Monday Coffee: Little, beautiful things

LittleGuyI love chinchillas. They’re so ridiculous – like little rabbits with squirrel tails and elf ears. If one suddenly spread gossamer wings and fluttered away I’d be totally unsurprised.

A couple of days ago,my family was passing a favorite used bookstore after dinner. My spouse stopped and pointed. “We MUST go in there!” The sign in front of the bookstore said, “Chincilla adoption event.” Inside the store a woman was tucking a grey bundle of fur one of a set of carriers on wheels. The lady, a volunteer with the local chincilla rescue, had brought her own in addition to potential adoptees: a black “chin” named Midnight.She settled Midnight into my lap and I stroked her between her ears.She curled herself into a ball in the crook of my arm and settled in.

Cappuccino with latte art on Coffee Right in Brno, Czech RepublicIsn’t it nice  to have a few minutes to sit, maybe sip a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy something beautiful? To that end, a few other little, beautiful things I found this weekend:

  • Some lovely poems and pieces have been left for our Summer Brighter Light challenge. I’m encouraging people both to join us before the challenge closes (July 8th night), but also just to stop by and see some of the lovely things that we’ve received – I feel really fortunate in the people who read here.
  • A friend, Claudsy, is recovering from a bout of pneumonia. While recovering she’s talking about a small collection of poems that she’s putting together as a Kindle Single. I love any author that has the guts to talk about what they’re working on. I have a tendency to hide what I’m doing until I’m sure I’ll finish it – this kind of post is an homage to writerly courage. You go, Claudette.
  • I’m getting our Writers on Wednesdays post for the week ready to go. Joan Hamilton’s “how I got started” is a bit of Amazing. So when you need a little inspiration to get through the mid-week slump, make sure to stop by with your cuppa.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with senryu – the form is similar to haiku but with a theme of human character or foibles rather thannature-themed. The Senryu contest on Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog had 10 amazing results. They’re short – and each is wonderful.
  • Laura Hegfield at Shine the Divine is offering a weekly spiritual practice called I Heart Macro – if you might enjoy photographing the beauty of small things, this may be for you.  Even if you aren’t, the photos people have posted are a chance to be a close observer and take a break from the rush of Monday morning.
  • And lastly, if you haven’t seen today’s “Roswell” Google Doodle, it’s adorable. Even if you don’t (a la Agent Mulder) Believe.

I hope you all have a lovely day, not too “squashed” with things to do (I know, I know, but the picture is so cute!) to stop and enjoy a little beauty.

ChinSquash

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Friday Surprise: Summer submissions #2

Ice cream coneAh, the dog days of summer…the perfect time for ice cream, and to sit in the (air conditioned) local library and send out submissions. This batch contains two directed to what I think of as special writers – young people and sonnet writers. So if you know someone who fits either or both bills please pass this list along!

  • Writers Rising Up (protecting the environment and habitat) has a really fun contest coming up: the interactive slithery, slimey, buggy poem!  This one is open to ALL ages, and I suspect that it would be a lot of fun for some of the younger readers here.
  • Missouri Review just sent out a sweet note on Twitter saying that they’re a little light on poetry submissions. I was happy to help them out – are you?
  • There aren’t, in my opinion, nearly enough nature magazines publishing poetry. One of the few poetry mags that is entirely devoted to nature, Avocet, is open for submissions again. The currently deadline is August 31st. Even if you’re not a “nature poet,” this is a great time of year for sun-lovers to write about the beauty of the outdoors.
  • Sprout is one of those lit magazines that a real visual pleasure – they celebrate the positive, the beautiful, the colorful, the meaning in the small things in life. Full disclosure: a number of friends have been published in Sprout, so I’m inclined to like the magazine 🙂 They have two upcoming deadlines for themed issues: “Whimsy” on 7/15 and “Sanctuary” on 8/15.
  • If you’re a sonnet writer or a writer of formal poetry,1) I’m totally impressed and 2) the Helen Schaible International Shakespearean/Petrarchan Sonnet Contest is open and taking entries until Sept. 1st. I should mention that this is one of those rare contests that *does not charge a fee for entrance.* 

Let’s get that work out there ! (I’m exhorting myself, mostly – nothing like a writer community to spur activity!)

New contest deadline

Pouring cream into drip coffee

Sometimes, you just need a little something extra…

In this case, I realized that I’d put our Summer Poem/Flash Fiction Contest deadline right when a lot of people in the U.S. are traveling, so I figured, why not give people some extra time? We’re looking for poems or flash fiction (let’s call it <300 words, microfiction sized) on your very own summer day, whatever that might be. You can post them in the comments here, or on your blog and leave a link here, or through our Contact Us form here, by (the extended deadline) the end of the day on Monday, July 8th. Feel free to comment on other works too – we’ve got some terrific poems from writers younger and older coming in already (and do they deserve kudos for getting their work out there!). I’ll be choosing three works to highlight, along with an author feature or interview for each!

Looking forward to sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading all the lovely writing

~ Ina

Friday surprise: Brighter Light and Summer Prompt

As many of our readers know, in the winter Andrea blogged a month-long poetry challenge for adult-and-kid teams called Brighter Light. Now, with the advent of the light we were longing for in the depths of winter, I thought we ought to have a follow up.

BrighterLightBadge2First: for our original challenge participants. Thank you so much to all the participants in the challenge.We still don’t have the “results” of the challenge judging, since for both health and technical reasons Andrea has had almost no internet access for months, but the TRUE results are an amazing collection of collaborative poems. I was just reading through the poems on the Notice Board and am so amazed by the breadth of approaches to the prompt and the quality of the poems. It’s a real privilege to know so many amazing writers (big and small!). In honor of your participation, I have posted, in the side bar, a code that you can put into your own blog or website which will display the Brighter Light Poet badge for this year! If you can’t use that code directly, you can also just copy at paste a copy of the badge to the left (it’s slightly lower quality but it’ll work fine). In addition, I’m asking that all challenge participants contact me with an address to which I can send Brighter Light stickers for the “kid” participants in the challenge. You can reach me through the “Contact Us” page on this blog. I really want to make sure that kids get a chance to show their pride in having a great thing (and in the cases of the really little ones, to have stickers to play with :-0 )

Maurice Prendergast - Revere Beach No. 2 - Google Art Project

Maurice Prendergast – Revere Beach No. 2 [PD-US]

Second: for all our writer friends, one last prompt! I thought we’d close out the challenge with one final prompt. I love this Prendergast painting (to the right)  because it shows so many people enjoying a summer day in so many different ways. Summer is experienced by each of us in different ways ~ by the difference in color and light, or scents, or heat, or location.

The prompt: Your summer day is like no one else’s; what is your summer day (or night)?

 Please post your poem or flash fiction response in the comments below, on your own blog or website, or (if you, like me, don’t post pieces publicly because that excludes later publication elsewhere) through our Contact Us form before July 4th (11:59 p.m. July 3rd U.S. Pacific Time). I’d especially appreciate young writers joining in. I’ll have a special badge available for all participants AND I’ll be picking 3 authors for a mini-interview and/or highlight on InOurBooks.com.

Thank you again to all the prior participants, and I look forward to reading all the Brighter Light Summer entries!

Writers on Wednesdays: Ellen Sussman

Today’s post introduces “Writers on Wednesdays” by guest blogger Margaret Young. For her first post, Margaret interviews multi-talented author and teacher Ellen Sussman. 

author_photo_2010_hi_resEllen Sussman is the author of three bestselling novels – The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons and On a Night Like This as well as the editor of two of my favorite anthologies, Dirty Words and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave. She was the San Francisco Library Laureate in 2004 and 2009 and has received fellowships from many, many institutions including The Sewanee Writers Conference, The Napoule Art Foundation, Wesleyan Writers Conference and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She now teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Margaret Young is a freelance writer who works at being a novelist when she’s not teaching children music.  She lives in Palo Alto with her family and can be found Tweeting at @MargaretYWrites.

MY:  If you couldn’t be a writer, but you could be anything else and succeed, what would you be?

ES: I’d be a singer in a rock band.

MY: When did you know you wanted to be a novelist and why?

ES: I decided to become a writer when I was six. I remember climbing on to my brother’s bookshelves (he’s a year older), and copying the titles of his books. Then I’d make up a story to go with the title. One of my first short stories is called, “The Little Engine that Could.”

I loved reading and wanted to write stories like the ones I read. That never changed throughout the years. I’ve been singularly focused on this career choice. The only surprise was that I needed a day job. And luckily I have loved teaching writing as well.

MY: What has been your best moment as a writer?

ES: Publication of my first novel. I waited for so many years to hold my own novel in my hands. It’s a remarkable feeling. And I love that moment each time a new novel comes out.

MY: What’s been your worst or most disappointing?

ES: I’ve written two novels that didn’t sell. That’s hell. You spend a very long time creating characters and a story that you love. And after too many rejection letters, you have to tuck that novel away somewhere. It’s a killer.

MY: As well as being a best-selling novelist, you’re known as a top-notch writing teacher, if you could make your students follow one piece of advice what would it be?

ES: To find a writing schedule that works for you — and to stick with it! I most highly recommend daily writing, especially if you’re working on a novel.

paradiseMY: Your break-out novel French Lessons was set in Paris and your latest The Paradise Guest House is set in Bali. Do you feel like you’ve found yourself a niche as a novelist of Americans in exotic locations? If so, is this a good thing, a bad thing or both?

ES: I may not stick to that for all my novels but I’m liking it right now. I think that we learn so much about ourselves when we leave home. And I love using the exotic setting in a way that really matters to the story.

MY: Can you tell us about what you’re working on and what intrigues you about it?

ES: I’ve just finished a draft of a new novel. The working title is A Stranger at the Wedding and it takes place in the south of France. I’m exploring love again and family relationships. In this novel, there’s also real danger.

MY: One of the things you talk about in your classes is the importance of structuring the writing process. Would you describe a typical writing day for you?.

ES: I write for three hours every morning, five or six days a week. That’s sacred time for me — I never make a doctor’s appointment in the morning or meet someone for coffee. And if I’m writing a first draft of a novel, I’ll write 1,000 words a day.

Thanks to Ellen and Margaret for sharing this conversation with us (and Ellen, when your first album comes out, please let me know !) ~ Ina

Monday coffee: Announcements

Eisman-Semenowsky_Dame_mit_KaffeetasseOh, I do love Monday coffee. It’s a rare rainy summer day here in Northern California, and I’m drinking my coffee by the open window. Outside, some brave bird (I think it’s a phoebe) is singing away and inside, one of the cats (Spot, in case you were wondering) is making a concerted effort to sit on the keyboard (so far, I’m winning).

Today’s coffee is a note about upcoming events on InOurBooks.

  • Wednesday will bring us an exclusive interview with Ellen Sussman, acclaimed author of the  recently published The Paradise Guest House as well as two previous novels French Lessons and On a Night Like This, courtesy of our guest blogger and journalist, Margaret Young. Spread the word on this interview – Margaret asks the fun questions you’ve always wanted to ask your favorite author but hadn’t the nerve
  • Friday is going to bring us one last prompt for the Brighter Light challenge for our young entrants (and with the help of any of our young-at-heart readers who’d like to join in) as well as a special acknowledgement for the participants of the original challenge.
  • And we’ll be starting our new “indie publishing” feature, “A Day In The Life” as we move into July, for insight into working with small publishing houses and self-publishing options.

MilchschaumgesichtI’m so looking forward to these weeks ahead, and I hope you are too. But now, I’m going to sit down with this coffee, open a document, and write in the cool air of a perfect Monday morning.

Have a lovely day, everyone! ~ Ina

Monday coffee: Creatives in their Summer Shoes

Childe Hassam - Summer Sunlight (Isles of Shoals) - Google Art ProjectWow, it’s summer. One minute I’m putting away New Years’ party hats, and the next minute Spring has one foot out the door and that foot’s in a sparkly, beach-worthy sandal. Posted word counts on a favorite writers’ groups are rising as if reaching for the sun; Facebook and Twitter are filled with exuberant verses about newly-fledged orange-throated finches, nights of stars and cicadas, and tip-toes rushing over hot sand.

Eudocimus Ruber Wading KL

InOurBooks is also jumping into summer. We’ve got a special event for the Brighter Light challenge participants. Wednesday connections are in the works; we’ll be posting info on places to send work over the summer. AND we’re fortunate enough to have some unbelievably fun interviews with writers including novelist and Stanford teacher Ellen Sussman and writer Joan Hamilton, courtesy of guest blogger Margaret Young (@MargaretYWrites on Twitter).

But most of all:  we’d love to hear about what you’re planning for your creative life this summer; we’d want to blog about what’s most on your summer-mind. Our poll is below, so put on your favorite summer shoes (even if that’s no shoes!) and let us know what’s upcoming for you! ~ ina

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