"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Party 2010

Charm O'Ryan once again graciously hosted our annual Christmas party at her lovely home. We shared our writing and industry-related news and tips, exchanged gifts, welcomed two new members, missed those who couldn't attend, and had a terrific potluck lunch. Everyone went home with more reading material to cozy up with and critique over the holidays. As always, it ended too soon!

Our group has had a very productive writing year with a number of books in progress, and 2011 looks to be even more productive as we gear up for marketing. We hope the same has been the case for all you writers out there.

From all of us to all of you -- Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Idaho Book Extravaganza

Idaho's first publishing industry show will be next weekend, October 22 and 23, and is being sponsored by Aloha Publishing and Stone House Ink. The theme is "The Future of Writing and Publishing." It will be held in Meridian, Idaho, at the Silverstone Plaza (eight minutes from downtown Boise). The event will feature publishers, printers, literary agents, book designers, booksellers, social media experts, and authors. For more information, go to Idaho Book Extravaganza.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Roadblocks to Writing - The Two Syndromes

Last night I pondered (again) why I hadn't gotten my blog finished. I found out I'm suffering from two syndromes: The I-Come-Last Syndrome and the I-Can't-Say-No Syndrome. The symptoms are very debilitating to any type of writing schedule. Symptoms include: I'll just dump the garbage, throw in a load of laundry, and clean the kitchen, then it there's time before I have to walk the dog, pick up the kids, make dinner, fill in the blank, then I'll write. How can any responsible person write until she has all this work caught up, right? Life can get in the way but sometimes we use it to cover a deeper issue: self-esteem. Do we feel it's a waste of time to dream of a writing career? Or our dream isn't important enough to deserve our attention? If you suffer from this syndrome go get a big piece of paper and write on it: Where would the world be without its storytellers? Then place that paper on the fridge or mirror or somewhere you see it each and every day, because to get rid of this syndrome we need to truly value our talent. A unique talent that each and everyone of us in Blue Sage has!

The next syndrome is hard because as caring people how can we possibly say no to someone who really needs our help? People tend to discourage us from saying the dreaded "no" for the simple reason that our yes benefits them. Could you please bake cookies for the holiday bazaar? With the state of our country won't you please help with the upcoming election? Could you please lie down over there in front of the door so I have someplace to wipe my feet? We should be kind and caring but we need to realize that a writer does not have some magic well of renewable resources. Since I suffer from both syndromes I've decided to dig deep in my psyche and see why am I really saying yes to everything else and no to my writing. I need to place my worth to my goals because they are worthy ones. I hope if you suffer, as I am, you will join me in getting rid of the fear, the guilt, the who-could-possibly-want-to-read-my-stuff! I promise I will help you if you'll help me. Now please excuse me while I put my words into action and actually get back to my novel.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why Join a Writers Group

When I first started writing, I was told by many veteran writers that it was very important that I find a good writers group and join. Being new to the business and somewhat intimidated by having someone else read my work and critique it, I was reluctant to put myself through that process. I resisted for a couple of years, but finally matured enough to realize that it might just help me to improve my writing. So I found Blue Sage Writers and joined. It still took me awhile to get up the courage to read my stuff to the group, but again, I finally matured enough to do that. A recent experience proves just how important writer support really is.

In my last post I believe I mentioned that I had just finished my screenplay and was ready to send it off to the movie producer. Well, I did that. Unfortunately for me, it was not accepted, but I suppose it was unrealistic of me to think that a novice screenwriter the first time out would receive an option on his script. However, all is not lost. I was offered the opportunity to resubmit it if I would make some changes. I called on my fellow Blue Sage writers, and they stepped up to the plate with many helpful suggestions for revising and improving it.

I was trying to adapt into a movie a book that I had written containing several short story adventures. I was having trouble finding the character arc for the protagonist that I could use to tie all these stories into one whole. With the help of members of this writing group who furnished me with some very good suggestions for revising it, I went back to the writing board and tried it again.

One particular member’s suggestion turned on that light bulb over the head we used to see in the comic strips when a character experienced a brilliant idea. Her suggestion made me realize I had my character arc built right into one of the stories. All I had to do was use it to tie the stories together. I fragmented that story throughout the movie to set up my protagonist's goal, and voila, I had my character arc. I don’t know if I would have thought of that idea had she not pointed it out to me.

So you see, folks, this is the reason why we need to belong to a writers group. A strong group is a valuable asset to any writer. Several heads are almost always better than one. Much valuable experience can be gained from such an association.

Bill lives in Tucson, Arizona. He is a two-time Associated Press award-winning columnist and writes fiction under the name Will Edwinson. His national award-winning book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or by asking for it at your favorite bookstore. Check his web site and blog at www.willedwinson.com. Bill also writes free-lance for IDAHO magazine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Workshop Photos

Kelly Mortimer, Karen, Sue Anne, Lori and Sherry, Linda and Sandy, Some of the Blue Sagers with Kelly. The workshop was a smashing success, thanks to Charm O'Ryan and Sue Anne Hodge who were the chairmen in charge of pulling it all together!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Food for Thought

Writing’s been hard this summer. I’m no longer working for the U.S. Census, but I’ve been caring for my 97-year old mother along with my nine- and ten-year-old grandchildren, sometimes separately, often together. I love doing this, but time for myself is reduced. My reading has also been affected. No novels, just short things like magazines, TV Guide, or catalogs. In spare hours I’ve managed to work on my novel synopsis. Time is at a premium. Speaking of time and energy, I found some food for thought in a couple of articles, one in Newsweek, the other in Time.

Time did a cover story on bestselling novelist Jonathan Franzen. I haven‘t read his latest book, Corrections, but I’m curious now--he writes in a spare rented room, with only a computer and bare walls. He works at removing distractions from his writing life, including disabling the internet connection on his computer. I admire that kind of discipline.

Which brings me to the other article, one on blogging that appeared in the August 16, 2010 Newsweek, “Take This Blog and Shove It!” by Tony Dokoupil and Angela Wu. At our recent picnic we were talking about our own Blue Sage blog. Should we keep it going? Have we lost steam? If so, why?

Here are some quotes from the article on blogging and other internet writing in general:

“Amateur blogs, the original embodiment of Web democracy, are showing signs of decline. While professional bloggers are a rising class … hobbyists are in retreat, and about 95 percent of blogs are launched and quickly abandoned.”

“A recent PEW study found that blogging has withered as a pasttime with the number of 18- to 24-year-olds, who identify themselves as bloggers, declining by half between 2006 and 2009. A shift to Twitter … partly accounts for these numbers.”

“Thousands of volunteer editors, the loyal Wikipedians who actually write, fact-check, and update all those articles, logged off--many for good. For the first time, more contributors appeared to be dropping out than joining up.”

“Naturally as some energy goes out of the Web, sites that depend on enthusiastic free labor are scrambling to retain it.”

So maybe our concerns are reflecting a national trend. The article went on to discuss the “free” aspect. Maybe it’s all gone sluggish because now that the glow is gone, writing for free is no longer appealing or cool or fun. It’s certainly not compensated. Some smart sites are now offering incentives or contests for their contributors to keep momentum going. The article suggests cash might be next to engage weary bloggers and keep internet submissions coming.

But (my thoughts here), does everything we do have to be tied to capitalism? Isn’t blogging a way to write for writing’s sake?

Maybe we should ask ourselves: is the exposure we’re getting in return for our free blogs a fair exchange? Are we diluting energies that should/could be going into our novels (which hopefully will pay off in hard currency)? Is a bestselling author like Franzen telling us something by turning off the internet? You may disagree. I hope you’ll comment.

I’m off now to find my own corner without distractions. By the basement window works. A table at the mall where I can be alone in the crowd? Maybe. First, I’ll make lunch, swing by the grocery store, and …well, darn, my to-do list keeps growing. But school has started and Mom has a big pile of books to read. My chunks of free time have increased, so no excuses not to write. That includes an occasional blog or letter. Still, I need to keep my priorities straight and keep my novel at the top of the list.

--Karen Finnigan

Karen is the recipient of the Idaho Writers League Writer of the Year Award. She is the author of seven novels and several novellas (published by Berkley and Harper under the pen name Karen Lockwood), as well as numerous articles and poems in various publications. She lives in Idaho Falls.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Attention ALL Writers!

The Blue Sage Writers proudly presents:

California Literary Agent, Kelly Mortimer, of the Mortimer Literary Agency
Saturday, August 28, 2010
10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
AmeriTel Inn
Eagle Rock Conference Room
645 Lindsay Blvd.
Idaho Falls, Idaho

Kelly will conduct agent/author, ten-minute appointments after the workshops for those who sign up to pitch their novel to her. Kelly represents clients in both the secular and inspirational market for fiction and non-fiction works. Space is limited, so contact immediately if interested.


1. Perils of Publishing--Extreme Makeover: Editing Edition

Self editing workshop designed to teach writers how to fix the errors Kelly sees the most. Based on her 8-Page Grammar Guide, this workshop will give you the tools you need to make your manuscript a cut above the rest.

2. Perils of Publishing: Just say NO! to Passive Writing

Be an active writer! Don't let passive sentences slow your pacing and weaken your writing. Kelly pinpoints how to search out passive sentences and has helpful suggestions including a 1-2-3/3-2-1 formula for fix them.

(Provided for all workshop attendees)

Kelly's Keynote Speech: "Write to Win"

Designed to help writers set and achieve their goals. In her humorous style, Kelly explains how she became a literary agent, her philosophy on writing, and she uses an acronym to give writers ten things she believes they need to win (get published and stay published in this crazy literary business.

For more information about Kelly, go to Mortimer Literary Agency

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Never Waste a Vacation

I'm often asked how I get ideas for stories. One way I come up with ideas is while traveling. Most people going on their summer vacations will think of nothing but how much fun and sun they can pack into a week or two before they have to return to life's daily grind. As a writer, every place I go tends to spark story ideas along with fictional characters. Some ideas have enough substance to develop into something strong enough for an entire book.

Every place becomes a potential book setting. Sometimes I go to a place with specific research for a specific book as my top priority. But regular vacations are never wasted either. Even if I don't have a book setting in mind for a particular vacation spot, I still seek out museums, bookstores, and tourist information centers where I can collect local history and tidbits that I might be able to use in some capacity in the future. And, if I never use it, the extra knowledge certainly won't do any harm.

Road trips are especially conducive to research. I like to travel across the states and see how the terrain changes as well as the people. I like to feel firsthand the heat, cold, the smells and sounds, the traffic or the emptiness, the gentleness or ferocity of the wind–or the total lack of a breeze in a stifling, muggy place. I enjoy taking pictures, sampling the local fare, observing the people and their customs and culture, listening to the way they talk, their accents, their unique way of interacting.

Writers have a natural curiosity about people and the human condition in general. If we didn't have this curiosity, I daresay we wouldn't be writers. I'm lucky to have a spouse whose degree is in history, so he fully enjoys searching out the history spots with me and going to museums where I can rummage through the remnants of lives long past and the stories they left behind just waiting to be told.

So don't waste a perfectly good opportunity. If you don't have a story or a setting before you set off on vacation this summer, keep your eyes and ears open and you might just conjure something fantastic by the time you get home.

--Linda Sandifer

Linda is the award-winning author of thirteen novels. Several of her books have been translated into Norwegian, Swedish, Romanian, and Russian. She has won such awards as Idaho Writer of the Year, Affaire de Coeur's Reader's Choice Award, and Women Writing the West's Laura Award. She has worked as a secretary, a bank teller, a technical editor, and once even trained to be a beautician. Born and raised on a ranch, she has spent most of her life in Idaho. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband own and operate the ranch her grandfather homesteaded in 1915. You can see more about her books at www.linda-sandifer.com

Another Hat

In my last post I talked about how writers are called upon to wear many hats and I mentioned some of the hats my career has asked me to don. One that I didn’t elaborate on much in that last post was my screenplay hat. I signed up for an online screenwriting course and I have just finished the adaptation of my “Buddy” book into a movie. The followers of this blog who have delved into the art of screen writing, will know that it’s a whole ‘nuther ball game; a different style of writing altogether. The reader has to actually see the movie on paper through the characters‘ dialogue, their actions, and a very limited narrative prose.

We can only write what can be seen on the screen—the ultimate in “show, don’t tell.” An example might be a scene in which “Buddy” is very cold. The script might read: Buddy shivered, reached down, picked up his dog Blondie and held her tight to his chest. Hopefully, we see Buddy’s desperation. As stated in my lesson manual, screenplays are sparse in detail. The screen writer must learn to strike a balance by providing only enough description for the reader to “see” the film and still keep things brief enough for that reader to experience a sense of “moving” through the story. Scripts must adhere to a strict format as well. If one deviates from that format, the script will in all likelihood not even get a reading, let alone be considered for purchase.

Something else I learned about screenplay writing is that screenplays usually appear in two scripts; the spec script and the shooting script. The spec script is the script that a producer buys. It contains very little detail about camera angles, or any other kind of direction. All that comes later in the shooting script.

All in all, this screenplay has been a fun challenge. Although novels and short stories are still my favorite venue, with the aid and direction from my screenplay instructor, I am looking forward to maybe someday seeing the final product of my little movie on the big screen.

--Bill Corbett

Bill lives in Pocatello. He is a two time Associated Press award-winning columnist and writes fiction under the name Will Edwinson. His national award-winning book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or by asking for it at your favorite bookstore. Check his web site and blog at www.willedwinson.com. Bill also writes free-lance for IDAHO magazine.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Today I think about writing. All of a sudden I have nothing to say. I look through my computer to find it is full of stories that seemed important when I wrote them. They were! I wonder why my book isn’t published. No matter.

I’ve become interested in ancient history. The pyramids, sacred sites, cave drawings, megaliths, and so much more tells the stories about another place and time – another people. Year 5010, my archaic computer (the future information system will be a thought request to the cosmos that downloads into the brain – the Mindnet is truly wireless) tells historians tales of beautiful mountains, anger, religious disagreements, flying to different dimensions, and much more. And, just imagine, a quirk in the system saved Google or what part the computer would hold.

Did someone say some computers were wireless? Half my desktop is wires. Maybe it was a wireless connection that required a dish of some sort. You guessed it. I thought dishes were in the kitchen.

By the way, the 5010ers think we had a goddess requirement for entering the country because of the Statue of Liberty. Future history has this so wrong because as you know it was given to us by France. War also earned this era the title of neosavage. History? Just write.

A pleasant summer to all.

--Mary Wood

Mary graduated from University of Missouri, Columbia with a Masters of Social Work. Having completed clinicals in mental health, she worked for a county health department and spent several years of her career on a neuropsychiatric unit of a hospital. (She always knew she would get help.) Having retired she has jumped off another cliff to try her hand at writing. "Writing is the chance to make things up, fantasize. I can say anything, almost." Home is Southern Indiana. As an adult she lived in several states and traveled the U. S., settling in Idaho Falls, ID. She loves the mountains and the snow.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I Confess

As writers we are often asked where we get the ideas for our books. This question, more often than not, has left me at a loss for words until I realized that I've gleaned some terrific ideas from old movies, especially those of the 30's and 40's found on cable. However, confessing that a good movie can leach away my writing time can be embarrassing. But let's face it, where else can a person discover such a large range of juicy tidbits, one liners, gags, and plot ideas in a day except from TV?

Did you know that: if you want to shoot at a horseman riding downhill, you aim at his knee? For a time bobbies in England were called crushers? Adding nickel to gold will harden it? If an adult swallowed enough table salt, he could die of heart failure? (What a nifty way for an undesirable character to rid her/himself of a rival, especially if the victim is a fanatic on taking herbs in capsules. Someone could easily replaced the herbs with salt.)

Old movies are my downfall. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of I Was A Male War Bride starring Cary Grant. He marches into the heroine's office with an armload of clothes and dumps them on her desk. Their laundry gets mixed up, but he purposely gives everyone the idea that she's left her things in his apartment. The more she denies the implied accusation, the more he "tisks." What a cute scene! With a different setup, this could be a delicious way for the protagonists to meet, or to create friction, or it could be a means for them to see each other again and make up.

In Mazy in the Congo starring Ann Sothern, Mazy, a show girl, dresses up and convinces the attacking natives that she is a witch by doing simple magician's tricks, thus saving everyone. The locale could easily be changed to the early West and the natives to Indians. The heroine could be running a friend's traveling magic show when the scene unfolds. But why stop there? What if the heroine is actually using the show as a cover in order to dig up evidence that could clear her father of fraud, but the way she goes about it could send her to prison? What if the hero is sent out by Pinkerton Detective Agency to investigate the case and rumors pertaining to a certain young lady only to find...by golly, I think I've come up with another plot.

From the cop shows, I've found different ways to defraud people out of their money, learned what can spoil a good murder, and figured out how to set up clues. Thanks to the talk shows, I've gathered a wide range of scholarly nuggets from the molding of a serial killer and the psychological makeup of a schizophrenic, to split personalities and extreme life styles. All fodder for a good plot. There are other pluses! Have you ever copied down last names from the list of credits? Have you ever written descriptions of the actors--their personality quirks, facial expressions, the way they walked, talked, acted,--and put what you found on cards to file away? Or have you ever watched a movie and come up with a twist of your own? Well if you haven't, come on over. You bring the popcorn, I'll furnish the drinks. If anybody asks, we're doing research.

--Sherry Roseberry
Sherry Roseberry won Idaho Writer of the Year with her first novel. Besides her historicals, she's the author of four plays, short stories, and articles. A dedicated thespian, she's given workshops on using acting techniques in writing at local, regional, and national conferences of Romance Writers of America. Her lifelong dream came true when she had the opportunity to appear in the movie, HANDCART. The experience was glorious even though the winter scenes were filmed in (average) 20-degree weather. Writing is in her blood, but her greatest treasures are her five children and nineteen grandchildren.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Place to Start

So here you are, fellow writer, sitting at your word processor (or staring at a yellow pad of paper if you’re old fashioned), ready to launch your next project. Is it a full length book or a short story? Fiction or non-fiction? No matter. Your fingers are still. Your mind is churning. You’re trying to answer the age-old question many (or most?) writers must sometime ask themselves. What am I supposed to be writing about?

We’ve probably all struggled with “The Block” at one time or another. How does one deal with it? I can only tell you what I do to find a starting point. Maybe it will help. The next steps, rounding out an idea, laying out the plot, developing characters will come easier if you have an interesting place to begin.

I read a lot and pay attention to what’s happening in the world around me. I cut current events articles out of the paper. When waiting in the dentist’s office, when no one is looking, a magazine page gets quietly torn out and folded into my pocket. (Yeah, I know, I’m the one) I jot down ideas that hit me while watching wildlife in our yard, or when a friend tells me his troubles with a tyrannical boss, or when a childhood memory sneaks up on me when I’m not expecting it.

Back in my garret, these snippets find their way into my idea notebook…a large, green, three-ring binder stuffed with several lifetimes of story ideas waiting to be brought to life. The binder contains items I collected when I was in high school, more years ago than I care to count. It holds tidbits from current events and countless pages of everything in between.

So when the setting is right, and I’m ready to launch into something new, trying to decide where to start, out comes the binder. I generally write fiction, stories perhaps a little on the weird side. A yellowing news story about a cat who predicts the death of patients in a nursing home leads to a tale of a Bassett Hound who eases long-suffering patients into the great beyond. A note jotted down after magpies once killed our kitten becomes a story of a man forced to take irrational action to rid himself of overly aggressive birds. Ideas buried in my binder have surfaced to seed many of my other writing adventures; weird cloning scenarios, Chimpanzee DNA, overcrowded prisons, talkative terrorists, the significance of dog-years.

So you can see, the green binder provides me with plenty of story ideas to keep me out of trouble. There are many more waiting to be rediscovered inside. And I add something new to it often. Life is good.

Now if only someone would publish one of my little gems!

--Richard Rice

Richard grew up in Southern California and received his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. In an exciting three-decade technical career, he was involved in NASA’s space program and in nuclear energy and novel energy production research for the Energy Department. He traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, presenting the results of his work and collaborating with other research institutions. Richard began writing as a teenager, covering high school sports for the local newspaper. He continued writing throughout his career, producing a number of technical papers, articles and reports. He recently decided to end his engineering career and write full time. Since then, he has produced two novels and has started his third. He has also written several short stories, two of which were accepted by the Idaho Magazine. Richard lives with his family on the Snake River in Southeastern Idaho.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Never Giving Up

So you want to be a writer. You want to see your fabulous story published by a famous New York publishing house. And, of course, you want to get a substantial advance, say somewhere around the $100,000 dollar mark.

There are thousands of writers just like you who are dreaming the same dream as yours, who refuse to think of anything else but getting to the literary top. They believe their story is timeless, a treasure, a total work of art that all editors will clamor to get their paws on.

While on rare occasions, the above scenario might come true for a select few, the odds are against you. The publishing market is tight. Editors are more apt to stick with those authors already making them money than to pick up a new, unproven writer. There is still a chance your work will, indeed, be recognized one day. Perhaps even published. Yes, the chance is small, a tiny droplet in a sea of countless others, but there is always hope.

Knowing your writer vulnerabilities is the first step to becoming a successful author. Being prepared to throw out the hurtful, mean-spirited criticism and keeping the well-meant, right-on, helpful-to-your-career critique is a must for any author. You must learn to recognize the difference so you can deal professionally with either when they arise.

You must have the stamina, the courage, to change your work if what others are suggesting is correct. You must be able to handle rejection after rejection, without taking it personal. You must be willing to resubmit, resubmit, resubmit, realizing what one editor disliked, another might love. You must use editorial rejection letters as stepping stones to becoming that well-loved and admired author you dream of becoming.

You must never give up!

The one thing worse than a quitter is the person afraid to begin.

To be an author takes dedication.

To be a published author takes guts, perseverance, and an ironclad will of self-determination.

To realize your dream, you must take your hope and make it a reality. Other than storytelling talent, all you need for such success is a great set of survival skills.

Happy and successful writing to all of you!

--Charm O'Ryan

The author of The Author and the Cover Model, Charm is a true romantic at heart. She loves to entertain readers by creating imperfect characters and placing them in an imperfect world to see how much trouble they can get themselves into. She juggles the duties of motherhood and the staunch responsibility of being a great "cookie-baking" grandma. Born and raised in Idaho, she lives in Idaho Falls and is hard at work on another novel.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tapping Into Our Emotions

As I read "The Anxious Writer" by Sue Anne, I was reminded of a time in my life when I sat in the hospital beside my baby son. I was asked to write an article about the incident for a newsletter not long after that time when I held his little hand. I never did write the article. In the process of failing at the assignment, I discovered something about myself. It’s difficult, embarrassing for me, to write emotional scenes. It’s as though I’m afraid someone will think I’m feeling sorry for myself, or dripping in sentimentality. This challenge has carried over into my fiction writing as well, because my characters are an extended part of me. I believe it’s a carry-over from when I cried when I was young. I was often told, “Don’t be so dramatic.” (Smile. I was probably such a drama queen at four, five and six). Or maybe it’s because the whole process just seems morbid to me.

Recently, I’ve realized that instead of letting this be a handicap, I can use it to enhance my writing. I can go back to sad times, remember what it felt like then, and use those feelings to strengthen the emotions in my novel.

I now have four healthy children. However, my third child, David, was born with Hylem Membrane Disease. When he was just a few days old, I sat in the hospital watching our pediatrician run the toe of his shoe over the pattern in the floor tile, staring at his foot because he couldn’t look at me as he told me of David‘s condition. I sat in the waiting room, too numb to feel, while they put my tiny little son into a machine that would help him breathe.

I stayed there with him for three days, holding his hand. My husband didn’t show up at the hospital. In fact, none of my extended family joined me either. I sat alone the whole time, staring at David’s chest, watching him labor for each breath – except on the midnight shift.

The first night, and each night while I was there, a volunteer (they called them Pink Ladies, named for the pink jackets they wore) came into the room, sat down next to me and held my free hand. She must have sensed that I didn’t want to talk because she never said a word. Now and then she’d squeeze my hand, just to let me know she was there for me.

On the third day, the doctor came into the room with good news. David was out of danger. He said, “You’ve been here for days. Go home, take a shower, get something nutritious to eat, and sleep in your own bed.” When I protested he said, “No really, go home and take a shower.” I laughed at his joke, more out of relief and happiness than humor, and agreed to go.

I entered an empty house and as I walked in the door, the phone was ringing. It was the doctor. “I have bad news,” he said. “Your baby passed away less than five minutes after you left.” My legs gave out from under me and I found myself on the floor, sobbing.

That happened many years ago. The pain I felt then has faded into a precious memory of my tiny boy. It was then that I learned that sorrow can be physically painful. It was then I learned that what doesn’t kill us really does make us stronger. And it was then I learned that grief can make your senses more alert.

Even now, when I close my eyes, I can hear the whir and beeping of the machines in the room, the nurse’s shoes squeaking on the floor when she walked past. I can smell the hospital odors, but I remember David’s sweet baby scent also. I feel the discomfort of sitting in that chair for hours at a time and the rough, calloused hand of the pink lady. And I wonder, who was that lady? Where is she now? She never told me her name, never even spoke, but to this day I don’t even have to close my eyes to relive the love and gratitude I felt toward her.

These memories can make my writing richer, stronger, if I can just get past the discomfort of sharing deeper emotions. My characters will show greater depth, experience more vivid love, express a fresher view of grief. Maybe today was a good start. I guess it wasn’t too difficult. As Ernest Hemingway said, “It is not difficult to write, all you have to do is to sit down at a typewriter and cut open a vein.”

--Maxine Metcalf

Maxine is the author of a psychology book, "Reality For Parents of Teens." She has written numerous articles on drug and alcohol rehabilitation, how the brain works, and setting and accomplishing goals. She has authored lesson manuals for teaching classes on cognitive self-change. Maxine attended college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Idaho State University. She counseled for a women's program, Discovery House and for Road to Recovery, a men's and Women's drug rehabilitation program. She taught prison rider return classes for Probation and Parole in the state of Idaho, taught in the women's prison, and worked with Child Protection Services in Idaho as well. Maxine lives in Vancouver, Washington, and writes fiction novels.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Blue Sage Writers are Winners!

Last night several members of Blue Sage Writers attended Idaho Magazine's awards ceremony for their annual fiction contest, held at the Barnes and Noble store in Idaho Falls. The magazine is based out of Boise, but a number of the winners were from the eastern part of the state, so Kitty Fleischman, the magazine publisher, brought the awards to them. The winners also read their stories to a large group, which was a real treat for everyone.

Two of our Blue Sage members, Richard Rice and Karen Finnigan, entered the contest and both walked away with an award. Richard took second place in the adult fiction contest for his story, "The Seventh Dog." Karen received an Honorable Mention in the adult category for her story, "Letters From Jazz."

Congratulations to both of you! And thanks to Kitty for giving writers this opportunity to present their work. Kitty plans to have the stories published on the Idaho Magazine website.

--Linda Sandifer

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Anxious Writer

For my first blog I wanted to write something clever yet pithy. I toyed with several writing problems from POV to Show, Don’t Tell, certain I could enlighten someone with my wisdom. Then a medical problem struck our family and all joy, clever or otherwise, flew out the window. I found myself watching helplessly, day by day, for three grueling months as my youngest son fought for his life. Happy to report our family got the miracle we’d been praying so fervently for, my son is back to work and getting stronger everyday. But during one long night as I sat alone beside his bed anxiously watching the various monitors tell their tale and listening to ventilator pump oxygen into his rigid lungs, I had a small epiphany. The writing process (Don’t you just love that term---writing process? It sounds so cool, like I’m a capable writer who knows what she’s doing,) is a lonely one and can produce somewhat similar feelings of anxiety for a writer battling the dreaded Blank Page. It doesn’t matter if one is a multi-published author or struggling to get beyond the slush pile, the fear of what to put on that blank page strikes one and all.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of eating lunch with Sue Grafton at a writer’s conference. What joy filled my heart when one of my favorite authors, who I thought was totally together and supremely confident, admitted that she’s just as insecure and insane as moi. This revelation was intoxicating and terrifying. It moved me from being alone and nuts to belonging to a group that embraces fear and gut-quaking anxiety. Basically, I’ve always identified with the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Why would I choose to subject myself to such torture? Because I want to be published. To do that I must sit alone at my keyboard and ignore that doomsday feeling which whispers in my ear, “This is the stupidest idea in the history of the world. You suck as a writer. What made you think you could do this?” Just as the situation with my son forced me beyond what I thought I could endure, successful writers manage to push beyond fear. With heads down, they slog through and conquer the Blank Page. No matter what.

--Sue Anne Hodge

Sue Anne lives in Pocatello and is currently working on a mystery novel.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Writers, Like Farmers, Wear Many Hats

A farm owner wears many hats. One day he might be a heavy equipment operator, another day a truck driver or a mechanic. Another day you will find him on the telephone wearing his CEO hat negotiating a commodity sale, or the purchase of a piece of equipment. Still another day he might be found in the office doing the books and paying the bills. I know all this because that’s how I made my living.

When I became a writer I soon learned that writers, too, are called upon to stretch themselves and don many hats. Some fiction writers write in many genres. Fiction is my favorite area and I have written four novels, each in a different genre. My first was a novel based on the exploits of an errant preacher. My second was a fictional biography of a real woman of the West. My third was a political fantasy, and my fourth was a novella featuring the adventures of a young boy growing up during the 1940s. (Yes, this last book is loosely based on my own life experiences.) When asked that question, I respond by saying there is a little bit of me in Buddy, and a little bit of Buddy in me.

After the Buddy book, I was asked by IDAHO magazine to write a profile on Wilson Rawls the Idaho author who penned the children’s classic Where the Red Fern Grows. I had never done that kind of writing before and I was not sure I had the ability for such a story. Especially on someone with Wilson Rawls’ stature. But with patient tutelage from the magazine’s managing editor we turned out a respectable piece which launched me into another area of writing with another hat to wear. This magazine free-lance hat has put me into the world of short stories, personal profiles, and reminisces of days long past.

Later, I was again called upon to stretch my wings. The managing editor of a daily newspaper asked if I would be interested in writing a weekly column. Sigh…another hat. I told him that I had never thought of myself as a columnist. “I don’t think I’m up to the challenge,” I said. He convinced me to give it try, anyway.As of this date, I have begun my fifth year writing for the paper. I mention all this not for the purpose of bragging, but rather to illustrate the many stretches and challenges that are put to us as writers.

My latest hat has made me stretch a bit further and delve into the world of screenplays. I signed up for an online screenwriting course and have just finished the first draft adaptation of my Buddy book into a movie. Now let me tell you, that’s a whole ‘nuther ball game, a different style of writing altogether, and a good topic for another blog.

The last hat we writers must don, and next to the labor of actually writing that Great American Novel, might just be the most important hat in this present era of writing. It is the marketing hat. Gone with the wind are the days of sitting back after you’ve sold your novel to that big publisher in New York and waiting for the royalty checks to roll in. That still may be true to a certain extent for the established authors like Tom Clancy, and Stephen King, or Sarah Palin (Sarah’s book was a bestseller even before it was released) but not so for us relatively unknown authors. Chances are, today, if we are going to get published at all, we have to go the self-published route, and this means we are now marketers as well as writers. We must do the promotion for our books on our web pages, blogs, and social media.

Welcome to the new era of writing. Woe is me. With my disdain for computers, and my illiteracy of the internet and the social networks, I’m wondering if this last hat might be too large and will just slide down over my ears. Oh…well.

--Bill Corbett

Bill lives in Pocatello. He is a two time Associated Press award-winning columnist and writes fiction under the name Will Edwinson. His national award-winning book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or by asking for it at your favorite bookstore. Check his web site and blog at www.willedwinson.com. Bill also writes free-lance for IDAHO magazine.

Friday, January 29, 2010

First Person

Reading first person point of view I feel like I'm there feeling what the character feels, hating, crying, loving, and laughing right along. Emotions are raw in first person. The story is more intense. I see and feel the story. The reader takes that journey.

Writing a first person narrative is sharing an experience of an internal journey of discovery. I grow or had an 'aha' moment. First person point of view, where I'm inside the head of one of the characters, is a way to pull the reader into a story. Seeing everything through that person's eyes gives the reader a sense of immediacy, a sense of actually living the novel--if it's done right, of course.

Fiction or nonfiction, there I am. A part of me is available for others to see. I find that scary, perhaps just awkward, but a challenge. According to Cheryl Wright of "Fiction Factor," first person narration is becoming more and more popular, and this is being recognized by many publishers. The Factor says the trick is to eliminate most of those nasty "I" words that so easily begin each sentence. For example, "I glanced at the clock," becomes "my eyes darted to the clock."

John Steinbeck told The Winter of Our Discontent partially in first person. Some books often tagged first person are The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

--Mary Wood
Mary graduated from University of Missouri, Columbia with a Masters of Social Work. Having completed clinicals in mental health, she worked for a county health department and spent several years of her career on a neuropsychiatric unit of a hospital. (She always knew she would get help.) Having retired she has jumped off another cliff to try her hand at writing. "Writing is the chance to make things up, fantasize. I can say anything, almost." Home is Southern Indiana. As an adult she lived in several states and traveled the U. S., settling in Idaho Falls, ID. She loves the mountains and the snow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Right Place to Start Your Book

A good hook is essential to any book, but a terrific first line, first paragraph, or even first page won't save a story that begins in the wrong place. Neither is anything more disappointing to a reader who bought a book based on that terrific hook, only to find the story fading away after a few pages or chapters. (I won't get into the burning question as to why such a book was published in the first place. That's fodder for another blog.)

A book will sometimes cover the entire life of your main character from birth to death. That doesn't mean you should start it when the character emerges from the womb. More often than not, a story will be only a brief span of time in a character's life–a few days, weeks, or months. Hopefully, you have chosen that time frame because something is about to happen that will change your character's life forever. It will be a turning point. Don't wait until page 100 to start this moment of change. Starting a story too soon, or too late, will result in weighty narrative and flashbacks that will slow your story to a crawl. You'll get lost, confused, discouraged and might even give up on the book entirely. Chances are, if it isn't working for you, as the writer, then you haven't found that moment of change and the best way to present it.

The scene that you open your book with should set the stage for what is to follow, foreshadowing the direction the story will take. This beginning should make a promise to the reader that will be fulfilled at the end. In today's fast-paced world, the reader will want to immediately see the conflict that will be the crux of the story, and one that will be resolved. This opening scene should be one that encapsulates the theme, even if you only demur to it. The tone might even hint at an array of outcomes that will entice the reader on.

It is also important before you write one word, that you know where your character has been, where he is going, and how he will get there. You need to know your ending before you can craft a truly effective beginning.

Even though you might have a great hook that won "The Best Hook" in some nationwide writer's contest, if you can't keep the momentum going, you haven't started your story in the right place.

Here is a wonderful beginning from Carlos Ruiz Zafón's new book, "The Angel's Game." See if this draws you into the story and then ask yourself if he has foreshadowed, promised, offered conflict and motivation, hinted at a theme as well as the sense that the character, who we meet in the next paragraph, is about to face the moment that will change his life forever.

"A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price."

--Linda Sandifer
Linda is the award-winning author of thirteen novels. Several of her books have been translated into Norwegian, Swedish, Romanian, and Russian. She has won such awards as Idaho Writer of the Year, Affaire de Coeur's Reader's Choice Award, and Women Writing the West's Laura Award. She has worked as a secretary, a bank teller, a technical editor, and once even trained to be a beautician. Born and raised on a ranch, she has spent most of her life in Idaho. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband own and operate the ranch her grandfather homesteaded in 1915. You can see more about her books at www.linda-sandifer.com