Tag Archives: writers

The Benefits of Webinars for Writers

The Benefits of Webinars for Writers

Guest Post by Jasmine June Cabanaw

Being a writer in the digital age certainly has both pros and cons. Anyone who used to work in print can attest to the longing for seeing words on the page instead of the screen. As a writer, is there really anything better than seeing your words published in print? And yet writing for digital comes with its own set of perks.

One of the biggest perks of writing digitally is access to learning experiences. Gone are the days of waiting for writing courses to become available. With new platforms, improving your writing practice has never been easier. Webinars, especially, offer amazing benefits for writers, just check out the five main benefits below and you’ll see why writers everywhere are becoming webinar savvy.

Webinars Are Convenient

Convenience is a quality that’s gold for many writers. When you have deadlines to meet, kids to take care of, travel plans to follow, or a job to work in order to support your writing career, being able to attend a class from home in your pajamas is akin to heaven. That’s the beauty of webinars— they’re one of the most convenient ways to learn. Ideally, you can attend the webinar in real time, but many webinars are available as a recording if you miss the date. Webinars also typically only run for an hour or less, so they’re easy to squeeze into a busy schedule.

Another convenience is easy registration. Usually, signing up is as simple as entering your name and email address. You don’t even need to put the webinar into your calendar, because the host will send you helpful reminder emails straight to your inbox. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

An Inexpensive Way to Learn

The term “starving artist” unfortunately often applies to writers. But that’s okay; even best selling authors started their careers from the bottom. But it does mean that many writers are on a budget. Being a writer itself can be expensive once you factor in the cost of degrees, workshops, retreats, writing supplies, and events. These things are well worth their costs, but attending webinars, which are typically free, is a nice change.

Webinars are also an extremely good bargain. All that content with an informed writing professional is valuable, and with webinars, you’re getting it for less than a dime.

Webinars Unlock Discounts

People who host webinars have more to offer than just a one hour learning session. Webinar hosts want to connect with students, and part of that is through discounts to events, books, writing workshops, online writing courses, and more. Often these things are offered at a fraction of their regular price. That free webinar you attended could end up saving you hundreds of dollars (yes, hundreds) on online writing courses and writing events. Writers tend to purchase tickets and access to events, workshops, and online writing courses anyway, so you may as well play your cards right and score yourself a good deal. Here’s a pro tip: discounts are typically offered towards the end of webinars, so try not to duck out early.

Every Writing Topic You Can Think Of

When you have one hour to teach something, you have to narrow down your topic. This means that webinars for writers are highly specialized and targeted to specific writing topics.

“I want to take a generalized writing course even though I’ve completed an MFA,” said no writer ever. Any writer who already has a writing career is looking for specific skills that will compliment their writing practice. Writing itself is also specialized, with writers penning everything from children’s books to memoirs to poetry. There are webinars on every writing topic you can think of. This is good news for newbie writers, too. Think of it like shopping for clothes; you can try on several different sizes before you find the one that fits right. So if you’re a new writer or just starting your writing practice, you might as well attend a variety webinars to see which genres and areas of writing fits you best.

Making Valuable Writing Connections

Webinars aren’t taught by some random Joe Schmoe; usually the hosts are experts or experienced in a certain genre or field of writing. Many are teaching webinars because they’ve had unique writing careers and want to share what they’ve learned with other writers. Connecting with other writers is a big part of being a writer, after all. Before, during, and after a webinar, you’ll have the opportunity to connect one-on-one with the instructor, even if it is just through email. You get to connect with webinar attendees, too, all of whom are writers like yourself. In fact, attending a webinar for writers is one of the best ways to finding a literary agent, since the webinar host and the attendees often have connections to literary agents. A simple ask is sometimes all it takes!

The other valuable connection you can make at a webinar for writers is with yourself. Webinars are designed to teach you something valuable and unlock creative ideas. Maybe you’re stuck on a book title, or sentence, or chapter, or maybe you have the dreaded writer’s block. Attending a webinar for writers can provide insights that will help you overcome these obstacles.

Interested in attending a webinar for writers? (Hopefully you are by now!) A simple search on Google or other search engines will pull up more webinars than you can dream of. If you want to become a successful writer or are looking for marketing ideas, search for topics such as “10 Habits of Highly Successful Writers” or “How to Writer a Book in 30 Days”. If you’re looking to improve your writing craft, search for topics like, “Creating Fictional Characters” or “Writing a Best Selling Memoir”. The choices are virtually endless.

Interested in attending a webinar for writers? Check out this upcoming webinar that will teach you the 10 habits practiced by best selling authors. Click here for details.

5 Perfect Gifts for Writers

Guest Post by Jasmine June Cabanaw

Do you have a writer on your holiday shopping list (or are you a writer hoping to receive the perfect gift)? Then this wish list of the perfect gifts for writers is for you.

Choosing a gift for a writer isn’t necessarily all that hard; notebooks, word games, and gift cards to book stores all make easy gifts. But if you’re looking for a truly perfect gift (because go big or go home, right?) then you’ll have to put a little more thought into it.

The key is thinking like a writer. Which is why I’m writing this post. A friend told me that this year, she doesn’t want to give me “yet another notebook.” But since she’s not a writer herself, she has no clue what else to give me. Gifts that seem like commonsense to me don’t even cross her mind.

So here’s a list of five perfect gifts for writers. And if you’re a writer yourself, make sure to put these on your wish list!

An Online Writing Course

Writers are busy people. Even if we’ve achieved the ultimate dream of writing for a living, we usually still have side projects that take up our time after work hours. And yet part of being a writer is continuing our writing education. Full time job, side projects, classes… you see how little time we have, right?

The beauty of an online writing course is that the writer in your life can take the course anytime, anywhere. An online writing course can fit within even the busiest of schedules. There are a variety of courses to choose from, too, so it’s a gift that can be given time and time again. Just be sure to give an online writing course that’s suitable for the writer— you don’t want to give a journalism course to a poet, for example (unless they are trying to be the ultimate multi-tasker, like me).

Writing Retreats

Writers may have busy schedules, but that’s all the more reason to take a vacation that focuses primarily on writing. Writing retreats are amazing. Seriously. You get to just nerd out with a bunch of other writers for days on end. It’s writer heaven. I mean, the last writing retreat I went to made me cry. At one point, all 300+ people in the room were crying, that’s how into we got (thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert).

However, retreats are not cheap. It’s quite the splurge for most writers to spend the time and money on a retreat, which is why a writing retreat is an amazing and perfect gift for any writer. If you’re brave enough, feel free to buy yourself a ticket and tag along.

Writing Tools that are actually Needed

Notebooks, pens, and pencils, oh my! Writers love these things. Send a writer into a bookstore and they’ll return with a new notebook every time (or am I just speaking for myself here?). But these wonderfully delightful items are not things we usually need.

You know what I really need? An ergonomic keyboard. So glamorous, right? I’ll be the fanciest girl in town with that gift. But it’s something I really need and I haven’t gotten around to buying myself one. Or that wireless mouse, or office chair with lumbar support, or new e-reader with a glare-free screen. These items are all tools I should really have in my toolbox, and I bet you have a writer in your life that needs them, too. Sometimes the least fancy gifts are the best ones.

A Therapy Session

Ha ha ha! Kidding! Not an actual therapy session, but something that truly is pure therapy for writers is a consultation with a literary coach or agent. A literary consultation is a crucial part of the book making process and is useful to any writer who has a project in the works. Even writers without a current writing project can benefit from a session with a literary coach, or could schedule the session for when they think they’ll have a writing project on the go.

There are a variety of literary consultations to choose from, including ones with editors, agents, and teachers. This means you’ll have to do a little digging to find out what will be the most beneficial to the writer in your life. But that’s what makes this gift a special one and a perfect gift to give for the holidays.

Re-Gifting a Writer’s Words

One of the most perfect gifts I ever received was a spiral notebook of a short story I wrote when I was ten, with the pages all laminated and typed up nicely (thank goodness, because I doubt I would have been able to read my ten year old handwriting). I had forgotten all about that story, but then there it was, immortalized in laminate and metal coils. That trip down memory lane to my childhood self was a special gift indeed.

There are many ways to turn a writer’s words into a present. Here’s a short list:

*Take a paragraph or striking sentence and put it on canvas. Voilà! Beautiful artwork made from the writer’s own words.

*Publish their writing with a print on demand service, such as Lulu or Blurb. You can choose one story, make a collection of short stories, or even a book of poems.

*Make a bookmark using a sentence from one of the writer’s stories as an inspiring quote. There are bookmark making services online, or you can make one by hand and laminate it.

*Put sentence from one of their stories on an ornament. You can hand paint a glass ornament, have an ornament engraved, or have one created.

*Make a photo book and use the writer’s words to caption the photos. You can use phrases from a single story or multiple pieces of writing.

*Make a scrapbook of things they’ve written (just don’t use their original copies!).

These ideas are just a few of many. If you think of more, let me know! I’ve got writers to shop for, too.

Happy holidays!

Don’t Be Butthurt Over Oxford Dictionary’s New Words

Don’t Be Butthurt Over Oxford Dictionary’s New Words

Guest Post by Jasmine June Cabanaw

The Oxford Dictionary recently released its list of newly added words— and it has caused quite the stir. People have been adding words to languages since the beginning of humankind, and yet every time the Oxford Dictionary promotes a slang word to an official one, people get all butthurt about it.

Can you imagine if Shakespeare had received this same kind of backlash? Gone would be the words swag, bedazzled, scuffled, and eyeball— and over a thousand others. Thankfully, the English language was in flux at the time, and instead of a backlash, Shakespeare was honored with helping to standardize the English language.

Among the new words included in Oxford Dictionary’s new list are butthurt, awesomesauce, hangry, and manspreading. And I guess it’s time to update my word program, because all of these words are being highlighted as misspelled on my screen. Come on Apple Pages, get with the program, mkay?

The beauty of being a writer is the ability to play with language; words are putty in our hands and we can mold them into any type of fantastical story we so desire. Shakespeare knew this. Many brilliant writers of our past knew this. So why are modern day writers so slow to realize that slang words are the product of the very type of creativity writers seek to embody?

Don’t be upset about Oxford Dictionary adding words like cat cafe, Redditor, rage-quit, snackable, brain fart, and bruh. If the addition of “manic pixie dream girl” has your panties in a bunch, then unbunch them! (See what I did there? I just created a new word all on my own. Sadly, it wasn’t “manic pixie dream girl.” I can’t take credit for that one!)

Really, the only thing I’m bummed about is that “big magic” didn’t make the cut. Now there’s a modern day writer who is embracing the power of words and language. Elizabeth Gilbert recently popularized the term big magic with the launch of her new book by the same name. And she’s got numerous fans, readers, and writers on board with the phrase. I’m looking forward to seeing what other words and phrases she has in store for us at her big event in Napa this November!

The lesson in all this? Embrace the magic of words and the versatility of vocabulary. After all, isn’t that one of the best parts of being a writer?

Below is a list of the Oxford Dictionary’s new words. Which of these is your favorite? I’m particularly fond of fur baby and awesomesauce. Let me know which ones you like best on Facebook or Twitter!

awesomesauce, adj.: (US informal) extremely good; excellent
bants (also bantz), n.: (Brit. informal) playfully teasing or mocking remarks exchanged with another person or group; banter
barbacoa, n.: (in Mexican cooking) beef, lamb, or other meat that has slowly been cooked with seasonings, typically shredded as a filling in tacos, burritos, etc.
beer o’clock, n: an appropriate time of day for starting to drink beer
blockchain, n.: a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly
brain fart, n.: (informal) a temporary mental lapse or failure to reason correctly
Brexit, n.: a term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union
bruh, n: (US informal) a male friend (often used as a form of address)
butt dial, v.: (US informal) inadvertently call (someone) on a mobile phone in one’s rear trouser pocket
butthurt, adj.: (US informal) overly or unjustifiably offended or resentful
cakeage,n.: (informal) a charge made by a restaurant for serving a cake they have not supplied themselves
cat cafe, n.: a café or similar establishment where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises
cupcakery, n.: a bakery that specializes in cupcakes
deradicalization, n.: the action or process of causing a person with extreme views to adopt more moderate positions on political or social issues
fast-casual, adj.: denoting or relating to a type of high-quality self-service restaurant offering dishes that are prepared to order and more expensive than those available in a typical fast-food restaurant
fatberg, n.: a very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets
fat-shame, v.: cause (someone judged to be fat or overweight) to feel humiliated by making mocking or critical comments about their size
freekeh, n.: a cereal food made from unripened wheat that has been roasted and crushed into small pieces, used especially in Middle Eastern cookery
fur baby, n.: a person’s dog, cat, or other furry pet animal
glanceable, adj.: denoting or relating to information, especially as displayed on an electronic screen, that can be read or understood very quickly and easily
Grexit, n.: a term for the potential withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone (the economic region formed by those countries in the European Union that use the euro as their national currency)
hangry, adj.: (informal) bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger
kayfabe, n.: (US informal) (in professional wrestling) the fact or convention of presenting staged performances as genuine or authentic
MacGyver, v.: (US informal) make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand
manic pixie dream girl, n.: (especially in film) a type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation for life in a male protagonist
manspreading, n.: the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats
matcha, n.: powdered green tea leaves, dissolved in hot water to make tea or used as a flavouring
mecha, n.: (in anime, manga, etc.) a large armoured robot, typically controlled by a person riding inside the robot itself
meeple, n.: a small figure used as a playing piece in certain board games, having a stylized human form
mic drop, n.: (informal, chiefly US) an instance of deliberately dropping or tossing aside one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech one considers to have been particularly impressive
microaggression, n.: a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority
mkay, excl.: (informal, chiefly US) non-standard spelling of OK, representing an informal pronunciation (typically used at the end of a statement to invite agreement, approval, or confirmation)
Mx, n.: a title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female
pocket dial, v.: inadvertently call (someone) on a mobile phone in one’s pocket, as a result of pressure being accidentally applied to a button or buttons on the phone
pwnage, n.: (informal) (especially in video gaming) the action or fact of utterly defeating an opponent or rival
rage-quit, v.: (informal) angrily abandon an activity or pursuit that has become frustrating, especially the playing of a video game
rando, n.: (informal) a person one does now know, especially one regarded as odd, suspicious, or engaging in socially inappropriate behaviour
Redditor, n.: a registered user of the website Reddit
skippable, adj.: (of a part or feature of something) able to be omitted or passed over so as to get to the next part or feature
social justice warrior, n.: (informal, derogatory) a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views
snackable, adj.: (of online content) designed to be read, viewed, or otherwise engaged with briefly and easily
spear phishing, n.: the fraudulent practice of sending emails ostensibly from a known or trusted sender in order to induce targeted individuals to reveal confidential information
subreddit, n.: a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit
swatting, n.: (US informal) the action or practice of making a hoax call to the emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address
weak sauce, n.: (US informal) something that is of a poor or disappointing standard or quality
wine o’clock, n.: an appropriate time of day for starting to drink wine

List from OxfordDictionaries.com

Dave Eggers LIVE Event Accommodations

Are you excited to study with a best selling author? I know we are! We want to be as helpful as possible for our event attendees, so we’ve compiled a list of accommodations that are in the area. Haven’t registered yet? Get info about the event here: Dave Eggers LIVE

If you are looking for a more affordable option than the room rates at the Meritage Resort, here are some accommodations that are a short driving distance to the event. This list is not based on personal recommendation, but on price and location. Prices are an approximate only. For reviews, we advise checking TripAdvisor before you book.

Wine Valley Lodge
4 stars on TripAdvisor
3.5 miles (7 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price range $89-$199/night
http://www.winevalleylodge.com/

Chablis Inn
3.5 stars on TripAdvisor
8 miles (12 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price range $139-$149/night
http://www.chablisinn.com/

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Napa Valley
3.5 stars on TripAdvisor
3 miles (6 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price range $195-$245/night
http://www.hawthorn.com/hotels/california/napa/hawthorn-suites-by-wyndham-napa-valley/hotel-overview

Motel 6
3 stars on TripAdvisor
8 miles (11 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price from $100/night
https://www.motel6.com/en/motels.CA.NAPA.4688.html

3 Palms Hotels
3 stars on TripAdvisor
4 miles (10 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price range $169-$299/night
http://www.3palmshotels.com/reservations.cfm

Chardonnay Lodge
3 stars on TripAdvisor
8 miles (13 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price from $156/night
http://www.chardonnaylodge.net/

The Napa Inn
4.5 stars on TripAdvisor
5 miles (12 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price range $199-$329/night
http://www.napainn.com/

Best Western Plus Inn At The Vines
4 stars on TripAdvisor
3.4 miles (8 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price range $215-$300/night
http://www.innatthevines.com/

Fairfield Inn & Suites Napa American Canyon
3.5 stars on TripAdvisor
6 miles (9 min drive) from Meritage Resort
Price range $221-$300/night
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sfoac-fairfield-inn-and-suites-napa-american-canyon/

Didn’t see anything you liked? Another option is to use kayak.com or airbnb.com to search for available accommodations.

Improve your writing skills at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference

Improve your writing skills at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference

One of the highest compliments that can be paid to a writer of prose is that their work is “poetic.” What does that really mean? You can find out at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference in my class Explorations: Prose and Poetry”.

Since 1990, the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference has been connecting writers to community. Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry luminaries mingle with lesser-known first-time authors—each noted for teaching ability. Visiting faculty are accessible and eager to share their insights about literary craft and the publishing industry. Faculty members are available for “one-on-one” pitches. Participants mingle during informal breakfasts and lunches, conversing about literary craft, marketing, and networking.

“It feels like a big, happy family. It’s small and easy to make friends,” says former director Katherine Brown. Writing groups, book deals, lifelong friendships and possibly even a romance or few have grown from the conference over the years.

Both teachers and attendees come away with new connections, improved writing skills, and inspiration. I’m very much looking forward to sharing my many years of poetry experience with fellow poets. My workshop will explore the core elements of poetry and prose to help writers create more depth in their work.

The conference will happen August 6-8, 2015. More details at www.mcwc.org. Hope to see you there!

Benefits of taking an online writing course

Guest Post By Jasmine June Cabanaw

All good writers have ways of honing their craft. People who want to write professionally usually obtain degrees which involve some form of writing, whether it be essays, creative writing, or literature analysis. But attending post-secondary school isn’t always an option, especially for people who start writing later in life. When you’ve got an existing career or kids to care for, an online writing course is a great option. Check out the top three benefits below:

Lower Total Costs

Post-secondary courses and writing workshops can be expensive. In addition to the price of the course, you have to factor in transportation costs and any money lost from taking time off work. Traditional writing courses also tend to include registration fees and sometimes pricey textbooks.

In contrast, any online writing course that’s worth taking won’t have any hidden fees associated with it. Many companies will offer a course taster, too, so you can get a feel for what the course will be like before you sign up. You wouldn’t want to purchase a glass of expensive wine without tasting it first, right? With online writing courses, you can sample a few before deciding on the one that best suits your palette.

Convenience and Flexibility

It pretty much goes without saying that taking an online writing course offers you flexibility, but we still want to emphasize how truly great of a benefit this is. With an online writing course, there is never any need to take time off work, find a babysitter, hire someone to walk your dog, or figure out a way to juggle your busy schedule.

Being able to take the course in the comfort of your home also means that you can stay in your pajamas. And that you can sit in your favorite comfy chair. While sipping a cup of tea. Can you see why we love this yet?

Variety

Writing courses and workshops offer limited subjects. Even a writer’s dream city, like San Francisco, will not always have courses on topics you want to study. Your options are even more limited if you don’t live in a city. Commuting two hours just to take a workshop rarely seems worth it (unless it’s by a writing master, of course, and then by all means, do it!)

Oftentimes, writing courses will also require prerequisites. If you missed out on the prerequisite courses, you might be waiting a full year until you can take the course you want. What is a writer to do?

Online writing courses to the rescue! You can study anything your little writer’s heart desires. A quick Google search will reveal courses on everything from writing an e-book to crafting your memoir. In addition to craft courses, you’ll also find courses on how to market your writing, how to publish, and how to generally be a successful writer.

Interested in taking your writing to the next level? Check out the Master Class for Successful Writers at www.brilliantwriter.com.

Top Writing Prompts for Memoir Writers

At its best, memoir writing explores a portion of a life lived in a unique open way, filled with adventurous experiences, transformation, lessons learned, a solid story structure, and prose that shimmers off the page as lusciously as any novel, and as poetically as any great poem.

Everyone is struggling to figure our their existence within this world, and the best memoirs are the ones that help people better understand where they fit in. If you look at the recent popularity of memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, it’s evident that most women who experienced heartbreak were able to relate. In fact, most people can identify with the chain of losing yourself in a relationship, having that relationship end, and then struggling with the process of rediscovering who you are.

So, where does your story begin? How do you make your memoir relatable? How do you make people want to keep turning the page? Below are tips and writing prompts specifically for memoir writing that will help:

What story are you trying to tell?

Too often memoir writers try to tell too much. You are not writing an autobiography. A memoir covers a section of a life. It could be about the last three weeks of your best friend’s life, or the ten years it took you to get off prescription pills.

How does your past affect this section of your life?

One of the great defining characteristics of contemporary memoir is the unique play of time using flashback, dream sequence, and future projecting– my favorite example being Boys of my Youth by Joanne Beard. But what we aren’t doing is chronologically recalling an entire life. Past experiences can be useful tools, but only use them in relation to the story you are telling.

What do you enjoy about life?

Many memoirs touch on heavy and distressing subjects. But you don’t want to drown your readers in misery. Think about the things you enjoyed. What pleasures did you experience from that time period? Sharing small moments of happiness with your readers will brighten up even the darkest of experiences and will give your readers hope.

What does your memoir time capsule look like?

If you had to gather up people and objects from that section of your life, who and what would be included? Write down whatever comes to mind and use this list as a reference for the characters and scenes in your memoir. Including little details will round out your characters and give depth to your story.

What conflict is being solved?

Even if nothing dramatic is taking place, some sort of conflict is working itself out in your memoir. Think “problem = solution”. Just like you, people are searching for answers. Give them some.

Who did you used to be?

Make a list of all of your old pet peeves, desires, likes, dislikes, and personality traits. What did you use to obsess over? What situations did you engage in or avoid? Since you are writing your memoir as your present self, it will help to have reminders of who you used to be.

Did you have any pets?

Animal companions are key players in the stories of our lives. If you had any pets during the section of your life that is in your memoir, make sure to include them. Your relationship with your pets will also provide insight into your character. Plus, pets are highly relatable. Almost everyone has had an animal companion at some point in their lives.

For writing prompts to really inspire, for them to thoroughly bleed into you and push you deep into the page, it helps to actually be there with the teacher. So if you’ve been thinking about taking a workshop from a master teacher, do it. Don’t hesitate, no excuses, go for it. Take the plunge, your writing and heart will shine from the experience.

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness meditation is perhaps one of the best gems a writer can have in their creative treasure box. Being aware of life and the world around you will shine light onto your ideas and bring insight into your concepts. Great writers tend to think outside the box, but brilliant writers have no box at all. Mindfulness meditation creates conditions for this by providing a space for solitude, self-reflection, and awareness.

Writing itself is a path to awakening. It is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. Writing as a path to awakening is a journey into creativity and exploring one’s sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story for the primary purpose of insight, understanding, further clarifying, and ultimately transcending any limitations it may inspire due to over-identification.

Many of the greatest spiritual teachers from around the world were, and are, writers. From Sappho and Rumi to Pema Chodron, Thomas Merton, Jack Kornfield, and the Dalai Lama — the written word has the power not only to inspire, but also to awaken the very best in the human heart.

There are two easy ways to start incorporating mindfulness and writing as a path to awakening into your daily life. With both of these exercises, get into a space of quiet meditation first by sitting down and taking at least 30 consecutive deep breaths and turning off all distractions.

1. Mindfulness while journaling

Keeping a journal offers many benefits, and one of these is the ability to be mindful on paper about the contents of your daily life. Think about any recent interactions with people and write down the emotions that come up. Jot down descriptive words or any colors that come to mind. Your journal is a space to explore how you felt about a myriad of things, from the argument you had with your spouse that morning to why you like the smell of apples at the farmer’s market.

Being mindful while journaling will allow you to look at aspects of your life from new angles. It will unlock emotions around certain things that you maybe never even knew you even had. Best of all, mindfulness while journaling can help you resolve conflicts and look at situations with renewed gratitude and empathy.

2. Stream of consciousness

Once you have taken your deep breaths and feel as close to having an empty mind as possible, take a pen or pencil and write without stopping for about ten minutes. Don’t pause to think about what you’re writing and don’t take any breaks.

When you’ve finished, look at your writing and underline phrases or words that repeat. Highlight any parts where your handwriting had a dramatic change. Ask yourself what these things represented for you, which themes were present and why, how different parts made you feel, and if any new ideas or insights arose.

You can take this type of writing to the next level by focusing on a mantra or key word or phrase while you are doing the deep breaths before the writing. Try setting an intention and see if that shows up as you jot down your stream of consciousness.

If you’d like to learn more about Writing as a Path to Awakening, there are several workshops throughout the year at different meditation centers. The next one is coming up soon from July 15, 2016 – July 17, 2016. More details here: Writing as a Path to Awakening

Writing horror through the light of positivity

Guest post by BENJAMIN KANE ETHRIDGE

Writing is an interesting endeavor because it can be done from an abject heart or it can be done right in the fiber of your being. In working on horror fiction, the subject matter can be daunting at times and can affect your mood and even your outlook on life. I wrote a novel called THE ENDING STREET which rolled over every bright spot in my life like a tank driven by angry nihilists. The experience was so painful that I haven’t returned to edit the story in years. I just don’t have it in me. I even think it’s a good story and probably should be read by others, but I need more time.

Since then, however, when I write I try to contain my emotions to the story process and not let them linger in my thoughts. If I’m writing a particularly difficult section of writing, I don’t leave the computer until it’s done and I keep writing until I find a safe place to exit the work. I don’t really do this consciously, but when I think about my process, that’s how I’ve dealt with these things when they come up. That’s how I can be positive in my life and still write things that are far from positive.

The best writing does come from the heart, but it has to be guided with the mind. If you’re writing a scene that should be emotionally difficult and you are completely detached from it, then I would suspect the writing will show that sense of detachment and the reader will not be engaged at all. So it’s important to invest your emotions but also pull away from them at the appropriate time. You must return to the real world without taking any scars along for the ride.

Writing is inherently a window into a person; even though the subject matter may not represent them at all, the way they handle the subject matter shows the connection between the art and artist. I tend to have some extremely cold, negative outlooks in my work because I can feel that way in my life at times, but rather than let those bitter little monsters consume me and define me, I’ve used writing and storytelling to purge all of that from my system.

In my latest novel DIVINE SCREAM, I had quite a challenge on my hands. I was going through many traumatic things in my own life and I was under contract to write a novel. I willed myself back into the process— slowly —and ended up writing probably one of the most positive pieces of fantasy/horror fiction I’ve ever conceived.

I needed that. I needed to have a story that didn’t necessarily require a happy ending, but at least could contain the notion that happiness is out there, that it is attainable and that people can still hope for it. DIVINE SCREAM is very important to me in that respect. Despite the savagery of the antagonists in the book and some underlying sadness of the characters’ lives, writing this novel kept my head above troubled waters, and without it, I can’t imagine having seen that beckoning light at the end of that very long tunnel.

11421418_10206844431808639_443083246_nAbout the Author:

Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel Black & Orange, Divine Scream, Nightmare Ballad, and other novels. His fantasy and dark fiction stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Most of the time he lives in Southern California, where his children roam.

How to Write a Poem that Commemorates your Pet

How to Write a Poem that Commemorates your Pet

The grieving process that follows after losing an animal companion can be really heart wrenching. For most people, having an animal companion pass on is like losing a family member. There are many ways to cope with the grief, such as reaching out to friends and family, and there are also ways to commemorate your beloved pet so that their memory will live on with you.

A poem is perhaps one of the nicest ways to commemorate an animal companion. It’s personal and sentimental, and it’s something that is easily shared on social media, can be displayed in a frame, or be kept private. It’s also very therapeutic to put pen to paper and conjure up memories of your pet. The only tricky thing is actually writing the poem! The following tips and writing prompts will make the process of writing the poem go smoothly and easily so that you can focus on healing and creating a beautiful tribute for your beloved pet.

Write down facts about your pet

This is where you start compiling information that you can put into your poem. Writing down facts and details about your pet is also a nice way to remember all the good times and what you loved about your animal companion.

Include facts such as your pet’s favorite food, games they liked to play, and funny habits they had. Also write down details about your pet’s appearance. Did they have long or short ears? Did they have fur, feathers, or scales? Did your pet have any special behaviors or needs that made them unique?

Descriptive words

After you have a list of facts and qualities about your animal companion, make a list of descriptive words that can compliment the words in your first list. For example, if you wrote “brown” for the color of your dog’s fur, you could add “shiny brown fur that was the color of caramel”. Think about textures, sounds, emotions, and expressions.

Play around with making different sentences for the qualities you wrote down in your first list. Maybe “the color of caramel” didn’t sound quite right and you want to change it to “the color of milk chocolate”. Feel free to be as creative and expressive as you wish.

A picture is worth a thousand words

While it may be painful, looking at photos of your pet is a good way to come up with ideas for descriptive words and imagery. You’ll be able to see the expressions on your pet’s face and reflect back on the times when the photos were taken. This process can be very therapeutic. Just be sure to have some tissues on hand because it can really tug on your heart strings.

Poetry comes from the heart

The lovely thing about poetry is that you can really make the writing style your own. Poems do not have to rhyme. The only thing that truly matters is that your poem comes from the heart. You can include family members and friends and write the poem together. Or you can write it on your own. Either way, let the style come easily to you and don’t worry about form or layout.

Rhyming tips for poems

If you do want your poem to rhyme, there are some easy tricks you can use so that the words will flow naturally. First, make a list of words that rhyme with the type of animal you had. That way, you won’t have to try to think of rhyming words as you’re writing the poem. Second, make a list of words that rhyme with your pet’s name. Third, make a list of endearing words that represent how you feel about your animal companion, such as love, happy, and joy.

Lastly, look up examples of a variety of rhyming poems to see which style of rhyming you like best. Typically, a poem consists of stanzas that are four lines each. This does not have to be a rule set in stone. You can play around with the number of lines and stanzas until you find a pattern that is right for you. Pay attention to the number of beats per line so that your poetry will have a steady cadence and rhythm.

Finishing touches

After you’ve written a few lines of your poem, read them out loud to see how the rhythm is starting to form. It’s better to make adjustment in the early stages than to wait until the end. Continue to read your poem out loud every time you’ve written a few more lines.

When you get to the end of your poem, really focus on making the closing line count. Choose words that convey emotion and that pay tribute to your animal companion. Once your poem is finished, it is up to you if you want to share it with others. The poem is something you will have for always, so you can share it when you are ready.

By the time you’ve finished writing the poem, you will have spent quality time healing through the grief of losing your animal companion. It’s important to use things like poetry as a way take care of yourself through this difficult time, because the other place your pet will always live on is in your heart.

For more #BrilliantWriter tips follow Albert Flynn DeSilver at Facebook.com/Albert.Flynn.DeSilver.Author