by Roma Anjoy
November is the month when many writers participate in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to set a word count goal for the month and try to reach it. The default goal is 50,000 words, but you can pick any number you want. There’s a website you can visit (NaNoWriMo.org) with lots of tips and encouragement.
Some people spend the month of October getting ready for NaNo by using character development sheets, plot-point graphs, setting description generators, and other writing tools. Some install fancy new software to help them chart their progress scene by scene or create elaborate outlines of their work.
I spent the month of October getting ready too, but here’s what I did. I culled through all the books on my bookshelves (I set a rule for myself several years ago: “No buying more bookshelves”) so I could make room for the newer books sitting around in little piles waiting for a home. Result: two bags of old books. I went through my closet, putting away summer clothes and weeding out stuff I no longer wear, including shoes. Result: two bags of clothes and shoes. I went through the garage, looking for an old photo album, but while I was there I eliminated two boxes of stuff. I combed through my kitchen cabinets and drawers, removing duplicate or unneeded items to make them more commodious. Then I made a trip to Goodwill with all that stuff.
Meanwhile, I made sure I had a good supply of writing pads with different colored paper and pens with ink in various hues. I write first drafts by hand. I find it fun and mentally refreshing to switch background and ink colors. I cleared my dining room table, laying out all the supplies I would need, and collecting all relevant notes, photos, etc. I’m working on a memoir, so I know the basic story, but it helps to have object that can jar the memory.
I returned all my library books, created an out-of-sight space to store unread personal books and magazines. I cleared my inbox (well, as much as I could), unsubscribed to extraneous newsletters and webinars that would be a distraction during the coming month, and generally put my home and my life in order.
I call it “clearing the decks.” I write in spurts, and when I feel a spurt coming on (or when I have planned for one) I seem to need to circle around it for a while, making room for it in my life. The side benefit is that I return to a more well-ordered life. And that’s a good thing. So I win either way, whether or not I complete my NaNoWriMo goal.
by Vivian Murray
It is occasionally mentioned in workshops or books on the craft of writing, how effective a physical object can be when subtly weaving it through your story. I just finished reading the book The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman which uses a large 19th century portrait of a Parisian courtesan as an occasional object from beginning to end. Even without a picture to physically see, the author showed the reader the gilded frame, the woman’s posture, colors, and fabrics. It easily came to mind whenever the painting was mentioned at various intervals of the story. It was a familiar object. And, what I loved about this book was how the author wrote it as a fictionalized account of a newspaper article. It was a story of a family learning about their great-great grandmother’s apartment in Paris which was locked up for over 70 years . When opened by family heirs in 2011, it was as if time stood still and they walked into 1940s Paris. I remember reading the newspaper article and posting it on Facebook. I was fascinated by the story and thrilled someone wrote a book about it.
If you decide you want an object for your story, how do you discover what it will be?
As writers, we understand inspiration arises from unexpected places. You may be in a writers’ group when a new story pops into your head and the first draft is soon underway. Perhaps you are sitting at your desk or on a plane thousands of feet in the air when an idea for a new character is born. You can be anywhere. That’s the beauty of being a writer.
It wasn’t long ago, when housecleaning, when an object in my home reminded me of someone I once loved. I wiped dust off the Chinese decorated antique mirror and remembered a time, 43 years ago, when this man I loved looked at his reflection in this mirror, while in my mother’s home. I was across the room watching him when his reflection caught mine and we locked eyes. It was a moment caught in time. He’s been gone many years, but, oddly, his reflection and that memory remain in the wavy glass of this mirror.
My thoughts, as I continued dusting, trailed off to another time I could only conjure up in my imagination. It occurred to me my grandfather may have bought this mirror for my grandmother when they were first married in Shanghai in 1929. The mirror, with its new glass, survived WWII hidden in a Shanghai cellar. It was kept with other curios and precious objects out of sight. These were protected from the Japanese invasion and confiscation because they were in the cellar of a White Russian friend of my grandmother’s. If a Russian was married to a citizen of an enemy country, they were sent to Japanese internment camps, which was the case of my grandmother and mother who spent 4 years in a camp because my Russian grandmother married a British man.
After the war, in 1947 the mirror took a journey by ship to the United States and hung on the wall of my grandmother’s San Francisco flat until well into the late 70s. The mirror had its own journey over the next 37 years when it lived in my mother’s home in Pleasant Hill, CA; Colorado Springs, CO; then to my home in Seattle, eventually settling in Edmonds 11 years ago. I imagine one of my children and one of my grandchildren will take it from here.
And so it was a day of simple housecleaning which created my story-object. I can carry this mirror through my book for almost 100 years of my family’s history. I can write a historical fiction showing the reader many of the faces reflected over time, some known and some imagined; we have so much freedom as writers to create whatever we wish!
Stories and ideas pop up for writers from unexpected places; we are delighted when they pop up at all.
By Tori Peters
A softness fills the evening air as the immediate foreground darkens. Shapes blend into the landscape while the sky above holds gently to the fading light. Sitting in the Japanese Tea House with my friends at the Beitou Museum, in Taiwan, I sip the jasmine tea and nibble cashews and anise flavored watermelon seeds. As we write in our journals, our silence allows threads of memories and thoughts to weave through the evening light.
When tired, my mind refuses to follow one strand. Like a bird in a garden, it jumps from now, to yesterday, to years ago and back to this moment. But the bird flitting between the flowers gathers bugs and nectar for nourishment. My flitting between memories gather threads of experiences from my life of travel. Which threads will I choose today to work into my writing?
Looking out the wooden framed squares of glass in the Tea House, I see that the soft pinks of the sunset produce silhouettes of the evenly spaced trees that break the rounded breasts of the hills. I catch a thread and hold for a moment the memory of another time. A hill crest in Kenya with similar shaped trees. My youngest daughter and I watch giraffes moving between the trees. Their long necks undulating, heads slightly bobbing as they move across the hill plucking leaves from the trees. I let this thread go as a thread from this afternoon needles into my mind.
In the Beitou Museum, I saw beautiful embroidered chest coverings. During the Han and Ming Dynasties women bound their chests because flat chested women were considered graceful. The mandarin words for these coverings are Zhuyao and duduo. I admired blue and white threads closely satin stitched to create an egret in a garden. I delighted in another that included red pomegranates visible through green leaves. Still another stitched brightly colored blue, purple, and red threads forming chrysanthemums and orchids. Many women today own and wear bras decorated with lace or floral material.
Thinking of bras brings another memory. It was May, the lilacs were just beginning to bloom, I attended a luncheon in the Seattle area. The guest speaker, from the Museum of History and Industry, talked about the history of Women’s underwear. The topic fascinated me. I learned that after women won the right to vote, they bound their chests to appear more masculine? I wonder if they chose flower embroidered or laced material? Did men see them as more graceful?
In the 60’s women “burned their bras” to symbolize their desire for freedom from a male dominated society that believed women’s place was in the home. I did not throw away my bra, but I threw out my girdle which had a flower design.
I wonder why human beings spend hours recreating beauty? We take ourselves away from the hills, trees, flowers, and animals depositing our bodies into villages, towns, and cities. Our art shapes the land and nature and creates the ideal while the giraffe must be wary of the lion. Taking paint brush or needle and thread, or words, we attempt to recreate the world from which we have removed ourselves. Once finished, we then place these works of art close to us so that we may again be near nature. I have a framed quilted hanging in my bedroom. Words written in ink on the silk, “Mama always said, ‘You’d best try to shape the land, cause if you don’t it will shape you.’”*
Thinking of art, my mind offers a thread from my first year in Taipei. I danced the Chinese ribbon dance with seven other women. Two of us claimed European ancestry, a third was from India, and the other four were of Chinese descent. We started practicing before Thanksgiving for the Chinese New Year performance for the International Women’s Club.
Our teacher told us that the dance came from the Han Dynasty (2068 B.C.- 420 A.D.) It tells the story of how Hsiang Po saved the emperors life by deflecting the assassin’s sword with his silk sleeve.
At first I felt quite clumsy and uncoordinated. With practice and hard work, my body became familiar and accepted the unfamiliar precise hand and feet movements and music.
I learned to walk on my toes, as though on bound feet, taking small, shuffled steps. (A picture from a year ago briefly interrupts my thoughts. I see the well dressed older woman holding on to the arm of a younger woman during the Lantern Festival. She shuffled along on her tiny feet which fit into shoes that could fit in the palm of my hand. (She is the only woman I’ve seen with bound feet.) I held my fingers just so - the thumb to a slightly arched ring finger with the other three daintily curved and held above the ring finger. We did not act out the story in the dance. The movement of swirling brightly colored ribbons spoke to me of freedom and happiness not the legend.
It wasn’t until I dressed for the performance that I began to have an inkling of the significance of tradition to the Chinese people. All I knew was that we would be wearing traditional dress. I put on a white blouse covered with richly floral embroidered wide red collar with gold fringe. Around the long white skirt, I tied an apron of hanging colored satin strips embellished with stitched multicolored flowers. I placed the silver tiara on my head and thought, “This is the real thing.”
My friends’ quiet voices interrupted my thoughts. I put down my pen. I listen. We pour more tea, and I join the conversation. We share stories of living and working in Taipei. Someone changes the topic to summer travel. Another thread runs through my head as I remember the calligraphy piece on a wall at home. “Travel…I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”*
I have become unbound from the traditions of my childhood. I am not the person that I was when I left the United States. The colored threads of my experiences have embroidered new understandings of the world around me and the people who share this earth with me.
*Quilted Piece by M. Ensign Johnson
*“Travel” by Mary Anne Radmacher
For Tori Peters, writing and travel are an important part of who she is. She and her husband, now deceased, raised their four children in Africa and Asia, mostly because of his career in the Foreign Service. While raising children, traveling, and journaling, she taught fifth grade in Everett, Washington, Middle School Language Arts at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India, and High School English at Taipei American School in Taiwan, Taipei. She has also walked the Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago, Spain and then on to Finisterre, Spain, close to 900 km. Together with six other women, from 40-72 years old, Tori trekked for six days in the Andes Mountains from Cachora, to Choquiquerao, and eventually to Machu Picchu in Peru.
Now it is time to write. She is presently working on a memoire of their life experiences living in Mali and Rwanda, and Tunisia, Africa.
By Judith Works
Check out this article from Judith, published online at My Edmonds News:
Judith Works has been on the board of EPIC Group Writers for several years. Her memoir about living in Rome, Coins in the Fountain, is available at the Edmonds Bookshop and online. Her novel will be published later this year and her flash fiction has been published in literary journals.
About EPIC Group Travel Writers: As an offshoot of EPIC’s Monday morning writing sessions held at the Edmonds library, the EPIC Group Travel Writers meet at Savvy Traveler once a month. Participants of this fluid group love to travel and write stories about their journeys. You are invited to attend on the second Wednesday of the month from 3:30-5 p.m. Free to members and non-members of EPIC Group Writers.
Posted by Vivian Murray.
A Definition of Author Platform
What is an author's platform? Jane Friedman provides a definition and history. She discusses who needs a platform to publish, and gives suggestions on how to build your platform
5 Ways to Keep Writing When Life Intervenes https://janefriedman.com/5-ways-keep-writing-life-intervenes/
Jessica Strawser offers 5 thoughtful suggestions for when the fates interfere with your writing life.
Want to Write for Magazines? Do This First
Kristen Pope's article provides a criteria of what to look for in magazines that you might be considering sending that article you wrote about your train trip or your father's stamp collection.
by Christine Pinto
Ever feel your focus blur, support for your writing life wane, and belief in what you’re doing dissipate? Argh! What to do?
Here’s what I do to get my focus back and reenergize support from the only reliably constant, unbiased, fully supportive source I’ll ever have all the time … me.
I take a break to write down:
--Why, specifically, I write what I write.
--My biography, a short one and the longer one that will introduce my biography when I’m hugely famous, or serve as the outline to my autobiography, even if I never decide to write it.
--Glowing reviews of my (yet to be finished) very, very successful books.
--An introduction to myself as the keynote speaker of an important conference.
--My acceptance speech for those awards I’m going to win.
--The “Secret of My Success Speech” I’ll give someday.This is not idle chatter or boasting. It clarifies what I believe, puts positive messages out in the world to work on my behalf, and helps me practice saying good things about myself from a position of strength, the position of having achieved it all already. And it makes visible support from the best advocate I’ll ever have – me.
Think of it as a deposit in the bank. Happy Writing!
A novelist and writing coach for children, Christine Pinto is currently serving as the treasurer of EPIC Group Writers.
The Edmonds Library plans to provide space for subscribers and members of EPIC Writer’s Group by featuring published books of local authors. If you, or someone you know, has a published book please contact Dave Gross (email@example.com) for the details of having the book included before Aug. 15, 2016.
Hi Everyone! Hope you had a great 4th of July and that your summer is off to a good start. I read this informative article by Susan Spann and wanted to share it with you!
June 20, 2016
The Legal Side of Writing for Anthologies
By Susan Spann
Anthologies offer writers an excellent platform for shorter works and create opportunities for reader cross-pollination. When managed and published properly, anthologies have many benefits and relatively few drawbacks for authors. However, authors do need to ensure–before submitting or signing a contract–that the anthology publisher is offering industry-standard contract terms and proper legal protection for the contributing authors and their works.
Today, we’ll review a few of the legal traps and pitfalls authors should beware (and avoid) when contributing work to an anthology:
1. Contracts Are Not Optional.
Every anthology should use a professional, written publishing contract (or release) containing industry-standard terms for anthology publication. If the publisher is taking only non-exclusive rights, and not limiting the author’s right to reprint and re-use the work in any way, a simple release will often suffice, but even this should be in writing. (Note: The author should always retain the copyright and subsidiary rights to the work, as well as the right to re-publish in other contexts. Also, the author should never have to pay the publisher any money or be required to purchase copies of the finished anthology.)
Anthology contracts and releases (sometimes titled “Permission to (Re)Print”) are generally shorter than contracts for book-length works, but they still need to address the relevant legal issues. Also, the contract (or release) must be in writing—emails documenting the parties’ “understanding” are not sufficient and often won’t stand up in court.
2. Never Sign Away Copyright to the Work.
Anthology publishers do NOT need, and should not ask for, ownership of copyright in the individual works that make up the anthology.
Anthology publishers need only a limited license to publish the contributed works as part of the anthology – and the contract should expressly limit the publisher’s use of the work to its inclusion in the relevant anthology or collective work.
If the author transfers copyright to the anthology publisher, the author no longer owns the work and cannot use or publish it in other contexts (without permission, which the publisher then has the legal right to withhold at will). Most anthology publishers don’t try to take ownership of the contributors’ works; don’t submit to anthologies that do.
One additional note: some anthology contracts state that the publisher owns the copyright on the anthology as a collective work. This is different from ownership of the individual stories. Anthologies actually involve two separate types of copyrights:
(1) the authors’ copyrights in their individual stories, and
(2) the “collective work” copyright, which includes only revisions, editing, and/or compilation (e.g., the selection of the stories that went into the anthology) – but not the content of the individual contributions.
“Collective work” copyright is a separate, lesser form that essentially exists to ensure that no one can copy and sell the anthology without the publisher’s permission. Many anthology contracts contain clear copyright language stating that the author retains the sole, individual copyright on his or her contribution, and the publisher owns only the “collective work” copyright (if any) which attaches to the anthology as a whole. Some contracts don’t mention collective work copyright; this is fine, as long as the contract is clear about the author retaining ownership of his or her contribution.
3. Know Where the Money Is Going.
Some anthologies pay participating authors for their contributions, either on a flat fee basis or by means of a royalty share. Other anthologies don’t compensate contributing authors financially; however, many non-paying anthologies donate the sales proceeds to charity or to the nonprofit organization that sponsored the publication.
There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with contributing works to anthologies that don’t pay fees or royalties, as long as you (the contributing author) understand and agree with the way the anthology’s profits will be handled. As long as the contract (or your communications with the publisher or sponsor) describes where the money is going—and you trust the publisher to follow through—the decision whether or not to contribute a story to a non-royalty-bearing anthology is a business decision for the author.
4. Submit Only to Reputable Anthologies.
Some anthologies have strong professional reputations, and offer broad exposure. Both traditionally-published and self-published anthologies (including those released by groups of collaborating author-publishers) have enjoyed fantastic success, when published and marketed in a professional manner.
Before submitting your work or signing a contract for anthology publication, consider the experience level and reputation of the publisher (or anthology sponsor), the editor (if one is named), the terms of the publishing contract, and all other relevant aspects of the deal. Select anthologies that match your plans for your work and also offer appropriate contract terms.
Remember: it’s perfectly acceptable to ask to review the contract or release before you make a commitment.
5. Beware of Mandatory Purchase and Marketing Requirements.
Most anthologies don’t require participating authors to purchase copies of the finished work or mandate author participation in marketing activities. Although many authors choose to purchase copies and to help with marketing for the finished work, these should be the author’s choice—and not required by contract.
An EPIC Wall is Built...
(Not to be confused with a wall a certain politician wants to build)
It was on a cold January morning in 2015 when I brainstormed with myself wondering how to reach our writers registered on the EPIC mailing list. Paid members and mailing list subscribers. There was a plethora of ever-changing information we (EPIC Group Writers board) were churning out about ongoing writing groups, new groups born, events coming up, celebrations of our members and subscribers who became published, or had a book reading, etc. Remembering my past life experience in a couple of corporations when one of my responsibilities was writing employee newsletters, my cold-dry-cracked-turning-blue fingers started clacking on my keyboard (just being dramatic, I do have central heating, but this was January and I just don't like being cold).
It was on that January morning when the Wall began laying its foundation. Naming it The Wall was because I recalled graffiti on the walls of buildings in Seattle, and even on the mirrors of the restrooms in the downtown college where I last worked. I wanted to offer a wall to post information. A wall with a mural. A wall not to keep anyone out but rather to gather everyone in. Not a wall to block feelings or ideas. Quite the opposite. It would be a wall for Writers And Literary Lovers who love sharing what they write or how they publish what others write. And, it's a work-in-progress.
EPIC Group Writers is also a work-in-progress and new ideas are percolating behind the scenes constantly. We welcome your ideas, accomplishments, and stories which add bricks to our wall with your name etched onto it. Sign up now to get your free copy of EGW's The Bi-Weekly Wall to stay in the loop with your fellow subscribers who are also lovers of the literary arts.
Hello, I’m Susan Ferguson, President of EPIC Group Writers, and welcome to EPIC’s terrific new website! After months of planning and execution, EPIC’s new website has launched with features designed to serve you, fellow writer, as well as features that connect EPIC Group Writers members to one another. Many thanks to board members, Joe Rice and Christine Pinto, and to Florence Coletta-Rice, for their talents and concerted effort in getting the job done so well.
Have you ever asked yourself why you are writing a particular piece? Writers are often attracted to an idea, feel compelled to pursue it, and begin researching and writing before stopping to analyze this question. The question has two distinct emphases: the “you” and the “piece”. Why are YOU writing this piece? What part of your life experience, core beliefs, or abilities are being tapped when bringing the characters, plot, themes and story to life? And, why are you choosing to write THIS piece? Out of all of the ideas being explored, why are you driven to work on this one?
When I was asked last year whether I was interested in running to become the president of EPIC Group Writers for 2016, I brought the same questions to bear. What can I contribute to EPIC, and why EPIC?
People might have many reasons for wanting to assume the presidency of an organization. Some people enjoy positions of authority. That wasn’t my motivation. I like to get things done and find solutions. I like it when people work cooperatively and take initiative, sharing the fulfillment and work of running an organization. I get excited by new ideas and am eager to support good ones.
But, why was I willing to undertake the job, knowing that it would take a lot of time away from my writing and other things I enjoy doing? The key lies in the second half of the question. Why EPIC? And that gets down to the essence of the importance of writing.
Being a writer is a lot like being a musician. Not everyone has the talent of a Paul McCartney, Carole King, or Paul Simon, but millions of songs are written and sung every year, in concert halls, at weddings, at graduations, and at bars, clubs and local performances. The importance of song writing is to share our life experiences together, often on an emotional level, because we feel a connection when the music and lyrics ring true.
The same is true of writing. People write at all levels of competency. What is important is that they do write and share their take on life and the world through their imaginations. We connect through shared experience, through what we learn from each other, from the worlds and characters we create that mean something to us. Whether writing memoir, science fiction, kid-lit, travel, romance or creative non-fiction, we tell stories…our stories…each through a unique lens, that connect us emotionally, creatively, intellectually, and sometimes, on an instinctive, deep-rooted level.
I’ve been researching and writing a historical novel for a while now. The letters, diaries and accounts written at the time reveal how people lived, what mattered to them, and what their lives were like. Someday, people will research what we, collectively, have written, and try to decipher what our lives were like and what mattered to us.
EPIC dedicates itself to fostering writing at all levels of competence and experience. EPIC stands for the idea that writing matters. People and their lives matter. The writing community matters. If writing is something you do, or want to do, and it matters to you, then you matter to us. We are here to support you and hope you will join EPIC and give back. By participating. By joining a writing or critique group. By donating. By helping EPIC find a space to call home. Because, collaborating together, a writing community can be a powerful thing.
Copyright 2016 Susan Lehne Ferguson
We have such a variety of writers in our organization that we thought it would be fun, exciting and enlightening to have multiple blog post authors.
We will be sharing all sorts of writing-related topics!