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READ LIKE A WRITER, a teaching blog


Happy new year for 2013!

In this blog post I decided to take a break from teaching about the craft of writing and instead talk a little about the writing life.

I received an email from an editor of a university newspaper, asking if she should switch majors from journalism since newspapers are closing. I told this editor there will always be a need for good writers and editors. What changes is the technology. I would give this advice to anyone in the arts, whether a writer or illustrator or photographer. There will always be jobs for people in these fields. The trick is to stay current in technology and be open to new ventures.

For example, I started as a professional writer using a manual typewriter with a broken correct-o-tape. In journalism school at the University of Hawaii I thought it was a big deal that my typewriter plugged in. While in college, the technology changed rapidly and I took my copyediting course on a computer. I also bought a Commodore 64 as my first PC at home. Before I left the newsroom (to specialize in children's literature), composing departments were shut down and I was trained in a sophisticated pagination program as the Hearst newspaper was produced electronically. Last month I wrote news for News-O-Matic published by Press4Kids as an app for iPads. How cool is that? The advancements in technology continually fascinate me and I believe it is detrimental to my career if I don't keep up with it.

For illustrators, look at an amazing app by Roxie Munro and what she has to say about creating apps. Also check out Digital Media Diet .
These are just a few examples of how the same skills are still needed but the technology has changed.

Years ago I asked my friend Jane Yolen what to do about having difficulty finding time to write during holiday months starting with Thanksgiving and running through January (sometimes, I hate to admit it, even through February). Jane told me to "work on shorter pieces." Ever since, I have taken Jane's advice and written during those months short nonfiction articles for publications such as Gryphon House activity books. During the 9 1/2 years that I taught writing for ICL (I retired December 24, 2012) this same question was very common. So I passed on Jane's sage advice. During hectic times in your life write poetry, devotions, short stories, short nonfiction articles, journal, but above all, keep writing.

I do not make resolutions. I make specific writing goals. Every year I fulfill all of my writing goals. This year they were fulfilled by October. Part of the reason is because I have a goal-oriented personality. I'm a very driven person. However, I also believe in making goals that are realistic and are within my power to complete. For example, I do not make goals such as "I will sell X amount of stories and articles." That is not realistic when it is not my decision what sells and what doesn't; it's up to the publisher whether to offer me a contract or not. Or, don't make a goal that you are going to get an agent. Instead, a realistic goal would be to do the steps within your control, such vowing to send out agent queries, or attend a conference where an agent you want to query is attending.

I belong to a goals group online. Four of us women writers (all educators) email every weekend what our goals are for the upcoming week, and what we accomplished (or not) on our goals that we set for ourselves (individually) the week before. At the beginning of the year we set long-term goals for the year. At the end of the year we record the results. We have been meeting for years as an accountability group. We try not to post during the week so as not to disrupt everyone's busy schedules. Although occasionally we might critique for each other or answer a question about business, our primary focus is as a goals group.

Every morning it's as if someone has spiked a superball in my head. Consequently, I have to stay organized. My go-to bff for organizational advice is Kristi Holl. Besides WRITERS FIRST AID, Kristi lectures on organizational skills for writers. She's also great at recommending resources.

I hope y'all have a banner year. Join me next month for another teaching session

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