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Capturing Holiday Moments

Ethan's ornament
Ethan’s ornament

The holidays are full of friends, family and precious moments that you’ll want to remember.  Having a camera at hand is the perfect way to record those times. But what if there’s a moment that the camera missed? Painting word pictures to capture what the camera couldn’t is a priceless post-holiday gift.

Writing a descriptive account of a holiday moment not only helps to beef up your albums, it can also make for a very special thank you note or end of year letter. Look at the photos you’ve taken so far, write the moments in between and enjoy reliving your holiday memories!


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Friday Forum: 12/21

Photo from
Photo from

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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Sacrifice of Writing

Up late working. Image from

Let’s get real for a moment here. I’m not going to lie…life rocks. I have a wonderful family, I’m living the dream of a writing life with my best friend and we have an amazing blog that brings ideas and inspiration to writers and foodies across the globe. I am grateful beyond measure.

But like I said, let’s get real. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There’s sacrifice.  A lot of sacrifice. Any writer will tell you about the woes of the writing life; the writer’s block, the loneliness, the often horrible eating habits and hermit-like tendencies. And depending on what your motive is for writing, the reward may not come until well along in your journey. Some of us may not even live to see our writing succeed.

So why do we do it? Why do we stay up late, pass up social opportunities, and eat cereal for dinner on a more than often basis? Because we have to. We are driven to it. Whatever your reason, we all understand the sacrifice. Especially when you start a family.

For me, the biggest sacrifice right now is sleep. I was already loosing sleep from caring for a newborn, but now I am loosing sleep to write. I’m also sacrificing time. Whenever I’d watch a show with my husband, I’d have my laptop out and be writing at the same time. When my son is napping, after I finish dishes or laundry I can sit and jot down a few thoughts. I feel that I am constantly doing double duty or multi-tasking. There are days when I’m just a zombie.

But despite the sleep deprivation, the poor eating habits and the isolation, I can honestly say it’s worth it. This is the price we pay for that perfect sentence, that timeless essay, or a moving dialogue. It is essentially what moves us and what drives us crazy. In the end it is what makes us writers.

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Thanksgiving writing

Thank you!

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and what better way to do that as a writer than in a well composed thank you note?

We thought it would be nice, on this day of all days, to revisit the age old tradition of writing a personal thank you note. There are many occasions that call for a note of gratitude, such as, when you receive a gift or are treated to some kind of hospitality or kindness.  In every case, the following are some basic elements to include for a well rounded, thoughtful thank you note.

1. Depending on how close you are to the recipient, open with “Dear [name]”, then continue the letter by thanking them for the gift, hospitality or kindness offered.

2. The second sentence or part of the letter should give some elaboration of your enjoyment or use of the gift.

3. If you’ve been out of touch for a while, it could be nice at this point in the letter to share a little news. This is not a necessary part of the basic thank you note, but close family or friends who live far away and don’t hear from you all the time might appreciate a short update.

4. A strong closing sentence or paragraph should include a sentiment of looking forward to seeing or speaking to the recipient, especially if a reunion or holiday is approaching. Mentioning “thank you” again is also nice to emphasis the point of the letter and bring it full circle.

5. End with a personal phrase like “love”, “best wishes” or even “thanks again”. Try to avoid closing with “sincerely yours” as it sometimes comes across as too formal.

With that, here is our thank you note to you. We really wouldn’t be where we are today without you. So thanks again and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading our blog. Your comments and feedback are so encouraging and much appreciated! We are very touched that we can share our passion for writing with you and that we can grow together in our craft. We look forward to sharing more with you as we continue to learn and explore the writing life!

Thanks again and we’ll talk to you soon!

Sarah & Daytona


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Have you ever had so many things to do that you didn’t know where to start? Lately that’s been happening to me in terms of writing. I’ve had so many ideas swirling in my head that I just didn’t know what to write down first! I felt literally paralyzed.

Earlier this week I decided to grab my notebook and pour my brain out onto the page. It was hard. I stuttered. I strained. Finally, I had a list started. Why was that so difficult?

It is like a new breed of writer’s block. For me, in this case, it was matter of organization and worrying about capturing every little thought before it got pushed out by another. I was so afraid I’d forget something that my brain was blocked up with everything trying to get out the door at once.

Shower crayons can be a writer’s best friend.

After I took a breath and looked at my list, I started thinking of ways that might make the ‘un-blocking’ process easier.

1. Talk to a friend. If you are unsure where to start, see what idea seems to be swimming at the surface. What topic do you find yourself talking about the most?

2. Read. Read. Read. Your subconscious has a way of letting you know what is most important. Start reading and as you find your mind wandering, jot down a key word or phrase to capture that thought and get back to reading. Do this every time your mind strays from the text. After you’ve finished a couple chapters, look at your list and see what themes emerge. Pick the primary theme as your starting place.

3. Purchase shower crayons. I love these! You can often find them in the toy or stationary aisle of your local store (or on Amazon of course). The shower is often my think tank and it really helps to be able to write down ideas they second they pop into my head.

4. Go for a walk. Fresh air and blood circulation really help untangle all the ideas bumping around the brain. Bring a notebook of course and before you know it you may be perched on  the curb, jotting everything down.

5. Go somewhere. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting out. At N&C we are huge advocates of finding inspiration in all kinds of places. Check out some of our Destination Inspiration locations for ideas of where to go to unclog your brain.

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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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Friday Forum: 11/2

It has officially started! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is one of my favorite times of the year. It gives me an excuse to focus on writing what I love most – fiction. Of course, you can write whatever you want for NaNoWriMo, my heart just happens to be with fiction. What are your plans for writing this month? Are you going to commit to NaNoWriMo? If you have already started, what is your favorite line that you have written so far?

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The Tortured Soul

Many have argued that the best artists are the ones wielding a tortured soul. With serious issues like drug induced inspiration, gambling addictions, drowning sorrows and looking for answers in the bottom of one kind of bottle or another. They had some kind of weakness or childhood trauma that they overcame or channeled and turned into great works of art. I’ve always teased my parents that they ruined my chances at being a great writer by giving me a great childhood.

So I don’t have a drinking problem, or do drugs. I’ve never gambled with anything more than skittles in a poker game or by not taking my umbrella on an ominous looking cloudy day. I’ve never been divorced or suffered a premature loss of a loved one. All the typical dirt that a tormented artist uses to fuel their inspiration is beyond me. So what are my vices? Do I really need to start working on a drinking problem? (Seems expensive if you ask me). What could I use to tap the depths of my “un-tortured” soul?

Well, thankfully I have come to terms with, what some may call, a hum-drum life. And while I don’t think you have to have a tortured past or a narcotics problem to write, I do believe that writers can create beautiful work, sharing truths discovered by living lives both fully and sometimes, terribly. I believe it simply comes down to writing honestly.

Every writer pulls words together for a reason, and that reason doesn’t necessarily have to be dark. You can write for joy too! Happiness can be just as fueling as misery and in fact I think more fulfilling to write about. While it is necessary to learn from our mistakes, we can discover truth in the good times as well. A marriage, the birth of a child, a victory, a successful meeting, even a perfectly executed somersault or figuring out how to set the clock on the stereo; all of these things are gems and make great fodder for writing.

Living, loving and suffering. We pull emotions from all these things that reveal truths that are often too great to keep to ourselves. That’s what makes us writers, recording our experiences and, if we want to, sharing what we’ve learned.

I do think that a widow writing about loss is more powerful than an equally skilled writer without the same experience. And there are some artists who have created great work while under the influence of one thing or another. But these circumstances are not a guarantee of great work, they are simply part of life and the human condition.

Fydor Dostoevsky, Kurt Cobain, Sylvia Plath, Hemmingway, Beethoven, Tennessee Williams, Vincent van Gogh; these are the models upon which the tortured artist is based. They were all amazing artists. And yes, they committed suicide or died in physical, financial or mental ruin.

But the issues that plague great artists, low self esteem, terrible health, heartbreak, depression, domineering parents, alcoholism and post traumatic stress disorder, are all human issues. People who don’t write, draw, sing, play, dance or paint go through these same issues and God help them all. These are not ailments of a tortured artist, these are symptoms of our fragile humanity.

I do not encourage you to stay sad for the sake or creativity, or to drink and do drugs for the sake of creativity. What I do encourage is that you live your life fully and truly and by all means, write with your heart and your gut. But above all else, write with honesty.