Tag Archives: blogging

The Joan T. Warren Process of Writing for an Anthology (or, Sense & Sensibility)

The Joan T. Warren Process of Writing for an Anthology (or, Sense & Sensibility)

Has anyone noticed how my blog posts have steadily decreased in 2015-2016? It’s true, I’ve reduced blogging to occasional at best. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, though. Yes, I’m still working on the novel, the one on my bucket list. It’s getting closer to first draft stage (then the hard part begins). As loyal readers know, I also started a blog that draws on my expertise as an occupational therapist and reaches out, forum-style, to therapists and people/families with health challenges. This past year much of my writing effort went into a project that diverted me from my goals, yet is turning out to be a learning opportunity. That’s what I’ll be telling you about today.

My local writer’s group is publishing an anthology through the Florida Writer’s Association. Its many chapters, written by locals, highlight Clay County history. It will be called Embedded in Clay. You can read more about it over here.


From Embedded In Clay FB page


I’m used to writing essays for health science. In college, I impressed my English professor with the best CLAST essay score he’d ever seen; the best possible, actually. I’m used to writing various styles of poetry. I’m used to writing recovery curriculum, personal stories–and I’m somewhat comfortable writing fiction. I’m mostly used to writing in my own way, on my own time, as an introvert, for pleasure.

I’m not used to writer’s groups. I’m not used to Chicago-style referencing. I’m not used to historical, referenced work.

When I accepted the challenge to write for Embedded in Clay, I did so with some trepidation. A transplant from Maryland, I knew little of Florida history, and less of my own county. I wanted to learn more, though. Taking on a writing project was a sure way to force myself to learn. You can’t write what you don’t know. My initial trepidation was well-founded.

Months, and several history books, trips to Clay County Archives and internet searches later, I knew more about Clay County history. What did I know? One thing, mainly: that I knew too little to write for an anthology!

Yet the deadline loomed.

I dug in.

My first draft = my first mistake

I took on too much without clarifying the parameters of the project. I thought the chapter could be anything I wanted it to be, any style, as long as I used Chicago-style references. When I brought it to group, I learned we had a 2500 word limit! How did I miss this? My chapter was more like 7000 words. Everyone else knew the parameters. I searched through my emails and contract, and realized I must have not received that page. How could I have embarked on a project not knowing its parameters?  I quietly received feedback from the small group on how to start slicing and dicing. Some people loved my imagery, which was encouraging. Approaching our new, extended deadline, I carved writing time out of what usually is reserved for sleep and family time.

My second draft = my second mistake

Returning to group with a hard-fought (harshly shortened) second draft, I felt relieved and proud of what I’d accomplished. Again receiving feedback quietly, only one piece being negative, I felt pretty good about the piece. I started working on the summary, the loglines and photos. I was happy to turn it all in before the holidays. Now it was time to get ready for family at Thanksgiving, and, before long, Christmas. No time for anything else.

Then the email came. “Please give me a call when you have a few minutes to talk about your story,” our group leader wrote.

This can’t be good, I thought.

It wasn’t. Turns out the one negative feedback I’d received had been hers. She didn’t like the way I’d presented the historical report. “Their lives are interesting on their own,” she said, “It’s distracting to the reader to take them on a journey through time. Just tell the story.” She didn’t stop there. “Why are so many people trying to write about an imaginary journey through time? I don’t understand it. . . just tell us what happened, it’s interesting in and of itself.”

I realized I was face to face with a professional writer who tells it like it is. She likes to read history as they tell it in history books (I never did; I actually liked Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure!). She likes the facts (I like the human interest side–skip memorizing the dates of this battle and that invention). She likes structure (Me? Freestyle, much preferred). Why, we are Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811): both valuable, but very different. She, however, is the founder and leader of the group.

After a few questions to clarify the knock-me-off-my-feet-but-okay-I-must-learn-from-this feedback, I swallowed hard and thanked her. After hanging up the phone, I decided to abandon the project. I just couldn’t give it any more of my time.

Then my conscience bothered me. I don’t give up, it’s not my style.

Instead of giving up the project, I gave up that Sunday and rewrote the chapter. I savagely edited everything flowery–all the parts that made it come to life for me. I took out the imaginary journey. I cut the imagery that transported the reader 200 years back in time. Sensory experiences: gone. I’ll reserve those for another publication, I figured. If she wants the facts, okay, she’ll get the facts. I was mad, but I did it. I didn’t have time to figure out how to keep sensation and imagery without the imaginary journey.

I read it aloud a few times. It was okay. It told some pretty interesting stories that really happened. There was only one problem: I didn’t really like it. It didn’t move me. I didn’t feel proud of it.

I decided not to turn it in. I went on with holiday preparations. So what if I’d spent the last nine months nurturing this chapter for naught?

But it wouldn’t stay dead. As the new deadline approached, I decided to take it out again, just to be sure I shouldn’t turn it in. The chapter tells the story of three women in history who faced some serious challenges and made some serious differences. Their stories are truly worth reading. I still didn’t really like the writing style I had to use, under the circumstances, but I decided to turn it in anyway. I promised myself I wouldn’t do much more, though. The holidays are for my family.

My third draft = Apparent success

Wouldn’t you know it, she liked it! I still don’t like it much, but I went ahead and (fairly heartlessly) crafted a summary, loglines and some photos from the archives. It’s all been turned in and is in editing now, so I’m still not sure what it will look like when they publish it.

Will anyone else like it? I honestly don’t know. This is a learning project for me. I’ve thought about publishing both versions here, and asking for your feedback, to see what my readers think. Yet,  I get few comments on my blogs.  I don’t know what to do at this point. I don’t really feel like promoting the piece, since I’m not really proud of it. . . but the women whose stories I told deserve to have their stories told. It’s not about me, it’s about them. It’s about you, the readers, and the encouragement, inspiration and enrichment you may gain from what three amazing women–in what is now Clay County–did between 1806 and 1906.

Final Publication = ?

Still in process. . .



Joan in Nov 2016

How About Another?


It’s not like I don’t have plenty to do. Actually, I live in Plenty to Do. I know everyone there.

In the center of Plenty to Do lives a tiny little voice named ‘But.’

But, and her best friends, ‘Lemme,’ ‘Justdothis,’ and ‘Onemorething’ have been nagging me quite a lot lately. In fact, they kept me up too late several times this past week, looking at photos to crop, laughing over background colors and arguing over which WordPress theme would let them get their job done best.

I finally got fed up with their noise and decided, “Why not? Might as well have another!” I went on over to help them out today. I missed lunch and some paperwork of my own, but now maybe I’ll get some sleep.

At least until it’s time to get the next post ready!

Want to see what these gals from the land of Plenty to Do came up with? It’s a brand new blog, a forum for interacting about health, functioning well, recovering from injuries and disabilities, raising children with special needs, and the like. It’s a forum for people–patients, families, therapists, teachers, anyone interested in these things. Here, I’ll be writing more about what I know: Occupational Therapy. Here, I’ll be hosting other bloggers who are therapists, health care professionals, parents of kids with special needs, adults with spouses or parents with special needs, and such! There will be interviews, re-blogs and links to great resources.

Sound good?

Then come on, join the fun!

OT Interactions



Joan T Warren



Happy WordPress Anniversary (to me)!


Something from WordPress arrived in my notifications box today!

Borrowed from a website that borrowed from . . .

Borrowed from a website that borrowed from . . .

Excited (in the style of Ralphie, opening his package from the Lil’ Orphan Annie Radio Show), my heart raced. Could it be? Freshly pressed?

The highly coveted Freshly Pressed Award, in my box?


imageBut, alas, it was just a little congrats for one year blogging.



Ditto. . .

Ditto. . .


It’s okay, though, WordPress, I do appreciate you remembering our special day. Now that I’m over the initial let-down, I think it was really nice of you. It has been a good year together.

A year ago today, you helped me publish my first blog post. Wading through the countless themes, layouts and options, we put together a pretty good start.

During the year, I learned a few things. I found that there are some excellent people all over the world who participate in WordPress blogging. A few became fast friends, as we enjoyed reading one another’s posts and commenting in supportive dialogue. I have new friends in Scotland, Canada, and across America. I’ve had visitors from nearly every country! All this without annoyance from over 14,000 spammers that Akismet blocked for me.

This is a snapshot of my all-time visits. The list of countries is three times longer than would fit!

This is a snapshot of my all-time visits. The list of countries is three times longer than would fit!

I’ve seen reader interest wane in the face of serious and lengthy posts. I’ve caught a few waves of new likes and follows from brief and light-weight posts. I’ve played with some blog-building strategies suggested by overnight-success bloggers. Oh, and I almost forgot, published 60 posts. Not bad for a full-time professional with a second full-time job (family).

In the beginning, I heard that publishers want new writers who can boast a platform of 10-15,000 followers. “You can build that in a year while you write your book,” one author told me.

It’s been a year. I’ve missed a lot of sleep! I’ve built a platform of a whopping 200-something followers. Few ever comment (come on, people, it’s lonely without conversation!).  I’ve written only about a tenth (if that) of my book. I don’t feel too successful on this one-year anniversary, dear WordPress.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming you. I’m just saying, it isn’t what I thought. Just like in marriage; there is the honeymoon stage, then comes disillusionment. To make a life-long success, couples must get through these phases to real love.

I still hope to finish my book, to live to see it published, and then maybe another after that. Not just for fun, but to make some (albeit small) difference in the world, one that will outlive me.

Whether I’ll need to build a sizable platform or not, I don’t know. What I do know is, I’m not wasting my time here (well, maybe a little!). I’m learning to write better. I’m learning about others, what they see and have to say. I’m learning plenty about what doesn’t work. And, it’s pretty fun.

So, if you want to hang out another year or so, WordPress, I’m game. Do you have an iron, though? I could really use some fresh-pressing; I’m starting to get wrinkled.


Happy Anniversary!

Joan T. Warren

Liebster not Biebster

This article has absolutely nothing to do with Justin Beiber, shown here turning himself into police on Jan 30, 2014, courtesy of abcnews.com

This article has absolutely nothing to do with Justin Beiber, shown here turning himself into police on Jan 30, 2014, courtesy of abcnews.com

All the talk about what the Biebster is doing wrong again. . .  instead of that, I am going to talk about the Liebster!

imageKhana, of khanasweb.com, was awesome enough to give me the Liebster Award nomination. This award honors quality blogs that have less than 200 followers. I guess she feels I qualify on quality, and my stats tell me I do on the last! As of today, 168 extremely insightful, astute and intelligent people follow this blog! It will be interesting to see if participating in this award will add to that number, but I’ll keep writing even if  just for you wonderful 168!

In order to comply with the nomination, though, I need to answer Khana’s ten questions–hers, not someone’s who started it 10,000 posts ago! I decided to turn them about and give them to you from #10, countdown fashion, to #1. After you get through this incredibly interesting material, you will find links to those I’d like to pass the nomination on to, and the ten challenging questions I thought would be great to know about them.

Here goes!

10. Describe yourself in a Haiku. (A three line verse of seventeen syllables, traditionally five, seven, five, but this is flexible).

Simple yet complex
Compassionate yet boundaried
Gentle, wild and true

Did that tell you much? Well, it’s a start. Let’s jump into the weightier questions–

Read the rest of this entry