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Is Your Story Getting in the Way of Your Writing?

 

So, a couple weeks ago, I started re-reading a book called “Redirect” by Timothy D. Wilson. It promotes the “story editing” approach to life, which should be perfect for a writer, right?

But Wilson isn’t offering insights about writing, per se. His book is about psychology and neuroscience, not novels.

And still, it is about narratives.

Here’s an excerpt from Wilson’s interview with Scientific American:

We all have personal stories about who we are and what the world is like. These stories aren’t necessarily conscious, but they are the narratives by which we live our lives. Many of us have healthy, optimistic stories that serve us well. But sometimes, people develop pessimistic stories and get caught in self-defeating thinking cycles, whereby they assume the worst and, as a result, cope poorly. 

Timothy D. Wilson, author and professor of psychology at the University of Virginia

Timothy D. Wilson, author and professor of psychology at the University of Virginia

You (and I) have heard a bazillion times that “writers write” so get off your butt and just write.

So why aren’t you (or I) writing?

After the conferences and workshops and talks and great blog posts and all that motivation… why aren’t you writing? Once you’ve rocked out (or not) for a month doing NaNoWriMo why aren’t you still writing in December or January, February, March, etc.?

Could it be the story you tell yourself about who you are? Maybe it’s because you’re looking at your stumbles and thinking, “I’m just not supposed to be a writer.”

Or, maybe it’s because you’re telling yourself bad stories, like the situation has to be right, that you must first be inspired, that you will as soon as…

But, Chris, there’s not enough time in the day. Believe me, I know. And after work, who has the energy? I get that one too. Just try to get up that early, or find a few minutes in your day when the kids and your spouse demand all your attention.

Yep, but in the end, what you think of as “reasons” for not writing — and others call “excuses” for not writing — are actually the elements of the bad story you’re telling yourself.

Wilson’s book, which is also about the stories that are told to us and the stories we tell others, offers clearer advice than I can about how to suss out what story you’re telling yourself and how to change it.

But that doesn’t mean you have to read it (though I’ve enjoyed it twice now) for you to experiment with the principle: Editing your story can change your behavior.

You are a storyteller. I believe that about you (and me). So, if you’re still struggling to establish a solid writing routine, flex your storytelling — and story editing — muscles on yourself first.

Do you agree? Are you planning to try it? Or is this the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard in the history of ever? Share your thoughts, opinions, experiments, ideas, problems and miscellaneous random whatnot below.

 

Chris Horne is a Macon-born writer in the midst of a move to Akron, Ohio. Before he tricked his beautiful wife into becoming his beautiful wife, they started the Crossroads Writers Conference with a couple of like-minded (and like-awesome) Maconites, Dr. Monica Young-Zook and Dr. Kelly Whiddon. 

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Guest Blog: “Do You Still Love It?”

Do You Still Love It?
a guest blog by novelist Lauren Morrill

 

While gearing up for roller derby practice and complaining about a mountain of deadlines recently, one of my teammates says to me, “You became an author because you always loved to write. Now that it’s your job, does that take any of the love out of it?”

Since most roller derby conversations consist of how to care for those oozing blisters on your feet and which compression shorts are least likely to creep up your butt during a game, I was a little surprised. So I thought about it for a few seconds, and then gave her my answer.

“Nope. Not at all.”

But why? How? Aren’t deadlines and reviews and expectations crushing my spirit?

Nope. Not at all.

Ok, a little bit about me: Part of the answer lies in the fact that I am both a hopeless procrastinator and a very fast writer. Depending on your perspective, those characters combine to be either a very very good, or very very bad thing. As a procrastinator, I’m always trying to find the next book to read or show to Netflix binge (Dance Academy, anyone?). But as a fast writer, I can do all those things and still get my words down at the 11th hour.*

But the deadlines! The humanity!

Turns out? Deadlines are great, because they’re a reason to finish (and, just a little tip from me to you … finishing, is the first step towards being a successful writer). I find that I do so much better now than I did when I was wandering in the wilderness with my writing, when publishing a novel seemed like a far off fantasy. Having expectations and people who depend on me means that after I’m done watching the sixth season of Law and Order, I’m going to sit down and crank out a few thousand words.

But the expectations! They’re crushing!

The expectations? They’re motivating. I love thinking about the teen reader who finds my book at her local library or better yet, pulls it off the shelf at her local bookstore. I remember how much I loved to curl up with a good book, and knowing that there are folks out there doing that with something I wrote? Yeah, that’s a major incentive.

But still, don’t read the Goodreads reviews.

Sure, there are times when it feels like work, when the words aren’t flowing, when I’d rather just close my laptop and walk away. And when there are contracts and checks and professional relationships on the line, there are moments when it can definitely feel overwhelming. But ultimately, I remind myself of the best parts of my job: the readers, and the fact that I get to do my job in my pajamas on the couch while getting the most our of my Netflix subscription and eating ALL THE CHEETOS.

So has becoming an Author with a capital “A” spoiled the writing life for me? Not a bit. Despite the hardships and the stress, it really is as good as I imagined it would be.

*Yes, I recognize that this sounds braggy, but I believe in turning your weaknesses into a strength like you’re supposed to do in job interview (you know, “I work too hard” or “I care too much”).

 

LAUREN MORRILL grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was a short-term Girl Scout, a (not so) proud member of the marching band, and a trouble-making editor for the school newspaper. She graduated from Indiana University with a major in history and a minor in rock & roll, and now lives in Macon, GA with her husband and their dog, Lucy. When she’s not writing, she spends a lot of hours getting knocked around playing roller derby. Publisher’s Weekly called her debut YA novel, Meant to Be (Random House) “entertaining and quick-witted.” Her second YA novel, Being Sloane Jacobs (Random House), releases January 7, 2014.

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Stars Launch ‘New Girl’ Writer’s YA Novel, ‘Firecracker’

In the sea of familiar faces at the 2013 Crossroads, you’ll find a few new, talented folks in the mix.

One of those will be David Iserson, who writes for “New Girl,” and wrote for “Saturday Night Live” and “United States of Tara” before that.

But Iserson is also a novelist. His YA debut “Firecracker” bowed in mid-May with one of the best book trailers we’ve ever seen.

It features more than a few stars including former Maconite Jack McBrayer, SNL alum Will Forte and stars from “New Girl” among others. (Watch it below or click here.)

MORE:

Interview with David Iserson at ForeverYoungAdult.com

Los Angeles Review of Books podcast with David Iserson

David Iserson’s Tumblr

Goodreads page for “Firecracker”

(Photo by Maryann Bates)

Crossroads 500: Let’s Go Bookshoppin’

The Crossroads 500 is our ever-growing list of the coolest, most interesting, creative and inspiring people, places and things in the big ol’ world of storytelling.  You can nominate someone or something by clicking here.

 

So maybe we shouldn’t have started this right before the July 4th holiday because we kinda got to partying and one thing led to another, and well… we got behind. But we’re back and we’ll get caught up. No worries, right?

Let’s start by turning our attention to those awesome, indie places that sell the books we love to read, those local shops that give local writers a chance to have their first reading and still bring in established pros. This time, we focused on those east of the mighty Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Others will come.

Note: Macon’s Golden Bough Books was featured in the first installment of the Crossroads 500. It’s a must-visit bookstore.

 

In no particular order, here are 14 great bookshops. Find them online and follow them on Twitter, but experience them in person:

A Capella Books, in Atlanta’s Little Five Points, has hosted a host of amazing writers and partnered with the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library – Atlanta - www.acappellabooks.com - @acappellabooks

The Book Tavern in the birthplace of James Brown shows its soul (and some funk) there in beautiful downtown Augusta, Ga., befriending local authors and being a small business booster –  www.booktavern.com - @booktavern

Little Shop of Stories in the heart of Decatur, Ga., where thousands and thousands gather every year for the Decatur Book Festival – www.littleshopofstories.com - @lilshopostories

You’ll find another of Georgia’s great bookstores, Avid Bookshop, in Athens, where indie music and college football usually steal the stage – www.avidbookshop.com@AvidBookshop

If you’re on a tour of the literary South, you’ll have to stop in Oxford, Miss., which was home to William Faulkner, Larry Brown, Barry Hannah and John Grisham, a legacy fortified by the three buildings of Square Books -  www.squarebooks.com - @SquareBooks

Speaking of Oxford’s former postmaster, N’awlins pays homage to the writer’s time in the Cresent City at Faulkner’s House of Bookshttp://www.faulknerhouse.net/

One of the best and biggest bookshopping experiences you’ll have in the Wordy South will be found at one of the three McKay Books in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville. - www.mckaybooks.com - @McKayBooksKnox

Music City, USA could be Indie Bookstore, USA because Nashville is also home to both Bookman/Bookwoman in historic Hillsboro Village (www.bookmanbookwoman.com) and Parnassus Books, run by the one and only Ann Patchett, author of “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder” (www.parnassusbooks.net).

Crossroads alums Kevin Maurer and Mitch Weiss recently had a reading at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., so you know they have great taste in writers! – www.booksandbooks.com@BooksandBooks

Church Street Coffee & Books in a suburb of Birmingham, Ala., took up a home in a place where Starbucks lived for ten years, and they seem to be pretty successful there too!  - http://www.churchstreetshop.com/ - @81churchstreet

Charleston, South Carolina is beautiful enough and historic enough to warrant visits there on those grounds alone, but if you find yourself looking for the best in Young Adult writing, don’t miss its YA’LL Fest and Blue Bicycle Books –  www.bluebicyclebooks.com - @BlueBikeBooks

After you go see the massive Biltmore Estate, swing by Malaprop’s Bookstore in downtown Asheville, a magnet for great writers, big time and small – www.malaprops.com@malaprops

No, filmmaker John Waters does not own Atomic Books, but this great indie bookstore in downtown Baltimore will take your fan mail for the quirky auteur.  www.atomicbooks.com - @atomicbooks

So… you’re wondering why Strand, Powell’s or City Lights make the list? Because you don’t need us to tell you they’re awesome. Technically, you don’t need us to tell you anything. But, we like being helpful so we hope you got something out of this.

If you think we missed a great bookstore, nominate them here.

 

Crossroads 500: Starting in Central Georgia

Starting today, we’re launching the Crossroads 500, a list of the coolest writing people, places and things. Three times a week — usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday — every week from here until the end of the year, we’re going to share six new entries into the Crossroads 500.

The best part is that you can help us make it happen. Share your favorites by clicking here: Tell us who and what should be in the Crossroads 500.

It’s another way to help you get that story out of you and into the heads of the people who deserve it. But it’s also our way of shining the light on the folks who might otherwise be ignored.

And to kick things off, we’re starting our list in central Georgia, home of the Crossroads Writers Conference.

In no particular order, here we go…

Mercer University Press isn’t your traditional university press. Instead they specialize in Southern literature and books about Southern culture. That’s just one reason we like them so much. In addition to being good folks, they’ve been good partners with the conference, launching both their Macon poetry collection “Writing on Napkins in the Sunshine Club” and their writing awards for fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. Follow them on Twitter and meet ‘em in person at Crossroads this October.

This year’s conference, our fifth, will be at Mercer University, a short walk to Jittery Joe’s in Mercer Village. This eclectic coffee shop was born and raised in Athens, Georgia, but migrated to Macon, lured by “the song and soul of the South.” Now, if you’re looking for a good local caffeine supplier–whether in Macon or Athens–this is the place to “get your story on.”

But what shall ye read over coffee? Ask Eric at the Golden Bough Bookstore in downtown Macon. Not only do they carry all the awesome stuff that the big box stores neglect, but many are “gently used” and he takes trade. Better still, his doors are almost always open to the creative community, whether it’s a noise punk band or someone’s first reading as a published author.

While you’re in Macon, don’t forget to stop by the Sidney Lanier Cottage for a visit. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a reading when you do. This former childhood home of poet, lawyer, soldier and musician Sidney Lanier has become a hub for central Georgia’s writing community. It also serves as the home of Historic Macon, a nonprofit that works hard to preserve the city’s historic houses and buildings.

If you liked that, gas up and head to Andalusia, about 30 minutes away in Milledgeville. This is the family farm where Flannery O’Connor lived, wrote and played with her pet peacocks. Many of her eccentric and thoroughly Southern characters were inspired by real folks in the area. Stop by a gas station there for a biscuit and listen in to the conversations being had.

That might just inspire you to pick up the pen and craft a little fiction yourself. If that’s the case, park your seat at Blackbird Coffee in downtown Milledgeville, grab some java and see what happens. Who knows, you start brainstorming with a student from our last Crossroads 500 entry in this installment, the creative writing program at Georgia College & State University, which publishes both the Flannery O’Connor Review and Arts & Letters. Faculty members Alice Friman and Allen Gee have both shared their knowledge at Crossroads before.

Crossroads 500:

Andalusia Farm

GCSU’s MFA in Creative Writing

Golden Bough Bookstore

Jittery Joe’s Coffee

Mercer University Press

Sidney Lanier Cottage

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Some Q, Some A: Trauma Comics founder Simon Sanchez

One of our favorite Crossroaders, Rachel Helie, recently started writing a column for The Comics Cube called ‘Double Helix’ and she’s agreed to share some of that goodness with us. In this installment, she interviews Simon Sanchez, the founder and force behind Trauma Comics. Sanchez is also the writer of Trauma’s grindhouse revival comic ‘Nazi Werewolves from Outer Space.’
Catch the rest of their conversation (including the story behind this photo) on Double Helix at the Comics Cube!

Simon Sanchez aka “Trauma Comics”

by Rachel Helie, Double Helix

 

Rachel: When did you first think “Hey, I can write a comic”? What was your inspiration? Are you a fan and if so what specific kinds of comic books do you prefer?

Simon: A few of my friends and I were kicking around ideas one day at lunch and we started talking about werewolves and then one thing led to another. Before I knew it I was talking about ‘Nazi Werewolves from Outer Space.’ I contacted Don Marquez through an Ebay cover auction and told him my idea. He sent back his sketch. I sat down and wrote 8 pages of text and the rest, as they say, is history. That Marquez painting became the cover art for issue #1.

I’ve been a fan since I was a boy. That was a while back and I loved horror movies too. My dad took me to see ‘The Excorcist’ when I was seven and it scared the hell outta me but I loved it and grew to love it more as I became an adult. Some of the best times I can remember being a kid was getting my comics and hiding in my room for half an hour, totally disappearing into those stories. It was the hey-day of the Kirby and Lee collaboration. Neither of those guys, in my opinion, have had the kind of raw story-telling power since Kirby left Marvel to join DC. I’m a HUGE fan of EC Comics, which was founded by William Gaines with Al Feldstein doing the art. Feldstein is still around and producing pieces. I had him paint a cover for me and it was just beautiful. So yeah, I’m definitely a fan!

 

R: A lot of people would hesitate to jump out on their own and invest in an idea the way that you have. What do you think inspired your courage to make your ideas a reality?

S: I didn’t want to look back on my life and say to myself, “Well, why didn’t I ever write a comic book?” I only get one life and loving something as much as I love comic books…it would be a shame to not try. The way I see it, it’s better to try and fail than not try at all. I don’t want to live with that regret. Everyone needs a passion and I love doing this. It gives me a reason to keep moving along every day.

 

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Wordy South Women’s T-Shirts: the Pre-Pre-Order

Thanks to the stellar work by our phenomenal designer Jason Frost (Modern Giant Design), we had a healthy run on our Wordy South T-shirts at the 2012 conference. The only complaint was that they’d been made just for men: thicker cotton, boxy shape.

So, we’re taking orders on women’s tees for the next month. If we get enough, we’ll print them up and ship ‘em to you. If not, well… we’ll cross that bridge later. At least this can help us correct our mistake at the conference to ensure the ladies of Crossroads can kick it in the literary-themed style they prefer.

The shirts will look *something* like the photo attached. (Shirts will not come with someone else’s torso already inside.)

For the time being, we’re going with the grey/steel color from before, but on the order form, we’re taking a poll for a different color. If we get enough of the same color, we’ll offer that. Deal?

No money up front, just a handshake commitment to buy a shirt later. We’d like to get 50 pre-pre-orders but if we get close-ish, we’ll move forward. Each shirt will be in the $16-$18 range depending on how many orders we get.

By filling out a pre-pre-order form, you are reserving the first batch of these shirts. Click here to get to the pre-pre-order form.

If you have questions, just ask them in the comments section or give us a holler at @CrossroadsMacon on Twitter or via email at Chris@CrossroadsWriters.org.

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Three reasons to enter a writing contest

Take the next big step in your writing journey by joining the community at Crossroads 2013. Learn more here: CrossroadsWriters.splashthat.com

You’ve been dedicated. You’ve scribbled, drafted, edited, revised and polished. You’ve even given your work over to trusted friends for feedback. Now, you want to see your writing stand up on its own two and walk. Maybe run.

So, have you checked out writing contests?

Here are three good reasons to consider entering one:

  1. A deadline – Even the pros with scores of books under their belts suffer from either procrastinating to write or never finishing their revisions. Having a hard and fast deadline can be a good cure for either problem.
  2. Gut check – Most contests cost something up front — usually between $15-$35 — but that should serve as a mini-moment of truth. Is your writing ready for public consumption? And is this contest the right one for your work?
  3. Payoff – Yes, winning a contest has its benefits — publication, a little cash and an ego boost — but even if you don’t land the prize, you should be proud because you wrote; you polished; you gave it a shot. The only failures are when you aren’t trying.

If you’re looking for a writing contest to enter — be it for short stories, poetry, non-fiction and essays, etc — check these websites for some of the best:

  • GlimmerTrain.com - The good folks at Glimmer Train are among the biggest supporters of new, emerging writers. They only publish the unpublished and have  a nice variety of contest options. Good place to start.
  • Poets & Writers – This huge database includes grants and fellowships too, so if you’re on *that* level with your writing, it can be a big help. It’s fairly easy to search and sort.
  • NewPages.com – Clean and dead simple to figure out. This list is sortable by deadline with enough details to get you started and a link for more information.
  • TerribleMinds.com – Our buddy Chuck Wendig doesn’t pay winners but he doesn’t charge either. Instead, ol’ Cherk wants to push you to be productive and creative. Baby-step into contests with one of his Flash Fiction Challenges.
  • Writer’s Digest – They’ve recently added a Self-Published Book Award to their big annual Writing Competition and the slate of genre fiction contests. The prizes include cash and a bundle of other goodies.

So start with these, give it a spin. Tell us your writing contest story. Has it helped you? Did you run into a scam? Have you won a contest before? Do you think Crossroads should do one?

We always want to hear from you!

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Post Up: The Baty Booster Shot

It’s only been four months since Chris Baty delivered his moving keynote speech at Crossroads 2012. In the time since, many of you have started and completed novels during November for NaNoWriMo. We’ve been quietly working on ways to up our game in 2013. (More on that soon, we promise.)

And Mr. Baty? Well, he’s taken his inspirational ways another step further.

First, if you want to hear his speech again, here it is for your listening pleasure. (Videos from the conference are coming soon… ish.)

Between globetrotting and working hard at his own writing, Chris Baty has also opened a little Internet shop of wonders, which you can–and dang sure better–check out here. There you will find posters and signs with that special Chris Baty touch of sincere care and interest in you as a person and a writer.

Grab one and close your eyes, hear his motivational words echo around your head and remember that he believes in you so you should too. Then get to writing.

And then write some more.

And more.

Make us all proud.