Writing Routines That Work: The Greats Share Their (Comforting, Compulsive, and Sometimes Bizarre) Insight

typewriter, writing routines that work Writing can be a ritual, a habit, an early-morning meditation, a semblance of peace. Or, conversely, it can be a dreaded exercise, a chore, even a mindless pursuit. It is difficult to maintain a balance of work and play, direction and creativity. For this reason, writers have spent centuries developing countless routines and practices to keep their writing fresh and their minds free from distraction. And we, as today’s writers, can learn from and add to these experiences.

I read an insightful post today about the daily routines of famous writers. It aggregated quotes, interviews, and anecdotes from the likes of E.B. White, Simone de Beauvoir, Jack Kerouac, and my personal favorite of the bunch, Joan Didion. Whether it’s a drink before dinner, a manual typewriter, a yellow legal pad and felt pen, or a one-legged balancing act, these rituals have nurtured creative genius and inspired some of our most beloved literary works.

Like a few of the writers featured, I find that I need complete silence. I’ve tried everything over the years—classical music, Icelandic playlists, cafe simulations—and I still find that I write best without competing stimuli, when my brain can rest empty and my inner writing voice can speak without interruption.

Do you have any writing routines that work? Rituals, superstitions, even compulsive habits? Do you work in a coffee shop, a museum, a library, or do you prefer the local pub, or an attic room? I would love to hear about your writing rituals, and how these rituals help you to produce your best work.

And, for my fellow typists, check out these great distraction-free writing sites.

P.S. Orange Frazer Press authors, let us know what writing routines and rituals work for you, too!

Publishing Books Close to Home: Celebrating our Ohio Authors

Orange Frazer Press has been publishing books independently for over twenty-six years. In that time we’ve worked with gardeners, grandparents, pilots, travelers, illustrators, archaeologists, professors, anthropologists, lawyers, painters, photographers, CEOs and many more. Our authors have shared lifetimes of experiences we may never have encountered otherwise, educating and entertaining readers with their stories. We love to celebrate the incredible work of our custom-published authors, real people with storytelling gifts. We have been even luckier to call many of them “neighbors.” And we’d like to take some time to showcase our Ohio authors, their books, and their experiences with OFP:

Jan Thrope, Cleveland: Jan Thrope is the author of InnerVisions: Grassroots Stories of Truth and Hope, an award-winning collection of stories, photographs, and personal experiences that document the struggles, and conversely, the reasons for hope in inner-city Cleveland.

Jan Thrope, Orange Frazer Press, Orange Frazer Press Custom Publishing

“I will forever be grateful to you for helping me bring my photos and words together so that my story could be ‘beautifully told.’ You live up to your mission!”—Jan Thrope, InnerVisions: Grassroots Stories of Truth and Hope

Janet Shailer, Grove City: Janet Shailer is the author of The Austerlitz Bugle-Telegraph: A King, a Goddess, and a Chronicle of Deception, an intriguing tale of local scandals, family secrets, and the “biggest theft [this] sleepy Appalachian town has ever seen.”

Janet Shailer with her book, The Austerlitz Bugle-Telegraph

"The staff at Orange Frazer Press is terrific. They are creative, cooperative and thorough. I hope to work with them again.”—Janet Shailer, The Austerlitz Bugle-Telegraph: A King, a Goddess, and a Chronicle of Deception

Verne Haugen, Washington Court House: Verne Haugen is the author of Count Me In, a memoir crafted with love and passion for a lifetime of deeply caring relationships and hard work.

Verne Haugen's book, Count Me In

“I am very fortunate to have met the entire staff and enjoyed their company many times over. John Baskin and I have had many interesting conversations, and Marcy is a wonderful woman to say the least. Sarah speaks volumes of energy and enthusiasm.”—Verne Haugen, Count Me In

John Fulker, Troy: John Fulker is the author of Cash, Cars, & Kisses, a collection of real-life cases from Miami County. The stories will shock and entertain even the most skeptical reader.

John Fulker's book, Cash, Cars, & Kisses

“As the author of five books over the course of some thirty years, and having thereby acquired at least a moderate acquaintance with the process by which my own naked manuscripts have morphed into attractively designed, professionally edited, illustrated and published books, I take great pleasure in assuring other writers of the considerable merits of Orange Frazer Press—and its tremendously helpful and congenial staff. Orange Frazer has been good enough to re-publish the first of my books and has capably handled the entire process involved in the publication, distribution and marketing of my last three. Best of all, they've done more than I could ask of them attentively and with amazing alacrity. They have, in fact, made the publication process into a fun event.”—John Fulker, Cash, Cars, & and Kisses

David and Barbara Day, Cincinnati: David and Barbara Day are celebrated Cincinnati artists and have collected their hand drawn images of Cincinnati into a beautiful coffee-table book, Vanishing Cincinnati.

David and Barbara Day's book, Vanishing Cincinnati

“We have followed their work for nearly twenty years and have seen the amazing track record they have created, making it easy to want their professional assistance when it came time to publish a book of our drawings. Orange Frazer set thoughtful guidelines and industry standards, then stepped back to gave us the freedom to create the high quality art book we had originally envisioned. We could not have done this without their expert guidance. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”—David and Barbara Day, Vanishing Cincinnati 

Nadine Huffman, Cincinnati: Nadine Huffman and Marilyn Lebhar are the authors of A Cincinnati Night Before Christmas, an endearing Cincinnati rendition of the beloved Christmas tale, and a regional bestseller.

Nadine and Marilyn with publisher Marcy Hawley (middle).

“Our experience with OFP has been, in a word, superb. The wonderful folks at OFP made the book of our dreams come to life through their design talents. They also gave us the knowledge, encouragement, and insight we needed to make our project successful. They always met deadlines, and sweated every detail. They were patient when we asked ignorant questions, and understanding when we had to push back our initial timeline. Most importantly, they are people of honesty and integrity, which shines through everything they do. The fact that they’re genuinely likeable, bright, and enjoyable to work with is a delightful bonus. We’ve been blessed to work with them.”—Nadine Huffman, A Cincinnati Night Before Christmas

To learn more about publishing with Orange Frazer, shoot me (Kelsey) an email at [email protected]!

Ring in the New Year With a Writing Resolution: Tell Your Story

At Orange Frazer, we believe that good stories abound. We have worked with grandfathers, CEO’s, surgeons, teachers, chefs, and daughters. We have told sports histories, highlighted success stories, photographed communities, celebrated anniversaries, and commemorated legacies. We know that the inherent value of a story lies in its telling, that with each telling a story gains new life and purpose. We know that the power of a person’s life and passion should be passed on, preserved, and reinvigorated for successive generations. img202

Jane Murray Heimlich


And it is at this time of year that we reflect on these stories—where we’ve been and the books we’ve seen unfold (and sold!)—and when we push ourselves to look forward with confidence and excitement to the stories that will come our way. Each new project is an opportunity to become an expert in a new field or a confidante of a new story. We are the collectors of facts and histories, memories and aged photographs. We have turned shoeboxes of keepsakes into gorgeous coffee-table books, musings into poignant memoirs. We know the art of shaping thoughts into stories and visions into designs, and we look forward to each new opportunity to stretch our creative muscles.

We know what we are doing for our new year, but what are you doing with yours? Do you have dreams of writing a children’s book? Is your business approaching a milestone or anniversary? Do you have collections of photos or a family history that needs preserving? Perhaps it’s time to pursue that inkling of a story that has been sitting in the back of your mind (or perhaps on the tip of your tongue) for years. Make a promise to yourself in this new year to tell your story, because Orange Frazer is listening.

Find out more about how to make your dream of publishing a reality here. Also, be on the lookout for Orange Frazer in your city, as the “Tell Your Story” tour will begin this month in Wilmington, Ohio (and will move to Cincinnati soon!). We will be visiting retirement communities, non-profits, and community centers to talk about writing as storytelling, healing, celebrating, and connecting. We will be documenting the campaign on our blog and on Twitter with the hashtag #tellyourstory.

Why Book Publishers are Like Carpenters: The Craftsmanship of Custom Book Publishing Services

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, a local woodworker that I met back in my donut-peddling days in high school, and as we were sharing what we are currently doing, how busy we are, etc., I had an interesting thought. I was describing to him how Orange Frazer views our book publishing services, how much I’ve learned in my time here about book production and the craft of building beautiful, long-lasting books, and realized that, in truth, I was talking to someone of the same trade.

Dan Thirey of Thirey Fine Woodworking is a woodworker, a craft carpenter, a maker of customized wood cabinets and counters and cupboards and shelves. He can remake your kitchen or restore your furniture. He is, put simply, a true craftsman. I knew that as I described our publisher’s view of a book, the importance of the binding, the resilience and gloss of the dust jacket, the direction of the grain on the paper, that I didn’t need to explain myself—he got it. As he smiled and nodded, I realized, he understands what it means to create a product whose value resides in its endurance, whose worth is often measured sentimentally or nostalgically, whose purpose is not industrial or transitory, but emotional and permanent. When you step into his shop (which I highly recommend if, like me, you can still remember the sharp scent of woodchips in your grandfather’s basement workroom) you step into another world: a world that still understands the value of individuality and quality, beauty and permanence.

It is this world that you step into when you visit Orange Frazer. We are seven people, six rooms, two warehouses, and over four hundred titles. Our books adorn the office like diplomas, memories of accomplishments and relationships throughout the years displayed proudly. Walk into our publisher’s office and you will be greeted by armchairs, not desk chairs, a view of Main St., Wilmington, not a view of the neighboring high rise. This individuality extends to our product as well. You will notice that an Orange Frazer book is heavier, that its binding is stitched, that its pages will always open and lie flat, that each interior page is its own canvas. Orange Frazer books look and feel different than other books, because we believe that books should be strong, durable, and beautiful. Our publisher, Marcy, hasn’t ordered a tote bag in years because she can’t find anyone who still works with strong canvas. She is a perfectionist when it comes to materials, and even more so when those materials build our books.

When it comes to custom publishing, Orange Frazer insists on craftsmanship. Whether you are publishing a memoir, a business or corporate anniversary book, a photography collection, a family history, a poetry chapbook, or a children’s book, we will make sure that your product is exactly what you want.

Because we just don’t know how to do it any other way.

Give a Book for the Holidays: Our OFP Favorites

The holiday spirit in this office is infectious. As I walked over to discuss this blog post with our graphic designer, I was almost blinded by the blinking Christmas light necklace that our Publisher had given her. Very serious evidence here:

Now that the decorations are up and the festive sweaters are out, it's now time for rampant consumerism. If your holiday buying season has been anything like mine so far, you spent Black Friday trying to avoid the claustrophobic mess of people at the mall, participated in Small Business Saturday by strolling around your local downtown, and woke up at 6am on Cyber Monday buying several very large gift orders and a case of red wine (that you swear you're going to give away as gifts). At this point in the season, you're starting to get a little worn out, and you need direction, guidance, advice, and/or a divine message to help you find the right gift for that one family member or friend that is impossible to shop for.

Well, we have the perfect solution: an OFP book.

And we're going to go one better and give you our favorite picks for OFP gifts. So here is what we will be giving this year:

Brittany (Designer): Mine would be Amy’s Table by Amy Tobin. I am giving it as a Christmas gift to my grandma. She loves to cook, and make cooking fun.  This is the perfect book for that. Also, she is a breast cancer survivor and part of the proceeds of Amy’s Table benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer awareness. 

Amy's Table Cover Image

JB (Editor): I'm giving 1968: The Year That Saved Ohio State Football by David Hyde. It goes to my jock associates at the gym, who caught me reading an Anita Brookner novel. The book's cover featured a sad lady staring at a clock. So this gift might help restore my locker-room cred, and it's also one of the best sports books ever written. I know this not because I edited David's book but because of having taught a class in sports lit. Not a prejudiced editorial bone in my body, of course.

1968: The Year That Saved Ohio State Football

Janice (Office Manager): Mine would be Cash, Cars, & Kisses by John Fulker. I am giving it as a Christmas present to my father-in-law and my husband’s grandmother. They both like true stories with suspense and this book definitely has that. Once you start reading it you don’t want to put it down. Plus the book cover is so awesome (Great job Brittany!).

Cash, Cars, & Kisses

Marcy (Publisher): My favorite book is Never Not A Lovely Moon by Caroline McHugh. And I've given it as a gift for teenagers, young women, postmenopausal women, and even older gentlemen. Its wisdom transcends all ages and demographics.

Never Not a Lovely Moon

Sarah (Production Lead): My book is The Legends: Cincinnati Bengals by Chick Ludwig, because A) the Bengals are on a hot streak right now, winning four games in a row B) even if you aren’t a football fan, the book is full of interesting profiles on men who could probably bench press a small automobile and C) if you don’t like to read, there are 54 pictures to look at. If I say who I’m giving it to, well that would just ruin the surprise!

The Legends: Cincinnati Bengals

Kelsey (Business Development, and, you guessed it, Social Media): This year I'm giving my grandmother(s) Out of Step by Jane Murray Heimlich. I know that she came  from an era that they both love to remember and read about, and that they will love the dancing, the intrigue, and the real-life story of family relationships. They are two of the strongest women in my life, and the story of a similarly strong and engaging woman will be perfect for them.

So go ahead and keep on shopping, because a story, beautifully told, is one of the greatest gifts you can give.