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Monday, March 31, 2008

5 Things Writers Need For Stand-Out Business Cards

Moo Business Cards from Creative Commons
Writing conference season is upon us, so I've been contemplating business cards. I need to update mine, and there are a dizzying array of options.
VistaPrint and 123Print are two great options for inexpensive cards.
The print-my-own route looks sneaky good too. No fuzzy little edges that I can see, so the new blanks are hard to tell from professionally printed cards. Some even let you print on the back.

But my main procrastination is what to put on the cards. Based on what I've heard from agents, editors, and other writers, there are some must-have features to create effective business cards for writers.

1. An Email With Your Name In It
Many agents and editors say if they meet you at a conference and your name rings a bell when you submit my email, they'll look at the submission themselves instead of passing it off to an assistant. But as my cohort Tricia Sanders says, they can't recognize your name if you're fairyprincess234. So I found my name wasn't taken in gmail, and signed up for a free account for my new business email I plan to use if for all my professional correspondence. I'm building my brand, and the brand is me.

2. A Tag line or Slogan
Think about all the business cards you get from people and don't look at twice. What will make yours stand out from the others (and please, god, not the holographic rainbow). You need a tag line or slogan that is associated with you as a freelancer. You're a creative writer, so come up with something that shows it. No pressure, right?

After researching what editors want from freelancers, I'm kicking around several at the moment. I decided to focus on the strengths I have that meet editors' desires - dependability, my extensive research of their style/needs, and creativity/fresh angles. I'm leaning toward one of the following. Any votes?

Articles Made-To-Order

Get Your Fresh, Hot Articles Here

Deadline Diva

3. A Personal Website Address
It doesn't have to be fancy, or expensive, but many agents and editors go to your website after you splash on their radar. Mine has my basic info and current clips. That internet-loving trend it likely to expand rather than get smaller as technology marches on. At least buy your domain name before someone else does. You can generally "park" it with an under construction sign that lets them know you're on your way to getting web savvy.

4. A Niche or Area of Specialization
I came up with a series of questions I asked to identify my key strengths, so I could highlight them on my cards. You should have several different cards, depending on their use. If you are an aspiring novelist as well as a freelancer, have a separate card so agents and editors don't get the message that your focus in on freelancing because that's all you feature on your card. Give one card to prospective magazine editors, and another version to fiction agents and editors. Go the print-them-yourself route for at least one of these, so you can create cards as needed and update them with new clips and awards.

5. Something For the Back of the Card
Don't take up all the space on the back or no one can write where they met you on it, but list a few awards, publications, your book titles, or other credentials to remind them who you are and what you're known for. If you aren't published, you might put a quote about writing or a list of your strengths. If you print your own, you can update this periodically as you publish more.

Caution: Don't use the listed items as an excuse to procrastinate. Give yourself a time limit on coming up with your tag-line and areas of specialization. Otherwise the writer fiend perfectionist in you can revise you into a corner with no business cards. And don't worry too much about getting a website spiffed out until after the cards are printed - just make sure you buy your domain name.

Is it time-consuming? Yeah, I drove myself a little crazy (down perfectionist personality, down boy), but you don't have to be as anal as I am. But you're a pro and you need a professional, creative business card for the passionate wordsmith you are. Don't sell yourself short with a anemic, puny, hum drum business card.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pick Your Freelance Flavor: Writing in Areas of Specialization

Creative Commons Photo by Zesmerelda

Having a freelance specialization can save you time and bring magazine editors to you. If you already know about a subject, it cuts down on research time and expert hunting. And once you publish in an area, editors come to you as an established expert.

Ask yourself the 4 Questions For Finding Your Perfect Freelance or Fiction Niche and use the options below to brainstorm so you can market yourself in the areas you're most talented. Then your business cards can say:

Joe Schmo
Freelance Ninja-history writer

Maybe not that specific. Consider the following niches:

Green Writing - the environment and it's issues (this is very popular area right now)




Home Improvement





Real Estate















Interior Design




Investment Writer




Law Enforcement/Legal

Online Writing

Academic Writing

Investigative Reporter

Media Reporter



Book Editing

Book/Product Reviewer

Technical Writing

Grant Writing




Social Networking



You can break categories down further, if you like. For example, technology can be broken into: Computers, SEO, Internet, Electronic Media, Web Design. But don't get too specialized or you eliminate freelance job options.

4 Questions For Finding Your Perfect Freelance or Fiction Niche

I needed to find my writing specialization areas to put on my new business cards. It's kind of like scanning the yellow pages - I tend to pick companies that list what I need done - the electrician who will do small, quick jobs, or the cleaning company that does windows. People feel like you're a good match if they know precisely what you do.

Specializing in freelance areas like food or parenting helps you focus your efforts and build editor clientele, so I asked myself the following questions.

1. What Have I Published?
If you haven't yet, no problem. Just skip to question #2. Example: So far I've published travel articles, regional pieces, parenting essays, book and product reviews, and food articles. So that gives me authority in these areas.

2. What Do I Love to Write About?
The answers are pretty much the same for me - travel, parenting and food. But I would add writing, book reviewing and teaching, though I haven't published in some of the areas yet. But list all areas you love to write about, even though you haven't published yet. Some of your best writing comes from things you feel passionate about.

3. What Do I Know and Who Do I Know?
My areas of expertise include food, parenting, writing, teaching college English, teaching non-traditional students, literature, acadmic writing, book/product reviewing and travel.

My expert pool includes: My hubby, who is a geolgist and lead/mold inspector, experts I've interviewed for previous articles (a pedatric heart surgeon, policeman, other writers), my brother who works with autistic children, my mom who does geneology, a teenager and preteen who live with me.

4. What Do I Read?

I read articles in the same areas I've published in. But for my fiction tastes, I like paranormal and humor authors like Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Janet Evanovich, Jim Butcher, Kelly Armstrong and Naomi Novik. So in ficition, I write what I know and find interesting. It's hard to understand a genre if you don't read much in it.

  • In the end I decided to focus on three areas for my business card:
Tricia Grissom
Parenting, Food, and Travel Writer

Don't list too many, or it dilutes the idea you're a specialist. Tomorrow I'll post a list of some specialization areas in freelance and book writing, so you can see where your freelance or fiction heart lies.

Friday, March 28, 2008

15 Reasons Women Love Sci Fi

Photo lethal talons Creative Commons

1. ‘Cause we’re totally equal, but with shiny, low-cut jumpsuits.

2. We can program the transporter to leave ten pounds behind every time we dematerialize.

3. We kick butt, but with kick ass boots.

4. Guys have to call us sir. *whip crack*

5. They have whole planets ruled by us. And we’re really tall.

6. Tribbles are sooooo cute.

7. We can take a pill and become irresistible.

8. The guys all get their shirts ripped off fighting aliens.

9. I could have a hologram of David Boreanaz. If I wanted.

10. The supermarket slidy doors are everywhere. I don’t have to remember where I put my keys.

11. We never wear the red shirt.

12. All of us have mutant big boobs.

13. We can order a chocolate lava cake from a hole in the wall at 3 a.m.

14. Cleaning toilets is a snap with Robbie the Robot. But we’re equal.
We don't clean.

15. Robbie’s talents are myriad. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Long Live Sci Fi.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New First 100 Words Contest at BookEnds: Women's Fiction

Today the new BookEnds first 100 words contest is for women's fiction - any time period.

The rules are the same as the previous contests, but the deadline for this one is tomorrow, March 28th at 9 a.m. EST or 8:00 a.m. Central for us Midwesterners.

And please note, some people went over the word limit in the Thriller/Suspense contest and two possible winners were disqualified! Let's be careful out there, people.

Good luck to everyone who enters.

Foodlore Anthology Seeks Food Origin Stories

Photo Creative Commons by Eggybird

Dante's Heart says a new anthology seeks stories "wherein writers invent origin myths for their favorite foods." Basically they want you to create your own fiction story of where a certain food came from. The blog entry has examples of some foods that have already been submitted.

They may divide the book by meals -Breakfast, lunch, dinner and maybe tea time and snacks - it's still developing.

Apparently there is a lot of lee way in what you consider food - stories on primordial soup and mudpies have been submitted in addition to more traditional food. They may have a forbidden/taboo food category. So if you want to talk about the first yummy cannibal stew, go for it. (Does it scare anyone besides me that I can find a picture to illustrate human flesh as food?)

Word Count: 2000-5000 words
Deadline: April 15, 2008
Submit to: Jennifer Heath at

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lit Mag Links From Mental Health for Writers

Photo by Bright Meadow Creative Commons

Mental Health For Writers is a blog by author Catherine Rankovic that has great advice on the writing life, with a literary bent. Her great post on Lit Mags, complete with a link to a site that reviews them, shows you how to get the inside scoop before you submit.

She says most literary magzines have updated their sites and provide more info than ever for authors who are researching before they send submissions. I've added the blog to my links for writers on Coffee and Critique, so if you could use some mental health (it's far too late for me, but I go anyway) and great advice, go check out her blog.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Script Frenzy Has Moved

If you've previously participated in Script Frenzy , the screenplay oriented sequel to national novel month (otherwise known as NanoWriMo) please note that they've moved it from June to April this year. That means it starts a week from today (is it symbolic that it's April Fool's Day?) on Tuesday, April 1, 2008.

They've also added some categories. According to the NaNoWriMo website,

"Now, in addition to original feature-length screenplays and stage plays, the escapade includes adaptations of novels, short film scripts, graphic novel and comic book scripts, and even radio dramas. As long as you cumulatively write 100 pages of script in April, you're a winner. " (the bold is mine)
So if you're considering it, get your scenes in a row and prepare to write 100 pages in 30 days. Don't know how to write a screenplay? They've got some excellent how-to advice on the website, along with reviews of software programs that will do the formatting for you. So if you're game, go over and sign up.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It Was The Best of Lines, It Was The Worst of Lines: How Important is the First Line of Your Novel?

Photo Creative Commons by Photocapy

So how important is that first line of your book? Can it make or break your chance of getting an agent or editor's attention?

Several agents have been holding novel first-line contests that win writers a critique. As Martha says, that's a good thing. But the better question is can a great first line hurt? Me thinks not. So it's to your advantage to craft a first line that's at least not snooze-worthy.

But don't panic over it. Some agents say a great first line isn't critical. Having a just-good-enough opener isn't a novel killer when they're reading submissions. Miss Snark has some valuable advice on first lines. She says if it's horrid it will kill your chances, but an adequate one can keep her reading even if it's not show-stopping. Agent Rachelle Gardner says basically the same thing in her blog post.

So make sure your first line doesn't reek, at the very least, and check out these legendary first lines to see what makes for an unforgettable opening. (Although I think it may be a chicken and egg thing for some of them - people fell in love with the book and then decided they adored the first line- see #14 on the list, for example). For a selection of stinky first lines, see the Lyttle Lytton Contest winners for worst first line.
For my fellow Saturday Writers and Coffee and Critique members, don't forget Julie Earhart's workshop this Saturday on "First Sentence Expectations." It's a specific workshop on polishing that first sentence.
Query on.

Saturday Writers Workshop - "First Sentence Expectations"

This Saturday, bring your best opening line from a fiction, non-fiction, or poetry manuscript to Julie Earhart's workshop for Saturday Writers, "First Sentence Expectations."

First lines can be an important asset in selling your writing, so don't miss this opportunity to make a powerful first impression with an agent or editor.

Julie Earhart is an award-winning fiction and non-fiction writer and has MFA degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

She has published in Steps Astray; An Archer's Dream; Watermark; Gigantic; Palimpsest; and Stirrings: A Literary Collection, Sauce Magazine (in publication) Saint Louis Events Magazine (of which she is the former editor-in-chief), the St. Louis Public Library, The Tunica Times, The 1904 World's Fair Society Bulletin, Spirit Seeker, Oakland House, St. Louis Writers Guild, the MFA Program at UM-St. Louis, The Historic Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village, and The Women's Voice of Saint Louis and has been a reviewer of fiction for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Charlotte Austin Review, Booksights (in the UK) and Amazing Authors Showcases.

She also taught feature writing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and has started her own creative writing business, Write it Right!

When and Where:
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The meeting will be from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the St. Peters Community and Arts Center, 1035 St. Peters-Howell Road, off Mid Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters. It's is free to members and $5 for non-members.

Saturday Writers meets the last Saturday of the month. For more information, visit the Saturday Writer's website at

Saturday, March 22, 2008



(No Entry Fee)

The Early Onset Project seeks true stories about persons with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s or early-onset dementia develops in a person who is younger than age 65.
Entries should be compelling slice-of-life stories that show how early-onset Alzheimer’s or a related dementia has affected you or someone close to you. Authors of stories selected for the collection will receive a free copy of the publication. No other payment will be made. Stories submitted for The Early Onset Project are automatically entered into a contest.

Submissions deadline: June 30, 2008.

First Prize - $100Second Prize - $50Third Prize – $25Honorable Mention – $10

For a sample story and more information, please visit the Early Onset Project page at Early Onset Project.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Crazy for Feeling This Way - Write Till You Die

Creative Commons photo by Lori Greig

It's official. I have lost my ever loving mind.

The book world is buzzing about Borders going under and possibly being munched up by Barnes and Noble. This is very bad news. Some books that would have been picked up by Borders will go orphaned if we have only one book store chain in control of the universe. Less competition = fewer books sold.

And I don't care.

I don't want to give up writing. I don't want to acknowledge the hard, stark light of reality shining on my reduced publishing options.I don't want to wallow in sorrow at the diminishing chances of getting a new book published.

Because they'll have to pry my keyboard from my cold dead hands! All of you other writers who understand the implications, who want to have silly things like free time and peace of mind, flee in terror. You are probably sane.

I, on the other hand, cannot conceive of a life without writing and so I will go on. I will go on whether I get published or not because I must write these things that come out of my head. I will go on to face seemingly insurmountable odds. As God as my witness, I will go on writing again.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Win a Critique From a Literary Agent

Creative Commons photo by Charles Chan

Author C.J. Darlington has a post on a writing contest by christian fiction literary agent Rachelle Gardner. She's offering two winners a critique of their work-in-progress (query letter, book proposal, or first ten pages of novel - choose one).

The contest has two parts. First you submit the first line of a novel. One person will win the critique prize for best first line. Then contestants write 300 words based on the first line she assigns you from the first part of the contest. The winner gets the second critique prize.

The first deadline for the opening line is Sunday, March 22 at midnight mountain time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Missouri Writers Guild Conference

It's not too late to sign up.

The conference is April 11th-13th in Columbia, MO at the beautiful Stoney Creek Inn. There are still plenty of slots available for the one-on-one editor pitches.

Check out the website for additional details.

New First 100 words contest at BookEnds Literary Agency: Thriller/Suspense Novel

Photo Creative Commons halighhalie's photostream

They've posted the historical romance winners at the BookEnds blog and today the new BookEnds first 100 words contest is for a Thriller/Suspense novel.

The rules are the same as the previous contests, but the deadline for this one is tomorrow, March 20, 2008 at 9 a.m. EST or 8:00 a.m. Central for us Midwesterners.

Good luck to everyone.

Win a House in this Essay Writing Contest - Courtesy Of The Mortgage Crisis

Photo Elite PhotoArt Creative Commons

The mortgage crisis is affecting the U.S. in crazy ways. J.J. Rodgers is sponsoring an essay contest - and the prize is her four bedroom Colorado home.

For a $100 entry fee, you can submit a 500 word essay to compete for the home. Rodgers is hoping to get at least 2000 entries so she can pay off her mortgage and other costs on the house. If there aren't enough entries, she'll refund everyone's money.

I applaud her creativity. It's either the contest or foreclosure, apparently. It is their second home, but they want to send their four kids to college with the money. The contest has been covered in a number of newspapers, including which has excerpts from some of the essays received so far. All the money goes into some kind of trust and won't be touched until the conclusion of the contest.

If you want to enter, send your 500 word essay and $100 to:
Colorado Home Essay Contest
PO Box 436
Fort Collins, CO 80522.

Include your name, mailing address, phone and e-mail. Cashiers checks or money orders should be made out to Colorado Home Essay Contest. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (I guess in case they have to return the fees). The winner will be notified May 31. The judges are an independent panel of five people.

Be aware you'll have to pay taxes if you win the house, just like if you won the lotto.

For all you people stuck with a mortgage you can't afford, I send positive thoughts out into the universe and hope the coming year will bring better fortune - or at least an essay contest of your own.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sweetgum Press Needs More Missouri Paranormal Stories

Photo Piccadillywilson Creative Commons

The editor is holding the collection until she has a good sampling of stories. Examples of what's been received so far:

"I received one on the Light at Senate, and that was a very short piece, like a summary anecdote; one ghost experience that was connected to opening an attic; one ghost story about sounds and feelings at night.

One person described, in person, an experience to me--having a section of the house get colder and colder while the rest of the house was warm; the family associated it with evil and that sounded like a good explanation at the time. She may submit a piece about that."

From the previous blog post:
Sweetgum Press currently seeks, for an anthology, non-fiction based on real-life mysterious and paranormal phenomena in Missouri (marsh lights, hauntings, and the like): Anecdotes, essays, interviews or other appropriate genre from 500 words (anecdote) to 8000 words.

Contributors whose work is selected will receive a small cash payment, the amount depending on the length of the piece, and copies of the publication. Anticipated date of publication is fall 2008.

Submit your best work, in standard professional format, to Sweetgum Press, P. O. Drawer J, Warrensburg, MO 64093.Queries only to: See our general guidelines at

Monday, March 17, 2008

5 Steps to an Extreme Writing-Life Makeover: What Would Writers Do?

Spring has always been a better time for me to start new projects than the New Year. On January first, I'm still torpid from mainlining hot soup and my initiative is muffled in a fluffy sweater that's covered by a fleece lined jacket, shrouded in a flannel blanket. (Can you tell I'm cold this morning?)

So if you're catching spring fever, consider giving yourself a writing-life makeover. About two years ago, I decided if I wanted to write, I needed to make some changes. I read some writing advice that said if you want to be a writer, you're lifestyle needs to show it.

So I began asking myself this question:
WWWD - What Would Writers Do?
  • 1. Would writers spend a significant part of the day watching Lifetime movies about husbands with secret past lives and snoopy wives? No. Goodbye to daytime (and eventually most of night time) television. I found it worked best if I just never turned it on. Then I never knew if I was missing that Today show segment on the best new gifts for your pet.
  • 2. Do writers read only romance novels and magazines about "How to Walk Off the Weight in Ten Minutes a Day." Natch. So I found Internet sites about writing and bought books about querying. I still have my other novels on the side - for research.
  • 3. Would writers hang out in the p.j.'s with a hole in the crotch, or would they get dressed in decent clothes and go find other writers? (Great excuse for a shopping spree!) So I started actually attending the writing group I had joined two years before and raised the ante with a new critique group.
  • 4. Would a writer spend her money on manicures and chai tea, or get her jagged-nailed, decaffeinated self enrolled for a writing class or conference? (Five years before we would have been too poor for this one - it can take awhile to find the moolah.)
  • 5. Would a writer have nothing to show an agent and no query letters to send out? God forbid. This was the hardest one. I had to write. Every. Day. I signed up for NanoWriMo in November and drafted my first query letter.

Since then I've written a novel manuscript, published several articles, heard my essay read on a local radio station, and I'm now look forward to more publications coming out this year as I pitch my novel at a writing conference.

This didn't happen in a week of life surgery. It started one procedure at a time. And teaching night classes gives me daylight to work that most people don't have. But you can also ask, What Would Part-time Writers Do? How do people who write between the cracks in their lives get things done? What does their routine look like?

And before you know it, your makeover has kicked in and you have at least part of the life of your dreams. And that's worth the television drought and snaggily nails.

I'm now ready for the next stage, What Would Published Writers Do? I'm working on the questions now, so stay tuned.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

NIPW - It's Over. I'm Sad

I'm home from Kentucky. This workshop has been one of the best experiences I've had as a writer. The level of writing the participants exhibited was extraordinary. I was amazed at the variety of "novels in progress" at the workshop. Mind boggling!

I have some work to do to finish my synopsis, so I can get it in the mail to two of the agents I talked with this week. And let me just say again (kiss, kiss) how awesome they were.

For all of you planning pitches in the coming months, let me just say this. It's your novel, you wrote it, so therefore you know it better than anyone. Don't try and memorize your pitch. It will come out sounding forced. Instead talk about your book from your heart and head. You know your characters, give them their due. These agents are people just like you and I. And if you pitch to one and she doesn't like it, it's not the end of the world. There are more agents out there. Oh, and another thing. When you pitch, take a breath now and again. Give the agent an opportunity to say something.

If they tell you it's not for them, then thank them for their time and move on. Don't argue.

KETC Channel 9 Looking for Stories about Jewish life in St. Louis

Photo Will Palmer at Creative Commons

Channel 9 is looking for stories about being Jewish in St. Louis. Submissions will be considered for their documentary in conjunction with the recent PBS series "Jewish Americans." All accepted stories will be included in the KETC file at the Missouri Historical Society.

E-mail stories to, submit them online, or mail to St. Louis Stories: The Jewish Americans, KETC, 3655 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63108.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Winding Down -- Novels in Progress

Well, it's almost over. Just the celebration party tonight, and I'll be heading home tomorrow. But I do have something to celebrate. I had two agents request to see more of my novel. So, as Martha would say, "That's a good thing."

And I have to tell you. All of the agents and the editor here at NIPW were extremely approachable. Not a scary one in the bunch.

Thanks to Jeff and NIPW for making it possible.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Still (a)Live from Novels in Progress

Great week. Yesterday we worked on our pitches and did practice pitch sessions in the afternoon. I'm still revising my synopsis with the great tips I've received this week.
Also had our group critique session with our facilitator. I've received great feedback and am looking forward to coming home and putting an extra spit shine on the manuscript.

I'm fired up and ready to pitch this baby to an agent. That happens tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Once again, I'll say this workshop is a class act.

Writing Contest Wants Boomer Women's Favorite Concert Memories

Photo by Lonely Moose Creative Commons

The National Association of Baby Boomer Women and the website are sponsoring a "Favorite Concert Memories" essay contest. No entry fee.

From the press release: "The winner of the Favorite Concert Memories contest will receive $100 and a free membership (or free renewal of their membership) in the National Association of Baby Boomer Women.

Additionally, the winning story will be appear in the “Our Voices” section at, an affiliate Web site of the NABBW. Baby Boomer women can submit their Favorite Concert Memories to with FAVORITE CONCERT MEMORIES in the subject line. . . .Contestants should include their name, email address and a short bio at the top of the attached Word document entry – and not in the body of the email."

  • They want the entry sent in a word document as an attachment.

  • Length: up to 500 words

  • Deadline: April 15, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

BookEnds First 100 Words Contest - Historical Romance

Photo by sartiglia_028 Creative Commons
Today the new BookEnds first 100 words contest is for historical romance.

The rules are the same as the previous contests, but the deadline for this one is tomorrow, March 14th at 9 a.m. EST or 8:00 a.m. Central for us Midwesterners.

Good luck to everyone who enters.

Sauce Seeks More Food Essays From St. Louis Area Residents

Photo by Dahon from Creative Commons

Sauce Magazine , the St. Louis Metro Area's Restaurant Guide, is seeking food essay submissions for their new column.

So if you live in the St. Louis area and can carry on about cheese, wax rhapsodic about rutabagas, or write drool-worthy prose about your favorite food experiences/memories, write an essay and submit it to Sauce. Essays should be around 900 words and 12 will be featured in their monthly column. The stories can take place anywhere in the world, but must be unpublished.

If you were accepted in the original call for submissions last fall, their current submission guidelines say you can submit another essay but no author will have more than one essay published in a calendar year. I have one appearing in May, so that gives me time to work on another for next year. I'd still send your submission in as soon as you can, so they have time to consider your essay.

Here some advice from editor Katie O'Connor on what they're looking for:
"The essays can be about *anything* (really!), as long as food factors in somewhere -- either directly, as a main character or the main focus of the story -- a description of the first time the author ate an exotic ingredient, for example, or perhaps a story about experiencing the food in Italy -- or indirectly, as a component of the story or as a background element. A look at a family's kooky dynamic as told through a typical family dinner hour is an example; so is the chapter in Ruth Reichl's "Tender at the Bone" where she hints at her mother's mental illness by describing her mother's "quirk" of serving dangerously old food to guests. Absolutely any story is fair game here, as long as it's personal, real and original."

  • So get eating - and writing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Live from Novels in Progress Workshop

Wow, what a week. I'm immersed in a week-long workshop called Novels in Progress in Louisville, KY. So far, I have boiled my novel down to 3 sentences. No small feat. But I did it. I've have my first 50 pages critiqued and received great feedback. I've attended workshops on dialog, POV (and I learned the POV that I'm using is spot-on for my novel), rewriting strategies, and plotting essentials. WHEW!

This afternoon I'm off to a workshop on writing query letters and synopses and tonight I have a peer critique with three other workshoppers and our faculty mentor. Plus we're having a pizza party tonight to get us past the mid-week hump.

AWESOME stuff. And I have to hand it to Jeff Yocom, the Conference Planning Chair--they know how to do it right.

This is all leadng up to a pitch session on Saturday with agents and editors.

I'll check in later.

Is this the Future of Magazines? Free Content from Readers?

Photo Creative Commons by SunFox

Newsweek has a thought-provoking article on a new online magazine that pulls content from internet denizens rather than freelancers.

The magazine publishing company, 8020, has readers submit content to magazines like the travel publication Everywhere and then vote on the best stories. The winners are then featured in the print magazine. This generates extra traffic when submitters ask friends and family to check out the site and vote for their submission. The winner gets $100 and publication in the print magazine. It's a trend that may not bode well for full-time freelancers.

If many netizens are giving away the chocolate freelance milk for free, why buy content from a better bovine? I'm guilty too. I just entered a contest at Journeywoman that asks for inspiring travel stories, and I didn' t really think about the implications. First place gets $100 and some runner-ups get $25, and they get people to submit full essays without a kill fee or specific assignment.

I'm sympathetic to new publications who are starting out and need to move toward a profit, or at least breaking even. But what is the likelihood they'll start paying freelancers what they're worth if the model is working for them? Will they do it out of the goodness of their hearts and a sense of fair play? Not.

I may have to reconsider future contests. While it might be a good way for new writers to get first clips, it lets the magazines get off cheap. And cheap doesn't pay the bills at my house.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

America Essay Contest - The Case for God

America, The National Catholic Weekly has an essay contest focusing on the theme, "The Case for God." No entry fee.

From the website:
"The winning manuscript will approach that topic or the various issues surrounding it with creativity, precise argumentation and literary flair. Essays should be written with a general audience in mind, but can be from any perspective, including personal, professional, academic, apologetic or devotional."
  • Length: Entries should be unpublished works up to 2,500 words

  • Prize: $3,000

  • Deadline: June 16, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008's Unpublished Writing Competition - The Contest that Pays You to Enter

Photo by Ian Wilson Creative Commons is a website that partners with authors to sell their books online. The website keeps 60% and the author gets 40%. All books are priced between $2.50 and $5.00, with sale price determined by the popularity of the novel.

Now they are hosting's Unpublished Writing Competition. From now through May 5-11, writers can upload their book to the website and the 5 most popular books of the week plus one wild card go through to a 2nd round of the contest. Ten books from Round 2 go on to Round 3, where the winner is selected by a panel of judges. The books earn points during the first rounds from reader ratings and number of downloads.

The best part - you get paid.
All readers have to pay to download your book, and you share in the revenue. Is this an attempt to drum up more downloading readers for Bookhabit as you beg all your friends and family to download your book? Plus get the website a double serving of publicity from every author who promotes on their blog or website? I'm pretty sure it is. But the prize is $5,000 and depending on your book, you may earn yourself enough for a nice steak dinner - or at least breakfast at Mickey D's.

What should you enter?
So if you have a manuscript that you think is too quirky, too long, too short, or too niche for the publishing world, you might want to consider entering. They're taking both fiction (any genre) and non-fiction. Manuscripts must be at least 50,000 words long.

For example, one winner this week is a romance novel, and one is a how-to book for new motorcyclists. Self-published books can be entered as long as they sold less than 500 copies. I wouldn't enter a book you haven't shopped around first to agents and editors, but if you feel your baby was misunderstood when you sent it out into the cold, cruel publishing world, you might want to bypass big publishing and go straight to the people - at least those willing to pay. Power to your peeps! Uh, not the yellow, sticky ones - your people. Good luck to everyone who enters.

Query on.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

9th Annual Tupelo Press/Crazyhorse First Book of Poetry Contest

Notes on the Writing Life has info on the 9th annual Tupelo Press/Crazyhorse poetry contest for poets who've never published a book. You must submit a collection of poetry for consideration.

Prize: $3000 and publication of your book

Deadline: April 15, 2008.

Entry fee: $25

All unpublished poems are considered for Crazyhorse.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Congrats to Alice on Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors

Coffee and Critiquer Alice has not one, but two stories under contract with Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors. Her two essays were also submitted to Redbook's essay contest in conjunction with the Breast Cancer Cup of Comfort collection.

Good luck, Alice. We love your essays!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Market News: is Looking for "Bad Parent" Essays is an online parenting zine with a hipper, more sarcastic edge. They bill themselves as "the magazine and community for a new generation of parents," and focus on parents of the infant to toddler age range. They launched in 2006.

The latest:
Babble's most popular column has been "Bad Parent." They used to publish it once a month or so, but they've recently decided to post a new one every week. So they'll be looking for first person essays from lots of writer parents. They also want more dad perspectives.

The columns are essays admitting to kid-raising strategies that "the rules" might diagree with: not babyproofing, losing your temper, or walking around the house naked.

Their rate is around .50 a word, (if you're a new writer you may get less). They sometimes pay more if the article requires extensive research. They also pay a kill fee of 25%.

Caution: Their voice is very distinct, and it can be hard to get an acceptance. I got lucky with an essay on breastfeeding for "Bad Parent," but I haven't had much luck since (but my kids are also older and it's harder for me to remember those days). You may have to submit several essays before you hit the right tone/topic. Just be sure to do your homework and study them before submitting. In my experience they pay promptly are lovely to work with.

You'll need to write the whole essay and send it with your query. My query was very short (see my example below) Let the writing speak for itself in this case. Check their submission guidelines for more information.

Example Query Letter

Ada Calhoun

Dear Ms. Calhoun:

Enclosed at the bottom of this email is my 1,150 personal essay against breastfeeding. I'm not a radical, and I have no grassroots organization. I just know there are other mothers like me who didn't find a madonna-like satisfaction in nursing their children. In fact, we nearly lost our minds. (Briefly summarized the topic of article and the length is in their range)

I love the honesty and humor of Babble, and its edgy tone is a perfect fit for this essay. (Showed them I've read the magazine before submitting)

I am an English instructor at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO and a freelance writer. I'm currently working on articles for Missouri Life Magazine and Fiery-Foods & (I don't think you have to be published to break in to Babble - the essay is what counts)

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tricia Grissom
(include contact info)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Having Trouble With Dialogue? Check out Eavesdropping Writer

Realistic dialogue is hard. Many writing tomes recommend you listen real-life conversations you overhear, but how often do we actually do that? I'm too busy listening to the voices in my head. There's no room for more personalities.

But now I can go over to the mesmerizing blog Eavesdropping Writer. She posts blog-worthy conversations she hears, including full character descriptions. You can't make this stuff up. Thanks to Andrea McMann who recommended this riveting site in the comments over at Writer Mama.

In this spirit, I'll recreate a conversation I overheard in the checkout line at the grocery store. I wish I had written down more accurately, but here goes.

Beep, Beep, Beep (that's the cash register)
The girl checking me out is maybe 17, the bag boy she's talking to is around the same age. She's wearing the standard grocery store smock and so is he, but he also has some hopeful stubble on his chin.

Bag Boy: So what are you going to be for Halloween?
Checker Girl: I think a pirate.
Bag Boy: Cool. Do you have an eye patch? Those are so cool.
Checker Girl: Uh, no
Bag Boy: If you get one, can I have it when you're finished?
Checker Girl: (hesitantly) I guess.
Bag Boy: Seriously, you don't even know, like, how bad I want one.

That must have been two years ago, and I still remember it. The writer in me must have had some caffeine that morning.

If you want to make your own writing blog recommendations for Writer Mama, the best recommender (that is so not a word) can win Kelly James-Enger’s, Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create Your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money! (Marion Street Books, 2008). She's taking blog suggestions until March 7, 2008.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Monthly Online Contest!

This was in my mailbox today.

Call for March Short-Short Story Submissions She may be mad as a March hare, but the next judge at the Whidbey Writers Workshop Student Choice Contest wants to see your short stories and poems about March Madness.

What does that mean? Stories about tea parties, basketball, the effects of the vernal moon? Something more sinister? I don't know. I'm not sure she does, either. If you have a story that fits the theme, be the first writer in March to knock her socks off and she'll post your story on the MFA Student website, send you $50 cashola, and sing your praises to your local newspaper or writing organization. But keep it short--she won't read more than 1,000 words.

The contest is open to mad hatters, March hares, and writers at all stages of their career, students or non-students, anyone can enter.

Simply go to for more information and to find the submission link.

"Return to Luna" Writing Contest - No entry fee

SFScope has a post about a new short story contest sponsored by Hadley Rille Books and the National Space Society (NSS) called "Return to Luna." They want science fiction stories that capture the pioneering spirit of a moon base. Stories should be set in the near future 50-150 years. Check their submission guidelines for more details.

Entry deadline: June 15, 2008
Length: 2000-6000 words
Prize: Winning stories will be published in an anthology

And remember this great advice about entering writing contests from the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market blog.

Monday, March 3, 2008

BookEnds First 100 Words Contest - Contemporary Romance

Today the new BookEnds first 100 words contest is for contemporary romance. The rules are the same as the previous contests, but the deadline for this one is tomorrow, March 4th at 9 a.m. EST or 8:00 a.m. Central for us Midwesterners.

Good luck to everyone.

Do Authors Need Websites?

If you're an author debating about whether you need a website or not, paranormal author Cheynne McCray has a blog post over at Fangs, Fur and Fey that might help. She's collected a sampling of agent comments about how a potential client's website affects his or her chances of getting an agent.

So should you or shouldn't you? The overall consensus seems to be yes - just don't make it look slapdash or unprofessional, or you may do more harm than good - and keep all negative comments (about anything) to yourself. Agents apparently don't like Doug and Wendy Whiner any more than anyone else does - unless they're on Saturday Night Live and we can laugh our butts off at them.

Missouri Writers might want to consider the class at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference 2008 that helps you design your own website on the spot. Regardless, you might want to buy your domain name even before you're ready to get your website up and running.
You never know who shares your name and might want it for his or her very own. There's also lots of great advice on the web for how to get started designing a website.

Also, check out authors who write in your genre or writing area. Many link to their web design companies. At the very least, you can see what looks professional and what looks like Austin Powers designed it - and create your own accordingly.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Hello to All St. Louis Writers Guild Members

Just wanted to say thanks to all the St. Louis Writers Guild members at the meeting today. My compatriot Tricia Sanders and I spoke there this morning. They laughed at all my jokes - even the bad ones.

Here are links to some great networking websites we mentioned (and a few more for good measure):

Preditors and Editors - Reviews of publishers and writing-related businesses - Writers' online community
- freelance writing advice from much published writers
The Renegade Writer Wiki - the inside info on magazines provided by freelance writers
Shrinking Violet Promotions - book marketing for introverts
The Writer Mama - Christina Katz blog for writing mothers
Critique Circle - Critique group online
Pubrants - Lit agent Kristin Nelson
Bookends, LLC - Literary agency
Nathan Bransford - Lit agent Nathan Bransford

Genre Blogs
Fangs, Fur, and Fey - blog for published urban fantasy/paranormal authors
Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books - reviews of romance books and their highly questionable covers
Good Girls Kill for Money - the femme fatales of mystery blog about the writing life

Hope to see you all at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference. Stalk those agents and editors online, people!