Finding Little Gems on the Bargain Book Table.

Have you ever found any good writing books on the bargain tables at Barnes & Noble? I think I found two that might become favorites of mine: Living and Teaching the Writing Workshop by Kristen Painter, and Writing Brave & Free by Ted Kooser and Steve Cox.

What caught my eye in Kristen’s book was a segment on time and the writer. She reminds readers that you don’t have to quit your day job to become a writer,
that many full time writers put in only two or three hours a day writing. She pointed out that J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone during her baby’s naptime.

“Don’t think you have to find an eight-hour stretch of time in which to retreat in order to write (not that some writers haven’t done that),” she said. “Simply find fifteen to thirty minutes at first and let that dictate how much time you need, then maybe some weekend you’ll go to the coffee shop and write for a whole hour or more. The more you think like a writer, the more time you will create for your writing.”

The important thing is to write every day, either in your journal or on some writing project that draws your interest. Kooser and Cox say you need to make writing as much a daily routine as having your morning cup of coffee or brushing your teeth.

“For writers, the one essential habit is writing every day. And it’s got three advantages over brushing your teeth:

You’re working hard at your writing for the pure joy of it, as Stephen King says—because you want to, not because a doctor or a spirit of your mother told you to.

Writing is a lot more fun than brushing teeth.

Brushing your teeth is pure process; all you have to show for it in the short haul is a mouth tasting of toothpaste. Writing daily is a process, too, but the result is a product—every single day you’ve got another entry in your journal. Instant gratification!”

Sometimes you can find little gems on the bargain book table.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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Tips for Writers

Regular readers of this blog know that Writer’s Digest is high on my list of must-read publications. They also know I prefer to buy my copies of the magazine at Barnes & Noble, rather than subscribing (so I can check out new magazines on the newsstand and survey what’s being covered in others). I am never disappointed in WD. I always find nuggets or larger chunks of useful information.

When I picked up the August 2008 WD, an article in the Inkwell column immedately caught my attention — “Don’t Be a Diva.” Written by author Mary E. Demuth (Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God and Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture), “Don’t Be a Diva” offers 18 tips to endear you to editors, agents and others who can help your writing career.

Everything on her list of tips is worth noting, and I was particularly interested in “Number 11: Become a Lifelong Learner of The Craft,” because of this advice:

Go to conferences. Read great books. Read outside your genre. Go to lectures. Take a class. Try new things. Grow, grow, grow.”

In an earlier age, writers may have sat alone in garrets penning their prose. Today, smart writers know that following Number 11 can expand their horizons, keep them aware of what’s going on in the world, and help them become more successful writers. In fact, I think it would be hard to be successful as a writer without following much of the advice in Number 11.

And here’s a tip of my own. I’m frequently pressed for time, so I take Writer’s Digest (or another writing magazine) with me on my twice-weekly trips to the gym. With the magazine propped up before me on the treadmill, I can spend 30 minutes each time I go, surveying market lists, finding ideas for articles, and getting advice from Mary E. Demuth and other writers and editors, who all share their expertise in the pages of Writer’s Digest. It’s a win-win situation: I can follow my exercise routine and be a more productive freelancer at the same time.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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Six Magazines That Welcome New Writers

If you’re finding it hard to break into the magazine market, you might want to consider some of the magazines below — these publications all say they “welcome new writers.” It’s reasonable to expect that editors of these publications really want to read and consider your query or completed article. As with any publication, before querying or submitting, be sure to read a couple of issues of the magazine and follow the guidelines carefully. All of the information below appeared in the magazines’ guidelines.

Take special note of the quoted material in each listing below, too. Editors often reveal extra how-to-sell-to-us tips in their quotes.

Sky & Telescope is about the science and hobby of astronomy and is read by more than 200,000 amateur and professional astronomers worldwide. Feature articles cover important new advances or current problems in astronomy and planetary science; key figures and events in astronomical history; and new ground- and space-based observatories. Features run 1,500-2,000 words; other articles run between 1,000 and 1,500 words. Pays for most articles on publication. “Most authors write for us again and again, but we’re always looking for new writers eager to share their enthusiasm, talent, and expertise with our readers.” For complete guidelines, click here.

QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) is a trade journal serving franchisees and franchisors of quick service restaurants (fast-casual and fast food). It reports on news, products, trends and information the restaurants need to survive and prosper in a competitive industry. Departments include “Short Order,” 400-700 word profiles, interviews and reports; “Franchising,” 800-1100 word interviews, profiles, book reviews; “Tools,” 800-1100 word reports on ideas and actions that successfully put technology and other tools to work. For Features, 1800-3000 words, writers and editors work together on finding the best possible angle for a topic and the best industry sources and facts for the article.

QSR generally buys all rights and pays within 30 days of acceptance, “We prefer to work with writers who know the quick-service industry and can make timely, informed queries. If you feel you bring valuable experience and contacts to QSR, please submit a one- to two-page query.” Go here for complete guidelines.

Stop Watch is a trade journal for truckstop and travel plaza operators. Features typically run up to 2,000 words and shorter pieces average 800 words. Payment is made upon publication. Buys First North American Rights. Click here for guidelines.

“We welcome new writers to Stop Watch because we want to keep a fresh perspective. We especially welcome truckstop and travel plaza members and drivers to submit their ideas. They know this business and our writers should, too. The best way to familiarize yourself with our style and content is by reading past issues. Accuracy is crucial. Please be sure every date is accurate and every name is spelled correctly.” Submit story ideas or articles to Mindy Long at mlong@natso.com, or NATSO, Inc., 1737 King Street, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Paste Magazine is a monthly publication focusing on music, film, books and other forms of arts and entertainment. “We focus on Organic & Eclectic music, encompassing rock, singer/songwriters, alt. country, Americana, indie rock, world music and whatever else we think will grab music lovers seeking something a little deeper.” Paste hopes to cover the best music in the mix, devoting space to independent musicians alongside established artists. The magazine welcomes unsolicited articles from anyone who believes the piece is appropriate for Paste and its readers. (Hint: Best way to figure out what is appropriate is to read the magazine.)” The magazine is often available at Barnes & Noble. Check local your local newsstand for a copy.

Cover stories run 3000-4500 words; Features 1500-4000 words; Front of the book pieces 50-800 words; Film Reviews 200-500 words; Book Reviews 100-500 words; CD Reviews100-800 words. Pays on publication and retains the right to publish submissions on its website and other sites that use its content. Go here for complete guidelines.

Relix is another music publication looking for submissions. The present-day magazine is an outgrowth of the 1964 Dead Relix outlet for Grateful Dead tape traders. The emphasis has shifted away from the Greatful Dead over the years and now the coverage includes jambands and other non-mainstream types of music.

According to the guidelines, “We want to expand our coverage of new artists who might be of interest to our readers, so we are always looking for ideas. We also deal with environmental, cultural and lifestyle issues of concern to our audience. We are happy to welcome new contributors, so if you have story ideas, please feel free to drop us a note, preferably by email, to the appropriate editor.” Complete guidelines are here.

The magazine is looking for behind-the-scenes stories: “Straight-ahead interviews and live show reviews are fine (they’ve long been our stock in trade), but we’d like to see more intimate stories about the people who work out of sight, and the places in which they work.” Payment is made approximately four weeks after publication.

4WD Toyota Owner Magazine is an independent magazine for 4WD Toyota owners and enthusiasts worldwide. “It is a magazine that welcomes contributors of all styles, talents, and field. We welcome new writers, photographers, and yes, perspectives.” The magazine wants tech articles, trail run stories, cool rig features.

“Email us with your idea and we’ll give you a word count. 300 is typically the bare minimum.” Pays for submissions, with the rate depending on size of layout and amount of editing needed. Rates start at $50 and go up from there. Click here to read their entire submission requirements and information on how to email your story idea to editors.

Words into Print gives no warranty to completeness, accuracy or fitness of the above markets, although research was done to the best of our ability.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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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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My Friend, Ike, and a Boomer Contest

Some people know how to write humor; some don’t. I’m one of those don’t-know-how writers. I’m lucky, however, to have friends who write funny stuff all the time, especially my friend, Ike Martin. (His full name is James Isaac Martin, but Ike seems perfect for his brand of humor.)

Today I happened across Lee Ann Rubsam’s site which announced the Over 50: Still Kickin’ Baby Boomer Humor Writing Contest. There’s a $5.00 entry fee, a few simple rules and an August 31 deadline. I thought of Ike right away and emailed him the link to the site.

The contest is, I think, ready made for Ike, who recently published his first book of humor, “Booming to 60: The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Geezerdom.” One of Ike’s short pieces appeared in the back-of-the-book column of Downtowner Magazine in April.

Then I learned that Lee Ann has a blog just for the humor pieces she writes. If you go there, you can check out the post where Lee Ann gets a phone call from Dave Barry trying to talk her into allowing him to use her writing as his own. Very funny.

I’m not a boomer but I’m eager to see who wins the contest and later on, to read the winning piece on Lee Ann’s website.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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Writers on Writing

It’s fun to read the words of other writers when they talk about writing. That’s why I click on dozens of writer’s blogs every day. It’s also why I have an ongoing collection of quotations by writers. Some in my collection are just plain funny, some are serious, and some can teach valuable lessons. It makes no difference if the words were said by famous writers or by writers we may not have encountered before.

Below are writers’ quotations I’ve picked up recently from various sources. You might get a bit of inspiration from them, as I have.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

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.

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

If you cry “Forward!” you must without fail make plain in what direction to go. Don’t you see that if, without doing so, you call out the word to both a mond and revolutionary, they will go in directions precisely opposite?

(I tried without success to find out what the word “mond” means, but even without knowing the meaning, I believe I get the gist of what Chekhov is saying. Still, I’d appreciate hearing from anyone who can supply the word’s precise meaning).

Lord Byron 1788-1824

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

Lavinia Goodell (Junior editor, Harper’s Bazaar, 1866, and later, Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer)

Critics are by no means the end of the law. Do not think all is over with you because you articles are rejected. It may be that the editor has his drawer full, or that he does not know enough to appreciate you, or you have not gained a reputation, or he is not in a mood to be pleased. A critic’s judgment is like that of any intelligent person. If he has experience, he is capable of judging whether a book will sell. That is all.

Diane Hartman (In her Denver Post review of columnist William Safire’s book, “Watching My Language”)

“Your column is a pack of damn lies,” a reader wrote to William Safire about a political piece he did in the New York Times.
Brushing aside the stern criticism, Safire immediately debated whether it should be damn, the way it sounds, or damned, as the past participle of the verb, to damn. The ed on some words is simply slipping away, he points out. We’re seeing more barbecue chicken, whip cream and corn beef. His conclusion: “Ears are sloppy and eyes are precise; accordingly, speech can be loose but writing should be tight.”

Mark Twain 1835-1910

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.

And another by Mark Twain:

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.

And finally, two views of deadlines:

Rita Mae Brown (The Sister Jane Foxhunting Mysteries, The Mrs. Murphy Books)

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.

Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxdy

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Do you have some favorite writer’s quotations to share? We’d love to read them here.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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The Semicolon: My Favorite Punctuation Mark

Let me say one thing right off: I am very fond of semicolons. Others don’t share that view, I know, probably because the rules for their use can be confusing. I, on the other hand, have never had any problems with them; I’ve always found them easy to use.

They are, in fact, my favorite punctuation mark. Semicolons are easy to get along with, unlike some others: Question marks often require a response; exclamation marks can be unsettling when one meets words like “Fire!” or “Watch out!” and they can be overwhelming when people use too many of them; periods can bring readers to an abrupt halt. Semicolons, on the other hand, give us a long pause and time to collect our thoughts and adjust our thinking, then allow us to continue on the same reading track as before.

I tried to find out when writers first began using semicolons. One site said their use dated back to the Greeks and reflected earlier liturgical use. Another said they were a device used in the late fifteenth century for abbreviating words. And another site reported that the earliest general use of semicolons in English was in 1591 and that Ben Jonson was the first notable English writer to use them. I did learn that there was a semicolon used in a 1609 edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Their use has grown steadily with the years and now they can be found in everyday use in many languages.

If you have problems knowing how and when to use semicolons, you might check out one of the many online writing labs hosted on university websites. Two of the best, in my opinion, are the OWL, the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University, and the Learning Center’s Online Writing Lab at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. Both serve writers from all over the world and both are valuable sources for all kinds of writing help, including specific examples for the proper use of semicolons. I wish I could post some of the examples here, but they are all under copyright.

Visit the sites once and you’ll return again and again whenever you need help with grammar or punctuation.

© 2008 by Laverne Daley

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