Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NCF Tuesday: Summer Reading Mania; Glimmer Train Deadline Today; Simple Dog Goes for Joy Ride


Literary Blending with Fantasy/Sci-fi

The Wall Street Journal discusses the line between genre and literary fiction, low and high art. Alexandra Alter dives into the literary novelists’ struggle to compete with ubiquitous fantasy and science fiction. 

Is the literary novelist’s move to blend their genre with popular fiction going to help or hurt them?


Analysis of All 7 Harry Potter Novels

Sean Smith at The Boston College Chronicle talks about Romance Languages and Literatures Professor Emerita Vera Lee’s On the Trail of Harry Potter, “which she touts as the first book-length literary analysis of all seven Harry Potter volumes.” She breaks from previously published analyses to focus on how J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter and why.

Would you purchase the literary analysis of the beloved YA series?

Summer Reading List

The New York Times runs down a list of 19 promising new books to keep you busy during the summer. Janet Maslin shows us that trite story lines are a thing of the past. I definitely will be picking up Jennifer Grant’s memoir Good Stuff.  

What’s on your summer reading list?


Becky Taylor Books

$50.00 Amazon Gift Card Summer Break Giveaway

Deadline: May 31, 2011
Details here

Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Short Story Award for New Writers
-       First Place Prize: $1,200, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue
-       Deadline: May 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Spring 2011 Story Contest: Fiction and Nonfiction of 15,000 words or less
-       First Place Prize: $3,250, considered for publication
-       Deadline: July 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 

If you have a few minutes to spare, check out Hyperbole and a Half, it’ll make you laugh. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blog Awards

I'm rolling out the blog awards I received during the A-Z Blogging Challenge in the month of April. It took me almost a month to get my ass in gear. Normally I don't like to draw too much attention to myself, but I'm proud of my blog and writing, so I will display the awards proudly. 

As a woman of few words when it comes to talking about herself, I will let the awards step in. Please visit the two supportive women who felt moved to award me.   

Dierdra from A Storybook World gave me the Creative Blog Award. Check her out here!

My writing companion from the Bucks County Writers Group bestowed upon me the Versatile Blog Award. Thanks, Magpie Writes!  

Oh, the Versatile Blogger Award requires me to give 7 true-ish facts about myself. Ugh! Here goes:

1. I love poetry, but consistently fail to analyze it properly. Whatever, elitist bastards! 
2. My cat Toby is my fur baby, and I sing to him. 
3. I've traveled to Paris, Madrid and the Caribbean.
4. Hopeless Romantic = Me
5. Food and delicious libations make me smile, laugh loud and talk a bit too much.
6. I pretend to like watching sports so I can contribute to the conversation. (Baseball bores me.)
7. A good sense of humor goes a long way. 

There you go. A quick glimpse into the world of Laura. Exciting, I know. Please contain your enthusiasm and stay seated. 

What awards, blogging or otherwise, have you received?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Blog Friday!

In an attempt to expand my readership, Misha @My First Book gave me rein of her blog today as a guest blogger. Please head on over and read about Acting for Writers. If you aren't following her yet, I highly recommend it.

Welcome new visitors! If you are interested in checking out the first two posts in the Pennwriters Conference Series, follow the links below.

Pennwriters Conference Series: #1 Four Truths of Character

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pennwriters Conference Series: #2 Connecting Spirituality and Writing

My favorite seminar during the three days I spent at the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh was Madhu Wangu, Ph. D’s Writing MeditationMadhu created and trialed a 3-hour meditation program that focuses on mind, heart and body. The conference gave her the opportunity to bring the condensed practice to writers. We focused on body meditation.      

She began the lecture by listing the benefits of meditation (e.g., reduces anxiety, helps you focus and provides peace of mind), and explained meditation also allows an artist time to reconnect their mind and body to improve their process, focus and artwork.

Often when I sit down to write my mind is cluttered with errands, dates, story ideas, etc. that I need to remember. My body and mind move in different directions making it difficult to relax and focus my energy. So, I end up wasting time and pages getting into my writing rhythm. Madhu assured the group through meditation you could dive over the warm up and directly into your writing.

In preparation for the body meditation, Madhu asked us to focus our breathing. Concentrating on the air entering through the nose, filling the lungs and audibly exiting through the mouth. A few seconds of focused breathing and I already felt calmer. Try it!  

Madhu also believes in the importance of daily non-verbal activities (i.e., no talking, no reading, no listening). It allows the mind to relax.   

On to the demonstration of how meditation affects writing. Madhu asked the group to write about our bodies for eight minutes. It was like pulling teeth. It was early, I didn’t know what to say and my fragmented sentences stumbled onto the page.

Then, we spent ten minutes on body meditation (the abridged version), focusing on every bone and muscle, thanking each one for the job it does for us everyday. It’s amazing what we take for granted.

Once we finished, she asked us to write for another eight minutes about our body. I was astounded by the fluidness of my ideas and the effortless construction of full, complete sentences. It looked like two different people had written in my notebook.  

How does this meditation work for writers? Madhu advised us to come up with a concrete writing goal, preferably just one to avoid overwhelming ourselves, to focus on daily and during meditation. Thinking about your story is just as important as the actual writing process.  

DIY Meditation:

·      I know too many extraneous noises around you makes it hard to focus. My suggestion would be to head out to a store and pick up an instrumental CD (lyrics distract). I’m a fan of Asian Serenity from Target.
·       Set a timer, if need be, for 20 minutes.
·      Now sit down, either in a chair with your feet flat on the floor or cross-legged on the floor, hands in your lap, fingers intertwined and thumbs touching (see photo above).
·      Close your eyes.
·      Bring your writing goal to the forefront of your mind.
·      Focus on your breathing.
·      Use the entire 20 minutes to let ideas related to your writing goal float around your mind. Resist getting up until the end of the 20 minutes.
·      Once the meditation is complete, begin writing.


1.    Focus on Breathing
a.    All the time, not just during meditation
b.    It slows you down, allows you to focus and clears your mind
2.   Concrete Writing Goal
a.    Keep in mind
b.    Your constant companion
3.   Meditate
a.    Before you write
b.    20 minutes a day
4.   Non-verbal activity—Give mind time to rest
a.    Gardening
b.    Walking
c.    Dishes
d.    Laundry

What rituals do you perform before writing?

Check out Alex's Conference Post! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NCF Tuesday: Books from Childhood; Writing Contests; Hipster Tea Party


Children Inheriting Their Parents Books

According to Kevin Hartnett, parents often choose books from their childhood to share with their children and foster a love for reading. A wonderful tradition to pass on to the youth of this world. 

Name 1 or 2 of your favorite books as a child?

Looking to Turn Your Novel Into a Movie?

Josie Freedman, Co-head of the Media Rights Department (with Nick Harris) at International Creative Management (ICM) discusses what she looks for when deciding if a novel can translate into a movie. 

What novels do you think would make for a great movie?

PJ Harvey to Release Her Writing and Art Work

Life and the chance to make a record took musician PJ Harvey away from her desire for the visual arts, and now would like to make her way back. While on tour for her a new album out this year, a plan to showcase her poetry, short fiction and drawings is in the works. 

Besides writing, do you aspire to other areas of the arts?

Keeping Bookstores Alive

Unique bookstores keep the brick and mortar stores alive while combating the e-book explosion.

Do you have a unique bookstore you enjoy visiting?


Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Short Story Award for New Writers
-       First Place Prize: $1,200, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue
-       Deadline: May 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Spring 2011 Story Contest: Fiction and Nonfiction of 15,000 words or less
-       First Place Prize: $3,250, considered for publication
-       Deadline: July 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 

Funny or Die shows us the Hipster Tea Party potential. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"A Smile": A Character Study

Thursday, I talked about building character by sketching out the Four Truths. Here is my attempt to flesh out a character from a short story, told in third-person I'm currently working on. 

"A Smile" is told in first-person and takes place after the short story begins. It really gave me an opportunity to better understand Jana, her community and her relationship with live-in boyfriend Bryan. Any and all feedback is welcome. Enjoy!  

A Smile
By Laura M. Campbell

            The temperature began climbing earlier this week, and, now, sweat is trickling down the side of everyone’s face. Good thing Pastor Bill put the tent up over the picnic tables. Wouldn’t want sunburn while you eat.
Luckily, the additional classrooms off the chapel kept the children suspended in air conditioning. Although, fifteen minutes before the end of Sunday school, their anxious energy defrosted their muscles, making it difficult for them to stay in the little plastic seats. Mayhem ensued when I asked them to clean-up, struggling to get the chairs up on the tables with the smell of sweet, fresh-cut grass swirling around them as volunteers carried the food and paper products outside for the picnic. The sound of the doors at the end of the hallway created frenzy, causing them to push and shove each other out the door, reaching for the warm sunshine.
I followed their yells and laughter out, and took my place behind the buffet table with Jackie Miller. Originally, I planned to grab a quick bite with my family and head home, but Pastor Bill’s dazzling smile caught me off guard when I arrived this morning to set up the classroom. Next thing I know I volunteered to serve food. Granted, Sue Quinn quarantined herself and her family, who came down with a highly contagious cold, and Pastor Bill needed someone to fill in for her. Unfortunately, the buffet table sat under the tent, making parishioners more apt to linger, asking questions about the state of my relationship with Bryan.  
“Why didn’t Bryan come to church today?”
“I heard Pete gave Missy a beautiful ring. I’m sure Bryan will pop the question soon.”
“What’s Bryan waiting for? You two have been dating for forever.”
Someone shoot me. It’s bad enough to wonder when he’s planning to make our relationship official, but to have people poking their nose in your personal business, pointing out your failures is enough to make a girl crazy. Of course, I smile and politely giggle, telling them Bryan must of caught the cold the Quinn family had. Really, he and I fought yesterday. And hitting the bar with his buddies is his usual way of dealing with things. When I left this morning, he was snoring on the couch. I hate showing up to social gatherings without him. He’s my barrier against all the judgmental looks and whispering. I’m just glad the children are playing behind me. Their loud voices drown out the spreading gossip and pitiful glances.
            “Hi, Ms. Macon.”
            A small, breathy voice brought me back to reality. “Oh, hi there Chris. You enjoying yourself?”
            Sweat poured down his face. “Yup.” The third grader’s mother nudged him in the shoulder. “I mean, Yes, ma’am.”
            “Looks like you worked up an appetite. Grab yourself a plate.” He reached across the table, showing off his grass stained elbows, little badges of courage. “What would you like?”
            He took a moment to scan all the silver chaffing dishes. “Can I…” His mother nudged him again. “May I have a hot dog?”
            “You sure can.” I grabbed one with the tongs and placed it on his plate. “Did you want to try some macaroni salad?”
            He shook his head.
            “You do need some greens,” his mother said. She pointed to a big white bowl. “Bring your plate over here.”
            “Allllrrriiiight.” His shoulders drooped as she piled the lettuce, cucumber, carrot and tomato mixture on his plate. He grabbed the bottle of Ranch. “Let me put the dressing on.” He bit his lower lip, willing his little hands to turn it upside down, causing a huge glob of it to smother the salad.
            “Chris!” She grabbed the bottle away from him, shaking her head. “Not so much, honey.” He smiled.
            “I heard Bryan’s sick. I hope it’s not too bad,” Cathy, Chris’s mother, said as she gently pushed him down the buffet table.
Apparently, the heat helped word spread faster. I waved my hand at her, “He’ll be fine. Just needs some rest.” My chest tightened.
            Chris turned his attention back to me. “Do you have ketchup and mustard?”
            “We sure do. If you walk to the end of the table, I’m sure Mrs. Miller would gladly help you out.”
            “Thanks, Ms. Macon. See you tomorrow at school.”
            I smiled and nodded at him and his mother. “Bye, Chris. See, ya ‘round, Cathy.”
            I left the apartment this morning without eating to avoid waking Bryan, and standing around all this food made my stomach growl. Finally, the line slowed down to gluttonous parishioners heading up for seconds and thirds, a great chance to grab a plate and sit down for a few minutes. I turned and almost ran smack into Jackie. 
            “Oh, Jana. Would you mind the table for a bit while I check on my kids?”
            “Sure, Jackie.” A few more minutes wouldn’t kill me, right?
            “Thank you so much.” She cringed while she looked behind me. “Andrew Michael Miller! Get off your brother!” She placed her hand on my shoulder, bracing herself to deal with the insanity that is her children. “You should eat something, Mouse. Lookin’ too skinny.” Then, she ran off to break up the dandelion-crushing brawl. Little white, feathery wisps floated around the group of miniature on-lookers cheering the fight on.
Jackie and her husband, Ken, were the often embarrassed, but deep down proud parents of four little boys all under the age of six. Andrew, the oldest, already earned himself a reputation at James Garfield Elementary.
            Other parents took cue from the Miller brawl to grab their sweaty children and head towards their cars. The wound-up children tried to escape, coming close to dislocating their parents’ arms while they said their goodbyes. I took my cue as well, and started to clean up the buffet table.
            “Need some help?”
            Kind blue eyes stared back at me when I looked up to see Mark Cooper. “Hey, Mark. How are you?” I continued to collect all the plastic serving utensils and pile them on a paper plate.
            “I’m a bit hot with this collared shirt and tie, but doing well,” he said, flashing his big white smile. “Where’s Bryan?”
            “You didn’t hear? He’s sick at home.”
            “That’s too bad.” He walked down to the end of the table, closing all the condiment containers and placing them in the cardboard box under the table.
            “You don’t have to do that, Mark.” He hadn’t changed since high school. Still sweat as pie.
            “No big deal. It’s either this or listen to my parents go on and on about setting me up with a nice girl.” He thumbed over his shoulder to a group of older people. 
            “Tell me about it. If I hear one more comment about Missy getting engaged before me, or the fact that I live with Bryan out of wedlock, I’m going to head straight to the wharf and drown myself in the river.” 
            His laughter lifted the weight on my shoulders a bit, and a real smile spread across my face.
“I didn’t see you in the choir today.” He started to collect all the paper products.
            “Oh, yeah. Missy needed me to teach Sunday school for her. She’s busy organizing end of the year activities for her seniors, and came to early mass.”
            “That must have been fun.” Sarcasm dripped from his words.
            “Actually, I love working with the younger ones. They aren’t jaded and as stubborn as the teenagers.”
            “Oh, yea. You’re teaching at Garfield, right?”
            “I’m a teacher’s aide, and substitute whenever they need me. Fingers crossed, I’ll get the job teaching third grade next year. I interview Wednesday.”
            “I’m sure you have the job. They probably just need to go through the motions. Who in the world wouldn’t give a Macon a teaching job?” He helped me stack the chaffing dishes on a cart.
            “You never know. I wouldn’t want to jinx it.”
            We spent the next twenty minutes carrying the food into the church basement-kitchen and placing the linens into a laundry bag. Once we cleaned everything up, we headed back out to the parking lot as everyone slowly got into their cars. My anxiety started to build again knowing I would see Bryan soon. I wanted to make things ok between us. And it never fails, I get lost in my thoughts and my feet stop working. I tripped and Mark caught me before I fell on my face.
            “Thanks for the save. That would have been embarrassing.” I held on to his arms as he hoisted me up.
            “No problem.” He smiled at me while I fixed my dress. “Your eyes change color in the sunlight. They almost look like honey.”
            “Bryan says they’re my best feature. Speaking of Bryan, I need to get home to check on him, and I’m sure my parents are ready to leave. Thanks for you help, Mark.”
            “It was my pleasure.”
            “See ya around.” I waved to him as I hurried to catch up with my parents before they left me. It didn’t take more than a few seconds after climbing into my father’s SUV before my mother bombarded me with questions about Mark. I just counted the row houses though the tinted window, ignoring her. Bryan was at home and I couldn’t wait to see him.   

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NCF Tuesday: Sci-Fi Sex and Mermaids; Writing Contests; Eliza’s Silly Sunday


Sci-Fi Reacquainting Us With Our Own Sexuality

Science fiction authors employ humans characters as well as aliens and intelligent machines in their stories. Kyle Munkittrick discusses the wide acceptance of interracial and interspecies love and sexual relationships found in science fiction and how it will break down the sexual barriers in our own lives in the future.

Do you believe fiction will break down the sexual barriers in our world?

Neil Gaiman Called a Thief by Congressman

Republican Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Matt Dean, urged by his mother, apologized to Neil Gaiman for name-calling. Gaiman received $45,000 for a speaking engagement. Dean felt the payment of $45,000 to Gaiman for a speaking engagement was exorbitant and labeled him a thief.

Do you think $45,000 is an excessive amount to pay a superstar author for a speaking engagement?

Mermaids Splashing Onto the Paranormal Scene

Between the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie and the 2011 MerCon in Las Vegas, mermaids emerge on the paranormal scene, overshadowing vampires. Even Stephanie Meyer, Twilight author, plans to write mermaids into her new novels.

What other trends do you foresee in the future?


Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Short Story Award for New Writers
-       First Place Prize: $1,200, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue
-       Deadline: May 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Spring 2011 Story Contest: Fiction and Nonfiction of 15,000 words or less
-       First Place Prize: $3,250, considered for publication
-       Deadline: July 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 

Blogger Eliza shares a funny story. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prose from the Pros #13: Neil Gaiman

Today is the second day of my Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh. While I learn everything I can cram into my brain, I want to leave you with a thought on dreams and writing from Neil Gaiman.

I've written about the use of dreams to weave symbolism into your fiction and poetry, and I think they provide rich inspiration for writing. Dreams open a door to who you are.

In Gaiman's introduction to Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, he discusses how to use dreams in your writing.

"I love dreams. I know enough about them to know that dream logic is not story logic, and that you can rarely bring a dream back as a tale: it will have transformed from gold into leaves, from silk to cobwebs, on waking.

Still, there are things you can bring back with you from dreams: atmosphere, moments, people, a theme."

Have dreams ever made it into your writing?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NCF Tuesday: Promoting Literacy; Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award; Natalie Portman Raps


Innovations in Reading Prize, 2011, Goes To…

My Own Book: Burt Freeman worked to create opportunity to increase literacy among New York City students. “The concept behind My Own Book is amazing in its simplicity: Third-grade children from inner-city schools go on a class trip to a bookstore where My Own Book volunteers help the children purchase $50 worth of books to help start and build their own personal libraries.” 

Kore Press: Currently, these literary activists are creating social change through three different projects that stray away from book form. They will use “t-shirts, video PSAs, readings, podcasts, poems wrapped around tampons and loaded into a repurposed tampon machine that travels to public restrooms, a 40-foot banner, a blog, a newspaper ad, posters in elevators, coffee cup sleeves and repurposed political yard signs.”

Electric Literature: The quarterly journal reaches their audience through Twitter, YouTube videos, iPhone and iPad apps. They even created their own “app-building software because they couldn't find an existing one that met their needs or their budget.”

YARN: “is the first independent online literary journal dedicated to young adult (YA) literature; they publish short fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews, as well as an editors' blog and lesson plans for teachers.” In an attempt to widen the audience, YARN publishes teen writers and emerging and established adult authors.

How do you “step out of the box” to reach your audience?

Download Stations in the Library

In Edinburgh, Scotland, the Capital’s libraries plan to make e-books available for download. Liz McGettigan, library and information manager, doesn’t believe the physical book will ever completely disappear, but she wants to make way for new technology.

Would you use an e-lending service at your local library?

Fighting Sexism Among Major Literary Awards

A group of female Australian writers and publishers are working together to create a literary award, equivalent to the Orange Prize, to ensure women are seen, read and heard. Apparently, the majority of literary awards find their way into the hands of their male counterparts. The women hope to bring attention and validation to female writers.

Why does sexism in the arts still exist?


New American Fiction Prize
-       Fiction: Approx. 100-500 pages of your best fiction
-       First Place Prize: $1,000, publication contract, 25 complimentary copies and 15% royalties
-       Deadline: May 15, 2011
-       Details here 

Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Short Story Award for New Writers
-       First Place Prize: $1,200, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue
-       Deadline: May 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Spring 2011 Story Contest: Fiction and Nonfiction of 15,000 words or less
-       First Place Prize: $3,250, considered for publication
-       Deadline: July 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       19th Annual Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Grand Prize: $3,000 and a trip to Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City
o   Deadline: May 16, 2011
o   Details here 

-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 

Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Contest
-       Chapbook of Poetry: 16-20 pages of a manuscript
-       First Place Prize: $1,000, publication by Slapering Hol Press
-       Deadline: May 15, 2011
-       Details here 

Cute Natalie Portman steps out of her stereotypical romantic role to rap* on Saturday Night Live. Enjoy!

*Disclaimer: Explicit language.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...