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To help us all write more, we’re offering writing tips from some Southwestern authors. Writers helping writers. This is the second of two posts. We hope these tips spark an idea or two and extra excitement for your own writing project:

Memoir Writing:

Memoir can move both backward and forward in time. You can reorder chronology or compress three years into one year. You can write as if the past is now, “I am eight years old” or you can reflect about the past, “We lived in that apartment from when I was eight until I was twenty.” When the author jumps back and forth in time, it creates a collage and suggests that all things are connected.

— Julia Fricke Robinson, author of All I Know

General Writing:

Where is your story in the US?  Do you or the server ask for a soda, a pop or a soda pop? The terms for carbonated beverages vary. When I first moved east decades ago from Minnesota, I was befuddled to learn that a soda was not something that had ice cream in it. But times change, as well. So if your story is set in a different time, be aware of changing idioms.

— John Maberry, author of Waiting for Westmoreland

JJ Amaworo Wilson

General Writing:

In the essay collection The Fire This Time, Wendy S. Walters writes about a burial site for slaves that was paved and built over. The essay meanders along and then it does something startling. It begins listing the slaves’ body parts discovered during an excavation. Pieces of bone. Teeth. A broken hip. The fractured skull of a child. The reader, moved to tears, realizes that beneath the forensics there were people with dreams and families and histories. The essay finally reminded me of Holocaust literature, which in a sense it is.

My tip to writers of fiction or non-fiction is to find the truth in the details.

— JJ Amaworo Wilson, WNMU writer in residence

Motivational:

Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times. Jot ideas and thoughts as they occur. Everything is material, everything can be interesting, an anecdote, or even the beginnings of a story.

— Lynne Zotalis, author of Saying Goodbye to Chuck

Self-Editing:

English is a living language. Especially in fiction, especially in dialogue, rules have fuzzy edges. Creative decisions are up to you, but quirky grammar slows readers down, and typos are always annoying. Edit, edit, edit to remove mistakes.

— Kate Rauner, science fiction author, Glory on Mars

Motivational:

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or two in your writing routine. Sometimes you need to take a break. Give your subconscious space to help work out the thorny problems that always seem to arise in developing a piece of writing.

— Alethea Eason: New novel coming soon: Whispers of the Old Ones

Beryl Raven

Poetry:

Pay attention to beginnings — they set the tone of your poem — and endings — a turn of words for surprise and closure.

— Beryl Raven, Artist /writer

Memoir Writing:

Start in the middle of the action, not from the beginning. Employ the use of flashbacks. Use descriptive language to build the world within your memoir. Show, don’t tell. Don’t make conclusions yourself, set it up so that the reader can draw his or her own conclusions. Create round characters. Your secondary characters should be realistic and not all good or all bad.

— Julia Fricke Robinson, author of All I Know

General Writing:

Write from life. You’ve heard that before, no doubt. It can begin with your own memories. On the other hand, it can come from listening and observing.Right now, that’s difficult, given the stay home guidelines. But for those occasions when you ARE out and about now or in the future, consider these points.

— John Maberry, author of Waiting for Westmoreland

Reading aloud:

Read your work out loud. Listen to the voice. Does it flow and sound authentic?

— Lynne Zotalis, author of Saying Goodbye to Chuck

Kris Neri

Mystery Writing:

Before you start writing a mystery (and sometimes science fiction, fantasy, or other fictional categories), work out the antagonist’s behind the scenes actions: how s/he commits the crime/s or other actions, how s/he sets up an alibi and/or directs suspicion to someone else, as well as how s/he counters the protagonist’s actions as the novel progresses. For most of the novel, the antagonist is the playmaker, while the protagonist is only reacting to the villain’s actions. Though the villain’s identity is typically kept secret until near the end of the mystery, the writer should be able to switch from the on-the-page mode to the behind-the-scenes mode to avoid plot holes. You need to know where the villain is at all times. You can’t put him/her off somewhere committing a second crime, when s/he’s also in full view of the protagonist (and the reader) in the on-the-page mode.

— Kris Neri, author of Hopscotch Life

General Writing:

People freely converse on their phones about very personal topics. They don’t know you, so why should they care? You may pick up lots of conflict, joy and more. Not only that, but from your memories or future travel, consider what you hear where. Writing about Canada, you expect to hear an interrogative “eh” at the end of sentences. But that’s a cliche. Consider instead: in Vancouver, the server taking your order may ask you–as the last person in a group, “and for yourself?” That’s a location colloquialism.

— John Maberry, author of Waiting for Westmoreland

Disclaimer:
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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We respectfully acknowledge that the entirety of southwestern New Mexico is the traditional territory, since time immemorial, of the Chis-Nde, also known as the people of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. The Chiricahua Apache Nation is recognized as a sovereign Native Nation by the United States in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Friendship of 1 July 1852 (10 Stat. 979) (Treaty of Santa Fe ratified 23 March 1853 and proclaimed by President Franklin Pierce 25 March 1853).

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Mimbres Press of Western New Mexico University is a traditional academic press that welcomes agented and unagented submissions in the following genres: literary fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, memoir, poetry, children’s books, historical fiction, and academic books. We are particularly interested in academic work and commercial work with a strong social message, including but not limited to works of history, reportage, biography, anthropology, culture, human rights, and the natural world. We will also consider selective works of national and global significance.