2018 Gift Guide for Feisty Writers

It’s that time of year again, and we’ve compiled another fantastic list of gift ideas from our Feisty team for your favorite writer.

Lisa Franek’s Gift Ideas:

1. Literary Insults Chart $25

a chart of literary insults

For those times when your words fail you, you can turn to the masters for a quippy turn of phrase when you need it most.

2. Scrivener $45

Scrivener software logo

I bought this writing program several years ago and haven’t looked back since. It’s perfect for organizing long-form works (like novels, screenplays, plays, and so on), and formats like a dream. Every writer should have it.

 3. “Tequila Mockingbird” by Tim Federle and Lauren Mortimer $10

the book cover for Tequila Mockingbird book

For your writer friends who like a little spirit with their story, this book is full of fun recipes to try (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita.). Just remember: Write drunk, but edit sober.

Lisa Whalen’s Gift Ideas:

1. The INFJ Writer by Lauren Sapala
Book Cover for The INFJ Writer book
Though aimed at INFJs (on the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator), it’s a helpful guide to the writing process for all writers, especially introverts. It’s encouraging and offers exercises for inspiration and overcoming writer’s block.
2.The Emotion Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.
book covers for Emotion Thesaurus and twoother books by same authors

 

These books will help you develop believable characters and avoid using the same descriptive phrase repeatedly.

3. Power Structure Storytelling Software

Power Structure logo

This easy-to-learn program offers a variety of ways to consider and shape any story. Writers can isolate or link features that include line graphs for plot, flash cards for character traits, arcs for character development, tabs for chapters and sections, and word processing for the actual text.
a picture of two mugs for writers

Their selection of mugs expresses our sentiments exactly.

 

Marijke McCandless’s Gift Ideas:

1. “Educated” by Tara Westover
Book Cover for Educated

2. “Tarot for Writers” by Corrine Kenner

Book Cover for Tarot for Writers

3.“H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald

Book Cover for H is for Hawk

A great memoir illustrating how to take a niche passion (Goshawk training) and build a true story for everyone.

Marni Freedman’s Gift Ideas:

The logo for Audible, an Amazon Company
Writers can use it to download audiobooks, magazines, and newspapers to their computer, tablet or phone.
Use the above link to get 50% off the first three months.
Necklace that says I am not afraid, I was born to do this
Book Cover for Excuses Begone
This is a great book when you are wondering how to actually change old thinking that can sabotage your writing like “I’m too old/too young,” “I’m too busy/tired,” “Who am I do write a book?” or “I can’t change my habits, this is the way I’ve always done it.” It’s the kind of book you can keep by your bedside and reread the sections that will gently challenge your old thinking and charge you up as you nurture your passion.

Paula Margulies’s Gift Ideas:

1. Archangel Gabriel Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue

A picture of Archangel Gabriel Oracle Cards

These gorgeous cards are great for creativity, teaching, and parenting. I bought mine at the temple on Meditation Mountain in Ojai and really love them (they’re spiritual, but not overly religious).
2. Writing gloves from Storiarts
picture of writing gloves
This website features scarves, bags, and other items with words from famous works of fiction on them, but I love the writing gloves (with fingertips cut out) for typing on cold mornings. A portion of the proceeds goes to LitWorld, a non-profit organization dedicated to tackling illiteracy worldwide.
3. T-shirts, socks, and onesies from Out of Print
Little Golden Books t-shirt
Out of Print has clothing for lovers of all things literary. If you know anyone expecting, check out the cute assortment of onesies featuring children’s book titles.

Tracy Jones’ Gift Ideas:

a photo of The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck
One of my clients brought these to my writers’ retreat, and I loved them! Each of the seventy-eight cards is gorgeous with hand-drawn, striking images that explore the mysteries of the natural world and animal kingdom. It also comes with a beautiful guidebook. Try asking your character a question or how to structure a scene and see what the tarot inspires.
A photo of Blessings Gratitude cards
In our chaotic times, it often takes practice and dedication to find joy and peace. This is my gift to myself this holiday season to keep focused and grateful on what matters in life: healthy, family, friends, and writing!
Photo of cross pen
A client recently gave me a Cross pen, and I was brought back in time to receiving an engraved one from my grandparents when I graduated high school. It’s long lost now, but the memory remains. I had forgotten what a real pen feels like and it’s a delight to write with. If you’re like every writer I know who is always searching for a pen, treat yourself. (The engraving makes this a great gift!)
Photo Credit to Feisty bloggers and Amazon.com

Happy Anniversary to The Feisty Writer

The Feisty Writer logo and the words Feisty Turns TwoIt is the two-year anniversary of The Feisty Writer. Yay, us! I’m prone to forgetting anniversaries (ask my husband, he will sigh and nod), but I will forever remember this one because we launched our wonderful site the day after election day, 2016. Did you just hear a balloon pop and deflate? Yeah, so did we.

Had we known or even hazarded a long-shot guess on the election outcome or the resulting ripple felt across the world, we would have chosen another day to magically appear on the interwebs, but alas, our wordy spacecraft lifted off as scheduled. As our planet stood in shock and disbelief, we scraped our jaws off the ground and stammered, Yay us, I think?

We had less conviction in our commencement celebration than we have today, two years in.

Today, we celebrate our Feisty-versary wholeheartedly, in large part due to what we have witnessed in these past two years. Suffice it to say, our world has changed and continues to change rapidly. Some of this is disheartening and terrifying and feels surreal and unnecessary and why, why, why? Much of what we’ve seen here at The Feisty Writer is good though, great even. But before I go into that, let me remind you of this.

Who We Are

Writers are keen observers; this is why we are the storytellers of our tribes. Without trying, we absorb our surroundings like human-shaped heart sponges. We may sometimes wish we absorbed less as we watch events unfold and notice the reactions that follow suit. As we imagine the causes and effects. As we play out how things could have unfolded differently. As we search for answers and solutions and apply our words and our creativity to make sense of the unfathomable. But no. We were built to mop up life, and writing is how we wring ourselves dry, or at least less wet, again.

Writers are also sensitive. We feel more deeply than the average bear. Being sensitive is not always fun, but imagine if we, our world’s chroniclers, shrugged off our emotions. What if we didn’t care? What if every story could end in some rendition of this: ”Then she yawned and walked away because it wasn’t a big deal. She posted #whatev on Instagram and forgot about the whole mess ten seconds later. THE END.” We care because we have to. As writers, it’s our job to be both keen and sensitive.

What We’ve Seen

Here are a few of the amazing things I have witnessed as a Feisty Writer in the past two years:

  1. We build Community. Writers need community, now more than ever, and we have a vibrant one. Maybe because the world has become less predictable, in the past two years we have shown up more than ever before. Whether it’s for book launches, movie premieres, workshops, classes, stage readings or showcases, our community of writers comes together, supports each other, participates and perseveres. We make time for each other. We create opportunities for others to thrive because we recognize there is enough room for all of us to succeed. We show up.
  2. Our talent grows. Because we show up, the talent in our community continues to strengthen. When we surround ourselves with greatness and become a part of something bigger than ourselves, magical things happen. We perform at higher levels. We exceed expectations.
  3. We embrace a challenge. This is what makes us Feisty Writers. Our world is a tough place to survive and thrive right now, but we persevere. We embrace difficult topics. We unveil our most vulnerable truths through our stories. We still fear the rejection that is part of being a published author. We fear it, yet we submit anyway. We find ways to make ourselves heard.

What Comes Next

Thank you for being a part of The Feisty Writer. We are here for you, and we want to hear from you. Please follow these guidelines and submit your posts to us. Also, save this date: April 13, 2019. This is the date of our first annual San Diego Writers Festival, held in partnership with the San Diego Central Library. This will be where we will finally meet to celebrate every corner of our feisty and fabulous writing community. Yay, us!

 

Photo Courtesy of Marni Freedman

How to Write While Triggered

a man in a suit reaching toward the red nuclear buttonI’m triggered, and I have good reason to be: the state of our world. Need I say more?

My curled, stiff trigger fingers can’t type, and even if they could, my words are frozen in my brain by my powerlessness. By the fear of what could become of us and the wheels of darkness that are already in motion. By the sadness rising in my throat as I watch it unfold. And the guilt pounding in my temples for not doing more to stop it.

When I am triggered like this, my writing comes screeching to a halt. But I can’t allow this. Because my writing is connected to the wellness of my mind, body, and soul. To stop writing now, when the world desperately needs the power of our words, would be admitting defeat to the evil rising around us. And if our world is a contest, this is not one I am willing to forfeit.

So how do I get back to a place where I can create? Where I can produce work that is not filled with rage or fear or hopelessness? At this juncture, how do I yield writing that is both heartfelt and engaging, while also staying aware of my mission and true to my humanity?

I have scraped together a few tips here. My hope is, when you find yourself blocked due to stressful circumstances, be they in your family, in your body, or in your politics, these tools will help you, too, find a way back to your pen.

  1. Meditation. You’ve heard this a thousand times, but in my opinion, it can not be said enough. Meditation is free, it’s easy, and it works. This guided meditation by Feisty guest blogger Kimberly Joy (also featured today) deals with this very thing—allowing meditation to help you create distance between your trauma and your words so you can write your story. Remember, it can take up to six months to feel the initial effects of meditation so don’t give up. Never give up. On any of this.
  2. Read something that inspires you. Make it a sure thing. Pick a piece highly recommended by a friend in your favorite genre. Or something written by someone you admire. The point is, when all else fails, bury your head in a book that will bring you joy. My guess is your head spent a lot of time bent over pages as a kid, not blinking, tearing the bindings of your favorite series. Being child-like during times of stress is always liberating to the pen.
  3. Go to the place where your best ideas come. Whether you’re on a nature walk or stepping toe to heel in a tight circle in your living room, blowing bubbles in the shower or while surfing, jabberjaw-ing about ideas with a buddy or sitting in silence at your favorite museum, identify the setting where many of your ideas land, and spend time there. My best ideas arrive when I’m driving. I wouldn’t think that would be my place of enlightenment, but alas, it is. On episode 22 of the Masters of Scale podcast, Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkdIn, talks to Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, about How to Find Your Big Idea. Turns out her ideas come in the car, too. So although she lives a few minutes from the Spanx headquarters, she wakes up an hour early and does what her friends call a “fake commute,” driving around Atlanta, giving ideas permission to enter. Sara Blakely is an entrepreneur, but I think writers and entrepreneurs depend on a few of the same things—fierce creativity and even more ferocious bravery. To stay inspired for this ferocity, setting matters. So be in your place.
  4. Redirect your thoughts. Meditation helps with this but if you can’t do that, simply do this. Acknowledge that your thoughts are not you and that, in fact, they are both separate and directable by you. In the beginning, this may feel hard. But like most things, it takes practice and more practice. Once you have it down, choose to direct your thoughts toward creative, productive pursuits.
  5. Write cat poems. Maybe this sounds like it doesn’t apply. Give me a sec, and I’ll explain. I have a thing for my cats. They are a bottomless well of cuteness and entertainment to my family and me. You can exchange the word “cat” for “dog” if that fits better. Or “horse.” Or “pig.” Anway, recently, with pen stuck like glue, I was compelled to write a cat poem. Then I posted it on Twitter. Twitter has limited characters and, for me, an even more limited audience. This makes it a perfect place to write publicly about the crazy beasts that make me smile. And it was fun! And easy. Maybe you don’t want to tweet animal poems. My point is less that and more this: push your boundaries. Try something new. Find what brings you joy and write about it somewhere. Publicly, privately, it doesn’t matter. Just write. Whatever, whenever, however you can. Don’t abandon your words. Our world needs your voice to create necessary change, now more than ever.

 

Photo Credit: pixabay.com-3038098/

Why Write?

a man on a mountaini holding his arm up while the sun is settingWhen struggling with a first draft, rewrite, edit, or final polish, do you ever ask yourself, why do I write? Why must I put myself through this excruciating exercise that I don’t have the time or energy for? I do. Sometimes writing feels Sisyphean, the interminable project-boulder keeps rolling back, nearly squishing me, and the moment I’m confirmed un-dead commands me in a Simon Cowell voice to DO IT BETTER.

How easily I forget the joy writing brings, the satisfaction, the peace. Which is why, during times like these, I must remind myself to ask this ever-important follow-up question: why did I start writing? This teases out the truth—it untangles the act of writing from the web of “things that make me busy” and reclaims its position at the forefront of “things that make me sane,” also known as, “self-care.”

Five Reasons We Write

If you, too, ask yourself why you started writing, I bet you’ll come back to one of these five reasons:

  • To make sense of something. Writing is one of the few ways to work out the tests we face and the choices we make, hopefully landing us on the positives in a sea of negatives.
  • To heal. Some of us heal by sharing our burden in hopes that people facing similar battles will feel less alone. We yearn to provide a balm for the next person in this struggle, in hopes their pain can be mitigated. In this way, writing is generous. And generosity heals both the writer and the reader.
  • To share a unique perspective. Maybe you saw a side of something that no one else had the opportunity to see. And maybe it bugs you that people are drawing conclusions without having the full story. This type of writing, though it may feel like a duty, also provides healing.
  • To provide a legacy. I wish my grandparents had written their stories; I’m so curious about their lives. I for one want to leave at least part of my history behind, from my perspective, for future curious progeny.
  • Because you don’t have a choice. Your story communicates to you in clear ways that it must be told, and you are the teller. Physical symptoms make it impossible not to write and tell you with certainty—your calling is not optional.

These reasons are distinct but also connected by their healing power, whether it be the healing of ourselves, our loved ones, our community, or humanity. And the best side-effect of the reasons our craft has hold of us—they force us to honor ourselves. Writing is our form of self-care, how we keep ourselves sane and show ourselves love. And when we do this, when we grant stories life, we also bestow an immense favor upon our world. We show, by example, that self-love comes first and then, with the energy that writing our truth breathes into us, our words have the opportunity to create change, soothe, heal, and share our love for humanity.

 

 Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

3 Tricks to Keep Your Climax Climactic

Disco ball in black and whiteNot that type of climax, sheesh! This is a writing blog. These tricks are for fiction writers but are helpful to keep in mind for all of us who put words on a page.

1) This is my favorite climax trick, and it comes straight from the amazing John Vorhaus: take a situation that could happen in real life and kick it up a notch. We writers are already good at this one, right? We play out what-if scenarios a lot. Some might say too much, but  I would argue that this is who we are and why we’re good at what we do, so naysay elsewhere! Now then, where were we? Oh yes—take the gift of playing out scenarios and tweak it a smidge—what could almost happen if? This is fiction, so push your climax just outside of the reality box. Take off its acrylic sweater and help it plug in the garage sale disco ball that clicks every time it spins past 9:00. Now dance with it!

2) Go somewhere. What is the setting for your story? Can you switch it up for your pinnacle scene? Move your readers in every sense at this juncture; take them on a journey in more than one way. As your main character is changing on the inside, describe a new locale on the outside. Move us, ground us, shake, and serve.

3) Don’t get stuck on expectations. You’ve made it this far! You’re almost there! While writing my climax, I felt suffocated by the pressure of the first 90% of the book. What if this part sucks? Isn’t this the most important part? What if it’s not as good as the rest of the story and the whole thing unravels and the ending is terrible? Stick the thumb back in the mouth of your inner critic. Pro tip—put peanut butter on the thumb first, so she has a harder time removing it. Then write. Still stuck? Do this exercise: describe the climax scenes in the last five fiction books you’ve read. Can you? I couldn’t. Because the climax is less important than its name implies. What matters is your protagonist and how (s)he/it makes your readers feel. About the world, about themselves, about everything. A compelling central character is what matters most. Just make sure the climax rings true to this unforgettable character you’ve created. Or rather, just outside of true (see trick #1). Then, switch up the setting (see trick #2). And write it.

Now go! Your disco ball awaits.

 

Photo Credit: Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

 

Shhh, It’s Flowing…

As writers, we read a lot about those times when we’re all froze up. Writer’s block, brain cement, inner or outer critic sabotage.  In an earlier post, I called it Backstroking Through Peanut Butter. Call it what you will, the struggle is real. With all the obstacles we writers face, it’s amazing we can progress at all.

Until recently, I was in a writing slump for over a year. Any progress I made during that time was the result of Herculean effort. Square marbles were clunking around in my brain. Nothing was rolling anywhere.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about those times when it’s all working. A tail wind is speeding you toward your destination. You’re hitting green lights all the way. The only hindrance to project completion is how fast you can type, the number of hours in a day, eating and other distracting bodily requirements.

Don’t you love it when this happens? A wide open road. The spigot is cranked as far left as it will go and the plot is spraying out of you. Awkward moments transform to smooth. Sure, you’ll still need to revise later, but what you’re creating feels like it won’t require 75 rewrites because, in moments like these, you’re spinning gold.

Sometimes these flashes are fleeting or few and far between. But when they land, mmm, savor every moment. I’m in one right now, and I find myself thinking, what did I eat, drink, hear, and/or experience that dropped me into this perfect frame of mind to get this done? Was it the eclipse? Was it that dinner with my aunt? Did a (wonky, half-baked) headstand in yoga class jog something loose? What granted me the freedom to move ahead, to leap frog toward project completion? And how do I recreate this exact space the next time inspiration abandons me, as it undoubtedly will?

Don’t project, I tell myself. Sit. Type! Phone, down. News, off. Eat fast, sleep less. Capitalize on this rare instant when it feels like it’s writing itself. Don’t distract it! Keep the laptop charged. Save all work to the cloud. This is the magic hour. Don’t self-sabotage. Stay in it.

Shhh, it’s flowing…

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/fire-hydrant-children-water-summer-1972971/

How To Turn Your Political Angst into Writing Gold

A man and his son holding a sign that says Make America Think AgainI wish I wasn’t writing about politics right now, but The Clown In Chief isn’t giving me much of a choice, now is he? Reason #4,763 to poke another rusty pin into my tiny-yet-somehow-bigly voodoo doll: I want to write about things I love, like un-stale tortilla chips, excellent haircuts, the unrelenting cuteness of my cats, and the dizzying amazement I feel about my kids (except when they fight plus the other times I want to post them on Craigslist), but I can’t, because The Grand Poobah of Doofusness is relentless.

*Big sigh*

Speaking of (or sigh-ing of?), are you big-sighing as much as me these days?

Venezuela, big sigh.

North Korea, giant petrified sigh.

Charlottesville, gargantuan tear-filled sigh.

I can’t friggin’ write. I’m too morose about it all. And too annoyed that I’ve been rendered morose by a reality TV shyster whose evil heart casts such a malevolent and slimy shadow over every corner of our world.

I know I said in this earlier post that “if we survive his reign, he may end up being a gift to us all.” But today, I find the Pollyanna-Me-of-Yesterday clueless, annoying, and badly in need of a slug to the stomach.

Given all of that, I will end on a positive note, because DNA is weird and I am incapable of leaving people in darkness and tumult, even if that’s where my heart resides. Here is one thing I know for sure: we must take decisive action now, in whatever form we can. My form is writing, and if you’re reading this, yours probably is too. Writing prompts are good for people like us—they help us further our craft—and, especially, in this case, they take us to places we may not have otherwise gone.

So here’s your prompt du jour: write a story about a person who somehow lands a job they are not remotely qualified for or capable of handling and one instance where (s)he “yugely” botches it up.

We know one example of this, all too well, or rather, all too inadequately. The novel Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart rocks this theme too. Steve Carell in The Office? Nails it. Me singing karaoke fits it like a glove. 30 Rock, Parks and Rec., a lot of great TV operates in this realm.

Where else do you come across this in your life? Write it, share it, allow it to further your craft. Create at least a smidge of good from all this bad. Remember, we are the recorders of our times. We are most essential during moments like these, crucial to prevent history from repeating itself. Let’s make sure, for the sake of our world, that we are the best at what we do, or at least, the best we can be.

Photo by Jose Moreno on Unsplash

5 Ways Writing = Om

Woman in yoga pose upside downI love a good yoga class, almost as much as I love a good story.

It was while pondering this notion (in Shavasana) that I had the following earth-shattering revelation: I love both writing and yoga because they are one and the same! Structurally, I mean. The elements of a good story must also take place in a good yoga class, or it will fall flat on its face (like I do when attempting crow pose).

Here are the five ways a good story resembles yoga:

1)  The hook. At the beginning of yoga, the teacher will look at you while oozing serenity and say something to the effect of, ”Like it or not, here’s what you’re going to learn today.” Stories do this same thing by serving up something scary, jarring, or uncomfortable. They put you squarely into a problem, one that (you hope) will be unraveled by the end.

 

2)  Warm me up, lest I break. With the hook, I’m given a dose of what I’ve come for. Now it’s time to move some blood around, so I don’t pull a hammy. Here’s where I’m shown characters, voice, and plot—the yoga equivalent of sun salutations.


3)  Vascillation. I suck at yoga! Wait, I should be an instructor! I’m so flexible! Actually, I’m a starfish! In this part of a both yoga and story, we don’t know what we want, who we love, or why we are still on this planet. Because when we aren’t ecstatic, everything aches.

 

4)  The test. Did we succeed or fail? Win or lose? Or did we leave with a lesson we had no intention of learning? In yoga, this will usually resemble some type of inversion.Today it was the flying pigeon. But on this day, all the flapping, twisting, stretching, and breathing wouldn’t get this bird out of the coop. In a story, we are also turned upside down. Tension is at its peak because this is the last shot at the goal we think we have, the final chance to tuck that ribbon into our pocket and move on. We are sweating, focused, riveted because success or failure comes down to this moment right here, right now.


5)  Release the heat. Now I can breathe with my mouth open again and review what I learned. In yoga, perhaps my intended physical goal was not realized but I instead I gained a clearer picture of my true strength, a greater appreciation for my purpose. If I’m lucky, I may have gotten a longer glance at the fleeting fairy of inner peace. In both yoga and story, this is where we acknowledge why we came and recognize that we will come again, to breathe in more of this feeling, to twist ourselves into even more unlikely contortions, and to, once again, (attempt to) take flight. And, once our story is over and if we have done this right, we get to say Namaste to strength, hope, improbability, and magic.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/yoga-headstand-cat-1726228/

The Gift of Not Breaking Things

laptop computer with explosion on the screenAdieu, fair computer
Oh, how I will miss thee—
Your greasy screen
Your peeling space bar
The large dent on your front right corner from the day I dropped you
When
You
Still
Had
Shiny
Stickers
On
Your
Keyboard.

Adieu.

I will miss the sensitivity of your tab key,
Your stubborn L,
How you sometimes hide icons and then surprise me with them
when
I’ve
all
but
given
up.

How rapidly do you scroll?
I know this answer.
I live this answer.

How speedily do you search?
Here I pause, because while fair, strong, and true,
You are also a web sloth.
Like yesterday when I asked you,
What is the capital of Tasmania?
I hit the spyglass and waited
And waited
And waited
As you spun
And spun
And spun
And finally transported me to a place
of pale gray emptiness,
where nothing I could do
would convince you to accept your mission,
not
even
at
your
usual
snail’s
pace.

Now Tasmania has no capital.

This was not the first time,
not even the fiftieth time you said,
NO. NO, I WILL NOT SEARCH FOR YOU TODAY.
That you made me wish for a wall of Encyclopedia Britannica.

I recognize our relationship has changed to one
where I practice patience, deep-breathing, and mantra repetition while trying
not
to
scream
or
break
things.

And this lesson has value; I cannot deny it. So thank you.

But perhaps it’s time for new lessons.
For memorizing the curves and contours of a new keyboard—
The one my work gave me
FOR
FREE.

So adieu, Beloved.

Let’s allow this new day,
dedicated to electronics recycling at this high school gym
and smelling faintly of sports socks

To be the day someone else inherits
the gift of not breaking things.

Adieu.

 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/search/computer?photo=z8lfwpQVXJo