Thursday, June 28, 2012

How To Make Fortune Favor You

Hello, my friends. I'm barely getting this post in on time. But I was fixing my car, okay?

:) I know. Excuses, excuses.

Today I would like to share with you something that I learned from a beer billboard ad.


And you want to know the funny thing? I learned it while I was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Atlanta, Georgia. A little ironic, I know. But when I saw this slogan, it stuck with me, and I've quoted it to myself ever since.

Are you ready? Here it is.


And that's it. I have no idea what that has to do with beer. But it's true. Fortune totally favors the bold.

Writers? Be bold. Bold in writing. Bold in submitting. Bold in making friends at conferences. You never know what will happen. So why not try out the bold way and see what results it produces?

Fortune does not favor the fearful. (Fortune doesn't favor the stupid, either, so we have to make sure that we aren't being stupid and mistaking it for bold. Yes? Yes.)

Be bold! And tell me stories of your boldness!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gatekeepers and Advocates

by Deren Hansen

In the past, there was a clear line between traditional and vanity publishing because it was difficult and expensive to set oneself up as a publisher. Now that anyone can be a publisher, the electronic pioneers wonder if traditional publishers bring any value to the table.

It's a good question--and I don't have any answers. But I want to point out a structural truth that's getting muddled in the agony and ecstasy of the invasion of the e-readers.

We often talk of all the gatekeepers we have to get past in order to get published. I've even heard the phrase,"vetted by publishers"--as if publishers where somehow the guardians of all that is good and true. But our sloppy language contributes to our confusion about the role of publishers.

The problem is that we've confused gatekeeping with advocacy.

Advocacy is an important element in maintaining the social fabric. A too-evident self-interest triggers alarm signals in the fairness centers of our monkey brains and we become deeply suspicious of the proposition. On the other hand, if a nominally disinterested party champions someone's cause we take that as an indication that the case has merit. That's why there are times when we need lawyers and agents.

The role of publishers, in the market that is publishing, is advocacy through investment. Talk is cheap. Putting your money where your mouth is by investing a substantial sum in a book says something. Of course there's no direct correlation between the amount invested and the quality of the book. But if publishers are rational economic actors, a non-trivial investment implies an endorsement--perhaps it's worth our attention if the publisher was willing to contribute so much to the project.

The new world of frictionless, costless e-publishing changes the nature of advocacy. Some people have done well as self-publishers because they've cultivated a legion of on-line advocates. But that same lack of friction has attracted mindless hordes of content-farmers, with automated systems that spider the web for articles and spew random compilations as e-books, who can make a fortune even if people buy only a few copies of each book.

My point is that regardless of the form, whether traditional publishers or social media reputation networks, our structural need for advocates doesn't go away in the digital world.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Inspiration from the UK

By Julie Daines

Sorry I've been a little scare around these parts recently. I've been on holiday in England and Scotland for the past two weeks with my family.

Growing up, I lived in London for about a year and a half, studying history and literature at the Brigham Young University London Study Abroad Center where my dad was the director. I never tire of seeing the places that inspired the Greats of English literature.

Since we traveled with all four kids, we didn't go to all my favorite places, but here are a few that inspired me this trip.

Hill Top Farm, home of Beatrix Potter. Situated on the edge of a tiny village in the Lake District, you can see where Beatrix Potter's love of the countryside, it's four legged inhabitants, and it's remarkable people influenced her drawings and stories. I was so inspired standing here at the birthplace of children's literature.

The birthplace and home of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. This site never loses it's magic for me. I get tingles every time they tell me I'm standing on the exact same stones where Shakespeare trod.

Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. The south transept of Westminster Abbey is dedicated to the great composers and writers over the ages. Buried here include Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Tennyson, Handel, and Chaucer.

Some of those named are not buried here, but are commemorated by plaques on the floor and walls. A few notables are Lewis Carroll, Blake, Wordsworth, Jane Austen, the Brontes.

The awesomeness of this place is overwhelming.

So, now that I'm back and filled with awe, I'm inspired to write, write, write--and to take my writing up a notch and make it the best I possibly can.

If you want to see what I'm in love with from these places, see my post at

What places have inspired your writing?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

October 2012 HWG Writer's Conference in St. George, Utah

I want to encourage all of you to join us at this exciting event!

Regardless of your level of writing experience—from the published author to the uninitiated, never-before-published authors!—this conference has something significant for every participant!

Below is a short description of our speakers and their topics for your information and planning! This year, because of the diversity of topics, the number of speakers I was able to procure, and trying to fit everything in during the two days of the event, we have break-out sessions during each day’s programming. I think we have prepared the sessions in such a way that everyone will be able to attend speakers who will be most helpful and informative.

Don’t forget that our “Early Bird” registration takes place prior to August 1st, 2012. Take advantage of the significant savings as well as helping us with the organization and planning. Also, the Lexington Hotel, the site of the conference, has reserved a block of rooms for those traveling from afar at rates that are lower than their normal rates for that time of year. Be sure to call the hotel at: (435) 628-4235 to take advantage of these limited available rooms.

In addition to the great list of speakers scheduled, this conference will be a two-day event for everyone to network with fellow authors and industry leaders. Be sure to bring your personal business cards and book info!

Finally, we look forward to our first-ever FREE community lecture on writing each night. The goal of this portion of the conference is two-fold: We want to give members of our community a chance to learn about the basics of writing. Second, we wanted to have a significant audience for our “Authorpalooza” event that will highlight authors who have books published. The Authorpalooza will follow each night’s free community lecture giving authors who have books to sell not only potential customers but also the opportunity to share their experiences with these interested folks!

Thank you for taking part in this conference and we look forward to spending two days of inspiration, motivation and information with you!

List of Topics and Descriptions:

Welcome Session: VS Grenier (President of HWG) and David W. Smith will kick off the conference with a welcome session and an informal meet-and-greet session

Character Development and Dialogue (J.A. Wilkin): The Character Analysis – Developing strong, unforgettable characters that live in the memories of your readers. Beefing up Your Dialogue – Helping your characters speak believably.

Agent/Publishing: (Dave Rosenstein): Dave will share his experiences in dealing with agents, how to attract an agent, as well as what publishers are looking for…and what they’re not!

Query Letter Writing: (Kelley Lindberg); Presented in two parts, this query letter workshop includes the dos and don’ts of query letters. The second part is the actual workshop where we read examples and use what we’ve learned.

Eastern Character Development: (Debi Barmonde); an extremely useful tool in fleshing out your characters in ways that truly convey actual personification through Eastern Oriental recognition of personality, physical structure, and inclinations.

Memoirs: (Maralys Wills): A growing trend in the writing industry is the writing of Memoirs. Maralys will share her 25 years of teaching this aspect of writing!

Tune Your 5 Senses: (VS Grenier): Virginia will share her expertise in enlightening the reader by engaging their five senses through your ability to include these in your writing and in your character development.

Dinner/Keynote Speaker: (Johnny Tan): As an award-winning author and speaker, Johnny enriches his readers and audience with the knowledge to improve their intellectual growth and spiritual well being. His, From My Mama’s Kitchen® Live! conferences serve as a platform for a select team of professionals committed to helping others move into action using the power of love!

Saturday Morning Keynote Speaker: (David Pace); David heads up the Literary Arts for Utah’s Arts and Museums as well as Utah Arts Council.

Marketing Yourself: (David Smith); In addition to his creation and authorship of the top-selling Disney book, “Hidden Mickey” Dave will be sharing ways to market yourself and your work. Writing is just the start of a life-long process of creating interest in your book.

Art of Editing: (Caroll Shreeve); As important as the quality of the book, editing is an all-important part of any successful manuscript. Caroll will share here extensive experience and knowledge of how to edit your work!

Short Story: (Darlien Breeze): Darlien will be sharing such topics as: How long is a short story? The “Why” of writing short stories; Advice on getting started; word limitations, narration, coming out with a “bang”, the revision/edit process, and much more!

Passive and active Voice: (J.A. Wilkins); Take time to discover the dangers of writing in Passive voice and how you can make your writing come alive by using active voice.

MFA: (Kristina Crandall): Kristine Crandall will talk about the increasing popularity of MFA Creative Writing programs; what they have to offer for both experienced and aspiring writers of poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction; and what aspects of these programs might be appealing for those not interested in making a full graduate school commitment.

Ten Ways to Upgrade your Manuscript: (Maralys Wills); this lecture will cover a number of the small but very important issues that can raise your manuscript to a new level.

Action/Thriller/Suspense: (Dave Rosenstein): How to incorporate realistic action, a thrilling atmosphere, and a level of suspense and intrigue to your writing.

1st 13 Lines: (Caroll Shreeve): This unique activity/workshop will allow writers to submit their “1st 13 lines” from their manuscript and Caroll will use these to discuss the merits and the areas that can solidify the attention of the reader from the first moment they start reading your work!

When: October 12th—13th 2012
Where: Lexington Hotel,
St. George, Utah
850 South Bluff Street

Registration Deadline:
Sept. 1st 2012
Early Bird Registration BEFORE Aug. 1st 2012

Registration Rates:
                                            Early Bird                After Aug. 1st           @ Conf
HWG or LUW Member       $90                         $100                          $120
Non HWG/LUW Mem .      $100                       $120                           $135
Friday Dinner/person            $20                         $25                               n/a
Author Booth Fri & Sat        $20                         $30                               n/a
HWG/LUW Booth               $10                         $20                               n/a
One Day Reg. (Fri)               $50                         $65                             $75
                       (Sat)              $60                         $70                             $80

Contact: David W. Smith: Conference Chairman at: or at
for more details and to get a registration form.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Seeing Into The Future

by Scott Rhoades

Do you ever watch old sci-fi movies that are set in the distant future, only what was the distant future when the movie was made has already come and gone? It's fun to look at those and see what those visionaries of the past got right and wrong.

For example, one thing you see all the time is that our present world was expected to rely heavily on computers. They get that right. Only, the computers are usually huge banks of blinking lights and gauges. You seldom see predictions of how small computers would become.

I recently read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. In addition to bigger things that he got largely right, like thought being replaced by entertainment, it was amazing to read about TV screens that took up entire walls, "seashells" in the ear that provided portable entertainment and news (reminding me of today's ear buds), and other items that still seemed impossibly futuristic when I first read it as a teenager (not to mention 1951, when it was written). He also missed some things, like mentioning somebody going down to the store on the corner to make a phone call, which rarely happens now.

So, if you're writing about the future, how do you deal with technological advances? How do you forecast what the world will be like, and what kinds of devices people will use? Some current trends aren't too hard to predict, like personal portable electronics becoming all-pervasive or video games becoming more realistic. But what about things that seem impossible? Especially if you're not the type who keeps up on experimental science.

Part of it is imagination and guesswork, of course. There's really no way to predict earth-shattering changes that will come up by surprise. But if you write speculative fiction, articles like one I read a while back at are a gold mine. You can look at the predicted technologies, then think about them and imagine how they will affect the world, and what kinds of other things will come about because of these predicted technologies. You can also project societal changes that will result due to the tech changes.

For example, I've seen things where something Internet-like was predicted. Look at The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with its portable encyclopedia of everything. However, I can't think of anything I've seen or read that reflects the way the Internet has changed the way we think and how we live our lives. The Internet has impacted everything from entertainment to religion to the way we think about our world and our place in it.

The last thing you want to do as a speculative writer is what so many B-movies of the fifties did: Imagine a future world exactly like the present world, where people dress like they do today and have the same gender and racial roles and attitudes (for example), only with space ships and massive blinking computers and radiation mutants.

If you hope to be read in the future, your story world must speak to those future readers and not feel ridiculously dated.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Not To Put Jalapenos In Banana Splits

A friend of mine at a writing conference that I am currently at told me this:

"No piece of writing is precious enough to ruin a book over."

Brilliant. Think about it. A jalapeno may be the best jalapeno in the world, but does it belong in your banana split?

But it's a good jalapeno! C'mon, it's great. I worked so hard to grow that jalapeno, and I cut it just right, and why is everybody such a jalapeno hater, and what's the big deal anyway?

Let go of the jalapeno.

Put it in your next book, which is a big bowl of chili.

Or, just keep the jalapeno to yourself, and enjoy what it was.

No piece of writing is precious enough to ruin a book over. No jalapeno is precious enough to ruin a banana split over.

And that's all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Does it Mean to "Break In?"

by Deren Hansen

When authors tell the story of how they came to have books on the shelves in the bookstores, they often talk about how they "broke into" publishing. Perhaps that's why we don't laugh when people say that publishing is like a high-security facility.

And because of the way we tell stories (i.e., we skip the boring bits), it's easy to hear "breaking in" as synonymous with having "arrived."

What does it really mean to break in?

It might mean many things. The one thing it doesn't mean is that you've made it.

In terms of the market that we call publishing, it means that you're now a player.

At the most fundamental level, it simply means that someone is willing to make a non-trivial investment in your work.

  • Getting an agent, for example, means that he or she is investing their time and energy because they believe they can land a contract for your book and get paid. 
  • Getting a contract means that the publisher is investing real money, both by financing your advance and through the cost they will bear, in your book.
  • Getting readers who will buy your book means they are investing some money and, more importantly, time in your story.

Breaking in only means that you're invest-able. There are no guarantees, for any of the parties involved, that the investment will pay off.

As with many things in this delightfully perplexing industry, "making it" is really a euphemism for "starting a whole new game."

Monday, June 18, 2012

June Contest Entries

Read all the first line entries below and then 
vote for your favorite on the front page of the blog! 
You have until Friday June 29th to vote. 

Lauren: Silvya forced herself to breathe, even though the smell in the tiny room was enough to make anyone who inhaled pass out.

BruceOkay, let’s be up front about something: I’m a dog.

RebeccaThe moment Suzie smiled at me I realized I'd forgotten to blackmail her.

TrinityI know they're coming, it's just a matter of time.


LynseyYou could say it was a typical Monday morning, like you'd expect any typical story to begin, but this Monday morning was a bit too atypical to be typical: this Monday morning, robot dinosaurs from outer space robbed the world of every last bottle of sunscreen, dooming the pasty white people to a lifetime of suffering --and then Agent Harold Gunderson woke up.

MelanieAsher laid his hand on the ragged rock framing the doorway into the mountain.

Mashua7The detective walked silently around the dark corner of yet another creepy house, and was hit in the face with a pie.

LanaThe first time Taemon's brother tried to kill him was the night Uncle Fierre came over with his unisphere.

MarionThe scariest place for me was in my mind, so I twisted my hair tight enough to squeeze out all my thoughts.

PamannerShe inhaled the scent of fresh cut grass, passed the squishy water balloon from hand to hand and felt alive like the bass that had tugged on her line just that morning--summer breezed in, her summer, and she was ready to sail.

MarenI wanted to climb instead of fall, but the sinking feeling kept pulling me down.

JaredThe curtains in the open window hung still and motionless despite the storm raging behind them.

DianaSnow falls gently from my bedroom ceiling, dusting the room in a moon-glow pearlescence reminiscient of mom's fairy cupcakes.

Grandma Jenn: I know there is a big humongous scary monster under my bed because
I can hear him snore at night.

AndyI never expected such priceless gems to emerge from something so ordinary.

LizzieIf my parents would have told me I was a Guardian, with a family obligation to protect the world, I could have planned a little better.

Read original posts & contest rules HERE

Friday, June 15, 2012

From The Mailbag

The last time I opened my mailbag on this blog the world changed, so I thought I'd do it again. Regular readers (and if you're irregular, they have medications for that now) may remember that my mailbag contains letters I would have received had people known they could write to me to ask me important questions of the day. If people only knew how much I could enlighten them and how much joy I could bring to their lives, the bag would be full, so I'll pretend it it is and ask myself the questions they should have asked. Oh, and if that credit card company realized how much most writers make, their application wouldn't be the only piece of actual mail I got today.

So, without further ado, here goes.

Dear Mr. Ropes,
My friends tell me often that I tend to repeat redundant phrases again and again when I write. I don't know what that means. I try to completely eradicate those pesky pests, but they keep telling me the exact same thing every single time we meet together. I think they are over-exaggerating. Can you help me by spelling out in detail what they mean?
Thank you,
Phil from Roosevelt

Dear P from R:
This is a common problem, one many writers struggle with. You've come to the right place for help, let me assure you. Let's look at your letter, which includes several redundant phrases. "Repeat redundant (whatever) again and again" is almost too obvious to mention, but I guess it's too late for that now. Let's keep looking. Eradicate means to do away with. If something is eradicated, it no longer exists. So there's no reason to put completely before eradicate, which is complete by nature. Likewise, pests are always pesky, exact and same mean the exact same thing (couldn't resist), adding single to every doesn't really add anything except maybe some emphasis, people who meet are always together, and all exaggerations are over-stated, so you can leave off the over. Finally, if something is spelled out, it is already demonstrated in detail.

You can find a lengthy list of many of these phrases online, at

Hey Scott-Dog,
I want to be a writer. I know can put grammarical sentences together good and I liked the book I read back in 4th Grade. My problems is, I can't never come up with a good idea for a story. How do us writers get our ideas?
Lenny from Price

Dear Lenny,
Two things. OK three. First off, if my wife hears me being referred to as a dog, she'll make me stay out back. See, she's a cat person. She doesn't mind dogs, but a dog in a house full of cats is an invitation for trouble. So let's knock off the Scott-Dog business, OK?

Next, ideas. Writers are constantly bombarded with ideas. Sometimes they come in dreams. Sometimes they come from our life experiences. We might see a picture or a news story that triggers an idea, or hear an unusual snippet of conversation. Traveling is another good way to generate ideas, because when you are somewhere new, you usually pay closer attention to your surroundings, opening yourself up to the idea fairy. (Note, Lenny, that the Idea Fairy doesn't actually exist. This is just an expression.) To get an idea of where some writers find inspiration, check out this blog post and be sure to read the comments.

Finally, I recommend to any new writer (and this is by no means meant as a personal criticism of you), that he refamiliarize himself with the rules of grammar and good writing. Many of us start writing seriously long after leaving school, and can use a refresher. There are many ways to do this, but websites such as are a good place to start.

Scott Sweetie,
I was going to do your weekly laundry today but I noticed there were only five pairs of undies for seven days. Sunday and Tuesday are missing. I even looked under your bed. (You should do something about those dust mice.) Did you forget to change, Honey?"
Love, Mom

Mo-o-o-m, how many times have I told you? Not at the office, OK? Geez, mo-o-o-om. Seriously?
Love you, though,
Can we have Pesketti with hot dog chunks for dinner? I love Pesketti with hot dog chunks.

Dear Ms. Rosie,
You see all and know all. As do I. Except for one thing I don't see often enough. I have read many articles about what I should include in the query for my 72,000-word fictional picture story, but I don't hardly ever see anything about what I shouldn't say. Any tips?
Leslie from Draper

Dear Leslie,
We've never actually met, have we? You seem to make a couple incorrect assumptions about me, although you have the see all and know all thing pretty much right.

You are in luck. As it happens, I (coincidentally, can you believe it?) just read a blog post on this very (this very: see first question, above) subject. I refer you once again to the Books and Such blog, which is quickly becoming one of my go-to writing blogs.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Letting Your Book Be

Ever fought with a book you are writing to the point that you wanted to throw it to the wolves? I have. I've been fighting with one this week. I love this book. But it's at a stage where it contradicts everything I say, leaves messes everywhere, lies to me all the time, and constantly seeks to annoy me just because it can.

If I didn't love it so much, I'd hate it. As it is, I'm just trying to be patient with it while it grows up to what it wants to be.

And that, my dear friends, is what my post is about. Letting your book grow up to what it wants to be. Last night I had a very enlightening conversation with a dear writing friend of mine, Andrew Cannon, who will someday be famous for his brilliant writing.

This is the jist of what happened.

"Joseph, you know what your problem is, don't you?"
"No, what?"
"You're not writing one book. You're writing at least two."
"No. No way."
"Yes way. I knew it when I read it. You're writing a trilogy. No wonder you're having problems. You're trying to fit three books into one."
"But I don't want to write a trilogy! This is a stand-alone novel."


(Me.) "Oh no. No no no."
Andrew (laughing): "Sorry. But you don't have a broken book. You have a working trilogy."

It's like having triplets when you planned for one child.


But a tad overwhelming.

So I have a choice: I can decide to try to force this book to be what I want it to be, which is, a stand-alone novel. Or I can write what the book wants to be. Which may be a trilogy. 200,000 words instead of 75,000 words. I can let it take however long it wants to take.

I'm picking option number 2. I think it's the right thing.

Dang book.

So. Any good stories about letting your stories be what they want to be? I could use some encouragement here. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Publishing: It's not a System, It's a Market

by Deren Hansen

It's both tempting and comforting to think of publishing as a system.

Systems, after all, have rules which, if followed, produce consistent results.

As aspiring authors, we study examples of things that worked, from pitches and queries to hooks and books, driven by the faith that if we can just figure out and follow the rules, we too will be published.

But publishing isn't a system.

First, there's no governing body to agree upon and enforce the rules. [Jane Friedman, a publishing industry veteran, has a blog called, There are No Rules to make this very point.]

Second,it's not consistent. I've heard people wryly characterize publishing as a high-security facility and would-be authors as infiltrators. If an author breaks into the facility, there's a big celebration, and then the guards seal the breach and add extra security measures to make sure no one else can ever get in that way again. It's a bit cynical, but there's an important element of truth in that story: it's different for everyone.

So, if publishing isn't a system, what is it?

"I know this one," you say. "Publishing is a business."

That's a much better characterization, but it still falls short. "A business," implies organization, perhaps even a degree of centralization. The fact that the big six publishers are all located in in New York certainly looks like centralization. But publishing is more than New York (sorry, Big Apple), and is not well enough organized to call it, "a business."It is, in fact, many businesses.

The best characterization is that publishing is a market--not a commodities market (i.e., you can't replace writing with corn and have the same market), but a market just like the market for goods and services where you live.

Open markets are about the things being traded, but they're also about the relationships among buyers and sellers. Why do you patronize certain stores and not others? Likely because the people at the stores you like have done something for you, like remembering your name or giving you a discount.

In the context of a market, where customers can freely choose among vendors, following "the rules" doesn't guarantee that customers will buy from you. Will, for example, a restaurant that follows all the "rules" of good restaurants always succeed in a market where there are plenty of restaurants to choose from? The "rules" might be necessary for success, but they're not sufficient to ensure success.

Clearly, if you want to participate in the market, you have to offer competitive goods or services. The "rules" of writing help define what it takes to produce a competitive novel. But once you're in the market, the game changes to one of relationships. So stop wondering why no one has recognized the merit of your novel and get out and meet some people.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Base of Story

My current project is a confusing web of characters and subplots that are causing me trouble to ‘control the madness.’ I think we may all need a second to step back and look at the key factors that produce and drive a story.

I believe that all stories start with a base of developed characters in a developed setting. Though a novel may be considered “plot driven” the conflict and plot usually still come back to characters and their decisions. Without strong characters we have no hope to have a well-honed story.

Writers need to know their characters pretty well at the outset of the story and—and this is the most important part of the post--stay true to them throughout the project. The plot is fueled forward by these characters’ decisions and the consequences thereof. We can organize and make sense of our stories by always remembering the characters’ personalities, relationships, and desires. Even the all-important conflict that enters into—and then fuels—the story comes through motivations of still other characters.

When trying to contain the chaos of a story, I think we naturally want to look to a timeline. We want to watch how we organize the plot into scenes and how and when everything happens. I think it makes more sense however—if I haven’t gotten the point across already—to look at the why it all happens. Look at the weaving of the characters not the events.

The entire timeline comes together because of and through characters. Lost? Analyze your characters! At every point in the story every character is thinking and wanting/working for something. What is that? How are they going to get it? Who else’s goals may conflict or join with theirs when interwoven?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ringing True with Author Viji K. Chary

As you all know, I like to ask fellow authors and those who are doing a World of Ink Virtual Tour to share a guest post now and then on my Sunday postings. Today, I have author Viji K. Chary visiting us. She recently published a children's picture book, Porcupine's Seeds, however, she has been published in many children's magazines such as Highlights, Ludybug Magazine and Girls Life to name just a few.

I asked Viji K. Chary to share her view points, tips and insight on relating to children readers. I hope you enjoy her guest post as much as I have.


Writing for young children involves dedication and sincerity. As a writer, I try to tap into a young person’s emotions and thoughts to make my writing ring true.  

Young children show their emotions wholeheartedly. When a child is happy, he is all smiles, hopping like a jack rabbit or skipping around the room. When a child is sad, she may punch, cry or slam the door. When child is shy, he may hide behind a familiar person or cover his face. Young children show honest emotions and live in the moment. 

When writing for young children, I reach back into my memories. I remember traveling on a bus with my father when an elderly man winked at me.  With awe, I spend a good half hour manually shutting one eyelid. I could not coordinate my eye muscles to wink in a flash like he did. Another time, I remember being frightened as elevator doors opened between floors, leaving us with solid wood instead of an opening. I sensed my father’s panic. I remember the queasy feeling in my stomach when I was introduced to an adult that made me hide behind my mother. Once, my grandmother asked me to bring flowers from the garden. While in the garden, I was startled by an iguana behind a flower bush. I can still feel the prickling of my skin when I saw it. When I was six years old, I moved from a mostly African American school to a Caucasian school. Being Indian, there was a marked difference in acceptance for a student of color. I can still feel that inequality.

While I do not recall many incidents from my young childhood, the ones I do are filled with emotions - emotions that I can incorporate in my stories. Basic emotions, happiness, fear, shyness, wonder and anger stay the same through the generations. It is the settings and dialog that changes.

To stay in line with the setting and dialog of today, I ask my children or nephews to read my finished pieces. They will spot an error immediately. Once I wrote a story on a mouse named Red for kindergarteners. My nephew was confused with the color red and the name Red. He suggested that the mouse’s name be Jake. Jake it was.

A good children’s story, I think, has honest emotion and realistic setting and dialogue. I strive for this by keeping alive my childhood emotions. While I enjoy observing and spending time with young people in the family, it also strengthens my writing.

About the Author: 
Viji K. Chary was born in India and immigrated to the United States at the age of two. Her passion for writing stories began in elementary school and has evolved from coaching children in various activities; including gymnastics, classroom activities and creative competitions. Her stories have been published in Highlights for Children, Ladybug Magazine, Hopscotch for Girls and many more.

The World of Ink Network is currently touring author Viji K. Chary’s children’s picture book, Porcupine’s Seeds published by 4RV Publishing.

About the Book:
Porcupine longs to grow beautiful sunflowers in his garden just like Raccoon. When Raccoon give Porcupine seeds, she says that all they need is soil, sun, and water. But growing sunflowers is not easy for Porcupine.

You can find out more about Viji K. Chary’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Using Your Files

by Scott Rhoades

Anybody who has written for a while has files full of false starts, deleted scenes, and scrapped stories. We write them, realize they're going nowhere, and then we put them away because we can't bear to throw them in the can.

These scraps, fragments, and failed masterpieces are useful, though. If they never make it into a story, you can still use them for practice.

Say, for example, you want to see how it feels to write in present tense. You've never done it before and you aren't sure how you feel about it, but it might be fun to give it a try. You could try it out on your WIP, but that's risky. If you don't like it, you have to go back and fix it.

Just like a musician or any other artist, we need to practice. We should stretch our abilities by exercising and trying new techniques that are not comfortable for us yet. Those old files make the perfect exercise materials. We don't have to waste the energy of creating something new just for a work out that we'll probably toss later. The material's there already. All we have to do is play with the words that we already wrote.

So next time you wonder what it would feel like to write from a different point of view, or you want to practice voice, or do some description exercises that are far too detailed for the story you're hoping to publish, why not take one of those bits of writing from your files, maybe even a full short story that isn't going anywhere, and use it to to play around? You won't lose anything, and--who knows?--you just might discover that the story wasn't as useless as you had thought.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Memory of Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, age 91, passed away this morning leaving behind an amazing legacy of writing. One of the articles I read on Yahoo linked to this essay he wrote recently on rejection.

The amazing Blackstone came to town when I was seven, and I saw how he came alive onstage and thought, God, I want to grow up to be like that! And I ran up to help him vanish an elephant. To this day I don't know where the elephant went. One moment it was there, the next—abracadabra—with a wave of the wand it was gone!
In 1929 Buck Rogers came into the world, and on that day in October a single panel of Buck Rogers comic strip hurled me into the future. I never came back.

It was only natural when I was twelve that I decided to become a writer and laid out a huge roll of butcher paper to begin scribbling an endless tale that scrolled right on up to Now, never guessing that the butcher paper would run forever.

Snoopy has written me on many occasions from his miniature typewriter, asking me to explain what happened to me in the great blizzard of rejection slips of 1935. Then there was the snowstorm of rejection slips in '37 and '38 and an even worse winter snowstorm of rejections when I was twenty-one and twenty-two. That almost tells it, doesn't it, that starting when I was fifteen I began to send short stories to magazines like Esquire, and they, very promptly, sent them back two days before they got them! I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn't realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn. Then, during the late forties, I actually began to sell short stories and accomplished some sort of deliverance from snowstorms in my fourth decade. But even today, my latest books of short stories contain at least seven stories that were rejected by every magazine in the United States and also in Sweden! So, dear Snoopy, take heart from this. The blizzard doesn't last forever; it just seems so.

Novels and Novelty: NYC Publishing and the Relentless Drive for the New

by Deren Hansen

Last year, Agent Janet Grant published a  post entitled, "Stuff You Need to Know for 2011: Hold Back Those Book Trailers and Book Covers."

Janet suggested that we should resist the impulse to release trailers and book covers when they're created--which is often as much as a year before the book will be published.
If, as a reader, I’m exposed to these promo items (yes, that’s what a cover is), I soon start to think that the book is old news. Heavens, I’ve watched the trailer, I’ve seen the cover several times…didn’t I read that book already? If I think I haven’t read it, well, I just dismiss the book. I want to read what’s new.
It's no accident that we call long-form works of fiction, "novels." The word comes from Latin, via Italian, and means new, as in a new story (as opposed to retellings of Greek and Roman classics).

But, "novel," is even more appropriate in a business whose engine is a relentless drive for something new. Partly because of the curious consequences of an industry where the product is 100% returnable, and partly because of the publisher's roll as a risk aggregator and the consequent pressure to make big releases, it's the new thing that matters most.

This is one of the fundamental ways in which the interests of authors and publishers diverge: authors, like soaring birds that glide for hours on a single wing beat, strive for books that will provide royalties for decades to come; publishers must constantly flap (with each release) to stay in the air because they need the constant boost of short-term revenue.

"So," you ask, "are you complaining about publishing?

No. This is about understanding the true nature of the situation so that we can have proper expectations.

Don't grudge other authors their moment in the spot light. Prepare for yours. Expect the moment to be brief. Then get busy on your next "new" thing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Here's your laugh for today


1. The idea came from an article about this epidemic in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

2. The research and writing took seven years.

3. Thirteen publishers rejected it. Scholastic didn’t fully reject it, but asked if I’d rewrite it to be part of their Dear America series. I said thank you, no.

4. I lost track of the number of revisions. 14? 112? Whatever, it took a long time and needed a lot of work. This book was my apprentice piece.

5. It has sold more than one million copies in the United States, won all kinds of shiny awards, is a standard part of elementary and middle school curriculum, and has been translated into Catalan, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

June Blog Contest

Presenting our 2nd annual Blog Contest! 

Give us your best first line for a story-- your best sentence that will grab your readers by their toes and whisk them along on a magical/amazing/fabulous/intense journey.

The rules:

-one sentence
-posted as a comment to this post
-posted BEFORE 11:59 pm on June 15th
-in English :o)
-any type of story, any genre. It doesn't even have to be a story you've written yet!

On June 16th, we'll post all the entries and allow two weeks for the voting.

The contest:

-all entries will be posted on a new blog post
-readers of this blog will vote for the sentence they like the best
-the winner gets to take their pick from the prizes
-the 2nd runner up will take their pick from the remaining prizes, and so on until all the prizes are gone

The prizes:

-a $20 gift card to Amazon
-a personal blog button created by our uber-talented Julie Danes (she designs our blog buttons)
-a 10 page critique offered by one of our amazing bloggers
-a super-duper blog shout-out interview on this blog
-a story conversion to a Kindle e-reader format
-and possibly something else because I think I'm forgetting one! ;o)

Any questions?

Post your story starter sentence below!

Good luck!

Friday, June 1, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

by Scott Rhoades

I'm nearing the end of my two-week vacation. This year, I did something I've never done before. I scheduled a vacation solely for writing. Two weeks, including three weekends. 16 days of writing. See, I had a few problems. I had a story that had stalled, and I was having trouble getting it going again. Also, I have a day job as a Tech Writer. That means, I spend my days writing, and usually, the last thing I want to do after work is write some more. That contributed to the stall. Add a case of writer's block, and my story was in serious trouble. I also have a heavy workload at work, and I was tired. I needed a break. I rarely take a vacation because my work piles up and the stress is only worse when I get back. But this time, it was either rest or go insane.

You might think taking a vacation from a writing job seems counter-intuitive. Believe me, that crossed my mind too. But writing my own stuff is a great escape for me. Burying my brain in my own story, in my own dreams, might not be relaxing, really, but it's an affordable way to escape from my daily life. So I decided to try it.

So far, it's worked.

Even though there are still a couple of days left, I thought I'd share what I've learned. Maybe it will be useful, especially for those of you who have your own writing marathons in November.

There are a few things that are required before you start:

Time. You need to set aside time. Make it a vacation, a week, a day, whatever. It has to be a block of time that you can spend writing.

Family Support. Most of us, if we have a "staycation," it means we have a long list of things to take care of around the house. Those chores, little and big, that get neglected while you're busy with your life. Those can't be allowed to interfere with your writing vacation. I'm lucky. I have a wonderful wife who is supportive of my writing and respectful of my writing time. Also, because I often work at home one or two days a week, my family is used to me shutting myself in my den (my "Schreibwinkel," as I call it), and mostly leaving me alone when I'm working. If you're not similarly lucky, you might need to find a place where people will leave me alone.

A goal. It's easy to drift through those days without doing what you want if you don't set up specific goals. Even though I tend to be a slow writer, I decided I was going to shoot for 25,000 words for my two weeks. To me, that seemed almost over-ambitious, but it was something to reach for. That comes to just over 1500 words a day. So I set 1500 words as my goal. I knew I'd have trouble spending all of Memorial Day weekend in my Schreibwinkel, and that it might be hard to write 1500 words on Sunday, especially since my wife's work schedule left her free two of those Sundays, and I like hanging out with her. So I told myself it was OK to write less over that weekend and on Sundays, as long as I wrote something. I lowered my goal to 1000 words for those days, and bumped the rest of my days up a little. I also let me family know that I would be available to help with stuff around the house every day, and to get some much-needed rest, but not until I met my goal. And I've stuck with it. My writing has come first every day.

So, with all that in mind. I got started. I jumped in my first day and enthusiastically knocked out almost 2900 words. I knew I couldn't do that much every day, but it showed me that I could do quite a bit in a day if I set my mind to it. I'm now nearing the end of my vacation, and my goal is within fairly easy reach. But on my way to this point, I've learned quite a bit about myself and how I write.

  • That goal is critical. So many times, I've wanted to stop early. The writing doesn't always come easily, and some days I'm tired or I have other things I'd rather do. It would be easy to stop early. But I look at my count for the day, and force myself to keep going.

  • Chart it. I've kept a spreadsheet to track my daily word count and my progress toward that goal of 25,000 words. The spreadsheet shows my daily writing target, as well as how much I actually wrote. It also subtracts my progress so far from my goal, showing how far I am from 25,000 words (or eventually, how close I am). This has been invaluable. I don't think I'd be as close to my goal as I am without it.

  • Report it. Every day, I tell my wife how many words I've written. I also send a little report to my writing group, giving them my word count, and telling them how the day went. Their encouragement has kept me going. They remind me after frustrating days that first drafts are supposed to be bad, and that it's OK if I have gaping holes in my plot or if I'm not doing a good job with my characters. That's all stuff I can fix later.

  • Getting started is hard. So is restarting. Even though I wake up most mornings thinking about what I need to write, and looking forward to doing it, I find so many things to keep me from getting started. Facebook. Research. A big breakfast. Hanging out with my wife or my grandson. Those are just some of the things I use to procrastinate. Until I put down the fourth or fifth sentence, my self-doubts are strong, and my natural laziness is even stronger. I thought that would get easier with time, but as I write this, I still have three days and getting started hasn't gotten easier. Also, as soon as I stop for more than a couple minutes, all of those getting started problems pop up all over again. So I have to avoid interruptions. I just have to work. It helps to stop in a place where I know what comes next, and to leave off where I'll be excited to start in again. But it doesn't help as much as I'd like. It's still hard to start. But I do it.

  • Move forward. To meet my goal, I had to plug away and keep moving forward. I can't look back. I can skip a scene if the one I'm on isn't working, or I can skip ahead in the story, but the one thing I cannot do, under any circumstance, is go back and revise. I knew I needed an all-new first chapter, so I went ahead and wrote that, but I left everything else alone. As I write, if I realize what I'm writing means something earlier needs to change or be added, I insert a comment in my document telling myself what needs to be done. When I revise, I'll go through those comments, but right now, that's as close as I get to looking back. My goal is pretty aggressive for the way I write, and the only way to make it is to keep dumping in new words, whether they're any good or not. It's hard not to go back and fix stuff, but I had to give myself permission to suck. And believe me, I have. I dread having to go back and fix some of the garbage I've written over the last couple weeks. But at least I've written it, and that has led me to scenes that aren't so bad, or at least give me some hope that they'll eventually be good.

The result of all of this is that I feel more like a writer than I have in a long time. My story is always fresh in my mind. The writer's block is gone, and my story has been kick-started.

Many of the things I've learned apply whether I'm on a writing binge like I am now, or I'm just trying to work out a regular writing schedule. I'm hoping to be able to take this momentum and turn it into a more disciplined writing life, so I can finish this thing.I'm too far in now to let it die.

As I write this on Thursday (after my Thursday writing session, of course), I have three days left. I've written 23,307 words, which means I should blow away my goal, maybe as soon as tomorrow. But I'll keep going until my "vacation" is over.