Tag Archives: writing life

Possibly the best book I’ve read about writing and living the creative life

MFA in a BoxJohn RemberThe headline is a quote from Gretchen Little in her Squidoo.com review of John Rember’s book, MFA in a Box. If you are a serious writer, or if you have dreams of being a serious writer, I highly recommend this book.

I also highly recommend signing up for John’s free MFA in a Box newsletter about writing. John has been a professor of creative writing for many years, and he is author of four books. In his newsletter, he plans to share his thoughts on creative writing, what it means to be a writer, and “the weirdness of everyday life.” You’ll get some of the most thought-provoking and lucid prose you will ever read, along with a relentless sense of irony, and John’s subtle sense of humor.

Full disclosure: I am John’s publisher, so I will actually make a few dollars if you buy a copy of his book. But don’t buy it for that reason. Buy it because as another reviewer said, “It makes me want to write, helps me find the courage to do so, and allows me see the purpose in the hard work of it.” And don’t forget to sign up for the free newsletter. It will be one of the best things you’ve ever done for the writer in you.

Mike O’Mary is founder of Dream of Things.

Book Review: “Travel Writing 2.0” by Tim Leffel

Timleffelbookcover_03By Erin Dalpini 

What’s the ultimate freelance assignment? You know, the one all writers dream of?

Probably getting paid to vacation—and then write about it.

But travel-writing veteran Tim Leffel says that getting there is anything but a holiday. In his aptly titled Travel Writing 2.0, Leffel takes readers on a journey through the hard realities of what it takes to be a successful travel writer in today’s competitive new media landscape. With some exceptions, it’s not much different than what it takes to be a successful, non-traveling freelance writer.

Importantly, Leffel wants readers to know that travel writing is not for the faint of heart. Continue reading Book Review: “Travel Writing 2.0” by Tim Leffel

This Next Part is Good

iStock_000010695452XSmallby Mike O’Mary

I recently attended an all-afternoon meeting that consisted of slide presentations on the accomplishments of the past year, plus a couple of bonus presentations on “The Power of Teamwork” and “Turning Challenges Into Opportunities.” The meeting was held immediately after lunch in a very warm room. The danger of dozing off was high.

There are several ways to keep yourself awake in such situations. You can contort yourself in your chair until you are too uncomfortable to sleep. Or you can use a ballpoint pen to jab yourself in the thigh periodically. Another option is to get a big glass of ice water and pour a little on your crotch every 5-10 minutes. And finally, you can concentrate on your low-paying job or your lackluster career or the inept speaker—basically anything that will fill you with rage. It’s virtually impossible to fall asleep when you’re angry.

If you do fall asleep, you have several options. If it’s just a matter of your head nodding a little, don’t worry. You can always catch yourself and nod vigorously to the people around you. They’ll think you agree with whatever has just been said.

If you go so far as to slump up against the person next to you, just act like you meant to do it. Give them a nudge with your elbow and say, “This next part is good.” (This is also effective if you nod off at church.)

And finally, if you zonk out completely and fall out of your chair and wind up on the floor, stay down! There is no way to recover from this faux pas. It’s best to just stay down and wait for the paramedics. Better to have people think you suffered a heart attack or a seizure than to find out you thought the presentation on “Turning Challenges Into Opportunities” was boring. Plus, you’ll get out of the rest of the meeting.

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher currently accepting creative nonfiction stories for anthologies on 15 topics, including an anthology titled “Cubicle Stories: Life in the Modern Workplace.”

The Rewards of Doing Nothing

iStock_000001624872XSmallby Mike O’Mary

More than 20 years ago, Marsha Sinetar wrote a book called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. It’s a nice idea, but I’m not sure the premise bears out. Perhaps it worked for the author—assuming, of course, that she “loved” writing a how-to book and making lots of money. But what if you “love” hanging out at coffee shops or eating donuts or taking long naps in the afternoon? It’s hard to see how the money is going to follow you to any of those places.

Or what if you love something but aren’t very good at it? I know lots of people who play golf, for instance, but most of them could never make a living at it. But then again, making a living at golf doesn’t necessarily have to mean making millions of dollars on the professional tour. Every course in the country has a golf pro or two or three to run the pro shop and give lessons. There are also people who sell equipment and organize tournaments and arrange trips for people who want to go to Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head for a golfing vacation. So I suppose you could stretch things a bit to say those people are all doing things that they love—although you don’t have to stray too far from the main subject before it starts to sound less like something you love and more like work.

So in the end, I guess I don’t buy the notion that you can do what you love and the money will follow. I think it’s usually the other way around: You usually end up paying money in order to do what you love. So I think I’m going to write a book called How to Find Out Where the Money Is and Do Something to Get It So You Can Turn Around and Spend It to Do Things You Love. But that’s a pretty long title and writing it sounds like a lot of work. Maybe the best thing is to just forget about the money altogether. You don’t need that much to hang out at a coffee shop anyway.

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher currently accepting creative nonfiction stories for anthologies on 14 topics, including an anthology titled “Cubicle Stories: Life in the Modern Workplace.”

Overzealous Demographers

iStock_000005894033XSmallby Mike O’Mary

Whenever a company comes out with a new product, they usually do a lot of market research first. I recently read the findings of a company that identified several market segments it wanted to reach. I won’t go into all the demographic details. Instead I’ll skip right to the interesting part: the sweeping generalizations made about each segment.

One market segment is called the “Metro Mix.” This group is the most likely to eat at donut shops, have a window air conditioner and make purchases from the Home Shopping Network.

Next is the “Urban Up and Comers.” They are the most likely to bank by ATM card and drink imported beer and wine.

Then there are the “Rustic Homesteaders.” They are the most likely to own a rifle or shotgun, an outboard motor and shop at Wal-Mart.

I also heard about a segment that tends to eat at fast-food chicken restaurants, pays utility bills in person and likes to watch television shows about cops. Oh, this group is also more likely than average to have someone in the household change the oil on their car.

Another segment likes to purchase home furniture by mail or phone, read health magazines and listen to NPR. Yet another group was characterized as ranking first for eating at Red Lobster and watching soap operas.

I don’t know if I got much out of all that research, but I was able to identify another market segment. I’ll call this group the “Overzealous Demographers.” They spend too much time on the phone, haven’t seen sunlight in years and tend to make sweeping generalizations that are of little use to anybody. If you run into one of these people, take your window air conditioner and outboard motor and run!

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher currently accepting creative nonfiction stories for anthologies on 14 topics, including an anthology titled “Cubicle Stories: Life in the Modern Workplace.”

Feeling Listless?

iStock_000000170956XSmallby Mike O’Mary

Do you keep a “to do” list? I do. Don’t ask me why. I used to think I kept a list to help keep me organized. And I suppose that’s true, because making a list does helps me prioritize things. But more important to me was the belief that if I wrote it down, I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering it later. And if I didn’t have to worry about remembering anything, I could run around leading a happy-go-lucky, carefree existence.

But for some reason, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Instead, I walk around like Atlas, but instead of the weight of the world on my shoulders, it’s the weight of my little to-do list.

Every once in a while, I pull the list out and study it. Sometimes I even catch myself moving my lips as I read my list–sort of like saying my own little prayer or penance several times a day. Then I put the list away, confident that everything I need to worry about is there, tucked safely in my pocket.

Unless, of course, I forget to put something on my list. This thought had me so worried for a while that I began writing things down on little scraps of paper and stuffing them in my pocket to be added to the master list at a later date. This, I usually did on Saturday morning, and I always took great pleasure in scratching “consolidate lists” off my to-do list.

But then I realized it was kind of ridiculous to keep a list of things to be added to your list. So now I’m back down to just one list.

Well, sort of. I mean I do have separate lists for work and for home. I also have a third list somewhere of longer-term, personal goals. I’m pretty sure one of my long-term goals was to stop keeping lists. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I put my list of long-term goals. Guess I’d better add “find list of long-term goals” to my to-do list for this week.

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher currently accepting creative nonfiction stories for anthologies on 15 topics, including an anthology titled Making Waves – Stories About Role Models Who Inspire and Motivate Us.