Making the Most of Journal Writing

Posted on Monday, December 22, 2014

Writers, Join Me!

Let’s Explore Journal Writing.

Our guide for this expedition will be our journal. We will write a journey of self-discovery. We will go down different roads and to new, exciting places. We will find insights that we did not know existed, allow write to build stronger minds, so we can heal, and the pages will help us find answers to questions that we avoided.

Here are a few guidelines we will follow:

  • Poetry may count, but good prose is what we emphasize.
  • Art work counts if we explain it.
  • Quotes by others will count, if we react to their messages.
  • Practicing good grammar and standard English weigh heavily.
  • Words matter.
  • Originality, quantity, and pride in the writing will become routine.
  • Ten weekly pages of concerned, honest, writing is our goal.

Let Go

Writers who feel good about themselves enjoy the experience and the power of self-expression. Let’s try to sit down in front of the computer or when we pick up a pad and pen in a positive frame of mind. Let’s not be afraid to express ourselves. We are not writing for a grade. We are writing to learn and become enlightened. We do not fear the writing process. We embrace it. Let’s make writing fun and rewarding.

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A Letter to My Journal

Posted on Monday, December 15, 2014

papersDear Bubba,

This name I give to you, like a father gives to his son, is one of raw and sincere simplicity. It has a country connotation, one that I respect. The truth is best stated simply, the way farmers and cowboys talk to each other. Complexity muddies the water. This daily journal will be unadorned and unaffected. These blank pages invite the accuracy of vision, as the topics appear in front of me.

I write for only you and me.

This New Year’s resolution for 2015 promises to be creative.

When this concept first shook me awake, I loathed the idea. Writing something every day sounded a lot like work, unpleasant work. You were a thorn in my side and a pain in my neck. When I decided you wanted to grow to be 365 pages or more in one year, I cringed. At first, you scared the heck out of me. How was I ever going to feed you enough ideas so you would gain that much weight in twelve months? At the beginning, just completing a four page essay exhausted me. I didn’t like you one single bit. For a while, I ignored you, hoping you would go away, but the more I neglected you, the more demanding you became. You began to roar for food like a starving lion. Still, I refused to feed you.

After a while, I realized that if you weren’t fed, you wouldn’t grow. I looked at you, as you lay there on the shelf, a skinny spectacle. You were so thin that your three binding rings showed through like skinny ribs with a few paltry scraps of flesh attached. Four weeks later, you were a little better, and some color returned to your face, but you were anemic. In four more weeks, you were a little bigger, and I knew I could neglect you no longer. You didn’t go away as I hoped. In front of me, you loomed like a sickly, pale apparition too tough to die. We had a pact, and I must carry out my end of the bargain.

I started feeding you a couple of pages a day and soon realized that this wasn’t going to be enough to guarantee your health, so I increased your rations to five pages a day. I started to feel more like a concerned parent. You weren’t getting a prime rib dinner at each meal, but at least you were not starving anymore.

Secretly, there is something I must tell you.

I’m growing fond of you. I’ve taken a liking to you, I guess. Perhaps, this change in my attitude toward writing has come a little late in my life, but I don’t mind. You allowed me to discover things about myself that I never knew, and you opened a door to let in needed fresh air.

Mondays with martinWhen this acquaintance began, you always taught me more about myself. You are a window through which I look when I want to glimpse what is inside me. You are a place where I can be alone. When I am hurting, I can cry with you. When I have a problem, you are the friend I confide in and share how I feel. I only wish that I met you when I was younger. Oh, the memories, the emotions, the pains, and the dreams – there are so many things to say. There is no sense in worrying about the past. All I can do is start with today and make each one better than the last. You certainly made a lousy first impression, but I don’t know what I would do without you now.

 - David Martin

What do you want to tell Your writing pages?

The Rabbit Hole of Naming Characters

Posted on Wednesday, December 3, 2014

*Today’s guest post is by author Chris Mandeville

How Do You Name Your Characters?

Some writers don’t worry much about naming.  They slap a label on a character and run with it.  Other writers dive down the rabbit hole and put excessive amounts of research, thought, planning and creativity into naming.  I’m in the latter camp, so thought I’d share with you some of the things I consider before attaching a moniker to a new character.  I don’t recommend you join me down in the rabbit warren—especially not during NaNo—because it’s far too easy to lose all sense of time and purpose while exploring the wonderland of names.  Instead I offer you a few categories, resources, and suggestions to help you quickly choose the names you need and get on with the business of the story.

WARNING:  once you go down the Rabbit Hole of Naming, it can be hard to climb back out.  For safe exploring, always attach a lifeline — a kitchen timer or a trusted friend to rescue you at an appointed time should do the trick.


As far as I’m concerned, the primary consideration when selecting a name is the connotations that come with it.  Unfortunately connotations are for the most part an individual thing.  Take the name Charlie, for example.  If that’s the name of your favorite grandpa, your best friend, or the family dog, you will have a much different feeling about that name than if Charlie was the bully who beat you up in the third grade.

So how do you get a handle on connotations if it’s such a personal thing?

Donald Trump

Try to weed out the truly personal associations and look at the more general, cultural connotations.  Take “Trump” for instance.  Because of “The Donald,” most American adults immediately think things like tycoon, businessman, wealthy, powerful, mogul.  The cultural connotations of Donald Trump are bolstered by the definition of the word trump:  a card of a suit that outranks the other suits; to excel, surpass, outdo.  Note that I didn’t put a “good” or “bad” value on it because not everyone likes Donald Trump.  The good/bad connotation will differ from person to person (along with various other associations, like crazy hair), but the impressions relating to Trump being a business tycoon are fairly consistent.

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A Bond of Trust

Posted on Monday, November 10, 2014

Students “At Risk”

finelineshandIn 1990, David Martin was the English teacher of an “at-risk” high school class of teens: gang members, kids scarred from brawls, pregnant girls, ex-dropouts, and misfits that no other instructor was willing to teach. Knowing that he could not draw them in with the standard curriculum, he threw out the textbooks and focused the class entirely on their own writing. He had them compose and share ideas from their own personal lives.

Slowly but surely, a bond of trust was forged in this ragtag class. The story reached its climax when he put together selected writings in a four page pamphlet to praise those who were really trying to improve their grades. The students were wowed to find their words in print, and even the most unsocial kid was moved to tears to find his efforts appreciated. Martin continued publishing that four-page pamphlet, and today it now stands as Fine Lines, a quarterly journal for new writers who submit their work from all 50 states and around the world.

This is the Power of Writing.

While you may not be the teacher at the head of a class that seems like an asylum, writing is important, especially to those students who need it the most. Today, I’d like to share with you the opportunity to do for your students what Martin did for his class. Foster their talents by encouraging them to write their best poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Then, submit it to Fine Lines. We take works from writers of all levels, from college professor to third-grade poets, from all walks of life, and from all over the world. Let students take a major step to find joy and appreciation in becoming published authors; let them feel recognition for their talents, and let them glimpse who they can become.

We also accept photography and illustrations, our editors are waiting to read and see your work, submission details here.

Check out Mr. Martin’s class and the beginnings here.

 - David Waller, student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha


Fine Lines is Dedicated to Improving Literacy

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014

First, The Importance of Literacy

Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right . . . . Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

-Kofi Annan – a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the United Nations were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”

Fine Lines is dedicated to the development of writers and artists of all ages.

Mondays with martinWhat started out as a classroom newsletter in 1991 has now turned into a 50 state writing network and a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, educational organization. The first issue was 4 pages long and allowed students many opportunities to show others clear thinking and proper written expression. Each quarterly issue is about 300 pages filled with fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art by “authors and artists in process” who wish to improve their composition craft.

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Calling All Authors, Poets, Essayists, and Artists

Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014

We Want to Hear From You

Fine Lines wants to hear from everyone you know who likes to read and write and has a good story to tell. Contact the schools in your community (all levels), tell students (of all abilities), and writers on your email lists (the good ones and the “wannabees”) that we are looking for traditional and non-traditional creative writers wherever we can find them.

Twenty Three Years and Growing

Mondays with martinWe are now in our twenty-third year of publication, have traversed many publication hurdles, and transformed ourselves frequently to keep our 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization going, because we are involved with a labor of love. We have some rowdy editors who enthusiastically fill four books per year with writing from the heart. Human interest stories, essays, poems, and artwork make us want to fly, and well-crafted declarative sentences make the world a better place in which to live, no matter the academic status of the writer.

Last year, we published a third grader who wrote a wonderful three line observation about winter and several poems from a ninety-four year old great-grandmother. Our motto is “Write on,” and we do.

We will be pleased to have you involved with our mission to change the world one page at a time and one writer at a time. Check out our Summer 2014 edition FREE here.

Thank you for helping us celebrate the beauty of language.

David Martin

The River Keeps Flowing

Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014

Mondays with martinThe day was warm and the breeze gentle.


This combination made many students want to lie down on the green, campus grass after lunch and take naps. I made myself comfortable on a shaded bench under the largest oak tree and relaxed. With twenty minutes to spare before starting my next English class, I felt the warm, August sun trying to find me. I looked up at the white, floating clouds, and my mind began to wander.

Imagining what Huck Finn and Jim felt on their crude raft while floating down the mighty Mississippi River, leaving their troubles behind, ignoring their families, forgetting the problems of growing up, averting their minds from mature challenges, overlooking racial prejudice, and communicating the way two males, a young white boy and a black man, would have in that place – in that century, I smiled. As each day began for those runaways, the warm sun twinkled between the fluttering leaves of cottonwood trees along the river banks, gently rousing this friendly duo to new adventures.

Huck and Jim were thankful for the many opportunities that came their way. With child-like understanding, they did their best to comprehend that little corner of the world and their places in it. If life is a stochastic process, they enjoyed and accepted their days as they found them. They did not hate life away, and they would not waste time ignoring it or being ungrateful. In their simplicity, consciously or not, they found excitement in learning, even though their vision was short and blocked by the bends in the river.

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Five Questions to Consider Before Writing a Horror Story

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Halloween writer It’s October, the month of Scary.

Let’s talk horror.

Today’s Guest Post is by Friend of Fine Lines Larry Leeds
and comes with the caution:
The following may contain gruesome examples of horror
that has been known to offend
the faint of heart, small children, and/or spiritually persuaded.


Why Horror Stories?

In his book The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart, Noël Carroll offers two Paradoxes of the Heart: “…this is the question of how we can be frightened by that which we know does not exist.” and his second. “It is the question of why. . . anyone would subject themselves to it.” I would like to add my own question: Why would anyone want to tell such stories?

Some say we read horror stories for the adrenaline rush; to satisfy the “fight or flight” situations we rarely have in these modern times. Perhaps it’s for the visceral reaction that others get jumping out of a plane, usually with a parachute. Familiarity, maybe, like the way dad used to turn you upside down and toss you in the air, scaring the wits out of you the whole time you were laughing. I approach a horror story as a controlled nightmare from which I can awaken anytime I want. Others read horror for the reasons some like watching road accidents – so they can say, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”


What Is Horror?

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