There is a lot of guts that goes into being creative.
At least, at first there.
You have to have the courage to start, and the courage to continue on, even when things get difficult. As a result, as we’re starting out down our creative paths, it can be harder to say yes to the journey ahead, the journey unknown.
I’m here to tell you to say “Yes” to the journey.
In improve, the idea is to not only say “Yes”, but to add “and” to the equation. You might have heard of this “Yes, and” business.
I want to talk about how you, as a writer, can and should use this method.
When we have an idea and we say “Yes” to it, we are opening ourselves up to possibility. I feel like this is very akin to looking for a sign.
Law of Attraction & Saying Yes
This is often something that’s used to teach the Law of Attraction. I’ve come across it in Pam Grout’s book, E2 and have also read about it in Gabriel Bernstein’s book, Super Attractor. Neither of these individuals are the first ones to write about it.
The exorcise is to assign something to be your sign. Bernstein uses a blue butterfly. And so when she asks for a sign that she should do something, she waits to see the blue butterfly. In Grout’s book, she sets you up to train yourself to see signs by telling you to pick an unusually colored car, and see how many you would see in that day (I picked burnt orange and ended up seeing nearly 20 of them).
This could be a sign, and I don’t want to take away the magic if that’s what you’re reading this as. However, it could also be that you’re opening your mind up to noticing that particular thing by saying you’re looking for it. We do this all the time. Ever learn a new word and then you start to notice that word is used everywhere?
I don’t have any scientific backing for this, nor research. However, it seems to me that in saying that we want to see a sign, we’re telling our intuition—that is, the subconscious part of our brains that notices patterns—to make a decision for us. If we’re trying to determine whether or not something is the right course of action for us and ask for a sign, we’re essentially asking our subconscious to bring forward that which it notices if our intuition (or one could even say our Highest Self) thinks that it’s right for us.
If we don’t see the sign, it could be that maybe we don’t want the thing as much as we think we do. Or, it could be that maybe there are a few things that are blocking us (like fear and resistance) we need to work through first, and thus our subconscious is blocking us from noticing our sign.
What does this have to do with writing?
What does looking for signs have to do with writing?
When we tell ourselves that we’re looking for a sign, we’re also telling ourselves that we are open to seeing that sign. We are open to a possibility.
When we say “Yes” to something, we are opening ourselves up to new possibilities. Those possibilities might even have been there in the beginning, but because we weren’t allowing ourselves to be open to them, we weren’t seeing them.
I mentioned earlier that I looked for burnt orange cars. It wasn’t that those cars weren’t about before. It was that until I told myself I was going to look for them, I just didn’t notice them. I wasn’t open to them.
When we say “Yes”, we notice what we didn’t notice before.
Saying Yes to Ideas
As writers, we churn out ideas. We are idea machines. And it’s sometimes hard to know what ideas to say “Yes” to, and which ones we should leave alone.
There are lots of pieces of writing advice out there that say you shouldn’t start on a new idea before you finish with another, or some that say you should. I am not here to tell you what you should do in that regard.
However, what I am here to tell you is to say “Yes” to ideas in general.
Some of us are Pantsers, some of us our Outliners, and some of us are some form of mixture in between. All of these are great and work well for different people. All of us will suffer, at some point, the crossroad where we make a character zig or zag. Or perhaps, should they do neither and zonk instead?
When we come to these moments, it’s hard to decide which direction to take. Why not say “Yes” to all directions?
When I’m at this point, I will open a new document and perhaps journal out what might happen with all the options I’m looking at. I might even take it a step further, and start writing out the scenes.
I find that when I do this, the one that I like will prevail by keeping my fingers going. I won’t find a comfortable stopping spot. I’ll just keep writing.
Creative Opportunity in Adaptability
When you deviate from the original plan, this allows for creative opportunity. It allows you to see what new directions you can take your story, but it also gives you a creative challenge of trying to bring it back to the original outline. That is to say, to work it into the original outline, if there was one to begin with.
This is a lesson in adaptability, which is part of the creative process.
Creativity is, of course, the ability to create. However, there is also adaptability, which is creativity in active play in the real world.
Adaptability allows us to recognize when there is an obstacle and work with it or get around it. More often, it has to do with changing the nature of something in order to work with another thing.
This is essentially the “Yes, and” philosophy in one term. “Yes there is this obstacle, and this is how I’ll incorporate it.”
In life, this skill is essential. And thus, it is essential in your stories as well. It is essential in any planning. We need to be able to see a problem and if we can’t fix it, work with it. The first step is to acknowledge that the problem, block, or whatever is there so you can know how to move around or move with it.
When you say “Yes” to ideas, you’re exploring ways in which to be adaptable. You’re training yourself to see obstacles in a new way, and thus helping yourself to develop this thinking both in your creative life and in the real world.
Saying Yes to Detachment
Part of saying “Yes” to ideas, is saying “Yes” to detachment. After all, if we have a well-structured and planned outline, and as we’re writing, a new idea comes along which will take us from that outline, then we need to be able to have the openness and curiosity to explore that idea. This might divorce us from that initial plan.
Thus, we need to move through our work with a level of detachment.
This isn’t just in our practical writing. This is in everything.
When I first learned what ghostwriting was when I was in high school, I couldn’t understand why someone would want to write something for someone else only to not get any credit from it.
It wasn’t until I found myself in the position of ghostwriting—something I had to say “Yes” to in order to start doing in the first place—that I was able to truly experience detachment. Because I was writing someone else’s outline and someone else’s plot, I wasn’t as attached to the outcome. It was like filling in a coloring book. I might have the artistic liberty of how I filled it in, but essentially, the drawing itself wasn’t mine, and thus, I didn’t mind if I didn’t get the credit for it. I was just filling in the word count.
After writing over 40 books in this way, I learned to apply this detachment in my own writing, at least, when I need to meet a deadline.
I could write out an outline, and then see it as a drawing in a coloring book. I was just filling in the lines. In doing this, I was able to work through my project quickly and efficiently. This helps to get words on the page in a timely manner. I don’t worry about formatting or if it sounds good, I just get it out of my head and onto the computer.
It isn’t until I get to the editing stage, when I need to make everything look prettier and to my liking, that I attach myself again.
Lessons in Detachment
There will be plenty of times when you deviate from your outline, or when you find you have to abandon a character or plot. Essentially, when you have to “kill your darlings.” And that’s just part of the process.
Loving what you create and being attached to what you create are two different things. Though it’s, of course, not to say that they don’t go hand in hand. Loving something is allowing it to grow and evolve without trying to make it fit into the box you want it to be in.
When we can let go of what something “should” be, then we are letting go of the attachment of expectations. I assure you, things get easier, then.
Furthermore, when we practice detachment, we can detach from the outcome of something. When we do that, then we are focused on the moment of creating it, which can eliminate a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves. And when it comes time to submitting our work, it saves a lot of stress and obsessive email refreshing as well.
You also don’t have to commit to a new direction you’ve tried with your work. You can always go back. You can write it in a different file and save it for another project (saying “Yes” to projects is something we’ll get into in just a minute). You can practice detachment with the things you try just as much as you can practice detachment with the outlines you create.
Again, detachment doesn’t mean that you care. It means that you’re willing to give what you’re working on the space it needs in order to grow and find its own way. To help with this lesson, you can consider what the Empress in the Tarot has to teach us.
Detachment allows us to move more fluidly through life and through our creativity. When we don’t obstruct the flow, then we open ourselves up to more possibilities and avenues. The dripping tap of creativity opens to a flow, which then begins to erode the dam. Let the water flow.
Saying Yes to Intuition
As mentioned in the Possibilities section, your intuition is the part of you that notices patterns. This is a part of you that, in my mind, connects your subconscious to your conscious. It’s like the speaker between the two. When we say “Yes” to intuition, we’re saying that we trust what we’ve subtly picked up.
When we have an idea, or a nudge to take a story in a different direction, there are two things at play:
Your creative mind just having fun
Your intuition is telling you that there is an inherent need in your story.
An Inherent Need
Many writers study story structure so they can bring what they already know works to the forefront of their conscious.
I know, that’s a big claim. But I’m not stating anything new here. This is essentially what Joseph Campbell pointed out in his vast explanation of global stories: there is a structure that generally works and is adhered to, found during many different ages and all over the world. This is the Hero’s Journey (this of course isn’t the only story structure. Listen to my podcast episode about The Heroine’s Journeyhere).
There is something that we recognize makes a good story. When a plot doesn’t hit certain marks, the consumer is left with uncertainty and dissatisfaction. For example, the Deus ex Machina ending will almost always leave an audience unhappy. This is because story structure needs to set up the ending in the beginning. It needs to come full circle, or complete a character arch.
Unless we study story structure, we might not know this specifically. However, when we see it, we know that it just doesn’t work.
Gail Carriger goes into this a little bit in her book, The Heroine’s Journey, when she talks about combining a hero’s arch with the Heroine’s Journey, or vise versa.
When your intuition is guiding you in a different direction, it might be that the plot that’s outlined doesn’t quite hit the story structure mark, and your subconscious is letting you know what’s up.
Practicing listening to and trusting your intuition will help with this.
When we’re saying “Yes”, there are different aspects of ourselves that we are saying “Yes” to: our minds, our creativity, the world around us, the expansive possibilities of the universe. Sometimes saying “Yes” can be difficult.
But there is a little bit of a hack that I’ve learned: each of these areas corresponds to a different element that corresponds to the Tarot: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit.
As a result, I’ve developed a course that will help you to tap into those elements to enhance and support your creativity and creative projects.
In each lesson you’ll learn
Trust and Surrender with Spirit
Igniting your passion and opening to possibilities with Fire
Generating and capturing ideas with Air
Connecting to your intuition and creativity with Water
And moving creativity through your body and grounding creativity with Earth
All of these lessons have been specially designed for your own self-study and with a woo-spin. It’s my goal to help you develop the tools you’ll need for any of your creative endeavors through connecting you with your own spirituality.
All of the lessons come with:
A video talking you through each of the elements and how they connect to your creativity
A workbook containing
Over a dozen journal prompts
A segment on the corresponding Tarot cards and the lessons they teach
Book recommendations for continued exploration and learning
A spell, meditation, or ritual to help you connect your creativity and that element
The Elemental Writer Course is designed to take place over the span of five weeks, allowing a week for each lesson. However, you can work through it at your own pace.
The goal of this course is to open you to possibilities and ideas, help you develop a love for your art with out blocking yourself with attachment, and to help you develop your intuition to guide you through your creative journey.
This course will be live January 1st at full price. However, early bird pricing will exist beforehand! Fill out the form below to keep up to date and be alerted when the course is open this 29% discount!
In the meantime, what have you said “Yes” to this year? What do you plan on saying “Yes” to in 2022?
It's been a minute since I've released an episode, and this episode is more than a new release: I've got something pretty special to announce.
I talk about Nightmares When I'm Cold, as well as what the self-publishing process has been like for me.
pre-order Nightmares When I'm Cold here:
A. A. Medina | Fabled Beast Design
Twitter: @UglyByProxy | @BeastFabled
Katrina Carruth: Editor, Beta reader, and writer:
Stephanie Eerkes-Keylock: artist
I have to apologize–in the episode, I misspelled her last name. There is a -k at the end of Keylock.
The Surgical Deviant: model and tarot deck creator
I mentioned in the episode that they're creating a Silent Hill Tarot deck. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and Twitch for updates!
Writing the Other
Sentient Squid Scholarship
Want to get in touch about coaching? Have a question? Just want to say hi? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It arrived in my hands this morning and I nearly cried—I was so overjoyed with the way this turned out.
The cover is just beautiful. The image that Jordan Langen created from her photoshoot with our model, the Surgical Deviant, came out beautifully on front and back in a matte finish.
Inside are four horror stories from KM Kasiner, Hana Jabr, Breanna Teramoto, and Rachel L. Carlyle to bring various horrifying perspectives and takes to the writing prompt, “Nightmares when I’m cold.”
Each of the stories has a pen and ink illustration by Stephanie Eerkes-Keylock, an introduction, and a piece from the author about their story and where the idea came from. I love this last part because it allows the reader to understand and see how the writer’s mind works and where they gained their inspiration. For writers, I feel this is infinitely interesting.
We used Adrian Medina of Fabled Beast Design for our formatting, and I would highly recommend their services to anyone. While the writers tantalize the imagination, Adrien laid out a feast for the eyes. Honestly, I am so grateful for their services.
A chilling collection of stories that prove nightmares dwell far beyond the realm of sleep.
What happens when we allow obsession to guide us, when we delve too deeply into secrets, or when we are too far away from anyone for our screams to be heard?
With tales from Rachel L. Carlyle, KM Kasiner, Hana Jabr, Breanna Teramoto, as well as Katrina Carruth, ranging from the gothic to science fiction, to fantasy, to just plain horror, prepare to explore Nightmares When I’m Cold.
Each story is not only rich in its own right, but is framed with an introduction from the editors, the author’s insight to their works, as well as a beautiful pen and ink plate by Stephanie Eerkes-Keylock. Nightmares When I’m Cold showcases the whole context of each story and its creation, bringing forward a full experience.
Both the ebook and the paperback are available through Amazon. You can click the button below to get your copy!
You can pre-order the Nightmares When I’m Cold anthology, ready to be placed lovingly in your e-reader on 12.1.21.
The book will be officially released on December 1, 2021, when you will hopefully be able to quickly get your print book as well. There have been problems brewing in the publishing world regarding the supply chain for a couple of months now. But we are hoping they’ll be resolved in time for the release of the anthology we have been working so hard on, Nightmares When I’m Cold.
The e-book is beautiful, and simply more than I could have asked for. But the print version?
…be still my beating heart…
It is truly stunning, in my opinion. With plates introducing each story, created by Stephani Eerkes-Keylock, and the artistic formatting provided by Fabled Beast Design–there are no words for how beautiful this book turned out.
This book contains a chilling collection of stories that prove nightmares dwell far beyond the realms of sleep.
What happens when we allow obsession to guide us, when we delve too deeply into secrets, or when we are too far away from anyone for our screams to be heard?
With tales from Rachel L. Carlyle, KM Kasiner, Hana Jabr, Breanna Teramoto, as well as Katrina Carruth ranging from the gothic, to science fiction, to fantasy, to just plain horror, prepare to explore Nightmares When I’m Cold.
While we of course want plenty of copies to be bought ahead of time, having a team of reviewers at the ready would be extremely handy. If you want to be on this team and receive an advanced reader copy of Nightmares When I’m Cold, then get ahold of me! Fill out the form below to learn more about helping make this anthology a success.
Inspiration comes in strange forms. And often seemingly out of nowhere. While I don’t usually write in any form other than pros, the idea came to me to write a poem. But in a very specific way: using Tarot cards. Because, why not? After all, if I can use them for everything else, why not for a poem?
As soon as the idea hit, so did all possible complication I could think of:
How many cards should I draw?
Should I draw one card per stanza? Per line?
If I need to figure that out, then I need to figure out the form of my poem ahead of time, wouldn’t I?
What if I drew one card as the topic of the stanza, and then a card for each line?
Maybe a card for the beginning of the line and the end of the line?
What if the start of the stanza was the topic card reversed and the stanza was about how to right the card?
And of course, how would you decide what that card has to say? After all, you’re not doing a reading. This is a poem. The cards can say so many different things based on the cards around them, the prompt or question, or simply the feel of the reading. Could I read a card in the form of a poem rather than as a reading as a whole?
K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid
Then I realized I was making this way too complicated.
Writing, like divination, is about feeling it out. It’s about tapping into that water aspect of ourselves, our creative, intuitive self. It’s about diving deep into our wells and oceans and seeing what we pull from the depths.
In other words, it’s about going with the flow.
So I tried it out, letting the cards tell me how many I was to draw.
I took a deep breath and sank into my body, letting my hands do what they knew to do: shuffle the cards , letting my fingers feel the directions of them. I stopped thinking, and instead simply felt. And when the time was right, I began putting cards down without too much thought.
I chose one per line, and each angled row of cards was a different stanza.
Here’s what my process looked like:
I breathed in a drew a card at a time, letting the deck dictate where to put each card and when to stop.
I assigned each card on word.
I looked at each stanza, writing down the word per line, then spent time writing the stanza itself, incorporating the essence of the meaning of the word.
I moved on to the next stanza, repeating the process until I was finished.
Add up the cards in each stanza to get a theme for the stanza in the form of the Major Arcana.
While I’m not going to share what I wrote (I am certainly no poet), I wanted to share the essence of what each line revolved around, to give you an example of how you might play around with this method.
Okay, so I didn’t intentionally pull a title. I happened to have a card that popped out when I was moving the deck, and thought I would stick it at the top and see if that card came into play at all.
In my opinion, it did.
It was the 8 of Swords – self-bound.
The 8 of Swords is a reminder that while the situation might seem difficult, you are the one who holds the ends of your ropes. You have the ability to change your perspective. You can untie yourself, remove your blindfold and obstacles, and get yourself out of the situation that feels so impossible. You have this ability.
Spoiler alert, this played nicely, given the last line of the first stanza, which focuses on resistance.
Furthermore, the 8s, in Tarot, correspond to the Major Arcana card, Strength. This is about finding the difficult parts within ourselves and approaching them with compassion. We don’t fight against them, instead confront them with understanding.
And thus, this was what my poem was about.
I flipped over the first line to get the following cards:
XIII Death – Transformation
9 of Cups – Embodiment
XI Justice – Truth
VI Lovers – Highest Choice
9 of Wands – Redundant
I wrote these down in my notebook, then then began to write what I thought about death in terms of transformation. For me, it is a moment of stepping into transformation, whether we intend to or not, and not being able to go back. The process has already begun.
So what choice do we have? That of examining our wants, our goals, what would make us happiest and set us on cloud 9. That’s what the 9 of Cups is about, and that is what we have to embody. If we have to transform, why not embody what we want to transform into?
And how do we know how to do that? We must look inward to find our own inner truth, our personal Justice.
When we know this, we will take the higher path, the one that will lead us to our inner growth, our divine evolution. This is the card of the lovers. This is what this line is about.
Except, perhaps, there is resistance. And what is the cause of the resistance other than ourselves? We have fought so hard, and we continue to fight. But perhaps, just maybe, if we see the battle is won, that we no longer need to be on guard, then the energy we seek, that we need for our transformation, can flow freely.
Adding Up the Cards
As I mentioned before, I add the cards to convert them to a corresponding Major Arcana. If you’re not familiar with the Tarot, this might sound very strange and kind of confusing. I’ll walk you through it:
Add up the number of the cards
If the number is higher than 22, add the digits together
The resulting number will be a corresponding Major Arcana
The reason we take an extra step with numbers over 22 is because there are only 21 number Major Arcana cards.
The numbers we’re working with for this stanza are 13, 9, 11, 6, and 9.
13 + 9 + 11 + 6 + 9 = 48
This is a number higher than 22, so we add the two digits together: 4 + 8 = 12.
So the corresponding card is the Hanged Man. However, we can take it a step further and reduce the number down by adding the digits together again:
1 + 2 = 3 the Empress.
This guides me a little more, should I want to. I can start with the message of the Hanged Man and end the stanza with the Empress, or I can aim to elevate the poem from the Empress to the Hanged Man. I won’t go into these card meanings, but it’s just and added something fun to play around with if you’re like me and like complicated things.
High Priestess – Intuition and Secrets
Ace of Swords – Inspiration
Empress – Nurture
Ace of Cups – Nourishment
3 of Wands – Expansion
How do we find what we are resisting? What we are fighting for? We call upon the wisdom and energy of the High Priestess, who helps us to navigate our intuition and our inner secrets. Settling with her will show you what you need to know.
Armed with a sword, the Ace of Swords, you can cut away what is no longer needed to make way for inspiration. The new ideas are endless. Like cutting away weeds that have overgrown and smothered what you need so desperately to grow.
The Empress then teaches you to nurture what remains. She tends to your inner strengths, to the new aspects of yourself that will aid your transformation.
What’s most important, with the Empress and High Priestess combined, you’ll learn how to care for yourself, your first true love, teaching you how to find and nurture your self-compassion, to fill your own cup.
From there, you expand. Into the world, into new forms of expression, you expand. You transform.
Adding Up the Cards
For this stanza, the numbers on the cards I’m working with are 2, 1, 3, 1, and 3.
2 + 1 + 3 + 1 +3 = 10
Since it’s below 22, I don’t need to reduce it down. This card is the Wheel of Fortune. Though, it is a two-digit card, which means I can reduce it further to 1, the Magician. Personally, I find both of these cards go superbly with the cards drawn for this stanza.
The Star – Hopes
10 of Cups – Fulfillment
Kind of Swords – Wisdom
The Star provides you wishes, hopes, and a direction to take aim. She promises you success, if only you’ll let her help you aim your bow into the stars.
The 10 of Cups shows your success, your brimming cup so full it fills ten of them. Your heart is content, and there is no further joy. The water flows. There is no more resistance. You have given up your stance. There is no more fighting.
Therein lies the wisdom of the King of Swords, master of his art. Master of his words. Master of his passion that is your expression, dear writer. Therein lies the wisdom.
Adding up the Cards
For this final stanza, we only have three cards to work with, and thus, three numbers: 17, 10, and 4.
17 + 10 + 4 = 41
4 + 1 = 5 the Hierophant.
One could go further and add all the stanzas up to see what the corresponding Major Arcana card would be for the whole poem. However, since I drew a title card, I don’t feel it’s necessary.
It was shocking how well it turned out. I loved the flow of it, though, again, I won’t share what I wrote. I’m not a poet, after all.
However, I loved the play with it. While I do sometimes write poetry, especially if I’m reading it (which I do get into some poetry kicks from time to time, which you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram), I generally let it flow. However, some of my favorite poems I’ve written have been somewhat calculated as I tried to fit them into a form. Finding a form like that helped me to get creative with my words and pay attention to the rhythm. I found different an unique ways of expressing myself within the form’s parameter.
This is what I experienced while trying to write a poem this way. It also tapped into a different part of my brain, one that I certainly feel that I should be using while I’m writing. After all, in the Tarot, creativity and intuition both fall into the same element (at least, the way I read the cards they do). So why should I be surprised at how well using my intuitive part of my mind worked when applying it to my creativity?
I truly recommend giving this a go. Even if you don’t read the cards, getting a creative deck that speaks to you, that you find inspiration in, and writing down a key word that floats to mind as you look at the card can be a great way to tap into your creativity.
My Question to You
Would you be interested in a cheat sheet with a keyword for each tarot card, as well as perhaps a few “classic” poetry forms to play around with? Let me know in the comments. Also be sure to let me know if you played around with this method, or any similar method. I would love to hear all about it!
Developing your Main Character (MC) can sometimes be a bit of a drag. There are a plethora of spreadsheets to help you get to the nitty gritty of what you’re character is about, though they usually involve delving into what your character’s favorite color or ice cream topping is.
The Tarot can provide some insightful prompts to help you work through the deeper parts of your MC, specifically, using the Major Arcana.
Even more specifically, the first six cards: the Fool 0, the Magician I, the High Priestess II, the Empress III, the Emperor IV, and the Hierophant V.
Each of these cards can provide a different consideration regarding the Fool, who will act the part of your MC. Everything from their internalized skillset, to the parental figures in their life, to how they learned about the world.
However, before we get too into this, I want to take a moment to address the gendered language of the tarot.
Gendered Language is Outdated
Many tarot enthusiasts and historians have debated just how long the Tarot has been around, and where it originated. I am not going to get into that. However, the most concrete evidence puts it back at least a few hundred years ago.
As a result, there are a lot of aspects of the Tarot that just don’t quite fit into our modern society. Gendered language is one of those aspects.
However, thanks to authors such as Cassandra Snow and her book Queering the Tarot, as well as many other talented and insightful tarot readers and writers, tarot is evolving away from this. I want to take a brief moment to talk about how to get around gendered language in the Tarot, since some of the cards we’ll be discussing heavily rely on “gendered” energies.
Traditionally, tarot is spoken about in terms of masculine and feminine energy. These are actually representative terms for active and passive energy: masculine energy being active and feminine energy being passive.
Active energy is seen as something that is more external. Or, at least, it something that might come from within but has the ability to alter the external, or directly influence it. Air and Fire are the external, active elements in the Tarot.
Passive energy, on the other hand, is seen more internal. This is the work that is done within, from healing to nurturing, to feeling. Water and Earth are the passive elements in the Tarot.
Neither energy is above the other. Both energies are necessary, and the goal is always to seek
I mention all of this because there will be cards throughout the Tarot that deal with gendered terms such as the High Priestess, the Empress, and the Emperor. These deal with parenting figures as well, which I’ll talk more about when we get to the designated cards. But veering away from gendered language is essential, since male or male representing figures can absolutely signify the High Priestess roll, as well has embody the HP’s qualities, just as a female or female representing figure can embody the qualities of the Emperor.
There are 22 Major Arcana cards in the tarot, often starting with the Fool, which is numbered 0. This is because the Fool represents the natural protagonist of the journey through the Major Arcana.
Thus, this is where we’ll start with building your MC.
The Fool: The Carrier of Your Story
The traditional depiction of the Fool in the tarot, is someone who is about to walk off a cliff. Their head is tilted up into the sky, and they seem happy, and completely unaware of what is before them. They carry a stick with a bundle at the end of it over their shoulder, while a little dog barks at their feet.
The fool represents the openness to move forward into the journey. They trust what is ahead of them so much that they know that staying where they are is not an option.
Your MC is the Fool.
Whatever it is that compels your MC to go along the journey is a greater reason to trudge forward into sometimes unwanted experiences because the option to do nothing can’t stack up against the reason to carry on. Even if your character is kicking and screaming the whole way, they know that they cannot stay put.
This signifies that there is some small level of trust. Trust that no matter the danger that might lay ahead, it is worth more than not doing anything. Even if they die in the process, it is still worth more than doing nothing, even if it’s only worth more by a hair.
This indicates your MC’s values. What they hold to be a truth that is strong enough to carry them forward.
The question is, then, what does your Main Character believe in so whole-heartedly, that they can’t turn down the threshold?
The Tarot Pull
If you have a tarot deck, shuffle while you focus on what you know of your MC, if you know anything at all. Either way, put your thoughts toward what it is that they hold true.
When you’re done shuffling, flip the deck over and find the Fool card.
The card in front of it is what they trust
The card behind is what they don’t trust
Another way to look at these two cards are:
The card before them can be their compelling reason to move forward
The card behind them can be their reasoning not to act
Internal or Personal Tools Counterparts
The first few Major Arcana couple up nicely. The Magician is the active counterpart to the passive High Priestess; the Empress is the passive counter part to the active Magician.
The Fool is going to look at themselves for the skills or tools they have within them to navigate their journey.
As mentioned in the description of the Fool, they carry a bag on a stick over their shoulder. The question is, what is in that bag? This is what the Fool chose to bring with them, knowing they would need whatever is in there. It is very small, so whatever is in it, is essential.
The Magician is here to reveal what is in that bag, showing and reminding us of the tools we already have at our disposal, that which we use to manifest or make happen.
The traditional depiction of the Magician is a person stood behind a table with representations of each of the suits or elements on their table: Wand for Fire, Cup for Water, Sword for Air, and Pentacle for Earth. Each of these suits or elements represents different aspects of life, and thus, different strengths our MC has to navigate through the world.
The Tarot Pull
As you consider what skills your MC might have, shuffle the deck. When you’re ready, draw four cards:
Card 1 represents Earth: home, the tangible world, how your MC makes money, health, etc.
Not all of these things for each element needs to be found in the one card drawn for that element. Though, if you’d like, you can pull a card for each quality of that element if you really want to get into it.
However, don’t overthink this. Each card that you draw represents a strength in that elemental realm that the Fool carries in their bag of tricks.
The High Priestess is the counterpart to the Magician. She represents what goes on internally. While the Magician shows what skills your MC uses to navigate the external world, the High Priestess reveals what skills they have to navigate their own internal world. This card will bring forth the lessons of looking within in order to find answers and guidance.
The High Priestess is a Water element, which means that while they represent the passive energy of water, they also represent creativity, emotions (how we form relationships and navigate them), love, intuition, and any magical aspects or spirituality your MC might have.
The Tarot Pull
Spend some times shuffling and focusing on the essence of the High Priestess, and the qualities that could be bestowed up on your MC in this realm.
When you’re done shuffling, find the High Priestess Card.
The card before it will be a known inner strength
The card behind it will be an unknown strength, perhaps something that can be called up on later in the plot, or developed throughout the plot
External & Close Counterparts
The Magician and the High Priestess represent what the MC somewhat develops themselves within. The Empress and the Emperor are external influences on your MC, generally in the form of a parental figure.
Neither of these figures need to be the actual parents of your MC, but rather, those who taught these qualities, or revealed these qualities.
Again, the Empress does not need to be a female-identifying figure, just as the Emperor doesn’t need to be represented by a male-identifying figure. These are just qualities of these archetypes.
The Empress represents “mothering” qualities. They are the support that a person needs in order to grow. They represent a nurturing nature.
For example, a seed needs certain things in order to come to fruition. The Empress is the tender of that seed, providing nourishing soil, water, and ensuring that it gets enough sunlight. The Empress also knows how to give that seed the space it needs to grow on its own.
This is what I mean when I say “mothering” qualities.
The Tarot Pull: Pt 1
The question is, who has been a nurturer for your MC? Who has acted in a “motherly” roll for them?
While you think about this question, shuffle and pull three cards to show how this embodiment of the Empress has helped your MC to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
Side Character Development
A note about characters other than your MC.
We all only know a piece of a person. We know what our experience is with that person, and what they choose to show us. Likewise, we often see parts of ourselves reflected back at us through other people.
When we learn what one person is to another person, we are learning about both people simultaneously.
Using the Empress character as an example, looking at how someone was a mothering figure to the MC, we’re learning not only about what this figure gave to the MC, but what the MC was willing to receive. This will influence their development, how they thin, how they feel, how they react. It will influence how they view self-care, or the care of others.
Similarly, it shows what the other character was willing to give to the MC, or not give, as the case may be. It’s also an invitation to look at what this side character might not be giving to others in their life because of what they’re giving to the MC. This can help to create a more rounded character profile.
The Tarot Pull: Pt 2
Pick your deck up again and begin considering your MC’s relationship to this nurturing figure while you shuffle. When you’re done shuffling, you’re going to pull four cards:
Card 1 represents the mothering figure themselves.
Card 2 represents how your MC responded to this mothering/nurturing/soft guidance.
Card 3 represents an important lesson learned from this figure.
Card 4 represents something challenging this figure left with your MC.
The Emperor represents active energy. Often depicted as an older man on a throne, with ram heads for the arm pieces, with colors of red prominent in the card, the Emperor represents authority and structure.
While the Empress represents internal nurturing for growth, the Emperor helps to create the structures one needs to hold themselves up. If we think of a seedling, the Empress is the water and soil while the Emperor is the thing it climbs up, or even the wind that might encourage the stalk to strengthen so it can hold itself up.
The Empress is about allowing supported space in order to grow. In contrast, the Emperor teaches to be unapologetic for the space that our character takes up, for that is their space and thus their space to govern. This is an external card, but this also is a card about how we govern ourselves.
In this light, when we are looking at the Emperor in regard to your character, we are considering who it was that taught your character how to take up space in the world. Do they take up space at all? That is, do they try to make themselves small, or are they content to exist and know their place?
The Tarot Pull
As you consider your Emperor’s qualities that were taught to your character, shuffle the cards. These four cards you pull will be similar to those of the Empress:
The first card will be a card to represent this Emperor influence on your MC.
The second card you pull will represent how the MC governs themselves.
The third card will be a key take-away from this figure in your MC’s life.
And finally, there will be a card for something challenging this figure left your MC with.
So far, we’ve looked at the personal, and the first bare bones of community for the Fool, or your Main Character. We’ve considered what the Fool has at their disposal both internally and externally, and what the external world has done to teach their base lessons.
However, we are never done learning, and our parents, or parental influences, are not our only source of understanding of the world.
This figure is about the educational structures that help us understand the society we were born into. This can be literal schooling, a teacher, or a religious foundation which helped to shape morals.
The best way to look at this card, is to understand how it was that the MC understood how to function in the “normal” society and be “one of them,” them being a functioning societal member.
This card is sometimes called the Story Teller, which I think I like better. Someone who carries the understandings and views of the community. In those stories are lessons to be learned, morals, and a history, in some extent.
Knowing what this figure or system is in your story, to your MC will help to better understand the foundation they’ve built their understanding from regarding their community. This can shape how they act and respond to situations, how they think, and how they make their decisions based on their understanding of right and wrong.
This also sets up the MC for the following card, which is the Lovers, a card of choice. I won’t go too much into this card, since that was never the intention regarding this particular discussion. But I will say this: the Lovers is a card of choice, of being presented with an option, and deciding which path to take.
When we consider this in following the Hierophant (because each card builds off the last), then we understand this is a choice in deciding which norms and lessons we’ll leave behind, and which we will develop for ourselves. This is essentially the choice: what do we choose to believe and carry with us, and what do we reject.
Thus, when we look at the Hierophant, we are setting our MC up to solidify their code of ethics, so to speak, as well as setting them up to be presented with options later down the line, during their character arc.
The Tarot Pull
To figure this out for your MC, shuffle the cards before flipping the deck over so you can see the pictures, and find your Hierophant.
The card in front of the Hierophant is a teaching that your character agrees with and will carry with them.
The card behind it is a teaching that they aren’t sure about, that might come into question.
If you want to further develop this baseline, keep shuffling the cards, flipping the deck back over so you can’t see the faces, and pull three cards:
The first card will represent their standard education.
The second card will represent their religious lessons.
The third card will represent what their immediate community holds true.
When I talk bout the immediate community, this could be the small village your character lives in, their group of friends, their neighborhood, their ship, and so on. What is a philosophy of those who closely interact with your MC have?
If you want to delve into this more, you can ask yourself whether or not your MC agrees with this philosophy.
The Tarot is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to your writing, or any creative practice for that matter.
One of the things you can use it for is to help your own development as a writer, by looking critically at where you are right now. What is your mentality? Where is your drive? What are you missing that would make your writing practice easier?
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers
I’ve created a 75+ page workbook called The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers, which includes journal prompts to accompany each card of the Celtic Cross.
This workbook is designed to help you better understand yourself so you can focus on the needs of your writing, pinpoint where your writing blocks might be, and move forward with more confidence.
This workbook is completely free, my gift to you, dear writer.
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In this first episode, I ask you to consider where you are as a writer. Where are you leaping off from today? Tomorrow? The next day?
This episode explores
Where you are as a writer
The use of Tarot as a writer
The use of Earth, Air, Fire & Water as a writer
I mention the Celtic Cross for Writers Workbook, and while during the time of the recording I didn't know if I would have that workbook ready, I can now say that it is ready and available! Get your copy here or by visiting
In this workbook I'll walk you through how to use the Celtic Cross to discover yourself as a writer with copious journal prompts and using the Tarot. This workbook has over 50 pages of information, prompts and insight to up-level your writing mindset.
You can find me at
On Instagram: @NaturalWriterCoaching
On Twitter: @WriterNatural
On Facebook: NaturalWriterCoaching
Or email any questions or thoughts at Nicola@NaturalWriterCoaching.com or through the Contact Me page of my website.
Happy writing, friends!
Why Do We Need to Know Where We Are?
Knowing where you are as a writer means that you know the starting point from which you’re jumping off.
You might be just starting your writing journey, or maybe you’re a prolific short story writer, yet just beginning your first novel. Or perhaps you’re a self-published novelist, well into your 11th book, and needing some extra umph to keep you going.
We are all at different points in our writing. And yet, we’re all at the same place: the first day.
I know, this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. We are all at the first day of the rest of our writing journey.
The good, and obnoxious news is that tomorrow is also our first day.
So where are we starting from today? Where will we be starting from tomorrow? And the next day? And next week? Next month?
You get where I’m going with this.
Knowing where you are right now can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, what’s holding you back, and what’s supporting you.
I suggest you have yourself a pen an paper for this blog post or this podcast, because I’m going to be asking you some questions to get you going.
Throughout this podcast, I’ll be referring to the Tarot. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll also know that I’m a big fan of using the Tarot in writing.
For this particular episode and post, I’m considering the lens of the first position of the Celtic Cross: The heart of the matter, or where you are as a writer.
In a Celtic Cross reading, this position represents the sum of all the energies working around you and within you to put you in the current position you’re in right now, or the real issue that is prompting the reading at all.
For many writers, it’s writers block. But that’s not just what the main issue is. It’s what’s masking the issue. So let’s take a second a look at writer’s block.
Writer’s block is rarely simply not knowing what to write. More often than not, it’s the result of something deeper getting in the way, whether it’s a belief, a fear, or the excuses we tell ourselves (though those are also the result of beliefs and/or fears).
If we take a little bit of a bird walk, I’ll talk a little bit about the ego.
The ego, at least, how I’m defining the ego, is the self, or rather, the protector of the self. It is like the shell of the nut that is what defines us.
The aim of the ego is to protect the self. However, what it means to protect something is to keep it just as it is. Which leads to no growth.
In order to grow, we need to initiate a change. Where there is change, there is the unknown. Where there is the unknown, there is potentially danger to the self, which is what the ego wants to protect the self from. As a result, we have fear.
This is very simplified. I know that. Just keep bird walking with me.
This fear is what is causing our writer’s block, when it does manage to crop up. It’s the voice in the bac of our heads questioning whether our writing will be well received, if we as writers will be well received, or if there’s any point in writing at all. These are just a few fears that I commonly talk to writers about. There are plenty more out there.
As a result, we find excuses for why we can’t write, why we shouldn’t write, and so on. This is why we would rather deep clean the bathroom which suddenly urgently needs doing when we sit down at the computer to get some work done. We may not have our writing done, but damnit, our bathrooms are spotless!
Using the tarot, and looking ourselves as writers through the lens of the tarot or even through this position in the Celtic Cross, can help us identify what might be holding us back in our writing practice. Likewise, it can show us what’s supporting us.
The First Step: Journal It out
The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is journal out where you are as a writer. What does it mean for you to be a writer? What does your writing practice look like? What are you doing right now to embody the title of writer? What are your goals? Your fears? Who’s your biggest cheerleader, and influence? Who intimidates you?
Write everything you can about where you are right now.
Don’t think about it too much.
The often famed method of Morning Pages, put forth by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, is about journaling without boundaries. Let your thoughts flow onto the page for at least three whole A4 pages, front and back, without pausing to wonder what to write.
When you find yourself running out of what to write, write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write…” until your pen begins to know what to write.
Adopt this mentality while you do this exercise. Don’t think. Just journal.
After You’ve Scrawled It All…
After you’ve spent some time journaling, get a highlighter and read through what you’ve written. Pay attention to what stands out to you and mark it. Make notes, highlight, underline, do what you have to do, but mark what you’ve written that stands out as important to you.
Pull these points aside and journal on them further if you need to. Really dig into these tid-bits of information you’ve gleaned from your journaling. Why do they stick out to you?
Getting Back to Tarot
A tool that Tarot utilizes is the categorizing of different aspects of life via the four suits: Coins/Pentacles, Swords, Wands, and Cups. Each suit is represented by an element: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, respectively.
I promise this will relate to writing and where you are as a writer, just bear with me.
Here’s how the elements represent different aspects of life:
Earth represents the physical realm, all that is tangible. You can think of the things that we need to physically survive and move around in this world, such as food, shelter, physical health, the earth itself, money, etc.
Earth energy is passive energy. It is slow moving, and it digs deep and holds on. Think of terms like “grounding” or “rooting.” These directly relate to Earth aspects.
Air represents our thoughts and how we communicate. It also represents education, the law, justice, and anything to do with logic. It is part of our inspiration, something I’ll delve more into when we move on to Fire.
Air also represents cycles. When we consider the breath, how it moves in and out of us, like a cycle, or the swirling of wind, we can understand how it can represent the phases we move through.
Air is active energy. Our thoughts are quick, how we speak is usually quite quick as well. Thoughts and tongues can be sharp, which is part of the reason why they are represented by the Swords in the Tarot.
This is my favorite element, though it could be because I’m a fire sign, and have a lot of fire in my astrological chart.
Fire represents passion and creation. It is our inspiration, our drive, our Will. It’s what motivates us to get up and go and to take action.
I mentioned that Air is also inspiration. The spark is the instant of Need to Do, of Compulsion to express that key part of the Self. It’s that flicker of excitement. Air is what fans that spark and brings it to a flame. It’s what plans and forms the spark into an action.
Fire, too, is active energy. It is far more instantaneous than Air, and far more demanding than air.
Water is a passive energy, like Earth. Though the concept behind Water is the idea of sinking down. As a result, this means that it corresponds to our emotions, to our subconscious, our intuition, and our spirituality. It’s how we connect in our relationships, whether they be friendly, romantic, familial, or otherwise.
It is creativity.
Considering these elements and areas of your life while going over your journaling can help you divide specific areas you might find are supporting you or restricting you. You might find that there are areas that are smothering your spark, or devouring your Air, for example. These things bleed into your creative practice. Getting to know the different areas of life can help you pinpoint where you are right now.
The Second Step: Some Guiding Questions
The second step is more of a helpful way to get you to consider the elements in your life. Here are some guiding questions you can further use as journal prompts.
Air: What is your practice?
How are you keeping yourself accountable?
How are you planning for your writing goals?
How are you implementing the steps of your plan?
I want to take a moment to say that it’s okay if you don’t have a plan. You don’t have to have a plan. However, Air is the element of logic, and is great when you start looking at your editing.
However, there are some elements of planning that you’ll need in your writing life. For example, the goals you set for your current WIP, or your writing career. The education you plan to explore when it comes to marketing, to story structure, to publishing also doubly fall under Air, since it’s both education and planning. Knowing copywrite laws are essential when it comes to creating your works (laws fall under Air, as does Justice).
There is a lot here, and the risk of too much Air is over-planning, and smothering your inspiration as a result. Ask yourself where the line is for you regarding too much planning, or needing to plan more.
Fire: How Do You Feel About Writing in General?
Does writing, as a whole inspire you? Intimidate you? Make you feel free? Constricted?
Consider this and note what you feel in your body. Do you relax? Is there a tightness?
How do you feel about your writing?
Same questions – Does it inspire you? Excite you? Free? Constricted?
Fire can often be that act of creation, but creation must come from something. For example, consider the creation of another being. There are things that must happen:
There must be passion, or desire (both Fire)
Two elements come together to make that creation happen
So ask yourself what is that passion for you about writing? What is compelling you to write? Or consider writing? Or tell your story?
Examining what smothers that spark is also important, and should be considered.
What kills stomps out that potential for you?
What stops a piece from coming to fruition?
Water: Where Does Your Creativity Come From?
Does it hit you from nowhere?
Do you cultivate it?
What relaxes you and puts you in the flow with your art?
What emotions do you tap into when you write?
What do you avoid?
There is no doubt that writing is a creative process, and writing is fluid and flowing, just like Water. Hence, the creativity. Water forms itself to what it must be in order to fit in with what is required.
You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned both creativity and creation separately, and I want to take a moment to distinguish between the two.
Creation is the result of action being taken upon a passion
Creative, or creativity is the personal flair in which something is created.
Creation is fire
Creativity is water
In the tarot, there is a card named Temperance, which is often represented by Fire and Water. Marriam-Webster defines Temperance as “Moderation in action, thought, or feeling.”
In Thoth-Based tarot decks, the Temperance card is called Art instead. I love this. The idea that Fire and Water are coming together to create Art. This is creation and creativity coming together in harmony, the internal flow of Water, balanced with the drive of Fire, to create Art.
Earth: How is Your Writing Showing up in Your Physical World?
By what physical method do you write?
Are you making money from your writing?
How are you nourishing your brain?
I want to take a second to explain the last question.
The things that we put in our body affects our minds. Everyone is different, therefore different minds need different things. I also want to take a second to honor that this can be a privileged thing to consider as well.
I am not going on a kick about what you should or shouldn’t consume. What I am asking is for you to pay attention to how certain things affect how you think and act.
For example: during lockdown last year, I, like so many, began baking. I started to find that when I was eating the delicious things I baked, I was getting cranky. Same with when I had sugar in my coffee. So I stopped with the sugar-rich treats and drastically cut back on the sugar in my coffee.
Recently, since I get up at 5 in the morning, I have noticed that I have some pretty gnarly caffeine crashes around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I realized it was because I was drinking bucket loads of coffee and then hitting my wall. So I stopped and replaced coffee with chicory root for a while, and then with plain old water.
I noticed how what I was consuming was affecting my mind and productivity, and I made the changes I felt I had the capacity and capability to make.
Where Are You As A Writer?
Consider everything you’ve journaled about here. What have you discovered? Are you pleased with it? Do you see areas you want to change?
If you’re open to sharing, post in the comments below! I’ll be you’ll find you’re not alone.
Natural Writer Podcast
Did you like Episode 1 of the Natural Writer Podcast? Be sure to like and subscribe. At the time of writing this, Apple hasn’t quite caught on to how excellent this podcast is, so I need your help! Be sure to subscribe to it on:
And of course, don’t forget to share the love and tell your friends!
Happy Listening and Happy Writing!
Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook
In this podcast, I mention the Celtic Cross Workbook.
At the time of recording, I didn’t know when it would be released. However! I do now!
It is a completely free, 75+ pages of tarot and journal prompts using the Celtic Cross to help you delve into where you are as a writer, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back from becoming what you want to be.
Check it out for Free by completing the form below!
Full transparency: I’m terrified. This is a really scary thing for me to be doing! I actually have recorded and re-recorded my intro episode like ten times. Finally, I decided I would just publish it.
And you know what, I STILL found an editing error!
But that is to be expected. I’m learning new editing software (I’m used to editing sound on video editing software that I no longer have access to, nor am I willing to throw down $800 to gain access to), and to top it all off, I was doing it on my phone. Editing anything on your phone can be tricky, in case you haven’t discovered that.
However, my trailer episode is about an imperfect start, and thus, I think that my imperfect trailer outlines that.
If you want to get ready for the real deal, the full-on podcast, I’ll be launching on a Tuesday, and will keep up the every-Tuesday pattern.
I’m using Anchor as my host, which has gained me access to the following podcast platforms:
I am still currently waiting for Apple to get back to me. I will update this when I find out more.
I am very excited for this, and I hope you are too. Be sure to check out my imperfect trailer and subscribe for more imperfect, informative, and hopefully entertaining episodes of the Natural Writer Podcasts.
Don’t forget, we are still open for submissions for the Nightmares When I’m Cold writing competition/anthology.
Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!
We as writers have a responsibility. The world is evolving, and we, as artists, have a responsibility to help our readers move forward with the world.
The art we engage with shapes our understanding of the world. When we encounter a character, whether it be in a book, on stage, through a poem, or on a screen, we are opening ourselves up to understanding that character, which works as an extension of our understanding of what it means to be human.
Literature, plays, film, art, all help us to discover, relate, and comprehend how we are evolving. The books that make it through history all portray important situational messages, problems, and commentary on the way the world is, and things that need to be addressed. They all point the way for what we need to fix in order to move forward and evolve.
We have seen this time and time again throughout history. Consider Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, commentating on the horrors of colonialism in Africa, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which outlines the racial injustices in America, or Angels in America by Tony Kushner which revolves around the AIDs epidemic in the ‘80s. Let us not forget Animal Farm or 1984, both by George Orwell who predicted and accurately outlined the way the western world is headed. These are just a few of the classics that come to mind.
While not all of us are trying to write the next great piece that will go down in history, I assume that we want to write accurately. The world, the country, the state, the providence, the town, are not all white, straight, able-bodied individuals. Including a diverse world in your story can not only provide representation for underrepresented individuals, but it can also bring depth to your story.
Thus, we have a responsibility as writers to ensure we are giving an accurate understanding of the human experience in the eclectic and beautifully colorful world that we live in.
This is why it is so important that as we write, we work to ensure we are not causing harm where harm has already been done, and that we accurately portray our characters, systems, and worlds.
Writing the Other
Writing the Other is an organization that provides classes specifically aimed at writers who want to create characters who are different of themselves. For example, a writer who has a character who has ADHD, when the writer does not have ADHD, a character who has a physical disability, or a character of another race, gender, gender identity, etc..
Writing the Other aims at responsible writing, teaching writers how to avoid harmful stereotypes or portrayals of their characters.
Their website has classes, seminars, weekend courses, workshops, as well as free resources to help writers get it right. Their teachers include
K. Tempest Bradford
Piper J. Drake
Keffy R.M. Kehrli
And so many more talented speakers and authors
From their website:
Representation is fundamental to writing great fiction. Creating characters that reflect the diversity of the world we live in is important for all writers and creators of fictional narratives. But writers often find it difficult to represent people whose gender, sexual orientation, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity is very different from their own. This can lead to fear of getting it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and, in the face of that, some think it’s better not to try.
The hard truth is this: Representation and Diversity are too important to ignore.
It IS possible to write characters who represent the “Other” sensitively and convincingly. Through our classes, workshops, and seminars and the resources available on this site and elsewhere creators can get a solid foundation in how to craft characters from any background, no matter how different they are from you.
The more we know, the more we can ensure that we are creating good in society through our art. By understanding and recognizing patterns in our view of those around us, we can learn to be better to those very people, and one of those methods is through our writing.
If you are unfamiliar with Writing the Other, I encourage you to check out their website and the work they do. Get involved with their community on Facebook, and have a read through their free available resources.
Recently, I announced the launch of a non-profit short story competition. The organization that all of our profits will go to for this project will be Writing the Other, because both Katrina Carruth and I believe so strongly in what they do, and in creating more educated and responsible writers. Specifically, we will be donating to the Sentient Squid Scholarship. Through this scholarship, writers can take part in Writing the Other teachings to help become responsible writers who contribute to bettering the world through their art.
Even if you are not interested in participating in our Nightmares When I’m Cold short story competition, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out Writing the Other’s workshops and courses, but consider donating to the scholarship to make them more accessible.
I am so excited to announce a call for submissions to Natural Writer Coaching’s first anthology. I am pairing up with Katrina Carruth, editor and writer, to compile and present this writing competition and anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold.
This has been a goal and dream of both Katrina’s and mine for a long time. In the long bygone days of being an English and Philosophy student, I wanted to start a publication, just so I could have the opportunity to ready others’ fiction. So bringing about this idea is something I am nothing short of thrilled about.
The goal of this anthology is to showcase the creepy and chilling tales that come from your beautiful brains under the writing prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”.
This competition will open on July 1, 2021, and the deadline is August 15, 2021 at midnight, PST.
Nightmares When I’m Cold Basic Guidelines
This is what we are looking for:
A horror story revolving around the prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”
3,000 to 6,000 words. Anything above 6,000 or below 3,000 will be discarded.
Any subgenre of horror, though horror must be the main genre
Please note that just because the prompt is in the first person doesn’t mean that the story itself needs to be in the first person.
Something we strongly encourage is really pushing your creative self. Try the third-idea method, in which you throw away your first two ideas and go for the third or fourth. This can help you move past possibly thinking of something you’ve seen or read already and really get to something juicy.
What we do not want:
Gratuitous violence, abuse, or sex
Anything to do with rape. This is a big NO. While we know this is a book of horror, we would like to avoid needing to put Trigger Warnings at the top of any story.
Anything to do with the mutilation or harm of children. This is a big NO.
Who is eligible:
Contestants from the US, Mexico, and Canada*
* One day we hope to expand this to include other countries, but for now, we are keeping this continental local.
While we want to put together a collection of stories that not only the authors can be proud of, but that we can be proud to showcase, we also wanted to make this a little more fun and give it a competitive edge.
Please know, all of the prizes are redeemable within 12 months of the publication date of the anthology.
All short-listed stories will have a place in the anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold
Each contributing writer will receive a hard copy of the anthology itself
Each contributing writer will receive 30% off any of Natural Writer Coaching’s services
A great gift idea for the holidays (Please see the nitty-gritty)
The winner of the 3rd prize will receive a 20,000-word critique of a current or finished WIP
This involves reading the section twice while making notes on the document, and writing a detailed email involving the critique
A basic line edit of the 20,000 word segment
A 1-hour call via Zoom, Skype, or Telegram discussing the critique
Valued at $250
A 4-pack of hour-long coaching calls
Each call we talk about your work in progress, difficulties you might be having, character and plot development, writing blocks, etc.
Calls held via Skype, Zoom, or Telegram
Valued at $325
The Full Month Coaching Package
4x 1-hour sessions (weekly)
Limitless emails between each session to discuss your project
A developmental editing approach to 15000 words of your story. This will be done by the third week of the month, and feedback will be emailed to you so we have the option of discussing the feedback if you want on the fourth week.
Valued at $1235
Nightmares When I’m Cold Submission Guidelines
As I’ve already mentioned, this is a non-profit. That means that we will be donating anything we make over the cost of production, however, there is still a cost of production to take into consideration. To help with that, there is a $10 Submission Fee per submission.
We also believe in amplifying and lifting BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ voices. As an honor system, that fee will be waved, no questions asked.
If you would like donate extra to help to cover the cost of this book, or to simply donate the cause, please contact me.
That aside, here are the rules of submitting your work:
$10 submission fee per entry*
The story must be between 3,000 and 6,000 words, no more, no less.
A separate cover letter document must be included with your submission
Your submission must not include your name anywhere on it other than the email you send us and your cover letter. This is so we can ensure that we are reading each piece blind, so we don’t favor those we know consciously or unconsciously. We want to be as fair as possible
Documents must be saved as a .doc or .docx. Please no PDFs
* We are more than happy to read as many pieces as you provide, however, only one of your pieces will be selected if you make it to the shortlist.
A Note on the Cover Letter
I don’t know one writer who likes to write cover letters. So I thought I would tell you exactly what we’re looking as a guideline (though we’re far less strict on your cover letter than on your actual submission:
The name of your story and your name
A little bit about your story, and if you did choose the third-method, feel free to share what your first two ideas were (though this isn’t essential, just a fun way for us to get to know you)
A little about yourself as a writer
A little about you as you
That’s it. It’s that simple.
There are a few things that should be mentioned.
Our approximate timeline is as such:
Open for submissions July 1 – August 15, 2021
Announce the short-list on September 21, 2021
Announce 1st, 2nd, & 3rd prizes on October 31, 2021
Release the anthology December 1, 2021
The timeline we have set is tentative. It is our aim, though we may have to push it back. We appreciate your patience.
This is a non-profit. Whatever is left over from the production costs of this anthology will be donated to a charitable cause assisting BI&POC and/or LGBTQIA+ writers and/or communities, and/or the environmental causes, or a combination of all of the above. The cause will be announced closer to July 1. the Sentient Squid Scholarshipmade available through Writing the Other.
If you are short-listed and thus included in the anthology, we will have the rights to your story for six months after publication purely for promotional purposes. After that, you may submit it wherever else you’d like. We won’t do anything with your story other than publish it in an agreeable manner in the anthology.
Ethics of Writing + Having Sensitivity Readers
Both Katrina and I have strong ideas of contributing good to the world. As a result, we have a few stances we are taking with this contest/anthology.
Marginalized Voices & Sensitivity Readers
We believe in uplifting and making space for marginalized voices, which is why we are waving submission fees for BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ folx, no questions asked. This is a trust and honor system, and we would appreciate that this is respected.
Likewise, we also acknowledge that we aren’t qualified to ensure that the content of all the stories that are selected won’t be problematic. As a result, we would like to have sensitivity readers on board with this project.
If you are a sensitivity reader and would like to be a part of this contest/anthology, please feel free to contact me via IG DM, or though the contact page. We would love to talk to you.
Anything beyond the production costs will go toward a charity or scholarship. We are dabbling in a few ideas at the minute, but one that is feeling good is to put the money toward a scholarship for underrepresented writers.
Again, if you would like to donate toward this contest/anthology to help cover the waived entry fees of marginalized writers, please get in touch! We would love to hear from you.
Alright, there you have it—we have a contest on our hands. At the time of the publication of this post, you have two weeks to start thinking about and writing your story.
So you have a few pieces of homework in light of this:
Start thinking about your story prompted by “Nightmares when I’m cold.”
Start writing your story!
Share this post with friends who might be interested in entering this contest
Visit Writing the Other to see how their workshops, classes, and free resources can help you and your writing.
Remember, we are open for submissions between July 1 and August 15. We will have a page for entries up by then. Please feel free to comment below with any questions, or use the contact form.
We are so excited for this contest, and hope you are too!
Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!