Thursday, January 31, 2013

Readers Span The Entire Year

One activity spans the four seasons.

The perfect picture of a girl reading on a summer day. You can almost feel the soft summer breezes in this picture. 

How about this man reading during a spring shower. Can you smell the freshness of the rain? 

This woman reads on a warm Indian Summer fall afternoon. 

What better thing to do on a cold winter day? A comfy chair, a hot drink, and a book?

The point of all these great pictures published at Eat, Sleep and Read is pretty simple. Reading is for all seasons. Despite the many other activities in each quarter of our year, there is always a time and place to read. Take the time. Make a place. Enrich your life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dragons? Princesses? Write A Story For Kids

snowy winter

This is pretty close to what it looked like outside our house this morning. On Monday, it was 75 degrees, around 40 on Tuesday for a high, and then the snow came blowing in overnight. That's what winter is like in the central part of Kansas. Never boring as it's always changing. We welcome moisture in any form it comes as we live in an area now proclaimed Extreme Drought. 

But on to today's topic. Knowonder! magazine for kids has published the second volume of stories for kids at Amazon. The White Sail is filled with 31 stories of adventure and fun. It can be purchased in both print and ebook form at the nominal price of $5.95 and $2.99 respectively. 

My story, "Message In The Night," is included in this new volume. Knowonder! editors pull their most popular stories from the online magazine to make up these print books, so I was pretty pleased to be in both Volume 1 and 2. 

Right now, Knowonder! is looking for stories about princesses and dragons--either one or together. Deadline is February 7th. So, put those kid story brain waves in motion and see if you can come up with a story to submit. Check out the other themed issues here.

The online magazine started out printing one new story every day which was a gigantic project. They have done a revision of the magazine this year and now print one new story about 3 times a week. That makes the competitiion for writers a little tougher. They still pay $25 for stories 500-999 words and $50 for stories 1,000 words and up. Read the submission guidelines before submitting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Giving Thanks In January

Don't worry, the months did not slide by in a whirlpool. It's not Thanksgiving yet. I got to thinking about the many things in my writing/reading life that make me grateful. January is often a time of assessment and goal setting, so how about also scoping in on those things we are thankful for?

My Reading Life

I will be eternally thankful for the many influential people in my childhood years who fostered a love of reading in me. Among them are my mother who introduced me to the public library at age 5, the librarian who took time to give me a one-on-one tour of the Children's Department, the English teachers who made sure I read many classics and the thousands of writers who have given me knowledge and entertainment and soothed my soul with the books they've written. I had the good fortune of knowing other girls who loaned me books to read. At one point in my life, every girl I knew devoured each new Nancy Drew mystery novel she could find. We traded them back and forth like boys did baseball cards. 

My Writing Life

In the twenty years that I have called myself writer, I have honed that ability little by little.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to develop a new skill as a mature adult. I'm thankful for the chance to reach out and touch the lives of others with what I've written. I've met dozens of people in the writing world whose paths would never have crossed mine had we not pursued the same goals. Wonderful men and women whom I admire more than can be measured. I've forged close friendships with some of them and I have writing to thank for being able to do so. I give thanks for all those relationships. The more I write, the greater is my inspiration to continue doing so. Writers Block has not been a problem for me, and I give thanks for that.

What about you? What are you thankful for on this January day, which just happens to be Kansas Day--the day we celebrate our state's entry into the Union. Count the pluses in your life. Somehow, it makes the minuses less important. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Offending Your Readers

When we start a new writing project, the hope that it will be fruitful lies right beneath the surface, never straying. Every one of us works hard on the stories, articles and poems we write. We seldom casually toss words on a page without some thought as to why we are writing the piece or what publication we might send it to. 

We want our words to be fruitful to the reader as well as to our goal for the story we're writing. Fruitful to the reader in that he/she finds some satisfaction in what is read, some entertainment, some knowledge--all things positive. 

When we write, we seldom aim to achieve negatives, but they rise up sometimes like bubbles in a boiling pot on the stove. We might write something that offends some readers. Well, that's too bad but they can stop reading at the first offensive line. What I write is my opinion and may not necessarily coincide with all others. 

Mabye something we write ends up depressing an already depressed person. We could even write something that hurts the feelings of a reader. But I don't think it is necessarily what was written that was so negative. More likely, it is that the reader has some kind of emotional baggage that allows them to read negativity into something that may not have been written with that goal in mind. They may have some personal problems that cause them to have a different perception than some others. 

What I'm thinking about is that, if a reader rakes the author over the coals, it is not reason for the author to become defensive and/or angry. We can't write perfection for every reader. My greatest hope is that I can be honest in my writing  and reach a few readers who like my work. I do not purposely set out to offend anyone. I'm sure it's happened at times for some of the reasons above. 

If a writer's intent is to offend their readers, they've got a few hang-ups to deal with. Their own. If a writer offends someone unintentionally, they should feel no guilt. They should also write what they truly believe. It's their opinion and hopefully will be respected as such. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The "I Remember" Exercise

Me at age 3 with my parents at Grandma's
Me at age 10

A good exercise for writing your memories is to type the words I remember... Then stop for a few seconds and start remembering. Write whatever comes to mind, whether it seems silly or not. I once did this exercise that turned out to be the basis for a full essay. You can read it here, then do your own.

 I remember....

I remember so much about my childhood days. Incidents, events, people, and places return to me over and over, sometimes in my dreams. I so often am the age I am now, but the dream is set in someplace of long ago—a place where I might have been as a child. My childhood home figures prominently in my dreams and memories.

I grew up in a 3rd floor apartment. Six of us crowded into a 2 bedroom apartment which also had a small kitchen, pantry, dining room (which is where I slept) and a living room with a small sunroom extension on it and one bathroom with a clawfoot tub, no shower. We also had an outdoor balcony, very small and scary when you leaned over the railing and looked way down below. We never had a chair or table on the balcony like people would today. It was a place we were seldom allowed to go, reserved for those Kodak moments.

We climbed the three flights of stairs to our door carrying so many things. Laundry baskets, grocery bags, the live Christmas tree we had each December. Whatever we needed or wanted was toted up those three flights. The enclosed front stairs were carpeted, and as we climbed, we could smell dinner. Sometimes it was dinner cooking and sometimes it was a lingering odor from yesterday's dinner. We had to pass four other apartment doors to reach our floor, and the dinner smells from all four mingled. I often tried to single out the aromas to see who had eaten what that day. The back steps were outdoors and wooden. Up a big double set to the first floor, then split off to a single width set on either side, then onto another double set, and another single width set on either side leading to our floor. One more double set of steps and we landed on our back porch. There were four apartment doors on that big porch. And above the railing on our side ran a clothesline on a pulley. My mother often did hand-washing and hung the clothes to dry on that line. When there was an infant in the family, diapers fluttered in the wind every day of the week, drying quickly on summer days, and freezing to a cardboard stiffness in the winter.

I never knew what it was to be alone during my growing-up years. With three younger brothers and living in a small apartment, privacy came down to my allotted ten minutes in the bathroom each morning. The only place I can remember having solitude is when I walked to the library, which was at least once every week. Down the three flights of stairs with a load of books in my arms and away I went, past the conservatory in the next block, past the city park, and across the double set of railroad tracks. One was for freight trains, the other for Chicago Transit Authority "els" Once over the tracks, I turned onto a cinder path that ran behind the train station platform. I loved that cinder path. It made me feel as though I’d entered another world. The feel of concrete under my feet was the norm, but crunching along the cinder path brought me to another realm. The back of the train platform was to one side of me and a field of tall weeds bordered the other side of the path. Today, I would probably think it was no place for a child to be walking alone, but I did it myriad times over those years and never had a mishap. Maybe an angel walked with me.

The cinder path ended all too soon to suit me, and I skipped along the remaining block and a half until I reached my home away from home--the public library. While I made the walk to and from the library, my thoughts ran to so many things. I had time to think, to plan, to dream. I cherished that private time as much as the wonderful books I carried with me.

I remember so many good things my mother cooked and baked for us. Food was something to be enjoyed in our home, not just to eat to stay alive. Money was scarce, and Mother skimped on many things, but food was of primary importance, and we ate quite well. Steak appeared on our table only occasionally.  And we knew if we had steak one night, the next night was something like tuna casserole, or a pound of hamburger stretched in any way possible, and some never even thought of before. My mother baked a lot, and she passed the love of baking on to me. She had learned from her own mother who had a neighborhood bakery for many years.

Memories feed an old soul. Memories entertain the younger generations. Memories are priceless.

Yes, I remember so many things from those childhood years on Garfield Street in Oak Park, Illinois. They helped make me the person I am today, and they've made me appreciate all that I have as an adult, not least of all, the joy of having occasional private moments.__._,_.___


Thursday, January 24, 2013

How's The Weather?

What's the weather like at your house today? Here, in the central part of Kansas, it's really cold. Our high today is to be 27, after 47 yesterday and a prediction of 52 for tomorrow. Crazy roller coaster temps! We'd be thrilled if we had some snow like the little bird in the picture above is experiencing. Our area of the country is now classified as Extreme Drought. It's a worry for the farmers and everyone else.

Which brings me to today's topic. I wrote yesterday about sharing your memories with family by keeping a Memory Book. I usually suggest dividing the book into 12 sections--one for each month. Write about the things you remember in each month and keep adding more stories each year. Some may be only reflections, not full stories.

Then, create a few more sections, using those divider pages you pick up at your local discount or office supply store. Mark one for Weather. Others might be Food, Illnesses, School, Hobbies. Anything else you might think about. Some of the stories may overlap from a specific month to one of these other sections. You can put it wherever you like. It's YOUR book. Or copy the story and put it in two places. It's YOUR book.

Let's look at the Weather section. Grandpa is always telling grandchildren about how deep the snow was, how cold or how hot when he was a kid. Grains of truth with seeds of embellishment in some cases. Think back to what the summers or winters were like during your childhood. How do they compare to what we have now. Be honest! Were there certain storms that you remember well? Write about it. Did you have summers so hot that you could do almost nothing productive? Write about it. Did you live in a place where the weather was near perfect? Write about it. Were the trees in your cherry orchard picked clean by the birds one summer? Did your dad's pumpkin field yield a bountiful harvest one year because of perfect weather conditions? There are many angles from which you can approach weather memories.

Write about the activities you and your family did on cold, winter days. The same for those hot, muggy summer days. Maybe you grew up in a different part of the country than where your children and grandchildren live now. The weather patterns might be altogether different. Write about your weather for them. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Memories Are For Sharing

Something good happens in your life and you savor the moment. Something humorous occurs and you mark it as never-to-be-forgotten. A tragedy or other sad event changes you in many ways. All of these happenings eventually become memories. Some are to be treasured, some laughed over and others are bittersweet, leaving you with a return of tears or heartache. It's alright. No one has all happiness and hilarity in their life. 

Dr. Seuss's quote is pretty accurate. When those memorable moments pass through our life, we aren't considering them as a memory to hang onto forever. But the things that stay with us months and years down the road of life become our memories. I'm a firm believer that memories are for sharing.

Share your memories with your children and grandchildren, your siblings, you parents and good friends. I once told my mother about a memory that had haunted me for over ten years of my childhood. It astonished her when the story surfaced, but it was a memory of mine that she needed to know. After a bit of anger and a few tears on both sides, that memory brought us closer together as mother and daughter. 

It wasn't enough that I shared my memory verbally. It needed to be written so that the younger members of my family would someday learn what had happened. Not that it would alter their lives in any way, but it might be a piece of the puzzle of a life of someone they are related to. Me! I admit that it took decades before I did write about a giant lie I told as a child--a great big lie that led to more lies and upset my parents for a very long time. The story is now written and in my Memory Book. 

I've written about the embarassing or funny moments like the time I cooked a big Thanksgiving dinner and miscalculated the timing on the turkey. Rare beef is good but doesn't work with turkey.  I still get teased about that one. I've written about the heartaches involved with the loss of two of our infant children. Stories that needed to be kept for our family and maybe to help others who have walked a similar path. 

When my family sifts through my Memory Book, they will learn things about my life before and after they were a part of it. They'll learn about my friends, my thoughts and feelings. They'll see a different way of life in my childhood than their own. They'll learn about family members on both sides and generations back.

Yes, memories are for sharing. Are you writing yours? Do you share them with the ones you love? If you haven't done it yet, there's no time like the present for taking that first step. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Don't Let Old Files Gather Too Much Dust

This was my 12th Chicken Soup for the Soul book

Today, I'd like to give you a list of the books for which Chicken Soup for the Soul is actively seeking stories.  I hear so many writers say that they've sent stories to Chicken Soup many times with no successful results. No one gets every story accepted at this prime anthology series. I certainly haven't. I've been fortunate to have my work in 13 of their books but the number of rejects is far greater.

The key here is to keep submitting. One of these times, your story may be exactly what they need to round out the 101 stories they publish in most books. With that in mind, here's a list of their current needs.

  • Holiday Stories
  • Devotional Stories for Wives
  • Lemons To Lemonade
  • Messages From Heaven:  Love Never Dies
  • Multi-tasking Moms Survival Guide
You can read more about each of these books on the Possible Books page at the Chicken Soup website. Pay close attention to the deadline dates and also read the Guidelines page, even if you've already read it a million times. You don't want to overlook anything when sending a story.

Earlier this morning, I read a blog post written by a friend of mine that fits in quite well with my own post today. Tracy Million Simmons let her readers know about the benefit of going through old files and pulling out writing projects of long ago. Take a look here at what she had to say.

Periodically, I cruise through My Documents files to see if I have anything that has been sitting there gathering dust that might be appropriate for a Call for Submissions from a publisher. It's very easy to let a story sit in a file and forget that it's there. Slip down the list off and on to keep yourself alert to what's there. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Believe In Yourself

Today our nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day. I saw a quote of his on facebook this morning which can apply to to many things in our lives. It figures easily into our writing lives, too. 

When a writer is hit with an inspiratin for a story, he/she never knows where it is going to go. Will it be a piece of fluff that never sees the light of day outside his/her own computer? Or might it be the best thing ever written by that writer? Will it end up dying in a file somewhere, or will it be published and perhaps even become an award winner? 

When we sit down to write a story, essay, article or poem, we have no idea what will occur, do we? But we take that first step with the faith that, if it's meant to be, our story will be ascending that unseen staircase to publication and recognition. 

Note that the very first step is writing the story. After that, it's an unknown but I do think that the writer can help the story move up that staircase step by step. It means revising, editing and then doing it all over again so that it is the very best quality possible for the person who wrote the story. 

Next, find a good fit with story and publication. Look for publishers that mesh with your work. It means a lot of time spent studying the guidelines and past issues of magazines, newspapers, and books to find a place that would be appropriate for your story. Then submit!

After that, it's out of your hands. You still can't see the whole staircase, but you've moved up several steps already. Hope and faith now come into play. And that eternally distasteful waiting game. 

Have the faith in yourself to take that first step. Write the story!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Writers In The Night

I liked this quote from Pulitzer Prize Winner and many other literary awards, Saul Bellow. He seems to believe that our best work comes to us during the night when our brain is hopefully at rest. For me, some nights that's true and on other nights, I'm more awake than asleep. But even during those nighttime wakeful hours, I often think about stories or essays I would like to write. 

Do I get up and write what I'm thinking about? Not very often. Somehow, the thought of leaving my warm bed and flicking on a bright light isn't all that motivating. I am afraid I might wake my husband by turning on the light in the office across the hall from our bedroom. Why, I'm not sure, as the man could sleep through a demolition derby being run next door to our home! 

But on a few occasions, I have gotten up, grabbed a robe and gone out to the living room to jot down the thoughts I had. Once, I wrote an entire creative nonfiction story that turned out so well that it was published by the first editor I sent it to. Another time, I had a vivid dream about gypsies on a train--old women and little girls. As soon as I woke up, I knew I had to write something about it, so I zipped across the hall still in nightgown and barefooted to write. What evolved was one of the better poems I've ever written. Once I'd written the opening line, the rest seemed to write itself. The images in my mind of the old women and the little girls was so clear. I did do a little editing later on the poem before submitting it. play, gyspsy girl, play has been published three times but beautifully illustrated at The Wordsmith. And I did edit and revise the other story that I wrote in the middle of the night, so I'm not sure I can go along 100% with Mr. Bellow's quote. 

I do think that we too often have those brilliant middle-of-th-night thoughts that blaze with glory in our minds. If we wait til the next day, the fire in them has died to a small flickering flame or even a lone ember. In the light of day and hours after the idea came to us, the story line may not be nearly as good. Some writers keep a pad and pencil on the nightstand so, if an idea comes to mind in the night, they can roll over and write down the keywords. Gotta tell you, though, that scribbling in the dark can often mean you have illegible gibberish to read the next morning. Take it from one who has tried this approach, too.

The point here is that we need to pay attention to those writing ideas that come to us during the night. Who knows, it just might produce your finest work. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wishy-washy Or Passionate?

Wishy-washy or passionate? Which one describes your writing life? I've heard more than one person expound on wanting to be a writer. They talk about it and take a half-hearted stab at it, then give up when they don't see immediate results.

A star athlete became a star because passion for his sport burned within. The basketball player who doesn't have that intensity is the guy who spends the game on the bench. The writer who doesn't harbor those intense feelings is one who will not have a long list of publications behind his/her name.

How do you get that passion? Can't buy it. Can't steal it from anyone else. Can't wish it into fruition. You have to love something a great deal to spark that depth of feeling. You have to want more than the glory of being a successful writer. You need to write for the love of writing. Those who love beautiful prose when they read are ones who will try to equal it in their own writing.

I held my desire to write in check for many years. I waited until my children were independent adults, and as I've said many times here, that probably was not the smart thing to do. I wish I had followed my desire earlier, but that's water over the damn now. Still, the embers glowed within me all those years and when I finally got started writing the stories and essays I'd often thought about, it burst into a flame that still burns within me nearly twenty years later.

Does having a passion for writing insure you'll be a successful writer? No, it doesn't. What it does promise is that you'll continue writing and most likely will continue to be a better writer. If the passion is alive and well, the writer will take all the other steps to grow in his/her chosen field.

If you don't have that passion now, does it mean you should quit? I don't think so. Maybe if you keep working at it, the spark will ignite when you least expect it. Give it some more time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Thoughts On 12 1/2 Writing Rules

How could I pass up this wonderful poster? Every one of these writing rules is sensible and something writers can accomplish. You don't have to be genetically connected to Albert Einstein to follow the rules here. A few are a bit tongue-in-cheek but they all make a definite point. 

Here's my short take on the dozen and a half listed. 

1.  You've read the same thing here more than once. You must write on a regular basis, even if it is only doing a writing exercise.

2.  Right on. If I don't like what I'm writing, chances are no one else will either.

3.  Routines are comforting. Find one for your writing life.

4.  I prefer poetry that does not rhyme. Rhyming poets sometimes go goofy with trying to find the words that are needed.

5.  Defining a character using a sterotype is far too easy. It's for the lazy writer. Create something unique.

6.  'Nuff said. I am always encouraging writers to read.

7.  This in itself would be a good writing exercise.

8.  Right! I have always argued that sometimes a story is written for pure entertainment, not to teach a lesson.

9.  The Girl Scout motto comes to mind on this one.

10.  Everyday life can be the base for a story.

11.  Move out of your comfort zone. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. (Cliche but valid)

12.  Good point, We are too often biased in what we write. Remember the other side.

12 1/2. Yep, go write something!  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Three Fears Writers May Encounter

Many articles about writing give a quick mention to the element of fear involved in submitting your work for publication or to a contest. They gloss over it and move on. But that fear is pretty big with some people.

What is there to fear? Let's look at a few possibilities.

1. Fear of rejection:  It's probably the biggest monster  We work hard writing a story, essay, article or poem. The words are ours alone and they're rather precious to us. We feel like we're sending a tiny child out into the world alone when we submit our work to an editor. What will happen to my little baby? we ask ourselves. Will it meet up with a kind person or a curmudgeon? Will it be accepted or thrown back into the sea of submissions that didn't make it? It's not foolish to feel this way. We all do to a certain extent but like everything, there are varying degrees. Don't make yourself sick with worry over it. Once we accept that rejection is part of the writing world and that the rejection is not against you personally, we can usually deal with this fear.

2.  Fear of success: Sounds silly, but it's a real fear. Once the thrill of having a book published is past, the writer might start thinking about the great expectations that her editors and/or readers have. They want to read another book she writes. But what if the second book isn't as good? What if she can't even produce a second book, let alone a third and fourth? If you write personal esays that have been published, you want to be able to come up with more but to find a new subject and then write with the same expertise is not always a piece of cake. Writers are individuals so some will never even think about this situation, but there are those who will suffer greatly with this fear.

3.  Fear of the limelight:  If you have a successful book or become known for your anthology stories or essays, you may be asked to help promote the books by appearing on TV interviews, radio shows, book signings and perhaps even to speak at various organizations. If you're an outgoing person, this is probably not a problem, but if you happen to be one of those people who prefers sitting alone at the computer and writing, it could be agony.

The poster above suggests you find the courage to move forward, and I will second that. Wouldn't it be nice if you could run to Walmart and purchase about a poind of courage? Well, you can't but you can reach deep within yourself and find it in bits and pieces. Each time you use a little of that courage and move forward, you will definitely find more joy in your life. And every time you use that courage to help conquer a part of whatever fear you're dealing with in your writing life, it will be easier to meet that fear headon the next time.

No one conquers fear in one fell swoop. Take it a little at a time. Set small goals for yourself and add a new goal each time the earlier one is met. I'm willing to bet that some of the big names in the book world have had these same fears in their writing careers but they've met those fears and continued to succeed. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

Today, I'm posting an article published at a website for new writers last year. It is a bit of my own history in the writing world but the reason I am running it here now is that it is also about the best writing advice I ever had. 

Tom Spoke, I Listened
By Nancy Julien Kopp

 A new member of my critique group finished reading her short story, and the rest of us discussed it at length. Then, silence reigned, until Tom uttered familiar words in his quiet but firm manner. “Send it in! No editor is going to climb in your bedroom window and search for a manuscript stashed in a dresser drawer.” No smile came with the words. He meant every word. He repeated his advice in different ways at nearly every meeting of the small critique group he had founded. “You will never be published if you don’t submit your work.”

 He moderated with patience and consideration for the fragile egos of beginning writers. He dished out praise only when earned, and he had no qualms about pointing out the problems in a piece of writing shared with the group.

“Send it in!” became his mantra, and, for me, the encouraging words started to sink in. Common sense told me to follow his advice. After all, he submitted his stories to magazines and websites on a regular basis, and his work appeared in a printed media many times. But common sense often quarrels with a lack of confidence. I questioned Tom’s wisdom as I drove home from the meetings. Just because he can get his work published doesn’t mean I can. Or does it?

I worked up my courage and submitted a nonfiction article for kids to a magazine listed in Writer’s Market. The article detailed a game reserve park we’d visited, a good subject for young and curious minds. The interminable wait began. Several weeks later, the editor returned my story saying that she liked the subject but it needed energy, and she invited me to revise and send it to her again. Part of me thrilled to her invitation to rework the story, and another part slowly deflated like a balloon with a leak.

I pondered that word “energy” for several days. I had no clue what she was looking for, but one day I rewrote the piece featuring two children and their grandparents on a visit to Kruger Park in South Africa. I used a story approach but managed to get the pertinent info from the original article into it, as well. I still wasn’t sure what the editor wanted, but I followed Tom’s advice and sent it back to her. That turned out to be my first sale.

Greatly encouraged, I began to submit more of my work. Some went to nonpaying websites, but they accepted many of my submissions. I gathered several clips and my confidence level moved up the ladder. I also got many rejections, just as all beginning writers do, but somehow those published works soothed the rejection barbs. Success breeds confidence.

After moving to another state, I entered several pieces for the prose section in our state authors contest. I’d also written a poem to fit the Theme Division even though I knew little about poetry. I wanted to send it in, but I hesitated. I had no training nor real knowledge about writing poetry. Any poem I wrote came from the heart and satisfied me if it sounded right. The poem pleased me when I read it, but maybe it would sound like pretty amateur stuff to the judges. I lacked the courage to send it, until one day I heard Tom’s words in my head loud and clear—Send it in! Send it in! Send it in! I listened and mailed the entry that day. I got pretty excited when the first place notice and check arrived in my mailbox.

Time passed, and I wrote memoirs, inspirational articles, children’s stories and articles on the craft of writing. I didn’t let them stack up in my files. I submitted them to many places. My work has appeared in several anthologies, paying websites, magazines and newspapers. I still get rejections, but they don’t bother me as much now. I revise and submit elsewhere. Quite often, as I send a submission via e-mail or stamp a snail mail envelope addressed to an editor, I hear Tom’s voice with a clarity that makes it very real. “Send it in! Send it in! Send it in!”

Not everyone in that first critique group followed Tom’s advice. Some allowed stories and articles to pile up in a file of unpublished work. As for me, I took advantage of the best writing advice I’ve ever had, and I’m still reaping the benefits.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rambling Thoughts On A Friday

It's Friday and my mind is filled with unrelated thoughts.

The quote above is so simple but also right on the money. When you wake up in the morning, stretch and throw the covers back, the day spreads before you. It's your choice as to what to do with it.

Sometimes, the day is set for us with a 2 1/2 hour dental appointment on the calendar. That came to mind because it's what my Monday afternoon next week holds. I need a crown--that news did not make me happy, but there is a new procedure that means they can do it start to finish in one appointment rather than putting on a temporary and waiting three weeks. Some days, the set things we must do are more appealing than sitting in the dentist's chair for so long.

Even with scheduled appointments, social engagements and more, we have a certain amount of time each day where we can choose what to do. Many years ago, I read Barbara Bush's autobiography. Something she wrote near the end of the book stayed with me. To paraphrase, she said that we have a choice every day. We can choose to like what we must do that day or choose to not like it at all. She went on to say that she chose to like each day. What a positive attitude she had and probably still does.

Last night, I looked at my list of Submissions and Acceptances for 2012. Believe me, it was a bit grim. Why? was my first thought. I started looking over the submissions I'd made and noted that quite a few were for anthologies that have not made their selections yet. So, it's possible that submissions made in 2012 might still be accepted in 2013. Ah, look--a positive attitude! I also noted that some of the markets that once published my work are no longer in business. Hurts them and hurts their authors, too. Some kept publishing but had to cut back on the number of submissions they coud accept due to budget constraints. I did have some successes in that list but not as many as some other years.

One place where I made progress this past year is right here on the blog. I've gained more Followers and a lot more readers. Not all readers sign on as Followers so those numbers are never equal and often not even close to one another. I also made it through the 31 successive days of writing and publishing a blog post for the Blogger's Marathon last May. Hope to do it again this year. I picked up some readers, met a number of other bloggers and enjoyed the entire process.

Isn't a mind an amazing thing? It can be filled with myriad thoughts and still space available to add more. What are you going to fill yours with today?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Use A Search Engine To Find Markets

Discovery Education Clipart

This morning, I googled the words publications with writers guidelines and in a matter of seconds a treasure trove popped up. 

The first one looks like a keeper. When you have some time, look at this website and click on the various categories that fit your writing. It looks to me like you could spend many hours on this site.

There was a site that listed Christian markets. Those interested in that field might check it out. I noticed that it was dated 2010, so do be aware that some of what they list may no longer be in existence but many will be.

One called All Freelance Writing  had a lengthy list to study.  This website had ten pages of magazine writers guidelines. 

My search also turned up many, many individual magazines that publish their writer guidelines. Far too many for me to list here. Do a google search, or with some other search engine, and look at the magazines that are of interest to you. Start creating your own list, put in a file and keep it for reference. 

Search engines are a writer's friend. You can find almost anything by putting a few words in a box, then sit back and wait to see what pops up. Sometimes, you need to use more than one set of keywords to find what you're looking for. I just happened to hit gold with the 4 words I selected this morning. 

What are you waiting for? Start your search engines and tiptoe through the tulips! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Marketing Part 3: You Or The Writing Fairy?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a Writing Fairy who sits near your computer to do all the marketing work for you? Dream on! Not gonna happen. The cruel reality is that it is you who must do it.

We've talked this week about where to find markets and the importance of reading and following submission guidelines. 

Today's post regards a question that writers sometimes ask. Is it better to write the piece and then find a market or find a market you like and write something geared to it? Good question with no definitive answer. I hate to sound wishy-washy but the answer is yes on both counts.

Sometimes I write something with no particular market in mind. Then I set about searching for a place where I think it might be a fit. The longer you are in the writing world, the easier that becomes as you have a mental list of a number of markets. But don't rely only on those you've submitted to in the past. Keep them in mind but also look for new markets. Step out of your comfort zone. 

Occasionally, I run across a publication that appeals to me for one reason or another. If I have nothing in my files that fits it, I'm often inspired to write something new to submit. That's all very positive because writers need to keep writing new material. 

On another note, a good place to learn about new markets is through writer's newsletters. Most of them offer news about the writing world, articles on the craft of writing and some markets in each issue. There are so many of these newsletters in the cyberworld that writers need to be selective. Subscribe to too many and you eat deeply into your writing time. 

All the information I've given you this week might backfire and end up discouraging you rather than pushing you into finding a home for your writing. We know that knowledge is key, and to sell your writing you need to know as much as you can about the marketing process. Keep writing but also make marketing an ongoing process, as well. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Marketing--Guidelines Are Important

More on marketing your work today.

I would rate Guidelines as one of the most important elements of the marketing process. Some publications have lengthy, detailed guidelines while others are very basic, almost nonexistent. The long guidlines may at first appear overwhelming, but they are going to benefit you far more than the puny ones--or even none at all. When you send your work to a publication that provides no guidelines, it's frustrating. Much uncertainty as to whether your story is going to be appropriate for them.

The editors have specific needs and wants which they pass along to the writers through these guidelines. If you read them carefully, then work at meeting them, you'll have a far better chance of acceptance. Take a look at the Guidelines page at the Chicken Soup for the Soul website. It's pretty specific. The editors tell you not only what they want but also what they do not want. I hear over and over from writers who say they submit to Chicken Soup all the time and have never been accepted. I can't know the exact reasons their stories did not end up in a book, but one of the reasons might have been that the story they sent did not adhere to the clearly spelled-out guidelines.

Now look at the Guidelines page at Knowonder! children's online magazine. Their editors have given you a choice. They provide both a short and long version of their guidelines. The longer version is one of the most detailed I've ever seen, and yet, I'm sure they receive submissions that absolutely do not fit the parameters of those guidelines. You not only have to read them, you have to adhere to them!

I was asked to submit a devotion piece to a Parish Nurses group last year. It was to be relatively short so I thought it no big deal. When the nurse who had asked me to contribute sent the guidelines, I was amazed to see that they were exceptionally detailed, even down to the font size to be used for scripture quotes vs the size for other parts of the piece. Some of it was to be in Bold while other sections were not. A certain number of spaces between title, sections etc. And on and on. It was an international publication with many who read it using English as their second language, so I think the editors wanted it to be in the same format for each issue to make it easier for these people.

Contests nearly always have specific guidelines. If you don't follow them, your submission will be tossed out immediately. I always read the guidelines, try to do all they say, and then go back over my submission with a checklist. I would hate for my submission and entry fee to go sliding down the tunnel of rejection because I did not meet the required format.

Don't just scan the guidelines. Study them! If you submit several times to one publication, their guidelines will be more familiar to you. Do continue to check them each time, however, as something might have changed.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Marketing--Narrow The Field


We ended last week with the topic of writing and marketing needing to be partners. That is, if you would like to have what you've written published. This week, we'll look at some marketing factors.

The man above is wondering how in the world to go about finding a place for his brand new story. Who would want to publish it? Where should he send it? How should he start?

First of all, he should narrow the field by determining if his story is sci-fi, fantasy, horror, erotica, or literary fiction. You'd think it would be obvious that, if his story is literary fiction, he should not send it to Sci-Fi Feast or Black Ink Horror Stories (fictitious publications!). Surprisingly, some writers end up sending work to places that would never consider the type of story submitted.

Do your homework! Check the writer's directories or google the kind of publications that your story fits. Whittle the list down to a select few. Check to see if each publication accepts simultaneous submissions or if they want an exclusive submission. If your top choice does not accept simulaneous submissions, fine, but prepare to play the waiting game. Beginning writers get antsy waiting. Experienced writers know it's part of the game. 

While googling and driectories are good tools for searching markets, another one is to network with other writers. If you belong to a critique group, ask those who critique your work for suggestions. Some of them may have had success with one magazine or newspaper or ezine that would be a fit for your story. 

If I have a religious-based story for children, I am not going to send it to a secular publication. I'll look for a Christian or Jewish or Muslim market, depending on the religion the story is geared to. If I have a story that centers around a woman in love, I am not going to send it to Men's Health or Modern Mechanics. As obvious as that may seem, too many writers send work to places they should have passed by. 

Step one is to sift and sort the markets. Make a list of those that would be a fit and concentrate on them. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Part A and Part B--You Need Both

The poster above has nothing to do with today's post but I liked it and thought some of you would, also. Last year, someone gave me a gift card to use at Amazon. It was a perfect gift for someone like me who loves books. I'd have loved to have a dozen gift cards like that to increase the volume of books on my personal bookshelves.

We've talked a bit about goals in our writing life this week. One of mine is to spend some time this month searching markets to see if there is a fit with any of the calls for submissions. We forget that writing is Part A and the marketing Part B. Remember when you learned how to make an outline in English class? The teacher told us over and over that you cannot have Part A without Part B. 

It's definitely the same with our writing. Part A. Writing and Part B. Marketing must work together. You cannot have one without the other if you want to see your work published. They're like salt and pepper.

Years ago, writers had to scour the pages of market directories put out by Writer's Digest and others. It took hours and hours and the books were soon outdated. They were expensive when you considered buying the new one each year. There were directories for specialized writing---poetry, songwriting, children's, fiction, nonfiction. Then a large one that encompassed some of all the types of writing. 

Today, we have the benefit of googling whatever topic for which we need information. I think, sometimes, that we take it too much for granted. It truly is a tremendous asset to us as writers. We can find the very latest information for each publication.

Keep writing--Part A--and continue marketing Part B. They go hand in hand. Next week, we'll talk more about markets. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Make A Promise To Yourself, Then Keep It!

Eat, Sleep and Read  is a website that also has a super facebook page. One of their posters is the basis for today's post. We all laugh at resolutions because they last such a short time. Before we know it, we're right back to doing the things we resolved not to do this year. 

But I think I could keep all the above, especially since 8 of the 10 tell me to Read. Easy! And I think I can smile and laugh plenty of times in 2013.

But what about other resolutions or promises we make to ourselves in our writing life? 

A member of my online writers group shared one of hers this morning with our group. She's going to write a poem every day in a new journal she received for Christmas. She said that she knows the poems will vary from good to mediocre to awful, but she also reasoned that, out of 365 poems written this year, at least a few will be good enough to submit to a contest or for publication.

I like her attitude. A lot! She isn't sitting around thinking about writing a poem every day. She's going to do it. I like that she knows not all of them will be excellent but that a few of them will attain that rating. 

I'd like to try something similar with my own writing this year. Not necessarily with poetry but perhaps with memoir. I'm still pondering on it and will decide soon because it's already January 3rd. Time to get going on those resolutions and promises we're making to ourselves. 

How about you? What will you promise yourself to do to enhance your writing life this year? Will you expand on your Memory Book? Will you try to write a poem everyday like my friend? Will you promise yoruself to do 3 writing exercises each week? Will you make a commitment to sub something to an editor every month? Or even every week? 

Whatever it is, if you stick with it all of 2013, you'll have enriched your writing life and perhaps found some publication success as well. Go for it! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Unearthing Treasures When You Clean

If they're giving prizes for the office that most needs cleaning up, this lady will definitely win. Are you a contestant for this one or not? My husband was known (in his working years) for having the messiest desk at his workplace. Not a coveted title for most people. Didn't bother him a bit.

I've seen quotes about an empty desk being a reflection of an empty mind. Now, that's just plain mean. Or maybe not. It either shows that the person has great organizational skills and has completed all tasks or that nothing is being done nor will it get done later. Take your pick! 

January seems to be a month that screams "Clean Me!" in your kitchen, family living area and your office space. Drawers and cupboards cry to be dusted and reorganized. It gives us a good start to our new year. And often, the weather is more conducive to staying indoors so why not put your time to good use? 

Yesterday, Ken and I were putting Christmas decorations away. I have a collection of Christmas tins, so I condensed them by putting small tins into bigger ones and then was ready to store them on the top shelf of my pantry for this next 11 months. Someone whose name begins with a K had already put several items on my shelf. So, I had to rearrange the whole shelf before finding room for my tins. I found a couple things on that shelf that I'd forgotten about. A nice discovery. Also noticed a few items that went into the trash.

Then, I put the Christmas dishes back on the second shelf from top after removing the everyday dishes. That called for more rearranging. Those two top shelves now look really great which makes the bottom two rather sad. So, before the week is over, I'll be sorting out and rearranging those last two shelves. Result? One clean pantry and satisfaction for me and maybe a few more surprises found.

My office will be next. How things stack up here is beyond me. When I periodically go through the piles of this and that, I'm always in for a few surprises. Many times I set something aside to be worked on later and then it becomes so buried that I forget all about it. I do try to clean up the office more than once a year for exactly that reason. Unearthing treasures. 

How about you? Is your office area neat as a pin or stacked with this and that? What's your method for keeping things straight? How often do you attack the reorganizing job? Give us your tried and true hints.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

List your Goals But Keep It Short!

I threw away our old calendars and put a new one near the phone and another on the wall here in my office this morning. The picture on the wall calendar is of a farm on a snowy day. Kind of looks like what I see outside my window. Not the farm but the snow. We had about 4 inches yesterday. The snowplow has not found our street yet nor have the newspapers arrived. Kind of nice that it's a holiday and people can stay in if they don't want to fight the snowy roads and crisp temps. Maybe I should say 'frigid' temps. 

At the beginning of a new year, we tend to reflect on the old one before we look forward. I've tried to look back without regrets rising. Whatever I did or didn't do the previous year is over, finished, kaput. There's no changing whatever happened in your writing life or your personal life either. Sure, there are things I wish I'd done differently, but I can't slide back to June or October or whenever it was. So, I prefer not to dwell on them. It's more fun to look at the positives so concentrate on those.

As for the ones you wish you'd done differently--they are the perfect base for your To-Do List for 2013 or for setting your goals for this new year. Spend today thinking about what you'd like to accomplish this year. Make a list, print it and keep it nearby so you see if every day. Making a list of goals and then hiding it in a file or a drawer does little good. We need that daily reminder. It's as good as an old-fashioned kick in the rear end. 

As for your goal list--make it short. List too many things and it looks overwhelming. You start wondering how in the world you'll ever accomplish all those items.