Archive for April, 2009

The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift for Moms Who Want to Write

It’s a simple, inexpensive equasion:

A chance to win a copy of Writer Mama every day in March 2009!


Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz


Strunk & White by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White


Writer Mama Success Rhythms: April 2009 Tips

Christina Katz and daughter

By Christina Katz

Never has a first quarter seemed to fly by as quickly as this one did! And though I’ve already started making adjustments to my somewhat over-ambitious goals for 2009, I could stand a more discriminating look at how I’m doing so far. How about you? Get in the habit of using April first, not to be foolish, but to assess your progress in relation to your goals so far this year.

First stop: Go back and review your written goals for the year. Then…

What steps have you taken so far this year to improve your writing craft? Possible answers might include reading books, practice forms, writing for publication, taking classes or attending workshops or lectures. Improvement in craft equals improvements in pride, if not profits. What will you do next to improve your writing craft?

I know a group of eight women who are working really hard at it right now in my Pitching Practice class. They are expanding their base of knowledge through reading workbook chapters, exploring ideas, conducting research, and interviewing experts to write the query that will land the assignment. What do you need to do to improve your sales skills? Who can help you? What’s it worth? How much do you stand to gain from making strides in selling your work? Invest to expand your profits.

What have you done to become more visible so far this year? I’ve done an anniversary blog tour for Writer Mama, scheduled and attended a conference, spoken at multiple events including my own author series, updated my online presence, started a new e-zine (the Get Known Groove), and sent out gobs of books for review and as giveaways. This is just a handful of the things I’ve done so far this year. How about you?

Professional Development
I attended the Tools of Change Conference in New York City and the Associated Writing Programs Conference. I’ll also be attending the Writer’s Digest/BEA Conference on May 27th and the Writer’s Digest Business of Publishing Conference the first weekend of September. I’ve joined several writing organizations. I’m hosting an author series. I receive three trade magazines each month. I keep up with relevant blogs and online magazines with Google Reader. And I’m having a monthly marketing group with my fellow authors once a month.

Your turn!

Quick reminder: If you are still working on getting those first few clips, stick with craft and pitching until you find your stride and then expand from there.

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.

Writer Mama Update

Well, mamas, things have been pretty busy around here as usual.

I just got back from mailing all the gifts and the last round of books for the winners and hostesses of the Writer Mama Tw0-Year Anniversary Blog Tour. (Finally!)

I just want to say, WOW, that was a lot of work. And so, so worth it. 🙂

Thanks for participating! Here’s a link to the hostesses and winners again.

And special thanks to my editor, Jane Friedman. You can RSS subscribe to her blog here or follow her on Twitter @JaneFriedman.

You can follow me on Twitter too, I’m @thewritermama.

Here’s what’s on my plate for this week:

Pitch AWP Panels for April 2010 (Okay, it’s weird to actually type “2010”)

Prepare for Trip to Seattle to speak at three King County libraries

Wrap up two classes, WPSS & PP (both offered again this fall, in August and October respectively)

Prepare for classes that begin May 6th, Craft a Saleable Nonfiction Book Proposal & the first Turn Your Specialty Into Course Curriculum

Turn in draft of webinar: Are you a specialist or a generalist?

Draft letter of rec for Northwest Author Series Student Intern

Write, polish, & submit two articles

Prepare the May issue of Writers on the Rise for publication

Set goals and May schedule with new assistant 🙂

Get ready for my trip to NYC to participate in the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference

And…prepare for interview with Cory Doctorow

No problem, right?

In the meantime, here’s some happy news:

Debbie Simorte placed two articles she drafted in my January WPSS class. Read about it and other success stories by clicking the “Success” tab and scrolling down. Way to go, Debbie!

Jenny Kales and Mary Jo Campbell both scored some press for their respective passions. Jenny was featured in the Pioneer Local Press (link is to her blog) and Mary Jo in

Hear what a mother of six thinks of Writer Mama: Nicole O’Dell plugged Writer Mama in her blog, Trivial Pursuits and Other Ramblings.

LOOK! My first Amazon UK review for Writer Mama. Many thanks to Amanda for such a thoughtful review.

Write on, mamas! And don’t forget to make good things happen…

Fit to Write Tips: Get Your Brain Moving

Kelly James Enger and sonBy Kelly James-Enger

Suffering from writer’s block? Can’t get the words to flow? Get away from the computer and move your body.

I find a good workout or even a short walk is enough to clear your head and give you a new perspective. Better yet, take a portable tape recorder with you. When I’m feeling stuck, I often grab my tape recorder and my dog and head to the park. I walk for a while, thinking about what I’m working on, and then dictate into the recorder. By the time I come home, I’ve got a good start on the piece, or at least some notes I can transcribe into my PC.

Sure, some people may wonder if you’re scouting for Neighborhood Watch, but consider this a great way to exercise your body and mind-and boost your productivity as well.

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 for free articles about freelancing and more information about her.

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: Lead Time

Abby Green

By Abigail Green

Who, besides Santa and seriously organized people, starts thinking about Christmas in July? Freelance writers. That’s because they know if they have any hope of selling a holiday-themed article, they’d better keep the magazine’s editorial calendar in mind.

Most magazines decide on their editorial line-up months or even a year or more in advance. How far ahead they work is called “lead time.” A magazine’s lead time is usually spelled out in the writers’ guidelines, and it varies greatly from publication to publication. For instance, Yankee magazine requests that seasonal topics be pitched one year in advance so photos can be arranged. The Christian Science Monitor, on the other hand, will sometimes publish a timely article the week it’s submitted.

This means that for most publications, you can’t send out a timely piece a month or even two months beforehand and hope the editor will find a slot for it. By then it’s too late-unless you’re submitting to newspapers or you’re pitching a magazine for next year. But even then, it helps to consider a publication’s lead time.

Some magazines make their editorial calendars available to writers. Hint: On a magazine’s Web site, if you can’t find the editorial calendar in the writers’ guidelines, look in the “For Advertisers” section. You might learn, for example, that a special vacation issue is planned for June and that the deadline for editorial copy is in March. Then you can fire off your “Teen Travel Tips” article at the end of February and have plenty of time to follow up with the editor. Sending the right idea-at the right time- just might make the difference between selling your story or not.

Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

Writing Conference Success: Even More People You’ll Meet

Mary Andonian and kids

By Mary Andonian

We’ve talked about all the people you’ll meet at a writers’ conference, including agents, editors, presenters, and manuscript critique specialists. Here are other folks you won’t want to miss the next time you attend a conference:

At the conference to share their expertise and to promote their work, authors can typically be found either signing books, teaching/presenting, or critiquing. Look for the ones who are in between activities, make an introduction, and then ask them about their journey to success. Listen to their feedback and count yourself lucky that you get this personal workshop that wasn’t listed in the brochure.

This is you. Find others whose company you enjoy and stick with them at the conference. You might already be part of a critique/networking group. If so, encourage your peers to attend the conference with you. You’ll feel more confident walking into a pitch if the last person you see is your writing bud giving you the “thumbs up” sign. If you go alone to the conference, make friends by approaching the people who asked good questions in your workshops. They just might become your future “thumbs up” writing buds.

Conference Committee
These are the people who labor away all year to make the conference a reality. Look for an opportunity to help them. Do you have a skill set they can use on next year’s committee? Is it your secret desire to make copies of handouts at 3:00 a.m.? The committee can use you. Find a way to meet them and offer your services. Not because you want to sell conferences for a living, but because it will help give you an insider’s perspective to the writing conference realm.

Action Steps this Month
1. Target a writing conference you’d like to attend. Contact the conference committee and ask if any volunteer positions are available before, during or after the conference.
2. Encourage your writerly friends to register with you.
3. Scan the brochure and find authors you’d like to know. E-mail one of them and ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee and “pick their brain” at the conference.

Attitude Is Everything
Don’t go into the conference with an attitude of “What’s in it for me?” Instead, think of every interaction with every person as an opportunity to be of service. Your successful writing career will be the result of many people working together to bring your words into the world. Someone’s counting on you to help them do the same.

Mary Andonian is former agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers conference, one of the largest writing events in North America. In past years, she was also program coordinator and co-chair. Mary is represented by the Reece Halsey North Literary Agency and is a monthly columnist for the hit e-zines, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. She has completed two book: Mind Chatter: Stories from the Squirrel Cage and Bitsy’s Labyrinth and is currently at work on her first screenplay, a romantic comedy. Mary is the mother of two girls and is the Brownie Girl Scouts leader for Troop 1102. Please visit her at:

Writing the Life Poetic with Sage Cohen!

Order you copy today!

Order you copy today!

Q&A with Sage Cohen, Author of
Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry
a new book from Writer’s Digest Books

How does poetry make the world a better place to live?
I think poetry fills the gap left by the so-called objective truth that dominates our media, science and legislation. Many of us want to comprehend and communicate the complexity of human experience on a deeper, more soulful level. Poetry gives us a shared language that is more subtle, more human, and—at its best—more universally “true” than we are capable of achieving with just the facts.
How has integrating the reading and writing of poetry into your life impacted you?
I will risk sounding melodramatic in saying that poetry saved my life. I stumbled into a writing practice at an extremely vulnerable time in my early teenage years. Poetry gave me then, as it does today, a way of giving voice to feelings and ideas that felt too risky and complicated to speak out loud. There was a kind of alchemy in writing through such vulnerabilities…by welcoming them in language, I was able to transform the energies of fear, pain and loneliness into a kind of friendly camaraderie with myself. In a way, I wrote myself into a trust that I belonged in this world.

Do people need an advanced degree in creative writing in order to write poetry?
Absolutely not! Sure, poetry has its place in the classroom; but no one needs an advanced degree in creative writing to reap its rewards. What most people need is simply a proper initiation. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to offer such an initiation. My goal was that everyone who reads it come away with a sense of how to tune into the world around them through a poetic lens. Once this way of perceiving is awakened, anything is possible!

Why did you write Writing the Life Poetic?
While working with writers for the past fifteen years, I have observed that even the most creative people fear that they don’t have what it takes to write and read poetry. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to put poetry back into the hands of the people––not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States––but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life.”

Who is Writing the Life Poetic written for?
Practicing poets, aspiring poets, and teachers of writing in a variety of settings can use Writing the Life Poetic to write, read, and enjoy poems; it works equally well as a self-study companion or as a classroom guide. Both practical and inspirational, it will leave readers with a greater appreciation for the poetry they read and a greater sense of possibility for the poetry they write.

What sets Writing the Life Poetic apart from other poetry how-to books?
The craft of poetry has been well documented in a variety of books that offer a valuable service to serious writers striving to become competent poets. Now it’s time for a poetry book that does more than lecture from the front of the classroom. Writing the Life Poetic was written to be a contagiously fun adventure in writing. Through an entertaining mix of insights, exercises, expert guidance and encouragement, I hope to get readers excited about the possibilities of poetry––and engaged in a creative practice. Leonard Cohen says: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” My goal is that Writing the Life Poetic be the flame fueling the life well lived.

What makes a poem a poem?
This is one of my favorite questions! I’ve answered it in my book, but it’s a question that I’m answering anew every day. And that’s what I love about poetry. It’s a realm where invention is not limited entirely by definition; there is room enough for the endless possibilities of the human. Every time we try to draw a line around what a poem is, something spills over into the next frame, shifting the point of view and demanding new names: olive, token, flax, daffodil. A poem is all of these, or none of them, depending on the quality of light and how the blade in the next room stirs the night.

What do you think people’s greatest misperceptions are about poetry?
I think the three greatest stereotypes about the writing of poetry are:

1.    That one has to be a starving artist or deeply miserable to write great poetry.
2.    That reading and writing poetry are available only to an elite inner circle that shares secret, insider knowledge about the making of poems.
3.    That poetry does not fund prosperity.

I hope very much that Writing the Life Poetic helps offer alternatives to some of these attitudes and perceptions.

I’d love to conclude with a poem of yours. Would you be willing to share one?
Of course! Happy to!

Leaving Buckhorn Springs
By Sage Cohen

The farmland was an orchestra,
its ochres holding a baritone below
the soft bells of farmhouses,
altos of shadowed hills,
violins grieving the late
afternoon light. When I saw
the horses, glazed over with rain,
the battered old motorcycle parked
beside them, I pulled my car over
and silenced it on the gravel.
The rain and I were diamonds
displacing appetite with mystery.
As the horses turned toward me,
the centuries poured through
their powerful necks and my body
was the drum receiving the pulse
of history. The skin between me
and the world became the rhythm
of the rain keeping time with the sky
and into the music walked
the smallest of the horses. We stood
for many measures considering
each other, his eyes the quarter notes
of my heart’s staccato.  This symphony
of privacy and silence: this wildness
that the fence between us could not divide.

Sage CohenAbout Sage Cohen

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes four monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Sage co-curates a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. To learn more, visit Drop by and join in the conversation about living and writing a poetic life at!

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