"If you want to be a writer, write a little bit every day. Pay attention to the world around you. Stories are hiding, waiting everywhere. You just have to open your eyes and your heart." ~Kate DiCamillo

Here at Chez Cook I have two dogs that are on CONSTANT alert. If you're considering trying to sneak up on me, don't bother. The only problem is that the same vigilance that they use to ensure I'm not attacked by a serial killer is also used to warn me that the mailman has arrived, the neighbour's cat has wandered by, squirrels are taunting them, and leaves blew past the window. They spend a lot of time and energy on getting their woof out—often where it's not doing them (or my sanity) any good.

So how about you? What are you spending your energy on? Take some time to think about if it is what you want to spend it on, or if you're splitting your attention and "woofing" over things that are not a priority.

We've collected some articles to help you with that.

From The Art of Manliness (the first site everyone thinks of when pondering how to improve focus) is an exceptionally interesting article with 11 exercises that will strengthen your attention. (The link to 12 concentration exercises from 1918 are worth a look, too.)

Just the other day I was talking to a friend about how great it would be to be able to defrag our memory, like we can do with computers. And then, this piece from The Startup found its way to me— How to 'reboot' your creative brain and refresh your focus in 15 minutes or less. This article cites experts and authors of brain sciencey books... it's worth spending 15 minutes or less reading.

~ New this week ~

New on our YouTube channel

Author of psychological thrillers, Kelly Charron chats about changing book covers with Eileen Cook.

Hybrid author CC Humphreys of historical fiction chats with Crystal Stranaghan about the pros and cons of traditional vs indie publishing.

Author Ronda Payne chats with Donna Barker about building a writers' community and building the confidence to call herself a writer.

Free-for-all writing sprints

Join us and our good friends at the Richmond Public Library in our weekly, online writing sprint. Well, it's a bit more than a sprint — it's two hours of writing from your home but in the company of other writers. How fabulous is that! You're invited to drop in anytime between 7PM and 9PM Pacific, right here: https://zoom.us/j/963003204. Put it on your calendar! We'll be doing these until May 27.

~ For Creative Academy Members ~

Scholarship opportunity

As a gold sponsor of the Creative Ink Festival for Writers and Readers, we have a free ticket to offer to one of our members to attend this three-day conference, March 29 to 31. If you're interested in attending and would like to toss your name into the scholarship cap, either reply to this email or message Eileen in Glip. We'll gather names until Monday, February 25 and let the lucky recipient know next week.

New in our Members' Only community

In Eileen's Happy Hours this past week she tackled the following topics:

  • What are 'story beats' and how do you use them when writing or revising?
  • How traditional publishing views sales numbers and what the "shelf life" of new books looks like.
  • The 8 things you want to keep in mind to write a great opening first chapter.

In Crystal's Strategic Author sessions this week, she dove in to:

  • How to make blog content work for you.
  • How to handle publishing things to your blog, medium and Amazon/other platforms without violating any terms of service.
  • Getting organized - filenaming, versioning, organizing your digital assets.
  • Did another two rounds of website building on Eileen's site, using wordpress and Divi.

In Donna's Author on Fire Mastermind group ... well... since the conversations aren't recorded, all we can say is that goals were set, met and members left ready to tackle life, the universe, and revisions.

Writing sprints and special topic gatherings

In addition to ALL of the writing sprints we're now hosting (thank you eager members!) this coming week, Eileen will be leading a discussion about a book she loves in our Book Passion gathering on Monday, Feb 25 at 7PM Pacific. Whether you've read the book or not, come and hear about what makes Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent a 'Keeper Shelf' title.

Not a Creative Academy member yet? Learn all you need to know to become a member here.

~ Creative Advice Prompt ~

Create a mind map of the issues that your character thinks about. Place them in the centre of the page and map out the various things that take up their mental energy around them. When you're finished, circle the things that they should be spending their time on. Put an X next to items that they spend energy thinking about that aren't helping them reach their story goals.

Eileen, Crystal and Donna