Archive for September, 2007

Message from the Managing Editor: Cultivating Community

sage.gifBy Sage Cohen

At the Willamette Writers Conference in early August, I spent three glorious days completely submerged in a critical mass of people who value their writing enough to dedicate three days to it. There’s a kind of alchemy that happens when we take ourselves seriously as writers—and do so in the company of other writers. We expect more of ourselves. We believe more in ourselves. We feel a part of something important…something far more energizing than the blank stare of the computer screen. I was reminded that no matter how much I love the privacy and silences of my writing life, community is the pilot light that keeps poetry burning in me.

Don’t know where to start building your very own writing community? Here are a few ideas for fueling your creative fires in the company of other writerly types.

Book Clubs
A great way to keep your literary head in the game is to participate in a book club. Meeting at regular intervals with a chosen group of peers can challenge you to engage with material you might not have chosen yourself, provide valuable insight, and make reading more fun—and frequent.

Public Readings
Bookstores, libraries, cafes, and writing collectives all great places to seek out—or create your own—readings. When I moved to Portland, Oregon, almost five years ago, there were plenty of literary events happening around town. But I knew that I was most likely to dive with both feet into the literary community by starting my own reading series. So I did. And so can you.

Writing Groups
When you want regular critical feedback about your work, a writing group can provide both great support and valuable structure. Having a deadline and feeling responsible to the group can keep you focused on your goals and committed to achieving them.

Publishing Groups
Why not meet with published and aspiring-to-be-published authors and writers to share ideas about agents, journals, presses, or markets. Strategize with other folks in the publishing trenches about where your work belongs in the world––and how to get it there.

Writing Dates
I meet with a group of women once a month on a friend’s farm. We each choose a special place in the house or out on the property and spend three hours writing on our own. For me, this designated time and place where I write in the company of friends is quite energizing and productive. Maybe it could work for you, too. Try meeting a friend at a café or park or library for a regular writing date. See what happens.

Whether you tap into an existing writing community or create one yourself, I encourage you to commit to at least one regular activity that engages you in the writing world beyond your desk and reminds you of your rightful place in it.

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

September Reader Feedback

Tell us what you think of Writers on the Rise! Make your comment here.

September 2007 ROAR Board

Announce your publication, career and platform successes at our ROAR Board by making a comment here.

Or read them for inspiration.

[Please remember, however, this is not the place for posting press releases. We don’t have a bulletin board feature at this time.]

Thanks and happy writing!

The Secret Language of Editors: All About the Hook

Abigail GreenEvery published article has to have a hook—something that draws the reader in and keeps their attention. Sometimes, your hook will be obvious. Say, new research has just been published, or a new book or movie has just come out on your topic.

Other times, you may have to invent a hook. This may strike you as silly. If it’s a good story, it should stand on its own, no gimmick necessary, right? Sure, if you’re writing about an injured hiker whose life was saved by a courageous dog, that may be enough to pique the interest of an editor and a reader. But in most cases, editors will want to know, “Why will our readers care about this story now?” Let’s repeat the key words in that statement: “why,” “our readers,” and “now.”

Anniversaries and observances are common hooks. Every year when May rolls around, headlines trumpet Mother’s Day-related stories. In July, it’s Independence Day. October is breast cancer awareness month. In September 2006, it was the fifth anniversary of 9/11. If your story is related to a bicentennial, you’ve struck gold.

That answers the “why now” question. Another way to hook readers is to spell out in your query letter or your story’s lead what’s in it for them. For example, I recently wrote an article for a doctors’ magazine on places like MinuteClinic that are popping up in supermarkets and pharmacies to treat people with common minor ailments without an appointment. Doctors are busy people, so I had to make clear immediately why they needed to read my article: “Quick-access clinics are becoming a reality. Better learn to compete.” Why should the magazine’s readers care about my story? Because they may be losing patients to these types of clinics.

Now, we’ve all seen published stories that have no apparent hook. These are often the evergreen articles I discussed in the May column. So why would an editor purchase an article that’s not pegged to a specific time of year or to any new information? Packaging. Just like a beautifully wrapped package can entice us to open it even if we know it’s only socks from Aunt Millie, an attractively packaged article can sell a tired topic.

Bridal magazines are masters of packaging. They cover the same topics over and over and over again. I once pitched an article on bad bridesmaid behavior. A topic as old as time, right? Except I packaged it as “The Five Most Common Bridesmaid Personality Types.” Suddenly, an old topic became fresh again. Thanks to a clever hook, a potentially dull article became interesting again.

Get creative when trying to come up with hooks for your articles. Repeat to yourself, “Why should readers care about this story now?” What would make someone in a supermarket checkout line read your article instead of the six next to it? What would make an editor buy your story immediately instead of filing it for later? The answer is your hook.

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:

New Year’s Day…In September


The Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success

By Sharon Miller Cindrich

Most families realize that the New Year doesn’t start January 1st. It starts the first day of school each fall, when kids return to school. New teachers, new friends, new carpools, new schedules and new lunch boxes. It’s a time of change, growth and exciting anticipation of things to come.

As my children realize that they’ve outgrown soccer shoes and fall jackets, as they begin to explore new levels of independence and assume a confidence and pride that comes with reaching that next grade level, I’m reminded that I, too, have grown—as a writer and a parent. I’m ready to take things to the next level, too. Following are a few ideas for making the most of the back-to-school New Year:

Make some resolutions. As school and sports schedules begin to settle into place, take the time to list your writing goals for the fall. Try to frontload your work in September and October so you can find some flex time as fall and winter holidays approach.

Clean out the clutter. Reorganize your office, clean out your desk drawers and give yourself a fresh space to work in this fall.

Get outside. Weather will be getting cooler and you’ll be cooped up indoors soon enough. Bring the laptop to the park, spend time on your deck and schedule in a daily walk before the leaves fall.

Make contact. September is a great month for phone calls and e-mails. Editors have returned from their summer vacations, are gearing up or wrapping up holiday season stories and are ripe for a phone call or query from you.

It’s a new year, parents, so break out the sparkling grape juice and do it right by toasting your growth, preparing for things to come and making a fresh start to forward your writing endeavors.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is now out from Random House. Read more about Sharon at

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Blog Chosen for Writer’s Digest 20/20

Kristin Bair O’KeeffeMaria Schneider, editor of Writer’s Digest, is selecting twenty (only twenty!) worthy blogs for her blogroll. And guess who was selected? Our very own Kristin Bair O’Keeffe who blogs over at Shanghai Adventures of a Traveling Spouse.

Yahoo! I love it when good things happen to deserving writers.

Just another example of how good comes to those who write (and build that all-important platform)!

An Interview with Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Management

Paige WheelerIn the Spotlight: Agent & Editor Insights for Getting Published
By Lori Russell

Planning and promotion are essential to the development of a writer’s career. This month, Paige Wheeler, founding partner of Folio Literary Management in New York, shares how creating a career plan prior to seeking representation can benefit both the author and the agent. Ms. Wheeler founded Creative Media Agency (CMA) in 1997 and served as its president until merging it into Folio in 2006. The agency has seven agents and represents both fiction and non-fiction authors.

Folio’s Web site mentions looking for potential clients who have a solid five-year plan for their writing careers. What should a first-time author consider when developing such a plan?

An author needs to be realistic about his/her writing goals. Not every author can be a New York Times bestseller right out of the gate—maybe not ever. If your goal is to make a bestseller list, how can you grow your career to make that list? Maybe your goal is to write and get published steadily and consistently. Perhaps you need a book to promote your speaking business or to gain exposure in your chosen field; maybe you’re in academia and you have a publish-or-perish mentality. In each situation, you have to think about how you want your career to progress. Do you have eight books in you? Maybe you could write 30 books or more. Or write different types of books (fiction/non-fiction) or different genres. You should share this information with your agent so that the two of you can plan appropriately.

When setting goals for one’s writing career, what resources would you recommend?

You should read the industry trade periodicals: Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch, Writer’s Digest and genre-specific publications. To become part of a larger network of writers, look into different organizations such as the ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors), WNBA (Women’s National Book Association), MWA (Mystery Writers of America), RWA (Romance Writers of America) and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

These organizations often have their own publications and helpful advice for both aspiring and advanced authors. Also, attending writers’ conferences is an excellent way to network and learn more about the business.

What suggestions do you have to help writers find the right agent for them?

Do your research. First, choose an agent who handles and has sold the type of material that you write. If the agent is new, see if the agent is part of a larger organization where she is able to get advice from her colleagues. There are a number of resources such as Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & and Literary Agents and Guide to Literary Agents (Writers Digest Books). You can read Publisher’s Lunch for recent book sales. You can also network with other authors in critique groups, conferences and other organizations. Make sure that you get along with your agent and that you are clear on the terms of your arrangement. Is this a handshake deal or is there an agency agreement? Are the terms of the agreement acceptable to you?

What types of projects are you currently looking to represent?

For fiction, I like women’s fiction and romance, upscale commercial fiction (think book club books), as well as mysteries, suspense and thrillers. I’m looking for anywhere from Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl) to Lori Lansens (The Girls) to Mary Guterson (We Are All Fine Here) to Allison Pearson (I Don’t Know How She Does It). Also, Jennifer Weiner, Lolly Winston, Karen Brichoux, Janet Evanovich and Karen Hawkins. For mysteries, I like both light and dark, even noir. It can be romantic suspense, a gritty thriller, or psychological suspense. I’m looking for writing with an almost lyrical quality to it for the thrillers and the suspense (and the book club books). For non-fiction, the authors should be an expert in their field and have had many articles published or media exposure. If I were a TV producer, would my Rolodex have their name as the name to go to for this field? Am I looking for new authors? You bet!

Folio Literary Management provides author support services. Please explain these services and why they are important in the current marketplace.

With hundreds of thousands of books published every year, the task of marketing and promoting many titles is increasingly falling onto authors’ shoulders. In many cases, however, writers don’t know how to market their work, and they often don’t know where to turn for help. At Folio, we determine the likely readership for your book and then work aggressively to find creative and innovative ways to reach that audience.

We now have a publicist, Ami Grecko, who works with our authors to reach their target audience. Folio also has the capacity both in-house and through strategic alliances to set up radio and/or TV satellite tours as well as find, arrange and book speaking engagements. In the very near future, we will also have the capacity to find and negotiate all sorts of licensing deals based on our clients’ books. In other words, Folio Literary Management lives up to its name. We do more than sell your book and fade into the background; we work beyond the page to manage every aspect of your literary career.

Writers can query Paige Wheeler by e-mail at pwheeler at Check the Folio Literary Management Web site for more details at:

Lori RusselLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.

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