Archive for May, 2008

June Classes with Sage Cohen: Practice Writing Poetry or Personal Essays

October 2007 Family Fun MagazinePoetry For the People with Sage Cohen
Next Class Begins on June 4th
Prerequisites: None
Have you always wanted to write a poem but didn’t know how to begin? Maybe you’re already writing poetry and want to connect with your muse more often, or brush up on your poetic prowess? Poetry for the People takes poetry off of its academic pedestal, making it accessible to and enjoyable for everyone. Six lessons with six assignments completed in six weeks.
Cost: $199.00
Register at Writers on the Rise

Personal Essays that Get Published with Sage Cohen
Next Class Begins on June 4th
Prerequisites: None
Everyone has a story to tell. Would you like to tell yours exceptionally well–and then share it with a wider audience? Personal Essays that Get Published equips you with the basic knowledge you need to write personal essays that connect-and the market know-how to get them published. Six lessons with six assignments completed in six weeks will take you from writing magnetic leads to cultivating meaningful and memorable narratives to researching markets and sending out your work. Plus, each week’s lesson will include two recommended publications for placing your essays.
Cost: $199
Register at Writers on the Rise

In the Spotlight: Colleen Sell, Editor of A Cup of Comfort Series from Adams Media

Interview By Cindy Hudson

When Colleen Sell is not editing one of the many books in the popular A Cup of Comfort book series (published by Adams Media), this freelance editor spends her time writing for magazines as well as editing and ghost writing for other clients. Plus, she always has an idea for a project or two she would love to develop if she had more time. With over 25 books under her belt in the A Cup of Comfort series and more on the way, there’s precious little free time in Sell’s life these days. She took a moment out of her busy schedule recently to talk about what she strives to create with A Cup of Comfort and to give readers of Writers on the Rise tips for submitting their personal essays.

When you first started as editor of A Cup of Comfort, what did you want to bring to the series?

One of the things that was important to me is that the stories we included were not homogenized to have the same tone and the same voice. I wanted variety and I wanted to allow as much literary influence as possible. I wanted the stories to read like fiction; but I wanted them to be absolutely true. I wanted the stories to capture readers and pull them in.

How many submissions do you usually get for each book?

It varies on the topic but between 1,500 and 3,000. I select about 50 for each book, but I will not take a lesser story over a better story just to get that number. For me, the quality of the book is always the most important thing.

Does each A Cup of Comfort volume have its own personality?

Yes, definitely. There’s commonality with each volume, but each of the books I’ve worked on has a very distinctive personality as well.

What do you look for when you’re selecting stories to include in a particular A Cup of Comfort volume?

Authenticity is really important to me. It’s been said that there are no new stories. But your perception of what happened in your life and how it affected you is unique. And there’s always something that’s unusual, that’s specific to your life and your situation that’s different from everybody else’s and that’s what I want to see in stories. I also think the best stories have a universal truth. Something in that story needs to resonate with just about everyone who reads it. And it needs to have a nugget of truth, that thing that makes us human coming through in the story without actually saying it. When a story lets readers come to that conclusion themselves, that is an excellent essay.

If you choose an essay from a writer for one volume will you consider something else they’ve written for another?

I consider the essays individually every time. And we have published more than one essay from a writer in the same volume. People can submit as many stories as they want for as many volumes as they want. Our policy says that I cannot publish more than three stories from any author in any single book. It’s usually better for the reader if there’s variety. But sometimes the very best stories that provide the most variety and flavor and different points of view are by the same author.

Do you choose essays from people who haven’t been published before?

About 25 percent of the essays in each book are by people who have not been published before. If I see a good story, even if it needs a little work, I’m going to grab it.

Do the authors participate in the promotion of the books?

They do, but it’s not required. Many of the contributors set up signings at bookstores. We also have authors who participate in local art fairs that feature local authors, library events and charitable events.

When submitting to A Cup of Comfort, what can authors do to make their writing stand out?

I’m a firm believer that you’re going to write the best story if you write what you know and write from your gut and not think too much about what we want. A lot of the stories deal with challenging and painful events in life. Write honestly about that, but for our purposes it’s about comfort, hope and inspiration. So keep that in mind. No matter what you write about it has to resonate with a large audience, it has to have some kind of insight or redemption quality or something that’s uplifting.

What kinds of stylistic and submission no-no’s should people avoid?

One of the common tendencies in writers is to overwrite, to say too much. Make sure every word counts. Also, preachiness doesn’t work for A Cup of Comfort. And, believe it or not, I get submissions with no contact information, no name. So if I want to publish the story I don’t know how to contact the author.

It’s not a good idea to submit something, revise it and submit it again. Sometimes people submit something because they’re excited and then after a couple of days they think, “Oh shoot, I have a mistake in there so I’m going to resubmit it.” It happens a lot with new writers. Sit on it a couple of days and make sure you want to submit what you submit. And if you find something you’d like to change after you submit, don’t worry. Editors don’t expect every submission to be perfect. We can tell if a story is close to what we need, and we’re accustomed to fixing things later.
Cindy HudsonCindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at

Craft a Saleable Nonfiction Proposal with Christina Katz

Next Class Begins on June 4th

Prerequisites: Permission from Instructor
Most writers underestimate the comprehensiveness needed in a book proposal that will garner the interest of agents and editors. They also mistake the definition of platform and importance of alining their proposal to a solid track record. A two-time author, Christina has helped hundreds of nonfiction writers succeed over the past seven years. Now she’s making her proposal-writing advice available in a six-week e-mail course to aspiring authors who want to nail the proposal the first time around.
Cost: $199.00. [Only time at this price!]
Register at Writers on the Rise

Great Sites for Writers: Reinvented

By Tiffani Hill-Patterson

In January, I profiled Writer’s In March, the publication did a little spring cleaning, and, boy, does the site look inviting! It’s simple and organized, and the content is easily accessible. On the new home page, you’ll find a Featured Article – recent ones include “The Importance of the Writing Environment” and “Back Up Your Work for Free.” The Writer’s Mart highlights services and products geared to help you polish your prose and get published. The revamped site also shares a Writing Tip of the Day, covering everything from nonfiction books to copyright to run-on sentences.

The blogs are neatly laid out on the front page. Got a question on queries? Find the answer at Questions and Quandaries, written by Brian A. Klems. Engage your poetry muse with Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides.

Critique Central, Writer’s Block Party, and Literary Hot Spots are places writers can seek advice, brag about successes and share their favorite community writing spots.

Of course, the Writer’s Digest free newsletter continues to deliver tips, advice and market news straight to your inbox. Check out the new and improved site to “write better and get published.”

Tiffani Hill-Patterson is an award-winning journalist with 13 years of writing and editing experience. She’s a regular contributor to The Writer Mama zine and Birmingham Parent magazine, and her articles on health, parenting, fitness and pop culture have also appeared in The Huntsville Times, The Moulton Advertiser and The TimesDaily. She lives in Alabama with her husband and daughter. Read more at

Ask Wendy: Your Writing and Publishing Questions Answered

October 2007 Family Fun MagazineBy Wendy Burt-Thomas

Q: How can I cram in a full day of work when I’ve got meetings, appointments, errands, etc?

The phrase, “The work expands to fill the time allotted” is particularly relevant when it comes to freelancing. If you don’t create ways to make the most of the time you DO have to write, an entire day can slip away because you’ve got a meeting, doctor’s appointment, dental check-up, etc. Here are a few ways I “trick” myself into doing in four to six hours what might take others eight to ten.

1. Keep your “to-do” list full. Every night I make a list of all the things I have to get done in the next five to seven days – even if I can’t finish them all the next day. If I only wrote down “write column,” for example, because I knew I had a doctor’s appointment at 1 p.m., it would take me all four hours in the morning to write the column. But because I’m looking at a list of say, 10 assignments, I might get three or four done in the morning instead.

2. Break projects into smaller tasks. Writing a 2,000-word article can look like a daunting task on your list, causing you to put it off until you feel like you can get a huge chunk of time to do it all at once. Instead, break it up into segments: write intro, make outline, call one interview, etc.

3. Keep a running list of “blind” tasks. These are things you do without looking, like while you drive. You can brainstorm greeting card ideas, come up with a title for your article or even practice SAYING different openings for your query to Men’s Health. (I do this last one a lot while I’m in the shower. I can’t sing but I can belt out a catchy opening paragraph!)

4. Do the high-concentration tasks while you’re alone and multi-task the rest. Check email while you’re on hold, return phone calls while you wait for the kids at school, write thank you notes in the dentist’s waiting room, etc. If you use your pure writing time for non-essentials, you’ll fritter it away and the day will escape you. Use your time wisely and you will get a full day’s work done in half a day.

Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just four years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer,,, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful children, Gracie and Ben. Visit to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad.

Beyond What You Know: Establishing a Great Submission System

October 2007 Family Fun Magazine

By Sage Cohen
“Luck favors the prepared, darling.”

– Edna Mode, The Incredibles

At a recent gathering with a few poet friends, Bob mentioned that he doesn’t send his work out.

Shawn challenged him: “Which of the poems that you haven’t sent out have been published?” This stumped Bob for a minute, and then we all laughed.

The simple truth behind Shawn’s question is this: the people who send out their writing are the only ones who have a chance of publishing it.

For many writers, especially those focused on creative writing, the leap between writing and publishing can feel like a Herculean one. The best parachute for taking this leap is a solid, easy-to-use submission system. The logic is simple: the easier it is to send your work out for publication, the more likely you are to do it. And the more regularly you send out your work, the greater your odds of seeing your words in print. Following are some suggestions for establishing a submission system that can set you up for success.

Submission system basics
Whether you prefer paper files or computer files, soft copies or hard copies, it’s important to know where your work is and what you intend to do with it next. Following are some of the categories I’ve used to manage my publishing process. Imagine that each is a tabbed section in a big “Publishing My Writing” binder––or a series of folders that are easily accessible in your computer. Take whatever pleases you and make it your own.

Label sections of your notebook or folders:

Finished pieces
Submission guidelines
Contest information
Submission log
Published work
Cover letters

Under “Submission Log,” because it can be confusing to keep track of which pieces you’ve sent where, I recommend creating a spreadsheet or log that tracks the following:

Name of publication Piece(s) Sent Date Sent Results Notes

I order my submission log chronologically with whatever is most current at the top.

Establishing a good rhythm
Procrastination can be the death of your submission system. That’s why it’s important to get a good rhythm going and stick with it. I generally dedicate the last Sunday of every month to “writing administration,” which means that I actively use all of the systems here to send my work out to magazines, literary journals and websites, etc. My friend Shawn sends out his poetry every week. I’m impressed with this, but it’s a rhythm I could not maintain. You may need to experiment to see what submission interval is realistic for you. I recommend that you choose a regular time, be willing to be flexible, experiment until you get it right, and then follow through on your commitment to your writing and yourself.

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, 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. 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. Sage teaches Poetry for the People and Personal Essays That Get Published.

Dear Fellow Writers,

May is the month to honor mothers. That means celebrating the mothers among us (that’s Wendy, Tiffani, Lori, Cindy, Gigi, Hope and me), the mothers-to-be (that’s Sage!), the dog moms (that’s Sue, Sage, Wendy and me — those are just the ones I know off the top of my head!) and the folks who have mothers (that’s all of us or we wouldn’t be here). And I have not even mentioned all of the moms who are yet to come, the former dog moms, and those who voluntarily mother others.

I would also like to give a shout-out to the single moms, the moms of children with special needs, the moms with special needs, and any moms who have been hit by hard times lately.

I’d like to give a wave to my mother–Hi Mom!–who was a big influence on me as a writer when I was growing up. She tooks us to the library, was always reading herself (and therefore set a great example), and she and my dad always made sure we had the very best educations hard-earned money could buy. My mom has a great vocabulary and surely helped me excel in language arts and later English classes. (I was one of the few kids in school who was crazy about the weekly Worldly Wise workbook.)

Did your mother influence you as a writer? If so, how?

Every day that I’m a mom, I appreciate all the little (and big) things my mother did for me. (Not to mention the things she didn‘t do for me and made me do for myself.)

Happy Mother’s Day diverse mamas everywhere!

In the writing-for-publication spirit,

Christina Katz
Editor and Publisher

P.S. If you have a special writer mama in your life, feel free to swing by my blog for some great gift ideas for moms who love to write. And I hope you’ll consider my first book, Writer Mama, too.

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