Saturday, March 24, 2012

On My Bookshelf: Books About Writing

Like most writers, I learn a lot by studying other writers and reading books about writing. Following are the writing books on my bookshelf. What books have you found to be helpful in learning how to write or get published?

On Writing
By Stephen King

Writing for the Soul
By Jerry B. Jenkins

On Writing Romance
By Leigh Michaels

On Writing Well
By William Zinsser

If You Can Talk, You Can Write
By Joel Saltzman

The Weekend Novelist
By Robert J. Ray

Damn! Why Didn’t I Write That?
By Marc McCutcheon

Writing & Selling the YA Novel
By K.L. Going

Guide to Fiction Writing
By Phyllis A. Whitney
(I also have her book, Writing Juvenile Fiction.)

Your First Novel
By Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb

You Can Write Children’s Books
By Tracey E. Dils

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why I Write

I wrote this essay for Bylines: 2009 Writers' Desk Calendar -- The Essential Weekly Planner for Writers.

Old books remind me of why I write. I want to be immortal.

A line from Caroline Mytinger's 1942 book, Headhunting in the Solomon Islands, became my motto when I read it: "A woman's destiny ... is not fulfilled until she holds in her arms her own little book." Her incredible journey to the South Seas islands as an adventurous young woman would be a forgotten memory if not for her books. Caroline will never die because her stories live.

Through The Power of Positive Thinking, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale eased me through my teen years as I read it over and over again, lifting my spirits through the depths of my adolescent angst. He continues to save lives as his books inspire so many people today.

When A.A. Milne penned his Winnie-the-Pooh tales, he surely never imagined he'd still be delighting children long after his death. Same with Beatrix Potter.

C.S. Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkien are enjoying a renaissance as some of their books have recently been made into movies.

These writers are not dead. As long as their imaginations, wisdom, and skills are a permanent fixture on this Earth -- as long as people read their books -- they are alive. They leave a legacy that will never be forgotten. It is the same destiny that I long to fulfill.

Now it's your turn: Why do you write?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Soul Wants Your Stories About Writing!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers
101 Motivational Stories for Writers, Budding or Bestselling, from Books to Blogs

William Wordsworth once instructed writers to “fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But putting the feelings in our hearts onto paper in a way that will truly inspire others is not as easy as it sounds. So, how do you persevere when the words won’t come, the story fails to unfold, or the rejection letters pour in? As Nathaniel Hawthorne reminds us: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, books or magazine articles, paranormal or romance, the process is equally challenging. For this reason, it’s important to learn from others who have hung in there and successfully made the transition from dreaming about writing to being a writer.

For Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers, we want to hear about your setbacks, mentors, breakthroughs, and successes. How did you overcome writer’s block? Who kept you on the right path when you were ready to give up? When did you realize that the story in your heart was ready to be shared with the world? We are NOT looking for promotional pieces. We want to know about your journey to publication, including self-publishing and blogging. This is your opportunity to help other writers -- published and unpublished -- draw inspiration and learn from your experiences.

If your story is chosen, you will be a published author (if you’re not already!) and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it.

Please remember, we no longer accept “as told to” stories. Please write in the first person about yourself or someone close to you. If you ghost write a story for someone else, that person will be credited as the author. If a story was previously published, we will probably not use it unless it ran in a small circulation venue. Let us know where the story was previously published in the “Comments” section of the submission form.

Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.

The deadline date for story submissions is June 30, 2012.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Becoming an Author -- with Twins!

People often ask me how I became an author. Well, sometimes you just can’t plan such things. In fact, sometimes you can’t plan twins either, which is what happened to me when the third and fourth of my sons arrived in December 2003. At the time, I was working full-time as a Senior Editor for a book publishing company, so I left with tentative plans to build a freelance editing career. However, during the early months of my twins’ lives, I found that my goal was overly ambitious. No sleep. No quiet. No time to myself. I lived in a sleep-deprived, bleary-eyed bubble for the next six months!

But then, one night, the idea came to me to write up a story. It was about the twins, of course. I could think of few other topics during that time! I wrote a little article about my twins and submitted it to Twins Magazine, along with a copy of my resume.

A short time later, I got a call from the (then) owner of Twins Magazine. My story was nice, she said, but that wasn’t why she had called. “I see you were an editor for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series,” she told me. “We’ve collected a multitude of stories over the years from parents of twins and multiples. Would you put together a book for us with some of these stories?”

She was offering me a book deal? I would have been crazy to turn down a request like that! But could I really handle it and still care for my twins? I resolved that, somehow, some way, I would make it work. And so I did.

Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons turned out great. And things snowballed after that. An author from my former company called to say she had a book contract with another publisher and needed a coauthor. Would I be willing? Of course! Soon after, that same publisher asked if I would write a book about raising twins for them. The result was It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence.

Since then, I’ve authored or coauthored ten books and counting. If someone had told me that having twins would be good for my career -- that it would send it off in a direction that was bigger and better than I could ever imagine -- I would have said they’d been sniffing too much diaper rash cream! But that’s exactly what happened. Having twins truly turned out to be a blessing, both for our family and for my career.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Favorite Quotes About Writing, Books and More

In working with Chicken Soup for the Soul for twelve years now, I’ve found that one of the most popular features of our books is the inspirational quote that adorns every story and chapter. I have a lot of fun digging up just the right quote to illustrate the theme of each story, as well as reading those that have been selected by other writers. The quotes below have always resonated with me as a writer and express what I feel more eloquently than I can.

A woman’s destiny, they say, is not fulfilled until she holds in her arms her own little book.
—Caroline Mytinger, Headhunting in the Solomon Islands

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.
—Mary Flannery O’Connor

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.
—Kathleen Norris

Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.
—Robertson Davies

Here are a couple of quotes about life that I love…

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”
―Erma Bombeck

The truth of the matter is that anyone at all out of the ordinary has always a rather lonely life.
—Flora Thompson

And I just thought this line from author Richard Peck was a brilliant way to describe why I’m not a “morning person”:

He wasn’t a morning kind of guy, even with a full night’s sleep. He had a problem with that quick shift from dreams to the truth.
―Richard Peck, Past Perfect, Present Tense (“The Kiss in the Carry-on Bag”)

What quotes inspire your writing or your life? Please comment below!