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Friday Forum: 3/22

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An author has made major headway for writers on the publishing scene. Hugh Howey has managed to become a millionaire from his science fiction series which is available on Amazon. “Wool” sold more than 400,000 ebooks and was optioned for Hollywood, and all well before the first print edition rolled off the press! What makes this story a special example of hope for writers everywhere is this: the average author gets about 12% of the profits from a book sold through a publisher, with Hugh’s contract with Simon & Schuster he has managed to arrange for 70%. (You can listen to his interview with KIRO radio). Could this be a new trend allowing authors to benefit more from their hard work? Check out what Hugh Howey has been up to with his series Wool.

As a writer have you considered how you are going to get your work into the hands of your readers? Through a publisher? Through independent publishing? Amazon? Here’s hoping this is a new dawn for aspiring authors everywhere.

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A Productive January

The month of January is a crucial time for writers; the new year sets the stage for new goals and new habits, and the first few weeks can set the tone for momentum moving on through the rest of the year.


Since one of the common struggles amongst writers is coming up with ideas, we launched the Idea Generator at the beginning of the year, and have been dedicating our Daily Writer’s Fix time this month to helping you build a pool of writing ideas to last you well into 2013.

Blue Bottle Line

We have also been excited to share with you some of our favorite San Francisco writing and brainstorming spots with a special Destination Inspiration series based in that city. From Blue Bottle Coffee to La Boulange and Samovar, we had a great time discovering new creative spots to help you drum up inspiration and creativity if you visit San Francisco.

2013 Writing Goals

We talked about some of our own writing goals and created a worksheet to help you develop a strategy for setting and keeping your 2013 goals. We shared thoughts on the writing life with writing as an excuse to explore and the experience of working with divided attention.

A savory cup

We shared a favorite tea that was the result of a delightful accident, and an overnight coffee cake that’s easy to whip together even when you’re on deadline.

Salted Rye Cookies

And, of course, we talked about the writing ritual and shared a recipe for a delightful cookie that would be just right for pairing with your writing tea when you sit down to work.

It’s been a good month for us here at Nooks & Cranberries, and I hope it’s been good for you too. We’d love to hear what you’ve been working on this month!

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Goal Setting Guide

The beginning

Our mission with Nooks & Cranberries has always been to provide inspiration and tools to help you along your writing journey. Sometimes our support comes in the form of photos or destinations, and sometimes in the form of writing gossip and recipes. This time we’d like to share a worksheet put together to help you organize your writing goals.

This guide can be useful for setting goals in all genres and areas of writing, be it a book that’s been brewing in your head for a while, or beginning work as a freelance writer and building your platform. Regardless of where you’d like to take your writing, we’d like to be there to support you all the way in accomplishing your goals. So grab a cup of your favorite coffee or tea and take a peek at this guide. Let the journey begin!

Nooks & Cranberries Goal Setting Guide

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Setting Writing Goals for the New Year

2013 Writing Goals

The New Year is always about a fresh start, an ability to think about goals with a clean slate and a renewed belief in one’s ability to actually keep a resolution going for the next 365 days. I love the optimism that the new year imbues us with, don’t you? Here at Nooks & Cranberries, we’re striving to help you keep your writing goals in 2013, so we’ll be talking a lot about them over the next few weeks. To start, it’s time to set some goals! What do you want to accomplish as a writer in 2013? In concrete terms, what bylines do you want to acquire by December 31, 2013? How many short stories do you want to write? Do you have a personal essay you’re trying to get published? Is there a magazine you’re dreaming about writing for? Do you want to begin writing about a new topic? Or how about landing an agent or book proposal?

My list of goals is still a work in progress–and to be honest it’s always evolving, but here are some of my writing-related goals for 2013:

  • Complete an enticing book proposal for my food memoir
  • Increase the number of publications I write for, particularly involving parenting, food, and all things Scandinavian
  • Put the finishing touches on my home office, which is where I aim to do most of my writing
  • Build a professional writer’s website
  • Get into a good blogging groove–I have three of them so it can be tricky to strike a balance
  • Set aside regular time for personal writing
  • Improve my photography skills to augment my writing
  • Master the arts of organization and time management–essential skills for productivity
  • Encourage other writers, particularly moms who are trying to find time for their passion while giving their all to their family

What are your writing goals for the new year? Leave a comment–we’d love to hear from you!

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Friday Forum: 12/21

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According to the Mayan calendar today, 12/21/2012, is the end of the world. Whether it is or not, the notion makes you stop and think, “Have I done all I wanted to do?”. As writers, the question may be more appropriately phrased, “Have I written all that I wanted to write?”.

What are some writing goals you want to accomplish before the end of the world? What thoughts come to mind when you think about the supposed impending Apocalypse?

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For the Love of Radio Theater

Old radio shows, love of mysteries, classic movies, over-sized cozy sweaters, drinking tea from a fine china cup, card games, knitting, a good book, antiques, an overall appreciation of vintage things…all symptoms that I might have been born in the wrong era.

It was a late night many years ago. I had the radio on and was distracting myself with channel surfing, when I stumbled upon a story. It was a captivating mystery. I can’t remember now exactly what pulled me in initially. Maybe it was the thrilling riffs between each scene, the deep voices and dramatic scuffles, the car chase or the private detective wrapping up the case into a neat little package at the end. To this day I still struggle to put my finger on what it is that I love so much about old radio shows. Perhaps it’s that they are more than just books on tape. They’re amazing productions with sound effects and a full cast of characters in all their vocal glory. This was TV, before there was TV.

It’s a great adventure, a “movie for your mind” as Jim French from Imagination Theatre says. Dramas, mysteries, sci-fi and fantasy, thrillers, comedy, westerns and even variety shows, I appreciate them all. One of my favorite things to do in high school and college was come home, set up my easel and turn on some music or a radio show to listen to while I lost myself in my work.

I don’t have an antique radio, but I do have a vintage iPod.
A classic iPod for listening to my favorite radio shows.

Not being presented with a visual picture allows me to create my own in my mind. I imagine the detective as I know him and the damsel in distress might have the face of a good friend. The room the dinner party guests are gathered in as Sherlock reveals the killer, might look a little like a room I’ve been in before. Filling in the blanks with a stock of images from our own lives is what makes the story resound with us. It makes it real.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of radio dramas, it reminds me of what I love most about writing fiction. Those moments when you are  describing a scene and picturing it in your head; you are pulling from your own experiences to give your fiction a ring of truth. It’s  magic – creating a world so real that it can draw anyone in. That kind of writing lasts generations.

My husband says I’m a “classic” person because I enjoy classic things. I like to think it’s a matter of quality. I appreciate top shelf things; writing in particular. Hemingway is like a nice quality cardigan, it will never go out of style. That’s the type of writing I strive for. It’s timeless.


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Your Reason for Writing, and Why it Matters


Why do you write? It’s a simple question, and may seem a bit rhetorical, but I want you to answer it. Knowing your answer may make all the difference when you’re ready to give up. Take a moment and think it through. Be honest. Does your reason look anything like any of these?

  • Words are like puzzle pieces just waiting for you to arrange them into something beautiful that only you can uniquely do.
  • Writing unscrambles the thoughts in your head by allowing you to capture and then process them.
  • You want to see your name in print, whether it’s a front-page byline or the cover of a best-selling novel.
  • Much like photographs of special times, writing records the memories you never want to forget.
  • Ever the encourager, you use words to soothe the distressed, comfort the grieving, and uplift the discouraged among your loved ones and friends.
  • The act of creating a story gives you pleasure, much like the joy you experienced playing dolls or playing make-believe as a child.

Those of us who call ourselves writers have a wonderful gift. Yes, writing can be difficult—sometimes it’s one of the hardest things we can imagine doing—but once the rough patches are over and we have a draft in hand, the rewards are great. We need to remember what drives us to write, plus the positive experiences that will come.

Perhaps you’re a journalist, and no matter how many articles you write, seeing the final draft in published form always gives you a sense of satisfaction—especially if it was a difficult assignment. After carrying the article along from the initial interviews to the final draft, the process is complete when the story is finally laid out in print. Similarly, while writing and producing a major Seattle newscast, I could envision the final product as I wrote, choosing the best soundbites and writing to video. Seeing the finished product on their air (when I had time to turn away from the computer to watch the TV for a minute) with all the pieces in place, was such a treat.

In addition to the satisfaction, I want my words to count for something more than entertainment. When I think of my favorite novels—Les Miserables, Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, to name just a few—they’re great stories, but they also give the reader plenty to think about. When we watch Jean Valjean wrestle with his identity as an escaped convict as he heroically risks his freedom and well-being to protect Cosette, we ask ourselves questions about our own morality and values. Watching Jay, Jake, Daisy, and the rest of the Gatsby party loll around Jazz Age New York, we observe their selfishness and the toll it takes on those around them. The list could go on and on, including fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose.

What are your reasons for writing?


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How to Schedule Writing Appointments… and Keep Them!

If you’re going to write that novel (or memoir, or screenplay, or front-page feature), you have to write. Pen to paper, keystrokes to page. Those first words are essential, but they won’t matter if you don’t keep the pattern going.

Last month I gave you four ways to keep your 2011 writing goals; today I’ll focus in-depth on one more: the importance of scheduling writing appointments with yourself. It’s easier said than done, so here are some tips for making it happen:

Schedule an appointment with yourself like you would a hair cut or a doctor visit. Then make sure to organize your time so you won’t be late. It’s easy to let this slide because the only appointment you have is with yourself. If you’re late to an appointment with yourself, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Well, yes it does. It might mean the difference between publishing your breakout novel or never even finishing your first draft. Do whatever you have to do in order to make this happen. Block it off on your calendar in a special color, set a reminder alarm to go off, pretend you’re a famous author and you have a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with yourself, whatever. Just make sure it happens.

Figure out a calendar system that works for you. If you’re going to make appointments, you need a system to keep track of them, whether it’s a planner, a calendar on the wall, or a reminder that pops up on your phone. In my quest for my perfect time management system, I’ve settled on a combination of a tiny purse-sized planner, a weekly printout of a chart I’ve created to help establish day-to-day routines, and the calendar on my computer. It may seem pretty crude and archaic with all the technology that abounds, but it works for me. I’ve discovered that keeping information solely on the computer equals out of sight, out of mind. So having a tangible thing to refer to helps.


Prepare your writing space in advance. Sometimes having to clear a space for writing can be a barrier to entry. Whether your desk is in disarray or you have to use the dinner table as a desk, make sure it’s ready for you to write before your appointment starts. If your appointment is first thing in the morning, clear the space before you go to be the night before. If it’s after dinner, then collect all the materials you need–laptop, notebook, writing book, headphones, etc.–in a spot near the table beforehand so you’re ready to swap the dishes with your writing materials immediately.

Treat yourself to some hospitality. If you were entertaining a famous author (see #1), you’d make him or her feel welcome and at home. You might have a pot of tea ready and some cookies, or a pitcher of water with lemon wedges accompanied by some little sandwiches. You’d make sure your surroundings were orderly. You might have a scented candle burning, or an arrangement of fresh flowers. What can you do to make yourself feel at home in your writing spot? You’re going to be here a while. Make it comfortable so you’ll want to linger.

Establish rules with your family. If you’re writing at home and tend to get distracted by your spouse, roommate, or children, remember, it’s their home too. No matter how big or small your space may be, you can find solutions. It may take some creative thinking, but in the end it will be worth it. Maybe you designate a room as your writing space during certain hours, and keep a sign-up sheet on the door so they know it’s your spot for a certain amount of time (if that’s the case, a friendly do-not-disturb sign might also do wonders).

If you don’t have an extra room in which to write, is there a way you can cordon off a part of the living room as your writing spot, maybe with a screen or clever arrangement of furniture and noise-blocking headphones? If that’s the case, and the TV is in the same room, you may have to negotiate when it’s TV time and when it’s writing time. Tip: try working your writing time around when you know other members of your household will want to watch the TV; your flexibility could pay off when you need it.

And, of course, there will be times you just need to get out of the house. Maybe everyone is home on a Saturday when you’ve scheduled a writing time, and they’re having so much fun that you can’t help but join them. Go to a nearby coffee shop. Or if the weather is nice bring your notebook to the park or out to the garden.

Reward yourself. Rewards are always a good incentive. Tell yourself that if you keep all your writing appointments in a set amount of time–a week if you want to start small, or a month if you’re ambitious–you’ll treat yourself to something special, such as a new journal, a writing session at a favorite Destination Inspiration location that’s usually too far to travel for your regular writing times, a relaxing bath with a glass of wine and a good book, or whatever else that feels like a treat to you.

What are your secrets for keeping your writing appointments or writing goals?