Jump Into Writing with Ray Bradbury

EDIT 26 January: The correct link to the comic has been added. The name of the artist is Emm Roy and her Tumblr can be found here: http://emmisnotshortforemma.tumblr.com/

Hello everyone,

Thank you for being here with me in 2015. I’m offering something a little different for my first newsletter of the year. It’s a short video of Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, talking about his love of books, libraries and writing. Bradbury’s passion is soothing yet invigorating, and is guaranteed to make you smile. The video is appropriate for all ages and also includes a fluffy cat:

A Conversation with Ray Bradbury

Your prompt for this week will be the video. Select a word, phrase or sentence (or several – however many you need) that catches your ear, and write. I’ve included my favourite quotes below, in case you’re not able to watch the video but would still like to get started.

My absolute favourite quote is this one, partly because of the strength with which he says it:

“Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it! You do what you want, what you love.”

Now, every time you start doubting yourself, just remember these words and think, “Do I really want to disappoint Ray Bradbury?” and then you will think, “Of course not, I’m not a monster, I’d better get to writing,” and then you will write.

Merely being inspired isn’t always enough, though. Our brains can still get in the way. For the times when your mind simply won’t allow you to focus, I find that we need inspiration of a different kind. This comic should help:


And as a bonus, you can also use the comic as a prompt!

After today, newsletters will be published every two weeks on a Monday. (I was so excited to share this video that I decided to ignore my schedule and write to you now.) Some newsletters will also contain links to videos, articles or comics. Please know that everything I link will be appropriate for all ages. While it’s possible to embed videos and images in emails, I’m really not a fan of that.

Thank you again for being here. I’m grateful for every one of you. Hope you enjoy the newsletter and happy writing!


Selected quotes from A Conversation with Ray Bradbury

• “Clarisse McClellan is Ray Bradbury.”
• “You see, all my characters write the book. I don’t write the book.”
• “At the centre of my books is the gift of life.”
• “I’m going to have a t-shirt made. It says, ‘Stand at the top of the cliff and jump off and build your wings on the way down.'” (Where can I get this shirt?)
• “You find the author who can lead you through the dark.”
• “I spent nine dollars and eighty cents and I wrote Fahrenheit 451.”

December update

Hello everyone,

You may have noticed that it’s been a while between newsletters. A few things have kept away from writing them, including some restructuring of my business. Every day I say, ‘Today’s the day I send out an email!’, and then today was finally that day.

The original plan was a newsletter about finding time to write despite this being a busy time of year. But I don’t really have any advice, other than to do what you usually do: put aside distractions for a short time and write. It’s easier said than done, of course, so I will simply encourage you to try your best and be proud of what you do achieve.

Instead, here’s a brief update on what’s happening with me and Two Marshmallows:

First, the auto-responder should now be working correctly. If you have still not received your Get-to-Writing Kit, please let me know and I’ll send it to you immediately.

Second, the restructuring includes revising my book. This is partly because there has been interest in translating it! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

Third, I plan to offer a discount on selected services for people on my list. At this point, it looks like it will be for the writing course and the manuscript reading service. I just wanted to let you know in advance because I think it’s a neat idea.

Finally, I hope you all have a marvellous time over the holidays. Thank you for being here. You are all very much appreciated. The next email from me will be an actual newsletter in early January.

Happy holidays and, as always, happy writing!


Remember When You First Laughed (Writing Lessons from the Simpsons IV)

By Zee, Two Marshmallows

I am so grateful for the commentary function on DVD’s. Even though they don’t know it, the writers of the early episodes of The Simpsons have supported me, given me practical advice and boosted my confidence in my work.

No one really got my sense of humour when I was younger, so I always thought I just wasn’t funny. Over the years, I’ve come to trust myself more and more; mostly because the advice of professionals was to trust yourself. Here’s one of my favourite exchanges (bolding mine):

David Mirkin: One of the secrets, I believe, of good comedy and being a good comedy writer, is to remember the early response and not get tired of it. You know, what can happen is you’re writing, and you’re writing something that’s really funny and you hear good laughs and there’s a good response. And then because you have to live with it for a while, you start to lose confidence in it. You have to have a good memory and remember that it was funny, and remember what was funny about it, because a lot of writers panic and at the last minute, they start rewriting everything. And when they’re rewriting everything, they’re doing it in a very short amount of time so it can’t be very good. It’s only going to be something that you’ve rewritten in a week instead of something that you spent months honing. And so it’s a bad idea to do too much rewriting if it started out good.

David Silverman: Remember when you first laughed.¹

We all second-guess ourselves. It’s hard not to, I think. Many of us have been taught to please other people right from the start. Write to get good grades. Write in your best handwriting only. No mistakes allowed. You don’t want people thinking badly of you, do you?

And if other people respond well to our writing, then we start to second-guess everything else we do. “They liked my work last time, I have to make sure they like it this time! Is this sentence okay? What about this one? I should rewrite it yet again, and hold on, I see that I’ve used that word two times in three paragraphs, WHAT WAS I THINKING?”

Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Yours, not someone else’s. How did you feel when you wrote that line? Your response is what matters.

Remember when you first laughed. Remember when you first smiled. Remember when you first giggled uncontrollably. Remember when you first burst into laughter at a random moment because you remembered that funny line. And this doesn’t just go for comedy. Remember when you first became teary-eyed. Remember when you first got chills up your spine, or got angry on behalf of your character. Remember when you first said to yourself, “Yes, this is exactly what I wanted to say!”

The truth is that our first response is often the best indicator of whether our writing works. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Remember when you first laughed.

1. The Simpsons, DVD Commentary on Homie the Clown; Season Six, Episode 15

This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one or to just have fun with words:

1. A big, plush, yellow toy…
2. Crystal prisms, dancing in the…
3. “I’m shocked that you….”
4. The drawer slowly slid open…
5. A burnt out match…

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at zee@twomarshmallows.net. Use the sign up box to receive the newsletter (and future offers) directly. You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.

Tina Belcher, Writing Superhero

Welcome to all the people who’ve recently subscribed! Thank you for being here. Please know that there’s a special offer coming your way soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this week’s newsletter.

Tina Belcher, Writing Superhero

By Zee, Two Marshmallows

If you haven’t seen Bob’s Burgers, Tina is the oldest child of the Belcher family. She’s fourteen and she writes. A lot. She’s so dedicated that she gets up an hour early every day to write. She’s often the star of her stories, which tend to feature zombies, horses and how she has lots of boyfriends. Her family don’t fully understand the things she writes, but they encourage her creativity.

In one episode, Tina shares her writing with a fellow student she considers a friend. The student mocks her work and tells her not to show other people because they’ll think she’s a freak. But then, the so-called friend steals one of Tina’s stories, threatening to share it with the entire school unless Tina does everything she says.

It might only be a cartoon but those scenes are difficult to watch. Anyone who writes knows that some things are not meant to be shared. They are for the author’s eyes alone. And to have the courage to show another your work, only to be ridiculed in return? That’s just devastating.

At this point, Tina’s already a writing superhero as far I’m concerned. I don’t blame her at all for going along with the blackmail – she’s only fourteen and high school is brutal. But then she manages to be even more courageous, and does something most of us wouldn’t even consider.

Tina owns her work.


She writes an even more outrageous and extreme version of the story that was stolen. Then she reads it out loud to the entire school.

And then she keeps on writing.

Tina Belcher, Writing Superhero and a true inspiration to us all. She’s done being embarrassed. She won’t tolerate other people shaming her. She’s definitely not going to apologise for her creativity. And she has the courage to stand up and declare that this is who she is, this is what she likes to write, and that she’s going to continue, no matter what.


This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one or to just have run with words:

1. A broken-down, rusty old…
2. Consider the consequences of…
3. The bird fluttered its wing…
4. I threw the apple core over the fence and…
5. The dark liquid spilled…

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at zee@twomarshmallows.net. Use the sign up box to receive the newsletter (and future offers) directly. You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.

Something We All Need to Hear

By Zee, Two Marshmallows

Hey there! How’s the writing going? Not so great? Yeah, that can happen. All those words going round and round in your head, and just as you try to write them down, they vanish! What’s all that about? It wouldn’t kill them to stick around a little longer, would it?

And what about those times when you do manage to get them on the page, but then you read them over and you think they sound terrible? That’s the worst. It’s hard to tell if they’re actually terrible or if you just think they’re terrible. All you know is that your skin is crawling with embarrassment and you have to look away.

Oh, and what about when you said you would absolutely, definitely get to writing today, but you haven’t been able to, and that makes five whole days that you haven’t written. And okay, your schedule has been kind of messed up because things have been so busy, but still. You should be able to get some writing done, right? Why is this all so difficult?

It’s okay.

You’re doing super great.

You really are.

Why, just look at all you’ve accomplished so far! It’s quite a lot. A few less-than-ideal days don’t discount what you’ve already done.

Writing has its ups and downs. During the down times, take a little break and give yourself some distance from your work. You’ll come back to it feeling refreshed and energised. The words will flow. What you wrote before was actually pretty good. It’s once again easy to be consistent and write on a regular basis.

In the meantime, be good to yourself. You’re doing super great. You really are.


This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words:

1. Delicate embroidery and light…
2. The door handle rattled and…
3. Potato fun night!
4. Giant squid will…
5. What’s a question you’ve always wanted someone to ask you, but no one ever has?

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at zee@twomarshmallows.net. Use the sign up box to receive the newsletter (and future offers) directly. You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.

Which Do You Think Is More Important?

By Zee, Two Marshmallows

One of my favourite lines from Principal Skinner (a character on The Simpsons) is when he asks Mr Burns (local millionaire) the following question about business:

“Which do you think is more important, hard work or stick-to-it-iveness?”¹

Mr Burns responds with an unimpressed glare before asking if anyone has any real questions. The thing is, that is a real question. We are told that the path to success is hard work, which implies having to slog away for hours a day. But the key to achieving your goals is actually tenacity (or ‘stick-to-it-iveness’, if you prefer).

I met Kristine Tauch in March of this year. She had written several children’s stories and was looking for an editor. It was clear how passionate Kristine was about her characters and the worlds she’d created. She also talked about how she sometimes despaired of ever getting any of her work published, even though she believed deeply in what she was doing.

I had the honour of working with Kristine on her book, Kira and the Bubble Gum Tree [link http://www.fairplanetarts.com/kiraandthebubblegumtree/], and I learned just how tenacious she is. She was consistent with both writing and revising. Each draft was more polished and refined than the last, and the story was pretty good to begin with.

When it came to the practical aspects of publishing her book, Kristine was just as consistent. She set up a website, created a logo, and found a publisher and an illustrator and worked diligently with them. This process took several months. And it wasn’t always easy. But Kristine kept at it.

And now, Kira and the Bubble Gum Tree [link http://www.fairplanetarts.com/kiraandthebubblegumtree/]is for sale. The story is as cute as the cover implies. And Kristine is busy working on her next book. For being the embodiment of stick-to-it-iveness, Kristine is officially a Two Marshmallows Tenacious Transcriber: a category I just made up and there is no prize, sorry, but I’ll try to make a badge or something in Photoshop (who am I kidding, I can’t use Photoshop – a mention in this newsletter is as good as it gets). She’s someone who has inspired me and I hope she inspires you, too.

I think Principal Skinner’s question was a valid one. It just needed reframing. Hard work actually is stick-to-it-iveness. Taking small steps on a regular basis is being tenacious. When it comes to writing, doing a little every day will amount to a lot. It’s not always easy, but it is the way to get things done. Just ask Kristine. She’ll tell you the same thing.

1. The Old Man and the Lisa, Season Eight, Episode Twenty One


This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words.
1. Sliding, swiping and smashing…
2. “That is the worst towel I have ever seen,” said…
3. The ants were marching…
4. What would your dream garden look like?
5. The passenger seat was…


Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at zee@twomarshmallows.net. Use the sign up box to receive the newsletter (and future offers) directly. You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.


Hi everyone! Time for another newsletter. I’d planned to write about something else, but this came out instead.

I’m putting together a writing course for people who want to write but find it difficult to get started. More details to come, but feel free to send me an email if you have any questions or would like to know more now.



Words don’t care what you look like. Words don’t care what you wear, where you come from, your age or your job. Words don’t care if you don’t have a diploma. Words don’t care if you do.

Words don’t care if you’re sad, happy, bored, excited, curious, lazy, studious, energetic, laid-back, loud, quiet, scared or mean. Words don’t care if you were rude to a stranger or if you were nice to your kids, or the other way around. Words don’t care if you think you’re a good person, a bad person or somewhere in between.

Words don’t care what other people think of you.

Words have a pretty carefree existence. All they want is for us to write them down. If you don’t feel like writing at the moment, then the words will stay on your mind, patiently going round and round in your head, until you’re ready to get them out.

Words don’t mind being moved around and rearranged. They don’t even mind being erased or crossed out – words know that they’ll simply be placed somewhere else when the time is right.

Sometimes, people ask me to write something for them, or ask me to help them with something they’ve written. Words are my bread and butter.

You can use words to do anything you want. Want to go to another planet? You’re there. Want to go back in time? Done. Want to tell the world how you truly feel? You can. Want to reach someone on the other side of the world? Easy. Want to reach lots of people all over the world? Go online and it’ll happen in a flash.

Words bring you comfort; words bring you joy. Words can destroy you. Words can ruin your day. Words are weapons and shields and the stuffed toy you had as a child that was your whole world.

Arrange words in the right way and you can accomplish miracles.

I was asked recently if I could think of a moment when everything flowed; when I was so engrossed in what I was doing that time didn’t fly by, it stood still. My answer was immediate – yes, when I’m writing. When I’m immersed in words, time does more than stand still. Time doesn’t even exist.

We can lose ourselves in writing because words will always be there for us. Because there are so many words that we will never run out of them. Because there is so much for us to say. Because words will make sure we never truly lost and that we will always find our way home.


This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words:

1. “When I was your age…”
2. A small, shiny foil…
3. My headphones are…
4. Help, my crowbar is covered in glitter!
5. I hit refresh and…

Questions? Suggestions? Feel free to drop me a line at zee@twomarshmallows.net. Use the sign up box to receive the newsletter (and future offers) directly. You can also follow or contact me via Facebook, Linked In, YouTube or Tumblr.

The Weight of Expectation

What a month! It’s been a while since my last post and that’s partly because I’ve been working on a personal project I hope to share soon. In the meantime, here’s this week’s newsletter. Happy writing!

The Weight of Expectation

Many of us struggle with the weight of expectation. There’s an immense amount of pressure to please other people. That weight takes all the joy out of writing. The pressure becomes so intense that it’s far easier to not even try, because the thought of trying and failing is unbearable.

What would happen if you threw off that dead weight and wrote whatever you pleased?

Here’s what J.K. Rowling had to say about The Casual Vacancy, her first novel after the Harry Potter series:

J.K. Rowling: I had the idea for The Casual Vacancy right after finishing Deathly Hallows…There’s always trepidation; I mean, I think that people might be surprised to know that I felt trepidation every time I produced a Potter book. You know, the weight of expectation there was, I won’t say ‘crushing’, it was extraordinary and wonderful to have that weight of expectation. But at times

Charlie Rose (Interviewer): You were competing with yourself.

J.K. Rowling: Yeah, and with the expectations latterly of millions of fans, all of whom were very invested in the story and wanted to see what they wanted to see. And I knew where I was going, and I had to put on mental blinkers a lot and just think, “I know where I’m going, I must not be influenced by this.” So in a sense, it was liberating to leave that weight of expectation behind and know that I could just do what I wanted to do. It was very freeing. But I must say that I spent the first two years working on The Casual Vacancy telling myself, “You don’t even have to publish that, you don’t even have to publish this book.” And that was a way of bringing down my own awareness that, you know, it wasn’t going to be what some people wanted it to be.

J.K. Rowling, Interview with Charlie Rose, 19 October, 2012 (bolding mine)

What a revelation! J.K. Rowling told herself that she didn’t have to publish the book she was writing. Now, I’m sure that J.K. Rowling could write down her thoughts on tablecloths and they would sell. But that wasn’t her motivation. She also didn’t want to write what others wanted her to write. She wanted to tell the story she wanted to tell. To do so, she identified whose expectations were weighing her down and countered them with her own truth.

What about you? Whose expectations are you trying to meet? Why are you trying to meet them? What do you gain out of trying to meet them?

What would happen if you just wrote whatever you pleased? My guess is that is that writing would be liberating, joyful and an absolute delight.

Remember that you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. The only obligation you have is to be true to yourself.

This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words:
1. My thoughts on tablecloths [if J.K. Rowling isn’t going to write about them, someone has to]
2. Brightly-coloured pens stood…
3. Potato fun night!
4. Singing in the sunshine…
5. The calculator screen read…

Falling Behind

I wasn’t planning to write about this topic for the newsletter. It was going to contain some writing advice, as per usual. But this is what came out instead.

In the past three weeks, I’ve been ill twice. Most of my time has therefore been spent on completing work for clients and then catching up on essential household tasks (in that order). During this time, I have had exactly five opportunities to work on my personal writing, and each session was very short.

You’d better believe I’m annoyed. And frustrated. And angry.

I love writing. I love playing around with words and re-arranging them until they’re just right. I love it so much that I do it for a living. I love it so much that I’m working on several novels (they all started as short stories and kept getting longer). So if I love it so much, how could I allow myself to fall so far behind? Am I just lazy? Am I just pretending to love writing because I think it sounds cool? (“Oh, I’m a writer, don’t you know,” I imagine myself saying as I flip my scarf over my shoulder.) How could I let myself go for so long without working on my personal projects?

When I told a close friend that I was very disappointed in my progress, she said, “You’re being too hard on yourself.”

And the thing is, that’s exactly what I’d say to someone who told me that illness and work commitments had prevented them from writing. I’d tell them, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Five writing sessions in twenty-one days is still an achievement, even if they were short. You at least made the effort to write when you could – you could have easily chosen not to.”

So why is it so hard to believe this also applies to me?

I don’t know. But I’ve noticed a lot of people feel the same way – what they accept about others, they can’t accept about themselves.

If you feel you’ve fallen behind, or that you should be writing more than you have been, I unfortunately don’t have any advice for you that will fix everything. I wish I did, because then maybe it would help me as well. All I can say is that you’re not alone. So let’s get back to writing. We’ll do it together. Grab a pen, or start up the computer, and start writing. Let’s make the time for it, right now, in this instant. We can easily pick up where we left off. The words will always be there, waiting patiently for us, no matter how long it’s been.

This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words.

1. Sparkly bottles of…
2. Which fictional spaceship is your favourite?
3. The one thing I know about hot air balloons is…
4. One stroke of the paintbrush and…
5. The copper lid clattered to the floor…

Writing Lessons from ‘The Simpsons’ (III)

Writing Lessons from The Simpsons (III)

“People say, ‘How do you get your ideas for episodes?’ With Mike [Reiss] and me, we thought, ‘Lisa likes ponies. We’ll give her a pony’…It’s not that hard sometimes.”

– Al Jean, DVD commentary for Lisa’s Pony (The Simpsons: season three, episode eight)

When we say we have to have a good idea in order to write, what we actually mean is an original idea. We don’t want to write another generic romance, murder mystery or supernatural-themed trilogy. We want something fresh and exciting, something that will grab the reader’s attention! We want people to ask us, “Where do you get your amazing ideas?”

But it’s not our ideas that people will love. It’s the way we write about them.

If you haven’t seen this episode of The Simpsons, the idea might seem like a cliché: oh, an eight-year-old girl likes ponies, how original. But the resulting episode is far from a cliché, because it’s not about how eight-year-old girls like ponies. It’s about how Lisa likes ponies and what happens when her dream finally comes true.

In the episode, Homer buys his daughter a pony to overcompensate for his poor parenting. He then has to take a second job to pay for it. It’s only a matter of time before Lisa realises that the price of her dream is too high – figuratively and literally. The moment she has to give up her pony is genuinely moving because her bond with the animal was real.

How many of us have had to give up something we wanted or loved because it turned out to be unfeasible? How many of us know have overcompensated for behaving badly instead of doing the hard work of changing our behaviour? How many parents know what it’s like to be unable to give their children what they really want? Or work so hard to give their children everything that they exhaust themselves in the process? (Granted, Homer wouldn’t have had to take on a second job to buy a pony if he’d been an attentive parent in the first place, but it’s still something to which people can relate.)

All of this came from one simple idea – Lisa likes ponies. Readers and viewers don’t dismiss something because the central idea isn’t original. If that were the case, then no one would be writing love stories or murder mysteries or supernatural-themed trilogies. It’s what the writer does with the idea that counts. If something resonates with you, write about it. And if you’re stuck for something to write about, remember that ideas don’t have to be that hard sometimes. Just pick something and start writing. You never know where it will take you.

This week’s prompts

Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words.

1. The window stuck and…
2. The hard beak of the crow pecked…
3. It was raining yet again…
4. Eggplant sneak attack!
5. I found an old VHS tape…