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Saturday, December 31, 2011

 

Let's Make "Discipline" Our Favorite Word in 2012

Guest post by Jean Reynolds, Ph.D.

The year is drawing to a close, most of the cookies I baked last week are gone, and I’m thinking about…discipline. To be more specific, I’m thinking about (and bemoaning) the lack of it.

Maybe it’s the unpleasant truth that I ate most of the cookies myself. Or it’s all the talk I’ve heard in the last few days about the Gift that Went Wrong—too big, too small, or simply “What was she/he thinking?”

On the other hand, maybe it’s all the TV reports about the upcoming Republican primary in Virginia, where no fewer than five hopeful candidates (Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, Huntsman, and Santorum) didn’t get around to qualifying to be named on the ballot.

And then are writers (today’s real topic). Why does the word “discipline” inevitably get me thinking about some of the writers I know?

Because I wish they’d get some. Discipline, I mean. As in:
  • deciding to figure out once and for all the difference between a comma and a period
  • vowing never to interrupt a perfectly good sentence with an unnecessary colon
  • making a once-and-for-all, I’m-sticking-with-my-decision about ambiguous issues like the Oxford comma, possessives of names ending with “s” (Louis’ or Louis’s?), and words with alternative spellings (gray or grey? catalogue or catalog? doughnut or donut?)
  • relentlessly double-checking for correctness (Katherine or Katharine Hepburn? U.S. Calvary or U.S. Cavalry?)
  • learning how to place apostrophes correctly in tricky plural nouns (men’s, people’s)
  • swearing off the questionable practice of forming plurals by adding an apostrophe after the final “s”: three Christmases and two bosses, not three Christmas’ and two boss’
  • using a comma correctly with the coordinate conjunctions and/but (if you don’t have two sentences or a series of three or more, omit the comma)
  • abandoning the notion that a semicolon is a kind of glorified comma
  • practicing writing sentences with three parallel parts (a skill that has just about disappeared, even from professional writing)
I suspect that most people, like me, resist thinking about discipline amid the festivities of December (which is why all those cookies disappeared so quickly). But the beginning of a new year is a traditional time for resolutions, so a hefty dose of discipline seems quite in order in January.

Let me suggest, therefore, that we resolve to take a more regulated and systematic approach to the writing tasks that lie ahead of us. Here are three suggestions:
  • use the spellchecker, even for emails and Facebook postings
  • ask a friend or family member to proofread final drafts of important documents before we email, post, or publish them
  • read (or reread) at least one good book about writing this year
Or…choose one of your weak points and make a resolution to tackle it this year. Here’s mine: Write down ideas for writing projects instead of relying on my memory to keep track of them.

Discipline isn’t glamorous. Nobody is going to be impressed if you and I announce that we’re going to work harder on our writing in 2012. The results, though, may surprise everyone—including us. And that’s reason enough to make that extra effort in the days, weeks, and months to come. Happy 2012!



Jean Reynolds, Ph.D., is the author of seven books, as well as an internationally recognized Shaw scholar and an avid ballroom dancer. Visit her blog at www.WritewithJean.com.

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Yes, It's the Eve of 2012 and Goal-Setting Time

Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: Elizabeth King Humphrey
Ah, before even seeing the bottom of the glasses of bubbly, many writers will have already penned their first work of 2012: "My New Year Writing Resolutions."

I admit. I am the same. In the past few months, I've taken stock of my bookshelves and wondered...where is my own great American novel? I've started combing through my notes to bring me to a better, clearer space for jumping into the new year with a new outlook on my writing.

But I do so with some trepidation. Take too big of a plunge and frustrations will dampen early-year enthusiasm; don't plunge deep enough and new writing habits will have difficulty taking root.

For some writers, New Year's resolutions may come close to keeping up with the frenzy of the annual, month-long "literary abandon" of NaNoWriMo. However, without some planning, resolutions (like the best-laid plans of NaNoWriMo) will not produce concrete results.

Here are a few of my tips for some sane, post-bubbly resolutions planning...they may help you throughout the entire year, as well:

  1. Keep writing goals simple and achievable. While a War and Peace-sized novel might be your long-term goal, start with creating an outline of the story or writing exercises to flesh out details of your settings. Even a 1,000-page book needs to start with the first page...and then the second...and third. (And let's not even talk about revisions!)
  2. Introduce creativity along the way. Maybe you don't feel like writing one day. No big deal, try something creative such as picking up some colored pencils or markers and doodle. Doodling can help tap into your brain's creative regions. Or practice your cut and paste skills and create a collage of your character's home or work place.
  3. Know that it's okay to step back from your goals. Some weeks will be better than others. Accept that...definitely don't beat yourself up about not reaching one of your goals. Just re-group and figure out another path. You'll be closer to reaching your goals if you re-adjust and keep a good, realistic attitude about your goals.
What are some of your tools for setting writing goals for the new year? Or just setting writing goals at any time?

Enjoy the celebration and have a warm, wonderful and productive writing New Year--maybe next year you will be celebrating the appearance on your bookshelves of your own great work.... Keep us posted about your progress here at The Muffin.

Elizabeth King Humphrey, a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina, plans on ringing in the New Year by keeping her computer off for 24 hours. When she's back online, follow her on Twitter @Eliz_Humphrey.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: Maintaining a High Standard in the Self Publishing Industry, Guest Post by Laura Pepper Wu

Maintaining a High Standard in the Self Publishing Industry | Editing + Critiquing = Success!

by Laura Pepper Wu

Have you ever downloaded a book onto your Kindle and started reading it, enjoyed where the story was going, felt pleasantly impressed by the description, began rooting for the protagonist and then BOOM! The character who arrived in a taxi leaves in her car. Or the character from Luxembourg begins speaking Italian? Or the character leaves her house at 7am but by the time she reaches work she was already late for an 11am meeting?

It’s these small yet crucial details that can pull us out of the story, lose our faith in the world we have become involved in and in the authority of the story-teller. Quite simply, a minor mistake can ruin an otherwise excellent story.

A good line or copy editor will be able to point out these inconsistencies, as well as check each line for grammar, spelling and punctuation to avoid such annoyances.

But what about the pacing, the flow of a story, readability? Is this the role of an editor too?

Traditionally a manuscript would receive all three in-house; line editing, copy editing and a content edit, but with the reduced budgets of smaller publishers and individuals, the content edit is the step that is quite often overlooked. Many writers think that an editor who fixes grammar will offer suggestions on content and flow (and perhaps a good one will), but this is really beyond the scope of their job.

I believe that having a good critique partner, or several, can help bridge this gap for independent and self-publishing writers who wish to have content critique but whose budget simply doesn’t allow for it. What is more, having a critiquing relationship with a partner or group throughout the writing of your novel, and not just when it is finalized, can provide guidance with developing your plot, your characters and description as you go along (and not adding it all in later). This sort of interactive feedback is invaluable and your writing and WIP will both benefit from it.

It’s worth adding that not all critiquing relationships come equal. If you have been put off by a bad critiquing experience or unhealthy writers group environment in the past, or aren’t finding much value in the one you currently have, it’s worthwhile “shopping around” for a good fit. Like any good relationship it takes time to find. But it will be worth the wait.

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Laura Pepper Wu realized the value of having a critique partner through her in-person writing group, but when it became harder and harder to make the Saturday afternoon meetings she began to search for help online. After realizing how difficult it was to find a suitable critique partner who “got” her genre (chick lit) she founded Ladies Who Critique.com. Writers of all levels are welcome to join and begin their search for the perfect critiquing relationship. It’s free and always will be!

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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

 

The Gap between What I Want to Write and What I Write

What types of writing do you do?

My friend writes picture books and middle grade novels and has some success doing this. But her biggest successes have come writing essays for places like Christian Science Monitor and Skirt! She has a knack for finding small details that resonate on a larger scale. Another friend writes adult novels, yet finds more success in writing inspirational articles. I write picture books, middle grade novels and nonfiction for kids, yet my biggest successes are in teaching writing and writing how-to-write articles.

How does this happen that what we most want to write, often brings little success; yet genres that seem a pleasant pastime dominate our successes? Maybe, it’s the unconscious competencies of our lives. I am a teacher: when I learn something new—and I am always learning something new—I instinctively try to work out how to teach that new skill in an easier way, a more visual way, in a way that will have more impact, or how to teach it to a different audience. I am wired to think about how to transit information to new audiences in more effective ways. I don’t know how I do it, I just do it. I am unconsciously competent, that is, I know how to do it, but I don’t know how I know how to do it.

Likewise, my friends are unconsciously competent in essays and inspirational writing. The essayist reflects on daily life and finds the profound; the inspirational writer reflects upon life and finds ways to connect with emotions on a higher plane.

Why do we fight our strengths? The classic children’s author, Katherine Paterson (author of Bridge to Terabithia and many other beloved novels), was once asked about how her children affected her writing. She said that they took so much time and energy away from her writing; and yet, they also gave her something to write about.

I love working on a novel and that work is exactly why I have anything to say about how-to-write. It is only when I observe closely my own difficulties and try my own solutions that I have anything to teach. My teaching is effective because I have failed so often and so miserably at the very tasks that I teach. During the times when I am not writing much, I don’t have much to teach.

It’s a strange symbiosis between what we want to write and what we wind up writing. But maybe it’s an essential symbiosis, one that feeds both types of writing. In the end, I teach only because I write; I write better only because I have tried to teach. I need both sides of the equation.

Do you find a symbiosis between the writing that gives you success and the writing where you want success?

Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes (www.darcypattison.com)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

 

The Power of Daily Writing

by Kelly L. Stone

One of the most powerful actions you can take to get your writing new year off to a fabulous start is to carve out time to write every day for at least 30, 60, or 90 days. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, if you make the short-term commitment to do this, you will soon have a deep understanding of a very important concept: there is power in daily writing!

Daily writing leads to success, no ifs, ands, or buts. That’s because it forces you to focus like a laser on your work in progress and hone your writing skills whether you feel like writing or not. This in turn influences your subconscious mind to help you start thinking of yourself as a writer (or reinforces that belief) and that in turns affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward writing. Writing begets writing. Daily writing begets writing success.

Success is predicted by how you think, feel, and behave toward your writing goals. A person who has success-oriented thoughts and who feels confident in her abilities will naturally take daily actions that bring about her desired outcomes. She will feel enthusiastic, motivated, and dedicated to those outcomes because she thinks, feels, and acts her way toward reaching them, and she does the things every day necessary to achieve success.

This is the case with writing. An aspiring author who thinks positive thoughts and believes in herself will touch her craft daily, which will generate the enthusiasm and motivation to set goals. She will then cultivate the dedication required to take steps to reach those goals over a long period of time. She will write every day or take action every day toward her writing dream. She will act in methodical, self-disciplined ways that bring about desire outcomes. She will think, feel, and act in ways that stimulate enthusiasm, motivation, and dedication for achieving success as a writer as she defines it.

You can be that writer. Even if you have gotten off-track with your efforts to become a successful writer, it’s never too late to start again! Through daily writing, you can generate the enthusiasm, motivation, and dedication needed to work toward your long-term writing goals. You can create for yourself what is known in psychology as a positive self-fulfilling prophecy, which is a belief system that sets you up to succeed!

Kelly L. Stone (www.AuthorKellyLStone.com) is a licensed mental health counselor and writer. Her women's fiction novel, GRAVE SECRET (Mundania Press, September 2007) was called “powerful” by RT Book Reviews. She is also the author of the TIME TO WRITE series of craft books for writers; the latest in the series is LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life (Adams Media, September 2010).

Join  Kelly in her upcoming class, Empower Your Muse, Empower Your Writing Self. It starts January 9, 2012 and is limited to 25 students. She's also offering students a Winter discount of $50 off! (the class is normally $125, now $75). This includes one-on-one support and feedback from the Kelly as well as a free critique of up to 25 pages or a 15 minute phone consultation. The perfect way to start off the New Year!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

 

Interview with Ann Swann, Runner Up in the Summer 2011 Flash Fiction Contest

Good morning, Muffin readers! Today, we'll be talking with Ann Swann from Odessa, Texas. Her story, Justice Unleashed, earned runner-up honors in the WOW! Women on Writing Flash Fiction contest held last summer. If you haven't had the opportunity to check out Ann's crafty piece, you'll definitely want to read it here. Then come back and join us for a discussion about writing flash fiction, finding inspiration, and building an author's website.

First, Ann would like to share some background information. This wife, mother, and grandmother turned to writing full-time after teaching elementary school. Ann is a member of the Abilene Writer's Guild and has published several short stories in literary magazines and anthologies. Her first Young Adult novella was published in December 2011 by Cool Well Press. And, Ann will have two short stories coming out in 2012 in the anthology Campfire Tales, also published by Cool Well Press.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Ann. Also, congratulations for earning runner up honors in our quarterly Flash Fiction contest! So exciting! :) I'm just going to jump in and talk about one of the primary draws of a story - the title. Sometimes, coming up with the perfect title can be difficult. So many questions to consider: Should it foreshadow the storyline? Should it give away the theme? Talk about "Justice Unleashed" and how you came up with it.

Ann: I think the title to a story is like the key to a doorway. If it doesn't fit, the reader might not be able to get inside the story. Titles should be just a little enigmatic as well. My title, Justice Unleashed, refers to the fact that the creature doling out the justice happens to be a dog. Unleashed gives the idea that he was out of control But one must read the story to decide if old Joe was out of control or if he was a hero.

WOW: Perfect! I agree that the reader will have to decide if Joe was out of control or a hero. And that leads to the second story element that is so important in flash fiction - the twist. Your story has two unique twists. How important is it to snag the reader and then hit us with that powerful turn of events?

Ann: For me, the plot twist is extremely important. I'm one of those people who get bored easily. Plot twists keep the reader guessing, and reading. Besides, who wants to be hit over the head with the obvious?

WOW: I know I don't want to be hit with the obvious! I think the plot twists is one element a lot of flash writers forget about including, and it is an integral part of storytelling. Writing is such an individual art form yet we share our work with others. What inspires you to keep writing?

Ann: Everything seems to inspire me in some way. That sounds silly, but one of my newest short stories came about because I couldn't get soap from an automatic soap dispenser in a restaurant bathroom. That story, The Soul Gardener, will be published in an anthology Timeless,  in 2012 through Cool Well Press.

WOW: Cool! I know you have a Young Adult novella being published. Would you share your road to publication? Bumpy ride or smooth sailing?

Ann: Yes! My YA novella is an old-fashioned ghost story, The Phantom Pilot. If I were a songwriter, I would title my publication song "The Long and Winding Bumpy Ragged Road." That's a mash-up of The Beatle's song and a song by Reckless Kelly. And though it has been a long road, it's been a joyous one. I developed elephant hide years ago, so the sting of rejections never penetrated after the first few. Along the way, I joined every writer's group and writing class I came across. I also entered as many contests as possible (thank you so much to WOW!) But it was when my editor, Denise Vitola, a wonderful author, by the way, presented a workshop to my writer's group, The Abilene Writer's Guild, that I finally got published without benefit of a contest. When she put out the call for submissions to Cool Well Press, I jumped on board. Now, I have the novella in publication, as well as three short stories in upcoming anthologies. I also have an adult novel making the rounds of agents as we speak.

WOW: Sounds like a long, yet successful, journey! Good luck as you search for an agent. It's so important for authors to build a relationship with potential readers, and a website is one way for that to happen. You have a new website. What's been the biggest challenge with starting your site?

Ann: I am so TC . . . technologically challenged. I struggle with it daily, technology is the lion and I'm the novice trainer with a wimpy chair and no whip. That said, I've also started a blog and I've become a Twit. Okay, I was always a twit, but now I actually tweet things out into the ether - not always wisely, I might add. I am slowly making connections, I think. Can you tell I love a challenge?

WOW: I can!  And so do I. One way I challenge myself is to make a list of writing resolutions for the year. I also break my list down into monthly tasks. What's one of your 2012 writing resolutions and how do you plan to stick to it?

Ann: Oh, I'm so easily distracted by all this technology that I resolve to write something every day that isn't limited to 140 characters or prefaced by @. I plan to stick to it by unplugging my computer, deleting Words With Friends from my iPhone and writing strictly on yellow legal tablets.

WOW: Good luck meeting your goals! What projects are you currently working on?

Ann: Right now, I am working on a sequel to The Phantom Pilot called The Phantom in the Schoolhouse. I love the characters of Stevie and Jase, and they have a new friend named Derol Pavey who really needs their help. I'm also working on a YA dystopian short story, "Ban Dare," for a future anthology. And if I get bored with those two, there's always that file in my computer called IDEAS. But wait, I would have to plug the Mac back in to go there. Better not do that . . . too distracting!

WOW: (chuckles) I'm not sure I could unplug from technology, but I wish you well with your writing endeavors, and again, congratulations on being a finalist in our contest.

Interview conducted by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.

For more information about the WOW! Flash Fiction contest, check out the contest page.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

 

A Writing Community: The Gift that Keeps on Giving


Recently I was critiquing manuscripts at a local conference. I was working with someone who needed help with voice – not my greatest strength. Just then a novelist I know walked past the door. “Jody, what resources would you recommend for someone who needs help with voice?”

Fortunately, Missouri has an excellent children’s writing community and I know many of them well. I’m also active on an international children’s writing board. When I need to know how to work through an editor’s rewrite request, how to get past the slump in the middle of my novel, or where to find information on beginning readers, all I have to do is ask.

Sure, I could find resources about all of these topics and more online. Search the posts here on the Muffin and look through back issues of WOW! and you’ll find a wealth of material. Do a Google search. You’ll find more information than you can possibly read.

But sometimes you need one on one interaction. You need to tell someone the specifics of your situation and then bask in their wisdom. E-mail noted authors blindly and you may get you some feedback, but not nearly as much as you’ll get from writers you actually know.

Not sure where to connect with these fellow writers? Look for organizations that cater to your type of writing. You’ll find Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

But what if you write romance and children’s stories and medical nonfiction? Do a Google search for Writer’s Guilds in your area. In my neck of the woods, we have the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, The Missouri Writers Guild, and the Heartland Guild.

Still no success? Then look for online communities such as Writers Café and Verla Kay’s Message Board for Children’s Writers and Illustrators.

Once you find a group of writers, it will take a while to get to know which writers are receptive to questions and who can send you to the person with the answers when they aren’t that person themselves. But it is well worth it when you realize that the help you need is no more than a shout away.

A writing community really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

 

What's Under Your Tree?

by wolfsavard flickr.com
You've probably already opened your Christmas presents this morning if you're on the computer now. If you celebrate Hanukkah, you may have already received some gifts--but you still have more to go. So, as a writer, what are some hot gifts you might have gotten this season, or you might still be able to buy yourself with that holiday cash? Read on for some ideas:

E-reader: Many writers are now investing in an e-reader. Why? You would think we would be the last people to succumb to this technology pressure. After all, many of us are writers because we love to curl up with our favorite books when we aren't writing our own. But e-books are here; and as a writer, you need to stay up on current market trends. Many books are only available in e-books. If you are a book reviewer, this is often the preferred way for authors and publishers to send reviewers books. So, you may just have to start imagining yourself curling up with your Kindle or Nook, instead of a good, old paperback. For a look at what type of e-reader you will need, check out this link on CNET News that compares them for you. At WOW!, we are looking into ways to bring you more information than our bimonthly issues and blog, and make it available for e-readers. So stay tuned--it's just one more reason for an e-reader.

Journals: We are in the middle of Mari L. McCarthy's blog tour for her book, Dark Chocolate for the Journaler's Soul. If you are a journaler or you want to be one, you must check out Mari's website for many great products to get you started or to keep you journaling. If you are one of those people who wake up in the middle of the night with great story ideas and you can't sleep until you write them down, try this: Can't Sleep, Write Now: A Nocturnal Journal for Tireless Thinkers by Lucien Edwards.  
Pens: To go with the journal, you need a cool pen to write with. Well, it doesn't get much cooler than the pen selection they are offering at ThinkGeek.com. Who won't be more inspired if they have a Star Wars Lightsaber pen? And if Star Wars isn't your thing, they've got a Harry Potter wand pen, too. . .
Classes and Conferences:  A great gift to receive (or give to a fellow writing friend--if you haven't bought he or she anything yet) is tuition to a writing conference or an online class! I'm sure you're familiar with the fact that WOW! offers online classes. Our 2012 class listings cover everything from writing YA novels to picture books, from finding your muse to getting an agent. If you can't take the time to go to a writing conference or afford all the costs associated with one, then consider an online class.

Hopefully, you've also been supplied during the holiday season with a year's supply of coffee, a mug with an inspirational quote, a bottle of wine if the muse is hard to find one night, and plenty of your favorite writing snack. 

Happy holidays from WOW! We hope you have a fantastic day; and if you have time, share with us your favorite present you received and gave this holiday season--writing related or not. 

Margo L. Dill blogs about children's books and how to use them at her blog, Read These Books and Use Them. She also teaches the WOW! blogging, social networking, and children's middle-grade novel and magazine writing courses. Go to the WOW! classroom for more information on the classes she teaches.
 




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Saturday, December 24, 2011

 

Authentic Happiness and Writing

This time of year, as we near the holiday season and consider what next year will bring, I'm reminded of what's important in my life: great family, loving friends, and days (and nights) filled with writing. For me, it's the best of everything I could hope for.

Yet, I know that writing is a solitary business. Some days, I write in order to pay for the necessities. And for a few minutes every day, I write for myself. This give and take of pen on paper makes me happy, and most importantly, the schedule best fits my needs and goals.

Writing is about striking a balance. So is having a positive attitude and outlook. Sure, there are days I'm stressed out trying to meet deadlines, researching a topic, understanding why an article was rejected, or stringing together words to form a beautiful sentence, but I'm positive that I'd rather have a hectic career schedule than wonder when my next assignment will come in.

That attitude stems from a fairly new science of psychology and psychotherapy known as positive psychology. First introduced at the University of Pennsylvania by Dr. Martin Seligman, positive psychology builds on what works instead of focusing on what does not work. Pretty simple concept, right? Check out the link and see what your emotional quotient measures and what makes you happy.

Sure, there are days when I struggle - I can't think of a decent introduction, the car won't start, or I only accomplish one item on my never-ending to-do list. Maintaining a positive attitude, especially about writing, keeps me grounded and that contentment spills over into other areas, too.

A few years ago, I shared one method I use to stay grounded and positive in an article on the WOW! website. By celebrating the small things that bring joy and contentment, I not only changed my attitude about my life, but I changed how and what I write.

How do you stay positive about your writing life?

by LuAnn Schindler. More of LuAnn's work appears on her website.





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Friday, December 23, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: 100% Success in Writing Contest, Guest Post by Darcy Pattison

100% Success in Writing Contest

by Darcy Pattison
Note: This is an especially poignant post for me to run this week because our troops have pulled out of Iraq and are returning home soon. The story is about a girl waiting for her father to come home from his military posting. Just remember--the Iraq conflict may be done, but troops are stationed throughout the world and there are still military families who will be missing their loved ones during this holiday season. This story is for them.

I have won 100% of the stories for kids writing contests I’ve entered. Of course, since I’ve only entered one, it's easy to say. I’m picky about what I enter and I may never enter another one. Here’s why I did enter “The Help” Children’s Story Contest (www.takepart.com/thehelp).

In August, I returned from vacation and saw info on a writing contest related to the movie, “The Help,” based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett. I live in Little Rock, home of the infamous Central High Crisis over Civil Rights, when the Arkansas governor called out the National Guard to prevent nine black children from attending Central High School. Today, the National Park Service runs a National Park at Central High to commemorate the struggle for civil rights as it played out here. Everyone I know was talking about this new movie, The Help, and loving it.

But I’m skeptical about contests. And I had criteria.

What’s the benefit to winning this writing contest?

For me, the benefit to winning this contest was publicity. "The Help" is a high profile movie and stories for kids are not. To be associated with this amazing story could only help my career.

Who is the judge of this writing contest?

Lou Berger, children’s author and former Head Writer for the popular children’s television series Sesame Street, judged the children’s story contest entries. It was important that the judge was credible and a good judge of writing.

What is the fine print of the writing contest?

Of course, a contest often has simply awful contract details, often so bad that they will grab all rights and you get nothing. Ever. In this case, the contract said the contest retained NONEXCLUSIVE rights. Before I signed the contract, I verified that I still retained the copyright and could exploit it as I wanted.

What is the prize of the writing contest?

The prize was professional illustrations that would be licensed to me to be used as I wanted. Good news. As a children’s book author, I can write a text but I can’t illustrate on a professional level. The "draw" of professional illustrations meant that the story would become a book. See more at 11ways.darcypattison.com (Order in paperback, Kindle or Nook.)

Also important was the dollar amount of the prize, because I am responsible for taxes on that amount. It’s a bummer to win a prize and then have to pay taxes on it! Fortunately TakePart also offered a small cash prize. When the cost of illustrations and the cash prize were added together, the cash will just about pay the taxes. I would be out zero dollars.

Did I have a likely story that fit the contest rules?

Finally, I had to have a story that fit the contest! I looked over my files and chose one I liked, but had seen several rejections. I added a Nanny and took out 200 words to wind up one-word under the 400-word limit.

In this case, the benefits, the fine print, the prize, the judge, and my story all matched up. I entered. I won!

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Author and writing teacher Darcy Pattison blogs at Fiction Notes (www.darcypattison.com). Read more about "The Help" Children's Story contest at the 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph website http://11ways.darcypattison.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, December 22, 2011

 

How To Write for Penumbra: An Interview with Editorial Director Celina Summers

In a time when speculative fiction sources are rapidly disappearing, Penumbra eMagazine offers a pro-paying market for spec-fic writers and exciting new stories for avid readers.

The electronic magazine, owned by Musa Publishing, made its debut in October 2011 with a collection of speculative fiction stories based on a particular theme (art, death, travel, for example). They have published works by well-known authors such as: Mario Milosevic, Daniel Ausema, Scott Overton and David Blake.

To find out more about this market, we sat down with Celina Summers to chat about editing for Penumbra magazine, what she looks for in submissions, causes for rejections, market trends, and what she’d like to see more of.

Editorial Director Celina Summers has been involved in e-publishing as an author, editor, review coordinator, senior editor, and managing editor for over a decade. She studied theater and political science at college in Tennessee, including master class studies in playwriting with famed dramaturge Howard Stein. First published in high school and now the award-winning author of sixteen novellas and novels, she left her career in professional theatre to return to her first love, writing and publishing, in 2000. As the driving force behind Aurora Regency, she produced over forty historical novels in the year before coming to launch Musa Publishing.

WOW: Share with us the conception story of Penumbra Magazine and Musa Publishing. Why did you decide to launch them simultaneously?

Celina: The other three directors and I were previously the senior staff at a well-known e-publisher. We were asked to take over the management of the company because of the owner's personal situation, and found ourselves in the position of correcting problems that had accumulated over the course of a couple of years. When it was no longer possible to help that company, we parted ways with the owner and decided to start our own publishing house. We wanted to avoid similar problems to the ones we'd encountered at the company we'd tried to save—but in advance.

When we created Musa, we determined that our policy would be different from the publishers where we'd worked. We wanted to include the author in the process at a level where they hadn't been before, including complete transparency involving sales numbers and royalties. Musa authors can track their sales live on our database—daily. That transparency has carried over to every other aspect of the company.

Penumbra eMag was my pet project from the beginning. Because of Penumbra and the overwhelming response we got from the writing community, we decided that we wanted to focus on providing other avenues of publication for those writers. As a result, we not only put together a high quality speculative fiction magazine—we pay pro rates, so we get a lot of submissions—but also turned some of the short stories that were submitted to us into stand-alone, royalties-paying e-books at Musa. So Penumbra is the vanguard for Musa's programs for shorter fiction. We now publish short stories, collections, novelettes, and serial stories in every imprint at Musa as well.

As for launching the publishing house and the eMag simultaneously—well, I'll admit it. People thought we were crazy. We weren't. We knew that Musa was going to attract a lot of interest on the web and within the online publishing community. We wanted to make sure that Penumbra capitalized off that. So we set ourselves some seemingly impossible goals and, believe it or not, we made those goals. Now we're putting the finishing touches on our fourth issue and Musa will have released over a hundred short stories, serials, novels and novellas by the end of 2012. We're tired…but always ambitious with everything we do.

WOW: How did you become the main deity (Editorial Director)?

Celina: The four directors of Musa all have very specific experience in the publishing industry. Kelly Shorten is our art director and web developer (and the genius behind Delphi, our house-wide database system), Kerry Mand is our administrative director, and Elspeth McClanahan is the promotions and marketing director. Because I've been an editor for years, the editorial directorship fell to me by default. But I'd question that I'm the main deity. I do get to play the bad cop a lot, but Kerry's really the main deity; she's the money lady and we have to do what she tells us.

WOW: You worked with historical novels before speculative fiction. What made you decide to genre-hop?

Celina: I created the Aurora Regency line at AMP because of a specific need I saw in the electronic market. Several trade publishers had just killed off their traditional Regency romance lines, and those readers had lost their monthly book fix. That's how Aurora Regency came about. I was very relieved that we were able to purchase the imprint when we started Musa. We were able to bring the writers and project that I'd been working on for over a year and keep the imprint alive. Right now, it's one of the healthiest imprints at Musa.

But I didn't genre-hop. I'm also a writer, and I write speculative fiction—alternate history and magic realism primarily. So while I love my historicals, speculative fiction is my true passion. I have a fantastic head editor of our Urania speculative fiction line at Musa, Dr. Matt Teel, so Penumbra allows me to remain connected with my spec fic roots.

WOW: What is your vision for Penumbra and its place in the market?

Celina: The speculative fiction market is remarkably loyal—and has been remarkably resistant to electronic publishing up until now. However, the wonderful magazines I cut my teeth on as a young wannabe writer are starting to disappear—Realms of Fantasy's announcement that they were closing a few weeks ago was a blow to writers and readers both. I think that this is where Penumbra has a big advantage compared to many fledgling magazines. Electronic publishing allows a magazine like Penumbra to pay professional rates to authors, while maintaining an extremely low overhead for production costs. My intention is to create an electronic magazine that brings the speculative fiction reader the best in short fiction monthly, in a consumer-friendly electronic fashion, at a substantially lower issue and subscription price than print magazines can feasibly offer. And so far, the industry's response to Penumbra has been favorable. I'm optimistic about our chances to succeed at these goals.

WOW: What do you look for in a short story?

Celina: I look to be engaged quickly by the author's voice, a distinctive narrative style, and amazing content. The quicker you hook me, the greater the chance I'll like your story. We do themed submission calls at Musa, so I like to see how people play with our themes. Our Shakespeare issue coming in February of 2012, for example, got an unbelievable number of submissions (we've got just as many or more for the Steampunk issue) and, believe it or not, there was not a single Romeo and Juliet story in the whole batch. But we did get submissions based off Titus Andronicus and Taming of the Shrew and Comedy of Errors and just the creativity of those stories still blows me away. To my mind, it takes a very skilled writer to take something as venerated as Shakespeare and develop thoroughly modern and original stories around those familiar plays.

WOW: What are some causes for rejection?

Celina: I'm ashamed to admit this, but if a short story doesn't grab my attention in the first paragraphs—say half a page—then I will usually reject it. Poor grammar, typographical errors, similarity to a story/author I already know all contribute to our rejection rates. But once we narrow the hundreds of submissions for an issue down to twenty or twenty-five contenders for the 5-6 slots in each issue, rejection comes down to really tiny factors—maybe a story could have stood a little more tightening, or a character was just slightly underdeveloped. When I reject a story for those reasons, I usually try to send a personal note with my thoughts on the story—and many of those authors I'll offer a chance to publish the story through Musa instead of Penumbra. And sometimes, at the very end, it comes down to purely subjective things—like how much of our word count is remaining or which story I enjoyed more. As I've said, I'm also a writer, and I know how rejections sting. In the end, rejections are tiny windows into the heart of a story whether it's a thousand words or a hundred thousand, and if an editor tells me my narrative ran out of steam in the middle of the story that's useful to me. I know what to look for. I can't give personal rejections all the time, but I try to keep a reasonable percentage of emails with some type of feedback in them even if it's just, "I like your narrative style and want to see more of your work."

WOW: So far, what have been some of the unique challenges in putting together the eMag?

Celina: Creating a staff out of nothing and very, very quickly. We are blessed with a team of enthusiastic interns at Musa, several of whom work with me at Penumbra. All the research I was slowly doing into speculative fiction magazines before we started Musa had to be condensed into a matter of weeks. So we read a lot, we checked out other magazines editorial and aesthetic style, and we developed our vision for Penumbra in a very short period of time. Even now that we're preparing our fourth issue, we're still adding content besides short fiction. We have several articles in each issue now, and in January are adding a monthly feature about folklore and world building by a very talented author, editor and scholar Lori Basiewicz. Then, too, I personally had to make the adjustment from creating periodicals destined for print (how I learned these things back when dinosaurs walked the earth in the late 1980s) and developing one for electronic consumption. We are very fortunate to have outstanding designers at Musa, Kelly, and Coreen Montagna, our interior book designer, did an amazing job creating the layout and formatting for Penumbra. The process has been an education for me—all of us, probably—and we're now beginning the same process all over again. We have a romance-oriented eMag in the early stages of development.

WOW: You do have an ambitious team! Speculative fiction covers such a wide spectrum. Are there any trends you are noticing right now in the genre or in submissions?

Celina: Well, submissions at Penumbra are themed so that's keeping the majority of submissions on track with what we're looking for. Speculative fiction submissions at Musa have been heavy on fantasy and very light on science fiction—which surprises me still. One thing I'm noticing and am very happy about are the profusion of strong, intelligent, kick-ass female protagonists. There are more princesses saving warriors than the other way around in our slushpile these days. I think that's a good thing. I would love to see more science fiction, more Steampunk, and more fantasy that is truly fantastic and not derivative. As for horror, I want good psychological horror and not the slash and gore kind. Gore is all fine and good, but blood and guts don't equate true horror in my opinion. When I read a horror story, I want to be so terrified that I can't keep from reading further. Gore makes it relatively easy for me to move on to something else.

WOW: Lastly, any advice for someone submitting fiction?

Celina: Follow the submission guidelines. Always. It doesn't take long for any author to do exactly what the magazine or publisher asks for them to do. Take the time to format your stories correctly, to keep within the proper requirements for that publication, and to actually KNOW your market. Read what they've published recently in your genre—that'll give you a better idea than anything else whether your manuscript would be a good fit there or not. Aside from that, I think it's essential that every author educate themselves about potential publishers or agents. Before a writer signs a contract with ANYONE regarding their intellectual property, they should know what they're signing. Contact one of the writers' guilds or an industry professional you know and ask questions. Sometimes, a writer gets so excited at a contract offer that they don't realize what they're signing away. At Musa, we have our contracts and royalties breakdown on our website for everyone to see BEFORE they submit. I may be kind of prejudiced, but I think that's the way it should be.

WOW: I love the way Musa invites their authors into the process by providing easy access to all the financial matters.


Thank you, Celina, for taking the time for this interview. It’s been a pleasure.




Publication: Penumbra eMagazine
Description: Penumbra is the speculative fiction eMag published monthly by Musa Publishing.
Website: http://penumbra.musapublishing.com/
Blog: http://penumbraezine.blogspot.com/

Circulation: Electronic; currently under 1,000
Frequency: Monthly, Themed Issues
Where to get a subscription:
http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=16&products_id=34.

Pay Rate: $0.05 per word (SFWA professional rates)
Pay Schedule: On publication
Rights: We purchase first electronic rights to exclusively distribute the work for six months. Additional details available at http://penumbra.musapublishing.com/includes/pcontract82011.pdf

Photos/Art: Currently we only take art submissions for our art contests.
Contests are based on our themed issues and submission begins on the fifteenth of the month before. That means if you want to submit for the January contest, you should submit your piece between December 15th and December 31st. You can find more information here: http://penumbraezine.blogspot.com/p/art-contest.html

Payment amount(s) for photos/art: Winners of the art competition receive $50 flat.

Story Length: 500–3,000 words
Does not want: No fan-fiction; No non-fiction
Writer’s Guidelines: http://musapublishing.blogspot.com/p/penumbra.html

Editorial calendar:
2012:
January – Sports
February – Shakespeare
March – Steampunk
April – Animals
May – Fractured fairy tales
June—Greco Roman Mythology (submission call ends Dec 31, 2011)
Jul—Politics (accepting submissions through February 29, 2012)
August—Dreams (accepting submissions through March 30, 2012)

Editor: Celina Summers, Editorial Director
Contact: The address is submissions@penumbra.musapublishing.com

Etiquette: All submissions are done by email. Include a short cover letter with your past publication credits and attach your full story in either .doc format or .rtf format. No multiple or simultaneous submissions please. We will consider reprints of rights reverted stories.

Lead time: Stories should be submitted several months in advance. Please consult the editorial calendar for deadlines.

Response time: Initial responses usually take about 2-3 weeks. If your story makes it past the first round, it will probably take a bit longer to get the final decision. We go through an extensive vetting process for our stories.

Online opportunities: At this time only authors published in an issue of Penumbra are considered for the blog.

Twitter: @MusaPublishing
Facebook: Penumbra-eMag

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

 

Six Degrees of Separation


As writers we frequently find ourselves searching for expert sources or simply everyday people who can tell us about their experiences as related to a topic we're writing an article about. I frequently find myself turning to ProfNet, Amazon searches for authors of books on the topic, or universities for professors who are experts in the field.

But no matter how impressive the sources you ferret out with the help of the Internet there is one group of publications that isn't interested in them. Regional Publications. It doesn't matter if you've found a biologist who is a Nobel Prize winner, an extreme couponer who bought her house using rebate money, or a retiree who coached an afterschool chess team that ultimately became grand masters...if they aren't from the area regional markets aren't interested. In regional markets the "local slant" rules and editors expect you to find it.

So where do you turn to when editors are clamoring for local experts? I've found great success with a 1990's parlor game. Do you remember "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"--the game where you try to connect Kevin Bacon to any other person in the Hollywood community? For a refresher check out The Oracle which will help you connect your favorite actor to Kevin Bacon. Turns out Hollywood isn't the only small community. No matter what its actual size, your community is small too--at least to the people who live there. So when I need a local expert and don't have any luck finding one I send out the call to my "Six Degree of Separation" experts. And before you know it I have an expert.

One example begins with a charitable foundation that works with second graders in a local school district. I thought it would be a great article but needed some people to talk to and this charitable foundation was very low-key: no website, no contact info, they worked strictly with the school.

So I called my cousin, whose son happened to be in second grade at that school. My cousin got me in touch with her son's teacher who got me in touch with the retired teacher who oversaw the foundation. The retired teacher got me in touch with the widower of the woman (who had been a teacher before her death) who was being memorialized through the foundation. He wasn't comfortable being interviewed but got me in touch with his wife's parents. Not only were they happy to be interviewed but they also got me in touch with some of their daughter's first students (now college students).

If I hadn't played "Six Degrees of Separation" I might not have gotten any further than a basic press release from the school principal. I definitely wouldn't have uncovered students from this women's first class!

Not only does "Six Degrees" help uncover people you might not have found it also convinces people who might have been reluctant to participate in the interviews. After all, their cousin's neighbor attends yoga classes with you. You're practically family! A feeling of familiarity goes a long way toward convincing people to take the time to share their story.

So, how to start the "Six Degrees" chain next time you're looking for a local source? I've always had great success with my mother and other older relatives. They seem to have a uncanny recall of who knows who and what they're up to. I also turn to friends, fellow parents, fellow members/volunteers in various organizations, even my hair dresser has led me to a source on occasion.

Just make sure you frame your question effectively. Don't say "I'm writing an article about custody battles and need to talk to someone who had a disastrous custody hearing." Who would subject their friends and family to that kind of interview? Instead say "I'm writing about custody and need to talk to a family lawyer/someone who works in the courthouse/divorced parents." Remember, the purpose is not to find the perfect source the first time out but to find someone related to the subject who can lead you to someone else related to the subject who can lead you...and eventually you find yourself on the phone with the perfect local source.

Jodi Webb has written hundreds of articles about local people for magazines such as Pennsylvania Magazine, American Profile, and Central Penn Parent. She's teaching Breaking Into Magazine Writing with Regional Markets starting this Jan. 10 at the WOW Classrooms. You can also visit her blog Words by Webb at http://jodiwebb.com

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

 

Interview with 2nd Place Flash Fiction Contest Winner, Maria Mankin

Maria Mankin lives in the Bay Area with her husband. A graduate of Emerson College, she taught preschool for five years before deciding to write full-time. She has published five resource books with Pilgrim Press and has contributed to several anthologies (under her maiden name Tirabassi). She takes great joy in writing a daily haiku journal, as well as exploring best practice for engaging young readers outside the classroom.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your second place win in our Summer 2011 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Maria: My mother, who’s also a writer, often sends me links to contests she’s entered that she thinks I might also have some fun with. I haven’t had the best luck in the past competing with her (I can’t even count how many contests we’ve both entered that she’s won!), but I so enjoyed reading the WOW website that I decided I would enter anyway.

She was so gracious when I called to tell her I had made it past the first and second rounds of judging, and then thrilled for me when I got second place (she lives on the east coast and saw the announcement before I did!). This is the first prize I’ve ever won for my fiction and I credit, in large part, her constant encouragement in getting to this wonderful point.

WOW:  How wonderful to have family support for your writing. Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Shades of Grey?"

Maria: Most of the stories I write --certainly all of my favorite ones-- have emerged out of compelling memories of place. My brain is filled with these little moments created over the course of my life, and sometimes, when I’m really lucky, one of those bubbles pops open and I can fit a story in where there was only a setting before.

Recalling the texture of a particular location is a tool that as a storyteller, I’m very dependent on. The church in my story was a real place--one that I spent many hours in as a teenager--the circumstances and the people who populated it evolved from a feeling about that place that I’ve carried with me for years.

WOW:  I felt like I was there when reading your story. Great job! What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Maria: I had never written flash fiction before I entered this contest. I mostly write resource books professionally, and although I have always loved writing poetry, plays, and longer fiction, I never felt like I had creatively found my niche. When I learned about this genre, I realized I had always been waiting for somebody to tell me it was okay to write a very tiny story--that, in fact, brief moments of fiction could have a place in the wide world of writing! This discovery has opened up a whole new way of looking at my writing and the way I want to share my stories with others.

WOW:  What an amazing first effort. You better keep going! According to your bio, you taught preschool for five years before deciding to write full-time. How did you orchestrate that change, and how would you compare your life then and now?

Maria: The biggest necessity in making such a major life change was the support of my husband. I spent my last two years of teaching wishing I could make a transition, but I was consumed by all the usual fears we have when approaching a life-altering decision, and in this economy, I especially couldn’t justify losing the security of the job I had.

I found myself getting more unhappy with every passing month--even though I loved teaching, I desperately wanted to make professional writing a reality. Every time the subject came up, my husband told me the same thing, “We’ll make it work --we will find a way to make this a reality if it’s what you choose.”

I finally talked to my mother about it, and she reminded me of all the sacrifices she and my father had made to do the things they loved, and she asked me if I thought they had raised me to put money above all else. I knew they hadn’t, that they had turned down lucrative opportunities when the chance to work on more meaningful projects arose. I thought about that for many more months before deciding I really didn’t want to look back on my life with regret. Some days it’s still difficult to believe I took this enormous, sometimes terrifying chance on myself, but having the support of my family has made all the difference.

WOW:  I love the idea of a daily haiku journal, which is also mentioned in your bio. How did you get started doing that?

Maria: When I lived in LA, I was starting to get back into writing after a hiatus of several years, and it occurred to me that I should start keeping a journal again as good practice. I had kept one for about ten years as a teenager and into college, but I fell out of the habit when I graduated. Everything I had written in those journals felt sort of cheesy though, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to censor what I wrote there in case someone should ever read it.

I couldn’t bring myself to pick up that old habit again, so my roommate suggested I try writing a haiku every day for a year. He and a friend in New York had started their own haiku journals a couple of years before after reading The Haiku Year, a collaborative effort by six authors who had undertaken the same project. He lent me the book and I was hooked. I wrote my first on Saturday, August 25, 2007, and I haven’t looked back.

WOW:  Can you share any favorite haikus?

Maria: I’ve written just short of 1400 haikus at this point, and it’s daunting to try to pick a favorite! Here are a few written over the last four and a half years to give you an idea of how broad my definition of haiku has become:

5.
Oh Stranger in your Infiniti -
I saw your face reflected in the rearview mirror...
I've cried like that too, though not today


90.
And writing and compiling
and editing and cursing
and finally it's halfway there


1182.
Our first breakfast together as husband and wife,
I eat chocolate chip pancakes dripping with syrup
and he orders eggs and potatoes, extra greasy. Now, this, this is love.


1371.
is there anywhere more beautiful
than a new england beach at sunset
in the autumn, she asks. i just smile.

One of the most important things I’ve learned keeping this kind of journal is that it’s completely fine to take the rules and toss them out. This a record of my life, and when I look back, I won’t care how many syllables each line has or whether the topic pressing on my mind that day was appropriate for the traditional style of these little poems--all that will matter is having a record of life’s small moments to reflect back on when the circumstances surrounding them have long since faded away.

WOW:  What a great way to record daily life in a fun way. Thanks for sharing your haikus, and for chatting with us today, Maria! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Maria: I believe everyone has an genuine, natural method of storytelling. If yours is best shared through the written word (and you’re willing to follow a few contest rules!), you should give it a shot. You won’t win every time, but there’s always the chance that your story will make its way into the hands of someone who really needs it, and I think that makes the work worthwhile.

* * *

Our Winter 2012 Flash Fiction contest is OPEN:
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

 

Five Benefits of a Writing Group

A Group of One's Own / A resource
to help start a successful writing group
Last week I heard a presentation by Charlene Pollano, co-author of A Group of One's Own: Nurturing the Woman Writer, about starting and managing a writers' group. (If you are considering creating a writers' group, Pollano's book is great place to start.) During the discussion that ensued, many of the writers attending mentioned the inner workings of their own writers' groups. Some grumbled while others praised their groups.

There are rules and regulations that vary from group to group--some attempt three critiques per two hours along with written feedback. Making a commitment to a writing group was also an important element of joining a group--can you commit to twice a month or just once a month?

During the discussion, I realized how niceties and courtesies can improve the experiences of writers in a group. However, critiquing can be tough. All the participants of the group underscored the need for creating guidelines for contributing to a group--including the type of feedback to provide writers to make the group worthwhile and it was evident that all of us approach writing groups for different reasons.

While some might make changes to their writing groups, Pollano mentioned specific benefits for being a part of a writing group. Based on Pollano's book, she mentioned that members of a writing group:

  1. Provide a built-in network of people who can understand and support your writing.
  2. Help to validate you as a writer.
  3. Give objective, constructive feedback.
  4. Encourage productivity...deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!
  5. Share ideas and can assist with networking
What are the reasons you might join a writing group? What benefits do you want from a writing group?


Elizabeth King Humphrey writes and edits from coastal North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter at @Eliz_Humphrey.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

 

A Picture Really DOES Paint A Thousand Words

A few months ago, an author friend of mine and I were talking about new and exciting ways to reach out to our readers. After all, a great deal of marketing our books (getting them into people's hands) comes from networking and interaction. And I think many authors forget about that aspect. We're out there going, "Buy my book!" but not giving readers a connection to them through us - the author.

One of the brilliant ideas my friend came up with was using her Facebook page as a way to connect to readers by using pictures with a theme and having her followers join in on the fun. How fun and cool does that sound? Others out there must have felt the same way because she got almost a thousand more followers as well as awesome sales for her book.

I thought I'd share this list with all of you so you can all give it a try. You could even tweak it to use on your blog. The idea here is to go for at least a month or so. You can alter things on the list to suit your interests and/or your readers' interests or even the subject matter in your book at the time. I think, though, that this idea it works best for Facebook and Twitter, where it's best to keep your message short but powerful enough to have others want to leave comments and/or share their own message.

So, there you go. Pictures really do paint a thousand words...or at least 140 characters! ;) Give it a try and be sure to come back to let me know if you tried it as well as how it worked for you. OH! And since this is my last post of 2011, I want to wish you all happy and healthy Holidays with a great start to the New Year.

Peace and love to you all!

Chynna
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Day 01 - A picture of yourself with fifteen facts.
Day 02 - A picture of you and a friend you have been close with for awhile.
Day 03 - A picture of the cast from your favorite show.
Day 04 - A picture of favorite missed memory.
Day 05 - A picture of you and the person you've had the best memories with.
Day 06 - A picture of a person you’d love to trade places with for a day.
Day 07 - A picture of you and someone you'd be lost without .
Day 08 - A picture that makes you laugh.
Day 09 - A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most.
Day 10 - A picture of your favorite sport or favorite athlete.
Day 11 - A picture of something you hate.
Day 12 - A picture of something you love.
Day 13 - A picture of your favorite band or artist.
Day 14 - A picture of someone you could never imagine your life without.
Day 15 - A picture of something you want to do before you die.
Day 16 - A picture of someone who inspires you.
Day 17 - A picture of something that has made a huge impact on your life recently.
Day 18 - A picture of your biggest insecurity.
Day 19 - A picture of you when you were little.
Day 20 - A picture of somewhere you’d love to travel.
Day 21 - A picture of something you wish you could forget.
Day 22 - A picture of something you wish you were better at.
Day 23 - A picture of your favorite book.
Day 24 - A picture of something you wish you could change.
Day 25 - A picture of your day.
Day 26 - A picture of something that means a lot to you.
Day 27 - A picture of yourself and a family member.
Day 28 - A picture of something you’re afraid of.
Day 29 - A picture of someone that can always make you smile.
Day 30 - A picture of someone you miss.
Day 31 - A picture of what you wore today.
Day 32 - A picture of what you did today.
Day 33 - A picture of you doing something you love.
Day 34 - A picture of your morning.
Day 35 - A picture that reminds you of someone.
Day 36 - A picture of someone you wish you still talked too.
Day 37 - A picture of what you like to do.
Day 38 - A picture of your favorite drink.
Day 39 - A picture of your favorite food.
Day 40 - A picture of your friends.
Day 41 - A picture of your dream cell phone.
Day 42 - A picture of your I pod.
Day 43 - A picture of your room.
Day 44 - A picture that describes your life.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

 

How To Host A Blog Tour Successfully

To all of us that have blogs or have a book and visit blogs, we're very familiar with the term "blog tour." It used to be authors went on a book tour, visiting bookstores or coffee shops across the country or in their region, meeting readers, signing books, and hopefully gathering fans. But as we all know the days of the brick and mortar bookstores are limited, and many authors don't even have a print book. So they've embraced the change and go on blog tours.

Again, you're probably wondering, why is she telling us this? We already know this. Yes, but does your mother? How about your neighbor or high school classmate? What about your spouse? I bet you might be shocked to find out that some of these people have no idea what a blog tour is, have never left a comment on a blog, and only land on one accidentally when doing a Google search for something like, "Tips for putting your baby to sleep."

So, if you're a blogger and you're hosting blog tours, it is your responsibility to educate the people in your lives and your network about what a blog tour is and how they can help make it successful for the author.

One time I had this conversation with a fellow, elderly critique group member.

Me: You should visit my blog tomorrow. I'm having a book giveaway.
Him: I don't blog.

Me: You don't have to blog to win the book. You just have to leave a comment.
Him: I don't know how to leave a comment.

And so on--you can see how this went. And this is so typical--and not just of people over 65. My point--you can't just say, "Yes, I'll host this author on a blog tour,"and then put up the post, and hope people find it and leave a comment. Part of the responsibility lies on the author to promote her blog tour. But I believe part also lies on you, the blogger, to educate your readers, loved ones, and extended network that you are having a contest, that they can leave a comment, and even go as far as help them to leave comments if they are interested in the book.

So, how can you drum up more business on your blog for the blog tour you're hosting?

1. Get your post up first thing in the morning so that it makes it to readers who are subscribed by RSS Feed and e-mail.

2. Use social networking to write about the tour--especially if you are hosting a giveaway with the tour. When you put the link to your post on Twitter and Facebook, make it exciting. Talk up the book. Think of your tweet or your status as a headline. For example: Here's a middle-grade novel with a sweet Christmas story PERFECT for your young reader (and a chance to win a copy): LINK. I see so many tweets and Facebook messages that simply say, "Go to my blog and leave a comment for a chance to win TITLE." There's no explanation as to what the book is or what the reader can get out of it.

3. Send an e-mail out to your list and explain what is going on on your blog. This is the way I get most of my comments. I gather e-mail addresses of friends, relatives, former comment leavers, and other writers. Whenever I have a blog tour and giveaway, I always send an e-mail to this list. Again, I write why the person should take time out of her busy life to go to my blog and leave a comment for the author.

Bloggers are changing the way things are done with book promotion. If you have a blog and you accept blog tours, then just go one step further and do a little promotion of your own. You will be paid back when it comes time to do your blog tour!

post by Margo L. Dill;

If you are interested in giving your blog an uplift in the New Year OR starting a blog, then consider taking Margo's blogging course through the WOW! classroom. It starts on February 10 and runs for 5 weeks for $125. To see the syllabus and register, go here.

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