Getting to Know Your Writing Group

writers groupAt the last meeting of our writers’ group we spent some time writing responses to a series of questions.  We could pick any question and write as much or as little as we liked.  Later we shared our answers. I certainly learned more about my writing friends as I listened to their responses.  If you are looking for a way to get to know the members of your writing group just a little better try sharing your answers to this list of queries. 

What is a book that made you cry?

Do you think a person needs a big ego to be a writer?  Why or why not?

Does writing energize or exhaust you? 

What are some difficulties you have run into with publishers?

What is your grammar pet peeve?

I you wrote under a pseudonym what would it be?

If you could tell your younger writing self something important what would it be?

What was the best money you ever spent to improve yourself as a writer?

What would literary success look like to you? 

Where do you write?

What is the hardest scene you have ever written? 

Does your family support or hinder your writing? 

Has has your work as a writer influenced other jobs you may have had? 

How have other jobs you have had influenced you as a writer? 

What is the first piece of writing you ever had published?

Does alcohol enhance or impair your writing creativity?

Where did your interest in writing originate? 

To read more of my blog posts go to What Next. 



MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Autumn The Perfect Time For Writing

Autumn is the perfect season for writers because………..
waterfall-cornerbrook-driveNature is putting on an inspirational show that prompts us to color our writing with vibrant images

The chill in the air drives us inside to our writing desks

park-bench-juba-park-october-2012Trees are transforming. We can transform our writing habits from the lazy patterns of summer to the disciplined practice of fall

Autumn is the season of thanksgiving. We can be thankful for writing friends and mentors, writing successes, and writing lessons learned
Version 2Autumn is a time of harvest. We can take the storehouse of ideas we’ve harvested and begin turning them into stories and poems and memoirs

Leaves die and trees rest in autumn. Perhaps it is time to let a part of a manuscript we are working on die too, or put a particular project to rest and start another one

apple-orchardAutumn is a time to nourish ourselves with  hot cider, roasted potatoes, tangy apples and spice cookies. It can also be a time to nourish our writing selves with a podcast about outlining stories, a workshop about getting started on a novel, or a magazine article about editing a manuscript .

Autumn is a time for Halloween, a scary night. Can we conquer our fears and send a manuscript off to a publisher, share our writing with others and open ourselves to criticism and suggestion?

fall-newfoundlandWe can look at the how great writers have described autumn and be motivated by their way with words.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower – Albert Camus
Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile – William Bryant
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns- George Eliot

Yes autumn is the perfect season for writers.

Other posts……….

Writer or Palaeontologist


MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Why Do You Keep Doing This?

What’s so great about being a children’s author? At our Anitas meetings we often talk about how hard it is to be a writer for kids. We’ve all met people who blithely report, “I’ve decided to write books for children,” as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. We joke they might as well decide to become NHL hockey players or Hollywood movie stars, because honestly breaking into the publishing world of children’s books these days is kind of like winning the lottery.
Since I was leading our Anitas meeting this week I decided instead of focusing our discussion on what’s so hard about being a children’s writer we’d take a look at the rewards.
I combed the web for possible ideas, entering every kind of search term possible. I could only find one article that talked about why it’s great to be a children’s author and it contained some pretty unrealistic ideas. So I decided I’d get personal and think of why I have been working so hard to become a published children’s author. I haven’t had a book or even a story published yet despite my many attempts in the last four years. Why do I persevere? What’s in it for me?

One of my first forays into the publishing world was as the editor of my high school newspaper.
One of my first forays into the publishing world was as the editor of my high school newspaper. That’s me at the head of the table. 

Learning something new
I’ve been a writer for a very long time. I had my first story published in a newspaper when I was ten and I was the editor of my high school newspaper at age seventeen.  Since then my work has appeared in many different magazines, anthologies and curriculums.  But I’ve never published a book for children. Figuring out how to do that has been a huge learning curve for me. I’ve taken classes, gone to conferences, entered contests, attended workshops and joined a writer’s group. Every time I write a new story I realize I still have lots more to learn and I like that!

I got to know talented and friendly Sue Neufeld while doing research for a novel in Herschel Saskatchewan
I got to know creative and hospitable Sue Neufeld while doing research for a story in Herschel Saskatchewan

Meeting interesting people
The other authors in my writing group are not only critics who help me improve my manuscripts; they’ve also become my friends. Each one is such an interesting person. I took a course with children’s author Pegi Dietz Shea. She became a friend and I learned about her fascinating writing journey. I went to Hershel Saskatchewan to research one of the novels I’m working on and met a couple who proved to be not only a valuable resource but also warm and creative people.

My students at Elmdale School in 1982.
My students at Elmdale School in 1982.

Connects me to kids
I was a teacher for thirty- five years and when I retired I quickly discovered I really missed spending time with kids. Writing stories for them is one way to keep my head and heart in the world of children. I have taken on two part time jobs that allow me to connect with children on a regular basis and part of the reason for doing that is because I know if I’m going to write for kids I need to stay involved with children.

Gives me a challenge
It is precisely because it is so hard to become a published children’s author that I really want to achieve that goal. It keeps my brain sharp, my life interesting and my attitude optimistic.  I know the process is more important than reaching my goal of being a published children’s author. But accepting the challenge to keep the process going no matter the difficulties is enriching my retirement years, giving me something to strive for and providing a way to focus on the future.

There are lots of reasons why it’s great to write for children. Each author’s list of reasons is sure to be different. What’s on your list?

Other posts…..

Writing Dividends

Launching Not One Book But Three

What Are People Saying?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Look It Up And Learn

sandwich public domainDid you know the sandwich was introduced to Americans in 1840? I had to look up that piece of information recently for the middle grade novel I’m writing. It is set in 1905.  Characters in my fourth chapter had plans to buy sandwiches to take along on a trip. Would that have been possible in 1905? When were sandwiches first sold in the United States?
locomotive pixabayI haven’t written historical fiction before and one of the things I’m enjoying about the process is researching all kinds of topics in order to make my narrative authentic. The character in my story is making a train trip across the mid-west and so I’ve had to find out where rail lines ran at the turn of the century and what cities would have been stops along the way.

In chapter 3 a trio of brothers in my novel go for a walk in the city of Omaha so I had to consult old maps to figure out what streets they would have walked along and what kinds of buildings would have been on those streets. roller coaster pixabayOne brother rides a roller coaster. Would it have been made of metal or wood? Looking that up I found out roller coasters had names and the one in an amusement park in Omaha was called The Big Dipper. I added that fact to my story.

At one point I wanted my protagonist to shout out an exclaimation in surprise. I thought I’d have him say, “Holy cow.” But wait a minute did people say holy cow in 1905?  After a little research I found out they might have, but the phrase only began to gain popularity in 1900.  Probably safer to go with “Lands Sake!” an exclamation more commonly accepted in the area where my character grew up in the 1900s and one that could be found in regional newspapers there as early as 1845.

copperhead snake pixabayI’ve had to look up so many things doing research.  What does a copper head snake’s body look like? Do gophers eat berries? What kind of nuts would you find on the ground in the mid west in the month of October? What medical information was available about the disease of epilipsy in the early 1900s and how did people react to those afflicted with it?

puzzle learning pixabayFiguring out how to make everything authentic in a historical novel is like solving a jigsaw puzzle. It can take a long time but it is incredibly interesting and you learn so much.  

Other posts……….

In Chicken Soup Again

What Makes A Best Seller?

A Published Author At Age 10

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

My How Picture Books Have Changed

He’s from Winnipeg and he’s receiving an international award for his life time of work researching, critiquing, writing about, and creating children’s literature.

distinguished lecture and reception perry nodelmanOn November 12, I attended a distinguished lecture by Perry Nodelman a University of Winnipeg Professor Emeritus.  Perry was being recognized by the university because he is the 2015 recipient of the Brothers Grimm Award presented by The International Institute for Children’s Literature. You can learn more about Perry’s long list of accomplishments in the field of children’s literature here.

IMG_2039Perry’s lecture last week traced the history of children’s picture books in a very personal way as Perry compared his own experiences with picture books as a child in the 1940s, with those of his children and grandchildren.  

words about picturesIn 1998 Perry wrote a text about children’s picture books called Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books.  It has never been out of print during the ensuing twenty seven years, a rarity for a university text. In his lecture Perry talked about how he might expand the ideas in Words About Pictures to address new developments in the world of children’s books if he was writing his text today. 

perry nodelmanPerry said he would need to write about the current popularity of comics and graphic novels.  He would have to address the growing demand for more diversity in picture books so that children of different cultures, races, income levels and family arrangements would have their lives reflected in picture books. He would include books from other countries and he would examine picture book apps and e-books. 

It was clear from the former colleagues of Perry’s who introduced him and thanked him at the University of Winnipeg reception in his honor that he is indeed a ‘giant’ in the world of children’s literature and most worthy of the award he will receive in Osaka, Japan later this month. His lecture gave me some interesting things to consider as I continue my own journey in the writing of children’s books. 

Other posts…….

Writing Dividends

The Writing Life

Launching Not One Book But Three

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.
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