Hi. I'm Jenna McGuiggan.
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Free Writing Resources

Exciting news! We're offering a new free membership option in The Word Cellar Writers Guild, the online resource center and community for writers. 

You can sign up right here (no credit card required) and get instant access to resources such as writing prompts, author interviews, interactive podcasts, and community forums where you can connect with other writers. You'll also be able to participate in our virtual Book Club read-along/write-along. (Our current selection is poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, and it's such a fun and inspiring book, whether or not you're a poet.) 

I created The Word Cellar Writers Guild for writers who crave more creativity, more community, and a deeper understanding of the craft of writing. My hope is that it feels like your favorite café, bookstore, library, book club, workshop, online class, and writing retreat all wrapped up in a beautiful virtual home where you can learn, share, and be in community with fellow writers. 

We've offered monthly and annual memberships since 2015, and I'm happy to now offer free "guest memberships" so you can see what we're all about. Come on over and join us! 


Moved to Stillness

My attention span is shot. I find it hard to read a book -- or even a whole article or essay some days. Writing is no better. I write a few paragraphs and I'm bored, restless, distracted (or willing to be distracted). I need to reclaim my mind. My focus. My sustained attention. 

I've been daydreaming about churches, chapels, cathedrals. I have a complicated history with organized religion, but lately I feel the pull to hushed, holy spaces, the kind with wooden pews, stone floors, vaulted ceilings, and preferably candlelight. I don't want to attend a service. I want the silence. 

The author Pico Iyer wrote, "A chapel is where you can hear something beating beneath your heart." 

What beats beneath one's heart? Blood? Breath? Gravity?

Whatever beats beneath my heart -- this is what I crave. I'm seeking silence, solace. The solitude that is not loneliness. Some sort of solution for the way the world seems to be caving in on itself everywhere I look. I'm seeking a personal solstice. Solstice, from the Latin solstitium, meaning "standing." 

To stand. To be still. There is a stillness that beats below your heart. And beneath it all, some story, some song.

I crave a chapel because I'm heartworn and weary. Because I see no separation between the mundane and the holy. Because the world is so beautiful and so terrible. Aren't we all just seeking divine comfort? If I could sink deep enough into the solstice chapel of my own heart, perhaps I could sustain my attention, find sustenance there, be moved to stillness.


Self-Care for Writers (Free Call, Dec. 4) 

Self-Care for Writers: Free Community Call
Sunday, Decmber 4th
4:00 - 5:00pm (ET)

RSVP here

It seems that so many of us writers (and other creative types) are struggling right now. We may feel weighed down by political issues around the world. The holidays may be a time of grief or stress for us (even if they’re also mixed with joy). The roar of social media might make our heads swim. We might be wondering how to stay focused or inspired in the midst of what feels like so much sadness and discord.

I'm feeling the strain, too. One thing that helps me is staying connected to other writers and artists. 

So I'm hosting a free call this Sunday (December 4) called Self-Care for Writers. It's open to everyone at no charge. Let's come together for a simple hour of creative support and encouragement. 

Live Call: Self-Care for Writers
Date: Sunday, December 4, 2016
Time: 4:00 - 5:00pm (ET)
(That's 1pm Seattle; 4pm NYC; 9pm London)
Location: By phone
Details & Registration

I'll share some creative self-care tips. We'll have time to swap ideas and stories and spend a bit of time writing together. This will be a friendly and low-key call, designed to soothe our spirits and inspire our creativity. All writers, artists, and creative types are welcome. 

Full details about the call are available here. This event is presented by The Word Cellar Writers Guild, but you do not have to be a member to attend. This call is free and open to everyone. The more, the merrier. I really hope you can join us. 


Free Teleclass: Writing Masquerade (Oct. 26)

Each month in The Word Cellar Writers Guild, we hold a live, virtual event. This month we're having a Writing Masquerade Teleclass. You can get the class for free with a $37 membership! 

Try The Writers Guild for a whole month for just $37 and be part of this month's exciting event: a live class on the topic of voice in writing(Plus you'll have access to all of our community and educational resources for writers.) 

Come to the Writing Masquerade!

Just in time for Halloween, you're invited to a "writing masquerade" teleclass where we'll play "dress-up" with our writing and explore different facets of our writing voices. 

This will be a fun, interactive workshop about that thing we call writing voice. We'll start by covering a few basics about voice, including:

  • What is writing voice?
  • Do you have to "find" your voice?
  • How do you use it?
  • Do you have just one voice? (hint: The answer is no!)

Next, we'll use a "writing masquerade" exercise to explore our writing voices. By trying on imaginary writing masks, we’ll tap into different aspects of our writing personalities and discover what suits us  and our stories.

We'll end with plenty of time for Q&A and conversation.

This teleclass is suitable for writers of all genres and experience levels. It will build on the writing module "Page Presence: Unleash Your Writing Voice," but you don’t need to have completed that module to benefit from this event.

Can't make the live call? No problem. A recording of the call will be made available to all Guild members.  

The Word Cellar Writers Guild is an online community for writers who crave more creativity, more community, and a deeper understanding of the craft of writing. Resources include educational writing modules, virtual events, supportive community, reading lists, writing exercises, interviews, and more. Learn more and become a member. 


What to Read When the World is Weeping

A few weeks ago, in the face of the many tragedies and attacks happening in the world, I published a long post on my personal Facebook page. The post dealt with racial inequality and injustice, and it also touched on other issues of violence and injustice here in the U.S. and abroad. 

I posted it even though I knew it might lead to arguments, angry challenges, and trolls in the comments section. After all, that kind of thing has happened to me before. But I risked it because it felt wrong to stay silent.

 Then the most lovely thing happened: More than 150 people clicked "like" or shared the post or left a supportive comment. There wasn't one hateful word in the mix. I was floored by the solidarity and support people shared. 

If you're interested, you can read the full post here, but the gist of it is this: I'm white. My husband James is black. We've been married for almost 15 years, and I'm still working to understand the ways in which we experience the world differently due to race. I wrote out of sadness, fear, and frustration. I wrote about how it's difficult for those of us who have not experienced racism or violence to understand how those things shape our society. I wrote about the awful deaths of innocent black people, of innocent cops, of innocent citizens around the world. But more than anything, I was writing about love. 

I wrote about how love is the thing we all have in common:  

"There is horror and killing happening everywhere we look. ... Different people, different places, different details. The one constant: These were people who loved and were loved. They were someone's child, lover, parent, friend, co-worker, partner, neighbor. Each one of these hundreds of people were someone's world. Each one leaves behind multiple people who are grieving, who will always grieve."

Here's the thing: Racial injustice isn't the only atrocity breaking so many of our hearts these days. We could talk and weep for days about violence against women, against the LGBTQ+ community, against police, against people of various faiths or political groups. Sadly, the intersections are practically endless. Some of this violence manifests in physical acts of terror. Some of it manifests as hateful rhetoric and fear-mongering. Some of it tries to hide as bad jokes and microagressions, those small slights that go unnoticed except by those who feel their sting. 

It's tempting to think that all we need is love. But we need a love that drives us to be more than simply kind. Those of us who have the privilege of being part of the dominant culture need a love that drives us to educate ourselves, to listen to marginalized voices, to speak up against violence and oppression and those "jokes" that mask hatred, fear, or misunderstanding. 

To the people of color in this community, I say: You are welcome here.
Your life matters. Your words matter.

To everyone here (regardless of your race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, economic situation, illness, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression, or other factors), I say: You are welcome here. Your life matters. Your words matter.

For months I've wrestled with whether (and where) to address these kinds of issues with my writing. I've worried that sharing my thoughts here might come off as annoying, naive, or even hurtful in some way. I also know that many of you come to my website for information about writing, not about social justice and hot-button issues.

But to remain silent in the face of so much pain is wrong. 

Besides, we are writers. And what else do we do but write (and read) about the world around us? 

So I want to tell you this: Although I don't know the stories or experiences of every single person reading this, I know you are readers and writers. I know you are people who care about the world of ideas, words, connection, and creativity.

In the interest of those shared values, I've linked to a few resources that meet at the intersection of writing and racial justice. 

My hope is that the words of these black writers and poets will bring you some small level of comfort, understanding, or both.

"If You Are Over Staying Woke" (a poem by Morgan Parker)

"17 Poems to Read When The World Is Too Much" (compiled by BuzzFeed staff)

"Read These 23 Books & Authors When the Injustice Is Overwhelming" (compiled by Huffington Post staff)

"What It's Like to Write Crime Fiction in the Era of Black Lives Matter" (a roundtable discussion on LitHub.com that goes far beyond the genre of crime fiction) 

"Young Black Writers: After Michael Brown" (an essay and round-up of work by black writers from Zinzi Clemmons on LitHub.com)

I have not read every book or poem on this list, but I'm working on it. May we all strive for the kind of love that pushes us to learn, to speak, to act, to write, to share.