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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Silly Saturday

I ran across this video and thought it would be something all you children of the '80's would enjoy.  I know I did.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday 13: Thirteen Reasons to Attend Conferences

1. The classes. You can attend all sorts of classes, from ‘how to write’ to ‘how to market yourself’ to ‘how to get published’.

2. Networking. This is a buzzword, I admit, but it’s a useful one. It’s not a new idea, either, it’s just that in today’s society of distributed social systems, it’s harder than ever for people to make contacts in any industry – much less writing. On the other hand, writers tend to be helpful to others, sometimes even in spite of themselves. You never know who you will meet, and who will end up being a friend, confidant, partner, or publisher.

3. Meet readers. First and foremost, writers are, in general, readers. They love the written word. Since you produce the written word, you get to meet your target audience.

4. Have fun. Conferences are , by and large, filled with lots of social and goofy events. Depending on the type of conference, you can attend parties, costume events, music performances, and lots of other stuff. These all help feed the inner writer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interview Studio: A Conversation with Debbie Cairo

Many of our members know Debbie, the cheerful face behind Evanston Writers Workshop. She started the original meetup group and brought in the board that now runs the non-profit company. Tomorrow, the world!

All kidding aside, Debbie has a lot of energy, great ideas, and tremendous creativity. She's written several novels and her first, OVER MY UNDEAD BODY, is published with Whispers Publishing.

We caught up with Debbie over email to discuss her projects and writing process.

SN: You started the original Meetup group of Evanston Writers Workshop in 2007. What made you decide to get things going?

DC: I went to a Romantic Times convention prior to that and met a couple of authors, one of them being Tina Holland, who I became fast friends with and introduced me to the concept of critique partners. Unfortunately, one was in Florida and one was in North Dakota, so our critique sessions were limited to AOL Messenger and email. A gentleman named Richard started a writers group in Evanston through Meetup dot com. Five of us showed up at the first meeting. I found I really enjoyed the companionship and input of other authors. So, when he stepped down as organizer of the group less than a month after its creation, I took it over without hesitation. Since then, as we have grown and evolved, we now encompass much more than the critique group it started as. I’m very excited to see where we go in the future.

SN: When did you start to think of yourself as "a writer" and not just someone who fiddled with stories?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Review - Writing World

Long-time author and editor Moira Allen created Writing World and has built it into a powerhouse of writing-related information and advice. They have a large number of sections, including:

  • Beginner's World
  • Becoming a Better Writer
  • The Business of Writing
  • The Writing Life
  • Freelancer's World
  • Commercial Corner
  • International Writing
  • General Fiction
  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • SF/Fantasy
  • Children's Writing
  • Poetry/Greeting Cards
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Screenwriting
  • Publishing Your Book
  • Promoting Your Writing

I highly recommend poking around to see what appeals to you. There's enough there to keep you quite busy. Just remember to go back to your writing!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mentor Monday: Language Evolves and Grammar Lurches Along: On Keeping a Toehold on Stampeding Style, By RJ Robertson

Welcome to Mentor Monday, our second and fourth Monday feature focusing on the how-to's of writing. Today we have another installment in a series from our beloved Curmudgeon of Grammar, RJ Robertson. To refresh your memory, check out Part One. Enjoy!

Language Evolves and Grammar Lurches Along: On Keeping a Toehold on Stampeding Style
by RJ Robertson, Curmudgeon of Grammar

Part One, cont.

Well, enough of excuses and allusions. My discussion is in four parts. In the first I will detail ten of the commonest errors one encounters in everyday speech and writing. It is in the form of a quiz. If you get all or most correct, you might be satisfied to go your way in peace. Or, even if you don’t, you could simply resolve not to do it again, and still go your way in peace. If you endure to the second part, I will present the rationale for the correct choices in common sense terms. In the third part I will say a bit about the parts of language, and how they require the currently-reigning rules. (Heaven knows I’m no expert at it, but I do have the basics, and we’ll muddle through.) Finally, in the fourth part I will reverse course and propose that, if you hang around long enough, many of the things I criticize (following Strunk and White) will be common practice. Off we go, then.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Sit-Down Dinner: "The Value of Notebooks" by Hudson McCann

Welcome to our feature, Sunday Sit-Down Dinner. In keeping with the idea of a slower-paced, sit-down meal, posts in this feature are essays on life and writing. We hope you enjoy them, as you might enjoy sitting down with friends and family over a meal.

Today's feature is a re-post of one of our early features, by member Hudson McCann.

The Value of Notebooks
by Hudson McCann

While most of my night stand is covered with a disparate collection of items -- a chalk-white lamp; a beige cube clock radio, Kleenex box and 3” Super Woman doll -- a two-foot high pile of books covers the northeast corner. In the past couple of years, as writing wedged itself into my daily life, the height of the books hasn’t changed, but the contents of the pile has. Some of the books are now authored by me.

No, the books aren’t published. The self-authored books are notebooks that contain stories initiated from group prompts, first drafts, revisions of scenes, notes from lectures, character sketches, book recommendations, web pages, trade associations and other writer’s resources.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Silly Saturday: The God of Cake

For this week's Silly Saturday, I'd like to share with you the blog, Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven't stopped by for a peek, it's well worth a visit. Author and artist Allie creates posts that reflect her unique outlook on everyday life.

For today, I am recommending you give "The God of Cake" a read. You'll be glad you did.

And you'll never look at cake the same way again.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Flash Focus - "The Life of a Dollar Bill," by Mark Hudson

Welcome to another episode of Friday Flash Focus. This week, we have a feature from our regular Prompt Group member, Mark Hudson. Enjoy!

The Life of a Dollar Bill
by Mark Hudson

As the stocks plummeted on the exchange, my self-esteem felt low. My name is Theodore Peabody, and I am a dollar bill. Never in U.S. history since the Great Depression has my race meant so little. The only people I pity more are the pennies.

My master's name is Walter Thouroughgood. I'm his lucky dollar. I was the first dollar he ever made when he graduated from business school. Well, not really. He sold his beat-up car and made $20,001 dollars. I was the oddball, the one dollar that didn't fit in. So he decided to deem me his lucky dollar.

I have been in a special place in his wallet for years. It's dark here, cozy and warm. But a little information about dollars you might not know, we abhor human hands. Human hands are rather filthy things. I once belonged to a politician who swapped me for an act of prostitution. I watched with my invisible eyes the debauchery of the politician.

On our skin it says, "In God we trust." Nowadays, our reputation is being ruined. The righteous providers we used to be, "In God we trust," has come to sound like a joke. Some people even say, "The devil's house is made of money."

I hope that Walter doesn't spend me on booze. He';s gone belly-up on the stock markets. I was once shuffled around a bar once. People got beer on me and it was really gross. Ever seen a dollar bill get drunk? Put one in a bar. It's like the old days...Charmin...the quicker picker upper.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Interview Studio: A Conversation with Tina Holland

Welcome to our regular Wednesday feature, the Interview Studio. Here we will sit down and chat with authors who are just starting out as well as seasoned pros. We will get a glimpse into the world of writing and publishing through their eyes and, if we are lucky, learn some tools of the trade in the process. Join me!

Our first subject is author and Evanston Writers Workshop Board Member Tina Holland. Author of eight books, Tina is also a member of Romance Writers of America and heads up their online chapter, an international discussion group of writers and authors. We are lucky to have her expertise on our board and wanted to share a little about her with you, our members and readers.
SN: You mention in your bio that you are a "military brat." Does growing up with that kind of structure and culture affect how you see your characters in your stories?

Tina: Yes and No. My parents met at a Vietnam Protest Rally – my father registering for the armed forces and my mother getting in his face. They fell in love and had sort of a tumultuous courtship before getting married. While my mother was never a structured person…I am and was from the cradle. According to my mother if she didn’t follow it, I’d be sure to let her know, quiet adamantly.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Flash Focus - Send in the Clowns, by James Kelher

Send in the Clowns

by James Kelher

I shake my head, the red wig slipping free. I raise my hands to my face, staring dumbly at the plain white gloves that sheath them. The blue and yellow stripes of my costume and the giant red shoes cladding my feet all seem part of a surreal dream.

“Buddy, you ok?” the dwarf asks again, dropping the bucket and taking a step forward. “That was quite a knock you took.”

I wave him away, attempting to rise to my feet. The effort proves more a wish than a reality and I find myself on my rump again, a sharp piece of straw poking me in the thigh.

“Easy there, fella, get your equilibrium back first.”

“What happened?” I ask.

“Elephant,” the dwarf says, looking away.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday 13: Thirteen Reasons Why I Can't Go to Paris Just Yet, by Marge C.

Thursday 13: Thirteen Reasons Why I Can't Go to Paris Just Yet
by Marge Coleman

1) Alex needs to get his driver's license. That means he has to practice driving using the 11-year-old family van. It's old and slow EVEN if he painted flames on it. Keep him humble.

2) I need to stay at my job and allow the routine to dominate my days from 8-3pm while my 401K grows (I hope).

3) My basement flooded. What I flushed on Friday re-surfaced on Saturday 7/23/11.

4) My dog is afraid of the thunder.

5) I cannot sell my house. For nothing.

6) I might miss the Cicada songs.

7) Where are my glasses?

8) The left knee I broke last winter ice skating needs additional rehab to appreciate the long walks I will take when I am sightseeing.

9) I drink only decaf. I need more time to learn to drink darker, thicker brews.

10) The electric bill is too high.

11) I cannot decide if I like Frenchmen with or without facial hair.

12) I get plane sick. Car sick. Escalator sick.

13) ******My husband says don't worry, Paris will wait for me. ****

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Today I am pleased to bring you a guest post by Xakara, one of the authors of the Beyond the Veil blog. As some of you know, I was recently invited to be part of Beyond the Veil. Xakara is a talented and imaginative author as well as being a social media and marketing specialist, and I am pleased to share her review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Enjoy!

My Two Cents ~ Rise of the Planet of the Apes, A Review
by Xakara

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco and Andy Serkis, rose to #1 at the box office it’s opening weekend with a gross of $54 million—almost $20 million more than the projected estimates, and it earned every penny!

The effects were simply amazing. There is no point where you’re left to doubt Caesar is anything but a large, powerful, frightenly intelligent chimpanzee. The world is believable from the first frame and never wavers. But I fear that the emphasis will be on the effects for the movie while overlooking what those effects made way for in the end.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mentor Monday: Language Evolves and Grammar Lurches Along: On Keeping a Toehold on Stampeding Style (Part 1), by RJ Robertson

Welcome to our new feature, Mentor Monday. Every second and fourth Monday, we will feature helpful articles on all aspects of writing, from the craft of writing to the business of being an author. This week, we feature regular ShopNotes contributor RJ Robertson and his four-part series on grammar. Enjoy!

Language Evolves and Grammar Lurches Along: On Keeping a Toehold on Stampeding Style, Part 1
by R.J. Robertson

"Many years ago a wise and cynical man proved that the way a person talks is the most important thing about him." -Robert A. Heinlein, in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

I got this job because – having been educated before the era of “don’t inhibit a child’s self-expression” – I thrust myself unwittingly into the role of Curmudgeon of Grammar in the Evanston Writers’ Workshop.

The C of G is not exactly a knightly title, you understand, but it does have one faintly noble perquisite: you get to criticize the work of writers better than yourself. I populated this role, without realizing what I was doing, by complaining about too many liberties being taken with English grammar in otherwise excellent work submitted for critique in the Evanston Writers’ group.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Sit-Down Dinner: A Writer's Mission, by RJ Robertson

Welcome to Sunday Sit-Down Dinner, our weekly essay feature. We will focus on essays by members and friends of Evanston Writers Workshop, including our industry partners such as editors, publishers, agents, publicists, photographers, and others. If you have something you'd like to submit, please email us at Evanston ShopNotes.

Today, we will reprise a wonderful essay written by our member RJ Robertson.  A long-time member of our weekly Critique Group, he uses his background as a retired practicing psychologist and author to craft stories and essays on a large number of topics.  Here, then, is "A Writer's Mission."  Enjoy.

A Writer's Mission
by RJ Robertson

“By their works ye shall know them.” -Jesus Christ

Are writers responsible for anything more than to make a living at writing? I believe so. The very fact that people will pay for a writer’s efforts indicates that the customer finds the work of value. But what exactly is that value? “Entertainment,” one quickly replies, but what does that mean? Depending on how you define it the term can mean escape into a fantasy world in which the reader finds a model of heroic, long-suffering, amusing, adventurous or otherwise fascinating experience to enjoy vicariously and identify with. Or, it can mean glimpsing a corner of the world the reader had known nothing about, Or something in which to lose oneself to howls of laughter, tears of sympathy, or touching empathy. But that’s not all.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Silly Saturday

Get out your silly hats! Silly Saturdays are for those strange, goofy, funny things you see on the internet. Be curious, creative, but keep it PG-13, please!

For today, we have a video that's made its round of the internet, but is worth showcasing again.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Flash Focus - Stressed-Out Santa, by Mark Hudson

Welcome to Friday Flash Focus, our new Friday series on ShopNotes. Here is your chance to contribute stories, either fictional or non-fictional, and even poetry, to the ShopNotes Blog. Submission of anything up to 1,500 words are welcome; if you have longer pieces, please discuss it with us and we may serialize them over time.

I'd also like to introduce our new Friday Flash Focus Editor, Supie Dunbar. Supie is a long-time member of Evanston Writers Workshop and a major contributor to the Critique Group. We are pleased to welcome Supie into the ranks of EWW and hope that you will give her lots of fodder for posting!

To submit, please email to: ShopNotes .

Our first feature is an entry by long-time Prompt Group member, Mark Hudson. Mark is a poet, author, and artist in the Chicago area.  This was in response to one of the prompts in our group, which was to write a letter or story from the point of view of one of Santa's Reindeer or with Santa as the villain.

Stressed-Out Santa

by Mark Hudson

Well, this is Santa reporting from the North Pole. Looks like we won't have Christmas this year. Not only are the elves on strike, but the reindeer as well. They are demanding more pay. The elves are claiming I hired them cheaply because they are immigrants, from the elven land of Vellenhizen. And the reindeers want royalties on their jingles. Rudolph wants a memoir, and his own line of clothing. Rudolph has hired a ghost writer reindeer to write his memoir, named Gustav Robertson reindeer. His line of clothing will include mittens for hooves, llama wool hats, thick scarves, and lumberjack boots. Prancer wanted to do a hip-hop demo, he is feeling oppressed being an animal so he's got some issues to rap about. His no. 1 hit is "Don't lock me in a zoo," and his second greatest hit is "Santa drives his sleigh drunk".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thursday 13: We Want You!

Thursday 13 is a custom in the blogging world where folks put together lists of 13 things they're interested in. The only requirement is that there be 13 of them. It could be anything from 13 Reasons Why I Hate Opera to 13 Recipes for Quince. Whatever catches your fancy will be sufficient (but keep it PG-13, please). Pictures are event better, and if you can come up with a list of 13 pictures that interest you - perfect! If you're still stumped about what it's all about, try visiting the Thursday 13 page and reading up on it. Then, send us your lists! We will publish one list a week on Wednesday night by 8:00 P.M. Central time, so put on your thinking caps and get writing!

To kick off the festivities, I've prepared a list of 13 Reasons to Write Thursday 13 Lists! Enjoy!

1. Lists help you to write by "priming the pump." Since there doesn't have to be narrative, we can get our juices flowing without having to be intimidated by a long story idea.

2. 13 is a good number for coming up with a nice thorough list, but not so much as to be overwhelming. Some weeks you might just list 13 links. Others, 13 pictures. Still others, you might like to list a whole big narrative list explaining each section.

Shalom: Michael Golenzer

It is with profound sadness that I report the passing of Michael Golenzer, owner of The Bagel Restaurant. Mr. Golenzer was beloved by his employees, friends, and family, and a generous member of the community. Those of you who attended our Second Annual "In the Trenches with the Writer" Conference this past June will recall that The Bagel kindly donated a meal to our event. Mr. Golenzer was a kind and generous man and he will be missed.

For more information, please visit the Chicago Tribune Obituary.

For more information on his family's restaurant, please visit The Bagel Restaurant.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday Review - Cowboys and Aliens

Welcome to our new Tuesday series, Tuesday Reviews.  We welcome Evanston Writers Workshop member reviews on whatever books we are reading as well as movies and television we're watching, plays, food, concerts, travel, you name it.  To kick us off, I thought we might take a peek at the new film, Cowboys and Aliens.

In some of the promo, Daniel Craig seemed awfully thin.  He sure wasn't in the movie:  he was buff, rough, and tough enough to take on an alien invasion.

Except, it takes place over a hundred years ago!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Q&A

Welcome to the Grand Re-opening of Evanston ShopNotes!  We have all new content...some new editors, but the same original talent...You!

This is your chance to participate!  We welcome your questions, stories, and your knowledge.
Our new schedule will look like this:

Sundays - Sunday Sit-Down Dinner (Essays on life and writing; open submissions with emphasis for working authors/agents/editors/booksellers/etc)

Mondays -  1st, 3rd, 5th week:  Member Mail Bag (Questions from members)
2nd and 4th weeks:  Mentor Monday (Grammar, Business, Conferences, Websites of Interest)

Tuesdays - Reviews (we welcome your reviews on whatever books you are reading as well as movies and television you're watching, plays, food, concerts, travel, you name it)

Wednesdays - Interview Studio (We'll be leading this up with some familiar faces but feel free to request anyone.  I'll do my best to track them down.)

Thursdays - Thursday Thirteen.  Open call for submission of lists of 13 Things.

Fridays -  Friday Flash Focus, Supie Dunbar, Editor

Silly Saturdays -  You know those articles that crack you up or those viral videos or even the unusual ones.  Feel free to share with us. 

You can send your questions to me at

I hope you enjoy the changes we are making and I look forward to hearing from you.

Tina Holland
ShopNotes Editor-In-Chief
EWW Published Author Liaison and COO