Posts Tagged ‘ writing ’

Yahoo! Contributor Network Ending

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

It’s the end of an era. Yahoo! has decided to shut down the Yahoo! Contributor Network entirely. I’m not surprised, since they’ve been gradually shutting down a lot of the programs within YCN that gave writers opportunities to make money on top of Performance Payments. The good news is that all rights to my articles will revert to me, allowing me to sell them elsewhere, if possible.

I will be archiving copies of all of my articles as they appeared on Yahoo! for my records. You have until July 31 to go through my profile and check out any articles that interest you, because I will still get whatever Performance Payments accrue during that time.

I’m not actually too upset: writing for Yahoo! was fun, and I got a lot of great comments from editors over the years. But this would be a good time to turn my focus towards writing projects that could potentially earn me more per piece.

Thanks for reading and sharing all these years!

My Yahoo! Contributor Network portfolio: http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/alycewilson/

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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Looking for Philly Story Ideas

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

As a writer for Yahoo! Contributor Network, I have a regular beat to submit stories of interest to the Greater Philadelphia area (i.e. the five counties: Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester, Bucks). I am looking for the following: feature ideas, upcoming event info and possible interview subjects. In particular, I’d welcome ideas related to family-friendly activities, since I’m thinking of writing a series.

You can look through my existing portfolio to see what sort of stories I’ve written in the past. Pay particular attention to the Philadelphia-area stories, since I’ve also done a lot of entertainment writing.

Please e-mail me with any of your suggestions.

Here’s more info from Yahoo! about what sort of stories they’d like me to write.

Submit unique, well-written, and compelling local content of metro-wide interest in your area. Submit only when you have a submission that meets all guidelines and expectations. Only professional-sounding bylines are acceptable.

Write local features or news stories that aren’t being reported by other news outlets or go beyond coverage by other media. Think about the stories that local readers need to know — answer questions for them, tell them something new about their area, reveal and explain local controversies, solve local mysteries, etc. Think outside the box!

Find unexpected and compelling local stories — don’t tell readers what they already know or what they aren’t likely to click on to find out more. This content must be objective — opinion pieces are generally not accepted.

Don’t rewrite other coverage — all submissions should be originalunique, and go beyond other coverage.Search Yahoo! News before writing to ensure that your topic hasn’t already been covered.

Write with authority. Be detailedspecific, and authenticCite authoritative sources for all factual claims and information (no Wikipedia or other user-generated sources). Include all essential information, such as websites, locations, contact information, hours, pricing, etc. as applicable. Proofread carefully.

Review: “This Mobius Strip of Ifs”

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

This Mobius Strip of IfsThis Mobius Strip of Ifs by Mathias B. Freese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How does one summarize an entire life of more than 60 years? When faced with this ominous task, too many self-published writers produce rambling, episodic narratives that fail to capture the true drama and beauty of their lives. Fortunately for author Mathias B. Freese, he is a gifted essayist who has been writing essays for decades. By collecting his favorite pieces, he gives readers insights into both his personal life (which is, sadly, full of tragedy) and his views on such topics as education, psychotherapy, blogging, and, of course, writing. The book, as a result, is one part personal memoir and one part intellectual analysis.

This combination elevates the book, but it also means it is a book best read slowly. Readers are likely to find themselves pausing to contemplate the message behind each essay. Freese is direct and opinionated, and he often takes an opinion counter to popular thinking. Take, for example, the essay “Teachers Have No Chance to Give Their Best,” where he begins by railing against students for their “puerile minds” and “vacuity.” But while these words are harsh, he lays the blame squarely on teachers. As a former teacher himself, he strongly suggests that schools need to do more to encourage creativity and self-reliance.

Just when it seems he has given up, labeling the educational system as “a great Arctic mammoth wandering aimlessly,” he offers up a glimmer of hope: “Take any five decent, well-intended, creative and committed teachers and administrators, people who care, people in passion, free men and women, and one could wreak a reformation in weeks.”

Such is the power of these essays: he sets up problems in stark language, but he also points to the possible positives that we, as a society, could reach for. Whether writing about the challenges of the current publishing scene or the historical record of the Holocaust, he shows readers both the ugliness and the beauty of each topic. He shares valuable insights from his time as a psychotherapist, and he waxes eloquent on some of his favorite movies and classic film actors.

The personal essays in the back of the book provide a look at his family’s trials and grief. From the tragic loss of both his first wife and his daughter, to coping with memories of a neglected childhood, he writes powerfully when he is at his most personal. In many ways, these essays might have been a better way to begin this collection, since it would have helped to provide a real sense of the writer, in a personal way, before the denser, academic pieces.

This is a book that will stay with the reader, that will occasionally pop up as an undercurrent to conversations. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of his fiction masterpiece, The i Tetralogy, it is a thoughtful, compelling read.

View all my reviews

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

Handling Rejection

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Writers become used to rejection, but despite making snarky comments about papering our bedrooms with rejection slips, few of us really enjoy hearing “no.” Whether it’s a letter with a hand-written note from the editor or an impersonal slip of paper, rejection notices are never fun to read. It’s hard not to view them as a personal assessment: an indication that perhaps we’re not the writer we thought we were.

Losing a contest is no easier, especially in the cases where we were certain we had a chance. Perhaps we imagined how much of a difference the cash prize would make, or exactly what we would do with the free time that a grant would allow us.

So how do you get something positive out of rejection? First of all, if possible, find out what beat you out. In a contest, read the winning works. In the case of a literary magazine, check out the latest issue. Compare that to the pieces that you had submitted and try to figure out what the published pieces had that yours might have lacked.

About 90 percent of publication has to do with finding the right fit, with 10 percent being professionalism (proper spelling and grammar, polite cover letters, following all guidelines). So when you’re rejected, try not to take it personally. Instead, try to figure out where your work might fit better.

I compare it to trying on clothes in a department store. As any woman knows, this can be a disheartening experience, whatever your body type. A long time ago, I learned a technique for saving my self-esteem: rather than blaming myself for every ill-fitting outfit, I tried to assess what it was that made the outfit a poor choice. Then, when I returned to the floor, I looked for items that might be cut in a more flattering way. In other words, don’t blame yourself; just accept that the clothing is wrong for you and spend your efforts finding something that works.

You can’t avoid rejection, but you can change how you respond to it and find a way to turn it into something positive.

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!

Valentine’s Day Article / Interview

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Associated Content/Yahoo! News has published a short piece I wrote for Valentine’s day, called You’ve Just Got to Believe.

Also, please check out the excellent interview of me done by Michael A. Ventrella. He asked some great questions about writing and publishing.

Writing Dos and Don’ts

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

While going through submissions recently for Wild Violet, I thought about both what I look for, as an editor, and what I try to do in my own writing. These simple rules emerged:

1) Strive for a strong opening. The first paragraph, first line, or first stanza is essential to grab the reader’s attention. Often, I find my first draft will contain extra “scene-setting” verbiage that I trim down for maximum impact.

2) Avoid anthropomorphizing inanimate objects and animals. Unless I’m going for humorous effect, I avoid writing that “the sky wept” or imagining that a robin is contemplating his tax write-offs. In a serious work, such language comes off as sentimental and amateurish.

3) Pay attention to structure and form. Whether writing a poem, a story or an essay, I try to address the main goals of that particular type of writing. In poetry, I pay attention to language and line breaks; in stories, I work to achieve a strong narrative; in essays, I lay out an argument and provide support. While I admire experimentation and have written my share of experimental works, I firmly believe in learning the basics. Even Picasso learned to sketch the human form before he developed Cubism.

4) Use the strongest possible verbs and modifiers. While passive voice (“it is,” “she was”) does have a place in the English language, active verbs guide the reader more effectively. Limiting modifiers to only those that matter likewise packs more of a punch.

5) Avoid cliches. Yes, avoid them like the plague. Nothing pauses a reader in his or her tracks quite like reading an overused metaphor. When such phrases tempt me, I think about why they popped into my head and find another way to convey that idea.

6) Know your audience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a newspaper article or a comic strip. You need to consider who will read it and what you want them to take away from it. I try to remember to “open up” what I’m writing so my readers will understand. This means not taking explaining specialized terms unless I’m writing for an audience who will know them. I try to write in a way that’s clear enough and detailed enough for someone else to understand.

7) End effectively. Just like with an introduction, I’ve found it’s too easy to simply ramble on and on, then tie it all neatly with a bow. Often, on a rewrite, I’ll trim my final paragraph or stanza. I trust the reader to fill in some blanks, as long as I’ve done the work of the poem, story, or essay. Leave the reader with a thought. Make your words count.

Writers: What do you cultivate and avoid in your writing?
Readers: What makes you stop reading? What makes you continue?

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The Truth about Cover Letters

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

On this Valentine’s Day weekend, I’m spending some time going through Wild Violet submissions before a night out with my husband. Predictably, the majority of them are not right for our journal, which makes the ones that do work shine all the brighter.

While many magazines do request (or even require) cover letters, let me give it to you straight: the cover letter will not get you published. No matter how many publishing credits you have, or degrees (with honors!), or awards and accolades, unless your writing works for the publication in question, you’re heading for a letter that begins, “Thank you for sending your work…”

In fact, I must admit, I don’t even read cover letters until after I’ve made a determination on the submission. I do this for two reasons: my overflowing mailbox takes enough time to sort through without reading anything extra; unless I’ve accepted a work, the biography doesn’t really matter. For this reason, Wild Violet has published both new writers and ones with impressive pedigrees. Some cover letters include explanations about the work and the process behind it. While that might be interesting to include on a bio page later, the work has to stand on its own.

That said, amateurish or rude cover letters will irk me when I finally read them and can sway me if I’m on the fence. Ultimately, though, for me, it’s always the work that matters.

Editors: How much do cover letters matter to you?
Writers: What do you typically include in your cover letters and why?