Category Archives: Writing

Creative Juice #253

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Creative Juice #253

Funny stuff. Pretty stuff. Serious stuff.

  • Some of these will make you laugh and some will make you cry, but it’s all good.
  • Writers, should you write a cozy mystery?
  • Did you ever have a great idea, get started on it, take a break from it, and feel guilty about never getting back to it? Sometimes you just gotta let go.
  • Nathalie escorts us on a tour featuring murals in Jersey City.
  • More murals; these are from Montreal. (FYI, Norm no longer coordinates Thursday Doors. Go to No Facilities for those now.)
  • How to say no. Why to say no.
  • Love flowers? You’re gonna love these photos.
  • Black artists (and artists of color) lack the opportunities their white counterparts enjoy.
  • You might enjoy this Instagrammer’s paintings for World Watercolor Month.
  • You have to see these amazing crochet projects. (I’ll pass on the broccoli hat, but I want almost everything else.)
  • The most beautiful gifs I’ve ever seen. Depending on your internet connection, they might take a few moments to load, but hang on, they’re worth it.
  • A sculptor abandons metal in favor of fabric.

Muse in the Morning

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An interesting thing happened the other morning, something I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I got woken up early, much earlier than I needed to get up. I went to the bathroom and got back into bed and cocooned myself (yes, I am one of those weirdos who must wrap up in a quilt, even in July in the Arizona desert), hoping to fall back asleep for another 45 minutes.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, I dozed, and my imagination began working on the seed of a poem.

You see, the night before I read about a wonderful contest the people at Palette Poetry are putting on. They are looking for a poem that “speaks to what poetry is and can be for our world today.”

Hmm. I don’t think I have a poem in my files that fits that bill. I wish I did, though, because the top prize is $4000. Now, that’s real money.

Believe it or not, in my half-asleep-half-awake state, my brain came up with a few stanzas that represent a good start on a great poem. When my alarm went off, I jogged straight to my laptop and typed it all down, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to remember it by my afternoon writing time.

Later, I googled “muse in the morning” to see what other people have written about this serendipitous phenomenon. I found two pieces of artwork by that name which I wish I could post here, but I couldn’t find any information on whether they are in the public domain, so, sorry. Then, while browsing writing blogs, I found this article, which describes a practice whereby you can activate your imagination by encouraging yourself into a dreamy state.

I am passing on the contest information and the dreamzoning article because we creatives are a supportive community. I know I’ve benefitted from advice from my writing friends and also from fellow writers online. Let’s continue to assist each other and cheer one another along. I wish you success.

Creative Juice #249

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Creative Juice #249

Works of art. Personal experiences. Articles to enrich your weekend.

Creative Juice #248

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Creative Juice #248

Stuff inspiring and strange.

  • My kids are full-fledged adults now, or I would be really tempted to buy these incredible toys for them. Maybe if I ever have grandbabies. . .
  • There are rules for creativity (but one of them is create your own rules).
  • For the writers: I am critiquing a romance right now, and I’m so impressed with the author’s pacing. The words disappear and I’m watching the action play out like a movie in my head. I love that as a reader. How do I do that as a writer?
  • I recently bought a few new brushes, and one of them was a wedge. I can’t wait to try it, probably next month during World Watercolor Month.
  • I love the fabrics this quilter selected for her challenge block.
  • Here is another artist who is participating in the Index-Card-a-Day challenge.
  • When my son was a little boy, he called certain cars “face cars.” The term “face” came up in this article about how to draw a car.
  • Colorful chameleons. I’m itching to paint them.
  • Islamic tile work.
  • My God, what have we done to the earth?
  • I know about the painted desert, but I never heard of the painted cliffs.
  • The validation of seeing your photograph on a billboard.

5 Grammar Goofs that Grate on Me

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One of the major complaints about self-published books is that they often come through with spelling and grammar errors.

But even worse than that is finding multiple grammar errors in books from major publishing houses. It makes me cringe.

Here are some of the most annoying errors I see, not just in books, but also in magazines, on websites, in advertising, in blog posts, on social media, and in emails. Make these mistakes, and I will judge you harshly.

  • Starting a sentence with a modifying clause that doesn’t apply to the subject of the sentence. Having majored in music, allegro is a lively tempo. No, no, no! Allegro didn’t even go to college! What does that subordinate clause really describe? Having majored in music, I know allegro is a lively tempo.
  • Misusing similar words. Affect, effect; great, grate; there, their, they’re. They may sound alike, but they mean totally different things. For example, affect is a verb that means to influence; effect is a noun that means a result. The temperature can affect a paint’s drying time. An effect of the hot weather was that the painters were able to apply a second coat later that afternoon.
  • Misusing apostrophes. Use an apostrophe in contractions, such as wasn’t, don’t, or isn’t. Use an apostrophe to denote ownership, such as Sarah’s handbag, Dad’s car, Tom’s tree. There is one exception: it. It’s means it is. Belonging to it uses no apostrophe: the dog drank its water. Do not use an apostrophe for plurals: shoes, rings, and the Smiths, not shoe’s, ring’s, and the Smith’s. If you have plural acronyms, make the letters capital followed by a small s, like ABCs or RTEs.
  • Misusing exclamation points. One means excitement. Most paragraphs only need one, at the end of the most exciting sentence. We’re going on vacation. To Paris. Paris in the springtime! And don’t you ever, ever, ever use multiple exclamation points one after the other!!!
  • Using wienie words. I have to confess, I use wienie words in my rough drafts when I’m trying to get ideas down fast before I forget them. Then I have to go back and change them. Do you know what wienie words are? Weak words that don’t add meaning or impact to your sentences. Like “very.” Very is a very, very weak word. Other wienie words: really, that, began to, started to. They have the effect of making your writing seem unnecessarily wordy. In most cases, you can eliminate them completely. Better yet, rewrite the whole sentence with strong words that convey exactly what you want your readers to experience. Instead of “he began to climb the very steep path,” try “he leaned forward, trying not to stumble while navigating the steep path.”

Creative Juice #247

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Creative Juice #247

You’re bound to find some inspiration in one of these twelve articles.

Lack of Flow

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Lack of Flow

My biggest writing problem is that I never have more than a few minutes of uninterrupted time. It’s been that way ever since my husband retired.

Now, I know there are ways to reclaim time. People tell me to set boundaries, to write in a different location, etc. etc. etc.

But it’s complicated. My husband had surgery last year, and unfortunately had a lot of complications that made him medically fragile. He’s mobility-challenged, weak, and dizzy. He can’t bend over to pick things up, yet he’s constantly dropping things. It seems like every few minutes, he needs help with something.

With pandemic restrictions loosening, I could ask one of our kids to come over for a few hours so I could go to the library or a coffee shop to work, but hubby has let me know he would feel it an imposition on our adult children, and an abandonment by me. I may still do it someday, but I’m hesitating.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

The flip side of my situation is that during the 15 days he spent in the hospital and the 70 days he was in a skilled nursing facility (the longest time we’ve ever been separated during 47 years of marriage), I could barely write at all. I was grief-stricken and worried. All I wanted was him home again. None of us knows how much time we have with our loved ones; what a shame it would be to waste a moment we could spend together. This is a season of my life when my writing has to take a back seat.

There was a time in my life when all five of my children were in school full time and my husband had a full time job and I was the mother-at-home. Most days I had several undisturbed hours to write, and sometimes I lost myself in the phenomenon writers call “flow”—a mystical state where you are so focused that you see the scene unfolding around you, and the words pass through you onto the page in a sustained period of productivity. Sigh. I miss those times. I forgot what flow was like, but recently I almost experienced it again, and then I was interrupted.

In the YouTube trailer for her writing MasterClass, Joyce Carol Oates says, “The great enemy of writing isn’t your own lack of talent; it’s being interrupted by other people. Constant interruptions are the destruction of the imagination.” If you are jolted out of your flow, it can take nearly half an hour to get back into it.

In the meantime, I’m writing in the brief snatches of time I have. I know it is possible to write a book by writing in short bursts every day. I’ve even read a book about it. Short bursts work even better on short projects: blog posts, book reviews, poems, short stories. But I pray that someday I can return to the flow state.

Creative Juice #246

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Creative Juice #246

Most of this week’s articles include beautiful things to look at, but there’s also one tutorial and 12 savings strategies.

Every Novelist Loves Revising

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Every Novelist Loves Revising

Said no author ever.

There is an elephant in the room on my hard drive. It’s the novel I’ve been working on for almost thirty years. We have a love/hate relationship. I believe it’s the book I was born to write, but I haven’t yet been able to get it into publishable shape. I’ve rewritten that novel from scratch one-and-a-half times. I’ve done so many rounds of revision, and even made such substantial improvements that I wrote three blog posts about revising (see Part I, Part II, and Part III) so that I wouldn’t forget my process. I thought I was really close to done, but a couple of my writer friends very gently told me I wasn’t. Rather than commit suicide, I put it aside to work on a less-challenging story, hoping that getting one in print might give me the impetus to finish my magnum opus. (Ha! We’ll see what happens when I get to the revision stage in the new one . . .)

But in the back of my mind is the worry—what to do, what to do? How can I make that manuscript something I’m proud to put my name on?

And so I keep reading what other people say about revising.

In the article “One Thousand Pages” in the May/June 2021 issue of Poets and Writers,* author and writing instructor J.T. Bushnell wrote:

. . . a friend, Ryan Blacketter, sent me the manuscript of what would become his own first novel, Down in the River (Slant, 2014). I knew he had written only short stories until then, so I was impressed at how well built his novel was—how sturdy its foundation, how varied and efficient its architecture, how high its pinnacle. When I told him how much I admired it, he thanked me, then said, “I’ve thrown away a thousand pages, but none of them were wasted.”

At first I thought he meant the number as hyperbole. Kill your darlings and all that. But he meant it literally, and when I understood this, my reaction surprised me. Rather than feeling intimidated by such a gargantuan number, I felt heartened. All I had to do was write a thousand pages? I might not know how to build a novel, I thought, but I knew how to put my butt in a chair and words on a page.

Bushnell goes on to explain how to add depth and breadth to the novel, but that concept—writing great quantity, way more than you’ll ever need for the book—is resonating with me, something I want to try when I go back to The Unicornologist.

In her article 5 Reasons Your Revision Isn’t Working, Janice Hardy says maybe your story isn’t finished yet, or maybe you don’t really know what your novel is about, among other things.

Anne Lyle offers 10 steps to follow for your novel revision, including writing a summary. She also recommends writing a list of bullet points of key elements in the story (the things that excited you about writing the story in the first place) to keep in front of you during the revision.

And finally, I love this idea from Darcy Pattison: literally shrinking your novel down to 30 pages by single spacing it and reducing the font size, not because you’re going to read it in that form, but because you’re going to spread those pages out and mark them up, according to a careful analysis. I can’t wait to do this.

*I’m sorry, this article isn’t available online, or I would have given you the link. Instead, I’ll plug the magazine. I’ve subscribed to Poets & Writers for a few years now, and it’s excellent. It’s introduced me to many writers I hadn’t heard of previously, and it’s a great source of contest information. Many of its features are available online, but I really appreciate the hard copy format.

An Interview with Author Kelly deVos

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An Interview with Author Kelly deVos

Kelly deVos is from Gilbert, Arizona, where she lives with her high school sweetheart husband, amazing teen daughter and superhero dog, Cocoa. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. When not reading or writing, Kelly can typically be found with a mocha in hand, bingeing the latest TV shows and adding to her ever-growing sticker collection.

Kelly’s work has been featured in the New York Times as well as on Vulture, Salon, Bustle and SheKnows. Her debut novel, Fat Girl on a Plane, wasnamed one of the “50 Best Summer Reads of All Time” by Reader’s Digest magazine. Her YA dystopian thriller duology, Day Zero and Day One, are strangely prescient of the 2021 political climate in the US. Her next book, Eat Your Heart Out, releases on 6/29/21 from PenguinTeen.

ARHtistic License is thrilled to be able to discuss Kelly’s work with her.

ARHtistic License: Your website proclaims “Fierce reads for the feminist in all of us.” By that, do you mean that your books feature a strong female protagonist, or that you deal with feminist issues?

Kelly DeVos: I have always been interested in girls and woman trying to perform in spaces that are traditionally male dominated. In Fat Girl on a Plane, I tackled the fashion industry. While ostensibly being focused on women, at the highest levels of design and advertising, the fashion decision makers tend to be male. In Day Zero and Day One, my protagonist, Jinx Marshall, is a coder. Computer science is again another space where the major players tend to be male. When I think of fierce feminists, I conceive of girls and women who are trying to be true to their own interests and advocate for themselves.

Fat Girl on a Plane

AL: Your heroine in Fat Girl on a Plane breaks into the New York fashion scene. Your descriptions of working for a designer feel so real. Do you also have fashion experience? Or how did you do your research for the book?

KdV: I worked for many years as an art director and graphic designer including for brands like Roberto Cavalli Eyewear and Tom Ford Eyewear. I worked on a lot of photoshoots over my career and also heard a lot of stories and gossip about the fashion world. So I tried to channel that when writing Fat Girl.

Day Zero Duology

AL: Day Zero came out in 2019, and Day One in 2020, but I read them in early 2021, and I found them chilling, especially in light of the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Your duology portrays a country divided into factions, with conspiracy theories flying, after an election that was allegedly stolen. How much of the book was inspired by the recent U.S. political climate?

KdV: Thank you so much! I was trying to make it as topical as possible. It’s strange to think about, but I actually wrote most of Day Zero in 2015, before the election. Like most of the people in my social circle, I assumed Hillary Clinton would win. The question that started the book was, what would happen if someone like Donald Trump won? Of course, now we know. But most of Day Zero was conceived before the 2016 election actually happened.

AL: How do you do your world building?

KdV: Honestly, whenever I think about world building, I reread books by Kristina Perez, author of Sweet Black Waves. Her world building is always so excellent and she considers all aspects of the world she’s creating. She addresses the world’s politics, religion and economics and all that stuff is existing in her stories in a really subtle way.

Eat Your Heart Out

AL: Your soon-to-be-released book, Eat Your Heart Out, takes place at a weight-loss camp overrun by zombies. (And, according to rumors, it’s very funny!) Where on earth did you get the idea for this one?

KdV: I was thinking a lot about the toxic elements of diet culture and how, in some ways, that it turns people into monsters. In Eat Your Heart Out, I made that idea really literal. My main characters are forced to go to a fat camp that’s crawling with zombies. I did try to incorporate some Shaun of the Dead type humor to balance the scarier elements.

AL: What’s up next?

KdV: I’m currently working on a Dracula retelling from the perspective of Lucy Westenra that I hope will be coming out in the summer of 2022.

AL: Why do you write for young adults?

KdV: Like a of writers, I was a reader first and that’s how I fell in love with stories and storytelling. Books were so important to me as a young reader and really helped me navigate my coming of age experiences. I wanted to write for young adults in the hopes of offering something that might be similarly meaningful.

AL: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

KdV: Definitely a plotter. I’m honestly kind of in awe of pantsers because I truly don’t understand how they do what they do!

AL: How long does it take you to write a book?

KdV: At this point, I would say it takes me about six months to create a first draft. The amount of time that it takes to edit can vary a lot depending on what kind of feedback I get.

AL: What is your biggest writing challenge?

KdV: I feel like I come from the “plot is character” school of writing. So my top level note is always to reveal a bit more about my characters’ interiority.

Kelly deVos

AL: Do you ever get stuck?

KdV: I do sometimes get stuck and I have a couple of things in a drawer that I just don’t know how to fix. Sometimes, my way of getting unstuck is to move on to the next idea.

AL: What is the most fun part of writing a book?

KdV: For me, working on the first draft is the most fun. I love it when I have a new idea and I get to put it on paper!

AL: What is your favorite book about writing?

KdV: I personally use Outlining Your Novel and the workbook that goes with it. The writer of that book, K.M. Weiland, also maintains a website that contains a ton of great information that can be accessed for free.

AL: What types of books do you like to read? Which authors do you especially admire?

KdV: I go through phases. Right now, because I’m writing a lot of horror, I’m reading a lot more contemporary. I’ve also been wanting to learn more about Middle Grade, so I have been reading all the marvelous books written by Dusti Bowling. I would recommend her verse novel, The Canyon’s Edge, to readers of any age.

AL: How did you get your agent?

KdV: I got my amazing agent, Chloe Seager, through traditionally querying. I’d heard great things about the Madeleine Milburn agency and decided to send in a query.

AL: What is something about your books or about yourself that you wish your readers knew?

KdV: My dog, Cocoa, is responsible for any typos you find! LOL

Follow Kelly DeVos on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook.