Friday, July 31, 2009

Inspiring Quote of the Day: Donald Barthelme

"The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention...The not-knowing is not simple, because it's hedged about with prohibitions, roads that may not be taken. The more serious the artist, the more problems he takes into account and the more considerations limit his possible initiatives" - Donald Barthelme

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Lewis Black on Writers and Writing

Warning: Adult Language/Adult Viewers Only

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Advice of the Day: Procrastination

A lot of writers beat themselves up over procrastinating too much.

They fret over the possibility that they might have writer's block.

They hate themselves for not being more productive.

They sweat that they're falling behind pace and won't hit their deadline.

But the way you think about things in writing can truly make a difference about the way you feel and, often, how the work turns out, because you need to feel comfortable to find your zone.

So, my advice...

Think of procrastination as a friend, not a fiend.

View procrasting simply as part of your creative process. That you're not really avoiding writing so much as thinking about it, shaping it in your head, crystalizing it, before you actually sit down to do it.

Now, doesn't that make you feel better? Huh?

I thought so.


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Poetry Quotes of the Day

"A poem is an instant of lucidity in which the entire organism participates."
Charles Simic

"Each memorable verse of a true poet has two or three times the written content."
Alfred de Musset

"Poetry is a language pared down to its essentials."
Ezra Pound

"Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful."
Rita Dove

"Poetry allows one to speak with a power that is not granted by our culture."
Linda McCarriston

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73 Ways to Become a Better Writer

By Mary Jaksch

Doing these things can help you become a better writer:

1. Become a blogger.

2. Use self-imposed word limits.

3. Accept all forms of criticism and learn to grow from it.

4. Read what you’ve written over and over, until you can’t find any more problems.

5. Show what you write to a trusted friend for feedback.

6. Outline. And then write to that outline.

7. Edit, and edit again.

8. Live with passion.

9. Be open, curious, present, and engaged.

10. Take a break between writing and editing.

Read the rest at:
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

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Writing Tip of the Day: Stretch!

Give your writing a workout by stretching.

In other words…

Use other words. Go for the crazy and the unusual.

Use different voices. Write as if it was your mother talking, or your best friend, or your favorite movie actor—any voice other than your own.

Use different punctuation. Spice it up with long dashes or exclamation points or semi-colons.

Use different sentence lengths than you ordinarily do. Maybe even go for the one-word paragraph.

Use different inspirational tools.

Remember, this is just practice. I’m not asking to actually write like this. It’s simply a way for you to get comfortable with different techniques, think outside the box, and grow as a writer.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sasa Vucinic: Why a free press is the best investment

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Inspiring Quote of the Day: Marianne Williamson

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson

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The Frustrated Writer - We've All Been There

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Jacques Derrida's Fear of Writing

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Reader's Digest Editor-in-Chief Peggy Northrop

Find out what a top editor is reading, thinking, doing...
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Interview with Gonzo Hunter S. Thompson

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How to Become a Journalist

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Writing Mommies Interview with Moi/Complete Text
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Interview conducted by Angela Atkinson.

Writing Mommies: Have you always wanted to be a journalist?

Mike Geffner: Actually, I started out wanting to be a fiction writer—a novelist or short story writer. I absolutely adored writers like Faulkner, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Conrad, Camus, and so many others.

In fact, the year right after college, I consumed, believe it or not, 300 classic short novels. It was so intense. I thought legendary novelists were just the greatest writers ever to inhabit the planet and I wanted their words inside me.

Journalism was just something I simply stumbled into, writing about what I knew, I guess—which, like most young boys, was sports. I figured I’d use journalism simply as a bridge to writing novels, but somehow it didn’t turn out that way. I fell in love with journalism.

WM: Did you have to deal with any rejections starting out?

MG: Oh, my, yes.

I’d published some stories in small magazines and newspapers while still in college, so I thought I’d have it easy landing a job. Well, I sent out 100 resumes to newspapers and magazines around the country and got rejected by 99 out of them.

Only one newspaper showed any interest in me at all: the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, North Carolina. They considered me for a job as a junior sports editor. I did an audition for them, and, unfortunately, that didn’t work out either. So, I was 0 for 100. Not a great batting average. That just shows you how far you can go despite early rejections—from that awful beginning to where I am today.

WM: So what would you say was your first “real” writing gig?

MG: My first real job was stringing for the Associated Press. I first covered the New York Yankees every single home game. Not a bad gig for someone only 23 years old—covering the most famous sports team in the world and my favorite team as a kid. My job was writing game stories and features, as well as breaking news stories if I could dig them out.

It all felt natural to me—the reporting, the adrenaline rush of writing on deadline, the watching of baseball games and seeing the story within the story.

What’s funny is, I wasn’t even sure I wanted the job when it was offered to me, I remember calling my father and discussing it with him. He was a huge Yankee fan and said I was crazy if I rejected it. “Listen,” he said. “Take the job and if you hate it in a couple of months, just quit.”

That was in 1981—and I’ve never looked back since. I’ve been a working journalist all these years, never working a “real job.”

WM: You’ve worked for Penthouse, in addition to several other major magazines. What kind of stuff did you write for Penthouse?

MG: I did Q&A’s with athletes. No sex stories. In fact, my stories were completely non-sexual. But the pay was ridiculous—between $5000-7,500 for what amounted to no more than four days’ work. I spent a couple of hours interviewing the subject, which the magazine transcribed for me. I whittled down the transcription to its essence, made the thing flow smoothly, then topped it off with a 300-word lead-in. That was it. You don’t turn down assignments like that!

WM: We have to ask, what was it like interviewing President Nixon?

MG: I interviewed Nixon twice in the early 80’s, when I worked for the AP. It was a surreal experience. Like talking to Mount Rushmore. I mean, I never expected to interview him, because I wasn’t a political writer. We chatted about baseball. He was very charming and a huge baseball fan—and very knowledgeable about the game. One thing that sticks out in my memory is that once he learned my name, he used it in his answers, like “Well, Mike...” It’s, of course, a politician’s trick, a way to develop immediate intimacy—and it worked.

WM: What do you love about journalism?

MG: The immediacy of it, the digging out of unique stories. I love telling people something they didn’t already know.

But the journalism I grew up in, the one I grew to love, doesn’t really exist anymore. Accuracy and fairness doesn’t matter much anymore, stories with a heart aren’t given much space, and great writing is virtually non-existent. It’s all about gossip and controversy now, all about shock value and titillation.

WM: You work with new writers a lot, with Mike’s Writing Workshop, Writers Helping Writers, your Sunday workshops, etc. What inspires you to do that?

MG: I confess that I’m obsessed with helping new writers. I love giving back, making a difference in people’s lives.

The thing is, we all start out in the same place—unpublished and wondering if they’ll ever make it as a writer full time. My mission: I want to provide the advice and guidance that I didn’t have and make things easier if I can.

WM: In your experience, what does it take to get started in the field of journalism?

MG: 1) Find a way to land an internship at a publishing place. 2) Network with people in the industry. 3) Respond to as many job ads as possible, even ones that don’t appeal to you.

Get connected, body and soul, with the writing business and work hard at the craft each and every day.

WM: Rejection is part of the life of a writer. How would you recommend that writers deal with rejection in their careers? How have you dealt with it personally?

MG: The fact is, believe it or not, there are people who read Hemingway and Steven King and don’t think they’re any good. It’s all subjective. So don’t take any of it personally. If you take it too personally, you’re doomed. Me, I handle rejection by getting bummed out for a couple of days, then think about the next thing.

The secret of my success, I believe, is getting over rejection quickly and jumping right back in the race. I never let anybody tell me I can’t’ do this or that. If some editor doesn’t like what I do, I simply go on to the next editor. It’s about moving forward.

I think my perseverance and resilience have been the keys to my longevity in this field. The people who give up—those are the people who don’t make it.

Think of yourself like a door-to-door salesman. When a door-to-door salesman gets rejected, he’s happy, because he knows with each rejection he’s closer to a sale. He understands percentages.

The problem is, writers are wired differently than door-to-door salesmen. We’re sensitive souls and when we get rejected, we feel like it’s an attack on our souls. Ok, so get bummed out if you want, eat ice cream for two days straight if it makes you happy, but once that time is over stop thinking about that rejection and get back to writing again.

WM: Do you recommend that aspiring freelancers quit their “day jobs” in order to focus on writing?

MG: No!

Keep the guaranteed money coming in. But at the same time keep trying to publish and keep trying to make more and more money with your stories. Then, once you’re making decent living, strategize on making the gradual shift from part-time to full-time writing.

I won’t lie. Unless you land a staff writing gig, it’s very difficult. Freelancing can be a sucker’s life for most. You need to start making at least a $1-a-word to have any chance at all. Of course, if you’re a stay-at-home mom, if you’re not the primary breadwinner, freelancing can not only be a great creative outlet but a decent source of extra income.

WM: What’s the best way to make money as a freelance writer?

Do Q&A’s. They’re not as easy as they look, because you have to make the interview compelling and make it flow. You need to ask great questions and have the ability to find the core. Even though it’s a Q&A, it’s still a story and still requires storytelling. But they pay the most money for the least amount of work.

WM: How do you feel about content sites like Associated Content?

MG: Don’t get addicted to them. That’s my advice. They pay nothing and odds on they’ll lead to nowhere. And since it’s not going to lead anywhere, essentially all you’re doing is providing free content to a site so they can sell advertising. Worst, since there’s no editor to oversee your work, to intervene, you’ll likely develop bad habits and become a lazy writer.

Get used to working for places that require a certain standard for publishing your stories. And get used to being paid for your work. And get used to working with editors (I’ve learned so much from editors over the years).

WM: So do you advise writers to stay away from AC and similar sites?

MG: I would say that you should use this type of platform to simply establish your voice and practice. Then move forward, challenge yourself—or, trust me, your career will never go anywhere. If you’re not sure about the legitimacy of a site, there’s a great site called Writer Beware ( that can help. In fact, check out this post on my blog:

WM: Is that what you’d about online publishing in general?

MG: Writing for websites is fine as long as it’s a pay site sand especially ones people know. and are two highly respected online-only sites. Also, look for online extensions of print publications and national TV networks. But, no matter what, you should try to get into print—and the bigger the circulation the better.

WM: You do so much to help other writers. What inspires you to do that?

MG: For one, there’s so much misinformation out there that I want to set things straight and get young or aspiring writers on the right path. In fact, that was the impetus behind my starting Mike’s Writing Workshop on Yahoo in March 2001. Instead of just complaining, I did something to change things.

Another reason is that one of my mentors once told me to “pass it on." And I have ever since.

WM: Why don’t you charge writers for the "insider" information you offer them on your websites?

MG: I do what I can. I charge for private sessions and my one-day Sunday workshops. But that’s it. Most writers, especially new ones, aren’t exactly rich, so I don’t want them forking over more money than they can afford. I just really enjoy teaching others and want to get the real information out there—not the crap you see on so many sites, like making money writing bumper stickers and for greeting cards. I mean, you didn’t become a writer to write bumper stickers and greeting cards, did you?

WM: What kinds of advice do you offer for writers in your groups?

MG: Well, I kept hearing the same questions over and over again, so one day I decided to answer the questions in one swoop and wrote The Ten Commandments to Writing Success ( Originally I wrote it just for the group members so that they could refer to it, but it wasn’t long until a slew of writing resource sites asked me if they could reprint it.

I later came up with 10 more commandments, labeling it Part 2:

WM: The Ten Commandments to Writing Success has now been published all over the place. How did that happen?

MG: It’s been picked up by so many writing resource sites (including WM And, it was eventually published by The Writer magazine, for which after a little re-writing I was paid a few hundred dollars. They then reprinted the article in their Writer’s Handbook and paid me again. And they’ve since reprinted it several times for their advertising material, paying me every step of the way.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Mind you, I never intended on this little piece being published. I never wanted to make a dime doing it—but when you do something good, someone will find you and pay you for it. That’s the lesson to be learned there. Put it out there and anything can happen—just like someone winning the lottery or some homely lady becoming world famous because of some TV talent show.

WM: If you had to choose, who would you say was a writing mentor for you?

MG: The person who helped me most wasn’t a writer at all, believe it or not, but a retired salesman for the Wall Street Journal. His name was Al and he gave seminars in New York City (as well as other places) about finding work. Not writing work, mind you. Just work in general. Well, one day years ago, when he was giving a seminar in a library, I decided to take a listen, since at the time I was struggling to find work as a writer. Part of me thought, “What can he do for ME? It’s not about writing jobs.” But the other part of me kept an open mind and listened. Luckily. Because Al was a fascinating, tough, and wise man.

I ended up following him all over Manhattan, going to every one of his seminars for months.

He taught me that looking for work was nothing more than selling—selling yourself. In other words, to be successful at finding work, you need to be a great salesman of the commodity of YOU.

In the end, I landed a major writing job, thanks to Al’s guidance, but when I asked what I could do for him in return, he said, “I don’t want anything.” And he paused before adding: “Just pass it on.”

That was such a powerful moment for me, so memorable. That was something that made a difference in my life, a critical juncture. I don’t think I’ve been the same person since. I’ve definitely made sure to pass it on, to pay it forward.

So, tag, you’re it now! It’s your responsibility to pass it on.

WM: Thank you, what an honor! So that must have helped inspire you to work with new writers?

MG: Definitely. And the fact that there’s so much misinformation out there, so many freelance writing “gurus” who don’t have any real credentials or know what they’re doing, I wanted in my own little way to set the record straight. A lot of these self-proclaimed writing gurus are like those middle-of-the-night real estate guys you see on television—they don’t make their money buying and selling real estate as much as they do selling tapes and books.

WM: Have you ever considered writing a book? We think it’d be a best seller.

MG: I’ve been asked to write a book a zillion times, but for some reason I haven’t done one yet. When I am ready, I guess, I’ll do it—if that day comes. The fact is, I go wherever my heart takes me. As long as I have a roof over my head and food on the table, I do what’s right for me. I’m sure I’ll probably do that book at some point, just not sure when.

WM: What would you say is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

MG: I’ve been given a lot of great advice over the years, but the one piece I remember best came years ago from Joe Klein, the wonderful political journalist who wrote “Primary Colors” and now writes for Time magazine. He said to me once, “Never throw away a single line.” In other words, really try to make every single line count. To this day, I think about Joe’s advice every time I write a story. I’m still trying to make my stories better. I keep searching for the right words. I keep working, day in and day out, at the craft, trying to make it great.

Angela Atkinson is freelance writer and editor working from home. She is happily married and has three beautiful children. Find out more about Angela's freelance services, including links to other work on her website,
Click here
Visit her personal blog at In Pursuit of Fulfillment.
Click here

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The Excellent Writer Within

The Excellent Writer Within
By Michael Levy

The art of good writing comes from the artist within. All humans have the ability to become great authors, poets, artists and musicians, etc., so why do most folks find it such a difficult task? Why do many people say I could never be a writer or I could never aspire to write poetry? And why do folks who do write get discouraged when their work is rejected?

We are what we think, so if we believe we cannot succeed in our daily actions, then for sure we will never get away from our perception of who we think we are. This self-defeating attitude was not of our making. As we were growing up and maturing into adulthood, we were indoctrinated with thousands of negative thoughts. This gave us a belief that we are only a housewife or only a truck driver. This limited vision of our role in life-gives us a limited life. People the world over have great creativity. Once we start to understand who we are and the reasons we exist, we start to cultivate eloquent works of creativity.

Just writing worthy, meaningful, literature will not get the success it deserves unless we possess the resolve to carry on writing in spite of the critics. There will always be those who criticize a writer, no matter how good the composition. Rejection is an everyday experience for most writers. This is a joy we must accept and grow from. Just because someone does not like our essay, does not mean it has no value. It means it was not acceptable to the editor or book reviewer that was reading the essay.

We can do two things when we are constantly being rejected. We can give up and say it was not meant to be. Alternatively, we can say; "How do I become a better writer and have my work accepted by more of the "establishment." Once a small section of the general public start to take an interest in our writing, the sheep mentality of the "establishment" will no doubt follow. It always has. It always will. Success breeds success.

Until we can find the inner core of creativity and start to write from the soul, we will never become a great writer. We may achieve a modicum of success by writing a few columns for a newspaper or magazine but that could keep us in a vacuum. We can scrape a living, but may not amass a fortune, for we are trying to write and trying will never cut the mustard.

The secret to excellent writing is to enjoy with ecstatic abandonment each letter and syllable we put down on paper. The pure joy of writing makes us a success, nothing else will. Those who tell us we have to struggle and sweat have not grasped true meaning in their lives. We need no approval of any human to be a success.

Stop trying to become a success. We are a success already. We were born. We are a success of life. The sperm hit the egg and here we are.

Hello world!!

Everything else we do and achieve is just a bonus.

Life is to be enjoyed not endured. Joy brings true meaning to life.

Now the next question to ask is what is Joy? What does Joy mean and how do we achieve it? Look within—take time to silence the mind and feel the texture of nothingness. Smell the perfume of celestial splendor. Discover the sound of cosmic waves flowing though our subconscious mind. Palpate infinity. Breathe eternity. Conceive the splendor of maturating into the essence of a successful writer. Be the word, become the poem, live the adventure.

Everything we do is inscribed in our book of life. We just need to learn how to read the instructions written within every cell and molecule of our being. Each tissue and sinew bleeds muscular power of infinite, majestic might. Fly on the wings of limitless mastery. Escape the shrouded cocoon and become the enchanting butterfly.

The dreams of authentic reality are about to manifest a rainbow of magical delights:-----: "Write On Time": -----: "Compose in Space"
Y-ourself ———— (THE GENIUS)
© Michael Levy.

Michael Levy is the author of several books, including “The Joys of Live Alchemy,” and his inspirational poetry and essays appear on many sites, journals and magazines throughout the world.

For more information on Mr. Levy, please visit his Web site:
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut's Great Advice on Writing Short Stories

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Writing Prompts of the Day

Write about…

What you do very well.

Your greatest obsession.

Something you dislike about yourself.

The qualities you most admire in yourself and others.

Your greatest fear.

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Writing Quotes of the Day

“Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. . . But amusing? Never.”—Edna Ferber

“I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.”—A. J. Liebling

“What has a writer to be bombastic about? Whatever good a man may write is the consequence of accident, luck, or surprise, and nobody is more surprised than an honest writer when he makes a good phrase or says something truthful.”—Edward Dahlberg

“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

“If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissoluble as if they were conceived together.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.”—Andre Gide

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”—Joseph Pulitzer

“Just get it down on paper, and then we'll see what to do with it.”—Maxwell Perkins

“…everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”—Sylvia Plath

“Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”—Truman Capote

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."—Michelangelo

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A Word about Words

A Word about Words
By Mark Terence Chapman

Here are some more words and phrases 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?

Envelop vs. Envelope

Wrong: Stick it in an envelop and mail it.
Right: Stick it in an envelope and mail it.

An envelope (pronounced EN-vel-ope or ON-vel-ope) is a flat container, usually made of paper, in which to put letters or other papers. Envelop (en-VEL-up) is a verb that means to enclose, surround, or wrap up. Therefore, you might envelop a letter with an envelope.

Contingent vs. Contingency

Wrong: We have a backup plan as a contingent.
Right: We have a backup plan as a contingency.

As an adjective, contingent means dependent on (as in contingent upon the weather) or uncertain (contingent plans). The noun contingency refers to a chance event or uncertainty. (He was prepared for any contingency.)

Emigrate(ion) vs. Immigrate(ion), Emigrant vs. Immigrant

Wrong: She has plans to immigrate to Canada.
Right: She has plans to emigrate to Canada.
Wrong: He’s a recent emigrant to our country.
Right: He’s a recent immigrant to our country.

An immigrant is someone who immigrates, or moves here from another country. Conversely, an emigrant is someone who emigrates to another country. To keep them straight, think of the “e” in emigrate as standing for “exit.”

Grandiose vs. Grand

Wrong: This grandiose building will stand as a symbol of hope for decades.
Right: This grand building will stand as a symbol of hope for decades.

Something that’s grand is imposing, majestic, impressive, or magnificent. Grandiose means pompous, overblown, or affectedly grand—definitely not a compliment.

Imminent vs. Eminent vs. Preminent

Wrong: They were prepared for his eminent demise.
Right: They were prepared for his imminent demise.
Wrong: He’s a preeminent authority on the subject.
Right: He’s an eminent authority on the subject.
Right: He’s the preeminent authority on the subject.

Imminent means impending. Eminent means prominent, distinguished, or notable, as in a noted authority, while preeminent means at the forefront or above all others. Therefore, there can be many eminent authorities, but only one preeminent one.

Flout vs. Flaunt

Wrong: He seems to go out of his way to flaunt authority.
Right: He seems to go out of his way to flout authority.

To flaunt is to show off conspicuously or ostentatiously, as in flaunting a new sports car or jewelry. On the other hand, to flout is to treat with scorn, disdain, or contempt.

Pair vs. Pairs

Wrong: She bought four pair of shoes at Macy’s.
Right: She bought four pairs of shoes at Macy’s.

Pair means two. For more than one pair, use pairs—the plural form of the word.

Automatic vs. Automated

Wrong: The process is entirely automatic.
Right: The process is entirely automated.

Automatic means able to start or operate independently or without thought. Automated means to apply the principles of automation by having a machine perform a task.

Horde(ing) vs. Hoard(ing)

Wrong: She’d been hording food for years, in case of disaster.
Right: She’d been hoarding food for years, in case of disaster.

To hoard, a verb, is to stockpile for future use or preservation. Horde is a noun that refers to a large group of people or animals, as in a mob or herd.

Historic vs. Historical

Wrong: This is an historical day!
Right: This is a historic day!

Historic means noteworthy. A historic day is one that will be long remembered. Historical merely means relating to history (as in historical records)—something that happened once upon a time. (Note: “An” should only precede words that begin with vowels. Therefore “an historic” is incorrect, even though it frequently appears this way, as if the “h” were silent.)

If you’ve ever been confused about any of these words or phrases, tack this column 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: or his blog at:

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Great American Novel

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Oxygen - Howard Treadwell & Timothy Prolific Jones

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Nikki Giovanni "Talk To Me Poem"

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Slice of the Writing Life: Nikki Giovanni

Award-winning author, poet and activist Nikki Giovanni was asked what advice she gives young writers.

Here’s her answer:

“Let's own it. This is mine. This is how I feel about it. The authority of the writer always overcomes the skepticism of the reader. If you know what you're talking about, or if you feel that you do, the reader will believe you. That's why we believe Frank Baum. Who would believe Dorothy and a house and a dog up in a tornado? We believe it because the author believes it. We believe Peter Rabbit because Beatrix Potter believes it. You have to. The authority of the writing will always overcome that. You can't hedge your bets. If you do, people will say, ‘Hmm. Where did you get that from?’ You can't do that. Just don't do it.”

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Andrea Gibson at Da Poetry Lounge

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Mike’s Private Coaching Sessions

Mike’s Private Coaching Sessions

Need a writing coach to pump you up and get your creative juices flowing? Need a writing mentor who doesn’t speak from theory but decades of experience in the center of the publishing arena, someone who has appeared in hundreds of major newspapers around the country and countless national magazines? Let me help you reach your writing dreams!
• Make your writing powerfully come to life
• Build the A, B, and C’s of a professional writing career
• Learn the secrets of full-time freelancing
• Talk to editors and come away with work
• Network your way through the publishing game
• Reach publishing powerbrokers
• Negotiate like a pro for high-dollar assignments
• Deal effectively with rejection, blocks, fear, procrastination, and other obstacles
• Get inspired

And much, much more!

Write me at:
15-minute phone sessions for $30, a half-hour for $50.

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An Interview with Ray Bradbury

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Affirmations to Write By

Inspiration is a treasured gem to be admired and carried within me every day.

Mistakes are simply part of the trial-and-error creative process.

Even the greatest writers have, at times, felt like failures. So I never feel that I’m alone.

I never find excuses to not write, but always find reasons to get started.

I love writing because it helps me discover new things about myself that I would never have discovered any other way.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TedTalks - C.K. Williams: Poetry for all seasons of life

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Hostile Editing: Resources for the Toughest Writing Jobs

Hostile Editing can help you achieve your communication goals with its powerful, strategic guides: "100 Days to Better Writing," "Precise Edit Training Manual," "Writing Tips for a Year," and "Bang! Writing with Impact." You don’t need an English degree to write well; you need to GET HOSTILE. Visit to purchase the guide you need.
Click here

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That First Morning Coffee to a Writer: Is There Anything Better?

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The Contest Game: Is it Worth It?

The Contest Game: Is it Worth It?
By Jeanne Lyet Gassman

The idea of paying money to enter a writing competition is often a subject of great controversy among writers. Are these contests of any real value? Can they help your career? I believe that writing contests can be of benefit to the writer—as long as you choose your competitions carefully.

What can a contest do for you and your writing career?

 They instill discipline. The submission deadlines of contests force you to write and complete a project in a timely manner.
 There are tangible rewards. These rewards—ranging from publication to financial compensation to simple recognition—can inspire you to improve both your craft and your productivity
 Contests get your name “out there.” Since many of the contest judges are either publishers or editors, entering a contest provides a great opportunity for networking.
 They develop the habit of submitting your work. Entering a few contests can get you over the fear of sending your writing to strangers.
 They expose you to new potential markets. I’ve discovered some wonderful magazines and publications simply because I took the time to research their contest offering.

How do you know if a contest is legitimate?

This is a tricky issue because the scam contests can sometimes look very promising, but there are a few things you should look for:

 What is the ratio of the entry fee to the financial award? A contest that charges a $20.00 entry fee with a first place award of $100.00 is using the contest to raise money. A contest that offers a $1500.00 first prize with a $20.00 entry fee probably has other sources of funding. The average entry fee for most writing competitions can be anywhere from a low of about $5.00 to a high of about $25.00. Some contests for full-length books may have slightly higher entry fees.
 Who is sponsoring the contest? Look for contests sponsored by literary magazines, professional writing organizations, and foundations. Be wary of contests sponsored by unknown entities, as they tend to be poorly managed.
 Where did you learn about the contest? Many of the professional writing magazines and Web sites screen their contest announcements. (Note: A list of good resources for legitimate contests follows at the end of this article.)
 Will you be asked to buy anything after you enter? A common scam is to declare every entry a winner and then encourage the “winners” to buy an expensive copy of the book of winning entries.

What are my chances of receiving an award?

They may be better than you think. In an informal survey among my peers, I discovered that the success rate for contest entries was about 40 per cent. That includes winning, receiving honorable mention, financial awards, and/or publication. In a similar survey for the success of unsolicited submissions, fewer than 10 out of every 100 unsolicited submissions were accepted for publication. Of course, it’s important to remember that there are numerous factors that can contribute to your success in a contest, and the judging of any contest is somewhat subjective. However, there are some simple guidelines you can follow that will improve your odds in a writing competition:

 Plan ahead. If you’re writing something from scratch for a contest, be sure to give yourself enough time to write the piece, set it aside, and revise it.
 Follow the guidelines exactly. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t cheat on the word count. Don’t send your ms. as an attachment if the guidelines request that it be sent in the body of the email. Ignoring the guidelines can instantly disqualify your entry.
 Double-check the details. Did you enclose a check for the entry fee? Do you have the SASE for notification of the winners? Is the submission address typed correctly? A simple thing such as a typo in the zip code can cause your entry to arrive too late for the contest deadline. Be thorough.
 Study the winners. Read the previous year’s winning entry, if it’s available. For contests sponsored by magazines, it can be helpful to read back issues of the magazine.

If you’ve decided that a writing contest is something you want to try, there is no time like the present. Here are some resources for legitimate writing contests:
Click here
(An excellent resource for contests, grants, and markets.)
Click here
(Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the rolling list of writing competitions
(This is a list compiled by Allison Joseph and contains not only contest information but calls for submission to upcoming anthologies.)
Click here
(This is a list compiled by Allison Joseph and contains not only contest information but calls for submission to literary magazines and anthologies.)
Click here
(The calendar on their site makes it easy to keep track of upcoming deadlines.)

Happy writing and may every one of your contest entries be a winner!

Jeanne Lyet Gassman is an award-winning writer whose fiction and nonfiction has been published in numerous magazines, newsletters, and anthologies. The recipient of artistic grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Creative Capital Foundation, she is currently studying for her MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Phoenix and teaches writing workshops and classes in the metro area.

Visit Ms. Gassman at her Web site:
Click here

Or her blog:
Click here

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Advice on Storytelling

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Frank McCourt: YouTube Obit

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Editing is an Imperfect Process

Editing is an Imperfect Process
By Patricia Fry

I hate it when I discover a mistake in my already published book. There’s the book all printed and bound—etched in stone—and, oops a mistake appears. When you spot it, it’s like a big, red zit suddenly appears on the face of the book.


I don’t think there is a book of any substance anywhere without a mistake. Not that this is an excuse to go ahead and make them or to avoid all of those final pre-printing edits and proofs. I teach and preach that we must produce the most pristine product possible. But something is going to escape our eyes and those of our editors and proofreaders. It’s pretty much a given that your perfect book will arrive with a few mistakes.

You might find them right away, upon first glance—and it’s a real shame when that happens. Or it might take you days, weeks, months, even years to discover a mistake or two.

When my books arrive from the publisher/printer, I always set aside one copy to mark up. Whenever anyone points out a mistake or I spot one, I highlight it so I can correct it in the next printing.

What are your failsafe procedures for editing your book? I’ve found over the years that editing is a process. When I edit my own work, especially a book manuscript, I go over it many, many times with different things in mind. There’s the initial editing after the book is completed—sometimes involving two, three or more reads. There’s the editing work after making additions or changes. (I want to make sure I haven’t repeated something unnecessarily or that I haven’t, heaven forbid, contradicted myself.) I edit again when something jumps out at me during a random glance. I read my manuscript over and over and over again. And then I get down to the nitty gritty editing work.

I read my manuscripts with content in mind—does it make sense, does it flow, do the transitions work well, are my explanations clear, is the material pertinent, have I left anything out, are there areas where I have over-explained, what about organization?

I strive to edit out extra words—in other words, I tighten and then I tighten it some more.

I read the manuscript for accuracy. I check facts and statistics and make sure the attributions are in place and correct. Do the chapter titles and headings correspond with the table of contents? Do the fonts for chapter titles and headings, etc. conform in size and style throughout? Have I used the right words in the right places? Spell-check will not alert you to wrong words when they are spelled correctly. For example, you might intend using “carp” and it is spelled, “crap,” “have” instead of “has,” “bed” instead of “bad.” It takes an alert mind and a good eye to discover mistakes like these.

I check my manuscripts over for qualifier words such as “very.” And I watch for repeated words.

I read the manuscript from a grammatical and punctuation point of view. Are my sentences varied, are they grammatically correct, have I used one space only after all punctuation, have I caught all of the redundancies and incorrect uses of words?

And finally, I read my manuscript to make sure it is clear, even to someone from Mars. I try to explain everything from a beginner’s point of view so I’m assured that no one reading this book will be left behind.
Folks, this major editing work is your job. Your next step is to hire an editor to fine tune your manuscript. The more thorough your editing job, the more an editor can do for you. And it may take several go-throughs. While some of my clients have such clean manuscripts that it takes just one session of editing, most require my services twice.

Editing is not a once-over job that you rush through in order to meet a deadline. It is a process that can take time and should. Turn out your best work. Look at it several times with your clearest editorial eye and then hand it over to an editor who is accustomed to editing book manuscripts for a final polishing.

Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 29 books. Her articles have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Entrepreneur Magazine, Cat Fancy, Your Health, The Toastmaster and many others. View her collection of books at And visit her informative publishing blog often:

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Fun Lit Fact of the Day

Ernest Hemingway was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature, but was unable to attend the award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, because he was recuperating from injuries sustained in an airplane crash while hunting in Uganda.

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Writers at Work: Saul Bellow

Writers at Work: Saul Bellow

Source: Janis Bellow, Preface, Saul Bellow: Collected Stories

Most mornings we linger. Work will wait. We tour the "giardino" and see which flowers have appeared. This June there is a white anemone of which Saul is enormously proud (there's never been another before or since—the moles seem to get at the bulbs). The giant red-orange poppies are budding, the peonies will flower this year in time for Saul's birthday, and there's one early bright purple cosmos blossom. We admire a fat sassy snake curling among the wild columbines. "The whole world is an ice cream cone to him," Saul laughs as he disappears into his studio.

Everything must be taken up nimbly, easily, or not at all. You can't read Saul without being aware of the laughter running beneath every word. He has always been playful. Now he is also firm and spare. There is also the matter of taste. Sometimes a detail is borrowed because the flavor is right (like Charlus and the telephone in the narrator's mansion—never mind the anachronism). Saul generally steers clear of puzzles and riddles. Lovers of word games must look to Joyce or Nabokov for the serious pleasures of the anagrammist. What we find instead is Stendhalian brio—laughter, whimsy, lightness of touch. Odd, perhaps, that I should speak of laughter in considering what is essentially Saul's darkest look at one of the century's most serious subjects [his story "The Bellarosa Connection"]. But "Bellarosa" wasn't born in anger. Everything that moved Saul deeply at that time found its way into the novella, and what moved him deeply, no matter how serious, was a source of energy and ultimately of pleasure. That was a time when we were often up toward dawn—discussing the story, his memories of New Jersey or Greenwich Village, and most often the history of the Jews. But perhaps because we were young lovers then my memories of that spring are anything but dark. Saul was writing this powerful, even horrible book with intense heat and joy, dipping into his brightest colors.
That's not to say that the writing always came easily or that the work went on uninterrupted. By early June Saul had begun turning the yellow pages into manuscript. I remember hearing the sound of the typewriter one morning, and feeling a thrill that his breakfast forecast--"I think I've got something here"--was being realized. He was working in the house, and when I took him his tea, I stood by and listened for another volley of staccato fire. Saul hunts down his words with the keys of his Remington. He revises as he types, and spots of silence are followed by these racy rhythmical bursts. He looks forward to this cup of hot tea with one round slice of lemon floating on top. The proper drink for a European Jew on an overcast day, Saul first observed when he visited the empty Jewish quarters of Polish cities. The lemon stands for the sun; the sugar and caffeine give the jolt you need when the surge from your morning coffee subsides. How he was managing to write at all was fairly mysterious, since he would accept no protection from distractions. And there had been many: a visit from a neighbor; phone calls from an agent, a lawyer, a friend (I could always tell from the roars of laughter when it was Allan Bloom on the line). After each interruption the study door would close and the wonderful ack-ack-ack of the typewriter would begin again.

[...]Saul never takes it easy when he is overworked and beginning to feel run down. He continued to ride his mountain bike, to chop up the fallen limbs of an apple tree, to remove boulder-sized rocks from the garden, to carry in logs for the morning fire. I was convinced he had a horseshoe over his head that spring. He tripped while cutting brush and scraped his face; he had a gashed shin to show for a tumble from his mountain bike; his eye was bloodshot; there was a bleeding nose. Of course he worked the morning of the nosebleed, lying down on the futon in the studio whenever the bleeding started, and then getting up to scrawl out a new paragraph.

When he hadn't returned for lunch, I carried a bite out to him and found him typing vigorously, his face and his T-shirt covered with blood. Composing for Saul is an aerobic activity. He sweats when he writes, and peels off layers of clothing. When he is concentrating particularly hard, he screws up his left eye and emits a sound that's a cross between the panting of a long-distance runner and a breathy whistle: "Windy suspirations of forced breath."

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