Where’s Your Notebook?

Where’s Your Notebook?

“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea forever.” -Will Self

There are plenty of resources who will tell you to carry a notebook, but why should you do it? What will it help you with? What can you learn from it?

What Good Is A Notebook?

Notebooks can serve many purposes for writers of all genres. A poet can jot down lines and images they want to use in their next poem. A novelist can write down observations about the world around them that can lend realism to their next work. A memoirist can write about events as they unfold and capture details that will breathe life into their work. The possibilities are endless for all types of writers to use notebooks.

Why Is A Notebook Better Than No Notebook?

If you don’t carry a notebook, you probably fit into one of two camps.

  1. You don’t write down your ideas and hope you remember them whenever you’re somewhere you can record them.
  2. You write ideas down on loose pieces of paper, napkins, or other temporary methods of recording.

If you’re in the first camp, you probably find yourself sitting down to write your first draft, lost in a million thoughts that slipped away. What was it that you saw yesterday that struck you? How did she phrase the quote you wanted to write a poem about? What was it that you were so convinced would be a good idea to write about? If you have a notebook, you can record all of this.

If you’re close to the second, you probably find yourself surrounded by the clutter of these scraps of paper with no way to organize or keep track of them. With a notebook, you have all of your thoughts and ideas saved and in chronological order from when you wrote them.

What Can I Use As A Notebook?

Just about anything.

If you have to have paper to put a pen to, go find yourself a notebook at any local store. Notebooks range from incredibly expensive leather-bound tomes to small spiral notebooks you can get at stores for a dollar. Pick whatever is right for you.

One thing I like to do is if someone goes on a trip and asks me if I want them to bring me anything, I ask them to bring me a notebook. Then my notebook is something different from what I could buy locally and it will remind me of the special person who got me the book.

Some people like to use their phones as notebooks and that’s a great idea. There are a lot of apps, such as Evernote, which can record all of your thoughts as well as to-do lists and other tasks that might end up in your notebook. This cuts down on purse or pocket contents and also provides all of the benefits of notebooks.

More On Notebooks

Check this video for more information on notebooks and see the notebooks I use for my writing.


Editsaurus: Another Hemingway Editor?

Editsaurus: Another Hemingway Editor?

Editsaurus is a new writing tool that claims to highlight potential problems in your writing and encourage good writing habits. However, its usefulness is limited and ultimately, unless you are a beginning writer, its capabilities will not be that helpful to you.

This website functions much like the Hemingway Editor. You input your text or write directly into the box. Then it highlights potential problem areas. Which sounds useful. But when you examine the readout, it becomes less and less meaningful.

The tool highlights all uses of adverbs. Which, granted, too many is problem, but you can follow every rule of grammar and good writing and still use an occasional adverb.

It’s also rather worrisome how adverbs are being vilified by both this program and the Hemingway Editor. Not all adverbs are the enemy. Conversely, you can have writing completely free of adverbs and it can be still terrible. Avoiding every adverb in existence is not some magic formula for good writing. But when editors like this highlight every use, what message is it sending to writers?

The tool also highlights all uses of easily-confused words. Every use of the word “to” or “then” is highlighted because these words are often confused with “too” and “two” as well as “than”, respectively.

If a beginning writer struggles with the correct usage of these words, the highlight will be helpful. But someone who has a solid background in grammar will raise an eyebrow over how their piece has been marked up when their usage is correct.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the emotional reaction to this program. After years of spelling and grammar check from every piece of software that has it equipped, we are used to seeing anything highlighted as a problem that needs to be fixed. Seeing your writing come back so marked up can be anxiety inducing.

But when you examine why the marks are there, most of them aren’t problems that need correction. It’s just the inability of a computer to detect what is correct grammar and what is a mistake.

With the Hemingway Editor already in existence and the limitations of this tool, its ultimate practicality is questionable.

Inspiration in the Mundane

Inspiration in the Mundane

We’ve all be there. You want to write, but nothing is inspiring you. You’re not feeling any particular emotion or have been through an exciting or interesting event recently. So what do you write about? The good news is that there is plenty to write about where you least expect it.

Here are a few writing exercises to get your pen moving. If you write something from one of these exercises feel free to share it in the comments!

Exercise 1

What is your least favorite household chore? Write a poem or short story about a character, not yourself, doing this chore. Use imagery to describe the experience and make it sound particularly awful.

Exercise 2

Choose an item on your desk to write about. What does that item mean to you? Does it help you write? Does it distract you from writing? Is it special to you? If so, what makes it special?

Exercise 3

Write about another person or animal in the room. What is this person or animal doing or thinking? What do they think of you? What do they think of the room? If there’s no one else in the room with you, write about what the room thinks about what’s going on. What has the room seen? What does it know? Use personification to give this room a personality.

Exercise 4

Lay down on the floor and stare at the ceiling. Take note of what the sensory experience is like. Write about someone in the same position. How did they get there? What do they understand by being on the floor? Do they notice a cracked ceiling tile? A water stain? Do they hear the fan? The sound of something coming?

Inspiration is all around us. What in your living space inspires you?

The Pros and Cons of the Hemingway Editor

The Pros and Cons of the Hemingway Editor

The Hemingway Editor is an application which evaluates writing. You can input text or write directly on the website or the downloadable desktop version. The editor will mark any sentences it deems too complicated and will suggest changing words that can be simplified. The idea behind the Hemingway Editor is excellent. However, there are some drawbacks.

But let’s talk about the good news first. The editor has a finely-tuned passive voice detector. Several times I found myself writing in passive voice without even realizing it. If you struggle with this grammar no-no, this application can definitely  help.

For those among us who find themselves to be wordy writers, the Hemingway Editor will not let you off the hook until your sentences are as concise as possible. It can cure you of comma splices and run-on sentences with its yellow and red highlighting.

After using the editor for several projects, I found myself aware of just how long some of my sentences were. It also helped me to stop hedging so much and say what I wanted to say. It will definitely make you think about your writing on a different level. However, that’s not always a good thing.

The Hemingway Editor is still a computer application. It can’t tell good writing from bad. Plug in any academic writing and the editor will score the PhD who wrote it very poorly. When using the editor for an entire story, you might find that your writing has been boiled down to a series of incredibly short sentences.

The application also hates adverbs. It marks each one as a problem and recommends removing them. Although using too many adverbs can be an issue, using none can make your writing sound mechanical and dull.

My overall opinion is that the editor can be helpful and there is something to be gained from looking at it. However, I would not recommend writing to the editor or taking its advice every single time. Good writing is concise and free from excessively long sentences. But there should always be room for some adverbs.

Words of love

To celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, we asked our readers and fans to write a 600-word story to go along with this photo. Here are the entries we received:


Love—Don’t Leave Home Without It

by Tammy Wartell

Lynn felt like she was just background noise to the military. Everything else always came first: the mission, deployments, people her husband worked with, but never her. Her husband Scott got orders, she had to follow. She had sacrificed a career, a lifetime really, to follow and support her husband. This time was different. He took orders; she said no. I am happy here; I will stay, and you may go. It is not a life I want anymore. I am too old; we have children. I want to be settled for our children to have roots. We are all happy here. Her brunette hair fell across her face. He was mad: Why would she not take the family and support the job that had given them a good life?

Twenty-one years ago, she said yes to the military when she said yes to him. Now it was different. He took orders to where he thought she would want to go—a warm place, not cold like Virginia could sometimes get. For Scott, it was very confusing to have been with someone for twenty-one years and now not understand her. He had to go, there was no choice. The orders to the warm place were his alone. She had stood her ground on this one. The next day as she was getting the kids ready for school and getting ready for work. He felt overwhelmed with sadness. All this time he had never noticed her—how pretty she was, how kind and how much she did without complaining. She was always surrounded by a group of friends. This was the first time he really truly saw her sacrifice. She could have married anyone but she chose him, and she stood by her vows and supported him. Scott had orders and this person, his best friend for the first time ever, was not going. No matter what Scott did she said she wanted to stay in Virginia.

Scott worked and missed his family. The three children they had he missed terribly. He had too much time to think. At night sometimes, he would go to the brewpub and talk to the old bartender. Wise old guy would ask what is a fellow like you doing here. One day Scott told him it all just came out.

The bartender told him, “Well have you ever told her you appreciated her sacrifice, how she’s a good mom, what she really means to you?”

Scott had never realized it but he never had. He was too cutting with his words, too much of a tough guy but now it was killing him.

At 6 a.m., he hopped on a flight. He told his wife to meet him at their spot. She left the kids with a friend and met him. When he took her in his arms, he said, “Lynn, I am not sorry for our life the past twenty-one years, but I am sorry I took you for granted. I have to finish my time at my duty station, but I put in my retirement papers. Babe, I am coming home.”

He leaned his head down and kissed her and knew he would never ever let her go again. She smiled and said, “That is the best Valentine’s Day present ever.”

They went home, got the kids dressed up, and all of them went to celebrate at a much fancier diner than the brewpub. She got roses for the first time ever and candy and had never felt more loved.


26bd15c6-c1cd-41ea-95c8-55553b402545 Tammy Wartell, a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, is a freelance writer and pre-kindergarten teacher. She has been featured in Boating Times and Nextgenmilspouse. She has also been featured in several e-zines . 


V Day
by Star LaBranche

She wanted to run. No, she needed to run. She needed to get as far away from this man as humanly possible and never look back. As she stood stiffly in his arms, he looked down at her with a loving gaze.

“You make me so happy,” he murmured, stroking her hair.

She shuddered at his touch.

“It’s late. I should be getting home,” she said, softly.

“It’s not that late,” he chuckled.

“I have work tomorrow. Bright and early,” she added, trying to leave his encircling arms.

He held her tighter, stopping her egress. “You can stay a bit longer,” he smiled. “We only made love once today, after all.”

“I’m really tired,” she said, yawning for emphasis. “I think I should get home.” He’ll do it again. The thought had popped into her head multiple times in the last hour. I’m in danger, and I need to get away. But her every attempt to leave was being met with resistance. Her brain was screaming at her to get away from him through any means necessary.

She wondered if she should fight him. But as soon as that thought occurred to her, she knew how foolish it sounded. He was much bigger and stronger than she was. Even without the weapons he had lined up in the den where they had just been, he could easily overpower her. Just like he had overpowered her when they were watching a movie on his couch.

Run, her mind urged her. After it was over, she had been so stunned and disoriented by what happened that she had agreed to go on a walk along the lines of his expansive property. She felt as if her brain was processing information at a snail’s pace. She stared off into the distance as he said something she didn’t catch.

“I’ve had a great time,” she lied. “We’ll get together soon, okay?”

“Really? You’re just going to leave me?” he asked, his smile fading. “You should stay for dinner, at least. I make a great pizza.”

“I’d love to, but you know, work,” she said, trying to sound disappointed. She started to extract herself from his arms again.

He caught her before she got very far and pulled her against him. “Well okay, this time,” he said. “But next time, you’re spending the night. I make really great omelets as well.”

“Yeah, that sounds nice,” she said. She had to get away from him. She had to get away now. She was starting to realize exactly what had happened to her and her feeling of unease was replaced with horror.

He took her hand and started leading her toward her truck. “You should really stay,” he informed her. “I know you have work, but when you really want something you work hard to make it happen.”

“Sorry,” she said, fishing her keys out of her small purse. “Next time, I promise.”

“Sure, baby,” he said, once they had arrived at her car. “I can’t wait to see you again,” he said, stroking her face. “You’re so beautiful.”

She made what she thought was a pleased sound. “I’ll send you a text soon,” she promised. She was so close to getting out of there. He gave her another kiss before she was finally able to slip from his grasp and slid into the truck. Shutting the door, he stood back while she started the engine. She waved as she drove off of his property.

He walked back to the house, whistling. He had had a great time.

 IMG_3189Star LaBranche is a writer who dreams of living in the desert with a rescue corgi. She provides copyediting, writing, and proofreading services for individuals or businesses. Contact her at www.starlabranche.com.


There’s still time before Christmas


Are you like most Americans with some last minute holiday shopping still to do? Why not get that avid reader loved one of yours one of these fine books. Here’s a list of just a few works penned by Hampton Roads Writers Association authors:

  1. Outpost Gypsy Tree: The North Portal (Volume 1) by Dr. Dottie Graham
    Nestled within a thought form in Earth’s vast realm, Outpost Gypsy Tree becomes home for six adventurous teenagers from various parts of the world. Charged by their own desire for peace and love for humanity, they are assigned to clear the earth’s light portals of the evils of mankind, starting with the North Portal. To do so, the teens must journey back in time to the winter solstice of 3107 BCE to decode an archaic sequence at Ireland’s historic Newgrange that will unlock a Neolithic chamber leading them to the ‘other world’ of the gods of Erin. To prove their worthiness, courage and commitment to battle the darkness, they must journey through the traitorous Cave of Damnation and face an encroaching inferno. At the core of this bizarre journey is the staff of Outpost Gypsy Tree: Eittod of Tulsun Minor, an ancient being with a rainbow-colored body, and Bezen and her son, Mingo, inhabitants of Early Earth.
  1. Woman Wisdom: Female Voice in Bible by Lena Simmons
    The first book of the series is Sarai and Hagar. Hagar evolved from a woman with a slave mentality to a matriarch of the Arab nation. Sarai was the matriarch of the Hebrew nation in spite of being possessive. Bathsheba is in the works. Her books will deal with the challenges of choice, politics, sex, and reproductive freedom. She evolved from a woman of scandal to a Queen mother. Persons of the Jesus Christ belief system will note her place in Jesus Christ’s lineage. She is one of five women. The Bible is just one of Lena’s sources for inspiration and empowerment of women.
    *Check out Lena Simmons’s other written books on Amazon.

  2. Despue’s De Una Tarde De LLuvia: After An Afternoon Rain by Lena Simmons
    This bilingual photography book captures the beauty of life after an afternoon rain.
    * Check out Lena Simmons’s other photography books available through Amazon.
  1. Holiday in Havana – The Adventures Begin (The Martin Culver Series Book 1) by Malcom Massey
    When three American fishermen disappear along the North Carolina coast, their sportfishing yacht is found blown to pieces. While family and friends try to determine what happened, the CIA keeps the details a secret, yet they intensely search for answers themselves.
    * Check out other books in the Martin Culver Series on Amazon.
  1. Shorts of Fiction: A Collection of Female Characters by Nealy Gihan
    They’re wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends, and so much more. Through these five short stories, female characters are celebrated as heroes, victims and antagonists. From a department store worker who longs for a new pair of shoes to a mother battling cancer and a teenager coming to terms with life after her mother’s death, this collection has it all.
  1. Perception: A New Adult anthology published by Elephantine Publishing
    There comes a defining moment in every young person’s life that irrevocably shifts their point of view. In Perception, produced by Virginia Beach publisher Elephantine Publishing, discover five captivating stories that explore what it means to be a new adult.
  2. The Man Test (The Marin Test Series Book 1) by Amanda Aksel
    In this romantic comedy, Marin Johns is San Francisco’s Pollyanna couples therapist. She’s months away from wedded bliss when she discovers her fiancé is having an affair. After nursing her broken heart with Kleenex and break-up songs, she adopts a new brand of thinking when she uncovers a tell-all book that proves all men are liars and cheaters who will do and say anything so they’re not found out. No exceptions.
    * Check out the next book in the Marin Test Series and other works by Amanda Aksel through Amazon.

New home for the holidays?

Screen shot 2015-11-22 at 7.58.07 AM

Ode to dilapidated digs! The Hampton Roads Writers Association recently challenged readers to write from this house’s perspective. Here is a moving poem of persuasion highlighting why this would still make for a good home. Enjoy!

This Old House

My wood is rotting, and my metal is rusting. The
carpet is stained, but the sun still streams
through my dirty windows.

It’s quiet now; I’ve lost my family. Even Fluffy
the dog and Streamline the cat.

No echoes of laughter or wrestling throughout;
just stale and mildewed air.

I once held six humans and kept them safe. Now I’m
left to decay and listen to the wind blow through my cracks.

Buckets of paint and happy voices could make me
shine. Stand proud and relish in what life has to offer.

Look to the right, a tattered sign lying in the weeds;
for sale it says.

Won’t you buy me? I’ll love and protect you.

Screen shot 2015-11-29 at 7.54.34 AMJeanette Cheezum’s work has been published on several online writing sites and in print. She’s published in fifteen anthology books and four books of poetry. Three of these books have made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Recently, she published thirteen e-books available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for children and general adult audiences. Jeanette is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee and was awarded the Helium Network’s Premium Writer’s Badge and a Marketplace Writers award.