The best writers don’t just write — they constantly share what they know and what they’ve learned.


Know your point of view

While researching for her upcoming book on Sex and the City, Jennifer interviewed Candace Bushnell, author of the series. She was inspired by Candace’s thoughts on point of view — that to be a writer, you need to have your own take.

If you find yourself with “writer’s block,” ask yourself: Why am I here? What am I trying to say? Presumably there’s something; if not, go do something constructive like cooking dinner or going for a run.


Take risks

Inspired by novelist Michael Grothaus’ journey of quitting his six-figure tech job to write a book, Jennifer comments on the risks that professional writers take every day:

I love my freelance writer life and the control it gives me over my days . . . . But walking away from a steady paycheck is a risk. Writing something and just hoping someone will pay you for it someday is a risk. Writing something and publishing it is a risk, and neither the comments sections nor the critics will let you forget it.

Real writers’ main job requirement isn’t writing. To get to the writing, and to get it out there, they must take constant risks.


Set boundaries

In a post about the freelance life, payment, and exposure, Jennifer urges that we need to pay skilled people in money:

As a freelance writer, I get my share of sneaky requests for me to do stuff for free. Some of these make sense: appear on a podcast I admire to promote a recent piece I wrote and my upcoming book, help a talented friend with a promising book proposal. Now, I’m not saying everything I do must include some clear payoff for me and only me. I’m not even saying that you can’t ask me to do something out of the goodness of my heart. But more than anyone else, freelancers in the arts must set boundaries.


Market yourself

“If you want to get paid for your writing,” she writes, “the marketing never ends.” Here, Jennifer talks about writers as marketers, and the constant need to get out there and promote your work:

Most of us just want to create, quietly, at our little computer screens. We don’t, and can’t, magically morph into salespeople. If you haven’t noticed, salespeople are often the personality inverse of many writers. Writing requires a kind of intense introversion: observing, quietly typing and retyping. Sales requires a kind of extroversion: talking to others to get them to see things your way, then hand over some money. We want to stay in our artiste bubble. We know our ideas are good. Why do we need to sell them to other people?

We don’t, unless we want to make money. That’s something many of us do want to do.


“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” — Henry David Thoreau

I’m sure that at some point in every pet-lover’s life, they wish their animal friend could verbalize their thoughts. Our furry companions seem so in tune with our moods and the world around them, but the barriers of biology and language prevent them from having even a simple chat with us.

The beautiful thing about friendship is that it transcends language. A beloved pet doesn’t need to articulate their thoughts with words for us to understand their affection. With a true friend — be they human, canine, or something else entirely — you can sit comfortably in silence and simply share space.

This week, share an image of a friend. As always, we look forward to your contributions!





What Children’s Books Do You Give?


What gift do you give to the outgoing president of a university? Recently, the seven chairs of Duke’s Academic Council decided to give retiring President Richard Brodhead children’s books, knowing he’s looking forward to spending more time with his young grandchild. Unsurprisingly, the selected books are very old, except for one (see DukeToday to find out which faculty member gave which one and why):

  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941)
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle  (1967)
  • Frederick by Leo Lionni (1967)
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews (1978)
  • The Complete Book of Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker(1920)
  • Jessica’s X-Ray by Pat Zonta (2002)

As is often the case with classics, none of the books noticeably features characters from diverse backgrounds, though at least one is authored/illustrated by a person of color.

In general, I like these books–I’ve read all of them except The Complete Book of Flower Fairies—but none of them are among the books I’ve given to the young children in my life over the years (or their parents and grandparents).

My go-to list of children’s books for gifts includes (among other books):

  • Tea Leaves by Frederick Lipp (2003), a beautifully illustrated story about a girl named Shanti, who lives on the island of Sri Lanka, but has never seen the sea.
  • The Family Book by Todd Parr (2003), which misguided proponents of book banning have challenged in the past for its depiction of families with two moms and two dads;
  • Art & Max by David Wiesner (2010), a beautifully illustrated book that contains enough words to add structure to the story without stifling young imaginations;


What books do you give to the children in your life?