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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Today my horoscope posed the question: "What do you want most?" For many of us, it’s to write a book. As the author of 12 books, I have to agree that writing a book is a tremendous accomplishment. But sales of the book itself are unlikely to make you a gazillionaire.
I feel like a bit of a kill-joy dashing the hopes of people who are convinced they’ll be the next J.K. Rowling, but it’s true. With that said, many aspiring book authors actually aren’t thinking big enough about their books. The money you make from a book often doesn’t come from the book itself. It’s what the book can bring into your life.
In fact, I’ve written a series of "case studies" on my Web site that showcase creative publishing entrepreneurs who have used their books as leverage to greater business success. And one of the profiles is of someone most of you know well. Our very own Executive Director Patricia Fry talks about how her 34 (yes 34!) books have affected her life and career. I hope you’ll check it out. Patricia’s prolific writing is an inspiration!
November Teleseminar Announcement!
Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: Judith Briles
When: November 10, 1 pm (Pacific)
How: Members will receive call-in information via email
Title: Show Me About Book Publishing
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection. The leaves have changed color, the air has chilled, and we’re focusing on family traditions. What better time to think about writing a personal essay? The Christian Science Monitor is a great place to start. In my interview with the editor, Susan Leach, she tells you what to include and what to avoid in order to improve your essay’s chances.
The Writer Magazine is running a contest on personal essays. www.writingclasses.com/essay2011. Be sure to click on “Contests” for the details.
With a couple of good places to send your story, what are you waiting for? Start writing.
If your essay leads you to think in a longer form, a memoir might be in your future. Read the article by Nancy Barnes (in this issue) for hints to make your book interesting and cohesive.
This month we include a grab bag of book reviews—you might want to put some of these books on your wish list for the holidays. Remember to look in the archives for past newsletters—you’ll find more book reviews there.
I am not an advocate of writing for free (or even on the cheap), but I have learned the advantages of trading. Consider a guest blog exchange. Both writers gain new readers. What other benefits are there? You are able to test the waters for new topics to write about before your style is stereotyped.
One editor told me, “So many writers sell all rights to their work. They miss out on reprint sales.” When dealing with a new editor, be sure to mention that you own the rights to your previously published article. With a little dusting off and freshening up, it’s good to go out and earn more money for you.
There’s no need to be a penny-a-word writer. There are still plenty of paying markets. You just have to know where to look. Don’t know how to find them? As usual, the Market Update is chock full of ideas for articles and books and places to submit them.
Make 2012 the year your writing shines!
– Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The SPAWN Market Update is posted the first of each month in the member area. The November edition features hundreds of money-making opportunities for authors, artists, and freelance writers. Whether you want to find a publisher for your manuscript, sell your poetry or art, get published in magazines, or sell more copies of your book, you’ll find the resources in this issue of the Market Update. We report on publishers seeking holiday material, mystery and crime manuscripts, and erotic vampire stories. We tell you how to earn thousands of dollars writing for regional magazines. We provide over a half-dozen directories featuring jobs for artists, book reviewers for self-published authors, and publishers of poetry. Learn how to break into the large regional magazine market. Find out which publishers will review your cover art and illustrations. And where can you go if you want to land a serious job in the publishing industry? We have that information for you.
Join SPAWN today to receive this important issue of the SPAWN Market Update and you’ll gain access to fifteen years of equally valuable issues in our archives.
Writing a Personal Essay for the Christian Science Monitor
From Sandy Murphy’s interview with editor, Susan Leach
First, the basics—800 words, no stretching the truth to make a better story, gentle humor is good, and always write in the first person, with timely and newsy topics. Pay is $150. Here’s the e-mail address for submission: email@example.com. They try to respond within three weeks.
An essay should be a complete non-fiction story with a beginning, middle, and end with characters the readers want to know. Subjects include travel, gardening, community, neighborhood, family, and parenting. The topic itself can be mundane—it’s how the story is told that makes the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Death, disease, and aging are not good essay topics for the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), but conflicting feelings make for a good story. An example is Robert Klose’s essay on his desire to home school his son in biology. While he was excited to see how his son learned and to share his love for the subject, he was surprised to find he didn’t know where to start the lessons. Having been accustomed to teaching college students en masse, teaching one boy to whom he was related struck him speechless. (http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1109/p22s1-hfes.html )
Ideas for essays can be simple—the quality of writing is the key. Most writers find it hard to write a strong ending. The tendencies to repeat, summarize, or have no resolution are probably the most common reasons most essays are rejected. An essay submitted to CSM should be publishing-ready in order to be considered. “We don’t do much editing,” says Leach. “The writer often keeps writing after the end of the story. Sometimes we cut the last two paragraphs to get to the true ending.”
With over 200 essay submissions per week to fill 100 acceptances each year, rewrites are not an option. “There’s no time to work with writers or to ask for a stronger ending,” said Leach. “An essay shouldn’t tell the lesson but let the reader find it in the story. There’s no need to summarize or repeat the lesson learned.”
One of Leach’s favorite essays, also a favorite of readers, is about the daily life of a Caucasian woman living in Zimbabwe.
Writers whose articles elicit a response from readers who actually take the time to write and comment, are often repeat contributors. About half of the essays are by professional writers. Others are from part-time writers and submissions sent over the transom.
“There should be a conclusion, a lesson, but nothing heavy-handed about it—the reader should come out of the story knowing it,” says Leach. “We think of The Home Forum section as a sanctuary for people. They read the essay, feel uplifted, and find an epiphany or constructive change in it. It’s like a film with a good twist at the end.”
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Essays, Turning Humorous Essays into Newspaper Columns, and Formatting Titles
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I just wrote up an account of an event that happened to me when we first moved to Georgia. I want to know if it qualifies as an essay. It is not a series of musings on a central theme, as in some essays I’ve read. It is the true story of what happened and what I learned from it.
I looked up how to write an essay, and the information told how to write a persuasive essay. Mine isn’t that type of writing, though. If I write a nonfiction piece without attempting to prove a point, is it an essay or an opinion? It would help to get clarification, because I usually don’t write nonfiction.
A: Essays come in many forms, including personal opinion, persuasive, and personal experience. Many humor columnists write in the form of essays that relate personal experiences combined with their personal opinions about what took place.
Personal experience essays concentrate on a specific event or related events, and they often unfold with action and dialogue, which sets them apart from a persuasive essay. If your story is shown through action and dialogue with strong writing, it becomes creative nonfiction. If you already write strong fiction, you should have no problem writing strong personal experience essays, too, and it sounds as if that’s what you have done by writing about your experiences when you moved to a new state.
Q: I like to write humorous essays. Where can I market them? How does one get one’s own newspaper column?
A: You’ll find plenty of markets for essays in the usual reference books and Web sites for writers: Writers Market, www.writersmarket.com, Literary Market Place, and more. Remember not to trust any one source too much. Always seek several sources. For example, I use writersmarket.com, but I search for companies that list their Web sites. I then go to the publishers’ Web sites to get accurate information on how each publisher prefers for writers to submit articles, because each one is different.
As for writing and syndicating a newspaper column, the answer is far too complex. For a simplistic answer, see http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Newspaper-Column, or for how to syndicate a column, see http://www.ehow.com/how_2050845_syndicate-column.html.
Q: I am having a discussion with my writer’s group about referenced titles in a story. I said the title should be in italics. Another member believes, according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the title is to be underlined. Can you give us the correct answer, underlined or italics?
A: The answer depends on type of title and the type of writing. If you are writing a research paper, obviously you should follow MLA style and underline book titles, if that is what MLA calls for. Because I edit books, I’m more familiar with Chicago style, which is used not for research papers but for books, so that’s what I feel more comfortable explaining.
If you are writing a book that refers to another book, Chicago style calls for italics for book titles and other works of art, such as album titles, statues, and paintings. If the body of the book refers to the title of an essay, research paper, or a short story, however, that title should be in quotation marks.
Consistency is the most important thing. Underlines in a manuscript translate to italics in a published work. The two are, in effect, the same thing. For that reason, never use underlines in one place in a manuscript and italics in another.
Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
Book Review Grab Bag
by Patricia Fry
A Self-Publisher’s Companion, Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish from TheBookDesigner.com by Joel Friedlander, Marin Bookworks, 2011,
http://www.thebookdesigner.com, ISBN 978-0-936385-11-2, Paper, 222 pages, $14.95
Here’s a book for the many authors who want to engage in independent publishing and who need more support and ideas from someone who has self-published. This is a book of tips, resources, and advice compiled and experienced by Friedlander, covering the mechanics of independent publishing. The author includes many expert quotes for greater effect. This is an interesting book for someone who wants to read how someone else did it!
Here are some books I recommend often:
This book is absolutely brimming with ideas, tips, techniques, and help for the beginning picture-book author, as well as those who have, perhaps, been writing within this realm for quite some time without much success.
How to Make a Living as Poet by Gary Mex Glazner, Soft Skull Press, http://www.softskull.com
Glazner shows poets how to thrive on one’s art.
Poet Power, the Complete Guide to Getting Your Poetry Published by Thomas A. Williams, First Sentient Publications, http://www.sentientpublications.com
Library Journal says, “Sound advice.” “A wise purchase.” Midwest Review says, “Poet Power is reader-friendly, authoritative and accurate, comprehensive and practical.”
How to Market Your Book (Includes a Book-Marketing Plan Template) by Mary D. Scott, PMP, ISBN: 978-1463761813, 24 pages, $9.99, www.spiritdrivenevents.com
Mary Scott is a published author, a certified Project Management Professional, and a spiritual healer. As an active member of the High Desert Branch of the California Writers Club, she coordinates panels of writers to include publishing and marketing topics.
The unique value of this book is that it provides a template (or a roadmap) for authors who need a more organized type of assistance with book promotion.
Scott starts this book by educating readers to think of books as products and to understand that marketing is an ongoing process. Through her workbook-style template, Scott encourages authors to list such things as the purpose of the book, the target audience, a description of the book, and how the book compares to other similar books on the market. The writer is also encouraged to list marketing goals, outline distribution channels, and consider what to do first.
Scott provides some book-promotion ideas and space to note how to use these ideas to promote your particular book. She even suggests activities you can pursue toward selling your book in the first year, what you can do during the second year, etc.
I found her section on building a Web site for your book useful, as she gives suggestions for what to include on the site and where to get a domain name.
If you learn best using a workbook format, How to Market Your Book might be just what you need at this point in the process.
From SPAWN President Susan Daffron: My award-winning book Publishize: How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise (http://www.Publishize.com) and my new book, Publicity to the Rescue: How to Get More Attention for Your Animal Shelter, Humane Society or Rescue Group to Raise Awareness, Increase Donations, Recruit Volunteers, and Boost Adoptions
(http://www.PublicitytotheRescue.com) are now both available in Kindle format.
SPAWN will have a booth November 5 at the Ventura County Book and Author Fair put on by the Pacific Institute of Professional Writing and held at the Pleasant Valley Community Park Auditorium in Camarillo, California, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patricia Fry will be there to speak to authors about SPAWN and to hand out our great SPAWN promo material created by SPAWN board member Tamara Dever and donated by her company TLC Graphics. Patricia will also be part of a panel discussion on self-publishing. Several SPAWN members have secured booths at this event, so look for them and support their efforts. For additional information visit http://www.pacificinstituteforprofessionalwriting.com/book–author-fairs.html.
On December 3 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Patricia Fry is teaching a one-day course on article writing for fun and profit through the Ventura College. For additional information: http://www.communityed.venturacollege.edu.
Patricia Fry’s newest book is now on Kindle. Promote Your Book, Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author (Allworth Press, 2011). Order your print or Kindle copy here: http://amzn.to/oe56Ia.
Love cats? Need a gift for someone who does? Simon Teakettle’s 2012 calendar is ready to ship. It features thirteen full-size, full-color original photographs of Simon Teakettle III (Terzo) in seasonal poses and occasionally in costume. Order from www.Ottawaphoto.com. Terzo’s blog is at: www.SimonTeakettle.com/terzoblog11.htm.
(Please Note that, as a member of SPAWN, you can post your news, announcements, achievements, etc. here. Just send it to Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Personal Essays: What Works and What Doesn’t
by Barbara Florio Graham
I’ve written personal essays for most of my career. They’ve been published in many daily papers, several dozen anthologies, and a variety of magazines, including McCall’s. I gathered some of the most humorous ones into Mewsings/Musings, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this fall, and contributed three to the anthology I edited last year: Prose to Go: Tales From a Private List.
A personal essay has to contain certain elements: emotion, a clear story arc, specific details the reader can visualize, and a point for the reader to take away. If it’s not believable, or if it contains mystical, fantasy, or other fictional components, it’s no longer an essay.
But that doesn’t mean every personal essay is completely truthful. It’s always based on a real situation or incident, but the clever writer enhances the effect to make it more dramatic, more funny, or to give it a sharper point.
In fact, using fictional techniques is what makes humorous essays work. One of my contributions to Prose to Go is called Crickets, and uses repetition of a key phrase to great effect.
A personal essay needs to be crafted meticulously. There can be no wasted words, no weak verbs or excessive adjectives and adverbs. An example from Prose to Go is Joanne Carnegie’s Vegetable Grace. Her explanation of the joy of gardening gives us an impression of herself, her son, and a neighbor, all in a short piece with a touch of humor, a bit of dialogue, and some information to take away.
Driving Alpacas, the first essay in the book, is an example of a real experience, written without embellishment, that takes the reader along on an exciting and harrowing adventure. Helena Katz reveals her expertise as a journalist in relating this tale.
Are all personal essays written in the author’s voice? Not necessarily. Mewsings/Musings contains previously published humor by me and my famous cat, Simon Teakettle. Simon has always had a distinctive voice, which is separate from mine. Others have used this device successfully as well, and not just in humor. One piece is written from the perspective of a baby. Elle Andra-Warner’s daughter was born with spina bifida and is now living a full life in her thirties. Elle gives us a glimpse of a mother’s anxiety in this magical essay about birth. I don’t think it would have worked if she’d written it from her own point of view.
Personal essays can be tragic, but they should never wallow in the writer’s misery, nor provide a syrupy happy ending, which usually doesn’t ring true. They can be inspirational without proselytizing for a specific faith, instructional without being preachy.
Julie Watson’s Lobster can be read as a cautionary tale about the perils of live television. But it’s also hilarious and completely true. So is Steve Pitt’s Cherry Season Again, and Debbie Gamble’s pun-filled but real essay about having big breasts.
Sometimes an anecdote you tell over dinner can be turned into a publishable essay. It will have to be tightened and tweaked, but if it actually happened, it will ring true for the editor who decides to publish it, as well as for readers.
The author of three books, Barbara Florio Graham’s popular Web site, www.SimonTeakettle.com, contains free information on publishing, promotion, and publicity. Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List is available from bookstores as well as on Amazon and in various e-book formats.
The Power of Memoirs
by Nancy Barnes
What’s so special about memoirs? And what’s the difference between a memoir and a personal essay? Generally, a personal essay explores an idea, and draws upon personal experiences and reflections to draw a conclusion about that idea. It is personal, because it is one person’s opinion—his or her unique perspective. Personal essays tend to be focused and short. They are also written in prose, a very direct language that speaks one-to-one to the reader.
A memoir can convey so much more than an essay, both in content and style. Like the personal essay, a memoir will delve into an individual’s experience in a search for meaning and insight. A book-length memoir will, inevitably, include a greater number of personal tales, which can then be linked together to examine cause and effect throughout one’s lifetime. The style of those personal tales can vary greatly, borrowing all the tools of literature. Good memoirists will set the scene, develop characters, use compelling dialogue, create suspense and drama, and show us why we should care. Each life story can be a polished gem, strung together, just so.
A memoir can be shaped into a highly artful literary form. As an editor, I often receive a rough draft of a memoir in chronological order. That’s because we tend to think of our life story as beginning at birth and ending with…well, you know. However, if you are asked, “What about the meaning of your life?” all sorts of different life stories will emerge. You’ll explore the turning points that shaped your identity and values. You’ll remember the people who influenced you, for better or worse, and how. These stories, which can be tied together by themes, rather than ordered by date, make for especially fascinating reading.
In the commercial marketplace, we often see published memoirs of famous politicians or celebrities, or memoirs by people who have had such an extraordinary experience that they make national news and sign a book deal. Yet each of us, perhaps in a less public or spectacular fashion, has stories to tell. Life itself teaches us powerful lessons, and if we’ve stopped to learn and reflect, we can share our experiences and teach those lessons to others.
At www.StoriesToTellBooks.com, we get a lot of writers who don’t aspire to a national book deal, but want to self-publish their memoir for family and friends. Now that self-publishing is so inexpensive, anyone can write a book for loved ones, and some may even produce a book that is of wider commercial interest.
What’s the difference between what you write privately for family and friends, and what you write commercially? Private self-publishing means you can include things your family will care to know, and keep forever. We design books that include precious family photos, letters, recipes, documents. These images illustrate and amplify the memoir’s meaning. An illustrated memoir is wonderfully unique, reflecting the author’s life and interests. A commercial author, on the other hand, must consider what will be universally appealing to the general public, and will shape the content to convey more universal and broadly appealing messages. A memoir like this rarely contains more than a few illustrations, as these are too personal for the general reader.
One of the questions authors often ask is, “How do I know if I am done yet?” That’s a good question, as there is a lot of flexibility in writing a memoir; there is no one “right way” or a template to fill in. Like many editors, we offer manuscript evaluation to read the draft and advise whether to keep writing or not. Generally, if the scope of your book is too broad, you’ll write a lot of too-short, too-shallow stories. With a memoir, it’s better to cover less ground in more depth. After all, if you have many, many stories with a lot of depth, you may have more than enough material to publish two books!
Memoirs are powerful because they touch the heart. They originate from true-life stories, and the reader will inevitably put him- or herself in your shoes and ask, “What if it had been me?” Your reader will not only think, but will feel as if he or she had been there. When you tell your stories, you are transporting the reader to a different time and place, and he or she will know and feel what it was to have lived your life. What greater art?
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