The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘fiction writing

Got inner critics? All creative people I know struggle with inner critics that can interrupt their work. What to do about them? It’s an unlikely but important answer–give them new jobs! In the latest Chatham County Line column I show folks how and even get to talk about Sandra Oh, too.

Give Your Inner Critic a New Job

No matter how lumpy or faded or boring you feel, your creativity is of value.

—SARK

Inner critics can sabotage our creative work. More than a decade ago, I began to study how and why inner critics become unwanted residents in our psyches.

Inner critics are the sharp-tongued internal voices that often prevent us from consistently writing and creating. They speak to us with the seemingly definitive voice of KNOWING ABOUT EVERYTHING CREATIVE. Inner critics usually know how to do just one thing and have long outlived whatever protective role they once had. Inner critics want to protect us from failure, shame and embarrassment. Gentle and honest feedback about our work is important and can be gained from a variety of sources. Inner critics go awry when they enter into the creative process at an early stage. They become destructive when they engage us in black or white thinking that may or not be accurate. Inner critics often drive us to abandon work too early, convince us that our ideas aren’t worthy, or that we will never be successful.

Inner critics can have a personal and also a cultural component to their makeup. Read the rest here.

It’s mid-summer. And my morning writing practice is full of it. 

Full of summer and full of story. 

I don’t know about you, but I love the creativity that summer sparks in me. 

And this summer–I have something special for you: A FREE author event that is heart-centered and is about connecting our bodies, minds and imaginations. Feeling embodied and writing with an awareness of the body can lead us to new insights as Herring notes:

Our cells have memories. Our bodies have stored all of our experiences-those expressed and unexpressed, even those forgotten. They are there waiting for us.

-Larraine Herring, Writing Begins With the Breath

I’m delighted to share with you that I’ve teamed up with 10 other amazing writers and writing coaches to bring you:

Write from the Heart: How to create and nourish your fiction or memoir so you can finally finish the book you were born to write. 

And what’s more? I’m giving you a complimentary ticket! Yay 🙂

You can claim your seat for this FREE 2-day workshop here: traciskuce.com/mtberger

Check out a few of these heart-centric topics we’ll be covering:

  • How to Create a Nurturing Writing Routine
  • Developing Stronger Internal Conflicts in Your Novel
  • Tap into Your Character’s Impossible Longing
  • How to Leverage the Power of Affirmations for Your Writing Life
  • How to Create Your Own DIY Writing Retreats

These roughly twenty minute presentations will be packed with tips, exercises and techniques.

My presentation is on one of my favorite topics—the power of positive self-talk: ‘Brain Hacking: how to leverage the power of affirmations for your writing life’.

If you’re ready to nourish your creative heart and dive deep into your story, then you’ll want to register for this FREE event. It happens LIVE August 5 & 6 at 12 pm PT/ 3 pm ET 

Get your complimentary ticket here: traciskuce.com/mtberger

afrofuturistbundle

Looking for a summer reading bonanza? And a playlist, too? I’m thrilled to be included in this NEW Afrofuturist and Black Fantastic ‘storybundle’ featuring established and emerging voices in speculative fiction. It was curated by award-winning writer Tenea D. Johnson and includes work from a Horror Writers Association lifetime achievement winner, Tiptree winner, a couple of Parallax winners, fresh voices from the Caribbean and Africa, African historical fiction, intelligent space romps, vampires, and a fiction album.

I believe this is the first Afrofuturist and Black Fantastic themed storybundle. It’s my first time being included in a curated storybundle!

How does it work?

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE. For a little more you’ll get 11 books! My novella, Reenu-You about a mysterious virus seemingly transmitted through a hair care product billed as a natural relaxer is one of the ‘bonus books’.

Bundle buyers also have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Mighty Writers, an amazing organization that supports young writers! Check out all the details below. This bundle is available for just three weeks. And, please feel free to signal boost. Thanks!

https://storybundle.com/afrofuturism

Feeling stuck in your writing and storytelling? Are you not finishing things because you get overwhelmed with keeping track of your characters and plotlines? Frustrated with how you are plotting your novel or memoir? Are you painting yourself into too many story corners that you don’t know how to get out of?

Want to know how to bring a story full circle, connect the dots and create a fantastic ending? Want to know more about ‘story beats’ and how to effectively employ them?

Want some inspiring writing craft and mindset tips?

Great, my writer friend, Emma Dhesi can help! She is hosting a cool series that you’re going to love.

Emma has brought together 20+ writers, creatives, editors, and publishers for this complimentary training series. 

The Be a Bestseller: Structure Your Story of Success series is guaranteed to ignite your creativity. Many speakers will be sharing their expertise for better plotting and story structure and others will be focused on mindset issues. It is geared for novelists, memoirists and short story writers. She is a fantastic interviewer.

And, I’m ALSO one of the speakers! I’ll be talking about how positive self-talk can supercharge your writing life (as you know one of my favorite topics)!

And it’s totally free. Sign up here and see all the speakers: https://masterclass.beabestseller.net/MicheleTBerger

BTW: If you are struggling with motivation and momentum in your writing, you might like my free guide: Ten Ways to Keep Connected to Your Writing Self during COVID-19.

Happy holidays everyone! I hope you are safe and well!

I wanted to share some EXCELLENT news!

I recently discovered that my novelette “Doll Seed” published last year (in FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction) has won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society.

It carries with it a $1,000 cash prize.

The Carl Brandon Society is composed of fans and writers of speculative fiction and their mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.

I’m thrilled, honored and a little breathless!

My story is about dolls, magic, and civil rights. It even imagines what happened to those black and white dolls that were used in psychology experiments leading up to the famous Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

Persistence and belief in one’s ideas is everything—I worked on and submitted this story for YEARS before it found a fantastic home!

My thanks goes to Marjorie Hudson who gave me great editorial advice on the story, many moons ago, and Val Nieman who was an early and enthusiastic reader.

Congrats to Akwaeke Emezi for winning the Parallax Award for their YA novel Pet (Random House) & all the amazing writers on the Honors Lists!

More about the Carl Brandon Society and the awards here.

“Doll Seed” appeared last summer in FIYAH. I’d love for people to support this wonderful magazine, so if interested, you can purchase the issue here.

 

 

 

Hi folks,

I’ve got a GREAT opportunity for you. Two spaces just opened up for my last RESET, RENEW, RECLAIM virtual writing retreat being held TOMORROW, Saturday, Dec 12, 11-3. And, I want to make it available to you for $39 (originally $69)! My purpose is to support and uplift writers and I’d love for you to experience this retreat at a SWEET price.

Saturday’s topic is Author Mindset/Creating Juicy Goals for 2021. We’ll spend our time reflecting on our writing in 2020 (the ups and downs), how to set up sustainable and favorable conditions for our writing life in 2021. We will align our goals to writing systems and prepare for what might throw us off track.

We’ll dream together about to how to create a writing ‘eco-system’ that is sustainable and fun for you in 2021! This has been one of my most productive writing years (despite the pandemic) and I’m going to share all my writing hacks with YOU.

If you haven’t been writing and miss being in a community of writers, this retreat is for you.

During the retreat there will be writing time, mindfulness exercises for focus, cool writing exercises and group coaching. We’ll have the option for a short lunch break and/or additional writing time.

Now is the perfect time to plan for what you want your writing life to LOOK and FEEL like for 2021. The last weeks of Dec and first weeks of Jan are often the worst time to do this kind of work—we’re usually tired from the holidays.

2021 is guaranteed to bring new challenges and opportunities to our writing lives, so let’s prepare!

I hope you join me tomorrow!

I can accept payment:
-via PayPal: bergermichele2005@yahoo.com
Questions? email me: mtb@creativetickle.com

*this piece was originally published in the September issue of the Chatham County Line for my monthly column. I’m writing what I think will be a three part series about writing and publishing in this new decade.

***

What makes a successful writer today? That’s a tough question and it depends on who you ask and what metric you use. As a Gen-Xer, when I was growing up, writers held a mysterious allure. On TV and in print culture, popular and literary writers were celebrated, everyone from Steven King and Jackie Collins to Toni Morrison. To me, writers were the most glamorous and intriguing people on the planet and I wanted to be like them.

Although luck and connections always played a role in who got published, until the late 1990s, there were some standardized and taken for granted ways that one became a successful writer. Being discovered in a “slush pile” by an assistant editor was one way. For literary oriented writers, pursuing an MFA was a respected route. Being published in high visibility magazines and having an agent contact you was another. New York was the hub of publishing life. A relatively small number of agents, editors and publishers were gatekeepers and decided what readers wanted. Authors wrote books, went to lunches with their agents and occasionally wrote back to their fans.

This kind of writing culture and ecosystem was imprinted on me and shaped what being a successful writer meant. That eco-system has fundamentally changed. And, consequently I’ve had to revise my notion of success.

With the introduction of the Kindle, in 2007, a shift in publishing and writing was well under way. Publishing, writing and reading would be changed forever. Consolidation in publishing had accelerated, and due to changes in advertising revenue, many magazines and newspapers disappeared (which meant the disappearance of book review columns).

The paths to publishing now (especially for commercial fiction) are multiple, non-linear and fragmented. Writers publish their work and find readers and audiences on a variety of platforms including Medium, Wattpad, Amazon, Instagram, etc. Traditional publishing is no longer the only model. There are writers that will never become household names that happily self-publish or ‘indie publish’ and make six figures a year (some make seven figures). They do this without an MFA, an agent or attending writing conferences and networking with traditional publishing professionals. Many have a direct relationship with their readers and could care less about the New York publishing world. The success stories of well-known indie writers include E.L. James author of Fifty Shades of Grey (originally written as fan fiction) which has sold over 125 million copies and Andy Weir who serialized a novel (on his blog for science enthusiasts) that would become The Martian. Both writers were discovered because of loyal followings on digital platforms.

To publish has become a democratizing practice. Did you know that there are 1 million books in the U.S. alone published every year? As one publisher told me, it’s not about one’s ability to get published anymore, it’s about being found and read. The challenge of discoverability for authors has skyrocketed in the last decade.

So what does success for writers mean given these changes? Does it mean having 10,000 followers on Instagram who love your poetry? Does it mean a publisher sending you on book tour (almost a thing of the past and usually reserved for very famous authors)? Does it mean serializing your book on YouTube? Does it mean writing a novel that is critically acclaimed and read by a few devoted fans?

Some writers who have been wedded to a traditional publishing model of success have criticized the new eco-system. Indie authors have also disparaged traditional publishing. This is folly.

Moving forward, due to technology, changes in publishing and how readers find books, writers will need to embrace a hybrid version of traditional and indie publishing. Writers must become more marketing savvy and view it as part of their creative work. Traditional publishers expect you to know (or be willing to learn) about websites, SEO and marketing. The indie publishing arena is also maturing and it also no longer possible to publish an inferior product and expect it to sell.

The successful and fulfilled writers I model myself after are crafting a hybrid path. They look at a new writing project and ask, would this be better suited for a traditional publisher or do I already have an audience for this work that wants it right now? Many traditionally published authors self-publish their novellas, short stories and other material to their audiences via Patreon and Amazon.

I like the hybrid model. I have been traditionally published through newspapers, magazines and small presses. And, I have truly valued working with a team of editors and publishing professionals that were committed to honing my work. And, I can’t imagine not continuing to take craft classes and meeting folks at a conference (in the future). However, indie publishing offers room for quick experimentation, innovation and enables the flexing of a different set of skills beyond craft. I no longer believe there is only one path to success that holds all the answers. I also know in the end, both indie and traditionally published authors have one thing in common when it comes to success. They keep writing.

***

BTW: Your invitation still stands, click here to get your free guide: ‘Ten Ways to Keep Connected to Your Writing Self during COVID-19’.

When I was asked by Nicole Givens Kurtz to contribute to her anthology about vampires and their slayers across the African diaspora, I was both thrilled and terrified. Thrilled in that I would get to pen a new story and be in a collection with many established and well-known writers in speculative fiction. Terrified in that I hadn’t ever written a story about vampires nor was I steeped in vampire lore. But, when you get a great writing opportunity, you always say yes!



SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire launches on Tuesday. SLAY includes twenty-nine stories, plus original illustrations. It’s a big book!

Here’s an overview: Few creatures in contemporary horror are as compelling as the vampire, who manages to captivate us in a simultaneous state of fear and desire. Drawing from a variety of cultural and mythological backgrounds, SLAY dares to imagine a world of horror and wonder where Black protagonists take center stage — as vampires, as hunters, as heroes. From immortal African deities to resistance fighters; matriarchal vampire broods to monster hunting fathers; coming of age stories to end of life stories, SLAY is a groundbreaking Afrocentric vampire anthology celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the African Diaspora.

SLAY has already received positive reviews from early reviewers!

I loved working on my story and digging into urban fantasy, a new genre for me. I knew that I wanted the story to center on contemporary vampires. My story “Blood Saviors” features a conflict between Fae, humans and vampires–and a virus to boot (I couldn’t help myself). It’s the first story I ever wrote where I began with a theme. I wanted that theme to resonate and I wanted the reader to feel the weight of the moral choices that confront the main character, Shonda. The story explores the question: What would someone be willing to do to save their own kind? Would they be willing to sacrifice another race to save their own?

This collection is important in a couple of different ways: SLAY will be a touchstone for readers of color who love horror and are aficionados of vampire stories but never really saw themselves reflected in mainstream narratives. It offers white readers something unique in the vampire subgenre because the anthology isn’t centered in white and/or male characters. It’s important for the genre in that until now no one has attempted to retell the vampire mythology through and about the experiences of people across the African diaspora.

Pre-order link for SLAY is here

Below is a sampler of AWESOMENESS about SLAY that includes my participation on Alicia McCalla’s Diverse Sci-Fi & Fantasy podcast. We had an outstanding time talking about my story, vampires and subverting conventional tropes in speculative fiction. 

Milton Davis one of the contributors (and small press publisher in his own right) has been hosting many of SLAY’s authors on his blog for short interviews where we ‘SLAY 11 Questions’. They are fabulous. I have enjoyed reading more about the other contributors. You can check out my interview here and learn why I name Shori from Octavia Butler’s Fledgling as one of my favorite vampires.

Check out contributor John Linwood Grant’s excellent posts on ‘Black Vampire’ week on his Grey Dog Tales blog. He covers African vampires, movies with Black vampires and more.

I’d appreciate any signal boosting that you can do for this collection. Thanks in advance.

And, if you are a writer struggling with your productivity and motivation, you might like my ‘Ten Ways to Keep Connected to Your Writing Self during COVID-19’. Click here to receive it.

Hi Writers,

Over the past several months, I’ve heard from so many writers that their old ways of doing things just aren’t working.

Many of us aren’t writing and if we are writing, we’re not having a lot of joy doing it. Many of us are finding it hard to get ourselves to the page and to stay focused when we arrive. We’re often afraid, discouraged, and tired. Very tired. Our inner critics have been very loud during the past few months.

We haven’t danced with, wrangled with or been charmed by our muse(s) in quite a while.

I HEAR you and I’ve designed something for you that you will LOVE.

It’s time to RESET. I’ve found that if I don’t reset every 5-6 weeks regarding my mindset, exercise routine, and writing habits, I hit a wall.

A reset is in order. And FALL is a perfect time for one.

I’ve designed a NEW online monthly writing retreat series: Reset, Refresh and Reclaim

I call these themed retreats reset, refresh and reclaim for a reason—we need these qualities now more than ever to deal with the changing pace of life!

These well-paced structured retreats are designed to inspire you and connect you to other writers. You’ll get some serious writing done and have FUN while doing it!

Give me the next four months and I will take you from creatively blocked to creatively sparked!

My reset approach has kept me productive, writing and getting published throughout the last six months.

Space for these online retreats is limited. I’m offering this to YOU at these rates, before I advertise broadly, because you are part of my community as an engaged reader of this blog.

Want to see how excited I am to tell you about these retreats and what we will do in them? Here’s a brief video:

If you don’t want to watch the video, it’s fine. All the details are below.

Here’s what people have said recently about my expertise as a coach and writing facilitator:

“Michele’s calm voice and emphasis on mindfulness practices has been a boon to my writing.” Amy T.

“I’ve written more with Michele in two hours during her Write-INs than I have during the last four months.” Francesca P.

“Michele encourages one to do their deepest work in a supportive environment.” Mark J.

“I thoroughly enjoyed September’s writing retreat! You have a wonderful teaching style, and as someone who struggles with ADHD, you kept me fully engaged the entire time.” Rachelle H.

ONLINE WRITING RETREATS

Reset, Refresh and Reclaim

If you’ve found yourself isolated, alone, and struggling with your writing, imagine how much different writing might feel if you had some dedicated and structured time, plus awesome community and coaching support.

Here’s a way to write THROUGH the fear, sludge and anxiety!

You can sign up for ONE retreat or ALL of them. 

They all will include writing time (come with work or start something new), a brief writing craft discussion, fun writing exercises and games, mindfulness exercises for focus, and group coaching. We’ll have the option for a short lunch break and/or additional writing time.

Each retreat is curated to the needs and interests of the group. Once you register, I’ll send a brief survey to find out more about you. A few days prior to the workshop, you will receive additional information and any suggested readings or exercises.

Fall Retreat Dates:

*Saturday, Sept 26-The Harvest of 2020 

Saturday, Oct 24-Characters

Saturday, Nov 21-Beginnings, Middles and Endings

Saturday, Dec 12–Author Mindset/Goals for 2021

(11am-2pm EST via ZOOM)

(Dec’s retreat will go 11-3, BONUS hour!) 

(*tentative topics; each workshop is tailored to registered participants)

That’s 16+ hours of writing, community and support for you over the next 4 months!

Want to feel GREAT at the end of the year knowing that you MADE time for and NOURISHED your writing life? I know you do!

Ready to sign up? Ready to Reset?

Each online writing retreat is $69.00

Sign up for the remaining 3 for $197(discounted!)

I can accept payment in a few ways:

-via PayPal:
(The link above takes you to my Creative Tickle business link. In the comment box for PayPal, let me know which month(s) you are registering for.)

-I’m also on Zelle as Michele Berger (State Employees’ Credit Union)

Questions? Email me at mtb@creativetickle.com

Look forward to seeing you soon!

***

BTW: Your invitation still stands, click here to get your free guide: ‘Ten Ways to Keep Connected to Your Writing Self during COVID-19’.

Do you aspire to be a career author? Unsure of how to take your writing and marketing to the next level? Would you like to gain insider tips and techniques from some of the biggest names in publishing about how to build and sustain the author life? Want to make meaningful connections with authors nationally? Want a great event to look forward to?

Mark your calendars as I have something just for you!

I would love for you to join me at the Career Author Summit 2021. I’m thrilled to be a presenter at this major author event hosted by J. Thorn and Zack Bohannon, authors (Three Story Method and 9 Things Career Authors Don’t Do) and podcasters (The Career Author Podcast). It’s an *immersive 2 day event, Sept 18-19 2021 in Nashville, TN. The conference is capped at 120 people.

https://thecareerauthor.com/summit2021/

[*Don’t want to attend live? You have the option for a virtual ticket– the virtual ticket gets you real-time viewing (and replay) from home. The in-person ticket also gets the replay. One-time payment or installment plan option. Scholarships available, too! See website for additional details.]

It’s going to be phenomenal! This amazing line-up of speakers includes: Jeff Goins (author of Real Artists Don’t Starve and The Art of Work), Rachael Herron (thriller writer, podcaster and memoirist, author of  Fast Draft Your Memoir), Becca Syme (creator of the Write Better-Faster course and author of Dear Writer, You’re Doing It Wrong), Mark Lefebvre (author and Director of Business Development at Draft2Digital) and Stephanie Bond (author of over 96 novels traditionally and indie published, over 7 million copies in worldwide distribution).

https://thecareerauthor.com/summit2021/

My Experience with the 2020 Career Author Summit

In May I attended the Career Author Summit hosted by J. Thorn and Zack Bohannon and Jim Kukral. It was supposed to be in Nashville (and I sure was looking forward to checking out the BBQ and music scene), but they like so many other event organizers wisely decided to make it a virtual event.

I made the decision to attend the CAS in 2019 to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I typically know and hang out with traditionally published writers. And, I typically attend craft focused writing workshops. The CAS’s focus is more on indie and hybrid publishing and the business side of being a career author.

The conference was outstanding in content with presentations on topics that included ‘Making (More) Money as a Writer’,  ‘Audio for Authors: Audiobooks, Podcasting and Voice Technologies’, ‘Finding a Mentor/Being a Good Mentee’, ‘The Myths and Legends of Amazon Ads’ to ‘The Future of Publishing’ with key representatives from Google Play, Draft2Digital, Kobo, Reedsy and Vellum.

The roster of speakers was fantastic and included Joanna Penn, (author and creator of The Creative Penn podcast), Lindsay Buroker (fantasy author and co-host of Six Figure Authors podcast) and Tim Grahl (book coach and author, Your First 1,000 Copies).

Every panel challenged my assumptions about what I thought I knew about the business of writing and gave me much to consider about how publishing may change during this decade for writers, publishers and readers.

Several presentations also focused on the importance of creating and managing a growth mindset.

And, the organizers did a great job helping writers connect with each other during the week with smaller genre specific networking opportunities (love those Zoom breakout rooms). They also set up a Slack channel prior to the conference which enabled the attendees to connect before, during and after the conference which was a great resource.

This summit was rocket fuel for my career. In the past 100 days I’ve been able to implement several  of the strategies offered by the speakers. I feel much more confident about meeting my short and long term goals as a career author. The connections I’ve made with other attendees (and speakers) at the CAS have already yielded incredible opportunities and collaborations that would simply not have happened on my own.

Our Pivot as Writers

One of the many comments that struck with me was from Jim Kukral’s introductory remarks when he said, “Adversity doesn’t stick to a schedule.” And, “This is the time to pivot as writers.” And, “It’s going to be OK.”

The adversity we are facing is going to change readers’ habits, publishing schedules and lots more. We are facing challenges and opportunities. Some of what we were doing or pursuing may no longer work.

Pivoting, as writers, in 2020 and 2021 is going to look differently for each of us.

I don’t know what this will look like for you.

It might mean:

-recommitting to your work

-upgrading aspects of your writing profile (i.e. website, social media profiles)

-keeping track and finishing more of your work (I finally have downloaded an incredible tool by the writer Jamie Raintree, that is a spreadsheet where you can track ten projects, set writing and revision goals and it records and updates everything. Tracking my progress visually is highly motivating for me.)

https://jamieraintree.com/writing-revision-tracker/

-investigating ways to increase productivity using new tools (i.e. Scrivener, dictation software)

-seek out what’s working right now for authors

-investigate producing audio content from your creative works (if you are traditionally published and still have audio rights or if you are indie published). The rise of audio is going to be a continuing and important trend for authors. Think about mature audio-eco-system that we are experiencing: smart technology in cars, smart devices, homes, etc. As Joanna Penn said during her talk, “If someone searches for your work and their preference is to listen to audiobooks, can they find you?”

-exploring how to get your content (if you are indie or hybrid published) sold on multiple platforms, instead of relying on Amazon

-exploring translation and foreign rights for your short stories and novels

What might pivoting in your writing life look like?

Something was nudging me to make some changes when I signed up for the conference. Before pivoting was optional. Now I know pivoting is not a choice, but a necessity. I’m fully committed to upping my writing game.

I hope you decide to invest in your writing career in 2021 and join us at the Career Author Summit!

The Career Author Summit – 2021


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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