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Sunday, July 31, 2011

 

Order Up...With Audio On The Side



Last year I won a giveaway for a copy of a cozy mystery. When the package arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find not just a book but a companion audio disc of the author reading her novel! I stuffed the book onto a shelf and popped the CD into a player. We had a terrific time, this author and I, both in our kitchens. I was cooking dinner; she was baking…and solving a mystery. Not long after that I downloaded an audio file of Sherlock Holmes stories and just recently I listened to the first chapter of an Irish mystery which I can hardly wait to purchase so I can hear the rest of the tale. I’m hooked on audio, and I’m not alone.

According to the Audio Publishers Association 25% of Americans listen to audio books. The demographic is well-educated, median-income consumers who also read more books annually than the average non-listener. The Association of American Publishers states that downloadable audio books accounted for 81.9m in sales in 2010 with physical audio books bringing in 137.3m. And this doesn’t include all those teens attached to their listening devices! Is there a market for audio books? You betcha! Would you like to get in on it?

If you contract with a traditional publisher your agent can make all the arrangements; indie, small-press or self-published authors listen-up.You will need:

A quiet place to record

A good quality studio microphone (sometimes called a pod-casting mic)

Audio recording and editing software

Someplace to market your audio book

Software for recording, editing and converting audio files is available via download and there are several choices. Two of the most popular are Audacity and WavePad. Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing, it is updated often and you can choose from “stable” versions or Beta versions. WavePad offers both free versions and professional versions. Depending on your computer system and the desired result you might choose to use more than one editing program.

Once your audio file is ready it will need to be available for purchase. Digital Content Center and PayLoadz offer file storage, automated delivery, shopping carts with multiple payment options. CDBaby works with both digital downloads and physical CDs. They handle distribution and sales to Amazon, iTunes, and other outlets. (Note: iTunes has exclusive agreement with Audible.com and will pull anything labeled “audio book” that isn’t through Audible).

Will offering audio books suddenly make you rich? Not likely, but you’ll gain exposure to readers who may not stumble upon you otherwise. Not every novel is available in audio format, but audio lovers scour over all the novels offered. If they like the audio chances are they will purchase the book, or eBook, and recommend your book to family and friends.

By Robyn Chausse

Thank you to Scott Swift of darktimetales for sharing his experience.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

 

Working among the Words

As an assignment for a class that looked at the job of an editor as a manager, I had the pleasure of interviewing a friend who was once an editor with management responsibilities. (The purpose of the class assignment was to find someone who has been an editor and manager.) My friend had some neat things to say about her process of editing, which I found illustrative of the process of crafting pieces of writing. Below are some outtakes from the interview. I hope you enjoy!

You could approach a topic from different points of view,” she said. “When I think about editing something, I think about it having a larger view of an issue. It’s not just writing an article...it's getting to the vision.


About managing writers and others on her team:

What I loved about that was the creative process and the interaction with the reporters and the editors. Whether breaking news or long-form feature story, there is a different kind of serendipity for each.


My friend helped writers shape their work and enjoyed learning something new and honing a story “until the story means something.” Whether working with a graphic artist, photographer, or reporter, she said she became energized as she worked with individuals or with the collaborative, working groups, such as editors.

Working together, she says, a group’s creativity starts to explode and take over. She compares it to medical school, as residents make their rounds and discuss a patient’s situation as a group.

That’s what makes working for publications so wonderful. A whole group of people are collaborating and building on each others' best work.


She found herself helping people with their work by getting them to talk about a piece and giving them feedback, but without changing their work. The writer was responsible for re-working the piece, but developed patience as an editor and with the process of writing.

Without that approach, she says, writers keep “making the same mistakes over and over again. Instead, she recommends reflection and feedback. Her writers’ writing improved, she believed, after she spent time asking a reporter questions. A more creative and collaborative process because, she says, she doesn’t have all the answers—and doesn’t get them by sitting in a room with others asking, “what do you think this really means?” Instead, the writer “externalizes the writing and tells me ‘here's where I'm going.’”
As a manager, she did learn over time to make decisions. However, she also learned that a manager cannot be directive all the time and it is better to be a “creative collaborator.”
Growing up, she never imagined she would be working with words and editing the work of others.
I was amazed to think that people telling stories from all over the world, people call that news. An actual reporter saw that and wrote about it.


She doesn’t see editing going away and thinks that people who say editing is not necessary only need look at something that hasn’t been edited and compare it to something that has. She likened it to watching raw video versus a finished movie.

An unedited piece is often impossible to navigate, has no credibility, and is not efficient. I love having a hand in shaping how people navigate something. An editor provides the invisible hand to guide the reader.


Elizabeth King Humphrey is writer and editor living in North Carolina. She earned her MFA in creative writing from UNC Wilmington and is currently taking more writing and editing classes!

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Friday, July 29, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: Using Distractions to Your Advantage, Guest Post by Susan A. Black

Using Distractions to Your Advantage

by Susan A. Black

If you are anything like the vast majority of writers in the business today, you will no doubt curse the vast majority of external stimuli right down to the very ground when it comes to the matter of distracting you from your paper-thin level of focus. Of course, it is rather simple to become so engrossed in a piece of epically interesting work to the point where the rest of the world is filtered out to a pleasing blur, but when the really tedious work fills your day, your mind will always be looking for the slightest reason to divert your concentration and, it has to be said, will usually do a pretty good job of it too!

Sadly, there is still no magic pill available to relieve writer’s block in an instant, or at least none available on the this side of the law, but such is not to say there aren’t a few other ways of using what would normally be the bane of your existence to your advantage. The key to the whole situation is simply a brief modification of attitude, which will be explained…

The simple fact of the matter is that nobody else can cure your writer’s block of disinterest in your project because it is entirely psychological and confined to your own mind. Furthermore, knowing it is all in your mind can often make the problem worse as it is human nature to sit and dwell of it. However, an article published recently gave some simple tips to get back on track and, well let’s just say so far so good!

The long and short of the matter is taking whatever it is that it plaguing your progress and turning into a positive. For example, general writer’s block where your brain seems to set in stone is a good indication that the poor thing is going to blow a fuse – so give it a rest. Sure, you might eat up 20 minutes on a quick walk but you might also waste two hours beating yourself up in front of a blank screen if you don’t!

In times of high stress and no pages flowing forth, never use the ‘Too busy to take a phone-call’ line as you might be doing yourself a huge injustice. The same applies as above; a 20 minute call will do you the world of good compared to another relentlessly unsatisfying spell at the desk. And who knows, the person on the other end may just be the inspiration you were looking for.

This goes on to include all friends, family members, kids and so on – all of whom may have a unique insight into the topic you’re hacking away at without you even knowing about it. Indeed, a 12 year-old may have little insights into the history leading up to the popularization of Women’s Lib, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have an insightful and potentially golden opinion on the current way of things. New perspectives breed new life, so use them!

* * *
Susan A. Black  writes on behalf of her favorite catnapper recliner retailer. She enjoys writing on all aspects of the freelance career, especially the negative ones.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

 

Get the Most Bang For Your Buck When You Travel

As writers, we travel. We travel for research, we travel for conferences, we travel for retreats and speaking engagements. If you are as famous and popular as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, then you don’t need to read this post about reward programs and saving money when you travel for your career. If you're like the rest of us poor Janes, then you can use some help whenever possible—especially in this economy. So, here are some tips and tricks for traveling.
 


Here is my new mantra:

If the rewards program for a hotel, airline, restaurant, or credit card is free, sign me up!
 

Please adopt this mantra, too. 

I am not encouraging you to recklessly sign up for every program out in this reward-program world, but I am telling you to read over the information, look for any hidden fees or conditions, and then sign thyself up.



Rewards Programs

Here’s an example of how a one-time user can benefit from a rewards program. On my first stay as a Priority Club Rewards member at a Holiday Inn in Cincinnati, I received points for my stay, a check-out time of 2:00 p.m. instead of noon, free breakfast, and free drinks at happy hour. I think those are some great benefits, especially for writers—free food, free liquor, and a chance to sleep in late. WOW!

Another example is Ruby Tuesday, the chain restaurant. I signed up one day because my nice waitress asked me if I would like to become part of their rewards program. Sure, why not? I thought. So far, I’ve received two coupons for buy one dinner, get one free through e-mail. Their entrees can run anywhere from $10 to $20. Use one of these coupons with a fellow writer when you are at a conference, split the bill, and you just ate a great meal for under ten bucks a piece!

It’s worth it even if you start to lose the points that you earned. With Hilton Honors, I don’t stay in enough Hilton hotels in a year to keep my point total growing. However, last time I stayed at a Hilton in downtown Chicago, I received free parking for my entire stay because I signed up to be a Hilton Honors member. That saved me over $20 a day!

Have I convinced you yet?

TRICK: Even if you have already made reservations for an upcoming conference or book signing, look online to see if your hotel or airline has a rewards program. If it does, sign up. Then call customer service, and ask them to add your new rewards number to the reservation, so you can get credit for your stay when you go.

Credit Card Programs

 
A friend of mine has a Disney Rewards Visa card. She uses it for everything, and then she pays off the whole balance at the end of each billing cycle. Why? So, she can earn the points for a Disney vacation. You guessed it—her example made me think of how writers could use credit cards to gain points to pay for writer-type things.

For example, many credit cards allow you to use points you earn in their programs to buy gift cards to major stores or to even get cash back. I once received a $25 Visa card by using my Bank of America World Points reward points to “buy” this gift card. I could use that card in any store that accepted Visa—at Walmart to buy envelopes and paper; at Staples to buy a flash drive; at Macy’s to buy a new skirt for my next speaking engagement; at Hertz to pay for my rental car. Do you see where I am going with this?

You have to do two things, though, to take advantage of this type of program:

1. You have to use your card. Use your card when you travel. You know you’ll have a lot of bills to pay at your hotel, at restaurants, and for transportation. You can still pay the balance off at the end of your billing cycle like my Disney friend does. But now you have a good start on accumulated points, and you will soon be able to reap the rewards. If you save up enough points, you might be able to purchase free hotel stays or airline tickets.

2. Research the card’s rewards that you are able to purchase with points. Find the card that offers rewards that writers can use. Ask other writer friends if they are enrolled in a credit card program like this and how they like it or use it.

Traveling is a part of a freelance writer’s job. Often food, shelter, and transportation are not paid for. It’s important to think smart and spend a little bit of time looking for deals. Talk to other writers whom you know travel and ask them for any money-saving tips. If you are staying at a certain hotel because the conference is being held there and you are getting the conference rate, you can still enroll in the rewards program. 


So, do you have a new mantra?

Post by Margo L. Dill; Margo teaches online workshops for WOW! about freelance writing, blogging, social networking, and children's writing. If you are interested in taking a class from Margo, click on the link here to see what classes are being offered in the next couple months and sign up!  

photo by o5com www.flickr.com

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

 

Writer Mamas: Salute!

Grandma and Grandpa Schindler with the two writing "distractions" who are visiting this week.

Writer mamas: I salute you!

Seems like I've always been a writer. When my kids were young, I'd write after they went to bed or were down for a nap. It wasn't ideal, but it worked.

As we all grew older, the writing schedule changed. Now, while they stayed up till all hours completing history projects or geometry homework, I'd be right there with them, composing like crazy or editing short stories.

And then, they were all gone. I quit full-time teaching and began freelancing full-time. And I could set my own office hours and work whenever inspiration - or deadlines - hit.

But this week, my 23-year-old baby is home from Arizona with Jorden and Walker, our 15- and 5-month old grandsons, respectively.

Whew! (I imagine mom says that more than grandma!)

I don't mind the distractions. Really, I don't. But it seems in a week filled with newspaper deadlines and blog posts, this grandma needs more naps than the babies!

Squeezing in writing time presents challenges, too. Write when those three take a nap? Tried that yesterday and I wrote 2 sentences. Erased. Rewrote. Edited. Erased. New sentence. Erased.

You get the point.

Write while Jorden stands by my chair blowing kisses and saying "Gamma..."? Just can't do it.

Write after they go to bed? I tried last night and decided I'd wake up early this morning and work for a few hours while the boys slept in.

Right.

It's tough being a writing mom - or grandma! You learn to prioritize and juggle babies and bottles and diaper changes while you write a lead paragraph in your mind, hoping you remember it when you actually get to the computer.

But, I also wouldn't want this week to be any other way. I'm blessed to have a supportive family who understands my crazy writing schedule. And, I'm grateful that I get to spend a week with these little boys who will be little men before I blink.

So deadlines and blog posts: beware.

You will get completed and written.

And you may even get a handful of blown kisses from Jorden or a coo from Walker.

But I'll get to you when I find time in my precious schedule.

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at http://luannschindler.com.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

 

Interview with Runner Up Contest Winner, Gayle Beveridge

Congratulations to Gayle Beveridge, who was one of our runners-up in the Winter 2011 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't had a chance to read her story, "Unnamed," you should click over there and read it now! 

Gayle is passionate about writing and keen to showcase Aussie culture to a global audience. She has a bachelor's degree in business and a diploma in company directorship and earns her living as an accountant. After allowing her career to consume her for nearly thirty years, she started to write in earnest just prior to turning fifty. Gayle writes short stories and flash fiction for relaxation and uses writing competitions to help maintain momentum.  She participated in NaNoWriMo last year and is currently editing her first novel, Petals in the Dust.  Also an avid fan of Twitter fiction, very short stories told in 140 characters, Gayle tweets a story daily @GayleBeveridge on Twitter. 


Gayle lives in Narre Warren North in Australia with her husband Roger. She has two step children and three wonderful grandchildren. She loves her family, dogs, sunsets, chocolate, and bird watching. More about Gayle and links to some of her award-winning stories can be found on her website, www.ficklefiction.com.

WOW: Congratulations, Gayle, on your win in the flash fiction contest. "Unnamed" is such a cute and touching story. Where did you get the idea for the story?

Gayle: I'd been reading some half page stories in an over 50s newspaper--most of them about some aspect of people's lives in retirement, and I wanted to write a story dealing with retirement issues. Being alone and isolated is a common problem for the elderly, and this was the spark for the story. I love dogs, so solving the problem with a pet was a natural progression.

WOW: This is actually a pretty long story for you, huh? I noticed that you like to write 140-character stories for Twitter every day. How did you get started with these? Can you give us an example of one?

Gayle: I became involved with social media to promote my writing, which I'm showcasing on my website, www.ficklefiction.com. Once on Twitter, I noticed a number of people writing stories within the 140 character limit and fell in love with that medium. I started posting daily in August 2010; and so far, I've only missed three days. Here's one of my more dramatic stories which was also published by One Forty Fiction:

"He had only one kidney left when his daughter needed a transplant. He shot himself at the hospital; a note in his hand read, 'Take it now!' "

WOW: How cool! I'll have to look into that on Twitter. What's the secret to writing an entire story with low word counts? How do you develop characters or move the plot along?

Gayle: I jump straight into the action; and since the low word count doesn't leave a lot of room for character development, I use their speech and actions to show them to the reader. I introduce tension early, often in the first paragraph, and build it quickly. I know exactly how I want the story to end before I start, although I rarely put it on paper; and I step through the story plan paragraph by paragraph.

WOW: Those are all great techniques for anyone who wants to write short stories or flash fiction. Thank you for sharing those with us! You like to enter contests to keep your writing momentum going? How do contests help you do this?

Gayle: Because I work full time and have to fit my writing around my job, I need goals to work to, something to keep me going when I'm tired after a long day; the contest deadlines cater to this. I keep a list of what's coming up, select what I want to have a go at, and work towards it. I get cross with myself if I miss a contest I planned to enter. I usually target contests with an open theme, but occasionally, I'll write a story to a set theme; and this can take me in a direction I might not otherwise have explored.

WOW: That sounds like a great method and a way to stay disciplined. You have also participated in NaNoWriMo. How was that experience for you? What are you currently doing with that novel?

Gayle: NaNoWriMo was a physical as well as a mental challenge. When I first heard of it only three weeks before starting, I had no plans for a novel. I bought the book, No Plot No Problem and also read How to Write the Breakout Novel and Write Away and started plotting around three articles from that week's local newspaper. I was overjoyed to reach the targeted 50,000 words in November and to have a complete story on paper. The novel, "Petals in the Dust" is now in need of serious editing--more work on characterization and some plot strengthening. I've bought some books for editing and redrafting advice; and once I'm done, I'll send it out for a professional critique. This has been and continues to be a mammoth learning exercise.

WOW: You had a different career for nearly 30 years before you started writing. What makes writing so special for you?

Gayle:Writing is a retreat, as good as a spring holiday in a lake side cottage; it takes me away from the everyday. Because it requires concentration, it leaves no room for worries and concerns, and the research I do for my stories enriches my life.

WOW: Well said! Thank you, Gayle, for sharing your story with us today. Good luck to you with all your future endeavors!

interview by Margo L. Dill; http://margodill.com/blog/ 

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Monday, July 25, 2011

 

New Twitter Feed


As a writer, how much do you read? I read A LOT. There is a basket of books by my bed, a pile of books by my computer, and invariably a bag of library books hanging from the knob of the kitchen door. Then there are lists...books people have told me about, books I've heard about here and there, new books by authors who are old favorites. Shouldn't I be spending more time writing and less time reading? Hmmm. Writing is usually my end of the day relaxer. The luxury I allow myself before I go to sleep. Although last night I was up until 1:30 am because I just had to finish a book! Occassionally one of my teenagers (on summer vacation and blessed with part-time jobs that don't start until 3 pm) will appear at my bedroom door in the wee hours and stare at me hunched over the latest book, "Shouldn't you be asleep? Don't you have work in the morning?"

Yes, I have work in the morning...but I'm also working right now, at 1:30 am, pillows propped behind my head and a glass of lemonade in my hand (or hot chocolate--depending on the season). Reading other's words has taught me what I'm passionate about and what I can't picture myself writing. I'm passionate about books that delve the relationships women have with each other. I could see myself spending months (years?) writing a novel about women. On the other hand, I couldn't see myself writing a fantasy novel where I had to create an entire culture. The responsibility for an entire world overwhelms me. I've tired of books that start with the story's end and are all one big flashback. I love books that tie chapters together with something similiar: a piece of poetry, a letter, a recipe. I see what works and what doesn't work in dialogue by reading other's books. I revel in the books where you can recognize who is speaking simply by their words and am frustrated by books where you have to carefully keep track of the dialogue tags...Martha said, Georgine said, Angleline said...if you want to have any hopes of knowing who said what. In short I am learning with each book I read because I read like a writer. What can I learn from this writer?

Whether you read like a writer or just like to read you won't want to miss the new writers launching at WOW Blog Tours in the upcoming months! And as a complement to our WOW Blog Tours we're starting something new, a Twitter feed dedicated just to WOW Blog Tours. We'd love you to follow us @WOWBlogTour. We'll be keeping you updated daily about where our WOW authors are, giving you info about contests and special events, running month-long Tweet tours, even starting a Twitter book club. In the past all this info could be found at the @womenonwriting feed but now we'll be transferring all the WOW Blog Tour info to the new feed while @womenonwriting remains dedicated to The Muffin, the WOW Classroom and other great info for writers. Keep following @womenonwriting and add @WOWBlogTour so you can enjoy all the fun!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

 

Stop Sabotaging Your Writing!




Hello! My name is Chynna and I am guilty of sabotaging my writing.

::Hello, Chynna!::

You name it, I've done it: Comparing my work to my peers'; melting into a puddle of tears from a rejection; refusing to write in a specific genre or on a specific topic out of fear of leaving my comfort zone; giving completely up on a project I'd worked on for months because one (heartless) editor said it was crap; taking every criticism to heart; turning jobs down because I questioned my own talent. But I'm on the right track now--two months sabotage-free! And I'm working hard to stay there!

::Yay! Chynna! Keep moving forward; it works!::

Okay, seriously. We are all guilty of sabotaging our writing. There are many different areas we do this, some of which I jokingly listed above. From my experience, I'd have to say one of the biggest ways we sabotage ourselves is allowing rejection, or the fear of rejection, to make us question our abilities. Even I've done it. Here, let me share my recent story with you:

Last year, I queried a very well-established publisher with an idea for a reference book. I was asked to submit a proposal, which I worked my butt off on, and within a couple of weeks was made an offer. The contract was signed, the plan was set and things went along swimmingly. The book was supposed to have been out this past January but things went really wrong.

In a nutshell, the editor assigned to my book project was awesome. She and I worked together like a fine-oiled machine. After five months, we'd finished the rough draft of the manuscript then she went away on holidays. That's when things went down the crapper. While she was away, there were several other editors working on my project. There were so many different 'updated' versions of my manuscript that no one was sure which version was the current one. The project went all the way up to galleys and I asked to have it put on hold until my assigned editor came back. After almost a month, I was contacted by one of the head editors who told me my assigned editor, '...no longer works for us.'

Essentially, I refused to put my name on something that was so inaccurate and that was nothing like I'd envisioned. I asked for the project to be cancelled and be given back my rights. The head editor complied with my request but not without first telling me that she would have pulled the plug on the project anyway. She called my writing sloppy, amateur, inconsistent and grammatically messy. She said I had no business writing reference books, or any books for that matter, and that she wasn't sure why the contract had been given to me in the first place.

Nice. And, well, ouch!

This was, of course, after I'd written my award-winning memoir, 'Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)'. But no other accomplishment I'd made up to that point made the sting of that editor's words go away. I stopped writing. No blogging. No articles. No visits to my usual authors' pages or blogs. I literally became afraid to write. What if that lady was right? What if I'd just been lucky up to that point and someone was finally being honest with me? Then I had the most amazing thing happen: A 'fan' wrote thanking me for writing my special needs books, blog posts and articles. She told me my words inspired her and looked forward to seeing more of my work. That's all it took for me to get off the self-pity train and keep moving forward.

The point here is all of us get kicked in the butt once in awhile. The writing/authoring arena is extremely competitive but there is room for all of us in it because we are each good at our own unique area. Each of us contributes something different to the writing world that no one else can. If we gave up, there'd be a tiny hole left behind that no one else could fill. And, besides, new opportunities are always around the corner. Look at me: After wallowing for several months, I got offers on not one but three of my shelved projects!

Stop sabotaging your writing! Keep moving forward, take the criticism you get with a grain of salt--keeping what you need and chucking the rest--and never give up.

(OH! And as a tiny extra piece of advice, always make sure you have your hands in every step of a writing project. Never be afraid to voice your concerns at any stage. This is your work. Be proud enough to stand up for it!)

Happy writing!

Chynna

(Picture borrowed from tickledbylife.com)

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

 

Ooh, Shiny Penny!



Children’s stories and poems never submitted, outlines for short stories and notes for articles--in notebooks, on scraps and spread across several file folders. My mind is ever-open to new ideas and I’m quick to jot them down on the nearest surface-- the electric bill perhaps? Now, where was that web address…? So, as I read yesterday’s "Speak Out" post I felt admiration for Jo Barney with her finished projects fluttering about. Then I thought, "Hey, I’m that prolific--at titles, lead-ins and cryptic synopsis--it’s the follow-through where I fall through."

I don’t think it’s an issue of focus, if so I would never finish anything. Is it an organizational problem? Not really, well yes—I shouldn’t write on the bills, but for the most part my jottings are in notebooks. No, I think it is time I admit to myself that I have Shiny Penny Syndrome.

Ooh, shiny penny—that’s a pretty one! The plot flashes before my eyes, I get a feel for the mood, a taste of the characters. For the next few hours, I’ll add little notes. I feel the excitement, think of places to submit the piece, imagine the book trailer. Then in the distance, I hear a voice. Reluctantly, I bring my attention back to the moment. A friend is speaking to me and out of his mouth falls a new shiny penny.

By Robyn Chausse

Do you have Shiny Penny Syndrome or a discipline to share for following through with those sparkly inspirations? Share your thoughts!

photo by robyn chausse

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Friday, July 22, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: Steampunk is Not for Me, Guest Post by Jo Barney

Steampunk is Not for Me

by Jo Barney

Graffiti Grandma is out to three agents. Wednesday Club, the script, is entered in a contest and is sent to two producers, and Solarium just got its twentieth rejection, one more to go. I don't know where Mom, my hockey novel, is. Its cards have escaped my card file. Marshall, the miniature horse, has not made it into the card file yet. He's romping around in SASE land. I've thrown all of my literary children to the winds. Likely, they'll never return. "Just not right for me," their epitaphs will read somewhere out there in the ether.

The only thing for me to do now is write something new. Margaret is shuffling in the wings of this computer. She's seventy-six, straight bodied, aching in only several non-essential parts, and she doesn't know what she's in for. This old lady is going to be manipulated, mulled, cut into pieces, disdained, wept over, and then, if she's like the rest of my literary offspring, laid to rest in my Zip for someone to find when I myself lie in the same sort of quiet place.

I sometimes think how angry I will be if my human children, posthumously for me, discover my Zip storage system, send out its quiet occupants, and make a million dollars in movie rights, and at just the right time for their retirements. I'll really be pissed. If one can be in that condition sans bodily components.

My timing has always been off. I wrote of sad divorces in the early 80's, a few years after most of the debris from the free love decade infiltrated stolid 50's marriages. Then Umarried Woman and Jill Clayburgh took all the wind out of my muse's sails.

I described of the travails of being single with children just after Jane Smileys Ordinary Love came out and said it all for me. Elizabeth Berg covered the drives of singleness: sex, loneliness, missteps in choosing while very needy, even as I was being driven all over the map and not writing.

One of my novels dealt with foundering young sons when my own sons headed out into the world. Research into the genre revealed that not only Salinger but Brad Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney, even if I disliked their books, got into a young mans psyche a lot better than a mother could.

Remarriage, oh god, with children, led to six unpublished articles, right about the time Joanne Trollope Viking wrote Other Peoples Children and dissected a stepmother role as precisely as it can be done.

I can write as well as a few of these authors. I just need to find my niche before someone else does. What will sell three years from now? What will be at the front edge of the next wave? I don't do vampires and I get too depressed with dystopic scenes. Who wants to eat a friend's finger? Or sacrifice a person you've just had sex with?

Wait! I can imagine that, sort of. Perhaps I can create a new genre, a hybrid combination of romance, mystery, fantasy, dystopia, and chick lit.

I Googled "genres" and found one that might be work, slightly adjusted: Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story. The modus operandi seems to be the use of a normal story to simply explain difficult and/or dark parts of human life.

I will call my new genre Geriatric Bildungsroman. Coming-of-old-age stories. I know its been done, but not by me yet, not the way I'm thinking about Margaret.

* * *
Jo Barney is a retired educator who is delighted to have time to write even when it means rejections every once in a while, or more often. She's been published on-line and in printed journals but her goal, for whatever misguided reason, is to see her novel, any one of them, in print. Her blog is Breakout Novel, a Race to the Finish, but it remains to be seen who or what finishes first. (breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com)

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

 

Personal vs. Platform: Where Is the Line?


In the pursuit of the elusive platform agents and publishers love so much I have a blog as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts. Once I got them(and believe me, for a techno-phobe like me that was a big accomplishment), I wasn't sure what to do with them. Communicate. Yes, I got that part. But about what? Books? Family? My love of chocolate? Would photos of my gorgeous daughter dressed up for prom annoy my business colleagues? Would updates about writing contests bore my fellow high school alumns to death?

Unconsciously, I developed a filter in my brain that sorted my life's happenings into three piles: personal, business, and both. As a result, my social media accounts evolved along the same lines. My blog is all business--although I did post pics of my favorite beta readers (er, listeners) my dogs Maggie and Daisy the other day. It includes links to clips, my resume, writing workshops I conduct. My Twitter is mostly all business. There are occassional raves about non-book related things I love or funny things my kids do. My Facebook, which is a way to connect with my huge family as well as friends scattered across the country, is mostly all personal.

Recently a colleague asked me a question I've been wondering about for ages. Is there a line between personal and platform?

Seems there are two schools of thought:

1. Seperate, seperate, seperate -- These writers tell me fans of my writing and possible future editors don't want to hear about my vacation, my kids, or my opinion on the debt ceiling. My tweets, updates and posts should be about writer related subjects because that's the part of me they're interested in. Most recommend two accounts in each social media. Two! I can barely manage one!

2. Show Them Who You Are -- These writers tell me fans of my writing follow me because they want a peek at the me beyond my writing. They want to hear about my award winning recipe for Snickerdoodles and that I am miserable this summer because of my allergies. They tell me that knowing the personal bits and pieces of my life can help editors say, "She would be perfect for this job."

Hmmm, I can understand both sides. Maybe there is no right answer. For now I think I'll keep things as they are. Twitter and blog for business and Facebook for personal. If I sell my book(what was I thinking? I meant WHEN! When I sell my book), I may start a second business Facebook.

Does anyone else have trouble deciding what info to include in your Social Media accounts?

Jodi Webb is a WOW Blog Tour organizer as well as a writer. Depending on what part of her life you want to know about you can find her at Words by Webb , @wordsbywebb, or on Facebook as Jodi Webb.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

 

Business Writing on Craigslist

Last week, I wrote about considering business writing as part of your freelance career--especially with the number of magazines and newspapers folding. I talked about external and internal opportunities and about contacting businesses and letting them know about your services.

But Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) is also full of business writing opportunities. The hope is that you find one, get your resume in quickly before the other one hundred writers, do a great job, and the business hires you again. I have applied for Craigslist jobs before--some have worked out; some have not. Once, I received a phone call from a business owner who was looking for writers who could write on a variety of subjects for his event planning business. While he quickly interviewed me and I translated his heavy New York accent, he told me he received over one hundred resumes for that job. So, the competition is tough, and you have to be quick on Craigslist. Let’s talk about some tips on using Craigslist, so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.

•    Many of the large cities that you first see listed on the Craigslist home page have the most job openings for writers—even telecommunicating jobs. Use the local angle, though, to make yourself more desirable to an employer. For example, if you live near Chicago, search for jobs there first and mention your location in your first response to the job ad.
 
•    Click on your state and find your city on the list. I live in Missouri; so when I click on my state, I am taken to a page that lists several medium- and large-sized cities. I look at the jobs in those cities first and again mention that I am a local writer or editor. If I am familiar with the business, I will also mention that in my first e-mail.
 
•    Don’t answer ads that are general and don’t give much information about the business. These are often ads for sites that want you to subscribe to them to view jobs or make a very small amount of money for a very large amount of work.
 
•    On Craigslist, if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. It won’t hurt you to answer ads like this if you are not sure if they are legit or not (and everyone has different goals for their careers), but don’t waste a lot of time on them. With Craigslist, I usually put a couple sentences about myself, attach my resume WITHOUT my address (just my phone number and website), and send it. If the company is legit, then they will get back to you.

With Craigslist, it is a good idea to set aside one or two hours once a week to look through ads and respond to them. Start with your state, and then move on to bigger cities such as New York and Los Angeles. Look for ads from businesses, so you can develop a relationship with them and get more work when they need a writer.

Post by Margo L. Dill;
Photo by semihundido www.flickr.com 
 

For tips on querying and writing articles (for magazines or businesses), consider taking Margo's online course, Freelance Writing: Querying and Writing Non-Fiction Articles starting on August 19. For more information, check out the syllabus on the WOW! classroom page.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

 

Interview with Molly Van Norman, Runner Up in Our Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest!

Molly Van Norman lives in Rochester, MN with her husband and Small Munsterlander, Afton. She just celebrated her 25th anniversary working in a clinical laboratory at the Mayo Clinic. Last fall she became an “empty nester” when the older of her two sons left to go to school at the University of Utah. Her youngest son joined the Marines last summer and is currently deployed in Afghanistan.

Although she has written several children’s Christmas programs and many clinical laboratory procedures, this is her first submitted piece of fiction. She is currently working on two novels, both are women’s fiction, and hopes to complete them now that she has found some extra time.

Molly would like to dedicate “The Burr Oak” to her aunt who passed away in February. It was the Burr Oak at her aunt’s cabin and the experience of moving this aunt into an assisted living complex that inspired the story.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Winter 2011 writing competition! What inspired you to enter the contest, especially since this is your first piece of submitted fiction?

Molly: I had my story roughed out when I found your web site. I hadn't even heard of flash fiction, but I was so impressed by the stories that were posted from previous contests, that I thought I would like to give it a try. It was hard to click the send button, especially since I’m pretty inexperienced as a writer, but what impressed me about this contest was that you could purchase a critique on your submission. The feedback was excellent and I will use the advice to make this story and future ones even stronger.

WOW: How great that you went ahead and gave it a shot! Describe how you’re working on two novels at the same time. Anything you can share about the process?

Molly: The first novel is something that I've been working on forever. This is the "I have this story in my head" route that a lot of us fledgling writers take. I started by hashing out several chapters, clueless to what I was doing. Then, frustrated, I put the story aside for awhile, only to come back to it, rewrite and hash out some more. Finally I was brave enough to take a writer's workshop and since it was the only thing I'd ever really written, I submitted a chapter to the group. I received some positive comments and some great critique and decided to try to take this writing thing more seriously.

Last fall, a member of my writing group convinced me to try Nan-No-Wri-Mo. Naively, I decided to start a whole new story. My personal challenge was to try to write straight through without going back and perfecting every paragraph. I didn't succeed, but I spent the time developing my characters and working on my plot.

So now I have two works in progress. I find when I've reached a dead end on one, it's good to put it aside for awhile and work on the other one, and then I can come back to each with a fresh perspective.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going ?

Molly: Since I do a lot of editing as I go, I’m most comfortable writing at the computer. I don’t have a lap top, so I usually carve out an hour or two, after work, in my office. I try to write every day, or at least read something about the writing process.

As I mentioned earlier, I belong to a writing group. The last two months, we’ve chosen to work on a writing exercise to bring back for the next meeting. I never would have chosen to write about these topics, but the assignment forced me to try and I'm surprised at what I came up with. Recently, I purchased my own writing exercise book, with the Amazon gift card WOW sent me, and I’ve already put it to use.

WOW: In your bio you mention that you just celebrated your 25th anniversary working in a clinical laboratory at the Mayo Clinic. What’s your job like, and has any of it made its way into your fiction?

Molly: I work as a technical specialist in a laboratory where we analyze thousands of patient specimens each week. Estrogen, testosterone and vitamin D, are some of the more familiar compounds we measure, and our testing procedures cover the gamut from labor-intensive to more automated tests.

Much of my time is spent trouble-shooting instrument malfunctions or testing issues. None of this has ended up in my fiction as of yet, but maybe this will be my next challenge!

WOW: Being a new empty nester must have its blessings and challenges. Did you prepare for this stage of your life in any way, and what have you learned so far?

Molly: Life prepared me in some ways, without any doing on my part. As my children became more independent in high school, they spent less time with my husband and me. We learned to prepare dinner for two and make our own plans on weekends. But occasionally we’d be able to sit down to supper as a family, or the van would be full again on weekend outings. Up until last summer, we were always able to take a family vacation together. This special family time is one of the things I’m missing the most.

You definitely need activities or interests that you can enjoy sans children. It can be something that you used to do with them, but can continue to enjoy on your own--my husband and I still like to go camping, kayaking and skiing. Or it can be some newly acquired hobby or interest--like writing!
Writing can be very therapeutic when you’re missing your kids. I’ve written a couple “flash non-fiction” pieces about my son in Afghanistan. Putting my thoughts and fears onto paper feels more productive than bottling them up inside.

WOW: Great advice. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Molly! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Molly: Challenge yourself, try some of those writing exercises, and don’t be afraid to hit the send button, regardless of your writing experience!

*****

Come back and join us on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews!

The Summer 2011 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN

http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php

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Monday, July 18, 2011

 

Reigniting the Flame After a Writing Conference

















I started the summer with good intentions. But somewhere along the hectic schedule, I got off kilter. My daily word count dropped. My creativity level plummeted. I could blame it on the heat wave. Or I could face reality and admit that I needed a spark to get my writing back on track.

That spark came when I saw a news blurb about a weekend writing conference sponsored by the Nebraska Writers Guild and since the location was only 90 miles down the highway, I decided to attend. It offered a handful of morning sessions and time to write. (Plus, it was free!)

Now that I've returned home with a bounty of fresh information and business cards, what do I do with this information? Store the cards for later perusal? Put away my notebook with pages of notes and ideas?

Nope. After the writing conference, it's important to make use of the information immediately. I've already typed the notes I scribbled. It's a good practice because it reinforces the main ideas and helpful hints offered by the presenters. When it's fresh in your mind, you'll put the information into practice. That should translate into more sales.

I'm also in the process of sending notes (yes, handwritten) to the writers and publishers I met and traded writing stories with. Such a varied group of writing interests! This personalized detail to attention will help networking efforts. Perhaps a collaboration or publishing contract will result from these introductions.

And most importantly, now that I'm home, it's time to plant rear end in chair and write. It's time to put inspiration into action.

The spark has reignited!

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at http://luannschindler.com/. Graphic design by LuAnn Schindler

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

 

What "Level" Are You?

At a writer networking event that I organize, I had a brief discussion with an attendee I'll call James. Although I kind of understand what James is requesting, I wanted to get your thoughts, dear reader, about levels of writers.

I arrange for speakers to attend a monthly meeting of regional writers. As you may remember from previous posts, the attendees had initially wanted to become a critique group. But I'm voluntarily arranging these meetings for a writers' organization that wants us to keep them open; a critiquing group would effectively close the meetings off from others in the public to join in and come to the meetings whenever they can.

James wants me to figure out a way to provide a networking "exchange" for writers and paid editors. He wants writers in this group to be able register and to self-rank themselves (beginner, intermediate, advanced OR amateur and professional). The registration enables the writer to get a different level of access to an editor and would serve to "network" various writers with one another. His belief, as an admitted amateur, James told me, is that beginning writers should be in a group with other beginners and amateurs with amateurs.

My gentle argument with James was that while I'm a published writer, I still consider myself an amateur (because I'm still trying to get my fiction published). Where did I fit into his levels idea? And, if we did manage to slot all the regional writers into a level, I would much rather be in a writers' critique group with writers who will challenge me, regardless of their self-reported level. Maybe others feel the same? I don't know.

What do you think about putting yourself into a "level" for your writing? And why? What kind of writers do you like to have in your critique group--ones just like you or a mixture? Why?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in Wilmington, N.C., and working towards her University of Chicago editing certification...in all her free time.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

 

Squeezing Writing In Around Life, Part II


Just when I sat to write today's post, my kids swarmed me asking for things they wanted or needed.

"Mom? Can Jordy and I have the Craft Box down?"

"Mama? Can we have a drink and a snack?"

"MOM! Sophie is bugging me!"

These are just a few. Needless to say I completely lost my train of thought once I sat back down. It happens to me often. But I don't give up. No matter what we have to keep writing, even with life's distractions all around us. I thought of a post I wrote on Dianne Segan's blog a couple of years ago while on my Blog Tour for I'm Not Weird, I Have SPD. She asked me to write a post about how to squeeze writing in around my busy life and kids. And I thought it was appropriate to share it here today. Here it is and feel free to share your own thoughts.
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One of the questions I get asked most often is, “Where on earth do you find the time for writing with four young children?” Believe me, there are days I wonder the very same thing. But I’ve come to realize that writing isn’t just something I love to do, it’s something I need to do. It helps keep me in touch with that part of myself that isn’t “Mama,” and that’s very important—for all of us. Allow me to explain.

I’m actually a late bloomer as far as getting into writing professionally. It’s not that I never had the time to write I was simply too nervous having my work out there for everyone to read. I mean, who the heck would have been interested in what I had to say? But as time went on, my courage increased with each story or article I’d let the world see until I’d made it almost a full-time gig. Then my Jaimie was born and writing had to stop temporarily.

I knew very early on that my miracle girl struggled with something. None of us knew what it was and she tried telling us in her own ways but we didn’t understand. After two years, we finally got someone—a fantastic occupational therapist (OT) named, Donna—to listen to our pleas. After a few hours with Jaimie she told us Jaimie had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Now I’m the sort of person who can deal with anything as long as I have the information. I read every book available at that time, read articles, did online research and absorbed myself completely in understanding this mystery “SPD.”

You see there is much debate on whether SPD is a “real” disorder despite the fact that thousands of families are afflicted by it and tons of research backs it up. That made me angry. I lived with Jaimie each and every day watching how the tiniest things in her environment bothered her and caused her pain—things the rest of us take for granted—and yet it’s still considered “invisible.” That’s when I started writing again.

My passion to help my daughter by helping others understand her became my writing goal. Plus writing for me is therapeutic—it helps me re-focus on what’s important, calms me down when I’m not able to turn my mind off and gets rid of any of residue from the day’s stressors. Most importantly, it makes me feel like I’m doing something proactive in helping Jaimie since I can’t change the world so it doesn’t hurt her, cause her confusion or distress. I can, however, help that world accept her for who she is and see things through her eyes. And now you know why squeezing that writing time in each day is so important to everyone in my house.

Hey! You can do it too. Really. I used to get frustrated when I wasn’t able to sit for a writing session for a specified amount of time until I realized I still could. I just needed to write around my life. I took my little Neo keyboard with me to Jaimie’s therapy sessions, typing madly in the waiting room. I stole bits of time during nap or snack times or when the kids were preoccupied with their one half-an hour show I let them watch. Then I stayed up later after they all (finally) fall asleep. When you give yourself those snippets of time throughout the day, it’s like having an expresso--it gives you extra brain energy until the next snippet you’re allowed to have. (Of course, if you’re writing a novel, you may want to wait until you get those larger blocks of time otherwise it will take forever!)

The most important thing to do is be easy on yourself. Don’t get frustrated if you have a day where the kids need you more than usual and won’t let you escape for a little while—it happens to me all the time. I just remind myself that for every nonproductive day, I get a couple of really productive ones in where I get tons of time to make up the difference.

I look at it this way: God gave me this amazing gift. I may not be the best writer in the world but darn it, I’m right up there with some of the most passionate! My writing has taken on a very specific purpose now, which helps me make that time for writing each and every day—even if it’s just for a few minutes. When I think, “I just don’t have the time today!” I simply look down on Jaimie’s earnest little face and think about how brave she was just getting out of bed that morning to face what her world had in store for her. And that gives me strength to forge ahead.

Keep writing, Mamas! It matters and it’s so important.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: Night Thoughts: When Counting Backwards From 100 to l Didn't Do It, Guest Post by Jo Barney

Night Thoughts: When Counting Backwards From 100 to l Didn't Do It

by Jo Barney

At 3:00 a.m this morning I realized that I should not have sent out twelve query letters for Graffiti Grandma the same week I laid fifty invitations to a Holiday party on the doorsteps of my condo neighbors. I can now expect rejections in not one but two areas in my life and I'm not sure my ego will survive.

Just how much stress can an old lady handle? An even better question might be: Why did she think she needed to do either kind of reaching-out? And what inspired her? The long hours in front of the computer, the tentative smiles from strangers on the elevator, the panting novel, the hope to move past smiles to names?

In the midst of that night-churning I forced myself to think about other things, about the four novels I've finished. Each is about a woman who needs to solve a few problems. In fact, one of the protagonists is dead already, but still trying. And each woman is older than the one in the previous book. Just as I am getting older. They've gone from sexy to arty to philosophical to crabby. Just like me. They worry about marriage, divorce, children, loss, and redemption in the same ways I have.

What seems to be clear now that it is light outside and I've had my coffee is that I've spent the past fifteen years chronicling my life as I wandered through it.

How uncreative of me, I think, pouring another cup. Then I run my glance over my book case full of old and new books that I love enough to make me unable to donate them to the library used book sale. I see that I am not alone. Roth, Updike, Hemingway, Smiley, Proulx and even Evanovitch, I betcha, seem to find their truths and their characters first in themselves. I'm thinking that most writers do. While I'm not in the same league as these writers and most of the others on my shelves, I am beginning to understand that I write to learn more about myself. And that it is okay. Maybe even healthy.

So my next story will involve a woman who sits bolt upright in a midnight bed and discovers a way to deal with an heavy onset of rejection. Maybe she'll start testing recipes for Holiday punch and discover that after a few swallows, rejection isn't that big a deal, just life.

* * *
Jo Barney is a retired educator who is delighted to have time to write even when it means rejections every once in a while, or more often. She's been published on-line and in printed journals but her goal, for whatever misguided reason, is to see her novel, any one of them, in print. Her blog is Breakout Novel, a Race to the Finish, but it remains to be seen who or what finishes first. (breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com)
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

 

Business Writing: What Is It Exactly?

With the economy in a tailspin, we all know that freelance writing gigs can be tough to get. Some magazines and newspapers have closed their doors; others are only working with staff writers to keep costs down. So, to pick up some freelance work and put some of that green stuff back in your pocketbook, you might consider business writing. You’ve probably heard the old pros mention that they do quite a bit of business writing, and it’s often more lucrative and easier to find than magazine and newspaper work. But what does this term business writing mean exactly?

External Communication

One of the most common types of business writing is when a company hires a freelance writer to create materials for public viewing. The writer’s job is part writing and part public relations as she produces materials that communicate with potential and current customers. Small- to medium-sized businesses are more likely to hire freelancers for these jobs because they don’t have the budget to pay a staff writer (or provide benefits like health insurance), or they don’t have enough regular work to keep a writer busy forty hours a week.

If a company hires you to work on external communication projects, you could be writing:
•    Newsletters
•    Letters
•    Brochures
•    Press Releases
•    Blogs
•    Website copy
•    Ads
•    E-mails
•    Presentations
•    Reports
•    Social Networking Profiles

For example, I’m currently working with a psychologist who is creating a parenting brochure for her clients. I’m taking her technical jargon and making it more parent-friendly, as well as adding practical examples that parents can relate to.

Many businesses today create newsletters or brochures full of helpful tips, projects, recipes, community information, and more to create a relationship with their customers. A hardware store could hire you to create a bi-monthly newsletter full of do-it-yourself projects and highlighting ways the store is helping in the community. A photographer might want to create a newsletter or brochure around the holidays offering photo-taking tips with some special offers he’s planning for Valentine’s Day. A coffee shop might have newsletters available for customers to read while drinking coffee. Some non-profit organizations will also hire freelance writers to work on similar projects. Someone has to write these materials; and in these examples, the owners of the business might want to hire an outside writer since their areas of expertise are not in communications.

 Internal Communication

Another type of business writing is when a company hires a writer to communicate with employees. All of the writing is done internally like in employee newsletters, memos, and e-mail campaigns. For example, a company might want to improve employee/administration relationships, but the department heads are already swamped. So a writer comes in and creates positive materials highlighting hard-working employees or announcing new programs to improve the work environment.

CEOs or department heads will also hire writers to put together reports or power point presentations for staff meetings. For example, a local shoe store with several business partners participated in a recent marketing campaign on radio, television, print, and the Internet. The marketing director has several pieces of information to present to the partners on which marketing strategy was the most cost-effective, and he needs a writer to gather this information into a cohesive presentation.

Although being hired as a writer for internal communication is less likely, there are business executives out there looking for experts to help them communicate with employees in a positive and concise manner.

So, start brainstorming--do you know any business owners that might need a freelancer? Can you contact them with a sample of your work? Stay tuned for part two of business writing, which will be posted next week on July 20! There will be more tips on how to get started and find jobs.


Post by Margo L. Dill; To find out more about Margo, visit her website or check out the online classes she teaches for WOW! 

photo by semihundido www.flickr.com

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

 

Tip: Article Revision Using the Pointings System

If you're anything like me, I find it tough to write for long stretches of time in the summer. But I do find it the perfect time to revise rough drafts--particularly, non-fiction articles. I live close to the beach, so I'll print out a rough draft, grab a pen, and head down to the sand for some inspired revision. (A change of scenery is always great for a fresh outlook!)

Before I begin any heavy revision, I like to use an old-school journalistic method called the pointings system. It's been so long I can't remember where I learned it, but it's an effective way of highlighting noteworthy features in your article. Pointings are quick and easy to do, and they can provide helpful information for revision. Print out your rough draft, grab your red pen, and head to your nearest scenic location, and try this exercise for immediate help.

Pointings

- Draw a straight line under any words or details that impress you as especially effective: strong verbs, memorable phrases, striking images.

- Draw a wavy line under any words or images that seem flat, stale, or vague. Also put the wavy line under words or phrases you consider unnecessary or repetitious.

- Look for pairs or groups of sentences you think should be combined. Put brackets [ ] around these sentences.

- Look for sentences that are garbled, overloaded, or awkward. Put parentheses ( ) around these sentences. Mark any sentence that seems even slightly questionable; don't worry now about whether you're certain about your judgment. Point to anything that you had even the slightest hesitation understanding.

After you've finished reading your draft, note down your immediate reaction. What do you consider most interesting? State the theme, and indicate whether or not it is well focused. Is it informative? Can you see any holes or gaps? Did it hold your interest? Once you've analyzed all the elements in your draft, you should be able to identify its strengths and weaknesses, and you're ready to revise.

More on revision: Give Your Writing a Revision Sweep

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

 

Interview with Caroline Trent-Gurbuz, First Place Winner in Our Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest!

Caroline Trent-Gurbuz is a journalist by trade, but a fiction writer by passion. She graduated from Drake University with degrees in music and international relations, and she just completed her Master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. In her free time, she loves to read anything she can get her hands on. She maintains a home base in Kansas City, Missouri, but is currently traipsing around Turkey for the next few months with her husband. To read more of her stories, please visit thestoryshewrote.wordpress.com.


interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Winter 2011 writing contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Caroline: Thank you! It has always been my dream to be a writer, but I felt like I needed to get some experience with smaller-form stories before I could try to write longer narrative pieces. I was researching writing contests and came across WOW! Women on Writing. I read the works by past winners, which were so well written, and I thought, “Well, I could certainly try!” If nothing else, I thought I would enter just to get a critique of my writing. I was completely surprised to get first place, especially because “Other and Together” is my first flash fiction story.

WOW: What a great first effort! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story?

Caroline: After reading the stories by past winners, I thought that they had some touching or moving element to them. It also happened that I had just completed a survey about deaf culture for a friend studying ASL interpretation and linguistics.

WOW: Have you always enjoyed the genre, and how did you learn to write great flash fiction?

Caroline: I only recently stumbled upon flash fiction, and I love it. At this point, I’m still building up the endurance to write longer stories, so flash fiction is perfect.

Before entering WOW! Women on Writing’s contest, I read flash fiction stories at online publications and researched the elements of a good flash story. Now I’m trying to do the same with short stories; hopefully, I’ll eventually be able to move up to novels!
WOW: Sounds like a good plan! Since you recently completed your master’s degree in journalism, maybe you could share a bit about that experience, and why you chose to pursue that path.
Caroline: I like to write, but I felt that it wouldn’t be possible to have a stable career with creative writing. Journalism seemed like the next best thing: I could still write and have a steady job. I also love grammar, and I hope to be a copy editor in the future.


WOW: Like many writers, you mention reading as a favorite activity. Any recent favorites you can recommend? What’s next on your reading list?
 

Caroline: Because I’m in Turkey, it can be hard to find English-language books that aren’t overpriced. Most of my books are from book stalls, and I have a few friends here with whom I swap reading material. I recently read Robert B. Parker’s School Days and Pam Jenoff’s Kommandant’s Girl, and I’m currently reading D.W. Buffa’s Trial by Fire; it’s a slower-paced novel, but it takes a philosophical look at how the media can jeopardize a defendant’s right to a fair trial. For my next reads, I’m waiting for Live Wire by Harlan Coben and Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts to come to Turkey; I wish they would hurry up and get here already!
WOW: Great book recommendations, thanks. We’d love to hear about your months-long trip to Turkey with your husband. What made you decide to go there, and what is it like?

Caroline: My husband is Turkish, so we came here to visit his family. We’re currently in Cesme, a small city on the coast of the Aegean. It’s wonderful! We are also hoping to move to Istanbulin the future. Turkeyis a great country, and everyone here is very hospitable. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to take a vacation.

WOW: I’m sure you’re enticing many readers to come visit. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Caroline! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Caroline: Enter as many as you can. You might lose or get rejected, but there’s always the chance that you’ll get that one win. Don’t take the losses too seriously and keep moving on to the next contest or call for submission. Good luck!
*****

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The Summer 2011 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN

http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php

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