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1. Quotes About Writing, Part III

As a gift to other authors around Christmas, I like to print some of my favorite quotes about writing. This is the third grouping of quotes to make it on my blog. Enjoy!

“The fact is that almost everything that almost everyone has ever done to make money from the arts—including the old ways of making money from the arts—mostly didn’t work. We always look back on artistic incomes with what economists call survivor bias. We look at the people who succeeded and not the people who failed.” — Cory Doctorow

“What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” — Stephen King

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” — Mary Heaton Vorse

“I think the difficult thing with learning how to write is not learning the style or rules, but figuring out what story you want to tell.” — Ransom Riggs

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” — Agatha Christie

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.” — Virginia Woolf

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know that’s not true.” — Professor Robert Wilensky

“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” — Flannery O’Connor

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest people of past centuries.” — Descartes


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2. On-the-Spot Research for Writing Historicals

When I write historical fiction, I know any success I might have in recreating an era for my readers largely hinges on my getting the details right. I relied heavily on research when writing The Glass Inheritance, my mystery novel involving Depression era glassware, and found it invaluable to visit historically significant sites from the Great Depression and World War II era. I toured a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming, Pearl Harbor, two concentration camps in Germany, and three Holocaust museums, among other sites. Such travel isn’t always financially feasible, but I’ve discovered local sites offer a wealth of information and inspiration also.

Just this summer I toured a Victorian mansion here in the Midwest and was thrilled to see the museum had a bowl of calling cards near the door. Because I had read in Victorian era novels about characters dropping off their calling cards at one another’s houses, I recognized what the cards were. The tour guide allowed me to pick the cards up and look through them even though the cards were authentic, not reproductions.

calling cards

Some of the cards clearly came from a printer as is, but others appeared to be homemade or had the owner’s name stenciled in after printing. They were all works of art compared with today’s business cards.

Holding these cards gave me insight and inspiration I doubt I would have drawn from just reading about them. I may choose to write a story involving calling cards and have more assurance now of getting the details right.


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3. Tough Stuff in Children’s Books

The Guardian recently published an article stating that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Pioneer Girl will be released soon. In the book, Wilder wrote about her childhood growing up in the 1800s on the frontier. Pioneer Girl was rejected by publishers, so Wilder rewrote it and sold the resulting stories as the now-famous Little House on the Prairie books. Publishers had deemed parts of Pioneer Girl unfit for children, such as the story of a drunken man who accidentally killed himself when trying to light a cigar and having the liquor on his breath catch fire and the story of a shopkeeper who dragged his wife around by the hair and set their bedroom on fire.

I’m sure Wilder really witnessed these horrific events and felt compelled to include them in Pioneer Girl when trying to accurately relate her life on the frontier. The reality is that children around the world face tough stuff like this. Those who make it to adulthood completely untouched by violence or other ugly behaviors must be few and far between. We can’t completely protect children, but should writers for children include such tough stuff in their stories?

I’m torn on this. For children who are living in tough situations, maybe it helps to read about other children in similar situations. They might be able to identify with characters more and feel more inclined to read about children who are struggling about bigger issues than finding a lost bike or securing a date for prom.

On the other hand, maybe a child in a tough situation would give anything to get away from that, even if it’s just the temporary escape of a light read.

I’ve written about both the tough stuff and the light and found the light stuff (especially humor) easier to sell. I think publishers are more receptive of the tough stuff (often even welcome it) in young adult books but are less receptive of it in books for younger children. A big part of the decision has to be about how the writer handles the topic and why. What is the point in exposing a child to ugliness or violence? I think a writer who chooses to tackle tough stuff in children’s books should offer hope to the reader or some possibility of resolution in the end.


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4. Still Selling

In my last post, I noted that I haven’t been writing much since taking on full-time work as a proofreader/copy editor and that I’ve had some strange sales that have led me to believe God is nudging me to get back to writing. Well, I have another strange sale to add to the list.  One of my fiction stories was recently published in a magazine, and I can’t even remember when I submitted it. It must have been four or five years ago. The story was one I had already sold to two magazines so I must have submitted it to this magazine to sell reprint rights. Anyway, a copy of the magazine with my story in it arrived in the mail, along with payment. I didn’t even know the publisher had accepted it.

Many publishers no longer respond to a submission if they aren’t interested, so if I haven’t heard from them in three months, I usually figure my submission was rejected. Some publishers say they’ll hold on to submissions for future consideration, but in my experience, that usually means up to a year wait. I’ve never had anyone hold on to a submission for four or five years.

I’m not complaining, and I can take a clue. I spent last weekend writing a short story, finished it, and sent it off to an e-zine that pays. I typically submit only to traditional magazines, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the e-zine.

I think I’ll write next weekend too. :)

 


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5. Checking the Spam Box

I hadn’t checked the spam box on my e-mail account in years (I deleted spam mail, unseen, by pressing the trash icon), but the other day, I peeked into my spam box. I had two e-mails: one from an agent and one from an editor.

Eleven years ago, I had submitted a two-novel proposal to the agent. Now, she was cleaning her office and came across my submission. She must have looked into the current status of the novels (A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down) because she congratulated me on their publication. She asked if my address on the return envelope was still current and if I wanted my proposal back. I had moved but I gave her my current address. My submission from years ago came back with handwritten comments in the margins. Overall, these comments were positive. One or two suggested further plot developments. This is helpful information to me, even though it came too late for these novels.

The second piece of mail in my spam box, from a magazine editor, requested me to resubmit a short story to her magazine even though someone on the staff had rejected it more than a year ago. I knew the magazine editor’s name and e-mail address was legitimate, so I resent the short story. A few days later, I received a paying contract.

Both incidents strike me as strange. I can’t believe many agents are contacting writers years later to return submissions or that editors are tracking them down to request manuscripts they’ve already rejected. Because I’m a believer in God and I haven’t been writing or submitting much in the past few years while working full-time, I see both incidents as encouragement from him that he believes in my writing.

I’m also left wondering how many other legitimate pieces of mail I may have deleted from my spam box, resulting in the loss of a sale or valuable contact. I’ve started skimming over my spam messages.


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6. Change in Author Visits

I’ve been working at an accounting firm as a full-time copy editor/proofreader for about a year and find myself too busy to devote much time to my writing career. Now that tax season has hit, I’m working overtime and some Saturdays. I’ve decided to cut back on school talks and, as indicated on my new “Appearances” page, will consider taking part in Q-and-A panels and informal classroom discussions only. Even these I will need to be choosy about because I have limited vacation days as a new employee.

This situation is not unusual. Most writers need to work another job to support a writing career and they struggle to find time to write. I feel fortunate because my daytime job is one that comes easy to me and keeps my grammatical skills sharp. As always, I write when I can.

 


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7. Tips for Older Writers

While editing the work of several older writers lately, I noticed they used punctuation and formatting styles that are no longer current. I developed the below list of tips to help these writers update their manuscripts. I doubt any editor would reject a work solely on an item on this list, but editors are busy and writers who can save them time and effort hold an advantage. Magazines and paying publishers are looking for manuscripts that are fresh, but certain punctuation and formatting styles date writing.

  • Dashes should be made with two hyphens with no spaces on either side of the hyphens. Most computer programs will convert the two hyphens into a long dash known as an em dash, which is what publishers want.
  • Periods should go inside quotation marks. In the 1970s and before, U.S. students were taught to put the period inside the quotation marks when the whole sentence was a quotation but outside the marks when only the last part of the sentence was a quotation, like so:

“This sentence is a quotation.”

Only the last part of this sentence is “a quotation”.

   England still uses that style, but the United States now uses this style:

“This sentence is a quotation.”

Only the last part of this sentence is “a quotation.”

  • Periods should be followed by one space, not two. People who learned to type on a manual typewriter were instructed to put two spaces after the closing punctuation in a sentence, but with the advent of computers and proportional spacing, two spaces are no longer needed or desired.
  • Computers can divide words at the end of a line when a break is needed, so dividing words by hand isn’t usually needed or desirable.
  • Italics are now used instead of underlines. People used to underline words in titles and definitions to signal to typesetters to put the words in italics. Typewriters didn’t offer italics back then, but computers now do. A few publishers still prefer older formatting styles or no formatting, and they will usually state that in their writing guidelines.
  • Telephone numbers no longer need parentheses around the area code. Parentheses suggest text is optional, but area codes are no longer optional. Telephone numbers should be written with hyphens only:  012-345-6789.
  • Our language has become less formal and capitals are used less. For instance, general job titles like “mayor” don’t need to be capitalized when standing alone, and general references to a state or city don’t require the words “state” or “city” to be capitalized.

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8. Writing Quotations, Part II

Last year around Christmastime, I shared with my readers some of my favorite quotations about writing. Readers seemed to enjoy this gift, so I’ve gathered here a fresh batch of quotations to inspire and instruct.

“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.” — Tennessee Williams

“To be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature.” — William Shakespeare

“He who would write heroic poems should make his whole life a heroic poem.” — Thomas Carlyle

“There is creative reading as well as creative writing.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” — Francis Bacon

Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.

–Duke of Buckinghamshire Sheffield

“You write with ease to show your breeding, But easy writing’s curst hard reading.” — Richard Brinsley Sheridan

“To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.” — Richard North Patterson

 ”Murder your darlings.” – Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

“I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” — Blaise Pascal

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.
’T is not enough no harshness gives offence,—
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.

– Alexander Pope

“Writing is rewriting.” — Eudora Welty

“I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” — Peter De Vries

“I do not like to write–I like to have written.” — Gloria Steinem

“Though an angel should write, still ’t is devils must print.” — Thomas Moore

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” — Robert Benchley

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” — Stephen King


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9. Changes in Journalism

The field of journalism has changed dramatically in the past few decades, and jobs in print journalism, copy editing, and proofreading have dwindled. My alma mater, the University of Iowa, keeps me posted about new developments in the UI School of Journalism. I’ve been surprised to see the types of jobs journalism graduates are now anticipating getting with their degrees. Two newer degree tracks are fundraising and recruitment.  Companies are hiring journalism graduates to write the letters used in fundraising and recruitment and to make phone calls to potential donors. This points up to me, once again, the importance of being flexible when attempting to make a living writing. Change is a constant in this business.


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10. Visiting Publishers

A writing friend told me that she once scored a book deal after touring a publishing house and being told by her tour guide what the publisher was looking for in children’s books. I doubt this happens much since most book publishers are in New York and not all of them give tours, but any opportunity a writer has to network with publishers can’t hurt.

I was fortunate to be able to visit one of my publishers, Royal Fireworks Press, in New York this summer. The press had purchased and published three of my books after discovering my work in the slush pile. (Submissions that come to a publisher without the aid of  an agent or any special contact are said to “go through the slush pile.”) After I’d sold each book, I spoke with the staff over the telephone and through e-mails, but until this summer, I had never met any of the staff in person. Tom Kemnitz, the president of the company, spoke with me in his office for about an hour and gave me a tour of the plant, showing me the book publishing process.

Tom Kemnitz and Ronica Stromberg at Royal Fireworks Press in New York.

It  Tom Kemnitz and Ronica Stromberg at Royal Fireworks Press, the publisher of her books A Shadow in the Dark, Living It Up to Live It Down, and The Glass Inheritance.

I enjoyed seeing the inner workings of a small press and having the chance to speak about the market for my own books. And Tom did give me some good tips, one of which would be helpful to anyone considering submitting to this publisher:  Royal Fireworks Press is no longer publishing much science fiction. The press primarily publishes nonfiction, but in the fiction line, the acquisitions team is mainly seeking historical fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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11. Art

I viewed a student art show this week, and one painting included a statement:

“Earth without art is Eh.”

Later, I thought about this statement and realized the play on words:

Earth

So true, I thought.

Then I thought about it more. All of earth is art. Flowers, waterfalls, creatures . . . It’s all God’s art. Earth without art wouldn’t be anything. Earth is art.


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12. Conditional Clauses

A writer in one of my critique groups asked me recently about conditional clauses. These clauses are found in sentences beginning with if. The other writer questioned why I had written a sentence beginning with “If I were you . . .” instead of “If I was you . . .”

Were is the correct form of the verb to use with I in if (conditional) sentences when the condition suggested is impossible or highly improbable. I could never be another person, so the conditional clause “If I was you . . . ” is wrong. I need to use were to communicate that I’m talking about a supposition or condition that can never be.

Many writers have lost this distinction in their writing or never realized there are times they should be using were instead of was in conditional clauses. I’ve written a few more sentences below to better show the distinction.

Example #1:

Right:  “If I were dead, I wouldn’t care about my belongings.”

Wrong:  “If I was dead, I wouldn’t care about my belongings.” (This conditional clause with was is not possible because the speaker is talking and obviously alive. Were is the correct word to use in clauses like this that are describing impossible situations.)

Example #2 (both sentences are correct and being spoken by a 70-year-old man):

Right:  “At that time, if I was 16, I could have worked as a car hop.” (At the point in history the 70-year-old is referring to, it would have been possible for him to work as a car hop if he was 16. Was is the correct word to use in conditional clauses like this that are possible.)

Right:  “If I were 16 now, I’d love to be a high school exchange student.” (The 70-year-old man isn’t 16 now, so this clause is impossible. Were is the correct word to use in conditional clauses like this that are impossible.)

Example #3:

Right:  If I was certified (at that time), I could have done that work.

Right:  If I were certified (but I’m not), I could do that work.


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13. Proofreading

I recently took a full-time position as a proofreader for an accounting firm. Proofreading financial reports differs from the type of proofreading I’ve done in the past, but I’m learning a lot and enjoying it.

Over my writing career, I’ve discovered the importance of remaining flexible to making a living from writing. The writer who has diversified talents is better able to weather changes in the economy and workforce than a one-skill wonder.

Some writers choose to work a full-time job outside the writing field for better financial security. They may find a nonwriting job drains their creativity less than a writing job does, giving them the energy and enthusiasm to write in their spare time.

Proofreading work is a good fit for me because it draws little from my creativity but keeps me current and my writing mechanics sharp.


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14. New Market for Writers of Children’s Books

Last August I blogged about writing markets for child authors. After I’d compiled a list on my blog, the editor of the e-zine Knowonder! contacted me to let me know it also publishes children’s writing (as well as children’s stories written by adults). I was unfamiliar with the e-zine but saw it paid, so I submitted a few stories online. Knowonder! recently purchased a Christmas story from me.

The editor has since let me know that Knowonder! is now accepting chapter books for ages 7 to 9. If you’re interested, you can find guidelines and submit at knowonder.submittable.com/submit

From what I’ve submitted to this publisher, I gather the editors are seeking stories more like traditional fairy tales, with an element of magic or fantasy. They ask for “imaginative, exciting, action-filled” stories. They don’t appear to be seeking run-of-the-mill contemporary stories with everyday situations set in ordinary settings.


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15. Writing Slowly

While working with beginning writers over the past year, I’ve seen several make the same mistake. They rush to be published. Their efforts to hurry the process may actually lengthen the time it takes them to reach paid publication. If you’re a beginning writer, consider going slowly now to go fast later.

Read good books in the genre you’re interested in writing in. Books written in the past five years are better indicators of what editors are willing to purchase than books considered to be classics.

Bone up on grammar. Many editors refuse to spend time cleaning up messes of lazy writers.

Read books about the publishing process itself and how to get published. Again, the latest books will be the most helpful in this.

Attend writing conferences if you can. These can be expensive so you may want to hold off until you have a writing project near completion, but if you can afford to go before then, you can receive a lot of good instruction at conferences. Conferences can jumpstart a writing career. The experience is sort of like learning a foreign language through full immersion in another culture rather than through a textbook.

Consider taking a class. Even if you live in a remote area, you can find plenty of online classes.

Join a critique group. If you’re fortunate enough to have critique partners who have been paid for their writing and been successfully published, pay special attention to their comments. They’ve been where you’re at and they’ve found success.


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16. Better Google Searches for Writers

Hands down, the Internet beats the old days when writers had to go to the library to research a topic. Now anyone can retrieve information with a few computer clicks. I frequently use Google in my searches and have discovered the following ways to improve results:

  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card with the words you’re searching. For example, if you wanted to search for me on the Web but couldn’t remember my last name but knew I was a children’s author, you could type Ronica * children’s author and related sites would pop up, providing my last name.
  • Use the minus sign before words you want to exclude from the search. Using a similar example, if you searched solely on my first name, Ronica, and a bunch of “Ronica Smith” sites showed up, you could eliminate Ronica Smith from your search by typing Ronica -Smith.
  • Put quotation marks around a word or two (such as “Ronica Stromberg”) to pull up sites only with the word (or words) as quoted.
  • To find the word you’re searching for on a Web site that came up, hit Control-F (Command-F on a Mac) and enter the word you’re searching for again. This will highlight the word you’re searching for. I’ve found this useful when a Web site has page after page of text but no clear indication where the word or phrase I’m searching for may be.
  • To restrict search results to a specific URL, add site: in front of the URL. For example, dognapper site:nytimes.com would pull articles printed about dognappers at The New York Times domain.
  • To find sites similar to one you’re using, type related: before the URL of the site (as in related:nytimes.com).
  • Use two periods between numeric ranges to find information about a range. For example, if you wanted to find information about gasoline prices between 1970 and 1980, you could type gasoline prices 1970 . . 1980. Writers of historical novels may find this particularly useful for research.
  • To use Google as a dictionary and look up the definition of a word, type define: immediately followed by the word.
  • To find the current weather in a town (in case you are about to set off on a book talk or other trip), type weather in followed by the town’s name.
  • To convert currency or measurements, use search formats such as 50 pesos in US dollars or 100 kilometers in miles.
  • To find the title of a song that lyrics come from, type some of the more distinct lyrics followed by :lyric. For example, when I type want to be a paperback writer:lyric, several sites appear, letting me know this line of lyrics comes from the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” song.
  • To get alerted about breaking news on a topic, go to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the topic and your e-mail address. Google will then e-mail you the next time news on the topic appears on the Internet. I know a lot of authors type their name or key words from their works into this site to track online publicity and, also, to check whether their writing is being plagiarized.

Instead of doing a general search of the whole Internet, I may have only a specific area I want to search. The following are my favorites.

blogs     http://www.google.com/blogsearch

books     http://books.google.com/

finance     http://www.google.com/finance  This search of the latest financial news may be of particular interest to business and financial writers.

images     http://images.google.com  This site can be misleading. When I searched on “F. Scott Fitzgerald,” the name of one of my favorite authors, photos of him–and a bunch of other people–cropped up. Had I not already known what F. Scott Fitzgerald looked like, the site wouldn’t have helped much.

news     http://news.google.com/

patents     http://www.google.com/?tbm=pts

videos     http://www.google.com/videohp


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17. Search Engines

As a nonfiction writer, I find search engines indispensable. Below I’ve listed my favorites. Next month I’ll share tips on how to improve Google searches!

Blekko.com — a spam- and virus-free search engine that allows users to search news, jobs, blogs, and more

Clusty.com — a meta search engine that clusters results, includes customization tabs, and can search the blogosphere

Dogpile.com — a combined search of well-known search engines

Draze.com — a comparison search engine with free e-mail, web hosting, and more

Goodsearch.com — a search engine that donates a penny to a school or nonprofit with each search

Ixquick.com — a search engine that can search in several languages and is popular in Europe

Mamma.com — a metasearch tool for webs, news, image, video, and Twitter

MsFreckles.com — a tool to search images, blogs, definitions, news, 35 languages, stocks, products, movie reviews, and more

Msn.com and Yahoo.com — two popular searches I find handy when I’m already on their opening page

Scholar.google.com — a segment of Google that searches scholarly literature including theses, books, abstracts, and articles

WebCrawler.com — a source to search images, video, news, and local information using Google, Yahoo! and other popular search engines


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18. New Year, New Hope

DSC06879-View of Freedom Tower from Governors Island

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

We spent our vacation this past summer in New York City. I’d never been to the city before and found it smaller than I expected. We walked all over the place, and I was thrilled to see the headquarters of so many publishers I’d only seen the addresses of in correspondence. Even the big names seemed far less intimidating up close.

As a writer living in the Midwest, I know living in New York would have advantages. I’d have more opportunities to network with industry professionals, and I could maybe learn more about the industry by working in it.

But it is possible to break into paid publication from remote areas. I’ve done it. Some of my writing friends have, even pulling down national awards with their first published books. It is still possible to secure an agent without prior publication or be discovered in the slush pile. Easy, no. Possible, yes.

Instead of focusing on factors beyond my control, I’ve found it helpful to focus on the factor I have most control of: craft. I am always looking for ways to learn, grow, and improve my writing. Good writing stands a chance of catching notice.

A new year is coming. New year, new hope.


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19. Nebraska Writing Project

At the invitation of the Nebraska Writing Project, I attended their recent awards ceremony. The project aims to celebrate and improve writing in classrooms and communities across the state. Mostly teachers make up its membership and receive awards.

Another Nebraska children’s writer, Mary Elizabeth Anderson, and I displayed our books at the back of the room and networked with teachers. We are both open to visiting classrooms to speak about writing and our work as authors.

Cathy Wilken, Ronica Stromberg, and Mary Elizabeth Anderson beside their book display at the awards ceremony of the Nebraska Writing Project. Cathy heads a critique group that formed from the project.

Ronica Stromberg, Mary Elizabeth Anderson, Cathy Wilken, and educator Bev Hoistad at the NWP awards ceremony.

Nebraska is fortunate to have one of the most active projects in the nation and continues to make good use of grants received. The project puts on writing workshops for students and community members. One of my current critique groups formed after meeting at one of these workshops.

Go, Nebraska!


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20. My Picture Book as E-book

My picture book, The Time-for-bed Angel, will be released as an e-book (electronic book) soon. I signed the contract last week.

This book was first released in 2008 as a hardback and, shortly after, as a paperback. When I first sold the book to the publisher, the contract we agreed upon didn’t include electronic rights. That’s how quickly things have changed in the past four years! Now many books are coming out solely as e-books.

Picture books haven’t typically been published as e-books. They are one of the most expensive types of books to produce because of the artwork. A picture book with a high-end illustrator can cost $100,000 or more to produce. Publishers have been reluctant to wager whether they can recoup their expenses to produce a picture book if it’s coming out only as an inexpensive e-book. They’ve also had concerns about the screen size on electronic devices and how to render what might be a 16-inch-wide horizontal spread onto a 6- or 7-inch vertical screen. Obviously, less risk is involved if the picture book has already come out as a paper book and the artwork has been paid for.

Electronic publication of picture books has advantages over paper publication. Offhand, I can think of three:

  •  E-publication conserves trees and, therefore, the environment.
  • Picture books can be made more interactive. Publishers can include applications like music and games at the touch of the screen. My publisher is thinking about having The Time-for-bed Angel narrated. I can see this working well with the book because the text is short. Small children have short attention spans but can easily sit through the complete reading of the book. When I was a child, I had storybooks with listen-along records. I was always interested in using these records alongside the books, but each record ran more than a half-hour in length. I usually lost interest before the story was finished. In contrast, The Time-for-bed Angel can be read in under five minutes. I think small children will be far more likely to find this useful and enjoyable.
  • Parents can save money. E-books are less expensive than paper books. The savings can be significant when picture books generally run about $15 and up. And parents can try out picture books in e-form before investing in the paper version, seeing how much their child really likes a book first. Conceivably, parents could buy a picture book wherever and whenever their little one is ready for something different.

No more boring bedtimes!


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21. Book Giveaway: A Shadow in the Dark

Katie McCurdy, teen blogger and book reviewer extraordinaire, recently interviewed me on her site, “Legacy of a Writer.” If you’d like a chance to snag a free copy of my teen mystery, A Shadow in the Dark, enter the raffle at the site: http://katie-mccurdy.blogspot.com/2012/07/ronica-stromberg-is-here-with-us-today.html.  The winner will be drawn in a week, so hustle on over.

May the best bookworm win!


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22. Evening with Homeschoolers

I’ve been invited to speak at our local homeschool association’s upcoming “Evening of Encouragement.” I’m looking forward to meeting parents and speaking with them about the value of homeschooling. I’m not a home educator, but I have worked with the U.S. Department of Education and state education agencies and currently write for Royal Fireworks Press, the world’s largest publisher of books for gifted and talented children and a growing influence in the homeschool market. (The press is a bit unusual because it publishes novels that tie into school curricula and appeal to gifted children who want to go further on a particular topic or seek more challenging texts.)

I’m also working on an article about the benefits of homeschooling and hope to hear lots of good stories from parents. I’m looking forward to it!


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23. Writing Markets for Kids

When the president of the local homeschool association invited me to speak at their “Evening of Encouragement,” she told me several of their children and teens are interested in writing for publication. She asked if I knew where these kids could submit their work. (Some children’s magazines only accept submissions from adults, and few pay children even if they accept submissions from them.) I researched the market and pulled together the below list of places for kids’ writing. If you know of others, feel free to post a comment with the information.

Kids, I strongly encourage you to look at the Web site of the publishers and at the magazines before submitting anything.  Happy writing!

Ronica’s List of Places Where Kids Can Submit Their Writing

The Apprentice Writer is a literary magazine that publishes fiction, poetry, essay, and photography of high school students. Submit work to Gary Fincke, Writers Institute Director, Susquehanna University, 610 University Ave., Selinsgrove, PA 17870-1164.  http://www.susqu.edu/academics/10602.asp

Ask, Cricket, Muse, and Spider magazines are part of the Carus Publishing Company. They run writing contests with details in their current issues. Learn more about the magazines at http://www.cricketmag.com

Child Life (ages 9-11), Children’s Digest (ages 10-12), Children’s Playmate (ages 6-8), Humpty Dumpty (ages 4-6), Jack And Jill (ages 7-10), Turtle Magazine (preschool), and U.S. Kids (ages 6-10), are part of The Children’s Better Health Institute, P.O. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN 46206. They sometimes request the poems, jokes, and drawings of kids.  http://www.cbhi.org

ChixLIT publishes stories by girls ages 7 to 17.  ChixLIT, P.O. Box 12051, Orange, CA  92859.  http://www.chixlit.com

Cicada publishes writing and artwork from kids 14 and older.   http://www.cricketmag.com/22-Submission-Guidelines-for-CICADA-magazine-for-teens-ages-14+

Creative Kids publishes the games, stories, poetry, and artwork of kids ages 8 to 16.  Submissions Editor, Creative Kids, P.O. Box 8813, Waco, TX  76714-8813.  http://www.prufrock.com/Assets/ClientPages/kids_magazine.aspx

Encounter, a Christian magazine for junior high and high school kids, accepts poetry, artwork, and testimonies from teens. The magazine accepts submissions by e-mail only at encounter@standardpub.com.   http://www.standardpub.com/view/encounter-submission-guidelines.aspx

Highlights accepts drawings, poems, jokes, riddles, tongue twisters, stories, science questions, book reviews, Creatures Nobody Has Ever Seen!, recipes, craft ideas, letters to Dear Highlights, and dinosaur drawings, jokes, and questions from kids. Highlights for Children, 803 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.  http://www.highlightskids.com/send-us-your-creative-work

Insight is a Seventh-Day Adventist publication for 13- to 19-year-olds. It publishes true stories, profiles, and general articles.  Insight Magazine, 55 West Oak Ridge Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21740. http://www.insightmagazine.org/guidelines/

Merlyn’s Pen publishes fiction, essays, and poems by U.S. teens.  Merlyn’s Pen, Inc., 11 South Angell St., Suite 301, Providence, RI 02906.  http://www.merlynspen.org/write/submit.php

New Moon magazine for girls 8 and up publishes the writing and artwork of girls. http://www.newmoon.com/content/?id=1006&type=1

Potato Hill Poetry posts a contests page on its Web site and includes information about other publishers who accept poetry and writing from kids.   http://www.potatohill.com/contest.html

Skipping Stones is a multicultural magazine that publishes essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles, proverbs, poems, drawings, paintings, and photos of kids.  Submissions may be in any language but should include an English translation.  Skipping Stones Magazine, P.O. Box 3939, Eugene, OR 97403. http://skippingstones.org/submissions.htm

Stone Soup publishes stories, poems, book reviews, and art by kids, up to age 13.  Pays $40 for stories, poems, and book reviews and $25 for illustrations.  Stone Soup, ATTN:  Submissions Department, P.O. Box 83, Santa Cruz, CA 95063.  http://www.stonesoup.com/stone-soup-contributor-guideline/

Teen Ink publishes writing by teens, ages 13 to 19, in its magazine, Web site, and books.    http://www.teenink.com/submit

UpWords Poetry is a resource for young poets and writers, including links for other publishers that accept poetry.  http://www.upwordspoetry.com/Links.htm


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24. Evening of Encouragement

At the Evening of Encouragement for local homeschoolers, the president of the local homeschool association, Ronda Swanson, interviewed me Oprah-style on stage. I enjoyed this talk show format and think the audience did too. The 100-or-so parents who attended asked thoughtful, penetrating questions not typically addressed in a writing presentation. I ended up speaking about movie rights and film options, online media, and the effects of our current culture on children’s literature. (I’m prepared for Oprah whenever she decides to book me!)

Ronda Swanson and Ronica Stromberg at “Evening of Encouragement”

Several parent educators caught me after the public talk to further discuss books, writing, and other issues brought up during the talk. They were a well-informed group, which didn’t surprise me since I’ve spoken with parent educators nationwide while researching the homeschool movement for a magazine article I’ve been working on. I’ve found homeschoolers to be hard-working, dedicated to providing their children with the best education they can. Spending this Evening of Encouragement with them encouraged me to work harder in my writing for children.


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25. Working While Writing

I’ve been working outside the home the past two-and-a-half years, and while that’s cut my writing time and productivity, it’s also benefited me. I’m networking more, selling more books face-to-face, finding more subjects for profile stories, earning more, and better managing the time I have to write. Probably the biggest benefit of working outside the home, though, is upgrading my technological skills.

While I was at home, I mainly used Word, the standard for the publishing industry. Since I’ve been working, I’ve learned Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Publisher. I now track my sales and expenses in Excel, have created a PowerPoint presentation of one of my school talks, and can create my own author brochures in Publisher. I’ve also become more savvy in Word.

As an example, I used to type letters to publishers and then retype the address on the envelope. A coworker showed me how to save time by placing the cursor at the beginning of the first line of the address in the letter, choosing “Mailings,” and choosing “Envelopes” or “Labels.” The program automatically transfers the whole address to where it can be printed on an envelope or label. Timesaving tips like this add up.

If I ever do return to working from home, I think my writing career will be stronger from the time I spent in the corporate world.


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