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Three Habits of Successful Writers - READ - WRITE - PLAY

Some say there are only two ways that writers can improve their craft--studying the work of others and practice. That means that we must read and write. Those two are a given. Most of us know there must be a balance between reading and writing. We can only improve so much if all we ever do is write. Without studying other books, we can't learn about what works and what doesn't, we 'll never expose ourselves to other styles, voices, characters, and worlds.   Without reading, eventually, we'll plateau, come to a point of writer's block or frustration.

On the other end of the scale, if all we ever do is read, without ever putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), we'll learn plenty but we'll never begin our own work, we'll never begin our own journey as a writer. So the two go hand in hand--reading gives us the tools to write. 

But there is a third method, one that is vital to improving our craft; one that can refill our empty coffers. Our imagination is a vessel. Some have much larger vessels than others but eventually, without refills, they all run dry. This is partly where reading comes in. When we read books, stories, newspapers, and magazines, as mentioned above, we fill our minds with new styles and worlds, but even our vast, immense imaginative brains can only hold so much at a time. At some point, we must stop--stop reading, stop writing, stop exposing ourselves to the world outside, and reflect.  This is where play comes in. 

Studies have shown that play has a direct effect on our brains in many positive areas. It improves cognition, creates new synapses and connections, improves language skills and memory, and promotes creative problem-solving.  While it's vital that we read and write, as creative beings we must also continuously replenish our imaginations through play. 

Village Square offers - the Leisure Arena. A place where we can stop and recharge. Each month we offer entertainment in the form of games, vocabulary builders, puzzles, author spotlights, and polls. All designed to take our minds off the reading and writing cycle of depletion, and Play  







By Louise Sawyer 






LOGIC PUZZLE: Writing Retreat
by Louise Sawyer
Five writing friends traveled up to a mountain cabin for a retreat on New Year's weekend. Each one started writing the first draft of a 2019 book.
Each friend wrote in a different genre and drafted a different number of words. The fastest writer wrote 10,000 words, but not in the Memoir genre.
The names of the friends are Jim, Jack, Jill, Jodi, and Jen. The genres are poetry, memoir, mystery, sci-fi, and romance in any order. The number of words are 10,000, 9,000, 4,500, 2,200, 1,500 in any order. 
Use these other clues to determine the genre and the number of words each soon-to-be-author wrote:
1. Jodi doesn't like mysteries. She wrote 4,500 words in a fiction genre.
2. Jack already wrote Sci-fi and wants to write in a different genre in 2019. He is not 
        the slowest writer in the group.
3. Jim chose a genre that is not fiction. He wrote the second to lowest number of 
4. Jill is new at writing fast but is getting the hang of it. She wrote 9,000 words but 
        not in romance.
5. Jen is having a great time exploring poetry forms. She is not as fast at it as Jill is in 
        writing the mystery.
6. The author writing sci-fi wrote 4,500 words.
Happy writing and puzzle solving in 2019!

Spoiler Alert! - Answers
Jodi sci-fi 4500 words
Jack romance 10,000 words
Jim memoir 2200 words
Jill mystery 9000 words
Jen poetry 1500 words


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An Interview with Miranda Mulders, 'Miranda'

by Brigitte Whiting

Tell us something about yourself. What do you bring from your background into your writing?

My husband John, Bearded Collie Kizzy, and I live on the Dutch island of Bonaire. I work weekends in a small hotel and John and I have a freelance photography business.

I was born in the Netherlands and always knew I didn't want to stay in my home country. My husband and I have traveled the world for twenty-five years for his work: to London; Perth, Western Australia; Calgary, Canada; a year in Aruba; ten years in Houston, Texas; and now to Bonaire.

My travels and life experiences inspire my writing.

What do you write? Specific genres?

Friends and family have always said they loved my letters and emails and that I should become a writer. I've written letters and articles for a monthly blog and more recently I've found I'm interested in writing short stories. I have a tendency to open them with dramatic openings and end them with cliffhangers. If I can come up with a great beginning and ending, I know the rest of the story will follow.

I don't have a specific preference for topics or genres and write about day-to-day happenings.

What classes are you taking at WVU, and how have they helped your writing?

I joined WVU in October 2016 to improve my knowledge of grammar. I found that the MFA before the number was a bit intimidating at first but when I found I could complete the courses, I signed up for the MFA program in nonfiction and then tested the waters for fiction. A whole world opened up to me. Never could I have guessed that there was so much to learn about writing. I may end up with two MFA certificates.

What is the biggest surprise you've experienced at WVU?

My husband and I don't have children and we're at an age where friends and family don't have small children anymore either. I'd never considered writing children's books or stories but from the positive feedbacks I've received on several short stories I've written, I'm open to following that direction.

Have you published anything? What are you working on now?

So far, I haven't published anything yet but I have considered entering some work.

What's next on your publishing docket?

When I started with WVU, I had a desire to write a novel about our first dog but didn't know how. Now that I have learned more, I may reconsider and use only anecdotes for short stories.

I have a dream to create a book of very-short stories. I have a title for the book and even an image for the cover. I might not only use itty-bitty stories but I may also include posts I've used for various WVU classrooms.

Another project my husband and I would like to finish is a picture book about Bonaire. On the left-hand page would be a full-page picture and on the right-hand page would be a factual or anecdotal story I wrote.

What would you tell anyone who has aspirations to publish something?

Don't be afraid of rejection or negative feedback from publishers or from anyone else but consider it an opportunity to learn and grow.

There are so many ways to publish. If you want to self-publish and don't have the means to do so, consider the free option that Kindle Direct Publishing offers.

Is there something you want to see offered at WVU?

I would like to see more feedback that will help expose the weaknesses in my writing. I don't mean criticism; it can still be positive but I need to know how classmates truly perceive my posts. I often mention that if people can find the time and energy, they can be brutally honest and can comment about anything that will help me improve. Although it nice to hear "I loved reading your story, great job!" that doesn't help me much, especially when I feel my story is shaky at best. Fortunately, I've recently received a lot of helpful tips which I am grateful for and I believe things are changing.

I would also like to see more clarity about workshops. I know MFA2000 touches upon that.

There are a number of WVU members for whom English is a second language. What can the rest of us do to help you, and these other students, with completing the classes? Do you have any suggestions on how to navigate through the difficulties? Any resources that you could share?

To help students who have a native language different from English, don't hesitate to point out mistakes. If there are recurring issues, a moderator might suggest that the student should take a basic course, like grammar, before continuing.

I haven't run into a foreign student who couldn't complete a class but if there are problems, either wait for a classmate to post and if things are still not clear, simply ask for clarification. The moderators as well as classmates are always willing to help.

Research and Google, especially if you are uncertain about cultural issues.

My ease of writing and speaking in English fluctuates. I sometimes have to call a friend in the USA to get back on track. When I lived in Houston, I had no issues but on Bonaire, I only get a chance to speak English when I occasionally meet British, American or Canadian guests at the hotel where I work.

I found it hard to understand the terminology when I started writing since I didn't grow up in the American school system. I've considered compiling a list of terms and their explanations, such as POV, parallel structure, media res, etc. I still hope to find time to do that because I think everyone, but especially foreign students may benefit from it.

A writer's tip or two you'd like to share.

Always keep your reader in mind.

Pay attention to everything, even the banal things in life, and keep something on hand to jot down notes. There are stories lurking in some of the more mundane stuff and it's rewarding to write about those in great detail.

From the MFA03 course, I learned that literary citizenship is important. There is so much available online, like The New Yorker and Brevity on Facebook.

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An Interview with Luann Lewis

by Frank Richards

Brief bio: Luann is a Chicago native who has spent the last seventeen years writing legal documents and

correspondence, but is now in semi-retirement and pursuing her MFA at WVU. Dabbling in Fiction,

Flash and Poetry.  She has had several pieces published as well as having one used for an audio




What tips do you have for a newbie facilitator?

Relax and remember you’re always a student too.  Everyone in the classes you facilitate has some new wisdom to offer you.  Don’t expect to have all the answers or to do everything perfectly and don’t hesitate to share your vulnerabilities with the others in the class.



Have you taught or facilitated classes outside of WVU? 

I did a great deal of training in the distant past but not in the field of writing.   I come from a teaching family, however. I am one of the few who did not turn out to be an educator. It seems that most of us ultimately pursued education or law.  I ended up in law where I do a great deal of (boring) writing.



What have been your favorite classes to facilitate?  

Although I didn’t enjoy the stories, I enjoyed facilitating the Moons of Jupiter (Alice Munro) class. It was fairly sizable and it felt as if we were all going through it together. On the other extreme, I facilitated and took Middlemarch (George Eliot) with only one other person. That left us having a lot more fun. We even finished a little early.


How much time does it take to research and prepare for each class? And to give feedback? As a facilitator, what other kinds of things do you spend time on?   

It really depends on the class. If the class was previously prepared and I’m just updating it, it doesn’t take long. I do check every link, however, to make sure it’s still live and, of course, read through all, sometimes adding any extra information or flair to personalize it.

For the most part, I read and comment on every post in every class I facilitate, even if it’s just a brief comment. That’s the educational part for me. WVU attendees are bright and talented people who offer insight that broadens my knowledge base and perspective. If I have something to offer back, even if it’s just encouragement, I feel that’s a good exchange.



Please share what you’d like to on your special love of writing. Is there some aspect of writing which really intrigues you? What classes have you taken here?

That’s an interesting question and I actually went back to count. I keep a spreadsheet for my MFA credits and it appears I have taken 90 classes! That’s not counting several that I’ve taken twice. Some have been worth two or even three rounds. I’ve found my insight and appreciation deepen with each round. If you count those, I’d guess I’ve taken over 100 WVU classes.

I have loved writing since I was a child but have often been too busy with life to pursue it. I had several books published in the early 90s but they were adult fiction. Some life changes caused me to discontinue that genre of writing and disconnect from that publisher. It is certainly not as easy or as lucrative to have literary fiction published, but I have managed to have about a dozen pieces accepted - mostly flash fiction. 


Thanks, Luann


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Aviva Basin Derenowski: Aviva's book Talking to my Mother  99 short excerpts from phone and Skype conversations between the author (in New York City) and her mother (in Israel). The style is simple, open, and honest. Many of the vignettes end with some sort of brief moral




Joy Manné:  Joy’s online Diagram 18.5: White Hibiscus: a Fugue  –it is imaginative, experimental fiction writing.  “Joy woke up with an image of a dead man on the veranda of an apartment she and her husband were renting. The image was so real Joy didn't dare to go onto the veranda alone in the morning for a long time.”




Brigitte Whiting and her poetry group, Monday Morning Poets, have published an anthology of their poems, Wit, Wisdom and Whimsy.



Congratulations to all! 


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