Archive for June, 2008

Writing & Selling Personal Essays: Room To Breathe

October 2007 Family Fun Magazine

By Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Today you’re looking online for a market where you can submit that kinda longish essay you wrote about your uncle’s factory accident-the one that doesn’t quite fit the submission guidelines of any of the magazines to which you usually submit.

You read and nod, read and nod.

Then you catch sight of the online search entry about Phillip Lopate’s compilation, The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present and you stop. “Hhhhmmm,” you say. You click on it.

Seconds later, you’re at the page that describes (and yes, sells) the anthology. Words like excellent and essay authority and smorgasbord are splashed all over the screen.


Whoo-hoo! You love smorgasbords! You order the book.

A few days later (or a few weeks, if you happen to live in China and have to wait obscenely long periods of time for books to be delivered), you’re sprawled on your couch practically eating Lopate’s collection. You read Natalia Ginzburg’s “He and I” and Scott Russell Sanders’ “Under the Influence.” You’re wowed, floored, speechless, and hungry for more.

You read Plutarch’s “Consolation to His Wife,” which makes you sob, even though Plutarch died way back in 125 A.D.

After wiping away the tears, you try to figure out what’s different about these essays than the ones you’ve been writing and submitting to magazines and newspapers over the past few months.

The most obvious difference? They’re much longer. Heck, “Under the Influence” goes on for almost 12 pages.

You get excited, and though you wouldn’t dare to compare your essay to Plutarch’s (I mean, come on, he was Plutarch!), you do realize that the essay you wrote about your uncle’s accident fits into the same genre-the literary personal essay (also known in the writing world as creative nonfiction).

The more subtle differences? These essays don’t hurry the reader to a conclusion. They wander and purposefully meander. They even take tangents that sometimes veer way, WAY off the path.

“Ah,” you say, “these essays have room to breathe.”

Of course, after a bit more research, you realize two things:

1.    the biggest market for this type of essay is literary magazines (magazines like The Cimarron Review and Creative Nonfiction)
2.    most literary magazines pay not in dollars, but in copies of the magazine

Now off on your own tangent, you wonder if the local grocery store will let you barter a copy of The Gettysburg Review for a bag of apples and a jug of detergent.

Probably not, but publishing in a literary magazine looks great on your writer resume and will catch the eye of an agent when it’s time to sell your collection of essays.

So get out that essay about your uncle and get busy. It’s time to submit!

(Warning: Now don’t go nuts on me, thinking that you can write an essay that’s 900,230 words and submit it to any literary magazine out there. Like commercial magazines, literary magazines have guidelines. Before submitting, read them!)

Good luck!

Personal Essay Marketplace: If you’re interested in submitting to a literary magazine, check out New Pages. It gives links and information for dozens and dozens of spectacular literary magazines-online and print.


Kristin Bair O’Keeffe moved to Shanghai, China, in April 2006 and has been writing about this incredible country ever since. Her blog, “Shanghai Adventures of a Trailing Spouse,” chronicles her adventures (and misadventures) in Shanghai and garners the attention of readers all around the world. Her essays about the China experience can be found in The Baltimore Review and To Shanghai With Love (forthcoming). As a respected writing instructor, she has taught hundreds of writers over the past fourteen years and is currently teaching both fiction and nonfiction writing in Shanghai.


Fund Your Writing Projects: Step Into the Funder’s Shoes

Gigi RosenbergBy Gigi Rosenberg

Sometimes in my grant-writing workshops we play a game where I give participants an imaginary $5,000 to give away to a writer. We listen to a writer describe the project she wants to get funded, and then I ask the pretend donors, “What do you need to know about this project to convince you to fund it?”

With the roles reversed, the would-be applicants transform into donors full of questions: How will the money be spent? How will the project be carried out? Who is on your team? What is the timeline? Where is the venue? How is this project meeting a need? Why are you the best person to carry this out?

Consider playing this game with your project as you prepare your grant application. Step into the funder’s shoes. By now in the process, you will know what matters to the granting organization. If you still don’t feel like you know them well, continue your research; talk to others who’ve been funded by them.

This game will force you to scrutinize your project from every angle. How could this project better fit the mission of the granting organization? What is still unresolved? If this was your own money, would you fund this project? Why? Why not? You may even identify some strengths of your proposal that you hadn’t noticed yet.

This game will help you ask the toughest questions of your project. Don’t be afraid of such a rigorous process, for it is the process the funder will use. And it will let you know if your project is ready. Funders want clarity, specifics, and accountability. If it doesn’t pass your own scrutiny, find a different project to propose that is more fully realized.

A question that many funders want answered, even if they don’t ask it on the application, concerns timing. You can think about timing in at least two ways: Why does the world need your project right now? How is this project perfectly timed for where you are in your career? The projects that are the most urgent or best timed will be the ones that get funded.

Funders want to sense urgency, not panic. So, tell them somewhere on the application why this project needs to happen now. If this is a professional development grant, they will want to know how this helps your career right now. Tell them why you need this opportunity at this time and not next year or in five years. If this is a grant to support a big writing project, answer the question: Why can’t this wait?

Your assignment for this month: Put on the funder’s hat and ask yourself, “Would I fund this project? Why or why not? How is this project perfectly timed?

Gigi Rosenberg is a writer, teacher and occasional performer of edgy, comic monologues on motherhood, relationships and the existential nature of being. Her essays and how-to articles have been published in Writer’s Digest, The Oregonian, The Jewish Review, Cycle California! Magazine and Parenting (forthcoming).  “The Hanukkah Bush,” her radio commentary, was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting. She coaches writers on how to read in public and teaches regional and national workshops on “Grant Writing for Success.”

Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Travel Stories Part Two

Sue Fagalde LickBy Sue Fagalde Lick

We often read travel articles about adventurous adults rafting the rapids, hiking to the top of Diamond Head, touring the wine country, or exploring galleries full of delicate artworks. That’s great, but how many of us are so blissfully unfettered? Where can we take the kids, the grandparents or our favorite canine companions? Those exotic trips we read about are not accessible for us or for many of the other people who read newspaper travel sections.

Solve this problem by offering articles about destinations for travelers with special needs. For example, small children would be bored silly-and dangerously-in the gallery, but they might love to visit a zoo, hike an easy trail where they can chase after squirrels and birds, or play on a wooden climbing apparatus filled with kid-sized steps, slides and tunnels. In addition to keeping the children amused, parents will bless the travel writer who lists affordable motels and restaurants where everyone can sleep and eat in comfort.

Those who don’t have kids at home might be interested in articles about traveling with elderly or disabled companions, or they might be looking for places to take their dogs. Article ideas that cater to any of these travelers offer endless possibilities for publication, both in general-interest newspapers and the many specialized papers for each group. Perhaps that child-friendly park is also a good place to take the dogs, or that easy trail is wheelchair-accessible. If you hold on to your reprint rights, you can resell the same article to non-competing newspapers. You can also re-slant the same basic information for different audiences to hit even more markets.

For marketing ideas, visit The Society of American Travel Writers site ( To see what papers are looking for, check Parenting Publications of America (, Google “senior newspapers” and look for dog-lover’s rags at your local pet-supplies store or veterinarian’s waiting room.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Brainstorm ideas for good places to take kids, seniors or pets. Write down as many possibilities as you can think of or discover with a little research. Pick one, find a likely market, and start working on your query.

You are welcome to share your results or discuss the challenge here, as well as at my Freelancing for Newspapers blog. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Freelancing for Newspapers, worked as a staff writer, photographer and editor for newspapers in California and Oregon for many years before moving into full-time freelancing. In addition to countless newspaper and magazine articles, she has published three books on Portuguese Americans. She has taught workshops at Oregon Coast Community College, online for and for Willamette Writers and California Writers Club. She offers an online course on reviews as well as individual coaching. See her website and visit her blog.

Writerpreneur: Teaching Online

October 2007 Family Fun Magazine By Gregory A. Kompes

Teaching online is the perfect way to help others and increase your income. One of the great advantages of teaching online is that you can do it from anywhere, whether you’re in your office or traveling on assignment.

If you want to offer courses through an accredited institution, they’ll probably require an advanced degree or teaching certification. If this is a direction you’d like to explore, check out Make Money Teaching Online by Danielle Babb and Jim Mirabella (Wiley 2007).

If you offer courses privately you need to be a topic expert with a desire to teach. As you develop a niche writing market, you’re also expanding your topic expertise. Just as you turn that knowledge into a workshop or seminar, you can use your experience and materials to create an online course.

The three basic types of online courses to consider offering are self-paced, correspondence, and interactive.

Self-paced courses allow learners to travel through a series of lectures and other course topic information at their own pace. Materials for these types of online courses might include written word, pictures, sound, and video. An excellent tool for building self-paced courses is Camtasia ( There usually aren’t assignments in self-paced courses, but quizzes and tests–which can be immediately graded by the software you’re using–are common.

Correspondence courses have been around even longer than mail delivery services. Learners and instructors are able to interact with each other via email and phone. Correspondence courses often have set start and end dates and include assignments and teacher critiques along with the learning materials. You might already be familiar with Christina Katz’s online courses ( offered and delivered using these methods.

From continuing education to advanced degrees, interactive online learning is a recent trend in online learning, especially for adult learners. While every offering is different, most interactive courses are provided through a Course Management System (CMS). Some of the more popular are BlackBoard, ATutor, and Moodle. Interactive online classes have set start and end dates and the courses are highly interactive, with discussions and assignments posted within the classroom setting. Learners and facilitators all interact within the online classroom and not only learn from the materials presented, but also from each other in the online discussions.

To learn more about all aspects of online teaching, I recommend The Handbook of Online Learning edited by Kjell Erik Rudestam and Judith Schoenholtz (Sage Publications 2002).

Gregory A. Kompes, author of the bestseller 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live and the Writer’s Series, speaks at conferences and teaches Internet self-promotion courses online. Gregory is editor of Queer Collection: Prose & Poetry, Patchwork Path, The Fabulist Flash, and Eighteen Questions, a Q&A series that collects published authors experiences (chosen a “101 Best Websiteby Writer’s Digest ). In Las Vegas, he hosts the Writerpreneur Workshops and co-host’s the Writer’s Pen & Grill. Gregory holds a BA in English Literature from Columbia University, New York, and a certificate in Online Teaching and Learning and an MS Ed. from California State University, East Bay.

Writing Roots: Learning Shakespearese

Christina KatzBy Christina Katz

Remember when you were in high school, probably a freshman, and you were introduced to the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet? How many of you dutifully toted home your Shakespeare readers and tried to puzzle through the iambic pentameter and other poetic meters?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know what the heck this Shakespeare fella was trying to say, which only made all the hoopla about how great he was more frustrating.

Through the remaining four years of high school, I tried to hide how the masterpieces of the bard plagued me, carrying my frustration along with me when I matriculated into the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. Though the campus was familiar (I attended the same college as my father), I felt intimidated by the lay of the intellectual landscape. My teachers were revered professors in historic classrooms, and anything worth reading had to be “Literary (with a capital “L”), and all the Literature was to be approached in a decidedly analytical and critical manner. Which brings us to the illuminated professor who finally cracked the Shakespearean code for me.

“Here are the assigned plays for the quarter,” announced a petite, bustling blond on the first day of class. Professor Boose looked the polar opposite of my typically male, fairly monotone, slack-shouldered professors wearing tweed. Professor Boose wore skirts in bright colors and blouses with frills. And she was practically on fire about the dead English playwright. Up until this point in my college career, I doubted whether I would survive the English major I had dragged my feet to declare. But then, Professor Boose handed me the key that would unlock the mysteries of the written word. “If you have trouble keeping up with the reading, at least listen to the recordings I’ve placed on reserve in Sanborn Library.”

Sitting in Sanborn later that week in an overstuffed chair wearing over-sized, padded headphones, I listened to a scratchy recording of “Measure by Measure.” And for the first time, I heard. A door in my mind that had previously remained closed opened, and I finally got Shakespeare. Not only did I hear the words that brought the play in full glorious pageantry to life in my imagination, I could actually enter that world in my mind’s eye and explore it. And so I did in a paper for Professor Boose entitled, Coining Imagery in “Measure by Measure.”

Okay, so the title was a bit dull. But the paper was energetic, fueled by my recent breakthrough that words coming in through my ears, not just my eyes, could instantly manifest a world. For the first time since I’d been in college, I enjoyed writing a paper. And that imaginary world that existed in my mind, the one I’d heard on the recording and entered, the one I could move around in and explore, was the same world I wrote that paper from and the same world I write from today. It’s a realm of the imagination where “experience” can be heard, seen, touched, tasted and smelled-and then recorded onto the page. I can go there. You can go there. We can all go there. And bring back what we notice to share.

I will never forget Professor Boose’s response, written in blue ink on the title page of my paper. It said, “Thank you, I really learned a lot from you.” I was both shocked and pleased. She’d learned from me? That was nothing compared to what I’d learned from her. For her excellent example of inspired teaching, I owe Professor Lynda Boose a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you, wherever you are.

Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, is working on her second book for Writer’s Digest Books, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (now available for pre-order at Amazon!). She has also written over two hundred articles for magazines, newspapers, and online publications and has appeared on Good Morning America. Christina is a popular writing instructor who has taught hundreds of writers over the past seven years. She blogs daily at The Writer Mama Riffs and is publisher and editor of two zines, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. More at

Time Management Mastery: The Postal Service Maze

October 2007 Family Fun MagazineBy C. Hope Clark
A busy writer who learns the ins and outs of the U.S. Postal Service can save hundreds of dollars in the course of a year. While it seems that  post office employees ask way more questions than necessary when you wait in line, in actuality, they may not ask all the questions needed to obtain the best rate for your mailings. Here are some tips for how to make the most of your USPS experience–and your budget.

First, request Media Mail (a lower rate for a slower delivery) if your package contains magazines, books, manuscripts, sound recordings, recorded videotapes, printed music, or recorded computer-readable media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). Media Mail cannot contain advertising except for incidental announcements of books. The maximum weight is 70 lbs, and the delivery time is usually ten days.

For magazines, newsletters and newspapers mailed at least four times a year, you have another lower cost called the Periodicals Rate. You need to apply to the Post Office to receive this rate.

Bound Printed Rate is another reduced expense rate for advertising, promotional, directory, or editorial material securely bound and not in a loose-leaf binder. It cannot contain personal correspondence or stationery.

Parcel Post is the standard way to send a package. It’s a higher rate usually than Media Mail, but these days the determinants for postage are based not only on weight but also on the shape and size of the package. The same weight in two different boxes can vary in cost. If you don’t want to wait the ten days for Media Mail, consider this rate.

If you are mailing books, sometimes Priority Flat Rate is best. Using the Postal Service’s Flat Rate mailing supplies, you get the same rate no matter how full you pack the box or envelope or how much it weighs. They charge nothing for these boxes, and you can keep a supply on hand.

Finding all these names and rates confusing? Want to make sure that you get the best rate? Visit the user friendly Postal Service website.

And while you’re shopping and educating yourself about postal options, don’t forget UPS, Federal Express and others. They offer competitive rates in many cases. (Note, however, they do not offer a reduced Media Rate.)

C. Hope Clark is founder and editor of, annually recognized by Writer’s Digest in its poll of 101 Best Web Sites for Writers. She delivers four newsletters each week to thousands with her specialty being grants and income opportunities for writers of all sizes. She’s published over 200 articles on paper and online. Those reluctant to promote their writing cherish her trade paperback The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success. Find more hope for your writing career at &


Forthcoming from Wendy Burt-Thomas: The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters

A good query letter sent to the right editor will not only increase the chances of a sale, but it’s also the most effective way to pre-sell an idea. This comprehensive guide to all types of queries gives writers the tools they need to craft powerfully persuasive letters that connect with editors and agents. Writers will learn how to recognize, develop, target, and pre-sell their ideas; hook an editor with a tantalizing lead; and sell themselves as the writer for the subject. With dozens of sample query letters, this guide is a must-have for every writer’s bookshelf.

More at Wendy’s Web site.


Writing and Publishing The Short Stuff
Especially For Moms (But Not Only for Moms)!
Another Class Begins on October 8th
Prerequisites: None
Finally, a writing workshop that fits into the busy lives of moms! You will learn how to create short, easy-to-write articles-a skill that will make it easier to move up to longer, more time-consuming articles when you’re ready. Try your pen at tips, fillers, short interviews, list articles, how-tos, and short personal essays-all within six weeks. Now includes markets!
Cost: $199.00. [This Class Fills Fast.]
Register at Writers on the Rise

Platform Building 102: The Basics for Writers
Next Class Begins on October 8th
Prerequisites: Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff & Targeting Your Best Writing Markets are recommended or Permission from Instructor
Be the first to sign up for the companion class to my forthcoming book, Get Known Before the Book Deal. Picking up where Targeting Your Best Writing Markets left off. This class helps you go position yourself as a seasoned professional, who isn’t afraid to let the world know what you have to offer. This is an advanced class, for people who have taken classes with Christina Katz and who are ready to take their writing career to a more professional level with a blog, Web site and newsletter. By the end of our six weeks, you will have a clear vision of your platform, and a plan for first and future steps. You will be ready to anchor your book proposal to that all-important online and in-person presence, agents and editors are looking for.
Cost: $199.00
[This Class Fills Fast.]
Register at Writers on the Rise

Take All Five of Christina’s Classes!

  • Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff
  • Targeting Your Best Writing Markets
  • Pitching Practice: Write Six Queries in Six Weeks
  • Platform Building Basics for Writers
  • Craft a Saleable Nonfiction Proposal


In the Spotlight: Deborah Schneider, Public Programming Coordinator, King Country Library System

Deborah Schneider

Interview by Lori Russell

After writing and publishing a book, an author’s attention turns to promotion. One key to creating a successful author event is matching a particular book to the right community, says Deborah Schneider, public programming coordinator for the King County Library System in Washington State. With 43 libraries and a circulation of over 19 million items per year, King County is the second busiest library system in the country. It hosts about 100 events annually for local and touring authors. Here, Schneider explains how authors can benefit by including library events in their list of promotional activities and shares her tips for creating a memorable program.

How is a reading at a library or other venue similar to or different from reading and signing books in a bookstore?

There is actually very little difference in my opinion. We work with booksellers and have an author’s book for sale at all of our events. Part of the attraction to an author program is the opportunity to have a book inscribed to you. We have great meeting rooms and can provide audio-visual equipment, such as LCD projectors for presentations.

What is the most engaging author performance you have seen and why?

Charlie Williams, aka The Noiseguy, had a book release party for his children’s book, Flush: An Ode to Toilets in one of our meeting rooms a few years ago. He and his wife decorated the room with toilet plungers, toilet paper, and even toilets with plants. They had refreshments, including a punch “bowl” ice sculpture that was a toilet. He performed two shows, and we had over 100 people. A television reporter for a local show came. They even TP’d a librarian! It was all hilarious fun. He was interviewed on the radio and that segment from Evening Magazine has been shown at least three times. It was great publicity for the book.

What are the most effective promotional strategies for inviting people to an author event?

While having a big name author with lots of holds on their books is a sure-fire way to have a successful event, not every author is on The New York Times best seller list. It takes more energy to promote an unknown author. One of the mistakes authors make is to look around a room and only count “noses” to measure the success of the event. Even the big name authors who travel the country know it’s about the publicity, not the number of books sold. Book tours are created to generate “buzz” – publicity and talk about the book and author.

There are several factors that can benefit an author in creating a successful event. Put the event on your website. Have a great publicity packet with good photos, a JPEG image of your book cover and basic publicity materials like the blurb. You can’t rely upon your publisher to do this. They can give you the cover art, and you need to make it available for promoting your program.

What should authors keep in mind if they want to engage their audience at an event?

Start by not calling it a “reading.” Most people get an image of an author standing and reading to an audience for an hour. How exciting does that sound? Instead you need to find a topic you’d like to talk about (that relates to your book), and create a program around it. If your novel is set in a specific time, you can use that as a topic of interest and draw readers because they love those kinds of books. If you take the time to develop a program, you have more to offer. You can read from your book, but find a way to set the scene and leave the audience craving more from you.

How can authors find out about events at libraries in their region and whom should they contact if they want to participate?

Libraries love having author events, but the publishers don’t often consider sending an author to a library when they are on tour. Many don’t understand that books can be sold at the event, and quite honestly, they don’t know how many millions of dollars libraries spend purchasing books every year. You can easily discover what kinds of author events your local library is offering by visiting its website. You will find our author events listed on the front page at A great resource for those who want to plan successful author events is The Author Event Primer: How to Plan, Execute and Enjoy Author Events by Chapple Langemack.

Deborah Schneider can be contacted at dschneid (at) kcls (dot) org


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.


Great Sites For Writers

By Tiffani Hill-Patterson

Publisher’s Weekly: News and deals galore
If you want to keep up with book industry trends, you should be a regular at Publisher’s Weekly.
The website offers subscribers a virtual edition of its print version, and “with guaranteed delivery by 8 a.m. (EST) Sundays, each issue is fully searchable, printable and archived.”

In addition to the magazine itself, you can also sign up to receive newsletters on religion, children’s books, and comic works, as well as PW Daily, which features all the day’s publishing news.

Searching for a new read? Check out PW’s reviews section, which includes fiction, nonfiction, children’s and religion. Blogs abound, and all you have to do is click the tab on the front page and find the writer who interests you. And, finally, get the latest scoop on who’s getting the big deals in the book-writing world. Let us know when you make the list!
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

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