Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Writing Opportunity’ Category

I long ago gave up making New Year’s resolutions, but ever since discovering Bylines: The Essential Weekly Planner for Writers, I’ve been setting clear, measurable, and achievable goals every day, week, month and year. Bylines is a Writer’s Desk Calendar with 53 stories for inspiration and encouragement, and some nifty pages to help a writer set clear goals – and meet them.

I discovered the calendar through the Creative Writers Opportunities List back in 2006. When my 200-word story about the writing life was accepted, I not only scored a publication, but I was paid  – five dollars and a complimentary copy of the calendar in which my work appeared. The five dollars was quickly spent, but the calendar has been invaluable.

            The calendar is a spiral bound book with a week-by-week layout. Each week includes a very short essay about the writing life. The 2012 edition includes 53 essays by writers of all ages and stages of development from 25 states plus Ireland and the UK. These pieces run the gamut from funny to poignant. When the challenges of loneliness or rejection or motivation strike, these essays can boost me back to my desk and help me remember that my voice is important.

But Bylines is not just about inspiration. It includes some tools that helped me develop steady work habits as I’ve transitioned to writing full-time with regular gigs and a developing audience. The goals pages are the most critical of these tools. There’s a short preface about how and why to set goals, and then there’s a page for setting a goal for the year. The goal can be anything, from developing a daily writing practice by next December to drafting an entire book.

The first step is to articulate the goal; the next step is to break it down to manageable tasks. Pages for setting month-by-month goals follow with two checklists for each month: one for goals and one for tasks. The goals list is a place to commit to the small steps that will help writers advance to the larger goal, like completing a chapter or writing three poems, or sending out three queries. I’ve found that setting monthly goals has helped me both keep focused and achieve a sense of accomplishment, creating a loop of positive re-enforcement that keeps me writing more and more.

The task list includes items like Set Goals for Month, Pay quarterly estimated taxes, Back up computer files, and – my personal favorite – Clean desktop last work day of month. I confess that I don’t always complete this last item, but at least I’m reminded to. This task list has helped me become more aware of what I need to do to develop my professional, organizational muscles – because as I achieve more success with publication and reach a wider audience, I have a growing need to be able to keep track of the business side of this writing life. Using Bylines has certainly helped me work more consistently, which in turn has helped me achieve new and bigger goals.

Each year, Bylines features a different writer’s desk, a brief biography of that writer, and encouraging quotations. The 2012 calendar features American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. In addition, literary birthdays are noted each day of the year, and there’s a month-by-month list of literary holidays, which I’ve found useful both as prompts for timely essays and for chuckles. (June is National Bathroom Reading Month.) Other extras include pages at the back for tracking submissions, tracking business expenses and miles, space for Conference Notes and contact info. I’ve been using Bylines for several years now, and have discovered that each volume serves as a valuable record of my year’s work.

Bylines is edited by Sylvia Forbes, herself a successful freelance writer out of Missouri. She’s the author of over six hundred magazine articles in the past ten years, and is active in writer’s organizations throughout the mid-west. While family health issues have stymied her intention of publishing Bylines in June, she still makes that her yearly goal. To that end, she’s accepting 200-word stories about the writing life now through March first, for the 2013 edition.

To make it into the book, Sylvia passes on the best advice an editor ever gave her: “Just write the story.” She says it can be quirky, funny, inspiring – anything but an expanded biography of yourself as a writer. In addition to the payment (five dollars, a copy of the book and a discount to purchase more), publication in Bylines offers terrific, year-long exposure to a wide-spread audience of writers. Submission guidelines can be found at http://www.bylinescalendar.com/guidelines.php.

My goal for 2012 is to complete a draft of a new novel, tentatively titled Ellen. What’s yours?

Deborah Lee Luskin often writes about Vermont, where she has lived since 1984. She is a commentator for Vermont Public Radio, a Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council and the author of the award winning novel, Into The Wilderness. For more information, visit her website at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Read Full Post »

This is a nice follow-on to Lee’s post yesterday about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I’ve done NaNo several times before, not always completing, like last year, but I have ‘won’ a few, like this year.  National Novel Writing Month 2011 winner banner

One year my goal was the 1,667 words per day for 30 days. I didn’t always achieve the total, but was able to make up for one day’s shortfall the next day, usually.

Another year, I wrote as much as I could when I had a couple free hours, that might have been the year I wrote 25,000 words over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I’ve finished well before the midnight November 30 deadline, and sometimes not that much before the deadline.

A few years ago, I discovered “word wars.” It’s a fun and wonderful way to get some words on the page. It’s an online (like all of NaNo is) competition between 2 or more people. It was as simple as going to the Word War thread and adding a post “I’m going to do a 20 minute sprint at the top of the hour (“:00″). Who’s in?”

Or I could say “:15″ or “:30″ or “:45″ – to show what time I was starting. Since NaNo is international, using the minutes to indicate the hour was all that was necessary.

So at whatever the designated time, writers would set a timer, write until the timer went off, and then post their total words to the thread. And like all of NaNo, it’s all on the honor system. It was a thrill – whether I had the highest word count for the sprint or not. The thrill was knowing there were others out there typing at the same time.

Those word wars that year got me where I needed to be. There are even word wars between states and regions now. It’s a lot of fun all around. I didn’t commit to any word wars this year, but I used the concept to get my novel written.

My novel started out as a humorous type tentatively titled “New Hampshire: Yes, We Still Have Four Seasons”. It turned out to be something I’m currently calling “How to Beat Procrastination with a Very Large (Invisible) Stick and Only a Little Bit Screaming.”

I may have written 50,000+ words on it, but it’s just starting to come together. I have a lot more writing to do and then the editing will begin.

Oh, I have to mention that I didn’t start the novel until about 3 p.m. on Black Friday. I finished by 10 p.m. on Monday. Less than 4 days. I didn’t start on Friday with that intense goal, trust me.

I decided to write in 30-minute increments. I used a timer, started it, typed until the timer went off, then took a break. Sometimes I could do 2 or 3 sprints at one sitting and then get up for a stretch, and sometimes I paused at 15 minutes, but I did all 50,000 words in 30-minute timed increments, except for 2 untimed sessions.

In the past, I’ve used Microsoft Word for my novels, this time I saw that Scrivener was available as a trial for PC, so I downloaded it. They are having a 50% discount for NaNo 2011 winners and I’m going to take advantage of the discount to purchase the software.

I hadn’t been able to use Scrivener before now, since I’m not a Mac person (I hear a lot of gasps from readers), but I’ve seen other writers use it and it’s an incredible way to organize a novel.

Seeing the discount for NaNo winners was a main motivator for me to ‘win’ NaNo this year. I admit it.

My official NaNoWriMo 2011 word count is 50,255. 30-minute writing sprints are soon going to be a part of every day.

NaNo can be addictive and more and more writers are finding they can’t wait for each November to roll around. So, there are now numerous artistic challenges out there for writers.

If you completed NaNo this year, or any past year, what was your strategy?

*****

About Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson writer Lisa Jackson is an independent editor, writer, journalist, and chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to chat with best-selling authors, non-fiction writers, publishers, and other writing professionals on a weekly basis.

Read Full Post »

There is a site called Seedpod Publishing that will “publish” (push out on Twitter under their account) your 140 character piece of micro fiction.

That’s right, a full story in one tweet. 

The idea is based on Hemingway’s “saddest story ever written in 6 words”

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

And yes, for the record, that little story can bring tears to this mom’s eyes.

Last week we played around with anagrams of our name, how about this week we play around with a complete story in 140 characters or less. The only requirement is that you have to include your twitter username (for attribution) in your story. Mine is @wendyenthomas which cuts greatly into my word count, oh why wasn’t I named SueWest?

With only 140 characters, you’re going to have to put some thought into your story. It must have tension, convey a bit of a plot, and get readers interested. In short, it may not be as easy as it looks.

Some previous stories from Seedpod’s twitter feed are:

His wife: “And just what are we supposed to do with a used gondola now?” @darrencormier

“If only you were born one hundred years earlier,” my wife said, “you would have been fifty years ahead of your time.” @EvertAsberg

Old now, toes gnarled and deformed; it hurt to walk, but she had loved wearing stilettos. Pretty shoes came at a high price.@GayleBeveridge

And here’s my entry:

By buying the wrong brand of coffee, I knew that once again, my mother was wishing I’d never been born @wendyenthomas

So go ahead, try your hand at micro fiction and then send it off to Seedpod Publishing and let us know what happens. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll end up being a published micro fiction author, 140 characters at a time.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).

And yup, you can bet 140 character stories are being added to my “get the juices going” exercises. 

Photo credit: roadsidepictures

Read Full Post »

            On Sunday, August 28, Irene cried on my village, destroying whole sections of it. Gratefully, no life has been lost, but friends’ and neighbors’ homes have been washed away – along with their land and belongings. Roads are gone, bridges broken. I suffered no property damage, but I am changed by the devastation – and I’m not just talking about the inconvenience of closed roads.

Since the storm, I’ve been doing what I can for local relief. As always, in times of crisis I resort to my two mainstays: food and words. By Tuesday, I’d organized potluck dinners at our community hall, where those with power could bring covered dishes and those without power could eat hot food. We held four of these dinners last week. Others have organized a daily hot breakfast at the hall.

           Not only do we feed people at these meals, but we also gather and disseminate information at them. All of us – those who lost nothing, those who lost all and those somewhere in between these extremes – take comfort not just from the food, but also from the fellowship that is part of helping one another in time of need. We need to see and hear and reassure each other that life will go on, we will continue, we’ll get through this – and be stronger for it.

I may have started the potluck dinners, but others have stepped up to do the heavy lifting, from working the phones for food donations to cooking, serving, and washing up after. By Irene-plus-five, it became clear that we were emerging from our shock and starting to adjust to this new normal of a drastically changed landscape and vastly different civic circumstances. By then, I’d already filed a Commentary for Vermont Public Radio. But we needed more. We needed poetry.

I’ve been gathering, printing and posting poems for public consumption. Because we don’t just need food, shelter and clothing. We also need poetry to soothe our souls and give us ‘that thing with feathers’ – what Emily Dickinson called Hope.

Deborah Lee Luskin often writes about Vermont, where she has lived since 1984. She is a commentator for Vermont Public Radio, a Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council and the author of the award winning novel, Into The Wilderness. For more information, visit her website at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Read Full Post »

Being a writer means that you constantly wonder about “what happens behind the story?” Instead of taking something at face value you find yourself wondering what on earth could cause certain events to play out the way they do?

I found myself doing this recently when I passed a young couple on the street in front of the coffee shop. The man was obviously trying to comfort the decidedly angry woman. “I’m sorry,” he said to her trying to hold her in an embrace “I’m sorry that I got stomach cancer.” 

Wow. What a story there was in that very short interplay. What, I thought, would cause someone to apologize for having a terminal illness. Rightly or not, I started assigning some pretty selfish characteristics to the woman. She thought only of herself, she was weak and needed to be comforted. She didn’t care about anything but how she would be affected by this event. Soon she would be left alone. Not a comforting situation.

A bit harsh. Well then what if she was a young mother? Perhaps they had just gotten married and she either already had a child or a child was on the way? Maybe that child had a physical disability. Wouldn’t it be conceivable that her anger was for their child, how he would be cared for and what he would miss without his father nearby?

Would that be a sufficient reason for a person with a disease that was surely going to end his life to apologize for having it?

Or maybe it was that the man who was the one who needed the comforting, after all, he’s going to die. Perhaps he was making atonement for his sins of neglect to her apologizing and asking for a do-over? Please?

Or perhaps it was just that next week’s chemo-therapy appointment would mean that they would miss the next Red Socks game down in Boston. Damn, life can sometimes be so unfair.

I entered the coffee shop to get my latte and when I came back out they were both gone. I’m sure that someday I’ll be seeing them again as characters somewhere in my writing.

How could I not? They simply had so much to say.

***

Photo Credit: bjorn giesenbauer

 

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).

And who knows? If I can work a chicken in, maybe someday I’ll write that story about a missed baseball game. 

Read Full Post »

From New Hampshire Writers’ Project

2011 New Hampshire Literary Awards
Nominations Now Open
Submission Deadline: June 15, 2011

In recognition of the rich and varied literary talent in the Granite State, the New Hampshire Writers’ Project will present the tenth New Hampshire Literary Awards at a special reception and ceremony on November 4, 2011 in Manchester.

Awards will be given in the following categories:

  • Outstanding Work of Fiction
  • Outstanding Work of Poetry
  • Outstanding Work of Nonfiction
  • Outstanding Work of Children’s Literature
  • Donald M. Murray Outstanding Journalism Award
  • Lifetime Achievement

Nominations are encouraged and welcome from everyone, including writers, publishers, organizations, and the general public. Self-nominations are also welcome. The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2011. An administrative fee of $35 is payable to NHWP for each nomination.

For more information about the New Hampshire Literary Awards and to print a nomination form click here.

Read Full Post »

A book review is part of an author’s marketing and promotion toolkit and if you’re going to write a review, to post on Amazon or any other venue, there are some items you should include in order to make it beneficial to the author and potential readers.

Let me start by saying, before writing a review, read the book. It seems an obvious point, but there are reviewers who do not do this.

After finishing the book, give yourself a day or two before starting the review. Let the story settle in your mind. It’s amazing how many ideas percolate to the surface if you give yourself some breathing room.blank book image

To craft a book review:

  • Have a recommendation. Would you recommend the book to others? Yes or no.
  • Open with a brief (1-3 sentence paragraph) summary that catches a reader’s eye. Don’t give away the climax. You want to entice a reader to read (or not) the book you’ve read.
  • In the next paragraph, expand a bit on the storyline, include blurbs from the story if they help give a feel for the story that you might not be able to articulate. Summarize some main events in the book, but avoid giving away the spoilers.
  • Include a paragraph that talks about the author’s writing style. Comment on what worked and possibly what didn’t. What you liked, or didn’t, and why. Sharing your why is what readers want to know.
  • Depending on where your review will be posted, include a bit about the author’s bio in another paragraph. Mention a previous or upcoming book, and perhaps a couple of personal (non-writing) details to give the reader a feel for the person behind the words.
  • Wrap up your review with your read/don’t read recommendation and a quick description of who the perfect audience for the book might be.

Everyone has an opinion, so if you read a book and have one you want to share, consider crafting a review that includes points you’d want to know if you were considering a particular title.

If you’re a reader and a writer, book reviews are a way to expand your writing experience and could generate some income.

Lisa Jackson is an editor, writer, and chocolate lover. She’s addicted to Sudoku, cafés, and words. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has a blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis — and you can, too! © Lisa J. Jackson, 2011

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50,111 other followers