Tag Archives: writers life

Read, Revise, Adapt: Why Writing Across Genres Can Benefit Your Writing

read revise adaptHey Friends,

I just got back from a fabulous week at the Write by the Lake writers retreat in Madison, Wisconsin. If you’re searching for conferences to attend next year, I highly recommend this program. I’ve gone the last three years. They offer a dozen different course options that provide intense study into a specific genre or practice for the week. Courses are for all levels from introductory to those with a full manuscript looking for a masterclass.

This year, I swayed from my usual path of nonfiction and opted for the course on picture book writing.

Here’s what I learned: 

My instructor, Georgia Beaverson, had us do a writing prompt on the first day. We had to write down our first memory. The second day we rewrote that memory from another person’s point of view. She then made us edit our wordcount down by HALF (oh, the agony). 

She said we could also try reworking the piece into different tenses, illustrating that a story can be told in many different ways, by different people, and sometimes reworking it can lead to great discoveries.

I’ve been working on my memoir for the last several years, and I’ve reworked some of my essays to be performed for adult storytelling. (I highly recommend taking a storytelling class if you have one in your area. I took one two years ago and it was wonderful!) What I learned by doing so was that moving around and utilizing the space I could tell in, I imagined new ways of describing the action or character emotions in my writing. Performing the scene helped me write a stronger scene.

In the picture book writing class, I adapted one of my essays to be told as a children’s picture book. The audience was entirely different, since I’d previously written and performed for adults. In this instance, I played up sounds, using onomatopoeia, stronger verbs, and I limited description where illustrations could play a role.

illustration thumbnails

Creating my thumbnail mockup of the picture book.

Using the same plotline, I now had three different ways of telling/performing the story. 

Ohmygawd! Justin Timberlake was right all along! 

giphy-downsized

The more you write, the better writer you become, and practicing different kinds of writing tools, genres, and craft elements are key. I was amazed at how each exercise in storytelling, whether on paper or a stage, shaped me as a writer. It was fun, challenging for sure, but rewarding across the board.

Sometimes when we’re stuck, we aren’t sure how to gain that forward momentum again. Whether or not you choose to pursue a different genre or space for your story, trying out different exercises can offer up different questions to make you think, explore, and get that creative blood pumping again.

Things You Can Try:

  • Work with a critique group that has multiple genres – How will their feedback strengthen your writing? (Ex. Will listening to poetry help you improve your word choice and descriptions? Will the romance author help you write funnier characters or scenes?)
  • Adapt your story into different formats (written, spoken, illustrated) – You may discover something new, or gain confidence in an area you previously felt uncomfortable in.
  • Just play – Are you stuck on a scene? Is the writing starting to bore even you? Move around, make yourself do the actions! Try drawing it, what’s the action you want to portray? You don’t have to show this to anyone else, but practicing in new ways can help get you past writer’s block.
  • Change the POV.
  • Change the tense of the story.
  • Change the audience you’re writing for.
  • Read different genres. Listen to people tell stories. Note what draws you in.

How can you rewrite and/or adapt your stories
to learn something new about them?

Got an example?
Share your favorite way to practice writing.

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Who’s Your Dream Author Panel?

James Rollins

Lunch with James Rollins at the Dallas / Fort Worth Writers Conference in 2012.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending several writers conferences around the country and met many great authors who I consider role models. I’m so honored to chat with folks such as James Rollins and Larry Brooks, to interview writing idols like Danielle Trussoni and Karen Abbott. I dressed alike with Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) and spoke Greek with Arianna Huffington. And I am beyond thrilled to welcome Nickolas Butler and Blair Braverman to La Crosse later this year!

Eventbrite, a company that hosts and assists with lots of great conferences and events – I’m attending several coming up including a travel writing course and a gallery reading with a medium! – asked the question “Who’s on your dream author panel?” 

I suppose it’s not practical to say ALL OF THEM!

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There’s little that fills me with as much energy as chatting with other authors. When you’re in a room surrounded by “your people,” it’s pretty awesome. And I’m grateful for every opportunity.

So honestly, many authors are on my dream panel. Those I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before and new faces as well. But if I had to narrow it down, then I’d pick from my favorite genre, memoir, and specifically those authors with the ability to infuse humor into the hardships they face.

So Universe, if you can somehow swing these folks to gather AND put me in the same room with them, I’ll keep my fangirl under control (or try to). 

David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Naked
Mindy Kaling – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Mishna Wolff – I’m Down
Elaine Lui – Listen to the Squawking Chicken
Caitlyn Moran – Moranifesto
Haven Kimmel – A Girl Named Zippy
Kristin Newman – What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
Kevin Kling – The Dog Says How
Roz Chast – Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Laurie Notaro – The Idiot Girl’s Action-Adventure Club

Ten is kind of a lot on a panel isn’t it? I don’t care. I like to dream big.

I’d love to hear the perspectives from this mix of essayists, memoirists, and graphic novelist. This panel would hold stories of coming out, cultural identity, race relations, immigration, surviving abusive relationships, feminism, dysfunctional family, living with a disability, caring for aging parents, and living paycheck to paycheck. Topics to make us feel less alone, walk in someone else’s shoes, and find the laughter in the end. Definitely my favorite genre to dive into.

Dream big! Who would be on YOUR author panel if you could choose? 

I Said ‘Yes’ For a Week, and Here’s What Happened: 5 Lessons Learned

I want to talk to you about…my schedule. It’s busy. I work as a freelance writer, am a board member for my nonprofit writers group, helped found and organize a monthly feminist education series, participate in a book club, attend twice a week rehearsals, and work a 40 hour day job.

You know what? I love it.

Say Yes to the Work

Working lunch. Working on writing assignments over dim sum.

Last week was really hectic for me. I had places to be every night of the week. But I think it was one of the best weeks I’ve had in awhile.

Here’s a little rundown…

Monday night started with a board meeting for my writers group. We are going to be hosting the Feminism on Tap gathering in October and since I work closely with both groups, I’m planning it.

Tuesday was a special treat wherein I traveled a couple towns over to meet with New York storyteller and filmographer, Jen Lee. A dozen area “makers” – artists, craftswomen, writers – gathered to learn about her latest collaboration, The 10 Letters Project, a correspondence documenting the creative process and how we critique ourselves. I was invited to attend because another writer and I were offered the chance to emulate the project.

I spent six hours on wednesday night at the public library for a back to back film showing of Johnny Guitar, the 1954 film by La Crosse, WI born director, Nicholas Ray. I was representing Feminism on Tap and co-led a discussion after each viewing. (And during the second showing, I ate pizza with some of the library staff and wrote one of my freelance articles standing up in the library kitchen.)

10 Letters Project

Jen’s book with fellow storyteller/writer, Tim Manley. Everyone who attended also wrote their own anonymous letters and got to answer one anonymously too. Very cool experience connecting with other makers.

I hemmed and hawed most of Thursday over whether or not to audition for an improvisation group, but the writer I met on Tuesday and will be working with on the local 10 letters project was in the group and invited me to go. I went, expecting an audition and nothing more. It turned out to be a two hour improv workshop wherein I became a monster, a pterodactyl, an overtired mother judging a fake gymnastics tournament, and I pulled (imaginary) gum out of a guy’s mouth. At the end of the two hours, I signed up for the next rehearsal.

Friday afternoon I left work and headed to a dim sum shop where I finished my freelance assignments (due that day). Then I hit up the library book sale and came home with a bag of books just in time for date night with my husband.

Finally on Saturday, I attended the first rehearsal for the improv group, which started with a photo shoot for a newspaper article and show flyers. When I got home, my friend picked me up and we hit the shops so I could help her back to school shop for a family through the Salvation Army and find a wedding gift for her sister.

Wow. I’m tired writing this. 

It sounds exhausting. And it is a little, but in the best possible way. I’m a person that thrives on having lots to do. Too much time will make me bored and I will not leave the house or stop watching movies for days. You guys, I’m really good at watching movies! I can do it all damn day!

But here’s what this week of “YES” taught me. 

1. Saying Yes Leads to Amazing Opportunities

I made new friends and connections all last week. From future partners on events to kindred spirits in creativity. I’m looking forward to partnering with a new writer for our project, and through partnering at the library, I got valuable information about hosting film festivals that may lead to a future partnership. Whatever happens, the best part was it was all fun!

My book sale buys.

My book sale buys.

2. Saying Yes Gets You Out of Your Head

I can be a worrier. I overthink things. I love when I find something that takes me out of my head and makes me focus. I use to think only hard exercise could do this, but I was wrong. Improv allowed this. There’s no time to think in improv! I had to close my mind outside thoughts and completely be in the moment. I love making people laugh (that’s why I wrote a humor blog), but what I loved more and why I decided to join the group was because improv allowed me to get out of my anxious brain and just play. That’s a great life lesson.

3. Saying Yes Helps You Process Quickly

With a jam-packed schedule, I learned fast what parts of it I liked and didn’t like. I learned what my strengths and weaknesses are. I played a variety of roles – from the facilitator to the student – throughout the week. It helped me process where I am in my life journey and what I want to spend my time on.

4. Saying Yes Makes You Vulnerable

I was out of my element more than once last week, but I think that’s ok. I thought a lot about something a friend once wrote that moments in our lives where something big is happening cause us to panic about what we’re going to “give” of ourselves. What kind of impression are we going to make? What witty words are we going to say? But sometimes, those moments aren’t about us giving, they’re about receiving. What can we learn from this now? What am I listening to? What resonates? I took a step back a few times and reminded myself that I was in a “receiving” moment, and to enjoy the experience.

5. Saying Yes Makes Each Moment Matter

When time is precious and packed, then the things you’re doing with it have to be just as important. I’m glad I was able to still have a date with my husband and go out with a friend. You learn what things you’re willing to cut out in order to preserve others. Yes, I was busy. But I still spent quality time with the ones I love. In fact, I even called my mother. 😉

Tell me about a time you said yes and it led to something great. 

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