Saturday, May 31, 2008

 

Are You An 'Intentional Reader'?

By Jill Earl

Not too long ago, I came across a too-long forgotten article that really got me thinking about what and how I read. Titled, ‘The Intentional Reader’, author Bob Hostetler discusses what he calls his “Writer’s Reading Plan”, where he sets a goal to read a perdetermined number of books annually.

A few of the categories Mr. Hostetler included in his reading plan are biography, memoir, classics, writing, poetry, children’s and history. He always makes sure that his selections are from a number of genres, authors and forms, while allowing for flexibility to add and delete categories as his interests change.

His goals are not to only read for pleasure, broaden his horizons, and become familiar with his particular genre and others, but improve the quality of his writing.

Like many writers, I do a substantial amount of reading throughout the year and attempt to read a number of genres and authors. My list seems a bit hit-or-miss at times, though. So I really appreciate Mr. Hostetler's plan, and have started using it myself.

The “Writer’s Reading Plan” can be found at http://www.bobhostetler.com/writing/favorite009.html.

How about you? Do you have your own reading plan? Has it helped you improve your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

 

The Inside Scoop on Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

I am calling this post the inside scoop on finding freelance writing jobs because my husband recently bought the best ice cream ever, and I can't get it out of my mind. I also can't get finding freelance writing jobs out of my mind, so why not combine the two?

Recently, I have been trying to find more regular jobs to help with my income, so I can do less substitute teaching and more staying home and writing. I've been listening to a lot of advice from the wonderful WOW! listserv, Premium Green, and a workshop I went to put on by a terrific motivator, author, writing coach, and freelancer, Suzanne Lieurance. (Check her out at http://www.workingwriterscoach.com/).

One thing I've learned is to regularly check the job boards, and so I do. I look at craigslist.org, freelancewritinggigs.com, online-writing-jobs.com, WOW!'s job board, and freelancewriting.com. Plus I subscribe to the Funds for Writers newsletter, The Writer's Gazette, and Morning Coffee.

And here are my struggles. I notice that you have to IMMEDIATELY respond to a job, unless you are some rare expert on the okapi, and this job needs someone who has actually seen one of these elusive animals, and that is you. Otherwise, the job listing has already had hundreds of writers respond, and I am among the hundreds. I try to make my resume and cover letter stand out. One of the last jobs I applied for, blogging about TV shows, I even wrote a little joke to make my cover letter stand out. However, the job had been posted for 3-4 days, so chances are, there might have been someone funnier and quicker than me.

What I have learned from this experience is as soon as I see a job, I have my resume (which is ready) and send it. I have writing samples, (which are ready), and I send them. I construct a quick cover letter, addressing the needs in the ad and go for it.

Another struggle I have occurs when the ad doesn't list a lot about the company. This occurs especially on craigslist. I guess I have this fear of identity theft, due to that singing Pirate in the commercial, and I am not comfortable sending my resume and writing samples to an email address with no additional information. SO, I usually send an email that gives a few statements about my qualifications and asks for more specific information about the company. I usually don't get any response back, but I won't change the way I do this. I have to feel comfortable to answer an ad with my resume and writing samples. OR am I completely paranoid?

I probably sound like a downer here. I don't mean, too. The good news is I have gotten some work from answering ads. I do write for Demand Studios, and I find this fun, and they pay EVERY week to Paypal. This is very exciting! I also recently was contacted by Cactus Global, which is an editing service, so that is nice, too. I started to work for one business that I found on craigslist, but I didn't think the payment fit the work once I got started. I told the woman I worked with to see if we could negotiate, and she woudn't budge. So, I finished the assigned work and quit.

So, as for the inside scoop, this is only from my viewpoint and experience. Maybe someone else's inside scoop about finding freelance writing jobs would look differently. Feel free to share. As for the best ice cream in the world, I won't leave you hanging. . . Edy's Slow Churned (Rich and Creamy) Yogurt Blends. (It tastes like ice cream, but it even has live, active cultures like yogurt!)

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/

ice cream photo by laffy4k on http://www.flickr.com/

Thursday, May 29, 2008

 

Finding Inspiration - Again

by LuAnn Schindler

Need help finding inspiration for stories or articles? Here are four additional ways to jumpstart your creative muse.

Sure, you don't want your inbox flooded with junk email, but by subscribing to various e-newsletters, you should be able to find a wealth of information that leads to inspiration. I have been trying to break into the food writing market. I subscribed to several cooking newsletters from reputable sites, including Chef 2 Chef and Hungry Girl. The leads, and in some instances, the discussion boards, have offered a bounty of ideas. I even started writing a food blog that includes a specific food for each entry and shares the history of the delicacy and recipes.

Travel writing can be a tough market to break into, but consider traveling the area you live in. Consider how your travels fit other genres, too: restaurant reviews, human interest stories, a historical overview of an event or place. Visiting new or even older establishments in your town or state can spark all kinds of ideas. In a town I formerly lived in, there is a manufacturing plant that makes the yard flags that utility companies use to mark water lines, utility lines, etc. They are the largest manufacturer in the world. A quick phone call and a tour of the plant led to an article that was featured in a regional magazine and a large pay check.

Is there a college or university located near your residence? Check out the website and sign up for press releases. When you consider the variety of events that occur on campus, you have a good chance of finding something that sparks your interest for an article or story. A faction in the local university's agriculture department led me to an article about the poultry industry.

Consider nonfiction as a spark. I like to look through the history books when I visit bookstores, and while thumbing through a book about jazz, I discovered a singer from my home state. After digging a little deeper, I found out she grew up in a small town not too far from where I resided. That inspiration led to a story about this jazz singer and also opened the door to additional articles with the magazine who bought the singer's bio.

Inspiration is everywhere. The power of observation and curiosity can lead you to your next story.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

 

Interview with Allie Comeau, Runner-Up in 2008 Winter Flash Fiction Contest

2008 Flash Fiction Winter Contest Runner-Up, Allie Comeau, is a freelance writer living in Fort Collins, CO with her wonderful husband and two extremely energetic dogs. Allie studied Creative Writing at the University of Arizona and feels truly blessed to be able to make a living doing what she loves. Allie writes an active lifestyle blog for Sierra Trading Post and has been published in print magazines and online. She enjoys writing of all kinds – both fiction and nonfiction. Right now, she’s working on several projects and hopes to finish her first novel very soon.

If you haven't read Allie's winning short story yet, "Staring at Soles," please do so at http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/downloads/printable/20-FE1-Winter08Contest-AllieComeau.html . Read on to see where Allie gets her ideas and inspiration for her writing!

WOW!: Allie, congratulations on your story, "Staring at Soles", winning runner-up in the Flash Fiction contest. Your story is full of emotion. Was it hard to fit all that emotion into a story with limited words?

Allie: Thank you! When I wrote this story, it just poured out so quickly I didn’t really have time to think about it. It’s just an emotional subject. The moment when a woman decides to leave her husband – I can only imagine it would be one of the most emotional moments in her life. I just tried to convey that. My copywriting experience definitely came in handy here – I’ve learned to write tightly and leave out unnecessary words.

WOW!: That is very important in writing flash fiction or any kind of fiction, really--leaving out unnecessary words! You also were able to add quite a bit of back story into this flash fiction piece since it is important the reader knows that Laura has been through this before. How difficult was working in the back story?

Allie: I knew I wanted this story to be about a woman deciding to leave a man, but I wasn’t sure why she was going to leave him until I started writing it. The back story just came to me and it was easily told in her thoughts and her realization that the situation was never going to change. It had happened before, it’s happening now, and it would happen again. It just worked.

WOW!: It seems like several authors work the same way as you. They know where they are going with the story but not quite sure how they are getting there. It is AMAZING and worked well for you when an author watches the story unfold before her eyes. Was it easy for you to come up with your title? How do you usually choose titles for your work?

Allie: Actually, I used to be petrified of titles. They’re so important – if the title is bad, readers might never get to the first page. But now I look at them as opportunities to intrigue the reader. Someone told me the best way to title your work is to find a statement, image, or description that really stands out within the story and steal it. If there isn’t one, then you need to worry about more than the title.

WOW!: Great advice. Thanks for sharing that tip with us. What themes do you like to explore in your fiction? Do the themes in "Staring at Soles" exemplify what you typically write about?

Allie: Ah, that’s my problem. I like to explore everything. Lately, however, I’ve become fascinated with specific moments in time – life-changing moments when someone makes a decision that radically alters the course of his or her life. What are the motivating factors behind the decision? What was the impetus? I just think it’s so interesting.

WOW!: And that theme probably supplies a lifetime of writing ideas. We'll look forward to reading more of your work, exploring the life-changing moment theme. In your bio, you stated you enjoy writing fiction and nonfiction. What other fiction pieces have you written? What types of nonfiction pieces have you written?

Allie: I enjoy writing nonfiction pieces about things I’m interested in, like health & fitness, the environment (I’m a total tree hugger), animals and travel. But writing nonfiction about things I’m unfamiliar with is fun, too. It can be extremely educational. My dream job would be to write for National Geographic – that would be it for me. As for fiction, it’s all over the map. I’m working on a little collection right now about those moments in time I mentioned above.

WOW!: What a great way to look at writing nonfiction. It does give us a chance to learn about something new or explore a topic more in depth. Have you had luck publishing or winning awards with fiction and nonfiction work?

Allie: I don’t know if there’s much luck involved in publishing – more like plain old perseverance. I sent out query after query for a year before I landed my first article. It’s tough to get assignments without clips. But it’s finally starting to happen. I have an article slated for the August issue of Delicious Living Magazine, a national health magazine that sells in Whole Foods, and I publish regularly now in a Northern Colorado magazine called Style. I’ve also been published in the local community paper and various websites online. This is my first published fiction piece, though, so I’m pretty excited about it.

WOW!: Congratulations on your perseverance and success! That is very exciting, and we are glad that WOW! could publish your first fiction piece. Your bio also states that you write a blog. Please tell us about it.

Allie: I write an active lifestyle blog for an outdoor gear retailer. I publish seven days a week and cover all the things I enjoy writing about – health & fitness tips, green tips, outdoor news, adventure travel, etc. It’s so fun that sometimes I forget it’s a job. I really enjoy it.

WOW!: What a great writing job. We will definitely need to check that out. You write full time for your career, according to your bio. What is your daily routine like? What types of writing help pay the bills?

Allie: I love the freedom that comes with freelancing. I work more than ever, but it’s on my own terms and that, to me, is well worth it. I start the day off researching and writing that day’s blog post, networking a bit online, and then I use the rest of the afternoon for other projects, assignments, querying, creative writing, and marketing my writing business. People are surprised that I can stay so focused working from home. It’s not difficult in the least because I love what I’m doing and want to be successful. As for the bills, copywriting and blogging are taking care of those for the time being.

WOW!: Thank you for sharing with us your typical writing day. Many freelancers wonder how other writers organize their day and stay focused. These tips are great! You are also working on a novel. Can you tell us a little about it?

Allie: I would like to, but the same person who taught me how to title also told me that you should never talk about an unfinished work before it’s time. If you let the cat out of the bag too early, it may never come back. Plus, I don’t really know what’s going to happen yet myself. I’ll keep you posted, though!

WOW!: Thanks for keeping us posted, and for letting us in on the advice that a mentor gave you. We can all learn so much from each other. What advice do you have for other writers who would like to enter a WOW! writing contest?


Allie: Rewrite and rewrite until you’re happy with each and every word. With only 500 words, each one has to count. Other than that, just go for it and don’t be afraid to put your writing out there. Oh, and good luck!

WOW!: Thank you, Allie, it has been fun and interesting getting to know you. If you want to read more about Allie, check out her blog at http://blog.sierratradingpost.com or her website at www.alliecomeau.com . You can also email her at alliecomeau@gmail.com .

Happy Writing to everyone!
Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/

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Monday, May 26, 2008

 

How Do You Handle Adversity?

 Do you sometimes feel that the more you try to accomplish, the more obstacles seem to pop up in your life, derailing your carefully laid plans? 

One day, everything seems to be going well when…Bam!  Life hits you with all the force of a category five hurricane.

And unfortunately, when these storms come, they fail to tell us why they plague us, let alone what we need to do to overcome them.

What do you do in the face of adversity? 

Does it crush you?  Send you hurtling down an endless path of self-pity and despair?  Does it paralyze you?  Do criticism and rejection leave you afraid to reach for your dreams?

Or do you allow the experience to propel you to higher heights? 

Remember, in order for use to grow as writers and as human beings, the rain must fall.  See adversity as an opportunity to wash away old, ineffective habits, to refresh your goals, and to nurture your spirit.

We grow not by the virtue of our successes in life, but by how well we weather life’s storms.

It is not what happens to us that really matters.  Rather it is what we do in response to the challenges in our lives that defines us.

Are you facing an obstacle along your path to success?

If so, good for you!  Embrace this challenge as an opportunity to grow and stretch your abilities as writer and a person. 

See this adversity in your life for what it really is – opportunity masquerading as calamity, waiting to stretch you to new heights.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

 

The Long Weekend

Your writing doesn't have to take a backseat this holiday weekend, even if you're busy with fun plans. Just try one or two of the exercises below. You'll probably be able to look back later at your notes and find inspiration for an essay, article, or short story.

Ready? Go:

1. If you're attending a social event, document three conversation topics you heard. If possible, jot down some of the actual dialog too.

2. If you're traveling by car, bring a notepad to record ideas--at least one random thought for each half hour on the road.

3. Write down a few lyrics from the first song you hear on the car radio. How do they apply to your life?

4. Create three haiku-like poems that describe something about your weekend. These can be serious or funny.

5. Make a list of the ten best (or worst) things about a place you went.


--MP

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Friday, May 23, 2008

 

Getting Ideas from Total Strangers

Writers often hear the question "Where do you get your ideas?" The more famous you are, the more often you probably hear it. We can get ideas and find inspiration from so many different places. Maybe you read the newspaper every day to spark a story idea or you tackle a tried-and-true storyline from a fresh angle. It doesn't matter where the ideas come from, it only matters that you use them wisely.

One of my favorite ways to get ideas is to people watch. For one thing, it gets me out of the house and out of what can be solitary confinement. You can go to the park, the bookstore, coffee shop, mall...anywhere that a large and varied number of people are likely to be. Then just sit and watch them (but don't be obvious!).

Although these people are total strangers and I don't know a thing about them, I make up stories based on what they're doing or eating or drinking. The woman playing with her baby? She can either be a stay-at-home-mom who loves to read and garden in her spare time or she can be incredibly unhappy and on the verge of divorcing her husband. Why is she ready to leave her husband? That's where it gets interesting...maybe she discovered he was unfaithful or maybe she's romantically involved with someone else. Perhaps his family has never accepted her and now that she's a mother, she can't stand to have her daughter grow up in such an environment. The point is to generate ideas and it doesn't matter how ludicrous they are; you're simply gathering them and hopefully, can use them to start a fresh piece of work.

Because I often sit in my house working, with little to no interaction with the outside world, I like it when I can get out and look at something new and interesting. People really are fascinating, whether they're walking their dogs or talking on their cell phones, listening to music or sipping coffee and reading. I'm still involved in a solitary activity, but I'm not holed up in my office, which is refreshing.

Ideas and inspiration are everywhere. It's just up to us to find them.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

 

Tips for Attending Book Expo America

If you are an author and you haven't heard of Book Expo America, it's time to crawl out from behind your computer and attend the largest international publishing trade show this side of Frankfurt.

Most years, the show is held in NY (as it was last year), but this year, it will be in Los Angeles. BEA will be back in NY in 2009,
D.C in 2010, and Vegas, baby in 2011.

Angela and I attended last year and we will be on the convention floor again this year, promoting WOW!, visiting with the agents and publishers we've met over the last two years, and looking to connect with our readers. If you plan to go, drop us an email--we'd love to meet you.


I have a few tips for those of you who plan to attend the show to seek an agent or a publisher. These are little things I noticed at the event last year. I'll refer to the people you will meet at BEA in the big house booths as publishers through my list of observations; although, many of the people there are from the marketing department, sales team, acquisitions editors, etc.

First thing--if you want to be taken seriously by the publishers, don't look like a walking billboard for your book (or your manuscript). Dressing like your main character--waaay too much. Book cover t-shirts--too much. Book cover buttons--borderline too much; although, certainly not as bad as the previous two ideas. It makes you stand out like a desperate writer and doesn't draw the kind of attention you want. Treat the experience like you would if you were trying to meet an agent at a writer's conference--be casual, but professional. Think of it like this, if you had a meeting at their office, you wouldn't show up wearing a body bag to promote your murder mystery.

Take more business cards than you think you will need. After you get a business card from someone you meet, step away and write notes on the back about what was discussed. This is crucial. By the end of the trade show, you won't remember unless you take notes.

Don't monopolize the publisher's time when you approach them. Have your elevator pitch boiled down to 30 seconds (and I seriously mean, 30 seconds). If you talk for longer than that, they will be looking over your head for a way to escape. Think of it like a party full of popular people. They want to be talking to the in-crowd, not a boor who is droning on and on about the plot to their story. You want to pique their interest. If they are interested, they will ask questions. If they aren't, they won't. Either way, get in, get out, and thank them for their time.

Find out who you should be talking to before you launch into your elevator pitch. You may be talking to a receptionist. Although, from what I noticed, many of the people wo-manning the booths are in filter mode, no matter what department they work in. They will determine if you have anything of interest to the right people. If you do, you'll get the introduction, if not, you'll get the brush off.

Your goal should be to get them to request that you send your book/manuscript to them. That being said, it's highly unlikely they will. The majority of publishers don't want to waste their time on an unknown writer (whether self-published or seeking traditional publishing). They will tell you to submit to them through an agent.

If you have already self-published your book and are looking to have it "picked up" by a major house, have your important facts on the tip of your tongue--how long it's been out, how many units you've sold, what kind of reviews it's getting, any awards it's received, what you are doing to market it, what kind of platform you have, etc.

And here's the catch 22 of the whole thing--most publishers don't want to talk to you on the first day. It's an industry trade show--they are catching up and networking with their peers from other houses and also promoting their recently released list and upcoming releases. On the second day, most publishers don't want to talk to you then either. They are conducting serious business* and most are completely booked with meetings. *If you see people sitting at a table in the booth chatting, DO NOT approach them. That is a meeting in progress.
On the last day, it's pretty settled and much quieter--the initial excitement has died down, everyone has gotten a chance to see and talk to everyone they wanted to. The booths are at half-staff and there are considerably less attendees.

Have a plan. Get a map of the convention floor and target who you want to talk to. But don't forget to wander around and check things out at the different booths. I found a great vendor for novelty items in the small press area. So, keep your mind open to meeting people who you can work with or use the services of at a later date.

One observation about the small press area. While walking down the aisles in Siberia, Angela and I felt like fresh meat that had just wandered into the lair of starving cannibals. It's the only place in the trade show where people are leaping into the aisles, grabbing your arm, and trying to get you to take their book or postcard or bookmark. Sadly, that is the way most writers approach the publishers too. I watched that happen all around us in NY.

You may be tempted to collect every advance reading copy and recent release being handed out. Trust me, there will be a ton. And they are all free.
My personal rule--I don't take a book unless I'm totally interested in it and plan to write a review. I picked up one book last year. Some people collect them and they try to sell them on Ebay. (Please don't be one of those people.) And a comment about the women you will see loaded down with bags of books--most of them are librarians picking up books for their libraries. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to get things they don't have a budget for.

Bring a Cliff bar or other energy bar to tide you over. There is so much going on that you may not want to take a break to eat. You may even want to tuck a sandwich into your bag. The food lines are long (as are the lines for the restrooms) and there are few places to sit, so you'd better be ready for a marathon day on your feet.

Speaking of feet... WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. I can't stress that enough. It was hot last year, almost stifling, so I wore sandals and was very glad I chose a pair of cork wedges with soft straps.

Overall, it's a great experience, even if you only go for one day to check out the action. The floor is buzzing with conversation (it's deafening in there); it's wall-to-wall people, and everyone is excited about what they are promoting. It's a place to see the trends (keep an eye out for great marketing ideas), be seen (make a good impression on everyone you meet), and network (meet as many people as possible). BEA is not a place to sell; it's a place to make connections for future business.

Have fun with it!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

 

Challenge Yourself With a Short Story Today!

Some writers dream of Oprah announcing their novel as her next book club selection. Others fantasize the day they accept the Pulitzer Prize. Few authors daydream about receiving two contributor copies after having a short story published. Yet, writing short stories can improve your writing skills and increase your marketability.

The following is a section of an article I wrote about short stories that appeared on the Tickled by Thunder website a few years ago. Here are three reasons why writing a short story might help you become a better writer.

SENSE OF COMPLETION
Writing short stories gives you a sense of completion. Writers often complain, “It took me years and years to get my novel just right.” Novels are like spaghetti sauce, simmering for days; whereas short stories are like the noodles—boiling and ready in twenty minutes.

One of the benefits of writing a short story is the amount of time it takes to complete. You might sketch out a rough draft after three sessions at your computer. Then you set the story aside for a few days before revising and editing. Next, you present the story to a friend or critique group to get other opinions. You again revise and edit, add those finishing touches, and—Voila! You have a completed story. This process takes weeks instead of years.

PUBLICATION CREDITS
Getting anything published is hard work. You must be dedicated to rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. You have to research the market, learn proper manuscript format, and write a brilliant cover letter. Getting a short story published is like playing a good game of miniature golf—it’s not as easy as it looks, but with knowledge, skill, and practice, you can do it. Getting a novel published is like playing professional golf —it’s much more difficult and fewer people do it.

Let’s look at Writer A and Writer B. Writer A has never published anything and has worked on his fantasy novel for three years. He is finished and looking for an agent. In his cover letter, he writes an exciting summary and a convincing argument of why his work is different from other fantasies. In his closing paragraph, he has nothing to write for previous publications. The agent is not impressed.

Writer B has also completed her first fantasy novel, which she entered into a contest and won first prize. She has written several short stories and had a few published. In her cover letter, she lists her previous writing successes. Remember an agent or editor needs to make money off your book. If no one has read your work or published it, why should someone take an economic risk on you?

Speaking of money, sometimes you get paid for shorter pieces. A lot of magazines pay in copies, but some do give you a check. And the best news about submitting a short story is you don’t need an agent. Editors deal directly with you.

WORK ON THE CRAFT
You can use short stories to strengthen your writing skills. Maybe you need to work on writing realistic dialogue or fitting all five senses into your descriptions. Perhaps you want to use flashbacks but can’t seem to make smooth transitions. Or a friend, who critiqued your opening chapters, said your main character was typical and boring.

Try working out these problems in a short story, focusing on improving those particular weaknesses. For example, if you are having trouble with dialogue tags, write a short story where two characters discuss their daughter’s murder. Practice putting action before or after your dialogue instead of using the word “said.” To solve your typical characters problem, create a new character, listing his unique qualities, and then write a short story about him. See if this method works for you before you change your entire novel.

Write in different points of view or in first person instead of third. If you admire someone’s writing style, you could try a similar story. If you take risks, attempt various styles or voices, and focus on your weaknesses, you will grow as a writer.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
www.margodill.com

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Time to Write...on Facebook

by Jill Earl

Since joining Facebook last month, I’ve been working my way through the creative writing groups on there. Thanks to the handy "Creative Writing Groups on Facebook" list, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve found so far. With the goal to help people locate book sites, author pages, writing programs, presses, magazines, writers’ groups, workshop communities and more, you’re sure to find a group--or two--or more to your liking.

A couple of weeks ago, I found the "Time to Write" group. Not a critique or workshop group to share works-in-progress, their aim is to write for a designated amount of time of your choosing. You can do it in a group, by yourself, at home, in your favorite cafe, whatever. It’s all up to you. It really can’t get simpler than that.

I joined and marked Saturday, May 17 on my calendar. And wrote. Not as long as I would’ve liked, but I did something.

The next two "Time to Write" events are scheduled for June 21 and July 19. They’re on my calendar too. Surf over to: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8693557218

If you want to scope out the Facebook creative writing groups for yourself, go to: http://groups.to/creative_writing_on_facebook

You’re bound to find something to your liking.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

 

What He Said/She Said About Attributive Clauses

By Annette Fix

I'll be the first to admit that when I was a newbie writer, I was guilty of using (read: overusing) busy attributives, and I had a bad case of the wrylies. When I look back at some of my early prose, it's completely embarrassing.

You know your dialogue is infected with wrylies if your novel has attributives like these:

The handcuffs clicked around his meaty wrists. "I am not a criminal!" he shouted loudly.

Sara ran around the room waving the lotto ticket. "I won! I'm rich! I'm rich!" she shrieked excitedly.

"Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom," the toddler jabbered incessantly.

"I got fired on Friday, so I guess that means I'm not busy on Monday," she commented wryly.

Focus on the "wrylies" in the sentences above--the use of adverbs explains how the dialogue should be interpreted or how it was uttered.

And there are attributives that use a variety of verbs to convey the speaker's emotion or physical action:

"Your place or mine?" he chuckled.
"You wish," she snorted.
"No one will find out," he smiled.
"I'll tell your wife," she warned.
"You're cute when you're angry," he winked.

Busy attributes try to pack too much into a sentence:

"He broke up with me. And now I'm falling apart," sniffed the attractive blonde as she wiped tears from her clear blue eyes, knowing she would never find another man like the rich doctor she married two years after leaving the leper colony where she grew up.

Take all the dialogue samples above as examples of how NOT to write your character's attributives. "Keep it simple," she said.

Using the "simple said" is the best way to make your attributives invisible to your readers. It won't distract them from the flow of your story. And if you craft your narrative and dialogue well, you won't need to be showy in your attributives.

Trust your readers to pick up on the nuances and tone in the interaction and dialogue between your characters. Don't hit them over the head with overwritten attributives.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

 

Finding Inspiration - Part Four

by LuAnn Schindler

Need ideas? Here are four additional ways to generate ideas.

Look at the covers of popular magazines, and it appears that "lists" are popular: the top 10 gifts for Mother's Day, 15 ways to spice up your life, 5 tips for packing for summer vacation. Think of an area you have experience with and create a list of tips. As a former classroom teacher, I put together a list of five tips to keep children actively learning during the summer and sold it to a website.

Opinions are a good place to generate articles, letters to editors, or op-eds. They even make great fodder for letters to companies - either praising or offering advice. I've written a fair share of op-eds and letters to the editor. But I want you to consider letters to companies for a moment. Two years ago, I wrote a letter to the company that made my favorite spaghetti sauce and explained why I preferred it to the competition. I wasn't expecting anything in return; I just wanted to share why I liked their sauces. Imagine my surprise when I received a one year's supply of coupons for this product. At $2.69 a jar, that resulted in a savings of $139.88. One more example involves a soft drink company. When I worked in corporate America, the product I preferred was sold out for three weeks from the only vending machine in our building. I sent a letter to the company asking why the machine hadn't been stocked. Yup, 52 coupons for a 20-ounce soda = $56.68.

Talk to friends who write. Talk to friends who don't write. When I'm stuck, I talk to my parents, both former classroom veterans, who dabble in writing. No matter what path our conversation takes, I'm always inspired with a new idea. They have a beautiful but spoiled Snowshoe Siamese named Nash. My parents rescued him from an animal shelter they volunteer at. I wrote a story about Nash and the shelter and submitted it to an animal magazine that runs this type of monthly feature.

When I was taught, one of my favorite writing prompts was to have students find a quote and then write about it. Quotes are a good place to generate ideas, especially if you can put a twist on a well-known quote. I recently read this statement: "The more you love music, the more music you hate." I wrote a personal essay about my appreciation of music but came to the realization that as I've grown older (or maybe wiser), I appreciate small snippets of silence since they provide restful relaxation. Quote sites abound online or pick up a quote of the day calendar.

Read, read, read. Most importantly, read something new. It is 60 miles from my house to the closest bookstore, so when I do get the chance to stop there, I always peruse the magazine racks and pick up one or two I've never read before. With the comfy chairs available there, in addition to a wide selection or flavored teas and cappuccinos, it is easy to take some time to look at a new market. Even the local library has an amazing selection of magazines that delight all age groups. I find time to stop there, too.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

 

Tips for Promoting Your Book at a Book Fair

Spring and summer are the best seasons for book fairs and festivals. Whether you have a book to promote or just want to spend a great day surrounded by other bibliophiles, check out this link to find an event in your area. http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/bookfair.html

A few weeks ago, I promoted and signed my memoir at my first festival. I spent the weekend with 140,000 book lovers on the beautiful UCLA campus for the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

It was a great experience to find out what you do and don't need for a successful book fair event.

Here is my list of recommended items:

Collapsible luggage dolly
You're going to need something to transport your books, sometimes quite a distance from where your car will be parked.

Box of books
I was overly optimistic for a debut author. I took a case of 32 and left two more cases in the trunk of my car. Lesson of the day: Some people will buy on-site, most will wait to buy on Amazon to get the discount and free shipping.

Tote bag (large enough to hold your supplies)
I found a great 20 x 12 x 10 zippered rolling bag at the L.A. garment district for $20. It's best to get a bag with wheels, so if you need to take it separately from your dolly of books, you can drag it instead of lug it.

Vinyl Banners
I had two 18 x 27 vinyl banners printed. They were very reasonably priced ($23 each) and well made. The banners roll up and transport easily, and also have grommets for hanging. You want to make sure you choose a banner size that is large enough to be seen from a distance. Have one printed of your book cover, and one of you with your name.

Easel
You'll need an easel to hold your banners unless they will be attached to the booth. Place them as close to the front of the booth and near the walkway as possible, so they can be seen by people passing by.

Tabletop display stands
I chose wrought iron to avoid the displays being knocked over by the afternoon breeze. I found a great set in the picture frame section of my local craft store for $5 each. I used one to hold my book and the other to hold a 14 x 16 "Meet the Author" foam-core poster printed at Kinko's (the same image used for the vinyl banner). It's important to have a tabletop "Meet the Author" image because otherwise passersby assume you are just selling the books and don't realize you are actually the author.

Theme item(s)
I use a cute recipe box on my table to hold the bookmarks for my memoir: The Break-Up Diet. You can use any object, functional or decorative, to draw visual interest to your table.

Promotional bookmarks or postcards
You definitely want something with your book cover image, the ISBN, and your book website address on it. Not everyone will buy your book at the fair and if they have something to take home, it raises your chances of making a sale later. If you include something funny or informative on the back of the bookmark or postcard, something that ties in with your book, you'll have a better chance of people keeping it. I included a humorous recipe on the back of mine.

Material table drapes
It looks nice when you decorate your signing table. I went to my local fabric store and chose a couple yards of two contrasting colors (the same blue and black as my book). But I'm not exactly Betty Homemaker, so I also picked up some double-sided, iron-on hem tape to finish the edges.

Review cards
Go to Amazon.com and pull your best reader reviews. Print them onto a single sheet of colored paper with enough reviews to fill both sides. Laminate the page at Kinko's, so it stays neat from the handling it will receive. It's a great sales tool because it gives your potential reader the opportunity to see how much other readers have enjoyed your book.

Cash box
I chose a cash box that was small, but also had the features I wanted. I didn't want to mess with a credit card machine, so the cash box worked out well. Don't forget to bring your reseller’s permit, a sales tax table for your selling area, a calculator, and money for making change.

Receipt book
This is the best way to keep track of your sales and inventory. Trust me, you'll be talking to so many people that by the end of the fair, you won't remember how many books you've sold until you go through your receipts.

Guest book
Ask the visitors who come to your booth to sign your guest book and include their email address for the chance to win a drawing for a free book. This will help you build your opt-in email database, and your lucky winner will be excited to receive a copy of your book!

Signing pens
Bring a fine point Sharpie; I had several teens come around wanting their book fair posters autographed. I use a comfortable grip gel pen for signing my books; it doesn't bleed through and the gel doesn't hang up on the page like a ballpoint pen. The cushioned grip and slightly thicker base helps if you have carpal tunnel like I do.

Give-away candy
This works very well to bring people to the table. Who can pass up a Hershey's Kiss or Jolly Rancher hard candy? Most people won't grab and go, so while they are unwrapping their candy, you can tell them about your book.

Now for the personal stuff:

Sun protection
Don't forget your sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat (especially if your table is uncovered). One of my girlfriends dropped by with a little spray bottle of water--it was great for a facial spritz to help with evaporative cooling.

Water & Snacks
Like most fairs, the food and drinks were astronomical ($5 for a cup of lemonade), so do yourself a favor and freeze some bottles of water the night before, as they thaw, they'll provide the hydration you'll definitely need. Pack a lunch and/or some granola bars to get you through the day. On a side note, bring a travel bottle of anti-bacterial gel for your hands to help clean up before you eat.

Jacket
If you think it might get cool in the late afternoon or evening, it's better to have a light cover-up than not.

Camera
Of course you'll want pictures to post on your blog!

The best thing to take to a book festival is your smile. Have fun with the day. Enjoy meeting people and telling them about your book. It's the best PR there is.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

 

Renovating Your Story Ideas


By: Carrie Hulce

Okay all, I think all the work that I am doing to prepare my business may be affecting my writing, but what the heck. I am happy to say that I am still finding time to write, given the amount of time my poor sore hands have been scrapping on wall paper or removing glue from a floor, it is good to know they are still working on the old keyboard of my laptop too.

I got to thinking about how renovations were helping us to revive the look of a building that we are using for our Tea and Coffee shop, you see the building used to be a home that was built in 1912, after a loving family owned it, the building’s life changed. It became several different restaurants, now, we are trying to bring back some of the uniqueness about the building showing some of its stories so to speak.

Now, you are probably wondering how this relates to writing, well, that’s simple, I guess. I’m sure like me, you have tons of stories that you have tried to re-write over and over again. Well, there you have it, you’re renovating your story. Just like scrapping that wall paper off the walls of my building, by changing the appearance of an object in my story, I can bring it to life just a little more.

By renovating our stories we can change them make them appear new again, find hope for a story where there wasn’t one. Here are some ways to Renovate an old story.

1) Look at the characters that you have. Could that blonde become a redhead with emerald green eyes. How about that little kid with a smooth complexion, why not give him pimples.

2) The city or the area that your story involves. See if you can find some information about the area, update the information so that your readers can maybe find your location on a map, that is if it involves a realistic town, city, etc.

3) Color, add more color, have those trees be evergreens with dew dripping from their needles. Wake up the birds, have the Bluejay sipping water from the rusty bird bath.

4) Sentence structure. It is always stressed to us, that we need to make sure our sentence structure is appropriate, which is true, but, when it comes to a conversation going on, we need to make sure that the structure fits the character, his or her mannerisms, body language, etc.

With the changes that have come about in our societies today, older stories will need a facelift to help our readers better relate to what we have to offer. Even in keeping the story on a nostalgic aspect, it is always good to try and renovate certain parts of your story to help freshen it, give it a new coat of paint.

Heck who knows, maybe my 1912 building could appear in your story as a Tea and Coffee House where the teenagers of the city come to gather to partake of the local chess matches or how about, the older more sophisticated town folk that come to sit and sip their tea wearing brightly colored hats, lacey gloves.

What ever you do, have fun with your story renovations, I know I have been.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

 

Gathering Fodder for Future Articles

While vacationing with my family in D.C., I was amazed by the wealth of free information available to the general public. You could literally spend an entire day exploring one of the many Smithsonian museums, The National Archives, or any of the other tourist attractions at our nation’s capital. My inner writer could not resist the opportunity to gather current information on topics that I might be able to shape into future articles or stories.

Since my daughter is in my target age group – middle schoolers – I allowed her interests guide my choice of topics to gather information on. For example, at the National Museum of the American Indian, my daughter and I were fascinated to learn about the American Indian code talkers that used their native languages to served our country during World War II. Before leaving the museum, I collected brochures, a list of credible websites, and museum contacts that would be willing to help me continue my research.

Try incorporating a little informal research into your travel plans this summer. Here are a couple of ways to get started:

· Always stop at the concierge desk. Ask for available brochures and handouts.

· Sign up for guided tours. If possible, ask for contact information just in case you have future questions or need to find an interview contact.

· Take pictures of exhibits or other areas of interests.

· Photograph text information that accompanies exhibits/attractions

· Ask for a list of credible websites to use for further research

· When possible, gather primary source information

· Save and file all the information that you gather

· Visit the attractions’ website – there is often a wealth of information available online, including the names and contact information of experts on the subject

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

 

Interview with Danette Haworth, Third Place Winner!

Our Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest, sponsored by W. W. Norton, was our first open prompt contest ever, and we received so many fantastic entries! The interesting part was the variety of stories, which brought on a whole new aspect for our guest judges to tackle. But, as the saying goes, "Variety is the spice of life," and Danette's story Intersection is truly remarkable. If you haven't read it already, please do check it out, and then come back and read this fascinating interview with Danette!

Danette Haworth was first published at six-years-old, when she created a comic book series starring Peter Pan. Each comic book featured a green stickboy, a red stickman, and all the hair-raising conflict a six-year-old can conjure up. These marvelous adventures usually ended with a defeated Captain Hook raising his sword, shouting, "I'll get you, Pan!" Danette's mother still has the first edition, so carefully colored and stapled all those years ago.

After earning a BA in English, Danette landed a job as a technical writer, which was a fun position because she got to play in tank simulators and explain to scientists that possessive its does not have an apostrophe. She later worked as a travel writer for a well-known automobile club, one of the best jobs she'd ever held; she read history books, interviewed people on the telephone, looked at travel brochures, and got paid for doing this!

Her middle-grade novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, is due Fall 2008 with Walker Books for Young Readers.

Visit Danette at her website, www.danettehaworth.com, or her blog, Summer Friend: www.summerfriend.blogspot.com.

***

WOW: Danette, I'm thrilled to be interviewing you today. You've always been such a supporter of WOW!, and likewise, we've been a fan of yours! You placed as an honorable mention in our last Winter '07 contest, and I was ecstatic to find out that you won Third Place in our Winter 2008 FF Contest--our biggest contest ever. How did it feel when you first found out you'd won?

Danette: I love WOW! and I'm thrilled to be here! After I got your email, I wanted to throw open my front door and yell, "I'm a winner! I won Third Place!" Instead, I emailed my husband, my sister, my agent, and I called my mom!

WOW: (laughs) Well, you truly deserve the win, and all of us adore your story, Intersection, what inspired you to write it?

Danette: When I saw the open prompt for the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest, I knew I wanted to enter. But what to write? Every single day for a week or so, I thought about it. (A lot of my writing process is just thinking about it.)

One day, I pulled up behind a van with those happy stick figures on the back windshield. I wondered what would happen if the real-life figures weren't so happy. What if the parents got divorced? Suddenly, I got the image of this woman attacking the man stick figure with her fingernails. She scraped him off in skinny little strips, but slivers of him remained on the windshield, as if he'd never be totally out of her life.

I felt there was a story there, but I didn't know what it was. I knew if I stayed with it, I could push it through. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized the story wasn't about the woman with the stickers; it was about a woman who observed the woman with the stickers. I began to think of what else this woman might see at the red light and how she might interpret it.

WOW: I love that! It's always interesting to find out how a story is fleshed out, and how perspectives change. I see those white stickers on the backs of cars all the time...especially here in Southern California. Your take on the one (Dad) scratched off is so original, it just drew me into your story. Did you actually experience this yourself?

Danette: I see those stickers everywhere too! I've never seen the dad scratched off, but once I got that image, I saw that there might be more than one reason why a woman couldn't bear to have that sticker on her van.

WOW: It's a great image. And in my opinion, Intersection is the perfect combination of interior monologue, description, and character. The narrator of the story is someone we can all relate to. It seems quite natural, and yet, I know fiction requires countless revisions. Did you do a lot of tinkering with the plot or character to get the story just right?

Danette: Thank you for your compliments on Intersection! I did do a lot of tinkering with the story, but most of the work took place in my head! The stickers were a good starting point, but they weren't enough for the whole piece; the story needed a stronger core. I had to let the idea evolve, which sounds passive, but my mind was totally occupied with the story. I thought about it constantly.

After several days, I had the epiphany about the woman behind the woman with the stickers. This new woman would be the narrator, assigning roles and casting judgment on the other drivers at the intersection. Once I nailed down the central concept, I was able to write the story.

WOW: You did give it a stronger core. The ending is very subtle, understated, and profound. All these different characters and lifestyles come together as they move forward in traffic. How did you decide on the ending?

Danette: It's very fulfilling to me that the ending was meaningful to you--thank you! The first version of the story ended with the narrator wondering why the trucker hadn't looked at her legs. Though I liked that part (because she now observed herself), it didn't provide enough punch, nor did it pull everything together.

Every time I pulled up to a red light, I imagined my narrator doing the same. There is this moment at intersections in which we are held together by the red light; this moment ends with the green light. I saw that as a metaphor for our lives--we cross paths and we move forward together. When I thought about the narrator moving forward with all the people she'd observed, it just felt like the perfect ending.

WOW: Danette, you are a very gifted writer. I remember in October 2007 when you announced the sale of your middle-grade novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, and we shared it in this blog post. What's happening with it now? Please share a synopsis, and when it will be released with our readers.

Danette: Yes! I am so excited about the upcoming release of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning (Walker Books, August 2008). The manuscript has been through copyedits, proofreads, and typesetting. I've seen the advance reading copy and it looks beautiful!

Stacy Cantor, my editor at Walker Books, was absolutely amazing to work with. She connected with the story on every level, and she helped bring out the best in Violet Raines. I could not have asked for a better experience.

Violet Raines is set in the oak-covered hammocks of rural Florida. Here's a short synopsis: Eleven-year-old Violet Raines dodges lightning and outruns alligators while trying to keep the prissy new girl from stealing her best friends.

An here's the first paragraph:

When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River where we'd seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn't scared--I just didn't feel like doing it right then. So that's how come I know just what he's saying when I see him in church, flapping his elbows like someone in here is chicken. When Momma's not looking, I make my evil face at him, but he just laughs and turns the right way in his pew.

The first chapter appears on my website. Come visit! www.danettehaworth.com

WOW: Congratulations Danette! I'm very excited to read your book. So, how are you going to market your book for your big launch?

Danette: I'm new at all of this, so I'm eagerly reading up on what others do to promote their books, and I'm working with Walker's publicist to decide what kind of things would work best for me.

I have visited a couple of classrooms and I can tell you how much fun it was to talk with potential readers! I was touched by the students, who were truly interested in the life of a writer.

WOW: That's the best! I'm sure you were a great inspiration to the students. So, what is your attraction to writing middle-grade novels?

Danette: In middle-grade fiction, you can be completely honest! You can describe emotions in their true state. You don't have to make excuses for your characters' feelings. The readers are reading with open hearts--it means something to them to discover that other people (even fictional people) feel the same way.

Plus, I love the adventures and settings that kids are in. I love spending time in those places. Even when it's my own creation, it's still very real to me.

WOW: Are there any other genres you are considering?

Danette: I'll always have room for flash fiction! Other genres I love reading and would love to write are young adult and literary.

WOW: I can definitely see you going there! Danette, from your bio, I know you've had quite an interesting writing career! From technical writing where you played with tank simulators to travel writing where you interviewed people and studied travel brochures. Both of which sound quite fun. What are your favorite stories from these jobs that you can share with us?

Danette: The thing I loved about both careers was the other creative people I worked with. As a technical writer, I worked closely with artists, a photographer, and computer program designers. I was always impressed with their talents and the format in which they produced their creative vision.

The travel writing was an excellent job all the way around. We had eleven editors on staff and the conversations were so writerly! At lunch, we'd spin our stories, throwing out our big vocabulary words and lofty ideas. Back at the cubicles, we'd debate whether to use a or an before acronyms starting with M. (Vote an!)

WOW: (laughs) My senior editor, Annette, would love those debates! And I would love the technical discussions. Speaking of, you also have a very active blog. In fact, you are my sole inspiration for starting my periodic column on The Muffin, SEO Sundays, which I can't thank you enough for! So, I have to know, what has blogging done for your writing life?

Danette: Thank you for all the wonderful information you provide. Last year, I was new to blogging and websites, and I've learned a lot from your column.

The best thing about blogging is the funny and clever comments other people leave on my blog. I've met many people over the Internet, and I think about them sometimes during my day. When they leave a comment on my blog, I know they were thinking about me too! Visiting blogs and websites for writers makes me feel like I'm in a busy, noisy room, rubbing shoulders with my peers. I love it!

WOW: Comments are fantastic. It makes blogging worthwhile. But, have you ever been hit with writer's block?

Danette: Yes, sooner or later, I think we all get hit with it. The main thing to know about writer's block is that you can push through it. If you feel stymied, set a low, attainable, daily goal for yourself. Strive for quality, of course, but don't edit your words before you even type them. During writer's block, you must keep exercising the writing muscle--keep your writing mind active--and you will get through it.

WOW: Well put. As well as exercising your writing mind, it's important to have a writing schedule. Do you have one?

Danette: I do. I am a very disciplined writer. I report to my computer room at the same time every day; I don't answer the phone or make plans for that time.

I used to think I could just wait for inspiration, but I've found that sticking to a schedule enhances inspiration because I have an expectation to be productive.

WOW: That's super! So, how do you maintain a balance between life and writing?

Danette: I don't know! I'm disciplined about starting my daily writing, but I often have trouble turning it off. I do revisions in my head while sitting in church; when doing chores, I'm off building forts with my characters.

When I'm done with a piece and finally emerge, I feel shocked--what has happened to my house? How did it get into this condition? Isn't this the same T-shirt I was wearing seven years ago?

WOW: (laughs) I hear that! But that's what comes from being so dedicated to the craft. So, if you were to give one tip to flash fiction writers, what would it be?

Danette: Flash fiction is truly an art form. You must convey setting, voice, characterization and a story arc in five hundred words or less. You don't have time for all the wonderful undercurrents you might be able to weave into a short story. Zoom in and discover the kernel or the moment that displays all the facets of the story you want to convey.

Don't be fooled into thinking that because of its short length, you needn't spend much time on a flash. It takes great care to carve something so small.

WOW: That last sentence is a great quote! Thank you, Danette, for taking the time to chat with us today! We've truly enjoyed it. Do you have any parting words of wisdom, or possibly a quote, that you can share with your writing sisters?

Danette: This interview was a lot of fun! I'm honored to be among the writers you've featured.

As far as quotes go, I'm partial to Psalm 90:17:
And let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands--yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.
***

If you haven't done so already, please read Danette's award-winning story, Intersection. And remember, every Tuesday we'll be featuring an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. So, be sure to check back and see who's up next!

For more details about the current WOW! Women On Writing Spring Flash Fiction Contest, sponsored by Seal Press, please visit: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php. Last month to enter! Deadline: May 31, 2008

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Monday, May 12, 2008

 

More is Better

A story adapted from Art and Fear, by David Boyles and Ted Orland, goes like this: A ceramics teacher announced on the first day of class that he was dividing everyone into two groups. One group would be graded solely on the quantity of the work produced, and the other group would be graded solely on the quality of their work. To determine their grades, the teacher would bring in a scale on the last day of class and weigh the work of the "quantity" group; the students in the "quality" group would need to produce only one pot--a "perfect" one--to achieve an A.

Can you guess what happened? The works of the highest quality all came from the group being graded for quantity! While the quantity group was busy churning out piles of work, and learning from their mistakes, the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end, had little to show for their efforts.

Likewise, your writing success will come from lots of writing production. Make it your goal to complete more and more pieces of work, and watch the quality of your writing take off.

--MP

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

 

A WOW Salute to MOM

By Valerie Fentress


How could we WOW women pass up the opportunity to give a big THANK YOU to all the Moms our there? (By the way today’s mother’s day if you forgot)

I encourage you to take a moment (after you call the mom in your life) to think about the impact of Moms. None of us can escape having one, and each have a unique impact on our lives. No matter if you have the best mom in the world, or never knew her, she made an impact. She pushed and pulled you. Molded and shaped you. In someway made you into the person you are today and the person you will be tomorrow.

Since Moms have such a great impact on us as individual, have you ever thought about what kind of mom your characters have? Consider who Holden Caulfield’s mom was, and what an impact changing her characteristics would have had on Holden’s outlook in Catcher in the Rye. What about Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice? If she’d been a sensible woman would Lydia have run off with the mischievous Mr. Wickham, or have caused such drama between Darcy and Lizzy.

Almost any novel can completely change if you remove or add in a motherly characteristic, and that says a lot about Moms. So let that be an encouragement to the Mom’s out there. Your job is one of the hardest and we would need to celebrate Mother’s Day year round for centuries to truly reward and thank you for the people you have made us. We know it’s not the easiest title to hold, but the impact can last forever.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

 

Do They Get It?

If you live with people who aren't writers, but "get" your writer's lifestyle, consider yourself lucky. If, on the other hand, you're like many writers whose family and significant others don't really get it, you're in the majority.

Do you hand your husband or wife your latest short story to review, a story which took you two months to write, edit and polish to perfection? Do they read it and then say, "That's nice, dear" before going back to the TV/newspaper/garden? Does that make you want to scream, "But reread that fourth paragraph! Look at how skillfully I've used flashback there! And what about how I described the old man? Just look at that!"? Instead of screaming, many of us quietly take our stories, our carefully crafted babies if you will, and look at them with a pride only a parent can feel.

They don't get POV, foreshadowing, a turn of phrase that gives us goosebumps. They don't understand why we huddle over a keyboard that doesn't dole out rewards or praise, or why we'll jump out of bed at 3 o' clock in the morning to jot down sudden inspiration. They can't quite see all of the nuances that separate a mediocre story from a masterpiece. They just don't get it.

But if they're still willing to put up with some of the more well-known writers' idiosyncrasies, if they love you anyway, they can't be all bad.

After all, I don't get why my husband has to visit Home Depot every.single.Saturday.morning either.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

 

More Tips for Finding Time To Write

On one of my past posts, I shared a couple different ways to find time to write besides locking yourself into a room with your computer and letting your family or friends fend for themselves. I suggested exercise to give you more energy and creativity. I also mentioned finding the right time of day for writing. If you are a morning person, try to organize your day, so you do at least some writing in the morning. Here are two more tips that I use to find more time to write. (Of course all of this is out the window if I have a deadline, then I find more time to write by not sleeping and drinking coffee!)



MAKE DEALS WITH YOURSELF
Some of you may make deals with your significant other. “If you wash my car, I’ll cook your dinner.” Or your mom. “I promise I’ll be there for the family reunion if you promise not to ask about my love life.” So, why not with yourself? “If I write three pages of my novel this morning, I’ll watch my favorite reality show tonight.”


I’ve heard some writers say they have written an entire novel by writing one page or even just one paragraph a day. If you follow this plan, in a week, you would have seven more pages or seven more paragraphs than you had before, when you were complaining you didn’t have enough time to write.



Make a bargain—“I will write one page a day, even on Christmas. If I do this for three months, I will reward myself with a game at that expensive golf course.”


Sometimes, I’ll set time limits. If I write for one hour, I’ll take a nap or order an artichoke salad from my favorite Italian restaurant or call my best friend for a gossip chat. It doesn’t have to be an hour; how about twenty minutes?


Write first. Don’t say, “If I just watch this one TV show, then I’ll write for one hour.” Tape the show, finish your article, then reward yourself with the video.

LEARN TO SAY NO
There’s not much explanation to this one. Holly Miller, travel editor for The Saturday Evening Post, said no to anything outside her day job for one year to see if she was ready to make a freelance career. Well, maybe you’re not ready for your only income to be from writing. But you want more creative time, and you know it doesn’t help that you are the Cub Scout leader or president of Jaycees. If these activities are important to you, be a part of them, but try not to be put in charge. Volunteer to help with one Cub Scout field trip or one Jaycee service project instead of being the leader of the whole organization.


Have you ever asked yourself, "What was I thinking when I said I would do that?" If you don’t enjoy a commitment you’ve made, see if you can politely get out of it. Whether it is going to eat with co-workers or helping your neighbors with their annual garage sale, if you don’t find value in it, then explain yourself. What could it hurt? Remember Don Quixote said, “Honesty is the best policy.” Plus, you’ll have time to write an article on how to use tact and get what you want.



If you really are having trouble fitting writing into your life and you love it with all your heart, then look at your life. Can either of these tips help? I hope you'll soon be clicking away at the keyboard.



Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/


**Portions of this article were previously published in Beginnings Magazine Summer/Fall 2004

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

 

Revisiting A Day of Rest

Revisiting A Day Of Rest
by Jill Earl

A day of rest from writing. Back in March, Valerie Fentress’ post encouraged us to incorporate one into our busy lives for the sake of our creative mind. I took her advice to heart, promising to do one soon, which turned into weeks. Too soon, I faced the beginning of April.

The treadmill of activity began to roll. Flying to an out-of-state conference. Writing assignments. A two-day workshop for career changing alumni at my alma mater. Housekeeping tasks. Prepping to speak at another conference. My creative mind groaned.

Suddenly, I fell off the treadmill. Tired and drained, I was sick for a week, and all I could do was rest. When I wasn’t in the bathroom.

There was redemption in all of this, though. I enjoyed time with friends who threw me a surprise party. Laughter really is a great healer. I’ve been reading a couple of books, just because. And I took some long naps.

What’s the takeaway in this? As Valerie said, our bodies need mentally and physical rest. It’s up to us to do whatever we need to do to make that happen. Yes, the things I did were beneficial for my writing career, but I barely had time to breathe. Because I chose to ignore my body’s signals to slow down, it slowed itself down for me.

Your creative mind has to take a break. Let it. Put that day of rest into your schedule. Watch your productivity grow.

Your body will thank you for it.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

 

Finding Inspiration - Part 3

by LuAnn Schindler

Feeling stuck in a rut? Need to generate new ideas? Here are four more ideas for generating new articles or stories.

Checked your snail mail lately? Or even your junk email folder? I usually toss the junk mail I receive, but a pink flier advertising a new workout gym for ladies only caught my eye once. A short company profile for a local newspaper netted $50.

I like to clip articles and collect brochures that catch my attention and place them in a 3-ring binder. I even sort them into categories. About every six months I go through the file and see if any spark ignites and guides me toward a new article. Sometimes, I save the "weird" or "bizarre" news stories and later use them to practice my short story skills. An article of this type led to an idea for a poem and I earned $75 (12 lines and about 30 minutes of writing)!

As a former teacher, I truly enjoy the classroom experience and learning. Consider classes or hobbies that interest you. Turn those experiences into money-making articles. Even seminars you've attended for a 9-5 job can be developed into an article. I took information I learned about financial aid and divorced parents at a meeting for guidance counselors and turned it into a quick sale.

I'm also magazine junkie. Flipping through past issues gets my mind racing! When I first started freelancing, I perused the pages of back issues of a regional magazine I wanted to break into. Studying market trends and story ideas was a good lesson in editorial design. Take a look through periodicals where you want to see your writing published. Familiarize yourself with story length, topics, and audience appeal. I knew I had a good story about a comic book collection, and after scanning the magazine, I submitted an article and photos. It was my first major sale.

Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. You just need to keep your mind open to the possibilities and a notebook and pen close at hand.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

 

Interview with WOW! Flash Fiction Second Place Winner, Linda Courtland



Linda Courtland's story, "Change Management," won second place in WOW!'s Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. Click on the link to read Linda's fabulous entry, then come back and check out our discussion with her. You'll find out what prompted her story, how she learned to write great flash fiction, and what's next for this busy Los Angeles, California writer.

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WOW: Linda, congratulations on your 2nd place win! How do you feel?

Linda: Thanks! I'm thrilled. When I saw the results, I actually jumped up and down.

WOW: What a great reaction! Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind "Change Management"?

Linda: One night, I had the flu and staggered off to the supermarket, in search of cough syrup. A disheveled man was standing by the door, asking people for money. When the man saw me struggling along, he stopped his patter and asked if I was okay. His eyes were so full of concern that for a split-second, I wanted to tell him about everything that hurt. Instead, I said something like, "I'm kinda sick. Thanks for asking." But the moment touched me and formed the basis for "Change Management." I also spent many years as a case manager for chronically mentally ill adults, so I'm sure parts of that experience seeped into the story too.

WOW: It's always interesting to hear the background behind a story. Your flash fiction has appeared in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, FlashShot, and MySpace News. Have you always enjoyed the genre, and how did you learn to write great flash fiction?

Linda: I discovered flash fiction in an ocean-view conference room at the 2007 Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference in Alaska. I went to a "Skinny Fiction" seminar and left with a bunch of great handouts, a reading list, and a 100-word handwritten tale about a lovesick mermaid considering plastic surgery, which was later published by FlashShot.

I kept writing flash fiction and my twisted story, "Fallen" got some good feedback on Flashes of Speculation, which helped to spur me on. I wrote a story for Fictional Musings about a woman with a mad crush on her GPS navigation system, and it reached the #1 spot in the Arts section of MySpace News.

At this point, I'm hooked on the genre and couldn't stop writing flash fiction if I tried. My most recent stories are "Zero Tolerance" on The Short Humour Site, and "Single Socks," which will appear in Apollo Lyre's May 2008 issue.

WOW: Great, we'll have to check out those links. You contributed three stories to Six Sentences, Volume 1, a collection of flash fiction that came out last month. Congratulations on that exciting development! Is writing six-sentence stories similar to flash fiction writing?

Linda: Thank you! It's a terrific book. I feel honored to be included in it.

Writing six-sentence stories is a fun and challenging way to experiment with flash. The first story I submitted to the site was about a bald eagle in search of Rogaine. Editor Rob McEvily responded quickly, and was friendly and supportive. The site has a strong sense of community, and it's a great place to learn, play and share.

WOW: Sounds like an interesting story! You've also been invited to read your work at the Soul-Making Literary Prize Awards, and you apparently have some fun plans afterward. Can you tell us about the trip?

Linda: I wrote a flash story about white tigers and was invited to San Francisco to read it. Now, the idea of reading my story to an audience of strangers was nerve-wracking enough, but my horror reached new heights when I found out the event was being videotaped for a two-hour special on Access San Francisco.

I searched for something to do that was even more terrifying than reading my story on camera, just to put things in perspective. I found a night tour of Alcatraz. Perfect. What could be scarier than wandering through a notorious federal penitentiary at night? As it turned out, it was still light during the prison tour. But after sunset, my friend and I explored isolated parts of The Rock under cover of darkness. It was a really fun and spooky way to spend an evening. And the awards reading went well. Now, I can't wait for another chance to read my work.

WOW: Glad to hear the reading went smoothly. The Alcatraz trip sounds like quite an experience! What projects are you working on now?

Linda:
I'm writing a paranormal romance for young adults. It's a book-length story presented in short, flash-like bursts, and it's a blast to write. I'm also working through a long list of contest and submission deadlines. And of course, I'm compiling my previous-published flashes into a collection.

WOW: We'll keep an eye out for your new work. In light of your success, our readers would probably love to know more about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing? Any favorite rituals?

Linda: My favorite trick is to find a song on Rhapsody [a digital music service that lets you listen to all kinds of music for a monthly fee] that has the same feel as my story idea. Lots of rock ballads, angry alternative songs, sweet acoustic pieces -- anything with lots of passion and energy. Then I play the song over and over while I write. I was listening to "Faded Flowers" by Shriekback when I started "Change Management."

WOW: Music can really get you in the mindset of a story or a character. Linda, what one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Linda: Find a critique group, either in person or online. I meet with a great group of writers one Saturday a month, and also participate in an online flash fiction workshop. The generous feedback I get helps me write better stories, and providing critiques for other writers is teaching me a ton about storytelling.

WOW: Many writers swear by critique groups, and it obviously works well for you. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Linda! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Linda: Get excited! It's time to share your work with the world.



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Every Tuesday we feature an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction contest. Be sure to check back and see who's next!

You can also click on the link for details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest. The deadline for entries is May 31, 2008.

--MP

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

 

Editing: When is Too Much Too Much?

Have you ever written something so passionate, full of voice, fury, and fire, only to have it edited to shreds? Or to complete boredom?

I read a post on Seth Godin's blog, Sucking Out All the Juice, where that very thing happened to him---and I've heard it before.

Here's the beginning of Seth's post:

"Just got some work back from a new copyeditor hired by my publisher. She did a flawless job. She also wrecked my work. Totally wrecked it.

By sanding off every edge, removing every idiom, making each and every fact literally correct, she made it boring and dry and mechanical.

If they have licenses for copyeditors, she should have hers revoked."

Ouch! Seth sure speaks his mind. But he's a bestselling author and an idea genius. His out-of-the-box thinking is what people love about him, and the reason why they buy his books and read his blog.

So, when is too much too much?

Well, the first thing is to understand what a copyeditor does. In a nutshell, the copyeditor's job is to hit the Five C's: to make the copy clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. Typically, copyediting involves correct spelling, terminology, punctuation, and grammatical and semantic errors; ensuring that the typescript adheres to the publisher's house style; and adding standardized headers, footers, headlines, etc.

That is a specific description that can be unspecific, depending on the copyeditor's taste and style guide. Most book and magazine editors use the Chicago Manual of Style--an industry (and a WOW!) standard. But what if your voice is so distinct that a standard guide can't do it justice? That's where the gray area starts, and your doubts about your writing style begin...

Seth Godin continues, "I need to be really clear. She's not at fault. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The fault lies in the job description, not the job. If the job description of your lawyer or boss or editor or client is to make sure everything is pure and perfect and proven and beyond reproach, they are making things worse, not better. (Unless you're in the vaccine business)."

Pure, perfect, proven, and beyond reproach isn't what makes for an epic novel, but it surely makes for comprehensive reading. But who's the judge? Many of the classic masterpieces that have molded our literary language today have been less than perfect. Some "fictional" classics were beautifully flawed and ahead of their time, containing innovative language or ideas---ideas that shaped our society, influenced change, and revolutionized generations.

But what if you're writing a nonfiction book?
Well, the boundaries are going to be a lot more strict, no matter how you look at it. Even if it is "creative" nonfiction. You could call this a case of uncreative editors, or you could break it down to an editorial standard, but how do we draw the line? Honestly, I don't know.

Seth's post continues:

"Almost everything you do has some sort of copyediting filter. It might be the legal eagle or the graphic supervisor or the customer service police. They're excellent at making round things fit perfectly through round holes.

Boring and ignored is fine with them, because no one complains.

Fortunately, copy editors have a remedy. It's a word called STET. Which means, "leave it alone, it was fine." Time to teach that to your editors, wherever they may be. Maybe there should be a t-shirt.

If all you want is safe, have baby food for dinner. Just leave me out of it."

So, what I want to know is:

* Have you ever been edited too much?

(To the point you think it squashes all the Oomph out of your voice?)

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

 

WordClay Short Story Anthology Contest - No Entry fee!

Website: www.wordclay.com

Deadline: May 31, 2008 (11:59 PM ET)
No Entry Fee

Prizes:

Grand Prize Winner: A check for $500; A printed and bound copy of the published Anthology of the top 15 stories

One Runner-Up: A check for $250; A printed and bound copy of the published Anthology of the top 15 stories

Fifteen Short Story Anthology Finalists: A Printed and bound copy of the published Anthology of the top 15 short stories

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How to Enter:

Step 1: Participants need to register here. By registering, you ensure that WordClay will be able to contact you if you win prizes or are selected as a finalist.

Step 2: Email your short story and cover letter to contests@wordclay.com as separate attachments, in MS Word files. Up to three entries per contestant.

Maximum Length: 5,000 words

Please see the full guidelines of how to format your entry:
http://www.wordclay.com/promopages/shortstorycontest.aspx

  • There are no entry fees, no subsidy payments and no purchases of any kind required to enter and/or win the contest.
  • There are no previous publishing requirements required to enter this contest.
  • Entries are judged on the basis of originality, creative imagination, characterization, artistic quality and the adherence to length limitations. All decisions by the judges are final.
  • Each writer retains the copyright to his or her work.
Finalist Judges can be seen here.

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Check it out ladies! It's free to enter, so why not give it a shot?
Visit: http://www.wordclay.com/promopages/shortstorycontest.aspx for complete guidelines. And good luck!

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Friday, May 02, 2008

 

At the Movies

Certain things happen over and over in movies that just don't reflect real life. For some Friday fun, we'll take a look at a few of these silly Hollywood clichés. Here are a handful of examples from a longer list called Things We've Learned from the Movies:

* During all police investigations, it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.

* The ventilation system of any building is the perfect hiding place. No one will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building you want without difficulty.

* In school, teachers will always be interrupted mid-sentence by the end-of-class bell.

* Television news bulletins usually contain a story that affects you personally at that precise moment.

* It is always possible to park directly outside the building you are visiting.

* A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.

* Police Departments give their officers personality tests to make sure they are deliberately assigned a partner who is their total opposite.

* If staying in a haunted house, women should investigate any strange noises in their most revealing underwear.

* The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window in Paris.

* A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will wince in agony when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

* All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.

* Once applied, lipstick will never rub off - even while scuba diving.

* Mothers routinely cook eggs, bacon and waffles for their family every morning, even though the husband and children never have time to eat them.

* Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant.

* Building ventilation ducts are always clean.

* Grocery shopping bags are made out of brown paper and there is always enough shopping to fill two bags exactly.

*Large loft-style apartments in New York City are well within the price range of most people - whether they are employed or not.

*At least one of a pair of identical twins is born evil.


Maybe you have some of your own ideas to add to the list.

--MP

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

 

Look To Your State!

On the Premium Green discussion group (for information on how to join this group, check out http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/markets.html ), we recently had a discussion about critique groups. One writer suggested looking to state groups to find a critique group. That was a great suggestion!

I have a lot of experience with one state group in particular. I recently finished serving as president of the Missouri Writers' Guild (http://www.missouriwritersguild.org/). This group has 13 chapters throughout Missouri and Kansas. From these 13 chapters, several smaller critique groups exist--some online but most face-to-face.

But state groups are important not just because you can find someone to read your work, they provide exposure to successful national and regional speakers such as authors, editors, and agents. Hundreds of writers join these groups, which provides hundreds of networking opportunities. The Missouri Writers' Guild (MWG) offers their members an online bio, an ad on the speakers' bureau, their own web page, a quarterly newsletter full of useful information, and contests for published work. I have met hundreds of writers and have felt part of a community since joining MWG, and I still belong even though I live in Illinois. In many state organizations, such as the MWG, you don' t have to live in the state.

Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc (http://www.owfi.org/) is another great state organization. Like the MWG, the Oklahoma group sponsors a yearly conference full of wonderful speakers from all over the United States. This conference is usually held the first weekend of May and in a beautiful Embassy Suites hotel in Oklahoma City--that means a FREE great breakfast buffet with made-to-order omelets and a FREE happy hour with snacks. (You can tell I'm a writer, I'm looking for the FREE stuff.) Every time, I've attended this conference, I've learned a lot, met lifetime friends and contacts, and had a blast. It's probably too late to go this year now, but look into this state organization, and mark your calendars for 2009. Same for the MWG conference, which usually offers one-to-one pitches with editors and agents. Their conference is April 3-5, 2009.

Another way to belong to a state group is to join a national group, and then you're automatically a member of the state chapter. I am a member of the Illinois Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators because I paid my national dues. The IL-SCBWI is a wonderful, active organization, which I am a part of for "FREE" because I pay no extra dues to the state chapter. A lot of national groups are organized in a similar way, so check these out, too.

It's important to connect and network with other writers when you're a writer--not just for critique but for information, education, and opportunity. State groups are great at providing these three important tools. If you are looking for a group, you can do an Internet search on a search engine such as Google (http://www.google.com/) for (State Name) Writing Groups. When I did it for Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma, a ton of groups popped up--local and state. And remember, you don't always have to live in the state to be a member. In today's technology age, you can honestly live in Timbuktu and still join up!

The important thing is get connected and soon.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/

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