Monthly Archives: June 2008

A Day in the Life of the NWPCA


The National Writing Project of Central Arkansas Summer Institute started today and I was the keeper of the log, so I thought I’d turn it into a weblog post. So, here’s a snapshot of our first day:

Kristy Carter had the goods on graduate credit and the goody bags.

Jane draws a mean starfish!

Mike’s log announced the “new arrivals” and then read from The Right to Write after the warm-up.

After the warm-up, Renee read about feeling intimidated and unsure, thanks to Mr. Nasty Red Pen. Shame, shame, shame on you, Mr. Nasty Red pen.

Janice wrote about having an out of body experience and just wanting to write for herself. We’re with you, Janice!

Verlyn told us how she ended up with a splint on her finger–the important part is, there are popsicles involved!

Monda warned us about the orange pens.

Mike began his meta shareshop with stories about superglue and poison ivy. He also says he’s flexible. Remember, you read it here first, folks!

Then we made life maps, with all sorts of twists and turns.

Janet’s map shows how she was destined to be a teacher.

Carolyn’s map shows how she’s gone to heaven as far as teaching.


Sandra read about championship softball, Jessica McClintock gowns (!) and Chateau trailer parks, while Verlyn remembers Texas but the chicken best of all.

Mike told us the story of his scars.

Barbara came full circle at Big Creek, Renee recreated the 70’s (again), Janet remembered her fishery and Nan reminded us:

“It takes all our life experiences happening just the way they did to get us to where we are now.”

Thanks, Nan.

Bye, y’all




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Revisiting The Right to Write


I have been revisiting Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, which I first read in 2006, and remembering how much I liked it. I love her “writing for all” philosophy and her writing warm ups. Some more quotes:

“If words give us power, when do we start to lose our power over words? When do we start to feel that some of us are “good” at language and even have a shot at being ‘writers’ while the rest of us just happen to use it and don’t dare consider ourselves in that league” (2)

“I believe what we want to write wants to be written. I believe that as I have the impuse to create, the something I want to create has an impulse to want to be born.” (18)

I recently did one of her extended prompts, the hot list, to mine some ideas for writing. I encourage you to do it yourself and write in your own answers. Consider yourself tagged!

What three topics do you often read about?
1. Education/test scores/writing
2. The presidential race
3. creativity

What three topics do you often think about?
1. God and prayer
2. Creativity and writing
3. parenting

What are five of your favorite books? (I tried to be current here and skipped War and Peace, etc..)

1. At the Children’s Gate by Adam Gopnik
2. From Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
4. Masters of Make Believe by Leonard S. Marcus
5. Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Loyd

What do these books have in common?
They’re creative nonfiction, about kids, parenting, France, New York, nostalgia and romance.

What are your five favorite movies?
1. Moonstruck
2. Chocolat
3. Polar Express
4. Diner
5. October Sky

What do your movies have in common with your books?They’re also romantic, nostalgic, about New York and France.

What is your favorite fairy tale?
The elves and the shoemaker.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Corderoy by Don Freeman
Corderoy is such an optimist!

What do your favorite fairy tale and childhood book have in common?They’re both about secret things that happen at night. They’re both about the forces of “fate” acting to help someone.

List five topics you are currently thinking about?

1. blogging
2. junking
3. traveling
4. writing
5. mental health

Which topics feel “hot” now?blogging


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Offerings from Northwest Arkansas and a writing exercise

This week I am in Northwest Arkansas (the Western Arkansas Education Service Cooperative in Branch, to be exact) facilitating a writing workshop for teachers.  Oh, what a week this has been.  I have heard some extraordinary writing, from  clearly gifted writers and teachers.  There is nothing like the exhilaration from hearing the stories of others, stories begging to be written, needing to be written.  Everyone has been so enthusiastic too–overall just a wonderful experience.  I hate that it has to end.  I hope some of these teachers consider applying to attend our writing project summer institute or the one in Fayetteville.

Then there was Claire Pence, the workshop coordinator. Everyone should have a Claire in their life. We love Claire!

This morning we did a workshop on heart maps (check out something similar here at twowriting and Monda led us in a workshop on I am poems.  We were to take an image from the list below (or come up with our own) and write about who we were as that object.  You could take it all sorts of different directions, such as finding a metaphor for someone close to you and writing about them.

Here are the metaphors:

I am:

a hammer, a broken screen door, a seed tick, the river, a closed fist, an oar out of water, a pair of boots, the rain, the circus freak, a tick, a chain stitcher among tapestry makers, a pick up truck, a three legged dog, a relic, the energizer bunny, an open book, a closed book, the wind, a storm, darkness, sunshine.

Why don’t you try your own?  Here’s mine:

I am

A long, long book.
to the first page.
You may wrinkle your nose: Too many
pages.  Too many words, too close together.
Not enough pictures.
But I promise,
if you keep reading, keep turning
my pages, I will return your attentions, give back
everything you gave to me.
And I keep
my promises.

Stephanie Vanderslice

Bye y’all. Happy writing!


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Stop the presses! Or, when bad things happen to good writers. . .

So we arrived home today to find the contract from Florida Academic Press. Two pages single spaced, a lot of typical stuff, until the very last item, which asked the author to remit $2,500, with another $1,500 guaranteed a month before publication, along with the contract.

After several emails had gone back and forth in which my husband was led to believe his submission had been selected for publication by this press in the traditional manner, this was the first we heard of money changing hands.

Upon further investigation, we found the press on Preditors and Editors, an online site designed to warn writers of vanity presses. Look it up under F in the Book Publishers section on the site.

After more investigation we learned that Sam Decalo, the publisher, appears to be an academic who once published books from Yale University Press. One would think a person with this kind of background would be above such practices.

One would be wrong.


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When good things happen to good people. . . A Very Special Giveaway


At last, I can tell the happy news. Not only did my husband just get tenure, but he just received word that his comic novel, his first [published] novel, Burnt Norway, has been accepted for publication by Florida Academic Press.

I could not be more thrilled. Not only is Burnt Norway a hilarious romp that now, people are finally going to get to enjoy, but this has been a long time coming to one of the hardest working writers I know! And the best!

Well, it’s possible I might be biased on that last part (but soon you’ll have a chance to judge for yourself!) But not on the hard working part. As anyone who’s ever driven by our house at 4:30 am and seen the light on can attest!!!

Since it’s a small press, I have appointed myself his publicity director!   In my first act in this capacity, I am announcing another giveaway.  I will be conducting a drawing for 3 $25 Barnes and Noble gift cards from anyone who announces the news on their blog or website and lets me know about it between June 10 and July 30th.  I’ll put a few sentences that can be cut and pasted below to make it easier.  In addition, I’ll be offering lots more publicity prizes and opportunities in the future.
Bye y’all


Fiction writer John Vanderslice (not to be confused with the Indie songster of the same name)  announces the publication of his first novel, Burnt Norway, with Florida Academic Press. Vanderslice has published numerous short stories in journals such as Crazyhorse and the South Carolina Review and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, but this is his first published book.  A comic, metafictional romance (or, novel within a novel), Burnt Norway will be published sometime in the fall as an inaugural book in their New Voices series and will be available online and through various other sources.  Look for more updates soon.


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The one (won) about the hat

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While we were talking about winning a few posts ago (in a few months there will actually be a picture of me on the Book Guys website sporting my brand new watch!), I was reminded of another thing I recently won. A hat. A Peter Beaton hat to be exact.

Did I ever mention I have a thing about hats? Probably not, because it has so little to do with writing. But I’m going to mention it now because I do. Have a thing about hats. Because I think they’re very romantic and because I think personally, that the right hat can balance me out, draw the eye, ahem, upward, or so they say.

Problem is, that I’m somewhat of a frustrated hat wearer. I have a big head, for one thing, so it’s hard to find one that fits. Or if I find one that fits, it gets so boy-handled by one of my two that it starts to fall apart. Two of my favorite straw summer hats have met that fate in the last few years.

Also, it’s hard to find occasions to wear them. Weddings are one. Nothing like the perfect wedding hat. I got one like this one at Dillard’s a couple of weeks ago and discovered when I got it home, that the tag actually reads, “the perfect wedding hat.”

One hat I’ve long coveted, is, as I’ve mentioned above, a Peter Beaton hat from the eponymous hat studio on Nantucket. For years, I’ve tiptoed into the tiny store on 16 1/2 Federal street and gazed wistfully at their custom wares. For years, the very image of sophistication to me was a woman at a garden party in a Peter Beaton hat. The vintage red roadster parked at the curb of the storefront didn’t hurt either. If you click through to the links, you’ll see what I mean. Victoria magazine even did a feature once on these famous hats.

As you might imagine, they cost a pretty penny. More or less out of my range. Recently, I was gazing at the website late one night, via cyberspace, which is how and when I do most of my window shopping these days, checking out the prices and sighing, thinking sure, maybe, someday, when my ship comes in. And then I had a sudden thought:


So I did a quick search. Nothing. Sigh. Oh well. Then I had another inspiration.

Saved searches.

For those of you who don’t Ebay often, a saved search is when you tell them what you’re looking for and they tell you when it appears at auction. So I entered “Peter Beaton hat” in my saved searches and promptly forgot about it.

Until a week or so later when the email appeared in my inbox.

There it was. On Ebay. It started out amazingly low. So I just watched it. Oh, I watched it. How I watched it. For days. I wasn’t going to bid until the last possible minute. To add to the suspense, my email hiccuped about 5 minutes before the item ended, but fortunately came back up with 1 minute and 28 seconds left–enough time for me to swoop in and grab the brass ring from the two other bidders. Higher than it started, but still within my reach.

So there you have it. My hat story. Nothing to do with writing–just a little vacation reading and a happy ending with a nice little moral. “Sometimes you don’t need your ship to come in, you just need some luck and a little Ebay.”

Bye y’all,


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The Artful Edit–A Conundrum

“While we write into a void, we edit into a universe, however ravaged it may be.”
Susan Bell

I just finished Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit last night. Well, sort of. I’d like to give you a full review of it. But the thing is, after singing the praises of the book last time, I got to page 86 and discovered that there was no page 87, or 88, 89. . .on through page 119! This is a significant chunk of the book–the end of the macro edit section and the first half of the micro-edit section.

So, my first response was, this can’t only have happened to my book (which, I believe I’ve mentioned, is a library book). So I checked online googling, “missing pages Susan Bell, The Artful Edit.”

Nothing. Nada. Maybe it is just me. After all, what my web search did find was a few wonderful reviews of the book, indicating that the reviewers had indeed read the whole thing (unless they were fibbing).

Thing is, I was all set to order a used copy on Barnes and but now I’m wondering. Will the used copy also be missing those crucial 33 pages? To be sure, I think I’ll have to wait until August, when I can get my hands on the paperback. Surely they’ll have corrected the error by then.

My review will have to wait until I get those 33 pages, but I can say based on the rest of it this one is definitely a must for any serious writer’s collection–but wait for the paperback to be safe.


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