The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life by Stephanie Vanderslice

Stephanie Vanderslice has always been spectacular, but this time she’s really outdone herself. If you like books about the writing life (and honestly, who doesn’t?) get ready to fall in love with this book. Stephanie gives us insider tips, treats us like friends, explains the mysterious process of submission (that amorphous time after they said yes but before your book hits the shelves). She talks about literary citizenship and platform and tribe, and how our mindset really ought to be “us,” not “me vs you” or “me vs them.” Reading these pages you feel the growing certainty that what you’re doing matters, intrinsically, and this author is absolutely cheering you on in your successes and, in spirit, ready to hand you the kleenex and ice cream through the tears. Stephanie is one of those rare writers (teachers, mothers, humans) who is truly good to the core! She genuinely cares, and that’s what makes her words so special to hear.


Can you guess what I’m writing about?

Here are some of my recent Google searches.

Q: what kind of trees grow at the lake of the ozarks
A: Native Trees for Missouri, Missouri Botanical Garden

Q: what kind of snakes swim in the water
A: Facts About Water Snakes, Live Science

Q: how many kinds of squirrels are there
A: Different Species of Squirrel Living in the US, Pets on

Q: age, car seat or booster
A: When is my child ready, Safe Seats 4 Kids

Q: rolly pollies, synonyms and spellings
A: Armadillidium vulgare, roly poly, pill-bug, potato bug, woodlouse, doodle bug, carpenter

Q: black, dense caterpillar, california
A: 13 matches, Discover Life dot org
A: Black, Bristly Caterpillar, Hilton Pond dot org

Q: Google image search: caterpillar of Giant Leopard Moth

Q: do giant leopard moth caterpillars sting
A: no

Q: little ears, meaning
A: “Small ears may be an attractive feature, but they could make you prone to eczema and kidney disease”

Q: short lifespan
A: Top 10 Shortest Living Animals in the World, The Mysterious World dot com

Q: are there dragonflies in california
A: California Dragonflies and Damselflies, Insect Identification

Q: what does a cottage look like
A: cottage.png

Q: stages of flower growth
A: The Stages of a Flower From Seed to Bloom, Hunker

Q: parts of a flower
A: Plant Parts – Flower, The Great Plant Escape

Q: prologue or prelude?
A: “They’re the same thing, but Prelude deals with music and Prologue deals with literature.”
A: Self-Publishing Basics: An Unabridged List of the Parts of a Book, The Book Designer

Q: what are all the eye colors
A: What color are your eyes exactly?, Eye Doctors of Washington

Flower Glossary

Q: what flowers grow in missouri? plants native to missouri?
A: 12 Top Midwest Perennial Flowers, Midwest Living
A: Perennials for Season-long Bloom, Missouri Botanical Garden
A: List of Missouri native plants, Wikipedia

Q: what flowers grow in california? plants native to southern california?
A: California Native Flowering Plants and Wildflowers, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy
A: Coastal California Wildflower Seed Mix, Eden Brothers

Q: what flowers grow in hawaii? plants native to hawaii?
A: Hawaiian Plants and Tropical Flowers, Wildlife of Hawaii

Q: does honeysuckle grow in hawaii?
A: Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive plant in Hawaii

Q: do pastels melt?
A: videos: oil pastel melt, best way to melt oil pastels, how to melt oil pastels

Q: major airports in california
A: Search Results for “Airports, CA”

  • Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) …
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) …
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF) …
  • Metropolitan Oakland International Airport (OAK) …
  • John Wayne Airport-Orange County (SNA) …
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN)

Q: san francisco california to lake of the ozarks missouri
A: map.png

Q: christ sake synonym
A: Prepositional phrase

  • for cripes’ sake.
  • for fuck’s sake.
  • for God’s sake.
  • for Pete’s sake.
  • for pity’s sake.
  • for goodness’ sake.
  • for heaven’s sake.
  • for crying out loud.

Q: emojis for plants
A: emojipedia
A: How to Type Emojis on Your Keyboard, HuffPo

Q: sheep in kansas?
A: sheep

Q: old black and pink candy
A: Bulk Licorice Allsorts, Old Time Candy dot com

the exciting momentum of good writing days


(It’s like they know me. Jetpens)

I have recently happened to have several good writing days back-to-back. A good day for me looks like: spending quality time (ie a lot) doing the work (butt in the chair) and coming away with a positive feeling, that the work in progress has been improved. My boyfriend gave me a new notebook (The Crossfield from Nanami Paper) which prompted me to dig back into my fountain pens. (I’m using my big fat Jinhao 159s from Jet Pens with my rainbow of Diamine inks from Vanness.) Handwriting is just one more way I can change the pace and see things anew. The goal should always be to distance enough from the work that we can cut mercilessly! In order to get it in the best shape we can.

(Seriously, it’s like they know me. Vanness)

I decided to incorporate a previously separate piece (3rd person fictionalized memoir set during junior high) into the larger manuscript I’m crafting (1st person memoir set during high school, college, etc.), which has been an exciting breath of life into the whole project. Writing new connective tissue, dropping into scenes with dialogue instead of breezing past with narration, changing perspectives from third to first! And you’d best believe I’m droppin’ bombs on Google Search like a mumma frumma. (I’ll include some of the fun ones in a separate post.)

Significantly, I was also able to pick back up the commentary from A Famous Author I received a couple of years ago, and receive the positive and negative notations without the emotional smack I experienced when I first reviewed them. That’s a great sign, because it’s another indicator that I’ve gotten farther from the material emotionally and will be able to chop it up till only the good bits are left! Welp, that’s the goal.
On my drives to work I’m listening to the audiobook Killing Commendatore, the latest from Murakami Haruki (one of my all-time favorite writers), and the synchronicity (or utter chaos) of the Universe just so happened to lead me to this timely point in the book where two main characters are discussing creativity:

“Menshiki said, ‘It’s like an earthquake deep under the sea, in an unseen world, a place where light doesn’t reach, in the realm of the unconscious. In other words, a major transformation is taking place.  It reaches the surface, where it sets off a series of reactions and eventually takes form where we can see it with our own eyes… The best ideas are thoughts that appear unbidden from out of the dark.’ ” —Murakami Haruki, Killing Commendatore


Meanwhile, I’ve had that itchy thought in the back of my head for a while now reminding myself to find “that beads quote,” because I couldn’t remember exactly how it went or who said it but I remembered thinking when I read it that it was really good, and that I should hold onto it. So I finally remembered while at a computer instead of, say, behind the wheel, to do just that.

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed, quietly putting one bead on after another.” —Brenda Ueland, If You Want To Write


Isn’t that just too good!? I love it. Not surprisingly, it’s everywhere all over the internet, but now it’s here too, so there. I hope your writing is going well. I hope you’ve found your flow and you have happy, easy days where the words just pour from your fingertips. But if that’s not the case right now, that’s okay too. Just don’t give up. Bad days don’t last forever, and the act of always coming back is so much more important than the results of a single session. “The master has failed more times than the beginner has tried.” Let’s always keep trying.

If you need encouragement, read Dr. Mrs. Stephanie Vanderslice‘s new book, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life. I absolutely adored it and it may just contain the exact words you needed to hear.



30-Day Challenge

Everyone loves a good 30-day challenge. Renegade Millionaire Robert Minton says he loves them because they compound:

“If you continue each 30 day challenge after the initial 30 days, you can dramatically change your life as time passes. One positive change becomes 6, 12, 24, 48 positive changes.”

And it’s true. Great habits that you can keep going after the challenge is complete feel really good. For those of us writers out there (and I suspect we are legion) I thought it could be fun to start the new year with an Editing Challenge.

So I’m thinking about editing and how best to invent this challenge that works for everybody, and apparently a Google search for “30 Day Editing Challenge” is a great way to get results—if you’re into film editing. (Which is not what I was looking for.) There are tons of images, Pinterest hits, and YouTube clips focused on 30-day challenges for AV peeps, many having to do with favorite tv characters or songs. But “30 Day Editing Challenge” presents a severe dirth of suggestions for writerly folks, which kinda surprised me.

Then it hit me. We can play the 30-Day Minimalism Game!

Day 1 – get rid of 1 thing
Day 2 – get rid of 2 things
Day 3 – get rid of 3 things

Only we’ll discard edited pages! See! It’s brilliant, right!? (Total genius. I know. Sometimes I amaze even myself.) And you can use the hashtag “minsgame” if you’re an Instragrammar (te he) like me.

The idea would be to take a huge stack of edits you’ve gotten back from peers, profs, or printed out and marked up yourself, and commit yourself to working through that stack, whittling it down to nothing by the end of the month.

I had trouble holding everything still with the measuring tape in one hand and the camera in the other, but my stack is roughly 2″ tall. (And that’s just for the project I’m currently working on.) I’m not the only one who has one of these, right?

But maybe not everybody has a physical pile of pages, and a 30-day editing challenge could use some more editing-based structure. So then I thought, hey, we could work through editing and revision tips and tricks, kind of a mix n’ match style build-your-own. That way everybody can apply what works best for them. And Expert Editor Duncan Koerber helpfully provides 100 tips! That’s more than enough to choose from, surely? Pick one a day for 30 days. But just in case, if you’re the kind who wants specific, daily structure, Writerly Life’s Blair Hurley did exactly that.

Maybe you don’t have feedback from other people, but you’ve got something on the page that’s in a sorry state—perhaps a nano novel recently scribed? You could print that out. Or you could do a “file–> save as” to save the original to judge against the copy you’re changing.  Because deleting 18 pages counts as 18 pages even if you can’t “see” the result! For the nano-ers, here are 6 steps to try from the nano blog, and not surprisingly, Lifehacker has some good words for us too.

If all of this sounds like great fun but you just want to quick-fast-and-in-a-hurry version, I’ve compiled some of the most common editing and revision suggestions below:

  • Show Don’t Tell – mark up your draft with two different colors, one for Show, and one for Tell. It’s okay to use both (action and narration) but if you’ve got huge unbroken chunks of just one or the other, you might look closer.
  • Active vs Passive – mark up your draft with two different colors, one for Active, and one for Passive.

Try These Tools


The Writing Center says:

  • Proofread for only one kind of error at a time. If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective. It’s easier to catch grammar errors if you aren’t checking punctuation and spelling at the same time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for spotting one kind of mistake won’t catch others.

The Grammarly Blog puts it into words this way:

  • Edit in multiple rounds. Go through at least twice for ‘higher’ concerns (what is missing? Who is the target audience, and is it written with them in mind?) and then ‘lower’ concerns, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation.

And Expert Editor concurs:

  • Look for one type of problem at a time. Don’t go into editing or proofreading attempting to find every problem in one pass. It’s hard for our brains to remember a long list of editing and proofreading categories. Instead, make multiple passes through the document. For example, you could choose to look only for wordiness or only for punctuation. This approach keeps your mind focused. If you look for every possible error in one pass, you’re more likely to miss errors.

The Muse says:

  • Nix Adverbs and Adjectives as Often as Possible. On your printout, mark through every adjective and adverb you see, and then add back the ones that you think are absolutely necessary. When in doubt, find a verb that says it better.

The University of Toronto agrees, telling us to:

  • Elevate the verb, so that the real action of the verb occupies the role of verb in the sentence. 

The Writing Cooperative reminds us:

  • If a sentence doesn’t add something new, it doesn’t matter how beautifully written it is: CUT IT OUT!

The Write Life adds this tidbit:

  • Replace negative with positive. Instead of saying what something isn’t, say what it is. “You don’t want to make these mistakes in your writing” could be better stated as “You want to avoid these mistakes in your writing.” It’s more straightforward. If you find negative statements in your writing that contain don’t, shouldn’t, can’t or another such word, find a way to rewrite them without the “not.” That will probably mean you need to find a more powerful verb.

Defiance College provides a handy graphic to differentiate revision vs editing, in case it concerns you, though I’d say let’s do all of them:


And basically all the sources ever will give you these same pieces of advice:

  • Read it out loud.
  • Read it backwards.
  • Have someone else read it.

Constant Content adds this modern addition:

  • Read Your Writing in a New Format. If you typed it, print it out. Alternatively, convert your Word document to PDF format, or change your text to a different font, color, and size. These techniques will help you see your content from an “outsider’s” perspective and give you a more critical eye.

And always remember to:

  • Say it with a simpler word!

OKAY! We ready to rock this 30-day challenge? Let me know how it’s going! Much Love,

How to Make a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word in 6 Easy Steps

If you’re like me,  you pride yourself on all the little Word tricks you’ve picked up over the years. Anybody who’s been writing for a while has had to get to know the features, and you’ve probably memorized anything you use often. Maybe you’re even the go-to person to ask for shortcuts and key commands. But a Table of Contents just isn’t one of those things you need very often. So don’t feel embarassed if you, too, forgot how to make one. Here’s how, and it’s a snap.

1. Select your chapter title.


2. Turn it into a Header. (Repeat for all chapter titles.)


3. Place your cursor where you want your TOC.


4. Click “References,” then “Table of Contents,” then “Automatic Table 2.”


5. Boom! It’s that easy! You can change fonts etc. to your heart’s content but you don’t have to worry about tricksy formatting. This built-in tool will automatically keep track of chapter titles and page numbers.


6. Just “update” whenever you make changes.


Ta Da! Fun bonus fact, making a TOC this way also turns your chapter titles into hyperlinks: Ctrl+Click a chapter title in the TOC to move to that part of your document. Cheers, and happy writing!


ArLA / ALPS Conference!

I was exhilerated to find out I would be presenting at the 2018 library conference in Rogers, Arkansas. I wanted to give library staff the inside scoop on how to put on a creative writing workshop for their patrons, and answer any questions they might have. As always, the questions I received helped me grow my own perspective, too! Thanks times a million to everyone who made it possible and all the awesome folks I met through these groups. Here’s the presentation I gave at the conference.


Stand Out Books
Knox College & University of Central Arkansas


Central Arkansas Library System
Encyclopedia of Arkansas
CD Wright Conference
book examples listed below!


James Clear / Ira Glass & Shia La Bouef & Neil Gaiman & Wendy / Courtney


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
On Writing Well by William Zinsser

added 1

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
On Writing by Stephen King
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life by Stephanie Vanderslice

added 2Slide16Slide17Slide18Slide19Slide20Slide21Slide22Slide23Slide24Slide25Slide26Slide27Slide28Slide29

example class


writing inventory


pinterest writing prompts

Grammarly & Hemmingway


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I recently had the delightful experience of watching The Handmaid’s Tale show at the same time as I read The Handmaid’s Tale the book by Margaret Atwood. Season 1 of the show follows the book so exactly it’s incredible, and impossibly well done. The main change of note from page to screen was the diversification of the cast, which was a very nice update.

Watchers may recognize the star character Offred played by Elisabeth Moss from her previous roles in Mad Men and The West Wing; best friend Moira is now a gay African American woman played by Samira Wiley, whom everyone will know from Orange Is the New Black. Madeline Brewer, also from OITNB, plays Janine, while Nick is played by Max Minghella, previously of The Mindy Project. Ofglen, now a gay woman, is played by Alexis Bledel, of the long-running Gilmore Girls. OT Fagbenle plays Luke, who is also now an African American character.

The other main difference from the book is that watchers of the show get to see what is happening with Luke, while readers and the Offred of the book are left wondering, wishing they knew. Season 1 ends the same way the book ends, so subsequent seasons are the invention of the show makers. But in an unexpected turn of events, Margaret Atwood recently announced that she will write subsequent volumes, making the stand-alone novel the first in a series.

Especially now, in an America under Trump presidency, the limitation of liberties and sexist oppression of women is hauntingly familiar. Atwood foresaw with frightning accuracy the ways that a society could be collapsed. Let’s keep marching, signing petitions, and doing everything we can to fight against prejudice.

Jobe’s WotY 2019: Grind

Exploring my chosen word, did you know that Nike Grind uses recycled materials, Girls Who Grind Coffee has a super cool online store, Startup Grind is for entrepreneurs, Grinds coffee company makes a caffeinated tobacco chew alternative,  Grind D&D designs websites and apps, 4 of 6 color options for Skullcandy’s Grind Wireless Headphones are sold out, and Find Your Grind is all about exploring your passion to discover your ideal career? Just a slim few of the “grinds” all over the internet.

NOW! Have you picked your word yet? No? THAT’S OK, here’s some help!!!

Susannah Conway has made her Find Your Word 2019 workbook available, so be sure to check that out. She’s fantastic. The Goal Chaser gives some pointers on how to pick a word and a list of 300+ potentials.

Wanna see who else is talking about WotY? Check out: Joanne Fink, Shalagh Hogan, Christy Tending, Marilyn Bousquin, and Jane. Brené Brown chose a WotY last year, wonder what her new pick will be!

Once you’ve decided, commit to your choice:
My One Word #myoneword
One Word 365 #oneword365

And just a reminder, anyone can take the One Hundred Happy Days #100happydays challenge starting any day you choose.

Much Love,