South Asian Books to Celebrate Earth Day

Written by Gauri Manglik

Gauri Manglik, South Asian booksHere’s a round-up of some unique stories that remind us it’s not just Earth Day but everyday, that we need to respect the Earth and take only what we need. Reduce, Re-use and Recycle! 

Alone In the Forest: Musa, a young boy sets off from his village to the forest to collect some firewood, but gets trapped. Beautiful illustrations bring alive the forest, and the boy’s fears, but mother nature eventually helps him find a way out.

Aani and the Tree Huggers: Based on true events in north India (referred to as the Chipko Andolan), this story shares how a group of women courageously hugged trees to prevent them from being chopped. A powerful and heartwarming story of courage and standing up for our beliefs!

Crane_Boy_coverCrane Boy: This SABA Honor book shares a story about school-aged kids in Bhutan organizing the community and creating a crane festival to help make the depleting number of black-necked cranes feel at home. A beautiful story about a unique place on this earth.

Gobble You Up: Exquisite bookmaking and gorgeous illustrations come together in this book to share a Rajasthani trickster tale about a greedy jackal who decides to eat his friends up. Great for read-alouds!

Iqbal and his Ingenious Idea: When Iqbal sees his mother and baby sister coughing due to the firewood stove, he decides he must do something. He decides to work hard on his science fair project so he can use the prize money to buy a gas stove. However, his ingenuity leads to an even more sustainable solution!

Barefoot Book of Earth Tales: An engaging collection of seven tales from around the world about respecting and caring for the earth in gentle ways. Bright illustrations and fun activity pairings add to the appeal of this book!

putulandthedolphins_coverPutul and the Dolphins: A young girl is delighted one day when two friendly dolphins leap right outside her window in the monsoons! A gentle reminder about how our worlds are so interspersed and we must empathize and be respectful of nature and animals around us.

Tiger Boy: Set in the Sunderbans, one of the natural wonders of the world, this book is an insightful perspective on the dilemma a young boy faces when a tiger cub is discovered; should we focus on his studies or save the tiger cub from being poached?

water_coverWater: Beautiful illustrations by Gond artist, Subhash Vyam share a story about access to water in villages and cities, and how our lives are interconnected. He cleverly weaves in an old fable reminding all of us to only take what is our due.

Where’s the Sun: One morning, a mother and child go in search of the sun. Will they find it? Beautiful Warli illustrations take us on a journey where lively birds, quick-footed animals and busy humans meet and share the forest, the river and the mountain.

Use code EARTH15 to get a 15% discount on Kitaabworld.com‘sur Earth Day collection  (valid till April 30th 2018) 

Gauri Manglik has more than 12 years of experience as a lawyer, and she has practiced law in both India and the United States. During her legal career, she advised on various aspects of corporate and commercial laws. In 2015, she chose to follow her passion and left her legal career to start Kitaabworld. She is passionate about making South Asian culture fun and accessible for children, as well as sharing her love for diverse children’s books.

The original version of this post appeared on Kitaabworld.com and is republished here with the author’s permission. 

Lucky Gals: WNBA-SF Spring Break

With Shanti Sekaran

Written by Mary Volmer

Shanti Sekaran (left) at SMCOn April 4th a vibrant collection current and potential members of the WNBA-SF met for an evening of conversation and libations at beautiful Saint Mary’s College (CA). Later we joined the bustling crowd gathered in De La Salle Hall to hear Shanthi Sekaran, Saint Mary College’s Distinguished Writer in Residence, discuss her exquisite new novel Lucky Boy.

WNBA-SF mixer group The night was remarkable not only for the company, but also for the insights Sekaran offered about the challenges of writing characters outside of one’s own experience. To summarize, she said that an author must come to terms with, and be honest about, what she does not know.

An author must invest herself in the necessary research, ask questions, and trust the story to “ask its own questions.” She must be vigilant, but also humble and willing to concede that her vision, however well realized, might yet be imperfect. Her wisdom was well received by the poets, fiction and non-fiction writers alike, many of whom stayed behind to talk and digest the literary delights of the night.

WNBA-SF Board Member Mary Volmer is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust (Soho Press, 2010) and Reliance, Illinois (Soho Press, 2016). 

Writing a Nonfiction Book? 5 Ideas…

… For Attracting Agents/Editors and Keeping Readers Engaged

Written by Brooke Warner

Brooke Warner, nonfiction writer, coachThe summer of 2017 has been the summer of nonfiction. I’ve read more nonfiction books than I have in a long while and I’ve had an influx of writers coming to me wanting support for their nonfiction works—about relationships, globalization and business, the internalization of negativity, women and power, and, of course, Trump.

I will never profess to anyone that writing a book is easy, but nonfiction writers do have a leg up over their novelist and memoirist peers in that nonfiction can and should be formulaic. It’s all about your table of contents, and if you bang that out on the front end and feel good about the points you’re hitting, you have a strong template to guide you all the way through to the end. Yes, you still have to execute good writing and keep your reader interested in your topic, but there are a few tricks (ie, skills) that you can implement to attract agents and editors—and eventually readers.

1. Give your reader subheads!
Too often, writers I work with submit long excerpts or sample chapters chock-full of good ideas, theories, and expression, but with no breaks! Readers need breaks, and oftentimes line breaks don’t cut it. Subheadings are critical in nonfiction works. They helps you, the writer, break your own ideas into compartmentalized sections. They also keep you more organized and therefore on point. You might have four or five subheads in a given chapter, and the subhead title itself guides the reader toward the points you want to make in that section. It helps keep you and your reader on track, and it gives readers a natural place to break—whether for the purpose of stopping for a while (bookmark!) or digesting what they’ve just read.

2. Let yourself be a character in the broader story
It’s not a rule that the writer be a character in their own nonfiction work, but if you fail to be the trusted guide, you’re going to have a much less readable book. Even if the book is not about you, you need to establish yourself as an authority. You have to tell the reader why you’re writing the book and what qualifies you to be the author. It’s okay if the only qualification you have is curiosity, but if this is the case, you want to pepper stories about yourself throughout the text. Don’t overdo it, of course. I’m not suggesting that your nonfiction work become a memoir. I am suggesting, however, that your reader will be more likely to stay with you if they have confidence in you, and that confidence comes from sharing, being transparent, and inviting the reader into your world (as it connects to the subject matter of your book).

3. Break up the text with other design elements
Nonfiction writers don’t often know that there’s a wide world of extra elements they can include in their writing and in their books to break up the content and highlight certain thoughts and ideas. As a nonfiction writer, you can embrace images, graphs, and callouts, quotes that get pulled from the text and designed into the body of your book, as you’d see in a magazine. You can have sidebars that highlight interviews or recipes or case studies. I love it when nonfiction writers think outside the box. Lately I’ve been seeing listicles as chapters, experimental chapters in which a nonfiction writer might curate a bunch of relevant Tweets. Pay attention to how people consume content. Don’t feel that just because you’re writing a book, you’re bound to continuous text. You’re not, and readers love books that break up the reading experience with interesting internal elements.

4. Don’t be afraid to write a short book
This is a big one, in keeping with the whole notion that people are consuming content differently. The short book is on trend, and more attractive that it was in years past. When I say short, I mean as short as 35,000-40,000 words, not much shorter than that. I’ve seen more and more nonfiction books that are under 200 pages. The design elements I mentioned in point 3 can also lengthen a book that has fewer words. So can wider margins. Let your content pack a punch. Don’t meander or write too superfluously. You can give your reader a good dose of wow in a pretty small package—and in our content-saturated culture, you’ll probably sell more books as a result.

5. Write in your own voice
I come across so many writers who think that because they’re writing nonfiction, they must don their academic writing hat. Nonfiction needn’t be stuffy or rigid. No one sets out to write a boring book, but writers are often plagued by the voices of their long-gone professors. People get caught up in perfectionism and The Rules. Please, people, write how you talk with just a bit more polish and finesse. Have fun with your writing. Don’t be afraid to write in a colloquial style. People aren’t buying books because they want to read academic tomes. If we wanted that we’d go back to school. Be you—and be wary of working with anyone (agents, editors, writing groups or buddies) who insists that formal/grammatically uptight equals better. Not so. Write well, yes, but also be authentically you.

WNBA-SF member Brooke Warner is a writing coaching and professional publishing consultant. She has worked as an acquiring editor in the publishing industry for the past sixteen years, most recently as the Executive Editor at Seal Press. She left Seal Press in May 2012 to pursue the coaching practice and to co-found She Writes Press with Kamy Wicoff, founder of SheWrites.com. Brooke lives and works in Berkeley, California.

The original version of this post appeared on the Huffington Post and is republished here with the author’s permission. 

Writing Mysteries: Is It A Mystery?

Written by M. Glenda Rosen (aka Marcia G. Rosen)

Marcia Rosen, mystery writerWriting a mystery book or series is akin to putting together a puzzle with a thousand pieces. Where should you begin? Do you start the puzzle with the corner and edge pieces, providing details on the main characters including the heroes and criminals? Or do you start in the middle, revealing upfront the murder and complexity of the story plot?

Whether you start with corners, or center pieces, what matters is sticking with your structure and then pacing the plot. You need to keep it moving forward by creating suspense with clues and mysterious happenings.

In the television mystery series, “Columbo,” the murder always took place at the beginning of the story. The seemingly flustered but persistent detective follows various suspects and clues to eventually catch the murderer. In other television mysteries, you follow the path of an ordinary citizen—writer, baker, doctor, librarian, or florist—who is captivated by certain events and incidentally gets involved in solving crimes. These amateurs just can’t seem to help themselves, even when following the clue leads them to danger.

From these types of mysteries known as cozies, to film noir with gangsters and hard-boiled detectives, to terrifying thrillers, mysteries have long appealed to the reader and viewer. As a writer, you can choose your own style, your own way of creating characters and stories of murders and mayhem, and your own way of presenting clues and suspects leading toward solving the crime. Yet, there are certain elements essential to a good mystery, which can take the reader on a fascinating ride through a criminal’s mind and the minds of those who reach into that mind to catch them.

You want your reader to become involved and interested in your story so they follow the clues you leave, and they attempt to solve the crimes along with you. Don’t make it too easy: There should be a number of possible suspects. Enhance the plot with character conflict and red herrings that might confuse and steer the reader away from the real murderer. The bad guy can also lead the reader astray by placing suspicion and blame on someone else.

A good mystery story includes: an intriguing plot, interesting characters (often with unique characteristics), descriptive places and locations that set a mood, interesting and controversial dialogue, clues (real and false) leading to the bad guys (and gals), and a bit of humor. Be clear about your point of view. Is it from the perspective of the main character as in Sue Grafton novels or a third person as in Raymond Chandler mysteries?

Ultimately, you want to be able to explain your characters’ motivation for their criminal behavior. Common sources are anger, hate, power, money and, of course, revenge. Revealing truths, secrets and lies with stories of betrayal and vengeance with surprise endings leave your reading wanting more—especially in a series!

Although you might think it strange, I suggest you ask yourself what your motivation is for writing or wanting to write mysteries. In my mystery series, The Senior Sleuths, the actions of my senior characters, Dick and Dora, often reflect my truths about life and relationships.

I grew up in an unusual, and sometimes outrageous, environment. It wouldn’t take a genius, a psychiatrist, or a palm reader to figure out the genesis of my fascination with crime and criminals. In my series, The Senior Sleuths, Zero the Bookie is a version of my dad, and several other characters are based on a few of his many associates.

Our history and experiences can define us, inspire our actions, and, as writers, impact our words and stories. Mine most definitely have. My father was a small-time gangster. Really! No doubt, thanks to my father, writing mysteries is in my DNA.

Marcia Rosen has previously published four books in her mystery series, “Dying to Be Beautiful.” Rosen is also author of “The Woman’s Business Therapist” and “My Memoir Workbook.” She was founder, and for many years, owner of a successful Marketing and Public Relations Agency, created several radio and TV talk shows, and received numerous awards for her work with business and professional women. She currently resides in Carmel, California. For more information, visit www.theseniorsleuths.com and www.levelbestbooks.com

 

Writing Dialogue in Memoir

Written By Louise Nayer 

Louise NayerUnless you sprint through life with a tape recorder strapped to your body 24/7, dialogue is created by the author through memory. How do you write believable dialogue? Differentiate your mother’s voice, “I feel ill” from your father’s, “I feel like crap”? Keep it short. It doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, but does need to capture the quirkiness of the speaker. Use action along with dialogue—tearing up a napkin on your lap to show nervousness, staring out the window to show sadness. In my book Burned: A Memoir, I wrote a scene the morning after my parents were burned in an explosion in the cellar of our Cape Cod rental house. I’m four years old, in the basement of our neighbor’s house with my sister and babysitter, Della.

“Will Daddy take us to the beach today?” I asked Della as she lifted her heavy body off the bed, her red wool sweater spilling onto the cool basement floor. “Will Daddy take us to the beach today?”
“They were hurt—in an accident.” Her face was puffed up and red. I turned away clutching my stomach, an acid taste rising in my mouth.

Along with the dialogue, you learn about what Della looks like and also what I’m physically feeling as a child at that moment—an acid taste in my mouth.

In The Glass Castle right at the beginning, author Jeannette Walls has a scene with her homeless mother. A few days before, Walls was in a taxicab and saw her mother picking through trash. She didn’t stop to say hello.

“You want to help me change my life?” Mom asked. “I’m fine. You’re the one who needs help. Your values are all confused.”
“Mom, I saw you picking through trash in the East Village a few days ago.”
“Well, people in this country are too wasteful. It’s my way of recycling.” She took a bite of her Seafood Delight. “Why didn’t you say hello?”
“I was too ashamed, Mom. I hid.”
Mom pointed her chopsticks at me. “You see?” she said. “Right there. That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re way too easily embarrassed. Your father and I are who we are. Accept it.”

This excerpt is mostly dialogue, but there are a few places where the reader is grounded in the scene, and knows it’s a restaurant. “She took a bit of her Seafood Delight” and “Mom pointed her chopsticks at me.” The action of the mother pointing her chopsticks at her daughter allows us to see the mother’s personality and also is laced with humor.

Dialogue makes a scene come alive and reveals something more about a character. Look through old letters of people who have passed away to help “channel” their voices. Listen and take notes for people now in your life. Practice by writing down snippets of conversations while sipping your cappuccino. Dialogue moves the story along, revealing what each character wants. But often, as in life, you have to read between the lines.

Louise Nayer has been an author an educator for many years. Burned: A Memoir was an Oprah Great Read and won the Wisconsin Library Association Award. Her most recent book, Poised for Retirement: Moving From Anxiety to Zen is about “emotional planning” for retirement and was written up in Next Avenue and Forbes Magazine. She did 27 radio spots based on the book. She is a member of the SF Writer’s Grotto and has been an educator for over forty years. 

Tweet Success – II

Written By Cathy Turney 
with significant input from Cynthia Rubin, BestEditorEver

Cathy Turney, Tweet success[This is the second part of Cathy’s post. Read the first part here.]

Tip #3: Choose a Memorable Handle
By memorable, I mean easy to remember and identify (vs. too clever). On Twitter you have two names. First is your real name—the one your parents gave you (or you changed to your own liking). Twitter asks for that when you set up your account. But! They limit you to 20 characters. (I’m sure future parents will keep that in mind when they give birth.) So if your real name is longer than 20 characters you’ll need to shorten it without disguising it so much that people can’t find you.

Your other name is your “handle” which begins with an @ and is also known as your username. Your handle can be up to 15 characters, not including the @ sign. Here’s where you can be creative, but I caution you to still try to make yourself easy to identify. You are searchable by either of these two names, but the @ name is yours and yours alone so that, for instance, there’s no confusion if someone searches for Mary Jones, of whom there are dozens.

If you want to change your handle or account name later, you can do it at any time and still keep all your followers.

Tip #4: Incentivize Yourself!
Twitter is a quick way to stay up-to-the-minute on world events. Something exciting at the United Nations? Just search #United Nations, and you’ll hear about it firsthand. Want to know what’s going on at WNBA-SF? Just search “#WNBASF.” And do click “follow” once you get there because WNBA-SF is so follow-worthy!

Tip #5: Stumped About What to Say?
To be deemed follow-worthy by large numbers, you also need to tweet regularly—to inspire, support, and engage. Yikes! Who has time to do that, plus write the great American novel or go-to nonfiction book? I use a program called Social Jukebox, which only costs a few dollars a month. It automatically posts quotes and images that are so wonderful they even inspire me! I’ve actually had babies following me, it’s so great!

Cathy Turney is a member of WNBA-SF. Her book Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success won the American Business Association Stevie Award for Best Business Book of the Year 2015. For more tips and lots of screenshots, read Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically, published in 2017. A contributor to Huffington Post, Turner tweets at @CathyTurneyLafs and blogs at www.CathyTurneyWrites.com

Tweet Success – I

Written By Cathy Turney 
with significant input from Cynthia Rubin, BestEditorEver

Cathy Turney, Tweet successIf you think Twitter is basically for the birds, I was once like you. Actually, as a child I had a succession of blue parakeets I faithfully nurtured that then mysteriously dropped dead—a portent of things to come? Recently, though, after spending countless dollars to promote my real estate tell-all humor book (with so-so results), my social media guru said: “You need 10,000 Twitter followers.”

Speaking as a right-brain creative technophobe, I was…speechless. I had collected 200 followers, and that had been a struggle. But if I couldn’t do better on Twitter, the alternative was to sign every paycheck from my day job over to marketing companies. Well, I sweated bullets and found workarounds—strategies that made me able to navigate Twitter and draw a big flock. Easy strategies that other right-brain Luddites, as well as the technologically gifted, can also use to make their writing soar into the Twittersphere.

And I think you might want to hear about those methods, if Brenda Knight, WNBA-SF’s MostExaltedPresident, is any barometer, which she is! At an WNBA meet-and-greet event at the Hotsy Totsy Club (“best happy hour in the East Bay!”), as I started to float another new book idea, she said, “Tell us about how you got 10,000 Twitter followers—that’s what we really want to hear about!” And just like that, my next book took flight.

Here are a few tips to show how you too can capitalize on Twitter. You don’t even have to buy my Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically! But if you do, of course, you’ll have my undying love and free technical support (right-brain version) forever.

Tip #1: Banner Content
Twitter success begins with amassing a large flock. People infer your “relevance” by the size of your following. To get followers, we need to engage and follow, follow, follow others. But how do you do that? The first step is to create an appealing banner, aka header, for your Twitter page with images that make it look like it would be interesting and uplifting to follow you.

Unruffle those feathers! You do not need to create the banner yourself. There are several services (I used Fiverr.com) that will do it for you for about $25, and the result will fit Twitter’s size parameters. If you’ve authored a book, include a picture of it. Don’t worry if you don’t have a book—it won’t be conspicuous by its absence; just tell the designer you want some graphics indicating that you write.

In my instructions to Fiverr I said I needed a colorful, upbeat Twitter banner that would attract book lovers, business people, and those wanting positive, inspiring quotes. The more avocations or interests you display in your banner, the more diverse a follower base you’ll attract. If you need ideas, look up other authors’ Twitter pages and see what they did.

Tip #2: Easily Target Those Who Want to Hear What You Have to Say
Many people will follow you back simply because they like your banner. But the key to exponentially bettering those odds is to target people who share your interests. If I want to promote my real estate book, I simply do a hashtag search for “real estate,” and Twitter shows me recent tweets from thousands of people about real estate. I follow the first several hundred people, and in a matter of minutes I’ve essentially invited them to follow me back. On a typical day, this step yields 30 to 100 follow-backs.

[Come back next week for the second part of Cathy’s post]

Cathy Turney is a member of WNBA-SF. Her book Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success won the American Business Association Stevie Award for Best Business Book of the Year 2015. Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically was published in 2017. She is a contributor to Huffington Post, tweets at @CathyTurneyLafs and blogs at www.CathyTurneyWrites.com

Happy Holidays from WNBA-SF!

Spirited Women, #SonomaStrong and Strong Spirits

WNBA-SF members gathered Sunday evening, December 10th, for a holiday gathering at the South of Market woman-owned bar, Wine Down SF. Glasses clinked and members clicked as they found like-minded interests among authors, agents, journalists, publishers, memoirists, novelists and more. All felt the excitement of being in a room with women with whom they shared so much in common.

Party goers enjoyed a holiday book exchange of favorite books; some of the titles we saw in the giveaway were: Pearl S Buck’s The Promise, Chakra Tonics by Elise Collins, Berkeley author Shanthi Sekaran’s Lucky Boy, and Still I Rise by Marlene Wagman Geller, The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, Song of the Plains by Linda Joy Myers, and Spells and Oregano by Patricia V. Davis.

The end of the evening featured a toast to the chapter’s accomplishments by current WNBA-SF president, Brenda Knight and Past President Kate Farrell with a round robin of the members sharing the past year’s accomplishments, as well as writing goals and intentions for 2018. Stay tuned for our Spring mixer, especially if you missed this one. We would love to see you there and hear all YOUR latest news.

Members in attendance: Megan Clancy, Elise Marie Collins, Kate Farrell, Joan Gelfand, President Brenda Knight, Jing Li, Ann Steiner, Sue Wilhite, Kathleen Woods, Humaira Ghilzai, Martha Conway. And welcome to nonmember mixers, Natazha Bernie and Michelle Zaffino. Mary Jo McConahay signed up for a renewed membership on the spot with roving membership maven Elise Marie Collins who is always at the ready.

Much merry was made and it was wonderful to hear members share their news of book deals, recent and upcoming publication dates. Mary Jo McConahay noted that her book deal with a major New York publishing house came from attending Pitch-O-Rama and connecting with ace agent, Andy Ross. A great reminder of the spirit of both the holidays and the Women’s National Book Association which is about sharing for the good of all.

Speaking of sharing, Bags of books were collected to be donated to #SonomaStrong for those affected by the North Bay Fires. WNBA-SF Chapter has now gathered over a dozen boxes filled to the brim with children’s books, memoirs, biography, personal growth, spirituality and fabulous fiction of every stripe for the Sonoma County Free Bookmobile.

A few more cases of books are arriving and, despite having no sleigh or reindeer, we’ll get the books up to the North Bay in time for Christmas. Ho ho ho!!

 

The Art of the Writing Contest

What Works and What Doesn’t

B. Lynn Goodwin, advice on writing contestsWritten by B. Lynn Goodwin

How do you grab and hold your audience? The first step is to tell the story that only you can tell. 
Pat Schneider, author of Writing Alone And With Others says, “If you do not record your own story, your tiny bit of the history of the human race is lost. Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s vision. Dickinson wrote Dickinson’s. Who will write yours, if you do not?” Nobody sees the world as you do. No one can tell your stories from your unique point of view. Your truths will resonate if you dig deeply and present them well. Be true to your voice. It’s your strongest tool.

So what will make your story work for contest judges? 
I asked four former winners from a Flash Prose Contest to comment on what worked and what didn’t. Here’s a sampling of praise from authors Lyn Halper, Jennifer Hurley, Kirsten Beachy, and Mary Vallo.
Their comments are listed in random order:

  • Clever and engaging
  • The prose is simple, powerful, and avoids sentimentality
  • Interesting plot, good characterization and irony
  • Descriptive language
  • Very moving
  • The strength of this story is in the writing — it’s smooth and succinct
  • Original and diverting
  • Catchy ending
  • Good visuals
  • The narrator’s sense of alienation is palpable
  • Some interesting twists and turns
  • Delivers a “punch” with subtlety and nuance
  • We perceive what’s happening through the sounds
  • Well-crafted sentences
  • Draws reader into internal thoughts and fascinating perverse logic

Try checking your work against that list. Is it clever and engaging? Interesting? Moving? Delivering a “punch?” 

Also, have you spell checked it and formatted it the way the editor or contest administrator requested? Do you have a reason you are submitting to this particular contest? Knowing that will help you write a cover letter that shows your professionalism. 

What trips judges up? 
These concerns came from the same four judges:

  • It tries so hard we’re aware of the effort
  • Becomes disappointingly sentimental
  • Lack of “punch”
  • There isn’t much tension, and the writing feels strained at times
  • At the end, I want more
  • The story is too predictable
  • The subject is clichéd
  • Character’s motivations not entirely clear
  • The story goes a little over the top
  • What if the story stopped earlier?

Do you try too hard? Is your subject clichéd? Do your characters want something and do they fight for it in an unpredictable way?

In case you were looking for a formula for success, please be aware that no one contest fits every writer. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style. Instead, hone your own work until it sparkles and look for matches when you search for contests. 

Your authentic voice is a unique gift. Does yours:

  • Become powerful when it is shared with readers?
  • Make a story clever and engaging?
  • Turn simple prose into powerful prose?
  • Is it original with twists and turns that surprise the reader?
  • Does it draw readers into the internal thoughts and unique logic of the characters? 

If you’re not sure, take a class, find a trusted writing partner, or work with a writing coach. As noted author Barbara Ueland says, “Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say.” 

Contest organizers want to read your work. Please give them the opportunity. 

WNBA 2018 Annual Writing Contest is now open!
Take the opportunity and enter: 
CLICK HERE.

WNBA-SF member B. Lynn Goodwin owns Writer Advice. She’s written You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers (Tate Publishing) and Talent (Eternal Press), which was short-listed for a Literary Lightbox Award, won a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist for a Sarton Women’s Book Award. Her manuscript Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 was recently picked up by Koehler Press. Goodwin’s work has appeared in Voices of Caregivers, Hip Mama, Dramatics Magazine, Inspire Me Today, The Sun, Good Housekeeping.com, Purple Clover.com and elsewhere. She is a reviewer and teacher at Story Circle Network, and she is a manuscript coach at Writer Advice. 
 

Words as Animals

Lily Iona MacKenzie on words as animalsWritten by Lily Iona MacKenzie

I recently read the book Words as Eggs by Jungian analyst Russell Lockhart. The idea for the work, and the chapter from which the title comes, originated in one of Lockhart’s dreams. A voice in his dream said “Do you not know that words are eggs, that words carry life, that words give birth?” Lockhart later points out that this dream revelation isn’t exactly new in the larger scheme of things. In the beginning, it’s rumored that God spoke the world into existence: “the word is seed and gives birth to life and living things.” As eggs, words are constantly delivering new ideas and thoughts, filling our minds with possibilities and worlds we otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

As a writer, I’m fascinated with anything to do with words and how they inform, form, and reform our surroundings—and us. They are magical and ordinary simultaneously, both grounding us in their multiple meanings as well as suggesting possibilities that seem limitless. That’s one reason why poetry and fiction in particular have such a profound grip on our imaginations and on us. In his exploration of his dream announcement, Lockhart does a compelling job of taking the reader into the soul and roots of language, demonstrating how mysterious and complex these 26 letters of the alphabet are that have an endless capacity to change shape.

So when I recently had an auditory dream that said “words are animals,” my antennae went up and the animal in me growled. What was the dream trying to convey by making this analogy?

Unlike humans, animals aren’t governed by consciousness. They simply exist, functioning instinctively, motivated by immediate needs: hunger, shelter, survival. Also unlike most humans, animals follow their impulses. Their innate drives are their engines. They just do whatever they need to do as they live each day.

"cat" word How then are words similar to what I’ve just described? If animals, at least domesticated ones, allow us to corral them, to absorb some of their otherness, their wildness, then words must give in to our domination in similar ways. The very idea that we are abstracting something vital from the language we use in our attempt to create order out of the chaotic mess that unruly letters can make saddens me. We’re draining something intuitive and spontaneous from the method we use to communicate with others and with ourselves.

Is the dream suggesting that as we domesticate words, as we drain their animal characteristics from them, we are civilizing ourselves too much, becoming more alienated from our animal origins and perhaps coming to resemble more the robotic gadgets we’re surrounded by? I don’t have any final answers, but I’m curious if others have thoughts about this subject.

WNBA-SF member Lily Iona MacKenzie has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 150 American and Canadian venues. Her first novel Fling! was published by Pen-L Publishing in 2015, while her second, Curva Peligrosa, another novel, was published in 2017 by Regal House Publishing. Freefall: A Divine Comedy will be released in 2018. Her poetry collection All This was published in 2011. She has taught writing at the University of San Francisco for over 30 years. She blogs at lilyionamackenzie.wordpress.com

This post originally appeared on Lily Iona MacKenzie’s blog and is republished here with the author’s permission.