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I was invited on a Writing Blog Tour by Trudy Krisher (check out her blog at www.trudykrisher.blogspot.com). I’m ashamed to admit that I was on deadline when my “whistlestop” came, so I hope the train didn’t leave the station without me!

Trudy invited me to answer some questions about my work and writing process. Here are my answers.

1) What are you working on?
I just finished a book for the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing called University of Cincinnati College of Nursing: 125 Years of Transforming Health Care. The book will be published by Orange Frazer Press in time for the college’s 125th anniversary celebration in November. I really enjoyed learning about how UC’s nursing college was formed by a group of Cincinnati’s leading ladies, then went on to become the first to offer a baccalaureate degree in nursing, and is now leading nursing education by offering online nursing degrees and using technology in nursing.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
So far all my books have been in the genre of nonfiction, but I have written for both adults and YA. I’d say that my work differs in that no matter what I write (I’m finishing up my first novel now), I want my readers to come away thinking, “Wow—I didn’t know that! That was interesting!” One of my supervisors also told me once, “That sense of humor of yours is never very far from the surface, is it?” He didn’t mean it in a good way, though. Incidentally, he is in my last book, Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati, but I won’t tell you who he is.

3) Why do you write what you do?
I write what I do for a variety of reasons, but often it’s because I’m asked to and I find the topic interesting. The College of Nursing book will be my eighth book. That means that half of the books I’ve published now were my idea and half were the publisher’s (or client’s) idea. But I have to find it interesting, or I wouldn’t be able to stick with it for an entire book.

4) How does your writing process work?
In almost every case—whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, magazine article or book—I start with a bubble map. I get all my existing ideas down on paper. I get all my “gaps”—my questions, or lack of knowledge—down on paper. Then I start researching, organizing or writing from there, depending on what type of work it is. But I always start with a bubble map. I have about 20 bubble maps going right now for books, essays and articles that I’d like to publish someday. It’s also a good exercise if I find myself stuck in traffic, or a boring meeting, or waiting in a doctor’s office without anything to read. When I finally get to the writing step, I tend to write nonfiction directly on the computer (because it’s less of a visceral process and more of an intellectual one for me). But with fiction, I tend to write it longhand, on lined paper. I spend a bit of time thinking about what type of writing implement I feel like that day. Then I think about what writing position and lighting I want to be in. It’s very organic.

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Our next Writing Workshop Workshop is on Sunday, June 30, at Olive’s on Ludlow in Clifton’s old gaslight district in Cincinnati, Ohio. We officially gather at 2 p.m., but if you want to take advantage of Olive’s breakfast buffet, get there by 1:30! We need to be done by 5 p.m., so the first 10 people to get there and sign up will get to read.

The group is a great mix of people in many genres and subgenres: memoir, fiction, poetry, nonfiction. If you’re a newbie, you’re more than welcome to just attend and soak up the atmosphere, if you like. Or if you want to read, bring seven minutes’ worth of reading and $5 for the kitty (meow). Bring more money if you intend to eat. :-)

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Today I’ll be talking with the Sisters in Crime of Columbus, Ohio (SiCCO). Don’t you just love that acronym?

We’re going to talk about how to get your writing in the best shape for submitting it to editors and agents (and contests, too!). I read some great stories and can’t wait to meet the authors. Some of the things we’ll be discussing are manuscript format, action verbs, punctuation and style guides.

For example, did you know that you’re supposed to put only one space at the end of a sentence and after a colon? Do you know when that standard changed? In the mid-1980s. Want to know why? Well, you’ll have to invite me to talk to your group to find out!

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If you watch Animal Planet as much as I do, you’ve heard a lot about the “Flehmen response” in cats, where they smell things through their mouths because of the Jacobson’s organ. Turns out horses do it, too, as you can see in Peter Meade’s great photo on the blog post of “The Nose Knows.” This whole post about smells is a great one. Like the author, as a fellow migraine sufferer, I am also very sensitive to odors.

I smell things that no one else does. When I was thinking about buying our house 20 years ago this month, I walked into the basement and instantly smelled mildew. Nobody else did: not my husband, not our realtor (and of course the sellers didn’t, wink, wink). What a surprise! Every time it rains, it pours in our basement. Years before that, I mentioned to a boyfriend that his car engine smelled off when he picked me up for a date. He was very glad for that date later when he found a problem in the engine upon examination.

Smells can trigger migraines for me (so if you ever gave me Youth Dew, Cinnabar, Giorgio or Red Door — sorry, it made me sick). Smells also trigger very strong memories: every now and then I get a whiff of the exact combination of cedar, mothballs and magazines that made up my grandmother’s attic, where we sometimes had to sleep when we visited her. I’m still hoping that someday I will find the same dishwashing liquid she used. I adored my grandma.

Beginning writers often (OK, even experienced writers sometimes) forget to invoke other senses besides sight. If they think of feeling, they don’t think of how things feel; instead, novice writers spend too much time on how their characters feel rather than thinking of what objects might feel like to those characters.

By now, some of you might be thinking, “Hey, she’s right. I might need to incorporate some senses into my writing.” I want to make it a bit more challenging than where  your first instinct will lead you. Take a look at whatever you’re working on now.

Current draft: Possibly describes how things look.

Next try: Might describe what things smell like: “My grandmother’s attic smelled like mothballs and old wood chests.”

Second try: Invokes the smells through metaphors, verbs and other techniques, but the word “like” might not even appear: “My grandmother’s attic greeted my nostrils with its trusty cedar hope chests and naphthalene packets hung like ‘No Trespassing’ signs between aging woolen suits.” (OK, I didn’t say it was good; I said it was a “try.”)

So think about your writing. Does it make sense?

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Hey folks! This summer I’m going to be giving some talks and conducting workshops around the Tristate, if you’d like to catch me without signing up for a multi-week class. Check out these great opportunities to hear me!

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I’ve caught myself doing something stupid and I’m stopping it now. Besides being a writer, I’m also a gamer. Well, I try to be. My video-game playing started out when my sons were young and I made the rule that they couldn’t play a game until I had played it first so’s to pass judgment on it. In the process, I found many games I loved and have spent many wonderful hours with my sons, playing their games and talking about their lives. That will stop only when they pry the xbox controller from my red, dead hands. What I do need to curtail is playing before I work.

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