Time To Give Back

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When I decided to leave my full-time job in order to spend this year focused on writing, I didn’t expect it to be easy, I know making a career writing is hard work. But I guess what I didn’t expect was for it to be hard to actually focus on the writing process itself. It sounds easy right, or at least like fun. It sounds like the dream life, spending all day, everyday doing the one thing I want to do most. But it didn’t work that way. Some days I just didn’t feel like writing, couldn’t think of anything to write, or started stressing the money making part.

Thing one thing that has really kept me motivated and writing even when I didn’t feel like it were attending writing workshops. Since I haven’t been making any money, my only option was to find free ones. Thankfully, The New York Writers Coalition had several different free workshops. While the workshops I attended were open to anybody, much of their work focuses on under served individuals in the city. They facilitate workshops for youth, seniors, women, LGBT communities, people living with disabilities, people who are incarcerated or have been incarcerated. While I have known about the organization for some time, even attended readings and entered a contest they held, I finally began attending the workshops this year. And it’s been incredible. In addition to writing a ton of new material I’ve also met some amazing people and shared some great moments with them. No matter how many days I wasted feeling sorry for myself, I could always look forward to the two hours a week (or more when I attended a couple a week) writing, sharing and listening to the writing of others.

Because of how much I appreciate the work that goes into providing these workshops I’ve decided to participate in the Write Your A** Off fundraiser this year. My goal is to raise two hundred dollars, the 500minimum for me to participate in a day of workshops. Yes there is something in it for me but honestly I’d be doing this even if there wasn’t. I sincerely want to give back to this organization that has helped me so much. I’m hoping some of my blog readers can help me reach my goal. I don’t like asking others for help, especially monetary donations, but I believe this is worth it. I just want to make sure that The New York Writers Coalition can keep doing their great work.

If you’d like to donate please click this link, it will bring you to my fundraising page. I’m not asking a lot, even if it’s only a few dollars, every little bit will help me reach my goal.

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Writing Workshop Exercise

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Last week I got the chance to attend a free writing workshop offered by the New York Writers Coalition. I was surprised by how few people attended, there were four people including myself. But the small group made it very pleasant and easy for everybody to participate. The workshop leader gave us a series of prompts, we wrote for about fifteen minutes and then shared what we wrote.

While all the prompts were interesting, there was one in particular I thought was a great writing exercise. It was based on a book excerpt describing the setting using landmarks and other clues that let the reader know the location without ever naming it. We all tried our hand at it and below is what I came up with.

A strip lined with hotels in repair from the last hurricane. Beach view rooms on one side, the Lagoon on the other. To the south tourist spend days admiring ancient ruins. As night descends, crowds fill the streets looking to party. Heading to Senior Froggies to sip margaritas or shots of Tequila.

I was aiming to describe a specific location but the group was able to figure out the general area. If you have any guesses let me know in the comments.

Poetry Writing Excercise

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On my usual pursuit of free events I found another one from my new favorite, Gotham Writers Workshops. As part of their fall open house, last night I attended a one hour poetry class. Part of the class called for a writing exercise, to write about the world around an object, person, etc., basically describing it without actually naming it. Here’s what I came up with:

Day in Day out ripping away at my scalp
Hiding in the darkness to calm the migraines
Frustration building as nothing gets better
Yet here I come back for comfort and security
Day in Day out knowing you’re not going anywhere

So what do you think? I’m impressed with myself especially since I haven’t done much poetry writing in a long time. It actually came to me pretty quickly and easily. Well okay I did go back and edit some. (I had extra time) Even so the more important thing is I got writing and it was actually a really fun class. Carter, our instructor, was probably the only teacher that made poetry actually sound as fun as it should be. He was also funny and entertaining enough to make me think twice about signing up for the course. Then I remembered I don’t have money.  Well there’s always another time, I hope.

Gotham Writers Workshop’s At-a-Glance Free Class

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As somebody who always wanted a career in writing and publishing, I thought many times of trying out the Gotham Writers Workshop classes. However, after looking at some of the prices and not knowing what to expect I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it.  Recently, after following their Facebook page I saw an offer for the At-A-Glance free class. Of course, I’m up for almost anything as long as it is free and it was completely worth it.

They had instructors in three different genres discuss major elements and then we worked on a short exercise. We went over fiction writing, focusing on character development. The class answered questions about the character’s occupation, dream job, relationship status, age, and even what she looked like. The exercise got us writing about a conflict like what the worst thing she ever did. We also went over non-fiction and how you could still use your imagination with character descriptions, structure, and even speculating about particular elements of the story. Our exercise prompted us to speculate on a true story.

I think the most fun and enlightening was the lesson in screen writing. The instructor spoke about the tone of a movie. The tone can be another way to describe the perspective of the story. Through changing the perspective the tone will change. This then leads to distinguishing the genre. The exercise we had was to take a log line (short description of plot) of a movie and write it from a different perspective changing the genre. This is a good exercise to help define the genre and lead your writing if you are struggling. Because I enjoyed this so much I’ll share with you what I wrote. I picked the movie, American Psycho.

“A young successful Wall Street Broker struggles to fit in with his overly-materialistic social circle. Infidelity, drug-use and petty jealousy leads to a mental breakdown.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m was really glad that they were able to work in exercises to get us writing. They also had food and drinks for after that class and we got the chance to socialize with the other attendees and the instructors. I’m very glad I got to find out about their classes. In fact I found out that in addition to their courses that last several weeks they also have single day workshops called write-ins. The write-ins seem like a great way to get writing more often and a great way to meet other writers.

Marketing for Creatives Workshop by Etsy

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A couple weeks ago May 24th, I attended a workshop run by Etsy.com, Duct Tape Marketing for Creative Entrepreneurs. As a student of business I have a special fascination with marketing and advertising. So when I saw a friend post a link and a code to get free tickets to this workshop I just had to go. (though tickets were only $5) It was geared towards creative craft makers who have shops on Etsy.com. However, I figured it would still be informative and worth the trip. I was correct. The workshop featured John Jantsch presenting the basics of marketing. John is a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.

To my great satisfaction he started out by explaining that though it was called marketing for creatives, there really is no difference. All marketing is based on the same principles.

Before getting into the explanation of what marketing is and how to perform it properly he explained the characteristics needed to run a small business.

  1. Purpose
  2. Love
  3. Wonder
  4. Courage
  5. Grace

He went on to explain that most small businesses are still just a hobby. The major determining factor between it being a hobby and a business is marketing. To really be a professional business you have to be proactive and search out your customers through a thought out marketing strategy.

He described marketing as a system.  The goal of this system is for people to know, like and trust you and your business.

He stresses several points associated with a good marketing system. I’ve outlined a few of the main points I jotted down during the presentation.

  • Strategy before tactics-A narrow focus and a clear definition of your ideal customer help with your differentiation and domination of your market.
  • Marketing Hour Glass-This is essentially an extended version of the concept of the marketing funnel. Where that ends at the buying stage, he stressed the importance of the whole buying experience in order to not just make a sale but also get repeat business and referrals.
  • The Information Business-With the abundance of available information on the internet business owners need to provide content to their market. Connecting to your potential customers in many forms of media can gain you more traffic which could turn into sales.
  • Create a total Web Presence-Essentially make sure you are utilizing all the social media tools, local directories, and ratings or review sites to your best ability. In addition they should all connect back to your main website or online store.
  • Live by the Calendar-Marketing can be a big task there can be many different elements to take on at once and it can be overwhelming. Using a calendar to outline monthly themes, weekly actions and daily appointments can help keep it to a manageable level.

All in all I think it was a very informative and entertaining workshop. For me a majority of the presentation was a refresher but there were some great elements I got from it. For those with no marketing knowledge it broke it down to pretty simple terms that could easily be followed.

It helped that they had refreshments and snacks, it made the trip there worth it. I found out later they would be simultaneously live streaming the presentation. Though if I had been at home I would not have paid much attention.

To read John Jantsch blogs or find out more about him you can visit www.ducttapemarketing.com.

Etsy is a website and community for people that sell handmade goods, and connect them with customers. Visit www.etsy.com to find out more.

Death and Mourning in Ethnic Literature

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I am halfway through my last semester at BMCC and am taking this great literature class. We are reading four different novels by ethic writers. In addition, we have to read several articles dealing with the process of mourning, loss, and trauma. I think it is very interesting to apply some psychological theory to the way that these writers interpret how people deal with loss. The books that we are reading are Bone, by Fa Myenne Ng, Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Carlos Hijuelos, Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko, and Praise Song for the Widow, by Paule Marshall.

In the class, we are not only focusing on the indiviual loss the characters go through, but also about the larger issue of loss for ethnic people in America. Besides the literal physical death of family members these books deal with the larger issue of loss of identity and culture. These authors use a death to represent these larger issues of loss. This applies a lot to the immigrant stories but as well to all nationalties that are not thought of as mainstream, majority, white America. For example, the novel Ceremony is about Native Americans, who suffer the loss of their land to outsiders, who in turn made them feel like outsiders in their home.

The class is very compelling, but very difficult. The themes and some of the material that we are dealing with takes a lot of effort to grasp. For the class we have to write three papers. I just finished the second paper for the class. For the first time in years I really struggled with getting the  paper done. I just had so many things that I could have covered and had a hard time organizing them into a coherent paper. It took a lot of work to cut things out and still have it be understandable, clear and to a point. In the end, I’m not even sure that I was able to accomplish that. I’m just glad that I will be able to revise the paper and hand it in for a new grade. I just hope that I will be able to get the last paper done well. I have a little over a month left and I am really starting to feel the pressure.