Community Is Important for Writers

To be honest, I’ve been pretty down for the last week or so.

As I’ve shared before, I have been teaching Legacy Writing classes via the Lifelong Learning Academy here in Sarasota-Bradenton. It is a great opportunity for me to share some of my knowledge about creative writing and meet some really great people. The most recent academic quarter, I had a class filled with writers who had taken earlier classes with me and were eager to keep their writing momentum moving forward. This was a great group of adult learners who had some really magnificent stories to share.

Near the end of the eight weeks of class, several of the students were fighting various illnesses: a broken knee-cap, vertigo-like symptoms, heart problems, and other medical issues.

And then, I found out one of the students passed away last week, only hours after our last email exchange. He was a student with a long writing background, and his work showed it. The selections he brought to class to share with the group were outstanding. I had been hoping that the two classes he’d taken with me were just the beginning of an ongoing literary friendship. I was looking forward to many years of chatting about writing and sharing work together.

And then, he was gone.

It wasn’t as if we were great friends. And yet, his passing has left me very sad. I wanted to know more about his life; I wanted to read more of his words.

Putting down some literary roots can help encourage and deepen your writing.

Putting down some literary roots can help encourage and deepen your writing.

Just last week, I was telling my writing students about the need for a writing community. We learn and grow best when we are surrounded by those people who can offer us a healthy balance of support and critique. One of the reasons I teach classes like the Legacy of Words class is because I gain more knowledge and experience in creative writing every time I teach. And, I gain new literary friends.

Tonight, I met a new writer friend. She reached out to me, having stumbled upon my website, because she is at one of those points all fledgling writers get to: she’s in need of her own literary community. We talked for an hour and a half, and I walked away feeling re-energized and excited having spent time with someone who has such passion for the written word.

It doesn’t matter if it is a client/student, a writing peer, or someone whose masterful knowledge of the craft I hope to learn from: having other writers to talk to, share with, help, and learn from is a key ingredient in my development as a writer. We don’t have to be in the same classroom, at the same coffee-shop, or even on the same continent, but putting down those literary roots so we can soak up the nutrients around us is a valuable thing.

I hope you are writing, and that the words you write matter.


As I finished this post, I was reminded of this line, from the song, I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time, by Over the Rhine. (Link to YouTube video version.)

But I don’t wanna waste the words
That you don’t seem to need
When it comes to wanting what’s real
There’s no such thing as greed
I hope this night puts down deep roots
I hope we plant a seed
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste your time
With music you don’t need

Read the lyrics to the whole song at Over the Rhine’s website.

Writer’s Block = Fear?

Writer’s Block = Fear?

Sharing an interesting article with you, in case you didn’t see it. 

In the article, fear of not meeting expectations (internal OR external) is discussed as the number one reason for writer’s block.

I see this, often, with my Legacy Writing students: the fear of not being “literary” enough, the fear that they won’t have anything interesting to say, the fear of revealing too much or not enough…these are all common reasons that would-be Legacy Writers don’t ever quite get around to actually writing anything about their lives. Often, once they get started and begin to see some positive fruits of their labors, they find the “writer’s block” excuse (“I don’t know what to write!”) begins to fade and they are confronted with a much different problem: I have too many choices of things to write and I’m not sure which to choose!

Of course, fear of not living up to expectations is a biggie for fiction writers, too. I feel it every time I walk into Barnes and Nobel and am confronted with two hundred books that are brand new since the last time I walked into the store. What on earth do I have to say that hasn’t already been said? And by someone smarter, funnier, and more well-read than me?

No matter the genre, we have to beat those fears back with a stick and find ways to just focus on the writing. I have to write. I know that. So, even if it’s just for me, then I have to keep moving forward. 

Big Thanks…

Just a quick note to say a hearty “thank you” to the fine folks at the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club meeting tonight for listening to me talk a bit about Legacy Writing and sharing our life in words. I had a wonderful time. For any of you in the area, be sure to check out their website.

Two Writing Courses Offered

Blog readers come from all around the world. According to the WordPress stats, I have regular visits from readers in Moldova and Argentina. Go figure.

But, I know I also have some local and semi-local readers in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas of Florida. This post is (mostly) for you.

The winter quarter is fast approaching and I will again be offering two writing courses through the Lifelong Learning Academy. The classes will be at the University of South Florida – Manatee campus, and both will be offered on Fridays, starting January 18th.

The two courses will be:

You can read the course descriptions by clicking on the course title above, and you can register at the Lifelong Learning site.

As of today, the Fiction class only has ONE participant. I need four or five more in order to have the class, so if you, or anyone you know, is interested, please pass this info along and sign up now, before I get that dreaded call: We’re going to have to cancel…

The Legacy Writing class is always more popular, and I love teaching it, but I’d be really sad if the Fiction class is cancelled. You don’t want me to be sad for Christmas, do you??? 


I do have some news about the Spring quarter: I heard from the curriculum committee this week, and I will be teaching both an Intermediate Fiction class and a Legacy Writing Workshop for those of you who have already been through the initial courses. More information about that, as it becomes available. 

Leaving a Legacy of Words: New Article Focuses on Legacy Writing

One of my Bradenton-Sarasota writer friends, Juli C. Hilliard, recently wrote an article about individuals who want to leave a “Legacy of Words” by writing their personal and family stories and preserving them for children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Alan Toy (along with Ginger and Lou Pavloff) was interviewed for Better Living magazine’s article about Legacy Writing. Alan and the Pavloffs were members of my first Legacy of Words class, and they have continued writing their life stories in the months since the class concluded.

Juli knew I was teaching Legacy Writing as a component of both my private writing instruction business, and the writing classes I teach at the University of South Florida campus via the Lifelong Learning Academy. We sat down at Starbucks (where we see each other most often, anyway) and talked about the Legacy Writing program. I also introduced her to three of my former students and she interviewed them about their experiences with tackling the writing of their personal and family history.

The full article was printed this week in the Better Living magazine. It was the cover story, even, as they featured a wonderful photo of Alan Toy, who was one of those students who often had that wide-eyed smile of a man both on a mission and dedicated to doing the hard work of writing. Inside, there were more wonderful photos of Alan and Ginger and Lou Pavloff, as well as some historical family photos from all three.

If you have a few minutes, follow this link to read Juli’s article (it starts on page 16-17).

NOTE: Next week IS Thanksgiving week, but I also have some big things planned for the blog…until then, Happy Writing!!

Fall In-Person Creative Writing Instruction

I will again be offering two courses through the Life Long Learning Academy at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus. Both classes run for eight weeks, on Mondays, beginning October 1st, 2012.

Mondays, 9 a.m. – Fiction Writing Basics

Mondays, 1:30 p.m. – Leaving a Legacy of Words

Each class is one hour and twenty minutes long, and packed full of creative writing goodness. If you are in the Sarasota/Bradenton area and interested, please register for the class of your choice (or, both!) sometime soon. These are great classes for fledgling writers, or for anyone who just wants a bit of structure to invigorate their writing life.

If you aren’t in the local area, but are interested in some creative writing feedback, instruction, or critique, I also work with writer’s one-on-one or in small, virtual groups via Skype or FaceTime…feel free to contact me with questions, or, for more info, you can always check out my website.

I slept a little better last night, and hopefully will be much more productive this week! I wish nothing but the same for you, blog friends. Happy writing!

Tuesday Night: Quick Request

I recently began offering my services as an independent writing instructor in the Bradenton and Sarasota (Florida) area. (Though, I could easily be convinced to do the same thing via Skype or other on-line venue.)

Anyway, I posted my information on Thumbtack, an online portal for finding reliable, trustworthy local services. 

You can see my ad, here.

If you are a regular reader of Stories I Read, Stories I Tell, and you have found my blog helpful, inspirational, or otherwise beneficial to your own writing, I would be honored if you would post a brief word of praise in the “testimonial” section of that ad. The more testimonials I have, the more likely I will be to connect with local writers who are looking for some help in taking their writing to the next level.

Thanks so much!