15 Tips for Shooting & Editing Your Cell Phone Photos

15 Tips for Shooting & Editing Your Cell Phone Photos by Caryn Caldwell. These are some of my favorite tips for getting the most out of your phone's camera, whether you're posting to Instagram or another social network, sharing kid pics with your in-laws, or snapping casual photos at a friend's wedding.

Introduction

By posting this I am not claiming to be an expert. Most everything I know about iphoneography is self-taught via luck, experimentation, and sheer stubbornness. (Laziness, too, since my DSLR is too heavy and bulky to come with me on many of my adventures.) Also, my tips may not apply to every device, since I use an iPhone for all shooting and editing. However, I do get asked frequently about the photos I post on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, so I wanted a go-to place for my favorite tips. If this is helpful to you, great. If it’s not, then that’s okay, too. And if I left out any important info, please let me know in the comments.

With that out of the way, here are some of my favorite tips for getting the most out of your phone’s camera, whether you’re posting to Instagram or another social network, sharing kid pics with your in-laws, or snapping casual photos at a friend’s wedding.

 

General Tips

 

View from a Play Date

View from a play date. Taken on my iPhone 5. Edited with Snapseed.

1. Take a lot of photos and sort them carefully
Let’s be honest: The best way to ensure good photos is to take a lot of pictures and hope a few are salvageable. (I’m talking a hundred or more in a session, unless you’re absolutely positive you’ve already gotten the perfect shot. I once took over seven hundred on a single day up in the mountains.) Since you’re using a digital format, this works as long as you have the phone space and don’t mind sorting through the awful ones to get to the good. Plus the archives provide fodder for the future. (I’m still using those mountain photos all these months later). I try to sort my photos as soon after an outing as I can, immediately deleting those that are blurry or otherwise unusable, and favoriting (currently the heart button at the bottom of the screen on an iPhone) photos I want to examine for possible editing and posting. My phone automatically dumps favorited photos into a file, where they wait — sometimes for weeks or months — for me to choose one to edit. If yours doesn’t have that shortcut, you can likely copy and paste the ones you’d like to edit later into a file of your own creation. It’s a pain, but it saves time in the long run and helps you make more careful choices about which photos to spend your time on. (more…)

A Field Guide to Insomnia – For Reals This Time

Well, that was embarrassing. A couple of days ago as I was typing up my bedside notes, I accidentally published a blog entry I’d written in the middle of the night. Then Sir Google the Vigilant picked up the post before I could erase it. And now it’s out there forever, half-formed thoughts and clumsy midnight sentences and all, the draftiest possible first draft. It’s the perfectionistic writer’s equivalent of looking down to discover you’ve been walking around the mall in nothing more than torn underpants and a saggy bra. And then finding out someone put the security footage on YouTube and mailed links to all your friends and coworkers.

At any rate, it’s as fixed as it’s going to get. So without further ado or so much as a segue, and at the risk of sounding sleep-obsessed, I now present the new and improved version of my field guide to insomnia.

Mix and match as you see fit.

Aha! – Yay! Yay! I’m finally falling asleep! I’m…Oh. Never mind.

Alarmatory Anticipation – What’s the point? Alarm’s about to go off. Or the baby will wake up. Or, well, something.

Bing! – And like that, you’re awake. Really awake.

The Brain Spins – 3 a.m. may not be the ideal time to craft the perfect comeback (six hours too late), plot your novel, or list your to-dos, but good luck convincing your busy brain of that.

Comfort Void – Pillow by Acme Brick. Mattress by Stay Puft.

Fear & Trepidation – Shh! Did you hear that? (See also: Horror Novels, Late Night Reading of)

Prophetic Insomnolescence – I expect it, therefore I have it.

Sound Barrier – Too much noise – or, heck, too little – and sleep’s as elusive as a ghost.

Whee! – Anticipation and excitement are electric coursing through your body. Tomorrow (i.e. Christmas morning, your birthday, the first day of vacation) will be terrific. Tonight? Not so much.

Did I leave any out? Which ones get you?

News(!) Plus a F.A.Q.

ultrasoundblog

Frequently Asked Questions:

1) How are you feeling? Queasy and tired, thanks. And you?

2) How far along are you? 18 weeks. And, yes, still regularly visited by the quease. The second trimester is a myth. So is the “morning” in morning sickness. Just so you know. Oh, and I have to pee. Again.

3) When are you due? February 11 – give or take a few days. Yes, a Valentine’s baby. No, Cupid and Valentine are not naming options.

4) Okay, so are there any names that you do want to use? Yes.

5) Well, what are they? A surprise. They are a surprise. They are also subject to change. We’ll announce in February.

6) Girl or boy? Yes, we hope so. Oh, you mean, which one? We’ll know in a few weeks, but we have some preliminary results. We’re just waiting for backup to know for certain. Don’t want to announce one and have it turn out to be the other after all.

7) So you’re going to find out? Yup. That’s the plan. I never was big on surprises.

8) Will you tell us? If you ask nicely. I’ll probably announce it on Twitter and Facebook first.

9) Is this your first? Yes. Otherwise you’d probably have seen me mention other children a time or two.

10) So is this why you haven’t written in a while? Or, visited my blog? (Not to sound pouty, but…) Yeah, among other things. Like the flu (which is no fun without Dayquil, let me tell you). And multiple internet outages (still). And a very busy time at work.

Huh. Wow. So this is what the internet looks like. I’d nearly forgotten.

My dearest blogosphere,

In the words of a pen pal from my elementary days, how are you? I am fine. Mostly. I know that it has been ages since I’ve written, but I promise that there are reasons, many of which are even valid.

For one thing, blogging minus the internet doesn’t work so well. It’s been nearly a week since my (former) phone company, a bottomless reservoir of brilliant communicators, interpreted a clear request for ditching our land line as an order to disconnect all service, including our internet and every one of our well-established email accounts. ((That means that if you wrote to me in the past week, I may not have gotten it. And since I’m not about to post my shiny new gmail address online, you can use my contact form to try again.)) It’s possible it was an act of spite, brought about by their jealousy at our choosing somebody else’s cell service over their land line offerings. I, however, prefer to think of it as an honest mistake somehow perpetuated by, well, no fewer than six different customer service reps, four technical support gurus, and two managers. ((This is no exaggeration. I actually counted how many people couldn’t help me. I had to do something with all that time on hold.)) In an act of breathtaking incompetence, they managed to make the problem worse every time I called. While their communication skills may be lacking, their determination to screw things up is admirable.

Whatever the cause, this incident, as you may imagine, has not exactly filled my days with sunshine and rainbows. The good news is that I have now developed an exciting new hobby: unsuccessfully battling the company that ate my internet. Which is excuse number two for not having written. You know how hobbies can be, so all-consuming that at times they almost cease to be fun.

The public library, with its abundance of light, foliage, and wireless internet, is perhaps an obvious choice for those who find themselves marooned in a house without a workable way to surf the web. If only I hadn’t also been battling something mean and contagious, a fight I plan to win tomorrow, or maybe Friday.

Then there was the possibility of writing from work, with its many doors to all things online. Let’s just rule that option out now, though, shall we? I don’t typically blog about work, and I definitely don’t blog at work. The two entities go together like plaid and stripes.

I would like to think that my remaining time has been spent well, however. For example, I’ve attacked my new cell phone, associating different ring tones and photos with almost all of my contacts, a crucial first step in breaking in a new device. And then there are the book revisions. It’s astonishing how much less painful they can be without the worldly web tempting me at every turn.

All of this is to say that there is more coming soon, when I am less annoyed and more coherent. And to apologize for my lack of communication. A new company swooped in a few hours ago to hook us up to the rest of the world, which means I’ll be touring the blogosphere – and adding to it – in no time.

More soon,

Caryn

P.S. I think everyone should probably be without the internet for a while. At the very least they can rewnew their relationships with the dictionary and the phone book, two worthy publications that don’t see a lot of use these days.

Spreading the Blog Love

As anyone who’s ever tagged me for a meme knows, if I don’t answer right away then I never do. And to be honest, I never answer right away, usually because I can’t think of what to write. By the time the words would have come to me, I’ve usually forgotten the assignment. (Incidentally, this is not very different from my middle school years, when I procrastinated on my homework until long past the expiration date. Of course, back then I could blame it on friends, lack of motivation, and an unhealthy interest in a certain few boys who, in turn, had no interest in me whatsoever.)

But when my friend Robin Bielman awarded my blog — and six others — the lovely badge to the left, I knew I couldn’t ignore it. Sheer terror had much to do with my dutiful response, since Robin knows where I live, she could totally take me in a fight, she knows several of my more potent secrets, and she critiques my writing. There was more to it than lack of courage, however. I loved the spirit of this award, which was designed to acknowledge bloggers who tirelessly entertain near-strangers with regular, good-quality content — and all for free.

It’s deciding which worthy bloggers deserved the honor next that gave me the most difficulty, of course. How is it possible to narrow down my favorite blogs to just seven, even when accounting for those who had already received the badge from someone else? And how could I do that without hurting the feelings of those who were left? After all, I think everyone on my blogroll is deserving of recognition. And so I grabbed all of the eligible names from my sorely outdated list of links, shuffled them in a high-tech fashion, and chose the top seven. If you have the opportunity, please take a few moments to check out the following blogs, as well as the ones from my blogroll that ended up later in the randomized list and so didn’t get chosen this time around. I bet you’ll find some fun new reads that way.

And now, without further fanfare, I hereby present the I Love Your Blog badge of honor to:

  • Katie from Cactus Kate for her gorgeous photographs and awe-inspiring gardening abilities
  • Courtney from Five-Second Dance Party for her unflinching honesty and warm-heartedness
  • Sandi Kahn Shelton for writing posts that never fail to make me laugh and, on some occasions, tear up
  • Alyson Noel from Tales from the Real OC (Really!) for her fun updates, insights into the life of an author, and many cool website recommendations
  • Chemical Billy for writing drop dead gorgeous prose that makes the world around her come alive for her readers
  • Eileen Cook from Just My Type for finding the most random, bizarre, and entertaining links to pass on to the rest of us. I don’t know how she does it!
  • Emily from The Sassy Lime for being such a sweetie, and for her cheerfulness in the face of near-constant pain

Thank you, ladies, for your inspiring, entertaining, and always-interesting posts! Please pass on the blog love by putting the badge of honor on your sites and awarding it to seven other deserving bloggers.

Note on a Unrelated Topic: If you’re reading this through an email subscription or an RSS feed, or at http://www.caryncaldwell.com/blog, you have been successfully transferred over to my new blog. Stay tuned for a fun surprise later this weekend!

Welcome to my new digs!

Good to see you! Can’t believe we finally made it — you to this new blog, and me through the website design process. I never thought we’d get here.  Now that you’ve arrived, though, feel free to look around. ((As for me, it’s time for a long-overdue nap.)) And, of course, let me know if you have any questions, either in a comment or by email.  If something on the site is broken or otherwise weird-looking, I’d appreciate knowing about that, too. After all, this whole thing has been an experiment in trial and error — lots of errors. What’s a few more?

My first official post on this shiny new blog will occur just after Thanksgiving, and will entail a special surprise. Be sure to check back for it. Or if it’s easier, just subscribe to my RSS feed or sign up to receive new posts by e-mail. Then you’ll know every time I update. (Note: Until I put up a new post on this blog, the Feedburner subscription will still show info from the old blog. However, it is still working just fine! I’ll switch it to reflect info from this blog as soon as I have something new to post.)

Thanks again for stopping by. Hope to see you back around these parts soon! ((I was showing off back there with the footnotes thing, wasn’t I? I was. I’m sorry. Must. Lay off. The footnotes. Even if they are cool.))

41 Ways to Conquer Writer’s Block

For the past several years I have volunteered at the local high school, advising a number of very talented students in the creative writing club. This year I mentioned NaNoWriMo to several of them. Word spread, and now we have a large group of students who are all determined to write an entire novel this month. Only problem? Some of them had no idea where to start. Since I’ve dealt with this same issue, I made up the following list for them. Since many of you write — books, term papers, blog entries, thank-you notes — I figured I’d share the list with you as well. Have favorite ways to jump start your writing? Please share!

1. Go back to when everything last worked and to see if you went off-track.

2. Skip ahead to what you do know and write that. Sometimes you’ll find that the scene you agonized over really doesn’t need to be there, or in the meantime you – or your subconscious – could think of a good way to fix it.

3. Think of ways to make your characters’ lives worse, then implement them. It’s hard to have a book if you don’t have conflict.

4. Make a list of all the scenes that have to happen in your book. Good. Now you know where you’re going, and you have a goal. Start figuring out how to get from your current scene to the next one.

5. Read what you’ve already written to get back into the groove. Danger: Don’t let this lead you to edit too much; it’s possible to spend all your time polishing the first three chapters and never get anything else written. You’ll have a great beginning, but you won’t have a book.

6. Write with someone else. This can often be inspiring; when others around you are being creative and productive, it’s hard to keep your own pen off the page.

7. Writer’s block is often caused by fear. It may be fear of writing something imperfect, fear of what others will think, fear of rejection, or even fear of success. What are you afraid of? Sometimes just knowing will help you conquer it.

8.Remind yourself that this is only a first draft. Most books go through many, many revisions, so if it’s not perfect the first time around that’s normal. You don’t have to show anyone until you’re ready.

9. Perhaps you’ve lost sight of your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts. What would your character would do next in order to reach his/her goal? Now prevent him/her from it.

10. Watch a movie or read a book for inspiration. Sometimes the creative well just plain runs dry.

11. Brainstorm with someone.

12. Or, the reverse could be an issue: Perhaps you’ve talked about your book too much and now it doesn’t seem fresh or fun anymore. If that’s the case, try going in a new direction to freshen it up a bit, and keep it all to yourself for now.

13. 90% of all people who begin a novel never finish it. 85% of all those who began NaNoWriMo last year never finished. Beat the odds no matter what, even if means writing utter crap. You can always revise later.

14. Reexamine why you’re doing this in the first place. Write your motivation(s) on a sticky note and post it next to your monitor.

15. Sometimes having too many options can cause a block. For example, should the character be an architect or a plumber? Should his/her parents be divorced or still together? It’s difficult, but make a choice and stick with it. If you still can’t decide, write each choice on a piece of paper, fold up the pieces, throw them in a hat or bowl and draw one.

16. Set a timer and tell yourself you’ll write for this amount of time, no matter what – but that you’re allowed to stop after that if you want to. Anyone can write for 15, 30, or 60 minutes if they put their minds to it. Take a break to eat or do something fun, then set that timer again.

17. Develop a writing routine – light a candle, write at the same time each day, choose a special writing chair, etc. Just going through those motions can tell your brain that it’s time to write.

18. Shake up your writing routine. Write at a different time or place.

19. Allow yourself some awful first sentences each time you begin a new writing session. After all, quite often the hardest part is just getting started. Once you’ve warmed up, it usually becomes much easier.

20. Next time you write, try stopping in the middle of a sentence, paragraph, or scene. This way you’ll know where to begin when you come back to it.

21. Write daily. Make it a habit. Often the longer you go between writing sessions, the harder it can be to get back into it, and the more time you’ll have to psych yourself out.

22. Tell everyone your goal so that you are held accountable. Then you have no choice but to get something down.

23. Start with success: Do something important but easy, such as finding a good last name for your character or doing some simple research. This gets you back into your story, and the success is often motivating.

24. Sometimes you just have to get yourself out of your own way. Take a shower, do the dishes, knit a scarf, take a long drive, play a computer game, hike, run, swim…Do something that keeps your hands and body occupied but your mind free. Then assign your brain the task of thinking about what to write next.

25. Disconnect your internet, so if you’re ever tempted to conduct another email check you have to get up and walk over to the modem to plug it back in. Quite often your willpower will return before you set aside your laptop or notebook.

26. Think of what you could be doing that you want to do even less – homework, cleaning house, writing that thank-you note to your Great Aunt Pearl, whatever.

27. Give yourself silly goals such as finding random words in the dictionary and having to use them, or starting the first sentence with the letter A, the next with B, the following with C, etc. The challenge can help get your mind off your fear and spark your creativity.

28. Open a new document or turn to a clean page in your notebook. Anything goes when you’re starting fresh. If you like what you come up with, you can always add it in later. Sounds silly, but it’s actually one of my favorite — and most effective — methods.

29. Type with your eyes closed. This can remove inhibitions.

30. Begin a free-write with, “I don’t know what to write,” and go from there, writing whatever comes to mind but slowly working your way into examining your book and then, perhaps, starting to write it again.

31. Interview your main character, or write a monologue from his/her P.O.V.

32. Keep a notebook by your bedside, in your car, in the bathroom – wherever you’re likely to get an idea. When one comes to you, take a moment to (safely!) write it down. Next time you’re stuck with your writing, look through your notebook for ideas.

33. Maybe you’ve gone the obvious route with your writing, and you’ve ended up boring yourself. Throw something big into the works to change things radically: someone new (dead or alive) turns up, your character finds out a devastating secret or is suddenly faced with what s/he most fears, the hero fails at an important task.

34. Make a list of 20 things that could happen next. Cross out the first 10-15 since those are often the more obvious choices, then consider implementing the last few.

35. Let your subconscious do the work. Long before you sit down to write, give yourself a problem that needs to be solved, anywhere from “What should I write next?” to “How should my protagonist react when s/he finds the dead body?” Think about it from time to time. By the time you write, a solution will often present itself with minimal effort.

36. Eat, go to the bathroom, and do any urgent business before writing. That way you have no reason to get up from the keyboard once you start. Just make sure you don’t put writing dead last, or you may never get to it.

37. Whatever you do, don’t delete! If you really don’t think it’s worthwhile, cut it from the manuscript and paste it in a new one so you can put it back in or use it in something else. Sometimes all you need is a little perspective, and that can take time and distance. If you’re stuck, go through your file of deleted scenes for inspiration.

38. What do you like about certain books/movies? How can you incorporate that into your own work in a creative way? What do you hate about particular books/movies? How can you write it better, and with your own creative twist?

39. Work on something else for a while. Ever have several books going at a time, reading whichever one interests you right then? The same can work with writing.

40. Remember that writing is hard. Just because it doesn’t always flow, it doesn’t mean you’re blocked. So realize that it might not be easy, and work through it. After all, things that are worth it rarely come easily.

41. Examine your attitude before you go into it. Are you expecting to have a fun, productive writing session, or are you expecting pain and blockage? Your brain often delivers what you expect.

Strong Women, Intrigue, and Great Prose. What Could Be Better?

I had the pleasure of meeting debut author Joanne Rendell at a conference this summer and hearing all about her new book The Professors’ Wives Club, which is coming out today. Not only is she a lovely person with a fantastic blog and a great accent (she’s originally from the U.K.) but from the reviews and the premise of both this book and her next it appears she’s also a terrific novelist with a promising career ahead of her. I already ordered a copy for myself and can’t wait until it arrives. Please help me in welcoming her to the blog and to congratulating her on her well-deserved success!

Hi Joanne. Thanks for coming. I know I’ve already put my copy of The Professors’ Wives Club on order, but for those who don’t know anything about it yet, what is it about? What inspired it?

The Professors’ Wives’ Club tells the story of four women doing battle with a ruthless dean at Manhattan U – a university in downtown New York which looks a lot like NYU, where my husband teaches. The power hungry dean is set to bulldoze a beloved faculty garden. What he hasn’t bargained for, however, is the guts and will of the four professors’ wives who are determined to halt the demolition plans. In their fight to save the garden, the women expose the dark underbelly of academia – and find the courage to stand up for their own dreams, passions, and lives.

That sounds like an interesting premise. You just don’t read that much about university life, even though so many readers have been to college or are there now so they can relate. What inspired you to delve into this subject and write The Professors’ Wives’ Club?

I actually came up with the idea for the book when out with a friend, another professor’s wife like me. We were gossiping about other professors’ wives who we both knew and it struck me then what interesting characters professors’ wives would make.

These women – and, of course, there are professors’ husbands and partners too – are in an interesting position. They are often deeply connected to the university world. They live in faculty housing, take their kids to university childcare, and work out at the university gym. However, when it comes to university decisions, they have little power.

I liked the idea of pitting these seemingly powerless women against a dean who, in his little kingdom of the university, has so much power.

In addition to being the wife of a professor, you yourself have a very strong academic background, including a Ph.D. in English,  yet you write (and, I presume, read) commercial women’s fiction. Some might see that as a difficult leap, especially with the focus so many English departments put on high-brow literature. Was it hard for you to break out of your academic shell and just write and read for the fun of it?

Not at all. I’ve always been a big reader of commercial women’s fiction. Even when I was at grad school, I always had a stack of such books by my bed. Some of my peers and professors might have frowned on my well-thumbed copies of Bridget Jones’ Diary or Weiner’s Good in Bed but I didn’t care. I ate them up!

Popular fiction by women, for women, and about women has always gotten a bad rap. Romance novels continually get stereotyped as “soft porn for desperate housewives.” Chick lit has been dismissed by the literati as throwaway “fluff” obsessed with shopping and shoes. And even women writers like Jodi Picoult, ones who tackle more serious issues, are often labeled “hysterical” and “melodramatic” by snooty reviewers (if they get reviewed at all!).

It has become one of my missions to expose just how sexist and elitist this is. Why is it that women’s fiction gets such a bashing? Women do most of the reading these days, yet still the fiction we write struggles to be taken seriously? It makes me so mad, but it also makes me a fierce defender of popular/commercial women’s fiction of all kinds – from romance to Picoult!

I can definitely relate to that, especially since I experienced the same thing in my own academic career. So since not everyone is so englightened, how do you feel about your friends, family and contemporaries from your academic life reading your work? What about reviews? Are you worried about them, or do you just plan to ignore them?

I love it. It makes me a little nervous too, of course. You can’t help wondering what everyone will think when they read it and whether they will like it. I particularly love the idea of academics reading this book – if they dare! So far, there are few books out there that explore the private lives of women on campus. Novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys or Zadie Smith’s On Beauty have looked at university life, but mostly from the male perspective. When literary fiction sets a book on campus it invariably tells a story about a male professor who’s either sleeping with or contemplating sleeping with his students! I’m tired of this story and maybe other people are too?

Reviews can be the best thing in the world if they’re good and a real kick in the teeth if they’re bad (especially when they’re posted on Amazon for the world to see!). But it’s all part of the roller coaster ride of publication. I’m learning that a thick skin is essential. As writers, we have to remind ourselves that reviews are just one person’s opinion. Furthermore, we have to appreciate that those people in powerful positions who get to say what is a “good” or “bad” book (in other words, the reviewers in the press or book trade) are often white, male, elite, and are not necessarily interested in the kind of books we write! In short, we can’t take reviews too personally; there’s too much politics and personal taste at play.

Yes, I can see how once again a propensity toward literature can affect reviews of women’s fiction. Although you are a great champion of women’s fiction — including romance, the most popular subgenre of women’s fiction — The Professors’ Wives Club is not a romance novel. Nonetheless, you were at the Romance Writers of America conference last month. Why? What did you take away from it?

My publisher was the one to suggest I go. At first, I was flummoxed. Me? There are no bodices or billowing pirate blouses on my cover after all, and when I looked at the RWA’s criterion for membership my novels didn’t fit the bill: “Books catalogued as romance” and “A main plot centering around two individuals falling in love.” My novel has romantic elements, for sure, but it’s more about women learning, growing, and finding happiness from themselves and from their friendships with other women.

But then I perused the RWA’s website further and was reminded of the staggering success of the romance industry. More than a quarter of all books sold are romance and in 2006 romance fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales (outselling every other market category). In the current climate where book buying is on the decline and where authors are increasingly expected to do the lion’s share of their book’s promotion, a new writer would be foolhardy not to want to learn something from the perennial success of the romance world.

Thus, I signed up and at the end of July jetted off to San Francisco for the conference. It was a blast! The Romance Writers of America are such a supportive and generous group of (mostly) women. They are so smart and professional too. Plus, they’re eminently welcoming. They don’t care if your book doesn’t fit the genre exactly. In fact, it was rare to meet anyone who wrote a standard romance, if bodice ripping and ravishing princes are what you were looking for! I met young adult fiction writers, chick lit writers, and other commercial women’s fiction writers like me. One woman I talked to wrote books about aliens, another about elves; others about panthers and vampires.

Mostly, I had a great time meeting wonderful and encouraging women. I also learnt so much about the publishing industry which I would never have known if I hadn’t attended. I’m going to the RWA convention every year from now on!

Yes, it was a wonderful conference, wasn’t it? Although my first attempts at writing were in the romance genre, I’m not longer solidly there, and yet I have learned more about writing from the romance community than from any other. Those women really know how to band together and help each other, and they’ve analyzed what does and doesn’t work in storytelling. What better place for a writer to learn? So other than joining RWA or similar organizations, what other advice do you have for unpubbed writers out there who are hoping to become published someday?

Join a writing group, either on or offline. Other writers are often fonts of wisdom not just about the craft of writing, but also about the publishing business.

Keep reading. Whichever genre you intend to write in – whether it’s mystery or literary fiction – make sure you know it inside out.

Keep writing. I really treat writing as a job. I sit down at my desk and tell myself I must write 500 words a day. I then get going. Often I trash a lot of what I write the next day, but at least I have words on a page to work with.

Keep learning about writing. Even now, with two books published, I continually go back to my books about writing (such as John Gardner’s Art of Fiction). I have to keep learning about, and reminding myself, what makes good dialogue, or how to transition well into a flashback scene, or how to go easy with the adverbs, or how to show, not tell. Writing is a craft and thus something you must keep working at.

You mentioned above that you are about to have two books out, and I noticed on your website that your second one will be released in the summer of 2009. I’m curious now! What’s it about?

The novel tells the story of two women, professors this time, who work in an English Department. One of the women, Diana, is older, very serious, and extremely established in the academic world. She’s only interested in very serious literature and has written a number of books on Sylvia Plath.

The other professor, Rachel, is new to the department. She’s young, enthusiastic, and her scholarship looks at popular women’s fiction. Her scholarship ruffles a lot of feathers in the academy because people see the books Rachel looks at as trashy and unimportant. Diana is particularly adamant on this point and really doesn’t like it when the young professor comes to the department.

The book basically looks at the tensions between these two very different women and also shows all the repercussions in their department and in their lives when they are forced to work side by side. A handsome visiting professor from Harvard and some high-profile, misbehaving students only serve to make sparks fly even more between the two women.

It sounds fantastic, and I love that it addresses the idea of literary fiction vs. women’s fiction. It reminds me of some of the essays novelist Jennifer Crusie has written in defense of genre fiction.

Thanks for visiting, Joanne! Now I’m off to see if my copy of The Professors’ Wives Club has arrived yet. And if others are interested, they can pick up copies everywhere, including Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Target, and their local independent bookstores, starting today. Happy reading!

In Which I Use too Many Parentheses (and Can’t Remember the Rules of Capitalization for Titles)

It is a coincidence that I contracted the flu yesterday, just hours after a library copy of Breaking Dawn — the fourth and final book of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series — fell into my hands. The fact that it is also a weekend (which means I don’t have to feel the guilt associated with staying in bed for two days in a row, sucking down grape juice, popping pills and reading the 754-page tome) is just one more bonus but, yes, it is still a coincidence. If my weekend were a recipe it would require the following ingredients: one part restlessness, two parts reading machine, and four parts cat bed, since the three felines have apparently decided either that sleeping on The Couch of Death is passé or that I am more generously padded than said couch. (And, let’s face it, the latter is probably true.) The past two days have also been comprised of stoic suffering and an attempt to be a pillar of strength in the face of adversity. (How am I doing so far?) Also, I’ve been watching way too many Vlogbrothers videos.

This means difficult times are ahead for our house. Remember that vacation I just took? The California one that not only necessitated camping supplies, beachwear and winter clothes (since, hello, San Francisco is really cold in the summer) but also a full conference wardrobe and makeup? Well, since Thursday was a catch-up day (which mysteriously did not include unpacking) and Friday was a work day, my bags have spent the past several days sitting in my bedroom, conveniently located at an angle guaranteed to make hubs trip if he should get up in the middle of the night. And since moving makes my skin hurt when I’m sick, unpacking isn’t going to happen this weekend, either.

The good news is that I can’t procrastinate forever because my work wardrobe is severely limited while most of my favorite clothes are wrinkling inside a garment bag. So what’s the holdup, other than my schedule, my symptoms, and too many meds? Laundry. Because all those suitcased clothes are destined for a good washing. It is ridiculous to hate doing laundry. I have it so easy compared to anybody else in the history of the universe. For one thing, I have machines to do it. For another, said machines are located in my kitchen, which is just down the hall from a closet that houses a large stash of empty hangers. Also, long ago I made it a policy to never buy anything that requires an iron. And, finally, it’s a weekend, so I can stick around to change over loads. See? Not a big deal. Except it kind of is somehow. So while I feel like an over-entitled gen-X middle-class American whiner for saying that I hate to do laundry, well, there it is.

As for writing about the trip itself, well, I stink at trip reports. I usually find them boring to write, and if I’m bored, you definitely will be. The good news is that you have lots of options if you want to know what hubs and I were up to. For one thing, I’ve already processed many of the 950+ photos from our trip and uploaded them to my phlog. (Phlog = photoblog.) So as a bonus not only do you get visuals, but I also have inane little paragraphs captioning them. The first picture is, predictably enough, of the Golden Gate Bridge. The next one, which is much cuter and lacking both the color orange and any sign of motor vehicles, will be up on Monday. Until then, this link probably won’t work. New photos up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from now until my photos, the internet, or I end.

And if your nosiness concerns the conference I attended in San Francisco, you could revisit the links given in the previous post or the blogs belonging to the lovely and talented Alyson Noel, the vivacious and scarily elusive Melissa Blue, and the super-sweet Melina Kantor, all of whom I also had the pleasure of meeting at RWA and with whom I wish I’d had the chance to spend a lot more time. By now some of them have probably addressed the conference more thoroughly than I. Either way, their blogs are still worth the visit.

Disappointed by my reticence? Fine. If you have a specific question about our vacation, put it in the comments and I might answer it. Unless, you know, you want me to just write about the whole thing, in which case I earn a free pass to ignore you. And if there are no questions then I’m off the hook, so yippee.

In the Meantime

Wow! Look at the thick layer of dust on this here blog! Sorry about that. The conference ended this weekend, and now we’re off to Yosemite and the long drive home. Will post again later this week. In the meantime, here are a few of the many bloggers I met while in San Francisco. If you get a chance, cruise around their blogs for a while, or at least stop by to say hello. They are all talented writers and incredibly fun to talk to in person. A few of them are slow to return to the blogosphere, too, but that’s just because we had so much fun. If I left your name out, worry not — I’ll get you later…

Robin Bielman
Pam Writes Romance
Jess Riley
Joanne Rendell
Marilyn Brant
Eileen Cook