Friday Five

1. Shameless plug. This has been in the works for a few weeks now, but I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag before everything was finalized. Starting January 23, I’m teaching a creative writing class online through The Loft Literary Center.

Many of you know that I currently teach an in-classroom course that I developed called Back To Basics which has received good feedback. The online course will allow more people to attend, and I’m excited about that. From the comfort of your bunny slippers (I’m not judging) you will get the same information I’ve taught in the classroom.  What is Back To Basics? Each class focuses on one essential building block of creative writing at a time, for example, point of view, characterization, setting/description, dialogue, suspense/plot, hooking the reader, revision.

This was something I’d always felt was missing when I was in creative writing classes in college. Someone might comment that one of the characters in my story didn’t feel well rounded. Thanks, but now how do I fix that? What do I need to do? It was like a big guessing game. So in these classes, you’ll get the how and the what by really delving into each technique on its own. This information applies whether you’re writing fiction or creative nonfiction (memoir or narrative nonfiction). You still need all of the same elements.

Please feel free to pass the word about this class. I need a minimum of 10 people to register. Beginners and advanced writers are welcome. The course will be offered through The Loft Literary Center, from January 23 – March 18. We don’t meet at a specific time (they call that asynchronous in the biz).  You read the lessons and complete the activities posted in the online portal on your own schedule each week with lots of information from yours truly. If you register before January 1, you’ll receive a 15% discount of the course fee. Who doesn’t like a discount?


2. Kiva Update. I’m happy to report Ms. Gantogoo Dorjsambuu has repaid 100% of the microloan that I sent through Kiva! To refresh your memory, Ms.  Dorjsambuu lives in a remote area of Mongolia and wanted a small loan to keep her sewing business going. She and her family live in a ger (a traditional nomadic tent). Her business sells ger covers and ceilings, curtains and sometimes clothes that she’s sewn herself. This loan helped her buy an electric sewing machine. Nine other lenders, from around the world, and I helped fund this loan that she’s paid off a little at a time.And Mr. Ulugbek Sattarov from Tajikistan has paid back 41% of the loan to keep his stationery store well stocked with supplies.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kiva, they are a nonprofit organization partnering with banks around the world to provide low interest small loans to business people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to funding. Sometimes we’re talking about loans as small as USD $250. The premise of Kiva is that if each of us contributes a little bit, we can help people get their business started or expand their current operations. As the borrower pays back the loan, the money gets redeposited into your account and you can loan it to another person (or cash out). Kiva boasts a 98% repayment rate. (Better than many industrialized countries, no?)

Now that Gantogoo has repaid her loan, I can pay it forward to another person. I’ll keep you posted!


3. If you have a garage, you have a garage sale. If you have a yard, you have a yard sale. In Brooklyn, we have stoops so we have stoop sales. Inspired by The Minimalists, I decided to gather a few boxes of gently used stuff to sell. With winter fast approaching, it was one of the last opportunities of the year. I tried to price everything to move since it was less about making money and more about cleaning out the closets. It wasn’t terribly successful. I made about $45, but sat outside for five hours (although the weather was lovely) not including the time I spent organizing everything beforehand and I brought back inside more stuff than I wanted to.


4. A friend and I went to see Moneyball with Brad Pitt, who is getting to look more and more like Robert Redford every day. Not that that is a bad thing. Have you seen it? From IMDB:  The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players. So it’s a baseball movie, but not a typical baseball movie. I enjoyed it overall: less fun than Bull Durham (Kevin Costner) but not as heart wrenching as Pride of the Yankees (Gary Cooper). Brad Pitt gave a great performance, much more introspective than you might imagine. Maybe he is channeling Redford from The Natural.


5. Most ridiculous line from the bank during the refinance process (thus far):

Me: One of the documents you asked me to have ready for the appraiser is the “offering plan.” I’m not sure I have this. Can you tell me exactly what it is so I know what I’m looking for?

Bank: The offering plan is the paperwork outlining the plan for the offer.


Have you ever had a yard/garage/stoop sale? Have any tips for me for next time? 




  1. I love that you did a Kiva loan. Microfinance is an amazing way to change the lives of the poor in the developing world, and the repayment rate is incredibly high. I just finished reading “A Fistful of Rice” by Vikram Akula. He has set up what has become a huge microfinance program in India that is “for profit,” as opposed to nonprofit. And his reasons for doing it that way are fascinating.

    Great post, Jackie!



    1. Hi Kathy, I’ve not heard of Vikram Akula, but I’m so interested to find out more about his program. I’m going to look for his book. Thanks for the recommendation!


  2. Jackie, you are just so awesome, lady. Seriously. (I know I sound like a ten year-old there, but it’s true.) The news of your Kiva loan and the wonderful story of its success is tremendous. Reggie, go give your mom some wags. She deserves it.

    Stoop sales! Oh, how I miss thee! Of course, I never had one when I lived in Brooklyn so I can only imagine the other side–we did, however, have a yard sale when we moved from IN and my husband ran that show while I “offered” to stay indoors with the kids.


    1. So I told Reggie what you said. He looked at me and yawned. Then he fell asleep. He’s snoring now. But thank you for your kind words! I really appreciate it.


  3. Wow, I love the Kiva loan story; microloans are wonderful — that must feel great to truly make a difference! Too bad your bank w/ your refinance can’t be so simple…. good grief, I often wonder: who writes that paperwork? I’d be embarrassed to be involved! As for stoop sales (garage sales here, although we don’t have a garage, go figure)…I’m not a fan. We rarely make much money and they aren’t fun for me. Now we just donate to Goodwill and take a tax deduction. (Sorry to be a big party pooper!!)


    1. No kidding, Julia. I’m with you on the garage sale thing. I thought I’d try it just to see what it was all about. Next time I’ll just take your advice and donate and be done with it.


  4. I’ve heard about Kiva and really think I should do it. It’s such a wonderful idea.
    I took online writing courses at Gotham and ejoyed them a lot. It’s a great way when you are working. It was a bit sad that I could never participate in the chat rooms becuase of the time difference.
    Focusing on topics like you will is a very good idea.
    I can’t have door step or garage sales, I live in Switzerland. Switzerland is highly regulated, I would probably get fined. I would love to do it. I still own all my mother’s stuff an because she was someone who threw away everything that didn’t look brand new, needless to say I have tons of things.


    1. I’m excited about this online course especially to reach a much wider audience. They seem to have a nice web portal where all of the lessons will be kept. I’m just getting familiar with that. I also have to load a “welcome video.” Egads. I’m nervous about that.


  5. Wonderful news about the Kiva loan, Jackie!

    I’ve had two yard sales and did well at one of them. It seems to be hit or miss, frankly. Do be sure to put up signs (if that’s allowed) in bright neon colors and be prepared to sell for a lot less than you wanted.

    My husband and I loved Moneyball. Brad Pitt is definitely maturing into a better actor.


    1. Thanks for the stoop sale tips, Carole. I had posted signs around the neighborhood and found that someone (maybe the police?) had taken down about half of them. 😛


  6. Oops… I’m only reading this a month late… I hadn’t heard of Kiva, so thanks for the link. It’s something I would definitely like to be involved in down the track. As for your online writing courses, I’m keen! But January is a bit soon for me. Be sure to mention the next round in your blog, so I can get on board 🙂


    1. Will do, Gemma! Would love to have you in a future class. 🙂
      Kiva is such a unique organization in that you get to help an individual. It feels so much more personal and I like that aspect.


What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s