Poets & Writers Writing Prompts

Poets & Writers provides a wonderful online archive of writing prompts called “The Time Is Now.” They post a poetry prompt on Tuesdays, a fiction prompt on Wednesdays, and a creative nonfiction prompt on Thursdays to help writers stay committed to their writing practice throughout the year. Also, you can have the prompts sent directly to your email every week!

We highly recommend you check out this wonderful resource, here, and commit yourself to writing or editing pieces of your work everyday!

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An excerpt from William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Hope you are all having a great week. We think this quote is an encouraging message for anyone who sits down to write something important and new. Enjoy!

‎(A writer) must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
— from William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, December 10, 1950

Q&A with “Breakthrough Boys” author Jaime Aron

By Matthew Schulz

 

In 20 years with The Associated Press, Jaime Aron has covered the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup finals, Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics, and the World Cup.

He’s also a prolific author of non-fiction books, all of which focused on Dallas-area sports teams. His fifth and latest, called “Breakthrough Boys”, is the tale of the tumultuous season of the 1971 Dallas Cowboys — the first Cowboys team to with the Super Bowl.

I asked Jaime — who I’ve known for more than two decades, dating back to college at the University of Texas — for his insights on what it takes to be a successful non-fiction author. Here’s what he had to say:

Once you decide on a book topic, what happens next? Do you outline first, or do the interviews come first?
This was my first “real” book, meaning one big story about one subject. I didn’t really know what to do, so I studied other books I admired. I came up with the game plan of, essentially, “research, interview, write.” Then, I emailed [a friend who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author] for his thoughts. His response was so great that I printed it up and taped it to my computer monitor:

“… The more you know, the better your interviews with the key characters will go. The more detail you get, with a purpose in mind, the more you will be able to bring the events alive to your readers. The more you bring it alive to your readers, the more you can teach them something at the same time, subtly and easily. There’s a point, which is hard to define, when you know you know enough to start writing. But even as you start to write, keep reporting until the day you are done with the project.”

The reality is that I could’ve spent three years researching everything and interviewing everyone about everything. At a certain point, I realized I was getting bogged down, so I put together an outline of the overall arc of the story and a detailed outline of each chapter. I needed this to narrow my focus. The 1971 football season gave me a natural timeline, which helped, but then I needed to pick my main
characters.

How many people do you speak with for a typical book?
There’s no one-size-fits all answer. But this much is always true: conduct as many interviews as possible. The subject and – especially – the deadline will determine how many are needed, and how many are realistic.

As for how many interviews make it into the book, that depends on what they say, who they are, how much insight they offer. Ultimately, something everyone says will wind up in the book one way or another – not necessarily as a quote, but something that steered your thinking, or even a phrase you borrow, consciously or not.

What’s an example of a mistake you made or a trap you fell into when writing the earlier books that you’ve been sure to avoid when writing later ones?
Hours and hours of wasted interviews. There were guys who were captivating speakers or fun to talk to, but who didn’t enhance the narrative, either because they veered too far off the subject or their ‘facts’ were so far off.


What’s the key to writing great, compelling non-fiction?

Readers will know what happened (won the Super Bowl, became President, ruined Enron) from reading the dust jacket. You want to explain why, how and – most of all – who were the people behind these events. You start by selling the reader on the people through details and anecdotes. Then, you have to find the most germane ones and string them together.

A writing coach once described this as collecting gold coins in the research/interview phase, then tossing them out during the writing phase – not too many all at once, just a steady stream that keeps the reader hunting for more.

Matthew Schulz is writing his second novel, working toward fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a published author of fiction. He has written for the Houston Chronicle, Associated Press and other major publications, but his current day job has him working as a Managing Editor at Bankrate, Inc., where he helps lead an award-winning news team. He has even helped coordinate a video town hall with the White House. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewschulz and learn more about him at MattSchulz.com.

2012 Nautilus Awards Now Accepting Submissions …

The Nautilus Awards recognizes and honors Books & Audiobooks that promote Better Books for a Better World. Nautilus Books Awards is committed to seeking, acknowledging and honoring books that inspire and connect our lives as individuals, communities and global citizens. Dedicated to excellence and the highest of standards, the Nautilus Awards winners receive excellent recognition, outstanding marketing opportunities, prestige, industry exposure and SALES!

For more information, including Guidelines for Entering, a list of Categories, and a downloadable Entry Form, please go to: http://www.nautilusbookawards.com

The Nautilus Book Awards is looking forward to keeping you current with the information on the Nautilus Awards. If you need additional information or have any questions, please contact Marilyn McGuire at marilyn@nautilusbookawards.com and/or visit our website http://www.nautilusbookawards.com.

Thank you in advance.
We appreciate your support!

September’s Third Thursday Wrap Up, Behind the Publishing House Curtain”

By Lexi Smith

September’s Third Thursday program took us “Behind the Publishing House Curtain” with two booksellers and a publicist. Gillian Redfearn is a Key Account Manager for MacMillian Publishing, Gianna La Morte is a Sales Manager at UT Press, and Colleen Devine Ellis is the Publicity Manager at UT Press.

What did we find behind the curtain? Not a new car or a man pretending to be a wizard. We found inspiration and advice to help your book along the yellow brick road to publication.

You probably won’t encounter flying monkeys or talking trees (unless you’re in Marfa with Gianna) as you work to get your book in print. But, you can learn from Dorothy and friends about what it takes to reach your destination. Put on your Oz-colored glasses as we distill the conversation with Gillian, Gianna and Colleen into four things you’ll need as you work towards publishing your book.

Brains – It obviously takes a certain amount of brain power to write a book. Then it takes more to rewrite your book. Additionally, you have to figure out how to navigate all the different components of becoming (and being!) a published author. Avail yourself to the rich resources available in the Austin writing community. For example, tonight’s panel was an excellent opportunity to access professionals in the book industry and learn from their experiences.

Heart – Don’t give up on your dream of writing. Books mentioned tonight took from 3-10 years to write. Your book may take more or less time. Then you’re off to find a publisher. Once accepted for publication, it can take from 18 months to 2 years to publish. Becoming a published writer is not for the faint of heart.

Courage – Do you want your book to sell? If so, marketing your book will become a part-time job. Technology can make it easier than it used to be, but it can still be a daunting task. Though social media options (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may overwhelm you, don’t be afraid to try them.

Need help? For inspiration, check out Liz and Gianna’s Adventures in Bookland blog. For instruction, sign-up for the ongoing Tuesday Night Tech Talks at the WLT and learn the nuts and bolts of technology for authors. You can also join us on Thursday, October 20th for “An Author’s Guide to PR & Marketing.”

Our panel also encouraged us to be bold, without being a jerk, in asking for things from your publicist, agent or editor. Let them know your expectations. You may not get what you want, but you can ask.

Friends – The Munchkins, Glenda, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion all helped Dorothy get to the Wizard. Likewise, you’ll need a team of people to help with your book. Family, friends, critique groups, editors, agents, book sellers and publicists can all help. Again, the WLT can help with many of these connections.

When Dorothy woke from her Technicolor dream, she found her ordinary world filled with people who loved her. As dreams of publishing your book are challenged by the stark reality of what that takes, remember that your friends, brains, heart and courage can help you reach your Emerald City.

Resources Mentioned

Self-Publishing Options

CreateSpace.com is part of Amazon.com.

Classes, Conferences and Workshops

October 8, AustinSCBWI, “Storytelling in the Digital Age”

November 12th, AustinSCBWI, “Write What You Think You Can’t”

Ongoing – “Silver Voices in Ink” from Badgerdog.org – Writing course for senior citizens with ongoing classes around Austin.

Writers’ League Agents Conference

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

Write on Wednesday Prompt

We’re keeping our weekly writing prompts going with another Write on Wednesdays series! Make sure to comment/respond if you find these prompts helpful. Here’s what we have for you today:

Write a list of 10 unusual jobs that would be interesting from a 1st person point of view. Then, using one off your list, create a story where one person meets an unlikely friend while they are going about their job.

For example, you can choose a zookeeper who meets a lost young blind girl carrying a blue balloon. But why does she have a balloon and who gave it to her? Is the zookeeper male, female, afraid of lions tigers and bears? There’s so much that you can come up with!

Keep writing, and comment with everything you’ve come up with!

Fiction Friday!

To kick off the weekend we’re bringing you a writing prompt that caters to fiction writing. Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting a good idea in your head, so here at the WLT we’re going to help you get that golden thought and write that bestseller already!

Here’s a really good prompt that you can try: Write a mini-story (100-150 words) that revolves around the first line of “they had nothing to say to each other.” Then, somehow incorporate an awkward situation into your story. It can be anything! Running into an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, sending a text message to the wrong person, dropping a meal in a cafeteria. The possibilities are (almost) endless!

We’ll give you a preview of how this works:

They had nothing to say to each other. After 10 years of not speaking, where would they even begin? It’s not like he was planning on running into her here, at Babies R’ Us, buying toys for his future child. But there she was, in a pink dress, with permed hair and a sunburn. From far away she looked happy, but then again, even when they were together he could never tell.

Happy writing!