Friday, November 28, 2014

Tips from Gail Sheehy's New Memoir, Daring: My Passages

Strike out on your own; Photo by Linda Wilson
Gail Sheehy's memoir, Daring: My Passages, is a delicate blend of personal experience and view, anecdotes illuminating some of the most fascinating people of our time; framed in historic context; and as always with Sheehy's books, a fascinating read. An acclaimed  Literary Lion, one of twenty celebrated authors recognized at the New York Public Library's annual gala in the early '90s, along with such literary luminaries as William Styron and Maya Angelou; this year held on November 3rd celebrating five authors, including Margaret Atwood; Sheehy's own story is told in intimate detail with warmth and honesty. Nestled within is the tender story of the love of her life, Clay Felker, her beloved late husband, the creator of New York magazine, a fearlessly creative editor and mentor to Sheehy and many other gifted writers.

For Gail Sheehy, daring became a way of life. From as early as twelve, she began sneaking on the train to Central Station in New York to watch humanity in all its shapes and variety. She dared to apply for a job at JC Penney from Mr. Penney himself at a time in the pre-feminist '60s when men occupied the jobs. Male reporters at New York's Herald Tribune had to step aside as she strode past them to "pitch my best story to the hottest editor there."

Anyone familiar with Sheehy's bestselling book Passages, named by the Library of Congress as one of the ten most influential books of our times, knows the lengths she will go to unearth truths hidden in life's shadows, bring them to light and by so doing, change lives. As one of the early experimenters with New Journalism in nonfiction, the practice of borrowing the novelist's dramatic techniques-- storytelling, scenes, dialogue--Gail dared to help turn the tide. Soon to grow into a movement, New Journalism developed into methods utilized as a matter of course today.

Daring Destiny
Summer of 1971: Dressed in blue suede hot pants and white vinyl go-go boots, Gail hit the streets of New York with an off-duty cop playing the part of her pimp, to uncover the lengths prostitutes went to "maximize their profits by swindling, mugging, robbing, knifing, and occasionally even murdering their patrons." Result, called "saturation reporting": Cover story for New York magazine, "Redpants and Sugarman." In January 1972, Sheehy recognized that New York City had "the largest number of Irish Americans of any city in the country" and in view of her own Irish ancestry, she wanted to go to Northern Ireland to write about the women and children who had joined the fight after their Catholic husbands and fathers had been  jailed "without charge or trial, as suspected terrorists." Up until arriving in Ireland and watching the peaceful civil rights march with a crowd of thousands in the Bogside area of Derry, she thought everything in her life could be mended. But within minutes she got caught up in the violence of Bloody Sunday. After living through it she wrote that she has relived the scene "maybe thousands of times . . . wrote about it in the opening of Passages . . . described it in lectures and interviews . . . [and yet] it is engraved on [her] brain as if on a gravestone."

When Passages shot to #1 on the New York Times Book Review, Sheehy was "dumbstruck: I had expected Passages to sink with little trace." Sheehy points out that the book's concept, that stages of development don't end with childhood, had earlier been sketched out by Erik Erikson. His idea was that there were three stages during adulthood. Sheehy expanded on that through her research, which began with reading the entire works of Freud, and "the antidote, Carl Jung." She interviewed men and women of all ages, and began to see common themes. "None of my subjects had actually experienced a life-threatening event . . . like Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland. Yet I found evidence in every one of them of discontent." Her theory became clear one night while watching a tank full of lobsters at a seafood shack. "Lobsters grow . . . by developing and shedding a series of hard, protective shells . . . until the lobster is left exposed and embryonic again, until it grows stronger and develops a new shell to replace the old. In that tank was a perfect analogy! We, too, shed an old self as we grow." From these early explorations, Sheehy came up with the idea that adults continue to grow in multiple, common stages of development.

The rest, as we say, is history.

Daring Writing Tips
Though Daring is not a how-to primer on writing, a writer can come away with good solid advice or for the more experienced, reminders. The following is a sampling.

A la Clay:
  • What are you trying to say? Force yourself to find out.
  • Have a point of view.
 Ask yourself several key questions:
  •     Why are things the way they are? (Sniff out the latest trend.)
  •     What led up to this? (Give us the historical background.)
  •     How do things work? (Who is pulling the strings or making the magic or making fools of      us?)
  •     How is the power game played in your story?
  •    "Don't be so careful."  
  •    Clay told writers: "Take me inside the world you know, where readers don't have any access,  and tell me a great story."
  •  Clay didn't want a lead paragraph that sums up what the story is about. He wanted to "tantalize the reader with a compelling opening scene--but don't give the story away."
Gail's Book Tour Advice:
  •  Approach your role like an actress opening out of town.
  •  Take two great costume changes and a spiral notebook filled with your best anecdotes.
 Speech coach Dorothy Sarnoff gave Gail this advice:
  •      Stand on both feet--don't shift weight
  •      90% is eye contact--lock on eyes--talk to an imagined audience of one--engage her,  persuade her, make her laugh and think
  •      Smile nicely, but don't overuse
  •      Give the vibe of authority
  •      Record yourself--lose the "ums," ahs," and "you knows"
  •      "The secret is all in one's imagination
Dare Yourself
Daring is how Gail conquered her fears. "When I feel fear . . . I dare. Fear immobilizes. Daring is action. It changes the conditions. It startles people into different reactions . . . it can be the catalyst to empowering oneself."

More Works by Gail Sheehy
  • Biographies and character studies of Hillary Clinton, both Presidents Bush, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Passages; New Passages: Mapping your Life across Time; The Silent Passage: Menopause; Understanding Men's Passages; Sex and the Seasoned Woman: Pursuing the Passionate Life; Passages in Caregiving
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is currently developing several works for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing Everyone a Healthy, Happy, 

and Safe Thanksgiving.

From Writers on the Move!

Gratitude: it helps you to be a better writer

Photo credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans / Foter / CC BY-SA

Is gratitude scheduled into your calendar?

University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons says:
"Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive   value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress."
Deadlines, rejection letters, revising, and writer's block makes writing a stressful undertaking. We may have learned to develop a positive outlook through prayer, meditation, diet and exercise. But there is something more we can do. We can develop a routine of gratitude.

Quotes to inspire you:

  • No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude. - Alfred North Whitehead
  • Rest and be thankful. - William Wordsworth
  • The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.- H. U. Westermayer
  • God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"-William A. Ward
  • He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. - Epictetus
Scheduling to guide you: 
  • Keep a journal. Research has shown that people who kept a journal of what they were grateful for were optimistic about the future. 
  • Design a mood board. A collage of images you are grateful for is a great visual to boost a healthy outlook. Hang it up by your desk.
  • Designate a time each day. I know someone who set their timer to go off each day to stop what she was doing and be thankful for something. She soon got into a routine.
  • Write a note. Imagine getting an email, a note in the mail, or a text with a few words of gratitude? It would make your day. Why not take a minute to send words of gratitude to someone and make their day?
The great thing about gratitude is when you show gratitude toward someone else, you feel better yourself. Matt Richardson, co-founder of Gramr Gratitude says:
"You can actually be happier than you've ever been if you practice gratitude. It just keeps building you up."
That sounds like a plan!

Thank-you, Karen, for the opportunity to be a part of Writer's On The Move. And thank-you to all the fellow contributors here who I've gotten to know. I have learned so much from everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving!



 After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Increase Your Freelance Income

Books to Add to Your Library

The Freelance Writer's Guide to Making $1000 More This Month.

Mridu Khullar Relph is a successful and highly respected freelance features writer and reporter. Her blog is a must-read not only for her successes but for her honesty in sharing her failures when it comes to earning a living as a freelance. 

Now a book written as a result of her experiences is available on Amazon: The Freelance Writer's Guide to Making $1000 More This Month. As a subscriber to an earlier free course, I was lucky enough to be asked to review it when it came out earlier in November. And although no one can say you'll make that much more a month after reading the book, if you do the work, follow the advice, there is no doubt you could increase your income in leaps and bounds.

From the Oliver Twist scenario in the first chapter--Ask for More--to the sharing of useful markets, Mridu gives tip after tip on how to increase your income. The book is written for those of us who are already freelancing but could also serve as a handbook with ideas to help the keen beginner.

The bonus material, exclusively for readers of the book, provides useful tip sheets, guides and samples of successful pitches. Although I have not yet had time to surf through it all, I have in the past used some of Mridu's query letter suggestions to apply for and get well-paid assignments.

It's easy to follow and written in a relaxed, conversational style. So if you're aiming to up your income in the coming year, start reading, planning and putting ideas into practice now.

The Indie Author Power Pack

This bundle includes updated versions of three classics which should be on every self-publisher's and book marketer's shelf--again at a bargain price. Following any of the tips from Joanna Penn, David Gaughran, Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant should easily boost your marketing and lead to more sales.

It's not a quick read but the initial table of contents makes this a great reference book for writers, editors and book marketers.

The Indie Author Power Pack iincludes Write, Publish, Repeat, by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant; Let's Get Digital by David Gaughran; How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn. Obviously there's a load of new material and helpful freebies included in the bundle.

This is, for me, a go-to book when I feel the impetus flagging and need encouragement and advice on boosting the writing and book sales.

Which books do you find essential on your writer's bookshelf? Let us know in the comments below and give us ideas for a list of Christmas gifts for writers.

P.S. on Autoresponders

I am still checking out the best of the free autoresponders and should be ready with a report early in the New Year. 

Happy Thanksgiving,

 Anne Duguid is a freelance content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she passes on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips from time to time at Slow and Steady Writers 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving in the USA is Here Again

Thanksgiving is this week in the USA. One of our traditions is to give thanks for what we have.

Following is a list of things I am thankful for.

I am thankful for being able to attend writing conferences.
I am thankful for my local writers group.
I am thankful for having enough chocolate to get through whatever it is I am trying to write!

What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History.She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Understand Your International Friends ~ International English #2

Last month we looked at Making Friends Across the Globe as the first article in a series on International English. Today we're going to look at some different countries and a few of the varieties of English interpretations there are.

POINT #2: Understand Your International Friends

When in doubtfind out! Perhaps you read the sentence, "She placed her hand-held mirror carefully down on her Dolly Varden." You screw up your face and re-read the sentence. If you live in North America you wonder why on earth she would place a mirror on top of a piece of trout. Or if you're in England, you are baffled why she wants to wear a mirror on top of her fancy, flower-decked hat. As an Australian you will find it strange that she places a mirror on a doll-shaped cake! But of course if you're a South African it makes sense. Where else would she place her hand-held mirror but on her dressing-table?
  • If you know the author, write and ask him or her. "I'm puzzled where she placed her mirror. I suspect your use of Dolly Varden is different to mine." That way you both learn.
  • Ask an international group. It doesn't need to be a writing group either. As long as the members speak English, quote the sentence and ask, "Can anyone throw a light on the meaning of this?" It will stimulate some interesting conversation between members; a group-leader's delight!
  • Look it up! I have had the free version of WordWeb installed on my computer for many years. If I come across a word I don't understand I simply hit Alt, Ctrl and W - and it gives me the meaning. On Kindle, I hover the cursor before the word and it gives me a definition. If all else fails you can always Google it, or (gasp!) turn to a traditional dictionary.   
Before submitting an article, check international scenes with someone from that country. In South Africa or England it is customary for people to go for a brisk walk along the pavement. In America I have learned that can prove fatal as that is the paved area where the cars drive!

I once was enjoying a book by a popular author who shall remain nameless, set in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). Suddenly the hero and his group made their way to an area that was an extinct volcano. Hello? I spent most of my childhood in that country. There is no volcano in the land, extinct or otherwise. That ruined the story for me. I felt I couldn't trust the author any more. He clearly had not done his researchor checked his facts with someone "on the ground".

One final example: Here in South Africa many of the rural population live in rondawels, thatched round huts buildings built of mud and wattle. The Australian nation floral emblem is the Golden Wattle which makes a beautiful display when grown closely together. And in Britain a common site is a fence made of upright stakes around which green branches of wattle are woven.

Allow for different words. Because the other country uses a different word, it doesn't meant it's wrong!  When I started my first Website I naively asked the question, "What English should I use?" The majority told me to use American English. Some told me to use British English (as I was born in Britain), and others told me to use my own South African variant of British English but to put a disclaimer on every page! Why would I do that? I may have a different accent to most of my readers, and I may use different words for some things, but my language is not wrong! Nor is yours. (Unless of course you speak or write badly!)

Obviously, if I am writing for an American market, I must write in American English. But on my own website? (Although I have to confess I tend to slip between the one and the other as I'm so used to using American English!) The important thing about a personal website (or my author page on Facebook) is, do you understand me? (And if you don't? Please ask!) 

In closing here are a few common differences you will find when reading American English (AE) or British English (BE):

BE: Babies wear nappies; AE: Babies wear diapers.

BE: The bathroom contains a bath, not necessarily a toilet; AE: The bathroom always contains a toilet, not necessarily a bathtub.

BE: You walk on the pavement and drive in the road; AE: You drive on the pavement and walk on the sidewalk.

BE: Biscuits are crisp snacks, similar to the AE cookies.

AE: Biscuits are a type of bread served with savoury foods, rather like the BE scones.

BE: A trunk is a large metal box, which you might put into the boot (storage section) of your car;

AE: The trunk is the storage section of your car.

BE: The engine is under the bonnet; AE: It’s under the hood.

BE: You go to hospital for an operation in theatre; AE: You go to the hospital for surgery in the operating room. (Oh and in BE you go to hospital. In AE you go to the hospital!)

BE: The kids may play in the garden, avoiding the flower beds of course; AE: They play in the yard.

BE: We may go on holiday in our caravan; AE: You go on vacation in your travel trailer.

And finally, one that I keep forgetting much to the frustration of my American critique group:

BE: Ladies fall pregnant AE: They get pregnant!

So next time you come across a word you don't understand in a book or on a blog, don't automatically condemn the author. Rather attempt to understand your international friends!

NEXT MONTH: We will look at International English at Christmas.

OVER TO YOU: Do you have other terms you can add to the above? Especially if you are from a different country to America or Britain. Leave a comment below.

What in the World Do You Mean? 
Making Friends Across the Globe.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer has created a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through, where she encourages writers, or at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Narrowing Your Focus... Yay or Nay

Most of us can agree that writers everywhere write... must write, live to write.  And if you are like me, you have thousands of ideas floating around in your head, ideas that need to get on the page. But trying to balance those ideas with what you know and what your target audience needs to read can be a real challenge.

The question for even the most experienced writer is how to decide on a focus for the writing and marketing to keep inspired, to  keep loving what you do and to be productive? Do writers actually need to narrow their focus as is recommended by books and instructors everywhere or can a writer  successfully write about absolutely everything swirling around in their head and reach a marketable audience?

First, decide what success means to you. Success may be keeping some of those tidbits of ideas in a journal while working on other projects. Success may be being on the New York Best seller list. Success may be in the form of self-publishing and for others success may be writing only for the catharsis of the process and not for public view. Ask yourself what success means for you as the writer to help to determine the focus and purpose of your work?

Next, list the ideas that you love, the topics that you know something about, and the subjects that your reader or audience longs for. This is where you start on any new project or new idea and where you decide what your focus should be. Explore these ideas and how many ways you can use this list to develop your product, story, or article idea. Within the focus of a topic there may be numerous ways to expand that focus for more than one product.

Narrowing your focus now becomes important for each project. Narrowing the focus helps you to hone in on the subject and the audience allowing you to meet the needs of your reader but it also assists you with targeting your audience specifically for this project in regards to marketing to them.

Narrowing your focus is important for stories, articles and specific writing projects so that your points can be clear and the topic remains specific. Facts and research can be used again in other products with the same topic so no information is wasted.  But the question still lingers for the writer... Does a writer need to narrow the focus in general when working on a lucrative writing career? Can an author be successful writing in more than one specific area? Can a writer who has done medical writing branch out to mystery or suspense? Can a financial guru write books for children? Or must you stay within your narrow focus of expertise to be successful?

I have found that there are many authors very successful at writing in many genres and avenues. I think the key to success is to hone your skills, narrow the focus of each project, and know how to market to the target audience with each written work. Being an expert in a field is very lucrative and increases the chances of success. For me narrowing a focus can apply to each individual piece of work but doesn't have to limit your ability to succeed with those other ideas swirling in your head. Your writing focus narrows with each project as does your marketing and audience but the types of writing you do can be wide open. What is your experience and opinion about narrowing your focus?

Terri Forehand writes from her home in Nashville Indiana. She writes health related material, stories for children and is currently writing and designing small quilt patterns based on fictional characters. She is the author of The ABC's of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane and The Cancer Prayer book for adults newly diagnosed. ,