Thursday, January 28, 2010

To Write or Not To Write, or How Do You Manage Your Time?

by Carol Bindel

I was feeling really lonely Monday, for mysterious, still undefined reasons. It is strange to be in this place, in this winter time, when there is no work pressing hard on me, where the structure of my day is more up to me to create anew each morning, to create a daily schedule out of the thin air, out of the passing minutes, than at any other season. In other seasons, after all, I have assigned myself to care for this property, as best as I can, chosen that "job," and that has its own structure and rhythm that I then follow. But Monday it rained hard, so I didn't even spend my normal hour walking out in the world. What was I to do with myself?

Over the past years I have been intentionally emptying activities (and thereby people) from my life in order to find that place where I am strong enough to carry my commitments. And now I find the hours looking at me, empty-eyed. I have this time-space within which I can see so clearly that all the structure is up to me. What will I do with my energy/time, my energy time?

I believe this is how it always is. The structure is always up to us. We just don't see that, with all the covering commitments-- the job, the family, the church-- that usually hold and keep us. Held tight in the structures we have agreed to, that we have created, held by the structures that then hold our lives, totally. All our joy and sorrow, all our knowing and sharing-- all held within the structure of whatever lives we create. I am puzzling over this.

And I am wondering about my writing. So I made a list: Reasons Not to Write. It was and is a good list. Of course, I AM a writer. An introvert by nature, yet with ordinary needs for companionship and human sharing, I love words as a form of communication. So I have, indeed, been writing letters and emails and journal entries. I need competing lists, to write vs. not to write. And do I have reason to write for publication?

I am puzzling; I am a perfectly fitted piece of the puzzle. So are you. We are different; we are the same. I want to write, I don't want to write. All true. The world as paradox. Am I paralyzed by paradox?

How do you structure and fill your days? What criteria guides your action or non-action? Why do you write? How do you value your own writing, if it goes without remuneration? How do you structure and include it, or not, in your day? Is publication and payment the ultimate goal? How do YOU settle these questions?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shop Talk With Christina A.--Organization

By: Christina Adams

There are as many different types of writers as there are personalities. I am an organizer. I love organizing. I love lists. I love goals. And I love organizing my lists of goals. I have boxes, binders or folders for every scrap of paper I have written on and I have a whole shelf devoted to storing the binders and folders.

I enjoy organizing all my stories and ideas. There is a binder for finished stories I now think are silly or unpublishable, a binder for unfinished stories I don't intend to continue and a folder for every short story I have written. I also keep a binder devoted solely to my early stage ideas. When one of these ideas develop enough into a full fledged book idea I move it into a binder of its own, if an idea turns into a short story I move it into a folder. Or after staring at it for years without wanting to work on it, I move it to my unfinished story binder. There is a place for every stage of writing. This is my system, and it works well for me.

Now before you think my writing space is sparkling and sterile, you should know I have a habit of tossing all current papers into piles until a time--often once every six month or so period--where I can't take it anymore and purge my area of anything not bound or filed. After hearing about my binder obsession I am sure piles of loose, unconnected papers may be hard to imagine, but I like to think of it as my creative side expressing itself. Even if my piles are more organized than I would like to admit....

Every writer has their own method. Are you messy? Are you neat? What works best for you? I'd love to hear about it. Let's talk shop!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Writing Contest Announcement

A Quick Contest Alert!

There is a writing contest at for writers of young adult and middle grade novels. The first 500 words of a finished work can be entered to win a critique of your story. For more information on how to enter click here. The deadline for this contest is Jan 31st so you better act fast!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Writing as the Finger Pointing to the Moon

by Carol Bindel

Gleaned from Lao Tzu:

Non-being-- The Way-- that which cannot be described
gives birth to Unity
gives birth to Duality
gives birth to Trinity
gives birth to The Ten Thousand Things

The intuition of Non-being that we can experience-- most directly through our bodies (my body carries my life) or the arts-- is mostly the experience of paradox. And isn't paradox everywhere? But all our art of every form is the finger pointing to the moon, and the finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.

Wu Wei (pronounced woo way) is the state of being in action / of no wasted motion / of effortless effort. Water moves by the principle of wu wei. It represents actions that produce harmony, actions that seem so right they are effortless, yet nothing remains undone. The work is done and then forgotten and then it lasts forever.

Three precious things:
gentleness that gives rise to boldness;
frugality that gives rise to generosity;
humility that gives rise to leadership.

We write The Ten Thousand Things. We, too, are the finger pointing to the moon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writer's Book Shelf--Between the Lines

Book Review: Jessica Page Morrell's {Between the Lines}: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing

By: Christina Adams

Between the Lines is a book every writer should read, especially if you are searching for a book that goes beyond the basics. Morrell takes you to the foundation of effective storytelling, she shares what works and, more importantly, why. Each chapter focuses on its own topic, ranging from suspense to tension, epiphanies to subtlety, foreshadowing to flashbacks and prologues to epilogues. She explains what turns the reader away and reveals the tools you can use to keep the reader spellbound by your book.

I discovered this book at a great time in my writing career. I was tired of writing books that took a chapter to explain to me how I could transform my new story idea into a first draft. I knew what methods worked well for me, but I didn’t know how to polish my draft into a well-crafted novel. Between the Lines was the first book I read that explained what I needed to do and what I had to change to get there.

If you ever want to read a book on writing that goes deeper than beginner mechanics into storytelling technique, this is the book for you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shop Talk with Christina A.--My Background

By: Christina Adams

Is it a surprise when a writer says he/she loves to read? That is how it started for me. My arms were full every time I left the library and the next week I would do it again. It wasn't until I was twelve years old that I first started to write. I didn’t have many story ideas, but I would sit in my living room as my five younger siblings played (or fought) around me, writing down, as quickly as I could, everything they were saying. Most of it was dialogue, often several conversations mixed together. When the action had lulled, I would read what I recorded aloud to everyone and we would laugh at the things we said. It got to the point where I had to write incognito because they would start to act up whenever I had a blank piece of paper and a pen. But I loved the quick pace of dialogue and the more I wrote the more story ideas grew inside me until I had to write just to get them out.

Now, years later, I have written four manuscripts for children/young teens and have written short pieces in a variety of genres: adult, children, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, romance, sci-fi and fantasy. My current project is a sci-fi teen novel about a girl who has one week left to live or her whole planet will die. I’m in the editing phase of my first draft and I hope to be starting my second draft soon. When I am not posting here on “Dialogues,” I am posting on my blog Writing, Editing and Other Adventures.

Finding the time to write is always a challenge with my constantly changing schedule. But it all comes down to making the time to do what I love. At a writer’s conference I went to in 2008, Cynthia Lord (Author of Rules, a Newberry Honor Book) said she would get up at 4am so she could write for an hour before she had to get her kids ready for school. Talk about dedication! This has been a challenge for me and a goal I aim for, because no matter how busy I think I am, if I really love to write I could find the time.

So, what about you? When did you first start writing? You can answer either question or comment with one of your own. I love meeting fellow writers! Let's talk shop.

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones, the movie based on Alice Sebold's bestselling novel is scheduled to be released on Friday according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. The article goes on to ask and answer the question: Why are some books easier to adapt to film than others? The successful book-to-movie transtions are helped by a "plot-driven story with a strong beginning, middle and ending ... and if there's a crime, a mystery, and sex ... even better."

The Chronicle also featured a list of "10 Great Films from Great Books."
  1. Gone with the Wind
  2. The Wizard of Oz
  3. The Maltese Falcon
  4. Apocalypse Now (from Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness)
  5. The Godfather
  6. Clueless (from Jane Austen's Emma)
  7. Howards End
  8. The English Patient
  9. The Lord of the Rings
  10. No Country for Old Men

Monday, January 11, 2010

Am I Talking to Myself?

Don't we wonder this, sometimes, as we sit alone writing? Yet when writing for publication we have an audience in mind.

When I journal, though, I am my own audience. It is a way to rejuvenate and grow. Sometimes I use the "word jar" technique. That is, select from your mind, or from any book, perhaps 20-30 interesting words, write them on slips of paper, and draw five with which to work. Or have a friend create a list for you. This gives an element of surprise to the writing that may trigger interesting insights. For this particular exercise, all five words are to be used in an opening sentence, and the writing proceeds from there.

Here's my most recent one:

The words:

Be a wellspring of cheerful, glowing strength, stirred by your passion for peace. Stand in your place, wherever it is. If you're made to be the baby of the family, be full of wide-eyed innocence, eager to absorb your elder's wisdom, for thus you bless them. If you're made to be the matriarch, be wise and generous in your place of power, and draw on all those around you for their insights for thus you are truly wise. If you're allowed to be a friend, listen carefully, question gently, be full of empathy and compassion. If you're made to be an enemy, stand firm where you must but as respectfully as you can, for you know that the compost becomes the flower and the flower becomes the compost, and the process is always ongoing. Anyone's understanding and position can change. The peaceful heart remembers this and draws forth new flowers again and again, thus creating a haven in this stormy world.

Carol Bindel

Friday, January 8, 2010

Indie Books Stores

Poets & Writers
Inside Indie Bookstores
by Jeremiah Chamberlin

Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books, Oxford, Miss., was interviewed by Poets & Writers magazine in the inaugural installment of a new column, Inside Indie Bookstores. Howorth spoke with Jeremiah Chamberlin about his initial vision for Square Books, how a bookstore can stay relevant in the 21st century and the future of independent bookselling.

In reply to a question about the future of indie bookstores, Howorth said, "It's a very difficult business. But in many ways, I like the fact that it's a difficult business. Otherwise, people who want to make money--by selling crap--would be trying to get into the book business."

Howorth also observed that in terms of the future of books, he is excited about "what's happened at Square Books, Jr. We're selling more children's books than ever. The level of enthusiasm and excitement about books from toddlers to first readers to adolescents and teens... if you go in there and hang around for a few hours, you would never even think that there might be such a thing as a digital book."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert, WSJ Interview

Best-selling author Ann Patchett interviews Elizabeth Gilbert ("Eat, Pray, Love") about her new book, "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage."

here is the link:

January 1, 2010

by Carol Bindel

Did you notice yesterday's date was binary? 01-01-10. Happy New Year!

Today it's January 2, 2010, that is, 01-02-2010. What's that called,
those strings of symbols, usually words, that echo from end to middle
to end-- oh, yes, it's a palindrome, how could I forget my

Both dates, as I've written them, are correct, true, easily
interpreted. But do you notice how I shaped each to meet my own
little criteria for finding them interesting?

We writers-- we humans-- do that all the time, selecting and shaping
the details we notice, the ones we report. Nonfiction or fiction,
it's a necessity. Even a Twitter devotee cannot capture every element
of every moment.

Is it possible that the things we notice and report form some
essential part of how we humans, each unique like everyone else,
separate ourselves brother from sister, mother from child? Is it part
of how we become either lonely or united in our understanding of one