Monday, January 31, 2011

Hectic times

I thought once the Holidays ended, I'd have more time. Wrong!! Last week was one of those weeks when I hardly had time to breath. Unfortunately, this week will be no different.

So, I'll pass on some writing tips I used in my "Passing On Your Personal Stories" class. These are basic tips to get started in writing.

Beginnings catch the reader's attention and make the reader want to know more. Gives a hint to the problem.

Middles add complications, unexpected happenings, seemingly insurmountable problems, and builds suspense.

Ends resolve everything in a satisfactory way.

Beginnings form the second chance to attract the reader. What is the first? A good title. However, many writers use a working title before they choose that special grabber of a title. Check the titles on your book shelves. Do they hook you to look into the book?

The opening sentence should hook the reader. Starting in the middle of an action creates that hook. Otherwise, begin with one or a combination of action, character, dialogue, situation, setting and mood or Story theme or philosophical idea.

According to Kathleen Phillips in How to Write a Story, some authors think "action and character openings, especially when combined with dialogue are the strongest and best attention getters." She lists on pages 84-85 these examples: Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, E.B. White's Stuart Little, Lloyd Alexander's The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man, Mary Peace's Fireflies, George Orwell's 1984, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, and Clive Barker's Dread, to name a few.

I suggest you look at books on your shelves or go to a library, randomly choose titles, and read the first lines. Be aware, that not all first lines represent good examples. You make the decision if the line hooks the reader.

After you've hooked the reader, the next few paragraphs should determine the who, what, when, where and why of the story as soon as possible. The "how" details fill in the middle. Let the reader know something about the story.

The next blog will discuss some specifics about middles.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Russell Book

I discovered is already shipping the pre-orders for HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART. Guess they received their copies as early as I. If you order from them, once you receive your copy, post a review. I hope you'll be favorable!!! Share the information with your friends. Thanks.

In the meantime, think about ways to use the book with your children or grandchildren, which depends on their age. Toddlers and preschoolers need only look at the pictures and answer one of the questions. As they age, ask another question and finally read a little information in the text. Lower middle graders can tour the art on their own or with a little guidance. Upper middle graders are certainly able to read and answer on their own or with a friend. All might even look at my picture and pretend I am talking to them.

Next, take the children to a museum - the size of the museum is not important. Looking at any pictures will do, not just art masterpieces. Use some of the activities in the Introduction, especially the language arts, to expand a child's looking techniques. On each museum visit play another game, or, repeat those you've already practiced. In a gallery, assign a project, let them choose which object to use, you participate too,  then meet and discuss.

Another game to play is a treasure hunt. In a gallery, choose one object. Describe it with three clues such as the color, shape, medium, something in the painting or whatever you determine serves as a clue. Then, have the child guess which object you've chosen. However, don't let them guess until they have given you three clues back which can be answered with a yes or no. For example: Is there a soldier on a horse?  Does one man wear a red sash? Are there words around the picture? Which picture from the book did I use? The letter.

Next have the child choose an object.

Many more games or ideas are on my website, Check them out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Promotion

As a first book novice, I ask probably some dumb questions of my publisher. Friends, new acquaintances and professionals offer kinds of promotion suggestions. For instance, retired school personnel attended my memoir class on Saturday. Other students relayed information on museums unknown to me. All wanted to help me promote. Isn't that kind and considerate?

Librarians peruse book jobbers lists, especially Baker and Taylor. I wrote my contacts at Pelican to see if they list with that particular book jobber and they do. Librarians also depend on School Library Journal for reviews of books. Pelican sends review copies to them. I learned more about my publisher and how they promote. The goal remains to contact every possible entity which might speak in the author's favor.

Some class members drove from Cheyenne and suggested museum names to contact which were unknown to me. Now I have a lot of work to do.  

On Friday I discovered the 255 pounds (10 boxes)  of books I ordered fit nicely stacked in my office draped with a table cloth to give the appearance of a piece of furniture. Thank goodness the box sizes are small compared to what I imagined! Two stacks of unboxed books on top remind me to keep promoting.

One last note - don't forget to thank people. I spent Saturday writing notes of thanks to all my contacts at Pelican commending them for a job well done. The book looks fantastic and I am honored to have worked with Pelican Publishing. Now my job begins. Check my website for upcoming events.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Promotion continued

I discovered a little late how to contact schools about presentations. I emailed each school principal in Cheyenne before I learned.

If you want presentations advertised to schools, write the Media Director. Individual schools have one and there is a Media Director for each school district. I've heard from both. But, beware!

I offered local districts, or those not too far away, free presentations for the remainder of the school year. In checking with some local authors, I found they did the same for a short period - 6 mos. to a year. However, after that, they determined a set rate for visits.

Authors stick together on pricing or at least charging for their services. Two reasons: 1. If there is no charge, people think that is what you are worth - nothing. 2. Authors want a consistency, not in what is charged but that there is a charge in the first place.

Author's services have a value. I'm talking to myself now because I find it hard to charge schools when budgets are tight, or even charge period! My publisher, Pelican, gives schools a 40% discount. Then the school can charge the retail price and literally pay for the author visit. Course, they have to do some promotion to get parents to buy the books. I remember one author agreeing to visit for free, but, instead, required each child buy a book.

Because I have only one published book and no known reputation as yet, I charge $100 per classroom. If I visit one class, my book costs the school about $10.50 each and can be sold for the retail price of about $17 - a profit of $6.50. Let's estimate the profit at $6. That times 20 children equals $120 or $20 over the cost of my visit. Any other books sold are pure profit.

That said, I received a couple of emails wanting me to either extend the free offer into next year or send a free book to the school. All my advisors said a loud "NO." We'll see how many jobs I received.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Release Date/Quotation Punctuation

WOW! I learned this weekend that the release date on my book has been moved up from February 15th to February 1st on Pelican said they could have the books as early as Monday (yesterday) but I imagine she forgot it was a mail holiday. Not sure how books are shipped to a publisher but today might be the earliest date.

Sorry this blog is a day late. However, I'd like to give some writing tips on grammar. Helen Wilkie still sends out her twice weekly tips even though she said she needs some more ideas.

I discovered I've misused punctuation marks inside and outside quotations. I believed punctuation marks at the end of a sentence always went inside the quotation marks. Wrong, not always. In dialogue, yes, always. These examples are from my Essentials of English book:

"Periods and commas are always placed inside the closing quotation marks."

"I wanted," he said, "to go home."

"Colons and semicolons are always placed outside end quotation marks."
Example: He called his friend "old dog"; he didn't mean it as an insult.

He took the advice given in the article "How to Study": sit rather than lie in bed.  

"Other marks are placed where they logically belong-within the quotation if they punctuate the quotation, outside the quotation if they punctuate the sentence of which the quotation is a part."

How can I tell that "Whatever is, is right"?
He might ask: "What is right?"

Some examples might seldom be used in your writing, but, at least you now know the proper usage.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"I" or "Me"

One of my pet peeves is the use of "me" when it should be "I" or vice versa. TV commentators, newsmen (or women), politicians, movie stars, sports heros, and every day Joe's misuse the two constantly. From educated to uneducated and CEOs to mail clerks.

I corrected my sons on their grammar through their high school years. Then, one day, I said something and my oldest son corrected me. I was thrilled he'd learned the lessons I'd taught.

So, let's learn the true use of "I" and "me."

In Helen Wilkie's tip for today she explains it this way -  the simplest definition I've ever seen:

"People often confuse the use of "I" and "me" in sentences. The grammatical principle is that "I" is a subject pronoun and "me" is an object pronoun. Here's how that looks in practice:

I will ask John to guide Nancy and me through the process.
Nancy and I will work through the process together.

The simple way to choose the correct form is to remove the other subject from the picture altogether. For example, if Nancy wasn't in the sentence, would you say, "I will ask John to guide I through the process"? No, I didn't think so! You would use "me" in that case, and the fact that you added another subject doesn't change anything.

If you take Nancy out of the second sentence, would you say, "Me will work through the process"? Again, you wouldn't. You would use "I", and you still use "I" when you add another subject."

The same principle applies to other object/subject pronouns like who/whom. I hope I haven't broken any rules in pasting her solution here. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Better Late Than Never!

Today was filled. First I attended my Bible study lecture only and skipped the homework small group discussion. Didn't think I could leave my husband who is recovering from knee surgery for too long by himself. Actually he wasn't alone. Our cleaning lady came and I arrive home in time to feed her lunch as I usually do. Then it was time for his rehap. We were 30 minutes earlier than his appointment because neither of us checked the calendar. So, I spent an hour and a half reading and napping! Then, we were home again just in time to fix and serve dinner. Now, I am ready to post. A little late, but better late than never.

Writers often have little confidence. I received an email written in 2008 for two publications. Unfortunately I couldn't find a link on either website - Institute of Children's Literature or Kid Magazine Writers. In it the author gave reasons authors/writers should not lose confidence.

The title,  "The Big Acceptance," mislead the readers to think about article/story/book acceptance. Instead, the article addressed the acceptance of ourselves as writers. Writers need to know their genres which suit their interests and writing. Some know exactly where they fit. Good. Others are less aware of their strong points.

Many of us know where we don't fit. That is a plus. No time wasted submitting where we know we have weaknesses. Stick to those places where we feel confidence and receive acceptance. Trying something new is good. It helps to get out of our comfortable box. But, don't stress over rejections from those areas. Tweak the writing and send it where you know you fit.

If dissatisfaction rules, do something constructive to improve - take a writing course, read writer magazines, and attend a conference to get re-energized. When your acceptances occur, realize you are contributing with a wonderful gift for writing, not matter the publication.

Remember that even if no one comments on our writing, enjoy the successes that come. Accept ourselves as unique and special writers.

Give yourselves a star. You deserve it.

I understand that some people have had a hard time or haven't been able to comment on this blog. I'm working on the problem. In the meantime, send me an email and I'll review your comments in the posts.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Word Resolutions

Although I missed my weekly critique meeting on Wednesday night, I heard about one of the things they did. While reporting their writing progress for the holidays each person gave a one word resolution for their personal and professional life. Words varied and more could certainly be added. Subtitles might focus closer to what people think of as resolutions. Think about these words in your life.

Connect - with friends, relatives, writers, editors and anyone who means something to you. Two members lost various people in their lives over the holidays. They want to remember what or who is important in life and connect with them.

Dream - whether professionally or personally. Dreams could include book publication or simply selling that first article/story.

Finish - Everyone in the group goes through periods of dropping projects and leaving them unfinished. Some have their fingers in several pies and feel they need to focus and complete one at a time.

Try - to do better both professionally and personally. Try new projects, i.e. leave their comfortable box.

Promote - Had I been present, I'd have suggested promote. I need to venture out of my shell and network and promote my book and myself.

Improve - self. Most everyone could stand improvement in some aspect of their lives whether it be in writing or living every day.

A few other words to think about:

Study - by attending workshops, conferences, writer's luncheons and reading.

Exercise - both physically and mentally. Exercise your mind. Get out of your chair and move around to get the mind working.

Network - every chance you get. Pass out bookmarks, business cards, flyers, etc. Talk about your publications. Meet those editors at conferences rather than standing back and watching others network.

If you have other one word resolutions, tell us about them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

HAPPY NEW YEAR,Writers. May your year be filled with publications, signings, writing and all of your desires.

When planning your writer's New Year's resolutions, be reasonable. Remember that you want to have some success with your goals. Set them high, but not too high. For instance, last year I set a goal of submitting something every week. I may not have succeeded at every week but I did make 52 submissions. That may not sound like many in the light of the fact some writers have that many submissions circulating at all times! Actually, I exceeded that number by 10. Of course, not all were accepted - in fact, only 37 acceptances and most of those were for free. I write an every-other-week column for the Lyons Recorder in exchange for the editor's husband developing and maintaining my website and personal domain email.

My acceptances did include one book contract, which, as I've said many times before, comes out February 15th. So this year my resolutions will concern promotions for the book as well as writing.

Some resolution suggestions:
1. Write every day
2. Submit a reasonable number of articles, stories or books
3. Build a better writing portfolio
4. Add to or develop a platform
5. Keep better records
6. Promote better

Good luck. If you have resolution suggestions, make a comment.