3 Reasons to Join a Writer’s Group

The older I get, and the longer I write, the more convinced I become that writer’s groups are an essential component of a writer’s life, success, and mental well-being. Why?

-1- Writer’s groups provide a sense of community, of belonging. Although my professional background has always been in sales and marketing, I have never felt comfortable in large crowds of people (unless I was teaching). Until I walked into my first writer’s meeting in Boston in the late 1980s. There’s nothing that compares to being in a roomful of other creative people. When I’m with other writers, even those I don’t know, I no longer feel just a step out of sync with everyone.

-2- Writer’s groups offer a wealth of information you can’t get anywhere else. Not only do the members of writer’s groups provide you with objective, factual information about the craft of writing and the publishing world, they share their personal impressions and perceptions. Let’s face it, little about storytelling and writing is set in stone. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and preferences. But listening to divergent opinions and insights, and blending the ingredients into a recipe that works for you, is an essential element of growth as a writer.

-3- Finally, writer’s groups provide inspiration and motivation, propelling you on to accomplish great things. Why? Because they hold you accountable. If you’re a member of a writer’s group, you keep writing. And that’s the most important benefit of all. I don’t care what you write, so long as you write, you’ll get where you need to be.

The first book I completed was [what I considered] a romance. A couple of mystery publishers agreed. Unfortunately, the romance publishers thought it was more of a mystery. Despite my confusion, and disappointment, I kept writing.Why? Because. It’s just something I do.

I wrote chapters that never saw daylight. I began writing magazine articles. And a business newspaper column. I wrote short stories. I journaled.

Eventually, I wrote and published a mystery novel and a non-fiction business book. Then I began writing continuing education (CE) courses in the insurance industry (where I worked my “day” job). Then, I was recruited to write insurance CE textbooks for multiple national CE providers/publishers.

My goal was always to be a published writer who supports herself with her writing. Be careful what you ask for, kids, because you  just might get it! Seven years ago, I realized my dream, and began making more money than I ever had. I SHOULD have asked to be a published fiction writer who supports herself with her writing and hits the bestseller list over and over…

Anyway, I now find myself in a position where I whittled my client list down to two, and I spend part of my day writing insurance stuff. I know most people find it boring, but I love it. I spend the rest of my day writing fiction. In fact, right now, I have a fiction novel (the first in a series) on the desks of both an agent and an editor–both of whom I met at a writer’s conference in April!

Only time will tell if I ever hit the best seller list, but I’m writing. And getting paid for it. And working from home without having to wear makeup, a suit, or–thank God!–pantyhose.

You can write your own version of what I consider my success story. Please, join a writer’s group. Write. Stick with it. Your hard work will pay off.

P.S. I’m a member of both the national and regional chapters of the following organizations: Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. And here is a link to lots of other writer’s organizations.

What Does Summer Mean to You?

Call me a creature of the sunlight. Like a little kid, I wake up as soon as dawn chases the darkness away in the morning–regardless of what the clock says. Summer is mornings, freshness, new beginnings.

The vivid colors of the trees, flowers, and sky paint pictures I remember once the winter turns them sodden and blurry. Sometimes I think to snap an actual photo. Usually, I don’t.

I collect sea shells, herbs for drying, and long walks once life cools down in the evening. I love bare feet, shirts without sleeves, windows thrown open to the wind.

To me, summer means Freedom.

What does summer mean to you?

Freedom of Expression

As a writer, I have always embraced the right to express myself freely, without censorship. That’s one of the best things about being an American and living in this country: each of us has so many freedoms.

When I write–regardless of whether my creation is a textbook, workshop handout, short story, novel, or blog post–neither you nor anyone else is forced to read it. You can skim it, read it from beginning to end, or skip it entirely because you have the same rights I do. Although I consider your response when I write, I don’t tailor my words to it.

When speaking, I do try to consider how other people will respond.  I’m not nearly good enough at thinking before I speak,  but I try. I know I have the right to say whatever I want, whenever I want, to whomever I choose.  I also understand that saying something hurtful or nasty actually impedes the goal of communication.

We all want people to agree with us,  like us, and understand how we think and feel. Finding the right words, proper tone, and best method of delivery is the most effective way to accomplish that goal.

I believe today’s society would be more agreeable, and less angry and critical, if we thought before we spoke. I wonder what would happen if, for just one day:

Each of us wrote down what we planned to say before we spoke the words…

Each of us considered the impact of our opinions before they left our lips…

We restructured  verbal assaults, replacing them with constructive comments…

The vituperation and anger I see in the world today is scary. I believe it is propelling us backward rather than forward.

Why have we forgotten that while we all have the right to express ourselves freely, our rights should not infringe on the rights of others? No wonder so many of us choose the solitary pursuits of reading and writing.

What are your thoughts about the subject of freedom of expression?

Do you know your slang?

We all know you don’t say certain words in public. Or, God forbid, when your mother is in the same room.

Slang is defined as informal speech that’s used in a particular setting or environment, or by people in a particular group. When I was in high school, our slang included the terms groovy, batshit, and way out.

In my current novel, two of the present-day characters have ancestors who lived during Prohibition in the 1920s. Did you know the following terms were coined back then?

Skid row was originally “skid road,” a place where loggers hauled their goods. During Prohibition, these logging roads became meeting places for boodleggers. (Skidding is a logging term for pulling cut trees out of a forest.)

Hooch is an abbreviated form of “hoochinoo,” a distilled beverage from Alaska that became popular during the Klondike gold rush. This idiom was used for low-quality liquor, usually whiskey.

If you had a beef, you had a big problem. If you were given the bum’s rush, you were ejected by force from a drinking establishment. If you had to see a man about a dog, you were explaining in code that you had to leave to go buy bootlegged whiskey. If you were a piker, you were a cheapskate (my father used this term all the time–he was born in 1929).

Here are some other terms coined during Prohibition that we still use today: babe, beat it, carry a torch, tighten the screws, and on the up and up.

One other thing I learned about Prohibition is the huge number of synonyms for drunk that were coined nearly 100 years ago, including:

bleary-eyed, bent, blind, blotto, boiled, boiled as an owl, canned, corked, crocked, four sheets in (or to) the wind, fried, fried to the hat, ginned, half-cocked, half-shot, high, jazzed, lit, loaded, on a toot, ossified, out on the roof, owled, pie-eyed, pickled, plastered, polluted, potted, stinko, soused, stewed, tanked, primed, scrooched, zozzled

What are some of YOUR favorite slang terms?

Why you THINK you’re so much better in the morning … or at night

Circadian rhythm: It’s the reason you find yourself full of energy at a particular time of day (or night) and really dragging at another time.

Biological clock: Your internal timing device; usually a 24-hour clock. Your biological clock produces your circadian rhythm.

So, what does this have to do with your productivity and whether you’re a morning person or a night owl?

Well, your circadian rhythm is based partly on DNA and partly on external factors, such as daylight. “Larks” wake up and go to bed early; they tend to find themselves more productive in the morning. “Owls”  rise and hit the sack later, preferring to get their stuff done in the evening or at night.

But researchers have found that most people hit their peak, creatively speaking, at precisely opposite the time they’re most productive. I, for one, agree with them.

I’m a morning person. When it comes to balancing my checkbook, editing my writing, or having to use my left brain, I perform much better between 6 a.m. and noon. However, the best ideas I’ve ever had for my writing–and ways to solve plot and character defects–always come in the middle of the night when I wake up to go potty or just after I slip into bed at night.

How does your circadian rhythm work with respect to your creativity?

Yes, You Really Can Have a Broken Heart

I read an article recently about a 61-year-old woman who went to the ER thinking she had a heart attack. Doctors learned she suffered a broken heart after her dog died.

Yes, there really is such a thing; it’s called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken-heart syndrome.

Doesn’t this make a great premise for inclusion in a book?!

To read what Harvard Medical School has to say about it, click here.

IRS “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2017

As a freelance writer, I research many subjects for both my fiction and nonfiction. Recently, during the research phase of a project for an educational text on identity theft, I learned that fraudulent tax preparers are among the “Dirty Dozen” of IRS tax scams for this year. Who’d have guessed?

irsDid you know:

  • To charge for preparing someone else’s tax return, you must have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number and include it on all tax returns you prepare?
  • The IRS has a website with a list of all professionals who have credentials to file tax returns? You can visit this list to find qualified preparers in your area.
  • Paid preparers who complete returns for more than 10 clients are usually required to file electronically. If your preparer refuses to file electronically, find out why.

For more information about tax preparers, visit the full article, IRS “Dirty Dozen” Series of Tax Scams for 2017 Includes Return Preparer Fraud; Choose Reputable Preparers.

To see the Dirty Dozen list for 2017, visit here: https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/irs-summarizes-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-2017

Daily Dose of Inspiration

It is time for her to stand up and claim herself.

She must now bring forth from beneath that bushel basket

The wonders she has kept hidden for fear they’d be snatched away.

 

She will collect the many griefs and burdens

And surrender them in exchange for

Solace in the arms of her treasures.

 

She will gently close the door to yearnings for what will never be

And throw wide the gateway to a paradise

Where innumerable possibilities await.

 

She will prod her failings and shortcomings into that basket

And stand atop it, hugging herself in glee,

Reveling in the wonders she has freed.

 

I am She

And I am so very much more

Than I ever knew or expected.

We All Have a Voice

Our first amendment rights not only allow US the freedom of speech, they allow OTHERS the same right. Why do we become so hateful when we hear things we don’t like? Each of us is entitled to have our own beliefs and give voice to them.

If I don’t agree with you, are you more apt to listen to me if I try to win you over to my side respectfully, with explanations and facts that support what I’m saying, or if I holler at you, call you names, and point out [what I perceive as] your flaws? Why do we insist on always having our own way instead of finding a way to have some of what we want all the time?

When did our society decide that the better person is the one who can dig up the most dirt on an opponent rather than SHOWING his or her innate integrity and capabilities? As a writer, I was trained to SHOW and not TELL because readers want to see and feel the characters, not listen to blathering words. As an American I want to see and believe in my president; I don’t want to listen to baloney.

Has everyone forgotten why this country was founded?

A leader is someone people follow because the individual has qualities everyone admires and trusts, someone who leads by example and walks the talk, someone who leads for the purpose of serving the people.

Right now, our country lacks true leadership and I don’t see any examples I’m willing to follow.

How can WE convince our government we want a president who not only has read the Constitution and the laws of our country but also abides by them? How can WE convince our government we prefer a president who values loyalty over power? How can WE convince our government we are tired of being treated with disrespect … as if we don’t even know how to think for ourselves?

WE need to speak up, respectfully. WE need to live by the same standards we want our leaders to embrace. WE need to set the example and demand that our government follow it.

I challenge both our presidential candidates to conduct this final debate by only talking about themselves and their beliefs: what they are willing to do for us and about their past actions and words. Instead of pointing fingers at their opponent and saying, “S/he did something worse than I did!” let’s hear each of them dig down deep inside and SHOW us who they really are so we have a real reason to vote … or stay home.

Welcome to my updated website

I’ve finally surrendered and accepted the fact that I am two distinctly different people: the quirky, creative, oddball with the graphic imagination and the somewhat conservative businesswoman. This website is devoted to the real me, the one who wakes up at night envisioning dead bodies rolling down hillsides and plopping into creeks. If you want to learn more about the “normal” person, visit my Linda Faulkner website–assuming, of course, that a person who loves to write about insurance is normal.

THIS is the site where my meanderings about the world of writing fiction will appear, along with guest posts from other writers I know. So, if you’re a writer who’s interested in getting some publicity for yourself, send me an email at Linda@LindaMcHenry.com with your inquiry.

Tell me what you think about the new website. The folks at Slocum Design Studio will be thrilled to receive your feedback and any inquiries you might have about their services.