Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Finding Inspiration in Nature

With the beautiful weather we are having these days, it’s a good time to take your writing muse outdoors. Even a dreary February day can provide sights like the one above, which resembles a child’s drawing but was actually created by Mother Nature.* The obvious way to use nature for inspiration is to write about it, but you can also take pen and paper or a laptop with you and turn the outdoors into your office.**

The Indiana Dunes top the list of Northwest Indiana nature preserves and hiking trails that can be used for inspiration. The National Lakeshore wanders along Lake Michigan in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties. The Dunes even have a state park that interrupts the national one. The Indiana Dunes State Park is located at 1600 North 25 East at Chesterton, Indiana.

Heading from west to east, here are a few other places in Northwest Indiana that can give you inspiration.

·       Hammond Lakefront Park and Bird Sanctuary, 701 Casino Center Drive in Hammond. Although the park is small, the short trail from the Hammond Marina has several great spots to sit and write.

·      Gibson Woods Nature Preserve, 6201 Parrish Avenue, Hammond.

·       Lemon Lake County Park, 6322 West 133rd Avenue, Crown Point.

·       Grand Kankakee Marsh, 21690 Range Line Road, Hebron.

·       Taltree Arboretum, 450 West 100 North, Valparaiso.

·      Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve, northeast corner of I-80/90 and IN-49, Chesterton.

·       Creek Ridge County Park, 7943 W. 400 North, Michigan City.

·       Luhr County Park & Nature Center, 3178 S. 150 West, LaPorte.

So enjoy the weather, but don’t let it keep you from writing. Use it for inspiration, instead.


*   The photo at the top of this post is © 2017 by Kathryn Page Camp. It was taken from the bike path that runs along the old Monon tracks (the proposed site of the new South Shore extension) in Munster.

** Thanks to Gordon Stamper, Jr. for the idea behind this post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Steel Pen Wants You

Indiana Writers’ Consortium is looking for presenters for the 2017 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference, which will be held on October 28. We have a new venue this year, so join us at the conference center at Fair Oaks Farms just off I-65 near Rensselaer, Indiana.

This full-day conference provides educational opportunities for creative writers at all stages in their careers. Attendees will choose from a variety of workshops, panels, and lectures covering fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and the business of writing. If you are interested in presenting, we would love to read your proposal.

When preparing a proposal, please keep the following in mind:

·       The actual schedule has not been set, but breakout sessions will be allotted somewhere between 50 minutes and 1 hr. 15 minutes.

·       This conference is aimed at creative writers, and all proposals should provide value for them. For example, a proposal by a visual artist could cover the relationship between author and illustrator, and a proposal by a storyteller could address ways to enhance the selling opportunities provided by school visits, library presentations, and book signings.

·       All presentations, including lectures, should provide opportunity for interaction.

Please note that presenters are responsible for arranging and paying for their own travel and accommodations and must pay a discounted registration fee of $35.

The proposal applications will be sent out by e-mail today and are due back by April 15. If you are not on the distribution list, you can e-mail and ask for the form.

Additional information about the conference will be posted at as it becomes available.

Please share this post with anyone who might be interested in submitting a proposal.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How to Find Limitless Inspiration

Louis Martinez

It can be hard to write a gripping tale when you’re lacking inspiration, and at times, a reliable source can seem hard to come by.
Writing a story without inspiration can be like getting up at 5:00AM for a 15-hour shift at a miserable job. Believe me, I would know. I’ve tried both.
So how can an aspiring writer get around this dilemma? Is there a full-proof way to beat the struggle and get right back on track every time? Maybe, and maybe not. I know I’ve got a trick that always works for me, and maybe, just maybe, it might work for someone else reading this as well.
So, how do I conjure up my limitless source of inspiration? It’s simple really, but you have to be willing to try. What I do, and what always works for me, is to evoke an emotion pertinent to the type of story I’m trying to write. Most often, I use fear.
How do I go about this? There’s only two things needed: a wealth of riveting information, and a means to access it. And if you’re reading this right now, you have both. Human history, and the Internet.
Following in the footsteps of Wes Craven, the Master of Horror, the best inspiration comes from real life, and our past is riddled with dark tales sure to make anyone feel like they’re being watched. Try searching for “true horror stories from history,” and soak in all you can.
Then, as you find yourself alone in a cold, quiet room, let your mind wander into the abyss. Let the darkness consume you, and write down what you bring back. You’re sure to be pleased with the results. I know I always am.
The benefits of this go beyond simply crafting a great story. If you struggle with fear and anxiety, you might already be plagued by the darkness at all times. In which case, turning your real life horrors into works of fiction might help you cope. It could lead you to a better understanding of yourself and the struggles you face and even help loved ones understand your trials if you’re willing to share with them. And for some, putting your fears into words can help you gain the control over your mind that’s always seemed to be out of your reach. I know writing has helped me process feelings of despair, and I’m sure it could do the same for terror.
If you can learn to use your own mind to generate inspiration, you’ll never run out. I believe Wes Craven was a master at observing the dark side of this world and using it to spark his imagination. Learn to combine your own bad experiences with real life horror stories, warping them all into the twisted tales that haunt our dreams.
If you’re like me, and willing to embrace the horrors of this world and your mind, you’ll never find yourself wanting for inspiration. If you’re not, or if you’re simply writing a lighter tale, just switch up your search. Human history is also full of happy, heartwarming tales. Try searching for “uplifting stories from history.” You’ll find what you’re looking for and lots more to go with it.
Look to the world around you, and look within yourself. Do this, and you will find your own personal source of limitless inspiration.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Poor Man's Copyright? Don't Waste Your Stamp.

Kathryn Page Camp

I just read an Internet article at Crafty House titled “3 Easy Ways Writers Can Protect Their Work From Copyright Infringement,” and it irritated me. Why? Because one of the three suggestions is the so-called “poor man’s copyright,” which I believe gives false comfort.
Before I explain, you should understand how someone gets a copyright. The copyright is created the minute the author puts the work into tangible form. If it stays in your head, you don’t have a copyright. But once you transfer it to a sheet of paper or save it on your computer, you do. Registration is not required, nor is a copyright symbol, although both have their uses.
The poor man’s copyright—or the poor man’s postal copyright as it is sometimes called—is the practice of mailing your manuscript to yourself. It probably doesn’t go as far back as the Pony Express, but it’s almost that old. The idea is that the postmark will prove that you wrote it on or before the date on the postmark. Then if someone else publishes the material before you do, you can prove that you had already created it. That’s the theory, anyway. Unfortunately, I can think of a dozen ways to discredit that evidence in court. In any event, the poor man’s copyright is not even a copyright. All it does is provide shaky evidence that the person who mailed it may have written the material.
And if the concern is protecting information you have published on the Internet, the easiest way to prove that you got there first is to print off the Internet posting, complete with the date at the bottom of the page. While that evidence can be manufactured, too, it tends to be more reliable.
So what else can you do to protect your material? First, use a copyright notice. It doesn’t have to be on every single posting if the site itself contains an adequate notice, such as the one on this blog. A copyright notice won’t stop all intentional infringers, but most people who use someone else’s work do it out of ignorance. They simply don’t realize that the material is copyrighted. A notice will tell them that it is.
Federal copyright registration is not necessary, but it does have advantages. For one thing, you cannot sue for copyright infringement unless the material is registered. Registration also provides a legal presumption that the person who registered it first is the copyright owner. The presumption can be rebutted, but it is much stronger evidence than a postmark.
Before I go, I would like to comment on another suggestion in the Internet article. (Suggestion number 2 was to include a copyright notice, which I agree with.) That other suggestion is to register for a Creative Commons license. There are many different Creative Commons licenses, but all of them provide permission for others to use your work in one way or another as long as you receive the credit. If that works for you, fine, although you should read all of the licenses carefully before chosing one. But if you want to keep strict control over use, then a Creative Commons registration is not for you.
Nothing can eliminate all infringement, especially in this Internet world. There are steps you can take to make it less likely, but the poor man’s copyright is not one of them.  
I took the photograph of the Pony Express stables in 2013 while we were on vacation in St. Joseph, Missouri. It is © 2013 by Kathryn Page Camp.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at