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Thursday, December 23, 2010

...And an Iggi-licious New Year!

Wow, it's been a crazy year!  As I look back on it, I still can't believe how much has happened.  Sometimes it doesn't quite seem real, you know?  Here's a snapshot of the past year here at iggi&gabi in writing (and other) milestones:

April:  iggi is born.
            iggi&gabi blog launches.

May:  Gabi finishes thesis and graduates from MFA.

September:  DIY MFA!!!

November:  Rough draft finished.

December:  Gabi and hubby close the deal on dream home!  That's right, it became official on Monday and we'll be moving sometime early in the new year.  We're really excited because we'd been dreaming about this place for ages and now it's finally come true.

As for 2011, I've already got a few things to look forward to with my writing, including some conferences in January, some new classes for me to teach (and maybe some for me to take too) and of course, our new home!
I also want to thank you all for being such awesome readers and such a great community!  I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to share this past year with you all.  The online writing community is amazing and supportive, I'm just thankful to be a part of it and to know I have you guys in my corner.  Seriously, regardless of what happens on my publishing journey, I will always feel like a writer because I am part of this community.  And in the end, that's what really matters.

I wish you all health and happiness in 2011.  May your New Year be filled with all sorts of miracles.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Leverage for Writers

Today I will to admit to one of my guilty pleasures, so please don't point and laugh at me (you can laugh next to me but not at me).  And please keep it just between you and me, 'k?  Don't go blabbing about it all over the internet because then I might cry and sic my pet gremlins on you.  All right, you ready?  I'm about to tell you something super personal and embarrassing.  Here it is in 3... 2... 1...


I know, *gasp* right?  I mean, it's not high-quality television and yes, I feel like I've lost one or two brain cells after I watch each episode.  But it's so deliciously entertaining, kind of like Ocean's Eleven, only with a whole Robin Hood theme going on.

It occurred to me that Leverage is actually a really good metaphor for the writing process.  Each episode follows the leverage team as they plan and execute a "job" to steal stuff from rich people and give it back to poor people.  Each character has a special skill that allows him or her to contribute to the task at hand.  What does this have to do with writing, you ask?

Writers need leverage.  They need skills that work together in order to pull off the "job," which in this case means writing the book.  Every member of the team needs to do his or her job so that they can achieve their desired goal.  The only difference between writing a book and pulling off an elaborate heist is that instead of wearing one hat, the writer must wear all five.  Here are the roles the writer must play in order to get the job done.

Grifter:  Sophie (far left) is the con-artist, the actress of the group.  She is able to step in and out of different roles as easily as you or I might change our shoes.  Writers must be able to do the same thing.  One minute we have to be in our protagonist's head and understand her motivations, the next we have to empathize with our villain.  Writing convincing characters means being able to get inside their heads, feel what they would feel, think what they would think.  Then make them do what we want.

Hitter:  Eliot (second from left) is the workhorse member of the team.  Basically, if some bad guy needs to be punched out, Eliot's the man for the job.  Again, this is an important skill for a writer to have.  Sometimes there isn't an elegant solution to a writing problem; sometimes you just have to use brute force and beat your way through writer's block.  Of course, we would love to be able to solve all our writerly dilemmas with a flourish of the pen, but sometimes there's no other way around it: we just need to beat the story with a stick.

Thief:  Parker (second from right) is the acrobat, the daredevil.  She's the character who plunges off of rooftops or crawls through air vents.  She also has an affinity for all things bright and sparkly, like diamonds.  As writers, we need to remember to take risks and have fun with what we do.  Sometimes we need to jump first and think about finding a parachute after.  And hey, if we end up with something bright and sparkly in our hands, isn't it worth the risk?

Hacker:  Hardison (far right) is the guy who knows how to work the system.  Whether that means hacking into a complex network or breaking some crazy code or getting the team inside a locked-down building, he's the guy who gets it done.  Similarly, writers need to know how to work the system as well.  Whether it means learning how to format your manuscript the right way, or figuring out where to send your work, it's important to understand the network you want to break into and that means doing research and learning about the business as well as the craft.

Mastermind:  Nathan (front and center) is the coordinator, the hub, the nucleus of the team.  He makes sure everyone knows what they need to do and that they actually get the job done.  Again, it's a mighty important skill for writers to have.  After all, you can play all the other parts beautifully, but it won't matter if you can't assess whether your "team" is working together well and doing it's job.  This means stepping back from time to time and looking at the "big picture" of your writing life.  What aspects are working well?  What areas could you improve upon?

So, how's your Leverage team looking?  Which areas do you have covered and which skills do you still need to polish?  More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Monday, December 13, 2010

When You Find Coal in Your Stocking

The universe has a weird sense of humor.  You want to see your work in print but instead you get a pile of rejections.  You want to write something deep and meaningful that will reach people, and instead all that comes out is nonsensical garble.  You want to take the nice flat road and instead you find yourself pushing a giant boulder uphill like Sisyphus.

Like the song says:
"You can't always get what you want.  You get what you need."

No, I'm not going to get all new age-y on you, but I definitely think there's something to be said about a greater construct that can see beyond my own myopic point of view.  Some people call that a divine power.  Others (like Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way) call it synchronicity.  I like to think of it as the universe having common sense.

Whatever you want to call it, I have seen proof that the universe knows what I need much better than I do.  Some time ago I took a writing class and really hit it off with one of my classmates.  After a couple of semesters in the same class, our lives took us in different directions and we fell out of touch.  A few months ago, I got an email from her out of the blue... only it wasn't from her exactly; someone had hacked her email account and spammed everyone in her address book.  Even so, it reminded me that here was a writer I wanted to be in touch with and it inspired me to me to reach out and say hello.  Now, months later, she and I have become good friends and she's one of the go-to people I consult with about writing stuff.  We still crack up about how our friendship was rekindled by a Viagra spam email.

My point is, sometimes the universe plays tricks on writers.  Sometimes a door opens and it doesn't lead anywhere near where you want to go, but it's the only open door so you take it anyway.  Sometimes Santa puts coal in your stocking instead of that iPod you wanted.  It happens.  Here's how to deal:

Just remember 2 things about coal:

1)  You can burn it to make fire.  So you got a lump of coal (READ: rejection letter, nasty critique, door slamming in your face).  So what?  Don't let it get you down.  Instead, think about how you can use it to light a fire in your writing.  Don't let naysayers stand in your way.  Prove them wrong.

2)  Coal is basically the same as a diamond, only not as well put-together.  What can you do with the coal you've got in your hand to turn it into diamond-material?  How can you rearrange those molecules to make that dull lump of gunk into something sparkly and beautiful?

When you find coal in your stocking, think of it as a call to action, a BIG fat hint from the universe.  What you do with that hint is up to you.  After all, a lump of coal is just a lump of coal until you do something with it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Writing, the Rudolph Way

While hanging out in the North Pole, I got a chance to chat it up with Rudolph.  Let me tell you, that is one optimistic little reindeer and a lot of his advice applies really well to writing.  Here are some super-secret tips he shared about how he made it to leading Santa's sleigh.

Be nosy.  That's right.  Writers need to have no shame about asking questions so they can learn about exciting new things.  After all, how else do you get all that material to write about?  If you want to know about something, ask.  Or go to the library.  Or ask Google.  And remember: don't just write about what you know, write about what you want to know.

Develop a thick skin.  Writers are a strange bunch.  They spend years writing a book, then tearing it apart in edits, then querying and collecting rejection letters.  Just as Rudolph had to get used to being picked on by fellow reindeer, writers need a thick skin to survive the volume of rejections that comes with the job.  Rather than letting it get to us, we need to follow Rudolph's example and just let our noses sparkle.

Don't let the fog scare you.  At one point or another, all writers hit the fog.  You know, that feeling that nothing you write is ever good enough and "where's this book going anyway?"  Just remember, real writers don't just work when the weather's clear, they write in the snow and wind and fog as well.  And most of the time, it's when they break through the nasty weather that the real magic happens.

How about you?  What reindeer games have you learned from our red-nosed friend?

Monday, December 6, 2010

News Nuggets

Today will be a short post, but I simply had to write an update to tell you all two exciting things!

Please bear with me as I start today's post with a shameless plug.  I was interviewed on the blog and the interview was posted today!  This is the first time I've been interviewed anywhere so I'm super-excited.  If you want to read about my story-writing experience and learn more about this awesome project called Story A Day, you can read all about it here.

Also, if you haven't heard about Figment and you're into writing (especially Teen literature) you absolutely must check out this site.  It just launched today and it is co-founded by Dana Goodyear, staff writer at The New Yorker, and Jacob Lewis, former Managing Editor at The New Yorker and Condé Nast Portfolio.  Um... shall we say awesome?  Anyway, I've already joined the Figment network because I have a hunch this is gonna be so super-cool.  (If you join, look me up and friend me, 'k?)  Over the next few weeks I'll be exploring everything this site has to offer and posting more about it soon.

That's all the news I have for now.  Have an iggitastic day!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 Things I Learned about Writing From Santa Claus

Mr. Claus is a wise man.  In fact, when it comes to important things like making toys or writing books (which are almost the same thing, really) he is the head honcho, zen master, Dumbledore and Obi-Wan Kenobi all rolled into one.  I myself have had the privilege to spend some time hanging out with the Big Man, and he's given me some secret tips on toy-making, writing and life.  In the spirit of holiday sharing, I now pass these on to you.

1) Isolate yourself.  The man in the red suit definitely knows something about productivity.  Imagine making and delivering toys for all the good little children of the world.  That takes serious commitment.  The only way he manages to get everything done is because he makes his home on the most desolate real estate the world has to offer.  Writers too should follow his lead and engage in some major alone time now and again.  It helps us stay focused.

2) Surround yourself with good people.  OK, so maybe in Santa's case these happen be people with pointy ears and twirly-whirly shoes, but they're still pretty darn awesome.  The truth is, Santa would get nowhere if it weren't for his toy-making comrades, and writers would suffer the same fate if they didn't have buddies to help them stay sane.  These are the people who read our work, keep us motivated and let us know when we're being a little bit crazy.  We all need them, and need to let them know how much they're appreciated.

3) Do it for love.  No one in their right mind would dedicate his life to making and distributing toys unless he was seriously committed to his mission.  I mean, how thankless is Santa's job?  He makes all the loot, flies it around the world in his sleigh and then on Christmas morning, the kids are all: "Thanks Mom and Dad!"  Go figure.  The only way he can make sense of it all is to do it out of love.  The same is true for writers.  Write for love or don't write at all.

4) Sometimes you have to be a little bit in denial.  A while ago, I interned at a literary agency because I wanted to understand how publishing worked.  After spending each day reading the slush pile, I couldn't help feeling a little discouraged as a writer, not because the stuff I was reading was horrible but because it was so gosh-darn good.  And I still had to reject it.  I realized that to stay motivated, I had to preserve the illusion that I could make it to the finish line some day.  Just as Santa has to be in denial about certain things ("Yes, I will fit down this chimney"), I needed to give myself permission to be jolly and optimistic or I would spend all my time criticizing my own work and never get any writing done.

5) After a hard day's work, have some milk and cookies.   Santa is a smart man.  He knows that he needs a little recharging snack during the long haul of Christmas Eve, so he makes time for milk and cookies after each stop.  We writers also need to remember to be good to ourselves.  So go ahead and have some milk and cookies.  Or give yourself an at-home spa day.  Or buy yourself a pair of super-comfy socks.  Whatever you do, just make sure it's something that will make you feel special and cared for.

In the end, I think Santa's advice applies pretty much to any calling in life, whether you're writing a book or making toys or trading stocks or building a space ship.  It's all about staying jolly.

What about you?  What pearls of wisdom has Santa left in your stocking? 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Google Reader

One of the most important ways to Boost Your Blog is to interact with other bloggers and read their blogs as well.  We've all heard this a zillion times: to get people to follow and read your blog, you need to read/follow other people's blogs.  Easier said than done, right?

A few months ago, my good friend Ghenet (from All About Them Words) showed me this awesome tool that has made keeping up with blogs I follow super easy. It's called Google Reader, but it should probably be called Blogging Lifesaver, because it's seriously changed how I read blogs.  OK, so this is probably not all that new to most of you and you must think me a computer dunce for thinking this is awesome, but humor me OK? 

This is what Google Reader looks like.  If you have a gmail or blogger account, then you can use that with Google Reader.  When you log in, your reader will look something like this:

Here are a few tricks I've learned to keep things organized and make checking blogs super-easy:

1)  Make folders for different blogs you follow.  I have one folder for publishing-related blogs, one for writers I absolutely must read, one for DIY MFA peeps (because during September I wanted to keep up with their blogs in case they posted about DIY MFA stuff), and so on.  Having blogs in folders works for me because in a pinch, I just check one or two folders, depending on what I'm looking to read at that moment.

2)  Use iGoogle and put a Google Reader widget on your page.  iGoogle is a personalized version of Google that allows you to put widgets on your Google homepage (weather, news, gmail, google reader, etc.)  I keep both my Gmail and Google Reader on my iGoogle page so that I can quickly scan it every time I search for something on Google.  That way, rather than sitting down for an hour or more to read blogs, I just scan my reader widget for a couple of seconds multiple times per day.  If I read a post I want to comment on, I'll just make a note of it and come back when I have time.

3)  Subscribe to your own blog.  This probably sounds narcissistic but there is a logic to this tip.  Here's my dirty little secret: I subscribe to my own blog on Google Reader, but I do this so I can see if my posts look right when viewed in a reader.  These days, so many readers use Google Reader or other such services that I want to make sure the post looks right both on the blog itself and in a reader.  Sometimes something that looks just fine on the blog can actually be hard to read in Google Reader and I want to make sure that my blog is user-friendly on all formats.

Also, keep in mind that when readers use Google Reader, they will not see most of the design elements on your blog (like the sidebar or the pretty header, or any of that stuff).  They will see pictures, but only the ones that are in the post itself.  Any other graphics or widgets will not appear.

What about you?  Are you a fan of Google Reader?  How do you use it to make blog-surfing easier?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

To Blog or Not To Blog?

Here's the big question: Do writers need to have a blog?  Given how publishing is going more and more digital by the minute, is it an absolute must in today's tech-driven world?  Some experts say yes.  I say... it depends.

The way I see it, it all comes down to two questions each blogger should ask him or herself:

     • What are my goals?
     • Will blogging help me achieve those goals?

I know it sounds sort of cold and calculating to see blogging as a means to an end, but hear me out.  See, I think writers should have an idea what they want to get out of the blogging process before they jump into it.  Not only will this help them figure out if the blog is helping them meet their goals, but it will also help them shape the direction of the blog itself.  Here are a few classic blogging goals and how they affect the tone and style of a blog.

Blogging for Fun
Most people who have blogs do it because it's fun.  After all, if you don't love it, the project can quickly become a chore.  If you're doing it for your own enjoyment, things like number of followers or posting schedules don't matter too much.  The visual design of the blog is also not a big deal because you're doing it for you, so if you like how it looks then that's what counts.  This is a perfectly valid and noble blogging goal, and many bloggers out there do it for this reason alone.  In the end, even if your blog goals develop beyond just having fun, remember to take time to enjoy the process.

Blogging for Community
If your goal is to build a community and connect with other people through your blog, things start to shift a little.  For starters, you need to make sure your site is user-friendly.  A few months ago, I asked my sister (an e-marketing guru) to analyze my blog and suggest some changes to the interface.  I never realized it before, but little stupid things--like making sure your font is readable, or making it easy for people to click and follow your blog--can make a huge difference in terms of helping your visitors navigate their way around your site.

In addition to the look of the site, it also becomes important to engage in dialogue with your readers and other bloggers.  Blogging for community is kind of like when you find yourself in a serious relationship and suddenly you're thinking in terms of "we" instead of "me."  All of a sudden you go from wondering "what do I want to write" to asking "what does my audience want to read?"

Blogging for Promotion
I think when people say "writers should have a blog" this category is what they mean.  After all, writers will need to promote their books when they get published, so what better way to do that than with a blog, right?  The irony, of course, is that of all the writer blogs I read, very few of them (if any) go over the top to promote the blogger's published work.  More often than not, the promotional stuff gets tucked in discreetly--in the sidebar or as the subject of the occasional post--but rarely does it make up more than a fraction of the blog's overall content.

In the end, each writer will probably take an approach that combines all three to varying degrees.  It becomes something of a balancing act and depending on what you want to accomplish as a writer, you can give each of these categories more or less weight.  Also, remember that it's perfectly OK for your goals to change over time, so don't be afraid to allow yourself the freedom to shift gears with the blog as well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Boost Your Blog: The Journey Begins

As I was writing yesterday's post on Myths about Blogging, I realized had a lot more to share on the topic than I could ever fit into one post.  I do not pretend to be a master blogger, after all, this blog has only recently come into it's own and I'm still learning new things every day.  I have, however, picked up a couple of tips and techniques (often learning them the hard way... through trial and error).

Enter my new project: Boost Your Blog.  Over the next few days (or maybe weeks) I'll be doing a series of posts on all things blog-related.  I might throw some twitter in there for good measure too.  My goal is to share with you some tips that have served me well with iggi&gabi.  I figure, if I can help just one person avoid the pitfalls I ran into, then this project will have been worth it.

The journey begins with a little history about how iggi&gabi came to be.
I was really late on the blogging scene.  Like, years and years late.  I remember when blogging first started, my friends would say "hey, check out my blog" and I'd say "your what?"  The idea of keeping an online journal that the whole world could see just didn't do it for me.  (I mean, you're talking to a girl who still keeps a pen-and-paper journal to this day, and whose hubby is under strict instructions to burn all her notebooks in the event of her death.)

It was only when I discovered the wonderful world of knitting blogs that it all started making sense to me.  At first, I read blogs to learn about knitting techniques.  (How do you block a lace shawl?  How do you knit cables without the cable needle?  Etc.)  Eventually, I grew to like certain blogs because of each blogger's voice, and I started reading for entertainment as well as information.

At one point, I even tried my hand at a knitting blog but I quickly realized that I couldn't knit fast enough to keep up with a daily (or even weekly) posting schedule.  My posts began humming to the tune of: "still workin' on that sweater..." ad infinitum. Thankfully, that blog died a quick, merciful death.

Around that same time, I decided to start a blog on writing (because one blog just wasn't enough).  I had no idea what to write about so I just did writing exercises.  Online.  For everyone to see.  I later discovered that there's a reason writers don't publish their exercises: because they're usually awful.  The whole thing was an embarrassment.  Thankfully no one read it.

After two failed blog attempts, I swore off blogging altogether.  Then the MFA came along and tons of my classmates had blogs and I really, really, really wanted to be one of the cool kids, so I caved and started yet another one.  This time, things worked out better.  I even got a few comments too!  For a while I was flying high, but two problems lurked in the shadows:
  1. My blogging schedule was very erratic ("feast or famine" as my hubby calls it).
  2. The blog itself lacked focus.  I didn't have a thread or concept to hang my hat on and I just picked topics willy-nilly.
One morning in April, I woke up early with an itch in my fingers.  I grabbed a pen and started doodling and this little guy is what came out on the page:

iggi inspired me to reboot the blog as iggi&gabi and that's when everything started taking shape.  Suddenly, I knew what the blog was about and, more importantly, what I was about as a blogger.  Through the iggi persona I could try out ideas and take risks that I would never have attempted on my own.  I'm like the kid who blames her imaginary friend for breaking the cookie jar.  Having a partner in crime (even though he's just lines on a page) gave me the confidence I was missing in order to navigate the blogsphere.  iggi is the heart and soul of this blog.

What about you?  How did you find yourself on this blogging journey?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Myths About Blogging

Today my writer's group had a discussion about online presence (in particular blogs and twitter).  Not that I'm any expert on either subject, but since I'm the only one in the group who blogs and tweets regularly, it ended up being more of a How-To session.  Even though I haven't had this blog for more than a few months, it's been easy to forget what it was like not to know how to navigate this world.

This morning, all the memories came roaring back and I remembered what it was like to be a newbie in the blogsphere.  I remembered all the things I used to believe about blogging and have since discovered are not necessarily the case.

Here are some blogging myths that have proved false in my own blogging experience.

• You have to be known in the blogsphere for people to read/follow your blog.  If you're a newbie, you might as well give up because you're just writing to the ether.  For the longest time, I thought the only person reading my blog was my mother.  No, seriously.  And the worst of it was, for about the first month or so of this blog, that was actually the case.  Even bloggers who now have thousands of followers didn't have any when they started.  The key is to remember that we all have to start somewhere.

• You need to blog every day, even if you don't have anything useful to say.  OK, on one hand, there is some truth to this myth because posting regularly does drive traffic to the blog.  However, from the beginning, I decided that quality of posts for my blog would always trump quantity.  I made the conscious choice that I'd rather post fewer times per week but make sure each post was up to snuff.  I figured, you all (my awesome readers) would be more likely to forgive occasional gaps in my posting than a series of lame articles.  :)

• Bloggers are narcissists who only talk about themselves (or their kids/cats/hobbies/etc).  Good blogs are not about the blogger at all, they're about the audience.  The key is determining the audience and then staying consistent.  iggi&gabi is about writing and creativity, so unless something relates to one or both of those topics somehow, I don't post it.  Sure, I have snuck in some pictures of my cats now and then.  I may have even made some Brazil references or used knitting lingo from time to time.  But this blog is not about my cats, or my Brazilian family, or my obsession with knitting.  It's about writing so unless these other topics relate to that, they're left out.

• Blogging takes hours a day and if you start a blog, you will have no time left for writing/living.  Again, this is all about finding balance.  At first, I spent WAY too much time writing posts, reading blogs, commenting on blogs and responding to comments (OMG when I got my first comment ever I almost died!).  Bit by bit, I figured out ways to do things more efficiently.  Now, I try to write my posts during the weekend prior and schedule them to post automatically.  I've set up Google Reader so I can scan through and choose which blogs I want to read each day.  A lot of it has been trial and error, but slowly I am figuring out which short cuts work best for me.

• If you don't have earth-shattering things to say, you shouldn't have a blog.  When I first started blogging, I felt very isolated.  I felt like I was all alone at my computer, writing words and sending them out into the void.  Sure, I followed a few blogs, but was too shy to comment because I kept thinking: "Who would anyone want to hear what I have to say?"  When I finally got up the nerve to comment (and started getting lovely comments back!) I realized that the blogsphere wasn't some big scary place as I imagined.  It was a community.  Blog posts were no longer something I had to "produce" out of nothing; they became a way for me to respond to what was happening in the world of writing.  When I started thinking of blogging as being part of a dialogue, it took the pressure off me as a writer.  After all, it's a lot easier to join in a conversation that's already going on, than it is to fill the void with a monologue.

What blogging myths have you discovered were not true?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

Today, in honor of the worst travel day of the year, I thought I'd talk about airport security. 

In the past years, security issues have made flying home for the holidays more and more of a hassle.  Crazy X-ray machines that leave nothing to the imagination.  Pat-downs that make you wonder if you should call them in the morning.  And who knows what lies in the future of air travel.  This Thanksgiving is supposed to be the worst travel season to date and of course, the more intense the security requirements, the more travelers like to complain about it.

In light of all this insanity, I've come up with a method to help keep me just a little more... sane.  I've decided to make an art form out of getting through airport security as efficiently as I can.  As soon as I show my ID at the front of the line, I concentrate on getting all my stuff through the scanner and walking through to the other side as fast as possible.  No sense holding up the line, after all.

While waiting in line, I survey my carry-on situation so I know exactly how many plastic bins I need to grab.  Of course, before I leave home I always make sure to wear shoes that slip on and off easily.  I put my photo ID in my pocket for quick access and always hold onto my boarding pass because they might need to see it more than once.  Oh, and I make sure my quart-size plastic baggie of liquid stuff is out and ready to go so I'm not digging through my carry-on once the race starts.

While other travelers moan and groan about the long lines, I'm glad that I have that extra time to get ready.  By the time it's my turn, I zip right through.  This past flight I made my best time, under 17 seconds from ID check to all-done on the other side.  Some people might say I'm making light of a serious situation by turning security check into a race for my personal best time, but in the end, it keeps me distracted and prevents me from getting cranky.  And no one can complain that I'm the person holding up the line at security check.

"But what does this have to do with writing?" you might be wondering.

To me, the publishing process is a lot like airport security.  Before you can soar up high, you have to jump through a lot of hoops, most of which are completely out of your control.

A lot of writers end up griping about the process because it seems to be so gosh-darn unfair, but what we really should do is make it into a game.  Have a little fun.  Make a joke or two.  After all, that's what many very successful authors did when they were getting started and it sure seemed to work for them.  Take Stephen King, for instance: he stabbed his rejection letters through a peg on his wall until the stack got so heavy the peg broke.

We need to recognize which aspects of the process we can control and which ones we cannot.  When I travel, I try to maximize how efficiently I perform all the steps that I can control, and I've found that the same can be true with my writing.  I can't control if an agent likes my work, but I can make my query and submission as strong as possible.  I can't make a literary magazine accept my short story but I can edit the piece until it's as good as I can make it.  I can't guarantee that I'll get published but I can write every day, and that's half the battle right there.

So whether you're waiting in line or jumping through hoops, try to remember to take things a little less seriously and have some fun.  And it never hurts to smile because sometimes those security folks will even smile back.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finding Treasure

One of my favorite things to do in LA is to visit the La Brea Tar Pits.

For those of you who haven't been there, they're these gigantic pits of sticky mud where all these prehistoric mammals got stuck, perished, and now people have excavated the bones.  The prehistoric skeletons are on display at the museum and it's incredible.  I thought the NYC Natural History museum's dinosaur wing was impressive but the La Brea Tar Pits definitely win when it comes sheer volume of prehistoric treasure.

My favorite part?  There is an entire hallway wall lined top-to-bottom with Dire Wolf skulls.  Yes, that's right.  Prehistoric wolf skulls.  Hundreds of them.  Amazing.

And what blows my mind is this: who would've thought that a pit full of sticky mud would yield so many incredible treasures?

But it did.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  Right now I'm in the middle of editing and my manuscript is about ten notches lower than a pit of sticky mud.  Seriously.  It makes the La Brea Tar Pits look like a shiny swimming pool.  And there are moments when I start to wonder, is it possible that there's anything of value hidden under all this muck?

That's when I try to remember the tar pits.  The hundreds of wolf skulls.  After all, if scientists could pull out all that treasure from a pit of sticky mud, surely I can find one tiny redeemable thing in my mess of a manuscript.  And thinking that makes me feel better.

Where will you find treasure today?

Speaking of finding treasures, it's about time I announce the winner of the most recent contest and share some treasure!  Turns out I didn't make it to 200 so I'll be drawing one winner.  But stay tuned: there will be more contests to come in the future.

And the winner of the Road to 200 Contest is...

Catherine Lavoie

Catherine, please send me an email: iggingabi[at]gmail[dot]com to claim your prize!  Can't wait to read your pages.

I'd also like to say a special thank you to everyone who entered the contest.  You guys are the best!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Museum Monday

I'm in LA today, museum-hopping the day away.  While I'm gone, I thought I'd share with you a small selection of my favorite works of art.  These pieces are each by different artists and on view at different museums around the world.  As you can see, the artworks are dramatically different from one another but they all have two things in common: (1) I have seen each of these pieces in real life at least once, and (2) when I look at each of these works, I feel a powerful emotional response.  I hope you all find at least one of these works as inspiring as I do.  Enjoy!

El Greco, View of Toledo
Edvard Munch, Vampyr

John Singer Sargent, Fumee d'Ambre Gris

Rene Magritte, The False Mirror

The Unicorn at Bay (medieval tapestry)

Vincent Van Gogh, Irises

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Here's the ugly truth:  No writer exists in a void.  All writing is influenced by what has come before.  There is no such thing as utterly, completely unique because writing exists within a context.

In a world that's always screaming for the Next New Thing, how do we writers reconcile that with the scary truth that there's really no such thing as new?  Here are a few things I learned as I completed my WIP draft.

1)  Write what you love, not what the market "wants."  I used to work in the toy industry and it always boggled my mind that we had to predict what kids would "want" not now but a year from now.  We could spend a whole year developing a product only to discover at the end of it all that the trend was over.  The same is true for writing.  If you're working on your project because the genre or topic are a big hit now and you want to jump on the bandwagon, chances are you'll be disappointed.  But if you're working on this book because you love the subject and the characters, then no matter what happens, it's win-win.

2)  Context isn't something to be afraid of.  Think of it as a "safety net."  In the product development world, companies love to create extensions of popular product lines.  After all, a good chunk of the development legwork has already been done in the first version, customers recognize the brand and there's already a built-in market for it.

Think of books that came before yours as a similar "safety net" to your project.  Study the books--both the successful ones and the less so--and think about what made them work or not work.  Think about what you can do to differentiate your project from what has come before, but still keep it within the context.

3)  Find partners in crime.  One of my favorite things to do is go to conferences!  I love meeting other writers, learning about the craft and hearing new information about the business.  This January 2011 I'll be attending the Writer's Digest and SCBWI conferences, both in NYC.  If you've signed up for either of these, let me know in the comments!  I love connecting with new writer friends.

The way I see it, you never know who you'll meet at one of these things.  It could be a new critique partner or beta reader, it could be someone you'll collaborate with some day, it could be a future mentor or someone you might mentor yourself.  The key is to be open to possibilities.

4)  Ideas are not books.  Books are books.  In his memoir, Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing, David Morrell talks about the distinction between the idea and execution.  Every time I start getting down about how un-unique my ideas are, I reread his chapter on plot where he discusses this subject.  His main point is this: sure, an idea might be shiny and new, but an idea does not make a book unique.  What makes a book unique is how the writer implements the idea.  An example:

Take the Harry Potter series--many people marvel at J.K. Rowling's originality. "How did she come up with such a unique idea?" they wonder.  As if all it takes to create a fantastic book (or series of books) is one extraordinary idea.  Because when you have the fun flashy idea then the book just writes itself.  Ha!

I don't know about you, but I find this outlook to be rather belittling to the writer; it's almost as if the writing doesn't matter.  But as we all know, Harry Potter is about much more than just one sparkly idea.  These books are what they are because the author wrote them.  That same concept in the hands of any other writer would have turned out to be completely different.

5)  Ideas are like subways: any minute now there will be another one.  When I worked in toy development, our department had a attitude that boiled down to this: "If a competitor wants to steal our idea, let it.  We'll have an even better one in five minutes anyway."  The minute you think of your idea as one link in a long chain of great ideas, then that one idea doesn't seem all that ground-breaking anymore.  If you coddle and protect your idea like it's something precious and priceless, you run the risk of getting too attached and taking the project too seriously.  Have confidence that another better idea is always just a brainstorm away and that even if someone does "borrow" your concept, they'll never be able to execute it like you will.

Now go out there and do something wild and crazy and unique!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Finding Competitive Books

Sooner or later, writers have to put their writing into context.  This means tracking down published books that are similar to the WIP (i.e. competitive books) and reading them.  Some writers like to do this sort of research as they're working on their own book.  Other writers prefer to hold off until they've been through a draft or two.  Regardless of when you decide to start doing your research, it's going to take time.  And that's time you won't be spending writing, or revising, or querying, or... you get the picture.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  How do we actually find these elusive books in the first place?  And for that matter, how do we keep our reading lists from getting long and out of control?  I'm a perfect example of the latter.  Every time I hear of a book even remotely similar to my WIP, I have run out and read it.  This is all well and good, but it does nothing to get my actual WIP written in the first place.  The message here is to find a balance.  Yes, research is important, but the key is to do it efficiently and effectively.

To that end, here's a nifty trick I've discovered that has helped me speed up the search for competitive books.  All you need is the internet and the title of (at least) one competitive book.

1) Go to and search for that one competitive book you've already found.   If you don't have the title of at least one book that's similar to your WIP, try doing a keyword search.  All you need is to find one book and then the search becomes much easier.

2) Scroll down to where it says "Customers who bought this book also bought..."  Browse through the books listed and make a note of any that might fit within the context of your WIP (similar themes, genre, target audience, etc.)

3) Use the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon or search for the titles you've noted using Google books.  Read a few pages.  An alternative is to go to a bookstore or library with your list and browse the shelves.  After all, you want to make sure the books you've put on your list are actually going to be useful.

4) Now read 'em.

This trick might seem like a no-brainer to all you super-efficient genius researchers out there, but believe it or not it took me forever to figure out.  In case anyone else out there has been beating their heads against the wall (like I did for so long) I figured I'd pass on this trick.  Sure, this search tool isn't foolproof and nothing beats the tried-and-true method of getting recommendations from a librarian or knowledgeable bookseller.  But in a pinch, this saves time.  And as I see it, that just means more time for writing.

On a separate note: Don't forget to check out my contest!  It's open until Saturday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hooray! And a Contest!

Hello friendsies and a Happy Monday to you!

This week is chock-full of happy news:

1)  As some of you may have already figured out, I finished the first draft of my WIP.  Whee!  I feel like baking everyone in the blogsphere a cake.  Then again, smashing cake pieces through the computer screen would be rather messy (not to mention I'd get crumbs all over my keyboard), so here's the next best thing:

 2)  I got to 166 followers on my blog this weekend!  That means I'm closer to 200 than to 100.  Woot!  200 followers, here I come!

3)  I met fellow blogger, Bess of It's the World, Dear, last week to discuss my critique of her piece (she was the winner of September's DIY MFA contest).  Anyway, I had so much fun reading her work, I thought to myself, "gee gabi, you gotta do that more often."

So, in light of all these exciting things, I've decided to throw another contest called:

The Road to 200 Contest

Here's how it works:

To enter the contest: Leave a comment below.  That's it.  No tallying entries or or all that icky math stuff, just your shiny happy comment to this post.  Isn't that easy?

Prize: One lucky winner will get a critique of their first 25 pages from yours truly.
(Standard formatting: double spaced, 12pt font.)

But wait... it gets better!

If you're not already following this blog, you might want to join the fun.  And spread the word because...

If I make it to 200 followers by the time the contest closes, I'll double it to two lucky winners.

Contest closes this Saturday (11:59pm November 20 EST)


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Work In Progress

I don't usually blog about my current writing project because I'm always scared I'll jinx it if I talk about it too much.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a superstitious person.  I have a black cat that crosses my path on a regular basis, Friday the 13th is one of my favorite days of the year and I cross my eyes and make faces regularly, just to make sure I won't get stuck that way.  But there's something about talking about my WIP that gives me the heebee-jeebies.

Now I'm in the final sprint--only a few hundred words away from finishing--so I feel OK about sharing with you all.  In fact, I feel more than OK, I want to share because that way you'll understand why I've been a bit more MIA than usual these last few weeks.  Still, part of me is a little superstitious about talking about my WIP so I've decided to tell the story in pictures, starring baby animals (because baby animals make any story that much cuter).  Here it is.  The progress report of my WIP (title to be revealed later) told in pictures.

Enjoy! <3 <3 <3

At first, things were going swimmingly.  I finished my thesis,
had a solid outline, and was writing along.  La la la la la...
Then, as I was climbing fast toward the climax, I made a fatal mistake:
I looked down.
"Yikes, it's pretty high up here."

Lucky for me, I have some great writing buddies
who weren't afraid to give me a pick-me-up.
I kept writing.
Even so, there were times I just wanted to curl up inside my shell.
Then, I finally made it to the final showdown!
Good thing I'm trained in the art of pen-wielding,
because my villain turned out to be a piece of work.
"Take that, evil character!"
Now I'm sprinting to the finish line.
1200 words... 1100... 1000...
And pretty soon I'll type the two most beautiful words in the English language:

How about you?  How's your writing coming along?  Any NaNoWriMo folks out there?  If so, how's the experience been treating you?

Write on!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Verse Novel Challenge Update

Hi all!

As you may recall, I'm participating in Caroline Starr Rose's Verse Novel Challenge.  The goal is to read five verse novels by the end of 2010.  I've recently finished reading the fifth one so I thought I'd do a little update and give my take on the verse novels I've read.

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

This was the first verse novel I read this year, which I reviewed here.  I loved this book and read it in one sitting because I couldn't put it down.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

A beautiful, heart-wrenching book.  I was completely pulled in.  The musical connection (the main character's love of the piano) especially resonated with me.

Witness by Karen Hesse

Loved this book.  It was SO powerful.  I especially loved how each of the different characters had such distinct voices.  After a while I didn't need to see their names at the top of the poems; I could tell who was speaking from the language alone.  I wish I had read this when I was writing my literature thesis on "Book As Experience" because it would have been a perfect fit.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

The prequel to True Believer, this book is simply lovely.  Unlike the other verse novels I read, this was the only one that read as one long poem, rather than a collection of poems.  I know in a previous post I questioned whether Wolff's verse novels could be considered such (since she herself refers to them as "prose with line breaks").  But I was dying to read Make Lemonade and figured that if it felt poetry to me then it would be OK to consider it part of the verse novel challenge.  Let me tell you, it was pure poetry.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

This was another book that I read in one sitting.  I love the idea of a book set in LA and in the glitz and glamor of the celebrity world and yet the story rings true to any kid.  The pain of loss, the trials of fitting in at a new school, these are all things that readers can relate to, regardless of the glamorous setting. My only quibble was with the ending, which was a teensy bit predictable, but it was still satisfying. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Famous Last Words

Everyone's always talking about first sentences and how important it is that they make an impact and draw the reader into the story.  But what about the last sentences, the words that stick with readers after they put down the book?

As writers, most of us are wired to take a sentence and write forward from it, but how often do we write toward something, toward an ending?  A classic writing exercise is to take a random sentence from a famous novel and write from there, using those words to jump-start our own writing.  Today I'd like to challenge you all to do the opposite.  Below is a list of last sentences, final words from existing books.  The idea here is to write toward these last words so that they fit as the last sentence of your piece.

Here's a fun exercise! Choose one of the sentences below and write a short piece with the sentence you chose as the final sentence.
  • No one has claimed them yet.
  • "Let me tell you about it."
  • Everything must go.
  • "Make me pretty."
  • ...and it was still hot.
  • It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  [She] was both.
Bonus points to anyone who can guess which books these sentences come from!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ruby Slippers

Once in a while, life just turns blah on you.  Situations get toxic.  Your writing doesn't cooperate.  Work just isn't as interesting as it used to be.  Blah.

Those are moments when you need ruby slippers.  I don't mean literal ruby slippers like in The Wizard of Oz (though someday I will own a pair of these babies all my very own).  What I mean is, you need give yourself something decadent and luxurious, even it's it's tiny.  Something that tells you: "I'm pampering myself for a change.  I'm being nice to me today, because I deserve it."  Ruby slippers can mean different things to different people.

For me these little luxuries include:
  • Wearing glittery lip gloss
  • A sparkly bookmark, preferably pink
  • Brewing a pot of coconut vanilla tea
  • Lavender hand lotion
How do you like to pamper yourself when life gets you down?  What are your Ruby Slippers?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who's in Your Corner?

It's easy to be a supportive friend and colleague when things are going according to the status quo.  People fall into patterns and get used to things being normal.  They adopt roles within their social groups and communities: "helper" "mentor" "leader" and so on.  But what do you do when the "helper" is the one who needs help?  Or the "mentor" needs some mentoring?  Or the "leader" needs someone to take the reins for a while?  When anything veers away from the standard pattern, relationships get tested.  This is true of friends in all walks of life, including writing friends.

There are key moments when you find out who's in your corner, like when you and a friend bump heads, or when you're going through an especially tough spot in your own life.  This is when you discover who you can count on and who you can't.  Because a true friend will adjust his or her role and adapt to the crisis at that moment.  Friends recognize the difference between the person and the problem at hand, and they find a way to move forward.

Moments of success are also key for showing who's on your side.  True friends will be happy for your success and you'll be happy for theirs as well.  There's no competition or need to compare with one another because you trust that there's enough goodness in the universe to go around.  Good friends will celebrate with you, whether the obstacle overcome is small or enormous.

In life as well as in writing, it's important to know who's in your corner.  To those of you who have seen me through happy writing moments and through not-so-happy ones, I'd like to say a huge "Thank You."  To those who have just joined the fun, welcome!  I can't wait to hear what you have to say and learn more about you.  And to those special people who are my anchors and support (you know who you are), I don't deserve you but I'm so glad you're my friend.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Binge Writing

First off, I wanted to give a huge shout-out to all my readers who are participating in NaNoWriMo 2010.  You guys are awesome and you continually amaze me with your strength of spirit and dedication.  Go writers!

In light of it being November and NaNoWriMo being under way, I thought I'd talk today about binge writing.  I myself have never done NaNoWriMo but I've experienced my own writing binges in different contexts (mostly academic).  For instance, I completely rewrote my college thesis two days before the deadline.  My psychology master's thesis got done during the week before I moved from upstate back to NYC.  In fact, the only thesis I've ever written that was not started and completed in the days before the deadline was the MFA thesis, believe it or not.

My point is, I know what it's like to crank out pages in a short period of time and to write so hard you don't know whether you're crying or your eyes are bleeding or your brain's exploding.  Or all of the above.  I know the rush and thrill of when all those disparate ideas come together at the last minute and the whole project feels like it's suspended in air, waiting for that last breath, that last keystroke.

But aside from the frantic rush of it all, there is strategy to binge writing and I thought I'd share a few things I've learned from my own binge writing experiences.

1) Don't forget to eat.  Whether you take a short break for dinner or keep a snack next to you as you work, remember to refuel with food.
2) Sleep can be optional for a day or two.  But if you're planning to pull all-nighters for a month, be prepared for lowered productivity.  I know because I've actually done this and it's not a good idea.
3) Bathing is optional. (Unless you plan to go out in public, in which case, do the world a favor and take a quick shower.) 'Nuff said.
4) Take breaks.  Sometimes your brain needs to zone out and relax.  Beating it with a stick isn't going to get the words on the page any faster.
5) Goals can change and that's OK.  You may find as you work on your project--be it NaNoWriMo or something else--that your goals may shift.  That's perfectly OK and it's important allow yourself the flexibility to change directions if need be.

Here are some happy writing vibes to all you awesome writers, especially those doing NaNoWriMo.  Hope your project goes well!

Friday, October 29, 2010


Sometimes in life all you can do is wait.  Wait for good news.  Or bad news.  Or any news at all.  But regardless, you're waiting.

It drives me crazy sometimes because when I want to know something, I want to know NOW, and everything else just feels like passing the time.

Writers know what it's like to wait.  You send a story out and then you wait.  You send a batch of queries and you wait.  You send your piece to a critique group and you wait.  And all the while, it feels like the writing process gets suspended in time, just waiting.

It's like this with the act of writing too.  Some stories just aren't ready to gush out as quickly as you would like.  Some books need time to ripen before you harvest them and put them on the page.  You can't always beat stories out of your brain with a stick; it just doesn't work that way.

Of course, we've all heard writers say that you can't wait around for inspiration, because writing is about BIC (butt in chair) and not just that glimmer of an idea.  And I agree, in theory.  But I also believe that writing is about balance and about recognizing when one idea needs time to lie low and when you need to work on something else for a change.

I call this Active Procrastination, a trick I perfected in college.  It works like this: when faced with a lot of tasks, some of which you're just not ready to deal with right now, you pick an easy and harmless task to do first.  Like watching a movie for your film class before starting on the scary research paper.  You're still getting stuff done, but you're letting your brain rest until you're ready to tackle the big things.

Lately I've had some big stuff on my plate, some of which I've had to be dealt with quickly because it was time-sensitive and this has totally discombobulated my writing practice.  Now I'm waiting.  Not for something relating to my writing but for someone central to my life.  And the minutes can't tick by fast enough.  In the meantime, I'm trying to read or write or do anything to pass the time.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

What about you?  What do you do to make the waiting part of the writing process more bearable?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Big MFA Question

Today posted an interesting article: Should You Get an MFA?

This, of course, is the central question to anyone pursuing a DIY MFA.  Should you uproot your life or perform feats of time-management acrobatics in order to go back to school?  Or should you go it alone?

I chose the former and was glad I did because the MFA program taught me several things, though not all necessarily about writing.  We learned about the literature in our field and attended several publishing talks.  Of course, it helped that the program was specific to children's writing.  At the same time, though, I realized when I graduated that the MFA is not for everybody, which was the whole thought process that motivated DIY MFA back in September.

Now, as we near the end of October, I wanted to check in with all of you who participated in DIY MFA.  How is everything coming along for you?  Have you found some readings to attend and read some good books from your list?

Most importantly, how's the writing coming?

Monday, October 25, 2010

When Your Inner Writer Gets Spooked

For a few weeks now I've been writing away on my WIP, just cranking it out like it was my job or something.  Then all of a sudden, I got spooked.

It all started when I reached this one critical chapter, and I've been scared stiff ever since.  I know exactly what needs to happen in the chapter, I only have this chapter and a little piece of another left to go, and yet I'm terrified.

All these sneaky little doubts keep cluttering my mind.  What if I write this chapter and it totally flops?  What if I can't pull it off?  What if I only had a few good chapters in me and I used them all up already?

So I've been doing what I always do when I get scared: I've been reading a lot.  It's a way of getting all those scary thoughts out of my head and distracting myself.  Kind of like the mental equivalent of leaving a nightlight on.

What about you?  What do you do when your inner writer gets scared silly?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Which Comes First?

Last week, I got an interesting question about writing big papers and coming up with the argument.  The question was:
"Is it more like an argument that you will prove or disprove by reading the books? I don't know how I can make such any statement without reading the books and finding out how authors are approaching a topic..."  ~Kerryn Angell
This question got me thinking about the chicken-egg dilemma that often accompanies academic papers.  The problem is this: most papers we write in high school, college and even graduate school are artificial.  The parameters of the paper force us to look at only a limited number of works and construct an argument from there, ignoring the rest of the canon.  Not only that, oftentimes professors require us to get a stamp of approval on our "thesis statement" before we've even read the books!

The reason professors and colleges often use this method is because of a simple, yet powerful constraint: time.  Students just don't have the time to go on a hunting expedition to craft a scholarly paper so the teachers narrow the task down for us.  They limit the number of books we discuss in the paper, they check our thesis statements before we start, they make sure we're headed in the right direction.  They do all of this because they want students to focus on learning to write the paper, and not waste hours of time hunting down a thesis through piles of books.

In DIY MFA things are a bit different.  We have the freedom to make mistakes, beat our head against the wall and have a few false starts.  When I wrote my literature thesis for the MFA, I didn't tell the professor but I read at least ten books that fit the thesis.  We were only allowed to choose four, so I chose the ones that best illustrated my point and saved the rest of the books for later.  Someday I will go back to that literature thesis, rewrite it to encompass all the books I want to include.  But that is a project for a later time.

My point is, that when you're writing or planning the "Big Paper" for DIY MFA, you have the freedom to explore the literature first.  Read a lot.  Think a lot.  Then make up your mind about what you want to say about the literature.  The goal here isn't to write a mind-blowing paper (though that would be awesome).  Rather, the point is to build a strong relationship with reading and to see how books fit together, relate to each other.

In this aspect of DIY MFA it's OK to be a detective.  In fact, that's probably a good thing.  And who knows, maybe as you sleuth out your argument and look for connections between books, you might just find a few of these.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just to Say Hi

Hi everyone,

iggi and I have been pondering something.  See, every so often, we come up with wild and crazy ideas like DIY MFA and other cool stuff and we want to give our loyal readers a preview before we make it public on the site.

Or sometimes we're thinking something could be a good idea but we want to test the waters and see if there's interest before announcing it to the whole world.  We need the eyes and ears of our trusted readers to give input.

Or sometimes we just have fun news to share and we want to get the word out to all our online friends.

To that end, I've set up a little sign-up form in the about tab and if you don't mind sharing your email and twitter name, iggi and I would love to have you on our contact list.

And don't worry, iggi and I don't spam and we will only email the whole list if it's something REALLY important.  Also we will never, EVER share your emails with any person or group.

And of course, iggi and I LOVE to hear from you so feel free to email or tweet and share your thoughts.  Or just say "Hi."  Whatever you like.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fitness for Writers by Missy Groeger

Today's post is by Missy Groeger, my good friend and fitness guru.  She's a personal trainer at New York City's Reebok Gym and has a background in nutrition as well as fitness.  A workout machine, Missy has participated in several fitness competitions, including Nationals.  Lately, I had been tossing around ideas on how to add a fitness component to DIY MFA and I KNEW I would have to ask Missy her advice.  Here follows Missy's customized workout and fitness session, specially designed for writers who spend most of their time sitting at their computers.

Foam Rolling:

Foam rolling helps break up adhesions from everyday wear and tear.  It is like getting a massage.  The action of foam rolling helps so you can use the muscle to its maximum extensibility and decrease chances of pulling a muscle and also reduce soreness!  (You can find foam rolls at fitness stores like Sports Authority and they come in a variety of lengths for easy storage.)

Roll over points at which you feel the most pressure and hold for 20-30 seconds.  Repeat 2-3 times.


Lower Back
Upper Back

Stretches for Major Muscle Groups:

There are many benefits of stretching.  It reduces muscle tension, increases range of motion in the joints, enhances muscle coordination, and increases circulation, which raises your energy level.  The following stretches are good for your hamstrings, lower back and hips, areas crucial for writers to stretch since you spend so much time seated.

Basic Strengthening Exercises:

(Do 3 sets of 15-20 Repetitions per exercise)


Superman (hold for 30-60 seconds)
Plank (hold for 30-60 seconds)
Side Lunge

Five things to keep in mind:
  1.     STRETCH
  2.     Work Large muscle groups
  3.     Sit up straight at your desk/computer
  4.     Get rest!!  Your muscles need time to repair themselves
  5.     Eat regular smaller meals

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