December 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm , by Alyce Wilson
It’s taken a while, but I’m finally getting some results from the action I took during my 31 Queries in 31 Days project.
Some of the responses have been rejections, such as from “Poetry” magazine and “Literary Mama.”
However, I’m starting to get some good news, too! I was contacted in response to one of the Elance jobs for which I applied, and I’ve just signed a contract to edit and format several short children’s books.
And just last night I learned that two of my poems, “How to Name a Cat” and “For Lack of a Wheelbarrow,” have been accepted by Miracle ezine. I’m very excited about it, because their mission (and feel) is similar to mine at Wild Violet. Plus, these two poems are personal favorites of mine that I’ve been sending to different places in hopes of publication. It’s great to finally place them somewhere.
News now about my November writing challenges. I wrote stories in response to three out of four of the story challenges of Project REUTSway. I was halfway through the fourth story when I had to throw in the towel due to sickness and an emerging migraine.
I didn’t do as well with Nina Amir’s Write Nonfiction in November challenge, mostly because I spent a lot of time promoting two Kindle promotions: one over Philcon weekend for “The Art of Life” and one over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend for “Dedicated Idiocy.”
For the month of December, I’m going to focus on putting together “Now with Kung Fu Action Grip.” Right now, I’m still compiling all the possible material (essays, journal entries and poems about my little Kung Fu Panda). Then I’ll get to the rewriting/editing phase and finally the design phase. While I would have liked to have it ready for the winter holidays, I’m going to shoot instead for January or February, when people will be burning through their gift cards. I intend to put together both ebook and print versions of the book.
I’m also going to try to start blogging here about other subjects that catch my interest, so it’s not just about my writing career and writing tips. If you have any suggestions of things you’d like to see me write about, please share them in the comments!
November 29, 2013 at 9:41 am , by Alyce Wilson
Joy and happiness! It’s Black Friday, the day that retailers entice shoppers into their stores with deals, hoping to make up for the entire rest of the year.
Well, if you’re one of those shoppers, have fun and good luck! And when you’re done, put your aching feet up, pull out your laptop and hop on over to Amazon to pick up a Kindle copy of my book, “Dedicated Idiocy: A Personal History of the Penn State Monty Python Society,” at bargain basement prices.
(And if you don’t have a Kindle device, don’t worry. Just search for “Free Kindle Reading Apps” and download one of Amazon’s apps for smartphones and PCs.)
From today (Friday, November 29) through 6 PM (EST)/3 PM (PST) tomorrow (Saturday, November 30), you can nab a copy of that silly, colorful look at my shrimp salad days for just 99 cents. Then the price will step up incrementally to $1.99 and $2.99 before finally returning to the standard price of $3.99 on December 3.
The sooner you get there, the more you save! Give yourself the gift of laughter. You deserve it.
November 8, 2013 at 11:12 am , by Alyce Wilson
A few years ago, I embarked on a personal project that gave me a great sense of empowerment. I combed through more than a decade of my newspaper columns and online writings to put together a collection of essays and humor, titled The Art of Life.
The collection represented some of my best creative non-fiction and humor to date: including an essay on Marilyn Monroe and body image; ponderings about the conspiracy of giant cows on the American roadside landscape; and musings about my late dog, Una, who taught me to appreciate the little things in life: to smell (and lick) life’s goodness.
Since the collection addressed such a broad range of topics, I opted not to approach a traditional publisher but instead to go the self-publishing route. Because of The Art of Life, I not only got a chance to reflect on my writing up to that stage in my career but also dipped my toe into the modern age of self-publishing.
Of course, self-published books don’t have giant marketing operations behind them, and I happened to put the book out the same year that I gave birth to my all-consuming bundle of bouncy boy energy, Kung Fu Panda. I sort of fell down on the marketing aspect of it.
But you know what? I’m not giving up. And now that my son is entering preschool (and my gluten-free, dairy-free diet has cleared the cobwebs from my postpartum brain), I’m giving it another shot. In fact, I’m so convinced that you’ll like the book that I’m giving out free Kindle copies this weekend.
From November 8 (today) through Tuesday, November 12, stop by the Amazon.com page for the Kindle version of The Art of Life and snag a free copy. Then tell all your friends. And if they tell two friends, and if they tell two friends and if they tell two friends… an exponential number of people (or at least, what, 32? 64?) will give the book a read.
Ideally, that might lead to sales. But at this point, you know what? I just want people to read it. I guarantee you will find something within these pages that will make you smile, ponder and perhaps even turn to your companion — be they human or dog — and say, “You’ve got to hear what I just read.”
(And if you do like it, I’d like to encourage you to write reviews on Amazon.com, Goodreads or any other book review site. It’s good karma! Or, for my canine friends, good dogma.)
November 7, 2013 at 11:25 am , by Alyce Wilson
I've received my official Philcon schedule and am on two panels this year and am officially the moderator of one of them (huzzah!). Check it out:
Sat 6:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
BECOMING A FULL TIME WRITER (1496)
[Panelists: Alyce Wilson (mod), Alex Shvartsman, David Sklar, D.L. Carter, Thomas Willeford]
How do you become a full time writer? Is that a good idea for you?
Sun 10:00 AM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE YOUR CAREER (1543)
[Panelists: KT Pinto (mod), Christine Norris, Alyce Wilson, D.H. Aire]
Whenever a writer is on Facebook, he or she is not working on their writing. What are the potential advantages and distractions of social media?
So my questions to you: What information would you like to hear on these two panels if you were attending? And do you have any insights that might be useful (such as specific books or online resources) to share?
October 31, 2013 at 10:59 pm , by Alyce Wilson
Striving to finish up the 31 Queries in 31 Days project:
28) Submitted a proposal for a job via Elance, writing a custom poem for a client.
29) Submitted a proposal for a job via Elance, converting children’s stories into publishable short stories for a collection to raise funds for a charity.
30) Submitted a short story to Cricket magazine (one of my favorite magazines as a child).
31) Proposed a product name for a new style of boots, posted by a client on ODesk.com.
And that’s it! And just before midnight, too!
October 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm , by Alyce Wilson
Let’s see if I can get this done today… cruising towards the end of the 31 Queries in 31 Days project:
26) Submitted five poems to Found Poetry Review (so excited to find this outlet; I’ve been writing found poetry for years).
27) Submitted five poems to Poetry East.
October 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm , by Alyce Wilson
Last week I shared my take on an old handout that I found my filing cabinet titled “Facts Every Poet Should Know.” I promised that at a later time I would share my own thoughts on what poets should now, so here is my list.
1) Be wary of scam artists. Let’s face it, there are possibly millions of poet in the world, and many people who would like to take advantage of them. The most important guideline to keep in mind is that, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of poetry anthology sites that publish any poem, provided the poets will pony up $50 or more to pre-order a copy. Be wary of self-proclaimed “agents” who request upfront fees just to review your work or offer writing advice. Agents earn their money from a commission on sales and should not request a dime until they’ve made a sale. Be wary of companies preying on self-publishing authors with excessive prices for editing, book preparation and marketing services. To weed out the worst offenders in the above categories, visit Preditors & Editors as well as WinningWriters.com.
2) Read extensively. Just like it’s important for a musician to listen to music or for an artist to study works of art, it’s essential that poets read poetry. Read not just poetry but other sorts of writing, as well, because the more you expose yourself to, the more you learn about what works and what you’d like to emulate.
3) Pay attention to line breaks. Unless you are writing in a form which dictates when a line will end, you should use line breaks to direct the reader’s attention. Consider the end of a line to be a very short pause, like half a comma, as the eye drops down to the next line. While it is tempting to break lines solely for visual reasons (such as making each line roughly the same length) or to break according to grammatical phrases, I’d encourage you to read your poems aloud and listen to exactly what the line breaks do to the poem. You may find that changing line breaks can turn a drab poem into a fab poem.
4) Know your markets. Before you submit any work to a publication, read a sample issue or two. If the magazine frequently publishes theme issues, drop a quick, professional e-mail to the editor to ask about the upcoming themes. That way you can send your work that has the best chance of being accepted by that publication.
5) Follow the rules, and then break them. If you are writing a form poem, remember to use what Shakespeare called a “prosp’rous departure from form.” This meant he would throw in a couple extra syllables or skip a rhyme if it added to the piece’s impact. If you’re writing in form, stick to the form as much as possible, but look for ways to change it up, because that can often raise a poem above the mere adherence to form and into true artistry.
6) Kill your babies. Of course, I don’t literally mean to harm your offspring, but you need to keep an open mind when it comes to revising your poem, even if that means cutting a line you love. For the sake of the poem, you might find a certain line doesn’t belong, or actually detracts from the rest of the poem. But take heart: you can always keep an “outcasts” file where you stick phrases and lines cut from earlier works. I once used such an orphan as the title for another poem, solving two problems.
7) Write what is hardest to say. This was particularly good advice I learned from my grad school instructors. Often we dance around the truth, or we take two or three stanzas to get to the meat of what it is that we really want to say. That’s fine for a first draft, but when you revise, be prepared to cut those intro paragraphs in order to get to the real emotional heart of your poem.
In the same vein, many poets stop poems before they truly reach what they need to write about. In the revision process, it can be helpful to push yourself further and see where that takes you.
8 ) Avoid clichés. This is true for any writing, but for some reason it tends to come up more often in poetry. Perhaps that is because most poets know to avoid using the hackneyed phrases themselves, but they still fall back on overused ideas and phrases. If something sounds too familiar, change it.
9) Nothing is too small or too large to write about. You can find inspiration anywhere, so don’t sit around waiting for the “big idea” to hit you. Take a walk around the neighborhood and make note of what you see. What are your neighbors doing? What does the sky look like? What thoughts emerge, based on what you see? Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m on the move.
10) Be bold. Take chances. Learn. Stretch yourself. Be it subject matter or form, be willing to try new things and see where it leads you.
I would be happy to hear anybody’s thoughts on this list, as well as suggestions for other things that poets need to know. Did I leave anything out?
October 30, 2013 at 7:38 am , by Alyce Wilson
Here I am again, close to the end of the month, but I’m determined to pull out a success in the 31 Queries in 31 Days project.
23) Submitted two poems to Hoot Review.
24) Submitted four poems to Literary Mama.
25) Submitted five poems to Paper Darts.
Updates: I received a rejection from “The Georgia Review” as well as from “Fabula Argentea,” which came with comments.
October 29, 2013 at 7:00 am , by Alyce Wilson
For a couple of years, I’ve participated in the National Novel Writing Month’s challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. This year, I’d like to take on two different challenges, instead.
The first is called Project Reutsway. Sponsored by Reuts Publications, it’s an intriguing writing challenge. Each weekly, participants will be given a literary challenge to mash-up two different styles, which they have to complete in three days. Judges will offer commentary, and the weekly winners will be announced on the Reuts blog. At the end of the month, 10-20 winning submissions will be published in a collection with part of the proceeds going to the green charity, Reading Tree/Discover Books, which promotes literacy in the US by keeping books out of landfills, funding library sustainability, providing books to low-income families and more.
Sounds like a great creative challenge that will keep me on my toes, so I’m looking forward to it.
In addition to the Project REUTSway challenge, I’m going to be participating in Nina Amir’s Nonfiction Writers Rise to the Challenge During NaNonFiWriMo (National Non-Fiction Writer’s Month). This is an idea spearheaded by writer Nina Amir, who is asking non-fiction writers to set their own goals to complete a non-fiction project of any length in November: ranging from an article to a book.
For my project, I will be pulling together the essays and poetry for my new book, “Now with Kung Fu Action Grip.” This, as you might already know, will focus on writings about my son, whose online nickname is Kung Fu Panda.
That book is one of the final perks I need to put together for the Indiegogo campaign I ran this past April, Get the Ringbearer to Illinois, which secured funding for me and KFP to attend a wedding where he had been asked to be the ringbearer.
I like the idea of doing both of these challenges, since one will spur me to write some new material, while the other will help me focus on finishing up a promised perk.
What about you? Are you participating in any writing challenges in November?
October 24, 2013 at 8:10 am , by Alyce Wilson
I’ve been going through papers in my filing cabinet, and I came across a handout called “FACTS EVERY POET NEEDS TO KNOW.” No author or publication is listed, and on the back is a relatively outmoded listing of poetry markets, including mailing addresses but no web site information. The list includes such established literary journals as Carolina Quarterly alongside less expected magazines, such as Cat Fancy and the United Methodist Reporter. I no longer remember where I acquired this handout, but it’s folded in thirds and likely came tucked into an envelope along with some other writing-related book or magazine purchase.
The handout has both good and (in my opinion) quirky/bad advice. Without quoting it in its entirety, I’ll share the main points and my take on them.
- Copyright your poems to protect them from infringement. The author advises poets to put a copyright notice on each poem, as follows: © 1990 Author’s Name (The date used is a hint, I suppose, at how long ago I acquired this sheet). The truth is, this is not necessary, since your work is considered copyrighted the minute you write it, without further action. You can register the copyright for an entire manuscript, if desired, by going through the U.S. Copyright Office. However, since it costs $35 per document, it’s better to send a complete collection than to send individual poems. Again, it’s not necessary in order to defend your work in court, provided you can prove in some other way that the work is yours. Moreover, if you include a copyright notification on a poem submission, it will immediately paint you an amateur. After all, by doing so, you are implying that the potential editor is likely to steal your work!
- Always follow submission guidelines. This remains good advice: to always read guidelines carefully and understand that different publishers have different rules.
- Unless specifically requested, a cover letter is not necessary. Again, I concur. I rarely look at cover letters until AFTER I have made a decision about a work for Wild Violet. However, I do prefer that submissions include a biographical paragraph, which is stated in our guidelines. That makes my work easier when I do opt to publish a poem.
- No matter how much a poem is rewritten, it can usually be improved. I completely agree. Like Walt Whitman, who spent his whole life reworking his collection, Leaves of Grass, I constantly revisit old works. If you do the same thing, it’s probably a good practice to date each draft of a poem, so that you can easily track changes in the future. If you work primarily on a computer, you might save each substantially different new version as a separate file name, i.e. DogPoem.v1, DogPoem.v2, DogPoem.v3. Why keep different versions? Because sometimes wordings included in previous drafts may be useful to reinstate or to put in a new poem.
- Don’t expect to make a living writing poetry. Sadly, I’d also agree with this statement. I take exception to the author’s advice, though, to “enter as many contests as you can afford.” Although you can count the contest fees as a business expense, think about it like buying a lottery ticket: The likelihood of contests paying off is rather remote. You might actually be better off investing that money towards promoting your craft in other ways, such as buying advertising for your self-published poetry chapbook. A more practical way to make a living through poetry would be to pursue an educational path that would allow you to teach either poetry workshops or classes (or become successful enough as a published poet to be able to secure speaker’s fees — again, a very remote possibility).
- There is nothing arrogant about displaying your poetry, whether in the form of a book, a magazine, a framed display or some other art form. The anonymous author of this list says that “Modesty will get you nothing but obscurity,” but I can’t imagine how s/he imagined this point would help promote your poetry. Sure, hanging a framed copy of your poem in your home or office would make a few associates aware of your work, but it’s unlikely to lead to a major awareness of your writing. Perhaps if you have an artist friend who would be willing to sell illustrated poems at craft shows, you might increase your audience, but few people can follow through on such ideas. Personally, I think it’s a little tacky and desperate to hang a framed work of your own poetry in your home or office. A better idea might be to create framed works to give to friends and family as gifts, and let them decide whether to hang them.
- A thesaurus is a poet’s best friend. The author suggests using a thesaurus to “increase your word power” and also suggests a rhyming dictionary. I have mixed feelings about this advice, since some of my earliest teenage poems were what I’ve termed “thesaurus poems.” To write them, I thought about a feeling or other words I wanted to include in the poem, and then perused a thesaurus to make a list of words I could use. The resulting poems were cerebral and obscure, and to this day I’m not sure if even I totally understand them. A thesaurus can be useful, however, to find the right word, and I recommend bookmarking both Thesaurus.com and the rhyming dictionary Rhymezone.com.
- Punctuation is necessary and important! The author states that the majority of poems can benefit from the proper use of punctuation and even suggests purchasing a handbook on grammar and punctuation. I’d say to take or leave this advice. While using a period to end a thought can be useful, many poets choose to let line breaks substitute for commas, mostly for aesthetic effect. I agree that most poems require at least minimal punctuation, but the exact use still falls in the hands of the poet.
- The most common writing error is the improper use of “its” and “it’s.” The author states that “its” is possessive,” while “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.” While I agree this is a common error, I don’t feel it’s enough of a problem to warrant its own bullet point on a list like this.
- A long, self-addressed, stamped envelope is a welcome sight to an editor. This is, of course, true for all mailed submissions and inquiries. Many editors won’t reply if you do not include a SASE. Nowadays, most literary magazines accept submissions online via either e-mail or a submission service like Submittable, making SASE’s unnecessary. So if you are pinching every penny, save the postage money and submit online.
Overall, the list remains fairly useful, if a bit quixotic. In a future post, I’ll share my own tips for poets.