Review of 2017 Write Every Damn Day Book Bingo Challenge

In 2017, I decided to challenge myself and others to a Book Bingo (#2017weddbookbingo)! The card below needed to be blacked out by the end of the year. Although I read more books than the categories listed on the bingo card, this challenge gave me an opportunity to explore different genres and read a few books I might not have prioritized reading. Below is the list of books I read in 2017 for each category.

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A BOOK THAT BECAME A MOVIE OR TV SHOW: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

A BOOK ALL OVER #BOOKSTAGRAM: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

A BOOK FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

A BOOK IN A SERIES: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

A BOOK YOUR BFF LOVES: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

A BOOK FROM A DIFFERENT COUNTRY: The Storyteller by Walter Benjamin

A BOOK BASED ON A TRUE STORY: Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen

A BOOK ABOUT WRITING: On Writing by Stephen King

A BOOK THAT RE-TELLS A FAIRY TALE: Cinder & Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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A BOOK RELEASED IN 2017: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

A BOOK OF POETRY OR SHORT STORIES: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier & Afterland by Mai Der Vang (both were amazing! I couldn’t only pick one for this list)

A BOOK WITH A BEAUTIFUL COVER: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A BOOK WITH TALKING ANIMALS: The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman

A BOOK YOU MEANT TO READ IN 2016: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

2018

To kick off 2018, I am participating in a yoga journey hosted by Yoga with Adriene. Her 2018 January series is called TRUE!  Some of you may have noticed that I changed my instagram username to @biblioyoga. I’m constantly re-defining myself and my goals and in 2018, I will earn my 200hr YTT certification to teach yoga! I selected a new name that illustrates my love of reading and writing with my love for yoga.

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I am a fan of having a visual to help guide me in my journey. There’s something about checking boxes that is oh-so-satisfying! If you are looking for a great way to kick off your new year, I highly recommend this Yoga with Adriene’s at-home practice! Namaste y’all!

In 2018, I plan to launch another “challenge” like the book bingo, but I plan to combine reading, writing, and yoga. Keep following my instagram and checking the blog this month for more details. In the meantime, remember to Write Every Damn Day!

From Adventure to Eudaimonia

My word for 2017 was ADVENTURE! 🧜‍♀️

✈️ I went on lots of adventures to some new and some favorite places and traveled with many of my favorite people! 2017 – Marfa & Alpine. Galveston. Cape Cod & Provincetown. Charlotte, the Blue Ridge Parkway, & Asheville. Boston & Provincetown (again!). Kerrville. San Marcos. Fredericksburg. Wimberley.

🧘🏻‍♀️👩🏻‍💻 I also went on personal adventures in my writing and yoga practice. I stretched myself in ways I never have before and pushed myself to share my work and participate in communities that once intimidated me. I started a blog & an Instagram to connect with other writers and yogis. I listened to tons of podcasts about yoga, writing, and growth and attended events where some of my favorite writers were speaking (Neil Gaiman is a gem!) I took InPrint, All Writers, and Writespace courses and found a tribe of writers I appreciate in both Houston and other parts of the country. I found a new yoga studio home and an on-line home practice when I can’t make it to class.

📚 I read. A LOT! By creating my write every damn day book bingo instagram challenge, I held myself accountable and encouraged others to go on Adventures in books! I’ll post about my completed bingo reads soon! I am creating a new Bingo for 2018!

👩🏻‍🏫 I challenged myself in two new careers within Education and grew as both an educator and a human being. Working in the field of education means every day is a new Adventure full of questions, problems, and challenges that bring minds and hearts together.

👫 Because of all of the Adventures and time spent on growth, 2018 is bringing big things for me! And even though Adventure was my 2017 word, we are starting off the new year with an International one, Belize 🏝

🤗 My word for 2018 is EUDAIMONIA, which I am borrowing from Greek philosophy. It’s a word I connected with at 19 years old in my first philosophy course and continually reflect on. Eudaimonia (human flourishing) is a state of happiness, growth, and fulfillment. To both LIVE well and to DO well according to Aristotle helps you flourish, but eudaimonia is not simply a feeling of happiness that comes and goes, it is a state of being and an understanding of the full potential a human life has.

✨ To Eudaimonia and Beyond! ✨

🥂 Cheers to the New Year! 🍾

Making Time to Write

When I tell people that I am a creative writer, the first response I always receive is, “How do you have time?” At first, I made it seem like writing time randomly occurred, “Oh well…I just sit down for a little bit here and there” or “I have the weekends sometimes,” but the more I reflect on when I write, the more I realize that it is not a hobby that just pops up here and there.

I don’t HAVE time.

I MAKE time.

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Wake Up Early

I am definitely not a morning person. I am slowly attempting to become one by getting up and practicing yoga, but I wouldn’t call myself an “early bird”. Waking up early gives you time. This time does not necessarily have to be used to write (God knows I can’t form sentences at 5 AM), but it can be time to do other things like cleaning, reading, working out, or accomplishing tasks on your To Do list that might take up writing time later in the day. The morning gives you QUIET (especially if you have children or a hectic, quick-paced job). Start by waking up 10-30 minutes earlier than you normally do and just enjoy that quiet with a cup of tea or a short walk. After realizing how much you need that time for yourself, you become more excited about the practice of waking up early.

Schedule Your Writing

Put it in your calendar. Use a timer. You have a date with your computer or journal or whatever it is you use to write. Make a commitment and stick to it! I also like to schedule periodic writing time or writing retreats with friends to keep me motivated and productive. There are earlier posts about my past writing retreats! If you schedule a cup of tea a day (however long it take you to finish drinking it) or an hour on a timer, I guarantee you will focus and write.

Remove Distractions

Speaking of focus, it is important to remove distractions. People are distracted by different things. If I am at home, I want to clean. I keep my study tidy and sweep the floor before I sit down to write. My bookshelves are behind me, so I do not have the sudden urge to organize them. I make a pot of tea, so I do not get up and go into the kitchen only to accidentally notice the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.

In my study, I play music, so I can’t hear what is going on in the rest of the house. I shut all of the doors (one is slightly cracked for Scout, my cat to come and go as she pleases). These are my habits because I learned over time there are certain things that derail me. For many people, having their phone is a problem. I keep mine on silent and only check it when I have to go to the bathroom.

I wrote an earlier post about creating a writing space that you love. My study has become my little retreat for yoga and writing. Not everyone has an entire room dedicated to writing, but if you can create a corner in your apartment, I promise having an inspiring space helps a great deal!

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Take a Class

I am a firm believer in taking creative writing classes as your funds and schedule allows. My first class (outside of academia) was an on-line novel writing class because I felt I did not have time to drive into the city for a course. On Tuesdays, I attended a  weekly virtual meeting with four other writers and an instructor in a chat room. I was accountable for submitting a weekly amount of words, as well as reading the submissions of others throughout the week and writing comments, which was truly a lot of work. However, I found that I had much more time to write and read than I thought I did. Instead of aimlessly watching television, checking social media, or walking around Target (guilty pleasure), I sat down and read the other writing. Because I knew I needed to submit writing every week, it motivated me to schedule time to write or write during my lunch break at work (if I had one).

This year, I completed two in-person classes about thirty minutes away from my house, which means I spend an hour driving to and from class on the weekends. Because I don’t live in the city, I chose to take my most recent class from 11 – 1 PM on Saturdays. The structure of this class gave me time to write, as well as discuss my writing and the writing of others, which truly makes you a better writer and motivates you to continue writing consistently.

If you can’t afford to take classes or find a place nearby, NaNoWriMo.org is an excellent way to keep yourself accountable and build a network with other writers who could possible serve as readers for you and give you feedback.

Find Your Tribe 

I’m fortunate to have a small network of other writers that I have built over the years. Three of my closest friends write creatively, and we often share work with one another for feedback before sending it off for publication. It’s important to have a tribe of people that are your motivators; people who constantly ask you what you are working on or writing about and want to unpack your project with you. This can easily be someone who does not write, but that loves to read or just likes to talk to you. It’s also important to find readers, which you can discover a variety of ways. Again, the internet is your friend, so on-line writing groups or websites like NaNoWriMo are great for building your tribe. Social media is another fantastic way to find readers. Search Twitter and Instagram using hashtags. Facebook has tons of groups like The Binders,  Writers Helping Writers and Fiction Writers Global that are easy to join. Be sure to give what you get as well; if someone offers to read for you, you should be open to reading for them as well.

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Finally, always try to Write Every Damn Day! 

 

Yoga & Creativity

Namaste.

This salutation is often heard at the end of yoga class. We bow to show respect for our fellow yogis and the practice itself. We share the divine light illuminating from our heart chakra, anhata, with one another as we place our hands in front of our third eye. This sharing of divine love is not so different from the act of putting pen to paper or finger to keys. We practice yoga to understand our potential to connect with ourselves, others, and divine universal truths. We write to do the same.

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Yoga teaches us the value of practicing regularly. It is a physical manifestation of our ability to grow, adjust, and refine our ability to connect with our spirit, mind, and body. Writing is no different. The more space we create for ourselves to write, the stronger our writing becomes.

Last weekend, I attended a Yoga & Watercolor workshop hosted by Yoga & Hops at 8th Wonder Brewery in Houston, TX. Nicole Peralta of  Instagram @artyogaplay led us through an hour-long flow. Afterward, she illustrated watercolor techniques and explained how the meditative state she reaches as a yogi is similar to the one she experiences while painting.

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I tapped into my inner Cancerian and somehow painted jellies! I read about the meaning of jellyfish after this class and found out jellies are a symbol of acceptance and balance. Woah…

Watercolor is not something I personally practice, but the experience of transitioning from a group yoga practice to an artistic endeavor gave me more time for self-reflection. Often when we practice yoga, we hope to connect with our third eye chakra, ajna. “The third eye chakra acts as our direct connection to higher consciousness, ushering in amazing, soul-fulfilling jolts of creative inspiration. Think of it as the space where self-awareness, imagination and intuitive guidance meet, enabling us to focus and create something in alignment with the truth of who we are at our core” (Creative Katrina).

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Aside from the third eye, your sacral chakra, svadhisthana, is truly the place where creativity (and sexuality, go figure) manifests. When you are in sync with your sacral chakra, your creative energy flows freely. There are many meditations and yoga videos on youtube to awaken your sacral chakra, so if you have never attempted to do yoga or meditate before writing, I highly suggest trying one out before your next writing session.

By first practicing yoga or meditation to connect with our chakras, we awaken our creative spirit, which is an empowering experience. Yoga, like writing, forces us to be self-reliant. No one else can balance your body in a handstand, just like no one else can write the same line of poetry as you. As we move through poses, we are growing as yogis. As we write sentences, each one we craft illustrates our ability to express ourselves. When we tap in to this creative, elusive energy, we are able to have truly transformative experiences.

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One of my favorite yogis, Rachel Brathen, constantly shares her personal struggles and growth on her instagram @yoga_girl. I am currently reading her publication Yoga Girl; the book is a combination of memoir and self-help where she shares her journey to create a boho lifestyle in Aruba. I’ve found that much of her writing resonates with me, but this particular selection truly spoke to me:

“With time, you’ll notice changes within the body, the mind, and the breath. Yoga makes us strong but flexible. Yoga creates space where we once were stuck. Yoga cultivates a quiet mind and inspires concentration. Yoga allows the breath to grow deeper. Yoga is a space where, with practice, we can become more present in our day. And the deeper we go in our practice, the more natural it will be to take the yoga off the mat and into the rest of our lives (Yoga Girl, 8.)”

Yoga and writing are both practices that help us uncover truths about ourselves and the world around us. Both make us dig deeper and free us. By marrying these two practices, we are able to channel creative energy and share truth with the world around us.

The light in me honors the light in you.

Namaste. 

 

Writefest: A Festival for Emerging Writers | Houston, TX

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The morning of Writefest began with me frantically scrambling to try and find the right outfit. What do writers wear? My mind immediately went to the Beatniks…

Glasses.

damn you perfect vision!

Cardigans.

It’s Houston. It’s hot.

Witty t-shirt.

I got rid of all my Urban Outfitters shirts long ago…

I’ve been to several academic conferences, but this is the first creative writing conference I’ve ever attended. It’s the first time that I’ve introduced myself to other people as a writer. It’s the first time I’ve had to vocalize my genre and what my novel is about to other people. Was it intimidating? YES! Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Writefest is a small, local writing conference, so the format was fabulous for someone who is new to the local “writing scene.” It consisted of several panels over a few days – many of which were for individuals new to publishing, which was perfect for someone like me! I received a ton of helpful tips that I would like to share with my readers. You will find these particularly helpful if you are new to publishing poetry and short fiction.

The Importance of Joining a Writing Community 

Writefest was created by a local Houston group, Writespace, that offers classes in writing. Throughout the festival, many of the panels and speakers encouraged the attendees to join a writing community. One way to find members of your tribe is to take local writing courses offered by places like Writespace in order to find other authors in your genre or that have similar goals as you who can offer constructive criticism.

After leaving academia, I personally found it difficult to find classes and establish my tribe of writers. Houston has grown tremendously in creating common spaces for writers, but I have also found that a writing group on-line can be incredibly helpful. If you need a group for motivation, Camp NaNoWriMo is an amazing resource. If you want feedback from beta readers, you can find both in-person and on-line groups on MeetUp. I personally have participated in a writing course through All Writers’ Workplace & Workshop the past few months. In our Thursday Night Novel Writing Group, we are able to submit up to 3,750 words for weekly edits from four other writers that serve as our readers, as well as line-by-line edits from an editor that is a published author. Once a week, we meet in a chat room for two hours to discuss the week’s offerings, and then we e-mail our notes to one another once we finish our discussion.

This experience is incredibly motivating, and I have received very valuable feedback from individuals living in four other states (there just so happens to be someone from Austin in my course). I chose All Writers’ Workshop because a friend recommended the course to me based on his experience and the low cost. You absolutely do not have to pay for feedback like this. You could easily establish your own writing groups via social media, but for me, selecting to participate in a course I am paying for has also motivated me to keep writing. Finally, if you have friends who are writers, try to set up meet ups or (like I have) find a cheap house on AirBNB and do a retreat!

An interesting idea that was emphasized by a few different voices at the conference was that the writing community is a Give-And-Take community. Do not establish these groups to use other people and not give back. That being said, don’t always expect to get what you give. Different writers have different priorities. This is also very true when publishing. When you send off your work, you are entering into a community, so it is important to make sure you are creating professional and positive relationships with editors.

Writing groups help keep you accountable. They also help you acculturate and become a part of the profession. It’s important to know that you are always writing for your readers, so what better way to understand the reader’s perspective than to get notes from a few friends? Also, the more you can have your writing read, the better. Use social media to share snippets, or even better, find a local establishment that hosts and open-mic night and get up and read. Amplify your voice and share your creativity with the rest of the world!

How To Find Literary Journals and Publications

Prior to attending this conference, I did not know the best way to search for publications. Often I saw calls-for-submissions on my social media accounts, or I would scroll through Poets & Writers website to try and find publications where I could submit my work. Although Poets & Writers is a fantastic resource (especially the magazine), it can be tedious to search for publications this way. There were several resources mentioned for finding places to publish, but the one most commonly used comes at a cost — $5 per month– Duotrope. Duotrope allows its users to sort by genre, pay, deadlines, etc. which is not a feature that other sites have. If you are a writer of speculative fiction, Submission Grinder is a solid resource. A few others that were mentioned that I personally have not used were RalanPoetry Markets website for poetry, New Pages, and Codex for speculative fiction.

The most widely used tool to actually submit your work is Submittable. This is an on-line system that tracks what you have submitted and where your publication is in the process – Accepted (yey!), Rejected (boo!), or In Progress. There are some literary journals and magazines that do not use Submittable, and instead ask for e-mail submissions, but I would highly recommend registering with Submittable. Under the Discover tab, the website also posts calls for submissions as well, but the information is not quite as extensive or searchable as Duotrope.

Finally, another great way to research where to publish is to be a reader of literary magazines and journals. You can also consider looking where your favorite authors have been published in the past to find magazines you might enjoy. If you read an anthology and like a short story or poem in it, look in the acknowledgments section to see where it originally appeared.

What To Consider Before Submitting

Something you must consider before sending out work is the type of writer you are trying to become. Are you submitting your work for payment, prestige or reach? Once you have an answer to this question, proceed according to your goals.

One of the presenters (whose publication goal is a combination of reach and payment), said her target is to publish each short story she writes in four formats – online, in print, podcast, and translated. I had never considered submitting my work for podcasts or to foreign markets. She explained that it is important to look at your rights in contracts in order to be able to publish your work in various formats.

When deciding where to submit your work first, it is a good idea to start with fast rejection/acceptance publication before submitting to ones that take a long time to respond. Duotrope can help you find this information.

Many publications allow for simultaneous submissions, but once your work is accepted for publication, you need to contact all of the others and let them know – check out how to track this in the last section of this article.

Also, I would not pay a fee to submit your work unless it is to a prestigious publication or to enter a contest. It is more common to pay a fee for literary fiction than it is for speculative fiction publications. If your publication goal is related to payment, traditional paid publishing contracts award about six cents per word. Make sure you always read the guidelines before submitting. If you are interested in publishing the story elsewhere or in another format, make sure you look at your reprint rights within the contract you receive. This information is often posted on their website as well. Most reputable publications give your rights back in about six months. Remember often reprints pay less, and royalties only pay is sometimes never awarded.

Cover Letters

Some of the most helpful advice I received at WriteFest was about formatting a Cover Letter. The most common advice was to be sure to follow the publications guidelines when submitting. If you have never read the magazine, be sure to look at their free sample on-line to make sure your work fits their aesthetic.

The essentials of cover letters it that they are 2-5 sentences (unless a publication specifies otherwise). The panelists said it might be helpful to mention that you are an emerging writer. This lets them know they are one of the firsts to publish you, and they feel more inclined to ask you to make edits, rather than rejecting your story outright.

To show that you are familiar with the journal, writing your cover letter to the editor serves this purpose. It is also good to have one sentence telling the magazine why you want to publish with them specifically. You can mention a story you read and enjoyed from the magazine or align your style to their aesthetic.

If you are submitting the piece multiple places, it might be good to note in your email. Also, if the piece has been published before or appeared on your blog, it would be good to share that information in your cover letter as well.

Do not give a synopsis of your story. The story should speak for itself.

Do not use google docs or weird links to submit your story – do whatever is specified in the guidelines. Do not use font that is hard to read. Typically, literary magazines and journals use a standard manuscript format (SMF). The SHUNN manuscript format is the typically what is expected by publications.

Track Your Submissions!

One of the most important steps that you can take as a writer submitting work is to create a method for tracking your submissions. Some people like to keep a handwritten journal or list, while others like to use their computers. Many of the presenters at Writefest highlighted the importance of knowing when and where you send your work.

I highly recommend using Excel to build a spreadsheet for tracking purposes. You can create columns for your title, genre, word count, acceptance/rejection, and the magazines where you submit your work. I like to put the date I submitted the work (and sometimes the date it is accepted or rejected). I use different colors to label the information. I color mine green when they are accepted, and red when they are rejected. Below is an example:

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I use one spreadsheet with multiple tabs to track all of my publication information.  Each tab is divided by genre (poetry, speculative fiction short story, literary short story) and then a different tab totaling the pay I receive from any of my publications. This is incredibly helpful if you submit a work to multiple places, and it is accepted somewhere because as a courtesy, you need to contact the other magazines you submitted to and pull the piece.

If you are interested in seeing what rejection letters typically look like, check out WikiReject. 

 

Sorry to leave on the note of rejection, but remember, it’s a part of the process! I hope this information finds all of you well and proves to be helpful. Keep Writing & always remember to Write. Every. Damn. Day.

 

Creative Spaces in Average Places

If I had it my way, I’d be typing from a treehouse in Costa Rica while listening to birds chirping, trees rustling in the wind, and rain falling gently outside through breezy windows. Alas…my humble abode in Houston will have to do.

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A girl can dream…

For years, I’ve struggled with finding the right words in my own home. In the past, I spent a ridiculous amount of time in coffee shops, libraries, parks, and places of “inspiration” telling myself that I would always need to relocate because my house was an area of distraction. I’d convinced myself I would never be productive at home because my thoughts would often turn from writing to, “I need to sweep the floors….do the dishes…clean the litterbox…watch the latest episode of whatever HBO or Netflix series I was currently addicted to…” and so it goes. Recently, however, I’ve realized that I can truly shut out all of my anxieties if I surround myself with inspiration and spaces throughout my home that allow my process to flourish.

I was wrong. (Yes, I know women don’t say that often…)

I’ve finally become incredibly productive in my own home, and I want to share the changes I’ve made to my space to ensure that creative writing can occur. I’m not offering a list on this particular post of changes you can make to your own space; instead, I’m describing mine, so you can all have a little insight into my writing habits to help you reflect on your own.

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In my current home, I have an office that is both organized and just “messy” enough for me. I found an old desk on the side of the road and distressed it in yellow with some funky knobs. On my desk, you’ll find a few of my favorite characters–Rocket Raccoon and BB-8–as well as speakers that are always singing. I keep all of my necessary supplies at an arm’s length. Pens, pencils, scissors, highlighters, binder clips, glue sticks, white out, erasers, sticky notes, notepads, staplers, and journals are the usual suspects. I’ve found that having some lotion and a finger nail file nearby keeps me from getting up to search for one if a nail splits or my skin feels dry.

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I’m someone that likes to write by candlelight, so there are lighters purposefully placed in drawers and nooks and crannies throughout my office. In case I want to move into the chair adjacent to the computer and work from my laptop, I keep a external hard drive in my desk drawer at all times. Sometimes it’s faster to save a document on my hard drive than to email to myself and open it on my laptop.

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To the left of my desk is a cart with my printer, lots of colored paper, and my candle stash. Sometimes I like to print drafts on colored paper to help me differentiate between the edits. I always try to have an extra reserve of ink on hand in case I run out. The flowered case in front of my printer is where I store my previous drafts. It is an accordion style filing system. Within it, I keep printed copies of finalized stories, poems, and novel pages, as well as stamps and envelopes in case I see a call for submissions that requires a hard copy to be submitted. Expect a future post about how I track my submissions and utilize this filing system.

To the right of my desk, I have a small bookshelf that contains only the necessities. I know that if I put my TBR books on this shelf, I will never get any writing done because of the temptation to start reading instead. I have journals and books that serve as resources on the shelves, as well as a few pieces of art and props that I like to use when I feel inspired to take an Instagram photo or one for the blog. There is also a lamp on the top, which helps when the candlelight is not enough to keep me awake.

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I am fortunate to have a closet in my office, which is incredibly helpful when I need to remove clutter. Most of the time, it’s organized, but if I need to pick up a stack and get it out of sight to focus, there’s always the closet to stick it in.You will notice a yoga mat hanging in a bag on the closet, as well as a basket in the corner with yoga materials. Often doing yoga or meditating before writing helps me focus. It can be a wonderful re-energizing practice as well when you feel like you are losing steam. I plan to write an entry about how yoga and mediation can fuel your writing in the future, but for now, know that having a mat, some candles, and/or mala beads nearby can be incredibly helpful!

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Aside from the closet, I also have a storage stool that sometimes serves the purpose of “hiding junk” as well. I mostly use it to hold coloring books and coloring tools in case I need a mental break from writing. Coloring often helps me process where I want to go in a story. It’s also statistically proven to relieve stress – double Win!

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Another source of inspiration is the art on my walls. I’ve filled the wall above my desk with Led Zeppelin portraits and the adjacent walls contain two autographed Ray Lamontagne posters. Both have inspired me as a poet, and I often write to their music and consider their lyrics when writing. I have a few of my favorite fictional characters on the wall too- a Wolverine cut out and a mint lithograph of Stitch reading The Ugly Duckling that my parents bought me at Disney World. When I was in graduate school, I made a black and white collage of the Beat poets, which also hangs in my office. All of the art on my walls motivates me to be a storyteller. I love each of these authors and characters for very specific reasons, and sometimes just looking up reminds me why I am a writer.

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If I can’t find inspiration within my office, I can turn around and peer through the french doors into what I call my miniature library – someday it will look like Belle’s, complete with those awesome ladders you can roll around the shelves on. My study is primarily shelves of books. Joining the books, there are several Funko pops, collectible figurines, and LEGO sets of characters I love. I also have Led Zeppelin record box sets on top of my shelves for a little more classic rock! If I want to move into the space to write, there is a  small couch, coffee table, and rocking chair with lamps and candles nearby. The table next to my couch contains pens and lighters as well.

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I’ve organized the drawer by my bedside to contain everything I might need in the middle of the night to write. A small flashlight, headphones, a book lamp, pens, highlighters, journals, post-its and the like line the interior of my nightstand. I also have a lamp on my bedside table, since whispering “Lumos” with a wand in my hand has failed to produce any light. I’m still waiting on an owl with my Hogwarts acceptance letter…

My beverage of choice when I am writing is tea. My kitchen is open to my living room, so it can be distracting to go in to the kitchen to make tea; I notice tasks like the dishes in the sink and begin cleaning instead of focusing on my writing. Instead, I’ve found the most amazing solution – an electric tea kettle! If I know I am going to be in another room writing, I can bring it, my tea box, and an extra container of water with me to make batches of tea. If you are a tea lover, I can’t recommend this little lifesaver enough!

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Finally, no home or office is complete without a cozy chair and a cat! Find yourself a feline friend to help keep you company during your writing binges! Scout’s presence both relaxes me and encourages me to keep writing. She is named after one of my favorite protagonists, Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, so her namesake alone serves as a reminder to keep putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keys).

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In the future, I plan to post a list about the necessities for a productive writing space, but until then…I thought I’d share my personal space with you, dear readers, in hopes that it will keep you motivated and encourage you to Write. Every. Damn. Day.

From a Reader to a Writer

As a child, I found that my most memorable adventures happened between the pages of books. Whether I was off to Never Never Land, wandering around Wonderland, or deep in the Hundred Acre Woods, I found solace in worlds other than my own. I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life. I truly believe the hundreds of tattered and shelved books prepared me to be the writer I am today. What we absorb as readers, we use as writers. We may not always do it consciously. We may hope that we can write as well as our favorite authors. Either way, reading prepares you to be a writer.

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Throughout my writing journey, I’ve learned that much of my fiction is an amalgamation of what I’ve learned from other stories. For the novel I am currently writing, I rely heavily on classic children’s literature, contemporary fantasy, and Southern Gothic fiction. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is assisting me in molding my protagonist and the fictional town where she lives. However, the town is also loosely based on the one I grew up in, so in blending my own narrative and borrowing ideas from others, I am creating. I would also credit Neil Gaiman for helping me seamlessly blend magic and realism. In deciding how to pace the fantastical moments of my novel and balance them with realism, I’ve found myself revisiting texts I read for a Magical Realism course I took in graduate school. The most difficult part of writing this novel has been finding the right balance –creating a world that others can envision and relate to while incorporating one that does not exist. Like the words of an incantation, if you are able to recognize the right combination of believable and unbelievable elements, magic can occur.

Some Advice Related to Reading & Writing:

  1. Read in your genre. Read outside of your genre. Think about the different voices and styles in the texts you are reading.
  2. Write in the books you are reading. I know you think those pages are sacred, but highlight, underline, and write notes in the margins. If you have these notes and resources to refer back to when you are writing, it will help you tremendously.
  3. For a writer, reading is not a hobby. Reading needs to be a habit. Read as much as you can and as often as you can. Create goals for reading. I keep a calendar and log the days that I am writing and reading and how much I have accomplished each day.
  4. Carry a book with you everywhere you go. You never know when the opportunity to read might arise. On days that I have time to eat lunch outside of the office, I always take a book with me.
  5. Experiment with your writing craft by using other authors to fuel it. Steal a beautiful sentence and riff off of it. Borrow a character to write a narrative or fanfiction. Examine sentence structure, diction, and tone and consider how you might borrow another author’s voice and strategies for your own writing. As much as we don’t want to be thieves, the narratives we read influence our writing.