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About This Blog

Hello writers and those of you who love books! Welcome to the Grassroots Writer’s Guild, the blogging home of Connie Kirchberg and Julia Simpson-Urrutia. The two of us have spent the majority of our lives as writers. It’s our goal with this blog to share our experiences, both good and bad, with other writers like you in the hope we might provide a bit of occasional inspiration and solace for your own writing endeavors.

Please feel free to comment on any of our posts.  We do our best to keep them writing-related, but let’s face it, a blog is a place to sound off, and sometimes that’s what we do. Most of the time, however, our posts will relate directly to the business of writing.

So, sit back, relax, and start clicking away on the links to the right. You’ll see that both of us decided to implement a “get to know the writer” approach by including personal experiences and family photos. We discuss the ideas behind our books and share our experiences regarding agents and traditional publishing. You may decide to go with a less intimate approach on your blog. The point is to figure out a marketing strategy that’s right for you and implement it. A personal blog is a great place to start. Remember, the person best equipped to sell your book(s) is the person who knows and cares the most about it. And that would be you.


PondOnce upon a time three Koi fish lived in a pond in California. They grew very big. The biggest of them was a white fish. Sometimes he liked to swim up onto the shelf of the pond where the backyard dog, a whippet name Jojo, could easily snatch him in his teeth.

Indeed, one day, Jojo's beloved master, David, found his doggy with the Koi in his mouth. "Bad dog!" Said David. Jojo let the koi drop. David had the kindness to scoop Mr Koi up and put him back in his pond.

Mr. Koi might have suffered more from indignity than bodily injuries. Within days he was showing off how much stronger and bigger he was than the other two koi fish. Splash! Splash! Mr. Koi was always jumping. Maybe he fantasized himself a dolphin in the Atlantic or a flying fish in the Red Sea.

There came a morning when David was not at home and Mr. Koi jumped too far. He jumped right out of the pond. He landed on the grass, wiggling madly for notice. Where was the man of the house? Where, for that matter, was the creature with four legs who knew how to pick a fish up in his mouth and possibly take him back to the pond's edge?

Jojo watched the flopping koi but stayed away. He didn't like being called a bad dog.

When Julia went outside to feed the fish and the dog, she found a dreadful sight. She found a once proud white koi covered in flies and dead as a door nail on the grass.

She looked at Jojo.

"Did you do this?" She asked.

Jojo cowered and slunk away, thinking "Damned if I didn't and damned if I did!"

And you, dear reader, were expecting to read that pride goeth before a fall.dead Coy

 

Student:
wow ok, well I’m trying and if you think its “stolen” then I guess so, English is not my strong suit I don’t enjoy reading and writing on things that I don’t enjoy. This class is a little too complicated your expectations are too high for me or an average college student I don’t plan on becoming an English major either. I cant finish this class with an F I have too much riding on this semester. I have family issues, people to take care of with a full class load it gets overwhelming but I don’t consider myself a cheater never have. Your going to make your decision based on your discoveries but I’m going to continue to try and finish this ONE English class I have to take for my degree.ogling-clipart-1

Teacher:

Thank you for writing back. I am not against you. There is a reason I chose these writings; they have to do with systems in which people live together. While you may not be interested NOW, you do live in a society and you are governed. Someday you may think about those issues and have, at least, some points of reference: a system of authority vs. a system of leniency.

When I say I am not against you that means I am here to help, to guide. I hope you read this far because you seem to be angry. Try to cut your teachers as much slack as you want us to cut for you. Here is the way your letter should have been phrased (with periods to make sentences):

Dear Ms. Teacher,

I really didn’t mean to plagiarize. I don’t feel confident writing and that is why I took lines off the internet. These are tough subjects but I am trying to understand. Will you allow me to resubmit my paper? I really need to pass this class because it is a requirement.

Sincerely,

Abashed Student

What do you think? Does this seem like a good letter? Or does angry seem more effective?

The Spirituality of Jane AustenHow well do Jane Austen lovers really know the motivation of the author who unleashed a burgeoning industry that has moved from the revenues of printing press and movie land to hats, party catering and greeting cards? Apart from re-writes of Pride and Prejudice, prequels, sequels and screen adaptations whose genres start with period drama, spill into horror (thanks to the unleashing of zombies)–and may well yet burst into outer space—all we know is that the limits of Austen commercial fare are constricted by nothing but the creativity of the human spirit.
Yet how much do we understand Jane Austen’s spirit, the one that set her published works on the road to immortality, though she, frail human, died at the age of 41? Paula Hollingsworth, author of The Spirituality of Jane Austen makes a persuasive argument that the beloved British novelist’s motivation was fueled by spiritual considerations, which had the good sense to not be overtly religious.
Using every Austen novel published and some not published, Hollingsworth shows how well the mistress of novel-writing understood her own characters before the action began, building them into a story arc that would keep the reader entertained and guessing while sending the message she intended from the beginning.Elizabeth-Benentt-jane-austen-952991_1024_764.jpg

For instance, Sense and Sensibility is in many ways a Taoist tract:  it is about the balance between emotions and logic. The novel shows how, “when rightly used, sense brought balance and self-control.” Only when used without understanding does sense “lead to callousness and rigidity.”

Jane Austen,  Hollingsworth shows us, made her entire novel about staying in the middle, keeping a balance, and what happens when that is not achieved.

Excess of grief, while welcomed by Mrs. Dashwood in regard to her daughter at the death of Mr. Dashwood, seems to bring all considerations to a grinding halt. Austen demonstrates that if Elinor, also suffering, had not “exert[ed] herself” she would not have been able to “consult with her brother” and receive guests with due attention.

A character of excess is Marianne.  She is the most difficult of the people with whom Elinor must deal because, unlike their mother, she can never be awakened to the destructive element of her excessive emotions. Though she stays awake all night, refuses to eats, suffers from headaches and shows inability to acknowledge kindness from others, even accusing Elinor of coldness as those given to emotional excess are wont to do, Marianne does not demonstrate beneficial character development until her total embrace of misery drives her to a “near-death experience.”

In the same book, those characters who show no development, resting in materialism, like John and Fanny Dashwood, have no spirituality at all.

The theme of money was recurrent in the Austen books, and Hollingsworth takes on its analysis at the end of her study of Pride and Prejudice. It is not the amount of money but the attitude towards it that demonstrates the happiness level of the various characters. Thus Lydia and Wickham are always in need of it, spending too much because they desire too much. Hollingsworth goes through the character list, explaining how their attitudes about money reflect in their personalities. Austen is so good at characterization that she does not fail in her depiction of a single person to demonstrate the effects of money on ego and sense of self-worth, which, in a negative sense, become crucially isolating.

Hollingsworth’s acknowledgement of Austen’s criticism of the Church and those hypocrites who seek to pretend they represent it takes clear form in the character of Rector Collins, lap dog of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Collins has a skewed sense of “forgiveness,” as can be seen in his recommendation to Mr Bennet, telling him to “throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever.” To Collins, one forgives and damns simultaneously: a peculiar sort of forgiveness, bringing no unity of family. Hollingsworth scores Pride and Prejudice “highly as a spiritual book”  and does a stupendous job of proving she is right.

The Spirituality of Jane Austen will cause anyone who reads it to speak knowledgeably of the novels of Austen. Writers will rejoice to drink at this well of inspiration!

 

I want you to know that your book is amazing and I’m sure you’ve heard that before. It sent me through a roller coaster of emotions. I was mad and sad and happy and laughed it was so awesome. You should! It’s great. It’s something people need to hear. The young marriages, motherhood, loneliness, everything in it was so great. It really kept me interested, and shocked at some of the things in there I just can’t believe how people weren’t accepting. It really broke my heart. In the beginning I had so much hope of a beautiful love story, I still thought you guys would get through everything and be together. It’s like even though I knew how it ended I was still stuck on the book and wanted you guys to end up together. Your writings are wonderful, you truly brought the old days as well as the days you were there to life. I felt as if I was a fly on the wall, even as an outsider I felt as if I was right there with you. –Veronika D.cat_and_dog_in_library

As a writer/teacher/writing judge who goes through over a hundred books a year, I have noticed a BIG mistake made by excellent writers, a mistake that is reflected in their Amazon selling score (the easiest way for me to figure out how they are doing).

Successful authors don’t make this mistake.

Writers who are not friendly and findable on the internet do not do well. Do I hear you muttering, “J.D. Salinger”? Oh please. That was eons ago. The way books sell has changed and you know it.

J.K. Rowling and Stephen King agree with me. They are findable online and, presuming they read all the tweets, they can get your message–hence, they are friendly.

Karen Armstrong, author of a ton of books including Fields of Blood, accepted my friend request on Facebook. I was stunned. Geraldine Brooks, author of Year of Wonders wrote back to me when she found my letter after a move. I had chalked up her silence to author aloofness. The letter gave me tingles.

I still have it. Geraldine Brooks wrote to me! Wow!

Mark Anderson, author of the amazing Shakespeare by Another Name, opened a Facebook page for his book and responded to me and my son because we both adore his book. That Facebook page became a circle that was retitled Shakesvere.73159._UY475_SS475_

Often when I read books by struggling authors with great voices, and then try to find those authors online, I can’t. Francis Coco wrote the stunning Cheeking My Meds. I would love to reach out to her, but the Amazon author page offers a useless link to an artist colony where I cannot fid her name, which is actually Penni Goode Evans. This happens to me more than I would like to say.

When I DO find a talented author and want to be friends, said person either turns away, doesn’t understand the value of networking or pooh poohs all my networking ideas.

When I write about a book on this blog and the author is disinterested in returning the favor, I wonder if all the brilliance that person possessed was used up by writing the book.

 

 

Beacon Books has just announced publication of my newest book, hooray! Click on the link to see the book trailer.BB-2

 

18402649_643085942558265_6071952483121272405_n.pngPlease vote for the cover you find most engaging for my newest book children’s book, The Burning Boats. This contest takes place on Facebook at Beacon Books and voting is determined by the icon you choose:

The Burning Boats