By Christina Katz
It’s not a secret that I dislike housekeeping. Relatives have come right out and suggested to my face hiring someone without apologizing for their directness. But I look at this as more of a sign of their intolerance for our wabi-sabi lifestyle than anything else.
I’m an author, teacher, and speaker and my husband is a teacher and theater director. Our careers require a certain amount of creative immersion that we happen to enjoy. I realize our relaxed lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but over the years in the class I teach especially for moms, I’ve become something of a mess evangelist.
The way it happened is that the moms in my class kept saying they didn’t have time to write. And finally, after tossing out all of my other suggestions, I threw down the gauntlet.
Stop cleaning so much. Lower your expectations about a perfectly orderly home. Ask for and expect more help with household chores from the whole family. Is it still a radical idea, even in the new millennium, that the “woman of the house” is not 100 percent responsible for the cleanliness of the house?
That time to write has got to come from somewhere.
Often women who are home raising kids but are not making a financial contribution feel stuck. They want to start, for example, a writing career from home but their husbands don’t want them to try. They don’t want their wives to make the investment of time and money into becoming a professional who works from home, even though writing is the lowest-investment business you can start-up.
Notice I didn’t say writing is a no-investment business. Rather it’s a low-investment business. Now I think we all know where I stand on this idea. I have had students sneak my class onto a credit card without telling their spouse until the class was over. And though, I don’t especially enjoy being privy to such intimate couple dynamics, we get the picture. Women want to learn skills that can help them make money from home so they can have the best of both worlds. What’s wrong with that?
So here are some tips for those who not only want to write to avoid housework, but those who need to avoid housework in order to write:
1. Eschew conformity. Don’t confuse your value as a human being with how clean your home is. I have known some fabulous women who couldn’t cook or clean worth a darn. And if anything, this fact only makes them more charming and memorable to me.
2. Make housekeeping a team sport. Crank up the music. Give everyone a job. Tackle the worst of it for a couple of hours on the weekends. It’s amazing how much a family can get done when everyone works together. Even very young children love to dust, squirt windows and mirrors and sweep. Get them their own special cleaning tools so they really can contribute.
3. Hurry up and get paid for writing. The longer you drag your feet and dilly-dally, the more skepticism you’ll be confronted with from others. In all of my years of teaching, I have to say that I have encountered many women who seem to want a guarantee before they commit. I can’t give them that. But I can almost guarantee that if you don’t commit, you won’t succeed.
4. Read the book, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder–How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman. Or listen to it on audio while you clean up a little bit between juggling kids and writing gigs.
Viva tolerable messiness! Now if I could only get our dogs to pull their weight around here, I’d be all set.
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.
Archive for April, 2009
Tags: writing and housework
Tags: polish script for radio
|By Laura Bridgwater
Just as you would polish a written piece before e-mailing it to your editor, you can polish a piece for the radio before recording it.
One of the best ways to polish your script is to practice reading it aloud. Read your script to anyone who will listen, from friends and family to the cat if you need to. Read it to yourself until you are comfortable with it.
While you are reading aloud, listen for the answers to the following questions:
Do you pause in the middle of a sentence to take a breath? If so, go back to the keyboard. Unless you are William Faulkner, chances are your sentence is too long. Rewrite it as two shorter sentences. This is a good rule for other kinds of writing, too.
Can you read your script without stumbling over certain phrases? Some phrases that work in print become tongue twisters when spoken. When you find these stumbling blocks, it’s better to reword than try to master them. Invariably, those glitches will trip you up when you are recording.
Does your script sound conversational? If you write mostly for print markets, you may need to tweak your script to make it sound more conversational. For example, the transition “For example” works well in a written piece, but “I was thinking about this…” sounds more conversational in commentary.
Do you know the correct pronunciation of all the words in your text? When in doubt, check an online dictionary like dictionary.com.The beauty of online dictionaries is that they have audio clips. You won’t need your special phonics decoder ring to figure out the pronunciation key.
Have you made a recording of yourself? It’s worth the effort no matter how much you might detest the sound of your voice. When you play back your recording, take the pillow off your head and listen critically.
Do you sound as if you are underlining every other word? If so, this is Shatner-esque and you should stop. Instead, pause naturally at the ends of your sentences. Also listen to whether you clear your throat or make other distracting sounds. Unless, of course, you are still reading to the cat. The cat might like the hairball sound effects.
Ultimately, writing for radio means translating the written word into the spoken word. The key to sounding good is to read as if you weren’t reading. And that comes, like everything else in life, with practice.
Laura Bridgwater is a freelance writer and radio commentator at KUNC. To listen to her commentary go to http://www.kunc.org and click on tapes and transcripts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|By Lori Russell
In March’s column, I discussed how to pitch an idea for a profile article to an appropriate publication with a query letter. Once the editor gives you the go ahead to write your profile article, what should you do next?
Before you schedule an interview with your subject, reread your query letter. It holds the key of how to research, interview and write your profile in a timely manner.
As writers, we are expected to be “instant experts” who know about a variety of topics and can explain them using original metaphors and flowing prose. To do that in a timely manner, you need a strategy so you don’t over or under research or write your article. Luckily, because of the work you did crafting your query letter (narrowing the focus of your topic, determining your angle, choosing your interview subject), you already have a great start.
When I wrote a profile on a couple who run a clinic teaching rural kids how to hunt wild turkeys, my angle focused on the efforts of 100 adult volunteers who teach children the basics of carrying on a hunting tradition in their community. Because I knew my angle and my audience’s familiarity (or lack there of) with the subject manner, I didn’t have to know how to a pattern a shotgun, delve into the specifics of turkey biology or be able to imitate the call of a hen to draw in a “tom.”
Familiarize yourself with the basics of your topic first and use the interview to get the color and quotes that come with talking with someone.
After you’ve found your information, copy all your notes into one notebook or computer file. Copying the information rather than simply cutting and pasting from websites forces you to think about which facts are useful. It also anchors those details in your mind-something that is helpful when you begin to write.
Here are some more dos and don’ts when preparing for the “Big Talk”:
Assignment: Reread one of your query letters from last month and review what you promised to deliver to your editor. Research the basics of your topic and compile your notes in a notebook or computer file. Compose a list of questions for your interview subject.
Lori Russell has written profiles about people, their passions and their places for more than a decade. Her nonfiction articles have been published online and in magazines and newspapers around the country. She is a contributing editor for Columbia Gorge Magazine, a regular contributor to Ruralite magazine and has co-written the “In the Spotlight’ column for WOTR for the past two years. She is currently enjoying a writing residency teaching memoir writing to high school students through Columbia Gorge Arts in Education, an organization that brings professional writers and artists to the public schools.
By Sage Cohen
Songs can take hold of us and refuse to let go. I have been taken hostage for days, years, decades by some of my favorites. I’ll bet you have, too. What do songs do that speaks so directly to us and moves us so deeply?
In songs, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition typically work together to deliver messages in a way that we respond to physically and emotionally-so much so that hearing a song can spin us back to the time and place of our first hearing it-resurfacing smells, feelings, even people who we might not otherwise have remembered. It seems, then, that the songs we love somehow plug into our nervous systems, entangling themselves in our memories. Because songs are poems set to music, we have the same opportunities to tickle people down to their foundations with the rhymes, rhythms, and repetitions we choose in our poems.
Modeled on song lyrics, write a poem that has end rhymes, similar syllable-count lines, and possibly even a recurring chorus. Use the lyrics of any songwriter you admire as your example-and don’t be shy about imitating.
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University and teaches the email class Poetry for the People.
I love chatting with readers and former students. Come and meet me!
Sunday – Tuesday
May 3-5, 2009
King County Libraries Tour
- May 3: Mercer Island Branch, 2 p.m.
- May 4: Covington Branch, 7 p.m.
- May 5: Belleview Branch, 7 p.m.
Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference
Wednesday, May 27th
NYC at the Jacob Javits Convention Center
Writer’s Digest Author Webinar, June 4th
Are You a Specialist or a Generalist?
Evaluating Your Skill Set to Survive in Today’s Publishing Environment
by Christina Katz (60 min)
More info coming soon!
Check Out the May/June Issue of Writer’s Digest magazine!
I have a six-page feature, “Build Your Power Platform” appearing in the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. My article is part of a twenty-page feature section on how to stand out to agents and editors. Other contributors in the feature section include M. J. Rose, the Writer’s Digest Staff, Jeff Yeager, and editor Jessica Strawser. The May/June issue features an interview conversation between Stephen King and Jerry B. Jenkins and the announcement of the annual 101 Best Websites.
Tags: character dialogue
|By Kristin Bair O’Keeffe
“Do characters have to talk?”
“Yes, unless, of course, your character is a true mute or her mouth is bound shut with duct tape.”
Silence. And then the sound of nails drumming on a wooden desk.
“For a lot of reasons, but three pretty important ones.”
“Well, first, dialogue helps readers get to know your characters. Look how much you learn about the narrator’s dad in Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Penguin Books, 2006) when on page five he gives his opinion about people writing their life stories:
‘Unless your name is something along the lines of Mozart, Matisse, Churchill, Che Guevara or Bond-James Bond-you best spend your free time finger painting or playing shuffleboard, for no one, with the exception of your flabby-armed mother with stiff hair and a mashed-potato way of looking at you, will want to hear the particulars of your pitiable existence, which doubtlessly will end as it began-with a wheeze.’
“Ooh, that guy’s got some attitude, huh?”
“Exactly. And you know it both from what he says AND how he says it.”
“Okay, I get that. But why else should I use dialogue?”
“Ever get stalled in the forward motion of a story?”
“Oh, yeah. All the time.”
“Well, dialogue helps you figure out what happens next.”
“Yep, on page fifteen of Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Vintage, 2003), the first-person narrator says to a girl he meets, ‘I’m looking for my cat…’ Simple sentence. Simple introduction of a problem via dialogue. And so begins a relationship and a journey that takes you places you never thought you’d go.”
“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”
“But you said there were three reasons, didn’t you?”
“I did, and the last one is the simplest. Dialogue is interesting to read. Readers love it. In fact, I had a friend in college who only read the dialogue in books. She skipped all the narrative. She said dialogue was all she needed to get a full story. A little extreme, but telling.”
“Any examples of dialogue readers love?”
“Actually that’s a great assignment for you. Grab your favorite book. Study the dialogue. Look at it for characterization, story movement, and entertainment value. Then write your own.”
“Hhhmm, me and my big mouth.”
Tags: writing health essays
By Abigail Green
If there’s one subject people never seem to tire of, it’s their health. Their latest ailment, how much (or little) they’re sleeping, the newest diet or exercise fad-it’s all fodder for discussion. Or, in the case of essayists, exposition.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a health writer, you’d be wise to consider this popular niche within the personal essay genre. First-person health pieces can run the gamut from essays about how you lost weight to the pros and cons of getting a tattoo removed, how to choose a new doctor, whether the latest nutritional supplement really works, and much, much more.
Health essays don’t just run in health and fitness publications, either. You’ll find them in newspapers, parenting and travel magazines, and general interest magazines, as well as specialty publications targeted to pregnant women, seniors, or people with diabetes. The possibilities are virtually limitless.
So how do you approach this popular niche? First, understand that health essays need to interest people other than your doctor. Editors and readers aren’t going to be riveted by your first-hand account of losing your love handles unless you can make it relevant to them. While certain topics never seem to get old-weight loss, sleep, and sex, for example-it’s precisely because these subjects are so frequently covered that writers need to find a fresh angle.
Did you get in shape thanks to a hot, new pole-dancing class at your gym? Were you able to cure your chronic insomnia using natural remedies? Did you find a miracle food that boosted your lagging libido? A fresh, first-person account of a common health issue may be just the thing to grab an editor’s attention.
One caveat: if your experience is too unique, that could work against you. For instance, if you have been diagnosed with a rare disease, publications may not want an essay on a condition most of their readers have never heard of, let alone suffer from. The exception? A current event makes your condition newsworthy. A great example is Kawasaki syndrome-a relatively rare childhood disease that was all over the news recently when John Travolta’s son reportedly died from complications stemming from the syndrome. An essay about your child’s experience with the disease is almost sure to sell.
Another thing that sets the health essay apart from other personal essays is that it often includes reporting. That is, in addition to the writer’s own experience, the piece may include facts, statistics, and quotes from medical experts. This information is not hard to find. Start by visiting the Centers for Disease Control website or by interviewing your family doctor.
Scan the publications you read regularly for first-person health articles. Mine your family’s and your own medical history for subject matter. It’s worth your time to explore this personal essay niche, which can be a healthy addition to your freelance portfolio.
Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com.
Invest In Your Writing Career: Spring E-mail Classes with Christina Katz & Other Highly Qualified InstructorsPublished April 11, 2009 Classes with Abigail Green , Classes with Christina Katz , Classes with Jennifer Applin
Tags: Christina Katz recommended, highly qualified writing instructors
SPRING E-MAIL CLASSES START MAY 6TH
LAST CHANCE FOR CHRISTINA’S ADVANCED2009 CLASSES
Platform 103: Turn Your Specialty Into Course Curriculum
Writing for the Web
Personal Essays that Get Published
Invest In Your Writing Career Today & Reap Greater Rewards, Sooner.
Tags: estimate how much publications pay
By Wendy Burt-Thomas
Q: I can’t always find writer’s guidelines. Is there a way to estimate how much a publication pays writers? A: Although no advice is foolproof, I can tell you some tricks I’ve learned along the way from BOTH sides of the fence-as a freelance writer and as an editor of magazines and newspapers.
1. Look at the type of paper used. Generally, newsprint is going to pay less- maybe $.10/word. The thicker the paper, the more the publication will pay. You’ll also want to look at the finish; is it matte or glossy? (Think about when you process your family photos.) Glossy paper is more expensive so generally a glossy print magazine will pay more. Also, is the publication black and white or color? Color is much more expensive to produce, implying there’s a bigger budget to pay writers.
2. Look inside for the circulation. The general rule of thumb is that the larger the circulation, the more money they can pay writers. However, sometimes you’ll find niche publications with a smaller circulation (e.g. something mailed only to 5,000 plastic surgeons in the region) that will pay writers relatively well.
3. Look at the ads. If you see ads for cosmetic dentistry, Botox, boutique jewelry stores and high-end artwork, they probably have good pay rates. That’s because almost all publications (except nonprofit mags) are supported by advertising revenue. And the more disposable income the reader has, the more money the publication can make selling space to businesses that can afford to shell out big bucks to advertise. Writers usually get paid more with the trickle down effect.
Last month, I worked my tail off. I visited thirty-one blogs, wrote thirty-one new 500-word pieces, mailed scads of books and bumper stickers (only a few left to go!), and just generally wore myself out on top of everything else I usually do.
This month, I’m planting seeds in the form of little requests for your assistance. I hope they blossom into some big ol’ sunflowers by August.
I want to ask you to help me serve you better. I’ve made a decision to choose quality, not quantity. To not be so fixated on content that I forget the importance of context. And to dig deeper within myself instead of skimming across the surface with too many items on my to-do list.
This summer, I might even (gasp!) take a vacation or two and restock the creative well. They don’t call it spring cleaning for nothing, writers! I’m starting with the inside…and trusting that the outside will follow.
And now, here’s where YOU come in. I need to ask for your assistance on many fronts:
I’m Seeking An Administrative Assistant: I will mentor this person in his or her witing career in exchange for 10-20 / week of administrative work. This is a perfect opportuntiy for someone who is not feeling a money crunch right now but realizes that they can benefit both by assiting me and through my consultations on writing for publication and platform development. This is job for a nonfiction writer, since nonfiction writing is my specialty. The right person for this position will be organized, conscientious, and cheerful about administrative work. Beginning fall 2009, this person will have access to free classes with me. Details will be negotiated upon selection. A minimum one-year commitment is required. Please do not apply if this does not describe you. Send a short cover note and a resume to me at: email@example.com. Resumes will be accepted for the rest of the month. The postion begins May 1st.
I Need Help With Book Promotion: More people than ever have been asking me for free help or input or advice since my book came out. As many of you know, I love reconnecting with my former students and am usually quick and generous with advice. Teaching as much as I do is very satisfying, especially when some of my former students are getting book deals and having books published (see these pictures from Sage Cohen’s book tour for Writing the Life Poetic). However, when you add travel and book promotion to writing, teaching and speaking, that’s when I start to feel the pinch. But how can I not go? I love to reach out and meet new writers. Over the years, I have answered literally hundreds of requests for assistance. Now I could really use five minutes of your time. Could you…
Ask Your Library to Order My Books!
Libraries are busy right now and therefore overdue fines are up and most have money to order new books. But they will likely only order books specifically requested by patrons. The good news is once you request my book through your library, it will probably go into the county or regional library loan program, which means everyone in your area can read it. If your library already has them: mission accomplished. Move on to the next way you can help.
Post Rave Reviews of My Books Online!
I’d love to be everywhere online. And let’s face, I’m a lot places. If you Google “Christina Katz” the pages go to Timbuktu. But the thing is, people don’t want to hear from me how great my stuff is: they want to hear it from YOU! And if you don’t get to them first, one unfortunate result I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing lately, is that some unhappy people would just love to spew their sour grapes in my direction. And when this happens, I have absolutely no recourse.
So, here’s what I ask: If you love my books and you have not yet posted this fact in writing online, NOW is the time to do it. The economy is down, the publishing industry is taking a big hit, and my books are impacted by this environment whether I like it or not. So no matter how good my intentions and how how hard I worked, if my readers don’t champion my books, they will fade away. And that would stink. Because I hear from people every day who love my books. If you are one of them, could you shout it from the rooftops online?
Support Independent Bookstores!
Ever since I started doing Amazon spikes, independent bookstore sellers have been asking me, “What have you done for US, lately?” I know you all know that I love libraries, but did you know that booksellers really need our support right now? In fact, booksellers are so pinched that they are sending books back to publishers much faster than they used to in order to only stock books that will move quickly. (Yes, that’s mostly celebrity stuff and the classics.) Mother’s Day is coming right up and Father’s Day is right after that. If you don’t have my books already, please consider purchasing them through your independent bookseller (or any booksellers, they are ALL hurting). If you already own them, please pass the message on to your readers (see below). I’d really appreciate it and so would booksellers.
Spread Enthusiasm About My Books to Key People!
Are you a journalist? A blogger? An e-zine editor? I have quotes, content, and interviews, which I’m happy to turn over to you and all you have to do in exchange is post my bio and link back to my sites. If you are none of the above, could you please tell a reviewer or a journalist or a book reviewer or anyone you think might be interested, how much you like my books? They are inundated with requests for reviews, so they are likely to appreciate your help vetting titles. No time? Try using Facebook or Twitter to buzz my books. If you are already on there it takes practically no time.
Long story short: if my books have ever supported you, could you now put your shoulder behind them and PUSH?
Thank you! Your assistance crosses many things off my to-do list, which allows me to concentrate on serving the work I do that best serves you. I appreciate your support!
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming, at a level of quality that I so enjoy bringing to you. Thanks for subscribing–and supporting!
Make good things happen!
Publisher and Editor