Friday, May 29, 2015
Today is my birthday so I decided to do something a bit different here. I am going to interview myself. Have you ever tried it? I haven't so I'm wondering what will come of this.
Q: Nancy, are birthdays important to you?
A: Very much so. My mother always made sure the day was special for me and my siblings. We got to select the dinner menu and looked forward to the gifts received after we ate. It was hard waiting all day to open the gifts. They weren't expensive or amazing gifts, but they meant a lot to me and to my brothers when it was their turn. For one day a year, I was the center of attention and I enjoyed it. As a result, I've always looked forward to my birthday.
Q: Do you consider yourself to have lived a good life?
A: Oh yes, I have had a wonderful life including a family who loved me and raised me with a set of values that have served me to this day. I've had a strong and loving marriage, raised two beautiful children and am grandmother to four amazing kids. Besides that, I have a strong support group of friends. The icing on the cake of life has been my writing journey these past 23 years.
Q: If you had one thing to do differently in your life, what would it be?
A. I would have started writing many, many years earlier. The desire was there but I let life get in the way.
Q: Has your writing journey been satisfactory?
A: I have never had a book published. I have not been published in high-paying magazines. Even so, my writing journey has been most satisfactory. I've been published in many anthologies, magazines, newspapers, ezines and newsletters. I've won in several contests and have received awards for some of my stories. I've started and maintained a blog to help other writers for six years. So, yes, I am very satisfied.
Q: What benefits have you received in your writing life?
A: One of the big benefits is the wonderful writers I have met and consider friends. Another is the opportunity to gather at conferences with other writers--that common bond we have is a strong one. Another is knowing that I've touched the lives of others through my writing in some way.
Q: What more do you want to accomplish in your writing journey?
A: I would like to publish an ebook. I would like to write a memoir book. I want to remain a part of my online writing group as they are the best help and inspiration ever. I hope to continue the blog.
Q: How long do you plan to continue writing?
A: As long as my mind holds up, I will write. My passion for doing so has never flagged a bit. I hope it will always be so. Writers do not reach a certain age and announce that they will write no more. To stop writing, for me, would be to stop living.
Q: How will you celebrate your birthday?
A: My husband is taking me to a favorite fine dining restaurant tonight. I'm looking forward to that.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Do you want to bang your head against a wall or your keyboard when whatever you're writing doesn't gel right away? Does your writing leave you feeling frustrated, angry, or disgusted? Guess what? You're not alone.
What Joseph Heller, a satirical novelist, said is right on. All writers encounter trouble when writing at some time or other. It may seem to you that there is little balance to it, that encountering trouble when writing sits on the heavy side of the scales.
I think it feels that way because, when we can sit down and dash off a great story with ease, we don't think much about it. I'm a writer. This is how it is suppose to happen. It's what our inner self might say. But when the story doesn't come together the first time around, or second, or third, then we feel burdened in our chosen profession.
Those who don't write might wonder why in the world, then, do writers continue to write if it gives so much trouble. Why not just quit?
Only the writer knows the satisfaction achieved when a story finally stops giving trouble and feels just right. Only the writer knows the desire someone in their field has to create a readable piece. Only the writer knows the passion within that drives the writer to continue writing, despite the trouble it might be.
Yep, we might have trouble writing a good deal of the time but it's what we've chosen to do, so we keep on putting words together until they make sense and we are satisfied. Maybe it all comes down to this: You have to love writing enough to stay with it despite the trouble you often encounter.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Writing. Almost all of you who read this blog are writers. Writing is what we do. We do it consciously and subconsciously, as well.
Even when we are not sitting in front of our computer, or have pad and pencil in hand, we're thinking about something to write. Again, it might be so far into the recesses of our mind that we are not aware of it. One day, it will surface and you'll be off and running on a new story or poem.
Everywhere we go, our mind functions as a writer. We observe, we process what we see and file it away in some special compartment of our brain for later use. It's a storehouse for writers.
Ever see a mother and child battling it out in a checkout line? You probably tried to look uninterested, just knew you were glad it was her and not you being totally embarrassed with a screaming child in a busy store. Even so, you filed that scene away and might pull it out a year later to use in a new story you're writing. When it surfaces, you'll most likely remember it in detail so will find it fairly easy to write the scene.
Think about a holiday dinner with family gathered around the table. What it looks like, the sounds you hear, the aromas, the tastes the touch of hand to flatware and holding water glasses--all of this and more register with you. It's stuffed way back in your mind, ready to pull out when needed. Even bits and pieces of the conversation will come floating back to you.
Another way we gather information for what we write is in our dreams. Many people claim they don't remember their dreams. Maybe you don't recall them the next morning but some of those dreams remain locked in your mind, ready to pop out when you are writing.
Take a walk in your neighborhood. Your mind is registering the many things you see along the way. This includes the houses you pass, the condition of the yards, the people who might be outside their home gardening or washing a car or watching children play. Your mind tucks away the natural surroundings you see--the trees, shrubs, flowers, birds or a baby bunny. They are all yours for the taking when you need them while you write.
Don't say that you write 2 hours a day because you are tapping on a keyboard for that amount of time. Instead, you could claim that you write all the time. You do it whether you're aware of it or not. You're a writer and it's a way of life to process all you see and do as a writer. Kind of neat, don't you think?
Writing--it's what we do.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
I recently finished Kristin Hannah's latest novel, The Nightingale. Author of twenty-two novels, Ms Hannah had been a lawyer before turning to a writing career. Many lawyers who write concentrate on criminal and mystery novels. Kristin Hannah stays with stories about human nature, how events make people do things, and about relationships within families and among friends. Hers are 'people' stories.
The Nightingale has stayed in the top ten on the Bestseller List for weeks. This historical fiction novel pulled me in immediately and kept me reading farther into the night than I'd intended. I found myself picking it up when I had a half hour to read now and then.
The story centers on two sisters in France during the Nazi Occupation of WWII. Vianne is married and mother to Sophie. They live in a small village where her husband, Antoine, is the postman. Isabelle, the younger sister, lives in Paris and, at eighteen, has been expelled from several schools. The two sisters do not get along nor do they have a good relationship with their father who lives in Paris.
With the occupation of France by the Germans, life becomes increasingly difficult. Vianne and Isabelle argue about what each should do. Isabelle becomes part of the French Resistance while Vianne stays in her village to raise her child and await her husband's return from the army. As the war goes on, both face hardships and heartbreak over and over, as well as great danger. Isabelle's name within the Resistance movement is The Nightingale. She meets danger head-on again and again. Vianne must give a home to a German officer who is at times kind to her but also the enemy. The hardships of war grow greater with each year for both sisters. They meet occasionally and continue to argue, continue to lament their miserable relationship with their father, and continue to mourn a mother lost to them in childhood.
At the war's end, the sisters finally reconcile, only after each has experienced the horrors of war and living in an occupied country.
The story is narrated by one of the sisters in 1995 but the reader does not learn which sister it is until the end of the book. The author kept me guessing as to which sister was telling the story, rich in detail and emotion.
A friend who read the book said she found it depressing. Perhaps one could let that be the overwhelming feeling but, for me, I found it to be encouraging as the spirit of the French people and the will to survive comes through. This book is not only about wartime survival but about a relationship between sisters, the loyalty of friends, the fierce love of a parent for her child, and the mending of a broken father-daughter relationship. The writing flows in such a way as to move the reader seamlessly through the story. Ms Hannah is a master storyteller. Critics of The Nightingale cite it as possibly her best book.
I would give it five stars and recommend it, especially if you like historical fiction as much as I do.
Monday, May 25, 2015
On this Memorial Day, 2015, I'd like to share a poem from the WWI era. Short but with a strong message, In Flander's Fields has survived for a full century.The author was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier who died near the end of WWI of pneumonia.
To visit the National WWI Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, vistors cross a glass bridge which spans a field of poppies below. A moving tribute, to be sure.
John McCrae, 1915.
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Memorial Day 2015
We're on the brink of Memorial Day weekend 2015. It's the beginning of summer activities. It once was the signal that we could wear white pants and white shoes. It begins our picnic and pool season. It's a three day weekend for working people. They may choose to travel somewhere or just kick back and loaf.
Somewhere along the line, many Americans have lost the real meaning of Memorial Day. They don't think about it being a day to remember and honor those who have given their lives in military actions around the world. They sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We fly our flag with pride this entire weekend. I've noticed that fewer and fewer homes have the American flag in front of their homes on patriotic days and that saddens me.
As a child, my family did not fly the flag. We lived in a third floor apartment so there was no place to display it. Even so, my parents did a good job of teaching me and my siblings to value and remember what our forces had done for us. I was a child during WWII so the enormity of the sacrifice made was fresh in the minds of young parents like mine. They knew we must never forget.
A couple of years ago, Ken and I visited the D-Day Beaches in Normandy and the nearby military cemetery. The experience moved me to write a personal essay which was then published in a Kansas City newspaper for seniors. That essay is below for you to read this Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy your activities this next three days but keep the meaning of Memorial Day in mind, as well.
Remembering D-Day On The Normandy Beaches
By Nancy Julien Kopp
As we approach the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of
My husband and I were nearing the end of a river cruise in
France which brought us from Paris
famed for its Norman cows and fine dairy products as well as being the place
where the Allied Invasion began during WWII. Our river ship docked at the final
port--Honfleur, a picture postcard kind of town. Now, we were close to the
highlight of the two week cruise that had begun in Paris. We’d spend a full day at the D-Day
beaches of Normandy,
something Ken and I had looked forward to since booking months earlier.
At breakfast in the ship’s dining room that next morning, we sensed an air of anticipation that had not been evident in our other sightseeing tours on this trip. We were not the only ones looking forward to this day when we would view the beaches where the landing took place on June 6, 1944. The ensuing battle resulted in the Allied Forces turning the tide of the long-fought war that threatened so many, not only in
France but other countries as well.
Being mostly senior citizens, the people in our tour group knew the history of the battle well. One man had even been there with the British navy shortly after the initial invasion. Only 16, he lied about his age to join the navy and was among the first who arrived after the beaches were taken. This now-elderly gentleman had spoken about his experience one evening on the river ship. That morning, as the bus took us from ship to the beaches, I watched this man who sat silently while we rode through the
Normandy countryside. What thoughts were
going through his mind, what memories were returning one by one? I wanted to
ask but out of respect for what must have been an emotional time for him, I
kept my silence.
We filed quietly off the bus on that cold, wet March morning. There was none of the usual chatter and good-natured teasing on this day. We were a solemn, respectful group as we were introduced to our local tour guide. Her scarf whipped wildly in the strong wind, and like us, she wore hat, gloves and a warm coat. The skies were gray which somehow seemed fitting for this place where the remnants of battle and death remained even these 69 years after the fact.
The pillboxes where the German artillery faced the beaches remain today. I slipped and slid down a muddy incline to see inside one where parts of the big guns remained. Looking out to the beaches, I was immediately struck by the incongruity of those in the pillboxes versus the men on the open beaches on that summer morning so long ago. An old cliché seemed most fitting. They were “sitting ducks.” I shivered with both the thought and the sharp wind that found its way through my warm jacket.
The Allied Forces came to liberate
German occupation, to push the German forces back to their own country. The
Canadians landed at Juno Beach, the British at Sword and .
Our American troops came ashore at both Gold Beach Omaha
and . Paratroopers landed first
followed by amphibious landing craft manned by Navy and Coast Guard personnel. Thousands
of men with one goal—take the beaches and move on. Utah Beach
Gnawing fear must have been in the belly of each man but they surged forward with many falling on the beach. More than a thousand died on
alone. Others continued to dodge
the constant gunfire and scaled precarious cliffs to reach the German
strongholds. Omaha Beach
As the tour guide talked, I thought of the men I knew who had fought in this war of so long ago—my uncle who had been an Air Force pilot, my best friend’s uncle who had endured the hardships of a prison camp, and my dad’s cousin whose plane blew to pieces before he could escape. I thought of my father-in-law who served in
after the liberation and came home safely thanks to the courage of the men who
fought on D-Day, those who carried General Eisenhower’s order with them. “Full
Our tour guide told us of a U.S. Army veteran who had been on another of her tours. On the morning of the invasion, he was in a landing craft that held 32 men. 31 of them were violently seasick. By the time they landed, they were covered in vomit with no choice but to rush the beach and dodge the artillery fire. That was only one of nearly 7,000 boats that hit the five beaches early that morning. I shivered yet again but didn’t know if it was because of the cold misty rain or the stories she related.
Our next stop was the
located not far from the beaches. In gratitude, the government of Normandy American
Cemetery France granted
use of the land, in perpetuity, as a permanent burial ground. We walked through
the immaculate grounds, viewing the choppy waters of the English
Channel just beyond. Nearly 10,000 American soldiers are buried
here, a Latin cross or a Star of David marking each grave.
We gathered in the light rain at the Memorial area which features a 22 foot statue called “The Spirit of American Youth Rising From the Waves.” A representative from the cemetery addressed our group before leading a short ceremony to honor those who had sacrificed so much in this place. Everyone faced the wildly waving American flag, hand on hearts. Cold raindrops mixed with the warm tears that fell as I listened to a recording of our national anthem followed by a volley of gunshots and finally the playing of “Taps.” The lump in my throat would allow me no words, nor were any needed.
As the group dispersed, Ken and I walked to the edge of the cemetery close to the sea. The rain had finally ceased. We gazed at the gray sky and the gray water, empty now save for the ghosts of 69 years earlier. We have heard about the
and D-Day for
most of our lives. We’ve seen pictures, watched movies depicting that day. But
being there and hearing the personal stories brought reality like nothing else.
What struck me as we walked silently back through the cemetery was that we
humans didn’t learn from the horrors of WWII. We’ve continued to send our young
men and women to fight in multiple wars since. Normandy
At home, we fly our American flag with pride every June 6th to honor those who fought and those who didn’t come home. After visiting
Normandy, that day will
take on even greater significance. Veterans of the D-Day battle dwindle year by
year. Before long, there will be none left, so it will be up to the next
generation and the next to keep the memory alive. It is my great hope that this
year’s 70th Anniversary will spark some interest among all ages for
this commemorated day.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Have you ever seen your name listed as a writing contest winner? Have you ever entered a writing contest? If you answered no to both these questions, take a moment and consider why.
1. Do you feel overwhelmed at the thought of competition?
2. Is your self-confidence level lower than you'd like?
3. Are you just plain afraid to enter a writing contest?
4. Do the entry fees hold you back?
5. Would you like to enter and win?
6. Do you not care about entering writing contests at all?
If you don't enter, you can't win. Plain and simple. But step 1 is finding writing contests to enter. I can help in that respect. I have three contests for you to consider.
1. The first one is from Blue Mountain Arts. Every so often, they run a contest looking for verses to use on their line of greeting cards. The present contest has a deadline of June 30th with prizes of $300, $150 and $50. There is no entry fee. Check out the guidelines and submission form page.
2. The Northern Colorado Writers have a contest open to Personal Essay/Creative Nonfiction and Poetry with a June 30 deadline. You can be as wordy as you like here as the word count runs all the way to 5,000 words. The entry fee is $20 which seems steep but the prize money warrants it. The three top prizes are $1,000, $250, and $100. Check details here. You do NOT have to be a member of this group to enter.
3. This one is for Kansas writers only. I'm including it as I have a good many Kansas readers. The Kansas Authors Club has an annual contest for members and nonmembers. Entry fee is slightly higher for nonmembers. Go to the website and click on Contests on left side of Home Page. Be sure to follow guidelines as they are pretty specific.
I have no affiliation with any of these contests, other than the fact that I am a member of Kansas Authors Club. I am simply giving information on the three contests listed.
Use a search engine like google to find lots of contests. Specify 2015 in your search or else you'll get contest info for ones long done.
Give yourself enough time to write your entry and edit after it sits a few days. Then a few more days and a final edit. Check and double check the guidelines so your entry counts. It's really not much different from submitting to an editor.
You have nothing to lose (except perhaps your entry fee, so look for no fee contests if you prefer) and everything to gain. Give serious consideration to entering a writing contest. Your chances of winning are as good as any other writer.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
The quote above has gone viral and can be seen in many different photo/poster versions. It's attributed to Erin Hanson, a 19 year old writer from Australia. The young woman seems wise beyond her years with this quote.
It's good advice for those writers, young or not so young, who fear taking a great leap in their writing journey. We think of the negative consequence immediately but it would be so much better if we could put the positive spin first.
The first time a writer makes a submission to an editor can turn into one of two things. It can be heady stuff, bringing dreams of grandeur, or it can be one of the scariest ventures you've ever tried. It's probably more realistic to say that the second choice here, being scared, is more the norm. Most people who try writing are aware that it is a very competitive field and know that first submissions are not going to make you famous. Oh sure, there will always be a handful of writers who score big on their first try. But for most of us, scary as it is, the first time is what gets us started on the submission path.
We know that we are going to fall--translate that to mean getting a rejection--a lot. We know that everything we write is not going to be a winner. But we also know that the possibility of flying is also real. So what if it's your fifth try with the same story or article? Be happy to spread those wings and fly no matter when it happens.
The main thing is that you cannot fly if you do not try. It's as simple as that. Sure, it's still scary but you'll never know what might have happened if you didn't make the effort to become a published writer. I am sure there are some excellent writers who have stacks of stories that they've never shown to anyone, let alone sent to an editor. How sad that is for the writer and the readers who will never have a chance to see them.
What's the worst case scenario if you submit your work and it's rejected? Only that you will have to try again. And maybe again. A fisherman doesn't always catch a fish in the first spot he tries. He may have to move around the lake several times before he hooks one. You, too, may have to try several times before you receive an acceptance. Think how great the elation will be when you've tried multiple times and finally score. You most certainly would be flying high at that point.
Keep in mind that you cannot fly if you do not try. Let that simple statement be your motivation.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
We are traveling home today after a trip to Chicago. So, here's a repeat of a popular post. Lots of people consider starting a blog. I've highlighted some pluses and minuses here.
Blogging hit the internet world with a bang several years ago, and it is still going. Multiple thousands decided it would be great fun to write a blog, and so they did. Then, a large majority quit within weeks or months.
They whined about not having many readers. They pouted because no one left comments on the brilliant posts they wrote. Or they received less than complimentary comments. It started to feel like a job instead of being fun. They thought they'd make lots of money by allowing ads on their blog. Didn't turn out to be much at all. They ran out of ideas. Myriad reasons for bloggers who quit.
If you want to blog, there are some things to keep in mind.
1. you need to find a blog host that you understand and trust
2. you should select a topic to blog about--writing, painting, house remodeling etc
3. you need to make a personal commitment and post regularly
4. frequent posting helps keep readers
5. infrequent posting loses readers--why should they bother looking for your blog if you only post every couple months?
6. give careful thought to the title of your blog--once you've got a following, it's hard to change it
7. take some time and add clip art or photos to your posts to liven it up a bit
8. stay alert through your day to day life for possible blog posts--finding new topics isn't easy
9. remind yourself why you are blogging
10. if you decide to quit, do it without regret
One thing I urge others is to do some research about blogging before you begin. Don't jump in blindly or you'll end up more frustrated than pleased.
Some benefits of blogging:
1. if you post regularly, it means you are writing regularly
2. there's satisfaction when a blog post is completed
3. you know you're reaching others when you receive comments
4. you can make a little extra money if you agree to ads on your blog (I don't do it)
5. a blog adds to a writer's platform
6. it's the perfect place to share your recent publishing successes
7. it's often pure pleasure
There's more to blogging than most people realize. Try it, and if you don't like it, you can quit. No regrets.
Monday, May 18, 2015
My brother, Jim, and me
One reason for writing family stories came to light for me this weekend. I am the oldest of 4 and the only female in the bunch. Having 3 younger brothers put me in the bossy older sister category but my brothers have put up with that quite nicely. The youngest brother, Jim, turned 60 this week and he celebrated at a party his family had for him. We received an invitation but it was an 11 hour drive from our home in Kansas to his in a suburb of Chicago. After some thought, Ken and I made the decision to attend the party but decided to keep it a surprise for Jim. His wife and daughter knew we were coming but vowed to keep it a secret.
Next, I tried to think of what kind of gift to bring to my baby brother. Oh yes, he was born 2 weeks before my 16th birthday so he's always been that baby brother. He has often seemed more like a son than a brother. About a year and a half ago, during a phone conversation, I mentioned that I should make up a book of family stories for him sometime. He said he'd love nothing better than that. In fact, he sounded kind of excited.
I, of course, meant to get right to it but let life get in the way. Suddenly, the birthday party was exactly the nudge I needed. So I went through my two large binders of hard copies of what I've written and pulled out the ones that were family stories and memories of growing up in the Chicago area. I went to a copy center and had the 167 pages copied. Then, I decided to make two more books for my other two brothers. I used 3 ring binders so they could add any future stories I might write more easily. I wrote two separate pages about both our parents' background and put those in the front.
Then I made a cover page for the front of the book with a picture of me holding Jimmy as an infant. The title is JULIEN FAMILY STORIES AND MEMORIES with my byline and the photo. I mailed two of the books to my brothers in North Carolina and Arizona, then put Jim's in a cheery gift bag. I was kind of excited to give him this special gift but wondered how he'd react.
He was A. very surprised when we walked into the party already under way and B. really happy when he opened my gift. He told me he could hardly wait to read it. I have a feeling it will be read more than once. Jim was estranged from our parents at age 19 through no fault of his own and so he missed out on a lot of the things we three other siblings learned through those family stories we listened to our parents tell over and over. It is a most satisfying feeling for me to know that now Jim will have those stories to read as many times as he'd like.
You, too, could make any number of people happy by doing exactly what I did for my brothers. Don't put it off. Time flies by all too quickly. Put it on this year's To-Do List.
Me, at age 16, with Baby Brother Jimmy
Friday, May 15, 2015
Meet Gloria Zachgo, Guest Blogger for today. Gloria and I met through Kansas Authors Club, a state organization for writers. She has self-published two novels but in somewhat different ways. Thanks, Gloria, for sharing your self-publishing experience with us.
How and Why I Self-Published
A friend once sent me the quote, “Amateurs built the ark – Professionals built the Titanic.”
I truly was an amateur when I published my first book, The Rocking Horse. I’d written a manuscript as a challenge to myself, shared it with my writing group, and received enough encouragement that I knew I wanted to see my book in printed form.
I also knew the odds of a traditional publication were not good, but I was not deterred. I started querying agents – 80 of them. Some of them answered my queries. They were kind and encouraging, but they were all rejections.
The bottom line was, I didn’t find an agent to represent me, and if I wanted to see my book in print, I was going to have believe in myself enough to publish it myself.
I was lucky because my husband, Ron, believed in me too. Together we researched publishing options and finally decided to go with a package deal offered by Createspace. It included…
· Comprehensive copyediting of my manuscript
· A unique book cover
· Custom total design
· Promotional text creation
· LCCN Assignment (Library of Congress Control #)
· Press Release Creation
· Press Release Distribution
I learned by working with those professionals. I had a comprehensive editor for my manuscript, a design team for my book cover, and another team for my promotional text. They gave their advice, but the entire time ALL DECISIONS WERE MINE AND I HAD THE FINAL SAY ON EVERYTHING. In three short, but very busy months, I held my first printed book in my hands.
Reviews for The Rocking Horse were so encouraging that I wanted to write another novel. I had many requests for a sequel, but my heart dictated a different venue, and a different genre.
Upon completion of my second manuscript, I knew I wanted to self-publish again. I liked having the control over my own work that Createspace gave me. However, I couldn’t justify the cost of all the services I’d used for my first book.
As much as I would have liked to have a comprehensive copy editor, the cost for a 90,000 plus word manuscript was over my budget. I’d written Never Waste Tears in first person (but I had five first persons), and the dialect was written with incorrect grammar. Even my spell and grammar check quit correcting me. So I basically did ALL of my own editing, without purchasing a support team.
Because I already had an account with Createspace, all I had to do to get started was to type in my title. Then it was a matter of following the provided step by step instructions to create…
· A book cover
· The book size
· A choice of paper color
· A type of font
· The selection of margins
· The placement of chapters and headers for my name, the book title, and the page numbers.
After making the formatting selections, we downloaded the manuscript, so that we could page through online and see what it looked like in book form. Because I used interims in different parts of my book we found it a bit tricky to insert the blank pages correctly. We learned by trial and error.
I’ve been told a writer should not design their own book cover. I broke that rule by using my own painting for the cover. Ron then used Microsoft Publisher and tools from Createspace to design the front and back cover of the book. Here is the one place we had a bit of a problem, as we had trouble getting the spine to fit correctly. So for a modest fee, we purchased help to finish the cover design.
Once Createspace approved the formatting, we ordered our first PROOF book. I was then able to edit directly from my proof book, make any corrections on my manuscript, and download it again. I hate to admit that it took us a total of 12 downloads and 5 proof books before I was ready to push the publish button.
The quote my friend sent me came to mind again—“Amateurs built the ark – Professionals built the Titanic”. Yes, I was still an amateur, but I gained a great deal of experience through the whole process, and had fun learning.
The first time I self-published was because the traditional way didn’t work. The second time I self-published was because I liked having control of all the decisions. Every step of the way was totally my own. It worked for me.
My advice to others would be that every author should investigate the many options available to them.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Gloria Zachgo's second novel is historical fiction at its best. She seamlessly weaves the story of five individuals who travel west from Ohio where they homestead in western Kansas a few years after the Civil War has ended. Gloria is a native Kansan so it seems natural that she used Kansas as the setting for her book.
The novel opens at the beginning of the Civil War when two of the main characters are young teens. We follow Rebecca and Nathan as they mature, fall in love, marry and head west. Carl and Hannah are part of the wagon train that the young newlyweds travel in. The two young couples decide to settle close to one another in western Kansas in an area that Carl had seen once but never forgot. We follow the progress made by the two young couples, their hopes and joys, their sorrows and trials. Hannah's sister, Sarah, joins them later and is the fifth main character in the book.
There have been many other books written about the pioneers who settled the western parts of our country but this one hooked me immediately and kept me reading at a fast pace. The oversized paperback book is just shy of 400 pages and my interest level was such that I read it in two days. I kept picking it up between household tasks because I wanted to find out what happened next.
Gloria Zachgo used an interesting technique in presenting her story. The five main characters tell us the story in their own voice. The reader might hear from three characters in one chapter but the narrative flows smoothly. She labels each with the name but the five are such individuals that the reader can figure out who is speaking without the names. Even so, I liked seeing the name above the narrative.
This technique allowed the author to achieve excellent character development, even though doing so in a book written in this method is not always easy to do. She mastered the technique. Because I'm a writer, I read a novel with two sets of eyes--that of strictly a reader and also a writer. I'd give it five stars in both categories.
The title of the novel is explained on the back cover:
Five journeyed into the unknown, where opportunities and tragedies were in equal abundance. Those who were strong didn't waste their tears, but used them wisely to help wash away their grief.
You can order the book at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.
In tomorrow's post, author Gloria Zachgo, will be my guest blogger. She will discuss self-publishing which she did with both Never Waste Tears and her first book, The Rocking Horse. Each one was done in a different manner. Anyone interested in self-publishing will want to read what Gloria has to say. So check in tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
The old way of finding new markets
In yesterday's post, I talked about marketing being the biggest step after you've written what you hope will be a publishable piece. I mentioned studying market guides. But let's go a bit farther today and see where you find some of these markets that are just dying for you to submit your work.
In the old days, libraries carried market guides that looked akin to the Sears catalog in size. Or you could order your own from places like Writer's Digest, the Institute of Children's Literature and others. It was nice to have those guides at your fingertips but there was one big problem. They were outdated almost as soon as they were printed. Editors changed, guidelines changed, dollars offered changed. If you purchased a new one each year, you ended up investing quite a bit of money to help you earn through your writing.
Then, along came the internet and what a boon it's been for writers in finding markets for their work. They can:
1. use a search engine with keywords like markets for fiction writers or markets for memoirs
2. sign up for writing newsletters that list markets as a part of each issue
3. sign up for newsletters that are strictly for marketing
4. find writing groups that share market information with members
5. check websites that put out a Call for Submissions on a regular basis (ie: Chicken Soup for the Soul)
One of the newsletters I subscribe to is Aerogramme Writers Studio which gives a good listing of literary magazines and ezines looking for submissions. They also list many contests. This is an Australian based website but the markets are international. We can all submit to markets in other countries if we have a paypal account, which is the way payment is handled when two countries are involved. I fought it for a long time but when I started selling children's stories to a magazine in China, I caved and set up an account and it's worked just fine. It was also easy to set up. I did open a new checking account which I use only for paypal transactions and I would recommend doing this.
If you're a fiction writer, you might find some marketing help here. Here's one for memoir or personal essays. Do you write poetry? Look at this website for market advice. For children's stories, Evelyn Christensen offers a fine marketing service. Check out this page for help.
I've listed only a very few. Take some time to look at the links I've given you and then spend time on your own searching for more places that will give you some market guidance. Google can be your best buddy if you learn to use keywords.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
How many times have I written about the difficulty of the writing game? Too many to count; I am quite sure of that. Even so, I think it's a topic worth visiting again and again. Too many writers ask themselves Why bother? after they run into repeated problems.
I am often reminded of the woman who learned she had a talent for writing stories, loved writing and decided to quit her day job and write full time. She could, she reasoned, supplement the family income with the sales she'd make. She figured she'd be money ahead with no travel expense to go to a job elsewhere, no increased wardrobe purchases, no lunches purchased at a restaurant. It sounded perfectly plausible.
It didn't work out that way. Yes, she did have a talent for writing creative nonfiction, but all writers soon learn that the writing is only step one. Marketing what you've written is step two and it's a very big step. Where we send what we write is every bit as important as what we write. We need to find the best fit for what we write--whether it is fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or essays. I sometimes think that some writers have a marketing gift. They have what appears to be incredible luck in placing their work.
On pondering it further, I wouldn't deem it pure luck. Study market guides long enough and you're bound to come up with a reasonable plan as to where and how to submit your work. I didn't say read or scan the market guides. The word used is study. If you thought you were through with studying once you got out of school, think again.
Submitting to and being accepted more than once by a publication is gravy on top of plain mashed potatoes. When you sell your work multiple times to a publication, two positives come your way. The editor knows who you are and likes your work so gives serious consideration to all your submissions. It doesn't mean he/she will accept everything you send but probably a good portion. Second positive is that readers of that publication begin to recognize your work, too.
Another step on this road to a successful writing journey is keep the submission ferris wheel turning at all times. Don't submit two pieces of writing in March and then none until July. Be consistent in submitting. Get a rejection? Submit it somewhere else. If you've studied those marketing guides, you'll likely have a second and third place to submit to.
I was once told that 1 out of 12 submissions makes it. Where the man who gave those figures got his information, I'm not sure. But, he was a frequently published writer and he still got plenty of rejections. That figure was given me 20 years ago so that may have changed radically by now. The point is that we can expect a relatively small percentage of our submisions to make it.
Does it appear that writing is meant to defeat a writer rather than buoy him/her to great heights? It may make you wonder why in the world you're beating your head against the writing wall if it is this hard to become a widely published writer. Why bother?
We bother, and I include myself here, because we love to write. We bother because we have something to say. We bother because we may want to prove something to ourselves. We bother because we know that the more we write, the more we grow as a writer. We bother because we've had positive feedback from readers. We bother because we've had some encouraging rejections from editors. We bother because we've had enough acceptances to know that we are not a washout as a writer.
Now, aren't those enough reasons to stay on the writing journey? I think so. Just keep in mind that there is no express elevator. You move up one step at a time.
Monday, May 11, 2015
What happens when you start a new writing project? Are you excited, eager, passionate about the topic and more than ready to get started? If you are, your writing will come more easily and you'll have a flawless journey to the polished end product.
Oh, wouldn't it be nice if it happened just that way? Even if we are enthused about whatever it is we've chosen to write, that does not mean there will be smooth jogging with no rough spots on the road. We might begin with a bang, get halfway there and suddenly come to a screeching halt. Where do I go now? you might ask yourself. I'm stuck! your inner self tells you.
Will you continue to sit at the computer and stare at the screen? You see the words you've written so far and then there is that awful amount of white space--white space waiting for you to fill it with brilliant sentences. The longer you stare, the blanker your mind goes.
When you've reached this point, get up from that chair and leave your writing space. Go do something entirely non-writing-related. Fix a cup of tea. Go for a walk. Read a magazine. Call a friend. Dust the furniture if you really are at a loss for what to do.
I find that a long walk helps me think about where I should go next when I'm writing. The ideas tend to come more easily while strolling along a path lined with nature's bounty and hearing the birdsong nearby. I've even had ideas about how to fix a rough spot in a story come to me in the shower. Or while driving to the grocery store.
Jot down notes when the ideas come to you for it is far too easy to forget them once you get back to the place where you write. Keywords will bring the thoughts back to you.
Yes, there is magic in new beginnings but there's also hard work and trouble spots before you reach a satisfying end. Don't let that stop you from starting a new writing project. Accept these things and you'll move through from beginning to end, solving little problems along the way. It's all part of this writing game. We may end up hating the process but happy when we have a finished product that is publishable.
Friday, May 8, 2015
The Chicken Soup for the Soul book pictured above is one that was recently published. I have a story in it about something my mother gave me for which I am and will be eternally grateful. What started as an embarrassment to me turned out to be one of my greatest blessings in life. There are so many good stories in this anthology about things we are grateful for that all go back to our moms. And yes, this book would be a great Mother's Day gift.
A Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, no matter their age or point on life's motherhood journey. You can read my story right here, right now!
Mom’s Recipe For Life
By Nancy Julien Kopp
I have a lot of Mom’s recipes in a blue tin box where all my special ones reside--the pumpkin pie she made during my growing up years, the light and yeasty dinner rolls that were family faves, and the tender date muffins that her own mother made. Every time I see one of the cards with Mom’s handwriting on it, I am carried back to the aromas in our small kitchen where she reigned. Even so, the recipe I treasure most is not on any index card. Nor did she send it to me in a letter. On the contrary, she lived this recipe all of her life but I was too blind to see and appreciate it until her final years.
My mother grew up in a small coal mining town in southwest Iowa. My grandfather once told me that she knew no stranger; she considered everyone in that community her friend. That attitude continued wherever she lived for the rest of her life.
As a tween and teen, I cringed every time my mother addressed strangers in the grocery store or on the city bus. She talked to everyone and offered a smile. In my naiveté, I was embarrassed.
Mom had a cheerful greeting for everyone she encountered and a question of some sort that triggered an answer and more conversation. She spoke to the mailman, the grocery store clerks, and the girls who worked in the neighborhood bakery.
“Hi Lorraine,” she’d say to the woman who owned the bakery. “What did you think of Jackie Gleason’s show last night?” Lorraine chatted about the show as she sliced the usual loaf of bread for Mom, then asked what else she wanted. “Half a dozen of those wonderful crullers,” Mom might say. Then she’d lean closer to the counter and say something like, “Isn’t life wonderful?” I’d roll my eyes and accept the free cookie Lorraine gave me even into my teen years, then hurry out hoping no one would see me with the woman who talked to everyone.
Decades later, after my father passed on, I drove the hour and a half to my mother’s house every couple of weeks to spend a day with her and help with errands. She grieved for Dad for a long time inwardly but her smile never wavered. “No sense being a Grumpy Gertie,” she’d tell me.
I watched as she spoke to the Walmart greeter before he even had a chance to open his mouth. “Hi. How are you doing today? Isn’t it great to see the sun?” She flashed him a million dollar smile as he helped her get a shopping cart while he chuckled.
I noticed that she smiled at everyone she passed in the store’s many aisles. Almost all of them responded with a bright beam of their own. Some spoke, others nodded their heads at this elderly woman who brought a little light into their day.
What really sold me on Mom’s approach to life was her experience on the senior bus, a story I’ve repeated to others many times. The weeks I could not be there, she used this low-cost transportation to the grocery store. After her first trip, I asked her how it went.
“Ha!’ she said, “I got on that bus and what did I see? Thirteen little old ladies and one old man and not one word was spoken.”
I wondered how long it would be until the somberness on that bus would change. On my next visit, Mom mentioned the girls on the bus and something one of them had told her.
“Oh, are you talking with them now?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said. “One day I climbed up the steps of the bus and before I looked for a seat, I gave them a big smile and I said, ‘Isn’t it a wonderful day? I noticed a few shy smiles.”
Mom didn’t give up. She greeted them all each time she got on the bus and before long, the whole group was laughing and talking to one another. The bus became more than just transportation.
When we went to the various stores, I observed as she smiled and chatted with perfect strangers. Some of them looked like the sourest person you’d ever met but once Mom beamed at them and started a conversation, most responded favorably. She had a man with deep frown lines laughing over a little joke she told him as she leaned on her cane. My mother didn’t embarrass me any longer. I found myself admiring her.
She’s been gone for ten years but I’ve carried on her recipe for life. I smile at people as I walk by and often begin a conversation in the checkout line. Silent, solemn people respond with smiles of their own and a bit of chatter. All it takes is for one person to initiate the smile or a greeting.
Recently, I noticed a woman ahead of me in the checkout line. Her red raincoat looked cheerful on a wet day, and I told her so. She had looked quite serious only a moment before, but she smiled and thanked me. “You know what?” she said, “I really like the color of your raincoat, too.”
It’s such second nature with me now that only the other day I noticed that everyone I passed in the grocery store smiled at me. Must be a lot of happy people here, I thought. Then, I stopped walking and bowed my head in a grateful prayer of thanks for the mother I had been given. It was me who had done the smiling first and all those people had responded. My mother didn’t lecture but taught me by example. She’d given me a recipe for life.