For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Google book search

A recent article in Artella’s Daily Muse ( ) explained how to use Google Book Search. I wasn’t familiar with this book search function. When I want to read online reviews, I would usually go to Amazon or to . This whole concept of Google’s, however, is pretty interesting. You can browse through which books are most popular, search for specific books or subjects, read reviews, create your own collection, and post reviews. This is a fascinating look into what is being read, and what readers’ reactions are. I think of it as highbrow eavesdropping! To check it out, visit

Friday, September 28, 2007

What worked and what didn't this week

My collage tag holder for "What can I do now."

It's been a while since I've shared one of my weekly "what works and what doesn't" ponderings. For those of you new to the blog, in my June 8 posting, I explained the background and what passes for "rules" in this exercise. This week, what worked is:
  • Focusing on health issues, having a reiki session with Judy Meinen (see )
  • Stepping back from some anger last week at work to deal with it calmly this week
  • Spending a great evening at the Lake Menomin Writers Series listening to Erin Hart talk about archeology and her books while listening to her musician husband, Paddy O'Brien, play traditional Irish music (see )
  • Quickly transfering some insights from my reiki session to collages

What didn't work is:

  • Having no large blocks of non-teaching time from Monday through Thursday
  • Letting some writing projects slide
  • Having my highest priority (finding an agent) be my lowest priority during the week
  • Being careless with book-keeping and finances

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don't forget to submit your book for a Pulitzer

I'm back after having had a lot of restful sleep yesterday. Be sure to check the many contests, grants, and fellowships in The Money Corner. A number of them are for creative nonfiction and memoirs in addition to poetry, books, and short stories. I had no idea that the Pulitzer Prize is treated (initially at least) just like all the other contests--see the information on submissions. I have to wait a bit, though, before I think my writing is ready to submit the THAT contest!

Recently Read: Philip Kerr’s The Pale Criminal

This book is the second in Kerr’s Trilogy titled Berlin Noir, and picks up a few years after the first book. Set in 1938, as Hitler continues to lay the groundwork for his master plan, Bernie Gunther and other Berliners, like the rest of Europe, wonder when the war will officially begin. At the command of the head of Berlin’s Criminal Police department, and the highest ranks of Nazi government, Gunther reluctantly leaves his thriving private practice to return to the police force. His mission is to find the person who is ritualistically raping and murdering Aryan girls from nice, middle-class families. As he works at solving the murders, he is also finishing up a case from his private practice in which he must retrieve the love letters one rich man wrote to another rich man. As usual, Kerr blends the cases smoothly and adds a good dose of suspense to a dark glimpse into a city and its history.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sick leave

I'm taking this afternoon and tomorrow off for one of the many Dreaded Middle-Age Medical Procedures (DMAMPs). I should be back in fine blogging fettle on Wednesday, at which time I'll do a new post and a new jigsaw.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Good excuses

Good excuse not to exercise #54: "There's a bear on my treadmill." From the Book of Carl.
(FYI: this bear is in Boone & Crockett. Carl shot it in Sawyer County, Wisconsin, in 2004. It scored 21-4/16 points. It's now a beautiful piece of taxidermy, but it's way too big to hang on our wall!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Council for Wisconsin Writers

If you live in Wisconsin and are a writer, consider joining the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Since 1964, this nonprofit organization has been promoting awareness of Wisconsin’s literary roots, which encouraging new writers. I first joined in 1990, and served for several years on the Board and as Publicity Chair in the early 1990s. The Council sponsors a variety of annual contests for published writers. This year, the contest will open on November 1, 2007 and close on January 31, 2008. The contests are for work published during the calendar year. Once the contests officially open, I’ll post them in The Money Corner. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about the Council, visit the web site at

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Recently Read: James Lee Burke’s Pegasus Descending

I discovered Burke back in the early 1990s, and he has been one of my favorite authors ever since. His Dave Robicheaux novels are poetry and blood, set in the grim bayous of Louisiana, the streets of New Iberia, and the alleys of New Orleans. Everywhere Robicheaux goes, the whiff of Cajun food and the lilt of the language spoken by the early French settlers accompany him.

Pegasus Descending is, as these novels always are, a masterful suspense story whose plot alone will keep you up late. Added to that are the brilliant and quirky characters of Robicheaux, who is the best of the hard-boiled-cop-turned-sensitive dectectives so popular in fiction now; the bizarre and likable Clete; Robicheaux’s third wife who is a former nun; and Robicheaux’s boss, the sexually ambivalent Sheriff Helen Soileau. The apparent suicide of a young girl in the old mill district of New Iberia bothers Robicheaux. So does the appearance in the area of the daughter of an old drinking buddy whom he saw shot to death in Florida 20 years before. Local corruption, organized crime, gambling, and fraternity parties from hell all combine before the dramatic ending. The only things that get better than this book by Burke are other books by Burke. I mean, really, who can resist reading books with titles like In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, A Stained White Radiance, and A Morning for Flamingos?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Harvest of books

A few of my many overcrowded book shelves.

Book fairs, festivals, fests, and any other synonyms you can think of, are wonderful places for writers to make contacts, talk to other writers, rub elbows with agents, and network with publishers. Often free and always inspiring, if you can get to one in your area, go! Think of book fairs as planting seeds that may grow into a published book. As writers, it is too easy to stay isolated at our keyboards, regarding rejection emails almost as rites of passage, and losing touch with the living, vital world that words inhabit. I think it is important for us to periodically pop up and socialize. And hey, if that means being with other writers, and agents and publishers, how much better can that get?

October in Wisconsin has a number of book festivals scheduled. The Wisconsin Humanities Council’s Wisconsin Book Festival starts in Milwaukee on October 2 with events through October 12. In Madison, Book Festival events run October 10 through October 14. For schedules and detailed information, see the web site at

In my area, the Chippewa Valley Book Fest starts on October 21 and goes through October 21. See

Friday, September 14, 2007

Be a generous writer

One of David K. Wright's many books: America's 100 Year Love Affair With the Automobile: And the Snap-On Tools That Keep Them Running

In the early 1990s, I met a freelance writer named David K. Wright. He had been earning his living as a freelance writer for years, and had dozens of books to his credit. I was working as a planner for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at the time, writing some speeches, long-range transportation plans, white papers, and anything else that needed writing. I was also toying with the idea of going into freelancing fulltime. David and I started meeting once a month for coffee. He shared generously his thoughts (“I have knowledge that’s a mile wide and an inch deep”), that he didn’t have an agent and was doing just fine thank you very much, and his sources, such as Cooperative Children’s Book Centers. The University of Wisconsin campus is one of the sites for the Cooperative Children’s Book Centers, a valuable aid for authors of all types of children’s books. See the web site at

Even more important, he would pass my name on to editors when he was too busy to take on a new project. One day when the editor at Lucent Books called him about writing a book for a new series and David’s schedule was just too full, he told her about me. Thus the creation of my book, The 1920s.

Be generous with your expertise. Whether you are a writer or a singer or a teacher or a salesperson or a director of a non-profit—share of yourself and your knowledge. Pass it along, like David did for me and I do for others. And, David, if you read this, put your return address on your next Christmas card! The last address I have for you came back.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Recently read: Elisa Southard’s Break through the Noise

This book, which has the subtitle “9 tools to propel your marketing message,” is a very quick read with lots of practical information and methods to improve marketing skills no matter what your business. And writers, whether we want to or not, must market ourselves in today’s publishing world. I met Southard when I attended her workshop this year at the San Francisco Writers Conference. A dynamic speaker, she can also make her point in writing, as well. She provides information that will help you “plug into a marketing frame of mind without disrupting your routine.” The book also helps you climb past plateaus, evaluate your marketing techniques, and communicate value, as well as numbers of other tips. Don’t be put off by her motto, “don’t kill a marketing moment—execute it.” The book is well worth reading.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Steering creativity into new directions

You just can’t make that short story sing. The grant you’re writing doesn’t seem to match the funding source’s rules and you KNOW it should. That letter to your old college roommate is too boring for words. Your boss keeps turning down your memos that explain what you think is a great idea for marketing campaigns. Chances are you need to look at things from a different direction. Writing, no matter if it’s fiction or technical, is a creative field. A year ago, I interviewed Belle, a writer who’d just been published for the first time in a national magazine—she was seven and a half years old. Belle had some good advice for writers of every age, when she said, “if you’re out of ideas, just go into the bath or take a walk or go swimming in a pool. Do something your really like, something relaxing so your mind can wander into the world of childhood.”

Here are some other ways to steer your thoughts in a creative new direction:

  • Make a diagram or picture of it. Sometimes seeing it as a series of boxes and arrows helps. Or you can make a collage.

  • Talk about it. Someone else may see it in a way you never thought of.

  • Go to someone else’s creative endeavor, like an art gallery or play.

  • Talk to a small child.

  • Do something you’ve never done or rarely done. A few years ago I had an “Angel Reading” done, and it was just the sort of new and different thing I needed to open up an unexplored avenue.

  • Read poems, if you don’t usually. Or the sports page, if that’s not something you ordinarily do.

Do whatever it takes for you to “wander in the world of childhood,” where creativity is a state of mind rather than a goal.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Communications versus communicates

My collage titled Writing.

Communications is just a different form of communicates, yes? Not if that’s a web address! I got my two class blogs up and operating last weekend. You can check them out by clicking on “view my complete profile” and then clicking on either blog link. Each one has different essays (usually the essays will be adapted from those I’ve already published on this site), different puzzles, and different quotes. My writing class was having no trouble accessing the site, but no one could get onto the oral communications class blog. A quick-witted student in one of the classes noted that I’d typed the blog address as ericacommunications on the instruction sheet, and when you clicked on the blog site from My Profile, the address actually was ericacommunicates. Yikes! Another variation of the conversation/conservation debacle! Once again, the more eyes looking for typos, the better.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Lots of contests

Be sure to check The Money Corner for all the contests with deadlines in September. Over the next few days, I'll be entering a number of contests due in October. If you've been thinking about submitting your poems or short stories, this would be the time. All have monetary prizes.

Recently Read: Robert Wilson’s The Big Killing

Robert Wilson is one of the most exciting authors that I’ve discovered recently. His books set in Portugal and Spain, with their melding of the past and present, history and imagination, (see earlier reviews) are gripping reads. This is part of another series, featuring Bruce Medway, a man-of-all-work, and are set in the contemporary poverty, dust and greed of the corrupt drifters, scammers, and politics of the West African nations along the Atlantic coast. This is a vastly different world from the sweet and inviting landlocked Botswana in the south of Africa as portrayed by Alexander McCall Smith.

Wilson’s protagonist Medway is a white man who ekes out a living by doing the various jobs that come his way from his network of warlords, other expatriots, businesspeople, informers, and drinkers. This book, the second in this series, starts out with Medway agreeing to deliver a video for a porn seller to a white man. The deliver must occur under secret circumstances, but Medway needs money, and what could go wrong?

What can go wrong are too many deaths, from up-and-coming political figures to a British playboy, and Medway worries that the next death may be his. The trail goes across national borders to the secret world of diamond traders. As usual, Wilson’s brilliant writing pulls us into these unknown worlds so we can feel the itching skin created by the heat and the dust, the terror of rope bridges late at night across ravines, the violence of too many people seeking too few resources, whether of money, diamonds, or food, all looking for the big killiing. Not a light read, but well worth it—even staying up most of the night because each page calls you to continue.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day and the end of summer

No matter what the official first day of fall is, to me and to many Americans, Labor Day marks the transition from the steamy bright days of summer to the smells of autumn. This is a day to rest on your laurels, when you can anticipate the day that Honey Crisp apples arrive in the roadside stands and look forward to when the country air gets the first tinges of wood smoke. Today is a day to dance with your friends. Happy Labor Day everyone.