Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within

by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780156029780
  • ISBN-10: 0156029782
  • Pages: 288
  • Publication Date: 10/04/2004
  • Carton Quantity: 56

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About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book

    In her fifteen years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found that the biggest stumbling block for aspiring writers (especially women) is not fear of the blank page but frustration with the lack of time. What woman doesn't have too much to do and too little time? Finding an hour free of work, children, or obligations can seem impossible.

    But anyone can find fifteen minutes, whether you're sitting in traffic, waiting at a child's soccer practice, or watching the coffee drip. DeMarco-Barrett has created a practical, inspirational guide for fitting serious writing into those stolen moments. She offers writing exercises and techniques for generating ideas, as well as pragmatic advice from the well-known authors who appear on her radio show. With fifteen minutes a day, she can help you to ignite your pen and become the writer you have always wanted to be.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    For me, writing something down was the only road out.-Anne Tyler, in Janet Sternburg, ed.,


    Writing Like There's No Tomorrow

    It took a while for me to get going as a writer. It wasn't until the beginning of my junior year at a private Vermont college that I knew I wanted to write, that I was desperate, actually, to be a writer. Once that knowledge took hold, there was no reconsidering my choice. I blazed along the writing path, writing hard, reading hard, making up for lost time. My advisers encouraged me. It was all good, all promising-no matter that writing was the biggest intellectual challenge of my life.

    But when I graduated, the fact that I still had not transformed into Virginia Woolf or become a New Yorker writer sent me into a writer's block as big as Grand Central Station. It lasted a year. Finally the truth sank in: Not writing wasn't bringing me any closer to being like the writers I admired or to being published, and I so missed writing. I dove back in. There was no choice. I was a writer: I was miserable when I didn't write, and I wanted to write more than I wanted to do anything else. I had to write, come what may.

    The deep desire to write is all you need to begin. Its power over you is bigger than the fear of rejection. Once you accept that you are a writer, you can overcome fear. I had to.

    In every aspect of life, it's easy to let fear influence our decisions. We stick with jobs we hate for fear of ending up in ones that are worse. We stay in emotionally or physically abusive relationships because we are afraid to leave. And we put off writing because there's no time, we're sure we're no good, and who are we kidding, anyway? What makes me think I'll ever make it? This way, the dream of being a writer remains just that-a dream.

    Putting aside fears in love, in life, and in writing is the only way to have a shot at achieving any measure of success.

    When crime novelist Andrew Vachss came on my show, he talked about never giving up. "Spectators don't win fights, and the one fighting technique I have not seen fail yet is to just keep getting up. People shouldn't be discouraged, because they can go from everybody saying that they would never be published and all of a sudden, it's done. You never know. You're punching a wall, punching a wall, your hands are bloody and broken, and then all of a sudden the wall's down, not from any one punch but from the accumulated weight of all the punches. This is not a business for people who give up easily."

    Set Your Timer

    Imagine a friend has come to you for help. She dreams of becoming a writer but is burdened by fears. She worries she has no talent and has nothing to say. Perhaps she worries she's taking precious time away from her family to pursue her selfish desire to write.

    For fifteen minutes, write to that friend and give her hope. Dispel each of her fears, one by one, so that when she is through talking with you and revealing her heart, she will be willing to try giving the writing life her best effort. Your words need to inspire her and help her through this difficult time.

    Now, can you comfort yourself this way?

    Imagine you are this person. Set the timer for fifteen minutes and, using your newfound outlook, write a letter to yourself about your plans and projects as a writer.

    Be as specific as possible. What sorts of projects are you interested in? What would you like to write today? What is your ultimate goal? What is your most extravagant dream? Let what you jot down run the gamut from the most realistic project to the most outrageous imaginings. It's okay to dream on paper. In fact, writing down your goals can be a vital step toward accomplishing them.

    Copyright © 2004 by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

  • Reviews


    "Pen on Fire is a gym for writers with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, who teaches, coaxes, and cheers us on." -Diane Leslie, author of Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime

    "A wonderful mix of the practical and the inspirational." -T. Jefferson Parker, author of Cold Pursuit