free the pen, a blog for writers

February 3, 2014

Read to Write Better!

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 10:14 pm
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Jan Marquart Author (1)(1)Do you have a favorite author? How many books have you read by that author? There are many benefits to reading everything your favorite author has written:

1. you get to watch the writer grow in his/her craft,

2. you get to study how to become a better writer by reading the varieties of descriptions they use for similar scenes, and

3. you get a better understanding of the author’s writing life which can become quite comforting if judge your struggles as unique.

Having read all of Elizabeth Berg’s books, I have found her descriptions of similar scenes inspiring to continue to search for different perspectives on the same theme. Finding these gems in stories can widen your use of the craft. One of the things see describes in many of her books is: snow. Below is a list of four descriptions of snow she used in four of her books.

1. I could not locate my favorite description of snow to relay it to you verbatim, but I will paraphrase.

She describes snow as ‘communion wafers’.

2. In True to Form, p.29, she writes:

White snow covers tan

It looks to me like crumb cake

Nourishment for eyes.

3. In Open House, p. 169, she writes:

Snow is falling lazily, fat flakes that look like cut-up pieces of lace.

4. In The Pull of the Moon, p. 85, she writes:

I want one bedroom painted a blue leaning toward purple, and I want that room kept empty except

for the fill of light and the dust motes, drifting down like inside snow.

5. In Range of Motion, p. 89, she writes:

Winter and the snow falling in fat flakes, a silhouette before glass, fire.

So the next time you are enamored by an author, buy another one of his/her books and see what he/she can teach you about writing creatively. I promise you, descriptions will be interwoven in the story so pay attention. I am not a big proponent of writing in books but a pencil can always be erased and post-it notes are wonderful tags to quickly identify tips when you need them.

Read everything, write enough to keep the pen moving,

Jan, CEO and Founder of About the Author Network

contact me at:

February 14, 2013

Writing to Manifest

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 7:57 pm
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Writing manifests results. I have witnessed clients, friends, family, and my own life manifest through the written word. The key: your words must represent what you really want because the written word is the energy that will produce, or not, what you ask for. 

Envision what you want. When you get a picture of it in your mind, write it out in the details of the vision. Do not write what you will settle for, or what you might be satisfied by if you get it. And, write big. If you write out what you want but feel guilty if you get it, you won’t get it. Your writing will impact the energy you put out and affect the results you manifest. Write your desired good without fear or guilt. Write it in all its splendor. Be fearless.

I play with this all the time with students and with my own manifesting. There is much to learn about the energy we put out for our desired good. This is not a new age concept; writing your desired good is stated in the Bible. Words have power because they are powerful energy, but the words must be compatible with the true desire.

See what you can manifest through the written word.

Until next time,




September 2, 2011


Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 7:20 pm
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Years ago I thought it was cheating to use a thesauras. That probably sounds silly, I know, but I thought using a thesauras was tantamount to cheating and I wanted my writing to be original, creative and MINE.

But, in a writing workshop one winter, I sat with 60 writers who spoke about the tools they wouldn’t do without. I was stunned when several of them stated that they couldn’t or wouldn’t sit to write without a thesauras.

Listening to them threw me back on my own crazy thinking. At the time, I believed I had to depend solely on my own wisdown, learn from the bottom up so to speak, and I wouldn’t dream of using a book to supply me with words. After all, didn’t good writers come up with everything on their own?

At this point, I can only laugh at myself looking back on my strange and dysfunctional belief that the only way I was going to become a good writer was to dig deep and do it alone. Alone? Really? Then it dawned on me: I was raised believing that if I needed help I was deficient or weak. Are any of you relating to this? The fact is that with any craft, craftsmen use tools — tools refine the creative process. No wonder I was struggling; I might as well have written with stone and chisel.

Over decades of furiously writing, I have learned that this pattern of thinking created more problems than it was worth, ones that I could have sidestepped if only I had opened and allowed myself to receive the tools of the masters. But there again, another old belief pattern: it is better to give than receive. In my mind receiving help meant I was selfish and there was no way I wanted to be selfish. Everyone knows selfishness is a negative attribute. Don’t we?

I’ve met many writers during the years  who wouldn’t let anyone comment on their work because they wanted to present  their raw and original work. Then when agents wouldn’t accept their manuscripts because they needed more work or had major errors in plot and characterization, the writers went home and wept. In so many ways, writing has healed, opened up and changed my life. It hasn’t been just the written word; it has been the psychological, spiritual, emotional and mental process of it all. Being a writer demands ingratiating self confrontation.

So go ahead, write your story with your own thoughts, then let someone help you find the diamond in the charcoal.  That’s what my thesauras  does for me and subsequently, I too, now depend on that handy dandy little book. It is a joy of a helper and it emboldens me to study and learn new words. It has taught me to reach out for help. Not only that, it gives it.

Until next time,

Keep the pen moving,


July 22, 2011

Author Jeanne Simonoff’s Interview

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 11:30 pm
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I would like to introduce you to another special author, Jeanne Simonoff. Jeanne took thirteen years to write her memoir, Saving Myself, A Los Angeles Childhood. Although Jeanne is a poet and has written a chapbook titled 13, she writes prose so beautifully you would think you were reading a long poem. In reading Jeanne’s answers let them inspire you to think of your own life-then pick up your pen and write a full page or more of your own story. It is my pleasure to intruduce you to Jeanne Simonoff.

1. Why did you write this book?

To reform and remember that part of my life I pushed down and repressed after the death of my birth mother; to bring my story out from the caves into the light to heal. There is much more, but that is the most succinct answer.

2. Tell us about a few experiences you had in writing this book for the last 13 years.

Writing, for me, is a practice of bearing witness–that my story was real, that it did happen-that it is possible to bring back one’s life and fill in the holes, the gaps, to transform who I was and create a positive life. Each time I formed words on a blank page, I was amazed that the story was calling itself forth, one experience at a time, in random order, not like linear time. Mind tells stories the way each individual remembers them. It is like Gertrude Stein’s  “A rose is a rose is a rose,” and each time I wrote, the story changed slightly, became fuller, more complete. Poems became prose. Images sang out in different forms. My dreams were filled with memories where there were none as I  brought the memoir into the world over time.

3. Is it true Oprah wants you on your show?

Wouldn’t that be something? We will be sending a copy of the book with a packet to the new network. Hopefully people who resonate with the memoir will write to Oprah and ask for the memoir to be on the show. Who knows–anything is possible.

4. How do you think the experiences you had as a child, 50+ years ago, apply today?

Everything changes and everything remains the same. Statistics show that early childhood loss has increased with the wars we are fighting leaving children parentless with war deaths. The media talks about the epidemic we are experiencing with bullying in the schools and the many suicides. The difference is that today they are talking about it. When I was a child the loss of my mother was hidden, not spoken of, not acknowledged. In the 1940’s parents didn’t talk about death with young children in order to spare the child pain, but as a result, silence became something children never get over.

5. I‘ve heard people say that your book is important for our times…Could you elaborate on that?

One Sunday morning this spring, there was a program on early childhood loss. It stated that it is something a person never recovers
from. And the numbers are rising because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Children are calling each other names and causing physical and emotional harm in the name of differences and diversity instead of letting those diversities become something to enrich each other. My book can teach children to bear witness to the inequalities that they experience with racism and bigotry by helping each other understand loss, whether it be the death of a parent or the death of their identity because they are different. Workshops will be structured to help them learn to tell their own stories of loss and inequality and learn from each other’s experiences.

6. How has this book saved you?

By writing the memoir, l learned that I did, in fact learn how to save myself. It has brought up to a conscious level that I did find ways to cope, ways to get away from the enemy, run faster, stand up and defend myself. I learned to be myself and be in the world, a world that is cruel and unjust, but a world in which a young child can survive and live to tell the story.

7. How did you remember all those details from 50 years ago?

Mind categorizes and files itself away. A word, a phrase, a sound, a smell can release a long held memory. The sound of a fountain pen– (I write with an old pen which I fill with ink, the old fashioned away, on unlined white/sketchbook paper), releases memory from bondage and frees it onto the page, one grain, one word at a time. It’s a magical process that I never would have believed existed if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. It’s a practice Natalie Goldberg calls writing practice and like any other practice, the more I did it, the better I got at bringing my childhood experiences forward.

8. Do you think your book will turn into a great film?

It’s a small, quiet book with great visuals. It could happen. Look at Little Miss Sunshine and Avalon. A dream world emerges on the screen. A story once flat becomes alive, three dimensional.  A screen writer, a producer and director, with the help of a sensitive cast, brings such
stories alive on the screen. I could envision all of this for SAVING MYSELF: A LOS ANGELES CHILDHOOD.

9. Are you looking for a producer or film agent now?

People who have read the memoir tell me the book comes alive for them. They see it as a film. I need someone as excited about it as I am. People inhabit words and phrases. We all imagine, especially those who used to listen to the radio. We “picture” characters. It’s the next evolutionary step. Yes, and anyone who sees or hears this interview, and is interested can contact me on my website, I look forward to opening a dialog with them.

Untile next time,


10. How can your book help educators and students?

I will have study questions and modules with topics and issues for educators to discuss with their classes using the book as a guide, such as how to learn by example, how to deal with early childhood loss, how to silence the bully.

11. What is your next project?

I am working on a second memoir called JUST NOW: THE ALZHEIMER’S JOURNAL, about living with my family’s alzheimer’s and dementia and relating it to the now because there is nowhere else for them to go. It will be a mosaic, with poems, a two page play, and stories. The second project is a psychological thriller about a performance artist called CENTURY, another memoir forming called VENICE BEACH DAYS, about growing up and coming out in the late 50’s and early 60’s in Venice Beach, California, and lastly, a performance piece based
on the Queens of France in Luxenbourg Gadens in Paris, France.

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