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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writing - Critiques and Self Publishing

I have a writing tip box that shows up in the side bar of my blog each day. 
Yesterday's tip was:

"When you receive critical advice or feedback about your writing, learn to evaluate it then follow your instincts."
I like getting my manuscripts critiqued. Some people don't want to get their writing critiqued, because they are afraid of constructive criticism. I think  this is one of the ways we can grow as a writer.

        I am also not afraid to go back to my previous writings and poems and edit them. I bring out writings and poems I have written and have found many mistakes and many places where I could improve my work. If we need to read a passage over a few times to understand what is going on, then it needs to be rewritten. Sometimes, especially in a poem, word selection is very important. One word can make the difference between a good poem and a very good poem. We need to read them out loud and make sure the words flow easily, without stumbling or hesitation.
Sometimes I shy away from giving criticism because I don't think I am experienced enough as a writer to give it. Let's face it, I'm not well known and I'm not widely published. But, sometimes even the most novice writer can see things that an experienced writer can not because we are not as attached to the manuscript as the writer is. Mistakes can be staring the author in the face but sometimes it takes "fresh eyes" to see them.
 I have read many books that have been self published and I am saddened by the mistakes I see in them. I know it is impossible to catch all the mistakes, but when I pay money for a book, I like for it to be professionally done and not have mistakes throughout it. If a person does self publish, they should either have it professionally edited or have as many "fresh eyes" as possible to read it before it is sent to the printer. I know we are all anxious to see our words in print, but we need to slow down and make sure that it is the best it can be before it is published.

Evaluate the advice you receive, then follow your instincts. 

Do you have a writing tip for the day? 

Happy Writing!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Framing Grandma

I'm framing Grandma today!

I gathered together an old picture of Grandma Lucy McMillion (my mother's mom), 
a piece of an old quilt of Grandma's and a matted frame with an old paint by number picture in it.

I love these old paint by number pictures, don't you? I find them at yard sales. In addition to these little puppies, I have a collie and a Japanese scene. They say they are the collectibles of the future. So if you see any cheap at a yard sale, pick them up. We had paint by number roses on the wall of our living room when I was little.

I laid out the piece of old quilt. And before any of you gasp, this is just a piece of an old cutter quilt. I think they call them cutter quilts, because they are in such bad shape and they are not salvageable. From this piece I have already made a few cookie cutter Christmas ornaments and a Teddy bear that I gave away at one of our family reunions. I think these heirlooms should be re-used and displayed so we can enjoy them, instead of being shut up inside of a drawer or chest.

Okay,  back to my project.

I found a place in the quilt to cut out four long pieces to attach to the matte of the frame.

If you want, you can very lightly glue the ends of the strips. 
You probably don't have to do that,  though.

I grabbed my old sewing machine drawer, that I use to store old button cards in,
and searched for a couple of buttons to attach to the outside of the frame.

Here is my finished product hanging on the wall of my family room. 
My grandmother had a lilac bush by the corner of her porch, so. . .

. . . I filled my Shawnee vase with lilacs. The Shawnee vase was given to me at a yard sale. Can you believe how nice some people are. I bought the lilacs last week at the Mt. Mission Thrift Store in Charleston. A worker was filling a box with of artificial flowers while I was there.  They were ten cents each. They are new, I thought that was a very good deal. And, I just love lilacs.

Oh, one more thing. I wrote on the back,  'Grandma Lucy McMillion surrounded by a piece of one of her patchwork quilts.'  This way, in the future, everyone will know who it is and why the quilt pieces are surrounding the picture.

Hope you enjoyed my framing of Grandma!

posted by Janet Smart at

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writer's Block!

Writer's Block!
We all get writer's block.

Sometimes - I get inspiration when I least expect it.
I will visit another blog where a comment, story, picture or sentence shouts out to me and gives me an idea.

Sometimes -  a walk outside gives me an idea.

Sometimes - I think we get writer's block because we are trying too hard.
If I just relax, an idea usually comes to me. I have to be patient.
Unfortunately, patience is not one of my virtues.

I like writing poetry. Many times pictures inspire poems.

Most of my writing block episodes don't happen when I am writing a manuscript. They happen when I am trying to come up with a new idea for a story, poem or article.

When this happens, I often search the internet for ideas, especially for articles.

You can go to Creative Writing Prompts and you will find a huge list of writing prompts to give you inspiration.

The most important thing to do when you get writer's block is to not give up. An idea will come.

Besides screaming and pulling out your hair, what do you do when you get writer's block?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ten Signs of Spring

There was an article in our Sunday paper yesterday, titled 10 Signs of Spring.

It inspired this post

Here are my 10 Signs of Springs, in no particular order:

1. Yard Sales! We had yard sales listed in our local paper this past week, the first ones of the season. This is a sure sign of spring in our area!

2. Red cardinals flitting from branch to branch in the blooming forsythia bush. They were a beautiful sight to see, their feathers red against the yellow twigs.

3. Birds tidying up their living quarters, their beaks busy taking out the old and bringing in their new straw beds.

4. The smell of wild onions, as eager-beaver neighbors mow their grass for the first time.

5. Daffodils, crocus, dandelions,  violets and red bud trees dressed up in their colorful spring outfits, the hillsides boasting with their spring colors.

6. Sitting out on the front porch and being entertained by peepers as they sing their songs.

 7. Molly Moochers sprouting from the forest floor, their heads peeping from beneath the dead ground cover. Click here and here, if you are wondering what molly moochers are and read earlier posts I did about them. 

 8. Being able to take walks outside again, and hopefully, getting rid of a few pounds accumulated during the cold winter months.

 9. Apple and pear blossoms unfolding on the trees, their aroma sweet in the drifting air.

10. Last, buy not least, my oldest son turning another year older. He bounced into this world on a blustery first day of Spring 31 years ago. If you want, go here and read a little about him.

These are a few of the things I am looking forward to, how about you?

 Would you like to add a few signs of spring to my list?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Writing Lies

I cannot tell a lie. That is not true, I just told one.

If you write fiction, you tell (or write) lies all the time. And, if you are good enough at lying, some day you may have a best seller on your hands.

Sure I base most of my stories on truths, but like a recipe. . .

I spice it up a little
I take out what I don't  like
I add a little of this and a little of that
I change the names (ingredients) to protect the innocent (and me)

Today I sent in a few manuscripts to the West Virginia Writer's Contest. I wrote a few whoppers that I hope the judges will like.

One of my manuscripts started out to be a nice story that was mostly true. You know what they say, it was based on a true story. But, I realized for it to have a chance I had to add a little of  this and add a little of that. I tossed in a few extra ingredients that weren't in the original recipe. I changed the names and I spiced it up a little.

Have you written any lies lately? If you have, I hope  they were good  ones.

Happy Writing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Drab Coming to Life

I believe this is supposed to be used in the bathroom
to hold your rolls of TP.
But, I placed it outside in my flower garden a few years ago.
I let the critters use it for whatever they wish.

Have you been outside lately?
Seems like life is coming back to the country.

I didn't even know I had daffodils. The first one of spring shows off for me.

The Naked Ladies have sprouted at the corner of the house,  
their leaves bright green in the cool spring air.

Poppies are everywhere, their leaves fuzzy to the touch. 
I try to get rid of them but they keep coming back. 

The blackberry vines will continue to be drab for a while. 
I've been trimming and cutting out old vines today. I must have missed
 a few last fall. Charley and Andrew have been pounding
metal T-posts in the ground and attaching them to the wooden posts.
They were decaying and rotting in the ground, making them very wobbly.

This summer, hopefully, they will reward us for all our hard labor.

Berries, anyone?


Want some blackberry recipes? Go here and here to see a few I have posted.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Are You a Dishaholic?

Are your cabinets filled with dishes that never see the light of day?

Can you not pass up a pretty cup, saucer or bowl at a yardsale or thrift store?

Do you have enough platters to feed Cox's Army?

 I love yellow. The bottom platter is melmac the top is an old china one.

 It is stamped on the back "Compliments of TONY'S FOOD MARKET 3400 E Fairmount Ave. It looks like a Homer Laughlin plate that was probably made special for Tony's Food Market.

If you answer yes to these questions, you are probably a DISHAHOLIC!

That's all right, you can join me at the local Dishaholic Anonymous Meeting. But, be warned. You are never cured and will probably be in recovery for the rest of your life.

I put these bowls and saucers together. I thought they would look nice
by the kitchen sink filled with my scrubbers, sponges and scrapers.
I think someone told me that the bowl on the right was put in oat boxes years ago. 
I have 3 more of those, two are plain and one has stars around the top.

Don't you just love the place mat under these. I think it is made from old colored plastic bread bags. I got the placemat and a runner just like it at a yard sale for around $1. She said her mother made it. I'm  not sure, but I would guess it was made in the 60s. Have you ever seen any of these? I think they are so pretty, can you imagine the time it took to make them.

 These eggcups, cups and saucers and bowls are great to hold candies or candles.

Here is a closeup of the plastic placemat.

I've only shown the tip of the iceberg.

Okay, everyone, 'fess up, are you a Dishaholic?
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

If we band together and hold hands, we can get through this together.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Writing Wednesday

I have been so busy writing lately that I almost forgot about my Writing Wednesday Post.

The West Virginia Writers Writing Contest deadline is fast approaching and I have been fine tuning entries to send in to it.

In addition to children's stories, this year I am thinking about submitting a poem. I recently wrote one unlike any I have ever written before. It is very unique. I am not saying anything else about it, though, since I am submitting it to the contest. Keep your fingers crossed for me that the judges will like it.

I also came up with an idea for a short story for the War category. This is a new category in the contest this year and I really didn't think I could write anything that would qualify, but I think I have. I am still working on it, (with help from a special friend) and it has a ways to go before it is ready to submit. I might have to send in a late fee with it, but I hope not.

So, I am sending in some stories in a very familiar genre for me and two writings that are very different than what I usually write. I think a person needs to try something new every now and then, how about you?

Have any of you tried writing outside your genre before? 

I've seen a lot of poems on blogs lately. I've written a little one about the month of March.

If I Were a Month
Janet F. Smart

If I were a month
I would be March
With her roaring lions
And gentle lambs.

She is sassy, and
Her hills are covered
With green grass
And yellow daffodils.

Her spring winds
Sweep the earth
And wipes it clean
For hot summer days.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ten Things I Bet You Don't Know About Me

I thought this might be a fun post to get to know one another a little better.

I am listing ten things that I bet you didn't know about me.

You don't have to, but if you want, tell us something about you in your comment.

1. I am afraid of flying and have never flown in an airplane.

2.I have green eyes, just like my mother.

3. My middle name (Frances) is just like my mom and my grandmother's (and also a few cousins).

4. My Grandpa McMillion's ancestors were Scotch-Irish and were already living here in the mountains in the 1700s.

5. I won a coloring contest in the newspaper when I was in the 5th grade. I won a Little Miss Sunbeam Doll. I wish I still had her, she was beautiful and looked just like Little Miss Sunbeam.

6. I have lots of collections - rolling pins, vintage kitchen utensils, old dishes, Indian arrowheads, vintage aprons, cookie jars, milk glass, old table cloths, salt and pepper shakers, books, US postage stamps, vintage hats and Fenton. (If I thought a little longer I am sure my list would be longer. I think I need a bigger house).

7. I can't swim! I wish I could, but I'm scared of water.

8. I looked like the Campbell  Soup Girl when I was little and have pictures to prove it! I think my mom missed out when she didn't take me to Hollywood to be in Campbell's Soup commercials.

9. I've been on a Navy Guided Missile Destroyer.

10. When I was young, I wanted to be an archeologist. I guess that is one reason one of my favorite subjects in school was History.

Now, it's your turn. If you want, tell us something about you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Five Things I Have Learned Since I Started to Write

Almost four years ago, I walked  into a little diner in downtown Ripley to my first writer's meeting. They called themselves the Appalachian Wordsmiths.

The Librarian had given me a contact name and phone number when she saw me checking out a book about writing. I called and was invited to come to their meeting. I showed up with a copy of a picture book manuscript I had written called, Picking Blackberries With Grandma. The members were so nice and informative, but I found out that night that I did not know how to write. I just thought I knew how to write.

I still have a lot to learn, but here are five things I have learned since that night:

1. I learned what passive writing is. That night one of the members was talking about passive writing. I had no idea what she was talking about. Passive writing saps the energy out of the most exciting stories. It shows rather than tells. Look for unnecessary words such as started to, could,  would, there was, seemed to and look for inactive verbs such as was, is, were and are and replace them with active verbs. Verbs ending with "ing" are by nature more passive than those ending in "ed."  Also watch for -ly words. If your verb isn't strong enough, find a stronger verb.

2. I learned that your first draft is just that, a draft.  My kids ask me why I keep changing my stories. They think if I am a writer, I should get it right the first time. Well, we all know that is not how it works. A manuscript needs to be revised until you get it right. Not many writers get it right the first time.

3. I learned there is more to writing rhyming poetry than just making it rhyme. I have always written rhyming poetry. I love rhyming poetry! I learned it has to do more than just rhyme. It has to flow from the tongue, it has to have rhythm. The rhymes need to come naturally without forcing them. Use strong rhymes and strong descriptive verbs.  After learning these things, I have gone back and rewritten a lot of my poetry. I found  this sight on the internet today about writing rhyming poetry. It has very good tips.

By the way, March 2, is Dr. Seuss's birthday. Go over to Two-Lane Livin' and check out my silly rhyming poem called Toes!

4. I learned that you have to be patient and not give up. Many times I have almost given up. Luckily, something happens to change my mind and I keep writing. Having writing friends is very helpful. They understand what you are going through. They are going through the same thing. They know what it is like to wait for months and months before hearing back from a publisher. They know what is is like to get a rejection slip.

5. I learned it is okay to break the rules (once in a while). A few years back I sent in a manuscript for an anthology. The deadline for hearing back from the editor had passed and I had never heard from her. What did I do? Exactly what you are not supposed to do. I emailed her. I figured I didn't have anything to lose.  She did not remember my story at first and told me to email it to her again. I did and I received an email back from her saying "Oh, I remember that story now. I rejected it early on because I felt it was too sad. I've changed my mind, I am going to put it in the book." I do not encourage anyone to do this. My instincts told me to and I got lucky.

What is something you have learned that has helped you most in your writing?