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Showing posts from January, 2012

Coming in February

By Dani Greer, Founding Member We haven't begun to touch on the many awards for writers, and how one can use them to promote books. There are the big awards, like the Pulitzer and Man Booker prizes, genre awards like the Cybils and the Hugo award, and hundreds of awards for children's books. But the month is over, and hopefully we've given you some ideas and incentives. Check out the awards you might qualify for at this Wikipedia list, and do some research. Think about submitting your newest title for at least one book award this year! In February, we'll talk about things we love in the writing world. We had fun with this theme last year. I love what's happening in e-books with all the opportunities for authors to self-publish, getting old rights back and issuing titles to download for nominal fees, and even offering freebies so readers can try an author's writing style without a huge investment. As far as I'm concerned, it's a win/win situation

Book Review - A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Last week I introduced Louise Penny and all the awards she has won for her books, most notably, The Agatha. When I first started reading her latest, A Trick of the Light , it reminded me a bit of the great Agatha Christie. I loved the quaint little village of Three Pines and the assortment of people who live there; unique characters, made very real, much like Christie made her characters real. While that similarity is there, Penny takes her stories and her people to deeper places than Agatha Christie ever did. Consider this brief description of the story: “Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.” But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and

A Personal Check List for Fiction Writers

Today we welcome a new third-Friday regular to the blog - Debby Harris who last visited us here . Welcome aboard, Debby!   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I’m an Honorary Lecturer for the School of English at the Scottish University of St. Andrews (a town probably better known outside of Scotland as the historic Home of Golf).  Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of providing editorial support for two Ph.D. candidates in Creative Writing.   To help them evaluate their own work during the writing process, I prepared a check-list of practical questions for fiction writers to ask themselves.  This check list has since proven so useful to me as a tool for  editorial assessment/self-assessment that it seems churlish to keep it to myself. So here it is: A)  Plot 1)  Does the work feature a strong/striking central idea around which the action of the plot revolves? 2) Is the central concept sufficiently robust  to be conveyed in 25 words or fewer? 3)  Does the action reflect an artf

A New Writing Award for Women

Awards come and go, and it pays to be cautious especially in these days of increased book publishing opportunities. Here is a new award I can personally vouch for having been a member of the Story Circle Network for years. ~ Dani Greer ~~~~~ May Sarton under her portrait By Paula Stallings Yost The winner of Story Circle Network's first annual Sarton Memoir Award will be announced at  Stories from the Heart , the biannual SCN National Memoir Conference, at the Wyndham Hotel in Austin, Texas, April 13-15, 2012.  The award is named in honor of May Sarton (1912-1995), the distinguished American poet, novelist, and author of twelve memoirs and journals. Readers have found Sarton 's work to be inspiring, moving, and thought-provoking. While widely acclaimed for her fiction and poetry, Sarton ’s best and most enduring work may lie in her journals. In these honest, probing accounts of her solitary life, she deals with such issues as aging, isolation, solitude, friendship, s

Awards for Mystery Novels - Agatha, Anthony, and More

For the theme of awards this month, Dani Greer asked me to write about awards for mysteries. She thought that would be a good topic for me since I write mysteries and read a lot of books in that genre. She also introduced me to the work of Louise Penny , who writes a mystery series set in Quebec featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Louise Penny has won most of the major awards for mystery novels and has been compared to Agatha Christie. In fact, that is who I was reminded of when I first started reading her latest novel, A Trick of the Light, and it is no surprise that Penny has won the Agatha Award four times for her series. The Agatha Award honors the "traditional mystery." That is to say, books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie as well as others who write mysteries that contain no explicit sex or gratuitous violence. In these books, the murders happen off screen and couples do what couples do behind closed doors. The award is given out at the Malic

Michael L. Printz Adds to ALA Awards Legacy

1/25/2012 Update: At the recent ALA Conference, the award winners were announced and the 2012 Printz winner was Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.   Click here for more information.  For many years, beloved Kansas librarian Michael L. Printz was considered by many to be the backbone of the American Library Association (ALA). After Printz died in 1996 at the age of 59, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA, a branch of the ALA) memorialized him by bestowing the Michael L. Printz Award to the best young adult book published the previous year. While fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and anthologies are considered, so far the prize has been awarded to eleven novels and one graphic novel . While the Printz Award program is relatively new, other ALA prizes are not. Generations of parents, students, librarians, and teachers have trusted the reputation of books that have won the John Newbery and Randolf Caldecott medals, the first of ALA’s annual awards for exemplary

The WILLA Literary Award

When I received an e-mail last August that I had won the WILLA Literary Award for Follow the Dream , I didn’t believe it. At first I thought it was telling me I was a finalist (which would have been wonderful in itself) and that I’d find out later. So I had to reread the letter several times before it finally sank in. I had WON! It took several weeks to come down from Cloud Nineteen. This prestigious national award is given by the Women Writing the West organization in seven categories: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Original Softcover, Creative Nonfiction, Scholarly Fiction, Poetry, and Children’s/Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction. Each category has a winner and up to two finalists, who also receive award recognition at the organization’s annual fall conference. The WILLA recognizes outstanding literature featuring women’s stories set in the west. Books published in the previous calendar year can be submitted by publishers or authors, and are read by groups of volunt

Cues from the Coach: Why a Coach?

You’re sitting at your computer, hands poised on the keyboard. You’ve planned your story, done your character sketches and outline, and know exactly what will happen and how it will end. But where does it start? You look at the row of question marks on the first line of your outline. You didn’t know where to begin when you created it, and you don’t know now. Or, for the fifth time, you’ve rewritten a tense scene that’s pivotal to the story, but it still lies flat on the page. All the elements are there, but it doesn’t sing. And it won’t hook a reader. Now what? The ability to write is a talent. The ability to write well is an acquired skill. How do you move from one to the other? Taking a writing class offers possibilities, particularly when it comes to grammar skills. The downside, however, might be a one-size-fits-all approach that can inhibit rather than foster creativity. A writing group offers a forum for brainstorming and inspiration. The critiquing process, if handled wi

Be My Guest - Jodie Renner

Check Your Facts, Ma’am! You’re busy creating your story world with your right brain, rolling along with the great plot and developing your characters while your muse is buzzing. Great! But later, when you’ve got that first draft done, it’s important to switch to your left brain and go back and check for continuity, logic, and accurate information – or get someone else to do it for you. As you’re writing,  you may assume everything makes sense and all your info is correct, but at some point, step back and reread for logistics. While you’re at it, verify your facts, to avoid annoying or even alienating your readers – and eroding your credibility. “But,” you say, “I’m writing fiction, so who cares about facts?” You should, because you want to create a credible world for your readers to be drawn into, and if an erroneous fact jars them out of it, they’re going to be annoyed. Think about watching a movie about Ancient Rome and suddenly you notice a watch on one of the gladiators. The

Be My Guest - Susan Malone

Why We Write I’ve just been doing the final edit of a provocative book about how the pursuit of happiness is folly, the book’s premise being that we are “sold” to be always pursuing  happiness, when being happy is within our inherent natures, providing we have sustenance and shelter. It got me thinking how this corresponds to writing. The writing itself is one beast, and the desire to “be published” quite another. Almost all the writers who come to me want to be published, of course. It’s almost as if the words and people and places don’t exist until they garner some sort of audience—readers to fall in love with their characters and be transported by the story. And such is of course the case, to a large extent. We humans are pretty danged ego-driven, and artists of all sorts ask if another human isn’t there to appreciate their art does it actually exist? But is this actually why we write? It helps when reevaluating one’s writing career to hone in on the truth of the matter. That

Be My Guest - Terry Odell

Don't Stumble over the Humble Apostrophe This month's post is about something very basic—but when we're busy writing, sometimes even the basics become stumbling blocks. We were driving onto the highway the other day, and our local BBQ joint (note, in our town there are only 3 choices for food: the Irish pub, the BBQ joint, or the sandwich shop) had just put out a new sign: "Breakfast Burrito's Served All Day." I cringe at how common that mistake is. I know I'm guilty of the occasional typo because my fingers don't always listen to my brain, but I do know the rule. Mr. Holtby in high school English drilled it in. Deep. And although I hope most people here know the rules, too, I figured it might be worth a reminder, in case anyone wants to sell burritos all day. An Apostrophe Has Two Uses 1. It shows possession. Something belongs to someone or something.    The man's hat. The dog's leash. My biggest trouble-spot with this is dealing w

Here’s to the Cliché

Photo credit: AussieGall (CC) As writers we are warned to beware of clichés, and we try hard to keep them out of our writing. Often the only time to use them, and then sparingly, is to give an idea of a person’s style through dialogue. However as a ghostwriter, I’ve found clichés to be a useful avenue into my clients’ psyches. Many people use clichés unconsciously when they speak. For instance, I ghostwrote a book about business success for a businesswoman who used a lot of clichés. One of her favorites was “we were just like peas in a pod.” For anyone she liked, she’d describe their relationship as being two peas in a pod. It started with her grandmother, who she credited for establishing her values that she used in business. I therefore asked many questions about Grandma – what she looked like, how she talked, and so on. Turns out Grandma liked jewelry, and so did my client. Grandma liked to entertain people, and so did my client. Grandma was basically a wild old rip, lots of f

CreateSpace Ins and Outs Explained by Bob Sanchez

 Bob Sanchez  Bob Sanchez is here today to inform us about a hot new trend. Self-Publishing with CreateSpace by Bob Sanchez Several people have asked about self-publishing using Amazon’s CreateSpace, so I’d like to share my experiences. At first I’d thought to walk through the entire process, but there’s little point. You can follow their instructions as easily as mine. So this post will provide essential highlights. I’ve used it five times—for one novel, three writers’ group chapbooks, and a friend’s memoir. The process is straightforward, and the physical book is fine. The quality of the formatting and content is up to you, although you can hire CreateSpace (or me) to do anything you prefer not to try. The website is . You’ll need to sign up (it’s free) or sign in. Once you sign in, click on the Books tab and read about Publishing a Trade Paperback. There is plenty of good, clear information. In the Overview, notice in particular the calculators that give yo

A Little Known Award

There are a lot of well-known awards for writing, like the Agatha or The Pulitzer Prize. Any writer would love to win those awards, but there are quite a few that are less well-known, but also prestigious. Later this month, The Blood-Red Pencil will have a week about writing awards. Since I don’t usually post during that week, I thought I’d tell you about a friend and great writer, Sylvia Dickey Smith , and the award she won. Or to be more accurate, I’ll let her tell you. Sylvia, in 2011, your book, A War of Her Own , won the Texas Press Women Award, then you went on to Nationals. What was that like? Helen, so glad you asked! And to clarify—I not only went on to nationals but I placed 2nd there—to a Fulbright Scholar and head of the Fulbright Scholar program at her university, and who wrote her book while on a Fulbright-Scholarship-funded sabbatical—that made second place a little sweeter. These were my first state and national awards so I wear them proudly! When I received word

10 Self-Motivators for Writers

January is often a time when we wrap ourselves in the Cloak of Determination. If, like me, your cloak has a tendency to slip from your shoulders, I offer you the following motivators to keep on writing: 10. You can have a cookie(s) when you finish for the day. 9. In the midst of the shambles you've already written, which is mocking you from the page, there is one sentence you really like. Focus on it. 8. What would you be doing if you weren't writing? Do you really want to be doing that? 7. Think about how far you've come; not how far you still need to go. 6. Fantasize about what you'd treat yourself to with some of that royalty cheque. Perhaps it's a personal chef to make you cookies. 5. You love your characters. If you can't keep on writing for yourself, keep on writing for them. 4. Having the discipline to keep on writing even when it's tough is what separates the real writers from the wannabees. Do you really want to be a wannabe? 3. Rem

Why Would Anyone Do Such a Thing?

Forever Young: Blessing or Curse - Blog Book Tour Stop  Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, a thriller by Morgan Mandel Quite a while ago, when I first read a chapter of my now released thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse , to my critique group at Chicago-North RWA, I received such comments as, "Why would anyone do such a thing?" After hearing that, I had to step back and think. It wasn't enough for my 55 year old character to take an experimental pill to revert her to 24, but I also had to give her a good motive for doing so. Piling more reasons on would be even better. After all, the more a character suffers, the more readers are happy. To make her desperate, I virtually killed her husband, gave her a bad thyroid, and bequeathed her with the beginnings of osteoporosis, a disease which caused her mother's decline and death. Then, if that wasn't enough, I let her lose her job. Satisfied I'd made my character absolutely abject, I present

Writing in 140: Seeing Down Writing Journey's Road

In January 2011, I wrote about stretching yourself as a writer. This New Year, how about we think about our future writing self? In your writing career, where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? What projects are you writing? How many? Are you self-publishing or going the traditional route? Have you moved into writing articles and non-fiction to promote your fictional works? Are you now writing screenplays? Coaching and editing? It's great to think yearly and organize what projects you plan to write within a year's time, but it's equally great (and important) to stop and widen, deepen the view of your writing career…and take notes. Knowing where you want to be will help you situate what you have to do now and in the immediate future in order to get there. ----- Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less. ~~~~~~~~~~ Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published