Archive for April, 2008

Only TEN Shopping Days Left: Practical, Yet Necessary Mother’s Day Gifts for Writer Mamas

Pack of G-2 Pens from Costco
Pick them up at Costco (if you can) in big packages that will last months if not all year. Does she like fine or superfine tips? You’ll need to know. Prices vary depending on where you buy.

G-2 Pen Refills from Wal-Mart
The best price I have seen is at Wal-mart. If you don’t have a Costco membership, get your pens here too. Even if you don’t shop there regularly, you’ll save a bunch of money if you buy in bulk. Does she like blue, black or red? Better get them all. Prices vary.

Fabric Magazine Rack
The Container Store carries the fabric magazine rack I love. It comes in three colors that should suit all tastes. Very cool. Fifteen bucks.

Chair Mat
I love that my chair mat isn’t boring old plain plastic but has a snazzy design. Check ‘em out at IKEA. They are cheap! About fifteen bucks.

Soft and Fluffy Office Carpet
I just got the green one from Target and I love it. My daughter and the cats love to sit or lie on it and play. The dogs are not allowed to touch it! Comes in hot pink, light green, white and more. About sixty bucks.

Journals, Journals and More Journals
I like a certain kind of journal or notepad like most moms do. So sneak a peek before you help her stock up. I go to Rite Aid for my Mead Cambridge Spiral Top writing pads (four bucks) and Michael’s for my large sketch pads (price varies).

White Board with Markers and Eraser
How about one for her to put up high and one for the kid(s) to use down low? Costco has decent-sized white boards for about fifteen bucks each.

Your Recording Needs
A gift card to Radio Shack will be best because mom will need to spend at least twenty minutes talking to the sales guys to make sure the recorder will work with her phone, computer, etc. (P.S. Show her how to use the recording feature on her cell phone, for spontaneous notes to self or polls.) Plan to spend Fifty to one hundred bucks.

Magazines for Writers
Writer’s Digest, The Writer and Poets & Writers. Why not order her all three?

Preparation for 2009 Resolutions
Help mom be among the first to receive copies of my forthcoming book Get Known Before the Book Deal (November) and Wendy Burt-Thomas’ The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (January) both available NOW on Amazon for pre-order. (Better still get her something wrapped for the big day though.)

Just Right Classes for Writer Mamas
Five great classes for moms with no experience (Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff) all the way through ready-to-write-a-nonfiction book proposal (Craft a Saleable Nonfiction Proposal). If you really want to see mom jump up and down, why not register her for a Fall Writing-for-Publication class? Classes start in late August and early October. Pricey…but she’s worth it! Please visit Writers on the Rise for more info.

A Top-notch Coffee Maker
Yes, this absolutely goes under “Practical.” We like our Cuisinart 12-cup Thermal Coffeemaker. The coffee stays hot and doesn’t get bitter even if one of us gets up super early and the other one sleeps in. The decanter doesn’t shatter or break. However, if I was purchasing again, I’d get the grinder built-in.

Good Coffee/Tea
You’ll get a lot more mileage from your highbrow beans, and spend less money at the coffee shop, if you have a grinder at home and buy your beans in bulk at either Costco or Starbucks (or her favorite coffee joint). Why not treat mom to a few months worth of quality coffee? She’ll love you with high octane. I love a good cup of tea in the afternoon. My favorite, because it’s easy on my tum-tum, is Stash Organic English Breakfast. Available at most upscale grocery stores. If mom is a tea drinker, this tea is for her!

You’re welcome, moms. Send the dads and kids on over!


Personal Essay Tips from Samantha Ducloux Waltz (Is that a great name or what?)

Samantha Ducloux Waltz had been threatening to attend the reading series I host, The Northwest Author Series, for months, when she finally showed up two weekends ago to hear poet extraordinaire, Sage Cohen. While there she was so kind as to remind me that I had hit her up for some tips on writing personal essays for this blog…like weeks ago. (Where is my head sometimes?)

Samantha was one of the first fellow writer folks I met after moving to Oregon in 2004. If I am remembering correctly we both volunteered to sit in the Willamette Writers booth at Wordstock, Portland’s Annual Festival of the Book. Since then, it seems like I hear repeated announcements about Samantha’s personal essay publications. Her essays appear in the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup series, as well as a number of other anthologies, and have won several awards.

Here’s those tips she shared with me that I have been keeping all to myself…

If the question is how to write a better essay then I think the keys are:

  • Strong techniques that we use in fiction like characterization, dialogue, time, place, rich language, etc. — the old show don’t tell.
  • A good idea that is developed through scene. At the heart of an essay is a strong, universal concept.
  • I always, always, always run my work by other writers. Have someone critique your works who can give good feedback. I’m amazed, sometimes, that something isn’t clear. Or something falls flat. In my head it was so wonderful.
  • Keep trying. I wrote a couple of things for A Cup of Comfort before I got anything accepted. And I get rejections right along with everyone else so I have to keep trying along with the new kids on the block.
  • Study your markets. The tone of my Chicken Soup pieces is different from the tone of my Cup of Comfort pieces. Those aimed at anthologies not part of series are harder to analyze, of course. Redbook has a very distinctive tone. So does Newsweek. I’ve been in Christian Science Monitor, a wonderful market for the personal essay, but I’ve been rejected too.

The markets that pay me wouldn’t buy my groceries. A Cup of Comfort pays $100.00. Chicken Soup pays $200.00. The other anthologies I’m in pay between $50.00 and $100.00. But I love being in books.

And yet the markets I write for are very competitive. A Cup of Comfort volume uses forty to fifty stories selected from 3,000. Chicken Soup has more stories in a volume, but may have more submissions.

Getting started is the hardest. Getting that first publication. Then you start getting calls for submissions from editors and you get to go to the top of the slush pile.

If the question is how to make more money, there are some magazines that pay a whole lot more. Redbook and Newsweek would be examples. I haven’t tried these markets yet, but it is one of my New Year’s resolutions to do so.

Samantha’s website is Paths of Thought.

Gold Stars Abound for my Former Class Participants

So, this was pretty cool…

I’m standing in the library, somewhat impatiently, with a bag full of books and a selection of DVDs and Videos for my daughter for the week, trying to decide how many more minutes to tell her she has left to play. And just then another little girl approaches her to play puppet theater, so I didn’t want to interrupt too abruptly. Besides our library is smart enough to put the parenting magazines in the kids section.

Alright, I thought. I’ll flip through some magazines for a few minutes. And right before I did I thought, Wouldn’t it be cool if I opened up these magazines and found my students names in them?

And guess what? That’s exactly what I found.

November issue of Parents: A tip by Stephanie Dethlefs.

December issue of Parents: A tip by Lori Lee.

February issue of Parents: A tip by Kim Linnell

April issue of Parenting: A tip by Janice Kaelin-Kee

I wasn’t even looking hard. I was just standing there flipping pages. So there are likely plenty more. Rock on! Way to follow through, mamas!

A couple days ago, I was blog surfing and discovered an article by Karen Lynch in the April 2008 issue of Parents. That’s probably what kicked off my curiosity.

Admittedly, I’ve been so busy writing my second book and improving and expanding my curriculum that I haven’t had much chance to pitch magazines. But it’s pretty cool to know that my former students are publishing short stuff all over the place even as I toil away on longer pieces.

It made my day. Keep up the great work everyone!

Bloggy Giveaways Carnival Winners!

The envelope PLEASE!

Hearty congratulations goes out to…




I already e-mailed each of you to send your snail mail address.

I will have these in the mail by the end of the week.

Congratulations again. 🙂

Thanks again for a great giveaway, Bloggy Giveaways!

What Writer Mamas REALLY Want for Mother’s Day

I am about to make a list of what writer mamas want for Mother’s Day and I need your help.

What do you really want for a Mother’s Day gift.

I mean an actual thing, as opposed to “world peace” or something like that. (Although that sounds good too!)

What have been some of your favorite gifts over the years and what do you really, really want this Mother’s Day?

If you even think of such things…I know I do! 🙂

Hooray! I Felt Like Giving Some Books Away!

Thank you to Shawn for letting me know about the Bloggy Giveaways carnival!

(I almost missed! Phew! That was close.)

Okay, so here’s what I’ve got…

This post will stay up Friday, April 25 – Sunday, April 27.

You answer this question:

Why did you start to blog (what you thought before you started) and what have the unexpected benefits been that you’ve gleaned from experience?

I will choose three winners on Monday and give away three signed copies of my book, Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books, 2007).

(In the continental USA only, please.)

I’ve posted this over at the main Bloggy Giveaway site and you can still get in on this too.

Have a blast! And thank you, Bloggy Giveaways, for hosting. 🙂

Look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Query Writing Musings

I noticed that Allena Tapia freelance writing guide over at, had a recent post on queries and why they can be so darn harder than they look. (So, true!)

So, I thought I’d recommend more great resources on query writing.

I really like Linda Formichelli’s article over at Writer’s Digest called, “Thou Shalt Steal.” If that doesn’t get your cooker cookin’, nothing will.

Linda and Diana Burrell, authors of The Renegade Writers Query Letters that Rocked, give away a packet of twelve query letters that are definitely worth requesting. (No strings attached!)

And perhaps the best thing on query writing to come along since sliced bread…my friend Wendy Burt’s forthcoming book from Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters. Available for pre-order unbelievably early at Amazon.

Wendy is quoted at today.

Go, Wendy! Not bad for a writer mama of two kids. Eh?

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