Archive for October, 2009

Most Asked Questions Answered Part I

October 28, 2009

When interviewed or when giving author talks, there are some questions that crop up time and time again. Here are a few. In a few days I’ll post some more. If you have other questions about writing or publishing after Part II is posted, feel free to add yours to the list.

Where can I get ideas to write my stories?
Ideas come from everywhere! You can get ideas from something you overhear at school, on the playground or at work. You can read about a famous person that you’d like to delve into more deeply. Or you can look at your own pet a new way. What is he thinking right now?

How do I know if my idea is any good?
Does it interest YOU? Are you excited to write about it? To research it? Does it make you want to read or write more?

If you are trying to sell it as a book, make sure there aren’t tons of other books exactly like yours out there. If there are, how is YOUR book going to stand out?

One editor of one of my books told me this. “I ask my authors, “Why do people NEED your book?”

What’s your favorite part about writing?

My favorite part of writing is after I’ve written the first draft. It’s the REWRITING. In fact, I’m addicted to it. I love it so much, if I have a pen in my hand after I get the copy of my book, I’d probably STILL be crossing out words and rewriting the text!

When my son was in school and he’d bring home letters from his teachers, if I had a pen in my hand, I’d unconsciously rewrite those letters.
“Mom,” he’d say to me. “You don’t have to correct the teacher’s letters.”

Ask the Experts! Pleasant Hill Barnes and Noble, Nov. 28

October 25, 2009

Where should you send your literary mystery? How should you find a critique group locally? Is there an agent right for YOU? What’s the first thing you should do if you want to write a picture book?

As a middle grade student in Contra Costa County, I want to win $100, $50 or $25 in the Young Writers Contest! How can I do this? Can you give me tips? Advice? Techniques? Secrets?

Where can you get all of these questions answered and MORE?

Come to Pleasant Hill’s Barnes and Noble on Saturday, November 28. Yes! The Saturday after Thanksgiving! From 11 a.m. through six p.m.

Schedule of authors:

11 – Noon Nannette Carroll, author of Communication to Go!
Nonfiction Expert
11 – Noon Margaret Grace Miniature Mystery Series

Noon – 1 pm Nannette Carroll

Noon – 1 pm Barbara Bentley A Dance With the Devil; Memoir Expert

1 pm – 2 pm Ellen Leroe Dear Big V; Young Adult Expert

1 pm – 2pm Liz Koehler-Pentacoff Jackson & Bud’s Bumpy Ride; Children’s Expert

2pm – 3 pm Ellen Leroe & Liz Koehler-Pentacoff

3 pm – 4 pm Barbara Bentley

3 pm – 4 pm Lynn Goodwin Journaling for Caregivers
Journaling Expert
4 pm – 5 pm Lynn Goodwin & Barbara Bentley

5 pm – 6 pm Margaret Grace & Lynn Goodwin

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers

October 23, 2009

1. Devour the written word. Surround yourself with books!

2. Think about your writing obsessively. Wonder about your characters or your projects as you walk the dog, sit in school, or milk the yak.

3. Feel the need to have one or more writer friends so you’lll know you’re not the only quirky/crazy/strange being in the universe.

4. Feel the need to have one or more non-writer friends so you’ll realize there’s reality out there.

5. Write as often as you can. More often than you talk about it. But not so often you get headaches. (I PROMISE to turn off this computer after I finish just one more page . . . )

6. Take refresher courses, classes, writing workshops, and/or attend conferences. Check out The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, The California Writers Club, Sisters in Crime, Western Writers of America, the Authors Guild, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, etc.

7. Join or form a writer’s group or find professional writers who can critique your work. LISTEN to what they say. Be open to suggestions and ENJOY revising!

Ghost Story Writing Contest

October 20, 2009

Author Linda Joy Singleton’s


Have you ever seen a ghost? Write a story about your real or imaginary ghost encounter in 400 words or less. Make it exciting, scary, strange – and have fun!

Submit your entry to:, stating that this is your original writing and that you have permission from your parents/guardian to enter and share your work on these authors’ blogs/web sites. Contest ends on October 31. First place & honorable mention winners will be announced mid-November on

Include your age, full name, and contact information (email/address). Entrants must be between ages 9 to 16. One entry per person.

Prize: autographed books! The winner will receive autographed copies of DEAD GIRL WALKING, DEAD GIRL DANCING and DEAD GIRL IN LOVE, by Linda Joy Singleton; HAUNTED: THE GHOST ON THE STAIRS and THE RIVERBOAT PHANTOM, by Chris Eboch; and GHOST HUNTRESS: THE AWAKENING and THE GUIDANCE, by Marley Gibson.

The winning entry and honorable mentions will also be posted on Linda Joy Singleton’s blog(s) and Chris Eboch’s web site.

The winners will be selected by Chris Eboch, author of the HAUNTED series; Linda Joy Singleton, author of the DEAD GIRL series; and Marley Gibson, author of the GHOST HUNTRESS series.

Plot and Storytelling Workshop with Janis Cooke Newman!

October 20, 2009

The California Writers Club ~ Mount Diablo Branch
Presents a
Morning Workshop
November 14, 2009
With Instructor
Janis Cooke Newman

Our November workshop offers an outstanding opportunity to ramp up our plotting and character-building skills. Renowned writing instructor and award-winning novelist Janis Cooke Newman will lead an intensive 2½-hour workshop, designed to improve our storytelling skills.

Her focus will be on the craft of structuring a dynamic, start-to-finish narrative, using the techniques of bestselling authors. The workshop will include proven plotting exercises and tips for turning well-crafted sentences into stories our readers can’t put down.

Author of Mary, a historical novel about Mary Todd, Janis has taught creative writing for the past nine years at Book Passage in Corte Madera, the Writing Salon in San Francisco, and privately. She currently teaches at the San Francisco Writers Grotto, of which she is a member. Visit her website at Janis also moderates a daily, online writing community called Creative Caffeine (

CWC Members and all interested fiction writers are invited to attend.
Date & Time: Saturday, November 14, 2009, from 9:30 a.m. to Noon, followed by a buffet luncheon. Sign-in begins at 9 a.m.

Location: Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill (near the corner of Gregory Lane and Pleasant Hill Road). Parking is available both in front and behind the restaurant. The restaurant’s phone number is (925) 933-9091.

Cost: $35 for CWC members (lunch only: $20), $40 for non-members (lunch only: $25).

Menu: Zio Fraedo’s sumptuous buffet lunch.
Reservations: Reservations are required and must be received no later than Noon on Wednesday, November 11. To make reservations, contact Veronica Rossi, via e-mail at, or by phone at (925) 743-1886. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

Mark Your Calendars!

October 19, 2009

California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch Announces Upcoming Speakers!
Where: Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, Pleasant Hill, CA

November 14 Janis Cooke Newman
Plot and Story Morning Workshop followed by Lunch

December 12
Catherine Accardi – – Writing for Hire
Lynn Goodwin – – Writing for Caregivers: Writer Advice
Aline Soules – – Improving Your Writing Through Poetry

January 9 – – Veronica Chater – – Memoirist
Author of Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of Faith and Family (I read this book. Wow! I couldn’t put it down. It read like a novel.)

February 13 Suzanne Woods Fisher
“Starting Small” – – Working your way from short pieces to book length process

March 13 Nik C. Colyer, Grit-Lit Novelist, Poet
Author of the “Biker Bob” series

April 10 Martha Engber
Workshop on either depth of character or rewriting

May 15 To Be Announced – – Young Writers Banquet

June 12 Sophie Littlefield
Author of A Bad Day for Sorry

September 11 C.D. Payne
Author of the “Nick Twisp” series (Youth in Revolt and Revolting Youth)

Special thanks to Al Garrotto for finding the speakers!

For More Information:

Writing Workshop on Plot and Story

October 19, 2009

Do YOU need help with your novel’s plot? Learn how to become a master story-teller with best-selling author’s Janis Cooke Newman’s writing workshop on Story and Plot, Saturday, November 14, 9:30 – 12:00 followed by a delicious buffet banquet lunch with the author and attendees, where you will network, and discuss your writing with one another.

Registration: 9:00 a.m.
Workshop: 9:30 – 12:00
Lunch 12:15 – 1:15 Where: Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, Pleasant Hill

Cost: $35 for California Writers Club Members and $40 for non-members (What a deal!)

Reservations are required and must be received no later than Noon on Wednesday, November 11. To make reservations, contact Veronica Rossi, via e-mail at

Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the Bay Area Bestseller, Mary, which was chosen as Best Historical Novel of 2006 by USA Today, and was a Finalist for an LA Time Book Prize, and the the memoir, The Russian Word for Snow. Newman teaches creative writing classes and workshops in the Bay Area at Book Passage in Corte Madera, for the Writing Salon in SF, and at the SF Writers Grotto, where she is a member.

Creative Communication’s Essay and Poetry Contests for Kids

October 16, 2009

STUDENTS can enter this contest. (Teachers don’t HAVE to do it for you.) Grades 3 – 12 in the United States and Canada for essays, grades K – 12 for poetry!

Three different deadlines, so you can be writing all year long!
Oct. 29, 2009
Feb. 17, 2010
July 15, 2010

Poetry: You can enter one poem in each contest. They have three contests a year. They say thousands of dollars in cash and prizes are awarded to students and teachers for each regional contest.

Top ten poems in each grade divison will receive a $50 savings bond, special recognition in a book they will publish and a free copy of the anthology that is created from the contest.

Poems must not be over 21 lines of text. Blank lines between stanzas are not included in the 21 line limit.
Poems must be in English.
Do not type your poem or name and address information in all capitals.
Do not double space your poem.

When entering poems and/or essays, you will need to go to the website.

Essays: One essay in each contest. Three contests a year.
Same prizes as for poetry.
Topic: Each student can write on a topic that they feel is important to them.
Essays must be no longer than 250 words.
Each essay must have an original title.
Students can enter one original essay for each contest deadline.


October 16, 2009

Flashbacks, when skillfully used, can focus on a theme or an important element in a character’s backstory. When done poorly, they’ll be an interruption and can be confusing.

How will you know if it’s good enough or not? If you take it out, will the story still be complete and whole? Make sure your flashback has strong verbs. When you’re ready to go into a flashback, add a strong sensory detail that sparks the memory.
To return to the present time, go back to that sensory detail.

Exercise: Today, make a date with yourself to note your own flashbacks in YOUR life. When do they occur? What seems to cause them? What brings you out of them?

Reading Exercise: As you read them, note when they are done well.

Writing Exercise: Have you used them in your own stories? Do they need to be improved? Attempt to rewrite them if they do. Or write a story and create a flashback in a scene

Hallmark Humor Contest – Deadline Oct. 18 – HURRY!

October 15, 2009

Adults or kids can enter this one!

Write funny! Hallmark is now accepting submissions for their “Make a Mother’s Day Card That Makes Mom Laugh!” Contest

There are two categories.
1. Makes a card for moms.
2. Make a card for friends who are moms.

You can enter a card in each category. Use photography, illustration, or design. Just make sure it’s – –
1. Funny and for Mother’s Day
2. Sendable (works for many moms and friends)
3. Cohesive (writing and images work together)

Prize: $250 and either it will be for sale on their website or in stores. You’ll get a great credit too! For more information, visit: