Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year from noranagatani.com!

Happy New YearCan you believe another year has flown by? Happy New Year! Here at noranagatani.com it was an incredible year of awesome experiences. I hope it was full of wonderful memories for you as well. For my husband and me, it was always the anticipation of seeing and being with our now 16-month old granddaughter. She flew in with her parents on Christmas night and it was the best gift anyone could ask for. Together with my younger son and his wife, we are currently enjoying our holiday family reunion.IMG_6773

Are you living your life’s purpose? I had a hand analysis done this year and found that I am a gifted healer. It validated my wanting to learn and practice Cellular Response, an energy healing modality founded in California by Dan Yamaguchi of Silicon Valley Health and Wellbeing. It gives me immense pleasure to help people with their pain (and as seniors, don’t our bodies pop up with pain here and there all the time?) I am very excited about continuing my education in this area.

I hope you enjoyed Joanne Lozar Glenn’s series on writing. I am inviting more senior guest bloggers to join me on this blog to share their expertise with you. I’ve met many of them through the Women’s Network of Springfield, a women’s networking group that I co-founded. If you have a Facebook account, you can visit us here.

Take good care of yourself. Remember, the gift of health is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones. Happy New Year!

How to Evaluate a Writing Class

JG teaching

Joanne Lozar Glenn teaching a writing class

Taking a writing class is one way to develop your writing skills and move forward on your writing project. But how do you know if the class is worth your time? Today, in the sixth and last post of this series, guest blogger Joanne Lozar Glenn addresses that question: “How to Evaluate a Writing Class.”

Writing classes are a great way to give yourself deadlines for your writing project and become a more skillful storyteller.

But if you’ve never taken a writing class before, how do you know if it’s a good one?

First, check out the instructor’s personality, background, and focus. If you talk to the program director, consider asking what kind of feedback the instructor tends to get.

Once you’re enrolled, use these questions to decide if the class is a good educational experience:

• Does the class inspire you to write?
• Is the instructor encouraging? Does s/he show respect for all participants’ work?
• Has s/he emphasized confidentiality with respect to the writing everyone shares?
• Is class content customized to participants’ needs?
• Are you encouraged to discover and stay true to your own voice, even while learning techniques for honing and clarifying that voice?
• Does the instructor provide examples of how to apply a particular writing technique?
• Can the instructor explain a concept in more than one way? Do the explanations and examples make sense?
• Does s/he find and comment on your strengths as a writer?
• Does s/he have you improve one or two things at a time, rather than redlining everything in your story?
• Can you feel your writing changing?
• Do you feel safe enough to explore challenging subjects?
• Has the instructor set ground rules for responding to others’ work, and modeled appropriate and inappropriate responses?
• Has s/he clarified the differences between responses that are appropriate for first drafts versus those for revised drafts?
• Does the instructor admit that her response is only one opinion… and encourage you to trust what resonates?
• Are you learning from the other class participants as well as from the instructor?

If you can answer “yes” to most of the questions, then you’ve got a winner.

Where can find writing classes? Here are a few opportunities in metropolitan Washington, DC:
Fairfax County Adult and Community Education
Vienna Community Center (see p. 28)
The Writers Center

Happy New Year, happy writing!

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picture out of focusTo hold your audience’s attention, keep your writing focused, writes guest blogger Joanne Lozar Glenn in today’s post.

Focus: One Key to Writing Text that Readers Want to Read

Think of the last fuzzy photograph you took. Did you keep it? Or did you throw it away? I’m betting you threw it away, probably because the fuzziness made it hard to know what the photo was really about.

There’s a metaphor here. Readers don’t get into fuzzy writing either.
Bonnie Hearn Focus your Writing
Bonnie Hearn’s written a classic on this topic: Focus Your Writing. Her key message: Decide if you want your piece to entertain, explain, instruct, or inform. Then you can shape the parts to meet the overall goal.

Though Hearn was talking about journalism, her advice also makes sense for life stories. How do you apply it?

Here’s a technique some successful writers use:  they write a sentence about what they want the story to do—for example, to let people experience how it felt to be nineteen in a foreign country, by myself, not knowing the language, with $20 in my pocket—then they tape this sentence to their computer screen (or to the draft when they’re ready to revise). Everything that goes in the piece must further their purpose. If it doesn’t, then they delete it (or save it for another story).

It may seem harsh (as William Faulkner put it, you “kill your darlings,”) but I’ve seen his advice make a huge difference in creating work that others want to read. How about you? What works when you’re trying to stay on topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Do you dream of writing a book? Do you wonder — will it sell? Go for it—it’s a great feeling of accomplishment. Then when you’re ready, check out these tips on how to determine if your book is marketable, so you can decide whether and/or how to pursue publication, writes guest blogger (and published author) Joanne Lozar Glenn in today’s post.

So you’ve got this idea for a book . . .
… and you’re wondering if it’s “publishable.”*

This is a real question lots of would-be authors have—in fact, it came from a friend just today. Here’s what I told her.

First, understand that you’re really asking “What’s marketable?” and not “What’s publishable?” Big difference.

Lots of things are “publishable,” especially through “print on demand” publishers. You write your book, you pay for printing, you get your copy.

But to be marketable, your idea must be so compelling that people will buy your book.

How do you know if your book will sell? Basic market research:

1. Find out how many and what kind of books on your topic have been published—check publishers’ catalogs, Amazon.com (www.amazon.com), and Books in Print (at your local library).

2. Next, check Amazon rankings to see if these books are selling well. Yes? That’s good…it means people are interested in your topic.

3. Figure out how your book is different from what’s out there. What does it offer that’s missing in the market?

Larsen_Book_ProposalAt this point it would be good to consult Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal and Susan Page’s The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book to decide next steps.Page_Shortest_Distance

Even if your book isn’t marketable, it may still be of great interest to friends, families, even local libraries or historical societies. So don’t get discouraged. Write the book you want to write. After all, only you can make your dream come true.

*I know that when you ask “Is this publishable?” you’re really asking “Am I a good writer?”—but that’s another topic for another time. 🙂

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How to Keep a Writer’s Notebook

writers-notebook3-150x150

Use a writer’s notebook and you’ll never run out of things to write about, notes guest blogger Joanne Lozar Glenn in today’s post.

So you’ve decided to write your life story, and now you’re sitting in front of a blank page or computer screen. How do you get started? Lots of writers keep notebooks. No, not a diary or journal, but a place to record what they notice and react to. These observations are the seeds of writing ideas that they harvest later.

Writers’ notebooks can be small, spiral-bound “idea catchers.” They can be manila folders, for holding all the scraps of paper that have ideas jotted on them. They can even be index cards or post-it notes, kept in a zipped pouch for easy retrieval and sorting. The important thing: to write down ideas as they come to you, so you can pick one to play with later.

Ralph FletcherWhat kinds of ideas should you keep in your writer’s notebook? Ralph Fletcher, author of  A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You, suggests jotting down

•    mind pictures

•    snatches of conversation

•    unforgettable stories or images

•    memories, photographs, and doodles

•    lists of people to contact and interview

•    facts that are important to the story you want to tell

•    things you wonder about

•    prompts to get you started, like “I remember…” or “The truth is….” or “There is the moment when everything changes” or “I was seven then, and …”

•    even steps to remind you of your writing goal(s).

With a writer’s notebook, Fletcher says, you’ve got “a powerful tool for writing and one of the best ways I know of to live a writing kind of life.”

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