Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

For NanoWriMo Past Participants

In 1 on September 28, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Now that you have the glorious mess on your hands (or several, if you’re ambitious) from NanoWriMos past, why not the perfect, short but intensive, online class to help you make some sense out of it?

Fiction’s Magic Ingredient. 4 intense weeks that will bring your writing to a new level. Register at:

Past students have this to say:

I discovered that Jordan is a highly articulate and perceptive writing teacher. Her grasp of craft and attention to detail will move any writer to along the path to mastery. After years of devouring books on writing craft and taking workshops, Jordan provided me with a wealth of “Aha!” moments (in her on line course). Her focused and strategic assignments gave me plenty of sharp, positive and practical ways to leap to new levels of skillful creative expression.”

–Deborah Taylor French

“Rich and deep, challenging and illuminating. Your teaching style was generous and open, and your availability throughout the process was delightful. I loved having the discussion questions out there to encourage interchange among the your students. An excellent course, all in all, and I look forward to the next installment.

–Gail Larrick

Love the Competition: The world needs writers

In 1 on September 21, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Guest Post by Alegra Clarke

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After winning the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition in  2007, I began a journey with my writing that I like to describe as a cross between Dorothy Gale on the yellow brick road and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Opportunities were presented to me that prior to the competition I could not have imagined. They challenged me to actively pursue my writing goals with a blind bravery. Along the way, my bravery has at times traded itself in for the wide-eyed ‘uh-oh’ of a deer caught in the headlights of a car. The more roads I cross, the more I understand that being a writer requires being exposed to this onslaught of traffic. We risk being bruised, honked at, told to ‘get out of the way,’ but the other choice — remaining on the wrong side of the adventure that is ours — is more painful.

Writers are faced with a climate of competitiveness. With a struggling world economy, a population increasingly inundated with soundbyte communication, celebrity culture, and an audience whose attention span is more suited for television drama than hours spent with a book, the odds against getting published can feel overwhelming. Maria Schneider, of, recently wrote a great article about not allowing the doomsday declarations of the publishing industry to depress us. She suggested that we turn the tide by engaging in acts of “paying it forward” by promoting and supporting other writers.

I have long believed in the importance of this. When I look back over the successes in my life, most have come through a combination of my own efforts met by the generosity of others. Inspired by Maria, I began to think about how to harness the challenges of being a writer. For me, this begins with my attitude. I started asking myself some big questions and, as often happens, answers began appearing everywhere. Up late one night watching The Daily Show, Bruce Springsteen talked about how in unstable times, people flock to the storytellers. It made me reflect on what I love in a good book or short story. In losing myself in the stories of others, I escape the narrow-sightedness of my own struggles. I rediscover something in the pages of a story that allows me to return to my daily existence with more strength, more connection to the beauty of it. Writing gives me a way of translating both the joy and pain of existence, teaching me that they are not mutually exclusive. The harder times get, the more we need our stories.

Competition between writers seems unnecessary because our role is not to become the one voice drowning out the others; our role is to be our own unique voice. I have wondered at the possibility that  there are no new stories, only an infinite way of translating them. If this is true, it means that just like the world is rediscovered by each new generation, stories must be told over and over again, and we as writers should be supporting one another in this. If being a writer means being both transformed and a source of translation for others, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the odds, I am inspired by the challenge of being a storyteller during these times. I will gladly brave crossing the highways with their steady stream of honks and threats for the adventure of connecting with other minds.


Eros-Alegra Clarke is currently writing her first novel under the mentorship of her agent, Joel Gotler. In the meantime, she has been slowly building publications including an upcoming story “Naming Shadows” in the literary journal Bitter Oleander. A wife, mother of two (with a third on the way), graduate student and guest lecturer at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, Alegra contributes to Maria Schneider’s website resource for writers:  and can be found blogging about life, writing, and everything in between at:


The Successful Writer

In 1 on September 17, 2009 at 4:33 am

Guest Blog by Susan Taylor-Brown


 There’s been a lot of talk around the kidlitosphere lately about keeping your dream alive when all around you, as in this business of writing, seems to be working against you.

Some people are afraid to post their success stories because they don’t want to make other people feel bad. (Which brings to mind that great Eleanor Roosevelt quote,”No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”)

Some people are afraid to whine about anything, especially after having sold a book or two or more because they are afraid that people won’t think they are grateful for the success they have already achieved. (I would probably put myself in the second category.)

Some writers attribute their success to everything from having a cat sleep on a manuscript, always mailing manuscripts from the same post office and kissing the envelope before you drop it in the big blue box. Sometimes it is the act of getting an agent, finding the right agent, attending the right conference, having a great critique group, not listening to their critique group, writing every day, writing in many genres, writing only one thing, writing teachers and classes and degrees designed solely around writing for children, supportive spouses, understanding children and pets who love us even after we’ve been rejected.

Some days for some writers, being a success means getting a contract, finally seeing a book on the shelves in the bookstores with their name on it. Other days, for the same writer, it might mean being able to write ten pages on a new novel that isn’t even under contract. (Hmm. I’m in the second category here as well. I’m beginning to sense a trend.)

And for all the many ways of achieving success there is a different definition of success for that writer at that particular time in their writing life.

But being a success is evolutionary process, not a final destination. It is good to remember this. Not easy, but good.

 And it is a uniquely individual process. Success for a young writer, say in their 20s or 30s might be different for a writer in their 50s or 60s.  I am a different writer now than I was in my 20s. And my version or perhaps vision of success has changed over the years. In some ways I am more realistic, which is actually rather sad because I thought I looked good with those stars in my eyes and the rose-colored glasses. In other ways I still remain a Pollyanna, true to the idea that a good story will find a home, that hard work will be rewarded, and that while nice folks might not always finish first, they will always finish.

So I challenge you to think about what success means to you. Spend a little time today to actually write it out, the whole vision of what being a success would mean to you. How do you define it? How would you recognize it? What does it mean, to you, to be a success? Not in how you measure up to anyone else in or out of the business. It doesn’t matter if your younger sister/older brother/best friend is suddenly the most powerful person ever at her ad agency and they wonder why you persist in playing around with this writing thing. It doesn’t matter if your mother/father/next door neighbor has bought and sold more companies than you can remember and has their picture on the cover of some fancy business magazine. It doesn’t matter.

I’ll say it again, slowly so you can hear me.





What does matter is that you have a dream. You have a dream and you are doing something, anything in any way that you can to pursue. If you get up in the morning and you remember your dream of being a writer and at the end of the day you’ve done just one thing in pursuit of that dream, well that qualifies as success to me.

No, it doesn’t replace seeing your book on the shelves at a bookstore. It doesn’t change the fact that it was great aunt Martha who called to tell you about her bunions instead of your agent calling to tell you your book has just sold. It doesn’t make it any easier to give your kid money for the book fair knowing your book isn’t going to be there, may never be there.

But it’s a start. A word after a word after a word is tremendous power.

And you can’t sell what you never write.


Susan Taylor Brown served on the faculty for the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Conference, is a past instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and has been the recipient of several grants from the Arts Council Silicon Valley for teaching poetry to incarcerated teens. She is the author of serveral books for children including Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom and the Children’s Notable novel in verse, Hugging the Rock. She lives in San Jose, California with her husband, her rescued German Shepherd dog, and over 8,000 books. When she’s not writing or reading, she can usually be found working in her native plant garden creating a habitat for wildlife. She blogs about her writing life at You can find out more about susan on her website. or follow her on Twitter

Duck the Wave: Fighting Overwhelm

In Business of Writing on September 10, 2009 at 9:11 pm

overwhelmed-lady-deskIf you freelance write, edit, or teach, you know all about overwhelm, which I call “the wave.” If you work and write on the side, or work and parent, or any combination therein, you also know about “the wave.” The wave is a combination of panic and terror that you cannot get it all done in the limited time you have to do it in, and you will shortly be screwed because you are on deadline, need the money, must reply to your students/clients, etc.

Here are some strategies for ducking the wave rather than letting it crash into you:


1. Write it ALL Down

You’ll begin to corrall the wave once you have a good look at all that’s expected of you. I don’t know about you but I tend to try to hold my entire year’s assignments/projects in my mind AT ONCE!  Depending on how you organize you may have an assignment/project board that you look at each day (I use an eraseable white board–highly recommended). A study was recently done that proved decluttering your brain of information was good for stress levels. Sometimes I just make a list of everything that feels as though it’s crowding my brain. Then I make a second smaller list of what I know I can do TODAY. The next day I may do it again. It’s incredibly anxiety relieving.

2. Break  Down

If I have a 300+ page edit to do, I can start feeling pretty overwhelmed. So I divide that project by the working hours in the time frame allotted before it’s due. That way when I get up to work that day I don’t have a 300-page behemoth to tackle, I have 25-50 pages. Much more manageable.

3. Use email, social networking, reading of People Magazine online (guilty) as REWARDS for finishing your work.

Other than basic checking of email pertinent to work, save email and other online surfing for after you finish a project. If you’re like me and you have 3-4+ things to check off your list each day, then give yourself a brief reward after each project. Finished article? Find out if Brad and Angie are calling it quits. Edited 25 pages? Pop in for a quick tweet session, and so on. That way you both feel rewarded AND get work done.

4. Step Away From the Desk.

That’s right. Remember to get up, to stretch your legs, drink some water, refresh that cup of coffee and eat breakfast and lunch.  Sometimes the sheer act of moving away from all that’s rushing at you is enough to make you feel calm(er).

5. Tune Out

Timothy Leary may have suggested tuning in, but I’m here to tell you to tune out. If you’re teaching, or interviewing someone for an article or anything in person–TUNE OUT the other projects begging for your attention. Focus all your attention on the ONE thing at hand. This study proved that multi-tasking is a myth; you actually get less done. And people sense when you’re scattered. If you made a list, then breathe easy–you won’t forget what’s next. Actually, this goes for any project you’re working on. Do ONE THING AT A TIME. You’ll get far more done than trying to jiggle back and forth between several projects.


6. Breathe.

I’m a big fan of meditation, but not everyone can spend 15-30 minutes meditating in their work day. So try this little short-circuit trick: Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths when you’re drowning or feel as though you might. It is amazing!

Who Doesn’t Like Free Books?

In Business of Writing, Classes on September 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I like books–it’s no secret. So what’s better than books? FREE ones! I enjoy receiving books as gifts, ARCs in the mail, recycled books–you name it. I love free books.

So I thought, hey, why not give the joy of free books to others, as well? Here’s how you can take advantage of this:

Sign up for any of my online courses and I’ll send you a free copy of my book with Rebecca Lawton, Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life.

Successfully refer a friend to my most popular online course Fiction’s Magic Ingredient in November, and I’ll send you a $10 gift certificate for books from an online book provider (not sure which one yet), for EVERY person you successfully refer who signs up. For anyone that you get to sign up for my 1 week mini-series, I’ll give you a $5 gift certificate. And yes, you can earn as many gift certificates as you sign up people. Your friend just needs to mention you as the referrer.

Tell me that isn’t a deal?

There may even be more free book offers soon…stay tuned!


A Writer’s “Touch-up.”

In Classes, Craft on September 7, 2009 at 3:45 pm

For writers like me, fall is the real “new year.”  Cooler weather and darker days drives me to my desk, to my writing. But it’s also when I crack open writing books, sign up for classes and take back in the fuel that helps me do my job well. 

Give yourself a writer’s “touch-up” this October. Three 1 week mini-classes for just $49 each, or if you REGISTER before September 20th, you can have all three for just $129.

Method Writing. 1 week. Self-paced.
October 5 through 9, 2009. $49.  

REGISTER before September 20th for all 3 for just $129!

Some of the most widely acclaimed actors from Sean Penn to Robert Deniro  use an acting strategy that is said to have “revolutionized” modern cinema: “method acting.” In the form, rather than attempting to simulate emotional experiences in scenes, actors draw from their own emotional stores, channeling real feelings of their own to create characters so vibrant and alive that the line between actor and character vanishes.

In fiction, writers can use this same concept to create compelling scenes and characters rich with believable emotion. I call it “method writing.”

In this intensive 1-week course you’ll learn to draw from several rich personal fonts for the energy and emotion needed to make scenes feel authentic.  REGISTER


How to Finish what you Start. 1 week. Self-paced.
October 12 through 16, 2009. $49


When the powerful momentum of a writing project starts to flag, how do you keep yourself going to the end? This 1 week class will explore practical and playful ways to bypass your sabotage techniques and get you back on track!



Learn to Layer Scene Types. 1 week. Self-paced.
October 26 through 30. $49. 

REGISTER by September 20th for ALL THREE for just $129.

You might be a master of the scene, but now learn to layer them for powerful effect. Avoid “monochromatic” fiction that lacks variety and texture. In this intensive you’ll learn about the ingredients of, and how to wield, different scene types, from slow, contemplative scenes, to heavy-hitting dramatic scenes and dozens of others in between.