Tags: gratitude

Scriva Scribblings: A Book in the Works and The Blog on Hiatus

by Amber Keyser
Published on: January 7, 2016
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As 2016 begins, the Scrivas always take time to reflect upon the past year and set writing goals for the new one.

We have a retreat in a few weeks during which we’ll talk about what’s working and what’s not in our writing lives. We’ll think on the strengths we have as a group and as individuals, and of course, we’ll eat chocolate and stare at the mountains and even do some writing.

In the last year, we’ve been talking about our blog presence. Is it reaching the people that we want to reach? Is it filling a need for writers who don’t have a critique group or want to make the one they have function at higher and higher levels? Do we have more to say?

We started the Scriva blog in 2011 in response to the frequently asked question: Do you have room in your group? Since then, we have had a lot to say about critique and the writing process! As a group we have written 339 posts. That is pretty crazy!


But 2016 will bring something new! The Scrivas are going to take a break from blogging for awhile. We’ve decided to comb through our posts, pick the best and brightest, write some more content, jazz it up, and publish an e-book!

We are all really excited about this new project. If you have topics you want us to address or if you are interested in hiring a Scriva to critique your manuscript, send us a note through the contact page. We always love to hear from you!

Big hugs and huge thanks for joining us on the journey,

The Scrivas

Writer Wanted—A Job Description

by Amber Keyser
Published on: October 16, 2015
Categories: Challenges, Creativity, Humor
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Requirements of the position:

  1. Navigate social media with authentic (non-threatening) mastery
  2. Engage constantly (except during twice weekly showers)
  3. Market yourself and your work with love (not slime)
  4. Advance causes without being didactic or confrontational (use hashtags)
  5. Teach at every opportunity (schools, libraries, conferences, bus stops, laundromats)
  6. Juggle everything (deadlines, family, second jobs, fire, occasional small carnivores)
  7. Manage complicated projects (including life) on extremely limited funds (the reward is the doing)
  8. Be a role model for everything (all the time)


Snark aside, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a working writer. There are many expectations (see above). Some of them (maybe not juggling fire) do seem to be required of the position. But what does it really mean to do this job? What are my “responsibilities”?

Only this… to think hard about what makes people tick, to open myself to deep emotions, to tell stories that move me, and to wrestle with words until a world is born anew on the page.

This is my job.

And it is good.


Some Yoga/Writing Principles

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: January 20, 2015
Categories: Challenges, Inspiration
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The new year is a time to take stock and a time to try to do things differently than we have before. When life gives us a lesson, we can respond as we always do –and then life will give us that same lesson over and over again. But what if life gives us a lesson and instead of responding the same way we always do, we respond differently? Perhaps life will be done giving us that lesson and we can move on to something else.

Take a rejection letter, or a harsh critique, or a writing project gone south for some reason out of our control. What if, instead of responding with our same old anger, frustration, and depression we respond with genuine gratitude.

I have found this is EXTREMELY hard to do. Though I can’t do it fully yet, I have discovered some principals that help me head in that direction. These are yogic principles that I try to adapt to my writing life. They are drawn from Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat. I hope you find them helpful, inspiring, or at least intriguing:

“We already have everything we need.”

“The surest way to get what you want is to let go of wanting.”

“What is required is a radical, absolute, living trust in the universe.”

“Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary.”

“Pride and ambition will get you hurt; humility will get you well.”

“There is wisdom within us that is more powerful than our despair.”

“Make a commitment to focus on the nature of our efforts and not the nature the result.”

It’s at least worth a try!


Let Me Count the Ways

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: November 25, 2014
Comments: 2 Comments

I’ve been part of Viva Scriva for seven years, and I’ve learned and received so much from them, individually and collectively.

Inspiration, and a demonstration of the value of Perspiration.

One time we were talking frankly about envy. I had to say that, interestingly, I wasn’t jealous of different members’ success, because, “If I’d worked as hard, I’d be further along too.”

Writing. Submitting. Revising. Revising. Repeating. Sending off to agents or publishers. Writing again, writing something different. Letting a project rest for a while. Picking it up again. No agent, wrong agent, new agent, right agent.

Perseverance. Stick-to-it-ivenss. Keeping on going.


-Crysanthemums, gum drops, and other delights served up Saturday evenings at retreats

-Viva Scriva salutes (forming a VS with our hands when all agreed on a comment at a critique meeting)

-Presents, most of them components of the “Viva Scriva outfit.” Ruth actually knit each one of us personalized socks (can you believe it?); colorful wraps from Brazil from Addie; wear-them-ten-ways hoodies from Amber; Czech bracelets from Nicole, customized VS pendants commissioned by Liz, logo Ts from Mary; wool scarves from Ecuador… (My contribution was culinary rather than sartorial: hand-carved wooden spoons from Romania.)

Thought-provoking Reflection

-Addie’s incredibly valuable, pretty-much annual, reflective exercises.

-Liz’s coaching about pursuing “low hanging fruit,” query letters, market overviews, etc.

-Amber’s review of careers of favorite authors as inspirational guides.

-Liz’s gratitude beads.

Support as we in turn went through professional or personal or family cares. Commiserating during setbacks. Celebrating accomplishments.

Retreats. Business meetings. Writing days. Art as process meetings.

Oh, yeah—and the monthly Critique Meetings that started and undergird everything. I received invaluable feedback on my manuscripts, and learned so much from others’ comments and writing even the months when I hadn’t submitted a manuscript.

-Respect and kindness (the praise sandwich).

-Truth (things said graciously, but everything that needed to be said, said).

-Sometime inadvertent tutelage about story arcs, motivations, trying it different ways, tight writing…

-Brainstorming manuscript problems, or process/approach, during one’s 20 Minutes.

-Encouragement: “This is so great.” “I know you can do it.” “I can’t wait to read more.”

-So much received from each Scriva and her particular “eye,” approach, and writerly-personality; from Addie, Amber, Liz, Mary, Michelle, Nicole, Ruth.


Reflecting on these and other gifts from these seven years, I have to paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s verse. How do I appreciate you, Scrivas? Let me count the ways.

Thank you, Scrivas.


-Sabina I. Rascol

A Tale of Three Retreats

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 20, 2014
Comments: 3 Comments

Haven House, Hood River, OregonEvery fall, usually the first weekend in November, the Viva Scrivas gather somewhere fabulous for a weekend writing retreat. (If you’d like to learn more about these expeditions of extreme productivity and bonding, please check out earlier blogs such as DIY retreats, Insider View of a Scriva Retreat, and Gift of Gratitude: Thankful Beads, and posts about the retreats on their personal blogs such as Dreaming of a Scriva Retreat.

In a recent meeting, people began grumbling about how we had skipped our usual June retreat and that we all were starved for writing time and really needed to get a fall retreat on the books. The first weekend in November didn’t work for a few people so we started paging through our calendars.

“Well I could do Saturday the next weekend but not Sunday,” someone said.

“I could do Sunday that weekend, but not Saturday,” said another.

“How about midOctober?”

“Not ideal for me, but I might be able to make a day.”

And so it went, with no weekend being the perfect weekend. Amber suggested a one-day writing retreat at her house on a Friday. Miraculously everyone could make it. Then we thought about doing something close to home another weekend, so people could come and go as they needed to.   Two weekends seemed promising, so guess what we did? We booked both!

In midOctober, we will have four days at my friend Kate’s house in Hood River (Pictured above: a rental she is letting us use at cost).

Willamette Writers Scottland Yard writing roomAnd we will have three days and nights at the Willamette Writers house in West Linn (which by the way, offers six adorable writing rooms for rent all year round; we rented the whole house.)

So instead of one retreat with two or three days, we have three retreats with a total of eight full working days. What looked like an impasse turned into an abundance of writing time.

So if your groups is struggling to schedule a writing retreat, be creative. And think local.

Scriva Liz

What Do You Want In Your Circle?

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: January 20, 2014
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In a recent, early-in-the-new-year Scriva meeting, we did two short activities that are meant to sharpen focus, boost spirits and build community.

The first was inspired by Igolu.com, which has some wonderful goal-setting exercises, which you can check out here.

In the simple exercise that we tried, you draw a large circle on a blank page. Inside the circle you write all the ideas, emotions, things and qualities that you want in your life. You can do this for your writing life or your life in general – or both! Outside the circle you can write what you don’t want in your life. Then spend some time just thinking on what you wrote in your circle. How can you welcome those things into your life?

The second exercise is meant to shift the focus a bit to some very important people in your life – your beloved critique group members. This exercise is designed to build community and boost spirits by recognizing each member’s strengths and sharing your hopes and dreams for them.  For each member, complete the following sentences (write out your thoughts):

* I really admire/am inspired by the way you…

* The words that come to mind when I think of you are…

* The words that come to mind when I think of your writing are…

* If I could wish anything for your writing life this year, it would be…

Then give these slips of paper for people to read later.

Writing these thoughts down made me think about what I appreciate about each person, made me grateful that they are part of the group, made me hopeful about what the year might have in store for us.  And reading mine made me feel understood, appreciated, supported. And that is something we can all use more of in our lives.

Elizabeth Rusch


Continuing Thanks

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: December 2, 2013
Categories: Celebrations, Inspiration
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sunny day-near SuceavaOn a beautiful morning this June, my heart swelled with gratitude for God’s many kindnesses to me. I was leaving the Romanian countryside after a very special trip there with my mother. She’d had the courage to travel again though much older and frailer than when she’d last seen her birthplace. I felt privileged to be there with her.


It had not been a perfect trip, mind you. My smart phone, which I used as a recording device, had been stolen. I still ache to think of the many stories and interviews that have been taken from me. Yet that June morning I was just grateful. Overall my mother was well, we’d spent time with many wonderful people, the sun was shining after a month of endless rain, our train compartment was roomy and comfortable… Now we were heading to Bucharest where we’d stay with a lovely friend of mine and I’d do research in a very restricted archive before returning home to the States.


I saw how much I have been given in my life, gifts and graces big and small. I also saw my tendency to want EVERYTHING, rather than being regularly and profusely thankful for the much that I have. Supportive family and wonderful friends. Basic provision. Peace with God. So many beautiful things. Books, and time to read. My mother still with us. And, as someone once pointed out and it stayed with me, that bombs aren’t falling in our backyards. In short, peace on many levels. Peace.


I remembered that June day and my feelings of gratitude again before Thanksgiving. What a good way to live! Rather than getting hung up on things, even important ones, that I’d like but don’t have in my life, I feel rich when I review and delight in the many, many good things, big and small, that I have been granted. That’s not my default, but I’d like it to be.


In the Bible book of Lamentations, though Jerusalem had just been totally devastated by the Babylonians, the writer includes one of the best reminders for gratitude: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) Isn’t that amazing? New graces every day. We can look for them, the whole year long. Whatever may be lacking, we can give thanks for what we have and be richer and more at peace for it.


On the writerly front, my big thanks this year go to:


-MY CRITIQUE GROUP: for the Scrivas’ example of diligence and delight in writing; for seeking ways to encourage me and all of us to write; and for their support and compassion when my family passed through hard times this year.


-JERROLD MUNDIS, author of Break Writer’s Block Now!: for properly identifying my various reasons for not writing as the decoys that they are; for helping me detach from my Baggage Train (about which I blogged this fall); and for the reminder that it’s best to aim small when blocked or starting writing again, but to be consistent.


-DONALD MAASS, author of Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I’ve thought of a few ways to apply his advice already that I am very excited about and know make my story stronger. I continue working through his books. If I can implement a fifth of what he advises, my novel will rock for readers, as well as for me.


-GREAT STORYTELLERS who have gone before and show me how it’s done. Right now two examples come to mind: The Sound of Music movie, which I saw again on Thanksgiving, and which reminded me that when you’re done with one important scene, you move on right away to the next important event. And the Harry Potter books, which I’ve been “chain-reading” over the last week or two, and which left me in awe again at J. K. Rowling’s weaving of sub-plots and just the general enjoyableness of her writing.


Thanks for staying alongside as I enumerate blessings. What are some of yours?


-Sabina I. Rascol

NaNo: The Finish Line

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: December 3, 2012
Comments: 2 Comments

I did it, dear readers.

I didn’t sleep much this past month. But I managed to write 51,210 words in 14 chapters during the month of November. Only a couple more chapters to go and I’m done with Part II.

I couldn’t have done it without you. It helped tremendously to know that you’re out there and knew of my commitment, perhaps cheering me on. Thank you for being part of our writing community, helping make writing possible.

I’m hooked now. I’m going on with 500+ daily words in December. The first 1,460 are already down. My goal is to finish as much as I can of Part III in December. Stay posted for an update at the end of the month.

In the meantime, know that I too am cheering you, my fellow writers, on.

–Sabina I. Rascol

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