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1. 5 Quick Tips for Writing in Multiple Perspectives

Let's Get Lost coverWriting a novel from one unique perspective can be challenging enough for many writers, but writing a character’s story through multiple perspectives will multiply the challenges, but also the rewards. Adi Alsaid’s new novel, Let’s Get Lost (Harlequin Teen, 2014), is an excellent example of using multiple perspectives to effectively tell the story of one character’s road trip while also keeping the reader enticed and invested for the entire ride. Here, Alsaid offers five quick tips for authors who hope to do the same in their stories.

* * * * *

I’ve always been drawn to multiple perspectives, both as a reader and as a writer. And as a person! I like getting into people’s heads. That’s what I love about fiction, the ease with which we can slip into someone else’s thoughts. So when I write, I like telling a story from as many perspectives as the narrative will allow. With Let’s Get Lost, I thought it would be really interesting to tell a road-trip tale through the eyes of characters who are stationary, who are going through their own issues, their own lives, when a mysterious girl comes crashing in. Here are my tips for writing in multiple perspectives.

  • Differentiate the voices. The easiest way to fail at multiple perspective is to not actually have any. Don’t give characters the same sense of humor, the same vocabulary, the same sense of right and wrong. When in doubt, read the different perspectives aloud.
  • Start small. Instead of trying to encompass an entire character’s persona, zoom in on a detail. A simple desire, one thought, a bite of pasta, even. It’s a lot less intimidating to start with a bite of pasta than with an entire backstory in mind. The rest will build from there, and will probably feel more authentic for it.
  • Explore. If you’re writing from different perspectives, at least one of them is probably wholly different to your own. That’s not a challenge, it’s a chance to explore what it means to be someone else. A parking lot, for example, looks different to a woman walking alone in her twenties than to a woman trying to keep two toddlers from running out into traffic before she reaches the target. What would it be like to be a teenager living in a war-torn region? You probably don’t know for sure, but you have a chance to find out if you start with a small detail and then explore from there.
  • Keep it personal. Just because the characters are not like you doesn’t mean they can’t have pieces of you in them. In some way, they should care about what you care about. Or maybe they have the exact opposite beliefs, or they have courage that you don’t. Whatever it is, consider the personal connection the character has with you as you move forward. If you don’t connect with the characters on a personal level, your readers probably won’t either.
  • Connection. This one may not be for everybody. What I love most about books—reading or writing them—is the chance to connect to others, the idea that people have similar thoughts and experiences, even though they may not know it. Do this in your stories too. Make connections, subtle or otherwise. Make them pass by each other a minute or two apart. Have someone in common in their backstory without them being aware of it. It’s the beauty of multiple perspectives, you can explore human connection in ways that we may miss in real life.

Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City. He attended college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in class, he mostly read fiction and continuously failed to fill out crossword puzzles, so it’s no surprise that after graduating he packed up his car and escaped to the California coastline to become a writer. He’s now back in his hometown, where he writes, coaches high school and elementary basketball, and has perfected the art of making every dish he eats or cooks as spicy as possible. In addition to Mexico, he has lived in Tel Aviv, Las Vegas and Monterey, California. A tingly feeling in his feet tells him that more places will eventually be added to the list. For more, visit www.somewhereoverthesun.com.

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2. A Few Sips Off

You take a sip from your drink and feel different. That may be because your torso has an extra arm protruding from it. Another sip, another arm. Then a wing. What happens if you finish the drink?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Are Subjects Joined by And Singular or Plural?

subjects-joined-by-and-singular-or-pluralQ: I’m writing a letter and am uncertain which sentence is correct: Your passion and commitment to my company HAVE inspired many, or, Your passion and commitment to my company HAS inspired many? —Carrie G.

This kind of thing used to trip me up, too, as a subject with multiple nouns in it seems like it should always be plural. But that isn’t always the case. The way you group the items determines whether it’s a singular subject or a plural subject (and whether you’d use the plural verb have or the singular has). Let me explain.

Sentence subjects that have independent nouns connected by and are plural, thus requiring plural verbs (such as have). One trick to tell if the nouns are independent from each other is to divide the sentence into two sentences and see if the meaning stays the same. For example: The baseball players and the manager were disappointed after losing the big game. When divided, the sentences read: The baseball players were disappointed after losing the big game. The manager was disappointed after losing the game. The meaning is the same and these nouns are thus independent of each other, making the original sentence a plural sentence and requiring a plural verb (were).

Let’s apply this trick to the sentence in question, Your passion and commitment to my company have inspired many. It can be divided into two sentences and keep the same meaning (Your passion to my company has inspired many; your commitment to my company has inspired many), therefore it’s plural and requires the plural verb have.

Not all subjects using and to connect nouns are plural, though. Sentence subjects that have multiple nouns connected by and that refer to a singular thing require singular verbs. Consider, Green eggs and ham was Sam-I-Am’s favorite dish. In this sentence, green eggs and ham is one specific dish in and of itself, so you use the singular verb was. If you divide this sentence (Green eggs was his favorite dish/Ham was his favorite dish) you change the meaning—and Sam-I-Am would be pretty disappointed if you had him over for dinner and served only half of his favorite meal.

When in doubt, divide the sentence to see which verb you need. It will help you on your grammatical quest toward subject/verb agreement.

Want other Grammar Rules? Check out:
Sneaked vs. Snuck
Who vs. Whom
Lay vs. Lie vs. Laid 
Which vs. That
Since vs. Because
Ensure vs. Insure
Home in vs. Hone in
Leaped vs. Leapt

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

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4. How I Got My Book Deal (and a Literary Agent): Mary Weber

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Mary Weber, author of STORM SIREN. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Mary is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

STORM-SIREN-COVER-NOVEL-WEBER       mary-weber-author-writer

Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe
worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare
time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children,
and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. Her YA fantasy
STORM SIREN released August 19, 2014. Jay Asher, New York Times
bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why said of the book, “There are
few things more exciting to discover than a debut novel packed with powerful
storytelling and beautiful language. STORM SIREN is one of those rarities.”
Find Mary on Facebook (MaryWeber, Author), or Twitter (@mchristineweber).

 
I Needed A Writing Community

Six years ago I showed my mother the beginnings of my earliest book (about vampires, because I may have just read and adored Twilight, ahem). She complimented me. “Here’s a list of all the things I like!” she said (because that’s what mothers are supposed to say). And then promptly handed me five (yes, FIVE) books on writing. “Here, dear. I think these will help you.”

That is my mother. An encourager. An author in her own right. And a mentor.

A few months later she connected me with a freelance editor friend and the three of us added another member and formed a critique group.

Three years went by. The vampire story was replaced by an urban fantasy, and in the course of those years I wrote my busy heart out, critiqued with my group, and researched everything I could on agents and publishing. Basically, I STALKED Chuck’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog. The writers on here were all so encouraging. “Keep going. Keep learning. Keep writing,” they cheered.

(Learn why “Keep Moving Forward” may be the best advice for writers everywhere.)

Then I Began Querying.

The replies started out as silence or “Not for me.” If an agent happened to mercifully slip in an extra snippet of feedback on the note, I would edit and adjust accordingly. Until eventually a few of the rejections became more personalized – emails of “Not interested in this project but feel free to send me another.” Or a couple times requests for rewrites on the urban fantasy story. Followed by rejections of those rewrites. (Holy kracken those ones stung the worst.)

But by the end of that process three things had happened:
1. I’d racked up a sweet total of eighty-seven rejections (and cried more times than I can count).
2. I discovered that, while the urban fantasy really wasn’t going to sell, somehow, amid all the studying and rewriting, I’d actually learned to carve a decent story.
3. A friend paid my way to a writers’ conference with the belief that they are the best way to personally connect with editors and agents.

She Was Right – I Also Needed Connections

You know those manuscript pre-submissions a writer can send in ahead of time to the conference editors and agents? I mailed in my urban fantasy as a sort of last ditch effort. Despite my submission being on brown-inked pages (because my printer broke), two days into the conference I received an invite to chat with the publisher of Thomas Nelson, HarperCollins. “We can’t use this story,” he said, sitting across from me, holding my pages. “But have you ever considered writing YA?”

“UM NO, BUT YES.”

Six weeks later, he connected me with one of TN’s editors who invited me to meet up at another conference later in the year. I came up with ideas and early chapters for two young adult stories, the first of which she rejected. The second I pitched to her at the conference over a cup of tea.

(What are the BEST writers’ conferences to attend?)

I also pitched it to a number of agents while there, but it was one gentleman by the name of Lee Hough whom a mutual friend introduced me to, that I knew right away I wanted to work with. (I later discovered he was the agent for such NYT bestsellers as Same Kind of Different as Me and Heaven Is For Real.) Unfortunately, Lee wasn’t available (or even necessarily interested) to take on a YA author at the time.

But…we began talking. Which led to more talking over the next few months as he was kind enough to give me career guidance.

Convergence

Four months later (probably upon finally realizing my annoying self wasn’t going away), Lee called and signed me. Shortly after, Thomas Nelson made an offer on Storm Siren.

I’m grieved to say that seven months after I signed with Lee he passed away from cancer. However, those months of his agent-guidance and kindness made (and continues to make) a heck of a difference on my publishing journey. My agent now is Andrea Heinecke from the same agency (Alive Communications), and I’m so grateful for her incredible guidance as well.

So here I am, thinking it’s a crazy honor to write this post for Guide to Literary Agents. Especially after spending three years pouring over the pages of this blog. Thank you to the authors who said: Keep reading, keep stalking (in a non-creeper way), and keep writing.

And to you, dear writers reading this…I wish you the very best of luck as well. Keep going. Keep stalking. Keep writing. And may your journey rock.

GIVEAWAY: Mary is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

This guest column is a supplement to the
“Breaking In” (debut authors) feature of this author
in Writer’s Digest magazine. Are you a subscriber
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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5. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 276

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my announcement of the 2015 Poet’s Market. (Click here.)

For this week’s prompt, write a news poem. When I’m really in a creative rut, there’s one constant source of new ideas for me: the news! There are the big headlines; there’s the sports page, the comics, and the advertisements. One of my former professors (James Cummins) would have us read the “News of the Weird” for ideas. There’s always plenty happening in the world to prompt a poem.

Note of caution: Remember that news is (or should be) impartial. The poems inspired by the news need not be. That said, please be respectful of each other’s views and opinions. Even when we don’t all agree on a topic, we should still listen with open minds and hearts.

*****

Publish Your Poetry!

Learn how to get your poetry published with the latest (and greatest) edition of Poet’s Market. The 2015 Poet’s Market is filled with articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, in addition to poet interviews and original poetry by contemporary poets.

Plus, the book is filled with hundreds of listings for poetry book publishers, chapbook publishers, magazines, journals, contests, grants, conferences, and more!

Click to continue.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a News Poem:

“5 Things to Start Your Day”

An American journalist
beheaded in a foreign land.

Water bottles provoked police
in demonstrations here at home.

A new Icelandic volcano
threatens to disrupt air travel.

Another patient is tested
for Ebola in the U.S.

Two cardinals and a goldfinch
have visited your bird feeder.

roberttwitterimage*****

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, Robert has been a featured poet at events across the country and is married to poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets. He’s written and shared more than 600 original poems on this blog over the years.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetry-related stuff here:

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6. Conquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct Your Ultimate Sales Tool – Aug. 21 Webinar With Agent Nephele Tempest

nephele_tempestA strong, compelling synopsis serves as a vital sales tool at every stage of your career. Whether you are a new writer starting to submit to agents or a multi-published author proposing a project to your editor, you need to be able to write a synopsis that meets your needs. That means not only writing an interesting synopsis that shows off your project to its best advantage, but tailoring it to suit different purposes. A synopsis written from a completed manuscript differs from one written as part of a proposal.

In this live 90-minute webinar — titled “Conquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct Your Ultimate Sales Tool” —  literary agent Nephele Tempest will show you how to tackle the task head on, and to generate the right synopsis for your project—and your audience. Shake off your fear and frustration and master the art of writing the synopsis. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, August 21, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • Break down your plot into manageable parts
  • Emphasize the most important details of your project
  • Build interest in your story while remaining concise
  • Maintain a tone consistent with your manuscript
  • Produce a synopsis for a project that is incomplete
  • Adapt the length of your synopsis depending on its intended use

INSTRUCTOR

U8059Nephele Tempest joined The Knight Agency in January, 2005, opening the Los Angeles office. She comes from a diverse publishing and finance background, having worked in the editorial department at Simon and Schuster, as a financial advisor at Dean Witter, in the marketing and communications departments of several major New York investment firms, and as a freelance writer. Her experiences in sales, marketing, and writing provide her with insights into multiple aspects of the publishing industry. Nephele belongs to the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). She continues to actively build her client list, and is currently seeking works in the following genres: literary/commercial fiction, women’s fiction, science fiction, fantasy, single-title romance, historical fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

  • Writers who have no idea how to start writing a synopsis
  • Writers whose existing synopsis sounds dull and lifeless in comparison to their novel
  • Writers who cannot find a way to cut their synopsis down to an appropriate length
  • Writers who cannot get past the query stage when submitting to agents
  • Writers interested in selling work based on several opening chapters and a synopsis

HOW DOES THE CRITIQUE WORK?

All registrants are invited to submit their revised synopsis. All submitted synopses are guaranteed a written critique by literary agent Nephele Tempest. Nephele reserves the right to request to see a partial or full manuscript by e-mail following the event, if the project interests her. Instructions on how to submit your work are sent after you have purchased the webinar and officially register in Go-to-Webinar. When you have registered in GTW, you will receive a confirmation email from gotowebinar@citrixonline.com, which contains the information you need to access the live webinar AND the Critique Submission Instructions.

Sign up now!

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7. Research Before You Send a Query Letter

Let me first begin by saying I love working as a literary agent. Since opening Greyhaus Literary Agency in 2003, I have had the chance to work with a lot of great writers, agents and publishers. Let’s face it – there are very few jobs out there where we get to do something many consider simply a hobby. However, with all of the great things about the job, the one thing I hate the most (and I know many other agents and editors feel the same way) is the part about writing rejection letters to authors. This is simply not a fun activity.

Now, there are really two different types of rejection letters. The first one I don’t have a big problem with. These are the letters for projects that might not be quite right for what I am looking for, or for stories that might not be ready for publishing yet. With stories like this, we can often take the time to provide a few suggestions for improvement, or to discuss why the story is not right for us. Yes, writing the letters takes time, but when I hit “send” I feel as if this author might be one step closer to publishing.

(How NOT to start your story. Read advice from agents.)

 

index~~element5Column by Scott Eagan, owner and agent of the Greyhaus Literary Agency.
Scott has made sales to publishers including: Harper Collins, Pocket, New
American Library, Source Books and Harlequin. Scott is currently acquiring
authors in most areas of romance and women’s fiction, but, as the article
states, take the time to visit the website first to make sure that sub-genre
you write is what he is looking for! Authors can also visit scott at
www.scotteagan.blogspot.com, on Twitter @greyhausagency.

 

 

It is, however, the second letter of rejection that really gets frustrating to write. These are for authors submitting projects that the agency does not represent. Over the years, the number of these rejection letters has increased significantly. In fact, on one recent day in March, as I was answering submissions, I requested 2 partials, passed on 2-3 because the premise just didn’t work for me, and rejected 30 projects simply because these were not projects Greyhaus Literary Agency represented. What added to the frustration was the number of those submissions that were sent directly from my website.

If receiving rejection letters is as equally as frustrating as what I feel writing the letters, there are some very easy steps authors should take to remedy the situation.

Begin your research with general guides. Books such as Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents are great starting points. Add in websites such as Query Tracker and you have a good list to build your research from.

Go to the source! No matter what resources you use to build your list of potential agents, make sure you visit the websites of the editors and agents. Review their website submission guidelines. Please note this is the most accurate information. Along the same lines, do not send something that is not on their list. Agents and editors will not acquire something that they don’t represent just because they think it might be a great read. Authors need to understand that agents and editors specialize in areas they are knowledgeable in and have the resources available to really help you as an author.

Going to the source is also crucial since many agents and editors will shift what they want, or even close for submissions, depending on the needs of the market or their own work load. Publishing is a constantly shifting market and authors need to take the time to stay up to speed!

(What writing credentials will impress an agent or editor?)

Know your genre. This is a small one but very important. Know what genre you are really writing in. For example, just because you have a romantic relationship in your story does not mean it is a romance. Just because your heroine is the protagonist does not mean it is women’s fiction.

Stalk the editors and agents. Next, if you think you have narrowed your search down to a list of specific editors and agents, start following them on social media. Listen to what they “chat” about. Pay attention to the books they like, the books they hate and the books they acquire. This will guide you in determining if your story is still a right fit.

E-mail and ask first. And finally, if you are still confused. You have read their submission guidelines and when they say, “I do not acquire young adult romance” and you don’t understand what they mean by that, then email and ask. Do not send it as a submission letter; just ask the question – “Hi Mr. Eagan. I am just inquiring if you accept young adult romances? I have reviewed your website submission guidelines and there is not mention that you do or don’t.” A simple word of warning though – Make sure you did read the submission guidelines. It makes you look like an idiot if you ask a question that is clearly stated on the submission guidelines.

I always say that researching the editors is not that hard. It does take time though but in this business, you need to have patience. Taking that time will certainly increase your chances of having an editor or agent read your submission. Getting them to publish it? Well, that depends on the quality of the work.

 

2015-GLA-small

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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8. 2015 Poet’s Market: What It Is and How to Buy It

When I started writing poetry more than 20 years ago, I didn’t have ambitions of publication or poetic greatness, but I did have a target audience: originally, a girl to impress. Later on, I became my own target audience. Eventually, I yearned to share my words with others and had no idea how to do it. Plus, I had no comprehension of what contemporary poets and poetry meant.

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

Trying to demystify and enlighten the poetic process has been one of my goals with this blog, but it’s also a driving force behind my editorial strategy with the Poet’s Market. While the book lists hundreds of poetry publishing opportunities, the 2015 Poet’s Market is more than a straight directory; it’s a guidebook to the poetry universe as it stands today.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes more than 20 articles, including “The Habits of Highly Productive Poets,” by Scott Owens; “Six Ways to Promote Your New Book,” by Jeannine Hall Gailey; “The Usefulness of Silence,” by Susan Laughter Meyers; “Writing Poems From Prompts,” by Amorak Huey; and more!

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes a description of poetic forms, interviews with poets, and new poems by contemporary poets.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes listings for magazines and journals, book and chapbook publishers, contests and awards, grants, conferences and workshops, and organizations.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes a webinar on how to build an audience for your poetry.

The 2015 Poet’s Market includes an activation code good for a one-year subscription to the poetry slice of WritersMarket.com.

The 2015 Poet’s Market is essentially what I could’ve really used 20 years ago when I was still trying to stumble my way into connecting with other poets and readers of poetry. And it’s made to be a practical resource for today’s poets who want to feel connected to the world of poetry and get their own poetry published and be part of the poetry world themselves.

Click here to order your copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market today!

-Robert Lee Brewer, editor of Poet’s Market

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9. Todd Davis: Poet Interview

Please welcome Todd Davis to the Poetic Asides blog. He’s authored and edited 13 books, including the poetry collection In the Kingdom of the Ditch.

Todd Davis

Todd Davis

Davis teaches creative writing, American literature, and environmental studies at Penn State University’s Altoona College. His other three full-length poetry collections are The Least of These, Some Heaven, and Ripe. His poetry has been featured on the radio by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac and by Ted Kooser in his syndicated newspaper column American Life in Poetry.

Learn more at todddavispoet.com.

The entire collection is a great read, but here’s one poem that I especially enjoyed from In the Kingdom of the Ditch:

Missing Boy, by Todd Davis

I do not
want my son
to enter
the den
of sorrow.

At sixteen
he already
knows
too much
of the world.

Like a pine
snake,
he slides
toward his
burrow,
leaves behind
the skin
of his former
self.

It sloughs
and curls,
scales
of what
he’s learned
but now believes
he does not
need.

*****

What are you currently up to?

The last month or so I’ve been working on revising my fifth full-length poetry collection. At the moment it’s called Winterkill. The poems have been written over the past three years, finding homes in journals and magazines along the way, and in May I began to put the poems together to see how they talk to one another.

After two revisions of the manuscript—rearranging the placement of individual poems, tinkering with lines in individual poems, and even dropping or adding certain poems to the collection—I’ve sent it to four of my poetry friends who are reading it and offering commentary.

Once they’ve finished, I’ll do some more revision based upon their observations and critiques and hopefully send it to my publisher, Michigan State University Press, in the spring. After that, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that my editor likes what she sees and the press will move the book into production.

In the Kingdom of the Ditch is your fourth full-length collection of poems (with a limited edition chapbook thrown in for good measure). Do you have a process for assembling poems for a collection of poetry?

I’m very much a daily writer and thinker. My mind tends to gravitate toward certain subjects based upon my experiences—in the woods, on the rivers, with the books I’m reading.

For example, yesterday I was deep in on a small stream in the 41,000 acres of game lands above the village where I live. My son and I were taking a long hike and fishing for native brook trout. I came across an amazing caterpillar on the walk—it was lime green with what looked like small spines or quills covering its body. At the end of these spines where bright, vivid colors—red and yellow and blue. I hadn’t seen this caterpillar before, and when I returned home, with the help of the photos I took, I was able to spend time looking through my field guides, discovering that this was the caterpillar that would later turn into a cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia), the largest native moth in North America.

Several years ago at the top of the mountain above our village, I was hiking on an extremely foggy morning. Mornings like this many flying creatures settle to earth because nature’s “ground traffic control” has cancelled their flights. I’ve come across a kettle of kestrel and other beautiful raptors on mornings like this. That particular morning, however, it wasn’t raptors that I found but a cecropia moth clinging to a long blade of grass in a meadow. I spent more than 30 minutes photographing it, studying it, trying to express how enamored I was by its beauty. (Yes, I tend to talk to the natural world!)

I tell you this story because, like William Stafford whose example means a great deal to me, I go daily into the world simply to be with the miraculous range of human and nonhuman creatures, to observe what is unfolding, to attend to what is too often ignored. Out of this act of paying attention, I write my poems, trying to spend a few hours at my desk each day.

After a few years I begin to see the patterns of what the act of paying attention has afforded me. Once I feel the body of a book beginning to take shape, I place poems on the floor of my office and start to see what happens when a poem makes neighbors with another poem. It’s a bit like chemical reactions. Just as individual images or sounds in a poem, when juxtaposed with other images or sounds in the same poem, cause a reaction between them, so do individual poems in a collection. It’s fun to see how a poem will be transformed when it finds a particular place in a collection.

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

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Publish your poetry!

Reserve your copy of the latest (and greatest) copy of Poet’s Market today! This poetic resource includes hundreds of poetry publishing opportunities, including listings for book and chapbook publishers, literary journals, magazines, contests and awards, grants, conferences, and more! Plus, there are articles on the business of poetry, promotion of poetry, craft of poetry, poet interviews, and contemporary poems. Reserve your 2015 Poet’s Market today!

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Many of the individual poems in the collection were previously published in a variety of literary publications. How do you handle submitting your poems?

I try to keep the act of writing and all such a process entails separate from the idea of publication. I write my poems for myself—a form of meditation or prayer, a way of thinking—and I also write them with my closest friends and family in mind. After that, I’m thrilled if a poem makes its way into the world to be published and read by strangers. But I don’t want the idea of publication to control or change the way a poem is created.

Having said that, I use the other half of my brain to be fairly orderly and efficient in sending the work out. I try to send to magazines and journals whose work I’ve read. A good way to find magazines or journals that might be amenable to your work is to read the acknowledgments page in books of poetry you’ve connected with. After you have a list of places to send, get the poems in the mail and get back to writing.

This same half of my brain also deals with the rejection. I remind myself when I receive the endless rejections that come every writer’s way that the statistical probability of getting a poem accepted is incredibly low. Thus, when I get a rejection, I read the poems again and if I think they are still working, I get them quickly back into the mail to another journal. A poem can’t be published unless it’s in the hands of editors for it to be considered.

In the Kingdom of the Ditch, by Todd Davis

In the Kingdom of the Ditch, by Todd Davis

You teach creative writing, in addition to American literature and environmental studies. Could you share one or two common areas in which most students need improvement?

I truly enjoy teaching. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some amazing students. In fact, just this past two years, four of my former students have published first books of poems with very fine presses.

What I’ve noticed in my 27 years of teaching—I taught junior high and high school English before receiving my Ph.D. 19 years ago—is a decline in reading. No mystery there, given the radical technological shifts. But if someone wishes to be a writer, there’s no substitute for reading the best from the past and the best from the present.

I’ve also noticed a shift away from delayed gratification. In a consumeristic culture, we’re used to desiring something and then purchasing it. No delay to our gratification at all. However, writing demands patience. Writing rewards self-discipline, delayed gratification, the ability to toil for days, for months, even years, to finally make that poem or story “work.”

I suppose this is similar to training for an athletic event. If someone was hoping to run a 10k race, for example, they would need to put in time running on a daily basis. Many days the runs will not be great, but they’re still necessary. You never know the day you will show up and things will click and your body feels unbelievably good and suddenly you are running effortlessly, turning in your best time.

Like an athlete, I think you have to show up to your desk, knowing that many days will be a slog, nothing seeming to work. But one of those days you’ll show up and the fantastical will happen at the desk. It’s kept me coming back to my desk for many years now.

I like to share poetic forms on the Poetic Asides blog. Do you have a favorite form?

I don’t think I can pick one favorite form, but I can name two that I enjoy reading. (I don’t claim to be a good practitioner of either!) The ghazal as practiced or recreated by such contemporary poets as Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell and Jim Harrison, and the sonnet, especially as Gerard Manley Hopkins practiced it.

It was hard picking a favorite poem from In the Kingdom of the Ditch, and I was impressed by the variation of structure. Could you describe your writing process?

I think I’ve described quite a bit of this above, but I might add that reading other people’s poetry is instrumental to my writing process, as is looking at visual art. I see art as a way of not only expressing something interior in oneself, but also as a way of having a conversation with other artists (living or dead) and their art work. Many poems I’ve written have begun because of a line or image in a poem, some music I’m hearing in a line, that reminds me of, or calls forth, a narrative or a phrase or an image from my own experience.

You mention structure in your question. I’m a free verse poet, but I love all kinds of sound play. Sound is one structuring device in my poems that shapes what the poem will become. I also enjoy experimenting with different forms that grow organically out of the content and sound play. Thus, my work does take on different shapes on the page, addressing the issue of white space and order/disorder.

One poet no one knows but should—who is it?

I’m going to cheat again. I can’t name just one. Sadly, there are so many poets we don’t know about because it’s difficult to find a bookstore where you can go browse 100 books of poetry that were published in a given year.

So here’s a list of poets whose work I truly respect and that many people may not have heard of: David Shumate, Natalie Diaz, Ross Gay, Chris Dombrowski, K.A. Hays, Austin Smith, Nathaniel Perry, Rose McLarney, Jack Ridl, Mary Rose O’Reilley, Dan Gerber, Amy Fleury, and Harry Humes. And that list only scratches the surface of writers I wish I could tell everyone about.

Who (or what) are you currently reading?

Here’s a list of the books that I’ve either read or am currently reading this summer: In Poetry, The Whole Field Still Moving Inside It, by Molly Bahsaw; The Glad Hand of God Still Points Backward, by Rachel Mennies; Revising the Storm, by Geffrey Davis; It’s Day Being Gone, by Rose McLarney; Hum, by Jamaal May; in fiction, Brown Dog and The Road Home, by Jim Harrison; Blasphemy, by Sherman Alexie; Swamplandiaia!, by Karen Russell; Eight Mile High, by Jim Daniels; Light Action in the Caribbean, by Barry Lopez; The Plover, by Brian Doyle; in nonfiction, Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder; A North Country Life by Sydney Lea; A Fly Fisherman’s Blue Ridge, by Christopher Camuto; Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death, by Bernd Heinrich.

And, of course, I’m always taking off the shelf books of poems to read a poem or two in the morning by writers I return to again and again. They’re my sustenance.

If you could only share one piece of advice with fellow poets, what would it be?

I see many people get caught up in trends, writing work they think will be considered hip, publishable. I have no trouble with experimentation, with the creation of new schools of poetry, poems that push our understanding of what poetry might be. But, again, I’m referring to our hyper-consumeristic culture and the ways that mindset bleeds into the world of poetry in negative ways.

We all become dust and our books will become dust, too. (Or digital files to be lost in the grand cosmos of the digital multiverse!) I don’t say this to depress my fellow poets. I say it to remind myself (and others) that no one can predict who will be read 50 years from now, 100 years from now. So the question then becomes: what art truly moves me, and what art do I wish to spend my time creating, sending into the world, hoping it reaches some other person and impacts them in a way that changes them, moves them?

I’ve had many poems change the way I live. I suppose that’s the kind of poem I’m interested in writing. Whether that poem ultimately becomes dust and is forgotten doesn’t matter. It’s life in the here-and-now that matters. I suppose such comments are born out of my conviction that poetry is an integral part of the pattern of human community. So what kind of poem do you wish to send to that human community?

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Robert Lee Brewer is an editor with the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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Explore previous poetic posts here:

 

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10. New Literary Agent Alert: Soumeya Bendimerad of the Susan Golomb Literary Agency

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Soumeya Bendimerad of the Susan Golomb Literary Agency) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

 

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About Soumeya: Soumeya Bendimerad joined the Susan Golomb Literary Agency in 2012, where she is an agent and the director of foreign rights. Prior to that, she was a literary scout at Sanford Greenburger Associates and an associate editor at MacAdam/Cage Publishing. She is from the San Francisco Bay Area. Find her on Twitter.

(How many Twitter followers will impress an agent?)

She is seeking: She is actively seeking to represent literary fiction, upmarket/book club fiction, and select young-adult and middle grade. She is drawn to intelligent literary fiction with a fresh voice, coming of age stories, novels with elements of travel or stories set in other countries, family sagas, experiments with form, and complex but sympathetic characters. In non-fiction, she is seeking topics in popular culture, music and art history, unconventional business, politics, narrative non-fiction, sociology, cooking, travel, and memoir.

How to contact: Queries can be sent to soumeya [at] sgolombagency.com. Please include a query letter with bio, publication history, and synopsis, and the first three chapters or fifty pages. Only electronic submissions accepted. Please include the word “Query” in the subject of your email.

(How long should you wait before following up with an agent?)

 

2014-guide-to-literary-agents

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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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11. “Your First Ten Pages” Agent One-on-One Boot Camp Starts August 22. Get an Agent Critique of Your Novel Beginning

As many writers know, agents and editors won’t give your work more than ten pages or so to make an impact. If you haven’t got them hooked by then, it’s a safe bet you won’t be asked for more material. Make sure you’ve got the kind of opening they’re looking for! In this invaluable weekend event, you’ll get to work with an agent online to review and refine the first ten pages of your novel. You’ll learn what keeps an agent reading, what are the most common mistakes that make them stop, and the steps you need to take to correct them. The best part is that you’ll be working directly with an agent, who will provide feedback specific to your work.

It’s all part of the recurring popular Agent One-on-One Boot Camp called “Your First 10 Pages.” Sign up by the end of the day, August 22, 2014. It’s taught by the agents at Talcott Notch Literary.

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Here’s how it works:

On Friday morning, August 22, you will gain access to a special 60-minute online tutorial presented by agent and editor Paula Munier. It will help you clarify what you should be looking for in your work. You will also be notified by email which agent you’ll be working with on Friday. (All times noted are Eastern Time).

After listening to the presentation, you’ll spend Friday evening revising your first ten pages as necessary, given the guidelines provided in the presentation, and you’ll email those pages directly to Paula or one of four additional agents from Talcott Notch Literary, including Gina Panettieri, Rachael Dugas, and Jessica Negron, by Saturday morning at 10:00 AM (ET). They will spend all day Saturday reviewing their assigned pages and providing feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. (Sign up for the boot camp here.)

All pages with notes will be returned to participants by 11:00 AM (ET) Sunday morning. Throughout the day on Sunday, you’ll work to revise your pages based on the agent’s specific feedback. From 1:00 to 4:00 PM, Paula, Gina, Rachael, Jessica, and Sara will be available to answer questions and provide additional feedback via the Writer’s Digest University message boards. Only registered students can access these boards. You’ll also be able to ask question of your fellow students. Feel free to share your work and gain support from your peers.

By 10:00 PM (ET) Sunday night, you’ll return your final revised pages to your assigned agent for review. They will spend the next week reading the revised submissions assigned to them, and will provide a final brief one-or-two sentence critique of your progress no later than August 31. Please note that any one of them may ask for additional pages if the initial submission shows serious promise.

*Please note that all attendees should have the first 10 pages of their novel finished and ready to submit to the agent prior to the beginning of the event. (Sign up for the boot camp here.)

In addition to feedback from Paula, Gina, Rachael, or Jessica, attendees will also receive:

– A download of “An Agent’s Tips on Story Structures that Sell,” an on-demand webinar by Andrea Hurst
– 1-year subscription to the WritersMarket.com literary agent database

All sales are final. No additional discounts can be applied.

About the Agents:

Gina Panettieri is President of Talcott Notch Literary Services, and has worked as an agent for more than 20 years. She currently represents a full range of adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction, with an emphasis in fiction on YA, MG, mystery, fantasy, women’s fiction, horror and paranormal. In nonfiction, she is particularly seeking memoir, business, cooking, health and fitness, pop science, medicine, true crime and current events. Some of her clients include Nancy Holzner, author of the new Deadtown urban fantasy series from Berkley/Ace Science Fiction, Annabella Bloom, author of the Wild and Wanton edition romance hybrid classics Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights (Adams Media), Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of the bestselling and multi-award winning adoption book, The Connected Child (McGraw-Hill), and author and media personality, Dr. Seth Meyers. She currently represents an eclectic range of writers, encompassing everyone from a former head of Security and Intelligence for NATO Europe, to CEOs of major corporations and Deans of major medical schools, to stay-at-home writer moms and amazingly talented teens. Gina speaks at many conferences and writing events throughout the country on the subjects of securing an agent and getting published. Her agency website is talcottnotch.net

Paula Munier, Senior Literary Agent & Content Strategist at Talcott Notch Literary, has broad experience creating and marketing exceptional content in all formats across all markets for such media giants as Disney, Gannett, Greenspun Media Group, and Quayside. She began her career as a journalist, and along the way added editor, acquisitions specialist, digital content manager, and publishing executive to her repertoire. Before joining Talcott Notch, she served as the Director of Innovation and Acquisitions for Adams Media, a division of F&W Media, where she headed up the acquisitions team responsible for creating, curating, and producing both fiction and nonfiction for print, ebook, eshort, and direct-to-ebook formats. (Sign up for the boot camp here.)

Although she represents all kinds of projects, right now she’s looking for crime fiction, women’s fiction, romance, New Adult, YA, and middle grade fiction, as well as nonfiction in the areas of pop culture, health & wellness, cooking, self-help, pop psych, New Age, inspirational, technology, science, and writing. As a new agent she’s making her first deals now, including the New Adult trilogy, The Registry by Shannon Stoker, which sold for six figures to HarperCollins. She’s also just sold mystery, thriller, and self-help. Paula is very involved with the mystery community, having served four terms as President of the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America as well as on the MWA board. (She’s currently VP of that organization.) She’s also served as both co-chair and Agents and Editors chair on the New England Crime Bake committee for seven years and counting. And she’s an active member of Sisters in Crime.

Jessica Negron has experience working for a diverse range of publishers and publications in both an editorial and design capacity, and she is now a Junior Agent with Talcott Notch, taking on a select batch of clients. She’s interested in all kinds of YA and Adult fiction, but leans toward science fiction and fantasy (and all sub-genres), romance (the steamier, the better), and thrillers.

Rachael Dugas joined Talcott Notch Literary in 2011. During her tenure as associate agent, Rachael has judged contests and attended conferences in New York and beyond, working with groups such as Writer’s Digest, ASJA, YA Lit Chat, the National Publicity Summit, and the Hampton Roads Writers. Recent sales include titles in young adult and romance to imprints at Hachette, Perseus, and Month 9 Books. Rachael is a former Sourcebooks editorial intern and a proud Ithaca College graduate. She welcomes fiction submissions in the following categories: YA, MG, women’s fiction, contemporary and historical romance, historical fiction, and general commercial fiction. Her non-fiction wishlist includes memoir with an amazing voice and cookbooks or performing arts-related books with outstanding platforms.

Sign up for the boot camp here.

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12. 5 Mistakes Writers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

1. Thinking that your book will sell itself

I have five books published with Simon & Schuster and let me tell you: they do not walk off the shelves. I made the mistake of becoming complacent and thinking that because I had a huge publisher behind me that I didn’t need to do much PR work to promote myself. In the words of Julia Roberts: “Big mistake. Huge.”

I watched my friend and author Becky Wicks work like a demon to promote her indie book ‘Before He Was Famous’ and within 12 hours of it going live on Amazon it had sold nearly 500 copies. She worked her BUTT off for months prior building an audience, interacting on Twitter and Facebook and building a fan base from scratch. She rocks. It’s totally inspired me to do the same.

 

 

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Column by Sarah Alderson, author of five novels, the most recent of which is OUT OF CONTROL (May 2014, Simon & Schuster), a fast-paced YA thriller focus on human trafficking summed up with the tagline: “Move to a new city. Meet a hot boy. Run for your life.” Having spent most of her life in London, Sarah quit her job in the non profit sector in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her husband and toddler daughter on a mission to find a new place to call home. After almost a year spent wandering around India, Singapore, Australia and the US, they settled in Bali where Sarah now spends her days writing and trying to machete open coconuts without severing a limb. As well as Young Adult fiction, Sarah writes New Adult fiction for Pan Macmillan under the pen name Mila Gray. Her first novel, COME BACK TO ME, will be out in summer 2014. You can find all Sarah’s books on Amazon here. Connect with her on her blog or on Twitter.

If you have written a book and put it on Amazon hoping for the best then good luck with that.

If you’ve written a book for a major publisher and expected them to do the hard work for you — good luck with that.

You need to act like an indie author — a determined one — if you want to make it in the world of publishing. This means:

  • Spending at least 3 -5 hours a day on social media interacting with fans, building rapport (this doesn’t mean shoving your book down their throat but providing interesting content).
  • Studying marketing & promotion, learn everything you can about it. Now!
  • Starting at least 6 months before your book is out.

2. Thinking that people care about your life story

Unless you are an A-list celebrity or have done something truly extraordinary that makes a stranger’s jaw drop, unless it has a hook, then it’s a mistake to assume that your story is of any interest to anyone beyond your immediate circle of friends and family.

I have lost count of the number of acquaintances who’ve come to me and told me they want my help with a “great idea they want to turn into a novel.” Invariably it’s a story about their battle with cancer / divorce / trip around the world. My eyes glaze over.

If it means that much to you write it, but don’t expect it to sell. Though I’d be happy to eat my words!

3. Following trends

I made the mistake once of writing a book — a YA dystopia — because I was told that was all the rage at the Frankfurt Book fair. It was a good book but by the time I’d written it, guess what? Dystopia was yesterday’s news.

Sure, you can always fly in the face of this advice by writing something truly astonishing and amazing, but it’s more likely you won’t. My best suggestion? Write the story you want to read and don’t look at trends. They come and go.

4. Expecting overnight success with a debut novel

Sure, this happens. Occasionally. But it’s exceedingly rare. I’m on my fifth book with Simon & Schuster and am yet to earn out my advance with any of them. Sigh. And my advances weren’t even that big to begin with.

My first new adult book — Come Back To Me- is out with Pan macmillan in three weeks and that’s my first book to earn out its advance before publication thanks to foreign rights sales.

I’m hoping by the time I am on my tenth book I might be making some royalties.

5. That they’ll be able to quit their day job once they sell that first book

Industry advances are SHRINKING. My advances today are less than they ever were. Factor in that a publisher will only buy roughly one book a year (if you’re lucky) and that your agent will take 15% and the taxman another 20-30% and you’re left with… not very much.

I quit my day job, started travelling the world AND then decided to become a writer because I never researched how much authors earn. Doh.

How do I survive financially?
– I copywrite
– I have started writing screenplays and earning from that.
– I’ve optioned my books to production companies
– I’ve self-published and earn royalties from those books
– I teach / lead retreats
– I work my ass off!

I’ve had to use my creativity and imagination to find other ways to earn income in short.

 

 

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13. Your Story 61: Submit Now!

Falling-UpPrompt: Write the opening sentence (just one, of 25 words or fewer) to a story based on the photo to the left. You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Use the submission form below OR email your submission directly to yourstorycontest@fwmedia.com.

IMPORTANT: If you experience trouble with the submission form, please email your submission directly to yourstorycontest@fwmedia.com within the body of your email (no attachments, please).

Unfortunately, we cannot respond to every entry we receive, due to volume. No confirmation emails will be sent out to confirm receipt of submission. But be assured all submissions received before entry deadline are considered carefully. Official Rules

Entry Deadline: October 13, 2014

 

Your Story Entry Form

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14. Shark Week Is for Readers, Too: 10+ Books to Read this Week

JAWSEach year for one week, The Discovery Channel takes over the airwaves with a seven-day onslaught of movies, documentaries, survivor tales and semi-factual mockumentaries about sharks. As fascinating as it all is, readers are left high and dry—where are all the books about sharks? I’ve rounded up several—some classic, some campy, some for kids, some nonfiction—for those of us who want all the thrill of Shark Week, but with somewhat less screen time. (Or supplement your Discovery marathoning. There are no rules in Shark Week.)


1. Jaws

It wouldn’t be a list about shark books without the one that started it all. Peter Benchley’s classic inspired Steven Spielberg’s film, and 40 years later it’s still deeply, relentlessly terrifying. Hank Searls’ followup novelizations of Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge and Benchley’s The Deep are also highly encouraged reading for the week.

2. The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway’s tale of a Cuban fisherman going head-to-snout with a marlin is remembered for many reasons, none of which pertain to Shark Week. We should change that. The Nobel Prize in Literature is nice and all, but this week is a big deal right now, and an entirely unscientific survey I just conducted reveals that only one in several readers outside of high school has bothered to pick up The Old Man and the Sea, except when rearranging bookshelves. (That one is me. This book is worth reading any week of the year.)

Megbook3. The Meg series

You don’t have to be an especially well-read fan of megalodon lore to enjoy Steve Alten’s bestselling undersea thriller series featuring the rediscovery of the largest shark species in history. Begin at the beginning with Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, then dare yourself to tear through the next five Meg novels (The Trench, Primal Waters, Hell’s Aquarium, Nightstalkers and Origins) before you have to enter a body of water larger than a bathtub.

4. In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors

Technically, Doug Stanton’s harrowing story of the 317 men who survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis isn’t specifically about sharks. But it’s damn good reading, and a sufficient quantity of sharks are involved in the story to include it on this list.

5. Sharks! by National Geographic Kids

Sharks are scary, but they’re also super-cool. If you have a small person who enjoys reading, consider picking this title up on your next trip to the library. Or check it out for yourself—no one dislikes 32 pages of cool facts about sharks.

Nugget and Fang6. Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever–or Snack Time?

So maybe stories about vicious attacks or details about shark migration are a little too advanced for some kids. Fortunately for them, there is Tammi Sauer and Michael Slack’s adorable little story about vegetarian sharks who make friends with a school of minnows.

7. Shark Girl 

Kelly Bingham’s debut young adult novel chronicles the life of a girl who has lost her arm to a shark attack, and then must return to high school with a prosthesis to face the potential mockery of her fellow classmates. Shark Girl is less shark-centric than, say, Meg, but more personal and introspective than most other books on this list. And as a young adult novel in verse, it’s possible that Shark Girl is the only book (so far) about a shark-attack-survivor in high school that also rhymes. (Joking aside, Bingham’s work here is impressive and award-winning, and worth reading even outside the brief moment that is Shark Week.)

BAIT8. Bait

If you put four drug addicts on an island, heroin on a nearby island, and a shiver of sharks between, what happens? This is the premise of J. Kent Messum’s award-winning first novel, Bait. You’ll have to find out for yourself what happens after that.

9. The Secret Life of Sharks

For every myth Jaws perpetuated, Pete Klimley debunked three in his celebrated collection of real facts about sharks—what they eat, when, how they raise their young, when and how they migrate. From hammerheads to great whites, there are few books as full of firsthand data on shark behavior.

10. Shark Fin Soup

There are few books more appropriate for this week than Susan Klaus’ thriller about a man who avenges his wife’s murder at the hands of shark finners by becoming an ecoterrorist called Captain Nemo. Nemo’s methods may be suspect, but his heart is in the right place.

There’s no way to include every book about sharks on this list. What are your favorites?


headshotWD

Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.

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15. Successful Queries: Agent Katie Shea Boutillier and “THE ART OF FALLING”

This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The 69th installment in this series is with agent Katie Shea Boutillier (Donald Maass Literary) for Kathryn Craft’s novel, THE ART OF FALLING (2014, Sourcebooks Landmark). Kirkus said of the book, “Craft’s debut novel lovingly traces the aesthetics of movement and gently explores the shattering pain of despair. A sensitive study of a woman choreographing her own recovery.”

Kathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks Landmark: The Art of Falling, and While the Leaves Stood Still (Spring 2015). She works as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com and serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers Conference, as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, hosts writing retreats for women, and speaks often about writing. Find her on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY: Kathryn is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

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Dear Katie Shea:

She had the talent, she had the drive, and she had the opportunity. Only one thing stood between Penelope Sparrow and the dance career of her dreams: her imperfect body. When she wakes up in a Philadelphia hospital after what should have been a deadly fourteen-story fall, Penelope pushes through the pain to move again. That’s what dancers do. Harder to surmount is the dark possibility of what happened out on that ledge, hinted at by each muscle memory she triggers. She can no longer dance around her body issues: the same “sturdy thighs” and “mambo hips” that derailed her have now saved her life, and whether she can use them to create a more meaningful career becomes a fight to save her soul.

THE ART OF FALLING draws on aspects of my past: as both dancer and dance critic, as the wife of a suicide victim, and as a modern woman bombarded by advice about how to achieve the perfect body. Dance is a hot pop culture phenomenon in top-rated television (Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance), award-winning film (Black Swan), and bestselling nonfiction (Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans). Body image issues continue to make headlines and inform advertising choices (Dove’s “Campaign for Beauty”). The story will offer hope to readers with displaced careers who are now trying to reconnect with their passions. In style, it will resonate with the readers of Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, and Elizabeth Berg.

I’ve had short pieces published, both fiction and creative nonfiction, and I’m a contributing editor at The Blood-Red Pencil blog. The Sewanee Writers’ Conference accepted my work; I studied there with Pulitzer Prize nominee Diane Johnson and National Book Award winner Alice McDermott. I serve on the boards of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, and speak often on a variety of writing topics.

I’m seeking an agent who shares my enthusiasm for upmarket fiction driven by women’s issues. Emily Rapoport, Associate Editor at Berkley Publishing Group, is currently reviewing the full manuscript, which is complete at 99,700 words and ready to send. Congratulations on your new position at the Maass agency. My newly revised manuscript benefited from my three-day interaction with Don and his wife Lisa at The Write Stuff conference last March. Thanks so much, in advance, for your consideration. The synopsis and first five pages follow my signature block.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Craft
Katie’s breakdown:

Paragraph 1: This is an awesome first sentence. It connects me to the main character immediately. By the second sentence I’m hooked. A conflict has been presented. Then she gives me the setting and a tragic event that happened to the main character. Something quite unusual! Kathryn does such a lovely job incorporating Penny’s struggle for movement to her personal struggle to connect with her passion and to herself. She leaves this paragraph with me wondering what will happen to Penelope Sparrow?

Paragraph 2: Kathryn makes a personal connection to her novel with her background and her life experiences. I always love seeing this! Kathryn connects her novel with the universe by using her dance and body image hook. She then narrows her writing style as similar to best-selling authors.

Paragraph 3: Kathryn has a strong platform, has worked with highly respected published authors, and has a great following among other writers.

Paragraph 4: Mentioning that an editor is already looking at it is always a plus to agents. We love to know that others in our industry are interested in reading this novel. Then congratulations—how sweet! This is a smart move by Kathryn. It shows that she has researched me and knows my most recent career move. Kathryn makes another smart connection to my boss, Donald Maass, and shows that she used his teachings of how to write a novel to get where she is today.

GIVEAWAY: Kathryn is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton’s guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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16. Writing and Selling Middle Grade Fiction – AUG 14 Webinar With Jennifer Laughran

jlaughran-2012-photoWriting a Middle Grade novel can be fun, but writing a sellable Middle Grade novel can be a bit more challenging. Knowing the market is just as important as coming up with an great idea and writing an amazing novel. This webinar is here to help you do both of those things and more.

In this live 90-minute webinar — titled “Writing and Selling Middle Grade Fiction” —  instructor and literary agent Jennifer Laughran will talk about what’s happening in the exciting Middle Grade market, as well as examine some recently published titles to see what they got right. She’ll also talk revision tips and tricks to help you take your work-in-progress to the next level — she’ll also critique either your query letter or the first 500 pages of your MG novel. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, August 14, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • U9476What’s selling in Middle Grade… and what just isn’t.
  • The all-important “Hook”, and what “High Concept” looks like
  • Finding the elusive Middle Grade Voice
  • Common mistakes of Middle Grade submissions
  • Overused beginnings and clichés that can drag down a work
  • How to polish your work and stand out from the slush pile
  • What “core curriculum” guidelines for schools might mean for your book

INSTRUCTOR

Jennifer Laughran is a senior agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, the oldest children’s-only agency in the US. Before she joined the agency in 2008, she spent about a decade as a children’s book buyer and event coordinator for various successful bookstores. Her many years of experience in the children’s book field have made her one of the top kid’s book agents working today. She reps picture books through YA, but has a particular love for Middle Grade novels — the warmer and funnier the better. Clients include Daniel Pinkwater, Kate Messner, Jo Whittemore, Linda Urban, and many debut authors whose names you’ll know soon!

ABOUT THE CRITIQUE

All registrants are invited to submit EITHER the query letter OR the first 500 words of their complete / work-in-progress middle grade novel for critique. All submissions are guaranteed a written critique by literary agent Jennifer Laughran. Jennifer reserves the right to request more writing from attendees by e-mail following the event, if she deems the writing excellent.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

  • Writers currently writing or querying a middle grade novel
  • Published or unpublished authors considering making the jump to middle grade fiction writing
  • Writers who have been rejected by agents and editors, and want to evaluate why their novel didn’t make the cut
  • Writers who want a professional critique by a literary agent

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17. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 275

For this week’s prompt, write an upside down poem. Of course, the poem could be about something (or someone) being physically turned upside down, but it could also be a symbolic reversal of the roles or change in how things are commonly done. Or you can just write a poem, print it out, and yes, turn it upside down. Poem as you will.

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

*****

Publish Your Poetry!

Learn how to get your poetry published with the latest (and greatest) edition of Poet’s Market. The 2015 Poet’s Market is filled with articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, in addition to poet interviews and original poetry by contemporary poets.

Plus, the book is filled with hundreds of listings for poetry book publishers, chapbook publishers, magazines, journals, contests, grants, conferences, and more!

Click to continue.

*****

Here’s my attempt at an Upside Down Poem:

“war”

the final shot fired
& everyone raced

to pack their guns
& disarm bombs

before rushing to
the town squares

for the musicians
& poets ready

with their songs
& poems & dance

& grudges fell
away like clothes

so that no one
remembered why

the first shot fired

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, Robert has been a featured poet at events across the country and is married to poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets. He’s written and shared more than 600 original poems on this blog over the years.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic happenstance here:

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18. 3 Tips for Writing on a Deadline

Martha_CarrBY MARTHA CARR

When I was a new writer and no one had commented on any of the words I’d strung together, the idea of a deadline seemed romantic. If I had a deadline that meant someone must have liked something I wrote and someone else must have asked for more.

Fortunately, all of that came true and I have had the pleasure of writing for The Washington Post and The New York Times and have had several books published.

However, a deadline also means a lot of responsibility and for writers with busy lives a due date can seem daunting, especially when talking about an entire book.

One thing became clear: Failing to turn in a manuscript on time has real-world consequences—not only for you as a writer, but also for everyone who’s waiting on your words of wisdom. There are publishing schedules and marketing strategies that are set up with the idea that you’re a professional writer who keeps your word. Miss a deadline without a good excuse and your peers will start to operate off the idea that you’re not very professional. If you’re not also a brilliant writer who says things that make everyone have to pay attention, your career may be short-lived.

But it’s not so easy to write on a deadline. You have to create a work plan, even know if you’re on time, ahead of schedule or dangerously close to not meeting a deadline. You also have to become your own project manager and figure out how to create a writing schedule that can breathe and change with your life. As you’ve probably already seen just as soon as you make a schedule someone else throws a wrench in it and you’re off doing something else for a little while.

I wrote my first three books raising a son on my own and then taking care of two elderly parents.

There were plenty of times I sat in a doctor’s office or thought about what to make for dinner for everyone while thinking about plotlines. I wanted to remain present and cheerful for family and friends, but for that to happen I had to find a strategy that would allow me to write and meet deadlines.

That strategy wound up consisting of three crucial steps:

1) You have to be reasonable with yourself and set realistic expectations.

How fast do you actually write? How much time can you realistically devote to writing in a day? How many days a week can you write without neglecting other areas of your life? Crunching these numbers will give you a framework for setting realistic expectations.

The good news is, even with small pieces of time it’s still possible to write a good book without years passing. I’ve been writing the books in The Wallis Jones series fairly quickly although I also have a lot going on in a day and even want to plan in a social life.

2) Ask yourself whether you can produce the manuscript or article in time.

Be realistic. Look at the total page count that’s needed and at the deadline, and count up the days before the deadline. Can you write enough pages per day to meet the deadline? If not, you’re going to have to either find a few extra days of writing or have a conversation with your editor, sooner rather than later. Sometimes, that’s necessary and shows that you’re on top of things and willing to work as a team member.  Not doing so can cause doors to slam closed.

My own answer turned out to be that I could write about three double-spaced pages in a day, three days a week.

3) To meet deadlines, you’ll need to glue yourself to your seat until that minimum number is hit.

If you’ve been reasonable with yourself, it may not always be pleasant, but it’s doable. In my case, sometimes, the words come so easily and I’m having such a good time working on my newest book, The Circle, that a lot more gets written. Sometimes, every single word feels like it was pulled out of somewhere murky and I struggle to hit three pages. However, I still do it and when the three pages are done, I get up and go find something else to do.

 

The last thing to keep in mind is something I mentioned earlier: Make sure that you’re still having at least a little fun and staying present with the people in your life. Both will feed your writing and make you feel more balanced in general. Then, writing and deadlines are a healthy part of your life, which will inevitably show in your work.


The Keeper front cover

Martha Randolph Carr is the author of 4 books including The List — the first in her Wallis Jones political thriller series.  A professional copywriter and editor, she has written a weekly, nationally syndicated column on politics and life that has run on such political hotspots as TheModerateVoice.com and Politicus.com.

Her work has run regularly in such venerable publications as The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune and Newsweek.

Martha is also a melanoma survivor, a Chi runner and an occasional skydiver — not to mention a descendant of Thomas Jefferson!

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19. Reviewing Poetry Books: Why Does It Matter?

Please welcome the incredible Jeannine Hall Gailey to the blog! She’s going to cover a topic that I don’t feel gets enough coverage: poetry book reviews.

I’m enjoying the guest posts on this blog, but they can only continue with your participation. If you have an idea, send it my way at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com, and we’ll work to flesh it out. No idea is too big, too small, or too “out there.” Okay, maybe some are, but I won’t judge.

*****

I recently had just this conversation over coffee with a colleague: Why do you write book reviews? I’ve been reviewing poetry books for almost a decade now, mostly (luckily) books I’ve loved, a few books I’ve been indifferent about, and very few books I’ve hated.

Does it benefit you in any way? Does it help your writing career? What do you gain from it?

All perfectly valid questions, and, easy to understand. Most of my reviews are unpaid, though I’ve been paid for a portion of them. It’s a lot of time and effort to spend lifting up someone else’s work, without a lot of reward – I mean, very few authors or publishers write me happy notes, saying “Thank you so much for that thoughtful review!”

Why Review Poetry Books?

The reward, I started to say, was being part of the larger critical conversation, where, let’s face it, not enough women are being heard. Reviewing teaches you to be a close and careful reader of books by writers I admire and respect, tests your aesthetic preferences and prejudices, and encourages you to slow down and pay attention to the poetry world around you, what’s being published, and by whom, what isn’t being published and why.

For instance, Copper Canyon Press and Wave Books are both Northwest publishers, but they have very different aesthetics. You learn something about publishers and publishing trends that might help you when you start sending your book around.

But even more than that, someone said to me in my late twenties, “If you want your poetry book to be reviewed, then you’d better review other people’s books.” In the spirit of paying it forward, we writers need to give back to our literary communities in real, concrete ways, and writing reviews is one of the ways we can do that.

In the same way that volunteering to edit at a literary magazine helps you understand the process of rejection and acceptance, reviewing helps you understand why your own book may or may not be reviewed.

How Do I Know If I Can Write Book Reviews?

Another question I’ve gotten a lot comes from a different angle: “How do I know if I’m qualified to write a book review? I mean, I have an MFA, but…” I hear this all the time.

How do you start writing literary criticism? I started out getting a lot of practice, starting at NewPages.com reviewing literary magazines, and from there I just kept practicing, writing for more and more outlets, some more chatty, others more academic.

If you want to learn how to review a book, read the reviews in some of the literary magazines you already enjoy, but also pick up The New York Times Review of Books, The Women’s Review of Books, Poetry Flash, The Review Review, and The American Book Review. Find and read the reviews from some of our best poetry critics, like Stephen Burt, one of my particular “critic heroes.”

Check out some of the more lively online review venues, like The Rumpus, to see what the hipsters are reading and reviewing (but full disclosure: I review for The Rumpus and cannot, strictly, be called any kind of hipster). After all that reading, you’ll have a good feel for what’s required, so just try your hand, practice, and send out some queries!

There are never enough good poetry reviews out there, and despite my aforementioned lack of poetry review thank-you-notes, authors will be grateful!

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey

*****

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the former Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington, and the author of three books of poetry, Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers.

In addition to being a great poet and supporter of poetry, including a guest judge for the 2014 April PAD Challenge on Day 27, she wrote a very generous review of Robert Lee Brewer’s debut collection, Solving the World’s Problems, in the most recent edition of Crab Creek Review. And Robert is very grateful!

Learn more about Jeannine (and buy some books) at her website: www.webbish6.com.

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

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20. How to Land HighPaying Writing Gigs in the Christian Market

Are you a Christian? Would you like to get paid well to write for things you’re passionate about? The demand for good writers in the Christian market has never been higher. Contrary to popular belief, it’s easier than ever to find writing gigs that pay very well by tapping into the $1.7 trillion Christian industry. All you need to know is where clients are and how to land them.

Listen to Joshua T. Boswell — a minister, highly-paid writer, devoted husband, and father of 11 children — on this FREE webinar. You’ll learn what the best paying opportunities are for Christian writers, what you can expect to make for each of the projects, where to find the clients, how to land the work, and more!

INSTRUCTOR:

Joshua T. Boswell is a copywriter, author of Secrets of Writing for the Christian Market, creator of Six-Figures in Six Months: Mastering the Art of Self-Marketing as a Copywriter, an ordained minister, and Advisory Board member of AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc.), the world’s leading trainer of direct-response copywriters.

A marketer with over 19 years of experience in business development and direct marketing, Joshua has written for and spearheaded successful million-dollar campaigns for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ChildFund International, Sony, Microsoft, GM, and dozens of other organizations. He regularly speaks and writes on topics ranging from landing high-paying writing clients to successful web-marketing strategies.

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21. Writing and Selling Middle Grade Fiction — August 14 Webinar (With Critique) by Agent Jennifer Laughran

Middle Grade books are generally defined as being books for children aged 8-12…. and at the moment, these books are hot-hot-hot. From the commercial successes of titles like DIARY OF A WIMPY KID and Rick Riordan’s LIGHTNING THIEF saga, to more “literary” award-winning fare, it seems most publishers are seeking the next great Middle Grade success story. But middle grade is also a tough category to write for. Much of what appears in the slush pile is cheesy or derivative, or just lacks “spark.” So what makes a great Middle Grade novel? What is selling? What are agents and editors looking for? And how can you make your book stand out and shine?

In this live webinar, “Writing and Selling Middle Grade Fiction,” instructor and literary agent Jennifer Laughran (of Andrea Brown Literary) will talk about what’s happening in the exciting Middle Grade market, as well as examine some recently published titles to see what they got right. She’ll also talk revision tips and tricks to help you take your work-in-progress to the next level. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Aug 14, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes.

Screen shot 2014-08-09 at 5.15.20 PM U9476

 

ABOUT THE CRITIQUE

All registrants are invited to submit EITHER the query letter OR the first 500 words of their complete / work-in-progress middle grade novel for critique. All submissions are guaranteed a written critique by literary agent Jennifer Laughran. Jennifer reserves the right to request more writing from attendees by e-mail following the event, if she deems the writing excellent.

Please Note: Even if you can’t attend the live webinar, registering for this live version will enable you to receive the On Demand webinar and a personal critique of your material. Purchasing the On Demand version after the live event will not include a critique.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

– What’s selling in Middle Grade… and what just isn’t.
– The all-important “Hook”, and what “High Concept” looks like
– Finding the elusive Middle Grade Voice
– Common mistakes of Middle Grade submissions
– Overused beginnings and clichés that can drag down a work
– How to polish your work and stand out from the slush pile
– What “core curriculum” guidelines for schools might mean for your book. Sign up for the webinar here.

INSTRUCTOR

Jennifer Laughran is a senior agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, the oldest children’s-only agency in the US. Before she joined the agency in 2008, she spent about a decade as a children’s book buyer and event coordinator for various successful bookstores. Her many years of experience in the children’s book field have made her one of the top kid’s book agents working today. She reps picture books through YA, but has a particular love for Middle Grade novels — the warmer and funnier the better. Clients include Daniel Pinkwater, Kate Messner, Jo Whittemore, Linda Urban, and many debut authors whose names you’ll know soon!

Sign up for the webinar here.

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22. New Literary Agent Alert: Stacy Testa of Writers House

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Stacy Testa of Writers House) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

 

agent-satcy-testa

About Stacy: Stacy joined Writers House in 2011 as an assistant to senior agent Susan Ginsburg and has been actively building her own client list since 2013. Previously, she interned at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Whimsy Literary. Stacy graduated cum laude with a BA in English from Princeton University. Follow her on Twitter: @stacy_testa.

(If an agent rejects you, are they open to reviewing your revised submission?)

She is seeking: Stacy is looking for literary fiction and upmarket commercial women’s fiction, particularly character-driven stories with an international setting, historical bent, or focus on a unique subculture. She also represents realistic young adult (no dystopian or paranormal, please!). For nonfiction, she is particularly interested in young “millennial” voices with a great sense of humor and a strong platform, startling and unique memoirs, and voice-driven narratives about little-known historical moments.

How to submit: Please submit your query, including the first five pages of your manuscript pasted into the body of the email (no attachments), to stesta [at] writershouse.com. Please do not query multiple Writers House agents simultaneously.

 

2014-guide-to-literary-agents

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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23. The Rules of Writing According to 20 Famous Writers

Karin Daiziel via Flickr CC licenseFew professions are as solitary yet as full of advice as writing. You do it alone, usually, but everyone you meet is an expert in what writers do, don’t do, should do, always do, never do, can’t do… Even Anne Rice, who shares her thoughts about rules below, once noted that her doctor advised her to change the title of Interview with the Vampire, to which her son, author Christopher Rice, quipped, “And he went on to write 23 bestsellers.”

Being that writing is such a strange job, if there are rules, they should come from those who do the job, too. Here, 20 bestselling classic and contemporary storytellers share their rules for writers. To kick things off, let’s use this shiny gem of good advice from Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay: “Ignore all of this as you see fit.”

1. Elmore Leonard for The New York Times:

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

And:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

2. R. L. Stine at ThrillerFest 2014:

I write for kids, and I think there are definitely rules for when you write for kids. People are always asking me, “How do you know how not to go too far?” And I have one rule that I always follow seriously, and that rule is that the kid has to know it’s not real. I keep the real world out. The kid has to know that it’s a creepy fantasy and it isn’t something that can happen. And then I feel like I can do the story, because the kid knows that it’s just a story and they’re safe in their rooms reading it.

3. Margaret Atwood for The Guardian:

You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

4. William Faulkner to an American fiction class:

I would say to get the character in your mind. Once he is in your mind, and he is right, and he’s true, then he does the work himself. All you need to do then is to trot along behind him and put down what he does and what he says. It’s the ingestion and then the gestation. You’ve got to know the character. You’ve got to believe in him. You’ve got to feel that he is alive, and then, of course, you will have to do a certain amount of picking and choosing among the possibilities of his action, so that his actions fit the character which you believe in. After that, the business of putting him down on paper is mechanical.

5. Zadie Smith via Brain Pickings:

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

6. Scott Turow at ThrillerFest 2014:

I think that you must be aware of the existing conventions. … That does not mean that you cannot reinvent them in your own way.

7. Jonathan Franzen for The Guardian:

Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.

8. Anne Rice at ThrillerFest 2014:

I don’t think there are any universal rules. I really don’t. We each make our own rules, and we stick to our rules and we abide by them, but you know rules are made to be broken. … [If] any rule you hear from one writer doesn’t work for you, disregard it completely. Break it. Do what you want to do. I have my own rules that I follow, but they’re not necessarily going to work for other writers. … The only universal rule is to write. Get it done, and do what works for you. There’s nothing sadder than someone sitting there and trying to apply a lot of rules that are not turning that person on and are not stimulating and are not making a novel.

9. Kurt Vonnegut, from his short story “Bagumbo Snuff Box”:

Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

10. Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats via io9:

Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

11. Neil Gaiman via Brain Pickings:

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

12. Alice Walker in an interview with Writer’s Digest:

[Y]ou have a right to express what you see and what you feel and what you think. To be bold. To be as bold with your vision as you can possibly be. Our salvation, to the extent that we have one, will come out of people realizing the crisis of our species and of the planet and offering their deepest dream of what’s possible.

13. Ernest Hemingway for Esquire, 1935:

When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. … I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

14. Dave Barry in an interview:

Don’t be boring. [N]othing else that we try to do in journalism will work, if people don’t read it. … What readers know is that they could also watch television, or go outside, or just put the paper down. So it’s really important to keep them reading you. And I think that should be the most important rule.

15. Eudora Welty, from “Place in Fiction“:

One can no more say, “To write stay home,” than one can say, “To write leave home.” It is the writing that makes its own rules and conditions for each person.

16. John Steinbeck for The Paris Review, 1975:

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

17. From Henry Miller’s stringent daily routine:

Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

18. Rainbow Rowell for novelicious:

Don’t worry even a little bit whether your book is on trend. All the trends will be trending differently by the time you get published, so it’s pointless to overthink it while you’re writing.

19. Annie Dillard, from her book The Writing Life:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

20. Joyce Carol Oates via Twitter:

Best tip for writers: not to listen to any silly tips for writers.


headshotWDAdrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo

 

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24. Laurie Kolp: Poet Interview

I would ask readers to welcome Laurie Kolp, but most of you already know her as a long-time part of the Poetic Asides community. She’s placed in a few of the WD Poetic Form Challenges, and some of you may know her debut poetry collection Upon the Blue Couch was published earlier this year by Winter Goose Publishing.

Laurie Kolp

Laurie Kolp

Laurie is an award-winning poet with numerous publications, some of which include Poets & Artists, iARTistas, and MiPOesias (GOSS183 Publishing Group), Writer’s Digest, Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet, Deep Water Literary Journal, cho, Miller’s Pond, The Fib Review; forthcoming in Pirene’s Fountain, Concho River Review and Blue Fifth Review. She serves as vice-president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers, and lives in Southeast Texas with her husband, three kids and two dogs. To learn more, please visit her website http://lauriekolp.com.

Here is one of my favorite poems from Upon the Blue Couch:

When I Was a Worm, by Laurie Kolp

I dug a hole to China
in search of
William Shakespeare,

my self-worth
a shot of Tequila
in a never-ending well,

and I found myself
in the bottom of the pit,
swinging my legs
from the last
blade of grass,

rotting with each
passing breath.

*****

What are you currently up to?

This has been a different kind of summer for my three kids and me. We’re used to hanging out with my mom… going to movies and out to lunch, or just visiting. You know she passed away in March after a very brief but intense illness. I’ve scaled back on some of my online poem sharing so that I can help them adjust (and vice versa). Plus, my dad finally said it was okay to start going through 30 years and four bedrooms full of Mom’s stuff, so my sister and I have slowly but surely been doing that.

At the beginning of the summer, I chaperoned my middle child’s Future Problem Solving (FPS) group to internationals in Iowa. We met people from many different countries at Iowa State University… my son’s group of four middle-schoolers who placed 2nd in state, an individual who placed 1st, an alternate, and a high school senior. The teacher and I were the only “official” adults. Everyone enjoyed it immensely.

Then I turned around and it was time to travel to North Carolina, after which I attended the Texas Poetry Society’s summer conference. Now I’m preparing for three birthdays this month and back to school. Whew.

I believe I was at your first reading, but you’ve been busy recently—even getting out to Hickory, North Carolina. Do you have any reading advice for other poets who are new to it? Or do you have something you try to focus on when you’re reading?

Yes, the first time I ever read one of my poems to an audience was the beginning of October, 2011 when I drove 75 miles to hear you read in Webster, TX. I had no plans of reading anything… I just wanted to meet you in person. After all, Poetic Asides was where I first felt comfortable sharing my poems on the Internet and you’ve always been such an inspiration. An open mic followed your reading, and you encouraged me to sign up. Thank you so much for that, Robert!

Fortunately, I just happened to have a few poems in my bag. I read I Am the Sea, which had recently won third place for your sonnet form challenge. I felt all trembly and nervous inside, but when the audience liked it, I stepped back in line to read a second poem.

Poetry Hickory was amazing. Let me tell you how it happened. I’ve met some dear friends on Poetic Asides, 12 of whom I participated with for years in a daily sharing/critique online poetry group; Nancy Posey is one of them. When Upon the Blue Couch was released, Nancy contacted me with a wild idea… wouldn’t it be neat if I came to read at Poetry Hickory and stayed with her? Much to my surprise, Scott Owens then invited me and the dream became a reality. Jane Shlensky drove down for the event, too. What a magical evening I’ll never, ever forget.

My advice to poets new to reading their work consists of a few small things that I think make a big difference. Plan ahead and practice reading the poems out loud. Pique the audience’s interest. Think about what you want to share about each poem before you read it… something as simple as, “This poem was inspired by the three men with plumber’s butts I saw sitting side by side on the beach while looking down from Pleasure Pier.”

When I’m reading, I find a few people in the audience who seem half-way interested, perhaps a few smiling real big like Nancy and Jane. Then I make eye contact with those people. There are always a few expressionless listeners who, if I don’t look away, will start my mind wondering if I’m really that horrible. So I try to delve into my words and focus on the positive.

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*****

Your collection Upon the Blue Couch has been a fun read—at times silly, romantic, serious, and beautiful. How did you go about collecting and organizing these poems?

Thank you, Robert! The poems in this collection were amassed through many years of writing about my past. At one point, I even wrote my memoir in the third person, and then did nothing with it except to share it with a few close friends. I still felt compelled to write about some of the things I’d been through, either personally or second-hand, and my poems always seemed to come from that desire. I wanted to offer my experience, strength and hope to others. Since the theme is a comfortable blue couch that has been the common thread of a woman’s journey through adulthood, I decided to arrange the poems chronologically.

Upon the Blue Couch, by Laurie Kolp.

Upon the Blue Couch, by Laurie Kolp.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you in the process of getting your collection published?

Well, the first hurrah came with the acceptance from my publisher, Winter Goose Publishing; but walking through the creative process, which I call a tug-of-war… the endless hours of writing more poems and then throwing them out, editing and revising, arranging and rearranging, self-discovery and self-doubt… and watching all my hard work come to fruition after more than a year of waiting has been amazing.

In retrospect, the delay in publication was a gift because in the meantime, my mother died, and I was able to add a section in the back which really completed the book.

Receiving my copy in the mail and holding it in my hand, caressing the cover and reading the poems as if I’d never seen them before… that was the greatest feeling in the world.

As you know, I like to share poetic forms on the Poetic Asides blog. Do you have a favorite form?

I love the poetry form challenges, Robert. I just wish I had time to participate in each one. They’re a wonderful opportunity to stretch out of my comfort zone and write my way into the poem’s certain parameters and specifications. I feel like following the formula is the closest I’ll ever get to wanting to work a math problem. It’s a challenge I welcome!

Of course, I really like the forms where I placed: tritina (1st ), nonet ( 2nd ), sonnet (3rd), kyrielle ( 4th place), triversen (top 10); but I like others, such as the fib, haibun, sestina (I know, I know), palindrome, and ghazal. Found poetry/erasure is one of my very favorites, though.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in The Found Poetry Review’s Pulitzer Remix April of 2013, where I wrote 30 found poems from John Updike’s Rabbit At Rest. Whew. What a month that was, as I also participated in your PAD. I was so happy when you announced your found poems challenge for your own poetry book, Solving the World’s Problems.

By the way, I really appreciate your putting together the list of poetic forms all in one place… what a wonderful resource!

What do you enjoy more—writing or revising poems?

That’s a toughie. I really like the urgency that accompanies the writing of a draft. I need to get this out, I need to write these words, I need to make this point… whatever the need may be at the time. But the revising is where I gain the most pleasure. I love watching my poems grow from various stages like a child maturing into an adult. The process of stepping away from the poem for a few weeks and then going back, feeling less emotionally attached to it and willing to let some of it go… isn’t that a lot like parenting?

Just as we as humans change throughout life, my poems are always forking off into different directions. I never know how they will end up. My muse can be very bodacious, you know.

One poet no one knows but should—who is it?

Gretchen Johnson, an English Instructor at my hometown college, Lamar University. I recently finished her poetry collection, A Trip Through Downer, Minnesota. I love her work.

Who (or what) are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading The Sea-Wolf, by Jack London. My sister, who teaches high school English, dropped off some classics for us to read over the summer. It’s been a joy. I also reread To Kill A Mockingbird. As far as poetry goes, After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, edited by Tom Lombardo, has most recently captivated my heart (I have a soft spot for all things recovery).

If you could only share one piece of advice with fellow poets, what would it be?

Wear a suit of armor and persevere. Never, ever give up.

******

Robert Lee Brewer is an editor with the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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25. PUNch Out

You’re in an epic pun off; whit is spewing out of your mouth and your opponent’s mouth with punishing purpose. What are some sweet puns you could use to really wipe the smile off your opponent’s face? Make sure not to frown on the worst of puns either—they’re all beautiful. Write this scene and battle of puns.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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