Category Archives: blog

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!


 

There’s more to it than writing………

Platform, pictures, bios, blogging… jeez louise, writers are responsible for a lot.

Most of the time, we should be writing for sure. But there are some other things writers should be thinking about.

A mug shot is one of them. I should say – a mug shot we are happy with.

For a long time, this was the picture I was using for just about everything.

And it was fine. But it looked like I took a picture that I was happy enough with and cropped it way too small and said, “done.” Because – that is exactly what I did.

Well, it so happens that I was taking a photography class – from a real, live professional photographer. And we spent about 6 hours together.

So, I asked her to take a few “professionalish” pictures for me.

And this is what I got…

Uhmmm. Yes, that is a lot better.

So, if you think you might want to publish something, someday, take some time and have a good picture taken. I pinky swear you will be very glad you did!

Welcome to my new digs….

Hey there and thanks for stopping by!

I am trying to consolidate my online presence in to one spot – www.EllenWeeren.com

For some reason – it’s very likely that the reason is that I don’t know what the hell I am doing – comments are disabled right now. Ergh. I am working to fix that. If you have suggestions, please suggest away via email at ellen (dot) weeren (at) gmail.com.

Comments are working now! Yea!

Gracias!
Ellen

Shorten that url……

by Ellen Weeren/@EllenWeeren

I just read a great article about twitter handles by Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson). Of course, I wanted to share it on Twitter. But the flippin’ url was a katrillion characters long. As you might know, Twitter only allows 140 characters. Even the new fuzzy math won’t allow you to squish a katrillion characters in to 140.

So …. I went to Google and they have this tool. It will shorted your url. Maybe that new fuzzy math will work after all. 😎

And, even though Facebook doesn’t require you to use shorter url’s, it is a nice thing to do there as well.

Force to Fly 2………

You may (not) remember that I told you one of my essays about living in India was going to be published in an anthology called Forced to Fly 2. Jo Parfitt is the editor and she asked for submissions.

I read through some of my blog posts and submitted one about the time I went to the Post Office in Delhi all.by.my.lonesome. (Which doesn’t really sound very brave, but it felt very brave.) Then I stood on my keyboard with my hands in the air and screamed, “Pick mine, pick mine. Oh. Oh. Oh. Please pick mine.” And then Jo did just that!

This is very exciting for me because this is the first time my writing will be published in an actual book – well, minus the literary magazine in high school. But that doesn’t seem to count as much as this does. This is very exciting.

The book contains humorous accounts of living abroad and will launch on Oct. 5th – don’t worry, you’ll hear (lots) more about it then. And it will be available on Amazon. Yahoo. Amazon will be selling something I wrote – seriously?

But Jo sent out the cover design. So, I thought I would share it with you!

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.

Notebook

For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

Monkee-ing Around with Momastery…..

Yesterday, I got a super duper treat! I attended a presentation
by Glennon of Momastery. And Sister was there. So fun! 

Just in case you’ve been living under your keyboard and haven’t heard of Glennon yet, she is a blogger, a tremendous writer, a parent and wife, a sister and daughter, and a recovering addict/bulimic.

She just signed a book deal with Scribner. The name of her blog is Momastery and she calls her readers Monkees (get it, monks, momastery – yes, it’s very, very clever!) The name of her book is Carry On, Warrior. It is due out in April 2013. Her essays frequently appear on Huffington Post.

And yesterday, she became a public speaker. I will never be able to capture her thoughts as well as she does. She writes like she is catching butterflies in a big brutiful net – poetically, gently, with the intent of doing no harm, and with plans to eventually let them go. Glitter falls off her words. I highly recommend you read her words for yourself. But I do want to share some of what she said yesterday.

The very first thing Glennon did after being introduced was kick off her adorable red shoes and sit cross-legged in a chair.

At that moment, the entire audience leaned back in their chairs and relaxed.

And this is (some of) what she told us….

Being Shameless and Truthier

As a recovering addict and bulimic, she has some stories that most people might not be so proud of. But Glennon proudly declares that she is shameless. She says she should be ashamed at how shameless she is. But she’s not. And it allows her a freedom probably few of us enjoy.

During the question and answer session, one of the monkees in the crowd asked about her parents and why they didn’t help her when she started throwing up in fourth grade. (Did that just stop your heart? Bulimic in 4th grade – yes, you read that right.)

The monkee wanted to know: How did they not know? Why didn’t they help?

We all wanted to know. You want to know, right?

She raised her left hand, stretched out her fingers, and tilted her head just a little to slow things down. She shared that she felt as if we were getting into dangerous territory. She said that the facts were they didn’t do a lot. But then she said that it was their story, not hers. Only they could answer those questions. Wow.

And, on the way home, I wondered if Glennon’s own shamelessness sets her free from judging other people. If she is not holding herself up to what other people think she should be, why would she hold others up to what she thinks they should be?

I know, right now you are probably thinking you are so mad you missed the presentation. Keep reading, you’ll be really mad by the time you get to the end. Tee hee.

Sister

If you have read at least a little bit of Glennon’s blog, you know she has a lifeline sister. She seemed equally amazing and they do balance each other out wonderfully. It was a super duper bonus that Sister was there too. Sister is the one who gave Glennon her laptop and told her to get busy writing. I thanked her for that because ultimately it was a gift to all of us.

Finding Your Thing

A lot of the moms in the audience worry about their daughters and their body images. So, who better to solve the mystery of how to starve off eating disorders than a woman who has done it and is raising two daughers? No pressure Glennon. 😉

In what seems to be true Glennon fashion, she answered honestly, “I really don’t know.” But she did recommend helping kids and ourselves find their/our “thing”. She said that finding joy in our lives scares away a lot of demons (my words not hers – just paraphrasing here). And talking about the things that scare us is extremely important. The more real we are the more safe we become.

There were some moms in the audience who don’t have a “thing” and wanted to know how to find it. Glennon suggested asking our friends what we are good at because they see our strengths.

One woman said, “but we all want to be as good at our thing as you are at your thing.” Then Glennon shared that she spends about 8 hours a day writing and will choose words over sleep. That sounds very Outliersish, doesn’t it? It takes a lot of time to be really, really good.

 Heartbreak

Another monkee question focused on how Glennon manages to deal with the heart-breaking mail she receives. Glennon gets over 100 emails/letters a day from people asking for help. And a lot of them get it. But it is impossible to help everyone. So the monkee wanted to know – how does she do it?

We all want to know, right?

Glennon shared that there is often beauty in heart break. That wonderful things can happen when someone’s heart is shattered. People come together, prayers are formed, and miracles happen.

Mantras

Glennon and her monkees have three mantras…

1. Love wins.
She finds this one particularly helpful when she receives a negative comment on her blog. She chooses to respond with love and she said the effect of that is amazing. She hangs these two powerful words over her computer so that they serve as a constant reminder that love wins.

2. We can do hard things.
A teaching friend of Glennon’s had this posted in her classroom and Glennon loved it so much she had a sign made and hung it in her own home.  She reminds us that “Life is hard. Not because we aren’t doing it right but because it’s hard.” But she also knows we can do hard things together.

3. We belong to each other.
Glennon admits to borrowing these words from Mother Teresa. She said this reminds her that we are all in it together. It ties in nicely to my favorite thing ever that Glennon has written:  “I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is, too.”

Facebook Lives

Glennon cautioned us from comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.

She outlined her outside/Facebook life. In that life she is…..
An author with a book deal
A wildly successful blogger
Talking to tv producers
Pretty and smart
Very funny
Married to a former professional athlete and model
Mother to 3 beautiful children

In her inside life, she is…..
A recovering alcoholic
A recovering bulimic
A recovering drug addict
Was pregnant before she got married
Was arrested 5 times
Overwhelmed by parenting
In marriage counseling
Snuggled in guilt over being a working mom again

She wants us to remember that on Facebook and in other facets of life, people are showing us their best. They might even brag a little lot. But it doesn’t mean it’s the whole story. In fact, we know it isn’t. Life is hard, for everyone. But we can do it.

If you ever get the chance to hear  Glennon speak, do it! Don’t hesitate!

What’s that? You’re surprised I don’t have a picture of me with her. Silly Monkee!

Oops – I forgot one – Momastery….

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the blogs I have been following. I completely forgot about Momastery – which is actually ridiculous because Glennon is all sorts of awesomesauce.

Glennon is a fabulous writer who puts thoughts like this into real sentences…

“I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is, too.”

Glennon is  a recovering alcoholic and bulimic and a recovering mother and wife. She doesn’t pretend that parenting isn’t easy and she celebrates that it’s not impossible.

She has a tremendous sense of humor and isn’t one bit afraid to say what she really thinks.And it’s extra loverly that what she thinks is pretty fair and balanced and full of compassion and acceptance. What I love most about her is that she turns thoughts upside down and inside out before she spits them out. Plus she coordinates very generous things for people in real need.

AnyMomastery, I am honestly a little late in joining the bandwagon but if you haven’t seen her work, check it out soon.