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PUBLISHED March, 2007 in V.S. Grenier's Stories for Children Newsletter.

MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE PRINTED WORD:

ADVICE AND RESOURCES FOR NEW AUTHORS

 

My entire life has been lived around, through, and for the printed word. I was an avid reader living in a small town who existed each day for the next interesting book, magazine, or newspaper to come my way. The Bible was my grandparents’ reference book of morals by which I was raised. Between the school library and the church, I had frequent contact with the printed word but never imagined myself in the role of writer. I admit, though, I did often wish for the ability to craft a story with the finesse of the authors I read. Some of my favorite books as a child were the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. I would spend hours daydreaming of being as smart as Nancy or as brave as the Hardy Boys, but never did I envision myself writing my created stories down or getting paid to do so. Me write?

Yet, as I traveled the roads of my adult years, I learned the enjoyment of seeing research on a topic take form as I crafted my facts into my own wording and format. I saw my mother’s joy in her drawings of my sister and niece that illustrated the stories she wrote for our enjoyment. I discovered that a friend of mine was a writer and belonged to the local Writer’s Guild. Little by little, an idea began to be born. Me write?

One day I woke up to the realization that my life had been changed forevermore. What did I have left? I searched my soul and realized the seed of an idea had begun to grow. My words were still there. All had not been lost. Life would be different, but it could still be good. Perhaps a writer is what I should have been all along. My grandfather was a writer. His sermons were put to paper long before they were delivered to our ears during Sunday morning services. Perhaps I had needed to live enough life to have stories to tell, in order to teach others through my words. It is here my latest journey begins.

I would write!

After all, I had been creating stories in my head all my life. My childhood daydreams were stories I never put on paper, but in my head they were words. Thus began one of my most important pieces of research. How to turn myself into a full-fledged writer?

After a lot of thought, I decided there must be a book that would tell me what I needed to know. Books had been written about everything else! A trip to my local library yielded wonderful reference materials. The librarian pointed me to the proper shelf and I began my travels with three books tucked into my arms.

I rapidly realized that the Writer’s Digest truly is one of the most useful resources a writer can own. I bought the most recent edition while the presses may still have been warm from printing them. The other books that I found to be extremely helpful were Amoss and Suben’s Ten Steps to Publishing Children’s Books, published by Writer’s Digest Books, and From Inspiration to Publication, published by the Institute of Children’s Literature.

One of the suggestions that I read was to join a local Writer’s Group, as feedback from other writers is critical to an author’s success. Another author knows the key points that publishers focus on, and can often catch weak areas missed by the writer during the initial proofreads. Also, other authors are the only people who truly understand the frustration that writing can bring. Stressful situations, extreme fatigue, or too hectic a schedule frequently bring on cases of writer’s block that cannot be worked through without writing at odd hours of the day or night or unusual locations. I have written with my PDA in the bathroom or in the car between appointments. I have also written at 2 A.M. while everyone else is asleep.

However, being too financially strapped to join my local Writer’s Guild, I searched Yahoo Groups at www.yahoo.com and found an online writer’s group email list to join. I have found the members of "Writing Kids’ Books" to be extremely helpful and patient with new authors. There is always someone available by email to answer even my most trivial questions.

Through this email list, I learned of the Muse Online Writers’ Conference. I signed up to participate, not realizing the conference originates in Canada. Like many people, I missed a few of my workshops due to incorrect time calculations, but everyone was very good-natured about the time difficulties. The workshops that I did participate in were very informative and I thoroughly enjoyed the live chats with the various publishers. More information about the 2007 Muse Online Writers’ Conference can be obtained by visiting the conference website, www.freewebs.com/themuseonlinewritersconference/index.htm. You may also email Lea Schizas at museitupeditor@yahoo.ca. Last year almost every genre was covered, the virtual take-out was awesome, and the best part was never having to go out in the cold! Lea has promised that this year’s conference will be even better.

Participation in the Muse Conference yielded valuable contacts, two of which have proven to be exceptionally helpful to new writers. The Long Story Short Ezine, www.alongstoryshort.net, edited by Denise Cassino, Linda Barnett-Johnson, and Susan Scott, provided my first publishing credit. (Thank you, again, Denise!) Vickie Kennedy, the editor of E-Treasures Publishing, has cheerfully answered my questions on publishing rights, etc., and given a ton of free advice for new authors via her email list. I am truly grateful for the prompt, detailed answers, which prevent the frustration a new writer’s perpetual state of confusion can cause. Visit www.etreasurespublishing.com for more information on genres published and links to book excerpts and list membership.

In October, 2005, the Long Story Short Ezine branched out after only two years of existence to offer the Long Story Short Online School of Writing, www.lsswritingschool.com. Besides offering classes online and in e-book format, they offer membership in their Writer’s Lodge (with free web page) and a Writer’s Forum. Prior to joining the Forum, I had no concept of how to critique another author’s writing, but Linda’s patient instruction via email, coupled with feedback by the other forum writers, soon remedied this issue. I now routinely crit the other forum authors. For more information on the LSS Writer’s Forum, email Linda Barnett-Johnson at writingfriend@yahoo.com. New members are always welcome!

Another awesome site for authors to give and receive critique is www.critiquecircle.com. I am very impressed with the site format, as well as the tools available onsite for writers’ use. Authors earn credits by critiquing others’ work, which can later be redeemed to post a story for feedback. Premium membership allows full use of all benefits.

There are ten areas on which authors should critique work prior to publication. The most important is plot, for without adequate action to keep the reader hooked, a writer’s style or theme is irrelevant. Logic, employed in the development of consequences related to the characters’ actions, will prevent confusion of the reader as the plot progresses. Vocabulary and style need to be suitable for the age of the intended audience. Appropriate use of synonyms assure vocabulary is not repetitive in nature. The finished length of a manuscript should be adequate to address all aspects of the plot, but without exceeding stated limits of the publisher. Format can vary according to type of piece written. Last but not least, spelling, grammar and punctuation assure an otherwise perfect submission is not passed over. The Chicago Manual of Style is an excellent resource for any author regarding issues of grammar and punctuation, as well as character dialogue. Any one weakness can cause a manuscript to become fresh fodder for the dreaded "slush-pile" in a publisher’s office domain. The manuscript must hook the publisher equally as well as the finished product hooks the reader.

Prior to participating in The Muse Online Conference last fall, my goal was traditional print publication. However, the wave of the future is electronic media. New authors have a much greater chance of publication via online e-zines. Traditional publishing houses have established authors under contract; consequently only a few new authors are granted publication each year. Online publication builds an author’s portfolio of publishing credits in less time and provides greater exposure for the author.

A personal website is an excellent marketing tool through which an author can self-promote their writing talent. Numerous sites exist which allow an author to develop their own web-world, free of charge. Tripod’s site builder is very user-friendly, even for a novice. Some e-publishers, for example, Vickie Kennedy of E-Treasures, will provide an author a web page as part of the publishing package. Self-promotion is critical to increase sales of electronic media. Customers cannot buy products they do not know exist!

My advice to new authors is simple: 1) Have faith in yourself and your abilities, 2) submit, submit, and submit again until acceptance is achieved, and 3) promote yourself whenever possible! Let nothing stand in your way!!

Susan Garner

http://medicinemawwrites.tripod.com

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