year 2010 archives

Idaho Authors’ Holiday Book Fair

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I’ll be joining writers Patricia Santos Marcantonio, Dixie Thomas Reale, Jennifer DeNaughel, Betty Hare, Cliff Johnson, Niels S. Nokkentved, Jack Goodman, and Merri Halma at a holiday book fair December 11, 2010, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Zulu Bagels & Java Jungle, 1986 Addison Avenue East, Twin Falls, Idaho. Stop by, say hello, and support these local authors. Our books will make great stocking stuffers.

So, What Have You Published?

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Tell people you’re a writer, and the first thing they ask is, “What have you published?” There are lots of ways to answer this question, but I really like award-winning author and blogger John Shore’s observations on the book publishing industry. Check out his recent Huffington Post blog, “Why You Want a Big Book Publisher to Reject Your Book.” Being a writer is not the same as being published and here are some of the reasons why.

2010 Idaho Writer’s League Writer of the Year Award

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Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Emily Dickinson

Talk to any writer and they will tell you that their writing efforts often go unnoticed. For every book/article that is sold, there are a dozen more waiting to be discovered. Writers understand this. They know the road to publication, recognition, and fame is long and painful. That’s why you’ll often hear writers joke about sticking their head in an oven or opening a vein.

I read somewhere that a writer must write over a million words before they have mastered the craft well enough to be considered a serious writer. Contrary to what some believe, writers don’t just sit down at a keyboard and the words pour out in logical sentences. A writer-friend’s impatient husband often asks her when she is in her office hunched over her keyboard pondering just the right word, “What are you doing in there?”

Most of the time what “we are doing in there” is trying to make sense of the words, voices, and stories that pop randomly into our head. I once labored thirty-six hours over a scene, only to delete it with one keystroke the next week. Because, when it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and no amount of superfluous words will make it better.

But sometimes it does work. And when it does, it makes up for all those long, lonely, and frustrating hours at the keyboard.

That’s why, when I received the 2010 Writer of the Year award from the Idaho Writer’s League, I felt a tinge of satisfaction. Of all the Idaho Writer’s League members in Idaho, my work stood out.

I may not be a best-selling author like John Grisham or Nora Roberts. But I am a writer. And now I have an award to hang on my wall to prove it.

Journey Stories . . . Coming to America

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Some people shake their heads when I tell them where I live. They know where Twin Falls is, but they have no clue where to find Jerome, Idaho.
Jerome is eleven miles northwest of Twin Falls, or as locals say, “North of the river.” Jerome is smaller, and not as busy as Twin, but Jerome has its distinct advantages.
Take for example the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibition “Journey Stories.” This traveling exhibition is slated to visit up to 30 states and 180 communities through 2015. In Idaho, Jerome is one of two towns hosting the exhibition. The other town is Hailey.

Mobility is part of our American heritage. “Journey Stories” will try to answer some of the questions surrounding our mobility. Where are you from? What is your story? Why do we move? How do we move? Do you think changes in transportation have changed us as a nation? Why would people need to think about moving or exploring?

My own family moved from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1959 because my father hoped for a better job working as a serviceman for Sears. Coming from a farming community, Idaho seems to suit my family well. My parents are deceased, but my brothers and I still reside in Idaho. We have moved away from Twin Falls, but not very far. We seem tied to the land and the many adventures living in Idaho brings.

How did your grandparents come to America? Why did they come? If you have a travel story you would like to share, go to Journey Stories and share your story. And if you are near Jerome, Idaho, in December, drop by the Jerome Public Library anytime after December 11, 2010, to see this memorable exhibition.

Balancing life

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Those who know me know that I don’t write in July and August. Because, for me, writing requires that I set myself apart, enter a dreamlike world that creates a positive place where words and ideas flow. This is a selfish place and doesn’t accommodate “What’s for dinner?” or “Where are my shoes?” Some writers can write even when distracted, and I envy them, but when I sit down to write, I lose track of time. I forget to eat. I don’t like interruptions. And in July and August when my grandsons visit, I want to bake cookies, go swimming, and play.
This leads me to the topic of this post, balancing life and setting priorities. Today I’m sitting in my son’s living room in Hillsboro, Oregon, hanging with my grandsons while my son and daughter-in-law spend some much needed time alone. In a couple of days I will be back home, and back at my keyboard. As I check email and plan my September schedule, I am overwhelmed. One friend has uploaded a book to Smashwords, and is already selling copies. Another has sent a manuscript to her list of dream agents. Another is blogging about her latest release. Another is designing a trailer for her new book. When I look at everything my peers are doing, I feel inadequate, like a slack, because the only writing I have done in two months is write a blog.
If it sounds like I’m whining, I want you to know that I’m not. I’m just stating the facts. July and August belong to my family, and I have learned to schedule my writing time accordingly. Along with this, I’ve learned to use my time wisely, to be present in the moment so I don’t look back and say, “I wish I had . . ..”
Laurie Halse Anderson, the successful author of Speak, Prom, and Wintergirls touches on this topic in her own blog today. Laurie’s blog is thought-provoking not only for writers, but for everyone. Basically, it boils down to deciding what’s important, and then making time for it.
If you struggle with finding time to do something you love, hop over to Laurie’s blog (http://tinyurl.com/36eqzvk) for some wonderful suggestions to make that happen.

Looking for Ghosts at Stricker Ranch

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I have been blessed with a son who takes time from his crazy schedule to make sure my grandsons spend a good part of July with me every year. This isn’t easy because he has to load his three sons into a car and drive 8 1/2 hours to make this happen. Each year we do something fun and memorable. One year we went to Lagoon Amusement Park in Utah. Another year we painted birdhouses and made stepping-stones for the garden. This year, grandson Dante is big into ghost hunting so we took a trip out to the historic Rock Creek Station and Stricker homesite south of Hansen, Idaho. Besides a “haunted” house, there is an interpretive center at the site, and the Friends of Stricker, Inc. are restoring the old store, which is one of the oldest buildings in southern Idaho.
Stricker Ranch is a great place to learn about the Oregon Trail. Dante thinks it’s a great place to look for ghosts. Here he is his with his brother Dmitri hunting ghosts in a cellar once used to store food and supplies, as a jail, and reportedly for protection from Indians.

Bronte Sisters Rock

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I was probably ten years old when I first read Jane Eyre. I followed that quickly with Wuthering Heights, and even wrote a paper on the light and dark elements in Wuthering Heights when I was in college. These books remain my all time favorites, my go to books when I want to be transported. I still read them today, even though they were written over 150 years ago. I could go on and on about these wonderful classics, but I won’t. Instead, I’d like to share a video link my friend, Robin Lee Hatcher, posted on Facebook today. She did not make the video, she was just passing it on because it’s too good not to share. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NKXNThJ610

Finding Your Voice Workshop this weekend

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The Other Bunch is putting the finishing touches to our Finding Your Voice workshop that will be held April 17 in Twin Falls, Idaho. We are excited to have bestselling author Joanne Pence as our guest speaker. Her books have been USA Today and Independent Mystery Bookstore Association bestsellers. Author of more than thirteen books, Joanne will lead a workshop on how to find your own unique voice.
Other workshops will include Tools to Fire up your Creativity, Memoirs: Who has to Right to Write One which includes family histories, Creating Sparks and Banning Doubts, and The Writer’s Life.
If you’ve ever had the desire to write, this workshop is for you. You can find out more about the workshop here.

Ten Rules for Writing

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It’s cold in Idaho. I’m in my office wrapped in a blanket, trying to type with gloves on. Yes, my furnace works. Yes, I have heat. But the cold has crawled through the windows into my bones, and short of soaking in the hot tub all day, I can’t get warm. Instead of sitting at my desk, I want to snuggle on the sofa with a cup of hot tea and a good book. But I’m a writer, so rather than give in to my whims, I’m here struggling to make sense out of words.

It may look easy, but writing is hard work. On gray days like this it’s tough to stay motivated, and it isn’t surprising that right now circulating on many writer’s loops is this article “Ten Rules for Writing”. It’s probably circulating now because February is so dismal. Just yesterday a friend said the only good thing about February is that it connects January and March. But I digress. Combine dismal and hard work and it’s easy to see why so many people go south for the winter. Or so many writers stop working.

For me, this article hit the loops at just the right time. Writing is solitary work. Often there is no feedback, nothing to judge if all the time spent at the computer is fruitful. Many times I find myself wondering if I have picked the right profession; if maybe I shouldn’t be doing something else.

Therefore, it’s encouraging to know that even successful writers struggle with self-doubt, and the advice given in “Ten Rules for Writing” is uplifting on this dreary day. I particularly like Margaret Atwood’s comment, “You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”

I love Idaho. I choose to live here. I love writing, even on dark gloomy days. So maybe it’s time to quit whining, and get back to work.

(you can read the second part of the article here)

Reading at The Cabin in Boise

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Dixie, Pat and I had a great time reading and answering questions at “Random Readings” last week in Boise at The Cabin. The room was full and there were so many questions and great discussions we ran over our allotted time by half an hour. As things get increasingly tough for writers (downsizing, magazines and papers folding) it’s nice to gather with other writers to discuss alternative opportunities. If you live in Idaho and haven’t already joined the Idaho Writers Guild, give it some thought. This is a professional group of writers helping other writers so we can all do what we love. For those of you who stopped by to say hello, or bought our book, thanks so much for your support.


Me, Pat and Dixie at “Random Readings” in Boise.

Random Readings

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I’m starting the new year out right. On January 30, I’ll be reading from “Voices from the Snake River Plain” in Boise at The Cabin. I’m excited to be part of the Idaho Writer’s Guild and participate in their first event for 2010. If you are in the Boise area on January 30, stop by The Cabin between 1 – 3 and join us while we talk about books, writing, and publishing. Hope to see you there!

Here is the Idaho Writer’s Guild news release.

The publishing world is changing daily, it seems, and there’s a lot of interest in the area of non-traditional forms of publishing. As “Writers Working for Writers,” the Idaho Writer’s Guild is proudly launching a new series called “Random Readings” on Saturday, January 30th from 1-3 pm at The Cabin, in Boise. Featured writers will share their experiences, from writing to publishing.

Here’s what you can look forward to: authors will read from their books, with commentary. Afterwards, there will be time for asking questions and sharing thoughts about the nuts and bolts of a variety of publishing processes. Not-to-be-missed refreshments will be served.

Southern Idaho residents Bonnie Dodge, Dixie Thomas Reale and Patricia Santos Marcantonio wrote and published “Voices from the Snake River Plain.” A collection of short stories, poems and essays, the book has been described as “a small treasure….we learn there is beauty in the landscape around us and people with stories to tell.” Some of the tales by these award-winning writers include a jackalope, an old Mexican ghost story, haunting landscapes and a road trip with Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.

Val Robertson was the former president of The Couer du Bois Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and the founding and current president of the Popular Fiction Association of Idaho, which produces the Murder in the Grove mystery conference. She is also the organizer of the Boise Speculative Fiction writer’s support group. Her debut novel is entitled “Blade’s Edge.”

Also from Boise, Ken McConnell is both traditionally published and self-published. A Software Test Technician, Ken wrote and published “Starstrikers” in 2008. His first novel is “a military space novel that takes place between two galactic civilizations.” He also wrote “Null Pointer,” a mystery novel about a programmer sleuth.

“Random Readings” will take place in the Jean Wilson Reading Room, on the basement level at The Cabin, 801 S. Capitol Blvd, Boise. Admission is free. For further information contact Diane Graham at diane@idahowritersguild.org.

The Road out of Hell

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The Road out of Hell is not a book I would have normally picked to read. It is the story of Sanford Clark and the Wineville Murders that took place in California in the late 1920s. It is a hard book to read, and I read it reluctantly because it was the January selection for my local book club. To make matters worse, I was host for the January meeting, so I knew if I was going to contribute anything worthwhile to the discussion, I would have to read the book.

After a couple of failed starts, I dug in and did the work. I’m glad I did because the publisher of the book had arranged a Skype meeting between my book club and the author. For almost an hour we were able to ask Anthony Flacco questions about the story and the story process. It was like having Mr. Flacco in my living room talking about books and writing, and it was so much fun.

Being the mother of a son, it would have been easy for me to say, “I’m not going to read this book.” But something positive came out of the process. I hope more publishers and authors take advantage of connecting with readers through Skype or other cyberspace technology. It was truly one of the best book discussions we have had, and we’ve read a lot of books.

Starting Over

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With the new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about starting over. Starting over is hard to do because it feels too much like failure. As a writer, I expect myself to be so brilliant I get the book right the very first draft. How silly is that? I know writing books is more about rewriting, honing, tightening, and bringing clarity and unity to the work. I know that few published books (if any) make it through without a lot of hard work and editing. But the truth is I am lazy.

I have a book I have been working on much too long. I even put it away for a couple of years because it felt dead-ended. But I love the concept and the characters, and the story keeps taunting, “Do the work. Do the work.” Because, you see, the easy part is done. I have my characters, I have my location. I have a high concept. But what I don’t have is a convincing story. I haven’t learned how to connect the dots so this story sings.

When I shopped this book a few years ago, I received many favorable comments, but the book just wasn’t ready. An agent that I respect said I could write well, but I didn’t know what my story was.

Maybe she was right. Or maybe I just didn’t do a good enough job of telling my story. So today I begin the long journey of beginning again. I’ll dig out the old character sketches, and create new ones. I’ll rethink goals and motivation. Today I’ll bite the bitter bullet, and with any luck and a lot of hard work, I will finally get it right.