International “Leave A Comment” Week!

I’m fairly new at blogging- less than three weeks, so I don’t profess to know what readers are looking for in blogs. News? Information? Laughs? Friendship? I’m sure the answer is as varied as the blogs themselves.

I do, however, read at many blogs of the desire for readers to leave more comments. Or any comments.

Hello, are you there? I can hear you breathing.

I’m guessing that most bloggers appreciate the validation they receive from readers comments— which help forge a connection between writer and reader, however brief it may be. It lets us know that we’re not alone in this big old blogsphere.

Comments can also help bloggers improve their blogs by letting them know what kind of posts you like to read… or maybe not so much. Do the math; better blogs=better reading. And frequently your comment will be followed by a curious blogger visiting your site to learn about you and what you have to offer. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours; it’s a win-win situation.

I try to visit three or four new blogs each day and leave a comment on something I read or observe there. I’ve even alerted a few people to broken links on their blogs— it’s no biggie, but they let me know it was appreciated. If I particularly enjoy a blog, I add it to my blogroll and let them know I did. It’s what I consider being a good neighbor.

So, I would like to nominate this week as “Leave A Comment” week, and encourage all readers to go out there and write at least two comments each day for one week. It doesn’t really take much time to leave a thoughtful, sincere comment- either about a specific post or the blog itself. Search out some new blogs to explore and tell them what you think. And then keep doing it.

And, as always, please feel free to leave comments here at my site. I really do want to know what works for my readers and what they’d like to see. My goal is for my blog to be a friendly and useful resource for anyone who happens to stop by.

Now get out there and comment, comment, comment!

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All Aboard the Glimmer Train!

If you like to write (or read) short fiction, I recommend checking out Glimmer Train Press, an independent quarterly literary journal started in 1990 by two sisters in Portland, Oregon who personally read all submissions.

www.glimmertrain.com is packed with information about the journal and detailed writing guidelines and FAQ’s about submitting your work for consideration for publication.

Submissions must be original, unpublished fiction. They do not publish novels, poems, or stories for children.

You can select either standard or competition submission. There are no reading fees for standard submission and you receive $700 if your story is accepted for publication. There is a $15-20 reading fee for competition submissions, but the payout is higher.

You can also purchase a subscription to Glimmer Train for $36/yr or $58 for two years. Each issue is about 200 pages (8-12 stories). Back issues are available for $12 each.

They also publish Writers Ask, a quarterly 16 page non-newsletter for writers packed with information on writing from accomplished literary writers and mentors. A one year subscription is $20, or $33 for two years. Back issues are available for $6 each.

Whether you’re an experienced writer or a novice, this journal provides an opportunity for you to get your short fiction published. Give it a try, and drop me a line if your submission is accepted for publication- I’ll be cheering for you!

How To Maximize Your Writing Productivity

We’ve all been there- you need to get some writing done, and this little thing called “life” keeps getting in your way. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the time you have.

Location, location, location!

Where do you do your best writing? Be honest with yourself. It might sound intriguing to go to a local cafe´and immerse yourself in its ambiance, but can you actually focus there and write? Or do you need solitude to turn out something worthwhile? Think about the best pieces you’ve written and where you wrote them. If you write in several locations, try to identify common characteristics they share.

If you’re just starting out as a writer, experiment a little and find the place that works best for you. There will always be those writers who claim to be able to write anywhere, but for most of us, that probably isn’t the case.

Time of Day

Are you an early-bird, a night-owl, or something in between? Again, think about your best writing pieces and when they were written. I find I do my best writing either at night in my dining room in total darkness (except for the glow of my laptop screen), or in early morning, sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea nearby.

Set a Time Limit

Before you sit down to write, decide how much time you can afford to spend. And stick to it. Even if you’re struggling with the words, commit to write for the duration of the time you alloted. You’ll usually find that you get more accomplished if you force yourself to stay put. If you have a significant amount of time to spend, break it into reasonable chunks and schedule short breaks. Just be careful not to let the breaks exceed the time you scheduled.

Minimize Distractions

Even if you’re the type of writer who requires total solitude, there will always be things that pop up to distract your attention. Address your own needs before you begin to write: food, drink, bathroom, etc. and do not incorporate these things into your writing time or you run the risk of running out of time before you get your first words typed.

If necessary, turn off the phone, TV, or stereo. If you write at home like I do and other family members are about, let them know you will be writing, and ask them not to disturb you unless there is an emergency. (They can also take any phone messages while you are busy). I find my husband and teenage daughter do quite well on their own, but sometimes need to be reminded that mom is not on duty 24/7.

Avoid Temptation

When you’re writing, resist the urge to check your email, instant message, or surf the net. It’s best to close any applications on your computer other than the one you are using to write. If you need the internet for research, do that first, then close your browser. It’s just too easy to tell yourself that you’re only taking a short break from your writing- that can turn into hours if you’re not careful.

Less Is More

Regardless of where you choose to work, less stuff=more focus

Clutter in your writing space not only contributes to disorganization, it can be very distracting- especially when you’re contemplating that next perfect turn of words. Try to keep only what you need within your field of view and reach.

Be Flexible

Whatever you identify as your most productive writing scenario, realize that stuff happens, and when it does, be prepared to adjust. If your favorite writing spot becomes unavailable, have a back-up ready. If you have to be somewhere else during your usual writing time, try to plan for it by scheduling another time or doubling up on your time another day. As much as we love to write, we all have a life to live outside of writing. Make your best effort to maximize your productivity and it should help you keep on track to achieve your writing goals.

Subscribe to VersionTracker- A CNet Site for Mac, Windows, and Palm OS Users

I had a request for “more Mac stuff ” after my post recommending a free Mac OSX application called Caffeine from VersionTracker. My main focus for this blog is writing, and although technology can be a part of that, I will not be posting regularly about such things. I will post information if I find something I think is particularly useful or just plain cool.

However, in light of wanting to please my readers, I will post the link to VersionTracker again: www.versiontracker.com and make the suggestion to register at the site (it’s free) where you have the ability to sign up for either daily or weekly email alerts which are specific for Mac, Windows, or Palm OS applications.

This partial screen shot shows what you will receive:

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The nice thing about email alerts is that they provide a nice tabled listing of the newest apps, their size, and their license info. Each software title is a link back to it’s download page at VersionTracker. You’ll also find user feedback, and usually a link to the developer’s site as well. Most of the apps are freeware or shareware, but there are also betas, commercial licenses, and updates to current software.

At the site, you can choose to view Mac OS, Windows, or Palm OS apps, and then sort by specific operating system to narrow your view. Here’s the header that shows above the daily updated list of apps where you can search by category, view editor picks, or see what’s hot:

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A trip to VersionTracker is definitely worth a few minutes of your time if you like free or inexpensive toys for your system.

Online Writer’s Groups- Are They For You?

As someone who has joined various local writers’ groups only to be disappointed time and time again, online groups may be an attractive alternative. That is not to say that all local groups are worthless- I’m sure there are some fine ones out there. The problem is that they can be difficult to find, and the best ones limit the number of people (and sometimes genre) for practical purposes, so they may not be available when you’re ready to join.

Online groups have the advantage of convenience; log in whenever and wherever you want, and spend as much or as little time as you want. They also hold an appeal to writers who want to receive a critique of their work but don’t want to actually face their critics. There is the added advantage of not having to critique pieces in which you have no interest (although generally, the more you critique, the more feedback you will receive in return). And for some, it’s easier to give an honest written critique than to face someone and try to tell them what isn’t working.

It’s never a good idea to tell a writer how great their piece is just to spare their feelings… or your own. Strive to give thoughtful, helpful feedback and be prepared to receive the same. Writers groups are not intended for people who only want to hear how wonderful they are, and if you find a group where that is the general practice, run! That kind of interaction might feed your ego, but it’s not going to help you grow as either a writer or critic.

There are many groups who welcome writers of all levels and interests. One I found just by doing a simple Google search is called Critique Circle (www.critiquecircle.com) You can join for free, or upgrade to their premium service for $24/year . The web site is loaded with FAQ’s on how their site works and how to critique- there are even critique templates available to use. It’s worth a look if you think a group might be right for you.

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A Free, Easy to Access Resource For Writers and Readers

A couple of year’s ago, I took a fiction writing class taught by Thomas B. Sawyer. He recommended that anyone who wanted to improve their writing, regardless of what they were writing, should spend a few minutes each day reading the New York Times. (No, he doesn’t work there, and he lives in California).

He was right.

I registered at the web site (it’s free) and suddenly had access to all kind of stories, story ideas, and more importantly, good writing. I have learned to take my time there and really luxuriate in the words and the flow of the prose. Still considered by many to be the best newspaper in the world, their pieces are undoubtedly well written.

The web site is appealing and easy to navigate. You can even sign up for free email alerts on various topics. And their Sunday Book Review is a great way to check out new books and author interviews. You can even search within the SBR back to 1981.

Podcasts, videos, and even online book discussions are available as well. I encourage all writers (and readers) to make the trek to www.nytimes.com, pick a location, and enjoy- even  if only for a few minutes. It will be there, ready for you whenever you can make it back.

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Comics for Writers

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courtesy of Debbie Ridpath Ohi at www.inkygirl.com