Finding Inspiration At Another Kind of Fair

Sunday, August 31, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler
By the time you read this, I will have been away from my computer - and writing world - for nearly 36 hours. Thank you, Blogger, for letting writers / bloggers set a time for a blog post to appear.

And even though I have been away from my computer for one and a half days, I'm finding inspiration and plenty to write about while attending the State Fair. My stepson is active in 4-H and FFA and is showing a heifer from our dairy farm. Not only have I gotten several ideas for stories after watching him prepare for this experience, but I found more unique ideas before I even left home. I printed a daily schedule of events and found more than 15 possible story ideas.

Here's a small sampling:

Like cheese? We naturally do since we ship over 6,500 pounds of milk to a processor each day. But never in my life did I consider a career as a cheese sculptor. A gentleman will be sculpting something - hopefully from a block of cheddar - in the Ag Hall today from 10 A.m. - 9 P.M. Unique, right? How many other artists use mozzarella or asiago as a medium?

A craft beer and wine festival is held from noon til 11:30. My grandfather made wine (and beer and several types of liqueurs) from home and won several honors at this fair. What has changed since he won the honor for the first blue ribbon chokecherry wine 30some years ago? I intend to find out!

Kids aren't left out either! Throughout the day, kids can take part in a make-n-take craft project. What a great opportunity to take photos and put together a craft package for a kid's magazine!

Master Gardeners from around the state are offering a panel discussion. If you're into gardening and landscaping, here's a chance to network and develop story ideas.

There are cooking demos, florist demos, wild horse gentling demos, chainsaw carving demos...the possibilities are there. It's a matter of timing my route around the fairgrounds so I don't miss out on a possible article.

I hope you consider events taking place at your state's fair. You never know how many story ideas you'll walk away with.
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Using Your Guts

Saturday, August 30, 2008
In August, I heard 2006's Newberry Award winner, Susan Patron, speak at the SCBWI national conference. You may remember her, even if you aren't into children's books, because there was a big controversy over her use of the word "scrotum" to describe "that part" of a dog. Many people wanted to ban her book, The Higher Power of Lucky, or they thought it was a pretty good book, except for that one word, and so on. It is a wonderful book. I laughed out loud in the first few pages several times while I was waiting in line for Patron to sign it.

But book banning and word use are not my topics today. I want to tell you about something she said during her speech that has stuck with me while I'm writing, and I hope it will stick with you, too. Here is what this brilliant children's author and Los Angeles librarian said:

"If you use your GUTS to write the very best book you can, then you may get the January phone call."

(The January phone call she is referring to is when the Newberry committee calls a children's author to let her know she won the prestigious award, and she should get ready to go on The Today Show soon!)

If you use your guts. . . notice she didn't say your brain, your creativity, your heart, or your soul. She said your guts. Did it take guts to write The Higher Power of Lucky? I would say yes--to write on the subject of a girl worrying about abandonment, searching for her Higher Power, and running away takes guts and courage, and this paid off for Susan Patron.

Look at our own WOW! editors--did it take guts for them to start this on-line, supportive magazine for women, this blog, and Premium Green? It sure did (with a little daredevil attitude thrown in, too.)

What about J.K. Rowling? (Can you tell I LOVE children's books?) Most people know her story--she was poor, poor, poor, but she used her guts to write a book she believed in, and now, well, isn't she richer than the Queen?

So, are you using your guts? Are you writing the very best book you can? What about your articles, blog posts, or short stories? Reach down deep inside, and then reach down deeper, and pull out the words that are yearning to get out of you. Write them down on the paper even if you sacrifice food, sleep, and cleaning (especially cleaning!)

Think about it--it takes guts to share your inner most thoughts, feelings, and stories with the world. For just attempting to do that, you should feel proud of yourself. You don't need an award for that--although it would be nice! :) Just ask Susan Patron.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

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An Abundance of Riches

Thursday, August 28, 2008
"Just the knowledge that a good book is waiting at the end of the day makes that day happier." -Kathleen Morris

Have you ever suffered from the "problem" of having too much good stuff to read? For my birthday tomorrow, my young daughters have each wrapped two books that I bought for myself at the book store. Simultaneously, I received an e-mail from my local library advising me that several books placed on hold are now ready for pickup (and a few more are "in transit" too). Not to mention that my in-laws sent several wrapped books, probably legal thrillers.

So now I find myself with so much waiting for me to dive into! Here's some of what's on deck:


Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It

by Sark

I own most of SARK's previous books. They always inspire my creativity.


Time to Write: Professional writers reveal how to fit writing into your busy life

by Kelly L Stone

I have read so many books about writing, and this looks like yet another good one. Annette also interviewed the author in a previous issue of WOW! Women on Writing.


Money, and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Wealth, Health, and Happiness

by Esther Hicks

Other books by this author are very interesting and helpful.


Feel It Real!: A Guided Approach to Bringing the Law of Attraction into Your Life

by Denise Coates

I saw this one while on vacation, and it's getting lots of good reviews.

*When You Are Engulfed in Flames

by David Sedaris

The latest from a favorite humor writer.


What now?

by Ann Patchett

Bestselling author Ann Patchett's commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College.


Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now

by Gordon Livingston

Not sure where I heard about this one, but it looks good.


Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir

by Natalie Goldberg

I'll always check out Natalie Goldberg's stuff.

* * *

May you be blessed with some good reading too!

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Are You Looking for an Accountability Partner?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Recently in the Premium-Green discussion group, a member asked how she could find an online accountability partner for her writing. She'd been doing well with querying and submitting, but felt she needed that extra kick in the butt. We've all felt that way, haven't we? Here are a few simple steps to help you find an accountability partner and hold each other accountable.

Join a Writer's Community

First, you will need to join a writing group geared toward the type of writing you want to focus on. If it's fiction, then find a fiction list-serve in Yahoo or Google Groups, or join an online forum, such as Absolute Write. If it's freelance writing, communities like Premium-Green and Freelance Success, for example, have very supportive members. There are a ton of writing groups to choose from (too many to list!), so take time to try them out and find one that fits your needs.

After you've become familiar with the group and found another member with similar goals, ask them if they'd like to be your accountability partner. Most writers in groups are looking for the support of other writers to help them realize their goals. The person you ask doesn't have to have the exact same goals as you do, she just needs to be as dedicated and motivated as you are. She has to be serious about her career as a writer. And if you can, choose someone more experienced than yourself.

Set Up a Google Calendar

After you hook up with an accountability partner, set up a shared calendar on Google. Fill in your deadlines--whether it's word count, page count, or due dates for querying, submitting, promoting, and article writing. You can set your calendar to private, so only you and your partner can see each other's deadlines. You can also set up your calendar to send you email reminders before the deadline passes. I usually set it up for a day in advance to remind me that I better get my butt in gear and finish the project!

Follow Up: Make sure you both follow up with each other (by phone call or email) whenever a project is due. You can also add comments to their calendar dates on the detail page to continue the discussion. That way, you have a record of it on the calendar. And, when you know someone else is looking at your calendar, you're less likely to ignore it! And if you do ignore it, you know your partner will send you an email or call you to kick your butt.

Annette and I have several calendars going at once. I can see hers, and vice versa. Also, Team WOW! uses a Google Calendar for our blogging schedule. Sometimes we miss our blog days, but you can be assured that we hear about it! For instance, I missed my blog day last Sunday because I was having computer problems. While that is a legitimate excuse, I still feel bad about it because all my teammates know it was supposed to be my day. That proves it's working!

What About Twitter?

I'm not a tweetie-pie, but it seems like Twitter would be the perfect forum for an accountability partner...if you don't get sidetracked. LOL. Perhaps, someone should make a group for NaNoWriMo on Twitter, or for freelance deadlines. If there already is one, let me know! Maybe, I'll get hooked!

The most important thing about an accountability partner is...

Wanting it. There are many platforms and creative ways you can hold each other accountable, but you have to want it. If you simply wait for someone to tell you what to do in life, you'll never get anywhere. You need to hold yourself accountable to some degree first. Then, you can show up as a successful partner to someone else.
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Get To Know Your Trades

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
By Jill Earl

Did you know that writers have trade magazines? We do, and it’s to your benefit to familiarize yourself with them.

The reason? Besides presenting the latest industry news and trends, and interviews with established and emerging writers, they offer techniques and other resources to build your skills. Even more, the magazines have websites with additional content, many times only available online. So in no particular order, a quick rundown of each follows.

With the motto, ‘Write Better, Get Published’, Writer’s Digest (WD) is probably the most familiar guide in the group. Highlights include the ‘101 Best Websites for Writers’; ‘Writer’s Workbook’, which covers specific areas of writing; and the WD contests in popular fiction, poetry, short short story, the International Self-Published Book Awards and the annual Writing Competition with multiple categories to enter.

My favorite is Poets & Writers, the country’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers. The bimonthly magazine aims to take writers ‘From Inspiration to Publication’, and there’s plenty to inspire you on its pages. ‘Resources’ offers a comprehensive list of upcoming conferences and residencies, and the latest award and grants recipients; ‘Features’ has a continuing series where agents and editors share their experiences and give advice on what they look for from writers. Readers can start applying what they’ve learned from ‘The Practical Writer’, found in the ‘Departments’ section.

Calling itself ‘The essential resource for writers since 1887’, The Writer is the veteran of the group. One feature of this guide is ‘The Writer Archive’, focusing on an element of the craft of writing from past articles. In addition, there’s reviews of newly released books and a compilation of markets to tap into. Online, check out their new blog to find out what’s on the minds of the magazine’s staffers.

Wrapping up, there’s WRITERS’ Journal, ‘The complete writer’s magazine’. Their offerings include a number of contests, including Write to Win!; market listings; columns on how to break into niche markets, promoting your writing properly, and photography how-tos, among others. And the Books for the Writer’s Bookshelf area always has a selection to whet the appetite.

So, get to know your trades, writers. They’re the tickets to equip you to be the best writer you can be.

And who wouldn’t want that?
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Make a Vision Board for Your Writing

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Last week, I was visiting a friend and noticed a large collage on a poster above her desk. She was excited to tell me about her "vision board" which contained images and words she had clipped from magazines. She told me she uses the board as a daily reminder and inspiration to pursue her dreams.

I thought it was great idea and immediately began thinking of what I would choose for my own vision board.

Today, while I was thinking about what to post on the blog, I was poking around in a pile of papers on my desk. I came across a hastily jotted note to set up another Girl's Day Event with my writer friends. We try to get together once a month to get out from behind the computer and pretend we have a life. So far, we've had a painting day, a park picnic, lunch and art walk in Laguna Beach, Chinatown excursion, Garment District shopping day, and pilates day. I thought a Vision Board Day would be fun. So, I Googled "vision board" to give me some ideas on how to set it up.

That's when I came across a great blog ( and found an article I wanted to share with our Muffin readers. After you finish reading this article, be sure to stop by her blog. She has tons of great articles about finding ways to be creative.

How to Make a Vision Board
by Christine Kane

What is a Vision Board?

A vision board (also called a Treasure Map or a Visual Explorer or Creativity Collage) is typically a poster board on which you paste or collage images that you’ve torn out from various magazines. It’s simple.

The idea behind this is that when you surround yourself with images of who you want to become, what you want to have, where you want to live, or where you want to vacation, your life changes to match those images and those desires.

For instance, before I ever started performing music and I had no idea how I’d ever get a gig, write enough songs, or assemble a press kit, I drew a picture of myself in a bar with people watching me perform (I’m a terrible visual artist, so I actually had to label the people “people!”). And though it wasn’t the only factor in making it happen, I had a calendar full of bar and coffeehouse gigs by the next year.

My drawing was a kind of a vision board. Vision boards do the same thing as my drawing did. They add clarity to your desires, and feeling to your visions. For instance, at the time I did my drawing, I knew I wanted to play in bars and coffeehouses. (I have since left the that circuit, and I’m performing in theatres and at conferences. But in my early twenties, I wanted to play in bars and coffeehouses. I was pretty clear about that!) Taking the time to draw it out, even poorly, made it indelible in my mind.

There are several methods you can use for creating your vision board. I’ve written about each one below. You can choose which one works best for you, depending on where you find yourself on this path of creating your life.

Supplies you’ll need for creating a Vision Board:

- Poster board. (Target sells a really nice matte finish board. I highly recommend it.)

- A big stack of different magazines. (You can get them at libraries, hair salons, dentist offices, the YMCA.) Make sure you find lots of different types. If you limit your options, you’ll lose interest after a while. When I facilitate my women’s retreats, I always make sure we have plenty of Oprah, Real Simple, Natural Home, Yoga Journal, Dwell, Ode, Parenting, Money, Utne, and an assortment of nature magazines.

- Glue. Not Elmers. (It makes the pages ripple.) I like using Yes! Glue or Rubber cement. Glue sticks are my second choice because they don’t last.

Before you begin your vision board:

No matter which method you’re choosing, have a little ritual before you begin your vision board. Sit quietly and set the intent. With lots of kindness and openness, ask yourself what it is you want. Maybe one word will be the answer. Maybe images will come into your head. Just take a moment to be with that. This process makes it a deeper experience. It gives a chance for your ego to step aside just a little, so that you can more clearly create your vision.

Put on soft music. My favorite music for activities like this is Anugama Shamanic Dream I and Shamanic Dream II. I love these CD’s for massage or any activity where you want to keep your mind quiet.

The Five Steps of Creating a Vision Board:

Step 1: Go through your magazines and tear the images from them. No gluing yet! Just let yourself have lots of fun looking through magazines and pulling out pictures or words or headlines that strike your fancy. Have fun with it. Make a big pile of images and phrases and words.

Step 2: Go through the images and begin to lay your favorites on the board. Eliminate any images that no longer feel right. This step is where your intuition comes in. As you lay the pictures on the board, you’ll get a sense how the board should be laid out. For instance, you might assign a theme to each corner of the board. Health, Job, Spirituality, Relationships, for instance. Or it may just be that the images want to go all over the place. Or you might want to fold the board into a book that tells a story. At my retreats, I’ve seen women come up with wildly creative ways to present a vision board.

Step 3: Glue everything onto the board. Add writing if you want. You can paint on it, or write words with markers.

Step 4: (optional, but powerful) Leave space in the very center of the vision board for a fantastic photo of yourself where you look radiant and happy. Paste yourself in the center of your board.

Step 5: Hang your vision board in a place where you will see it often.

Three Types of Vision Boards:

1 - The “I Know Exactly What I Want” Vision Board

Do this vision board if:

- You’re very clear about your desires.
- You want to change your environment or surroundings.
- There is a specific thing you want to manifest in your life. (i.e. a new home, or starting a business.)

How to create this vision board:

With your clear desire in mind, set out looking for the exact pictures which portray your vision. If you want a house by the water, then get out the Dwell magazine and start there. If you want to start your own business, find images that capture that idea for you. If you want to learn guitar, then find that picture. I remember at the last retreat, one woman yelled out, “If anyone finds a picture of a little girl with red hair who looks happy, give it to me!” And someone else yelled out, “I’m looking for a Cadillac!” Pretty soon, a lively trading session began. Following the five steps above, create your vision board out of these images.

2 - The “Opening and Allowing” Vision Board

Do this vision board if:

- You’re not sure what exactly you want
- You’ve been in a period of depression or grief
- You have a vision of what you want, but are uncertain about it in some way.
- You know you want change but don’t know how it’s possible.

How to create this vision board:

Go through each magazine. Tear out images that delight you. Don’t ask why. Just keep going through the magazines. If it’s a picture of a teddy bear that makes you smile, then pull it out. If it’s a cottage in a misty countryside, then rip it out. Just have fun and be open to whatever calls to you. Then, as you go through Step 2 above, hold that same openness, but ask yourself what this picture might mean. What is it telling you about you? Does it mean you need to take more naps? Does it mean you want to get a dog, or stop hanging out with a particular person who drains you? Most likely you’ll know the answer. If you don’t, but you still love the image, then put it on your vision board anyway. It will have an answer for you soon enough. Some women at my retreats had NO idea what their board was about, and it wasn’t until two months later that they understood. The Opening and Allowing Vision Board can be a powerful guide for you. I like it better than the first model because sometimes our egos think they know what we want, and lots of times those desires aren’t in alignment with who we really are. This goes deeper than just getting what you want. It can speak to you and teach you a little bit about yourself and your passion.

3 - The “Theme” Vision Board

Do this vision board if:

- It’s your birthday or New Years Eve or some significant event that starts a new cycle.
- If you are working with one particular area of your life. For instance, Work & Career.

How to create this vision board:

The only difference between this vision board and the others is that this one has clear parameters and intent. Before you begin the vision board, take a moment to hold the intent and the theme in mind. When you choose pictures, they will be in alignment with the theme. You can do the Theme Vision Board on smaller pages, like a page in your journal.

Some things to remember about vision boards:

- You can use a combination of all three types of vision boards as you create. Sometimes you might start out doing one kind, and then your intuition takes over and shifts into a whole different mode. That’s called creativity. Just roll with it.

- Your vision board might change as you are making it. I was just talking with a friend of mine who said that she had been making a vision board for the new year. The theme was all about what she wanted in this year. Then, as she pulled pictures and began to lay them out, the theme changed into a simpler one about her everyday life and the moments in each day. It surprised and delighted her to experience that evolution. You might find that you have little epiphanies from making a vision board.

Make a Vision Journal

Another option is to use these same principles in a big sketch book. Get a large sketch book and keep an on-going vision journal. This is especially effective if you’re going through many transitions in your life.

I welcome anyone who has created a vision board to write your own experience in the comments…

Reprinted from Christine Kane's Blog: Be Creative. Be Conscious. Be Courageous. first published February 1st, 2007

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Saying 'Thank you'

Friday, August 22, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

I wrote my first freelance piece when I was a high school junior. My class attended a career fair and I sat in on the journalism panel. I liked writing. I was good at it. I always knew I inherited the I-love-English gene from my dad, who was my high school English instructor.

The editor of the local newspaper led the group discussion, and we brainstormed story ideas and angles, just like a "big-time" newspaper would develop articles. It was fun and I was hooked. So at the end of the panel, the editor asked me if I would like to write one of the stories I'd mentioned during the discussion. Naturally, I said yes.

After the story was published, the editor sent a personal, handwritten note to me that said thanks for the story and keep up the good work.

I never forgot about the power associated with that thank you note.

When I was editor of a literary magazine, I always wrote a personal thank you note to authors of the stories I selected for publication. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Those writers made my job enjoyable, and I felt lucky to be able to promote their writing talents.

Now, as a freelancer, I think it's important to say thank you to those people who play a part in helping me develop a story. After one of my stories goes to print, I send a thank you postcard to sources I interviewed for the article. I thank them for their time, their expertise, and their stories. I also let them know the publication date, in case they missed it.

Those thank you notes are a good piece of PR. It keeps a writer's name in front of a source. And sometimes, those sources have called or emailed and led me to another story.

Consider the power of a thank you note the next time someone offers a story. It just might lead to more opportunities.
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Do I Need an Agent?

Thursday, August 21, 2008
Do I need an agent? is a question writers often ask each other or professionals in the field. Here are three things to consider if you are struggling with this same question.

1. Are you submitting a book for children or for adults?
If you are writing for children, you are less likely to need an agent than if you are writing for adults. Most adult publishing houses do not take unsolicited submissions from unagented writers. There are a few independent or university presses you can find that will take adult manuscript submissions without an agent, but these are not very common. Children's authors often do not have an agent. There are many more houses that accept unsolicited, unagented manuscripts for children's books.

2. Do you know to negotiate a contract?
An agent is a specialist. He or she knows how to negotiate with editors and publishing houses to get the best deal for the author, who usually knows little about auctions and contracts. An agent can help with rights, advances, options, and foreign rights.

3. Do you have current knowledge on the market and/or editors at publishing houses?
An agent's job is to learn what different editors are looking for. Agents often have lunch with editors to make contacts and talk about projects. Agents know which houses are more likely to buy certain manuscripts. It is their job to find a good match for your work!

There are certainly many more things to consider when you are wondering whether or not you need an agent, but here are three questions that will hopefully start you on deciding whether an agent is for you.

Happy writing!
Margo Dill
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The Organized Writer's Six Rules

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
by Julie Hood,

Are you trying to get organized so you have more time to write? Here are six rules guaranteed to make you more productive and more organized when you add them to your life.

1. Work with Yourself, Not Against Yourself

When you're trying to become more organized, it's tempting to try and fit into the existing organizing system of an "expert." They seem organized and they promise that if you try it, you'll be organized, too.

What's more effective is to understand your personality and what works for you. There are MANY solutions and you may have to experiment to find the system that best fits the way you work--your mind, your body and the way you think. And this might be a combination of ideas from many different experts.

Give something new a fair trial, but if after a month or so it feels awkward or counterintuitive, let it go and find something else!

2. Focus and Pay Attention

If you find that you always seem to be busy but that you never have anything to show for it, this could be the most important tip for you.

When possible, do one thing at a time. Don't let your mind or hands wander to another task. Picture the finished project in your mind, and focus only on that. Get in the "zone" � you're able to be so much more effective when you're giving your whole mind, thought and attention.

When we split our attention between different tasks ("multi-tasking"), most likely none of them will get done right, if at all. As well, you can find yourself in a perpetual state of having many "open projects" started but not completed. Each project moves forward just an inch at a time.

If you choose ONE, you can move it forward to completion much faster. To choose one, you need to estimate which project will give you the best results when it's finished. It sometimes takes an outside perspective and feedback to help you make that choice, and a coach is a great tool for this.

Putting aside other projects clears the clutter from your mind, attention, desk, workload and focus.

3. Invest Your Time

Just like we invest our money, we have to invest our time in the best way. Setting up your new organizing systems can be considered an investment.

Applying this tip can have the greatest impact on your level of organization. By investing your time at the beginning of a project to examine how you can complete it most efficiently, you can save yourself a lot of frustration later. Saving just 20 minutes each day gives you an extra 120 hours each year.

For example, set-up a mailing station with all of the supplies you'll need to ship out book orders. You can also set-up a schedule of weekly errands such as the bank and the post office. If you know you'll be heading out to the post office on Wednesday, then when an order comes in on Friday you don't need to stop what you're doing and prepare that order immediately. You know you have a different time set aside for shipping.

4. Make a Habit of It

Once you have these plans in place, work at making them a habit. You can create a new habit (or lose a bad one!) in 21 days. For only three weeks of effort, you can create a lifetime of good working habits.

As you are creating a habit, you'll need some kind of trigger to remind you to do it � alarms on your computer (i.e. Outlook or PDA), a "to do" list or a written schedule for the day with time blocked out for your specific tasks.

Start small with one new habit at a time, and then see if you can add more (pull back if it gets to be too much).

5. Use the Right Tools

Make sure you have the right tools handy when you need them.

From the low-tech (I only use retractable pens � the kind that "click" on and off � because there's no caps to lose!) to the high-tech, there are many ready-made solutions out there to keep you organized. As we mentioned in Rule #1, it's important to find tools that work FOR YOU.

Another example � did you know that if you use PayPal as your shopping cart, they're automatically tied in with the US Post Office and you can print your shipping labels right from the PayPal site? This has been a huge time-saver for me when shipping my Organized Writer CDs.

6. Work Forward

Organize for your work ahead; don't organize what's already finished. We're often tempted to organize our old bills, receipts and invoices. Sometimes we're afraid or hesitant to move forward until we've finished old stuff.

It's much more important to set-up the system and files for what�s coming at you next. Look at what has been creating the biggest stress in your life and start by improving that area going forward. Then, when you have more of your future work under control, you can deal with the old paperwork (the old bills, receipts and invoices).

As you work on bringing these six rules into your life, you�ll be amazed at how much more time and energy you have to pursue your writing and remember the number one rule � only use what works for YOU!


Ever wonder how much you could write if you were just more organized? Find out when you subscribe to the newsletter at Organized Writer. Julie Hood is the author of the ebook, The Organized Writer: 30 Days to More Time, More Money and Less Frustration.

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10 Tips to Feng Shui your Office

Tuesday, August 19, 2008
As the kids head back to school, you too can start with a clean desk and some fresh goals. This article offers some great tips and motivation for getting your workspace into shape.


Feng Shui (fung-shway) is the study of arranging your environment to enhance your life. Every minute of every day your environment is either supporting you or draining you. Feng Shui teaches you to join forces with your environment to make living your best life effortless.

Not only does your environment reflect your consciousness, but also the flow of energy in your home and workplace determines the overall quality of your life and its outcome.

By balancing the energy in your environment, your own energy will be in harmony, and you will draw to you, people and opportunities that reflect this balance. Your environment indirectly determines the type of relationships, finances, career opportunities, etc you attract.

Because you spend so much time in your workplace, this space has a huge influence on your life. Here is a list of basic feng shui enhancements you can make in your office space to support you in creating an environment of success.

1. Clear the clutter in your office : Clutter is anything unfinished, unused, unresolved, tolerated or disorganized.

When you clear your clutter you get into your power and create a space for new things to come into your life. You will have more energy and creativity to design your life to reflect your authentic self.

Clutter is like emotional constipation - it bogs you down. Filing cabinets need to be regularly purged and desktops kept clutter free.

2. Place your desk in the ‘power’ position: The ideal placement for your computer and desk is in a position that allows you to see the door of your office. If this isn't possible, you can restore good Feng Shui by arranging a mirror that gives you a clear view of the door. A small convex mirror designed for use on car side mirrors can be purchased and attached to the edge of your computer. Cost, about $3.00.

3. Make sure everything at your desk allows you to be comfortable: A good combination glare screen/radiation filter to prevent headaches and eyestrain, a comfortable chair that doesn’t squeak, comfortable keyboard and arm position, a mouse that fits your hand etc. Anything that causes you discomfort will drain your energy.

4. Keep your computer clutter-free: How is your Inbox? Create Folders to file emails you want to refer to. If you see hundreds of emails when you open your Inbox, you will feel overwhelmed. It's important to regularly go through all your folders to delete emails no longer needed. Once a week check your Deleted Items folder and empty. Is your Desktop full of shortcuts to programs from a past life? Do you have programs on your computer you never use? Computers are great clutter collectors, and like us, they work better if we keep them decluttered.

5. Enhance your Prosperity Corner: As you enter the door of your office, the far left hand corner is your Wealth and Prosperity corner. What do you have there? Clutter in this area will definitely be affecting your prosperity. This would be a good place for a small tabletop fountain, a valuable item or even an affirmation of what you want to attract. Blues, purples and reds are the colors of prosperity. Can you include one of these colors in something that makes you feel prosperous?

6. Create a nourishing view: What do you see when you look up from your desk? If you see a brick wall, this could explain why you feel stuck! Paint the wall a color you love, hang a favorite painting or poster. Make sure what you see as you are thinking, uplifts you and nourishes your creativity.

7. Clean your windows, dust and vacuum : What do you see when you look out your window? Is it a clear view, or do you look at the world through a murky lens? Regularly cleaning your office, and emptying garbage and recycling bins daily will keep the energy fresh.

8. Buy a healthy plant : A plant will bring life into your workspace and will also absorb toxins in the air.

9. Separate your workspace : If you must have your workspace in your bedroom, try to partition it off with a screen. Work and sleep are two conflicting energies. Having a relaxing sleep will enhance your work time.

10. Repair or replace broken objects : Anything that isn’t working represents a block to the flow of energy. Light bulbs, clocks, doors that don’t open smoothly – why risk not being at your best when you are putting so much into your creations. By consciously creating your environment, your environment in turn will create a quality of life to support you in reaching your potential. Feng Shui has a powerful effect on your life – whether used alone, or used in conjunction with healing work or your personal growth path.

C2008 Vicky White, The Feng Shui and Raw Food Coach. Get Vicky White's FREE "5 Biggest Attraction Mistakes" report and her FREE articles to boost your passion, purpose and creativity at:
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Write Now!

Monday, August 18, 2008
It's not often that inspiration shows up on my mental doorstep, insisting I stop whatever I'm doing and indulge the urge to spill creative juice all over the page.

As a matter of fact, I haven't had a creative writing burst in years. Sure, I've penned articles, interviewed authors, and blathered about one thing or another in blog posts, but I'm talking about the act of storytelling--the writing process that makes my heart sing.

I miss the early mornings when I dove headfirst into the first draft of my memoir, The Break-Up Diet and the next time I looked up from the screen it was dinnertime and my husband was standing over me asking, "Have you eaten or had anything to drink today?" It always felt like waking up from a dream and realizing the world was still functioning outside of my writing bubble. I don't think I've ever been quite so content as when the images were forming in my mind and the words were filling the pages.

A couple days ago, inspiration showed up. The scenes of a new book flowed through my head: the settings, the characters, the dialogue--it all came in a rush like water over a broken levee. I stared at the ceiling of my bedroom and it continued from 1:30am to 3am when I finally willed it to stop, promising I would get up and write it all down in the morning.

But I didn't.

When morning came, there were too many other things that needed my attention. Duties. Responsibilities. The never-ending, daily To Do List. I've always honored my commitments to others before my needs, but I can't help feeling a little slighted--even when it's my own doing.

So, I've decided I'm going to give myself permission to write because it makes me happy. I've promised my muse that I will enter NaNoWriMo this November. And it's a promise I intend to keep.
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The Muse Online Conference

Sunday, August 17, 2008
By Jill Earl

Want to attend a writers’ conference but don’t have a clue where the money’s coming from or how to schedule the time? Don’t throw in the towel, because The Muse Online Conference might be just what you’re looking for!

The conference is the brainchild of co-founders Lea Schizas and Carolyn Howard-Johnson and debuted in 2006, offering writers the opportunity to interact with peers and professionals in the writing business, while developing and enhancing their skills. All for free!

This year’s conference will be held October 13-19, and the selection of virtual workshops and real-time chats cover topics ranging from starting a writing career to marketing techniques, and everything else in between. So, you’re sure to find a session (or two) to fit your interests. In addition, attendees can participate in the Virtual Conference Hall, where they can ask questions in any or all of the workshop forum rooms. There’s even a farewell party on the last night of the conference!

I attended the conference for the first time in 2007, and although I couldn’t take the week off, I could easily return where I left off since it was online. I’m still benefiting from the quality information I received and couldn’t wait to sign up for this year’s event!

You’ll need to be quick about registering for the 2008 Muse Conference, because the deadline is September 1. Head over to:

Maybe we’ll ‘bump’ into each other in the Conference Hall!
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Keeping Up with the Times

Saturday, August 16, 2008

As many of you know it is so hard trying to keep up with the latest and the greatest software changes etc. Half the time, you want to pull your hair out because you can not afford to do it.

Well, now, you don't have to pay for new software, all you have to do is download it. It is absolutely free, even the customer service is free on this one. Yep you read that correctly! I said the magic word, FREE.

As many of us struggling writers know, it isn't easy finding money to upgrade our stuff. Our computer can be so ancient that it won't accept the latest changes etc.

This software can convert the big boy's stuff, it is very similar in style even has some of the catchy short cuts that we have all used over and over again; cut and paste.

If your friend has the latest and greatest big boy (pssst.. here's a hint their initials are MS) they can open it with their software as well.

The cool thing is, they give you the entire office suite for FREE! How many companies do that for people these days. Hand you programs like this. Not many that I have found.

Okay, okay, I bet you are probably ready to scream at me by this point. This great new software that I am bragging about is called OpenOffice. It is fantastic! You have to try it out for yourself.

With the way the economy is today it is always great to get something for FREE, okay, okay it isn't totally free, it does take some of your valuable writing time to download this software, but hey, its well worth it, ladies.

Oh, My I sound like a sales girl at the perfume counter, how embarrassing. Okay somebody find the wet noodle to beat me with.

Just go to check it out for yourself you will be happy you did, and guess what, hubby won't yell at you, you didn't spend any of his hard earned money on it either, heck he may just kiss you and buy you flowers for getting it.

I hope that all of you get as excited as I have about this great software.

Happy Writing!
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Recording Interviews

Friday, August 15, 2008
When I landed my first assignment - some 30 years ago when I was a beat reporter on my college's newspaper - I carried my trusty notebook with me everywhere I went. When the time arrived to interview someone, I had it close at hand and using my own version of shorthand, would record her words, hoping a brilliant quote would tumble from her mouth.

But that notebook recorded more than the interviewee's words. The notebook was filled with sensory details: how the interview subject responded to a question, the crispness of the air, the feel of the chair I'm sitting in. These pieces of detail added a personal touch to my stories.

Until June, I still took notes during interviews. It was after a two-hour interview for a magazine profile that I decided I would invest in a digital recorder. It's been a lifesaver! The model I have is small enough to slip into a shirt pocket. It's simple to use and reduces the possibility that I miss a word during an interview session.

I still carry the notebook with me, and while the recorder does its job, I take note of the small details I notice.
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Trouble With Voice?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008
When you listen to editors or agents talk at a conference, they will almost always say they are looking for a unique voice. They can't tell you what that voice is or how to put it in your writing, but they know it when they read it. Well, that's not very helpful, is it?

You probably can tell, too, if your voice is working in your story or novel. Sometimes, it's like the character is actually typing her own story on the keyboard. Other times, you feel like you are are an encyclopedia or a news reporter, telling the story. So, what do you do?

One exercise that I have found works for me is writing a letter or diary entry from my character. This is a simple exercise that takes just a little time, but it can help you find your voice. All you do is decide if you want to write a letter or a diary entry. Then you write in the voice of your character--you are not worrying about sentence structure or punctuation or plot. You are worrying about being your character. Sometimes, using a pen and paper works better than your computer for this exercise, but that choice is entirely up to you or your character.

When you are finished with this piece, read it. Read it often. Get the feel for your character's voice. Then, go back to work on your novel or story.

Try it if you are having trouble with voice. You may be that next unique voice someone is looking for, and you don't want to lose it.

Happy writing!
Margo Dill
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Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest Update

Phew... What a marathon! We definitely took on more than expected by critiquing entries this season. Pages of the Chicago Manual of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers are officially dog-eared and bookmarked. It's strange to say, but reading and scoring entries is much different than actually critiquing them. When critiquing, you aren't simply reading for pleasure, you're looking for mistakes. It puts you in a different mindset. When you think you find a mistake, you have to make sure you're correct by referencing one of the aforementioned books. Don't get me wrong, it's fun and all...but add impending magazine issue deadlines, Premium-Green Ebook deadlines, editorial, and day-to-day operations, and...wholly guacamole sister! We probably spent over an hour on each entry: formatting, reading, critiquing, deliberating, and emailing. I know Annette wants to beat me with a wet noodle--the whole thing was my idea. Well, we gave it a shot. And perhaps, when we get more womanpower in the future, we'll be able to pull it off without holding up the contest results!

Oh, and if you slid under the deadline, before we removed the critique purchase option for the Summer '08 Flash Fiction Contest, you'll still get a critique. We had the option up for the month of June, but had to take it down. We don't want to be late with the contest results again!

Okay, here's the good news: we've sent out all the critiques for the Spring 2008 contest. If you purchased a critique, you should have received it already. Oy! There were so many wonderful entries this season! We are proud to have such a talented bunch of contestants! If you didn't receive your critique, for some odd reason, please let us know and we'll check into it.

We have officially notified the Top 10 and Honorable Mentions for the Spring FF Contest. We sent out email notifications this morning (around 8:30 AM EST), so check your inboxes. If you did not receive an email...I'm very sorry. Those of you who know me, know how much that kills me. Like I said, there were so many wonderful entries that little things like punctuation etc. made all the difference. Our Webmaster will be working on formatting the contest winner's page, and our esteemed guest judge, literary agent Wendy Sherman, is choosing her top three as we speak. When we get the contest page up, we will send out an email announcement to those on our "Contest Newsletter" with a live link to the page. We will also post an announcement here.

Thank you to all who participated in the Spring 2008 Contest. We truly enjoyed reading your stories. Please keep writing and working on the craft. You are all winners for completing a story and entering. You have what it takes, so write on!


Remember, this is the last season for the OPEN prompt! Enter the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest with guest judge, Elise Capron, here:
Deadline: August 31, 2008 (Midnight, Pacific Time)
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Call a Friend

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm collecting stories about how successful writers get their ideas. Here's another good one for non-fiction writers, particularly columnists, from Fran Lebowitz:

"When I was writing two columns a month, sometimes it was difficult to come up with ideas. I had certain friends that I have a humorous rapport with, and I'd talk to them on the phone until something came up. I made no bones about it. 'Hello, I have to write a column,' I'd say, and start talking. It was a way to hear my own voice back. I often found it useful in a pinch. Certain people inspired me or provoked something in me."

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Bits and Bites of Book Promotion Advice

Monday, August 11, 2008
by Annette Fix

Recently, I attended a panel discussion about book marketing and promotion because it's always good to consider tips from other authors and marketing professionals. You never know when someone might share an idea you haven't thought of, or will say something that resonates with you in a new way.

Here are some of the suggestions I've gathered:

Write about something you have a passion for.
Hopefully, this was something you considered before you began writing. It's definitely something to keep in mind. You'll be working on writing, publishing, and promoting your book for a long time--many years, so make sure it's something you will have a tireless passion for.

Connect with your target audience. Craft your marketing copy for the visual impact that will appeal to your demographic. Ask yourself these questions: What do they want? How do they communicate? What media do they use? What are they reading? Where do they live? Make a visual board of whom they are and write/promote to that visual.

Don’t rely on someone else to do your publicity. No one knows your product better than you do. Don’t ever give up. When you are contacting media outlets, if you get turned down, realize that “No” is only temporary—it just means “No right now,” not “No forever.” Make the contact calls to radio stations and create a relationship with the show producer or assistant. Don’t ask, “Are you busy.” They are always busy. Call with a specific point to make and explain to them how your information will entertain or inform their listeners.

Always give out postcards and leave them places—you never know who will pick them up. Nothing is ever too small—go to everything and promote, promote, promote. Set Google alerts and follow up with journalists who write articles about your topic—introduce yourself and offer to be a source for any of their future needs. Connect with a charity that ties in with your book. Keep your mind open to any marketing possibilities that arise.

Maintain a blog. This has become standard piece of advice, but you'd be surprised how many writers have still not taken the plunge into the blogosphere. Once you do, pursue opportunities for blog tours. There are many ways you can promote your book online. Join social networking sites and get involved in the groups. Create video trailers. The internet is moving toward video everything.

Use Amazon to your advantage. Read the popular books in your genre/topic, go to their book pages on Amazon and post a review. Use "Author of __your book title_" in your signature. Create a Listmania list of books in your topic/genre—and include your book. Align yourself with the bestsellers.

A book is only one part of your platform. Your platform is everything you do that goes along with your book that you can sell. Information is the most important commodity. You can have a book for $10 and offer a course for $99. Think of all the other possibilities of things you can create related to your product. An author of a humorous relationship book about not kissing frogs created toad bags, frog shirts, frog notes, etc. You can go to a licensing show to sell rights for other merchandise related to your book. She is now shooting “frogisodes” for downloads on cellphones. Continually ask: what other things can I provide?

Repurpose your content any way you can. People want information in a variety of formats. You can conduct teleclasses, in-person workshops, and webinars about the info in your book, sell special reports or tips booklets. The more ways you can find to repackage your content, the faster you will be able to grow your business and reach your readers.

Get proper speaker training. I received a call a few days ago from Mark Victor Hansen's office (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and during our discussion, his marketing assistant mentioned that Mark's philosophy is that speakers should be writers and writers should be speakers. So, if you are following this growing trend and you plan to speak on your topic, don’t speak without training. Mark has a seminar coming up November 7-9 that can start you on that path. You can look into training opportunities with The National Speaker's Assoc. (NSA). Some of their local chapter have a program called Pro Speak. You can also join a local Toastmasters to help hone your skills.

Post an audio excerpt on your website. Audio Acrobat is a $19.95 mo. service that has the ability to create audio messages you can place on your website, blog, and emails or newsletters. Check out the way it’s used on Speakers need audio on their site. No one is going to hire you without some sort of demo.

Become a shameless self-promoter. Understand that what you are doing is valuable. Tell people about your book because you know your information may help them. Connect with what you have to offer and believe in it. Consider your return on investment--for your time, effort, and money--in everything you do to market your book. Put together a marketing plan and be diligent with following it. Stay focused. There is only so much time in a day, but you need to be flexible enough to change your plan if you need to. Look at what is most strategic for your goals.

If you are selling a story instead of information, ask: What is in this memoir or novel? Where is it set? Target the individual audience of the kinds of characters, careers, sports in your book. Tie in to trends. There is no time window when a book becomes old. Jane Austin is still selling books.

Keep your eyes on the news. No matter whether you've written fiction or nonfiction, if any news ties in to topics or themes in your book, you can use the current event to renew interest in your book. Timing is everything. If you see something, jump on it immediately. Tie it to an event or a holiday. Find gift shops or organizations or companies—think beyond the bookstore.

Don’t let your books sit on the shelf. Do whatever you can to move them! It’s never too soon to begin marketing your book and building your platform. And it's never too late to get started.

On your mark, get set--PROMOTE!
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Hooray for 'I Love To Write Day'

Sunday, August 10, 2008
By Jill Earl

Okay, I have to admit that I’d never heard of this event until I read about it a couple of days ago in a newsletter. The article, written by the event’s founder, John Riddle, gives the story behind ‘I Love To Write Day’.

A freelancer for 30 years, Mr. Riddle has written for numerous newspapers, magazines and websites. He’s also the author of several books and presents at writers’ conferences nationwide. Involved in coordinating special events while working in fundraising, including an attempt to assemble the largest number of people dancing the Twist for Guinness Book of World Records, he came up with the idea of holding the ‘world’s largest party for writers’.

Mr. Riddle’s goal of ‘I Love To Write Day’ is “to have people of all ages spend time writing. They can write a poem, a letter, a greeting card, an essay, a short story, start a novel, finish a novel…the possibilities are endless.” The event continues to garner attention since its inception in 2002 and November 15, 2008 will mark its seventh anniversary. Even governors of several states (including my home state of Maryland) have proclaimed November 15 as ‘I Love To Write Day’.

You‘ve probably got some ideas of your own. It doesn’t have to be a major writing project---unless you want it to be. It can be a simple as writing an encouraging note to someone. Community-wide, you can join schools, bookstores, libraries and many others in celebrating the day through various programs.

To join in the festivities, simply go here to to read up on the day.

And, let’s get this party started!
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The Art of Research

Saturday, August 09, 2008


The art of writing the perfect book takes time, patience and the best research. No matter how small the topic, we always have to do some form of research. But, did you know that research in itself can be an art? I know I must be eating way to many cookies. But, its true. It takes lots of time and diligence to find the perfect information for your story or article. That could mean hours of looking through books, magazines, the web and more.

The first step to the art of research is getting yourself organized. I have to admit I can be one of the most disorganized people around, although many people may tell you differently when they look around my home or even my business. (pssst, I'm a closet disorganized person)

My first suggestion is to find yourself a few spiral notebooks, they are inexpensive and work great to hold all of your research. Your best bet is to get one that is multiple subject so that you can organize by subject. For example, I have a notebook that is all about different varities of trees. From the Cypress to the Red Oak, I believe I even have a section for a Sycamore tree.

If you are going to be writing down notes on your subject, I highly recommend using a good ol' pencil, that way you can erase, fix your errors, etc.

Now time to get to the fun. Researching. With the technologies of today I start with my first and easiest access point for research the World Wide Web. There are great search engines available to us all, as many of you can attest I am sure you have been hard nosed google users for years, but did you know about the following search engines that are available to you?

  • Ask- This website looks on a narrower prospect. This company wants to get as close as possible to the subject you are researching.
  • Monster Crawler- Website actually does a piggyback technique onto other search engines such as google, yahoo, msn search. It will pull from their databases to provide you with the information you might be looking for.
  • Dogpile combines the best of all worlds. Dogpile will pull information from the different search engines. It also had toolbars, a special search engine that is placed on your desktop for quick searches and more. Each day, Dogpile has different quick searches that it can and will do for you. It's a neat site, fun to play with, but does help with comprehensive searches as well.
  • Alta Vista This search engine is great if you are searching in different languages. You can actually choose the language you wish to search in. You are also given the option to look up Audio and MP3 files. This search engine is quite multi-task friendly as well.

I don't want to overwhelm you just on search engines for the internet, I know that can be a lot in itself. But, there are also people search engines, there are geneology search engines.

Now onto the next realm of research. Our wonderful libraries. These are still the heart of the art of research. So many times, we can still find the older and more historical books that can and will be quite helpful to us all when you are searching for specific pieces of history. I actually took a look at one of my son's history book and was just shocked at how much history had been cut out of their books. The fall of Rome, it was only mentioned as a side note, hello! This was a huge part of history. There's a lot of information there. After shaking my head, I remembered one of my favorite places to go and do my research. I was glad that my old reliable was still very reliable for the information that I wanted to compile. So again, notebook in hand, the one on the subject of course, I begin to do my normal routine.

  • Card catalog- great to look by subject to see what they have available and today, if your local library doesn't have it but one in your district or nearby town does, they can have the book transferred over for your convenience. How about that for a gas saver for you. In some cases it may cost a couple of dollars, but it will save you sitting in traffic burning up a bunch of gas.
  • The reference section is a wonderful source of information, today you can still find many encyclopedia sets, up to date reference information on many subjects, from medications to even running shoes. Don't laugh I found a huge reference book at my local library on running shoes. Every type you can possibly imagine. Unfortunately, reference books can't always be shared by libraries. Check with your local librarian to see if they might transfer books specifically reference between them.
  • Periodicals are a great way to find current information, from the local news paper to the latest magazine, you can find hundreds that are kept through out your library. Many libraries archive these up to several years worth. Ask your librarian how many years their archives go back. You library will also have several different newspapers, not just the local paper, you can probably even find some that is still kept on microfilms, etc. Many libraries have now turned to having them on a special computer though.

When you actually start to take notes there are several methods to use. I always seem to go back to the old reliable, the one our teachers taught us so many years ago. The wonderful outline, just remember, you can expand the outline with a few extra notes if you want to make sure certain parts of your subject stand out. The old reliable works great to help keep your notes organized. Here is an example of one:

  1. Pineapples
    1. Grown in South America, the Hawaiian Islands, Australia
      1. Many plantations found on the island of Oahu
        1. Visitors can tour one of the biggest plantations ran by the Dole company
          1. Dole is a large manufacturer of canned fruits and vegetables.
  2. Varieties of Pineapples

As you can see, for each part of your subject you can expand, add as much or a little information as you need. The old reliable is quite handy for that.

Then again if you get in a rush like I do some times, just keep organized paragraphs, and remember you don't have to write down every little detail. Just make sure you catch the ones that are really important to your subject.

One last tip for you and then I will stop babbling. If you find yourself with a lot of notebooks and want to make sure you keep them well organized. You might want to invest in some large bins to keep them in, you can then mark them by subject matter, etc. I have a friend that actually goes one step further, she has taken a small recipe box and some 3x5 cards and has colored organized her collection of notes. Then when she begins a new story idea or article, she goes to her box, checks to see if she has taken notes on the particular subject before.

When it comes to doing the research, just be sure you capture as much information as you can that would help with your story. Learn your subject well. It will show in your story or article that you have taken the time to do the research and that you understand what you are talking about.

Happy Writing Everyone!

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Why Do We Do It?

Friday, August 08, 2008
Why do we do it? Why do we write? Why do we drive ourselves (and our loved ones) crazy with our passion?

I just returned from the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) national conference in L.A. It was awesome! Listening to Susan Patron, who was the 2007 Newberry winner, or Arthur Levine, who edited the Harry Potter books, or Adam Rex, a "new" illustrator of children's picture books, I became inspired and motivated and more than ever determined to follow my dreams.

What I wanted to post about briefly today was the overwhelming message all of these successful people broadcasted. DON'T WRITE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO BE PUBLISHED AND MAKE A LOT OF MONEY. Write from your heart. Write because you love your story or your subject.

Sure, this is easy for them to say, especially the three people I mentioned above. They have all had great success. So, I started thinking about that advice a little more and realized, "Hey, I think they are right."

If you write from your heart, you will create a great story. You will create a masterpiece. This in turn will (most likely) create great success for you and lead you to publication. It will also be a lot more fun and a lot more rewarding. If you are writing for money, then you (most likely) will create a dud.

So, why do you do it?

Happy writing!
Margo Dill
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A Recipe for Writing

Wednesday, August 06, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

I admit that I enjoy food. Developing a new recipe, testing it in my kitchen, preparing it for dinner and awaiting my husband's response provide fun, trial and error and a pleasurable dining experience at our house. Sure, some of you might tell me I need a new life, but the truth is, I inherited the "good cook" genetics from both sides of my DNA strand. And I've used my cooking talent to my writing advantage.

My first experience with food writing was about five years ago when I entered a pizza recipe contest. I'll be honest. I'd never made the pizza recipe I submitted. I saw the ad for the competition, looked at previous winners, closed my eyes and envisioned what would be a good pizza. I had plenty of past experience tossing the pizza pie; I managed a pizza place when I was in college. I made pizza often when I was growing up and when I married and had kids. Surely I could come up with a good recipe. So I wrote a recipe for the pizza I saw before my eyes and submitted it.

Six months later I received a certified letter from the sponsoring company informing me that I won the national contest!

I would not recommend this type of food writing to anyone! I consider it a lucky fluke that my creation was crowned champ.

Now, I take my time when writing about food. As with all types of writing, the first step is coming up with the story idea. Next, you knead and mold the idea into a delectable story. And the good thing with food writing: there are so many different ways to present information.

If you're interested in food writing, consider these options:
  • Recipes. Have a killer recipe for salsa? Many magazines and newspapers look for features based on a food, theme or ingredient. Along with a traditional salsa recipe, add a recipe for a fruit-based salsa or a bean-based spread. Most stories of this nature feature an introduction with three to five recipes.
  • News. Think about the salmonella outbreak from this year. First, tomatoes were the cause. Eventually, peppers took the heat. Interview experts and write a news story based on our findings. When I first heard about the salmonella outbreak in March, I contacted my editor at a regional magazine and pitched a feature based on when I had salmonella a year ago.
  • Interviews. New restaurant in town? Looking for a personal chef? Interview these people and turn their responses into a profile.
  • Travel guides. Heading somewhere on vacation? Take note of restaurants, food trends, drink specials and submit to travel magazines.
  • How-To. Readers are always looking for a more effective or efficient way to complete a project. Cooking isn't any different. Pitch a how-to article based on anything kitchen related: choosing new cookware, sharpening knives, selecting fresh produce. One of my specialties is cheesecake. No, not the boxed kind. I'm talking real cheesecake with cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar. The kind that doesn't add any weight to your hips. :) I wrote a quick how-to avoid cracking the top of the cheesecake and sold it to a cooking website. I got paid $50 for a common sense tip that I use all the time. Plus, it only took me a half hour to write it.
  • Human interest. O regional newspaper recently featured a group of volunteers who run the soup kitchen at a church in the metro area. The story showed how you can make something edible out of nothing, and how these volunteers are building a connection with the homeless who eat lunch there. It was an amazing vignette!
  • Food history. This is one of my favorites since it combines two things I like: history and food. I wrote a history of pecans and included five recipes for a magazine a few years ago.
  • Cookbook reviews. Everyone has a cookbook that they turn to often. Mine came from my godfather when I got married. He's a church pastor and it was from his church. It's weathered and stained, but I use it daily. Sometimes I add ingredients to a recipe to fit my family, but it's still a good source.

These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen and on pen and paper!

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Mistake Noted

Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Not too long ago in my zest and zeal to send out query letters, I began coming up with ideas for queries that related to life as I was living it. And how was I living, you may ask? During this rampant, query-writing fest I had a two-and-a-half year old running around and a two-month old nursing every 3 hours. Life was crazy, and maybe I can blame the query faux pas I committed on sleep deprivation and hormone fluctuations.

I came up with what I thought was the greatest idea for a story: how to breastfeed in public. My own mom didn’t give me many tips except “Just put a blanket over your shoulder,” and the lactation nurses weren’t much more helpful (they told me to just wear big shirts). I figured if I was having a hard time other moms were probably having a hard time, too, and would appreciate a how-to article that showed them the ropes.

I had my sources lined up, a body of research and I knew which magazine I was going to pitch the story to: American Baby Magazine. I looked through old issues to make sure that they hadn’t covered my exact topic but found that they did lots of articles about feeding new babies.

I wrote the query, thinking that I had the golden ticket for making it in the glossies with this pitch. With trepidation, I mailed off my query and began to wait. The odd thing was I didn’t have to wait very long.

I received back a letter a week later that said thanks but no thanks. Instead of being devastated, truthfully I was a little relieved. After all of my research on different tips and tricks for breastfeeding in public, I had exhausted my brain on the topic and it was no longer very interesting to me. I was glad was not to be required by an editor to make that story happen.

My relief aside, I did want to understand why the story was rejected. I don’t know for sure but some clarity came a few weeks later when I was telling a friend about that particular query. I told her it was about breastfeeding in public and she looked at me almost startled.

“Omigosh, Sue,” she said, “that is such a controversial topic. Ask three women about it and you’d get four opinions back. If I was an editor I wouldn’t want to touch that topic with a ten-foot pole.”

I sat there a little more than stricken by my friend’s bluntness, but I thought she was right. In all my research, in all my consideration of whether or not women would want to hear about my topic, I had not taken into account that the subject of breastfeeding in public was too taboo for that particular magazine. Now, if I had pitched it to, say an OB nurse quarterly, or a publication of the La Leche League, perhaps I would have gotten a different response. Since I chose to pitch it to a national magazine that needs to carefully take into account the sensibilities and opinions of a wide audience, I’m not surprised that this one was quickly overlooked.

Of course, I don’t know for sure why this query was rejected by that magazine; there could have been many other reasons besides the topic being controversial. Through the experience, though, I learned to take into consideration a different aspect of what a publication may look for or avoid in an article.

-Susan L. Eberling
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How To Write Flash Fiction

Monday, August 04, 2008

By Louise Dop

While the traditional short story fights to hold the attention of a fast moving world, the popularity of flash fiction is on the rise. Conforming to this restricted format can be a valuable discipline for writers and with an expanding market the potential for monetary reward is significant.

While there is no universally accepted exact word limit, generally a short story is considered to constitute flash fiction if it is less than 1,000 words; most flash fiction pieces are between 250 and 1,000 words long. Although some may disregard this form as a gimmick, there are several reasons why writers should take it seriously. Its brevity is particularly well suited to the Internet where new websites dedicated to the genre are appearing all the time. With the popularity of services that allow readers to download written material on subscription to mobile phones and hand held devices, flash fiction writers have a realistic chance of placing work. And since flash fiction has a low word count, payment rates often seem high when calculated on a per word basis. Aside from the financial benefits, writing good quality flash fiction can hone the skills of even the most accomplished writer by forcing them to consider every word.

Creating flash fiction is like concocting a rich sauce. The basic ingredients of character, action, and setting are reduced down until only the essence of the story remains. However brief, this story must have a plot with a beginning a middle and an end. Merely writing an anecdote or reflection is not sufficient. Like a short, sharp shock, good flash fiction should pack an emotional punch, leaving it with the reader long after it is finished. Despite the imposed restrictions, a cleverly written work leaves plenty of room for implication, a suggestion of a much bigger story beyond the immediate snapshot.

There are a number of basic techniques which can be applied to the process of creating successful flash fiction.

Hit the Ground Running

The basic rule of short story writing is to start with a strong opening and it certainly applies here. There is no room for preamble so your story needs to begin at the start of the action or, better still, right in the middle of it. Any back-story must be implied by the right choice of words. As he returned the warm gun to his pocket, he felt for his warrant card. This sentence immediately implies that we are dealing with a policeman who has possibly just shot somebody.

Allude to the Outside World

A neat way to get back story into your work is to root it in a world already familiar to your audience. You could use historical figures, well-known fictional characters or set your story at a famous moment in time. For example, place your lead character on H.M.S. Victory or call him Dr. Jekyll and readers will make inferences based on their own knowledge.

Focus on Your Subject

When looking for ideas, go for the small details. A murder mystery novel has room for an intricate plot with complex characters and motives. A traditional short story might concentrate on the execution of the crime or its impact on the victim’s family. For flash fiction, zoom in further still--a murderer trying to remove a bloodstain from his clothes or a relative identifying the body.

Set the Scene

Flash fiction works best when contained within a well-defined physical space. Put your characters in the supermarket isle or on top of Everest and straight away the story falls into context.

Make Them Talk

As in all fiction, characters can be defined by what they say. One approach to flash fiction is to use dialogue only. Choose your characters’ words carefully and they will tell the story for you with no need for exposition.

Do the Twist

A twist ending is by no means essential, but does work well for this type of writing. As much of the plot is inferred, it is relatively easy to mislead the reader into drawing the wrong conclusions. The surprise ending also provides the emotional impact indicative of this format. Another powerful strategy is a slightly ambiguous ending that leaves the reader thinking, but not to the extent that they feel cheated.

Rewrite Your Rewrites

The easiest way to start a very short story is to forget about word count and get it written. Only then start paring away all the superfluous words. If you are struggling to keep within word limits, have you tried some of the techniques outlined above? Finally, analyze every word carefully. Once you have deemed a word necessary, consider whether there is an even better word for the job. This editing process is fundamental and once mastered will benefit all areas of your writing.

Practice Makes Perfect

Workshops dedicated to this popular form are now appearing on the Internet. They provide opportunities to practice flash fiction in the company of other writers. Challenges are often set against the clock and critiqued by independent judges or fellow contributors.

Look to the Experts

See how the likes of John Updike, Margaret Atwood and Raymond Carver do it in Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories, published by W.W. Norton. o

Or their latest, Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories, published by W.W. Norton.

Louise Dop is a successful freelance writer and technical author. Her ebook, The Writer's Secret Weapon, brings together a collection of the best free online resources for writers and gives an insight into the writing life. With over 50 direct links to resources, this straightforward guide will show you the real-life tips and tricks that--armed with an Internet connection and basic computer literacy--you can try for yourself right away.

Last month to enter the WOW! Women On Writing Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. Deadline: August 31, 2008 (midnight, Pacific time)
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Spring 2008 Contest Update!

Sunday, August 03, 2008
Just a quick note to let Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contestants know that we finally finished critiquing your entries! Hooray! Those of you who requested a critique will receive an email sometime this week with your scores and your critique pasted into the body of the email. It will come from a WOW email address.

We also will be notifying Honorable Mentions and Top 10 winners this week. Top 10 winners will be asked for their bios and picture so we can begin formatting the contest winner's page. After the page is formatted, we will send out an announcement via email to those who signed up for our "Contest" Newsletter. If you haven't signed up for this, please visit our home page and enter your email addy in the gray box located in the upper right hand corner. If you get our regular monthly newsletter, please note that these are not the same. You can sign up for the "Contest" newsletter by following the instructions listed above. There are also other newsletters to sign up for (Workshops, Markets, Store, Events etc.) so take advantage!

Thank you all for being so patient. We're almost there!!
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Tips to Make Money from Your Blog

With the economy the way that it is, every little bit helps. You have a blog, so why not make money from it? Some bloggers tout a steady income somewhere in the six-figure range, but that's only possible if you have a huge following and a ton of traffic. You also have to be somewhat of what I like to call a "shilli vanilli"--a shill, or a used car salesman. While that might work for some people, I prefer the natural route with a little kick-start. Here are some resources to get you started.

Sponsored Blog Content Networks

These are sites that connect you with advertisers who pay you to write about their product or website. The key to this is finding a product or website you like. You write about it, post it, and get paid for the content.

Sponsored Reviews:
Review Me:

Pay Per Click Ad Networks

These ad networks work by advertisers bidding for keywords. Words that are highly sought after get higher bids and bloggers whose content matches those keywords earn more per click.

Google AdSense:
Yahoo Publisher Network:
Microsoft Ad Center:

Product Based Pay Per Click

These are the same as above but they focus on products. They match up relevant products to the content you write.

TTZ Media:

Affiliate and Associate Programs

Affiliate programs let you pick specific products you want to promote and you make money from the sales. This works when you find a product you believe in and want to recommend it.

FruitFul Time:
Commission Junction:

Those are some resources to get you started. Of course, there's always selling your own ad space by putting up an Adrates page, which is probably the best way to go if you have a lot of traffic. That way, you can tailor campaigns to fit your advertiser's needs, and you're in charge of who advertises on your website or blog. But, if you don't have a lot of traffic, you can still make money from promoting affiliate products or using pay per click ads. You have a blog, why not make money from it? Try a few things out and figure out what works best for you. There will be trial and error, as with anything, but you'll have a better idea of what your readers respond to, and you'll get paid to write what you love!
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