Mastodon The Writing Desk: June 2011

28 June 2011

Guest Post: The Gift of Writing by Heather Hummel

Have you ever given yourself a birthday gift? One that no one else could give you, so you gave it to yourself? That’s what I did for my 40th birthday - I gave myself the gift of becoming a fulltime writer. This gift meant walking away from the high school classroom where I taught 9th and 10th grade English. It meant hearing, “You shouldn’t have quit your day job” ad nauseam.  Still, laptop in hand, I ventured out to my favourite coffee shop day after day and most evenings to write my first novel.
  That was the summer of 2005. I completed Whispers from the Heart that fall, staying close to the essence of being an English teacher. I created Madison Ragnar, a high school English teacher who teaches To Kill a Mockingbird. That is where the similarities between my personal life and that of Madison’s end and fiction began. One of Madison’s students commits suicide and his fellow students are left with a teacher and a theme from Harper Lee’s classic to deal with the shock and loss of their classmate.
  Madison’s students struggle to understand death and suicide while Madison is faced with healing and moving on from her past. A theme of self worth threads throughout the pages - both inside and outside of her classroom.
  When I set out to write Whispers from the Heart, I didn’t do character developments and outlines the way many authors do. Instead, I sat down and allowed my characters to invite themselves in. I allowed the storyline to direct itself. I welcomed Phil with surprise and wonderment when he suddenly showed up well into the book, but clearly played a pivotal role in Madison’s life. 
  The adventure that writing took on that summer was, for me, the realization that I gave myself the best gift possible…the gift of my creativity.
Since then I have published a nonfiction book, Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age, and Write from the Heart, the second novel in what is now the Unforgettable: Write Your Story series. Remember Me, God? will be the third in the series and is forthcoming this fall.
  In the six years since my 40th birthday, I have begun ghostwriting for celebrities and public figures. Many people have stories to share, but can’t find their written voice. That’s where I come in and am allowed to continue to use my creativity in writing books for others. It means showing up with no personal agenda or self-serving twist to their book. It means finding their voice and helping them put it down in a story. It’s one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges I’ve encountered.
  One of the greatest rewards came recently when I wrote a blog post that has made the biggest impact on me as a writer. I wrote a blog about two women who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that has gone viral via Twitter and Facebook. The blog has resulted in record numbers of hits and, more importantly, has embraced a community that greatly appreciates the voice I’ve given them. Those who are suffering from CFS are reaching out to me to share their stories and with gratitude that I shed some light on an often misunderstood and unrecognized disease. I’ve been humbled by this experience and have realized that sometimes the less we write, such as a blog post versus an entire book, the more impact we can have. It has given the term re-gifting a whole new meaning to me.
Heather Hummel is a "photonovelist" who blends her love for photography with her award-winning career as an author. Her published works include: Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw Hill, 2008), - Merit Award of the 2009 Mature Media Awards, Whispers from the Heart (PathBinder Publishing, 2008), - 1st Honorable Mention of the 2009 New York Book Festival, Write from the Heart (PathBinder Publishing, 2009)  Heather is a ghostwriter for celebrities and public figures and her books have appeared in newspapers such as: Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living, a combined circulation of nearly 15 million.

Visit Heather’s website at

Follow Heather on Twitter @HeatherHummel

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25 June 2011

That I did always love - Emily Dickinson

That I did always love,
I bring thee proof:
That till I loved
I did not love enough.
That I shall love alway,
I offer thee
That love is life,
And life hath immortality.
This, dost thou doubt, sweet?
Then have I
Nothing to show
But Calvary.

14 June 2011

Book Launch Guest Post: Vision by Beth Elisa Harris

Vision has been a concept for quite some time, since learning years ago about my ancestors from the Isle of Colonsay in Scotland. Those with vivid imaginations can concoct all sorts of drama when your father tells you, “We are descendents of the MacPhie clan, who were ostracized from the island by the MacDonald’s.” Regardless of the details, I had a springboard for a story. Now where, when, how to begin?

I often say I did not arrive at this place by walking a straight line. On the contrary, I have only recently returned to a less complicated frame of mind when dreams were as simple as one wanted them to be.  I arrived on planet earth as a writer.  That remained the purest of intentions until my warped perception of being a responsible adult slowly chiseled away pieces of my imagination. Before I knew what happened, I was writing business-i.e. things for others, such as articles, press releases, marketing materials, ghost projects and so forth.

To say something in me snapped a couple of years ago is an understatement.  Leaving out the details, let me just say I let the muse back in, spent the next year writing, editing and publishing Vision, started writing the two sequels and one other novel, all for young adults.

A voracious reader, I have a very open mind to different genres. Young adult or teen lit was just one of many types I sometimes enjoyed reading. But the more great YA books I read, the more I realized it was my writing genre. It takes more than remembering your early school years to write good YA, you have to love to read it too. The stories made sense, because the younger protagonists tend to be strong, brave, honest, slightly sarcastic and most of all, not whiney.  Sometimes ‘adult’ lit carries too much baggage, an over-abundance of skepticism about life weaving through the story, and it’s a turn off. Call me crazy, but I like triumph in some form. It’s the reason you flip pages to reach the end.  And yes, really liking young adults helps. I happen to adore teens and pre-teens.  Their voices are important. They have a lot to teach us.

I wrote Vision for what is considered upper young adult.  That is just how it came out.  There had to be some borderline adult situations to keep it real-I’m all about honesty, and my novels don’t contain too many netherworld creatures.  Instead my characters are real, diverse in all ways, passionate, vocal and inspiring.

And thankfully the readers agree! More than anything, I love getting comments about the unique flavor of the story, those that say ‘you’ve never read anything like this and I don’t know how to classify this book.’  With that said, those already waiting for the sequel should expect something out later this year.  I also hope to finish another YA novel Flyers appropriate for a slightly younger audience.

It’s all on my blog, so hop over for more information.  Residents of the UK should be able to currently purchase a Kindle version from Amazon UK and other e-books from Smashwords.

Beth Elisa Harris is a young adult author living in Southern California. Vision is her first published novel through eInteractive Media.

Beth Elisa Harris YA Author - Vision (series)
Published by: eInteractive Media
LCCN: 2011904385
BISAC: Juvenille Fiction/Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magic

Follow on Facebook as Beth Elisa Harris - Author
Follow on Twitter @Bethelisaharris   Goodreads Author Page 

BUY Vision at Amazon or on Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble NOOK and at Smashwords

9 June 2011

Guest Post by Tracy Sitchen: Making a Living Writing Online

There are many, many ways to make a living as a writer online. You can start your own blog, write e-books, work as a ghost writer (selling post or e-books for someone else's blog), or supply articles for content portals. With the changing face of the media industry, you can also write articles and editorials for online newspapers and magazines. However, working from home as a freelance writer requires a lot of discipline and determination if you are to become successful.

Create a Schedule

Working from home presents a number of temptations that can derail your productivity. Pretty soon, the flexible schedule that enticed you to work at home becomes so "flexible" that it is non-existent. Stay on track by creating a schedule, and stick to it the same way you would if you were punching a clock. Your schedule doesn't have to be from 9 to 5, nor does it have to be the same every day. Plan your weekly schedule according to the work you know you have to do and the personal commitments you expect.

Meet Deadlines

As a freelance writer, your reputation and credibility are key to your success. Ensure that you maintain a good reputation by delivering work on time. Keeping a schedule can help you meet deadlines. In addition, be sure that you don't over commit. It can be tempting to say yes to every offer that you get -- especially since the nature of freelance work is so erratic, and you never know when you will get your next job -- but don't accept work if you don't time in your schedule. Even if you're able to finish it on time, the quality of the work is likely to suffer, which will also hurt your reputation and your ability to get more jobs in the future.

Set Appropriate Rates

When you're just starting out, it can be tempting to set your rates very low so that you can get more work. Though you won't be able to start out charging $30 an hour, you should take a comprehensive look at your expenses and determine a reasonable rate -- both for you and your clients. Determine your living expenses and decide on a yearly salary. For example, if you want to make about $30,000 a year -- a modest salary -- you should divide that by 52 weeks, then divide that figure by 40 hours. Your rate would be just about $14.50 per hour. Keep in mind that as a self-employed writer, you are also responsible for paying your own taxes, purchasing your own health insurance, and saving for your own retirement plan. Keep all these things in mind as you set your rate. Over time, you will be able to raise it.

Always Look for Work

Even if you have a full schedule, always look for work. Many jobs that you find will be temporary in nature or will be on a project basis. You don't want to wait for those jobs to end before you start looking for new jobs. The availability of work is too erratic to count on finding a job as soon as your last one ends. Always be looking for new opportunities.

Do you work as a freelance writer, either full-time or part-time? What are some of your tips for success?

Tracy Sitchen is a veteran coupon clipper, stay at home Mom, and aspiring writer. While she loves shopping, she loves the chase of the deal even more! She’s recently been writing about City Museum coupons along with McDonalds coupons over at her blog where she shares deals and discounts to help every day people save money. 

6 June 2011

Poetry Guest Post by Sharon Skinner: In Case You Didn’t Hear Me the First Time

I have previously had poetry and short stories published in a number of magazines and a couple of anthologies, including The Wisdom of Our Mothers and, most recently, The Stories of Haven: I, as well as several other periodicals. However, I am very excited that Brick Cave Media, a local small press, recently published my new book, In Case You Didn’t Hear Me the First Time, a collection of poetry, essays and short stories written over a period of a dozen years.

The works in this collection reflect life’s journey through sadness, joy, love, loss, humor and hope. When asked what the book is about, I generally reply that it’s my personal take on our oh-so-human dance through “life, the universe and everything.”

I’ve intentionally included works that crack open the exterior shell and lay bare the tender interior where we truly live and love. The places where we curl up inside ourselves to cower, dream, recover, grow, and from where we can reach out and take a resolute stance against hardship. The places where we endure and from where we can celebrate our achievements and ourselves.

The poetry cuts deep, but cycles through to a place of self-affirmation. The essays about my time in the Navy are written with as much honesty as I could possibly muster (pun intended), exploring the dichotomies of the beauty and danger of the sea, the nobility and childishness of young service men and women, and the irony of military bureaucracy.

The inclusion of specific "Blog" entries as points in time, reflect specific moments in my life. Pointing openly to who I am and how I react to adversity, they act as a ribbon of truth, a sort of "Real life" or "Reality Writing" look behind the poetry, beneath the polish.

The reason I write is not just to express my personal emotions, but also to connect with others. I truly believe in the importance of transmitting a signal that does not simply radiate out into the atmosphere, but finds an appropriate receiver. And based on the reviews of my book posted on Amazon, my signal is currently being well received. This is not only gratifying and encouraging, but reaches deep into my interior, giving me yet another reason to celebrate.

In Case You Didn’t Hear Me the First Time is available on Amazon:

Sharon Skinner is an award-winning poet who received her B.A. in English from Ottawa University and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Prescott College.  She is a grant developer by day, currently serving as the National Board Secretary of the Grant Professionals Association. At heart she is a poet and fiction writer, having completed two Middle-Grade novels and one Young Adult Fantasy novel, The Healer’s Legacy, which is slated for release in Fall 2011. Sharon is currently hard at work on her current work-in-progress, a Young Adult Urban Fantasy about a teenage girl, who truly doesn’t fit inside her own skin.

Follow Sharon on Twitter @SharonSkinner56 
or at