Sunday, June 29, 2008

 

The After Conference Let Down--Don't Let it Happen to You

What do you do after a conference or a writers' retreat? Here's what happens to a lot of writers. You come home from a fantastic, energizing, motivational experience, ready to take on the big, bad world of publishing ,and your family still needs dinner, you still have to go to your day job, and your dog still has fleas. No, seriously, it is hard to keep that buzz going once you get home and back into your regular routine. Here are three things you should really try to do once you get home from a writers' conference. (I would say you MUST do them, but I really hate when articles or blogs tell me what I MUST do. Therefore, I am merely suggesting.)

1. Type up or organize your notes. Most likely, you listened to knowledgeable speakers at the writers' conference. You probably have a whole notebook full of notes. Don't let them go to waste. Some writers will type up their notes, print them out, file them, and save them on their computer. What I usually do is tear them out of my notebook, read over them to make sure they are legible, add any comments, and then file them under a name such as 2008 Missouri Writers' Guild Conference. I honestly do go back and look at notes from conferences, especially if I am going to send my work to one of the speakers. I read what he or she said before I send in my manuscript.

2. Follow up with contacts you made. One of the first things I do after cleaning out my conference bag is take all the business cards I got and write the name of the conference on the back. Then I put them in a business card binder. Then when I am looking for a contact, I will not forget where I met this person, and I will not lose his card.

I also email people I met and talked with for a long period of time. For example, at the retreat I went to in June (which you can read about in the July Issue of WOW! coming soon), I was in a critique group with two other attendees. We all three emailed each other once we got home, just to thank each other for critiquing our manuscripts and supporting us throughout the weekend.

I will also send a manuscript to the agent and editor who were at the June retreat. I received special stickers to avoid the slush pile, and I will make sure to use this rare opportunity to hopefully get closer to my writing goals. If you met some editors or agents at a conference who were open to submissions or interested in your work, make sure you send your manuscripts to them. Don't let these opportunities go to waste. Other writers will not.

3. Revise a manuscript, write a query letter, or write something new based on what you learned. You probably just spent hundreds of dollars to go to a conference, and hopefully you learned something new about your craft. Use this new knowledge to improve your writing. If you attended a session on Japanese poetry, then try writing a Japanese poem. I wrote a new picture book manuscript based on what I learned at the retreat, and I plan to revise the first chapter of my YA novel. One of the best reasons to go to a writers' conference or retreat is to improve your craft. So, do it!

I hope these three pieces of suggested advice will help you to avoid the "After Conference Let Down." If you have any more, please share with us!

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


Saturday, June 28, 2008

 

Update On WOW! Spring 08 Flash Fiction Contest

Dear Contestants,

If you received an email informing you that your entry made it through first-round judging, please note that we are still in our second-round of judging. The Top 10 and Honorable Mentions haven't been notified yet. Please be patient, as we are still deliberating. Believe me, we are as excited as you are!

We are also working on the July Issue of WOW! and are hoping that by the time we finish doing the issue our Guest Judge will come back with her final decisions so that we can post the winners in our July issue. We will try to be as expedient as possible.

Thanks again for your patience, and stay tuned! ;)

Labels: ,

Friday, June 27, 2008

 

Writing Through Summer Distractions

Summer is here and there are a million reasons not to work on your novel. There are tide pools to explore, trails to hike, sprinklers to run through, lounge chairs to recline in, and picnics to pack.

This is, arguably, the most difficult season to stay focused on your computer screen while the sun and outdoor fun beckons.

To reach your set daily word or page count, it takes unwavering discipline--or at least a solid schedule to keep you on track. Neither of which I have, so I won't be handing out kernels of wisdom on those topics. But, what I will say is that somewhere, someone is waiting to read your story: the adventure you write about may be the only vacation a reader can take.

I grew up in a semi-rural, low desert area where the average summer temperature was 110-115 degrees before noon. During my 16th summer, I read 43 books in 2 1/2 months. Every day, I sat on a lounge chair in front of a whirring fan with a bowl of frozen grapes in my lap, and I went on a trip. I was an auburn-haired girl named Tori, sailing with a cute boy at my family's vacation house in Nantucket. I spent months on a deserted island riding a beautiful black stallion. I slipped into a wardrobe and was transported to a magical land where animals spoke. I had so many amazing adventures that by the time summer ended, I was exhausted (and exhilarated) by all my travels and adventures. The experiences were so clear and full that I felt I had really been there. It was the only summer I remember now, 25 years later.

So, if for no other reason, carve out time to write for your reader. Use that as your motivation.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

 

Are All-Media-Worldwide Rights Becoming the Norm?

Rosie is concerned!

As a publisher, I can understand the benefit of adding the clause of "all-media worldwide rights" to a work-for-hire contract, but as a freelancer myself, and one who supports freelance writers, I just can't agree with it.

In a nutshell: let's say you were accepted to write an article for so-and-so's print magazine and signed a work-for-hire contract with the term "all-media worldwide rights" in it. That means the publisher can republish your work in any format they choose--online, video, print, television, radio, etc.--without paying you anything further. How is this possible? It is, and it's becoming standard practice in the U.S., as mentioned in a recent Folio Magazine article.

What I don't completely understand is why. Even if the readers are exactly the same--which they couldn't possibly be--there shouldn't be any reason for non-payment. If you think about it, the two avenues should be set up to monetize different income streams. Print has its advertising, and so does web--there should be a budget for both. There's definitely a separation between the two, or there should be. Many have the ability to pay freelancers at least a percentage, or a reprint rate, so why is this practice becoming the norm? My only guess is that the majority of freelancers are rolling over and taking it. And so are editors.

At one time, magazine editors were the voice for their writers, but not so anymore as management gets a tighter grasp and a new generation of editors--who don't know any different--step in. But, it's not all doom-and-gloom! There are common-sense solutions you can use to protect yourself. ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) offers this piece of advice:

"We have a suggestion. Get the contract before you start working, try negotiating, and if they refuse to offer an alternate document or make reasonable changes, go elsewhere. The market ultimately speaks, and even though publishers and editors like to pretend that writers are a dime a dozen, they know it's not true. It's too hard to find the talent and dedication to get a good story. Try pitching different types of stories to other markets, or take your ideas to their competitors. When the writers they want don't want them, the tune will eventually change. It won't be the first time, and it won't be the last."

ASJA is a great organization with sound solutions. Too bad they stopped publishing their "Contracts Watch" newsletter in 2007--it was such a great resource to find out the latest on publisher's contracts, as well as an advocate for writers in the trenches. But you can still view their online archives and read quotes from freelance writers and ASJA's answers here: www.contractswatch.com.

So, what do we do about "all-media worldwide rights" becoming the norm? I don't have the solutions, but do recall the recent writer's strike by the Writers Guild of America and their victory, albeit somewhat slim, on being awarded residuals from DVD and "new media" compensation. That aside, one thing you can do is to look out for certain clauses in any contract you sign: (the clauses below were published in the print version of Folio Magazine's article--a sample from CXO Media's freelance contract)
  • Payment: $______ for all-media world rights in perpetuity upon acceptance of publication.
  • CXO will own all-media world rights for the Work including perpetual and irrevocable license to print, reprint and distribute the work in any fashion or medium.
  • You specifically waive any and all "artist's rights" you may have pursuant to any state or federal statutes regarding the Work purchased by CXO.
And, if you check out the previously mentioned Folio Magazine article, read the comment submitted by a publisher. Basically, since the publisher purchased all rights for both print and digital, it allowed the publisher to resell the article to a service, who then resold it elsewhere, and gave them a percentage of the profit from the sales...without paying the writer any profit. She admits it wasn't fair to the authors, but only after she realized that the new sellers resold it until the stories were everywhere and it ultimately undermined the value of the stories.

I know I'm going to get flack for this post from my peers, but c'est la vie. I simply don't think it's fair to treat freelancers this way.

What do you think? And what should freelancers do?

------

Join these discussions and more by subscribing to the Premium-Green Markets: the Women's Guide to Freelance Writing and Markets

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

 

HARO - A Great Resource

Today, I want to share a great resource with you. Some of you may be familiar with Profnet, a service reporters use to post their calls for expert sources and a service that sources pay for to receive these calls.

As an author, you are the expert they want to connect with. It gives you the opportunity to be quoted in articles or even featured in stories. However, it's rather pricey to sign up for this service.

But there is a new service in town (play appropriate Western music here).

You'll want to tell the PR people, marketers, publicists, editors, and journalists you work with about it too, because it's all about them and their needs.

If you're not already using www.helpareporter.com, check it out. It's a service much like ProfNet, but it's free. Yes, F*R*E*E. It used to be on Facebook, but grew too large for it. Once you subscribe, you receive about three to four emails a day with reporter, editor and freelance writer queries compiled in it, written so you can quickly and easily scan the topics for relevance.

If the topics do not apply to you, just hit delete. If they do, you may contact the reporter or editor directly, as instructed.

Note that Peter Shankman, the list facilitator, is very strict about helping out these reporters. Respond only if your information is relevant and on target. If not, you'll get bumped off the list. Quickly. I've seen it happen. So, don't pitch off topic to the media journalists. It's a great resource and you don't want to risk blowing the opportunity to use it.

Peter's a big believer in good Karma, and he’s also quite funny, and tends to also include a link to a fun site, or a funny story about his day in the emails. It's a nice refreshing change from the boring, non-funny emails we usually deal with daily.

Not only can you sign up to receive these source calls, but if you are writing a book or freelance article and need expert sources, you can submit a call to the HARO members. Peter just announced this week that membership hit 11,000.

Reporters/source seekers can post queries at www.helpareporter.com/press. Sources can sign up at www.helpareporter.com to receive the calls for submissions. As I said, it's free. Peter asks that if you find it useful, then you make a donation to any animal rescue charity or animal hospital.

You can forward the queries to others who are a fit, but do not post any queries (or the editor/reporter contact info) on any blogs or public websites. I received permission from Peter to blog about this, since this is a private group and I'm helping to spread the word to both subscribers and media to sign up.

The more people who use HARO, the better it becomes. Sign up, check it out, use it responsibly, and spread the word.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

 

I'm From...Finding writing topics

by LuAnn Schindler

When I was a high school English teacher, one of my favorite activities to kick off the school year was when each student would write a poem that was titled I'm From....followed by a single word that described his or her personality.

The poem followed the following format:
  • Stanza 1 listed foods or drinks that we liked or had specific memories attached
  • Stanza 2 listed tangible items that are significant
  • Stanza 3 described the area where each person lives - either the house or the area in general
  • Stanza 4 offered a look at people who have made a difference in each person's life
  • Stanza 5 contains a list of phrases that each person grew up hearing

My model for the students looked like this:

I'm From....Individuality

I'm from German chocolate cake for my birthday, pickled cherries, any Swedish dish (as long as Grandma Larson made it), sliced tomatoes, and tall glasses of iced tea laced with a lemon wedge.

I'm from my Josie and the Pussycats diary, a football autographed by the Husker football team, an emerald ring passed to the oldest granddaughter, and an extensive collection of 45s.

I'm from an oak-lined, middle-class neighborhood in small town Nebraska, where people left their houses and cars unlocked, where we'd play outside until the moon glistened in the evening sky, and neighbors were friendly.

I'm from god, my parents, sister, favorite aunt, and impressionable teachers.

I'm from groovy, far out, peace, and if so and so jumped off a bridge, would you follow?

Throughout the year, we would return to the writing exercise and pull one of the topics for a brainstorming session. Eventually, the topic would evolve into another story, poem, or sketch filled with details.

I wrote with my students and shared my writing as a model. My simplistic poem produced an essay about a favorite teacher that eventually was printed in an anthology, a poem about playing games as a child, and a sketch about a birthday party.

Inspiration is everywhere. Pulling particular pieces of our lives together to shape a story or other writing form is easy if you know where to look. Give this exercise a try and see what old memories and new pieces you produce!

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 23, 2008

 

Loving the Sport

by Marcia Peterson

Actor Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) gave a commencement speech at the University Wisconsin a couple of years ago, which provides some good Monday morning motivation. The first of his basic principles for a successful life, is this:

"Fall in love with the process and the results will follow. You've got to want to act more than you want to be an actor. You've got to want to do whatever you want to do more than you want to be whatever you want to be, want to write more than you want to be a writer, want to heal more than you want to be a doctor, want to teach more than you want to be a teacher, want to serve more than you want to be a politician. Life is too challenging for external rewards to sustain us. The joy is in the journey."

As I thought about his message, I recalled hearing similar advice. In a San Francisco lecture a few years ago, bestselling author Anne Patchett said, "We need to start thinking of writing as an essential joy, not as a road that will lead us to something but a road that we take pleasure in for its own sake."

More high achievers, in various fields, say the same thing. Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee once said, "'The medals don’t mean anything and the glory doesn't last. It's all about your happiness. The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing." The musician Sting, upon accepting an award, once stated, "Music is its own reward."

Writing is its own reward. Remember why you love to write, and enjoy doing your work today!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

 

Do You Offend When You Hit Send? - Part Two

By Jill Earl

Back in April, I wrote a post about an article that appeared in WOW!’s April 08 ‘The Freelancer Union’ issue. Written by WOW! columnist and Funds 4 Writers editor Hope Clark, the article advised new writers entering the writing business. My post dealt with the ‘When to Argue’ section, and how delaying your angry response (or waiting until the anger subsides) can save relationships with writing professionals and readers.

A couple of days ago while checking out Erika Dreifus’ Practicing Writer blog, I was intrigued by her mention of marketing expert Seth Godin’s E-mail Checklist. Primarily addressing business emailing, he provides a set of questions designed to make you really think about the emails you send out, and whether they’ll help or hinder your business. Definitely worth bookmarking for future reference, I think.

Ms. Dreifus also referenced Judith Kallos and her Business Email Etiquette blog, where you can find more tips on producing consistent, quality business emails. I bookmarked Ms. Kallos’ blog too.

To see Seth Godin’s E-mail Checklist: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/06/email-checklist.html

Judith Kallos’ blog is found here:
http://www.businessemailetiquette.com/

You can bet I’ll be a frequent visitor to both of these sites. How about you?

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 21, 2008

 

The Art of Sketch Writing

by LuAnn Schindler

I've been told that I'm a good comedic writer.

While that statement might be true to an extent, I discovered this week that I still might have a lot to learn.

You see, comedy, like comedic writing, is all about timing. Where's the funny?

I have spent the past week as the director for the youth camp at the Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, Nebraska.

OK, OK...I hear your jokes now. What's so funny about Norfolk, Nebraska? It's the home of Johnny Carson, the late night king of comedy.

The way I came about the job comes down to one word: connections. And I am so grateful that I was asked to assist with this first-year event. WOW! I've learned so much.

Several instructors from the Brave New Workshop from Minneapolis, the nation's oldest satirical theater group, have been teaching students improv and sketch comedy/sketch writing. And they even taught this old writer some new tricks!

When considering sketch writing, brainstorming is key. Read the newspaper. Make lists of things that anger you or bring you joy. Then look for ways to combine two or more of the items from the list to come up with the idea.

This step is where you develop the satirical point. Next, you decide who the characters will be and establish a setting.

Now, you are ready to develop the action of the scene by listing the action that will occur on stage from the beginning to the end.

And finally, a short statement about why this sketch is funny.

I watched the students brainstorm on Monday, break into small groups and develop a few ideas on Tuesday, write complete scripts Tuesday evening, and then break out into practice sessions on Wednesday. Amazing! And funny!!

After spending the week here, I've decided that the sketch writing exercise might even help develop the action in a novel.

The students also attended a session about standup comedy. The course instructor was Dave Reinitz, the Jet Blue guy, and assisted by Barbara Holliday. Funny class. No, seriously! I learned quite a bit about joke structure.

While I don't have a three minute standup routine completed, like the students do, I did have time to write small bit. And I'll try it out on the Muffin readers:

What's up with all the talk about raw milk? Sure, it's direct from the source. It hasn't been pasteurized. At our house, you won't find a gallon of fat-free thin-as-water milk. And you won't find a quart of 1% or 2%. No, we're a whole milk family. Probably because we own a dairy farm.
Raw milk is good for you. It's healthy. Of course, I did have salmonella..... (ba da da ching)!

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 20, 2008

 

Do You Have Excuses or Reasons?














by Annette Fix

There is a difference between reasons and excuses. It's a fine line, but when you apply the concept to writing for a living, it becomes clear which is which.

Do you write every day? Are you doing everything possible to seriously pursue a career as an author or freelance writer? Do you invest time, effort, and money to collect and use book and online resources, attend workshops, critique groups, and conferences to study the craft? Do you consistently seek out new information to learn more about writing and the business of writing? Is writing your passion above all other things you could be doing for a living?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, go read someone else's blog today. If you answered no to any of these questions, read on and let's see if you have reasons or excuses for not following your dream and taking your writing seriously.

Reason or Excuse?

"I just don't have time right now." = Excuse.
One word: Priorities. Unfortunately, there is only so much time in the day. With other responsibilities like working a day job, higher education, parenting, and domestic duties, there will always be things lined up to consume every hour of your day. If you wait until you have time to pursue your writing career, it'll never happen. You need to make the time.

When you decide your writing career is a priority in your life, you will find opportunities to spend that precious time working on something just for you. Decide your writing is important, make it important, and realize you deserve to spend your time on it. As women, we know sacrificing for others is viewed as noble, but we also tend to overlook the fact that all martyrs end up dead. And that's a sure way to guarantee your writing career will never get started.

"I don't have enough money." = Excuse.
We've all heard the cliche that it takes money to make money. But the key word missing is easily. It takes money to make money easily. Sure, it would be great to have enough money to pay for the newest computer technology and software, a luxury office with all the amenities and a personal assistant. With that kind of money, you could hire private tutors to help improve your writing skills, and pay services to do everything from typing to submitting manuscripts for you. But then you would miss the journey of growing as a writer, working toward and earning your knowledge and experience of the craft. It doesn't take money. You can begin your writing career with a pen, a notebook, and public library access. Determination is the most valuable thing you can have and it's free.

"I don't know how to ___________." = Excuse.
Not web savvy? Unsure about how or where to start a blog, create a website, or dive into the social networking pool? Don't know who to query or how to query? How to write good dialogue? How to structure an article?

You're not alone. No one is born knowing how to do these things--everyone must learn. Don't feel like you are too far behind everyone else, too old, too young, or too anything. There are books and online resources that can teach you anything you want to know about the craft or business of writing. Enroll in low-cost community college and adult education classes, join local groups made up of people who are interested in the same topics. There is certainly no shortage of information resources available. Seek out these resources.

"I'm not an expert about anything." = Excuse.
We all know that nonfiction writing--whether it's an article or a how-to book--requires expertise in the topic. You may not think you have expert knowledge about anything, but everyone is an expert at something. As women, we often undervalue the experience we have. But it's important to realize that 95% of the people seeking the knowledge we have to offer know less about it than we do.

As an example: I was a single mother, sole support and care of my son from 0 to 15 years-old without any financial support or help raising him--and boy did I learn a lot. Everything from juggling work and parenting responsibilities, dealing with the structures of the public school system to homeschooling to team sports, advising him about developmental changes and sexual activity and relationships, guiding his education and shaping his values, teaching him life skills like common sense, money handling and budgeting, cooking and cleaning for himself; I taught him how to drive and how to defend himself--and the list goes on and on. I don't particularly think what I know from experience is remarkable in any way because it was just part of my life; however, to the new single mother who is bringing her infant home from the hospital--I have a ton of valuable knowledge she will need and benefit from.

Take a close look at everything in your life--your job, education, culture, lifestyle, hobbies, experiences, etc., and you will discover topics you can write about that will provide answers for someone with questions.

"There are already so many people writing about _______." = Excuse.
The last stats I heard: approximately 150,000 new books are published each year. And with the technology that brings publishing to the people by way of subsidy and self-publishing, you can pretty much bet that number has more than tripled now. With the internet providing millions of websites for information consumers, the number of writers and amount of written material is staggering. It's intimidating and overwhelming, so why bother becoming a professional writer? Simple answer: because you have something to say, you believe in your message, you want to help, inform, encourage, or entertain people, and you really, really, really want to do this.

There is only one viable reason for not pursuing your writing as a career: someone is reading this blog post as a eulogy at your funeral right now.

Don't let your life pass without pursuing your dream. Just do it.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

 

Questions Writers Ask

Besides the typical questions we, writers, are supposed to ask like, "What is my character's motivation?" or "How can I put a better lede on this article?" or "What's an available market for my work?" Here are some other questions you may find yourself asking:

1. To your family: What do you mean you can't eat lunch meat for dinner for the third night in a row?

2. To your significant other, roommate, or parent: When am I supposed to have time to clean my house/room? (With the added comment: I can still see the floor just fine, and the dust isn't thick enough yet.)

3. To yourself: Am I supposed to exercise every single day and not just once a month? Aren't my fingers getting a good enough workout on the keyboard for the rest of me?

4. To your dog or cat or other such pet: What are you looking at? What do you want me to get up from my computer and do? When are you going to learn to feed yourself?


5. To the clock: Couldn't that minute hand just go a little slower? How can my deadline be here already?


If normal people, like our family members, were reading this post, they would think we writers are crazy. But as a writer, you have probably uttered these questions or at the very least, thought them. Do you have any others you could add?

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

 

INTERVIEW WITH KIM HYTINEN



Kim's first love wasn't writing; it was photography. Something about the way an entire story could be etched in time with a mere shutter's wink captured her heart. Although she dabbled with her camera through college (and still does), a few odd journalism jobs post college sparked an interest that lay dormant: the written word. Newspaper columns did not give Kim the creative outlet for which her heart yearned, however. Although her resume is full of writing and design experience, what you won't find in Kim's portfolio is what has been most important to her life and her career: her family. Most of Kim's writing is inspired by the short moments that create richness in life. As though her words were a camera, Kim aims to capture a snapshot with her stories: a brief glimpse at the tiny moments in life to which, she hopes, almost anyone can relate. She is very active in her local writing community in Howell, MI, where she founded a group called PageJammers, and in South Lyon where she is a member of another writing group.

You can find out more about Kim by visiting her blog: http://www.kimhyt.blogspot.com



WOW: Today, I got the exciting privilege to sit down with one of our wonderful winners for the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction. Congratulations on placing in the top 10 with 2 of your stories, Kim, we are so proud of you! Did your story “Facing Faith” come from a personal experience?

KIM: Facing Faith started as an impromptu writing session with one of my writing groups. Although I don’t remember what the exact prompt was, I remember thinking it had potential. I was also inspired by local author and friend Rachael Perry (How to Fly, Fresh Water)

WOW: That’s great that you are part of a writing group. Did you have a special stuffed animal when you were a little girl? If so, what was it?

KIM: I’m more of a cat person, but when I was a child, I had this beat-up (kind of like the pink elephant in Facing Faith!) puppy. We moved a lot when I was a kid, and on one trip, it ended up in the toy box during the move. The toy box was antique and I guess just too tempting for a thief because it was stolen from our garage before I had the chance to get any of my toys out. I was not a happy camper for quite some time after that!

WOW: I bet that puppy sure had some exciting experiences with you. It’s so rough when you are little and end up loosing precious items. Do you have siblings?

KIM: Lorie, my only sister, is about seven years older than me. She and I are like night and day.

WOW: I am sure you two had a ton of fun growing up. Do you have children? If so, how many?

KIM: I have three girls. Brenna is 7; Lisa is 6; Paige is 2.

WOW: Sounds like you stay pretty busy with 3 little girls. Is WOW! The only contest you have entered? Or have you entered your wonderful stories in other contests?

KIM: I have entered a couple of my stories in contests before. I think I entered one in a Glimmer Train contest and another in a Writer’s Digest contest, I think. No luck there, though!

WOW: We wish you the best of luck with any future entries you may have. You have a wonderful ability for story telling. In your story “Magic Carpet Ride” You mention laying under the stars, is this something that you have done with a family member? When was the last time that you did this?

KIM: Before my husband and I were married, we each lived with friends and had a difficult time finding alone time. So, we used to grab a blanket and head outside at night. It wasn’t completely private, but at least we could have a conversation without everyone hearing. But the star theme from Magic Carpet Ride really came from my daughter’s love of the moon and stars.

WOW: How romantic, being able to sit under the stars like that. Then to share the stars with your daughter. The little girl Lisa in “Magic Carpet Ride” is Autistic, is this based off of someone that you know? Or have you worked with Autistic children before?

KIM: My middle child is autistic. This is a bit unusual, but I knew when she was about three months old. Her doctors didn’t want to “label” her, so they had a “wait-and-see” attitude, but I just took charge and started my own therapies with her at home. For example, she absolutely hated having her feet touched. So, I would apply firm but gentle pressure to the soles of her feet. My mom thought I was torturing her, but I knew it was helping her. Thanks to early intervention, Lisa is able and willing to share affection physically.

WOW: Mother’s intuition always prevails, we commend you. Are all of the stories that you have written have children in them?

KIM: No. I have a wide variety of stories with very different characters. In fact, that’s what drives my stories most of the time. My idea for a story rarely comes from an event, but instead starts with a person who comes to life in my mind.

WOW: That’s fantastic. But, I bet it can get dizzy with all of those people running around in your mind. (just kidding) Have you ever tried to get your stories published? If so, did you attempt it through a book or magazine publisher?

KIM: Just recently I submitted my first query for a book. We’ll see!

WOW: We wish you the best of luck with your query. If you were to say something to inspire other writer’s for WOW! What would be the one thing you would say to them?

KIM: Make every word count. Write your story from your heart; let it spill onto the page. Then edit. Don’t rewrite as you go along. Let your story sit alone for a week or so after you’ve written it. After that, go back and hack away at it. Keep it tight. Let your story fill the page, not your words.

WOW: Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us, I’m sure so many will find inspiration from you for one of their stories. You mention in your bio that you started a writer’s group, how long has your group been around? How often does your group meet?

KIM: PageJammers has been going for two years. We meet once a month, but we’re in the process of reformatting the group. PageJammers will have a web site up and running this year that will enable the group to stay active with writing and eachother throughout the month in between meetings.

WOW: Congratulations on the upcoming site for PageJammers. Please keep us informed when the site goes active so we can all take a peek. Out of the two stories that placed in our contest, which is your favorite? Why?

KIM: I love elements of both, but I think Magic Carpet Ride steals my heart because it is based on my daughter. I have reworked that story so many times! I think it’s finally finished (and yes, it’s different than when it actually made it into the top ten at WOW!).

Kim once again, congratulations on your two wonderful stories making the top ten for the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Writing contest. We look forward to seeing more wonderful stories from you in the near future. Also, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. It was wonderful having this chat with you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

 

Need Some More Inspiration? Go Fly A Kite

By Jill Earl

On a Saturday earlier this month, I found myself up before the crack of dawn heading to the outskirts of Ocean City, a resort town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’d been invited by Lynn, a close friend, and jumped at the chance to get away for an overnight to her parents’ place. Great opportunity for inspiration to strike, which it did of course.

Now, I don’t do the beach, prefer to take it in small doses. Actually, I don’t do summer---the heat, the humidity---the heat. In fact, if I could hibernate from June until the end of September, I’d be fine.

Anyway, Lynn, her foster son D’Andre, Paul and I reached the retirement community Lynn’s parents’ live in and settled in to luxury. We rested, had great conversations, ate wonderfully big breakfasts like waffles and french toast in the sun room, saw a great blue heron as we explored the nature reserve, and went to the beach. We were caught in a huge thunderstorm on the boardwalk, trapped in a chocolate shop for an hour or so. A chocoholic’s fantasy, with samples.

Sunday found us heading for the dunes of Fenwick Island in Delaware, a short drive away. Under the gaze of curious sunbathers, we launched the trio of kites Lynn always keeps in her car’s trunk. I got the seagull one, and after some false starts, it soared skywards. It was so very cool watching it catch the air currents, rising higher and higher. Even better, the kite caught the attention of real gulls, who drifted in the check out the newcomer. The kite stayed airborne for a good long time, and when I was done, it glided to a perfect landing on the sand. We headed back late, sad to return. But I came back with some great ideas.

Take advantage of inspiration, keep that notepad handy to jot down ideas. You’ll never know when it’ll strike.

Maybe even when you’re flying a kite.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

 

How To Pitch in 30-Seconds or Less

"Hi, my name is Angela Mackintosh. I'm an award-winning painter, and once lived in a commune where I shared a single shower with over fifty neurotic artists, whose exploits I describe in my book Secrets of Salon-Style Living. I'm seeking an agent for this collection of humorous essays and would like 30 seconds of your time to tell you about it. Is this a good time to talk?"

I just pitched you, and if I'd really written that book, it would probably be a good one. I haven't though, and made that up as an example...although, I did live in an artist commune where I shared a shower and bathroom with fifty people from all walks of life! This was a long time ago, and I was in my twenties. Thinking about it now, it could be a good book!

A well-rehearsed pitch can be used for a variety of purposes:

  • Pitching an editor or agent a story idea, column, or book.
  • Selling a product, advertising, or service.
  • Networking at a conference or event where there is limited time.
  • Promoting any-and-every thing.

Whatever you want to use it for, make sure that you have the follow-through to back it up, or you'll be wasting your time. The beauty about sound bites is you can create a variety of them for any purpose, and by rehearsing, you'll never be at a loss for words on the phone or in person. It makes for a powerful introduction. So, how do we do this?

Capture the listener’s attention...fast

1. Start with who you are: state your name and job title, or what you are seeking. "Hi, my name is Debbie Dogwalker, and I'm a professional dog walker who writes reviews of dog parks in the city."

2. Tell them what you want: state what you’re after. "I'm interested in placing some of my articles with your magazine, Dog Owner's Digest."

3. Let them know why you're the best choice: list any writing credentials, experience, degrees, and training that relate to your topic. "I've owned a dog walking business for over ten years, and have written articles for Dog Lover magazine, Pet Pride, and blog daily on my personal blog, Dog Days." Whatever you do, make sure the qualifications listed match your intended goals. Don’t write about how you won first prize in the chili cook-off, unless it's making chili for dogs...not hot dogs. Remember to keep it brief and memorable. Emphasize your specialties.

4. Action: be specific and tell them exactly what you want. Just go for it! "I'd like to show you some of the articles I've written for consideration in becoming a regular contributor to your magazine." There, you said it. Exhale. The call to action is what leads to further interaction.

30-second pitches, otherwise known as sound-bites, are easy to craft, and you can create a variety of them for different purposes: writer's conferences, phone pitches, query letters, job interviews, networking--anywhere you need to present yourself quickly and concisely.

You may cringe at the fact that you're selling yourself like a commercial, but believe me, it's more effective than stumbling over your words! So that's why it's important to rehearse and perfect your words by saying them out loud first. Your listeners will be impressed, and you'll have the confidence to sell yourself, or your product, with little effort.

Give it a try! Happy pitching. :)

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 14, 2008

 

21 Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction

by Annette Fix

There are certain things readers want when they invest their precious time reading a novel.
So many things compete for their leisure time and attention: family and friends, other activities like watching television and movies, participating in sports, tending hobbies, and traveling. It takes something special to make a novel stand out and propel it onto the bestseller lists.

But what is the key to making your book a bestseller?

Give readers what they want.

So, what do they want? And how do you go about giving it to them? Fortunately, James V. Smith Jr., the author of The Writer's Little Helper, has the answers and provides a comprehensive list to help you unlock the secrets of successful fiction. He explains how you can start by analyzing and understanding the 21 key traits that exist in current bestselling fiction:

Appeal to the intellect. To you, the writer, these keys refer to how you research, organize, and structure your story. These are the large-scale mechanics of a novel.
  • Utility (writing about things that people will use in their lives)
  • Information (facts people must have to place your writing in context)
  • Substance (the relative value or weight in any piece of writing)
  • Focus (the power to bring an issue into clear view)
  • Logic (a coherent system for making your points)
Appeal to the emotions. These are ways you engage the reader to create buzz. Do these things right, and people will talk about your novel, selling it to others.
  • A sense of connection (the power of personal involvement)
  • A compelling style (writing in a way that engages)
  • A sense of humor (wit or at least irony)
  • Simplicity (clarity and focus on a single idea)
  • Entertainment (the power to get people to enjoy what you write)
  • A fast pace (the ability to make your writing feel like a quick read)
  • Imagery (the power to create pictures with words)
  • Creativity (the ability to invent)
  • Excitement (writing with energy that infects a reader with your own enthusiasm)
Appeal to the soul. With these traits, you examine whether your writing matters, whether it lasts, whether it elevates you to the next level as a novelist.
  • Comfort (writing that imparts a sense of well-being)
  • Happiness (writing that gives joy)
  • Truth (or at least fairness)
  • Writing that provokes (writing to make people think or act)
  • Active, memorable writing (the poetry in your prose)
  • A sense of Wow! (the wonder your writing imparts on a reader)
  • Transcendence (writing that elevates with its heroism, justice, beauty, honor)
Now, that you have all the keys, it's time to unlock the doors to fiction success and give your readers exactly what they want from your novel.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 13, 2008

 

Friday Fun

Happy Friday! Enjoy these gems from Steven Wright, a favorite comedian,
actor and writer.

"Borrow money from pessimists - they don't expect it back."

"Half the people you know are below average."

"42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot."

"A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good."

"The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

"If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?"

"A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking."

"Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it."

"To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is
research."

"I finally got around to reading the dictionary. Turns out the zebra did it."


--MP

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

 

Fitting in Writing Time

We writers often discuss this, finding time to write. It's not so bad when you're single and childless, except when you give in to procrastination, which even the best writers do at times. If writing were as easy as sitting down and churning out an endless stream of words without pause, many more books would be written. Maybe. Once you add in family obligations, day jobs, children and outside stresses, finding this time becomes more difficult. Some find it impossible and give up altogether, watching the years pass as their dream of publishing a novel or book of poetry fades away.

There is something we can do, even in the midst of chaos, to complete our short stories, our book of essays or our novel. One page a day. That doesn't sound like much, but pages, like pennies, do add up. Even on your busiest day, instead of giving up on writing because you're too tired, too stressed or uninspired, just try for that one page. In a month, you'll have 30 pages. In a year, 365 pages.

On those days when you have more time, you can spend them going over what you've already written. You can edit and polish and try to make it perfect. Instead of viewing the task of completing a book as huge and insurmountable, you can break it up into single sheets of paper that aren't as intimidating. One page a day will yield something tangible and complete one day. When you break it down like that, it almost sounds easy, doesn't it?

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

 

A Different Type of Freelance Job

They used to be called "stringers." Newspaper editors would measure these reporters' articles with a piece of string and pay by the inch for their articles. Today, newspapers refer to these freelancers as news correspondents or contributing writers.



I work as a news correspondent for the newspaper, The News-Gazette, in Champaign-Urbana, IL . Am I going to buy my next mansion with this freelance job? Nope, but I wouldn't quit it for the world. It provides me a regular "writing paycheck" each month, loads of experience in interviewing people and meeting deadlines, and a chance to meet interesting individuals I would have never met before. I've interviewed people such as a champion dressage rider, a 90-year-old Humane Society Garage Sale volunteer, and a soldier getting ready to go to Iraq. I've covered coffee shops, town meetings, and youth hang-outs. I've made between $50-$300 a month and usually cover a library board meeting, village board meeting, and school board meeting each month. One of the biggest benefits of being a news correspondent is I see my articles published quickly, and this provides me with a lot of published clips.



If this sounds like a gig you'd like to explore, feel free to email me at margo@wow-womenonwriting.com with any questions. I found my news correspondent's job through the want-ads in The News-Gazette. The ad asked if anyone lived in an outlying area and liked to write. That was me! I emailed the regional editor and told her I was willing to drive to cover meetings or interview anyone she wanted. With my first assignments, I delivered the articles before deadline and did anything my editor asked. After she knew she could trust me, I started to get more assignments, including a few features on the front page of the Living section.



If you don't see an ad like this in your newspaper, email or call the regional or managing editor. Explain that you are a freelance writer, who would like to gain some newspaper writing experience. Be willing to drive farther to remote meetings at first. Take any opportunity presented to you. You can always take better assignments or different jobs once you get to know the editors and the way the newspaper staff is organized.



I'm glad my articles are not measured with a string, and I'm paid a little more than just by the inch. But I wouldn't give up being a "stringer" as part of my freelancing career. Explore this freelance option for yourself. It may open new doors for you.



Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

www.margodill.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

 

Interview with Sarah Brady, Runner Up in Winter Flash Fiction Contest

Sarah Brady, Runner Up in the 2007 Winter Flash Fiction contest, has loved writing from the time that she was in the sixth grade. Throughout middle and early high school, she would compose novels in installments, with her friends eagerly waiting to read the next part of the story. After a hiatus from writing of approximately ten years, broken only by the writing of, then grading of, college papers, she has recently decided to pursue her love of writing. Currently, she writes articles and stories in between being a wife, a college professor, and an actress in one-person shows. She looks forward to writing more in the future!

If you haven't read Sarah's story Worthwhile then click your way to a delightful read.

WOW: Flash fiction is difficult to write. In your writing process, do you write the story you want to tell and then cut to a word count? What is your writing process?

Sarah: Hmmm...the short answer is, sort of. I wrote the story, then took away from some parts of it and added to others until “Worthwhile” told the story I wanted to tell. Depending on what I’m writing and the word count I’m shooting for, I may wind up working either way.

My overall writing process begins when I find out the requirements for a submission or a contest; then I brainstorm and do pre-writing in my head; and then I write and revise. I like to have a few days between the “write” and “revise” steps, but sometimes it’s just a few minutes!

WOW: Readers only get a brief glimpse into Anne's background, yet it provides essential information regarding her character's frugal nature. How do you determine how much "back story" is necessary to propel the piece forward?

Sarah: I think that the amount of “back story” needed will vary from story to story, but there should be one commonality (especially with flash fiction): only (or primarily) the essential details should be included. For example, in “Worthwhile,” we really don’t know much about Anne except that her eyes are her best feature, that she’s engaged, that she’s educated, and that she’s cost-conscious for justifiable reasons. That way, the reader knows everything necessary to get the point across but is able to visualize Anne according to his or her imagination.

WOW: There's a bond between the theme and title of Worthwhile: how material possessions validate our self-worth AND the longing for acceptance. Most people can relate to both. How important is building a common bond with the reader or should they be able to draw their own conclusions in regards to theme?

Sarah: As a writer and as a woman, I definitely believe in trying to build a common bond with a reader. I’ll never forget learning both in English and theatre classes about the best literature being universal—not necessarily in time or place, but in theme. When I write, I try to be as universal as possible, even though I know that I’m writing from my own experience, demographics, and worldview. Toward that end, I think that all of us, whether we admit it or not, can relate to the idea of wanting to be both valuable and valued. While I don’t want to be overly didactic in this sort of fiction and I do want the reader to be able draw his or her own nuances of theme from the writing, I endeavor to make sure my intended theme is strongly present. This piece was meant to encourage and inspire—to say in a round-about way that all of us are worthwhile, no matter where we come from. I do hope that message gets across.

WOW: Coming up with a title is difficult sometimes. A double meaning exists in the title, as well. Anne discovers something about her self-image. She also finds that something worthwhile is worth the price one pays. How did you decide on the title?

Sarah: You know, that’s a great question, especially since I just looked back in my saved documents and saw that I’d originally saved the beginnings of this story under a different title! I do think that coming up with a title can be nearly as difficult as writing the story, and I can always use a little help. After I’d finished writing this piece, I read it to my husband. We were sitting in our living room, and I started brainstorming about a title. When I hit on “Worthwhile,” we both agreed that it really fit the story because of the depth of the meaning. So I made the decision, and here we are.

WOW: What other fiction or non-fiction have you written?

Sarah: Published or unpublished? ;) As far as published works go, I’ve written some devotional articles that have been published on the Internet, as well as an essay that has been accepted but not yet distributed. And, of course, “Worthwhile.” Unpublished works—well, they’re very much in the works. Your next question refers to the fact that I didn’t write for a very long time. That being said, I’m just now really getting into the world of writing; in fact, the WOW! 2008 Flash Fiction Contest was the first writing contest I’ve entered since high school, and the first fiction contest I’ve ever entered. So I’m trying my hand at a variety of things. I’ve just finished and submitted an essay for consideration, and I’m currently working on a short story. I’ve started a children’s book, and I’m preparing to write a historical article. We’ll see what works.

WOW: Your bio states that you took a 10-year break from writing. What lesson did you learn from taking a hiatus?

Sarah: I learned a lot about myself, especially my strengths and weaknesses. I’m the sort of person that can know in my heart that I can do something but then be easily dissuaded by doubts and fears. In order to do the things I really want to do, I almost need to shout to myself, “Yes, you can do this!” I also had to realize that recognizing by strengths and abilities isn’t being conceited; instead, it’s endeavoring to do what I’m most suited to do in life. These ideas have prepared me for sticking my pinky toe into the ocean of writing. Pretty soon, I hope to be able to wade.

WOW: You are a college prof. How difficult is it to switch gears from academic writing to fiction? What advice would you offer to students about how to sharpen their writing skills?

Sarah: I teach public speaking, debate, oral interpretation (basically one-person acting), and a research and writing class. It can be tough to move directly from more academic writing to fiction, but it can also be freeing. Academic writing tends to be very confined, whereas fiction can take you anywhere. I like to be able to do both in order to use all of my brain.

My advice to students would be to read authors who write excellently in different genres and styles. That way, you’re learning as you’re reading. I had a teacher that used to say, “Good writers are good readers.” I’ve definitely found this statement to be true. Also, don’t forget the writing process—especial the parts that come before and after writing. People will notice if you don’t!

WOW: It must be difficult to balance teaching, writing, and a family. How are you able to find a balance?

Sarah: As much as I’d like to say it’s easy, that would not be a true statement! I’m often re-evaluating and readjusting my schedule in order to make sure all of my responsibilities, and the needs of those around me, are met. I’m blessed to have a husband who’s supportive of both my teaching and writing, and knowing my overall and daily priorities help me a lot. For example, I know that my family comes first. I’m not willing to sacrifice my relationships with my husband and the rest of my family for my work, but that doesn’t mean that I neglect my teaching and writing. There has to be give and take. On a practical, day-to-day level, list-making has become my close companion. If a task is on the list for a given day, it’s much more likely to get done. So I’m starting to put “look for/apply for writing jobs” and “write _______” on my list (filling in the blank with whatever article, story, or longer work I’m planning to work on that day.) That helps me to make sure that going out to dinner, doing laundry, grading papers, and writing an article all get done.

WOW: You perform in one-woman shows. Will you give us an idea of what we would see if we were in the audience?

Sarah: What you see will vary from show to show. As the name implies, a one-woman show is a theatrical work in which only one woman performs. From that commonality comes a lot of variety. You may see a show where a performer portrays just one person, as in Julie Harris’s performance of Emily Dickinson. You may have a show where an actor takes a work of literature and portrays all characters, including the narrator, by use of blocking, body movement, and vocal changes. Or you may be able to watch a show where the actor portrays several different characters telling their stories in order to get a certain theme across.

There’s a lot of variety with one-person shows when it comes to genre, set, costuming, acting, and more. For example, I performed in a show about Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis’s wife, that used full costuming and a set that looked indicative of the period and included everything from a teacup to books to a working lamp. I have also performed in a show of the book of Ruth (from the Bible) that used only two black boxes, costuming that could be suggestive of a variety of characters, and a scarf that became a shawl, a blanket, a baby, and more. This week, I’m starting to do research for another show that will be about female resistance against the Nazis in World War II. This show would be about three women who resisted in very different ways; thus, the performance would require distinct acting spaces and different costuming.

WOW: What advice would you offer to writers?

Sarah: Don’t give up! Keep doing what you love to do. Make time for your writing—and for yourself. If you don’t take time to learn new things, you won’t be able to put much into your writing. And find at least one online writing community to be a part of. Just being able to read the comments of other writers will help you so much!

Also, I read a great post on Deb Ng’s blog a couple of days ago. She basically told those of us who are new writers (and I definitely fall into this group!) that the only reason we’re not getting jobs is that we’re not applying for them. So we need to get out there and apply, apply, apply. Don’t take no for an answer—because, eventually, each “no” can become a “yes”!

WOW: Where can WOW! readers find more of your work online?

Sarah: As far as websites, I just—and by “just,” I mean “today”—started a blog where I’m planning to showcase my writing and shows. It’s still very much under construction, but links to articles should be coming soon. The website is http://paperandvoice.wordpress.com/.

WOW: Thanks for sharing your writing life with us, Sarah.

Sarah: Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I appreciate WOW! so much and am honored to have been one of the runners up in the 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. You guys are awesome.

~~~

Get in on the fun! The Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN. Guest Judge, literary agent, Elise Capron.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 09, 2008

 

The Ironic Balance

By Valerie Fentress

As I sit here trying to pull together the words for my next project and a proposal for an agent, I find myself stumped. There is a part of me that wants to plan everything out. Plan each day, plan each chapter, plan each character hiccup. But all this planning, drive, and goals seem to be holding my creativity back.

I can’t help but laugh at all the "How to write ________" books, and how there is almost a formula and template that must be followed in order to be published. Which completely contradicts the art and creativity of writing.

True this is more a venting of my current frustrations, but it affects all of us from time to time. We listen to Podcasts, blogs, agents, and workshops that tell us color inside the lines, while at the same time the market wants creative explosions that ignore and stretch the lines.

I guess part of me wants to burn my bra and rebel against "The Man", but publishing and writing is just one of those tricky things that takes a combination of structured creativity. The ratio of structure to creativity is supposed to ebb and flow with each project, so don’t be afraid of a bumpy ride. Just because things aren’t coming easy this time around doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. It’s just another wave to ride out in order to turn that grain of sand of an idea into a pearl.

Good luck to us all :)

Labels:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

 

Do your snacking habits show your true personality?

by LuAnn Schindler


Can what you eat determine your personality? According to food expert Juliet Boghossian, author of Food-ology: You are How You Eat, the answer is a resounding yes.

Boghossian studied 5,000 people and tracked their tastes. She found an 87% correlation between snack habits and specific traits. Boghossian's research is currently being implemented by HR experts and marketers to judge job seekers and consumers.

So, let's carry this thought one more step. Is it possible that our snacking habits determine the type of writer we are? Or, can what we eat explain how we write? Perhaps our food choices determine the content we place on paper.

Consider yourself a peacemaker? If you believe ice cream is numero uno for dessert or if sour-cream based dips get you going, you fit the peacemaking category. Foods of this nature boost serotonin levels and bring about a general feeling of calmness.

If you crave candy, you might just be a dreamer. Boghossian believes that sugar cravings mean you like to daydream. The sugar rush might just be the boost you need to recharge your energy levels.

Baby, you were born to lead if you prefer crunchy snacks like popcorn and chips. Instead of being meek snackers hiding in the corner, people who prefer the crunch-packed foods, including nuts, aren't afraid to be heard.

What about those of us who enjoy a hint of cream in our coffee or snatch the dark chocolate from the box instead of heading for the milk chocolate candies? If you fall into this category, you are definitely an individualist. Not many people are wired to enjoy sour or bitter foods, so these individuals probably also have different tastes in other areas, too.

Me? I prefer salsa to dip. I like hot, spicy foods. In fact, the spicier the better! I'm a certified risk taker. People in this category like adventure. The chemical capsaicin boosts metabolism and also ignites the subconscious thrill of excitement. Risk takers are also passionate.

While I was reading these descriptions, I thought about the topics I tend to write about, as well as my writing style. I do take a lot of risks, and the majority of my writing is packed with adventure and passion. I also prefer those crunchy treats, like popcorn when I'm watching a movie, and I sense that my organizational skills are a result of what I eat.

Take a look at your writing. And consider your food habits. Are the two related?

Probably so.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 07, 2008

 

What is Chick-Lit?


Recently, I had noticed that several authors on different websites stated that they were published “Chick-Lit” writers. This made me wonder where and how the term Chick-Lit came about.

To begin with I thought it would be good to look up the actual definition of “Chick-Lit” So, I punched in my question on my search engine and waited impatiently to see what I would find.

My jaw dropped when I saw that there were well over 2,000 entries that showed answers to my question. Who knew I would stumble upon so much information.

I began to laugh at my lack of knowledge on the term. Could I really have known so little about this genre?

The actual definition of “Chick-Lit” reads as follows:

*** "Chick lit" is a term used to denote genre fiction written for and marketed to young women, especially single, working women in their twenties and thirties. The genre's creation was spurred on, if not exactly created, by Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole diaries which inspired Adele Lang's Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber: The Katya Livingston Chronicles in the mid-1990s.[citation needed] Another strong early influence can be seen in the books by M. C. Beaton about Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth. The style can also be seen to be somewhat influenced by female teen angst movies like Sixteen Candles and Clueless. Later with the appearance of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary and similar works; the genre continued to sell well in the 2000s, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit.

When I first read this definition I was a little shocked at everything that is considered “Chick-Lit” by today’s writing world. After reading this definition, I really got to thinking about the Origin of the term, so as time when on I began to dig further into this new world.

***"Chick" is an American slang term for young woman and "Lit" is short for "literature".

The term was introduced by Cris Mazza and Jeffrey DeShell as an ironic title for their edited anthology Chick Lit: Postfeminist Fiction, published in 1995. The genre was defined as a type of post-feminist or second-wave feminism that went beyond female-as-victim to include fiction that covered the breadth of female experiences, including love, courtship and gender. The collection emphasized experimental work, including violent,perverse and sexual themes. James Wolcott's 1996 article in The New Yorker "Hear Me Purr" co-opted the term "chick lit" to proscribe what he called the trend of "girlishness" evident in the writing of female newspaper columnists at that time. Works such as Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary and Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City are examples of such work that helped establish contemporary connotations of the term. The success of Bridget Jones and Sex and the City in book form established chick lit as an important trend in publishing. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank[1] is regarded as one of the first chick lit works to originate as a novel (actually a collection of stories), though the term "chick lit" was in common use at the time of its publication (1999).

Publishers continue to push the sub-genre because of its viability as a sales tactic. Various other terms have been coined as variant in attempts to attach themselves to the perecieved marketability of the work.

Some critics have noted a male equivalent in authors like Ben Elton, Mike Gayle, Paul Howard and Nick Hornby, referred to as "lad lit" and "dick lit".

It seems as though “Chick-Lit” isn’t just for young women though, it has a broader spectrum than that. With the changes of the way we speak, think, act, etc. The term “Chick-Lit” covers an amazingly large amount of literature written by women.

One thing that disturbed me about what I read, is that it actually had a bad twist to the genre to begin with, above in the article, James Wolcott actually states that he felt it was “girlish” its as bad as the men in our lives getting all uppity about having to go to a movie that we want to see for example “Sleepless in Seattle”, it really steams me to see that negative attitude about a growing genre that has literally grasped so many other genres to become a creation of its own merit.

But, what was said wasn’t the only negativity that I found about the genre. There was a ton out there. Some of it made me feel so degraded that I just couldn’t share it with you, I felt like jumping through the computer searching for the person that wrote the stuff and beating them with a wet noodle.

I got to thinking about it though, there have been some fabulous authors that have been launched with fantastic stories. This made me smile, to those that had a lot of negative to say about Chick-lit, I’ll bet they are quite embarrassed now, they have helped to launch a market that is growing by leaps and bounds.

Now, as I continued to review my search engine, I stumbled across a few interesting sites that are devoted to “chick-lit” I thought it would be neat to share these sites.

Chick Lit Books

This site has lots of book reviews, author interviews, forums and more.

http://www.chicklitbooks.com

Chick Lit Chicks

Has information about books, blogs, reviews, interviews, also has a section for writers that has a ton of useful links.

http://www.chicklitchicks.com

Chick Lit Review

This site has a bonus for us, they are actually looking for articles as well as offering reviews, site links, the chick-lit café offers those at the site a chance to purchase different books.

http://www.chicklitreview.org

Teen Chick Lit

This site doesn’t seem to have been updated in a while, but it does offer some books that the young chicks in our lives might enjoy. I thought it would be nice to share this with all of you as well.

http://www.teenchicklit.com

Chick Lit Club

Has lists of authors and books that fall in the “chick-lit” genre; has interviews, movie reviews, if you like to read, it also has “reading challenges” which is great for those needing a little summer challenge.

http://www.chicklitclub.com

Chick Lit Writers

Hey gals! Get your pens out, it’s time to write, this site has a writing contest that might be for you, you should check it out. But, you will have to be quick, the deadline is right around the corner, wish I had found this a bit sooner for you. This site also offers reviews, book releases, they also offer a message board. There is a bunch more to this site as well.

http://www.chicklitwriters.com

So ladies get those pens moving there is a whole world out there to write about, let’s continue to grow this phenomenon.

***The Article that was listed was found at http://www.wikipedia.org

Happy Writing Everyone!!!!
Carrie Hulce

Friday, June 06, 2008

 

Another dose of inspiration

by LuAnn Schindler

I'm working on some queries this morning, and I'll show you how I came up with some of the ideas I'm pitching. Inspiration is everywhere!

Sometimes, you need to step outside your comfort zone and write. When I taught creative writing for a local community college, I could write a couple poems during a class period and work on revisions later. Poetry was easy for me and I wrote a lot of them. Of course, now most of those pages are in three-ring binders and need more revisions. Later in my writing life, I became more interested in newspaper and magazine writing. I like telling a story through nonfiction. I haven't written a poem in five years. It seemed like the muse had disappeared. But recently, I stumbled upon a contest for a 50-word narrative poem. I opened my binders and found a selection that I thought told a solid story in limited words. But I still revised some here and there and submitted it. Stepping back into the poetry shoes wasn't an easy fit, but it opened a shoebox full of ideas. And hopefully, the contest judges will appreciate my efforts, too!

Yesterday, when I was cleaning my office, I found an old notebook from my teaching days that I used for brainstorming. When I opened the pages, I discovered a list of topic ideas using a method I used when I taught writing and when I first started freelancing. It works like this: Across the top of a page, I write 10 topics I'm interested in. Underneath each of those, I list 10 subtopics. Then I use the subtopics as the headings on a new sheet of paper and list 10 more subtopics. You can keep using the subheads as new headings until you run out of ideas. I literally had hundreds of ideas in this notebook. As I was flipping through these pages, I found a topic that I just had received a press release about, did a bit more research and drafted a query. This morning, I'll be emailing it to an editor at a national food magazine.

The new phone books arrived the other day. I was flipping through the yellow pages because I needed to find someone to fix my vehicle. On my way to the automotive section, I found an ad for a new air conditioning business. Since the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer heat will soon be upon us, I called and asked about tips for preparing the air conditioning unit for summer use. Then, I wrote a short article and sent it to the local paper. If you leaf through the pages, all kinds of article ideas stand out.

And sometimes, you just need to take a break. This is a hard one for me to do because if I'm not writing, I feel like I'm wasting time. But, a break - an afternoon outing with friends or family, time away from the computer and email, reading a book, exercising, cooking - can reignite the inspiration. The tricky part will be giving yourself permission to relax and take some time off. Hey, there's a possible article idea in that thought!

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

 

Update on WOW! Spring '08 Flash Fiction Contest

As you contestants know, the Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest has closed. Many previous contestants know the drill, but for you newbies, here's the skinny:

1. We are working on formatting the entries to send to the guest judges. This means we remove awkward email formatting (strange spacing, odd characters) only. We also format the entry into Verdana 14 pt, to make it easier for our judges to read, and remove any contact information (names, addresses, etc.) to ensure blind judging.

2. Scoring: Your formatted entries will then go to our guest judges, who will be scoring them on the categories of Subject, Content, Technical, and overall impression.

Here's a breakdown of the categories:

Subject: Topic choice. Is it original? Appropriate for WOW! readers?

Content: Is it fiction? Is the story well developed? Is there a plot/point to the story? Is it compelling? Are the characters well drawn?

Technical: Is there a title and proper word count? We also check for spelling, punctuation and grammar, correct tense, active not passive sentences, overuse of adverbs, and use of "wrylies."

Overview: General impression about the writing style, how the story affected the reader, etc.

These categories are judged with a 1-5 score (5 being the best) by a round-table of 4-5 judges over the following weeks.

3. First Round Judging: At this point, if your story isn't disqualified and scores well, you will receive an email confirming you made it through First Round judging.

4. Top Scores: Then, the entries are narrowed down by top scores and sent to our guest judge of the season. In this case, literary agent, Wendy Sherman.

5. In the third week of June, we will notify the Top 10 Contestants that they placed in the Top 10. This means your entry will be published on WOW!, although we don't know yet who the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners are yet. We like to leave it as a surprise! At this time, if you are among the top 10, we will ask you to submit a brief bio & head shot. Note: depending on how fast our guest judge decides, we may send out an email informing honorable mentions of their win. We will try our best to make this happen, although we cannot guarantee it.

6. July Ezine Issue of WOW!: everyone is notified! All winners will be in a feature article on WOW! Women On Writing, media releases will be sent out, an announcement will go out in our monthly newsletter, and many, many kudos will go out to all who participated.

7. Critiques: those of you who purchased a critique, will be receiving your critique via email during the month of July. We have to wait until after all the winners are chosen and published on the website to ensure fairness. We wouldn't want anyone leaking their scores to others (not that you would!), but that's the reason why we have to wait until the winners are officially published. This is very exciting, since this is the first time we're offering critiques. When you receive yours, please let us know how we are doing.

8. Prizes: if you are in the top 35, you will receive a prize via snail mail, or, if you are international and in the top 35, you will receive an Amazon gift certificate via email. Prizes are typically sent out late July/early August, depending on the expedience of our sponsor and our manufacturers.

9. Interviews with Top 10 Contestants: After contest winners are announced in our July issue, we will be sending out interview questions for the top 10 entries via email. Interviews will then be posted each Tuesday over the next few months (on The Muffin, here) on a first-come, first-serve basis. This is a great chance for promotion! So if you are in the top 10, get your links, clips, and important info together and we'll promote you. Tuesdays are Contest Winner days!

So, that's about it! I hope this has shed some light on the process. We will be posting updates and other information here on The Muffin, so be sure to check back.

Also, if you missed this contest, or want to enter again, the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN. This will be our last open prompt contest until the Winter season (we're not sure if that will be an open prompt or not), so take advantage, polish off those WIPs (works in progress), tailor them to the word-count, and get moving! Remember, our guest judges love to read entries early, when they are fresh and unstressed. Visit our contest page, and enter the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest with Guest Judge, Literary Agent, Elise Capron!

Cheers, and happy writing!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

 

Interview with Rebecca Jens, Runner Up in Winter Flash Fiction 2007

Rebecca Jens, 2007 Winter Flash Fiction Runner- Up, is a Fort Mill, South Carolina resident who decided five years ago she wanted to be a writer. She started by taking a class with the Institute of Children's Literature and then got side-tracked from creative writing to making money at writing. After changing from children's fiction all the way to working part-time as a stringer for a local paper, she decided she was not cut out to be a reporter and wanted to start writing for enjoyment again instead of money. She has since been working her way slowly back to fiction and is excited to see this piece being considered as it is her first official fiction submission anywhere. Her current day job is as a technical writer/editor for a financial company but she is working towards obtaining a Masters degree in English so she can eventually go into teaching and be able to write more. Some day, she hopes to be brave enough to make the leap into full-time writing.

If you haven’t read Rebecca’s story ‘Kidnapped’ then head on over to
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/downloads/printable/20-FE1-Winter08Contest-RebeccaJens.html


WOW! : Your story Kidnapped is chilling, what was the ‘what if’ moment that inspired this piece?

Rebecca : The prompt submitted by my critique group peer was to write about a sunny, summer day. I prefer happy stories generally so my initial reaction was to picture a calm, dreamy day at the beach. However, I was always giving the guy who proposed the prompt a hard time for writing such dark stories and decided to try my hand at it to see what the attraction was. It was strangely fun being inside the mind of a criminal and has encouraged me to keep the door open to future dark writing.

WOW!: How did the Flash Fiction open prompt help your creative process?

Rebecca : I actually wrote this story about a year ago in response to a writing prompt suggested by a guy in my old critique group. I had always rather liked it but couldn’t find anyone who wanted this type of piece in so short a length so I never submitted it anywhere. I had resolved myself that it would just remain something I had had fun with until I saw this contest was open to everything. That allowed me my first chance to see how this piece might be received.

WOW! : What is your favorite part about being a writer?

Rebecca :
Writing helps me understand myself and my place in the world. It also allows me to create my own world if I don’t like the real one!

WOW! : You mention in you bio that this is you first official fiction submission, how has this publication encouraged you to continue submitting?

Rebecca : I should clarify that this is my first official adult fiction submission anywhere. I submitted several children’s fiction stories to various publication years ago but they were all rejected. I got so discouraged from those rejections and so side-tracked by the possibility of more money and a better chance to get published in the adult world of non-fiction, that I scrapped all fiction writing until this piece. This is the first short story I have written since my initial interest in writing five years ago where I wrote solely for pleasure, without thought of publishing or money. To have it place so high in this contest has given me a tremendous boost of self confidence and encouragement to dust off the other writing ideas and projects I have started over the years but never completed (including a small novel I wrote last November as part of National Novel Writing Month – the only other wholly ‘for fun’ piece of writing I’ve written in a long time).


WOW! :What is your favorite topic or genera to writing in?

Rebecca : I’ve been dabbling in poetry lately (strangely, since I don’t enjoy reading it) and find it is fun to paint with words. Non-fiction writing seems to come easiest for me but overall, I think I prefer fiction because it allows me to create whatever life I want and introduces me to characters that I later learn have been with me all along.


WOW! :What book are you currently reading, and how is that book encouraging you in your writing efforts?

Rebecca : I’m taking some undergraduate English classes at UNCC currently in hopes of getting into the English Masters program next year and eventually hope to be able to leave my current day job to teach writing full-time and write on the side. As such, the bulk of my reading is currently coming from the Heath Anthology of American Literature. At first glance, this probably sounds incredibly dull but actually, it has opened my eyes to the numerous writing avenues available and has helped me realize that my writing does have a place. I used to believe that I was odd for not loving some of the classics like Catcher in the Rye and for having a general loathing of poetry, but I’ve found I’m not the only one who feels this way. This class and book have reinforced what I’m learning as I age, that everyone sees life differently and as such, may get something out of my writing they couldn’t get anywhere else. Throughout history, the popular writers have tended to get all the attention but I have often found that I personally get more from an obscure writer who very few, if any, people have ever really heard about. I’m hoping maybe I can be that writer.

WOW! :How did your time in newspaper writing help develop your skills as a writer?

Rebecca : It gave me confidence to see my writing in print. Our confidence as writers shouldn’t have to come from outside ourselves but it sure does help when we are validated by people who know what they’re doing. It also taught me that I don’t like the confines of journalism but much prefer the broadness allowed with fiction.


WOW! :You said that you’ve been writing for about five years now, was there a moment before or during that time, which you finally felt like a writer?

Rebecca : Honestly, I still don’t “feel” like a writer. I think I’m still trying to escape the illusion that I’ll only be a ‘real’ writer when I am doing it full-time, being constantly published and paid. I’ve read enough to know that you never really arrive at this perfect point though and that even the best of writers still get rejections but I’m still working on getting my heart to buy into what I know in my head to be true: I am a writer because I write.


WOW! :What goals have you set for your writing in 2008?

Rebecca : To complete the re-write of my novel, work on my nonfiction book about writing (ongoing) and set up a website. At the very least, I will submit an entry to the WOW Spring 2008 contest!


WOW! :
What words of encouragement can you give to other writer’s hoping to submit to future WOW-Flash Fiction Contests?

Rebecca : You have a much better chance than you think. I subscribe to C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers weekly newsletter. She strongly recommends contests so, after seeing this one in her newsletter, I decided to give it a shot. There were a lot worse things I could spend $5 on I thought. Plus, with 25 honorable mentions, 7 runners up and 3 top placements, I thought a 1 in 35 chance at any one of those far outweighed the 1 to 0 chance I often feel I have in trying to convince an editor who hasn’t solicited any work to buy my work.

Monday, June 02, 2008

 

Overwhelmed

We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.
-Calvin Coolidge


The last week of school, with all of the activities, projects, and parties; a time-consuming coordinator position with the kids' swim team; a handful of writing assignments, both recurring and new. These are the factors in my currently crazed schedule. Life is good, just full.

We all have times of super-busyness, where hours and days are swallowed whole by our to-do lists. For me, I know this state is temporary, with a calmer schedule on the horizon. In the meantime, here are a few things I'm trying in the face of overwhelm:

*Picking one thing from my various responsibilities to tend to, and staying present with it. In other words, focusing on one task to completion versus a little of this and a little of that. It's satisfying to cross something off the list.

*Maintaining perspective. All is well. I'm grateful for all of the people and projects going on in my life. Instead of "too much work," I can remind myself of the opportunities and blessings that each situation provides.

*Prioritizing. Certain things have due dates, other things can be done less quickly, even though I tend to take everything (too) seriously.

*Taking breaks when I can. Even short ones to stretch after too much computer time make a difference. Letting myself stop to have lunch and do the crossword puzzle (my relaxer) allows me to face my work anew.

*Squeezing in some fun. A half hour meet-up with some friends at the local coffee shop really revives me. It also helps to have some things to look forward to, even a plan to watch a DVD with my husband later in the evening.

*Exercising. This really dissipates stress for me. Particularly outside exercise like a walk or a run. I should also include "clean eating" here, but I tend to turn to snacks and treats when I'm anxious. I know I'd have more energy if I ate right, though!

*Asking for help. Most of what I'm working on is up to me to handle. But even asking my family to give me some extra alone time so that I can get some projects done, counts as support.

There. I've crossed another thing off the list: my blog post!

--MP

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 01, 2008

 

A New Month

Do you live month to month, judging how well or how poorly your writing aspirations are going depending on how many acceptions or rejections you received that month? I do. I know this may not be the best method, especially because January started off not-so-great, but every time I face a new month, I also feel like I'm facing new possibilities.

It's June 1. You can either go into it with a positive attitude and expect good things, or you can face the day, and the month, with negativity. While I'm not so much a proponent of The Secret or anything like that, I do believe that maintaining a positive outlook is much better than constantly expecting the worst.

Have you made plans for the month? Are you outlining how many short stories you'd like to write or polish, chapter ideas for that novel that you still haven't finished, what major publications you're going to query? If not, today's an ideal day to do that. Since many of us will be off today, see if the weather is nice enough for you to sit outside with a pen and pad...okay, your laptop...and jot down what you'd like to accomplish this month. Then approach your tasks day-by-day instead of an entire month at a time. You might be surprised to find, at the end of June, what you've done. But you have to start. Today's a great day to do just that.

Labels: ,