dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Today I’d like to put in a plug for Tina Laurel Lee’s brainchild, The Practice Room – which operates as a little think tank for the writing community. You can check out the sidebar on her site for the weekly schedule, but I usually run a session on Monday nights, while Tina and other writers host sessions in the mornings and afternoons during the week.
We’ve got a wonderful group of people who attend the Monday night session: many regulars like Krystalyn Drown, Maria Mainero, and Marcy Hatch. Krystalyn’s sister Serena has started coming, as well as Krystalyn’s friend Jen, and Marisa Hopkins is sometimes there. I’ve recently invited Mary Waibel and Christine Danek, and there are other visitors as well.
Here’s how it works:
  1. Come to The Practice Room anytime in the 30 minutes before a session to “check in” and set a goal. (On Monday nights, that’s between 7:30 and 8:00 pm EST.)
  2. During the “Unplug” time, write like crazy. (On Monday’s that is 8pm to 9pm EST, but people do what suits them best. If you can’t write for that hour, you can still chat afterwards. Some people in the later time zones come to the chat first and then write afterwards.)
  3. Return to The Practice Room (IMPORTANT: REFRESH THE PAGE) after the Unplug to attend the chat between the writers. (The chat starts at 9pm EST on Mondays.)

Why do this? Well, the one hour dedicated writing time is important, but the real gem here is the live chat between the writers. We vent; we share; we brainstorm. I have seen people share links, match up as critique partners, and brainstorm through trouble spots. You might not think that a simple question posed by another writer who has never even read your story might solve the one thing that’s been giving you fits – but I’ve seen it happen lots of times.
We always love to have new participants, so I hope you’ll check us out! Maybe I’ll see a new face (okay, a new profile pic) there tonight!

I’m putting in a plug for The Practice Room today – which is a group writing session set up by Tina Laurel Lee.  If you haven’t heard of The Practice Room, you can check it out in detail here. But basically, a team of hosts – Tina Laurel Lee, Marisa Hopkins, Heather Kelly, Jon Arntson, and me – set up a schedule for dedicated writing sessions of one hour (or an hour and a half, if you start at the check-in time), followed by an online chat for participants.
My usual spot is Monday nights, 8pm EST, with check-in starting at 7:30pm and chat starting at 9pm.   There are also plenty of day time slots. The schedule is posted every week on Sunday. What I love about TPR is having that dedicated time for writing. My family knows Monday nights are for TPR, and they don’t bother me during that time. Often, I’ll “save up” something to write during that time, letting an idea simmer all day so that it can boil over between 7:30 and 9:00 that night.  Of course, the company is great, too.  Every week, I get to see how my companions’ projects have progressed – and I’ve also scored some new critique partners and beta readers.
If you’re interested in joining us, here’s how it goes.
1.      Show up at http://tinalaurellee2.blogspot.com/sometime in the half hour before the scheduled session.  Check in by adding a comment to the post and establishing a goal for the hour. (You can draft new words in your WIP, write some upcoming blog posts, work on revisions, outline a new project – anything!)
2.      At the designated time, a post will appear (if you refresh the page) announcing WE ARE UNPLUGGED. At this time, close the internet and unplug (or ignore) your phone.  JUST WRITE.
3.      When the hour is over, return to The Practice Room and refresh the page.  A chat box will appear for everyone to report on their progress and talk about writing.  On your first visit, you will have to take a moment to register with Chat Roll.  Returning visitors need only sign in and start chatting.
Occasionally, TPR will spill over into video – using Google+ Hangouts to hold the writing session “in person.”  I really enjoy this, too! And on Thursdays, Amy McBay hosts CritChat, for sharing pages of your manuscript.
Practice makes perfect. We’d love to see you in The Practice Room! Maybe I’ll see you tonight!

When I first saw Google+ hitting the news and started getting invitations to join, I groaned. Facebook, yes. Twitter, I’m there. But ANOTHER ONE? I didn’t think I could do it. So, I deleted all the invitations and said, “The social networks stop here.”

But then, Tina Laurel Lee suggested a Google+ Hangout for our TPR group. If you’re not familiar with TPR (The Practice Room), check it out here. The brainchild of Tina Laurel Lee, TPR is basically a way to write in the company of other writers, separately but together, in a designated 1-hour session of concentration (no phones, TV’s, or internet allowed) and chat about it afterwards.

Google+ Hangout gives TPR a way to meet (occasionally) in a visual chat for a writing session. Imagine the Brady Bunch heads in their little square boxes, only everybody is busy writing in their boxes – taking a break every 25 minutes to chat, throw out a question, share a breakthrough or a frustration – and then returning to another writing session. People arrive and leave as suits their schedule. One of our Hangouts lasted for 2 hours of writing, with designated “water cooler” breaks to share.

So far, we’ve done this twice, and we’re planning another session for this Friday, August 19 at 2pm EST. (This is a change of date since my original posting — We wanted to avoid conflicting with Write On Con.) If you’re interested in attending, contact me or Heather Kelly (Tina’s on vacation) for an invitation. Since this is my last week of summer vacation (quiet sob), I hope to set up some evening Hangouts once the school year begins, for those of us unable to make the afternoon EST times.

Okay, so I broke down and joined Google+, but the Hangout is the only thing I’ve done with it. Tell me, blogging friends, what else is it good for? I’d love to know what (if anything) you’ve done with it!

I’d like to thank Marisa, Carolin, and Not the Girl You Think I Am for participating in First Impressions this month! I also appreciate all the great comments and suggestions on those first pages from my blog readers! Marcy and I are looking forward to doing this again in April!
Also coming up in April is the one year anniversary of Tina Laurel Lee’s The Practice Room. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, TPR is a blog where writers meet at established times to “unplug from the internet” and write for a solid hour, then reconvene for a live chat to talk about their writing. I found TPR a great way to hone my concentration over the summer, when I had loads of writing time but not much focus. When I returned to school last fall, I lost all that free time but didn’t gain any focus – so I started hosting TPR sessions on Thursday evenings to get it back. Now, although I do some kind of writing every evening, I especially look forward to Thursdays and even “save up” a specific writing task to accomplish during that uninterrupted hour block.
The after-chats are helpful, too. I know that we have helped each other over humps and sometimes just listened to each other vent. I gained another great critique partner too – that’s you, Krystey Belle! I think Tina is going to be posting some TPR-related blogs this week, so check them out here.
In other news, we’re coming up on state testing next week here in Pennsylvania. I apologize in advance, but the upcoming assessments may spawn some anti-testing blogs here at In High Spirits. I’ll try not to foam at the mouth (too much).
Just for a starter grumble, the tests are being held 4 weeks earlier than last year, but teachers and students are still accountable for the same eligible content. The state agency that schedules the tests is accountable for nothing, I suppose. Of course, it’s no problem to cover the entire year’s curriculum before March 15. I’ll just teach faster …
Best to end here, I think. (wipes foam away from mouth)

School’s in session!

I like my class: they’re smart and well-spoken and good-looking, too! (I know they can use Google, and they’re gonna find this blog and read it sooner or later. Best to butter them up now!)

However, a full teaching day cuts into my writing time and blows my concentration. If I want to keep up my productivity, I need to schedule some dedicated writing time. Over the summer, I found Tina Laurel Lee’s blog, The Practice Room, to be extremely helpful for focus and productivity.

So I volunteered to run evening sessions.

This week, I’ll be running my first session of TPR – Thursday night, at 8pm EST. If you want to get in an hour of productive writing – or just see if I can manage this feat without a technical disaster – join me! Here’s how it works:

1. Show up at http://tinalaurellee2.blogspot.com/ sometime in the half hour before the scheduled session. In the case of this Thursday, pop in anytime between 7:30 and 8:00 pm EST. Let me know you’re present by adding a comment to the post and establishing a goal for the hour. (You can draft new words in your WIP, write some upcoming blog posts, work on revisions, outline a new project – anything!)

2. At the designated time (ie: 8:00pm) a post will appear announcing WE ARE UNPLUGGED. At this time, close the internet and unplug (or ignore) your phone. JUST WRITE.

3. When the hour is over, return to The Practice Room. A chat box will appear (assuming I don’t screw up) for everyone to report on their progress and talk about writing. If this is your first visit, you will have to take a moment to register with Chat Roll. Returning visitors need only sign in and start chatting.

What’s great about The Practice Room is the feeling that you’re not alone in your writing. You designate a time to commit to your craft, and you know there are other people out there working beside you.

I also like the “unplugged” nature of the session. Yes, I get tempted away from my writing by Facebook and Twitter. But I also get yanked out of productive writing by the sudden “need” to research what kind of hard candy was made in America in 1867 or what train stations can be found between Reading and Catawissa, PA. Researching piddling details can derail my writing, but when I’m “unplugged,” I’ve learned to type BLANK in the text and research it later. Fluency is achieved; details are cleaned up later.

Looking forward to Thursday, and hope to see some of you there! There are plenty of other sessions, too, so check the schedule posted at The Practice Room.

Don’t forget to enter my 100 BLOG FOLLOWERS CONTEST! Turn in your quizzes by Friday!


Summer vacation is over. Kaput. Today is the last day, and tomorrow, I’ll have to shift my mental gears into teaching mode. Boy, are they going to groan, whine, and squeal!

At the beginning of summer vacation, I posted goals for myself. The idea behind posting publicly was to shame myself into actually doing them. Now comes the public unveiling of my accomplishments:

Goal #1: Write another draft of screenplay
SUCCESS

I completed draft #7 of the We Hear the Dead screenplay in the early part of the summer. After letting it sit for a few weeks, my collaborator (producer Amy Green) and I have found this version to be lacking one crucial thread – and we think we know how to fix it. So, yes, there will be another draft coming this fall, and I’m very excited about this one. I think it might be the one!

Goal #2: Show the landscaping who was boss
EPIC FAIL

Just look at the picture. Let’s face it: I didn’t even try.

Goal #3: Outline and begin draft of The Caged Graves
SUCCESS

Okay, I didn’t write an outline. I jumped in and started writing this one by the seat of my pants with only a dim idea where I was going. I made a couple wrong turns along the way. There are loose ends from plot pathways I chose not to take — which now have to be cleaned up in revision. But I’ve drafted 57,000 words, and I’m about to gallop into the climax of the novel! Starting school will slow me down a bit, but I’ve got the end in sight now! I credit Tina and Heather and Marisa and The Practice Room for helping me get this far!

Goal #4: Revise my Revolutionary War piece to use in class
DUMB IDEA

This is clearly a work-related project, so why would I do it over my vacation?? Besides, once I got into The Caged Graves, I didn’t want to break my focus. Then it occurred to me that (watch this brilliant rationalization!) revising this piece during the school year — in fact, modeling those revisions in front of my class — was a much better idea. Agree with me here, folks. This makes sense.

Goal #5: Swim for exercise in my pool 5x a week
NOT TOO SHABBY

I laughed out loud when I wrote that one, because I knew I’d never do it. However, I made more progress on this goal than I did on #2. In the beginning of the summer, I really did swim 5x a week. I slacked off a little toward the end, but I made a pretty good effort.

Also over the summer, my blog membership topped 100!!! On Wednesday of this week, I’ll roll out my 100 Blog Followers Celebration Contest. Be prepared. There will be a test.

Did anybody else out there meet their goals or surprise themselves?