Tag Archives: Writing Contest

Writers Group: To NaNo or Not To NaNo?

7 Oct

As the writing community approaches November, talk always turns to NaNo. National Novel Writing Month (NaNo to the idiots who compete) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I’ve done it once and I’ve doing editing efforts in other months since. I’ve been saying I need to get started on another novel for a while now, so I’m thinking of doing it? I’m still unsure? I wonder if anyone here will try to talk me into it?

We talked briefly about blogs and I’ll mention here one thing that some found useful. When you’re blogging, recognize that you’re putting out content for free. If your writing is available for free, publishers have to have a really good reason to want to publish that same content and ask people to pay for it. Why buy when it’s free? Be wary of publishing anything on a blog that you want people to pay for later.

We spoke about signatures. If you’re publishing under your real name, you may want to change your handwriting or signature to sign books. It’s probably not a great idea to have your legal signature floating around on copies of your book! Practice changes for a signature repeatedly, practice handwriting changes by writing slowly and using pangrams to practice every letter.

Two writers brought forward writing contests that we should be aware of. The first was the Write Michigan Short Story Contest. The second, with some broader appeal, is the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Both have deadlines in November so there’s plenty of time to enter!

The last thing we touched on was a computer program, Outlining Your Novel Workbook. It’s based on a book by the same title and goes for $40. It follows a three-act structure recommendation. No one in our group has used it so I have no personal testimonials.

I’ll be missing this group in October but will be back at it in November so I guess I’ll have to decide if I’m NaNo-ing before then.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Magazine Gold: July and August

7 Aug

I’ve promised to summarize these issues for you and so far, I’m following through! Thanks again to Gus on Out Where the Buses Don’t Run for a free 1-Year subscription to Poets & Writers magazine! Here’s a summary of the July/August edition.

A New Home for Defunct Journals by Christie Taylor. “…the Rookery, a new digital archive that will house previously published content from defunct print and digital magazines…” So now I’m not as nervous to submit to some little magazine that might fail because it’s possible my work can be saved in this database. This is great news for writers who want their resume to be backed up in (digital) print!

Why We Write by Wendy Brown-Baez. Wendy discusses her time volunteering for the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop where she’s work with inmates. She loved that they were able to connect as writers despite the drastically different paths their lives had taken.

Familiar Stranger by Benjamin Percy. Percy spent time with writer James Lee Burke, who I hadn’t heard of before this article. Truthfully, I’m not sure how I missed him. There were some great quotes in this one including this one about Burke from his daughter, “Every day, it seemed he would return from the mailbox with a heap of rejection letters. ‘He would sometimes read them aloud to us, then smile and shrug and say, “Guess they didn’t like it.”‘” As someone who got a rejection letter today, this is really great to hear. Percy talks later about how Burk draws a lot of parallels between his most famous character, Dave Robicheaux, and himself. They share a lot of the same characteristics. I think this can be dangerous to do as a writer, but can also help when you’re stuck in plot. You can always ask yourself what you would do in the situation.

2014 First Fiction Sampler by various authors. You can read excerpts from the various books here. The magazine article had some great little interviews. The first I’ll mention is between Courtney Maum, author of I Am Having So Much Fun Without You and Maggie Shipstead. Shipstead asked what Maum does when she gets stuck and I loved her response; turn on cheesy pop music and dance or go for a run. I love both of these things. The cheesy dance music reminds me of the dance party Cath had in Fangirl but the running sounds a bit more like me.

The second interview was between Yelena Akhtiorskaya, author of Panic in a Suitcase and Chad Harbach, who’s The Art of Fielding I read and loved earlier this year. Yelena talks about the book she write during her MFA program and how she had to trash the whole project. She said she was devastated because she really thought it could be published. But she realized that the book in her head, which has turned into her first release, really was the story she needed to tell. She just had to get past her devotion to it and move on to the better project.

The final debut author I’ll point out is Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing and her interview with Amanda Eyre Ward. Jacob took ten years to finish this novel and was asked to comment on that. She notes that this might make her seem lazy, but that she’s proud that she kept at writing it for so long. She wants other writers to know that they’re not crazy for keeping at their story and they’re not alone.

The main article in this issue is called How I Found My Agent and has writers talk about how they found the agent that they’ve loved working with. I’ll share some nuggets I took from writer Karen Russell, who  followed the advice of querying agents who represented authors she loved and whose stories reminded her of her own. She also suggests to avoid any pressure to find an agent before you’re ready for one. She defines this time as having a book near the final draft that you feel strongly about.

The following article was called How I Found My Writer which is the flip of the previous article; why did an agent respond? Agent Emma Sweeney represents Sara Gruen, whose book Water For Elephants sold over ten million copies and was turned into a film. The query letter she sent Sweeney went to 129 other agents. Talk about persistence!

Writing Contests with little or no entry fee
Gemini Magazine ($4), Good Housekeeping, Literal Latte ($10), PEN USA Fellowship ($10), Sixfold ($3), Mind Magazine ($10), Third Coast.

Calls for Submissions
Changes in Life, East End Elements, The Evening Street Review, Front Range Review, Mount Hope, Referential Magazine, Rhino.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Magazine Gold: March and April

13 Mar

I promised myself that I wouldn’t take advantage of the free 1-year subscription I received from Gus on Out Where the Buses Don’t Run. Consequently, I’m on my second of what will become six magazine summaries of Poets & Writers, this issue covering March and April. I didn’t find as much I wanted to share in this issue as I did the last, but there’s still some things worth exploring and discussion. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The article Where We Write by Mary Stewart Atwell struck a chord with me. She discusses if where we are from influences what we write and is enough to define us. She goes on to discuss if who we are as writers limits the characters we choose. As a white woman, would I ever write a book from the perspective of an Asian man? I almost feel I don’t have the right to. A white man, sure, but I don’t have the experience of another culture to feel comfortable writing from the point of view of another race. Have you ever written from the point of view of another race? Why or why not?

Having finally faced that first rejection letter, I was curious how someone who writes a book considered a ‘failure’ would feel to that type of rejection. So many of us dream of getting to publication because we think it will bring us the fame and recognition we all pine after, but what if it doesn’t? What if we get to publication and still find rejection and failure? Is there any way to recover? One of the authors interviewed had a book that was even a finalist for the Orange prize but couldn’t find a place to publish her book. Another of the authors, Miranda Beterly-Whittemore, was able to sell a second manuscript after her first failed. When she was lucky enough to start marketing the second one, she did everything she could to make the launch successful; blogging, tweeting, and an updated website. A lot of authors today must do their own marketing to help ensure success. Yet a third author, Nina Siegal, knew that with the ability to publish a second time that she had to take the job more seriously. Instead of writing in addition to her day job, she wanted to make sure that publishing her book was her primary goal. She had learned from her first publication that she could write a book, and this time around, she had to write a really good book.

One of the feature articles was an interview with Amy Einhorn, publisher of her own imprint with Penguin Random House. One of my favorite questions was when she was asked, “What feeling do you want to communicate to your authors at the end of your [editorial] letter?” and she answered, “Encouragement.” I love that she wants to encourage her writers and let them know that the changes she’s suggesting are not telling them that their book is bad and has no hope, but rather that they can change a few things to make it even stronger. Another part of the interview that stuck out to me was when she was talking about titles and how when a reader hears a title, it should stick with them. There’s no reason for a reader to forget a title when they go to buy it or search for it on Amazon; it should stick with them. I know my good friend Katherine is going to get her MFA soon and it’s made me look at myself as under qualified because I don’t have a degree like an MFA or even a degree in English. However, Einhorn says that maybe two of her authors have MFAs and that’s really it. I felt a little better. She also mentioned that the bio is usually the last thing she looks at when she reads a query. Thank God. She does say that voice is something that a writer has to have and she can’t teach, so I guess if an MFA will help you find voice, it might be worth it. The last thing she said that I’ll note is that she believes that marketing can only do so much if a book is not strong. She thinks that if a book is strong, it will find readers even if the marketing is a bit slow. Great literature worth reading will find its readers.

The feature topic of the issue was residencies and retreats. The first article talked about types of residencies and where you can go with them. P&W supplies a list of these on their website if you want to have a look. The difference between private and government sponsored residencies was described. Private residencies let a writer set their own schedule and to a degree let them work on whatever they want to. Government sponsored residencies tend to have more of an agenda and the writer is likely to help with environmental or documentation records in the area where they are, usually on government lands. The writers are normally expected to give back in some other way as well: donating a piece to a project that will benefit the effort.

I liked an article titled The People You Meet which discussed how to pitch agents and editors at conferences. I think this appealed to my business background because networking and making connections at business events was one of my favorite parts of that degree path. Many larger conferences will provide a forum for writers to meet with agents and editors, a large part of their appeal. Lance Cleland, director of the Tin House workshop said that writers shouldn’t think of agents as adversaries because truthfully they are the person a writer most wants in his corner. A writer needs a agent to fight for their book to have success. When pitching in person, agent Meredith Kaffel suggests sticking to themes and avoiding plot summaries. If the author can’t tell someone what the overarching themes are, who can?

Applying for a residency is a lot like pitching a novel, except that you’re trying to get someone to buy in before the book is done. Betsy Fagin is a judge for Millay Colony residency and offered some advice. She says to stick to a short letter and compelling writing sample. The letter should stick to your background, previous work, and an explanation of the project the artist proposes to work on.

The Agent Advice section in this article focused on Amy Rennert who owns her own agency. I found three points of her interview very useful. (1) If you’ve self-published without much success, don’t mention it when submitting to an agent. It doesn’t help you stand out. (2) If you are a journalist or columnist, make sure you say so. These professions tend to get a little more attention. (3) Don’t send your letter to more than one agent at an agency so make sure you research the agents at the agency before you pick which one you want to send to.

Journals Accepting Submissions

Little Star Journal, Changes in Life, the prompt, and The Rattle.

Conferences for others in the Michigan Area

Bear River Writer’s Conference, Ox-Bow, and Interlochen College.

Contests With Little Or No Entry Fee

Gemini Magazine ($5 entry), Sixfold ($3 entry), Frost Farm Prize ($5 entry), Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, and Dancing Poetry ($5 entry).

Poets & Writers is a great resource. Check out their website for even more information.

Until next time, write on.

Magazine Gold: Jan and Feb

28 Jan

A few months ago, I won a giveaway on Gus Sanchez’s blog where I was rewarded with a free one-year subscription to Poets & Writers magazine. My idea is to give you, my wonderful readers, some snippets that I found most interesting from every issue. The magazine was really interesting and a great read. If you’ve ever considered a subscription, I encourage you to do it!

Some articles can be found on PW’s website.

Writing the Sex Scene by Beth Ann Fennelly. I was intrigued by this article because of its author, Fennelly, whose book The Tilted World I read a few months ago. It was in this article that I heard about the Bad Sex in Fiction Award that I posted about yesterday. Fennelly muses over the lack of a good medium between badly written passionate sex and good writing about a lack of sex.

Agents & Editors: David Gernet. Gernet offers a great amount of advice from his variety of roles in the publishing world. One thing he said that struck me the most was this: “An e-book often takes sales away from a hardcover edition when a book is first published, and the author makes less money from the e-book than from the hardcover.” This shocked me! How unfair is that to an author? Why would it matter how the book sold at all, the author should collect royalties for it anyway! Rude.

PW offers a Lit Mag database.

Magazines accepting submissions with little to no fee: Dash Literary Journal, Main Street Rag, Apple Valley Review, Kansas City Voices, The Evening Street Review, Mount Hope Magazine, Steam Ticket, and The Chattahoochee Review.

How to Make a Life, Maybe Even a Living. I might be biased toward this article, but I still loved it. Nestled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a new book store, Literati. Yes, I’ve been there with Nicole once. And of course, the store is awesome. I learned from the article that Ann Arbor is the birthplace of Borders and Literati bought the bookshelves from the closed Borders in town. Full circle! Their location was also the campaign offices for Michigan’s current governor, Rick Snyder (who is pretty  awesome in my opinion). If you’re ever fortunate enough to be in Ann Arbor and can make a stop at Literati, be sure to check out the manual type writer in the basement. The owners sometimes save what was written that day.

Writing Contests with little to no fee: Chicago Tribune, Sixfold, and The Southeast Review.

Anyone else who’s local to the Ann Arbor area might like to know about two presses in the area, Sleeping Bear Press in Ann Arbor and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in Grand Rapids, MI.

I hope this information was helpful to you all. I’ll be looking through for some submission material soon myself.

Until next time, write on.

There is a Library Hotel in NYC. I want to go!