Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What is this?! Share your ideas in a story or poem!

So my mom found these tracks in our backyard. We don't live in the woods, we're smack in the middle of suburbia, and we have a fenced in yard. Whatever it was came from the street, climbed the fence, ran across the yard and the tracks stop at a tree.

I posted on Facebook and asked everyone what this beast could be, I've gotten back grizzly, deer-bear, dear, buck, possum, wampa, rabbit, cat, cougar, werewolf, red fox, grey fox....

What do you think it could be? I'd love to see some flash fiction or poetry showing your ideas! Please leave in the comments, or comment with your link!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

In Memory of Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Columbia Mall shooting (read more here).

Rather than talk about the events that happened, the who, the why, I want to use today's entry to simply honor the memory of Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson, two members of our community who lost their lives too young. My thoughts and prayers are with the families whose lives are now affected everyday because of this senseless tragedy.

The photo above was taken the day the mall re-opened. Notes of support were written on the wall of the boarded store. As time went on, the wall became completely covered, and flowers, stuffed animals, and other tokens were left in the memory of the victims. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Announcing A New Project!

Just a short little entry. I just wanted to announce some exiting news! I'm going to be starting a new project for February, a series on writing process. We've got several authors lined up to talk about their writing process; you guys are in for a real treat!

As we're getting ready for this project, are there any questions regarding writing process that you'd be interested in asking some of your favorite authors? Please leave your questions in our comments below, and you may see your question featured in our interviews!

It's going to be great! So stay tuned this upcoming February!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Little Bit of Inspiration -- Pick a Song

Music really resonates with stories for me. Last week my co-worker was listening to a piano station on Pandora, and a song was playing that I instantly recognized as the song playing during a very pivotal point in LOST. I asked who it was, looked it up, and I was right! For a good portion of the day to come, I couldn't get my mind off of that final episode of LOST (below, and now I have LOST on the brain again).

There are certain songs in my life that transport me back to a time and place, and there are some songs I can no longer listen to because they make me too sad. My dog was going into surgery, and If I Die Young by The Band Perry (below) was playing as they draped the leash over her neck and took her away from us. I was already terrified about her emergency surgery to remove a possible cancerous tumor, and going under the anesthesia. The song did not help... Needless to say, I was a crying mess.
Now, I can't stand to hear this song, and every time it plays, I remember that sad moment in my life.

So my challenge to you, create a short story, poem, flash fiction, or brainstorming session using a song (or two, or ten!)

Pick a favorite song (or a least favorite song, or any song at all). Sit in a quiet room, or put your headphones on. Close your eyes, and let the song transport you. What does it remind you of? A time and place in your own life? A piece of fiction? A movie? A TV show? Take this place you've thought up in your mind, and this is your setting.

As you listen to the song, what emotions does it conjure up? Make a list of these emotions as you go through the song.

Listen again, this time, listen for the five senses, write down any senses that come to you -- what do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?

Listen again, and this time write down any images that come to mind. What is the tone of the song? The mood? Take notes on all of these items.

Now, if the song has lyrics, is there a particular line that stands out to you? Write down any words or lines from the song that come to mind.

As you listen to the song, is there a character in the song? Who is this character? The singer, someone the singer is talking about, an onlooker? Someone you think of completely outside of the song? Can you turn this person into a character?

I know these may be very strange things to think about, and may not apply to all songs. But after you've listened a few times, you should have a good amount of notes that you can turn into a story.

And remember to credit the song and the artist for your inspiration!! I hope you enjoy this little exercise!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Writer Wednesday! Some Web Tools For Writers

Today I'm going to give you a few websites that offer some tools for writers. Check them out!

Write or Die
Get those words on paper! This website will help you do it. If you're not getting your words down on paper, it will make scary noises at you. Try it.

Agent Query
Looking for an agent? This website is a terrific tool for writers. It helps you find an agent based on lots of different factors, you can look them up based on genre,

Writers Digest
Writer's Digest has loads of great articles, great series, and different workshops and classes you can sign up for. There is also a hard copy publication available in bookstores. Definitely worth looking into!

Baby Names
Need some character names? Want to use some name symbolism? Search names here!

9 Tools No Serious Online Writer Should Be Without
The title says it all. Check out some of these websites!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some Ideas for your Revision Process

So, I'm writing a Young Adult Trilogy, and it's been in process for almost six years (with nearly three years of character development, brainstorming, co-writing, and planning before that). I know, I know, it's taking me a long time just to get through the first book (in my defense, I also have about 75% of book two written in first draft form...) And so frequently I get the question, When are you going to be done? I wish I knew! But I have to keep revising, until it feels right (or right enough that I need a new set of eyes). And I understand, there is a point when you just have to let go, but not until it's ready...

So, what is it that's taking so long, huh? Why so many revisions?? Well, revision is really a process, and maybe I go a little overboard, but if you read early drafts of Part I, and compare them to now, it's practically unrecognizable.

My revision process is one big "mess," literally, a big mess all over the floor of my bedroom (see photo!). After the first draft, I go through many different revisions, let me share a few of the techniques I go through that may help you in your revisions.

Handwritten Revisions: 
So, once I have a full draft that I feel like "might be ready," I print it out and read it all the way through. During a printed read through, things that don't jump out at you on a computer screen now become easier to see. I recommend printing it in a Serif font like Times New Roman or Georgia. This is easier on the eyes than trying to read Arial or Verdana. Use a color pen that will stand out as well -- pink, green, red. Once you've read through, you'll have to go back and enter everything back into the computer. This is a good exercise because it helps you to review everything once more as you enter them into the computer.

Electronic Device Revision:
Another way to read your book for revisions is to send your book to a device like a Kindle, or nook, or iPad. Reading this way gives you another perspective, and a new way to see errors; you can generally get the feel for your book in a different format. It's a little more difficult to notate errors/changes you'd like to make with these devices than by just writing a note with your pen. However, (at least on the Kindle) you can add notes digitally, and these notes will be saved in a separate "Notes" file on your Kindle that you can reference later, and if you click the notes,  the device will take you right to that spot in your document. Also see Kindle Text-to-Speech. 

Back to the Computer/Reading Aloud:
So, once you've done revisions on paper and device, returning back to your computer for another read through, checking the basics (as you know, one product of revision you'll find a lot of dropped words or repeated words), and making sure everything reads smoothly. Another good technique at this point is to also read aloud. You just want to be sure you are reading each word aloud, and not "filling in" any missing words. You may even want to record yourself reading, so you can hear what it sounds like back. This helps you to hear things you wouldn't normally register as you're reading on the page.

I hope some of these techniques help! Good luck with your revisions! I better get back to mine...!

Monday, January 19, 2015

My First Published Piece!

Today, when I got home for my lunch break, I was very excited to find an envelope with my name on it! Tucked inside were my five copies of Penn-Union. Penn-Union is a student literary journal, put together by the MA in Writing at Johns Hopkins program for each graduating thesis class. Students submit a portion of their work to be included. I submitted the opening of my book, a little teaser for anyone who might be interested in YA literature.

This is the first time I've ever gotten to have my work published. While it's not a traditional journal in the sense that it is open to public submissions, it's still an honor to be included in the biannual Johns Hopkins Journal. I must say that it's very exciting to see your work in print amongst nearly thirty other magnificent writers.

I'm extremely proud of our Fall Semester class, and proud to call myself a Hopkins Graduate! Congrats to my fellow thesis members, can't wait to see my Homewood ladies this weekend!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

One of the Many Reasons Dogs are the Best

Today I went out with my friends for lunch and we talked a lot about our animals, so today, I thought I'd share a very sweet story between my two dogs.

So, as you may or may not know from my entries, I had two dogs. Molly, who was my best little friend and passed away in 2013, and Cooper, who we still have and he's my little buddy. Molly was a black lab, and Cooper is half Chow Chow, half Golden Retriever. Cooper is conflicted, he's got one of the top smartest dogs, and one of the top "dumbest" dogs. He gets a bad rap, people think he's a dummy. But he knows what's going on, and he's actually a pretty caring dog.

A year and a half before Molly died, she had a tumor on her leg that had to be removed in an emergency procedure. That night, when she came home, we babied our little princess, of course. She had stitches and seventeen staples in her leg! I bought her a little teddy bear for her after surgery present, which she kept with her, and seemed to really like. She was pretty zonked out, and kind of whiney (but it was so cute!), and she spent the evening lounging on the couch. Then, at the end of the night, we had our usual night time routine; the dogs went out to go to the bathroom before bed, then they came in, and Cooper headed up to bed. Molly had a tradition of always collecting her toys downstairs and taking them upstairs to bed. The only one she was worried about, that night, was her new little teddy bear. She carried the bear to the bottom of the steps, dropped it, and started whimpering. She didn't want to carry it all the way up the steps by herself. Meanwhile, Mr. Cooper, who was already halfway up the steps, realized what was going on. He turned himself around, came back down the steps, picked up Molly's bear, carried it up to the top of the steps, and dropped it before heading into his bedroom.

Such a sweet pup who helped his sister in a time of need. Dogs are the best.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Taylor Swift and Writing from the Heart

Photo taken by Jacqueline Bach
Red Concert, May 2013
Yesterday, the suggestion for the Ultimate Blog Challenge was to post a picture. So, looking through my photos, I couldn't decide one that was worthy of blogging, and then I came across the Taylor Swift Red concert photos. This is a photo I snapped during the concert. I wasn't always a Taylor Swift fan, but after my best friend passed away, a lot of my interests changed (apparently that is normal). While I used to really dislike anything associated with country, I found myself listening to a Taylor Swift song here or there. I actually already had some music of hers....back before she wasn't super popular, she had a discovery download on iTunes Tim McGraw. That was my first Taylor Swift song. I have a very prominent character in my books, her name is Juliet. So when Love Story came out, I loved how the song had her name in it (even if I couldn't stand the song, little did I know it would eventually become one of my favorites, especially with the knowledge that my friend, Michelle Madow, wrote her book, Remembrance, based on that song!)

The Red concert is the only concert I've been to of hers so far (though we're going to see her 1989 tour this summer, YEAH!!!). We had great seats, right in the center, straight back. And, midway through the concert, she came to the back of the set...and we were so close...! That's when we snapped this picture. She really puts on a great show.

Okay, so what does this have to do with writing, you ask? Well, duh, Taylor is a writer. She's a great writer, who writes from the heart, and draws off of her own experiences, and her honesty in her writing has pushed her right to the top of the charts. I don't know how people write songs, it's such an overwhelmingly difficult task, and I really look up to her and the fact that she can write so many songs, and they are all so good, and can be applied to many different situations. Drawing from your own experiences is a terrific way to approach writing.

So, my little tip for the day....

When you don't know what to write, write what you know. 
Because to you, what may seem mundane and boring, to someone else will seem exotic and different. Use emotions you've felt before. Have you experienced love? loss? a traumatic experience? a story worth sharing? Using your own emotions and experiences will pump life into your work. And this is one of the many reasons why Ms. Swift is so very successful. She stays true to herself, her experiences, and her real feelings.

Here's another picture...I just love the colors in it and wanted to share :)

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Completely Random, Non Writing Related, Friday Photos

Today's suggestion for the Ultimate Blog Challenge was to share a photo. Because I have been so busy, I am taking them up on the suggestion.

Over the summer, I spent time visiting my friend's farm. They have/had cows, horses, lambs, and cats. I can't wait till it warms up and I can go back and visit again....!

So, for the two pictures I'm sharing....here they are....

First, to absolutely make your heart melt, here is a picture of a baby, miniature cow. His name is Oakley, and he is ADORABLE. You should see the videos of him playing with the cat and running around like a little wild man...!

And, if that was not cute enough. Here is a day old cow. His name is Oreo. He grew up, and isn't at the farm anymore, but was a very fun surprise the day he arrived!

Just take a look at that little face and then tell me you still want to eat veal :-P

Anyway, sorry for the random post! Just wanted to share!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

City of Thieves, My Favorite Book!

City of Thieves
David Benioff

So, I reviewed this book on Amazon years ago. But it is my absolute favorite book. I read it in my Fiction Techniques class.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is a fairly simple story, two boys who have to find a dozen eggs and return with them in exchange for their ration cards, but the way the relationships are developed, and character interactions and just the general characters in general really make the reader feel for these boys and I don't want to say too much, other than you have to read it! You can tell it's written by a screenwriter because his attention to scenery (you can see everything so clearly) and dialogue (natural and perfectly balanced), the pace, tension, everything moves so smoothly that you might as well be watching it on screen.

I honestly think Benioff has perfected every aspect of writing in this book, and it's a great example for writers to read, and also just very entertaining and touching. It's a very quick read and very much worth it, one of my favorite books of all time.

PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!!!!! You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Writer Questionnaire from Presents of Mind

I found this questionnaire on a website: Presents of Mind - go ahead and fill out yourself on your own website, and put the link in the comments so I can check them out!
  1. Where do you write? My favorite writing space is my room in our shore house. No distractions, no TV, no music, just me and my computer.
  2. What are your writing habits? I always set aside time on the weekend to write. This is the best time for me, because I like to have a long stretch of time in one sitting.
  3. How do you write your first drafts? Scatteredly. I am working on book two, and I have several files for each scene, or set of scenes. I just compile files, and once I think I have enough, I order them, then write notes in the gaps of what needs to be written, then I go ahead and write everything. All messy, and all like a madman. 
  4. Subsequent drafts? I revise a lot, for years and years, in fact. I usually keep everything in one big file and read through it, over and over again, as I revise. Sometimes I will pull out individual sections and work on them, and then pop them back in once they're done.
  5. Do you keep a writing journal or notebook? Not currently. I have lots of notebooks, with lots of random notes, but no real journal right now.
  6. How do your organize your journal/notebook? A complete and scattered mess. 
  7. What’s your biggest challenge as a writer? Time and space. 
  8. Do you have a good luck talisman? What is it? No :(
  9. Which writers have most influenced you or inspired you? J.K. Rowling, L. Frank Baum and my fellow writers at JHU. 
  10. What genre(s) do you (aspire to) write? Young Adult, Fantasy, and Paranormal. 
  11. Any quirky habits you’ve developed? Depends on what you all quirky. Haha. Aren't all writers quirky? I have writing habits that I hate, but I'm very particular about my writing time, I need quiet, and I need to focus, and I need to be comfortable.
  12. Are you inclined to learn by primarily by
    1. reading other writers you love? Reading always makes me want to write more.
    2. using advice in writing books? Not so much.
    3. workshops and/or classes? Yes, I learn the most from class, lectures, hearing other writers talk about their writing, reading other writers in a way where I am looking to critique, and delving right into everything and lots of discussion. 
    4. hard-headed trial and error? Yes, figuring out things on my own, while having the support of other students and teachers is a great learning experience
    5. a combination of these? Yes
    6. some other method? Watching TV helps too! At least for getting ideas. 
Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: Bossypants

In my series of reviews, here is today's recommendation! 


Tina Fey

I usually don't like audio books, but I gave Tina Fey's Bossypants a listen on a long car ride. I think this is a terrific read (or listen to) for writers. As you know, Tina Fey is an actress, writer, producer, and comedian. I found myself laughing so hard and rewinding to re-listen to parts. Tina Fey is so funny, relatable, and honest. So many stories stick out in my mind long after the fact. I highly recommend the audio version, as she is the one who reads it, and her inflection and tone bring so much to the anecdotes. I loved hearing about the backstage world of SNL and 30 Rock, and also, as a writer, it was interesting to hear her struggles dealing with balancing her life and work. There's also a PDF that you will want to save to your device so you can refer to it because she mentions photos throughout. Enjoy!

Get on Amazon!

Monday, January 12, 2015

More Character Questions from Heather

Here are a couple more questions from my friend, Heather! These two have to do with characters:

How do you make likable a character who is mostly a jerk? 
Are they likable? I have one of these. In my story, a brother and sister travel back in time to save their father, and guess what? It's him. I've been asked "why do they even want to go back and save him? He's such a jerk?" Well, I love him. Haha. And he's complicated and does have redeeming qualities. I am actually working on this aspect during revisions, though. I think the way to make a character likable is by letting the reader see different sides of them. A good example of this is Once Upon a Time. The villains in that show are characters you are supposed to hate, they're the bad guys, right? But Regina and Rumple are two of my favorite characters in the show; you know enough about their back stories and see into their minds and their personalities, and again, the redeeming qualities, to help the reader learn to like them.

Do you draw on people you know in real life for characters in your writing?
Nope, haha. Well, not intentionally. I think everyone, to some extent, pulls from their real life, but I don't name characters after anyone I know, nor do I base them on anyone I know, mostly because I do horrible things to my characters that I wouldn't wish upon anyone I know. Sometimes, I might take an aspect of someone that I like (say I'm talking to someone and they are telling me about their job at the local coffee shop, and I like that aspect, so I get it stuck in my head, so I might let a character live in that world a little, but characters, to me, are their own people, people I know like my friends, but I get to play God with them a little, and help them make those good (or bad) life decisions). I get "you should name a character after me!" and I usually answer by saying something along the lines of....you don't want to be one of my characters. Things don't usually turn out well for them.. :-D

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Today's Review: The Future of Us, Jay Asher/Carolyn Mackler

Quick Review of The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.

So, over the summer, I was searching for books that might fit side-by-side with the genre of my book series -- YA Time Travel. Reading the description, this book seemed absolutely perfect.

The general idea is that the protagonists get an AOL CD (remember those freebies in the grocery store? Get AOL today!), and they get so many free hours -- but the catch is, when they load it onto their computer, this weird thing called Facebook loads, and they can see their futures! I mean seriously, imagine being able to see and navigate through Facebook in the nineties, unfathomable. One similarity between my book and this book, my kids use Myspace to research, since back in 2005, Myspace was the thing. 

Similarly to mine, it's told in alternating points of view between a guy and a girl (mine goes back and forth between a brother and a sister). However, the "time traveling" is reverse from my book, mine goes back fifteen years from 2020, while this takes place in 1996, and looks ahead fifteen years. I know this is a YA book, but I think for readers in their late twenties, early thirties, this book is an especially fun read, because it takes place when we were that age (I was a 6th grader in 1996, so slightly behind these high schoolers, but I still remember the time), so the references are comical.

I really liked the idea, it was a quick read, and it was fun. It had a good pace. My only disappointment with this book was that I wanted it to be longer. I wanted a big ol' fat book that would let me live in this fun little world forever. It ended up being too simple for my tastes. Without getting too in depth into the plot, I wanted to see more ramifications for the characters' actions, get more into the characters' heads and their relationships, and I wanted something bigger and more drastic to happen and have to be fixed by the characters (I wanted it to be a lot darker). I thought some of the character development only touched the surface. I really just wanted the writers to push the characters a little further.

I don't mean to say I disliked this book, because I did like it, a lot. I liked it so much that I wanted more. It was cute and, like I said, it has a great premise. If you're looking for a quick YA read on the beach or just for fun and nothing too deep then this is for you. I would be interested in reading more by these authors, I heard Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why is a great book too. Going to stick that one on my list!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Dog We Saved, Who Saved Us

Molly was my first dog. Today is her birthday. She would have been twelve. Here is the short version of Molly's story.

My mom and her best friend, Mary had an agreement, "If anything ever happens to me, you'll take Molly, right?" Of course she would, but whenever you make an agreement like that, you never expect that you'll be taken up on it.

It was the first week of March 2009.

Mary had come down with the flu, my mom dropped medicine off to her on Saturday morning. On Tuesday morning, Mary didn't show up to work. When she didn't answer her phone, her co-workers thought they'd better drop by the house. It had recently snowed, and when they arrived, they noticed that the yard was void of footprints; the dog had not been let out. There was no answer at the door. The cops were called.

Me and Molly looking at the ducks at the bay.
When they found her, she was in her rocking chair, all of Molly's toy's piled in her lap. I heard that Mary had passed away on Saturday or Sunday, leaving poor Molly alone in the home for two to three days. Molly was a very smart, very modest, very particular dog. She had gotten into her dog food, and gone to the bathroom in the house, which, now that I know that dog, I'm sure were last resorts, as the thoughts of breaking into her food or making in the house were horrifying to her -- in addition to the fact that her master had passed away.

I was sitting at my desk, tying bows onto Easter candy bags at work when the phone rang. When big, bad things happen, the exact words tend to become a blur, but she said something along the lines of "Mary died, when you get home, we will have a dog." What kind of a dog? "A black lab." Oh no. I was afraid of big dogs, and now there would be one living in my house.

I took this photo of Molly, minutes before
I got the news about Michelle's passing.
When I got home and I saw that pup in my living room, it was love at first sight; I never once was afraid of her. We'd never had a dog, it was new of all of us, including Molly. She'd gone from living with one woman to a household of six, three of whom were men.

Molly came into our lives when we needed her the most. My grandmother passed away a few months before, and then my mom had to deal with the loss of her best friend, and little did I know, less than a month later, my best friend would pass away unexpectedly. The night after Michelle died, Molly knew how sad I was, and even though we'd only had her for a month, she stayed by my side. Molly and I were best-human-dog friends.

We had Molly for four great years. Unfortunately, we found out she had cancer in January of 2013. She lost her battle that April, less than two weeks after the four year anniversary of the loss of my best friend (April is a very bad month). I still miss her all the time, it's funny how a dog becomes another member of your family, and how you miss them as much as you miss a person. Anyone who has ever loved a pet will understand.

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg on this story, but because it's Ms. Molly Girl's birthday, I just wanted to mention it.

Happy Birthday, Molly Dog. I miss you little girl!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Q & A : Writing, Growth, and the MA vs MFA

I've been putting calls out for questions on writing, here a few of what's come in. More to come this month! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments here, you may have your question answered in an upcoming blog post!

The next three questions were posed via Facebook by: 
Rhiannon PailleRachel Jewell Porto, & Paul Taubman. Click their names to check out their blogs, and thank you three for the great questions to think about!

Here it goes....

1) What was the first story you ever finished and how do you feel you've grown as a writer since then?
Thank you, Rhiannon Paille
I think the very first story I ever "wrote" and "finished" was when I was about two, my grandma transcribed it for me, a story about my brother flying down the steps. Haha. Okay, seriously though, I don't know the first story I finished. I used to write fan fiction (shudder), a lot of it, and all of that blends into each other. So, I guess, in my adult life, the first story I wrote with my own characters, that I finished, and I was happy with, was this story back in my first creative writing class at UMBC. It was a story using two characters who are actually in my novel (in a very different form), now. The story was about a guy who comes home from Iraq after multiple consecutive tours. He first goes to the home he grew up in only to find it's been foreclosed on. Then he starts searching for his best friend, the girl next door that he was in love with but lost touch with while deployed. He runs into a little girl that looks just like her while he's grabbing lunch at McDonald's, only to find out it's her daughter. Hurt and destroyed (and a little selfish baby...) that she didn't wait for him, he retreats home, but when she and her daughter show up for dinner that night, the story unfolds. Now, when I look back on it, I can't stand the story at all. My writing has changed drastically, mostly because my writing program showed me where my flaws were and what I needed to focus on. I now know what to look for in my writing. Also, just the act of writing, writing, writing...!! I still have more to learn, I always will, but I feel more equipped to deal with the writing life now. If I had the patience, I'd return to that story and revamp it, maybe someday!

2) What's the difference between an MA and an MFA? Do you think you need an MFA to be successful? Thank you, Rachel Jewell Porto
I guess it really depends on what you want to do with your degree. Do you want to teach college? Do you want to write books? Do you want to further your writing education? I have an MA from Johns Hopkins, there is also a world renowned MFA program at JHU, The Writing Seminars. So in that case, showing that you have the MFA vs the MA, one is obviously going to look better than the other on your resume. An MA is still a Master's degree; they tend to be low residency programs for those of us who have to hold down a job while going to school. MFAs, on the other hand, tend to be full time programs. I wish I could go for an MFA, just because I never want to stop going to school for writing, but right now, the MA is going to work for what I want to do: write my books, and teach college level English. I am going to save the main part of my ramble for another entry about getting a writing degree in general, but, to touch on it, what you get from a writing program, aside from the degree itself, is more than worth it: an amazing community, and a backbone of contacts and friends going forward in your writing career. Do you need an MFA to be successful? I guess the question is, do you need any degree in writing to be successful? Some may argue that you don't. 

3) What is your favorite writing of all time? Thank you, Paul Taubman 
So, this is a hard question, but I have to say, while it's not my all time favorite book, it's definitely up there: Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. I don't want to mention the topics addressed in this book because figuring it out as you read is part of the puzzle that makes this book so intriguing. This book is so different from any book I've ever read, it's told backwards. I found myself dreaming backwards and thinking backwards after reading this book. It really, really, makes you think. I kept thinking about this book after the fact. It takes your perspective, turns it upside down and messes with your world view. I applaud Amis for writing this way. The way that he pulls it off makes it my favorite writing of all time. And I highly recommend this book! 

Thanks, and please keep the questions coming!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Best Photo Caption Wins!!!!

So, I'm taking up the Ultimate Blog Challenge on the suggestion of a photo caption contest today.

The prize is silly, social media blasting on my sites haha.

So, if you win, I'll post your caption under the photo on my website, along with a link to your website and social media sites - also on my Facebook page, and on the YAWR G+/YAWR FB pages. I'll also tweet for everyone to follow you (I have 5600+ followers @jacquelinebach), and instagram the picture, with your caption, and your handle.

To enter, leave in the comments below"

  • your caption in quotes
  • your twitter handle
  • Facebook link
  • website/blog address
  • and instagram name.

Alright.....so the pickings were tough, but looking through recent Facebook posts, this time travels back to a Halloween many, many, many years ago. Me (April), my sister (Clown) and my brother (Raphael).

Give it your best shot!!! (And don't worry, this will be coming up again....I found some other gems for later use!)

"It was our brother's Idea" 
by Carol Gordon
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"Wow! Aren't we a scary bunch? Somebody is not playing nice for the picture! Mom!"
By Aletha McManama

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Q&A: Where do you get your inspiration to write?

Thank you, Paul Taubman, for tonight's question: "Where do you get your inspiration to write?"

I'm going to share an embarrassing anecdote that explains where I get my inspiration from (and then I  ramble on a little longer)

So, at our final Thesis session, our teacher, David,  shared a rather horrible fact with us. I can't remember the exact percentage, but it was outrageously high....but the number of students who walk out of their final thesis class and never write again. I seriously could not believe this (though I trust him, and I know he's right! And I've spoken to people since, and I see it....and it's just like...what?!). He asked a general question to the class, what was going to make us keep writing? Nobody spoke up.

(And though I use quotes, please know I don't remember the exact words....!)
David: "Jackie?"
Me: "Um....Well, I want to get my book published."
David: "Well everyone want's that, what are you going to do to keep yourself writing?"
And okay, I had been prepared for this question, so prepared. We had to write up a career plan, including the factors that will keep us from writing, and what we'll do to keep ourselves writing, and I started working on it as soon as it was assigned. But, of course, I am the least articulate person I know when put on the spot, my brain goes completely blank. To me though, the truth is, I am going to get my series published. At that moment, all I could say was how badly I wanted it, and how that alone is enough. But why do you want it so badly? Was the question.
"Well, it's a long story." I turned to Linda who has been one of my confidants and besties in the program, and she knows the story. I think David offered to explain it, but I kind of wanted to tell everyone. And then I started crying. AGHHHHHH. I don't cry in public. But I love those ladies and David. So it turned out to be okay.

So, the long story.... That's my inspiration, and the heart of this anecdote, so here it goes (and this is much more in depth than the version told to my class).

Back when I was eighteen, I was headed off to college, and I made a friend, Michelle. She was like a big sister to me, we became best friends. We wrote stories together; she would read all of my stuff and give her very honest (sometimes irritating) feedback, and I would do the same for her. She would always share her characters with me; I think she liked seeing them go through my creative writing classes and come out in various stories (which she always got to fact-check and scrutinize the plausibility, consistency, and anything else she had in mind). We literally wrote every single day. Starting at 8pm (on a normal day, sometimes all day if neither of us were busy), until we went to bed, we would write out scenes, brainstorm new ideas, gossip about characters as though they were real people, and have arguments over the stupidest things ever. It was our lives. Our plan: take our extensive story ideas, and turn them into some mega-awesome-over-dramatic-magic-filled TV show, sell it, and become famous. Haha. Right? Like that was really going to happen. One (or two) can dream.

And then just after midnight, early morning, April 5, 2009, we signed off, and planned to chat tomorrow to pick up where we left off. Little did I know, when I said 'NN' and signed off AIM, it would be the last time we would ever write, brainstorm, fight, discuss, or say 'ttyl.' In the early morning hours she suffered a severe asthma attack that caused her to pass away.

And now, I won't go into all of the details, but basically, I could not deal with losing my best friend and writing buddy of seven years. I actually, right away, picked a few of our characters, and just started writing, every night, at 8pm, to keep myself from going crazy, but that didn't last too long before I plunged into an awful funk, that lasted a very long time, and involved me not writing.

About a year or so down the line, some things happened in my life, and I had some good influences that suggested I really return back to writing our characters. So, when I was able to come back to it on my own, I decided I had to write her characters. I needed to start putting together stories with them, and one of those stories turned into a novel, which blossomed into a series, and who knows what else. But I've gotten off track.

The new plan: write these characters to honor her memory. Through their stories, her memory will live on. And those who know her characters already, should love the stories, at least, I hope I have done/will continue to do her characters justice. 

Later, in 2010, I decided to get my Master of Arts in Writing. I wanted to write this story out, I wanted to get the best possible help while doing so, and, by some freak accident, I got into the Johns Hopkins University Masters of Arts in Writing program.

When I started my first class, I thought, "God, you are way too stupid to be in this program, you will never make any friends because they're all super smart, and you should probably quit." And I might have come home from class once or twice and "cried because because I'm so dumb," haha. Turns out, some of my favorite people stemmed from that class. In fact, I met one of my major cheerleaders and writer buddies, Michelle Madow, in that class, as well as the frequently mentioned Mrs. Simoni-Wastila.

I'll write another entry later this month to gush on about why I love JHU and our program so, so much, but for now, I'll say, I gained so much, in so many facets of my life, it was worth every single penny. My book is currently going through revisions, revisions I am staying on top of, and will continue to work on until it's finished and out to agents, and then publishers, and then your hands.

So, to answer, my inspiration? Mine and Michelle's characters. And will I keep writing? You can bet on that.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Real-Life Ghost Story

A few years ago, a friend and I were in Philadelphia. We saw some awesome places, went to Eastern State Penitentiary (one of the coolest places I've ever been to), tried to find the Rocky stairs, we went to the JFK Plaza, Magic Gardens, and toured Old City (my fave place), and more.

We spent one evening taking a "ghost tour" of the city. It was very neat: an nighttime walking tour of Philly with the added spice of fun little haunting tales of the area. Of course, I played around on the tour. You know, all, "I'm gonna see a ghost!" and trying to get myself on edge, but I couldn't really get myself scared. Besides, the tour was late, and I hadn't eaten dinner, and I was starving by the end. So, naturally, my brain started to focus on food as the tour progressed. Once it was over, we were on the search for a meal.

As we walk down S 3rd, we spot this awesome bar/restaurant, National Mechanics; the large, tall front of the building featured a combination of the classical orders of architecture (trying to remember the specifics from art history, but totally drawing a blank -- Ionic? Doric? Corinthian? haha) with several steps to the door, columns, big beautiful windows -- a quick glance on the website shows that it used to be a bank. Makes sense. Anyway, the darkish, one way street is empty. My friend is to my right, about twenty feet away. As I cross the street, someone grabs my shoulder and pulls it back. Startled, I say "What?" and turn, only to find nobody there. I turn to look at my friend, who is a good fifteen feet away, and then I rub my arm. It was a weird sort of grab, really hard to explain, but I distinctively felt four pressure points (fingers) on my arm, and they were hot; it was almost like pins and needles. And then, naturally, I bolt.

When I'm safe on the sidewalk, I kind-of laugh. Of course, I've just been on a ghost tour, of which the entire time I'm saying, "I'm gonna see a ghost!" and joking about it, so when I say "I think a ghost just grabbed me!" we both laugh it off. But almost instantly, I start to feel funny. We walk up those steps and I take a seat on the edge of the bar, and order some delicious vegetarian meal (with fries, of course) and a drink, but all I could think about was how my arm felt hot and weird. Half joking, half not, I text my mom: "I just got grabbed by a ghost!" And then, as we eat dinner, I start to forget about my arm. And that's the end of it.

Or so I thought.

Two days later, we're on our way home from Philly. We stop at one of the rest stops off of I-95. I think it was the Chesapeake House. We're sitting at the table, and I catch a glimpse of my arm, and I notice some bruising. "Oh my God, what happened?" It took a little while thinking about how I could have possibly hurt myself before the "ghost" encounter even entered into my mind. I immediately snap a picture, because, come on, it was just too weird. And, because I'm weird and take pictures of my injuries to send to my mom or sister (come on, tell me you've never done that...hahaha), I know from experience that it's hard to get a picture of a bruise that really shows up well, but pictured to the right it the best I could capture with my 2MP camera (I really wish it could have been clearer!). When I reach my right had around and lay my fingers over my arm (below the top bruise) it matches exactly with the curvature of how fingers would lay on my arm, if, say, someone had grabbed it. Weird, huh?

So, that's the end of my story...

Want to continue thinking it's a ghost, stop reading here :) Haha. Want my possible debunking? Read on....

So, about a week or so earlier, I'd had a tetanus shot. Somehow, someway, this was probably the cause. The very top bruise, that was older, and that was from the tetanus shot. I am not trying to say that's a "ghost grab." I did some looking into it, reading on side effects, I talked to my mom (who was a nurse), and one of my friends who was working at passport health, where she gave vaccinations on a regular basis. Both of whom said it would be kind of weird to get a reaction from a shot a week later. In general, I could find nothing about weird neurological symptoms that would send hot tingling pin pricks down your arm and cause new bruises to form a week after a shot. So, ghost or not, it was pretty weird.

And that's my real life ghost story..!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Today's Review: The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

So, last summer I read this book, and I feel like it ruined all other books for a while. From the perspective of another writer, it was just so well written. And go figure, it's Young Adult. And while it was a YA book, and it was sad, I think everyone should read it.

What book is this, you ask? The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.

So, I posted my review on Goodreads back when I first read it. Here is an extended version of that review..Though I will probably be sounding kind of cryptic because I don't want to say anything that will ruin the story itself.

This book was very well written, I felt like it was a writer's read. I was recommended this book last summer by my friend, writer, and fellow JHU student, Amanda Hart Miller and finally got around to reading it this past summer. 

Back when I first read it, I thought, I don't think I'll watch the movie, because the book was good enough. And summer and fall have passed, and we're now into winter, and I still don't need to watch the movie. One of my favorite things about this book is the voice. I feel like voice never quite translates into a movie smoothly.

I love Hazel's attitude towards the world and her situation. It's a sad story, of course, but you expect that going into it. Spoiler alert, it's about kids with cancer, and Hazel's approach to the whole genre is entertaining, even though it is a coping mechanism -- the book follows a 'in a cancer story, this is where this happens...but here is what happens for us' sort of story line.

I love the literary and art references (The Treachery of Images!), the title taken from Shakespeare
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
(taken from here: enotes.com)
It is not too complicated of a story line (which, actually, I envy that, and wish I could have more simplicity to my stories) but in general, in a sense of plot, it might not have been my favorite story ever, but in the sense of character (well developed, round, and distinctive), and prose (descriptive, real, and as I mentioned, the voice is great), and tone (sad, but not too sad, and very clever) --  the emotions are real and I genuinely felt for the characters in this book.

This book has been a problem for me....in a good way....ever since, I've been comparing everything YA that I read to John Green and nothing has quite lived up to this one yet. I guess I should get on it and read some of his other books soon.

Overall, if you're looking for a YA book that's also a great piece of writing, this one can't be missed. I definitely recommend this book!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge"

So for today's entry into the blog challenge, I have to admit that I am going to have to cheat a little. I came down with some kind of a virus last night that involves severe dizziness, and the inability to type up a blog entry. So, for today's entry, I am actually referring you to another article you MUST read. It is called Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge and it is written by Betty Flowers. It discusses the revision process and is a must read for all writers: http://www.ut-ie.com/b/b_flowers.html thank you.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Why does all my dialogue sound stupid?

To continue from yesterday's questions posed by my friend, Heather, here is one about dialogue (my favorite thing to write!)

Heather: Why does all my dialogue sound stupid?

First of all, I laughed when I got this question, mostly because it probably doesn't sound stupid.

In my opinion, dialogue sounds "stupid" when:
a) It's not realistic enough.
b) It's too realistic.

Here are some things to think about...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thoughts on Writing -- Questions on Setting

Last week I put up a call for questions, and one of my friends got back to me with some great ones. Here are three that focus on setting with the answers. I will likely do this again later this month, so if YOU have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I will add them to my list. You can ask ANYTHING that has to do with writing.

How do you describe setting without sounding like a nature documentary? 
Too much landscape description or being too broad in your description is what makes it sound like a nature documentary. When you think about it, in modern fiction, how often do you need to describe the landscape? Most of the time, it's not that important. Zoom in. What is important to your character at that moment in time? I am a minimalist when it comes to this department. But, my general rule? The five senses. Try to touch (hehe) on each of them. What does your character see, hear, smell, feel, taste? Obviously, you can't always apply all five, but forcing yourself to think of all these things will help you to enrich the setting. Remember, you want readers to have freedom to think; too much detail doesn't leave much up to the imagination, but you need enough of a sprinkling that you can set the stage for the reader.

How important is it to actually describe a setting?
Important. Every writer has somewhere they really thrive. Some love setting, some dialogue, some action, others prose or internal monologue. I don't usually focus as much on setting as I probably should, as I mentioned before, I like to leave a lot up to the reader's mind -- instead, I like dialogue (a post on this coming soon); I could live entirely in a book of dialogue, both writing, and reading, it's so much fun. But that's lazy. Setting is important. My friend, Linda Simoni-Wastila, is amazinggg with setting, I envy her talent. I'd love to get her answer to this question (and if she takes me up on this...I will put a link to her blog post right here...:)) But, in short, setting is extremely important. It's a tool that you can use to set the mood, manipulate the tone, and generally direct the reader's mind into the place where you want them to be. I like to establish it near the beginning. Set up that place where your characters can thrive. Then you have the ability to move within that space.

Thank you for the questions, Heather. Check out posts to come later this month with more answers!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year 2015 ... "The Future" is Finally Here!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome to 2015!
Sign I drew :)

So, to any of you Back to the Future fans who will get the significance....2015 is finally here! And I must admit that I've definitely been chilling on the couch most of today, attempting to regain energy from last night's festivities, and watching the trilogy. While Marty and Doc won't technically grace our century until October of this year, my family and our friends celebrated a little early, dressing up, decorating, and making Back to the Future themed food last night as we rang in the new year.

Now, "how does this pertain to your blog about writing?" you ask. Well, I am writing a time travel trilogy as well, and there are definitely a few Back to the Future references sprinkled in there for any fellow fans. Originally, my series took place in 2015 (and the year 2000), back when my friend and I started working on the initial idea in 2006. As the story morphed into what it is becoming now, I had to push back the dates to 2020. However, 2015 is still going to play an important part in the entire series, as this is the year I plan to find an agent, and begin the publishing process.

Back to Back to the Future....So we decorated the home, we had people come dressed-up as Marty, Doc, Jennifer, Lorraine, Western Marty, Prom Goers, 50s gals, Greasers, and more! People brought meatloaf and potatoes, baked beans, pizza bagels (you know, to rehydrate). We put around fliers and faxes.....Read on to see a few of some of the fun decorations/food we concocted!

Ways to follow