Watching Wild Life

I absolutely love my condo! It’s bright and sunny so I never need to turn on lights during the day. It faces northeast so I receive sun both morning sun (in the front where my office is) and evening sun (in back.) My favorite part of a “writing day,” meaning I’m home working on projects, is eating breakfast on the lanai.

Breakfast includes entertainment. I get to watch the activity on the 2nd tee-off for the golf course in this community. Most of the time this is simply the squirrels in the white pines and palmettos. Often it includes a variety of waterbirds in the pond. Sometimes it even includes golfers and their colorful language that drifts across the fairway. (During season it’s often quite entertaining! More than a few times I’ve held my breath expecting a serious slice off the tee to hit the building, but the tall trees protected it.)

So, I’ve been wondering: how is it that so much wildlife survives on this golf course? I’m glad it does, because it means the course doesn’t use as many chemicals as others in this area. The egrets, heron, turtles, and–yes, even the the bats–inspire me. And I’m relieved to see that the crushed concrete they added two summer ago to edge the pond didn’t kill the turtles after all.

Now, if only we could do something about those wild golfers.

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Should you “brand” your prose?

The topic of trademarks and using specific brands in stories came up in several different classes this week. Being specific when we describe what a character does, wears, drives, or eats is important, but does your character really need to use Puffs tissues or eat M&Ms candies or chew Orbit gum? If you’ve succumbed to the notion that you need a “big name brand” so Hollywood will option movie rights to your Great American Novel, think again.

If you must use specific brands in your writing, properly use the trademark and respect companies’ brand names as you write. Coke is a trademark of the Coca-Cola Company and Kleenex is a registered trademark of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Trademarks should be capitalized and followed by the generic equivalent. If possible (which doesn’t work well in fiction) use the TM or RM superscript after the word). Better yet, replace it with the generic term: cola, soda pop, soft drink, facial tissue.

The exception to the initial cap rule is iPhone, iPad, iPod, iTunes and any future projects from Apple, Inc. following the “i-product” branding. Note that the “I” is lowercase and the “P” is uppercase. This models the trademark and should be copied in print.

Trademarks are legal property (just as your writing is copyrighted the moment you put words to paper). Trademark owners work hard to keep their brand names from falling into “common use.” This is what happened to “escalator”—originally a trademark of the Otis Elevator Company for the moving stairs they produced. Misuse of the trademark led to the term escalator falling into common use and it now means any brand of moving stairs. In Canada, Aspirin is still a brand name for acetylsalicylic acid while in America, the word is part of our common language referring to a type of pain reliever.

Companies can take legal action against publications for misuse of trademarks, so editors appreciate writers who carefully use trademarks properly—or avoid “branding” their prose altogether.

In Search of the ‘Perfect’ Journal

Questions continue about writers and journals. Since it’s a tool for your writing, it can be used in whatever manner helps you. Some writers simply keep a notebook to collect quotes, ideas, intriguing names, and record bits of dialog or scenes. I have one of those, too, which I take with me to the park, pool, and beach. Other writers think of a journal as a book with entries to collect thoughts and ideas or recollections.

Along with dwelling on the purpose and content of the journal, new writers ask me what kind of journal to use. Again, it’s your personal preference. Whatever works for you.

Any notebook will do for your writer’s journal. You can use a spiral notebook or composition book from the school supplies section at your favorite store or visit the bookstore for a selection of blank books. The variety is impressive, from lined or unlined sheets to various sizes (and
shapes). The important thing is that you feel comfortable with the book so you’ll enjoy writing in it often.

You might even prefer to use your computer to journal. Many writing friends insist this is the best method because of the “search and find” features on most word processing programs. I prefer a portable, handwritten journal. If this is your choice, too, choose a writing instrument with as much care as the journal itself. Do you want to hear the scratching of a pencil or marker on the page or feel the glide of a gel-ink or fountain pen? I like the feel of smooth, thicker paper and the fast, flowing ink of a Roller Ball. But, I also prefer different colors to help me designate different days at a glance. The choice is yours.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to keep the first few pages blank. Record favorite writing exercises or prompts on those opening pages. You’ll be able to quickly find writing prompts whenever you want to write during unexpected spare time. Each time you complete an exercise,
you’ll gain something more from it. Draw from these completed exercises, just as you’ll glean from experiences recorded in each journal entry in developing writing ideas.

Leibster Award Response

Liebster-Blog-Award

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award thanks to Gwen at “The 4 A.M. Writer” What an honor to be recognized by a fellow blogger. Thanks, Gwen!

The Liebster Award is intended to recognize up-and-coming blogs, particularly those with fewer than 200 followers. Here are the rules:
• Post eleven facts about yourself
• Answer the questions posed by your nominator
• Pass the award on to eleven new recipients
• Pose eleven new questions to your recipients
• Post a copy of the badge on your blog (type “Liebster Award” into Google images; you’ll find plenty to choose from). Notify nominees and include links to the originating blog, as well as the new recipients.

Facts about me:
1.  In May I’ll celebrate 25th writing anniversary.
2.  I love to research and share what I learn with my readers.
3.  My nonfiction is more popular than my fiction.
4.  I have 27 books published plus thousands of articles & other pubs.
5.  My first book published in 1996.
6.  I quit my writing career twice before I finally began earning a living at it.
7.  Can’t imagine focusing on anything other than writing.
8.  Have been teaching writing workshops for close to 20 years.
9.  I get more excited now about my “students” publishing than my own pubs.
10. I often read more than 1 book at a time.
11. Spent about 6 years reviewing children’s and YA books.

Q & A:
1. Current read: Haven by Kay Hooper (I think she’ll become a new fav) and Immortal by Gillian Shields (YA)
2. Something you can’t live without: My iPad. Love the apps for productivity and writing in snippets of time.
3. Social media platforms you’re active in: Mostly Facebook (LisaWrobleWriting) and Twitter (@lisawroble) though I use LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ too.
4. Day job: Children’s Author + Seasonal Workshop Instructor (with a few semesters a year as an adjunct Developmental English professor)
5. Preferred reading genre: fantasy & sf
6. Somewhere you dream of traveling: Barbados (ever since I read  The Witch of Blackbird Pond in 5th grade)
7. Do you speak a 2nd language? Not fluently.
8. Personal preference: eBook or traditional? Depends on situation. Travel = ebook for sure; mostly still buy print/traditional books.
9. Favorite bestselling author? Anne McCaffrey and Terry Brooks
10. Best book you’ve ever read: Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind (immediately reread and learned about weaving in sensory description and plot pacing)
11. Most desired writing goal:  Make time to work on a fantasy series for YA readers and to be recognized for my fiction as well as my nonfiction.

Questions for my nominees:
1. At what age did you catch the writing/art bug?
2. Is the book better than the movie or the movie better than the book?
3. Do you prefer ebook or print?
4. What social media do you use most?
5. What is your favorite time of day?
6. What is your favorite holiday?
7. Who is your favorite fictional character?
8. If you could meet an author (or artist) for lunch whom would it be and where would you eat?
9. What are you currently reading?
10. What is your favorite genre (or medium)?
11. Who has been most encouraging of your writing/art career?

My nominees: (Not everyone responded to my nominee message but all are worthy of  following, so check them out.)
Writer’s Block 
Write with Warnimont 
The Journal Files
Maze-A-Day 
The Hippie Bookworm
Beth Rayner Art 
Bowen Diaries
Wes DeMott
Canadian Hiking Photography
Bottled Worder
The Better Man Project 

Writer’s Basic Training

This week several new workshops started so it was an especially busy week yet also quite enjoyable. I love meeting new writers and guiding toward a writing goal. I also receive a lot of questions about journals. The topic causes anxiety for some people, especially when I encourage them to begin (or continue) journaling.

Keeping a journal is the best way to harness thoughts, memories, ideas and dreams. Those penned experiences will provide plenty of details to add realism to your stories. Journaling also serves as “training,” to help you find your writer’s voice, among many other writing skills. The more you write, the more developed your natural writing voice becomes. Because journals are private, we let our subconscious guard down and allow thoughts to flow and so our natural voice emerges.

You don’t need to write daily, and the entries you make may be of any length you desire. One page or ten? It’s up to you (and what you have to say about whatever you write about). Your journal entries do not need to make sense as far as transitions or sequence either. I often use // in the margin of my journal to indicate a change in thought or when I’ve returned later in the day to add new thoughts or ideas. I put an asterisk next to ideas or dreams that I think have story or article potential.

I usually reread entries every few weeks to add idea notes in the margins or highlight pieces I think may be useful in the near future. Sometimes entries during the course of several weeks or months show how an idea slowly developed and I’ll start a new entry commenting on this, which then reminds me where the idea sparked and where I see it is possibly leading. Usually a lack of time prevents me from outlining or drafting these ideas right away, so using the journal helps me document them for later development.

I also do writing exercises in my journals, practicing different story elements – dialogue, description, sensory details. I find it helpful to clear my mind by writing ideas down before bed-time. When I’m under deadline, journaling helps me clear my thoughts so I’m able to focus on the project at hand. It’s an essential tool for many writers and fun “basic training.”