Vol 1, Issue 7 July 5, 2008
Editor in Chief: Michael P. Geffner
Layout & Design: Bailey-Shropshire Professional Writing Services
Logo Designer: Jennifer L. Miller
Staff Writers: Jeanne Lyet Gassman, Bev Walton-Porter, Kim McDougall, Marilyn L. Taylor, Barbara Crooker, Patricia Fry, Whitney Lakin, Forman Lauren, Mark Terence Chapman, Angela Wilson, Joshua James, Lea Schizas, Dee Power, Hugh Rosen, Julie Ann Shapiro, Sheila Bender, Sandy Z. Poneleit, Krysten Lindsay Hager
Copy Editor: Melinda Brack
A Word from Mike
I want to begin this month’s newsletter by answering a handful of questions that you’ve sent me. I’ll continue doing this as a regular feature every third or fourth issue, depending on the amount of questions I receive. In that spirit, please feel free to send your problems, concerns, special interests, etc. to:
Please understand that I won’t answer any of these privately, but here in this space.
Reader Question: What do you look for in an editor?
Mike: I look for a collaborator, because, believe me, a good editor can do wonders to accentuate your work, pointing out not only the weaknesses and gaps in your story but wonderful ways to correct them. I have to admit that I’ve been very lucky with editors along the way. I’ve had many that weren’t just good, but, in my humble opinion, truly great. And there’s nothing like that experience. It’s electrifying. A great editor will, in turn, make YOU great. One line from one of my regular editors many years ago still sticks with me. He’d say: “Hey, Mike, this a great story….but here’s what I’d like you to do to make it even better.” What an approach! After those words, how could I not be receptive to his suggestions?
On the flipside, to have a bad editor—someone not working with but against me, someone with such a tin ear he/she edits out words in all the wrong places, someone pulling a power trip and acting condescending, someone who rewrites so heavy-handedly it utterly strips my style bare, someone negative, obnoxious, and haughty—is an absolute nightmare.
In the end, it’s the luck of the draw, though I will say that the higher up the publishing food chain you go, the better the editors should be.
Key word: should.
Reader Question: Does someone like you ever get “writer's block?” What are some of your tried-and-true ways to get around it?
Mike: Every writer has had times where he/she can’t get the words down easily, if at all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at a blank computer screen for a half-hour and couldn’t think of a damn thing. It’s natural. And that’s what you should understand. You’re not blocked. You’re simply not ready to write yet.
Unless you’re on deadline and need your story in within minutes, don’t panic. In fact, I never use the phrase “writer’s block.” It’s the equal of an epithet to me. I don’t allow others to use it around me, won’t allow it on my group message boards, and I even loathe talking about it here.
It’s too much of a negative and only heightens your anxiety about not producing words. Simply view slow periods as a natural part of the creative process. Unless you have some sort of psychological problem, you either have nothing to say at the moment. Or you’re trying too hard. Or you’re just too tense, in which case I would recommend drinking your favorite beverage (for me, espresso with milk), or putting on your favorite music (for me, it could be anything; depends on my mood), and think positive, peaceful thoughts (I love imagining soft ocean waves).
If all else fails, write about the writer’s block, which, of course, is a built-in contradiction.
But…it also HAS to work, right?
Reader Question: Do you prefer interview writing or another style?
Mike: I don’t enjoy doing strict interviewing, such as for a Q&A, but I love profile writing. It allows me to combine my skills as an interviewer with my skills as a scene setter, describer, and narrative storyteller. I happen to love interviewing people who’ve been interviewed a billion times before and eliciting something original and revealing. In fact, I’ve built quite a reputation in my career for getting major celebrities, especially professional athletes to “drop themselves.” This ability can make a writer a big moneymaker.
Reader Question: Is freelance writing a tough way to make a living?
Mike: I won’t lie. Most can’t hack it. Only 16 percent of freelancers make even as little as $30,000 a year. You need a strong stomach. You have to be part bookkeeper, part bill collector, part writer, and part hustler. Most of my career, even though technically I’ve been a freelancer, I was what is called a “contract freelancer.” There’s a difference. A big one. Contract freelancers are an entirely different—and way more secure—animal. In the masthead, these are your contributing writers and editors. And they have rock-solid deals with publications that guarantee them a certain number of stories each year at a certain (and often higher than usual) word rate (mostly because of signing non-compete clauses that prevent them from writing for competing publications). Some years, I was under contract at TWO publications simultaneously. It takes away the hustle aspect, as well as the insecurity. But don’t be misled. These contracts are EXTREMELY hard to come by. You have to earn them with a longtime reputation and with a history of published stories so unique that no one else could do them. Here’s my advice for any of you wanting to pursue a contributing deal: After wowing your editor with a couple of great freelance stories, tell him/her/them that you’re interested in deepening the relationship with a formal contract. What do you have to lose?
Reader Question: What do you think about working for free at the start of a career to build up a portfolio?
Mike: There are always exceptions (like labors of love, such as this newsletter, for myself and most of the staff), but generally, I’m against it. It puts no pressure on you, it gives the editor a free ride, and it garners no respect for you as a professional. That said, I’m not saying you should demand a ton of money either, just something, even if it’s only $10-15. You should at least get paid a nominal amount for the time you’re putting in. But if you don’t need the money, if you desperately want to see your work in print, if you see no other way around doing a freebie for the moment, hey, go for it. Just don’t make a habit of it.
Best always and stay positive,
Mike, Editor in Chief
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Insights on the Craft and Business of Writing
Listen to The Writing Show, where authors, screenwriters, playwrights, poets, and other writers in all stages of their careers reveal:
• How they work
• What they worry about
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Interviews, reality shows, contests, writing makeovers, and more from Paula B. and the gang!
Call for submissions: The Writing Show December Holiday Short Story Celebration. $75 if your story is accepted. Full details at http://www.writingshow.com.
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In our 15th Year!
HAS WRITING CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Tell your personal story for a new book by Paula B., host of The Writing Show.
Has your writing—or someone else’s—made a difference in your life? Share your experience and inspire other writers! Social, family, career, personal, spiritual, educational, philosophical, etc.
I would love to hear from you! If you would like your story to be considered for my book, please contact me at email@example.com or http://www.writingshow.com.
Lea Schizas Editing Services
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More Senior Moments—A Book For Seniors
More Senior Moments is a companion book to David W. Silva's Senior Moments. It was a finalist in the National Best Books 2007 Award. It contains strategies and stories that help seniors deal with the problems of aging such as depression, loneliness, loss of independence, self identity and chronic illness. The book contains well though out and simple advice to help seniors accept aging as a challenge instead of a negative burden.
More details can be found at:
If you read one book this year…
...make it The Girl in the Italian Bakery!
By Kenneth M. Tingle
Go to: http://www.thegirlintheitalianbakery.com/
Creative World Awards: International Screenwriting Competition!
This screenwriting competition is truly impressive – from the exposure CWA offers finalists with high profile production companies to our new online video series entitled "The Business of Storytelling,” which profiles special interviews from several leading Hollywood professionals. This is one you definitely don't want to miss!
2008 Entry dates open now thru to end of July!
THE LAST WHALE - Narrative Nonfiction
Read the blog about the upcoming book, a 1970s story of hippies Vs whalers set in the Southern Ocean during Greenpeace's first direct action in Australia. It's a true story that for the first time gets inside the heads of whalers and anti-whaling activists as they duel
across wild seas. http://thelastwhale.blogspot.com
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
1 The Spotlight Interview: Julie Cameron
2 Jeanne’s Writing Desk
3 The Writing Life by Krysten Lindsay Hager
4 Affirmations to Write By
5 Inside the Writer’s Brain by Lea Schizas
6 Slice of the Writing Life
8 The Writer’s Eye by Sandy Z. Poneliet
9 Looking for a Writing Job?
11 Publishing to the Power of Dee
12 Talk the Talk
13 The Language by Mark Terence Chapman
14 Writer Beware
15 On the Writing Business by Patricia L. Fry
16 Writing Quotes of the Month
17 A Bevy of Writing Knowledge
18 Writing Promptly
19 Marketing by Angela Wilson
20 Guest Column: Sue Thurman
21 Tip of the Month
22 Market Watch by Kim McDougall
23 Fun Lit Fact
25 The Writing Life by Rob Parnell
26 Poetry Tips & Prompts of the Month
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The Spotlight Interview
Julia Cameron, Author/Teacher
Julia Cameron, 60, is a giant not only among writers but all kinds of artists.
With her ground-breaking best-seller, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, in 1992—a “tool box” of mind-expanding exercises she perfected over many years of hosting writing workshops—Ms. Cameron engaged, liberated and inspired a whole generation of creative people.
She has written for television and the big screen, poetry and plays, short stories and novels, and nearly two dozen books, including another best-seller, The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart, and a candid memoir, Floor Sample, in which she recounts her alcoholism, psychosis, recovery, and self-styled spiritual path that led to The Artist’s Way. She’s also been an award-winning journalist, publishing in such notable places as The New York Times, LA Times, Rolling Stone, Chicago Tribune, The Village Voice, New West, New York, American Film Magazine, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Savvy, and Cosmopolitan.
In 1975, she married before-he-was-famous director Martin Scorcese, whom she met while interviewing him for Playboy; a year later, they produced a daughter named Domenica; and during their short-lived union collaborated on three major films—Taxi Driver; New York, New York; and The Last Waltz.
Living in New York City full-time now, she teaches workshops at the Open Center, does frequent readings in Barnes & Noble, and of course, continues to be creative dynamo.
Please check out her Web site at:
And go look in bookstores everywhere for her most recent book, The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size.
The following is my exclusive interview with Ms. Cameron:
Mike: What’s the most prevalent, if not the most pernicious problem you encounter in your workshops?
Cameron: I think people have a great fear of risk. And that until they examine it, they have a subconscious foreboding that if they dare move out in the direction that they would love to, something horrid would happen. They have this idea, “I’d love to do this, but I might lose my family. I’d love to pursue my dreams, but if I did I’d go broke.
We have a lot mythology in our culture that’s very negative to creativity. We tend to believe that artists are broke, tormented, neurotic, and lonely. If people don’t bring those beliefs up to the surface and examine them, they constitute a pretty powerful block.
Mike: So how does one counteract that?
Cameron: Well, you can’t fight it all at once and defeat it overnight. You start with small steps, something like the morning pages that I write about in my books, where you allow yourself the freedom at the beginning of your writing day to write three pages non-stop and only in longhand and about wherever your mind takes you at that moment. Free association—it doesn’t matter what you write or how it reads, as long as you fill those pages. It’s a wonderful way of facing your problems head-on and ventilating fears, especially irrational ones. “I’m awake and I’m blue,” you say to yourself, “and I don’t know why I’m blue.” Well, explore that in your morning pages. It’s an effective way to moving out of doubts and taking risks.
Morning pages are a form of meditation and they tend to create optimism and realism. Virginia Wolfe said that all artists needed a room of their own, and I always think, "Fine, if you can afford it," but morning pages are a sort of portable room of your own. No one else reads them except for you.
Another thing you can do is move out of your comfort zone once a week and take an expedition on behalf of your artist self. If you like things French, you might go to a French cooking class, you might go to a French movie.
One more thing is something so simple that many people overlook it: walking. It’s very difficult to walk and stay blocked simultaneously. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that moves people onto the page.
In my 12-week workshop, one non-negotiable tool I preach is taking a good walk once a week. I have found in my experience that as people walk they have breakthroughs, inspirations of new directions to go. I call them alpha ideas, and they don’t usually come from that worrying place but a place much loftier.
I have found that if people walk—I’d say 20 minutes a day—they’ll enter an altered state where they have an expanded sense of self and connection. It is at once very large and very particular. It is often on walks that you will integrate a problem, or if you are a writer and you have a tangled plot line, you will suddenly see a new solution.
Walking is such an enormously potent tool that I can’t say enough about it. When you walk, you are able to hear more cleanly and more keenly. When we walk, we begin to be able to hear with the ears in our hearts.
Mike: What other problems do you hear a lot?
Cameron: Sometimes people say, “I don’t have time to write,” so I tell them to buy five postcards for their friends and write on them. Suddenly, they have time for that.
We really need to dismantle our seriousness, to write simply for the joy of writing, what I call laying track. Most people can get half-way through a project laying track, and then they'll hit a wall, where the ego says, "My god, I'm going to finish this. Someone's going to judge this. This better be good." The critic comes rearing up like Godzilla and people typically try to sort of muscle their way over the wall, with phrases like, “I am good enough. I am smart enough. I am writing well enough.” That absolutely doesn't work. When you reach the wall in your writing, instead of trying to convince yourself you're brilliant, you have to say, “I’m willing to write badly.” The minute you have surrendered enough to be willing to write badly, you can finish your work. And when you're willing to write badly, you very often write very well.
Mike: What else liberates the writing mind?
Cameron: I like for my students to start with a written cue. For example, a wish list: “I wish that…” And fill in the blank. You may do that 20 times if you want. By the end, people are often very surprised what they wish for.
I also like making collages, designing creativity dolls or masks that take on the creative monsters looming in our subconscious, a totem figure that we’ve never been able to break from, such as the teacher that said, “Did you plagiarize this?” or “With spelling like that, you'll never be able to write.” We need to isolate the things in our past that crushed us.
Mike: What are your own writing habits?
Cameron: I get up in the morning and do my morning pages (at least three pages and possibly more), then I take a long walk and during the afternoon I write. Sometimes I write at night, but not often. When I write at night, it means that I didn’t write well during the day, so it spills over.
I do my writing often on an old IBM electric, believe it or not. Typewriters are enticing to me. That little click keeps you company as you write. The computer is not quite as user friendly, at least for me.
I write every day, and enough to keep me comfortable. “It’s your journalism background that keeps you writing so freely,” is what my editor always tells me.
Mike: Is writing more difficult now than when you were younger?
Cameron: No. You see, I’m a sober alcoholic. Before I got sober (in 1978), my writing was purely ego driven. I just wanted to be brilliant. Once I got sober, I started writing out of the spirit of trying to be of service, with brilliance sort of parked on the side. What happened, my writing really became untangled, more user friendly, less ego driven. And the funny thing is, probably more people would say that I’m brilliant now than before, when I was so self-consciously trying to be brilliant.
Mike: When did you know that you were an artist?
Cameron: I always knew, because I came from an entire family of artists. So it never occurred to any of us to do anything else. My mom and dad are both writers and musicians, and so it never occurred to them to tell us that we couldn’t make a living at it. My oldest sister is a writer. My next sister is a portrait artist. My older brothers are musicians. And the two youngest are writers. All seven of us live by our wits.
I was so lucky growing up, in that I had an environment that was incredibly supportive. I was encouraged for my writing and also for my painting. I was writing short stories when I was 12, my first novel when I was 21.
Mike: What was the key part of your creative growth?
Cameron: I started reading theology in high school and that became the groundwork for my creativity books much later. I was particularly drawn to people like Paul Tillich, the German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher who talks about the “ground of being,” or what can sustain finite beings is being itself.
But while I was reading all these theologians, I was also reading Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Lillian Hellman.
Surprising, I never read any writing books, never did, at least not until I had been a writer for 20 years, around the time I was writing the Artist’s Way. It was then that I read Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write and Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer and Peter Elbow. I found them reassuring. I never knew that anybody else did anything resembling morning writing. I discovered it entirely by the seat of my pants.
Mike: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
Cameron: It came from the famous Playboy editor, Arthur Kretchmer, who said, “Don’t try to write for your common reader, because you’re never going to meet him or her. Write for your ideal reader, the person who will get everything you have to say.”
I found that advice very helpful and for years I wrote with Arthur in my head.
Mike: What’s the best advice you can now give to others?
Cameron: I tell people in my workshops to be like the Nike ad: Just do it. I don’t really want to hear why people are blocked. Just get up and write.
Mike: What do you think about self-publishing?
Cameron: I do believe in it. I self published my first two books, The Artist’s Way and Money Drunk, Money Sober. I did it, however, in a very rudimentary form, by simply Xeroxing the pages and mailing them out to people.
I do believe that when we commit to our own work passionately enough to self-publish it that it can sometimes create a ripple effect.
In fact, I had a novel up for sale right and found that my name wasn’t in any way helping in selling it—I’ve been typecast as a nonfiction writer, I think—so I considered either going the small-press route or self-publishing it.
Mike: Do you show your work to other people before you send it out?
Cameron: Yes, I do. I have a little group of people—around a handful—that I’ve known for years, and I’ll send them some rough drafts. They’re very tough people whose aesthetics I trust.
I think when we start to share our work we become a little bit braver. And I feel that we all need what I call a “believing mirror,” which is somebody who’s committed to your creativity beside yourself. That’s very important. A person who’ll tell you to send it out one more time.
Mike: Could you talk about the progression of your writing career?
Cameron: My first real writing job was at the Washington Post, during the Watergate era. They didn’t really hire women back then, so I was a copy aide, opening letters and sorting mail but also writing stories all the time, mostly for the arts section. You’d think I was a staff writer, but I wasn’t.
I knew Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and I got along with them very well.
Anyway, in my frustration, I quit in a huff one day and went to write for Rolling Stone magazine, and I even scooped Carl and Bob with a piece about E. Howard Hunt’s family. That piece became pretty famous (cited for excellence by Time magazine). It was the first one about Watergate behind the scenes.
I also wrote journalism for, among many other “hip” places, New West, Playboy, and The Village Voice, but then my career took an entirely different course.
I married Martin Scorcese. The marriage lasted only 2 1/2 years, but we were together off and on—before, during, and after our marriage—for around a decade—I was kinda like Marty’s live-in writer. I worked on Taxi Driver; New York, New York; and The Last Waltz.
In my book Floor Sample, I write all about my colorful, as well as tortured, experiences in Hollywood.
Mike: I know you live in Manhattan now, but how about Taos, New Mexico?
Cameron: A couple of years ago, I sold my house in Taos, New Mexico, where I lived for a decade.
Mike: You lived near Natalie Goldberg, right?
Cameron: Yes. In fact, we used to joke together that there was something in the Taos water.
Mike: You and Natalie are often paired together as the New Age gurus of writing books.
Cameron: That’s true, even though we have quite different styles and are grounded in very different senses of spirituality (I’ve been on a spiritual path for nearly 30 years that I cannot name).
What Natalie and I did, I think, was get people in the water, a whole new group involved in the world of art and creativity.
In fact, I love reading Natalie myself.
Mike: Natalie told me in an interview awhile back that, until recently, you were more hesitant to confront the dark side than she was. Do you agree?
Cameron: I’ve written about my three nervous breakdowns, so I’m well acquainted with the dark side. But I admit that on a daily basis, I work really hard to work in a brighter reality.
Mike: What was it like to get so much fame—nearly cult-like—after publishing The Artist’s Way?
Cameron: Success is difficult. Fame is difficult. It can keep people from seeing you as you are. You must go through that. I cure people of any reverential feeling by very quickly cursing in their presence (I think journalists are first-rate swearers and that the newsroom breeds colorful language).
I’m convinced that if you do your job properly that you’ll lower the pedestal level.
Mike: What do you hope to accomplish with your workshops?
Cameron: That the students will have their lives change and they’ll make things and develop projects.
Mike: Besides writing and, obviously, your friends and family, what are your loves in life?
Cameron: Pragmatism, solitude, teaching, and…solutions.
Bad Girl by Maya Reynolds: A sizzling debut novel of sex and suspense
A futuristic fantasy novella by Leanna Renee Hieber
E-Book now available from Crescent Moon Press!
Praise for DARK NEST: “Fabulous read! Once I started, I couldn’t stop until I reached the very satisfying end.” – Isabo Kelly, award-winning author of MARSHALL’S GUARD
Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.
Visit the author at http://www.leannareneehieber.com
Writing Away Retreats
Join Award Winning Author R.A. Nelson
And Editor Lee Ann Ward
For an unforgettable writing experience in Vail, Colorado
October 17th-21st, 2008.
Limited Space Available
Visit our website at: http://www.writingawayretreats.com
Remember your early influences?
Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer's Conference
Sheila Bender, Meg Files, Jack Heffron and Susan Rich facilitate small-groups in Creative Nonfiction, Fiction and Poetry. Conference trademark is encouraging, targeted instruction guaranteed to provide a jumpstart for writers of all levels.
Join us in a beautiful Victorian seaport town in the Pacific Northwest.
Sheila Bender's Writing It Real: No-contest contest. Enter up to six double-spaced pages, prose or poetry; receive a year's subscription AND Sheila's detailed response to your work, $45. www.writingitreal.com July 1- August 31
Phone: 360 385 7839
Jeanne’s Writing Desk
Lessons I’ve Learned
By Jeanne Lyet Gassman
Unfortunately, a lot of beginning writers tend to make the same mistakes. They look for shortcuts, ignore industry standards, and get taken by easy-to-publish venues that exploit the new writer’s naiveté and inexperience. The following is a short course of the lessons I’ve learned along my bumpy path to becoming a successfully published author. I hope you will find them helpful.
Learn the Rules. Writers who have a mastery of spelling, grammar, and syntax are writers who get published. Spellcheckers are wonderful, but it’s a mistake to depend on them to find your spelling errors. If you don’t know how to spell a word, make the dictionary your best friend. Do you have trouble with commas or sentence construction rules? Take an English comp class at your local community college or pick up a couple of good grammar reference books and use them often. Remember: You can’t break the rules until you know how they work.
Do Your Homework. It’s easy to post a question about writing on a forum on the Internet, but you may not get the answers you want. You may be given wrong advice, either out of ignorance or malice. Seek your answers first from the primary resources. Read the trade magazines; subscribe to professional writing newsletters (such as this one); and study the advice published by editors and agents. Before you submit to any unknown market, editor, or agent, do some research at one of the watchdog sites for writers.
Read and Follow the Guidelines. The current edition of the Writer’s Market is a good resource for writer’s guidelines, but you will find the most up-to-date guidelines on the Web sites of the publications themselves. Writer’s guidelines tell you more than word count and payment. They can also offer clues to the publication’s preferences and needs, something you can use to your advantage. It’s much harder to sell a piece that’s “close” than it is to sell one that is a “perfect fit.”
Be Professional. Be professional in every aspect of your writing life. Treat email correspondence with editors and agents the same as you would a business letter. If you post on a writing forum, remember that you are being judged as a writer, so take the time to think (and edit) before you post. When you submit your work for publication, follow the guidelines exactly and be sure to send a proofed, clean copy. Turn in your work before the deadline. Don’t call unless invited to do so. Never answer a rejection with a snide comment or angry note.
Surf With Caution. The Internet is a small universe. Writing forums and chat rooms are public places. If you aren’t comfortable saying something to someone in person, don’t say it on the Net. You can be identified—even if you post under a pseudonym. Be careful about posting any of your work in its entirety on the Internet because it can diminish the “first rights” value of the piece. Remember, too, that what appears on the Net has an infinite shelf life. If you have published your work online, take the time to protect yourself from copyright infringement by Googling your name periodically.
Remember the Magic Words. When you were small, your mother taught you to say, “please” and “thank you.” Now that you are an adult, don’t forget the power of those words. There are many people in the writing industry who are generous with their time and expertise. Be polite when you ask for help and don’t forget to send a personal note of thanks after you receive it. I even send thank you notes to editors who have given me helpful feedback on rejection slips. A small bit of courtesy can take you a long way in this business.
Trade Magazines and Newsletters:
Poets & Writers
Markets and Submission Guidelines:
2008 Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books)
Grammar Reference and Style Books:
Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss
Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook (with InfoTrac), by Cheryl Glenn, et al.
Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, 2nd Ed., by Patricia T. O’Conner
Elements of Style, 4th Ed., by William Strunk and E.B. White
AP Stylebook, by Associated Press
Chicago Manual of Style, by University of Chicago Press Staff
Writer’s Watchdog Sites:
Writers Weekly Whispers and Warnings
Preditors & Editors
Newsletter contributing columnist Jeanne Lyet Gassman is an award-winning author whose fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry has been published in magazines, newspapers (including The Arizona Republic and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), and anthologies. In 2002, Ms. Gassman was the recipient of an Encouragement Award in Creative Writing from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and in the 2005 Preditors & Editors Reader’s poll her story, '”Healing Arts,'” was ranked among the Top 10 in the nonfiction category. She also teaches writing classes and conducts workshops in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Please visit her Web site at:
Never listen to the ones who say it can’t be done.
The Hidden Web...Exposed!
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Visit http://sixfigurewriting.com/thehiddenweb.html to learn more!
Secret Knowledge can be found in the tarot cards
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The Writing Life
Just When You’re About to Give Up…Think Of Elvis
By Krysten Lindsay Hager
There are days when my writing is flowing. Days when I feel good about what I’m working on and when I find out about different places to submit.
Then there are those days when I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall.
I research different magazine markets only to find out that they’ve closed due to the economy or I check my e-mail and find a rejection. I tend to send out submissions in bulk, which means I often receive rejections in bulk. Nothing does more for the ego than getting a stack of letters (or e-mails) to find that, “We loved the voice and the humor. However we’ve decided to pass on this project.”
Last week, it felt like I couldn’t get anything off the ground. I received my fastest rejection ever (it was in my inbox in less than twenty minutes) and I couldn’t find any paying markets that were accepting submissions.
It reminded me of a scene from “Elvis: The Early Years” where Elvis Presley has an early career setback and wherever he went he heard someone (in his mind) telling him, “You should go back to drivin’ a truck.” I felt like giving up and, even though I’ve never driven a truck for a living, I felt that like Elvis, I should go back to drivin’ one.
Suddenly, sitting on the couch with the latest James Patterson novel seemed like a much better idea than writing. It would be entertaining and wouldn’t bruise my ego.
I was all set to park myself on the loveseat when I decided that I needed to keep on working. I reminded myself about all the writers who talk about wanting to give up, but tried once more and were able to get published. I got up (leaving my book and an inviting bowl of potato chips) and checked one more e-mail newsletter and found an anthology looking for submissions of family traditions.
Since I’m one of only two in my entire extended family who live outside of the United States, family traditions mean a lot to me. Plus, I had just finished writing my thesis and had a slew of material I hadn’t even used. I decided to send them an essay on my family’s Polish Christmas traditions.
A few days later, I got an e-mail saying they loved my work. I had almost spent the weekend reading and watching TV (not to mention a non-stop potato chip binge), but, because I gave it one more try, my work will now appear in an anthology.
Later that day, I went to the post office to pick up my mail and I had a writing newsletter and magazine in my box. It hit me that every time I get discouraged about writing I seem to get more writing periodicals in the mail. I like to think it’s a sign from the universe to keep going.
Besides, Elvis didn’t stick with drivin’ a truck and kept going and it seemed to work out pretty well for him.
Krysten Lindsay Hager, who writes everything from fiction to news to essays, has been published in New Works Review, The Academy, and the University of Michigan-Flint’s literary magazine, The Qua.
She has also been a regular contributor for a weekly newspaper in Michigan called the Grand Blanc View since 2005, and has appeared in or on Natural Awakenings, Working Writer, Absolute Write, Chronicles of Power, and Once Upon a Time.
She has received honorable mentions in Byline magazine for fiction and features, an honorable mention in Writer’s Digest’s Writing Competition, and recently won the Deadwood Arts Council “People’s Choice Award” for best short story. Her work will be featured in the “Women of Passions” anthology due out this summer.
Affirmations to Write By
I study the writing techniques of others that have achieved great things.
I emulate the habits of successful writers, analyzing how they do what they do.
I do my best to practice writing every day, in some way.
I organize my research and keep accurate research notes.
I am a talented writer whose creativity flows easily and effortlessly.
I am my own expert, and not affected by the negative attitudes and opinions of others.
I easily balance the needs of my family with my own need to write.
I have a positive expectancy of big success, and I take temporary setbacks well and kept in perspective.
I approach my writing time with enthusiasm, so charged that I can’t wait to begin typing.
I have a tremendous imagination, bubbling with images and ideas and words.
Inside the Writer’s Brain
Marketing? But where do I begin?
By Lea Schizas
Marketing yourself and your book is a road most writers worry about. Why? Because they have no idea where to begin, what to do, and who to contact. Writing your book is only half the job; the biggest and most important aspect comes after keeping your book alive and up front to your targeted audience.
It is up to you, not the neighbor, to come up with several marketing plans and make sure to be vigilante in your promotional leg. Although frustrating at first when the results show a low royalty check, it is the perseverance and determination to keep plugging away, if not every day, each week, to market and promote yourself and your book that will determine the outcome at the end.
To help you out, here are a few promotional areas to move on before, during, and after your book is finished/released.
CONTACT LIST: What exactly is a contact list? It is a list of email addresses of people you have communicated with, in the past and present, to send them updates on your writing career and published books. Open up a file titled CONTACT LIST in your MEDIA folder (explained further down) and begin building this list now. In my own CONTACT LIST, I have separated the headings like: Publishers, Editors, Authors, Friends, etc. This makes it easy for me to target specific news to the right circle of people.
MEDIA FOLDER: Files you can open and update regularly in your media kit include:
Your contact list;
*list of books and blurbs along with purchasing information;
*a sampler made up with your bio, an excerpt of each of your books, direct purchasing links and excerpts of a review or two;
*clips from newspapers that include info on you or your book;
*all of your publishing credits, from articles to books published, titles, where and when;
In other words, anything of interest to brag about your publishing career should go into your MEDIA KIT. Have folders on hand, print each of these pages, place a business card and the cover of your recent book you are promoting and hand one out to bookstores you are visiting. This kit is your talking ad about who and what you are all about.
Make sure to update these files with anything new in your writing career.
WEB SITE: There are several good free sites to help you begin your Web site. A good start would be to check out other writers’ sites and see how they’ve set up their web pages, what info they have in there, what’s on their navigational links. A little time researching now will help you organize your own site when you’re ready.
BOOK SIGNINGS: Bookstores are not the only place to host a book signing. There are specialty gift shops, craft fairs, home book-signing parties where a few friends meet and find out about your latest book, hospitals, senior citizen homes, and so many other places you can host a book signing instead of only bookstores.
Perhaps your book is aimed at children, you can ask a school to hold a MEET AN AUTHOR day, have a sheet to hand out to the teacher to offer to the parents at the end of the day with info on your book and where to buy it. There’s nothing like a hometown author to get the kids all eager to meet. Reading an excerpt to the classroom then discussing that chapter or the topic in your book just may entice a student to try writing themselves. Perhaps you can come up with a fundraiser using your book as a base to help raise some funds for the school. A dollar per book sold will not break your bank but every few dollars earned for the school or that particular classroom you are visiting is always a helpful additive.
REVIEWS: You need to understand that a review can go either way—good or bad, but it is a chance you need to take in order to get the word out. Personally, I analyze a review to see what the reviewer may be trying to tell me so I can perfect my next writing project. However, at times, the diplomacy of the review allows you to pick up subtle hints aimed at you, the writer.
Make sure to target the right review sites that cater to the genre of your book. Many reviewers prefer print copies where others don’t mind eBooks.
EMAIL SIGNATURES: It boggles the mind how so many writers forget to add a link back to their Web site or book’s site. This is a FREE and easy advertising whenever you send out an email. Use it. Depending on the content of my email to any group I belong to, I change my links to suit the need.
INTERVIEWS: There are so many blogs out there now searching for authors to interview you shouldn’t have a problem locating them. Do a blog search based on your book’s genre and a list of various blogs will pop up. Don’t be shy; ask the blog host if they are interested in interviewing you.
MEDIA RELEASES: Are you offering a workshop? Have you been invited to be a speaker? Did you just have a new release? Did you win an award? All of these are great opportunities to open up that CONTACT LIST I mentioned above and send them a media release announcing your news.
These are just some of the areas you can begin promoting yourself. Remember, success does not come all set for you on a golden platter. As writers, we need to be on top of things, especially of our own careers, if we are to make any dents in this vast business we call the publishing world.
Contributing newsletter columnist Lea Schizas is founder and co-founder of The MuseItUp Club (http://museitupclub.tripod.com) and Apollo’s Lyre (http://www.apollos-lyre.com), both named among Writer’s Digest Best 101 Web Sites for Writerss and which have received several Preditors and Editors awards. Ms. Schizas is the author of the young adult fantasy novel “The Rock of Realm,” and the paranormal/thriller “Doorman’s Creek.” She is also the editor and co-author of “The Muse On Writing,” a writer’s reference book, and the fantasy novel “Aleatory’s Junction.”
For more information on Lea Schizas, please check out her site:
Slice of the Writing Life
“Making couplets “offhand” is something like writing on schedule, isn’t it? I know a young poet who claims he can write every morning from six to nine, presumably before class.”
POET ROBERT FROST:
“Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I don’t know what that would be like, myself. When I get going on something, I don’t want to just–you know. . . . Very first one I wrote I was walking home from school and I began to make it–a March day–and I was making it all afternoon and making it so I was late at my grandmother’s for dinner. I finished it, but it burned right up, just burned right up, you know. And what started that? What burned it? So many talk, I wonder how falsely, about what it costs them, what agony it is to write. I’ve often been quoted: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” But another distinction I made is: however sad, no grievance, grief without grievance. How could I, how could anyone have a good time with what cost me too much agony, how could they? What do I want to communicate but what a hell of a good time I had writing it? The whole thing is performance and prowess and feats of association. Why don’t critics talk about those things–what a feat it was to turn that that way, and what a feat it was to remember that, to be reminded of that by this? Why don’t they talk about that? Scoring. You’ve got to score. They say not, but you’ve got to score, in all the realms–theology, politics, astronomy, history, and the country life around you.”
Enter the third annual Writing Show First-Chapter-of-a-Novel Contest! First prize $1000. Late deadline June 20, 2008. Details at http://www.writingshow.com.
The Author’s Repair Kit is a NEW ebook designed to help you breathe new life into your faltering or failing book. Use Patricia Fry’s post-publication book proposal system and heal your publishing mistakes. The Author's Repair Kit, only 27 pages: $5.95. http://www.matilijapress.com/author_repairkit.html.
The 2008 Hollywood Book Festival is set for July 11-12 at the Grove at Farmer’s Market in conjunction with Barnes & Noble. The festival spotlights books for the film/television communities. More information at www.hollywoodbookfestival.com
The 2008 New York Book Festival will be held June 27-28 in Central Park. Author readings/signings, children’s activities, vendors, food, music, with awards at the famed Algonquin Hotel. More information at www.newyorkbookfestival.com
The Writer’s Eye
Seven Things I Learned About Writing … From A Squirrel
By Sandy Z. Poneleit
Out of the corner of my eye, while sitting on my back deck one afternoon, I saw an approaching squirrel on the neighbor’s rooftop. The distraction was a relief from a writing project, and I was glad for the break from thinking about it. The creature moved, and I saw it was no ordinary nut gatherer: It had only three legs.
From my vantage point, I could tell the squirrel was a she. I promptly named her Tree-O, and sure enough, she was headed for my backyard sycamore.
She jumped from the rooftop onto the high phone wire—the time-saving route—and paused when she landed squarely on the dangling line, no doubt savoring success.
Despite the missing hind leg, she made spirited, steady progress by gripping and releasing the wire. Twice Tree-O’s grasp failed, and while I held my breath for a fall, she whirled around 360 degrees and pressed forward unscathed. Darting at her own speed, she at last was in sight of a good-sized tree limb and … spring … landed on all three feet, tail flicking wildly.
Breathing normally again, my mind turned back to writing. In those few moments, the squirrel’s tripod action set my mind firmly on the craft, and what I needed to be doing to be successful:
1. Be bold and take a risk.
Tree-O made a leap of faith, likely based on experience, when she set her sights on the wire. No reason to think I couldn’t do the same. Grounded in my experience, why not pick up the phone and call that editor or start the next assignment in an extraordinary way? Notice your surroundings (be aware of what’s going on) and use your good instincts for your next action.
2. Everyone’s missing something.
Whether it’s a steady income instead of sporadic checks, reliable transportation or the chance to get out of the wheelchair, no one has it all. No way did that squirrel let a leg short of a quad stop her from living and working. Think challenge, not handicap.
3. Take time to groom.
Perched closer to the trunk, Tree-O cleaned her furry self. A timeout to check your appearance or stretch your legs every so often refreshes. Write with a fury then take time to groom the grammar, style and tone. Know when to say enough grooming and get zooming into action again.
4. Focus and trust your ability.
There she was, hanging upside down with the world akimbo as she circled round the wire. Then Tree-O righted herself, put the foliage in her sightline and got moving. To get where you want to go, trust your capabilities, take aim, concentrate and set about your next action. When things get out of focus, bring yourself back within sight of the goal.
5. Get inspired.
The rhino adds to Tree-O’s spunk, and is my current most inspiring animal. Think thick skin and the ability to charge ahead—in the right direction, of course. Tap the natural world for symbols of qualities and characteristics you want to model. Find what intrigues you, be it lion, honeybee or Gingko tree, and let that be a reminder of courage, industriousness or longevity for you.
6. Watch out for the dog.
There’s not much better in a dog’s world than an impromptu squirrel chase. For the squirrel, it could mean the end of your happy nut-finding activities, or at the least, your tail. I have to be my own watchdog, whether it’s a copyright issue or a knock at the door from a retired neighbor prone to long, divergent conversation.
7. Go digging.
I figured sooner or later, Tree-O would squirrel-twirl down the tree trunk to check out the ground storage. Intently pushing pawfuls of dirt aside, the search for a really good burial spot will ensue or, if the time is right, for discovering a treasured nut snack. She is persistent about this. Bingo! Another lesson in applied writing technique. Watch for an opportunity to unearth a new assignment, a new word, a new approach, a buried thought.
There might be a great find in the process.
Gleaning insights about writing from a three-legged squirrel may sound a little nuts, but you have to take advantage of lessons when they’re offered. It might be just what’s needed to get you where you’re going.
Sandy Z. Poneleit writes and takes periodic breaks, preferably outdoors. She is based in
Springfield, Missouri, and continues to have occasional sightings of Tree-O.
She has an eclectic background, with experience as a web content manager, corporate communications writer and journalist, and her work has been appeared in the Springfield News-Leader, Branson's Country Review, the Branson Business Journal, as well as on the journalism Web site, Poynter.org.
You can contact her at:
Looking for a Writing Job?
Check out these sites:
(Disclaimer: I only recommend these sites as interesting ones to check out. If you decide to purchase any products or services, or become a paid member of a site or apply for a posted job, you do so at your own risk. Please use your discretion and common sense.)
If You Want to Write
By Brenda Ueland
This 1938 classic is powerfully inspirational, if not life altering. Ueland maintains "everybody is talented, original and has something to say.”
Writing Down the Bones
By Natalie Goldberg
A mix of Zen philosophy and practical writing exercises, this classic 1986 book of high-energy essays will help you unleash your creativity and overcome the dread of that blank first page.
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
By Julia Cameron
Another classic, published in 1992, is in the same spirit as Goldberg’s. In fact, the two often get together for writing talks. This book provided the breakthrough exercise of the “morning pages,” which forces you to write continuously from the moment you wake up, training you to not let your conscious self get in the way.
The Writing Life
By Anne Dillard
The Boston Globe called this slender 1989 volume "a kind of spiritual Strunk & White." In her quiet, imagery-laden style, Dillard explores the landscape of writing and being a writer, and comforts you on the life every step of the way.
The New Journalism
By Tom Wolfe
An anthology of the trend setting stories that changed journalism forever, where journalists employed literary techniques writing about real life. Included are stories by such giants as Gay Talese, Truman Capote, Terry Southern, Joe Eszterhas, Michael Kerr, Joan Didion, Hunter Thompson, Norman Mailer, and Wolfe himself. The introductory chapter, written by Wolfe, is a must-read for anyone interested in the art and craft of creative non-fiction.
Publishing to the Power of Dee
How the Bestseller Lists Work
By Dee Power
(Excerpted with permission from her new book, The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author’s Success)
There are probably a hundred books on “How Your Book Can Shoot to the Top of the New York Times Bestseller List.” The premise is that with enough hard work, time and resources, and of course using the marketing techniques outlined in the book, any title can become a bestseller. Well, the truth is you can’t. Most of the seats around that table are already taken.
Let’s look at a Bestseller Nonfiction list for a month. There are 15 places on the list, over one month there are 60 positions available. So it seems.
Here’s the real deal, over that time only 24 different books appeared on the list. And just ten books occupied 46 percent of the available positions. And 11 books took up nearly 70 percent of the positions.
We’ve all seen the banner headline in bookstores “17 Weeks on the Bestseller List!!!” To the author trying to get on the list, the other fellow’s 17-week streak of success just means 17 fewer spaces available for his or her perhaps equally terrific book.
A big success in hardcover books now means millions of copies, rather astounding when a lot of authors are incredibly happy when their book’s sales top 20,000.
Does being on the bestseller list cause a book’s sales to increase in the future? Absolutely, if it’s the author’s first time on the list. Alan Sorensen, a business professor at Stanford, looked at hardcover fiction sales for 2001 and 2002 in his study, Bestseller Lists and Product Variety: The Case of Book Sales. He found that an appearance on the New York Times bestseller list did indeed increase a book’s first year sales, as much as a 57%, while previously best-selling authors got a much lesser bump in sales.
Five corporations currently dominate the bestseller lists. They are Random House Inc., Penguin USA, Simon & Schuster, Time Warner, and HarperCollins in that order. It is estimated that these five companies accounted for over 70 percent of the hardcover best-selling titles. Paperback bestsellers emerged from these same five houses in roughly the same proportion.
How the Lists Work
There are several recognized national bestseller lists including The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today. The New York Times bestseller list is compiled by polling hundreds of independent booksellers across the country. The stores are selected because they are able, and willing, to do the reporting on hundreds of titles a week on a confidential basis. Also included are about 40 wholesalers who provide books to non bookstore retailers such as airports, hotel and hospital gift shops, grocery stores, consumer co-ops, Target, Wal-Mart, and so forth. Regional and national chains are polled as well. Specialty shops like children’s bookstores are not polled because it would bias the results. Thousands of selling locations are included every week. The results are entered and a statistical model results which produces the nine lists– six adult and three children’s. A master file has a background description of each store. If there are any anomalies, such as one book selling a huge amount of copies but only in that one store, the system flags the store for a re-interview to find out if there was any mistake. This prevents an author, or his/her friends from buying several thousand copies in one city in an attempt to make the list artificially. The results are extrapolated based on their geographic location. For example, more books are bought in New York per person than in Phoenix, so the results of the New York store’s sales would be weighted more heavily than the Phoenix store.
There is no magic number of sales that result in a ranking on the bestseller list. It depends on the season. It’s easier to make the hardcover list in summer than fall, because more titles are released in fall. It depends on the competition. If only one mega best-selling author’s book is released for that time period it’s easier. If you have Nora Roberts, Stephen King, and Nicholas Sparks all competing for a spot, it’s more difficult. IUniverse said that its title, If I Knew Then by Amy Fisher sold 34,000 copies and resulted in a number 14 spot on the list. You could use that as a benchmark. What is important to understand is that only sales in retail locations that are polled count. If your book sells, say, in churches, like The Purpose Driven Church, those sales don’t count toward the bestseller list. It’s important to realize that the lists are compiled on a weekly basis. Your title could sell 20,000 copies every week for a year and not make the list. A John Grisham title can sell 250,000 copies in a week and snag the number one spot.
Publishers Weekly is a publishing industry publication devoted to trends, news, and book reviews. Each issue has several bestseller lists: fiction and nonfiction hardcover bestseller lists, trade paperback and mass paperback bestseller lists. They track the children’s bestsellers and on occasion, categories such as cookbooks, religion, or audio books. PW surveys selected bookstores, both chain stores and independents, as well as other retail sites, and then uses a formula to weigh the responses and determine the bestsellers.
The USA Today list is one list ranked by sales, regardless of whether the book is hard cover or mass market, fiction or nonfiction.
Bookscan is not a bestseller list. It is a retail sales tracking program and database. Data is accumulated from the Point of Sale terminals in the participating retail locations for each book sold. Borders and Walden, Barnes & Noble Inc., Barnes & Noble.com, Deseret Book Company, Hastings, Books-A-Million, Follett College stores, Buy.com and Amazon.com all participate as well as mass merchandisers like Target, Kmart and Costco and smaller retail chains, as well as hundreds of general independent bookstores. The information tracked is available by a subscription basis.
Newsletter contributing columnist Dee Power is the co-author with Brian Hill of The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them and the novel Over Time.
Talk the Talk
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
Advance The payment by a publisher to an author prior to the publication of a book, to be deducted from the author's future royalties.
Anthology A collection of selected writings by various authors.
Copyright The legal right to exclusive publication, sale, or distribution of a literary work.
Cover Letter A brief letter sent with a complete manuscript submitted to an editor.
Creative Non-Fiction Non-fiction that's not heavily factual; tends to be more personal experience and/or memoir.
Electronic Submission Submission of material via modem/email or on a computer disk.
First North American Serial Rights The right to publish material in a periodical before it appears in book form for the first time in either the US or Canada,
Galleys The first typeset version of a manuscript that hasn't yet been divided into printed pages.
Genre Fiction A more formulaic type of fiction such as romance, western, mystery, or horror.
IRC International Reply Coupon--a form purchased at the post office and enclosed with a letter or manuscript to cover the cost of return postage from an international market.
Kill Fee A pre-negotiated amount paid to the author when an editor decides not to publish an assigned piece.
Literary Agent A person who represents an author in finding a publisher and negotiating a book contract.
Literary Fiction Fiction that is more "character driven" rather than "plot driven." This type of fiction tends to be more experimental and usually appears in literary or university magazines.
Mainstream Fiction Traditionally written fiction, also called "commercial fiction" because of its wide market appeal.
Multiple Submission Submission of more than one short story at a time to the same editor.
On Spec A term used to refer to assignment to an author by an editor based on the author's query letter; the editor reserves the right to reject the article but usually negotiates a "kill fee" if he/she decides not to publish the piece.
Op-Ed A personal opinion piece, usually of a topical nature, that appears in newspapers and some magazines.
Payment on Acceptance Payment from the magazine or publishing house as soon as the decision to publish the manuscript is made.
Payment on Publication Payment from the publisher after the manuscript is printed.
Print-on-Demand A new form of self-publishing in which the author pays a fee to have a small number of books printed; subsequent books are printed as they are ordered. iUniverse is an example of "print-on-demand."
Proposal An offer to write a specific work -- usually book-length non-fiction -- consisting of an outline of the work and one or two completed chapters.
Query Letter A letter written to an editor to elicit interest in a story the author wants to submit.
Reprint Rights Permission to print a work previously published in a magazine or book.
Royalty A percentage of the retail price paid to the author for each copy of the book that is sold.
SASE Self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Serial Rights The rights given by an author to a publisher to print a piece in one or more periodicals.
Simultaneous Submission The practice of sending copies of the same story to different editors at the same time.
Subsidiary Rights All rights other than book publishing rights included in a book contract, including foreign rights, paperback rights, book club, and movie rights.
Synopsis A brief summary of a novel or play, usually written in present tense and single-spaced.
Tear Sheet A photocopy of the first page of previously published work
Vanity Press The author pays for a large number of his books to be printed; there are no royalties, and the author is responsible for all advertising and distribution.
Writer's Guidelines Information available from the editor or publisher of a magazine concerning preferences for that particular publication.
Zine or Ezine A magazine that is published only on the Internet. These tend to have specialized themes, and payment (if any) is usually negotiated on an individual basis.
Don’t let these commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases trip you up
By Mark Terence Chapman
Continuing my series of articles, here are some more words, phrases and forms of punctuation that are commonly misused or misspelled. A conscientious writer should use these correctly. More importantly, using these words/phrases correctly will reduce the odds of your writing being rejected by an editor due to excessive errors. (Editors don’t want to waste time on pieces that require an inordinate amount of their time to clean up.) Even if you write only business reports and emails, you still wouldn’t want people chuckling over your misuse of the English language, would you?
Verses vs. Versus
Wrong: It was man verses beast.
Right: It was man versus beast.
Right: It was man vs. beast.
Verses strictly refers to lines of poetry, while versus means “against” or “in contrast to” and is often abbreviated as vs. (Be sure to always include the period, even in the middle of a sentence.)
Amount vs. number or quantity
Wrong: We need to collect a larger amount of cans than last year.
Right: We need to collect a larger number of cans than last year.
Use amount when referring to something that can’t be counted. For example, “The storm deposited a large amount of sand on the shore.” Use number or quantity when writing about something that can be counted. “No amount of money can make up for the number of lives lost in the disaster.” (Why did I use amount instead of number with “money”? After all, we can count money, can’t we? Well, just how many monies were we talking about?)
Since vs. because
The primary meanings of since involve an aspect of time (from then until now), however, there is a secondary meaning equivalent to because. Unfortunately, this can cause confusion in the mind of the reader unless the meaning is clear in context. For example, in a sentence beginning, “Since we joined the club….” there is no way for the reader to know whether the writer meant “Ever since joining the club….” or “Because we’ve joined the club ….” Wouldn’t it be clearer to write it one of those two ways?
Couple vs. couple of
Wrong: I’ve got a couple things to take care of first.
Right: I’ve got a couple of things to take care of first.
Just as you would say “a trio of seagulls” or “a foursome of golfers” you should say “a couple of cookies.” You wouldn’t say “a trio questions,” so why say “a couple questions”?
Couple vs. several
I’m constantly amazed when someone says he wants to make a couple of points, and then proceeds to enumerate three or four. Remember, just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to make a couple. More than that is a trio, a quartet, a handful, several, a half-dozen, numerous, etc.
That having been said/That being said/That said
Wrong: That having been said, it’s time to act.
Right: Therefore, it’s time to act.
The phrase “that having been said” and its shorter versions, are empty phrases that add nothing to a sentence. Sometimes they’re used as a continuation of the previous sentence (as in the example above), and sometimes they’re used to introduce an opposing argument. (“That being said, I think we need a new approach.”) In fact, this phrase has been so overused as to approach cliché status. Why not use a shorter, clearer alternative, such as “Therefore, it’s time to act.” or “However, I think we need a new approach.”?
Itch vs. scratch
Wrong: I spent all afternoon itching a mosquito bite.
Right: I spent all afternoon scratching a mosquito bite.
You scratch an itch, you don’t itch a bug bite.
Onwee/on-wie vs. ennui
Wrong: He suffered from a bad case of onwee.
Right: He suffered from a bad case of ennui.
It’s not surprising that so many people misspell ennui (which means weariness resulting from boredom; listlessness). It’s borrowed from French and isn’t spelled the way you’d expect an English word pronounced on-WEE to be spelled. But if you’re going to use the word, by all means spell it correctly.
Crucifiction vs. crucifixion
Wrong: This week’s sermon will be about the events leading up to the crucifiction of Christ.
Right: This week’s sermon will be about the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ.
This is a simple misspelling that almost seems to indicate a lack of faith in the veracity of the Bible.
Columbia vs. Colombia
Wrong: The Columbian drug cartel is believed to be behind the latest attacks.
Right: The Colombian drug cartel is believed to be behind the latest attacks.
The South American country is Colombia, not to be confused with the District of Columbia in the USA.
If you’ve ever been confused about any of these words or phrases, tack this article to the wall by your desk. It’ll help you avoid similar errors in the future.
Mark Terence Chapman writes in various genres: He’s a poet, short story writer, novelist, humorist, and even a nonfiction writer tackling computer topics and nanotechnology. To find out more about Mr. Chapman, please visit his Web site at: http://tesserene.com or his blog at: http://tesserene.blogspot.com
Warnings About Literary Fraud and Other Schemes, Scams, and Pitfalls That Target Writers
Do yourself a favor and check out this great sites to keep you safe in the publishing world:
On the Writing Business
What Keeps You From Writing?
By Patricia L. Fry
Will you ever write that novel that’s rolling around in your head? Why do you keep putting off writing your memoirs or that nonfiction book you’ve outlined?
There are many reasons why people who want to write, don’t write. For some, it is a matter of priorities. They want to write a book, but life gets in the way. Others have stories inside them that are simply itching to be told, but they’re timid about putting them down on paper. While some writers can’t not write—writing is their passion—others claim they want to write, but they just can’t get started.
What keeps you from writing? See if you recognize yourself here:
You just can’t find the time to write. “Not enough time” is the excuse that most would-be writers use. Or they’ll say, “I’m just too busy.” I heard a new author being interviewed on the radio this morning. She said that she has always wanted to write a book, but, like so many other would-be writers, she just couldn’t find the time. A few years ago, she began to examine how she was spending her time. She suddenly realized that those frequent business trips, which she thought prevented her from writing, may actually provide opportunities for her to write. And she began writing during long airport waits and flights. Within a matter of months, she completed her book and promptly found a publisher.
What if you don’t fly? Examine how you spend your allotted twenty-four hours each day (your 168 hours each week/your 720 hours each month). Can you find windows or even pockets of time during which you can write? If you can eke out just an hour per day, that’s seven hours per week or thirty hours every month. Even on this schedule, little by little, bit by bit, you can write a book. Statistics show that it takes approximately 740 hours to write a nonfiction book. I completed a book once in eight months while holding down a full-time job and writing for only twenty hours each week.
You come up with every excuse not to write. You are the queen/king of excuses: “I can’t find my fuzzy bunny slippers—there’s no way I can write if I’m not wearing my fuzzy bunny slippers.” Or “It’s supposed to rain today—I can’t write when I’m distracted by the sound of raindrops outside my window.” Or how about this one, “The neighbors have a new dog. What if he barks while I’m trying to concentrate on my writing work?”
I can’t tell you how many people I meet every year who say they are going to write someday—after their kids are in school, become teenagers, start college or marry and have kids of their own. When they become grandparents, they start all over by saying, “I’ll write when the grandkids start school, become teenagers…”
What is your excuse? Will you start writing when you retire, get a day off, move, set up office space, lose weight or win the lottery?
Face it folks, excuses keep you stuck in a do nothing, go nowhere mode. If you truly want to write, short circuit those excuses with an action such as—oh, I don’t know, maybe sitting down at the keyboard and actually writing something.
You are a writing class groupie. You spend all of your time and energy taking writing classes and attending writing seminars.
Classes, workshops and conferences are wonderful opportunities to learn about the writing craft and the publishing industry. I recommend them to writers at any stage of their passion. But I also caution those writers to pace themselves. Don’t use these learning opportunities as excuses not to write. Instead of seeking more and more instruction, inspiration and feedback, put what you’ve learned to practice. Some would-be authors become so enamored with the conference environment that they can’t seem to move forward on their own. They find it a cozy, comfortable womb where they can write what they want—where there is no real pressure or requirements. They talk about being published, but never actually enter the sometimes wicked and competitive world of publishing.
If you resemble these remarks—if you stay on the fringes of the real writing/publishing world through seminars and workshops and writers critique group, hiring a steady string of consultants and editors—maybe it’s time for a reality check. If you truly want to become a published author, sit down and actually write something and then be brave enough to submit it.
You refuse to seek the help you need. At the other end of the spectrum is the writer who has his/her own agenda. He has a story to tell or advice to give readers and refuses to get any kind of help. He just forges ahead right or wrong, with visions of accolades and book sales dancing in his head. The only “go it on your own” writer who experiences publishing success is the one who just happens to luck out.
Hopeful authors who don’t study the publishing industry, who avoid seminars, books, articles and advice about how to write, publish and promote a book, generally aren’t aware of their options, make the wrong choices and fail.
You can’t handle rejection. The world of authorship may look easy to penetrate. There are certainly plenty of books out there in bookstores and at Amazon.com. But once you actually drum up the courage to submit a book manuscript to an agent or publisher, you quickly learn about rejection.
A gentleman told me recently, “I sent my manuscript to ten publishers and received rejections from all of them. That’s it for me. I’m not putting myself through that again.” I told this man that he hasn’t even begun to experience the rejection that many successful authors do. Authorship carries with it a lot of rejection. Of course, there are those who slip right in on an angel wing, land the publisher of their dreams and rake in enough in royalties to finance an expensive sports car. But most authors—even some of the most acclaimed—have been rejected by some of the best publishers around. It’s part of the game. And it is certainly no reason to throw in the towel.
It’s widely known, for example, that James Redfield’s Celestine Prophecy was rejected by every publisher he approached before he decided to self-publish. Warner Books now publishes this bestselling book. Richard Paul Evans received several rejection letters for his novella, The Christmas Box before Simon & Schuster agreed to publish this very popular book.
The sure way to fail as an author is to quit writing or marketing your manuscript or to stop promoting your book.
You’re a closet writer. Some of you are marvelous writers and your friends keep nagging you to seek a publisher for your latest manuscripts. But you just can’t get it together to actually show it around to publishers. You enjoy writing and a part of you would like to have your work read, but you’re afraid. Some of you are afraid of failure and others are afraid of success.
You prefer the status quo—what’s known. When you think of publishing, you feel overwhelmed and then you quickly stop thinking about it and go back to writing for yourself.
That’s okay. However, if you’re reading this article, you are probably thinking a little harder about becoming a published author. And you can—just take one step at a time. I suggest starting by studying the publishing industry, your options and the consequences of your decisions. Learn what your responsibilities as a published author are. Ease into this competitive business: Research good books on the subject, attend publishing conferences, hang out at online forums where published authors discuss their issues and experiences and join publishing organizations.
You’re too ill, crippled or tired to write. I know writers who accomplish their writing goals even though they are bedridden. In fact, I wrote most of my first book, Hint’s For the Backyard Rider (A.S. Barnes, 1978), while in bed recovering for several months from a back injury. I wrote in longhand and I could sometimes sit up long enough to use a small manual typewriter positioned next to me on the bed.
A friend of mine has been confined to bed for years after an accident and she just completed the first in a series of children’s books. I receive email from people with disabling ailments fairly frequently, and who are writing, nonetheless.
You’re embarrassed about your lack of writing skill. A successful author is often a naturally talented writer. Many novelists are excellent storytellers. A prolific author of nonfiction can generally write with clarity. He has good organizational skills. Most writers know where their strengths and weaknesses are, but sometimes it’s hard for someone to evaluate his or her writing abilities.
How do you know when what you write is good or not? Get feedback from avid readers in your genre. Study books like the one you are writing. Take a good writing class. Hire an editor or writing coach. Hang out at online forums where writers are talking about writing. Subscribe to writing-related newsletters and magazines. Practice, practice, practice.
There should be no excuse for not writing if writing is what you really want to do. I challenge you to examine the list of reasons that keep you from writing. Study your current priorities. If you really want to write, change those things that keep you from this dream and make 2007 the year that you become an author.
Contributing newsletter columnist Patricia Fry is the author of 25 published books, including, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. She is also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network, www.spawn.org).
Visit her publishing blog at:
Ms. Fry’s free guide to writing a Post-Publication Book Proposal can be requested by emailing her at:
Writing Quotes of the Month
“When you write, your object is to convey every sensation, sight, feeling, emotion to the reader…When you walk into a room and you get a certain feeling or emotion, remember back until you see exactly what it was that gave you that emotion. Remember what the noises and smells were and what was said. Then write it down, making it clear so the reader will see it too, and have the same feeling you had. And watch people, observe, try to put yourself in somebody else’s head. If two argue, don’t just think who is right and who is wrong. Think what both their sides are. As a man, you know who is right and who is wrong; you have to judge. As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”—Ernest Hemingway
"When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day's works is all I can permit myself to contemplate. "—John Steinbeck
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”—Mark Twain
“Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”—Colette
“I believe that what we want to write wants to be written. I believe that as I have an impulse to create, the something I want to create has an impulse to want to be born. My job, then, is to show up on the page and let that something move through me, in a sense, what wants to be written is none of my business.”—Julia Cameron
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Albert Einstein
"For a creative writer possession of the truth is less important than emotional sincerity."--George Orwell
“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”—Julia Cameron
"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."—E. L. Doctorow
"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."—James Michener
“Creativity—like human life itself— begins in darkness.”—Julia Cameron
"A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all."—William Sansom
"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."—Ray Bradbury
A Bevy of Writing Knowledge
Quick Clips: Writing Book Reviews
By Bev Walton-Porter
What is one way to collect published clips of your work and get you started on your way? Why, book reviews of course!
Anatomy of a Book Review
What's the secret to writing a successful book review? You must try to strike an equal balance between describing the book's general content to readers, as well as offering an objective, unbiased evaluation of the book itself.
As with any other type of writing, be sure to consider your audience when writing a book review. Will your review be read by the literary crowd, the mainstream crowd or genre crowd? Knowing the answer to this question is important, because you must communicate to these readers in a certain way. In other words, you must speak their language.
There are many elements that are integral to the process of writing a review, but there are many points to consider before writing your review. Obviously, you'll need to read the book before you write the review. Don’t ever skim over a book or take shortcuts. As you read, be aware to keep your focus on these things while taking notes:
1. Look over the table of contents (if the book is non-fiction). How is the book organized? Are the chapters well organized and in logical order according to content?
2. For fiction books, know the genre of the book and be familiar with other books in this genre, so you can contrast and compare. If you're writing for science fiction fans, you should know the reader audience and be acquainted with other science fiction novels.
3. Who authored the book, and what other books have they written? If reviewing a non-fiction book, how is the author an authority or expert on the subject?
4. How does the author relate to readers of the book, and from what point of view? Is the book's style formal or informal?
5. If you're reading a fiction novel, be sure to focus on theme, plot, setting, characterization and point of view. What worked, what didn't and why?
6. If you're reading a non-fiction book, ask yourself if the information provided to readers is accurate. Check other books in the field, if possible.
7. Determine if the book succeeds in accomplishing what it set out to do. For instance, if you read a horror novel, did it scare the wits out of you? Were the characters more than cardboard cutouts? Was the plot unlike any other you have read in this genre?
Going to Great Lengths
The length of a book review is determined by the publication you are writing the review for. In some cases, my book reviews are only 300 words long. In other cases, the book review can stretch to twice that many words or more. Check with the appropriate book review editor and be sure to follow writer's guidelines to the letter.
For me, the correct answer to the question, "How long should a book review be?" is determined by the content of the review itself. If you have written a review that communicates pertinent, useful information to readers about what is inside a book, how it is presented, what sets that book apart from others in the genre and you've offered an unbiased, honest evaluation and opinion of the book and its quality, then your book review is long enough, whatever word count it might actually be.
Heading Things Up - The Right Way
When you are ready to put your pen to paper and write your review, make sure to include the following important information at the top of your review:
* Author's name
* Publisher's name
* Publication date
* Format (number of pages)
* ISBN number
By I.M.A. Writer
Fictional Book Publisher
Format: Adult, Paperback, 321 pages
$12.99 paperback/$5.95 e-format
Study Other Book Reviews
Still not sure you have the hang of it? Here are some sites that publish book reviews. Take a look at the offerings at these sites, analyze how the book reviews are written and use them as a guideline for the techniques you will and will not incorporate into your reviews when you write them.
ALA’s Booklist http://www.ala.org/ala/booklist/booklist.htm
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com
The Complete Review http://www.complete-review.com/main/main.html
L.A. Times Book Reviews http://www.calendarlive.com/books/
Midwest Book Review http://www.midwestbookreview.com/
The New York Review of Books http://www.nybooks.com/
New York Times Book Reviews http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/
Salon Magazine's Sneak Peeks http://salon.com/books/index.html
This is by no means a comprehensive or complete list, but by reading the reviews posted at these sites, it will give you a better idea of how book reviews are written.
Beyond the Book Review
Don't stop at the book review, because in this world of technology, there's much more to review. Like computer software or hardware, for instance.
When you head out on your search and query mission for review assignments, make sure you leave all avenues open. Search for sites that publish reviews of any kind and ask if they have an opening for a reviewer. Many times you'll find a steady assignment that way.
As with book reviews, each review publication that handles hardware or software reviews have its own formatting rules for reviews. Be sure to follow them to the letter and be familiar with them before you query the publication. As with any publication you plan to write for, be familiar with the tone of the publication as well.
Newsletter contributing columnist Bev Walton-Porter is a professional writer/author who has publishing hundreds of stories on a wide variety of subjects and written three books: “Sun Signs for Writers,” the contemporary romance “Mending Fences,” and “The Complete Writer: A Guide to Tapping Your Full Potential,” co-authored with three other writers.
She has also worked as a contract editor for NBC Internet and Inkspot.com, among others, published in the award-winning e-zine for writers, Scribe & Quill, for the past nine years, and is a member of The Authors Guild as well as the co-founder of the International Order of Horror Professionals.
Please visit her Web site at:
Your shopping habits, work habits, free-time habits.
Whether you wish you were bigger or smaller.
The best life advice you’ve ever received.
What you think life would be like if you lived in the 1800’s.
Your definition of friendship.
The place in the world you’d like to be right now.
How you’d handle winning a million dollars in the lottery.
Your ability to handle pressure.
The things that relax you the most.
Your writing goals, down to precise details.
By Angela Wilson
When I first saw Twitter, I thought, “So what?” I could see the use if I were traveling, or if a friend needed to send roving updates I could pick up via cell, but every day?
I started an account for both myself and my alter ego, Kitty Malloy, but left it virtually untouched for about a month. Then, while working on a client blog, I stumbled upon an innovative use of Twitter’s instant communications site by Tobacco Free Florida. To help smokers kick the habit, this techno-savvy nonprofit hooked up with Twitter to create the Quitter network. Here, smokers could sign on and use Twitter technology to communicate with other Florida smokers for virtual support while quitting.
That one Web site sent my mind racing. I started using Twitter daily to watch how others used it, especially news and marketing departments. I realized just how effective Twitter could be for cross-pollinating messages from Web sites, blogs and streaming video sites into one simple format.
Twitter allows users 140 characters to send followers a message. It can be anything from, “I’m home sick—BLAH!” to “My latest book launched today.” One day, I followed the uStream feed. UStream constantly updated Twitter followers with a stream of Michelle Williams’ Destiny’s Child. The posts said she was live, she was singing and viewers instantly knew when Williams said she supported Senator Barack Obama for president. The online shoe store Zappos uses Twitter to respond to customer queries. FoxNews and CNN inundate Twitter followers with short blurbs of breaking news, along with TinyURL site links.
These are great examples of how you can use one venue to share your online presence with your fans—and increase your sites’ traffic. As a self-promoting author, it is vital to cross-pollinate yourself on the Internet using a Web site, blogs, podcasts, videocasts, streaming video, guest spots and more. You can use Twitter to direct people to your various sites and keep them posted about upcoming book signings, contests, speaking engagements and conferences where you will be networking.
When attending an event, encourage your Twitter followers (who are similar to MySpace friends) to get device updates. This way, each time you update your travel progress, they can get a text message via Twitter. If you don’t have PC access, you can send tweets via text message. If you are trapped on a runway on the way to a conference, you can text a tweet telling fans and friends that you are running late. It is beneficial for touching base with fans and other writers when attending a large conference. You can send a text message tweet to indicate where you are, so they can meet you for lunch or at a certain room for autographs or business talk. Twitter is an excellent tool to promote book or gift basket giveaways and to direct followers to sponsor sites. You can also direct followers to the sites of fellow writers.
Twitter offers the code to put your updates on your blog, MySpace, Facebook or Web site. Grab that code—or have your Web designer do it—and paste it there. Encourage your fans to sign on. Also search Twitter for new friends to spread your marketing message. I type in various hobbies and work-related terms to find new followers, including write, edit, market, PR, painting and read.
Twitter is a simple, free, fantastic online venue to promote all of your Web sites in a one-stop shop. If you are not already tweeting, set up an account at www.twitter.com. Be sure it reflects your name or something about you so people can find you easily. Then, start posting. My tweets are available at twitter.com/angelawilson.
Those who use the Firefox browser can download add-ons like TwitterFox to make it easier to post updates and follow your friends. TwitterFox is a much better option than TwitterBar, which is sometimes fickle and not as user friendly. If you are sending a long link, use TinyURL to create a more manageable link. The site allows you to create an easy-to-use button for your toolbar.
Contributing newsletter columnist Angela Wilson is a Web producer, author publicist, and marketing/PR specialist. When not writing, she manages the author virtual book tour blog at:
Also find her on the Web at:
www.angelawilson.net, www.wickedwordsmith.com, or www.myspace.com/angelawilson
Got a marketing question you want answered in this column? E-mail Angela at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sue Thurman
Where do ideas and inspiration reside?
It would be great if they were in a special desk drawer or file on the computer. Imagine them jumping up excitedly while chanting, “Pick me, please pick me.”
More often they lurk in the shadows of the mind where we unexpectedly stumble across them next to the avocados on the grocery list.
What if we could flip them on like a light switch?
A great way to find ideas is by using creative observation techniques to tune into the inspiration stream. For a few moments, imagine driving across Arizona where your mission is to develop scripts for an alien galactic reporter with GNN, Galactic News Network. This requires constantly looking at everything from a new perspective.
Her name is Starshine and she broadcasts her space reports on the radio. They are based on her personal observations of unfamiliar things.
You now have a fresh perspective similar to that of a newborn as you share in her discoveries.
How does viewing planet Earth through new eyes alter your perceptions?
For a moment, think like Mork the wonderful character Robin Williams portrayed that audiences loved. Earthlings immediately understood how an alien could easily mistake many things for something else if it followed logic.
Starshine’s planet Etheria needs to expand, so the unusual sights along the Interstate highway on an early winter morning may provide incredible input. When the first puffy white clouds appear on the distant horizon, do they look unusual to you or just like typical accumulations of vapor?
It could be the sunrise lingering in the pink sky that makes the clouds so white, but what in the world is that up ahead? The possibilities are endless. Could it be the home of the Cloud Maker? The place where clouds on planet Earth are born before they float gently into the heavens? But who is the Cloud Maker? What is the machine that chugs out such spectacular objects?
As you approach the clouds float over a body of water, allowing the misty city to expand across the land in all directions. You discover a smokestack releasing the clouds with a constant staggering stream. New age music would fit nicely in the background, in harmony with the puffs of smoke. Now the concept is slightly adapted for another planet. You’ve got it; this is the home of the Mist Maker along with his incredible musical machine that creates the mist on Etheria. Starshine’s blue planet is suddenly surrounded with a light airy mist accompanied by great music.
The Mist Maker’s name is Logandy, musical scientist and dear friend of Starshine. In your mind he comes to life. Does Logandy resemble Christopher Lloyd’s character in Back to the Future as he moves about enthusiastically in a space age lab? Maybe he’s more like Bill Nye the science guy?
For some incredible moments it’s euphoric.
At the risk of feeling schizophrenic, you are yourself and Starshine. That is what writers do when they create characters. We live for a time inside both entities to know how they feel or react.
Would Carl Jung have a time with this stream of thought?
Many people will travel this same Arizona highway. They will drive by to see the 995-megawatt Cholla Power Plant that can produce 615 megawatts of electricity, fueled by coal from the McKinley Mine in New Mexico.
However, to this writer who is a creative observer, it will always be home of Logandy the Mist Maker, Christopher Lloyd version.
How does this cloud experience relate to you if you’re not a GNN galactic reporter?
A writer can find inspiration in so many everyday situations with a little exploration of the possibilities.
What’s inside the old warehouse on the corner? Does that building conceal some unlawful drug lab? Is this where an illegal breeder of exotic animals does business? Was that the cry of a baby lion? Where is the man in the three-piece suit off to in such a hurry? Is he late for a meeting? Running from the cops? Headed to a secret rendezvous? Getting his morning caffeine fix from Starbucks? Maybe he’s about to rob the bank on the corner?
The possibilities are truly endless and just waiting to be discovered by the writer that’s not afraid to ask questions. Take it from a space traveler, there’s inspiration everywhere if you take the time to ask, what if?
See those mountains off to the West? What if the ridge is actually the back of a dinosaur or dragon? Perhaps it merely fell asleep after a long journey? Adjust your view slightly then the mountain range resembles the profile of some famous person, or a giant gazing into the sky.
Maybe your next stay in a small southwestern town can plant the seeds for a novel, where Wyatt Earp’s great, great grandson pursues bad guys then ends up with the beautiful girl.
Every day is filled with inspiration, if you take the time to see through the eyes of your imagination. Keep a notebook or recorder handy that will nudge your subconscious to open the creative observation portal of your mind.
Just don’t trip over the avocados.
Guest Columnist Sue Thurman has been a creative writer, an on-air radio personality and a television producer. She is currently working on several book projects and developing a television pilot to spark children’s imaginations through the magic of reading.
Tip of the Month
Words are your tools, so fill your toolbox by constantly building your vocabulary. When you see a word you don’t know, don’t just skip over it. Write it down in a special notebook. Look it up in the dictionary. Jot down the meaning. And exercise with it by using it in sentences. Unusual words, especially, could add spice—and entertaining surprise—to your writing.
Market Watch: Podcasts
By Kim McDougall
Making Old Technology New
Audio books are not new but, with the current popularity of mp3 players, they are making a comeback in the form of podcasts. New publishers are springing up to cater to the hunger for all things mp3. Magazines like Podcastle, cater to fantasy fans with short stories published only in audio, easily downloaded to CD or mp3. And fantasy isn’t the only genre embracing podcasts. Bound Off is a literary audiozine and Sniplits publishes all genres from 50 to 10 000 words.
Looking for a podcast publisher for your short story or novel? Well, first you should know that there are different kinds of audio publishers. Some produce the recordings themselves and all you need to do is submit a manuscript. Of these publishers, some record simple readings, while others produce podcasts with sound and voice effects reminiscent of old time radio theater. Other publishers, such as Podiobooks, ask you to record your own podcast. This is not as hard as it sounds and the publisher’s Web site will have all the details on required software and hardware. These publishers often work on a subscription or donation basis from customers, and the writer gets a cut of this income, like royalties.
After deciding which kind of podcast publication you’re interested in, you need to assess your manuscript for audio ease. There are some inherent problems faced by read-aloud stories. Dialogue tags are at the top of that list. In written text, the reader has visual clues, such as quotation marks and line breaks, to indicate a change in speaker. Not so in audio. Unless your story is going to be produced with a cast of voices, it’s a good idea to insert clear dialogue tags like “he said” and “she said.”
The other big difference between visual and audio prose is forward cueing. Most people don’t realize that the reading process is not linear, but rather an assimilation of several words or even sentences at once. Readers instinctively know what the next word is because the eye sees a broad scope of text. Cameron Harne, editor of the now-defunct Scyweb Bem, says “Obviously, forward cueing does not exist in a narrated story. Because of this, words (and sometimes whole sentences) must be moved or changed to better accommodate the listener. Frankly, I’m convinced that this is the single most important factor when an audio book sells exceptionally well or poorly!”
Harne goes on to make another important point. Listening to a tale is an intimate experience, as if you are alone with the narrator in your head. Remember story time at the feet of your kindergarten teacher? Or spooky tales around the campfire? This nurturing feeling is part of the podcast appeal. For this reason, some people may be uncomfortable hearing erotica narrated aloud. Of course, there are specialty markets for this target audience too.
Despite these differences, most podcast publishers advise against “writing for audio” which can produce awkward, stilted prose. Unless you are producing your own podcast, write as you would and let the editors do the tweaking.
Most podcast publishers have guidelines similar to print, with a few notable exceptions. Podcastle (and its affiliates, Escape Pod and Pseudopod) prefer reprints. They encourage you to have your manuscript published elsewhere before submitting. From their guidelines: “Unpublished work will be considered as well, but if your story’s good enough for us to buy it, it’s probably good enough to sell to another market first. Why not try to get two audiences and two checks?”
Bound Off Magazine asks for the read-aloud time for your manuscript, and this is a good idea to submit with any publication. Even if you’re not going to produce your own recording, reading the text aloud will give you a good idea of how it translates to podcast.
Finally, you should be aware that many podcast publishers distribute under the Creative Common License. This means that the audio version of your story may be reproduced and shared by the end-user for noncommercial purposes. Note that this applies only to the audio recording. You will retain the copyright to the original work.
Traditional market sites like Duotrope and Ralan list some podcast publishers. Another source is the end market, iTunes and similar mp3 sites. Check out the podcasts available. Most listings have a link to the publisher.
Expanding Libraries and Markets
I have a BBC production of Lord of the Rings on thirteen brittle cassette tapes from the 1980’s. I listen to them in the car on long journeys, fearing that the cassettes will disintegrate in my stereo. Now, with podcasts, I can expand my audio library and maybe save these relics. More importantly, I have a whole new market to explore for my fiction.
Polish your voice-talents, haul out your microphones and find a home for your published or unpublished manuscripts with these podcast sites:
Pseudopod: Short horror fiction in mp3. http://pseudopod.org
Podcastle: Short fantasy fiction in mp3. Opening October 2007 http://podcastle.org
Escape Pod: Short sci-fi fiction in mp3 http://escapepod.org
Well Told Tales: Pulp fiction in mp3 http://welltoldtales.com
Obsidian River: Self produced, serialized novels in mp3. Buyers pay by tip jars: http://www.obsidianriver.com
Bound off: Literary short fiction in mp3 http://boundoff.com
Sniplits: Mainstream and genre short fiction in mp3. http://www.sniplits.com
Podiobooks: Self-produced, serialized novels. Buyers pay by donation. http://www.podiobooks.com
Violet Blue: Open Source Sex: Erotica short fiction in mp3. http://violetblue.libsyn.com
Creative Common License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Contributing newsletter columnist Kim McDougall is a Canadian-born writer and photographer. Her serialized novel “Second Skin” is currently available from Between the Cracks Digest at: www.kimmcdougall.com
POSTSCRIPT: Kim is taking a sabbatical of undetermined length from this column to focus all her energy on other projects. Until she returns, we will miss her—and her wonderful columns—greatly and wish her the best of luck in all her endeavors.
Fun Lit Fact
Virginia Woolf was a slow writer. Yet she was a comparatively prolific one because of all the dedicated hours she put in. She wrote nine full-length novels, two biographies, and there are seven volumes of literary criticism; in addition to this there must be at least 500,000 unpublished words in her diaries. “It's the writing, not the being read, that excites me,” she once said.
Unusual but cool sounding, interesting words to occasionally sprinkle into your writing.
Caution: Go very gently and wisely, lest you risk over-spicing your prose to point of the reader’s irritation.
Acolyte—An attendant, assistant, or novice. Not a slave, but a follower. Disciples follow a leader—acolytes empty her/his ashtray. A brilliant professor or an innovative employer will often attract acolytes.
Sleazoid—Dirty or slovenly.
Bedizen—To vulgarly dress or gaudily accessorize; too many bangles and beads.
Ersatz—An imitation, usually inferior.
Blowzy—Unkempt; messy. Hair out of place or an untucked shirt hanging out of a business suit qualify as blowzy. Can also mean “ruddy-faced and flushed.”
Polemic—Verbal attack on a belief or opinion, argumentative, controversial.
Blithely—Casual and carefree.
Final Suggestion: Before you unveil these words in public, look them up in your dictionary, learn all the different shades of meaning and uses, and roll them around on your tongue—and inside your head—until they feel comfortable to you.
The Writing Life
Nine Winning Habits for Writers
By Rob Parnell (with inspiration from Rachel McAlpine)
1. Develop the will to write
Too many people say they want to write a novel one day and never get around to it. If you want to write novels you have to start now, immediately, and not put it off any longer.
Time goes by so quickly. And if you want to write long pieces one day, you have to practice with shorter ones. Write something every day. Set goals for yourself and get used to finishing projects—this sets up powerful messages about your capabilities in your subconscious.
Keep writing until it's a habit—even an addiction.
2. Write what you love to read
There's seems little point researching markets to write for when you probably know a lot about the genre you like to read. Most authors—I'm tempted to say all—start this way. They're so grateful for the joy they receive reading certain types of books; they want to give something back.
If you've read a lot of horror novels for instance, you'll know the conventions and are more likely to know how to come up with something original that other horror fans will like.
3. Live life intensely
For your writing to have depth, you must experience life to the full. Many writers come from very colorful backgrounds—or have rich fantasy lives. Also, writing itself seems to add intensity to life. As a writer, you must learn to express yourself and take on issues like personal growth, achievement and spiritual fulfillment, which all help in your development as a person.
Writing full-time is a dream come true for most. And becoming a successful writer is perhaps the ultimate gamble—you risk everything on the belief you can succeed. That takes a certain type of courage, even recklessness, but it would appear to have its rewards!
4. Be professional
This doesn't mean writing full time from the start, it means being disciplined, committed and single minded about writing—long before you're published.
Sherry Anne Jacobs says: “People don't realize that being a writer is like climbing not one mountain but a whole range of mountains.”
You need to get used to rejection, live with it, and keep on pushing, dealing with publishers with courtesy and patience no matter what.
5. Construct you own career
This is perhaps the most liberating part of being a writer: you can choose your direction, where to concentrate your efforts and what to do with your time.
You'd be surprised to learn that most successful career writers made a decision to be just that—then came up with a strategy to make it happen.
Famous Literary Agent Selwa Anthony says authors should plan ten years ahead, expecting enough money to support them after the first 3 to 4 novels. This is the reality for most authors so it's important to be realistic in your planning.
6. Accept the rewards and punishments
Of course the money is motivating, and the freedom it can bring.
But there are other rewards like being able to touch the hearts and minds of others.
Success also brings responsibilities too—like working to deadlines and surviving bad reviews, having to promote yourself and your work in interviews, seminars and appearances. Being okay with fame, too, is important.
7. Explore the six senses
Writers need to be acutely aware of the things that happen around them. Plus, they need to be able to explore ideas, relationships, everything and be able to translate them all into words on paper.
Relish your senses, analyze them and don't ever be afraid of being yourself when you write. Write about the stuff that hurts too.
8. Keep your sense of humor
Most professional writers seem to possess a lightness of spirit and can laugh at themselves when necessary. A sense of humor restores your perspective and can be the best defense against the pitfalls of an author's life: loneliness, exhaustion, frustration, and paranoia, even poverty.
You should also try to stay humble—accept that not everything can go your way and that not everything you write is going to be heralded as genius. Learn to be happy—as happy as you believe you will be when you're a successful writer—and you're half way there.
9. Write popular novels
It may seem obvious but in order to be a popular novelist, you should aspire to write popular novels. This means writing specifically for publication, adhering to genre conventions, taking great care over spelling, grammar and punctuation—and constantly striving to learn more about the craft.
It's especially important for first time authors to know the rules and prove to publishers they know the conventions, understand their reader's expectations, and can meet them.
This last fact is often overlooked by aspiring writers, and shouldn't be.
You can become a professional writer, simply if you believe you can.
Rob Parnell is a prolific writer who’s published novels, short stories, and articles in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and a teacher who’s conducted writing workshops, critique groups, and seminars.
Please visit Mr. Parnell’s Web site at:
Poetry Tips & Prompts of the Month
By Marilyn L. Taylor
A couple of common courtesies (more important than they seem) to remember when you’re submitting your poems to journals:
Always remember that submitting a group of poems is much like going for a job interview. First impressions do make a difference. Neatness does count.
Consider using a slightly heavier, stationery-quality stock (but keep it completely unadorned—no designs, no illustrations!) for your submission. This is not essential, by any means, but it comes across as a nicely subtle gesture.
Avoid using 8-1/2 x 11 envelopes. They will end up at the bottom of a tall stack of business-size ones, and might increase your wait for a response.
Put two stamps instead of one on the envelope if you’re sending a group of 5 or 6 poems, especially if you’re using that slightly heavier stock. At least you’ll be reasonably certain that your submission will get to its destination, and it will give the subliminal impression that its safe arrival is important to you.
Be sure to affix those stamps neatly. It may sound silly, but stamps haphazardly plastered on an envelope can create a negative impression, like showing up at an important interview with a shirt-tail hanging out.
*Write an opposite poem; that is, choose a poem on opposite subject matter than you'd EVER write and then write your poem, choosing the opposite of each term as it comes up.
*Write a poem about seven of anything.
*Write a poem about where you'll vacation in the afterlife.
*Write a poem about the first time you did anything.
*Write a poem imagining/describing/outright lying about one of your relatives meeting someone famous.
*Write a poem full of lies.
*Write a poem about the day you were born.
*Write a poem in first person describing the functions of one body part/organ—remember that Reader's Digest column, “I Am Joe’s Spleen”?
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Credits, Disclaimer, and Copyright
Michael P. Geffner, the founder/editor-in-chief of this newsletter, has been a writer/journalist for nearly 30 years. He's appeared in hundreds of publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, Details, The Sporting News, Men's Health, The Village Voice, FHM, Texas Monthly, and Los Angeles Magazine. He has won two Associated Press Sports Editors awards, been awarded first place for magazine profile writing in 2000 by the Society of Professional Journalists (NJ), voted Best Sportswriter in New York City in 1990 by New York Press, and acknowledged for excellence six times by the annual anthology, The Best American Sports Writing.
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