Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thinking outside the box

Some of you took it as a challenge when I asked you to "think outside the box" for last week's Red Writing Hood prompt.

I love that. I do.

When we see a prompt, sometimes an idea hits us immediately. We have just the thing, we think. And off we go, whipping together that post in 15 minutes flat.

Which is great. We're busy. All of us are.

But sometimes, the obvious can also be the cliche. Or it can be something that doesn't challenge us to dig deeper, think harder, stretch ourselves.

I had to write many, many game stories as a sportswriter over my career. I covered more than 100 baseball games a summer, and believe me, they weren't all nail-biters.  There were those games that were gifts, where it was won in the final at-bat, or when a rookie pitcher threw a one-hitter.

But there were also times when literally nothing happened. Nothing interesting, that is. Add to that deadline and, yes, a word limit, and all kinds of other ancillary stuff - and I would sit, paralyzed, the only thing coming into my head were cliches. Bad ones.


The minutes ticked away. The only sound in the press box was the tapping of computer keys.

So I started typing. Deleting. Typing. Deleting. Until, finally, I found something, a germ of an idea from a virus of cliches.

Why am I telling you this? Not all my stories were masterpieces. But I always tried to find something unique, something different.

Some days? I just needed to get the story in.

Just like you do.

But most of the time, if I just pushed myself a little more, it always made the story - and me - a little better.

Red Writing Hood

This week's prompt is all about character development.

We'd like you to write about what your character wants most.

Which reminds me of the scene in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams' character asks Matt Damon's character, Will, what he wants. And Will can't answer. Because he doesn't really know.

Do you know what you want most? Does your character? Write a piece of 600 words or less and come back to link up here Friday.

This prompt was inspired by a prompt from Writing Forward.

Monday, May 30, 2011

RemembeRED - Graduation

This week we asked you to think about graduation. It didn't have to be yours and it didn't have to be high school. It does have to be non-fiction - it's memoir.

Katie wrote about a very uncomfortable graduation in Pomp and Circumstance.

So link up - but only if you've done the prompt.

Using your Vacation Time

Happy Memorial Day (to those of you who are in the States)!

Not much to post today.  I am spending the day with friends and family after going to the Memorial Day parade in our home town and honoring all the vets in our lives.

What about you?

Do you use vacation time/holidays as days to turn off the computer and put away the phone, or do you hunker down in a room alone and try to get some writing done?

Whatever you do...don't forget to write about your graduation memories and link up tomorrow!  We are ready for some Pomp and Circumstance around here!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new blogger and find fantastic writers.

Try to read as many as you can, or at least the one ahead of you and behind you.

Have a GREAT Memorial Day weekend!!


It's that time of year...graduation.

For this week's prompt we are asking you to remember a graduation.  It doesn't have to be yours and it doesn't have to be high school.

Need some inspiration?

Here you go!  What memory comes to you?

Come back on Tuesday, May 31st (coincidentally when I will be running graduation for the school where I teach) and link up.

As usual, word limit is 600.

Winner of Sarah Jio book giveaway is...

Sherri aka Old Tweener!

Congrats, Sherri! I read The Violets of March and I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Red Writing Hood - She was wrong

This week we asked you to write a post beginning with the words, "This was absolutely the last time" and ending with "She was wrong."

We asked you to be creative, to think outside the box, and we can't wait to see what you came up with!

Link up - but only if you've done the prompt.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why I Write

I originally posted this on in these small moments last Thursday, the day after our Twitter chat.

It opened an interesting dialogue and we thought it might be interesting to cross post it here to see what you all might like to add to the discussion. To see previous comments, click here.

Opening a Vein: Why I Write

Last evening, I was taking part in The Red Dress Club's Twitter Chat and my friend Cheryl tweeted this bit of wisdom...

...to which Denelle (who is a fabulous writer) replied...

Denelle's tweets made me feel a bit sick inside...like I'm some kind of fraud.

Because if I want to call myself a writer, shouldn't I want to write? Shouldn't I have to write?

But I don't. So I replied...

And as difficult as that is to admit to a group of writers that I admire, that is my truth.

I don't love writing.

But oftentimes, I love the final product.

I don't write because it feels good while I'm doing it.

I don't write because I am compelled to.

I write because I often don't know exactly what I'm thinking or feeling until I do.

Because I want my children to have these words...to know how central they were to my life.

I write in case I one day forget all of the joy this life has brought me.

But not because I enjoy it.

Because I really don't.

How about you?

Red Writing Hood

And now for something completely different.

Write a short piece - 600 words max - that begins with the words, "This was absolutely the last time" and ends with "She was wrong."

Have fun with it. Think outside the box. Don't go with the obvious.

Come back Friday and link up your post here.

Happy writing!

Monday, May 23, 2011

RemembeRED - Let's play

We hope you had fun with this week's prompt. Your assignment was to mine your memories for games you played when you were young.

I remember how my dad always beat me at games when I was small and me wondering whether, as my parent, why he wasn't letting me win.


Katie writes about summer memories of One.

What did you write about? Link up, but only if you've done the prompt.

Also, if you haven't already, don't forget to enter for your chance to win an autographed copy of The Violets of March by Sarah Jio.

Author Sarah Jio - and a giveaway!

I'm so excited to bring you an amazing new author today. She is someone with whom most of us can relate: she's also a mother to three small kids. I mean, one of them is newborn small!

Her name is Sarah Jio and she her second book, The Bungalow, is going to be published next spring. That's right. Her SECOND one. Her first, The Violets of March, was published recently by Peguin (Plume) and was chosen as a Costco Book Buyer pick for the month of May. It is the story of a best-selling author who, during a painful time in her life, discovers an old diary from the 1940s that has surprising connections to her own life.

Sarah also blogs about health and fitness for Glamour.com - so with three boys under four and a job she still finds time to write novels.

How does she do it? I definitely wanted to find out, and Sarah was more than happy to answer a few questions for us.

TRDC: A lot of us are parents and we struggle to find time to write. How do you find the time?

SJ: I truly do not have an extra hour in the day or superwoman powers (I wish!). But, I do use my time wisely and have become very disciplined over the years. This means keeping to a pretty strict schedule. I have three little boys (ages 4, 2, and newborn) and after I get them all to bed around 7:30, I sit down at my desk and write, write, write. I use evenings for fiction, but do a lot of magazine work during the day when my kids are napping or when I am fortunate to have a babysitter around. I’m grateful that I love what I do (both being a mom, and being a writer), so it makes up for the fact that I really don’t have much of a life right now. Oh, two other things that help: I hardly ever watch TV and I have a very supportive husband!

TRDC: What is your research process for a novel?

SJ: I gravitated towards the 1940’s for a partial setting for my novel because I have always loved this decade. I grew up watching old movies with my mom and grandma and listened to more big band music than modern-day music. And I reading about the 1940's in my research (everything from the type of dresses worn by the women to the songs playing on the radio). It was fun “work”!

TRDC:Your novel The Violets of March involves a dual storyline. How difficult was that, and do you outline?

SJ: When you’re writing two stories in one, it can sometimes become confusing, and I tried hard to keep both story lines organized along the way, making sure the two communicated with one another. My favorite part of writing was thinking of ways the 1940’s storyline, with the character named Esther, would cross with the modern-day storyline with Emily. I tend not to outline (a point which drives my very logical husband bonkers) in favor of free-writing—just going where the story takes me with a loose idea of the character arcs, etc. I find that this leaves room for spectacular little discoveries that I wouldn’t stumble on otherwise—and I can always go back and revise (which I do a lot of!). I also have a quirky habit of writing the ending to my stories first and then filling in the middle.

TRDC: What inspires you?

SJ: I’m inspired by the small things that may seem insignificant in the moment, but turn out to be quite meaningful, like the story of the violets in my novel. In fact, violets wasn’t even a part of the story, as it was originally sold to Penguin. It wasn’t until I was out in my yard, and a guy I had hired to do some weeding found these gorgeous little purple flowers popping up out of a patch of weeds. I immediately thought of these violets signaling hope and redemption in my novel. I look for inspiration like that all around me. In fact, my third novel, currently in progress, was inspired by a song I heard on the radio! I heard it on the Siriously Sinatra station in the car, then went home and googled the song, downloaded it, and thought, 'Wow, I need to write a novel about this song!’

TRDC: Most of us are at the beginning stages, in the midst of writing, and don't know how this all works. Can you give us a brief explanation of how your book went from idea to work-in-progress to published?

SJ: I had the good fortunate of beginning my career in magazines, so it did give me some advantage in landing a good agent. My story in a nutshell: I was introduced to my current agent by the terrific author Allison Winn Scotch. At the point I signed with her, I think it was partially complete. I worked with my agent for about a year to polish the manuscript, and when she felt it was ready, she sent it out to editors and it sold, at auction, in a week! It was very exciting. Then the book sold at auction in Germany, and also to Spain. (I’ll never forget reading the news about my German book deal on my Blakcberry while on the cereal aisle at Trader Joe’s. Both kids were in the shopping cart, and I literally almost fainted right in front of the instant oatmeal!) My best advice to new writers is to only start a novel if it truly grabs you. The idea must keep you up at night and the characters must haunt you all day. Nowadays, I get tons of story ideas, but I only start the ones that really touch me. I think it makes for books that agents, editors, and most importantly, readers, will love most. My second book, The Bungalow, is going to be out from Penguin in the spring of 2012! I’m so excited about this book!

TRDC: And lastly, do you have time to actually read and if so, what's your current fave?

SJ: I love to read! I am first and foremost a reader. But, I’ve had to limit my reading time in favor of writing time of late. Still, I have made it my habit for the past many years to read a little every night before bed. Sometimes I get a full half hour, other times just five lines before my eyes get heavy, but I always have something on my nightstand. A recent book I loved was Camille Noe Pagan’s debut novel, The Art of Forgetting, a beautiful book about two friends, and how their friendship changes after one suffers a brain injury. A gorgeous read! The novel Sarah’s Key also hit me very hard. It was so emotionally powerful that I actually had to set it down for a few days before picking it up again. Mothers of little boys, beware—it will make you cry! 

Thank you so much, Sarah!

Here's the book trailer video. And you can also follow Sarah on Twitter and visit her author page on Facebook.

And? Sarah is ready to give one of you (U.S. residents only - sorry!) a signed copy of The Violets of March!

Please leave a comment telling us where you find your writing inspiration.

Extra entry if you tweet - just come back and leave a comment to tell us.

"I want to win a copy of the new novel The Violets of March by @SarahJio from @thereddressclub http://bit.ly/myu9V1 #giveaway #trdc"

The contest will close at 6 p.m. PST on Thursday.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find fantastic writers.

Try to read as many as you can, or at least the one in front or in back of you.

Have a great weekend!

RemembeRED: Let's Play

This week, we want you to recall the games you played when you were young.

Did you love Monopoly, Yahtzee, or Uno? Or did you prefer backgammon, Trouble, or Scrabble?

Write a piece that explores one of your memories.

Let's have a 600 word limit.

Come back on Tuesday, May 24th and share your story with us.

Happy Remembering!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Red Writing Hood - Sloth

Laziness of the spirit. Apathy. Sloth.

This was a tough one. Let's see how you did.

Cheryl wrote about the dying of a spirit in Less

Please only link up if you've done the prompt.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Red Writing Hood

Another week, another deadly sin. Why not?

For this week's prompt, let's talk about sloth. Emotional or spiritual apathy. It's not doing what we think we should. It is closer to apathy than it is to simply being lazy. It is putting your kids in front of the TV instead of playing with them, for instance.

I found this quote - I believe from Samuel Beckett - that I love for this prompt: "Sloth is all passions the most powerful."

Please write a piece - fiction or non-fiction - based on Sloth. Word limit is 600.

Come back and link up here Friday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

RemembeRED - Smokin'

This week's prompt was based on a picture of a burning cigarette in an ashtray.

We want to know what memories this sparked (ha! pun! yes!) in you. Your work must be first-person - and it must be about YOU. No fiction. That's what memoir is, folks!

Nichole was transported to the past with this prompt and is linking up an older piece that is close to her heart, Immediate and Tremendous.

Katie wrote about her first time, smooth and cool. And yes, it's Ok to laugh and poke fun at her.

Cheryl remembered a house fire and what it means Then it was gone

Let's see what you came up with this week! Please only link up if you've actually done the prompt.

Finding the Time

Up at 5:30 am

Out the door by 6:45.

Teach, teach, teach from 7:30-2:30 with 30 minutes for lunch and no time to pee.

Kids in after school for tutoring, make-ups, retakes, and just because until about 4:00pm

Home around 5:00pm

Dinner/Family time 6:00pm

Bath/Book time 8:00pm

Finally sitting in my chair around 9:00pm

Bedtime for the parents 10:30pm


Does this look familiar?

Where do our days go?  When do we write?  How do we juggle it all?

This week I received five different emails/direct messages from you all asking me how I (and I am assuming Nichole and Cheryl) keep up with it all.

The answer is simple.  We don't.

For those of you who don't know, besides The Red Dress Club, we each have our own personal blogs, Mommy Pants, In These Small Moments, and Sluiter Nation.

On top of that, Nichole has started writing for Babble.

And I have two very neglected other blogs, Katie's Bookcase and Exploded Moments

We have a TON going on.

If you've noticed, not all three of us are able to post to both prompts each week.

We haven't been able to comment on as many of the posts we read.

But we are still here.  I promise.

Things are just busy and hectic...in a GOOD way (for the most part).

We want The Red Dress Club to stay awesome and be a place of which you feel a part and where feel comfortable contributing and linking up.

We are all trying to juggle our writing and our time.

How about you?  What are you doing to find time to write?

For me?  I take that hour between Eddie going to bed and our going to bed and I hammer out some writing.  Even if it's not publishable.  I try to write something every. single. day.

What do you do?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and discover fantastic new writers. Try to visit as many as you can, or at least the one in front and behind you.

Have a great weekend!


I think we've been too nice to you.

It's time for another image prompt.

Write about the first (or second) memory that comes to mind when you see this:

Keep it under 700 words, please.

And remember...Memoir means memory. It's all about you and your life. First person. NO fiction.

Come back and link up on Tuesday, May 17.

Red Writing Hood - Gluttony

Hopefully Blogger's #fail didn't cause you to, you know, eat and drink to excess. Otherwise known as gluttony.

Gluttony was our prompt this week and we can't wait to see what you did with it.

It's (finally!) time to link up your post - but only if you did the prompt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Red Writing Hood

Let's continue on with our prompts based on the Seven Deadly Sins.

This week, it's all about gluttony - eating and drinking to excess.

We can't wait to see what your characters do, if you're writing fiction. Or what YOU have done, if you're writing non-fiction. Word limit is 600.

Come back and link up your piece with us Friday!

RemembeRED - Sand

This week's RemembeRED memoir prompt asked us to write a memory of sand.

Did you write about the beach? The playground? Pecan Sandies? (Yum)

Cheryl wrote about how her daughter is braver than she is: She's Brave.

Kate wrote about the only camping she ever liked: Only the First Night

Link up, but only if you've done the prompt - and only if it is memoir, and not fiction!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I know I am supposed to have a post here for you all today, but instead of drafting one, I spent yesterday with my family.

So instead, I will give you some Mother's Day posts to read by your lovely hosts.

Cheryl wrote a moving post about her very first Mother's Day card.

Nichole's blog was taken over by her husband who wrote her a lovely Mother's Day letter.

And I shared my heart with you on how Motherhood is so very different than I expected.

Whether or not you are a mother, we sincerely hope you had a lovely day yesterday honoring mother's everywhere.

Now get writing!  Ha!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find fantastic writers.

Try to read as many as you can, or at least the one in front or in back of you.


Summer is trying so hard to get here, isn't it?

I know some of you have already busted out shorts and skirts and tank tops and flip flops.

Those of us who are still waking up to frost will try very hard not to throw the stink eye your way.


Just kidding.

Really though, as a teacher all I can think is SUMMER!  I am counting down the days!

So this week, we want you to write about sand.


It doesn't have to be summer-related, but the impending summer and my proximity to Lake Michigan and it's glorious beaches are what inspired me to tell you to write about sand.




Oh, and come back Tuesday, May 10 and link up.


Red Writing Hood - Jealousy

Hey, jealousy!

What can I say. I love the Gin Blossoms. Remember them?

This week's prompt was to write about jealousy, an emotion that often brings out the worst in us.

Please only link up if you've done the prompt.

Cheryl continued her fiction series: Another beer.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writing Partners, Revisited

Several months ago, we paired some of you with writing partners.

We’ve heard from many of you that you are truly enjoying the experience and that you feel having a partner has pushed you to look at your work differently and to grow as writers.

Now, we’re ready to make some more matches.

For those of you who aren’t matched up yet and are curious, here’s a brief rundown of what a writing partner can do for you:

1) Discuss ideas before you write

2) Read your piece before you post it

3) Point out typos, incorrect word usage, check your grammar

4) Help refine your piece

5) Point out areas in the piece needing improvement

6) Help figure out how to accomplish improvements

7) Provide encouragement

If you’re interested in being paired with a writing partner, or if you feel as though you would like a new partner who can offer new insight onto your work, please leave your name, twitter handle, and blog name in the comments and we'll get you all set up.


Hey tweeples! Our twitter chat is tonight at 9 EST/6 PST.

Come chat about all things writerly and make sure to bring your questions!

Use hashtag #TRDC.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

RemembeRED - Pride

This week's memoir prompt was to write something about which you're proud of yourself.

We know you had a lot to choose from. We know you also struggled to admit that, yes, you ARE proud of yourself.

Also, you rock. You so do.

I know I do. I wrote about my big day Sunday: I'm proud, dammit!

Katie wrote about, well, us: Red with Pride

We can't wait to see what YOU wrote. Link up - but only if you've done the prompt!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Red Writing Hood

Aaah...jealousy. We all have it. We all feel it.

And now we'd like you to write about it. We'll leave it open: you can write about something or someone you envy, or a time when your jealousy got you in trouble, or maybe how it makes you feel to be envious. Whatever you want.

And it can be fiction or non-fiction. Word limit is 600.

Come back here Friday and link up with us!

Guest Author - Nava Atlas on Finding Your Voice

You all LOVED when I did the review and giveaway of Nava Altas's book, The Literary Ladies, so I thought it would be fun to ask Nava to The Red Dress Club to do her own guest post.

She enthusiastically agreed and sent us a list of topics to choose from. Cheryl, Nichole, and I were quick to choose the one on finding your voice as a writer. It seems to be so timely for many of us who are just starting out.


Don't whisper, don't blather! The Literary Ladies on finding your voice

When the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) came out, I was often told that I resembled “Baby,” the lead female character played by Jennifer Grey. If I chose to sit in a corner at a restaurant or at a gathering, friends sometimes delivered the film’s iconic line—”Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”—thinking that they were being extremely hilarious. But I liked corners, and I still do. They’re cozy, and it’s easy to blend into the woodwork. Putting oneself in a corner, though, either in the real world, or on the printed page, is the equivalent of whispering. Women tend to do that a lot, especially when we’re unsure of our own voices.

When I started working on The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, a collection of first-person narratives by classic women authors on their experiences and challenges as writers, I was content to whisper in the margins of the pages of the book. Alongside the musings of twelve authors of the past whose works we know and love (Alcott, Austen, Brontë, Alcott, Wharton, Woolf, and six others), my role was to comment on how the experiences they had and obstacles they overcame on the writing path still resonate with contemporary women who write. Since I myself designed the pages, I set my comments in tiny type, and placed them in whatever narrow margins I could hide them in. That all ended when the book found a publisher, and the editor firmly told me I could no longer whisper in the corner, metaphorically nor literally. My words, he decreed, had to have equal weight as those of my literary foremothers.

At first, raising my voice above a whisper wasn’t easy. All those familiar “Who do you think you are...” demons rushed in to fill the void where confidence should have been firmly in place. “Finding your voice” is a writing directive that teeters on being a cliché. Yet, what’s more important than developing a distinctive personality in print? Without a firm grip on voice, you’re left either with whispering shyly, or its flip side, endlessly blathering (the literary equivalent of nervous chatter)—churning out overwrought prose with no self-editing, little self-censoring, and becoming defensive when objective editorial eyes offers solid suggestions on shaping and refining your words.

What advice would the Literary Ladies have for those of us still seeking to find or define our voice and style? Here are a few thoughts from women authors who went through much the same, and emerged to tell the tale of their endeavors.

“I found that newspaper work did a great deal of good for me in working off the purple flurry of my early writing. Every young writer has to work off the ‘fine writing’ stage. It was a painful period in which I overcame my florid, exaggerated, foamy-at-the-mouth, adjective-spree ... I knew even then it was a crime to write like I did, but I had to get the adjectives and the youthful fervor worked off. I believe every young writer must write whole books of extravagant language to get it out.” —Willa Cather, from an interview, 1915

“Every dawning talent has to go through a phase of imitation and subjection to influences, and the great object of the young writer should be not to fear those influences, but to seek only the greatest, and to assimilate them so they become [her] stock-in-trade.” — Edith Wharton, from a letter, 1918

“I didn’t have any particular gift in my twenties. I didn’t have any exceptional qualities ... The only reason I finally was able to say exactly what I felt was because, like a pianist practicing, I wrote every day. There was no more than that. There was no studying of writing, there was no literary discipline, there was only the reading and receiving of experience.” —Anais Nïn, from an essay, 1975

"Each person’s method is no rule for another. Each must work in [her] own way, and the only drill needed is to keep writing and profit from criticism ... Young people use too many adjectives and try to “write fine.” The strongest, simplest words are best ... Read the best books, and they will improve your style. See and hear good speakers and wise people, and learn of them. Work for twenty years, and then you may some day find that you have a style and place of your own, and you can command good pay for the same things no one would take when you were unknown." — Louisa May Alcott, from a letter to a reader, 1878

I have a theory that most of us have at least a sense of what our literary voice should be, but what’s missing is the courage to use it. Raised to be good girls, many of us are reluctant to sound too strong, too assertive, too unconventional, or too much like the self we know is in there somewhere, clamoring to come out. The best remedy for timid whispering or overwrought blathering, it seems, is simply to do a great deal of very regular writing, peeling back the layers and revealing the true writer within. As for me, I still like to sit in corners in restaurants and at parties, but on the page—not so much any more.

Nava Atlas is the author of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. Visit the web site at http://www.literaryladiesguide.com


Thank you so much, Nava for your words.

What do you think? Have you found your writing voice or do you sit in a corner?