Archive for November, 2008

December Sell-A-Bration Day #1: Start your own Writer Mama blog and stay connected!

By Michelle Blair

After completing Christina’s WPSS class in the spring of 2008, some of the students weren’t quite ready to let go of the camaraderie and momentum we had developed; so, armed with class contact information that Christina provided, we determined to create a virtual community of support.

We experimented with weekly email check-ins, but our already overrun in-boxes became even more unwieldy. Then we tried our hand at creating a private blog, viewable only by members of our class. The process was simple and the rewards have been great. We exchange advice, editing, goals, frustrations and cheerful banter.

Several of our classmates have published in the months following Christina’s class with the encouragement and support of classmates. As the blog administrator, I opted to establish our community on Blogger, a free platform I had used in another writing class. Blogger is just one of many blog hosting websites.

You can create your own online writer’s support group in three easy steps. Start at the Blogger home page: Go right to the “Create a blog” button or explore their site by clicking on a topic under “Learn more.”

Step 1: After selecting “Create a blog,” the first step is to open a Google account. If you already have a Google account, click on the link at the top of the page to “sign in first,” otherwise fill in your email address, create a password, type in a display name (this will show up as your “signature” on any posts you add to the blog) and select “continue.”

Step 2: Type in a title for your blog and test URL addresses until Blogger finds one available (think creatively to avoid frustration at this step); select “continue.”

Step 3: Choose one of twelve blog layout templates; if you feel especially tech savvy, you can always customize a template later on.
The blog is ready. Now you can invite participants.

As the administrator, you need to invite authors and establish the blog as private. This allows your writer friends to post freely and know exactly who is reading their rants. Two more steps will finish this process. If you’ve just created the blog, you are in the “customize” mode (if not, look at the top right hand corner of your blog and click on “customize”). You can leave most of the default settings alone, but there are two changes to keep your blog from public eyes.

Step 4: Select the “Settings” tab, then the “Comments” sub-head. Under “Who Can Comment?” select “Registered Users.”

Step 5: Also under the “Settings” tab, choose the “Permissions” sub-head. Click “Invite” blog authors and enter the email addresses of people you’d like to participate in the blog. When someone accepts your invitation, they are automatically categorized as a blog author. Under “Blog Readers,” answer the question “Who can view this blog?” by selecting “Only blog authors.” This ensures only those who sign up can read and post to the blog.

That’s it! Your online writer’s forum is established. Enjoy the support of your fellow writer-moms in this virtual community.

[Note from Christina: This is the first story in our month-long December Sell-a-bration. If you are a former student of mine and you’d like to share a 2008 success story, please e-mail it to “writer mama at earthlink dot net.” Michelle was generous enough to share this group process (Thanks, Michelle!). She may still submit her personal 2008 success story, if she likes, to be posted later in the month.]


Self-Care for Mom Writers: Nov/Dec are for Seeking Support

Amy Mercer

By Amy Mercer

Writing this column over the past year has taught me to think about how taking care of myself improves my writing. Over the past year, I’ve suggested hibernation, writing love letters, getting outside, reading poetry, taking a cooking class, learning how to surf and introducing yourself as a writer in an effort to take better care of ourselves as mom writers.

I struggle to stay motivated every day, especially now, as we head into the holiday season with the country in such a bleak financial situation, it’s hard to keep sitting down at the computer day after day feeling confident about calling myself a mom writer. But that’s why we’re here, to support each other, to boost each other when we are feeling down. So in my final column of the year, I want to thank everyone for reading, and offer my final bits of advice about taking care of ourselves by seeking support.


  • Don’t beat yourself up over rejections, they happen to all of us, all of the time. Focus your attention on the magazines and journals that say yes or even the ones that say no thank you but good idea. And when the rejections come, because they will, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell a non-writing friend, go online and blog about it, get it out any way you can and then you’ll be able to move on to the next project.
  • Read or re-read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and other inspirational books about the writing life. Anne uses humor to inspire and encourage the writer in all of us.
  • Take a local writing class or sign up to teach one. I am almost at the end of teaching my first creative writing class and it has done wonders for my confidence. I love talking about what I’ve learned over the last six years with people who share the same passion. Sign up for a writing seminar or go to a reading. I recently went to a workshop presented by southern author, Josephine Humphries. I have heard her speak about writing several times before, and every time, I learn something new, every time I step away from my own life and listen, I am renewed.
  • Continue to read e-zines such as this one, stay connected to the virtual world of mom writers who will remind you that you are not alone.

Amy S. Mercer is a freelance writer living in Charleston, SC with her husband and two sons. Her writing has been published in skirt! Magazine, Literary Mama, Diabetes Forecast and A Cup of Comfort for Writers. Amy is Blog Editor for Literary Mama and Associate editor for The Writer Mama Zine. More at Dreaming About Water.

January Classes Make Great Holiday Gifts

Christina KatzWriting and Publishing The Short Stuff
Especially For Moms (But Not Only for Moms)!
Class Begins on January 14th
Prerequisites: None
Finally, a writing workshop that fits into the busy lives of moms! You will learn how to create short, easy-to-write articles-a skill that will make it easier to move up to longer, more time-consuming articles when you’re ready. Try your pen at tips, fillers, short interviews, list articles, how-tos, and short personal essays-all within six weeks. Now includes markets!
Cost: $199.00.
Register at

Abigail Green

Personal Essays that Get Published with Abigail Green
Class Begins on January 14th
Prerequisites: None
The popularity of reality shows, blogs, and tell-all books proves that it pays to get personal these days. Whether you want to write introspective essays, short humor pieces, or first-person reported stories, your life is a goldmine of rich material that all kinds of publications are pining for. Personal Essays that Get Published will teach you how to get your personal experiences down on the page and get them published. Students will learn how to find ideas, hone their voice, craft solid leads and endings, reslant their work for different markets, and submit their essays for publication.

Cost: $199.00

Register at

Christina KatzPlatform Building 101: Discover your Specialty
(Formerly “Targeting Your Best Writing Markets”)
Class Begins on January 14th

Prerequisites: None

Identifying your writing specialty is one of the trickiest and most necessary steps in launching a writing career today. This class will help you find your best audiences, cultivate your expertise, manage your ideas, develop marketing skills, claim your path, serve editors and become portfolio-minded. You’ll learn how to become the professional you’ve always wanted to be and, most importantly, how to take your writing career more seriously.
Cost: $199.00.
Register at

Christina KatzCraft A Saleable Nonfiction Book Proposal
Winter Class Begins on January 14th
Prerequisites: Former student or Permission from Instructor
Most writers underestimate the comprehensiveness needed in a book proposal that will garner the interest of agents and editors. They also mistake the definition of platform and importance of alining their proposal to a solid track record. A two-time author, Christina has helped hundreds of nonfiction writers succeed over the past seven years. Now she’s making her proposal-writing advice available in a six-week e-mail course to aspiring authors who want to nail the proposal the first time around. The best way to have a short, tight proposal that will impress agents and editors is to start now!
Cost: $299.00 [Priority to former students]
Register at

Write Like A Pro: Refining Your Professional Stance

Mary Andonian

By Mary Andonian

This has been a busy year for you and your writing. So make time this holiday season to evaluate and refine your habits in order to make 2009 even more fruitful.

Clips: Do you have any? A clip is a copy of your published writing. It serves as a reference to your good work. You include clips (or offer to send them) in your proposal package. This is a prime opportunity to categorize your clips in a way that makes them readily accessible for future needs.

Online articles: Did you complete a year’s worth? Now is the time to create links to all of your past articles and list them on one handy page at your website. This creates a holistic picture of your written topic and makes for meaty content. It also serves as an easy way for a potential editor to view your clips.

Supplies: Take an inventory of your work space. Are you low on business cards? Need a new printer? Toner? Make sure to purchase these before the end of the year so you can write them off on your 2009 taxes.

Taxes: Are your records organized? Even if you didn’t make a cent this year, you can still take write-offs if you can prove you have been soliciting income from writing in 2008. Check with your tax advisor for details. Itemize your receipts and bank statements so you’ll be prepared at tax time next year. You’ll thank yourself come April.

Tax related: Do you have a business checking account? If not, consider opening a separate account just for your writing business. As you become more and more successful you’ll want to keep clean and detailed records of your transactions. Doing this today ensures a happy moment in April 2010.

Platform Building: What have you done this year to build your platform? Have you created a specific reading audience via website, blog, or newsletter? Taught a class at the local library? Volunteered for your writing association? Take stock in everything you did this year that lent credibility to you, the writer. Make a goal to add two or three things to the list in 2009. Attach rewards to each item you accomplish next year. (I’m thinking spa treatments.)

Finally, ask the tough question: Is this what I want to continue doing in 2009? Only you can determine that. It’s okay if you decide that writing isn’t for you. What’s important is that you do make a choice and stick to whatever path it is you choose. If that course is writing, then continue to take action steps that bring you closer to your goals. And by all means, proceed in peace.

Mary Andonian is the agents and edtiors coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference, one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. She just completed her second book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth. Contact Mary at maryandonianwwconference AT

Happy Thanksgiving & Get Ready for our December Sell-a-bration!

My former students’ success stories are rolling in! Stay tuned every day in December, when we’ll be Sell-A-Brating all of our success from 2008.

To kick things off, here’s an essay by Laura Bridgewater that she recorded for KUNC radio!

Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving, mamas!

Dear Friends From Far Away,

My first radio commentary will air at 6:35am and 8:35am on 91.5 FM on Monday morning. While you can’t listen to it in your car, you can listen to it or read it on KUNC’s website on Monday. Go to and click on the regional link on the right hand side about half-way down the page. I’ll be listening on Monday with a pillow over my head–but hopefully I won’t be driving at the same time!

Excellent Review of Get Known

Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina KatzIt’s always a pleasant surprise to wake up and find a thoughtful, positive, well-written book review of one of your books after you’ve put so much thought and effort into it. So I was thrilled this morning to find this review of Get Known by Thursday Bram in her blog

Recently in his blog, The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Joe Konrath wrote about how easy it is to criticize a book and how everyone seems to have jumped on the bandwagon without bringing a respectful or professional take to the effort.

I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to scathing critiques of my writing by critics (you have to actually get reviewed to get scathing critiques and writing instruction books don’t tend to garner the interest of paid book reviewers), however, I have been personally attacked (I was told to get a plant instead of a child when WM came out) and recently I was received a dubious review of one of my workshops, which I won’t dignify with a link, because apparently the reviewer (a self-described “lothario”) missed the entire point and was only interested in cutting it and me down.

Suffice it to say, when I read a review of one of my books by a complete stranger, and they seem to be posting the review not because they are getting paid but to share information, and it’s a rave review, I feel pretty darn good.

Because the fact of the matter is: I don’t write my books to please critics. I write them to help writers.

So, thanks Thursday Bram. For restoring my faith in reviewers. I may never get that coveted New York Times review (or even The Oregonian for that matter) but on mornings like this, I feel like all of my hard work has been acknowledged and appreciated…and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Invest & Prosper: #10 Stock Your Reference Shelf

Christina Katz, photo by Mark Bennington

By Christina Katz

When you ante in as a professional writer, you are expected to have basic knowledge of writing for publication. It’s never your editor’s job to educate you as to what information you should have at your disposal. You are just expected to know it!

This means a familiarity with contemporary writing conventions, impeccable-as-you-can-get-it grammar, appropriate style, basic formatting, writer’s guidelines, editorial calendars, professional etiquette, healthy expectations, and business-like follow-through. In the beginning, adopting so many professional habits at once can be overwhelming. No wonder I’ve broken the process down into six classes that help writers turn professional skills into habits.

When you are new to writing as a profession, it can feel like everyone else is in the know, and you are the only one in the dark. Worse, it can feel like others are purposely keeping you in the dark! Well, not anymore. I have built a career out of helping writers adopt healthy and productive professional writing habits.

But say you can’t take my classes or anyone else’s for whatever reason. For about sixty bucks you can be as informed as the next writer. And all these suggestions make great holiday gifts!

I’m so grateful that there are so many books that can help anyone who wants to put their best words forward:

So what are you waiting for? Invest in (or request as gifts) the key books that will provide all the information you need to have at your fingertips to be competitive in these ever-changing times.

And this is the last of our columns for 2008. So please, repeat after me:

I am 100% responsible for the success of my writing career, and I will act accordingly to the best of my ability.

Happy holidays! Here’s to your writing success!
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

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