Archive for January, 2007

Message from the Managing Editor: Paradise x 4 in 2007

sage.gifBy Sage Cohen

Welcome to 2007!

Let’s start the New Year with our eyes on the writing and publishing prize, shall we?

By now, you have probably made your list of resolutions for everything you plan to do better this year. I’d like to propose that we replace the concept of resolutions (which suggests that we’ve been naughty, and now it’s time to be nice) with the concept of intentions (which suggests that we have the capacity to materialize what we visualize).
Intentions are along the lines of a mental snapshot of a desired end result. Here are a few examples. In
2007, I intend to:

  • Place three feature articles
  • Complete my book proposal
  • Attend two writing conferences
  • Establish a blog that will reinforce my platform
  • Wake up at 5 a.m. and write for two hours every day before work

You get the idea. (Or, you can read Wayne W. Dyer’s The Power of Intention if you’d like to learn more.) Now, here’s the hitch. We must not, under any circumstances, think about all the reasons these intentions might not be possible.

Jack Canfield, co-founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, advises that once we target a goal or intention, it’s important not to trip ourselves up by immediately trying to figure out how we’ll get there. The formula he recommends is simple:

  1. Clearly articulate where we’re headed
  2. Unplug the mind and the ego from the question of “how to make it happen”
  3. Listen for our inner wisdom, and let our intuitive navigation systems take us there

Canfield uses the metaphor of driving from New York to California. We don’t have to perceive the entire trajectory from start to finish; we can make it across the country seeing only 200 yards in front of us at a time.

Dave Ellis, author of Falling Awake: Creating the Life of Your Dreams, suggests that when setting intentions, we set our sights on “Paradise X 4.” He argues that since we are typically able to achieve 25% of our intentions, we would ultimately arrive in Paradise.
I tried this myself. At the beginning of 2006, I spent a few hours visualizing the year. I wrote a long list of writing––and life––goals (some more grandiose than others), and then filed them away. This week, I revisited the list and was stunned to discover that I’ve achieved nearly 90% of my goals. Even a few of the wildest ones. Welcome to Paradise!
Does any of this sound a little far out? Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s not. You won’t know until you try.

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, a creative companion for poets 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 Oregon Literary Review, Cup of Comfort for Writers, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. In 2006, she won first prize in the Ghost Road Press annual poetry contest. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University where she was awarded a New York Times Foundation fellowship. For organizations including Writers on the Rise and Willamette Writers, Sage teaches poetry writing and publishing workshops. Visit Sage at

2007—The Year of the Golden Writing Adventure

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Writing Adventures in Shanghai
By Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Happy New Year, writers! Here in China, 2007 is the Year of the Golden Pig, a rare event that occurs once every 60 years when the pig sign coincides with the gold element. According to Chinese zodiac lore, babies born this year will have good fortune, especially in financial issues. (Translation: Golden Pigs make big bucks.) In preparation for this auspicious year, couples all over China have been scurrying to make babies. (According to The Shanghai Daily, a local English newspaper, the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission predicts that 131,000 babies will be born in the city this year, up from 123,901 last year. Now that’s a lot of Golden Pigs.)

Since I missed my shot at being a Golden Pig by about forty years, I’ve sidestepped the Chinese zodiac calendar and dubbed 2007 the Year of the Golden Writing Adventure. In 2006, I married and moved to Shanghai, and ever since, marriage and China have been the two subjects that compel me most as a writer. These two wonderfully spirited, complex adventures command my attention every day. I ponder them over cups of chrysanthemum tea, roll them over my tongue like stones, dream about them in the wee morning hours, blog about them, wrestle them to the ground, admire them by starlight, explore them with my husband, and of course, write about them.

My goal for the Year of the Golden Writing Adventure? Get it on the page and get it out there to readers. All of it. Novel. Essays. Articles. Blog. Even that poem that’s been poking at me for the last few months.

What does the Year of the Golden Writing Adventure have in store for you? Where does your life coincide with your writing? What tugs at your attention? At your heart? What do you obsess about? What do you want to say? Think about this for a few minutes, then grab your journal and write it down. Pour it onto the page…everything you want this year to bring. When you’re done, when you’re sweaty and spent, when your tears have smeared the ink, tear out the pages and hang them above your desk with a little sign that reads “2007—The Year of the Golden Writing Adventure.”


Kristin Bair O’Keeffe is a writer and writing teacher living in Shanghai, China. Her first article about The Middle Kingdom will appear in Highlights for Children. In addition, her work has been published in The ELL Outlook, PortFolio, The Gettysburg Review, The Larcom Review, Permafrost, and Hair Trigger. As a teacher, Kristin has been inspiring and motivating students for the past thirteen years. Her blog, “Shanghai Adventures of a Trailing Spouse,” explores the curiosities of life in China and garners the interest of readers all around the world. To learn more, visit “Shanghai Adventures of a Trailing Spouse” at

The Copywriter’s Paycheck: Grow Your Biz in 2007

Elizabeth ShortBy Elizabeth Short

We’ve all heard that copywriting is a great way for writers to make extra money. Guess what? It’s true. But first a couple of minor details—how to actually get clients and write copy. Welcome to The Copywriter’s Paycheck! In 2007, I’ll share practical guidelines for building a business along with tips for honing your craft.

Getting Started Tip: Nab your first client—yourself As an aspiring copywriter, it’s easy to get your first client. Just accept the job of writing your own marketing materials. Start with a simple brochure—something that demonstrates your skills and provides contact information (see content tips below). For design and printing, try an independent copy outlet that uses a digital press. They’ll provide basic layout services and can print a small, economical run of your materials. Then, hand out your brochure—with confidence—to every business contact you meet.

Copywriting Tip: Think (a lot) before you write Good copy may look simple on the page, but it’s actually the result of careful planning backed by marketing savvy. Before you begin writing, learn all you can about your client’s business (conduct an interview, read other marketing materials). Then, answer the following questions: What is my client selling? Who is my client selling to? What problems does this market face? How does my client provide solutions? Next, determine what kind of language—soothing, hip, upbeat, serious—your client’s market will respond to. Use this information as a guide throughout the writing process.

Elizabeth Short is a freelance copywriter and graphic designer with a passion for helping small businesses clarify and broadcast unique marketing messages. With a focus on websites and print materials, she brings together content + design in one easy, affordable package ( Check out her e-book, 7 Steps to Effective Web Content ( to learn the secrets of writing copy for the web.

Green Writer Marketplace: Mother Earth News

Susan W. ClarkBy Susan W. Clark

For a writer with the urge to write green, Kermit the Frog’s old song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” turns out to be wrong. In 2007, it’s actually cool to be green. The purpose of this column is to help you break into one of the dozens of publications dedicated to saving the ecosystem. So what are we waiting for? Let’s start at the top of my list.

The venerable bi-monthly Mother Earth News is now thirty-five years old and reaches more than one million readers. Their mission is to promote “more self-sufficient, financially independent and environmentally aware lifestyles.” The Editor is Cheryl Long and the Managing Editor is John Rockhold.

Freelance opportunities for this publication are limited, with most features written by Mother Earth News contributing editors, but two departments offer a door-opening first chance. For payment of $25 to $50, try writing 100 to 300 words of how-to for Country Lore. Or you could write up to 2,000 words in the first person about some topic related to sustainable lifestyle for Firsthand Reports from the Field. They pay $150 for these pieces.

If you’re a writer with both clips and relevant experience, you can propose a feature by sending a synopsis and a one-page outline to letters @ To quote from their Contributor Guide, “Practicality is critical; freelance articles must be informative, well-documented and tightly written in an engaging and energetic voice. Don’t forget to read our magazine.” If you get the assignment, your pay will be in the neighborhood of $1 per word.

Because this is a widely distributed publication, you should be able to find copies to review in libraries.

Photographer, editor, and award-winning writer, Susan W. Clark is an ardent advocate for sustainability. The Utne Reader applauded her article “Sustainable Revolution” from In Good Tilth magazine as “world-changing.” She is a regular contributor to In Good Tilth and Touch the Soil. Her work has appeared in the Capitol Press, Portland Tribune, Small Farmer’s Journal, and Permaculture Activist. She edits Salt of the Earth, the quarterly journal of Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust. Her observations about living within our ecological means are posted at

Why To Start Building Your Platform Now

cmkwritermama.gifPlatform Development 101

By Christina Katz

Think you’re exempt from building a nonfiction platform to support your writing career?

Then you are doing yourself and your career a huge disservice.
The word platform simply describes all the ways you are visible and appealing to your potential, future, or actual readership. Platform development is not only important for existing authors; it’s also crucial for wannabe authors or soon-to-be authors. And not only is platform development a refreshing switch from the daily grind, it can quickly become another satisfying and prosperous income stream for your writing career that enhances your bottom line. And what writer wouldn’t want that?

If you want to be successful in today’s literary marketplace, the smartest career strategy for your time and money is to begin to build, from scratch if necessary, the most productive platform you can. At this juncture, I’m talking about a simple Web site, blog or e-newsletter. That’s it. Nothing fancy or exotic. None of whatever is the latest technological breakthrough. Just the tried and true stalwarts. Because building a platform takes time and effort and, initially, you may build it and no one may come. But without a platform, you will have to work ten times harder to get your book (or future book) known. Perhaps a hundred times harder.

When I started developing my platform, I had no idea what I was doing. But I have loved the Internet since I fist logged on with a dial-up account in the dark ages, about seven years ago. I am also a writing instructor and I’ve been one since 2001. For me, as far as platform evolution, a relocation from Bellingham, Washington to Wilsonville, Oregon a couple of years ago caused me to have to leave behind three year’s of writing students and two classes I loved teaching at the local community college. I felt disappointed to be moving just when I’d discovered something (in my thirties, mind you) I loved to do and that seemed to be building, quite naturally, into a dual career I could love: writing for publication and teaching others how to write for publication.

And yet, the lure of the right job in Wilsonville for my husband was too strong to resist. In the final six months that we lived in Bellingham, I published, with the help of my students and the college, an anthology of their best writing. We gave a public reading and, shortly thereafter, my husband and I packed up a truck and moved with our two-year-old daughter to Oregon.

In August 2004, I was sitting in my new home office with my daughter, Samantha, playing at my feet. I had no babysitters, in fact, no personal connections in our new town whatsoever. I felt pressure to start over and do what I’d already done: go find another college, apply to teach, and start building a core of students all over again. But I couldn’t get over the feeling that letting go of the personal relationships I’d nurtured with hundreds of students and starting over was the right decision, even though those former students were hundreds of miles away.

My solution to this dilemma was to take my appreciation for the Internet and leverage it to stay connected with my students through an e-mail newsletter that I had already begun. I also made the decision to fly solo as a writing instructor, taking one of the classes I’d been developing and turning it into an e-mail class. Thanks to the Internet, I’ve been teaching Writing and Marketing Nonfiction Features for almost six years now. Becoming a distance teacher instead of a classroom teacher encouraged me to specialize initially, since I had to allow time to do my own administrative work. I think when you’re just starting out with anything, it’s a really good idea to specialize until you find your groove.

A simple Web site, an e-mail newsletter and one e-mail class comprised my platform when I received an e-mail from a producer at “Good Morning America” inviting me to be on the show for an interview with Diane Sawyer. So what really landed me on “Good Morning America”? A GOOGLE search.

A GMA production assistant pulled up my article, “The Art of Making Time for Yourself,” which had been published four years earlier on It came up at the top of the search page. On GOOGLE, the URL at the top of the list is the most-often read on that specific search topic. The producer e-mailed. I thought his message was SPAM. He called. I was still skeptical. After a long conversation, he convinced me that he really was a GMA producer and I really was the right person to appear on the show. Eventually, he agreed to fly my daughter and me to New York to be on the show (though my daughter had a meltdown on the set and had to be carried off by her Aunt).

Good things can and will happen in your writing career if you work continually on your platform. This is why you need to determine what your platform is and start working on it right away. Building a platform is an act of optimism because, really, you have no idea what will result from it, nor can you control this. And why would you want or need to, when good things are so much more likely to happen in your writing career once you have a platform? Why not get to work right now stacking the odds in your favor?

To get started, check out these folks with platforms that will inspire you: Example of how a 26-year-old success story leverages his self-published books using his online platform. A master of the online platform. Started a blog for each of his books and linked them to his Web site. Brilliant! I wanted to include fiction writers, so let’s go.

Christina Katz is the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2007). She is a featured presenter at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference, The Whidbey Island Writers Association MFA Residency, and the Willamette Writers Conference. She’s been teaching writing-for-publication classes for six years and has appeared on Good Morning America. She is also publisher and editor of this e-zine and another called The Writer Mama. Christina blogs daily at For more about Writer Mama, visit Christina’s website at

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

Cathy Belben

Good Reads for Writers

Reviewed By Cathy Belben
My summer experience as a nanny for an infant required that I find things that I could do while watching him (at least from a short distance) and that could be done in the 5-10 minute intervals of time during which he wasn’t crying, pooping, or otherwise requiring attention. Surprising not only myself but many people close to me, I began cooking. And I don’t mean the usual cooking I’d been subsisting on for the last 30+ years—the kind that involved poking holes in a microwavable pouch and then spinning the food around in the magic box for a few minutes.

I mean actual cooking. The kind that requires drizzling tomatoes with olive oil and blanching things and soaking small fruits overnight in a bisque of brandy and cranberry juice. I made white sauce, clam sauce, pesto, chili, artichoke-garbanzo bean soup, and a bunch of other stuff that’s much easier to just buy in a can. But now I know what it feels like to be Julie Powell. Sort of.

Powell is the author of Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, her account of the year she cooked every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. No easy task, but Powell, feeling stuck and bored in her job as a temp, was eager for a challenge. Child’s cookbook is “childishly simple and dauntingly complex, incantatory and comforting,” Powell writes. Reading it, she says, “I thought this was what prayer must feel like. Sustenance bound up with anticipation and want.”

I won’t spoil the story for you, but I will say that reading about food is almost as fun as eating it, especially in the talented hands of a writer like Julie Powell. She could’ve written a book about deciding to watch NASCAR racing every day for a year and I probably still would have found it hilarious, fascinating, and completely impossible to put down. She’s that entertaining. Even if it doesn’t send you to the kitchen, Julie and Julia serves up a terrific sampling of how to weave a story and a life into an entertaining memoir.

Cathy Belben lives in Bellingham, Washington, where she earned early fame for her award-winning fourth grade essay, “What the flag means to me” and later wrote bad rhyming poetry for the Whatcom Middle School Warrior Express. She recently survived a year in Hollywood writing for the show Veronica Mars. She’s returned to her normal life as a high school teacher and librarian, a triathlete, a weightlifter, a yogi, a dog’s mom, a cat’s slave, an artist, a napper, a nanny and an auntie. She’s thankful every day for everything.

Conference Confab (January)

Pamela KimLearn, Connect and Pitch with Industry Experts
By Pamela Kim

San Francisco Writers Conference, February 16-18, 2007
Billed as a writer’s best value, the San Francisco Writers Conference brings together over 100 literary agents, publishers and editors from the West Coast and New York. Over the three-day event, you’ll have access to how-to sessions, panels, and workshops taught by best-selling authors. You’ll discover the latest information on publishing and have an opportunity to network with other writers. Plus, you can take advantage of Speed Dating for Agents and Speed Dating for Editors – unique one-on-one opportunities to pitch your work directly and search for the perfect literary agent. The conference covers a wide range of genres including non-fiction, fiction, romance, thrillers, memoir, books-to-film, and more. Registration for this event – a sell out for the past three years – is open at

21st Annual Southern California Writers’ Conference (SCWC), February 16-19, 2007
Sunny San Diego is another option for your President’s Day Weekend. Boasting $3 million in facilitated deals for first-time authors and screenwriters, the SCWC delivers an intimate setting where attendees can rub elbows with bestselling authors, literary agents, publishers and editors. Dozens of read and critique opportunities are available as are interactive problem-solving and assignment-oriented workshops on topics such as “Sustaining Narrative Tension,” “Query Letters that Stick,” and “Landing an Agent/Getting the Deal.” If you like, you can submit a manuscript in advance of the conference for an extended one-on-one evaluation while you’re there. SCWC is a great event for veteran and emerging writers who want comprehensive feedback on their work.

Whidbey Island Writers Conference, March 2-4, 2007
Inspiration and motivation await you on idyllic Whidbey Island in Washington where you can hone your craft, stimulate your ideas, and network with peers and professionals. During the Author Fireside Chats, for example, you’ll mingle with authors, agents and editors in your genre as you enjoy coffee and cookies in the privacy of stunning island homes. You can pitch your story idea and learn what’s strong, what sounds right on track for market interests, and where to refine your approach or your writing. Hands-on workshops, master classes and open mic night add to the in-depth interaction and encouragement. Get all the details at

Writer mama Pamela Kim writes non-fiction articles about kids, single mommyhood and the joy of organizing the stuff of life. She leverages eighteen years of experience as a corporate communications consultant to connect readers with the information they need and want. When not traveling the conference circuit – each year finds Pam at writing, blogging and health conferences – she lives in Northern California with the fabulous Katie Kim who is six. Her home online is

Writing Conference Success: The Conferences are Coming!

Mary AndonianBy Mary Andonian

“The agent wants to see my first forty pages.”

“The editor wants to publish my ‘How-To’ book.”

“The Hollywood producer wants the rights to my Young Adult series.”

You hear these things all the time at a writers’ conference. So what’s holding YOU back? If you’ve ever considered going to a conference, this is your year! We’re going to get you ready so you can put your best foot forward, regardless of where you are in your writing career.

Why a conference? You could spend time and money on any number of things: writing courses (both in person and on-line), writing critique groups, an M.F.A. degree, editing services, and instructional books, to name a few. Each contributes to your writing in special ways. But only at a writers’ conference will you come face-to-face with the very people who BUY what you write. If you want to start selling your product—your words—then it’s time to find out what those agents and editors are saying about your merchandise. You can only do that at a conference. A good conference.

What’s a good conference? They’re the ones that have a little bit of everything: established agents and editors who actually buy the types of things you’re writing, workshops that will help you improve your writing, business strategies to help you market your writing business, and networking opportunities with other writers. If they offer a writing critique service, then you’ve hit the mother lode.

Action steps this month:
Find the conference you want to attend this year, and when you find it, mark those conference dates on your calendar using a big, fat, permanent red marker. Pamela Kim’s column, The Conference Confab (see below) offers tips for the most promising upcoming conferences. If you’d like to do a wider search online, Google the words “writers’ conference,” along with your city and state (or province or country, etc.). You can also access, and search under their “Writers Conference” tab. And don’t forget the two trade publications devoted to writing: Writers Digest and The Writer. Both magazines offer a “Conference” tab on their websites.

What NOT to Do:
Some conferences look shiny, exotic and expensive because, well, they’re shiny, exotic and expensive! That doesn’t mean they’re the best conference for you. Don’t get distracted by the glitz. Instead, go for local/accessible, targeted toward your specific needs, and pitch-oriented.
Mary Andonian is the agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference—one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. She just completed her second book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth. You can reach her at (

Learn the Secret Language of Editors: Pitch it good

Abigail GreenFreelancers’ Phrase Book
By Abigail Green

It was like a scene from “Girls Gone Wild” – a beach, bikinis, and plenty of daiquiris – only without the topless part.

Did I get your attention? Good. That’s the point of a query letter, also known as a pitch. A query is a freelance writer’s calling card. It’s how you pitch an idea, show an editor that you can write, convince him or her why you’re the best person to write the story, and hopefully, clinch the assignment.

Beginning writers often believe there is one perfect formula for queries. Not so. A query can be two sentences or two pages long, formal or chatty, sent by e-mail or snail mail. I’ve sent all kinds of queries that yielded assignments. That said, it is a good idea to tailor your pitch to each circumstance.

For instance, when I’m approaching a new-to-me editor, I always address my query to Mr. Bigshot Editor or Ms. Bigshot Editor. (Of course, I look up the correct editor’s actual name on the masthead, or better yet, call the magazine. And I triple-check the spelling before sending it out.) If in her reply, the editor signs off as “Cathy,” fine. But wait for her to indicate that you’re on a first-name basis.

I begin my query with an attention-grabbing lead, similar to how I’d start my article. (See the first sentence of this column.) Say you’re pitching a story on the recent trend of “girlfriend getaways.” If you begin, “I would like to write an article on the increasing focus of tourism professionals on the female demographic,” the editor will toss your pitch – or doze off – before she gets to the next sentence. Dazzle her from the start.

Next I give the editor a taste of the goodies I’ll include in my article – a recent statistic, a juicy quote, or an exciting source. You don’t have to do all the research up front, but sometimes a quick call or Web search can yield a tasty bit of info that will set your query apart from the rest.

Then I show that I’m familiar with the magazine: “I see this as a good fit for your Travel Trends section.” Next, I tell her why I’m the best writer for the job: “In addition to writing regularly for This Magazine and That Magazine, I just got back from a girlfriends’ getaway to Cancun.”

Finally, I assume the sale, as they say in the business world. “I hope to hear back from you” is too weak. Better: “I look forward to working with you on this piece. I’ll follow up in a couple of weeks if I haven’t heard back.” Then send it. A strong query is the first step to netting an assignment.

Abigail Green ( is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written about health, travel, weddings, business, education and more for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog:

Cheers & Applause (Roars)

From our contributors, past and present…

When not writing articles for the REI company newsletter and intranet site, KELLY HUFFMAN still contributes the occasional theater review to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Last month she reviewed a cabaret production called “Forbidden Xmas.”

JOANNA NESBIT published “Anacortes Community Theatre—A Community Gem” in the January ’07 issue of Entertainment News Northwest.

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January 2007

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