Tag Archives: Writers

Ho-Ho-Hope You’re Writing! 5 Writing Tips from Santa Himself

santa claus
credit: Eric Lanning

Seasons’ greetings, fellow writers.  It’s that time of year where the eggnog starts pouring and the coloured lights are a twinklin’.

The busyness of the last few weeks of the year can leave very little time for writing, but it bears saying:  write anyways.   Whether it’s just 15 minutes, 500 words, whatever your method for squeezing in some writing time, do it.

While the expertise of Father Christmas lies in the industry of distribution and holiday cheer, there are a few things we can learn from his gift giving strategy when it comes to the picking up that pen, or committing to some keyboard clatter:


1.  Not everyone will believe in you.

Let’s rip this bandage off quickly.  There are probably people in your life who don’t believe you are a writer, or don’t believe that the effort in pursuing the craft is worth your time.  These people might be bitter and malicious or they might be very well meaning.

You are still a writer.

 Don’t waste time feeling like you have to convince them otherwise.  Just because they aren’t putting out the writer’s equivalent of milk and cookies for you, doesn’t mean you don’t have a sack full of plot lines and protagonists in your sleigh– which brings us to our second tip:

2.  Deliver.  

Don’t be an aspiring writer.  Be a writer.  Write often, write purposefully, and write until you’ve finished something.  That big velvet bag full of description and literary devices that you’ve been telling people about?  You need wrap them up nicely so people can open up their browser,fire up their tablet, or crack open those pages and read them.

3.  Santa has a workshop.

Good ol’ St Nick has his work space well established, and while you don’t necessarily need an area the size of the north pole for writing, you do need a designated writing zone.    Someplace  to sit, or stand, something to support your writing devices (a computer, paper pad and or pen), and somewhere you can focus with relatively few distractions.

4.  Practice and Perfect.  

I don’t mean “practice makes perfect”. Santa has been doing this a long time, and we’ve heard enough wacky tales about his misadventures delivering goodies to know that he still hasn’t got it completely right.  But Santa sticks to it, even after the set backs.

Santa also evolves.  He’s tried new things for better results, and you can too!  Just think: what if one foggy Christmas eve, Santa didn’t add another reindeer to his team?

5.  Santa knows what’s up… and so should you.

Santa does his research.  He knows what his audience is looking for, though his means of acquiring such data is potentially questionable (He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…?).  Do you know who your audience is?  Do you know what they want to read about, or how to present it to them?

So here it is: Santa doesn’t execute his one night flight of gift giving with out a little bit of planning. He makes a list, and he checks it twice, so review this list: do you follow his advice?

The Three Things Every Writer Needs

Credit: Travis Modisette

For this article, I scanned flyers, blogs, Kickstarter, bookstores and office supply warehouses.  The elves of online shopping outlets were happily pulling my finger tips to the keyboard and I was ready to start to linking delightful little gifts, everything from boot slippers to writer’s magazine subscriptions.

But here’s the thing:

Writers don’t need the cutest pens to write prize-winning essays.  We don’t need stylish terrariums with air purifying plants to spark inspiration.  We don’t need the latest writing software to create dynamic and compelling characters.

Don’t get me wrong:  these things are amaaaaaazing.  And most writer’s like stuff!  (I would personally be thrilled to receive a pair of boot slippers, as cold feet are the bane of my existence, and a major distraction when writing.)

There are several top 7, 10, 35 and 40 essential items for writer lists scattered across the internet.  There are even lists saying what not to get writers. You can get a wordsmith almost anything from anyone of these lists, but above all else, writer’s can always use these three things:

1.  Support  

It may sound cheesy, but it’s true…

Does the writer in your life know that you’re on their side?  That you respect their passion for writing?  That you don’t really mind their idiosyncratic tendencies such as shouting out possible character names or drawing timelines on napkins in the middle of dinner?  Do those writers near and dear to your heart know that you’ve got their back, and they can come to you with their problems, both real and fictional?

If you’re supportive and you know it, and you really want to show it, here’s a few ways to do so:

  • The basics.  You know, listening, smiling, asking questions, respecting their boundaries, empathizing when they don’t know how to kill off a character… those kind of things.
  • Supply the equipment.  This is where you can get to shopping!  It can be inspirational wall art, notebooks, an external hard drive, writing fuel (that’s red wine and honey roasted peanuts for me, but it varies), the list goes on.  Ask your lovely author what they need.  They will tell you.

2.  Time

Most writers don’t have lazy afternoons to spend filling moleskin notebooks with imagery, or write their time travel mysteries at Starbucks waiting for a certain barista to ask about them about it.  Most writers have day jobs, families, errands, housework, and they’re left to sacrifice a few hours sleep for the opportunity to scribble some dialog and plot points down.   How can you help?  You give the gift of time.  Let’s repeat that:

You can give the gift of time. 

So how do you do that?  Here are a few examples:

  • Babysitting.  This one only works if they have kids, keep in mind, but if they do, you’re in luck!  Take them to the movies, to the park, or to the library!  Free that writer for an afternoon from those cute little sticky-handed distractions.
  • House Cleaning.  If you live with this lovely literary type, by taking the lion’s share of the chores, you leave a lot of time left over for writing.
  • A no-date date.  The idea is that you set the mood for a great night of writing… just your writer and their date: their Lenovo IdeaPad (or non-Franzen endorsed computer) a note book, and preferably, a cool pen.  A beverage of choice, a prepared meal and a few word games can be a dreamy evening for any aspiring author.  Just pour that drink and give your writer a little privacy…

3.  Readers

Writer’s are naturally going to be very protective of their books (or blogs).  After what may feel like ages, they will present their finished, or finished-for-now products to you, hoping that you will vomit praise and rainbows all over it.  Gross, but true.  They will also want constructive feedback, questions about the story, a discussion about publishing and what they will do when their writing has made them internationally famous.

How do you do help here?

  • Read their work.  If a writer comes to you with their blood, sweat and tear-soaked manuscript, one of the  greatest gifts you can offer is to just read it.
  • Talk about it.  Ask the author questions, talk about what you like, and talk about what you didn’t like, or didn’t understand.  Give them a forum to discuss their ideas and intentions with the book, and offer your own original feed back.
  • Tell others to read it. Of course, this is only if their product is finished, and they want you to share it.  If so, recommending it to friends, family, colleagues, grocery store clerks, Good Reads, anybody and everybody is sure to put a smile on their face.

So, friends of writers:  Are you encouraging, time gifting, or reading for the authors in your life?  Great!  Still need to wrap something to go under the tree?  Fine.  Take a look-see at these lists:

Fall 2013′s Book and Writer’s Festivals

Some of this years’ finest book festivals have already come and gone, but this weekend kicks off another amazing series of author readings, book signings, seminars and so forth! Here are some of the notable book and writer festivals coming up this weekend:

We’ll be spending our Sunday at Word on the Street in Toronto, Ontario. You can find us checking out some amazing platforms such as Vibrant Voices of Ontario, the Wordshop Marquee, and the interactive program, This Is Not The Shakespeare Stage.  Better yet, Word on the Street is a free community event hosted in four other Canadian cities:Kitchener (September 21)  Saskatoon, Lethbridge and Halifax(September 22nd).

Catch up with us there via Twitter, @SumbolaCoSI, or follow the festival itself @torontoWOTS.


Have you found yourself in Winnipeg, Manitoba?  Check out the Winnipeg International Writers Festival: Thin Air!  Thin Air offers a “literary feast” of lectures, book launches, and many other events available in both in French and English.  The festival runs Sept 20-28, and opens with a reading from mystery and crime novelist, Gail Bowen.

You can follow all the exciting updates on Twitter @WPGTHINAIR.


Thinking of checking out Vermont for the weekend?  Perfect timing, since this weekend is the annual Burlington Book Festival.  Running from Sept 20-22, the festival will kick off Friday Night with an opening ceremony hosted by Fran Stoddard.  Other special events will include the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, the Families at Phoenix Series, and, of course, the Literary Pub Crawl.

Follow them on Twitter: @BurlBookFest.


If your spending your weekend in the Mount Rushmore state, check out Deadwood, South Dakota’s Festival of Books.  They’re so thrilled about this weekend, they’ve even got an app for it! Running September 20-22nd, the festival will feature  workshops, book signings, readings… and a Zombie Walk.  Why not?

You can follow the all the excitement on Twitter: @sdbookfestival


September 21-22nd, if you’re in Washington, DC, check out the Library of Congress National Book Festival. You can celebrate two full days with over 100 writers, illustrators and poets at the National Mall.  Book signings will be available from notable authors such as Thomas Keneally, Joyce Carol Oats, and Margaret Atwood.  This weekend also offers the reward of the Book Festival Badge for Scouts!

Follow all the action on Twitter:  @librarycongress


Any other literary events going on this weekend?  Let us know in the comments or connect with us on Twitter! For more festivals throughout the year, check out our festival board on Pinterest.

Why Self Publishing Is More Than OK

Isaac Asimov

More than a week ago, I read an article that struck me.

Why Didn’t I Self-Publish?” was a letter addressed to Salon advice columnist Cary Tennis, and his response.  In short, the letter was written by a woman with a successful career outside of being a writer. She has a husband, child, and a passion for story telling. After writing two novels, she sought an opportunity to publish them, but upon finding a platform through her local library, she couldn’t go through with it: her opportunity came and went. She was left feeling disappointed and confused.  Why didn’t she pursue it?

Tennis’ response, in short, was that she had a lack of motivation to be self-published.  Yes, she wanted to be a writer; her novels (not to mention newsletter and short stories) are proof of that.  What she wanted was the recognition from her peers, including her husband, that she was creative, artistic, and more than just “practical, organized, somebody who gets things done”.  Tennis suggested that instead of self-publishing, she should find a reputable publisher. Furthermore, he advised her not to let the likelihood of “never making it on Oprah” hinder her.  He ended his article encouraging her to “dream big.  That way, you will have something to strive for”, inviting her to take action.

I read the article on my browser, closed the tab, and moved on to other publishing insights and editorials.  And yet it stayed with me, this sadness about a woman who was too afraid to self publish- for fear of her work being dismissed, or worse, herself ridiculed. It was only after reading an article by Hugh Howey on the IndieReader, entitled The Best Days of My Life that I understood why:  his happiest days were spent writing, not being a best-selling author.

There is nothing wrong with her desire to feel validation for what she is passionate about. For those who have read the full article, we could be quick to point fingers at her friends and husband for the lack thereof. Unfortunately, the truth is that you can find dozens of editorials from the so-called “successes” of the publishing industry, echoing their sentiments:

“Self-Publishing isn’t good enough…you’re not a real writer”.

When authors with any level of experience face that stigma, it’s hard to feel motivated.  It’s hard to feel confident in not only your work, but in yourself. The name of a big-five publishing company should not be a requirement for the support and encouragement of writers.

We need to remember why we choose to write.  Something inside each of us, at one point in our lives said “yes. Write. This is what you need to be doing, right now.” There is nothing wrong with making a profit, but that isn’t the main purpose.  There is nothing wrong with meeting Oprah, but that isn’t why we write either.  We write because we’re compelled to. We need to share our stories because we love them.  Self-publishing is a perfectly viable way of doing so.

Remember this about yourself when you write. Remember this when others imply that a publishing house defines the value of a writer. The woman from the advice column might not have had the support of friends and family, but as fellow writers, she should have it from us.