#IWSG What Kind of Stories Do I Want to Tell?

June 3, 2020


I receive monthly prompts through the Insecure Writer's Support Group newsletter (sign up here!) l With everything going on in the world and in my own life, I haven't felt led to respond to the prompt proposed every month. But the one for June definitely spoke to me and I wanted to reflect on that.

The #IWSG says, "Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?"

This made me think, not because I have secrets that I'm hiding, but what I worry about often when I write is that readers wouldn't know that I am Christian from my writing. I'm not what I would consider a Christian writer, in terms of writing only stories from the lens of my faith. However, my Christian faith does often guide the message I realize I'm trying to put across in my stories. Does that make sense?

This has evolved over time, though. Two of the stories I am trying to get published right now are guided by my faith than some of my other work.

I still let my creativity do its own work as I write the first draft and sometimes I uncover the hidden meaning of the story - usually, a message that goes right back to my faith - well after I've finished the story.

All of this makes me wonder, what type of writer do I want to be? What kind of stories do I want to tell? I think that can only be answered with one thing - more writing.
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Save the Cat! Writes the Novel: A Book Review

May 18, 2020
I'm a writing advice fan and I'm always open to exploring the latest and greatest way a writer can improve upon their process. I first heard about "Save the Cat!" through a few ladies from WOW! Women on Writing. When I put the blog tour together, I knew I wanted to review this book too.

In Save the Cat! Writes the Novel, you are introduced to a few things. First, you are introduced to their story structure via 15 story beats. These are those 15 beats:

Opening Image.
Theme Stated.
Set-Up
Catalyst
Debate
Break into 2
B Story
Fun and Games
Midpoint
Bad Guys Close In
All is Lost
Dark Night of the Soul
Break into 3
Finale
Final Image

Don't let these 15 beats intimidate you! These 15 story beats are visited in depth in this book. One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it utilizes popular fiction in order to portray what each beat represents.

Another really interesting aspect to the book is that it introduces new genres. And they provide insight into how readers usually expect novels in these genres to wrap up. I think this is incredibly helpful if you feel stuck in your storytelling or you feel like something isn't "right" with the story you are trying to tell.

The thing is I am a "pantser" or another term I've heard recently is, I'm a "discovery" writer. I don't outline in advance but what I like is the idea of using these beats to track the direction I want to go in my story. Without outlining, I run the risk of being aimless and Save the Cat! Writes the Novel provides me with a map that I can use along the way.

If you are trying to find your own writing method or your own writing storytelling process, I absolutely recommend that you purchase this book. It will help you as it helped me. Whatever kind of writing you do, you will be helped by this book.

Visit www.savethecat.com for more information about their book and software. 


About Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

An Amazon #1 best seller with over 500 reviews, it’s the first novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! story-structure series, reveals the 15 essential plot points needed to make any novel a success.

In this revolutionary novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! series, novelist Jessica Brody demystifies each beat, making it simple to learn the complexities of storytelling. The best-seller also reveals the ten universal story genres to help you drill down into what makes your type of story work. Featuring sample “beat sheets” for hits from the likes of J. K. Rowling, Khaled Hosseini, and Stephen King, this practical guide also includes real-world advice on pitching your novel, plus the quirky, original insights (like the eponymous tip to “Save the Cat”) that make this series unique. By the end of this book, your own imaginative beats will combine to create a story that thrills readers from start to finish.

Print Length: 320 Pages
Genre: Writing References
Publisher: Ten Speed Press/Random House Publishing LLC
ASIN: B078VWDNKT
ISBN-10: 0399579745
ISBN-13:978-0399579745

Save the Cat! Writes the Novel is available as a print and e-book at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

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The Impact of Making Lists (And a Book Review)

May 13, 2020


I am a checklist person. At the end of my day, I bring out my notebook and write down the things that I need to do for the next day. If I'm feeling particularly inspired, I write down lists of things accomplished that day (which always makes me feel good). So, I couldn't wait to read Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book. It was right in line with what I love doing (making lists) and I wanted to see what else lists can do for me.

About The Checklist Book by Alexandra Franzen

Simplicity at its best: The checklist is one of the world’s oldest―and most effective―productivity systems. If anything, author and entrepreneur Alexandra Franzen shares, it is just as valuable now as it was during the days of the Roman Empire. Writing out a simple checklist allows us to tangibly plan our day and set in stone what we want to accomplish.

Cut out unnecessary noise: There are countless apps and organizational systems out there to help us straighten out our lives, but often they only add to the madness. Trying to keep up leaves us feeling drained and overwhelmed. Learn how to choose your highest priorities, set realistic goals, celebrate tiny wins, and feel calmer every day with the magic of checklists.

Be realistic about the time in a day: By physically writing down our tasks on a single piece of paper, we force ourselves to limit how much we can do in a day. Too often, we cram our day with tasks and chores and leave almost no space for self-care or time with loved ones. We end up disappointed in our inability to complete our never-ending to-do list. Checklists help you plan your day in a more gentle, realistic way. You accomplish what needs to be done―and enjoy things you want to be doing, too.

In the life-changing Checklist Book, learn:

The history of the checklist and why it remains to be relevant and effective today

The science behind the success of checklists, such as the instant satisfaction we feel when we put a check next to a finished task

How to create a basic daily checklist―and checklists for specific situations, like moving to a new city or navigating a divorce

How to checklists can help your writing?

After reading Alexandra's book, I felt inspired. Lately, I have been reviewing old notebooks and everyone and then I will come across an old idea. Usually, it's a snippet, like a brief story scene, or dialogue, or the very beginning of an idea. After reading The Checklist Book, I wondered could I be using more lists in my writing? You see, when I get an idea, I tend to be sporadic as to where to put the idea. Sometimes it's my phone. Sometimes it's an app. Sometimes it's a notebook. As I've explored my writing from the past, I am led to do collect the ideas I've found and put them in a central place. Like a checklist. 

What I really loved Alexandra's book is that she provides templates and walks you through ways you can build your own checklists. She also helps you with troubleshooting what may be holding you back from using a checklist. Not only that, but Alexandra Franzen is also an incredibly inspirational writer. I felt inspired after reading this book. 

While I can't imagine having a checklist for each day, but I can imagine using it in my writing. This book inspires me to use more lists in keeping my ideas, characters, and everything else for my writing organized. I may just get more writing done that way. 

If you are trying to transform your thinking, I recommend you take a look at Alexandra's book. You will be really glad you did.

The Checklist Book is available to purchase online at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble, and Target.




Alexandra Franzen is the author of several books, including So This Is the End: A Love Story (2018), You're Going to Survive (2017), and 50 Ways to Say "You're Awesome" (2013). 

She has written articles for dozens of sites, including Time, Forbes, Newsweek, HuffPost, The Muse, and Lifehacker. She's been mentioned/quoted in The New York Times Small Business Blog, The Atlantic, USA Today, BuzzFeed, Brit+Co, and Inc. 


Alexandra is best-known for writing about creativity, productivity, the power of setting tiny goals, how to develop more confidence in your writing skills, and how to stay motivated, keep working towards your personal and professional dreams, and never give up.

She also works as a copywriter, ghostwriter, writing teacher, and consultant. She helps her clients to develop podcasts, videos, websites, speeches, books, and other creative projects.

Find Alexandra's latest projects, classes, and hundreds of free articles and resources at: AlexandraFranzen.com


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The Power of Art as Medicine by Carrie T. Ishee

April 13, 2020
“The psyche speaks more fully in images than in words and helps trauma survivors access deep inner truth, release painful emotions, and connect with inner wisdom.”

“Angel Blessing the World” – Daily Doodle 
This guest post is written by author Carrie T. Ishee, as part of her WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour.


I proposed this blog topic this past winter when I was preparing the launch of my memoir “Seduced into Darkness: Transcending My Psychiatrist’s Sexual Abuse,” that documents my healing journey from a life-threatening betrayal. Little did I know that soon the entire world would undergo the collective trauma of a viral pandemic, resulting in our isolation from loved ones, our jobs, our daily lives.

On this Easter Day, during the season of Passover, while we seek comfort in the message of the risen Christ and God’s blessing on the Israelites, may we also look to our creativity to minister to our souls and restore our vitality. With so much fear and death around us, it’s been amazing to witness the intimate expressions of music, photography, dance, and comedy freely shared from the hearts of people around the world.

Art has been used as medicine for the soul since ancient times. During such crises, we find that our rational minds can’t comprehend what will cure us. Art, when embraced as a personal spiritual practice, can become deeply healing and transformative. Indigenous people have always incorporated art as an intrinsic part of life and still share in the collective experience of art making. The coronavirus pandemic prompts the western world to do so as well. In the 18th century, the dualistic philosophy of Descartes touted the separation between body and mind, resulting in the separation of art from daily life. Artistic expressions got elevated to the realm of professional artists rather than the birthright of all people. This division between artist and the common man feeds the egotistical side of humanity and is the antithesis of what art is intended to do for the collective.

In times past, there was no need for art therapists since all were connected to spirit and creativity. In modern life, however, we often don’t honor our creative voice until our soul demands it.

As an art therapist, I’ve witnessed the contraction of the soul when trauma goes unexpressed. As a result, these painful experiences cause us to lose our joy, our ability to speak up, to be bold, to tell the truth.

Creating art—especially spontaneously, free of technique or the intent of being sold— is a form of pure expression that helps the soul to heal, to gather its colors, and reclaim its vitality.

One practice that has helped me clear out my psyche and access my inner wisdom is the practice of doodling. Doodling implies spontaneity, exploration, fun, and play. It is the visual equivalent to daily journaling, and if done consistently can help you engage the language of your soul.

To Jump-Start Your Own Doodle Process while staying at home:

1) Start with black or white drawing or construction paper and chalk or oil pastels.

2) Go where you can be alone, without distraction for at least 20 minutes. (Turn off your cell phone, etc.). You may want to light a candle to invoke the sacred.

3) Clear your mind of anything you think you are supposed to be doing and take three deep breaths while counting to five on the inhale and the exhale.

4) Ask yourself the question: What color aligns itself with the way I feel right now? Select it from the box.

5) Now ask yourself: What shape best expresses what I feel right now? Draw it.

6) Let yourself explore how you feel through colors and shapes, letting each addition signal what wants to be expressed. Let it flow, don’t judge it, and follow what your intuition tells you to do next. Allow yourself to play without a focus on the product.

7) Continue to work until you have a strong sense that you are done.

8) Put the image on the wall, away from you at least 5-10 feet and let yourself gaze upon it.

9) In your journal, write down what the image seems to be saying. Journal whatever thoughts and feelings arise for you.

If you relate to this process allow yourself to do a “doodle-a-day.” You may notice that you feel less constricted, more open, more alive. Let yourself engage in this daily medicine to release fears and worries and embrace the wonder of creativity and messages from your deepest self.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover. May we all invoke our souls during this call to personal and planetary transformation!

Blessings,

Carrie Ishee


About the Book

Seduced Into Darkness: Transcending My Psychiatrist’s Sexual Abuse is a vivid and captivating story of hope for survivors of abuse as well as a case study in a skilled manipulator’s tragic exploitation of his professional power.

This poignant memoir chronicles the traumatic psychological abduction and sexual exploitation of depressed college student Carrie Tansey at the hands of her psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Romano―thirty-one years her senior. For three years, their secret “affair” was carefully calculated and controlled by Romano, as Carrie’s mental and emotional health continued to deteriorate, bringing her closer and closer to the edge.

Their dual-relationship―clinical and clandestine―finally came to light when Carrie’s suicide attempts landed her in a world-renowned psychiatric hospital. Gradually, she began to reclaim her power, reported Romano to the state licensing board, successfully sued him for malpractice, and testified before the state legislature to help pass a law aimed at curbing such abuses.

As Carrie tells her tale, it is a journey paralleling that of the mythical archetype Persephone, the naive innocent who was abducted into darkness, reemerged and regenerated herself, then fearlessly returned to the prison she had fled, this time to help free others. Today, Carrie Ishee is a widely respected art therapist and life coach as well as a teacher specializing in the issues of ethics and boundaries for mental health professionals.


Print Length: 286 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Terra Nova Books
ISBN-10: 1948749483
ISBN-13: 9781948749480

Seduced Into Darkness is now available to purchase at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Thrift Books.


About the Author, Carrie T. Ishee 

Carrie Ishee has been a student of healing, human potential, and consciousness for more than 35 years. Her quest to know herself began in college when a severe health crisis compounded by her psychiatrist’s seduction and sexual abuse shattered her physically, emotionally, and spiritually. After doctoral studies in clinical psychology, she worked as a behavioral therapist, pursued a master’s degree in art therapy, and later completed a two-year training program in life coaching. Her work today is focused on helping victims such as she once was break free from the suffocating shroud of trauma.

Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and GoodReads.
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Reflecting on a Story Written Before These Uncertain Times

April 11, 2020

Over the weekend, I read over a story that I had been submitting regularly. I've received more than my share of rejections on this story and figured it was time to take a closer look

First, to give you a little background, the story is a glimpse into the future. It's set in the year 2035 and my focus is on how bad the environment is getting. In this version of our future, air quality warnings are common and oxygen masks are normal. It's a story with potential and a message of hope (and I like those). However, the first thing I realized is that I do way more telling more than showing thanks to a lot of info-dumping.

Then I have come to realize that the setting is a major issue. My main character works in a mall and over the past couple of months, I've come to wonder...will the mall survive this current crisis?

Then I thought about changing the story's setting into a grocery store. You see, I figured that a grocery is certain to be around in the future.

Then I thought about the circumstances surrounding the story. In the story, an air quality warning sounds out which is followed by an event that shakes up my character's world. It didn't seem like enough anymore though.

I briefly thought about rewriting the story to be more relevant to the current times. I even considered making the story's external crisis a virus instead of about the air quality. Yet, I knew immediately that didn't feel right. Somehow fictionalizing our current crisis feels wrong. I know there are writers out there who are working on a virus-themed story and there's nothing wrong with doing that. But the reality of the current epidemic is far too fresh and I'm not inspired by it. Things are far too scary and sad and impacting so many people detrimentally.

I could be overthinking it. Maybe worrying too much. But I have to feel right about what I'm trying to put out into the world. And I'm at the point where I realize that unless I do a major overall on the story, it's likely not to be published. At least, not right now. And even when this current worldwide epidemic passes, I've come to realize my outlook on the world is far different than when I first wrote this story.

So, I've decided to put this short story back on the shelf. I do have others to work on that I'm more inspired by. Although, in general, I am a little bit too troubled lately to really write. I just wanted to blog about this because this wasn't what I expected to feel this way about a work of my own fiction.

I'd love to know how you are writing during the current epidemic. Are you staying inspired or is it difficult?


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Strength Training While Listening to an Audio Book Guest Post by Linda Rosen

March 13, 2020


Do you find it difficult mapping out time to exercise? Is that wonderful novel calling to you saying, “Don’t go to the gym; stay home, read me?” Sure, you can do that, but what about your body? Reading is delicious, yet we must stay strong and flexible. And audio books can help us do both.

Yes, you can listen to an audio book while walking on the treadmill, but what if you’re not a gym person, or you don’t own a treadmill? You could listen to the book while walking in the park or on the beach. Just plug those ear buds in, tie on your sneakers, apply some sunscreen, download it and go! It’s a great way to get in a cardio workout and get some Vitamin D all without giving up precious reading time.

But what if it’s raining, or bitter cold, and all you want to do is stay home and read a good story cuddled up in a warm blanket, sipping a cup of tea? It sounds perfect though it doesn’t do a thing to keep you fit and have strong bones and muscles. So get off the couch. Turn up the volume on your phone or iPad and do the wall slides explained below. 



Carolyn, in The Disharmony of Silence, has her client performing this core exercise in chapter 32. You, as well as the fictional character, will strengthen abdominals, buttocks, thighs and upper back while improving posture. Here goes:

· Stand with your back against a smooth wall.

· Place your feet about 12 inches in front of you, shoulder width apart.

· Retract your head so you’re bringing the back of your head as close to the wall as possible – keep your nose pointing straight ahead – keep your chin level.

· Press your shoulders to the wall – if they can touch, that’s great – if not, get them as close as possible and KEEP THEM THERE.

· Now pull your navel into the wall. I know, you can’t get your belly button to actually touch the wall. That’s the image I want you to have. Press your abdominals in while trying to get the small of your back as close to the wall as possible – and keep your butt against the wall the entire time.

· Okay, you’ve got the head, shoulders and lower back pressing toward the wall – and you are breathing!

· Exhale and slide down the wall – NOT TOO FAR – you want to feel your thighs working, not your knees. If you feel pressure on your knees, come up a little. Your knees should be happy.

· Stay in that position for 5 seconds. Check your head, shoulders and lower back. Are they all as close to the wall as possible?

Good

· Now slide back up the wall. You can let your lower back come off the wall a little.

· Repeat the exercise 10x, more if you’re able.

Stay strong and happy reading! 

About The Disharmony of Silence

In 1915, jealous, bitter Rebecca Roth cuts all ties with her life-long friends, the Pearls. Eight years later, Rebecca’s son and young Lena Pearl begin keeping company in secret. Rebecca agrees to a truce when the couple marries. But the truce is fragile. Rebecca’s resentments run deep.

In 2010, Carolyn Lee, fitness instructor and amateur photographer, must come to grips with the fact that her mother’s imminent death will leave her alone in the world. While preparing her childhood home for sale, she realizes for the first time that her mother’s antique brooch is identical to the one pinned to the lady's dress in the painting hanging above the fireplace. Coincidence or connection? Carolyn is determined to find out. What she discovers has the potential to tear lives apart or to bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles her newfound knowledge.

The Disharmony of Silence is now available to purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. 

Praise for The Disharmony of Silence

“Linda Rosen spins an intriguing tale of long-held family secrets, an emotional search for identity, and a painting that may just be the key to untangling the complicated past. The bittersweet mystery kept me reading rapidly until the last page!” —Kristin Harmel, bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife

Rosen paints a vivid picture of a family torn apart then shows us what true family means. – Pamela Taylor, author of the Second Son Chronicles

A wonderful novelist . . . Ms. Rosen's writing is both tender and inspiring. The Disharmony of Silence unfolds with emotional and wise insights. – Bunny Shulman, author of After Aida

"A family torn apart by jealousy and reunited by love is devastated again when tragedy strikes. A poignant and moving debut novel about the fragility of life, the power of love, and the cost of keeping a secret." Gina Sorell author of Mothers and Other Strangers

About the Author, Linda Rosen



Linda Rosen, fitness professional turned writer, lives with her husband splitting their time between New Jersey and Florida. She was a contributor to Women in the Literary Landscape: A WNBA Centennial Publication for the Women's National Book Association and has had stories published in Foliate Oak and Crack the Spine, both in their online magazine and print anthology. Follow her at www.linda-rosen.com

I am also excited to announce I am giving an e-book copy of Linda Rosen's book The Disharmony of Silence. Enter via Rafflecopter below. Ends 4/24. Open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Do You Really Have to Love Yourself Before Loving Another Person by Valerie Nifora

February 26, 2020
I am taking part in a WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. This post is written by author Valerie Nifora. More about her poetry collection "I Asked the Wind" at the bottom of this post! Take it away Valerie!

Thousands of years ago, on a temple wall in Ancient Greece in Delphi, the phrase, "know thyself" was inscribed in stone. It served as a reminder to all that it was best to understand oneself completely before embarking on any effort to understand another. The ancient Greeks also had several categories ascribed to the word, "love." It was too complex an emotion, too fundamental to existence, to be allowed to exist as just one word without dissection and analysis. I've always wondered if to truly love another, one had to "know thyself."

The modern definition of love in its basic form, can be summarized as "an intense feeling of deep affection." But, how does one go about feeling deep affection? Is it just a natural occurrence of a healthy psyche? Is it just biochemical? How do you know that you love? I've often struggled with those questions. And adding modifiers in front of the word, just complicated it even more, i.e. "first love", or "true love"... it can be just too overwhelming.

Certainly the world is rife with failed relationships -- those that simply didn't manage the test of time. Did they fail because the parties involved didn't "know themselves"? Any friend will tell you that to enter into a relationship with someone, you need a list of deal breakers -- things you would simply never tolerate of stand for. And then, there's the list of qualities that you feel are fundamental in another person -- things like honesty, trust, kindness, etc. But, how do you come to that list? How do you know these are the things that you require? Is it through a deep analysis of oneself, or maybe the trials and tribulations of relationships gone wrong? Who hasn't uttered the declaration, "I'm never doing that again!" ?

I've found in my own existence, as I age I learn more about myself. The fundamental core of me, is still there -- but self-doubt seems to be subsiding and being replaced with more trust in my first impressions. I've been able to leave space for the unknown, and room so that there's growth. I love the people I love, with the same intensity, I always have. I have learned more about myself with my reactions and responses with these same people. So, do you have to "know thyself" before you can love another? I think to a degree. You have to know the fundamental "you", so that you can share it. And you have to know yourself well enough to leave room for healthy growth and change. But, it certainly is perplexing when you consider it, "Know thyself."

About I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry

I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry is a journey into romance, love and loss through poetry. The poems published in this collection span over 15 years of writing. Often starting with short rhythmic patterns, each poem’s lyrical tone is filled with inspired words to express the deep emotion experienced in the intricacies of romance.

Handwritten in a journal and hidden away until this publication, the poems chronicle the journey into and out of love. Written in three parts, the book enables the reader to transverse the intensity of romantic love, from the first moment of falling in love, to the intense pain of heartbreak.

Beautiful and powerful in its lyrical and simple verse, the reader is immediately immersed in a world of sensuality, passion, desire, and innocence; all woven together into a tapestry of human emotion. Each poem transports the reader to a story through the art of poetry. Drawing on natural elements such as the sun, sand, wind and moon, this collection explores the light and darkness of romantic love, leaving the reader questioning if love was ever real at all.

I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry is available to purchase at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Target.

About the Author, Valerie Nifora

Valerie Nifora was born and raised in New York to Greek immigrant parents. For over twenty years, Valerie was Marketing Communications Leader for a Fortune 50. She served as a ghost writer for several executives and has executed award-winning campaigns using her special gift as a storyteller to inspire. Her first book is a collection of romantic poetry that explores innocence, sensuality, passion, desire, heartbreak and loss through the lens of her personal experience spanning over 15 years. Her beautiful and powerful voice immediately calls forth a time of leather-bound books and invites the reader to find a comfortable chair and begin their journey through the powerful human emotion of love. Valerie holds a B.A. in Communications from Emerson College and an M.B.A. from Fordham University. She is married and a mother of two amazing sons.

Website: www.valerienifora.com.
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vnifora/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ValerieNifora/
Twitter @vnifora
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/valerienifora/
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My January Reads - A Monthly Round Up of Short Stories & Other Pieces

February 3, 2020
I have been wanting to read more short stories and so this year, I am attempting to regularly blog about my monthly short story reads. This all came about because I have submitted a lot to literary magazines this past year and I want to make an active effort to read short stories that get published. Over the month of January, I spotted quite a few pieces that were worthy to add to this list (many NOT short stories at all) but all well-written, entertaining, moving, touching, and unique.

I hope you find a few good ones on this list to check out:

1) Green Tunnels by Taimur Ahmad

This is an environmental-themed story that doesn't come across so at first. You start out reading about a girl who misses home. At first, I figure home is but a drive away. That isn't the case, though. This story is rich in detail and ends with a bit of a surprise. It also shows me a lot about nonverbal communication in characters and using more descriptive action words (which I need help with in my own writing). The author uses the main character's dreamlike state to weave you into the world she desires to be in. One of my favorite quotes:

"The trees lean over each other, bows arching across the sky, making a royal hall for Alice to proceed down. By the roots of the trees are sunflowers, their heads heavy as they bow before Alice, turning as she passes by."

A very poignant short story that reminds me that not all stories are told in a standard way.

Read now.

2) There were 9... by Lucy Ash

I discovered this long-form investigation piece thanks to the newsletter I just subscribed to Sunday Long Reads. It's an article about a group of students who trekked through the Ural Mountains, a remote mountain region that divides Europe and Asia. The 9 students (except for 1, who ended his trip early) were found dead in mysterious, chilling ways and their deaths are still not resolved or understood completely. It's a read that feels like it is part of urban legends. It has a mix of first-hand observations from the journalist writing the story, along with interviews, journal entries from the students who went missing, and photographs. I liked it because it drew me into a mystery that felt as chilling as the winter. Not a short story per se, but an invigorating read that had strong writing.

A quote:

"My guide Alexander tells me, officially, it was stated that the skiers had died of hypothermia and frostbite, but some of the other bodies had serious injuries that had nothing to do with them being too cold."

Read now.

3) I Quit My Job at 50 to Reinvent Myself Pro Tip: Don't Do This by Ivy Eisenberg

I think we all daydream about reimagining our life. Turns out, though, it isn't as easy as we think it would be. In this creative nonfiction essay published with Narratively, author Ivy Eisenberg tells us about her attempt to shed the burden of a corporate job and start anew. This teaches me a lot about the approach of telling a creative nonfiction essay. This almost has the same technique as a short story actually! What I notice the most is that this piece begins with that desire for me to want to know more. I wanted to know more. Read more. Isn't that the best type of writing?

A quote, "One morning, I come up with a phenomenal business idea, which will propel me out of Verizon and make me rich and famous: I’m going to start my own line of custom corporate fortune cookies."

Read now.


Another Narratively essay that struck me as poignant. It gives me the idea that you never know what is behind the scenes of someone's life. It may seem like someone's life is this great success story that you can't measure up to, but in reality, we don't have any idea what goes on behind the curtains of someone's life. Well-written, emotional, and honest. 

A quote: "I could feel my entire life changing with his words."



Have you ever seen or heard of the painting "The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)." Check it out if you haven't. I likely have only seen it in passing. In this piece, I could almost imagine the prompt or question that inspired this story. "What's the story behind that painting?" This piece answers that question in a dark way that has sort of a gothic feel to it. It was poetic at times while giving me insights into a different way of telling a story.

Favorite quote: "Even if you are the painter, exorcising his ghost, twelve years of labor still won't banish the guilt."

Read now.


Major first sentence goals happening with this story. This story gave me such a heartwrenching feeling as I read it - from beginning to end. It actually began like a true account of a real moment. I felt really close to the narrator and it took me by surprise to see how this story transformed. I love when stories take me by surprise in terms of direction. This also answered a question proposed by the narrator in the beginning in a very touching way. I absolutely recommend this one.

Favorite quote: "I remember the expression of ecstasy to the point of pain that burst from the woman when she saw her children’s faces again. But her other face, the empty one, was more firmly etched in my mind."


So, that's the short stories, creative nonfiction, and investigative long-form journalistic pieces (I'm sure there's another word for what I just wrote out) that ended up on my January monthly reads. If you happen to read - and enjoy - any of these pieces let me know. 

Also, the websites and literary magazines that published these pieces are:

Fireside Fiction (Website)
BBC (Website
Narratively (Website
Gordon Square Review (Website)
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My Writing Journey's Early Beginnings #IWSG

January 8, 2020

Today over at the Insecure Writer's Support Group, we are asked what started us on our writing journey. To be honest, I can't be entirely sure what exactly started me. I remember being very young and typing out stories on an old computer we had once (that was all you could do on it).

One of my favorite stories my mom will tell me is how before I knew how to read, one day I was reading a book and she came up to me asked if I wanted her to read to me. Well, I gave her a look and said, "I'll read a page and you read a page." I made up what the story said based on the picture and when she read with me that day, she just went along based on the story I was telling. I feel like that's when I really started to want to tell stories before I even knew what I was doing.

I remember when I was about 10 I loved writing fantasy and things like that. By the time I was 15, I was kneedeep in my own fantasy world and working towards finishing a novel of my own. I did, but I was in my early 20s.

Now, I work on short stories that I continue to submit out into the world. So, I can't pinpoint the very starting moment that I wanted to write, but it's always been a part of me. I love being creative, inventive, and using my imagination. I'm glad that it hasn't left me.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 
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