Archive for January, 2009

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: January 2009

Christina Katz and daughter

January 2009
By Christina Katz

In January, it’s time for all of us writer mamas to jump-start our year and find our success rhythms for 2009. When you keep a good balance between writing craft, selling your work, self-promotion and professional development, you’ll avoid getting bogged down in any one aspect of your career and maintain a balanced approach.

In each issue this year, I’ll be offering four tips related to the season that will encourage you to view yourself as the professional you’d like to be seen as.

Craft
What’s challenging for writers is that many publications and publishers have their own grammar guidelines. But if you zap the most common grammatical errors from your writing, you’ll be one step ahead. Choose a grammar guide and keep it within reach of your desk. You are not going to be able to match your usage perfectly every single time, so don’t sweat it. However, if you want your writing to sell, get basic grammar down. I recommend Strunk and White as the least expensive and most universal grammar guide. Got a copy?

Pitching
The majority of us balk at the prospect of pitching our work. Rarely do I meet a writer who actually enjoys selling her own work. But you can’t get published if you don’t pitch. Since editors and agents are unlikely to come knocking at your door, you’ve got to get your words to them. So start your year by assessing and addressing how comfortable you feel about selling your work. If the answer is “not very,” then you’ve got some mental preparation to do. I recommend, Wendy Burt’s new book, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters, as a place to start. Also, I devoted an entire section of Writer Mama to walking readers through constructing effective article queries. Not quite ready to query? Then, read up (or refresh yourself) on the basics!

Self-promotion
The number one mistake writers make is jumping online before thinking through a platform plan. This typically leads to time wasted and abandoned efforts, when a little bit of brainstorming before hopping online could save you a ton of time and money in the long run. If you haven’t picked up my latest book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, you may want to sign up for my new e-zine, The Get Known Groove, where I’ll review the basics of specialty development. Also Sage Cohen (managing editor of this e-zine) will walk you through the basics of marketing yourself in her column, “Know Thy Self, Know Thy Audience.” Ready to tackle self-promotion one baby-step at a time? Subscribe over at http://getknownbeforethebookdeal.com/.

Professional development
January is a great time to review your professional associations. If you are not a member of a writing association, review several choices and then join up! One is better than none, and you’ll benefit in so many ways. The first writing association I joined was Willamette Writers and it has been a boon to my writing career. A couple years later, I joined several. Today, I am a member of five writing associations for both enthusiasts and professionals, both locally and nationally. The return on investment is be high when you make the most of what associations offer members. Why not pick one and join today?

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). A platform development coach and consultant, 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.

Checking In: Thanks so much for all of your support!

Whew. I get a lot of love THAT is for sure.

I was just listing people to thank over at my Facebook page and the list just kept going on and on and on.

(Note to self: Think about word count limits before I start typing!)

Anyway, I wanted to thank all the writer mamas who read this blog for your support and for helping to spread the word about Writer Mama and Get Known.

Now that the blogroll is updated and the e-zines are launched for the year, I wanted to ask a favor:

Would you mind linking to my blogs in your blogs, if you haven’t already?

Here are my three (active) blogs:

The Writer Mama Riffs: https://thewritermama.wordpress.com/

Writers on the Rise: http://writersontherise.wordpress.com/

Get Known Before the Book Deal: http://getknownbeforethebookdeal.typepad.com/

I hope you will also “friend” me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=716153807

And “follow” me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/thewritermama

I am making a bigger effort to keep up with my scheduling because I have so much going on. How about you, writer mamas? Did you up the ante for yourself this year?

I also FINALLY got my 2009 goals fleshed out and shared them with my accountability group. How about you? Did you get your goals in writing and share them with some folks who can help you be accountable?

I feel like I might actually be finding my 2009 rhythm, now that January is almost at an end. How about you? Are you putting those goals you set into action and seeing how they feel?

Well, I’d better scoot. I am reading a friend’s debut novel that is coming out in the fall. Some of you may know her if you subscribe to Writers on the Rise. Her name is Kristin Bair O’Keeffe and her novel is called Thirsty. I’ll have plenty more to say about it in the future, I’m sure. But for now, It’s a good feeling to see a friend succeed after so much hard work and commitment.

I look forward to hearing how your 2009 is going!

Writer’s Digest V-Day Writing Contest

Here’s the gist:

Basic idea
Do you feel like you have a red heart at this time of year, or a black heart? We want your poems, essays, and letters about love and heartbreak—your highest moments and your lowest. And we promise we won’t tell you how to feel about this very controversial holiday of the year. Just choose the most appropriate category of submission:

  1. Love Poem
  2. Black-Hearted Love Poem
  3. Love Letter
  4. Rejection Letter (and we don’t mean the editor/agent kind)
  5. Essay on Love at First Sight
  6. Essay on Love Lost

Winners and Prizes
The Writer’s Digest staff will choose the best entries from each of the six categories, and post them on the WritersDigest.com forum no later than February 10, 2008. The entry with the most votes on the forum by February 12, 2008, at 5 p.m., determines the contest winner.

The winner will receive a $250 shopping spree to the Writer’s Digest Store. Plus Writer’s Digest Publisher Jane Friedman will send the winner a Whitman’s Sampler with a personal, red-heart note of congratulations. The best entry in each category will receive a free 1-year subscription to WritersMarket.com and 50% off any course from WritersOnlineWorkshops.

More details here.

A Recipe for Christina’s Crazy Burritos

I haven’t invented a recipe since I was a kid and took my mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce, put it on rice, and dubbed it “Chris a la Delicious.” But tonight, while on cold medicine, I started creating a new burrito filling out of some things I had in the fridge. Along the way, I thought, Either I’m on drugs (albeit OTC drugs) or this is going to actually be good.

But my plans were thwarted mid-way, when I pulled out my flour tortillas, the ones we just bought these weekend, and discovered there was a rip in the packaging, rendering them all rancid. (I found out the hard way, thanks.)

Well, we had to drive our playdate buddy home anyway, and when we got back from the grocery store my husband, who is the official roller around here, burritoed together my concoction and…what do you know? They were pretty tasty.

So I feel compelled to share. Keep in mind that this is NOT the heart-healthy version. I trust that the fit folk will slim this down into something they can stomach.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts

3/4 of a can of refried beans

1 can of chili beans in spicy tomato sauce

4 pieces of bacon

2 small potatoes

1/2 cup of canned corn (I like Del Monte Fresh Cut Whole Kernel)

“Mexican” blend of shredded cheese (Monterey Jack and Cheddar)

Mrs. Renfro’s Mango Habanero Salsa

4 Cooked flour tortillas

Sour cream to taste

[Chopped green onion, maybe]

Okay, so here’s what I did. I cooked four pieces of bacon until crispy. In the meantime, I rinsed and diced the potatoes and cooked them for ten minutes in boiling water. After I put the bacon on paper towel to drain and cool, I poured off (and put aside) all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease. Into which I tossed the chicken breasts (sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper) and cooked them on medium heat until they were cooked through. Then I put the cooked chicken aside and added back one tablespoon of the bacon grease (I know, tsk-tsk). Then I drained and fried the potatoes for about five minutes to finish cooking them.

Once the bacon was cool, I chopped it up into bacon bits. Then Jason spread each flour burrito with a quarter of the refried beans, sprinkled on one quarter of the chicken chunks, added one quarter of the beans, one quarter of the potatoes and corn, and added a liberal sprinkling of cheese. He heated these in the microwave until heated through. 1-2 minutes, depending on your machine. Then, he added the salsa and sour cream, and rolled ’em on up.

The only thing I can think of that might have made these even better is a sprinkling of green onions. But I’m not 100% certain about that because we didn’t try it. But you try it and let me know how it is. Okay?

Enjoy!

Live Workshop: Self-promotion Roundtable with Christina Katz

If you have a book coming out or a service or class to offer, you’re going to need to kick up some interest in what you do first. People are always asking to “borrow” my brain to help them brainstorm ideas for promoting themselves and their books. But when it comes to brainstorming, we all know that several brains are better than one. So I will facilitate this round table discussion to help participants increase their visibility for all the right reasons. In this three-hour brainstorming session, you’ll drum up ideas that will lead you to a clear-cut plan for promoting yourself and all that you offer. Bring with you a one-paragraph description of your mission, a short bio summarizing your expertise, and a list of any self-promotion you’ve already accomplished (better yet, read my new book, “Get Known” prior to the workshop). You will leave with more ideas than you can possibly carry out, including a few you might not have come up with on your own. Plan to have fun and connect with like-minded writers.
Location: The Wilsonville Library
Date: Saturday, January 31, 2008
Cost: $99.00 for three hours (introductory price for January session exclusively)
More/Register at http://www.christinakatz.com

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: Pitch It Good

Abby Green

By Abigail Green


It was like a scene from “Girls Gone Wild” – a beach, bikinis, and plenty of daiquiris – only without the topless part.

Did I get your attention? Good. That’s the point of a query letter, also known as a pitch. A query is a freelance writer’s calling card. It’s how you pitch an idea, show an editor that you can write, convince him or her why you’re the best person to write the story, and hopefully, clinch the assignment.

Beginning writers often believe there is one perfect formula for queries. Not so. A query can be two sentences or two pages long, formal or chatty, sent by e-mail or snail mail. I’ve sent all kinds of queries that yielded assignments. That said, it is a good idea to tailor your pitch to each circumstance.

For instance, when I’m approaching a new-to-me editor, I always address my query to Mr. Bigshot Editor or Ms. Bigshot Editor. (Of course, I look up the correct editor’s actual name on the masthead, or better yet, call the magazine. And I triple-check the spelling before sending it out.) If in her reply, the editor signs off as “Cathy,” fine. But wait for her to indicate that you’re on a first-name basis.

I begin my query with an attention-grabbing lead, similar to how I’d start my article. (See the first sentence of this column.) Say you’re pitching a story on the recent trend of “girlfriend getaways.” If you begin, “I would like to write an article on the increasing focus of tourism professionals on the female demographic,” the editor will toss your pitch – or doze off – before she gets to the next sentence. Dazzle her from the start.

Next I give the editor a taste of the goodies I’ll include in my article – a recent statistic, a juicy quote, or an exciting source. You don’t have to do all the research up front, but sometimes a quick call or Web search can yield a tasty bit of info that will set your query apart from the rest.

Then I show that I’m familiar with the magazine: “I see this as a good fit for your Travel Trends section.” Next, I tell her why I’m the best writer for the job: “In addition to writing regularly for This Magazine and That Magazine, I just got back from a girlfriends’ getaway to Cancun.”

Finally, I assume the sale, as they say in the business world. “I hope to hear back from you” is too weak. Better: “I look forward to working with you on this piece. I’ll follow up in a couple of weeks if I haven’t heard back.” Then send it. A strong query is the first step to netting an assignment.

Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 12 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. She blogs about the lighter side of pregnancy, parenthood and potty training at Diary of a New Mom. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

Fit to Write Tips: Snack Healthier: Snack Healthier

Kelly James Enger and sonBy Kelly James-Enger


Don’t eat at your desk. Take a real break so you enjoy your food-and you won’t have to worry about crumbs in your keyboard, either.


Keep a selection of fruits and vegetables in your kitchen. I usually have apples, bananas, grapes, and baby carrots on hand-all make quick, healthy snacks.


Don’t short yourself on protein and fat. Peanut butter toast will keep you sated much longer than pretzels or a fat-free muffin.


Drink plenty of water! Thirst often masquerades as hunger, so you’ll snack less, and you’ll probably feel better, too.

Author, speaker, and consultant Kelly James-Enger is a certified personal trainer and the author of books including Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life (with Ellie Krieger, R.D.). Her book, Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money, is aimed at novice freelancers; Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money helps experienced writers boost their bottom lines. Visit www.becomebodywise.com for free articles about freelancing and more information about her.


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