Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Welcome to ENGL 1157!

In Awesomeness, The Art of Writing, The Writing Life on August 18, 2012 at 2:01 am

This seems to me to be something of a “This is WarrenEllis.com” type of post, but for those of you who are students in my ENGL 1157 class, it seemed like a good idea to introduce myself, much as you will all have to introduce yourselves to me. Plus, it seems to me that Sally and Arleen don’t know quite all there is to know about me, and that just has to change.

As an introduction, my name is Wendy Withers. I am currently a professor at UNO (though I in no way speak for the university, and my views are not necessarily those of the university or the English department). I am from Florida and received my BA in journalism from the University of South Florida. I have worked for a number of newspapers and magazines and have had a few short stories published. I am also a slush reader for Nightmare Magazine and am about to commence contributing blog posts to Crossed Genres Magazine. I love “B” movies, role playing games (the non-video game kind), and New Orleans. I may or may not admit to being a crazy cat lady. I am currently finishing up a graduate degree at UNO; if you ever want to be completely overwhelmed, ask me about the significance of the appearance of Cupid in Renaissance literature. I have taught a number of writing workshops and used to teach composition classes at DCC.

As for writing, I feel that I am a competent and often precise writer. Because of my background in journalism, I do a pretty decent job of organizing my writing. I am also good at meeting deadlines and wordcounts. I have been told that my writing often looks at the world in new ways, and I seem to have a habit of saying things that other people don’t. It might be the nerd in me, but when I write I spend a lot of time researching. I want to know the context behind the story; if I’m writing about a modern short story, I want to know how the story fits into the larger tradition of its genre. If I’m writing an article about a politician, I want to know his record from ten years ago and how it contrasts with his stances today.

Even though I make sure to provide context in my writing, I feel that it often lacks depth. I would like to be the kind of writer who finds ways to add complexity to her writing instead of glossing over important details. Some of this is my newspaper background holding me back; newspaper reporters often have short wordcounts that keep them from adding the detail to a story that will really bring it to life in the reader’s mind. I would like to be the kind of writer who appears in The New York Times, not Podunk Weekly. I have found that my writing has been improving since I began reading more widely for my graduate degree. Stepping outo of my comfort zone of reading contemporary science fiction, fantasy, and horror has definitely improved my prose.


I won a book!

In Awesomeness, The Writing Life on January 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm


I arrived home from school Monday tired after a thirteen hour day. I left for work at the writing center at 8:30 a.m. and arrived back home after 9:30 p.m. I was worn out and grumpy. Then, when I checked my mail, I noticed a key in my box. The key was to a row of lockers to the side of the mailboxes that hold larger packages.

Finally! Something to be excited about.

I tore open the package on the way up in the elevator and discovered Erin Morgenstern’s
The Night Circus. The book included a personalized note, some confetti shaped like top hats and bows, a book mark, and a calling card. The book was signed and included a personalized doodle.

I won the book in Kyle Cassidy’s Night Circus Contest (under the name Howlokitty); I had to write flash fiction revolving around Cassidy’s cat Roswell and a night circus. It’s hard to describe the feeling an author experiences when someone validates their work. It did a lot for me and my confidence. I’ve been racking up more than a few rejections lately.

So far, I’ve found the book delightful. This is the type of book that makes me jealous that I didn’t write it first. I hope to have a review up soon. It definitely won’t be an objective review. I feel the kind of pride I felt when I received my first check for a published news story. This book will forever be linked in my mind with the moment that I opened my mailbox and found a key inside.




In New Orleans, The Writing Life on January 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm

***Insert Photo of Terrifying Adorable Birds Here***

I was at the neighborhood coffee shop, enjoying the almost fall-like January NOLA weather, when a blood-thirsty chubby dandy of a bird hopped onto the table inches from my hand. It stared at me with its cold, calculating warm and friendly eyes. Soon, a flock of these critters had surrounded me. I was going to take a picture, but I was afraid for my life they flew away.

Even when I try to be an hermit, trouble finds me.

October Country

In Awesomeness, New Orleans, The Writing Life on October 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I don’t celebrate Halloween, I celebrate October.

I live in October Country year round.

While walking from my final class today to my car, I realized how much this is true. Though I would live in October Country no matter where I physically resided, tonight living in this fair city added an heightened awareness to my October leanings. I would have taken a picture, but I am much better with words than visual images. I’m no Kyle Cassidy.

So, let me set the scene:

A crow cawed out her disdain for me from her perch on a wrought iron gate that swung into the grounds of a local high school. Amanda Palmer wailed directly into my brain from my iPod headphones: a powerful, raw, emotion-filled feminine voice. The coming dusk bruised the tempered fire of an autumn New Orleans sunset.

These elements converged to create a perfect October moment. I appreciated it.

Writer Beware

In The Writing Life on September 5, 2011 at 10:47 pm

An old friend from high school recently posted about a new book deal he’s gotten himself into. In his post, which was on FB, he admitted that he was also looking for an editor; the publishing company wants for him to pay for editing and all “perks” himself. To me, this sounds like a vanity publisher.

I do admit that this old friend is a born-again Christian, and there is a good chance that his publisher is a Christian publisher. I don’t know much about the Christian publishing industry, though I do read a few blogs published by people in Christian publishing.

I would ask my old friend more, but he’s gotten on the defensive. He won’t say which company will be publishing his book; he just says that it’s a “sister company” of a “large publishing company.” They want to “make sure his book will sell before they invest real money into it.”

While I can’t say whether or not his publishing company is legit, I can say that it is important for a writer, especially in an age of scams concocted through the ease of the internet, to educate herself about common practices in the industry. One of my favorite websites for doing this is Writer Beware. It is hosted by the SFWA, and it has provided priceless advice to me over the years. I subscribe to the blog. It is all free and readily available to anyone with an internet connection. I advise all writers, especially new writers, to become well acquainted with it.

A curious happening

In The Writing Life on August 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Since I broke up with my ex a few weeks ago, he has turned into a fairy-type-creature, mostly because he has a key to my apartment and is in and out when I’m gone because that’s where his stuff is. Last night, I came home with a package of toilet paper, because I’d run out that morning. I found a surprise roll sitting on the tub, thanks to the brownie who used to be my boyfriend.

Now, if I could only get him to sneak in and clean up after me and the cats.

Why I buy my business cards and why it’s important

In The Writing Life on July 30, 2011 at 2:21 am

I received a couple of fun things in the mail today. I’m happy, because I ordered a batch of business cards from Moo, and they arrived this afternoon (even though the expected arrival date was August 8). I also received a surprise gift card from T-Mobile, which means I will probably buy a car charger either tomorrow or when I come back from New Hampshire. (The quality of my pics isn’t great, because I’m still learning the ins and outs of taking good pictures on my phone.)

I pay for my business cards, and I’m happy to do it. I know that Vistaprint offers free business cards. I could get 250 free cards instead of paying around $15 for 100. Vistaprint offers all sorts of templates and colored inks and features. However, the impression I’ve gotten from the cards of many of the creative types I know who have used Vistaprint is that the bells and whistles Vistaprint offers make for cluttered, unprofessional cards. I worked for a company that used Vistaprint, and the company-offered cards were on cheap paper with a fuzzy logo. Vistaprint’s free cards also have the Vistaprint web address on the back; the free advertising on the company’s part is what really pays for the business cards. There are also a lot of extras and services that are a good idea to take advantage of but once added up could bring the tally for the 250 cards up past $20 (like card editing, better quality paper, carrying a front design to the back of the card).

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the importance of having access to free business cards. It’s a great idea for college students, people who are just starting businesses, and people who don’t think they can afford to order cards to take advantage of the service. But, I’ve had some great reactions to my Moo cards over the years. They always come out simple yet elegant.

I like Moo because they offer mini cards, which are half the size of standard cards. This has proven to be memorable. I also like that they offer back-of-card designs by independent artists. If I have a book published, I will be able to upload my own pictures (or if I have designs commissioned by an artist friend), but for now I have been very pleased with the results from using their offered designs. Even better, anyone who orders can mix and match designs from different artists in their gallery.

When I network, I want to be remembered in a certain way. I’m building a brand. Everyone who has received my card has given me positive feedback, because these cards are fun and fashionable. They reflect my personality. And, they’re printed on high quality, glossy paper. I see the $15 as an investment, and I’m happy that it goes towards supporting a growing business in an iffy world economy. Even better, I always feel like the company is looking out for me when I order from them. They have always exceeded my expectations when it comes to quality and the speed with which I receive my order. That means a lot when so much of business (especially online business) has become impersonal.

Leaving paradise

In The Writing Life on July 29, 2011 at 3:39 am

No, that isn’t a canal. It’s the street a block away from where I work after our daily thunderstorm. When I took the picture, I almost expected to see ducks floating by.

Also, this is a pretty standard sight in the New Orleans metro area, where there are parts of New Orleans proper that flood even worse during smaller storms. What a surprise I would be willing to leave a paradise like this for a week.

I love it here, but it will be nice to enjoy a real vacation.

Tonight, I’m pretending to pack for my trip. In reality, I’m watching Luther and reading The Magicians.

The importance of eating well

In The Writing Life on June 25, 2011 at 11:49 pm

In New Orleans, there is a community farm called Hollygrove Market and Farm. For $25, one can buy a box full of produce. For a few dollars more, she can buy an half gallon of milk (with real cream that floats to the top), a la carte produce, baked goods, and/ or fresh herbs. There is also meat provided by local farmers. I received an email letting me know that the farm purchased half a cow last week; the meat is pricey, but I’m thinking of doing a taste challenge some time soon. I know I would be happier ethically if I was eating locally grown meat produced outside of the factory farm system.

A few weeks ago, I was tired and depressed. I wasn’t exercising, and I was sleeping WAY too much. I realized that I was cooking food Boyfriend Alex would like, which was drastically different from my previous diet of mostly grains and greens. I decided to start buying the $25 boxes of produce as a way to force myself to get back to basics. In the first weeks, I’ve had more energy. I wake up earlier and work out. I’ve started writing again.

It’s easy to lose sight of how important nutrition is in a writing life. I’m hoping I won’t make the mistake of throwing it out the door again. The biggest challenge has been convincing myself to cook or throw a salad together, even though sauteing radish greens is a lot quicker than making a box of Rice-A-Roni. It tastes better, too.

So far today, I have eaten a fresh, juicy peach; two slices of fresh, sweet pineapple; pasta with two types of grape tomatoes with fresh basil, garlic, and onion; and the sauteed radishes. In a little while, I’m going to make chicken sloppy joes that include heirloom tomatoes, fresh patty pan squash, and more fresh basil (the recipe came from the Hollygrove blog).

The fresh radish greens pictured above were crazy easy to make. I just separated the leaves from the radishes (I might try to make roast radishes soon), washed them, and set them aside. I diced onion, garlic, and mushrooms and melted some butter in a pan. I cooked the diced veggies with torn basil leaves until the onions started to get translucent and threw the greens in in batches and watched them wilt. When they seemed wilty, I drizzled in some lemon juice and cooked and stirred them until the juice was well incorporated. Then, I spooned them onto a plate sprinkled some grated parmesan over them, added a dash of salt, and enjoyed my mouth orgasm.

And, as you can see, I’m writing.

Peace, Love, and Fresh Tomatoes.


Finding a balance

In The Writing Life on June 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Right now, I am failing at this. Acquiring a boyfriend, especially one who lives a very different lifestyle than mine, has resulted in a sudden pausing of my life. I have a hard time cleaning, exercising, writing, and doing just about anything besides coming in to work 9-5. I’m trying to get everything back on track, but now that I’m off track its even harder to get my life in order. Living a writing life was much easier when I lived the life of a hermit.

Some things I’m going to try to do this week to ground myself a bit:

-Volunteer/ shop at a local farm and produce buyer’s club
-Visit the anarchist library and bookstore
-Maybe yoga?
-Try to shoo boyfriend Alex away for a bit so I can get some “me” time