Minnesota-related

Writing information specifically geared to the Minnesota writer.

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kids writingIf you're a young Minnesota writer looking for ways to cultivate your craft this summer, listen up. The Twin Cities has some great opportunities for blossoming student writers. Summer writing camps and workshops are an ideal way to learn because they’re laid back, pressure-free, and centered on fun. Besides that, they’re a productive use of your time and a chance to meet new friends. What have you got to lose?

Check out these six writing opportunities for youth living in the Twin Cities area. But don’t wait too long to enroll; many start soon and space is limited.

Minneapolis Young Writer’s Workshop. North Central University in downtown Minneapolis hosts this creative writing workshop for young writers aged 13-19. You’ll get one-on-one critiques, open-mic opportunities, and evening sessions with keynote speakers, including Jay Asher and Jonathan Friesen. The workshop runs June 14-16, 2016, and costs $300.

Writing Magic – The Art of Creative Writing. Targeted at grades 3 through 8, this four-day Edina Summer Computer Camp runs from June 7-10, 2016, and is an opportunity for students to explore different genres of writing and gain confidence in their skills. You’ll also learn about digital writing, including blogging and self-publishing. The fee is $135, and the camp is held at South View Middle School in Edina.

Hamline University’s Young Writer’s Workshop. This is a great opportunity for high school students to prepare for college and connect with other writers in the area, including the Hamline staff and published authors. Besides in-depth instruction, you’ll get to tour the literary Twin Cities. Cost for this workshop is $400 for four full days, from June 20-23, 2016.

Bethel University’s Journalism Mini-Camp. Have an interest in the media? This camp might be just the ticket. It’s a three-day minicamp for students in grades 9 through 12 who want to learn more about reporting and other forms of media work. You’ll also get to hear from top Twin Cities journalists. The camp runs July 22-24, 2016, and costs $75. Find the details here.

Intermedia Art’s Writing Circle for Teens. If you're a teen who loves to write and you’re looking for a peer group to learn and workshop with, this Intermedia Arts-sponsored program fits the bill. The Writing Circle for Teens meets every other week to share prompts, set goals, and get feedback. The best part is, it’s free! Check the website for times and dates.

The Loft Literary Center Summer Enrichment Classes. Minneapolis’s well-known literary center, The Loft, has an array of classes for youth ages 6-17 this summer. There's everything from writing fan fiction to fantasy to college essays. Dates and fees vary, although discounts apply for Loft members. Online classes are available too. You can see the full listing of summer youth programs here.

Know of any other summer writing camps or workshops for youth in Minnesota? Please share them below.

Happy summer writing!

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writing contestWhen it comes to writing contests, Minnesota earns top marks for opportunities for writers of all skill levels, ages, and genres. Just check out this list of offerings for Spring 2016, and you'll get a good glimpse of the North Star State's flourishing writing community. And what better way to do what you love, get noticed, and earn some cash than by entering a writing contest? So go ahead, browse away and find a contest that sparks your interest. No excuses; there’s something for everyone, even out-of-staters.

Lake Superior Writers Going Coastal Fiction Writing Contest—deadline April 1, 2016

This year, the Lake Superior Writers group is calling on fiction-only entries of 6,500 words maximum for an anthology tentatively titled Going Coastal! The theme is anything about Lake Superior, Minnesota. The contest is free to LSW members, but those living outside the region must pay a $15 entry fee. For more information on entry requirements and rules, click below:

http://lakesuperiorwriters.org/going-coastal-2016-fiction-writing-contest/

2016 Minnesota Christian Writers Guild Annual Writing Contest—deadline April 11, 2016

This contest is open to members of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild only. The MCWG is calling for “stories that encourage readers to press on through life’s periods of crisis and stress.” You’ll be writing a guest blog for this contest. A $5 entry fee is required.

http://www.mnchristianwriters.com/annual-contest/

Minnesota Middle School Association 2016 Writing Contest—deadline April 15, 2016

Open to Minnesota middle school or junior high school students, the 2016 MMSA writing contest is themed “Ignite!” Submit stories of 200 words or less about a time you were energized by someone or some event.  No entry fee.

http://www.mmsa.info/content/mmsa-writing-contest-theme-ignite

Minnesota State Bar Association Student Writing Competitions—deadline April 3 &15, 2016

Calling all law students, these contests are open to those attending certain law schools in Minnesota and out-of-state law students interested in practicing in Minnesota. Judges are seeking papers and articles on the topic of food, drug, and/or device law as well as health law. Check out the rules here:

http://www.mnbar.org/members/committees-sections/msba-sections/food-drug-device-law-section/writing-competition#.VrqI-PkrKUk

http://www.mnbar.org/members/committees-sections/msba-sections/health-law-section/writing-competition#.Vrto1vkrKUk

Pioneer Public Television PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest—deadline April 15, 2016

Got a kindergarten through third-grader who’s a blossoming writer and illustrator? Have them enter the Pioneer Public Television PBS Kids Go! Contest. Stories can be fact or fiction, prose, or poetry but must include five original illustrations to go along with the story. No fees to enter and no purchase necessary.

http://www.prairiepublic.org/events/pbs-kids-go-writers-contest-3

18th Annual Geek Partnership Society Writing Contest – deadline May 15, 2016

Located in Minneapolis, the Geek Partnership Society (GPS)is a “society celebrating imagination, inspiring creativity, and building our community through service and education.” Multiple divisions will be judged, including open, poetry, youth, and graphic novel. The open category selects an additional winner for the Scott Imes (an honorary member of the Minnesota science fiction writing and reading community who passed away in 2001) Award. No entry fees.

http://www.geekpartnership.org/programs/writing-contest/

Minnesota Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest

No word yet on this annual writing contest aimed at family history writers, but check the website for updates. Past contest deadlines have been during the summer, but spring is a great time to get started writing. Take a look at Julie’s Genealogy and History Hub for past notices:

http://genealogy.julietarr.com/blog/entries-are-being-accepted-for-minnesota-genealogical-society-2015-family-history-writing-competition/

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594px-Medieval_ghostHalloween is only 29 days away, but there’s still plenty of time to get into the spirit of this frightfully fun holiday. For writers, what better way to do this than to enter a spooky writing contest? Here are a few Halloween writing competitions worth a peek. They’re intriguing, they’ll inspire some creepy creativity this October, and they just might earn you a nice treat.  Check these out:

Every Writer Magazine’s Halloween Horror Contest. Perfect for the horror writer but also a good way to promote a literary magazine, book, or website, Every Writer’s Halloween Contest is open to the public, for stories under 1,000 words. The first place entry gets published in the magazine and on the website and receives three months of free ads (a $1,000 value). Deadline is October 20, 2014.

Writer’s Digest's Horror Story Contest. This contest falls under Writer’s Digest’s Popular Fiction Story Award Competitions. If you like writing longer stories, of up to 4,000 words, and have a knack for scaring readers, this might be the contest for you. A $2,500 grand prize, $500 first prize, and honorable mentions are all possibilities for contenders. Deadline is October 15, 2014. (Note: This contest has a $25 entry fee.)

Winona Public Library’s Haunted Halloween Writing Competition. Here’s a unique opportunity for Minnesota writers, 16 years and up. The Winona Public Library in Winona, Minnesota, is sponsoring a writing competition that will be voted on by the public. Stories must be 500 words or less and contain no vulgarity. A Target gift card and publication in The Winona Post go to the winner. Deadline: October 17, 2014.

FanStory's Horror Story Writing Contest. Need a little more time to get in the spooky mood? This contest from Fanstory.com doesn’t close until November 21, 2014. That gives you plenty of time to “put your readers on edge or terrorize them” with your horror story of 2,000 to 3,500 words. A cash prize will be awarded to the winner. Contests are free, but you must be a member of FanStory, which requires a minimal monthly fee.

Got a scary tale to tell? Get writing, and see how fruitful your frightfulness can be.

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book-92771_640Fall is back-to-school time for many young people, but you don’t have to be young or a student to take a class. In fact, anyone can benefit from classes, no matter what the subject. That’s especially true for writers. Taking a class on art or health or business can give writers new knowledge on a topic they may have never before explored. And that new knowledge can lead to valuable expertise—and a new avenue for their writing. No matter where you live, there are plenty of places that offer classes—libraries, writing centers, universities, historical societies, and many other private and nonprofit organizations. Minnesota writers have a slew of opportunities available statewide. Here are a few worthy options to consider:

  1. University of Minnesota’s LearningLife Program. The Learning Life Program at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Continuing Education offers learning opportunities that include short classes, weekly seminars, and one-day immersions. Class subjects range from art and design to to science and the environment. There is usually a course fee, but prices are reasonable—from $15 to $160.
  2. Whole foods co-op classes.  Check with your local whole foods co-op for a listing of classes on a variety of health, cooking, and nutrition courses. These courses provide insight into healthy living and offer many hands-on opportunities for learning. Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville, for example, has a variety of courses for both members and nonmembers, from gardening classes to gluten-free eating. Class size is usually limited, so be sure to enroll early.
  3. Hennepin County Library courses. Any county library will likely have a range of classes for adults on many topics, but the Hennepin County Library has an extensive listing. Depending on which library within the Hennepin County Library system you choose, classes cover everything from art to languages to knitting. Most library classes are free and open to the public.
  4. Science Museum of Minnesota’s Computer Education Center. The Science Museum of Minnesota offers over 200 courses in 80+ computer-related subjects through its Computer Education Center. If you want to learn basic computer skills, how to be effective with social media, or something more specific or complex, like JavaScript or PhotoShop, check out this listing of learning possibilities.

Along with the changing leaves, fall is a great time to switch gears. Take a class, and learn something new. You may not become an expert on the subject with just one class, but you will gain valuable knowledge that you can apply to your writing. And who knows? It may open up a whole new chapter in your writing life.

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It is with mixed emotions that I write this interview post honoring my son’s farewell-to-rap tape titled “Valleys”: excitement for his fan base and the release of some of his best hip hop songs yet; sadness about how this release marks the end of a journey that’s helped shape my son into the person that he is; appreciation for his unique gift of art; pride for all he’s achieved, from the day I discovered those first eye-opening lyrics in his nightstand drawer to his killer performances this past year at local clubs and college campuses; and concern that he will miss this personally fulfilling and gratifying activity.

One emotion I’m not feeling, though, is regret. Despite my occasional misgivings about the virtuousness of the rap genre, writing is writing, and I am a huge supporter of the craft. And let’s face it—good writing, whether it be creative nonfiction or rap lyrics, requires hard work. When I see such unwavering dedication to something that furthers creativity, strengthens work ethic, hones both skills and senses, and then gives back by entertaining or enlightening…well, there’s nothing there for a mom to regret. (Of course, that he pulled off a 4.0 this past semester, during one of his most academically-challenging and musically-fruitful years, makes any wee regret I may have had quickly dissolve.)

But enough about me. I sat down with Jack, for the third time, to get his thoughts on his new mixed tape and the final chapter of his rap writing venture. Here’s what he had to say:

For those who haven’t heard the story, tell us how you came to title your new tape “Valleys.”

I went to high school and spent a lot of my growing up years in Apple Valley, Minnesota. And Fargo-Moorhead, where I attend college, is known as “the valley.” But symbolically, the title refers to the hills and valleys, or highs and lows, of life. So it not only relates to my upbringing but also to where I’ve been and my life experiences.

You’ve mentioned how personal growth has motivated the lyrics behind many of your songs. Does this new music portray that same theme?

I think it’s less about me talking about my personal growth and more about people perceiving it. The listeners will hear the growth, so it’s less contrived this time, more natural.

I know you wanted to go out with a bang when writing the music for this tape. What went into the writing process this time around that makes the songs stand out?

I wrote about 50 songs and cut it down to the best 10. I started with a bigger inventory this time so that I could make it the best it could be. I also put more pressure on myself to make this final tape satisfying. I’ve gone back after I’ve recorded and listened more critically, then done more editing and perfecting.

In addition to your music writing, you’ve written many papers in your college career so far. Do you see any parallels between the two types of writing? Has either helped or hindered the other?

With my syntax, there’s a big disparity between writing an essay and writing a rap song. But there are many parallels too. They both have to have a good introduction, the body needs to relay a story and be engaging, both have to have climaxes, and there has to be a good concluding sentence—one that ties in and clinches. Actually, the conclusion is probably the toughest part for essays and rap songs. No matter what you’re writing, though, the more experience you get doing it, the more it’ll help any kind of writing.

Writing takes guts and a certain amount of risk. That’s probably an understatement when it comes to writing rap. How do you overcome the fear of exposing your soul to the world?

I don’t give that much thought to it. Some people are more private. I’m more open. You want people to relate to you. One of my strengths is that I’ve always been good at relating to people.

If you could go back and change one thing about your musical endeavors, whether it’s related to writing or not, what would it be?

It’s hard to say whether I’d change anything, but I would probably have cared less about others' opinions. I was always worried about how rap might affect my future, my future employers. But everyone’s been supportive and positive.

Finally, something everyone wants to know: Is this really the end, or will we hear one more song after the release of “Valleys?”

I will always write. I can’t say I’ll never write another song. It is the end of me releasing music and acting as a musician. I feel satisfied with where I’m at, and I think it’s time.

And that about wraps it up. Except for one thing: Congratulations, Jack!

To read Jack's previous interviews on writing and rap, see Writing and Rap Music: A Mother's Dilemma, Part II and Writing and Rap Music: A Mother's Dilemma, Part I.

For more information about Jack's music, please visit jyak.bandcamp.com.

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Sharpened_pencil_next_to_sheet_paperIf you like to write short stories - and I mean really short stories - you might consider entering the Lake Regions Art Council's 2014 Six Word Short Story Contest. This is the Minnesota-based LRAC's second annual contest, and the rules are simple: write a short story using six words. You can use any punctuation you want with your six words. Just be creative, have fun, and keep it short! The grand prize winner will be award $500 plus publication and publicity. A second place winner is also announced.

For more information on this short story contest, check out the website at ShortWritingContest.com. Entry deadline is April 30, 2014. Cost is $10 for up to three stories.

For information on other short story contests in and around Minnesota, see last year's post, Spring 2013 Writing Contests for Minnesota Writers. Many of these same contests renewed this year; however, some deadlines have passed, so be sure to check dates.

Good luck to all contestants. And kudos for getting your writing out there!

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Rap music writing

A lot has changed since my original post about my son's rap writing endeavors. For one thing, my son is a year older and no longer a “teen.” But with that bump in age have come more noteworthy changes for him; among them, a maturity in his rap music. Now I’m not talking about his voice, though it may sound a little lower, or his sound, which is undeniably crisper, or even his beats and melodies, more varied and dimensional. No, as a mom and a writer, I’m referring to his stories, the substance behind his music. Specifically, his ability to put words together to express something meaningful, creative, intelligent, and engaging. That’s what writing is all about.

I’d like to believe I’ve matured, too, as the mom of a rap writer. And I think I have. The profanity doesn’t bother me as much, although I still prefer listening to the “cleaner” songs. More important, I get the point of rap more than I did a year ago. It isn’t just a fad or a culture or a mix of (sometimes confusing) words and beats; it’s an art. To be able to write rap—and do it well—takes time, talent, patience, reflection, and deep concentration. Mostly, though, it takes good storytelling.

With the release of his new mixtape “Jetta Tapedeck,” I thought I’d sit down and ask my son a few more questions, writer to writer.

Your new mixtape basically chronicles a night out in your car. Most writers draw ideas from their personal experiences. How personal is this tape?  

It’s relatively personal, more so than my past music. I still wanted to keep things a little ambiguous, but I also wanted to portray character growth and how I’ve moved away from my childhood tendencies.

Explain how you organized the songs for “Jetta Tapedeck.” Did you start with an outline or a synopsis?

No, I don’t use an outline or synopsis. I usually have an idea of a track list and build on that idea. I like the first song on the album to be catchy and the last song to be more introspective and slow. Then I try to make it all cohesive as I go along. You’ll notice, for example, that there’s a reference to my car in every song.

What, in your opinion, is your best lyric from this tape or any other? Explain why.

“I found a mystery woman, I found a mystery woman, I thought if I repeated myself, then maybe history wouldn’t.” This is from the new tape. I like the double meaning of it, and it fit well in the context of the song.

One of my favorite expressions is from the movie Finding Forester, where Sean Connery tells his young mentee to first write with his heart and then go back and write with his head. Do you follow that advice when you write rap or do you prefer to go with your gut?

With rap, I think the writing comes from the heart and the recording comes from the head.

But most serious writers have to do at least some rewriting and editing to fine tune their work. What role do these processes play in rap writing for you?

These days, I’ve become less confined to my first attempt at writing. If something fits better, I’ll change a word or shorten a sentence. But as far as major editing, I don’t do that. That would take away from the raw emotion of the writing.

How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer of music? Has your education helped in that growth?

I’ve tried to make my lyrics more relatable. I stopped trying to impress people with clever word play and analogies and have tried to make my music more grounded, easier to interpret. I don’t want to confuse people with my music; I want them to understand it. And yes, my education has given me a better understanding of the world, and that helps with my writing. It’s also expanded my vocabulary.

Any ideas for your next project?

No…you don’t want to force writing.  I’m just going to relax for awhile.

And that, as they say, is a wrap.

To read part one of Writing and Rap Music: A Mother’s Dilemma, click here.

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There’s a lot to love about the state of Minnesota, but if you’re a writer living here, there’s even more to appreciate—all the great writing-related organizations. Whether you’re looking for an editor, a place to meet and network with other writers, or a writing class, the six listed below offer invaluable help, resources, and support. Take a look:

  • Professional Editors Network (PEN). An organization for editors and others who work with words, PEN offers many benefits to its members, including monthly meetings, resources for writers and editors, and a place to network with other writing professionals. PEN’s website includes a directory of mostly local editors. Yearly dues: $35.
  • The MidTown Writers Meetup Group. For a fun, no pressure morning of writing, you can join the MidTown Writers Meetup Group Saturday mornings at A La Salsa restaurant in Minneapolis. The group is given a prompt to begin the writing session. No critiquing is done, but you have the option to share your writing with the group.
  • The Loft Literary Center. This well-known literary center in the Open Book building on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis offers writing classes, contests, conferences, resources, readings, and more. You do not need to become a member to use The Loft, but a membership contribution provides you with discounts to Loft events.

loft

  • MN Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.The local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s & Illustrators, the MN SCBWI is a great resource for those interested in networking with other children’s writers in the area. This group hosts “monthly mixers,” workshops, and conferences at various locations around the Twin Cities. Free with national SCBWI annual membership.
  • Midwest Fiction Writers. According to its website, the MFW is a “professional writing organization that includes approximately 100 published or aspiring writers. Under the broad umbrella of romance, our members write historical, contemporaries, time travels, suspense, erotic, women’s fiction – to name just a few.” The MFW meets every second Saturday at the Edina Community Center. Annual dues: $35.
  • Minnesota Center for Book Arts. A place for anyone interested in celebrating book arts, from papermaking to book binding to self-publishing techniques. The MCBA is located in the Open Book building, along with The Loft, and offers a variety of workshops, artists programs, and events. Membership includes discounts and invitations to MCBA-sponsored events. Individual membership: $40.

If you’ve joined or heard of any other Minnesota writing organizations that have helped you or inspired your writing life, please share them here!

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800px-LadysslipperOnce again, spring is right around the corner—and so are some important deadlines for 2013 writing contests in Minnesota. Whether you’re a fan of writing contests or not, there's plenty here to spark any writer's interest. This list is a bit more extensive than the one I posted last spring, and it mainly applies to Minnesota writers (although a few contests are open to writers everywhere). So get your creativity flowing and get browsing. Many of the following deadlines are fast approaching!

  1. Support the U—Essay Contest for College Affordability. This student-organized essay contest seeks essays highlighting college affordability and why the University of Minnesota is a good investment for Minnesota. U of M students are invited to submit appropriate essays of between 250 and 500 words. Multiple cash prizes are available, including $300 for the first place winner. Deadline: March 1, 2013.
  2. Rolfzen Memorial Writing Contest for Poetry and Short Fiction. Sponsored by the organization honoring Bob Dylan in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, this international contest is open to poets and fiction writers for poems of no more than 1,000 words and stories under 4,000 words. Adult and student poets as well as adult fiction writers are eligible. Prizes include publication in Talkin' Blues journal. Deadline: March 3, 2013.
  3. Minnesota Journal Writing Contest—Citizens League. For this debut contest by the Citizens League of St. Paul, you can write an 800-word journal article answering the question: What common assumption in today's public policy world is completely unfounded, and why? Prize is publication in the spring edition of the Minnesota Journal. Deadline: March 4, 2013.
  4. Minnesota Emerging Writer’s Grant. Though not a writing contest, this grant is worth competing for. It provides financial and professional support to writers for their artistic endeavors. Sponsored by The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, the Emerging Writer's Grant may be awarded to several emerging Minnesota writers (non-K-12 students, who have published fewer than three books) in amounts up to $10,000. Deadline for applications: March 27, 2103.
  5. student writingMinnesota Historical Society Dear President Lincoln Student Writing Contest. All Minnesota students in grades 6-12 are invited to write a response to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in 300 words or less. Winners receive a trip to the Pennsylvania Battlefield in July 2013, an iPad, and the opportunity to blog about the experience.
  6. Lake Superior Writers— 2013 Writing Contest. This is an open-theme writing contest in the areas of poetry (up to three poems), fiction (up to 500 words), and creative nonfiction (up to 1,500 words). Only members of the Lake Superior Writers group are eligible. Membership to the group is available for $35. First place winners receive $100, plus a $50 gift card. Deadline: April 1, 2013.
  7. Rochester Public Library’s 2013 Youth Writing Contest. Both poetry and short stories will be judged in this teen writing contest sponsored by the public library of  Rochester, Minnesota. Winners receive Barnes & Noble gift cards, publication, and an awards program in May. Deadline: April 14, 2013.
  8. Minnesota Christian Writers Guild—2013 Writing Contest. Members of the MCWG are eligible to enter this travel writing contest for cash prizes. Membership is available for $40 ($20 for students). Articles must be between 700 and 1,200 words. Deadline: April 15, 2013.
  9. Minnesota Medicine ‘s 10th Annual Medical Musings Writing Contest. Minnesota medical school students or Minnesota physicians can enter a piece of writing on any aspect of medical practice or the study of medicine. Submissions must be unpublished. Winners will be published in the July 2013 issue of Minnesota Medicine magazine. Deadline: May 3, 2013.
  10. Geek Partnership Society’s Annual Writing Contest. The GPS honors science fiction writing, fantasy, horror, supernatural, and alternate history fiction. For this writing contest, five contest divisions are available: open (which includes the premier Scott Imes Award), poetry, youth (two divisions), and graphic novel. The Scott Imes Award will go to a local contest entrant. All submissions must be unpublished and written by amateurs (nonprofessional writers). Prizes include gift cards and publication. Deadline: May 15, 2013.

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new-years-day-68837_640Now that 2013 has kicked off, it’s time to get busy writing, right? Sure, except that it’s not always easy to shift gears after weeks of, well, slacking. Even if you have a list of writing goals for the new year, you may not know where to begin or how to begin or whether you should just scrap your list and start over.

Getting motivated to be productive during a long, cold month can seem daunting, for sure. But here’s an idea: why not begin with some easy, fun tasks that don’t actually require writing? I can think of three that might actually help kick-start your New Year:

  1. Get involved in the writing community. Take a class, sign up for an event, or check out local resources for writers. In Minnesota, there are lots of options for writers to get involved. I recently stumbled across this handy list of Resources for Minnesota Writers, provided by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.
  2. Consider writing something you’ve never written before. Have you always wanted to pen your memoirs? How about putting together a family history book or researching a person’s life and then writing a biography? Writers aren’t limited to one genre; in fact, writing something completely different can be highly rewarding and liberating – even if you don’t go on to publish it. So give some serious thought to a totally new project.
  3. Read, read, read. If you want to become a better writer, it’s what you have to do. Gather a pile of reading material, from magazine articles to a list of interesting blog sites to books. Then spend some quality time enjoying and learning from other writers and authors. It can be the single most important thing you’ll do all year.

Not quite ready to start writing? Give any of these prewriting tasks a try, and see how quickly January - and your writing slump - slip by.