One of the exercises I find helpful as well as fun is using picture or word prompts to create a story (sometimes a poem). I recently chose a made up place name as the genus of an idea. The name was Fiddletown. The exercise is to write something in a limited time frame, around 10 minutes. Some of these prompts have become full blown novels. This particular one is certainly one I made use at a later date. It sparked such a clear image for me.
I hope you like the beginnings of a story.
Hidden in the depths of the mountains, a small town flourishes. It is populated by beings of short stature with six fingers on each hand. Their ancestors escaped persecution from other people decades before. Safe now, they exist as hunters and gatherers existing in a solitary environment. Until, that is a couple of exploring mountaineers happen across the town.
This causes fear and consternation as well as an ethical question. Should they hide, locking everything up and hope the men think the town deserted, or run into the higher forest and wait them out or murder the two men? Whatever they do will alert the outside world…
Would you like to read the story? What do you think they decide?
I enjoyed a writing retreat from Friday to Monday in Crowsnest Pass. We watched the mountains slowly disappear as the snow arrived. Cozy in our cabin, with dogs, books and wine.
With a long weekend I managed to finish one book and read another. Here are my reviews.
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Fabulously written. Gripping to the end, with you guessing (incorrectly most of time!) who the guilty party was. A web of lies hold four friends captive for decades until a three word text brings them together. A seriously good read.
City of Dream by Suzanne Burkett
A great story of secrets, hidden memories and love. A very enjoyable read. Suzanne has created a wonderful world in this novel.
I trust those who celebrate it enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving. Here in Alberta we enjoyed a chilly and windy long weekend but every day without the ‘white stuff’ is a good day. So no complaining here.
We decided to enjoy nature this weekend and travelled on Saturday to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. We walked the trail to the beach and kept to ourselves as there were families hosting outside Thanksgiving get togethers! Then , as always, took various back roads to explore.
The first trail off the beaten track was a game bird sanctuary and we found evidence of a busy beaver!
We also visited Kingman the Lutefisk capital of Alberta. Not knowing what lutefisk was we looked it up. A lutefisk is a Swedish delicacy. It is a dried stockfish (normally cod or ling) that has been brined in lye, soaked to remove the resulting caustic solution, and then steamed until it flakes. The end result looks and feels gelatinous. Traditionally, it is served with warm cream or butter sauce and enjoyed with copious amounts of beer. Not sure I will be sampling it though.
I completed a project on Sunday, I have been meaning to do. Updating the bathroom cabinet. I am pleased with the soft green and new handles – gone are the drab wood doors.
Having enjoyed Miquelon Lake so much on Saturday, we returned to walk around the lake. A brisk 45 minute walk but so worth it. We encountered a squirrel who calmly sat watching us and the dogs and never ran off.
Then it was homeward bound and an unusual sight. A beaver lodger with its own satellite dish! I kid you not. I need to write a little story about this. Which channels do you think they watch?
I hosted a virtual workshop last Saturday for the Words in the Park event. It was fun to utilize Zoom so that participants from far and wide could join me. As the workshop was free, I thought I would share the bare bones of the workshop. Hopefully, it will give you some helpful information in creating a blog of your own.
There are numerous blogging sites but these tips cover the basics for you to start.
The number of blogs available on the internet is mind boggling – every topic you can imagine is covered. Whether factual, diarized, crafting, a myriad of interests or informational, you can find several postings about things you are interested in or want to know about.
So why should you blog? Or indeed why not!
The first and most important question is – why do you want to blog in the first place.
There is a huge range of reasons to blog but maybe the best idea is to ask yourself if any of the following relate to you.
1. To create something you are proud of
2. Challenge yourself
3. Strengthen your knowledge on a particular subject
4. Meet others with similar interests
5. Help other people in a specific field or topic
6. Gain confidence
7. To improve your writing ability
8. To learn new skills
Once you decide on starting a blog there are several key elements you need to decide on.
Name Your Blog
This may seem easy – however, you need to search what names are already in existence, will the name reflect the topic OR theme you will be writing about. Is it a personal blog, a business blog, or a specific interest blog? Does the blog name read OK when it’s in a domain URL format?
Later you may want to purchase your own domain name so consider how it will look.
Define Your Target Audience
For an author, this will be readers in your genre, for business people, it is who wants/needs your services. Will you mentor? Cover aspects of health, travel, personal training, or something else?
Tone Of Your Blog
What tone or voice will the writing reflect? Strictly business or more personal/friendly?
Reason For Your Blog
Will you be building your brand around your blog name or the other way around? Is the blog part of a website or standalone? What do you want to achieve with your blog? Choose one area you have the most expertise or interest in. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself straight out of the gate. Your passion about the subject will bring about the following benefits:
You’re more likely to put the time and effort into your blog to make it shine.
You’re less likely to abandon your blog in the future.
You’re less likely to run out of ideas.
It shows through in your writing, and your readers can feel that. This, in turn, will lead to a larger following.
Tips for Writing A Blog
Understand your audience
Write for yourself first
Love your existing readers/followers/clients
Focus on building an amazing call-to-action
Give away your knowledge
Be true to your voice
Give it time
Write catchy headlines
Keep it short
Positives to blogging:
1. You’ll gain confidence.
2. It’s a form of diary.
3. Blogging is great writing experience.
4. There is potential financial gain if that is your future goal.
5. The blogging community is great.
6. It allows potential for self growth.
7. It allows development of technological skills.
8. It gives people a creative outlet.
9. Blogging is the current way to market a business or product.
10. And it creates opportunities. Whether in the form of friendships, financial gain or self-growth.
Key Elements for a Blog Post
Make sure to include images in every post. A block of text is seldom read. (Attention spans are very short). Rule of thumb is to use one every 300 words or so.
Format your blog post – longer text should be divided with headers and sub-headers
Use bulleted and numbered lists
Bold and italicize key points
Use short paragraphs – 3-5 lines to prevent ‘skimming’ by your reader
Stick to a theme
Don’t wing your content. Make a plan and schedule your posts.
I either write several blog posts at a time and then schedule them or create a draft when an idea pops into my head.
Why did you decide to write an autobiography? For many years, existential questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” have haunted me and challenged me to go deeper into myself. My search for answers to these questions led me to journaling about life moments captured on the page; writing these short pieces called out for expression. Exploring poetry and essay, fairy tale and short life stories helped me find my “real writer” voice. Self-help books, spiritual retreats, talented mentors, friends and a personal interest in storytelling, psychology, image and myth fuelled my appetite for words. Gathering these stories together into an autobiographic novel took a long time. Now that my book is complete and ready for publication, I am more aware of the gifts and talents I can bring to the world through writing.
How long did it take you to write it? I began capturing moments of my life at a women’s writing seminar in 2004. When the instructor said I had an unusual story – growing up female in the macho world of the military – I was surprised; my upbringing seemed “normal” to me. Many of the stories in my book began back then.
What difficulties did you experience in writing it? Because of the transient nature of my childhood, I saw my early life as chopped into segments and filed in my memory by location. Recently when working with an editor, I began to see links and patterns in my life and finally, story connections were forged and fashioned into a smooth narrative. I had difficulty identifying the genre of these stories because they are based on authentic flashes of memory, and reimagined with fiction writing tools. My goal was to reveal my authentic emotions in short life stories and connect with other kindred souls through them.
How did you come up with the title? In my childhood, our family was in constant transition, and my tools for coping with goodbyes and hellos and consequently with loss and resilience. Alternate titles I considered included “Permission to Speak, Sir!”, “Nesting Places”, “Home and Away”, and “Finding Home Without a Map.” These titles spoke to my developing comfort with being at home in my heart and belonging in my own skin. At one point, the title was “Saying Goodbye is Easy – Letting Go is Hard”. The second half of this title was dropped because it became obvious to me that letting go of the past was getting easier.
As a child of a military family – what can your story teach others? The stories we tell ourselves and others influence what we believe about the world. The military has its own myths, my father’s story included World War 2 events, and my mother told stories connected me to generations of extended family and how the military influenced them and my own childhood. All the legends and myths to which I was exposed inspired my narrative of leaving the sanctuary of home and seeking independence. I believe that many women experience loneliness and isolation when they choose to leave their parents’ home and grow into their own lives. Reframing my life story allowed me to understand that it is a universal story.
The book is a collection of short stories – why did you chose this format? Short stories stand alone, and a collection of short stories are sometimes linked but not always; a novel-in-short-stories has a narrative arc even though the stories stand alone. It is not a memoir because that genre covers a set period of time. Autobiography is factual but many of my stories were imagined to make a point. My research revealed that short stories are more likely to be accepted by a publisher if the author’s stories appear in literary magazines or their writing is well known. This format seemed to work for me because it suited my experience in life.
Do you write in any other genre? I began writing poetry in the 1970s, and I was seeking inspiration for poems when I attended the women’s writing classes in 2004. With encouragement, I began writing prose and personal opinion essays for magazines. Poetry continues to intrigue me and I hope to add to my published books of verse but I also have a novel on the back burner (which is also told in segments!), two based-on-real-events historical fiction books and a non-fiction book. I do not write fantasy or romance and tend to lean towards literary fiction.
Do you have other books? Since 2004 I’ve created several handmade poetry chapbooks, and published two books of poetry. I’ve also self-published a book of essays and a volume of personal fairy tales. All of them are inner focused, and intended for kindred spirits who are interested in myth and metaphor.
Where can your readers find you on social media? On FB as Kathie Sutherland Author, on Twitter as Kathie.Sutherland aka wordpainterpoet, on LinkedIn, Instagram and on my website kathiesutherland.com where my books and writing companionship services are available. I offer Inner Child workshops, Reminiscence and Listening Services, a scuba diving-inspired workshop focused on going deeper into emotions and create “Portrait Poems” as personal gifts.
Do you have a blog? Since writing “Saying Goodbye is Easy”, I have gain clarity about the purpose of my writing. I want to give back through coaching and writing companionship. I have renewed my blogging practice.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this autobiography? The whole of my writing life has been about acknowledging and accepting myself. This autobiography has been narrative therapy for me. Each piece I worked on required me to come to terms with the theme of the story I was writing. One of my greatest strengths is my love of learning. That love brings me back to the greater life questions and my search for answers. I love learning through research. I love learning about words. I love inner work. I love writing to grow.
I started to write when I was 21 years old. I had completed my Associates Degree in Creative Writing then decided to put myself out there as a screenwriter.
2. Is poetry a self expression for you?
It is more than self expression. Its me finding the seedling that sprouted the roots of my emotions that run at high velocity. Once the ecstasy, dark or light, of my anxiety passes, I write a poem. Almost as if I took off the anvil that kept me in the depths of the salty water of an ocean, rose up for air, then anchored my darkness in the ocean while I make it to shore.
5. Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the book?
Boone is a sarcastic, goofy, playful kid, who has a longer path to growing than his best friend Jacque. A foster child taken in by a rich snobby British family. He is articulate, polite, honest, an avid reader, can monkey his way from tree to tree, and loves to solve mysteries. Shammy, Boone’s love interest, is wonderfully weird, blunt, sweet, un-apologetically herself, loving and caring. Flint is a high functioning autistic boy who depends on Shammy and loves his mom.
6. How did you come up with the idea of the story?
When I was a screenwriter, I always wanted to write a series. I didn’t know what medium or what it would be about, but I knew certain things would remain the same. It’s like Stephen King once said: Good ideas stick around.
I wanted to write something that doesn’t involve much technology. I feel that if it is too modern, it creates too much convenience. A gripping story requires characters to rely on their wit and what is at their disposal. When your back is against the wall, you better know how to fight like hell. This series is about that. Testing the human spirit.
7. What is the theme of the book – the message you want to convey to your readers?
That we don’t need peers and parents to teach us everything. Sometimes the good and bad that happens in life, is what helps us grow. Test us on what we are able or not able, willing or not willing, too afraid or not at all to try. But I don’t want my readers thinking they don’t need guidance. We all need it. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. But who we get help from isn’t always who we expect or hope it will be.
8. Is this a standalone book or will there be a sequel(s)?
As mentioned earlier, this is a series. I’m not sure how many volumes. I go by how the characters grow. If they have gone where they need to go, and completed their life’s arc, then I’ve done my job. This is my third book of four. First two were unpublished by me because amazon has strict rules about using only one name for the author by line. It is Urban fantasy.
Volume 2 of Boone and Jacque will be available in October 2020. Subtitle is The Brothers’ Odyssey. Follow A.G. on his social media pages and message him for teasers.