Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hunter S. Thompson on the set of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Bookmark and Share

NaNoWriMo: Word Count Wisdom

Word Count Wisdom
By Ami Spencer

The first time I participated in NaNoWriMo, I knew it would be a challenge. I was working full time, freelancing part time, and had plans to travel for a long weekend as well as Thanksgiving. November wasn’t exactly the best time to be committing to such a lofty goal. And yet I couldn’t resist the challenge.

I didn’t want NaNo to be another task I felt I had to slog through, though. I wanted it to be fun, so I gave myself a bit of leeway. While I was working toward 50,000 words with gusto, I would be happy to write at least 90 pages. I ended up with almost 130 pages and a little more than 38,000 words. I couldn’t have been more proud of the results. I had written more words in 30 days than I had probably written in the entire previous year.

I had also learned some valuable lessons about my writing style and how to make the most of my writing time:

1. Having a specific word-count goal and a deadline is a must. Before I started NaNo, I had been thinking and talking about this story for at least a year. I needed the impetus to put it down on paper, and something as simple as a word count goal and deadline for reaching it worked wonders. When NaNo is over, even a more realistic goal of 5 to 10 pages a week, helps me get my ideas down on paper and start shaping them. Setting goals for myself and working toward them is the only way I will get these stories in my head written.

2. Finding a group of others with a common goal helps, too. Knowing that there were thousands of people out there writing away toward similar objectives did two things for me: (1) It made me feel supported despite the fact that I didn’t even know them; and (2) It stirred up my competitive spirit and pushed me to work as hard as I could to reach my goal. Participating in write-ins and working beside other writers, hearing about their stories and soaking up their excitement, energized me, too. There’s something about being in a room with other creative souls that can’t help but inspire you.

3. The pressure of deadlines overpowers the fear that keeps me from writing in the first place. We all have a nasty inner editor that keeps us from writing or holds us back from writing what we’d like. But when a deadline looms and I lock my inner editor in the bathroom or closet, amazing things start to happen. I stop worrying about perfection and literary panache and simply write. What comes out may not be perfect, but it will be something I can work with.

4. Pushing past the tough parts is imperative. During the first few days of NaNo, the words flowed like champagne at a wedding. Then the newness and excitement started to wear off, the story headed in directions I wasn’t expecting and suddenly my typing slowed to a crawl. I wanted to stop, to give up, but I kept going.

Sometimes it took every bit of energy I had to keep clicking those keys. I had to argue with my inner editor over and over. I had to figuratively tie myself to the chair some days. But when I got past that wall, when I came out on the other side still typing, it felt so good.

I may not have come away from NaNoWriMo with a finished draft of my first novel, but I did come away with the start of a great story and much more confidence in my writing ability. With NaNo winding down this year, I haven’t written nearly as much as I did during my previous experience. I have, however, continued to write—no matter what.

Ami Spencer is a technical and freelance writer living in Baltimore, MD. She has published articles in several local, regional and online publications. She is also a contributing blogger for several websites, including Feed the Soul and Blissfully Domestic, where she writes on health and wellness topics. You can read her writing blog for tips to help you Write Out Loud Click here or check out her personal blog Click here to learn more about the flotsam and jetsam of her life.

Bookmark and Share

"Twilight" Author Stephenie Meyer's Advice to Writers

Bookmark and Share

Poetry Quotes of the Day

“Poets need not go to Niagara to write about the force of falling water.”—Robert Frost

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”—Emily Dickinson

“Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.”—Sigmund Freud

“The business of the poet and the novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.”—Thomas Hardy

“Don't ask a poet to explain himself. He cannot.”—Plato
“There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money either.”—Robert Graves

“Poetry should be like fireworks, packed carefully and artfully, ready to explode with unpredictable effects."—Lilian Moore

“Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline. You've got to go so far, so fast, in such a small space, that you've got to burn away all the peripherals.”—Sylvia Plath
“A poet ought not to pick nature’s pocket. Let him borrow, and so borrow as to repay by the very act of borrowing. Examine nature accurately, but write from recollection, and trust more to the imagination than the memory.”—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”—Kahlil Gibran

Bookmark and Share

Plot Your Marketing Efforts

Plot Your Marketing Efforts
By Angela Wilson

Marketing is a lot like writing a novel.

With a novel, you start with an idea, then flesh it out, write several drafts, revise them, critique them and revise some more until the final, finished product is ready to send to an agent or publisher.

Marketing takes just as much forethought and planning. Here are some tips to get you started:

Research your audience. Who reads your books? What other authors do they like? What social networks are they on? How old are they? Would they like your book as a gift?

Devise a plan. Sketch out ideas for reaching your readers. Don't hold back; just write down everything you can think of, from book signings to virtual book tours to appearances at virtual writing or reading conferences.

Revise the plan. Once the initial creative marketing spark dwindles, look over your list and pick out the marketing points that are doable based on your time and budget. Don't try to do everything - you will only get overwhelmed and spread yourself so thin none of your efforts will make a ripple. Do focus efforts on marketing tactics that you would enjoy. For example, if you don't like public speaking, but love Facebook, consider hosting a Facebook party instead of booking live engagements.

Execute marketing efforts. Authors spend anywhere from one to three months promoting a new release. It is up to you to decide what type of schedule works for you. Plan out each day with some type of marketing task - and DO it! Writing will take a backseat during the marketing phase, but once marketing is complete, writing can once again be your No. 1 priority.

Take inventory. Keep a record of what marketing efforts worked and which did not.
Don't expect to do everything right the first time. Every marketing strategy has ups and downs. The trick is to keep notes about what works and what doesn't, so the plan can be adjusted for the next book tour.

You may not want to market, but it is a requirement for most authors today who want to continue to sell books - and net contracts. The key to successful marketing is to work smart. Create a plan - just like you create a novel outline - so you have vision and direction. Don't overbook events and don't try to be a super-human marketer. Schedule marketing events around family and work life - the same as you do writing.

Angela Wilson is an author, social media consultant, and online marketing strategist. Visit her blog, Click here, to learn more about cost-effective marketing strategies for fiction and nonfiction authors.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 20, 2009

Capicu Poetry Open Mic with Bonafide Rojas & Chango Bi - Nov. 20th!

Back at home base in Williamsburg Brooklyn with the November installment of the Capicu Poetry Open Mic, featuring some of NYC's most dynamic urban talent and music by DJ Sambarella.

Friday, November 20, 2009
Time: 6:30pm - 11:00pm
Location: Notice Lounge
Street: 198 Union Avenue
City/Town: Brooklyn, NY

Featured Poet: Bonafide Rojas
Poet, musician and author of "Pelo Bueno: A Day In The Life Of A Nuyorican Poet" (dark souls press, 2006). Also featured in HBO Def Poetry Jam (2004).
Bandleader/vocalist/guitarist for the band The Mona Passage, a collective experiment of puerto rican & dominican musicians who challenge the status quo on what music is Puerto Rican & Dominican.

Featured Artist: Chango Bi
A multi-media visual artist and co-founder of the Collective Soul artist collaborative based in New York City

The Capicu Poetry Open Mic
Doors Open @ 7 PM
Notice Lounge & Cafe
198 Union Avenue (between B'way and Montrose)
Williamsburg Brooklyn NY 11211
Right across from the 90th Precinct

$5 Cover
18 & Over
Casual But Neat

G Train to Broadway
J train to Lorimer
This Show Is Sponsored by Futuvision and Platinum Mic Studios

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 16, 2009

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in NaNoWriMo

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in NaNoWriMo
By Jason Black

I'm ashamed to say that I didn't write my first novel until I was 35 years old.

I tried to write when I was in high school. Stories would come to me, and in my head they seemed so grand and epic, yet they inevitably fell flat on the page.

I'd begin with all the enthusiasm and zeal in the world, but three pages later I'd be at the end.



I'd shake my head and wonder where the heck my story went, because there was nothing grand or epic left in those three pages. I had no idea how those "real" writers sustained a story not for three pages, but for 300.

I decided it must be a gift you have to be born with, so I gave up.

That's what I'm really ashamed of.

But I was wrong.

It's not something you're born with, any more than you're born knowing how to walk or speak or use a spoon. My problem wasn't some lack of genetic ability. It was that I didn't know the fundamental law of fiction.

Twenty years later, a friend convinced me to try NaNoWriMo.

I decided to write a fantasy novel based on a role playing game I had run for some friends several years back.

I told those friends, and one of them gave me the best pieces of advice ever. "Remember to show, don't tell."

Maybe it was luck.

Maybe the stars were aligned.

Maybe I was just--finally--ready.

But whatever the reason, that simple edict guided me on a 30 day, 300 page romp of a fantasy novel that in the end bore almost no resemblance to the story I thought it would.

The bliss of redemption has never tasted so sweet.

Showing, as it turns out, is the secret to sustaining a story for as long as you want. When I was younger I had been telling, not showing. Showing is also the secret to making the story interesting and compelling for the reader. "Show, don't tell" is the fundamental law of fiction.

This year is my fifth NaNoWriMo.

Over the past four years, I've learned an awful lot about the practicalities of writing a novel: The subtleties of different point-of-view choices. What it means to have an inner character arc to go with your outer story arc, and how to tie the two together. How to write so as to create mysteries for your reader, rather than to destroy them. The value of conflict in every scene and across the entire plot. The "Hero's Journey" structure. How to balance protagonists and antagonists. How to create compelling stakes.

And on and on and on.

But what I've learned most of all comes back to that advice from my friends. Show, don't tell. At the end of the day, writing is always about "show, don't tell." Every piece of writing advice out there is, at heart, just another manifestation of that one fundamental law.

Or as master short story writer Anton Chekov put it, "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

Guest blogger Jason Black is a freelance book doctor working with aspiring novelists to help their work escape the slushpile. He writes about effective techniques for creating great characters at Click here and may be found on twitter as here

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Celebrating 30 Days of Pure Literary Lunacy

Celebrating 30 Days of Pure Literary Lunacy
By Michael P. Geffner

November, for a ton of writers all over the world, is National Novel Writing Month—or what easily could be called 30 Days of Pure Literary Lunacy.

It’s nothing less than a maddening exercise that requires you to type until your fingers are raw, your eyeballs glaze over, and your mind is numb.

"The ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output,"reads the official website. "It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

Or, as some would say with a weak chuckle, die trying.

Now, for the record, let me say I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. I’ve never even thought about it. In fact, I haven’t aspired to write a novel since my early 20’s, when I thought—no, I was convinced—that I was the next Hemingway or Camus or Faulkner.

That said, I must admit I absolutely adore the concept: forcing you to write a 50,000-word (175-page) novel from November 1st to midnight, November 30th—an utterly frenetic period of creative energy.

It can’t help but bring to the surface so many great qualities a writer needs to develop a life of it: discipline, commitment, and the perseverance to finish something (How many stories have we all heard of unfinished novels?).

I also love the sense of community it inspires—the shared joy, the shared pain, the shared fear that you see all over the online writing networks, as well as on places like Twitter and Facebook and Myspace and YouTube.

Let’s face it: We writers live mostly a lonely, solitary existence.

We lock ourselves in rooms.

We hide in quiet, shadowy corners.

We write within the darkness of our souls and lost in the fog of our imagination.

So it’s a beautiful thing that something exists out there that gives us this one chance to feel like we’re doing something together and chatting about it every step of the way.

I celebrate this glorious experience, as well as have infinite respect for those brave souls who have voluntarily entered the belly of the NaNoWriMo beast.

To those continuing to feverishly bang away trying desperately to hit that 50K, good luck!

I'm with you in spirit.

Best always and stay positive,


Bookmark and Share

NaNoWriMo: Taking It Up Several Notches

Taking It Up Several Notches
By Jocelyne Allen

I started my first NaNoWriMo with my head stuck in the armpit of a Japanese businessman.

Working in downtown Tokyo and living on the east side equals a long commute, and I had the misfortune of being on one of the busiest commuter routes in the dense city.

So each morning, I shoved my way into an already full train, hoping only for a strap to hang onto. Sitting was never an option. With my face literally pressed against someone’s back or chest or (worst case) armpit, my options for the next hour were rather limited.

Then November came and gave me something to think about other than whose elbow was in my kidneys. As white-gloved station attendants crammed people in suits into my train car, pirates and cats fought armies of petticoated girls in my head. Arriving at my desk, I ignored the stack of papers waiting for me and frantically pounded away at my keyboard, trapping the armies on a virtual page before they slipped away. And then after a ten-hour workday, the same routine in reverse, only it was the laptop in my one-room apartment that took the beating.

Excited eyebrows up the moment I saw the word count trip up over 50,000. High fives and gold stars to me and that was the end of that. Except that the pirates shanghaied me. A hundred thousand extra words later, they set me free. And the result is a book called You and the Pirates, published this past September by The Workhorsery.

NaNoWriMo is harder this year without the long, boring commute--maybe all the bad breath and armpits were an inspiration to me. But updating my word count on the NaNo site still gives me the same glee. Focusing on how many words I write rather than the quality of the words lets the story slip out of me. A story which apparently includes a town where soap flakes fall like snow.

A Japanese translator based in Toronto, Canada, now after a decade in Japan, Jocelyne Allen actually gets paid to read comics (and turn them into English). Her first novel, You and the Pirates, was just published by Toronto press The Workhorsery ( Click here). This is her second time taking on the NaNo challenge.

Bookmark and Share

Billy Collins on the Struggle of Writing

video platform
video management
video solutions
free video player

Bookmark and Share

MLK's Wisdom

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Bookmark and Share

The NaNoWriMo Stories

How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo Using Endurance Training
By Christy Goldfeder

I trained for and competed in a sprint triathlon (½ mile swim, 14 mile bike ride, 5k run) a couple of years before I took on NaNoWriMo. For some crazy reason, I thought that competing in an endurance race at the crack of dawn would be easier than writing 50,000 words. That’s how powerful the fear of the blank page was for me – and can be for many writers.

But while writing 50,000 in 30 days sounds like an impossible feat, in reality it is much easier than you think. All you need to do is break it down like you would if you were training for an endurance event such a triathlon.

1 – Break it down: When you divide 50,000 words by 30 days, you’ll see that you need to write about 1667 words per day to meet your goal. If you’re a professional writer, how often do you write a 1,500 – 2000 word piece? You probably crank out a few of those per week. Ok - maybe with NaNoWriMo you’re writing 50% more than you usually end up writing in a week.

With my sprint triathlon training, I figured out that I would have to run 2-3 miles a few days a week, swim ¼ mile a few days per week and bike 10 – 15 miles a couple days a week. And I still needed to have some rest in between workout sessions.

2 – Create your blocks or “bricks”: Block out your writing time so that you know you can get it done. I prefer to write in the early mornings when I’m writing longer pieces. Setting your alarm clock for an hour earlier than you usually get up can give you that quiet time that you need to do your work. Or, if you’re a night owl, set up some late-night writing time.

When I trained for the tri, I doubled up my workouts – for example, swimming at 7:00 am and running at 7:00 pm. By the end of training, I would double up workouts into bricks – e.g., running, then swimming – so that I’d get use to switching sports. Doubles and bricks are tiring, but they helped me get my miles in and still have two days off to recover.

3 – Plan for “recovery” days: There may be times when you know you won’t be able to write during the month of November. If you want to take Thanksgiving Day off, just make sure that you can get those words in some other day. If you plan to write more words earlier in the month, you’re more likely to meet your 50,000 word quota by the deadline.

Remember, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is that you don’t actually have to publish your novel by the deadline – you can take a few months to edit and turn it into a work of art.
The other benefit is that after writing consistently for 30 days, you might just find yourself with a new good writing habit.

So don’t be afraid to write freely and just see what happens in your novel when you participate in NaNoWriMo – enjoy it, have fun, and remember that it’s just a game.

Guest blogger Christy Goldfeder is a copywriter working with professionals to grow their businesses through clearer marketing and online strategies. She’s also a holistic health counselor empowering busy people to easily lose weight and gain more energy without stress or struggle. She writes about nutrition and wellness at here Follow her on twitter: Click here

I Dare You
By Nancy Lichtenstein

Go ahead, I dare you. Sign up for NaNoWriMo and write a novel in a month.

Put aside the fact that it seems like an impossible task…it IS impossible and yet I’ve done it twice, and I have two kids, a full time job, a side career as a freelance writer, and a chronic illness. In fact, it’s precisely because it’s impossible that it’s life changing.

You will see thousands of people sign up for Nanowrimo in the days leading up to November (on the slight chance that you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where you pledge to complete the first draft of a 50,000 word fiction manuscript in 30 days; for more information go to

Scores of your friends will sign up for it and get started with the best of intentions, fueled on enthusiasm and big dreams. More than one third of them will drop off in the first couple of days, making excuses and saying they’ll try again next year. By the second week, that number will double. If you make it to the end, it truly is a remarkable achievement.

I’m not patting myself on the back for having done it; every one of you could do it too. All it requires is sitting in front of your keyboard and writing 1,666.67 extra words a day…whether you feel like it or not. There are days when this is easy and other days where you’ll sit there typing stuff like, “I hate this story. I hate these characters. I hate myself. I should have become a dentist—I hate dentists.” (Interludes like this are allowed in the rules as long as the majority of the writing is actually on topic.)

The benefits you get from finishing are countless. It’s a trip of discovery that I want you to experience firsthand, but trust that you’ll come out of it believing in yourself like never before. Before Nanowrimo, I was one of those people who put her dreams on the shelf to be “realistic.” Afterwards, my real life changed.

Completing National Novel Writing Month gave me, a suburban mom, the courage to walk into New York Fashion Week (not the friendliest of climates) like I owned the place, hang out with TV stars and interview top designers; this was a big dream of mine and one I believed would NEVER come true, but after Nanowrimo, it was cake.

There’s still one major dream that hasn’t come true yet—publishing a novel. Last year, I was one of the ones who wimped out. It was the worst year of my life personally and I told myself I just didn’t have it in me to do this on top of everything else I was dealing with.

Now I realize that it wouldn’t have been an added burden, it would have been freeing. What could I have done in the past 12 months if I’d done Nanowrimo first? I don’t know, but this year I’m going to find out. Meet me in the winner’s circle on November 30. Go ahead, do the impossible. I dare you.

Guest columnist Nancy Lichtenstein is a freelance lifestyle writer, music journalist and fashionista. She's a frequent contributor to LA Story, a go-to girl for fashion, music and decorating questions at Associated Content, and a two-time NaNoWriMo winner.

NaNoWriMo: It's All About Falling in Love
By Aline Martins

Writing a story is all about falling in love.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo three years ago through a friend, and though I loved writing, I could never believe that you could put yourself under such pressure just so a book could be born in the world.

So, I avoided participating, left it aside, and instead took as many writing classes and workshops as I could on writing and creative writing.

The fact, is, I am a storyteller, just as my grandmother was. I tell stories in hospitals, at parties and camps, and in the school in Brazil where I teach English.

I thought, "I can tell a story, I am perfectly able to write one too!” But I didn’t know that writing was the hardest part. While different ideas for books constantly float around in my head in my head, when it came to writing them down I found that I am a Procrastination Queen.

Every time I planned to start writing, I would sabotage myself and find the perfect excuse to start doing it later.

Tip: Don’t ever expect the elves to come during the night and start your book for you.

It was October 25th when my friend convinced me to take part in this year’s NaNoWriMo; I immediately began freaking out. I had the story in my head, a good beginning, quite good end, but what about the storyline and plots?

I had only five days to get organized.

I turned to a NaNoWriMo Brazilian forum for help.

I found out I had much more to start than a lot people had, and soon I was organizing a NaNoWriMo kick-off party.

This was the best thing I ever did.

Tip: If you can go to the meet ups and write ins, DO IT! There is nothing better than meeting likeminded people.

Suddenly, it was November 1st. And during the first couple of hours, I managed typing 2,000 words! It was at that moment that I knew I was in love, completely in love with my story, with NaNoWriMo.

It was the morning of the second day, when, very excitedly I told my mom of my achievement, “Mom, I already wrote 4,000 words!” She replied: “We are having pasta for lunch."

Tip: Sometimes we must not listen to what people say.

Today, here I am, getting to 12K out of the 50K expected before the end of November.

I'm not sleeping much, trying to keep up with my jobs as a teacher, translator and NaNoWriMo storyteller.

But it's all well worth it. I am very, very happy. I've finally fallen in love.

Tip: KEEP LIVING, KEEP BREATHING, KEEP WRITING! (This one is for me, so I don’t forget it, but I’ll let you use it)

It is all about falling in love.

Guest blogger Aline Martins is a self-described "dreamer" who lives in São Paulo, Brazil. Her NaNoWriMo user name is Ayslin1 and her blog, The Hectic Attic, can be found at:
Click here

Bookmark and Share

Story Plotting: Basic Needs/Wants/Desires

Story Plotting: Basic Needs/Wants/Desires

Eight Basic Wants/Needs

1. Making $$
2. Saving $$
3. Winning Praise
4. Self-Improvement
5. Saving Time and Effort
6. Impressing Others
7. Helping Children and Families
8. Having Fun

Six Basic Drives

1. Self Preservation
2. Love
3. Gain
4. Duty
5. Pride
6. Self-Indulgence

Bookmark and Share

Common Storytelling Techniques

Common Storytelling Techniques
By Jeanne Lyet Gassman

All good stories draw the reader into the writer's world, making the reader forget the creator behind the creation, but how does the writer accomplish this? How does the writer, as John Gardner describes it, establish the "vivid, waking dream"?

A successful story makes use of certain storytelling techniques, methods that draw the reader into the writer's imaginative world. To understand how these storytelling techniques work, let us examine some basic approaches any fiction writer should know.

Begin at the moment everything changes for your main character.

Unfortunately, many writers draft warm-up beginnings, long sections of back story, explanation, and exposition that represent the writer's search for an entrance into his story. Successful fiction is all about change: change in your character's life and change in your character's approach to his life. Some ways to introduce change for your character:

• The mysterious stranger. A stranger appears in your character's world, demanding that she take action. This device is often used in fantasy. In Tolkien's The Hobbit, Bilbo's life is disrupted when a mysterious wizard (Gandalf) appears, insisting Bilbo go on a quest. The mysterious stranger can also take the form of an object, such as a letter, a diary, or a clue to a treasure.

• The quest. Closely related to the "mysterious stranger" beginning, the quest can be triggered either by the arrival of a stranger or by the character's desire for change. In The Wizard of Oz, for example, Dorothy's adventures begin when she runs away from home. In John Fowles's novel, The Collector, the main character's desperate need to be loved sets him on a quest to kidnap the perfect woman. In Larry McMurtry's book, Lonesome Dove, the main character's dissatisfaction with the status quo inspires him to initiate a cattle drive to Montana.

• Disaster. Disasters of any form require a character to respond. In Anne Tyler's novel, The Accidental Tourist, the disaster in the opening scene is personal (the spouse demands a divorce). The disaster can also be the product of natural events, such as earthquakes or floods, or manmade actions, such as murder or war. In Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the murder of a museum curator sends the characters on a quest to find the motivation for the crime.

Stories and chapters are constructed of scenes. Writers get lost in exposition when they forget the importance of scenes. Every scene contains one or more of the following elements:

• Action
• Description
• Dialogue
• Internal Monologue

To understand how these devices function in a scene, let us look at each one of them individually:

Action. When writing action, the trivial or the commonplace can be summarized. It isn't necessary to know that the character took three steps left, walked ten feet forward, and then pushed open the door to enter the room. The reader can easily assume these actions, and they aren't particularly important to the story. As Lawrence Block advises, "Get the character in the room!" For such trivial movement, it's fine to summarize: John entered the room.

However, significant events need to be depicted by specific details. For example, suppose you have a character—Sylvia—who is concocting a potion to poison Dan. Since this poison is important to both the characters and the plot, it's wise to use specific details when Sylvia makes the poison: Breaking off the seedpods, she tossed the stem aside and cut the pods into equal pieces. A white juice seeped from the pods as she ground them with the oil. When the liquid was fully blended, she poured it into a bowl and held it over the fire. As the mixture warmed, it dried to a fine, brown powder.

Description. When writing description, it's important to remember that the specific is more effective than the general.

General: He wore a hat and a raincoat.
Specific: He wore a porkpie hat and yellow slicker.
With description, less is always more. One precise adjective is better than a pair of vague descriptive words.
Vague: a dark red mini-van
Precise: a maroon mini-van

Dialogue. In a scene, dialogue performs three important functions:

• Advances the plot. Characters engage in conversation and reveal information about themselves or the story that have a direct impact on the plot.

• Enhances character development. What a character says and the way in which he says it reveals much about his personality. A teenager may use sentence fragments and slang, but a psychiatrist may speak more formally, with complete sentences and precise diction. A con man can be charming when he speaks and repulsive when he acts.

• Builds tension. Dialogue creates tension in a scene when characters either lie or withhold important information.

Internal monologue. This is defined as your character's thoughts. However, thoughts should always be triggered by speech, events, or setting. If a character spends pages ruminating about his life with no apparent reason, the reader begins to suspect that the author is using internal monologue to dump back story and exposition.

What about back story? Back story is the history of your characters, the events that have happened before your story begins. When is it appropriate to use back story? Perhaps the best answer to this is to think of back story as a decadent dessert. You never serve it at the beginning of the meal, and it's best savored in small bites.

Happy writing!

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

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Calvin Trillin on the Joy of Writing

Bookmark and Share

The Shiny NaNo Secret

The Shiny NaNo Secret
By Jessica Rosen

We're in the thick of NaNoWriMo now.

Many have shaken their heads and thrown up their hands. I can't blame a single one of them. It's a big challenge. 50k words in one month! The first few years I peered down that trail toward the goal line, it was so far away. It was nearly invisible in the distance! I failed miserably the first two years and just plain skipped it the third.

Doesn't sound like much of a pep talk, does it?

Here's the pep part: I won last year. I won a week early! I almost put away my keyboard five days into it, though. I was sick and miserable. The last thing I wanted to do was write 1,667 words each day. A good friend refused to let me give up. "Just write something today. I don't care if it's 300 words. Write something." So I did. Then I curled up in bed with colds medicine. The next time I hazily got up, I did it again. A few days later, I was fine. I was behind, but I had written and knew that by writing a little extra each day, I could catch up.

Need more pep? Alright, you get to deal with me on my NaNo Soapbox.

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the Spirit of NaNo!

It is not the shininess of the fifty thousand words on your document. No indeed, it is within you already. You have only to let it free and let it flow.

What do I mean?

The Power of Writing, my friends. Just feel The Power of Writing, let it flow through you, let it catch up your imagination and run out your hands without the demon of the Inner Editor making you second guess it! That is indeed the Spirit of NaNo. Grab that and you'll JUST WRITE. Here's the secret: write every day, make a habit of it and you've won the real shiny prize.

Stick with it, everyone, and may you all win the real shiny prize.

Guest blogger Jessica Rosen is a writer living in Virginia. Please check out her site at:
natClick here

Or follow her on Twitter:
Click here

Bookmark and Share

13 Tips To Stay Productive When Working At Home

13 Tips To Stay Productive When Working At Home
By John Marshall
Click here

So you have made the leap! You have started your own home based business. It might be full time or just a few hours a week but, you have gone where every American wants to go! So you thought it was going to be cool to get out of bed at 8:45 and make coffee and get to your computer at 9:00. Watch T.V. in the background while you worked all day or maybe you were just thinking of getting a afternoon nap in everyday!

It is all good until the 3rd day and reality sets in. Your Not Getting Anything Done!! It’s not easy to stay productive and effective when you’re working at home, especially if you have family or a roommate around. Well no need to panic, it is possible to be productive from home you just have to hold yourself accountable.

1. Work Space
Many people don’t have any extra rooms in their house to make into a office, so they are forced to work from the sofa or kitchen table. If you are going to be working from home full time you need to designate one spot to work. If you have to clean a corner out in your bedroom then do so. You must have a place where you can close a door and get away from the busy parts of the house!

2.Tell People You’re Working
Don’t let your spouse or kids keep bothering you. You must have a place to close the door and tell them you are working when the door is closed. Don’t have your friends over to watch Sports Center or The View in the morning, tell them you can hang out with them after 5:00. Remember your not being mean, this is your business and you have to be able to work!

3. Get A Routine
If you are working full time from home or just a few hours a week get into the routine of doing the same thing day in and day out. That means get up every morning at the same time and start working at the same time every morning. If you start to sleep in on just one or two days you start to develop a new routine.

4. Make A Schedule
This goes with getting in a routine. Make a schedule and hold yourself to that schedule. It will help you stay on track and you won’t forget to do things.

5. Make A To-Do-List
This is still my favorite productive tip. Keep a piece of paper next to you and when things come up that aren’t on your schedule put them on your to-do-list. You can also put your schedule and your to-do-list on your computer to help you stay organized.

6. Stay on Task
Don’t get off your schedule and forget to finish your to-do-list! Its hard to hold yourself accountable when you don’t have a boss looking after you. So when you feel yourself getting off task just stop and ask yourself how bad do I want my business to succeeded Its all up to you, your accountable.

7. No TV
This one is a no brainier NO TV while you are working! Now I know a few of you reading this are like I work better with the TV on. If you are one of those people have at it. I’m not going to argue with you. Now if you are the other person who knows it is bad for you, just leave it off.

8. Take Breaks
Take Breaks just like you do at work! Take a lunch hour and get out of the house, get your blood flowing. If you try and work non- stop you are going to get burnout! Take your dog for a quick walk, get fresh air, and your Productivity will go up!

9. Getting Dressed
Many people when they work at home think rolling out of bed and walking to work in your PJ’s is the greatest thing in the world. The downside is being in PJ’s most of the day probably won’t help. There’s a formality about getting dressed that prepares us mentally for the job ahead.

10. Business Phone Line
Have a separate line for business only! Now at 1st you might be keeping your cost down, but when you can work it into the budget, it’s a must. I have used Skype for a year now and have a phone number with them. Its only $10/month and my phone is on my computer!

11. When You Are Off, You Are Off
Enjoy your time off! If you stop working at 5:30 and your business phone line rings at 8:30, let your voicemail get it! Don’t let your work take over your home life, it’s a must if you don’t want to get burned-out .

12. E-mails
Don’t spend hours a day looking at your e-mails! Build it in your Schedule and do it one to two times a day. So many people spend half the day reading e-mails for nothing. If it doesn’t build your business, don’t do it!

13. Have Fun
Working at home should be fun! It is becoming the new American dream, so don’t get overwhelmed and stressed out, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Bookmark and Share

NaNoWriMo Takes Over Lives! LOL

Bookmark and Share

NaNoWriMo Trailer

Bookmark and Share

Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea

Bookmark and Share

NaNoWriMo 2009: A Stepping Stone

NaNoWriMo 2009: A Stepping Stone
By Teah Abdullah

When I told my friends that I will be writing a novel this November a few months ago, their reactions were all the same: Good for you! You've always wanted to do that since you were in middle school!

But when I told them I will be writing 50k of words in one month... well, they were concerned.

I graduated college in July and travelled for a few months until I finally settled in my home country in September. The original plan was to start working in January 2010 to pave way for some creative writing which I neglected in college. Instead, I was lucky to be called in for a job interview. In October, I began working at the organisation, which requires me to be on the tip of my toe for 24 hours.

I was excited when I began writing for National Novel Writing Month earlier this month that I told my friends that I've been doing really well (and I was!) This is my first NaNoWriMo. My friends, bless them, have not yet forced me to go out with them for social sessions knowing that I would like to spend more time writing. I recently hit 25k words--halfway from the finishing line--and I am at that point where I just want to go to sleep instead of write. I would prefer it if my friends drag me out of my pyjamas to go out with them. I would prefer to go to a friend's music show instead of spending the night in front of a machine.

However, a nagging part of me that sounds alarmingly like my mother told me to keep writing. If I don't do this, I will never get to do this until I retire from my job. I only just started working, thus my dedication towards my novel only happens at night. Plus, I'm still being trained so I do have sufficient amount of time to write at work. But in the future, when I will have heavier--much heavier--workload, I won't be able to dedicate my time to writing a novel as much I am privileged to now. I'll just find reasons to put off writing a novel.

That's why I continue writing, because the future seems bleak when it comes to writing a novel if I don't do this now. I might not get this particular novel published, but at least I would feel the hunger to write more once I'm done with it, and I will finish it. I don't have to write my future novel within the time span of a month, but having the capability of writing my first novel within a one month duration means that I am capable of writing a better (and more succinct) novel in a longer period of time. More than anything, NaNoWriMo 2009 is a stepping stone for my future endeavour in novel writing.

Guest blogger Teah Abdullah is a 22-year-old writer working in foreign affairs from the country of Brunei. She has been writing fiction with enthusiasm since she was 11 years old, and was once told by a sarcastic teacher, "good luck with making writing as a career choice." Find her post nonsense on Tumblr Click here.

Bookmark and Share

The NaNoWriMo Experience!

The Joy of NaNoWriMo: Or Crystal Meth for Writers
By Cat Connor

For the last three years, I have taken part in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. The first year wasn’t a success for me, but it set me up. I had a taste. I knew what was possible and I liked it.

The second year, I discovered I was already signed up to do NaNoWriMo. No conscious choice needed. I knew I wasn’t prepared to have a string of failures under my belt. I had to do it. (And I was already using familiar terms to explain what I was doing. “I’m doing Nano, you?”)

The joy of pounding the keyboard got me over the dreadful frustrating slowness of the NaNoWriMo site. I ignored everyone and everything around me. I told my kids I was busy and wouldn’t be available for anything all month. And unless there was copious blood and or unconsciousness involved the little ones (and grown ones) were to leave me alone. I got so organized I surprised myself. I utilized the crock-pot to the fullest. I did everything required of me, quickly and efficiently, and it was on with the writing.

I did it. I wrote my first kiwi novel, a fun spy/thriller type novel that totally kicks ass. And one day when I get time, I will polish the hell out of it and send it out into the big wide world.

Last year – reeling from a string of rejections and disgruntled with the whole publishing industry I did Nano again. Same deal – I was already signed up (and I will not have a failure next to my name!) this time however I wanted to write the fourth book in a series. (Turns out it’s the fifth book, but never mind)

I did it and then some. I passed the 50,000-required words; I think the word count was around 80,000. The novel is tremendous (and sitting here waiting for polishing.) The difference in word count came from using established characters that I knew very well indeed. I still had no clue about plot. This didn’t matter, because frankly I never do when I start a story. It just happens. It was much easier writing with familiar characters.

It’s all looking rather straightforward. Hell, all you have to do is 50,000 words in 30 days. Easily achievable. (Yet I failed the first time but we don’t have to dwell on that.) It works out to fewer than 2,000 words a day. Then, I discovered that people actually planned for Nano! The whole thought of planning felt like cheating (and I struggled with being able to use established characters, because that felt like cheating too). Yet it’s apparently not. I didn’t plan for my first two attempts. I just sat down and wrote, no freaking clue about the characters that would show up, plot, none of it. I winged it from beginning to end. And it was fun but it wasn’t as easy as the third year.

This year, I thought I’d flag NaNoWriMo itself and do a 50k challenge at Backspace (a writer’s site I belong to) instead. That way I can write the 50k I want to write to finish a novel I’m working on. Then, I went over to the Nano site and found myself already signed up. (This is getting to be a habit.)

I have to do it. I just have to.

Time could be an issue. In all seriousness, this November may drive my family to the edge without adding Nanowrimo to the mix, and I suspect that all it will take is the whisper of Nano to make them throw themselves from the cliff.

Things have changed dramatically since November 2008 when I was an aspiring novelist collecting rejections. This year I have a publisher. My first novel is out and my second due for release on Nov 10th. (This means interviews, guest blogs, a release party, and all the other fun stuff that goes with a new release.) Then there is the little fact, that I’ll be away and be starting Nanowrimo two days late. Our youngest is now at afternoon kindergarten and that means 10 hours a week disappear into the great abyss. Plus, pre-Christmas craziness. Birthdays. School commitments.

Doing NaNoWriMo for the first time is probably not insane. Let’s face it – you don’t really know what it’s like until you’ve tried it. But there really is no excuse for the torturing of families beyond that once. That being said, I don’t know anyone who has only done it once. That’s the hook. You do it once just to see - but it’s insidious. It gets in, before you know it, thirty days are gone in a haze of word counts and challenges.

It’s like a drug.

It’s crystal meth for writers. (But even cheaper and easier to obtain.)

I’m sitting here dreading every second yet knowing I have to do it. The sad thing is I’ll love it while I’m doing it – while in the clutches of the frenzied writing watching that word count go steadily higher. Resenting every interruption, neglecting everyone except my characters. Living on adrenaline and coffee. Unable to sleep unless I’ve written at least 2,000 words a day, but not being happy until I achieve more.

It’s a drug.

I’m an addict. Hello, my name is Cat Connor and Nano is my drug of choice.

I fully expect to find NaNoWriMo on the DEA drug information list in the next few years. The effects are far reaching and it’s most definitely open for abuse. It’s worldwide and they’re already pushing it to kids.

Roll on November; I can’t wait to start my fourth Nano experience! I may be away from the keyboard for the first few days…but I’ll be writing longhand so I don’t get behind in word count.

So anyone else doing Nano?

You know you want to.

Cat Connor is a crime thriller writer. Catch her blog at: Click here Or find her on Twitter: Click here

National Novel Writing Month: Every Writer’s Cure
By Sera Rivers

Walking Sleep, throbbing eyes, anxious fingers – these are the symptoms of NaNoWriMo.

Don’t worry. There is a cure: November 30th.

Every autumn, exhilaration builds as I anticipate November 1st. I don’t know why, but the thought of writing 50k words in a mere 30 days is the greatest thrill I have ever encountered. I have successfully completed two NaNoWriMos, and cannot wait for this year’s to begin.

It is a love/hate relationship for me, but well worth the lack of sleep and pressure I force upon myself. The first year I joined just for fun. The book I wrote still sits on my hard drive. I was just testing my ability.

Last year, I wrote the first 54k of my memoir in November and completed the manuscript just three months later.

I have been revising my memoir all year. I often question the point of NaNoWriMo. Sure, I threw a plethora of words onto my computer screen; but I wonder: is the amount of work to perfect my haste worthwhile? Absolutely. There is certain honesty to throwing a story down on paper in a panicked surge. With a clock ticking away (how short of a month November is), there is no time for writer’s block, that perfect word, or layered characters.

The story must be written, skeletal, but written nonetheless.

The book I will write this year will detail my journey through the special education world to find a proper diagnosis for my son. I have written a rough draft of the back-story five years ago. I now want to incorporate what I’ve written with the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to create a finished manuscript. My work in child advocacy and my shared story on my website, Diagnosing Parents, has put the book in demand. While, I will not be able to “count” the words already written, NaNoWriMo will force me to complete the manuscript.

With two years under my belt, I believe myself to be a NaNoWriMo expert. I know what to avoid and what to embrace. The past two years were tricky for me because I worked fulltime. With much discipline – waking up earlier and staying up later to write (I calculated a minimum of 1668 words a day to win), I was able to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge. This year, I have time in my favor.

Thanks to the wonderful world of “unemployment,” I can methodically plot my daily writing assignments. I have outlined the book so I will stay on track. My next step will be to gather research material to have on hand for reference.


I better hurry. Time is drawing near.

NaNoWriMo is the trickiest game to play. It loves to throw life at me, despite my plans to do nothing but snuggle by the fire and write. NaNoWriMo has discovered the art of maneuvering time. Where does it go? Who gets to play with it? I remind myself that I must dodge rush hour traffic, avoid lengthy appointments and climb out of domestic duties. In order to defeat NaNoWriMo, I must contort, contract and crawl through small windows of time.

Ahh, NaNoWriMo. I live for the ecstasy. I live for the agony. Just 30 days of the year dedicated to nothing but words. It is a writer’s spiritual retreat. Some people fast; some people meditate; others journey to the highest or deepest parts of the earth; my spiritual journey begins each year with NaNoWriMo. It forces a new project for the forthcoming year.

Writers, I urge you, spend 30 days of your lives feeling nothing but nausea, insomnia, and utter despair. Join me for NaNoWriMo. Write. Write. Write!

I hope to see you at the finish line.

Sera Rivers is a writer, creative writing instructor, and child advocate. Writing credits include the Chicopee Special Needs Kids Examiner and Southwoods Literary Magazine. Sera is in the midst of editing her memoir, Don’t You Want Me?—a powerful story about her experiences growing up in a fanatically religious household, which led to her unhealthy patterns with men and a search for her true beliefs in God.

Learn more about Ms. Rivers via her websites:
Click here
Click here
Click here

Or contact her at:

NaNoWriMo Save My Life
By Emilie Staat

NaNoWriMo saved my life. Or at least, my writing.

Let me tell you a story.

Summer 1992. Two girls sit on the stairs of an apartment building, their heads and shoulders crowded close together over a notebook. They are ten and twelve, the only girls in the neighborhood, and they’re taking a break from roughhousing with the boys to work on a story. A., the elder, rolls her eyes as E., the younger, says, “We should re-read the whole story first. We can edit and we’ll remember where we left off.” A. takes the notebook and flips to a clean, fresh page, saying, “Let’s just get started.”

Summer 2007. A. is a nonfiction editor and a new mother. She doesn’t have time or energy to write. E. has just finished two writing degrees in seven years. She has a lot of ideas, but she doesn’t write. She is crippled by the critical voices in her head. They’re so loud that she can’t hear her characters speak to her. The characters whisper. The critical voices – they holler, “Show, don’t tell! This is garbage!”

Fifteen years changes a lot. It didn’t change my friendship with A. (for I am E., the younger), but we both had drifted so very far away from our youthful joy in our shared story. I’d just moved to a new city and started a new job as a paralegal. A. hadn’t written for years.

I don’t know where I first heard about National Novel Writing Month, but I know my first exposures to it were disdainful sneers about NaNoWriMo telling everybody that they can write, creating a hobby atmosphere around what some of us spend years and lots of money learning to do. In the fall of 2007, I felt very far away from the writing community I had spent years cultivating and really only knew one other writer in the city who I could talk to about what I was (writer) but wasn’t doing (writing).

So I researched NaNoWriMo – 50,000 words in one month! I bought the book, No Plot? No Problem! And I sent out the infamous e-mail. Confess to attempting something crazy so that whenever you’re tempted to quit, you’ll be too embarrassed not to keep going because you told all those people. And it works. I send the e-mail and asked my family and friends to support me by occasionally asking about my progress. A. received this e-mail and though we live 300 miles apart, distance has never distilled our friendship and she became my avid supporter.

I won NaNoWriMo 2007, which means I wrote 50,000 words in one month. It was one of the most freeing and educational experiences of my life. There was no time to worry about the quality of my writing. I could only write. Those crippling critical voices receded and my characters turned up their volume, sometimes screaming me awake in the middle of the night. The pace is so intense (over 2,000 words per day average) that you can only revel in your story and your characters, can only do your best to get their bones on the page. The flesh will come later, if it turns out your extended writing exercise is something you want to pursue.

A. and I did NaNoWriMo together last year, but neither of us finished. I cheated on the NaNo rules and tried to do 50,000 new words on an old book (my thesis). So while I didn’t finish, I actually did get a ton of new writing done. NaNoWriMo 2008 reminded A. that she’s a writer, not just an editor of other people’s work. Doing NaNoWriMo together – that reminded us both about the joy of playing with words that we knew so easily, instinctively, on that long-ago apartment staircase.

This year, A. and I have started early by sending each other writing exercises most days. For the first time, I’m reading the forums and talking to other participants in my area. When November 1st comes along, we’ll just get started. We’ll get our first NaNoWriMo Pep Talk and we’ll chuff each other along. And we’re gonna win this year. Because now that I’ve told you about our crazy attempt – we both just have to keep at it until we finish.

Emilie’s NaNoWriMo Must List:
Send the e-mail. My 2007 e-mail went like this, if you need a template:

“Dear Family and Friends,

I'm going to write a novel in November. As part of National Novel Writing Month (check out:, I will start writing a novel of 50,000 words November 1 and finish by midnight on the last day of November.

By reading this email, you've already done all I need you to do as my support team. NaNoWriMo recommends you tell everyone you know that you're writing a novel so that when you're tempted to quit, you can't possibly because people know you're doing it. So thanks!

If, in the course of November, you'd like to drop me a line of encouragement or ask me how the novel is coming, I'd love that. And of course, all of you should consider writing a novel in November as well!! NaNoWriMo favors output over literary quality. As they say -- December is for editing.

Those of you on this list are family members and writerly friends who I care about. In those dark days when I'll question what the hell I'm doing, knowing that *you know* I'm supposed to be writing a novel may just keep me going.

All my love and thanks,

Read Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem! Cheap copies are available online.
Use the Write or Die application online. [ Click here]

When you finish each day’s writing, have goals for what scenes you want to write the next day.
Eat and sleep – try to maintain a schedule so you’re geared up to write when it’s time to write.

Emilie Staat lives and writes in New Orleans. She’s thatagirldarling on and maintains her sanity at her personal blog: Click here while finishing her first novel.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bill Minutaglio's Book on Molly Ivins Hits Bookstores!

Please make sure to go to your local bookstore and check out Bill Minutaglio's definitive biography about "one of the most provocative, courageous, and influential journalists in American history," "Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life."

It can also be ordered on
Click here

As a matter of full disclosure, let me say that Bill is one of my best friends and has been for decades, a truly kind and generous man. He's also, without question, one of country's best journalists, as well as an utterly dazzling writer. I only wish I could put words together the way Bill does. He makes every sentence sing!

Bill sent me this about the book:

Molly Ivins was, for a while, the most powerful woman in journalism—and she was one of the toughest, most tragic, women in America.
She had enormous power and influence: Presidents, senators and royalty called her. She appeared in over 300 newspapers, had huge national bestselling books, was on 60 Minutes, Letterman and Leno. She had millions of followers. She punched men out in Texas—and once knocked George W. Bush's most important political partner to his knees in a bar in Austin. She rode motorcycles—and could drink any man under the table. She eventually became a profoundly high-functioning alcoholic - in and out of rehab, causing a ruckus around major political figures (like Nancy Pelosi), and managing through it all to write for every major magazine and news outlet imaginable. Her work was compared to Mark Twain, Rabelais and Mencken.
She broke open the doors for Maureen Dowd, Arianna Huffington, Gail Collins and almost any other woman who wanted to have an opinion column in America. She suffered death threats and bomb scares. She raised millions of dollars for civil liberties and other causes across America. She personally supported hundreds of people over the life of her career—she gave away, in the end, millions of her own dollars, to strangers, friends, the homeless. She was unfathomably generous.
And, her entire life was defined by her relationship with her father -- who was the autocratic, racist, head of Tenneco, one of the most powerful energy corporations in the world. She grew up in unbridled affluence, she grew up as friends with George W Bush, she attended the finest private schools in America and studied in France -- and she rejected all of it to become of the most fiercely liberal voices in American history. She lived with one of the most radical activists in America, she was engaged to be married to a wealthy man who wanted to start a "master race”—and Hollywood producers continually talked to her about making a movie of her life.
There really was never a figure like Molly Ivins. And there will probably never be. She was like Amelia Earhart meets Annie Oakley.
Her story was one that needed to be told—it was so intensely narrative (which explains, I believe, why those producers, screenwriters and directors were wanting to make that movie based on her life). She fought sexism at every turn in her life. She lived large, fought hard and told the top editor of The New York Times to fuck off. And just when she seemed ready to beat back her raging, drunken nightmares, she was hit with cancer. She battled three wicked bouts of cancer.
And through it all, she laughed her ass off, spoke truth to power, gave away even more money -- and never stopped working. Her friends—Maya Angelou, Dan Rather, Willie Nelson, Ann Richards, Bill Clinton—marveled at her stamina. And when she died there were enormous memorial services around the country, including ones in New York City and Texas.
For a narrative story teller, Ivins's story was inevitable. There were so many breathtaking twists and turns in her life. I knew her a bit and knew some of her story. But not all of it. It simply became richer, more intense, as I researched it.
With one of her former researchers, we worked on the book for 18 months. We did research across America. We delved into her personal archives, her diaries (including scalding, intense ones where she talks about her fight with alcohol, her lovers, her fights with the most powerful people in American publishing and politics), her personal letters. She was the most profound self-chronicler imaginable, and we had access to hundreds of thousands of documents, papers, letters, touching on almost every aspect of her and her family's personal history.
I learned that, when you weigh Molly Ivins in historic context, her story is a grand, outsized American saga. She was often "the only woman in the room"—and she fought like holy hell to be heard, to be respected, to change things for the good of America. She was a trailblazer and a firebrand. Again, to say she lived large is really an understatement.

Bookmark and Share

10 Places to Help Find a Home for Your Writing

10 Places to Help Find a Home for Your Writing
By Linda G Smith
Accredited Online Degrees
Click here

Getting published can end up metamorphosing into a nightmare even more stressful and frustrating than the act of writing itself. With so many questionable publishers and agents ready to exploit aspiring professional writers and prey upon their eagerness to see their names and visions in print. Even finding a legitimate home for a story, no matter its structure or content, requires Herculean feats of time-consuming research. Fortunately, a number of websites and magazines have dedicated their time, money, and server space to help writers work through the publication process, network with colleagues and publishers alike, and find a reliable, honest agent. Every one of them makes for an indispensable resource when searching for a place for the written word to call home.

1. NewPages Click here: One of the most comprehensive, intelligent, and engaging websites on publishing anywhere, NewPages’s main draw is its massive listing of literary magazines and alternative presses. Each entry comes accompanied by a sample cover, contact information, a discussion of target audiences and preferred content, submission requirements, contests, and information on recent issues. Poets, artists, short story writers, and essayists benefit especially from this well-researched, fervently updated site. Beyond the fantastic literary magazine directory, NewPages also posts contests and calls for submissions from the aforementioned periodicals as well as alternative and independent publishing houses. As if this did not make for enough valuable content, the site includes a podcast, fantastic resources for writers, links to independent book stores, a blog, book and magazine reviews, and even a page dedicated to independent record labels in addition to everything else.

2. Optimum Wound Click here: In a blog dated March 17, 2009, editor Jason Thibault from the tiny independent comic book publishing house Optimum Wound posted submission guidelines for every single comic book, graphic novel, and manga publisher he could find. While the content is subject to change over time, his exhaustive labor of love makes for the most valuable resource for any aspiring or established comic book, manga, or graphic novel writer with a story to tell. He starts off his post with advice and tips on getting the most out of his research, then follows through with an excruciatingly useful bombardment of every publisher he could find, organized into major printers, independents, presses focusing exclusively on one or two genres, anthologies, manga, distributors, adult entertainment, books, and magazines. Alongside each entry comes a paragraph (or two, or three detailing the business’s content preferences and submission requirements along with a link useful when checking for any updates he may have missed.

3. The Freelance Writing Jobs Network Click here: A collective of seven blogs and a thriving community, the Freelance Writing Jobs Network covers every possible angle of the titular business. It offers practical and intelligent advice to amateurs and professionals alike and allows for readers to ask questions and gain valuable insight on both writing and publishing. Every day, the site posts up leads for writing jobs as well as blogs, magazines, and other periodicals in need of articles or essays. Ghost writing gigs pop up on occasion, too. Pay very close attention to some of the listings, however. Though many positions allow for a telecommute option, some publishers have geographical limitations and requirements for applicants.

4. Writer’s Digest Click here: The quintessential analog resource for writers now publishes many of its celebrated magazine’s content for free (with additional features available through a paid membership online. Writer’s Digest offers pretty much everything any writer needs to launch a rewarding and successful career – it is such an indispensable and unquestioned necessity for anyone hoping to sell their writing that statement only narrowly avoids steering off into hyperbole. Along with the articles, blogs, directories, contests, and shops common to many expert sites, the magazine also hosts several conferences, workshops, and events throughout the year. They also grant annual awards to the best literature and publishing websites on the internet. No writers’ mailbox or bookmark list is complete without this priceless font of information and opportunity.

5. Books and Tales Click here: An admittedly incomplete database, Books and Tales nevertheless features a valuable and detailed service. Many print on demand, or POD, publishers – occasionally referred to by the epithet “vanity presses” – operate as fronts for a variety of scams. This site offers side-by-side comparisons of PODs for those interested in exploring the self-publishing route. They delve into the prices, author benefits, contracts, royalties, and highly specific positives and negatives of each publisher. In spite of not covering every POD business available, the information they do provide still stands as a revealing and extremely helpful resource to help prevent would-be writers from falling victim to an exploitative ruse. Books and Tales also hosts several articles in addition to a community devoted entirely to self-publishing and POD businesses.

6. Preditors & Editors Click here: Like Books and Tales, Preditors and Editors dedicates its time, money, and server space to protecting the rights of writers everywhere. They host a massive collection of links to publishers with sterling or, at minimum, neutral reputations, with those deemed suspicious both explicitly labeled in the directory as well as sequestered in a separate portion of the site. This service concerns itself especially with the copyright and ownership issues common to the publishing industry. However, it also offers more specialized lists targeting screenwriters, game scripters, journalists, editors, and musicians as well. Links to contests, conventions, festivals, chat rooms, and forums are available for writers seeking networking opportunities.

7. Agent Query Click here: When the personal search for a reliable publisher starts yielding fruitless results, a literary agent may be able to help. The publishing process is a grueling, exhausting test of mental and emotional strength, but having an agent opens up many opportunities that self-representation cannot provide. Enthusiastically approved by Writer’s Digest, Agent Query screens thousands of agents and allows the legitimate ones to create profiles in a searchable database. With an incredibly easy and specific interface, writers can connect with agents specializing in their chosen genres or living in their own city for easier access. It provides one more breezy and painless method of easing the stresses associated with publishing.

8. Query Tracker Click here: Agents and publishers alike register here to meet with potential clients, and Writer’s Digest has labeled Query Tracker an absolute necessity for all hopeful writers. In addition to their search services, this site allows users to organize and keep track of which agents and publishers they have contacted and corresponded with and which pitches and queries still need to be sent out. Listings for agents and presses both provide statistics on concerns such as response times, submissions, and preferred genres, and users can post comments regarding their experiences in dealing with them. Like Agent Query, all of the information on Query Tracker remains entirely free of charge as a much-needed relief for writers.

9. WritersNet Click here: In many ways, writing is really no different than many traditionally structured jobs with 8-hour days whittled away inside a soulless cubicle. Networking remains an integral aspect of the business, and without forging meaningful connections with contemporaries, publishers, editors, and agents a writer cannot expect to succeed or function. It pays to send the ego off with a one-one ticket to Splitsville and a suitcase full of spite, and once that is accomplished WritersNet grants users a bevy of opportunities to learn about what agents and publishers alike are looking for. Some of the connections forged on this site may mean the difference between a manuscript rotting sadly in a dusty, forgotten box and a national bestseller.

10. The Write Jobs Click here: In addition to the Freelance Writing Jobs Network, The Write Jobs is a necessary stop when making the rounds to discover what blogs, magazines, websites, and other publications currently offer gigs for writers. However, the latter tends to feature more permanent and full-time positions than the former. Each job listing is filed under one of six different categories – freelance, journalism, medical, publishing industry, technical, and telecommute – and features an interface similar to Craigslist. While the focus lay predominantly with job postings, The Write Jobs does offer some degree of advice for those seeking employment, exposure, or portfolio padding.

The decision to publish, either through a POD or a more traditional press, can be wrought with a frustrating number of setbacks and seemingly dead-end research. Luckily, the internet plays host to a multitude of websites catering to any question or concern that aspiring writers may have. From providing information on agents and publishers to screening potentially fraudulent offers to simply dispensing sound advice on what to expect when venturing forth into the industry, every one of these sites makes for a resource of value to both amateur to experienced writers alike. Taking advantage of what they generously have to offer significantly eases the anxieties inherent in the quest to find a home for an essay, article, novel, short story, or graphic novel. Without networking, without researching, without learning every nuance and subtlety and corner of the publishing industry, the chances of missing out on a potentially fortuitous opportunity swells considerably.

Bookmark and Share