Monday, February 8, 2016

week #5 - What's in My Toolbox?

                  I like to think of myself as having a metaphorical writer’s toolbox I carry around with me at all times.

                 My toolbox is an amalgam of all of the wisdom, both theoretical and practical, that I have amassed regarding the writing process over the course of my life.

                  Today, I wanted to talk about a few of the practical tools in my toolbox that help keep me organized and productive.


I recently shared on Instagram (find me as JenniferCaloyeras) a photo of the six projects I’m working on all in various stages of revision.

File folders: 

        It can be hard to keep track of the various stages of revision for each project.

I keep them organized in a labeled file folder on my desk.

At the front of each folder, I stick a post it that labels what needs to be done next. For example: “Print and edit pages 1 – 50” or “Start typing edit on page 75”.


Excel has become my very best friend for keeping track of submissions. Each project I complete has its own excel spreadsheet in order to keep track of query letters I send out, what the response was, if there’s any follow up, dates and any notes the reader might have added (sometime even with a rejection will come a note saying, “it wasn’t right for this issue, but please send more!”  

Because I have a short fiction collection, it can get complicated sending out thirteen different stories to different literary magazines and anthologies, but with the excel spreadsheet I can keep track of them all as well as view them by date or by story.

Bulletin board:

I like to keep information regarding different genres I write in front of me. Sometimes, those will include important due dates for submissions, research I’m conducting or even photos for inspiration.

A little notebook:

I am the queen of collecting little writing journals. Sometimes I’ll use a new journal to start a new project. Often in the beginning stages of a writing project I prefer writing ideas out by hand.

Currently, I’m using this plain moleskin, given to me years ago by my sister in law, to keep track of all things writing including ideas, appearances and to do lists.

A filing system: 

Until something appears in book or journal form, I like to hold on to all drafts. What if I cut something that I need later on? This way, I have it. I keep my files alphabetized by title and all my creative writing folders are purple so they don’t get mixed in with health care or other files.

 A lined notepad:

Whenever I start revising a book-length piece of work, it gets assigned a lined notepad. As I read through the work I’ll do line edits on the manuscript, but I’ll use the notepad to keep track of more global changes or questions. I usually allot about two pages per chapter. When I go to revise, I do so chapter by chapter, starting with the line edits and then moving on to the bigger, more global aspects that need to be changed.

Programs that prevent you from going on the Internet: 

There are a few ways in which technology can keep you from being distracted by technology:

Anti-Social: this app lets you set the time you want to write and during this time you are blocked from all social media on your computer.

Write or Die: this program allows you to set writing goals and then should you stop writing, the app will wither gently remind you with a pop up window (gentle mode), play an unpleasant sound until you continue writing (normal mode), or your writing will begin to unwrite itself (kamikaze mode)

Coffitivity: for those of you that work better in a coffee shop vibe rather than in silence, Coffitivity will create background coffee shop ambient noise.

On Tuesday, February 9th at  6:30 - we will be discussing our strategies for creative writing and revision – come join us and add more ideas to your toolbox!

Join authors Zsuzsi Gartner, Matthew Specktor, Andrea Quaid and Jennifer Caloyeras as discuss and take questions about their various writing strategies. On the page how do we get from A to Z? How do different mediums and platforms affect the writing process? Do different projects merit different approaches? Can the process of writing be taught? 

Zsuzsi Gartner is the author of All the Anxious Girls on Earth, and editor of Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow. Her most recent book, Better Living through Plastic Explosives, was a 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist. She is the founding director of Writers Adventure Camp at The Point in Whistler, B.C. She’s at work on a novel.

Matthew Specktor is the author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book about the motion picture The Sting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, The Believer, Tin House, Black Clock, and, among other publications. He was a senior editor and founding member of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Andrea Quaid is co-editor of Acts + Encounters, a collection of works about experimental writing and community. Recent critical and creative publications include the American Book Review, BOMBlog, Jacket2, Lana Turner, LIT and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She teaches in Bard College’s MAT Program (Los Angeles) and Language and Thinking Program (New York) as well as California Institute of the Arts. Currently, she is writing a book on contemporary experimental women’s writing and the literary epic.

Jennifer Caloyeras is the 2016 Writer-in-Residence at the Beach House, and will be working on a novel in the Marion Davies Guest House from 1/12/16-3/15/16. Her most recent novel, Strays, is for young adults and explores an incarcerated teen's relationship with a pit bull. Caloyeras' short fiction has appeared in Booth, Storm Cellar and other literary magazines. She holds a M.A. in English from Cal State Los Angeles and a M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. Jennifer’s current project is her first adult novel – a mixture of humor and pathos – that explores a mother’s journey with her transgendered six-year-old daughter, and the weight of expectations parents place on their children. She will share her work with three public events, a weekly blog, and open office hours throughout her tenure (schedule below). Her website:

Mondays January 25 – March 7, 11am-2pm: Open Office Hours – come by Jennifer’s office at the Beach House with any literary questions
Tuesday February 9, 6:30pm: Unpacking the Elusive Writing Process
Follow her weekly updates to the Resident Blog starting in January 2016. 

Stop by early to save your seat and check out the historic site!
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What’s your favorite writing tip or strategy?

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