Category Archives: writing

How Two Llamas Jumpstarted my Writing Career

 

 

flashback friday

In 1981, big things were happening in the world.  Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president, the Iranian hostages were finally released, and Judge Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the US Supreme Court

During the  tumultuous hostage crisis  our nation was glued to their TVs for days, watching world events unfold.

That summer I was hired by the local newspaper, the Cavalier County Republican, as a reporter. A 16-year-old kid in braces, I was thrilled to have a part in providing my journalistic slant on the changing world.

Except the news in Langdon, North Dakota, a small town you skip through on the way to Canada, wasn’t nearly as exciting.  For my first interview my editor had the scoop of the century; a local farmer had purchased two exotic animals.

The farmer was my next door neighbor, Don Quam, a man who could tell tall tales bigger than Paul Bunyan’s and tell you true tales you wished were tall tales, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his tan, creased face.  No, it isn’t a cliché, his eyes did twinkle.  Geneva was his perfect match, a spunky blonde who kept him in line.

Two Llamas Jumpstarted

Two llamas, two friendly neighbors, how hard could that assignment be?  Except  I’d never written a newspaper article before, not even in high school English class.  I hadn’t used a 35mm camera in a few years.  A pad of lined yellow paper, a pen, and a Canon camera were thrust into my hands.

While interviewing Don and Geneva  I scribbled frantically as they joked and spoke wise words worth quoting about their llamas, Lleo and Llouis. Because I didn’t have a telephoto lens, I cautiously entered the pasture for close-up pictures.  I’d learned the llamas were walking on lethal weapons and could spit.

My story was typed and submitted without any feedback from my editor.  I still wasn’t sure if it qualified as an article, but it was printed.

All errors aren’t necessarily mine, cringe, because the typesetter, who got an A in high school typing but not  in English, often felt the need to “correct” my work.

 

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(click on pic to enlarge and read or read full text below)

A few days later my jubilant editor waved a Grand Forks Herald in my face and pointed to a llama story.

He bragged that my first article was picked up by a big-city daily newspaper and assured  my career was off to a great start, thanks to Lleo and Llouis.

Thirty-three years later, the reporter in me wants to write a follow-up to my exciting career launch.  Would Liz Anne remember the llama spit?  Would she remember me?

Is it really suitable  to call someone thirty-three years later and ask, “Hey, do you remember being spit on by a llama?”

I know you’re wondering, too, right? Do ya’ double-dog dare me?

Stay tuned.  Monday’s follow-up is surely to be picked up by the Herald.

 

Tweet Two llamas jumpstarted a writing career.

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Llamas can be put to good use on farms
by Melinda Brainard
CAVALIER COUNTY REPUBLICAN, Page 5, Wednesday, June 17, 1981

Lleo and Llouis have long, shaggy, blonde hair, cute little faces and spit when they are angry or are attacked.

No, they’re not members of the latest punk rock band. They’re a pair of llamas that reside at the Don Quam farm, The Little Pembina Ranch, north of Langdon.

Don answered an ad in the newspaper advertising the Wahpeton Zoo had llamas for sale.

“Well,” explained his wife, Geneva, “after Don read the ad, he called the zoo and they told him all about the animals.  When he hung up, Edwin Olson, a friend of ours, said he’d buy one if we did.  They were only six months old when we got them late last fall.”

Llamas are a member of the camel family and originated in South America, where they were used for beasts of burden.

But why llamas in North Dakota?

“To keep coyotes away from our sheep,” laughed Geneva. “We had read an article that told about a rancher who leased llamas to other ranchers to keep coyotes away.  See, llamas are very inquisitive animals and will scare the coyotes away.

“Yes,” added Don, “anything comes into the pasture and the llamas are right there poking their noses in, seeing what it is.”

“When we first got them they were especially curious about people on bikes.  They would walk right up to them and sniff them out.”

As to whether the llamas are doing their job or not, Geneva said, “We haven’t had any coyotes here yet, so we don’t know for sure if they’re going to work. But the day before we picked them up from the zoo, a deer got into their enclosure and boy, did those llamas put the run on that poor deer! That led us to believe that Lleo and Llouis would put the run on any coyote that shows up.”

Apparently the llamas are very compatible with the sheep.

“Oh yes,” Geneva said, “they graze right alongside the sheep and eat whatever they eat.  There’s no problem at all.  llamas are very easy animals to keep.”

“They don’t even bother to try to get out, though I’m sure they could jump any fence,” added Don.

“They even tolerate people taking their pictures,” Geneva teased. 

“They’re also very gentle and will eat out of your hand.  At first I spent a lot of time showing them to people, but I had to coax them over with All-Bran, or some other kind of cereal,” she added.

“Only one thing, they don’t like to be petted at all.  make sure you stay away from their hind feet, too; they’re lethal.  that was the first thing they warned us about at the zoo.”

“Though they used to be pretty wild animals, llamas can become domesticated.  I even saw a llama in a nativity scene once, so that shows how tame they can be,” said Geneva.

Though they are a member of the camel family, llamas have no hump and have long, thick, course hair that is brown, gray, black, or white.

They are relatively small animals, standing only four to five feet high, and their body is only four to five feet long.

“They really have cute faces and are very intelligent and bright looking,” pointed out Geneva.  “They have bi eyes with long eyelashes.  Their legs are long and skinny with shaggy fur and they have a very high spirited run.  But most of the time they just stand there and look darling.”

“A lot of the time they stand right next to each other, with their heads facing the opposite direction. That makes them look like the character out of Dr. Zeus’ books, a Push me-Pull me. This character is actually a two headed llama.  It’s really crazy looking when they stand that way.”

It seems that having such unusual animals in North Dakota would attract quite a few curious onlookers.

“At first there were many people out here to look at them, but I really don’t think too many people even know we have them,” explained Geneva.

“You should have seen one day when the llamas were down near the dam,” said Don, his blue eyes twinkling.  “Some kid darn near fell out of the boat trying to see what they were!”

“I suppose they are a bit exotic for this area,” said Geneva thoughtfully.

Female llamas bear one kid per year, but there will be no offspring for Lleo and Llouis, they’re both male.

“But they’re always together,” commented Don, “you never see them apart from each other.”

Llamas have a split top lip and no teeth on their lower jaw.  This unusual mouth structure enables them to spit a foul smelling saliva when they are angered or attacked.

“We’ve only had one experience with them spitting, laughed Geneva.  “My daughter, Liz Anne, was the one who got spit on.  Now we just make sure nobody upsets them.”

According to Geneva, Lleo and Llouis are the rather silent sort, but Don swears he’s heart them speak Norwegian on numerous occasions.

So, until a coyote shows his face on the Quam residence, Lleo and Llouis will just have to pass time by looking cute and innocent, and telling Norwegian jokes.

Who’s YOUR 12th MAN?

 

I’m not a football fan.  A  Midwest transplant to the  Seattle area, I gradually acclimated to the rains, but not the Seahawks. They never sparked my interest.

Until lately.

It wasn’t the Super Bowl Win! that changed my mind.

It was the  #12.

I saw it everywhere and assumed it was a favorite player’s number. Ya’ know, some guy who made millions of dollars for running past the line at the end of the field while still clutching the football in his hands? 

I never heard a name associated with the #12,

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I  just saw the #12 flags.

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Empty buildings and

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business buildings,

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boldly fly the flag.

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You see the flag at downtown Seattle intersections

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and upscale restaurants.

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People walk the talk.

I finally had to ask someone, “What IS #12?”

I think I was the last person in Seattle in on the secret.

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The #12 symbolizes undying loyalty, but not the fans’ loyalty.

EVERY FAN is the 12th MAN.

The   #12 personifies the Seattle Seahawks’  loyalty to their fans. They know they put 11 men on the field, but they never play alone. 

It’s the first time I’ve noticed a professional team publically testify it isn’t all about them. After all, if the fans didn’t buy the tickets and sports paraphernalia, they wouldn’t have a paycheck.

The Seahawk’s loyalty to their fans results in crazy loyalty to the team.

I mean loud and crazy loyalty. Louder than a Boeing 747 and Guinness Book of World Records kinda’ crazy. Seriously, I thought my six kids were loud, but the Seahawks fans are the loudest in history, and have a record to prove it.  Let’s just say that at a record of 137.6 decibels, they’re only 12.4 decibels away from shattering ear drums.  Ears can be damaged at 90 decibels.

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(click on this box to bring you to the Seahawk’s Website)

The inspiration of the 12th MAN made me a quiet Seahawks fan.  I probably won’t watch all the games, I probably won’t buy a jersey,  but they sparked admiration in my heart.

The Seahawks understand more than football, they understand life.  We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone; personal talents and opportunities aren’t the only contributors to any success.

We all need people in our lives that give unconditional love and devotion.  We need people to appreciate our gifts, yet correct our mistakes without breaking our spirits.  We need someone to wear our colors, to proudly associate with our name, and to speak highly of us through the highs and the lows.  After all, the true fans are the ones that are devoted even when the team loses.

In honor of the SEAHAWKS the SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS and the 12th MAN, I asked Seattle area authors, who also happen to be avid loud and crazy Seahawks fans, Who is your 12th MAN?”

(To read more about each author, click on their name.)

Lynnette Bonner,  “The readers who post reviews, and come back for more of my stories each time I release one. They encourage me so much. My critique group has been wonderful and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, but I look at them more as coaches and fellow players.”

Lesley Ann McDaniel, “My critique group, and the other members of Northwest Christian Writers Association who understand and encourage me.”

Diana Savage, “For 30 years my critique group has provided "12th woman" support for me and for my writing. During that time the various members who’ve come and gone have prayed me through crises while teaching me the finer points of clear, concise, and excruciatingly correct writing that touches readers’ emotions and honors God. If I ever win a Super Bowl for writers, my critique group will be the driving force behind my touchscreen success.”

Gigi Murfitt,  “My 12th man is my fellow NCWA members, my critique groups I have been part of, and my friends and family who pray with me and encourage me to write. My friend Cheryl is my biggest cheerleader. She really helped me edit both books. When I think of 12, I think of the disciples and how they sacrificed, supported and encouraged Jesus along the way. What a model for our twelfth man.”

Marilyn Gray, “12th man and their love and support has been so inspirational! The stories of all the Seahawk players and how they have overcome so many obstacles touched my heart! Why not me? Why not now? I want to live like that 24 hours, 7 days a week!”

Kathleen Freeman, “So many on my team! Without the efforts of many, my writing would be mediocre at best.”"

Judy Bodmer, “My 12th man is first, husband, who has encouraged me from the first to follow my dream, then my writing teacher Bette Hagman who took me to writing conferences, critiqued my first attempts, and said I had a gift, and last, my writing group. I wouldn’t quit a long time ago if it weren’t for people like Peggy King Anderson, Janet Lee Carey, Dawn Knight, Katherine Grace Bond, Roberta Kehle, Thorn Ford, just to name a few.”

Dennis Brooke, “My wife, Laurie, is my first 12th. Fellow writers James Rubart, Mick Silva, Kathleen Freeman, Loree Cameron, and Austin Boyd have also been big parts of my game. Not to mention many other NCWA members.”

My 12th MAN?  My husband, Scott, is my first fan, whether he supports me as a mother or a writer, he convinces me this world is a better place because I am in it.  Sometimes, I actually believe him.

My kids, who have filled my heart with their presence and their love notes through the years, “You are the best mommy in the whole world.”

As a blogger who’s been attached to her keyboard for over five years, my readers are also a huge part of that team.  I am so grateful for anyone who takes time out of their day to read what’s on my heart. 

In your life, who is your 12th MAN?

 

He Never Met a Metaphor He Didn’t Like

Are you a word-nerd who loves saying, reading, and studying words? Did you read a dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia just for fun?  Yea, we are kindred spirits, aren’t we? 

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Today’s COOL TOOL comes from a word-loving North Dakota boy, yea, that’s where I was born, too, thanks for asking. We also attended the same college,  University of North Dakota, just not at the same time.image

Go Sioux!  Anyhoo, back to the tool.

Dr. Mardy was described on his website by Chiastic Quotes winner Bill Porter.

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Other people grew up collecting spoons, bells, model cars, and stamps, Dr. Mardy grew up collecting words.

He has two specialties – relationships and words. Early in his career as a  therapist and marriage counselor, his words helped heal relationships.  When his interests shifted into using his words to improve business relationships, he became  a pioneer in “business therapy.” His passion for words and relationships led to the creation of new words, because this field is now called Executive Coaching and Team-Building.

He’s not only a genius with words, he shares his genius. I can’t actually give away a doctor on my blog, but I can give you his two free COOL TOOLS.

Yep, two.  Two-for-the-price-of-one, which is still FREE.

You’re going to love this brand-new baby, hot off the press January 1st by Dr. Mardy,  a Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations. 

Can you believe he compiled such a work of heart?

I.

Stand.

Amazed.

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On his website, Dr. Mardy says, “Metaphorical thinking is at the heart of the human experience…when great writers or thinkers have attempted to describe or explain something in a compelling or unforgettable way, their chief tool has been metaphorical phrasing. It is the key to elevating human language from the prosaic to the poetic.”

Index of Topics is here.

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Would most of you women type in “love” first? This is what you’d get.

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For any male readers, I typed “war” in the search bar.

Were you enticed by the topics on writing?  You’ll have to click over there to read them yourself.

Dr. Mardy  explains three “superstars” of figurative language represented in his lists:

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As if avid readers and writers don’t already say “didja’ know?” enough, this COOL TOOL  will load you with an arsenal of wisdom to launch at your next office party, dinner date, or to that captive audience in the elevator.

This is such a big deal to the cyber-world and the literary world, Dr. Mardy is already getting some loud shout-outs.

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Click on the box to read the article written by Richard Nordquist, Ph.D. in English, professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Armstrong Atlantic State University and the Grammar & Composition Guide for About.com.    About.com is the online source of all wisdom you should use instead of Wikipedia, but since my kids don’t read my blog, I’ll have to remind them in person.

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Click on the box for the article that shows The Huffington Post is also impressed.  Michael Sigman says, “your search for the perfect metaphor may be (almost) over.”

So, two really smart guys and one not-so-smart blogger enjoy this tool already.

Remember I promised you a 2fer?  Two-fer-the-price-of-one? (That’s MinneSOtan, ya’ know.)

Here’s the COOL TOOL I’ve used for a few years, his free weekly email newsletter.

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Check out his archives here, in case you can’t take my word for it. Reading his newsletter is like wrapping up in a cozy, literary fuzzy and drinking a warm cup of inspiration.

So, there ya’ go, two free COOL TOOLS so you can hang out with the brilliant guy,  Dr. Mardy, who loves sharing his collection of words.

NeverismsIfferismsI Never Metaphor I Didn't LikeViva la ReparteeOxymoronicaNever Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You

(Click on each book to read more.)

Click to Tweet:

Dr. Mardy never met a metaphor he didn’t like.  Meet them all in his dictionary.Tweet

I Should Have Passed a Note

Writers see a blank piece of paper or computer screen as an emptiness waiting to be filled.  It’s not alive until our words cover the area in a literary dance. The blankness beckons something deep within that needs to be released.

Artists must feel the same way about when beholding a blank canvas, seeing an exciting possibility for their creative  explosion of paint,  inspiration, and talent.

Children prefer  natural expressions, with less structure and rules.  A blanket of fresh fallen snow is often their favorite medium awaiting creation.

They shuffle, build, and tunnel, forming caves, towers, snowmen, paths, and messages.  Snow can become anything and take them anywhere in their imagination.

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Playing in the snow is no longer a playtime activity for kids, it’s now a recognized art form.

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The snow artist, Simon Beck, sees a field of newly fallen snow as an emptiness to be filled.

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He shuffles to create stunning images, nearly Geometrically perfect.

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Each design takes about 10 hours to make, using snowshoes, a handheld orienteering compass, and pace counting. 

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Then, he posts the images and allows anybody to use them for free. 

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I was  fascinated by his talent and his generosity with his pictures. But  when I saw to this picture, it reminded me of a time when my shuffling in the snow produced a very different result.

I was a 7th grader at the Helena Junior High, a time of angst and crushes. Those same feelings had accompanied most of us through elementary school, too, but  in junior high there were dances and dates, and we keenly felt the expectation that it was time to act on those crushes.  We advanced from kicking or chasing the boys we liked on the playground, to more mature behaviors, like passing notes in the hallway.

By late fall, I had a crush on a kid named Kevin.  Because we both had long, blonde hair, hey, it was the 70’s,  I thought we needed to be a couple.  My last  name ended with a B and his with a C and since our teachers were obsessed with alphabetical order seating charts, several times a day he was very near. 

But, he was very, very shy, and I couldn’t eke out a smile or a blink from him, despite soulful stares down the aisle of Mr. Beveridge’s classroom.

One morning I was trouncing across town to get to school, ya’ know back in those days when you walked everywhere regardless of traffic or weather, and  my heart was too obsessed with my crush to notice the white snow that had covered the  world overnight.

Until I got to the little hill above the junior high football field. There was a beautiful, white rectangle of sparkling snow awaiting my artistry. The vast blankness needed to come alive with a literary dance.

Inspired, I eagerly plotted my course and made my way to the canvas, where I began shuffling my feet to form block letters.

I thought I would leave an innocent message of love in the football field. Since it was at ground level, I didn’t think anybody would be able to read it.  Only me.  People walked by and asked what I was doing, but  I refused to answer. I wanted to keep my crush a secret.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…… “I L-O-V-E”

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle….”K-E-V-I-N”

Artwork completed, I  headed to my locker across from my first floor homeroom class.  I was surprised to hear kids teasing me about Kevin as soon as I entered the building.

Duh. Duh. DUH!  Kevin’s homeroom was on the second floor.  While shuffling in my black snowmobile boots with the fur-lined hood of my parka pulled up around my face,  I hadn’t noticed classmates gathered in the second-story windows, laughing and pointing.

My secret message wasn’t so secret.

The public declaration so humiliated him, he was still red during our English class  a few hours later.  It took a few days for the snow to melt my embarrassment  and the junior high chatter to focus on someone else. He never did  talk to me.

One good thing about those dumb junior high moments in my day that today’s kids don’t experience – nobody took a picture.  Nobody revealed my angst on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.  I wasn’t publically humiliated for more than a few days, then it died down.

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After that, I gave up snow artistry and let the blankness of notebook paper beckon any messages that begged to be released.

 

 

CLICK TO TWEET: If you would like to share my story of junior high angst with this ready-made Tweet, feel free.

 

My literary dance left my heart in the snow.Tweet

 

When Words Become a Work of Art

Writers love words.  We love reading words, writing words, and saying them out loud.  They are the food for our soul.

Words are writers’ swords,  band-aids, and  lullabies.

Words are our best friends, and some days, maybe our only friends, especially if you’re an introverted writer.

What if you had the power to turn your words into works of art?

With today’s COOL TOOL, I will grant you that power. Remember my quest to provide you free and easy-to-use tools to keep your blog from being boring?

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Drum-roll please…this is exciting….introducing…one more way to embellish a writer’s love of words.

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Wordle is an easy-to-use free online tool for making those cool graphics you see on other people’s blogs, in their dining rooms, or on their Pinterest boards. On the Wordle home page, click image and it brings you to this environment.

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See how easy it is? Type in your list of words, then click GO.  It creates the word cloud for you.

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These are all the options in the FONT dialogue box, but you probably could have figured that out on your own.  I want to encourage you to start clicking on all the  buttons when you enter a new environment. You have to Click to Conquer.  (I wrote this linked blog to encourage people to overcome fear and click!)

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The layout tab gives you these choices. 

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There’s an option to create your own custom palette, choosing your background color and four foreground colors.  (choose edit custom palette)

If you aren’t happy with the design, click the imagebutton on the bottom of the creating space until you’re satisfied with colors and shapes.

Another option was to enter the URL of a web page and they will automatically generate the word list for you.

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I typed in my blog address and this was created for me.

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It was eery how they picked out the important things in my life.  I recently blogged a four-part series about losing a friend, Kari,  to cancer at 36.  I had thyroid cancer for ten years, I have six kids I adore, I homeschool, and have had a few years with several funerals.  Can you see the themes?

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A revised version of the same Wordle. If you don’t want to eliminate a word, right click on it.  I removed Kari, the contractions that weren’t spelled right, and a few random words.  This is what I came up with.  But, no, my husband isn’t the cause of my grief as it appears in the upper left hand corner.

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Another variation of the same word cloud generated with the randomize button. Getting antsy to try it yourself?

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Two Wordles to describe my passion.

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One just for bloggers.

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A Wordle about my family.  Is that hyphen in dinner table bothering you?  Yea, me, too.

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John 3:16 in a slightly scrambled version. I chose background and word colors with edit color palette and the Mail Ray Stuff font.

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For this creation, I used the url for author Lesley Ann McDaniel’s website and tried to match her website colors. Lesley’s third book in the Montana Hearts series with Heartsong Presents, Rocky Mountain Romance, is ready for pre-order.  It was fun to see the names of her characters, the settings, and the descriptions pop up. This could be a fun author promotional tool, especially if you were more deliberate with the word list.

TIPS for using WORDLE:

  • Words typed twice are largest.  (ex. FAMILY)
  • Use hyphens or omit space in phrases. (blue-eyes) (NorthDakota)
  • Right click on a word to remove it from the word cloud.
  • Their SAVE button saves to a public gallery. To save for personal use, cut out with  Snipping Tool  and save in your picture file.

 

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I gave you the power to turn  words into works of art; use this art to turn words into works of power.

How will you  Wordle your life?

Making your home sing Mondays          WHWButton#2

Becoming a Character Who Creates Unforgettable Characters

 

I’m always amazed that talented authors will share their writing secrets.  For free.

I  attended a few sessions of the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland, WA in November. Image tables of books, hordes of writers and workshops with all the information you need to become an overnight best-selling sensation.  OK, everything is true except that last part. I made that up because we all have that dream, right? 

Success doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen quickly.  Writers must always learn, grow, and improve. 

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My Cool Tool for today was shared  by Darlene Panzera, author of several titles including the Cupcake Diaries, in her workshop “Building a Novel.”

Novelists should  develop unforgettable characters that become friends with the readers and become a part of their favorite memories. The task shouldn’t be too hard for a people group considered by others to be “characters.”

Darlene said, “Great characters have impact on the world around them and cause change in others.” Those changes become subplots.

Darlene Panzera

To develop her characters, Darlene creates Character Cards. Each main character has their own colorful card with pics and critical details. That way you don’t accidentally change someone’s eye color, the name of  your heroine’s cousin,  or the kind of car she drives.

She provided a list of details that can be included while creating your characters.

Name:
Age:
Job:
Role in Story:
Archetype:
Single/Married/Divorced:
Hair:
Eyes:
Face:
Build/Figure:
Imperfections:
Mannerisms, Habits:
Self Image: I am __________
How do Others View Character?
Brief Past History:
External Conflicts:
Internal Conflicts:
Strengths:
Weaknesses:
Biggest Fear:

What will be your character’s arc over course of story?  How will character   grow, become wiser or change?
What motivates character?  (Core value)
Goal: What does the character want?
What is the character’s problem or need?
How does she feel about it?
Why must character reach goal, come to decision, or find new insight?
How does character view others?  Attitude?
Who are friends and why?
Who are enemies and why?
Where does character live?
Home – Interior and Exterior:
Education?
Religion or lack of it?
Favorite food/color/music?
Vehicles?
Hobbies/interest/special skills?
Pets?
Most embarrassing incident in past?
Best thing happened to them?  Worst?
What influences of history would bear directly and indirectly on the character’s daily existence?
What are the major events or attitudes in the character’s life that have made him react to life in specific ways?
What is their family like? 
How much influence do they have on the character?
What is their favorite spot in home or town?

After you’ve created your characters in your imagination, they may take over in ways you hadn’t imagined.

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Readers live vicariously through believable characters and overcome obstacles, heal  hearts, and fall in love.  And, when they close the back cover and step back into their real worlds, they’ll bring those experiences with them.

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A collage is another visual Cool Tool Darlene has used. This is great start for the brainstorming stage of your novel. Cut and paste to create the world your characters will live in, using news headlines, locations, cars, houses, hobbies, and bits of interesting dialogue. It spurs on creativity during each stage of the writing process.

Imaginary friends aren’t just for children – they’re unforgettable characters created by novelists.


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For further study:

Rock Your Facebook Social Media Tabs

 

My generation liked  matchy-matchy.  If we were styling brown shoes, we had a brown belt and purse. We would never  *gasp* wear brown boots and carry a black purse. The  wild colors and un-matching accessories of today can be hard on my 80’s sensibilities.

Today’s young women look fashionable and amazing – but I just can’t do it.  Pink pants and a lime green shirt?  Uffda.  Wait, this must be how my mom felt when I wore white sandals after September 1st.

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Anyhoo, today’s Cool Tool helped me transform my Facebook Author Page to be all matchy-matchy.  Remember the criteria for my Cool Tools?  They have to be free and easy enough for this old lady blogger to figger out.

image See the new coordinating look on my social media tabs?  They all sport the same vintage typewriter.  It started out by finding Joie de vie blog.  She introduced me to Woobox.  Yes, this little place on the internet  wooed my heart by promising to make my Facebook page all matchy-matchy. 

 

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Using Microsoft Word I typed up my titles using Courier New, the  most old-fashioned script, font size 99.  Yep, I lugged my vintage typewriter outside and posed it on table in the Redneck Grill, my backyard fire pit area made of weathered gray wood. This is the  same gray wood you see all around my social places.

I stood on a lawn chair, because I am too short for aerial view, and shot from different angles to see what I preferred.  When the photos were  scaled down to create the tabs the letters were too small to read, so I cropped them in Windows Live Photo Gallery, a free download from Microsoft. Yes, I blogged about that Cool Tool, too.

I used photographs for my custom tabs, but use your creativity to show your personality and interests. You could create images in Quozio, Ribbet, or  Recite This.

Then, I clicked over to Woobox.

 

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FREE!  Is that not music to your ears?  Start at  Woobox and scroll to the bottom to find this green starting place.

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You want to find Static Tabs at the top of the next screen.

 

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Click Create a New Tab  on the top right side of the screen.

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It drops down and Woobox offers you these choices.

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I clicked on Pinterest and this dialogue box that popped up.  Click to enlarge if you’re old and infirmed like me and can’t read those little letters.

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Click on change to bring you to your  photos.  Choose the one you want from your own files and save.

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Ta Da!  A customized Facebook Fan Page everybody is sure to love, especially those from the 80’s!

If you update your tabs, please leave a link in the comment section to add to the inspiration!  I’d love to see what others create.

Platform Building Ideas Presented on Pinterest

I was surprised to discover most writers are introverts.

Because I’m obnoxious an extrovert, I assumed all writers were. Surprise!  When I first started attending writers meetings  years ago, I met many quiet, well-behaved people.  I actually think writers are  so busy talking to their imaginary characters and creating scenes in their minds, they can forget to interact with the real characters around them.

When introverted writers are told they need a social media platform and a marketing plan for their books, they panic.  Wait, even extroverts panic, because we only daydream about writing our books.  We never daydream about selling them.

But, today’s market demands writers are more than great writers, they must be savvy marketers.

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Today’s Cool Tool is something I created  for writers. I wanted to inspire writers and remove some of the panic they feel when they hear the word platform. To many, it feels more like walking the plank than promoting their brilliance captured in print.

Introverts fear approaching someone and introducing themselves, and are even more uncomfortable when faced with having to  introduce themselves AND promote their book.

Imagine a bricklayer at work.  Brick by brick, they build a wall higher and higher and higher.  That’s how you build a platform – one brick of knowledge at a time.  You don’t have to do it all at once, focus on one aspect of social media, conquer it, then move onto the next area. Last spring I added a Facebook Author Page (fan page) and began utilizing that.

Then I moved onto PinterestIt’s so addicting, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pinterest Support Groups start popping up around the country.  I recently read that people are clicking to Pinterest  before Google, so if that’s where people are, that’s where writers need to be. 

This Pinterest board was created to help writers begin the brick by brick process of building their author platform.

 

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The bricks in this case are the pins on the board I named  Book Launch and Author Platform. I visited websites from some of the great thinkers in the industry and pinned them.  There are even some craft ideas sprinkled in for staging an author event.  I’ll decorating our annual writers conference,  Northwest Christian Writers Renewal with some of these projects. (Click on the graphic to take you to my Pinterest board.)

 

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These are a few of the individual pins to show the variety.  (click on any link to bring you to their web site.) The articles introduce you to the information, and to the people in the industry.  This board will constantly be growing and changing as I discover new skills I need to learn. It’s like in high school and I’m doing your homework for you, but this isn’t cheating. Smile  I love helping other writers.

If you are on Pinterest already, you can follow the board.  If you aren’t on Pinterest,  save it to your favorites. 

Grow your confidence and your platform by choosing and implementing one area of social media. C’mon, pick up one  brick from this Pinterest board.  When it’s solidly in place, pick up another one.  Before you know it, you’ll be standing on a sturdy Author Platform.

 

Previous blog posts about Pinterest:

Two bricks in my social media platform…

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Experience Success at a Writers Conference

 

In the olden days, writers painstakingly hand penned a book manuscript without ink blots,  tied it up with string, wrapped it in brown paper and mailed it to an editor.

Josephine March sending off her manuscript

Over time, query letters came into vogue.

You  typed out your polite letter, described your amazing work, and asked the editor if they wanted to review your manuscript for publication.

If they said yes, you would tie it up with string, wrap it in brown paper and mail it.

More than just the mailing format has changed for today’s writer. Many editors will toss not only unsolicited manuscripts, but unsolicited query letters and proposals. Without regret. Without warning. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

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In the Christian Writer’s Market Guide and the Writer’s Market many  publishers advise they accept manuscripts only through agents.

You can’t directly communicate with the editors, and you have to prove yourself to an agent to get to an editor?

What? How can authors meet people in the industry?

 

Writers Conferences

 

It’s as simple as that. Not only do you get instruction on the craft and marketing and meet like-minded writers, you meet the gatekeepers in the industry, editors and agents.

But, many newbie writers spend the money to attend a conference, only to discover they really weren’t prepared. They zealously pitch their novel, and find they should have done their homework, the editor isn’t looking for that particular genre. They didn’t print business cards, so end up scribbling their contact information on a torn piece of paper. Newbies are unsure about what to wear, what to bring, and how to act.

I just described my very first writers conference.

But, their hope of publication depends meeting and successfully connecting with those all-important editors and agents.

If you’re like most pre-published writers, this very thought has you shaking in your boots, quivering like a leaf, and frightened to death. Can ya’ tell I opened my Cliché’ Drawer for that sentence?

The Christian Writers Coach  answers all the questions you have and the ones you didn’t know to ask.

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It was written by members of the Northwest Christian Writers Association in Kirkland, WA, who have a passion to help writers succeed. The articles are broken into four sections, beginning  with biographies of five successful people in the industry, to encourage you on the path. Chronologically, the how-to articles help you  prepare for, survive through and follow-through after a conference. Specific topics included are on proposals, one-sheets, conference binders, networking tips, preparing and giving a pitch, and  critique groups.

Links are included at the end of each chapter to encourage further study and introduce you to some of the names in the industry. A writer needs to have the mindset of constantly learning the craft and polishing their skills. (If you buy the e-book, you’ll be able to click your way right to further study.) 

 
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After meeting Robin Jones Gunn at an Oregon Christian Writers conference,  I wanted to share how the Lord led her into the ministry of writing in the biography section. She writes for women of all ages, from pre-teen to mature, and teaches at writers conferences.  A few years later, I still feel blessed  I met her. 

(I blogged This Chick Met the Sister Chick.)

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I still love her testimony. We serve an amazing God!

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An extrovert who loves helping writers succeed,  I also wrote the article on networking.

Are you one of those 90% of Americans who dream about writing a novel?  I can’t help you finish it, but I can help you rock the next writers conference you attend.

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You just need a little coaching.

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For further encouragement:

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Then, after you’ve been coached, you’ll be  ready to learn from Oxford scholar and prolific writer, Davis Bunn, and meet our line-up of editors and agents.

Get Coached!

 

Are ya’ PINNED yet?

 

In my mother’s teen years, if you got “pinned” you received a pin from your boyfriend and were going steady.  It might be from his frat house, one of his clubs, or a pin from his letterman’s jacket. The pin proved YOU were the one he chose above all the other girls and he was willing to publically display his commitment.

In “The Telephone Hour” in Bye Bye Birdie they sing about the teenage ritual of getting pinned.

Have you heard about Hugo and Kim?
Did they really get pinned?
Did she kiss him and cry?
Did he pin the pin on?
Or was he too shy?
Well, I heard they got pinned
Yeah! Yeah!
I was hopin’ they would!
Oho!
Now they’re livin’ at last,
Goin’ steady for good!

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Pinterest is the same thing, only different. It’s a Cool Tool that can improve your blogging.

Today getting pinned still means you were chosen – picked out of a crowd.  Someone liked your idea and displayed it in their inspirational corner of cyberspace – Pinterest.

If you’re not a crafty, kitcheny person, you might think it’s a waste of time. Think again. There’s an explosion of talent, ideas and inspiration useful to everyone.

I know, I know, one more thing to learn.  One more thing to take time away from everything else you don’t have time for. 

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One more thing to drive traffic to your blog.

In case you can’t read that little number, in the short time that I’ve limped along learning how to pin, 638 people have clicked to my blog from Pinterest.

I blogged for years before I added social media to my writing life.  My blog grew slowly. Followers were added one at a time by visiting blogs, leaving comments and creating relationships.  Some of these women became true friends and I’ve even met them in person. It’s been such a blessing! This is the best foundation for a blog, good internet relationships.

However, when you are trying to build a platform as a writer, you need to increase your audience.

I created a Facebook author page in February and started Pinterest in the spring. Prior to this,  I had been using my personal Facebook page to promote blog posts, so the stats aren’t just from this year.

The impact social media can have on your blog traffic can’t be denied.

 

You can create a board for the various topics areas you write about. When you pin from your blog, the title of the blog is in bold print and you can add a one-liner to entice the browsers to learn more. When people click on the image, it will lead them to your post.

If people like your visuals, they will pin them into their own Pinterest boards.  You get pinned and sometimes repinned. Being on Pinterest will also inspire you to have great visuals in your blog posts, visuals  worthy of being pinned.

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(Each icon is hyperlinked to a blog post.)

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MARRIAGE

 

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PARENTING

 

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INSPIRATION

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WRITING   INSPIRATION

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COOL TOOLS FORBLOGGING

There’s a lot of great bloggers out there, but having Pinterest-worthy visuals could give you an advantage in driving traffic your way.

Are ya’ PINNED yet?

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