Writing Creatively

Writing Creatively
Creative Writing Tips

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Showcasing Briana Blair Creations

Meet “author, artist, writer, geek and freak, (author’s own description)” Briana Blair, a woman proud of the things that make her stand out from the crowd. A free-thinker, Briana is not afraid to speak her mind even in the face of negative feedback.

As a writer, Briana has penned over 400 poems for the series The Dark Side of My Mind. She wrote a horror/sci-fi novel at age 13 and has published 24 books. Briana’s BrianaDragon Creations is filled with a library of over 2300 articles. She writes in many genres, including non-fiction, self-help, humor, and modern fantasy but has a focus in self-help and spirituality. Her books are available in print and also in epub, Nook, Kindle, iTunes, and Google formats. 

In addition to being a writer, Briana is also an ordained minister and Doctor of Metaphysics. AND she is an artist who has produced thousands of pieces of digital and traditional art, along with jewelry and other crafts. Always a fan of living outside the box, she never creates what's trendy, only what she really loves and believes in. She currently produces art for Zazzle.

Briana lives by the motto, ”Get a job you love, and you'll never work a day in your life.” Briana believes that everyone should balance work with an enjoyment for life and also encourages people to learn, grow, and strive to be the best person they can possibly be.

Here are some of her creations (found on Zazzle):

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hélène Tragos Stelian's Next Act for Women

Whether we were stay-at-home moms or moms with jobs outside our homes, at some point we came to a realization that when our children left their comfortable nests – and us – we needed to reassess our purpose, and that’s exactly what Hélène Tragos Stelian did in January, 2015, when she started her blog, Next Act for Women.

I’ll let Hélène explain in her own words how and why the next act for Hélène became the Next Act for Women:

As my twin daughters were turning 17, and were naturally pushing away from me, I knew I needed to find another purpose in my life beyond being a mother. I'd stayed at home since they were born and done a lot of philanthropy, first in the suburbs of Chicago where we lived for 13 years, then in the city when we moved back for the girls' high school years. Still, I felt unmoored as they pushed away and my time freed up. 

I started thinking more and more about what this next chapter of my life could bring. My husband, Peter, was not planning to retire for a while (we're both 51) and our girls would be leaving for college (fingers crossed) in 18 months. What now? 

I began to read about women in midlife—I'm a big fan of Suzanne Braun Levine—and researching possible career paths. I got most serious about doing something in the health profession — I'd always wished I'd been a doctor — but didn't want to spend too much time back in the classroom and I was used to my flexible schedule. I finally decided to become an EMT but, the week before I was to sign up at Malcolm X College for their EMT-Basic program, I hurt my neck and suffered severe nerve pain that no medication or physical therapy could alleviate. Only an epidural, two months later, finally gave me relief. I realized I may not be cut out for the physical demands that come with the EMT profession. 

By the time my body was on the mend, I had had many conversations with other women in midlife, who, like me, were trying to figure out what to do next. While some had had the privilege of staying home with their kids, others had been working outside the home and were looking for renewed challenge and passion. I also encountered women who had found renewed purpose in midlife and came to believe there was a huge untapped opportunity — a need really — to share their stories, in the hopes of inspiring and educating the rest of us who were still "flailing about." 

My first instinct was to write a book about these women's stories of reinvention because I was most familiar with that medium: I'd just self-published the second edition of my planner, Getting Ready for Baby: The Practical Parent's Organizer. But I came to realize that I wanted to find an outlet that lent itself to conversation and that I could continually add to as I met more amazing women. A blog made the most sense.

Now keep in mind that when I started blogging, I didn't even have a Facebook account. I'm a pretty private person and had vowed never to get on any social media. Well that mindset had to change very fast. I'm now sharing and tweeting everywhere! (see links below)

In a sense, Next Act for Women has become my own reinvention! 

Hélène targets primarily women in midlife.

Whether out of curiosity or because they are looking to make a change in their lives, they come to read the stories of other women who took a leap at age 40 or later and went back to school, started a nonprofit, pursued a passion deeply, launched a business, or made a big change in their personal lives. 

On my blog, you'll meet Lori, who became a fitness trainer; Bonnie, who started an organization business; Katy, who became a life coach; Tina, who launched a private college counseling practice; Nan, who started cycling competitively; Susie, who opened a small farm; Sue, who founded an animal therapy program; Nancy, who started a family adventure travel website; Lisa, who moved to Italy and runs tours there; Sybil, who became a mosaic artist; Jill, who adopted two boys; Laurie, who made a documentary inspired by her daughter's diabetes; Haralee, who introduced menopausal women to her line of wicking nightwear; Sunada, who became a Buddhist minister; Cathy, who became an advocate for Multiple Sclerosis; Gretchen, who started speaking out for therapeutic drug policies; Opal, who made it her mission to fight human sex trafficking; Patti, who became a novelist. The list goes on and on… I have over 50 stories on the site right now and add two each week.

Hélène’s stories reveal so many women who decided to put aside all stereotypes of midlife and open their creativities, passions, and talents to make our world a better place, one act at a time. 

If you read Hélène’s Next Act for Women  you’ll agree with her when she says that the stories she shares are both inspiring and educational. 

The women I write about inspire through their courage, their perseverance, their kindness, their humor, their humility. They educate others by sharing their advice and their best resources. I differentiate my blog by providing in-depth background on these women's journeys, allowing for a real sense of connection, and providing practical tips and links to books, websites, and programs. With lots of photos too!

I have also started interviewing women who are experts in their fields and can share their knowledge with us. For example: Julie, a career coach; Ellen, an authority on menopause; Liz, the author of a book about careers for former lawyers; Sandy, a midlife dating coach; Kerry, an expert on second acts... And more!

Hélène offered to provide links for every woman she mentioned in this interview, but I’d rather have you read her blog to find them, because looking through her blog is like mining for diamonds. Every story is inspiring and every life reveals possibilities for exploring our own life’s passions. You can tell that she enjoys writing about these women and sharing their worlds with the rest of us. But Next Act for Women has had a personal positive effect on Hélène too.

Next Act for Women was the catalyst for my writing more personal essays as well. I am now a contributor to Huffington Post (see link below) and just love the opportunity to write about topics that interest me. My last essay on Huffington, entitled "7 Appeals to Moms From Women Without Children" went viral and I'm now working on another hot topic that I hope will gain similar traction. 

I like to say that in writing about other women, I found my own voice. 

For inspiration from women who explored their passions to reveal their talents, click on any of the Next Act for Women links in this blog. And look for Hélène on Huffington Post, Facebook, and Twitter.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ditching the Masks with Christisue Campbell

Christisue Campbell started blogging when her now 12-year-old son was only 2, “before (blogging) was a cool thing to do,” Christisue says. Written originally as a means to keep family informed and to keep a journal, Christisue’s original blog name on her personal website became Ditching the Masks when she moved to Wordpress.

While she didn’t move all of her previous work to her new blog, Christisue says that Ditching the Masks allowed her to find her voice as a writer. About Ditching the Masks, Christisue says,

Parents are a large readership. I mostly blog about day to day life, but with a twist – it’s life with some challenges – about mental illness as a survivor, parent of it, or someone challenged with it; I blog from all sides of it. I have two kids who are challenged by their versions of mental illness as well as a spouse and extended family. I personally have an invisible chronic illness and intense pain issues. I blog about how to live not only with it, but thrive regardless of it. Through it all, my focus is always to share a positive or truthful look at the things I am talking about, also focusing on grace and seeing the blessings in life.

Christiesue wants parents, “to know they are not alone. That there is someone else out there who has a hard time with things too. That things are not always rosy behind the front door of life.”

In keeping with the title of her blog, Christiesue says, “I like to strip away the mask and just be real, no matter what it is I’m talking about. I don’t see it as a negative or wallowing kind of thing, but a truthful and honest thing. We like to show off our ‘great’ life on FB or Instagram, but we then go home and feel bad about how hard it is and how NOT like everyone else’s pictures it is. The reality is we ALL have some hard thing we are living with. It just looks different to each of us.”

Christiesue really does take off her masks in her blog, Ditching the Masks

Real life takes up most of my time but writing is the only way for the swirling words that dictate life to be tamed. So I write on. As a mother of three kids 12-16, each with different struggles, I refuse to allow a diagnosis to define them. With mental illnesses and learning disorders, life is a constant struggle behind the front door no one sees. In my blog Ditching the Masks, I unlock the door and invite you in for a visit. It's not always pretty, but I promise, it's all real. 

Having learned early on to have a hearty laugh instead of crying, I just try to roll with the punches. Juggling the normal mothering mania of laundry, dishes, dust, and dinner, I show off by shuttling the mom van to soccer practices, fetching forgotten homework, and not flipping out over last-minute science fair madness. Somehow, on top of all that, I still find a way to sit at this keyboard and try to make sense of what goes on inside my head and of the world.

If you are a parent who is struggling with mental illness or other difficult parenting issues, and you want to take off your own mask and “get real” about what’s going on in your life, or even if you just want to connect with somebody who understands your struggles, please click on any of the links in Christisue’s Ditching the Masks blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Lisa Romeo Writes

One problem many bloggers encounter when they first journey into Blog Land is coming up with a name for their blog that epitomizes what their blogs are about. Some of us, after agonizing over what to name our blogs, finally choose something that works for us and then discover that somebody else is already using the name we chose for our blogs.

So in the Spring of 2007, when Lisa Romeo chose the name for her blog, Lisa Romeo Writes, Lisa admits, “That's not exactly the most creative name, but when I first launched it I never thought anyone would be interested unless they knew me personally, so I figured this would be the easiest way for friends to find it. Now, like the members of a stupidly-named obscure rock band who have somehow succeeded, I can't bring myself to change the name. And since it doubles as my website, the title is doing its job.”

Lisa explains the reason she began writing her blog: 

I was halfway through a low-residency MFA program, and found myself with a lot to talk about, and needing a virtual place to have conversations with other writers. I was also trying to keep in touch with my MFA classmates in between on-site residencies, and was learning Twitter, Facebook, and other tech tools, so building the blog fit in nicely.

And to whom does Lisa Romeo Writes cater? 

Other writers, mainly. The content speaks directly to writers of all stripes, all genres, all forms, though there is a slight tilt toward creative nonfiction because that's my main area of expertise. But I also cover fiction, poetry, freelance journalism, and the teaching of writing. In addition to writers, blog readers are also editors, teachers, publishers, literary journal editors; also, readers who are curious about writing and are interested in how writers work and produce what appears on bookstore shelves or in journals.

Writers will benefit from reading Lisa Romeo Writes, because, as Lisa says,
I aim to deliver two levels of information and inspiration. First, a glimpse into my personal experiences as a working writer, editor, and writing teacher. I try to share the straight story on the typical struggles, frustrations, and challenges I face (and how I feel and what I do about them), as well as the successes (small and larger), lessons I've learned, writing tips and advice, and resources I've found helpful.

Second, I like to act as a conduit to bring readers access to a wealth of other voices, perspectives, and resources, by way of frequent guest posts and interviews. These feature a wide array of authors, editors, publishers, writers, conference organizers, and others working in the vast writing world. I choose these people first of all because I'm interested personally in some aspect of their writing journey, or their newest publication, or what they do or provide. Sometimes that may be tied to a new book, but not always. I like to keep the guest posts and interview categories loosely defined, so that I can feature whatever and whomever appeals to me. That seems to be a good formula, and typically readers respond well to my choices.

Twice a month or so, I do a "Friday Fridge Clean-Out – Links for Writers," a round-up of interesting writerly stuff I've come across. It's named after the way I feed my family at the end of the week—tossing together all the saved leftovers and trying to put together an interesting meal.

(Except for the occasional review copy of a book, I don't accept any free products or other inducements. If you read about something or someone on my blog, it's because I genuinely think it's a worthwhile product, interesting book, or that person has a compelling story about their writing experience.)
If what you’ve read so far doesn’t entice you, read what else Lisa has to say about Lisa Romeo Writes:

Part of the official tagline says, "Tips, advice, and resources on the art, craft, and business of writing and the writing life…" So, if you are a writer of any kind, and you visit the blog on a semi-regular basis, or subscribe to posts, chances are you'll frequently find something that will help, inform, inspire, or even entertain you as a writer. Sometimes, you will laugh, or nod your head in chagrined understanding; other times, you may have an "aha" moment, when something you've wondered about comes into focus. Often, you'll find a resource or insight that will help you with your writing craft.

Sometimes I start a continuing series. Two popular ones are "Stuff My Writing Students Say," (just like it sounds: I note a frequent writing student observation/complaint, and try to answer it); and "View From the Third Row," (notes on attending writing conferences and other literary events).

The blog was included, for the second straight year, in "100 Best Websites for Writers" (2015 & 2014) by The Write Life.

Also, I'm always open to suggestions for guest posts or interviews. And I love comments!

To read, Lisa Romeo Writes, click on any of the Lisa Romeo Writes links in this blog.