5 Sites for Writers to Geek Out On

1) outofprintclothing.com — A clothing store for the literature fan club, OutOfPrintClothing offers a wide variety of clothing and accessories emblazoned with famous literary logos. With everything from a basic “Pride and Prejudice” t-shirt to the “Poe-ka Dot” Edgar Allen Poe iPhone case, this site has an item for every book buff. They even have a section designated for photos of people showing off their book-love swag.

Even Emma Watson’s a fan.

2) blablameter.com  — Similar in design to the website that tells you how much your writing is like a famous author’s, the BlaBlaMeter will indicate how much of your writing is absolute crap. All you have to do is copy and paste a bit of your work into the BlaBlaMeter box and it will show you how much of your writing you threw in there just because. Apparently, everything previous to this sentence rates a .19 on the scale. That’s good, right?

3) telescopictext.com — Created by Joe Davis in 2008, TelescopicText starts off with a very simple sentence: “I made tea.” Users can then click any of the three words and the sentence will change. For example, clicking on “made” elicits “I made myself tea.” Each click of a word or phrase produces another bit of information in the sentence until it becomes a long descriptive paragraph of the character making tea. This game-like experience is fun for us nerdy writers who enjoy seeing a visual depiction of the importance and meaning of details.

4) bookshelfporn.com — Though claiming a slightly intimidating title, don’t be afraid to Google this site, book-lovers. BookshelfPorn is a massive collection of photos of beautiful bookshelves all over the world. An image gallery set up similarly to Pinterest, BookshelfPorn provides that fix all writers crave: staring at a well-crafted and well-designed bookshelf. It’s okay, not everyone understands…

It’s just…so beautiful…

5) This isn’t even a site. But this is hilarious.

Know of other great sites that I’ve left out? Share them in the comments below.

Jobs for Writers #1: Children’s Book Author

So as you guys may have noticed (or not noticed), I’ve been really busy this week. Not only have I been slowly recovering from an illness, but I’ve been maddeningly busy and may or may not have missed my usual every-other-Wednesday photo blog post (No, I definitely missed it).

All of this has caused me to have some sort of mini existential meltdown in which I questioned my purpose on earth and how it all fits in with who and what I want to be when I get out of college. But don’t freak out, anybody. Like I said, it was mini.

I still want to be a writer, of that I am certain. But what exactly should I write about? Where do I want to write? Should I write for myself or should I write for the world? Do I want to make an impact or do I want to float by under the radar?

Here’s what I’ve decided. I’m going to introduce a new series of posts in which I highlight and discuss a number of different jobs available to writers. These posts will be both for me and for you guys to explore the realm of writing and to look at different types of jobs that many of us may never have considered or even knew existed.

For now, I’ll be researching different jobs and discussing them, but if you guys ever have any recommendations or requests, leave me a comment below and I’ll be sure to look into it. So here we go.

Children’s Book Author

English: Winner of The Macmillan Prize for Chi...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though often considered the “easiest” type of book writing, becoming an author of children’s books, whether they be picture books or short novels, requires the same knowledge of creative writing as becoming an author of another genre. While it’s not necessary to have a degree to write children’s books, it is helpful to understand the ins and outs of the English language and be familiar with simple and complex literary concepts so as to use them properly in books.

Knowledge of marketing and how to market oneself to potential publishers is also a key trait of children’s authors. As an author, you’ll spend a lot of your time sending queries to publishers and pitching your ideas, so having an understanding of how The Business works would be beneficial.

Like a lot of authors, authors of children’s books are paid by the advance and royalty system. When a publishing company buys your book, they pay you an advance (depending on how well they think your books are going to sell on the market). Then, once your books have sold and they have accumulated the same amount of money as the advance (basically, once you’ve paid off your advance), you start getting paid in whatever percentage of royalties you negotiated in your contract with the publisher. Royalties are how much money you get out of the sale price (ex] If your book sells for $10 and you have a 10% contract, you’ll get $1 per book). Unfortunately, if your book doesn’t sell well, you might not be making any money off royalties.

Children’s book authors usually have to share their advance with the illustrator (and the illustrator usually gets paid more), so if you’re a writer who can draw and is concerned about making the most money possible (don’t become a writer), it would probably be wise to illustrate your own books. Sharing is no fun anyway.

Naturally, you’d have to be of a creative mindset in order to be an author. Also, it probably wouldn’t hurt for you to like kids. And books.
 

Degree
Not required

Salary
On average $55, 940 (US Bureau of Labor and Statistics)
(Tip: Salary varies. You can make twice that amount in larger cities and metropolitan areas)

Research/Helpful Links!
http://education-portal.com/articles/Become_a_Childrens_Author_Step-by-Step_Career_Guide.html

http://work.chron.com/much-childrens-book-writer-make-year-15393.html

http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Top-10-FAQs

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes273043.htm

How to Handle the Unexpected and Job Quest #2

When it comes to routines, I’m a bit of an expert. In fact, if I were to be the best at anything, I would be the best at routines. I love the monotony, the ease, and the utter predictability of an orderly and unsurprising day.

But how often does a day work out that perfectly?

Not often. Life (AKA an absurd amount of work) happened this week and I was forced to cope with one of its many unexpected challenges.

Unexpected Food VI.2: Spaghetti on a tube

Though not quite as unexpected as spaghetti in a tube…

I had a plan for what I was going to write for my Friday post. My topic (which I will hopefully get to write about very soon) was one I hadn’t written about in a while and I was excited to get started. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the project in enough time to start writing about it, and I hadn’t taken pictures or obtained the necessary materials for fact checking.

So what do you do when the only blog idea you had been planning for that week ends up falling apart?

Freak out. Maybe shed a few tears. Then check the running list of topics you have been steadily adding to since you began your blog and pick one to write about.

Don’t have a list? Make one. Don’t like your ideas? Write about how you were prevented from writing about what you wanted to write about. And if you’re absolutely and completely desperate, read my Top 5 Tips to Combat Writer’s Block. It probably won’t help.

On an unrelated and yet forcibly related note (because I had nothing else planned), I took another stab at applying for a writing job this past Sunday. This job sounded perfect because it’s located near my college campus, is paid, and has flexible student-friendly hours. Excellent.

It seemed straight-forward enough: In addition to light office work, my job would be to write newsletters and feature stories about businesses or people who had made donations to the school. Not exactly what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, but it’s finally a real writing job and would look good on my resume. In my effort to impress my future employer, I wrote what is perhaps the most professional cover letter I have ever written. I spruced up my writing sample (thanks to emperort for the edits!) and my existing resume and sent it off Sunday night in the hopes that it would be the first thing my new boss would see that day.

And it was. But rather than getting the quick, positive response I was hoping for, I received a fast, soul-crushing rejection. In no way objected to me (I don’t even know if she read my application), the woman whom I thought was to be my job savior wrote back and let me know that the position was already in the process of being filled, but that they would keep my application on file for future reference.

Once again, my job dreams have been swept out from under me. Time to mourn.

Who said being a writer was easy?

Quote #9

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” — Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

Quote #7

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.” — John Steinbeck

Treating Your Creative Problem with John Cleese, M.D.

Have you been feeling uncreative lately? Lethargic? Bogged down by work, social life, and remembering to feed your cat?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from moderate to severe writer’s block.

And yes, I’m a sufferer too.

But don’t worry, I may have found the solution.

John Cleese’s five steps to unleashing your creativity may just be the cure you’re looking for. But first, let’s discuss what it is.

In this presentation on the difficulties people face with creativity, actor/writer/creative specialist John Cleese claims that by simply following five simple steps people can break down the dreaded writer’s block and harness their existing creative abilities. He states that no one person is necessarily more creative than the other, but is perhaps better at getting in the right mindset for creativity to flourish. Here’s how you do it:

1) Space – To get into the “open mode” (the frame of mind where creativity lies), one must create a separate physical space for thinking, one which is closed off from outside pressures. If your thinking-space is in the middle of the living room, the same room in which your children are playing and the phone is ringing off the hook, you won’t be placing yourself in an environment conducive to creativity. One must create a separate and quiet space for thought.

2) Time – You must be in your quiet space for a certain amount of time, starting and ending at a particular time. Be sure to allot this time for pure, distraction-free thinking. As a recommendation, an hour and a half is generally a sufficient amount of time to allow racing thoughts to cease and to facilitate creativity.

3) Time – Altogether a different step, this time refers to time allotted to pondering an idea. Cleese found that the longer a person plays with an idea, the more original that idea becomes. If a person were to simply take the first idea that came to them, that idea might not be original at all. It is those who can survive the anxiety of not having yet solved the problem, those who have taken the time to expand upon and play with their ideas, who have the most original and creative thoughts.

4) Confidence – Always remember that there is no wrong answer. People who believe that their ideas are wrong or not good will lose confidence and be less likely to be creative. Ideas are stimulated by environments which are free of negativity. If swapping ideas with others, never feel that you have to be defensive about your ideas. Encouragement and playing with ideas is a better and more appropriate way of fostering original thoughts. You cannot make mistakes. There are none.

5) Humor – Don’t forget to have fun with it. There’s no need to get so “serious” about trying to force creative thoughts out. Laugh at your ideas. Laugh at other things. But always laugh. Humor is the quickest way to get into the open mode and its the easiest way to stay there.

Keeping these five steps in mind, allow your brain to play with your subject or topic. Don’t force anything. Original thoughts have the oddest way of popping up in random places if one allows oneself to think.

John Cleese as a civil servant in the halls of...

We’d never have this hilarious bit if someone didn’t sit down to think about it.

Which of these five steps do you struggle with most? Space? Time? Time? Confidence? Humor? And if you have other tips or “medication” for solving writer’s block and boosting creativity, let me know in the comments.

Quote #5

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” — Chuck Palahniuk