Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Somebody Pass Me a Tissue…

Whew! Well it takes a lot to make the ol’ writer mama cry.

But this moving post from Ericka-Marie Geiss, editor of the The WAHM Magazine did it.

Thank you, Ericka-Marie. I am deeply touched.

I hope this Mother’s Day every writer mama will pause, not to compare what she’s done to others, but to list it and own it the way Ericka has done so movingly.

You go, my dear. You are doing just great.

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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.

Where does your “value” go?

With the media attention on large-advance book deals for bloggers, more and more writers may feel confident that their drive to put their most valuable content online is worthwhile.

I’m wondering what writer mamas think about this. Because I write for money, the lion’s share of my daily efforts are not visible on this blog. For example, I’m rewriting my second book right now and I’m not planning to share much on that topic until the book is done.

For me, it’s a matter of containment and concentration. Books require an extraordinary amount of detailed thinking. And I need deep concentration to get there and find the right words.

Other writers feel differently. They like to get immediate feedback to what they are working on. So they “blog” their books in various ways. They say that the open book writing process makes their books better.

However, it’s still the case that most of the writers I know who make their living writing (through freelancing and writing books) don’t necessarily open up their writing process via a blog, they focus on serving editors and/or clients.

Whereas, I know lots of writers who write a lot online, who are not necessarily making much money from writing. Though I see a few who are doing such a good job with their blog that I wouldn’t be surprised if that road lead to a book deal. But those writers are still very much in the minority, at least based on the hundreds of writers I personally know.

So…what do you think? Where is the smartest place to share your “value” as a writer? Is it online or is it to serve editors without the emphasis visibility?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you do one, the other or both. 🙂

Good Reads for Writers Spike Online

Writers vs. Editors in an entertaining article by Michael Kinsley in Time Magazines. Thanks to Lori Russell for passing it along.

Maybe think twice about revealing your whole life online. You just might become as successful as Dooce, according to this recent article in the WSJ by Sue Shellenbarger.

I think I this post over at MomLogic rolled in on my Google alerts to alert me of the WSJ article.

But how many people would want what Dooce’s got? I’m not sure. What do you think?

And finally, if you haven’t read the article in the NYT by Allen Salkin that seems to have set off a chain reaction of articles on writing, authorhood and blogging, check it out.

Hey, thanks, Christian Lander! We love reading about ourselves in the mainstream media. 🙂

12 Ways to Take Your Writing Career to the Next Level (that don’t involve writing)

By Christina Katz

As professional writers, we write and we write and we write, but wait a second, isn’t there anything else we can do to jumpstart our careers?

You’d better believe it. Here are twelve booster rockets to pop you out of your chair and into action.

1. Regroup
Take stock of your writing from the past year. Purge your file cabinet. Clear your clutter. Set up new, better systems to track ideas and writing-in-progress. And don’t forget your computer. You probably need to purge and organize in there too. Most importantly, if you’ve been putting it off, back-up your entire computer system. Then make an extra copy of your most valuable writing and send it to a friend or family member for safekeeping. If your system ever crashes you’ll be oh-so-glad you did.

2. Reassess
You’ve eliminated the junk and it feels good, doesn’t it? Now it’s time for the good stuff — updating your portfolio. If you provide more than one service with your writing skills, you may want to keep separate portfolios. For example, I have one for articles, another for consulting, coaching, editing, and teaching, and another for my newsletter’s back issues. Not only is reviewing your progress from the past year satisfying, it’s good preparation for number three, which is…

3. Give Yourself a Pat on the Back
Do not skip this step! It doesn’t matter whether you’ve met all of your goals so far or not. You absolutely deserve to celebrate past accomplishments before you go forward. Besides, you’ll probably glean valuable insights about where you are going based on where you have been.

4. Pat Another Writer You Know on the Back
Perhaps you could meet for tea or coffee and compare portfolios with each other, tell tales of caffeine-fueled deadlines met, stories of overzealous editors confronted, accounts of elusive scoops professionally snared. When that’s all done, you could review page-by-page your stunning book, ohhhing and ahhhing in all the appropriate places, of course. And before parting, take a few moments to acknowledge what you’ve learned from each other. Because let’s face it, no one appreciates what we strive for and accomplish as much as another writer.

5. Form a Writing Circle with Like-Minded Writers
What better way to share resources and encourage each other on a regular basis. Writing groups are great places to share insights you’ve gleaned about editors based on their likes and dislikes, swap ideas for increasing productivity, and set lofty goals you’d like to accomplish, but could use some encouragement attempting. Support groups are not merely for giving and receiving critical feedback. They can be helpful for moral support as well. Mind the gossip and gabfest though, accountability first, socializing second. And whenever possible, invite in publishing writers who can share real-life success stories.

6. Re-evaluate your Niche
Perhaps when you started writing, it was all about parenting because you had just had a baby. And maybe you favored the attachment parenting school of thought. But what happens when you tire of writing about breastfeeding, the family bed, and endless opportunities for bonding? I’ll tell you what happens, you start looking around for fresh ideas — food writing, travel, maybe even book reviewing. Writing can be a terrific outlet for a fickle nature. Simply abandon the terra of well-traversed writing material when the appeal of incognita pales.

7. Assess your Strengths and Weaknesses as a Writer
What strengths can you leverage as you move forward? What weaknesses could use improvement? Seek out classes that specifically address your needs. Investigate local community college schedules, check out online classes (http://www.writersontherise.com/classes.html), and talk to your writing friends about workshops they’ve taken. Nothing beats a word-of-mouth recommendation.

8. Review and Renew Your Subscriptions
Are the magazines that show up in your mailbox each month still your favorites or have you outgrown them? Since writers read publications for inspiration as well as potential markets, it’s important to subscribe to those that resonate strongly with you. If you are tight on cash but need sample copies of publications to query, I suggest Moira Allen’s article, ” Finding Sample Magazines – Without Breaking the Bank at http://www.writing-world.com/basics/samples.shtml.

9. Join a Professional Writer’s Association
Like, perhaps…the ASJA (http://www.asja.org/). How would it feel to say, “[your name here] is a member of the Association of Journalists and Authors.” More professional, yes? I think you’ll agree that the multiple benefits are worth the cost.

10. Join a Regional Writer’s Association
Joining Willamette Writers in Portland, Oregon (http://www.willamettewriters.com/) has been a boon to my career. What regional writing organization might serve your upcoming goals? Google the nearest group and show up at the next meeting. The networking opportunities alone are worth the price of membership.

11. Create a Reprint File
All those articles you published last year can be turned into cash next year if you resubmit them strategically. Three good articles on the topic include:

“Selling Reprints” by Moira Allen
http://www.writing-world.com/basics/reprints.shtml

“One Article, Many Checks: Selling Reprints” by Kelly James-Enger
http://www.writing-world.com/basics/enger.shtml

“Selling Reprints: An Editor’s Perspective” by Lisa Crayton
http://www.spiritledwriter.com/june2004/reprints.html

12. Plan Now to Attend a 2008 Writer’s Conference
Don’t just consider attending a writing conference in 2006, but actually commit to going to one. You can start at Shaw Guides (http://writing.shawguides.com/), but remember, do not pass go and collect the increased self-esteem until you actually make the reservations.

The main thing to remember as you assess your writing progress from last year is that you are further along than you were. You can move even further ahead by taking time now to reflect, assess, and dream about where you’d like to be at this time next year. Good luck!

You are welcome to reprint any article in your zine, newsletter, newspaper, magazine, website, blog, etc. so long as Christina’s title, byline and bio remain as they appear with each article.

Christina Katz is the author of “Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids” (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2007). She is a featured presenter at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference, The Whidbey Island Writers Association MFA Residency, and the Willamette Writers Conference. She’s been teaching writing-for-publication classes for six years and has appeared on Good Morning America. She is also publisher and editor of “Writers on the Rise” and another called “The Writer Mama.” Christina blogs daily at http://www.thewritermama.wordpress.com/. For more about “Writer Mama,” visit Christina’s website at http://www.thewritermama.com/.

Thank you for posting the WM Giveaway Badge in Your Blog!

I have had many offers to post the Writer Mama Giveaway Badge. So I am rescaling it so you will have two sizes to choose from.

Here they are:

Writer Mama Fall 2007 Daily Giveaway Tiny Badge

Writer Mama Fall 2007 Daily Giveaway

Writer Mama Fall 2007 Daily Giveaway

Thank you so much for spreading the word! I have been gathering up giveaway prizes all morning from the likes of The Renegade Writers (Linda Formichelli & Diana Burrell), Steve Weber, Sage Cohen, Wendy Burt, and Gregory Kompes—just to name a few fabulous authors who have already committed to participating. 🙂

We are going to have some serious FUN! Look out, mamas. Here comes a big, juicy writing tools giveaway! Coming at you in September!

Almost caught up & Yes! I will offer coaching this summer

Hiya writer mamas,

Are you dreaming of road-trips and BBQs and your feet sinking into the sand? I know I am!

Here’s where I am on my to dos:

1. Submit feature article

2. Wrap up Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff class

(Sign up for the next one here…it’s filling up!)

3. Wrap up Platform Building Basics for Writers

(This will be offered again in the fall…next up is Pitching Practice: Write Six Queries in Six Weeks, perfect for folks who have taken WPSS and want to go on to mastering the query letter form. More info here.)

4. Catch up on paperwork, paperwork, paperwork (This is not my favorite…) and confirm summer/fall travel (Time to put on my little admin. asst. hat.)

5. Send signed books to Writer’s Digest for contest winners (With pleasure! Winners will be announced in the October issue!)

6. Catch up on e-mails (Haven’t been able to keep up for some time now…sorry!)

7. Send WOTR June segment

(Subscribe to Writers on the Rise here.)

8. Send TWM June segment

(Subscribe to The Writer Mama here.)

9. Write and submit book proposal #2 (Top secret! Not the one with Sharon, another one, stay tuned…)

10. Turn off computer with glee and hit the road! (I love my Macs, but Mommy’s ready to read some novels! Any recommendations…?)

Just a typical day in writer-mama land. Soon to be known as Vacation Land!

Okay, back to biz for a moment. Many have asked if I can/will offer individual coaching. Yes, I can and I will, beginning in July and running until the next session of classes start. I am not able to teach and coach at the same time because that would not be fair to my students.

Here are the weekday periods when I will offer coaching this year (except for major holidays or when I’m on the road):

  • July 1-August 18th
  • October 3-December 30th

Coaching sessions must be scheduled and paid-in-full at least one week in advance (please don’t e-mail or call me with urgent can-you-drop-everything-and-help-me-right-now messages). Remember my to-do list at the top of this post…that’s a short one.

Who will get the most out of coaching with me? Here’s a quick list:

  • You are gearing up to pitch a nonfiction book
  • You have a nonfiction book proposal ready to go
  • You are trying to decide which book topic is best for you to pitch now
  • You want to build or amplify the reach of your platform
  • You have been writing for a while, have gotten published, and you are ready to take your career to the next level

Important: I strongly prefer to coach folks who have taken my classes first (that’s hundreds of writers at this point). This way, the formalities are out of the way and we can get right to it. After all, an hour is not a lot of time and I like to be very focused.

As an incentive to take my classes first, I offer coaching rates in a sliding scale:

  • Three or more past classes with me: $50/hour
  • Two or more past classes with me: $75/hour
  • One past class with me: $100/hour
  • No classes with me: $150/hour and fill out a career questionnaire prior to session

You can send me an Paypal e-check to christinakatz@earthlink.net to reserve your time. We’ll schedule on July 2nd.

If you have not yet taken a class with me, I encourage you to take Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff (WPSS). I teach four sessions of this class a year, so there shouldn’t be a problem finding a session that works with your schedule. 🙂

For folks who send or have sent me general writing career questions, I will do my best to answer them all when I return from vacation, right here in my blog. 🙂

In the meantime, if you have writing career questions for me, go ahead and send them to writermama@earthlink.net and I will cheerfully add them to my list and answer them all by the end of August. One of the lucky question-askers will win a free, signed copy of Writer Mama! (That goes for past question-askers I haven’t answered yet…)

Okay, back to work! You too!


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