Submitting Essays for Publication

This morning I drew my third Inspiration Starter, and the first one that caused me to make that strange sound created by sucking air in through the mouth around clenched teeth. I love playing this game, of seemingly random choices, that actually aren’t random at all. I know I am being guided. And my rule is, I draw a folded slip of paper out of the jar and that’s my activity for the day. No do overs.

This one is one of the biggies, pushing me out of my comfort zone and stretching me to take what I do to a different level. This is good, right? This is what I wanted…and I wrote out the activities, knowing my stomach would tighten a little in response to some of them.

Today I drew:

I selected a slip of paper early, so I could think about the activity as I worked this afternoon. Before dipping my hand into the jar, I asked aloud, How shall we play today? This was the answer.

I am grateful for Google. As I turned my attention to this project late this afternoon, I posed another question, this time to that online helper.

Where can I submit essays for publication?

Instantly, Google supplied an answer. I was directed to an article by The Write Life, with a list of 19 websites and magazines to submit essays for publication. What a helpful page this turned out to be. I have spent time this evening studying options, looking at the publication websites, and taking notes.

Yes, I still like the scratch of pen against paper. Plus the action of writing allows my thoughts to flow. By the time I had visited my top picks for submission, reading through guidelines and sample essays, I was able to narrow my selection to seven choices.

This was a good exercise for me tonight. In truth, I am very content to write blog posts. After almost four years of daily writing, I have found a niche that I enjoy. I don’t have a burning desire to write a book. I am happy to be a blogger.

However, these Inspiration Starters are designed to ignite a fire and challenge me. And I am ready for that. I have 1,437 blog posts. Tonight I selected several that I am reframing slightly into more essay like formats. An essay is an opinion piece. And basically, most of my blog posts fall into that category.

Tomorrow morning I will submit 1 – 3 essays to a site called Narratively, that became my top publication pick tonight. I feel good about kicking my writing up a notch. And in the process of doing research, I discovered The Write Life, a great site for freelance writing, marketing, publishing and blogging. And I found another site called Travelista that accepts travel stories.

That’s good. I know there is an Inspiration Starter in that jar about submitting a travel piece.

Encouraging Young Writers

I appreciate a feature on my iphone. When I go to Google, beneath the familiar search bar there is a list of articles that I might find interesting, based on previous search results. I have a smart phone, indeed! Included in that list this morning was a post that today is Encourage Young Writers Day. 

I wasn’t going to write a blog post about this unique holiday. However, throughout the day, I found myself thinking about writing when I was a child, and the importance of fostering creative writing in children. Inspiration has interesting ways of getting my attention. Once my awareness was focused on encouraging writing, the idea developed and I at last surrendered to it. 

Encouraging Young Writers

My mother encouraged my own love of writing as a child. A gifted story teller and writer, my mom modeled the art of creative writing to me, enchanting my sisters and me with the bedtime stories she made up. When I was about eight years old she bought me a junior typewriter. More than a toy, this pint sized typewriter worked, holding a standard sheet of typing paper and using the old-style spool ribbon. 

Encouraging Young Writers I spent many happy hours creating stories on a turquoise typewriter just like this one. 

As a mom and now a Yaya, I have recognized the importance of encouraging children to read, write stories, draw and practice creative story telling. Not every child will grow up to be a writer, but every child has a rich imagination and stories to tell. 

Here are six ways to inspire your children to write:

Encouraging Young Writers
Read to your children and encourage them to read. Nothing builds a more solid creative foundation for children than being introduced to reading at an early age. Read a variety of fiction and nonfiction books to them and encourage them to pick out their own books at the bookstore or library. Let your children see you reading and discuss your favorite books and authors with them. My grandson Joey placed the first Harry Potter book by his bed today, for night time reading, after I told him how much I have enjoyed reading the stories. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Make story telling a regular fun activity. Everyone loves the words, “Once upon a time…”, anticipating that a story is about to unfold. Tell classic stories to your kids and don’t be afraid to make up your own. Children love to tell their own stories as well or embellish upon yours. For years my grandson Dayan and I made up a shared story called “The Further Adventures of Dayan and Yaya”. One of us would begin a story and then we would take turns adding to it. Those made up adventures grew to include vision boards later, which told a hoped for future story. 

As children get older, creating a written story in the round is fun too. Everyone begins wrtiting a story on pieces of paper, then the papers are passed to the right. Each person writes a few lines and then continues to pass the paper on until the page returns to the original author, who can then write the conclusion and read the story aloud. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Keep writing and art supplies readily available. Children don’t have to have their own computers or mini typewriters (Do they even make those anymore?). Keep #2 pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, glue, tape, journals, sketch pads, blank paper, stationary and notecards in easily accessed places, to encourage children to create. There is something so inspiring about a blank page. The imagination needs an outlet. Having materials to use provides the building blocks for first books, plays and picture books. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Make use of technology to foster creativity. Although technology can be mind numbing, it can also open artistic channels. My grandson Jonathan makes full creative use of his phone and tablet, creating YouTube videos and crafting stories using an app called Wattpad. There are many writing and reading apps available, for phones, tablets and ipads, that can encourage the budding reader and writer to create their own stories. 

Encouraging Young Writers

Offer writing opportunities. Encourage children to write in a variety of ways. Let your child write out the grocery list. Ask each other questions and write down the answers. (What’s your favorite food? What makes you laugh?) Write movie reviews together. Play restaurant and write out a menu and write down the diners’ food orders. Play word games like scrabble and hangman and work crossword puzzles together. Make up games and write out the rules. 

My granddaughter Aubrey began making up a game today, using a piece of typing paper and a pencil. She drew squares and wrote out instructions for the first few squares. It is a health game. (Are children observing our lives? You bet!) Another favorite writing activity for Aubrey is to write our waitress at the restaurant a note to leave with her tip. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Encouraging Young Writers

Encourage alternative forms of story telling. Writing isn’t the only way to tell a story. Movies tell stories. Dance tells a story. And drawing is a form of story telling as well. Joey and I once spent an afternoon creating by taking turns drawing the elements of our story. Grandson Oliver likes to take interesting photos that tell a story. Aubrey creates music videos. And Dayan has created whole imaginary worlds in his mind, much as JRR Tolkien did as a child. Jonathan made cupcakes based on a video game and created a how to video of the experience. The creative possibilities are endless. 

Encouraging Young WritersOliver’s photo captures an interesting perspective and a story about Carl. 

I am grateful that I was encouraged to write as a child. Writing and story telling has always been an important part of my life and I am thrilled to be creating on a daily basis. 

There are many ways to encourage young writers, and create a supportive environment that allows the imagination to flourish and take form. William H Gass wrote, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold: they change the world into words.” 

Children understand that. I do too. And sometimes our words create worlds. 

Encouraging Young Writers

Surrender 88: Get a Clue

As I have been packing up the house in Arkansas, room by room, it’s often the little, seemingly insignificant finds that tug at my heart the most or spark precious memories. Today’s discovery was one of these unexpected triggers into emotions and joyful recollections. 

 

Sorting through a stack of papers, cards and photos, pulled from a drawer, I uncovered a small collection of folded pieces of paper. I could tell the yellow note papers had writing on them, and they were numbered on the outside. Opening one of the notes, I laughed, recognizing my own handwriting. 
  
Memory stirred. When my three children were young, I used to create scavenger hunts for them, writing out rhyming clues that led them through out the house or yard. Each clue led to another location, where they had to find the next clue, and so on, until the hidden treasure was found.

  
 

The kids loved doing scavenger hunts. And I enjoyed creating them. I had forgotten, until today, that I had once created a scavenger hunt while we were visiting the grandparents in Arkansas. I sent the children outside to play so that I could write up the clues and hide them, and tuck away a treat. 

  
I placed one of the clues in the front pocket of Papa Bob’s shirt, instructing him to not give away the secret. He didn’t. He sat on the sofa with a big grin lighting up his face. The kids squealed with delight as they found that clue!  

Mimi Leta seemed to enjoy the experience as much as the kids. She had a wonderful child-like sense of wonder about life and the world. When the game was over, after the kids had found the hidden treat, I gathered the clues to throw them away. Mimi Leta asked if she could have them. She thought the whole idea was fun and clever. 
  
My eyes blurred with tears, reading through the notes this afternoon, realizing she had, indeed, kept these bright scraps of paper. I’m glad she did. I relived a wonderfully warm memory. 

And I am reminded of two vital truths in my life:

I am a creative person. I always have been. Although I didn’t write as a career while my family was young, I never veered far from it. I wrote newsletters and school curriculum, stories and classes that I taught…and rhyming scavenger hunt clues. 

  
And, I live my life as one HUGE Divine scavenger hunt. Each day I watch for the clues that are given to me, leading me onward and upward to the next clue, or sign, and the next, and the next. There is as much thought and planning and joy evident in my daily clues as there were in my imaginative creations. 

I get it now. And while the last clue leading me to the final hidden treasure is going to far outshine any clue I ever wrote, or any treasure that I ever hid, what a journey of discovery I have been offered. What fun I am having. And the Clue Writer, the Dream Giver, expresses so much delight.

Truly, there is joy in the journey…this journey full of clues and signs and surprises. 

  

  

Journey 363: Finding My True North

What perfect timing it has been, to begin again in The Artist’s Way this week. Chapter 8: Recovering a Sense of Strength explores making practical and immediate changes in my current life. I have been encouraged to examine ways in which I have settled for less than I desire in my creative life. 

The perfection is that I traditionally use this final week in December to reflect on and release the past year, as I prepare to embrace the upcoming new year. One of the assignments in Chapter 8 was to put a name to my dream and write it down. 

I did. I wrote, “I am a writer, an author.”

Next Julia instructed me to name one accomplishment that would signal the realization of that dream. On my emotional compass, this would signify true north. 

I wrote, “I want to know that I have created the best writing that I can, and have it published. My true north is to create my best writing for publication.” 

 

As I am preparing to surrender to next year’s journey, I appreciated this opportunity to become clear on the direction in which I’m heading. 

So what does it mean to find my true north? 

In Bill George’s book, True North, he says, “It’s the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track. It’s based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations and the sources of satisfaction in your life.”

Knowing my true north lets me start exactly where I am, get oriented, and head out, moving in the right direction, using my internal compass as a guide. I can align myself with the Divine, make my desires known, and trust the guidance I receive. 

I continued with the assignment, writing out long and short term accomplishment markers to guide me, now that I had my true north. These actions included sending out a query letter and book proposal and researching submission requirements for several magazines I’d like to submit articles to. 

I recently finished Liz Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, in which she shares her own true north. Toward the end of the book, Liz shares about having fierce trust and doing what you love to do, creatively, because success or failure, it is what you must do. She says do it for you. Not to help or inspire other people. Do this because it helps or inspires you, and then it cannot help but inspire others. 

I am a writer. My creativity has roared back to life as a result of my year of firsts and my year of journeys. My desire to write was at the heart of both adventures. I write because I must. I write for me. I trust that what helps me, in turn helps others. 

As I journey next year, I have my true north and the Divine to guide me. I have fierce trust, and people like Julia Campbell and Liz Gilbert who are shining examples to learn from. I am about to launch out, my heart open, knowing that the flow of life will take me exactly where I need to go, bring me exactly what I require, as I travel with clarity and purpose. It’s going to be another extraordinary year of adventures. 

  

Journey 167: Ahas from the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

I’ve had a couple of days to mull over my amazing experience at PWC. I’ve carried those ahas with me and unpacked them several times to look them over. Today I’ve had the opportunity to share with people about what I learned. This evening it felt like the perfect time to post some of those vital lessons.

philly trip writers conference

Take aways from the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference:

  • First lesson, bring business cards. I was asked many times for a card. We remember who we connected with by exchanging biz cards. I didn’t even have any real estate cards with me. Next conference I attend I will take a stack of business cards with me. Positive note…I brought business cards home from people I met, and I wrote out my number and email address for those who asked for the info.
  • Query, proposal, book. As a non-fiction writer I learned, STOP WRITING THE BOOK. Instead, write a great query letter, a powerful proposal, and only after receiving a book contract, write the book.
  • Move past my comfort zone. I had no intention of meeting with a literary agent because I didn’t feel ready to pitch a book idea. Thanks to my friend Lu Ann, I made that appointment and pitched an idea. No matter what the outcome, I decided this was going to be a great experience for me and to just go with it and have fun. It was a great experience and the outcome was amazing.
  • Write consistently and often. Dreaming of writing, thinking about writing, intending to write…won’t get a book written. To become a writer, one must write.
  • Blogs are important. I confess I was nervous about being a blogger, as I thought bloggers might be considered the obnoxious stepchildren of writers. I attended a social media class that blew that idea away and I jotted down so many great tips for improving my blog’s visibility. First change….Google search doesn’t like cutesy titles! Clarity is better than cleverness when it comes to blog titles.
  • Help is okay. I brought home a great book called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published”. Packed with helpful content, this easy to use book is my new best friend.
  • Talk to everyone. I met poets and sci-fi writers, authors penning memoirs and other bloggers, essay writers and writers of children’s books, published authors and those who want to be. Everyone was encouraging, helpful, and sincere.
  • Do the class assignments and be willing to share. I appreciated the immediate response and feedback to my sample proposal.

I have had much to think about since PWC. That open door that I walked through became a pivotal experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by the creative energy of so many writers. The instruction I received continues to shine a bright light on the path I am treading, guiding me along the unfamiliar terrain. What an amazing journey. Stay tuned.

pwc take aways

Journey 164: Philadelphia Writers Conference

The oldest writers’ conference in the US, Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, PWC henceforth, was established in 1949 and continues to serve as a place for writers to learn and connect, be encouraged and inspired. Day two of PWC was very full and rich and it was my focus today, with a brief time out for a lovely excursion into Old Town.  

  
Lu Ann’s class on non-fiction writing was up first. She began her teaching time by having each of us blow bubbles! What a brilliant way to tap into our creativity. Lu Ann reminded us that we must approach writing with passion and play with it, enjoying the process. Having fun, loving what we are doing, opens doors and connects us with others. I KNOW this to be true. 

  
Lu Ann is skillfully teaching us to write powerful proposals and query letters. Knowing what I am compelled to write, doing my research to define my market and my competition, and sharing why I am uniquely qualified to write my book are all essential components. 

  
Tom McAllister continued in the memoir class, instructing us on essay and memoir writing. I’ve realized from his class that I am drawn to writing essays, which are short non-fiction pieces that both dramatize and create reflection. We learned about being specific in what we are writing about and when to narrow in on a subject and when to broaden the view. Tom has an engaging teaching style and speaks rapidly, which is essential since he has so much to share. 

  
The social media class has been a surprise! Don Lafferty  is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of online marketing via websites and social networks like Facebook. While his class doesn’t teach about writing, it DOES instruct writers about reaching their intended audience, which is crucial for all authors no matter their chosen genre. 

I have learned so much about how Google works and what  I can change in my WordPress blog to increase my chances of appearing higher on the first page of a Google search. Don is sharing invaluable info, and he does so with skill and humor. 

  
After my last class, and with a couple of hours before the banquet this evening, Lu Ann and I headed out into the city to explore. To my delight, we took a horse drawn carriage ride through Old City and Society Hill. Pat the driver and Spot the horse made quite a team. What a beautiful ride through charming neighborhoods steeped in history. 

  
I saw the home of James & Dolly Madison, Washington Square, Ben Franklin’s Printing Shop and wonderfully restored Georgian townhouses built in the 1700’s. Pat told us stories, accompanied by the steady clip clop of Spot’s hooves. 

  
Back at the conference center, we had time for a cold drink before  dinner and the keynote speaker. Joining us was poet and instructor Anna M. Evans. I’ve loved meeting so many writers. Anna, originally from England, has published a couple of books of poetry, so far. Her most recent book, “Sisters & Courtesans”, is a delightful and scandalous collection of poems that highlights different women throughout history. When Anna recited one of her poems spontaneously for us, in her lovely accent, we laughed and whooped with approval. I promptly bought her book. Check out her blog here and enjoy!

  
The day concluded with a formal sit down dinner, shared with wonderfully open, creative souls. Everyone is so sincere, so encouraging. Keynote speaker Stephen Fried shared from his life journey as an investigative journalist, non-fiction author and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. 

  

Using personal experiences and humor Stephen presented his perspectives on what a writer’s life looks like and the nature of writing today. He has published many articles, essays and books on a wide range of topics. With droll realism he warned that the writing life isn’t what one expects it to be, yet he spoke with great passion regarding  writing about the things that capture your interest and heart. 

“Ride the waves,” he told us, “don’t resist them.” Which echoes my sentiments about life, and my current journey. It’s a mighty big wave I’ve caught, and with shaky but determined legs, I’m prepared to do just that. It’s going to be an amazingly spectacular ride!

  
  

Journey 161: Trip to Philly

philly trip

Ask any realtor. If you want an increase in business, just plan a trip out of town! That’s certainly held true for me. I’ve had this trip planned since January, when my mentor and friend, Lu Ann Cahn came to Joplin. Lu Ann’s book, “I Dare Me” was the inspiration for my year of firsts in 2014. What an honor and privilege to meet her when she stopped in Joplin so that we could do a first, or dare, together. After we served lunch at Watered Gardens, a ministry in Joplin that feeds and shelters the homeless, Lu Ann and I had a late lunch together, and she invited me to Philedelphia to attend the nation’s oldest writer’s conference.

In the spirit of doing new things and journeying far this year, I said yes! The next five days will be full of adventures: first time to fly out of Joplin’s new airport, first trip to Philedelphia, first time to attend a writer’s conference and what a fun time I will have as Lu Ann’s house guest. This personable, lively woman continues to be such an inspiration to me!

philly trip Lu Ann

The Philedelphia Writer’s Conference was established in 1949. The founders were guided by the belief that writers gain from fellowship with other writers and from constructive professional help. The first writer’s conference in Philly hosted four workshops, a banquet and an evening speaker over two days and has grown to offer 14 workshops, four seminars, manuscript rap sessions, a Friday roundtable forum, speakers and the annual Saturday night banquet with keynote speaker. I am so excited to experience this conference, and revel in the creative energy that is sure to be surrounding the event.

Tonight, after the obligatory run to Walmart for necessities for the trip, I am putting offers together, finishing up laundry, hauling out my carry on suitcase and reading an article that is part of an assignment for one of my classes. And, I am full of gratitude…to Lu Ann for cheering me on and inviting me to visit her in Philly, for Greg who surprised me with a card that was encouraging and contained extra cash for the trip, and for you all, my readers, who have journeyed with me along the way, some for the entire 525 days (so far) as I have honed my writing skills and fallen in love with the craft, and others who have joined in at various points along the path, walking alongside, offering words of praise, hope and love. Thank you, from my overflowing heart.

I am full of anticipation and joy as this amazing trip is unfolding. To quote my favorite Hobbit, “I am going on an adventure!” I’ll post next from Philadelphia!

philly trip writers conference

Journey 140: Cindy 500

Cindy 500

I’ve been in a playful mood, thinking about my blog post for today. It’s been a week with a couple of milestones so far: the completion of Aubrey’s first year of school, Dayan’s 16th birthday. I decided to write about a milestone that I’ve reached as well, while making a play on words for the blog title, this weekend being the Indy 500 race.

I’ve reached 500 posts on my Going Beyond Blog…507 posts, actually, over 505 consecutive days. 505 days of writing…every day.

The amazing part about this accomplishment is that two years ago this summer, I was challenged to do one thing, every day, for 66 days. The idea was that by doing something every day for 66 days, a new habit would be formed. I thought for only a moment before jotting down this word: WRITE. I wanted to write every day for the next 66 days, creating the habit of writing.

Cindy 500 if you wish to write, write

I’ve long had a interest in creating in this way. One of my gifts as a young child was a typewriter. I’ve had story-telling modeled for me my whole life, my mother being an amazing creator of stories. She told them to my sisters and me, as  children, and later wrote stories for our children, eventually publishing stories in books such as The Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She’s also had three children’s chapter books published. I started on that tiny typewriter, and wrote for years, into early adulthood….stories and poems primarily…later writing with a pencil in notebooks.

And then life got busy, with a husband and children. I thought, When the kids go off to school, I’ll write again. And I did, for a short time. Then I made the decision to bring my children home and educate them myself. We became homeschoolers and life shifted in huge ways. I set the writing aside, with no regrets. I raised my kids, taught my kids, was taught life lessons, by my kids. And when they entered college or married and left home, rather than return to writing, I entered real estate.

Cindy 500 youve got to write

No excuses. I could have made the time, structuring my day so that I had plenty of time for writing.  I did keep my desire to write alive. I created a monthly homeschool newsletter, with a feature article about what adventures the kids and I were involved in, and included samples of their work or cartoons and drawings they had done. In real estate, I created a monthly email as well, for several years, writing in an informational way. I even started a real estate blog years ago. Strangely enough, I found myself writing not about real estate in that blog…but life. Seeing the dichotomy, I posted in it infrequently, confused, I think, about what I wanted to share.

Life kept offering invitations, though, kept reminding me of my desire to write. That desire grew, fed by speaking and teaching opportunities. It is so beautiful, so amazing, that the challenge that was issued to me, to pick one thing to do, and do it for 66 days, came at a workshop led by Gary Keller, the owner of Keller Williams. That reminder came through real estate. I shouldn’t be surprised. It was where I was, and life meets us exactly where we are and invites.

Cindy 500 writing quote

I’d like to say that I nailed it two years ago…writing for 66 days. I wrote every day…for four days. And then I quit. It was difficult. I dawdled. I floundered. I let other things get in the way. I failed at that attempt at writing daily, however, the intention went out, the desire went out. I want to write…every day. And life, or the Divine….to me, life IS part of the Divine…brought me the perfect way to accomplish my intention.

I had no purpose connected to writing every day, when I made the first attempt. I had nowhere to go with it. For me, it wasn’t enough just to say I was going to write every day. I had to have a reason to write. So one arrived. As 2013 was drawing to a close, my new word, Beyond, came to me. I heard of Lu Ann Cahn and her amazing year of first things…doing something new every day. I embraced her idea, knowing that doing something new, daily, would definitely push me beyond my comfort zone. And to be accountable, to capture what I was doing each day, so I wouldn’t forget, I began the Going Beyond Blog…and wrote in it EVERY DAY….for 365 days. What I couldn’t do before, I was able to do with the blog, because I had a reason for writing. I linked creating with purpose.

Cindy 500 alchemist

The amazing gift of writing every day for a year was that I learned the discipline of writing. Full days, being busy, not feeling like writing…none of those excuses deterred me. I just did it. And I loved it. I reconnected with that creative energy that I had as a child and teenager….and I wrote. A laptop, and sometimes my cell phone, replaced my little blue and white typewriter. The sheer joy of writing became the force behind my daily posts…so much so that as 2014 was winding down, I knew I wanted to keep going, keep writing.

505 days of writing, and counting…that’s 501 days longer than what I was able to do before. I am so grateful that as my intention went out….life answered, and the Divine presented my word, my symbol, what I would do, as a way of offering me the opportunity to live my desire. There’s no stopping me now. I don’t know where this path is going to take me. I don’t need to know. I just need to write. And the Divine, and Life, will arrange the rest.

Cindy 500 box of crayons