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

The Mighty Queen of Freeville, a review

Chris' Critique

A Writers Review

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Amy Dickinson’s The Mighty Queens of Freeville about the many strong women, highly memorable animals, and the few significant men in her life.
Dickinson opens with a perfect portrayal of a marriage gone bad and flawlessly puts words to the heartache that ensues following the finality's of ending a long term relationship. She writes what we all feel. "First, I wanted it not to end. And second, I wanted for others to share a complete and interior knowledge of my heartbreak, followed by demonstrable grief."
Inspirational stories throughout her life will change the reader’s. These stories concentrate mostly on Dickinson’s attempt to raise her daughter and changing for the better while doing so. It almost seems as though daughter Dickinson (Emily) assisted her mom in the growing process and is granted full responsibility for her mother’s success.
Dickinson’s memoir is overflowing with thought provoking analogies and beautifully visual metaphors. Comparing herself to a caterpillar at a picnic, "inch worming my way in and out of situations," she describes her repetitive habit of what she refers to as "failing up." She effectively personifies emotions previously unimaginable to the reader. For example, when casually mentioning Emily’s prom date, "She would see her crush crushed."
The Mighty Queens of Freeville is representative of a library of books enabling women to empower themselves and their loved ones. Dickinson’s writing is a true to life portrayal of what will happen when women continue to stand by each other throughout the duration of their lifetimes. Only good can come from this.

Chris is a local writer who is currently working on her first book.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year...

... my wish is that 2009 be a blessed and fulfilling year for all of us. My goal for 2009 is to assist more writers achieve their goals. I am convinced that readers will continue to look for that next great read, and that publishers will continue to look for authors who can supply them. Consider joining a writers group, take a class, buddy up with another writer ... do whatever works for you. But write!

What are your goals for 2009?