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Friday, March 30, 2012

More Calls For Chicken Soup Stories

It kind of amazes me that Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers keep coming up with new book ideas. It also makes me happy because it means more markets for my stories. My latest Chicken Soup story is in the book I'm holding in the picture above. The book title is Find Your Happiness and my story is The Girls On The Bus.

The following list will show you the titles in the works right now. You can go to their website page to read about each one in more detail and also check the submission deadline dates. Note that the New Friends book has a deadline of March 31st (tomorrow!)

1.  Angel Encounters

2.  Great Advice for Making Changes In Your Life

3.  Independent Woman

4. Inspiration for Writers

5. Parenthood

6.  New Friends

7.  The Power of Positive

This list gives you seven opportunities to sell your stories. There is no limit as to the number of submissions a write may send. If you have five stories about Parenthood, send them all. Think about what unusual angle you might come up with for your story. The editors and reading panels go through thousands of submissions. You need to make your story something that will catch their attention.

Good Luck to all of us who will send stories for one or more of these books. I've already sent one. Now, I need to work on something for a few of the other titles.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Write A Family Wedding Story

pink cake

My mother was a great storyteller, but so was Dad. After dinner, they lingered at the kitchen table with their coffee. It was a time when they talked over the day and also for telling us kids family stories. A little comment might trigger a memory of something and we were soon treated to another family story. Many of those stories were told multiple times, which is the reason I remember them now. I have to admit, there were moments when I thought Oh no, not again! but now I am thankful for the repetition.

Regular readers here know that I frequently urge writers to stop only listening to those family stories. They need to be written and preserved for future generation

Every family has at least one, if not several, wedding stories to tell. In my family, we heard many times about our parents' elopement and secret marriage. It certainly was not like the extravagant weddings we often see today. Only recently did I write this story about my parents' wedding.  I entered it in a contest, but it didn't win. Not a problem because I'd been wanting to write this story for a long time, and now it is done. I posted it at Our Echo last evening. You can read "The Secret" on this website for writers and readers.

Then think about various weddings in your own family.  Some of those stories can be humorous. Others may be filled with romance, and a few may have sad overtones. No matter what they hold, they are important to your family. If you don't know about your parents's wedding, ask them to tell you, then write about it. Delve farther back if you can to grandparents, great-aunts and uncles. Note the place they were married, the era, the cermeony and any celebration afterward. Bring in the human element as well. What is more emotional or sentimental than a wedding? I've written short pieces about my son's wedding and my own. Next, I need to write about my daughter's wedding. Her tenth anniversary comes up in June, which might be a perfect time to do so. 

Keep right on telling those family stories but be sure to write them, too. You have no assurance that another family member will continue realting these stories once you're no longer able to do so. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Kind of Book

I truly do 'love it' when a book keeps me totally absorbed. I consider it a real winner if I can hardly wait to pick it up each day to read more. I give it the blue ribbon when I reach the end and hate to realize that a great read is over. 

What makes that kind of book? If i could answer that with a few flippant words, I'd probably be the author of two dozen best-selling novels. I don't think there is any one simple answer. It seems to me that there are a number of things that would put a book in the list of Best Books I Ever Read.

My list and your list of those books would probably be completely different. I once visited a niece's home when she was in her twenties and I was in my fifties. It pleased me to see her bookshelves filled. I wandered over to take a look at the titles thinking I might find something to read. I was totally amazed to find that all the books were fantasy or science fiction. Dozens and dozens of them! I picked up a magazine to read that evening instead. My niece and I have different tastes in reading material, but why not? She and I are not alike in choices on many things because we are two distinct personalities. Had she come to my house and looked on the bookshelves, she'd probably have turned her nose up at books I have. 

But I;m sure my niece would also agree that some of her books were more enjoyable than others. The genre itself makes no difference. What did those books dofor and mine for me that some others didn't"

For me, they'd need the following:
1. A great beginning to pull me in
2. A story with questions that beg answers so I want keep reading
3. A protagonist I can identify with and feel some empathy for
4. Enough action and good pacing to make the story move and flow well
5. Emotion that pulls me into the story and warms my heart
6.A satisfying ending

What other things do you consider necessary in a really 'good' book?  I'd love to hear what they are.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Should Writers Have A Dream?

I liked the poster above. When we were kids, a parent or teacher might have scolded with words like Stop daydreaming and get to work!  or You need to quit dreaming and get busy! As a parent or teacher, we want kids to keep working and face reality. But perhaps those words sometimes poured water on a spark of imagination that could have been better encouraged into a real flame.

Coming back to today--I think we need to have a dream in our writing world. We need to set a goal that we can work toward. I read a guest blog essay this morning that gave some very good advice. The young woman who wrote the piece is a graduate student in an MFA program with non-fiction her primary focus. She had dreams of writing a book--a memoir--about her two years spend at a religious affiliated college during her undergrad years. 

A professor told her that she needed to learn to write a story before she could write a book. I am in full agreement with that. Far too many beginning writers set out to write a book as their first project. And some manage to do it. That doesn't say how good it will be. I've read many times that your first three book manuscripts should be left in a drawer--or maybe fed to the shredder. Writing a book for the first time is a learning process and not necessarily meant to be a smash hit. A lucky few do manage to achieve it, which makes the rest of us green with envy.

But it's OK to aim high. It's alright to dream about that first published book with your name on it. If we don't have dreams like that, how will we ever arrive there? Dream, set your goal, and then work toward it piece by piece. Those old keywords that I love patience and perseverance come into play here. Achieving a dream seldom happens overnight. It can take months for some and for others, it takes years. The important thing is to not lose sight of your dream. Keep it in mind or put something near your computer to remind you of it. 

I have a dream in my writing world, and I bet you do, too 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Write From The Heart, But Be Careful

Yesterday, Maureen Rogers, a Seattle writer and friend of mine, posted a link to ta new story just published at MetroMoms Fiction. "Nobody's Home" is a true story which will tug at your heart.

The story is about a small boy who has a difficult home life. Maureen was the secretary at his school, and she had to deal with a situation that would touch anyone's heart. Not only that--she wrote the story from her own heart. Yes, she's a mother herself, so maybe that helped. There;s a fine line to writing with just enough emotion and not overdoing it. The author was able to balance the two very well.

If the story you plan to write moves you personally, you want to get that fact across to your readers without coming right out and saying. I was so moved by what happened. You want to write the story so that your readers will know that you were moved. It's what is so great about writing creative non-fiction. It's a true story, but emotion and personality can be a part of it. It's that part that comes from the heart.

Be careful not to overdo it. Too much of a a good thing is--well, it's too much. Years ago, I was part of a group of writers that published at an inspirational website. One of the other writers sent stories that were basically good ideas, but she went overboard on descriptions and emotion to the point that I nearly gagged when reading them. The editor continued to publish these overdone pieces, and I often wondered why. It's frequently the new writer who writes in this manner. Time and practice should teach her that, while emotion and writing from the heart is important, it needs to be done with some careful thought. Draw that line and stay on the right side of it like Maureen Rogers did with her story.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kindle for Kids?


I've been one of those naysayers when it comes to a Kindle or Nook reader. Give me a book to hold in my hands, please. I had no interest at all when they first hit the market, nor for quite a long time after. But as time has gone on and ebooks have soared in popularity, I'm beginning to change my tune. Note that I said beginning. I can see the benefit in taking an electronic reader on a trip. It would be a whole lot easier than lugging my book bag on vacation. The blacktote that has a metal tag identifying it as Book Bag is usually packed as full as possible with books and magazines. 

I absolutely cannot go on vacation without reading material. We occasionally go overseas and then I have to put my reading material in my luggage. One book in the carry-on and the rest in the checked bag. A Kindle would certainly help me out on those trips. You see, I'm starting to mellow a bit on this.

Last week, my daughter told me that my 8 year old granddaughter had a lot of money saved up. She asked her Dad to take her to Target. She came home with a Kindle! I think it surprised her mother as much as it did me. Somehow, in all the reading I've done about the readers and discussions with friends, it had never occurred to me that a child would want one. Might be an age thing!  Jordan's in the Electronic Generation. It's what she's known from infant electronic musical toy up to the Kindle.

It makes perfect sense to me now. Jordan loves books. She reads every night before time to turn out the light and go to sleep. A positive habit to develop. She's in second grade but reads above her grade level. She's reasonably responsible so why shouldn't she have a Kindle? 

I'm quite certain her parents had the talk about the restrictions she'll have on ordering books only with their permission and about taking care of it, putting it away when not using it, not taking it to other kids' houses and leaving it there. 

I think Jordan will have to give her grandma lessons in how to use the Kindle. I'm sure she'll be most happy to oblige. Who knows? My beloved Book Bag may be retired sometime soon. Nah! Even if I break down and buy an electronic reader, I'll still read real books--the kind I can hold lovingly in my hands and turn the pages.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's In Your Hands

Lately, I've seen a TV spot about the power of words several times. Ann Curry of the NBC Today show is the person featured in the spot. It's very short, but it has made me do some thinking about the subject. The poster picture above is a good illustration of the power of words. The girl pictured is drawn by them over and above her desire for fashion. Good!

Think about the things that words can do. They persuade, cajole, flatter and compliment. Words can also hurt, defame, punish and degrade. Spoken words are gone once they leave our mouths, but our written words are still under our control until we send them to an editor or post them on our blog.

Have you ever said something you wished you hadn't? Have you written something when furious and then regretted it? More than a few people have written letters that they wish the post office had managed to lose instead of deliver.

The point here is that we writers need to choose our words carefully before putting them in the public eye. You might be writing a persuasive essay which is just fine. Look at it as objectively as possible when you finish. Ask yourself if you've said anything to hurt or defame others. I'm thinking of our political campaigns of late. Candidates hurl nasty words like bubbles little kids blow from a jar of sticky, soapy liquid. They try to tear down the other guy instead of extolling their own virtues as a candidate. Once a campaign is over, will they be able to gather all those unflattering words and push them into a big trash bag to be thrown out next week? Of course not!  They may have to work with the very people they've excoriated later on. Politicians would do well to give strong consideration to the power of words, as well as the lingering effects.

On a positive side, the words we write can offer tremendous encouragement to those who are floundering in despair. So many stories are written about overcoming a problem of some kind. The reader who is also facing trouble in her life is buoyed up by seeing that problems can be solved.

When I was a young, fresh-out-of-college, teacher of fourth graders, I had no idea how important the words that came from my mouth to the ears of 21 children might be. It wasn't until the first parent-teacher conferences that some of those words came back to me. Things I said in class often landed in the middle of a family dinner table. I ended up with feeling both elated and remorseful, depending on which of my words the parents mentioned. I knew I needed to select my words carefully when speaking with ten-year-olds, or anyone else.

When we write a story, article, essay or poem, we should hink about the power of our words. If  published, those words will travel far and wide. They'll reach the hearts and minds of myriad readers. Will our words encourage or hurt? Maybe, we writers need to consider more carefully the power we hold with the words we write.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Out of the Darkness...

I woke up very early this morning. Well, actually it was the middle of the night. All of a sudden, I found myself wide awake and an idea for a new writing project was glaring at me like a neon sign on a cheap hotel. I lay there plotting and planning and getting excited about the project. It was about two hours later that I finally fell asleep again. When I woke up, all that I'd thought about during that earlier waking time was still there. I definitely felt like doing the Happy Dance. 

How long has it been since you've gotten excited about a new writing project? It makes you want to put everything else aside and get started down that new path. But everyday things need to be addressed. You know the things I mean---meals, household tasks, social life, family and also the routine writing life chores. For me, that means a blog post five days a week and answering e-mail messages, also interacting with subs and crits at my online writing group. I need to keep subbing my work to editors, too, if I want to see publication. 

For those who write a weekly or daily newspaper column, that comes first. Maybe you're writing an article for an editor that has a deadline. Hit it before you start the new, and maybe more exciting, project. 

It's one of the frustrating sides of the writing coin--not having enough time to work on a great new idea. This is when you have to 'create' time to get started on your great idea. If you keep putting it aside until you finish the more mundane things, you may never get to it. The project idea starts to cool off with each day that you don't work on it. Wait too long, and it might never get off the ground at all. 

If you do nothing else, work on it mentally. You can put in a lot of planning time while you unload the dishwasher or run the vacuum cleaner. I try to walk for exercise as often as possible (and lately that often isn't coming around as much as it should!). The time I spend on the walking trail near my house is perfect for working out a story in my mind. I have a feeling I'm going to do a lot of thinking about this new project while hoofing it up and down that trail. 

My wish for all of you as spring begins here in the USA is that you'll find an exciting new project in your writing life. Make time to work on it and enjoy the ride. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Should You Enter A Writing Contest?

I've been seeing a lot of calls for contest submissions lately. It brought to mind an article I wrote for a writers website awhile back. Thought it might help you sort out whether to submit your work to a contest or not.

 Contests Calling—Should You Enter?
By Nancy Julien Kopp
 Have you ever wanted to enter a writing contest but talked yourself out of it? Ever convinced yourself you weren’t good enough to enter a writing contest? Maybe the answer is yes to at least one of these questions, possibly both.

But why enter? What’s in it for you if you don’t win? What happens if you do win?

Many considerations come into play when I send my finest work to a writing contest. I’ve entered a good many contests, and I’ve won in several--not always first place, but a
place. Even Honorable Mention is a winner. You may have noticed that I stated
“…sending my finest work….”  I try to send the best qualifying piece for that particular contest.

I look for writing contest announcements in writer’s newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. Some require a fee and others ask for nothing more than the prose or poetry I plan to submit. Many offer terrific prizes, while others promise only publication of the winning entries. Publication may be prize enough, especially for beginning writers.

I didn’t enter any writing contests in the early stages of my career. For one thing, I didn’t have enough confidence and secondly, I knew my work was not professional enough at that point. As time went on, I began to get acceptances for some of the articles, stories and poems I submitted to editors. Oh sure, I got plenty of rejections, but my confidence level moved up a notch with each acceptance. Once my work began to sell, I thought more seriously about entering contests.

I submitted my first contest entry at the district level of my state authors’ organization. I competed against only a couple dozen people. It proved a good place to begin. I entered something in several categories, and to my great surprise, I placed with everything I’d entered and won small amounts of cash. The state contest offered bigger cash prizes, but also greater competition. I entered my prize-winners from the district contest, and when the winners list arrived, my name was absent Though disappointed, I continued to enter the district and state contests in successive years, and while I nearly always won at the district level, it took a few years before I saw results at the state level.

 One year, I entered a poem in the theme category of the state contest, even though I have no formal training in poetry. When I sent it in, I wondered why I even bothered. I feared it was a waste of money as I had to pay a small fee for each entry. Imagine my surprise when my poem won first place. If I’d talked myself out of sending the poem, hadn’t wanted to waste that entry fee, I’d never have had the pleasure of winning nor of cashing the very nice check that arrived with my Award Certificate.

I’ve entered poetry contests at a couple of websites. They required no entry fees so I had nothing to lose. I won first place with a poem about my granddaughter at a writers’ website, and I won third place and two Honorable Mention awards at another website’s poetry contest three successive years. I learned that you can’t win if you don’t enter.

Besides the prizes, recognition comes with publication of the winner’s work. Editors sometimes look at winners in contests and offer to purchase the entry for their own publication. The first time I attended our state authors’ convention, more than one person remembered my name from the prize winners lists of the previous years.

Some contests call their entry fee a reading fee, but it’s the same thing. Some are nominal, and others seem quite high, but usually the higher the entry fee, the greater the prize at the end but also stronger competition. Each writer must decide if it’s worth the fee to enter. If I enter a contest every week, those fees will add up to more than I might win. But if I’m selective, an occasional entry fee would be worth considering.

Adhering to contest guidelines is important. I know if I don’t follow them to the letter, it’s more than likely that my story or article will get tossed. Time and effort go into
the entries, so I check guidelines carefully and give my work a winner’s chance. If there is a theme to the contest, I try to make sure the entry fits. If single-spaced, non-indented paragraphs are called for, I don’t send a double-spaced manuscript.

Want another reason to enter contests? If I pen a winner, it’s a great addition to my cover letter when I submit the piece to an editor. Most will take note of such an announcement and may look a little more closely at the submission since it proved to be a winner. It’s helpful but doesn’t always ensure a sale. For example, one of my stories for children won at the district level of my state author’s group, it won at the state level, and it won at another online contest. A couple of critique groups praised the story, too. But, so far, it hasn’t sold.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the myriad writing contests and send your best work. If you don’t make it the first time, try again. Read the winning entries and ask yourself why it won and yours didn’t. Entering contests is no different than submitting your work to an editor. Both require patience and persistence. Start with the smaller contests and before you know it, you’ll be ready to enter bigger ones. There’s nothing to lose, and the payoff may be a prize or an impressive clip for your portfolio.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A New Day For Knowonder!

Knowonder! is an online magazine for kids. Once a print publication, it went online with the premise of printing a brand new story each day. It went from no-pay for authors to being able to pay $10 per story. Read the home page to learn how the editor almost had to dissolve the entire project but then found new life through a large donation which will now allow payment of $25-50 per story.

It's not easy to find 30 or 31 quality tales for kids month after month. Editor, Phillip J. Chipping, has done an admirable job with the help of two volunteer associate editors. When Mr. Cushing found new and good  funding for his endeavor, he quit his job and is giving it his full-time attention.

I've had several stories published at Knowonder!  One of them, "There's A Dragon In The Library," has been listed in the Top 15 Stories. The editor also used this story as an example in the guidelines section of the website. I wasn't aware of either of these gold stars for Nancy until I was cruising through the website one day. Certainly pleased me very much, especially since the dragon story is one I loved writing.

Take some time to read all the pages on the Knowonder! website. Their aim is to promote reading and to give parents an aid to do this with read-aloud stories for younger children and read-alone stories for the older ones already able to read. There are some good articles for parents and grandparents concerning reading with and for children in the For You By You section.

For writers, the most important page on the website is the submit page. It's here that you will learn what kind of stories are being sought. I was amazed at the detailed information given in this section.. There's a lot to read, but it will be worth your effort. The editor makes it very clear what he wants and also gives excellent examples.There is a submission form when you're ready to send a story. You might be tempted to read only the Short Version of the guidelines, but it will be to your benefit to read the Long Version. It's akin to taking a class on writing for children.

The new version of Knowonder! will not begin until June 1st, but that's only two months away, so now's the time to submit to this very fine magazine for children. Meanwhile, use it frequently to read to and with your own kids and grandkids.

Other stories I've had published at Knowonder! are "Where's Pete,"  "Angels In The Snow,"  and "A Feast For Oscar."  My first story for Knowonder! was in the print edtion in November 2009. "The Boy Who Wanted A Tail" was a story based on a real situaiton with my son when he was around 4.

Friday, March 16, 2012

You Can Write A Travel Article

If you're a writer and have traveled anywhere, you can write a travel article. I've written several, some of which have been published. St. Patrick's Day, being tomorrow, brought to mind a wonderful trip to Ireland. While browsing in a gift shop, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and there was my husband looking like a leprechaun. It was so surprising to see him in the green hat and beard that I laughed so hard, I had tears coming and no words. 

But that memorable moment was not what I wrote about. Instead, I chose to write about our visit to Blarney Castle. "Kissing The Blarney Stone" has been published more than once and also won a contest at womens' memoir website.  

I wrote a piece on the town in Germany where one of my husband's grandfather's grew up. "Grandpa's Town"  was published at Dave's Travel Corner. I'd entered it in one of his contests. It didn't win but was published in his ezine. 

The first story about Blarney Castle put a personal spin on a tourist attraction, while the one about Ken's grandfather's hometown was more of a personal essay with a travel angle.

There are many different approaches to travel articles. The personal essay travel piece has gotten more popular in recent years. And I think they are more fun to write. There is a place for the non-personal travel article, too. 

You don't need to give a day by day description of your trip. Select one part of the trip and enlarge upon it.  Let readers see a place through your eyes. Think about trips you've taken. I bet there are lots of things that would work in a travel article. Make it current. Make it personal. Make it fun.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sensory Detail Exercise

Whole Pie clipart 

Can you smell the pie pictured here? If you use your creative mind, you can describe it so others might know exactly how it smells. Is it spicy? Or sweet?  Or does a tartness pervade the air? Does it invade your entire being? Make your nose twitch? 

A good exercise is to make a list of the five senses, then write descriptive words or phrases for each one. The more often you do an exercise like this, the better your sensory detail will be in your stories and poems. Doing the exercise  more than once brings an awareness to your subconscious mind that will serve you well down the line. 

There is an example for each group below to get you started.Add to these and then continue each list with your own words for each of the five senses. Do as many as you can and then do them again next week.

Our Five Senses

1.  Smell
     a.  a building on fire--smoky, charred wood   

2.  Sight
     a.  mountain--majestic, magnificent, enormous, towering

3.  Sound
     a.  traffic--blaring horns, rolling tires across bricks, policemen's whistles, motors 

4.  Touch
     a.  kitten--soft, furry, silky

5.  Taste
     a.  lemon--pungent, citrusy, tart, sour

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Repeating Words--It's Boring!

Note:  I was asked to be a Guest Blogger at Intralingo, a blog written by Lisa Carter who translates books from Spanish to English and also writes. Lisa asked me to submit anything about writing. I sent her an article that deals with the frustrations and satisfactions of writing. The post is up today. You can read "Two Sides of the Coin" on Lisa's blog.

Now, on to today's post for my own blog. I was critiquing a submission sent in by a member of my online crit group recently when I noticed that I was marking several spots with the same comment. The writer had repeated the same word in two or three consecutive sentences in several paragraphs. We do that unconsciously and often catch it when we go back and edit our work. But sometimes, we slide right over it, concentrating on what appears to be the more important things.

When a reader finds these repetitions, boredom begins to set in. The flow is no longer running smoothly and the writing begins to appear a bit juvenile. Once it's pointed out, we see it so clearly and realize that it becomes a distraction. The last thing we want to do is bore or distract our readers.

Take a look at these two paragraphs. Which one do you like best?

A.  We made our way to the river's edge and scanned the quiet water. Next, we made our way to the swinging bridge and stepped cautiously onto it. We made our way across step by step, holding our breath and refusing to look down as the rope bridge swayed.

B.  We made our way to the river's edge and scanned the quiet water. I followed John to the swinging bridge, and stepped cautiously onto it. We inched across, step by step, holding our breath and refusing to look down as the rope bridge swayed.

It's so easy to write an essay with excellent information but fill it with far too many she, he, we, or I.Read any one of those words over and over and it starts to turn a reader into a quitter.

When you edit your work, look for repetitious words.  Use a different word for some of them. You may have to change the order of your sentence to do so, but whatever works. Go for it. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another Chance


Who doesn't love Maxine? She tells it like it is. We laugh at her sometimes outrageous comments, but if you take a second look, you'll also benefit from her insightful remarks. 

Every single morning that we wake up, roll out of bed and start the day, we have a chance to do better than we did the day before. We have another opportunity to fix whatever we worked on yesterday. 

If you wrote six pages of a chapter of your novel that didn't make you feel satisfied, you can revise them today. If the end of an essay just wouldn't come on Monday, Tuesday brings another chance to find it. If a poem fell flat when you wrote it the first time, this new day brings a time to rectify it. 

If you didn't get anything submitted to an editor yesterday, you can do it today. If you never got around to reading part of a book on writing, today's the day you might do so. If you didn't meet an editor's deadline earlier this week, do it now. 

Maxine is so right. Every single day we wake up breathing, we can undo or redo so many things. Besides that, we can start something brand new. Doesn't matter how many aches and pains might assail you upon waking. Doesn't matter how hard it is to get out of bed. Doesn't matter that your need for coffee is greater than anything else at that moment. All that matters is that you have been gifted with another day to carry on with your writing and the other things in your life. Don't waste the gift!

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Anthology Series Needs Stories

Being a Woman book cover

A few weeks ago, I featured a call for submissions for a book called Not Your Mother's Book...On Dogs. Kathleene S. Baker is co-editor of the book. She had contacted me with info for writers. Lster, she told me they have decided to accept reprints. The writer would be asked to submit proof that they still own the copyright. 

The other day, Kathy sent me a message asking why she had not seen any of my stories come through the submissions system for this new anthology series. I replied that I wasn't sure my kind of stories worked for these books. I had the impression they might want something a little on the quirky side or ones that were all from today's world. She fired back a message saying that they would consider the same kind of stories that Chicken Soup books use, but they'd also be happy to have those that were a bit quirky. She suggested I take another look at the lengthy list of titles they have in the works.

I went to the Publishing Syndicate submission guidelines page and read through the entire page, then looked at the long list of titles along the left-hand side. There are 36 listed. Click on each title to learn more about what they are looking for, and also to find out if there has been a deadline set or if it is open. Many are left open until enough stories are gathered. This tells me that submitting a story will be a long process from submission time to acceptance to publication, but in an anthology series, that is not at all unusual. Chicken Soup for the Soul books can take months and months, even more than a year. As long as you know that from the beginning, you can accept it. Doesn't mean you have to like the long wait, though. 

As I scanned the list of titles, I found several that I thought I might be able to submit to. 

The payment will vary as it is figured through royalties. The guidelines mention that they hope to get to a flat fee for authors once the series gains readers. The publishing group behind the Not Your Mothe'r's Book.... is experienced and should do a good job of marketing. 

I'm going to give it a whirl. How about you? Before you send a story, read the submission page very carefully so you know what you're committing to. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Another Book For Writers

Unleash the Writer Within

The number of writers who write about writing grows ever larger. And why not? Who better to reach the inner mind of another writer or to teach some of the technical aspects of our trade? I like to read books about the craft of writing because they do two things for me. First, they reassure me that I know a fair amount about this skill and second, I find that I still have a lot more to learn. 

The latest one I've read  is Cecil Murphey's Unleash The Writer Within. Mr. Murphey definitely has the credentials to pen a book like this. He's a best-selling author who has written more than 120 books. He is well-known for 90 Minutes in Heaven. His books have sold millions of copies and have been published in more than 40 languages. Mr. Murphey is also an international speaker. With success like this, we'd be fools not to pay attention to what he has to say. He is a Christian which is evident in much of what he writes, although he's not attempting to sell his faith.

Reading this book is pretty close to attending a seminar on learning who you are as a writer, what is deep inside that makes you a writer, and how to deal with many aspects of writing that effect the inner you. Think how much more you would have paid to attend the seminar than the price of this paperback book!

Each chapter concludes with a statement of truth or principle. The entire list of these aphorisms are included at the end of the book. A few that I liked are:

1.  When I'm blocked,  I listen quitetly and compassionately. My deeper, inner voice wants to tell me something--something I need to know.

2.  The better I know myself, the better I write. The better I like myself, the better writer I become.

3.  The more I know who I am and like who I am, the truer my writing voice and the more faithfully I honor that voice.

4.  I write creatively and I edit analytically.

If you read the book with an open mind and answer the questions posed to you honestly, you may learn a few things about yourself. Besisdes that, you may unleash that writer within to the point that you grow by leaps and bounds in your writing world. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Listen To your Heart

The poster quote above triggered a memory for me. A lot of years ago, I submitted to a Chicken Soup for the Soul book for the first time. The story was a simple one, a childhood memory, that I thought might work for the Fathers and Daughters book. 

I hesitated to send it. Why? My pride told me it was impossible because rejection hurts a lot.  Experience added that I hadn't been writing very long, and the Chicken Soup editors received hundreds, maybe even a thousand or more, submissions for each book. My chances were pretty slim. Reason stepped in and sneered at me as it told me it was pointless to send this story in. What would it matter to the rest of the world?

All three had ganged up on me, and then a funny thing happened. My heart whispered softly in my ear. Your story is something others can relate to. Go ahead and give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I pushed pride, experience  and reason out the door. I liked what my heart told me. 

I sent the story and many months later, I received a notice that the story had made it to the finals.  My heart did a happy dance.  I waited a few weeks longer before learning that the story had made it into the book. What a thrill to hold the published book in my hand a few months later. 

That story was "Love In A Box" which is all about a Valentine box my dad made for when I was in the second grade. At age seven, I suddenly realized that my hardworking father truly loved me. It 
came as a startling discovery, one that left a life-long impression on me. Apparently, readers related to it and responded positively, so much so that the story has been published many times in English and some foreign languages.  The link will take you to a website where it is posted and you can also hear me read it.

What if I hadn't listened to my heart? What if I'd let those three bullies push me into a corner? Have you ever had a project that you wanted to submit somewhere but held back for one or more of the reasons above? I'd love to hear about it. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Grammar/Haiku For You

A friend sent me the following and I found it to be most interesting and amusing so wanted to share it with you. I checked the links about National Grammar Day, Mark Allen, and Allen's blog. He is a journalist and former editor who has an interest in promoting grammar and word usage--something we, as writers, should pay attention to so you might want to check out his blog.

I found it interesting that the contest was done through twitter. I resisted having a twitter account for a long time, but a writer friend encouraged me to try it. I don't use it several times a day like some people do, but I do post the blog topics and it's brought more traffic.

The results of the grammar.haiku  contest are posted below. Some are very clever. The one that made me laugh is the second place winner. You might try writing one of these yourself. If you do, post it in the comments section.

March 4th was National Grammar Day, and one of the events held to celebrate the occasion was a Grammar Haiku Contest, overseen by editor Mark Allen. Language lovers were asked to post grammar- or usage-based haikus on Twitter, and nearly 200 entries were submitted. Herewith, from Allen's blog, the winning haiku and the runners-up, as determined by a distinguished panel of judges.
First place:
Being a dangler,
Jane knew it would have to come
out of the sentence
— Larry Kunz, @larry_kunz
Second place:
Tiny hyphen mark
marries words, charms editor.
Turns out to be lint.
Third place:
Tree in full word bloom
falling across the blackboard
sentence diagram
Bob Schroeder, @BobSchroeder5
Fourth place:
If I were to say
I missed you, oh subjunctive,
would that set the mood?
Michelle Baker, @corpwritingpro
Fifth place:
My word, your syntax
stirs the imperative mood:
Let's coordinate
Stan Carey, @StanCarey (Visual Thesaurus contributor!)
Honorable mentions:
After a sentence
be like Obi-Wan and just
hit the space bar once.
— Holly Ashworth, @ActuallyHolly
First person: I love.
Second person: You love me.
Third person: Uh, oh.
— Rachel Cooper, @RachelCooper_NS
Dangling oddly
I conjured absurdities
With modifiers.
— Tom Freeman, @SnoozeInBrief
Loose rhymes with moose and
lose with booze, which I want to
drink when they're confused
— @shaunarum
Judge me not grammar
I have memorized your rules
they shatter like glass
— Gerri Berendzen, @gerrrib
Wanted: one pronoun,
To take the place of he/she
"They" need not apply
— Charlie MacFadyen, @csmacf
People shouldn't say
"I could care less" when they mean
"I could care fewer"
— Tom Freeman, @SnoozeInBrief

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lists--Five Plus Five

I find that making lists helps see things more clearly, but I don't like long lists. How about making two lists of five items each? One will be the things that you find frustrating in your writing life and the other about the parts that are satisfying. 

Here's my Five Plus Five lists. Now, you'll know some of my secrets!

1.  waiting to hear from editors
2.  not having as much time to write as I'd like
3.  not getting published in high paying markets
4.  not having as great a vocabulary as some writers
5.  number of blog followers

1.  being published in multiple anthologies
2.  receiving positive comments from readers
3.  knowing I've touched the life of a reader
4.  the act of writing
5.  knowing that I'm fulfilling a life-long desire in my senior years

Making the lists is only the first part of this exercise. The next step is to do a little bit of analyzing. Ask yourself what you can do to ease some of the frustrating parts of your writing life. What can you do to keep the satisfying things going?  There are some frustrations that you can't control--for me, the waiting time to hear about  submissions. But maybe it's something that I need to accept as part of the game. Work on the ones you can control and accept those you can't. Remind yourself more often of the things are satisfying. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Good Read

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

A friend loaned me a copy of Laura Hillenbrand's latest book, Unbroken  She made a good case for the book. "It's a wonderful story of a man in a Japanese POW camp during WWII. You'll like it." I wasn't so sure after I'd read the summary on the inside cover, but the blurbs on the back cover promised a terrific read. I sat down one evening to begin this non-fiction  story, promising myself I would quit if it was too much blood and gore. 

I'd read and enjoyed Ms. Hillenbrand's earlier book Seabiscuit, so I already knew she was an excellent writer. She has the ability to create non-fiction that reads like a novel. It took very little time before I found myself hooked. I created more reading time than normal so that I could continue the story Yes, it was hard to lay it down when the clock had long passed my normal bedtime. 

The book tells the story of Louis Zamperini, born in 1917 in California. He found himself constantly in trouble until he starts running races in his teen years. He ran so hard and so fast that he ran right into being an Olympic star, competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. WWII interrupted his plan to run even faster in the 1940 Olympics. 

Instead, he became a bombardier airman in the Pacific theater. His plane was shot down, and he and two other airmen drifted in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days fighting extreme hunger and thirst, constant shark attacks and more. Their rescue comes with a bitter pill for it is Japanese soldier who find them. Louie is taken to a POW camp in Japan where he meets trial upon trial in three POW camps, one of which is run by a sadistic commander who delights in putting Louie through more than most men could endure.

It is almost beyond belief that a human being survived the degradation and harsh living conditions but survive he did. While reading, I feared for him and I cheered for him. I hurt inside at some of the things he endured. And I ended up being amazed at what he did with his life after the war ended and he went home. 

The subtitle of the book is A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption which is a perfect description of this deeply researched, well-told story. The book is quite simply unforgettable. That is partly due to Louie's story but also to the outstanding story-telling ability of Ms. Hillenbrand.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Your Writer Name--Important or Not?

Here's a reprint of an article I wrote about choosing the name you will use as a writer. There may be more to consider than you think. 

Selecting Your Writing Name

By Nancy Julien Kopp

When I first began writing, I used the name Nancy Kopp. Why not? It's mine, and I felt proud to have it on my work. Some writers choose to use only initials and last name, others use both names and still others choose to use a pseudonym. I've always thought they did it if they weren't proud of their work, but perhaps they wanted anonymity only for privacy sake. If I spend hours writing an article, story or poem, I'd like my real name on it. I’ll admit that I didn’t give a great deal of thought to the name that appeared on my work at the beginning of my writing life. I spent my energy on the content instead.

Then, one day I was walking through Walmart and passed by the book section. It's nearly impossible for me to ignore a book browsing spot, so I wheeled my basket around and went back to scan the titles. My eyes moved from one shelf to another until a certain book stopped me cold. I couldn't tell you the title today, but in big letters under the name of the book was the author's name--NANCY KOPP. My heart beat faster, and I grabbed the book. I checked the back cover, frontispiece and inside to see who this imposter was. It turned out that this Nancy Kopp works at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and writes mystery novels on the side. What are the odds of having two Nancy Kopps who are both writers? I placed the book back on the shelf and moved on to the grocery section, but as I picked out lettuce, melons, and green beans, my mind kept wandering back to the book section.

As the week progressed, I continued to ponder the discovery I’d accidentally made. I wondered if it really posed a problem of any kind. After all, I don’t write mystery novels. But at the time, I lived only an hour south of the novel writer. Maybe that could be a bit too close for comfort. For days, I did nothing, but the whole thing kept nagging at me. What solution served both of us, hurt neither of us and could be accomplished in a relatively easy manner?

A simple answer was to add my maiden name, so I typed it to see how it looked, and I liked it. It looked professional and rather nice, so my new writing name came into being, the easiest birth ever. I've used it for a number of years now, and it feels comfortable, especially when an envelope arrives by Snail Mail addressed to Nancy Julien Kopp with a check inside in payment for something I've written.

If you hope to publish your work, give some serious thought to the name you want to use and be consistent in using it. Google your name, along with the keyword writer, to learn if there is any other writer with the same or similar name. You can use two monikers and still be the same person. The nurse in the doctor's office may know you by one name and your readers by quite another. Pick one for your writing life that feels good to you, one you’ll be proud to see in print under the title of your published work. The writing you present to the world is important, but so are you, the author.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Devotions--Another Market

praying hands near bible (silver)

This morning, I had a message alerting me tht a Devotion I had written for the Lutheran Parish Nurses International newsletter is now online. You can read it here. I've not written many devotions and was a bit unsure at first when asked to contribute for the newsletter. But I read their detailed writer guidelines and decided I could do it.

There is a market for writing devotions. The bulk seems to be for Christian publications, but with a little research, I'm sure you can find devotions published for other religions, as well. Remember your old friend, Google, and other search engines to help.

A devotion is usually short, often relates a personal experience and shows a spiritual revelation of some kind. Christian devotions include scripture from the bible to illustrate the topic. There are devotional books of all kinds. I have one on my shelf that is a full year of devotions for writers. I was asked to submit for that book, too. When I received my copy of the book, I kept it near my computer and read each day's offering for a full year. It gave me quite a boost, especially when I was feeling a bit down over several rejections or a piece I was working on didn't seem to be jelling like I'd hoped. It made me realize how much company I had in some of the feelings I'd experienced as a writer.

You're sure to find devotional books for other professions, too, as well as ones that individual church denominations publish. So, there is definitely a market for them.

Try googling 'writing devotions--markets' and you'll find a lengthy list of articles on the topic along with possible markets. One thing to keep in mind is that many are a no-pay, although you will also find some paying markets.

When looking into a type of writing that is new to you, do your homework before jumping in.