Finding Inspiration in Friendship

May 5, 2008 at 7:19 am | Posted in friendship, inspiration, Jessica, writing | 3 Comments

I had a college student’s weekend in that my weekend started on Thursday night. Sadly, I no longer have the mental and physical stamina of a college student so while I had a nice, long, busy weekend, this Monday morning feels as though it has come all too soon.

I’ll characterize my weekend by saying I spent it supporting the arts – such a fun string of days, it’s no wonder the time flew!

– Thursday night I attended an author talk, where three superstar authors spoke to a sold-out crowd about writing and life
– Friday night I attended a book launch party for a debut author and dear friend
– Saturday night I attended an opera recital
– And yesterday, I hope you all stopped by the blog to help us welcome another dear friend, Nancy Haddock, as our guest and to celebrate the release of her debut book, LA VIDA VAMPIRE

And while all of these people from my weekend are solo artists, I am reminded that it often does take a village to make our projects come to fruition. Whether in the support of a critique partner, a commiserating peer, or a loyal, caring loved one there to help pick up the pieces when they fall or help us keep up the good work when things go well, we are not as alone as it often feels. Seeing the care and support during each of these artists’ events, makes me grateful not only for being able to support them in the way(s) I can, but also for the people who provide such medicine for me.

So while I’m toiling away on seemingly endless writing conundrums, I will think back to this weekend and remember the strength and creativity and forward momentum that true friendship can inspire. And when I hit the proverbial wall, I hope to draw on that strength, creativity, and positive momentum, and keep writing!


Critique Partners and the CP Visit

April 16, 2008 at 8:56 am | Posted in Bria, editing, friendship, writing | Leave a comment
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Check out Jessica’s post below on her conference experience. I’d like to second everything she said.

After the conference, my is-adorable Critique Partner stuck around for a few days to pound through some pages. It’s the first time we’ve done this and we learned a lot about structuring our visits. Here’s the Top Ten List we came up with at 1am.

  1. You never need as much junk food as you think you do when you’re standing in the grocery story
  2. Sometimes, not having the Internet is a very good thing
  3. Sometimes, not having the Internet is an absolutely horrible thing
  4. Goals. Goals. Goals.
  5. Sleep is completely overrated
  6. Sleep is your friend, try to get more of it
  7. When having to do the dreaded synopsis, having your CP sitting across the table from you waiting to see it forces you to stop crying and write the darn thing
  8. If you aren’t agreeing on a critique point, often getting away from it can make you see what your CP is trying to tell you – She’s often right, that’s why she’s your CP
  9. Don’t tie your visits around another big event – the conference she came for was great, but we focused so much of our energy on it that we were too beat to get everything out of our visit we would have liked
  10. Critique Partners are a unique relationship. I have amazing women who crit my stuff online and also my week-by-week CP, Ann. If you’re not building these relationships, get out there and do it. They are invaluable. We both agree, we learn as much working on the other person’s stuff as we do our own.

Now, stop thinking about visits and meetings and conferences, and Go Write!

Writing Partners and The Business of Writing

March 3, 2008 at 7:26 am | Posted in career, Dianna Love Snell, friendship, Jessica, Mary Buckham, writing | 1 Comment

A good businessperson will look to surround herself with people whose strengths complement her weaknesses – together, they make a stronger whole.

As Myretta Robens mentioned in her blog for us back in September, the friendships that writers strike with one another have professional, social, and restorative properties to them. That very idea was the main reason we Purple Hearts started this blog – to help each other through the ups and downs of learning, practicing, becoming better writers, and getting published.

And with Mary Buckham and Dianna Love Snell as our guests this month, the timing of today’s blog post is a little uncanny. As Dianna mentioned in their post, “If one of us finds something interesting we share it and the other will dig a little deeper for a new nugget of information.” . . . which speaks to the point of my post today.

Interesting enough, a whole other aspect of writing relationship has emerged as a result of this blog – how our strengths help one another out. With so much information available on so many different things, we Purple Hearts have inadvertently settled into different roles that we fill for one another. In that way, we have partnered to fill these important aspects in the business of writing. One of us may be the go-to plot doctor while another is the research maven and yet another friend in our online community is the marketing expert. We help fill gaps in each other’s knowledge and share with each other those interesting somethings that prompt us to dig deeper for the nuggets Dianna mentioned.

When brought together, the whole is much greater than the sum of our parts and I believe that this strong support – social and professional – will factor into our success as writers.

As Mary wrote in their post, “. . . the day you decide that nothing will stop you from being published is the day you’ll never turn back. You’ll make different choices as to how you spend your time, who you will associate with, how you will invest in your career.”

So if you choose to take on partners, pick good ones who will balance out your weaknesses and contribute to your success. No matter what, keep writing!

We thank Mary and Dianna for being here with us this week. As a bonus, they are giving away two generous prizes at the end of the week – a set of 5 BREAK INTO FICTION™ templates from their highly successful Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series to one winner and a critique of a query or cover letter to another. Post a comment to their blog to be eligible. Winners will be chosen at random on Friday.


Critique Partners – Creating a Successful Relationship

January 30, 2008 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Bria, career, editing, friendship, relationships, writing | 5 Comments
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Finding a Critique Partner is hard enough, but making it work (just like any relationship) IS work. The Pre-CP labor is where your partnership will be made or destroyed — you just won’t know which immediately.

I’m lucky. I haven’t been drifting along too by myselfly (yes, I know it isn’t a word, but that’s what it feels like.) Besides my fellow Heartlettes here at the blog, I’m also blessed by several women who support, guide and direct me over at the RD board. I have wonderful people who are willing to read my stuff and give me honest feedback – painfully honest feed back – just like I’m looking for.  They catch things and ask questions and point out flaws and praise and give the love.

But until I met Ann, I didn’t have anyone to do that deep-intense daily walking thing with. For the last month we’ve done a chapter each per week. We email, edit, scan, send back and discuss on Thursday night.

It’s working out really well so far and I think I know why: Planning.

Planning came in two parts. The first part I’ll call The Covenant and the second could be considered The Job Description.

Before we got started we took some time to read sites about being in a Critique Group. Together we discussed what we were looking for, what we needed, how we best worked, what would be most hurtful, rules for discussing issues, how we’d consider bringing new people into our sessions, and emergency exit strategies.

Beyond these things, we discussed expectations. What did we expect to get out of and put into the relationship? What edits, thoughts, suggestions did we want? To be honest, we’re greedy girls, we wanted everything. And to make sure it all gets covered, we have an extensive list of summary questions to answer each week to ensure that all topics get broached sufficiently.

I’d like to share with you some of the sites we used to draw up both the Covenant and JD:

Ok, here are some sites I found around critiquing —- we can pick and choose what we like:;read=295

This isn’t the complete list, but it shows a well rounded search from in-depth to chatty “did you think about this” ideas.

I strongly believe your writing life should be run like a career and so, every CP relationship should start out this way, just like a job.

Just like every other aspect of your writing, do the work. Short cuts chop off the borders of your vision where some of the most beautiful details grasp the edges.

If you’re interested in what we came up with specifically or would like to tell us what’s worked (or hasn’t) with your CPing relationships, let us know!

Then, Go Write,


In my last 35 years…

December 21, 2007 at 11:54 am | Posted in friendship, life, Meg, relationships | 1 Comment

Spent all week trying to figure out a great list of favorites about something fun and exciting. No luck. The only thing that kept coming to mind was how old I felt working so hard to create an enjoyable Christmas for my family. Then I picked up the cardboard light saber creation (fashioned out of an empty wrapping paper roll) and climbed into my x-wing fighter (those shipping boxes are sometimes more fun than the presents themselves) and realized how I still have some youthful spirit to appreciate the magic of the holiday (*note to new readers- I have two young boys).

This contradiction of feeling old and young rattled in my brain long enough this week that I thought I’d use this space to get it all out. So without further ado, these are a few of my favorite (random) things I’ve learned about…turning 35.

  • Every woman should have a theme song. You know that song that resonates in your head when you need to summon up courage, roar out frustration, etc. Mine is “Let it Snow”. Timely this holiday season, but I find myself singing the first line- ‘Oh the weather outside is frightful’- even in July when I find stress overpowering me. For some reason, it calms me down.
  • I’ve reached the stage in my life that I don’t give a crap. Or at least not as much crap as I used to about certain things like whether my clothes are perfect or if my house is spotless. Life is too complicated and short to worry about the tiniest things. Besides, if my friends are going to judge me by my apparel or home, then they’re not the people I want around me anyway.
  • Men. Ah, what I’ve learned about men in the last 35 years could take up a whole month of blog entries. So I’ll highlight a few below in reference to what women need to know about men.
  • All women need three types of men in their life. One man can be more than one type, and maybe you’ve married the rare man who can pull off all three, but most likely you’ll need at least two different guys to fulfill these needs. First, a woman needs one man (husband, son, father, etc.) to love her unconditionally. No matter what. Second, a woman has to have a honest male friend where sex never enters the picture. Yeah, you can argue When Harry Met Sally, but the friendship is possible. Last, a woman should find a guy who thinks she’s hot. I’m not suggesting an affair, or even a flirtation if you are married (and hopefully if you are married, it’s your husband saying it), but every woman over 30 needs a man who tells her she’s sexy and means it!
  • Every woman over 30 needs to have at least one thing they regret, they’re ashamed of, or would like a do over. This means you’re not perfect, but you’ve grown enough to know it.
  • Also, every woman over 30 should have something in their past they’re proud of, something they knew was crazy to do but they don’t regret it, and something they relive in their mind with a smile on their face. Honey, this means you’ve lived!
  • As for love affairs, I think every woman over 30 should have a few types (again, one relationship can more than one type). One should break your heart. One should show you what love is NOT. One should make you wonder where that person is today. One should end in a friendship and one should carry on forever.
  • Despite what it might feel like when you’re waiting in that school yard to pick up your child(ren), you are no longer in school. Yes, you could get caught up in all that crazy clique stuff from high school and feel like the nerd, band geek, cheerleader, sports star, etc. you were then. But remember, you most likely AREN’T the same person now! High school was decades ago- DECADES! Be who you are now and embrace it! And if people still view you as that high school character, then they lose out.
  • Life is not a popularity contest. I’ve discovered that a few close friends that I trust and love are more important than a hundred acquaintances. In addition, I don’t need a jammed packed social schedule to feel loved and important (and thank goodness, since my calendar has no room for social fun after work and my kids’ stuff!)
  • Every woman should have a guilty pleasure. Maybe it’s reality tv, dark chocolate, erotic novels or 80s love songs. Whatever it is, the guilty pleasure needs to be something that you’re slightly embarrassed about and rarely admit to acquaintances, but something you don’t want to live without (mind you, these are different from bad addictions). I’ll admit to two of mine– teen dramas (One Tree Hill Season 4 just arrived from Netflix! Wahooo!) and Star Wars (namely the X-Box lego video game), now admit to yours!
  • Family is the most important. This group of people may be blood related, legally tied to you or bonded in other ways (i.e. friends), but they are essential. Without family, you’re a solo person floating around in the world with no home base.

I think that’s all I can think of this week. Here are a few more I borrowed from others:

11 Things Women Over 30 Wish Men Knew…
Although there’s debate whether Andy Rooney truly wrote this, but here’s an ode to Women Over 30:

Now what about you? Any major life lessons you’ve learned (at no matter what age you are?)


The Symbiosis of Friends and Readers

November 26, 2007 at 4:10 pm | Posted in friendship, Honorary Heartlette, Jessica, writing | 2 Comments

This month’s free week on the blog comes at a pretty crazy time for me. I am preparing my GH entry and closing in on NaNo – both of which I need to wrap up this week . . . with miles to go before I sleep. Yikes! So when Bria suggested that a friend of mine take a turn on the blog to talk about what it’s like trying to manage a friendship with a writer every day, our November free week seemed like the perfect time to invite him into the Purple Hearts fold. So without further ado, here are some words from one of the few people in my world whom I trust to keep me on course (name withheld to protect the innocent!): 

Well first of all I would like to start this off by admitting I am not a writer. What I do is quite simple actually – I read….so I guess I play a vital role in the whole process but as far as the actual work that goes into getting thought to printed page I leave that to the experts; like the fine ladies who run this blog. So first and foremost I’d like to thank them for allowing me to ramble on their website as I am quite honored and humbled to have been asked to do so. So now comes the problem….what to write about?

I mean, let’s be honest – if I’m having trouble with coming up with a blog entry that will last only until a portion of this page, what happens to someone who does this for a living? Then it hit me, I have a friend who’s a writer and as stated before I like to read; a symbiotic relationship that seems to work well, so why not write what I see of the creative process as a friend on the outside of the next great novel looking in?  Sure, this effectively gets the focus off of me but this is a blog about writing so why not focus on an actual writer, even one I know personally.

First off I respect the creative process, from what I’ve seen it takes a lot from concept to realization of how to execute that concept. You can’t begin to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and not at least have an idea where you are going with it; that’s a special talent that apparently I can get away with. However in the beginning you have to have an idea where the story you have in your head is going and who the characters are; these characters have to be fully realized and their actions logical. Of course this also invalidates the whole ‘friend support system’ of clichés I use like:

“The story will write itself, don’t worry….”

“Everyone has a story inside, you just have to find yours….”

Or my personal favorite…..

“What do you mean no one reads about vampire cats?”

Okay that last one was a little too personal and possibly a little disturbing if you don’t know me; or if you do for that matter.

So how do I get this masterpiece out of my writer friend? Well for starters I act as a sounding board. Sure I’m an audience that is a little biased, but then again I need something to satisfy my desire to read so why not help my writer friend speed along the process. Plus I have faith in my writer friend’s ability to deliver the goods even if they don’t at that moment. There is something exciting, however, hearing someone ‘sell’ their creative ideas and work through what to this point is an unfinished product. The passion involved as they are explaining what the concept is, who the characters are, and their initial motivation behind their actions is fun to watch; so fun in fact you forget your selfish intention of being the first one to read the manuscript because, after all, this process has one purpose – giving me something to read.

Now I have a decision to make and set aside whatever personal gain I might be able to get from my writer friend. At this point I am excited to read this story and will do anything to support it becoming a reality….what can I say I am now hooked in as a reader, just by seeing the joy on my friend’s face. However, just when things were moving smoothly we hit a snag. Yes I say WE because at this point I’m vested in this project as it makes my writer friend happy and takes me a step closer to the finished novel I sought out in the beginning. Apparently the story has taken on a life of its own and has strayed slightly from its intended course; a complication, sure, but nothing two minds can’t overcome – or more realistically nothing my writer friend can’t overcome and the faith I have in her ability to do so.

Eventually we get back on track, which is a good thing as I look forward to seeing this process to its completion. Sure, it started as me getting a book before everyone, but now it has evolved to so much more. I find myself in the role of anchor/confidant as I’ve been involved in the process in a way I never would have been involved before by just walking into a Barnes and Noble and purchasing a book. Hell, at this point I’m a cog in the machine that would help my writer friend become the success I know that she can become.

Okay, who am I kidding – seeing someone actively pursue their dream is inspiring, seeing creativity at work is motivating, and having a finished product in hand that I had a very small part in is humbling.

As I stated before I am not a writer, and by the couple of minutes you spent reading me ramble on could only confirm that. However, I am a friend of a writer; who is a very good one in my opinion, one whose work I look forward to reading. What I do as a friend is support this passion because, let’s face it, I get more out of it just witnessing the dream realized. As much as I enjoy the finished product, I, for one, am honored to be a part of the journey.

My friend writes and I read, it doesn’t get any more perfect than that.


A special thank you to my friend for joining us today, and for standing beside me every day.  I hope you all have a great writing week!


Famous People as Guardian Angels

October 24, 2007 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Bria, friendship, inspiration, life, tool kit, writing | 5 Comments

You may note that I’ve taken down my blog and reposted for my turn on Wednesday. 

Here’s why: I’m having a horrible week. I’m not going into it because the people who know me MUST be sick of me bitching about this one specific thing. It shall not be mentioned. 

INSTEAD – I’m looking for reader input. A name. A story. An event. Anything to turn the tide of bitterness. Any uplifting story that stays in your emotional toolkit. What famous person (writer/artist/musician/heck, at this point I’ll even take politicians/etc.) has had a Guardian Angel moment with you.  

Anything counts from mentoring to just an encouraging word. Please! I need to hear about the love! Where has it gone, where is the love? 

Uplift me so I don’t feel so overwhelmed J 

Then Go Write

Honorary Heartlette – Myretta Robens

September 2, 2007 at 9:09 am | Posted in friendship, Honorary Heartlette, Myretta Robens, relationships, writing | 5 Comments

Thanks to the Heartlettes for the invitation to blog with you today. The fact that these delightful ladies have joined together to blog about writing is a wonderful example of the topic I’ve chosen for my Purple Hearts blog: Writing Friendships.

After I finished my first Regency Romance manuscript, my critique partner told me, in the kindest possible way, that the work was not salvageable. Then we talked about all the things that were wrong with it. This conversation was probably the most productive learning experience of my writing life.

This blog is about friends, and how critical they are to a working writer (or at least to this working writer). Writing, as any writer will tell you, is a solitary endeavor. Ultimately, the work is yours: alone at your computer, on the back porch with a notebook, in the car at your child’s soccer game, tapping away at the laptop. No matter how many people are around you, you manage to block them out and immerse yourself in your story. And, no matter how much help they offer, what appears on the page is yours.

Nevertheless, although we experience it in different ways, the community of writers and readers is also a vital part of what we do and who we are. For some of us, it’s the monthly trek to your RWA Chapter meeting; the chance to hear what other writers are working on, what obstacles they are overcoming, what successes they have had. For others, it’s the after-meeting meal, where you sit down with your particular writing friends and talk, in depth about writing issues.

Then, there are the on-line friendships: list serves and discussion boards where the discussion ranges from funny to intense, where information is shared, rants are validated, and friendships are formed. How about blogs? An interesting one-way relationship. I met Megan Frampton when we were both waiting for publication of our first novels and writing journals for All about Romance. We have become good friends and speak frequently, but I follow her blog to keep track of what she’s up to on a daily basis. On the other hand, I feel as though I know Carolyn Jewel because I read her writing blog every morning, but I’m certain she has no clue who I am.

First readers are important members of my group of writing friends. These people are not writers but are an inestimable support. They are the people who read with a loving but critical eye and feed back, not only the praise that is so desperately desired, but the constructive criticism that is desperately needed. These are the people who will tell you that, although they adore your heroine, they have not fallen in love with your hero. They will also, I have learned, tell you where your punctuation is wrong, and where you have dropped prepositions and pronouns (a particular problem of mine). And they are your cheering section, the people who tell you they are proud of what you do and encourage you to keep going.

Last is that most intimate of writing friendship, the critique partner. For me, this is the relationship that makes writing possible. Although others can – and, believe me, will – be willing to offer critiques and, although these critiques might be quite valuable, the critique partnership goes that extra step. The best of all critique partners is one with whom you have developed an absolute trust, one from whom you can accept the verdict that the manuscript over which you have labored for the previous nine months cannot be saved. A full partnership thrives on honesty and an understanding of each others’ strengths and weaknesses, each others’ dreams and goals. It includes, not only critique, but brainstorming, sympathy and celebration. It is a friendship in its fullest sense.

So, what about you out there? Do you have writing relationships? A support group? A first reader? A critique partner or group? Do you think anyone really writes in solitude?

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