rita ackerman

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Monthly Archives: December 2013


Book Discussion Groups In Reverse

I recently made a post about how book discussion groups can help writers. In one of those synchronized moments it worked in reverse. 09-05stedman_full_380

Our book for December was The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. I have to say that everyone in the group (male and female)  gave it a nine or ten out of ten. That is quite unusual. I highly suggest everybody read this book for her fantastic writing voice and an amazing story.

Our group leader always does a lot of research on the author, the area and any history that might apply to the book. Phyllis commented that Stedman didn’t know from scene to scene what was going to happen. Even as a writer this amazes me.

I found a couple of interviews that I thought interesting:

From the Sydney Morning Herald, March 24, 2012

“I just sit down and make it up. I don’t plan, so it’s not as though I have an outline or structure. It’s an instinctive process. When I start to write I let a picture or sentence of voice come to me.”

An interview with Margot L. Stedman from RealSimple.com

“For this story, the setting turned up first – I closed my eyes and saw a lighthouse, then gradually a woman, and I knew it was a long time ago, on an island off Western Australia. Then a man appeared – the lightkeeper . . .”

“I had no idea how the story would end until it ended . . .”

During the discussion Phyllis asked if I had comments about how this author worked. I thought about that for awhile and at the end of the meeting I made some of my own comments.

I’ve heard numerous writers talk about their process. I’ve also sat and written with many writers. When we write from prompts it is all stream of consciousness and so many times after reading our ten minute writings we end with “I don’t know where that came from.” Letting go and letting the writing take over is an amazing experience.

One of the book discussion group members is now looking forward to trying the writing experience in my writing group. As a writer she will find more insights into her reading.

Take out a pen and piece of paper. Study the photo below and start writing whatever comes to mind. Quickly without thought or editing.Washington2013D 058

Please share your experience.


Poem A Day

I do not consider myself a poet. I do, however, keep trying. I find it extra difficult when I hear that poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, or have a special meaning, or anything. I can make a story into a poem. Since, I’m not that “in to” poetry I don’t read much of it and don’t read books about it. However, I do spend time with poets who I admire and some of it has, perhaps, rubbed off.

In November I didn’t have the time to do my usual challenge at National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) so I chose to do the poem-a-day challenge through Writer’s Digest magazine on-line. Robert Brewer posts a prompt a day and then people can post their own creations. In early January the results can be sent in for a chapbook. You can see Day One at http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2013-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-1

About a week into it I showed my poems to a trusted friend and she made some comments and suggestions. I felt good. She said they were good. She told me to cut them down and make them tighter. I tried but editing poems is even harder than writing them, for me at least.

Feeling brave I offer my first poem from the prompt: “an appearing poem.”


Appearing just beyond

my range of sight,

among the gravestones

of long gone lives,

a ghostly shape takes form.

It weaves among the markers

I search for hint or clue,

to who they were.

I look for answers from my ancestors

who know where I came from

and who I am.

Two of my friends joined the challenge and are doing their own editing. Please go take a look at C. B. Wentworth’s blog and the first comment from Michelle Venne. I feel honored to know them both. http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/building-a-chapbook/

Okay, I know there is a way to make those links look better but I can’t figure it out.

My Writing Inspiration

I took a writing workshop a few years ago and one of the assignments was to write about the person who has most influenced your writing. Here’s the essay I wrote:

My Writing Inspiration

By Rita Ackerman

     About 1977 I began researching my genealogy. I had never known my dad and the questions began there. I joined genealogy groups, attended workshops and classes, and became an experienced researcher. In 1980 I joined the Association of Professional Genealogists and added my name as a researcher on contact lists at the Arizona state archives.

One day in 1996 I received a call from a writer who was working on a book on one of the brothers of Wyatt Earp and needed some Arizona research done. Would I be interested?

I had grown up watching Hugh O’Brien and every other western television star. I lived near Dodge City and visiting old Front Street and having a sarsaparilla in the Long Branch Saloon was my favorite thing. I would definitely be interested.

It had never occurred to me, however, that this was practically a way of life. That there were groups of people out there who researched, debated, and wrote about the Old West. That I could research something I had been fascinated with all my life.

As the research progressed so did our friendship and when his book The Death of Warren Baxter Earp: A Closer Look was released I was listed as part of the research team and was to be a part of the promotional event in Willcox, Arizona.

I was going to get to meet many of the authors whose books had been accumulating on my shelves. Now, seven years later, the event has grown and those authors and many others have become my friends. I’ve met publishers, collectors, and movie stars; including Hugh O’Brien.

This year, 2006, I joined the ranks with my own book, O.K. Corral Postscript: The Death of Ike Clanton, and all because of Michael m. Hickey.

During those long conversations he kept asking me questions and I kept searching for answers. One day he said if I could find out if there was more to the death of Ike Clanton than most sources said and I could write a book, he would publish it. Me, write a book? I had always wanted to, but figured it would be a novel. Maybe one of the mysteries I enjoy reading. A book about Wyatt Earp and Tombstone like those written by people I admired? Could it be possible? Michael seemed to think so.

As I wrote in the dedication, “he ignited the spark.” He opened up the world of Old West research and writing. Our long discussions flamed the fire of interest I’ve had since childhood.

“He made it all happen” by giving me the idea and pushing me to continue the search. By promising to publish the book about the death of Ike Clanton, Michael gave me a goal I never would have made for myself. With lots of coaxing, coaching and help from my friend I did find some of the answers. I did write the book and true to his word, Michael M. Hickey did publish it.

He is my inspiration and my friend.

11-23-2007-22     Michael M. Hickey and myself at one of the western history events in Tombstone, Arizona.

I recently learned my friend passed away about two months ago. He’d been very ill for a long time and we lost touch. As fellow authors and researchers learned the news we were brought together again by our memories of our friend.

Gifts For Writers

Do you know a writer?

Or somebody who has always said they want to write?

Perhaps you are a writer who is working on your own wish list.

Here are some ideas from around the internet and years hanging out with writers:

Gift subscription to a writer’s magazine: “Writer’s Digest,” “Poets & Writers” or “The Writer”

A gift subscription to a literary magazine: “Ploughshares,” “Poetry,” “The Cortland Review,” “Zyzzyva” or “Tin House”

A gift subscription to a genre magazine: “Asimonv’s Science Fiction Magazine,” “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction,” “Wild West,”  “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine” and “Smithsonian”

Office supplies: sticky notes, paper clips, pens, printer paper, pencils, sharpener

Electronics: flash drive, digital voice recorder, laptop, tablet

Software specialized for novelists or screenwriters

Tee-shirts, mugs, mouse pads and just about anything else you can think of just for writers (and readers)

How-to books: Writing Down the Bones and The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, On Writing by Stephen King, Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge and The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White

Book:  2014 Writer’s Market by Robert Lee Brewer. These come out every year and are also available as an internet subscription.

General books: classics, new releases, biographies about writers

Gift cards: coffee shops, bookstores, office supplies

Specialty teas or coffee. Chocolate.

Jewelry: crystals and stones are popular: chalcedony for writers, amber for self-confidence, amethyst to improve focus and carnelian to stimulate creative energy. Charms or pendants of pens, plumes, typewriters, keyboards, books and just about anything else imaginable. Jewelry made from vintage typewriter keys or other nostalgic items.

Magnetic poetry kits, haiku cubes, word games such as Scrabble

Essential oils: rosemary and peppermint to stimulate the brain. Or what about a massage gift certificate.

Business cards and/or card holder.

A mug warmer for the desk, literary plush dolls, book bags, computer bags, door hangers or quiet signs, candles, book weight (for holding books open),  fingerless gloves, shawl, personal fan and small plants (especially rosemary)

Or just make up a gift or “survival” kit or basket with any of the above along with items for the special writer in your life.