Unique Third Person POV Activity

Guesstimate: How much cash do you think you’re carrying? $______

Empty your pocketbook, tote bag, wallet.

man-with-big-bagFrom the third person point of view (he/she, his/her) write assumptions a stranger might make about the person who carries the items in that pocketbook, tote bag, wallet. For example, what would someone assume about the person’s:

  • Free time
  • Hobbies
  • Habits
  • Work
  • Family
  • Fears
  • Health
  • Values/morals
  • Worldview
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Idiosyncrasies

How much cash are you REALLY carrying? How close was your guess – within $5, $10…?

Now that you’ve considered the contents:

  1. What Bible verse, adage, popular title or idiom best describes your findings?
  2. What can you throw away right now?
  3. What surprised you?
  4. What do you want to stop carrying around?
  5. What do you want to start carrying with you?
  6. What do you hope to carry with you always?

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

The Conversation – Book Review

I approach self-published books with lowered expectations. Calibrating my expectations was not necessary for “The Conversation” by Mike Gannaway, published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.

 

“The Conversation” shimmers with some of the same vibe as the classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” but reaches its destination within an efficient 110 pages.

 

Diane, thirty-eight and unmarried, is on her way to Bethany Beach, Delaware. In setting up the story, Gannaway displays uncanny talent for creating interest and intrigue with sensory details and forward momentum.

 

Diane is a confident, well-read, thoughtful woman who has developed her own credo for life: Choose Freedom. Having abandoned “clubbing scene” days when she dressed her chiseled body to tantalize men, she now knows that “the key to freedom was not burning off drudgery; it was not succumbing to it in the first place.” That’s some hard-earned wisdom, wouldn’t you say?

 

Less than a quarter of the way into the book, Diane sees a man sitting on the beach. It’s nighttime. The switchblade in her pocket is insurance, of sorts. She joins the man and they begin chatting.

 

Chris is attentive, polite and asks the right questions. He lets her go on for a while, mostly about herself. Things are going swimmingly, and readers might think, “This is nice. ‘Nice’ can get boring.”

 

Diane says she reads “history, science, philosophy, religion, classic literature, poetry…anything that increases my understanding of the world and grows me in sophistication and wisdom.” She’s coming across as a smug and preachy woman.

 

With laser accuracy and timing, Chris challenges Diane.

 

Now there’s tension and an exploration of opposing worldviews about the BIG topic with which most humans grapple: Finding life’s meaning and purpose. From this point on in their conversation, the stakes are raised and Diane’s “Choose Freedom” credo begins to erode like a sandcastle under the waves of Chris’ questions and counterpoints. Chris is not harsh or cruel to Diane during this crucial conversation. He is empathetic and genuine.

 

Gannaway possesses the intuition and skills to know when to reveal information and when to withhold it until later to best serve the plot and the debate. His sense of pacing is superb. While his style is lean, it’s clear that he’s thought deeply about how to portray a woman’s spiritual journey convincingly. In this he succeeds. (I’m happy to say, Gannaway does not resort to using annoying Celestine Prophecy-esque contrivances.)

 

If you’re searching for meaning, or if like Diane, you’re sure you already know the meaning of our existence, then this book is a prime candidate for your “read now” list.  The Conversation is appropriate for truth seekers from young adult age upward.

***

Article by the author of Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

“It’s Good” Isn’t Good Enough

Good critiques help writers improve

Good critiques help writers improve

Have you ever written something that you worked on for a while, then asked for feedback? And the reader said, “It’s good.” Period. That feedback, while pleasant, isn’t especially helpful to a writer who is hungry to make his or her writing shine.

Here is a Critique Form that will help generate useful critiques that lead to better writing.

Writers’ Critique Sheet

You don’t have to comment on every item, however the more feedback you provide, the more valuable your critique will be to your fellow writer and the more you’ll learn about good writing.

Be respectful. Be specific. Be helpful.

Author’s name: _______________________ Title of work: __________________

  • What (if anything) “hooked” you at the beginning?

 

  • How long did it take for you to figure out the setting?

 

  • Is progress/movement/change conveyed? Progress might have been a person literally moving from point A to B or an emotional shift or a new insight.

 

  • How smoothly are transitions between paragraphs handled?

 

  • Which senses does the piece stimulate? (sight, sound, smell, tactile, taste)

 

  • How is the pacing? Slow, varied, fast.

 

  • Were strong verbs used instead of weak verbs? (i.e. strutted, sidled, eased, tiptoed versus walked.)

 

  • How is the balance between showing and telling? (Showing: “Jay slammed his fist into the wall.” Telling: Jay was angry.)

 

  • Do facts and data support and elucidate or bog the piece down?

 

  • How satisfying is the end?

 

  • How does the piece make you feel?

 

  • What did you learn?

 

  • Where does it leave you wanting more? What are you curious about that is unexplained?

 

  • In hindsight, is the title appropriate?

 

  • Other comments:

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

Beth Fowler headshot

 

 

“Life is Binary: The Choice to Live Love or Limitation” – book review

On one of his websites Vivbala himself asks, “Why do we need one more spiritual book?”

The author’s self-published “Life is Binary: The Choice to Live Love or Limitation” is divided into eight chapters which are further divided into subchapters. A dedication, acknowledgements and preface precede the table of contents. There is a reference section at the end. Apart from the colorful images on the cover, there are no other illustrations.

Vivbala starts with his personal awakening story, which in itself is engaging reading. Then he follows it with the insights he received.

Unlike “The Celestine Prophecy” that seems contrived, and some other books by authors who’ve made a business out of selling spirituality, “Life is Binary” is one engineer’s true story. Every writer has a voice, and it is Vivbala’s voice that helps set his book apart from others. He comes across as rational, caring, endearing, earnest and genuine. He’s a regular guy holding down a job and going to performances to watch his daughter dance.

Vivbala skillfully uses analogies and examples to explain his experience, insights and various phenomena such as synchronicity. He writes, “The best analogy I can come up with for what happened to me is the reboot of a computer. In computer systems, when the system starts to behave abnormally or at very low efficiency and there seems to be weird problems happening, the best solution is to reboot the system. A reboot kills all the processes that are running including those that are hanging and clears out the memory. It also deletes all the temporary files used by these processes. When the computer is shut down and restarted, it has a clear processor and memory. Spiritual awakening or near death experiences are nothing but the reboot of your mind and body.”

While reading “Life is Binary” I found myself nodding constantly as I was agreeing with the author’s statements, recognizing myself in his examples, appreciating nuggets of wisdom and realizing that retraining the mind is a life-long process for most of us who yearn to move beyond a limited existence.

Some of the ideas put forth, such as avoiding watching the news because it adds negativity to our lives, are easy to understand and are generally accepted in circles where mental health and well-being are the main focus. That we are immortal will be harder to grasp and believe.

In the final chapter, Vivbala reminds us that spiritual awakening does not come about by reading a book, even so, I wished there would have been more pencil-and-paper exercises to help me identify my patterns, fears, dreams and so forth and to help me apply some of his insights to my life.

Readers who notice typos will find a few, and some of the paragraphs seem mighty long.

If you’ve been reading spiritual development books for very long, you might not find many strikingly new concepts in “Life is Binary,” but that’s not a criticism whatsoever.

What is new and refreshing about this book is the being who is delivering the message and the way he delivers it.

So, why do we need one more spiritual book?

Because there might be at least one person left out there who is still sleepwalking through life. Maybe two.

***

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

“Walking the Trail” by Jerry Ellis: Long Trail-Short Book

Beth Fowler headshot by Beth Fowler

 

 

 

When I bought “Walking the Trail” by Jerry Ellis, I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be the kind of travel memoir I would savor while reading and cherish when finished.

My hope was met.

The dreadful history of the Cherokee Trail of Tears is skillfully interwoven in “Walking the Trail.” And we learn a little about Ellis’ family back home, too.

During his walk he, of course, meets people, all of whom are broken to some degree or other, yet they remain kind and philosophical in their approaches to Ellis and life, respectively. He seems to bond with them on a soul level, even though the meetings are brief, a pattern that was cast when he was a boy. He tells us about the time this pattern was created in a passage describing a dove that would come to him when Ellis whistled. I think every human being has had a dove in his or her life, and then learned that doves aren’t forever. The passage is as pure and true as anything you could wish to read.

Readers are rewarded with gems of observation, self-revelation, lust, loss, peace, one-of-a-kind Americans and forward momentum. I was confused only twice by the absence of quotations around dialog.

Ellis wrote about his 900-mile walk in a voice that is both masculine and vulnerable. Now that I’ve finished the 256-page book, I wish the book was longer.

Walking the Trail

Visit Ellis on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/NATIVEDEFENDER

 

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Tips for Writers Working at Home, But Not Alone: Part 2

Interruptions!

Interruptions!

 

 

 

Blog readers sent heartfelt comments about Tips for Writers Working at Home, But Not Alone: Part 1….it seems carving out writing time is a challenge, especially during the summer and for  writers who have kids, spouses, houses and a life.

  1. Write to write. Beginning writers spend more money than they earn from writing. This economic fact can be a source of guilt. Comments like, “You spent how much for ‘Writer’s Marketplace’?” weigh heavily. Invite your family to discuss their feelings. Does your writing really strain the budget, or is something else bugging your family? Meanwhile, keep writing.
  2. Write about it. Writers experience heavy demands on their time and emotions from family members. In an ideal world you might be spared this, but if you were, would you have as much to write about? Every experience is an idea for writing.
  3. Be honest. Some writers use outside circumstances as excuses to not write. This is dishonest. Putting the burden on others with comments like, “You trim the hedge so I can write,” is unfair. Hedges need trimmed, regardless. Say, “It’s your turn to trim the hedge,” and then go write. (You did trim the hedge last time, didn’t you?)
  4. Streamline and economize. Writing takes time and money, so I’ve streamlined and economized. I moved to a smaller house near two libraries and sometimes serve stir-fried rice instead of complicated meals. I swap magazines with writers’ circle members and buy used books.
  5. Search for nuggets. Angela Raeburn, a beginning freelancer, has two sons, a part-time job and a home to run. “I search for nuggets of time for my writing in between the school run, play group duty, taking the dog to the vet and delivering hubby’s suits to the cleaners,” Angela said. She added that she doesn’t feel guilty when ironing piles up because “I get paid for writing, I don’t get paid for housework.”
  6. Manage time. Susan Wilson, another freelancer, shared her time management technique. “Time mismanagement can be turned into positive control by actively noting daily what you do, when you do it and how long it takes over a period, say two weeks. Draw up a chart showing the chunks of time and concentrate the activity into that time.” Susan is partially paralyzed, but her determination takes her from England to Asia gathering ideas and material for writing.
  7. Divide and write. Horror writer Mark Morris shares domestic chores with his wife Nel, an artist who also works from home. “I work in the mornings and look after our one-year-old son in the afternoons, and Nel does it the other way around.” While one parent bathes and beds their son, the other cooks supper. Evenings and weekends are free for relaxing and socializing.

Making adjustments and finding solutions to meet each other’s needs—that’s what living and working together is all about.

“They lived happily ever after” is not a trite story ending. It’s the beginning of your story.

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Tips for Writers Working at Home, But Not Alone: Part 1

Beth Fowler headshot by Beth Fowler

 

 

 

 

 

When you sit down to write, does it seem as if family members conspire to prevent you from writing, and as if domestic duties scream for attention? Well, if you cave in and put writing aside, you won’t make money from what you didn’t write. Right? Here are techniques you can use to find writing time in your busy days.

  1. Build respect. One writer bribed her kids with ice cream bought with money she hoped to earn from articles. Not good. Healthy relationships are built on respect, not on bribes. Writers can say, “Writing is important to me. It would help if you didn’t disturb me for the next three hours. Can you do that?” Then stick to the agreement.
  2. Share enthusiasm. Encourage your family to write a neighborhood newsletter, a cookbook, a letter to an editor, a journal. Once they’ve seen their work in print, they’ll understand why you like to write. It’s rewarding.
  3. Compromise. Jolyn’s mother interrupted his writing by asking for rides to town. Jolyn chauffeured his mother for a ten-minute errand, which expanded to one hour. Jolyn and Mom could compromise: “Mom, I’ll take you to town at three o’clock. Until then I need time to write.” Mom agrees. But at noon she asks: “Can we go to town now?” Jolyn used to give in. Now he says, “You’ve interrupted me, even though we agreed I’ll take you to town at three o’clock. I’ll take you at three o’clock.” After all, compromise means vow together.
  4. Educate non-writers. When I told ten-year-old Christopher that I write at home, he said, “Oh, you don’t work.” Because I don’t pack a briefcase and commute daily to an office, I didn’t fit his idea of a legitimate worker. Had I explained that his favorite author J.K. Rowling began like I did—getting rejections, honing skills in relative anonymity, writing and rewriting (and re-rewriting) Christopher might have agreed that what I do is work, even if I’m not famous. Like all artists, writers serve apprenticeships too.
  5. Nurture important relationships. Screenwriter Tim Burton (“Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”) said that his “interiorizing” separated him from people. He added, “It makes you think you’re crazy.” Before everybody goes crazy, set aside time to nurture friendships and family ties.
  6. Empathize with non-writers. We writers are consumed with twisting our tales or creating zippy dialogue. How do others perceive us? Dusty Wesker is married to Arnold Wesker, author of 30-plus plays. She said, “Living with a writer and a writer’s ego is incredibly difficult. We’ve had a wonderful life together, but there have been ups and downs, but I’m resilient.” Resilience on everybody’s part is vital for every relationship’s longevity.
  7. Create a workspace. You’ll be taken more seriously if you create a permanent writing center. You’ll take yourself more seriously, too. Organize your filing system, install a shelf for reference and resource books, use good equipment, go to writers’ group meetings.
  8. Write in a healthy environment. The work center shouldn’t be tucked into a murky corner. Select a place that inspires productivity. Scientists believe that plants in an office improve productivity, lower energy consumption, reduce noise levels and are, of course, aesthetically pleasing. Choose a place with good circulation. Built up dust, pet hairs, traces of cleaners, mold and carbon dioxide can cause headaches and allergic reactions.

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.