Archive for August, 2008

Writer Mama Back to School Giveaway Starts September 1st!

Writer Mama Back to School Giveaway BadgeSeptember 1 – 30:
The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway

This giveaway was a huge success last year! This year we’ll have more books to give away and more thought-provoking career questions for you to answer to qualify to win.

Participants last year commented on how much they learned both from answering the questions as well as from each other. You don’t have to be a mama, just a writer. Don’t miss it!

Please share the WM Back to School Giveaway badge with all your friends with a link to the Writer Mama blog between now and September 1st. Thanks!

Early Fall Classes Recap: Only a few spaces left!

The August 20th Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff class is full.

The August 20th Platform 101: Discover Your Speciality class is full.

The August 20th Personal Essays that Get Published class has only a couple spaces left.

But hurry, if you are interested. Class starts on Wednesday. )

Learn more and register at:

The next round of classes begins on October 8th.

Stay tuned to hear about a new class coming in 2009. Plus addition twice a year of two live intensive classes with Christina Katz.

Free List of Markets: Strings Attached

Purchase Writer Mama, Get Free MarketsPurchase Writer Mama
Receive a Free List of Markets

When you suggest Writer Mama to your friends, your writing association, your writing conference bookseller or your local library during the months of July and August only, you get the list of free markets typically only given to those who purchase the book (because I know many of you own Writer Mama already).

Either purchase the book and e-mail me a copy of the receipt. Or act on any of the word-of-mouth suggestions above, let me know that you have helped spread the word and that you already own Writer Mama, and I’ll send you the list of markets. Send all request e-mails to:

Writing & Selling Personal Essays: Making An Artful Exit

October 2007 Family Fun Magazine

By Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

How do I write the ending of a personal essay?

I am asked this question all the time-a general question that is often followed by more specific questions, like:

· Can the ending be a ta-da moment?
· Can it summarize the body of my essay?
· Can I reflect on the essence of my essay?
· Can I offer an opinion about things?
· Can I reinforce what I’ve already said?
· Can the ending really be a beginning?
· Is it okay to repeat myself?
· What about cliffhangers?

And so on.

My answer (to all questions listed above) is always yes, yes, absolutely yes-as long as it feels like the right way out.

While in the U.S., exit signs in buildings are dependable tools for finding your way out; here in Shanghai, exit signs written in English are not always what they seem. Thus far, I’ve noted three particular types:

1. the exit sign on which the arrow leads you to an exit
2. the exit sign on which the arrow leads you to a dusty shop where you can buy small animals carved from peach pits or, better yet, a fancy spa where you can settle in for an hour-long foot massage
3. the exit sign on which the arrow leads you nowhere at all

Just yesterday, I was at a market that has three floors of stalls and shops that sell everything from genuine pearl earrings to fake Gucci bags. After finishing my shopping, I looked up to get a little help from the exit signs. The first one I saw had an arrow on each side of the word exit. Happy to discover I had two options, I turned left. After 50 yards or so, I came to a wall. A blank, white, very solid wall. No exit. No shop with carved peach pits. No spa. No nothing.

Used to such surprises in Shanghai, I turned and headed in the opposite direction-the direction in which the right arrow was pointing. After a brisk walk, I found myself in a shop that offered underwear, socks, watches, and DVDs.

Undaunted, I took the third and final option-a hallway that jutted off at an angle that was not indicated on any exit sign at all. Before I could say, “Where am I?” in Mandarin, I was down an escalator, out a door, and in the parking lot.


The lesson here?

There is no easy exit-from a market in Shanghai or from that essay you’ve been working on for the past week. Instead there are options-the white wall, the underwear shop, or the neat escape. And guess what? The only way to discover the one that works is to try out your options.

So get to it! Look for the exit signs, follow the arrows, and if those don’t feel right, try the unmarked path.

Personal Essay Marketplace: Believe strongly in anything? I’ll bet you do. If so, submit a 350-500 word essay to NPR’s “This I Believe.” Each week a chosen essay is aired on “All Things Considered” and “Weekend Edition Sunday.” This is a cool project!


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.


Funding Your Writing Projects: Don’t Take the Money and Run

Gigi RosenbergBy Gigi Rosenberg

Many grant writers make the mistake of thinking that once they mail their application, the process is over. In fact, the grant writing process isn’t over until you have sent your thank-you notes. Send a thank-you note no matter the outcome of your grant. Thanking people is the way to build your relationships and your community.

If you receive the grant, send a thank-you note to everyone involved in the granting process. Start with the person who signed your award letter, but don’t forget about the head of the organization and the panel who judged your work. Sometimes the funding agency will supply a list of panel members and their snail mail addresses.

In your note, make a brief reference to your project and how excited you are to have the support of this agency. Be upbeat and grateful.

If you don’t get the grant, give yourself a day to pout, cry and complain. But do not correspond with the granting agency when you are feeling defensive, angry and unloved. Save these feelings for your good friends and/or the therapist’s couch.

Within two weeks of receiving your rejection letter, when you are feeling more upbeat, send a thank-you note to the granting organization. Even if your project was not awarded funding, this is still the beginning of a relationship. Thank the organization for considering your application. Tell them that you appreciate the feedback you received (if you’ve received any) and that you look forward to writing a stronger application next time.

Thank-you notes should always be handwritten and mailed in an envelope with a commemorative stamp. No email thank-you notes unless that is your only choice. Write your note on professional-looking stationary with your name printed on it. This can be fancy or inexpensive. But it needs to be real and sent through the mail. This alone will make you stand out from the crowd.

Then, call the organization to get feedback on your grant. This is not always possible or available but if it is, this information can be a goldmine. You may find out that you had a stellar application that would have been funded except they ran out of money. Most likely you will receive very useful tips for how to improve your application next time.

During this phone call, don’t try to defend or explain your project. Most likely the person on the phone with you was not part of the final decision anyway. Just get the facts about why you weren’t funded and how you could strengthen your application next time.

Closing the loop with gratitude is a way of staying in the game. Even if you’ve lost, you’re hitting the ball back; you’re saying you will learn from the experience. You’re in it for the long haul. You’re a contender. And if you’ve won, your appreciation will only reinforce the favorable opinions of the people and organizations that have helped move you further toward your goals.

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. “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.”

July/August Freelancing for Newspapers Challenge: Op-Ed Pieces

Sue Fagalde Lick By Sue Fagalde Lick

Does the latest news drive you crazy? Is there an issue you’re dying to spout off about? Maybe you should write an op-ed piece. Op-ed pieces are the opinion essays that appear on the page opposite the editorial page of most newspapers. Some are written by syndicated columnists or local VIPs, but there’s also space for freelance writers. Look for pieces tagged commentary, perspectives, guest editorial, first person, other voices, my turn, etc.

Op-ed pieces are written in the first person, and they include the author’s opinion, backed up with evidence from life experience and research. They usually have a connection to current events. The best pieces use personal stories to make a point that everyone can relate to.

These pieces generally range from 500 to 750 words, although some are much shorter or longer. Visit the Communications Consortium Media Center for guidelines from most U.S. papers or go to the individual newspaper’s site. Queries are not necessary. Send the whole piece, preferably by email, noting clearly what it is in the subject line. Include a brief note explaining the purpose of your piece and who you are.

Good opinion pieces include: a catchy title, a strong opening that grabs the readers, a clear thesis, an original slant, a connection to current events, logical arguments, facts and examples and a focused conclusion. Don’t leave the reader guessing as to what you’re trying to say.

Sometimes you’ll get paid; other times it’s a freebie. Either way, op-ed pieces offer fabulous exposure, an opportunity for a great clip, and a chance to vent.

Your challenge this month: Free-write for 300-500 words on something that really ticks you off. Alternatively, write a counter argument to a recently published op-ed piece or staff editorial. Share the lead with us, and, for extra credit, polish it up and send it to a newspaper-or to several non-competing papers.

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.

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August 2008

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