Tag Archives: Crossroads

WordySouth old

3 exciting reasons not to feel lonely in 2014

I’ll be honest. I miss you all.

Just a couple months ago, we had our fifth–and I think, best–Crossroads Writers Conference and it was chock full of awesome, but now I’m lonely again. It happens every year. I just never get used to it.

This time, I decided to do something about it. That’s why I’m happy to tell you about three things we’re doing between now and the next conference that gives me a great excuse to talk/text/email/pester you.  (Yes, you!)

#1) the Wordy South podcast

Do you like things that are free? I do too! That’s the deal with podcasts. Download ‘em for free then go workout, take a walk, stream it in your car on long rides. You may think they’re soooo 2005 but I love ‘em.

That’s why we’re launching our own on Thursday, December 19, 2013. Every week, there’ll be a new installment featuring some of our favorite guests from past conferences, members of the Crossroads family and writers new to the whole Wordy South thing.

You’ll find each episode online, via iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud and whatever else we can get set up.

Our first guests include Bernice McFadden, Adam Mansbach, Carrie Howland, Delilah S. Dawson and Cat Scully. We’ve got a couple of surprise guests and dozens of cool folks from the five previous conferences so this is going to be fun.

 

#2) Webinars, tweet-ups and Hangouts, oh my!

Early in 2014, we’re re-launching this website.

The idea is to keep regular blogs with tips, advice, insight, prompts and whatever else we can think of to help keep you motivated.

But we’re also working on ways to keep us connected to each other in the year that passes between one conference and the next. That’s why we’ll start having regular meet-ups on Twitter (er, tweet-ups) and Google Hangouts.

And we’re working on plans to introduce webinars so you can workshop with your favorite Crossroads writers.

 

#3) the 1st ever Crossroads Writers Retreat

What the what?

Oh yeah. Think: a cross between the conference and that ray gun from “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” A mini-Crossroads that may or may not be in Macon.

Honey...

And there may or may not be more than one. Perhaps that’s something we can talk about in our tweet-ups and Hangouts, eh?

See, the big idea is that we want Crossroads to be directed and designed by you even more than it already is. Surveys aren’t enough anymore. We want you active and engaged in making sure we can help you write more and write better.

(That goes double for the next conference.)

So stay tuned. Make sure you’re on the email list, that you’ve added us on Facebook and are following us on Twitter. Share your ideas below or shoot me an email at chris (at) crossroadswriters (dot) com

Later!

Chris H.

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Creepy Carnivals & Steampunk

REVIEW: “The Three Lives of Lydia” by Delilah S. Dawson

a Blud Short Story, included in CARNIEPUNK

Reviewed by Meaghan Walsh Gerard

 

carniepunkFull disclosure: I don’t read romance books. They’re just not my thing. I do however love creepy carnivals and some steampunk literature so I was thrilled to see Crossroads veteran Delilah S. Dawson had a short story included in a book called “Carniepunk.”

Let’s just take a minute and acknowledge how cool that title is. Alright, proceed.

The entries vary but most are in some way related to fantasy worlds. Titles include “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street,” “The Werewife,” “Freak House” and “Hell’s Menagerie.” One can already hear the rusted calliope cranking out a tune in the distance…

In “The Three Lives of Lydia,” Dawson tells a tale connected to her already-established Blud series. Lydia wakes up in a field, unable to remember what happened. As she slowly comes to, she recognizes the unmistakable features of a traveling circus. Right away the reader is hit with sharp descriptions.

Running a finger over the crooked heart tattooed on her left wrist, she inhaled the scent of grass and cold iron and waited for something to happen.

“Am I dead?”

Her voice was overloud in the moon-bitten night, and she suddenly felt like an extra in someone else’s movie. Pg. 24-5

Though Lydia is confused, and perhaps a bit shaken, she is not useless. She examines her surroundings and knows that to blend in she will need new clothes. One of my favorite passages is the description of the costume car.

A series of Victorian-looking sconces lit with an orange glow. She was in luck: the room was a jumble of mannequins, hats, and sequins. Costumes sprouted from dress forms, half finished in harlequin diamonds or lurid stripes. Feathers exploded from upturned top hats, and blots of cloth swooped across the ceiling like gypsy tents. Pg. 26

Lydia meets Charlie, her guide through this strange world called Sang – a world where her myriad tattoos are revered. She is to be put on display for the other inhabitants to gawk at. But other carnies are jealous of Charlie and newfound girlfriend. Lydia is in danger, in both our world and Sang.

As with any good story, there are universal themes to be found, regardless of genre or setting. Lydia must use her wits to navigate Sang, while dealing her feelings for Charlie and her fears of the unknown. She is the fish-out-of-water archetype, who isn’t so sure she wants to get back in the pond.

So, yes, this story was a bit out of my normal realm of reading, but it’s a good reminder that these short story collections and anthologies are a great way to get a taste for a new genre and to find new authors.

 

Paperback: 448 pages | Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (July 23, 2013)

Language: English | ISBN-10: 1476714150 | ISBN-13: 978-1476714158

Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 6.7 inches

Simon Sanchez

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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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.

Amber J. Gardner

Amber J. Gardner: How I Got to Crossroads

Amber J. GardnerI decided to become a novelist shortly after my mom passed away in 2006 from cancer. My father had died (also cancer) when I was a year old, so I found myself without any immediate family and completely on my own by the age of 20. The latter was probably a good thing, the former not so much.

It was the first time I decided to take writing seriously, but didn’t actually make any progress till I finally completed the first draft of a novel in 2008 thanks to Chris Baty and NaNoWriMo.

Still, I wasn’t writing as much as I should’ve been due to perfectionism, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, etc.

Once I failed to graduate college, I was miserable. I hadn’t achieved any goals and I was still living in Puerto Rico, which is where I’ve lived since I was five-years-old and desperately wanted to leave since I was 13.

So after a Quarter-Life crisis, I decided I had enough. I was going to take my goals seriously. Moving to the U.S. was one of them, so after family on my father’s side found and contacted me (thank you Facebook!), I moved in with my aunt and uncle in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Meanwhile, I’d become an avid fan of Chuck Wendig and his blog Terribleminds.com for at least a year now. He was one of my writing idols because he was doing it. He was writing full time and doing it HIS way. I loved that. Thanks to his blog and his books, I was writing more than ever before. So when I heard he was speaking at the Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, just two hours away, I had to be there.

But I had no money and no job.

Luckily, Chuck was giving away several tickets randomly to whoever entered that week’s Flash Fiction Challenge on his blog and I managed to win one.

But I didn’t have a ride.

So I started emailing and searching online, looking for someone I could hitch a ride with. I remembered NaNoWriMo.org and the fact Chris Baty was keynote speaker at the conference. I logged on, hit the Atlanta region forum and long story short, secured a ride to the conference and made a new friend all at the same time.

God must have been smiling at me or maybe this was a sign from the Universe that writing was my calling, because it was like winning the writers conference jackpot.

Despite my ticket being the basic one-day package, I got invited to the NaNoWriMo meet-up with Chris Baty on Sunday and my friend let me stay in her hotel room for the night (she had gotten the Deluxe Package). I also got to go to the Saturday night reception after the conference. I was able to get over my nerves and have real conversations with full-time published authors and other great people, people doing what I’ve always wanted to do: Chuck Wendig, Adam Mansbach, Robert Venditti, Delilah S Dawson, and many others.

I had a blast and I’m so glad it all worked out in the end, despite not having any money. I kind of wish I had taken more photos to remember it all.

And now it’s over and I’m sitting at the table writing this.

So there you have it, my story.

With lots of love,

Amber J Gardner.

amberjgardner.wordpress.com

 

CherkWurndug

Chuck Wendig’s Talk at Crossroads 2012

So: I also run this blog called “terribleminds.” Is that the word for it? “Run?” I write it? I curate it? Whatever — let’s just go with, “I pull blobs of dubious writing wisdom that get caught in my brain filter and smear them on the Internet’s walls.”

This blog, which is nominally focused on writing, obviously draws a lot of writers of various experience levels — from the never-written to the never-published to the often-published.

The after-after party with Chris Horne, Chuck Wendig, Paul Barrett (photo by Paul Barrett)

And with writers — particularly those from the more inexperienced end of the spectrum — come questions. Questions of how to *do* this thing that we do. Some questions are very specific: how do I make my characters pop, how do I outline, how do I write a query letter?

But then there’s a category of question I like to think of as, “Questions From The Department Of The Overwhelmed, The Bewildered, The Insanely Frustrated.”  These are questions that are *gibbered* more than *asked* — if one were to ask such a question in person it would sound like, “Whuh? How do I… what do I? Wh… where do I begin? How do I start? Muh? Guh?” More a series of squeaks and whimpers that ultimately culminate in communicating a feeling of helplessness, confusion, and abject frustration.

Thing is, I understand this sense of helplessness.

We step up to the blank page — this snowy tract of tabula rasa that hasn’t earned even a single footprint across its virgin expanse — and the potential overwhelms us. Or, it has me, at least — once upon a time upon starting a new story I’d feel like I was standing drunk on the ledge of a skyscraper. Vertigo overwhelming as if even typing one letter would send me dropping down in that cavernous wordless abyss. And this sense of woozy dizzy gonna-fall-itis is compounded by the heavy burden we put upon our own shoulders — that burden of potential, of a story that has all our hopes and dreams shoved into it, a story that to earn its place in our lives must do more than merely exist, a story on which we hang our lives, our careers, our families, our futures, OH MY GOD I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS I CAN’T BREATHE THE PANIC. It’s enough to make you curl up on the bathroom floor and pee your pants.

These stories are like children, in that way — we want everything for them. We with our uttermost desire hope they’ll go out into the world and cure cancer and solve the down economy and grow up rich and happy and maybe be a lawyer, too, and a nuclear physicist, and don’t forget about that litter of hyper-successful darling children and grandchildren, too.

We see our stories like we see our children. We just want the best for them. We want them to be great. We want them to win awards and climb to the top of the bestseller mountain and maybe, just maybe they’ll change somebody’s life and in the process help earn us a big fat sack of cash which will allow us to buy a jet-boat or an oil drum full of 18-year-Scotch or hell, maybe a jet-boat that runs on 18-year-Scotch.

So: this frustration, this wordless soundless exhortation of terror and performance anxiety — I get it.

And to those who have it — and, in fact, to all writers everywhere — I offer a piece of what initially must sound like the most horrible advice in the world:

Care less.

That sounds foolish — we enter into this thing because we love it, because it’s a part of who we are and because it is an expression of our very being.

And yet, my answer remains the same: care less.

Because here’s what you have to understand:

You’re not curing cancer. You’re not disarming a ticking time-bomb. The lives of a hundred adorable schoolchildren do not hinge on the quality of the tale you’re telling.

There’s no real risk to writing except your time. (Well, and maybe your sanity, but let’s be honest — the fact that you chose writing as a profession suggests an already disintegrating mental health score.) In fact, you get as much time as you like. Writing is one of the few careers out there where you can take the time you need to finish the work — and, even then, you have an unlimited number of do-overs and take-backs to fix the story in post. You get your first draft and as many drafts as you need to make the story what you always hoped it would be.

You free yourself by caring less. By dumping the dueling goblins of Fear and Expectation out the back of a C-130 into the mouth of an open and active volcano.

It’s certainly helped me, this attitude. I come to the page knowing I can’t control the publisher, the audience, the sales figures… or the lack of sales figures. I can’t control what editors want, what trends are popular for the next 17 minutes, what the 800-lb gorilla known as “Amazon” is going to do. I can’t control whether Barnes & Noble hangs itself in the hallway closet or whether the Big Six publishers start putting clauses in their contracts about how, upon publication, I am to donate until them my least favorite body part. I can’t control any of that.

I can only control what’s right in front of me. At the start of the day it’s not about fine art. It’s about fingerpainting. It’s about gleefully making mistakes. It’s about letting failure be an instructional manual written in scar tissue. It’s about reducing pressure. It’s about obliterating expectations and unloading the burden. It’s about caring less.

Because when you care less — when it becomes as much play as work, when a bad day of writing doesn’t feel like the fucking apocalypse, when you realize you can jump off the cliff just to see what waits at the bottom — you work better. You work faster. You work in a way that puts you and your story first on the page.

To those who are saying that this *still* sounds like a bad idea, that it seems like instead the answer  would be to care more — after all, how can you possibly care enough? If this is a thing you want to do and a thing you love, well, why not give it all the caring you can possibly muster?

To that I answer: it’s because we can smother the things we love by caring too much. Sometimes you gotta let your kids play in mud. Sometimes you gotta let a dog be a dog. Sometimes you have to let your story just be a story.

So that, I maintain, is my answer to so many writing questions:

Care less.

And write more.

 

And have fun doing it.

The Junior League at Burdell-Hunt Elementary for Read for the Record day.

Read for the Record Day at Burdell-Hunt Elementary

This spring, Crossroads was happy to connect with Macon’s chapter of the Junior League. With the support you all have given us, we thought it only fair to help the Junior League with their work to boost literacy rates here, starting at Burdell-Hunt Elementary School.

The day before the conference, they had their “Read for the Record” event and it looks like a success.

Here’s what our friend Julia Wood says:

Hey Chris,

I just wanted to say thank you to Crossroads for your support of Read for the Record today at Burdell-Hunt Elementary School. The children had a great time, and we really appreciate your contribution and the volunteers from Macon State. Here are a few pictures from today.

Sincerely,

Julia

 

The Junior League at Burdell-Hunt Elementary for Read for the Record day.

 

The Junior League at Burdell-Hunt Elementary for Read for the Record day.

The Junior League at Burdell-Hunt Elementary for Read for the Record day.

Kathy writes and publishes as Cate Noble and Lauren Bach

Terminally Cheerful: an interview with Kathy Holzapfel

Kathy writes and publishes as Cate Noble and Lauren Bach

Crossroads: Why do you write?

Kathy: Compulsion. I am published, but midlist. Wanting to write in different genre for larger audience.

C: How’d you get started and where do you think you are in relation to your goal?

K: I started writing seriously (translation: actively seeking publication) in my early twenties. I’d grown weary of mysteries and a friend gave me a romance novel to read. I knew immediately that I wanted to write a combination of those two genres. I’m largely self-taught (translation: I single-handedly invented half of those rookie mistakes all new writers are warned to avoid) so my journey felt long and arduous. (translation: it took twenty years of trying/quitting/whining/trying again before my first novel was published in 2001.)

My initial goal was simply to sell a book. That goal morphed to selling another and another. But somewhere around book seven, my drive switched back to growing as a writer, which means moving beyond my familiar genre of romantic suspense. I’m still in the midst of that new goal, so it’s hard to judge where I am…but most days it feels pretty awesome.

C: You really seem supportive of other writers and organizations, and we’re just curious where that comes from.

K: Part of it’s just my nature. I’ve been told I’m one of those terminally cheerful people who others want to strangle when they’re down in the dumps and enjoying a good wallow. I want to haul you out of the mud and feed you cookies and give you pep talks and ask if you’ve tried this or that, while simultaneously checking my bag of tricks and remedies for something that will inspire you. (I’m also a Life Strategies Coach and passionate about personal development and creativty.)

But most of that drive comes from remembering the pain and loneliness of chasing my writing dream for years and years with no support – or worse, with belittlement. When I finally took a creative writing class at a local college, the instructor said he thought I had what it took to be published one day. I was so shaken I couldn’t drive, but I will always remember how it felt to be encouraged. When I finally went to my first writers’ conference in the mid 80s, I felt reborn. I believe that only a writer can truly understand another writer’s joy and frustration.

C:  Who are your biggest influences? What have you learned from them? What have you learned NOT to do from them?

K: My best influences have been a handful of big name, contemporary authors – like Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockmann, Sandra Brown, et al – who’ve been actively writing and hitting the bestsellers lists with consistently great stories. These are writers with 20-plus-year careers that I could study; people who could serve as ”virtual” role models. Even though I’d never met them, I could read their backlist and see how their writing evolved. I could read the scores of interviews published over the years and glean advice from them. And I could dissect their novels and examine the storytelling elements they used.

What I’ve learned NOT to do is to think that once you’re published, you’ve made it. That you don’t have to continue growing as a writer.

C: What are your roadblocks?

K: Too much isolation from other writers – writers with common goals. I just relocated to Georgia a year ago and underestimated the impact of being so rural. I have been in a “mastermind” type group before, with like-minded, serious writers, and only now realize how valuable that was. Hearing “pros” talk inspires me.

C: Is there anything at the conference that you’re especially excited about experiencing? Is there anything you want to ask our guest presenters?

K: Both of Saturday’s Talk Blocks have amazing panelists. If something strange happens – say, the ballroom doors becoming locked and barred, forcing everyone to stay put for an extra hour – don’t look at me.

I want to know if Chuck Wendig wrote outrageously back in grade school and high school. (Was he born that way?) And I’d like to know Sarah Domet’s take on character-driven novels versus plot-driven ones.

C: Why did you register for the conference?

K: Wanted to commit to being there, which was really more a commitment to myself as a writer.

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TIPS FOR THE WRITING JOURNEY – Part Two

novelist Kathy Holzapfel (aka Cate Noble) shares some of her tips

“I never waited for my Irish Cream coffee to be the right temperature, with a storm happening outside and my fireplace crackling … I wrote every day, at home, in the office, whether I felt like it or not, I just did it.” ― Stephen J. Cannell

My goal is to produce good work, on a consistent and joyful basis. That’s right. I want to be happy. Yes, writers write – alone, but that doesn’t mean I have to be grumpy and undisciplined. I am equal parts cheerleader and drill sergeant. Here are a few more observations from my journey:

ACT LIKE A PRO

Show up daily. No whining. No one is forcing you to do this.

Produce and ship according to your plan. Give yourself bonus points for exceeding your goals.

Rejection comes with the territory. Not every editor and reader will like your work. Read some of the scathing reviews posted on Amazon for bestselling authors like Stephen King and J. K. Rowling. Snark happens to everyone. Take nothing personally.

LEAVE A TRAIL OF GENIUS (Hat tip: Marriott Hotel notepads)

Imagine your thoughts, words, and actions ripple out to leave a psychic trail or energetic wake. Does your trail look inviting or repulsive?

What sort of wakes left by others – inspiring or discouraging – has entangled you?

REFILL THE CREATIVE WELL

Recognize your creative needs. What inspires your imagination? Find places or activities which uplift and expand. Museums. Parks. Coffee shops. Libraries. Places of worship.

Be open to new experiences. Hang gliding might meet the criteria, but so might reading outside your usual genre.

Too much solitude stifles creativity. Same with interacting solely with other writers. Seek a variety of people.

Identify and treat burnout. Don’t let weariness escalate to disillusionment.

CREATE BETTER LUCK

A lucky break is an opportunity to get your foot in the door. What is your action plan once opportunity knocks?

Luck is a temporary phenomenon. Luck is not going to stand outside your door forever, begging you to come play.

MLB executive Branch Rickey, the man who signed Jackie Robinson with the Dodgers, said, “Luck is the residue of design.“ Those words dovetail nicely with Louis Pasteur’s observation that “Chance favors the prepared mind.

BECOME A BETTER PLAYER

View yourself as a player in a game freely chosen. A game means it’s fun. You want to be here.

Learn the odds. View publication as a gamble and know your risk tolerance.

Study the rules of the game you agreed to play. Practice established techniques to build skills.

Memorize your personal stats. How many words-per-day do you consistently produce? How many hours to revise a 5,000 word chapter? Use those stats to set goals and measure improvement.

FAN YOUR PASSION

Be picky. You cannot be passionate about everything. Narrow your focus and specialize.

Know the difference between mere interests and true passions. Life is an endless loop of fleeting interests, but a true passion will linger to haunt and delight.

Check in with your gut and your heart. Passion is more about emotion than intellect.

GO. WRITE.

Act now. Action trumps intention.

Make messes. Experiment. Writing is rewriting. It’s playing with a lump of clay, coaxing formlessness into usefulness.

Keep things simple: At the end of the day, you either wrote or you didn’t.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY

Honor all parts of the creative cycle, the moments of easy flow and the stubborn parts.

Celebrate completions. Acknowledge a project when finished and then clear the way for a brand new venture.

Your turn. What tricks have you collected along the way?