Guest Post: Every Day Creativity

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

When it comes to writing, inspiration can be controversial. Some people staunchly believe we shouldn’t need inspiration to write. We must sit down at our desks and get to work—whether the muse is available or not.

Others believe we need to coax, entice and nurture the muse—and if she’s away, it’s best to leave writing to another day. And still others would roll their eyes at me for using the word “muse” in the first place.

The great thing is that everyone has a different take on inspiration—opinions that can be quite inspiring. Which is why I asked various authors to share their thoughts. Below you’ll find a variety of invaluable ideas and insights.

When the muse sleeps, do something else. 

“When my muse is unresponsive, there ain’t much I can do to wake her up,” said BJ Gallagher, author of over 30 books, including the forthcoming title Your Life Is Your Prayer (out in spring 2019). So she waits, and does other things in the meantime: She mows the lawn, washes the car, walks the dog, does laundry, has coffee with a friend, takes a shower, vacuums or takes a nap.

And these are the very activities—especially the physical ones—that help her muse to return.

“When my body is on auto-pilot doing routine physical things, my mind is free to drift and wander and explore. That is usually when my muse awakens and calls to me, ‘Grab a yellow legal pad, quick!’ And I write.”

Be consistent. 

KJ Dell’Antonia, author of the book How to Be a Happier Parent and co-host of the #AmWriting podcast, writes daily—whether she feels like writing or not. Even when it’s not going so well, she still keeps writing.

“I’ll boil it down to how many paragraphs does this need? How many sentences? How many words? And then I will put those things down, no matter how sorry and sad they seem, and most of the time, they’ll spark something. I’ll write something I like. It will start to flow. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK. I’ll be here tomorrow, folks. I’ll be here all week.”

Jane Binns, an artist and author of the forthcoming memoir Broken Wholehas found the same to be true. “Writing steadily is inspiring all on its own. The ideas keep building and refining themselves and returning to this again and again is validating and self-fulfilling.”

Seek out alone time. 

Joan Gelfand, author of several poetry collections, the upcoming novel Fear to Shred and You Can Be a Winning Writer, stays inspired by ensuring she has time alone to think. “It is when I give myself unstructured time that the muse comes to visit.”

She suggested making time every week for a date with yourself. For instance, that’s when you might take a walk, sit by the lake or visit a local place you’ve never been before.

Read different kinds of books. 

Alexandra Brown, co-author of A Year Off: A Story About Traveling the World—and How to Make It Happen For You, draws inspiration from fiction. “With my writing planet generally orbiting the non-fiction sun, I am always in awe of someone’s ability to weave a truly remarkable story.”

Brown is currently re-reading—and being inspired by—The Elegance of the Hedgehog. “It reframes the way a person thinks of language. It’s so imaginative, philosophical and poetic. It also reminds you to never assume things about people because we’re all more complex than we seem.”

Binns reads novels from genres she normally wouldn’t pick up. “I like to read authors that challenge the convention of storytelling and observe how they get from point A to point Z. What devices do they use? Why do they suspend this or that detail until later? How do they keep the tension suspenseful?”

One of Binns’s favorites is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, “because I never knew who was speaking or where or when things were happening exactly. It’s almost entirely dialogue. I would think I had it figured out but then it shifted…Heart of Darkness reminded me of Ulysses which I read years ago. Both of these are written in ways I would never allow myself to do right now. I see them as examples of how to stretch into untraveled territory.”

Travel. 

This is another way Brown fills her inspiration cup. “Stepping into another culture, even if only for a day, can put you into an entirely new, often unknown, context, and there is nothing more inspiring than being witness to all the ways this world is unique, interesting and dynamic.”

You don’t have to travel to far-off places to be inspired. “Even if it’s just an hour’s drive away, there is so much to see when you get outside of your routine,” Brown said.

Paint. 

Binns also stays inspired by painting with watercolors. “It gives my mind a break from thoughts and words, and I can totally relax and muse about color, light, and shadow. I love how the proportion of water and paint mix for a certain effect. The water is messy and has a science all of its own. I love watching it drool into the nodules of cold press paper. There is only a certain amount of time that watercolor can be played with before it sets. That burden of making decisions quickly is a sharp contrast to writing where things can be revised endlessly.”

Get in the right state. 

“Inspiration comes when you stop thinking, writing and creating from a place of stress,” said Greta Solomon, a writing coach, and the author of the forthcoming book Heart, Soul & Sass: Write Your Way to a Fully-Expressed Life. She noted that the optimum state for writing is to be alert and completely relaxed, which is when our brainwaves are operating from an alpha state.

One way we can boost this alpha energy is to listen to music at 60 beats per minute (BPM), she said. “Research has shown that Baroque music can help learning, thinking and creativity because it pulses at this magic number.”

Solomon suggested doing a quick Google search or downloading a Spotify 60-BPM playlist.

In addition to listening to music, we can make our own. For instance, Binns plays the piano. “The mathematics and poetry of music opens doors in my brain that nurture sanity, allowing the world around me to make sense.”

As always, whether it has to do with writing or anything in life, the key is to find what really resonates with you—and to keep checking in with yourself to see if that idea is still relevant.

What insights on inspiration specifically speak to you?

Copyright (C) 2018 Psych Central. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from here.

Get Ready for 2019 SF Writers Conference February 14 – 19

February 14 – 19
 Intercontinental Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco

Join us and help us promote WNBA-SF at the San Francisco Writers Conference.

This will be the 16th Celebration of Craft, Commerce, and Community for all writers. Attendees will join with 100+ presenters and fellow writers from across the country and around the world at this year’s event. The SFWC events are consistently rated among the top writer’s conferences anywhere.

Presenters this year will include bestselling authors, literary agents, editors, and publishers from major publishing houses. There will be experts on self-publishing, book promotion, platform building, social media, and author websites. SFWC has one of the largest faculties of any writer’s conference.

The four day event is packed with 100+ sessions for writers–from the craft of writing to the business of publishing. There is copious networking with the very people who can advance your writing career; an opening gala; two keynote luncheons and breakfasts; lots of social interaction with other writers; and evening Open Mic readings and pitch sessions. There will be exhibitors with services and tools for writers, too.

If you are working on your book, getting ready to publish it, or looking for ways to promote an already published book, this is the event you need to attend. TO REGISTER for the 2019 San Francisco Writers Conference, CLICK HERE!

The San Francisco Writers Conference starts on Thursday with orientation classes in the afternoon and several optional Open Enrollment Classes in the evening. Then the conference runs–pretty much non-stop–through late afternoon on Sunday. If you can stay longer, there is a no-host dinner where you can keep the networking going with SFWC presenters, staff, and volunteers. On Monday there will be several post-event Open Enrollment classes, too. That’s the entire Presidents’ Day weekend..and then some!

In fact, we are proud that so many of our WNBA members will be presenters at this conference including: Brenda Knight. Joan Gelfand, Nina Amir, Linda Lee, Mary E. Knippel, Martha Conway, Kate Farrell, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, Mary Mackey, Barbara Santos, Helen Sedwick and more!

 

Happy New Year 2019! Member News from the WNBA-SF Chapter Members

 

As we celebrate the New Year, it is a perfect time to reflect on all the books, events, articles, awards, and celebrations across our community. Sharing successes helps support the WNBA’s mission of empowering women in writing.

We closed out 2018 with the Holiday Showcase at the Book Passage, a celebration of the immense talent of WNBA-SF Chapter with readings from our published member authors. Megan Clancy kicked off the event by reading her book (The Burden of a Daughter; A Novel – https://amzn.to/2CKe1fI), while holding her well-behaved baby. Lynn Dow read from, Nightingale Tales: Stories from My Life as a Nurse (https://amzn.to/2F3DYIL), and entertained us with her story of Jimmy Hoffa coming to the hospital, a memorable event from a 50-plus year nursing career. The fun continued with poems and stories read about veterinarianhouse calls for a pig; the excitement of Paris after dark; mittens on the run; and so much more. The other readings included topics ranging from super agers, feminism, healing through yoga and diet, writing career advice, and getting married for the first time at sixty-two.


In 2018 several members were recognized for their work:

 Judy Bebelaar (And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown – https://amzn.to/2Vqcy5K) is a 2019 San Francisco Library Laureate. Judy also won a first prize, two third place prizes, and the Grand Prize in the Ina Coolbrith Poetry Contest.

Long-time member, Renate Stendhal’s, Kiss Me Again, Paris: A Memoir (https://amzn.to/2H0hQSu) was a finalist at both Lambda Literary Awards and Best Book Awards, and a winner at International Book Awards, in the LGBTQ Non-Fiction/Memoir category.

Barbara Ridley made her debut as an author with the book, When It’s Over (https://amzn.to/2TlYyYP ). She was honored as a finalist for six different awards this year, including Silver Medal in the IBPA Ben Franklin Award, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and the American Fiction Awards.

Mary Mackey’s ­­new collection of poetry The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams was published by Marsh Hawk Press. Jaguars won the California Institute of Integral Studies Women’s Spirituality Book Award and made the Small Press Distribution Bestseller List. Voetica.com recorded 26 of the poems.


This year we added many new members, including Vivien Zielen who recently published Eyeballing Big Croc: Chasing Dreams Around the World. Her book was recently reviewed by JWeekly in October (https://www.jweekly.com/2018/10/17/new-memoir-nepalese-royalty-the-six-day-way-and-passover-in-japan/).

Another new member, Saeeda Hafiz, whose book, The Healing: One Woman’s Journey from Poverty to Inner Riches, has been reviewed multiple times (http://www.saeedahafiz.com/new-page/).


Whether it’s being published for the first time or seeking an award for a published work, the new year brings a new set of goals for many of our members.

Whether you are a new or long-standing member, it is important to remember that community is critical to achieving your goals. “Community is the sacred ground of the twenty-first century,” former President Joan Gelfand writes in her book, You Can Be a Winning Writer (https://amzn.to/2BVR4Vk.)

For all members, but especially new members, we encourage you to join Joan at her upcoming workshops. The events are based on her new book and will cover the 4 C’s of successful authors: Craft, Commitment, Community and Confidence, in Oaxaca, Mexico (January 14th), at the San Francisco Writers Conference Poetry Summitt (February 16th) and will be featured on a teleseminar hosted by Non-Fiction Writers Association (February 6th).

As Bookwoman Correspondent, it is my mission to share your literary triumphs, small and large, with our local and national communities. As an emerging writer myself, I understand that writing is a career built word by word or bird by bird, as Anne Lammot writes.

For your Bookwoman mentions, please mark your calendars to send me your monthly news for Bookwoman National by the 15th of every month. Also, if you are looking to get articles published, Editor Nicole Ayers encourages all members to send in blog post ideas to newsletter@wnba-books.org. I will continue to publish local WNBA-SF news each quarter on our site, as well.

Looking forward to seeing you for our upcoming events the Holiday Mixer on January 13, 2019 (http://wnba-sfchapter.org/celebrate-the-new-year-at-the-wnba-sf-holiday-mixer-2/) and Pitch-O-Rama on March 23, 2019 (http://wnba-sfchapter.org/pitch-o-rama-2019/).

Happy New Year!

About the Author:

WNBA-SF BookWoman Correspondent Jennifer Griffith is an emerging writer in the process of finishing her first book, Both Sides of Then. She is a blogger, memoirist, and has a new podcast launching in 2019 focused on the topics she often writes about – motherhood, careers, connections, and the meaning of family. 

 

www.jgriffithwriter.com

Twitter: https://bit.ly/2AJvhkv

IG: https://bit.ly/2AKccP7

What Are You Afraid Of? How a Writing Retreat Saved Me

By Joan Gelfand

At one point in my career, I was convinced that my writing life was over. If it hadn’t been for a writing retreat, I would not have finished my next two books.

When I quit my corporate job to write full-time, I worked at home. I showed up at my desk at 9 AM just as I had for my job. I wrote my second novel, three poetry collections and a book of short stories.

And then, one autumn, the wind went out of my well-honed, self-disciplined, super productive sails. I lost my mojo. I felt isolated and uninspired. I found myself lolling, writing emails until well after 10 AM. I was easily distracted. Was it time to investigate another career?

While I was struggling with this question, I signed up for a 10-day writer’s retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico. I had never participated in an organized retreat, but I knew I had at least a few projects that were floundering.

Every day after breakfast we eight writers retired to our private rooms to write. And write I did. I wrote new poems and started a new book. The floodgates opened. In the afternoon we met to discuss our work, listen to a teaching by our instructor and share work.

What had changed? It wasn’t until the end of the retreat that I figured out that being around other writers invigorated me. I was motivated again. Many writers have historically needed the company of others to stay productive. Virginia Woolf lived in a house with other artists and writers, and today, the Grotto, a San Francisco institution, houses writers in all genres.

When I returned home to San Francisco, I realized that I too needed to start working around other people. I joined EcoSystms, a co-working space downtown. Although the folks there are not all writers, simply being around other people in a professional environment made all the difference.


About Joan Gelfand:

The author of You Can Be a Winning Writer: The 4 C’s of Successful Authors (Mango Press, 2018) and three volumes of poetry, Joan has also written an award-winning chapbook of short fiction and a novel set in a Silicon Valley startup.
The recipient of numerous awards, nominations and honors, Joan’s work appears in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Kalliope, The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, the Toronto Review, Marsh Hawk Review, Levure Litteraire,  Chicken Soup for the Soul and over 100 anthologies, lit mags and journals.

Joan coaches writers on their publication journey by Skype and Zoom.  http://joangelfand.com

Poetry, Cliff-hangers, and the Surprising Pig

The 2018 Holiday Showcase at Book Passage in Corte Madera gave great women writers (and one brave man!) the opportunity to show off their variety of literary styles and stories. Our Chapter President, Brenda Knight, MC’d the event and kept the flow going. Books were flying off the shelves afterwards, and a couple of authors sold out!

  • The poetry that sang of Bach, and made us sway to tall trees in the the Amazon.
  • And the stirring cliffhangers: did Daniel escape from the deadly river sand bog? Does Lena get her visitor visa and escape the looming Nazi invasion of Paris?
  • The stories of courage and triumph and heartache, transcending suffering.
  • The story of the pig who falls asleep – passes out, in fact – to the sound of Bach.
  • The books, which would be shelved in the Children’s department, but were for all ages to feel uplifted, entertained, validated, and recognized.

The authors and their books were:

Megan Clancy, The Burden of a Daughter; A Novel

Kim Collins, F is For Feminist

Elise Marie Collins, Super Ager

Lynn Dow, Nightingale Tales: Stories from My Life as a Nurse

Diane Frank, Letters from a Sacred Mountain Place

Lynn Goodwin, Never Too Late, From Wannabe to Wife at 62

Joan Gelfand, You Can Be A Winning Writer

Saeeda Hafiz, The Healing: One Woman’s Journey from Poverty to Inner Riches

Mary E Knippel, The Secret Artist

Marylee MacDonald, Bonds of Love & Blood

Mary Mackey, The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018

Duncan MacVean, My Patients Like Treats: Tales from a House Call Veterinarian

Sharon McElhone, Basta: Anthology Dedicated to Helping Immigrant Women

Fran Quittel, The Central Park Lost Mitten Party

Barbara Ridley, When It’s Over

Bev Scott, Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness

Renate Stendhal, Kiss Me Again, Paris

Michelle Travis, My Mom Has Two Jobs

Sue Wilhite, 21 Templates that Run Your World

Many thanks and congratulations to all the authors, and to Book Passage of Corte Madera for such a great event!

 

From Brenda Knight, WNBA-SF President

Dear WNBA-SF Members,

The holidays are almost here and we hope to see you at least twice during the season. We have lots of ways for you to connect with other SF Bay Area women in the world of words!


We had a marvelous National Reading Group Month event at Book Passage By the Bay; it was truly a day to remember and Cheryl, the manager of that store loved working with our chapter and we are talking about future member showcases for Women’s History Month featuring you!

Speaking of showcases, we are very excited about the December 16th Showcase at Book Passage Corte Madera, featuring so many members.  We’ll have sparkling cider, champagne and holidays treats. Please join us in toasting the holidays and the enormous talent of our member authors!


Our Chapter Vice President, Elise Marie Collins  is hosting our WNBA-SF New Year’s Inspiration Celebration to kickoff the New Year in style on  January 13th.  We encourage you to join the fun and bring a friend!

 

 


Pitch-O-RamaWe are also set for Pitch-O-Rama 2019 where we will have more agents, editors and publishers than ever before. We will also have our first-ever WNBA-SF Member Author Bookstore and every paid attendee can have their books sold there with opportunities for signings during breaks.


This latter part of the year has been hard and heartbreaking with the fires and the unhealthy air, but we look forward to brighter days.  This is also a reminder to us all of the importance of being in community. We are very grateful to have your as part of ours.

Happiest of holidays to you and yours!

Brenda Knight, President
president@wnba-sfchapter.org

Member News from the WNBA-SF Chapter Members

 

Cathy Fiorello’s memoir, Standing at the Edge of the Pool: Life, Love, Loss and Never Learning to Swim, is told against a framework of historic events. A coming-of-age story for all ages, it tells how Cathy is “staying relevant at the far end of life, defying the constraints of ageism.”

Cathy writes: “I relocated from New York to San Francisco 12 years ago, at the age of 75. Living in this vibrant city has given me a future when I thought my life was all about the past.”


My Patients Like Treats:  Tales from a House-Call Veterinarian, by Duncan MacVean, was recently published by Skyhorse Publishing.

 

 


Humaira Ghilzai has acted as the Afghan Cultural Consultant on the theatre production of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS (based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini). Her article “Collateral Damage, Women and Girls of Afghanistan” was published in the Seattle Repertory Encore Magazine. Humaira has also been commissioned to create content for the Seattle Repertory Lobby-Turgey, outlining the 100-year history of Afghanistan with an emphasis on Afghan women.


Joan Gelfand’s new book, You Can Be a Winning Writer: The 4 C’s of Successful Authors/ Craft, Commitment, Community and Confidence,  (Mango Press) has been on the Amazon #1 Hot New Releases this summer and was launched this Fall.

 


Kate Farrell just published a YA novella, Strange Beauty, with Smashwords in its Premium Catalog, for pre-release December 3, 2018. Kate’s long-term project is to publish short stories and novellas in the magical realism genre, subcategory of fabulism, as eBooks, podcasts, and audiobooks for young women.

 


Lisa Braver Moss’s Young Adult novel, Shrug, will be published by SheWrites Press in Fall, 2019.


Margie Yee Webb, Cat Mulan’s Mindful Musings, was among those featured at “Celebrate Local Authors!” this Fall in Face In A Book bookstore in El Dorado Hills, California.


Martha Conway’s novel The Underground River (Touchstone Books) has now been released in paperback; the English paperback edition was published this Fall under the title The Floating Theatre. The Underground River was a New York Times Notable book, and has been published in seven languages.

 


Mary Mackey’s new collection of poetry has just been published by Marsh Hawk Press. Entitled The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018, the collection has already into a second edition because the first edition sold out on the first day the book was released! In addition, it has also been nominated for several prizes … to be announced soon. 


Mary Jo McConahay’s new book, The Tango War, The Struggle for the Minds, Hearts and Riches of Latin America during World War II (St. Martin’s Press) debuts this Fall with several Bay Area events, where she would love to see WNBA members. The Tango War has received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.

 


Megan Clancy’s debut novel, The Burden of a Daughter, was released November 1, 2018, by Sand Hill Review Press.

 

 


Nisha Zenoff’s book, The Unspeakable Loss: How Do You Live After a Child Dies, recently won the gold medal from Independent Publisher’s Living Now Book Awards in the grief category.

The Living Now Book Awards are designed to bring increased recognition to the year’s very best lifestyle books and their creators. For information on The Living Now Book Awards visit www.livingnowbookawards.com

 


Vicki DeArmon has taken on a new position as the Director of Programming for the Bay Area Book Festival. She is still running her events and marketing company All Things Book as well.


 

Writing is Lonely. Join a Group…

By Marlena Fiol

Jennifer Harris recently reminded us in Warrior Writers that “Writers Need Community.” Writing is a lonely act and being part of a community reminds us that we’re not alone, she said. Beyond that, she reminded us that writing communities provide opportunities to learn and grow, work together and find new readers. No one can argue with that.

She concludes with “There are many writing communities out there, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one.” Indeed, they are not hard to find. I’m fortunate to be a member of numerous online writing groups on Facebook and Medium. I have also been part of smaller writing groups that I was responsible for establishing and maintaining. I’ll refer to the former as a network and the latter as a community. Both provide opportunities to “learn and grow, work together and find new readers.” But they differ in ways that matter.

Community-Building versus Networking

Definition of Network:

  1. An arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines.
  2. A group or system of interconnected people or things.

Definition of Community:

  1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
  2. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

To put it succinctly, one promotes an arrangement for intersecting. The other promotes a feeling of fellowship. Both have their place, but confusing them is likely to lead to frustration and disappointment.

We writers are not inherently community-oriented.

I recently read that many people perceive us writers as selfish, ego-driven navel-gazers. And how often have you heard writers complain that other writers are trying to do the same thing they are, and getting a lot more ‘Claps’ for it? In the September 9, 2018 Book Review section of the NYT, Kate Atkinson, author of the forthcoming novel Transcription, was said to recoil at the idea of a literary dinner party: “Oh, lord, I would never invite writers,” she is quoted as saying. ”They’re so competitive.” If we are as competitive as she claims, we’ll naturally be drawn to largely anonymous arrangements of intersecting networks that can help us get ahead, yet reveal only those parts of us that we’re willing to share with our fellow writers and no more. But will that really get us what we want and need?

Three Characteristics of Networks

  1. Exposure: Most of the online writing networks available to us today are vast and highly populated. This means we can gain nearly instant exposure of our little writing gems, something unheard of even a decade ago.
  2. Ease: All we have to do to join an online network is submit a request to an unknown person and wait a few days for the invitation (which might be an automated computerized response). Done.
  3. Safety: Ah, here’s a big one. We risk putting out there only what feels safe to us, and no one will ask for more. We don’t have to really trust any of our fellow writers on the network.

I’m not surprised that writing networks have become as popular as they are today. I love ‘Claps’ just as much as you do. They are an easy and safe way for us to gauge the extent to which we’re reaching our readers across a vast population. But let’s not confuse these intersections with what I’m calling community. Nicole Bianchi began her call for writers to create writing groups with “Writing can be a lonely activity.”

She argues that Mastermind groups give writers a sense of community and a sense of belonging. Nicole suggests that they should only include members who are serious about challenging and learning from each other. And people must trust each other since they’ll be sharing deep stuff. Does this kind of community sound just a bit scary?

Three characteristics of communities

  1. Limited Size: A community is usually limited in size because members need the time to devote to giving individualized feedback to each other. So they are prepared to work hard to keep their community alive. Unlike a network, if a community doesn’t stop growing, its members disengage, no longer feeling like they belong, and eventually it dies.
  2. Common Purpose: It’s usually best if members of a writing community all have a similar purpose in mind. Otherwise, people will be seriously committed to move in disparate directions, which will tear the group apart.
  3. Vulnerability: This is one of my soapboxes and I’ve written about it elsewhere, so I won’t belabor it too much here. We offer only the smallest of glimpses into our real selves on our various mammoth networks. And sometimes it can get to feel a bit artificial: You ‘Clap’ for me and I’ll ‘Clap’ for you. There’s not a thing wrong with this, as long as we don’t imagine that it’s something more personal and meaningful than it actually is.

People on my LinkedIn network see only one tiny slice of my life, while my Facebook friends see quite another. Neither one is really me with all of my good, my bad and my ugly. Only people in my more intimate communities get a closer look at who I really am and what my struggles are.

Communities and networks aren’t mutually exclusive. Rather, they lie on a continuum. Some of the groups I belong to are more like networks; others more like communities. Again, I repeat. Both communities and networks serve valuable purposes. The real problem lies in our frequent inability to distinguish between them and hold realistic expectations about what they can do for us. If you long for deep connectedness with others who share your writing interests, you’re not likely to find it on most online networks. Joining vast networks provides great slices of intersection, but probably not the feeling of community.

So what do you want from your writing networks or communities? If what you want is a safe arena to expose your writing to as many readers as possible, think about energetically interacting on some of the many available online writing networks such as Facebook, Medium and the like. If a deep feeling of connectedness is what you long for, think smaller, think about forming a group with a common purpose, and think about opening yourself up more vulnerably. And if you want both, become a member of both. But know that you will need to show up differently in each one. And each will provide very different benefits.

 

Marlena Fiol, PhD, is a storyteller, scholar, speaker and spiritual seeker whose writing explores the depths of who we are and what’s possible in our lives. Her most recent essays have appeared in The Summerset Review, Under the Sun and The Furious Gazelle, among others. A sampling of her publications on identity and learning are available at marlenafiol.com.

The WNBA-SF Has Your Back!

Join or Renew Membership for Awesome Benefits!

Agents have told us that writers who belong to organizations like WNBA are more attractive because they demonstrate a commitment to the literary community. So if you’re a writer trying to get published, joining WNBA-SF Chapter makes you more attractive to agents!
If you’re not a writer, but a lover of the written word, joining WNBA makes you more interesting because you become part of a community of amazing women who are writers, editors, agents, publishers, booksellers, librarians, publicists, bloggers and more!
As a member of WNBA-SF Chapter, you can meet some of your favorite authors and get to know women who are on the cusp of being published and will soon join that list of your favorites! You’ll have interesting discussions about beautiful writing, share the challenges of finding an agent, learn about the current state of publishing and get tips on how to promote a self-published book, or how to pick the right read for a book club.
Joining WNBA-SF Chapter really does make you more attractive and interesting! 

NOW is the time to join (or renew if you are already a member) so that you can take advantage of these great benefits:

  • Meet publishing professionals face to face at WNBA mixers, readings, writers’ conferences, educational events and at our successful Pitch-O-Rama where many local authors met agents that led to publishing contracts!
  • Promote your book or business: For $30/year a published author or publishing professional member can have two book covers or logos on the WNBA/National home page and link to their business blog and website.
  • If you use @WNBA National, the national organization will often favor or re-tweet your tweets, increasing your following.
  • As WNBA member, you are eligible to submit an article for consideration in the Bookwoman – the national newsletter that goes to all 11 chapters and every member. And you can list your recent news in Member News.
  • Link your blog or website to the SF chapter. Attend as many in person meetings and events as possible to get to know people. Then there’s a good chance that you will make some really great connections.
  • Having WNBA on your resume is a plus, as it has helped many women move their careers forward, and agents like to see that you are part of the local literary community.
  • Discounts on WNBA events and opportunities to participate as a volunteer at the San Francisco Writers’ Conference and San Francisco Writing For Change and showcase your book at local book festivals and bookstores.
  • Ability to promote and sell your book or expertise at specified events.
  • Teach a class or present your book at one of our Mechanics Institute Library San Francisco events in 2019 for fantastic visibility to the public and the large MIL membership!
  • Participate in our or Litquake readings or book fairs.
  • Great way to network!!!!

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Structure: The Secret Weapon to Help You Achieve Your Goals

By Nita Sweeney

I’d been running for five and a half hours through the rural countryside surrounding Xenia, Ohio. My tired legs were intermittently cramping and the bottoms of my feet ached. I’d run out of catchy songs to sing to myself and all the mantras I’d been chanting sounded stale. The trees lining the rails to trails which had looked beautiful earlier that morning closed in. I thought I might suffocate. I was right on schedule, twenty-three miles into my third full marathon. “I really want this to be over,” I thought. “But I still have to get back to the car.”

My next thought made me laugh, “This is just like writing!”

Throwing in the towel would be a relief – for a while. In this marathon, I could easily stop at the next water station and ask the EMTs to haul me back to town. With writing, I could start fresh on a new, more interesting, more marketable writing project. That’s what I’ve done with every other book I’ve begun.

While I’m still looking for the right publisher for my recently re-titled memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, I have some great prospects and the book placed as a semi-finalist and finalist in two contests. Even if traditional publishing doesn’t pan out, I can self-publish. This process is exhausting, but also exciting – just like the final miles of a very long race. It’s no time to quit even though I’m really really tired and everything hurts.

So, I remembered what I know how to do: continue. Just now. Just here. This moment. Feel your feet (even if they hurt). Do one thing and then the next. Right foot. Left foot. Just keep going.

But how does someone who continues to have depressive episodes so crippling they make it difficult to get out of bed some days achieve her goals?

Structure!

In running, I found a training plan and followed it. I joined a group. I took a running class. I signed up for a race. I logged miles using online tools. I told everyone I knew. And, I ran.

With writing, the following similar structures work for me:

1) Classes and Workshops.
In my case, a writing instructor suggested I enter every contest that fit my book. As a result, my book is on the short-list for a big award. Other students might offer helpful suggestions as well. In either case, these people help you do what might not occur to you, what might seem too difficult, or what you might think is a waste of time and money.

2) A deadline.
The final days of a contest or publisher’s reading period is often enough to spark me into action. It’s that pressure cooker effect. There’s no time for perfectionism. I just have to get it done.

3) Tracking Tools.
I love querytracker.net and Submittable. Real numbers don’t lie. I can see my submissions and percentages. The geeky part of me loves this. Plus, Submittable recognizes people who collect the most rejections in a month. Anything like that helps.

4) Accountability Partners.
I tell a friend I’m going to do something. I tell my little writing group. I tell my husband or my neighbor. I tell the regulars at the coffee shop where I write. Eventually, one of them will ask about my goal. I don’t want to let either of us down.

5) Online Groups.
These are a different breed of accountability partners. But be careful with this. Choose wisely. I’m in a secret Facebook group for artists collecting rejection letters. If I’m not entering, I have no rejections to report. Telling these kind strangers is oddly satisfying.

But here’s the true secret. At some point, these external structures become internal. They light a fire inside me and I’m surprised to find myself motivated to attempt things I would never have done before. Magic? Perhaps. But I’ll take it.

After all, I finished that marathon in Xenia and I will publish this book. You have my promise.

What is your marathon? What kind of structure do you need to meet your goal? What will help you not give up? I’d love to hear about it. I want to cheer you to the finish.

Nita Sweeney’s articles and essays have appeared in magazines, journals, and books including Buddhist America, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Writer’s Journal, Country Living, Pitkin Review and in several newspapers and newsletters. She writes the blog, BumGlue and publishes a monthly e-newsletter, Write Now Newsletter, which features a short essay, a schedule of the classes she teaches, and a list of central Ohio writing events. Her forth-coming memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, was short-listed for the 2018 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award. She was recently interviewed for the radio show and podcast Word Carver. When she’s not writing, Nita is running and racing. She has run three full marathons, twenty-six half marathons (in eighteen states), and more than sixty shorter races. Nita lives in central Ohio with her husband and biggest fan, Ed, and her future running partner, the yellow Labrador puppy, Scarlet (aka #ninetyninepercentgooddog).