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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Recently read: Lucinda Holdforth’s True Pleasures

If you like memoirs, travel books, history, or French literature, this book is a must-read. Holdforth, an Australian writer and former diplomat, treks through Paris in search of the great women of France, and through her research uncovers truths about men, women, and life. The concept for this book works beautifully. Holdforth wanders through contemporary Paris looking for tombs, homes, and history. She does an excellent job of analyzing the women, France, and human nature. The women presented in the book include such memorable people as George Sand, Madame de Pompadour, Coco Chanel, Colette, Ninon de Lanclos, and Germaine De Stael. She also looks at women of other nationalities who made their marks in France: Marie Antoinette, Empress Josephine, Nancy Mitford and Edith Wharton. Through her examination of de Stael and Napoleon’s rancor toward each other, Holdforth presents an insight about men and women in today’s workforce that is brilliant—one of those smack-your-palm-on-your-forehead moments. This is a brilliant book, right up there with Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Inspiration from web links Part 2

French-word-a-day at is written by an American photographer and writer who is married to a Frenchman. This blog is a delight! This is an excellent resource for inspiring photos of the south of France, where they live, or of their travels. Karen Espinasse also provides quotes and sayings in French and English, blogs about daily events that are far more interesting than my daily events, and regales us with tales of their adventures establishing a new vineyard. She sprinkles French words into her writings, with the definitions below. You can buy books on food, history, memoirs, interior design and a whole range of other subjects related to France, including Espinasse’s own book, Words in a French Life: Lessons of Love and Language in the south of France. You can also buy French language learning tapes, and often you can hear Espinasse or various other family members read in French. Thus you can not only improve your ability to read French, but also improve your pronunciation. And, if that still isn’t enough to tempt you, you can click on the link to her husband’s web site and learn about wine and their Rouge-Bleu vintage. Blogs just don't get better than this, and this is the one that inspired me to start mine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grants: look at other events

Another way to track down potential grant sources is by checking out where are other grants coming from. Notice when there is a project, performance, or initiative—is there a funding source credited? For example, I write a grant for the Menomonie Library every summer. I submit the grant to the Wisconsin Center for the Book/Wisconsin Authors & Illustrators Speak, which is part of the Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. See We receive one of ten grants to pay for writers to speak as part of our Lake Menomin Writers Series. Every press release, poster, and program credits the granting agencies. Paying attention to event sponsors will give you contact information for grant sources. Look around at events, both similar to what you have in mind and not similar. Chances are there was a grant involved and the grantor will be credited.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Poetry: to write good poems, you must read good poems

Erato, the Muse of Poetry.
I’m not much for poetry—neither writing it nor reading it. I’ve spent my life, however, surrounded by people who do both. When I teach, almost every semester at least one student approaches me after class to ask if I’d read his or her poetry. While I do read their poetry, I explain that I am not qualified to judge whether a poem is good or not. Instead, I urge my students (and everyone else who wants to write poems) to read, read, read. There is a good resource for a variety of poetry as well as discussions on poems and poets. The Poetry International Web has poems in English, plus poems by non-English writers. The poems are translated when needed, and are also in the original language. Click on this link Poetry International Web for inspiration, and to hone your poetry-reading skills.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New literary contests with deadlines in March

Roses are lovely, but cash prizes are even better.
I've added a number of new literary contests due through the end of March. Check them out by scrolling down to The Money Corner. And good luck!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Recently read: David Carkeet’s Double Negative

This is a fun book, very short, and entertaining—sort of an academic “cozy.” It takes place in Indiana at a scholarly institute where a group of linguists are studying speech development patterns of toddlers. The detective and chief suspect is Jeremy Cook, a handsome young scholar whose angst about women and words provides a great subplot. A good puzzle, eccentric characters, and a pleasure to read.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Inspiration from web links

What inspires you? Great art? Music? Being outdoors? What web sites and blogs give you new ideas?

I was just talking to a friend the other day. She was interested in improving her writing and improving her health, while continuing her current job as a psychologist and her ongoing vocation as an artist. Immediately, the wonderful web site Artella, and its Daily Muse newspaper sprang to mind as a perfect source of inspiration for her. And, with just a few more mind-hops, I realized it was time to remind everyone of some of the blogs, web sites, and their links that have enriched my life over the past year. I'll be doing a series discussing inspiring sites that I visit daily and am always inspired. In each case, you can sign up for emails when there are new postings.

The first site is Artella: a community for creative spirits at This site has all sorts of things to dip into to refresh your creativity. You can buy items to make your own art, books, or journals. You can buy other people’s art, books, and journals. You can take e-courses in things ranging from collage materials to business planning; from creating balance in your life to involving children in art. There are even books to help you organize your closet. In addition to the web site, Artella’s Daily Muse newspaper is well worth the small monthly charge to subscribe.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Grants: Private funding sources

Private funding sources that I know off the top of my head include the Otto Bremer Foundation of Bremer Bank at , the Case Foundation at , and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans at There are thousands more. You probably know others through your professional organizations, university alumni associations, and community organizations. Call around. Talk to people. Read the instructions on how to increase your chances of being awarded a grant, which most sources will have on their web sites. Often one source will lead to others. For example, the Otto Bremer Foundation lists 16 “Affinity Groups” under its Community Connections tab. These 16 groups include entities interested in special groups such as Native Americans, Asians, women, and Hispanics, as well as more general sources for philanthropy and funding. Another good way to find them is through your networks—professional, personal, associations, and, of course, the Internet—where Google searches and blogs may help you find the information you need.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Writing Show

Image from Dover Publications at

The Writing Show, a web site providing information and inspiration for writers, is starting a Makeover Series. I love the idea, even though I’ve never watched any reality TV show whatever. When you enter, you submit a chapter of your novel. The chapter will be posted, as will the editor’s comments. By entering, you’ll get a professional critique of your work. Then, once you’ve mulled over the editor’s comments and how you’ll revise the chapter, the Writing Show will create a podcast of you and the editor. According to the web site, “the whole point is to open up a window on the revision process, not to force you to work a certain way.”

If you want to participate, submit your novel chapter by March 31. There is no entry fee. If you don’t choose to enter, then be sure to check back on the web site to see the various submissions and and learn from the revisions. For information, see

Friday, February 15, 2008

Recently read: Sam Harrison’s Ideaspotting

This book is composed of brief suggestions, quotes, examples, and ideas that are meant to spark creativity, all designed to help you achieve the book’s subtitle: How to Find Your Next Great Idea. I did find it inspiring, and there were a number of techniques that were new to me. The main problem with this book, however, is that the book designer got too enthralled with making each page look like a work of sophisticated and understated art—she succeeded. Unfortunately, the design makes much of the book virtually unreadable. Shame on not only the designer, but also the publishing firm for producing a book with dark tan pages with slightly less dark print alternating with very light light tan pages and white print. There are some pages, however, that actually are readable because the designer accidently used black print, so it may be worth the cost of the book for you to get those few nuggets of wisdom.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

American Memory: manuscripts from the Federal Writers Project 1936-1940

One of the many Library of Congress documents available in the American Memory collection is this work by conservationist John Muir, who grew up in Wisconsin in the mid 1800s.

Many of my January posts included images of WPA posters. The WPA is an example of effective government funding. WPA was the originally the U.S. Works Progress. (later Projects) Administration, commonly referred to as the WPA. One of the numerous projects funded through the WPA was the Folklore Project, part of the larger Federal Writers Project. Now, through the marvels of the Internet, you can access images of nearly 3,000 original documents commissioned and/or collected during the Great Depression and housed in the Library of Congress. The documents describe life during those times in 24 states where writers participated. Visit the web site at and be prepared to spend some time dipping into all the fascinating things there—not to mention the links to other collections. What a gold mine for writers, readers, educators, and the merely nosey! Government money is not ALL spent on $300 hammers or lining Halliburton’s pockets.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Grants: other funding sources

Grants are only one source for funding. Others include a variety of programs, low-cost loans, and actually contracting with a government agency to provide goods or services. The major online sources are the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) and the Federal Register.

The CFDA is a database of all federal programs available to state and local governments; federally-recognized Indian tribal governments; U.S. territories and possessions; public and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals. Remember, you can team up with an organization or group to apply—see my January 30, 2008 posting. See for the User Guide, search functions, and a handy document titled “Developing and Writing Grant Proposals.”

The Federal Register is the print publication that lists ALL business contracting opportunities with the federal government. You can access it online at Click on State programs for ones in your state, and click on Sell to the Government for federal agencies. Although most of this site is focused on contracts, it doesn’t hurt to see what services and products are in demand. Plus, by following links to agencies, you may turn up some grants as well. Like and CFDA, this site (affectionately termed fedbizopps) also contains information on how to write winning proposals.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Freelance Writers Appreciation Week

Celebrating freelance writing

One of my literary sources shows that February 11 through 16 is Freelance Writers Appreciation Week. Another source says that it was last week. And the web site for odd holidays doesn’t even list it, for heaven’s sake! To reconcile this problem regarding what I—as a freelance writer—consider to be an important tribute to a group of talented, literate, dedicated and brilliant people, I declare the ENTIRE month of February to be Hug a Freelance Writer Month! According to the web site Holiday Insights, anyone can create a special “day.” I’ve taken artistic license and included “week” and “month” in the umbrella term of “day.” Instructions for doing this are here: If you are serious, you can copyright the day. Or if you are really serious, you can contact your congressperson and start the process for having it declared a national holiday, which takes an act of Congress.
I’m not all that serious.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Recently read: Donna Leon’s Quietly in their Sleep

I can’t get enough of mystery/suspense books that take place in an exotic (to me) place. Leon’s book is set in contemporary Venice, where we follow Commissario Guido Brunetti as he deals with crime as well as the fascinating downsides of living in this ancient city. As much as I love history, art, and the beauty of old architecture, I’d rather read about than experience on a daily basis the vivid pictures that Leon creates of the stench of the canals, the bureaucratic hassles, and the hordes of tourists. In this book, Brunetti tries to find evidence to support a former nun’s claim that some of the deaths of the residents of a nursing home are due not to Divine will, but to human will. He doesn’t uncover any facts that would back up the nun’s assertion until the sheer numbers of accidents and coincidences connected to people in the case seem to prove her right. Brunetti has to fight the power of the Church and the State—formidable foes in this city and country.

A side plot is that he learns that one of the priests who teach at Brunetti’s children school has been bounced from parish to parish with whispers of molesting children floating in his wake. That rings just too true for those of us in this part of Wisconsin who remember several years ago the mystery of the deaths of an undertaker and his assistant in Hudson, Wisconsin. Like Brunetti, local and regional police work led to the solution of the Hudson murders. In the real-life case, the solution included the hanging suicide of a priest just before the police’s arrival.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Chinese New Year

Traditional Chinese New Year/Spring Festival Yanliuqing pictures were painted between 1573 and 1620. This one depicts The Legend of the White Snake.

This year, the Chinese begin their New Year (also called the Spring Festival) on February 7. Celebrations begin on the first day of the Chinese lunar month, and end on the fifteenth day. This is the Year of the Rat. When I lived in the Bay Area of San Francisco in the mid-1970s, I went to Chinatown for the festivities. Too many firecrackers going off in the crowds for my comfort, but nevertheless it was an awesome sight: dancing dragons, brightly colored costumes, endless-seeming drums and music, all winding through the narrow San Francisco streets after darkness had fallen. One of the many traditional superstitions I read about as I was searching the Internet for Chinese New Year sites is that you shouldn’t buy books at the start of the New Year. This is because the Chinese word for “book” is a homonym for the Chinese word “lose.” Hmmmm, it’ll be hard, but I’ll try to avoid buying any books on February 7—surely the rule is only for the one day?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Grant sources for writers and other creators

Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing, c. 1665 Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Visit the museum’s site at

Many states, educational institutions, and larger counties and cities have grants that piggyback with ones from the federal government. For example, Tennessee has grants with the National Endowment for the Arts

For grants specifically for writers, see the National Endowment for the Arts Writers Corner at NEA provides good instructions on applying for fellowships.

And, of course, a good source for grants for writers is The Money Corner here on my blog. Scroll down past the puzzle for upcoming deadlines. I find the grants, scholarships, residencies, and other funding opportunities by regularly reading publications like Poets & Writers Magazine (see ), and the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (see Other ways I find them is through institutions such as the University of Wisconsin and government agencies such as the Wisconsin Humanities Council. Check out similar organizations in your area and ask to be added to their mailing lists.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Publishing through nontraditional channels

With the advent not only of the Internet, but also the current “a computer in every home” reality, writers don’t necessarily need the traditional publishing firm any more. Whether you choose to use one or not, it’s an individual choice among many options that include self-publishing, print-on-demand, blogging, and Internet publishing services such as BookSurge at and iUniverse at

One of the authors I met last year at the San Francisco Writers Conference, Wendy Bartlett, has decided to have her novel, Broad Reach, published through iUniverse. Her novel is about a man and a woman who go sailing around the world. In an email to me last fall, Bartlett had these comments about her experience up to that point with iUniverse. She used the prize money she won toward the cost of a self-publishing contract. She said, “I can’t tell you how much fun it is getting it all together. And a LOT of work. iUniverse thinks it has very good commercial potential. I was astonished and pleased with their feedback. Anyway, I am now in the throes of finishing their first polishing editorial feedback. I am certainly learning a ton!”

Bartlett’s book is now in print and for sale through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and—I hope—local bookstores. One of the marketing activities she is doing is having a display table all her own at this year’s San Francisco Writers Conference. You can buy her book at

I have met a number of other authors who have chosen to publish through the various other options now available. Keep me up on your experiences, whether during the process or once your words are officially out in the world.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Creative Mind: where do ideas come from?

Ideas can come from inspirational things like music, or from friends, or from events.

A number of you have asked me how I get my ideas. When I first started blogging last summer, it was a little tricky getting inspiration. Yikes, the “what-should-I-say-today” syndrome that can wallop all writers (and teachers). I settled into a three-posts-a-week mode, which enabled me to keep regularly posting even while busy teaching as a part-time adjunct instructor. In fact, I started two more blogs this fall for my Written Communications class, and my Oral/Interpersonal Communications class. Again, at first it was tricky. But, now that I’m “seasoned,” I notice that ideas come so quickly I have to prevent myself from posting daily (hey, I still worry I MIGHT run out!). I think it is because whatever I read, wherever I go, whatever I do, there is now a very vocal Idea Grabber in my head who pipes up, “that’s an interesting tidbit.” It is one reason I include so many posts with links to other sites, plus my Link of the Week—by being curious and alert to what is going on in a wide range of areas that I find interesting, I stir up ideas. Whether it’s rooting around in the Library of Congress archives, other people’s blogs, conversations, news, or inspirational works, something always piques my interest. Online, in print or in person. And that Idea Grabber in my head is getting much better the more practice she gets.

Friday, February 1, 2008

February is Black History Month

This is the first page of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The image is from

An excellent source for information on the civil rights movement is the compilation of essays, historical site, and links contained in We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement at
This site is the result of a partnership between the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. Once you’ve read through the essays and surfed the links, click on Itinerary Home, which will take you to the travel itinerary. Whether you are looking for ideas, facts, inspiration, or just want to refresh your remembrance of history, this site is worth visiting. Another way to honor Black History Month is to visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture at