Progressive Book Club – How to Write Good by John Vorhaus“These days I can’t wait to write.”

Aimagess I prep for JuNoWriMo, I found this quote from the book interesting.  This for me is the goal. That feeling you get when you can’t wait to sit down and write.

What concerns me is that I seem to forget this feeling as soon as WriMo is over.  I wrote three books last year during, June, August and November and during those WriMo months, I couldn’t wait to write every day.  I couldn’t wait to sit down and get into that groove, the feeling of pure bliss because you are doing what your supposed to do, what you were meant to do.

I can close my eyes now and imagine the feeling.

Why is this feeling so fleeting when I’m not in the habit of writing?  I’ll write every day in June. I will have a daily goal and most likely will exceed it every day.  I am comfortable in this setting, writing towards a monthly goal where others are paying attention to what I am doing.

How to Write Good by John Vorhaus is all about giving yourself permission to write with no fear and to get the words on the paper. He uses this word whimsy which I love. I picture fairies flying around sprinkling fairy dust on everything and it makes me smile.  That is the feeling I get when I write. I feel like a fairy sprinkling prose on the world and making them smile.

As writer’s we are supposed to write every day, so tell me, how many of you out there are doing it? How do you do it?

I will be helping the JuNoWriMo team this year conducting word sprints on twitter.  These writing sessions made the difference for me. If your looking for a super supportive writing experience, I highly recommend JuNoWriMo. Visit for more information and if you’re joining us, let me know.


P – Progressive Book Club

a-to-z-letters-pThe End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe – I read this book in Dallas. That’s work with my A to Z theme, right?

First of all, if you haven’t heard of the Progressive Book Club, check out what a our book club host ML Swift created.

I really loved this book.  It was simple, sad, hopeful and beautiful. I got so much out of it.


Life Lessons

“As in many book clubs, our conversations bounced around between the character’s lives and our own.”
“Still, one thing I learned from Mom is this: Reading isn’t the opposite of doing: it’s the opposite of dying.”
“It’s much easier to follow your bliss when you have enough money to pay the rent.”
“They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.”

Writing Lessons

Have a great first line.
Tell a story and involve the read in the lives of the character.

To Read List for 2014

  1. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  2. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
  3. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
  4. Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas
  5. Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
  6. Couples by John Updike
  7. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  8. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamont
  9. March by Geraldine Brooks
  10. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
  11. Continental Drift by Russell Banks
  12. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
  13. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  14. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
  15. The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara
  16. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  17. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  18. Big Machine by Victor LaValle

And, I saw myself in this book:

This is exactly how I feel about London:  “I think it was the first place she really felt like an adult.”

This is exactly how I thought about the movie Auntie Mame: “It rekindled in her the fantasy of being Auntie Mame, the women who took her nephew on a glorious trip around the world and taught him that “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

BTW, if you haven’t seen Auntie Mame, check it out (the Rosalind Russell version). 

This is the exact reason why I need to get over my insecurities and start telling people I am a writer:  “Never make assumptions about people. You never know who can and will want to help you until you ask.”

The book made me feel good about myself. Like the author, I to spend a significant portion of my life watching reality television and that is in no way disrespectful to my creativity:  “Part of curating, collecting and appreciating was editing – mom never had much patience for junk or for crassness and less so now that she knew her time was limited.  I, on the other hand, continue to waste a significant portion of my live watching reality television, learning about the lives of dubious celebrities and consuming cultural garbage with the feigned irony and faux populism that’s a hallmark of my generation and the ones that immediately follow.”

The book was about a mother dying of cancer, a son who tries to deal with it the best way he knows how and the time they spent together reading amazing books. And, if that’s all you got out of it, you missed the point. Great book.

Have you read it? 

Progressive Book Club – Save the Cat

49464In the 2nd installment of Progressive Book Club, we read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It was a really great book geared towards screenplay writing, but a great pre writing process for novel writers.

In the book, he claims there are no completely original ideas and that’s a good thing. In order to have a successful story, in his world a box office hit, you need to have a story that is recognizable.

One of his other bold claims, I found fascinating, is that the movies The Matrix and Monster, Inc. are actually the same movie. The Matrix is in my top ten favorite movies. It was a Sci Fi action movie with movie tricks that hadn’t been done before.  Monster’s Inc. is a Pixar film. While Pixar was an innovation in animation at the time, Monster’s Inc. is the fourth feature out of the studio.

For my book club report, I put Mr. Snyder’s claim to the test. 


The Matrix – The Fight for the future begins.

Monsters, Inc. – We scare because we care.


The Matrix -A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

Monster, Inc. -Monsters generate their city’s power by scaring children, but they are terribly afraid themselves of being contaminated by children, so when one enters Monstropolis, top scarer Sulley finds his world disrupted.


imagesThe Matrix – Thomas A. Anderson is a man living two lives. By day he is an average computer programmer and by night a hacker known as Neo. Neo has always questioned his reality, but the truth is far beyond his imagination. Neo finds himself targeted by the police when he is contacted by Morpheus, a legendary computer hacker branded a terrorist by the government. Morpheus awakens Neo to the real world, a ravaged wasteland where most of humanity have been captured by a race of machines that live off of the humans’ body heat and electrochemical energy and who imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as the Matrix. As a rebel against the machines, Neo must return to the Matrix and confront the agents: super-powerful computer programs devoted to snuffing out Neo and the entire human rebellion.

UnknownMonster, Inc. -A city of monsters with no humans called Monstropolis centers around the city’s power company, Monsters, Inc. The lovable, confident, tough, furry blue behemoth-like giant monster named James P. Sullivan (better known as Sulley) and his wisecracking best friend, short, green cyclops monster Mike Wazowski, discover what happens when the real world interacts with theirs in the form of a 2-year-old baby girl dubbed “Boo,” who accidentally sneaks into the monster world with Sulley one night. And now it’s up to Sulley and Mike to send Boo back in her door before anybody finds out, especially two evil villains such as Sulley’s main rival as a scarer, chameleon-like Randall (a monster that Boo is very afraid of), who possesses the ability to change the color of his skin, and Mike and Sulley’s boss Mr. Waternoose, the chairman and chief executive officer of Monsters, Inc.


  • Main Characters – Neo and Sulley – both realize the the world they were told about is not the real world.
  • Sidekicks – Trinity and Mike – both have unlimited faith in their friend.
  • Villans – Agent Smith and Randall Boggs – both slimy and scary characters who can change colors and blend into the back ground to deceive.
  • The Double Cross – Cypher turns Neo in for a steak dinner; Mr. Waternoose poses at Sulley’s mentor and turns out to be the man behind the whole evil plan.


  • Industrial worlds
  • Dual realities
  • Neither world knows the real truth about the other.
  • The scene when they show the pods connecting humans to The Matrix and the doors storage room have a similar feel to them.

My conclusion: I get the comparison. It is interesting to break down a movie to its parts and realize on a basic level, they are the same movie. I agree with Blake, it’s the similarity in stores that makes them intriguing because like Blake Snyder says, to write a successful work that will sell, you need to find an idea and do it different.

What you do you think of the claim there are no original ideas left in the world? Can you think of any other movies that on the surface appear different, but are actually the same story?  


Progressive Book Club – Bird by Bird Top 10 List

Level Up! Blogfest post is below.


Welcome to the first discussion post of the Progressive Book Club, hosted by M.L. Swift.  This month’s selection, Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamott.I really enjoyed the book. It was funny and entertaining. I forgot it was supposed to be educational.

 What I took away from this book was a deeper understanding of why I love to write.  It reminded me, although being a writer can be frustrating and isolating and at times boring, there is nothing like the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual feeling  you get from writing.

Here are the top 10 lessons I learned from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:

  1. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation.  They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life. – It gave me a life.
  2. Do it every day for a while. – I struggle with this the most.
  3. The actual act of writing turns out to be the best part. – If I could remember how it feels all the time, I would no longer have a problem with #2.
  4. When my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. – Again, that physical, emotional, mental & spiritual things I talked about before. 
  5. You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. – Writing taught me who I am and who I am, is ok. 
  6. Write an incredibly shitty, self-indulgent, whinny, mewling first draft.  Then take out as many of the excesses as you can. – Turning off and the edit button is hard and even harder to turn it back on. 
  7. Characters: it takes time for you to know them, you need to find out as much as possible about the interior life of the people you are working with, you are going to hate some of your characters, you are probably going to have to let bad things happen to some of the characters you love, plot grows out of character, the better you know them the more you’ll see things from their point of view, you have to get things quiet in your head so you can hear them and let them guide your story. – My favorite section of the book. I love the purposeful task of creating a good character. 
  8. The development of relationships creates plot. – You create some much for the reader if you focus on the relationships in your WIP. 
  9. Dialogue: listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off, each one must sound different, gives us the sense that we are eavesdropping, is the way to nail character. – Eavesdropping is the key.
  10. Jealousy is the business of comparing my insides to other people’s outsides. – I put this one on my inspiration board. It is so true.  Not a fair comparison, so stop doing it. 

Which piece of advice do you identify with most?  

January Progressive Book Club – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

mlswift.blogspot.comIt is the first meeting of the the Progressive Book Club. I am so excited to get started. The first book is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.


This book has been on every must read for writers list.

It is the perfect book choice to start acquiring the tools to take my writing to the next level in 2013.

Return on February 20th (well, I hope you stop by before then) and read my post about Bird by Bird.

There is still time to join the club.

Have you read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird? What tips did you learn from this book?