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The Rich Writer

The Rich Writer: December 2009

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Week’s Tweets on how to dodge subconscious blocks and WRITE THE STORY

pd_headshot WTS=Write the Story!

Write the Story 38: Meet a writing friend to brainstorm solutions to tough writing problems. Coffee helps

WTS 39: Feeling stuck? Read with an eye for for craft--for ex in Maggie Stiefvater’s Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie. See

WTS #40: Feeling overwhelmed with holiday bustle? Steal a writing hour w/no distractions: turn off phone, Internet, and chatty relatives :-)

WTS #41: Take advantage of holiday get-togethers: listen, ask questions, collect stories, discover insights into character, place, & dialog

WTS #42: Setting New Year writing goals? Consider making them public at Writer's Digest

RT @ElizabethSCraig Applying the SMART doctrine to your writing resolutions:

RT @gretchenrubin A Year In The Pursuit Of Happiness: 7 Surprising Truths About What Makes Us Happy...

Feeling Stuck? Chris Guillebeau suggests some great strategies for escaping the rut:

WTS #43: Stuck on a scene? Who says you have to write them in order? Skip around for inspiration.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

A Writer’s Christmas List

photo With Christmas fast approaching, I feel compelled to share my wish list of writerly joys—most of which I already have. Kinda cool, isn’t it?

  1. Words a-plenty with which to play.
  2. Stories large and small to weave.
  3. Beautiful pens, notebooks, notecards, and sticky notes for the physical, sensual side of writing.
  4. A quiet space in which to dream characters, settings, conversations, plot twists.
  5. Fellow writers to share our ups and downs—and, of course, our writing.
  6. Books of every type to instruct, delight, challenge, entertain, and inspire.
  7. A special coffee shop or two, with friendly baristas and exceptional espresso.
  8. Readers who love our writing and get what we’re trying to say.
  9. A furred friend or five to inspire, comfort, or exercise (as needed).
  10. Friends and family who love us despite our writerly quirks and foibles…and help us remember why it is we do what we do.

Merry Christmas, for those of you who celebrate this holiday with me! And for the rest of you, may you have a joyous holiday season and a blessed New Year!

:) Cheryl

PS: Lest you think I have *everything* I desire:

11. An all-expenses paid trip to the San Juan Islands to continue the research for my current book….


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cool Science

Bottlenose Dolphin by CW Ye.We’ve all heard stories of dolphins rescuing people from shipwrecks or shark attacks—but humans aren’t the only one to benefit from dolphins’ altruistic nature. In March, 2008, a dolphin named Moko helped save the lives of a pygmy sperm whale mother and calf when they stranded on a New Zealand beach.

Humans tried repeatedly to refloat the mother and calf, but the pair kept re-stranding themselves on a large sandbar just offshore. With each try, the whales became more agitated and more disoriented. Would-be rescuers feared that they wouldn’t be able to find their way past the sand bar to the open sea.

Enter the dolphin: Moko shoved her way between humans and whales to guide the whales to safety.

All the coolest tales are true, don’t you think?

:) Cheryl

*Thanks to CW Ye at Flickr Commons for the dolphin photo!


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Connection between Good Looks and Self Esteem

brushes_creativecommons Ever wonder why we spend so much time and money on looking good? Maybe this is obvious to most of you, but I’m the kind of gal who questions the seeming contradictions between my beliefs and actions. For instance, in theory I’d rather spend my money on things of lasting importance (supporting a child through Compassion International, for instance, or (more selfishly) supporting my writing habit) than on short-term pleasures. So…why do I spend money on a haircut when my husband can cut a reasonably straight line across the bottom of my hair for free? Why do I buy a cute shade of nail polish or lip gloss?

One simple answer is that it feels good to make myself look pretty. Okay. That makes sense, but why? I mean, the definition of “pretty” seems to change with the seasons. I stopped reading the makeup section of Real Simple magazine for a while, because I realized that upon reading an issue, I’d discover that I “needed” some new product or eye glitter. Geez, was I really that shallow? What’s the big deal with looking good?

A study in the December 2009 issue of Personal Relationships (yes, there is a scholarly journal devoted to personal relationships; who knew?) sheds some light on the issue of why people like to look attractive. In it, researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Kansas report that “attractive people do tend to have more social relationships and therefore an increased sense of psychological well-being.”

But there’s a caveat: this is only true in urban areas. In rural communities, where people have fewer choices in their social relationships, physical appearance loses some importance.

In my ideal world, physical appearance wouldn’t play a role in how others judge me; but in the real world, it’s important to recognize that yes, appearance impacts how others view me. This study also reminds me to be careful as I look at others, though, because the societal norm is apparently to pick the pretty face when given a choice. I’d like to help change that.

:) Cheryl

Photo is the work of annie316 at Flickr Creative Commons


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reading With an Eye for Craft: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

ballad_175 I just tore through a terrific fantasy novel, Ballad: a Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater. This tale touches on two of my favorite fantasy concepts: the world of Faerie in the modern day and how music might interweave with magic. I expected to love this book. What I didn’t expect was that I loved it so much I had to go through it a second time, taking notes.

I’m embarking on the first rewrite of my own most recent fantasy novel, and Ballad turns out to be a perfect book for me to study. In it, Stiefvater weaves together a remarkably complex plot using three different point-of-view characters. One of those characters “narrates” only in the form of unsent text messages—a few pages of thoughts sprinkled through the novel that lets the reader know what’s happening in her world. It’s a terrific idea, and absolutely perfect in this book. The other two characters have such distinct voices that I never lost track of who was narrating. 

She manages to take the reader through two fully developed character arcs while methodically unfolding a plot that would be difficult to follow in less skilled hands. She doles out clues and information piece by piece, until everything comes together at the story’s end into that delightful “ah-ha!” moment when it all makes sense.

If you love contemporary fantasy such as Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks or Charles de Lint’s novels (Jack the Giant Killer is a personal fave), you’ll find Ballad a delightful read.

And if you’re a fellow fantasy writer, you’ll love checking out the details of her world-building, story pacing, and character creation. This book definitely merits two reads, because the first time through you’ll be too caught up in the story to pay attention to craft—and her craft is worth studying.

:) Cheryl

P.S. She has a pretty fun website, too. Check it out!

P.P.S. Back to that rewrite….

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Confessions of a word geek

 turtle Know what makes me happy? Finding the right word to search for in order to find my place in a document….you know, trying to think of a word that you don’t use until that scene where the T-rex explodes out his egg in the middle of the district basketball championship.

And this picture. This picture makes me very happy.

Theoretically, that is.

:) Cheryl

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Week’s Tweets on how to dodge subconscious blocks and WRITE THE STORY

chipmunk_creativecommons WTS=Write the Story!

WTS 33: Does mood affect creativity? Research suggests recovery from depression, not depression, inspires creativity.

WTS 34: More on mood/creativity relationship: One study shows both positive and negative moods spark creativity

In other words:happy or sad people more creative, relaxed or angry people less so. And playing a video game can spark creativity

...and for another take on creativity and mood, see, which claims a sad writer is a careful writer.

WTS 35: Feeling stuck? Take a long walk, with pen and paper or a voice recorder for when inspiration strikes.

WTS 36: Create an inspirational playlist. What music does your character like? What music reflects your character’s mood?

WTS 37: Play a “background sounds” CD of waves, birds, a crackling fire, etc., to help create the right mood for writing a particular scene.

:) Cheryl

*Photo courtesy of Giles Gunthier, Flickr Commons

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Mood and Creativity

PenCupPurple Mood and creativity, creativity and mood: It seems that all too often, I stumble across the bias that creative people have to suffer for their art.

My take on it? Phooey.

Yes, there is a correlation between creativity and struggles with depression. There’s also a correlation between creativity and other serious psychological issues, such as Van Gogh’s cutting-off-the-ear syndrome.

But the more researchers tackle the topic, the more they discover that depression is a major blocker for most creativity. One study found that recovery from depression, not depression, inspires creativity. Personally, this is no big surprise. It’s hard to be creative when you’re using all your energy to get from day to day. Cynthia Leitich Smith posts a link to a wonderful article about Writers and Depression by Nancy Etchemendy of the Horror Writer’s Association. In it, Etchemendy talks about some of the common symptoms of depression and how to fight it.

But what about less extreme mood swings? Do these impact creativity and flow?

The answer seems to be yes. In another study at Penn State University, researchers  looked at how playing a video game impacted test subjects’ creativity—and found that when the video game put the subject in a positive mood, he or she tested as more creative. However, they also found that creativity was enhanced in subjects who had a negative mood.  The least creative were those who felt relaxed or angry.

How does this work? Well, researchers think that positive and negative moods affect creativity in different ways. Professor S. Shyam Sundar, who worked on the study with grad student Elizabeth Hutton, believes that “When you are highly aroused, the energy itself acts as a catalyst, and the happy mood acts as an encouragement. It is like being in a zone where you cannot be thrown off your game” A negative mood, on the other hand, he believes makes a person more analytical—which is another key aspect of creativity.

Perhaps that explains Mark Peters’ essay A Happy Writer Is a Lousy Writer?, in which he discusses the work of University of New South Wales Psychology Professor Joe Forgas. From Forgas’s work, it appears that a bad mood might make us more careful and alert in our work.

When I put this all together, my conclusion is that it’s okay for writers to be happy…although it might be good to tone it down a notch for line editing. Creativity CAN coincide with a cheery afternoon.

So there: I give you permission to be a joyful writer. Aren’t you glad?

:) Cheryl

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Stress, Writing, and Chocolate

chocolate There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the interplay between emotions, stress, and creativity. It seems to come down to this: a little stress can be good for your writing life, just like it can be good in other areas, but too much stress is a Definite Bad Thing.

The good news is that scientists have just confirmed something that we writers have suspected all along: chocolate does, indeed, help combat emotional stress! In a study released November 11, researchers report that test subjects who ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate daily for two weeks “reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed.”

So if stress is interfering with your joy in life, take heart! And take a chocolate :).

:-) Cheryl

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Too Fat to Be a Princess—Worries for the Modern Preschooler

We all know the American obsession with skinny people and body image—but I didn’t know until I read this report how pervasive worries about appearance has become. According to a recent study at the University of Central Florida, about half of 3-6 year old girls say they worry about being too fat.


This makes me sad.

On the flip side, these girls don’t appear to react negatively to videos showing your stereotypical thin, gorgeous princess figure. This differs from the responses of older girls and women, who tend to feel worse about themselves after viewing videos of thin, lovely models. I’m thinking this is a plus, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s that these girls don’t compare their bodies to animated princesses?

When I write for middle schoolers and young adults, I think about tackling issues of body image, healthy living, and eating disorders—but I don’t usually think about those things when writing a story for 3-6 year-olds. I wonder if there’s a need.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Week’s Tweets on how to dodge subconscious blocks and WRITE THE STORY

iStock_000007354779XSmall WTS=Write the Story!

WTS 29: Immerse yourself in setting--read up on local news. For ex. you might read about the barefoot burglar!

WTS 30: Immerse yourself in the sounds of setting--and add in creativity-boosting binaural beats using a product such as

Skeptical of binaural beats? See for more info. For me: they help improve my focus and creativity. Why not try?

WTS 31: Impossible-seeming goals stretch you as a writer + help you learn to access creativity more quickly #Nanowrimo

WTS 32: Use the sense of smell to get inside your character's head. See for Debby Dahl Anderson on sensory detail.

…and for my favorite random post of the week: RT from @katert0t LOLCATS NEW MOON. BRINGS JOY. MUST LOOK.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

A few more give-aways

Apparently, it’s impossible to corral all of the writing world’s lovely give-aways in one blog post, so here are a few more to start off your week. Have fun!

  1. 8th Grade Superzero giveaway
    • By? the Tenner’s
    • Who can enter? anyone age 13 or over—one per person
    • Deadline? Friday, December 11, 11:59 PM (EST)
    • The Deets: “To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Friday, December 11 at 11:59 PM (EST) telling us one way that you might be an "agent of positive change" (at home, school, work, in the larger community, among friends, or some sort of change within) in 2010”
    • The Prize: signed copy of 8th Grade Superzero!
  2. Deb’s Book Giveaway!
    • By? Daisy Whitney
    • Who can enter? everyone (I think)
    • Deadline: varies—check her blog
    • The Deets: Daisy will have a series of contests over the next few weeks. View the video on her blog for more info.
    • The Prizes: signed copies of TMI by Sarah Quigley, Exclusively Chloe by J.A. Yang, Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman and Ash by Malinda Lo
  3. Mentors, Muses, Monsters CONTEST!
    • By? Editorial Ass
    • Who can enter? Everyone!
    • Deadline: December 15, 2009, at 11 pm EST
    • The Deets: “Create a tribute to (or a character assassination of) someone who contributed significantly (positively or negatively) to your path toward becoming a writer.
      Rules: Email me at your submission in the body of an email. (No attachments please.) The submissions can be any length you like, but please keep in mind I have a fairly short attention span, and that submissions may be judged accordingly. The submissions may be prose, verse, acrostic, or whatever other verbal form inspires you.”
    • The Prize: “One hardcover copy of MENTORS, MUSES & MONSTERS, signed by Elizabeth Benedict, Lily Tuck, Alexander Chee, Martha Southgate, and Mary Gordon.”

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Completely Non-Exhaustive Roundup of December’s Contests and Giveaways

iStock_000009494535Large ‘Tis the season for bloggers and such to try to motivate a bit more reader participation—or to attract new readers—or maybe just to have some random fun interacting with readers. Whatever the reason, I’ve come across a number of contests and giveaways lately, and thought you, dear readers, might enjoy checking them out. Have fun!

  1. Wake and Fade book giveaways
    • By?
    • Who can enter? Everyone!
    • Deadline: Midnight Thursday, December 10
    • The Deets:”In order to enter for a chance to win a set of these books, comment here in this thread and tell us about your weirdest dream. Keep it clean and appropriate for all ages please.”
    • The Prizes: copies of Wake and Fade by Lisa McMann
  2. ‘Tis the Season of Giving Contest
    • By? Writer Girl
    • Who can enter? Everyone!
    • Deadline: Sunday Dec 13th at 11:59 PST.
    • The Deets:
      “It is simple, really. You do a kind deed. It is the time when we really start to think of other people and I love this time of year for that. Do a conscious kind deed, put it up here what you did on this post and that counts as a point. It doesn't have to be big. Not tripping your sister in the hall could count for one. :) Even just smiling at someone that doesn't usually get a smile would be one (and it can be so huge). So you will be earning these books, but in very simple ways. You can get as many points as you want. I will be going off of the honor system here.”
    • The Prize: Pick one of three signed books, Rapunzel’s Revenge (Bruce and Shannon Hale), Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson), or The Lightning Thief  (Rick Riordan)
  3. Fourth and Final Readergirlz Writing Contest

    • By? readergirlz author in residence Beth Kephart
    • Who can enter? Everyone!
    • Deadline: December 30, 2009
    • The Deets: "...a challenge that asks you to look at something familiar and transform it into the unexpected. Check out the video posted here. Send your best work to kephartblogATcomcastDOTnet…The winning work will be posted on this site. Our deadline is December 30, 2009."
    • The Prize: an advanced reading copy of The Heart is Not a Size (due out in March from HarperTeen).
  4. Eighteenth Annual Delacorte Yearling Contest for a  First Young Adult Novel

    • By? Delacorte
    • Who can enter? “U.S. and Canadian writers who have not previously published a young adult novel. Employees of Random House, Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates, and members of their families and households are not eligible."
    • Deadline: December 31, 2009 (postmark)
    • The Deets: Submit a manuscript 100-224 pages, cover page, and brief plot summary suited for readers ages 12-18. See here for more info.
    • The Prize: “The prize of a book contract (on the publisher’s standard form) covering world rights for a hardcover and a paperback edition, including an advance and royalties, will be awarded annually to encourage the writing of contemporary young adult fiction. The award consists of $1,500 in cash and a $7,500 advance against royalties.”
  5. FreshBrain Video Book Trailer Scholarship

    • By FreshBrain organic
    • Who can enter? Teens ages 13-18
    • Deadline: December 15, 2009
    • The Deets: Submit a book trailer between 30 sec-2 min in length on the FreshBrain website. See here for more info.
    • The Prize: $1000 scholarship




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Recent conversation re. glasses

glassesMe: Guess what? I’m getting glasses!

10-year-old F: (horrified gasp) You’re kidding!

Me: No, I need glasses.

F: Don’t do it! It will make you look weird.

Me: You know, I’ve been wearing glasses more years of my life than not.

F: But not during the years that I’ve known you.

Me: Don’t worry. I won’t wear them all the time.

F: Ahhhh! (breaks into nearly-realistic sobs of anguish)

I, on the other hand, am ridiculously happy about the glasses. This is the first time in my life when I can pick out any frames I want; when I used to wear them, asymmetrical frames meant Coke-bottle lenses that had to be ground down at the edges so the arms would close. I kid you not.

I haven’t worn glasses or contacts or anything for the past seven or so years, which was nice, but my eyes aren’t bad enough now for me to have to wear them all the time. Meanwhile, it’s like a do-over: I get to pick out cute frames and wear them or not as I please. My inner kid is very, very pleased.

:) Cheryl


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Things every writer needs to know


…or, at least, every writer whose story takes place in the San Juan Islands.

  1. Cell phone coverage is spotty throughout most of the islands.
  2. Sea otters are up and about during the day, when they spend 11-48% of their time grooming. They like to sleep at sea, floating on their backs, often anchored in strands of kelp.
  3. Harbor seals do not migrate.
  4. Harbor seals’ hearing and vision are best underwater. Their vision is black and white and is apparently not essential for survival, since several blind harbor seals have been found living happy and productive lives, with 3.5 children, houses in the suburbs, and 2 car garages.
  5. And harbor seals do NOT touch one another when hauled out onto land.
  6. There are only about ten orcas in the world that intentionally strand themselves on the beach in order to catch their prey—and you can watch video of a strand feeding here.
  7. In June, the sun rises at about 5:10 AM Pacific Daylight time.

I love being a writer….

:) Cheryl


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Week’s Tweets on how to dodge subconscious blocks and WRITE THE STORY

iStock_000009339689LargeWTS=Write the Story!

WTS 25: Sometimes, the physical act of writing will trigger a breakthrough. Start small: brainstorm a list of plot twists and surprises.

Newberry winner Susan Patron speaks on tricking your muse (and finding inspiration in the dirty clothes):

WTS 26: Brainstorms count as writing! Brainstorm character quirks, flaws, motivations, desires--and see where it takes you.

WTS 27: Take advantage of the brain-body connection. Inspire creativity through movement!

More inspiration through movement: Try guided yoga ( to energize mind and body.

Let a prompt inspire--check out the writing contest over at readergirlz:

WTS 28: Sign up for monthly inspiration and info in Randy Ingermanson's ezine

...or check out the Dec issue ( for tips on creating mood in fiction and tips on keeping yourself accountable.

If you’re interested, come join me at @CherylRWrites for Tweets to help you overcome creative blocks and thrive on the writer’s road!

:) Cheryl

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