Saturday, December 26, 2009

What was your best Christmas gift this year?

_Our family Christmas celebration will take place today, so most of mine aren't received yet, but I already know one of my best is a simple painting of a tea cup with a rose pattern, setting on a matching saucer-- the pattern extends, beautifully-- on a table, a spoon beside. I'm not sure of her original medium, but I received a print, on a card. It was done and sent to me by a friend in Indiana who I didn't even know did artistic painting. She sent with it a lovely, homey paragraph of the story of how the painting came to be. She said she sent it because I had sent my writing.
_This year has been a quiet one. The exciting events have been mainly tied to my grown sons, and those are mostly their stories to tell. So my Christmas letter included some observations from the natural world around me, and my deep, inner thoughts, and the questions triggered in me from those observations and thoughts.
_One friend asked, "Aren't you afraid to share so much of yourself? "Yes, it did feel a little risky, but I only sent to my Christmas card list, and not all of those. Some responded with "I enjoyed" comments. Many send a card that is simply signed, and no more, essentially no response. But one geographically distant friend responded in kind with a gift from her own deepest self.
_My heart broke open a little wider than it's been. That's one of my best gifts this Christmas.
_Do you understand? Tell your story, what was your best gift?

~by Carol Bindel

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas 2009

I wish you and your loved
ones a wonderful Christmas celebration
and pray that the Lord will provide you
with much peace and happiness this holiday season.
Warmly, Patricia

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Friend

Carol has been my friend for many years. Those of you who know her are aware of her loyalty and giving heart, you also know of her many talents ... including quilting and of course writing. She is a true friend, always there when I need someone to listen to my list of sorrows, my tales of woe. She listens and gently offers words of wisdom, a new perspective, a kind suggestion or two and always with love. She is a much better friend to me than I'll ever be to her. She is the sister I never had, the friend I do not deserve, and one of the most talented writers I know. It is my privilege to share her with you.


~By Carol Bindel

In her November 12 post, "Inspiration and Perspiration, A Study In Balance," Kathleen Harms speaks of fear.

Oh, yes. Fear of all kinds holds us back. One of the fears I recognize in myself (and there are many) is the fear of exposing too much of myself to the "wrong" people, ones who may take advantage, do me injury.This fear has encouraged me to hold my words close within a small circle of known friends and family.

But it is Christmas, the time of giving. A gift requires one to give and one to receive. I would give you this poem, a small gift. Do you wish to receive?


__following Papa and Mama
__who always reached for agape love,
__and wouldn't they be astonished

to see the flame
so bright, warm and calm

on five folding tables
borrowed from church
covered with white
table paper

and a vase of flowers, centered
on each table set for ten
with silverware, water cups, napkins,

plates with the buffet spread on oak
deacon-bench tables that line one wall,
covered with dish after dish of food
in the basement

with a wood-stove fire glowing
at the end of the room opposite
steps, steep and narrow enough,

forty eight gathered
siblings, spouses, offspring,
three generations
aged two to seventy seven

stand, a circle around the room,
bow our heads for the preacher
to invoke the Dear Heavenly Father
to bless us in Jesus' name

then sing
a cappella
in glorious, four part

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

while my son shelters under his arm
the Jewish girl among us

while the daughter
of the newly bankrupt couple
looks at the floor, blond hair
swung forward hiding her face

while the recently separated one
clenches his hands, white knuckled,
and we all observe without comment
the absence of his wife and two children

while one grieves her dear
old horse put down two weeks ago
on the day we still mourn

the anniversary of Eva's death,
our beloved sister-in-law, aunt,
grandmother, sister, mother, wife,
too young, eleven years now

while one savors success—
new degree, new job—
and two treasure the secret
of new life growing

my sister the hostess
releases the reigns of organization
allowing the day to flow
forward, as it will

we celebrate
enduring, ephemeral ties

see the candle.
Be the candle.

~Carol Bindel

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Inspiration and Perspiration, A Study in Balance

by Katherine Harms

Someone wiser than I once said that real achievement is 90% perspiration and only 10% inspiration, or something like that. I am mathematically challenged, so I may have the precise numbers wrong, but the concept is clear: any achievement is about hard work.
_However, achievement really does require inspiration as well; otherwise, hard work is merely drudgery, work that must be done for no heartfelt reason. There may be times when writing is, in fact, drudgery. When Mother requires a child to write a thank-you note to Grandma for a pair of yellow pajamas with lambs on them, the child who despises both the color yellow and anything to do with a sheep may consider the job of writing that note to be real drudgery. It is to be hoped that none of us who feel that God has gifted us with writing skill and called us to use that gift in service to others feels that writing is drudgery.
_In my experience, the writing life is about achieving a balance between the joy of those delightful moments when inspiration lights up the road ahead and the anguish of those painful hours when the road ahead seems to be nothing but a deep, muddy swamp. It can be a real challenge when inspiration shows more than one pathway without clarifying any way to choose among the options. I recently had the joy of a couple of inspirations coupled with a strong sense of calling in both directions. I felt torn, because I could not see how to answer both calls at the same time.
_I write on the subject of the life of Christian faith. Sometimes I write about teachings. Sometimes I write about faith disciplines. I have recently felt led to write on the subject of Bible study principles and techniques, because of questions people have asked me. I had the good fortune to fall into a class on hermeneutics taught by a seminary professor, and during that class _I began to solidify the structure of a series of Bible study guides. At the same time, I was experiencing a strong sense of calling to write and teach about the importance of Christian testimony. Cultural chaos, economic crises, social problems and a political climate of real aggression against religious expression made me feel that it is important for people of faith to speak up and live their faith publicly lest the Constitutional principle of freedom of religious expression in the USA be lost. Then one morning I found myself meditating on a Bible verse that said, “Do not be afraid.” It was addressed to the disciples Jesus sent out early in his ministry to announce, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” It became clear to me that this theme was the right focus for my work.
_Most people have trouble enunciating any heartfelt principle, whether or not it relates to their religious faith, because of fear of the consequences. They may fear the scorn of others, or they may fear that they cannot defend their point of view in an aggressive debate, or they may fear social or even political punishment for their viewpoint. It may be simple shyness. In the case of religious faith, those fears can impede a person’s ability to live and speak the faith with confidence. When I read the words, “Do not be afraid,” I realized how often God has given his people those words when he commissioned them to speak for him. The Bible is full of such reassurance. I needed to pull that message out and make it clear for myself and others in order for us all to feel confident and strong in our public expression of our faith. I do not see this expression as an attempt to convert other people; rather, I see it as speaking and living truth in public. It is not about judging people who are not Christians; it is about living with integrity and honestly confessing to the source of our life principles.
_To write a series of Bible study guides and to write blogs/articles/book on the subject of fearless, truthful expression of our faith were two very big projects. I was overwhelmed. How could I do both things? How could I achieve the focus required for either project while giving the required energy to both of them? The answer proved to be another moment of inspiration.
I had begun my research on the subject “Do not be afraid” using library software where I have stored multiple books and references on the Bible as well as multiple translations of the Bible. The search feature allows me both rigid and fuzzy searches using specific words and topics. I pulled up a search on my basic phrase, “Do not be afraid” and copied the resulting list for study. Then is when the light dawned. I would, of course, study the texts I found using the best principles and techniques I know for Bible study. Therefore, as I did the research for the work on Christian testimony, I would be creating examples of good practice in Bible study. One line of work would clearly provide the foundation for both writing projects.
_Now I have the inspiration I need to get both projects done. That inspiration must sustain me as I slog through the mud of research. I will study biblical texts in various translations. I will search commentaries, historical resources, and many other books and web resources. I will use specific principles of biblical interpretation to determine what I keep and what I discard. The analysis and record-keeping required for these projects will be all perspiration. That 90% perspiration part that we all must get through somehow. I think I can do it, because I believe this is what I was created to do.
_I have been writing lots and lots of words ever since I first learned how to do it. In grade school I organized a writing club. In high school I won writing contests. I have piles and piles of written work cluttering up my space. Writing lots of words is easy. Nevertheless, writing with discipline and writing to specific standards is not so easy. It takes a lot of inspiration to support the production of that perspiration, but I will do it. There. I said it. You can hold me to this promise. Check back with me in six months. I need to know that you expect some results. Please let me know that you are counting on me. I am counting on you.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Thursday, September 17
6:30pmHavre de Grace Public


Bring a current project to share with the group and be prepared to critique in return.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Havre de Grace Critique Meeting

Writers Critique Group Meeting

at the Havre de Grace Library tomorrow, Thursday, at 6:30. Bring a current project to share with the group and be prepared to critique in return.

Calling All Writers

Several times a week Anne Wayman publishes "Freelance Writing Jobs" Anne also offers a host of helpful blog posts. Sign up here:

Breathe Books

Check out this weeks events at Breathe Books:

Writing Class: Progress through PoetryClass

Poetry is a powerful vehicle for expression and change. The very nature of a poem (precise language, concentrated intention, and vivid imagery) allows it to move and touch us so deeply. Using poetry as a medium of discussion and inspiration, the class will talk about and write from the themes, images, and triggering subjects that arise for us as readers, as humans.

One does not have to be interested in writing poetry but more willing to write from the universal themes of poetry. We will not just interpret the poem’s meaning, but we will look beyond what is on the page and what is coming up for us emotionally, psychologically, and creatively.

Mary Oliver captured the essential power of poetry and wrote, “Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”

The class is for anyone with an interest in creative writing, philosophical discussions, and poetry. Taught by Soo Young Lee, published writer, English professor, Transformative Consultant Cost: Drop-in: $45

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rabbi Sherre Hirsch...

... is the author of We Plan, God Laughs: What to Do When Life Hits You Over The Head a wonderful book that I am currently reading. Below is her letter:

Dear Friend,

Life certainly hit us over the head.

Four months after
We Plan, God Laughs was published my mother was diagnosed with Glioblastoma (GBM) stage 4 brain cancer. I dedicated this book to my mother for her courage and how she overcame so many challenges in her life. Now she is facing her biggest challenge yet, and she and many others suffering with GBM need your help.

Today, June 16, 2009, my mother turns 65 years old and the paperback of
We Plan, God Laughs goes on sale.

In celebration, I will be donating 10% of the paperback profits to the Art of the Brain Fund to help in the fight against brain cancer.

To celebrate with us:
1. Buy the paperback of
We Plan, God Laughs.
2. Send this email to three friends and ask them to do the same.
I pray that the new edition of
We Plan, God Laughs will heal in more ways than one.

Rabbi Sherre Hirsch

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Two Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers"

Guest Post for "Dialogue"
by Anne McClure

Google “Freelance Writing Markets” and you get 908,000 hits. Try “How to Become A Freelance Writer” and you get over 5 million. With such an overwhelming number of directions to head, you’ve got to focus your approach if you want to get your freelance career off the ground.
First, find a niche. Are you an engineer? A science enthusiast? A gardener? A pet owner? A cook? Do you live in a big city? Run a family farm? Determine your area of expertise and query publications within that genre. It’s possible—and probably a fun process—to become an expert in a new area through study and exploration. If freelancing is part of a desire to switch careers, this may be a path to follow. For most people, though, the quickest way to finding your freelance market involves analyzing what you already know or what you’re already doing.
You don’t have to determine this niche immediately. In fact, you probably won’t. As you write, pay attention to the way you feel. Even within a general niche (i.e. the Catholic market) you will need to find more specialized submarkets (i.e. Catholic parenting, Catholic commentary on politics, Catholic apologetics). Note the stories and genres that feel the most organic as you are writing—the ones that seem to pour out of you and materialize on the page. As you proceed, remind yourself that you preferred devotionals to political commentary, poetry to prose, tech manuals to movie reviews. Then pursue similar opportunities. Instead of just writing to write, you’ll be accumulating a body of work centered on an area of personal interest or expertise.
Second, make connections and rely on the connections you have already made. Did you receive helpful advice from a writing coach while attending a conference? (Hi Patricia!) Did you work closely with an editor, tweaking several drafts of a piece before it was finally approved? Did an author at a book signing kindly offer to give you a leg up? However you established a relationship, treat it as the source of invaluable advice that it is. Of course, be respectful of the time and obligations of experienced writers and editors; but once you’ve developed a working relationship, don’t be afraid to approach them with questions and send additional queries their way. Ask for resources and accept feedback humbly and honestly. Use their words of wisdom to reflect on your progress and make decisions as you proceed.
I’ve just started down this writing path myself, and I’ve made every mistake I just advised you not to make. I’ve wasted my time writing about politics when I should have been reflecting on my faith journey as a mom, and I’ve queried big name publications when smaller ones were looking for the kind of work I could do. I’m finding that if you try to be what you’re not or start somewhere unfamiliar, your writing will lack a depth of knowledge and experience that lends credibility. Finding your niche and accepting help from experienced professionals will free you to write from your heart and jump start your entrance into the world of freelance writing.

Anne McClure taught high school until her son was born and now works as a mom and freelance writer. Read more at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Libby's Books

Libby Malin is the author of the soon-to-be-released romantic comedy FIRE ME (Sourcebooks) and the 2005 chick lit novel LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT (Harlequin). Writing as Libby Sternberg, she’s the author of four teen mysteries, the first of which was an Edgar finalist. A Baltimore native, she now lives in Lancaster, PA. More info about her can be found at

What is a day like for a professional writer?I usually rise early (by six) and linger over coffee and chatting with my husband before he goes to work, reading the Wall Street Journal (our son writes for the Asian edition) and watching morning news. By eight, I’m ready to tackle the day’s tasks. If I have any freelance writing assignments, I might start on them, either organizing the work or actually beginning to contact folks I need to interview for articles, etc. Because I bill by the hour, I carefully note the time spent on these tasks in an ever-present ledger.
_If I’m writing a book, I might carve out several mornings where I start work on that project—my best writing time is usually in the morning. If I’m on a deadline—for example, if I have a full manuscript due to an editor by a certain date—I make sure to stick to a daily page quota.
_I usually quickly review what I wrote the day before, maybe tweaking it but not doing a full-fledged edit, and then plow forward.
_If I stall, I try to figure out why. If it’s because I’m unsure of direction, I might write in one direction anyway, just to get something on the page. I will write notes to myself in ALL CAPS, things like INCREASE TENSION BETWEEN CHARACTER X AND Y or something similar that I know will need to be included.
_If I’m in the editing stage of a manuscript, things move pretty quickly and I can find myself at the computer almost all day, with short breaks, usually because I’m too excited about the project to leave it.
_I will make notes on paper as I go – characters’ names and descriptions (I don’t want to have one start the novel with blue eyes and finish it with green!), important plot points and maybe even timelines (to make sure I don’t include eight-day weeks).
_I usually do at least three edits. If I have a book about to be released, I devote a portion of my days to actual promotional tasks, such as writing blog entries for the “virtual tour” set up by the publicist, cleaning up my personal mailing lists and preparing a mailing of promotional postcards, setting up a book-signing, etc.
_Finally, in the afternoons I will read….but not for pleasure! I read manuscripts for a publisher, making recommendations for purchase. So I’ll set up my laptop in my sunny living room, put a small notebook and pen nearby to jot down observations, and start reading!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Meet Jennifer Zeman

You sit down to write, and then you remember – you wore your last clean bra to work today, and what will you do in the morning? As you are delivering the dirty underwear to the laundry room, you notice that the bathroom sink looks actually disgusting. It only takes a minute to spray, wipe and shine. But then, you might as well empty the trash while you are there, and why empty just one wastebasket? They are all overflowing. The washer buzzes, the phone rings, there are dirty dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher, and nobody has vacuumed the living room carpet since Halloween. Oh, no, there is neither bread nor milk in the kitchen. As you eventually lay your weary head on the pillow and collapse into dreamless sleep, you tell yourself that tomorrow for sure, writing comes first.

Jennifer Zemen, a pre-published writer who lives and writes in Rising Sun, Maryland, has solved the problem of making time to write. We could all learn from her. Now approaching the moment when she will release her first book-length manuscript into the publishing wilds, I think she would say that the sun is rising on her writing career.

Growing up, Jennifer always enjoyed the arts. She would probably call herself a right-brain personality. She originally found her outlet in graphic arts, but as an adult dealing with the consequences of family tragedy, she discovered the art of words in journaling. It provided a way to talk about the loss of her mother, the stress of adjusting to a blended family after her father remarried, and the depression that accompanied these experiences. As she wrote, her journal became an important tool for clearing her thoughts.

There came a time in Jennifer’s personal growth when she felt that her story needed to be published. Not just for her, but for others. Anna Quindlen’s essay about the death of her mother resonated profoundly with Jennifer’s own experience. Reading Ann Hope’s book Comfort, Jennifer also discovered a great deal of common ground with her own life. Yet Jennifer saw that she had something unique to say, something that would not only share her grief but also provide help and hope for others.

Jennifer found that journaling led very naturally into the writing of her memoir, but writing a book did not fit naturally into an already busy life. When she began writing the memoir in 2006, it was a venture into the unknown. Jennifer’s full-time job meant that weekends were the natural time for her to write, yet in the early days, the weekends came and went with little or no time for writing. Every writer can relate to this problem. Few of us can simply decide to write without interruptions. When there was time for writing, Jennifer tried to make the most of it, and when the time slipped away, she felt discouraged. Eventually she decided it was time to take action. If she were ever to finish her book, she had to build a wall around time for writing. Her strategy was to declare weekends off limits for household tasks. Trips to the grocery store, housecleaning, laundry, and the thousand and one things that always loom large the minute a writer sits down to write were confined to weekdays. No more trying to write between laundry loads. No more last-minute trips for bread and milk on Saturday morning.

Her strategy paid off. Today she is completing the second draft of her book, and she says she expects in the near future to be ready to submit her manuscript to publishers. Time management is not, however, the only tool in her writer’s survival kit. Jennifer is a member of a critique group, and this group helped her to hone her first draft. It was through the critique group that she met Patricia Punt, the hostess of this blog, and Patricia provided her with editorial guidance to begin her second draft. Along the road to success, Jennifer subscribed to Writers Digest, devoured articles in Writers Market, read books and articles on writing and picked the brain of a writer friend. She found an opportunity to write for a blog where she can grow her skills and start building her platform.

Being a guest blogger is only one plank in Jennifer’s platform. She has pages on MySpace and Facebook, and she has a blog of her own. She is still feeling her way to the right balance of platform-building and writing. For now, writing takes center stage, but she expects to be more involved in platform-building as she moves closer to the sale of her manuscript.

I always ask writers what they would say to someone who wants to be a writer. Jennifer’s answer was typical: Write. It is a simple, yet profound truth. If someone wants to be a writer, it is necessary to write. As Jennifer suggested, it is also a good idea to read what other writers are writing, to read books and articles about the craft of writing, and to connect with other writers, online and in person. Putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, is a big hurdle; nothing promotes commitment to good housekeeping like the sight of a blank page. Above all and before all, a writer must write.

It is always a great pleasure to meet someone who has found her fulfillment in life. Like most of us, Jennifer did not start writing until adulthood. After telling a few people about her goal, she discovered that some people thought it was frivolous, silly or even hopeless. Everybody felt completely comfortable to tell her that success as a writer was not worth the effort. Jennifer’s response was to ignore them and follow her dream. Jennifer’s advice to others? Do what fulfills you and makes you happy. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back from becoming what you were born to be. If you dream of becoming a writer, don’t spend your evenings telling friends what you would do if you were a writer. Get thee to the computer and write. One day you will be telling all those naysayers what you have written, and then they will be saying to you, “You write? I could never do that.”

by Katherine Harms

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Working With An Editor

Whether you write articles or books, screenplays or news reports, if you are lucky, you will one day work with an editor. If you never work with editors, it means that nobody is buying your work. Failure to sell is a bad thing. Working with an editor is a good thing. No matter how frustrated you feel about the editor’s attitude toward your masterpiece, if the editor is talking, you are wise to listen, because the editor is the gateway through which your work transitions from your heart to the eyes of the public.
If you want the chance to work with an editor, you must get out of the slush pile and onto the desk. This means that your book manuscript or your proposal for a book or an article must at a minimum comply with the editor’s submission guidelines. Always read the submission guidelines before you submit. After you complete your first draft, read those guidelines again, and tweak anything that must change in order to comply. Refer to the guidelines as often as necessary to assure that every document in your submission package complies with the submission guidelines for the publisher. It is easy to feel annoyed that publishers are not all alike, but varieties of publishers and editors provide broad opportunities for many different kinds of writers.
The easiest way to irritate an editor who does select your work is to refuse every suggestion for revision or (dare I whisper it?) improvement. Any honest writer knows that we all have room for improvement. An editor may see opportunity for improvement in any number of directions, and the wise writer will thank her lucky stars if she gets a chance to make those improvements. When an editor sees promise in both the writer and the concept of a piece, there is hope that editor and writer can work together to produce a book or an article that will attract readers and delightfully surprise them with something even better than they expected.
A good way to prepare for working with an editor is to participate in a critique with other writers. There are several online sites where you can do this in forums. You might explore and . There are also many online groups for writers where there is informal or formal opportunity to help each other by means of constructive critique. Of course, the time-honored method of joining a face-to-face group that regularly engages in critique is hard to beat. In such venues, you will mature as a writer and develop specific techniques for dealing with pesky problems such as spelling and grammar as well as more subtle areas like syntax and diction. You may even get insight into content problems such as point of view, logical argument, or plot development. You will learn to value the professional growth that emerges when two (or more) creative minds tackle a problem.
Of course, the big payoff is the letter that says, “We want to buy your work,” or something like that. In the elation of receiving an acceptance letter, it is easy to miss details. However, a second reading may reveal that the editor wants some changes. Perhaps, instead of the 1000-word article you proposed, full of tips and tricks for job search in a depressed economy, the editor would like for you to reduce the count below 800 words. It is tempting to rail against the poor taste and ignorance of someone who fails to show proper respect for your compliance with the word count published in the guidelines. However, if you insist on your standards, you will need to make your case to someone else. No matter what the guidelines say, this publisher at this time needs 800 words. (Do remember the difference between guidelines and requirements.) The first time an editor made such a request of me, I was irritated. However, after I found 200 words I could do without, I discovered that the piece had a tighter, more coherent feel. I was more pleased with my work, and my bank account was happy, too.
In general, magazines prefer a query that contains a proposal to a completed article. The same is true for non-fiction books. You may propose one article or a series, or you may propose a book series. If your proposal is intriguing and your style is captivating, you may actually hear from the acquisitions editor. When you open the letter, you shout “Yes!” and do the happy dance. Then you read the letter again.
If any author has ever had a manuscript or a proposal accepted without any revisions, I have not had the pleasure of hearing about it. Writers want to receive acceptance letters, but most of them discover in the letter that some changes are required. How dare they! Your proposal is a solid concept. Your manuscript is crafted like a Rembrandt painting. What change could possibly improve it?
Perhaps you have proposed a series of articles and the editor wants you to compress your wonderful series into a single comprehensive piece. Maybe you proposed book on camping vacations, but the editor needs one focused tightly on camping in the Northwest. Alternatively, the editor loves your coverage of camping, but reader surveys indicate a growing interest in hiking venues. When your editor asks for change, be prepared to respond with a “can do” attitude. I once wrote an article about navigating a sailboat in the fog in which I focused on our personal development and growing self-confidence. The editor who expressed interest in the article asked if I could concentrate on the sailing skills and safety strategies required due to our lack of radar. This change in focus was a better fit for the magazine. Imagine that you have written a masterful article about negotiating, built around your experience helping your fifteen-year-old daughter live within a budget. Your editor may recognize a real bonanza in your tips and tricks for creating a fashion statement from items in discount stores and thrift shops, and that may be the article you actually sell. If you demonstrate that you are writing to serve the needs of the publisher and its readership rather than your own ego, you can build a relationship that may serve you well in your writing career.
Never forget that the editor is just as committed to your success as you are. Both of you have a lot to lose if your book or your article bombs. Your interaction with the editor of a magazine may be brief and intermittent, but very important nonetheless. If you sell a book project, then you will work with an editor for several months. In the books I read, authors often compliment their editors for their help in making the book better and making the author look good. They probably did not feel that way in the middle of the project.
One afternoon I boarded an airplane. When I found my seat, I noticed that my neighbor had a thick pile of papers on her lap and a cell phone to her ear. As she talked, she rummaged through the papers and scribbled notes. I could hear everything she was saying, of course. I heard some anxiety in her voice as she held up one page and said, “Take out the argument? Last week you told me I needed an argument to build the scene!” She was silent. “Then how will I get her to slam the door? She needs to slam the door to clinch the drama.” More silence. “I like the sound of a door slamming. I don’t want to invent some other device.” Papers rustled as she rummaged through them. “Well, thank goodness. I’m glad you liked that.” Suddenly she looked agitated. She moved her finger across the page as if she needed help reading. Suddenly she stabbed at a word. “I can’t believe I missed that! I know I checked the spelling, but there it is. Aaaggghhh!” She drew a large, black circle on the page. More silence. “Yes, but if I spend too much time describing that cave, the reader will forget why we are there. I thought it was more important to get him through the bottleneck.” A pause. “Hmm. Cold, wet, dark. Thank you for your confidence, but I can’t imagine how to increase the imagery while keeping the verbiage lean.” Eventually the conversation ended. I brazenly introduced myself and learned what I had suspected. This writer was working on her novel with her editor, streaking toward a deadline to run the galley proofs.
If you pay attention to this interchange (or at least the half I could hear), you will see that the dialogue shows two creative minds at work. The writer and the editor both want this book to succeed, and they have somewhat different ideas about what it will take. The writer who feels that this work is a finely polished jewel may not want to chip at it anywhere. The editor, with years of experience identifying books that sell, wants to chip anywhere and everywhere that will make that jewel shine more brightly. Every time I read a book that completely engulfs me, I know that it is the result of exactly this kind of creative friction, a dialectic from which emerges something better than either person could have done alone.
If you know that you were created to be a writer, know also that some people were created to be editors. Readers are deeply indebted to both. Your books and articles will connect with readers and build your relationship with readers only if you learn how to work successfully with editors.
© 2009 Katherine Harms

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dealing With Rejection

by Katherine Harms (c) 2009

Every runner knows that in a race, there is only one winner. There is a lot of competition. Runners who train very hard and do their best in the race will, nonetheless, lose, because only one can win. Many runners compete for years and win only a few races. They persist in preparing and running. They don’t give up.
Every writer faces the same kind of challenge. Years of experience teach editors to be extremely selective when reading the manuscripts that cross their desks. They know that the risk of a failure is less with established writers whose customers are already waiting eagerly for more books. A good editor will give an unknown writer only a few pages to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Like runners in a footrace, many more writers lose than win in any editor’s slush pile.
Rejection is quite painful. I had an unrealistic introduction to the world of publishing, because my first submission, a magazine article, was purchased two days after I submitted it. I thought I was going to set records. I was wrong. I immediately sent out more articles, and I immediately started learning about rejection. I have submitted book manuscripts, and I have submitted magazine articles. I have been rejected over and over. I have even been ignored. When I submit my article or book manuscript, I feel a lot like the mother of Moses who set her baby adrift in the Nile in a basket. I know there are crocodiles out there.
There are several kinds of rejection. I have received some rejections that include kind comments about my writing. I treasure those, and I go back to them when I get the ones that suggest a two-year-old could write better than I do. Most editors simply respond, “Unfortunately, it does not fit with our publishing goals.” Some never respond at all.
I try to remember that editors have good days and bad days. My manuscript is part of a pile that never stops growing. They dare not buy a poor manuscript, and they dare not miss a good one. I wouldn’t change jobs with an acquisitions editor for any amount of money. I can handle rejection of my manuscript with more grace than I could ever handle the consequences of buying a manuscript that bombed in the bookstore.
I am learning to make peace with rejection, just as a runner who loses a race makes peace with the loss. Whether it is an article or a book manuscript, I am finally learning that there is a difference between the creative experience of writing and the business of getting published. I love the creative part. I tolerate the business part. I thank God for the gift of writing. Writing is the way I think, the way I learn, and the way I grow in understanding. When I begin writing on any subject, the process is like a deep conversation. As I write and rewrite in the attempt to speak clearly, I discover that I must do more research, or I need to learn a new word, or maybe I just need a new viewpoint on the subject. When I have finished a piece, I am a different person than when I started. This is a reward that nobody can take away from me. Editors can refuse to print my work, but they can never steal the personal growth and the excitement about life that is the result of my writing. At first, I thought that a writer with no readers was a failure. Now I understand that my calling is to write. That is my work, and that is my blessing.
The business side is a burden I bear. Rejection is part of that burden. The publishers who reject my work may or may not tell me anything about their reasons, but underlying every rejection is a determination that for some reason, my work will not contribute to their bottom line. There are a lot of reasons that might put my work in the rejected pile.
My article may have arrived the week after the annual issue on my subject. My timing is bad. If they publish a calendar of topics, I should use that information and time my submissions accordingly.
My article may have been among two dozen on the same subject. The “winning” article may have offered a fresh perspective, or the writer may have organized the material in a more reader-friendly form. Maybe after reading the first dozen, the editor concluded there was nothing to be gained by reading more.
My article may not have been my best work. If I added a paragraph at the last minute and hurriedly hit “send,” I may have missed a spelling or grammar error that convinces the editor I should not be taken seriously.
Or maybe my article simply did not grab and hold the editor’s attention.
The first time I was told that my submission did not meet the editor’s “goals” I was pretty sure that she needed new goals. After all, this piece was phenomenal. I had edited out clichés and checked my spelling. I rewrote it twice to eliminate unnecessary adverbs. I checked my facts. My logic was coherent. My grammar was correct, and my diction was precise. In my professional judgment it was a good article on a timely subject.
My dear writer friend Signe says that when she receives a rejection, she picks up her manuscript and says, “I appear to have mailed this manuscript to the wrong address. Now where exactly is the editor who loves this piece?” She finds another market, and she submits the piece again. I decided that this strategy was better than eating spaghetti until I fell into a stupor.
I have sold some articles. I am still looking for the address of the editor who loves my wonderful first novel. Rejection is just business. I refuse to take refusal personally.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Author Laura Lipman

March 10, 2009
- 12:30 p.m. Barnes & Nobel at Johns Hopkins, 3330 St. Paul Street
- 7:00 p.m. Enoch Pratt Library

Multi-award-winning New York Times best selling author Laura Lipman will be promoting Life Sentences. See her website for additional times and places:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A note from Susan Weis: "Please Please Please!! Call to sign up for all classes and to make appointments: 410-235-7323. Classes are really filling up and we want to make sure we are prepared and don't have to turn people away at the door, so PLEASE call ahead. Thank you!"

Monday, March 2, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Finding Your Soul's Purpose with Dave Markowitz and Barry Goldstein .

Have you ever asked yourself: "Why am I here? What is my purpose? What am I here to accomplish?" You have chosen to incarnate at this specific and exciting time in our consciousness; find out why. You'll move past the surface answers to these questions and uncover your soul's purpose. Great for beginners, intermediate, or advance students, we'll guide you in identifying, awakening, and integrating your soul's purpose. Learn how to activate your soul's remembrance using guided visualizations, attunements, experiential exercises, sacred sound and song. Co-facilitated by Dave Markowitz and Barry Goldstein.Cost: $125
Monday, March 2, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Source Point Healing Private Sessions with Dave Markowitz. Source Point Healing offers instant awareness and long-term healing. Learn the underlying causes of pain, illness, and whatever is blocking you from optimal health, wealth, and heart-opening relationships. Receive Source energy and information channeled on-the-spot and succinct suggestions on how to stay in great health on your own. See Dave Markowitz ( for more information. Cost: $100/half hour, $175/hr.
Monday, March 2, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Harmonic Balancing and RelaxationPrivate Sessions with Barry Goldstein
Our main energy centers, the Chakras, are like the strings of the guitar. Each Chakra vibrates at a different frequency and when properly attuned, align themselves perfectly to create an optimal flow of energy. If one Chakra is out of tune the instrument energy blockages may occur, creating disharmony and dis-ease. Release these blockages with Grammy-award winning producer, and Sound Healer, Barry Goldstein ( Sessions available:Stress Reduction and Relaxation, Chakra Balancing, Releasing Emotional Armor, and Auric Attunement and Activation. Cost: $60/half hour, $100/hr, $150/hour and a half
Thursday, March 5, 7 p.m. (Bolton Street Synagogue)
Dr. Judith Orloff: Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life. Discussion and Book Signing (event to be held at 212 Coldspring Lane, Bolton Street Synagogue) Judith Orloff MD, a psychiatrist and intuition expert, will be here speaking about her new book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy. and spirituality. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. She is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and in Oprah Magazine and USA Today. This is an off-site event at The Bolton Street Synagogue -- 212 W. Coldspring Lane. (note: Books for the signing must be purchased at Breathe Books, either before or at the event.) Cost: free/book purchase from Breathe Books either before or at the event. Please call to sign up. 410-235-7323.
Wednesday, March 25, 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Meet Author Shelly Rachanow: What Would You Do If YOU Ran the World? Everyday ideas from women who want to make the world a better place. Join Shelly as she reads selections from her new book and leads a discussion about ways each of us can make a difference. In her first book, Shelly asked a question -- What would you do if you ran the world? Many women answered by sharing great ideas for making the world a better place for ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and our world. Shelly, a Baltimore native, lives her dream life in California. Cost: free
Sunday, March 22, 7 p.m.
Truth Heals with Deborah King TV commentator Deborah King, bestselling Hay House author of Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You, helps you experience your truth in a lively gathering filled with insight into celebrities and self! Learn how to be healthier, wealthier, thinner, have a great relationship, and be more connected to spirit. Deborah is a noted health & wellness expert, frequent guest on CNN, NBC, and Fox News, and other major media, and a blogger for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Cost: Free Sunday, March 22,
Breathe Books is in the news for being green! Publishers Weekly, February 2009


Breathe Books
810 W 36th Street
"The Avenue" in Hampden
410-235-READ (7323)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How To Write a "How-to" Article

_An old recipe for rabbit stew begins with this instruction: “First, catch a rabbit.” The writer of this recipe believes in starting at the beginning, and one can assume that she also referenced dressing and butchering before moving on to the cooking part. This recipe points up the necessity of determining the scope and detail of your article when you try to answer the question, “How do I make a rabbit stew?”
_Today’s cooks do not usually have time for a recipe that starts with an explanation of catching and butchering a rabbit. Some will already be proficient in those skills and want to get right to the culinary details. Others will only be willing to cook rabbit meat if it comes wrapped in plastic and clearly labeled “rabbit.” Likewise, any number of people may be interested in an article that tells how to refinish an old rocking chair, but only the novices in the group will need an explanation of sandpaper grades and varieties of wood cleaning chemicals. If you want to help people with minimal or no skills while retaining the attention of your experienced readers, explain how to catch rabbits or how to select varnish in separate articles. Writing a set of articles that educate people at various skill levels not only enhances your portfolio, but it also increases your credibility as an expert in the field. Every time you write an article about a new task, whether it is a recipe or a woodworking project, you can refer readers to your ancillary articles that constitute a complete education in your field of expertise!
_Every how-to article has the same basic elements:
^ Tools
^ Materials
^ Instructions
_You can give the article extra zip by listing a few tips for success, but be sure the tips are truly related to the process you are describing. Sprinkle nifty tips for success through all the articles where you build your reputation for cooking or woodworking.
_When writing articles about cooking, a list of tools is not always necessary. Most people who cook already have saucepans and measuring spoons. However, as Alton Brown has demonstrated in his television program, you could make a career out of writing articles about how to select cookware. People who want to refinish furniture or repair a lawnmower are more likely to need a list of tools appropriate for the task, and novices will need guidance when purchasing their first tools.
_Whether you are teaching the preparation of rabbit stew or a good method for refinishing old cabinets, a list of materials is essential. The reader can use the list for shopping and for setting out all the materials prior to starting the task. Cooks consider this preparation so critical to success that they invented the term mis en place to refer to the value of having all the ingredients out and ready before cooking begins. Every skill benefits from the practice.
_If you really are an expert, do not make the mistake of thinking it will be easy to write the instructions. It is common for people experienced in any skill to say, “I could do this in my sleep.” This cliché encapsulates the truth that if you know a great deal about any task, you complete a lot of the steps without thinking about them. Write the instructions as a numbered list. Put it away at least overnight. Then try to complete the task by doing only what you have written on the list. As you discover gaps in the instructions, add them to the list. If you follow this process two or three times, you will give your reader a much more reliable guide to success. If you can persuade a friend to try following your instructions before you submit the article, you will have the opportunity to improve your article further.
_Any parent who has tried to assemble a bicycle on Christmas Eve will attest to the value of instructions that actually work. You can build a loyal following if your articles help your readers to achieve their goals. When writing “how-to” articles, the success of your readers builds your success!

(c) 2009 Katherine Harms

Friday, February 13, 2009

Guest Blogger: Katherine Harms

How to Turn Personal Experience into an Article

-One of my first successes as a writer was an article about my experience learning to sail. The first time I ever sailed on a monohull sailboat, I was completely flummoxed when the boat heeled over. I thought sailboats sailed across the water the way a car travels on a road – upright. It took a few months and numerous experiences that bordered on terror for me to adjust. An article about my adjustment from fearful landlubber to giddy sailor garnered my first reader responses. It was the food of the gods.
-I got my first writing “job” when a friend decided to start a boating magazine. Based in Omaha, the magazine did not have a lot of subscribers who sailed. As a startup, the magazine could not afford compensation for its writers, but I yearned to find out if anyone would read what I could write. I wrote for love and for the adventure and just to see if I could do it. My second article, “Living on Tilt” incorporated my initial fear of heeling with a little humor and concluded with a testimonial to the pure joy of sailing. Readers responded with delight and asked if I would write more such stories. Would I!
-Personal experience can be the foundation of many great articles. A single adventure or personal trial may be the meat of the whole article. One of my best-liked articles told the story of how my husband and I learned the importance of knowing weather signs. The article chronicled our survival, confessed our mistakes, and summed up our lessons learned. In another one I told about the first time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner in a marine galley. I found my first paying market with an article about the way forgiveness heals in a family crisis. Humor and pathos are as valuable in articles as they are in novels.
-Sometimes you will find that numerous personal experiences deftly illustrate a theme you want to explore in an article. Everyone knows that communication is critical to the success of a marriage, and when I decided to write on that topic, I was able to share numerous illustrations from my experience sailing with my husband. By using illustrations of the way failure to communicate interferes with successful sailing, I presented the destructive effects of poor interpersonal communications with a lighter touch.
-It is important to remember that people are not really interested in your family, your friends and your opinions. They are interested in stories that engage their emotions, entertain, challenge or even teach them something. A memorable article might be set in Yellowstone Park during last summer’s vacation, but it won’t be memorable if it is a simply a diary of your daily travels. Just as a novel needs a plot that piques the reader’s attention, an article must continually make the reader ask, “then what?” Readers will snooze before finishing the first paragraph that begins, “Day 1 – we pack the trunk.” A story that starts with a bear at your tent door when you wake up will be more intriguing. That great story could lead very naturally into an article that elaborates on the role of bears in the environment, or strategies for hiking and camping in nature preserves, or the National Park policy for managing the bear population.
-Your life is a treasure chest of memories and great stories. If you use your best writing skills to share your adventures, the treasure might add up in your bank account.
© 2009 Katherine Harms

Katherine Harms lives and writes aboard the sailboat No Boundaries in Baltimore, Maryland. A liveaboard sailor for the past 8 years, sailing provides a lot of material for her writing life. She and her husband have cruised the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic coast between Delaware and Maine, and the Caribbean. Future plans include cruises to Nova Scotia and the Amazon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dr. Judith Orloff is coming to Baltimore

Thursday, March 5, 7 p.m.

Dr. Judith Orloff: Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life.

Discussion and Book Signing

Dr. Orloff is coming to Baltimore! Her incredible, pioneering career using energy work and intuition in her psychiatric practice, has made her one of the top authors, teachers and speakers in the country. Her previous bestseller, Positive Energy, is a classic.
The new book, Emotional Freedom, is called "Absolutely brilliant" by Caroline Myss. Christiane Northrup says" It's loaded with nuggets of practical and profound healing wisdom."

Off-site event at The Bolton Street Synagogue.

Books for the signing must be purchased at Breathe Books, either before or at the event. Call Susan Weis at 410.235.7323 for more details.

Cost: free

Monday, February 2, 2009

Author Linda Strawn

Linda Strawn, the author of Singing Winds (July 2007) is a fan of critique groups. For more information about Linda or to order her book stop by

Critique Groups
When countless hours are poured into creating a story, not to mention the immeasurable amount of thought, emotion, and even prayer that is invested, it’s nearly impossible to put a price on it.
After a story takes shape, and a writer has an emotional attachment, a manuscript is often referred to as their "baby". It takes a lot of courage to let their baby leave the nest when it is sent off to a publisher. Even though it seems a writer’s whole life hangs in the balance waiting for word that their book has been accepted, its value shouldn’t end with how much an editor or publisher thinks it’s worth.
Every writer should consider their manuscript as priceless, therefore great care should be taken to insure that it’s the very best it can be. A book is a reflection of the author who parented it, so don’t simply write a story, proof it yourself, and send it on its way. Give it the proper care and attention it deserves. A good parent wouldn’t dream of sending their child out on his or her own without the necessary guidance and instruction, so why would an author send a manuscript to a publisher without first polishing it up?
Authors typically hire editors to proof their work, but this is expensive. Most authors just starting out don’t have the resources to hire an editor, but in order to have a fighting chance in an extremely competitive market, it takes money. So, what’s an aspiring writer to do?
Join a critique group.
I found a group through an online writing organization I’m a member of. There are six of us in my critique group. Once a week we each submit a chapter to the group so each member can read and critique it. I have the benefit of having five other eyes looking at my spelling, grammar, flow, and structure. Instead of paying for this invaluable service, I reciprocate by critiquing their chapters. It’s a win-win situation.
Critique groups are a great alternative to editors when you’re short on funds. After you establish yourself in the writing community, and are making more money, then by all means hire an editor. Some critique groups may lack the expertise a respected editor has, but for new authors, I can’t say enough about a humble group of writers who just may be in the same boat you are. They want to succeed like you, and after you get to know your critique partners, you’ll find you’ve made some new friends and your very own cheering squad as well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Author, Dr. Amit Goswami

Breathe Books
810 W 36th Street
Baltimore, Maryland, 21211
Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sunday: 12 p.m. -5 p.m.
Susan L. Weis, proprietress

On February 8, Dr. Amit Goswami will talk to us about his scientific findings that God exists. Goswami became a celebrity when the film What the Bleep Do We Know was released in 2004.
His ability to clearly explain the complexities of the Universe make him a sought-after speaker and writer. Join us to learn more!
A note from Susan:
Please heed my plea to call (410-235-7323) or email to sign up for classes. Some events have been really full and I'd rather not turn people away at the door. So please help us out by signing up so we can prepare properly. You are the best! thank you...

Friday, January 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2008

NaNo's Chris Baty wants to know what you liked about 2008 and what you think needs to be improved in 2009. Please send your response by Monday February 2. Here's the link:

What is NaNoWriMo? - National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Author Daniel Pinchbeck

Breathe Books
Susan L. Weis, proprietress

(As I write this the ice is hitting the windows...please give the store a call today, Wednesday, to see if we are open and please be safe!)

We had some really great events last week! Lisa Alcalay Klug's Cool Jew presentation was surprisingly poignant, historical and fun. The Astro --Twins, Tali and Ophira Edut -- offered sage Love Zodiac advice, and Shaman Amaru Li gave us tantalizing details about our trip to Peru. What a great week.

February promises to continue along the same lines. We begin with one of the most provocative authors of our generation, Daniel Pinchbeck, on Feb. 3.

When I read his book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl a few years ago, I simply couldn't put it down. It took me places I'd never been -- from UFO's to Burning Man, to plant-spirit drugs and deep, moving revelations about monogamy. This book went everywhere -- all leading us to 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar.

Pinchbeck is part researcher, part journalist and 100% experiencer.

After the talk all are invited to The Dogwood (911 W 36th) for an author reception - Thank You, Dogwood!!

Beathe Books
810 W 36th Street
Baltimore, Maryland, 21211

hours: Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.Sunday: 12 p.m. -5 p.m.

Susan L. Weis, proprietress

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike Dies

Read Michiko Kakutani's New York Times Article:

There is also "A Conversation with John Updike" from October 2008 where he talks about the craft of fiction and the art of writing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cup of Comfort is looking for submissions about grieving hearts and about fathers and sons. Deadlines are February 1 and April 15, respectively.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chicken Soup

The Chicken Soup folks have a call out for true stories that tell it like it is, sometimes with humor. Deadline is February 28.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Really bad opening lines ...

The ever-popular Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which praises bad opening lines, is accepting entries for 2009, though the deadline is up in the air: "The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories). The actual deadline may be as late as May 30 (the 2009 results will be released by mid-June)."

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop Newsletter
University of Dayton
January/February 2009
Copyright 2008, University of Dayton

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Reflections on Editing

Read "Editing Is Essential" here:

Author Robert Schimmel

Comedy Central named Robert Schimmel one of its best 100 comics. He needed a sense of humor to stay sane through divorce, cancer and the death of child. He writes about it in his new book, Cancer on $5 a Day: How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life. Hear the NPR story here.

Source - Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop Newsletter

University of Dayton

January/February 2009

Copyright 2008, University of Dayton

Friday, January 23, 2009

HCC Inspirational Writing Basics starts February 13

Inspirational Writing Basics
Develop manuscripts that touch the hearts and imaginations of your readers. Practical instruction is also offered for writing magazine articles, personal narratives, short stories, and novels. Weekly writing assignment will be offered. The instructor is a published author and has also worked as a freelance editor and writing coach. Senior adult and disabled retiree tuition waivers apply. 0.900 TO 1.200 Continuing Education Units 9.000 TO 12.000 Lecture hours Levels: Noncredit Continuing Education Schedule Types: Lecture Harford Community College College CE - Community Education Division CE-Community Education (2005) Department

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Make 'em Laugh


PBS's new six-hour documentary, broadcast in three parts, looks at the history of American comedy in the 20th century -- funny people talking about what's funny and why.

(source Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop Newsletter, University of Dayton, January/February 2009)

All Over But The Selling

Publishers and literary agents are becoming increasingly selective about the books they are willing to look at. As fewer books are purchased it is even more important to submit your best work. Yet revising, editing and polishing can be daunting. There is so much to look at.

For hints, tips, techniques and services available please stop by:

Reflections on Editing is my new blog

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Read Like A Pro

Ocassionally, I'll meet a would-be writer who claims they are not readers ... never have been, don't have time. Huh? This doesn't, well, this doesn't make sense to me. I can't quite comprehend wanting to have a life in words and not enjoying words. How will they ever learn to write I wonder? In my opinion if you want to write like a pro, you must read like a pro.

NSNC Alters Its Bylaws to Welcome Freelancers

By E&P Staff Published: December 10, 2008 11:47 AM ET NEW YORK

The board of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, in a meeting Tuesday evening, amended the organization's bylaws to include as regular members freelancers, self-syndicated or independent writers, or writers published on the Internet in any medium as online columnists or in blogs. This change followed the board’s recent decision to allow writers other than those employed by newspapers to enter the NSNC’s annual column writing contest. The change in bylaws welcomes new members into full fellowship of the organization, and provides regular membership benefits. NSNC has also voted to add a new category to its annual writing contest: a category for blogs. The blog-column category is open to all North Americans who write a Web log of original material, whether published independently or by a third party (their employer, media syndicate or aggregator). In addition, to remain consistent with the new bloggers category, the current separate online column category was modified to delete the restriction that online columns must be published by newspaper Web sites. Any online columnist is now eligible, as long as the work is original content appearing only online.
E&P Staff (

Meet Lisa Alcalay Klug, the author of Cool Jew

Breathe Books
The Avenue
810 W36th Street
Baltimore 21211

Jan. 22 Thursday, 7 p.m.

Meet the author Lisa Alcalay Klug - Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe The "Heebster Movement" What makes up this Jewish cultural revival, who are the players, and what is all the hoopla about? Meet author Lisa Alcalay Klug to get a taste of the trends taking place in Jewish pop culture through discussion, musical samplings and more. Lisa is a contributor to the New York Times, Forward, and many other publications. See www.cooljewbook.comCost: free

Laurie Halse Anderson wins the 2009 Scott O'Dell Award

Laurie Halse Anderson has won the 2009 Scott O'Dell Award for Chains (S&S, October 2008), narrated by teenaged Isabel Finch during the Revolutionary War. Although Isabel and her enslaved five-year-old sister were to be freed upon the death of their mistress, the woman's heir sells the siblings to a new owner in New York City--that is the first of the betrayals that lie ahead, but also the beginning of Isabel's fight for freedom. The award, established by O'Dell (best known as the author of The Island of the Blue Dolphins), is given annually to a meritorious work of historical fiction and includes a $5,000 prize. Chains was also a National Book Award finalist, just like Anderson's debut novel, Speak (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999).

The Scott O'Dell Awardfor Historical Fiction
In 1982, Scott O'Dell established The Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The annual award of $5,000 goes to a meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults. Scott O'Dell established this award to encourage other writers--particularly new authors--to focus on historical fiction. He hoped in this way to increase the interest of young readers in the historical background that has helped to shape their country and their world.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From Books New President Found Voice

From an article by Michiko Kakutani published January 18, 2009 in the New York Times:

Mr. Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father” (which surely stands as the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president), suggests that throughout his life he has turned to books as a way of acquiring insights and information from others — as a means of breaking out of the bubble of self-hood and, more recently, the bubble of power and fame. He recalls that he read James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and W. E. B. Du Bois when he was an adolescent in an effort to come to terms with his racial identity and that later, during an ascetic phase in college, he immersed himself in the works of thinkers like Nietzsche and St. Augustine in a spiritual-intellectual search to figure out what he truly believed.
-As a boy growing up in Indonesia, Mr. Obama learned about the American civil rights movement through books his mother gave him. Later, as a fledgling community organizer in Chicago, he found inspiration in “Parting the Waters,” the first installment of Taylor Branch’s multivolume biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
-More recently, books have supplied Mr. Obama with some concrete ideas about governance: it’s been widely reported that “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln’s decision to include former opponents in his cabinet, informed Mr. Obama’s decision to name his chief Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as Secretary of State. In other cases, books about F. D. R.’s first hundred days in office and Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars,“ about Afghanistan and the C.I.A., have provided useful background material on some of the myriad challenges Mr. Obama will face upon taking office.
-Mr. Obama tends to take a magpie approach to reading — ruminating upon writers’ ideas and picking and choosing those that flesh out his vision of the world or open promising new avenues of inquiry.

Barack Obama Is Sworn In As The 44th President

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 -- 12:06 PM ET-----

President Barack Obama took the oath of office on Tuesday at theNational Mall in Washington before what may be the largest inaugural crowd ever.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Basil & Spice...

...promotes healthy living. Founder, Kelly Jad'on provides "specific health and wellness information covering all aspects of our life." Check out this great site:

What's Age Got To Do With It by Robin McGraw - my review is up today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Endangered Species by Lawrence Grobel

"Norman Mailer once told Lawrence Grobel that writers may be an endangered species. And Saul Bellow told him, "The country has changed so, that what I do no longer signifies anything, as it did when I was young." But to judge from this collection, writers and writing aren't done for quite yet. Sometimes serious, sometimes funny, sometimes caustic, always passionate, the twelve writers in Endangered Species memorably state their case for what they do and how they do it. And they even offer an opinion or two about other writers and about the entire publishing food chain: from agents to publishers to booksellers to critics to readers. Not surprisingly, it makes for some great reading." (taken from the back cover)

The subtitle is "Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives"

A book for those who are interested in some of the 20th Century's most notable authors.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Working Through Lunch

Local writers head over to Jill's blog Baltimore Bites for places to eat and work:

And if you know of any other places that will welcome us, hey, now is the time to share.

Thanks Jill, great blog.

"Dear Peggy, how do you find balance..."

Joy asks:
"How do you find balance being a freelance writer? Is it difficult to keep on top of all the different assignments you have to complete?"

Hi Joy,
Great question. The key to finding balance is probably organization. I’m a fairly organized person, but I still don’t think I’ve truly succeeded in finding balance. There is always a project I want to write waiting in the wings! Yes, it’s very difficult to keep on top of many different assignments. I know some people who strictly schedule their time—9 to 11am, work on magazine article, 12-3pm, write query, etc. But that never works for me. Still, I always follow a To Do list, which I’ve broken down into categories "Write" "Rewrite" "Resubmit" and "Call." I also have notes all over my desk calendar! You’re right, finding balance is important, and I know you can do it!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Dear Peggy, are magazines looking for any 'hot topics' right now?"

Joyce asks:
"Are magazines looking for any "hot topics" right now? I’m already submitting fillers, evergreen articles and service pieces. All those items are supposed to be a good starting point. I’ve had encouraging responses but no acceptances … yet."

Hi Joyce,
It’s difficult to define a general "hot topic" for all magazines. Evergreen articles do seem to be in demand right how. Holiday pieces are almost always appreciated. Keep your ears open to current trends, but act fast. I assume you are already studying the market needs in magazines such as Writer’s Market and Writer’s Guidelines. Also, each magazine’s website often provides editorial needs. Several magazines have themes determined for the entire year. One such magazine is Pockets. Check out their website for details, and see if you find a good fit. I hope you get that acceptance soon!

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Dear Peggy, I have an idea for another book..."

Jen asks:
"I have an idea for another book that would be a compilation of stories from women around the country. The first part of my question is, how would I get these stories? Do I put an advertisement somewhere soliciting stories, buying a mailing list, etc? I’ve seen it done again but I don’t know how it is accomplished.
"The second part of that question is, gathering these stories. I am assuming I also need permission to publish their stories without compensation. Is this correct? How should this be worded?"

Hey Jen,
The website is a wonderful tool to connect with women all over the country. My suggestion is to start a website and advertise for contributions to your book on there. You can create your own simple website for free with google pages. Or if possible, hire someone to build a site for you. Advertising in a writer’s magazine is another idea, or a magazine relevant to your topic. Make it clear before hand that there’d be no payment for these stories. Most authors do offer a copy of the book, however. Yes, you will need consent from the women. When you accept their story, you should then send them a contributor’s consent form. I’m sorry, I’m not really sure of the exact wording. Maybe you could search for that information online. Good luck!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Protect Our Libraries

Readers and Writers, Lesa has an important post

"The Role Of Libraries in Economic Hard Times"

on her site, Lesa's Book Critiques,

I encourage you to read her words and
follow through by making calls to local officials.

What's Age Got To Do With It?

Robin McGraw is the author of a new self-help/memoir for women, especially for those of us who are of a certain age. What’s Age Got To Do With It? covers a lot of territory. The author opens by inviting the reader into her life, telling us how as a young mother she worked hard to fix sons Jay and Jordan healthy meals, yet starting her own day with a slice of cake and a cup of coffee, and grabbing a bag of Gummy Bears for lunch. Like a lot of mothers she saw to it that her husband and sons had regular check-ups, while often neglecting her own medical care. She also shares the story of her mother, Georgia who at age fifty-eight died of a heart attack while the two of them were talking on the telephone. After a lifetime of putting herself last Georgia left behind a huge family and a lot of memories. From the day her mother died, Robin vowed not to continue the legacy of self-neglect. Suddenly, Robin had my attention.
_I tend to view all books through the lens of a writer. As a writing coach and instructor I council my clients and students to connect with their intended readers.
_Robin did that.
_While many of the topics will be familiar to the reader, the author’s excitement and sincerity give this book an edge. The tone is friendly, the information informative, and the index makes it possible to dip into the book to find advice about a specific topic. Nicely done.
_"Robin says, ‘I wrote this book, not only to answer questions about what I do to stay healthy and in shape, but to remind women that it’s time to move yourself to the top of your list of priorities. It’s never too early to start taking care of yourself, but it’s also never, ever too late."

_What’s Age Got To Do With It? Living Your Happiest & Healthiest Life © 2008 by Robin McGraw. Thomas Nelson.

"Peggy, I've been a freelancer for almost a decade."

Kate asks:
"I’ve been a freelancer for almost a decade. I previously wrote for mostly secular publications, but I’ve more recently started writing for Catholic media. I’d like to broaden the markets I pursue to include Christian media and would love the opportunity to write for publication with wide Christian appeal like Guideposts. Any tips on how to best break into a market like this aside from following the writers guidelines closely? Do they have any perennial editorial needs I might be able to fulfill? Thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with all of us!"

Dear Kate,
I’m glad you enjoy Guideposts magazine. The best way to break into Guideposts is to enter their contest, which is offered every-other year. Twelve or so lucky writers (out of thousands who enter!) are given a one week hands-on training session where they learn everything they need to know about writing for Guideposts. That’s how I got my start! And, my winning story was the first story I’d ever submitted anywhere! So it can happen to you, too. Guideposts is always looking for personal stories of change that will help their readers. While some may have considered Guideposts geared more toward the mature reader, they are currently seeking stories about younger people. So you can keep that in mind! Another great way to break into Guideposts is by writing one of their features, such as the popular "His Mysterious Ways."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Dear Peggy, how do I get started?"

Noel asks:
"I’m a graduate student of English and would love to become a freelance writer, writing for different publications like you do. How do I get started?"

Hi Noel,
Congratulations on pursuing your English advanced degree. To get started freelancing, first, decide what kind of writing you want to do. Fiction, how-to, personal experience? Think about which publications you enjoy reading. You will write the best articles for the publications you already read. You will notice that many commercial magazines have a column, often in the back of the magazine, where they encourage readers to submit personal stories. This is often a great place to start. Keep writing and most importantly, keep submitting. Don’t get discouraged by a lot of rejections at first. Just keep learning and studying books like Writer’s Market and read magazines and websites (and blogs!) on freelancing. Good luck!

Dear Peggy

Peggy Frezon is an award winning freelance writer and dog lover living in upstate New York. She has graciously agreed to answer our questions about writing. Stop back and read her advice (today through Sunday) and check out her blog:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ray Bradbury Interview (Lawrence Grobel)

Lawrence Grobel has been a freelance writer for thirty years, Playboy calls him "the interviewer's interviewer."

Lawrence: How did you deal with early rejection?

Ray Bradbury: "You have to feel the editors are idiots or misconceived. We all do that. It's wrong, but it's a way of surviving. I try to teach young writers to do the same thing. You sit down at the typewriter again and do more work and try to get a body of work done so you can look at it and become your own teacher. If you do fifty-two short stories it's better than doing three, because you can't judge anything from three stories. It's hard to write fifty-two stories in a row and have them all be bad. Almost impossible. The psychological benefits from my first sale, which I got no money for, had to last me for a year before I made my next sale. That year I sold two more stories and had a little extra residue of belief. But it wasn't until I was twenty-two I began to sell quite a few short stories, and most of those were at fifteen dollars apiece. When I was twenty-four I sold about forty short stories in one year to the various pulp magazines. I got thirty or forty dollars apiece, finally a halfway decent income. Must have made twelve hundred dollars that year. I thought I was rich."

Endangered Species, Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
by Lawrence Grobel
Published by DA CAPO Press(c)2001
page 4

Monday, January 5, 2009

Marketing Advice

Hi! Let me introduce myself quickly. I’m Chrissy Siggee and I have two adult children and three grandchildren and live with my husband of twenty-eight years, in Brisbane Australia.
After serving many years in children and youth ministries, I dedicated myself to Pastoral Care and Counseling to shut-ins, hospitalized and those with special needs. I only rediscovered my childhood desire to write shortly after moving to Sydney in 2006. I began with writing my first novel. I then spent many months housebound in unbearable pain. Partly paralyzed on one side until my surgery in late October 2007, I discovered this would be a major turning point in my life.
I finally found enough courage to have my manuscript edited, then asked a friend if she would design a book cover for me. A website was launched and after I returned from a five week holiday to America, “Out of the Shadow’s – Jenna’s Secret” was published and in my hands. This was early September 2008.
Marketing has become a full time job. Sales came in immediately and steadily from America, New Zealand and Australia. I approached a local bookstore who accepted six copies on consignment. This was the motivation I needed to get started. I began sending long informative emails to major book stores in Australia. Within days I felt like I was on a locomotive that wouldn’t slow down.
An email asking an old friend to assist at a book signing, led me to two speaking engagements within the next two months. Two large church magazines, covering most of Australia, offered to do half page book reviews in their next issues. (December/January) I received a reply and acceptance email to place my novel on the National Independent Book Stores Data Base System, which was available to every independent book store in Australia.
About the same time I was hit by a huge disappointment from one of the largest book store chains in the nation, explaining to me that their stores were franchised owned and I would have to approach each of their 177 stores individually. My heart dropped. I researched, Googled and made telephone calls until I found what I needed. The email I received was not 100% correct in their reply. I was determined I would succeed and replied to the email announcing they were right about the franchise but each franchised purchased from their head office data base system, just as the independent bookstores operated. I also told them that I was disappointed in the lack of communication they must have within their company and with their franchise owners. The following week I received an official apology from the head office general manager. I was correct in my assumptions and my book and details was immediately placed on their data base, and an official launch of my book sent to every franchise owner in Australia.
Next, I used all my accumulated information and finally emailed Koorong’s head office. Koorong is THE biggest Christian bookstore in Australia. I received a telephone call the very next day discussing details and setting up an account as a private distributor; something that is not often done within their company. I had proved my dependability, advertising and marketing skills.
Marketing has slowed down now and I’m beginning to receive the rewards of my early efforts with a second reprint order organized for the New Year. With a second book due to be published in February 2009, I feel ready for the marketing Glimpses Of His Glory with a sense of excitement.
One thing I’ve learned through my marketing experiences is not allow one disappointment to discourage my effort and determination to achieve. It’s also a lot of hard work but very rewarding.
You can contact me by email or through my book website