Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

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I love when book recommendations lead me to discovering new ways of looking at the world–especially the world of creativity. Thanks to Brittany Anderson at Globestrolling Bee for this recommendation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic: Creating Life Beyond Fear.

I have to admit, at first I was skeptical. I was not a fan of Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat, Pray Love. I just like my memoirs to be a little deeper with a little more grit. However, I did enjoy Gilbert’s most recent fiction book, Signature of All Things .

Since launching my books out into the world as an Indie author last February, I have found myself on a whole new level of creative living and have been seeking out books about the process of creativity–old favorites such as The War of Art and new ones–such as Big Magic: Creating Life Beyond Fear.

The book is divided into sections including: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. Each section dives into the creative process with the focus on Gilbert’s life as a writer–from her early days as a writer in her 20’s, to the first short story she sold and how she revised it to fit the magazine, to her mega bestseller to her subsequent books which have not been mega sellers.

One of the quotes I loved in Big Magic said:

“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.” 

AHA! So this explains why when we send off that query letter, sign that contract, or push publish on our Amazon Kindle accounts–suddenly there is a wave of fear so high you just want to scream, what have I done? While everyone around you is so excited for you that you have published that book or signed that contract, all you can do is smile and mutter to yourself, I hope I know what I’m doing. And that’s the thing. We don’t. Anytime one stage is over whether it be the draft is complete, the revisions finished or the price set on Amazon, we move into the next stage and there is the uncertain outcome. What if no one buys my book? What if everyone buys my book? What if I never write another one? What if? What if? What if? It’s all enough to shut down the whole thing and call it good–except the alternative of not writing never seems very much like an option to me.

When I sold my upper middle grade, Stained Glass Summer to Musa Publishing in August 2011, I was petrified. Yes. The book I had been trying to sell for over seven years, finally sold. BUT…I had taken a risk and sold to a small e-publisher. Children’s books were not with small e-publishers. Romance books were just barely with e-publishers. What on earth was I doing? But, something about that decision felt right too. The path before me was not the one I had listened to or seen at SCBWI or in my MFA program. Everyone I knew published children’s book traditionally and got big advances. The only problem was by the time 2011 rolled around, those two book deals were not so common, big advances were not so popular, and traditional publisher had laid off a lot of editors who were now working freelance–one of whom I used to developmentally edit Stained Glass Summer.

At the time, I had no idea that decision to go with Musa Publishing would continue to shape my choices. I had no idea that I would move into the romance markets and love writing romances. I had no idea that Musa Publishing would go out of business three years later and that again instead of letting that story die, I chose to take it and my other YA book, WEAVING MAGIC, out as Indie books. I had no idea that Indie would become a path I enjoyed for the challenge, learning curve and freedom it gives me as a writer in all of the decision making stages.

But if I had listened to fear in that decision to go with Musa Publishing, the path of the last four years would have been very different and most likely I would still be trying to sell that first book. I did not listen to fear. I trusted in the flow of creativity and the journey this process takes us on.

In the early part of Big Magic, Gilbert writes a letter to fear and tells fear that she and creativity are about to go on a journey together. She says to fear that he is super at doing his job and there is plenty of room for both fear and creativity. Fear is allowed to have a seat and even a voice, BUT…fear is not allowed to have a vote. Fear is not allowed to touch the road map and suggest detours. She says, “Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio!” And above all else, “my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

And this, I think is something to remember when we encounter fear in any stage of the creative process., my familiar friend, you will always be given a seat on the journey because your voice is priceless, BUT…you are forbidden to drive this journey.

 

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Cover Art Reader’s Choice Voting for Sweetheart Cottage

Sweetheart Cottage by Mindy Hardwick_Final Ebook

Sweetheart Cottage’s fabulous cover is up for a short contemporary Reader’s Choice Award with the Houston Area RWA Chapter’s contest.

Please take a minute and vote here.

If you are thinking of taking your own books out, you might want to browse the names of the cover artists! This is a great chance to see their work and the categories are everything from young adult to historical romance to inspirational to long and short contemporary. The contest is open to both traditionally published authors and Indie published who write romance and are RWA Members in good standing.

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Romance is in the Air Blog Hop

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m participating in Romance is in the Air Blog Hop sponsored by Book Hounds. On this hop, you can win all kinds of young adult and sweet adult romances. You can find all the blogs participating here.

On this blog, I’m giving away one copy of my young adult romance, WEAVING MAGIC.(US or INT/Amazon Kindle Copy)

WeavingMagic-500He loves magic. She loves romance. Can illusions be shattered without disastrous consequences?

He loves magic. She loves romance. But the biggest illusion is the one Shantel and Christopher perform together.  Sixteen- year- old Christopher fights to stay sober while fifteen-year-old Shantel struggles in the aftermath of her mother’s death and seeks refuge in a fantasy world. But the unacknowledged roots of their problems refuse to stay buried and soon, the two are headed toward a deadly magic trick. Can Shantel and Christopher move beyond magical illusions to find love?

 

In order to win a copy of Weaving Magic please leave me a comment with one of your favorite Valentine memories. One comment per person please. I will select a winner and announce it on this blog on February 16. Please be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you.

You can find all of the blogs participating here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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New On-Line Class for Adult Writers

I’m very excited to announce I will be teaching a new on-line class with Story Circle Network! Story Circle Network’s central program focus is writing about our lives—about women’s lives.

My on-line class is for those wanting to explore how to write fictional characters drawn from your life experience. Some of the idea for this class comes from writing my middle grade, Seymour’s Secret, which is currently on submission. The class is geared to all levels of writers and all types and length of fiction.

Heroines, Villains and Dragons: Writing Characters From Life:

Explore how to create story characters from your life. This five-week class will allow you to draw on your life to create fictional characters for any length or genre of story. We’ll play with story tools such as character archetype, point of view and constructing a scene.

Class Description

We will begin by brainstorming ideas for characters based on our life experiences including: truth and lies, love and betrayal, first and lasts and grief and loss. Next, we’ll look at how character archetypes can help us begin to move from fact to fiction by creating bigger than life characters. We’ll also explore character questionnaires and collages as means to dig deeper into our heroines. But, every story has two sides, and it’s important to explore the point of view of not only our heroine but also our villain. We’ll look at not only what makes our villain bad, but more importantly what makes them good and how this point of view helps us reshape our real life villains too. Finally, we’ll give our heroine the moment she’s been waiting for and construct a scene in which she will confront the dragon—be it addiction or a lie in her life, while learning how to create tension, craft dialogue and weave in setting to a scene.

At the end of class, students will understand how to create a character from life and write a fictional scene which empowers and gives voice to the places we struggle to confront in our lives.

Instruction/Communication Method: Email and Yahoo Group.

The class runs from March 14-April 18, 2016.

You can register and find out more details here.

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Editing Resources for Writers

I have been teaching a great group of writers in a Writing the Picture Book Class at the Schack Center in Everett. The following are editing links and resources which we talked about in class and I promised to post.

We talked in class about hiring an editor to look over your work before either sending it out on submission or for self-publishing. I am a big fan of developmental editors and have used Sarah Cloots for both of my upper middle grade books, Stained Glass Summer and Seymour’s Secret (currently out on submission).

My developmental editor for my YA and sweet contemporary romances is Bev Katz Rosenbaum.

A developmental edit is one in which the manuscript is critiqued for the craft of the story including the structure, pacing, character development and arc, plot and setting. It is not focused on line edits or grammatical errors–that all comes in the next round with a copy editor–who most of the time is not the same person as the developmental editor.

I also offer development critiques on picture book manuscripts, middle grade novels, children’s short stories, contemporary romance novellas as well as some memoir.  If you are interested in hiring me to work with you on a developmental edit, please contact me via my contact form on my website here

If you are looking for either a developmental editor or a copy editor, a great resource to know about is the Northwest Independent Editor’s Guild.  You can find a list of editors for many different types of manuscripts on their website here. 

The Author-Editor clinic keeps a great list of resources for editing including the difference between a developmental edit and what to look for in an editor. You can find that resource here. 

Also if you are a writer and want to learn a bit more about how to edit your own work or those in a peer critique group, I would recommend An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors by Barbara Sjoholm.

If you join SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) you will have access to joining critique groups with other SCBWI members as well as access to a database of authors who work with writers on developmental edits.

I always highly recommend joining the Seattle chapter and attending the monthly meetings. They were invaluable for my growth as a beginning children’s writer and I always attended the spring conference.

Finally, one of my favorite resources for writers is Writers Helping Writers. They keep a great writing tool page with handy downloads such as the Character Pyramid Tool which will help you map out your character’s flaws to a Scene Revision Critique Guideline Sheet. You can find their  resources here.

And last but not least, here is a great blog post about 50 Agents that are looking for picture book writers!

If anyone has resources they have used for editors or a fabulous editor you want to recommend, please post in the comments below! Thanks!

 

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The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles

Last week I blogged about writing anxieties and fears and I wanted to continue that topic by sharing a book which I have found invaluable to me in the creative process when dealing with resistance.

The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles is a powerful collection of short vignettes about identifying and breaking through our fears. It’s a book about the difference between a professional writer and an amateur–and no it’s not the amount of pages or words you write a day or how much you have published.

One of my favorite vignettes in the book is titled Resistance and Trouble. It says: “The working artist (writer) will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work. The working artist banishes from her world all sources of trouble. She harnesses the urge for trouble and transforms it in her work.” 

And this...”Creating soap opera in our lives is a symptom of Resistance….If the level of drama drops below a certain threshold, someone jumps in to amp it up. Dad gets drunk, Mom gets sick, Janie shows up for church with an Oakland Raiders tattoo. It’s more fun than a movie. And it works. No one gets a damn thing done.”

And finally this.“The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got. The Professional must be alert for this counter attack. Be wary at the end. Don’t open that bag of wind.” –Pg. 18. The War of Art

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing Fears and Anxieties

There are a lot of fears and anxieties that can take over a writer’s life and shut down the process completely if we allow them. The fears and anxieties manifest themselves in little ways from perfectionism issues such as never finishing a draft to overworking a draft to never sending it out to critique partners, editors and agents for publication.

These fears show up as distractions–I suddenly need to clean and organize every inch of my garage or attic–never mind it’s been a mess for years. Now I need to clean it. Fears and anxieties show up as commitments and activities–I’m just so busy. I don’t have time to write, or send my story out on submissions. I have children, a house, pets, a job. I need to exercise. Run errands. Whatever it is that is not writing. And, I do not have time to write. I’ll get to it tomorrow.

Or I need to go to one more conference, take one more class, read one more craft book–then I’ll start writing.

And yes, as writers, we have things which we do need to do to keep our lives running. The only time I write every day is when I’m either fast drafting or working on shaping the second draft of a story. Most of my heavy writing is done in our winter months of November-March simply because I live in the Pacific NW and our summers are one breathtakingly gorgeous time of the year and it becomes very hard to get much done so I try not to have blocks of time in the summer where I need to be intensively drafting a story–editing is fine. Teaching is fine. But not intensive drafting .

But I also have a life and I allow myself time to run that life whether that be exercise, taking the dog for a walk, beach time, or hanging out with friends.

However, when those things become constant excuses for why we are not writing that story or memoir, then we have to look a little deeper and understand all of this is just fear. And fear can be dealt with one tiny step at a time.

I have two places where I block with fear–one is when I am just starting a brand new draft of a story. It doesn’t matter if I have done all the character work, setting work and plotted out a tentative story. I still hit the wall of fear when I sit down to that blank page. I know none of my stories come out perfectly formed. It takes multiple drafts and revisions from editors before the story is ready for readers. But it doesn’t stop that fear at the first draft empty page syndrome.

The other place I block in fear is when I am writing too close to my “shadow” sides and revealing too much of “me.” The place this showed it’s head the most is in my memoir, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention. I just did not want to go deep into that story and reveal my part of the story.  I joked that March was the month I always wrote on that book. The reason? Our weather in Seattle is so horrible there isn’t much else you can do. The winter is over. The spring hasn’t arrived. And everything is just a soppy muddy rainy mess. So I set up shop on my dining room table and I drafted that story, diving deeper and deeper every March. Then, I’d put the story away and go happily on my way back to my romance and children’s stories.

So you ask..where is that story now? It’s finished. I finished it last March. In August, I pitched it at a conference and had an editor very interested. She emailed me after the conference to ask if I wanted to talk. I balked. I kept the email in my inbox for the last six months and skirted around the edges. I wasn’t ready for that next step. That’s the honest truth. I just wasn’t ready.

I wanted to push myself in another area–bringing out my new romance series under my own imprint. Now that the first book is out, I’m drafting the second and getting positive feedback and really enjoying being the commander in chief of that series with my imprint. It’s all given me a little more confidence and I’m getting ready to move forward on my memoir. I moved the editor’s email to my personal email box where I would see it every time I open my email. I added talk to her on my calendar for late Jan/early Feb. And guess what…March is just around the corner! What better time to take that story to the next step!

As writers it’s important to identify where those fears and anxieties crop up. What place in the process is the worst for us? Identifying it is half the battle. If we know why we are suddenly cleaning the attic instead of writing, then we can say…oh! I get it. I’m a little scared there won’t be anything for me to write when I sit down with that blank page. And sometimes it is okay to say we just aren’t ready to take that next step. Maybe we do need another class. Maybe something else needs to happen before we take the next step. Maybe we need to write something else.  It is okay to say I’m just not quite ready to jump this hurdle yet. But then let it go. Move on. Write something else. Do something else. Keep the writing flow going. Don’t quit writing because you aren’t ready to take the next step on one project.

But it’s also important to sit down with the fears and move through them. Set a timer. Tell yourself you’re only going to write for twenty minutes today. That’s all. So what if it’s horrible. You did it. There are words on the page. Or, write fast and hard so your logical brain won’t override the creative. Don’t edit. Just get that story down that is in your head. And then stop. Stop before you want to. Stop when the going gets good. Stop early so you want to return the next day. I promise, you will not want to clean your attic if your story characters are chattering in your head about the mess you left them in the day before.

Send that query out. Email that editor or agent who was interested in your story. They may say no. They may never respond. But that’s not the point. The point is you moved through your fear and put your toe in the water.

And then celebrate–do something you want to do because you moved through that fear. Go for a big long walk. Bake chocolate chip cookies. Dance. Whatever it is that you need to do to celebrate you moved through the fear. And don’t worry..the fear will be back again to visit you.

But the next time, you’ll be a little more prepared for the visit of fear.

 

 

 

 

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Creative Books Which Inspired Me

One of the questions I often get asked is what books inspired you as a writer? Although there are many I read both as a child and adult which would fit into this category, I wanted to list a couple books which were instrumental in my creative process from the very beginning.

The Artist Way by Julia Cameron–This is a fabulous book in discovering your creative self from writing to dancing to painting to music to everything else creative. The key tools in this book, which I still use to this day, are Morning Pages and Artist Dates. Morning pages are three handwritten pages a day. My morning pages are so important in helping me dump down that “chatter” in my head as well as brainstorm solutions to current story problems. Artist Dates are when I take myself out solo somewhere to refuel and recharge my creative self. My favorite artist dates currently are vintage markets which so inspire the current romance series I’m writing. But other artist dates have included day trips to Langley on Whidbey Island, trips to Farmer’s Markets in the summer, and exploring out of the way art galleries.

The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron–This book continues to build on The Artist Way with more exercises in exploring your creativity. The biggest thing I took away from this book was it’s all about finding your “vein of gold”–where is that creative flow? Where does effort met ease?

 

The next two books were instrumental in my writing process and both taught me how to get into the flow of writing.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg--This is a fabulous book with essays about the writing process. One of my favorite lines in this book says: “Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.” As I look at both my published books and the ones still waiting in the cue I can see this is very true for me. At a recent author event, a reader asked me if there was a theme I wrote about and I didn’t have to think long. The theme of addiction–ranging from alcoholism to drug addiction to gambling, is the overwhelming topic I explore over and over again in my writing and for all ages.

Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg-This book is another fantastic one which digs more into the process of writing, but it also includes exercises such as “Try this.” Natalie Goldberg’s process is all about free-writing. Pick a topic and write. Go.

Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg--This book will appeal to those wanting to write memoir or dig into your own stories in order to access emotions and truths to add to your fiction writing. I used this book a great deal while working on my memoir, “Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention.”

There are others that I’ve loved to help me with the process of being a writer, but I’ll save those for another post!

 

 

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Vintage Aprons–Guest Blog Post

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I am a guest blogger at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers today. The blog is hosted by writer and American Woman editor, Lois Winston. My blog post is tied to my character Rylee and the sewing circle in my sweet contemporary romance, Sweetheart Cottage, and is all about vintage aprons.

Here is an excerpt…….

Every vintage apron tells a story, from the full-length work aprons of the pioneers to the postwar 1950’s aprons sewn from Simplicity or McCall’s patterns which were stylish and playful with bold fabrics. I had a lot of fun setting up a Pinterest page for Sweetheart Cottage, which showcases some of these playful vintage aprons.

Vintage aprons were used for different purposes. Women might have had an apron for housework, gardening, washday, and special aprons kept at the back of the drawer for company. Brides were often given handmade aprons for every occasion from the regular supper to serving cocktails. And don’t forget the holiday aprons! Vintage aprons could be for Christmas, St Patrick’s Day and Halloween.

You can read the whole blog post here.

Enjoy!

If you’d like to read more about the history of aprons, a great book to check out is: The Apron Book: The Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort by EllynAnne Geisel.

apron

Also be sure to check out the Apron Chronicles: A Patchwork of American Recollections which is an exhibit that has  been traveling the country since 2004. You can find all about the exhibit here.

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Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop Winner

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Congratulations to Kristia! You are the winner of the Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop! Check your email for your two books!

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