The Only Cure for Writer’s Block? Writing.

August 26, 2013

When I teach writing, I always tell people that the only cure for writer’s block is writing.

Now it’s time for me to buck up and follow my own advice.

I’ve read all the Dark Crystal books I can get my hands on, cover-to-cover, poring over the pictures and taking notes. I have enough bare bones to begin writing my contest entry. There’s no more excuse now for putting it off. Except that I’m intimidated.

The world of the Dark Crystal is lush and complex and ancient and, above all, visually stunning. A world meant for the eyes to devour. And capturing that same sense of awe and beauty in writing will be difficult, so difficult that the task of transforming a blank computer screen into something similar seems almost impossible.

But starting a new project always feels impossible. And by not writing, I’m not using the part of my brain that knows how to make those connections, that can break through writer’s block. There are things that can happen in your mind when you write that just won’t happen when you’re just thinking. That’s why writing through writer’s block works. It gets your mind engaged in the right way again, and even if you have to write pages of crap, usually in the midst of it there’s an “aha!” moment that you never would have uncovered if you just tried to solve the issue while washing dishes or walking the dog, staying in your mind, not using the tools that you will need to break through this wall. You can’t nail a board back onto the deck by just thinking about a hammer, and you can’t break through writer’s block by just thinking about it, either.

Mondays are my blogging days, which give me a reprieve. And tomorrow I blog for Young Adult Catholics. But on Wednesday morning, my task is clear: I will be writing my outline for the Dark Crystal’s Authorquest. Here’s hoping that will help my story “crystalize” enough to write those crucial 10,000 words.


The Dark Crystal Authorquest and Writing on Assignment

July 29, 2013

A few weeks ago, I decided that I needed to put my Rapunzel novel on hold so that I could wrap up a few other fiction projects. The first was my Rumpled ebook. The second is entering a submission in The Dark Crystal Authorquest contest.

I found out about the Authorquest about a month ago. I saw The Dark Crystal once as a little girl, and again as a teen. I was always intrigued by the world and I loved the puppetry. When I watched it again after deciding to enter the contest, I realized I’ve been having dreams about the Mystics for years, but was unable to place where the images had come from. Now I know they must have lodged in my subconscious from my earlier viewings of The Dark Crystal. That gave me a sense of connection to the material that confirmed my decision to enter the contest.

I have three books about The Dark Crystal waiting for me at the library, and I’m hoping reading them will spark something. I’ve been making notes, watching the movie and all the commentary, reading everything on But still, a story hasn’t emerged for me.

I feel like I am absolutely qualified to write something of this nature. The Authorquest is searching for a young adult, fantasy series. I write fantasy. I write young adult. I’ve also written a lot of fan-fiction, so I understand working within someone else’s creation.

But as the days pass and I find myself no closer to an idea, my confidence wavers. I think, if I’m having this much trouble, there’s no way I could win the contest. But it’s not really about winning anymore. Now, it’s about proving to myself that I can do this. Although I write non-fiction on assignment frequently as a freelancer, I’ve only successfully written fiction on assignment once, when I wrote my short story “The Man in the Mirror” specifically for inclusion in Queer Dimensions. But the idea of writing fiction on assignment has always intrigued me, and I know other writers make their living doing this. Consider the ghost writers for the Animorphs series, the V.C. Andrews books that kept being published after she was long-dead, and the James Patterson writing factory.

I remember watching the special features on the JEM DVD collection (one of my favorite TV shows from my childhood), and hearing Christie Marx talk about how she was given the character designs for the JEM doll line and tasked to write a TV series about them. Some people think that this type of work is done “just for the money” or “just to sell the merchandise,” but I don’t agree. I fully believe that, even writing fiction on assignment, even when taking direction from someone else’s vision, you can fall in love with the story you’re writing. It can become just as precious as your totally original work. Erin Hunter (actually a pseudonym for a team of writers) was hired specifically to write a fantasy series about cats. The head writer, Victoria Holmes, doesn’t even like cats — but she is able to write dozens of books, which her readers adore, because she’s taken the cats’ storylines and made them her own, weaving her own personal experiences — such as health crises — into the Warriors plots. If a writer doesn’t come to cherish her fiction, I don’t think it will connect with readers the way that the Warriors series clearly has.

I know I can’t force creativity, but I need to keep showing up nonetheless. Reading, imagining, jotting down the bare wisps of ideas at the corners of my mind. I want to do this not to win the $10,000 or the publishing contract (although those things would be wonderful!) but to prove to myself that it’s something I can do.

I’ll let you know if I turn out to be right.

Another Niche Opportunity

March 17, 2010

I just came across this Call for Essays for a book about being single and Catholic. The deadline is April 30, which is very close, but the essay length is 500 words or less. Something that could be whipped up in a hurry and still adequately revised in 6 weeks time. The call includes a list of provocative questions to get the juices flowing, too.

I’m not sure if I’m qualified to submit to this market right now, since I’m newly (and unexpectedly) in love and spending much more time pondering relationships than singlehood these days. Even so, I want to say THANK GOD that this book is being written. As someone who has been Catholic since they day I was born (or maybe baptized?) and single for most of my adult life, I’m all-too-aware of the invisibility singles experience in Church settings. I attended church alone for years, and never once did anyone approach me to learn who I was. All the “women’s” events at my parish were really events for wives and mothers. And despite living a very full and fulfilling life, I couldn’t always keep the insecurity of somehow being “less than” at bay (less pretty? less mature? less compassionate? or the big fear lurking at everyone’s core — less lovable?).

This book will be like water in a desert to Catholic, perhaps all, singles. And ultimately, that’s what’s most precious to me about books, and writing: the ability they have to make us feel less alone. When I speak to teenagers for my library job, I often assure them that, no matter what they’re experiencing and how alone it makes them feel, there’s probably a book written about it — proof that someone else has been there, has thought about it. When it comes to this issue, I have been there, and I’m so glad that someone is writing about it.

Put Those Poems to Good Use

June 26, 2009

I just entered three of my poems from National Poetry Writing Month into WEbook‘s poetry contest. WEbook calls themselves the “American Idol” of creative writing. Essentially, it’s a vast web community of writers and readers who write, upload, read, and critique the user-generated content on the site. From time to time, WEbook publishes the projects that receive the best reviews.

I signed up for my WEbook account months ago, but I’ve only started poking around there recently.  Submissions for the poetry project opened on June 15 and will close on August 1, when the voting will begin. That means I submitted my poems relatively early — yet, they still were plopped at the end of a LONG line (23 pages) of already-submitted poetry. My hunch is that the earlier you submit, the better, because there are going to be LOTS of poems to peruse, and probably many voters who won’t keep reading till the end. But there’s still plenty of time for you to throw your own poetry into the ring!

Even if the poetry contest isn’t your thing, WEbook seems like a useful place to get diverse feedback on your work, which could be especially helpful for writers without writers groups. It also seems like a place that could swallow you up and take hours of your precious writing or working time . . . which is why I’ve resisted the urge to go there often. But it may be just what the doctor ordered for anyone with a boring sit-at-the-computer-jobs that allow for daily, web-surfing. 😉

Submission Opportunity: Writing about Mental Illness

May 25, 2009

My sister recently alerted me to this call for creative writing submissions around the theme of depression and mental illness:

The National Network of Depression Centers is seeking art for an exhibition at our NNDC Annual Conference September 28-29, 2009

The National Network of Depression Centers is seeking art for an exhibition at our NNDC Annual Conference September 28-29, 2009. This event focuses on the field of Psychiatry and simultaneously offers a platform for interaction of professionals from various fields.

This exhibition will focus on how art can be used as a resource for education and outreach programs to raise awareness about mental health (e.g. depression, bipolar, anxiety, mood disorders etc.). Art on or about mental health, emotional art, or therapeutic art are welcome, as are conceptual pieces regarding these topics.  Work in any 2-D or 3-D media, as well as creative writing, may be submitted.

NOTE: This exhibition is planned to tour nationally from late summer 2009 until mid 2010.  Only work that is available for loan for the entire duration of the tour will be considered.  Work will be insured by the NNDC during the exhibition.

Submissions accepted by email only. Send up to 5 JPEGs (Mac & PC compatible), with slide list including media and dimensions, plus a no more than 200 word artist statement to Lindsay Stern at

DEADLINE:  June 5, 2009

Artists will notified of selection by June 30, 2009.

For more information on the National Network of Depression Centers, visit

I expect this exhibit to display some stunning work, as researchers continue to investigate the link between creativity and mental illness. Although it’s not quite as well documented, I’m also a firm believer in the healing power of creativity. I’m not sure if I’m going to submit something or not, but I encourage those who feel moved to do so. There’s no telling the healing, connection, compassion, and awareness your creativity might bring.

Last minute markets: Scripts and Poetry

April 9, 2009

In honor of ScriptFrenzy and NaPoWriMo, here are a couple last-minute markets for scripts and poems.


fee: $45, prize see below, Deadline is April 15th, 2009

Must be 18 or older to enter. Any genre will be considered.

Multiple submissions are accepted, but one application form and entry fee must be attached to each entry.

Each submission must include the following:
– The completed entry form
– The appropriate entry fee
– The completed feature screenplay

Scripts must be in English, between 80 and 140 pages long. Pages must be numbered on standard format paper bound with two or three brads.

Winners receive a cash prize and possible agency representation.send: Complete MS

looking for: Screenplay

Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize

fee: $20, word count: 48-70 pages, prize $1000, Deadline is April 30th, 2009

Submit a manuscript of 48-70 pages of original poetry in any style in English. The manuscript must not have been published previously in book form, although individual poems appearing in print or on the web are permitted. Entries may consist of individual poems, or a book-length poem—or any combination of long or short poems.

Submitted manuscript must contain 2 title pages: Name and contact information should appear on first title page only. Name should not appear anywhere else in the manuscript.

Manuscript should be typed, single-spaced, paginated, and, if sending by regular mail, bound with a spring clip.

Include a table of contents page and an acknowledgements page for magazine or anthology publications.

Enclose an SASE for announcement of the winner. (If submitting electronically a receipt will be emailed to you immediately after a successful upload of your manuscript.)

Manuscript cannot be returned.

Postmark deadline: April 30, 2009.

If submitting by regular mail include a check or money order for $20 entry fee, payable to MARSH HAWK PRESS.send: Complete MS

looking for: Poetry

AND I tried to embed the nifty WordHustlerSubmit to This Market” widgets and couldn’t for the life of me get them to work. This is not the first time trying to embed html in WordPress has gone awry, so if anyone has tips, I’d love to hear them! (And yes, I DID switch to HTML version to embed the code).

How to Cheat During NaPoWriMo

April 2, 2009

After confessing that I was stressing about a poem a day, a friend left a comment with this site that would allow NaPoWriMo cheating, if one does so desire. Here’s the poem I got:

A mountainous range stood before the cold Little Red Riding Hood
Scoff not at my vile remarks elastic fiend
Crushed by the evil eyelash he laughs at the feeble beagle.
Stars filled her mind–it was if sea slugs were creaming her head.
All were in a circle of juggling horns of death–stiff and satiny,
Pools remain from the violet killer whale
How easily did the dream come apart, like Indian summer in one’s stomach
She tossed and turned, her delighted leg flapping uselessly,
So deal not with this once thy glorious surfer chick.

I’m going to try writing a series of real Little Red Riding Hood poems in hopes of generating something for this call for submissions.