Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Best Writing Advice: Eyes on Your Own Test

by Deren Hansen

The Klingons have a proverb:
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
There's something about the passage of time that amplifies the significance of some things.

The best writing advice I've received to date was something whose importance I didn't truly appreciate until long after I'd forgotten who gave me the advice. This is what they said:
Eyes on your own test.
Jeff Hirsch, blogging at the League of Extraordinary Writers recently, shared some of his favorite advice from the newly available archive of author interviews published The Paris Review. He included the following quote from Jonathan Lethem, who expands upon the theme of keeping your eyes on your own test.
"You’re not fighting the other writers—that Mailer boxing stuff seems silly to me. It’s more like golf. You’re not playing against the other people on the course. You’re playing against yourself. The question is, What’s in you that you can free up? How to say everything you know? Then there’s nothing to envy. The reason Tiger Woods has that eerie calm, the reason he drives everyone insane, is his implacable sense that his game has nothing to do with the others on the course. The others all talk about what Tiger is up to. Tiger only says, I had a pretty good day, I did what I wanted to do. Or, I could have a better day tomorrow. He never misunderstands. The game is against yourself. That same thousand-yard Tiger Woods stare is what makes someone like Murakami or Roth or DeLillo or Thomas Berger so eerie and inspiring. They’ve grasped that there’s nothing to one side of you. Just you and the course."

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.

Monday, March 28, 2011

VOTE for your Favorite Blog Contest Entry

At the top of the blog is a poll where you can vote for your favorite entry in our first-ever blog contest. You can only vote once! Read the 9 entries below and decide which one you like the most (it's going to be tough!). The winner will get to pick from the following:

--$20 gift card
--manuscript made into an e-book
--signed copy of VS Grenier's picture book
--manuscript review by Julie Daines

Winner #2 will get to pick from the 3 remaining prizes, winner #3 will pick from the 2 remaining prizes, and winner #4 will receive the last prize.

Voting closes at 8 am on April 1st. Be sure to vote!

And make sure to sign up for a day in our "30 Days, 30 Stories" contest.

UT Ch Wr Contest Entries #1 and #2


Aileen Stewart said...

He had it coming to him;
You know he really did.
I should have bopped him in the nose
Or kicked him in the shin.

Instead I used some self control
And flashed him my best smile
Then turned and walked away
Leaving him to think a while.

He never should have said
The things he said to me
Those nasty,ugly, vulgar things
That others might believe.

But if I tried to give him
Everything that he had earned,
I'd be stooping to his level
And he still would not have learned.

So I walked away with head held high,
The winner of the game.
While he just stood there wondering
What in heaven's name


The Hero’s Choice
By Kimberly Kay

He tied the string around his thumb,
And lifted it high and proud
Then leaned to kiss the one he loved
“I’ll always be here,” he vowed.
The two best friends mounted his horse
A steed of shining white 
By their hearts they set their course
And rode towards falling night

Some said he’d had it coming
Some said they’d surely known
Praises all did gloriously sing
That fate had claimed its own
They called him greatest hero
They said this was foretold
That destiny had struck once more
To give the good his gold

But I stand here to witness
With his hand clasped in mine
That though he went through trials and tests
And his choices proved divine
If he had chosen different
And never stood for right
Destruction then would have rent
His heart in two that night

It’s choices that create us
It’s not what we are but who
And if destruction claims us
There’s no self to blame but you
You want to be a hero?
Desire to be a knight?
Then what you want you must now know
Choose to do what’s right

UT Ch Wr Contest Entries #3 and #4


He Had It Coming
By Trisha Brimhall

On the roadside he stood idly thumbing;
Tattered sign: "down and out" his state summing.
Through speech sometime slurred,
He'd share rich-toned word.
"Yes, to him", all scoffed, "he had it coming."

Then fate cracked one day and on a whim,
Passerby rolled down car's window rim.
Amid viral sensation, 
His voice melted a nation.
He had it - finally - coming to him.


I Wanted to Write
by Mary Ann Duke

I waned to write. I believed that I could
I put pen to paper, and I thought it was good.
With my brain in gear to the computer I sped
I typed up my story 'till my fingers bled.
I shot it off to a publishing house
The editor rejected it--the big ugly louse.
So, I boarded the bus that went to the train
That took me to the airport where I got on a plane
To New York I flew
Then a taxi, a subway and a city bus,too
Brought me face to face with the editor of choice
(I'd seen in the parking lot, his shiny Rolls Royce.)
Mr. Editor, I said with a tear in my eye
If you don't publish my story I think I will die.
Go ahead; drop dead on the floor at my feet
I'm very busy with clients to meet.
This made me angry, this made me mad
The feelings I had were evil and bad.
I balled up my fist, I raised my arm high
I socked him hard
Right in the eye.
This tragic scene was dismal, yes dismal and grim
But--eveyone knows, HE HAD IT COMING TO HIM.

UT Ch Wr Contest Entries #5 and #6


Mattie said...

The snow started to fall at evenings last light
It fell harder and faster and kept up all night.

The kids around town could hardly wait
This day of playing was gonna be great.

For every child loves to play in the snow
And every boy claims to be the snowball pro.

The boys all ran to the big open field.
Where they packed and stacked and started to build.

First came the snow forts, big and wide,
So each kid was protected on every side.

They worked hard to build up their ready supply
Of snowballs that could really hit and fly.

The biggest kid's name was Tough Tully
He was also the towns infamous bully.

Just as soon as the snow forts were built,
Tulley kicked at the forts with no guilt.

Each boy had a horrible story to share,
Tulley was just mean, and he didn't care.

What he didn't know was that the other boys,
Were scheming up some uproarious ploys.

But before the boys could show off their skill,
Everything was quiet, everything was still

And like the shot heard round the world
One snowball suddenly ripped and whirled.

The field erupted with flying snowballs
And every child dove behind fort walls.

It wasn't long before their supplies ran dry
The boys grabbed at the snow that was nearby.

Perfectly sculpted snowballs became
Fist fulls of snow that they didn't aim.

But as the snowballs flew fast and furious,
Something happened that is still curious.

All the balls and chunks of snow flew
And pummeled mister you-know-who.

Tulley was suddenly under attack
As many snowballs hit him with a whack!

For once in his life, he turned tail and ran,
He got home much faster than other boys can.

So as the words ring out, the words rang true,
“He had it comin' to him,” but HE never knew.


Alexandra said...

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I kissed Dimitri softly on the lips. "Please don't go," I whispered.

"I must. But you know that. The vampire hunters will find me. They have a Blanaa."

"Oh, why? Why can't they leave you alone?" my breath was coming out in little puffs in the crispy cold winter air. The ebony night wrapped itself around me like a silk blanket.

"All matter else seems weak. They are convinced I am evil incarnate. Sweet Jamila, I promise to find you again." Dimitri held me in a tight embrace, his scent enveloping me.

He gently moved aside my jet black hair, and left a trail of kisses in it's wake. He kissed one spot, then extended his fangs into my neck. I prepared myself for the moment of brief pain, yet I still cried out. Then I felt myself in the sweetest bliss. 

It ended too soon for me, but I knew Dimitri had to leave. "Don't forget me," I murmured into his shirt. 

"Never," he promised.

A wave of sadness came over me, and I turned away. Then I heard a sound of a struggle. "Dimitri!" I yelled.

We were too late. The vampire hunters had found my eternal love, and in a split second murdered him.
One hunter came up to me and said, "He had it coming to him, as do you. Guilty by association."
My last thought before my death was, Parting is such sweet sorrow.

UT Ch Wr Contest Entries #7 and #8

# 7--

For T. Lynn Adams: 

He had it coming to him and he knew it. Most of all, he knew he deserved it.

Sure, some teachers would say it was about time, that he had it coming to him for a very long time. Friends who knew him would try to downplay everything by saying it was all an accident, a chain of coincidences. The principal and his parents had both told him many times, ‘you will get exactly what you earn.’ Even his girlfriend had her own opinion of the whole thing…but he really didn’t want to dwell.

Right now, he had people to face--a lot of them. They were all looking at him waiting to hear what he had to say, waiting for him to come up with some reasonable pronouncement that would allay their doubts in him, soothe their fears, and give them some hope for the future.

Taking a deep breath, he then let a long cleansing exhale erase all his nerves. Earned or accident, long-time coming or surprise fluke—as his high school’s Valedictorian, he had a graduation speech to give and people were waiting.


A Narrative To Remember
By Joseph Ramirez

“If only you and I were in love,” whispers my date, as she adjusts my tie. 

I take in the vast ballroom, the elegant swirl of dancers in tuxedos and evening gowns, the live jazz music, the fragrance of her perfume.

“In love,” I muse, “and upset.”

Her eyebrow raises. “Intriguing.”

We enter the dance floor, her dark dress shimmering with movement.

She continues. “In love and upset... mmm-hmmmmmm... that would introduce dramatic tension. We could argue, while we dance...”

“Yes,” I say. “Brilliant! But to avoid conformity, the livid lovers danced the foxtrot while everyone else did a slow swing!”

“Splendid,” she says. We switch to foxtrot with a twirl.

I continue. “As they argued, their fervent anger – fueled by their emotional stakes in this already intense relationship – only burned brighter... dangerously brighter... perhaps even brighter than the flame of their love!”

She places a hand on my chest. “A great wedge grew between them with every step, neither willing to acquiesce!”

We cease dancing. I speak. “Their argument stopped, but didn't end, as the words he didn't mean to say spilled forth from his impassioned lips.”

She pulls away from me. “Dramatic silence ensued while she stood, haughty head held high, too proud to consider the pleading apology already in his eyes.”

I grin. “This is great.”

“It gets better.” She stops a server laden with a tray of full wineglasses.

“Of course,” I say. “Classic. With a splosh of wine to the face, she left him spluttering and without a shred of dignity... as she walked away without a second glance!”

“He had it coming to him,” I say.

She poises her arm for sploshing, but hesitates. “Hmm. Too easy.”

She returns the wineglass to the server, who gives us both a funny look and continues on his way.

We both search our minds for something, anything.

“Got it!” she says. She raises a trembling hand as though to backhand me. “She shook a little...”
I narrate. “And he said 'smite me, if you must... but I am alREADY smitten with you, which pains me more than your blow ever could!'”

“Oooh, good,” she says.

“Yes, I know.”

Her hand falls to her side. “And she said, 'This hand... could never harm you.'”

“Poetic,” I say.

“Appallingly so.” Then, she slaps me with her other hand. “'But this one could!' She cried. 'For the typing induced carpel tunnel in it is far less advanced!' ”

I smile, rubbing my jaw.

She sniffs. “Blighter.”

“No,” I say. “Writer.”

She gasps. “You too? I knew it!”

We pull close.

“You're incredible!” I breathe, “What a twist on cliché! Introducing a health problem... thus thickening the plot!”

“And your dialogue...” she murmurs, stroking my arm. “Scintillating. We must co-write.”

“Indeed. We must.”

UT Ch Wr Contest Entry #8


He Had It Coming to Him
By Maren Warner

I opened the newspaper, scanned and read,
Let out a sigh and shook my head.

Mr. Thomas, age eighty-eight,
Died suddenly on Saturday late.

“He had it coming to him,” is what I said,
Of him who was gone, buried and dead.

He was an old man, crusty and mean,
The most unpleasant person I’d seen.

I won’t send flowers with a ribbon and bow.
I won’t say goodbye or put on a show.

“What’s this,” I scoffed, “an Eagle Scout?”
A very good one, I doubt.

Oh, he served in one, two, three wars,
Earned honors, medals and more.

He lost his wife early on
Along with his only son.

I didn't know.

I didn’t try to get to know.

If I’d looked closer, would I have seen
A light of sorts that once had been?

What were his memories of days gone past?
Happy times that he hoped would last?

Did he have times of contentment and fears?
Did he have times of laughter and tears?

All tucked away inside his mind,
Hid away for no one to find.

He had it coming to him, but in a kind way.
A friendly "Hello, how are you today?"

Did anyone try to build a trust?
I should have tried to get through the crust.

Making a difference starts with me.
I know now that's how I ought to be.

“He had it coming to him,” some may say.
Good or bad it’s coming some day.

The Problem Novel

By Julie Daines

I recently read a quote that went something like this:  Problem novels are to YA literature what soap operas are to legitimate drama.

What is a problem novel?

In traditional realistic fiction, characters face personal problems—however, those problems are not the major thrust of the story. For example, the main character works to solve a mystery, while struggling at the same time with her father’s alcoholism.

In a problem novel, the problem will control the plot.

Children’s literature specialist Sheila Egoff gives problem novels the following characteristics:

1. They focus on externals, they tend to show rather than tell because of their limited aim—as if the writer had begun with the problem rather than the plot or characters. Often the title of the book says it all.
2. The protagonist is laden with grievances and anxieties that stem from alienation with the adult world.
3. They find some form of palliation from an atypical adult, usually outside the family.
4. Narrative is usually first person and self-centered.
5. The vocabulary is usually limited, the words of a child.
6. Obligatory inclusion of explicatives.
7. Sentences and paragraphs are short.
8. Sex and other controversial topics (drugs, obesity, homosexuality…) are discussed openly.
9. Usually an urban setting, although this is changing.

 It’s amazing how many of the contemporary realistic novels fit this format. Is it really just a soap opera? Should young readers be taught to look outside the home for help? Does this present to young adults a true reality, or one that is enticing to teens because they live in a self-centered world?

Of course, every problem novel is different and all cannot be lumped universally into a label of good or bad. But still, it’s something to think about.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Surviving the Publishing Process

This week I thought I would share with you some insight on surviving the publishing process. Instead of giving you an editor's viewpoint, I asked author and professional musician Sherry Ellis to share her point of view of the publication process.

Surviving the Publishing Process with author Sherry Ellis
Novice writers might be surprised to learn that the publishing process isn’t a quick and easy thing.  It can take a year or longer to go from manuscript to printed book.  Here’s the step-by-step process and a few tips to help you survive.

Step one:  Writing the book.   
This may seem pretty obvious, but it is the step that must be completed before anything else can happen.  After the book has been written, it should undergo a thorough editing.  This should be done by a professional.  All grammatical and spelling errors should be corrected, as well as any problematic plot issues.  Manuscripts with errors are just not accepted.  So spend the extra money to have your work edited.

Step two:  Finding an agent or publisher.  
These days, most works need an agent to see publication.  There are several resources writers can use to find agents (, or a book called Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market).  Make a list of agents or publishers who might be interested in your work.  Research their submission requirements.  You may need to write a query letter or a book proposal outlining your book’s summary, your credentials, and a marketing plan.  There are plenty of books on the market which can help you do that.

Step three:  Accepting a contract.   
If you’re lucky, your work will be accepted.  You will then receive a contract from the publisher.  Go through the contract carefully.  Make sure you understand which rights you are keeping and which you are giving to the publisher.  The legal jargon can be a little confusing.  If you need help, don’t be afraid to contact a lawyer.  Most of the time, your agent will be able to help you with the tricky aspects of accepting a contract. 

Step four:  Passing the editorial process.   
So you thought what you submitted was the way it was going to be?  Think again.  The publishing house has its own editorial process.  You may be asked to revise your work several more times before it’s ready for publishing.  Swallow your pride and work with the editor.  Adhere to whatever deadlines are set.  Always be professional and follow your editor’s suggestions.

Step five:  Reviewing the galley proof.   
After the book has gone through a design phase, you will receive an early printed version of the book, called a galley proof.  Read through the proof and make any corrections before returning it to the publisher.  This is the last stage of the editorial process.

Step six:  Marketing your book.   
It’s time to get out and tell the world about your book.  You might be asked to make promotional appearances.  Do as much as you can to promote your book.

Step seven:  Last but not least, your book is printed and shipped.   
Pat yourself on the back – you wrote a book and you survived the publishing process!

About Author Sherry Ellis:
Sherry Ellis is a freelance writer who writes articles for parenting magazines and children’s publications.  Her first book, That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN, was published in 2005.  Her second, That Mama is a Grouch, was published in May of 2010.  It was honored as a finalist in the Parenting/Family category of the 2010 USA Book News Awards. 

Sherry is also a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano.  Ms. Ellis lives in Loveland, Ohio with her husband and two children.

You can learn more about Sherry Ellis and her current World of Ink Virtual Tour at

Utah Children's Writers Very FIRST Writing Contest is now CLOSED

Great job to all those who entered!

Check back Monday morning for your first chance to vote on the best entry.

And don't forget to sign up for the "30 Days, 30 Stories" project in April. See post below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

30 Days, 30 Stories Project

30 Days, 30 Stories Project

This whole blog started as a way to showcase the work of those participating in our first "30 Days, 30 Stories" project. It's almost April again and we're collecting names for people who want to join us.

Every author who joins is assigned a day to post a story or poem (500 or so words) to the blog. Any age, any genre-- preferably for kids/teens. Each day is a different work of art.

Want to join? Leave a comment below and I'll add you to the list. Assigned days and more info will be going out in a week. 

Happy Birthday UCW Blog

Our little blog turns two tomorrow. It might not be the biggest blog on the block, but I learn a lot from it, and am proud to be a part of it. Thank you to all the writers and readers who make this one of my favorite little hidden corners of the Net!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Which is the Highest Writing Virtue, Persistence or Patience?

by Deren Hansen

If you had asked me whether persistence or patience was the highest writing virtue several months ago, I would have chosen persistence. Now I'm more inclined to say patience.

I've discussed patience here as one of the unpopular virtues of makers and as an important tool for writers.

Natalie Whipple brought the topic to the forefront for me with several posts this past week. In the first, she discussed the grinding doubt of being on submission for fifteen months without a sale. In the second, she explored what she learned from the experience.

You might argue that patience and persistence are both aspects of devotion; that both similarly imply sticking with something even if you don't want to. Granted, but I think there's one important distinction: persistence implies something more active than patience.

Here's what Natalie said:
"What I was least prepared for was the loss of control. It was easy to have faith in my agent, but at the same time it was strange not being able to do anything. I just have to...wait. In querying, when you get a rejection you can send another letter out. You can decide who to send to, when, and what. That all goes away, and while it's nice it's also weird. I was so used to working for myself, and now my writing fate is out of my hands."
For those of use who cope with difficult situations by finding something constructive to do, situations where the only thing you can do is wait are extremely trying. Put another way, the wannabe-writer-sphere is so full of encouragement to keep writing that it leaves you ill-prepared for the time when the writing is done and the waiting begins.

"But isn't that when you should work on your next book?"

Yes, of course. My point is that for some of us it can be very difficult to accept the fact that there comes a point where there is nothing more we can do to improve the chances of success for the book that's on submission--that there's no more scope for persistence--and that patience is the only way to continue.

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.