Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Urinetown

Yes, Urinetown the Musical is a real thing.

I know every family has their own sort of culture, including what music they listen to, whether it be jazz or classical or 80s rock. We had a bit of those things, but in my house, it was Broadway. (Also twelve-year old boy humor, so...there you go.)

Before I knew the words to anything I knew the words to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I saw my first Broadway show (Cats) in Salt Lake City when I was probably seven or eight. This is all due to the fact that my mom is the most true-blue brand of theater geek there is. Some of us (me) adore theater and loved having show tunes playing all the time, and some of us (my brothers) did not. Whatever my teenage brothers think, Stephen Sondheim is one of the greatest living writers, period.

Anyway. Urinetown. I have a horrible memory for relative time so I couldn't tell you when or where it was that I saw it, but was probably about a decade ago (geez its been a long time) and probably either in Salt Lake or Los Angeles. I know, I'm terrible. But guys, let me just tell you. It was awesome.

The premise of Urinetown is this: Due to a water shortage everyone must pay to pee, and you can get arrested and sent to "Urinetown" for peeing anywhere other than the paid, public toilets.

That's it. Seriously. And as you can probably guess it is an irreverent, low-brow, hilarious romp. And the cool thing is, at the Tony Awards 7 years ago (which I guess means I saw it sometime that year, not ten years ago?) they put together the best song from the show with some of the funniest clips that totally pokes fun at itself. This clip features the band of rebels fighting for the freedom to pee for all, and the officer whose job it is to arrest them.

I know Broadway isn't everybody's thing, but just give this a shot. I'm betting you'll get a good laugh.

What music did your family listen to?

Sarah Allen

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Trimmings

You know when you're editing a novel or short story and you have to take out that paragraph that you just love but it doesn't fit? You know when you have a brilliant sentence go through your head and you jot it down in your notebook (that you always have with you at all times forever, right?) but you're just not sure how you're ever going to use it?

What do we do with these beautiful trimmings? They're like Christmas tree ornaments, but just because they don't fit on this particular Christmas tree doesn't mean they aren't still beautiful and worth something in and of themselves, right? So what to do?

This is one area where I believe social media can truly be a writers best friend. I talk about social media quite a bit on this blog, partially just because I find it so fascinating, but I want to acknowledge first and foremost that the writing itself is always the top priority. Social media can be fun, but it should not take time away from the actual writing.

There's sort of a way, though, to use social media as a creative writing tool. Like I said, I find social media highly entertaining and fascinating, and not just Facebook and Twitter, but YouTube and Tumblr and Pinterest and Linkedin and Instagram too. So what about this: what if we thought of social media as a form of self-publishing?

And here enter our poor, beautiful, neglected trimmings. Those poems we've scribbled, thoughts we've jotted, paragraphs we've clipped. By using social media as a publishing platform for these trimmings, we put our words out there, get more readers familiar with us, and don't even have to put in that much additional effort.

Tell a story using images on a Pinterest board, like Tiffany Beveridge did on My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter. It's even being published as a book.

On Tumblr you can write out your thoughts for your children or interview people in your city or write stories about your cat.

If you're so inclined, you can even make a short video version of one of your poems and put it on YouTube. (Here's one I did:)

I've brought up something similar a few times recently, and again, I don't mean to say that this is where we should focus our time. I just know that for me personally, using social media as a creative outlet in this way has felt almost as rewarding as publishing a short story or poem, and I get more immediate feedback this way too. This is a way to make connections and build a following and find cool people to follow. I have my big projects, my novels, that are my central focus. But these side social media projects can still be amazing quality and amazing fun, if you find a way to fit them in that works for you. I hope to do more in the future.

What do you think? Are these side creative projects on social media worthwhile or is it all a waste of time? Have you seen examples of creative social media usage that you can share in comments? What do you think is a good way to use our 'trimmings'?

Sarah Allen

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Submissions

In my opinion, the most important thing a writer can do in terms of their career, other than, of course, writing, is to submit their work.

All a writer really needs to do to build a career is to create good work and then put it where people can see it. There are other more subtle things we can work on like social media marketing and other random projects, but those two things are the key. They're the building blocks.

So once we've got a spit-polished piece--a piece we've edited and gotten feedback and edited some more--then its time to submit. At least that's how it works for fiction and poetry. With things like articles and other non-fiction pieces, you submit a polished pitch and they hire you or not based on that.

Basically, with all the genres and types of writing that people need, my goal has been to find and submit one pitch or piece or query per day. I only succeed in that goal about half the time, but I'm getting better.

And with a few good places to look, it isn't even too difficult to find all the possible writing gigs. I'm still working on putting together my own list of resources (so if you have suggestions please leave them in the comments) but here are a few helpful places I've found.

NewPages is one of the best. If you look at the side bar it not only has a list of magazines, it has a list of contests and calls for submissions. This ones worth looking at basically every day.

Poets & Writers is another great one. It has an even more user friendly list of contests than NewPages, in my opinion, and also has a great list of magazines and even small presses.

It's also worthwhile, I think, to keep an eye on the Writers Digest contest page. The entry fees can be a little off-putting, but if you have a piece you're really proud of, this could be a great opportunity.

There are also a couple great freelance writing sites that post the best freelance gigs and writing contests. They are and Check them out. It might even be worth checking out the writing gigs page of your local Craigslist.

And for you non-fiction writers, I can't not mention the wonderful Chicken Soup series, which is always accepting applications for various subjects.

I also have to recommend the Writers Market books. Yes the internet is an incredibly useful tool, but I think the difference of having a physical book in front of us can also be a huge help. With agents, contests, magazines, articles, game writing, blogging, all of the options out there, I'm hoping I can get better and better at submitting something once a day.

Your turn. Where have you found some great writing gigs?

Sarah Allen

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Reading List

Lately my reading habits have shifted to something I didn't expect. Not my reading habits, per se, but the way in which I discover new books. I was so focused on reading the "classics" in high school that the past few months or even year I think I have been catching up on all the YA I missed out on. Probably a good idea, since I'm writing YA (also delightful and unexpected). Anyway, my habit of late has been going to the library and picking random books off of the shelves in the YA section. It's delivered some true gems.

I'm currently reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. I picked it off the shelves because the cover looks great and I vaguely remembered hearing that title somewhere before. To be honest, that's how a lot of my "random" off the shelf decisions get made. I am also swayed by awards on the cover, though of course there are fantastic books without them. I have also read several books lately at the recommendation of my YA expert roommate.

Your turn. What are you reading right now and how did you come upon it?

Sarah Allen

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Q is for Quiet

Take a moment of quiet today and reflect on where you are in your life and what you want to work towards. Take time for gratitude for everything you do have.

And then listen to this:

Have a beautiful, peaceful Easter!

Sarah Allen

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pushing Daisies

Where do I start about Pushing Daisies.

I think with this show I have either discovered an unknown gem or, more likely, I'm just super behind the times and have finally come on to something that everybody else has known about for years. In fact I do remember a little bit of an explosion when the show was canceled early and now I can join that kerfuffle and say I TOO AM UPSET.

This guys, this show. It has the adorableness of Kristin Chenoweth and a golden retriever named Digby and pies and bringing people back from the dead and the piningness of two people in love who can't touch or one of them will die.

I can hardly take the pining, you guys. It is just so amazing. The cinemtography is absolutely GORGEOUS. And you know Jim Dale, the incredible, genius, award-winning narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks? Yeah, he's the narrator of this show.


Mostly because of Lee Pace. Lee. Pace. I can't take this face, you guys.
and this
Anyway, Imma go now before I geek all over you guys, but let me just say, if you haven't already, watch this show!

Sarah Allen

p.s. I know yesterday and today were both nerdgasms about shows, hope thats okay :) Back to our regularly scheduled writing weirdness soon :)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for One Last Drink

My music selections often contain quite a few ballads. A lot of the music I like is melodic and gorgeous, but often slow and a little bit sad. So when I find completely fun and upbeat music that I like (Mika) I make extra sure to keep track of it.

Here's one of my go to happy songs. Check it out :)

One Last Drink by Enter the Haggis

What's your go to happy song?


Sarah Allen