Sunday, November 18, 2018

Come to Life!

I go to Barnes and Nobles, not too often, which is sad, but often enough and I buy this journaling book/magazine called, Bella Grace, Life's A Beautiful Journey. It's got beautiful pictures, and thought provoking readings that get you to write.

I came across one of it's pages called, Tips for making your writing come to life. So, I thought I would share them with you.

* Throw out everything you learned about writing in school. This includes forgetting about five-paragraph essays, introductions that drag along, and long-winded sentences.

* Delete your opening paragraph. Some of the most compelling stories drop you right into the middle of them.


* Get to the point. Simple sentences are often the best way to go.


* Don't overly complicate things.

* Use your true voice. Write your story as though you are telling it to a friend. In fact, try recording it first. This adds an air of authenticity.

* Don't be afraid to make up words.

* Buy yourself a beautiful journal and use it.

* Pour your heart out onto the paper without trying to make it perfect.  You can clean it up later.

* Wait until after you are done to title your piece. Look for interesting, unique phrases in your writing to use.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Show AND Tell In Short Non-fiction

      New writers are often advised to "Show, don't tell." Many have no idea what this means.
  Mark Twin instructed: "don't report that the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream." More recently, bestseller Janet Evanovich wrote: "If your character walks out of his apartment, pulls up the collar of his coat, and goes searching through pockets for his gloves, you don't have to tell us it's freezing."
  Both Twain and Evanovich are known primarily for their fiction. When it comes to nonfiction, though, while you don't want to list everything that happened to you from birth on, there are often compelling and necessary reason you should "tell" factual elements. Here's why you might need to show and tell when writing essays-and how to strike the perfect balance.


  "Showing" can be described as painting a vivid picture of what's going on, using the kind of physical description, humor, pathos and dialogue that immediately brings readers into a scene in novels, short stores, poetry, nonfiction and on the screen.
  "Telling" is when you report facts from an unemotional distance, the way you'd share resume highlights in a job interview. This kind of narrative summary gets a bad rap because it doesn't draw readers into the pages in the same way as "showing," but still, it's a significant part of the mix.


  Even in a short personal essay, there's room to both efficiently "tell" information quickly and to "show" the important parts, as the brilliant essayist Phillip Lopate demonstrates in his book To Show and to Tell.  Showing is often more effective at the onset of a piece of nonfiction when you only have one job: to lure the reader in. Or, as Hollywood director Billy Wilder suggested in his "Rules for Screenwriters" (Found in Conversations With Wilder by Cameron Crowe): "Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go."


  Following these rules will ensure your essay is as completing and clear as it needs to be by helping you balance showing and telling.

1. Use past tense throughout. It's the most honest approach since the story you're writing has already happened. While in poetry, fiction and on-screen it's more common to use present tense, fewer newspapers or magazines will publish a present-tense nonfiction essay. Since it's an artsy conceit, often to make a piece feel more immediate, literary journals will sometimes publish creative nonfiction that plays with tenses. But you usually have to know the rules before you break them. For beginners, I suggest using the verb form that indicates that the action has already occurred. I also find it's easier to put everything in one tense. So instead of starting with past tense, then switching around to say, "I have always been the type to talk in my sleep," I would write, "I had always talked in my sleep." Just use past tense, which is easier to write, read and remember.

2. RECALL AS CLEARLY AS POSSIBLE. Nobody has a record of every word they spoke in the past. You don't have to say, "I remember that..." We know you remember it, that's why you're writing it. You can also cut the line, "I don't remember much, but..."Instead, add how you figured it out.

3. DON'T OVERDO DIALOGUE. Five or six lines of a conversation in a scene is sufficient for a 900-word personal essay. If you write an entire page of dialogue, that's a script.

4. DON'T START AT THE VERY BEGINNING. If I read the first line that goes, "I was born in Columbus, Ohio, the oldest of three children ..."I would stop reading.

5. BEGIN WITH BRAVADO. For example, "We met the day I replaced her." (Marie Claire) "I was married twice last summer." (The New York Times Magazine). Don't be afraid to be out there, crazy, brave, revealing and innovative. If you are using typical words that have been said many times, twist them differently. As the poet Emily Dickinson wrote, "Tell all the truth but tell it slant."

6. DON'T BOMBARD THE READER WITH FACTS. Don't overstuff the lede. In David Mamet's rules for drama, he says the audience only cares about three questions: 1) Who wants what from when? 2). What happens if they don't get it? 3) Why now? Everything else is irrelevant and can clunk up your first paragraph, rendering it boring or confusing.

7. DON'T REVEAL THE END TOO SOON. If you begin your essay, "After living through the worst divorce in the history of the world, I swore I'd never get married again, so walking down the aisle was a surprise, " you've given away too much information too fast. There's no reason to keep reading. Try something like this, "When I first saw the cute bearded man with glasses, I turned away, sure he wouldn't be interested in a 45-year old angry divorcee like me."


9. COMMIT WHOLEHEARTEDLY TO ONE STORY. In the middle of reading a personal essay, I can't stand when a writer tosses in the cliche "But that's a whole other story..." or cuts to a tangent about another character or family. Push yourself into completing this essay, telling one story as if it's the last piece you'll ever write and publish, and it won't be.

  To get your audience to read your essay from start to finish, make sure you balance show and tell throughout the entire piece. There's a lot that you need to tell your readers when crafting nonfiction and, if you show them why they should be interested, they'll be more than willto be told.

By Susan Shapiro

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Open Mic Event at the Book and Bean Cafe at the Black Road Library in Joliet

Once a year our writing group, WriteOn Joliet, participates in the Open Mic at the Book and Bean Cafe. This year, as always, I read one of my Southern Shorts entitled, OPEN MIC EVENT.  Enjoy!

My Southern Short/OPEN MIC EVENT

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Byony Series First Blog Tour/ Denise Unland

BryonySeries First Blog Tour Sue Midlock Vampires 1. What makes your vampires different from those that you've read? The characters are well-developed and three-dimensional. No doe-eyed teen romancers. No mindless, senseless blood debauchers. All four vampires (John Simons, Henry Matthews, Kellen Wechsler, and Ed Calkins) were once "real" people and are now undead.
2. Are your vampires completely fabricated or do you follow the mainstream...typical vampire? If by mainstream, you mean: super-violent and gory, romantic, misunderstood, vegetarian; and/or alive and infected with a virus...then no. If you mean created from existing vampire lore, then yes. Here's what 1970s teen protagonist Melissa Marchellis learned from her library book: Creatures of the Night: Witches, Werewolves, and Vampires. All of these elements appear in the BryonySeries. * By day, vampires repose in their burial places; at night, they rise to feed, either to kill or control. * Once under the vampire’s power, the victim joyfully welcomes the attack. The vampire may now come and go, as he pleases. * Vampires by murder or suicide retain human traits, most notably a certain passion for life. * Sharp teeth appear only when feeding. *Bright red blood may trickle around the mouth. * Vampires may consume solid food, but must expel it later. * Experienced vampires tolerate small amounts of sunlight, although it decreases their abilities. * Vampires travel silently. * Vampires are expert shape-shifters. Common manifestations include wolves, bats, rats, other humans, and mist. (Denise's note: especially this last). * Sometimes, vampires penetrate dreams. * As predators, vampires possess keen senses, formidable strength, and fantastic speed, enabling them to teleport to other eras and locations. * Vampires are wise. * They exude sexual charm, control animals, and read minds. * For a reliable slaying, drive an oak stake through a vampire’s heart and sever its head with a silver dagger.
3. What are the roles your vampires play in your novel? Predators seeking their own gain, whether that be food or favors.
4. Is he/she intrigue by a human? If so, how? Nope. Rather, Melissa is intrigued by two of the vampires. And she annoyed by and frightened of a third. And plain annoyed by a fourth.
5. Are your vampires' clothing period or up to date? All characters, including the vampires, wear clothing appropriates to the periods in which they appear. Times periods in the entire series range from the seventeenth centuries to the 1990s, so lots of clothing variations. One exception is Ed Calkins. When he appears in the nineteenth century, he always wears a kilt.
6. Whom do they compel and why? John: Melissa, for her blood. But he doesn't want her blood for food ("I dine later," he tells her). And he doesn't want her blood for love (which she hopes is really the case) Henry: His victims. For food. But also for fun. Kellen: His victims. For food. Unless they're rich and powerful. Then he lets them live, in exchange for wealth and influence (and the occasional snack to keep them in line). Ed Calkins: Anyone who will listen.
7. Do your vampires have a hidden agenda? Other than blood? No and yes. No, in that the vampires make it clear from the beginning what they want. John wants a return to human life. Henry wants pleasure. Kellen wants power, control, and wealth. Ed wants fantasy and validation. Yes, in that the agendas appear hidden to Melissa who has a "true love will save the man" agendas of her own.
8. Do your vampires have a conscience? As vampires, no. Vampires are dead, and the dead have no conscience. However, a sufficient amount of blood (over time or all at once) from one human source (the "legend" John is testing) can create a type of "faux" humanism with hints of elements that makes one human. And that includes twinges of conscience.
9. If you were to compare your vampires to any other one that was written, which would you say your vampire comes closest to? The vampires in Bram Stoker's Dracula as a first, Sheridan Le Fanus's Carmilla for a second, and E.F. Benson's Mrs. Amworth for a third. All three feature distinct characters that appear normal during normal interactions and chillingly scary under the veil of darkness and nightmares. As John tells Melissa when she catches a glimpse of reality and is terrified by it, "Always look forward or backward; never allow a peripheral glance, or you will view them in stark reality. Understand?” And Melissa, preferring to see vampires as they want to be seen, complies.
10. Why do you think that vampire novels haven't died yet? Because they appeal to our basest parts (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth), parts we bury but forever lurk, parts we can never fully eradicate. Add fear of that which our senses can't perceive, and you have a recipe for a magnetic story. Or as Kellen told Melissa, "One act satisfies all the appetites. It's so efficient. I quite prefer it." Such is the power of a good vampire story.

Thank you Denise for taking time out to answer a few questions of mine. I was very much intrigued by the answers and I'm sure everyone else was too!

Here is her book;  To Purchase

Friday, March 30, 2018


I went to a special last night for Marketing ideas, what works and what doesn't and it was really good. A lot of good came out of it and though we all would like to do well with our books, we know that can't always be possible. I know I never will and I'm happy with that. I'm happy for those who do my books and that I have a small fan base in Utica, Illinois. I'm happy!

What I'd like to discuss with you is writing. Just write for the love of writing if nothing else.  "There's no question that only through persistent writing will you generate a lot of good idas. But joy and fun are important, too. We must find a balance." (Writer's Digest)

I'll be quoting tons of stuff that I read from Writer's Digest Magazine, because the article was very informative. "Unfortunately, there is no magic elixir we writers can brew to conjure ideas from the air, and though we've been told many times we're so creative, we often don't feel that way at all." I know I have felt that way many times and then I go back and read some of my earlier stuff and I'm like, "Whoa, that was really good and I wrote that."

Now, a long with writing we have our issues. Ideas don't come, our muse is on a vacation . . . FOREVER! Oh, oh...we are blocked! But there are ways to write more creatively, ways to keep your mind fresh and your imagination fertile. You possess the resources to come up with many good ideas- it's simply a matter of tapping into them, trusting them and understanding how your creative self works.

1. SHOW UP. You will find you have no end of ideas if you can make writing a regular habit by getting to your desk (or other creative space) regularly. Woody Allen famously observed that 80 percent of being successful in life is just showing up.

2. ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIFFICULTY. People (like me) say, "Just show up," as if were the easiest thing in the world to do. It's not, because writing creatively can be hard. So if you fall of your schedule, don't beat yourself up.  Give yourself positive messages.

3. CULTIVATE THE HABIT.  Like all things, writing becomes a habit. Get in the habit of NOT not writing. It's like anything in life that we try to reach, losing weight, eating better, exercise, etc., the same can happen with writing. Start small. Start cultivating the habit of NOT not writing.

4. FIND JOY AND GRATITUDE. There's no question that only through persistent writing will you generate a lot of good ideas. But joy and fun are important, too. We must find a balance. Cultivate gratitude even for the obstacles that stand in the way of your writing.. Recent psychological studies show that these obstacles aid creativity. Yeah, they do! Hard to see that am I right? Let me ask you this; have you ever suffered from TOO much time to write? We all wish we had more time to write, but when that happens...the well is dry. We don't feel creative. When we are bogged down with chores, meetings, getting the kids off to wherever they need to be or at work, when there is a lull, that's when were snatching an hour or a few minutes there, that's when the ideas seem to flow. Am I right? We find a way to make it happen, and that fuels our imaginations. So instead of cursing your obstacles, be grateful for them.

In the end, postponing your writing life is like postponing  a new can be an excuse for never starting. Start now, if only in a limited way. You're not going to be a writer SOMEDAY; you're a writer today.

(a lot of what was said was taken from a great magazine I subscribe to, Writer's Digest, with some of my own thoughts...I am a writer you know. )

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Your Productivity Road Map

Are the disruptions of daily life getting in the way of your writing goals? These tips will help you reach your destination faster and happier...without sacrificing sleep or sanity.  By Sage Cohen

Most writers want more time. Yet many of us aren't making the most of the time we already have. What gets in our way? Anne Lamott famously said, "My mind is a bad neighborhood I try to not to go into alone." It's our attitudes and habits that can make the neighborhoods of our minds difficult to navigate.

There are 11 steps. 1. Know your destination When you know what matters most to you in your writing life, you can steer the time you have toward getting there.

2. Chart your course. In your writing life, understanding how side errands inform the path toward your goal can likewise help you chart your course. If you want to complete a short story collection and are also building a social media platform, it's important to recognize whether and how one goal informs the other in order to allocate your time in a that delivers the greatest value.

3. Tighten your leash. If you have a tendency to wander off into endless research when you need only a factor two, or you sink an hour into Facebook where you could've left a quick comment, the leash of intention can call you back. Try setting a timer when you need to use designated writing time to tackle an unrelated task.

4. Let your life inform your writing. Have a system for capturing ideas, a recorder for the drive, a bathtub marker for the shower, a notepad in your gym bag. Or I have a HUGE post-it pad on my computer room door, to jot down thoughts, ideas.

5. Put a squirrel on the wire. When a dog, who is old, who can barely move, sees a squirrel, they'll go after it. Discovering what your own irresistible motivations are will give you the most value from the time you invest in writing.

6. Plant in the parking strip. Are you overlooking any margins of time that could help your writing flourish? It's easy to pass up the sliver available as we yearn for the whole pie and yet, writers often panic, flounder and waste swaths of perfectly good writing time when we have them. A lot of my writing was found when my students were taking a test (PARCC, Star 360), or at a hockey game (really hard, but do-able), in the car or doctors waiting area.

7.Travel in the Off-hours. The less traffic on the road, the faster you'll get where you're going. Same is true for writing in the off-hours. What you can achieve between 5 and 6 a.m. while your family is sleeping and your mind is fresh may be twice what you could accomplish at the end of a long workday.

Leave yourself a trail of crumbs when you have a work-in-progress, particularly in the great, uncharted middle.

Friday, April 7, 2017


The demons, they keep a constant vigil. Their pointy heads and glaring eyes, stare at my face…beckoning.

Just one wrong move…

         One pointless and needless move...and I am dirt. Ready to be stomped on


                And again…

And though I keep on, with head held high, a smile on my face, inside I am shredded…

So much so that I am ill, weak and cry myself to sleep, for days on end.

 I am in need of solace.

I am singled out, tormented at best. These evil creatures who torture my will to no end have not met their fate, for in time, I will win out. I will be the victor and I will have…peace.

Come to Life!

I go to Barnes and Nobles, not too often, which is sad, but often enough and I buy this journaling book/magazine called, Bella Grace, Life&...