Archive for July, 2009


Comic by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz

Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters

Writing the Life Poetic By Sage Cohen



And the August 12th Writing & Publishing the Short Stuff Scholarship Recipient is…

Writer Mama ScholarshipDiane Johnson!

The next scholarship offered will by for the October 7th Writing & Publishing the Short Stuff class. Watch this blog so you don’t miss!

Hearty congratulations, Diane! I look forward to working with you in class in a couple of weeks. I will send you a class confirmation shortly.

I wish I could grant a scholarship to everyone. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to do that. But I’m very happy to be able to grant one scholarship each time I offer this class.

Thanks to EVERYONE who applied. I encourage you all to apply again for the next WPSS class in October. Anything you can do to beef up the your traditional publication credits between now and the next application round is a good strategy.

Subscribe to The Writer Mama e-zine to stay abreast of when I’ll be accepting applications next time around. (Click on the envelope glyph in the upper right hand corner of the blog.)

And congratulations again, Diane!

Fit To Write Tips: Start your Day off Write

By Kelly James-Enger

Like to write first thing in the morning? That’s great, but make sure you fuel your tank beforehand. Kelly James Enger and sonYour mom was right about eating breakfast-not only does it help you maintain a healthy weight, it also improves your abilities to concentrate and remember, two important skills when you’re putting words on the page. Not surprisingly, regular breakfast eaters also report they feel better mood-wise and perform better on the job than breakfast-skippers.
It’s good if you have time to actually sit down and eat a hearty breakfast, but if you’re pressed for time, forgo the typical hot breakfast for fruit and yogurt or peanut butter on a whole-wheat bagel. In a pinch, an energy bar and a big glass of water is much better than nothing. Some protein, fat, and complex carbs will give you the energy your body and brain need first thing in the morning.
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.


Please Note: Date Change

Tuesday, Oct. 13th
Author Webinar:
Are You a Specialist or a Generalist?
Evaluating Your Skill Set to Get Published in the New “Gig Economy”
by Christina Katz (60 minutes)

What are your skill sets as a writer, and how do you evaluate them? How do you decide whether to specialize or generalize?

You need to establish a strong direction for your development as a writer to survive in the changing times of publishing.

All registrants will take a pre-quiz called “What’s Your Specialty?” designed to help you start identifying your strongest sources of expertise.

This live event will offer:

Tips and paths for both specialists and generalists, and how to get started

Examples of writers’ websites (both specialist and generalist)

How to combine a specialist and generalist approach

Your chance to jump-start your career using the same strategies as the pros

Opportunity to ask Christina Katz your questions about platform development

Bonus: All attendees receive a copy of Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz.

I bet many of you have not done a webinar before but there is really nothing to it. You just show up in front of your computer at the scheduled date and time and watch the images I display on your computer screen while listening to my voice in real time. You can even type in questions for me to answer during the Q&A period.

More info



Writing Conference Success: Pitch Like A Pro

By Mary Andonian

I have been a salesperson my whole life. It seems only natural then that I would position my book as a Mary Andonian and kids“product,” and the agents and editors who purchase them as “clients.” Your pitch at a conference is the means to closing the sale of your product — your book.
The pitch is like delivering a query letter in person. Elements of a good pitch:
1. Identify the need
2. Position your unique solution to that need
3. Describe your business strategy, including packaging, positioning, marketing, and support
4. Overcome objections
5. Close or advance the book sale
Begin your pitch with a brief statement of the knowledge gap that exists (for non-fiction book proposals) or the conflict in your story (for fiction queries). For example:
“Fifty million Americans die from this disease, but they don’t know they have it until it’s too late.”  This is a knowledge gap statement. The gap is that people don’t know about this disease until it’s too late. That’s a real problem. Solution? Why your book, of course. “My book on (disease) will educate the consumer so she can catch it in time.” And then go on to break down your unique solution.
After you describe your solution, back it up with a description of your product. Does it read like a Vicki Iovine Girlfriend’s Guide book? Does it smack of Anne Lamott? Compare and contrast your book to actual books on the shelf. In my pitch for my non-fiction humor book, Mind Chatter, I said, “You read over and over books about ‘staying in the moment.’ My book is a humorous take on NOT staying in the moment!”
If you’re pitching non-fiction, you have two products to sell: your book and your platform. Your platform is your credibility in the marketplace, as defined by your “following.” Do you teach classes on this subject? Are you a medical professional who prescribes this solution to your patients? Again, differentiate yourself from the rest by telling them why you’re the most credible person to write this book.
Your pitch will consist of about two to three minutes of sales pitch, and another five to six minutes of questions and answers. Think of their questions as objections, and your answers as overcoming the objections. For example:
“How many pages?”
“About one hundred.”
“That’s short, isn’t it?”
“It was written in bite-sized chunks for busy, on-the-go people who don’t have time for longer books on similar subjects.”
“Makes sense.”
Save the last few minutes for personal relationship building. You want to find common ground with your client so she’ll remember you when she receives your follow-up materials.

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:


Please Mark Your Calendars!

Thirsty by Kristin Bair O'KeeffeKristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Thirsty, will be published by Swallow Press on October 1, 2009. A family saga that explores domestic abuse, race, class, and Pittsburgh’s mighty steel industry, Thirsty tells the story of Klara Bozic, a Croatian immigrant who seeks the strength-through love and friendship-to leave an abusive husband.

Can Klara rise above her circumstances and lay claim to her own peaceful spot in the world? To find out, buy Thirsty on September 15th as part of Kristin’s Amazon Spike Day!

Book By Book by Cindy HudsonCINDY HUDSON’S first  book is nonfiction. Book By Book, The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs is coming on October 1st from Seal Press. (Yes, that’s right, Kristin and Cindy’s books share the same publication date.)

I recently interviewed Cindy about her nonfiction book pitching and writing process over at The Writer Mama Riffs blog. You can read the complete interview here.

Even if you don’t have a daughter yourself, Book By Book makes a great gift for a mom who does. I hope you will join me in supporting Kristin and Cindy’s Amazon Spike Day on Tuesday, September 15th!

The Articulate Conception: The Fourth Trimester

By Sage Cohen 

Some call the first three months of a baby’s life the fourth trimester – one in which they benefitSage Cohen and Theo developmentally from conditions that are as contiguous with the womb as possible. Our son Theo proved this theory true; he was content only when completely contained in a wrap against my body. Bound to each other in this slightly more flexible way, Theo’s brand new face tilted up toward my own in the exalted belonging of his little baby cocoon, we settled into the communion of being that his presence demanded.
It seemed that Writing the Life Poetic was in its fourth trimester, too. With the proofing of content-in-layout complete, there was a final step I hadn’t anticipated whose logistics were far more complex and time consuming than I could have imagined: permissions. With forty poems by other poets appearing in my book’s pages, it was now time to request permission for usage from those poets and their publishers.
I was sleeping maybe two hours at a stretch. Night and day were one continuous blur of breastfeeding, diapering, rocking to sleep and making mental to-do lists that would never get done. I became a highly calibrated diagnostic machine attuned to every sound, movement and bodily function of this mysterious little sea creature posing as my son.
Theo wanted only to be with me. Too new for any agenda or activity other than relating to and being in contact with his mother,
he simply needed all of me, all the time. Having lived alone and worked alone for most of my adult life with occasional evening and weekend spurts of extroversion, my brain chemistry was completely unprepared for this recalibration of relatedness. I was euphoric and overwhelmed and desperate for time at my computer, where I could think things and write them down. I wanted to take a step back to reflect: What did it now mean to be a mother – this baby’s mother?
But I didn’t even have time to make it to the bathroom on my own terms. It became apparent in these early days that the fortress that was once my life, my identity, my sense of self had been blasted to smithereens. I had no context or language for this new vulnerability of caregiving. I had only my moment-by-moment indentured service to the life of my precious son. I did not regret the dissipation of my old way of life; I just hadn’t quite found my foothold of context in the new one yet.

My office was up a steep flight of stairs. It was doubling as a guest room for a steady stream of family who had flown in to visit and help. Recovering from c-section surgery and entirely entrenched in the play-by-play maintenance of Theo, it took me at least three weeks to make my way back up there. I remember swaying over my desk, a bit dizzy, looking out at the computer screen over the head of my sleeping child, trying to remember exactly what it is that I was supposed to do here.  


A mother finds the resources to what needs to be done. And so it was with my fourth-trimester book. One permission request at a time, I typed myself back into some semblance of writing professional. As the e-mails clicked out into the ether and the contracts for usage started arriving, I was learning step by tenuous step how to integrate who I had been into whom I was becoming. Steeped in the present tense of new motherhood and new authorhood, I tended these new babies – my multimedia twins – with a kind of enchantment laced with regret, knowing that soon enough they’d be traveling in the world without me.  
Next month: Establishing a new rhythm for three, full-time jobs: mother, business owner and book promoter.  

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 three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, The Oregonian, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University, co-hosts a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded a Soapstone residency. To learn more, visit

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