Archive for the 'Writer Mama' Category

Milk Your Expertise

cmkwritermama.gifPlatform Development 101
By Christina Katz

If you’ve been reading this column, you will not be surprised when I say that developing your platform can be a labor of love. In fact, developing your platform can almost feel like play. As ice cream entrepreneurs Ben and Jerry said, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

I definitely second that emotion. Why? Because your audience can feel where you are coming from, so why not come from somewhere positive that adds more good to the world? If you choose a sustainable passion and act with gradually increasing momentum, your audience will feel like they are participating in something special and unique. But if you just “get a platform” because you intellectually know that you should, you may as well not even bother.

Did you know that before they were world-famous, Ben & Jerry started off selling ice cream cones in a converted gas station in Vermont, of all places? If they can build the kind of brand recognition and feel-good reputation they did, then I’m thinking that you and I should have a decent shot at identifying and delivering our expertise in a similarly serious yet lighthearted manner. No matter what your topic is, as long as there is a demand for it (even if your “demand” is as fleeting as a hot summer day in Vermont, and there aren’t too many of these every year), you can carve out a niche that will support your platform and help you reach potential readers.

So how can you test-drive this platform fun? Just rev your sustainable passion engines, identify the needs of your audience and begin filling those needs with what you already have. That’s an easy way to start. And then you can let your efforts evolve from there.

I’m going to list some platform-builders here. Don’t take any of them too seriously. Put a check beside every endeavor that sounds fun:

__ Public speaking
__ Manuscript evaluation
__ Teaching
__ Editing
__ Consulting
__ Copywriting
__ Co-authoring
__ Ghostwriting
__ Self-publishing

Here are a few examples from Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writers Digest Books, 2007):

Kelly James-Enger gives presentations on writing and fitness topics at colleges, libraries, and conferences. In addition to a successful writing career that has resulted in four non-fiction books and two fiction books, Kelly is a certified personal trainer and has been published in over fifty national magazines. (

Manuscript evaluation: Elizabeth Lyon offers editing services and manuscript evaluation as part of her platform. She runs Editing International, which offers ser-vices including editing, coaching, group instruction, outsourcing, and writing, pro-vided by herself and her associate editors. Elizabeth has written five non-fiction books and presents at writers conferences around the country. (

Teaching workshops or classes: You can teach classes independently, through an institution or organization or online. I teach e-mail classes through my Web site Writers on the Rise. I’ve taught adults live at a community college and indepen-dently via e-mail, each for three years. Last year, I branched out into conference presentations and speaking. This is my first book. (

Editing (freelance, contract basis, or as employee): Wendy Burt offers freelance editing to custom magazines along with her writing. The two services complement each other, so clients can hire Wendy to both generate content and manage it as well. Wendy’s experience as an author of two books has led her to edit books for other authors and to counsel authors on everything from book proposals to agents and foreign rights. Since she is used to soliciting work as a freelancer, she doesn’t maintain a Web site. She pitches her editing/writing services instead.

Consulting in your area of expertise: Jennifer Louden, the comfort expert, offers consulting services to companies like Proctor & Gamble, Johnny Rockets, and Spandex Fiber. She has also worked with associations like the National Council of the State Boards of Nursing. She has appeared on the Oprah Show, CNN, and CNBC and is the author of six books. (

Copywriting for businesses: In addition to writing for national magazines and teaching a writing class via e-mail, Linda Formichelli offers copywriting services to corporations. She’s penned brochures, newsletters, press releases, ad copy, radio scripts, and slogans for companies around the country. (

Co-authoring/Ghostwriting: Jenna Glatzer offers ghostwriting (writing for another person) and co-writing (working with another author) services. She’s written three non-fiction books for writers and one children’s book of her own. She has ghostwritten/co-authored five additional books (which sometimes carry “With Jenna Glatzer” and sometimes don’t carry her name at all). (

Self-Publishing (newsletters, e-books, and self-published books): C. Hope Clark publishes four newsletters for writers (paid and free). She has also published eleven e-books to help writers find funds and a self-published book, The Shy Writer. She also offers online chat sessions and writing contests for writers. (

But how are you going to get started? By starting small, that’s how. If you want to teach, write up a class synopsis and contact your local community college. If you want to consult, take a working consultant out for coffee and do an informational interview. Not sure if you’d like copywriting? Visit someone’s business writing site and check out the samples. Think you could have fun doing any of these things? Then why not try?

Once you’ve determined the direction or directions you would like to move in, simply take one step a day until you’re doing it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can go from conception to manifestation when you have the energy of enthusiasm behind your intention. And once you get started, remind yourself to have fun, have fun, have fun!

Because if it’s not fun, why do it?

Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids teaches, speaks, coaches, and inspires writers to new career heights. She is publisher and editor of two e-mail newsletters, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. Christina strives to balance her roles as a wife, mother, and multiple pet-owner with her calling as a writer and writing career synergizer. She cherishes the reflective moments cultivated in the corners of an otherwise busy life, preferably with a cup of tea, pen and pad of paper handy.

How to Work a Writing Practice into Family Life

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

The first thing students of my Parent Writers class want to know is the magic trick. How do you squeeze writing into a day filled with toddlers and carpools and piano lessons and groceries and all the other exhausting demands that come with being a parent? They are never satisfied when I take away the smoke and mirrors to reveal that there is no trick,––just lots and lots of hard work.

Working a successful writing practice into your life means you need to recognize your writing endeavors as one more job. And taking that job seriously means committing time to work at it, instead of adding it to the end of your to-do list. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Okay, there aren’t tricks, but I do have a few tips…ones that will help you recognize your writing as a priority, shuffle it into the mix with the other demands in your life, and boost your productivity. Read ‘em and write!

Get it on the calendar. Right next to the appointments for the orthodontist, the piano lessons and your child’s soccer game, put your writing time down in ink on the family calendar so that everyone knows it is a priority.

Build in a reminder. Set an alarm on your watch or on the stove to remind yourself to stop what you’re doing and write.

Prepare the family. Remind your partner that you plan to write after dinner. Have jammies laid out for bed. Give the baby a bath early. Reserve the home computer with a sticky note. Encourage the whole family to support you.

Give yourself a carrot. Decide on a reward for getting that essay finished or logging in 3 hours of work. Think low budget–a fancy cup of coffee, ice cream, a TV program–you’re a writer, after all.

Make it a pill you can swallow. Start by finding small pockets of time, such as 15 minutes a day OR 3 half-hours a week OR one paragraph before bed. Make each step a regular commitment, then build on them each week.

Like any good habit, developing a writing practice takes some focused discipline to get started. Once you get a regular rhythm going and have set clear expectations and boundaries with your family, your writing rituals may start to feel like magic.

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


An Interview with Amy Wang, Assistant Bureau Chief at The Oregonian

amy-wang.gifIn the Spotlight: Agent & Editor Insights for Getting Published
By Lori Russell

The Oregonian, a daily newspaper with more than 300,000 subscribers in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington, purchases hundreds of freelance articles every year. Assistant bureau chief, Amy Wang, edits a weekly news magazine for the Metro Southwest bureau that focuses on community-level coverage of three Portland-area suburbs. In this month’s column, she shares what freelance writers need to know about pitching and writing for a daily newspaper.

What kinds of articles and/or subjects does The Oregonian look for from freelancers?
As a general-audience publication, we are interested in all sorts of articles and subjects. The sections that use freelancers the most are A&E (arts and entertainment), Books, Travel, FoodDAY, Homes & Gardens, Commentary (opinion) and Living (daily features). As a regional newspaper, we prefer articles and subjects with strong ties to Oregon and Washington. Our five suburban weeklies are even more narrowly focused.

What should writers keep in mind when considering story ideas to pitch to a daily newspaper like The Oregonian?
Unlike magazines, which often work several months ahead, newspaper editors typically work no more than two or three weeks ahead. Many sections that use freelancers go to press a day or two before the actual publication date. Deadlines are tighter and the turnaround from the query to publication can be very short, sometimes just a couple of days.

Before querying, make sure no similar stories have been published recently. If you are serious about freelancing for newspapers, buy a subscription to the Nexis online database, which archives hundreds of English-language newspapers.

Newspaper editors are unlikely to purchase a piece just because the topic is interesting. We’ll ask, what’s the news peg–that is, why publish this piece now instead of two months ago or six weeks in the future? A successful query will explain that your piece about a hair salon just for children is relevant now because it is about to open a branch in our area, or that we should buy your interview with Sarah McLachlan because she is about to perform in Portland.

What are the top two or three things you look for in a query letter?

In addition to what I described above, I also expect some familiarity with my section, which is available online. The articles I publish typically run about 500 words, so a much longer article is not going to get the go-ahead. Plus, more than one typo or grammatical mistake is an instant turnoff for me.

What would be a usual response time for an editor to respond to a query letter?
I generally respond to queries within a day or two; other editors may take up to a week. If a writer hasn’t received a response after a week, I would recommend calling the editor.

Once a writer has had an article published in The Oregonian, are there long-term freelance opportunities available?
If the writer had trouble making deadline or did not respond satisfactorily to an editor’s questions/concerns, or the piece required a good deal of revision or was much longer or shorter than agreed upon, the editor would probably not be inclined to purchase another article, let alone discuss long-term opportunities. If all went well, the editor would be more open to discussion. For instance, a freelancer might pitch the idea of a monthly feature and the editor might agree to plan for that feature while reserving the right not to purchase any one installment.

What current or future trends in the newspaper industry should freelancers be aware of?
Probably the biggest trend right now that affects freelancers directly is toward moving content online. Freelancers should be aware that when they sell a piece, the first-time rights that a newspaper purchases typically include publication on the paper’s Web site.

Do you have any other advice for freelancers wanting to break into
the daily newspaper market?

The better you understand newspapers’ procedures and priorities, the better off you’ll be. We don’t have fact-checkers, so we need freelancers to take accuracy seriously and not rely on us to save them from errors. I would much rather work with an unknown average writer who’s obsessive about accuracy than with a well-known talent who’s sloppy with facts. Also, after I finish a story, I send it to the copy desk, where it is read by at least two more editors who may make further revisions. Finally, newspaper editors are eternally grateful to freelancers who know and abide by the Associated Press Stylebook.

The best way to contact an editor at The Oregonian is by e-mail. For a complete listing of the paper’s staff, go to Writers can also e-mail a query to: and include in the subject line, “Freelance query for (name of section).” An editor checks that e-mail account regularly and will forward the query.

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.

Who’s the Boss at Home?

hope_000.gifTime Management Mastery for Writers
By C. Hope Clark

If you run a family, you have managerial skills. If you have a large family under one roof, consider yourself a program director. The talents required are the same, with more politics in play than a government agency.

Managers from car dealerships to the IRS train on the basics of leading people. The only difference between their job and yours is that they get to fire a totally exasperating employee. You’re faced with yours for life and you don’t even get trained!

Step back and look at your family as a business, and you can improve efficiencies while keeping your writing goals in tact.

The Open Door Policy

Every leadership school of thought preaches some degree of open-door policy between manager and staff. Can your family come to you anytime with problems, dilemmas, and, yes, even criticism?

Joan Lloyd, a management consultant and syndicated columnist (, states if all is quiet, there may be an issue brewing and you don’t have a clue. On the contrary, if your open door revolves constantly because you answer all the questions and solve all the problems, you’re grooming folks to depend entirely on you, which can keep you from writing.

Strategic Planning
Does each family member know the personal plans, desires, and goals of the others, as well as the day-to-day activities? Strategic planning is crucial. If each staff member in a 100-employee office knew only that the company sold books and nothing else, imagine the chaos and financial disaster that would occur. But if each staff member knew the company’s goals, who was in charge of different benchmarks, and what each department was expected to accomplish, they’d work toward a more productive end. Families operate no differently. With everyone aware of and invested in each other’s goals as well as the family’s priorities, you can help each other be successful.

Passion Management
Nobody wants to work in a rut job. If your family members sense your excitement about and dedication to your career, your home, and family activities, they may catch the fever. Thrill and passion are infectious and downright intoxicating! A positive outlook can set a momentum for everyone to follow.

Business journals and professional magazines give management advice to millions every day. Adjust your frame of reference,read those pieces from a family manager’s viewpoint, and note how the concepts work the same. It’s called people skills. Whether you lead an eight-person staff in an office or a toddler, two pre-teens, a Type-A husband, and a mother-in-law, you need diplomacy, intelligence, and efficient management to meet goals, deal with adversity, and work together to deal with issues. Bring the best of your managerial skills to people who mean the most to you and they’ll be as loyal and self-empowered as a staff can get. And you’ll have more writing time than you ever thought possible.

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. Her magazine credits include Writer’s Digest, The Writer Magazine, ByLine Magazine, NextStep Teen, College Bound Teen, Landscape Management Magazine, TURF Magazine, and American Careers Magazine. Hope is a motivational soul known as “Freelance Hope” in many circles. 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 &

Work and Play Groups

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent Writer: Strategies for Success

By Sharon Miller Cindrich

Play groups. When my kids were little, our weeks revolved around these glorious, once-a-week get-togethers at a friend’s house for a donut, some play time and a little socialization. And it wasn’t just for the kids. In fact, most of the time, it was for my own sanity.

Writing, like parenting, can be frustrating, confusing and extremely isolating. And going it alone is never easy. Playgroups, like writing groups, can be a great resource for confidence boosting, problem solving and overall support. Whether you’re stuck at home with a nasty deadline or a child with a nasty case of croup, looking forward to connecting with fellow comrades can get you through the tough times and make you a better parent and writer.


Can you find both a writing group and a playgroup in one? All of your parent friends may not be writers and vice versa. However, finding even just one other writer mama (or papa) to connect with on everything from deadlines to diapers, writing schedules to feeding schedules and word-counts to time-outs can not only boost your attitude and your energy level, but also help you establish your network, increase your productivity and keep you focused.

Where can you find this other crazy individual or individuals, folding laundry with one hand and typing on the laptop with another? They are out there, trust me, and they need you, so don’t be shy. Try these ideas to get connected with another writer mama or papa.

Spread the word

Make an announcement at the places you hang with other parents–playgroups, church groups, carpools and school hallways. It may be hard to spot a writer who is also parenting a gaggle of kids, but don’t assume you’re the only one.

Check out the library

Many writers like to read, so check out places like your local bookstore or library where many writing parents can indulge their interests and keep their kids occupied as well. Ask about established writing groups, and scope out members that might be mommies or daddies, too.

Connect online

This is one of my personal favorites. It doesn’t require you to even leave your house. Find a fellow writer mama or papa online like at sites like, where you can (soon) click “WM Unite” and connect with comrades and expand your writer mama community. Plan on a once a week IM session or iChat with a fellow writer mama to check in and exchange ideas and resources.

Take a class together

Why not take a class with another writer mama with the intention of continuing on after the class is over? This is a terrific way to launch a writer’s group. Chose a writer-mama-only group or open your writer’s group up to non-moms according to the number of participants you’d like to have. If you need more “mompower” you can always pick up the slack online.


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 due out from Random House at the end of the year. Read more about Sharon at

Dear Fellow Writers…March Message


Re: Am I Being Proactive?

Most writing-for-publication problems can be solved with the answer to this four-word question: “Am I being proactive?”

Because, let’s face it, the answer to this question is sometimes, “No.”

And yet, when nothing is happening, we writers often spend time analyzing why things aren’t going the way we’d like them to, rather than simply taking more action in the direction in which we’d like to succeed.

Writers can be reluctant, afraid, and sometimes downright stubborn. I know because I’ve been all of these things and­­––so far, at least––I don’t seem to have developed any immunity to these three “deadlies.”

What if I want to putter, procrastinate, and do just about anything but the task at hand? What is a right-brained, easily distracted girl like me to do when spring fever strikes with a vengeance?

Historically, the best way I get past “stuck” is by kicking myself into proactive gear (which usually means giving myself a lil’ ol’ boot in the derriere). I can use just about anything that seems more fun than what I am doing as bait to keep my writer-self on task.

A beautiful day? I get to go outside AFTER my work is done.
The urge to plant things? I get to garden AFTER I answer all my e-mails.
Planning and shopping for Samantha’s fifth birthday? (That does sound fun!) But only AFTER I confirm a few upcoming author appearances.

What have you done for your writing career lately? I’m talking about action steps. I’m talking about energetically connecting with others in a position to assist you in achieving the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Time to spring forward. Time to launch into action. Time to dare.

In the writing spirit,

Christina Katz

My book Writer Mama, How To Raise A Writing Career Alongside Your Kids is now officially for sale, hurray! (Thank you, everyone, who pre-ordered by Valentine’s Day! The official thank you is here.) What a long and educational road it’s been getting to this point; and of course, now begins part two of the journey.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, chances are good that I’ll be appearing at a bookstore or conference near you. Please check my event calendar for a complete list of appearances.

Two classes with Christina Katz begin on April 18th: Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff and Platform Building Basics for Writers. Classes fill, so register today if you want to reserve your space! Get the full scoop at

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