Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bylines submission opportunity

Bylines, the writer’s desk calendar created by Sylvia Forbes to help writers stay organized, inspired and focused, is currently accepting submissions for the 2013 edition. The deadline is March 1 for succinct, personal stories about the writing life, including success, rejection, motivation, tough lessons learned and freelancing. Humor is welcomed. Complete guidelines are available at

Each year, Bylines features the desk of a famous writer on the cover. Bylines 2013 will feature the desk of Ralph Waldo Emerson of Concord, Mass. Emerson was one of the most well-known writers of his day, and gave over 1500 talks in addition to authoring books on his philosophies of man, religion and nature. He is said to have inspired both Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman.

Forbes recently created a Facebook page for Bylines with links to reviews, comments, and other information. Bylines is available for purchase at and on

Leave a comment here by Feb. 12, and you will be entered to win a copy of the 2012 edition of Bylines!

Write soon,

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Have you ever wondered what you could accomplish if you didn’t have any negative thoughts in your head? You know what I’m talking about, that inner voice that asks “Why do you think you can write?” “Why are you wasting your time writing bad prose, when you should be doing something more productive?” “Who told you you’re a writer?”

I have an inner critic that I try not to listen to, but sometimes I can’t help it. I get caught up in everything I’m not, and she finds out and moves in for a while to lead the parade of negativity.

I have good news, though. There’s a way to lessen her impact. Step one to banishing your inner critic is to name it. I’ve decided to name mine “Lucille.” Lucille often tells me that what I’ve written isn’t quite good enough. She thinks I ought to be doing the laundry and cleaning the bathrooms instead of working on character development. Lucille isn’t a fan of anything that’s new and different. She thinks my writing should sound like everyone else’s.

Now that I’ve named her, I can see her. She is an older woman wearing a floral dress that is tragically out of date, along with pink ankle socks under black sandals with thick straps. She sometimes forgets to take the curlers out of her dyed-black hair before she goes outside, and drinks generic cola while watching reruns of game shows. Her too-dark lipstick is usually smeared around the outside of her lips from the cigarettes she smokes while trying to figure out the puzzles from “Wheel of Fortune.”

She’s a mess, so I’m not going to listen to her anymore.

Does anyone else have an inner critic? Tell me about your “Lucille.”

Write soon,


Monday, January 16, 2012

"It" just keeps happening!

While browsing in the reference/writing section of Barnes & Noble the other day, I flipped through a book that opened to a page about dummy subjects, featuring the word “it.” Talk about the interconnectedness of all things, I wrote about the word “it,” in a recent blog post, so I began reading.

The author introduced the concept of a “dummy subject.” I had never encountered that term before, so was interested to read on. After much confusion from trying to read many complex definitions and examples, I finally gave up and went home. The next day I Googled the term and came up with a couple of simple explanations, which you will find below.

According to, a dummy word is a word that has a grammatical function but no specific lexical meaning.

·        "[T]he verb do, used as an auxiliary, is often called the dummy operator because it has no meaning of its own but exists simply to fill the 'slot' of operator when an operator is needed to form (for example) negative or interrogative sentences. In a similar way, it can be called a dummy subject when it fills the subject slot in sentences like: It's a pity that they wasted so much time."
(Geoffrey N. Leech, A Glossary of English Grammar. Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2006)

·        "There are also pronouns that don't mean anything at all. Dummy pronouns, they're called, and we come across them all the time (you read one in the previous sentence). They're those pronouns that exist only because the English language demands that each sentence contain a subject: the it in 'It's raining' or the there in 'There is a shed in my back yard.' (Note: the there only works as an example of a dummy pronoun if I am not pointing to a shed, and am nowhere near my back yard.)"
(Jessica Love, "They Get to Me." The American Scholar, Spring 2010)

What do you think? Is the concept of a dummy subject new to you, too?

Write soon,

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January Writers

I recently interviewed Sylvia Forbes via email about her January Writers project. It’s a great way to help all of us start the new year by writing!

MH: Why did you decide to do this project?
SF: Winter is often a time when people don't get out much, and there's a big letdown after the rush and excitement of the holidays. So, what better time to daydream, reflect and write, than in January?
I started the January Challenge on a smaller scale last January, when I invited writers from my local writing group, the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild, to participate through email. However, Facebook seems like a more ideal way for everyone to communicate, so this year I've opened it up to ALL writers who want to participate. Any writer can search for January Writers, and “like” the page. Then they can start posting their daily totals, or comments about how they are doing on the challenge.

MH: How many writers are participating?
SF: Right now, we have about 53 participating. Others are welcome to join any time. The month is not over!
MH: What is the goal of this project?
SF: The January Challenge is to write something every day in January. It can be as short as a Haiku, or as long as a novel. It can be fiction or non-fiction. It can be journaling - the words don't have to be for publication, unless the writer wants to work toward that goal.

The overall idea is that by writing daily in January, it helps writers develop that great habit of writing daily, and not procrastinating. So if anyone wants to get started on developing that habit, come join in!

MH: Do you have a personal goal?
SF: I have many personal writing goals, from learning to write better essays, to writing non-fiction books, children's fiction, writing more nature articles, and much more. For this January Challenge, however, I hope to catch up on writing some non-fiction feature articles. These files have been waiting patiently on my desk for a long time, waiting for me to get to them.

MH: Do you think a writing community is important for writers?
SF: Yes. For me, a writing community is important. I know some writers don't need them, but I enjoy meeting others, even if just virtually, and getting enthused and inspired by the interaction. I feel that I learn much from other writers, both in the craft of writing and in the business of writing. I live in a small town, with few other writers, so it's nice to have a writing group nearby, whether online or in another town, where I can go and be with other creative people who "get" what I do. Sometimes, writing groups can demand too much of your time, or there can be a few irritating personalities, but for the most part, writing groups have been invaluable to me.

Thank you, Sylvia, for your time, and for this great project! 

Write soon,