Why you should read (and write!) short fiction.

Why you should read (and write!) short fiction.

Why should you read (and write) short fiction?

We're a multilingual community here at Vagabond English.  This is a place where you can read and discuss books and stories with people all over the world.

It's also a place to find your voice with a little writing and reading of your own. (No matter what language(s) you grew up speaking!)

So why should you read and write short fiction? 


  • Your reading leaves its footprints all over your writing.  
  • Because you want to read high quality writing...but you're busy!
  • Because reading great writing immerses you in the experience, and you learn lessons about writing. (how to craft a great story, how to write more beautiful prose)
  • Because reading and writing in a language you're learning helps immerse you in that language and 'think on your feet' so you become more fluent and flexible.  

And since everyone in our community has a different relationship to English, let me give you two ways you can work on your reading and writing habit today:

Uncharted territory: When your journal takes you on a new writing adventure.

Uncharted territory: When your journal takes you on a new writing adventure.

Do you know the most exciting thing about undertaking a writing project, a writing habit...a writing adventure? 

It's that moment after weeks, months, years of writing of covering uncharted territory, spilling miles of ink, when you look over your work.

And you see that you are someone new. A different person, a different writer. 

And in that moment, you realize: you have changed--and so have the goals and purposes of your writing.

And you find yourself contemplating new possibilities--a larger writing project, perhaps.

Like I said, your writing habit is an end in itself.  But writing habits also have a way of taking us to places we never expected.  

Your slice of life journal: A collection of your moments.

You've been using the slice of life journaling technique --the act of capturing the moments of your life on the page.  It's a tool you can use to sharpen your writing, to start thinking like a writer, to start noticing the details you'll need and saving them for later.

It's a practice that will change your writing...and your life as you take notice of what's going on around you. As you choose your focus.

Last week we talked about your journal--and how just keeping a journal is an end in itself. 

But sometimes, after you write for a while...you realize you've got something in there...

  • Something you want to keep.
  • Something you want to explore.
  • Something you want to pass on. 
  • The beginning of a story...

This week, I'd like to invite you to start seeing your slice of life journal as a collection...even organizing it that way.  Is this for you?

Read on to find out...

 Use the Slice of Life Journal Technique to sharpen your writing skills and you'll find yourself with a collection of your unforgettable moments.

Use the Slice of Life Journal Technique to sharpen your writing skills and you'll find yourself with a collection of your unforgettable moments.


Why you might want to collect your slices of life.

Think about it: after a month (or 3) of writing your slices of life, you're bound to have some interesting experiences 

You go back and choose your favorites, the ones that remind you what it was like to experience your children when they were young or your home before you moved, your favorite coffee shop with your friends...  

Or maybe you look back on your collection and notice a theme, an undercurrent, a story in the making.  


Is it time for you to start a collection of your moments?

Maybe, if...

  1. All of these slices of life in your journal seem, well, too ephemeral and you want something you can hold in your hand, or look at from time to time and enjoy.  Because simple, every-day, 'mundane' moments can seem like rare pearls 5, 10...20 years later.
  2. You want to create a link between the present (your present) and future generations of your family.
  3. You want to see your collection as a whole in order to look back, to examine the important themes of your life, to see your writing progress. (More on this next time.)

 After all, who knows what life has in store? The only thing we can count on is this constant change that leaves us in a twirling dance on feet we barely recognize one year to the next. 

Being able to go back and revisit the textures, the sounds, the flavors of a time in your life can be precious--for you, for future generations.


How to start keeping your slice of life collection.

Here are 5 keys for getting started:

  1. Start  keeping your slices of life in something you can add to easily-like a computer file, a binder or even a scrapbook. 
  2. Add one to two slices of life each week. (These can be new moments you want to capture or something you've already written down and want to add to your new collection).
  3. Use a format you enjoy: if you like the look and feel of paper, by all means, put it in a book.  Think you'll never have the organization to print out pages?  You and your handwriting aren't on good terms? Maybe the computer is your best friend (just back it up!!)
  4. Whatever format you choose, make sure you can re-order it easily.  Those bound journal-type scrapbooks are really pretty...but what if you think of something you want to add later?   Better yet...What if you want to sort your collection by theme...or by moments that matter to specific people? 
  5. Remember, it's a habit, not a project. Don't tell yourself you're going back to gather 10 years of memories!!  You'll end in a heap of frustration.  You could tell yourself you want to add one new slice of life and one old one each week...(remember--use a format you can re-order and re-organize!)
 Ready for some hand-picked reading and creative writing prompts? Ready to draw inspiration from your reading and your life? Join the free, self-paced email program I designed just for you.

Ready for some hand-picked reading and creative writing prompts? Ready to draw inspiration from your reading and your life? Join the free, self-paced email program I designed just for you.

Your slice of life collection: not a photo album, not a scrapbook. 

Let's face it, we often take photos of the monumental--the occasions, the marriages, mountains climbed, holiday gatherings. 

But what about those things we do every day--that matter to us too? 

I want to remember sitting by the fire with my daughter curled up next to me, the smell of her hair, the softness of her sweater as she sounds out the words in her book.  The way her whole body sits at attention when she starts to 'get it' and she realizes she can read. 

Is anyone taking a picture?  No, it's just daily life.

There is so much that doesn't show in a photo: the sounds, the smells, the textures...the feelings.

I think I'll write it down, thanks.  

And you?

Do you have any moments that are mundane yet monumental?

Any moments to capture for your collection? 

What attracts you the most about keeping a collection like this? 

Is anything stopping you from it? What?

Let me know what you think in the comments below or over at our Book Club on Facebook.


Your Journal--an end in itself or just the beginning?

Last time on the blog we talked about writing slices of life: Capturing the moments of your life--past and present and writing them down in your journal. The next three blog posts will focus on what direction you can take when writing these slices of life.  Briefly they are:

  1. Your journal: when the journey is your destination. (today's topic)
  2. A curated collection of your moments, for you, for your children, for the future... (up next!)
  3. A writing project of your own? When your collection of short and sweet journal entries brings you somewhere unexpected. (the final post in this series).

Which one is for you, right now?  Only you can answer that--and here are two things to keep in mind:

  • The answer might surprise you.  
  • The answer will change--because writing changes you.

In each of the next three blog posts, I'll be asking you a few questions. Let's find out where you are on your writing journey today...where you may be tomorrow. (And no, you don't have to pick only one!)

Just keep an eye out and an open mind. 

Today's question:

Is your journal an end in itself or only the beginning?  

 No matter what goals you have for your writing. Focusing on the journey can lead to unexpected results.

No matter what goals you have for your writing. Focusing on the journey can lead to unexpected results.


Where are you going with your writing?

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.
— Lao Tsu

What's important to you on this writing adventure?

Is it the journey? The way every step polishes you (and your writing).

Or is it the destination?

Maybe you're climbing a mountain of pages and you know just what it looks like at the top: a collection of short stories, a record of your favorite moments of life for your children, a novel, a memoir...

Don't answer today's question yet. 

Just take it. Hold it in your hand, turn it over, examine it, slip it in your pocket to ponder on your journey.


Your Slice of Life Journal--an end in itself?

Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.
— Arthur Ashe

We're all writers here...so why am I quoting a tennis player? 

Doesn't a tennis player polish her craft day after day? She may focus on one goal or one game, one destination...but there's no forgetting the journey: day after day of showing up to practice.

No matter how goal-oriented you are, writing is the same.

There's a very good case to be made for focusing on your journey--for letting your slices of life be an end in themselves. This can be your focus if...

  • You want a short and sweet way to start keeping a journal (or the motivation to keep it going!)
  • You're working on your mindfulness.
  • You've got specific goals for your writing style like finding a more natural voice, showing rather than telling, being more creative or even banishing certain kinds of errors.

Got specific goals for your writing style, or your voice? Focus on the journey.

When you're writing, focusing on the journey is not mystical--it's just what works!

Showing up to write, to capture your slices of life every day while you focus on your writing goals (style, voice, error correction...) is a great way to transform your writing.

If so, no need to worry about a 'final result' or a final 'product.'  The habit, the continued capturing of these slices of life is enough for you.  

In fact, focusing too much on the outcome (like finishing a blog series, a chapter, a book, or a novel) instead of on your writing style can leave you feeling stuck, unsure of how to take your next step.


 Ready for some hand-picked reading and creative writing prompts? Ready to draw inspiration from your reading and your life? Join the free, self-paced email program I designed just for you.

Ready for some hand-picked reading and creative writing prompts? Ready to draw inspiration from your reading and your life? Join the free, self-paced email program I designed just for you.


How to focus on your writing journey by writing slices of life:

Want a personal example?  You see, I follow my own advice. 

Years ago, I decided it would be a lot of fun to try writing my first novel--and it was. I worked with a small writer's group, wrote a chapter for each meeting.  My writing improved, and I learned so much from the process. But...

I also identified some specific areas I wanted to improve in my writing--and none of those areas require that I write a novel to improve! 

In fact, by taking off some of the pressure inherent in writing a novel and writing shorter pieces, I've been able to work on my specific goals more closely.

When you write a 'slice of life' it has the potential to turn into a blog post, an essay, a story...a novel. But it doesn't have to. And that freedom lets you focus on your technique. 

Like a tennis player focusing on just one swing again and again...or a swimmer practicing just the arm stroke, just the kick...or a pianist working on only one critical part of a new song.

Focusing on the journey instead of the destination is not the same thing as giving up your goals.  It is choosing to focus so that you can achieve your goals.

Different writing adventures call for different techniques.

Maybe today's blog post resonated with you. Maybe you need to practice smaller, shorter bursts of writing to achieve your goals.  

Then again, maybe you've got other ideas? 

That's a great thing, you know?--recognizing what you and your writing need right now.

I'll be writing two more blog posts on this topic to help you see where your writing may take you.  

  1. How to start curating a collection of your moments (your slices of life).  If you want to make something a little longer, a little more concrete from all of your writing. 
  2. How to use your journaling habit (and your slices of life) to start get started on a writing project of your own.

So stay tuned for the next two posts on this topic.  In the meantime, I'd love to know where you are on your writing adventure.  

Your two cents:

Have you ever taken a step back from more complex writing projects to focus on a single aspect of your writing?  

Do you give yourself permission to write sometimes 'just for practice' and not for the finished product? 

Leave your comments below, get in touch or join me at the Vagabond English Book Club on Facebook for a great chat with your fellow book-lovers, journal-writers and language adventurers...



Slice of Life Journal Technique: How to get started--and why you should.

Slice of Life Journal Technique: How to get started--and why you should.

Recently, I've been taking our conversation deeper into your journaling habit.  Today I'm going to focus in on a specific skill that I call writing 'Slices of Life.'  Here's what we'll talk about today

  • Why capturing and writing slices of life is an essential writing technique that your favorite novelists use.  A technique you can learn with practice.  
  • How capturing your moments and translating them to the page is not just a writing technique, but a way of life.  
  • How you can start practicing this super-easy technique on your own, at home in a way that's simple, fun...and life-changing.  


Write about Your Life: 3 Lessons, 3 Writing Prompts

Write about Your Life: 3 Lessons, 3 Writing Prompts

Over at the Vagabond English Book Club we've been talking about why you should write about your life.   And that discussion has driven home a few lessons for me:  

Writing about your experience will not only change your writing...it will change your life.  

Which means...the way you write, the way you come to the page, the choices you make, the way you frame your experience--it really matters.

And you're going to have to make decisions about what's important.  If you want to keep going--if you want to keep yourself (and your readers?) interested. 

Today's post is about three lessons that will make your writing about your life more compelling, more life-changing.

These are the lessons I keep coming back to--whether it's in discussion with you, when I'm writing, or when I'm awake at night thinking over 'the big stuff...'

Oh, and for each lesson, there's a journal mission.  Enjoy.  

Why you should write about your life.

Why you should write about your life.

The start of the New Year...a time to reflect, to write.

The time of year where, after a winter slump, I begin to wake up early again, and reach for my notebooks, my keyboard. To write.

And you know what I write about in these early hours of the morning?

My life--

  • what matters,
  • moments and memories I want to capture,
  • what I need to think through, get over...or reach for. 

Towards the end of my writing session, my thoughts turn to work, to the day...to my blog posts or a short story I want to write.  But only after I've settled the most fundamental questions.

Finding your way in the dark: 4 lessons in writing feedback.

Finding your way in the dark: 4 lessons in writing feedback.

Sometimes writing can feel like a stumble through the shadows...

You take your truths, your stories and you weave them into word--words you hope will reach across continents, culture, time.  And deliver your message, your meaning to someone you may never meet, speak to or hear from.

We spend so much time in solitude, walking an unfamiliar landscape with little light to guide us.   

We may write and read alone.   But we do it to connect with other people.   

And when we travel too long without answer or feedback, we wonder where we are going...

And we ask ourselves:

  • Will anyone understand this?
  • Did I make my point?
  • Does anyone care?
  • Is my voice strong enough to carry my message?
  • Am I evolving as a writer...or just moving in circles, making the same missteps again and again?

Why writing on your own isn't always enough.

Why writing on your own isn't always enough.

You're out there, on your own, doing all the right things:

These are the first steps--the steps you must take to finding your voice and your confidence as a writer.

No one else can take them for you.


No time to waste? Use Creative Writing to Find Your Voice.

No time to waste? Use Creative Writing to Find Your Voice.

You want to find your voice. And you're busy.

So busy, you don't even want to believe it's possible.  

And maybe you even have this fantasy, where one day you'll wake up with more time than 'to-do.' 

Is it just me? Because I admit it,  I  cling to that fantasy...

The fantasy is more comfortable than admitting the reality:

I've got to make some serious choices to make about how I spend my time.

Here it is, this little fact, irritating us, reminding us of it's presence:

We have to choose. We can't do it all. And we owe it to ourselves to make our time count. 

And we owe it to ourselves to commit to creativity.

Online Reading is Changing Your Writing and Your Brain--You Decide How.

Online Reading is Changing Your Writing and Your Brain--You Decide How.

We need to talk. 

All that reading we do online, it's changing us.  It's a silent process, more than a decade in the making. 

As reading changes, so does writing, thought, mind...

So let's put our phones down for a minute.  While we're at it, we'll tell Facebook to take a hike...Medium too.  Because this change--nearly imperceptible, scratching at us--it's worth our (undivided) attention.  Even if that attention has become...fleeting.

We can see it in our writing, but it goes deeper: the nature of our thought, our ideas is changing. Writing, in the end, is just thought and language on paper--or on a screen.  

Thought and language...language and writing... all of it jumbled into a black bag with a velvet interior.  Go on, reach in there.  Feel around, try to grasp what you can't see. 

The contents? That ever-changing matter that is as familiar as it is mysterious?

It's just... who we are, after all.  

Choose the Adventure of a Lifetime

There is no destination.  

You pick up a book and travel to distant lands and cultures.  You find new homelands that you could never otherwise visit... linger in misty places that exist only in fantasy.  

You take on the lives of your favorite characters, explore their worlds, drink their tea, feel their carpet under your feet.  You know their struggles, their tragedies.

You forge meaning.  

Starting Your New Book Adventure

It's the journey of a lifetime.

Ready to go? 

This is the moment where you pack your bags, where we make sure you have everything you need for your journey. 

Everything is new, so don't plan too far ahead.

Focus first on the next few months--the next 1-3 books.  After that, you may not see things the same way anymore.  

You may find you're a different sort of traveler.  

And here are a few more travel tips before you go!

Choose Your Own (Book) Adventure

Remember those choose your own adventure books?  

At the end of each chapter, you had to choose between your options: steal a key, go into a cave, return home... it was up to you.  

Your book journey is such an adventure.  

It's also the adventure of a lifetime.

Books are the places you'll go and the people you'll meet on your travel. And each one will leave you a slightly different person. 

Which adventures will you choose?  

One Step at a Time or Jump Right in?

One Step at a Time or Jump Right in?

So what book should I choose? I should pick something based on my reading level, right?  Something easy if I'm just starting out...

It's more complicated than that.

I love teaching because it reminds me: the human family is made up of so many kinds of thinkers--each perfect! 

We have unique ways of seeing the world, relating and learning.  

Knowing your preferences and how you may differ from others can help you enjoy your language learning, your reading habit...

Life in general really!

Your Origin Story in English

Your Origin Story in English

I have two things to ask you today:

  • Would you indulge me for a moment?  (and)
  • Have you ever thought of yourself as a comic book character?


Maybe you're not a big fan of graphic novels.  (Or maybe you are!) 

Personally, my exposure to graphic novels comes largely from the fact that my husband is a 'comic' fanatic.  They are in my house staring me in the face and they are beautiful... so I pick them up, take a walk in a strange land.

How could I resist?

Even if these books are outside the realm of what I normally enjoy, I find them engrossing--I particularly love the concept of the Origin Story.

5 Books to Help You Adjust to a New Culture (And Improve Your English!)

5 Books to Help You Adjust to a New Culture (And Improve Your English!)

If you're reading books to perfect your English, there is a good chance that you're not satisfied with just learning the grammar, the syntax, the pronunciation.  You want to make the language--and the culture--your own.

There's also a chance that you find yourself living in more than one language, more than one culture. 

You'll have to decide who you are in English. Which parts of your native culture you will hold on to. Which parts of your new culture you'll embrace. 

You will have that singular experience of feeling foreign--not just in a new culture, but also when and if you return to your country of origin!  Language changes you, as does travel and living abroad. 

No matter where you make your home, you may have to ask yourself where, exactly, you fit in. 

Books can help.