Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Critical Thinking and Mentoring Minds

One of the most important assets for a creative writer is not only a great imagination and enhanced creativity, but also something my college English instructor valued – critical thinking – the ability to assess a situation using facts to creatively arrive at a solution.

Memorizing dates and situations doesn't work for every student, and it certainly doesn't help them LEARN. When students learn, they access that portion of their brains that connects the dots. Learning must make sense. Throw a bunch of facts at students, read to them from texts, and their ability to retain information drops substantially. By engaging the student in the learning process, the student discovers learning to be exciting as well as entertaining.

I took a college class once in which the instructor, who taught computer programming, wrote information on the board and then skipped off to his office for the rest of the class to read books and drink coffee. Though I got a B in that class, I still don't know how to program. Had he stuck around and actually engaged all of his students in the learning process, I might now know how to design my own web sites.

An algebra instructor I had – also in college – broke down math problems for me in a way nobody ever had all through grammar school or high school. Taking apart the problems and telling me that certain words could be substituted for symbols opened my mind in such a way that I no longer dreaded "word problems" because I could now decipher their codes. Why did none of my math teachers use his teaching strategies?

Critical thinking is so important. Students would enjoy the learning process more if teachers demanded critical thinking in every subject. One online source, Mentoring Minds, offers educational teaching products for math, reading, science, vocabulary, writing, and so much more, to enhance a student's critical thinking abilities.

To learn is to think and not to memorize facts. Critical thinking is a skill that allows people to assess situations using reason and logic. Writers who use critical thinking will never run out of ideas, because critical thinking stimulates the brain to produce more and more of them.

Creative thinking should be viewed as an essential supplement to, though not a replacement for, critical thinking. Lloyd P. Provost & R. M. Sprout, Quality Progress (August 1996) 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Keeping Positive – and Patient

Waiting for October to arrive so I can find out if I won any of the three screenplay competitions I entered (one of which I wrote with a writer friend whose name will be revealed within the next few months), is causing me some anxiety. Especially after I realized some errors I made that I can no longer fix.

One of those errors, and one that I will have to call Scriptapalooza to figure out how to fix for future competitions, occurred three times. Yes, I made the same mistake three times. I could not figure out how to include a cover page without paying an additional fee, so hopefully I'll get that figured out.

In the meantime I'm trying to maintain a positive attitude and I look to situations like this one to help me remain positive:

Paranormal Dating was my blog written for Xomba and it made their front page a couple of days ago, so I was happy about that.

I also read the book, The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol. If you click the link, it will take you to a page where you can get a free ebook download. Though the reprinted ebook version has LOTS, and by LOTS I mean A LOT of mistakes, the basic truths are so inspiring, I would ask you to ignore the typos.

I would like to personally thank Gail Phelps for reminding about that book in her article, Manifestation Boards for the 21st Century. I had been wanting to read that book for decades. I will read it again and again for inspiration. Thank you, Gail!

If you would like to read more from this author, please visit the upper right hand of this blog. Thank you for visiting.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Writer in a Calgary Lake Home

I've been to Canada only twice, but each time I was there, I was fascinated by it's pristine beauty and cleanliness. In 2007 Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was ranked as the world's cleanest city by Forbes Magazine. Located North of Montana's Glacier National Park, Calgary sits surrounded by a view some people see only in postcards. 

In the 1960s, when the Vietnam War was raging, many people escaped the draft in the United States by hiding out in Canada; many of them remain in Canada. If you've ever been to Calgary, you would know why.

Calgary rentals are numerous and they fall within several price ranges. When my screenplays sell, I plan on having at least one home with a lake view and as you can see by the photo, the view in Calgary is sensational. Also because I prefer a cooler climate, living in an area where the average July temperature is a mild 61 degrees Fahrenheit, I find Calgary very inviting. 

Please send lots of positive energy, because in October I should find out if any of my screenplays have won anything. Wouldn't you just love to be invited to my new lake home? (Hopefully Calgary International Airport will fly me directly to California to accept my award(s).  ;)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

broken leg

Guest post written by my buddy Bernardo Graham

My sweet, best friend broke her leg skating. Her work had a skate night to raise money for something, and my poor friend fell and broke her leg. It was a bad break, too. She is pretty much stuck in the bed or couch for a few weeks before she can move around with crutches. I want to get her something to let her know I’m thinking of her and I think I had a great idea. I’m going in with our group of girlfriends to get her two gift cards. One for a cleaning service to come clean her entire apartment for her (once), and one for a gift card to some kind of movie channel. I’m has some sort of option, like HBO for a month, or something like that. That way, she won’t have to fret over not being able to keep her place clean, and she will have something to watch on television. I think that is a much more thoughtful gift than just pretty flowers or something.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How To Write A Screenplay



A WRITER sits at her laptop creating the following blog. You see the words roll by just as they would in the credits at the end of a movie:

Before you Google me to find out which screenplays I've written, let me confess to you right now that you have never seen one of my screenplays on the silver screen – yet. You should also know that I am not an expert in the field of screenwriting, either – yet – but I have written screenplays (and continue to write them), I attended Robert McKee's Story Seminar, I own books on the subject of screenwriting (*see below), I won a contest for a teleplay logline I wrote (click HERE to read my logline contest entry), I am currently entered in two screenwriting contests, the results of which won't be revealed until October, 2012, and I know how to find great information on screenwriting.

One thing I know for sure, because I've heard or read about it so many times is that in order to know how to WRITE a screenplay, you must first READ screenplays. And what better screenplays to read than those written by Academy Award contenders of outstanding screenplays?

The benefits you receive by reading screenplays are numerous. You learn about industry standards: where the dialog appears, what the margins look like, how the scenes are described, and so much more. 

Reading screenplays, though, is much different from reading books; words don't flow in screenplays the way they do in books. You have to train your mind to envision what the screenwriter sees on the screen when she writes her screenplay. 

Though you might expect to find them, director's instructions will not appear in a screenplay unless you read the final shooting script, so you will have to direct your own scenes when you read it, or, if you have seen the movie, compare the writer's original script to the way the script appears on screen. The screenwriter must remember that the director takes care of directing the movie – the screenwriter does not. 

Another benefit of reading screenplays is that you get to glimpse into the mind of award winning writers, but reading screenplays, while not difficult, gets some getting used to. If you are new to reading screenplays, I would suggest you familiarize yourself with screenplay terminology first. This glossary from Simply Scripts will help (click the link).  

To give you an idea of the types of screenplays you should study, I am including a link to the CBS News web site. Some of the screenplays CBS posted are (click the link to read them):

Bridesmaids, by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wig;

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson (screenplay by Steven Zailian);

Jane Eyre, based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte (written by Moira Buffini);

The Descendants, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings (written by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash;

The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett (written by Tate Taylor);

and many more.

If you're serious about screenwriting, read the screenplays that appeal to you, come up with your own ideas, write your own screenplays, and envision yourself sitting in the audience among some of the best award-winning screenwriters ever. Then again, completing your own screenplay could be a reward in itself. 



The READER of this blog is considering a career in screenwriting. S/he remembers the asterisk from above and s/he locates it at the bottom of this blog. Here it is:

*Ever Considered Screenwriting? This Blog is a Must Read! is a blog filled with information on the best resources for writing screenplays. Though the writer of this blog won't make any money from Amazon when her readers click the links (Amazon pulled out of Illinois and this poor writer lives in Illinois), she left Amazon resources on her blog so readers could find with ease the Amazon links to books mentioned in the blog.

If potential screenwriters prefer to go the traditional route, the writer of this blog asks her readers to Google "filmmaking schools" or choose an online school such as Film School Online! 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Write for Blogsvertise, a Paid to Blog Site

Paid-to-blog writing sites allow writers to get paid for posting blogs that discreetly link advertisers' web sites to content in a writer's blog. Bloggers can receive anywhere from $2 to $20 and more to post blogs, and they can sometimes choose to post banner ads, which can bring between $.45-$.70 or more per click or per purchase, when given those opportunities. 

After joining a paid-to-blog site, you might expect to receive lots of blog requests, but opportunities in the beginning may be scarce. I was new to the whole paid-to-blog experience when I first joined Blogsvertise, because soon after I joined, I flew to California to visit my son and his family and didn't always have access to a computer. I missed some blog opportunities and thought I had forever ruined my chances of writing for Blogsvertise. Little by little, though, over several months, I built up my relationship and reputation with them, and the opportunities became more steady. 

Like any organization, Blogsvertise expects (and receives) professionalism, courtesy, and good writing skills (excellent grammar and spelling especially). Working for Blogsvertise has been a pleasure for me, but, like a baby who takes her first steps, I fell down a few times before I became comfortable with them. I didn't always understand what was expected of me.

When I first joined Blogsvertise, I also joined another paid-to-blog site. Because I was new to both sites, I had to familiarize myself with each one, and it took time to understand their needs. When I had questions, I contacted the paid-to-blog sites for help. One paid-to-blog site, though it continues to this day to send me opportunities, never once responded to any of my queries. I still don't know how to properly post blogs for them. 

Blogsvertise, on the other hand, ALWAYS responded – and continues to respond – to my questions. In the early days, when I had trouble posting a blog, Blogsvertise staff walked me through the process until the post was up and running. I built my reputation as a trustworthy blogger by accepting as many blog opportunities as were presented to me. The pay might have been little in the beginning, but I chose to accept anything that came my way – IF I could figure out a way to seamlessly integrate into my blog the content requested of me. 

Though correct spelling and good grammar should go without saying, I must reiterate that both are VERY important. Blogsvertise expects their bloggers to present professional looking blogs and to use correct grammar and spelling. Bloggers may be working for themselves, but they are also working for Blogsvertise and its advertisers. If a blog is filled with incorrect grammar, misspelled words, lots of slang, and local colloquialisms, Blogsvertise may reject the blog. If you want to blog for Blogsvertise, be you, but be the professional you when you write blogs for Blogsvertise.

Though most assignments are fairly simple to write, some assignments are challenging, because the topic of the blog might not relate to the type of blog the blogger writes. On those occasions, the blogger must rely on her own creativity to write a blog that flows smoothly while incorporating the advertiser's link(s). If, however, the advertiser asks for a blog about kayaks, and the blogger can't figure out how to incorporate his dog grooming blog with anything kayak related, the blogger should at least explain why he is refusing to write the blog. On the other hand, if the blogger decides to blog about a dog on a kayak – voilĂ – he's got himself a blog AND he gets paid to write it!

Blogsvertise also includes "guest post" blogs where bloggers have only to copy and paste posts from assignments into their blogs. They can receive $10 to copy and paste a blog, but new Blogsvertise bloggers must first prove themselves as conscientious bloggers. When you join Blogsvertise, familiarize yourself with the guidelines and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. Nothing screams amateur louder than someone who ignores instructions. I learned early the value of following instructions (click the link to find out how), and it served me well with Blogsvertise.

Following instructions means that when an advertiser asks for only one link, provide one link and one link only. If the advertiser asks for two links and both links direct the reader to two different areas of their web site, provide both links and make sure the key words match the links the advertiser requests.

Fitting the subject matter seamlessly into your blog can be a challenge. You have to find something in your blog that relates to the advertiser's selected key words. You can't write about a childhood dream and then suddenly blurt out, "and the insurance on my mother's vehicle in Juneau, Alaska, suddenly appeared in my dream." You have to incorporate the advertiser's links within your blog so that it sounds natural – not forced. 

At times, the requested links will sound stiff and unnatural. Sometimes Blogsvertise will allow you to include another word to help the paragraph flow; sometimes it won't. Advertisers specify the exact wording they require in a blog. Blogsvertise and its bloggers must honor advertisers' requirements. If you are unsure about including an additional word, contact Blogsvertise. They'll let you know if that particular advertiser will allow an added word.

For example, if you were asked to place "Camel Coats Nebraska" in your blog, you might find the text so completely unnatural sounding, you wouldn't be able to figure out a way to incorporate it smoothly into your blog. By adding the word, "in" to your blog, you could write Camel Coats in Nebraska and the blog would flow more naturally. But if the advertiser wants that exact wording, that wording is what you must use. If you can't figure out a way to use it, decline the opportunity and explain why you declined it.

Sometimes Blogsvertise asks for "clickable links." Using the link I posted above, as an example, please note that the link, as it appears in this paragraph, is not clickable; it merely points you to the web address where the post resides. If you click it, nothing happens. To make it a clickable link I would have to actually link it to the original post by clicking the link icon. A clickable link looks like this: By clicking the link, you arrive at the intended blog (or in the case of advertisers, the intended web site). 

In other words, if Blogsvertise asks for a clickable link, don't just copy and paste the link into your blog. Copy and paste it, yes, but also link the url to the actual web site.

Blogsvertise also offers "grab bags" from time to time – blog opportunities that were initially offered to other bloggers who ignored or refused to write the blogs. Taking advantage of grab bags is another way to build your reputation with Blogsvertise.

In addition to Blogsvertise asking you to come up with your own ideas for blog posts, Blogsvertise occasionally asks you to post blogs written by guest bloggers. Guest post "copy and paste" blogs can be a blessing, because all you have to do is copy and paste the material into your blog, but they can also be nightmares when the guest blogger misspells a word or uses incorrect grammar. You may have to inhale deeply, grit your teeth, and do it anyway if you want to make $10 (or whatever the rate is). If you can't handle a poorly written blog, don't accept it, but explain why you're not accepting it. The advertiser is asking Blogsvertise to post the blog "as is" and the blogger has to decide if posting an "as is" blog would detract from her professionalism or if readers will forgive her because the blog is, after all, a guest post written by somebody else.

All in all, Blogsvertise has been a great experience for me, and I highly recommend Blogsvertise to bloggers who hope to make money from writing blogs. If you want to make money from blogging by taking the paid-to-blog route, you probably won't become independently wealthy from Blogsvertise or any other paid-to-blog site, but you will have some extra money in your PayPal account – which brings me to another benefit of writing for Blogsvertise – Blogsvertise ALWAYS pay on time. Without fail, one month after I post a blog, payment appears in my PayPal account. The Blogsvertise site is easy to understand, too, and the staff is friendly, courteous, and helpful.

If you would like to blog for Blogsvertise, look to the upper right hand side of this blog under the blog heading. Find the ad that says, "Click Here to Advertise on My Blog!" It will take you directly to Blogsvertise's sign-up page.

Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hey WRITERS, Let Me Be Your Tweet Heart!

Have a book, blog, or article you'd like me to share? 

Seven days from today is Valentine's Day, and I would like to do something nice for my writer friends. From now until Valentine's Day I am going to tweet my writer friends' books, blogs and/or articles, but not just any blogs or articles – I want funny ones, inspirational ones, passionate ones – anything not political or religious. 

What books, blogs, or articles have you written that, when you reread it, you thought – WOW! That was actually pretty good! 

If you have written any of those kinds of books, blogs, or articles (again, please refrain from sending me any religious or political writings), send me the title along with a link by either posting the link on this blog (I won't spam you unless it's political or religious) or by contacting me at You can also find me on Facebook:

So – do you want me to be your tweetheart? 

If you would like to read more from this author, look in the upper right hand corner of this blog under: 

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