Thursday, October 17, 2013

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Mason, Ink Slingin' Samurai

Today, we have a special guest broadcast from Alone at the Microphone. Jennifer Mason writes young adult fiction and nonfiction for children, but that's like saying birds fly -- her writing inspires and amazes, yes, yet it's far from the only thing she does. She offers insightful manuscript critiques for authors of all stripes, she blogs about practical and artful angles on writing, and she will throw you to the ground if you mess with her. (She's earned the "Samurai" part of her website title, which you can visit here to learn more about her critiquing services.)

Of all the writers I know, Jenny is the best at burrowing holes into any topic, digging out any opportunity for (paid!) publication, and backing up her feral creativity with daily grindstone time. I asked her to write just a bit about her most recent successes, and how they might help other writers gift their words to the world.

And she actually obliged. So please, allow me to pass the Microphone to Jenny Mason.


Thank you, Zach! It's an honor to post on your blog -- which, incidentally, has been around long enough to have over 100 posts. Talk about dedication! No wonder you are one of my writer-idols.

I am very proud to announce that my work is now available in two issues of Chicken Soup for the Soul now available to order online!

Actual working links to these books! Click 'em and see!

Setting out to write stories for these anthologies presented me with several unique challenges. For instance, "Papaw's Lantern" encouraged me to share and explain an inexplicable yet uplifting event in my life. "You Do It Your Way, I'll Do It Mine" required that I delve deep into my childhood and recall what it was like to triumph despite being the smallest, the one who knew the least, the one who had so much to learn.

I was truly delighted to be included in both collections because Chicken Soup expects fine writing. Just like my MFA program, they expect stories to have strong verbs, evocative moods, unexpected settings, dialogue, and so forth.

For most good writers, all that is no problem. It's all made up, crafted, perfected, revised, and altered over and over until it reads just so.

But the catch with Chicken Soup is that your story must be true! It must be reflection of your past, your memories. It must also be heartfelt -- which for me, goes without saying because I cannot write anything well unless it comes from my heart.

Essentially, like the world's greatest creative nonfiction writers, you can't make anything up, and yet you still have to wrangle the ethereal chambers of your heart and soul.

That is not to say that only a small and exclusive gang of phenoms can ever hope to get published in a volume. Far from it! I recommend anyone take a look at their site and read about the upcoming issues and the writing guidelines.

You may not initially think that your life and past experiences are interesting enough for the world to read about, but that's where Chicken Soup may just surprise you. And once you've penned your story (or poem), you may likely surprise yourself!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Already available for pre-order!

Here at the Microphone, fall has seriously kicked in. Who knew that gardening could be so absorbing? And who knew that so many plants mature at the same time? I have a whole new respect for our agricultural forebears.

All that's my way of saying: stay tuned for more bookish goodness. I've had some great reads the past month that I'm itching to write about.

First, though, is a bit of writerly holiday news. (As if autumn weren't surprising us enough -- now I'm asking you to think about Christmas!) I have a nonfiction story coming out this month in a Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas collection. This inclusion feels like quite an accomplishment. A long-running, best-selling national publication likes my writing! Enough to print billions of copies!

(Okay, maybe not billions. But certainly millions.)

My story, "Pepper's Last Gift," is about my family's final Christmas with our present-opening pup. It's apparently quite the jerker of tears; so far, everyone in the family has choked up reading it. And I might have cried a little while writing it. But all in the good way, because Pepper was the kind of dog that inspired love, adoration, and awwwwwws. (Which is to say, she was a dog.)

If you're interested in reading my story (and 100 other Christmas-themed stories), Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas! is available for pre-order.

One of the great things about this series is that anyone at all can share a story. Whether you are an aspiring author, a work-for-hire writer trying to make a living, or just someone with a good story to share with the world, there's likely an upcoming Chicken Soup volume that could have your name in it. I encourage you to take a look at the constantly updated list of book topics.

Happy autumn, everyone!