Archive for the ‘ writing ’ Category

Article: Wedding Planning – Selecting a Theme

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

I’m doing a series of short articles for Yahoo! Contributor Network about wedding planning. Here’s he latest installment.

Wedding Planning: Selecting a Theme

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Stupid Questions with LJ Idol’s Gary Dreslinski

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

LJ Idol sign-up banner

For several years now, I’ve been participating in an online writing contest called The Real LJ Idol that is the creative equivalent of the Olympics plus the Iditarod. While I’ve never placed higher than 5th in the competition (and that on my first year competing), I have made countless connections with wonderfully talented, creative and generous writers. I would also say that some of my best work from the past several years has come from responding to the LJ Idol prompts.

This is sign-up week for Season 9, which founder Gary Dreslinski has announced will be the final season. What are you waiting for? Hop on over to the main page, read the LJ Idol FAQ and cast your hat into the ring! The more cannon fodder participants the better!

A couple other people have published serious interviews with Gary in the run-up to Season 9, so I thought I’d just have a little fun. Following in the footsteps of Entertainment Weekly, here are some stupid questions with LJ founder Gary Dreslinski.

When it comes to LJ Idol strategy, which American Idol finalist would be best to imitate: Sanjay Malakar, Adam Lambert or Candice Glover? Please answer in the style of an American Idol judge (past or present) of your choosing.

(as Harry Connick Jr)

I think the critical error of this question is assuming that I’ve watched every season of American Idol. You really need to work on your basics here: the lead-off question is what gets people into an article and can help establish a really one-on-one emotional connection with your reader. There were a few that I missed. Including Adam Lambert and Candice Glover’s seasons. I did see Sanjay’s however, and was following “Vote for the Worst” in their campaign to get him there. So I’d definitely say that no one should attempt to imitate him.

Given that Candice’s album had the worst debut in American Idol history, I would have to go with telling people they should emulate Adam Lambert. He’s probably seen Keith Urban naked!

(as Paula Abdul)

Wha? Is this thing on? *falls down drunk*

Some have said that LJ Idol could be better compared to Survivor or even Project Runway than to American Idol.

I think Project Runway and Top Chef are probably the best comparisons, although the voting is very much modeled after American Idol.

To what non-reality show or shows would you compare LJ Idol? Why?

Game of Thrones. Many people are going to die trying to seize power.

Have you ever dreamt up a plot twist for LJ Idol that was too evil to use? Discuss.

Mass eliminations in Week 1. I’ve had that on my “to do” list since Season 3. I’ve never ended up pulling the trigger on it, because when it comes right down to it, I want people to have a fair shot.

How would life be better if everybody participated in LJ Idol?

They would lead richer, happier lives — full of laughter and mirth. Money would rain from the skies. Poverty and hatred would be completely eliminated as all of humanity put their collective beings into being the best Idolers.

What question should I have asked you but didn’t?

What has it got in its pocketses?

November Writing Challenges

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

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.

”Project


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?

Facts Every Poet Needs to Know

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

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.

  1. 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!
  2. Always follow submission guidelines. This remains good advice: to always read guidelines carefully and understand that different publishers have different rules.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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WIP Mini Blog Hop

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

I was tagged by P.J. Bayliss in the ‘Next Big Thing’ Authors Tagging Authors… also known as the WIP Blog Hop.

P.J. Bayliss has nearly 1,000 Twitter followers (@YrMonAmi) and has nearly as many blog followers, as well. I have been grateful for P.J.’s generosity and friendliness since we connected on Twitter.

Here are the rules:

  • Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you
  • Post the rules for this hop
  • Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
  • Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them

My Questions:

  • What is the working title of your book?

1) Belated Mommy 2) Felix and the Dreamworld Bandits

  • What genre does the book fall under?

1) Parenting/humor 2) Children (ages 3-8)

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?

1) I would love to see Amy Poehler as a 30-something mom trying to find her way as a parent 2) Jared Gilmore, who plays Henry on “Once Upon a Time”

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

1) A collection of humorous and insightful personal essays about the challenges and rewards of being an older parent. 2) A collection of short stories about a boy who explores the dreamworld with his best friends, a robot and a dinosaur.

  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will likely seek an agent to represent both books; hopefully, I can find someone who will handle both nonfiction and children’s books.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

1) My goal is to blog the book and complete it in roughly a year.  2) Felix is my current NaNoWriMo project, and I hope to have a pretty decent draft by the end of the month.

  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

1) Anything by Erma Bombeck, one of my earliest inspirations 2) The Winnie the Pooh stories

  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?

1) As an older mom — I had my son at age 39 — I often feel left out of the parenting advice market, and I wanted to fill that gap for other moms, dads and guardians. 2) I’ve been telling my son rambling bedtime stories to put him to sleep, and I wanted to write a book that would appeal to kids and parents alike.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest

1) I’m seeking input from other parents in the 35+ age bracket, so please e-mail me if you’d like to contribute ideas! 2) I’m hoping that one of several talented artist friends of mine will add illustrations.

In addition, I’d appreciate it if you’d read and vote for my story at America’s Next Author: http://www.ebookmall.com/author/alyce-wilson

I wish to tag the following authors:

Sally Wiener Grotta – Twitter: @SallyWGrotta

Joseph Ephraim – Twitter: @FreelanceJoe

Nina Amir – Twitter: @NinaAmir

J.L. Manning – Twitter: @JL_Manning

Robbie Cox – Twitter: @CoxRobbie

America’s Next Author: Round 6 Beginning

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Round 6 is beginning for America’s Next Author. Please stop by my author page at America’s Next Author to read and vote! If you’ve already voted, you can now vote again. Very importantly, I appreciate all the retweets and shares. I’m hoping this may be the week!

Standing Strong in International Competition

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

I’ve been sending out the following press release, thanks to a fellow contestant, Whipchick, who wrote up a template for the Top 30 contestants to send.

So far I’ve sent it to the Delaware County Times, Philadelphia Weekly, Philadelphia Inquirer & The Daily News, New Jersey Star-Ledger, Milton Standard-Journal, Sunbury Daily Item, Williamsport Sun-Gazette, and the Bloomsburg Press-Enterprise. I also plan to send it to The Penn Stater and am open to other suggestions.

Alyce Wilson with Raven

For immediate release: July 9, 2012
Contact: Alyce Wilson
Email
Author photo: http://flic.kr/p/ctssjw

LOCAL WRITER FINDS SUCCESS IN INTERNATIONAL CONTEST

Anyone can enter. There is no prize. And more than thirty grueling weeks into The Real LJ Idol, Alyce Wilson is still writing alongside contestants from the UK, Australia, Sweden, Canada, and across the USA.

“Winning mainly means bragging rights,” says Wilson, a Philadelphia-area freelancer and stay-at-home mom who joined the contest “to keep my writing fresh and to challenge myself. In addition, I’ve made a lot of contacts in what is essentially a virtual writing community.”

Created and moderated by a Florida writer, Gary Dreslinski, The Real LJ Idol is structured somewhat like a reality show. Each week, a prompt is posted, and the competing authors write pieces inspired by it. There’s no restriction on form or content – entries have included personal essays, science fiction, horror, poems and songs. Some writers, like Wilson, try to write something different each week; others become known for a specific genre or unfold a novel chapter by chapter. Anything goes, as long as they survive the voting rounds.

“Standing out from the pack is essential,” says Wilson, “so I try to take a creative approach to each topic. Over the course of the competition so far, I’ve written everything from personal essays to skits to poems, and I’ve even produced a video. I enjoy changing it up.”

Voting is open to the public most rounds, with the lowest vote-getters “going home.” Many stick around to write for the “Home Game,” to vote, and to engage in the community as “beta readers” who give requested feedback on drafts so other writers can improve their entries before posting.

A record-breaking 367 writers signed up when the contest’s eighth season began in October; fewer than 20 are still in the running. Some of the entrants were already professional writers (Wilson has published a book of columns and essays, “The Art of Life,” available at her personal Web site AlyceWilson.com, and is a featured contributor at Yahoo! Movies and Yahoo! Television), but many are talented hobbyists. Writers in Europe and New Zealand carefully count time zones to make the submission deadline every week.

In Season 5, Wilson’s first time participating in the contest, she placed fifth out of nearly 200 participants (some of that work appears in “Art of Life”). In Season 6, under a pen name, she made it into the Top 25 out of roughly 240 but was cut, ironically, the week her son was born. She found out the results while she was in the delivery room. “It was a disappointment, but a bit of a relief, with my new responsibilities,” she admitted. Now, she’s learned to juggle childcare with writing, which she feels has helped her reach this stage in the competition.

Past winners have landed professional gigs, such as Season Six winner Ellie DeLano, now a columnist for “Women’s Day.” Wilson says, “Looking back at my entries to date, I’ve created a range of pieces I never would have written otherwise. Whether I win or not, I’ll still consider that an accomplishment.”

Wilson’s work may be read here: alycewilson.livejournal.com. The weekly contest postings can be read here: therealljidol.livejournal.com.

Goodreads Author’s Blog Post

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I’ve written a Goodreads author’s blog post about how I’ve recently found inspiration, as a writer, from reading “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Give it a read!

Blog Tour & Contest

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Spring is almost here, and I’m kicking off my “blog tour.” Just like a book tour, that means making appearances in other people’s blogs. As an extra incentive, I’m going to hold a contest. Anyone who includes a mention of my book, “The Art of Life,” (with the links below) in his or her blog will be entered into a contest to win a free, autographed copy of my book.

Alyce’s bookstore: http://www.alycewilson.com/books/

Excerpt from the book: http://www.alycewilson.com/2010/11/the-art-of-life-available-now/

Those who make a simple mention will receive one contest entry. Those who do a more extensive entry (such as an interview with me, a longer piece that relates to my book, or a “guest blog entry” written by me) will receive two contest entries. Those who mention me in multiple entries will receive one contest entry per blog entry. I will, of course, give entries to the few people who have interviewed me already.

To enter, post your entry and then share the link with me, either through posting a comment or by sending me a private message (wildvioletmagazine@yahoo.com).

The contest runs until April 30, after which point a winner will be selected randomly. Feel free to also share information about this contest with friends, family, coworkers, or random people you meet on the street.

Thanks and good luck!

Writers Coffeehouse – February Meeting

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

After being a member of the  Writers Coffeehouse Yahoo! group run by Jonathan Maberry for two or three years, I finally managed to make my first meeting. The group meets the last Sunday of every month at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore, 102 Park Avenue in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. It just seems that I’m doing something the last weekend of almost every month!

The meeting space was packed with about 50-60 participants when I arrived, but I found a place next to a friend, writer Mark Wolverton. The discussion was definitely worthwhile, and I took copious notes on writing advice, conferences, and other opportunities. Topics included: how to find a book cover artist; creating a public version of oneself as a writer; using Twitter to promote your work and make contacts; the current state of the publishing world; finding an agent; and pitching your work at a conference.

I got some great feedback to a question on my mind: how to balance a writing career with being a stay-at-home mom. Unlike many mothers, who might get an opportunity to write in the evenings when their partners come home and can assist with baby care, I do evening transcription work. Finding the time to write in the daytime while I’m also the primary baby care person has been a challenge these past eight months. I was encouraged by the support of my fellow writers/parents, who assured me that I should go easy on myself, reduce my expectations, and enjoy this special time that, after all, will only last for so long.

Following the regular meeting was a Query Letter Writing Clinic run by Jonathan, which was very enlightening, even though I could only stay for an hour. Hopefully, I’ll get to attend more Writers Coffeehouse meetings in the coming months. It’s easy to isolate yourself when you’re a writer, but it was great to connect with other writers in person!

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