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Excerpt from my current WIP…Comments welcome.

February 5, 2013
mandyevebarnett


This character is Doze the Dormouse. The story is for children and is about woodland sprite’s that look after the forest animals.

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Over the past few days Doze had managed to build up his nest with extra leaves and grasses, making a warm and comfortable place for his winter’s sleep. To one side he had buried a cache of hazelnuts and pushed more leaf litter toward the logs entrance in the hope it would deter intruders. The wind was icy cold when he crept out the following evening and he shivered. He resolved that it would be his last foraging expedition for the year. By morning he had eaten his fill and gratefully curled up, ready for a long winter’s sleep. Nestling into a tight ball, his feet tucked in to his belly and his nose buried in his fur, Doze closed his eyes and began slowly his heartbeat. A few moments passed then a few more then a lot more. Why wasn’t he drifting into a deep slumber? Doze moved his position and curled up again, closing his eyes even tighter and making himself breathe slower. After eight different positions and many, many moments he was annoyed and frustrated. Whatever is the matter with me? I never have a problem sleeping. Doze told himself to concentrate on slowing everything down, breathing, heartbeat and curling tighter into a furry ball. No matter what he tried sleep would not come and eventually he heard night creatures scurrying about above and around him.

“Well this will not do, winter is for sleeping.”

Thoroughly fed up with himself, Doze ran outside thinking one more meal might do the trick. Burying himself nose first into a pile of leaves he sniffed the forest floor debris for the scent of hazelnuts. He found a few that he quickly consumed and then continued on. Hidden by thick clouds the moon’s light did not touch the trails Doze raced over, if he dallied in plain view an owl could easily grab him. He had been foraging for quite some time when a big yawn overcame him. Happily he ran back to his nest, maybe the day’s wakefulness would help him sleep. Again he curled up tightly tucking his feet into his belly and slowed his breathing but sleep did not come although he yawned time and time again.  When he heard the chorus of morning, Doze felt totally defeated. However, would he get to sleep now? That was when he remembered the healer sprites. Maybe they could help him? Nervously, Doze crept out of his shelter looking side to side and upwards. It would be a long journey into the center of the forest but he did not have much choice.

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I’ll keep writing and polishing this NaNoWriMo novel.

Inept – now there’s a word that resonates…

January 23, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Inept – Definition: 1) not suited for the occasion: inappropriate 2) lacking in skill or ability: incompetent

No matter at which point we are in our writing journeys, feelings of being inept plaque us. We can all make a long list of insecurities and worries about our style, skill level and current Work in Progress. My question is – if we didn’t have these uncertainties would we be a ‘better’ writer or not?

Striving for perfection can easily become an obsession and our work will suffer for it. There is a fine balance between a polished piece of work and a ‘ruined’ one. On the other hand expecting an agent or publisher to over-look editing and grammatical errors because we feel our manuscript is unique is a major flaw. Reading as a professional would, is the key, although this in itself is a difficult task after spending months if not years creating our story. We are engaged with the characters and their conflicts and struggles. They have become ‘real’ to us and the story runs in our minds rather than on the page. This is the crux of the problem – are we actually reading the words or playing out the story?

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The Internet is full of writing tips as we all know but some recurring ones on tightening up a manuscript have commonalities.

  1. Leave the manuscript unread for a period of time.
  2. Read the story from back to front – chapter by chapter.
  3. Focus on one aspect of editing at a time. i.e. grammar, plot lines etc. (I’ve even heard of one author printing her manuscripts on different colored paper for each revision!)
  4. Have other people read it and critique (honestly).
  5. Send a section to a professional editor.
  6. Take advantage of a local Writer in Residence for feedback.
  7. Read a section out loud to your writer’s circle and ask for comments.

Author Reading

However, feelings of being inept are not just limited to our written work. Are you confident in public speaking? It is one thing reading to a group of people you know but what about in the public domain? Author readings are a great way to present your work and create interest in your stories.

  1. Practice the piece you are going to read in front of a mirror.
  2. Take care in your selection of clothing, depending on the venue and audience age.
  3. Choose a section or chapter with lots of action or intrigue.
  4. Remember to look up at your audience and gesticulate.
  5. Project your voice and don’t mumble.
  6. Don’t rush – this is the hardest!
  7. Be prepared to answer questions at the end.

The above tips work well for live interviews as well, either on radio or television. You may have some flexibility with these if they are not ‘live’ and can re-take the whole interview or a part of it.

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Social media is another avenue of uncertainty for many writers and authors. Cherishing your work in a desk drawer is great but if you are serious about releasing it into the public domain you need to invest some time into this resource.

  1. Research what type of social media, authors in the same genre are using.
  2. Carefully investigate the multitude of options available. There is not a ‘one fits all’.
  3.  Pick the sites that best suit your level of commitment. (How much time you are willingly to put into them as it can take over your life if you let it!)
  4. A blog is a useful tool to increase your profile. Decide on what theme, style, subject and frequency you can fulfill.
  5. Link to similar genre writers on web sites such as Twitter.
  6. Utilize your personal sites to connect to groups.
  7. Utilize ‘sharing’ sites, such as Networked Blogs and options on other web sites. i.e. WordPress.com links to face book, twitter and Google +

Conquer your feelings of ineptitude with your ‘writing’ support system, whatever that entails. Whether a writing circle, close friends or family that encourage you or virtual supporters – reach out – you’ll be surprised. Remember to offer support back too – it is not only very rewarding but expands your writing ‘community’.

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Similarities Between Gardening and Writing…

January 11, 2013
mandyevebarnett


I may be stretching it a bit with today’s word.

Perennial 1) present at all seasons of the year 2) continuing to live from year to year 3) recurring regularly: permanent

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I have inherited some of my Mother’s expertise when it comes to plants but in no way, shape or form, am I, as green thumbed as she is. From a handful of seeds she can nurture a whole garden of flowers, vegetables and shrubs, which are healthy, vibrant and productive. My gardening is limited to digging a hole, placing the victim, umm plant, into it with a generous helping of plant food, watering for several days and then letting nature take its course. As for in-door plants I do tend to have them growing happily for many years – so I must be doing something right. Case in point, a friend gave me a sleigh shaped planter three Christmas’ ago and it’s still lush and green.  Real plants are a treasure in the dark winter months, just their aroma can transport you to summer warmth. We all know the benefits of having real plants in the house – oxygenating – but they are so much more. As you can see from this list from http://www.bayeradvanced.com

5 Benefits of Houseplants
When you embellish interior spaces with houseplants, you’re not just adding greenery. These living organisms interact with your body, mind and home in ways that enhance the quality of life.

Breathing Easier
When you breathe, your body takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas use makes plants and people natural partners. Adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels.

At night, photosynthesis ceases, and plants typically respire like humans, absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. A few plants – orchids, succulents and epiphytic bromeliads – do just the opposite, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Place these plants in bedrooms to refresh air during the night.

Releasing Water
As part of the photosynthetic and respiratory processes, plants release moisture vapor, which increases humidity of the air around them. Plants release roughly 97 percent of the water they take in. Place several plants together, and you can increase the humidity of a room, which helps keeps respiratory distresses at bay. Studies at the Agricultural University of Norway document that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.

Purifying Air
Plants remove toxins from air – up to 87 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours, according to NASA research. VOCs include substances like formaldehyde (present in rugs, vinyl, cigarette smoke and grocery bags), benzene and trichloroethylene (both found in man-made fibers, inks, solvents and paint). Benzene is commonly found in high concentrations in study settings, where books and printed papers abound.

Modern climate-controlled, air-tight buildings trap VOCs inside. The NASA research discovered that plants purify that trapped air by pulling contaminants into soil, where root zone microorganisms convert VOCs into food for the plant.

Improving Health
Adding plants to hospital rooms speeds recovery rates of surgical patients, according to researchers at Kansas State University. Compared to patients in rooms without plants, patients in rooms with plants request less pain medication, have lower heart rates and blood pressure, experience less fatigue and anxiety, and are released from the hospital sooner.

The Dutch Product Board for Horticulture commissioned a workplace study that discovered that adding plants to office settings decreases fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flu-like symptoms. In another study by the Agricultural University of Norway, sickness rates fell by more than 60 percent in offices with plants.

Sharpening Focus
A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70 percent greater attentiveness when they’re taught in rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants.

How Many Plants?
The recommendations vary based on your goals.

To improve health and reduce fatigue and stress, place one large plant (8-inch diameter pot or larger) every 129 square feet. In office or classroom settings, position plants so each person has greenery in view.
To purify air, use 15 to 18 plants in 6- to 8-inch diameter pots for an 1,800-square-foot house. That’s roughly one larger plant every 100 square feet. Achieve similar results with two smaller plants (4- to 5-inch pots).

How is your green thumb? Any tips for a lackadaisical gardener?

When I read the definition for perennial, I was struck by how my writing and the love of words stays with me no matter the season or my location. Even on my Palm Springs vacation, you could find me typing away in the early morning before our various excursions and then again in the evening, recapping our day.  It is an addiction to write – wanting those words to flow onto the paper or computer screen and flourishing.

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As each year passes, I find new styles, genres and skills are added to my repertoire, each a new stem, branch or flower to the fundamental root system of my passion for the written word.  Every segment has a part to play and makes a wonderfully intriguing and enticing whole.  Some work may bud and flower quickly, then fall to the way side, others will form into significant pieces and grow strong and robust.

As I was searching for some nice photos for this article I happened upon an interesting Wikipedia site, detailing The Perennial Philosophy. I must admit I had no idea of this research and so detoured for a read. One quotation struck me:

“If one is not oneself a sage or saint, the best thing one can do, in the field of metaphysics, is to study the works of those who were, and who, because they had modified their merely human mode of being, were capable of a more than merely human kind and amount of knowledge.”

 My interpretation on this philosophy is, we all have the ability to modify ourselves and grow beyond our self imposed expectations and capabilities. We can develop into a many faceted and established writer, with or without the publishing contract. After all we can survive and flourish without the plant food but if given it we are able to bloom.

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