rita ackerman

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Monthly Archives: November 2013


Book Discussion Groups

I’ve been talking with a friend who is working on a novel and he asked me to give him some ideas on his manuscript. I found myself remembering many things I’ve read in books on writing and at numerous workshops and seminars.

Interestingly I also found myself drawing on things I’ve heard during the book discussion group I attend at my local bookstore.  I am very lucky to have found a great group leader and an above average group of people who read a lot and share intelligent comments.

One thing is I am “forced” to read a wide variety of books that I normally wouldn’t read on my own. I’ve always tended to read mysteries, thrillers and true history. In the group we read classics, new releases, travel, adventure, historical and many other genres. Although many writers will say read what you want to write I think it is also important to learn what else is out there. So many books cross genres these days and new genres are constantly popping up. It’s good to know what they are.

I’ve learned that having too much dialect causes people to be jerked out of the story. Personally I hate to read books with a lot of foreign words, especially French.

Of course there is a lot of discussion about characters. Cardboard characters don’t keep the reader interested and even with a good plot they don’t develop a connection. I remember one lady calling a character a “noodle.” None of us really liked that book and the character just didn’t show the strengths we thought would make her “real.”


These chairs are on the porch of the Virginia G. Piper Writing Center at ASU. I’d love to sit in one of those chairs with a good book on one of our wonderful autumn days. Or, imagine sitting across from a character you are writing about. What would your conversation be?


“No Real Answers”

Saturday I attended the November meeting of Phoenix Writers Club. The speaker was an attorney turned writer turned attorney who helps writers.  Here’s a few things, in my own words, of what I learned:

After a lengthy disclaimer for the Arizona bar, Laura Kirwin, gave some valuable advice for writers and a question and answer format.

Titles are not copyrightable.

You can’t libel the dead.

An idea can’t be copyrighted, only the manuscript.

The “poor man” copyright of sending yourself a sealed copy of your manuscript no longer applies. And not necessary. The same as putting the copyright symbol. Once something is created it is copyrighted.

The “fair use” anecdote doesn’t really apply. In short there is no set amount. If you have any questions about the use of something consult an attorney. Also, you can find a lot of useful information at copyright.gov.

The laws have not been able to keep up with the quick pace of media publication. This has produced a large gray area. Some questions won’t be answered until the issue is before a judge. Be careful but don’t let it stop you.

Learn more about the Phoenix Writers Club at:

www.phoenixwritersclub.com.Young Living Farm, Mona, Utah

The Love of Research

Genealogical/historical search is much more than just finding bits of information for a research paper, book or family tree.

There’s the excitement of the hunt. Playing detective with clues and evidence. The steps are like those followed by your favorite mystery solving character.

Decide on what the question or problem is. (A murder)

Decide where to look for it: Newspapers, old books, local court records, perhaps even visit the area. (Crime scene investigation)

Track down the document and read it through to see if it answers the question. Make copies, transcribe, photograph. (Interview witnesses)

Find what you needed? Record it in the proper place. (Capture the murderer or go back and look for more clues.)archives, clanton etc 033

Do this again and again. (Another murder, another crime.)

Not sounding like fun?

Research is the thrill of the hunt, finding answers and yelling YEEHAW or doing a happy dance. Solving puzzles, using logic, following clues; digging deeper and deeper into the past.

There’s nothing like the smell and feel of old books.

Earp Documents 2 028The heavy feel of old documents even through white gloves used to protect them.

The feel of old ledgers.

Earp Documents 2 063

Playing detective every day of the year.

Meeting new people, many of them distantly related and on the same quest you are.


Recently on Facebook one of the comments asked what would you do if you could make money at it?


I’ve done it for years and often for free. I have my own genealogy back several generations and have helped others.

I will never run out of things to research.


A note from the blogger: The learning process for WordPress has been slow for me. Even with the help of C. B. Wentworth (THANK YOU!) So please bear with funny looking posts and unfinished pages. It’s a work in progress just like each of us.


Welcome to my new blog. A challenge to myself to write and share what I’ve learned over the years about writing, journaling, research, genealogy and anything related. There will be prompts and tips for writers. research ideas for family historians and writers looking for background information for books and articles. During the process I will be learning how to put together a professional looking blog so I hope you will bear with the process. I love challenges. I’ve done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) and the poem-a-day challenge at Writer’s Digest. I set myself writing and research challenges all the time. Fill a journal each month. Write every day. Write and edit a story by a certain date. Research and finish an article before it’s due. Whatever it takes to get me writing, reading, researching and inspiring others. I also love to challenge others. Perhaps I could name this blog “Challenges” but as a writer my name is my “brand.” So, please, come and join me on this road to writing.

My writing space.

My writing space.