to do it one day. It is possible to recognize your calling later in life, but if you are truly a writer it has always been there, beneath the surface.

I assume you are part of this group because you are a writer. The real deal. You are compelled to write, and you have joined The Red Dress Club to connect with others like you. To learn from them, be motivated by them, and share with them your amazing talent.

So really, there is no controversy. You were all nodding your heads the entire time, shouting a collective, “Yeah!” at your computer screen. Right? Great!

When did you recognize your calling, and what are you doing to answer it? I’d love to know…

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Elevator

This week's prompt was to write about being stuck in an elevator for six hours with someone you despise. It could be done as fiction or non-fiction. How'd you do?

Link up!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pace

Sometimes when you write you get the words down as fast as you can. You're inspired and you're in a hurry because what if you forget what you were going to say and then you get stuck behind a big ole chunk of writer's block.

Slow down.

Think.

Breathe.

Did you? Slow down that is. You can control the pace with which your story proceeds simply by your use of words, sentence length and punctuation.

Consider these two passages. The scene is a mall where the mother has just lost her young son in the crowd.

"Sarah was sweating. The place was packed and she couldn't see Ryan anywhere. She looked into each store but there was no little boy with spiky blond hair and a red sweater with the trains on it. She'd dressed him in the bright color this morning thinking he'd be easy to spot. Now she realized how dumb that was since he blended in with all the Christmas decorations in every square inch of the mall. She'd only had to stop in one store so she hadn't bothered with the stroller she knew he'd fight anyway. He was right beside her, clutching his Thomas train. She'd just paid for the sparkly snowman tie he'd picked out for Daddy and then they were going to get hot chocolate and a donut. But she turned around for a second and all of a sudden he was gone.  Her heart pounded as she raced along the concourse, dodging shoppers loaded down with bags. Where was he?"

Or this:

"Sarah pushed through the crowd of Christmas shoppers. Her eyes scanned every face. She ran faster and faster. Searched every doorway. Ryan had been right next to her. She'd turned around for a second and he was gone. Her heart pounded wildly. Sweat dripped from her as she raced down the concourse. Where was he?"

The first paragraph had a lot of detail, including information about what happened before the shopping trip. It will slow the reader down. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

The second paragraph was faster. Sentences were shorter. You're meant to be a little breathless along with her. You can show her panic without saying she's panicking. You hope the reader feels a little bit of this too. More details - such as what happened before they went to the mall - could be provided before or after the action part.

An easy way to lull your readers to sleep is to keep the same cadence the entire time. Look to see if your sentences are all the same length. Maybe each one has a comma in it.  Or maybe they're all short and staccato.

Take a passage from your writing and see if you can alter it by changing sentence length. Or adding or subtracting detail.

Think about how you want your reader to feel.

Pace can go a long way to accomplishing your goal.

What do you do to control pace? Is it something you think about when writing?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Featured Blogger -- CDG

This week, we're featuring CDG* and her lovely, whimsical blog, Move Over Mary Poppins!

Tell us about yourself: You don't start with the easy questions, do you? I'm a thirty something Mama, a wife, a nanny. I'm an aspiring romance novelist. I've studied culinary arts, music, writing. I'm passionate about all of them, though I do none of them professionally. I knit. I read. I'm by turns shy and extroverted. I'm irreverent and sarcastic, fierce and loyal. I am an Aries.

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: Move Over Mary Poppins! began nearly five years ago as a place for me to ponder life as a nanny in the days of Louise Woodward and The Nanny Diaries. My nannying life was nothing like that. It was more like being a SAHM - in someone else's home. Over the years, the blog has evolved with me into a place to share a glimpse of my work life (names changed, of course), my home life, and for the last few months, my writerly life. It's equal parts fiction, haiku, memoir, food, parenting/nannying, moments with my two year old son, and the slow renovation of our home.

What literary character would you be and why?: Kind of an obscure one. Her name is Mireille, and she is at the center of Katherine Neville's The Eight, which is my favorite novel in the history of ever. She lives a remarkable and challenging life amidst adventure and danger and loss, loves passionately and without regret, and is a redhead! I really want to be a redhead.

If you could carve your initials on a tree, which tree would it be and why?: When I was a dreamy teenager, there was a beech tree in the woods behind our house that was all knobbly and twisted at the roots, a really huge, old tree. I used to wish for a boyfriend to kiss me under that tree. It never happened, but still. That would be the tree.

What animal does your husband look like and why?: I'm not sure he'd like the comparison, but a Bullmastiff. He's solid and warm. He's big and fierce looking, but in truth? Strong, gentle, loyal, protective. He has a serious face that just lights up when he smiles.

If you could only save one of your existing posts in a fire, which would you choose and why?: Oh no... No. No. No. I have well over seven hundred posts. I've been blogging for five years. One post? Right now, it would be Swamped at the Library because it's such a perfect snapshot of my son captured in time.

*To retain her privacy, she chooses to go by CDG.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Red Writing Hood

If you're new here, make sure to check out our new About page to find out what we're, well, all about. Even if you're a regular, take a look. We hope the information will answer any questions about how this place works. Of course, you're always welcome to ask us anything!


For this week's Red Writing Hood, we're going to try something a bit different. We've had people tell us they think this is a fiction writers group. But we're open to ALL writers.

With the following prompt, from The Writer's Block: 786 Ideas to Jumpstart Your Imagination by Jason Rekulak, you can choose to write it as fiction OR as non-fiction.

"Think of a person you don't like, and describe what you might say if you had to share an elevator ride together. Then describe what happens when the elevator breaks down. For six hours."

As always, can't wait to see what you come up with. Don't forget to link up Friday!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Post - Lori from In Pursuit of Martha Points

Today's guest poster is Lori from In Pursuit of Martha Points. She does not have a degree in Creative Writing. Does it matter? Read on:


How An Education Can Ruin Your Writing


Once upon a time, before the speech pathology degree, before the lab coat, and long before the blog, I was a creative writing major at the University of California at Santa Cruz where, I am proud to say, I voted for the banana slug mascot. (Hey, it was Santa Cruz. We ate all-organic, if you know what I mean.)

Here is what I envisioned a creative writing department to be: a cross between the Algonquin Round Table and an academic decatholon, but with hip, college clothes and mascot-voting-herbology (if you know what I mean). It was going to be a place to discuss the big questions, to root each other on to the writing of the Great American Novel (to be known from hereon out as the GAN), to sweat out learning the ropes of character, voice, plot and to help shape immature writing into powerful, Virginia-Wolfe-Worthy stuff.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Red Writing Hood - What's for dinner?

Time to link up your description of a favorite meal. Try to visit as many as you can!



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Your turn...

We are having some technical issues with commenting. If you have commented, we have received it, even if it does not show up here. Our huge brains are working on figuring out what's up.


One quick piece of business: We've sent 25 invitations to join The Red Dress Blog. We apologize a million times over for the inexcusable delay in getting back to many of you. The change in personel and exploring options for a move to WordPress has resulted in a really awful backlog.


Anyway. If you have applied and did NOT receive an invitation in your email, please let us know as soon as possible. 


Thanks again for your patience!


And now, a message from Nichole:

So it occurs to me that aside from reading the posts you have linked up here, I know so little about most of you.

You learned a lot about me from my introduction post. You know about my background and my goals.

But I don't know much about you.

What brings you to The Red Dress Club? Do you come here for the camaraderie? For the encouragement? To expand and to grow? To showcase your writing?

Tell me how I can best help you with your writing. Are there any specific areas that you'd like to work on? About what part of the writing process do you want to learn more?

Nothing is too small or too large to mention here. Do commas plague you? Do you want more information about how to get published?

This is my chance to get to know each of you. Tell me about your stumbling blocks.

I want to hear your thoughts.

I want to help you reach your goals. I want to use my experience to help you in any way I can.

We're all in this together.

Okay...your turn. I'm listening...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Featured Blogger - Elizabeth Flora Ross

Elizabeth is hard at work on a non-fiction book about becoming a mother. It is a topic to which most of us can relate, especially the transition from career woman to stay-at-home mom. She is very interested to the art and process of writing and you can read about it here.

Tell us about yourself: Hello! I’m Elizabeth. Wife. Mom. Writer. The order those titles take depends very much on the day. But they are the roles that most define me. I’ve been a writer the longest, close to 20 years. Was a communications and marketing professional prior to becoming a mom. Also wrote in my free time. I am a nonfiction writer. I write about my own experiences as a way of connecting with and inspiring others. You can learn more about my past & current projects on my website: www.efloraross.com.

I was a bit of a late bloomer in the other areas. I met my husband on Match.com and got married when I was 38 years old. One month after my 40th birthday, our precious daughter was born. She is now a very active, independent, challenging yet sweet toddler. She is freakishly long and lean, so I refer to her as SB, for String Bean. She’ll be two in December. Everyone told me the time would fly by. They were not kidding!

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: The Writer Revived started out as a way to detail my writing journey. Shortly after my daughter’s first birthday, following a long hiatus, I rediscovered my passion for writing and jumped in headfirst. I developed an idea for a book, wrote a proposal and began querying literary agents. My proposal is currently with two agents for consideration.

As the blog evolved, I also began to write about motherhood. It became a great release for me to share about my experiences as a new mom. It also connected me with tons of other moms and enabled me to develop a great support system. And it is the subject of my current book, so it made sense to take the blog in that direction. At this point, about half my posts are about being a mom, and half are about writing.

What literary character would you be and why?: This one was really hard for me to answer. I struggled and finally settled on Griet from The Girl With the Pearl Earring. Griet grew up innocent and sheltered, and was thrust into the real world unprepared. She was, however, intelligent and perceptive well beyond her years, a very keen observer of people and situations. Griet is calm and gentle and full of longing. She has an innate artistic ability that she was never able to unleash. She becomes the woman she is meant to be when given the opportunity to explore and express her creative side.

If you could carve your initials on a tree, which tree would it be and why?: This one was easy – a live oak. Here in the south, they are everywhere. Big, beautiful, strong trees that have stood for hundreds of years. Their curvy branches reach up toward the sky, dip down all the way to the ground, and then shoot upward again. They are amazing. Just the other day my husband and I took our daughter to a local park, and we walked by an impressive live oak tree draped in Spanish moss. My husband said, “I bet that was standing here during the Civil War.”

What animal does your husband look like and why?: I don’t know how he will like this, but I am going to say a gorilla. My husband has big, beautiful brown eyes and a very expressive face. Very much like this good looking fella he took a picture of at our local zoo:



Although my husband is not quite this hairy. ;)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red Writing Hood -- Eating

This week's Red Writing Hood prompt comes directly from Natalie Goldberg's amazing book, "Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir."

You can totally go for it on description here, hopefully inspired by Monday's guest post.

"Tell me about a meal you loved. Where were you when you ate it? What was the weather like out the window? Who were you with? How old were you? ... Did you leave anything on the plate? Were there flowers on the table? Paper napkins? Did you have seconds? Are you stumped? Begin with: I don't remember anything about that meal except..."


Monday, October 4, 2010

Guest Post - Kris from Pretty All True

If you have not yet visited Pretty All True you are missing an amazing writer. I read Kris and only wish I could use words the way she does. Her descriptions and memories of a tumultuous childhood are at turns both heartbreaking and inspiring. She's also laugh (and snort)-out-loud funny.




I write a lot about childhood memories.

Someone recently asked me if I have a photographic memory.

I do not. That suggests to me that I could pull up any moment in my childhood and reproduce it in exact detail. I do not have that ability. My memory is not a videotape of the past. It is not exact.

There is no single version of reality, no complete retelling of a past experience.  That’s why writing is an art. I can take you to where I was, but the place I was? That place has been colored by the passage of time . . . perhaps just a few hours or maybe years and years of living. So really? I can only take you to my memory of the place that was.

And that memory is true and real and perfect to me.

It is not all there is. But it is all I have to offer. So, no . . . I do not have a photographic memory.

But I do remember. I remember a 6th-grade math teacher who used to read aloud to us every Friday afternoon. Can you see her? I can see her. But you cannot.What if I describe her for you as I saw her then from my second-row desk?

She was tall, very tall and thin.  Severe and mannish, despite her long skirts and flowing blouses.She wore strangely bulky shoes and she had an odd gait. Her shoes made a loud uneven clomping sound as she paced before the chalkboard and up and down the aisles to be sure that we understood our math assignments.  She was far too old to have the burgundy-flamed hair that sat atop her pale stern face, but it never once occurred to me at the time that she had not been born with this hair.

Do you see her now?

A few more details . . .She was all angles and sharpness to me, her body thin and strong, her movements tense and purposeful, her voice a biting precise judgment when she spoke. She seemed to me to be my math book come to life . . . exacting, calculating, cold.

She carried a ruler in her hand, her long slender fingers wrapped around its rectangle. With sudden harsh movements, she would reach into the curve of our bodies over our papers to indicate a mistake, a misstep, an error. Her loud commanding voice would announce the failure to the class.

She did not want to be friends with us. She did not invite our confidences. She did not seem aware of our lives outside of her classroom.

And there was this . . . She had one glass eye.

She never acknowledged it. Never spoke of it. But we all knew, and we watched as one cold eye tracked our movements and the other colder eye did not. She did not miss much.

That was my 6th grade math teacher.

Do you see her? I have shared all of these details to tell you of the times when she was that which I have described. So that you will understand the contrast.

The softening.

Every Friday afternoon, she would pull her chair from behind her desk. Roll it to the front of the class. She would go to the back of the classroom door, where she hung her bag and her sweater. Put on her sweater.Reach into her bag for a book. Slip off her shoes and then walk in silent stockinged feet back to her chair.

Settle in.

Open the book . . . she was fond of The Boxcar Children series . . . and she would read to us.

Her reading voice was magic.

Not the voice of my math teacher at all, but instead a fluid feminine floating thing, filled with emotion and nuance and vulnerability.

I was always captured by the transformation. From hard to soft.From harsh to yielding. From plain to beauty.

From teacher to woman.

Always, as she read, the story appeared before me in the classroom air. Not as a picture painted before me, not as a movie played for my amusement against the chalkboard screen, not as a radio play.

No, as she read, the story appeared before me as though I might step into it. As though I was no longer a frightened small girl with too many secrets, but another braver character altogether. I was a girl able to leave the regular world behind and survive on my own. Apart. I was stronger and better version of myself. One of the boxcar children.

Some of the class would fall asleep to the lull of her voice. She never minded. Others would stare out into space, captured by visions within their imaginations.

And one little girl in the second row of desks would occasionally end up with her head buried in her arms to hide her tears. That I was not in fact this braver other from the story.

Just myself instead.

As my teacher was just herself.

My teacher would sometimes lay a hand gently on my head as I gathered my belongings at the end of class, “Have a good weekend, Kris. I will be here when you return on Monday.”

Do you see her now?

I hope so.

Because this is all I have to offer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Weekend linkup

We want to remind everyone that it's really important that you have contact information either on your blog or on your blogger info. We have tried to contact a couple of you to be the featured blogger and unfortunately couldn't find an email address. Let us know if you have any questions!

Okay, now it's time to link-up one of your favorite posts.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Just wanted to let you know that I think our Red Writing Hood button over on the right sidebar has been fixed! At least, it looks good to our non-techy little brains.



I do absolutely know how to work the link-up, so let's see what you came up with for our Picture prompt.