Sunday, November 7, 2010

Short Story Writing Tips

Last Wednesday, Judy Emery and I attended Sarah Totton's workshop, The Art and Business of Short Story Writing at the Guelph Public Library.

Sarah presented a very informative and entertaining workshop chock full of tips for the aspiring short story writer.
  • Be persistent and enter contests. Sarah highly recommends the Writers of the Future contest which is run four times a year and has no entry fee. She entered 17 times before winning a prize!!!
  • When submitting short stories, send them directly to the fiction editor of the magazine. Do your research and find out his/her name. Do not use Dear Sir or Dear Madam in the salutation.
  • Check submission guidelines for all contests and publications. Follow the instructions very carefully.
  • No query letter is required. Instead, send a brief cover letter that can be pasted in the body of the email.
  • Pay rates for short stories will vary. "For the love" means they pay in exposure. Some stories receive a token payment or flat fee of $5, $10 or $20. The semi-professional rate is $0.01 to $0.05 per word. the professional rate is more than $0.05 per word.
  • Short stories are usually 4 to 30 pages in length (1000 to 7500 words). Flash fiction stories are less than 1000 words in length.
  • Read fiction and watch movies that inspire you to get ideas for short stories. Past stories in New Yorker magazine are available online.
Written by Joanne Guidoccio

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Last night I felt like the prodical son, once again joining the group for our monthly dinner. Everyone welcomed me back into the group, and it wasn't very long before it seemed like I had never been away. I met three new people who have joined our group as well. I even won the door prize. I found out that people are actually reading my blog. Joanne told me where to look, so that I can see how many are looking. There have been 17 hits... I find that very exciting. We had a lengthy and very interesting discussion about other members of Dennis' writing class. One of particular interest to me, was Father Gregory. Dennis did not remember his last name, so I decided to look up "Father Gregory, Illinois" I thought it would be easy, and Joanne agreed that there couldn't be that many Father Gregorys in Illinois. Well... I got over 1,128,000 hits. It is indeed, a very popular name for a priest. Many of them are actually Abbots, too. So, I will have to set aside more time to look this fellow up, or Dennis, maybe you could remember his last name.
I am going to start my new book this weekend. With my husband working all weekend, it will give me some free time to get at it, and leave all my chores for another time...
I am looking forward to our next dinner and the conversation and information that comes along with it. We are indeed a very diverse and interesting group.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All About Agents

This past Sunday, Judy Emery and I participated in downtown Toronto's Word on the Street. The event was well-attended and definitely worth the drive to Toronto. Booksellers, authors, agents, newspapers and other media set up tents and kiosks on Queen's Park. It was a bit overwhelming, but we managed to attend a variety of workshops and presentations.

Today, I will share with you some of the insights gained from the workshop: Why Do I Need An Agent?

Literary agent Helen Heller does not mince words. After 20+ years of experience as an editor and agent of commercial and literary fiction in England and Canada, she can truthfully say she has seen and heard it all.

Here are some of her tips...
  • If you are a celebrity or writing a tell-all about a celebrity, you can approach a publisher. If not, you need an agent.
  • Email submissions are preferred. Snail mail submissions usually end up in slush piles.
  • When sending a query letter, do not be overly familiar. Address the letter to Ms Heller not Helen.
  • A well-written query letter will produce results. Create a query letter that is sharp, current and attractive.
  • Do not start your query with the following expressions: "What if," "Suppose," or "Imagine." It is not the agent's job to imagine your scenario.
  • Ms Heller receives 60-70 queries a day. She looks at all of them and responds only to those that catch her attention.
  • Beware of agents who ask for fees or charge hourly rates for editing. No reputable agent will take fees for literary services.
  • Visit the agent's website and look at books he/she has represented. Use agents who have sold to publishers you recognize.
Written by Joanne Guidoccio

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Celebrated Writers in Stratford

During the month of August, Judy Emery and I participated in Stratford's Celebrated Writers Series. Along with over 200+ fans and wannabe writers, we gathered to listen and learn from three master wordsmiths: Louise Penny, Giles Blunt and Germaine Greer.

We learned that...
  • Louise Penny was advised not to set her books in Canada. Agents and publishers believed that no one would be interested in reading books based in Quebec. She stuck to her guns and her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books have found a world-wide audience.
  • Giles Blunt set his John Cardinal novels in the small town of Algonquin Bay, which is North Bay very thinly disguised.
  • Louise Penny writes a minimum of 1000 words a day. When asked about inspiration, she commented that she would have major problems if she waited for the muse to strike.
  • Giles Blunt works from 9 to 3 each day and outlines all his novels. Although he knows the ending before he starts to write, he will often make changes.
  • Germaine Greer made fantastic use of very few primary materials--church and public records, deeds, wills--to recreate the life of Ann Hathaway in Shakespeare's Wife. She provided us with an interesting, informative and somewhat provocative lecture. Unlike the other two writers, she chose not to read from her novels. She considers readings to be "an insult to the audience."
Written by Joanne Guidoccio

Friday, June 4, 2010

June Meeting

We had a very productive dinner meeting on Tuesday, June 1st at Cagney's Restaurant. Eleven of us shared wonderful food, conversation, and writing goals. Our round robin session generated much discussion.

Erin is planning to write about the adventures of her pet parrot, Darby. She was encouraged to check out the submission requirements for "birding" magazines. She is hoping to write a short story and share it with us before the next meeting.

Rebekah has already completed five chapters of her novel. She will be sharing the first chapter with us via email.

Sarah has been very busy with Chubbee Candles and her blog, Creating My Journey.

Bonnie is working on children's stories. She has received positive feedback regarding the article published last month.

Sheila is working on poems and short stories. She was encouraged to enter one of her poems in the Eden Mills Writers Festival Literary Contest.

Lucila will continue with her journaling.

Judy will be writing a book review. She was encouraged to send it to either the Book Shelf or the Waterloo Record.

Joanne is working on her novel. She will be sharing Chapter 3 with everyone, via email.

Patricia shared one of her short stories with us on Tuesday. She was encouraged to enter it in the Eden Mills Writers Festival Literary Contest. She also gave us an outline of her proposed novel, based in Algonquin Park. She will be starting to write it this summer.

Dennis gave us a summary of the first 10 pages of his novel. He was encouraged to share it with us via email.

My Linh will continue to post on her new blog, Healing My Broking Wings.

Additional Notes...
  • We have decided to meet at Symposium Restaurant at 304 Stone Road West in the Dairy Queen Plaza. This will accommodate those members who are dependent upon public transportation.
Written by Joanne Guidoccio

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review--Dog Boy

The following book review appeared in the May/June 2010 edition of OFF THE SHELF

Dog Boy
By Eva Hornung
HarperCollins, hardcover, $29.99

Reviewed by Breila von Holstein-Rathlou

This is the first review I have ever written to let people know what I have read and if I have enjoyed it. So here it goes.

When I began to read Dog Boy by Eva Hornung, I quickly grew weary of the story. However I pushed myself to read further to prove I could read something out of my normal genre. I am glad I did. I got pulled into the story of Romochka and his unique family. When a child is raised by dogs a normal reaction is to feel sorry for the child--we are confused, and believe he is growing up in an unhealthy environment. However in the pages of Dog Boy you are compelled to love his family, revel in their victories, feel the pack's fear, and suffer their losses, even if they cannot.

Romochka grows up with a pack of dogs, but he is a boy. He cannot smell, nor hear, nor see the way the dogs can. He is the cripple of the family, but like a normal household, that does not stop the pack from loving him and protecting him.

I am so glad I pushed myself to go further. I'll even admit to those reading this, I cried. Yes I did. I couldn't help myself, it pulled at my heart strings and yes I am a dog person. Eva Honrung wrote this book beautifully. I applaud the voice of the character, and the honesty of life she has portrayed in her novel.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't the story of a perfect life. It's a child growing up on the harsh streets of Moscow.

When I was given this book I believed it would be a more clinical look at the life of a feral child. It's not. This is a story of the ties that bind, in the life of Romochka. It's hard to accept the view point because it's not usual. But this book shows us the value of family, even when it's not typical. Read the book and you'll understand what I mean.

Something I believe: when a book can pull at your emotions, and attach you to the characters, even if it's a little twisted, if it makes you feel, and fall into their world, then that, my friends, is a good book.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Does Hair and Nails Grow After Death?

I thought I would verify my argument!! Check it out...

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Life after death

  • 09 June 2007
  • Magazine issue 2607

Why do hair and fingernails grow after death? Surely dead means dead. How can our bodies continue to produce more cells?

• This is something that we noticed as fresh-faced first-year medical students when confronted with the cadavers we were going to dissect over the next two years. All had slightly long fingernails, and all of the men had neatly cropped stubble. We assumed that these had grown while the cadaver was being prepared. However, an anatomy demonstrator assured us that nails and hair do not grow after death and that this phenomenon was actually the result of the surrounding tissue drying out and shrinking away from the nail folds and hair shafts, giving the impression of growth.

David Pothier, Bristol, UK

Hey Writers Ink.!!! I am happy to announce that I have my first article being published in a newspaper maybe even today. I can't wait! I have another being published in the next little while. I met somebody on Friday afternoon, and was asked to write an article for her. Not sure what the deadline was for it, but I was so excited , I wrote it the next day at the market! It was kind of strange because I had people waiting in line for a vendor, and looking over my shoulder to read! Writing has it's place I guess, but when you can't sleep the night before, and still get up at 4 in the morning, I get it out when I can!!!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Guidance From Michael Ondaatje

I was reading an article (by John Intini) about Justin Rutledge, the singer-songwriter, who recently turned to the famous novelist, Michael Ondaatje, for guidance on a few songs he was writing.

The 31 year old Toronto, alt-country troubadour, is releasing a new album "The Early Widows" in May. The two collaborated on a song "On The Russian River" which did not, however, make the cut for Rutledge's current album.

What struck me was the second line written by Michael Ondaatje of a song called "Be A Man" ....."I am a pause in a storm on a dark stair whenever your name is spoken"..... Intini comments, as his millions of fans will attest, Ondaatje has always written with lyrical cadence.

Written by Monika Wright

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Looking at Lisa Scottoline

After a five-year legal career, Lisa Scottoline decided to stay home, raise her daughter, and write part-time. It took five years to get published. In the meantime, she lived off her credit cards and was "broker than broke." One of her early rejections is permanently etched in memory. The agent informed her that they didn't have time to take on any more clients, and even if they did, they wouldn't take her. She persisted and has written 17 best-selling legal thrillers which are available in 25 countries.

Based in Philadelphia, her novels are best known for their fast-paced action and page-turning suspense. Many of her down-to-earth characters are of Italian descent. In her spare time, she writes a weekly column, Chick Wit, which appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and she teaches the course "Justice and Fiction" at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Her site also contains videos describing the creative process, characterization, point of view...Writing 101 for wannabe writers.

I have just finished reading her latest novel, Think Twice, which I highly recommend.

Written by Joanne Guidoccio

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A New Beginning

Earlier this month, Writers Ink met for the first time. Seven of us gathered around a table at Cagney's Restaurant and shared good food and good conversation. We are a diverse group with a variety of interests and writing goals.

Keep reading this blog and you will learn all about us, our favourite authors, movies, and books. We will also share writing tips, our publishing triumphs, and short excerpts from our current works.

Written by Joanne Guidoccio