"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Friday, April 18, 2014


"Perseverance is the difference between good and great..."

The American work ethic is based on the idea that hard work is rewarded. Do you believe this to be true, or do you think that there are other mitigating factors to take into consideration when it comes to success? Is all that hard work really worth it?

For example, take the classic children's book, The Little Engine That Could. In print for more than 100 years and still selling 10 million copies annually in English alone, this story is a metaphor for Americas can-do attitude. While larger locomotives insisted they couldn't get over the mountain, the smaller locomotive chugged along, all the while saying, "I think I can, I think I can." Even when faced with overwhelming odds, the little train persevered, finally getting to the other side of the mountain.

How about you? Has perseverance ever paid off for you?

Thursday, April 17, 2014


In some stories, tension is created when the hero is running out of options. The coping mechanisms no longer work, other people get fed up with the hero, or the hero is placed in increasingly dire straits until the only way left is to jump into the adventure.

In Sister Act, Whoopi Goldberg's character witnesses a mob murder and has to go into hiding as a nun. Her options are limited - pretend to be a nun or die.

Other heroes don't even get that much choice - they are simply "shanghaied" into the adventure, conked on the head to wake up far out at sea, committed to adventure whether they like it or not.

Tension can also be felt when a character knows what they want, but then discover they have options they never dreamed of, or thought possible before. Will they leave their job, home, friends and family for the adventure?

How do you use options to create tension, or dilemma for your characters?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop." - Vita Sackville-West

British author Vita Sackville-West, author of the prize-winning narrative poem The Land, cite the absolute necessity of writers to ply their trade. Many would agree, and are known for similar quotes. Once bitten by the bug, writers find it "necessary to write" lest the days "slip emptily by." Just as so many of us won't miss a day at the gym, writers develop the need to write every day to keep their heart and soul intact.

Beyond the visceral need to put pen to paper, writers also feel the need to record the moment. As Sackville-West so aptly describes, once the moment passes it is quickly forgotten. A priveledge and a duty, many writers spend their days writing in a journal, recording their lives and that of relatives, to pass down to their own children. Take a look at the best-se
ller list. It is FULL of nonfiction titles: memoirs and biographies.

Even fiction writers feel the need to record ideas, information, and even create worlds based on dreams and fears before they are forgotten and lost.

What drives your necessity?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


There are many markets available to writers. Here are just a few. Please remember to always check submission guidelines before you send your work.

The First Line - http://www.thefirstline.com/ The submission topic changes every three months. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: They usually offer about five or six submission topics at a time: http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

Pedestal Magazine - Now accepting submissions from new authors as well as established, with varying pay scales and opportunities: http://www.thepedestalmagazine.com/submitguidelines.php

YOGA JOURNAL - http://www.yogajournal.com/general_customer_service/about/editorial_subs_guidelines/Yoga Journal covers the practice and philosophy of yoga. We welcome professional queries for the follow departments: Om. This front-of-the-book section covers myriad aspects of the yoga lifestyle. These short (150- to 400-word) reported pieces are largely freelance written. This department includes Yoga Diary, a 250-word story about a pivotal moment in your yoga practice.  Eating Wisely. A popular, 1,400-word department about relationship to food. Most stories focus on vegetarian and whole-foods cooking, nutritional healing, and contemplative pieces about the relationship between yoga and food. Well Being. This 1,200-word department presents reported pieces about the integration of a regular yoga practice and health. E-mail a well-written query to queries@yjmag.com. Pays $50 to $2,000.

ZOETROPE - http://www.all-story.com/ We consider unsolicited submissions of short stories and one-act plays no longer than 7,000 words. All-Story does not accept submissions between September 1 and December 31. Pays $1,000.

ACTIVE AGING http://www.activeagingonline.com/ContactUs/  The source for news for and about people 55 and better in Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler counties for more than 33 years. Topics include senior lifestyle, profiles, interviews, nostalgia, travel, health. Query first. Articles are 750 to 1,000 words and pays ten cents/word.

AMBASSADOR MAGAZINE http://www.niaf.org/about/contact.asp  Query with clips. Provides information about all things Italian American. Covers personalities, food, film, culture, travel and Italy. Articles are 1,000 to 1,500 words. Pays $300 plus $50 for photos. Query don@niag.org - editor Don Oldenburg.

ONE STORY http://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=guidelines One Story is seeking literary fiction. Because of our format, we can only accept stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words. One Story is offering $250 and 25 contributors copies for first North American serial rights. We accept submissions from September 1 through May 31.
WHIDBEY STUDENT CHOICE CONTEST http://whidbeystudents.com/student-choice-contest/student-choice-contest-rules/ NO ENTRY FEE The contest is open to all writers of any age and at any stage of their writing careers. The competition is open to short-form manuscripts of 1,000 words or fewer in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and children/young adults. Held monthly. Winners will be notified by email and a $50 check sent by US post.

ZAMOOF! MAGAZINE http://zamoofmag.com/for-grown-ups.php?bp=3165Submissions are welcome from youth readers or their parents/care givers. Send letters, short stories up to 800 words, poetry, craft ideas, recipes, puzzles, jokes.
STUFF KIDS WRITE http://stuffkidswrite.com/ Please share with us! We are seeking funny notes, cards, letters, or stories kids have written. Submissions can be current (scribbled yesterday) or ancient (pulled from the preschool file).

GREYSTONE http://mygreystone.wordpress.com/submit/ GREYstone, a subdivision of BRICKrhetoric, is now accepting submissions of poetry, artwork, flash fiction, photography and scientific art from students {and teachers} K-12 for our quarterly online publication which comes out in the months of February, May, August & November. Submissions are accepted year-round, and submissions to multiple genres are permitted.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Letters are Magic

Many cultures believed the letters of their alphabet were far more than just symbols for communication, recording transactions, or recalling history. They believed letters were powerful magical symbols that could be used to cast spells and predict the future. The Norse runes and the Hebrew alphabet are simple letters for spelling words, but also deep symbols of cosmic significance.

The magical sense is preserved in our words for teaching children how to manipulate letters to make words: spelling. When you "spell" a word correctly, you are in effect casting a spell, changing these abstract, arbitrary symbols with meaning and power.

We say "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me," but this is untrue. We know that words have power to hurt or heal. The simple words of a letter, email, or phone call can strike you like a hammer blow. They're just words - marks on paper or vibrations of air - but mere words such as "Guilty," "Ready, aim fire!," "I do," or "We'd like to buy your book" can bind us, condemn us, or bring us joy.

They can hurt or heal us with their magic power. The healing power of words is their most magical aspect. Writers, like the shamans or medicine men and women of ancient cultures, have the potential to be healers.

Whether written or spoken, using those letters (and words) also gives an individual the power to persuade and transform others, perhaps an entire nation, and subsequently the entire world.

What letters, speeches, or books have had the biggest impact on you?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kübler-Ross Model

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced when faced with any form of catastrophic personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, as well as many other tragedies and disasters (and even some minor losses).

It's important for writers to be familiar with these stages. Assuming your characters are human, they will be experiencing these emotions as well, either on a small or large scale. Grief is one of the most powerful and personal emotions in the human experience, and a writer who implements the stages effectively can bring a reader into an intensely intimate and vulnerable moment with a character.

The stages, popularly known by the acronym DABDA, include:
  1. Denial — As the reality of loss is hard to face, one of the first reactions to follow the loss is Denial. What this means is that the person is trying to shut out the reality or magnitude of their situation, and begin to develop a false, preferable reality. Ex for a child: “Mom and Dad will stay together. They aren't seriously getting a divorce.”
  2. Anger — "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?" Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief. Ex for a child. “I hate Dad for leaving us.”
  3. Bargaining — "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if…"
    The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow undo or avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Other times, they will use anything valuable as a bargaining chip against another human agency to extend or prolong the life they live. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…" People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be friends?" when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it is a matter of life or death. Ex. for a child: "
    If I do all of my chores maybe Dad won’t leave Mom."
  4. Depression — "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die soon so what's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?" During the fourth stage, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of death. Much like the existential concept of The Void, the idea of living becomes pointless. Things begin to lose meaning to the griever. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and sullen. This process allows the grieving person to disconnect from things of love and affection, possibly in an attempt to avoid further trauma. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the 'aftermath'. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It is natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation. Often times, this is the ideal path to take, to find closure and make their ways to the fifth step, Acceptance. Ex. for a child: “I’m sorry that I cannot fix this situation for you.”
  5. Acceptance — "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."
    In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality or inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the person's situation. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief. This typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual, and a stable mindset.

Are your characters experiencing any of the five stages of grief? What are some ways you can depict those emotions instead of just naming them?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jambalaya Writer's Conference

I just attended the Jambalaya Writer's Conference for the third year in a row.
This year, the 11th annual Jambalaya Writers’ Conference and Book Fair took place on March 22, 2014 at theTerrebonne Parish Main Library in Houma, Louisiana with New York Times best-selling author Adriana Trigiani as keynote speaker.
Trigiani, award-winning author of the Big Stone Gaptrilogy and Lucia, Lucia, has written plays and television scripts. She is a documentary filmmaker, as well. 
Other presenters included prolific bestselling novelis tHeather Graham, Barefoot Books editor Katie De PalmaThe Night of the Comet author George Bishop, Jr., Love Finds You in New Orleans author Christa Allan and Kid Chef Eliana, among others.
Conference registration for the one-day event is only  $35. A Novel Excerpt Contest and a Poetry Contest are held in conjunction with the conference and have additional entry fees for interested participants - about $5 each.
Attendees are able to network with other accomplished and aspiring writers, editors and publishers. The Book Fair provides a variety of both professional development volumes and reading materials for pleasure.
Support for the conference comes from a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council. The Arts Council of New Orleans administered the grant.
Doors open at 7:30 a.m with the first session kicking off at 8:30 a.m. The event runs until 5 p.m. at the beautiful Terrebonne Parish Main Library, 151 Library Drive in Houma. For details on next years conference, look for the facebook page. They start planning in May.
Have you been to this conference? What has been your favorite conference to attend?