Question: How can we boost our creativity?
Answer: Ah, creativity … that fickle Muse! Without getting too much into the inspiration-versus-discipline debate, I often return to (and highly recommend) Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2009 TED Talk “Your Elusive, Creative Genius.” She reminds me that, sometimes, we just need to “show up” – at our desk, at our laptop, wherever we write – so the Muse knows where to find us.
For me, gatherings like the Antioch Writers’ Workshop (disclosure: I serve as Assistant Director, but that’s not why I think it’s great!) and those offered at several local colleges are wonderful places to recharge. Mingling with “my tribe” – folks who don’t think I’m crazy when I talk about listening to the voices in my head – can do wonders for a flagging spirit and an empty creativity well. Of course those are sporadic and not always accessible, so on a more regular basis, meeting with a handful of like-minded writers in a regular writers group, even if it’s online, is a great way to keep ideas flowing.
But we writers tend to be solitary people. The introvert in me doesn’t like to get out much, so I turn to books. I can’t read fiction while I’m writing fiction (at least in the same genre), because I tend to mimic the voice of the author. Fortunately, I also love nonfiction. Whether it’s a classic like William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, or one of my favorites, Stephen King’s On Writing, I’ve found a good craft book can do as much through the guidance it offers as in the language it uses to stir creativity and give the Muse a place to light.
If I’m feeling philosophical, I love Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers or Dinty W. Moore’s The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life.
More recently, as I’ve hit a particularly rough patch in my writing life, I’ve found a measure of comfort in an odd little book written by Marcel Bénabou of France’s Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, “workshop of potential literature”), Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books. It’s a parody of sorts, but because of that quirk in me that loves Dalí and all things surreal, it resonates and inspires.
Another, more logical, book I’m finding fascinating these days is Peter Turchi’s A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic. I’m a puzzle fanatic, too, in addition to writing, and Turchi explains why.
But in the end, all of us must return to Gilbert’s advice: just show up. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard/pen/crayon, and if we’ve sufficiently primed the well with good words from whatever source – books, videos, puzzles, or stimulating conversation – the brain will find a way to transfer them to the page.
C.L. (Cyndi) Pauwels holds an MA in creative writing from Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her debut novel Forty & Out, released through Deadly Writes Publishing in September 2014, is a police procedural set in Toledo, Ohio. Her short fiction has appeared in Mock Turtle ‘zine, Over My Dead Body!, The View from Here (UK), and other journals. In 2009, she published the award-winning non-fiction Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History. Sugati Publications has selected two of her essays for their Reflections from Women anthology series, and Sinclair Community College’s literary journal Flights has published several of her pieces over the past few years. In addition to writing, Cyndi’s portfolio career includes book editing (The Enduring Legacy of Kahlil Gibran and The Essential Rihani), teaching as an adjunct at Clark State Community College and at Yavapai (AZ) College, and serving as assistant director for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Yellow Springs with her husband of thirty-eight years, three spoiled dogs, and six chickens. Find her online here.
Upcoming literary events
TUESDAY: Dan Rather, January 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. WSU Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy #430, Dayton, OH 45324. For more than 50 years, former CBS News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Dan Rather has been the embodiment of the intrepid broadcast journalist. From the Kennedy assassination—where he was the first to break the news that the president had been killed—to the Indian Ocean tsunami, he has covered every major story of our time with distinction and a fierce dedication to hard news. More.
THURSDAY: Kickoff for Breaking bad writing with Breaking Bad and Katrina Kittle (5-week workshop). February 2, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419. One of the most critically acclaimed series ever produced, Breaking Bad unfolds like a great novel. Much about the craft of fiction can be learned from studying this five-season, ground-breaking, multi-award winning show. Each night of this five-week course, we will view and focus on an iconic scene from the show, and will use those scenes to dissect and discuss the brilliant use of dialogue, character arc, symbolism, foreshadowing, character voice, and amazing lessons in plot—how to start and finish a scene, how to end a “chapter,” and more. You are not required to have watched the series, but you will benefit more fully if you have. LOCATION: Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419. DATES: Thursdays — 2/2, 2/9, 2/16, 2/23, 3/2, 6:30-8:30 pm. Price: $165. More.
LOOKING AHEAD: LitSalon: Tim Waggoner. February 12, 2017 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Home of Kate Geiselman, AWW Acting President. Tim Waggoner, author of more than 30 published novels in the fantasy, horror and sci fi genres will chat with Dayton Daily News editor Ron Rollins. Tim’s publications include his own original work as well as television series tie-ins and feature film novelizations, so he will offer insight not only into his own writing life, but into these unique areas of fiction writing. Learn more about Tim and his achievements at www.timwaggoner.com. $20.00 per individual or $35.00 per couple. More.
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Question: Does poetry matter in modern America?
Answer: “In an age where fingertips can conjure information javelined at us as quick as lightning, and it’s still too slow — the relevance of poetry’s immediacy for its condensed storytelling abilities, is a large part of the appeal that today’s reader-on-the-go finds attractive. For the poet: the ability to seize upon a current event, fashion into art and deliver back to the public while the topic is still fresh. For the reader: to be able to ingest a high-quality gourmet meal in one sitting, put their hands behind their heads and feel completely satisfied. Same is true for a painting, photograph or song — because of its brevity, one can revisit and be wonderstruck as often as one’s time allows. If Time is one of humankind’s most precious commodities, then (as the arts are concerned) one could consider poetry as one of Time’s most valuable distributor of goods. Poetry delivers. It delivers fast and hard. Therein lies its power.”
T.J.’s first book of poetry, Mid-Life Chrysler (God, I love that title) just hit shelves:
Check it out on Amazon.
Dayton poet T.J. McGuire does his writing in a walk-up attic nicknamed the Rock Room (click the image for a larger version):
It’s where he’s been crafting his upcoming chapbook Mid-life Chrysler from Alabaster Leaves Publishing. Stay tuned for an interview with T.J. when the book comes out. Thanks for sharing, T.J.!
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?
A: “1. Start early. Life intrudes and, as it did with me, pushes your dream to the back of the line. 2. Find a mentor and/or a writing group. Once you connect with good feedback and direction, your writing grows exponentially. 3. Submit, submit, submit. It’s the only way to get published. 4. Relish the process, including the rejections, which help you grow. 5. Reward yourself for every step along the path. Wine and chocolate work for me! 6. Read widely and often, especially the work of authors whose work is accomplished. Enough said.”
J. E. Irvin is the author of The Dark End of the Rainbow, and she’s celebrating the launch of her new mystery/thriller The Rules of the Game on Friday, January 13 at 7 p.m. at Montage Cafe in Greenville.
My literary calendar on DaytonLit.com is empty through the end of the year, but January’s already filling up. Here are three of the coolest events coming next month:
1) Point of View Mini-Workshop with Rebecca Morean. Sunday, Jan. 15, 2 p.m.
Hosted by the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, this free event will teach you tips and best practices for using Point of View to enhance your stories, novels, essays, memoirs and other works… and connect with your readers. Led by novelist, essayist and short story writer Rebecca Morean. Learn more about Rebecca at www.ramorean.com
2) OUT OF TOWN: Meet Veronica Roth, Thursday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m.
The creator of the Divergent series will be at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. She’ll be in conversation with “First Draft” podcast’s Sarah Enni, discussing her newest book, “Carve the Mark”. Everyone who purchases a ticket for the event will receive an autographed copy of “Carve the Mark”, and 100 lucky audience members will be randomly chosen at the event to meet Veronica and Sarah and get their pictures taken with the author. For tickets and more information, please call the store at 513-396-8960. More.
3) Dan Rather, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
For more than 50 years, former CBS News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Dan Rather has been the embodiment of the intrepid broadcast journalist. From the Kennedy assassination—where he was the first to break the news that the president had been killed—to the Indian Ocean tsunami, he has covered every major story of our time with distinction and a fierce dedication to hard news. He’ll speak at the Wright State Nutter Center. More.
Help decorate a brand new library
Dayton Metro Library is running a contest now through Jan. 9. Anyone can vote on the art that will inspire a newly-commissioned piece to adorn the future Southeast Branch (near Belmont High School). Click here to vote for your favorite of five pieces that are in the Dayton Art Museum’s permanent collection. The piece that wins will be the inspiration for a brand new work of art.
A finished book is deceptive. It’s neat and tidy and all bundled up with a beautiful cover. What us struggling artists don’t see are the hours of doubt that went into its creation.
The hours of doubt are hidden in every work of art. As creators, we either learn to work through those doubts, or we crumple up the sheet of paper and toss it in bin — giving up entirely.
When Stephen King was writing Carrie, he did exactly that. He typed up three pages. Then, he realized he didn’t like the story; he didn’t like the main character; and he worried he didn’t know how to write from a woman’s point of view.
So, he threw his pages away. When he got home from work that night, he found his wife Tabby had rooted through the trash, read the pages and fallen in love with them. “You’ve got something here,” she said. “I really think you do.”
King would go on to finish the novella. It got rejected by 30 publishers before landing at Doubleday. King’s $2,500 advance was enough for him to put a down payment on a Ford Pinto and move his family from a trailer into an apartment.
The hours of doubt nearly destroyed a book that went on to sell more than a million copies and launched the career of one of America’s most famous writers.
Our task is learning how to suffer through those hours. There is no question they will come. The only question is whether we can rise to meet them.
This week’s top literary events
MONDAY: Ohio Spirits. October 17, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Dayton Metro Library – Northwest Branch, 2410 Philadelphia Dr, Dayton, OH 45406. Author Jim Kleefeld will bring antiques and artifacts and share tales about The Golden Lamb, The Mansfield Reformatory, the Franklin Castle and other local places where people have reported strange and ghostly occurrences. More.
MONDAY: James Balog. October 17, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, University Of Dayton Kennedy Union Ballroom, College Park Avenue, Dayton, OH. A decorated photographer, avid mountaineer, and climate change researcher, Balog is the founder of the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the most wide-ranging photographic study of glaciers ever conducted. All UD Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. No tickets required, but seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking is available in B and C lots only. Parking in any other campus lot requires a permit. More.
WEDNESDAY: Breaking bad writing with ‘Breaking Bad’ class kickoff with Katrina Kittle, $165. October 19, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, OH 45419. One of the most critically acclaimed series ever produced, Breaking Bad unfolds like a great novel. Much about the craft of fiction can be learned from studying this five-season, ground-breaking, multi-award winning show. Each night of this five-week course, we will view and focus on an iconic scene from the show, and will use those scenes to dissect and discuss the brilliant use of dialogue, character arc, symbolism, foreshadowing, character voice, and amazing lessons in plot—how to start and finish a scene, how to end a “chapter,” and more. Wednesdays through 11/16/16. More.
WEDNESDAY: Open Mic Story Slam, $5. October 19, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Wiley’s Comedy Joint, 101 Pine St, Dayton, OH 45402. We follow The Moth story slam rules. 5-6 minutes, true stories, told in the first person and related to our monthly theme. October’s theme is Campfire Stories. Tell us your story about camping, outdoors, fall or sitting around the campfire. No story to share, bring a friend, grab a drink and enjoy great true stories told live by other folks. Cash bar. More.
THURSDAY: Readings for National Day on Writing. October 20, 2016 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Sinclair Community College Library, 444 W 3rd St, Dayton, OH 45402. Hear readings from Flights, Sinclair’s literary journal (from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.), and hear selected readings from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize fiction and non-fiction finalists (from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.). More.
THURSDAY: Celebrate National Day on Writing. Tweet why you write with the hashtag #WhyIWrite\Dayton on Twitter.
THURSDAY TEEN EVENT: NaNoWriMo Prep. October 20, 2016 @ 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Brookville Branch, 120 Blue Pride Dr, Brookville, OH 45309. Determined to give National Novel Writing Month a try? This Katrina Kittle workshop will give you a clear roadmap for your novel!
SATURDAY: Dayton Ghosts. October 22, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Dayton Metro Library – Northwest Branch, 2410 Philadelphia Dr, Dayton, OH 45406. Join us as author Karen Laven recounts her experiences while researching local haunted places for her book Dayton Ghosts. Karen is also the author of Cincinnati Ghosts and Other Tri-State Haunts and has also authored or co-authored nine books. She has also been an actress on stage, TV, cable, and in feature films. More.
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My top 3 takeaways
1) Stick with your vision. When Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp finally landed an agent for their book, Doon, they were ecstatic. Based on feedback from the agent, they started working on a rewrite. When they re-submitted the book, the agent suggested they change the relationship between the two main characters from friends to “frenemies.”
The authors put their feet down, parted ways with the agent, and stated the querying process all over again. It took 85 more query letters before they found another agent and eventually sold Doon in a 4-book deal. Persistence matters.
2) It’s never too early to start marketing. That means getting a website BEFORE you’ve finished your book, says Molly Jebber. Jebber’s carved out a strong niche in Amish historical romances. Publishers today, she says, rely on authors to have and execute marketing plans. That means blog tours, social media, book signings, workshops and more. And it’s never too early to start.
3) Use a sense on every page. Katrina Kittle led an excellent session on description. In it, she said she goes through every page of her books to make sure there’s at least one visual element and some other sensory description on every page. That gives readers the sense of being physically dropped into the world of your story. That’s what you want, Kittle says, citing a quote from E.L. Doctorow: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
This year’s other speakers included Kathleen Rouser on productivity, Teresa Slack on dialogue, Linore Rose Burkard on self-publishing, Tamera Kraft on researching for historical novels, Gerald E. Greene on social media, Tina Toles on poetry, and Carole Brown on characterization.
It’s great to have such a wonderful event in our back yards, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Dayton Christian Scribes cook up next year.
We all have at least one secret thing we want to do. It’s that tiny little flame we’re tending when we daydream. It’s the lives we wish we had; the things we’ll do after we’ve gotten rich, bleached our teeth and purged our lives of stress.
“Every man dies; not every man really lives,” William Wallace writes. We’re not really living if we keep our secret things submerged. I want to dig them up, show them to my wife, my friends, my children. I want to write my secret book; not the book I think will sell. I want to live my secret life, not the one our culture says I must.
Look at your secret thing (that book you want to write, that audition you want to take). Look at the stone wall that stands around it, and figure out how to tear it down. You’re the only who can because you’re the one who built it.
‘Writing talent is as common as dirt’
Dayton horror writer Tim Waggoner just posted an excellent piece on what it takes to make it as a writer. Dubbed Writing dreams and harsh realities, he offers up some tough love to aspiring writers.
“I’ve encountered hundreds, maybe thousands, of students over the years who had enough basic talent to have a good shot at establishing a writing career,” he writes. “Almost none of them have, though. Talent is only potential, and it’s worthless unless it’s developed, focused, and applied.”
Check out the rest here.
This week’s top literary events
Visit the homepage for more information and links to all of these events:
WEDNESDAY: Ridley Pearson, September 21, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Books & Company, 4453 Glengarry Dr, Beavercreek, OH 45440. RIDLEY PEARSON will introduce Lock and Key: The Initiation, the first book in his middle grade trilogy on Sherlock Holmes.
WEDNESDAY: UD Speaker Series: Lawrence Lessig, September 21, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, University Of Dayton Kennedy Union, College Park Avenue, Dayton, OH. A Harvard Law professor and New York Times bestselling author, Lessig first became known for developing the very foundations of internet law and running for president.
THURSDAY: Bust Out of Your Writing Rut!, September 22, 2016 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Dayton Metro Library – New Lebanon Branch, 715 W Main St, New Lebanon, OH 45345. Author Nancy Christie will help participants identify objectives, overcome self-imposed barriers and get out of their writing rut.
THURSDAY: Kevin Sands and James Ponti, September 22, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Books & Company, 4453 Glengarry Dr, Beavercreek, OH 45440. KEVIN SANDS will introduce Mark of the Plague, a sequel to the beloved The Blackthorn Key and JAMES PONTI will introduce Framed, the first in a new middle grade series.
THURSDAY: PechaKucha Dayton, September 22, 2016 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Gosiger Inc, 108 McDonough St, Dayton, OH 45402. PechaKucha 20×20 is a simple presentation format where speakers show 20 images, for 20 seconds each.
***SATURDAY***: Write On! Christian Writing Conference, September 24, 2016 @ 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Apex Community Church – 5200 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45429. Presenters include Katrina Kittle, Linore Burkard, Lorie Langdon, Gerald E. Greene, Teresa Slack and more! Look for my DaytonLit booth if you end up going!
SATURDAY: History, Mystery, Mayhem & Murder Walk at Woodland Cemetery, September 24, 2016 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, 118 Woodland Ave, Dayton, OH 45409. A spooky walk that includes tales of Dayton’s own bank robbers, counterfeiters and murderers.
SUNDAY: Kyle Kondik, September 25, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm, Books & Company, 4453 Glengarry Dr, Beavercreek, OH 45440. KYLE KONDIK discusses his book, The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.
Kim Daniksa and the Dayton Christian Scribes have come together to host the first-ever Write On! Christian Writing Conference in Dayton. Keynoter Lorie Langdon (author of the DOON series) will be joined by nine other writers on Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 4:15 PM. The group hopes the event will become an annual thing.
Conference organizer Kim Daniska was kind enough to answer some questions about the upcoming conference for DaytonLit:
1) Why did you decide to host a writing conference?
A: This was something we have been wanting to do for a few years now. We had actually co-hosted a conference with another local writing group several years back. We really wanted to bring back that opportunity for Dayton-area writers to connect in a fun learning environment. We wanted to provide that chance for writers of all levels to set aside one day — just one day — to focus on their craft.
For the past few years our group has held a “Writers Mixer” where we invite other writing groups to one of our meetings. This 2-hour event held yearly has been a huge success and a lot of fun! We’ve seen such sharing and energy come out of it that we knew we had to pursue planning a longer event like a conference that could reach more people and cover more topics.
2) Do you plan to make it an annual thing?
A: We hope to make it an annual event. We realize this first year is a lot about getting the word out and building an audience but we are very hopeful that this will meet a need for Dayton-area writers — providing a local writing conference that is affordable, educational and a great networking experience for both speakers and attendees! No need to travel great distances and you’re home in time for supper!
3) Will the event have a Christian focus?
A: Not so much in that it will be talking about the “Christian Writing Market” or things specific to Christian Writing that might not apply to other writing. But attendees might expect to hear references to God, a prayer that our conference goes well and things like that. The focus is obviously on writing — skills, techniques, tips and tools — to help a writer improve their talents. Our audience and speakers may come from a variety of faiths and are all welcome.
4) Do you think writing has a spiritual component?
A: What a great question! I think it depends on who you ask and what their beliefs are. I know for me personally, I think there is definitely a spiritual component. When I write devotionals, for example, I often find that I can be completely stuck on what message I’m trying to convey…or the words to use to express a certain point. But then there is this moment where the floodgates open and everything just seems to click without me even realizing it. What makes this different from a normal type of inspiration and “being on a roll” when writing is the topic. Having that wondrous clarity come to me when writing a devotional leads me to hope that I am writing what God wants me to say about that idea or text. It is always my hope that my writing will reach someone in some way. If I’ve reached even one person that God wants me to reach, then I am happy!
5) What do you write?
A: I write mainly inspirational pieces. I just love to write short stories for Christmas and I’ve won and/or placed in newspaper contests across the country for 14 years straight. I even had a story appear in a Canadian paper one Christmas morning! There was just something pretty neat about knowing that somewhere in Canada, someone sat down at their breakfast table, opened the paper and read a story about my grandma. I write devotionals, children’s and fiction as well. On the business side, I’ve written several training manuals and workshops in the area of leadership, communication and conflict management.
6) What do you think is the hardest part about writing?
A: Tough question! Everything? Just kidding! Again I think this varies from writer to writer but I would guess that persistence is a big challenge for most. That might mean carving out a time to write and sticking with it no matter how crazy your schedule gets. This is definitely a challenge that I face as a stay-at-home mom and active volunteer in many organizations! Or to someone else it might mean not giving up when another rejection letter comes in the mail. Or not doubting your idea or talent. Persistence. Not giving up. Sticking with it. If you have the passion and drive to write, then its in there and not going anywhere. It doesn’t matter what you do to try to ignore it or to tell yourself you aren’t good enough, that passion will remain and keep popping up when you least expect it. So, I think you owe it to yourself and your talent to not give up no matter what. You never know who could benefit from your writing some day.
7) What do you hope people take away from the event?
A: I hope they come away charged up (or re-charged!) and ready to write! I’d love for them to walk away inspired and with increased confidence in their abilities, especially if they want to try something new that they learned. I’d also love attendees to come away with pages and pages of notes and business cards! This is such a great way to connect with other local writers and the synergy that happens when you bring writers together is just amazing. Hopefully everyone will make some new contacts that they might follow up with for sharing of stories, tips or even just support. And of course, we are thrilled to bring readers and authors together as well so hope that attendees will take advantage of this great opportunity to check out our speakers’ books.
Write On! will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at Apex Community Church, 5200 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45429. Here’s the full list of speakers: Lorie Langdon, Carole Brown, Linore Rose Burkard, Gerald E. Greene, Molly Jebber, Katrina Kittle, Tamera Kraft, Kathleen Rouser, Teresa Slack and Tina Toles. Click here for tickets and information. I’ll also have a DaytonLit booth set up at the conference, so please stop by and say hello!