We Serve Writers #ThursdayWrites

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Lisa Hagan Books

We are a publishing company owned by writers and agents, a new experience in a new world order. The internet made it possible. The writers make it fly.

Our ideas are simple:

  1. Help writers write.
  2. Connect writers with other professionals that can help them write and publish.
  3. Put books together with core readership.
  4. Live in the world of ideas.

Yup. Four things we want to achieve. Just 4. These 4 ideas were formulated after decades in the biggest publishing houses in the country, an experience that drew us FURTHER away from the reasons we got in this business in the first place. We love hands-on work with creative minds. We love the joy of seeing those ideas made manifest in two covers and a bunch of nicely trimmed pieces of paper. Or, better yet, tiny pixels that allow us to take a library anywhere we go.

We use a distributor based in Chicago for those works that need traditional distribution. Still others are tailored to work solely online. Depends on the subject and what the author hopes to achieve.  In today’s world, more is possible and we are reaching further to offer different types of reading experiences that suite different needs.

Talk to us, we’re always here.

@Shadowteams  or @GiantSweettart on Twitter

@ShadowteamsNYC on Facebook

Or, send us an email: Beth@LisaHaganBooks.com or Lisa@LisaHaganBooks.com

We mean it. And join the conversation every Thursday when writers, agents, and publishing professionals chime in about their projects, tell you what they are searching to publish, and solve writing problems right there in the twitter feed. #ThursdayWrites 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Write a Paragraph: 3 Essentials

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Last night, I was editing. Not so exciting in itself except I was wearing a torn nightgown and eating Skittles. I got so tangled up in the paragraph of this manuscript, I cried out in anger and pain, pulling at my nightgown and sad I’d eaten all the candy.

So, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start….

A paragraph is a building block of a book. Within that paragraph, there are three building blooms that make it a paragraph. Or at least an intelligible paragraph. If you practice, greatness comes.

  1. S.V.O. –  This is your sentence, baby: subject, verb, object. Never forget it and it will never let you down.

Let’s write our first sentence for the paragraph together:

Beth shot her husband.

Our subject is “Beth”, our verb is “shot” and our object is “her husband.”

2.  The remaining sentences in the paragraph are about the same subject as the first     sentence of the paragraph:

Beth shot her husband. The blast threw him back against the white wall in front of her desk. The gun’s roar wouldn’t leave her ears as she crossed the room. She leaned in. He was dead. The ringing stopped and her eyes traveled back up the wall. His blood left a wild dynamic spray.

3. The last sentence winds up the paragraph and sets up the next paragraph:

Beth shot her husband. The blast threw him back against the white wall in front of her desk. The gun’s roar wouldn’t leave her ears as she crossed the room. She leaned in. He was dead. The ringing stopped and her eyes traveled back up the wall. His blood left a wild dynamic spray. Finally, she thought, I got my Pollack. 

Now, you’re set up to write the next paragraph and the one after that and the one after that and the one after that and the after…..

And finally, you’ll have a book!

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Chat on Facebook at ShadowteamsNYC   Beth Wareham   Hair Club Burning

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HAIR CLUB BURNING: “FIERCE AND STRANGELY TENDER”

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www.shadowteams.com

‘Hair Club Burning ‘is a brilliant, mesmerizing, wry and witty piece of art with a strong narrative, rich prose, detailed imagery and clever phrasing.

Beth Wareham  and Jason Davis are keen, astute observers – offering illuminating insights into our human nature. The flow and rhythm add magic to the reading of this tale.

The dialogue is soul satisfying, drawing one in with the touch of an unseen snake charmer ~ stirring, evocative – sometimes fierce, sometimes strangely tender.  The inner conversations held in the minds of the characters are particularly delightful and
the twists, the turns, the contrasts that pull at your heartstrings, the patches of light, of dark ~all transport you to extraordinary wonder.

The characters are authentically developed ~ irresistible as you respond to their shine, their vulnerable voices, their individual joys, contrasts, & their own catalysts are hauntingly beautiful.

This story has the power to rattle your mind, disturb your heart and scatter your very being.

I was ripped open by the pondering of one ‘gangsta’, how one is placed in circumstances,taught learned truths and accepts their fate.

I could identify with a middle-aged white woman’s situation, understanding the circumstances that led to her settling.

The contrasts between them — my level of understanding gave me a glimpse of my reality — and I had thought that I truly understood, at least was empathetic… nope, not so much.

I am left with a very strong desire to see beyond, to become more aware of my awakened conscious, to honour this rising emotion, the feelings spreading into my very core.

This novel has the sweet energy of hope and redemption – showing that time after time, simple acts of kindness and truly showing care can bring out our best.

And did I mention how much fun, lovely laughter, moments of grace and perspective this book gives to the reader?

An Excellent Experience!

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To order Hair Club Burning, click on the title.

Watch the big shot Hollywood producer pitch for the book.

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Newly Found Short Work (Written in 1950) by Celebrated Author Ruth Sidransky

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By Ruth Sidransky

I don’t remember whether I was eight or nine or ten. I might have been twelve, probably ten. I do remember that we lived in Brooklyn somewhere near the waterfront, so near that water rats were not an uncommon part of my childhood. We were poor and I was the youngest of seven, the only son.
My mother supported us all. Poppa was too old. He had given up the New World struggle when he began to gray. My mother died without a gray hair, without time for philosophy, without leisure; she died as she lived, working. She was a square woman, with short pudgy hands, jet curly hair and high Slavic cheekbones.
Every morning she’d rise two hours before the family, poke the stove in the basement, straighten up whatever mess there was from the night before, she was not famous for the order and cleanliness of her household, rush to the market, buy whatever she could with what little she had for the first meal of the day. Upon her return from the market she would rouse Poppa.
Grabbing one of her pudgy hands he always said, “Yes, mien kind, I am up.” In the space of no time we were brushed out of our beds and into our clothes that she had ready for us. Breakfast was quick. Some jam, black bread, a little tea from the huge brass samovar on the old round walnut table. And we were whooshed out of the house.
Somehow I always managed to wait for her under the steps of our ugly old house, wait until she emerged so that I could walk proudly with her to Havemayer Street. Within minutes she was out, carrying a large paper bag on one arm, and a black worn shopping bag on the other arm. Each bag was full, brimming with buttons and thimbles, needles and thread, bits and scraps of elastic for ladies bloomers, men’s armbands and what have you, bright cheap rayon ribbon and more bits and scraps at the bottom of each bag.
Our meeting each morning was a surprise. Momma never expected me to be there. I should have been on my way to school.
“Benny what are you doing here?”
I smiled.
“Hurry, you’ll be late for school.”
She would rush me along the street. I never noticed her woolen gloves with the tips of the thumb and forefinger cut out. I never noticed her heavy non-descript brown woolen stockings, her sweater sticking out of the shabby black cuff of her coat, her thick black babushka wrapped securely around her head. This was her uniform to keep out the blasting cold as she kept her vigil all day long at her Havemayer Street pushcart.
“Momma?”
“No Benny!”
“Please Momma.”
“You cannot stand mit me. Go to school Benny, go with your friends.”
I never won. I ended up in school: fall, winter, and spring. I wonder now if I shall ever be as wise as Momma.
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She would stand all day, from eight-thirty in the morning until dusk. She knew to the penny how much her supply of buttons and thimbles cost her. And each hour she could calculate her profit. At the end of the day, if it was a good day, she might have made three dollars. It was never much more than two dollars, and if the weather was especially foul seventy-five cents was all she could expect. At dusk she would rush to the market to buy food for our evening meal, hoarding just a little money for the next morning’s bread.
As much as I loved her, I had other problems, other considerations. I wanted something very much. I have never wanted anything so much since that time. Not too far from Momma’s pushcart an Arcade opened. It should have been a penny arcade, especially in those days. It wasn’t. It was a nickel arcade. Each day on my way home from school I’d pass the arcade with my nose pressed to the glass. There was no glass. I could walk in with the other boys in the class, the boys whose fathers had stores, butcher shops, egg shops, milk stores and watch their faces tickle with glee as they pressed their noses to the mock glass. My pockets were important then. I’d push my hands in as far as they would go, look down at the floor in the Arcade, shuffle my worn shoes in the sawdust and mumble some important phrases.
“Where’s your nickel Benny?”
“I got a nickel but it’s home, yeah, it’s home.”
“Gaway, I don’t believe ya.”
That was Meyer Levin, the rabbi’s son. I hated him. But I remembered what Momma always said when I complained about him.
“Be nice to him. That’s the rabbi’s child. Benny behave! Don’t say no more against him.”
Momma’s words flashed through my mind. So I didn’t punch Meyer Levin. I kicked my feet together. I didn’t say a word. I turned around and went for the exit.
“Hey Benny, don’t get sore, I was only foolin’.”
“I gotta help my mother. I’ll see you tomorrow in school.”
“Okay, but bring some nickels and we’ll come here at three o’clock.”
I kicked up the sawdust to the door and then walked out into the lightly falling snow. It was almost four, and by four thirty it would be almost dark. Momma was waiting. I couldn’t face her. My greedy conscience couldn’t either. If I did go I wouldn’t know what to say to her. I had to think up a story, a good one and not a lie. The problem was pressing. I couldn’t think. And then I heard Momma’s voice.
“Benny!” I heard the cry of anxiety in her voice.
How could I walk so fast? I had nothing to say to Momma.
“Benny, where were you? It’s almost dark. The market closes soon.”
“I’m sorry. We were playing and I forgot the time.”
“All right Benny, all right. Help me close up.”
I held up the open bag and Momma swept all her unsold merchandise into it. The other bag would remain empty. It had been a good day. I wanted to ask for a nickel, perhaps two nickels.
Momma grabbed the tattered awning she used to cover her pushcart. “It was a good day today, two dollars and seventy-nine cents. We can have meat, the first time this week. Poppa will like that. I have some kasha in the house. Onions I have to buy. We have enough bread. A little tea. Some shmaltz. Maybe even a cucumber salad. Benny, my little Benny, what would you like to eat tonight? We can buy something special for you too.”
I was only a small boy. I felt the heat of shame as it crept over my face. I never asked for the nickel.
“Nothing Momma”, I said.
“You sure my little one, I want you should have something extra.”
“Another time Momma, when you make three dollars ask me again.”
She patted my head.
I don’t remember dinner that night. I don’t remember if Poppa was pleased. I don’t remember what my sisters said. I only remember that I had a chance to get my nickel and I didn’t take it.
The days passed. I didn’t see Meyer Levin after school. I had stories ready for him. Good ones too. I never passed the Arcade. I walked two blocks out of my way to avoid it. The weekend came. Saturday Momma stayed home with all of us. On Sunday morning one of the older girls opened the pushcart for business.
Momma and Poppa dressed in their best.
“Benny come with us for a walk.”
I could never refuse Poppa: “Yes Poppa, I will get dressed fast.”
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Was this a holiday? I don’t remember that either. Poppa and Momma wanted me, their only son, to walk with them. So I did. We walked through the streets of Williamsburg and Momma and Poppa nodded to all their Brooklyn neighbors. Where were we going? I wanted to move on when they stopped in front of an empty store, not too far from the brownstone where we lived on South Eighth Street.
Poppa spoke. “Well Momma, no more pushcarts for you. I rented this store, now you can sit and rest when there are no customers.”
Momma stood still. “Poppa, you are teasing.”
“You begin on December First. No more standing in the snow. The rent includes heat and electric.”
“Where did you get the money? You stole it?”
“It is money I have saved for many years. I still have more for my funeral, and some left over for yours too.”
Momma reached for Poppa’s hand and held it without another word.
Poppa said, “Benny, here’s money for you.” And he gave me two nickels.
Monday and school the next day. I had a nickel for the Arcade. The other nickel I would save, like Poppa who saved and said, “Money grows when you save it.”
Now I was ready for Meyer Levin and the Arcade. I had the nickel to spend as I wanted. I held the nickel in my hand. I turned the nickel over and over, a new shiny 1914 nickel with an Indian head on one side, and a buffalo on the other side. I walked to school with a new step, quickly.
“Hey Meyer, let’s go to the Arcade after school.”
“Sure thing. Do you have a nickel?”
“Yes, I’ll show it to you later.”
We met, three boys and me and walked to the Arcade.
“Let’s see your nickel.” I slipped it out of my pocket when we reached the curb. It fell out of my hand and down the grating, down to the sewer.

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To order the work of Ruth Sidranksy, click on the titles below: REPARATIONS, a beautiful sweeping novel of post-war Europe and the two young American Jews that help the people of the sewers and forests return to the world after the Holocaust.

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A Woman's Primer Cover 2-4

Click on the title A WOMAN’S PRIMER, a charming throwback to the books for young ladies that now carries advice on money, freedom, courage, and passion from this amazing 86-year-old author.

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BLEEDING BLACK: A Lakota Novelist Confronts the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

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Artwork by Carises Horn

Bleeding Black
by Amy Krout-Horn

The first time my feet touched the sugary sand of Passagrille Beach, Florida and I felt the tide, warm as bath water, rushing in as if to hold me, I wept. Her beauty, power, and magic, opened, and then filled me, and though I arrived, born from a people whose Lakota ancestral lands ride upon the center of the Great Turtle’s back, I felt welcomed home. She greeted me as if we had always known one another, and as the sun touched the horizon, I laid my hands upon the water and said, “Mother.”

Since that sunset, a decade ago, I have rarely traveled from my home near the Gulf of Mexico. Only a few days each year, I return north to visit family. The Land of Flowers holds me under its sultry spell and when away from the ocean, I long for her. I go to her in ceremony, celebration, and sorrow. Lying on the sand, listening, my soul always finds what it is searching for, in her song of wind, waves, and rustling sea grass.

There, I have met many relatives: a gull I call “Tokaa” because he always arrives first, asking if I’ve brought bread crusts, the pair of crows that land soon after, conchs crawling along the sand bars, sting rays flying graceful as butterflies, myriad fish, the small ones schooling around me as pelicans glide above the sun-shafted shallow water. And, at the base of the dunes, a sea turtle’s nest symbolizes the continuation of her nation. They all bring their lessons; even the forceful bump I once received from a shark continues to remind me that respect must accompany love. Nowhere else have I found such a strong feeling of mitaku oyasin, the sacrosanct connection existent between all living things. Nowhere else have I been more certain of my place within the sacred hoop. Nowhere else have I experienced a more comforting embrace with our mother, the Earth.

But now, she bleeds.

The Earth, mother to all, bleeds from a wound thaty her human children have inflicted. Those of us, who feel her suffering, struggle against the blackness spilling into our souls, the blackness that threatens all light, all life. As the death toll rises for the birds, the dolphins, the turtles, and the countless uncounted casualties, my heart aches, and I wonder if something in me is dying, too. Our killer, a civilization founded upon greed and gluttony deceptively deemed “prosperity.”

The systematic plunder callously called “progress,” has taken our planetary parent to her brink. Will the toxic tar balls and oily filth wake America up from its dream? Will our collective eyes snap open; to the realization that the nationalistic dream we are all supposed to strive for, is just a cleverly marketed nightmare? But these questions find their answers in the indignant politicians who yell “foul” at the mere suggestion of a moratorium on deep water drilling, and the US courts agree. Wouldn’t want to stop bleeding her dry, even for a moment, would we? America wouldn’t want to take steps towards signing into a clean energy methadone clinic and off the black tar fossil fuels, would it? Of course not.

In this “green frog skin world,” as Lame Deer called it, economics always trump ecosystems, blue chips trump blue waters, sleep walking trumps clear thinking, and only those who still know Earth as mother, foresee the fate that this kind of greed-based denial tempts. For those of us whose hearts still beat with the pulse of the universe, whose memories have not forgotten our Original Instruction, and who watch the prophecies unfolding, there exists a great need to link the power of our spirits and send our strongest medicine prayers to Wakan Tanka, the Great Holy Mystery. The white buffalo calves emerge from the womb. Unktehila, the water monster, rises from her long slumber. Our ancient fathers, the star relatives watch closely. Little time remains for those who have forgotten how to live within the circle, to relearn the lost wisdom.

On the eighty-fifth day, the scientists and engineers finally stumble upon the bandage that halts the bleeding, and the media analyze the situation using all the ugly lingo indicative of the oil drilling business: top kill, bottom kill, junk shot, blow out, and crude. Even as hope and thankfulness illuminate my mind, another thought shadows the cautious optimism, a thought that history predicts as painfully plausible. Big oil will snatch this shaky-at-best, leak stoppage method, and run with it, proclaiming it justifiable evidence to prolong the rape of our mother. The oxygen- robbed dead zone, produced by BP’s chemical dispersants, will merge with the long existent one formed from agricultural fertilizer run-off that flows from the Mississippi River each year, and the macabre dance will continue.

For now, the bone white sand of Passagrille remains white, the water turquoise, and the sea oats, golden. I go there often for the indigenous kind of Holy Communion. Yesterday, as I walked into the surf and felt all the life forces surging around, through, and within me, a shark appeared. Unlike his before-mentioned, larger cousin, the smaller creature (the length of a man’s arm) didn’t bump me, but swam quite near, and for a moment, stared knowingly. Again, the idea of love and respect, its crucial complement, came to mind, along with a recent news image. The journalist’s voice announcing that Louisiana had reopened coastal waters for sport fishing hadn’t drowned out the laughter, as the camera captured the men smiling, pulling fish from the water and tossing the struggling creatures onto the deck. Do those men love the Gulf of Mexico? Do they respect it? Would their “love” wane, if they were no longer allowed to take whatever they want from it? What CAN participants of an all-you-can-eat, bigger is better, super-sized society say about their behavior? What NEEDS to be said? Earth screams the answer, humanity MUST echo, “Enough.”

Amy Krout-Horn, Lakota, worked as the first blind teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota’s American Indian Studies program. Krout-Horn is a regular contributor to Slate and Style magazine and, in 2008, was awarded their top fiction prize for War Pony. She, with the contributions of her life partner, Gabriel Horn, co-authored the novella, Transcendence (All Things That Matter Press, 2009). She resides in Florida. For more information, visit her web site at http://www.nativeearthwords.com

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C L O S E

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Who is YOUR Writing Partner?

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www.shadowteams.com
/Beth Wareham

As a writer, editor and publisher, I have strange liaisons, just like in life, that speak to me and send me on journeys I did not expect.

The man above is named Jayson Davis. He is my writing partner and close friend. He is a Harlem OG, a Blood, as am I – honorary only. I met him when I published a book with his poems. I held on to him for dear life for his writing ability and GENIUS ability to plot.

Many practicing and reformed criminals are great at the plot. Clever, in their world, is life and death. In a book, it’s just fun.

Since I am a middle-aged woman, Jay and I thought it might be fun for some gangsters to help a white woman get her cheating husband back in line. I had the middle-aged woman feelings, Jay had the clever.

Below is the very beginning of the book. It’s about 1/2 written. Read these first few paragraphs and if you want us to keep going, we will.

If you think it’s a stupid idea, we’ll probably keep going anyway.

That’s how we do.

– EXCERPT-

HAIR CLUB BURNING
By Beth Wareham and Jason Davis

Arms pumping and three-figure handbag swinging, Mary Ann felt the first drips of sweat hit the water slide of her butt crack, flowing down to God knows where. It tickled, a strange sensation while in the midst of running for one’s life. She was speed walking down the highway double line in the middle of the nowhere, hoping the men behind her would not shoot.

She couldn’t find one person in her life who could drive out and rescue her. She’d dialed all the friends and family. No one picked up. She had left the scene so quickly and was so frightened, she hadn’t even dialed 911. Hadn’t thought of it, just fled. Later, she’d reflect that all the sugar she’d eaten had clouded her thoughts, made her stupid. Deep inside, she knew differently.

She was a woman alone. Wasn’t it obvious? What shit, she thought. I have a family full of men, a phone full of friends and no one to call at the lowest moment in recent memory. She pumped her arms faster now, moving over to road’s shoulder as a car appeared off in the distance. She figured getting hit by a car instead of a gun blowing a hole in her head was probably more to her liking. A car could drag you though, her mind quickly countered. Maybe a gunshot was better.

Periwinkle kitten heels dug into sand and gravel. Her teeth ground against each other at the sound. She was creating tiny landslides down the roadside with each step and finally a pump remained behind as she kept moving forward. Damn, damn, damn she thought as she wheeled around and grabbed the shoe. She was on one leg now, a flamingo with no water or wings. She knew she looked stupid hopping on one foot in the road in the middle of nowhere. She slipped it back on and strode back to the center of the asphalt, where her shoes worked.

God is punishing me, she thought. For the donuts. I have to die because I ate all those donuts and there is no one to save me. She began muttering words Heavenword: “I’ll stop the sugar thing,” she vowed as her ankle bent outward and she screamed in pain. “I will be more loving.” “I’ll go to Core Class.” She kept walking fast down the centerline and as the car became larger, her thoughts raced. She bit down on her lip again, winced, and a fresh metallic taste of blood filled her mouth.

I’m a bad wife and mother, her inner asshole continued. I’m out here because I’m a bad wife and mother. I’m out here because I do things I shouldn’t. Her legs were growing tired: She was not at her fittest. I’m out here because I’m selfish. I just had to have what I had to have.

Her thoughts grew even darker and sweat streamed down her body. Mary Ann kept rushing toward the approaching car, her thoughts ripping open her middle-aged soul. She could still hear the men behind her yelling in a language she did not know. She moved even faster, her personal fluids – sweat, tears and snot – attracting molecules of dust from the road. Her face took on the dust’s color, a boring hue her decorator friend would have described as “homosexual putty beige.” Why he called it that, she didn’t know. The approaching car, she could now see, had a huge hood ornament. Light flashed on it as she moved toward the road’s edge again to let it pass.

As the car moved closer, Mary Ann felt a new set of fears well up into the back of her throat. Who would be driving a car like that? She thought. The last time she’d seen one that big and rectangular was in Goodfellas. Or was it American Gangster? That’s it, she thought. The 70s. She realized that the 1970s were coming down a two-lane country highway and were headed directly for her. God, I hated those pantsuits, she thought. And the pointy collars. What is a car like that doing out here in the farmlands of New York? Please God, she bargained again. Let it pass.

The giant yellow Cadillac had another plan. It slowly floated between Mary Ann and the shoulder, door swinging open, and a distressed, abandoned middle-age woman was scooped off burning asphalt and thrown directly into the fire of her life.

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If You Don’t Like Questions, Memoir Isn’t For You

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/Beth Wareham
http://www.shadowteams.com

I just spent a few days with a novelist who had to keep yelling “SHE ISN’T ME” about the main character in her latest book. Of course it’s her. When publishing, she did put the word “fiction” on it so we had to back down. We have to honor — as friends and literary lovers — that she says the book isn’t her life story. I am not going to know who she was talking about when she wrote about a sexual encounter in the Dean’s office in college. (The idea of it excited me, by the by.)

Who WHO was it? Maybe Louis had the gumption, maybe Mike. Finally, one night, gone on buttery chardonnay, my friend blurted “memoir” instead of novel. I had her dead-to-rights and she knew it. My form of Rendition began.

Within 8 minutes, (I used a kitchen towel and Diet Coke) I’d broken through her little “fiction” to the “memoir” and found she did it on the Dean’s oriental with Martin the TA. I was appalled. Martin looked like Gene Wilder and my friend was in need of an A in Shakespeare. Our friendship has not been the same since.

Own what you’ve lived or use your imagination to build a world in which the reader could live. Spin something into something larger or spend some time on earth before you race to tell your “story.” Know why you do what you do. Do it well. Contribute higher not just more.

I knew who my friend’s heroine in her novel was: I wish she had called it a memoir, given herself credit for a life well-lived and made up something for a story later.

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Chop Chop Writers

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by Beth Wareham

www.shadowteams.com
So, this meat clever is kinda scary. Blood. Animal? Human? Ha!

This is writer’s blood. From the way the red rises in the middle of the cleaver, forensics tell us someone was killing whole paragraphs. (Little splatters on the end suggest adverb and adjective removal.) Consistent smears along the blade tells us it was a sentence hunting mission. CSI for Writers: The Cleaver Tells All.

Every writer must be a ruthless editor, meat cleaver worn on a tool belt as he or she types. This editing is one of the hardest aspects of writing – we all think our words should be carried around on little velvet pillows – and that thought often embarrasses you later when you have an overwritten, indulgent book no one wants to read.

So, in a wildly simplistic list, here are the things your clever should do for you to progress in your life as a writer:

1. Adverbs and adjectives: CLEAVER THEM. AS MANY AS POSSIBLE.

2. Vary sentence length for dramatic affect. Consider these two scenarios:

“Walter walked in the back door, throwing his jacket to the floor, and commenced his feral wandering from room to room, beer in hand, waiting for a child or slow moving aunt to verbally ambush.”

“The door slammed. Walter threw his coat on the back of the chair. He immediately walked over to the refrigerator, pulled out his customary beer, and began to pace the first floor of the house. The living room was empty as was the front porch. He really wanted someone in his family to appear so he could burn off some of his darker feelings.

3. Don’t go down alleyways. Writers have curious minds and it is easy to write yourself off course. The cleaver must come out if you go on, say, a two page chat about derivatives in a South American love story. Stay on story or it’s the cleaver for you.

4. Don’t say the same thing in a bunch of different ways. We all assume a writer has the skills to tell us a story using different devices. Have enough faith in yourself to pick one story and tell it the way you want to….no hemming and hawing.

5. Write a book of appropriate length. You are writing in the age of the internet, not the 19th Century when entertainments were a bit slower moving. Keep it tight. Test yourself. Use the poet’s skill of distilling words to write prose. Practice writing short on twitter. Write to your time. Word selection is the 21st Century game of the highest importance. Just look at Search Engine Optimization. 🙂

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Tough Writer’s Manifesto: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Never Stop

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/Beth Wareham

Richard Bach, author of that 20th century pop icon, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, said a mouthful with “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard – who once let me fly his plane – would not like what I have to say about much of his writing. But his work on aviation is magnificent. He was also based in the same squadron as a really professional writer – one James Salter – during the Berlin crisis. Salter, author of A Sport and A Pastime, among others, never chose a wrong word in his life.

A tough writer, amateur or check-casher, doesn’t quit. A tough writer works through problems, wipes out pages, starts over. A tough writer knows how you can get inside a book and slip and slide in it, failing to accomplish much of anything. A tough writer understands the words “begin again.”

Below is some pretty interesting advice I’ve heard from authors and editors in a 20-year career in the larger publishing houses of New York. Some of it will depress you and some will set you free.

You must remember, though, that part of the extreme joy of reading and writing is the discovery of the new voice, seemingly from nowhere, who changes your point of view.

What you also must remember, sitting glumly at your keyboard, is that voice just might come from you:

TOUGH WRITERS MANIFESTO

1. No one is watching you.

The great Ilene Beckerman, author of Love, Love and What I Wore, confessed that what she liked about writing was that nobody saw when she wrote a sentence like “She carried the steaming tureen to the table.” Allow yourself all the mistakes you need until it feels right to you.

2. Plan and destroy. Plan and destroy.

Map a plot. Change it. Flush out characters, modify, remove, add more. Throughout the process of putting a book together, you need the plan of a soldier who is ready to shift positions at any moment for a more effective line of attack. Rigid flexibility. Think on it.

3. Who are you writing for?

Too often, especially in non-fiction, authors are writing for peers. That’s fine, if you want to sell books to the 200 other forensic accountants in California. Who is your reader? Who do you see in your mind’s eye as you work on the book? Act accordingly. Don’t use technical words if you trying to reach the layman. Choose communication over showing off.

4. Feed a fever; Starve a cold

If you don’t believe in the muse, then you don’t believe in Faulkner, Mozart and Beethoven. Whole chunks of finished passages just appeared in their heads and the test was to write it down quickly enough they didn’t lose it. This is true of you as well. If you become deeply engaged in writing a scene, stay with it. Sitting down at a computer and doing 500 words a day is the drip, drip of sinuses disengaged from the passion of writing. Stop word counting and start throwing your soul into it.

5. Facts are not the truth.

In fiction, there are no facts but abundant truths. Since all writing is autobiographical to a degree, never got bogged down in the actually memory of a room or character. Remake them anew to meet the truth of what you are writing. You owe no one an explanation for your art.

6. Raw is good.

The closer you can get to the bone, the more you feel what you write, the more your reader will too. This is what Hemingway meant by his comment that being a writer was no big deal, you just sat down and bled on a keyboard all day. Readers know when they are being kept at arms’ length and most don’t like it. Bring them in to you and the story.

7. Detail isn’t everything, but it’s almost everything.

Every detail you choose should further your plot or give us more information about your characters and the “truth” of your book. Here’s a simple example of how you might or might not choose detail for a character:

Meyer’s suit was blue and his shoes were brown.

Meyer’s blue suit shined at the elbows, leading the eye downward to a pair of brown crepe-soled
work shoes.

Simple, right? And no one ever talks about the writer’s eyes; the painters get all that public relations.

8. Simple formulas make powerful books.

A) Tell your story from the beginning and end at the end. Simple. Never fails

B) Try the song form: A,B,A. Used for thousands of years, you can see this form best in a series
like Lord of the Rings: A is the Shire, B is the adventure, C is a return to the Shire with
lessons learned and evil vanquished.

9. Edit like Stalin.

Everyone, EVERYONE, uses too many words. Edit yourself ruthlessly. Any word that is not absolutely necessary to further your story should go. You owe this to your reader: don’t waste their time with overwriting. Proust covered that already.

10. Let the manuscript rest before final carving.

Polishing a manuscript brings up an interesting combination of anxiety and joy. You are close to a finished book. Give it that last read and polish it up. Remove the final unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. Tighten descriptions. People will read it soon, thus the anxiety. People will read it soon, thus the joy.

Some will judge you positively, some might not. But somewhere, someone will read your book and it will change his or her life.

And that, my friend, is why you do it.

Stay tough.

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Stuck? Walk Away. #amwriting

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/Beth Wareham

I have heard and read so many discussions about writer’s block, it feels like the commercial about “Going and Going” that air on all three network news broadcasts each night.

Creativity, being a function of your brain, is mysterious. Maybe it’s best to have the same respect (or nearly) for it as you do for love.  I’ve read so many books about creativity that I’ve come to the conclusion that no one else understands it either.  Without it, life is grim.

Science, however, has an explanation. In Dr. Herbert Benson’s The Breakout Principle, he talks about how creativity can be triggered by repetitive movement such as jogging, knitting, yoga, sewing, meditation, golf.  The repetitive motion releases chemicals in the brain.  These are the chemicals that allow different parts of the brain to communicate and make creative leaps and comparisons. It’s on.

The worst thing you can do, in other words, is to sit at the computer watching cat videos or go to dinner parties and bray at your friends that you have writer’s block.

Go fold laundry, run, sit in the bathtub, read to a kid. Release your mind from the struggle at the machine and let it solve the creative problem in its own mysterious way. It just might fall into you brain fully-formed and seemingly from nowhere.

Feed your creativity. It goes with you everywhere. Like a blue stool.

 

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