• April is National Poetry Month!

    Prose writers can click here to find one way to honor their poetry fellows. See what Pacific Northwest poets are doing in April here.
  • I’m a writer, too!

    On 12.01.09, I estimated that I had about 32,000 words left to write to complete my first draft of the opening book in my paranormal mystery series, THE LOST & FOUND.

    Here's my progress updated 2.12.10:

    33% of 32,000 (10,648 wds)
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April Monthly Dispatch: How prose writers can honor National Poetry Month

… Pick up a pencil, not a laptop

I think of myself as an accidental poet. I have written and published poems over the last 10 years, but I’ve never studied it to the extent that my serious, hard-core poet friends have. Sure, I took a (great!) poetry workshop and it helped me a lot, but if I were hard-pressed to know why my poems worked, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I just know that learning to write poetry has made me a better fiction writer.

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Pounding Against the Heart: Friday’s rainbow meditation

Original image: "Lily Pads, Morton Arboretum, Chicagoland, 2007" by Tamara Kaye Sellman.

I hope to post a new meditation here every Friday to help you guide your thoughts, energy and impulses as a writer through the coming weekend. Some will be directly from me, others will come from coaches and thinkers I respect.

The simplest way to handle a meditation is to sit comfortably in a quiet, dimly lit space, light a candle, and stare at the flame while you read the meditation, multiple times if necessary. Very soft background music can help block out the sounds outside your space.
 
 You can approach a meditation in multiple ways.
 
 One popular way is to think about the meditation itself and “listen” from inside for responses to what it’s suggesting to you. “Listening” can include actually hearing words, but it can also mean feelings, intuitions, passing images and other idea “inputs” that are normal for you.
 
 Another effective way is to spend the first part of your meditation staring at the candle flame and breathing, thinking of nothing at first (do not read the meditation yet). Allow your mind to spend its stray energy and breathe all the random thoughts as far outside yourself as you can. The goal is to be blank; then read the meditation and “listen.” Sometimes, the material in the racing random thoughts you just dispelled can inform how you “hear” the wisdom in the meditation.
 
Always remember, as creative people, we already carry solutions to our creative challenges inside ourselves. It’s how we find our access to them that unlocks our creativity and liberates us to make, be and do.  

Today’s meditation comes from Beth Mende Conny:

 Pounding Against the Heart

There comes a point in an idea’s life when it begins to pound against the walls of the heart.

It seeks release, physical expression, be it by pen or keyboard.

Words give it shape and substance, yes, but cannot explain where it comes from or why, like a salmon crashing into rapids and rocks, it must get where it’s going.

No matter what, no matter how.

Change is a-comin’ at Writer’s Rainbow

Public domain image: "Dendritic Cells" by HaymanJ (2008).

Small businesses are microorganisms, growing and stretching and refining themselves.

My work here for Writer’s Rainbow is maturing as well, and I’d like to call attention to a few changes in my services and programming in 2010.

For one thing, I will no longer handle poetry, unless it’s prose poetry and only prose poetry. However, most of the content of my past workshops will remain the same: I’ll still be offering programming for magical realist writers, writing parents, short story writers, bloggers, and those up for the NaNoWriMo challenge.

It’s just the way the offerings are structured and scheduled that will change.

I will be phasing out all copyediting, manuscript review, and manuscript critique as individual services starting in June 2010.  I am still going to work as a developmental editor, but I’m keeping those tasks in conjunction with my platform consulting and coaching services. Platform consulting and coaching are natural counterparts to the developmental editor’s job and it makes better sense for a writer, who wants to invest in an editor, to get the best “bang for their buck.” I also find that I’m a more loyal devotee to my clients’ work when I know I will be part of the larger picture.

Editing, after all, isn’t only about dotting Is and crossing Ts, but about bringing forth the best narrative the author aspires to write.

I am also cutting out my online class lineup in favor of 1:1 mentoring arrangements. It takes a lot of extra time to put together online workshops that function well, primarily because there are time zone issues (as my clients come from all around the world), but also because a class can only work if there’s a good live meeting time and place.

While I’ve been able to structure some of these in the past, they end up being scheduled when I should be sleeping or spending time with my family. However, 1:1 mentorship arrangements guarantee that you, as the client, will get all my attention, and that classes will never be canceled due to shifting enrollments. Future students will find added value in the simplicity of this arrangement.

Along with the shift in my services, I’m revamping the website itself, and there will be some additional changes to the overall scheduling and registration.

Check out the following FAQs to see where things are improving, simplifying, making the process simpler for both client and mentor. Meanwhile, in the coming weeks, I will be highlighting some of the upcoming 1:1 mentorships, coaching opportunities, writing clinics and consulting services starting in June 2010. Make sure and subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss any of the news!

  1. When can I sign up for coaching and/or consulting services?
    With the exception of email-only generative 1:1 workshops and special clinics, all coaching and consulting services now operate on a quarterly basis. This means when you sign up, you are registered for a full quarter (3 months) of services.Winter quarter begins in Dec; Spring quarter begins in March; Summer quarter begins in June; and Fall quarter begins in September.

    You can sign up at any time but you must prepay (or preschedule, in the event you are a repeating client) so that your slot for that quarter will be reserved. 

    Deadline to sign up for Winter quarter is November 15; for Spring quarter, it’s February 15; for Summer quarter, it’s May 15; and for Fall quarter, it’s August 15.

    You must go through the review process before registering (this is where I take a look at your work and see whether we’re a good “match”), so please don’t delay. If you contact me after that deadline, and you want to sign up for that quarter, I’ll see if there are any slots available. Chances are good there won’t be open slots, however, because there are only a limited number of them and they fill up fast (with repeat clients, in particular). If I can’t fit you in for that quarter, we can look to the following quarter to see if there are any spots there.

    Repeat clients will have priority for future quarters, as they are likely to be finishing projects, and I won’t abandon them. But if there are spots available, and I’ve determined we’re a good match, I will fit you in, I promise.

    Keep in mind that if you are interested in a generative writing class, these are handled via email only and they are offered all year and can be started at any time. The special NaNoWriMo session has its own registration deadline as well.

  2. What is a good match?
    Working intimately with another writer’s work demands that I be interested in and excited about their manuscript. I have my favorite genres of writing and I have some dislikes, like anybody else. I’m more likely to take on a manuscript which has a speculative fiction quality to it than I am a manuscript which is a romance story, for instance. Since I don’t read romances, I’m not the best person to help you, as I may not be on top of all the specific “rules” of romance writing.If I think a manuscript is ready for the review of an editor, but I’m not the right person for it, I’ll usually send you a referral, as I know many editors who handle different kinds of work.

    Also, I might turn a manuscript away because it needs more development. I am mostly interested in work that is maturing and needs a careful second set of eyes to bring it to its best potential. Manuscripts riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes are also usually riddled with narrative imbalances, careless POV shifts, faulty dialog, pacing issues and other Big Picture problems, so I will likely reject those manuscripts.

    Developmental editing is not just about mechanics and grooming, it’s a holistic approach to story building. When I work with writers, we work together from the inside out. I can only afford to take on those clients who have put a great deal of care into their work; therefore, I will not work with sloppy writers.

  3. How do I get my worked reviewed for a future arrangement with you?
    I generally ask that an interested writer send me 10 pages of a book-length manuscript with an informal summary of their book so I can get a feel for their goals as well as their writing level. Check with me first to see if I’m even available to review your work, and if I am, please allow 2-3 weeks for me to give your work the most careful review.
  4. Why must I sign up for 3 months’ worth of services?
    Experience shows that it takes, on average, 3 to 12 months for most of my clients to finish a first or successive draft of a novel. I have yet to work with a client who has needed less than 3 months of assistance to get their manuscript into working order.
  5. Why biweekly meetings (versus weekly)?
    Far and away, my past and present clients prefer this schedule because it allows them enough time to complete their work and still allow it to “incubate” before we discuss it. It means the writing process moves along more slowly, but a really good book is never written overnight.
  6. Where do we meet?
    Online. I use Google Talk, as it’s private, free, secure, easy to use, and the notes are instantly transcribed. If you’re not familiar with Google Talk, just let me know and I can take you through a practice run before our first meeting.
  7. Why not meet live? 
    Live meetings are only available if you live in Kitsap County and/or are willing to travel to Bainbridge Island for the meeting, as my rates do not reflect off-island travel time and transportation costs (i.e. ferries, gas).Even then, online meetings are a far more effective solution for both mentor and client as they offer a paper trail of notes and links that can be referred to long after the meeting is over.

    If you really must meet live, we’ll discuss options then, but be aware that such requests will result in higher fees.

  8. Why must the first 3-month session be prepaid in advance? 
    Two answers: my schedule fills up fast, so your prepayment guarantees your time slot, and I don’t have time or energy to chase down unpaid clients. I’m a single owner LLC and my resources are limited.
  9. Do you offer payment plans?
    If you’re a returning client, you can choose prepayment of your next session with a discount, or break your payment into a 50/50 schedule, or go month to month. All first sessions with new clients must be prepaid.
  10. Why is your schedule so specific?
    There is work I need to perform before and after each meeting I have with a client. The schedule helps me to stay on task and give each client the attention they’re paying for.I also have other commitments, as a writer and teacher, and budgeting my time accordingly makes it possible to maintain these commitments.
  11. Why don’t I offer a schedule that includes evening and weekend times?
    I wish I could be available to all people, all the time, but that’s not the reality. I have a family and other interests and I need my own mental health break during these times (which includes not answering email or my business calls on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays). I also sometimes teach on evenings and weekends (this is the nature of adult continuing education). Thanks for your understanding.
  12. Do you have a different schedule in the summer?
    Yes; the summer schedule is a little lighter as I do a lot of my own writing during this time, plus I travel a great deal and spend a lot of my time with my family then. The schedule for the month of December is also decidedly lighter for the same reasons.

Do you have any other questions that haven’t been answered here? Contact me directly at tamara@writersrainbow.com. I’ll be posting these FAQs in a separate page later, should you need to revisit them.

March monthly dispatch: Writing platforms–3 building blocks you can work on right now

Public domain image: “Column of Alexander I of Russia in scaffolds. Saint Petersburg” by Grigory Gagarin (1832–1833)

I’ve been developing a program for the writer who has completed (or neared completion of) a novel and is now looking for ways to find a home for their work. This is called the Writing Platform and it consists of a long list of things that writers can do to help bring attention to their work and be found by the right publisher, agent or editor and… ultimately… their intended reader.

There are three main parts to the basic writing platform, which I’ll touch on below. [more]

Creative writers: what are your rules?

The Guardian posted a 2-part article highlighting “top ten writing rules” from various authors last Saturday. Check out the list of writers and their rules here.

What do you think? Do you have your own “top ten writing rules” list? Do you agree with, or disagree with, the rules outlined in the Guardian piece? Are there rules that went unwritten in the lists that you’d like to shed some light on?

Of all the writers included in the list, I think I only agree wholesale with Philip Pullman:

“My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.”

Which is to say that we can debate the rules of writing ad infinitum and never find ten that work universally. It’s important for you, as a writer, to establish your own set of rules and stick with them, but only if you think that setting up a list of rules will help you reach your goals.

Me? I don’t like people telling me what to do. For criminy’s sake, I won’t even follow a recipe exactly for that reason. I have never formally arranged a list of rules for myself. I actually believe it’s the individual manuscripts themselves which organically establish their own rules for me; I need only listen to them to know how to proceed.

Anyway, my life is nothing but a warring campaign against the word “should,” so any chance I get, I drop that model of imperative thinking like a hot potato. But that’s just me.

Tell me what you think.

Public domain image: "Image from 'football' section 
of 1909 Tyee (yearbook of the University of Washington). 
Shows a student ignoring his textbooks and looking at a 
football rulebook," by (Olaf E. Caskin (1908).
 

Listen to The Woodcarver

Public domain image: "Bells on Lacquered Stand: Marquis Yi Tomb"

I wanted to share a link with my readers, students and clients today from the Center for Courage & Renewal.

Founder Parker Palmer has his thumb on one of the key things that writers need to consider as a means for staying connected with themselves. The motto for the organization may be a simple one–“Reconnecting Who You Are with What You Do”–but it’s also one of the hardest things for creative people of every stripe to actually do.

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Monthly Dispatch for February: Use it or lose it!

Public Domain Image: "Treasure Island" by Georges Roux (1885) for Robert Louis Stevenson's book of the same title

What is it about American culture that drives us to possess things and then not use them? We are living in belt-tightening times and yet, all around us we can find plenty of things to keep us feeling whole and complete. 

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