Sunday, January 27, 2008

Authors Write

Authors Write

Some published authors and even one aspiring author was kind enough to write an essay for our Authors Write section. The essays give advice and talk about issues important to the authors. Once you read these, go and add the author on Myspace and let them know what you thought!

R.A. Nelson

First off, all of these things are just suggestions. The BEST advice is to take what works for YOU and forget the rest.

---Read GOOD BOOKS.As many good books as you can find. Books that speak to your heart, fill you with love and wonder, books that inspire you. Life's too short to read boring stuff. What's worse, if you read too many "bad" books, bad habits will startseeping into your own writing, no matter how good you are. Now, how to tell a good book from a bad one?? So much of that is subjective and up to individual taste, but for me there are some really important signs to look for

-- I lovebooks with a lot of HEART. If it's all just action action action or character character character, I get bored. I like a nice mix. What I like to call "story-driven" books rather than character-driven or plot-driven. Also, for me the best books always begin on the INSIDE and then radiate outward from there. So, though I love to read, I'm also very takes time for me to find a new book that I can truly love and dive into and wallow around in. So I look and look and look. But they are out there, and they are always worth the search.

----Don't worry about copyright and all the publishing and technical jazz yet. Worry about the WRITING. I wrote for a long time before I felt any of it was good enough to send out. Oh, I knew from a pretty early age that I had a chance to be a "good" writer eventually; heck, lots of my teachers told me so, and I could string together pretty cool sentences and come up with what I figured were great ideas. But a novel is a really long haul, and there are so many pitfalls and traps. Usually you get started like a house-a-fire, then run out of steam somewhere. I have boxes andboxes of stuff at home that will probably never see the light of day...novels that ground to a halt around page 30 or 70 or even 150. I even wrote an entire novel (330 pages) that I immediately knew was terrible. Not so much the writing-- I could put my finger on all sorts of nice paragraphs and thoughts and phrases -- but something was messed up about the story. The structure. The characters. Only the most important parts of the book.... :) But I kept going,knowing that I was getting better all the time. And I wrote 2 more complete books that I didn't publish before I wrote TEACH ME, but each of those was better than the one that went before it. So even though it was pretty frustrating at the time, I was learning all the while and getting better andbetter.

---All that said, that doesn't mean it will take you as long as it took me to get published...look at Christopher Paolini who wrote ERAGON. So much of success in this business depends on how persistent you are. There were lots ofyears where I didn't write much at all -- too busy running around trying to do other things instead of realizing that I should just keep following my lifelong dream of being a writer. Don't get discouraged. Be careful about who you share your writing with or who you choose to share any dream with. There are people who love to pull other people down, and there are people who -- with the best of intentions -- are constantly negative about a dream. Surround yourself with people who fill you with "light" about what you are attempting to do. Writing a novel is tough enough without somebody stomping on you every other day.

------There will be really tough days...days when it seems like absolutely nothing is going to work out. Just realize that these days are what they are -- they will pass, and good times will come again. You have to be able to step back and look at the situation and just kind of tell yourself, okay, so that's what's happening right now. That's what I feel like right now. I won't always feel this way and it won't always be this way. I like to do a certain number of words each day when I'm working on a book...that way if I hit a really bad day, i can still feel good about something -- I got my quota of words done for that day. Even if I think they are awful. Most of the time they aren't half bad when I look at them the next day. All kinds of things can make you think your writing is bad on a particular day -- how a friend is treating you. Something happening at school or work. Even what you ate. So develop a long-view approach and realize it's more like running a marathon than sprinting.

----Realize that this business doesn't pay much in the beginning. My agent just sold my third book, and I'm still working a fulltime job. Almost everything about this business is very slow. It's always good to be working on a new project whenever waiting to hear news about your last book. Not many writers do this fulltime, but it certainly can be done. For every writer who makes a big splash and gets a giant advance, there are probably 50 writers who established themselves over time, book by book, until they were able to leave their "day" jobs. For me it will probably be another year or so, depending on how my books do, of course! :) I worked at a newspaper when I was 20 -- I was a sportswriter covering high school and college basketball, football, baseball, that kind of thing. Working at a newspaper is a great training ground for writers -- itteaches you to write quickly and competently on a deadline, how to write under pressure, and how to be endlessly creative, especially writing about stuff like sports where there are only so many ways you can report on a game. Also, it's often easier to get into newspaper writing than lots of people imagine. If you just go down to your local paper and ask to speak with someone in the editorial department and tell them you want to be a writer, most of the time people will be very helpful and point you in the right direction. Lots of newspapers use freelance writers for individual stories called "stringers." It doesn't pay much, but it's another good way to start. You can even do a few practicestories and take them in to let an editor see your skills and what your style is like.

---Read books about writing. There are lots of good ones out there -- you can practically pick them at random and still learn a lot. Read books about the nuts and bolts of writing a book -- things like structure and plotting, pacing,dialog. Also, I read a lot of writer biographies -- why? I wanted to know how they did what they did -- not only the writing, but how they SURVIVED. Being a creative type is tough -- you have to find ways to earn a living, all the while writing on the side. It's very much like working two jobs if you are disciplined about it. And even tougher than that, writers also tend to come from very "interesting" families or backgrounds -- {think: dysfunctional, nuts, chaotic, different etc.). One of the hardest things about being a writer -- at least a writer of any worth -- is how you have to keep your level of SENSITIVITY high, while at the same time managing to not feel like a walking nerve ending while going through life. It's a very tough balancing act. And I think it helps to read about the lives of writers because 99% of them had all kinds of problems their whole lives -- like most people do -- but somehow still managed to do what they did. It helps to know you're not "alone" out there when you are going through hard times -- believe me, you could tack a list of 100 world famous writers on a dart board, throw a dart, and no matter what name you hit, therewould be all sorts of stuff they had to battle through.
-----Good luck! Keep going...R.A. Nelson

E. M. Alexander's Thoughts on Human Trafficking

One of the issues that my book addresses is human trafficking and the misconception that people have regarding the likelihood of this illegal activity occurring in their towns or neighborhoods. People as commodities—this is hardly a new idea. But I think that people, particularly in the United States, don’t realize that human slavery is still very much in existence.

The trafficking of women and children accounts for the third largest criminal industry, outranked only by weapons and drugs. One statistic I saw estimated that 50,000 people are trafficking into the U. S. each year for sexual slavery, but as horrible as that number is, it doesn’t begin to account for the amount of people trafficked world-wide. Many individuals who are victims of slavery end up in prostitution, yet there are others who are sold for house or farming labor, too.

I can’t think of a more sorrowful existence and it enrages me to know that these so-called businessmen who enslave people for profit have so little regard for human life.As I mentioned, there does exist some serious misconceptions about slavery in America. Many people go about their lives assuming that it is a problem that only exists in the poorest nations.

True, impoverished countries are often where criminals find potential slaves, but you must ask yourself: Who pays for their services? With the United Nations claiming that trafficking is a $7 billion dollar a year enterprise with an estimated 900, 000 victims trafficked across global borders annually, developed countries need to recognize their part in enabling this illegal activity.

I live in Connecticut and, prior to writing Death at Deacon Pond, I had learned about three incidents of slavery that influenced me in the process of writing the book. The first was in an area very close to where I grew up. It was a massage parlor in this plain building. Police raided the business one night and discovered several foreign women, all forced into prostitution. The second was a young woman who spoke at the University of Connecticut about how her family sold her—not once, but twice—into domestic and sexual slavery. And the third involved a group of men who were being forced to work at a tree farm in the northwestern part of the state.

They’d been trafficked into the state under false pretenses and then forced to work 18 hours a day, with little food and ridiculously low wages. These three cases really got me thinking how slavery exists, silently most times, right under our noses, but that once you hear about and once you see it, you can’t pretend anymore that it isn’t there. Trafficking happens. It is happening right now and I, for one, see no difference and feel no less about a young Vietnamese girl sold by her poor family than I do if it were a child I knew, snatched from my own neighborhood.

Even though I only touch upon this important issue in Death at Deacon Pond, I can’t deny that I was intensely motivated by my belief that we all deserve the right to freedom, the right to make choices for ourselves and our bodies. In my small way, when I found my main character, Kerri, discovering a trafficking ring in her small town, I hoped to give readers something to think about. I hoped that they would follow Kerri into that dark cellar and see trafficking for what it is, a crime of stealth and imprisonment and terror. I believe that it is apparent in the moment that Kerri bursts out of the cellar, temporarily blinded by the light, but then able to see. Because that’s how I see the grip of slavery, as a force that can only be paled by the power of our actions, by our willingness to open our eyes, by the force our hope and by the strength of our conviction to stand up in the face of adversity. "For those of us who are in position to do something to combat human slavery, however small our contribution, neutrality is a sin."-------Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz, Department of Defense

Advice for Aspiring Writers
Laura Wiess

Write what you're passionate about. Make me (the reader) love your characters because if I'm emotionally invested then I'll pretty much follow them anywhere. Make me laugh and cry with them, worry about them and celebrate their triumphs.
Let them show me who they are and what they care about through their actions. I want to know what they're afraid of, what they defend and what they surrender. Make them real people with a full range of emotions, including the darker, more intense ones. I want to love them and care whether they make it through or not.
Most of all, I want to feel lonely when the book is over, and sorry my time with them has ended.
The other piece of advice is to write because you love it and you have to. Write because there are stories demanding to be told and characters waiting impatiently to speak. Write because it's what you want to do most in the world, even if you never earn a dime from doing it.
Learn how to craft a compelling story. Learn to listen while you write and be willing to go to dark, secret places in the characters' lives if that's what's necessary. Study the market, submit the best work you've ever done, don't shrink from plain-speaking and don't quit at the first rejection. Learn from the advice, dig deeper, try harder.
Keep going. Keep learning, writing and submitting because in the end, it's all about writing a great story.

Laura Wiess is the author of SUCH A PRETTY GIRL published by MTV Books/S&S. Her second novel LEFTOVERS will be released on January 1, 2008 and she's currently busy working on her third MTV Book. Please visit for more information.

Lisa Saper-Bloom

Can you relate?

If I were to tell you I was the girl who felt ugly … can you relate?
If I were to tell you I was the girl who never had a “real” boyfriend … can you relate?
If I were to tell you I was the girl whose daddy screamed so loud it felt like he shook the house … can you relate?
If I were to tell you I had a problem expressing my thoughts and emotions … can you relate?

Are you able to imagine?

Are you able to imagine healing the girl who felt ugly?
Are you able to imagine healing the girl who never had a “real” boyfriend?
Are you able to imagine healing the girl whose daddy shook the house when he yelled?
Are you able to imagine expressing your thoughts and emotions?

Up until six years ago, I was unable to imagine “yes” being the answer to any of those questions. I was twenty-nine years old, living with heavy emotional weight.

To me, the emotional weight felt like a foggy morning in San Francisco. I could not see the lights of the city or the light of life. It was a constant thickness that clouded my true feelings.

The fog became apparent when I found a school that offered yoga, aromatherapy, massage and several other healing techniques and arts. Desiring a career in this field meant desiring a deep look into the dark and noticing the dim light. The light became brighter as I moved into certification processes. The aspiring healer became the healed.

The sun started shining when I realized I had spent my life living under self-sabotaging comments and remarks as well as the destructive, unnecessary comments and remarks from others. I realized that my emotions were unsupported and left for abandonment. It was a process to work through. My overwhelming desire to heal helped me decide that working through some pain was a great way to lift the fog and see the bright lights.

While finding the light, I found the “yes” to those questions. I lost fifty pounds and I found me—the girl whose sun shines both inside and out; the girl who is living and loving in a successful (ten year) marriage; the girl who has nursed her wounds from daddy’s yelling; the girl who has no trouble expressing her thoughts and emotions.

You can find that girl (woman) too!
This book shares the healing arts, specifically gentle yoga for all body types, aromatherapy, life coaching, and massage. This book is my work both personally and professionally. This book is a year’s worth of therapy. It is therapy that can last you a lifetime. And it is never too late to start!

True story:

A yoga student of mine came to a series of workshops based on my book, Peaceful Mind, Thinner Body: A Woman's Week-by-Week Guide to Emotional Weight Loss.

At our last session, she claimed, she needed to divorce her husband. But she was scared he would be a tyrant, that she would be lonely, and that she would have no money.

I looked at her and said, he is a tyrant, you are lonely, and you have no money (he did not contribute financially).
Weeks later, she came to my big book signing. We didn't have much time to talk, but she did manage to tell me he was out of the house and that she is happy.

Weeks after that, she came to my yoga class. Having a bit more time to talk, she proceeded to tell me that he wasn't a tyrant, he simply said ok...tell me when to sign the papers. Since then, her daughter and 1 month old granddaughter moved in. She's no longer lonely. And her daughter contributes to the she has more money!

And here's the biggest kicker: she lost 10 pounds!

See...our emotional weight is tied to our physical weight. That is why this book is so powerful.

Lisa Saper-Bloom is the author of Peaceful Mind, Thinner Body: A Woman’s Week-by-Week Guide to Emotional Weight Loss.
Lisa lost 50 pounds on her journey through emotional weight loss.
Just taking five minutes a day with simple aromatherapy, gentle yoga for all body types, massage, and life-coaching exercises will change the way you think and the way you look.
You can order Peaceful Mind, Thinner Body
at,,, and

Aspiring Author

The most terrifying thing as an aspiring author (for me personally) is the blank screen; the little cursor flashing on the left, challenging you to write something, anything. It always seems a little daunting when you first start a new project, not least because the interest of the reader will literally be captured in those first few lines. The pressure to make them as impressive as they can possibly be is intense.
Therefore you’ve got to find something slightly different to introduce your short story, novel, poem or whatever form you’ve decided to write in. Not necessarily a “hook”: after all, this is only the opening few paragraphs. But something that stands out. Something that will pique the interest of the person reading it. In other words, you will have to be original.
After the minor matter of the introduction, and the first few chapters or parts themselves, comes the biggest task: the plot and meaning. The support of the delicate rooftop that is your introduction and conclusion. Not knowing where your project is going can be another major worry for any writer. This is why I always find it helpful to write the ending, or at least have an idea of where you want your work to end up in your head. This way you will always have something to work towards, and it won’t just seem to be a project without end, as some of the work I’ve done in the past seems to be.
One thing that I do hold by as an aspiring author is this: just write. By all means, have a plan of your work (I personally choose not to), but always allow for change and diversity in it. Some of the best ideas may simply come when you’re sitting at your laptop, or with a pen and paper in hand, simply scribbling away. I find that if a story is simply allowed to flow from a persons’ mind it can always become better, and normally a lot longer, than if it was done exclusively from a plan.
Keeping a notepad and a pen with you wherever you go is also another piece of advice I would recommend. As I was walking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow last week an idea struck me that I thought would work well in a novel I’m working on at the moment, and I immediately knew I had to write it down. Yes, I may have got a few strange looks from people by sitting on a bollard in a busy city street and jotting things down in a notepad, but I think this small social embarrassment could be worth it in the long run.
This might all make writing any form of literature sound like a trying occupation, but far more overwhelming than the difficulties of it is how much fun it is. The happiness that you feel as you type or write away, and the sense of self-satisfaction when you first read through a finished product you are truly happy with is, in my opinion, one of the most important parts of being a writer. I once heard a friend of mine (who is also an aspiring author) say that if she woke up one morning and didn’t enjoy writing then that was when she would give it up.
And now it comes to the conclusion. And I have the same problem I, and I’m sure many others have when writing pieces: how to end. As the beginning, it has to have meaning, style and be climactic. And, unless you plan on a sequel, it has to round up your work nicely. So ending with a piece of advice I was given by a published author, a Mr Stewart Home, seems apt.
You might take some of these things into consideration. You might find some helpful, even. Or, you may discard them altogether. When it really comes down to it, writing is your own free reign, and your happiness with the piece and your artistic integrity is all that really matters.

~Simon Cree~

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