Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ten Do's and Don't for Organizing Your Writing by Linda W. Hurst

Is your writing space so cluttered you can’t find the desktop, let alone write anything worth printing? Do you feel like screaming, throwing things, or worse--calling the Clean House television show to come to your aid? Take heart…help is just ten steps away. Just follow these ten simple Do’s and Don’ts—and you’ll discover that your writing muse has returned—along with your sanity!

1. Do set aside space that will only be used by you—and dedicate that space, however tiny, to your writing. Make sure you have good lighting, a comfortable chair, and a shelf for your Writer’s Market Guides, dictionaries, etc.

2. Do purchase several loose-leaf notebooks, and plastic storage tubs or file boxes. Use these to organize writing projects. (I use a notebook for each writing project, keeping notes, research, manuscripts, and query letters together in one place.) Organize notebooks with tabs—number chapters, notes, etc. The plastic tubs are perfect for keeping notes, photos, artifacts, etc. for individual projects together.

3. Do invest in an Organizer. This could be the traditional type (Day-Runner) or try using technology to keep your life orderly. Whichever you choose, use it to keep your schedule, i.e. writing groups/ conventions/ contests. Use it to file contest information/guidelines behind the deadline month so that you never miss an opportunity to submit. (I personally use my Smart Phone, which I keep glued to me like an appendage. I love using the reminder tool—it is persistent and never lets me forget important dates/times.)

4. Don’t be a clutter bug! Throw away or shred paper files and research if this information can be located on the Internet. There is no reason to clutter up your space any more than necessary.

5. Do utilize your computer to make your life easier. For example, Use a spreadsheet (Excel) to keep tabs on writing expenses and sales. Keep a basket on your desk to contain receipts until you have time to enter them into your spreadsheet and file them away. (NOTE: You can use an Excel file to keep up with your submissions/rejections too!)

6. Do use Microsoft Power Point (or just plain paper stapled together in a booklet form) to create dummies for picture books. This will help you visualize what your book will look like and even to determine the appropriate word length. Remember, picture books come in specific page lengths—32 pages is the norm.

7. Don’t let old magazines stack up. Save important articles by removing them from the magazine and storing them in a file designated for that purpose. If you choose to save a copy or two of a magazine, make sure these copies are current. Remember, magazine styles and needs change, as do their editors.

8. Do keep a submission/rejection notebook. (I use an Excel spreadsheet.) Visit this a minimum of once per month so you will remember what you have out and what/where you need to resubmit. This will save you from sending the same piece to the same editor more than once! After all, editors are human too…really!

9. Do keep a portfolio of your best pieces. If it becomes cumbersome, pare it down to your favorite pieces.

10. Don’t take chances! Invest in a couple of “thumb” (sometimes called “flash” or “jump”) drives. Use one for saving your writing—and the other for a back-up. You won’t clutter up your hard drive—and you can carry your writing with you wherever you go. For peace of mind, keep one flash drive in your purse/pocket and one at home. Another idea—create an e-mail site for the sole purpose of storing your writing—that way you have access to your writing regardless of your location or the condition of your hard drive!

So, if you really want to increase your writing productivity, consider these ten items. You can have an organized work space with just a little effort. It will save you time—and make you money in the long run. What are you waiting for? Get up, get busy, and get organized for success!

LINDA WHITTINGTON HURST has written articles in several professional journals, including the Kansas Journal of Reading, The International Reading Association’s Language Experience Forum, and Collaborations: the Journal of Louisiana Early Childhood Education. Her first college textbook, Making Connections for lifelong learning: A step-by-step guide for developing thematic units that work came out in the fall of 2009. Two of her short stories appeared in an anthology entitled, Veterans of Freedom and Other Stories. Two more were included in The Storyteller with a third, entitled You’ll Never be a Writer, scheduled for publication in the April/May issue. Her middle-grade novel entitled, The Seeing Eye Detectives: Case of the Missing Dog, coauthored with her best friend, Linda Lee won the 2009 Bloom Honor Book award. It is scheduled to be published soon. Recently, the Rowlett Writer’s Workshop Anthology entitled, Quills and Crossroads (available on featured four of Linda’s short stories.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making It Right with The Last Word by Jessica Ferguson

When I was a kid, my mom popped me in the face many times because I’d poke my chin toward her with ‘a last word.’ So here I am again—right or wrong—having my last word.

In December Pam and Randy told the new officers that they’d received complaints that BWG wasn’t meeting the needs of the members. Pam shared this with me during our three-hour coffee at Starbucks a few weeks ago. Of course, when I defended my reign as prez and my exceptional board of officers, Pam assured me she wasn’t talking about my two year reign. I’m not sure when BWG didn’t meet the membership’s needs, but I’ll address my two years in office only.

When I became BWG president, I was determined to do everything different from previous years. My plan was to throw the kitchen sink at you—make everything so available and at your fingertips that you couldn’t help but learn, be energized and motivated, write, get published and rush to bestseller lists.

We had regular speakers. Please note: the speakers we bring in are not for our entertainment. Their purpose is to share their experiences with us, answer our questions so that we can learn from their successes and mistakes. They aren’t there to sell their books though that’s one way we repay them for their preparation and spending their Saturday with us.

We also started the Members Only contest. Some of you know I don’t believe in contests with only two entries and awarding the best of the worst. Our guidelines were specific and stated that each of our three categories must have no less than five entries. I deemed the contest a success because we had a few more than 20 entries and each one received critiques from three judges from various parts of the country. Whether or not you got good comments, something you could use from your judges, is another matter altogether. The point was for you to take advantage of entering a contest, learn to follow specific guidelines and see critiques from someone other than close friends.

Market information (hard copies) was furnished to each member at every BWG meeting—at no expense to BWG.

We also started the BWG blog so our members could experience writing short blog posts in an encouraging, non-threatening environment. The purpose of blogging isn’t for our own entertainment; it’s to get your name out there and to prepare you for promoting your work.

During 2010 we repeated much of what we had done during 2009 with the addition of Gator Bites, a way to get each of you a byline, and promote BWG and our writing at our conference.

While doing all of the above, we also started a critique group that meets each Thursday from 10-12 at Stellar Beans. A second critique group meets in the evenings at Village Coffee for those of you who work during the day.

In hindsight, at least in my eyes, Bayou Writers’ Group looks like a very professional organization—a group any writer would want to join and particpate in. It looks like a group that nurtures its members--and meets their needs.

So, in a nutshell, here’s my last word: If BWG did not meet your needs during my reign as president, then I’ll critique you, edit you, encourage you, send you market info, and be your writing coach for the next two years. BUT FIRST, I will check your attendance record (yes, I have it) and review your involvement in BWG. After all, if you don’t put anything into the writing jar, then you sure as heck don’t get anything out of it.

So there you have it. If you faithfully participated in BWG activities and events during my reign as president, and we didn't meet your needs, honestly, something is wrong. I want to make it right. Let me hear from you.

Jessica Ferguson is the author of The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes w/a Jessica Travis. She is published in Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul, Daily Devotions for Writers and a number of regional magazines and newspapers in Louisiana and Texas.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Writer's Testimony by Rachel Windham

Exactly one year ago, I became a BWG member. Surrounded by wonderful people who share my love of writing, I have been encouraged, inspired, and challenged.

I came to the group feeling timid about myself as a writer. Although I had written for years, even had a few things in print, I was only beginning to share that hidden part of myself that admitted I wanted to write…to BE a writer. Joining BWG was a moment of vulnerability for me, an exposure of my innermost, sacred “me-place.” The minutes that I spent waiting my turn for introductions during that first meeting were tremulous ones for me. Palms sweating and heart pounding, I stated my name and gave a little history about myself, but my attendance was the greater declaration, the proclamation that my secret passion for writing was going public. This launched me into a new phase of my writing life.
I knew I was a novice among veterans, but I was never made to feel like one. Instead, I felt included, warmed by the openness of the group and the practical advice both speakers and members so readily shared. There was security in having others reveal their writing stories, for often it was similar to my own--fraught with uncertainty and frustration as well as sprinkled with moments of success. This common ground gave me courage to take steps I otherwise would have avoided. I joined a social network. I entered a couple of contests- even becoming a finalist in one. I attempted to set up a web site. I had a book signing for a newly self-published a book. I read at a poetry reading.

Still, I’m not where I want to be as a writer. All I have to do is listen to my fellow BWG members read their impromptu writings or share their writing achievements, and I realize that I have a lot to learn and just as much to experience, but that keeps me challenged…and incredibly humbled.

It’s true that I am, more often than not, a bundle of nerves, that I continue to hesitate to fully commit, that I’m still sluggish when it comes to motivation, that I remain addled about marketing my work, that I’m slow to the draw and even slower to pull the trigger, but I no longer feel immobilized by my deficiencies. Instead, as a part of SWLA’s best writing group, I feel hopeful, for I am guided by fearless writers who have walked this path before me, and I am supported by their mutually shared faith in their fellow BWG members…and I am one of those members!

Rachel Windham refers to herself as a Pen of Praise poet and author. Her book, A KINGDOM TO CALL HOME, is a children's devotional book. To order her book, go to her website HERE or talk with her at our BWG meetings.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing: Pain or Pleasure by Marcia Dutton

Before a friend got me writing and I joined The Bayou Writer’s Group, I was a busy artist trying to find enough time to paint. I now discover that writing has become an addiction, something like email communication. My life is no longer my own and I don’t know where to allot my precious time.

It appears that writing has surpassed my desire to paint. There is so much I want to say and tell young family members of their ancestors, of whom they have little knowledge, but a keen desire to know. Now as the eldest in my extended family, I feel an obligation to tell some of the stories that fascinated me.

Additionally, having lived and traveled around the world, there are experiences I wish to share with them. As I write, I have found such pleasure in remembering incidents long put on a back burner as present day life takes control.

BWG is a joy to belong to. In the usual social everyday life, how often does one get to learn the thoughts and experiences of other people? Believe me, you hear some fascinating stories. And, how often do people ask about you or your experiences? Very rarely. In such a group, you get the opportunity to share as well as learn.

Just the act of writing is beneficial to the mind. Writing is as much a science as an art form, and like so many things, is ever-changing…good exercise for working those old gray cells.

All in all, even if, like me, you are no professional, you can still find writing to be a pleasure.

Award-winning artist Marcia Dutton has published letters to the editor in the American Press and the only English newspaper in Saudi Arabia. She was a newsletter editor in Saudi Arabia and sent numerous letters home to family members about life in the various countries she lived in. Marcia is writing a book of memoirs about her days in the U.S. Navy and her many adventures abroad.