advanced writing courses

THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING

At some time, every author will be asked to read their work aloud. Print, ebook, fiction, non-fiction, adult novel, chilren’s book, there will be a seminar, a writer’s workshop, a reader’s gathering, a Thanksgiving dinner with the family…and you will be asked to read.

I specifically requested this post from Sherry because I heard her read when we were at a class together at Margie Lawson’s home in Colorado. I was charmed. Mesmerized. Enchanted. Not only is Sherry a stellar author, she is an amazing reader.

And as I draw near my debut release, scheduling appearances and workshops, I know I need to learn how to read my work aloud. After hearing Sherry’s expertise, I knew there was no better place to learn.

GIVEAWAY: Sherry is generously offering a copy of her short story collection, Storyteller, to be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING
By Sherry Isaac

Of all the phobias in the world, public speaking is one of the most commonly shared. For new writers, sharing their work with another can be terrifying, even if the other person is a trusted friend.

No wonder. When we write, we put a little of our soul on the page.

No surprise, then, that the idea of reading in front of an audience paralyzes many authors.

In the words of Women of the Underworld author Kelley Armstrong, “While publishers do want you to have a website (and Facebook and Twitter and blog and an endless list of other online “opportunities”) it doesn’t replace the need to get out to stores and conventions and readings.”

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel
Perhaps that is why sites like Goodreads are so popular: that connection between writer and reader, storyteller and audience.

Ah. The audience. If we want to sell, we need an audience. What better way to build an audience as you journey toward the publication of your first book, than to share your genius in the neighbourhood library or cafe?

Storytelling is an age-old tradition. As writers, we have the honour, and the obligation, to play our part.

So, what makes a good read? While there isn’t the space to fit all of the details into one blog post, we can explore five basic elements.

Length

Audience time is limited, and so is your time behind the mike. 8-10 minutes makes a good read. Longer, and you risk losing your audience.

Always check with your host in advance. You may only have two!

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel

Style

Keep your audience engaged with humor, light tales, or stories alive with action. This doesn’t mean you have to write Hollywood crash ‘em up car chases, but avoid long streams of heavy narration.

Put aside the tear-jerkers and go for something up tempo. Not that sad or poignant tales don’t work, but since you’re probably not privy to what other authors are bringing, go with the light stuff. Too much sad material can wear an audience down, but an audience won’t be disappointed if every story has them on the edge of their bistro seat, or rolling in the library aisle.

Audience

Keep your listening audience in mind. The venue you are reading at may not be the best place to share your political views, or explore the first draft of your erotica novel.

Time

To me, a polished read revolves around two basic, principles: time allotment, and time spend in rehearsal.

Time allotment is straight forward. If you don’t know what your time allotment at a reading venue is, ask. Then, select a piece based on that answer.

Don’t count on your host to stop you when you’ve reached your time limit. They won’t. Because it’s rude. But, it is more rude to ignore your time limit so choose courtesy instead and use a timer.

I repeat, use a timer.

We’re writers. We are in love with our words. Just like we hate to hit that delete button and destroy our little darlings, we want–once we get over the cafe reading heebee jeebies, that is–to share them out loud with the whole wide world.

Resist the temptation to go over. A paragraph turns into a page turns into two more minutes and the next thing you know, you’ve gone over time.If your piece does not fit into the allotted time, do not read faster. Choose a different piece, or consider a cliff-hanger. It works. Viewers all over the world waited an entire summer to find out who killed JR!

Rehearsal

Try on the clothes you plan to wear. Practice eye contact by rehearsing in front of a mirror. Allow for pauses, pay attention to pacing.

Rehearse with your timer! Rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. Then, like the nuances of a familiar song, you will know when to pause, when to look up, when to soften your voice.

Rehearsing your piece out loud is a great editing tool. And who couldn’t use a neat and easy editing tool?

GIVEAWAY: A copy of my short story collection, Storyteller, will be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

MAGGIE finalist and winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness transcend all things, including the grave. Sherry represents one-third of the Romance & Beyond blog trio. Visit her website, sherryisaac.com, like Sherry on Facebook, become a fan on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter.

>THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING

>

At some time, every author will be asked to read their work aloud. Print, ebook, fiction, non-fiction, adult novel, chilren’s book, there will be a seminar, a writer’s workshop, a reader’s gathering, a Thanksgiving dinner with the family…and you will be asked to read.

I specifically requested this post from Sherry because I heard her read when we were at a class together at Margie Lawson’s home in Colorado. I was charmed. Mesmerized. Enchanted. Not only is Sherry a stellar author, she is an amazing reader.

And as I draw near my debut release, scheduling appearances and workshops, I know I need to learn how to read my work aloud. After hearing Sherry’s expertise, I knew there was no better place to learn.

GIVEAWAY: Sherry is generously offering a copy of her short story collection, Storyteller, to be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

THE CRAFT OF COFFEE HOUSE READING
By Sherry Isaac

Of all the phobias in the world, public speaking is one of the most commonly shared. For new writers, sharing their work with another can be terrifying, even if the other person is a trusted friend.

No wonder. When we write, we put a little of our soul on the page.

No surprise, then, that the idea of reading in front of an audience paralyzes many authors.

In the words of Women of the Underworld author Kelley Armstrong, “While publishers do want you to have a website (and Facebook and Twitter and blog and an endless list of other online “opportunities”) it doesn’t replace the need to get out to stores and conventions and readings.”

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel
Perhaps that is why sites like Goodreads are so popular: that connection between writer and reader, storyteller and audience.

Ah. The audience. If we want to sell, we need an audience. What better way to build an audience as you journey toward the publication of your first book, than to share your genius in the neighbourhood library or cafe?

Storytelling is an age-old tradition. As writers, we have the honour, and the obligation, to play our part.

So, what makes a good read? While there isn’t the space to fit all of the details into one blog post, we can explore five basic elements.

Length

Audience time is limited, and so is your time behind the mike. 8-10 minutes makes a good read. Longer, and you risk losing your audience.

Always check with your host in advance. You may only have two!

Storyteller Launch at Prana Cafe, Toronto
Photo by J. Nichole Noel

Style

Keep your audience engaged with humor, light tales, or stories alive with action. This doesn’t mean you have to write Hollywood crash ‘em up car chases, but avoid long streams of heavy narration.

Put aside the tear-jerkers and go for something up tempo. Not that sad or poignant tales don’t work, but since you’re probably not privy to what other authors are bringing, go with the light stuff. Too much sad material can wear an audience down, but an audience won’t be disappointed if every story has them on the edge of their bistro seat, or rolling in the library aisle.

Audience

Keep your listening audience in mind. The venue you are reading at may not be the best place to share your political views, or explore the first draft of your erotica novel.

Time

To me, a polished read revolves around two basic, principles: time allotment, and time spend in rehearsal.

Time allotment is straight forward. If you don’t know what your time allotment at a reading venue is, ask. Then, select a piece based on that answer.

Don’t count on your host to stop you when you’ve reached your time limit. They won’t. Because it’s rude. But, it is more rude to ignore your time limit so choose courtesy instead and use a timer.

I repeat, use a timer.

We’re writers. We are in love with our words. Just like we hate to hit that delete button and destroy our little darlings, we want–once we get over the cafe reading heebee jeebies, that is–to share them out loud with the whole wide world.

Resist the temptation to go over. A paragraph turns into a page turns into two more minutes and the next thing you know, you’ve gone over time.If your piece does not fit into the allotted time, do not read faster. Choose a different piece, or consider a cliff-hanger. It works. Viewers all over the world waited an entire summer to find out who killed JR!

Rehearsal

Try on the clothes you plan to wear. Practice eye contact by rehearsing in front of a mirror. Allow for pauses, pay attention to pacing.

Rehearse with your timer! Rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. Then, like the nuances of a familiar song, you will know when to pause, when to look up, when to soften your voice.

Rehearsing your piece out loud is a great editing tool. And who couldn’t use a neat and easy editing tool?

GIVEAWAY: A copy of my short story collection, Storyteller, will be awarded to a random commenter. Share your favorite editing tool or reading experience and you could win! (Must share your email as well.)

MAGGIE finalist and winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness transcend all things, including the grave. Sherry represents one-third of the Romance & Beyond blog trio. Visit her website, sherryisaac.com, like Sherry on Facebook, become a fan on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter.

Interview with Author Aine Greaney–Book Blogger Appreciation Week + Giveaway

>As part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I’m participating in an interview exchange with another blogger.  We were blindly matched by an admin team and that’s how Aine and I came to find each other.  Through email, her website and her interview, I’ve come to know and adore Aine for her warmth, kindness, easy-going nature and humor.  I also purchased her writing how-to book, WRITER WITH A DAY JOB and am loving it!

Comment to enter to win a fun prize: LITTLE BOX OF PASSION–MAGNETIC POETRY

So let me tell you a little about Aine: Aine Greaney does it all! She writes, she teaches, she lectures and she works! (I’m already exhausted!) Oh, and of course she blogs, too.  She is an Irish writer living in greater Boston, having immigrated into the United States back in 1986.

This year, Anne is celebrating the release of two books: her second novel, DANCE LESSONS, a look into the secrets immigrants keep and the lies they tell during their otherwise ordinary lives in our adopted countries and WRITER WITH A DAY JOB, a how-to book offering guidelines and tips for maintaining a creative writing schedule while also holding down a job.

With a Bachelors degree in English and a Masters degree in English, Aine is a perfectly designed as a speaker and presents illustrated lectures on Irish culture, literature and the writing life. She also hosts numerous writing-related courses ranging in topic from story structure to inspiration and tackling everything in between.

Her blog, Writer with a Day Job, covers topics related to…yep, you guessed it, getting your butt in that chair and putting your fingers to those keys even when you’ve got a day job. Her guests include writers, instructors and experts in related fields who discuss all the facets of this quite prevalent predicament and gives suggestions on succeeding in spite of the challenges.

You’ll get to know Aine even better through the questions she answered for this interview:

Aine, I love your take on journaling. I’ve tried to journal for years based on the process lined out in The Artist’s Way: 3 full pages, every single morning. Period. Every time, I’ve failed. Your suggestions, little and often, anytime and anywhere, among others, really spoke to me and I’m going to pick up a journal again with these goals in mind.


Your theory on why journaling for a writer is so important spoke to me. Can you elaborate on that for our readers?

Thanks, Joan. I have been journaling for as long as I can remember. I guess it was a way to just put my deepest thoughts on paper. For a writer, I think it’s a good way to tap into all that stuff that’s bubbling just beneath the surface. I also use my journal to “tease out” some issues in the writing, such as who a character really is, what a personal essay is really about or, indeed, my own motivation for working on a piece. I also use it to make lists … Oh, those dang lists. 

You were a teacher before you became a writer. And a teacher after you became a writer. What do you love about teaching? 

I started out life after college in Dublin as a primary school teacher, grades 1 & 2, though I was trained to teach all the way up to grade 6. It wasn’t the job for me, I’m afraid. I was very young when I left college, and I found I just didn’t have the patience or vocation (yes, I think elementary school teachers have a vocation) for it. However, many years after I had moved to the U.S., I started teaching adults and really fell in love with it. It’s interactive, it’s lively, it’s human, it’s a two-way flow of information. Also, as a writing teacher, it’s a real privilege to be a witness to other people’s stories.

What workshop/s do you like teaching the most?

Hmm… well now, Joan. That’s tough. I love teaching the personal essay. I also love teaching short fiction techniques. I also love teaching teen writers–they’re fresh, they’re full of ideas, technology is so intuitive to younger writers.

Your writing-related workshops sound amazing. Aside from teaching across the New England area, is there anywhere us West-coasters can find you? Do you give online workshops?

No. I did do a webinar for Writers Digest in support of my writing book, Writer with a Day Job. It’s a book on balancing work and writing. The webinar was fun, but I must say that I missed the person-to-person interaction. I’m happy to come to the west coast anytime, especially any time in Jan, Feb or March. In those chill New England months, I should make myself a placard: “Will teach for food.“ (but only in the sun). 

What do you miss most about Ireland?

Sometimes I miss the people and that easy, ironic sense of humor. I miss how easily conversation happens there, even with people you’ve just met. Mind you, that has changed quite a bit. I also miss the music. I love Irish music and always have.

What do you love most about America (or Boston)?

Ah, America. Well, for starters, I love that there’s so much of it. I mean, in terms of square footage or mileage, America is an all-you-can-eat buffet really, isn’t it? I love that each state has a kind of identity and character or feel, or even sub-regions within that state. I also love that you don’t have to fit any particular mould in America. Hippie, soccer Mom, leftie, right wing (eeeuuuu!), financier, preacher, prude. You get to choose or re-invent. I also like the separation of church and state (at least officially), and that, relatively speaking, there’s a tremendous tolerance of different faiths and belief systems.

With your varied work load and schedule, I can guess what inspired you to write your how-to book, Writer with a Day Job. But while many writers are inspired to write about the process of writing, few do. What made you move forward with this book?

I was working a grueling job and also finishing up my 2nd novel. Once the novel ms had been handed into my publisher, I was very scared that this would be the end of creative writing for me. But then, I thought, well …. Maybe I should write about how I was managing to hang in there and finish up my novel while also working. I also love to teach writing so much that the book was a kind of writing workshop extension–just written down.

Which of your works is your favorite? Which was the most enjoyable to write?

Gee, I don’t know. I love my personal essays. They’re very, very difficult for me to write. So when they finally come together, it’s such a thrill. My novel, DANCE LESSONS was a 7-year project, but I truly did love writing it. And, with all their flaws, I love every single character in that novel.

Tell us about your most recent novel release, Dance Lessons.

It’s a story about a 39-year-old American widow who finds out, after her Irish-immigrant husband’s death, that he was not an orphan. Instead, his mother is still living and working the family farm in Ireland. So the book is about families and the fractures that happen–some fixable, some not. Ultimately, though, the book is about a woman’s quest to find her own self and equilibrium. In its review, Book List cited it as a book about relationships and solitude, and I was very, very flattered that they picked up on the solitude part.

What sparked the idea for this book?

I had been thinking about a book about families for a long time, and that issue that often, we don’t really know our spouses’ previous lives. This is especially possible when that spouse has moved here from another country.

What was the hardest part of this book to write and why?

The dang thing kept running away from me. I think I just had way, way too much in there in the beginning. It was too much about the Irish family. Once I focused more on my American main character, the book fell more into place. I was also dead nervous that I had the American voice wrong … maybe that’s why it took me 7 years to write. I needed to live here longer myself!

Tell us something unusual about this book (i.e. in its creation, execution, production).

It’s a complete departure from my first novel, THE BIG HOUSE, which was really pretty light hearted and pitched as a kind of “cute” all-Irish book. I didn’t want that this time around. I wanted a story that any reader could related to–or not. But I really wanted to get away from the idea of writing an “Irish book.” 

What do you love most about this book?

The highest compliments I got in the Blogosphere and elsewhere were that the book celebrated women’s solitude. One wonderful reviewer even interviewed me about the fact that the book didn’t have a widow-gets-her-second-man ending. Instead, the young widow grows to love herself and her inner life. I was so proud that I resisted temptation (Hollywood always has the sunset, lovey dovey ending) and had my main character where I wanted her to be–alone and hiking and stronger as a woman.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I love the British author, Penelope Lively. Her command of language and the intelligence of her plots and books intrigue me. I also like Joanna Trollope–again, well plotted family stories. I think it’s not enough to be a writer able to bang out a good story. You also need to let some part of your own sensibility and consciousness and intellect seep onto the page. Jhumpa Lahiri is also a favorite writer of mine. I just noticed: These are all women authors. Dang! I’ve got to come up with a mentor man, yes? Seamus Heaney, one of our Irish Nobel prize writers, has always been inspiring, not just because of his sheer brilliance–and the fact that he was my professor in college–but he’s also what I call a gracious writer. The irascible or pit-bull strain of writer does not impress me.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?

I’m not sure any one person has. But I guess our writing is a mish-mash of all that we ourselves have read and loved and lived.

How does your family view your writing career?

My family lives in Ireland, so they’re not really here in Massachusetts to witness the strangeness or the wonder of it all.

What entity do you feel supports you most in your writing career outside of family members?

My husband is a fantastic support, and has always been my biggest cheerleader. He also holds the fort when I go off on writers retreat to hole up in a room to write for four days or a week at a time. That’s how I get the bulk of my work done. I also love having a good day job. I’m a communications director for a non-profit. Having a steady paycheck frees me from the financial worries (debt collectors make *very* bad writing coaches–trust me) that beset so many people nowadays.

What is your writing routine?

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one, Joan. I try to write in the mornings before work, but … unless I’m under deadline, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I have early-morning meetings, and I’m not a super early riser. Mondays are my day off, so I get some writing done then. But for new or very involved projects, I have to go away to write. I get so much more work done that way. But in between my full-blown writing stints, I keep a selection of notebooks, a recording device and pieces of paper on which I write down ideas.

How do you keep in touch with your readers?

I have a Facebook page (Author Áine Greaney) and a twitter account @ainegreaney. But I love to hop around literary blogs, which has been a true blessing for me. As someone with a really busy day job, I can’t be out and about rubbing literary shoulders as much as I‘d like to. So the blogs keep me in touch with other readers, writers and the entire book world. I’ve “met” some incredible people online–like you, Joan. I mean, just look at us, gabbling away here like we’ve known each other for years! That’s what I love the most: relating to readers and book lovers one-on-one–either at a book club, reading, or exchanging emails.

What are you reading now?

A fantastic novel, “You” by Joanna Briscoe. I’m almost done, but I don’t want it to end.

What is in your TBR pile?

Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (yes, I’m behind), Caleb’s Crossing (for my book club; behind again) and the 2nd memoir by Alexander Fuller

What would you like to tell readers?

Writers aren’t anything special–really. We apply many of the same techniques to writing a book as you do to all kinds of chores. It’s hit ‘n miss and trial and error. It’s often washing the colored with the whites simply because you’re a bit spacey or out of ideas or you want to just push the envelope. And the only true reward are the work itself and the readers. For example, one Sunday I was feeling really down and out and like I’d never write again, when … ping! .. This email appears in my in-box from a woman in the U.K. who had read a very old short story of mine. She’d been through some really tough stuff in her life, but she said that re-reading that story always brought her comfort, and she wanted me to know that. That’s where the reward is: when your words on the page resonate with someone out there or make them feel better or bring them to a higher level of shared understanding about our shared humanity.

What is your preferred genre to read for pleasure?

Generally novels and the occasional memoir.

Do you have a second career? (Yes, motherhood counts!)

I’m a very busy communications manager for a non-profit here in Massachusetts. I really enjoy my job. I’m not a parent, though I have a very spoiled cat, Harry.

What did you do before you became a full-time writer?

I’ve been in communications for over 15 years now.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

A real mastery over the language, and a sense of courage to use the language. I also love a well-written story. I will not waste time on books that don’t bother to sign post me as to where I’m at in the story line.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started writing?

Ooooh, tough one, Joan. I wish I had known that it’s an industry like any other industry. I started out a bit wide-eyed and over-assumed that it was all just a jolly little garden of wordy and literary delights. That said, that kind of innocence was actually bliss (sigh).

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

No. I’m a very, very organic writer with no real methodology. I use my journal to tease things out.. I make a lot off middle-of-the night notes to myself.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

Patience, a good laptop, a good coffee maker, a steady source of non-writing income.

How would you best describe your books?

I think they tell a story–I hope. Some readers have told me that there’s often a darker undertow to them, even when I’m being funny. But you know, I’m the worst judge of my own work.

What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?

Probably a memoir with a twist. I’d love to write a really smart memoir that says many of the things I want to say –especially about women’s lives and, as I’m a woman, I’d have the starring role and, and … oh, right, a memoir, so I would automatically be the star, wouldn’t I?

What do you most like about writing? Least like?

I love when it all comes together. I love to edit, too–absolutely love that part. I hate the despair and the sheer terror that comes over you so easily and quickly. Like, writers can go from one bad paragraph to “I’ll never write again” in about 60 seconds. Why is that?

Which is your favorite of the books you have written?

Dance Lessons.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

It’s given me a boldness, an independence. The writing has *become* my room of my own. Through writing, I have been able to discover and be more confident in who I am as a person. 

What would you say is your biggest writing quirk?

Oh (and I hate this about myself) the fact that, the minute a short story or essay gets published, I pick it apart and red-pen it one more time–after publication. Arrrgh!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to walk, read, play with my cat. I’m also a real foodie.

What are your current projects?

I keep going back and forth between a fledgling 3rd novel and an idea I have for that memoir with a twist.

Where can we find you online?

Facebook, my website, www.ainegreaney.com, Twitter @ainegreaney.

Do You Have Any Undiscovered Or Hidden Talents?

I’m quite a good singer. I love to sing, also, though have to be coaxed to sing in public. But my singing voice is pretty strong, I can pick up any melody by ear, and I can hit some high notes. I can still sing in Gaelic, too!

Are You The Same Person You Were As A Child, Or Much Different?

You ask such fascinating questions. I think there are parts of me that are similar. I was one of those anxious-to-please kids. One of the few benefits of getting to be middle-aged is that pleasing others is not as important as it once was. I was a voracious reader as a kid, so I’m grateful that that carried over.

Do You Believe That The Cup Is Half Empty Or Half Full?

Half empty. I’m trying like mad to train myself to re-think that. Full, full, full, I tell myself–to no avail.

Favorite Midnight Snack?

Ice-cream–my downfall.

Are You An Introvert Or An Extrovert?

Introvert–strongly.

Are You A Window Person Or An Aisle Person?

Aisle.

Do You Like Short Or Long Hair On A Guy?

Oh, long. It’s so intriguing–except for the straggly, greasy variety.

Ever Hit A Jackpot On A Slot Machine?

Never played a slot machine. Just saw my first one this summer, in fact.

What is Your Favorite Beverage?

Dry white wine.

Do You Have Any Phobias Or Fears?

Heights, snakes, losing my memory.

Do You Have A Recurring Dream? What Happens In It?

I do. I have a recurring dream that I’m out of work and have had to relocate back to Ireland and live on unemployment benefits there. Strange, huh? Wonder if every immigrant has some form of that dream?

Are You Usually Late, Early Or Right On Time?

Err … late …

Ask Aine a question of your own or leave a comment to enter to win a fun prize:
MAGNETIC POETRY – LITTLE BOX OF PASSION.

International
MUST leave a contact email to WIN!

>Interview with Author Aine Greaney–Book Blogger Appreciation Week + Giveaway

>As part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I’m participating in an interview exchange with another blogger.  We were blindly matched by an admin team and that’s how Aine and I came to find each other.  Through email, her website and her interview, I’ve come to know and adore Aine for her warmth, kindness, easy-going nature and humor.  I also purchased her writing how-to book, WRITER WITH A DAY JOB and am loving it!

Comment to enter to win a fun prize: LITTLE BOX OF PASSION–MAGNETIC POETRY

So let me tell you a little about Aine: Aine Greaney does it all! She writes, she teaches, she lectures and she works! (I’m already exhausted!) Oh, and of course she blogs, too.  She is an Irish writer living in greater Boston, having immigrated into the United States back in 1986.

This year, Anne is celebrating the release of two books: her second novel, DANCE LESSONS, a look into the secrets immigrants keep and the lies they tell during their otherwise ordinary lives in our adopted countries and WRITER WITH A DAY JOB, a how-to book offering guidelines and tips for maintaining a creative writing schedule while also holding down a job.

With a Bachelors degree in English and a Masters degree in English, Aine is a perfectly designed as a speaker and presents illustrated lectures on Irish culture, literature and the writing life. She also hosts numerous writing-related courses ranging in topic from story structure to inspiration and tackling everything in between.

Her blog, Writer with a Day Job, covers topics related to…yep, you guessed it, getting your butt in that chair and putting your fingers to those keys even when you’ve got a day job. Her guests include writers, instructors and experts in related fields who discuss all the facets of this quite prevalent predicament and gives suggestions on succeeding in spite of the challenges.

You’ll get to know Aine even better through the questions she answered for this interview:

Aine, I love your take on journaling. I’ve tried to journal for years based on the process lined out in The Artist’s Way: 3 full pages, every single morning. Period. Every time, I’ve failed. Your suggestions, little and often, anytime and anywhere, among others, really spoke to me and I’m going to pick up a journal again with these goals in mind.


Your theory on why journaling for a writer is so important spoke to me. Can you elaborate on that for our readers?

Thanks, Joan. I have been journaling for as long as I can remember. I guess it was a way to just put my deepest thoughts on paper. For a writer, I think it’s a good way to tap into all that stuff that’s bubbling just beneath the surface. I also use my journal to “tease out” some issues in the writing, such as who a character really is, what a personal essay is really about or, indeed, my own motivation for working on a piece. I also use it to make lists … Oh, those dang lists. 

You were a teacher before you became a writer. And a teacher after you became a writer. What do you love about teaching? 

I started out life after college in Dublin as a primary school teacher, grades 1 & 2, though I was trained to teach all the way up to grade 6. It wasn’t the job for me, I’m afraid. I was very young when I left college, and I found I just didn’t have the patience or vocation (yes, I think elementary school teachers have a vocation) for it. However, many years after I had moved to the U.S., I started teaching adults and really fell in love with it. It’s interactive, it’s lively, it’s human, it’s a two-way flow of information. Also, as a writing teacher, it’s a real privilege to be a witness to other people’s stories.

What workshop/s do you like teaching the most?

Hmm… well now, Joan. That’s tough. I love teaching the personal essay. I also love teaching short fiction techniques. I also love teaching teen writers–they’re fresh, they’re full of ideas, technology is so intuitive to younger writers.

Your writing-related workshops sound amazing. Aside from teaching across the New England area, is there anywhere us West-coasters can find you? Do you give online workshops?

No. I did do a webinar for Writers Digest in support of my writing book, Writer with a Day Job. It’s a book on balancing work and writing. The webinar was fun, but I must say that I missed the person-to-person interaction. I’m happy to come to the west coast anytime, especially any time in Jan, Feb or March. In those chill New England months, I should make myself a placard: “Will teach for food.“ (but only in the sun). 

What do you miss most about Ireland?

Sometimes I miss the people and that easy, ironic sense of humor. I miss how easily conversation happens there, even with people you’ve just met. Mind you, that has changed quite a bit. I also miss the music. I love Irish music and always have.

What do you love most about America (or Boston)?

Ah, America. Well, for starters, I love that there’s so much of it. I mean, in terms of square footage or mileage, America is an all-you-can-eat buffet really, isn’t it? I love that each state has a kind of identity and character or feel, or even sub-regions within that state. I also love that you don’t have to fit any particular mould in America. Hippie, soccer Mom, leftie, right wing (eeeuuuu!), financier, preacher, prude. You get to choose or re-invent. I also like the separation of church and state (at least officially), and that, relatively speaking, there’s a tremendous tolerance of different faiths and belief systems.

With your varied work load and schedule, I can guess what inspired you to write your how-to book, Writer with a Day Job. But while many writers are inspired to write about the process of writing, few do. What made you move forward with this book?

I was working a grueling job and also finishing up my 2nd novel. Once the novel ms had been handed into my publisher, I was very scared that this would be the end of creative writing for me. But then, I thought, well …. Maybe I should write about how I was managing to hang in there and finish up my novel while also working. I also love to teach writing so much that the book was a kind of writing workshop extension–just written down.

Which of your works is your favorite? Which was the most enjoyable to write?

Gee, I don’t know. I love my personal essays. They’re very, very difficult for me to write. So when they finally come together, it’s such a thrill. My novel, DANCE LESSONS was a 7-year project, but I truly did love writing it. And, with all their flaws, I love every single character in that novel.

Tell us about your most recent novel release, Dance Lessons.

It’s a story about a 39-year-old American widow who finds out, after her Irish-immigrant husband’s death, that he was not an orphan. Instead, his mother is still living and working the family farm in Ireland. So the book is about families and the fractures that happen–some fixable, some not. Ultimately, though, the book is about a woman’s quest to find her own self and equilibrium. In its review, Book List cited it as a book about relationships and solitude, and I was very, very flattered that they picked up on the solitude part.

What sparked the idea for this book?

I had been thinking about a book about families for a long time, and that issue that often, we don’t really know our spouses’ previous lives. This is especially possible when that spouse has moved here from another country.

What was the hardest part of this book to write and why?

The dang thing kept running away from me. I think I just had way, way too much in there in the beginning. It was too much about the Irish family. Once I focused more on my American main character, the book fell more into place. I was also dead nervous that I had the American voice wrong … maybe that’s why it took me 7 years to write. I needed to live here longer myself!

Tell us something unusual about this book (i.e. in its creation, execution, production).

It’s a complete departure from my first novel, THE BIG HOUSE, which was really pretty light hearted and pitched as a kind of “cute” all-Irish book. I didn’t want that this time around. I wanted a story that any reader could related to–or not. But I really wanted to get away from the idea of writing an “Irish book.” 

What do you love most about this book?

The highest compliments I got in the Blogosphere and elsewhere were that the book celebrated women’s solitude. One wonderful reviewer even interviewed me about the fact that the book didn’t have a widow-gets-her-second-man ending. Instead, the young widow grows to love herself and her inner life. I was so proud that I resisted temptation (Hollywood always has the sunset, lovey dovey ending) and had my main character where I wanted her to be–alone and hiking and stronger as a woman.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I love the British author, Penelope Lively. Her command of language and the intelligence of her plots and books intrigue me. I also like Joanna Trollope–again, well plotted family stories. I think it’s not enough to be a writer able to bang out a good story. You also need to let some part of your own sensibility and consciousness and intellect seep onto the page. Jhumpa Lahiri is also a favorite writer of mine. I just noticed: These are all women authors. Dang! I’ve got to come up with a mentor man, yes? Seamus Heaney, one of our Irish Nobel prize writers, has always been inspiring, not just because of his sheer brilliance–and the fact that he was my professor in college–but he’s also what I call a gracious writer. The irascible or pit-bull strain of writer does not impress me.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?

I’m not sure any one person has. But I guess our writing is a mish-mash of all that we ourselves have read and loved and lived.

How does your family view your writing career?

My family lives in Ireland, so they’re not really here in Massachusetts to witness the strangeness or the wonder of it all.

What entity do you feel supports you most in your writing career outside of family members?

My husband is a fantastic support, and has always been my biggest cheerleader. He also holds the fort when I go off on writers retreat to hole up in a room to write for four days or a week at a time. That’s how I get the bulk of my work done. I also love having a good day job. I’m a communications director for a non-profit. Having a steady paycheck frees me from the financial worries (debt collectors make *very* bad writing coaches–trust me) that beset so many people nowadays.

What is your writing routine?

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one, Joan. I try to write in the mornings before work, but … unless I’m under deadline, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I have early-morning meetings, and I’m not a super early riser. Mondays are my day off, so I get some writing done then. But for new or very involved projects, I have to go away to write. I get so much more work done that way. But in between my full-blown writing stints, I keep a selection of notebooks, a recording device and pieces of paper on which I write down ideas.

How do you keep in touch with your readers?

I have a Facebook page (Author Áine Greaney) and a twitter account @ainegreaney. But I love to hop around literary blogs, which has been a true blessing for me. As someone with a really busy day job, I can’t be out and about rubbing literary shoulders as much as I‘d like to. So the blogs keep me in touch with other readers, writers and the entire book world. I’ve “met” some incredible people online–like you, Joan. I mean, just look at us, gabbling away here like we’ve known each other for years! That’s what I love the most: relating to readers and book lovers one-on-one–either at a book club, reading, or exchanging emails.

What are you reading now?

A fantastic novel, “You” by Joanna Briscoe. I’m almost done, but I don’t want it to end.

What is in your TBR pile?

Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (yes, I’m behind), Caleb’s Crossing (for my book club; behind again) and the 2nd memoir by Alexander Fuller

What would you like to tell readers?

Writers aren’t anything special–really. We apply many of the same techniques to writing a book as you do to all kinds of chores. It’s hit ‘n miss and trial and error. It’s often washing the colored with the whites simply because you’re a bit spacey or out of ideas or you want to just push the envelope. And the only true reward are the work itself and the readers. For example, one Sunday I was feeling really down and out and like I’d never write again, when … ping! .. This email appears in my in-box from a woman in the U.K. who had read a very old short story of mine. She’d been through some really tough stuff in her life, but she said that re-reading that story always brought her comfort, and she wanted me to know that. That’s where the reward is: when your words on the page resonate with someone out there or make them feel better or bring them to a higher level of shared understanding about our shared humanity.

What is your preferred genre to read for pleasure?

Generally novels and the occasional memoir.

Do you have a second career? (Yes, motherhood counts!)

I’m a very busy communications manager for a non-profit here in Massachusetts. I really enjoy my job. I’m not a parent, though I have a very spoiled cat, Harry.

What did you do before you became a full-time writer?

I’ve been in communications for over 15 years now.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

A real mastery over the language, and a sense of courage to use the language. I also love a well-written story. I will not waste time on books that don’t bother to sign post me as to where I’m at in the story line.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started writing?

Ooooh, tough one, Joan. I wish I had known that it’s an industry like any other industry. I started out a bit wide-eyed and over-assumed that it was all just a jolly little garden of wordy and literary delights. That said, that kind of innocence was actually bliss (sigh).

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

No. I’m a very, very organic writer with no real methodology. I use my journal to tease things out.. I make a lot off middle-of-the night notes to myself.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

Patience, a good laptop, a good coffee maker, a steady source of non-writing income.

How would you best describe your books?

I think they tell a story–I hope. Some readers have told me that there’s often a darker undertow to them, even when I’m being funny. But you know, I’m the worst judge of my own work.

What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?

Probably a memoir with a twist. I’d love to write a really smart memoir that says many of the things I want to say –especially about women’s lives and, as I’m a woman, I’d have the starring role and, and … oh, right, a memoir, so I would automatically be the star, wouldn’t I?

What do you most like about writing? Least like?

I love when it all comes together. I love to edit, too–absolutely love that part. I hate the despair and the sheer terror that comes over you so easily and quickly. Like, writers can go from one bad paragraph to “I’ll never write again” in about 60 seconds. Why is that?

Which is your favorite of the books you have written?

Dance Lessons.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

It’s given me a boldness, an independence. The writing has *become* my room of my own. Through writing, I have been able to discover and be more confident in who I am as a person. 

What would you say is your biggest writing quirk?

Oh (and I hate this about myself) the fact that, the minute a short story or essay gets published, I pick it apart and red-pen it one more time–after publication. Arrrgh!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to walk, read, play with my cat. I’m also a real foodie.

What are your current projects?

I keep going back and forth between a fledgling 3rd novel and an idea I have for that memoir with a twist.

Where can we find you online?

Facebook, my website, www.ainegreaney.com, Twitter @ainegreaney.

Do You Have Any Undiscovered Or Hidden Talents?

I’m quite a good singer. I love to sing, also, though have to be coaxed to sing in public. But my singing voice is pretty strong, I can pick up any melody by ear, and I can hit some high notes. I can still sing in Gaelic, too!

Are You The Same Person You Were As A Child, Or Much Different?

You ask such fascinating questions. I think there are parts of me that are similar. I was one of those anxious-to-please kids. One of the few benefits of getting to be middle-aged is that pleasing others is not as important as it once was. I was a voracious reader as a kid, so I’m grateful that that carried over.

Do You Believe That The Cup Is Half Empty Or Half Full?

Half empty. I’m trying like mad to train myself to re-think that. Full, full, full, I tell myself–to no avail.

Favorite Midnight Snack?

Ice-cream–my downfall.

Are You An Introvert Or An Extrovert?

Introvert–strongly.

Are You A Window Person Or An Aisle Person?

Aisle.

Do You Like Short Or Long Hair On A Guy?

Oh, long. It’s so intriguing–except for the straggly, greasy variety.

Ever Hit A Jackpot On A Slot Machine?

Never played a slot machine. Just saw my first one this summer, in fact.

What is Your Favorite Beverage?

Dry white wine.

Do You Have Any Phobias Or Fears?

Heights, snakes, losing my memory.

Do You Have A Recurring Dream? What Happens In It?

I do. I have a recurring dream that I’m out of work and have had to relocate back to Ireland and live on unemployment benefits there. Strange, huh? Wonder if every immigrant has some form of that dream?

Are You Usually Late, Early Or Right On Time?

Err … late …

Ask Aine a question of your own or leave a comment to enter to win a fun prize:
MAGNETIC POETRY – LITTLE BOX OF PASSION.

International
MUST leave a contact email to WIN!

New Year’s Giveaway: Day 14, Margie Lawson

>(Don’t miss Margie’s mini-lesson in writing body language and dialogue cues at the end of this post.)

Margie Lawson touched my life long before I actually met her in person.

I’ve always believed in on-going education.  Firmly believe that anyone can be anything they want to be or do anything they want to do given enough drive and perseverence. 

I tuned into on-line courses a few years ago when they were just breaking out, taking anywhere from 3 to 5 per month for about a year and a half.  I discovered a lot of useless information, some good instructors, but only a few outstanding courses.  Margie’s courses fell into the outstanding category.

Aside from being a cosumate instructor and extremely knowledgeable in her topics, Margie is empathetic and compassionate.  She is warm, understanding, accomodating and so extremely patient.

But the key that kept me going back to Margie’s courses was the way the information she shared in each class and the way she taught us to apply that information took my writing to a new level.  I know, without a doubt, Margie’s instruction brought my writing from good to publishable. 

Margie is a true gift to my life in so many ways.  She’s gone from anonymous instructor to mentor and friend and I’m constantly reminded of how grateful I am to have not only crossed paths with Margie, but to have forged a lasting connection.

In her ever-generous style, Margie has offered TWO of her powerful lecture packets for giveaway today.  She’s also giving us a mini-lesson in writing body language and dialogue cues (see below).

If I could give any writer only one reference for writing instruction, it would be Margie Lawson.

Up For Win Today:
2 Lecture packets.  2 winners will get to choose from the array of Margie’s Lecture Packets listed below:

Empowering Characters’ Emotions
Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors
Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, & More
Dgging Deep into the EDITS System
Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
Powering Up Body Language in Real Life
To enter:
Follow me on Twitter: @joanswan & send me a tweet with #MARGIE in the message. (Tweet Here)

Margie’s Services:

Contact Info:

Website
Blog
Email

Tomorrow, a very special day: spotlighting my UBER critique partner, Elisabeth Naughton!!!

********Now…on to Margie’s lesson:********

A Few Words About — Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues
By Margie Lawson

When writing body language:

  • Nonverbals are difficult to fake.
  • Nonverbals emphasize or contradict what is being said.
  • People always believe the nonverbals, even when they contradict the verbal message.

Nonverbal Communication:

  • 93% of communication is nonverbal
  • 55% is visual – most conveyed through the face
  • 38% is how we say it – conveyed through vocal cues, for writers, dialogue cues
  • 7% – the words themselves

EXAMPLES: Writing Body Language with Psychological Power

Jodi Picoult, THE PACT

“Em,” he said, swallowing, his voice just another shadow in the car. “Are you . . . is this about killing yourself?” And when Emily looked away, his lungs swelled up like balloons and the bottom dropped out of his world.

Brad Meltzer, THE BOOK OF FATE (two examples)

Closing the file folder, Boyle sank back and shot me the kind of look that would leave a bruise.

Lisbeth should be wearing a smile so wide, there’d be canary feathers dangling form her lips. Instead, she rubs the back of her neck as her front teeth click anxiously.

Angela Hunt, THE NOVELIST

I smile when the rest of the class laughs, but Morley’s words have raised a welt on my heart.

Stephen White, DEAD TIME (two examples)

I thought I saw Alan nod as I was talking. Alan’s nods weren’t much. Sometimes you’d need a motion detector to be sure he’d actually shifter his head. I’d developed the right radar while we were together. I could tell.

She was fidgety. Not pathologically so, like Jonas’s Uncle Marty. But Stevie was taut, like an overstressed string on a violin. She carried the tension of someone who just realized she’d run out of nicotine gum.

Dialogue Cues share subtext. They inform the reader how to interpret the dialogue. Dialogue cues are one part of writing nonverbal communication. They’re one part writers often overlook.

Since 38% of nonverbal communication is conveyed through paralanguage (how the words are delivered) in real life, it behooves writers to include a significant percentage of dialogue cues in their scenes, as long as they are written fresh.

Dialogue Cues include:

  • Tone – angry, sarcastic, abrasive, fawning, cajoling, teasing
  • Inflection – monotone, sing-song, drop or lift at end of words or sentences
  • Pitch – high, low, deep, booming, resonant
  • Quality – sophisticated, nasal, squeaky, reedy, enunciates or slurs words
  • Volume – soft, loud, whispered, yelled
  • Rate – a breathy rush, pressured speech, long pauses

EXAMPLES: Writing Dialogue Cues with Psychological Power:

Marie-Claude Bourque, ANCIENT WHISPERS, (2 examples)

Amplified, Cadence: His voice was rich, entrancing, a caress on her beaten spirit.

Incongruence: Her voice was dead calm, completely different from the fury and sadness she felt inside.

Brenda Novak, BODY HEAT

Volume: They haven’t been getting along so great since he lost his job,” she explained, after which her volume edged up to normal again.

Jeri Smith-Ready, SHADE

Volume: “I really have to go,” I whispered, like I’d hurt ex-Hazel less if I lowered the volume.

Janet Dean, COURTING MISS ADELAIDE

Interpretation by POV Character: Mr. Evans chuckled, the sound as inappropriate to Charles as giggling at a hanging.

Janet Fitch, PAINT IT BLACK

Amplified Simile: “Josie.” That sharp, half-whispered voice, the way you call a dog, to get it out of a room, fast, but she heard it.

Caridad Ferrer, ADIOS TO MY OLD LIFE

Amplified: Sosi’s voice was squeaking — a sure sign she was nervous. The nuns at school always knew when she was up to something because she’d start sounding like Mickey Mouse.

Jessa Slade, FORGED OF SHADOWS

Fresh: In her calmest pre-saloon-brawl voice, she said, “I don’t want any trouble.”

Lynda Sandoval, UNSETTLING

Hyphenated Run-On: A sort of I’m-too-dignified-to-openly-plead tone had crept into Alba’s voice.

Jeanne Adams, DEADLY LITTLE SECRETS

Two Dialogue Cues: She kept her voice brisk, impersonal. “I’ll need to speak with him. You are welcome to be present, Mr. Bromley.” She put all the I Am An Agent Of The Law insistence she could in her voice.

Stephen White, DEAD EVEN

Fresh Simile: “Listen,” he said in a voice that cut off the small talk the way a sharp knife takes the top off a banana. “I need a favor. A big . . .favor.”

Marcus Sakey, THE AMATEURS

Fresh: “I will get it for you. I promise.” His voice coming from a ragged place people liked to pretend didn’t exist.

Cherry Adair, BLACK MAGIC (Dad and POV Character)

“If you’re too damn busy to listen, then I wipe my hands of you.”

Jack didn’t bother keeping his dislike out of his voice. “Thought you already had.”

Dennis Lehane, SHUTTER ISLAND

Fresh: “Yes, well,” he said, his voice stripped of life . . .

Robert B. Parker, SCHOOL DAYS

Fresh: His voice was so thick, he seemed to be having trouble squeezing his words out.

Joan Swan, FACING THE FIRE (to be released April, 2012; 2 examples)

Using dialogue cue as stimulus and showing response: The low, smooth timber of his voice gave her belly an uncomfortable twist.

Humor Hit: She didn’t attempt to quell the duh in her tone.

Jaye Wells, THE MAGE IN BLACK

Simile: His voice was hoarse, like he’d smoked a dozen packs a day for a millennium.

Anna Campbell, TEMPT THE DEVIL

Amplified: “Olivia . . .” he said on a long sigh. The murmur of her name in that deep voice soaked through her skin right to her bones. He sounded like an angel had pointed him toward a heaven he never thought he’d attain.

Rosemary Clement-Moore, THE SPLENDOR FALLS (2 examples)

“Why are you making like a guidance counselor?” I could hear the venom in my voice, but couldn’t seem to control it.

Humor broadened his accent, exaggerating the roll of the r and the length of the vowels until it was almost unintelligible.

Tana French, THE LIKENESS (4 examples)

All the laughter and façade had gone out of his voice, and I knew Frank well enough to know that this was when he was most dangerous.

“Rafe,” I said, hurt. I was mostly faking it: there was an icy cut to his voice that made me flinch.

There was something in his voice, something precarious as the smell of petrol, ready and waiting to ignite at the first spark.

His voice didn’t sharpen, but it had an undertow that made my shoulders go up.

Hope this mini-lesson gave you an idea of just how Margie’s courses are PACKED with information!

>New Year’s Giveaway: Day 14, Margie Lawson

>(Don’t miss Margie’s mini-lesson in writing body language and dialogue cues at the end of this post.)

Margie Lawson touched my life long before I actually met her in person.

I’ve always believed in on-going education.  Firmly believe that anyone can be anything they want to be or do anything they want to do given enough drive and perseverence. 

I tuned into on-line courses a few years ago when they were just breaking out, taking anywhere from 3 to 5 per month for about a year and a half.  I discovered a lot of useless information, some good instructors, but only a few outstanding courses.  Margie’s courses fell into the outstanding category.

Aside from being a cosumate instructor and extremely knowledgeable in her topics, Margie is empathetic and compassionate.  She is warm, understanding, accomodating and so extremely patient.

But the key that kept me going back to Margie’s courses was the way the information she shared in each class and the way she taught us to apply that information took my writing to a new level.  I know, without a doubt, Margie’s instruction brought my writing from good to publishable. 

Margie is a true gift to my life in so many ways.  She’s gone from anonymous instructor to mentor and friend and I’m constantly reminded of how grateful I am to have not only crossed paths with Margie, but to have forged a lasting connection.

In her ever-generous style, Margie has offered TWO of her powerful lecture packets for giveaway today.  She’s also giving us a mini-lesson in writing body language and dialogue cues (see below).

If I could give any writer only one reference for writing instruction, it would be Margie Lawson.

Up For Win Today:
2 Lecture packets.  2 winners will get to choose from the array of Margie’s Lecture Packets listed below:

Empowering Characters’ Emotions
Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors
Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, & More
Dgging Deep into the EDITS System
Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
Powering Up Body Language in Real Life
To enter:
Follow me on Twitter: @joanswan & send me a tweet with #MARGIE in the message. (Tweet Here)

Margie’s Services:

Contact Info:

Website
Blog
Email

Tomorrow, a very special day: spotlighting my UBER critique partner, Elisabeth Naughton!!!

********Now…on to Margie’s lesson:********

A Few Words About — Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues
By Margie Lawson

When writing body language:

  • Nonverbals are difficult to fake.
  • Nonverbals emphasize or contradict what is being said.
  • People always believe the nonverbals, even when they contradict the verbal message.

Nonverbal Communication:

  • 93% of communication is nonverbal
  • 55% is visual – most conveyed through the face
  • 38% is how we say it – conveyed through vocal cues, for writers, dialogue cues
  • 7% – the words themselves

EXAMPLES: Writing Body Language with Psychological Power

Jodi Picoult, THE PACT

“Em,” he said, swallowing, his voice just another shadow in the car. “Are you . . . is this about killing yourself?” And when Emily looked away, his lungs swelled up like balloons and the bottom dropped out of his world.

Brad Meltzer, THE BOOK OF FATE (two examples)

Closing the file folder, Boyle sank back and shot me the kind of look that would leave a bruise.

Lisbeth should be wearing a smile so wide, there’d be canary feathers dangling form her lips. Instead, she rubs the back of her neck as her front teeth click anxiously.

Angela Hunt, THE NOVELIST

I smile when the rest of the class laughs, but Morley’s words have raised a welt on my heart.

Stephen White, DEAD TIME (two examples)

I thought I saw Alan nod as I was talking. Alan’s nods weren’t much. Sometimes you’d need a motion detector to be sure he’d actually shifter his head. I’d developed the right radar while we were together. I could tell.

She was fidgety. Not pathologically so, like Jonas’s Uncle Marty. But Stevie was taut, like an overstressed string on a violin. She carried the tension of someone who just realized she’d run out of nicotine gum.

Dialogue Cues share subtext. They inform the reader how to interpret the dialogue. Dialogue cues are one part of writing nonverbal communication. They’re one part writers often overlook.

Since 38% of nonverbal communication is conveyed through paralanguage (how the words are delivered) in real life, it behooves writers to include a significant percentage of dialogue cues in their scenes, as long as they are written fresh.

Dialogue Cues include:

  • Tone – angry, sarcastic, abrasive, fawning, cajoling, teasing
  • Inflection – monotone, sing-song, drop or lift at end of words or sentences
  • Pitch – high, low, deep, booming, resonant
  • Quality – sophisticated, nasal, squeaky, reedy, enunciates or slurs words
  • Volume – soft, loud, whispered, yelled
  • Rate – a breathy rush, pressured speech, long pauses

EXAMPLES: Writing Dialogue Cues with Psychological Power:

Marie-Claude Bourque, ANCIENT WHISPERS, (2 examples)

Amplified, Cadence: His voice was rich, entrancing, a caress on her beaten spirit.

Incongruence: Her voice was dead calm, completely different from the fury and sadness she felt inside.

Brenda Novak, BODY HEAT

Volume: They haven’t been getting along so great since he lost his job,” she explained, after which her volume edged up to normal again.

Jeri Smith-Ready, SHADE

Volume: “I really have to go,” I whispered, like I’d hurt ex-Hazel less if I lowered the volume.

Janet Dean, COURTING MISS ADELAIDE

Interpretation by POV Character: Mr. Evans chuckled, the sound as inappropriate to Charles as giggling at a hanging.

Janet Fitch, PAINT IT BLACK

Amplified Simile: “Josie.” That sharp, half-whispered voice, the way you call a dog, to get it out of a room, fast, but she heard it.

Caridad Ferrer, ADIOS TO MY OLD LIFE

Amplified: Sosi’s voice was squeaking — a sure sign she was nervous. The nuns at school always knew when she was up to something because she’d start sounding like Mickey Mouse.

Jessa Slade, FORGED OF SHADOWS

Fresh: In her calmest pre-saloon-brawl voice, she said, “I don’t want any trouble.”

Lynda Sandoval, UNSETTLING

Hyphenated Run-On: A sort of I’m-too-dignified-to-openly-plead tone had crept into Alba’s voice.

Jeanne Adams, DEADLY LITTLE SECRETS

Two Dialogue Cues: She kept her voice brisk, impersonal. “I’ll need to speak with him. You are welcome to be present, Mr. Bromley.” She put all the I Am An Agent Of The Law insistence she could in her voice.

Stephen White, DEAD EVEN

Fresh Simile: “Listen,” he said in a voice that cut off the small talk the way a sharp knife takes the top off a banana. “I need a favor. A big . . .favor.”

Marcus Sakey, THE AMATEURS

Fresh: “I will get it for you. I promise.” His voice coming from a ragged place people liked to pretend didn’t exist.

Cherry Adair, BLACK MAGIC (Dad and POV Character)

“If you’re too damn busy to listen, then I wipe my hands of you.”

Jack didn’t bother keeping his dislike out of his voice. “Thought you already had.”

Dennis Lehane, SHUTTER ISLAND

Fresh: “Yes, well,” he said, his voice stripped of life . . .

Robert B. Parker, SCHOOL DAYS

Fresh: His voice was so thick, he seemed to be having trouble squeezing his words out.

Joan Swan, FACING THE FIRE (to be released April, 2012; 2 examples)

Using dialogue cue as stimulus and showing response: The low, smooth timber of his voice gave her belly an uncomfortable twist.

Humor Hit: She didn’t attempt to quell the duh in her tone.

Jaye Wells, THE MAGE IN BLACK

Simile: His voice was hoarse, like he’d smoked a dozen packs a day for a millennium.

Anna Campbell, TEMPT THE DEVIL

Amplified: “Olivia . . .” he said on a long sigh. The murmur of her name in that deep voice soaked through her skin right to her bones. He sounded like an angel had pointed him toward a heaven he never thought he’d attain.

Rosemary Clement-Moore, THE SPLENDOR FALLS (2 examples)

“Why are you making like a guidance counselor?” I could hear the venom in my voice, but couldn’t seem to control it.

Humor broadened his accent, exaggerating the roll of the r and the length of the vowels until it was almost unintelligible.

Tana French, THE LIKENESS (4 examples)

All the laughter and façade had gone out of his voice, and I knew Frank well enough to know that this was when he was most dangerous.

“Rafe,” I said, hurt. I was mostly faking it: there was an icy cut to his voice that made me flinch.

There was something in his voice, something precarious as the smell of petrol, ready and waiting to ignite at the first spark.

His voice didn’t sharpen, but it had an undertow that made my shoulders go up.

Hope this mini-lesson gave you an idea of just how Margie’s courses are PACKED with information!

Excited About A New Discovery

>I just found out (from a post on Magical Musings), that Margie Lawson offers an in-person course that goes beyond the courses she offers online.

I’m a big, big ML fan. I’ve taken both her Empowering Character Emotions course and her EDITs System course, and I believe they each lifted my writing up a full level.

I used to be an online course addict. Would take 2-3 online courses every month. They are fantastic — inexpensive, access to quality instructors, comraderie of fellow writers, structure, etc. etc. But Margie’s were, far and away, the most powerful and most positive.

I’ve put in my bid for her September Immersion Master Class, given at her home in the Colorado Mountains. http://www.margielawson.com/index.php/immersion-master-class

Anyone want to join me?????

>Excited About A New Discovery

>I just found out (from a post on Magical Musings), that Margie Lawson offers an in-person course that goes beyond the courses she offers online.

I’m a big, big ML fan. I’ve taken both her Empowering Character Emotions course and her EDITs System course, and I believe they each lifted my writing up a full level.

I used to be an online course addict. Would take 2-3 online courses every month. They are fantastic — inexpensive, access to quality instructors, comraderie of fellow writers, structure, etc. etc. But Margie’s were, far and away, the most powerful and most positive.

I’ve put in my bid for her September Immersion Master Class, given at her home in the Colorado Mountains. http://www.margielawson.com/index.php/immersion-master-class

Anyone want to join me?????