Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Year of Writing Dangerously

Isn't that a great title for a book about writing? My dear friend and writing mentor, Barbara Abercrombie, is one of those teachers who you never forget. She's the person who led a workshop I attended at UCLA many years ago and inspired me to begin writing again after ten years. An impeccable editor, she encouraged me to keep writing and still inspires me today with her own prodigious output and commitment to the writer process.This is what she says about her new book:
If you want to be a writer, or if you're thinking of keeping a journal or writing a blog or an autobiography for your family, this is the book to get you started. If you're already a writer, this is the book to keep you going with 365 daily anecdotes, commiseration and funny stories from some rock star writers.

You are lucky today because I'm the pimp to what those in the book business like to call The Marketing Whore, and I have a signed copy of A Year of Writing Dangerously to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment with a bit of writing advice of your own! It can be silly, funny, inspiring or illicit. The pimp (me) will decide on her favorite comment/advice and pick a winner on July 15th --

So, live and write dangerously! Leave a comment! Win a book! Go buy the book! Write!

Oh, and watch this:


  1. The best writing advice I ever got was from my son Hank. I was complaining about being stuck and he said, "Just write your way out of it."
    He was right, too. Works every damn time.

  2. I keep a journal and love to read and at times love to write. A piece of writing advice I give myself is to be careful about where I write and who my audience might be.

    When I write just for myself, about intense feelings and such I write in a spiral notebook with tear out pages because I know that when I go back to read what I wrote I will want to tear up the pages.

    When I write in my "diary" about interactions with children and grandchildren I write with them in mind, thinking that when I'm gone (I'm 70 so have a few more good years) they will know what they did and how I felt about them from the moment they were born. In the past I combined the journal with the diary and when I impulsively shredded it all because the painful memories were so ugly I lost a lot of information I wish I still had.

    The way I keep my diary is kind of interesting. I keep a looseleaf notebook with the date written on the top of each page so that starting out I had 365 pages. Each day I write just a few sentences about what happened and then draw a line. The next year I add that day on the same page. I've been doing it for 10 years so when I enter events for any day I can just glance up and see what I did each day for the past 10 years. It's amazing to see the repetitive nature of life. When a grandchild is born I elaborate so someday they will be able to read what it was like for me to have a wonderful new grandbaby.

    Hope this qualifies as writing advice. : ) I love your blog and read it every day.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. i believe in sneaking up on writing.
    every address book i have ever owned turned into a journal or a collaged daybook; and every journal or daybook i have every bought for its red leather/handmade birchbark covers or its marbled end papers remains...empty.
    or, maybe i believe in letting writing sneak up on you?

    sorry, had to delete first try for misspelling.

  5. Never ever give up.........

    suzi f

  6. For me, joining a writing workshop or class keeps the writing flowing. Knowing that a group of writers will soon be sitting around a table expecting to hear what I have written is very motivating. Sort of like having a blog I suppose.

  7. Best current influx of advice comes from "friending" Richard Bausch on Facebook. His posts are short blasts of generous brilliance, insight and encouragement for anyone dabbling in this writing thing. Check it out.

    And I can't wait to win the book!

  8. I started a blog at the beginning of the year and try to write a simple post each day. The daily routine is the structure I need to improve my writing. It's private - no one can access it, no one even knows it exists. In a house with five children it's really the only thing I can claim as my own. Never had time to fill out the baby books, fill photo albums, or create scrapbooks, but I think these simple daily snippets are far more interesting. Perhaps someday, when I feel more confident as a writer, I can share it with my family for some laughs, groans, and tears.

  9. I'm so not qualified to dish out writing advice but i really want that book, so here it is: no subject is too trivial or insignificant to write about and you can turn the simplest or ugliest moments into literature.

  10. I can't NOT write. Sometimes I wish I could!

    To write, you have to read -- and read EVERYTHING. Read books, magazines, newspapers. Read articles you like and articles you don't. Think about why something works or doesn't. Why does this book thrill while that book bores? What makes a good sentence? What grabs your attention right away? That sort of thing.

    I can't ever remember a time when I wasn't a writer, and it's because I was always a reader.

    My biggest problem is that I'm a somewhat lazy writer. I just type out what's going on and don't often put much effort into it. Which is why my blog has about 12 readers, I suppose. :)

  11. I feel like Steve does - I can't not write. But when the words aren't coming out the way I wanted them to I find the best thing to do is distract myself - take a hot shower or scrub the kitchen floor or take the dog for a walk. Sometimes just keeping one part of my mind (and body) busy with mundane activities frees up the creative side of my mind to work its magic and get me going again. Most of my writing happens inside my head and it is just when I get home to the computer that the transcription begins.

  12. The best writing advice I have gotten so far came from a "Pen On Fire" interview I listened to with author Dylan Landis. She said, "To write well, you must be willing to hold your finger in the flame."

    Brilliant video.

  13. Well. My mom warned me when I was young to never write anything I wouldn't want the whole world to read.
    Now I use that. What is it I wouldn't want the whole world to read? That's usually a good place to start.

  14. A blank page is the most intimidating thing, but after the first mark, it belongs to you wholesale. My goalposts will always be set at "write something you'd want to read" - because if YOU, the writer, don't want to read it, why even begin to worry about anyone else?

  15. Ok, I'm game.

    My first writing instructor went up to the chalkboard and wrote the word "SAND". He underlined it, turned around and told us all to write about it. After 15 minutes, he told us to stop. He did not collect our papers. We all thought he was nuts.

    The next day, he did the same thing, only this time he used a different word. He did the same thing for the entire semester.

    I learned many things from this seemingly simple exercise.

    1. Try to write every day. It does not matter how good it is...just the exercise of writing helps you to improve.

    2. Take the impersonal and make it personal. Take a dull word like sand and try to bring it to life.

    3. Sometimes just a few sentences can be more powerful than many.

  16. Wow, what great writing advice from your readers! Thanks for post. xxoo Barbara

  17. If she's your mentor and inspiration, that must be a great book! You are one of my favorite bloggers of all time.
    I'm embarrassed to offer writing advice, but I'll tell you what I know: tell the truth, and edit it with kindness of heart.
    Thanks for asking.

  18. this is probably not any "new" advice, but write every day. i try to free write every morning, 3 pages (as per Judith Cameron of The Artist's Way). Writing is like a muscle - it needs to be used everyday to be kept "in shape" :)

  19. Does "all of the above" count as a legitimate comment? :)

    Best advice I've ever received is the ol' "write every day" standby. That's one of the main reasons I started a blog - and it has helped, I think.

    And read. Read everything.

    Not original advice, but there it is.

    The book is going on my want to read list regardless of whether I win or not. :)

  20. My therapist (really!) told me to set aside several hours a week for writing. They go on the calendar, and they are IMPORTANT. Only an emergency can intrude--not a phone call, not a needy student, not a random committee meeting.

    That's working pretty well.



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