With Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach, you'll gain clarity and overcome hurdles to become a better writer, pursue publishing, and reach your writing goals. Ann provides practical tips and motivation for writers at all stages, keeping most episodes short and focused so writers only need a few minutes to collect ideas, inspiration, resources and recommendations they can apply right away to their work. For additional insight, she incorporates interviews from authors and publishing professionals like Allison Fallon, Ron Friedman, Shawn Smucker, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Patrice Gopo. Tune in for solutions addressing anything from self-editing and goal-setting solutions to administrative and scheduling challenges. Subscribe for ongoing input for your writing life that's efficient and encouraging. More at annkroeker.com.
Poetry as a Playful and Pleasurable Creative Practice, with Mark McGuinness
With inspiration from Mark McGuinness, you'll integrate poetry into your writing life as a pleasurable practice that elevates your prose.
In this interview, Mark describes the vision for his podcast and his own poetic beginnings, and he urges writers (and readers) to simply enjoy poetry.
You'll see ways poetry intersects with and impacts prose—you can even play a literary game he describes at the end.
Learn from Mark:
* How a mouthful of air is a perfect image for poetry and podcasts* How can we translate metaphor into our other forms of writing (without being weird)* The metaphor that comes to his mind when describing himself and his writing* How poems "mug" Mark and he drops everything to chase them like leprechauns* The importance of getting input on your work and finding a writing mentor* Plus, play his writing game (bring your prose)!
Listen to episode 245 and check out excerpts in the transcript below. You’ll be inspired by his warm, encouraging advice. If his subtle persuasion succeeds, you may embrace poetry as the next step in your literary journey.
Meet Mark McGuinness
Mark McGuinness is a poet based in Bristol, UK. On his poetry podcast A Mouthful of Air he interviews contemporary poets about their writing practice and draws out insights that can help any writer become more creative, expressive and memorable.
Mark also takes classic poems apart to show us how they work and what we as writers can learn from the examples of poets including Yeats, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Chaucer and Edward Lear.
* Visit amouthfulofair.fm* Listen to A Mouthful of Air on Apple Podcasts* Twitter: @amouthfulofair* Instagram: @airpoets
Mark McGuinness Interview
This is a lightly edited transcript.
 - Ann Kroeker
With inspiration from my guest Mark McGuinness, you may find yourself integrating poetry into your writing life as both a pleasure and a practice. I'm Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach. If you're tuning in for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular, welcome back. I'm sharing my best tips and training skills and strategies to help writers improve their craft, pursue publishing and achieve their writing goals. Today I have Mark McGuinness on the show, a poet from Bristol, UK.
On his poetry podcast, A Mouthful of Air, Mark interviews contemporary poets to discover their writing practice and draws out insights that can help any writer become more creative, expressive and memorable. Mark also takes classic poems apart to show us how they work and what we as writers can learn from the examples of poets like Yates, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Chaucer and Edward Lear.
Listen in on our conversation.
[00:54] - Ann Kroeker
I am so excited to have Mark McGuinness on the call today on our show and we are going to talk about a lot of different things related to the creative life, the writing life, even the poetry life. Mark, thanks for being on the call.
[01:09] - Mark McGuinness
Try This Writing Prompt to Get the Creative Juices Flowing!
Writers working on projects that are destined to be published—to be read—can struggle with nerves.
We edit our words before they have a chance to breathe on the page.
We hold back our true feelings and opinions.
We forget to play with language.
Serious Writers Need to Play
I tend to encourage my clients to move toward practical goals, to create work that is going to be published.
But at the same time, I also encourage writers to play, to get past the gates we put in front of ourselves and try to tap into those first thoughts without fear of being misunderstood.
If you're a writer taking yourself a little too seriously, I have just the thing for you today—a writing exercise you can play with in your writing journal, where nobody will see it.
The Creative Writing Exercise: A Three-Line Poem
This one comes from Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway. When you're done, you'll end up with a three-line poem (24).
Each of the lines has a template you can follow.
➤ Line 1: abstraction + verb + place
➤ Line 2: describe attire
➤ Line 3: summarize an action
Here's one of her examples.
Hunger yells in the hallway, draped in cymbals; he stomps and shouts, "Hear me now!"
Notice how she plays with the template.
* "Hunger" is the abstraction* "Yells" is the verb* "In the hallway" is the place
Line 2: "Draped in cymbals" is her way of describing some attire.
Line 3: "He stomps and shouts, 'Hear me now!'" describes action.
It's okay if your poems come out a little weird or kooky. That's part of the fun of it.
Your Turn: Try It!
You're putting together ideas and images and creating something fresh—have fun with it!
Don't overthink the noun, the verb, or the action. Simply play.
Join Others in The Art & Craft of Writing
This offers a taste of some of the exercises we are going to play with in The Art and Craft of Writing.
If you're reading this before August 29, 2022, you have a chance to sign up for a fall intensive I'm running: an eight-week program designed to help you get input on your writing while you learn literary techniques and put them into practice. You'll get eyes on your work from peers in the cohort and from me, as well!
If you're coming across this information after the fact, go to annkroeker.com/acw, which will take you to the page where you can sign up if it's live or get on the waitlist if it's not.
You don't have to wait for that or even be in the program to play with writing. You can start today, with this three-line poem.
While you're playing with your own words in your writing notebook, you don't have to share anything with anybody. It's just a chance to warm up—to get the creative juices flowing.
Creative Writing with Your Coach
That said, maybe it helps to know that this writing coach loves to play with words.
Would you like to see what I came up with, just for fun?
Ideas skid across my path; jaunty in their tilted caps and leprechaun-green s...
Prepare for Publishing with Insights from Literary Agent Lucinda Halpern
Literary agent Lucinda Halpern prepares us to navigate the industry and prepare for publishing. With her insights, we'll position our project—and ourselves as authors—to pitch agents and get noticed.
She reveals what literary agents are really looking for when it comes to platform and clears up the concern about how much or how little to share of your book's ideas on social media. And if you're wondering what to really focus on when crafting your book proposal, Lucinda's got insider info to help you make decisions.
After listening to (or reading) what she has to say, you're going to feel more confident than ever as you prepare to pitch.
Lucinda says publishers are looking for books with "perennial potential":
Publishers are trendcasters. They are futurists. They have to think about books from the perspective of what is going to sell when the book publishes in two years and then for five years after that, because they're interested in books that backlist....So writers should be really savvy to what are the sort of trends that are happening in the media or on podcasts or Netflix series.
She urges writers to network.
See if you can discover the connection you have to someone in the industry. She says, "I always say get that six-degree-of-separation connection to an agent." She continues, "There are so many blind submissions coming at [agents], better to have an 'in'—a step up—if you can."
Writers in my platform membership often ask how much they can share about their book idea—how much they can write or teach the topics—without giving too much away, so I asked Lucinda her opinion. You might be surprised (and relieved) by her response:
The rule of the day is the more free content, the better. And one of my authors, Paul Jarvis, had a really wonderful way of putting this: Teach everything you know...I believe in that so much. And editors believe in it, too. Because again, if they see that audience clamoring for your ideas...that's a huge draw...It almost doesn't matter that they've seen it before. It's better they've seen it before.
When we discussed platform for nonfiction authors, I asked her for that magic number of how many subscribers or followers publishers (and agents) are looking for. She gave us the number, but not before offering an important disclaimer:
It differs for category and for the particular author that you are. So someone who's a PhD or a doctor or finance professional or psychologist, there are a number of sort of more private industries where an editor is going to recognize your life has not been tweeting...Whereas if you're a journalist, it's going to be how many bylines have you accumulated and what sort of publications and what is your Twitter following? How many people actually know who you are? I just want you to know if you're a business person and you've run this successful company, maybe again, you're not so active on social media, but you have a YouTube channel that gets views and you also have a massive email list which publishers are more interested in than social media numbers. I'm just giving you a sense of the diversity in the nonfiction sphere alone that we're evaluating platform on. There is no one number.
I begged a little for the number.
Thankfully, she told us.
You want to know the number she's looking for?
Listen, watch, or read the transcript below. (That specific answer is around the 17:56 mark.)
What’s a Writing Coach (and what kind do I need)?
Have you ever wondered what a writing coach is?
As you can imagine, I get asked this a lot. I mean, it is baked into my branding, and I love sharing insights I've gained over my years of coaching.
Let's start with the simplest, broadest definition of what a writing coach is and does:
A writing coach provides you with input and support designed to close the gap between where you are as a writer and where you want to be.
I coauthored the book On Being a Writer with Charity Singleton Craig (2014), and our editor used similar language on the back cover copy of the book and in marketing materials:
Let this book act as your personal coach, to explore the writing life you already have and the writing life you wish for, and close the gap between the two.1
That phrasing captures the foundational purpose and core intent of this coaching role in a writer's life, so I adapted it here.
And as a writing coach myself for over a decade, I can confirm that this is indeed a high-level description of writing coaching.
Differences in Writing Coaches
Every coach approaches the work differently based on their experience, background, training, and philosophy. As a result, not every coach will feel like the right fit for you.
In fact, you may need one kind of coach at one stage in your writing journey and another kind of coach later.
Bottom line: you want to find someone ready to address your current goals and challenges.
Writing Coaches Are Not...
To begin to understand what a writing coach is and does, let's look at what a writing coach isn't.
➤ Writing coaches are not editors
A coach may have been and may still be an editor. They may offer both services and, thus, be both a coach and an editor. They may also offer editorial input within their coaching style. But these are two different services, so writing coaches are not editors while they are coaching.
➤ Writing coaches are not agents
A coach may have been and may still be an agent. But these two services must be distinct and separate, since authors never pay for representation. If you find an agent who offers coaching, be sure the service you're paying for is coaching.
➤ Writing coaches are not ghostwriters
A coach may have been a ghostwriter and may still offer ghostwriting as a separate service, but a coach's role is not to collaborate or do any of the writing for you. You're the writer!
➤ Writing coaches are not social media managers or designers
A coach may have personal experience and success in social media, and offer ideas to increase engagement with followers. They may recommend social media managers and designers. But writers don't hire coaches to set up marketing campaigns or design Instagram images.
➤ Writing coaches are not marketing and promotion specialists, publicists, or launch team organizers
A coach may offer marketing, publicity, or launch team services in addition to coaching. Authors who become coaches may pass along insights from their own marketing and publicity experience. But when coaching a client, they are not marketing or publicizing their client’s work or organizing a launch team.
➤ Writing coaches are not mentors
My writing mentors—I've had at least five—invested time in me, guiding and steering me through phases in my career, and from those relationships,
Find Your Book Midwife, Say “Yes” Before You’re Ready, Pitch to Build Platform, and Authentically Engage with Readers (interview with author Clarissa Moll)
For author Clarissa Moll, hiring a writing coach was like finding her book midwife, and she urges writers to seek that kind of intimate, knowledgeable support and input for their own writing and publishing journey.
In this interview, Clarissa shares her approach to writing, platform, and publishing, like:
* make a list of 10 things whenever you're stuck or developing an idea* say “Yes” before you’re ready* pitch publications as a core platform-building activity* authentically engage with readers—she's committed to building connections and offering support
Listen to episode 242 and check out excerpts below. You'll be inspired by her clear, sensible, inspiring personality and advice.
Clarissa Moll is an author and podcaster and the young widow of author Rob Moll. Clarissa's writing has appeared in Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, RELEVANT, Modern Loss, Grief Digest, and more. Her debut book, Beyond the Darkness: A Gentle Guide for Living with Grief and Thriving After Loss is forthcoming from Tyndale (2022).
Clarissa co-hosts Christianity Today's "Surprised by Grief" podcast and hosts the weekly hope*writers podcast, The Writerly Life. She lives a joyful life with her four children and rescue pup and proudly calls both New England the Pacific Northwest home.
Enjoy these highlights from Clarissa's interview.
Find Your Book Midwife
As folks in my life kept saying to me, "You should write a book!" I thought, I don't even know where to start.
I mean, I can write a five-paragraph essay. I can write a thesis. But to write 55,000 words? It seemed like an elephant that was too big to swallow.
I knew that to do it well, in a way that was sustainable in my own life, I needed to make sure that I was having a meaningful life outside of my writing.
And I knew if I wanted to do this again—if I didn't want to end at the finish line so exhausted that I said, "No more. This is it."—I knew I needed some guidance.
And so I reached out to you.
I gave birth to my four babies with a midwife, and when you're in that delivery room, that baby feels like the only one that's ever been born. And isn't it wonderful to have a midwife stand beside you, who's seen hundreds of delivered, to say, "This is normal. You're doing great!" To be able to offer that encouragement and guidance along the way.
And so I found in you my book midwife. You're the person who helped me to make that journey from just a nebulous kind of idea to something that's really concrete.
Make a List of 10 Things
One of the exercises that I have gone back to time and time again is one that we did together.
You encouraged me to write a list of 10 things. And if I struggled with making my list of 10, I had to write another 10.
When you're out of ideas, just force yourself to put pen to paper. That's where clarity is born.
It's not born in the writer's retreat over a long weekend or at a cabin by the lake. It's born out of those very ordinary, disciplined kind of practices that you taught me.
Say "Yes" Before You're Ready
Back in my acting days, I had an audition and the acting professor said, "Could you do an Irish accent for this audition?"
I said, "Oh, I don't know how to do that. I'm sorry.
10 Ways to Start the Writing Process When You’re Staring at a Blank Page
Louis L'Amour is attributed as saying, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”1
Sounds easy enough, but a lot of times we can’t even find the faucet. Or we find the faucet but fail to turn it on.
Either way, we want to write, but no words flow.
Is that you?
Are you ready to begin writing but you don’t know where to start—you don’t know how to get the words to flow?
I’ve got 10 options for you—ten faucets, if you will. I’ll bet one stands out more than the rest.
Pick one. Try it.
See if it gets those words flowing.
1. Start with a memory
Think back to an event that seems small yet feels packed with emotion. You don’t have to fully understand it. Just remember it. Something changed due to that event. The change may have been subtle or seismic, but you emerged from it a different person.
The simple prompt “I remember” can get you started. Use it as a journal entry and see where it takes you, or go ahead and start writing something more substantial.
When you remember and recreate these scenes from your past, you’ll learn from them. I experienced this when I wrote a short scene in this style, called One Lone Duck Egg.
2. Start with a photo
Photos can whisk us back to another place and time, whether as recently as last week or as long ago as childhood.
Pull a photo from your collection of family photos, physical or digital.
Write in response to the scene. Recreate it. Let the memories unfold.
You could be in the photo, or not.
You could write the story behind the moment, or elaborate on a particular person in the scene.
* What do you think was happening? * Why were you—or weren’t you—there? * What does this say to you today?
Another approach is to combine words with images to create a photo essay.
Back in 2011, I walked around the farm where I grew up and snapped photos. Each time, a fragment of thought came to mind, a flash of a memory.
When I got home, I pieced it together to come up with Dancing in the Loft.
3. Start with art
Art ignites imagination. Whether you invent a story behind the piece of art you choose, or you document your response to it, you’ll end up with an interesting project.
One of my creative writing professors in college gave us a similar assignment to write poetry from art. It’s possible she was trying to introduce us to ekphrastic poetry,2 which, according to the Lantern Review Blog,3 is “written in conversation with a work(s) of visual art.”
But she took a less formal approach, asking us to find some art, study it carefully, and write a poem.
I used a small, framed print of an Andrew Wyeth painting as inspiration.
Bottom line podcast
My favorite thing about Ann’s podcasts is that they are about writing. I hate listening to congratulatory commentary between host and guest. I’m also not interested in hearing rambling promotions for the guest’s new book. If I like what the guest is saying, I’ll get the book without needing an endless preamble.
I’ve listened to about four podcasts thus far and have yet to be bored or disappointed. I’ve also ordered one of the guest’s books. I’m getting great insight and learning a lot.
What your writer’s heart needs!
I love Ann’s passion for helping us become better writers. I especially enjoyed her interview with Allison Fallon! Tune in and encourage your writer’s heart!
A labor of love
Ann hits home with her beautifully told stories that empower you as a writer. I recently heard her episode on the shift that must take place when deciding to make your work your profession.