Category Archives: a reason to write

‘The great workshop roundup…….

I’ve spent a good part of this year attending some of the best writing workshops in the country. I affectionately refer to this year as the “year of Ellen.” It’s been amazing!

Over the next few posts I will share where I have been and (some of) what I have learned. I would love to tell you every single little detail – but I won’t be able to capture all of it. There is nothing like being there in person – writing, reading, critiquing, breathing in words. Ahhhh.

One of the best things I learned was this….

You don’t have to be published to be a writer. You have to write to be a writer. Afterall, you can’t become published without writing first.

Ahhhh, that’s a refreshing reminder. Yes, you are in fact a writer, if you are writing. Boom.

The first workshop on the list is the Tin House Winter Workshop. What a fabulous way to start off the year! Look for those delicious details in the next post!

The rest of the posts can be found by clicking these links…

Woodbridge Writers Retreat
Yale Writers’ Conference, Part I
Yale Writers’ Conference, Part 2

The Art of the Story with Tom Jenks of Narrative

 

Write.every.day. Write.something.every.day….

Writers hear this advice over and over again. Then we create excuses why we can’t–beautiful excuses filled with empty air and hyperbole and then promises to ourselves to do better.

Samuel Beckett says “fail better” but if you aren’t trying, you can’t fail. I guess you can fail to try but you’ll never get better at that.

Today is my promise to myself to fail better and then hopefully succeed.

If you are also a writer–or a person with a passion–come along, fail better with me.

A chance to write a story with One Story’s Hannah Tinti

In this week-long course, under the guidance of One Story’s own editor in chief Hannah Tinti, you’ll build a short story from scratch, learning the ins and outs of storytelling structure along the way. New lessons—in video or text—will be shared daily, but exercises can be done on your own time, and an active message board will allow you to communicate with fellow students and ask questions. For complete details and to register, visit www.one-story.com (look under “events” and then “online classes”).

This is an amazing opportunity to learn from one of the best editors in the business!

One Story’s Debutante Ball…..

One Story is a top-tier literary journal celebrating the best in short stories, novel excepts, confettiand stories for teens (One Teen Story). Once a year, they celebrate the authors coming out with a debut novel who have appeared in their journal  – it’s a big arse Brooklyn-style party and tickets are selling fast.

Not only does this party sound super fun, but the One Story folks are some of the nicest, most accessible people I have met. This an amazing opportunity to have a blast while meeting some of the most influential people in the literary world. Wowza!

The Ball is being held on Thursday, May 22nd, at the Roulette in Brooklyn from 7p – 11p.

The authors being celebrated are….

Tickets can be purchased here – but hurry! 😎

And some pictures from past events can be seen here – just so you have an idea of what to wear. You’re welcome.

Hope to see you there!

Grammarly….

I’m back with another review. This time it’s for Grammarly – an editorial program. (Just as an FYI, I was not compensated for this review – other than being given a free two-week trial to test things out. Otherwise…ahem…no review because how would I know if it works.)

This is actually a pretty cool program. You upload or cut/paste a document into Grammarly and it analyzes it for you, giving you feedback in a number of areas, like:

  • spelling
  • passive voice
  • commonly confused words
  • split infinitives
  • vocabulary use
  • capitalization
  • verb use/tense
  • confusing modifiers
  • split infinitives
  • wordiness

This is an excellent program for reaching beyond spell check and evaluating the basics of writing. It catches those supposedly simple mistakes that we all make.

A huge bonus is that it can also evaluate your text for plagiarism. This is a terrific feature because not only does it tell you if your text matches other text, it also gives you 3 different formats for citing your sources. The text I used had a quote from the internet and Grammarly found it and formatted the MLA, APA, and Chicago Style Manual citations for me. (Seriously, where was this little gem when I was in college?)

As you might imagine, there are some limitations of the program because it is, after all, a computer program and it can’t have a sense of voice or understand creativity in sentence structure. But it is a very valuable second set of eyes to catch the mistakes we as writers/students don’t see because, when we edit ourselves, we tend to see what is supposed to be there rather than what is there.

Here is a screen shot of their sample document.

Screenshot 2013-10-25 06.30.54

It’s great to have all of these tools in one place.

So now, you are probably wondering how much it costs. Here’s the breakdown from their FAQ page…

Grammarly offers a seven-day free trial, as well as the following subscription plans:

  • Monthly – $29.95
  • Quarterly – $59.95
  • Annual – $139.95

Grammarly also offers enterprise subscriptions for bulk users in K-12, higher education, enterprises and government.

You do have to enter a credit card number for the free trial and your subscription will start automatically (and your credit card will be charged) on the 7th day, unless you cancel your subscription before then.

It’s a little pricey but would quickly prove a valuable resource for students and writers. Go check it out – www.Grammarly.com.

 

Those people…..

by Ellen Weeren
@EllenWeeren

I just read this post by Seth Godin about “those people”. window washer car wash

If you aren’t familiar with the name, Seth is a guru of sorts on everything “thinking”. And that’s just what his posts do – they encourage you to think about things. And the posts are generally short, so they don’t hurt your brain too much. 😉

Seth’s latest post reminded me of a man I saw at the car wash the other day – in fact, that man has been on my mind a lot lately. I had thought about writing about him – but never took the time to do it.

Seth’s post reminded me that I should give this man his due.

A few weeks ago, I had my kids take all of their stuff out of the minivan so that I could drive it over to the car wash and pay $50 to have it cleaned, vacuumed, and spit shined.

And, please don’t even ask – of course, they were bothered by having to remove all of their c.r.a.p. so that I could pay someone else to clean up their mess.

Their shoes, their trash, and their basketballs (oh how I hate those basketballs clanking around in my car) … and I couldn’t reach the van-cleaning fairy … so they actually had to get off their arses and get their stuff out of the car so that I could spend an hour watching someone clean it for them.  And yes, I might have yelled out something just like that right before they leaped into action.

Maybe.

Probably.

Okay, I did.

Anywash, I got to the car wash and paid for the super clean option because that’s exactly what it needed – a super cleaning.

This option takes a while so I brought a book with me. I sat on a bench in the warmth of the sun with a cold Diet Dr. Pepper and read while my car was being cleaned. (And no, the irony is not lost on me here. I get it.)

One of the washers caught my attention and I lost all interest in the words in front of me.

He was absolutely fascinating. He cleaned my car with all the pride of ownership. As if he had saved for months for just that very car. Like it was a special car. He was even smiling while cleaning up someone else’s mess.

He’d polish a spot, lean back, and clean it again.

The window, that would have taken me all of a minute and a half, consumed a good eight minutes of his focused attention. This was not a “oh, if I take longer, I’ll have to do less” situation. It was very clearly a “this is my job and I’m going to be the very best at it I can be” situation.

He’d clean the back area of the car and then close the hatch. But, then he’d open the hatch again and double check – just to make sure everything was clean.

It seemed like he did this for every crevice he came across.

I’m sure I was sitting there like a fool with my mouth agape.

My doctor probably isn’t even that precise.

Now, I haven’t applied for a job at a car wash lately – but this guy can’t make more than say $12 an hour.

And it struck me how unfair this all really is. My kids were sitting at home on their arses with a litany of opportunities waiting before them (many that they can’t be bothered with) and this guy is busting his arse with probably not that many options.

To be fair to my kids, they do work hard too.

But not the way this guy does. They don’t have that kind of pride in the mundane things they do – heck, they don’t do too many mundane things.

I’m not really sure how all of this will change but imagine what that guy could accomplish with more responsibility and more opportunities.

It’s heart-breaking that he might not have the chance to do anything more than clean a window.

Some great writing articles…

I don’t think I’ve ever written a “best of” post, so here goes.writing pig

There have been some fabulouso writing articles on the web recently and I’m gonna share ’em – just in case you missed ’em.

A Simple Way to Create Suspense by Lee Child at the New York Times.

How to Keep a Story on Track by Lisa Cron on Writer UnBoxed.

A Simple Approach to Revisions by Cathy Yardley on Writer UnBoxed.

The Mentor/Mentee Benefit by Vaughn Roycroft also on Writer UnBoxed. (This is an older article, but a good one.)

That’s it for now. Happy Weekend!

Expat Blog Awards….

This is kind of exciting.

I’ve been nominated for the Expat Blog Awards for my writing about living in India.

If you have a second, please vote for me by leaving a comment here…
http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/466/a-reason-to-write

Thanks!

I am reminded why voting is so important…

This week I have been on my “stop calling me” bandwagon. I have been tired of answering the phone only to hear a recorded voice tell me what I should do today – who I should pick.

I honestly don’t believe it makes a ton of difference what I personally think – even if I am in a “battle ground state”. It’s cold outside and I really don’t want to leave my house. I am tired of the political ads and the promises that don’t mean squat. I am really tired of the millions of dollars that are spent on plane rides and commercials when people are hurting. That money could be used for so much good. But alas. This is our political process.

And, today, I realize, I am taking a lot for granted.

So, I will vote today. I will exercise this right to vote that others have died to protect. I will mark my ballot with a grateful heart that I can. I am educated enough to read the ballot, healthy enough to stand in line, and free enough to voice my opinion without danger. So I will.

And today, I am reminded of Khan – our former driver in India and how thrilled he was to be able to vote. You can read his story here.

So if you are able, vote today. If for no other reason than you can.

Let the writing begin – NaNoWriMo

Participant 180x180 (2)November is the month when many novelists commit to writing at least 1,667 words per day – every single day of the month. It’s called National Novel Writing Month – yes, we writers are a creative bunch coming up with such a clever title as that. The acronym is NaNoWriMo – which doesn’t make us look so clever . (Seriously – I’m not even sure how you say that.) Most people just shorten it to NaNo.

I’m taking on this challenge – so please wish me luck! If you are interested in participating, you can sign up to record your progress and connect with the other 300,000 authors doing the same thing at the website www.nanowrimo.org. If you meet the challenge of writing 1,667 words per day, at the end of the month, you will have written 50,000 words – nearly a novel.

Today my journey begins. This morning I got up, got the kids out the door, and took a shower. I even got dressed like a normal person who leaves the house every day. I figured if I got dressed as if I were going to work, I might actually work. Then I even put on makeup and proceeded to spill lipgloss on the sweet little ruffle on my fancy cream-colored shirt. Fabulous. ergh.

Then I went to the potty – and got some snacks ready – and turned off Twitter and Facebook . Now I have no excuses for getting up from this chair.

The famous “they” say that the biggest key to being successful this month is to just write – no editing – just writing. (“They” also say that December is the time for editing.) This will be a super huge challenge for me because I have a hard time leaving a chapter.

The posts here might be even more infrequent than usual – but that will be a good thing because it will mean I am writing The Alligator Purse. Yippeeee!