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Monday, November 13, 2017

True Economic Reform Comes From ... Wait for it...

Political Post -- sort of.

I saw the GOP tax plan. I've been seeing it. It's terrible for the economy. Vote them out. Flip the House (and Senate). Past damn time!!
In the meantime, we need to gather enough people of means who haven't lost compassion and good common sense to pay fair wages to all in their employ and to pressure those around them to do the same.
If every person making it big in the entertainment industry insisted on paying top dollar for every stitch of clothing they wore, every hotel they stayed at, every meal they ate, every bodyguard that protected them, every engineer that gave them great light and sound (etc), how many more people could afford $200 show tickets on a monthly basis?
When we put pressure on WalMart (and I know the work there is not done), Target and other retailers followed suit (or pointed out that they were ahead of the game) in employee treatment. The more we can extend this conversation to anyone getting rich on the backs of others, the less we have to worry about poor people being further crippled by those in power, the more leverage people down the ladder have to walk out on unfair working conditions, and overall the better for our economy.

Phyl Campbell is the author of I'm Not Writing a Book Today, the so-called procrastination guide for writers and other dreamers, and a number of other books in various genres (available on Amazon). Books she has published for young authors can be found on her website. They are also available on Amazon under their own authors and titles. Campbell lives and teaches in York County, PA.

Monday, October 23, 2017

NANO is coming!! NANO is coming!!

I am amazed each year by the number of would- be and up-and-coming writers who still don't know about NANO (NaNoWriMo) or National Novel Writing Month.  With all the writers of certain experience either moaning its approach or being excited, how can anyone else miss it? It's something like all writerly posts were replaced with cat pictures on some people's social media accounts. Or some people just live under a rock.

But who am I to judge?

My challenge for you writers this week is to shoot a short video of yourselves (FB live or YouTube upload or FB upload). Promote yourself and your books, and tell your fans and fellow writers whether you are participating in NANO, participating as a REBEL, or NOT participating. And I'd love it if you said why, but I suppose I'll understand if you don't share your reason.

I've done two videos so far, but my laptop ate them. So I'll go FB LIVE later to complete my own challenge. (I'm a REBEL ALL THE WAY, my friends!!)

So whether you're writing or procrastinating, thanks for reading, and have a great end to October. Enjoy Halloween, if you do, and we'll talk again soon!

Phyl Campbell is the author of I'm Not Writing a Book Today, the so-called procrastination guide for writers and other dreamers, and a number of other books in various genres (available on Amazon). Books she has published for young authors can be found on her website. They are also available on Amazon under their own authors and titles. Campbell lives and teaches in York County, PA.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reading Out Loud

I am an emcee for one open mic and a "regular" for another open mic, both in York.

I enjoy seeing the talents of many different individuals.

I also know that some of my prose readers get nervous joining the poets, magicians, comedians, and musicians on the stage.

But there is an audience for you, my prose readers.

And reading out loud as a prose author is so very important to author promotion. Even if you don't have a book for sale now, if you are looking at public sharing of your work, you are self-promoting. So here are some pointers to putting best pieces (and self) forward.

#know your time limit.
Do speakers get 2 minutes? 7? 20? Be familiar with the material you intend to share. You don't have to have it memorized, but have the sections selected in advance.

#you don't have to start at page one.
And it's better if you don't. Unless you are going to read the entire book, pick 2-3 compelling sections (depending on time limit) and practice them until you can look up from the page.

#look up
Do not hide behind your prose. Know your piece well enough that you can look up and connect with the listener. People WILL put their phones down and listen to you if you make and keep eye contact with them. The payoff is worth it.

#showcase dialogue
Of course I am going to say this. I prefer dialogue to monologue to descriptions of settings. But the only monologuing that I find people listening to is comedic. If your prose is not comedic, go for the drama.

#be selective
Some things read well and some things are spoken well. While some people could read us the phone book, other people are better off with more dynamic material. When giving a reading, you don't have to read every dialogue tag (especially if you differentiate voices and use dynamics). You don't have to say anything that you can reflect in your tone. While there is a difference between reading a story and telling a story, people would rather be told a story than read to.

#your best is not for everyone
And your best today may not be your best tomorrow. Keep getting out there, keep practicing out loud and keep writing. Sometimes the words you intend to share will miss their mark. But if you quit there, you won't find the words that you need to satisfy your desire to have written in the first place.

There is an exception to every rule, even (if not especially) when I am giving advice.

Join me at the next Open Mic:
  • November 9, 7-9 p.m. – GUSA by Victoria at 252 W Philadelphia St, York, PA (2nd Thursday each month), for walk-in spoken word and music performances
  • November (Saturday TBA), 12-4 p.m. – Rustic Cup Coffee Shop at 50 W. Maple Street, East Prospect, PA, for walk-in comedy, music, spoken word and magic performances, and more
I, Phyl Campbell, am a creative writing instructor and author in my own write (I mean right!) I am  creator and coordinator of the Make-a-Book classes for young authors held at GUSA by Victoria and Rustic Cup. Author of books such as A Muse Meant and I’m Not Writing a Book Today, available on and at i-ron-ic coffee shop (upstairs) in York City, or on Facebook to learn more about my writing – and how you can create a children’s book or chapter book yourself!
you can find me at

Friday, September 29, 2017

Writing, Publishing, Marketing -- Oh My!

How do I get started writing?

You can read this book on my website -- navigate to Phyl's Books/Children's Books/Weird Pie.

I get this question (about getting started) at least once a week, so I decided to make a blog post I can refer people to. Then, if I get ambitious, I might create new blogs that talk about the next steps based on answers to these questions and link them here. Comment on my FB page if there's a specific answer you'd like me to create for you!

Round one:
What are you going to write? Fiction? How To? Memoir? Poetry?

Round two: Do you keep a journal or have you created blog posts on this topic? Are you someone that writes an outline first, or do you write things as you think about them? What's the longest thing you have ever written before? What is your motivation for writing a book (money, sharing history/something to pass down, book is a bucket list thing, urge to write, sheer boredom, example for kids)? Will your family be supportive of your writing? Will you be able to write without their support? Are you a goal-setter? Do you have a time-frame for writing a book? If you're planning to make $1M selling your first book, know that you CAN, but few do this without a major investment of TIME and MONEY -- one professional did an informal study that showed that people making a thousand dollars or more a month in book sales invested $1500.00 per title in marketing, freebies, and other promotions in the book's first three months. And most of them spent six months before that setting up other marketing events and plans before the book was available. (I linked to her Amazon page. When she posted about her study, it was part of a FB group that is no more. But you should be able to learn more from her via her books or blog.) I am not looking to discourage anyone. But like running a marathon, joining a gym, going back to college -- knowing why you are going to do something plays a big part in how to make yourself successful at it.

Round three: Around what central idea are you going to organize the book? Do you have one, two, or three books (or more) in the works? (If you think you have more than one, write or heavily prepare three before launching the first one)
What are your credentials (for non-fiction book)? Who makes up your SUPER-SPECIFIC audience?

Answering these questions should make you excited to write and get your book out there. If this questionnaire makes you more anxious than excited, stick to blogging or writing in your journal for now. You're free to change your mind later, but having material to draw from is always better than thinking about filling 200 blank pages! Ultimately, know that you are perfectly valid in whatever decision you make!!

Happy Writing!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Don’t Eat Ice Packs (and ten other things Darwin doesn’t want me to tell you)

I often smile when I read warning labels. I can't help it. Perhaps I am perverse. I’m really not sure. But in light of some recent events, there are people who could use a smile, and I am nothing if not accommodating. So here is my list of eleven (number 2 counts as two) warnings that Darwin doesn’t want me to tell you. In the comments, feel free to add additional warnings.  And be safe out there!!

  1. Don’t eat ice packs.

  2. Don’t put sunscreen in your eyes to look at the sun. And don’t  look at the sun.

  3. Don’t blow dry your hair during your bath or shower. It really won’t save you time.

  4. Don’t eat toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste and space food both come in tubes. I’m fairly certain the similarities end there.

  5. Don’t eat cleaning products, full stop.

  6. Don’t run with scissors or sharp objects.

  7. Don’t leave an open flame unattended.

  8. Don’t drink hot coffee or sip hot soup until it has cooled enough not to burn your mouth.

  9. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (or anywhere).

10. For the love of all things Darwin, don’t share this post with someone who actually needs this advice! 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Action is not the same thing as Plot

As someone who teaches writing, I see a lot of things. One recently is that the young people I work with try to add things that happen without those things adding to the plot. The result of this is somewhat comedic -- how much STUFF can a character go through in a day?

Plot should be action. You probably don't want characters who just sit around talking. You want them to get up and kick ass -- at least every once in a while. But that action needs a focus point. While there are things (like weather-related disasters) that happen for no good reason, the plot should center around the question: "What does this character WANT?" and then describe the path and the obstacles to get that character to that place -- or help the character deal with NOT reaching that goal.

Authors CAN beat the crap out of their characters. Life does this, too. Some of the most dramatic stories involve wondering how much more a person can take. But the story is not the events. The story is how the person dealt with the challenges.

A character's drive doesn't have to be flashy, either. Fault in Our Stars and Perks of Being a Wallflower were both incredibly well conceived stories about people not looking to be much more than ordinary. A character does not have to be a superhero to be a hero.

Elementary school students have led me on perfectly ordinary adventures about nighttime rituals involving getting that last drink of water before bed. Middle school students have led me on bizarre quests in search of the perfect golden Ticonderoga. School and home plots have plenty tension and drive without murder and mayhem of the macabre caliber.

So plot with purpose (I'm certain someone has trademarked that, I mean no infringement). Focus on what drives your character to get up in the morning and stumble through the day. Or why your character is so overwhelmed that the bed is a sanctuary. You can do a lot with plot, and actions do drive that plot home. But actions for the sake of filling pages will cause your reader to be confused, put down YOUR book, and reach for something else.

Phyl Campbell is the author of I'm Not Writing a Book Today, the so-called procrastination guide for writers and other dreamers, and a number of other books in various genres (available on Amazon). Books she has published for young authors can be found on her website. They are also available on Amazon under their own authors and titles. Campbell lives and teaches in York County, PA.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Find Your Voice to Fight Discrimination

Last month, two of my young friends were stopped and searched for "shopping while black." And that's not OK. Even worse, the store employee knew my friends' mother, who is a rising star in our community. So how many other people, especially young people, have been trying to enjoy their summers only to be accosted in this way? Maybe not by this employee. Maybe not at this store. But in esteem-damaging, unjust, and just awful ways, all the same.

As a parent, as a teacher, as an adult, as a white person -- I want to fix things. And that isn't always practical. I can't always be where my young friends are. And sometimes adults try to fix things for young people when they should (we should) be helping young people fix problems for themselves. Even if it isn't the way we (adults) would do it.

As a writing coach for young people, I (like to think I) understand that better than most. And after talking to my friends' mom, realized how I thought I could help.

Find Your Voice (to fight discrimination) is a twice-monthly workshop where young people age 12-20 can gather in a safe space and talk and write about their feelings and reactions to discrimination they have experienced. Racial discrimination sparked this, but all forms of discrimination may be addressed by young people who need a safe space to do so. I can never know what it means to be black or brown, but I still experience discrimination as a woman and as a fat person. We have an administration that has come out strongly against anyone with a minority label - color, nationality, gender, orientation. It isn't right, and we need to resist it. I also remember being watched more carefully as a teen -- people didn't trust me because I wasn't an adult. It wasn't right, and it wasn't fair. Now I can help others work to change it.

I'm going to sponsor the group and help in any way I can, but students are going to be in charge and tell me what they need instead of the other way around. If they want to learn how to write OpEds for the paper, I will help them from the writing to figuring out how to submit to an editor. If they want to be on TV or the radio, I will help them navigate that process. If they want to start a literary magazine at their school, I will help them do that. And if all they want is a safe space to talk and write, I will respect that, too.

Find Your Voice will be held the FIRST and FOURTH Thursdays of the month at GUSA by Victoria in downtown York, WECO district (252 W Philadelphia Street), starting August 24th. In addition, FYV members (as well as the general public) are invited to open mic 2nd Thursdays, also at GUSA, emceed by yours truly!

Phyl Campbell is the author of I'm Not Writing a Book Today, the so-called procrastination guide for writers and other dreamers, and a number of other books in various genres (available on Amazon). Books she has published for young authors can be found on her website. They are also available on Amazon under their own authors and titles. Campbell lives and teaches in York County, PA.