Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Your Life, in Six Words

Talk about boiling things down to their essence. I recently learned of an interesting book called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. Complied by the editors of online magazine SMITH, it contains over 1,000 six-word memoirs, including additions from many celebrities including Stephen Colbert, Jane Goodall, Dave Eggers, and more.

A few examples from the famous, particularly some that might appeal to writers:

"Couldn't cope so I wrote songs"
Aimee Mann

"Revenge is living well, without you"
Joyce Carol Oates

"I asked. They answered. I wrote."
Sebastian Junger

The entries from the "obscure," a.k.a regular people, are equally good. Here's a sampling--some funny, some touching:

"70 years, few tears, hairy ears"

"Naively expected logical world. Acted foolishly".

"Never really finished anything, except cake"

"Joined army. Came out. Got booted.”

"Extremely responsible, secretly longed for spontaneity."

"Cursed with cancer. Blessed by friends" (from a nine year old)

"No wife. No kids. No problems"

“I like big butts, can’t lie”.

Can you tell your story in six words? SMITH is collecting submissions for their next six-word memoir book. It may be fun to give it a try.


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Sunday, April 01, 2007


Best of Luck Placing this Elsewhere

By Nadia Ali

We have all received that SASE that’s not heavy enough to be a contract and appears to have one single sheet of paper in it. For me, it is a time of awe and excitement as I look down at my own hand written address – a way that I have devised to differentiate my return envelopes.
Fragments of a query letter or article flash through my mind as I struggle to remember what I had submitted all those months ago. A part of me jumps up and down saying, "open it, open it" while a larger part of me stares hard at the envelope wondering whether I should open it now or later. My finger begins to slide across the top ripping it gently as I unfold the letter therein.

It is a rejection letter. I always try and handle it like a "professional writer" after all every job has it’s disadvantage and the biggest one in our line of work is the fact that we have one shot to impress an editor through our writing abilities in order to receive an assignment.

To date, I have only received one personal rejection letter that actually gave constructive criticism as to why the editor did not like it. Most of the time they are just form letters with my name either typed or hand written across the top. Some delivered with dignity and hope, others like a screwed piece of paper aimed right at me.

Rejection letters do hit hard, they do have a way of bringing you down, but after a while and having received so many of them you tend to see them in a different light and not as just being a personal attack. Bear in mind, that it takes a lot of courage to become a professional writer. Particularly as we tend to put ourselves into our work, so when an editor sends a rejection letter it is obvious that there is an emotional effect.

Instead of making airplanes, paper mache projects or other such creative things with your rejection letters, use them to your writing advantage. They should serve as an instrument to encourage you to sharpen your skills, tighten your writing and better your query letter.

Don’t forget that editors receive hundreds of queries for one slot and only one writer gets the assignment. So develop a healthy attitude by realizing that he will receive similar queries to yours no matter how unique you think it is. So don’t despair. Pitch to another market.

The truth is, if you are going to be a writer, then rejections will be part of your life. If you want to stop receiving rejections, then stop writing. I knew that would shake you up, it seems one of those hard and cold truths that you rather not hear.

Before I go, I would like to share with you the greatest advice from a standard rejection letter that I have received over and over again. "Best of luck in placing this elsewhere" which is encouragement to go out and do just that. Keep submitting and surely your work will be placed somewhere!


Nadia Ali ( is a freelance writer who works from the comfort of her home. As a mother of two, she tries to balance the schedules of her children and writing deadlines.

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