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

Feisty Writer Writes Feisty Characters

Flapper Wears Mile-High Pearl Tiara Inspires CharactersI’m a feisty writer who spent over ten years working on my first novel. After being an inner city educator for twenty years, I turned to writing. I thought I’d create children’s books or a memoir about my classroom experiences, but that’s not what happened at all. I had no idea I had begun to create a dual timeline trilogy!

The books are about Anne, a San Francisco artist, who discovers vintage clothes and imagines through art making the lives and experiences of young women from past eras who originally wore the clothing pieces. Through many years, coaching from wonderful editors, and grit I’ve finally learned how to weave a novel. And who knew my main theme would be about women searching to find their place in the world?

Through attending Judy Reeves weekly Brown Bag, drop-in writing group, I learned how to write intuitively, and my feisty characters began to appear out of nowhere. Sylvia, an early 1960s young heiress, led me down paths where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do. And the kernels of The Black Velvet Coat were born. Learning the craft, I spent years writing the first draft. I took it through two read and critique groups. And then hired a line editor to clean it up so I would feel comfortable enough to share it for professional feedback.

Marni Freedman read the manuscript and told me it was good and coached me that it could be so much better. For instance, she said Anne shouldn’t be a waitress to make ends meet, because that had been done before, and also that I was too nice to my characters. It was hard for me to hear. Marni was right though—I do love my characters, and I did make things easy for them. So I returned to the drawing board.

I thought about my early trips to San Francisco and considered what would be the most demeaning, difficult job Anne could have. I remembered driving up and down those hills in a stick shift and how hard it was to find a parking place. So Anne became a parking valet for a large hotel on Union Square. I brainstormed all the plot point problems that can arise for a thirty-year-old single woman trying to make it as an artist and wove those into the story too.

Sylvia, my 1960s character, falls for a scoundrel, does the unimaginable, and escapes to Northern Arizona. She experiences guilt, fear, a flash flood, howling coyotes, etc., but other characters kept saving her right away. On the next draft, I ramped up the peril to make the reader want to keep reading and had Sylvia work through many of the obstacles by herself.

As The Black Velvet Coat was at a final editor, Clair, a 1929 New York debutant, arrived on my pages. She pushes past the constraints of her controlling father to become a flapper but when the stock market crashes she becomes entwined in the world of burlesque. After I was almost finished with Clair’s story, Anne appeared on my pages and told me she wanted to be in this book too. I thought Anne’s story had ended at the conclusion of The Black Velvet Coat but it had shifted again and she had to figure out her life all over again. From the get-go, I focused on obstacles to throw in Clair and Anne’s paths.

After that first draft of my second novel, which became The Silver Shoes, I used Marni’s plot points from her book, 7 Essential Writing Tools, to guide my second draft.

In the third novel that I’m working on now, The Green Lace Corset, I’m instinctively writing in obstacles for Anne and my Midwestern, 1865, Sally Sue who is kidnapped on a train and taken to the Wild West. Both of these women are trying to find their true life’s’ purposes and the meaning of love. Haven’t all of our lives been like that? With stick-to-it-iveness, we find the strength to keep catapulting over our challenges to discover our true purpose in life. I know I have.

Six Tips for Writing Feisty Characters

  1. Develop a daily writing practice.
  2. Write from your heart, not your head.
  3. Find your fellow writing community.
  4. Keep your characters in peril until the very end.
  5. Put yourself in your character’s shoes.
  6. Consider writing play instead of work.

My Three Favorite Writer Books in My Library

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves

7 Essential Writing Tools: That Will Absolutely Make Your Writing Better (And Enliven Your Soul) by Marni Freedman

Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing by Brooke Warner

 

Photo of the author with blond hair in an up-do and red shirtJill G. Hall is the author of dual timeline historical novels The Black Velvet Coat, an International Book Award Finalist and the recently released, The Silver Shoes. The Green Lace Corset, the third book of her trilogy, is scheduled for a Fall 2020 release also by She Writes Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of publications, including A Year in Ink, The Avocet, and Wild Women, Wild Voices. On her blog, Crealivity, she shares personal musings about the art of practicing a creative lifestyle. She is a seasoned presenter at seminars, readings, and community events. In addition to writing, Hall practices yoga, makes mosaics and collages, tap dances, and enjoys spending time in nature. Learn more at jillghall.com.

 

Photos Courtesy of Jill G. Hall

Back to the Source of Feistiness

Feistiness, a woman leaping into the airWhen I was a child, the greatest accolade my mother could give someone was to say they were “feisty.”  Of all other qualities, feistiness was most revered.

Those who others might describe as difficult, she termed “feisty,” an admirable quality that might allow one to forgive the snarky manner in which they expressed an action or opinion.

Feisty Origins

Perhaps her appreciation for feistiness stems from her childhood when she lived in occupied Holland during World World II. Her family hid Jews, and her mother worked for the underground. Survival itself took a particular brand of plucky courage in the face of despair and oppression. Or maybe it was because one of the Jews they hid ended up becoming her stepfather—a man who regularly tormented her. As she grew up, she daily faced the choice: be feisty in his face or wither on his overbearing unkind vine.

Whatever the reason, as I grew up I regularly witnessed an appreciation for “feistiness.” My mom and dad (who’ve been together over fifty years) were noisy arguers. My Dad, a brilliant engineer, would attempt to bowl my mother over with infallible logic.  But she would get feisty and hold her own.

Still as Feisty Today

This fiery spunk serves my mom well these days.  Somehow, at age 78, she has an abundance of determination, courage, and energy.  She has pulled from internal resources we never knew she had to take over everything in the household—things that for the previous 58 years of their marriage my father did—from finances to decision-making, to driving—while still maintaining all her other household duties, such as cooking and cleaning.  

She cheerfully (with periodic tearful albeit feisty breakdowns) does all this, while simultaneously taking on and putting them both on a rigorous anti-Alzheimer’s protocol, which includes following a completely new diet, ordering and keeping track of an abundance of brain supplements, dedication to regular exercise and a host of other guidelines.  

Her plucky determination is paying off. Instead of watching my dad steadily decline as is the wont with Alzheimer’s patients, in the five months since she started the Bredesen protocol, we have noticed a gradual improvement in my father with only occasional glitches, like when he tried to make toast in the Nespresso machine.

“Rick,” she’ll call out relentlessly. “Get up! Sitting is the new smoking. You must stay active!”  

My dad, despite their propensity to bicker, has always loved her spunk. “You’re beautiful,” he tells her all the time these days.

Etymology of Feisty

My feisty mom might quiver in her boots if she ever looked up the origin of “feisty.” Ironically, etymologically, feisty is related to the German word fyst or fist, which means breaking wind—i.e., farting, something she considers to be the most grievous social faux pas.

Some, like my brother and sister-in-law, laugh and bond over farting, but not my mom.  If she ever inadvertently does so, she quickly sucks in her breath with an audible “oh!” and, eyebrows raised, brings a dainty hand to her mouth, as a look of utter horror and embarrassment crosses her face.  

Feistiness, in her book, is within her personal control, in no way related to an involuntary breaking of wind.

I am not so sure.

I agree, however, that feistiness, like farting in public, has the potential to be offensive.  

For while being feisty can show an enviable courageous, independent spirit that inspires others, it can also come off as touchy or quarrelsome and evolve to a propensity to be overly opinionated and aggressive; in short, it can be empty posturing. These qualities can aggravate instead of alleviating suffering.

Awareness

As an awareness practitioner (with a propensity for feistiness) in the polarizing climate of today’s culture, I have been trained to pay attention to my thoughts, words, and actions. I have been encouraged to consider my own conditioning and to ask myself from time to time whether my positively conditioned “go-getting sass” has inadvertently led me to become judgmental, close-minded and thin-skinned.  Have I staked out a position based on a presumption that I know something better than someone else? Have I left myself unwilling to see things from a different perspective—to hold my own line—rather than open my heart to someone else’s point of view? Have I failed to see that I am projecting what I fear most about myself onto others?

In other words, has my feistiness become nothing more than a series of unconscious and conditioned fear-based responses?

A Healthy Feistiness?

Checking in from time to time like this brings me back to the heart of feistiness. It makes me appreciate that feistiness at its best (and I think my mother would agree) is not calculated positioning. It is much less controlled and more alive than that. It’s a bold but natural and healthy response to the world—a kind of explosion of determined energy belying the efforts of others or circumstances to squash our spirit. It is, in fact (much to my mother’s chagrin) probably closer to farting than we might hope—an expression of something indomitable from within us that escapes outside of our control.  

Healthy feistiness is less like spouting hot air and more like breaking wind.

So, Feisty ones, do be mindful and check in with yourself from time to time to make sure your feistiness has not morphed into something empty or static and inflexible, but otherwise:

Go Forth. Be courageous and spunky in the face of oppression. And, if you inadvertently fart in public—if your words make a silent unpopular stink—take heart. That can’t always be helped and, in fact, is the very source of feistiness.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/achieve-fluent-adventure-barrier-1822503/

A Free Give-Away to Celebrate thefeistywriter.com’s 1st Birthday!

a goft box wrapped in blue paper with stars and a gold ribbonIt’s thefeistywriter.com’s first birthday, and what a year it’s been! So much fodder….

We are celebrating with a give-away: one free hour with esteemed writing coach, Marni Freedman, will go to a lucky new subscriber! Estimated value = $150!

The deadline to subscribe and win is Wednesday, November 15th at midnight. To qualify for our drawing for a free hour with Marni, click here to sign up. (If you’re anything like me, you will think this is a fantastic give-away and just what you need to launch your amazing story. You will want to definitely subscribe to win, but later, when your sink isn’t full of dishes and the dog isn’t barking and why is there a sock between these couch cushions?? But you will get distracted and forget. I’m sorry, the truth hurts. And I feel your pain! So let’s avoid this agony and click now to enter the drawing that will take your story to the next level!)

Here is what some of her clients have said about Marni:

“Marni is an amazingly empowering, perceptive, and inspiring teacher. She not only has tremendous insight and is a gifted editor, but she also can draw the best out of people. Before I met Marni, I was discouraged and close to giving up writing. I’ve worked one on one with her and also have been in her critique group for two years, and she’s helped me improve my writing tremendously — without her help, I’m sure I would have never finished my novel. Her positive attitude makes working with her a pleasure. I am extremely thankful to have gotten to know Marni and am lucky to have had her as a coach and mentor.”

— Tanya J, Author of YA Books for Horse Lovers

“I previously wrote in the form of freelance travel essays for newspapers and magazines, has been brewing between the pages of my journals for the last fifteen years. When I decided last January to write a memoir about my spiritual journey covering that same period, I knew I needed help not only in baring my soul and reliving some difficult moments, but also in taking my writing skills from their 1500-word essay comfort level to a 75,000-word manuscript. The way I think of it, Grace stepped in and offered warm-hearted writing coach/therapist, Marni, to my door. From the very first moment I met and sat with her, I felt that I could trust her both emotionally and professionally. With her, I felt safe being vulnerable and honest in writing my story—necessary elements for good memoir—and challenged to become a better writer—to tell my story in a way that would engage and interest my readers. Without ever putting too much of herself in the process, she showed me how to craft each scene as well as my overall story. She taught me the importance of thinking about memoir structure and necessary plot spots, how to experiment with different grabbers and how to allow some of the story to be revealed out of chronological order. I most appreciated that she never backed down. If Marni thought I could further improve a section or the overall structure, or if she sensed I was holding back on the emotional impact of a scene, she gently but firmly encouraged me to try again until my finished product delivered the impact and reflected the story I wanted to tell. Marni has been invaluable to me and I am filled with gratitude at my good fortune in meeting and working with her.”

— Mariah McKenzie, author of More . . . Journey to Mystical Union through the Sacred and the Profane.

“Bryan, whose brilliant prose had garnered San Diego writers’ awards and rocked the theater with laughter at his latest reading, suggested that I visit Marni’s Memoir Class. Bryan’s writing was well-timed and flawless. Why did he need a writing coach?

‘She’s great. Give her a try,’ was his reply.

So, I found myself sitting in her writing class. Her responses to other writers in the class warmed my heart.  Each student clearly needed a specific type of nudge, and I could watch Marni provide that push in the direction of relevance, of clarity or of imagery. Whatever was needed next, Marni could see it and suggest it.  So, I signed up with Marni, and not surprisingly, I am now sitting in my Writer’s Room, fully equipped with a willingness to write, and an enjoyment of the process. What made the difference between myself as stuck wanna-be writer and the happy, fluid composer that you now see before your very eyes?  In short, Marni’s magic. Marni is a licensed psychotherapist. So, instead of telling me yet another trick (you’ve heard them all: you must write in the morning . . . try writing in the evening, have a glass of wine, be sure to have a ritual . . . . the list goes on) Marni asked me questions that were specific to my stuckness. After meeting with Marni for five private sessions, I’ve now completed five of the nine chapters of a book that I’ve been attempting to conquer for over ten years. I’ve had the wonderful guidance of very good teachers, of published authors, of superb editors. They’ve all contributed enormously, but Marni has released the genie from the bottle. Marni manages to speak to the heart of what is wanted in the writer’s life. She’s great. Give her a try.”

— Phyllis, Author of From Conflict to Clarity

Marni in a pink hat working with clients

Click here to subscribe now and win a free hour with Marni to launch your story! Do something with all this fodder, would you please?

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/575400/ and Marni Freedman

The Feisty Writer’s Guide to Tackling Your Fears

People on scary carnival rideWriting Task Terror Challenge

 Being the feisty coach that I am, I want to encourage you to start to tackle your writing fears.

“But how, how, how?”  you ask. “They are my fears; I can’t just conquer them. I am filled with writing anxiety. I am scared to reach out to an agent. I can’t submit to a contest, go to a networking event, or travel to a different city to pitch my story!”

 Yeah, you actually can. I’ve watched many a timid writer transform into a fierce writing lion in action. And I have a plan. It’s easy, and I know you can do it.

 Do one writing task per month that terrifies you!

 Let’s take a minute to talk about what you may be avoiding:

 Sending a query letter. Sending your 12th query letter. Making a cold call. Writing a book proposal. Pitching an agent. Signing up for a conference. Submitting to a contest. Applying for a writing job. Reaching out to a writing mentor you respect. Attending a class. Finding a writing group. Completing your book. Taking a manuscript out of the drawer and showing it to someone. (add your own here)

 Now let me break down my little plan for you in 4 easy steps:

Step one: Make a list of things that you want/need to get done in the next six months to reach a writing goal. Include the things that you really don’t want to do, or that freak you out.

Step two: Grab a calendar. Pick a day of the month (say the 15th) and make it your Writing Task Day.

Step three: On that day (for example, Oct 15th, then Nov 15th…), for six months, perform a task that you would normally shy away from.

Step four: Put it out of your mind until the next month.

Important: What matters is staying in creative motion and putting yourself out there. Don’t become attached to the outcome. I once worked with a client who had submitted her book for a year. Ready to quit, she said she would only submit one more. Well, three submissions later, she found her perfect agent. Had she quit at one more, her career would never have blossomed. Letting go of the outcome allowed her to keep moving.

 What you will notice: The first time will be the scariest.

 Then, you will find that:

Being bold is addicting!

 Why? Because you will realize that what has been holding you in its grips so tightly–telling you that you can’t do it, well, it no longer has a hold on you.  

 And the more you get out there, the more you will have successful experiences. Failures too. That’s just part of it. But the successes will happen–and they will happen because you stayed in creative motion.

 Send us an e-mail with a pic of you doing the thing that scares you the most!

 

Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/149083312733

How to Be a Feisty Writer

Cowboy on Bucking BroncoIt’s not easy to be a writer. Writers are often plagued with heaps of self-doubt and loathing, so much so that it can be debilitating.

But there is a cure.

And it can be summed up in one sentence: Take the ego out and stay in creative motion.

Now I know that is easier said than done. In our culture, we are rarely taught to remove our ego from, well, anything. But for writers, this is not only a vital idea but a healthy survival skill. The reason is that there is no exact path to predict when success or even acknowledgment will arrive. And, in my humble opinion, writers give up way too soon, before they have had any time to gain traction. Any writer, especially a new writer, will encounter rejection and general knocks to the head. They tend to take these knocks so seriously that they are filled with pain, depression, anxiety, lack of self-belief. But really, it’s all part of the process. So how to keep moving and enjoy the process to boot? Adopt the feisty writer attitude.

A feisty writer is one who is always in creative motion, working toward their dream tenaciously, no matter what. They don’t travel along a lot of highs or lows; they just keep on with their craft. I personally have been feisty writing for so long that I may take it to an extreme. Recently, I had a play run in Chicago, and it got great reviews. Or so I heard because I didn’t read them. Don’t get me wrong; I was overjoyed to have them. But I’m no longer in the game for the highs or the lows—for the outside accolades. I’m in it to be a writer. So, in a way, I’m unstoppable because nothing anyone says, good or bad, can stop me. (This doesn’t mean I don’t take critique—every writer needs a healthy critiquing and editing process). It’s just I know the path I’m on and it’s no one else’s business to tell me if and where I belong. It’s up to me to define it for myself.

How can feisty-ness work for you? Here are some guidelines:

  1. Write every day.
  2. Don’t look for your writing to determine your self-worth. If it took a writer ten years to get recognized, should they spend the decade hating themselves? (No)
  3. Be in motion. You are a train that is constantly moving, creating, thinking, dreaming, churning out material.
  4. If someone tells you that you can’t do it, look to see where you can improve your craft (learning and growing as a writer is unending). Use that input as fuel. Then answer back: Just Watch Me.
  5. See rejection and failure as part of the rites of passage.
  6. Believe in yourself even when faced with a stupid rite of passage.
  7. Find your writing community. I can’t stress enough how important this step will be for you. A good tribe can keep you going even when you want to stop.
  8. Dive into the joy of what the moment brings you. Don’t miss all the amazing moments in search of outside praise.
  9. Never give up. Never ever ever ever ever. Just keep coming back. The world will notice. Eventually. And in the meantime, you will be doing what you love, surrounded by a tribe you love.

Photo Credit: New Old Stock: Cowboy on a Bucking Bronco nos.twnsnd.co/post/128035620901

5 Ways to Be Feisty

5-ways-to-be-feisty

They told me to write feisty since in real life I’m feisty. I also have plenty of sass, so it’s kind of a double whammy. Oddly enough, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but here’s how I do it:

      1.  Don’t GAF. As in, Don’t Give A Fuck. I don’t give a fuck if you like my advice, my writing, or me. Deal with it. I’ll move on, write more, and forget about everything except what I want to say.
      2. Have an opinion. You don’t have to agree with me. I don’t have to agree with you. But I’ll say what I think, move on, write more, and forget about everything except what I want to say.
      3. Don’t take shit so seriously. It’s not curing cancer, for God’s sake. It’s just writing.Twitter And it’s just a blog. It’s not War and Peace, or Dante’s Inferno. It’s just writing. So I’ll move on, write more, and forget about everything except what I want to say.
      4. Don’t try to change things. I don’t need to change anyone. I’m just writing to try to give people a shot in the arm when they need it and help them break through blocks. Maybe they’ll enjoy reading them. Maybe they’ll get through their issues. Maybe not. Either way, I’ll move on, write more, and forget about everything except what I want to say.
      5. Have a cocktail and relax. Something about bourbon helps loosen up my thoughts. It turns the editor in me off and lets the words just roll out. And sure, there’s most likely going to be some curse words in there to drive my point home. But I’m having fun, so who cares? I’ll just move on, write more, and forget about everything except what I want to say.

 

Photo Credit: Police Dog, Tess, 01/29/35 by Sam Hood. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales www.sl.nsw.gov.au