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An Interview with me about my novel “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans. The interview is titled “A Closer Look at New Orleans”

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK
Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 
https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4
Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

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Q & A with Author Sherrie Miranda and Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications

Guest blog Q & A with Sherrie Miranda, Author

by Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications

SJF Communications is thrilled to introduce our PR client, Author Sherrie Miranda. Sherrie recently released her novel Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans: Shelly’s Journey Begins which is the prequel to her 2015 debut novel Secrets and Lies in El Salvador: Shelly’s Journey.

Here is a bit of information about both books (along with a holiday discount on eBooks for both) followed by our Q & A.

Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans is author Sherrie Miranda’s prequel to her page-turner, debut thriller, Secrets and Lies in El Salvador.

Shelly Dalton Smith is a naïve, twenty-three-year-old from Upstate New York who moves to New Orleans in 1980 to prepare for a photo project in war-torn El Salvador.

Shelly arrives in New Orleans, broken and traumatized and therefore unable to trust her own instincts. New Orleans represents the fresh start Shelly needs, but she soon finds that almost everyone in New Orleans harbors a secret. She’s unprepared for life in “The Big Easy,” and her world is turned upside down as she navigates “the city that care forgot.”

With fast-paced chapters and beautifully detailed conversations and descriptions, we see New Orleans through Shelly’s innocent eyes as she realizes the sheltered life she had lived was a lie. She experiences sexism and witnesses racism, police brutality, FBI visits, death threats, and two people’s captivity by her former boss.

Through her misadventures and exciting plot twists, Shelly focuses on fighting injustice, ultimately finding her authentic voice as an empowered adult. When she finally leaves New Orleans, she is forever changed. The novel is a wild ride through the underbelly of 1980s New Orleans and is filled with quirky characters, sinister abusers, and thrilling secrets and revelations.

Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans (CIINO)

#CIINO Trailer!: https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4

Available on Amazon:

Paperback:https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK

Kindle eBook: https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08K8MMCMJ
($0.99 Holiday Discount)!

Available on Barnes and Noble

Paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/9781663580016

Nook:   https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940162963127

Secrets and Lies in El Salvador (2015 sequel to Sherrie Miranda’s Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans) is the story of an American woman in war-torn El Salvador. It exposes death and destruction at every turn, but also validates the power of love, and embodies the gift of hope.

In a conscious effort to heal from recent trauma and her mother’s lies about her closest relations, Shelly Dalton Smith travels to war-torn El Salvador. Unwittingly used by someone she trusts to implement a mission too dangerous for anyone to complete, she captures shots of her host family, and listens to their secrets and lies, which reveal her mother’s deception is not so different from that of others, including her own.

Witnessing the death of an American journalist and listening to harrowing accounts of refugees who watched the massacre of their families, tears Shelly apart. So she turns to an American fighting with the guerrillas. He teaches her a passion for living she has never known. When he dies in combat, Shelly can no longer bear the pain, and wonders whether it is possible to accomplish her mission.

Secrets and Lies in El Salvador (SLIES)

Available on Amazon:

Paperbackhttps://amzn.com/dp/1507837011

Kindle eBook: https://amzn.com/dp/B00T6EI1UW
($0.99 Holiday Discount)!

Available on Barnes and Noble:

Paperbackhttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/9781507837016

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940046559002

Q & A:

Sherrie Miranda, Author

and

Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications

Sherrie Miranda, Author and Susan J Farese, SJF Communications; Photo Credit: Angelo Miranda

SJF: Why/How did you decide to write Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans?

SM: I always knew I wanted to write this story, but I also knew it would be difficult because I lived in NOLA for 7 years. I could not put everything I wanted in it, but I knew it was an important and timely story. So, I got the support I needed to help me figure out what the story would look like.

SJF: Did you make any personal discoveries (or aha! moments) while researching the book? If so, please explain.

SM: I didn’t really research except for a training on police forensics that I never actually used.

SJF: How did you decide on the title #CIINO and decide to self-publish?? 

SM: I decided the title early on to help me focus on that part of the story.

Self-publishing was the only option for me. I sent out about 35 queries for my debut novel and I got one response. I realized that even if I got an agent, that did not guarantee a publisher & I was noticing that people were waiting years to get published if ever.

SJF: Tell us about your background that led to you writing the book.

Author Sherrie Miranda; Photo credit: Tony Alcaraz

SM: Most of what happens in the story actually happened to me or to my friends. The book is about a time in this country and New Orleans, in particular, when we were trying to stop the slaughter of innocent people in El Salvador. But, our government had us labeled as the bad guys. They wanted to shut us up & shut us down. It is not unlike what’s been happening these last four years.

SJF: Did you take any writing classes or utilize other resources for writers?

SM: Marni Freedman was an amazing help to me. When I finally figured out she was local, I did a coaching session with her. I had been stuck for a long time, but she helped me figure out the shape of my story and what it needed to work. I took her memoir certification class and things finally started falling into place. I also got editing help from Tracy J Jones, Marni’s best friend and her editor and co-chair of her memoir course. Marni and Tracy are supportive in ways few instructors are. They are very careful not to break your spirit. They come from a place of pure love. If it weren’t for these two women, I believe I’d still be stuck!

SJF: Can you give us information on your background in teaching – Subjects? Creative writing/ESL etc.?

SM: Although I taught Art, Health, English Literature and even History, I loved teaching ESL. It was a privilege to have students from all over the world and to be their introduction to this country. I learned so much from these young people and they inspired me to tell my story.

SJF: Tell us about your upbringing, geographically, personally etc.

SM: I was born in Pennsylvania, in hunting & fishing territory. Fortunately my parents moved us to Upstate NY so I could start school there. The area I was from in PA was economically depressed & I am grateful we got out of there because it taught me to dare to go out in the world & try new things.

SJF: If you had to write the book(s) over again, would you change anything?

SM: No, I wouldn’t change much. It took me 5 years to write this 2nd novel & I got a lot of support & suggestions from fellow authors. The book is exactly what I want it to be.

SJF: If you had to interview your character Shelly in CIINO, what would you ask her?

SM: I would ask her: how did you change from before you went to New Orleans to when you left?

SJF: Please explain, in first person now, Sherrie…this is interesting!

SM: I didn’t realize how big an issue sexism is in this country & in the world. I didn’t know that 1 in 4 women get raped or molested in their lifetime. Also 1 in 5 males are raped or molested. New Orleans forced me to look at the hard reality – #MeToo

I didn’t know the depth of racism in this country. Nor did I realize how it permeates every part of the lives of people of color. Knowing the experiences of POC changed me forever. #BlackLivesMatter

SJF: A brief history of your education, positions/teaching appointments published articles, etc.

SM: I studied Art, then Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), but I was on academic probation, mainly because I kept asking professors to let me do a photo project, but being on a trimester schedule did not allow me the time to go back & finish another class when I had a full load each semester.

In New Orleans, I finally got back in school, but it took another four years to finish because my transfer courses did not count the full 3 units. Also, again, I studied Art, then pre-nursing, then finally switched to Drama & Communications.

I was a much better student at University of New Orleans (UNO) so I was able to pull my GPA up to a 3.4. I was friends with professors at UNO, whereas at RIT, the professors were not friendly toward me.

I also received my teaching credential through SDSU and my MFA in Creative Writing from National University (with a 4.0 GPA)!

SJF: What are your personal pastimes/hobbies/interests/passions?

SM: I love to garden. It’s kind of addicting. Sometimes I lose several hours when I get out there & play in the dirt. Also, we have a historical home, so we love to shop for art & furniture from the 1930s when our home was built.

I love movies and good TV shows, and reading, of course. I love a good story that is well developed.

I also love to travel. Angelo and I mostly travel in the U.S., but I’ve been to several European countries and a few Latin Countries. I hope to figure out how to incorporate those trips into my writing eventually.

SJF: Anything you would like to mention about Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans (#CIINO) and Secrets and Lies in El Salvador (#SLIES)?

SM: There are stories that come from my heart. The people of New Orleans are very unique and memorable. Salvadorans are the most generous people as a group that I’ve ever met despite decades of the government & landowners fighting its own people. Also, my husband wrote the music for the trailers. Angelo is a musician in two local bands:: Local Upfront, 70-80 cover songs, and the South Bay Band, a jam band.

SJF: Where can we find you on the web? Website, social media etc.

SM: Oh, I’m all over the internet. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedInGoodreads and thanks to you, I finally figured out Instagram. I also have a WordPress blog and am hoping to have you design a website for me soon.

SJF: How have you been coping with life since Covid-19? Any stress management tools? 

Author Sherrie Miranda and Angelo Miranda; Photo credit: Susan J. Farese, SJF Communications

SM: Mostly, it’s been good for me. I had an excuse to stay home & finish CIINO. Angelo had a few outside music gigs so that helped ease the loneliness. Plus, I have a couple of friends who have been mostly isolated so we were able to do a few get togethers with them.

But, I have to admit it’s starting to get to me now. Plus, I’ve been staying up too late & sleeping late. If I ever get back to subbing, I’m going to be in trouble trying to get up at 6 a.m.

SJF: How has the Covid-19 affected you personally/professionally?

SM: I’ve come to realize that I’m an introvert so it’s been easier on me than most people. Also, since I haven’t been around a lot of people (esp. teens), I’ve managed to stay healthy for more than a year. 

Professionally, though, I would have gone to the La Jolla Writer’s Conference & probably done some events at several bookstores so that’s been difficult. But people have more time to read so I’ve seen a lot more interest in this book because of having an online presence.

SJF: Role models or persons that inspire you in your life?

SM: First, my dad, was always an inspiration because he believed in me. The rest of my family doesn’t feel the same about him. I guess I was a Daddy’s girl like my mom always said.

There have been women who have inspired me most of my life. Some I knew, like my Spanish professor who is now writing books too. And some I didn’t know, like Susan Meiselas whose photography in Central America inspired me to be an anti-war activist, and Carolina Forché, who showed me the power of writer as witness to atrocities and injustice. 

SJF: What are you working on next? Another sequel?

SM: Yes, When Shelly comes back from El Salvador with her husband (and pregnant)! She’s going to have a blond haired, blue-eyed baby that is obviously not Juan Jr.’s! I’m not really working on it right now. Just in my head. I need to work with Marni before I start writing. She believes in having a firm plan before starting to write. Otherwise you risk getting stuck in the middle & maybe never finishing. Since this happened to me both times, I’m going to follow her advice.

SJF: Favorite quotes?

SM: “I don’t like to write; I love having written.” Dorothy Parker

“You simply sit down to a typewriter, open your veins and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway

“The lesson will be repeated until it is learned.” Buddha

SJF: Who (celebrity)  would you like to have lunch or dinner with to discuss your book?

SM: Martin Sheen. I sent him a copy of SLIES and he sent me a thank you card. I wish I had heard from him after he read it. I’m going to send CIINO to him too.

SJF:  Life hurdles? Successes?

SM: I was always going two steps forward, one step back. I was a country girl trying to be a city girl. I was never prepared for what I was trying to do. In the end though, that has made me a better writer so it all happened for a reason.

SJF: Three significant/pivotal moments in your life?

Divorcing my first husband and starting college.

Traveling around Europe (several times)

Moving to LA – that was hard too, but I learned a lot there. It’s where I became spiritual, after 9/11.

SJF: Fears?

SM: Oh, I’m filled with fears. But I just decide to go ahead & try it anyway.

SJF: Recurring dreams/ Usual dreams?

SM: When I was a kid, I dreamed my family and I traveled to other planets. I often dream I’ve got an out of control classroom of students. 

SJF:  Strongest asset? What would you like to work on/improve?

SM: I think my openess has allowed me to have experiences that most Americans don’t ever get to have. I need to work on being fearless and I really need to stop procrastinating. I also need to stop spending so much time on the internet. It’s the worst addiction there is. 

SJF: Where/How do you ‘give back’ to your community/communities?

SM: Teaching has been very rewarding in that respect. Before I became a teacher, I was an antiwar activist and I continue to try to raise awareness on political issues that are important to me.

I also worked with the homeless when I first moved to San Diego.

SJF: Any regrets in life?

SM: I don’t really believe in regrets. I never had a child, but I have had many loving people in my life. I believe “Everything happens for a reason.” If I had had a child, I wouldn’t have been able to travel and wouldn’t have ended up in a place where I could marry my husband.

I put myself through a lot of unnecessary difficulties with men mostly, but I finally know who I am and what I want so it all worked out in the end.

SJF: What qualities should the younger generations aspire to that you think are important in this day and age?

SM: Young people are more aware of the dire issues that face us. I trust that they will make the world a better place, a more fair & equal place.

SJF: Funny/humorous (appropriate) stories?

SM: Oh, when I went to RIT in my mid-twenties, I had a really hard time with this one professor’s class. When I asked him for help, he said I didn’t belong in his class. But when I tried to drop the class, he insisted I see the school psychologist first. The psychologist thought it was the professor who had a problem, not me. But, I just told the professor that yes, I had seen the psychologist. He finally signed off on me dropping his class.

SJF: How do you handle loss?

SM: Better than I thought I would. My mom’s death was heartbreaking. I felt I could have been a better daughter (though she insisted I was a perfect child!). I cried for weeks when she died. But I got messages from her.

My dad was the guy I worried about dying since I was 13 years old. I think I must have sensed that something was wrong. So many times I cried about him dying someday, but when the day finally came, I just felt relief that he was out of the miserable situation he ended up in.

SJF: Where have you traveled and where would you like to travel once Covid-19 is OVER??? 

SM: I’ve traveled a lot. First Europe, then El Salvador, Cuba, Brazil. Then West coast, including Canada & Mexico. Then East coast, including Montreal.

But I want to visit Pittsburgh and Philly and the New England states. I also want to see more of Europe, especially Ireland, Wales & Scotland.

I would travel more, but Angelo (my husband) doesn’t like to be away from his pianos.

SJF: Thank you very much Sherrie, and best wishes with your writing and looking forward to reading more of your upcoming books!

Thanks for stopping by!

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A Letter Explaining the Reason Behind the Choice of Writing “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” as Historically-Based, Rather than Historical Fiction

romero-267x300
Mr. Lamperti,
I very much appreciate your message and am glad that you care so much about El Salvador’s recent history.
When I first began writing “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador,” I wanted it to be historical fiction, but I had t w o very knowledgable people tell me not to write it that way. The first person (who recently passed away with cancer) told me that the story would be better told by moving events around in order to build tension. Karen Aschenbach had written screenplays and lived in Hollywood the last few years of her life. I am well aware that Hollywood doesn’t often tell the complete truth, but I am also hoping that this story will be made into a movie.
The other person who recommended I not call it (or make it) historical fiction is an author of historical fiction herself. She said historical fiction doesn’t sell except to a small group of people who care immensely about history. A few months after she gave me this advice, she pulled her books off the shelf to edit and make changes as some readers had found some errors in the work.
That was a wake-up call for me as I knew I wasn’t being meticulous about the history and especially the time-line.
For these reasons, I call the novel historically-based, rather than historical fiction.
I will make sure my publicist is aware of this so that we do not label this story inaccurately.
My sincere thanks for your compassion toward the Salvadoran cause. My Salvadoran friends and family are very grateful to you and all those who remind the world of this unjust US-funded war.
Sherrie Miranda
sherriemiranda1@aol.com

A Mourner Remembers Archbishop Romero
A Mourner Remembers Archbishop Romero

Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador: http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

It’s Been One Year Since I Won 3rd Place for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.”

May be an image of book

I hope you will check out the book to see if you think you would enjoy reading it.

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK
Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 
https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4
Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

Journal Give-away & Writing to Heal Discussion

Writing to heal

 Maria Galleher is such an amazing teacher that I only subbed for her the last few years I subbed. She always dealt with any problems & the kids would apologize & be really respectful after that.

She teaches Food Justice & Peer Counseling & she does Conflict Resolution at the school. 

I had these journals & pens because I was going to do Life Writing workshops with women in this home for women with mental health issues. But since I wasn’t able to do it because of covid, I brought them in to give to her students. 

It was a really good presentation that just came together naturally. 

I was re-reading a book on how writing ✍️ heals. Most of what was in the book was much too high level for a high school group, but at least it got me thinking about how important writing is to healing. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we let our emotions run wild & how they can ruin relationships. 

The emotions are from unresolved trauma. I talked about how journaling had gotten me through many difficult times in my life. Then Maria asked for examples from them. I was pleased to see that several of them already knew about the healing power of writing.

“If we can write ✍️ about it, we may be able to come to an understanding that allows us to have a better life.” 

There are lots of books on this but this author researched authors who say writing healed them. Isabel Allende was one of her examples & she is one of my favorite authors. Her daughter was in a hospital room dying & she started writing to her while in that room. The book is called Paula

There are many authors who talk about how they healed from their pain by writing. 

“When you get your masters, maybe you can explore this subject.”

When I first started teaching, I encountered an excerpt of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” along with an assignment to write an Autobiographical Incident. After that, I gave that assignment to every class I taught. I also showed the movie.

“They also did stories similar to those in House on Mango Street. My students would make a book & illustrate it.” 

My students loved reading each other’s booklets. It was really powerful. 

With Maria’s help, we had some great discussion. I wanted to share all the slides she made while I was doing the presentation, but I can only get them to come up at the top of the page.

Please feel free to share my ideas & add to them for any group you might want to help write. Journaling can take you anywhere. It’s the best therapy out there In My Humble Opinion.

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK
Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 
https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4
Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

Sharing this amazing photographer!

AnaElisa

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”― Aldous Huxley

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.

Think of it–always.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

View from the law library at Civi Center, San Francisco

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Are you Stuck? How to Start Your Next Great Novel

Brainstorming

Some of us brainstorm in our head but best results are usually achieved by writing ✍️ or typing your ideas first. Or better yet, making a visual.

If you just start writing to see where it takes you, you will likely get lost & waste a lot of time. Many get frustrated & quit. 

I have a coach who I share my ideas with. She often throws some ideas out to see what sticks for me. This is very helpful. 

Some writers brainstorm in groups. If you have a small group you trust, go for it. I personally have too much of my own vision to trust my ideas to a group. But to each his/her own. 

  1. Begin with a circle ⭕️ with the main idea in the middle & spider 🕷 legs out for more specific ideas: plot, characters, protagonist, etc. You might want to find some appropriate music to play. Preferably music without lyrics. 
  2. You can then break down the spider 🕷 graph to more specific ideas: setting, main conflict, important characters. 
  3. Don’t ignore an idea because it doesn’t fit your vision. Your vision could change if something hits you as important or urgent. Write ✍️ it all down. 
  4. How do these ideas fit together? Can some of these ideas be thrown out now? Can others be joined together?
  5. What’s missing? Can you start plotting this out? Or do you need more brainstorming?
  6. What connects these ideas together? What are the characters’ motives? How do they bounce off each other? How do they support each other?
  7. Ask “What if” questions. What if the antagonist used to be a friend? What if the friend really isn’t a friend?
  8. Once you’re happy with what you have, you can make an outline. Or use index cards to figure out the plot sequence. That way you can move them around for better dramatic effect. Good luck on this exciting writing journey!

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.

https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK

Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 

Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

How Do I Overcome “Writer’s Block”? In giving Kaylee advice, I answered the question for myself!

Kaylee Allgood  · February 3 at 11:51 PM  · 

HELP. How do you overcome writers block and lack of motivation? I had surgery 5 weeks ago and haven’t written a thing! I was so excited thinking I’ll have so much time to write my book, but I feel so unmotivated 😩I’ll be out of work for at another month at the earliest and I want to use my free time to write but I can’t. It’s been months since I’ve written because I’ve been so stressed and so much has been going on in my life, so I think it’s due to the stress but I’m very frustrated because I really want to.

feeling stressed.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com


My answer to Kaylee posted in Facebook group Fiction Writing
:

Write about why you can’t write. Write about how all this sh*t is making you feel. Write down your anger, frustration, stress. These are valid emotions that could lead to an amazing story!

  • ActiveSherrie MirandaAlso, if you know what you want to write about, start with an outline. Try hand writing on paper in cursive. Studies show that it activates the creative side of the brain. Write as soon as you wake up in the morning before the world intervenes & while you still have ideas from your dreams. Read what you last wrote & always stop writing before you are empty. That way you know where you’ll begin next time. But most of all, know that when you are not writing, you are actually writing. In your head. In your life. You may need this time to percolate & to live life so you have something new to add to your writing.

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK
Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 
https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4
Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

Brain Pickins is now The Marginalian:

Pleasure and Spaciousness: Poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s Advice on Writing, Discipline, and the Two Driving Forces of Creativity

BY MARIA POPOVA

Pleasure and Spaciousness: Poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s Advice on Writing, Discipline, and the Two Driving Forces of Creativity

“A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood,” Tchaikovsky wrote to his patron as he contemplated the interplay of discipline and creativity. A century later, James Baldwin echoed the sentiment in his advice on writing, observing: “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”

But for those of us who show up to do what we do day after day, inner rain or shine, as the days unspool into years — Brain Pickings turns 15 this year — there is something more than white-knuckle discipline making the steadfast labor not only bearable, not only sustainable, but vitalizing, inspiriting, joyful. What fuels the engine of endurance is a passionate enchantment — something of which Baldwin’s “love” reflects a glimmer but does not fully capture. 

The most marvelous part of it is this: It is an enchantment we cast upon ourselves.

Art by Dorothy Lathrop, 1922. (Available as a print and as stationery cards.)

How to cast that enchantment and how to couple it with the requisite endurance is what Your People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye, composer of the existentially symphonic “Kindness,” explores in a short, splendid prose reflection tucked into the final pages of her altogether soul-broadening collection Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems (public library).

In a sentiment evocative of Bertrand Russell’s lovely notion of “largeness of contemplation” in calibrating the relationship between intuition and the intellect, Nye writes: 

Two helpful words to keep in mind at the beginning of any writing adventure are pleasure and spaciousness. If we connect a sense of joy with our writing, we may be inclined to explore further. What’s there to find out? Perhaps too much stock has been placed in big ideas or even small ones — a myth! — but regularity seems like a key. Don’t start with a big idea. Start with a phrase, a line, a quote. Questions are very helpful. Begin with a few you’re carrying right now.

In consonance with John Steinbeck’s life-tested, Nobel-earning conviction that “in writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration,” she adds:

Small increments of writing time may matter more than we could guess. One thing leads to many — swerving off, linking up, opening of voices and images and memories. Nearby notebooks — or iPads or tablets or laptops — are surely helpful.

With this, Nye turns to the ongoing dialogue between the magic of creation and the mechanics of discipline:

Make a plan, and return to it. It’s a party to which we keep inviting ourselves.

And we have so many realms of material that are very close by:

Families
Neighborhoods
Changes
Memories
Spoken language woven into poems — something someone said to you a long time ago and you still remember it — why, out of all the talk, do you remember that thing?
Pets
Losses
First Times
Last Times
Fears
Friends
Being Sick, Being Well
What we see out our windows
Gifts
History — what used to be in this very place where we are sitting now?

Start anywhere.

Although such constructed starting points might seem mechanistic, they are the lever that unlatches the expanse where the unexpected can begin to unfurl. That incubus where ideas collide with one another into the unconscious combinatorial process we call creativity is also the place where the joy of all creative labor lives. 

Art by Dorothy Lathrop, 1922. Available as a print and as stationery cards.

Returning to the twin consecrating forces of discipline, pleasure and spaciousness, Nye writes:

Spaciousness — any page is wider than it looks. You have no idea where this thing might be going. Write in nuggets — here are my questions, here are some details I saw within the last 24 hours, here are some quotes I heard people say today. Gather material first — then select and connect from it… Each thing gives us something else.

The more any of us writes, the more our words will “come to us.” If we trust in the words and their own mysterious relationship with one another, they will help us find things out… Consider the pleasure we feel when we go to a beach. The broad beach, the bigger air, the endless swish of movement and backdrop of sound. We feel uplifted, exhilarated. Writing regularly can help us feel that way too.

Illustration by Margaret C. Cook for a rare 1913 edition of Leaves of Grass. (Available as a print.)

In a short poem from the same book, calling to mind poet Ross Gay’s reflection on writing by hand as an instrument of thought, Nye considers the practical tools that carve out this observant spaciousness in which impressions can collide and coalesce into ideas:

ALWAYS BRING A PENCIL
by Naomi Shihab Nye

There will not be a test.
It does not have to be
a Number 2 pencil.

But there will be certain things —
the quiet flush of waves,
ripe scent of fish,
smooth ripple of the wind’s second name —
that prefer to be written about
in pencil.

It gives them more room
to move around.

For more practical and philosophical reflections on the craft from great poets, savor Mary Oliver’s advice on writing, Elizabeth Alexander on language as a vehicle for the poetry of personhood, and Rilke on the relationship between solitude, love, and creativity, then revisit Rachel Carson on the sacred loneliness of writing and Walt Whitman on the discipline of creative self-esteem.

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK
Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 
https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4
Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

No luck submitting my book to agents and publishers – should I hire a different editor?

Notice she says it will be 2 years before your book will be published. That’s if it is published at all. Why not self-publish if you believe the book is ready?

Nail Your Novel

I had this interesting email.

I’ve written a thriller. I worked on it for a few years with an editor who said it was ready to submit. However, following lots of submissions but no requests for the full MS I began to work with another editor. The two are like chalk and cheese and I`m now in a quandary as to the way forward. Is this something you can help with?

There aren’t any easy answers here. You’re dealing with a massive unknown – the reactions of the publishers and agents you submitted to.

No news is… no news

It’s possible that your manuscript is perfectly publishable in terms of writing standard, but not what agents and publishers are looking for in other ways. You might not be on trend, or you might be too close to a trend they have decided will soon be over (even if it won’t).

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On-line vs. In-person Classes

Before 2020 very few students took courses on-line though I had. I also took a course through TV (PBS) once.

I find it sad that the vast majority are choosing on-line over in-person classes, but I kinda understand too. I got my MFA completely online (in ‘09). It was perfect for a writer because we weren’t being judged for our looks or personality but completely on our writing.
We didn’t zoom & could do the work whenever we wanted. Some students were in other countries; some even in war zones.
It saved hours not having to drive & find parking (or even shower!)
But there’s nothing like being in a classroom with a group of like-minded people. It’s too bad colleges & universities never tried to find a way to make that experience more nurturing.

The MFA in Creative Writing mostly seemed to be for teaching writing although yes, we did turn in work & were critiqued in the majority of my on-line classes. Because much of it is peer critiques, the quality of the program depends on the level of the other students, as well as how involved the professor is. Of course, this is true with in-person classes too.

Most of what I learned about story arc & character arc, I learned on my own. Later I took local courses that reaffirmed what I taught myself about story structure, etc. I am fortunate that we have SDInk here with many courses & amazing instructors, some of whom are college professors. Others are here from Hollywood. I, personally, need the classes to keep me writing, especially at the beginning of a project. I need the feedback.

I don’t watch YouTube videos. Not to learn. But others do. Seems to be a man thing. So, if it works for you: Go for it!

The other thing I discovered when you are not getting a degree is that the instructors bring their heart into their teaching. The No. 1 instructor I have had to date is Marni Freeman, a woman who would stab herself before she’d ever allow herself to make a student feel bad. Whenever she makes suggestions, she asks how you feel about it. I have even cried about the memories I was writing about & she came over & hugged me.

Of course, Marni is a therapist, so she understands how important it is NOT to make someone feel bad about themselves. She also teaches memoir so she is in the perfect field for her skillset (and heartset).

  • I Forgot to mention that many of the SDInk courses are now done through Zoom with us submitting our work thru email (except for those savvy enough to show them on the Zoom screen).

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK
Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 
https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4
Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

The Winning Mindset

By Felix Tih

The Winning Mindset  By Felix Tih
Happy New Year to all. Here’s hoping this is your best year yet. ~Sherrie
Conquer Yourself In 2022
Bruce Lee once said we are born to achieve great things if we can conquer ourselves. “Conquer” is not about subjugating yourself, but instead it is about knowing yourself in order to liberate yourself.No alt text provided for this image“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self ” – Napoleon HillAre you ready to level up your life in 2022? Make up your mind to stay focused on becoming everything you really want to be.You can’t be distracted by things that are keeping you from your life purpose. It’s time to let go of all distractions. Happy 2022!! 🥳 🥳 🥳 Reach out if you want to perform, think better & achieve your goals faster than before.* Follow Felix Tih For More Insights* Follow YouMindset For Daily Growth PS: I help people become the best version of themselves. Message me if you want to think and perform better in 2022. Get Your Winning Mindset FormulaTogether, we have the opportunity to build an environment that fosters a sense of belonging, overcome limiting beliefs in your daily routines and live a full life without self-destructing in the process.

Sherrie Miranda’s “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” follows the dramatic story of naive, sheltered Shelly going to “The Big Easy” to prepare for El Salvador, but has no idea she will encounter sexism and witness racism as well as illegal activities by government agents.
https://www.amzn.com/dp/B08KMHNNDK
Author, Sherrie Miranda’s husband made the trailer for “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans.” He wrote the music too. 
https://youtu.be/7_NL-V9KEi4
Review: Shelly’s journey in “the city that care forgot.”Sherrie Miranda’s new novel “Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans” puts the reader into a whirlwind of political protests, abusive police, sexist attitudes towards women, and “good old boys” racism in 1980’s New Orleans. Miranda’s second novel follows Shelly, the young northerner, as she quickly finds out that she “isn’t in Kansas anymore” while encountering a slew of picturesque, colorful characters. Reading her book makes you wonder if justice and respect for blacks, immigrants, and women can be reality in America.

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