Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Back to School

Hi all

It's that time of year. For those of you with kids or who are taking courses of some kind yourself, I'm sure you're already in the thick of things with schoolwork. I happen to work at a university, so I'm still in touch with that kind of thing, but I still felt a little left out, so I decided to do something crazy.

I'm taking another writing course.

Why? you might ask. What purpose would I need to take ANOTHER writing course? And when am I going to find the time if I can't find the time to write as it is?

Let me answer the first question first. Why would I take another course? Because there is ALWAYS something to learn. In fact, I'm sure if you ask most writers, they'll tell you that their entire career is a learning process. Maybe they started out writing science fiction, and then they wanted to transition to Gothic romances. So they learn how to do that. Or maybe they've written adult novels and wanted to try their hand at children's picture books. So they learn how to do THAT. It's easy to get into a comfort zone with your writing, but you grow as a writer when you force yourself out of that comfort zone and try something new.

Personally, I feel like I've hit a wall with my writing. I can't seem to get anything to come to fruition these days. Much of it is due to time and other things pulling me away from my writing, but even the things I do find time to finish don't seem to be finding a home. I'm just not "feeling" it anymore. I need a reboot. Besides, in the past I've focused a lot on children's stories, but I have other stories I'd like to tell and am unsure on how to do it.

I discovered that along with a brandy new website for my local library, they are now offering online courses of all kinds through Universal Class for free, if I register through my library's site. You can check them out here:


So I immediately did a search on writing courses, and there are a number of them to choose from. I picked one on writing short stories, called How to Write a Short Story 101, and am already into lesson 2. It's designed as an introductory course, but I'm already learning a couple things I never really knew before. The best part is I can work at my own pace, but there is also a live instructor correcting my assignments. It's structured somewhat like the Institute of Children's Literature courses I've taken in the past, which I always rave about, except there don't seem to be any hard deadlines for this one.

As for the second question - When am I going to find time to take this course? - well, there's the rub, right? If I don't have time to write, when am I going to find time to take the course? Ah, but what if I DO find time to take the course? If I have time for that, then I should have time to write, right? It's all psychological. Maybe I need to convince myself I CAN make time for this.

So I'm off on another leg of my writing journey. It feels good to be back in school and learning new things! Now if only my kids felt the same way...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Top 10 Reads

Hi blog readers.

Happy first day of fall! I hope you are all enjoying the colors of the season, for those in regions of the world able to see them. That's probably the best part of it for me.

Before I get into the guts of my post, just a very short announcement.


That is all. (I know, what a tease, right? I promise... more details coming very soon.)

Now, to the focus of my post...

Recently a writer friend of mine, Kim Curley, asked me to list the top 10 books that have impacted my life. I posted my list on Facebook recently (for those who are interested, I'm "George Kulz" on Facebook - feel free to look me up and connect). I also posted this list on someone else's blog back in 2012. I'm reposting that list here, with my reasons why I chose them.

It was hard to narrow the list down to 10, because, let's face it, every book I've ever read has impacted me somehow. Even the ones that just weren't that good have taught me something, even if it's how NOT to write. I've reviewed the original list I put together back in 2012, along with the reasons why I chose them, and I do believe the list stands firm. For now.

After you read my list, please let me know what books have impacted YOUR life in the comment section. I'd love to hear all about them.

1. The Stand by Stephen King – ultimate tale of good vs. evil in my opinion (except maybe stories in the Bible), focusing on the nature of evil, forgiveness, sacrifice, and faith, which are common in all great pieces of literature.

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – probably the best sci-fi comedy combination out there. First book I ever laughed out loud at when I read it. Unfortunately, it was while I was a teenager in the library. Any book that almost gets me kicked out of the library has to be good.

3. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury – this one was on a high school summer reading list, and it was the first summer reading assignment I had that was FUN to read.

4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding – I came to this one late in life, and then I kicked myself for not reading it MUCH sooner. Probably the best study of social human beings in literature.

5. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – again, I came to this one a bit late. I heard John Irving himself read this one, and was blown away by how powerfully written this character’s voice was.

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – although classified as sci-fi, this one was powerfully “real” to me, and it was my first exposure to dystopian fiction before it was a thing.

7. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – probably contains Dean Koontz’s most memorable main character in my opinion. He’s the everyman that all of us are, confronting evil with humbleness and faith.

8. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub – first book where I actually cried over a character’s death. Don't judge! You've done it too, admit it!

9. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – one of the most powerful, heartfelt, tragic and sad endings of any book I’ve ever read. Plus two of the most vividly painted characters I’ve ever read.

10. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss -what can I say? Fun beyond words, for generations before mine, mine, my own kids’, and I hope their kids’ someday.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, or My Internal Journey

Hi all

Sorry I've been noticeably absent from this blog lately. I haven't been doing much writing this summer, so I haven't felt I had much to share. I HAVE, however, accomplished a few non-writing things.

I hiked Mt. Washington with my oldest daughter and niece.

I did a 60-mile bicycle ride along the coast in New Hampshire and raised money for Multiple Sclerosis.

I achieved the rank of brown belt at my karate dojo.

I went camping with a friend of mine before he moved away to Arizona, and also went on a separate camping trip with my family.

(NOTE: I didn't put up pictures of my family and friends to protect the innocent, lol. But they were deeply involved in my summer vacation activities.)

But wait. I HAVE done a little writing. In fact, I wrote something sort of outside my comfort zone. I wrote a nonfiction piece. An essay. One of the requirements for my karate brown belt.

For those who know me, I don't like writing nonfiction. I don't usually like reading it either. To me, most nonfiction is boring, mainly because much of what I've read is written dryly, and not much passion is put into it. So I decided to put a little passion into my essay and make it my own. The topic of the essay was "What does Brown Belt mean to me?". I used the old adage "Write what you know" and tried to tie my own journey to obtaining a brown belt in karate to THE journey. You know, the Hero's (or the Heroine's, depending on which applies) Journey. After all, we are all the heroes/heroines of our own stories.

Obtaining a brown belt in karate is a very physically challenging external journey. In fact, it's one of the most physically challenging things I've ever done - even more challenging than hiking Mt. Washington. But what most people probably don't realize is that there's an internal journey that goes on when preparing for a belt test as well. Memorization, focus, and determination are key, obviously, but there are other internal journeys going on as well. Like learning self control, for instance. (I mention this because it's still an ongoing journey with me, lol.) I covered some specific internal journeys in my essay, based on some of the principles taught in class. Maybe at some point I'll post the essay here.

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Your characters in your stories are also on journeys, and they're not just physical, or external, journeys. They're also on a mental, or internal, journey as well. Your characters all WANT something. Maybe your heroine wants to hike Mt. Washington (her external journey) but is afraid of heights (her internal journey). Maybe your hero really loves this woman and wants to have a relationship with her (his external journey) but has anger management issues that he needs to overcome to make that happen (his internal journey).

So, to my readers: What were your own journeys this summer? What were the external ones, and one internal ones were going on as well? Write some of these down and use some of these ideas for your characters in your story. You'll find your characters will become more realistic, and your stories will have a greater depth to them.

And if anyone would like to share what YOUR journeys were during this past summer vacation, feel free to tell me in the comments.