Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fighting the Holiday Halt

The temperature dips and so does your word count. Between holiday parties and family gatherings, there's little to no time left for your masterpiece.

Scott Eagan, founder of Greyhaus Literary Agency encourages writers to steal 1-3 hours for your writing time during the holiday season. 

As a mother of three and the owner of what feels like Grand Central Station for the neighborhood, church and family--an hour sounds like a hopeless endeavor. 

But fifteen minutes? That's doable.

Those fifteen minutes sometimes slip into hours while other times they're just a few minutes of staring at a screen listening to another rousing argument between adult siblings.

No matter your trade taking a break for a few weeks (or months) sets you back. A few days here or a few days there can revitalize your focus. More than that, and your craft begins to slip.

Like Scott, I believe the trick to maintaining your writing career is slogging through a scene when its the last thing you want to do. Who wants to be sequestered when cinnamon rolls are fresh from the oven? Or wants to miss your cousin drag her latest victim under the mistletoe? 

Fifteen minutes. Hide in the bathroom. Hide in the closet. Fifteen minutes and your book will thank you.

Friday, December 2, 2016

One spot left...

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We have one opening for the Tuesday slot in our Two Week (online) Critique Camp. 
To register, email

Monday, November 28, 2016

Writing Contests

To keep our words sharp and our characters even sharper, I've included the following contests...

Short Fiction Contest
Deadline: 12/31/16
Entry Fee: $16
Prize: $1,500 and publication in Boulevard
For more information, click here
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Lascaux Review 
Short Fiction
Deadline: 12/31/16
Entry Fee: $10
Prize: $1,000 and publication in Lascaux Review
For more information, click here

Ashland Creek Press
New Environmental Literature
Deadline: 12/21/16
Entry Fee: $17
Prize: $1,000 and four-week residency at PLAYA writers retreat
This is for any unpublished or published work of fiction focusing on environment, animal protection, ecology or wildlife.
For more information, click here

Glimmer Train Press
Family Matters
Deadline: 1/2/17
Entry Fee: $18
Prize: $2,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories and 20 copies of the prize issue
For more information, click here

Masters Review
Short Story Award for New Writers
Deadline: 1/15/17
Entry Fee: $20
Prize: $2,000 and publication in Masters Review
Fore more information, click here

Good luck and good writing!
As always, if you're looking to join a critique group, contact me here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Critique Camp Openings

Just a few spots left for both the Tuesday and Wednesday night critique camp. If you are a member of CWC please include your membership number and branch name (or the cost of $25).

For registration please contact

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Weight of Empathy

I was eight when I walked through a high-end department store and saw a fur coat.
I fell to my knees in tears and cried. To my mother's dismay I bawled, asking, "Why? Why would you kill an animal?" 
It was the first time the world appeared to be cruel. The first time my gaze took me beyond me and my innocence. It didn't take long to realize I wasn't cut out to be a journalist, there were too many sides to one story, too much humanity and too many errors for me to understand.

Yesterday, Laura googled Donald Trump, followed by Hillary Clinton and every other issue our country has spent the last two years arguing. 

Laura broke down in tears, her heart town between empathy and despair. She watched Trump blast her faith and her heritage, then watched Clinton speak about abortion.

She teetered from one controversy to the next. For the first time, she realized there wasn't a perfect answer or a perfect hero. Her world shifted, the boundaries now wavy. Her ten-year-old world was no longer black and white. It was her first taste of gray.

Laura is going to stumble, she's going to fall while she finds her own way, her own beliefs. Wherever she goes and whatever she chooses I hope she never loses her empathetic heart.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Because of him

I was the kid who wrote thirty page stories in fifth grade. And the one who wrote the school play in sixth grade. I was the girl who stored hundreds of stories on her computer (and in several half-written journals).
 Writing was a hobby, a pastime, something to do while waiting for another stat read in college. Or a funny short story in the margins of my animal science textbooks. Writing was just a way to calm a busy mind.
But then a quiet boy from Kansas asked for my hand. When I confessed my love of literature, he gently pushed me to write. He's encouraged, prodded and even consoled me every step of the way.

Traveling to and from New York, or San Francisco or even just over the mountain to Los Angeleshe’s not once complained or questioned the process. His belief in me has (at times) been the only reason I’ve continued.
Tonight, during our walk behind our little ranch, he encouraged me (again) to attend another conference/retreat. 

Writers, hold your loved ones close. Because of them, we can be us

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ready or Not?

You’ve edited (and reedited) your novel and suffered through bruising critique sessions—but is your manuscript ready?
According to The Cheshire Cat, it depends a good deal on where you want (your book) to go…

Congratulations! You’re now an entrepreneur. The quality of your novel depends on you. And only you. 

You’re the author, editor, marketer, distributor and financial advisor. Treat your book like any other business. No one is a master of all trades, be prepared to hire out (photography, editor, accounting…).

Remember, you pay for what you get. Lackluster sales are the product of cheap editors and lousy covers. Readers can spot a substandard, second-rate book a mile away. As well as superficial online reviews from your friends.

Readers depend on reviews for debut authors, if you have less than 200 sincere reviews or 5,000 in sales—pull the book and repeat the process. 

When in doubt, don’t send it out.  Double check the list below.
  • Self-Edit for inconsistences
  • Critique novel in full (twice)
  • Send to editor or beta reader (not family, friend or neighbor) 
  • Write pitch (what appears on the back cover)
  • Develop business and marketing strategy
  • Research genre and comparables (sales and reviews) 
  • Wait for reviews. Do not solicit from friends. 
  • Less than 5,000 sales—your book has flopped, repeat the process

Traditional Publishing:
The publisher pays for in-house editing, printing, marketing and distribution. They’ll run a Profit & Loss statement to determine the projected worth of your story (and you as an author). 

When, and only when, your critique group says you’re ready to publish, send your manuscript to another writer. 

Not your mom. Not your neighbor. Not your friend. 

Get their feedback and then apply to an advanced critique group or hire a professional editor (remember, you pay for what you get). 

If your inbox is filling with rejection letters, you’ve sent it off too soon. Stop submitting and repeat the process.

When in doubt, don’t send it out. Double check the list below.
  • Self-Edit for inconsistences
  • Critique novel in full (twice)
  • Send to editor or beta reader (not family, friend or neighbor) 
  • Write pitch, query letter and synopsis
  • Research your genre and potential agents (only submit up to 10 at a time)
  • Wait for rejection/acceptance letters
  • If more rejections than acceptance letters come, repeat the process

Beware of predatory publishers lurking in the corner. 
They'll disguise themselves as indie publishers but are little more than Create Space con artists.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

And the winner is...

For the last three weeks, four wonderful writers participated in an online critique camp. They critiqued, they conferenced and then critiqued both their own work and those of the camp. 

Participating in her first fiction piece, Anke Hodenpijl shocked our class with an unbelievable rewrite. From a confusing short story devoid of a setting and motive came a lovable and lonely heroine—one that’ll be a top contender for the Writers of Kern Fall Writing Contest.

Congratulations, Anke!


Anke's work has appeared in the Phoenix Gazette, Denver Catholic Register and the Bakersfield Californian. Her poetry is included in an Art for Healing Anthology.