Monday, December 22, 2014

The Business of Holiday Writing

I love the holiday season for all of the new Christmas treats, holiday music, and of course all of the holiday-themed movies that appear non-stop on the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and other networks. Recently, I forced my husband to watch one with me, and he made a very smart observation. He noticed that the majority of these 'holiday' movies seem to be just dramas, romance, suspense, and every other genre - just set at Christmas time. I thought about that for a moment and realized how true that was. It seems like with the many network channels that exist, along with the Internet, and other reading portals, there seems to be a real business in holiday writing. It seems like just twenty-five years ago there were just a few staples - 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'Miracle on 34th Street' and of course the classic book/movie 'A Christmas Carol'. But now, there are so many options and avenues for holiday writing, and I love that! As a writer of all things, I can appreciate this emerging genre and hopefully it will expand to include all the holidays! What do you think about the business of holiday writing? Please share!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Writing for the 'Heck' of It!

About a week ago, I finally finished a manuscript I’d been collaborating on for at least the last two years. My writing partner and I had a deadline to meet and typical me - I kind of waited until the last minute to deliver my best. Some writers are like that. We can’t get our juices flowing until we hear that clock ticking louder and louder! That said, I tuned everybody out, including my family, and got to work.

When I was done, my sister-in-law called to ask me a question about my writing. Specifically, why do I write? She’s a property manager. A cut and dry kind of job with great benefits and stability. While writing, of course really offers none of that. Not without a hefty out of pocket price, by the way.

I had a hard time answering that question. I had to think for second. Was it because I like it? Because I feel I’m good at it? Because others have told me that’s my gift? Can’t possibly be the money, that’s for sure! So what I told her is I simply write for the ‘heck of it’. What does that mean exactly? For me, it means that I write because when all else fails, that’s what I turn to and that’s always been the case. When I’m sad, I write. When I’m mad, I write. When I’m happy, anxious, feeling threatened, feeling creative, feeling philanthropic – for every emotion I feel, I write. So I write for the heck of it the same way a singer might sing or a dancer might dance. When it’s something so intrinsic you can’t really imagine doing anything else. Writing is an outlet, my meal ticket, my personal punching bag, my best friend. Writing in a sense is everything. And no, it’s not perfect and sometimes it frustrates me to no end. But it’s what I do when everything else doesn’t make sense.  So writing for the heck of it might bring both joy and disappointment – but it never fails. Feel free to share why you write!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Salute to the 'Spooky Writers!

Yay! It’s October – better yet what I call ‘All things Spooky and Pumpkin’ Month! Now that is my ‘adult self’ talking. But as a kid, what I loved the most about October was Halloween candy and ‘spooky’ stories!

I think some of the best writers are the ones that are able to conjure up fear. As a writer, I always found it fascinating that words spun together told in a tale could actually frighten me whether I was lying in bed or reading in my classroom chair!

So I’m going to keep this blog brief, but celebratory! By the power invested by… well, me I guess, and my pumpkin spiced latte (quite possibly the best coffee flavor ever), I hereby salute all you masters of spooky tales and thank you for making my October fun-filled frightening and fantastic! Below are a few of my faves!

Stephen King: Pet Sematary… need I say more?

Rod Serling: The Twilight Zone is actually the reason I love horror and science fiction.

Washington Irving: Forget about the television show and actually read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for yourself! As a tradition I started with my husband back in 2005, on Halloween night after passing out candy to the neighborhood kids (and eating some ourselves, of course) we read the story and then watch the movie with Johnny Depp! Best way to cap off the holiday!

Edgar Allan Poe: No brainer!

Clive Barker: Candyman! Candyman! Candyman!

Alfred Hitchcock: Pure genius.

John Carpenter: Writer of ‘Halloween’ and creator of the ‘slasher’flick!

Feel free to share some of your favorites below!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What do the National Football League and Author James Frey Have in Common?

They both lied! Only back in 2006, James Frey got scolded so publically by Oprah Winfrey that his book, ‘A Million Little Pieces’ nearly stopped selling and Mr. Frey has been pretty quiet ever since. So why does the NFL get to lie to the entire public about a video so vile and face no repercussions?

Let’s see – I call it ‘cultural brainwashing’. Clearly the NFL has us all so enamored with the sport that we’re willing to allow the entire league, and its Commissioner to get away with this! How is this able to happen? Well, my theory is that it all starts the day after the Superbowl. Why? Well, the day after the Superbowl is the first day of the NFL’s true marketing strategy (which is genius, by the way) because there is this collective hangover, followed by this kind of national depression that sets in – there’s no football game next Sunday. Which allows them to manipulate our emotions and sulk all spring and summer, awaiting opening day complete with performances by Pharell Williams and other artists we love.

During the ‘off-season’ – at least that’s what they call it even though the NFL is never really ‘off’ – we collectively pine away for the fall. Maybe the NBA playoffs are a bit of a substitute, but not really. We really can’t wait for ‘our team’ to take the field sometime in September – well actually August if you think about it.

In writing terms, it would be like the time you read the last page of that ‘Harry Potter’ book – maybe it was ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ or maybe it was ‘The Goblet of Fire’ – whatever! We all reacted the same way when we closed that book… “Man, I can’t wait until the next book!” So we ‘Muggles’ went online and checked into every week to find out when the next book was being released. We watched the movie EVERY SINGLE TIME it came on the ABC Family Channel. You know you did. Don’t lie to yourself.

Well, the NFL kinda works that way except… if J.K. Rowling were to have admitted she plagiarized the story we’d be outraged and call for her to NEVER write another book! So why does the NFL get off the hook? Yeah, that’s the question, isn’t it?

Friday, September 5, 2014

When You’re In Over Your Head… Just Relax

Yesterday was one of those buggy days. Those days where I can’t even answer a text message, before another phone call comes in, followed by a slew of emails… UGH! I hate these days! But it was for a good reason. I was in demand – well, my writing that is. And that is the profession I chose.

I remember all too well when I was not in demand – I mean my writing – and I stared at the phone waiting for it to ring. Checked my emails. Nothing. Text message? Nada.

So I suppose that I’m a bit hypocritical for complaining. But, I think all writers do experience those days where they feel overwhelmed and ‘out of sync’. It may be prompted by the demands that often come with this profession. So when this does happen, I do make time to relax – and I don’t mean relax ‘writing’. There was a time when I actually turned to writing for relaxation, but now that it could be the very cause of my stress, I manage to do a few things that I find to be very effective. Follow along if this is where you are right now:

1. Take a ‘Brain Break’ – okay, truthfully that’s just my personal term for a nap… but it works! We’ve seen, read, and heard study after study confirm that taking a brief ‘siesta’ is the key to making that final push through the day. So just go ahead and take a 30-minute sleep break. Your mind will appreciate it and you’re creativity will likely increase.

2. If you don’t want to lie down then ‘Get Up’! – Like most people, I definitely see the value of working out. But I don’t have a routine, for example I’m not waking up at 4:00 am and heading out to the gym. Puh-leeze! Instead, I save my workout time for that time of the day when the words on my laptop look like their moving around in circles, and my emails just never end. One of the luxuries of being a freelance writer is you get a chance to space out your time. Depending on when the stress starts to creep up, that’s when I get up and get moving. It really is true, just a 30 minute walk can do wonders – for your mind and your body.

3. Meditate – Even taking a two minute deep breather can be considered meditation. I really value the idea of meditation for clearing one’s head and for its calming effects. I try to meditate daily, especially when I’m feeling stressed. If you’ve heard of meditation techniques, but aren’t really sure of where to get started, check out this website for more info:

4. Do anything away from the phone or computer – If the three before mentioned don’t click with you, then just do anything! Whatever will take you away from the computer and the phone! Whether it’s walking your dog, or catching up on that episode of Pretty Little Liars you DVR’d last week, just take a break!

Trust me it will do you some good, help you manage those ‘buggy days’, but also put things in perspective. Feel free to share what you do in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Your Writing Mentor Becomes a ‘Bully’

I’m a huge proponent of mentorship. In fact, I consult with an organization that promotes and implements mentoring and professional development advising strategies for primarily women business entrepreneurs.

Specific to writing, I’ve found that it would behoove any young writer to seek a mentor who can help to guide them in the craft. This person should be someone whose work ethic and professional achievements you admire and may want to emulate. But above all else, this should be someone whose opinion you trust and constructive criticism is useful as you embark or continue to build your writing career.

Most mentoring relationships are meaningful, cooperative, and supportive. However in some cases they can be absolute nightmares! In 2013 I witnessed this first hand when a young woman (I’ll name her ‘Sarah’ to protect her real name) I worked with who had just been promoted from Receptionist to Administrative Assistant was severely harassed by her mentor. In this new position, quite a bit of writing was required – from press releases, to business letters. Often times Sarah would come to my office, sit down and cry a river on my desk. She didn’t understand why this woman who should have been guiding her often berated her, even asking her, “Do you even know how to spell your own name?”

The young woman was so mentally downtrodden, she began to doubt herself and wondered why she was in the job to begin with. It made me mad to see her like this because it brought back memories of when I, too had been so tormented by a mentor that I thought about giving up writing altogether. But unlike Sarah, I had no one to cry to. I had no one who would listen to me. So one afternoon when Sarah knocked on my office door fully immersed in tears I asked myself, What advice would I have wanted to hear all those years back when I was the one bullied by my mentor?

The question guided me to tell Sarah that in life you will always encounter people who will put you down, who won’t believe in you, and who enjoy berating you. They feed off your tears, your uneasiness, and knowing they intimidate you. But it is up to you to decide how long you are willing to put up with it. As long as you believe in yourself, that is all that matters. So dry your eyes and do your work - all while documenting the harassment for you to present to human resources – and use the time you decide to stay to get your experience in. How will you cope? Well, that saying ‘kill them with kindness’ is true because you never want to retaliate. When you are brand new in a position, you never want to give anyone any reason or proof to say anything bad about you as you are just starting out in your career. And you never want them to see you sweat! Once they see how your reaction to their tormenting behavior toward you has changed, they will realize how strong you are – just in time for you to find a new and better job while you present all of your documentation to human resources along with a resignation letter!

The moral of the story is bullies exist – and they will always exist. But find a way to make it beneficial for your growth – not your career exit - while also making it known to them that they don’t scare you and you aren’t afraid of exposing them for the horrible person they are.

Have you been bullied in your writing career? Please share your thoughts and strategies for handling these situations in the ‘Comments’ section.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Such is the Life...of a Writer

Growing up when people asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I always gave the same answer - a Writer - to my parents chagrin, of course. They knew it was going to be tough to make a living and that it really is similar to being an 'art-tist' - you may not be popular and rich until you're dead. For some reason no one cares about what you have to say or write, for that matter, until you're six-feet under. But I guess I just really didn't care. I've always gravitated toward pen and paper and words. I always loved reading and lived by my Mom's advice, "if you don't like what you're reading than write what you want to read." And so there it is. I blame her! She put that in  my mind at age 5, or 6, or maybe 7 - whatever - and now I can't stop!

But I am smart enough to make sure that these words can pay bills. So I write any and everything. I am an accomplished and successful grant writer and government proposal writer. I write press releases, academic journals articles, magazine articles - you name it. That pays the bills. But when I get that itch to - you know... 'create' some magic... well I do that too! I can't help it. It's in my blood. Sometimes I wonder if doctors took my DNA sample, instead of that code A-C-T-G, instead it would be W-R-I-T-E. Hmm.... I should look into that!

Whatever the case, as the blog states, Marley Writes and believe me I write just about any and everything! I love to write about it and, of course, dish out advice and suggestions to others wishing to embark on this oh-so-fab career! So here's my first piece of advice: Check back here weekly (or daily if you're bored) for my advice of the week - and to you fellow writers Good Luck and welcome to Marley's wonderful world of writing!