Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Effects of a Great Book

A friend dropped by for tea last night and we got on the topic of books. We are both avid readers and at some point always find ourselves on the topic of great books. Andrea was telling me how much she enjoyed reading but doesn't read before she goes to sleep because she becomes so involved in the book that it becomes part of her dreams. She said that she gets so absorbed with the characters and the setting that it is like she is actually there.

I can relate and Andrea can attest to it. Years ago, I purchased a copy of the novel Cane River By Lalita Tademy; one of Oprah's Picks. The book tells the tale of three generations of slaves on a Creole plantation in Cane River, Louisiana. It was quite a long, compelling story and I had been tackling it for over two months.

I brought the book along with me during a 'girls only' weekend trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario. On route, I settled comfortably in the back of the van and dozed off for a little awhile. I awoke to hear one of my fellow travellers inquiring as to what was going in the field running parallel to the highway we were on; there was a group of about 15 individuals in the middle of the field a short distance from the shoulder of the highway. Still groggy from my mid-morning slumber, I poked my head up, peered out the window and blurted, "Picking cotton of course."

There was dead silence in the van followed by a rumble of uncontrollable laughter. Amid the laughter, I heard a voice break through the racket and point out, that "we are in Ontario, not Louisiana! We don't even grow cotton here!" Feeling a bit sheepish, I explained that I had become so involved in the book, Cane River, that when I awoke from my little car nap, I was confused and actually thought the group of people in the field were cotton pickers.

To me, that is the sign of a great read! When the author engages the reader in such an amazing tale that the reader actually feels like a participant in the story, it is pure magic!

Have you read any books that made you feel that you have become a participant in the story or a bystander witnessing the action? Drop me comment and share your experience!

Until next time..enjoy a book today.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aspire to Write?

Many individuals dream of writing whether it be a simple poem, the next great novel to be awarded a prestigious book award or to be featured on Oprah Winfrey's Book List. However, a common complaint amongst those who aspire to write is that they cannot find anything to write about.

Most experienced writers have learned that one must use various sources of inspiration to help them create their works of art. You may argue that you cannot find anything that will spark the creative spirit in your soul but think again. Inspiration can be derived from the simplest of pleasures:

Ø      A early morning walk around your neighborhood
Ø      A unexpected sunset or vibrant sunrise
Ø      A look from a stranger
Ø      A touch from your significant other
Ø      Rage over an injustice
Ø      The sound of a pounding rain
Ø      The quiet of the hour
Ø      The chatter of a toddler
Ø      The giggle of a group of school girls
Ø      The clickety clack of your keyboard
Ø      A longing, a love, a hope.
The possibilities for inspiration are abundant and readily available if you seek beyond the mundane of everyday life. The key to finding inspiration is to break down an event, experience or emotion and focus on that single aspect. If it is a great fiction story you are after, dig deep in your past, examine the present or look into the future. For poetry, let your emotions run high and embrace your tears, laughter, fears, happiness, grief and sorrows. Write it when the moods strikes - do not sit on it or the inspiration will fade.

The great writers, both past and present, knew this and wrote when the inspiration struck them regardless of the place or time. Follow in their footsteps; this is the stuff great literary works are made of.

Until next time..keep writing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Children's Picture Book: Church Mouse Poor

A quick note regarding yesterday's blog on Literary Classics - Not sure what happened but the spellcheck changes did not save properly and the online version contained a few typos, my apologies. Hmm, didn't I write a blog on proofreading??

In 2007, after seventeen rejections, my eighteenth query netted a traditional publisher for my children's picture book entitled, Church Mouse Poor. The story came to be after a friend announced that she was officially 'as poor as a church mouse." Perhaps it was the air that night, or someone slipped something in my drink, but I began to ponder what it meant to be 'as poor as a church mouse' if you were, in fact, a mouse that lived in a church. With my creative juices flowing, I quickly jotted down a short story about a mouse who lived in a church and sets out on a quest to find out what it means to be "as poor as a church mouse." The story sat under a pile of papers for a few months until I rediscovered it, rewrote it and then eventually sent it on its way to do the publisher rounds for the next year and a half.

I enjoyed some success with the book, and enjoyed the experience immensely. I had a great book launch at the local library, did quite a few author readings at local schools and hosted a book signing at my local chapters (see picture below). In addition, I attended some other book functions and signings and brought the hubby and the boys along in tow to experience the whole thing. Unfortunately, my traditional publisher ceased operation about a year after the book's release and I am now the sole, independent marketer of my book.

Friends will ask me if I plan to write another children's book and I have to admit that there is no explanation as to how Church Mouse Poor came to be. I am not a children's book writer in any sense of the word; I write non-fiction articles on an array of topics - basically I will write about any topic that someone is willing to pay me for!

So last weekend, as I watched the snow pile up outside, I pondered whether I had another children's picture book somewhere deep inside of me. I have some ideas but whether or not they will amount to anything, I am really not sure. If I decide to pursue that avenue, I will take what I learned from the publication of my first children's book and  use that information to my advantage.

Firstly, writing the book is the easy part. The hard part is trying to find a publisher who will see your vision and is willing to work with you and make it happen.

Secondly, I will seek out a publisher who is associated with a book distributor. Although I am all for the small publishers, it is difficult if not impossible, for the majority of them to break into the major bookstores in Canada and the U.S. If you aren't on a bookstore shelf, it is extremely difficult to sell your book especially a children's picture book in which the pictures say as much as the actual wording. Picture books don't sell so great over the Internet.

And lastly, I know as the author, I will have to do my part too including school book readings, book signings and book fairs as required.

So, until such time as a great idea for another children's picture book slaps me upside my head, I will just sit and wait and see what transpires over the cold, long winter.

Until next time....keep reading..

P.S. If you are interested in more information or wish to order your own autographed copy of my children's picture book, Church Mouse Poor, please visit my website at

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Literary Classics: Alive and Thriving in my Computer

It has been said that great readers make great writers; I would somewhat agree with this statement however, not all book lovers aspire to write. Unfortunately, in a world of digital electronics and advancing technology, the English language has been sacrificed. Transmission of the written word via email, texting and twitter has pretty much butchered the language into 4 letter words sans vowels, punctuation, and proper sentence structure.

Last year, I decided to take it upon myself to revisit the classics and read the great literary works of Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain.  Somewhere along the way, I missed reading them in high school; perhaps I found the smoking area more interesting!

So throughout 2010, I tackled Leo Tolstoy's, Anna Karenina - all 850 pages of it. Next I read, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte and will soon immerse myself in D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. Currently I am making my way through the free online version of Great Expectation by Charles Dickens. Many of the classics are available online for free because their copyright has expired. A copyright expires after 100 years and the content becomes public domain thus Google and a few other sites offer the classics for all to read. I am not exactly sure how it got there, but my online version of Great Expectation is stored nicely within the confines of my email account. When I visit my 'books', it comes up automatically to the last page that I read. How cool is that?!

Although I have somewhat veered off topic, the point I am trying to make is that the classics are beautifully written; the sentences are long, flowing, dramatic and descriptive. However, in this modern environmentally conscious and digital era, it is a distinct possibility that some of the classics would have been passed over by the traditional publishers for being too wordy, long and drawn out and too costly to produce. Likewise, if the book was written for exclusively for the web, the writing is too 'loose' and rambling and would not hold the reader's attention for long because writing for the web differs greatly than writing for print. Studies have proven that Internet surfers only read the first few paragraphs of a body of text that is posted online and do not read each word but rather scan down the screen picking up words and ideas.  Web writing is written in a very tight and concise manner to pack as much into a paragraph as possible to accommodate the Internet surfer's online reading behavior.

When my sister found out that I was ploughing through the classics, her first question was 'why'?  As I explained to her, for whatever reason, I missed reading the majority of them the first time around in high school and to be great writer, one must be a great reader of the literary giants. I wanted to absorb myself in the prose of previous eras and literary works that differ so greatly from the great authors of present day.

If you are interested in reading the classics, visit these sites:

Google Books

Project Gutenberg

*Note: Some sites offer the books in a variety of formats suitable for various portable readers.

Until next time...happy reading...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Test Your Proofreading Skills

No matter whether you write for pleasure or your job requires some sort of written material, proofreading is a big part of the process. Truthfully, I am a horrible proofreader when it comes to my own stuff, however if it is someone else's work - I can spot an error or typo from a mile away.

I haven't quite figured out why I cannot proofread my work to 100% accuracy; perhaps it is because I spent so much time creating the piece that I am not actually reading my work but have memorized it in its entirety. Unfortunately, I have been known to send off emails to my friends complete with typo and all because often I type my emails on the fly and don't give them a full proofread.

It really bugs me when I find a typo in the newspaper or on TV. One of the local TV stations has taken to showing the time as 10.00 instead of 10:00 - is this a new time format that I don't know about? Now I am confused! Is it 10 dollars or 10 o'clock!

If you are like me and want to improve your proofreading skills, try the proofreading link below and see how good you are. I did ok but missed a few. Post your score under the comments section of this blog if you dare.

The Proofreading Girl Proofreading Test

Until next time....keep on writing!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

I have been mulling over an idea for a writing project; it will be a fairly time-consuming undertaking. I have had the idea stuck in my mind for over a year goes..but it always comes back. The weather was going to pretty frigid here over the weekend so I decided I would tackle the first outline of the writing project because I knew I wouldn't want to be going outside or running errands.

So there I sat at my computer on Saturday morning complete with flannel bathrobe and slippers, determined to get the outline completed. It wasn't easy. I found myself wandering away from my computer more than once to tend some menial task like loading the dishwasher. At one point, I found myself heading upstairs to have a shower before it dawned on me that I was doing that 'thing' again. That 'thing' that I do so well is the fine art of procrastination.

After finding myself on the staircase, I turned around and headed back to my office and sat back down in front of my computer. I repeatedly told myself that I would reward myself with a nice, hot shower after I completed my outline. With a bit of encouragement from my boys (they let me read my outline to them), I had the inspiration that I needed to work through the first draft of my outline and be on my merry way.

I am excited that the first very rough draft of the outline is done and I am feeling energized to work on it more but I will let it rest for a few days. Procrastination is a horrible thing but if you set your mind to it, you can work through it. Unfortunately, for budding and established freelance writers, procrastination is like the elephant in the room; you know it is right there distracting you from your work but you can't seem to get around it. Sometimes, you just have to sit yourself down and work through it in order to get done what you set out to do.

How do you handle procrastination...drop me a line and let me know!

Until next time...ciao

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Expanding Your Writing Horizons

As a writer, it is easy to get stuck in a vacuum; playing it safe by writing what you know and are comfortable with. This psychology may work in the beginning but as your writing journey continues year after year, the market changes and you may need to develop writing skills in other areas to sustain your freelance writing activity.

A fiction writer may be horrified at the thought of writing non-fiction likewise a non-fiction writer may be lacking in skills to create a short story. However, it is necessary as a writer to try all different types of writing in order to keep the creative juices from becoming stagnant and to increase your money making abilities.

I am a non-fiction article writer for print and online markets and have written on numerous subjects but always return to my 'comfort' zone which is careers and health and wellness. As the recession lingers on, I have come to realize that I am trying hard to sell my ideas by pumping out more queries than before but unfortunately, I am selling less of my articles and at a lower rate.

An opportunity may present itself in the near future which involves some copywriting for a large organization. With my copywriting experience seriously lacking, I find myself scouring the net looking for self directed tutorials to help me along this new path. At some point I may find myself seeking more in-depth copywriting instruction and will consider taking an online copywriting course complete with an instructor to guide me and mark my progression. In the meantime, I am working through the site below which offers a self directed tutorial of sorts. I hope you will find the link helpful if you are looking to improve your business writing skills.

Quantum Copywriting

What is your writing genre? Feel free to comment!

Until next time...ciao

Friday, January 21, 2011

E-Reader Frenzy

I was in my local office supply store yesterday, and they had a display set up for a brand name e-reader. I started playing around with it somewhat intrigued with the new technology. A friend of mine received one for Christmas and she absolutely loves it. She has trouble seeing the print in books and loved the ability to enlarge the font on her new e-reader. She has read more books in the last month than she had read in over a year. The capability to alter the font size is a bonus for those of us who are suffering from middle aged farsightness.

As I tried out the different features of the e-reader, I asked myself if this is something I would use to read my favorite authors and newspapers, or would I just be purchasing it because it is a new gadget? I like the convenience of just carrying around a small, light weight computer tablet as opposed to a  heavy book especially if I am travelling and don't want the extra weight of a couple of books. Often, when I am travelling, if I am reading a thick book, I will leave it at home and opt for another smaller book to read whilst I am enjoying my vacation time. Large hardcover books complete with 600 pages or more just don't make good travelling companions.

As a writer, I like to see my work in print but I am not sure if I will get the same thrill out of it if my work is on a screen. However, I am not totally dismissing the functionality of an e-reader because I truly believe that economically and ecologically, the e-reader has its place in the literary arena.

With the cost of paper at an all time high, the e-reader will save many trees from being sacrificed to make books and newspapers. As a writer, I would definitely be saddened to witness the demise of the hardcover/paperback book but if technology rules, that scenario may be nearer than we think.

Until next time...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Late Night Writer Welcomes You....

Hello Aspiring Writers!

Welcome to the first official blog post of Late Night Writer. Ok, I confess, I had originally created Late Night Writer a few years ago on another blogging platform but the concept of blogging was fairly new and truthfully, I don't think I was ready to commit to it. A couple of years older now, and I have come to realize that if I am to increase my success as a freelance writer, I must develop my social media skills beyond Facebook.

I tried my hand at freelance writing years ago, before the onslaughter of the internet. It was a cumbersome process that required the writer to send away for submission guidelines for a prospective market via regular postal service. God forbid you did not include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE)! The wait for those said guidelines could be anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Once received, and query crafted and sent away once again with another SASE, the wait began.

A response, if any, was pretty unpredictable as to when it would show up if it at all. If the response was favorable, then the writer was instructed to send the finished manuscript complete with another SASE! This is where it got tricky, if you were sending your work outside your own country then you were required to include an International Reply Coupon (IRC) which enabled the recipient of your correspondence to purchase postage at their post office to send your stuff back to you. Needless to say, my very first attempt at freelance writing was a big flop. It was hard to keep up the momentum when you were waiting up to one year to hear back regarding your query or manuscript.

Years later, after I purchased a new computer and got online, the internet opened up the freelance writing world to me. Ten years later since that glorious day, I am an active freelance writer and have penned over 500 articles on various topics for markets throughout Canada and the U.S.

The journey towards financial freedom through my freelance writing efforts has been long but exciting. I still get a thrill when I sell an article especially if it is to a new market  that I had been trying to crack. My writing portfolio includes columnist, articles, web content, reviews, newsletters, news abstracts, press releases, resumes and everything inbetween. The road has been varied but the satisfaction that I derived from my writing is immeasurable.

What about you? What's your story?

Until next time, ciao!