Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Story Sprouts and The Beauty of a Moment

Please welcome Alana Garrigues to the blog today!
First off, thank you Jemi for hosting Nutschell, me and the entire crew of Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles on your blog today! You are such a great hostess!
Jemi fans, welcome to the Story Sprouts worldwide blog tour! I'm very happy to make this virtual stop in Canada today, even if temperatures are frigid and the great wide north is deep in snow banks! I hope all you local Jemi fans are staying warm, and the rest of you visiting from warmer climates (like my current SoCal home) are appreciative of the sun's rays.

Story Sprouts is a collection of writing exercises, tips and tricks, and an anthology of 38 short stories
by 19 authors, created by the CBW-LA writers during a one-day workshop. Released in October, it is the first in a series of Writing Day Workshop Anthologies, which we plan to publish annually. As a bonus, now through January, we're donating 50% of the proceeds from all sales of the book (Kindle and Paperback on Amazon) to Philippine Relief Efforts! So, you can support fellow writers, get 10 great writing exercises and donate to charity for as little as $4.99 - great deal!

As I was planning this post for Jemi, I perused several of her previous blog posts to get a feeling for her style and you, her loyal fans and readers, and I found two themes pop up - the importance of connecting with readers, and the freedom to let go and allow the story to tell you what it wants to say. So I want to take you on a little journey into the world of immersing yourself in the story, a journey similar to where we took our 19 writers on their writing day workshop last June.

This is an exercise that you can use anytime you find yourself grappling with writer's block, trying to sort out a problem in your current work-in-progress, needing to let off some steam, or just reconnect with the joy of language. I find it works best when you feel connected to your words in a very tactile way, so I recommend a pen or pencil and your favorite paper, but if you're an all digital sort of writer, that's okay too.

First, take a couple of deep breaths to center yourself. Rest and relax. Breathe in and breathe out. Find a calm place to send your ego on a little trip and allow your mind to open up to the story that wants to flow through you. Give yourself the freedom to get lost in the beauty of a moment.

Now, pull out the pen or pencil, or your keyboard, set a timer for five minutes and start writing. Free write, anything that comes to mind or to your fingertips. Don't chase any thought. Don't dwell on any thought. Ignore punctuation and reason and all of that nasty editing nonsense, and relish in your words. If you don't know what to write, say so. Play with sounds. Feel free to write anything that appears - deep thoughts, mundane nagging thoughts, random ticks and tocks, streams of light, surprises that you didn't know lived inside of your soul. Just put it down. Get it out.

Once your timer beeps, put down the pen or stop typing that last word, and breathe again. Stretch your fingers and your neck, and give your body a little shimmy shake to get the last of the free write out of your system. Now, look over your free write gobbledy gook, without judging, and circle your favorite words and phrases and thoughts. 

If you see something new or different, or something that makes you smile, something that terrifies you, something that grabs at you and forces a visceral response, circle it. That is the story that wants to be told. That is what will connect you with your reader. That is the essence of the reading and writing experience in its raw form. That unplanned nugget of goodness is why you started writing in the first place, long before story outlines and plot twists and character lists and first drafts and revisions. It is your truth.

Now, with that truth, go back to the writing you must do - your blog, your first draft, your sixth revision - and take the feeling of what you discovered along for the ride. If you are inspired to write a new story, go for it! If you are inspired to change something about your character, do it! If you found a way to tap into the essence of what your story wants to say, rather than you intellectually telling your story what you want it to say, clear your calendar for the rest of the day and jump into your writing discovery!

And please, share your success with all of your fellow bloggers here!

To get our writers at the anthology workshop ready for the day, trusting their instincts and the story within, we led them on a similar free writing exercise, followed by a guided free write on the topic of writing, which they ultimately pulled from and morphed into a poem or essay and submitted as their first published piece. The results were phenomenally varied and true, speaking to and from writers from all walks of life from amateur through professional. For every person has something to say, and every person should have the capacity to communicate what it is that they need to share, for themselves and for their connection to the world.

When you connect that need to communicate with the story that wants to be told, you find magic! I wish you all success in your writing careers, and I speak for both Nutschell Anne Windsor, my co-editor, and I when I say we'd love to hear from you anytime you have questions or thoughts on writing. If you're ever in the L.A. area, please join us for a critique session or a workshop, and if you're visiting from afar, please don't hesitate to send an email or drop by one of our blogs to say hello! We'd love to talk with you.

Thank you again!
·         Paperback: 240 pages
·         Publisher: CBW-LA Publications (October 18, 2013)
·         Edited by: Alana Garrigues, Nutschell Anne Windsor
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0989878791
·         ISBN-13: 978-0989878791
·         Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
·         Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
·         19 Authors
·         38 Combined Anthology Entries – 2 per Contributing Author
·         6-hour Workshop
·         10 Writing Exercises (included in Story Sprouts)
·         Dozens of Photo, Character and Conflict Prompts (included in Story Sprouts)
·         240 pages
What happens when linguistic lovers and tale tellers workshop together? Inspiration. Wonder. Discovery. Growth. Magic.
Brave and talented, the writers featured in this anthology took on the challenge of dedicating one day to the raw and creative process of writing.
A rare view into the building blocks of composition, Story Sprouts is made up of nearly 40 works of poetry and prose from 19 published and aspiring children's book authors.
This compilation includes all of the anthology writing exercises and prompts, along with tips, techniques and free online writing resources to help writers improve their craft.
Learn more about Story Sprouts at
Join the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles at 
Find Nutschell at:
Blog      Twitter     Linked-In     Pinterest
Find Alana at:
Website     Blog     Facebook     Twitter

Free writing is awesome! It's amazing what comes to mind when you force yourself to turn off the thinking part of your brain! Do any of you free write?
Thanks so much for the visit Alana and good luck with the book!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I need to try that. Creating a new world and connecting with it is a bit challenging, but that might help me break through.

Laura S. said...

I love the title of Story Sprouts! I do writing exercises all the time so this sounds like a book I'd enjoy. I'm definitely going to check it out!

Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats to Nutshell. And thanks for sharing the great tip!

Laurel Garver said...

Cool concept for an anthology to combine nonfiction with fiction and poetry. Love it!

nutschell said...

Lovely post by Alana here! Alana, you really are the queen of writercizes :)
Alex, sometimes you really need to break away from reality to create your own world.
Laura, thanks! Alana and I love the title as well. We hope you find the book helpful
Natalie, thanks! hope you can make use of this technique.
Laurel, thanks! We thought combining fiction and nonfiction was a great idea too :)
Jemi thanks so much for hosting us!!!!


Alana said...

Aw, thanks Nutschell!

Alex, this would be perfect for creating a world! You see, we couldn't have even imagined how other writers could use this exercise to relate to their own needs, and you've found a great fit!

Laura, hooray! Let us know what you think! Lovely blog you have too. Thanks for including the link in your comment. :)

Natalie, thanks so much! Hope you continue to follow us on our Story Sprouts tour - we've got all sorts of tips up our sleeves. ;)

Laurel, it was so beautiful to see how the writers internalized the exercises and came up with their own unique stories from many different genres. We felt really honored to watch the process unfold!

Ava Quinn said...

Thanks for letting Alana take over your blog today, Jemi. The workshop sounded fantastic. And how wonderful that you're donating half the proceeds to PRE!

Hi Nutschell! *waves*

Great stuff!!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Alex - it would be fun to try for sure!

Laura - it's such a good idea! :)

Natalie - it's a great one!

Laurel - I know! Unique and perfect for this :)

Ava - they're both great people!

Nutschell & Alana - thanks so much for being here! :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Congrats to Nutschell!!
The book sounds wonderful!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Find that spark and hold on to it!

Jemi Fraser said...

Lynda - agreed!

Diane - exactly! :)

Alana said...

Thank you so much Ava! We hope that we can make a dent with PRE to help a few people see happier days. Especially with Nutschell as our President, it just felt right to step up and lend a hand.

Thanks Lynda!

Diane, it is sooo important! Workshops can really help fire it up when it's getting dim. :)

Alana said...

Jemi - Thank YOU!

Crystal Collier said...

LOVE it! I totally need to take some time and do this. But when? Hm... Thankfully I'm like Pavlov's dog. Turn on the right music and my brain instantly jumps into writing mode. Still, to be able to isolate the core emotion my writerly brain is eager to write, that's power.

Rosalind Adam said...

It's ages since I did a writing exercise. Thanks for the inspiration. And I too love the title Story Sprouts :-)

cleemckenzie said...

Story Sprouts sounds wonderful. Title is perfect. I enjoyed reading about the exercise. Great idea. Thanks.

LD Masterson said...

I need to come up with a story idea for my writing group's next public reading and so far I've got nothing. I'm going to try this. Thanks.

Alana said...

Crystal - Wow! That is amazing! Writer mode with the right music? So very cool that your mind works that way.

Rosalind - thanks for the comment! Hope you had some fun with the exercise!

CleeMcKenzie - thanks so much. We had so much fun brainstorming about the title!

LD Masterson - hope it helps! The pressure of a public reading is intense ... hopefully you can find a way to get rid of that expectation of a final product and just find a way to get started. Good luck!

Jemi Fraser said...

Crystal - I'm like you - I don't have too much trouble getting into the mode either :) But the exercises are always good for added creativity!

Rosalind - it's a great one! :)

Lee - the whole book sounds great!

Linda - great idea - good luck!

Anonymous said...

I've been seeing this around and also have it on my own blog today. I just grabbed my copy.

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - it's sure a great concept :)

Beth said...

Sounds like a really helpful book. I could use that exercise myself today!

Jemi Fraser said...

Beth - it's an easy one and it works SO well! :)

DMS said...

Congrats to Nutschell and Alana! This sounds like such a great book. I have been seeing it all over the blogosphere and I love the title. The writing exercises sound fun!

Thanks for sharing. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Jess - it is a fabulous title and idea! :)

Alana said...

Medeia - thanks for the comment, for hosting us and for your support!

Beth - Hope you were able to use the exercise!

Jess - thanks so much! Hope you have a chance to pick up a copy and try out all of the exercises - and read the fantastic entries from our writers! We are so proud of them!

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