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Merry Christmas From All at Writers Abroad
Category: Writing



With many thanks to subscriber, Patricia Feinberg Stoner for this entry to our Newsletter Muse. We loved it so much and Patricia kindly agreed we could feature it on our blog for Christmas.

All Seasons Greetings Where Ever You Are...






By Patricia Feinberg Stoner

“God rest ye merry gentlemen!”  I hear the people say.

They’re getting all excited cos it’s nearly Christmas day.

It’s time I got a move on, and never mind me feet,

Me chilblains, me lumbago, nor rain, nor snow, nor sleet.


OH - I’m harnessing me reindeer and loading up me sleigh,

And putting on me muffler cos Santa’s on his way.

OH - I hates the flipping chimneys they never thinks to sweep

And all the pussyfooting while the kiddies is asleep.


And I hates the flipping driving, especially after dark,

And it isn’t always easy to find a place to park.

And while we’re on the subject, I think it’s pretty thick

All this flying round the country when air travel makes me sick.


BUT I’m harnessing me reindeer and loading up me sleigh

And pulling furry boots on cos Santa’s on his way.

And there’s another matter that gets me on the raw:

Them flipping understudies you see in every store.


It’s not as if I minds it when I sees me face to face

In Debenhams or Tesco’s – or any flipping place

But where’s the recognition for a job I’ve done so long?

And, come the New Year honours, why don’t I get a gong?


STILL, I’m harnessing me reindeer and loading up me sleigh,

And filling a hot bottle cos Santa’s on his way.

There’s just one ray of comfort that stops me feeling sore:

Me working year’s a day long, and the hol’s three sixty four!


So spare a thought for Santa as you feast and play and dance.

I’ll be celebrating Christmas in the sunny south of France.

OH - I’ve unharnessed all me reindeer and emptied out me sleigh.

Come wine!  Come song!  Come women!  Cos Santa’s on his way.


Visit Patricias blog here

And see her books on Amazon here

Category: Writing
Tags: Writing goals planning taking stock


As we all race around, trying to finish projects at work or home as well as prepare for the festivities of the most important (at least for most of us…) holidays of the year, there is not much time or space for sitting back and relaxing. As of today, the final pre-Christmas week is upon us and panic sets in. It’s at this point that I begin looking forward to the days between the holidays, when the pressure of Christmas expectations has been lifted and I can kick back, read a bit, watch some good films and maybe even have enough leisure to reflect on the accomplishments – or lack of same – during the year just coming to a close.

                As writers, many of us are able to work at our own pace, not necessarily held to account by large corporations and their deadlines. Unless of course, you happen to be one of the lucky few among us who have climbed bestseller lists and do have to produce those manuscripts to a schedule. If so, congratulations on your success. You don’t need to read any more of this!

However, for one such as I, an apprentice writer eager to learn and develop my skills, taking the time to perform my own personal annual review, as happens in real, live day-jobs, is a worthwhile undertaking. How many stories did I write, revise or edit this past year? How many made it into print? Did I submit pieces to any contests or lit magazines? Which of the goals that I bravely set down for myself in January of this year actually came to fruition or are at least works-in-progress? Of course, this assumes I actually did some planning in the previous January.

                As luck would have it, a new January is just two weeks away, offering us a new opportunity to set goals, if we haven’t been doing this previously. It can only help if I, as a semi-professional wordsmith, set down on paper some targets at which to aim. This doesn’t have to be a solemn contract with myself – unless I want it to be. But a modicum of pressure can help concentrate the mind. Maybe it’s less intimidating to think of this goal-setting as a to-do list that will keep me busy and out of trouble all year. Another way of thinking of it is as a roadmap. Traveling is always easier if I know the direction I need to go and what I expect to find at the end of the journey.

                Merry Christmas to all and may the New Year bring many opportunities for you to show off your word prowess!

Taking Notes


Memory Almost Full


We generate far more actionable information than is encoded in all of our combined genetic material, and carry much of it into the future. We’ve been pumping out persistent data since that first caveman’s painting on a wall, and we’ve kept on pumping ever since. We crank out something like 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day, more than a billion, billion, bytes. The question is, what do we do with information that is useless, taking up a lot of space, and how do we decide what has no reason to be kept?

Back to the caveman, that primordial writer, and to us — the art of taking notes.                                                                                                              

I must confess, I’m not a master of this art, but I’m a serious practitioner. I take a lot of notes, and maybe you can learn from my mistakes.

There are all kinds of notes. The quickly scribbled, possibly brilliant, ideas that come to you while you’re watching something stupid on TV, or washing dishes, on your way to work, or at work, in some foreign place, you witness something, an epiphany you know you will forget if you don’t write it down—gone like a dream you wake up from.

There are bits of information that might turn out to be relevant for future plots: fragments of poems, and ideas, diaries from trips to other places, photos, plans, codes for house alarm and route, translations. Details—how things smelled, or felt, or sounded.

I’ve accumulated many notebooks. I have notebooks by the TV, in the car, and on my desk, and in my pants. Men used to carry notebooks in their pants. ‘Little black books’ they were called. I started using them in collage: class notes, addresses, important dates. I still have dozens of them stashed away with names, past lovers, places, books I wanted, clever quotes and such. Some are from fifty years ago. Why am I saving these?  You never know when one might hold some data that’s exactly what I need—although this is extremely doubtful.

Back pockets are hard on notebooks. Those early black books lasted twelve or thirteen months. But thirty years ago I found the perfect replacement. A police notebook, heavy leather, cover holds a pad—one of those things the cops flip upon when they’re making an arrest. I’ve had the same one all these years.

I’m probably one of the last to have a little black book. They have been replaced by cell phones that hold gigabytes of information; even photos saved in seemingly into a galaxy of space.

Travel Notebooks. 

I am one of many who keep travel notebooks. I count four now scattered on my desk, for no good reason, possibly romantic, semi scrapbooks interspaced with ticket stubs, recites from hotels, boarding passes, restaurants, and currency exchanges. They take up desk space, but one might hold information needed later.

I see half a dozen other notebooks in arms reach. One has data that pertains to an unfinished novel that has been through two revisions and a viciously professional, expensive editor who found so much wrong I put the thing aside. Another notebook’s for a magnum opus has gone through three revisions. I would like to finish it before I die, but not sure I want to devote the rest of my life to it. A hundred fifty thousand words—it should be two books, one of many problems.

All in all I count a dozen notebooks on my desk and nearby table, far too many. I’m a data hoarder, but determined to get rid of some of my accumulation, one page at a time if nothing else.

If you look carefully at upper center of this photo, you can see one labeled, ‘Trash’. Why haven’t I thrown it away? Needs one more look through, on some other day, not this one. Smaller notebooks have been used for less important and intentionally temporary items: deadlines, submit places, contests—scattered here and there.

My desk is a constant mess, but I have a cognitive map of where things are. When notes go digital into computer’s ‘Documents’, I’m never sure, and often forget what I named the file I saved them in. There have been PC crashes. We have all been there—the horror.

I take notes, on paper that will never disappear. They might get lost, but will be found, if not today, than some day later, possibly by chance as I am looking for an unrelated subject. Ah the joy of it, like finding money on the sidewalk.

I hope you are better than myself or keeping track of things, more organized, skilled cell phone users, but there may be one or two of you who know whereof I speak.

I’ll end with what I think is true story I read, about a playwright. He was tree trimming, and had stopped to rest upon on a branch. An idea for a play came to him and he went through the whole thing, from beginning to the end, and it was brilliant. When he set foot on the ground again it was completely gone, and never came back.

So keep on taking notes of thoughts in passing, but keep better track of them than I do. Never be without a pin and paper, in the car, airplane, or living room, have something you can scribble on. Save often and save early. I have two small tips.

  1. Numbering notebook pages, with an index on 1st page will help find specific notes, rather than having to look through all the pages to find one description, or a thought.
  2. Don’t be too brief. I look back at notes taken a year or two ago and can’t remember what the hell I was thinking about.

One good thing about notebooks, no one can steal our ideas, without breaking into house. Notebooks are a look into the past, more subjective than diaries, an endless flow of ideas, titles, plots and feelings ready to be shared. Some writers struggle to come up with a new ideas, some keep notebooks.





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