Monday, December 16, 2013

Finding Peace and Joy with Writing

By Deb Dudley
I realized last week that I haven’t written a blog post in months.  Sometimes, when our lives take an unexpected turn, it’s difficult to balance everything.  This past year has been very challenging for me.  My dad is very sick, and as much as I hoped and prayed he’d get better, he hasn’t.  In the midst of my struggle to cope with what is happening, I accidentally stopped writing.  At first I just skipped a day or two.  But as the year progressed, and my dad’s condition worsened, a few skipped days eventually turned into a few skipped weeks. 

It took several months for me to realize I was gradually moving further and further away from writing.  Thankfully, the month of October would be my turning point.  I attended the James River Writing Conference with my good friend Lisa (Elle) Blair.  A few times leading up to the event I thought about skipping it.  I wasn’t sure my heart was in it, but something told me I needed to be there.  And if I could share one piece of wisdom with you, it would be this – when something deep inside tells you to do something, DO IT.  Because by following my instinct and going to the JRW conference, I had a front row seat to glory.  I watched my dear friend Lisa pitch to an agent, submit her manuscript and eventually receive the CALL.  For any new writer who may not be familiar with the CALL, there are two earth-rocking types.  The CALL is either (1) An agent – wanting to discuss representation OR (2) An editor – wanting to discuss the option of publishing your book.  At this point in my career, I have not had the pleasure of receiving either type of CALL yet, but thanks to my writing buddy Lisa, I experienced the next best thing: the joy and bliss of watching her receive her CALL.  I’m delighted to report that Lisa (Elle) Blair is now represented by Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency.  

Coming out of October, my excitement for Lisa lifted my spirits and helped me dive back into writing.  And as luck would have it, November is THE MONTH for picture book creativity.  One of my favorite picture book writers on Twitter, Tara Lazar, dubbed November PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month).  So I dropped by Tara’s website and joined over a thousand other writers in a fabulous month filled with inspiring blog posts and fun giveaways.  By November 30th, I had over sixty new picture book ideas and a few new complete manuscripts ready to submit to my critique partners at Richmond Children’s Writers. 
Now that the holiday season is in full swing, I am swamped with additional responsibilities and commitments, but I am happy to say I am still committed to making writing a top priority.  In the chaos of everything, I know writing brings me peace and joy.

For more information on the two talented ladies I mentioned above, you can visit their websites:
Lisa Blair (pen name Elle Blair):

Tara Lazar:
Have a wonderful holiday season filled with peace, joy, love and writing!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rejection as a Growing Experience

By Chris Sorensen

About two months ago I did something that I have never done before as a writer – I sent out query letters to literary agents (yikes!). I have taken advantage of several opportunities to meet with and pitch my project to agents at writing conferences, but never before have I had to hit ‘send’ on the keyboard with my query attached. It has been a learning experience.

 Having other writer friends who have been through the process, I knew enough to be optimistic, without being unrealistic. Following the advice of some agents who are active bloggers online, I came up with a list of 20 agents to start with. From there, I divided them into groups of 5, starting with the 5 I wanted to work with the most. Of those first 5 agents, these are results I have from my queries:

-          3 flat out rejections – 2 were form rejections and 1 gave honest, encouraging feedback of why that agent wasn’t the one for me, but gave me hope by saying that I was “doing everything right.”

-          1 request for first 50 pages – from the initial query, the agent was interested in reading part of the manuscript; still don’t have final word yet

-          1 still waiting to respond

It would be easy to get down and discouraged…”if nobody has picked it up yet, nobody will”, “why does it have to take so long”, etc. And those feelings are certainly present, especially after you have put all your blood, sweat, and tears into your story, your baby. But there is silver lining in all the rejection, if, as a writer, you are open to looking for it. For myself, I learned that my query was good enough for a couple of requests, but something must be missing. The 1 agent who told me I was “doing everything right” was very sincere and really helped me keep a positive attitude. So before my next round of submissions, I am going to get some critiques on my query, synopsis, and first 10 pages (usually what agents request). Then after I send the next round with my submissions tweaked, hopefully, I’ll get a more positive response.  If not, well then it’s back to the drawing board.

When it’s all said and done, be thankful for rejection, because it means two things: 1) you are willing to submit your work and as long as you keep doing that it means you are not giving up and 2) even with rejection, you are still getting feedback on what directions to take next.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Writing Conferences Redux

By Hazel Buys

Last time I wrote about my delight at attending two writing conferences in October: the James River Writers conference in Richmond, VA, and the MidAtlantic Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference, at the Dulles Holiday Inn, in northern VA.

Did I mention there was homework?

The antecedent to this idea was actually visited upon me at the MidAtlantic SCBWI novel revision retreat held in Richmond, VA, last June. One of the editors at the retreat invited us all to submit queries BUT we were instructed to wait a specified number of weeks after the retreat before submitting. Why? To make use of the information/advice we’d received over the three days in order to improve/revise/complete our novels before submitting.

In other words, make the three days count. It was a revision retreat, after all. And the teaching staff gave us extensive advice on how to do just that.

This rubric, I realized, applies to any conference I attend. There is bound to be lots of advice given out at any conference, no matter how many revisions you have already done on any given piece, on how to improve your writing. You can imagine the list of advice/improvements/ideas for rewriting I had coming off two conferences in one month!

But I did not shrink from the challenge. I have spent the last month rewriting/revising and otherwise improving, checking and polishing the submission I thought I was ready to send off promptly, when the conferences closed. Good thing, too.

My submission is so much better than I thought it could be!

So, how do you continue to profit from writing conferences you attend, long after they are over? Be sure to include new ideas for revision and polishing your work in what you take-away.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Conferences Galore!

by Hazel Buys
October was a whirlwind month! I gave my writing self a BIG gift this year: attendance at both the James River Writers and the SCBWI conferences. My money was well spent. Participation is key, of course. With that in mind, I signed up for pre-conference intensives at both gatherings, as well as a pitch session and a consultation.

The JRW conference offered a track strategy for choosing sessions, offering ‘Exploring Genre,’ ‘Improving Your Craft,’ ‘Getting Published,’ ‘The Life of a Story’ and ‘Promoting Your Book.’ I chose from several different tracks and found the categories useful for prioritizing my interests. At the Library of Virginia Literary luncheon, I was surprised and delighted to find myself sitting at the table with Kevin O’Malley. This funny and immensely talented man spent the time not eating, but drawing an illustration for each person at the table. I saw him bestow more in several sessions I attended. Unexpected blessings!

Cynthia Lord, keynote speaker (Rules) at the SCBWI conference (“The Plusses and Perils of Writing What You Know”), was impressive and inspirational. Her personal experiences on her way to publication of an award-winning debut novel resonated with everyone and gave us much to think about. It was my first experience at the conference’s new location at the Holiday Inn – Dulles. The meeting rooms were comfortable, spacious and all on one floor, with accommodations for those staying overnight just down the hall.

Did you attend either conference? Which one? Leave a comment with your thoughts and take-away moments to share. We’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Archon is here!

Our very own Lana Krumwiede hosted a book launch party for her newest title, Archon, last night at The Library of Virginia! Lana read an exciting passage from the book (the second title in the Freakling series) that included a wild jaguar, attacking soldiers and a mysterious telekinetic woman. The book promises to be every bit as exciting as Freakling. After signing a few copies and reading from the title, Lana answered questions from the audience. She talked about the inspiration for the Freakling trilogy coming to her as a reversal of the superhero type story. Instead of one hero having super power in a normal world, she wondered what would happen if one person were normal in a world of people with super powers. She also explained why there were no animals in her first book, what she learned as a writer from book one to book two, and why not to label your chapter titles until the book is finished. Among the crowd who turned out to see Lana were fellow Richmond authors, Meg Medina, Stephanie Sammartino McPherson, Anne Westrick, and Brian Rock as well as our own RCW members Deb Dudley and Chris Sorenson. The book launch was great fun for all who attended, now I can't wait to launch into the book myself!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Giveaway!!! Go to the James River Writers Conference for FREE!

We are pleased to announce a giveaway for one lucky RCW reader to win

a free conference registration for both days of the James River Writers Conference in Richmond, VA.

The James River Writer's Conference is in its 11th year and continues to set the standard for providing information, feedback, and networking to writers in the Richmond area.  Publishers, editors, and agents from all over the country come to help writers hone their craft.  For more information about this year's conference, please visit:

Many of the Richmond Children's Writers members will be at the JRW conference, and we hope to see you there.

To enter, you MUST leave a comment of 100 words or less explaining why you want to attend the conference this year (and then make sure you login to Rafflecopter below and check that item off the list). You may obtain additional entries into the contest by completing other tasks listed on the Rafflecopter tool: spread the word on FaceBook, Twitter, and other formats. The more items you complete, the better your chance of winning!

The giveaway will run from Friday September 13th until Friday, September 27th. Spread the word!

We're excited to read all the responses!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Fly on the Wall

Highlights from the Richmond Children's Writers September Meeting

Our September meeting was fantastic! Everyone is back from vacation and ready to rock and roll. Here are a few of the more interesting things we discussed:

We all like wacky picture books, but how wacky is too wacky? Can a picture book be too far out? Take this book for example: Dinosaurs Love Underpants. Dinosaurs are a perennial kid favorite, true. And underpants, as discussed in our August meeting, can work for a kids' book. Having said that, Dinosaurs Love Underpants, for me, was just too wacky. But . . . it is a published book, which is nothing to sneeze at. Just goes to show that one person's too-wacky-for-me is another person's book deal. We had some wacky submissions this month, and predictably, those stories drew a variety of reactions from the group.

After reading a chapter from a young adult novel, we discussed this concept:
"The wind howled" is stronger rather than "She heard the wind howling." This is due to fact that in the second sentence, the main character is inserted between the reader and the action. The first sentence makes the reader feel he is the one who is hearing the wind howl. That translates into a more engaging text, which is another way of saying the writing is stronger. Fiction writers would do well to take a good look at sentences phrased with "She saw" or "He felt" or "I heard" or any verb that tells what the main character is perceiving, and rewrite it in a way that allows the reader to experience the sensation as directly as possible.

A submission from a different young adult novel led us into a discussion about novel writing technique. Writing fiction is a complex task, and requires finding the right balance of a lot of moving pieces. Each scene has to move the story forward. It has to do at least one or two other things too, like develop character, set the scene, infuse a mood, build tension, and such. But the primary job of a scene is to move the plot forward. All those other things can be worked in. Each chapter, each scene, has to accomplish several different things at once.
If there were a goddess of multitasking, I imagine she would look something like this.
We will conclude with the September writing prompt:

Write a wacky action scence that weaves in two other elements (choose from character develoment, setting description, mood, or tension). Bonus points for including either dinosaurs or underpants.

Now, write away!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hatching on Twitter

by Deb Dudley

Hi.  I’m @debTWP and I have a confession.  I LOVE Twitter.  In my quest to become more social media savvy, I dropped by Twitter one afternoon just to take a quick peek.  I had my own preconceived notion of what Twitter was, and firmly believed it wasn’t going to be for me.  But shortly after I hatched, I started seeing something I didn’t expect to see.  A huge flock of writers, editors, agents, publishers, teachers and booklovers floating through my twitter feed, tweeting.  And as I read their tweets, I became mesmerized by their conversations and I realized I wanted join them.

 For those of you who have already written off Twitter because you think it’s scary or silly, I’m posting this entry just for you. Don’t knock it, until you try it. Did you know writers are pitching agents on Twitter through events known as #Pitchmas and #Pitchmad?  Real live agents are hovering over those hashtags.  Watching.  Waiting.  And when they see a pitch they like, they swoop in and favorite it.  Then comes the magic.  The chosen ones, the favorites, are invited to submit.  *Cue fairy dust*  In case you’re not totally sold on Twitter yet, hold onto your feathers and read this next part very closely – I have seen writers land an agent through these events.  You may be wondering why I am sharing this juicy piece of Twitter trivia.  Well, I am a writer and a reader.  I want the best stories published.  So if you have a great story, and you feel you need an agent, this might be the way for you to find one.

Have I successfully convinced you to try Twitter?  If so, make sure you tweet me @debTWP and say hello.  Follow me, my writing group @RCW_Lit   and some of the people I follow.  Many of them are established writers, agents, publishers, teachers and book lovers.  Find your favorites.  Read their tweets.   Retweet, favorite or reply if you like them.  Share light-hearted moments and books you love.  And always try to be positive in your tweets.

Want to know why I love Twitter?  I have tweeted back and forth with some of my favorite writers and illustrators.  I have discovered local writers on Twitter who are now my face-to-face friends.  It’s a mecca of information, a bundle of contacts and a phenomenon.

If you think you’re ready, do some internet research on Twitter to learn the basics before you hatch.  Replace your egg with a headshot, add a bio so people know you’re legit, and start tweeting.  Twitter, like all other internet social media, can get hacked.  Only open links from those you trust, and don’t open DM (Direct Messages) links unless you know exactly what they are. 

And one last thing, if something totally fabulous happens to you because you joined Twitter, please let me know.  Because I also LOVE happy endings!

Happy Tweeting!
Previously  posted on Deb Dudley’s Blog

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Author/Illustrator Interview: Kevin O'Malley

Some people have all the talent, and Kevin O'Malley is one of them. He's an amazing illustrator. He can illustrate other people's stories or he can write his own. He's even written books that other people illustrated. On top of that, he's a fantastic presenter  and a hit with the kids at school visits. He's funny. He's nice (as far as I can tell). You can't hate him because he's too much fun to be around. The only thing to do with people like that is hang out with them any time you have a chance.

Luckily, he's coming to the James River Writers Annual Conference this year, which gives us all a chance to do exactly that. And, I had got the opportunity to interview him for the RCW blog, so we can do some virtual hanging out with Kevin O'Malley (KO, awesomest initals ever). Read on!

RCW: In your experience, how does writing compare to illustrating? Is one more challenging? Is the creative process very different for writing and illustrating? Or are they similar?

KO: When I illustrate, I have tried to satisfy the needs of a lot of writers. Writers always imagine. Their imagination is not not mine. When I get a manuscript I always try to imagine what the writer wants. But the text leads me to something different. Most of the time the author understands, but I have run into... problems.  When I make my books I write for me, I imagine spaces for pictures and I see spaces for text. I'm a poor writer. I write to fill holes that I can't express in in illustration.Writing is far, far harder.

RCW: I'm not buying that poor writer bit. Not for a minute. When you're illustrating a book authored by someone else, how much interaction do you have with the author?

KO: I have done a lot of books. Sometimes the authors like what I have done. Sometimes they want to poke my eyes out with hot pokers. The truth is, illustrator and authors don't talk. I am left to see what I see in the text.
This idea makes authors crazy. But I can say that I've never called an author and asked them to change a bit of text that I find lousy. You have to let the artist have their space. On the flip side, I always offer a piece of art to any author who is kind enough to work with me. Most of the time, truth be told, the writer wants a bit of art. Not sure how I feel about being hit by a dart in a club room basement.

RCW: Bonus safety tip: stay away from darts. So how do you get feedback on your work? 
KO: I have lovely friends and relations. They love me. I visit a ton of schools. Kids like my work. That is feedback enough. Praise is wonderful. But being comfortably middle class in a brilliant industry is a joy. My first book got me banned and more 'news' than I was comfortable with. I quickly realized that what I want in kids books and what the biz wants are different.

RCW: How do you decide which project to work on next?

KO: I have been married for twenty plus years to a wonderful women. We have delightful children. When I'm offered a job I consider the pass and fail of the text. Most of the time I want the coin. I will bend over backwards to make everybody happy.

On the flip side... Many years ago my wife fell in love with The Police and the musician Sting. She said, "I would wash his dirty hair." I told her if, on the off chance Sting should want me to do a book, she could have at him. Ten years later I was offered a book by Sting. I took the call while the wife was in the room. It was fish or cut bait. I told them I would call them back and explained the situation to my wife.... She said, "Oh my god, I'm going to wash his dirty hair!" I called the publisher and said no deal. To this day I lay in bed with one eye open.

RCW: So glad to hear your priorities are in order. So, tell us what your typical work day is like.

KO: I get up early and and finish the list of work I mapped out the day before. The muse is bull.

RCW: I'll won't tell the muse you said that. Your books cover a lot of different topics and genres. Is this true for you as a reader as well? What kinds of books do you like to read?

KO: I tend to read non fiction. I've tried so many other ways but true to the guy in me I want information not introspection.

RCW: What kinds of research do you do for your work?

KO: I write what amuses me. Research? Only when I need it. But if you don't love going to a library and hitting the stacks and finding interesting stuff, you don't know what good quality time is all about.

I have wanted to do kid's books since I was in the fourth grade. 
But the truth is, I got lucky. I dreamed of this and by happenstance, it happened. My friends think it's a hoot that it happened. And they are right.

RCW: One last question. What’s your favorite weapon for fighting off zombies? Just kidding, but we still want to know!

KO: Easy. "Shawn of the Dead." I'd throw my lesser ancient records at them. Heck, they're slower than me! 

But don't touch my first pressing 'Gentle Giant' albums man!

RCW: Wouldn't dream of it! Thanks so much, Kevin for the interview. 

If you'd like to join Kevin at the JRW conference, click over and register right now. Many of us at Richmond Children's Writers will be there too, and we'd love to meet up. Look for us there!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hall of Fame

My family and I had the opportunity to travel to Canton, OH for the NFL Hall of Fame induction weekend this year. While we were in the area, we took a side trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. We enjoyed both halls tremendously. It was inspiring to see so many people who define their craft at one location. Which got me to thinking, isn't it time for a children's writer Hall of Fame? Wouldn't that be great to see all the luminaries of children's writing in one place? And if I were on the nominating committee I would select A.A. Milne, Lewis Carol, Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems for the inaugural class. Who would you choose?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fly On the Wall

Highlights from the Richmond Children's Writers August Meeting

The first manuscript we critiqued this month was a resubmission after significant rewrites. We all noted how much stronger the story was now. This time around, the comments were much different. They had to do with very minor things like formatting issues, tightening a little here and a little there, and whether there might be a better choice for the main character's name. When a manuscript is close to being ready to submit, the type of feedback from readers will begin to change. The suggestions become very nit-picky, very micro. This can be frustrating, but it is a good sign. It means the big story elements are strong and there is nothing left to suggest but very minor changes.

The next manuscript is an excerpt from a young-adult novel that is set in a fantasy version of the Middle Ages. Many of us felt that the emotions and the tension in this section of the novel were well written and very compelling. One comment was that the story needed to be more grounded in the setting. That is, the vocabulary, the clothing, and the details should anchor the story soundly in its setting. This requires extra thought and research, but in a story like this one, it is absolutely necessary.

Next topic: Underwear. Some members of our group think this is a super fun topic for a picture book. Others are not so sure. It's a matter of personal taste. The world is made up of all kinds of people, including some who will enjoy a brief story about undies, and some who would rather read a story about frogs. 
The mixed reaction from the group can be a learning point in itself. It doesn't mean the manuscript is not marketable, but you might have to work a little harder to find the right editor or agent to send it to. Moral of the story: It's important to find just the right fit for underpants. 

The next submission is not really a critique, but a discussion. One of our members has a great idea for a nonfiction children's book, but she is looking for a way to present it in a kid-friendly way. She brought some examples of how this topic has been treated in other books for kids. She floated a few ideas and we discussed the possibilities. This is an area in which she is very knowledgeable and passionate. We all agreed that if she can find a way to capture that passion, young readers will respond to that.

Lastly, we discussed another excerpt from a novel. Parts of the scene were very visual, and we liked that. However, there was one thing in particular, a certain reaction by the protagonist, that seemed out of character. Given his background and his family situation, would he really react that way? These kinds of inconsistencies are hard for the writer to see, but once pointed out, they become glaringly obvious. That's why we need writing buddies!

For your writing pleasure, we offer a fun little writing prompt made up of elements taken from our manuscripts this month:

Write a scene in which a character in a historical setting makes a choice of underwear that is inconsistent with what he or she would normally choose. What motivates that choice?

Now, write away!

Monday, July 29, 2013

How Important Is A Good Title?

by Hazel Buys
How do you go about choosing a title for your novel? Step 1: search Amazon, Google (or similar) for the title you want to use. If it’s already taken, cross off and go to next choice. Repeat. Once you have a title that doesn’t show up in your searches, you’re done, right? Not necessarily. What makes a good title (other than it isn’t out there yet)?

I’ll tell you what makes a bad title: one that gives away the end of your book. Who would do that? You’d be amazed. I just finished reading a middle grade book that does just that. The title (changed to protect the guilty) is similar to: “Eddie’s Championship Spring.” This fictional book is about a boy who enters a track competition to determine the region’s champion. Can you guess who wins? When a writer gives away the ending in the title, all tension and suspense has to come from somewhere else. Subplots? Interpersonal dynamics? The stress of training? The weather? It almost doesn’t matter. We already know the ending.
The best titles sum up the book without giving anything away. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great example. It’s intriguing, mysterious and we don’t really understand why it’s such a good title until we finish the book and learn what happens. I’m sure you have your own favorites. Titles are part and parcel of why we love certain books. Make sure you don’t hamstring your novel from the get-go because of the first words the reader encounters: the title.

Monday, July 22, 2013

New Partners: Amazon and Goodreads (Part 2)

by Hazel Buys
Is everyone aware that Amazon recently bought Goodreads? The pairing of a major online retailer of books (and just about everything else) and a major reading fan base suggests huge opportunities for writers of all genres. To help us get up to speed, Sarah Pinneo, author of Julia's Child (Plume, 2012) posted an entry on the Query Tracker blog site. Follow this link for Part 2:

While you're there, check out Query Tracker if you are new to the site and visit Sarah's website at

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Surreal Moment

By Deb Dudley
About five years ago, give or take, I attended my very first writing event.  A newbie to Richmond and children's writing, I remember leaving my house several hours early.  My printed directions (it was my Pre-iPhone era) estimated travel time at 40 minutes. I think we can all agree, "estimated" times are generally calculated for the directionally savvy traveler. So, if something is important, and I want to be there, I ALWAYS add a huge buffer.  I'm a writer, not an explorer.

I'd love to tell you that I arrived with oodles of time to spare, but let's just say I made it there.  And, although I was incredibly nervous about finding the place, and being around other writers who knew more people and more about writing than me, I bravely took a huge step outside my comfort zone.  And, I'm so happy I did.  Because, it was on THAT day, at THAT event, I decided to become children's book writer.  Although I was totally new to the world of children's literature, I had miraculously stumbled into an event with two of the best children's book writers in Virginia.  Gigi Amateau and Meg Medina.  And as they shared their stories and as I listened to them talk, I grew to like them. I became genuinely happy for each of them and their success. And as they confidently chatted about their craft, I felt as if they were encouraging me and the rest of the crowd to embrace our dream of writing.  To become fellow writers.  To join them.  Before that day, I toyed with the idea of writing stories for children.  After that day, I decided it was more than just a passing urge.  I knew I needed to write stories for children.  And so I did.  

Over the past five years, I've learned quite a bit about writing and who I want to be as a writer.  I've attended countless events, created mind-boggling manuscripts, made several friends and joined one incredible critique group.      

AND then last Thursday, on June 27, I had the honor of sharing a stage with Meg Medina and two other talented writers on The Writing Show with James River Writers.  We talked about the writer's platform, branding, websites, tag-lines, social media, networking, book launches and community involvement.  We discussed the importance of being authentic.  Sitting next to Meg and listening to her voice, I remembered how her words had inspired me years ago. It was an incredibly surreal moment.  

For more information on James River Writers, visit the Shout Outs tab on my website at

Monday, July 1, 2013

Does Reading Help Your Writing?

"If you want to be a good writer you have to read...LOTS!"
Have you ever heard anybody say that?

I got sick of it.  Every time I went to a website that talked about writing, or perused a writing magazine, or talked to an author, they all said the same thing: "Make sure you spend just as much time reading as you do writing."


Old me: "Well that's stupid.  I'm trying to become a writer!  I have family, work...LIFE.  If I don't take every extra second I have to write I'll never get that best-seller written!"

Well, old me was ignorant and stubborn.  Thankfully I saw the light.

Three years ago I was still in the early stages of working on my new YA novel and I was at Barnes and Noble with my wife.  She had gone off to wander the shelves and I was going through the magazine stacks.

I walked past the new Writer's Digest once.  I walked past it twice.  Finally I picked it up.

I walked over to the cafe and sat down next to my love, who had two or three books she was skimming through (she's an avid reader).  I began looking over the articles and pretending like I was interested and learning a lot.  I stopped on an article that said, in a nutshell, "Read More And Become a Better Writer".  I sighed, frustrated.

Again with the reading!

My wife was sitting there with her stack of books.  I remember breaking down and gently asking her, "If I read more do you think I'll be a better writer?"

Short of stating the obvious, she kindly, encouragingly, said, "If you were to ask any one of the authors who has their book in this store that question, what do you think they would say?"

I looked around the store at the THOUSANDS of books and reality set in.  I finally decided to let go of my pride and found the humility to do what had been blatantly obvious all along - READ!

"Honey, what's the best written book you've read recently?"

She thought for a second and replied, "'The Goose Girl' by Shannon Hale."  Uh, okay...sounds manly!

I got the book the next day from the library and read several chapters.  The writing was amazing and on a WHOLE different plane than the stuff I was typing on the keypad.  It would have been easy to get discouraged, but...

The next time I sat down to write, I instantly noticed an improvement in my writing.  No kidding; it was instant.  And the more I continued to read, the more my writing continued to improve.

I am here to testify to you that it works.  Yes, reading does make you a better writer!

Ever since then I have been an active reader.  I strive to read a book every two weeks.  Sometimes the books are well written and I learn ways to improve and sometimes I don't like what I'm reading and I learn the type of writing I want to avoid.  Either way, I'm learning and growing as a writer.

So if you are not already, find something to read...and don't stop - your writing will thank you for it!

PS - Thank you Shannon Hale for opening my eyes!

If you are a writer, how does being a more active reader help your writing?