Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

And Third Place Goes To . . . — March 13, 2013

And Third Place Goes To . . .

ME? Was that my name I heard?  Couldn’t be.  I knew my piece couldn’t be third prize material. After all, there were 40 entries in this year’s Beachside Writers Workshop metaphor/simile contest.  Historically, only 8-12 entries competed.  And some were seasoned writers, unlike me, a newbie in the workshop world.  Besides, they had already announced four honorable mentions and a fourth place winner.

I heard my name again, so I slowly raised my hand.  And he said, “Come on, Sherrey!  Come up front and read your winning entry.”  Could it be true???

So, I made my way to the front and read my entry in the Annual Metaphor and Simile Contest.  Our assignment had been to write in 200 words or less a description of your favorite keyboard key.

Here is what I wrote:

To My Favorite Keyboard Key


 So sleek and black.  Slinky like a model in black lame, you strut your stuff across the pages of my manuscript.  You add flight to my words.  You lift them off the page in ways other keys cannot do.

I’m not certain you know how important you are to me and my writing.  You don’t seem to understand the necessity of your role in the process.  Without you, my words are incomprehensible.

Unassuming and simple, you sit there on the keyboard with your slender shape for my thumbs to caress.  Each and every time I call upon you the response is immediate and usually correct.  Occasionally, you, or I, get overexcited and there is a mistake but not frequently.

It is amazing that the inventor of the keyboard included you.  He or she had a sense of the written word and how important it is that there is white space between words.

You are the wind between my words.  You are the stretch between my sentences.  You are the space key on my keyboard, no matter where I sit down to write.  You are my favorite!

It was a thrill to win something at my first venture in the world of writers workshops and conferences.  And the thought is already running around in my head:  What will be the challenge in next year’s contest?

I think that means I’ll attend again!

Writers Beware of “Hostage-Taking Harpies” — March 7, 2013

Writers Beware of “Hostage-Taking Harpies”

While at the Beachside Writers Conference mentioned in a previous post, one of my favorite sessions was presented by Jane KirkpatrickNew York Times Best-selling author.

Jane talked with us about something that bedevils even the best writer from time to time:  “hostage-taking harpies.”

In Greek mythology, a harpy was a winged spirit best known for stealing food from Phineus.  The literal meaning of the word “harpy” is “that which snatches.”

Most often a harpy is depicted as a bird-women, and the term is used metaphorically to refer to nasty or annoying women.

As a writer, I have many times sat down to write and suddenly I’m consumed with self-doubt:

“I’m not a good writer.”
“I don’t have time to write.”
“I’ll never get this book done.”
“Other writers are much better at this than I am.”

Even though I know none of these statements are true, the harpies have gotten into my head and snatched all my positive processes for that writing session.  So, how to combat these harpies?

Jane Kirkpatrick offered the following advice:

  1. Choose the right goal.  What is your goal specifically?  To write a book?  To find a traditional publisher, or experiment with self-publishing?  Or just print the book for family and friends?  Whatever your goal, make certain it’s the right goal.
  2. Convert the general to a specific.  “I want to write a chapter a week.”  “I want to write three hours each day.”  “I want to contact and develop my plan for publication by a date certain, i.e. October 2013.”
  3. Acknowledge your part in the problem.  Jane called this detecting and admitting the barriers you set for yourself:
    1. “I’m too old to start something this big.”
    2. “I don’t deserve to succeed.”
    3. “It has to be perfect before I send it out.”
    4. “If I spoke to an agent at a conference, I’d fall apart; they wouldn’t like me.”
    5. “I make commitments for other projects so no time for writing.”
    6. And there were several more.
    7. Consider how your behavior affects how you act to keep what you fear most from happening.  In essence, Kirkpatrick asked us to consider the fears that taunt us and how we use competing commitments, i.e. “I want to write a chapter a week, but I don’t want to be separated from my group of girl friends.”  Think about the activities that compete with your writing.
    8. Identify underlying assumptions.  Generally, Kirkpatrick addressed our need to find underlying assumptions by looking at our secret fears (#4 above — those things you’ve used (competing commitments) to manage your life and emotions).  What do you believe will happen if you overcome these barriers?  And are your barriers actually based in truth?  Assumptions are not facts, and we can test them by starting with smaller experiments that test our beliefs and whether they are true.  Remember D in #3 above?  Try rewriting that in a positive tone:  “I will attend a conference and talk with an agent, and see if I survive.”  Sounds better, yes?  And likely this will work out in your favor, at least as it applies to your survival.

This is a sampling of what the harpies can do to your moving forward with success in your writing.  That is if you listen to them and allow them control.  Try just one thing this next week that you’ve been putting barriers up against and see if it actually will work for you.

What harpies are plaguing you?  What about barriers?  Do you have any you use regularly?

What a Writers’ Weekend! — March 4, 2013

What a Writers’ Weekend!

Meet the Beachside Writers Conference mascot.  Not just any old seagull — a typing seagull.  We really need to upgrade him to a computer!

This past weekend I attended my first-ever writers conference. And it was the Beachside conference I had wanted to attend for more than a couple of years.  Held in Yachats, Oregon each year, Bob Welch started the conference in 2005.

I have come away from this conference so energized not only by the presenters but the acceptance and affirmation received from other writers, both experienced and beginning (52 in all).  The diversity in backgrounds and the wide range of ages (19-80+) only added to the beauty and integrity of the weekend.

There is so much to share and tell that I’ll probably stretch this into more than this post.  But today I just want to share a few nuggets, I brought home with me:

  • “Saying what needs to be said.” (conference theme)
  • “If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know that the effort is real.” ~ James Buchanan (quoted by Jane Kirkpatrick, writer and presenter)
  • “Beware the IKEA affect — just because you put loving labor into your work doesn’t mean it will be loved by others.”  ~ Jane Kirkpatrick
  • Overview of POD and the possibilities available (by Roger Hite, Ph.D. in philosophy, writer and presenter)
  • Humor interspersed throughout his presentations by Bob Welch (an example follows):

“I don’t believe in writer’s block anymore than I believe in ‘plumber’s block’ should the guy fixing my pipes suddenly find the going difficult.  ‘Sorry, pal,’ he might say as he gathers up his tools — and, of course, hitches up his, ahem, jeans. ‘Just not feeling it today.'”


“I don’t believe in writer’s block anymore than I believe in ‘surgeon’s block’ should the doctor doing my hernia operation find herself stymied.  ‘Hey, Bob, hang in there.  I’m going to flex out the rest of the day.  Maybe catch a matinee to see if I can get back in the groove, you know?'”

The sessions were educational, informative, enriching and intense at times.  Several writing exercises were sprinkled throughout.  At the end of the day on Sunday, I felt a mix of emotions:  I had missed my husband and home, but I was reluctant to leave my new friends and so much camaraderie so soon.

Today, Monday, I haven’t been able to come down off the high that I found myself battling at 1:37 am as I tried to find the missing sleep I needed and wanted.

As I sort out my notes, my writing samples, AND my third place metaphor/simile contest entry, I’ll post more.  I have so much I want to share with you!

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