Valentina Nesci

Author's details

Name: Valentina Nesci
Date registered: May 26, 2011
URL: http://www.valentinanesci.com

Biography

Editor in Chief Valentina is a writer, journalist and editor who enjoys nursing creative works to life. She graduated from Stanford's journalism Master of Arts in June 2011, after earning a B.A in Communication from the American University of Rome in 2010. At Stanford, she contributed to The Peninsula Press, the Bay Citizen and SFGate.com. If you are interested in learning more about Vale's work in Italy, your best bet is to look for her articles on Italian Notebook. If, instead, you love Human Resources, you can check out her blog at Procter & Gamble. In her free time, Vale likes to turn visions into reality, problems into opportunities and words into magic. She currently works at Uniiverse, a platform for collaborative living, where she is the City Manager of San Francisco. Contact Info: vnesci@write-a-holic.com

Latest posts

  1. Seven Years — September 10, 2012
  2. Writing, NaNo and Meditation Pratice — July 1, 2012
  3. Rage Against the NaNochine — November 8, 2011
  4. Interview With Luke Geraghty, author of Torrodil — November 8, 2011
  5. No Plot? No Problem! — October 31, 2011

Most commented posts

  1. Anatomy of a Writer – Part 1 — 10 comments
  2. No Plot? No Problem! — 9 comments
  3. Nobody Tells This To Beginners — 7 comments
  4. Enchantment — 5 comments
  5. Rage Against the NaNochine — 4 comments

Author's posts listings

Jun 22

Featured Tip

8 Ways To Untap Your Literary Genius

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
From Through The Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

Photographer: Filippo A. Nesci

For creative spirits like us, the difficulty in producing quality writing does not lie in the generation of ideas, but in conveying them in a way that their meaning will be fully appreciated.

Perfecting the craft may take years or even decades, but you can become a good writer by putting in the appropriate amount of dedication, creativity, curiosity and a little patience. These four factors will make all the difference in your writing, helping you to say what you mean… and much, much more.

The first step to becoming a good writer is to establish a good foundation through keeping good literary habits.

More specifically:

1. Do a lot of reading, and be as well-rounded in what you read as possible. While the type of writing you do (or are intending to do) might be targeted to a specialized audience, all quality writing has some common attributes. Thus, the more reading you do, the better of a writer you become: as a writer, what you read becomes a rich repertoire you can tap into.

2. Do a lot of writing. Even if you are a terrible writer, write anyway; even if you can’t think of anything valuable to say, write about anything you can think of. Everyone has to start somewhere, and no one starts off writing masterpieces off-the-top-of-their-head. Continue writing crap, and before you know it, that “crap” will evolve into something beautiful, and you will be that much closer to becoming an accomplished writer. Just as you should aim to read a wide variety of texts, you should also aim to write with different voices and styles. Experiment with every type of writing – poetry, plays, journalism, fiction, and nonfiction. Every type of writing will help you to delve deeper into who you are and the voice (or voices) that best fit your personality.

3. Know Your Audience: as explained in my blog post of the same name, it’s crucially important to take your readership into account when writing, especially when writing the final drafts, as good writing is worthless if it cannot be appreciated by those who read it. Read over your writing carefully, both as you write it and while you are editing it, and try putting yourself in the proverbial shoes of the type of people who will be reading your writing.

Another exercise you can do is to try to imagine how your writing would fit in the context of its target demographics– women/men/transgenders, Caucasian/African/Asian, layman/white-collar/politician, Atheist/Christian/Buddhist, feminist/racist/anarchist….

There are millions of different cultures in the world, and people are heavily influenced by the cultures they live in or conform to, and will be heavily biased by these cultures when they read your writing. You need to frame your words in such a way that best take advantage of these cultural differences, so that people might appreciate your writing in spite of their culture differences, or perhaps, to appreciate your writing because of them!

4. Eloquence: As expressed most eloquently in this post.

Your choice of words is key to writing powerful writing– and a helpful tip to keep in mind  might be to try to say what you want in as few words as possible.  Following the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” due to the sheer magnitude of information it conveys in just a single object, using few, well-chosen words is often more powerful than flooding your reader with a river of adjectives, adverbs and unnecessary clutter. After all, even if the words you use are pretty, if your reader gets lost between them, the value of your words will be lost also.

5. Elegance: Why complicate your ideas, when you can make the complex elegant? Elegance– the ability to express complex ideas in a profoundly simple way, is a necessary skill for good writers, especially when creating entire worlds filled with sensory information and feelings. The reason why (in my humble opinion) Anne Rice’s stories are more exciting to read than J.R.R. Tolkien’s, for example, is because Tolkien wasted far too many words trying to create a complex literary world, whereas Anne Rice gave her readers just what they needed to immerse themselves in her world.This leads me to my next point, which is:

6. leave your readers free to dream:  Throwing in too many details hinders the reader’s imagination. The truth is that, the more simply you express your ideas, the more receptive your readers will be to it– even if that simplicity comes at the expense of completeness! Instead of trying to reveal all the ins-and-outs of your ideas, let the readers fill in the blanks; rather than spending much of your writing explaining and justifying your ideas, trust your readers, and let them interpret and justify your reading for you. (You’ll be surprised how good they are at it.)

7. Diction: Diction isn’t just a good thing to have for writing– it’s a fundamental necessity. Even if you have the most amazing ideas in the world, if you lack the vocabulary to properly express them, all that creativity will go to waste for lack of linguistic proficiency. Learning new words usually comes from reading (#1) and writing (#2) more, but it should be emphasized that this is one of the important reasons why that reading and writing more is so important.

8. Experience: This aspect of writing often takes a bit more time, and (depending on the scope of your writing) a bit more money than most amateur writers have;

It’s not news that it’s easier to write about a topic you now well, something that touches your very soul. While many experiences are off-limits to the writer (i.e. pregnancy (for a man), murder, or extra-terrestrial contact), getting as much and as relevant of real-life experiences as you can get is important. Travel, or pretend to be a homeless man like George Orwell did when he was writing about London. Also, get used to living outside the proverbial “comfort zone,” and don’t be afraid to step outside the lines. The more unusual real-life experiences you have, the more experiences you have to draw from as a writer. After all, fiction is ultimately the product of an alternate version of reality; all fiction stems from real life, one way or another.

If you dedicate yourself to habitually developing all eight of these literary cornerstones, you will become a excellent writer– I guarantee it. There are many, many other aspects of writing that are also essential to mastering this craft, but building up these areas are a good way to get you started!

Adapted from a post that originally appeared in The Epiphany Project.

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Jun 22

Featured Poem:

Fall- A Yearly Death


I watched as my father lay on the couch, sagging.

His face ashen like the November sky.

I listened to the wheeze in his chest,

wondering what was wrong, knowing it wasn’t right.

The trees bare of leaves, feigning death, unlike my father.

His eyes rolled in his head, searching for focus, failing.

He was falling like the last leaves of autumn towards six feet of earth.

Covered, buried, in love.

 

Photographer: Scott Robinson

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Jun 19

Wor(d)ressed to Impress – link your way to a richer, more sophisticated vocabulary

Today, I found an anonymous quote that made me smile: “Da Da”: Powerful enough to make a grown man cry when spoken for the first time by his son.

Words are more powerful than we would like to admit. This is why choosing the right word is an essential aspect of being a good writer.  Below, I have compiled a list of some links that will hopefully help you in this endeavor. I hope you find the links useful, interesting, or at least amusing! Let me know if you come across other websites that might be useful to us writers!

  • Wordreference: a must for anyone attempting to write in a foreign language. Weaning myself from this website was torture, but I’m proud to not be using it every 5 seconds now, just as I am grateful to it for helping me to get through university.
  • Word mistakes to avoid In this post, the author outlines some outrageous, but sadly common mistakes that could easily send your reputation of capable writer down an endless abyss. Read, laugh, and remember!
  • Food descriptors: sensory information conveys a thick, strong layer of depth and verisimilitude to the characters in your story. You want to have your  characters dig their fingers into pounds of nachos, lick their plates, savor every bite of their favorite ice cream… but you don’t want to have juicy fruits, salty potato chips, and similarly predictable descriptions. What you need is this website, some cook books and a good appetite!
  • A Word A Day – Website in which you can learn the meaning of a new word each day.
  • Latin phrases – If you want to add a touch of pseudo-intelligence to your writing.
  • Synonyms for words often used by students – For when a 2,000-word vocabulary just isn’t quite enough.
  • Quotes you can use to enrich your posts – “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone elses opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
  • Synonym finder – Anything is better than “thing.”
  • 100 most beautiful words in the English language – Because Eloquence is the Labyrinthine Cynosure of Effervescent Ebullience!
  • Words writers shouldn’t use – (See above)
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Jun 18

Enchantment

Last Sunday, Stanford’s graduating students listened to a speech given by Felipe Calderon, the President of Mexico. He told us of how, when he was a little kid, he would help his father distribute fliers advocating for democracy. He would knock at people’s doors, tag alongside his father, and shout slogans into a megaphone tied to one of those large, clumsy trucks you see in old movies. In other words, he would try his best. Yet nothing seemed to change.

Frustrated, little Felipe went to his father and, with the bluntness of a child, asked him: Why are we doing this?

His father could have probably lied, but he treated Felipe as an adult and said: we are doing this because it’s the right thing to do. We might never see anyone from our party become President, or even Governor. But we will keep trying, because it’s the right thing to do.

Felipe took his father’s words to heart, and worked hard at doing the right thing. And he achieved his father’s dreams – he became President of Mexico.

Seated in the stadium, my own father close to my side and Felipe’s words on my skin, I felt a surge of hope for the untold dreams I foster somewhere deep inside, hidden under the fingernails, in a corner of my pupils, on my lips.

I was enchanted.

Yesterday, I resigned from a summer internship with a proper newspaper, and decided to go for something more risky, but which felt right: this website. We don’t make any real money, but Write-A-Holic is a project in which I believe deeply. It’s what I need to be doing. It enchants me.

Whenever we step outside of our safety zone and into the scary territory of The Calling – that esoteric, mysterious inner instinct that tells us, this is what I was born to do – we desperately need to enchant and be enchanted.

This is why every writer should read Guy Kawasaki’s book, and why I want to outline some of his suggestions in this post today.

How To Enchant Your Reader:

1. What are they thinking/feeling?

In his post about perfectionism, Timothy confessed that he often told himself he didn’t care if other people appreciated his work, or even understood it. He wasn’t writing for them. He was writing for himself. It took him a considerable amount of courage to admit that this was really just an excuse. He wanted to communicate through his writing; he was simply scared of not being good enough, so much so that he didn’t even try.

I might be too much of an idealist, but I like to believe that writers are generous creatures, that we feel the need to write because we want to share a precious discovery with the rest of the world, even when that world might just be one person. If this is the case, then you will want to read your work and stop to think about how it would be perceived by others. Proofread it, make it as understandable and inviting as you can. Try to say what you really want to say, ask a trusted friend or mentor to read it, and be open to their feedback. You want your writing to stay true to itself, but you want it to be accessible, too. I receive pounds of criticism all the time, Marc, our assistant editor, being one of the most vocal in this respect. As long as it’s constructive criticism, at least listen to it. Then you can go your own way, but you may be surprised to find the suggestions materialize on a later page, the following day.

2. Accept Others, Accept Yourself

If you want to enchant people, you have to accept them first, writes Kawasaki.

If you want to be a good writer, you have to accept yourself first, writes Vale.

As I mentioned in Nobody tells This To Beginners, sometimes we just have to accept that our writing will initially not be very good, and still keep going. Write-A-Holic has been a valuable learning ground in this respect, since every day I am confronted with the work of other people who hold themselves to truly high standards. Sometimes, this causes me to question my own ability and to keep asking myself – am I really any good?

But the truth, like Marc so wisely told me, is that I should just keep writing, and not let my perfectionism get in the way of my work.

3. Learn from other writers

If you want to learn from writers, you have to learn how to accept them first. Kawasaki says you should always remember that “everyone is better than you at something.” By the same token, I keep realizing that every writer, even those whose work doesn’t necessarily float my boat, can teach me something. However, to learn, I have to suspend judgment – become uncritical enough that I don’t feel a need to put the writing in boxes labeled “art” and “crap.”

Because the truth of the matter is that writing often falls into the principle of Ying and Yang: a masterpiece may contain a typo, and even the worst, crummiest book might be redeemed by one beautiful image. By keeping an open mind, you become more receptive towards beauty, even when it is hidden in the most unlikely of places.

4. Help Someone Who Can Be Of Absolutely No Use To You

Kawasaki makes the case that, in the business world, helping people always ends up benefiting you in some way, even when you don’t expect it to. For a writer, this means that you should offer to edit other people’s work, even when it’s just a boring essay, someone’s personal statement or a cover letter. The more disastrously hopeless the original text is – the more effort you have to put into turning it into something decent – the better. You will have performed a good deed, and you will have gotten precious exercise in the art of word-saving (similar to saving a person’s life, and not always that much easier).

5. Be Close

Like Timothy explained in 8 Ways To Untap your Literary Genius, a large part of being a writer is experiencing life as it unfolds. Too often, we get so caught up with the day-to-day practical problems of paying the bills, getting the car fixed, studying for a test, looking for a job, that we don’t notice the man sitting on the corner of the street, handing out newspapers. His name is Abhik, which means fearless, and he used to be a well-known writer and politician in his home country. He could tell you stories that would make your eyes dilate with wonder. And then there’s your grandma. She barely talks, and you rarely have time to visit her. Sadly, you don’t know that she could entertain you with the tale of how she once cut your great uncle’s hair with the kitchen scissors, and it was so uneven that he got a sonorous beating. But he didn’t care because your grandma and he had used the money they would have spent on a real hairstylist to buy three pounds of candy, which they had eaten all in one sitting. (Happiness was such an easily attainable thing then, when people had nothing, and something meant everything.)

But you aren’t there. You don’t see. You don’t experience. And, consequently, you miss out.

6. Embrace The Nobodies

Perhaps my favorite takeaway from Kawasaki’s book is the idea that “the nobodies are the new somebodies.” There was a time when writing was an elitarian endeavor, a privilege for the rich, the nobles and the clergy. Even today, it’s easier to choose to be an artist when you have a source of disposable income to support you in case what you earn as a writer won’t suffice. However, you don’t need to be backed up by a powerful agent or a notable publishing company to write. Not anymore.

All this is possible because of the internet, the great equalizer that enables each and every one of us to self-publish our own work with no money and little effort. Today, more than ever, it doesn’t matter who you know. What matters is who you are, and what you can offer to your fellow nobodies, the readers who choose you, follow you, support you. They become the advertisers, publishing companies, agents and mentors of today.

Some writers see the internet as a threat to quality, and it most certainly is. Every time you give power to someone, that person can abuse it. Because we now have the power to publish our work, we can “pollute” the internet with pieces that have never been proofread, are filled with typos, and would probably have better been left unwritten. But if we embrace the concept that, with more power, we also have a greater responsibility to deliver high-quality content, we will be able to delight the new somebodies (like the readers and writers of Write-A-Holic,) thereby turning a potential threat into an invaluable opportunity.


Further Reading:

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and ActionsMarketing Books)

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Jun 09

Nobody Tells This To Beginners

By Ira Glass

I started Write-A-Holic because I wanted to create a space in which people who were passionate about writing could meet and share their work without the fear of being rejected by faceless, often merciless editors. Perhaps naively, I hoped that this website could become a stress-free environment in which nobody would judge our work,  and I was completely unprepared when I discovered that, even here, we couldn’t escape “The Gap.”

I was rejoicing about the amount of pageviews, positive feedback and writing samples that Write-A-Holic had received, when a friend destroyed my enthusiasm with one sentence: “I’m not sure that this is a good idea,” he said. He was afraid that our readers would start sending us “crappy” writing, that I would have to spend so much time editing work that I would not be able to write my own, and that the quality of the entire project would decline, together with the amount of users we attracted. Pretty encouraging scenario, huh?

Well, I wasn’t happy, of course. I started questioning my writing, and everyone else’s too. I read over all the content we had published multiple times to make sure that there weren’t any typos, or grammatical mistakes, or anything that could irk our readers and lead them to never come back.

But the pageviews soared, and new users continue coming to our site every day. (THANK YOU GUYS!) This tells me that, even though there is surely still a big “gap” between what we would like to write and what actually ends up filling the pages of this website, readers are more forgiving of our imperfections than we could have ever hoped.

Perhaps the reason this quote resonates with writers so much is that we are all, by nature, perfectionists. We love what we do and we want to be able to do it to the best of our abilities. However, I am starting to think that, rather than trying to write a nobel prize winning novel, we should concentrate on cultivating forgiveness.

The more we learn to let the words flow without feeling pressured to create a flawless work from the get-go, the more our creativity will be free to express itself on the page.  The important thing, therefore, is not to sit down in front of the computer, waiting for that first, memorable sentence to magically materialize itself on the screen.  The trick is to sit down and write, write, write. Even when you think it’s “crap.”

The reason? Avoiding the blank page will not help you to become a better writer and, most importantly, rereading over your work might surprise you. In time, you might actually come to realize that some of that “crap” wasn’t that bad after all…

 


Further reading:

  • The New Kings of Nonfiction: This book, edited by Ira Glass, includes a selection of masters of nonfiction ranging from David Foster Wallace to Dan Savage to Malcom Gladwell… makes for exciting summer reading!
  • Radio: An Illustrated Guide: Also a must, Ira Glass’s take on how to conduct a radio program, based on his experience in hosting and producing This American Life.
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Jun 07

Why be a Writer* When You Could be an Electrical Engineer?**

* stands for the job of your dreams, the one that you would do if you only didn’t have to worry about minor details, like bringing food to the table and such.

** stands for whatever you’ll end up doing, the secure job that comes with a monthly paycheck, a protruding belly and weekly visits to a therapist, trying to figure out why you are not “happy” even after all that money, the smart phone that allows you to video chat with your dog and all those other superfluous gadgets that you don’t really need, but that you could never live without.

 

The truth is that, as much as I would love to be able to say that I would rather be a homeless writer than a rich electrical engineer, I know it’s false.  Wally said it all too well in My Dinner With Andre:

When I was young and rich all I thought about was art and music. Now I’m 36, and all I think about is money.”

I am not 36  and becoming rich is certainly not among my priorities, but I am painfully aware of the fact that I’ve been steering clear of creative writing as if it were an infectuous disease.

This is part of the reason I created Write-A-Holic: so that I would have an excuse for doing what I love. But I wonder – why is it so hard to choose to be a writer, or an artist, in general? And why should we keep trying? I think I might have the answer to both questions, so here I go:

Two reasons why many creative people don’t end up following their passion:

1. You might end up being poor

Ok, fair enough. But you have to at least give it a try. Otherwise you will never know whether you could have actually ended up making it. In his book The Art of The Start, venture capitalist Kawasaki says that, for a successful entrepreneur, ignorance is bliss. What he means is that people who achieve impossible feats aren’t necessarily the ones with more experience or talent. They are the ones who didn’t know or care that what they wanted to do was almost impossible… and so they made it.

I am sure that, in your life, you have heard many people tell you not to do something, that it was “impossible.” I heard the same refrain conutless times and, so far, I have always enjoyed proving everyone wrong. The funny thing is that, every time I decide to do something “impossible,” people look at me like I’m this crazy person, and tell me “Vale, do you know what you are doing?” And my answer, of course, is invariably “Yes!” But the truth is that I almost never know what I am doing, or if I am actually going to be able to do it. But I try nevertheless…and, somehow, I make it through.

2. But what if I try and fail?

Sure, that’s a possibility. And yo are not alone. I think one of the main reasons that I always find excuses to procrastinate on my creative writing is that I am secretly terrified – well, now not so secretly – of giving it my all and realizing that I’m a horribe writer and that half of my readers never get past the first sentence. But, what happens if I don’t try? I will surely never be a writer. And so I try, and I don’t just try half-heartedly – I give it my all. And when I get scared, which happens at least thrice a day, I think about Chuck Palahniuk, who says: “find out what you are afraid of and go live there.” And he is right, because usually, it’s doing what scares us the most that ends up giving us the greatest satisfaction in the end.

And, by the way, you will fail. I have been rejected many times. Just like anyone else. But I kept going, and you should, too.

Two ways to help you keep going:

1. Have a short memory

Or, in other words, keep trying. I have a funny story about this too. So, I don’t know if you are familiar with Color Labs Inc, the social network startup that got $41 million in funding this March. Bill Nguyen, the entrepreneur behind the company, shocked the Stanford crowd by telling us that the reason for his success was his short term memory: he conveniently forgets every time he gets rejected and keeps trying until, finally, he succeeds. Nguyen pointed out that many people get discouraged once they start failing, and stop trying. The problem is that it’s easy to get discouraged. But you shouldn’t really. I mean let’s just take an example from my life: when I was seventeen, I got rejected from a mediocre Italian university. I cried the whole night, but  my cat was there to lick my tears and his warm, fluffy body pressed against my cheek helped me to realize that I could still make something good out of my life. And now, five years later, I am about to become a Stanford alumni. Ironically, if I had gotten into that Italian university, I would have probably never even ended up applying to Stanford… which goes to prove that trying hard and failing can be a more valuable experience than suceeding at something that is easy and clearly possible. Ultimately, if you do fail, take it as an incentive to try even harder next time.

2. Be surrounded by positive people

That one night, my cat was there for me. Similarly, I will always be greateful for my ex, who encouraged me to apply to Stanford. I thought I wouldn’t get in, my dad believed that applying was just going to be a waste of money and time, and I would never have submitted that application if he hadn’t insisted so adamantly, telling me that he was convinced that I could get in. And here I am. This is why surrounding yourselves with positive people is key. Because life is tough, following your dreams is scary, and failing on the way will require someone to help you pick up the pieces whenever you are too weak to do it yourself. If somebody tells you that you can’t do something, chances are that it has nothing to do with you. Usually, people who are negative are like that with everyone, particularly with themselves.  happens to them? Well, they might not fail as often as you will, but they might also not succeed as often, and they may never end up becoming the person they would truly long to be. Leave their fear of life to them. Instead, seek out people who support you. And forgive me for offering you one more quote from Goethe, one of my favorite writers: “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

What are you waiting for? Go out and do it, right now!

We all tend to put off what scares us. But we shouldn’t. I don’t know much about the other arts (unfortunately) but I do know a little about writing, and I can tell you that, the more you write, the better you will become, and that you should start now. So pick up your pen (or usb stick) and go do it! There are many websites that pay you to write, incluing us – but, honestly, we aren’t the only ones. In fact, here is a comprehensive list of many websites that pay you to do what you love the most.

Best of luck, and come back for more whenever you feel discouraged: we are happy to cheer for you from the sidelines, and hope you will be able to achieve your dreams.


For more information, check out:

 

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Jun 05

Who We Are

Why We Are Here:

This website was created for all the talented writers who haven’t yet made it into a “Best Sellers” list, but could (and should.)

We created Write-A-Holic with the hope that it will become a rich and caring community of people who value the art of writing.  Our goal is to become the place in which you can find comfort whenever you feel discouraged,  and useful tips to get you going whenever you feel stuck.

Additionally, we hope that you will enjoy reading our work, and that it will inspire, move you, and make you smile, as we cultivate together our passion for writing.

Our Website:

Write-A-Holic is divided into sections:

To Read:

Poems:
Your best work, our best work! We already started receiving many poems, so you should feel proud if we decide to post one of yours!

Short Stories:
We have countless stories to choose from, but we try to only include the ones that touch or surprise us.

Our Favorites:
In this section, we review the stories, music, poetry and movies that have inspired us, or touched us in some way. Don’t read us if you want the traditional review, because you won’t find it here. We only offer our most heartfelt and sometimes irrational eulogies for the works we love.

Book Peeks:
Dedicated to excerpts of published books you can check out, and interviews with authors who haven’t made it into the New York Times’ Bestseller list, but should, in our humble opinion.

To Write:

Writing Tips:
With more than 20 blogs on his track record, Timothy Matias is definitely our man when it comes to learning the nuts and bolts of this craft. We hope you will find his tips useful, but feel free to send some of your own tips our way.

Useful Links:
Resources that we find helpful, interesting, or simply entertaining. Let us know if there is any other online resource we should link to!

Write For Us!
The section in which you can submit your work. You will become a member of our community and will have the opportunity to be read by thousands of people – yes, we have that many page views. What are you waiting for?

NaNoWriMo
New section on National Novel Writing Month, with advice, encouragement, thoughts about the “competition” and the chronicling of Valentina’s efforts to finish the first draft of her novel.

Philosophical Musings:
We all like to get philosophical sometimes… and this is our/your space to unleash our over-sensitive minds!

Our Writers:
Our club of Write-A-Holics. Send us a piece we like, and you’ll be one of us.

Events:
Write-A-Holics are gregarious creatures. We like to meet and share our adventures (and misadventures, if that’s a word) with our fellow writers. You are welcome to join us if you pass by the Bay Area.

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Jun 05

The Butterfly

He sat a few rows in front of her and, periodically, when he was certain that the professor wasn’t looking, he turned back to face her.

And, invariably, she smiled.

That was his cue to look down at his notebook and pretend to be engrossed by his horrible handwriting.

A few moments passed, then the professor resumed his rambling lecture, and Mark summoned his “perfect student” expression – body slightly leaning towards the professor, left hand moving with method so that it looked like he was getting notes, eyes following the professor’s body with the precision of a radar. Inside, he was gloating. He knew he had it all: thick eyebrows that gave him an aura of mystery, deep-set black eyes which seemed to burrow under your skull, all neatly packaged in a Burberry jacket and endless, almost palpable confidence.

As the lesson continued, Mark’s eyes took care to remain glued to the professor’s every movement while his mind concentrated on his foolproof “plan of conquest.”

At the end of the lesson, he would go to the girl, and very casually ask her “Would you care for a cup of chai?” And she, who seemed shy, would whisper in her hesitant voice: “Mmm … okay.” After that he would return home, watch the Simpsons, prepare himself a hot bath, while she would be home, pretending to read but secretly waiting for him to call. A few hours would go by and he, fully rested and still hot from this bath, would invite her over for dinner…

Mark’s serious faced morphed into a grin. He rubbed his hands on his Calvin Klein jeans and stood up. The lesson was over, and the show was on.

“Pleased to meet you: I’m Mark.” he introduced himself. The girl offered him a faint smile but, instead of taking his hand into hers, she braced her body with her arms and held onto her sweater tightly, as if she were afraid that his words could tear it off her.

“Chiara” she said, her soft voice barely audible in the crowded classroom.

“Well, Chiara. I know it may sound like I’m .., uhm… rushing it.. a bit” said Mark as he scratched the back of his head with what he hoped could be interpreted as insecurity.

She took the bait, and egged him on with a nod and a faint smile. “Would you care for a cup of chai?” continued Mark. He took care of looking at the floor. Again, he couldn’t help mentally high-fiving himself for his acting ability. Mark was an expert: he changed attitude according to the girl he wanted to go to bed with. And he never failed.

Chiara, as was expected, tenderly laid her hand on his shoulder. “All right, let’s go” She said.

“Perfect!”

“… But not to a Café’.”

Mark’s smile died as quickly as it had been born. “What do you mean …don’t you like chai?”

“No.”

This was completely unacceptable. No girl had ever dared contradict him! Mark inhaled deeply, hoping the fresh air would cool down his temper.

He was very tempted to tell Chiara that he had just remembered he had a thing… some urgent business he had to attend to. But giving up on a woman was simply not in his style.

“Fair enough,” he conceded, forcing on a fake shrug and even a smile to go along with. “But I warn you: I do not have a helmet for you, and I’m risking a fine by carrying you around.”

“Oh, don’t worry. We’ll walk,” said Chiara.

“What…? walk?!” Mark blurted out, stopping a few inches from the exit.

He could not walk and leave his beloved CPR all alone on the sidewalk! Not to mention that all of this went against his principles of proverbial couch potato! He opened his mouth to protest, but Chiara was quicker: “Hush! It’s not that far.” she said, taking him by the arm and leading him outside the classroom.

The weather was uncertain, and Mark look at the gray clouds with concern. “If it rains, however, I’m getting my chai.”

“Don’t worry: it will not rain.”  she reassured him.

And, surely enough, as time passed the sun managed to sneak through the clouds, which were becoming more sparse.

“See? What did I tell you?” said Chiara, a light smile forming on her lips. That smile, the only uncontained expression she had offered him until that moment, surprised him. For an instant, he was almost taken aback. He hadn’t seen a sensuous body to satisfy his lust, but the soul inside it. For a second, he almost thought she was beautiful.

But then he remembered that The Simpson’s would be on soon. Chiara said something, but Mark was no longer listening. Instead, he looked at his Rolex. They had already been walking for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes. Hadn’t she told him that it wasn’t far?

“When do we get there?” He asked. “I cannot walk anymore.”

“We will arrive n due time. Trust me.” Chiara’s voice remained soft and poised, but her pace quickened, and she was soon a few steps in front of him.

As Chiara became smaller and smaller, Mark thought about the powerful smell of coffee, its bitter taste, and everything that had always come after: a dinner at a nice restaurant, a bottle of vodka and strawberry syrup. It was always the same comfortable, reassuring routine. The only thing that changed was the woman. And now … How had he ended up in this mess, headed God knows where with a teenage girl who, as if all of that wasn’t already bad enough, had begun to hum, attracting the eyes of indignant passer-bys?

“How long ‘till we get there?” He whined. He had lost his composure and was actually acting like himself now, so annoyed was he about not being able to have his way.

“We are almost there. Hush!” said Chiara.

Hush … Hush my foot! He thought.

Mark checked the time on his Rolex and gave a start: they had walked for over an hour now. He looked up from his watch and, for the first time, paid attention to his surroundings. He saw grass, just grass. A huge expanse of grass that seemed to never end. But where the Hell was he? Where the Hell was the city? A bar? And, most importantly, where was the nearest taxi stand?

“Is something wrong?” She asked. ” He opened his mouth, looking for an angry retort which never came. Everything was wrong! He didn’t even know where to begin …

“ Look,” he said, stepping in her way and putting his hands in front of her, so that she wouldn’t be able to keep on walking. “The fact is that I must be back soon and, right now, I don’t have the faintest idea where we are!”

A flicker of amusement passed through Chiara’s eyes, catching Mark off guard. Maybe, he had underestimated her? She seemed to be less naïve than he had initially thought.

“At home…To do what?” She probed him. “Is it something so important that you can’t postpone it?

Mark’s thoughts went to the Simpsons, to the half-empty bottle of Martini on the kitchen table and the warm water for his bath which, in his mind, was already becoming cold. “Yes, definitely.” He replied.

“All right, then” She shrugged. “ I’ll take you home. But first I want to show you something: we are very close to it now!”

“But ..” He protested.

He was not used to walking and his elegant Hogans had been the perfect breeding ground for huge blisters that were now exploding like volcanoes

“No buts! You will like it. Trust me”

He didn’t trust her, but he decided to keep going. After all, he had never walked so much in his life, and could not bear to have struggled that much for nothing. Mark took the hand that Chiara had stretched toward him, and he let himself be guided by her.

To his horror, they stepped onto the grass, where his shoes would get irremediably ruined. He wanted to let go of Chiara’s hands, but it seemed too rude, even for him.

And so they walked on, through a sea of grass, across a dirt path that wound through the bushes, and into a dense forest crowded by tall sequoia trees which were blocking the sunlight.

Why did I let myself get dragged into this? He thought as he leaned against the rough bark of a fir tree and tried to remove a pebble from his left shoe. He looked at the girl, who smiled. He grunted.

At least, someone was happy. But it was the wrong someone.

“ We are almost there. I promise. Just a few steps left.” Chiara egged him on. Mark said nothing, afraid that, if he opened his mouth, he would start cursing.

But he kept going, telling himself that it was too late anyway: the Simpsons’episode had already ended.

They entered the forest, Chiara making her way with ease, Mark stumbling over rocks and the thick tree roots winding through the earth like a maze. The annoying rustle of leaves stirred by the wind echoed in Mark’s head, along with the chirping of cicadas, which loomed above them from every side. “Look, I’m almost afraid to ask, but this place is creepy. Are we almost there?” He insisted.

“Actually… We made it.”

Mark looked straight ahead and saw the trees open to reveal a small, grass-filled valley.

“Is that all?” He asked, the disappointment of the banality of it all making his body tremble.

“Come,” Chiara tugged at his shirt, then threw herself on the thick bed of grass.

Mark’s eyes widened and his nose contorted in disgust.”You’re kidding me, right?” Chiara shook  her head, sending ripples of waves across her oversized blue sweater.

“You. Must. Be. Kidding. Me.” He repeated, incredulous. “I cannot believe you brought me down here to ask me to lie down on dull, boring, common grass!”

The girl stood silent, staring at him. “Well, anyway, if you brought me here for that you’ll be disappointed: I’m not going to lie down on soggy, smelly grass for no good reason and wreck my 200$ pants.” Chiara stood silent, apparently lost in her thoughts. She seemed engrossed in her own world, and Mark felt hurt. He hated the feeling of not being necessary. Mark shifted his weight from one leg to another.

“This is too much.” He said, finally. “I’m going home” He turned on his heels but continued to falter. Meanwhile, Chiara had closed her eyes. She had let herself surrender to the bed of grass and the sun filtering through the leaves drew mysterious figures on her body. Mark looked at his Rolex one last time. It was five o’clock.

At this point, he should have been lying in his bath, immersed in boiling water up to his neck, fantasizing about the evening that he would spend with the woman of the day. Mark’s eyes rested again on the girl, who was now sitting and holding something in her hand. “Come and see!” She called him, her voice suddenly strong and clear. Mark looked at his watch again,. It seemed to reprimand him with his obnoxious ticking.

“All right, I’m coming! just give me a sec.”

Slowly, Mark took his watch off and threw it in a bush of hawthorns. He then slid on the grass next to the girl, feeling a rush of adrenaline as his body came in contact with hers. Chiara looked at him knowingly, and her face seemed to glow with a secret happiness. It was the type of joy that makes your whole body fill up with energy. The type of joy that you can’t understand unless you have felt it before.

She offered her closed hands to Mark and opened them a sliver, to let him see what she was holding.

A butterfly.

It was turquoise, with streaks of yellow and purple on the edges. The butterfly flapped its wings once, twice, then landed on Mark’s knee. And all Mark could do was look at it, holding his breath.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” The girl asked.

“It’s amazing… “

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Jun 04

Write For Us!

Write-A-Holic.com was born with the goal of allowing people who love writing to get their work out of their drawers (or, most likely, pen drives) and onto a medium in which they can be read and appreciated by a wider audience.

Why should you write for us?

– You get to share your work with thousands of people (we had more than 1,000 page views our first week!)

– You become a part of a community of people for whom writing is an integral part of their lives.

Submission Guidelines:

  • You can submit Poems, Short Stories, Screenplays and anything you think we might find interesting!
  • We will only publish quality content, so please make sure that there are no typos and that what you write is grammatically correct.
  • Please, include your real name and, if you really want to use a pseudonym, let our editors know.

Optional:

  • Submit a short bio (100-200 words) and a picture of you to be included in our list of “write-a-holics.”
  • Include a link to your blog-website. If it’s relevant, we will include it in our blogroll.

Ready For Publication?

  • Send your piece to vnesci@write-a-holic.com

Note:

  • We don’t pay our creative writers. However, if you are like the other people submitting their work to us, you are not doing this for the money, but to receive feedback on your work, to become part of a community of people who share your passion for writing  and to touch others with your words.
  • The editors reserve the right not to publish your content
  • The editors might edit your articles. If that’s the case, we will send you the revised version, which you can review before publication.
  • The copyright of whatever you submit remains yours, but you get to become an official write-a-holic!

We look forward to reading you!

Valentina Nesci

Editor In Chief

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Jun 04

Our Writers

 

Valentina Nesci

Editor in Chief

Valentina is a writer, journalist and editor who enjoys nursing creative works to life. She graduated from Stanford’s journalism Master of Arts in June 2011, after earning a B.A in Communication from the American University of Rome in 2010.

At Stanford, she contributed to  The Peninsula Press, the Bay Citizen and SFGate.com. If you are interested in learning more about Vale’s work in Italy, your best bet is to look for her articles on Italian Notebook. If, instead, you love Human Resources, you can check out her blog at Procter & Gamble.

In her free time, Vale likes to turn visions into reality, problems into opportunities and words into magic. Most recently, she worked at Uniiverse, a platform for collaborative living, where she is the City Manager of San Francisco. She is currently the Social Network Specialist of Janus Communcations & Movies.

Contact Info: vnesci@write-a-holic.com

 


 

Write-A-Holics:

 

Timothy Matias

Timothy is an active blogger who likes to tackle complex philosophical topics ranging from self awareness, the future, writing and the world we live in. An avid reader and curious soul, Timothy likes to challenge assumptions and question the status quo. You can find his work in The Epiphany Project Etherlust, Nspyraishn and Ego Engineering.

Contact Info: tmatias@write-a-holic.com

Pallav Agrawal

Pallav is a poet, writer and engineer hailing from India. He has moved to the Bay Area to pursue a master in structural engineering at Stanford, and spends many sleepless nights thinking about what to write next. Some of his best stories and poems are featured in his blog, The Voice In Your Head.

Contact Info: pagrawal@write-a-holic.com

Brent Cytron

Brent graduated with an associates in Radiological Science from Foothill College in 2008.  When he was a student, he used to write for Fremont Highschool’s newspaper “Phoenix.” Today, he relaxes by playing the piano and being the soul of the party – he is a DJ. Additionally, Brenton keeps fit by wrestling twice a week at the American Kickbox Academy. He has seen many interesting things working weekend graveyards for three years. The hospital taught him to love life and gave him a great sense of accomplishment.

Contact Info: brentcytron@yahoo.com

Piyush Kumar

Piyush is a master’s student in the school of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. He obtained his undergraduate in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He has varied interests in areas like math, philosophy and spirituality. Eternally curios, he considers himself an autodidact in fields that are not related to his formal academic training. Piyush likes to write about the things that he observes in the world around him. During his lifetime, he would like to publish a collection of random thoughts, poetry and short stories in a book called “Observations of an ordinary mind.”

Contact Info: kuma0177@gmail.com

Kevin Van Zanten

Kevin van Zanten is a professional Web Developer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He likes to read and enjoys writing as a hobby. His favorite author is China Mieville, whose work in the “weird fiction” genre serves as an inspiration for his own writing. Additionally, Kevin is an innomator – you can check his website to discover the definition of this mysterious word, and check out his work!

Contact Info: kevin@innomation.co.za

Austin Prey

Austin is a student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he is a Government Major and Creative Writing Minor. When not hitting the books, he enjoys taking a break by skiing,  playing hockey, tennis or soccer and hanging out with friends. His favorite breakfast food is a tie between raisin bran crunch and cinnamon toast, though admittedly both can (and should) be enjoyed at all times.  His favorite authors are Thomas Pynchon, Robert Jordan, John Cheever, and Ken Kesey.

Contact Info: austin.prey@gmail.com

Nadeem Persico-Shammas

Nadeem is a student at the University of Michigan.

Mitchell Hamann

Mitchell is currently working on becoming a personal trainer after finishing his A.A.S in Network Development at Brown College in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. He loves to read, and enjoys writing as a hobby. His favorite authors are Jim Butcher, J.R.R Tolkien and George R.R Martin. When he is not reading or writing, he is in the gym.

Marc Evans

Marc Evans was the assistant editor for Write-A-Holic from June 2011 to June 2012. He is a composer and pianist based in the Bay Area who likes reading Winnie The Pooh and greatly enjoys when people read out loud to him.

Nik Martinak

Nik Martinak only refers to himself in the third person when writing annotated biographies about himself and when saying really obvious things. His life is so remarkably dull he turns to fiction to allegorically poke fun at it and the discontentment it creates. So, while reading any works by the notoriously ignored and profoundly silly Nik Martinak, know that, although you are looking at fiction, you very well may be reading a biography. If you want to read an excerpt of his new novel, as well as short stories, check out his website.

Jerome D. Oremland, M. D.

Dr. Oremland is a psychiatrist,  psychoanalyst and writer. He is the Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco; Professor at The International Institute for Psychoanalytic Research, Rome, Italy; and Founder of the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, San Francisco.

Author:

Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling: A Psychoanalytic Study of Creativity; The Origins and Psychodynamics of Creativity; A Psychoanalytic Perspective; Interpretation and

Interaction: Psychoanalysis or Psychotherapy?, and Death and the Fear of Finiteness in Hamlet. (In Press: The Man Who Killed Caravaggio).

Jenny Zhang

Jenny Zhang, also known by her pen name Phire Phoenix, is a Candian writer, artist and blogger. You can find her work in her website, which she calls her “online hide-out / project amalgamation / super-site.” Phire Phoenix is the pen-name she has been using ever since she started writing online. She likes to blog about everything that interests her, including social issues, technology, social media, literature, culture, and language. Phire also likes creative writing, and you can find her work both here and on her website.

Luke Geraghty

Luke Geraghty grew up in Worcester, England, with three brothers and one Mega Drive. After graduating from the University of York with a degree in Linguistics, Geraghty moved to Ballinamore, Ireland.

The epic fantasy Torrodil is his debut novel.

Connie M. Barrett

I was found beneath a cabbage leaf and raised as a human. By the time the error was discovered, I had acquired a large number of habits specific to that species. I am working to rid myself of many of them but have chosen to retain human language. This is either to humankind’s benefit or detriment. If you buy one of my books, you can decide for yourself. I love writing and am actually good for very little else except making lasagna and being a slave to cats. I excel at the latter. Big Dragons Don’t Cry is published. Book Two, Dance with Clouds, takes the reader to the world of air dragons and is in revision. The unnamed Book Three, about fire dragons and other desert creatures, is in an advanced state of gestation. Book Four, featuring earth dragons, is in progress. You can visit http://www.adragonsguide.com for updated information.

Dana Sitar

Dana Sitar is a freelance writer/editor/blogger in the San Francisco Bay Area, and author of the series This Artists’ Life and the upcoming The Mailee Stories. On her blog, Dana shares writing tips and anecdotes, as well as free weekly fiction.

Jason Benoit

Jason Benoit was born in Lewiston, ME and now lives in Wilmington, NC where he works as a house painter. Forced to quit school in ninth grade, he received his G.E.D in 2001. He is an avid reader and lists Stephen King and Tom Robbins among his favorite authors. His blog, Love Letters & Suicide Notes, contains short original fiction, an occasional rant, and personal memoirs about being a homeless teenager as well as stories about other hardships he has faced.

Barb E. Toscano

B.E. Toscano has been writing for as long as she can remember. Sometimes stories would just emerge out of her, other times it was just plain therapy. She studied Communications and English at the University of North Florida and is currently working on her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at Pennsylvania University. After hr B.A., she took to the classroom to teach English and Reading and has been at it for 8 years, writing curriculm and fiction for adults and children along the way. She currently lives in Germany with her husband and son as she pursues writing full-time. If you want to read her writing, you can visit her website.

Serena Ledesma

I am just old enough to have lived through some of the most interesting decades of the 20th century, but young enough to still remember it all. I grew up in the deep south, where I attended Faulkner State College, then in my adult years I travelled across the US and Canada with my two daughters in tow. I gained a perspective on life that is only earned by the free-spirited and with a little bit of creativity and a lot of experience, I have plenty of material for my writing, which spans multiple genres.

My favorite authors are William Faulkner and Isabel Allende, among many others. I live in Florida with my husband and a menagerie of geriatric dogs. Even now, each day comes with another experience that leads to inspiration; the outlets for my creativity are numerous, and include sewing, painting, restoring vintage items, and of course, writing.

Saecha

A lover of the written word, Saecha studied British Literature  at UC Santa Cruz with a focus on medieval poetry and narrative. She has always loved to write and has been encouraged by friends and family to pursue her talents whenever possible. She also has a great love of animals, which frequently comes through in her poetry, since she finds that the elegance and natural beauty of the Animal Kingdom far surpasses anything else she encounters. She spends a great deal of time playing with her cat, riding horses, exploring wild places, and indulging her creative side by crafting things with her hands.

Welcome our New Entry!

Brian Burton

Brian is a children’s book enthusiast. Having read literally thousands of children books, he has a tremendous understanding of this genre. Brian is also a full time blogger and source of excitement for childrensbookstore.com. You will find Brian’s musings both fun and informative.
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