Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shop Talk with Christina A.--The Olympics

By: Christina Adams

I love watching the Olympics. In years past I preferred the summer games over the winter, but this year has changed that. There are still many things I don't understand about sports like curling or hockey and I am okay with that. It's the individual stories that has me riveted to the television, the journey of one person toward winning a gold medal, the dreams and hopes of a country holding their breath. Sometimes I get so excited it feels like my heart stops as I wait to see who will win.

I am amazed at the things a human body can do and when they talk about how much the athletes have to train to prepare for this event, this one chance every four years, I can't help but feel thankful that I am a writer not an athlete. I don't have to wait for one opportunity every four years for my writing to be recognized or to see the realization of my lifelong dreams. Nor do I have a whole nation counting on me and a world routing against me. Over all I have a pressure-free life and, even better, I have the rest of my life to write with no end to my physical ability to create.

Watching the Olympics inspires me to become the best I can be. It stokes the hope that dreams can be realized, if I persevere and don't give in to doubt. The only thing that can stop me is myself.

Have the Olympics inspired you in any way? What helps motivate you to keep writing? I'd love to know. Let's talk shop!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writer's Book Shelf: Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

A new edition of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg is due out in March, 2010. This new edition, advertisements say, includes a new preface by the author.

My copy is copyright 1986, and Goldberg's Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life (1990) is combined in this particular printing. I return to this volume again and again.

This is not a writing how-to, exactly, though it is full of how-tos, as the following two sentences from the chapter "Original Detail":
"Life is so rich, if you can write down the real details of the way things were and are, you hardly need anything else. Even if you transplant the beveled windows, slow-rotating Rheingold sign, Wise potato chip rack, and tall red stools from the Aero Tavern that you drank in in New York into a bar in a story in another state and time, the story will have authenticity and groundedness."

Goldberg is a teacher as well as a poet, essayist, and novelist, a fact that reflects in every one of her short chapters that weave together a myriad of details about technique and discussion of the reasons for the effort itself. Reading her work is like sitting in conversation with a very talented writer friend.

Robert Pirig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, describes her as having "the simple style of a Zen archer who looks like he's not even aiming, yet sends arrow after arrow to the bull's-eye time after time."

A few more illustrative quotes:
"The problem is we think we exist."
"Learn to trust the force of your own voice."
"If something works, it works. If it doesn't, quit beating an old horse. Go on writing. Something else will come up. There's enough bad writing in the world. Write one good line, you'll be famous. Write a lot of lukewarm pieces, you'll put people to sleep."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is the story of how a cell sample taken from a poor, black Baltimore mother of six as she lay dying of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951 turned into one of the most important tools in medicine. They are still alive today and whether or not you recognize her name her cells, the HeLa cells, have traveled the globe and have impacted your health and your life. This is a fascinating story told with great skill, intelligence, and compassion. One of the best books I have read in years ... this is an author to pay attention to.
My review of science journalist Rebecca Skloot's first book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is available on Basil & Spice bit.ly/c5BZYy

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'll Make You An Offer You Can't Refuse

Insider Business Tips From A Former Mob Boss
by Michael Franzese
(c) 2009 Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Author Michael Franzese, a former mob boss, ex-con, and the youngest individual on Fortune magazine's survey of "The Fifty Biggest Mafia Bosses" (at one point he was earning millions every week) has advice for anyone who is looking to beat the odds. Since being released from prison (he served eight years of a ten year prison sentence for racketeering) Mr. Franzese has reinvented himself ... this time on the right side of the law.

When Mr Franzese joined the Colombo crime family his philosophies were pure Machiavellian (the end always justifies the means). Today the author has this to say about his past, "... following the Machiavellian philosophy doesn't make you a bad person by itself. But I can tell you this: if you follow his line of thinking, it does make you susceptible to your own failings and moral corruptions."

Today, he follows Solomon's path believing that business and life should be managed with integrity, following a reliable moral and legal compass. King Solomon (whom he refers to as "the original wiseguy") does not allow one to compromise (either values or integrity - both of which he places a high premium on) to be successful. Solomon's way does not repay an injustice with a further injustice. Instead, he deals with it appropriately and wisely ... he does not spread false rumors ... or resort to unfair business practices ... or work to obtain money dishonestly ... nor allow the dishonest actions of another to cause him to compromise his own high standards. Chapter titles include: First, Nail Down the Basics; Lead with Your Brain, Not Your Mouth; Get the Right Idea About Success.

Using stories from his own life Mr. Franzese tells it like it is. No hiding, no excuses. I'll Make You An Offer You Can't Refuse is well written and told in a straight forward manner. At the end of each chapter there is a GET THE MESSAGE summary of the chapter's important themes. The book addresses the current housing crisis, the country's massive debt, arrogant CEOs, and the need to rethink business practices.

The author is a man on a mission, he considers himself lucky to be alive, now he wants to share his experiences with others. This book would make a good gift for the college graduate, Father's Day, or any student of life, or budding entrepreneur.

note: Purchasing this book means that you also get a free ebook and an audio version. Perhaps this is an offer you shouldn't refuse.

This book was provided by Nelsonfree, Thomas Nelson, Inc. for review.

Lucille Clifton 1936 - 2010

Lucille Clifton, National Book Award winner and former poet laureate of Maryland, died Saturday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 73.

Mrs. Clifton, a resident of Columbia, was a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and was honored on many other occasions during her career. She was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Maryland and Towson University. She was the poet-in-resident at Coppin State College between 1971 and 1974. The second woman and the first African American to serve as poet laureate of Maryland, she was also the first black woman to win the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize award, in 2007, among the most prestigious awards that can be won by an American poet. It included at $100,000.00 stipend.

Besides her eleven poetry collections, Mrs. Clifton published 20 children's books, and her poems have appeared in more than 100 anthologies, according to her biography.

Mrs. Clifton and her husband, Fred Clifton, a philosophy professor at the University of Buffalo, moved to Baltimore in the 1960s and had six children. Her husband died in the 1984. (source The Baltimore Sun February 14, 2010)


James Arden Holstine 1949-2010

James loved books ... read Lesa's tribute here:




The wind carries an antiseptic bite and also
the clicking sound of ice-coated branches.

A male cardinal calls,
He flits like fire through the shimmering
glisten of his ink-drawn world.

Winter is not silent, still like death.
It is only a cleansing pause, the quiet season.

~~~~~Carol Bindel

Previously published in Chesapeake, a publication of the National League of American Pen Women, 1996; and again in "From The Front Porch," Spotlights #19, The Harford Poetry and Literary Society, 1997.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quote: Rest

"During the initial stage of dormancy--called quiescence--the plant slows in response to environmental cues. If there is too much cold or nor enough light, a Douglas fir seedling will become quiescent, and cease its growth. But if those conditions change--a cold spring warms, a neighboring tree is cut down-- new buds will elongate and a second flush of growth will develop.

"But the second stage of dormancy--called rest -- is controlled from within. A seedling in the resting stage will not grow, no matter how favorable the environment. A warm January will not tempt it out; it heeds an inner clock, and emerges from dormancy only in the fullness of time, under the most deeply favorable conditions. This aids in the safe and healthy propagation of life."

—From Sabbath, "Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest," by Wayne Muller (Bantam Books, 1999)

How, then, do we balance our busy-ness with rest? How do you find time and space in your life for deep refreshment?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Courage Quote

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says 'I'll try again tomorrow.'"
Mary Anne Radmacher

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writer's Book Shelf-Writing Children's Books

Book Review:Lesley Bolton and Lea Wait's Writing Children's Books

By: Christina Adams

This little book covers every topic in children's literature from its history to what can be expected in the future. It discusses nonfiction, fiction, how to know if you are a writer, whether you should illustrate your own book, how to deal with writer's block and what to expect when you get a contract in the mail. This is not a book on the writing process of writing for children, but an overview of the children's book industry, what it is like and what to expect.

Writing Children's Books is one of The Only Writing Series You'll Ever Need series and is more of an everything you need to know about than an all encompassing book on how to write for children. There is only one chapter devoted to writing and revision, but the book covers the whole process from concept to marketing.

The sections I found helpful were the chapter where the rights a publisher could offer you were explained and the chapter where the different age groups were defined by topic and word count. If you have a book for children, but you are not sure what age to target this is a good book to check out. This book is great for writers who are starting out and for any writer who wants a better handle on the world of publishing for children.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lesa and Jim Holstine

Earlier today our friend* Lesa shared news about her husband Jim. Jim has been diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Followers of Lesa's Book Critiques (http://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com/ ) know just how much this generous and gracious (and funny) couple loves books, cats, and each other. Please keep them in your thoughts and if you are inclined, you can post your thoughts and words of encouragement on her blog.

* Meet Lesa, December 5, 2008

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Good Deal Is Better Than A Nice Deal

Writers love to talk about money ... but hate to bring it up. I teach noncredit writing courses at our local community college and online. Most beginning writers have no idea what kind of money they can expect to make ... when they sell their first book.

"A nice deal is worth $1 - $49,000.00." I give them time to to consider the possibilities.

"A very nice deal means you will receive $50,000 - $99,000.00." I watch as eyes light up and smiles are exchanged. A few students nod their heads.

"While a good deal pays just a little better ... $100,000 - $250,000.00." The room becomes very quiet. No one says a word. But I'm not finished.

"A significant deal ... means the book deal is a big deal and the range is between $251,000 - $499,000.00." I look down at my notes.

"And the final deal is considered a major deal and is worth $500,000 and up." And we all laugh.

Poetry Contest

Each year more than 200 poems are entered in the Upper Eastern Shore's Regional Poetry contest. Now in its 14th year, the contest invites both experienced and beginning writers to submit entries to this exciting annual event which is presented by the Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's and Talbot County arts councils.

Cash prizes of $100, $50, and $25 dollars are awarded for first, second, and third place in each of four categories: children/youth (grades 1-8), students (grades 9-12), adults (ages 18-59) and seniors (ages 60+). In addition to the cash awards, winners enjoy a public reception where they can recite their winning poems.

This event is unique to the area and offers an excellent opportunity for aspiring and accomplished poets to have their work judged by working writers and to read to an audience. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate the contest into classroom studies and to submit student work for the contest. Entrants must be residents, students, or employees in the participating counties. They may not submit previously published or award winning poems. Staff members of the participating arts councils are not eligible. Winners will be notified no later than the second week of April. Full details and rules are available with each entry form.

The deadline for submission is March 1. Deliver entry forms with poems to the Queen Anne's County Arts Council by Feb. 28 or send with postmark by March 1. An entry form is required for contest consideration. Entry forms are available through the participating local arts councils: Caroline 410-479-1009, Cecil 410-392-5740, Kent 410-778-3831, Queen Anne's 410-758-2520 and Talbot 410-310-9812.

For more information:


Thanks May!

Publicists First, Successful Writer Second

Rebecca Skloot dreamed about going on tour. She envisioned herself, her boyfriend, the dogs and her best friends traveling cross country in a great big tour bus to promote her first book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But her publisher Crown had other ideas: "We really don't do books tours anymore." Her agent agreed. "They're just not the best investment of publicity funds." Instead, they offered banner ads, buzz campaigns, bookstore placement, blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, and radio tours.

Ms. Skloot agreed, at least in the beginning.

Later that night, at home, she changed her mind. And with the help of her brain-damanged father Floyd Skloot (also an author, who has written about the neurologic damage he suffered from a virus in the 1980s) they went public (Ms Skloot has many friends on Twitter and FB) and The Immortal Book Tour was launched. Within days an expense -paid trip was booked at a medical school in Ohio ... and a nearby bookstore later that evening.

Ms. Skloot: "Now, I'm not suggesting that posting a request for help on Facebook will miraculously result in a successful book tour. Far from it. A plan like this requires an established social network, something writers should start developing years before publishing a book...."

To learn more about the author and the book tour  http://www.rebeccaskloot.com/

How To Connect With Readers -
Topic for discussion: Writers do you have a presence on Twitter ... Facebook? Do you have an active blog and or website? Do you know what to post and how often...

Please share your thoughts with us....

(This post is based on an author interview. PW November 2009)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sign Up for The Catholic Writers Conference by February 15, 2010

M E D I A   R E L E A S E

CONTACT: Karina Fabian Ann Margaret Lewis

E-mail: karina@fabianspace.com e-mail: annlewis@joesystems.com

For Immediate Release

Catholic Writers Conference Online Provides Practical Help

World Wide Web--This year's Catholic Writers’ Conference Online, which will be held February 26-March 5, 2010, will focus on the practical things the writer needs to succeed.

The conference is held via chats and forums at www.catholicwritersconference.com. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild, the online conference is free of charge and open to writers of all levels who register between October 1, 2009 and February 15, 2010.

"We've always concentrated on workshops and chats that teach the writer skills or provide information in the areas of crafting, publishing and marketing their works, but this year, we're adding critique workshops and some incredible opportunities to pitch to leading publishers," said organizer Karina Fabian.

This year, publishers hearing pitches include well known Catholic publishers like Pauline, large Christian publishers like Thomas Nelson, and smaller presses like White Rose. Thus far, eleven pitch sessions are scheduled, running the gamut from Christian romance to Catholic theology.

In a new program, at least fifty attendees will have the opportunity to have pieces of their work critiqued by successful editors and writers. In addition, there will be forum-based workshops and chat room presentations covering topics from dialogue to freelancing to how Catholic fiction differs from Christian fiction.

"Even in good economic times, it's hard for writers to attend live conferences," said Fabian, "but this year, we think it's even more important to help careers by utilizing an online format. We're so grateful that our presenters are willing to share their time and talent."

Early registration is recommended. Although the conference is offered free of charge, donations are accepted; proceeds will go toward future conferences. Non-Catholics may attend, as long as they respect Catholic beliefs and the conference's Catholic focus.

To register or for more information, go to http://www.catholicwritersconference.com./

Writer's Book Shelf-The Elements of Style

Book Review: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White's The Elements of Style

By Christina Adams

The Elements of Style is a classic rule book on the basics of grammar and fundamentals of style. The whole book is written as a long list of rules separated by glossaries. In five brief parts, each covering its own topic, the English language is broken down into understandable mechanics.

The first part covers grammar and punctuation, or as they call it, Elementary Rules of Usage. The second part goes deeper covering composition, from using the active voice to keeping related words together. The third part goes over the use of form, such as referencing, quotations and headings. The fourth section covers misused words and expressions. This was my favorite section because the authors went into detail on how these words are misused and the proper way to use them. They go through word definitions for farther/further, effect/affect, aggravate/irritate, disinterested/uninterested, nauseous/nauseated and give the actual meaning for everyday words like data (which is plural) and hopefully (which means 'with hope' not 'I hope' as it is now often intended). The fifth and last part goes deeper into style and outlines how to make your writing a clear, communicating tool. There is also a glossary and index at the end pushing the page count to a mere 105.

While this book originally came out in 1935 and definitely has an older, textbook-type, feel to it, the passion and understanding of the English language, as well as what it stands for, shines through. It has been updated, several times, since then, although I can't help imagining the horror they would have at the direction technology has taken our communication. I found this book a helpful reminder of the respect I should have for the boundaries of language and a deeper insight into the power of the written word. This book is one of the few universal writers book and can be beneficial for fiction or nonfiction writers equally. If you want a short read this book is for you.

The Help - New York Times Article

Since it came out in February 2009, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett has been embraced by book clubs and bloggers who can't stop recommending it to their friends.  Below is the link for November 2009 New York Times article written by Motoko Rich ....

A Southern Mirrored Window

“The Help,” a novel about the relationships between African-American maids and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi, has the classic elements of a crowd pleaser: it features several feisty women enmeshed in a page-turning plot, clear villains and a bit of a history lesson.
The book, a debut novel by Kathryn Stockett, also comes with a back story that is a publishing dream come true: at first rejected by nearly 50 agents, the manuscript was scooped up by an imprint of Penguin and pushed aggressively to booksellers, who fell in love with it...


Note: I purchased my copy of "The Help" last week and glanced at the numbered print run (my copy is part of the 44th print run). Curious, I did a quick Internet search ... this book is a first novel that was rejected over and over. Lesson for aspiring writers, write a good book and keep it out there. Dreams do come true.

While I haven't finished the book I am hooked. Have you read this one?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shop Talk With Christina A.--The First Conference

By: Christina Adams

The first time I went to a writers conference I had no idea what to expect. I brought a story I had recently changed the tense of for a private critique session and I was nervous. The first few hours I was introduced to more people, more concepts and more information than I thought existed. By dinner my head ached and I sat next to a man who told me this tragic story about his family, only after I left did I realized he was probably talking about his book.

The woman who critiqued my story instantly recognized that the tenses had been changed and kindly told me to keep working. I felt great, although I determined never to change tenses again. It wasn't until later when I saw the same woman asking another conference attendee to send her more did I realize what she didn't say. My story was not good enough and by association neither was I.

As the end of the conference drew near, I was depressed. I had decided to scrap that story and try something different. But I didn't know what. The focus of the conference was on how God needed all kinds of writers; everyone had a place God had specifically designed for them to fill. I went outside and listened to the birds while the wind combed my hair. I thought about all the story ideas I had and I began to notice a pattern. Some stories like the one I had brought were for adults, but the stories I felt more excitement for were the ideas I had for the middle school/teen genres. That conference was an eye-opener for me, partly because I had found my niche and partly because I grew to appreciate the other writers who can do what I can't. I will never be a poet, believe me I've tried. I may never be able to write for the little ones or craft a decent mystery, but I can write from my passion and grow where God has placed me.

What was your first writers conference experience? What did you learn? What surprised you? If you haven't gone to one yet what is your opinion about writers conferences? I'd love to know. Let's talk shop.

Writing Contest Announcement

WestBow Press is having a writing contest. WestBow is an imprint of Thomas Nelson and specializes in self publishing. The contest is open to all writing, fiction and nonfiction (with the exception of children's and picture books. Young Adult is fine.) as long as the manuscript is 100 pages and completed. The only catch is that to win you have to be present at the OC Christian Writers Fellowship on May 1, 2010. For more information and official submission guidelines click here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writers Needed for New Book for The Catholic Market


You can contribute to a Catholic book being published, “Letters to Priests, Thanking The Men Of The Catholic Church.” At last an opportunity to thank priests for their every day dedication to healing, help and support of those who seek help.

Authors Anne Hughes and Teena Adamick are looking for writers.

This new publication will be a compilation of letters of thanks written by people from all over the world who have been helped, supported and encouraged by a priest/priests. Please join us in this opportunity for healing.

Sharing your letter of thanks may be healing for you and others. Many of us share the same sorrows and in thanking your priest you may be a source of hope and healing for others as they read of your journey and have deeper hope for their own journey. Please join us in this new publication dedicated to healing through expressions of thanks, hope and encouragement.

E-mail Anne Hughes or Teena Adamick

at letterstopriest@gmail.com, or visit



or send a letter to

Anne Hughes
P.O. Box 482
Ada, Michigan, 49301.

Please consider writing your story of gratitude. It will make you proud to be a Catholic. What a great gift to give your children on their wedding day. This is a book in progress. Your post may be published. Healing comes in many forms. Gratitude, and thank you notes, are profound for both the writer and the receiver. Catholics have tools to help them through life’s struggles, prayer, the Rosary, and Priests.

You can write about divorce, grieving, loss of jobs, happiness, whatever part of life a Priest helped you with. Thank them for words that guided your life. 

My Favorite Book on Writing ... by Peggy Frezon

"... if I had to recommend one writing book, it would be On Writing Well by William Zisnsser. Everything you need to know! If they are looking for more specific publishing type info, anything from Writers Digest Books is solid. I especially like Make a Scene. Hope this helps!

Peggy's a freelance writer specializing in pets, with a twice-monthly column, "5 Things About Pets" and stories in The Ultimate Dog Lover, Miracles and Animals, and others. She writes on assignment for Guideposts magazine and is a regular contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her agent has Peggy's first book out on submission.

Monday, February 1, 2010


"You see, in the end, it's about the common property that is all around us: the air we breathe. It belongs to everyone on Earth-- and no one-- at the same time."

Larry J. Schweiger, "A Grandfather's Lament," National Wildlife: World Edition, February-March, 2010, 6.

Excerpt, a stanza especially for writers:


WHOEVER'S found out what location
compassion (heart's imagination)
can be contacted at these days,
is herewith urged to name the place;
and sing about it in full voice,
and dance like crazy and rejoice
beneath the frail birch that appears
to be upon the verge of tears.

~ Wislawa Szymborska ~

(Poems New and Collected 1957-1997,
trans. by S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh)