Writer Beware: Speed Bumps Ahead

There are moments when a writer feels blocked. No words come. The story stalls. You’re staring at a brick wall. Every writer needs their own bag of tricks for overcoming Writer’s Block. (One of the best: a deadline.)

Speed Bumps

You might not have heard of another writer condition, one similar to Writer’s Block, but it differs in a significant way. I call it Writer’s Speed Bump, and knowing how to treat it is critical. Continue reading

Road Trips & Other Journeys

I just read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, coming home from a road trip, wondering why I’ve never stumbled upon this book before. But, I’m insanely grateful that I’m reading it now. I’ve needed a new perspective, a different outlook, and his words are music to my heart. I feel them. They resonate with me. And I’m better for them. My highlighter can’t go fast enough as I’ve colored page after page of some of my favorite paragraphs. Ones, that I will no doubt come back and read again. I’m not sure if he knew when he was writing this book, that it would have the impact that it does, but it changed me!

In my personal life, I always have a plan set in motion, knowing exactly where I’m going to go. I can see it, feel it, and even breathe the excitement of the next chapter. Until, life happens and a bump in the road leaves me flying on the asphalt. I promise you, that’s never in my agenda for my story as I know that’s not in yours either. That’s the thing with life – much like writing a book – it never quite goes the way you start out planning it to be.

A lot of times as writers and creatives, we get discouraged that this section needs to written, once again. It’s a cycle, the rewrites of life as you will. But, somewhere along the many edits and revisions, our story transforms and we grow along with it. We learn new ways and techniques that we wouldn’t have seen before, if we hadn’t changed our perspective and tried again. We sit down at the desk after long hours of re-working a scene, and keep going even when it’s tough . . . because deep down we know that we’ll come out better for what we’ve written. It won’t break us. Even when it feels that it just might. It won’t. There’s something deep within us that longs to write this story, and even through all the tough parts, we know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A purpose for the shifts that we must make. There’s moments, we need reinforcements to come in, and help guide us to a place that demands some love and attention, so we can progress and grow.

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Isn’t that what life’s all about? Hitting the ground and asking ourselves, “How are you going to create your story now?” It forces us to either stay put, or to stand up and get back in. To re-write that book that you we’re so sure about. Only this time, to have grace in understanding how it really needs to be written to gain the most clarity, for ourselves and the readers. We must be willing to always be teachable, to listen to our inner voice, and draw from those around us whom we trust and know have our best interest at heart.

Our stories in life and writing, are ours. There’ll be bumps, shifts, changes, tears, and much doubt. But, every step will lead us to the writers and humans we need to become. None of our experiences are the same. That’s the beautiful thing. We create the chapters. I’m excited to read yours and have you read mine. What will you make of your story?


Lauri Schoenfeld’s first love is her little clan of three silly kidlets and her wonderful hubby, Andy. Writing is a close second. She began writing poems at the age of nine, and her love for literature and music developed into composing thirty songs.  In 2014 her short story, Christmas Treasure, was featured in an anthology called, Angels from their Realms of Story.  Her favorite genre to write is anything dark, psychological, and suspenseful, but she enjoys expanding her horizons and dipping her feet in other genres as well.  Lauri teaches summer writing classes for kids and mentors teens throughout the year. She’s a Child Abuse and Scoliosis Survivor. Lauri runs a group for teen girls with Scoliosis called, The S Squad. Their motto is Strength, Support and Self Confidence.  She’s been known to dance around the house with a spoon as her microphone and sneak toppings from the ice cream bar. Lauri’s taken online classes at the Institute of Children’s Literature and was the President of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Chapter for two years.  She’s a member of Crime Writers and International Thriller Writers.

Inspiration 101

Any writer will tell you that when inspiration strikes, it feels miraculous. The planets align, all your neurons fire in tandem, and nature trills along with your giddiness. I dare say that any person who becomes a writer did so because they were struck by inspiration. A story idea. A character. A setting. A magic system. What led us all to the keyboard is the same—inspiration.

But inspiration can be fickle. Like any emotional high, it is special and rare. When we as writers have pages and pages to fill, how do we compel inspiration to come and stay a while?

Inspiration 101.png

Here are some suggestions.

  • Sit at your computer and write. Don’t worry about punctuation, word choice, or sentence structure. Let the words flow out in a messy jumble and see where they lead.
  • Break up with your keyboard. Leave your house, and better yet, leave your cell phone behind. Unplug, go for a walk, run errands, visit a friend, grab a meal, experience nature. Do something you’ve never done before or that has nothing to do with storytelling. This can be tough because so much of our lives circles back to our art, but set aside “Me Time”. You deserve it.
  • Consume enriching stories. Read, read, read. Binge-watch an acclaimed TV series. Go to the movies and absorb yourself in the big screen. Take in and digest well-crafted stories as well as the not-so-great ones. Think on what you would improve. Let these ideas permeate and simmer.
  • Set a deadline. Require a certain number of words/hours from yourself a day, week, month, etc. This goal should be attainable. It should motivate you, not cripple your process. Adjust these expectations as you go. Forgive yourself for falling short. Reward even the smallest accomplishment. Be open to new ideas for how best to meet your deadlines.
  • Limit social media. Browse the internet, but don’t allow your Facebook feed to distract you for hours on end. You may find inspiration there, but is it more likely to come when you’re not irritated over someone’s political rant or snorting at sarcastic Disney memes. By all means, build your online platform. But don’t let that work infringe on more reliable forms of brainstorming activities.
  • Have a backup art. Tethering your creative self-esteem to one manuscript could backfire. Create or build something else. Bake, quilt, sew, woodwork, draw, sing, dance, paint. Do whatever fills your spirit and helps you feel accomplished.
  • Don’t play the comparison game. If so-and-so drafted a book in two weeks, great for them! Who cares if your first draft took two years? Respect your creative process by not forcing it to look like someone else’s. Write like you. Your stories are an extension of yourself. Why would you try to put that unique thing of beauty inside someone else’s box? Nothing kills inspiration quite like letting outside forces shame or discredit your hard-earned work.
  • Be resilient. The publishing industry will throw a lot of unexpected twists at you, both upbeat and negative. (Pro tip: the good news can drain your creativity too.) Be ready to combat highs and lows with perseverance and remain steadfast in your determination to achieve the goals that drive you. Protect your creative process vigilantly and without regret. Wield your positivity like a shield and don’t let anything harmful get through. As you do this, you will still take hits, but your recovery time will shorten. You’ll become better practiced at staying centered and won’t let the ebb and flow moments slow you down.
  • Your health is number one. Don’t sacrifice sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, or suitable recreation to satisfy the fictional perception that writers are moody, self-destructive caffeine addicts. The writing process is a mental marathon. Keep your physical faculties conditioned for optimum performance.

Inspiration does not strike once and recede like a tsunami. Inspiration comes little by little during routine events until it accumulates into a solid, recognizable idea. Inspiration comes by living.

This New Year, I hope you can keep your creative wells full and respect your personal writing process. I guarantee that inspiration will lure you back to the keyboard when you are primed for another story.

Which of these conduits to inspiration work best for you? Is there another method you’d like to share?


Emily R. King is a reader of everything and a writer of fantasy. Born in Canada and raised in the U.S.A., she’s perfected the use of “eh” and “y’all” and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She’s a member of SCBWI and an active participant in her local writers’ community. She lives in Northern Utah with her family and their cantankerous cat. You can find Emily at emilyrking.com

The Lie We Write On Ourselves

You are a story.

You are a human-shaped piece of paper. There are doodled facts on your elbows, and virtues and vices have been etched into your finger bones. There are blazing truths rattling echoes through your ribcage, and fragments of about-to-be-told story lodged in your lung tissue.

People have written on you without your permission, and you’ve erased some of the scribbles you’ve realized aren’t true. But there’s this itchy spot between your shoulder blades where people carve hard-to-reach lies sometimes, and you can’t find an eraser big enough to scour yourself all the way clean.

  • You’ll never be as good as [insert name].
  • Writing is just a hobby.
  • Books are entertaining, but don’t you want to do something that really matters?
  • You need a thick skin to make it. You’re not tough enough.

On and on the lies go. Some are just scratches that heal over after hours or days. Some dig deep, clawing through skin and sinew till they’re so far inside you it’s hard to know where they end and you begin. Some are written by others, but the most heartache and hurting ones are in handwriting you recognize all too well.

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The only antidote to a lie is the truth, to write over the falsehoods till they disappear altogether. So pick up your pen and write those blazing truths down. Write them deep, and write them true.

  • You are finding newer and truer words. You are building worlds and breathing life. You are pulling magic out of the sheer white nothing of the empty page. You are a creator. You are the pop-sizzle-crackle of the new and the now. You are enough.
  • Creating brings you a measure of joy you can’t find anywhere else. You are meant for this. Whether you devote zero minutes or hundreds each day, this is a part of the entirety of who you are.
  • Stories inspire empathy—they help us learn compassion. Stories inspire imagination—they help us see the legion of possibilities stretching out before us. They matter. Oh, how they matter.
  • You are a human, not a dragon. Your skin is beautifully vulnerable. You are allowed to hurt. You are allowed to struggle. You’re allowed to stop for a while and start again when you’re ready. You’re allowed all the human qualities those itchy lies between your shoulder blades want you to shun.

Your words are the answer to the itch and the etch. Use them to tell yourself all the truths the paper of your soul is hungry for. Tell yourself who and what you are. Tell yourself who and what you have it in you to be. Don’t give lies co-author credit for the story of your life. Don’t let small minds and small words steal the wide and the stretch of your aspirations.

2018 is coming, an infinite blank canvas, waiting for words and stories only you can tell. Sometimes they’ll come in dribbles, sometimes in monsoon-level pourings, but whenever and however they come, they’ll be yours. They’ll be you.

You are a story. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be written.


kimKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.


What Makes You Happy?

I had a moment of transcendent happiness a few weeks ago. Now, I’m not an unhappy person, as a rule. Though my family may disagree, I believe I tend to stay pretty evenly keeled. My bouts with crushing, wrenching despair are probably as rare as my bouts with supreme joy. But this moment struck me, and because I’m fairly scientific by nature, I spent some time trying to analyze just what the formula for that sort of happiness was.

I was in the French Quarter of New Orleans, sitting at a restaurant with my husband and my in-laws, and we were two long days into a road trip from Utah to Florida. (Which on the outset sounds more like a recipe for tearing one’s hair out than bliss, doesn’t it?) New Orleans wasn’t a stop on the quickest route, but my mother-in-law had never been there, and my husband and I hadn’t been back since our honeymoon, so we decided it was worth the extra couple hours of travel time. So we fought our way through narrow, crowded streets, found parking, walked for a bit, and did a quick online search for good lunch spots. And now here we were, seated next to French doors opened wide onto the street. It was mid-November and seventy degrees. Rock music and jazz battled it out in the distance, with additional percussion provided by road work a couple of blocks over. Traffic bustled past—foot, vehicular, and horse-drawn carriage. The scent of fresh manure floated in on the breeze, courtesy of the latter. From within, there was a noise of clattering dishes and people talking. Over everything was a tantalizing odor of Cajun food.

And I realized I was happy. Purely, blissfully, incredibly happy.

(No, it wasn’t the drinks, thanks for asking. They hadn’t even arrived yet.)

There are words for supreme happiness, but none of them seem to fit. Terms like rapture, beatitude, and ecstasy imply a religious angle (or a sexual one, which is an odd but not incomprehensible intersection of meaning). But it’s not about religion. Or about sex. It might be akin to the feeling one gets when falling in love—that magnificent sense of everything being fated. The conviction that no one has ever, ever felt this way before—that you’ve discovered a grand new emotion.

But really, I suppose, it’s just—being in the moment, being completely content. Knowing that this instant, this right now, is where you are supposed to be.

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If I ask you what makes you happy, chances are, you’ll talk about the things you love most in the world. Spouse, family, children, to start. And I agree. Don’t get me wrong—I agree. But that sort of happiness, at least for me, has always been fraught with so much else. With my children, for example, I’ve always tempered happiness with worry for their futures, responsibility for their wellbeing, guilt over not doing the many, many things the world tells us a good parent should be doing. There’s always something left undone when I’m dealing with the people I love, something niggling at the back of my mind that tells me I might be inadequate.

What about a good job well done? What about writing? I understood two things, that moment in New Orleans. First, that this is the same feeling I get sometimes after a good day’s writing. And second, that for me, there are some profound similarities between writing and that afternoon in a crowded restaurant.

Writing is also fraught with worries, of course. Once you share your words with the world, you open yourself up to criticism. What will the reader/agent/editor/publisher think? If writing is a career, the worries compound exponentially. But there was that nugget of joy, wasn’t there? That pure moment when you said, “Yes, this is where I’m supposed to be.”

That day in New Orleans, I discovered three reasons for my happiness. First, I was exploring a strange and exciting new place. What was around the next corner? My feet itched to wander, even if only for a few minutes. Second, I was sharing my admittedly limited knowledge of the area with others. I’d been there once before, but my mother-in-law hadn’t. I wanted to show her around, and I had just enough confidence in my abilities to feel good about that. Thirdly, there was the immediate prospect of good food—always serious business for me (ask anyone).

When we write—and maybe what I’m saying is particularly specific to fiction, but I think it applies to nonfiction as well—we’re leading our readers on a journey through a wonderful new world. We’re their guides, knowledgeably showing them the highlights, the things that could touch their souls. And there’s just enough of the unknown in it for us as well that it’s still exciting to see what’s around the next bend. (But what about the good food, you ask? Believe me, if I could add it to my manuscripts, I would.)

Is there stress, worry, guilt? Of course. But sometimes we get lucky and all that fades into the background, and we set off into the wild—intrepid leaders following the trail of story.

And now it turns out I have a word for that type of happiness after all. Because out of all the ways I’ve phrased it above, one of them keeps resonating with me. Maybe it’s the season, but that word is joy.

May we all have joyful writing in the coming year.


Kristina Starmer lives in Southern Utah with her husband, son, dog, and more cats than she likes to admit. When not working as a university chemistry lab manager, she can most likely be found rereading one of her favorite books. She is passionate about traveling to new places, ice cream with lots of mix-ins, and the peaches from her garden. Her favorite children’s book is The Owl and the Pussycat and her favorite element is copper. She writes renaissance-era historical fiction topped with a generous scoop of magic.

16 Quotes to Get Over the Hump

Happy NaNoWriMo everyone! At the time of this posting it will be nearly the halfway mark of the competition. For those who are participating perhaps a little roadblock has popped up. The dreaded wall, much like the one’s runners face when doing a marathon. It’s okay. It happens to us all, even when not pumping out 50000 words in a month. For you I have 16 Quotes from those in the kingdom of PublishedAuthoria to help you along the way for the rest of the month.


People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it. —R.L. Stine

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly. — C. J. Cherryh

The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying “Faire et se taire” (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as “Shut up and get on with it.— Helen Simpson

Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess. — Esther Freud

It’s not always about writing more words or drinking more coffee. Sometimes getting to the end of a novel simply takes remembering that the world is more complicated than we know, and then sticking some of those complications into the story. –Scott Westerfeld

Don’t worry about what you’re writing or whether it’s good or even whether it makes sense. –Lauren Oliver

A word after a word after a word is power. –Margaret Atwood

Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either. – Meg Cabot

Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.  — Al Kennedy

Don’t just plan to write — write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.  — PD James

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  — Jack London

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.  — Louis L’Amour

Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.” — Henry David Thoreau

Keep writing. Try to do a little bit every day, even if the result looks like crap. Getting from page four to page five is more important than spending three weeks getting page four perfect. –Alan Dean Foster

You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things. –Neil Gaiman

Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk — away from any open flames — to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.” — George Singleton

Until next time have a writeous day and happy word hunting!


Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He’s working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.

Story Soup -or- Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Next Tuesday, my sophomore novel, Paper Chains, will be released into the world. In the weeks ahead, I’ve got school visits, a book festival, a writing conference, a library event, and the high-profile privilege of being interviewed by a fourth grader (one of the perks of writing for kids.) This particular fourth grader asked some really insightful questions, one of which I’m absolutely certain will be posed again at my upcoming events:

Ideas graphic.jpegWhere do you get your ideas?

As authors, this may be the question we’re asked most often, and others (including Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Neil Gaiman) have answered it with great insight. I love this question because to me, it embodies a core curiosity. Where do these stories we love come from? If we keep walking upstream to where it all began, what will we find?

I have two answers for this question:

Stories are all around you.

Stories are within you.

If you think of your current work, you can probably find both origins. Often (but certainly not always), the outer spark that starts a story—the part from the world around you—gives rise to its plot, and the inner spark—the part from within you—gives rise to its theme.

Paper ChainsIn early conversations about Paper Chains, I would tell people, “The idea came from The Snow Child, an adaptation of a Russian folk tale my grandmother read to me when I was a little girl.” And this is true. Paper Chains is a bit of an allegory of the Snow Child. Katie’s relationship with her parents, her cultural heritage, and parts of her personality were drawn from this core idea.

But as the manuscript—and my understanding of it—progressed, I realized that I’d set out to do more than write a story inspired by a book my grandmother read to me. I realized that The Snow Child—and, in fact, all the stories I’d grown up with—had become part of who I was, and so had the grandmother who read them to me. And without even realizing it, that had become what I was writing about: the idea that we are all made of stories, sort of a “story soup” (to use a term coined by one of my characters) composed of not only our own life experiences, but the stories that shaped us as well.

I really believe this. I’m shaped by stories. They are all around me, they are within me. And maybe, for me, that’s what’s so sacred about writing. It’s a way to give back to the well and wealth of stories that have made me the person I am. In five days, Paper Chains will be released, and the process will come full circle. This idea that came from around me and within me will be out there in the world, and it will become part of each person that reads it. And maybe someday, pieces of Paper Chains will find their way into another story, and the cycle can begin again.

If you, like me, are looking for your next story, I hope the idea will come from both places. Because when we can say something meaningful about the world around us and the soul within us, that is a story worth telling.

profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of Like Magic and Paper Chains (HarperCollins). She loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.