3 Incredible Lessons Whales Can Teach Writers

Humpback whales are magnificent creatures. They grow to about 52 feet long and weigh almost 50 tons, the males sing hauntingly beautiful songs, and humpbacks are acrobatic as they can leap high from the water’s surface, roll in the air, and then dive to 1,000 feet.

But the incredible thing I learned about humpbacks is this; their entire lives are filled with only three activities: feeding, breeding, and migrating.  That’s it.  Three activities for an entire lifetime.

So what can writers learn from this amazing fact? Here’s one way we can adapt the three activities to the writing craft:

What Writers Can Learn From Whales by Victoria M. Johnson

Feeding

Feed your soul.  Take care of yourself.  It’s important for writers to feed your creative spirit.  Exploring helps.  You can explore the world or your own hometown.  Try new things, go to new places, eat new foods, and read new books. Expose yourself to other art forms and cultural experiences.  All this discovering is feeding your creative being.  But you need down time, too.  Take time to meditate.

Breeding

I view this as your production of work.  Whatever it is you specialize in–be it poetry, short stories, novels, or nonfiction–breed new writing.  Writing begets writing.  I think writers are happiest when they are creating.  I know I am.  For success and longevity as a writer, you need to produce new finished material.  Finished, not sitting in a drawer, but out in the marketplace or getting read by your editor or agent.

Migrating

Move about.  Don’t stand still.  For writers this can represent getting out of a rut, if you feel like you’re in one; or trying something different, for example adding your short story to an anthology with other good writers.  These activities aren’t meant to take you away from your main novel or poetry writing projects, but are meant to explore other ways of reaching your readers or reaching new readers, or perhaps taking advantage of an opportunity that presents itself.  We are on a writer’s journey, are we not?  That suggests we’re meant to keep moving.

Three Activities

All three activities are essential to the humpback whale’s existence. I think they’re essential to the well being of us writers, too.

 

New Class for Nonfiction Writers

** NEW Class! – HOW TO WRITE THE BOOK OF YOUR HEART **

Have you been thinking about writing a nonfiction book? Whether you’ve already started or only have the idea, this class provides the guidance and inspiration to get it written. Learn the secrets of bestsellers and how to implement those elements in your book. Gain an understanding of the writer’s craft and apply strategies to help you organize and revise your work – and get your nonfiction manuscript ready for publication. The motivating instruction, handouts, and in-class writing exercises will provide you with all the tools you need to write the book of your heart.  Santa Cruz area nonfiction writers, this class if for you!

For more information or to register, CLICK HERE.

April 16, 2018 to May 14, 2018

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  5 weeks.

 

New Class! How to Write the Book of Your Heart

Get inspired to Write the Book of Your Heart.  Photo by Milos Tonchevski.

Instructor Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. Her published works include The Doctors Dilemma (Avalon Books), the nonfiction work Grant Writing 101: Everything You Need To Start Raising Funds Today (McGraw-Hill), and four other books. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies. Victoria is both writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries. She has presented workshops on writing in the Bay Area; Chicago; Washington, DC; Vancouver, Canada; and New York.

 

New Class: In Praise of Poetry

Join me for this invigorating class where you’ll explore and write several forms of poetry.  From Acrostic to Haiku—from Ode to Triolet—and a few other poetic forms—you’ll have fun while learning and creating.  We’ll look at work by experienced poets and discover how to put some of their techniques and craft elements into practice.  Gain exposure to new poets, forms, and styles, while unearthing your own voice.  This inspiring class is for anyone with an interest in poetry. Novices as well as seasoned poets will find the class enriching and fruitful.

In Praise of Poetry by Victoria M. Johnson

Poetry photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

 

For more information or to register, click here.

Feb 28, 2018 to Mar 28, 2018

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  5 Wednesdays.

Any writers in the Santa Cruz, CA area will be interested in this class.

Instructor Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. Her published works include The Doctors Dilemma (Avalon Books), the nonfiction work Grant Writing 101: Everything You Need To Start Raising Funds Today (McGraw-Hill), and four other books. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies. Victoria is both writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.  She has presented workshops on writing in the Bay Area; Chicago; Washington, DC; Vancouver, Canada; and New York.

In Praise of the One Word New Year Resolution

Before I give you the secret to the one word resolution, lets take a sympathetic look at how difficult others make the task of setting annual New Year’s resolutions  🙂

One Word New Year Resolution

The USA.gov website lists the ten most popular resolutions Americans make. Number one is spend more time with family and friends, and number two is fitness. Click here to see the other popular resolutions in America.

Statistic Brain is a website of statistics, percentages, rankings, and all things numbers. They site that a mere 9% of people who make resolutions are successful in achieving them! People in their twenties have a 38% rate of success compared to people over 50 who achieve at 16% rate. Click here to read all their Resolution statistics.

And Forbes has a piece about making your New Year’s resolutions stick. The author, Amy Morin, gives four keys to help. I like number two: Believe You Can Do It, where she talks about reducing negative thinking. Click here to read her article.

According to Business Insider, there are even apps to help people accomplish New Year’s resolutions. Each of the five apps they highlight are for a specific resolution such as wanting to reduce stress or learn a new language. The idea is that whatever your resolution, you might find an app to help you achieve it. Click here to read their piece.

I should say I’m not against writing a long list of resolutions or goals each year. But I’ve found this one word method really kept me focused and centered. It’s a daily reminder–or however often you want to look at it–of what matters to you. The one word does not cause stress. There aren’t lists of items to check off. There’s no guilt as the months progress. There’s no time required to read through lists, adjust goals, cross off items, or add new items. The one word needn’t require a “to do” rather the one word can invoke a “to be” where you can easily identify if you are or are not being this word.

I learned about the one word approach at a New Year’s brunch with a few dear writer friends at a time in my life when I was incredibly overwhelmed and I didn’t have the energy to create a list of goals. But I could resolve to be one word. That was about all I could handle.  Now looking back I see that my one word goal was so simple that it was both achievable and inspiring. The trick is selecting the one word that truly represents your most important goal. Here are some examples: productivity, organize, appreciate, balance, discover, fearless, flexible, and declutter.  Here’s one I wish a friend of mine would adapt: No. She says yes to everyone and has little time left for herself or her writing.  Writers might pick a word like: prioritize or diversify.  Last year my word was submit.  It helped me focus on a weakness: I would write and edit pieces, but never spend time researching markets or submitting my work.  And last year, with this one-word goal, I had the most submissions, rejections, and acceptances, in my career. My word for next year should be sleep, since I didn’t get much of it.  Instead my word for the new year is thrive.  When I’m presented with an invitation or opportunity I can ask myself, will this activity help me thrive?  Then I can decide if I want to accept it or not.  If you’re one who enjoys writing several New Year’s resolutions, go for it.  Then see if you can find one word that sums up the most important ones.  And tell us your word for 2018 in the comments below.

 

Two NEW Workshops Coming in 2018!

Take a Workshop by Victoria M. Johnson

 

Jan 8, 2018 to Feb 5, 2018

Sustain Your Creative Writing Habit

Could you use encouragement to cultivate your writing practice? For beginners and pros alike this fun and encouraging class will motivate you and set you on a path for developing and sustaining your writing habit. Every week students will receive inspiring in-class writing exercises and optional homework. Filled with tips and feedback (for those who want feedback) this class is perfect for writers eager to ignite their creative writing and those ready to learn the next steps. You’ll learn techniques of craft and tips for editing and polishing. We’ll explore submission strategies and a variety of publishing options. You’ll end with plenty of new material, inspiration to keep your creative practice on fire, and knowledge of publishing opportunities for your work.

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  5 Mondays.

Any writers in the Santa Cruz, CA area will be interested in both of these workshops.


* One Day Only *  Jan 20, 2018

How to Write Your Novel in Two Weeks!

Discover techniques to write fast and get your first draft written in two weeks. Learn how to prepare for the two-week event, how to execute during the two weeks, and how to fine-tune your masterpiece. For beginners or pros, this is an exciting and motivating workshop that will help you improve your storytelling skills. Don’t waste years trying to get your novel written. Learn secrets to avoiding writer’s block and write your novel once and for all!

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 9:30am to 2:30pm.  One Saturday.

Instructor Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. Her published works include The Doctors Dilemma (Avalon Books), the nonfiction work Grant Writing 101: Everything You Need To Start Raising Funds Today (McGraw-Hill), and four other books. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies. Victoria is both writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.  She has presented workshops on writing in the Bay Area; Chicago; Washington, DC; Vancouver, Canada; and New York.

 

How to Carve a Turkey and Other Thanksgiving Tips

Well, it’s that time of year when we put away the Halloween decorations and think about the Thanksgiving holiday and our meal plans. Many of us are busy juggling work and children and other responsibilities and don’t stress out over the big dinner until the last minute (two days before Thanksgiving). Are you one of those who rush to the grocery store only to find gigantic frozen turkeys that need three days to thaw? Or have you found the right size turkey but your mind is blank on what to serve with it? There are plenty of details involved in serving a delicious and satisfying Thanksgiving meal, especially if you also have to prepare for guests.

Fortunately, there are experts out there who are ready with Thanksgiving tips and recipes to help us with all those details. It doesn’t matter if this is your first time hosting or if you’ve run dry from hosting year-after-year. I’ve found ideas and inspiration to help make your dinner the best ever.

First things first. Here’s a short video to get you in the mood for turkey.

How to Carve a Turkey

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

For savory dishes like Lemon Pepper Green Beans, Southern Candied Sweet Potatoes, and Holiday Cranberry Sauce head over to the AllRecipes website.

The Country Living website has ideas for 100 classic Thanksgiving side dishes such as Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Salad, Rosemary Monkey Bread Stuffing, and Apple Walnut Stuffing.

Wondering what beverage to serve with your feast? Not to worry. The New York Times has you covered with this article:

There Are No Wrong Thanksgiving Wines

Where you’ll find insight such as, “Do not worry if you don’t have enough stemware. Thanksgiving is not the time for these sorts of concerns. Serve wine in tumblers, if you like.”

Thanksgiving Desert

For dessert, you can’t go wrong with pumpkin pie. Other pies work, too. But why mess with tradition unless you want to surprise your guests with a scrumptious variation such as Streusel Topped Pumpkin Pie. Or instead how about wowing them with Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes?

The experts even have recipe ideas for vegan and vegetarian menus. Just visit the Serious Eats website for tasty options.

After all that preparation, cooking, and hosting, you should now sit back, enjoy your friends and family, and most of all, count your blessings. That’s what the holiday is all about.

Best wishes to you and your family this Thanksgiving holiday!

 

October Writerly Events Roundup

I’ve had a busy October so far and I didn’t want to wait until the month ended to share these memories with you.   I had a fabulous time participating in four great writerly events.

1. Indie Author Day

On October 7th, the Monterey Public Library teemed with authors, writers, and readers. The super-organized event included seminars, workshops, and classes, all taught by local experts and neighboring authors. I was on the “Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing” panel. The other authors on this panel were amazing. Thanks to Eboni Harris for organizing the well-attended event.

Indie Author Day flyers

Victoria (L), D.S. Kane (C), and Alessandra Harris (R)

Indie Author Day panelists

Yvonne Carder (L) Victoria, and Chess Desalts (R)

E. Ardell (L) and Victoria (R)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the above author’s links to their websites:

D.S. Kane, Alessandra Harris, Yvonne CarderChess Desalts, and E. Ardell

 

2. How-To Booklet

I was inspired by my writing class students to compile this booklet to help reach writers who can’t attend my classes. It offers inspiration, tips, and yes, the kick in the pants. Published on October 6th, it will be available as an ebook soon.

new booklet

A new booklet is published.

3. Writing Class

October 9th. My five-week writing class in Capitola was a lot of fun (and hard work). Even though I added a week to my usual length of four weeks, the participants still said it went by much too fast.

See the thoughts swirling and the pens moving?

4. Booktoberfest 2017

A fun writerly event

October 17th in Pacific Grove, CA. This annual gathering includes readings by a few members of the Central Coast Writers whom had works published within the last 12 months. Also, all members were invited to display their books and answer questions about their publishing experience. It was a great way to meet other authors, see the variety of their books, and share publishing information. This was my first time attending a CCW event, and I must say the talent of the readers that night and the friendliness of everyone impressed me.

 

CCW President Laurie Sheehan & Victoria

Victoria at Booktoberfest 2017 Pacific Grove, CA

Now that these exciting writerly events are behind me it’s time to get back to work writing, developing the curriculum for my next session of classes, and editing my latest micro-documentary. I can’t wait. What’s going on in your writing life? Share in the comments below.

How to Write a How-To Book

I’m offering a new How-To class for writers.  Space is limited.  Register today.

How to Write a How-To Book by Victoria M. Johnson

How to Write a How-To Book

Oct 30, 2017 to Nov 20, 2017

Do you want to write a book that will help people? If you have experience or knowledge in a topic for a book that gives instruction, guidance, and tips to inspire others then come learn how simple and fun it is to write a How-to book. How-to books are among the most popular with readers. They are seeking your wisdom and know-how to improve their lives. Discover the types of how-to writing and find the best one for your topic. The motivating instruction, handouts, and in-class writing exercises will provide you with a blueprint to write your own how-to book.

Register online NOW!   click here

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  4 Mondays.

For More Information or to Register by Phone: (831) 475-6115

Instructor Bio:  Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. Her published works include The Doctors Dilemma (Avalon Books), the nonfiction work Grant Writing 101: Everything You Need To Start Raising Funds Today (McGraw-Hill), and four other books. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies. Victoria is both writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries. She has presented workshops on writing in the Bay Area; Chicago; Washington, DC; Vancouver, Canada; and New York.

Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed

While attempting to declutter my office–to make room for more necessary things–I came across a box of cassette tapes of workshops given by some of my favorite authors.  There was a time when I did not get in my car unless I had a cassette to listen to while driving.  Times have certainly changed for me because now I get in my car for silence.  The beautiful, though temporary, silence.  That box of cassettes got me thinking about what else has changed for me as a writer.  I began writing in the early nineties–not that long ago, I know–but I work so very differently now.  See if you can relate to any of these obsolete activities.

  1. I knew librarians not only at my branch but other branches, too. I often asked for help locating material for a topic I was researching. (Well, I still know my local librarian’s names but they don’t point me in the same direction they once did).  Back then, the source for research usually started with one of the big sets of encyclopedias.  Now libraries don’t carry these bulky sets. Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I typed on a typewriter that had ribbons that needed to be replaced when the ink ran dry. We were poor (which is why I had an old typewriter) so I always rewound the ribbon and gave it a second, sometimes third, life before I replaced it. Read fellow author Sheila Claydon’s experience about typing her first manuscript.
  1. I befriended the copy store staff. I even had an account because I made so many copies they gave me a discount. Don’t forget we didn’t have multifunction printers in our homes.  Copies of chapters for critique groups, contest entries, and manuscripts had to be made at a copy store.  Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I befriended post office staff. In those days manuscripts had to be mailed along with an SASE (self-addressed-stamped-envelope). The post office staff always inquired on what I was writing and mailing out, and I put one or two of them in my stories.
  1. Another thing I did was wait for the telephone to ring. Email wasn’t invented yet so writers either got a rejection letter by mail or an offer by telephone. This hopeful writer waited by the telephone, not the mailbox. Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I never had to think about book promotion. This is a state I miss most about the early days of my writing career. I just focused on writing.  What a novel concept.  Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I had a drink. If a rejection letter did arrive I would have a cocktail such as a frothy, salt-rimmed margarita and I called a dear friend for moral support and to commiserate with. Oh, wait. I still do that.

Popular romance author Leigh Michaels shares the nostalgia of her first home office (clickhere).  How about you?  What has changed in your writing life since you first started writing?  Share in the comments below.