The Isis Guild met for the 3rd time…

ImageThe Isis Guild held its 3rd meeting at Terry and Maura’s home today at 4:00 and we had a wonderful and productive time. Rita and her daughter, Selena, joined us for the first time but Lisa and Staci couldn’t make it. There were lots of snacks and, yes, there was wine!

There’s something really special about this group of women who are super creative and in various stages of their writing projects. Molly and Natalie’s mystery novel is coming along very nicely as is Amiyna’s touching story of survival. Selena brought a story she’s been working on for years and would like to develop into a novel. Terry is still developing her characters and Maura has a couple of ideas she wants to develop. I brought along my proof copy of Lake Effect and discussed the final stages of the CreateSpace process. I expect that everyone there will need that information someday soon.   

What I like best is the support and encouragement we offer each other and the honesty with which critiques are given. We are the most natural, friendly, non-judgmental  group that I’ve ever been involved with. Lots of great information was shared as usual and everyone either read from or talked about their projects.

Our next meeting is Sunday, January 19 @ 4:00, again at Terry and Maura’s home. Hope they don’t get tired of us. 

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The Isis Guild

isis2We have a name…

And Saturday, November 23, 2013, will be another day to remember.

Terry and Maura graciously opened their home to our 2nd meeting which turned out to be a fantastic 3 hours of sharing writing and insights. Amiyna, Molly, Terry, Natalie and I were joined by Maura. At the Book Club meeting on Tuesday, three new women expressed interest in the workshop but, only Lisa was able to attend today. Jane also couldn’t make it but Katie joined us. She took a group photo with her cell phone which I hope to be able include with my next post.

I firmly believe that it’s crucial for a writer to read as much as possible about the craft of writing and to that end, Molly brought some writing books to recommend. One was a real cutie:  The Writer’s Block which is shaped like a cube. $10.26 on Amazon if anyone is interested.  Molly had emailed that she and Natalie were struggling with POV (point of view) so I brought a couple of books on writing elements that included POV discussions.

Amiyna shared the pages she has added to her story (actually, she started reading and Molly finished) and we were all moved by the direction she is going. It’s readily apparent that she has a natural gift for vivid descriptions and evocative emotions and we gave her some feedback about structure and research.

Molly and Natalie are co-authoring a novel and have done a tremendous amount of work on it. Molly read some of the new pages and they’ve got something really compelling in the works. We talked a lot about Voice and Point of View but no advice was needed for style and content. They’re really great writers. I’m going to send them the specs for formatting a 6×9 book.

Terry, another great writer, read her new pages and offered some good suggestions about outlining. She has written a premise for her story which is a really great exercise. To be able to describe your story in 25 words or less helps a writer focus on what’s important. Terry also has written a series of “what if” questions for her protagonist and “what if” questions are powerful tools for story arc as well as character arc.

Lisa and Maura will bring something to read next time. They’re more like me when I was still shy about my writing. But they won’t stay shy for long!

We ironed out the technical aspects of having a group: the name, of course, and Molly went home and set up a Google Drive account and a Facebook page. And our next meeting is Sunday, December 15 at 4:00. We are a uniquely cohesive group brought together by unexpected circumstances and bonding together happily and easily. Wonderful synergy!!

October 26, 2013 – A Day to Remember

Writing Workshop Image1Yesterday was the first official meeting of the new Cleveland Heights-University Heights Parents’ Book Club Writing Workshop [to be given its own official name in the very near future] and it was a rousing success. Jane, who made this whole thing possible, opened up her home for us to meet and very warmly offered coffee, tea, pastry and fresh fruit to accompany our discussion. This workshop is her brainchild and without Jane, we would not have been sitting around her dining room table sharing ideas and experiences and offering support.

The Workshop actually began on September 29th when I sent an email to the class roster and initiated what I like to call “distance learning.” After all, why not take advantage of technology whenever possible. We all lead busy lives and need all the help we can muster to keep our dreams alive. Since then a couple of us exchanged emails and ideas and started down the path to this successful Saturday meeting.

I went to the meeting thinking I was one going to be the “teacher” but soon learned that it was going to be a collaborative effort between me and this group of amazing women. I still have much to offer but I also have much to learn. I might add at this point that of the 11 who signed up, only Amiyna, Terry and Holly were able to attend this first meeting. But Holly brought her writing partner, Natalie, and Terry indicated that her life partner, Maura, plans to participate in the future. So we’ve got a great core group and if any of those who were unable to attend are still interested, now would be a good time to get in touch with me or Jane. We would love you to be part of our Workshop but we do need to hear from you.

Now back to yesterday: Molly and Natalie are already working on a novel and have made copious notes on plot development and structure. A couple of weeks ago, they sent me 5 pages to critique and have now added more descriptive passages and have started to flesh out the direction of the narrative. Terry also had sent me a couple of pages of her budding novel and is now working on character and plot development. She shared with us her ideas for a story with supernatural overtones that is very intriguing. Amiyna touched our hearts deeply with the words she has crafted in the style of a journal and we gave her many pointers on how to use her experiences and her gift of words to develop her story. She is perhaps the most shy about being part of a group but I shared my past insecurities with her and told her that she should focus not on what she brings to the meetings but what she takes away from them.

To the future: Molly and Natalie are going to continue working on their story and perhaps get us set up with Google Docs or some other file-sharing program. Terry offered her home for the next meeting on November 23rd and has plans for more character development for her protagonist, Lane. Amiyna is going to continue journaling her experiences and create vignettes that can be structured into a traditional story arc. Bonus: Molly and Natalie agreed to be beta readers for Lake Effect, something I desperately need to meet my target publication date of December 15.

All in all, it was a great meeting with a fantastic group of women. Thanks, Jane, for making this possible!

Debut October, 2013: Cleveland Heights/University Heights Parents’ Book Club Writing Workshop

2fdb98709408237cb82ffb3ef1d3034b27505202_large - CopyOn September 24, the Cleveland Heights/University Heights Parents’ Book Club began its 2013-14 season and I was invited to offer a writing workshop. The idea was well received and 11 people have signed up. It’s going to be an interesting year as I share with them what I have learned about writing and encourage them to find their inner muses. Below is the outline that I drafted to guide us through our new adventure.

Discussion Topics for Writing Workshop

  • Write about what you know or learn about what you don’t know
  • Writing categories: Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenplay, stage play, journalism
  • Types of prose: Novel, short story, essay, memoir
  • Writing genres: romance, family, biography, autobiography, science fiction, horror, crime thriller, historical, ethnic, comedy, spiritual, teen or young adult, children’s, sports, etc.
  • Types of structure: 3 acts or the Hero’s Journey
  • Keep a journal or make notes whenever you can. Use a hand-held tape recorder if you can. Many middle-of-the-night inspirations are lost when you’re too sleepy to get up and write them down. J
  • Set aside a time to write if you can. Otherwise write as often as you can. Thinking about what you’re going to write is still part of writing but get it on paper or into a computer file as soon as possible.
  • Once you decide on a topic and a structure, start writing! Try not to self-edit as you go. The instinct is to want it to come out perfectly the first time but the truth is all writing is re-writing. Supposedly Taylor Caldwell, author of many novels including Captains & Kings, thought about her book for a long time and then transferred it to a typewriter without having to edit a single word. I think that’s an Urban Myth so don’t try to be like Taylor Caldwell.
  • Topics to consider: plot, scene development, character, dialogue, POV
  • Plot: know how you want your story to end so you’ll have a destination for your journey. This doesn’t mean there won’t be forks in the road but you can deal with those when you come to them. Maybe the end will change but that will be a natural evolution of your writing.
  • Scene development: get into the action of each scene as soon as possible and then get out, make one scene flow into the next, don’t give away too much too soon.
  • Character: write a biography for each of your characters so you know who they are. Develop a style for each character including looks, mannerisms and language so they are all colorful and distinctive.
  • Dialogue: keep it crisp and brief. People don’t usually talk in long, rambling passages unless they’re giving a speech.
  • Point of View or narrative voice: don’t switch POV’s in the middle of a scene unless you need to do so to tell your story. But if you do, make it clear which POV you’re in. Writing in 3rd person is usually the omniscient POV so you have more leeway.
  • Finishing: a book is usually about 50,000 words minimum which is roughly 250-300 pages. But don’t let that scare you. Start out small. An essay or a short story or a poem is more than enough to get the ball rolling. If you discover that you like writing, you may find words you never knew were there. Be prepared to read and re-read your finished product until you’ve edited and proofread to perfection. That’s sometimes the hardest part. (I’ll testify to that) Get someone to help you if necessary.

The 3-Act Structure

  1. Beginning (setup, introduction, exposition, problem, etc.)
  2. Middle (confrontation, rising action, tension, conflict, growth, etc.)
  3. End (resolution, falling action, denouement, solution, closure, etc.)

The Hero’s Journey

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. The Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting with the Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies & Enemies
  7. Approach
  8. The Ordeal
  9. The Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. The Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir