Want to Write Humor? Check Out This Interview

Want to read a great article about writing humor? Check out WomenonWriting.com and enjoy “Humor in the 10 Items or Less Lane,” an interview with writer Hillary Carlip.

Hillary talks about her book, A la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers, that is enjoying much success. The book, her fourth, was based on her view of discarded grocery lists. How’s that for a creative concept? Her first book, Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out earned the author a spot on Oprah, and her memoir, Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan was named one of the Top Literary Memoirs of 2006.

I haven’t read A la Cart yet but I plan to do that as soon as I can get to Barnes & Noble to buy a copy — a decision based almost entirely on this interview. Hillary’s book is filled with humorous character sketches featuring photos of the author as each of the characters. I can hardly wait to get my hands on a copy.

Writers can learn a lot about writing humor from the WOW interview, in addition to having lots of laughs. As usual, WomenonWriting has done a fine job on this piece. You can read the full interview here, but you might to want to read it on the WomenonWriting website instead so you can also read other helpful articles posted there.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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Five More Helpful Websites for Writers

In April, I posted “Five Helpful Websites for Freelance Writers.” As a followup, here are five more websites than can prove helpful for writers, whether you are already published or just beginning your writing career, and whether you write fiction or nonfiction. There’s something for everybody in this group:

Oncewritten.com calls itself the source for new or emerging writers and offers free “stick content” (writing prompts and writing contest information), book reviews, author interviews, book promotional tips and chances to win free books. If you subscribe to the site’s Writing Spark Newsletter ($3 per month for recurring subscriptions, $7.50 per quarter, $25 a year), you’ll be sent writing prompts 365 days of the year.

If you’ve written a book, or if you’re thinking about a writing book, you might want to check out ParaPublishing.com. Along with hundreds of pages of information and free documents, there is specific information about writing your book and all the components needed for its publication and distribution. Check out the link to Specific Category Writing for information about Fiction versus Nonfiction, Children’s Books, Cookbooks, Travel Books, Religious Books, Screenplays and Newsletters.

In the free edition of the AbsoluteWrite.com newsletter, you can get biweekly updates on international writer’s guidelines, jobs for writers, calls for submissions and writing contests. The site also offers writing software, author interviews, columns and articles on writing. There’s a Writers Wanted section where writing jobs, guidelines and freelance opportunities are posted, plus a newsletter filled with agents looking for writers. Be sure to check out the article, “Simple Ways to Re-Slant Your Article” by A. Antonow. Re-slanting is a good way to increase your writing income.

Duotrope.com is a great resource for writers with its database of more than 1,500 markets for short fiction, poetry and novels. You can search the database by genre, pay scale and submission length. The site is kept current by updates at least twice a month. There’s also a free online submission tracker for registered users.

Another helpful resource for writers, especially beginning writers, is LiteraryLawGuide.com. You’ll find articles like “What Every Writer Should Know About Copyright” and “Publishing Law 101: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.” Also there are links to multiple other resources like SPAWN, The Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network, which offers information on writing and publishing, and links to publishers, printers, the media and other research sources. There’s also a link to WritersHelpDesk.com, which has over 500 pages of information for self-publishing and writing resources.

Use the listed information at your own risk. Words into Print gives no warranty to
completeness, accuracy, or fitness of the markets, although research is done to the best of our ability.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

Please leave a comment.

Use the listed information at your own risk. Words into Print gives no warranty to
completeness, accuracy, or fitness of the markets, although research is done to the best of our ability.

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Writing with Precision: More Words that Trip Us Up

“A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist.” Vladimir Nabokov

Have you seen the Avis television commercials written from the point of view of a car whose owner is off to Florida, enjoying herself while driving around in a new Avis rental car? The left-behind vehicle bemoans having to sit “staring at a cement wall” until the owner returns.

There’s a problem with the commercial, precisely this: there can be no such thing as a cement wall. The vehicle is facing a concrete wall. Cement is a soft powdered substance which is mixed with water, sand and gravel to make concrete, the finished product used for walls, sidewalks and the like. Cement is much too soft to become a wall. Evidently the Avis copywriter didn’t take the time to learn the difference in the two words.

It’s easy for words like cement and concrete to trip us up. That’s why I keep a dictionary and a style book like Strunk and White’s Elements of Style close to the computer to help in choosing the exact word needed for a sentence.

Other right- and nearly-right words can also trip us up. Here are a few more that I’ve come across in recent weeks:

Disburse and Disperse

Disburse means to give out (We will disburse Christmas bonuses early this year).
Disperse means to scatter (The mob chose to disperse when the police car came into view).

Disassemble and Dissemble

To Disassemble means to take apart (The mechanic disassembled the engine to find out why it failed).
To Dissemble means to tell lies (The Senator was known to dissemble in his speeches).

Past and Passed

Past refers to events that have taken place previously (His past came back to haunt him in his new job).
Passed is the past tense of the word pass (While waiting to see the doctor, he passed the time by working sudoku puzzles).

Economic and Economical

Economic means having to do with the economy (The housing crisis is having a big impact on our economy).
Economical means being financially prudent, as being careful in spending money or time (She found it most economical to shop in grocery stores that doubled coupons).

Sunrise and Dawn

The words are not equivalent in meaning. Sunrise is the daily appearance of the sun above the eastern horizon (While we were on vacation, we watched the sunrise every morning).
Dawn is the period of daylight in the morning that happens before the sun emerges above the horizon (They waited for dawn so they could see well enough to launch the boats).

Hoard and Horde

Hoard means to store or accumulate things (During World War !!, some people tried to hoard sugar).
Horde means a large group of people (A horde of fans turned out for the concert).

I’ll finish with some words of advice, not from me but from the poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who knew the value of writing with precision:

“Put the argument into a concrete shape, into an image, some hard phrase, round and solid as a ball, which they can see and handle and carry home with them, and the cause is half won.”

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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Eight Magazines That Pay $1 a Word for Articles

NOTE: The information below was valid at the time it was posted. Magazines, however, go in and out of business all the time, so be sure to visit a publication’s website and check its guidelines before submitting anything to them. Also, check with sites like mr.magazine.com to find out about new start-up magazines).

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Beginning freelancers often sell to low-paying markets when trying to break into the field. Sooner or later, however, they begin to realize that more money can be made by sellling to higher-end publications. $1 a word is a good goal to have — sell a 1,000 word article and make $1,000. Surely beats writing for publications that pay a pittance — or sometimes nothing at all.

To start you on your way to selling to higher-paying markets, check out the following group of publications that pay at least $1 a word for articles. Some pay much more.

American Forests, which is produced by the nation’s oldest citizen conservation group, welcomes new writers. Looks for topics that profile the group’s work, including its Global ReLeaf Forest plantings, and examples of urban forestry, small community-based forestry projects that benefit local land and landowners. Writers are advised to study a few issues before submitting queries. Payment ranges from $100 for clipping items (to 300 words) to up to $2,000 for feature-length articles with photos supplied. Writers can also submit samples of their work and ask to be considered for assignment. Specify your specialty: (education topics, policy, science stories, etc.). Guidelines are online here.

Major articles for Boy’s Life run from 500 to 1,500 words and payment is $400 to $1,500. “We cover everything from professional sports to American history to how to pack a canoe,” according to their writer’s guidelines. Articles must interest and entertain boys ages 6 to 18. Editors want to see queries by mail (with SASE). Buys first-time rights. Click here for complete guidelines.

Scrap Magazine pays $800-1200 for articles ranging from 2000-3000 words in length. Pays $600-$1200 for photo shoots. Scrap is the preeminent magazine for the scrap recycling industry, which is NOT the same as curbside recycling. The magazine provides news and feature articles on topics to help scrap recyclers operate better, more profitable businesses. According to the writer’s guidelines, “The best way to understand the scrap industry is to visit our website and the site of our related trade association and review a sample copy of Scrap.” Buys all rights, including electronic. Guidelines are online here.

enRoute is Canada’s upscale, award-winning bilingual (English/French) inflight magazine for people who work and play on a global scale. It’s read by nearly 1 million passengers a month. The publication’s base rate if $1 a word Canadian upon acceptance. Short profiles, feature profiles, roundup service features, essays, cultural trend stories, short and long travel features and front-of-the-book roundup of short pieces on global travel/lifestyle trends. Read the guidelines for editorial requirements plus some back issues before you pitch the publication.

Coastal Living Magazine is a lifestyle publication that covers homes, destinations, activities and people along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coast of North America, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as coastal Canada and Mexico and, from time to time, the Caribbean islands and the U.S. Great Lakes. Stories are planned a year in advance during editorial meetings from November through January, so you can research a story now to pitch for issues to be published in 2010. Pays $1 a word, plus reasonable expenses (such as transportation, lodging and dining for travel stories). Be sure to check out the extensive writer’s guidelines before approaching the publication.

The mission of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education is to help college and university IT managers, directors, practitioners, and others to better serve their institutions. The magazine uses features, best practices, case studies, reviews, columns and tech trends. 90% of the publication is written by freelancers. Payment is $1 a word for 500-1500 words. Currently the publication needs story pitches, including specific technologies and schools that would make a good fit for the story. You can request complete guidelines by email. Some advice from the guidelines: “Make sure stories include a technology angle and are relevant to higher education.”

Eating Well is a bimonthly national food magazine that focuses on eating healthfully. Readers are interested not only in cooking and nutrition, but also the origins of food and social issues related to food. The guidelines state: “We welcome ideas from new writers. If you haven’t worked with us before, it’s best to start off pitching front-of-the-book ideas, even if you’re an established writer. Consider it an audition for a longer piece.” The pay rate is up to $1 a word and the magazine purchases all rights, including Web rights. Check out the guidelines for freelance-friendly columns and tips to help you pitch to the publication.

Midwest Living is a bi-monthly lifestyle magazine that focuses on travel, food, home and garden. Most articles take a service approach and run between 300 and 1,000 words. They coverage area is Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesote, Iowa, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, and sometimes Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. The guidelines detail what makes successful pitches to them, what they’re not interested in, and how to submit an idea. According to the guidelines: “Our rates vary depending on the article, the writer and the amount of research involved, but we are generally in the range of 80 cents to $1 a word, plus expenses.” Go here to read complete guidelines.

If you pitch one of these publications and receive a go-ahead, please come back here and share the news with everyone. And we’d be delighted to read your articles when they are published. Please let us know.

Use the listed information at your own risk. Words into Print gives no warranty to
completeness, accuracy, or fitness of the markets, although research is done to the best of our ability.

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© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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Remembering My Mentor, Lydel Sims

As a beginning freelancer, I was extremely lucky to have as my mentor Lydel Sims, a columnist for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. In addition to writing his daily humor column, Lydel taught writing classes at what was then Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) and in later years he wrote columns on word usage for several publications. I profited from all those efforts, reading and enjoying every day his humorous view of the human condition, taking several of his classes (and selling my first articles as a result), and depending on many of his grammar columns to help make my articles as good as I could make them.

Lydel was also an acclaimed book author, journalist, poet and freelance magazine writer. When I first signed up for his feature writing class, he took under his wing this timid, formerly stay-at-home mother of five, and introduced me to the wide world of writing. He made suggestions to improve my work, he encouraged me to study for a journalism degree, and he gave me the boost I needed to become a selling writer. He gave similar support to every student in his class. We all learned a lot about a lot of things from him — and especially to appreciate to the fullest his low-key humor.

Some of his now-yellowed-with-age grammar columns are tucked away in my bookshelf and I pull them out from time to time to refresh my memory about what he wrote about words and correct usage, and to remember the role he played in my writing life. Here are two excerpts from his columns:

A reader wrote him:

Sir: I know it is not correct to say, “I feel badly about it,” but what about the word “strong”? It seems rather awkward to say, “I feel strong about it.” Is it proper to use the adverb “strongly” in this case?

Lydel’s answer:

Yes, indeed, because this is an entirely different situation.
When you say, “I feel bad,” that’s like saying, “I feel good” — you’re using a linking verb followed by a predicate adjective to describe yourself, specifically your sense of happiness or health.
Similarly, when you say, “I feel strong,” you are describing your physical state.
“I feel strongly,” on the other hand, has nothing to do with your health, but with your attitude. “Strongly” here is not a predicate adjective but an adverb, and is clearly the word you want in your example. Go ahead and feel as strongly as you wish.”

Another reader wrote:

Sir: You press people have been called “the Fourth Estate.” Can you explain the origin of this expression and why you came in only fourth?

Lydel replied:

The expression comes from Britain, whose traditional three estates were the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and Commons. According to Carlyle, Edmund Burke referred to the three estates in a speech in Parliament and then added: “But in the reporters’ gallery yonder there sits a fourth estate more important far than all.”

It’s only fair to note that, even earlier, an English writer said the Fourth Estate was “The Mob.” Journalists seldom tell anybody that, but who asked?

I spoke with Lydel about a year before he died and told him how much he had influenced me and my writing. By that time I had earned my journalism degree and been a newspaper reporter and a magazine editor before turning to full-time freelancing. I wanted him to know how much I appreciated his support for me as a beginning writer and later on as a journalist and editor. I’m glad I made that phone call.

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© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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