Monday, November 29, 2010

Critique Groups

Critique Groups
Because I have published only in the magazine world and do not have a book contract yet (notice the YET), I’m always second-guessing myself in my stories. Have I developed strong characters? Do I have a compelling situation? Does my protagonist have a main goal? Do I have a sneaky, slithery, slimy opponent in the story? Are there enough obstacles in the story?
To answer these questions, I have joined several critique groups. (I NEVER get in over my head.)
The group I have been part of the longest has eight writers in it, and we meet each week. Each person passes out five pages every week for the next week’s discussion. The next week every person comments on their critique for each set of five pages. Wonderful synergistic dialogues ensue in this group. These people are dedicated to learning their craft. One member has two published books and another has a book contract. Several have won writing contests.
Another group I belong to meets monthly to discuss an entire manuscript and render a critical evaluation. There is something to be said for reading a whole book at once. You pick up details and problems you don’t see with just a few pages each week. These writers are dedicated also. Three of them have published in magazines and newspapers, and one has a couple of short stories in a seasonal books.
The last group I belong to is a picture book group. (I LOVE writing picture books!) In this group we email our monthly writing and discuss our critiques from our computers when we meet. (We’re going green!) We have a published author in that group also.
If you are a serious writer, find a critique group to belong to. (You don’t need to join three!) Check with the League of Utah Writers in your area. The feedback you get is very helpful, and you make wonderful friends that really understand the process you are involved in. (They’re great to cheer you up when you get rejections letters and celebrate with you in your successes.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Unlock the Fullness

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. -- Melody Beattie

How I love these inspired words, for gratitude is indeed a powerful but gentle friend.

Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas is one brief moment for giving thanks. Perhaps we have it wrong. Perhaps instead of giving thanks one day, we should have Thanksgiving week, Thanksgiving Month, or Thanksgiving Year.

In a true celebration of life, gratitude might be our truest friend. Today I celebrate my life, my environment, my companions, my opportunities, and my gifts with gratitude. I invite you to join me. Let's celebrate.

Unlock the Fullness.

Linda Garner

Monday, November 22, 2010


During this time of Thanksgiving when the earth yields up her abundance, I find gratitude filtering its way into my life. Holiday occasions bring appreciation for family and friends – a season to reflect on the wealth of blessings in life. Here are some of my favorite gratitude quotes.
Gratitude is the twin sister of humility; pride is a foe to both.  James E. Talmage
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. Cicero
When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator. Gandhi
We can walk through the darkest night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for the good. Martin Luther King Jr.
Gratitude is the sign of noble souls. Aesop
Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. Henry Ward Beecher.
Gratitude is the heart’s memory. Proverb
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God.1 Thessalonians 5:18
Grateful people tend to generate more positive memories, reminding them of good in their lives. Vaughn E. Worthen
Thanks for being part of my life. I am grateful for you. Christy

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beware! They aren't just for dinner anymore!

So I wanted to post something cute and thankfully-ness for Thanksgiving (because I'm thankful for a ton of stuff), but when I went looking for something to share, this is what I found:



Now I'm just frightened of those crazy turkeys!!!

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving everyone! I'm unplugged for the week...I'm hiding out from those things with a can of cranberry sauce in my hand (you know, back up). They scary me! Has anyone been attacked by a Turkey? Be honest, they are a little crazy aren't they?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tripping Over Ideas

Madeleine L’Engle is one of my heroes. I love the story she once told about ideas for writing.

The most asked question that I generally receive is, “Where do you get your ideas?” That’s very easily answered. I tell a story about Johann Sebastian Bach when he was an old man. A student asked him, “Papa Bach, where do you get the ideas for all of these melodies?” And the old man said, “Why, when I get up in the morning, it’s all I can do not to trip over them.” And that’s how ideas are; they’re just everywhere.

I agree with both Madeleine and Bach. Ideas are everywhere, but keeping track of those ideas is sometimes tricky. I may have three good ideas while driving and two more while I am stirring up dinner, or cleaning a toilet (not at the same time of course). When I sit down to write those ideas have often evaporated.

To help me keep track of ideas, I use a small notebook, one that’s easy to carry and fits in my purse. I use little sticky tabs to create sections. The back page is always for books I want to read or movies I want to watch. It keeps me from wandering around the library aimlessly, or staring blankly at a list of unfamiliar movies.

The front of the notebook is for book ideas. Usually they are one liners describing a topic that I’d like to develop into a book.

Inside the notebook are tabs for other kinds of ideas. Sometimes when I write a story I am stuck for just the right name, so it helps to keep a list of interesting names to draw from.

I have a section of first lines. Sometimes an entire story can be developed from just the write first line. One of the first lines in my idea book is “She was my best friend and my worst enemy.” Someday that will be the beginning of a book.

I love playing with words. Some words are just delightful. I like keeping a list of interesting words that are begging to be noticed. It’s fun just to look over this list and get the creative juices flowing.

The funny thing is that I don’t always have to look in my book to get creative. Just writing them down often anchors them in my memory. And also it keeps me from tripping over them when I get up in the morning.

Linda Garner

Monday, November 15, 2010


I love my critique groups because I learn so much from each person about my own writing. But I also learn valuable lessons from their problems as well.
A dear friend in one of my groups wrote a beautiful novel – a story of family members that suffered great tragedy. The book was eloquently written and the character’s voices poignant, but there was something wrong with the novel. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. At first I defined it as lack of a character arc for the protagonist. Some of the group agreed with me and some didn’t, but still the character arc flat. No one learned any lessons and no one became wiser.
Yesterday as I read Dwight V. Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, it hit me. There was no conflict in the story – only tragedy in the end. Swain says that stories are made up of scenes which provide interest and move the story forward. In each scene there should be a goal, conflict and disaster (or impending disaster). The character has to have a goal in order to act; something needs to happen to make his situation worse; and disaster usually rears its ugly head the form of new information to hook the reader in.
Is this how your stories play out? What do you think about this story concept? I’d love to know your experience.
Sometimes I wonder if my scenes are compelling enough to keep the reader engaged. Character arc can’t happen unless my hero or heroine gains strength from fighting through conflict and disaster. Writing is wonderful. I learn something new every day.
Thanks in advance for your feedback. Christy
P.S. Sent out three more query letters, got two rejections. I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Carrots, Eggs or Coffee Beans Movie

Have you heard the story of the Carrot, Eggs or Coffee Beans? If you haven't take a look. Thanks to my writing bud for sending this to me.

(If you don't drink coffee, like me, you can just imagine the coffee beans are cocoa beans with lots of sugary goodness and the richest cream in the world calories of course. Yay no calories!)

Good luck with the writing everyone! 

Carrots, Eggs or Coffee Beans Movie: "Carrots, Eggs or Coffee Beans. All of us at one time or another have experienced a difficult situation, had setbacks, or dealt with our share of disappointment. Most things that happen to us on a daily basis we can’t control and I can honestly say (with conviction) that it is not what happens to us that matters but rather, how we choose to respond."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gifts of Autumn

There is something about autumn, isn’t there? Something earthy, mysterious, thought provoking, brave. Today I look out my window at a smoky autumn sky, watching the last courageous leaves flutter in the wind. Change is in the air.

I love change.

I enjoy retreating inward with my thoughts. I dust off my dreams, caress my emotions, and chat with wandering ideas. I get in touch with the girl I used to be and the vision of my future. It’s feels wonderful to curl up inside my head with a comfy blanket of acceptance and breathe the air of change. Oh, summer was wonderful, and spring delightful, but autumn is a time for reflection.

I love questions. They are so empowering.

Where have I come from? Where I am I going? What do I treasure most? Am I honoring my destiny, my hopes, my dreams? Am I honoring my past and my future? Do I know myself? Am I true to my vision?

Am I caught up in the thick of thin things? Am I creating joy? Am I making a difference?

Autumn has many answers, and I go inside to find them. In that sacred space where only I am allowed, I find myself, stripped of worldly nonsense. On this journey I discover many gifts. Joy, love, peace, warmth, trust, desire, and hope, along with child-like delight and wonder.

Such are the gifts of autumn.

May autumn bring you many gifts. May your heart and home be filled with love…to overflowing.

I send you autumn’s warmth, with love.

Linda Garner

Monday, November 8, 2010

Courage Revisited

I am here to report that I have sent out 10 (that’s TEN) query letters. However, it’s only really eight because two of the web sites rejected the email. How do I feel about my accomplishment? About the same; I still don’t have the confidence in myself I want to have. Thank heavens for critique groups. They carry me through this time of personal insecurity.
When I say my affirmations, I feel like Bill Murray in What About Bob. “I feel good; I feel great; I feel wonderful.” But then I don’t really feel that way. So it’s an uphill battle, but I can feel myself inching up the hill. Each day I have a little more confidence than I did the day before.
The thing I come back to again and again is this: The reason I am writing is because I love to write. It is so much fun to craft a story, and the pleasure I get from it is indescribable. I love my characters – from young grade school boys and girls running across the desert or hiding from the Nazis, my first-graders fooling around with their karaoke machine or trying to control their parrot and my preschoolers resisting bedtime or racing with a giraffe across the Savannah. I have so much fun with them all.
What a great blessing it is to be a writer! What a wonderful opportunity to generate something no one has ever thought of before. My stories are what I think about when I have nothing to think about. I can be waiting in a doctor’s office or sitting in traffic and be having the best time of my life making up a story or crafting a scene. Like I’ve said before, maybe I’m crazy. I have relationships with people in my head that no one knows about. What would a “shrink” say about that?
Since I am a retired “shrink,” I can answer my own question. My creativity is fun, healthy, and I’m having a ball – if I can just keep those query letters going out! Another report next week.
Christy Monson
PS If anyone has any great advice, let me know.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Here's to Re-posts and Rejections

Okay, so I'm a little late on getting my bloggy grove back on. So, I'm doing a re-post. 

I wrote this about two years ago (Oh man! Two years?) But I still find it fascinating!

If you haven’t heard the song, Pork and Beans, by the rock band Weezer, you'll need to check it out (embedded above).
“What?” you say, “does Weezer have anything to do with writing?” I will tell you, but first I want to contemplate rejection. *putting hand up to chin in thoughtful pose*

Did you know that Stephen King got so many rejection letters that he nailed them on a spike under a board in his bedroom? When he tried to get Carrie published, the publisher said, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

Dr. Seuss’s work was rejected over fifteen times before he found an editor to even look at his work.

Madeleine L’Engle was rejected by twenty-six publishers before A Wrinkle in Time was picked up. It is now in it’s sixty-ninth printing.

J.K. Rowling was rejected by nine publishers for Harry Potter. Nine times!!!! Wha....?

What does this mean? Anyone who is in the writing field or publishing field will tell you, rejection is a part of writing. It is at every turn. Critique groups, publishers, editors, …the list goes on and on. But take heart you are not alone!

Which brings me back to the band Weezer.

Weezer was working with a label who wanted them to write catchier songs to make themselves more marketable (according to the producers), and rejected many of the songs they had been working on. Weezer left the them and with the inspiration of the meeting that day wrote the hit Pork and Beans.

Their video had 3.5 million views before even appearing on MTV.

So here's to rejection!  Whoop! It only leads to success.

Have any of you had a time when you were rejected, but kept working until the fabulous day came?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Use Your Voice

Don't forget to vote.

Today's the Day.

Make a difference.


See you at the polls.

Linda Garner



Are you ever afraid? Well, I am. This entire week I have been arguing with myself about sending out query letters to agents. Elana Johnson’s workshop at the League of Utah Writers Conference on querying was informative and insightful. I have now written about twenty-five drafts of my letter, and I can’t even tell if it’s good or not.

My letter and my synopsis are both ready to go, I guess. So what keeps me from pushing the SEND button? Well, for one thing, if I send the letter and am rejected then I can’t query that agent again. If I don’t send the letter, then maybe that agent would have accepted me if I had sent the letter. (Silly, I know, but it’s in my head.) For another thing, maybe my writing is not very good, and no one will want to read it. If I said this out loud at any of my three critique groups, they would massacre me on the spot. (So I keep quiet.) Here’s another great argument: I’m used to supporting others in becoming successful – like my husband, kids and friends, but not myself. (I know it’s a lame excuse.)

Okay, so I can identify my irrational thinking. But what do I do about it? Here’s my list:

1.      I run my letter and synopsis by my critique group and get their feedback. (Did it.)

2.      I set a goal and tell others about it so I’ll follow through. (I’m sending six letters this week.)

3.      I get support from my friends by letting them know how I feel. (Thanks for listening.)

4.      I keep positive thinking statements pasted on my computer so I can read them and turn my distorted thinking around.

“If you are lucky enough to find something you love, seek the courage to embrace it.”

 “Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.” Author unknown.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

Christy Monson