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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Today, I have been thinking about Newton’s First Law of Motion, which defines inertia as the tendency for an object in motion to remain in motion and an object at rest to stay at rest.
So what does that have to do with writing? A lot actually. I have noticed that if I stop writing, I stay stopped for a while. But if I can force myself to get going again and keep writing every day, then momentum kicks in and the words flow more easily.
I think that’s what separates wanna-be writers from professionals. When the going gets tough, the pro forces herself to sit back down in the chair and get the words out. It’s one of the most difficult things about the creative process, but if you can make yourself do it, the rewards are worth it.
This month I talked to Alexandra Powe Alred about how to incorporate humor into writing. Humor is a big variable—it’s why we have emoticons and LOL or J/K (“laughing out loud” or “just kidding”). How can you write about people you know, tell the funny things they did, and not be smothered in your sleep? Read on to find out.
If you have ideas for newsletter topics for upcoming issues, send them to me at the e-mail address below. So far, we’ve had pet memoirs, humor, and—in the planning stages—travel memoirs and writing about animals/pets. What else would you like to see?
– Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sell Your Books From the SPAWN booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Date: April 12-13, 2014.
Place: University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) is billed as the nation’s largest public literary festival, attracting around 140,000 people last year.
It wasn’t always this big, and some of us here at SPAWN remember its beginnings. The LATFB launched in 1996, the same year that SPAWN did. SPAWN has had a presence at this now-gigantic event almost every year since.
The LATFB will be held at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles again this year on April 12 and 13, 2014. SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members. The fee for selling your books from our booth is $203 per day. (Three titles per member, only.)
We are also offering to those who cannot attend the LATFB the opportunity to display a copy of their book(s) in the SPAWN booth for $20 each title. For an additional $37, members can list their books in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services, which will serve as the brochure for all participants. Everyone visiting the SPAWN booth will walk away with one of our beautiful full-color print catalogs. The absolute deadline for having your book included in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services is February 7, 2014. (Yes, it’s a short deadline this year. So don’t procrastinate.)
Visit http://www.spawn.org/latfb.htm to read about all of your options and to sign up.
Visit http://www.spawn.org/catalogofbooks.htm to view the online version of the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services.
Visit http://www.spawn.org/catalogofbooks.htm to view the online version of the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services.
The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your SPAWN membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business. If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, sign up to join us in the SPAWN booth—first come, first served. Learn more about the LATFB here: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks.
Join SPAWN here: http://www.spawn.org
Act now. This is a once-a-year opportunity. And it is first-come-first-served.
Ask the Book Doctor:
Ask the Book Doctor: About Cannot/Can Not, Setting Freelance Prices, Multiple Viewpoints, and Although/Though
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: Will you please give me the rule regarding when to use "can not" or when to use "cannot?"
A: The rule is simple. "Cannot" is the usual way of writing the term that means "not able to." Offhand, I cannot think of sentence that calls for "cannot" as two words unless punctuation comes between the words, as in this example: He thinks he can, not that he’s right.
Q: I want to freelance, but I have no idea how to set my rates. How should I figure an hourly rate for writing or editing?
A: No matter what type of freelance work you hope to do, to set an hourly rate, you must begin with how much you want to make a year. Let’s say you want to make $50,000 a year. Take off the last three zeroes to leave $50 and then divide by two, and you get $25, which would give you an approximate hourly rate. That figure is an unreachable ideal, however, because no freelancer on earth fills every working hour with income-producing work; we also have to perform other work-related tasks. We respond to calls and e-mail. We network, do our own banking, handle our own shipping, and usually keep our own books and pay our own bills. We update our websites, write proposals for potential work, and perform research to find work. In addition, some of us have to meet with clients and perform other non-income-producing work, so $25 an hour won’t be enough to reach a goal of $50,000 a year. You will probably discover that you spend half your time performing business tasks that are not income-producing. If you hope to make $50,000 a year, double the $25-an-hour figure and charge $50 an hour, a realistic rate for freelance work.
As a new freelancer, however, you may think $50 an hour is too much to quote to clients. If so, adjust the rate until you reach something that feels like a price you can charge and still make a decent living.
If you want to undertake more research, you can find sites on the Internet that give average hourly fees for various freelance work, and some are adjusted for the region, as well.
Let me offer another tactic. When I began freelancing many decades ago, I quickly learned to charge by the project for writing and by the word or page for editing, rather than charging by the hour. If you tell a client you charge by the hour, the client has no concept of how much the project will cost. Are you a fast writer or a slow one? Who knows? In addition, hourly fees can sound high, yet a project fee can sound reasonable. By charging by the project, page, or word, you are able to give a solid estimate, clients know what to expect, and you can tell if you are comfortable with the fee.
Q: Is it acceptable to have many points of view when writing a mystery? The hero and heroine, the victim and family, and the villains?
A: While grammar and punctuation both have many rules, creative writing has few rules—only recommendations and guidelines. The guidelines generally allow a book of any genre to have more than one point of view, as long it has no more than one point of view per scene. Also, as a general guideline, only main characters should be given a point of view.
Q: What is the difference between although and though, and when is each used?
Although I was on time…
Though I was on time…
A: Although both words mean the same thing, generally speaking, "although" is preferred if it is the first word in a sentence. Elsewhere in a sentence, "although" and "though" are usually interchangeable.
To read more questions and answers, order the book Ask the Book Doctor: How to Beat the Competition and Sell Your Writing at http://zebraeditor.com/book_ask_the_book_doctor.shtml. Bobbie Christmas, book editor, 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.
by Patricia Fry
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King
HarperCollins (2004) – 2nd edition Paper, 280 pages, $13.99 ISBN: 0-96-054569-0
Renni Browne, a former senior editor for William Morrow and others, founded The Editorial Department in 1980. Dave King is contributing editor at Writer’s Digest and runs his own editing business.
I was interested in reviewing this book for you because so many of us are writing fiction, yet few books on editing are written specifically for the novelist and short-story writer. This book is brimming with tips, techniques, rules, examples, and more. Holy cow—the index includes over 500 entries. This is actually more than a book on where to place the comma and when to insert a paragraph break. This is a lesson in perfecting your fiction—creating better stories—through character dialog, how to show rather than tell, how to use narration more effectively and so forth. You’ll also learn how to scrutinize your story for repetition, grammatical errors, and more.
I especially like the checklist at the end of each chapter and the exercises designed to drive the lessons home. Oh yes, and these authors address clichés such as the one I just used here. I was surprised to read them say that it is sometimes okay to use a cliché. Hmmm. Interesting. They say, “If you come across lifeless passages, you may need to self-edit for the purpose of weeding out any clichés.” However, they say, “…in narration, there may be times when you need to use a familiar, pet phrase—yes, a cliché—to summarize a complicated situation.”
I also loved the chapter on “beats.” The authors describe “beats” as “bits of action interspersed through a scene, such as a character walking to a window or removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes.” They say that beats can sometimes diminish the effect of good dialog.
If you want to learn more about self-editing your fiction while getting some fascinating lessons on characterization, point of view, the mechanics of dialogue, how to more effectively use interior monologue, and more, you need to take a look at this book.
Be Funny, Not Mean
by Sandra Murphy
There’s a fine line between humor and hurt. Alexandra Powe Alred says she’s crossed it a couple of times. Now her rule is to let the people she writes about—friends and family—read what she’s written before her work goes out. If feelings are hurt or someone is uncomfortable, she yanks the offending passage. Her tips for writing with humor include:
- Never make fun of something that can’t be helped, like a physical trait.
- Journal every night, but don’t complain about the day—it will only keep you awake as you go over it again.
- Don’t use what can’t be fixed.
- Have fun.
Her annual Christmas letter started out the same as those everyone receives—“This year our kids all won Pulitzer Prizes with the occasional Nobel Prize thrown in, were super models, and donated all the proceeds to charity.”
Her husband said, “No one likes to read how happy other people are or how swell things are going.” She revised the letter, told it like it was, and it became a popular tradition to bring doom, gloom, and humor to make other’s lives seem just a bit better.
Alex says, “It’s fun to be completely outside the box. Humor in life carries over to writing because people can identify with what you share. People always try to present themselves in the best possible way. Once a year, we tell it like it is and present our family in the worst possible light.”
Excerpts from a Christmas letter:
- Robb decided to save money by cutting his own hair and bought a kit, declaring, “This thing’ll pay for itself!!” He is bald.
- With Tommy now entering toddler phase, nothing is safe. The dogs run when they see him coming. He’s broken more lamps, clocks, picture frames, stereo speakers, and dishes than I can count.
- We took a road trip with a baby, a five- and seven-year-old. We should not have done that.
As you can see, understatement plays a big role in humor writing. Family vacations are also fodder for funny stories. “When you head for the Exxon station for a cup of coffee and the kids beg to go along, you know you’re on a bad vacation,” Alex says. Humor is not just a funny piece about family life, though—it adds balance to heavy topics as well. Alex’s book, Damaged Goods, is about industrial pollution of a small town. To keep the book balanced and readable, she used outrageous characters who can say and do the unthinkable or politically incorrect.
Embrace the weird. Let’s face it; people can be strange. Eavesdropping—try to be subtle—can provide a fiction writer with loads of content for a book, from character names, looks, accent, and mannerisms to the stories they tell. For example, Alex heard an unusual tale of road rage. The woman said she could never get mad and yell at other drivers because her Grandma told her it would not be ladylike. The twist to the story was that Grandma had died, been cremated, and her ashes were in the glove box—because Grandma liked to get around. Alex says, “Somewhere, sometime, that’ll be in one of my books!”
Fans of America’s Funniest Videos will tell you that people will try anything, no matter how dumb, just to see if they can do it. Alex heard about a man who invented a motorized bar stool. Your first thought might be that the motor made it spin, but no. He attached a lawn mower to the bar stool and rode it down the street like a Segue stand-up people-mover. Unfortunately, he failed to plan ahead and didn’t test the brakes. That story came from the ER, making it another great addition to a book not yet written.
Alex speaks to grade-school classes to promote her children’s books, the love of reading, and telling tales. The kids have excuses—“my hand hurts,” “I can’t think of an idea,” or “it’s boring.” She tells them, “Writing is the most exciting thing because you can write whatever you want. There is no such thing as a boring writer—only boring writing.”
This year, add a little humor to your writing, whether fiction or non. It will lighten heavy topics and let your reader identify with the story you have to tell.
Alexandra Powe Allred is a former member of the U.S. Women’s Bobsled team and an accomplished martial artist who continues to teach kickboxing while juggling her career as a full-time writer and mother of three. She currently lives in Midlothian, Texas. She writes books for children and adults, fiction and non-fiction. The books can be found at www.amazon.com
On May 9, SPAWN President Susan Daffron will be speaking on a panel about publishing both fiction and nonfiction books at the BlogPaws pet blogging conference.
Catnapped, the first in Patricia Fry’s Klepto Cat Mystery series, is now on Kindle and in print. Learn more and order the book in either version at http://www.amazon.com. While you’re there, check her latest Kindle book, Sleight of Paw, the third in the Klepto Cat Mystery series. Be sure to check out Patricia’s offer in the Opportunities section of the blog.
Patricia Cruzan’s sixth book, The Wonder in the Woods, is out. The book is for anyone, from nine to ninety-nine, who enjoys reading about dogs, sports, and libraries. As a retired teacher, Patricia enjoys sharing her books with her audience. Three of her books are about animals. One of her books is a tall-tale story collection, and she’s written two poetry chapbooks. Several of her books are available on Amazon, at Trafford, and five of her books are available at www.patriciacruzan.com.
Patricia is a member of GWA, SCBWI, and SPAWN. Sometimes, she enjoys dropping in on several local groups, too. She is a friend of the Fayette County Library and the Peachtree City Library. Kathaleen Brewer painted the cover art for Patricia’s book. She is a former art director in Fayette County.
From Rex Owens: Holiday sales of my debut historical fiction Murphy’s Troubles went well and I enjoyed two book signing events in December. The book can be found at Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/rexowens. I’m taking advantage of the terrific SPAWN opportunity to have my book listed in the SPAWN catalog and displayed at the LA Book Show. www.amazon.com/author/rexowens | www.rexowens.us | twitter: @rexowens
From Steven Lesk—I received an excellent review from Kirkus Reviews on my novella HE:A Sexual Odyssey. They wrote, "The protagonist’s sexual journey is often deftly wrought in elegant, well-chosen language, and the juxtaposition of artful prose and salacious content makes for an entertaining, highly original read. It’s also a fine mystery story, and the intriguing women and situations will keep readers interested up until the final page. A well-written, modern tale of lust and pleasure." I plan to use this in an upcoming Esquire ad and have of course posted it on my website, www.morsklitmonthly.com.
Barbara (Bobbi) Florio Graham has just had a 2000-word article accepted by Writing-World.com. She has also been asked to write an article about Simon Teakettle’s MEWSical Society for a German magazine, which will be translated by one of the Society members. Meanwhile, Simon Teakettle III (Terzo) continues to garner lots of praise for his blog and other cat pages, including invitations from notes pet websites to guest blog for them. His perpetual calendar and blank cards featuring members of his MEWSical Society are shown on the Society page: http://SimonTeakettle.com/musical.society.htm, where you can also find a link to his Fan Club.
From Roger Ellerton www.renewal.ca: Just published my eighth book Self-Publishing Your Book: A Guide for First-Time and DIY Authors. My previous seven books are in the area of personal growth. Brief description: overall I have been successful in getting my books published and sold. However, I did make mistakes and learned some valuable lessons along the way. This book is far from being a complete resource on how to write, publish, and market your books. The purpose of my book is to share with you my insights and experiences in publishing my books. In doing so, my hope is to save you time and money and make your publishing experience less onerous, more enjoyable, and hopefully profitable. The book is available from most online retailers.
On January 17, 2014, my book Parents’ Handbook: NLP and Common Sense Guide for Family Well-Being was #1 best seller at Amazon.co.uk in the category "Parent Participation in Education."
Contests, Events and Opportunities
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