Category Archives: Guests

Guest Post: On Writing Endings by Kate I. Foley

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Guest Post: On Writing Endings by Kate I. Foley

I have loved Kate I. Foley’s blog, The Magic Violinistfor years. She’s an impressive writer, and she’s only seventeen years old. Thank you, Kate, for this article.

After one year and five months; 94,255 words; 368 pages; two protagonists, three sidekicks, and one villain; and endless weeks of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly from the characters), I finally finished. I typed the final five words of the first draft of my manuscript of ‘Til the Last Star Dies. And it was SO SATISFYING.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing it, but I also really, really enjoyed finishing it. I’M DONE. (Hahahahahahahahahaha, because not really. There are sooooo many edits to be done. But let me celebrate first. Hush now, inner editor, you’ll get your turn.) Endings are some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write, for several reasons. Especially since when I started the book, I had a clear ending in mind. For a good 70,000 words, every scene I wrote was propelling my characters toward a predetermined fate I’d picked out for them. There were a lot of explosions involved. And probably tears. From me and the characters. It was going to be awful, but I just thought in terms of “those poor characters” awful. Then my inner editor, Difficult Dan, woke up from his hibernation to slap me and say, “Bad, author. Don’t you see how terrible this is?” and then I fixed it.

It’s much, much better now. Thank you, Difficult Dan.

But still, it’s not the ending I’d expected to write, which meant I only had two months of planning it rather than, say, a year and a half. Up until the last minute, I was second guessing myself. I had no clue what I was doing. I had a vague idea of something about shooting stars and a sunrise and maybe some sort of monologue from a character and there could still possibly be blood and destruction? It was a weird experience piecing together the last chapter at all. I didn’t even know which character would be the one to tell it (although I am happy with my final choice).

So yeah, not at all what I expected. I usually like my bittersweet, ambiguous endings with a hopeful tone. It was a lot more sweet than it was bitter, but still ambiguous and hopeful, so I’m pretty okay with how it wrapped up.

UNTIL THE WARNING BELLS WENT OFF.


What if it was too sappy? Too cheesy? Too predictable? Is this really how I want to leave things? Does it leave the reader with a good taste in their mouths? What if I should’ve done something totally different? What if it dragged too much? What if it ended too quickly? ARE MY POOR CHARACTERS GOING TO BE OKAY? (Hint: Probably not, but they can dream, right?)

Then, in an extraordinarily rare moment of kindness, Difficult Dan pat me on the head and told me not to worry and it would all be okay. Then he revealed his gasoline and box of matches and said he had plans for most of my book anyway and it’d be so much better once he was through with it.

I hate agreeing with him on anything, but he’s probably right there.

A lot of writers like to ask published authors when they know it’s time for a book to end, and every answer I’ve heard has been “when you’re sick of it” and then they laugh to make it sound like a joke. But if you look closely, you can see the memories of bags under their eyes and crumpled chocolate wrappers and bruises on their foreheads from the number of times they’ve done a face plant onto the keyboard in frustration.

This answer is surprisingly wise. You don’t want to let the book continue forever, but if you think you might be getting close to the end and you’re sad about missing your characters once you get to that last page, you’re probably not done yet. I knew I was going to miss my characters no matter what I did, but there came a point when I knew the book just had to end. I wasn’t clinging to the ankles of my characters, I was just kind of misting up a little as I waved goodbye. They’ll live on in my mind, but it’s time for them to tell their own story now. One where I can’t terrorize them anymore.

Kidding, kidding. (Sort of.)

So this rambling post of me in a post-novel haze with my caffeinated beverage barely kicking in is to say that I FINALLY FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT, YOU GUYS.

Revisions, here I come.

What are your thoughts on writing endings? Do you love them, hate them, or feel somewhere in between like I do? Leave a comment!

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Guest Post: My 600-lb Book Life by Bob Hostetler

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Guest Post: My 600-lb Book Life by Bob Hostetler

Recently I spent a few hours visiting a relative in rehab, and the television was tuned to an episode of the television series, My 600-lb Life. This is why I like to control the TV remote at all times.The episode focused on a fairly young mother of two children who weighed nearly six hundred pounds and was hoping to engage a surgeon for weight-reduction surgery. Her first several consultations with the doctor didn’t go well, in her view, because he prescribed a low-calorie diet and insisted that she change her eating habits and lose thirty pounds in a month before he would approve her for surgery; otherwise, he explained, she would almost certainly continue to gain weight even after the surgery. This seemed unreasonable to her, but she managed to lose eleven pounds in the first month. When the doctor sent her home with the same instructions—lose thirty pounds in a month—she became discouraged and went off the program. The episode continued, however, and nearly two years after her initial consultation, she managed to more carefully follow the doctor’s orders, and he agreed to perform the surgery.

I’ve had my own struggles with weight and diet and donuts, so I can sympathize a little with that woman. However, it was still amazing to me that she couldn’t understand that surgery wasn’t “the be-all and the end-all” (to quote Shakespeare’s Macbeth), but that new eating habits were also part of the picture. She couldn’t quite reconcile herself to the fact that she would not be able to return, post-surgery, to a diet of fast food, ice cream, and pizza. If she had grasped that reality, she might have been able to reason, “Since my eating has to change post-surgery, why is it unfair to be asked to change pre-surgery?”

Her struggle seems to me to be somewhat analogous to those of us who write for publication—especially when we seek to be represented by an agent. Bear with me.

Just a couple days before that episode of My 600-lb Life, I spoke to and met with writers at a writers’ conference. The subject of “platform” came up, of course, as it always does. And it elicited groans and gripes, as it always does, among the many people there who had a book idea to pitch and the hope that an agent or editor would see its promise and sign them to a contract. But a book contract or agency agreement isn’t “the be-all and the end-all” of the publishing process.

All of those writers vowed that, post-contract, they would market themselves and their books via social media, blogs, website, speaking engagements, podcasts, interviews, and more. But when a panel of agents and editors suggested that a healthy platform comprised of such things can—and, almost always, must—come pre-contract, they expressed chagrin. Chagrin, I tell you!

But why? Either way, you’re going to do those things, right? Whether you sign a contract today or two years from now, you’re going to be developing a following, right? I know you can’t schedule book signings until you have a book, but nearly everything else you plan to do after your book is released, you can do before your book is released—right? So why wait? Get started—now—engaging with people about your message and passion and genre, and you (and your agent and publisher) will be so glad you did when your book is finally released to universal acclaim.

Guest Post: To Grandmother’s House I Go

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Guest Post: To Grandmother’s House I Go

Thanks to Donna for this wonderful profile of artistic painter Nick Patten.

My OBT

Nick Patten 1 Nick Patten

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Guest Post: Family Singing at Christmas by Betty Mason Arthurs

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Guest Post: Family Singing at Christmas by Betty Mason Arthurs

Thank you to Betty Mason Arthurs for this caroling story.

Doing Life Together

Photo by Jeff Weese Photo by Jeff Weese

Family Singing at Christmas

by

Betty Mason Arthurs

Memories of my family and our love of music and singing together, now that my parents and one brother are gone, help to overcome my sorrow of missing them at Christmastime and bring me joy. I share a memory from Christmas Eve long ago.

My family stomped their boots on the porch of the old, two-story nursing home. Soft-colored lights and garland adorned the porch railing and reflected off the powdery snow in the early evening. Through the front windows I caught a glimpse of red and green crepe paper streamers draped over the staircase railing and the small Christmas tree in the foyer. It was Christmas Eve.

Giggling with excitement, I pushed open the heavy oak door. “Come on. The nurses are expecting us.” I urged my family forward and shut out the frigid air in Albion…

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Guest Post: My Favorite Christmas Books by Linda Carlblom

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Guest Post: My Favorite Christmas Books by Linda Carlblom

A big thank you to Linda Carlblom for these Christmas reading recommendations. Linda is the author of Meet Shelby Culpepper and other books for tweens.

Doing Life Together

At Christmas, I sometimes like to read something that gets me in the Christmas spirit. I’ll share a few of the books that have helped me do that.

marys-journal-bookMary’s Journal, A Mother’s Story by Evelyn Bence gives life to Jesus’s mother, before she conceived him, during her pregnancy, and in the early years of Jesus’ life. It is imaginatively written, but done in such a way that it seems very believable. I gained fresh insight into that time period, its customs, and what might have been some of Mary’s thoughts and feelings as the mother of God’s Son.

shepherds-abidingShepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon is the heartwarming story of Father Tim trying to restore an old nativity for his wife, Cynthia. It’s filled with the usual quirky characters from Mitford and written with Karon’s typical warmth and humor. If you’re a Mitford fan, you need to add this to your collection.

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Guest Post: Taking the Show on the Road by Melanie J. McNeil

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Guest Post: Taking the Show on the Road by Melanie J. McNeil

Thank you to Melanie J. McNeil for this awesome guest post. For more quilting inspiration, check out her blog, Catbird Quilt Studio.

Catbird Quilt Studio

Today I’m off to present to a guild. I love preparing for these meetings! Each time is a treat: the audience and space is new to me, the way I think about my quilts evolves, and I get to pet my quilts as I choose which ones to bring.

One of the things I enjoy about choosing my quilts is seeing how much they have changed over time. The differences might not be apparent to other people, but I can tell. In late 2012, a mere five years ago, I made the first quilt I think of as from my “medallion period.” (If Picasso can have a “blue period,” surely I can have a medallion period!) It was for my dear Jim, made at the end of a year that was hard for both of us. I always include this quilt in my trunk shows, for sentimental reasons…

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Guest Post: The Simplest Gifts Mean the Most

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Guest Post: The Simplest Gifts Mean the Most

Thank you to Donna of My OBT for this lovely guest post. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

My OBT

Just came across this unspeakably lovely version of what I think of as the quintessential traditional Thanksgiving song, and I had to share it. Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss are my version of a dream team. Enjoy!

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Guest Post: Fall Swirls by Gail Bartel

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Guest Post: Fall Swirls by Gail Bartel

A great big thank you to artist and instructor Gail Bartel for this fabulous painting tutorial. Check out more of her artwork on her blog, that artist woman.

FALL SWIRLS

The trees are a swirl of brightly coloured leaves, or at least they were until we had some really strong winds and they all blew away.

Here is a great little fall project.

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MATERIALS REQUIRED:

– nice paper for painting on

– green masking tape (painter’s tape) optional
– acrylic or liquid tempera paints
– pencil or black pencil crayon
– oil pastels

 

 

 

PROCEDURE:

Tape paper onto art board using masking tape.  This will give us a nice white border.

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Using white and blue paint your background.  You want a white oval off centre and then light blue and darker blue.  Have the kids paint in a circular motion.

Set aside to dry.

This one was with acrylic.

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I did this one with disk tempera to compare.

 

 

 

Starting with brown, paint dashes around our oval.4

With brown we stay away from the white oval.

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We then add orange covering some of our brown dashes and work a little closer into the oval.

 

 

After orange we add yellow.
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As we get into the centre with the yellow add a little white paint to mix a really light yellow.

Set aside to dry.

 

 

 

 

 

When the paint is dry remove the tape.

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With a pencil or black pencil crayon draw your tree trunk.  You want to come from the corner closest to the centre of your swirl.

You want it to look like you are looking up into the tree.

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Using black oil pastel go over your tree trunk lines and fill in.

Now you could just leave it at this point but oil pastel looks better if you blend it a bit.

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In my studio I would just use a paper tortillion but at school we don’t have them around so the kids use a q-tip.

If my lines are quite fine I will take the q-tip and break and use the little broken end to blend my fine branches.

 

 

 

Here is a comparison of acrylic vs liquid tempera.

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The acrylic covers better (more opaque) so your lights are brighter.  For the liquid tempera I added some dashes in pencil crayon in orange, yellow, and light yellow to help with this after the paint was dry.

Gail

 

 

 

Guest Post: Ten Amazing Authors You Should Read Right Now  

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

authors you should read

Contemporary literature offers us so many well-written books with unique, fresh perspectives on the world we live in, it can be hard to decide which one to read first. To help you choose, we present ten amazing authors you should be reading right now.

 

Ten Authors Whose Books You’ll Want To Read

davidsedarisNYorker
David Sedaris: Author and humorist Sedaris’s essays and short stories are autobiographical and cover events from his youth through present day. His succinct, witty writing style offers an entertaining view of growing up in middle-class America and of his later adventures abroad.

 

JohnGreenJohn Green: An author of young adult fiction, Green has recently been in the spotlight due to the film based on his novel The Fault In Our Stars and his work with Mental Floss. John Green’s writing is fairly well-paced and unburdened by complex plots or verbiage. His novels speak to the hearts of his teenage audience while offering adults new insights into the lives of young people.

 

MalcolmGladwell
Malcolm Gladwell: A staff writer for The New Yorker, Gladwell’s books and articles deal with the unexpected implications of research in sociology, psychology, and social psychology. His books explore the truths hidden within marketing and consumer data to bring an insightful, new understanding of the things we usually overlook or take for granted.

 

GillianFlynnGillian Flynn: A former television critic and current author of three novels, Flynn’s work has received high praise. One of her most notable efforts, Gone Girl, has been made into a feature film. Her books are suspenseful and detective-like, offering unique perspectives on crime and the people caught up in its dangerous web.

 

TARTT
Donna Tartt: The author of three novels, Tarrt won the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend in 2003 and the Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) for The Goldfinch in 2014. She was also named to the TIME 100: The 100 Most Influential People in 2014.
ChimamandaAdichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A Nigerian author, Adichie has been called “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors [that] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature.” She is definitely a young author to watch!

 

Eleanor Catton
Eleanor Catton: A Canadian-born New Zealand author, Catton’s second novel, The Luminaries, won the 2013 Man Booker Prize, making her the youngest author to receive this award. At 832 pages, The Luminaries is also the longest work to win the prize in its 45-year history. The chair of the judges, Robert Macfarlane, commented, “It’s a dazzling work. It’s a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling.”

 

IsabelAllendeIsabel Allende: Allende’s novels are often based upon her personal experiences as a Chilean-American. Imbued with passion, her works combine sweeping narrative with elements of the “magic realist” tradition. In 2014, Allende was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 

DeepakChopra
Deepak Chopra: A prominent alternative-medicine advocate and author of more than eighty books, Chopra is one of the best-known advocates of the holistic health movement and has been described as a New-Age guru. His nonfiction work has been critically acclaimed.

 

KhaledHosseini
Khaled Hosseini: An Afghan-born American novelist, Hosseini released his debut novel, The Kite Runner, in 2003 to much acclaim. The novel was later adapted into a film. He has since published two more books which also offer seemingly simple tales of redemption set against the unforgiving backdrop of war, and he continues to be an important voice in American literature.

There’s Still More To Read!

These are just a few of the many authors blazing new trails through today’s literature. Start by choosing one whose voice speaks to you, and see where the pages take you!

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Who is your favorite contemporary author?

Guest Post: Lovely Bones

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Guest Post: Lovely Bones

Thank you to Donna from My OBT for sharing this startling artwork.

My OBT

skull Ali Gulec

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