Month: November 2013

Finding It Hard to Blog Regularly? Join a Blogging Challenge!

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. Another blogging challenge completed – well almost, since I missed one day. After (almost) completing three blogging challenges this year, I can very strongly recommend that you try it – if you haven’t yet. If you are a blogger who needs to get into the habit of blogging regularly and frequently, then blogging challenges are the perfect tool for you. Joining a blogging challenge will help you set the habit of blogging regularly because you are part of a group and because you have committed to it. Don’t worry if you fail to complete a blogging challenge.  This year, I bowed out of three daily blogging challenges because of circumstances in my life.  But I kept trying, so now I have completed my third blogging challenge for the year. There are many blogging challenges that are being held throughout the year – from daily, to weekly to photo challenges – there’s a whole array of choices. I’ve collated a list of the different blogging challenges in another blog …

The Journal as a Stepping Stone

The notebook – no matter what size or shape; whether it’ cheap or expensive – holds many promises for any writer. It can be called a journal or simply a writer’s notebook, but those blank pages can serve a variety of purposes. A journal need not be a mere diary – actually, a journal should not be a mere diary. Writer James Brown uses his journal as a stepping stone, where he explores his ideas and characters for whatever he’s writing. It is, so to speak his “drawing board.”   When writing non-fiction, he writes short biographical sketches of his characters in his notebook and workouts the scenes in the pages of his journals. “What matters is how journaling can help the writer come up with ideas, kind of a warm-up to a bigger process. The next step is building on those ideas, discarding some and fleshing out others, developing characters and motives, and arranging the scenes in a logical, meaningful sequence with a firm sense of a beginning, middle and end,” Brown explained. Brown …

Gear Up for Read Tuesday

Chris Mcmullen has organized a special day for writers and readers.  “Read Tuesday,” which is set for December 10 will give people the opportunity to buy books at low prices.  McMullen says Read Tuesday will be a huge affair, akin to Black Friday (interesting trivia: in the Philippines, Black Friday is commemorated as the day when Jesus was crucified). In his website, McMullen says “Read Tuesday will be a huge day like Black Friday, but for buying and gifting books at amazing sale prices. It will also be a great way to help improve literacy. Encourage someone—especially, a child—who doesn’t read much to read more.” He has invited authors to participate and offer their books at huge discounts as a way of promoting their products. The public is invited to buy the discounted books, and McMullen suggests giving the books away as Christmas gifts.  Several famous authors have signed up for the event. This year, Read Tuesday will be held on Tuesday, December 10 – mark your calendars! If you want to participate you may …

Why Writers Keep Journals

  I don’t remember exactly when I began writing on a journal. Unlike some writers who remember the precise time and day when they first wrote on their first journal, journal writing crept into my life slowly and unceremoniously. But if I am ever to lay claim to the title “Writer,” the only viable reason I can give is that I have been a journal writer most of my life.  It is the only writing activity that I have constantly practiced since I was young. In my younger years, journal writing had been a venting place where I could write without abandon about things that confused, saddened and angered me.  Later on, it became a safe place where I could write about the deep secrets that I could not share with anyone. In my adult years, when I worked as a photojournalist, then as a journalist, the journal was my constant companion through my travels to the jungles, the mountains, and into other people’s lives. I wrote in hotel rooms, at tiny eateries in the …

Songs for the Philippines

iTunes tweeted, “The music world comes together for Typhoon #Haiyan relief on Songs for the Philippines. http://tw.itunes.com/0As.” Several top artists/groups have contributed songs to the album “Songs for the Philippines,” which is available for download on iTunes. Proceeds from the sale of the 39-track album which cost US$9.99 will be donated to the Philippine Red Cross and will fund relief efforts in the Visayas, in the Philippines, where more than 5,000 people were killed and 670,000 people were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. The anthology includes songs by top international artists including Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Adele, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and Madonna. Songs by famous bands like U2, The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Fray, Linkin Park, Imagine Dragons, and Kings of Leon are also included in the album. List of Songs: 1. The Beatles – “Across The Universe” (UMG) 2. Bob Dylan – “Shelter From The Storm” (SME) 3. Michael Buble – “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” (WMG 4. U2 – “In A Little While” …

Poetry Tryout

Although I never studied poetry, I love to write poems. Here is a poem written a few months ago, using one of the techniques suggested by Peter Levitt in his book “Fingerpainting on the Moon, Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom.” Pen and Me Pen in my hand, Cold and warm in places I write with this – It is an extension of my Self. For that brief moment That the words flow From the innermost places Of my being. Pen in hand – A friend. And, just like me, An instrument. The process of writing this poem was almost magical – the words simply flowed from within. The words of the poem were drawn out through a process that Levitt calls, “soft focus.” Levitt explains, “I call the techniques that help you listen at the root of things while freeing your senses and imagination soft focus. These techniques know how to slip beneath your ego’s defenses and make it possible for you to approach the exact name of the thing itself…” Soft …

Witness to Courage

As we begin another week, I would like to pause and take this opportunity to pay tribute to our beleaguered countrymen whose lives had been gravely affected by the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country last November 8. CNN has put together a special documentary entitled, “CNN SPECIAL: WITNESS TO COURAGE.” The half hour documentary has been aired and replayed in Asia several times.  In the documentary, CNN correspondents who covered the typhoon and the aftermath of Haiyan relate their experiences, share their insights and pay tribute to the Filipinos’ courage and sense of humor, which they found extraordinary. Recently, National Geographic published Ker Than’s article entitled, “Photojournalist Captures Resiliency in the Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan: David Guttenfelder documents hope and rebuilding after devastation.” Upon arriving in Tacloban, Guttenfelder reported, “It’s just a complete wasteland. It looks like a nuclear bomb went off and flattened the place. Nobody has power. There were bodies everywhere when I got here—on the road from the airport into town, just body after body.” Kher writes: Another major …

Give Yourself Permission

One of the best, easiest, yet highly effective and extremely liberating writing advice I have followed and integrated in my life is Peter Levitt’s recommendation to make a sign that reads, “PERMISSION GRANTED.” I still remember how I felt when I first read those two words – it was as though shackles were removed from my mind and the doors to the chambers of my heart opened and a waft of fresh air pushed out constraints that had been deposited there through the years. “There is room. Room for every part of life. Even room enough for me.” This realization came to Levitt one day and it led him to understand that each one of us, and every thing in this world possesses what he calls “an inherent permission to exist.” Levitt explains, “No matter how many obstructions are thrown up in an attempt by some fearful part of ourselves to disrupt the natural flow of our expressive lives, no fear, no writer’s block, no personal history, no internal conflict or neurosis changes this fact …

Authors Talk About Life

Virginia Woolf: “Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” Ernest Hemingway: “In order to write about life first you must live it.” Ray Bradbury: “And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” C. JoyBell C.:“I hope I don’t write TOO many books! When I look at authors who have written too many books, I wonder to myself “When did they live?” I certainly want to write BECAUSE I live! I know I don’t want to write in order to live! My writing is an overflow of the wine glass of my life, not a basin in which I wash out my ideals and expectations.” C.K. Webb:“It is a long journey, not just as a writer, but as a human being. Take nothing and no one for granted, be humble always, be kind especially when it’s difficult and never forget the place where you came from and the people …

The Family Dinner Project & Giving Tuesday – The Family Dinner Project

Today I am giving the spotlight to the Family Dinner Project, “A start-up grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation about things that matter.” Growing up, family dinners were regular, important parts of our lives. The daily ritual of eating dinner together has fostered a deep bond among the members of our family, one that has remained strong even as we have gone separate ways. This is a wonderful site with lots of ideas on how to make family dinners fun, heartwarming and really cool! The Family Dinner Project & Giving Tuesday – The Family Dinner Project.

Lessons About Writing From Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing instructs us on the craft of writing -You can only learn to be a better writer by actually writing. I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer. -Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want. -What I had that others didn’t was a capacity for sticking to it. -I’m very unhappy when I’m not writing. I need to write. I think it’s possibly some kind of psychological balancing mechanism—but that’s not only true for writers … anybody. I think that we’re always … just a step away from lunacy anyway, and we need something to keep us balanced. -The story dictates the means of telling it. -Well, it’s certainly true that I’m driven myself, about writing. But you know I don’t do anything else. I don’t …

Finding Strength After the Storm -Anderson Cooper

CNN’s Anderson Cooper joined the numerous journalists from all over the world to cover the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastating spin through the Visayas group of islands in the Philippines last November 8.  We cried for our countrymen who died, and for those who survived but lost family members and everything they owned. This tribute from Anderson Cooper touched the hearts of many Filipinos. Maraming salamat din (thank you too), Mr. Cooper, for recognizing the strength, faith and courage of our suffering countrymen. Foreign broadcasters have repeatedly referred to the Philippines as a poor country. Yet we, the Filipinos, have always been proud of our rich heritage, of the indomitable Filipino spirit. It is our true wealth, something that no one or no catastrophe can take away from us. We can never repay the generosity of people and governments from all over the world.  We hope that the manifestations of courage and strength – the Filipino spirit –  will in some way help pay back the gestures of compassion shown to us. If only for a …

Do You Scoop.It!?

I discovered Scoop.It! when I was so busy with work I had no time to blog. It was a fascinating discovery – within minutes I became the curator of a magazine-like webpage which I was then able to publish and share.   I tweeted,  “Too busy to blog, so I Scooped.It!” This free platform allows you to gather stories pertaining to the topic you want to focus on.  Scoop.It! provides you with dozens of suggestions within minutes of typing the topic you want to curate. If you find a blog or web page that you like, you simply press the “Scoop.It!” button and the post is included in your page. The article or blog post is linked directly to the original blog site or webpage. Scoop.It! is akin to Pinterest – instead of boards though, you have curated topics.  There are three plans: free, expert and business. The free plan allows you to curate up to five topics. Since I blog more often now, I use Scoop.It! to help me gather ideas for my blog …

Authors for the Philippines

Originally posted on CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD:
Keris Stainton, friend and money-raiser-extraordinaire, has done it again. In response to the devastation Typhoon Haiyan has left in its wake, Keris has organized Authors for the Philippines, an online auction that hopes to raise money for the British Red Cross’ Typhoon Appeal. The idea is simple, but inspired. Keris has asked authors, agents, editors and all associated with the book world to donate items. These range from signed ARCs of books that aren’t out yet, to manuscript critiques, to signed special editions, to your name in a book, to a night down the pub with authors Andy Stanton and Anthony McGowan (for which bidding has become complex and hilarious, taking place in ‘bidding cartels’). Simply navigate to the post that describes the item you want to bid on, leave your bid in the form of a blog comment and then wait until the auction closes on Wednesday 20th November to see if you’ve won. Winners will be asked to donate the equivalent of their winning bid to the…

How to Be A Good Writer

  Matthew Arnold said that the only secret to good writing is to “Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can.  Every successful writer has his or her own success formula. Here are some writers and their advice on how we can all become good writers: Elizabeth Gilbert: “I believe that if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns…I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I bult my entire life around writing.” Doris Lessing: “The essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words your characters will speak, ideas – inspiration.” Jane Yolen: “Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. …

Thank You World: From the people of the Philippines

Last November 8, one of the most powerful typhoons to hit the Philippine islands wrecked havoc on the Visayas island group. Days prior to the arrival of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the local governments of the provinces expected to be hit by the typhoon evacuated 125,000 people. Contingency plans and emergency protocols were formulated to deal with the aftermath of the typhoon. But after typhoon Haiyan left, all the preparations and contingency plans were rendered useless. The local government officials and their families, who thought they were safe in their houses were swept away by the storm surge and had to fight for their lives as did thousands of others. Many evacuation centers crumbled and others were inundated with seawater, and many evacuees drowned.  The death toll has not yet been determined, but is expected to reach several thousand and corpses are everywhere, waiting to buried in a mass grave. Relief efforts are challenged by the amount of debris on the roads, and the sheer number of survivors who are in need of basic necessities. The …

Writing Regularly – A Prerequisite to Good Writing?

  I didn’t study writing in college and have never attended writing workshops.  The only writing classes I ever attended were “Creative Writing 101,” and “Advance Journalism,” during summer school in Harvard.  At that time I was already a feature writer and my articles were being published by a foreign magazine. I became a journalist by chance: When I was working as a travel photographer, the person assigned to write an article that had to be published immediately couldn’t make it, so I conducted the interview, took the pictures, wrote the article and sent it to our main office.  I received a call from our publisher shortly before publication date and he said the article was written well. Thus began my writing career. In 2010, I decided to revive my writing life after a ten-year hiatus, and even though I continued to journal, I had no confidence at all as far as writing was concerned. I began reading up on how to improve my writing. Up until then, the books on writing that I had …

Help comes in the midst of a disaster

Typhoon Haiyan is now being considered as one of the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall. Last Friday, local time, it made landfall in the Philippines at peak strength, with maximum winds of 195 miles per hour. Typhoon Haiyan’s tail hit some parts of the major island of Luzon, including some areas of Metro Manila, the nation’s capital. Our family lives in the suburbs, south of the metropolis. We had power outage for 2 hours, and the wind howled through the night and well into late Saturday afternoon. At worst, we had fallen tree branches. The picture is entirely different in the areas that were directly hit by the super typhoon. We are only beginning to see the extent of damage wrought upon the lives of many families who live in the second biggest island group of the country – the Visayas.  The entire region was blanketed in darkness after the storm because electrical facilities were damaged, and all communication lines were down till yesterday. The news headlines were not exaggerated after all. What …

All About Islands and Archipelagos

This is a scheduled post.  Our country will be experiencing Typhoon Haiyan,  so there may not be time to blog. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this post, which contains some surprising facts. There are more than 7,100 islands in the country where I live.  The Philippines is an archipelago, which means a large group of islands. The Philippines is part of a bigger archipelago – the Malay Archipelago.  This group of islands is composed of over 25,000 islands and is the largest archipelago by land area.  It is ranked as  the fourth largest group of islands in the world. The Republic of Indonesia has 17,000 islands.  Out of these,  8,844 islands have been named, and only 922 are permanently inhabited. It is the largest archipelagic state in the world by area and population. Out of the 7,100 islands of the Republic of the Philippines, only about 2,000 are inhabited.The islands are clustered into the three major island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Singapore’s geography is always changing, because of massive land reclamation work which has removed much of the …

Thriving in the Most Unlikely Places

Without any effort from humans, this plant sprouted from a crack between our concrete fence and the floor near our garage.  I have always marveled at how plants can grow in the most unlikely places.  And they don’t just grow – they bloom and multiply. It is past midnight in the Philippines.  I had planned to stay up late to do some work, because we don’t know what tomorrow will be like. I drank two cups of tea to keep me awake and as soon as I finished my second cup, the lights went off…then it came back on…went off…on again and then…it just stayed pitch dark. The rain poured. Yesterday, I wrote in my journal, “Rain in November, God is watering the plants.” The rainy season in the Philippines ends in October. Tonight, after the lights went off and the rain poured, I carefully went about the task of lighting candles around the living room as the other members of the family lit candles in their bedrooms.  I don’t know what was going on …

The Graciousness of Life

“So, Joe, why grow your hair long? Why not just go bald?” Len asked our friend Joe, matter-of-factly.  I heard Joe mutter something, but my mind was far too preoccupied to listen to his answer.  I gazed out the car window, thinking of Joe’s back hair gathered into a thin, foot-long ponytail, his head topped by a glistening crown that was bare of any hair strands. “Just like Pico de Loro,” I thought, sadly anticipating the sight of deforestation at the  two-peaked mountain my mountaineering buddies and I had climbed many years ago.  On this cloudy Friday, my friends Len, Joe and I were finally headed to the beach house owned by Len’s family, and she promised us we would pass by a resort that had been built on a cove near Pico de Loro. I say “finally,” because Len had, for years, been asking me to visit their beach house.  When I acquiesced, I asked her to invite our Tai-Chi teacher-friend Joe. Living in a country that is an archipelago composed of 7,100 islands, …

Turn Your Words Into Works of Art

The image above was created in a matter of seconds – yes, that quickly!  In this post I’ll share with you three online resources that you can use to create pictures with quotations.  There are so many memorable quotations and you can easily find them in the web.  I’d like to remind you though, that your very own words can be powerful quotations.  Go over articles, blog posts and stories that you have written, and I’m sure you’ll find noteworthy phrases and sentences.  We often forget that we too, have written powerful words. Three Free (so) Easy to Use Online Tools for Turning Words into Masterpieces Recitethis   Even if you’re a non-techie like me, you’ll love this tool.  The only problem with this tool is that it doesn’t have any facility for credits. If you want to attribute the quotation to a writer, the name will be in the same size as the rest of the quotation, and it’s hard to differentiate the name from the rest of the text.   Look at the two …

Free E-books for Everyone!

Early this year I discovered a site that offers free and discounted e-books.  I subscribed to Pixel of Ink , and everyday I receive an email with the latest free and discounted e-book offerings.  It has been an invaluable resource and I’ve downloaded so many interesting e-books for my kindle.  I highly recommend it. For this  blog post, I surfed the net for more sites that offer free e-books and I was surprised to find so many other sites that offer up to over one million e-books for free!   Here is just a partial list of sites where you can download e-books at no cost: Free E-books – Project Gutenberg “Download free ebooks for kindle, android, ipad, nook, epub or read online.” Free E books.net “Free-eBooks.net is the internet’s #1 source for free eBook downloads, eBook resources & eBook authors. Read & download eBooks for Free: anytime!” OpenCulture “This collection features free e-books, mostly classics, that you can read on your iPad/iPhone, Kindle, Nook or other devices.” Kobo “Over 1 Million FREE eBooks! Find a Free read and start reading in minutes.” bookboon.com “Bookboon.com provides 1000+ free eBooks. …

The gift of time

Time is endless, it lasts forever. Why do we oftentimes run out of time? We squander time when we are not present where we are. Mindfulness is an art that we all can learn.  Mindfulness allows us to enjoy the freedom of time. When we are mindful, we experience time. Once we choose to experience time, it lovingly stretches to embrace us.  It unfolds and expands and we find that we have all the time we need, we just don’t know it. Time is not expendable. It is not limited. If you can dance with time, it can be stretched to infinity. Time is always here, it will never disappear, so there is no need to grab it. Time is of the essence, we are told. Time is essence, I now know. Time heals, time allows us to unfold our wings. Time is our friend. When we choose to be mindful,  time indulges us, and time waits for us.

Insights from Writers

On the need for silence and solitude – from Doris Lesing: “To write takes dreaming and remembering and thinking and imagining –and very often that feels like wasting time.  It takes silence and solitude. It takes being okay with making a huge mess and not knowing what you’re doing. Then it takes rewriting and struggling to find your story and the truth of the story, and then the meaning of the story. It takes being comfortable with your own doubts and fears and questions. And there’s just no fast and easy way around it.” On loving the reader – from Ellen GilChrist: “The first thing a writer must do is love the reader and wish the reader well…Only in such well wishing and trust, only when the writer feels he is writing a letter to a good friend, only then will the magic happen.” On trusting one’s voice – from Natalie Goldberg “Once you have learned to trust your own voice and allowed that creative force inside you to come out, you can direct it …

Invocation for Writers

Today is the first day of NaBloPoMo, and thousands of bloggers will begin blogging daily till the end of November.  It is a challenge to blog daily, and life sometimes takes over during the challenge, presenting us with various distractions. It is easier to give up than continue.  I know – I’ve joined and dropped out of at least three blogging challenges this year.  But I did manage to finish two, and hopefully, I will be able to even the score by finishing NaBloPoMo. To inspire us, hopeful NaBloPoMo bloggers, here is an invocation from the book “Before You Quit Writing, Read this!” An Invocation to You, Writer on the Brink by Jeanine Nicole Cerundolo Dear Writer, Before you quit writing, Don’t. Instead, remember why it is your birthright, Remember why you started, one day, once upon a time. Remember what compelled you to express the words that are your song. Dearest writer– Put away your staff of fire. Destruction has its place. But today, you are birthing something grand and generous. Let the currents …