Archive for September, 2009

Writing Groups Expand to Blogs

September 28, 2009

Peter, from the California Writers Club, says his writer’s group creates a blog together. It’s a good opportunity for writers to share the responsibility for the blog and their ideas with each other and a larger group of readers.

On their blog site, J.B. mentioned one agent would only represent a book by a new client if the book had the potential for being a block-buster. Then the discussion followed . . . why write? What’s the point if the odds are stacked against us?

First, remember that not all agents only sell blockbusters. It is reality that SOME may think this way. But many want to sell good books that will be read by readers. However, it IS true that it’s not easy to get a novel published in this crowded field of fiction today.

One of my favorite authors, John Steinbeck, always maintained that good writing was only possible by an author placing emphasis on the joy of process.

The more excitement, thrill, love and energy we get from our actual writing will transfer into our words and the reader. If this happens, the “middle people” – – editors and agents – – will feel that energy too.

Meanwhile, do as JB has done. Attend writer’s conferences, join a writer’s group, and polish your craft. Craft plus your inspiration will garner your success!
Visit Peter’s Group’s Blog:

What Happens When Writing Groups DON’T Work?

September 25, 2009

After my blogs on writing groups, I received several personal e-mails from people who discussed problems they had in their previous experiences.

Possible problems can occur when a writer shares a rough draft and would like “big picture” comments on plot, character, and theme but instead receives a “line-edit” critique.

Before your present your manuscript, make sure and share with your group what stage of writing it is. What do you need to hear at that point? What are you open to hearing? What don’t you need to hear? What part of the manuscript do you feel is the weakest and how could they help you the most?

If, after you’ve outlined your “rules” people still ignore them, you may thank the critiquers and realize that those people either weren’t listening to your requests or are not able to think in a “big picture” way. They may feel compelled to share something rather than nothing.

Of course, this isn’t helpful, but a waste of time. Unfortunately, if this happens a lot, then the group doesn’t work well.

Ultimately, the person decided to drop from this group. Fortunately, he found another one that worked much better.

Depending upon your specific situation, you might try again the next time and remind people of your goal. But if reminding doesn’t help, and you aren’t receiving enough constructive critique from your group, then it might be time to either have a polite and honest discussion with the members, or else drop out.

When I began writing many years ago, I took a marvelous class offered by an adult school program. The last part of the class the teacher allowed students to read and the class critiqued the members. I learned early on to judge which people in the class wanted what kind of critique. I also found out how to ignore the comments that weren’t helpful to me. Through that class, people also formed separate critique groups based on these insights of listening skills, writing-genres, interests, etc.

Other problems encountered in critique groups have been one person taking over the critiques, tardiness, hurt feelings and not enough structure (too much off-topic talking). Sometimes, by setting up a few rules in the beginning, you can help prevent these things from happening. And if they do occur, start of the next meeting by a discussion of a setting a new precedent.

Have there been any problems that have come up in your groups? How have you handled them? If you care to share privately or on this blog, feel free. We all learn from each other.

Bogey Update – AKA Little Miss Baby Boo

September 25, 2009

Rat Lady reports that Little Baby Boo is doing just fine. She’s gaining weight so her facial skeleton doesn’t show so much anymore, and she takes cheese right from her “adopted mom” who now calls her “My Baby Boo.” Boo loves sleeping in her little hammock.

She will soon be moving in with roommates. Rat Lady has promised to provide us with another picture soon, too, which I’ll post again on my Facebook. And fortunately, a friend has promised to post them here in a few weeks as well.
(Sorry – – I’m technically challenged. . .)

Bogey is interested but not convinced

Bogey in her new home.

Video Book Trailer Scholarship Contest For Kids 13 – 18

September 25, 2009

Create a video book trailer for the novel “Hugging the Rock” by Susan Taylor Brown.

Put together a cast and act it out, create an animation, or use photos with text set to music – it’s up to you. Be creative. Have fun. Make people want to read the book.

More details can be found at the website:
– U.S resident only between 13 and 18 years of age (as of the close of the contest)
– 30 seconds to 2 minutes in length and in a standard video format (.wmv, .mov, .avi, .mp4)
– Your own creation, NO copyrighted material
– Include a brief description of the process you followed
– Deadline for entries is 12/15/09

Judging will be based on the following criteria. Please see the official rules for more details.
– Creativity (50%)
– Consistency with the book (25%)
– Fit and finish (25%)

– The winner will receive a $1000 scholarship!
– The winner will ALSO have their trailer featured on the Random House website.

Contest for Ages 16 and older – Highlights Fiction Contest

September 23, 2009


Fiction based on a true story from your family.

Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.


All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2010.


No entry form or fee is required.

*Entrants must be at least 16 years old at the time of submission.

We welcome work from both published and unpublished authors. All submissions must be previously unpublished.

Stories may be any length up to 750 words. Stories for beginning readers should not exceed 475 words. Indicate the word count in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.

No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.

Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned.

Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights.


Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431


The three winning entries will be announced on in June 2010. These stories will become the property of Highlights for Children and will be published by Highlights. All other submissions will be considered for purchase by Highlights.

* We’re sorry that we cannot consider contest entries from children under the age of 16. Young writers are welcome to submit their work for consideration elsewhere in the magazine. Guidelines are available on

Liz’s Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Join a Writer’s Group

September 23, 2009

Thank you Jack, Camille and Susan for chiming in and letting us know how you work with your writing groups. Through their networking (California Writers Club, Sisters in Crime, and online writer’s forums) the three have found communities to support their writing.

Liz’s Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Join a Writer’s Group

1. Help you with discipline! You know the date your meeting looms. If you don’t show up with a manuscript, you’ll be teased, shamed or forced to give up books and chocolate for a month.

2. Improve your writing. Through everyone’s critiquing of your work, you’ll discover your writing strengths and weaknesses and how to improve your craft.

3. Improve your own ability to critique. Learn how to discuss writing technique, styles, and craft.

4. Get ideas. Brainstorming frequently occurs and ideas multiply!

5. Form a bond with fellow writers.

6. Discuss reading, books, and literature when appropriate. Find the next book you should read to help you with your writing project.

7. Network with regards to markets, conferences, editors,
agents . . .

8. Get yourself away from too much work at school, home, work-work, noisy children, dirty dishes, elder care, a messy house, a cluttered office, or whatever is driving you bonkers at home.

9. Since you want others to take you seriously, saying you’re in a writer’s group gives you credibility.

10. Being in a writer’s group provides you with great therapy. If you receive a rejection and you tell a non-writing friend or a spouse they might look at you like a whiner or a loser. But tell your writer’s group, and they will surround you with sympathy, the right words, and the most important thing of all . . . chocolate.

Create a GERM contest! Kids ages 5 – 14 living in U.S. and Canada!

September 21, 2009

-Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, ages 5-14.

-One entry per person.

-Your drawing may be black-and-white or color.

-Your entry must be received by November 13, 2009.

-Include your name, age, grade, and e-mail address or telephone number with your entry.

-You must get permission from a parent or teacher to enter the contest.

-Submit a scan or digital photo of your drawing to: Or you can mail your entry to:
Publicity Department-Gross Contest
Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Prizes: First prize winner will receive an original virus drawing from Michael Slack and a copy of one of the books in the Gross Body Science series.

Judging Criteria: Entries will be judged on creativity and overall composition.

Writer’s Groups: Here’s How Mine Works. What About Yours?

September 21, 2009

This weekend our writer’s group met. I feel very fortunate to be in an excellent group of writers who all take their work very seriously. We all get along well, and no one takes offense at being critiqued. Focused on writing for children, we meet once a month (although we did take a couple of months off for the summer when vacations and life got in the way) and read our work aloud.

We also provide printed copies out for everyone. “Everyone” totals six people now, although up until a few months ago we had seven. One had to drop out due to her increased work schedule.

We take turns reading our work and then the group shares their thoughts on how the writer can improve the manuscript. Sometimes the writer brings an idea, and we conduct a brainstorming session. Fun energy abounds, as words fly back and forth. If we could see our thoughts, large colorful illustrations would pop up as giant bubbles all around us!

The great thing about our group is that we all get along, we enjoy each other’s work, and we are writing for a similar audience. We also share markets, advice, and industry news with each other.

What about you and your group? What do you like about it? Or are you having difficulties with it? Share what works for you or how you’ve overcome a problem you’ve encountered.

Writing prompts:
1. Write a scene using a writer’s group as the setting, with writers as the characters. Through in conflict for spice! 2. The title of this story: My Writer’s Group Went to New York. (Yes, it can be a fantasy. Or even a murder mystery!) 3. Write an essay about your experiences with writer’s groups.

A Time of Apologies

September 18, 2009

With an out-of-control singer on stage insulting a Grammy-award winner as she receives her reward, and an elected congressman shouting “You lie,” to President Obama during his health care address to Congress, both were prime examples of outrageous behaviors that called for sincere apologies.

Were they given? We heard the two offenders apologize, but sincere wouldn’t be the descriptor I’d use.

What makes an apology sincere? The tone of voice, body language, word choice, context, and timing. Tweak these and you could create a scene of conflict quite easily.

Writing Prompt: 1. Write a scene with your major character giving or receiving a sincere apology. 2. Write a scene with your character giving or receiving an insincere apology. 3. Write about a time you had to apologize for something you did. 4. Write about a memory of receiving an apology and mending a relationship. Show how the relationship grew and became stronger. Or – – perhaps if the apology wasn’t sincere, or the act too damaging, show how the relationship didn’t survive.

Contest for Teens

September 16, 2009

If you are a teenager and volunteer your time in some way, check out this contest in Next Step Magazine:

Due Date for the Contest is Nov. 27th, 2009.

Writing Prompt: What would be your dream writing contest? Your dream writing subject? Your fantasy winning prize?