Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gil Scott-Heron: Definition of a Poet

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Dear Mike: What do you look for in an editor?

Reader Question: What do you look for in an editor?

Mike: I want he or she to be “on my side.” Not working against me. Not pulling a power trip, being condescending. Not rewriting so heavy-handedly where the words read like the editor’s and not mine. Not acting negatively, obnoxiously, haughtily. Writing is indeed a collaborative effort Trust me, you need a good editor. All writers do, even great ones. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had many editors that weren’t merely good, but, in my humble opinion, great. There’s nothing like it. A great editor is such a dream, and they will make YOU great. I love the line that one of my regular editors used to say to me: “Hey, Mike, this story is great….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?

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Guest Blog: I Work Hard—So Why Ain't I Rich?

I Work Hard—So Why Ain't I Rich?
By Michael Levy

Quite often, disillusioned writers and poets ask me, I work hard—so why ain't I rich?

In the beginning, nature provided humans with the fruits of the forest.
After long arduous tasks, adventurous hunters located delicious delicacies and brought them home for their tribes to enjoy.

In to-days world, we only have to go to the shopping mall or supermarket to find a great array of choices. However, to be able to afford all the goodies, we need a commodity called money.

Therefore, we require access to, the delicious fruits, in the forest of our mind, to be able to afford the luxuries of life. The neuron receptors of our brain are the trees of knowledge that can spark our prosperity, once we understand how to access the wisdom that nourishes them.

If we sit in our hut and find work a hard slog and say, I want the world, given to me on a plate, we will sit there for a long time. Eventually, we will die from malnutrition of authentic wisdom, whilst we moan and groan how unfair the world has treated us ... However, if we pursue our hearts desires with universal wisdom, we will find the fruits of our labor very rewarding.

All truly successful writers understand, creative, original works are fed to them from a universal intelligent energy. To be able to access the fountains of delights the writer’s personality and ego needs to take a back seat and become happy passengers. The brain then becomes a vehicle fueled by Live Alchemy ... The divine transmitted chemistry connecting heaven and earth.

That said, all the treasures of natural beauty, joy and love, is freely available on a daily basis, but it seems to be taken for granted by too many people... Thus, it does not give the awareness of any true, lasting value to them.

So, simply put, to answer the question, "Why can't I become rich?"
The answer is; "You are rich right now, just become aware of who you are."

Michael Levy is the author of seven books. His inspirational poetry and essays appear on many assorted web sites, as well as in journals and magazines throughout the world. He’s an expert columnist for Positive Health magazine, the leading complimentary health publication in the UK, and has been published by The Royal Collage of Psychiatry many times over the past three years.

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Demystifying Literary Agents

The First Three Steps to Finding A Literary Agent
An Excerpt from How to Find A Literary Agent Who Can Sell Your Book for Top Dollar
By Jill Nagle

Congratulations—you have a manuscript, a book proposal or the wherewithal to create one. You are on your way to getting published! One way to drastically increase the chances that the top-paying, most reputable publishers will get a look at your work is to engage a literary representative or agent.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy prospect. Even more difficult is finding exactly the right agent for you.

Here are three steps to get you moving in the right direction.

Step 1: Get your work into tip-top shape.

For nonfiction writers, tip-top shape requires having your book proposal and query letter polished to perfection before you contact your agent. You do not have to write your entire nonfiction book before approaching an agent—in fact in most cases it works better if you don’t.

You will, however, need 20-30 pages of sample chapter material for most nonfiction (self-help, how-to, memoir, biography, etc.), usually the first chapter plus one or two other chapters.

For a memoir, where the quality of the writing weighs more heavily, plan on at least 60 pages of material.

Fiction writers, on the other hand, usually do need to have their novel written, as well as a synopsis of the work, which is a brief description of the plot and characters, plus an analysis of how the work compares with others in its genre.

Step 2: Profile a hit list of agents.

This means you are to research agents, and create a list of those appropriate for your work, with as much information about each agent as you can gather. You will use this information to prioritize which agents to contact and what to reference in the letter.

Start with the Internet and expand outward. Sources as obvious as guides to literary agents and as obscure as comments made during an author’s reading all count as research in creating your collection of agent profiles.

Personal references are your best source. Who do you know? From as many of these sources as possible, create a list of anywhere from 12 to 40 agents who represent work like yours, then begin building a data file for each including all your findings.

Step 3: Create a personalized letter for each agent.

If you’re approaching more than a handful of agents, you may want to use the same basic query letter for each of them. However, you don’t want to make it look as though you’re doing a mass mailing. Therefore, each letter should be personalized for the individual agent.

Begin each letter with something from the profile you created that relates personally to the particular agent. The more immediate and relevant, the better. The sentence (or two) you create should spark instant recognition in each agent. This will make your letter stand out from the dozens she may read that day that come out of the blue. So you might have:

Dear Jane Adams:

“Only the obsessed should write novels,” your warning in the October issue of Write This!, sits above my desk as I put the final compulsive touches on The Night Before the Dawn.


Dear Adam Janeway:

Your comment at the Maui Writer’s conference this past summer still has me laughing. The part about not showing an agent your fangs on a first date made me go get mine filed down.

If you have a referral from one of the agent’s current clients, make that name the very first thing they read:

Dear Jane Adams:

Alice Walker speaks very highly of your work and suggested I query you about my self-help book, What to Do When You Find your Mother’s Garden.

In the second paragraph, summarize your credentials, and in the third, give a brief summary of the project, (or the reverse, depending on which is most impressive) and make sure to mention somewhere that you’re also querying other agents if indeed you are.

Even though a query letter is a short, to-the-point missive, spend some serious time on it. Expect to go through at least 10 drafts of your query letter over at least a few weeks before you send it out, and show it to at least three people (or one with stellar qualifications)—you've got exactly one shot, and you want to make it your absolute best.

Stick with standard professional letter formatting; eschew fancy fonts, unusually-colored paper or anything resembling a gimmick. Keep your letter to a page or less if possible; a page and a half maximum.

What Now?

If you have read this far, you’ve now circumvented the mistakes that get at least 20% of all publishing attempts rejected. You’re now on your way to upping your acceptance odds even further.

Your next step is to get even more selective about who you want to represent you. That’s right—finding an agent isn’t just about who accepts you—it’s about who you accept to represent your work.

This is because having the wrong agent can do more harm than having no agent at all.

Jill Nagle is a published author and the founder and principal of GetPublished: guerilla guidance for your writing adventure, which provides coaching, consulting, editing and other services for aspiring and ready-for-next step authors.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Inspired Word Blog is Up and Running!

Please make sure to visit my new blog:

It's now the official of my all-star poetry/spoken word events @ (Le) Poisson Rouge in Manhattan, New York City.

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Tips from the Legendary Journalist Bob Woodward on Investigative Journalism

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By Rob Parnell

Good fiction is about forward thrust.

It's your job to propel the reader through your story without having them feel they are wading through your writing. In fact, your ultimate aim is somehow make the reader feel they're not actually reading at all.

It's what my friend Kenyon calls transparency—the idea that there is nothing between your reader's mind and your story - nothing as ugly as the text getting in the way!

Q.E.D. is a little acronym you might want to use to help you remember what you need to create compelling fiction on every page of your stories. Q.E.D. stands for:




Questions encourage people to look for answers. When readers read fiction they are asking themselves a series of questions about your characters and about your story.

Only when you satisfy your reader by feeding questions and later on providing answers will the reader feel entertained.

At the beginning of a new sheet of paper, ask yourself, What question am I going to place in the reader’s mind on this page?

You must have one - it's what makes the reader keep reading.
Without constantly stoking curiosity, a reader will simply get bored and not read on.

Empathy is crucial too. We looked at this. Not only is it important that you create empathy for your characters early on, you will also need to keep reinforcing it as you go.

Hopefully the actions that your characters make will take care of some of this. But you should be aware that if you feel your characters slipping away from you, it's probably because you're not keeping them human enough to be compelling.

A reader's total empathy with a character can be powerful. It is the hallmark of all good fiction writers. To create a hero that is credible and popular is the goal of most leading authors. Because once you've done that, you can take your readers almost anywhere with them.

When it's done well, the reader is totally in the your thrall and will trust you to take him further, on the adventure that is your novel, or series of novels.

Use it consciously. Readers rarely spot that you're doing it deliberately. They only know what they like and that is, for the time they are reading, they like being your lead character.

Lastly, D is for Drama again. It's important that you create drama, conflict and tension at least once on every page. It's the way of modern fiction.

People want to be entertained. But they've seen it all before. On
TV and at the movies. Try to think of new ways of being dramatic.

Don't get bogged down with description. You don't need long explanations or descriptions of things they are familiar with. It’s just not necessary.

Readers want to be thrown into the thick of things immediately.
There are a hundred ways to do that but most of them involve action, conflict and drama. If you find yourself wandering from the point and nothing in particular is happening, cut back to where the last piece of conflict was, delete all the verbiage and static writing and move off again—this time at high speed!

Imagine you're a soap opera writer where every scene counts, and every exchange is emotionally charged. Try not to sink into melodrama - but be aware that you're writing primarily to entertain.

At the beginning and ending of every new page ask yourself:

Q.E.D? Have I fulfilled the three requirements of compelling fiction?

If the answer is yes then you're probably on the way to becoming the next bestseller writer!

Guest blogger 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:

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5 things I really, really, really hate about freelance writing

Waiting for my check

Calling for my check

Negotiating for more money

Fact-checkers editors that ask stupid questions

Re-write requests that make little or no sense.

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Writing Prompts of the Day

Write about your dream job.

Write about your ideal vacation spot.

Write about your most memorable birthday.

Write about a person you’d love to confront and what you’d say.

Write about your all-time favorite book.

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Writing Quotes of the Day

“The great thing about writing is that you can do all these antisocial things and you get paid for them and nobody ever arrests you because they're all make-believe. Then that way if you were actually ever driven to do any of those things, the pressure's off because you'd have already written them down. It's therapy.”
—Stephen King


“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”


“First sentences are doors to worlds.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin


“Writing that springs from the surface of existence—when there is no other way and the deeper wells have dried up—is nothing, and collapses the moment a truer emotion makes that surface shake.

"That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough.”

—Franz Kafka


“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats. I read newspapers, textbooks on crime. I talk to private investigators, police officers, jail administrators, doctors, lawyers, career criminals. Ideas are everywhere.”
—Sue Grafton

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"Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." - The History

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. “In the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind, an H.L. Mencken-like newspaper editor says, ‘It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’ Credit for this credit gets passed around. In his 1942 quotation collection, Mencken attributed the saying as ‘author unidentified’ – although Mencken himself is sometimes thought to have been that author. (He was prone to quoting himself anonymously.) Four decades before Mencken’s collection was published, however, Finley Peter Dunne wrote this observation by his philosophizing bartender, Mr. Dooley: “The newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis force an’ th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead and’ roasts thim aftherward.”

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Mighty Third Rail @ Mike Geffner's Inspired Word - Feb. 26, 2010

Find The Inspired Word on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube!



Facebook: The Inspired Word

The Inspired Word dazzles the night every second and fourth Friday, 7-10pm, @ (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, NYC!

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