Will Write for Money, Maybe

Posted on November 1, 2012. Filed under: writing | Tags: , , |

I occasionally get paid to write – which is awesome, right?  In a way, that’s my dream come true. Doing what I love for a living. But, unfortunately, I don’t mean that I get paid to write fiction. Instead, I get paid by corporate clients to write for them.

Now, I admit, I enjoy the work. I am a writer because I like to write, so doing that as part of my day job can be a lot of fun, and gratifying. However, writing, for myself or for a client,  is exhausting! I said that to my husband once and he said “Why? You are just sitting at a computer all day. That’s what we all do.” And I had to admit, he had me there. But I ran the same thought past a friend of mine and she said “writing is exhausting because it requires constant decision making. Every word you put down, or don’t put down, is a choice. And making choices is hard work!”

So then, what happens to my ability to churn out a new chapter or story after a day or several days of writing for money?  I have often thought about making more of a business career out of my writing. Blogging for others, for example, or doing more marketing writing – which is where my occasional work comes from. I would like to think that it would have no impact, or at least no negative impact, on my personal writing career, but the fact of the matter is, the last thing I really want to do after a day of writing is write.

It’s taking me long enough already to finish my novel. If I never felt like writing it, it would never get done.  I don’t know if everyone feels this way, or if it’s just my quirky artistic genius side acting up.  I guess it doesn’t matter what works for other people. For me, I think, I am going to have to try to keep the paid writing to a minimum, until, of course, that fateful day when my agent tells me they want the sequel, stat!  I am sure that will be exhausting as well, but probably a bit more gratifying when it’s your own work you’re getting paid to work on.

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30 Minutes Down

Posted on October 18, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

Last night I performed a 30 minute story at my friend Ellouise Schoettler’s show “Tales in the Village.” The show is monthly and is hosted at the Friendship Heights Community Center.

The reason last night is remarkable is that I have never told a 30 minute story before.  I have told stories for 30 minutes, at another “Tales in the Village” event, but this was the first time I wrote, memorized, and told one story that was 30 minutes long. It was a lot of work!

I think, overall, the performance went well.  There was a bit of distraction in the first few minutes when one of the audience members started complaining that he couldn’t hear. It was a small room, so we had decided not to use the microphone, but as the gentleman persisted, repeatedly, in telling me to be louder, I did eventually grab the mic.

I won’t lie, I had a little heart attack during all that. I have performed over 25 times so at this point I have experienced cell phones, sneezes, people (more…)

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Storytelling Interview

Posted on October 11, 2012. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , |

I got interviewed, for the second time, by the talented and lovely storyteller Ellouise Schoettler on her TV Show “Stories in Focus.” Ellouise and I discussed storytelling, I performed a story into the camera (which is so hard to do!) and then we talked a bit about storytelling business. You can watch the whole interview here.

And just because I never shared it before, here is the video of the first time I appeared on Ellouise’s show, about a year ago.

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Does Size Matter?

Posted on September 25, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , |

Longer isn’t necessarily better. Length can be overrated.

For example, in the story I am performing this Saturday, I am going for laughs, and shorter, in this case, is funnier.

I tend to write in a somewhat laid back style. I am not naturally proficient with active verbs and short, punchy, sentences. But with comedy writing I think punchier is better. You want to get to the punchline before the audience does.

That being said, I am working with a storyteller on a draft of one of her stories and I truly think it needs to be longer. It’s about half the length of my story to fill the same amount of time, so she has wiggle room. In his case, what’s missing, what could make the story better and most likely funnier, is description.

Her story is almost like a series of punchlines tied together with a little bit of framing. It’s not quite there. It needs details. It needs emotion. We laugh more if we are emotionally attached to a character when that character gets embarrassed. If we don’t care, well, it might still be funny in a general sense, but not as funny as if we were feeling it.

So how to determine the length? It helps if you know the limit. If, for example, you are performing in a storytelling show and can’t go over 8 minutes, or should plan on filling 30 minutes. That gives you a guide. But if you don’t have a set amount of words, time, or other restrictions, how do you know how long to go?

Generally, with any kind of story, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind when deciding how much is enough.
1. Does the reader/audience know who the main character is – his wants, desires, needs, goals, etc. – at the beginning of the story and how that has changed by the end of the story? If not, you have some work to do.

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Follow Up to Tears

Posted on August 31, 2012. Filed under: Events, storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

So I did my sappy story this past Saturday – see my “tears” post – and I did have two people tell me that I made them cry – so yay – but it turned out to be not as sad as all that. Several people said they liked it, with no mention of tears, so I guess that’s all right.

You can judge for yourself, as the video is up.


I will be telling a funny story at the September show. Nothing to cry about in that one. If you are in Northern Virginia on September 29th, check out our live storytelling show with Better Said Than Done.  Details here.

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Do Tears Mean It’s Good?

Posted on August 23, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I will be the first to admit, I cry pretty easily – especially at the movies, or reading a book, or hearing a really touching story. And you know what? I like it. Yep. I like when stories make me cry.

So, what about when my own writing makes me cry? Does that mean it’s good or that I am too attached?  I am trying to work this out, because quite a few of my own stories make me cry.  I know, I am weird, but I write the kind of stuff I would like to read, so there you go.

I write fiction as well as true, personal stories. I am currently working on a story about my mom and my dog, for this Saturday’s storytelling performance, when they were both sick, and I keep crying when I get to the end!  Now, obviously, I have a personal connection to the story. It’s true and I lived through it and there are some very emotional events that took place. Hence, the crying. But just because it moves me, does it mean that it will move other people?

I have (I say with puffed out chest) made people cry with my stories before. It’s very gratifying. 🙂 But there is a fine line between indulging your own emotional catharsis and creating art and, especially with true stories, that is a hard line to walk. Just because this story is making me cry, doesn’t mean it will work it’s magic onion powers on others. Hopefully, Saturday will be another successful telling and no one will throw tomatoes. (Although I have never had anyone throw a tomato at me, so don’t know how bad that would actually be.)

Then there’s my fiction writing that makes me cry. I wrote this fantastic (I do say so myself) short story about a young married couple who had to deal with cancer.  Every time I revised the ending, I found myself balling. I mean, it was good stuff! But I was told publishers don’t like cancer stories. Too depressing. And so far, no publisher has proved me wrong and bought it, so is it better to stick with lighter content?

But books like “Cold Mountain,” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” and “The Poisonwood Bible,” all favorites of mine, totally make you cry. There is no way you could get to the end of “Cold Mountain” without balling. And I am pretty sure all three of those books sold more than a dozen copies. So it’s not just me out there liking to cry.

I guess there needs to be more to it than just tears. I still think my cancer story was good, but maybe not as catchy as a time traveling husband. The emotional content is still important, but maybe context is as well.

Writing is a journey and we’ll see how this all develops. At least by Saturday night I will know if my most recent creation is art or just a failed public therapy session.

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90% Motivation

Posted on July 6, 2012. Filed under: Books, writing | Tags: , , , , |

What’s that old saying about inspiration and perspiration? Well, being a lady, I don’t perspire, I sweat. Oh, wait, never mind.

My challenge with writing isn’t about inspiration.  Thankfully still got loads of ideas.  And it isn’t so much about perspiration. I work hard for no money! But it is completely about motivation.

For the past six months I have been working on a novel that I am just in love with. It is some of my best writing. I think I have a great idea – and one that could sell! My writing circle has given mostly positive feedback on all my submitted chapters, and I want to get this baby done.

So why haven’t I? Well, like many famous actors certainly say every day, “what’s my motivation?”

With storytelling, we have a show that must go on. I have a deadline – the show.  Plus, I have an audience and instant gratification (that’s the hope, anyway) when they applaud my story.

With writing a novel I have none of that. I set my own deadline, but it’s arbitrary. There’s nothing definite at the end date other than to try to get a publisher to buy it.  There might be an audience, if it gets published, but there is a lot of uncertainty around if that will ever happen.

I find it hard to choose to work on my novel when I could, say, write a story for my next show, or blog about my last show, or do work, the stuff I get paid to do. What’s a super talented, as yet undiscovered, amazing author with no motivation to do?

I am getting by with a little help from my friends. (Man, I am a walking pop culture billboard today!) I was telling a friend of mine about my issue – just like in a Yaz commercial – and she gave me the answer!

She has a small circle of friends who “meet” once a week to check in about goals. It’s essentially an accountability support group. Each week we are supposed to state our goals for the coming week and report in on how we did with last week’s goals. This is perfect for me. I won’t do it for myself, but I will do it if someone else is watching. Okay, that sounded wrong.

My point is, I now feel like I have to do what I have set out to do because if I don’t, well, other people will know what a loser I am.  It’s a great way to keep on track. Kind of like a Weight Watchers meeting for people with writing problems – or goals.  This is week one of this new experiment and I did make it all the way to Friday before I tried to work on my goals – but then I realized I only have a couple days left to make the magic happen so I sat down this morning and started typing, and then got up and made coffee, and then started typing again, and then fooled around on Facebook, and then started typing again. You get the idea.

Every time I wandered off, I kept thinking in the back of my head, “Think of the complete and utter humiliation you will suffer if you don’t finish that chapter!”  And even though they seem like a very nice group of people, it is more helpful for me to just assume that they will cast aspersions on me if I fail in week one! Cause that’s mo

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Independence Day Stories

Posted on June 22, 2012. Filed under: Events, storytelling | Tags: , , , , , |

My next storytelling show with Better Said Than Done – the best performance act in Virginia according to Virginia Living Magazine –  is just over a week away and we are going to bring the fireworks.  Join Better Said Than Done for an explosive night of storytelling!

Independence Day: stories of declarations, freedom, and fireworks
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Epicure Cafe
11213 Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA
7:00PM Show
Doors Open at 6:00PM
$10 Tickets at Door (Cash Preferred)

The performance will feature entertaining performances of true, explosive stories. Storytellers include: Geraldine Buckley, Lisa Kays, Jessica Piscitelli, Mojdeh Rezaeipour, Adam Ruben, Ellouise Schoettler, John Tong and Michael Zhuang.

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The “Right” Writing Style Conclusion

Posted on June 14, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

A couple weeks ago I wrote about trying to change the way I write my stories that I perform for Better Said Than Done.  I just wanted to follow up with what actually happened.

In trying to work on the story, I talked it out with a few people, mostly through rehearsal. I spoke it out loud a few times, trying to work on being conversational. I struggled with that because I kept feeling like I was trying to find the words and map out where I was going while I was talking. I finally decided I needed to write the story out like I usually do. So I did.

Then something funny happened. As soon as I wrote it out, finding the structure I was looking for, I realized that I already knew it. I had needed to write it out to put all the pieces together in the right order, but from having said it out loud, and having lived it, I already knew all the pieces.  Once they were put together, I didn’t even need to read the written piece to know it.

It ended up being a bit of a merging of styles, in the end.

Here is the finished product. A story from the Better Said Than Done Show, “Our Bodies, Our Selves.”

Might try that method for our next show “Independence Day – stories of declarations, freedom, and fireworks” on June 30th at 7PM at Epicure Cafe in Fairfax, VA.

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Silly Stories, Serious Fun

Posted on May 9, 2012. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I am busy.  Story of my life.  Okay, no, not really.  That’s a really boring story! But being so busy with work, soooo much work, does make me want lighter fare.  You ever feel that way?  Like how you always want to read a thriller, or a teen novel (these days) or (I guess for some people) a romance while on summer vacation?  I feel like when I am working hard at work I want to write light, and leave the heavy stuff for when I have spare energy.

A friend of mine recently said to me, “I love that you always take it deeper in your stories.  That your stories have a life lesson.”  That was very sweet, and I think some of my more recent stories do, but it’s also something of a burden to live up to. Sometimes I just want to have fun!

My next show is May 19th. Details here. As soon as we picked the theme, I got an idea for a very silly story.  I finished it today, well, minus feedback I am sure I will get at rehearsal.  It’s good.  I mean, it’s funny.  I mean, it feels good to be funny again.  Just a silly piece about a silly night and there is nothing to teach or learn or get out of it other than, hopefully, a few good belly laughs.

Big sigh.  I feel like I just ate a pint of Ben and Jerrys.  Very satisfying!

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