One writerly lesson from Susan Quiet Cain

quiet coverI was delighted to see a sequel (of sorts) to Susain Cain’s Quiet.

This new book (Quiet Power) brings hope and insight to younger readers. A voice for the voiceless, once again.

Seeing Cain’s “Quiet Revolution” website proves that she’s not done yet.

For frustrated writers or authors feeling invisible, let me share two writing lessons I’ve gotten from Cain’s success:

  1. Be sincere.
  2. Be consistent.

How many books are abandoned even before a first draft gets finished? There are readers who can relate to any theme, provided that the whole literary meal is on the table.

Pick a path. Stick to it. If you don’t believe, neither will the reader.

Short story slot machine shines in France

Gambling on a good short story? It's free in France! (Photo credit: n3lson/

Gambling on a good short story? It’s free in France! (Photo credit: n3lson/

CBS Sunday Morning never fails to amuse me. When they air something from David Turecamo, he’s identified as “Our Man in Paris.”

I keep wanting to see a tuxedo-wearing sidekick for James Bond, not a reporter.

However, Turecamo deserves applause for his recent report, “Dispensing with Words.” A town in France has installed vending machines. People waiting in line can choose a short story that takes only one, three or five minutes to read. All for free!

Here is the website of “Short Edition.” The Google-translation of French to English is a thrill ride in itself. I did glean that San Francisco seems to have the first story dispenser in America.

The website promise seems to translate “Everything Reads in 20 Minutes or Less.”

Less is more? That might work for writers in any country.



New Steven Pressfield Book (Eventually) Helpful

Ever hear a parent offer to take you out foPressfield book coverr ice cream, but the drive includes endless detours and stops before you get to your promised dessert destination?

That’s the problem with Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That is and What You Can Do About It (Black Irish Entertainment), the newest from creative inspirationalist Steven Pressfield.

Frequently-blushing readers, beware. This book has more than one profanity. Plus, Pressfield chooses to close the book with “Porn,” a chapter on his foray into writing sex scenes for a “skin flick.”

I think irony gets the laugh last in the chapter “How to Write A Boring Memoir.” Pressfield preaches not to pack every detail in nonfiction. Writing chronologically is the easiest way to have a meandering manuscript. Well, this author’s urge to recount his own story year by year causes the same concern.

Granted, a writer can learn by writing ANYTHING. Nevertheless, this isn’t going to stop readers from scratching their heads over Pressfield detailing his years as a New York copywriter and Hollywood screenwriter.

Finally, in chapter 76, “My Overnight Success,” Pressfield recounts nine storytelling principles that he says were acquired in his previous tours of duty in an ad agency and in screenwriting.

The most patient readers will get rewarded with writing tips and insights. My favorite quote? “A novel is too long to be organized efficiently, like a screenplay. There aren’t enough 3 x 5 cards in the world.”

Many other fans of Pressfield’s The War of Art will like this new title, too. Yes, there are some how-to specifics on plotting, pacing and character, combined with dollops of the author’s biography. Unfortunately, I feel like Pressfield was the channel-flipping TV watcher next to you, the one who never surrenders the remote control. How-to. Biography. How-to.

This reader wanted to enjoy only one program, one format, from start to finish.




Don’t be Emily Dickinson

(Photo credit: Yale University, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo credit: Yale University, Wikimedia Commons)

Emily Dickinson never had an agent.

She never went to a writer’s conference.

Quite likely, she never attended a writing group.

She never blogged.

She didn’t see any books published in her lifetime.

Therefore, she never lived to see a five-star Amazon review.

Stop trying to be like other writers. Be yourself. Write for yourself.

Compete less. Write more.

Think editing non-fiction is impossible? Check out picture book biographies for inspiration

Griffey bookFriend Barbara Kramer is one of the hardest-working non-fiction authors in children’s lit today.

When she’s not creating a new biography, Barbara is blogging. I wanted to applaud her latest post:

I’ve mentioned in the past how children’s non-fiction is a great place for a researcher to start. Well, picture book biographies remind (even adult) authors of two amazements:

  1. Think everything has been written about a topic or personality? Children’s picture books are famed for putting a new spin on an overlooked moment in history.
  2. Think your editing is overwhelming? Look at the minimal word counts on a non-fiction picture book.

In the 1990s, I co-wrote a series of biographies for PowerKids Press. I was told to follow the established format. Ten chapters. Each no more than 80 words. A beginning, middle and end in just 80 words? It’s possible!

Children’s books: not just for children.


Onion satire skewers storytelling standards

This might make you cry. THE ONION will make you laugh. (Photo credit: Dirk Ingo, Wikimedia Commons)

This might make you cry. THE ONION will make you laugh. (Photo credit: Dirk Ingo Franke, Wikimedia Commons)

I love The Onion.

This showcase for sparkling satire and perfect parody is high-fiber fun. In other words, good for you and tasty! Best of all, these tales don’t give me bad breath.

This vignette was no different.

Why have I spent years avoiding writing workshops or college classes touted to make me a better author? I want to escape the cookie cutter of correctness. Must all stories be the same? This scenario isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

I’d buy this mythical seven-year-old’s first book. Different is good.

Kudos to Dan Gutman for sharing this on Facebook. Dan is the funniest author I know in children’s lit today.

Rejection letters for J.K. Rowling?

(Photo credit: Sjhill, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo credit: Sjhill, Wikimedia Commons)

Even __________ (insert name of mondo-famous author) gets rejections.

Did you know Dr. Seuss got rejected ___________ times? (Bigger the better!)

The numbers grew. The names changed. However, the talk remained the same in 1990s writing conferences. I wish such “chin up” assertions helped me. I was ready to hear the claim of “God’s Ten Commandments were rejected 101 times until he self-published and Moses distributed them.”

The news that J.K. Rowling would share any kind of rejection letter gave me that vintage flashback.

My advice today? Let that horse rest. Put the manuscript back in the stables. That as-is literary pony may win the next race, without a single tweak. Don’t over-analyze. Save your microscope for germs, not random rejection letters.