Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

Archive for June, 2014

Everything is Art, and Art is Everything

time 1Despite the No WHINING sign above my desk, sometimes I silently mourn the lack of time for my personal projects–artwork and writing.

My job as a publisher, where I constantly work on other people’s projects, takes many hours a day. And there’s yard work. I love being outdoors, but does the grass really need to grow half an inch per day? Seems like I live on a lawnmower during the summer months.

And, I donate many hours as president of the Lawrence County Art Association, furthering the cause of art in general. I donate time to our church. I spend quality time with my husband and Time 2family. Valued friendships need cultivating. I swim every chance I get, to stay healthy and sane.  The leftover time goes to my artwork and writing.

I know other people grapple with the same issues, and I’m more fortunate than most. In fact, I’m incredibly blessed. Therefore, I try viewing this frustration from a different perspective. I tell myself everything I do can be creative, from mowing grass to washing dishes. It’s all LIFE.  Everything we do influences our creative voice and the art we will eventually create.

This may not be obvious at first, but everyday issues accumulate, reach critical mass, and turn into ART.  When I mow the grass, my subconscious mind is gathering bits and pieces of information. While washing dishes, I watch birds at the feeder and feel the water on my hands. I notice how our drinking glasses gleam in the sunlight. I’m creating memories for my writing and mind-pictures for painting.

All of it becomes part of my unique vision.

There’s no such thing as a part time artist or writer. Everything we do in life counts as art!  And now, I need to go paint something. . . time 3

 

 

A great investment for writers

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A new review of Dialogue for Writers

This book delivers. If you are a writer, you’ll find a wealth of information and insight that will allow you to assess your style and discover practical ways to make good writing better.
Even popular published authors can benefit from this book. For instance, I am a Stephenie Meyer fan. She is a master of her genre, but if she had read Sammie Justesen’s book, Edward would not have”snickered” and “chuckled” so much that these particular dialogue tags became annoying and distracting. Sammie Justesen’s book offers great advice from a number of perspectives including the all-important publisher’s perspective. I have no hesitation in rating it a five-star book.

 

 

 

Writing Dialogue Tags: Less is More

WriterDialogue tags are the things writers add to conversations to denote who’s speaking. This can be a puzzle for writers, who often fall into the trap of replacing the word said with exotic substitutes. Their characters bellow, snicker, chortle, demand, query, bark, chirp, and gasp—all while speaking. My early writing included horrible dialogue tags, but I soon learned that clumsy substitutes for said interrupt the flow of prose, distract readers, and become offensive.

Here’s what a reviewer of my book Dialogue for Writers had to say about one well known author: “I am a Stephanie Meyer fan. She is a master of her genre, but if she had read Sammie Justesen’s book, Edward would not have snickered and chuckled so much that these particular dialogue tags became annoying and distracting.”

Here’s an example of dialogue burdened by excess tags:

“Please help me,”Sandy pleaded.

“What’s wrong with you now, woman?”Jack growled menacingly.

“I’m about to drop these groceries. Can’t you take one of the bags?” she begged.

“You lift weights at the gym three times a week and still can’t manage a few groceries?”Jack snarled. “Maybe I should cancel our membership,” he barked.

These dialogue tags are a distraction and actually weaken the characters’ words. And, the tags become a subtle insult to readers. The excess tags imply that readers are not smart enough to interpret conversation and need remedial help with words like pleaded, menacingly, begged, and barked. I feel offended when I read this kind of dialogue.

Another example of bloated dialogue

Another example of bloated dialogue

I challenge you to look through your writing and try eliminating dialogue tags. You may be surprised by how many of these little distractions you can delete. Deleting tags works especially well during short, crisp exchanges between two characters. You know your writing is strong when readers can follow the dialogue without any speaker tags. Here’s a brisk telephone conversation from Stephen White’s novel The Program:

He was dismissive.“You have an idea where we could go?”

“Sure, there’re some places we could go from my house. Do you know where I live?”

“I’m guessing Boulder.”

“County, not the city.It’s actually a little east, near the scenic overlook on 36.”

“Morbul Bismarck neighborhood. I’ll throw my bike in the back of the truck. Give me directions.”

Alan did.

Ron said,“I can be there by nine.”

“Then I guess I’ll see you then.”

less is moreDon’t you like this scene without dialogue tags? The important thing is to vary your writing so that no scene contains dialogue tags after every speech, and the tags you choose to insert are unobtrusive.For example,you can place the tag in the middle of a line (“What’s happening?”Ron asked.“Did I miss something?”). Use this technique when there’s a natural pause in a character’s speech.

The best advice I can give you about dialogue tags is this: Try to strike a happy balance between using said after every speech and not using a tag at all. Forget the other stuff, and remember–simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  If  you’d like to read more about how to write dialogue, grab a copy of my new book on the topic:

 

A great investment for writers

A great investment for writers

 

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A new review of Dialogue for Writers

This book delivers. If you are a writer, you’ll find a wealth of information and insight that will allow you to assess your style and discover practical ways to make good writing better.
Even popular published authors can benefit from this book. For instance, I am a Stephenie Meyer fan. She is a master of her genre, but if she had read Sammie Justesen’s book, Edward would not have”snickered” and “chuckled” so much that these particular dialogue tags became annoying and distracting. Sammie Justesen’s book offers great advice from a number of perspectives including the all-important publisher’s perspective. I have no hesitation in rating it a five-star book.

Find the book on Amazon.com: http://dld.bz/dtaRy

Creativity and Our Inner Stories

I’m convinced that a creative life helps keep us sane, or at least able to function in this crazy world.  Along those lines, I recently read a book by psychotherapist Philippa Perry called How to Stay Sane. Perry contends we are all storytellers, and each of us has an inner story. Some of us (writers and other artists) feel compelled to share those stories.

storytelling 1 “We are primed to use stories. Part of our survival as a species depended upon listening to the stories of our tribal elders as they shared parables and passed down their experience and the wisdom of those who went before. As we get older it is our short-term memory that fades rather than our long-term memory. Perhaps we have evolved like this so that we are able to tell the younger generation about the stories and experiences that have formed us which may be important to subsequent generations if they are to thrive.

“I worry, though, about what might happen to our minds if most of the stories we hear are about greed, war and atrocity.”

As writers and artists, do we have a responsibility to lift and improve the world, instead of adding to the chaos and darkness?  Yes, we may need to include darkness as part of our stories, but we don’t have to stay there. And that goes for our personal lives as well.

As Perry says, “Be careful which stories you expose yourself to. The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how storyteller 2optimistic you are: it’s how we evolved. … If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up.

Optimism does not mean continual happiness, glazed eyes and a fixed grin. When I talk about the desirability of optimism I do not mean that we should delude ourselves about reality. But practicing optimism does mean focusing more on the positive fall-out of an event than on the negative. … I am not advocating the kind of optimism that means you blow all your savings on a horse running at a hundred to one; I am talking about being optimistic enough to sow some seeds in the hope that some of them will germinate and grow into flowers.”

Here’s to a happier, more creative world for all of us!

A great investment for writers

A great investment for writers

About Sammie Justesen

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A new review of Dialogue for Writers

This book delivers. If you are a writer, you’ll find a wealth of information and insight that will allow you to assess your style and discover practical ways to make good writing better.
Even popular published authors can benefit from this book. For instance, I am a Stephenie Meyer fan. She is a master of her genre, but if she had read Sammie Justesen’s book, Edward would not have”snickered” and “chuckled” so much that these particular dialogue tags became annoying and distracting. Sammie Justesen’s book offers great advice from a number of perspectives including the all-important publisher’s perspective. I have no hesitation in rating it a five-star book.

 

Too Much of Everything?

Do you ever get the feeling we’re hemmed in by too much stuff and too many choices?

JamStanding in the jelly section at the grocery store is a case in point. When I was a kid back in the dark ages, we had about two brands to choose from and only a few flavors: grape, strawberry, raspberry, and maybe something weird like orange marmalade. The choice was easy. Now the jelly selection is are mind boggling.

In a well-known marketing study, researchers offered customers either 24 jams to sample, or 6 jams to sample. Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped at the small one. But 30 percent of the customers who sampled the small assortment actually purchased jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with multiple choices made a purchase.  The hypothesis is that people like the idea of having multiple choices, but in reality more choices become less appealing.

In other words, when confronted by too many choices, customers leave empty handed and move on to something else.

Jelly is only one example of the bewildering choices we face every day. We’re fortunate to have so many good things in our lives, while others in the world have few choices, such as “this jelly or no jelly.” Yet, abundance can be too much of a good thing. All day long we’re bombarded by seemingly infinite choices, from billboards, magazines, email, Internet ads, and of course television. We aren’t even safe in movie theaters, where we’re now forced to sit through twenty minutes of advertising before the film begins.

Choice overload is stressful. Research shows that an excess of choices often leads us to be less, not more, satisfied once we actually decide. There’s often a nagging feeling we could have done better.  Though we now have Decisions_clipartthe capacity to endlessly research choices, that doesn’t mean we should do so. Spending too much time on choices actually decreases our freedom, while increasing our unease and frustration.

On the web page Tiny Buddha (Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives), UK author Andrea Wren offers seven ways to deal with choices:

  1. Ask what you’ll really achieve by keeping all options open. You’ll probably realize that the time and stress you invest in a huge range of choices does not outweigh the benefit of saving a few dollars.
  2. Cast your net small. Eliminate most of the choices up front and consider only three or four, based on your most important criteria.
  3. Unless your budget is extremely tight, stop worrying about saving a small amount of money. Your time and emotional well-being are more important than saving a few bucks.
  4. Stick with your decision once you’ve made it.  Believe in yourself and your ability to choose.
  5. Let go of the other choices. Whether it’s your husband, your wife, a new air conditioner, or a box of cereal—don’t obsess over what might have been. Let it go.  Seeking the perfect choice is a recipe for misery.
  6. Do I really need this, and do I need it now? Focus on choosing things that add meaning to your life.  Don’t waste time on things you don’t need.
  7. Trust yourself to know what you truly need and what’s right for you.  Be happy with your choice  when you’ve made it, and know the world will not explode if, by the slightest chance, this was the wrong choice.

SimpleChoice overload can also happen when we face decisions in our creative work. Given the endless options of which route to take, we can sometimes end up going with the more conventional path simply because it’s the easier way to go. A study from New York University found that “restricting the choice of creative inputs actually enhances creativity.”

In other words, letting yourself have less options to choose from can help you arrive at a more creative answer.

“Keep it simple” is a fine rule to follow in all things.  Choice

If you’d like to further explore this topic, I recommend a powerful book by psychology professor Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More.  This book may change the way you think.

And thank you for taking time to read this blog, out of the million choices of your day!

 

 

A great investment for writers

A great investment for writers

About Sammie Justesen

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A recent review of Dialogue for Writers

What I left with after reading Sammie’s book is a brain swimming with ideas she has generously shared based on her years of experience in all aspects of the industry. She shows us, not just tells us, with style, humor and an easy, comfortable voice. Her examples bring the points to life. Sammie indeed practices what she preaches, and shares with us as reader and writer a fun to read and handy compilation based on experience and insight.   –Gin Getz, author of The Color of the Wild andThe Last of the Living Blue

 

The Publishing Process

Publishing is a big step

Publishing is a big step

NLP-Short-Logo

Last night we met with a local group of writers and spent an hour answering their questions. We love meeting authors and hearing their concerns.  To our surprise, much of what they wanted to know concerned the basic publishing process and how things work. By what magic do publishers turn manuscripts into books? There must be other aspiring authors who have the same questions, so here’s the publishing process in a nutshell:

  • First, the publisher receives either a manuscript or a book proposal.  What is a book proposal, you ask?  In many cases, you don’t have to actually write the book up front—you send publishers a proposal for the book.  This is a win/win situation.  While writing the proposal you focus on creating an overview of the book, how you’ll sell it, who will buy it, and how your
    Our favorite how-to on book proposals by Michael Larsen

    Our favorite how-to on book proposals by Michael Larsen

    book will measure up against the competition.

  • If the publisher likes your work, a publishing contract is signed. The publisher may sign a contract with you based on a proposal or a finished manuscript. This contract will contain a due date for your work.
  • Once a publisher receives your manuscript, their work begins. Editing is the first step. For large publishers this process can take months because your work will be in line with many others.  For smaller publishers like NorLightsPress, editing takes from three to six weeks.  You and the editor will go back and forth over the text, but the publisher has the final word on how things will be.
  •  Meanwhile, you and the publisher will be working on cover design. You will have input, but not every publisher has time to work with your ideas. Some do; some don’t.
  • If your book contains photographs the publisher will need high resolution images for the printer. You’ll be expected to provide these. You may use stock photos.
  • After editing, the book is  formatted into a PDF file. This is the pre-printing stage and you’ll have a chance to read through the manuscript again. Now you’ll see the pages as they will appear in the book.
  • When last minute changes are completed, the publisher submits a PDF file to the printer to generate proof copies. You and the publisher review the proof copy for errors.
  • At last! The proof copy is approved and the publisher can order books. Soon your book goes “live” on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sellers.
  • Your book file is formatted for eBooks and submitted to those sites for sale.
  • Are you marketing?  Hopefully you stayed busy creating a marketing platform and sending out feelers.

    This is just the beginning!

    This is just the beginning!

NOW, you can start book signings, interviews, blogs, and conference speeches. Never leave home without books! This is when your work truly begins. Holding your first book is an amazing thing.  Sharing it with the world can be daunting. Have a plan, and work your plan!

A great investment for writers

A great investment for writers

 

About Sammie Justesen

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A recent review of Dialogue for Writers

What I left with after reading Sammie’s book is a brain swimming with ideas she has generously shared based on her years of experience in all aspects of the industry. She shows us, not just tells us, with style, humor and an easy, comfortable voice. Her examples bring the points to life. Sammie indeed practices what she preaches, and shares with us as reader and writer a fun to read and handy compilation based on experience and insight.   –Gin Getz, author of The Color of the Wild andThe Last of the Living Blue

 

A 70-year Anniversary

A guest post from Nadene Carter, publisher and author:

Japanese mapDuring the past few weeks we’ve heard much about 2014 being the 70th anniversary marking the end of the Japanese American detention during World War II. In December 1944, Public Proclamation number 21 marked an end to the Japanese internment, following four years of the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans who had lived on the West Coast prior to the War.

I was only four years old in 1944, but the aftermath of the War had a profound effect on me. I had a nightmare that to this day I remember clearly. I suppose my parents talked about the German concentration camps that were discovered following the war, and about the mass execution of millions of Jewish people. That must have left a serious imprint on my young, impressionable mind to instigate that nightmare. But in the dream there was a big, round, brick building with several big windows and a fire burning inside. People were being herded along wood planks, through those windows, and into the fire. I was there—a little girl being pushed along a plank toward that fiery furnace

Now, fast forward 36 years.

In 1980 I was living in Adrian, Oregon, a small town about sixty miles west of Boise, Idaho. I belonged to the Spinners and Weaver’s Guild, and three of us from that Guild traveled to a Weaving in the Woods Workshop near Chiloquin, Oregon. The workshop taught Native American weaving, where each of us built and lashed an upright loom between two trees, designed our own pattern, and created a tapestry.

The three of us from our guild camped in a tent together. One evening around the campfire, we were exchanging background information about ourselves. I had moved to Adrian the year prior, and one of the women and her husband had recently moved there from the Midwest and purchased a business. The other was a Japanese woman—Janet Takami, about 25 years old at the time. I asked her how she had come to live in east-central Oregon.

I will never forget the shocked look on her face and her words, “My parents were part of the Japanese internment during World War II.”Japanese 3

Then it was my turn to feel shock. I was 40 years old at the time and had never heard of the Japanese internment. Hearing that U. S. citizens had been detained in camps was impossible for me to understand. That bit of history had never been included in any of our history books, and was never touched on during my school years. I had an immediate flashback to the dream I had as a kid and experienced the horror of it all over again.

japanese-evacuation1After the workshop I went home and spent days in the Ontario, Oregon public library, researching information about the Japanese internment. I learned that “the internment” was a taboo subject, seldom discussed or acknowledged. Later, I talked at length with George Iseri, who had lived in the camp. He was Nisei, second generation Japanese-American. He told me the history of that small group of families from the Minidoka, Idaho internment camp who agreed to move to a small work camp near Nyssa, Oregon, to help as laborers in the sugar beet fields of eastern Oregon rather than sit idle until the war was over. That’s how they came to be located there.

He told of their plight after the war. Everything they owned before the war began was gone; they had nowhere to go. A camp council was held and a decision was made. This group of Japanese families pooled their funds, formed a lottery, and bought the first family a farm. The farm family and the people still at camp continued pooling their money Japanese camp 1until they had enough to buy the second family a farm, and so on until all of the Japanese families owned their own land. They have since become some of the most successful farmers in Malheur County, Oregon

I spent many years gathering information and trying various ways to construct a fictional format that would present a story of the courage and tenacity of these people in the face of adversity. Out of that research,my book  Echoes of Silence was born.  This book juxtaposes the innocence of childhood against the backdrop of bigotry and prejudice prevalent during World War II. It provides a unique perspective into the lives of three families who endured those years and who were shaped by the events of this period in U.S. history. This novel also illustrates the complex choices we all make without considering the effect on future generations. The choices, made years earlier by the adult characters of this story, create echoes that reverberate forward into the lives of their children, which change and shape all of them in unexpected ways.Echoes of Silence

Find the book here:  http://dld.bz/dsv9w

NadeneAbout Nadene Carter

I have always loved books. Growing up in Bear Lake County, Idaho, they enriched my young life and provided an outlet for my insatiable curiosity. So I suppose it’s no accident that I gravitated toward publishing. As the prepress arm of NorLightsPress I have the opportunity to work with each of our authors, turning their edited manuscripts into print and ebooks.

My other interests focus around the fiber arts: knitting, spinning, and weaving. They provide balance to my life and a much needed diversion from books and publishing, which can become intense at times.

The Art of Seeing With Joyce Hicks

Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision. It is the seeing of the thing that makes it so. –Charles Webster Hawthorne

Joyce Hicks bookJoyce Hicks, my favorite watercolor artist has just released her first book: Painting Beautiful Watercolor Landscapes: Transform Ordinary Places into Extraordinary Scenes.  I eagerly awaited Joyce’s book and was fortunate to receive a review copy from the publisher.  However, I’d already purchased a book before the review copy arrived, because I couldn’t wait any longer.

Art is my escape from writing and publishing.  When I can’t stand one more minute in front of the computer screen, I head for the studio and let watercolors soothe my spirit.  There’s something magical about watching wet paint blend on fine cotton paper, granulating and flowing into extraordinary colors and shapes.  I can choose to control it, or not.   I can paint an actual scene or let the paint go where it will.

Joyce Hicks has a special gift for transforming scenes.  She will detect special elements in an ordinary looking barn surrounded by overgrown bushes.  She snaps an unremarkable photo and then uses paint, brushes, and her imagination to create a captivating scene.

Isn’t that what great writers do?  Both the pen and the brush capture our imaginations.  We change scenes to fit our own view of the world, and sometimes we’re able to transmit that magic to our viewers and readers.  That’s why we work so hard to perfect our technique in writing, art, dance, theater, and all other creative endeavors.  What we end up with isn’t always pretty, but it’s real.

In her book, Joyce says, “ I think the art of seeing has been lost because there are so many distractions in today’s world. It is pure joy when we really begin to see and feel beauty, and if we slow down enough, maybe we can attempt to describe it.” Joyce’s tips for artists fit any medium of self- expression. (I have added the parentheses)

  • Perseverance and determination are traits far more important than any talent you may possess.
  • The most common mistake artists (and writers) make as beginners is to follow the natural tendency to try to say too much . . .  Doing so leads to confusion and overshadows the piece’s main message.
  • Fear of failure blocks the way to bold, confident statements.
  • It is not enough to simply want to paint beautiful pictures; you must also arm yourself with necessary skills and knowledge. . .
  • As your skill and experience grow, you learn to eliminate unnecessary clutter from your work.
  • If you want to create a work of art, exaggerate  your feelings for the subject and paint (or write) ideas instead of things. . . . use your imagination to uncover hidden potential.

Demonstrations

How-to art books contain photos of the artist’s work with demonstrations and instructions. I’ve seen many how-to books that leave out vital steps in the process.  Either the publisher had to eliminate steps to save space, or

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the author doesn’t want to reveal her special secrets to the masses.  Either way, an artist finds those demonstrations hard to follow.  I’ve sent back several art books  because I was unhappy with the demonstrations.

Not so with Painting Beautiful Watercolor Landscapes.  In this book, Joyce shares twelve of her finest paintings and shows exactly how to recreate them.  The goal is to help each artist develop confidence and find a personal style.  Her teaching reflects deep concern for readers and fellow artists.

About Joyce Hicks

Joyce Hicks May 20

A demo for this painting is included in the book.

Joyce instructs national and international workshops and acts as judge and juror for watercolor exhibitions. Her paintings have received wide recognition through various shows and awards and she is a Signature Member and three time award winner of the prestigious American Watercolor Society. Numerous books and publications have featured her paintings and written articles about her work. She resides in a light-filled Texas home with her husband Larry and little dog, Sassie.

Painting Beautiful Watercolor Landscapes is everything I hope for in an art book.  If you’re a watercolor artist, I recommend you place this book at the top of your list.  If you’re considering watercolor, Joyce’s book will inspire you.  

About Sammie Justesen

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

A great investment for writers

A great investment for writers

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A recent review of Dialogue for Writers

What I left with after reading Sammie’s book is a brain swimming with ideas she has generously shared based on her years of experience in all aspects of the industry. She shows us, not just tells us, with style, humor and an easy, comfortable voice. Her examples bring the points to life. Sammie indeed practices what she preaches, and shares with us as reader and writer a fun to read and handy compilation based on experience and insight.   –Gin Getz, author of The Color of the Wild and The Last of the Living Blue

 

 

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