Let’s face it, I love any piece of mail that isn’t an ad or a bill or a request for money

envelope with handwritten address surrounded by dried flowers
envelope with handwritten address surrounded by dried flowers

Today I received a letter from my oldest best friend — oldest as in the one I’ve known the longest. Since junior high, in fact. We’ve managed to keep in touch over many years — almost forty years in fact (gulp!) — and many moves and life changes. It’s one of those friendships I treasure because the minute we start talking, we jump in like no time has passed. We knew each other before we were in any way cool, put-together adults so there’s no pretense.

The letter was full of news about her kids, her husband, her job, her…

Why this new federal holiday is important

sign saying Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere
sign saying Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

As of today, Juneteenth is officially a federal holiday in the United States. It’s been celebrated for decades in one form or another, and some states already had it on the books as a holiday, but this raises its level of cultural importance to the nation.

For those who aren’t aware, Juneteeth is a mashup of June Nineteenth, the day General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to let the slaves there know they were free, and officially enact emancipation in Texas. Of course, the simple announcement of emancipation didn’t mean all…

Focus on your process instead

I’ll be honest, I’ve been struggling with my habits and routines lately. I started a new job a few months ago, and while I love it, I don’t have a regular schedule. My teaching and coaching schedules are also all over the place. Every day I have to figure out what I need to do, and when I can do it. My life is much more a work-in-progress than it has been for a long time.

This is unsettling, and yet also stimulating. It’s good to have our routines (which are just another word for habit-stacking) shaken up now and…

Three dirty truths about motivation and why it doesn’t matter as much as you think

Motivation is something many writers struggle with, whether they are writing articles for Medium or writing a novel. It’s one of the biggest complaints I hear as a writing coach — “I’ve lost all my motivation for this project!” Or for writing at all — “I just can’t seem to force myself to sit down and write.”

The problem is, we rely on motivation like it’s some magical elixir that a) should be available 24/7; and b) will automatically make it easy to sit down and write.

Dirty truth #1:

Motivation is not constant.

If you rely on motivation to work the way…

Lessons for writers from reading

girl lying down on floor reading book
girl lying down on floor reading book

This month was a fiction extravaganza! Which was lovely, to immerse myself in so many different worlds. This month’s list reminds us why it’s good to get out of any ruts we might be in, reading-wise, and be open to all kinds of stories. If you only read literary fiction, or subsist on a steady diet of cozy mysteries, or only read nonfiction, I invite you to pick a genre or an author you haven’t read before, and try it. …

Some resources to help make sure you get it right

hands with different skin tones next to each other on a table
hands with different skin tones next to each other on a table

Many writers worry about writing the “Other” (any character whose identity they don’t share, whether gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, age, disability, etc.) fearing they will get it wrong and horribly offend people. Some writers avoid the issue altogether, but that may mean their fiction represents only narrow slice of the world.

It’s true that writers have come under much more scrutiny these last few years in their attempts to create a diverse cast of characters in their work, and with good reason: while representation is important, equally important is…

Professional envy can have an upside

young women with contrast on sandy beach
young women with contrast on sandy beach

Recently I saw a Tweet thread by a writer who was excited about their recent book deal. As anyone who’s been toiling hard for years to achieve success in an incredibly difficult business would.

Except, they hadn’t. I honestly can’t remember this person’s name now, but they told a story that ran along the lines of: they hadn’t read a novel since high school; then they read one particular book and fell in love with it; and then they decided to write their own, and now it’s being published.

Nice, right? But get this: they read their life-changing novel in…

The best lists to get you started with new author faves

I was going to curate a list of books for AAPI Heritage Month, but it has already been done — and done so well — by others, that I am going to instead link to their lists.

I also think that as a writer, one of the most important things we can do is read. And reading books by and about people who have historically been under-represented in literature is a fantastic way of expanding your craft knowledge as well your knowledge of the world, cultures, history… It’s easy to gravitate to the same authors and types of stories over…

#8: A career is a journey, not a destination

women sitting overlooking a winding road
women sitting overlooking a winding road

For many years I had two parallel lives: the writing world and the world of higher education. I did writing and book coaching on the side, while working in higher ed administration and teaching. I had a point not too long ago where I seriously thought about — and planned — to get a Ph.D. before realizing that, although I was interested in my potential research and its contribution to the field, it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. …

What the heck is voice, anyway?

Boy singing into microphone
Boy singing into microphone

Last week I read the novel Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. It’s the story of a young woman who is a baker in a world populated by humans and “Others” (were-creatures, vampires, and the like). Of course, she becomes entangled with a vampire — in fact, caught between two vampires at war. It’s told entirely in first person, in an almost stream-of-consciousness style. I liked the story, but found the rambling, digressing, and occasionally convoluted nature of the writing distracting to the point where I occasionally skipped passages — which I almost never do.


Jana Van der Veer

Writer and Book Coach at www.setyourmuseonfire.com. I’m all about firing up motivation, accountability, and strategies that keep writers writing.

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