Jamie Sobrato's Blog, page 4

April 9, 2012

I was doing so well for a while there, and then my day job intervened, and all of a sudden it's a ghost town around here. Also, in my not-so-spare time, I've become obsessed with Instagram. If you have an iphone, and/or you're already an Instragram user, you can look me up as Jamie Kain (my married name), or inthecityoftrees (my Instagram user name). Not familiar with Instagram yet? It's sort of like Twitter meets Facebook meets Photography 101, but simpler than I just made it sound. It's an app that makes it easy to edit and share photos, and it has a twitter-like stream you can search and follow that is filled with some pretty creative and amazing photos. I was already a photography hobbyist, so now I'm like a photography hobbyist on crack.


I wish there was a way to integrate WordPress and Instagram. I love my blog, but I have far more to say with pictures than I have to say with blogging lately. Any Instagram users out there? If so, let me know and I'll search you!



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Published on April 09, 2012 17:26 • 10 views

February 25, 2012

"We always worry that we are copying someone else, that we don't have our own style. Don't worry. Writing is a communal act. Contrary to popular belief, a writer is not Prometheus alone on a hill full of fire. We are very arrogant to think we alone have a totally original mind. We are carried on the backs of all the writers who came before us. We live in the present with all the history, ideas, and soda pop of this time. It all gets mixed up in our writing." –Natalie Goldberg


Enough said for a Saturday.



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Published on February 25, 2012 12:57 • 34 views

February 23, 2012

I just began reading Dennis Palumbo‘s book, Writing from the Inside Out, and my first reaction to it was, “Why couldn’t I have discovered this four years ago?!”


That was when my creative process first started going awry. I continued to write, but it became more and more difficult for several years, until fear, depression, and utter burnout led me to believe I might have to give up writing altogether. I’d dreamed of being a writer since I was 8, so the idea of giving it up was not so different than the idea of cutting my heart out of my chest and tossing it into the compost bin.


I didn’t give up writing, but I did take a break from it for a while. In the meantime, I tried to write again in fits and starts, read lots of books, and tried to do things that had absolutely nothing to do with writing but that would, I hoped, give me a richer set of life experiences to draw from whenever my creative muse decided to visit me again.


Back to Dennis’s book. In the first chapter, he talks about the gift of writer’s block, a phrase that at first glance sounded about as appealing to me as “the gift of dog shit.” But I kept reading, and he continues on to describe the ways a bout with writer’s block can communicate to us something we need to learn in order to move to the next level as writers.


A big part of my creative burnout, I realize after having several years to contemplate it, came from writing out of fear. Fear of not being a good-enough writer, fear of not earning enough money to survive, fear of not getting my next writing contract, fear of losing my career altogether. Such feelings can serve a positive purpose, but in large doses, fear is utterly destructive to creativity.


There are other lessons I’ve learned from writer’s block as well, but I won’t go into all of them here today. The point is, if you’re finding yourself stuck, unable to move forward in your writing in spite of showing up faithfully day after day to get your work done, consider what might be going on at a deeper level. Are you writing what you want to write? Do you have faith in yourself and your story? Do you sense something is amiss? Are you writing in joy or in some other more negative emotion?


It might be time to take a step back and allow yourself a chance to seek out the lesson your writer’s block has to teach you.



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Published on February 23, 2012 10:13 • 11 views

I just began reading Dennis Palumbo's book, Writing from the Inside Out, and my first reaction to it was, "Why couldn't I have discovered this four years ago?!"


That was when my creative process first started going awry. I continued to write, but it became more and more difficult for several years, until fear, depression, and utter burnout led me to believe I might have to give up writing altogether. I'd dreamed of being a writer since I was 8, so the idea of giving it up was not so different than the idea of cutting my heart out of my chest and tossing it into the compost bin.


I didn't give up writing, but I did take a break from it for a while. In the meantime, I tried to write again in fits and starts, read lots of books, and tried to do things that had absolutely nothing to do with writing but that would, I hoped, give me a richer set of life experiences to draw from whenever my creative muse decided to visit me again.


Back to Dennis's book. In the first chapter, he talks about the gift of writer's block, a phrase that at first glance sounded about as appealing to me as "the gift of dog shit." But I kept reading, and he continues on to describe the ways a bout with writer's block can communicate to us something we need to learn in order to move to the next level as writers.


A big part of my creative burnout, I realize after having several years to contemplate it, came from writing out of fear. Fear of not being a good-enough writer, fear of not earning enough money to survive, fear of not getting my next writing contract, fear of losing my career altogether. Such feelings can serve a positive purpose, but in large doses, fear is utterly destructive to creativity.


There are other lessons I've learned from writer's block as well, but I won't go into all of them here today. The point is, if you're finding yourself stuck, unable to move forward in your writing in spite of showing up faithfully day after day to get your work done, consider what might be going on at a deeper level. Are you writing what you want to write? Do you have faith in yourself and your story? Do you sense something is amiss? Are you writing in joy or in some other more negative emotion?


It might be time to take a step back and allow yourself a chance to seek out the lesson your writer's block has to teach you.



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Published on February 23, 2012 10:13 • 16 views

February 22, 2012

I found myself reading a novel last night in which the writing was just okay. There were some common writing mistakes–too much narrative and description slowing down the action, some awkward dialogue, some trite characters–and yet the story compelled me to keep reading.


When I asked myself why I wanted to keep reading, the answer was that the author's voice and the emotion in the story were honest. She was being real. She felt what she was writing, and it came through on the page. She wasn't talking down to her readers. She clearly respects the genre in which she writes, and she writes an emotionally compelling story.


Sometimes, there's not much more you can hope for. Being real with one's readers is no small feat. As a reader, I've had far too many moments in which I've felt the manipulating hand of the author trying to make me feel a certain way simply because that's what the author imagines will sell lots of books.


This kind of manipulation is far too common in published fiction, and I think buyers continue to buy it simply because we are so eager to be emotionally moved by a story. But give me the feelings honestly, without pretense, on the page, and I'll become a loyal reader.


So how do we know as writers when we are doing the job right? We know it's right when we love our stories and more importantly, our characters; when we feel the emotion in what we are writing; and when we aren't trying to make a certain thing or series of events happen. Instead, we are simply listening to our characters and letting them run the story.



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Published on February 22, 2012 10:59 • 18 views

February 21, 2012

One of my favorite of my backlist books, What a Girl Wants, is now available as a Kindle eBook.



The book's description:


Say no to sex. So Jane Langston advises women if they want better relationships. Who knew that as a result men across the country would be sleeping single and blaming her? Now Jane needs a little protection. It arrives in the form of gorgeous Luke Nicoletti, and he has her thinking maybe no isn't the right answer. Instead, she's taking him up on his offer to prove that sex can improve relationships!


Luke can't figure out why a woman as sexy as Jane would give such, well, puritan advice. Because when they kiss, they're combustible! Their affair is so steamy, he can't seem to keep his mind on the reason he's there. But as the threats against Jane continue, Luke starts feeling a little more protective of her than his role as her security guy and casual lover warrant. Suddenly he's showing her how their just-for-now affair is hot enough to last forever.


Order it here!



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Published on February 21, 2012 12:17 • 21 views

A year and a half ago, we bought our first home. In the yard are a fig tree and an orange tree, which I thought were very cool bonuses. I'd never lived with fruit trees before, and I soon learned the pleasure of walking out into the yard and finding breakfast. Because someone had the wisdom 20 or more years ago to plant these trees, I get to enjoy their fruit now.


We have since bought a few more fruit trees. They are small and frail, in need of nurturing and patience as we wait for them to bear fruit. Of course because I'm a writer, I find a way to connect it all to the writing process. The new trees remind me of the ideas and partially finished books that look like they may never survive. And it's true, they may not. As young ideas, just as with young trees, they are mostly just potential.


But by persevering, being patient, and nurturing what I have as best I can, eventually these works in progress may become complete in themselves. They fill out. They take shape. They find a purpose. And they may, if I'm lucky and I do everything right, bear fruit.



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Published on February 21, 2012 07:56 • 21 views

February 20, 2012

Until I had kids, I didn't do any reading out loud. Now I do it every day. Mostly, the books we read are stories I've pre-selected for quality, and they work well when read to an audience, but occasionally, we come across one that I haven't pre-screened, and invariably, if it's not a well-written book, it's even more of a chore to read aloud than it is to read to oneself.


I read one book over the holidays to myself that I fell in love with, and because it was about a boy my son's age, I decided it would work well to read aloud to the kids too. Soon as I finished it myself, I set about reading it to them, and I was shocked to find that the book I'd been reading so happily in silence was utter torture to read to an audience. All sorts of problems I hadn't noticed on the page before leapt out at me, forcing me to edit as I was reading in an effort to make the story sound better than it was. We ultimately gave up on the book before finishing it.


This has led me to the realization that before I consider any piece of work fully revised, I have to read it aloud to myself. If it doesn't read well, the editing is not done. I can catch things when reading aloud that I might not notice reading silently–too-long stretches of narrative or dialogue, for instance, or awkwardly worded passages. Also, now that I'm working on several projects for kids, I will be using my kids as my first audience. This applies an additional filter. Not only must the book read well aloud, but it must contain a story that is appropriate and compelling to the two people who are by far my most important audience.


Do you read your work aloud when editing? If not, try it and see if it makes you a better writer.



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Published on February 20, 2012 11:36 • 18 views

February 18, 2012

“Running a close second [as a writing lesson] was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” ― Stephen King


It’s true. You can’t judge whether your work is going well by how it felt to write it. Sometimes every word comes out like hard labor, and that doesn’t mean you’re doing bad work. Any time you’re sitting down and doing the work, you get to feel good at the end that you sat down and did the work.



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Published on February 18, 2012 08:12 • 9 views

"Running a close second [as a writing lesson] was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." ― Stephen King


It's true. You can't judge whether your work is going well by how it felt to write it. Sometimes every word comes out like hard labor, and that doesn't mean you're doing bad work. Any time you're sitting down and doing the work, you get to feel good at the end that you sat down and did the work.



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Published on February 18, 2012 08:12 • 10 views

Jamie Sobrato's Blog

Jamie Sobrato
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