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Friday, August 29, 2014

More or Less? Is There A Magic Formula for Just Right?

I've been working on a poem ever since we got home from Germany and Prague. No, that's not entirely right. I've been working on it from the time we made a stop in a small village in the Czech Republic with our tour group. The place has haunted me ever since seeing it and hearing the history from our tour director. Words and phrases that fit the situation have swirled through my mind all the days since.

Last week, I finally got a first draft written and after letting it sit a couple days, I did a small bit of editing and sent it to my online critique group. The response from all who critted it was mostly positive and even very encouraging but a few who critiqued wanted to know more about what happened in that village. Questions abounded. Tell us more some said.

I've been thinking about it and I have a huge question mark regarding adding a lot more to the poem just to tell more of the story. First of all, I liked the fact that people were moved enough to want to know more. But is more going to take away from the poem? Is more going to dim a little of what's already there? Will adding to the poem really enrich it or will it make it sound mediocre and more like a nonfiction article than a poem?

These are all questions I've been contemplating. I may add a little more to the poem but not a lot. I want there to still be the bit of mystery that I felt when I visited the small community. I received bits and pieces not a whole story with all the answers and that is what I want the poem to portray, as well. There are few situations in life where we receive all the answers.

When you write a poem or a piece of prose, do you ever feel that you've overdone it? Or do you think you should swell the piece with more tidbits of information? What's the magic formula? How do we know when to add more or when to cut, cut, cut and end up with less than the amount of infomation in our original draft?

It's a little bit like the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears.  The porridge was too hot, too cold, and then--just right. The chairs were too hard, too soft, and then--just right. The beds were the same until Goldilocks found the one that was just right. I'm looking for that just right stage with the new poem.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Satisfying Read For A Summer Day--Or Even A Winter Night

9780553391879A friend called recently to tell me about a book she'd read and enjoyed, thought I might like to read it. So, I checked at our library and found The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan on the shelf.

The book is touted as being in the timeless tradition of Maeve Binchy. When I read that, I knew I'd be in for a book that focused on people and the twists and turns in their lives. Turned out to be right on.
The book centers on Mary McAllister, a woman who became a recluse after a tragic event in her teen years and a short marriage with a man who abused and physically maimed her. Though Mary lives in her marble mansion alone, she has one dedicated friend, Father O'Brien, who is her lifeline for many years. We see many of the people of the community, learn of their stories and relationship of any kind to the reclusive woman. Most have never even seen her but many have a tie of some sort.

The story is set in Mill River, Vermont which is a small village filled with people who all have their own story. Ms Chan weaves the stories together very well, makes us cheer for the good guys and hiss at the bad ones. This is not a literary masterpiece but it's a good story which stirred me emotionally. The story is somewhat predictable, but that's alright. Ms Chan develops her characters well, moves the story along with good pacing despite many sections that are flashbacks.

I found it interesting that the book was published by a British publisher called Sphere, which is part of Little, Brown in the UK. The author is an American, the book is set in America so why? I'm guessing that American publishers didn't make an offer and the UK group did. This is a debut novel and publishers are wary of first novels, rightly so as their success is a gamble.

In the Acknowledgements section, the author mentions the help her friends gave in using social media to promote the book. As a result of whatever marketing Sphere did and the social media thrust, the book has sold over 700,000 copies and hit the bestseller list last year. The second Mill River novel was released earlier this week. Its title is The Mill River Redemption.

The first novel has been described byvarious  readers as heartwarming, a sweet story, about family, friendship and love. So, if you like a feel-good kind of story, this one's for you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Travel With A Writer's Eye

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Writers take vacations like lots of other people, but they have a distinct advantage. A writer often gathers material to write something either on the spot or later after enjoying the away-from-work time. A writer is often inspired to write while visiting a particular landmark or seeing something out of the norm while traveling. Or something that is especially appealing or moving.

The picture above is one my husband took on our recent trip to Germany. The Brandenburg Gate, built in the nineteenth century, has been the backdrop for many a political speech including ones given by American presidents like Clinton, Reagan and most recently, Barack Obama. A famous structure, famous people and a foreign country--perfect material to write a personal essay or a nonfiction travel piece.

Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin

The famed 'Checkpoint Charlie' in a divided Berlin before the Berlin Wall came down. Today, it's a spot for travelers to take pictures. It begs a writer to pen a personal essay about the experience. 

The Palace At Potsdam

We toured this private home, termed a palace, in Potsdam where the famed Potsdam Conference was held with Stalin, Churchill and Truman as the principles involved. It was here that the three heads of state divided the defeated Germany in 1945. As a writer, I sensed many possible stories that might be written about this place--the family who owned the palace at that time, the three leaders who met together, the many other people that had to be a part of the conference, the beautiful grounds, the morality of the entire situation, human profiles of each of the three leaders, the interior of the home and more. When writers vacation, they enjoy and relax but they also see with the writer's eye. 

A mosaic tile picture in Dresden

Dresden is one of Germany's most beautiful cities as well as being a small miracle in in its own way. Almost totally destroyed in bombing raids toward the end of WWII, the city was rebuilt. Not only rebuilt but created to look exactly as it had before the destruction. The art work shown here is very long and on an outside wall in the city. Thousands of pieces of tiny tiles were put together to form the picture illustrating the nobles of yesteryear. A story on the creative arts of Germany would be easy enough to write after hearing the tour guides explanation and viewing the piece in its entirety. 

The suburban area of Hamburg

Not a famous place at all, this hilly area outside Hamburg told its own story. Many areas have no road that reaches the houses. Instead, inhabitants or visitors or delivery people must climb steep paths and steps to reach the destination house. It was here that we visited a coffeehouse that overlooked the Elbe River far below. Easy enough to write a personal travel essay about a place such as this which would include the terrain, the views, the climb, the out-of-this-world cherry kuchen we ate. 

One of the Blue Bears of Berlin

Ken took a picture of me with one of the many Blue Bears of Berlin that were all decorated a little differently and placed inside or outside various businesses. This one was at the entrance to our hotel. Berliners knew that any business that had a bear had also given a chunk of money to a charity. A whimsical poem or story might easily be written about these lovable blue bears. 

No matter where you go--overseas or an hour away to a favorite lake--for your vacation, you can find something to write about. Maybe not at the moment but soon after you return home. Don't wait too long or you'll lose some of the thoughts and feelings you had when you were on the scene. A few notes jotted down at the time might help bring much of it back to you. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How To Do A Picture Prompt Writing Exercise

Walk In The Gardens

We haven't had a picture prompt writing exercise for quite some time. It's a stormy morning in Manhattan, Kansas, where I live, so this picture of a lovely day appealed to me. We do need the rain so I'm not complaining. It's just that I so much prefer a day like the one above.

When you do a picture prompt, don't rush into the writing part. Take some time to study the picture before you begin writing. Look at shapes, color, inanimate objects, the people or animals, clues to the season it might be. Immerse yourself into the picture enough that you can hear what is going on, maybe you can smell something, or feel a light breeze or a sharp wind.

If there are people in the picture, as there are here, ask yourself what they are doing. Where are they going? Are they in a hurry or on a leisurely walk? Are they happy? Or are they vexed? Is someone following the woman holding a bag? Is she going to meet someone? Has she just come from seeing her doctor?

Play the What if...? game with the picture. Ask yourself What if the woman falls down? What if the man in front of her turns and points a gun at her with the intention of robbing her? What if a huge bird swoops down and attacks her? You can ask the What if...? question for a long time. But don't let it get away from your original intent which is to use the picture to inspire you to write.

Now, you're ready to start writing. So, what's it going to be? A few descriptive paragraphs that set a scene? Or will it be the start of a fiction piece? Will it be a horror story, romance, or murder mystery? It's all up to you. You're in the driver's seat. Take us wherever you want to go.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Meet A Fine Poet Who Knows What He's Talking About

I'm honored to have Roy Beckemeyer as my Guest Blogger today. I met Roy through the Kansas Authors Club and have come to admire and appreciate his poetry. He was selected as Kansas Authors Poet of the Year in 2013, a well deserved honor. Roy's post will help both writers and readers of poetry. I guarantee you'll learn something from this post. Leave a comment for Roy.

What About Writing Poetry?

I know that as a creative prose writer you have already heard about all those tools at your disposal: "Show more than you tell...Use sensory details...Open with a hook ... Characterization ... Use similes and metaphors ... Use strong verbs ... Vivid description" (I borrowed these from Nancy's Blog posting "What Do You Know About Creative Nonfiction?"). And each of these applies equally well to poetry writing.

So what is it that distinguishes prose and poetry? One difference is the use of line breaks. In prose our sentences go on  until they hit a margin, then continue on the next line. In poetry, lines can break wherever the poet wishes.

Why break a line in the middle of a sentence? Let's look at some examples (quoted poems are by the author unless otherwise attributed).

One reason is to encapsulate a string of words on one line to provide emphasis to a thought or image.

"Near midnight, the Milky Way crescendos"

Or the line may make a nice sounding sequence of words. Notice, in the line below, the repeat of the hard "c" sound in each phrase, the repetition of the double-l sound, the ending of each phrase with the same word, "moon," and how smoothly and pleasantly the line rolls off your tongue.

                        "the cotton-ball moon, the dollop of cream moon"

The line may entice us on to the next line. In the three lines below, the first two lead us on to the next line to see which leaf hasn't fallen, then the poet plays with us a bit by the let-down of the third line. He has led us on to a small disappointment.

"All the leaves
are down except
the ones that aren't..." - from "Verge" by James Schuyler

The line may end on a word that we want to emphasize, as in the first line below, where ending on the word "weight" seems to make the word itself feel heavier.

                        "Finally feel the full weight
                        of the sky on your shoulders"

Or the line may contain a rhythmic count of beats.

                        "At last the end of fence-mending is near"

The line length may have been chosen by the poet to make the reader slow down or speed up. The long line length for this next sequence of words supports the image being portrayed by enticing us to read on rapidly to its end, just as hail falls swiftly to the ground.

                        "like a hailstone hitting the sidewalk and shatter
                        its brittle brilliant self back up into the sky"

Or the lines may just look good on the page.  The short stanzas of the next poem make a pleasing shape on the page. The first two stanzas are shaped the same, and help to lead us into the poem in their regularity, with the longer line followed by a shorter one. Then the whole poem tapers as it comes to a close. The sequence of two-line stanzas makes the poem open and slows us down, lets us take the time to think on what it has to say.

                        "On these hard-edged mornings
                        of late winter

                        spring aches for its chance,
                        longs to swell

                        out of every bud,
                        to enclose the angular

                        bones of trees
                        in an arpeggio,

                        a green song
                        of grace notes."  

                        (From my poem, "Lent".)

Finally, the line endings also work like punctuation marks (e.g., the period, comma, and semicolon) in that they cause us to pause or hesitate as we read. But they are also more versatile: they can build suspense, or add emphasize in other ways to the content of the poem, as we have seen in the examples above.

The next time you read or write a poem, spend a few minutes looking at the layout of its lines. Notice how the lines affect how you read the poem, on the impression it makes on you. Try breaking the lines in different places. How did that affect the poem as you read it? As you spend more time doing this, you will become adept at using thoughtfully chosen line lengths to add to the impact of your own poems.

- Roy Beckemeyer

Roy Beckemeyer is vice president of the Kansas Authors Club and a poet.  His work has been published in a variety of literary journals, including Beecher's, The Midwest Quarterly, Kansas City Voices, The North Dakota Review, Straylight, Mikrokosmos, Coal City Review and The Bluest Aye. He was the Kansas Authors Club poet of the year for 2013, 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Good Advice From Two Lovable Characters

Someone shared this delightful poster on facebook, attributed it to being one Jack Canfield had originally posted. Jack Canfield is one of the founders of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of anthology books.

Don't we all love Snoopy and Charlie Brown? Somehow, words of advice from them tend to feel rather special. Good enough for Snoopy and Charlie Brown, perfect for me. Right? 

Being me, I immediately related this small but powerful sentence on the poster to our writing world. What if, for today, we were grateful for everything in our writing world? Yes, both the good and the not so hot stuff. Make a list of the things you are grateful for in your own writing world. Add to it the rest of the day. I have a feeling you'll keep thinking of things that could be on it. 

My own list is below: 

In my writing world, I am grateful for...

1. the ability to write a coherent story, essay, article or poem

2. the many friends included in my life because of my writing

3. the cyberworld that allows me to reach myriad readers

4. my public library which helps me in so many ways

5. my own personal library of books about the craft of writing

6. being published many times

7. being able to attend writing conferences and conventions 

8. being asked to teach a workshop or give a program related to my writing

9. having a memory that brings back material from long ago to use in memoir writing

10. my online writing critique group

11. those who read my work

12. editors who give me a reason for rejecting my submission so that I can learn from it.

13. rejections and critiques that help me grow as a writer

I'm sure I'll come up with a few more items for my list as I move through my day. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Writers Can Have Monsters Under The Bed

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard people claim there is no way they can try public speaking. Or teach a workshop. Or actually submit some of their writing for publication. Fear! It's more common than you might think among those who write.

So what do writers fear? Here are just a few monsters lurking under the bed for writers.

Some Writers Fear:

1. submitting anything they've written
2. sharing what they've written with others
3. promoting their work through book signings or public speaking
4. success
5. not measuring up to their own goals
6. critcism from others regarding their writing
7. not being able to write a second or third book after publishing one
8. critical reviews
9. writers block
10. finding inspiration

We all have human failings at times. Anyone who writes can probably tell you that he/she has had at least some of the fears in the list. Even highly successful writers must address some of these fears now and then. A few even become obssessed by them. That is one thing you do not want to do. Instead, face your fears and ask yourself what you can do to overcome them.

Eleanor Roosevelt's quote at the top of this post encourages those who deal with these fears. Just words you might say. But are they only words she gave us? I don't think so. I say that her advice would be well heeded by any and all of us in the writing world. Every time you try to erase one of your fears, you do gain self-confidence and courage and strength. It's not an overnight process but a work in progress.

Look at that list again. What's the worst thing that can happen if any one of those is true for you? You're not going to die. You're not going to be locked in a jail cell for twenty years. You're not going to be put in the stocks like the Colonials of our country were to be publicly humiliated. You're not going to lose all your friends. Uh-uh!

I find that we often bring on our own fears. With that in mind, can't we say the reverse? If we are responsible for creating our own fears, we should be able to conquer them on our own, too. Maybe not all in one fell swoop but step by step. Take any one of those in the list and ask yourself what you can do to face that fear? Don't attempt to work on all in that list that might apply to you. One at a time and a step at a time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Birth Day Party Eight Years Ago

The Birthday Boy

Eight years ago today, our only grandson was born. He joined our three granddaughters who had already brought light and joy into our lives like none we'd ever known. I remember the day Cole was born as if it had happened yesterday.

We had gotten home from church around 10 a.m. that Sunday. I changed my clothes and settled down with a cup of coffee and the Sunday papers. Around noon, the phone rang. My daughter, sounding a bit frustrated, told me she was on her way to the hospital. "Didn't you see the message?" she asked. I normally check for phone messages as soon as we come in the door but for some strange reason, that morning, I did not. I'd missed her alert that this would probably be the day, even though the baby was not due until September.

We quickly gathered a few things together as I knew I'd be spending the next week or so helping with a 3 year old and a new baby. Off we went for the two hour ride to the Kansas City area hospital. As Ken passed car after car on the interstate, I took note of one license plate from Iowa that said Dallas County at the bottom. It startled me because my mother had been born and raised in Dallas County, Iowa. It truly felt like a message from Heaven telling me she knew about the great event about to take place. 

Cole James made his appearance late that Sunday afternoon. Big sister, Jordan, thought he was pretty wonderful. Weeks earlier, she had told her parents that her new brother was going to bring her a present. Her mother asked what that present might be. "A necklace," she answered. And sure enough, when we had our first look at this new baby boy, there was a present on the table for Jordan from Cole. Believe it or not, it was a necklace. 

I've found that I have been very emotional at the birth of my grandchildren. The thought that this is the child of my child is pretty thrilling. When I first held Cole, I couldn't help but think about that Dallas County, Iowa license plate I'd seen earlier in the day, making my mother's presence known during this wonderful time for our family. The hospital room was filled with joyous grandparents on both sides, parents, big sister and this brand new baby boy who has captured all our hearts these past eight years. Truly a Birth Day Party.

Have you written about the day your children and/or grandchidren were born? If you haven't, do it soon. Add it to your Family Memories book. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can You Write A Sexy Story?

I have an urgent call for submissions for you today. The Publishing Syndicate publishes an anthology series called Not Your Mother's Book on... They are in need of more stories for the newest title which will be Not Your Mother's Book on Sex.

No, they don't want raunchy tales but they do want some that are fun, maybe even a bit quirky. I think that perhaps writers are a bit reluctant to reveal this side of their life in a story that thousands will read. Most of us were taught that our sex life is a private thing. But you can write a good sex story without being too graphic.

One of my writer friends wrote one yesterday and sent it for my opinion. She had a funny story that was done just right. Not a blow by blow description of what occurred but enough to let the imagination of the reader take over. I did a minor editing and advised she send it in right away. I think it's a go!

So, where do you send these sexy stories? Go to this page for all the necessary info. Be sure to read the guidelines and about your choice of payment--either royalites or 10 books. Because this is a relatively new venture, the royalties are probably not going to amount to much. I have opted to take 10 books when I've been in one of their anthologies. Then again, it's always said in publishing circles that sex sells so maybe this one will be a bestseller!

This is one that you need to work on right away as the publishers are wanting to get this book in the works. Ponder on it today, pass the call along to other writer friends and send your stories.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Accentuate The Positive

“Optimism is the foundation of courage.” ~Nicholas Murray Butler

Last Friday's post dealt with the sadness of rejection and figuring out why your writing career has not been as successful as you'd like. If you haven't read it, take a look here.

Today, let's look at one of the traits you need to more easily achieve success in your writing. Note that I said one of the traits, not the be-all, end-all trait that will shoot you to the stars in moments.

The trait I'm thinking about today is self-confidence. You can google keywords like building self-confidence or acquiring self-confidence to learn the many aspects, so what I'm going to concentrate on here is one aspect of building self-confidence. And that is to practice positive thinking.

I've noticed a number of people playing a challenge game on facebook lately. Someone has challenged them to write 3, or sometimes 5, positive aspects of their day, each day for a specified number. It would be fine training for becoming a person who looks at their world through positive eyes rather than negative. They can become the people who see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. 

Why not try this little game for a couple of weeks and see what happens. You can do it in general and/or about your writing world. Instead of saying that you received a rejection on one of your submissions today, say something positive about your writing world. Maybe that you wrote several more pages of your novel, or that you had an idea for a new article that you hope to write. 

I think starting out with a general set of positives in your life each day would be best. Then, later on, keep working on the general set but also make a list of the positives in your writing life. 

Here's my set of 3 positives in my life for yesterday and also 3 positives for my writing life yesterday:
1. I went to church and felt uplifted
2. I helped one of our new Czech students work out a problem with her new apartment
3. I had a wonderful dinner with our two Czech houseguests and Ken, lots of laughs

    My Writing World
1. I started catching up with writers newsletters, reading several
2. I found a new market that I'd like to submit to
3. I shared two old stories with people who asked to read them

Now, how about you? Are you willing to give it a try? The longer you do this challenge, the more positive an outlook you should have and the more self-confident you'll feel. As the old song written by Johnny Mercer has lyrics that ring true in today's world, too. One verse is:

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

Friday, August 15, 2014

Say it Loud and Clear!

My friend, Annette Gendler, is such a fine writer but on her blog post today she mentions that she has been hesitant to describe herself as a writer. You can read what she has to say here.

Reading that Annette had been hesitant to claim the title of writer brought a memory of a writing conference I attended a good twenty years ago when I was a newbie in the field, a wannabe if you will. We had a couple of good workshops in the morning session, then lunch, but after lunch the speaker was to be a motivational interlude. I've never forgotten the directive she gave all the people in that large room. You are writers. Call yourself a writer. Tell people you are a writer. Believe that you are a writer. Even if you have not been published yet.

At that point, I had not been published and I would have never told someone who asked what I did in life that I was a writer. As Annette indicated this morning in her post, they might ask what I'd written and where I'd been published. For many of us, it would just be easier not to claim the title of writer. It would make life so much less complicated. Right?

That may be, but if you have written anything, if you love to write, if you have a passion for writing--published or not--I urge you to shout it out loud and clear. Four little words. I am a writer. Say it often enough and you'll start believing it. Believe it and you might pursue your writing with a little more passion and depth.

I posted a picture of a table of contents in an anthology called Flashlight Memories. My story title and my writing name are listed. Why did I take the picture and save it? It certainly was not my first publication. I remember looking at it after the book arrived in my mailbox. It was one of those special moments in life when you feel as if you'd accomplished a goal. It was the day that I could say, without hesitation, I am a writer.

So the next time someone asks you what you do. Tell them. If writing is your hobby or part time pursuit, add to whatever else you've said with I am a writer. If they ask what you've written or where you've been published, tell them what and where or add that you're still working toward the publication goal. Just be sure to assert that you're a writer. Be proud of being a writer and wear it like an invisible badge on your shirt. Maybe no one else will see it, but you, the writer, will know it's there.

And now, wherever you are when you read this, say it loud and clear I am a Writer!

My thanks to Annette Gendler for inspiring this post today.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You Must Submit Your Work To Be Published

A repeat post that is still applicable today.

The Submission Process

There is one great truth in writing for publication. You will not be published if you don’t submit your work. More writers than you might think write, write, write but are terrified of actually submitting their work. Submitting is step one. Sounds easy, doesn’t it, but in reality a writer must have a few items in her internal tote bag to help in the process.

First and foremost, she’ll need the courage to send her work to an editor. And don’t kid yourself--it does take courage to send your baby out into the publishing sea. The waters are deep, and the sharks numerous. Other authors have sent their precious words to the same editor. Which one is going to survive? There’s no way to tell, but if you don’t submit, you’ll never know if your words will be the ones to swim right into the publication process. Take a chance and send your work along with whatever is required in the writers’ guidelines. The rejections may outweigh the acceptances, but that’s what this business is all about. Statistics tell us that writers receive more rejections than acceptances, so toughen your hide and send your work to an appropriate publication. If it comes back, send it to another publication.

The best way to match your story, essay, or article with the right magazine, newspaper or ezine is to study market guides. There are several guides published annually that offer complete information about hundreds of publications. They list address, phone numbers, editors’ names, requirements, payment and sometimes list current needs. Guides exist for novel writers, magazines, playwrights, poets, and song lyric writers. It is to the writer’s advantage to study the guide that pertains to her particular type of work. Most library reference sections have copies of the market guides. A writer can spend hours in the library taking notes, but she can also go online to find market guides or websites of specific publications, or visit a bookstore and purchase a copy. Keep in mind that they become outdated in a hurry.

It’s also possible to use an internet search engine for writers’ guidelines. Use keywords to narrow the search. If you have written an article about building a backyard pond, look for garden magazines or How-To publications. If there is a particular magazine that interests you, put the name in a search engine and look for the guidelines. Ask yourself if your article, story or essay would be a good fit. It’s a waste of time to submit to them if you feel your work is way off base for that publication.

Offering guidelines allows editors to reduce the amount of unusable submissions sent to them. Guidelines provide a step by step guide for the writer. For instance, a writer can learn if single or double spacing is asked for, if paragraphs are to be indented or not, if there are certain items to be listed at the top of the entry (ie. name, address, phone, e-mail, word count, rights offered). Guidelines might specify that only unpublished work is accepted, or they might say that reprints are welcome. The information is there to help and is meant to be followed carefully. If the writer disregards the information, the submission will end up being tossed, so it is to her benefit to follow guidelines carefully.

If a cover letter is included with the submission, keep it short and professional. If at all possible, learn the editor’s name and use it--Dear Mr. Brooks rather than Dear Dan. If a writer has never been published, there is no need to point it out. If published, she should give a short resume of where her work might be found.

Send the cover letter, the submission, and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) if you are submitting through postal mail. Don’t add cutesy things to any of the above. Be professional at all times. If indicated that submissions are accepted via e-mail, so much the better. No postage, no SASE to be included. Pay careful attention to the guidelines as to whether the editor prefers attachments or to have the submission copied and pasted into the body of the e-mail.

Set up a record-keeping system of some kind. It may be a series of index cards, a notebook with a page for each piece you’ve written, or a more complex spreadsheet on the computer. How it’s done is a personal choice, but do it.

The last step in the submission process is not to sit back and wait for an answer. A response may not arrive for weeks, perhaps even months, occasionally never. The final step is to begin to work on a new story, article, or essay and start the submission process all over again. Keep a ferris wheel of submissions going at all times.

Add-on for today:  I ran across an excellent blog post on the topic of submitting to literary magazines. It would be well worth your time to check it out here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Writers are Sad

Ever feel like giving up your pursuit of being published? Maybe Charlie Brown is feeling the same way? After all, how many times have he and Snoopy chased the golden ring of being a published author? How many rejections can one guy--or dog--handle? Or you?

Hundreds, thousands and maybe even millions of people dream of being a writer.Fewer actually pursue the writing dream after they realize that it's hard work. The prize at the top of the long staircase leading to success is being published somewhere. Anywhere! Many would-be writers start out wearing those rose-colored glasses that make things look so appealing. The problem is that there are very few writers who meet with instant success. I'm guessing it's actually a miniscule number who hit it big right away.

New writers read and hear about writers who were rejected multiple times before their novel was published and hit the bestseller list. They know that rejection is part of the writing game. Knowing what it is and experiencing it can be two different things. Especially when the rejections come rolling in as fast as the submissions go out. Being rejected again and again wears a writer down bit by bit. So what do you do when things aren't going well?

Pour yourself your favorite drink--be it coffee, tea, coke, or beer or whatever--and take a full step back from your writer shoes. You need to look at yourself as objectively as possible. And that's not an easy task. Ask yourself the following questions, then answer as honestly as you can.

1.  How serious am I about pursuing publication?

2.  How many submissions do I make per month?

3.  How much time do I give to my writing?

4.  Do I try writing exercises on a regular basis?

5.  Do I edit and revise more than once before I submit?

6.  Do I seek out others to critique my work?

7.  If I ask others to critique my writing, do I accept their assessment with the attitude that they are trying to help me be a better writer?

8.  Do I take the advice of other writers when it's offered?

9.  Do I put a lot of effort into searching for markets that fit the kind of writing I do?

10.  Do I read books/magazines about writing on a regular basis?

11.  Do I attend an occasional writing conference to learn about my craft and talk to other writers?

12.  Do I truly try to practice new things I learn about the craft of writing?

13.  Or, do I stay with my old way of doing things because it's comfortable and makes my life easier?

14.  Can I see growth in myself as a writer, or have I stayed stuck in the beginner mode?

15.  Do I have a passion for writing, or is it a whim?

I could go on with an even longer list, but answering these 15 questions as honestly as you can will give you a ver good idea as to what may be the reason your work is not being accepted for publication. It may let you know if you want to soldier on or move on to some other interest in your life. A lot depends on how driven you are, how hard you're willing to work, and how much time you can afford.

If you feel like chucking the whole idea of being a writer, maybe a little break is needed. Maybe a heart to heart chat with a good friend, preferably a writer friend, would help. When we feel down, it's sometimes difficult to see the positive aspects as we wallow through the negatives.

Last but not least--let me assure you that you're not alone. I think most writers go through periods when they question themselves, when they are ready to give up, when they hold a pity party for one. One of the best cures is even a tiny bit of success. It seems to wipe out all those sad feelings. But remember that, to achieve that tiny bit of success, you have to put in a good deal of hard work.

If you love to write and still haven't been published, keep working at it. If you do all you can to grow as a writer, you are most likely going to achieve your goal. Maybe not the Pulitzer Prize right off the bat, but publication somewhere. I'll be the first one in line to cheer for you when it happens!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Do You Know About Creative Nonfiction?

Questions and Answers On Writing Creative Nonfiction

What is creative nonfiction? Writing a true story with the same literary techniques we use when writing fiction to report on an event, a place or a person.

What is the most important factor?  Truth

What does it do? The author tells a story, thereby entertaining the reader, but presents factual information. The author shares his/her own feelings for the topic.

What kinds of stories are included in creative nonfiction? Travel writing, science writing, nature writing, food writing, memoirs, biography, personal essays

 How do I tell a true story in this manner? 

         A. Show more than you tell

   B.  Use sensory details (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting)

   C.  Open with a hook just as you would in a fiction story.

   D.  Consider the importance of setting

   E.  Story—not just a bunch of facts

   F.  Characterization brings the story to life

   G.  Dialogue (be careful here)

H.     Add tension, if even in small amounts

I.        You still have to make a point or send a message

J.       Use similes and metaphors to give some life to the story

K.    Use strong verbs

L.      Vivid description

  1. Where can I market my creative nonfiction?  Newspapers, ezines and websites online, magazines that fit your topic, anthologies

Monday, August 11, 2014

Home Is Where The Work Waits!

Our vacation is now classified under Memories To Savor and it's time to get back to work. We spent all day Friday traveling from Prague to Kansas City on three flights. All went well until we had our final connection in Chicago where it took us two hours to get through immigration, customs and security. Then found our flight gate for the Kansas City hop had been changed three times! We sat on the runway for 45 minutes beyond our departure time. Twooverly- tired people tried hard not to become grumpy. Overseas travel with multiple flights and airports is hard work!

We spent the night at an airport hotel and drove the two hours home early Saturday morning. I spent the weekend going through mail/email, phone messages, unpacking and doing mountains of laundry. So today, it's time to step into my writing world again. The picture in today's post is pretty accurate as I seem to have piles of stuff in my office and around my computer as well as multiple mental notes I made while in Germany and the Czech Republic.

I checked email while we were away on a daily basis but there was no time to read the writing newsletters, calls for submissions and writing group critiques thoroughly, just scanned most. I need to go back through those messages and glean the golden nuggets to be found among them.

I also need to work on a skeleton of a poem that I started writing one afternoon in a small village in the Czech Republic that had once been a concentration camp. Again, there was not enough time to write much more than the occasional blog post while we were on our trip. The short visit to Terezin and the commentary by our Tour Director made me want to write about it. A phrase kept repeating itself in my mind, so I grabbed a tour schedule paper from my purse and scribbled a few lines on the back. The bare beginnings of this poem became like an itchy spot in the middle of my back--a place I couldn't reach to scratch--with the itch still there, a poem begging to be written but no time to do so. At least, I have those lines to use to bring back the feelings I had in the little village with a sad history.

I've not participated in my online writing group for nearly three weeks now, and that's another itchy spot that begs to be scratched. Today, I will jump in and start critiquing and hopefully have something to sub by week's end.

I love traveling but I've missed my writing world and my writing friends. Once home, we need to get back on track as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the easier it is to keep delaying.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Ship Full of Stories

It goes without saying that I am someone always on the lookout for a story.  Since we've been on this trp, I've been surrounded with dozens of stories.

A ship with 90 passengers is bound to be loaded with varied and interesting stories. There is open seating for meals so we eat with many different people who hail from all over our 50 states. Many are seasoned travelers while some arenewbies. But they all interest me in one way or another.

One couple married at age 49, she a fifth and sixth grade teacher and he a school social worker. They have been married 43 years and still hold hands when walking down the street.

Another couple have each been married 3 times. She is a registered medical technition and he a former Air Force member, commercial pilot and physics teacher in a private school.

Every encounter brings forth yet another story. I should be taking notes!

Wherever you are, there are stories but you are the one who must harvest them.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Kaffeeklatsch In English and German

We  are sailing down the river to a town called Torgau today after a delightful 2 day stay in Wittenburg. This is the town where the Protestant Reformation began after Martin Luther  nailed his 95 Theses on the church door. The city guide we had there was outstanding. She spoke  very fast which commanded your careful attention. She told story upon story about Luther, his family and friends.

On  our last afternoon in Wittenburg, our 90 member group divided into small groups to go to our home hosted visit. Ken and I were with 3 other couples whom we had gottten to know, so a congenial group. Our hostess met us outside the house and led the way. She ushered us into the dining room with gestures and a smile, as she spoke only German.  The table was set with lovely linens and china, flowers in the center. After we were seated, she lit the candles in the dim room which helped not only to see but softened the entire effect even more.

A large cheesecake graced one end of the table and a plum kuchen (cake) sat at the other end. In the center was a silver tray that held tiny little cream puffs. Two ladies in our group knew enough German that we were able to learn that our hostess had made the desserts, that her husband was a carpenter who installed windows and doors. He arrived home while we were eating, stuck his head in the door and said "Halloo!" then disappeared. When we  finished eating, we were give a cherry liqueuer. We had all  brought small gifts for our hostess. Grand Circle Tours has one home-hosted visit on each trip, sometimes a full lunch or dinner and also dessert and coffee times as we had this time. Some of the hosts do speak English, many do not, but you manage to communicate very well and there is always a fine cultural exchange.

As much as we savor the travel experience of another country, meeting so many people on the tour and the locals is super, too.