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St. Louis Reflections

St. Louis Reflections, an anthology by members of the St. Louis Writers Guild, contains an essay by me called “An Intimate Acquaintance.” To read more about this wonderful book of St. Louis stories see http://eliot.stlwritersguild.org/wordpress/ or www.thewriterslens.com Thanks to Brad R. Cook, President of the SLWG, for all his work on the project and to Mary Menke who edited the book. An anthology book signing event will be held on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 6 North Cafe – 14438 Clayton Rd. in Ballwin from 10am-Noon. Come meet the contributors!

Posted in Books, Uncategorized.

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Opportunity

I should be writing. I should be marketing my book. I should be blogging. I should be . . . (fill in the blank). Lately, I’m always finding an excuse not to be disciplined in my writing life. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all that is needed to sustain a productive writing career, so I avoid it all. I focus on other things that are easily attained or maintained.

For example, this week I went with my family to the Faye Inn, a tavern in Fayetteville, Illinois. The smell of beer wafts over me as I step inside onto the worn wooden floor. Two long tables hold an already anxious crowd of mostly seniors, and a younger pack clusters at the bar, their elbows propped, hands gripping their longnecks. My family claims the last vacant table while dad and I unpack our instruments and set up in the corner under the muted, flat-screen TV.

Soon, dad and I are joined by the other Tuesday-night musicians and the jam session is underway. Twelve-string and six-string guitars, an accordion, a fiddle, and two banjos rouse the crowd. The microphone passes from musician to musician, each choosing his or her favorite song to sing with the throw-together band accompanying. Even audience members play along on spoons and a tambourine.

I don’t know many of the bluegrass songs the band plays, but I follow along on my guitar. Dad, playing his banjo, and I play country tunes when our turns come around. I get a big round of applause for playing “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon,” and Dad, age eighty-four, gets accolades for “Make the World Go Away.”

The evening passes quickly, my guilt about not writing drowned out by the music. Putting fun into my writing week was a boost to my spirit, might even make me a Tuesday-night musician at the “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon.” While I was forgetting about writing, Mom worked the crowd and sold two of my books. Focus and opportunity are always at hand.

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing.

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Birth of a Book

My book is finished. I hold it my hands and marvel at its beauty. It’s my child, perfect in every way, although I suppose there are probably some flaws hidden in the text, amid the words my mind created. I remember the struggles of putting it all together, the hours upon hours of tweaking sentences and arranging paragraphs. “It’s a fast read,” people have commented. I guess it is, but I couldn’t help wondering if my words affected them. Did they hurt when I hurt, cry when I cried, tremble when I was scared? Did they know it was more than a story? Did they understand the underlying themes? Did I enlighten them? Entertain them? Bore them? Will they want to read more books I write? Birthing a book is an arduous task but a thoroughly rewarding accomplishment. But now I suffer from postpublishing blues due to marketing tasks overload. Creativity pauses while I turn my attention to book sales. Still, I feel my next story beckoning, calling me to empty myself on pages, to birth another child. Growing a book also takes time, so be patient, my friends.

Posted in Books, Self Publishing.


Book Launch Party

Thanks to everyone who attended my Book Launch Party!  What a fun evening!  My only complaint—it went by too fast.  I wished I’d had more time to chat with everyone, and I am forever grateful for your support in this new chapter of my life.

Thanks for purchasing a book(s).  I hope you enjoy reading it and will tell your friends and family about it so they too might buy a copy.  I would be ever so grateful if you would write a review of the book on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Living-Skin-Even-Its-Purple/dp/0741467488/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318097024&sr=1-1

and/or Buy Books on the Web http://www.buybooksontheweb.com/product.aspx?ISBN=0-7414-6748-8

You don’t need to be a writer to put down your thoughts about the book.

I hope that Living in My Skin, Even if it’s Purple, my story of courage, will inspire self-acceptance in those who have a less than perfect image and will serve as a stimulus to others to move beyond differences.

Posted in Books, Self Publishing.


Publishing

My book, Living in My Skin, Even if it’s Purple, is at the publishing house! I’m teetering between excitement and doubt while praying that the book will resemble my vision for it. What if I hate it? Maybe I should have done this; maybe I should have done that. After all that writing, you’d think the hard part would be over, but I feel it’s only beginning. It’s a one-man-pony show here—write, edit, revise (many times), submit, proof, publish, market, promote, and sell, sell, sell. Golly, that’s a lot of bags to strap on that pony! Can I do it? Will it be worth it? I’m fearful my book launch will flop. Excitement . . . doubt. Stay tuned!

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Self published authors’ input desired

For all you self published authors, do you have any words of wisdom about the process of self publishing?  Would you do it again?  What would you do differently?  Tell us your experience if you don’t mind.

Thanks!

Posted in Self Publishing.

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Contestants Beware!

I’ve warned my writing friends about a certain humor contest that doesn’t seem on the up and up.  Although the entry fee is a mere $5, the contest rules claim there will be three winners.  Last year, however, the contest only awarded two writers prize money—first and second place.  The contest judge chose not to award a third place and gave no reason for withholding the loot.  Maybe no one else entered but those two.  Wait a sec—I should have been awarded third place because I entered.  Why no third place?

This year I got an email about the next contest, same guidelines.  I was a little ticked with what happened last year, so I replied to the email, calling the contest a “rip off,” which in my humble opinion it was because there was no explanation for not awarding a third place prize.  Finally, my writing got the attention of the contest host, who sent me an email, asking, “What have you done with your life?  Who are you?  What have you accomplished?  What are your credits?  How have you helped anyone in your life?”  The host had no answer for the non awarded prize but informed me I didn’t have to answer the questions because the answers were known.  “No one and nothing.”  

So, I will drag my poor pathetic life to a dark and dingy hovel, lick my wounds, and consider the results of calling someone who hosts a humor contest “not funny.”

Posted in Writing Contests.

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Query Letter Part 4: Summing Up

Your summation might include a sentence about your writing achievements, especially if it pertains to your proposed idea.  For example, if you have published articles on various dietary supplements, and you are pitching an article comparing the costs of dietary supplements, mention your credits and the publications.  Offering to send writing clips might entice an editor to look more closely at your idea.  If you don’t have any clips yet, be sure to state what qualifies you to write the article (education, experience).

As you conclude your query letter, state what you want the editor to do:

  • Thank you for considering my query.
  • I look forward to working with you.
  • May I send you a few of my writing clips to help you make your decision?
  • May I send you the article for review?  (If you have already written it.)

 

Finally, thank the editor for her time and indicate that you are eager to hear from her.  If this is an exclusive query, advise the editor and disclose how long you are willing to wait for her response before querying another publication. 

Use a short complimentary closing—sincerely, respectfully, yours truly.  Skip two lines and type your full name, then sign below it.

If your letter goes longer than one page, narrow your side margins to an inch or reduce the header and footer margins.  Don’t be tempted to reduce the font size; stick with a 12-point font for readability (except in the contact information in the header).   

Do your homework—know the publication intimately, its readership, and the editor’s name and preferences.  Keep your letter concise and professional, and you will attract assignments.

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Query Letter Part 3: The Body

Keeping in mind the ideal length of a query should be one page and the hook/opening is your first paragraph, the body of the query is usually three to five paragraphs.  Your goal is to convince the editor that your idea is unique and interesting, that it would mesh with the style of the publication and its readership.

In one or two paragraphs, detail the title and length of the proposed article.  Note the structure you’ll use—bullet points, narrative, anecdotal—to express your ideas.  Be certain to list a fact or two, if necessary, to corroborate your ideas, and reveal sources you’d interview for the article.  Mentioning flexibility on word count to suit the editor’s needs might help land the assignment.        

You want to reveal in your query enough information about your article to whet the editor’s appetite for more.  Don’t feel obligated to disclose every detail.  Hopefully, your brief, well-written query will tempt the editor to ask for more information or to offer you an assignment.  Treat the query like a job interview by maintaining a professional approach, and editors will perceive you as one who tends his work with care.  That will help you secure assignments.

 Next up: Summing up

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Query Letter Part 2: The Opening

Now that you understand what a query letter is and ideas for placing your contact information, you need to begin the letter itself.  I hope it goes without saying that the salutation should be addressed to a person—Mr. or Ms. Lastname—not to a generic term like “Editor,” although I have received many rejections addressed “Dear Writer.”  It doesn’t feel very personal.  Occasionally, you’ll have to call the publication to get the editor’s name.  Clarify any ambiguous names.  Chris could be a man or a woman.

 Now comes the hard part—the opening sentence.  The hook.  You want to catch that editor’s attention with your first sentence, drawing her into the letter just like the opening sentence of a story draws in the reader.  Perhaps a shocking statistic, an interesting quote, or a mysterious tease.  Here are a few examples that I have used:

  1. Getting sick in the Golden State could be hazardous to your health.
  2. “The most happy marriage I can picture . . . would be the union of a deaf man to a blind woman,” wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the eighteenth century poet.
  3. It was all the Lakers’ fault.    

Every one of these hooks was the opening sentence to an article I proposed.  It pricked the editor’s interest, made her want to discover the why or what next. 

 Another way to open your letter might begin with a question, which can provoke article interest, but beware of editors’ preferences.  Some are not thrilled with queries filled with questions that don’t deliver at least some of the answers or suggest that you will answer those questions in your article.

 Beginning your query letter with an outstanding hook just might sell your article.  Don’t ever use profanity or familiarity.  This letter is a business proposal.  You want the editor to see you at your best, professional writing self.  Anything that departs from that image will most assuredly hinder acceptance.  So, be creative with that opener.  Hook that editor with your creativity.

Next up, the body of the query letter.

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