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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Payoff and An Announcement

A couple months ago, I sent an essay, appropriate for Veterans Day, to a Kansas City area senior newspaper. The editor wrote back immediately saying she wanted to publish it in the November issue, but...

Oh-oh, I thought, here it comes. What would follow that "but?" Her letter went on.  ...but we may have to cut the size of the November issue due to low advertising revenue, so I can't promise anything.

I was left with two choices. Leave the essay with the editor on the premise that it might be published, or move on to another market. I decided to leave it and hope for the best.

Yesterday, a check arrived in the mail from the Johnson County Treasurer. At first, it baffled me as I have no dealings with Johnson County in any way. Then it hit me--the check was for the amount that The Best of Times newspaper pays, so they must be backed by the county and run expenses etc through the Treasurer's office. Which all boils down to the happy fact that my essay  will be in the November issue, and that pleases me very much. I'm looking forward to finding the newspaper in my mailbox one day soon.

This time, it paid to leave the submission with the editor, hoping for the best. Once again, I've learned that patience is a major plus in the writing world. After the newspaper is released, I'll post the essay here for readers of the blog.

Now, for the announcement. I've decided to cut the blog to a Monday through Friday schedule. So watch this space for the next entry to be on Monday, November 2nd.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

About Endings

Have you ever read a book that was a great story until you got to the end? More than once, I've closed a book and wondered how the ending could be so flat, so trite, so 'let's hurry up and get this over with.'  The 'happily ever after' ending doesn't work for all stories either.

A writer has a big challenge in finishing a book or an essay that satisfies all readers. It's probably impossible to do so, but she can at least bring the story or essay to a reasonable conclusion. If the protagonist has surmounted numerous obstacles along life's paths, the reader wants to see her have some kind of peace and/or joy at the end. Reachng that condition, however, doesn't happen in one fell swoop. The writer needs to send small signals throughout the story that this is where we're heading. Not too much to give it away, and not so that the reader will have no reason to keep on with the story.

If the writer ends the story on a down note, lets the heroine wallow in grief or self-pity, her readers may not want to read her next book. After all, we read to be entertained, as well as informed. And we like entertainment with happy endings.

Some writers use the surprise ending. While it may or may not be satisfying, it is usually something the reader will remember. It may leave you liking it or hating it, but you will surely not forget it.

The endings that bother me the most are the ones where the writer doesn't seem to know what to do with the story, so she takes a few paragraphs to finish it up merely to get it over with. It can make a reader feel like the writer got bored with the project and is only out to end it and on to the next project. A reader left with this kind of feeling is also not likely to read that author's next book.

The opening of a story or essay is of major importance. It hooks the reader or it loses them. Endings are every bit as important. It leaves them satisfied or loses them as future readers. Many times I've written a concluding paragraph and realized that it didn't measure up to all that had come before it. So back to work on a rewrite. Don't forget that an ending is the final chance to impress your reader.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Than One Way To Be Creative

Yesterday's blog post discussed why I write. One of the reasons I neglected (or forgot!) to list is that it gives me a creative outlet. I have no musical talent whatsoever, nor can I paint a picture that doesn't look like a kindergartner did it. Writing is my creative ability. Being creative in something brings a great deal of satisfaction.

Last evening, Ken and I went to McCain Auditorium on the Kansas State University campus to see a show called "Tap Dogs."  The show was created by Australian, Dein Perry, and debuted in Sydney in 1995. It's become an International sensastion since then. Not the Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley tap dancing that I so enjoyed in my growing-up years, but this contemporary tap dancing had me responding positively from start to finish.

Six young men, all hunks as my oldest granddaughter would say, entertained the audience while wearing what looked like construction worker clothes and Australian work boots fitted with taps. Two percussionists accompanied them for someof the numbers. My ears were still ringing when we arrived home. The show was great fun. To see an excerpt on YouTube, go to

The point of all this is that these dancers are creative in a very special way. They share their great talent with others at theaters all over the world; they bring joy to others, and they have to love it or they wouldn't do it. Many of the same reasons why I write.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why I Write

Someone once asked me why I write. I certainly have not made enough money to make it a career. I am more of a Hobbyist Writer, I think. I am happy when I sell one of my efforts, but their are other reasons I continue to write.

There are times when a story doesn't come out the way I'd like and no amount of revising seems to help. It's then that I wonder why I put myself through this misery? But those thoughts are only in residence for a short while.

On a recent walk, I mentally listed the reasons I write. Many of them will apply to other writers, as well.
I write:
1. to fulfill an inner desire
2. to share my questionnable wisdom and/or experiences with others
3. to bring some joy to someone else, if even for only a few moments
4. to help others understand and work out life's difficult times
5. because I love it

Writing began , for me, with a tiny seed...the idea that, yes I can write. The seed was planted when I enrolled in a correspondence course to learn to write for children at The Institute of Children's Literature. It germinated and began to grow when my critic teacher handed out strong praise along with instructive criticism.

Despite rejections, frustrations and too many ideas crowding the writing side of my brain, I still love to write. No doubt in my mind--I always will. My writing life has blossomed at times and been filled with weeds on occasion, too. Each success I meet gives me incentive to keep on with this endeavor that fills my life with so much.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Everyday Tea With Grandma

This is the cover of one of the Chicken Soup books which includes my story "Everyday Tea." Anthologies like the Chicken Soup series and Cup of Comfort often feature stories that can be classified as a memoir. My story is about a wonderful memory of my maternal grandmother who taught me the difference between 'everyday tea' and a 'special tea,' which only occurred once in awhile. You'll find the story below:

Everyday Tea

By Nancy Julien Kopp

I learned to drink tea at a very early age. My Scots-Irish grandmother owned a small neighborhood bakery, and for the first five years of my life, my mother and I spent our week-day mornings in the working area of that establishment. I learned early on that I was to stay out of the way of those who worked at the high tables, and that the sales area of the bakery remained forbidden territory.

Many was the time that I crept to the doorway and peeked into the room where glass cases held the delectable treats my grandmother created. Cakes and pies, bread and rolls, coffeecakes and cookies lined the shelves, I watched with interest as a young Czech girl served customers. More than once, a firm hand circled my arm, pulled me none too gently away from the doorway and scolded me on the way to the long picnic table that ran across one end of the workroom. The pale green oilcloth cover served as background to thick white cups and saucers that sat ready to be filled with the strong, hot tea brewed in a plain brown teapot. “You can only make good tea in a plain brown pot,” Grandma remarked on many occasions.

Grandma served the tea, but when she came to mine she poured only half a cup. Then she added a spoonful of sugar and filled my cup to the top with milk. “English tea for you,” she’d say. Never would our tea be savored all by itself. Grandma always had a plate of something fresh from the oven. Cinnamon rolls, or sliced coffeecakes or a muffin. To this day, I like a little bit of something sweet to go with my tea. The scent of yeast and spices surrounded us as we sipped the tea. In wintertime, we enjoyed the waves of warmth from the ovens, and in summer, we put up with the combined heat of the outside temperature and those never-empty ovens while we had our everyday tea.

I lifted my cup with both hands and sipped at my “English tea” and listened to Mother and my uncle chat. I nibbled on one of the goodies Grandma passed to me, and I knew only contentment. I liked sitting at the long table during the tea break swinging my legs, waiting for the time when they would all return to work and I could plan my next peek out front.

One Saturday afternoon after the baking had been done, Grandma came to our apartment. She was dressed in a tailored suit and wore a hat that had big pink roses on it. She carried white gloves and a handbag. She wasn’t the grandma I knew, the one who wore a Mother Hubbard apron over her plain cotton dress every day. “We’re going to Marshall Fields today to have our tea.” she told me. I looked at my mother to see what she thought about this new situation. She smiled and repeated the oft-used phrase of all mothers in the early 1940’s, “Be a good girl.”

Grandma and I rode the elevated train to downtown Chicago. The conductor called out the stops, and finally, Grandma tugged at my hand. We stepped out onto a wooden platform where we were greeted by a symphony of traffic sounds. Pigeons strutted nearby, pecking at peanuts tossed on the platform. I was fascinated by the soft, grey birds and would have stayed to watch them, but Grandma whisked me through a set of double doors that led into the famed Marshall Field’s store. We walked straight into the china department. Glorious china, crystal, silver and linens were displayed on dining room tables. But there was no tea here.

My little-girl legs worked hard to keep up with Grandma as she led the way to the elevators. “Seven please,” Grandma said to the operator, and up we went. The doors opened, and we stepped into the magnificent Walnut Room. Dark paneled walls, soft carpet and potted palms surrounded us. A hostess led us to a small table draped with a snowy linen cloth. Other ladies with suits, hats and gloves sat at similar tables. I felt a tickle in my tummy for I knew now that this would not be an everyday tea. Something special waited for us in this elegant dining room.

Grandma spoke softly to a uniformed waitress, then settled into her chair and graced me with a warm smile. Her face looked softer than it did at the bakery where she spent so many hours. Even at my young age I knew my grandma worked hard.

Soon, the waitress returned to our table. She placed a small plate, fork and spoon, a china teacup and saucer in front of each of us. A linen napkin finished the setting. Ladies nearby sipped tea and nibbled at tiny sandwiches and small iced cakes. Oh if only we were to have the same. The tickle in my tummy started up again, and I wiggled on my chair in anticipation.

Sure enough, the waitress brought a lovely flowered teapot and two plates. One held dainty open-faced sandwiches, and pastel iced cakes filled the second one. I waited for Grandma to tell the waitress that good tea could only be made in a plain brown teapot, but she never said a word. Instead, she poured my half cup of tea, added sugar and milk. Then she placed a sandwich and a cake on my plate. I watched her lay the napkin on her lap, and I followed her example. Just as I was to take my first bite, piano music interrupted the sound of spoons on saucers and ladies conversing. Soon, several tall, slender women strolled through the vast Tea Room stopping momentarily at an occasional table. “It’s a Fashion Show,” Grandma whispered to me. The models wore the kind of dresses and hats we saw only in the movies. They glided and pirouetted, faces looking like they were set in stone, but a strange thing happened as they approached us. Each one that stopped at our table looked right at me and smiled. One even winked. Now the tickle in my tummy felt like butterflies chasing each other.

All too soon the Fashion Show ended, and we’d had our fill of the tea, sandwiches and cakes. We rode the train home where I related the events of the day to my mother and father.

I had tea with Grandma at the picnic table in the bakery many, many times, but she never took me to the Walnut Room again. Long after my grandma was gone, I returned to Marshall Fields for tea on my own, and sometimes I’d look across the table and see my grandma in her rose-covered hat smiling at me. She taught me the difference between everyday tea and special tea--that a little something sweet came with both kinds of tea, but sweetest of all were the memories my grandma created. I feel her near each time I pour my everyday tea from my plain brown pot.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Old Story/New Magazine

Quite a few years ago, I wrote a read-aloud story for kids in the 4-7 year old set. "The Boy Who Wanted A Tail" was based on an actual happening in our family. Our son, Kirk, when about 3 or 4 years old, told me he wanted a tail. No amount of talking convinced him it wouldn't be a good idea for a boy to have a tail. So I promised him we'd look for one at the store. We checked at many stores, and once he learned no one had a tail to buy, he gave up on the idea. The story I wrote has a little different ending but is mostly true. I sent it to several magazines and never did sell it, revised it and tried again, but still no luck.

In August, I sent it to a brand new magazine which published its first issue in September, and they liked it well enough to publish it in this November's issue. Proof that writers shouldn't give up on old stories. All that's necessary is to find the right spot for it.

This time, the right spot turned out to be a 132 page print magazine called Knowonder! It's new and has an interesting concept. Knowonder! has a children's fiction story for every day of the month, along with art work and articles for parents. Combining all that in one magazine covers a lot of bases. They do not pay the story authors, but at the end of the month, readers are asked to vote for the three top stories. The authors of those stories receive $100, $200, or $300, depending on number of votes. It costs the publisher a mere $600 to obtain 30 or 31 stories for each issue. It draws authors with the possibility of winning one of those three top story prizes. A win/win situation.

Knowonder! publishes both the print edition and an online edition. To see the magazine, go to   Toward the end of November, I just may be asking for readers to vote for "The Boy Who Wanted A Tail."  Kirk gave up wanting a tail, but maybe he'll vote for his mom's story..

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Letter Writing

We live in a great period with all kinds of technology at our fingertips, but there's one thing in the world of yesterday that I miss. The personal letter. Once the computer and e-mail came along, the personal letter began to shrink. Today, I seldom go to my curbside mailbox and find a personal letter among the bills, ads and pleas for contributions.

My mother and I exchanged letters on a weekly basis for a good many years. It began when I was in college, away from home for the first time. That once-a-week letter kept us in touch. It was a time when making long distance phone calls wasn't done on a whim as we do today. The letters continued when I was out on my own, teaching an hour away from my parents' home, and then into my married years. I looked forward to reading about the everyday things in my mom and dad's life, and my brothers while they were still living at home.

I read a book several weeks ago that was comprised of nothing but letters from one woman to various other people. Through those great and interesting letters, an entire story was told.

Years ago, people tended to save letters, and much of our history is gleaned from studying letters of a certain period. Or letters that were written by well-known people--politicians, entertainers, explorers--gave us insight into their lives, the times they lived in, and the people they loved. It's pretty doubtful that e-mails are kept stacked together, tied with a satin ribbon as some letters were.

I love e-mail because of its ease and speedy delivery, but it lacks something the personal letter has. It seems to me that many people who could never get around to writing a letter will dash off an e-mail without blinking. I've not quite figured that out. Is it because to write the letter, it's necessary to find stationery, pen, address label and stamp? Is that too much to do when reaching out to someone with a personal letter? For some, it is.

I have a second cousin who still writes personal letters to me, and I return the same to her. It pleases me greatly when I open the mailbox and see the envelope with Ruth's handwriting scrawled across it. I know I'm in for a treat in the several pages that are in the envelope.

How long has it been since you've either sent or received a personal letter? They're still kinda neat.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Writing

I've had many benefits as a writer, but one of the nicest ones is reading other writers' work and having a real appreciation of what has gone into the story or essay. Sometimes, I find a book or essay that moves me emotionally, appeals to me as terrific entertainment, or speaks to me with its lyrical prose.

It's then that I add the writer to my list of those I admire. I know that they put time and effort into the writing along with the skill they've acquired.

Not everyone who writes can bring out emotion in their readers. The ones who do go on to publish over and over, and their readers clamor for more.

Not every writer can tell an entertaining story. The ones who can keep the reader turning page after page, anticipating what comes next, are writers who continue to be published.

Not every writer can claim lyrical prose. Some who aim for it end up overdoing it, and their prose ends up being sickeningly sweet or too flowery. They decide that if one adjetive is good, three makes it better. The insightful writer realizes that one good adjetive is best, and they have the ability to make the words sing.

When I read a book that is filled with that 'good' writing, I feel very satisfied and slightly in awe of the person behnd the story. The next time you read a really good book, step back and analyze why it appealed so much. What was it about the writing that pleased you?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Join An Online Critique Group?

The article below has been published and answers the question in today's title. If you've ever thought about joining an online critique group, perhaps it will answer the question for you, too.

Why Join An Online Critique Group?

by Nancy Julien Kopp

The masterpiece is finished. You've written it, revised it, and revised it once more. The piece is ready to market. You're elated, until doubt floats by, but you ignore it while you scour the market guide. It isn't long before doubt creeps into the back of your mind and settles in. Maybe my work isn't as good as I think it is. Maybe no one else will note the beauty, the joy, the passion of these words like I do.

It's time for an opinion from your peers. It's time to join a critique group, time to expose your manuscript to other writers. No matter where a writer lives, all have the opportunity to join an online critique group. How do they operate? What will the writer receive, and what will the writer be required to give in return?

I joined an online writers critique group several years ago and have no regrets. I have turned some so-so stories and essays into marketable pieces. I’ve now been in two groups, and being a member has become a major part of my writing life. I consider the group members a family. But like all families, they don't hesitate to tell me when I have done a good job, nor do they hold back with criticism. In fact, they can be quite harsh in judging a submission. My groups have no “atta girl” philosophy. Praise is given when earned, but honest and fair criticism is also rendered.

The group I’m in requires a minimum of two submissions per month. For each submission, the writer is required to complete two critiques for other members. One of these must be a line by line (LBL) critique. Not all online critique groups operate the same way or with the same honest opinions as mine does. Members have related tales of critique groups that do nothing but praise, never giving constructive criticism. Their aim is to pump up the writer and stroke the ego. All well and good, but it won't sell a manuscript that needs work. If you join with the right attitude, the criticism will help far more than hurt.

To submit your precious words for praise and/or criticism puts you at high risk. The first time your work is harshly judged, negative emotions come raining down. Frustration, fear, and fury dart back and forth, attacking your head, your stomach, and your heart. Depression becomes the companion of the day, and your old friend, doubt, takes up residence once again.

All is not lost, however. Once you swim through all the above, you stand ready to accept suggestions to make the piece marketable. Those who critique offer a clear vision of what the manuscript needs. It may be a marvelous story but filled with unnecessary words that serve to detract. You might be vying for the award for the longest sentences in a manuscript or have too many awkward and choppy sentences. The critique may question areas that are clear to the writer but not the reader. Critique group members become masterful in pointing out passive verbs, places that tell rather than show, and unnecessary adverbs-easier to find in the writing of others than in your own. When we read our own writing, it’s that old “can’t see the forest for the trees” but red flags pop up easily when reading the work of another author.

I developed the habit of reading the critiques of other members. To do so was akin to taking a course in writing and critiquing. I put my observations to use in my own writing and have become a better writer. Writing exercises, grammar guides, and market information the group offers also enhance my writing ability.

My group has a closed membership with a waiting list. Members come and go, but there seems to be a core group of serious writers who continue to commit the necessary time required. And rest assured that belonging to a group like does take time. Those who do not participate fully are asked to leave. A group like this is not for the sometime writer.

There are many online critique groups, some of which are for one genre only and others that cover several areas of writing. Watch writer’s newsletters for announcements about critique groups. Put childrens’ writers online critique groups in a search engine and check the links it leads to. Try different combinations of keywords, such as online critique groups or writers’ critique groups. Check more than one search engine. The following links will give you lists of critique groups:  and . You’ll need to take a careful look at the many groups listed, a sifting and sorting procedure worth your time. Do ask questions and learn the rules and regulations of a group before you agree to join. Make sure the requirements are within your ability to fulfill.

Some critique groups accept anyone who requests membership, while others require a writing sample and choose to either accept the writer or not. Even if you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to apply if you must provide a writing sample. If your writing shows promise, they’ll most likely say yes. If you don’t get invited to join, try one of the other types of group first. No two groups are alike. Give any group you join a good two months before you decide to stay or leave. And if one doesn’t work out, try another. Find the one that is right for you.

The group I belong to tried something new several months ago. A full three-fourths of our members met in a regional park outside Washington DC for a four day retreat. Eighteen women, who had only known one another in the cyber-world, met face to face for the first time. Several members presented workshops covering various aspects of writing, and a computer expert was on hand to answer questions and give guidance. Members waded into the writing waters and created even stronger bonds within the group. Participants who attended hailed from the USA, Canada, Ireland, Shanghai and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The meeting proved to be such a success that Conference #2 is now in the planning stages.

Before joining, decide what you want from a critique group. A pat on the back is nice, but honest criticism will aid your growth as a writer and push Mr. Doubt right out of your mind.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kid Lit

When I first started writing, I thought I wanted to write for children. It seemed the natural progression for someone who had a teaching background. I taught children in the 8-10 year age group, so I aimed for the middle grade area. Stories and books for 8-12 year olds could tell a real story, not the I see a dog. I see a cat. kind of primary stories that someone has to write.

I enrolled in a correspondence course that promised to teach me to write for children, and it did exactly that. I benefited from the one on one correspondence between me and my instructor. She encouraged me to submit my work to children's magazines, and so began my writing career.

I enjoyed writing those children's stories, but as time went on, I ventured into other types of writing. Nevertheless, I still like to write a children's story now and then. They're not easy to do. You must say a whole lot in very few words.

That means tight writing. No unnecessary words. Every single one must count. Like adult fiction, children's stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end. The protagonist has a problem and must solve it on his or her own. No adults giving them the way out. And they need to do it in a matter of a few hundred words.

Highlights For Children is one of the best-known magazines for kids. They cover a wide age range and offer stories for the primary child and the ones in the intermediate grades. But their top word count for the older kids is only 800 words. A children's writer learns to whittle away at a story until it reaches the maximum word count without losing the story line along the way.

Stories for kids often teach a lesson, but it needs to be subtle. Kids don't like to be preached to. Can't blame them, we don't like it either.

One of the most difficult things a writer for kids must do is to keep up with what kids like today. They aren't going to want to read the kind of stories we had in our childhood. I doubt if The BobbseyTwins wouldn make it in today's world. Even popular stories like Nancy Drew mysteries can survive only if updated so that today's kids can relate.

There are many facets to writing kid lit, and I've only listed a few in this posting. Anyone seriously considering writing for children needs to research that genre thoroughly. Contrary to what some think, writing for kids is a tough job.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Major Drawback In Writing Personal Essays

Writing nonfiction, in particular the personal essay, has one major drawback. The writer can't make it up as she does when writing fiction. In a novel, the characters can say and do totally outlandish things. The writer literally 'creates' the dialogue and events that occur. Not so in the personal essay. Even though it can be termed 'creative nonfiction,' the writer must adhere to the truth. She has to stay with the facts, what actually happened.

The personal essay is normally written in first person because the writer is relating something that happned to her. I recently read a personal essay done in third person, and for me, it lost something, but that is my opinion. When the writer uses the 'I' form, she's stating that what happened is the truth, that it actually did happen to her.Most readers accept that fact when they read a personal essay, so they don't question what they're being told.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Just tell the story as it occurred. But writers are creative people, and they might want to ehance or embellish the facts a bit to make the story more interesting. To do so is not acceptabe. It comes down to telling an untruth, even though the writer didn't mean to lie at all. Their aim was to make the story more interesting.

If the story needs expanding beyond the actual true happenings, it's time to step back and take a good look at the subject. Ask yourself if what you're writing about is strong enough to be a personal essay. Does the event and your opinion deserve publication?

Keep to the facts, and you'll never have to defend yourself later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Playing Grandma Today

A bit of my personal world:

Ken and I are babysitting today. Not with babies but with our 3 and 6 year old grandchildren who live 2 1/2 hours away from us. No school for Jordan today, and Mom and Dad had to go to work. Mom, in fact, had to drive to Omaha for a two day meeting, so it was Grandma and Poppy to the rescue.

I've found that when you spend time with your grandchildren without their parents around, you get to know the children better than if everyone is around and adults conversing at high speed. That happened yesterday when we were here for Jordan's family birthday party. There were 7 adults along with the two children. Well, guess who got to talk more? Being along with the kids brings forth some great conversation. It's rather interesting what children are willing and able to discuss if you take time to listen.

Today, we'll take Jordan and Cole out for lunch, to McDonald's of course, and then to do some shopping. We'll finish the afternoon at the doctor's office as Jordan has a 6 year check-up and flu shots for both kids. Mom planned to take them until the business trip came up, and Dad has meetings this afternoon. We might even sneak in a trip to the playground sometime today.

As a result of a fun day with these two youngest grandchildren, there will be no writing done, I fear. But that's OK, as opportunities to spend time with two special little people don't come all that often. Grab the gold when you can!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Writing's A Lot Like Football

I decided last night that writing is a lot like football. Sound strange? Maybe not.

A week ago, our favorite team, the Kansas State Wildcats, played a road game in Lubbuck, Texas. The Texas Tech Raiders whipped K-State 66-14. Nothing went right for the wildcats that night. We, at home, watched the TV in disbelief.

Last night, K-State had a home game against Texas A&M, a team that was #4 in Offense in the nation. K-State scored immediately and kept right on going. They ended up winning by a score of 62-14. Pretty close to the score they lost by the week before. Euphoria for the team, the coaches and the fans.

So, how is writing like that? Think about the writer who submits a novel, or even a short piece like an essay or article, time and time again. Rejection after rejection pulls them down emotionally, and they wonder if it's worth sending it out again. Doubt creeps in, anger builds, and , at times, resentment regarding others who made it festers like a wound.

But if the writer overcomes those negative feelings and keeps on looking for an agent or publisher who sees the value of their work, they just might meet success. But they'll never know unless they make the effort. When they finally do sell that novel, or essay, euphoria moves in.

Not a whole lot different than our football team. But like the team, there's another game to be played next week, or another novel to be written. Key word here is perseverance.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I feel like I'm working on a Master's Degree in Procrastination lately. I've always been a Get-It-Done-Now kind of person, so this is out of character for me, and it doesn't feel good. I don't like it one bit, but I don't seem to be doing a whole lot to change it either. Maybe putting things off becomes easier the longer you do it.

My mother taught me when I was still a child to get your work done, and then the time left is your own. Being the oldest of four children, and only girl, I started helping with housework and cooking at a very young age. I learned very quickly that the sooner I got my chores done, the faster I could get outside with my friends or have time to read a book. It became a habit.

If I had homework, I did it as soon as I got home. All done. No worries. If someone asked me to do them a favor, I did it right away. If there was a letter to be written, I did it sooner rather than later. As a result, I became known as a very organized person, have even been teased about it by friends.

I've got stories galore swimming in my mind, but for some reason, I can't seem to sit down and write them. Some are for deadlines on anthology books. If I wait too long to write the story, it will be rushed, little time to revise before sending it in. And what will be the result? It more than likely will never see publication. And whose fault is it? Yep, just me.

Maybe I've reached a point in life that I choose to do the things I want to do and it leaves less time for the things that should be done. Not that I don't want to write the stories. I do. But maybe I want to do too many other satisfying things, as well. Even so, there are household chores that are necessities, and I can still hear my mother's instruction loud and clear, so I keep up with the important things.

The next step is to figure out a better balance in my life so that I can get the important things accomplished and still have time for the ones I enjoy doing. Like wriitng a new story. There's one swirling in my brain right now, so I think it's time to let it happen.

I wouldn't wish being a procrastinator on anyone, especially if there is a little guilt involved with it. Ah, maybe that's the secret--become a procrastinator who has no guilt.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Surprise Award

When I read Lisa Gurney's "My Life As A Daughter blog "( )  this morning, I was pleased to see she had been given the Honest Scrap Award by another blogger. Upon receiving this award, which is given to bloggers who write from the heart, the recipitent is to pass it on to seven other worthy blogs and include a list of ten honest things about yourself.

Lisa earned the award with her heartfelt, informative, and heart-touching blog about her journey as caregiver to her 82 year old mother who is a victim of that cruel disease, Alzheimers. Her writing definitely comes from her heart, and I feel certain it has been a tremendous help to other caregivers. Dashes of humor balance the heaviness of the subject matter.

I've known Lisa for several years and have watched her grow as a writer, but I learned some things about her that I didn't know from her list of ten honest things.

Lisa listed four blogs that she wanted to pass the award to, and I read her short list with interest, then total amazement as I saw my own blog as one of them.
What a surprise and pleasure to see that Lisa had chosen Writer Granny's World. She said, "Nancy's blog is "A lot about my writer's world and a little about my personal world." Her writing, no matter which subject, is straight from her heart. It is something you feel as soon as you read her writing."

Thank you, Lisa, for making this day so special. And now, here are the blogs I'd like to pass the award to, followed by my list about me.

1. Barbara Warman Barbara is a writer, was a caregiver to her elderly mother, and deals with her own multiple sclerosis. Her blog entries are spread out, not done on a regular basis, but each one is filled with honest reflection, a caring heart, and worthwhile information for others.

2.  Jennie Helderman Jennie is a new blogger, very new, but I have known her a long time as a writer. In only a few entries, she's captured my attention, and I know that her writing always comes from the heart.

3.  C. Hope Clark I've never met Hope, but I read her blog regularly and subscribe to her marketing newsletters. I do so because of the great information for writers she gives on a regular basis with the newsletters, but there are also many extras in her blog, along with enough information about her personal life that I feel she's a friend without our ever having met.

And now, for my List of Ten Honest Things About Me:

1.  I'm a very social person; love to be around people.

2.  I'm a creature of habit. Too much so, at times.

3.  I have no musical skills whatsoever. The only thing I play is the radio or CDs.

4.  I have to push myself to exercise.

5.  I'm too critical of others at times but try not to voice it.

6.  I really hate to mend, shorten pants or sew on buttons.

7.  I wish I had done many things differently in raising my children, even though they both turned out to be great adults.

8.  Writing has given me a satisfaction that no other activity in life has done. I wish I hadn't waited so long to pursue the writing life.

9.  I cry in movies and books.

10.  I crave chocolate every single day of the year

Thanks again, Lisa!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday

A little bit of my personal world for this posting.

Today is our youngest granddaughter's sixth birthday. The picture above is one taken at her daycare facility last winter. Every year, a photographer brings dress-up clothes for the kids to put on and have pictures taken. Somethng diffeent every year. The pictures turn out great as the kids are thrilled to wear the various outfits.

Six years ago today, Jordan looked a little different than she does here. Her mommy called us in the wee hours of the morning, and I do mean 'wee'. Seems to me it was around 3 a.m.. She wanted to let us know she and Steve were on the way to the hospital for the birth of their first child. Knowing the event wasn't going to be happening in moments, I didn;t get back to sleep but waited until around 6:30, then got ready and headed to Kansas City. Ken had a meeting that morning he needed to attend, so he would come in as soon as he finished.

When I reached the hospital, I went to Karen's room to let her know I was there, then went out to the waiting room. The other grandmother joined me in a matter of minutes, and we spent our time talking about anything and everything, our minds on what was happening down the hall. Steve kept us informed as he headed to the snack room for dads to grab another rice krispie bar. His sugar count must have skyrocketed that day!  The longer it went on, the more coffee I drank, the more nervous I became. And where was Ken? Why wasn't he walking off the elevator?

Shortly before  noon, two of Karen's close friends showed up. Christie and Barb sat with us until they had to leave to go back to work. Ken still wasn't there, and since he refused to carry a cellphone, I couldn't check on him.

About 12:30, Steve strolled casually into the waiting room, looked at the two grandmas sitting on the sofa, and said, "Do you want to see a picture of her, or the real thing?" With squeals of excitement, we both jumped up and down the hall we went at a fast pace. Neither grandfather there to greet this new life. Ken, who knows where? And Tony away on a business trip.

A hug and a kiss for Karen first. The poor girl looked totally exhausted after many hours of labor. And then, I met Jordan Elizabeth. She stole my heart at first glance, and she's had a piece of it ever since.

Ken showed up half an hour later to meet this beautiful little girl. That night I asked him what took him so long to get there, he said he wanted to make sure it was all over by the time he arrived. Coward! Turns out he didn't like the thought of seeing his own little girl going through labor and delivery. Not that he would have been in the room, but just being too close was not for him. He certainly did enjoy holding Jordan once she was passed around to both grandmas. And Grandpa Tony arrived that evening for his turn to meet and hold this precious gift.

And now, we will all join Jordan and her parents and little brother on Sunday to celebrate these six years she's been part of both families. She'll have cake and balloons, cards and gifts and a lot of love from all of us.

Happy Birthday Jordan!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Interesting Read

Yesterday my Book Club met to discuss Isabella Bird's A Lady's Life In The Rocky Mountains. When I first began reading this month's selection, I didn't care for it. It seemed to be all observation, no action. Novels are more to my liking. But as I plodded through the first couple chapters, I began to have a tremendous admiration for Ms. Bird and I enjoyed reading the remainder of this nonfiction book.

Isabella Bird was the daughter of a clergyman in England. Doctors recommended travel to other parts of the world to aid in ill health, and travel she did. She became a world traveler, and in the 1870's she set out to see the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. She didn't join a tour group as we might today. Au contraire! She rode horseback, wearing what she termed a "Hawaiian riding dress" which she'd purchased when in what was then called the Sandwich Islands. I was never able to determine exactly what the riding costume looked like, and I had a hard time getting the image of a mumu out of my mind. She talked to people who lived in the mountains and got general directions and thoughts from them, then set out on her own in late summer, staying through December, surviving snowstorms and bitter cold.

Hotels were far and few between, mostly in cities like Denver and Colorado Springs, so she knocked on doors of settlers' cabins and spent her nights with total strangers, most of whom were welcoming and willing to share what little they had.

Her fondest desire was to see Estes Park, and she managed to accomplish that under difficult conditions and with the help of a man known as Mountain Jim. She endured things that few women would ever have managed, kept her optimistic outlook, and survived myriad snowstorms. Exhausted by evening, she still spent time writing letters to her sister in Scotland, which eventually turned into this book.

By the end of the book, I had a tremendous admiration for this woman for what she'd accomplished in times when women were more coddled and kept discouraged from striking out anywhere on their own. And I also knew that I would have never made a very good pioneer nor adventurer.

The book has survived these many years, having a number of different editions, partly for what the woman accomplished and partly because of the lyrical prose she used to relate her experience. Beautifully written, it pulls the reader in slowly but powerfully.

The Book Club is a small group, only seven of us, but we had a lively discussion and we agreed we'd all  gained a great deal of insight into what life in the Rocky Mountains was like for those early settlers, as well as being awed by what Ms. Bird had accomplished.

We all like to read the current bestsellers, but I urge you to take a different path now and then by picking up a book written long ago. One of our book club memebers found it at a garage sale, read it and recommended it for one of our monthly selections. Thanks, Ginger!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Book For Writers

I always urge writers, especially those new to the craft, to start a persoanl library of books about writing. When I started writing, I wanted to learn all I could about this craft that was so fascinating to me. I scoured the library non-fiction shelves and read many. Then I started purchasing books so that I could refer to them over and over.

One of the books I bought several years ago offers a great deal of information in a rather unique way. Scott Edelstein wrote 1,818 Ways To Write Better & Get Published. The title definitely makes a browser stop and look. I did, and I ended up buying the book. The author has used a unique approach in creating lists--list after list of information to help writers improve their writing and get published. The Table of Contents allows the reader to quickly determine which list is going to be most helpful to them for a particular reason. I read the entire book and then have gone back and read certain areas again. And sometimes again!

The book is broken into sections as listed below:
1.The Writer's Attitude
2. The Writer's Craft
3. Writing Successful Fiction
4. Writing Successful Nonfiction
5.  Publishing Opportunities
6. Finding Information and Support
7. Doing Business With Editors
8. Selling Yourself and Your Services
9. Dealing With Agents
10. Keeping Track of Business
11. Legal Matters
Under each section, there are several subtopics.

The author is a freelance writer and editor. The back cover recommends that the book be used " improve your writing. Refer to it for business advice. Keep it as a quick, handy all-purpose reference guide."

The publication date is 1991, so there may be some things that have changed since then, but there is still a lot of good information for both the new and seasoned writer.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Writer I Admire

Jennie Helderman lives in Atlanta, Georgia but hails from Alabama. She and I are both members of writersandcritters(also known as wac), an online writers' critque group. The group is for women only and claims members from around the globe. I have known her for several years through our group, but a year ago I had the great pleasure of rooming with her at our wac conference just outside Washington, DC.

I'd admired Jennie before but left with a greater appreciation for this tiny dynamo who is a lot of fun to spend time with. Our third roomie was another southerner, whom I'd met in person previously. I felt so at home with both these gracious women, and our early morning coffee chats were highlights of the time spent delving deep into the crevices of writing and writers.

Jennie has written fiction and nonfiction, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for one of her short stories, and has completed a nonfiction book that details a seventeen year abusive marriage. She wrote a short piece in a writing class that interested the teacher so much that he suggested she expand it. One thing led to another, and she began interviewing the two main characters in her book. Ginger and Mike, their real names, told her their story over many a cup of coffee in small diners, separately.

With great skill and insight, Jennie pieced the story together like a warm winter quilt. She submitted it, chapter by chapter, to our critique group. There, the members told Jennie the things they liked and the ones they didn't. She wrote and rewrote, subbed the chapters again and again until she was satisfied. Jennie began looking for an agent/publisher when the book felt complete enough to show it to professional eyes.

Our wac conference gave her a golden opportunity since an agent would be one of our guest speakers. Jennie would give her pitch to the agent in front of all of us. Picture yourself sitting in front of an agent trying to convince her in a matter of minutes that your book is worthy of publication. And doing it in front of 20+ women who are hanging on every word you speak.

For the few days prior to the big event, I watched Jennie prepare for what might be the most important speech she'd ever give. She worked on it in every spare moment, continued committing it to memory. Finally, the big day arrived, and we had our morning coffee and chit-chat before the meetings began. On the outside, she appeared calm and confident, but I could imagine how her stomach must be churning with butterflies dancing their way around it.

After the agent spoke to the entire group, Jennie went to the front, sat on a chair and looked at the agent and began to speak. Her voice was strong, and she never faltered in her presentation. It was letter perfect, and when she finished, a collective sigh could be felt amongst her wac sisters. I'd like to tell you that the agent scooped up the book immediately, but she didn't.

That didn't stop our Jennie, as she continued to look for an agent or publisher, created a platform and a website, and as of today, a blog. She is a realist and she knows that the chances of her book being published are not huge, but she is also one of the most persistant people I know, and she'll keep trying until she's satisfied that she's left no stone unturned.

I have read the book and found it an amazing read. A story that sounds made up is true, a life that was controlled and abused emerged as a independent woman who helps other abused women. The story is riveting, and the writing excellent. Someone is going to agree with that and publish the book. I'll be first in line for an autographed copy.

We can all take a lesson from Jennie. Don't give up if you have a project you believe in. She continues to work on other projects, but Ginger's story is never folded up and put away, it's always in her marketing plan.
Read more about Jennie and her writing at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Share Your Gift

The sermon at church today centered around greed and not sharing your worldly possessions with the less fortunate. It got me to thinking about another way we can share, one that is personal, not monetary.

Each of us has been given certain gifts, things we are good at or perhaps excell in. Singers, dancers, award winning bakers, the ability to make people feel at ease,--these are only a few. Writers, too, have a gift, and it's one I think we should share in every way we can.

Having our work published is only one way. Yes, it's wonderful to be published in a major magazine or newspaper where thousands read the words we've written. But there are other ways to share the gift of writing.

Writers can help those  who want to develop writing skills. There are any number of community programs that offer classes in various things, and writing is usally one of them. Use your talent as a writer to teach others. Go to a senior center or independent living center and guide seniors in writing memoirs or a series of family stories. And you don't have to wait to be asked. Volunteer!

When organizations you belong to need a program, who do they often turn to? Yep, you the writer. You may get a little tired of always being asked, but it's also a way to share your gift. Offer to help with newsletters of groups you belong to, as well.

Yes, it takes time to share with others. Maybe it takes away precious writing time, but you can balance the two with some thought and organization. Use your talent, don't hide it under a bushel basket. Share your gift with others. I have a feeling you'll end up receiving more than you give.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Other Side of Being A Critter

A couple days ago, my posting was about the way a writer responds to being critiqued. The critiques are meant to help a writer grow, but some take them as a slap in the face and storm away, thus learning nothng.

The other side of the critiquing coin is on giving critiques. It's not something to be done carelessly. A good critique involves a lot of thought. To critique properly, you need to read the submission through several times. Then give it a little time to float around in your mind, read it again and then proceed.

It's always good to start with the positives, for we all like to know we've done something well, don't we? And it's a rare submission that doesn't have at least a few things that make it praiseworthy. Next, give an overall statement about ways that the piece might be made better, stronger, or more interesting. Give examples of what you're suggesting to help the writer get started. It's beneficial to add that these are your opinions and that the writer should take what she can use and discard the rest. For after all, a critique is definitely one person's opinion. It's not all right or all wrong.

Most critiques in my online group include a LBL, which is a Line By Line, critique within the text. The critter puts her comments in CAPS within parentheses--not to be shouting but to make her comments easier to find. She'll mark words that can be deleted, places where something added would help, or perhaps a better way to state something.

When you critque something for another writer, be fair, be honest, but also be encouraging whenever possible. Your job is to help, not tear somebody down. You might consider yourself a doctor of words.

Happy critting!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life Gets In The Way

There comes a time in every writer's world when Life gets in the way. Housework can wait just so long, and then it's time to move the dirt from the east to the west half of your house. Meetings have set times, so you don't get the story in your head written on the day of two Board meetings. If you're someone who enjoys people, social events draw you away from the computer on a regular basis. Appointments with your doctor, dentist, accountant and hairdresser demand your presence, too. Family gatherings pull you like a strong magnet.

You wonder sometimes what it would be like to have all day to write, a day with no interruptions like the phone and doorbell, e-mails waiting to be answered. Pure bliss to have peace and quiet and an enitre day to write to your heart's content. But Life gets in the way on a regular basis unless you become a total recluse. So what can you do about it?

You need to figure out a way to balance your writing world and your life activities. And that's not an easy task. Some things can be pushed aside. If you don't vacuum and dust on Tuesday, it will still be there waiting on Thursday, so go ahead and write that article on Tuesday. The parts of your life that involve other people need your attention at the proper time, and there's no getting around that. We have to show up at the doctor's office at the time allotted to us. Little choice there. But maybe you can set aside a half an hour later in the day to work on the article.

The key here is to make time for your writing. We make time for the things we want to do and create excuses for those we would like to ignore. If writing is something you truly want to include in your everyday life, make the time for it. Get up half an hour earlier or stay up half an hour later. Think about the time in the day that you fritter away and make that your writing time. But do make some time for writing every day.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Manhattan Mystery Conclave

Our town of 50,000 hosts a writers conference every fall. The Manhattan Mystery Conclave started several years ago when one woman became the spark to found a mystery writers conference in our town. Marolyn Caldwell, herself a mystery writer, wanted to gather both writers and readers of mysteries in a three day conference.

She begged writers in the community to form a committee and begin planning. With grave doubts, a handful of us got started. To the writers, we added a computer expert and a food chairman, and a financial expert. With more the a full year's planning, meeting on a weekly basis, we pulled off a great conference, including a writing contest. We closed the conference that year to pleas to repeat the meeting the next year.

The second year was easier as we knew what we were doing, not swimming in deep water like the first time. The committee that plans the conference has changed a great deal, but the results have been good each year.

Despite the fact that attendees have to fly to Kansas City and then rent a car to drive two hours to Manhattan, the conference still draws people from around the country. The fact that well-known mystery writers are the featured speakers is reason number one. Reason number two is that the conference is run well and writers have benefited from the sessions.

This year's Manhattan Mystery Conclave which is termed A Celebration of Small Town Mysteries, is scheduled for October 30 to November 1. If you're interested, go to for all the details.And remember that this conference is for readers as well as writers. It's a great opportunity to meet well-known mystery writers like Nancy Pickard and Earlene Fowler, both award winning authors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Are You A Critter?

I'm a proponent of critique groups, but I put a condition on that statement. I am in favor of critique groups if they give writers fair and honest opinions and offer suggestions to make a piece of writing better.

Sadly, many people become members of critique groups that say wonderful things about everybody's writing. Sure, it makes the writer feel good, but it doesn't help them grow as a writer. They go blithely on, making the same kind of mistakes because no one has told them differently. At the same time, they can't understand why none of their submissions are accepted by the many editors they've sent to.

If the other writers who critqued them had pointed out the weaknesses, the writer could have corrected those areas, ending up with a stronger, better piece of writing.

But back to those 'critter' groups that do give helpful critiques. If you join a crit group that gives honest opinions, you open yourself to possible hurt feelings. But that doesn't have to happen. Let's look at a writer named Joy Morningsong.

Joy is new to the writing world, and she joins a critque group wanting to learn and become a better writer. She dashes off a short story for her first submission. She's happy with the story, thinks it is cute and has a surprise ending. They'll love it, she tells herself. She e-mails her submission to the group site and sits back to wait for the praise she's sure will be coming her way.

When the critiques come, they are not at all favorable. Oh yes, they tell her that it's basically a cute story and they liked the surprise in the end, but the problems they encountered in the story become a long list. And when one critter after another repeats the same problems, Joy Morningsong is not a happy camper. She becomes irritated at first, then very hurt. "Who needs them?" she says as she storms out of the house to walk off her anger. When she gets home, she fires off a resignation to the group moderator. She's going to find a group that likes her work, not stay with these cruel people.

If Joy had stepped back and worked on attitude, she'd have profited greatly from the criticisms of her story. Attitude is the key word here. To have success in being in a critique group, a writer has to learn to take every criticism as a part of the learning process. Each time she sees what is wrong and makes an attempt to correct it, it's growth. It's not fun to be shown what you've done wrong, but a writer will never grow unless she accepts the criticism as a tool meant to help, not hurt.

I've been in two online critique groups, and I've had lots of sharp criticism through the years. I'm very grateful that these good critters have given me the kind of advice I needed to become a published writer. Seeing your work through other peoples' eyes can be most enlightening. So, I would urge writers to join a critique group, but only if you're willing to be told what's wrong with your work and how you can make it better.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writing and Funerals

This morning I'm going to a funeral for a woman I've known for many years. We weren't close friends, but we spent time together across a bridge table, at gatherings for the Czech students we both hosted, and at Board meetings of a community group. I admired her commitment to all the organizations she belonged to, the exchange students she hosted, and her willingness to travel on her own after her husband died. She passed away less than a month after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

Attending funerals can be a sad way to spend a day, but sometimes it becomes more uplifting than depressing. I attended one such funeral several years ago, and when I came home, I had to write about it--my way of dealing with many things. The short essay was published at an ezine called 2TheHeart. The essay "To Celebrate A Life" is below. I'm hoping today's funeral will also be a celebration of life.

"To Celebrate A Life"

My heart was heavy as I entered the church for a funeral this morning, quietly greeted friends in the foyer, then moved on with my companion to an empty seat. The dim interior of the large sanctuary was a sharp contrast to the glorious sunshine and clear blue sky outside. Birds trilled in trees fragrant with the blossoms of spring. Saturday morning traffic moved rapidly down the street toward the mall, drivers unaware of the mourners inside the big church on the corner.

The casket rested in front of the altar surrounded by baskets and sprays of flowers. Jake's large family filed into the section reserved for them as the organist played. I watched as a large, bearded man moved to sit near the organist, an unusual instrument in his hand. He settled into the seat and turned to the pulpit, as did the rest of us when the minister began to speak.

"I'm here to honor the requests of this fine man who fought hard in his battle with cancer. We had many visits these past months, and he asked me to do three things in this service. First, he asked that the service not be sad. Make it a celebration of life, he said. Second, he told me to keep it short. And I shall do so."

The pastor recited many warm and humorous anecdotes that illustrated the exemplary life of the deceased. He captured the wisdom and kindness of the man, while family and friends listened intently. Hymns were sung, scripture read, and prayers said. It was truly a celebration. Throughout the service, the sadness I was feeling lessened more and more, and I found myself smiling rather than crying.

Finally, the clergyman leaned forward as he said, "And now, for that third request. Jake asked if bagpipes could be played in church."

All eyes watched as the bearded man in front stood, lifted his bagpipes and played "Amazing Grace" with sweetness and skill and a depth of feeling that reverberated throughout the sanctuary. The great organ accompanied him but only as a background. Red cords and ribbons fluttered from the pipes as the music filled our hearts and souls. A memorable farewell tribute to a man, who was well known in our community and deeply loved by his family and many friends.

My feet carried me swiftly to the doors of the church. My heavy heart had lightened considerably inside the church. I was eager to reach the fresh spring morning air, in a hurry to see the azure sky and hear the birds again. We had done more than mourn a man's passing this morning. We had celebrated his living, and, suddenly, I could not wait to see God's beautiful world once again - evidence that life does, indeed, go on.

Nancy Julien Kopp © April 2001

Monday, October 5, 2009

Call For Submissions

Many of the stories in anthologies like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books are written by first time writers, or writers who have been writing for a long time but have never had the joy of being published. How do they do it? Finally get published in a themed anthology?

They write a story that does several things. First and foremost is the story itself--the kind of story that keeps the interest of the reader, is entertaining in some way, brings a tear to the eye, or a offers a good laugh. If you remember an incident from childhood that might fit the theme and then write about it and a dozen other things in your childhood, it isn't going to work. Concentrate on that one happening and include a beginning, a middle, and an ending. You may have read the blog entry regarding Nancy Kress's book Beginnings, Middles, and Ends.(Seen Entry on Wed, September 2nd) If someone has written an entire book about it, you can believe it's important.

So, you've written the story, let it lie all by itself a few days, then gone back and revised it. You may revise it another time, but finally, you're satisfied with it. What next? Read the Guidelines for Submission and then read them again and again. Make a checklist and see if your story fits all the requirements. If you don't follow the guidelines, you might as well throw your story in the circular file. If you don't, the editors most likely will. They don't have time to sort out stories that have not followed explicit guidelines.

Do you remember when you were in grade school, and the report card had a place for the teacher to mark a yes or no on various items? One of them was usually Is Able To Follow Directions. It's a skill we begin learning in kindergarten, but some adults have never mastered it. It will always be to your benefit to follow directions.

A relatively new player in the anthology field is HCI Ultimate series. They look much like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, have the same type of format as far as each book being a particular theme. But they have added photos and a section from experts in the field of whatever topic is featured. I have two stories in the HCI Ultimate Teacher book, and last week, I sent in four submissions for the latest book which deals with Christian Living. They want stories that show how your faith has impacted your life or others. If you're interested, go to to check the pending deadline and description of this book. You'll note that the deadline has been extended on this one. The book began as one on Christian Pastors, but perhaps they did not receive enough good stories, so they changed horses and opened it to a wider audience. You'll note links on the left side of the page and also at the top. Look for the Format and Guidelines areas and read them carefully. I can't stress that enough.

To submit to the Ultimate books, you'll need to create an account, which is nothing more than a user name and password to access the submission form. Free and easy. Write your story and send it in. Soon!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Week-end Wrap-up

Not much in my Writer World this week-end, but it was a great one, nevertheless.

We'd been watching the weather forecast for Kansas City all week, in hopes of figuring out what kind of clothes we'd need. 62 and sunshine, little wind is what we read over and over. We had sunshine in Manhattan when we left, but the closer we got to Kansas City, the more clouds we saw. Before long, the sky was nothing but clouds, black ones. Oh-oh--now what? We arrived at the stadium in time to tailgate, got out of the car and were met with a brisk and cold wind and no sunshine. But by the time we got into the stadium, the wind had died down and temps up a little. Halfway through the game, the sun began to peek through, a little at a time, but it felt mighty good and was enough to give us each a sunburned face by the end of the game.

The game turned out just fine as we beat Iowa State 24-23. It was a thrilling, end-of-game blocked extra point that gave us the win. We ran into our family doctor on our way out, and he asked if our hearts had stood up to the end of the game. Guess we're doing OK in that department as we were both still on two feet.

We got to our hotel where I'd made reservations weeks ago, but were met with a surprise. It appears the reservation was for Saturday of the next week-end. Who made the error? Me or the internet site? I'm not even going to speculate on that one. They had two rooms left and all hotels in Kansas City booked with American Royal Barbecue Cook-off, Nascar races, soccer tournaments, our game which brought 40,000+ people and the Chiefs home game today. So, we took one of the rooms that were left, at a price 2 1/2 times higher than the deal I'd gotten on the internet!

Time for dinner, and Ken wanted to go to The Bristol Bar and Grill, famed for seafood. Off we went, hoping to beat the crowds of Saturday night. The hostess said it would be 30-45 minutes, so we went to the bar and ordered a glass of wine and an appetizer. No sooner had the Goat Cheese Bruschetta arrived than our pager went wild. The waiter took it to see what table we should be seated at, and when he came back, he led us to a nice table and then brought our drinks and appetizer to us. No sooner had I unfolded my napkin than a young woman appeared saying, "I'm sorry, but this is MY table! I've just been seated here. Look--there are my sunglasses." Before we could even answer, the waiter rushed over and told us to sit tight. After a confab witht he hostess, he seated the young woman and her friend at another table, and we went on with our dinner. Which turned out to be fantastic. Rare Ahi Tuna for Ken and Seared Scallops for me, absolutely  beautiful presentation and side dishes that were great.The perfect ending to a day with a K-State win.

Today we made a run to Costco and Kohl's before heading home to Manhattan. It was a bright and sunny day, warmer than yesterday, and the drive across the Flint Hills made me want to write something. But no pad and pen so I had to do it mentally. Somehow, once away from the spectacular scenery, the wonderful phrases are lost. Some afternoon, I need to go out a few miles from town, stop and write a little.

Yes, it was a super week-end but back to the Writing World tomorrow.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another Game Day

We're off to Kansas City this morning to watch K-State play Iowa State in the Chiefs stadium later in the day. The purple people are only two hours away, and the Iowa State Cyclones must travel 3 1/2 hours, but the stadium will be filled with our purple and their red on a sunny day in the mid-sixties. Perfect day for a game!

The picture above is of my son and daughter-in-law who live in Dallas. Kirk and Amy are still big K-State fans and have a closetful of K-State garb, like good alums should. Wish they could join us today, but they'll be watching on TV and cheering the Cats on.

Only those who have gotten involved in college football or basketball can understand the enthusiasm the fans have for the games. Fans travel thousands of miles sometimes for bowl games. It's a matter of pride, loyalty, and support for the young men and women who play on these teams. It's not only the American way either. Other countries love their teams, too, and show up for games on a regular basis.

We'll stay in Kansas City tonight and come home tomorrow, when this girl has absolutely got to get some writing done. I did send in three stories for a new anthology book last night. Added to the one I sent last week, maybe one of the four will make it in. It will be months before I hear anything from the editor, so I'll start working on something new and push thoughts of this one aside.

Friday, October 2, 2009

No Time For Writing

Sometimes my writing world takes a back seat, and today is one of those times. The hospital auxiliary in our town has a very large Craft Fair for two days. The ladies group at my church has a booth where they sell baked goods, and I'll be working there from 10 to 2 today. But first, I'll be at the fair at 9 a.m. to cruise through and see if there is something I cannot live without. Doubtful!

I enjoy working at the booth during this annual event as I see so many people I know. It's a great time to catch up on who has been doing what. And even though it's not a writing day, it's a day filled with stories of all kinds.

Each vendor has a story. Some of them come from a long distance while others live in town. Some bring spouses with them. The people who attend the fair all have stories, too. And before the day is out, I know I'll hear a lot of those stories. They'll stay in my memory bank to be pulled out at some future date when my writing world takes over.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hook 'Em Fast

I picked up a new John Grisham book at the library earlier this week, and when I had a few free minutes, I sat down to get started on it. The book begins with an inner city youth basketball game coached by a Yale law student. Kyle notices a man at the game who definitely doesn't fit in with the crowd, and he's puzzled. When he heads for home on a snowy night, the same man approaches him, convinces him he's an FBI agent and gets Kyle to a hotel to meet with another agent. Only the 'agent' is not with the FBI, and he has damning evidence concerning a stupid college situation Kyle was in on. He'll gladly squash the whole thing if Kyle will cooperate. And the story moves on from there.

The point is that the author hooked me way back at the basketball game in the first few pages. The questions in Kyle's mind became my own. And I have not been disappointed as I've read farther into the story. Mr. Grisham hooked me and has elicited a cheering section of one for his protagonist. I'm a third of the way into the book, and I'm fearful for what is going to happen to Kyle, dying to know how he can slow down the spiral of happenings in his life, and who will be sacrificed before he solves his problem. Is it any wonder that John Grisham is one of the most successful writers of our times?

Does he write major literary tomes? No. But he does tell a darned good story, and he has a knack of hooking his reader quick as a jackrabbit in an Arizona desert. If you've ever read a book that goes into lengthy description and detail for pages and pages, or even chapters, before the story actually begins, you'll appreciate writers who put the facts to pull you in at the very beginning.  In today's speed-driven world, we want to know immediately that this is a story worth spending time with.

So, hook 'em fast and hold on with two clenched fists as your story progresses. If you do, readers will be signing your praises.