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Friday, April 29, 2011

Creating a Scene from a Summary

My friend, Annette Gendler, whose blog is at, had an interesting exercise for writers on her blog yesterday. I decided to give it a try, and maybe you can, too. The exercise directions are below and my effort follows. I don't write a lot of fiction, but I do enjoy trying it now and then.

Writing Exercise: Read the following passage (used here with the permission of one of my students) which offers all the ingredients of a scene, yet is written in summary. Use your imagination and rewrite it as a scene so that the reader can experience it. Use dialogue, render the place and time, and let us see and hear the people involved! Feel free to post your scene in the comment section.
  • Tuesday, January 25, 2005. Supervisor A shows me my billable hours for the previous day. I had billed only 4.20 hours. She says I will have to get that up to 7 hours per day, OR ELSE! I notice on the sheet she shows me that the charge for my time is $75-$82/hour, depending on the client. I'm getting paid less than $25/hour. What's wrong with this picture? After the scary reprimand and threat, I go into panic mode and do as much as I can today. It seems to be the expectation that you put in a lot of (unpaid) overtime to bill enough hours for the company.
I turned the page on my desk calendar. Tuesday, January 25, 2005, the second anniversary of Glenn's accident. Two full years in a nursing home, and his condition is the same as the day they moved him there from the hospital. I wiped away a tear that had spilled over just as Gilda Gargoyle walked into my office. Her real name is Mary O'Donnell but she has the stone face of a gargoyle and a heart that must be the same. What does she have in her hand that she's waving at my face? With her, it's always something I'd like to avoid.
"Jan, I'm not happy with your hours billed for yesterday. What in the world were you doing all day? 4.20 billable hours is unacceptable!"
"I had to take some time to go to the nursing home yesterday. There was a problem and they needed me." My voice came through strong, but inside I quivered like jello. I needed this job but there were times when Glenn needed me, too.
Gilda glared over the top of her half-glasses. "You have a full-time job here, but unless you start billing 7 hours a day, you'll be sitting in that nursing home all day. Look at this!" She slammed the papers on my desk where I had no choice but to read the spot where her red nail pointed.
What I saw there startled me so that I gasped and then bit my tongue, keeping the words I wanted to say locked away. They billed my time as $75-82 an hour, and I get paid less than $25. Less than a third of what the firm gets. I wanted to hurl the papers back at her, but I dredged up every ounce of self-control I had and stood up. Pick your words carefully I cautioned myself.
"I'll try to do better. If I have to leave in the afternoon to go to Glenn, I'll come back and work in the evening. I'll see that there is no less than 7 hours a day billed." My words were what she wanted to hear but not the ones I truly wished to say. I'd kowtow to the gargoyle to keep this job, and somehow I'd ask for a raise when review time came around.
Gilda snatched the papers off my desk. "I don't give a damn when you work, just see that you get those hours in every day. And remember this--your personal tragedy means nothing to this firm." She gave me one final glare and sailed out the door.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Truth? Creative? Speculation? Which One?

The media in our area created a story recently. They didn't lie, they didn't make it up. Instead, they speculated and built a story around that speculation. The story is in the sports world, but it serves a purpose in showing what media reporting is like.

The University of Missouri hired a new basketball coach quite soon after the present coach left for greener pastures. The new coach had left the University of Miami, so that school had to fill their vacancy. Sports writers began to speculate. Hmmm, they thought, Frank Martin at Kansas State University is from the Miami area. He's the man! So they began to write article upon article about Miami contacting Frank Martin, about Martin giving serious consideration to leaving K-State, about the boosters of Miami coming up with more money to be able to entice Coach Martin to Miami. On and on it went.

Next, the radio and TV sportscasters got into the act. I heard..... I heard...... and on and on it went--Rumor City. Martin was interviewed by one station and he said he was happy where he was but he'd always be open to listen to another school who had interest in him. And he left it at that. Rumble, rumble, rumble--more speculation.

The media told the world that Martin was listening to Miami. It put fear in the hearts of the K-State fans who love their coach and wanted him to stay. It may have made the K-State administration a little nervous.

Earlier this week, Miami hired a coach, and it wasn't Frank Martin. At last night's K-State Basketball Banquet, the coach addressed the media in attendance. He told them he'd never been seriously interested in the Miami job, it crossed his mind for about 24 hours. He added that it was so not serious that he never even discussed it with his wife. And that Miami had not even called him during their search.

It was clear that the media made the story, they gathered a bunch of facts, threw in some speculation and created a story. By doing so, they gave a lot of people some anxious moments. These writers and broadcasters managed to keep people interested and on the edge of their seats for  a couple of weeks. It's over now, and they will need to find another story. In their defense, it's their job to keep readers reading, and this is a surefire way to do it. But will it be truth, creation, or speculative?

As for me, I think I'll steer clear of newspaper reporting in my writing world. Give me an anthology anytime!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Exercise For FAmily Stories

This is a picture of my parents and me taken in around 1940, I believe. We were a family of three then, but by 1955, we w ere six. Whether your family is large or small, you have family stories. One of my passions is urging people to write their family stories so that they won't be lost in the wind tunnel of life. You can't depend on them being passed down through the generations orally.

This morning, I found an interesting writing exercise that will, I believe, be most helpful in drawing prose portraits of your family members. Writing a memoir is more than just reporting what happened. Oh, you could do that, but it will be far more interesting reading if you make your characters come alive on the page.

To do this, you need to find out your own thoughts about each family member. Make a list of your family members,--parents, siblingss, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and maybe yourself. Next to each one, write a sentence or two that describes them physically. Then a sentence or two that reveals personality traits that you admire and also those you don't.

Doing this will bring out some things that may surprise you, if you are honest in what you write. Let it come quickly and from within. No one else is going to see this list, it's for you to use when writing those family stories, to give you a better understanding of who you are writing about and maybe why some things occurred as they did.

This is an easy and quick exercise and one I think will be most beneficial to those writing family stories, and maybe even to those who aren't!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Trading Book Info

How often do you read a book you enjoy tremendously but never tell anyone about it? Happens all the time, doesn't it? We close the book feeling satisfied with a good read, and then Life moves in and we forget about it.

Do your friends and family a favor and pass along your recommendation. I have several friends who are big readers like I am who often ask "What have you read lately that you liked?" Sometimes, I have two or three titles to pass along but occasionally I'll come up with nothing.

I ask my friends, especially those in my book club, what they're reading that they particularly liked. And maybe what they read that they did not like at all. We all have different tastes, but if someone recommends a book, I'll definitely look into it.

I like to do mini reviews here of books I put high on my Like List. The authors would appreciate it, I'm sure, but most of all, the readers appreciate knowing about a book they may never have heard of.

I've got an anthology to read next--the one I have a story in--Flashlight Memories, but after that, I'll be needing something to read. So, if any of you have some recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Let's help each other find good reads. It's been said many times that a good writer must also be a good reader.

The book I recommend most often these past weeks is The Postrmistress by Sarah Blake.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Internet Radio Stoies

Several weeks ago, I recorded some of my stories/essays for a brand new internet radio station here in Manhattan. Konza Radio is operated at the University for Man, which is a public education entity, affiliated with Kansas State University. UFM offers classes of all kinds for adults and kids. Getting into internet radio is a first for UFM.

I was told that eventually listeners could download programs on demand. Yesterday, I received a google alert message that indicated some of the stories I'd recorded were now able to be downloaded by internet users. I checked it out and found three of the thirteen stories I'd recorded. 

One is called "Sitting By A Soldier." The next one is "The No-Name Sisters" which is a true story written as fiction, and the third one is about a special teacher I had, titled "To Touch A Child." 

You can listen to these three by downloading them at  They were used by a program called Book Nook. Look about halfway down the page to the section headed Short Stories for the link. 

The radio station address is  You might find programs there of interest. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Truth Or Consequences

Years ago, there was a popular TV show called "Truth or Consequences" and it's title  popped into my head when I read recently about the possible deceit in Greg Mortenson's hugely popular memoir book Three Cups of Tea. There are about 5 million copies of this book in print. It made a huge splash in the publishing world when it came out and hit the bestseller list.

Book Clubs embraced the book, news media highlighted it, and readers continued to purchase it. It was a story about educating children in Pakistan as told by this man who experienced all that he placed in his book. And now, years later, it has been learned that he falsified much of what is in the book That the agency he talks about in the book did not give even half its funds to the schools--and more. A good article detailing all this can be read at

This is not the first time we have learned of deceit in a memoir. Memoirs are known as creative nonfiction, but apparently some authors take the creative part to heart. Maybe they fear the real story is not exciting enough to be accepted by a publishing house, that readers wouldn't get enthused by what actually happened. So they begin to embellish a bit here and a bit there. They have a story to tell and they want the world to read it, so why not add a little more pizzazz?

The why not? reason is that truth is of greater importance to a good many people, myself included. If you write creative nonfiction that is suffused with fictional parts throughout, you're eventually going to suffer the consequences. It kind of amazes me that authors who practice this can't figure that out. But perhaps the fame they seek is worth the risk of being found out.

As for me, I'd rather write the tamer truth and be able to live with myself. Mr. Mortenson has disappointed many of his readers. Truth or Consequences indeed!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Talented Teen

Hope Clark's blog today featured a guest writer. Anthony Otten is about to finish his junior year of high school. He writes a piece titled Spinning Yarns Of Gold. You  can read his thoughts about writing at  I think you'll be as impressed as I was with the maturity of this teen's writing. Be sure to read his Bio at the end, and you'll be filled with admiration and maybe a bit of envy. I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that we will hear his name in the writing world in years to come.

There are other talented teens in the fields of music and writing and art, as well as the sciences and math world. The sporting world is filled with talented teens who dream of doing big things in their adult lives. Many of them will do so. If you know any of these top rated kids, do all you can to encourage them. Too often, the teens we read about in the newspaper or see on TV are the ones who have messed up their lives with drugs or criminal acts. It's easy to fall into the mindset that more teens are trouble than the ones who have talent and drive.

Earlier this week, our high school pops choir sang and danced like professionals at a luncheon I attended. It was sheer pleasure to watch those fresh young faces with the nimble feet and melodic voices doing something they love. There are others at that same high school who are excelling in other fields. It would be nice to see more of their accomplishments on the front page of the local newspaper rather than buried farther back with a couple of lines of print.

Meanwhile, read the wise words of talented teen writer, Anthony Otten at the link above. My thanks to Hope Clark for featuring him in her blog today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Authors Don't Always Write Good Books Every Time

I read a wonderful book recently,which shall remain nameless for reasons apparent farther into this post.
It was a real page turner and so well written that it grabbed me in the opening pages and held on until I closed the book after finishing it.

I decided I'd like to read something else by the same author, so I looked up her credits and found that the book I'd just read was her second published novel. I checked out her first book at our library and was eager to read it.

What a disappointment it was. It was a historical novel, like the other book, but set in an earlier time. It had all the elements of what should have been a good novel. There was a little romance, a mystery, a ghost, descriptive passages, an interesting setting. But I had to littering slog through it. There was an abundance of unnecessary material, and I got frustrated waiting for something important to the tale to happen. I kept plugging away at it thinking it was going to get better. It didn't. Finally, after going two-thirds of the way through the book, I flipped to the final chapter to see what happened to the characters. It was then that it hit me that I didn't really like any of these people, could not relate to any of them. The whole dreary thing disappointed me.

It made me wonder why an author cannot write a winning story every time. Maybe it's like a race horse who cannot win the race every time they fly out of the starting gate. And maybe we shouldn't expect an author to write the same kind of story (an interesting one) every time. The ones who stay in our minds and who make lots of money writing have the ability to do that. Maybe we shouldn't expect it of every author.

I don't write novels,, but I do know that some of my essays and inspirational creative nonfiction is better than others. It would be wonderful to have a winner every time, but that might happen only in a perfect world.

I reminded myself that even though this author had written one excellent book and one not so hot, she did get two novels published which is more than a good many writers can claim.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Abundance of Stories

This is a post from some time ago, written just before Christmas while visiting our son in Dallas. I ran across it yesterday and felt it worth repeating. Hope you enjoy it.

I so often hear writers say they get stuck for story ideas, both fiction and nonfiction writers. It puzzles me as I seem to find ideas everywhere. Sometimes in great abundance.

Like today for instance. Ken and I ran over to a very nice, upscale outdoor mall in Highland Village, a northern suburb of Dallas. We parked near a Jos. A. Banks store, walked down to a shop where I bought a gift card, the final Christmas gift I had to buy.

Ken said he wanted to take a look in the Banks shop since we were so close.

He found a bargain too good to pass up—a beautiful sport coat for a mere fraction of its regular price. We walked around the store, selected a shirt and tie to go with the coat and wandered over to the check-out counter. We spent about half an hour in the shop, and in that time I witnessed an abundance of stories waiting to be written.

  1. The little girl who sat huddled in a corner, playing with a handheld game while her dad stood impatiently in line to pay for the blue and white shirt he held. Dad kept checking on her and asking if she was hungry. He finally tossed the shirt on the counter and said to me, “She’s hungry and I’m starving. I can’t wait any longer.”
  2. The short Indian man who had a pile of clothes on the counter and waited patiently as the clerk scanned the prices while the computer had a temper tantrum when he tried to bring up the sale prices. The young man tried again and again, becoming more and more frustrated. The customer never said a word, just watched. When the total came to over $2,800, the man slid one pair of pants out of the pile and softly said, “I don’t need these.”  The young clerk threw up his hands and turned for help to the older woman working at another computer.

      “Abort the whole thing!” she said to him.

  1. The  young, blonde woman who was returning a topcoat and getting 2 belts, 2 shirts and 3 sweaters instead. The woman checking her out was also having computer problems, too high a tax and no way to change it. She appeared calm on the outside, but I sensed a great churning on the inside.

  1. The two thirty-something women behind us who were aghast at the terrific deal Ken had gotten on his sport coat. Envy is the only word that might describe their faces and actions.

So, look around you. There are story possibilities everywhere!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Trouble Cut in Half and Then Back Again

One computer dead, one suppose to be fixed but now my internet connection keeps cutting out, then pops back again. The cyber genies have been after me for close to a week, and I'm not a happy camper.

Will try to send this while waiting for tech support to call again. I'm getting to know those guys pretty well!

Hope to be back to regular blog posting very soon.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Double Trouble

Why do woes seem to multiply? One computer problem is more than enough for one writer. But the cyber genies decided to sock it to me twofold yesterday.

I have both a desktop and laptop. The desktop has been having mild temper tantrums recently, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it erupted like a volcano. Wrong visual in that statement, because the darned thing just up and quit. Keeps turning itself off. And no amount of cajoling or pampering has helped. This happened a year or two ago and my repair guy  put in a new electrical board. Worked like a charm until now. Seems to me it should have worked longer than this, but what do I know?

So, I pulled out my laptop and proceeded to read and answer e-mails. I could receive e-mail just fine, but I could not send anything out. I fiddled with this and that and finally called my server for tech help. Jeremy, the tech, and I spent well over an hour trying to correct the problem. No luck, but Jeremy and I did become good friends by the end of our lengthy phone chat.

I can use to send e-mails, but it's a bit of a pain as it requires several steps to do so. And being an impatient person, it does my blood pressure no good.

Add to this the fact that I am keeping the Log for my online critique group this month. It's been easy and kind of fun to track the subs, crits, comments etc for the group on a spreadsheet. But there's the problem, for it's in the Documents file on my desktop. I'm crossing my fingers that the repair guy can get the computer going long enough to download my files onto a flashdrive for me. I've also got to decide whether to put another $100 into the desktop or not. All my writing stuff is in that Doc file. I have been meaning to put it on a flash drive for a long time. One of those things on the list that didn't seem a priority. Seems it should have. This also does my blood pressure no good.

All is not lost as I can use my laptop for everything except sending out e-mail as it should. Tune in Monday to see how my double trouble works out.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Let Us Celebrate As We Should

Easter is a Christian holiday. Easter eggs are a part of Easter. They are a symbol of rebirth and also of the rock that sealed the tomb in which Jesus lay before He rose. They are also a lot of fun for children who relish dyeing the eggs bright colors and then waiting for the Easter Bunny to hide them so they can hunt for the brightly hued hard-boiled eggs.

I read yesterday that a school in Seattle has ruled that the term Easter Egg is no longer allowed in school Instead, the children must refer to them as Spring Spheres. Granted, they are part of our springtime and they are spheres, but they are first and foremost, a symbol of our Easter celebration.

Why did the administration at this school change the name? Probably because they fear backlash from a few families who do not celebrate Easter and are unhappy with those that do. It is the same idea as those who are afraid to call a Christmas Tree what it is. Now, it must be known as a Holiday Tree so no one is offended. I am fully aware of the separation of church and state in our public school systems, but to use an Easter Egg term is not teaching religious scripture or retelling the story of Easter as Christians view it. Easter Eggs and Christmas Trees are a part of our American culture. The same as the Dreidel that is part of a Hanukkah celebration.

Tongue in cheek comments to a facebook post I made about this suggested other names for Easter Eggs--things like cone shaped conifer, or elliptical sphere, or colorful vernal oblate sphere. All ridiculous as is the one suggested by the school.

It's alright for each religion to have their own symbols and their own holidays. I have no problem whatsoever with that. But, please, please, don't try to change anyone's religious celebration as long as it is not part of the school day instruction. Let Christians celebrate Easter and Christmas as they have done for centuries. Let Jewish people celebrate Passover and Hanukkah as they always have. Let Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims celebrate their own holidays with their own traditions. Let school children decorate with traditions in mind.

Stop fearing the minority of people who complain. Once upon a time, this country lived with the premise that the majority rules. What has happened? It makes me angry and hurts me, as well. I will always use the term Easter Egg.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fitness For Writers

We're always reading articles in magazines and newspapers about making America fit. Exercise is being pushed for each and every one of us. We're urged to run, to walk long distances, to lift weights, use machines at workout centers and make sure we take 10,000 steps every day. All to our benefit. I won't dispute that one bit.

Writers need to exercise, too. And I don't mean the physical kind state above. We can benefit from doing writing exercises on a regular basis. Call it practice..Call it motivation. Call it anything you like. It's still hard work, just like physical exercise. The one good thing is that your muscles don't ache the next day!

Writing exercises can be found in many books on the craft of writing. They can be found online by googling keywords like writing exercises or exercises for writers.

Sometimes, critique groups offer a monthly (or weekly) exercise for their members. It might be a writing prompt using a picture or setting a situation for you. It might be a challenge to use certain kinds of adjectives and adverbs in writing a paragraph about spring. It can be myriad things, but each is designed to set your writer's mind in high gear and to give you practice.

Besides the practice and thought process, writing exercises bring another benefit. They are great motivation. Once you write that initial paragraph or two to fulfill the exercise, you may very well want to expand it into a full story or article.

My friend, Molly, and I are doing a team exercise for a few weeks. We have each pledged to do a writing exercise of our own choice every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then we send it to one another. Sometimes, when you know someone else is waiting to see it, you're more apt to stick to the schedule. We did this a year or so ago, and we both found it beneficial. It helps set a pattern and keeps the writing part of our minds active. Try this with a writer friend.

As for me, it's Wednesday and Molly has already sent me her exercise, so I'd better go get started on mine.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adding One More Anthology

A new anthology showed up in my mailbox yesterday. Flashlight Memories was published by Silver Boomer Books. It's a collection of nonfiction stories about books and reading, some poetry regarding the same, as well.

I have a story in the book titled "My Path To Books" which is one I'd written long before I saw the call for submissions for this anthology. Reading has been a love of mine ever since my mother first read a picture book to me about a Mr. Flibbertyjibbet. It was the spark that ignited my passion for books that has lasted a lifetime.

Anyone who enjoys reading and loves books would probably find this group of stories a satisfying read. You can find it at Amazon at for a reduced price of $11.90. You might also be able to locate it at your local bookstore. If the store does not have it, they are usually happy to order the book for a customer.

Go to to learn about other calls for submission from Silver Boomer Books. They do not pay as well as some of the other anthologies, but they produce a nice book and were good people to work with.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Good News Week

I just finished a 'good news' week. Every now and then, my writing world showers me with blessings, and last week was one of them. Those good weeks do a lot to make up for the ones when rejections rain from the skies like leaves blown in a windstorm. And they serve as a wonderful incentive to keep writing. Every success pushes a writer into writing another story.

The first good thing that occurred was that my memoir piece about Easter was published at  It's an inspirational website that publishes on a sporadic schedule. You never know when it will pop up in your inbox. And that's the same way with what they accept or reject. You never know they have accepted your submission until it's published. Nor do you hear regarding a rejection, but that's the way it is and if you keep that in mind when you submit, it's not a problem. I've had several memoir stories published there. With this last one, I dropped them a little note to say thanks for publishing the story. In return, I received a lovely note from the editor thanking me for my contributions to Heartwarmers over the years. It's a no-pay, but I like the concept and the stories that appear there. With that small gesture from the editor, you can bet I will continue to submit to them.

Next, Tom Mach, a writer from Lawrence, KS, posted a request for haiku poems on a facebook posting. On a whim, I sent him a fun haiku I'd written after learning something new in the tech world. He posted it on his blog. You can read it at .  Tom writes historical novels and poetry, and he blogs about both.

The week ended with a message from an editor at Unsent Letters. I've posted about this paying website before so won't go into the details here. You can read all about them at  I had submitted two letters for this interesting site. They are also compiling some of the letters as an anthology. The editor wrote to tell me that both my submissions were shortlisted and in the final cut process. She asked if they had been published previously, since only unpublished letters would go into the anthology. Previously published letters were to be in the blog only. I told her that both had been published previously but in a completely different form. Whether that counts or not remains to be seen. The pay is higher for the anthology than for the blog, but both are paying markets. Being thus encouraged, I submitted a third unsent letter to them last night, one I'd been working on and was ready to go. Do check out this site and read some of the letters to get an idea what kind of letters they seek.

When each new week begins, we have no idea what it will bring us. A friend learned this last week that she is to be a grandmother again, when she had no hopes of adding to her one and only grandchild. A lot of people dislike Mondays, but I don't. It's a new week, and maybe good things will happen. If they don't, there's always next Monday when we start all over again.

Wishing you all a very good week.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Give Yourself Some Time For Contest Entries

Have you ever entered a writing contest? I send off several pieces to my state authors annual contest on a regular basis. Besides following guidelines carefully, there's something else to be considered--getting your contest entry done well ahead of the deadline date.

One thing I've learned along this road is that you should not rush your contest entry. We all know what the deadline date is for entering any type of contest. We know we should get cracking and work on the stories, poems or articles you want to send in. But Life tends to get in our way, and we put the contest entry on the back burner to keep warm.

Suddenly, the date is only a couple days away, and there sit your entries, still in first draft condition. So, you hurry through the revisions, get them ready with the cover letter, rush to the post office to have the postage calculated and send them on the way. Whew! You did it.

But you've done yourself a disservice if you enter the contest in that particular way. Your work will not be your best writing. Hurrying a project seldom brings outstanding results. Note that I said seldom, because sometimes the perfect piece comes quickly and easily.

Make getting those writing projects done in a timely manner. Allow yourself plenty of time to write a first draft and then make revisions. Sometimes those revisions require more than one sitting. Don't send your work in if you're not satisfied with it. If you aren't the judges probably won't be either. .

A hurry-up job ends up looking like a writing roadrunner barreled through.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spread A Fisherman's Net

Someone once asked me how I could do so much writing. "It's a lonely life," she said, "and you're such an outgoing person who loves being in social situations." She's right about the second part. I am a very social kind of person who thrives on being with others. But I don't find writing lonely at all.

Instead, it's comforting to spend time at the computer composing new things and marketing others. I would never consider it lonely, because I have spread a net like a fisherman and can count many other writers in the catch. I know that's a stretch of the advice to network, but it seemed to fit what I'm trying to say.

It's great getting to know other writers. I learn a lot by listening to them, watching what they do to market their writing, and reading their published work. When you have a net filled with other writers, they share markets and also let others know about a bad experience they might have had with an editor. Maybe an especially good experience, too. Writers have a common bond with one another just like people who are in police work, or the military, or fashion design.

But what about the competition factor? Sure, we're all competing to get published, but it's certainly not a cutthroat kind of thing. If twenty of us enter the same contest, only one is going to come out the winner. That doesn't mean I have to unfriend a writer. If she wins and I don't, I'm happy for her and move on. I find that writers are more than willing to help one another.

This morning, a writer I met only a few months ago sent me notice of an anthology call for submission. It was not one of the anthologies we know about, but a single time anthology of short fiction. I'd never have been aware of it if my new writer friend had not sent it to me. Likewise, there is an anthology of Christmas stories, poems, and more that bought two stories from me. Had another writer not let me know about their call for submissions, I'd have missed out.

Increase your circle of writer friends whenever you can. Join organizations for writers, join a critique group, hop on facebook and post regularly. I've established contact again there with writers I hadn't heard from or about for several years. Go to conferences and make contacts there. Keep your name alive in the writing world and your number of writer contacts will only increase. Your net will be full.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Social Media Helps Writers, Too

So, how many facebook friends do you have? Some people seem to think it's a contest to gather as many Friends on this social media site as possible. Some sign on to use it strictly for fun. They play games, chat with friends and family far away, and rant a bit about pet causes.

But for the writer, facebook and twitter offer more than that. I am Friends on facebook with a number of other writers. It's great to see what they've had published, as they post any new publishing success or a speaking engagement that is writing-related.  Seeing what others do in their writing world can be inspirational for me and other writers.

Just yesterday, an editor of a new anthology I'm in posted a photo of the page in the Table of Contents in that book with my story title and my name on my facebook page. It brought several comments from others. Had I not been on facebook, this mini press release would not have happened.

Writers also post calls for submissions that they've received from various publications. Just this morning, I saw a contest posted by a friend that I had never been aware of before. I clicked on the link and read the guidelines, then bookmarked the site. It's one I'll definitely look into when I have more time.

Add to that--they have a place to vent a bit when things in their writing world don't go as hoped for. It doesn't change whatever happened, but somehow it feels good to get if off your chest and maybe be soothed by others who've been there.

I know one writer who posts little snippets of his novel. A teaser, in hopes someone will be curious enough to buy the book. That's a longshot, but maybe it works occasionally.

Many writers post small tidbits on twitter, too. I must admit that I tried twitter but found it was not for me. Maybe I'll give it a try another time, and maybe it was not for me because I didn't know how to use it properly. The nice thing about any of these social media things is that you can sign on and sign off just as easily.

Consider trying facebook and/or twitter if you are not already doing so. You might be surprised how it can expand your writing world. You may know a writer who knows many other writers and before you know it, there is a connection. Like so many things, you can do as much on these sites as you want to. Some spend copious amounts of time there, while others scan the posts and check out the ones that interest them before they move on to other things.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Watch Out For Traps

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about traps writers can easily fall into. It's been published a number of times, mostly because I think it served as an awakener for writers. We want to do all we can to keep learning and improving our writing, but every one of the things we do in that respect eat into our writing time.

Just a few of the traps we encounter are joining too many writers' organizations, reading far too many How-To books about the craft of writing, attending myriad conferences, getting caught up in research and overdoing time spent in critique groups.

Every writer needs to step back and make an objective assessment of these areas. Make a priority list and do some cutting back if need be. I hope that Writing Time is number one on your list.

If you would like to read the full article on traps writers fall into, go to  There you'll find more detail and quotes by several writers whom I interviewed for the article.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Go Ahead--Toot Your Own Horn!

Our mothers tried to teach us to be humble. "Don't brag about yourself," they admonished. And we listened and learned. Those childhood lessons stay with us, and so it's difficult for many writers to build a platform and let others know of their accomplishments.

It may be difficult, but it's also very necessary. Doing the writing is easy, but marketing your work and selling yourself are harder.Let's concentrate today on selling yourself as a writer.Unless you're a highly acclaimed novelist with a New York City agent, you're the one who will have to sell yourself to the public. It's you who must create a following of readers.

So, how are you going to do that? One way is to let people on the social media outlets know when you have a story published. One good reason to sign up for facebook or twitter, if you haven't done so already. I have a number of author friends on facebook who do this, and I never consider them bragging. Instead, I'm delighted to know when they've had a success. Sometimes, they'll add a link to the story, and that's even better as I can see firsthand what they've written.

Send the news to your family and friends, with a link to read the newly published piece, if possible. Or put it with the message as an attachment. There might be a few who will be jealous, or maybe envious. There is a difference between the two. I think it's OK to be envious but not so with jealousy. If they are, let them feel that way, you have no reason to feel bad that you've done something worthwhile. If you send your new story, or link to it, to friends and family, odds are that they are going to send it on to their circle of friends, or at least to some of them.

If you belong to a state authors organization that highlights news of members publications, take advantage of the opportunity and send them your publishing news. And if you don't belong to a writers organization, join one!

Accept any speaking engagements that come along. It's hard for some people to stand before others and talk, and more so to talk about yourself. You hear your mom warning you to stop bragging, but brush that aside. It's the golden opportunity to sell yourself and your work to readers. I was nervous as a cat the first time I did this, but I found out that I enjoyed it. Sure, I still get a little nervous when I first start speaking, but in less than a minute, I'm off and running and having a good time. And the audience knows a little more about me and the kind of things I write. If you aren't invited to speak, offer to do a program. Clubs and groups are usually looking for programs.

If you are fortunate enough to have a story published in an anthology like Chicken Soup for the Soul, there will be press releases sent out by the publisher to your local radio, TV and newspapers. Some will contact you for a possible appearance or news story, while many will not. If you want some publicity, it's up to you to follow up and remind them of the press release.

It's up to you to sell yourself. Go ahead--toot your own horn!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do Your Part

I've always believed that members of any organization or club should do their part. If every member occupied a chair at a meeting, or your own chair if it's an online group, absorbed all the good stuff, and that's all, then those groups would die fast. No matter how big or small, any organized group requires people to run it. Even if you don't have elected officers, someone still must do the grunt work.

My online group, wac, has a moderator who spends a great deal of time overseeing the group. Hers is a labor of love, for you'd have to enjoy what you're doing enough to make it work. We're most fortunate in having Joyce Finn as moderator. She truly cares about the people in the group. Yes, she gets frustrated at times, but that's normal for anyone in a position like this. One thing that helps her is to have members pass around monthly duties that she might otherwise need to do herself.

We have a Random Word exercise on a weekly basis, so we each take a month and send out the 'word' for each week of that month. Some people open the dictionary, close their eyes, and let their finger land wherever. Some rather interesting words have come from that method. Others use words found in a book they might be reading, while some relate the four or five words for the month to a theme of some sort. It's the Random Word person's choice as to how she chooses the words. Many of them are very common, basic, almost generic words, while others are exotic, seldom-heard words.

Another job at wac is keeping the log. Every submission, critique, and comment is noted on a spreadsheet. Joyce was doing that herself for a long time. It helped her know who was meeting their commitment, what submissions needed more critiques,and  who was doing the Random Word exercises. She posts the log mid-month and end of month for members to look at. Seeing your numbers in black and white can be either satisfying or jolting. We've been passing this job around on a monthly basis, too. My month begins today. I have the spreadsheet saved in a file, and I will keep track of everyone's subs and crits etc. The first time I did it, I worried it might take too much time, but it really did not, and in the long run, I rather enjoyed the task.

I belong to wac so I feel I need to do my part in helping keep the group alive and well. If group or club members each do a small amount, it works. If only one or two do it all, they soon get burned out and the entire thing ends up crumbling. It all boils down to this--if you receive something in life, give something back. You'll reap rewards in both instances. Next time you're asked to help out, do your part. You'll end up a winner.