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Thursday, July 28, 2011

August 2011 writing contests

Five FREE Writing Contests!

Dear Readers,
I found some contests you can enter for FREE! Prizes range from $100.00 to $5,000.00! Deadlines and prize monies are listed below. Click on the links to get more information.

Good Luck!

Deadline: now through August 25
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $140.00

Deadline: August 16
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $500.00

Deadline: August 15
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $500.00 and a Residency in North Carolina

Deadline: August 15
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $5,000.00

Deadline: August 16
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $100.00

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Midwest Writer's Workshop


July 28-30

Muncie, Indiana

Look who's on the program!
Cathy Day — novelist
Patti Digh — nonfiction author
Libby Fischer Hellmann — crime writing novelist
Mike Lawson — political thriller novelist
J.T. (Jen) Dutton — young adult novelist
Dennis Hensley & Holly Miller — faculty for Manuscript Makeovers
Kathleen Ortiz — Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation
Jessica Sinsheimer — Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
Roseanne Wells — Marianne Strong Literary Agency
Lois Winston — Ashley Grayson Literary Agency
Dana Kaye — Kaye Publicity
Jane Friedman — industry authority on commercial, literary and emerging forms of publishing
Gary Hensley — tax specialist
Matthew V. Clemens — novelist and publisher
David Slonim —banquet speaker, author and illustrator of children’s books
Additional Presenters: D.E. Johnson, Cathy Shouse, Karen Lenfestey

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Agents Want

Here is a re-post of an interview with Kathleen Ortiz, Subrights Director and agent with the Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation company and Lois Winston of the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency which was published in the Midwest Writer's Workshop E-Pistle.

I hope the insights here are helpful!

Kathleen Ortiz
Q:  If participants made an appointment with you, how should they prepare for their pitch session? 

ALWAYS come prepared with a 2-3 sentence pitch and a hard copy of the query. I stress that the pitch is ONLY 2-3 sentences and the query is the actual query they would send. Since the MWW pitch sessions are ten minutes, the first 5 pages are handy, as well. Come prepared with questions in case the project isn't for me - I'm happy to spend the rest of the appointment giving advice/resources on how to pitch, send queries, do research, etc.

Q:  What are you looking for?
I'm only looking for YA or paranormal/urban fantasy romance at this time. No women's fiction or other adult genres outside of romance. I like all YA, though the darker the better. I'd really like a YA horror, thriller, suspense, cyberpunk or intense mystery.

Q: What do you wish more writers knew?
Top three mistakes I see:
1.       Reading the entire query to me (it's a pitch - 2-3 sentences)
2.       Arguing with me if I kindly state it's not for me. You want someone who will be an advocate of your work - if it's not for me, respect my decision and use the extra time to ask questions about the industry. Someone else WILL be an advocate for your work.
3.       Giving me a business card. I don't keep them. If I ask for pages, it's the author's job to contact me not the other way around.

Q:  Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?
I prefer someone pitches me if the manuscript is completed.  

Q:  Finally, if you do not represent what a participant writes but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent? 
If I'm pitched a Middle Grade, I will certainly refer it if it has potential. Otherwise, I prefer not to be pitched if it's not something I rep.

Lois Winston

Q: What should participants bring to their pitch sessions with you? 
One page query letter and the first 2 pages (double-spaced) of their manuscript.

Q: What are you looking for? 
The Ashley Grayson Literary Agency was established in 1976 and handles both literary and commercial fiction, children's fiction, and some nonfiction. I currently represent authors who write romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, mystery, young adult, and horror, but voice is more important to me than genre, and I love books that make me laugh out loud. I'm not interested in category romance, erotica, regencies, inspirationals, westerns, or paranormal books that feature vampires and shape-shifters.

Q: What mistakes do most writers make when approaching agents?
Three top mistakes I see:
1.       Many writers query too soon. Polish your work until it's the best it can be before you submit, and you'll receive fewer rejections.
2.       Know correct grammar and punctuation usage. Too many writers don't know the most basic of grammar and punctuation rules (and no, that's not what an editor is for.)
3.       Don't take rejection personally. This is a business. If your work isn't right for me, it may be perfect for someone else. Or you may need to reread mistakes #2 and #3.

Q:  Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?
I would prefer to see authors with completed manuscripts. 

Q:  Finally, if you do not represent what participants write but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent? 
Yes, I do pass along manuscripts to our other agents if the manuscript is not right for me but might work for someone else at our agency.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

August Writing Contests

Writing contests are a great way to get your work out there for others to read. They also provide motivation and deadlines that will keep you cranking out those pages. Below are three contests that are coming up SOON. Check them out and ENTER! Then be sure to post a comment to let me know what you entered and ultimately, the results!

Short Story: 
Gival Press is offering their 8th annual short story contest – deadline is august 8th. Entry fee is $25.00 and the top prize is a whopping $1,000.00!

Only poets who have NOT previously published a book of poetry are eligible for this year’s event, so to all you who have been waiting for your right time – jump in! This is it! Entry fee is $25.00 and submissions must be received between August 1 and September 30, 2011.

The American Zoetrope Screenplay contest is offering $5,000.00 for the best script! Although the actual deadline isn’t until September 6th, I’m including it here because you get $15.00 off the registration fee if you submit it by August first.

Write on everyone!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The HOW-TO Template

How-to articles are in great demand. There is even a whole website devoted just to how-to articles:

In today’s quick and easy availability to information and the DIY craze, people look online for directions to do literally – everything! I write for and struggled at first to describe what seemed like really simple steps. With time and practice however, it has become much easier to envision the whole picture - from beginning to completion - of any number of tasks. I follow a simple template and you can, too.

Before I give you the template, however, let me give you a few tips:
  1. Break the procedure into sections if there are more than 10 or so steps involved. For example, for most of the sewing articles I write, I present it in 2 parts: 1) preparation; and 2) assembly.
  2.  Begin each step with a verb.
  3.  Read your completed article out loud before you submit it so you can visualize the procedure based on the words; if the description doesn’t give you the picture, then it isn’t clear enough.
  4. Even if you are an expert, include references and/or resources at the end of your article.

OK. Here’s the template:

Tell the reader what the activity is and anything unusual or unique about your particular way of doing it. Include anything specific that you wouldn’t include in the steps.

Level of Difficulty
Is it so easy that anyone can do it? (EASY)
Is it fairly easy, but still requires some concentration and skill? (MODERATE)
Is it something that requires prior knowledge and skill? (DIFFICULT)

Things You Need
List the things needed to accomplish this task. Make your list of supplies clear and simple like a list of ingredients for a recipe. Do not describe the things needed in full sentences or with long descriptions.

Number your steps and write them in simple command form.

References / Resources
List your references and resources at the end of the article.

Examples of River's eHow articles:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The “NEW” Nitty Gritty of Writing

Dear Readers,
It is my aim to create a blog that is more user-friendly and reliable. This is one of the things I contemplated during my long absence from blogging and so I decided to make a schedule for posts. I hope this will help direct the focus of my blog, The Nitty Gritty of Writing, into two main categories: 1) tips and resources for writers; and 2) announcements of contests, events, conferences, etc. I will also continue to write my reflections in which I will include personal commentary, book reviews, and occasionally feature a guest blogger. I suppose this constitutes a third category, but I’m not going to promise when or how often these will be posted. (After all, there has to be some aspect left to whim and inspiration, right??)

Here’s the proposed schedule for the “NEW” Nitty Gritty of Writing:

Mondays = tips and resources for writers
Thursdays = announcements
Random days = reflections (can’t be too rigid, you know!)

This schedule will begin on Monday, July 11, 2011

As always, I welcome your feedback!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lessons from Absence: Nothing is Wasted

I’m writing articles again for Demand Studios after a six month plus absence. I’m happy to report that I’m writing faster and more efficiently than I was when I stopped mid-way through my teaching year.  The articles are better now, too; my Demand Studios report card reflects higher ratings.

I thought it would be difficult to get back into the swing of writing online articles – I was lacking motivation, doubted my ability to manage time and self-discipline, and I expected to be discouraged by feeling I was starting all over again. To my pleasant surprise, I fell right back into it like it was second nature.

Here’s what I’ve learned (or remembered) about process: 

Things we do have purpose, whether we recognize that purpose or not. Our choices direct our lives and our experiences shape us. After any absence and subsequent return, we discover that although we have changed and the environment of our return has also changed, what we have gained and brought back with us is significant and meaningful.

 I worried that I would have lost the two years of self-study that I invested prior to going back to teaching at the university; I truly believed it was gone when I first sat down to resume article writing. However, I soon realized that what I had learned during my intensive self-study was a firm foundation that I could return to and use as a starting point to move forward. Things in online writing and marketing changed in the year I was teaching; strategies and theories that were once “solid” were now defunct. But the essence of the practice and the personal benefits of self-discipline and resourcefulness had somehow multiplied in my absence. Indeed, my efforts had not been lost; nor were they wasted.

Likewise, my absence was a necessary reprieve that my soul required. Not writing is not particularly a good thing and I certainly do not advocate it, yet my absence from writing was NOT WASTED. For me, although I can write from a thinking state, inspiration comes from a free and wandering mind. Crowded, suffocated, and crippled from the reins of administrative policies, academic politics, NO as the most commonly heard response, lack of encouragement, trust and freedom, my mind was not free to wander. So I stopped, hibernated, and got recharged. When I awoke with a clear mind, I could pick up the pieces that mattered and sweep away those that had turned to dust. In so doing, I was blessed with the memory that NOTING IS WASTED.

My message to my readers today is that no matter where you are in life, find encouragement in this knowledge that what you are doing and experiencing right now is meaningful. There is purpose, even to the pain and frustrations you endure. Your choices will direct your movements - either forward and away, or into new strategies for staying put; and these experiences will shape who you are. You may not always enjoy the process, but keep in mind that it is NOT WASTED. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

I'm Back!

I thought I would be absent from writing this blog for just two months, but actually it took me six months to come back. Why? Winter blues, combined with job DIS-satisfaction, threatened to send me plummeting into depression. To combat this, I went into automatic survival mode which turns off the creative channels. Of course, denying creativity only compounds the threats to destroy me with depression, but the internal tape-recorder was already on auto-play by then, so negativity was sinking me and anything I might put on paper was not for the public eye.

Then, true to the spirit of the artist in my soul, I had to hibernate and wait for myself to buoy back up to the surface where I could think and feel again. Only then did I dare to open my notebook.

It’s summer now and I am once again unemployed. Am I bailing out to the fantasy of the starving artist, or is it true that financial worries are nothing compared to the soul-suffocating stress of the working world? I don’t know for sure, but it I’m telling you, I feel alive, even with no money to spend, and I was dying, even with a paycheck to buy plenty of food.

I have great callouses on my feet, but my heart remains tender and fragile. That’s a great combination for rising with the sun and hiking to the river’s edge to write poetry, play with words and listen to God, and reconnect with my purpose and value in earth life. it’s a terrible combination, however, for managing the subtle nuances of academia that deny authenticity and chisel away at personal value.

Nonetheless, that’s behind me now. The days are long and warm and I am once again awake. Bare feet on hard earth, birds and water ripples serenade me as my soul opens up and my pen scribbles quickly across the pages.

Ahhhh! The riverside writer is back!