Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Writing Through Fear

By Susan

Not long ago, I found myself in an email conversation with Page Lambert, author of In Search of Kinship and Shifting Stars. I confessed how I struggle to write through fear. No matter how many times I may hear the virtues of "shitty first drafts," I worry that my writing will not be good enough. Here's what Page had to say:

"You asked, 'How can our writing matter if it’s not any good?' I think it matters because expression matters and has an intrinsic value from first blush to final polish. The first blush of creative endeavor might not yet be refined into artistic expression, but the only way thought and human behavior can possibly reach toward a higher expression is when we humble ourselves enough to express even the simplest thought.

Some believe that all matter begins as thought. When enough like-minded thoughts collide in the metaphysical universe, matter is created. A million single expressions can lead to the manifestation of a sea change of thought.

Your writing matters, Susan. All writing matters. All singing matters. All creation matters. We keep the world alive through our expressions."
She went on to share:
"I’m in Montana, celebrating the birth of my son’s second little daughter. What a blessing. The older sister, three-year-old little Carly, was painting rocks today with grandma’s help. It never would have occurred to her that there was a 'wrong' way to paint rocks. Oh how I wish we adults could be so joyful in our expressions!"
There you have it. Go, be joyful in your expressions. There is no wrong way.


A member of the International League of Conservation Writers and an advisor for the Rocky Mountain Land Library, Page Lambert has been writing about the western landscape and leading nature retreats in the West for twenty years. A founding member of Women Writing the West and longtime member of Wyoming Writers, Lambert’s writing can be found inside monumental sculptures at the Denver Art Museum, online at Huffington Post, and inside the pages of SojournsThe Writer, and elsewhere. She designs and teaches graduate writing courses for the University of Denver’s University College. Forthcoming works include “Not for Sale” (Langscape Magazine, publication of Terralingua.org), and “The Rural West” (The Light Shines from the West, Fulcrum Books). Lambert writes the popular blog All Things Literary/All Things Natural from her mountain home west of Denver, Colorado. Find her online at www.pagelambert.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How to Plan a Personal Writing Retreat

Guest post by Tina Ann Forkner

I have been asked a few times about my writing process. The answer, if I really went into it, would have been very long, but honestly when I start a new novel, I have to bury myself in it. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s easier to get started if I can really be alone.

This is what I did for two days during what amounted to a mini writing retreat for myself while my husband worked during the day in St. Louis. I got away for dinner and time with my husband and other humans in the evening (So grateful for great company!), but during the day I buried myself in my own work. It paid off, at least in terms of creativity and word count. I’m so glad I just went for it and focused on writing.

How did I do it? If you want to do a personal writing retreat of your own, it’s easy. Here’s how:

  1. Try to get away if possible. Go stay with your sister, borrow someone’s loft, or reserve a hotel room. If you can’t, then find a space in your home, library, or other place where you can spend several hours alone.
  2. Make yourself unavailable. Let people close to you know you won’t be emailing or answering the phone. Decide whom you will communicate with during the hours you have set aside, if anyone. For me it was my daughter and my husband, and then only for short texts or calls.
  3. If you write on a laptop, disconnect it from the Internet. You don’t want to get distracted by checking Facebook!
  4. Preparation is important, so take along some journals, pens, a laptop or notebooks for actual writing, a book on the writing craft, a novel, and a devotional.
  5. It is important to prepare your mind. That’s what the novel and devotional are for. Start the day out by reading a little bit. Scribble thoughts in a journal if you like. Clear your mind of daily clutter. Be quiet.
  6. It’s important to consider the advice of others, hence the craft book. Read a chapter or section here and there whenever you need a break throughout the day. Underline your favorite quotes and/or write them down. (Breaks are important.)
  7. Nourishment is important. Start and end your day with a good meal, and drink more water than your morning coffee or wine at dinner. You want to feel treated and refreshed, but not sluggish for that long writing stint.
  8. Exercise and stretch. It’s a good idea to make a trip to the gym or take a walk outside during a break or after your writing day. Turning into a pretzel won’t help.
  9. Observe your Writing Rituals. It’s okay to go through all of your weird, oddball routines that help you write. I am not going to share all of mine, but every writer has them, or you will. They can involve coffee, prayer, chocolate, meditation, music, affirmations, and probably things you may not even notice. My kids say I talk to myself when I’m in my writing zone. I doubt it, but it’s what they say!
  10. Write. That’s right. Pretty straight forward. Write without stopping, without correcting, without censoring, without thinking. Don’t think about how and when this will be published or who will be reading it. Just write. Write, write, and write until you are empty. Then take a deep breath and be proud of yourself. Edit it all later. For today, close up shop and pat yourself on the back.

So that’s it! Easy, right? I would love to hear about any personal writing retreats you put together. What advice do you have for others?


Tina Ann Forkner writes women’s fiction and is the author of five novels including the award-winning Waking Up Joy, as well as Ruby Among Us. She is a mom/stepmom to three almost-grown children who all attend the University of Wyoming. When Tina isn’t writing or traveling with her husband, she is a substitute teacher in Cheyenne where she has lived for almost twenty years.

Find her online at www.tinaannforkner.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tinaannforknerauthor. Her Twitter handle is @tinaannforkner.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


guest post by Huntly Rinck

Lynn here: Since Huntly is part of the High Plains Register team at Laramie County Community College, I don't think he'll mind if I jump in here and let you know that the deadline for submissions of previously unpublished, original poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, music and artwork to this fine literary magazine has been extended to December 15th. Visit their website for more information.

Okay, enough of that. On to Huntly's post...

Sequels are evil!

They are insidious in the way that they’ve wormed their way into our culture. It’s rare to visit a multiplex without at least one of the offerings having a number following the title. At least when we, as writers, create sequels of our short stories or novels, we try to label them with actual titles instead of just appending a number.

Sequels themselves can be good – most people enjoyed Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, volume 2 as much as the original. But they can be bad. 1997’s Batman and Robin killed the successful franchise for almost a decade. (I do differentiate between books or movies with one or several sequels, and books and movies that were planned to be a series.)

My problem with sequels is that they’re usually written for the wrong reason. There are a lot of wrong reasons to write a sequel:
  • For the money – someone’s willing to pay for it (or at least the author thinks so). Most movie sequels, especially the bad ones fall into this category. 
  • For the characters – the author wants to revisit some favorite characters (or his fans want him to). Lillian Jackson Braun’s popular Cat Who series falls into this category – later entries in the series lacked plot, but were enjoyable visits with the familiar characters, both human and feline. 
  • Laziness – the author just doesn’t want to create new characters or settings.
There is only one good reason to write a sequel: you have more story to tell.

So as an author, you have a duty to your readers to ask yourself if the story you’re going to tell in your proposed sequel can stand up. Is the story, by itself, worth your reader’s time and effort? Is it worth your time and effort?

One good test is to ask yourself: which came first, the idea of writing a sequel, or the story idea?

If you do have that story to tell, the one in your head burning to get out, then start writing and good luck.

In the interests of full disclosure, I wrote an internet novel that eventually had seven sequels. But in my defense, I claim that it was all an unplanned series. I started writing a short story that grew up into a novel-length story. When I posted it, I almost immediately got feedback asking when the sequel would be out, and I emphatically denied that there would be a sequel, after all. Sequels are evil.

But the characters wouldn’t evacuate my head to make room for others, they had more to say. After I posted the sequel, I got more feedback asking about the next sequel. I replied that the sequel was a fluke and there wouldn’t be another. Sequels are evil.

Then I woke up after a dream, and rushed to my computer. My characters had more to say. After posting the third book, I stopped telling readers that there wouldn’t be sequels.

Huntly Rinck has been writing for almost half a century and is still learning the craft. He started submitting his work to magazines at age fourteen, though no one was interested. He sold a number of shorts in the seventies and eighties before turning to novels. 

His novel, Cartwheels, is available on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Lynn here:

If you want to give yourself a challenging assignment, write a letter to the editor. Why?

  • It’s writing, isn’t it? Which means it counts in our apprenticeships as writers. 
  • It will force you to get clear about your thoughts and opinions on a topic that you feel strongly about; 
  • It is a privilege to join in the flow of public discourse. Never forget that not everyone in the world has this privilege—many are silenced; 
  • You know it will get read. 

I’ve written a few letters to the editor. One of them even got picked up by the Casper Star-Tribune and printed as an op-ed piece, much to my surprise.

My suggestion for writing a letter to the editor?

Go ahead and write hot, but then set the letter aside and edit when you have cooled down. Don’t, (please, please, please) don’t hit send after writing the first draft. Because these letters do go far and wide, you want to make sure you can live with the language you have put down.

Geri Maria Johnson is a Cheyenne writer who has penned plenty of well-written letters to the editor. I’ve tapped her to share some pointers with us…

guest post by Geri Maria Johnson

So, you have something you need to say?

First, be sure enough local readers are interested in your chosen topic.

Then, get acquainted with the publication process.

Here’s a secret. The less work editors have to do to get your letter to press, the greater the chances of acceptance.


#1. Spelling. No excuse for misspelled words.

#2. Grammar. If possible get someone to review your work. At the very least, be sure your verbs are correct and consistently in the same tense – past, present or future. It is also very helpful to read your letter out loud.

Punctuation is very difficult. If you’re not absolutely sure where it goes, leave it out. It is much easier for editors to add punctuation than to change it.

#3. Structure. Make sure each sentence is complete. No fragments. No run-ons.


Readers should be able to easily understand the intent of your letter. Be very clear what you want to accomplish before you begin writing.

A statement may be true and yet not pertain to the discussion at hand. Make sure each point is relevant.

Give careful consideration to the order in which you present your points. Arrange them in the sequence that will best ensure readers will stay with you and arrive where you want them to go. Organize your thoughts well.

Letters that offer an informed opposing opinion to a position previously taken seem to be favored. Do your research, and when feasible, cite sources.

Avoid personal attacks. Politely differ with others’ ideas.

Editors rarely take the time to shorten your piece. They might return it or simply reject it without even reading it. Stay within the word count limit.

Don’t use five words when one will do. Be succinct.

My personal motto: Every word must earn its place on the page.

I share my views with Wyoming readers because I undoubtedly have a unique perspective, as well as a way of breaking down complicated ideas into more understandable parts. My hope is that they benefit from my take on issues about which I am both passionate and informed and are then led to expand their own viewpoints, especially on matters that concern us all.

Geri Maria Johnson was raised in Amityvillle, Long Island and graduated from SUNY at Albany. With a focus on languages and history, she has traveled to over 40 states, spending a summer in Anchorage. Seven times abroad, Geri has visited much of Western Europe, Greece and Egypt.

This essayist has extensively researched the history and genealogy of ten generations of the Johnson/Campbell family. As an avid political activist, Geri Maria has had numerous letters to the editors of Wyoming newspapers published. She’s retired now, a peaceful Cheyenne resident for nearly a decade.