Fall 2018 Submission Roundup!

Hello, word-slingers! Are you ready to get your work out there to the unprepared populace? If you answered with any apprehension, we’re here for you—check our homepage for editing services and rates, and we’ll help you get your work into such good shape that you’ll be itching to send it out!

For those of you who are ready, those of you who just shouted “YES!” at your computer or mobile device, you’re in luck, as I’ve assembled and organized a collection of the most promising opportunities going. Some of these deadlines are coming up quick, so be vigilant. Please note that I have not listed any magazines that charge a submission fee but don’t pay for acceptances. I strongly suggest you avoid venues using this practice. If they’re making money on your art, you should be making money on your art.

Before you begin, and I can’t stress this enough, be sure to carefully read all guidelines before submitting anywhere! You may also be interested in reading my post on making the cut with journal submissions before you proceed.

Happy submitting, and don’t forget to read the guidelines!

Paying markets with no fees

Apex: “Do Not Go Quietly” socially conscious SFF anthology by some of the hardest working folks in genre fiction! 6 cents per word. Deadline: September 19th. https://apexbookcompany.moksha.io/publication/do-not-go-quietly/guidelines

Electric Literature: These icons of modern lit are open for a couple of weeks in two categories, so act fast! $100 total for selected poetry and graphic narrative work. Deadline September 20th. An essay on the book (or other narrative media) that almost killed you pays $60, with a deadline of September 21st. https://electricliterature.submittable.com/submit

The Puritan: Sleek Canadian magazine offering $20 per poem, $75 for fiction, $100 per essay, review, or interview. Deadline: September 25th. https://puritan-magazine.submittable.com/submit

Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores: Interesting and fun SFF journal, paying 6 cents per word. Submissions open September 21-28. https://cosmicrootsandeldritchshores.com/submissions/

Life After All: “An apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/pastoral apocalyptic LGBTQIA+ anthology.” $150 per piece, open until September 30th. https://www.lessthanthreepress.com/anthology-submissions/

Pseudopod: Hear your fiction in podcast form in the “Artemis Rising” horror event for women only! Very cool and forward-thinking fiction podcast. 6 cents per word, September 30th deadline. http://pseudopod.org/2018/08/15/artemis-rising-5/#more-7276

Nashville Review: One of only a handful of university journals on this list, traditional format with a refreshing approach. $25 per poem, $100 for prose. Now accepting translations! September 30th deadline. https://as.vanderbilt.edu/nashvillereview/contact/submit

Event: One of Canada’s finest! $30 per page of prose, $35 per page of poetry. Deadline: September 30th. https://www.eventmagazine.ca/submit/

Consequence: A magazine with a special  interest in the “culture and consequences of war.” $25 per page of poetry, $10 per prose page, $15 per translated page. Deadline: September 30th. http://www.consequencemagazine.org/submit/

Bubble Off Plumb: An off-kilter anthology of the odd and unsettling. 3 cents per word + royalty share. Deadline: September 30th. https://feralcatpublishers.com/bubble-off-plumb-anthology

Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime: Anthology on time and space “with themes of neurodivergence, queerness, and/or the intersections of neurodivergence and queerness.” 1 cent per word. Deadline: September 30th. http://autpress.com/2018/01/call-for-submissions-spoon-knife-4/

Tin House: One of the big ones, and they’ve extended their submission window to October 15th! Rates start at $50 for poetry and $200 for prose. https://tinhouse.submittable.com/submit

Fireside Fiction: One of the best magazines going! Top-scale pay, short reading periods. $100 per poem, open October 24-31. 12.5 cents per word for fiction, open December 15-31. https://firesidefiction.com/submissions

One Story: Exactly like it sounds, a slick magazine featuring a single piece of fiction! Acceptance gets you $500 and 25 contributor copies, so have your best, most polished work ready for this one. Deadline: November 14th. https://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=submit&pubcode=os

Zyzzyva: Beautiful, reputable magazine. No online submissions, snail mail only! Token to semi-pro rates. Deadline: November 19th. http://www.zyzzyva.org/about/submissions/

Lackington’s: Outstanding speculative fiction, opens December 2018 for “Voyages” themed issue. 1 cent CAD per word. https://lackingtons.com/submissions/

Zizzle: Flash fiction that appeals to all ages. $100 per piece. December 31st deadline. http://zizzlelit.com/submit/

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet: A true gem by the fine folks at Small Beer Press! No online submissions—snail mail only! 3 cents per word for fiction, $10 per poem. http://smallbeerpress.com/about/submission-guidelines/

Beneath Ceaseless Skies: They publish a very specific style of fantasy, but they do it very well. 6 cents per word, rolling submissions. http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/submissions/

Smokelong Quarterly: Flash fiction only, no deadlines. $25 per story. http://www.smokelong.com/submissions/guidelines/

No fee, no pay

Bridge: Cool opportunity for young writers and artists, as this magazine is only open only to contributors between the ages of 14 & 24. Contributor copy payment, deadline: September 30th. https://bridgebluffton.submittable.com/submit

Feels Blind Literary: Inaugural issue, looks promising, but they need exceptional work to put them on the map! Deadline: October 1st. https://www.feelsblindliterary.com/submissions

Capulet: Another opportunity for the young folks, open to women ages 15-29. October 20th deadline. http://capuletmag.com/submit/

Clockhouse: “An eclectic conversation about the work-in-progress of life.” Payment is a contributor copy, but it’s likely to be a good one. Deadline: December 1. http://clockhouse.net/main/submit/

Litro: Wide-ranging UK journal open for various themed issues—check specific guidelines posted for each one! https://www.litro.co.uk/submit/

Storm Cellar: One of the more engaging indie publications currently out there, rolling submission period. https://stormcellarquarterly.com/submit/

Loud Zoo: The socially conscious literary/arts journal from our sister company, Bedlam Publishing. Every accepted piece gets a complimentary edit from The LetterWorks! Deadline: September 30th, not accepting poetry this cycle. http://www.bedlampublishing.com/submissions.html

Small fee, paid publication

Nimrod: Ambitious journal open for a themed issue on the Middle East and North Africa. $3 fee, $10 per page up to $200. Deadline: December 1st. https://nimrod.utulsa.edu/manuscripts.html

Ploughshares: You’ve heard of this one, right? $3 fee, $45 per printed page with a $90 minimum and a $450 max. Deadline: January 15th. https://www.pshares.org/submit/journal/guidelines

Driftwood: A fairly young journal coming into its own. Fees from $2.99, pays $15 per poem, $75 for fiction. Rolling deadline. https://www.driftwoodpress.net/submit

 

See anything I missed that deserves a mention? Drop it in the comments! And read the damn submission guidelines!!!

September Events

Today is the last day of August, and while I’m sure that most of us are sad to bid summer goodbye, the beginning of fall doesn’t mean that the fun has to end! As per usual, here are this months’ picks of 10 free writing events in Michigan! To those fretting that this months’ list will be filled with premature Oktoberfest’s and Halloween events, I assure you that there are none featured this month! And as always, if there are any events this month, or next month, that you’ve either gone to or planning on attending, we’d love if you could comment and tell us all about them!

 1st – Mitchell State Park – They Call it the Mighty Mac – Cadillac

A good research trip for any writer, this event will feature information about the construction of the Mackinaw Bridge, what it means to Michigan, and a multitude of stories associated with the bridge.  The link below will direct you to more information and the location of this awesome event!

https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,,7-350–464822–evt,00.html

8th – Author/Artist David Small Presents: ‘Home After Dark’ – Kalamazoo

David Small will be at “this is a bookstore & Bookbug – An Independant Bookstore for all Ages” for this pre-release event. He will be signing copies of his new book, ‘Home After Dark’. There will be copies available for purchase, but the overall event is free to attend!  Visit this events Eventbrite page for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/authorartist-david-small-presents-home-after-dark-tickets-48165750055

9th – Kerrytown Bookfest – Ann Arbor

The 16th annual Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor, this event is a celebration of all things books, and will have multiple authors available to answer any and all questions you might have! Visit their Facebook page for more information;

https://www.facebook.com/kerrytownbookfest/

11th – Fiction for Foodies – Niles

The Niles District Library holds Fiction for Foodies every second Tuesday of the month, and what could be better than food and books? This book club features a potluck at every months’ meeting! Click the link to for more information on this book club, and to check out the other book clubs this library features!

Book Clubs

12th – Author Talk: Annie Spence – Grand Blanc

Annie Spence, author of ‘Fahrenheit 451: Love and heartbreak in the Stacks’, will be at the Grand Blanc-McFarlen Library to talk about writing her book, stories that she treasures and a variety of other subjects! There will also be the opportunity to get your copy of her book signed! More information through the link!

https://www.thegdl.org/grand-blanc-mcfarlen-library-events/event/6751-author-talk-annie-spence-grand-blanc-mcfarlen

15th – Oct. 20th – Give and Let go Exhibition – Lowell

Ron and Miriam Pederson present their exhibition, ‘Give and Let go’,  a combination of art and poetry. Miriam writes poetry to go with Ron’s welded and painted sculptors! An interesting way to gather ideas about writing your own poetry! This exhibition will be available for viewing starting September 15th, and the last day to view the gallery will be October 20th. Visit the link for more information!

https://www.lowellartsmi.org/give-and-let-go

18th – Lansing Young Adult (At Heart) Book Club – Lansing

A brand new book club for those who enjoy reading Young Adult books, this club is having it’s first meeting to decide what books to read while enjoying some good food! Meet great people who enjoy reading the same genre as you! More information on their meetup page;

Lansing Young Adult (at heart) Book Club

Lansing, MI
28 Readers

If you’ve ever found yourself browsing the “Teen” section of your local bookstore, love food and discussion, then this is the group for you! We will have meetings each month d…

Next Meetup

Punk Taco & Brainstorming!

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018, 6:30 PM
7 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

22nd – Mary Schmidt: Author Meet & Greet – Holland

Mary Schmidt will be available to talk and sign copies of her book; ‘Uncharted Waters: Romance, Adventure, and Advocacy on the Great Lakes’.  There will be lots of discussion about the Great Lakes, and other topics featured in the book! View the link for more information!

https://stores.barnesandnoble.com/event/9780061958736-0

24th – Self-Publishing 101 with Lisa Howard – Southfield

If you’ve been thinking about publishing your writing, this event is perfect for you! Not only does Lisa Howard have experience with self-publishing, but traditional publishing as well! Here’s the link for more information!

Self-Publishing 101, with Lisa Howard

 

 

 

 

 

 

28th – 30th – Festival of the Book – Harbor Springs

I highly recommend going straight to the website for information on this event! There is a huge selection of festivities available from all genres, along with a variety of authors that will be attending!

https://www.hsfotb.org/

As always, if you attend any of these events, please comment and tell us about them! Have a great September everyone!

 

 

 

 

6 of the Most Commonly Misused Words in the English Language

We interact with the world in print as much as face to face in this, the Digital Age. We buy, sell, leave reviews, comment, text, and share our lives all through written language. Many who cross your way will know nothing about you aside from that indelible mark you leave on their page, or your own if you are a blogger, so make sure it reflects your intended image. Here are some of the more commonly misused words online. Say what you mean to say!

 

Breath vs. Breathe

The verb breathe means to inhale and exhale. “Just breathe in that fresh mountain air!”

The noun breath means the air that was expelled, or can be used to refer to life or vitality. “My grandkids are a breath of fresh air around this lonely apartment.”

 

Lose vs. Loose

Lose is always a verb meaning to find yourself without something, or to fail, as in the opposite of win. “I always lose at Mahjong, but at least I don’t lose my temper.”

Loose can be a verb meaning to release or let go, as in, “Loose the bloodhounds!” Or an adjective describing something not secure or put together, “I am just tying up all the loose ends.”

 

Affect vs. Effect

This one can be tricky, as both can be used as either a verb or a noun, and both can be used in multiple ways. The noun part is fairly easy, as affect is rarely used that way outside the field of psychology. Here’s a rule of thumb to help when you’re using one or the other as a verb:

Affect is more Active. The subject is doing something to cause a reaction. “Her mood affected the whole room.” “That cold snap really affected the my neighbor’s garden.”

Effect is more passive. It’s the result of something else. Or the power to produce results itself. “His speech had no effect on his audience. The video presentation finally produced the desired effect.”

 

Accept vs. Except

To accept means to agree or submit to receiving something, except means everything but that. “She gratefully accepted the award. She was ready for any outcome… except that!”

Side note: Expecially… what is this? It is not a word. Look up Mr. Rogers and his world of make believe inventor friend, Cornflake S. Pecially. I’ve always remembered this is an S not the X so many say because of that little rodent.

 

Hone in vs. Home in

To hone means to sharpen something, like an axe. Or your writing skills. To home, usually to home in on something, means to go home, or direct something to a precise point. Like a homing device. Or a pigeon. “He really homed in on their fears and created a panic.”

 

Defuse vs. Diffuse

I usually see this misused when trying to use the phrase “defuse the situation,” which refers to reducing the tension, or taking the sting out of an intense moment. To defuse is the one you want. Just like it looks, you want to de-fuse, or take away the potential catalyst for disaster. Just like defusing a bomb.

Diffuse means to disperse something widely. It can make sense when used in the phrase, “diffuse the situation,” but it means you are somehow spreading out the tension in the air or potential conflict rather than removing the threat through humor or some other strategy. It’s better used elsewhere.

 

Of vs. Have

Should have not should of, would have not would of. Could have not could of. Or should’ve, would’ve and could’ve work too!

 

 

August Events

July has ended, which means that it’s time for a new events article! If you’re bored or just looking for some inspiration to get started writing again, these 10 FREE events in Michigan are perfect for you! The events picked each month cover a variety of different topics, all centered around writing! From book clubs to writing workshops, author meet-and-greets,  book signings, and much more, you’ll always find something interesting to do!

August 4th – Goodrich – Local Authors Tent

A variety of local authors will be available for discussions, book signings, and questions. This is also a family friendly event! Definitely a great day trip to take with the family!   Visit their Facebook page for more information!

https://m.facebook.com/events/460588177722160/?utm_source=booksigningevent.com&utm_medium=content

August 7th – Nagaunee – Sunburns to Snowstorms: Upper Michigan Weather in Pictures and Stories

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum presents meteorologist Karl Bohnak and photographer and photo collector Jack Deo. They will be discussing their new book, and will be available to sign copies after their presentation. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn about an interesting topic! Visit the website below for more info!

https://www.michigan.org/event/sunburns-snowstorms-upper-michigan-weather-pictures-and-stories

August 9th – Escanaba – Local Author Fair

Local authors from Escanaba gather to take part in this Author Fair! The festivities include complimentary concessions, meet-and-greets with the authors, and book signings! Click on the link below for more information!

Local Author Fair

August 10th – Ann Arbor –  Rhys Bowen & Susan Elia MacNeal

The Ann Arbor District Library is holding an interview with Rhys Bowen and Susan Ella MacNeal about their latest published books! Thsi is sure to be an interesting activity for all book lovers! Visit The Ann Arbor District Library’s website to learn more!

https://aadl.org/node/373384

August 16th – Romeo – Romeo Writer’s Group

A great writing group situated in Romeo, Michigan that encourages and supports writers. Share your writing and listen to others at this month’s meeting! More information is provided through the link!

http://www.myrecordnewspaper.com/?tribe_events=romeo-writers-group-2-2018-08-16&eventDate=2018-08-16

August 18th –  Lansing – “Dyed in the Wool” Book Signing 

Dr. Linda Lee Tarver’s book, “Dyed in the Wool” is a bestseller on Amazon, and she will be holding a book signing at The Barnes and Nobles book store at The Lansing Mall! Don’t miss this chance to meet her! Click the link for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dyed-in-the-wool-book-signing-tickets-48506534350

August 21st – Rochester Hills – Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group

While most writing groups focus on writing skills and critiquing  their fellow writers work, this group is all about the business side of being a writer. Perfect for writers interested in getting published, thinking about self-publishing, and being a professional writer in general! Don’t miss out on learning some very valuable information! Check out the link for more details!

Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group

Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018, 7:30 PM

Barnes & Noble
2800 S Rochester Rd Rochester Hills, MI

2 Rochester Writers Attending

This Rochester based group is open to all new, working, and published writers, photographers, and illustrators. All genres welcome and free to attend. We are NOT a critique group – we discuss the business of writing. We meet the third Tuesday of the month* – come once, once in a while, or every time – hope you can join us.Our meeting could be anyw…

Check out this Meetup →

 

August 22nd – Muskegon – Left to Write – Creative Writing Group

Open to writers of all ages, this writing group focuses on making connections to other writers and using writing exercises to help facilitate growth! A perfect group for any writer to join! Don’t miss it! More information provided through the link!

https://www.hackleylibrary.org/events/locally-hosted-events/hpl/32280-left-to-write-2

August 23rd – Kalamazoo – RAWK READS: Summer Writing Students Read Selected Work

A great event that supports young writers! Come and listen to the participating students read their works and celebrate the wonders of writing! Definitely an event you don’t want to miss! Check out the link for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rawk-reads-summer-writing-students-read-selected-work-tickets-48237928944

August 28th – Ferndale – Book Club: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A book club that focuses on personal growth through reading. Their book this month is ‘All the Ugly and Wonderful Things’ by Bryn Greenwood! Don’t forget to read it before attending the meeting! Check out the link below!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-club-all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-things-tickets-48316099755

There are some amazing events this month! Don’t forget to tag us when you tell everyone what an awesome time you had! Have a great August everybody!

 

 

 

Ten Minute Writing Prompts

Maybe it’s living in Michigan where the summers can be brief and the weather is unpredictable, but summers bring out the carpe diem in me. In addition to all the regular items on my to-do list, I am always snatching every chance I can to get outside in the sunshine, off to the lake, and into the woods. All this means that time is at a premium, but writing must happen regularly or I can’t call myself a writer anymore. So what’s an author to do? Even if it’s only ten minutes, if it is regular and thoughtful, it is better than nothing at all. So here are ten good ten minute prompts to get you thinking and working out your writing muscles, and still have time to enjoy summer!

  1. Find a beautiful scene, and describe it through action. Use as many verbs and adverbs as you can in ten minutes.  It’s best if you can actually go out and be present in the moment there, but a photo can work, too. Imagine or observe who or what lives there. How are its actions communicating the setting? If there is a child, are they laughing and splashing through the stream? Scowling after being scolded for her muddy escapades? If it’s a bird, is it singing joyfully, or warily watching the dog napping below its tree? Beautiful places are great. What happens there is what makes writing interesting.
  2. Spend ten minutes creating a character. You may or may never use this information later, but its excellent practice. Who are they? What drives them? Who/what is stopping them from getting what they want? What do they fear? What are their ideals? What are their flaws? You only have ten minutes, so don’t filter, do not edit. Just zip it on out. Try it every day for a week. You might come up with some  interesting and quirky side characters for your next story.
  3. Brainstorm as many plots as possible in ten minutes using the following format:  [blank] discovers [blank]. The cat discovers a crayfish. The Martian discovers ice cream. The toddler discovers the camera. Use these for further writing prompts later!
  4. Expand on your discoveries.  Take one of the possible plots from number three, and expand on it. Spend just ten minutes fleshing out a vignette describing each of the more promising discoveries.
  5. Imagine a vacation gone impossibly wrong.  Take the most perfectly planned vacation. A honeymoon, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a celebration. Plan out the itinerary. Now sabotage it. At every step along the way, insert some disaster. The plane is ridiculously delayed. Or crash lands in the wrong climate. An obsessive ex happens to be staying in the hotel room next door. The bus breaks down. In drug lord territory. How bad can it get?
  6. Play the eternal optimist. Take the vacation gone impossibly wrong, and create some twists that turn each stab into a surprise win. The plane is ridiculously delayed, which means your travelers get to see an event they thought they’d miss. They crash land in the wrong climate, but that forces them to take a hilarious shopping spree. The ex next door hits it off with your new love and is finally able to let go. Get creative!
  7. Write a haiku. Or ten. Remember, five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the last. Focus on one moment. The stark collection of images can tell a provocative story.

    Haiku by Richard Wright
  8. Ten minute tabloids. Tabloids take sensationalism to the extreme. Take a political view, extravagant lifestyle, or belief and push it to the most narrow, untempered boundary. What does that look like?
  9. Write up a tourist brochure for your hometown. What are the must-see locations? What’s the best restaurant in town? Best house to stay in if they offered it on VRBO? Places/people to avoid?
  10. Ghost Story Revamp. What was your favorite (or least favorite) campfire story as a kid? Take it and change the protagonist. Change the villain. See if you can give it a twist of humor or a shake of realism. See if you can come up with something even better than the original.

July Events

Looking for something to do this July? Well you’re in luck—here’s a list of 10 events in Michigan that every writer should try to attend this month! These events vary from book fests, to author meet and greets, book signings, and even some writer’s clubs that you might not have known about near you! If you’re worrying about the price tag that most writing events have, don’t fret, all ten of these events are free to attend!

July 11th – Kinsley – You are Never too Old to Dream
This is an author visit featuring Evelyn Harper, who shares her experience of becoming a published author in her later years, a truly inspiring story. Click the link for more information!
https://www.tadl.org/event/you-are-never-too-old-to-dream/

July 12th – Kalamazoo – Author visit with Lisa Jenn Bigelow
A meet and greet with author Lisa Jenn Bigelow, who is releasing her new book, “Drum Roll, Please.” Don’t miss this opportunity to meet her!
https://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/event/lisa-jenn-bigelow-presents-drum-roll-please

July 14th – Southfield – Book Signing; “This is Kindness”
Meet Richard Patterson, check out his new book, “This is Kindness,” and get your copy signed! See the link for more information!
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-signing-this-is-the-kindness-tickets-46159890475?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

July 15th – Detroit – Bookfest
Detroit’s 2nd annual festival of books! With tons of book vendors, food, and free Wi-Fi, how can you say no? An amazing event to connect with others who love reading and writing just as much as you!
http://detroitbookfest.com/event-details-facts/

July 16th – Ann Arbor – Lillian Li on Publishing Your First Novel
Lillian Li presents her experience with all the ups and downs of writing, editing, and publishing her book, “Number One Chinese Restaurant.” Find out more through the link!
https://www.meetup.com/Write-On-Ann-Arbor/events/251263341/

July 17th – Bay City – Creative Writing Workshop
Strengthen your writing using prompts and conversing with others! See The Bay Community Writing Center’s website for more information and events!
http://baycommunitywc.weebly.com/

July 18th – Dearborn – Author Talk by Suzanne Dalton
Dearborn local author Suzanne Dalton speaks about her book, “A Year Lost, a Life Gained: Fighting Breast Cancer with Wit, Humor, Friends, and a Perky Poodle.” More details through the link!
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/author-talk-by-suzanne-dalton-tickets-47125653097?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

July 25th – Battle Creek – Battle Creek’s Writer’s Block
Have your writing critiqued and discuss a variety of topics at this writing group! Click the link for more info!
https://www.meetup.com/Battle-Creek-Writers-Block-Meetup/events/252163545/

July 26th – Royal Oak – Book and Bottle Club
Looking for something different? Then maybe you should look into this book club! Besides, what goes better than books and wine? Find out more through the link!
http://detroit.carpediem.cd/events/6867846-book-bottle-club-royal-oak-at-michigan-by-the-bottle-tasting-room-royal-oak/

July 28th – Detroit – Writing Workshop Series
A great opportunity for all ages to improve their writing skills! For more information, check out their allevents.in post below!
https://allevents.in/michigan/writers-workshop/20002505899828

Don’t forget to tag us when you tell everyone what an awesome time you had! Didn’t see an event you know about near you? Comment and let us know about it! Have a great July everyone!

The Ruthless Side of Storytelling

Ira Glass is one of the most recognized voices in radio. He’s the man behind This American Life, which has landed no fewer than six Peabody Awards, among other accolades and nominations. Glass has spent the last 30 years of his career as reporter and host for numerous NPR programs and was nominated for an Emmy in Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. He is known for his thoughtful, relatable stories and was acknowledged for setting the aesthetic standard for nonfiction programming in both radio and television when awarded the Edward R. Murrow award. What is it about Glass that captivates audiences so effectively? Let’s take a look at two undervalued bits of wisdom from this four-part interview shared on YouTube.

1.      Finding the Right Story

 

“Often the amount of time finding the decent story is more than the amount of time it takes to produce the story… if someone wants to do creative work, you have to set aside just as much time for the looking for stories.”

–Ira Glass

 

Did you hear that? Just as much time needs to be set aside for finding the story for TV or radio. Maybe not in exactly the same ratio, but this counsel is so relevant and necessary in the lives of so many writers, both fiction and nonfiction. It takes time to really find the right story to tell, and it’s important not to be discouraged every time you hit a dead end. That’s just the way this works! Ira admits, “between  half to one-third of everything we try, we go out, we get the tape, and then we kill it…I think that not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.” I’d like to add that this time spent on odds and ends that don’t pan out is not time wasted. All of that work, every interview, paragraph, and character sketch is just making you better at what you do. It’s an essential part of the creative process.

 

“… failure is a big part of success… you’re going to run into a ton of stuff and it’s going to go nowhere, and you should be happy about that.”

–Ira Glass

 

Why would we be happy about that? Because it means we’re doing it right. You have this lightning bolt idea, but toss it around, do the research, spend some time on it, and ultimately realize there are some key flaws and it’s not going to take shape the way you need it to. It’s okay to let that idea die! There’s a reason the age-old adage, “kill your darlings,” never goes away. It’s just a fact of creating good art. The key is knowing when to quit. Stop shoving effort into a blah story. Be encouraged by those discarded scraps of Not Quite. They are freeing you up to pursue something much better. Just keep looking, keep showing up and doing the work and you will be on the road to creating something special.

 

“You will be fierce. You will be a warrior. And you will make things you know in your heart aren’t as good as you want them to be. And you will just make one after the other.”

–Ira Glass

 

2.     Ruthless Editing

 

“You have to be, like a killer about getting rid of the boring parts and getting right to the parts that are getting to your heart, and you have to be, you know, just ruthless if anything is going to be good.”

– Ira Glass

 

You’ve found the right story to tell? Fantastic! Don’t hang up your machete. The savage work has just begun. Create and stitch and solder together your anecdotes, reflections, and revelations. Then get brutal. You will have to make tough choices about what needs to be there, and what is a distraction.

 

“Things that are really good are good because people are being really, really tough, and you’re going to be really tough.”

–Ira Glass

 

Evaluate the purpose and power of each part of your manuscript, and if in doubt, cut it out. Read it again. Does something new stand out? It is surprising how much impact is made when you’ve left only what’s most meaningful. If it’s causing your work to lose focus or spin off kilter, it’s got to go. It can be hard to see your work objectively, which is why I recommend letting it rest before diving in with the carving knife. If despite all this you know you’ve got a story, you’ve cut what you could but still aren’t satisfied; consider hiring an editor to point out the areas that need work.

 

“You don’t want to be making mediocre stuff… that’s not why anyone gets into this. The only reason why you want to do this is because you want to make something that’s really memorable…”

–Ira Glass

 

Author Spotlight: Brett Petersen (Video)

Brett Petersen was our very first client here at The LetterWorks, and fourteen of the pieces we’ve edited for him have been published or accepted for publication as of this posting! In addition to being a writer, he is also a musician and visual artist.

Brett and Josh sat down for a freewheeling conversation about what inspires him, his process and artistic hierarchy, goals, Star Wars, and… Hanson? Watch now, and scroll down for links to his stories and music!

Short Fiction:

CAVO
The Parasite From Proto-Space
Friday Tradition
A Free Ride to Pleroma
Inanimate Object Fibromatosis & Asbestos Leprosy
The Epic Quest of the Three ARMS
The Light in the Sky
Billy-Sally
The Summoning of the Memory Eaters
The Funeral Machine
The Walrus Who Touched the Sun
Ca-Caw
Sleep is One of Those Luxuries
Crystal Donut World
Cats and Dogs: A Bildungsroman for the Post-Post-Post-Modern Age
Javi and Bobby
The Labyrinth & the Jingling Keys

Music:

Raziel’s Tree
Brett Solo

The Writer’s Bullet Journal: Do & Done

The bullet journal is a DIY paper planner beloved of many writers. Popularized by Ryder Carroll, this analog system features: 

  • an index
  • to-do lists: each task is assigned a bullet point
  • collections” of related ideas e.g. a reading or fitness log
  • task migration, or review.

The average bullet journalist is constantly refining their system and I’m no exception. Here’s a new addition to my bullet journal: Do & Done.

  1. Reserve the “Do” list for appointments or priority tasks.
  2. Fill in the “Done” list daily with anything you achieved or completed.
  3. That’s it!

Above you can see my bullet journal for Week 19. On the left are my appointments and errands for that May week. The “Do” column is a typical planner view and many people stop there. However, in Week 19 I also reflected every evening on what I had actually accomplished and made those entries under “Done.” This created a mindset of “What can I achieve tomorrow?” So mythological research on Monday led to a freewriting session on Tuesday and a scene outline on Wednesday. Brainstorming character motives on Friday led me to tweak the story arcs for the heroine and her antagonists over the weekend. Not bad for a week where I had planned to do no writing at all.

Writing is a solitary job and motivating oneself can be difficult. Therefore it’s really important to record your daily wins and personal milestones. The Do & Done tracks your progress through the week, inspiring you to continue a creative cycle of work. Don’t break the chain!

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into one writer’s bullet journal. For more inspiration, search Pinterest and Instagram to see what other writers choose to record in their “BuJo” notebooks.

Further Reading

Ryder Carroll: https://www.bulletjournal.com/

Kim Alvarez’s reference guide: https://www.tinyrayofsunshine.com/blog/bullet-journal-reference-guide

Reader Request: How do you clear your head to write?

We love the comments we receive from our readers and occasionally are asked really great questions that deserve an entire blog post to adequately answer. Thank you for your comments!

 

One of our wonderful readers recently lamented:

“I truly do enjoy writing, however, it just seems like the first 10-15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.”

How do you center yourself and clear your head for writing? Great question! First off, I have to say, “you are not alone!” In fact, the best writers I know intentionally spend those initial writing moments something other than the work at hand.

One time-honored method for waking your muse is to dedicate those 10-15 minutes (and more) to a writing prompt or creative challenge. Don’t try to write for your official assignment or creative project yet. Just write. Here are some suggestions:

 

Set a timer. Do not stop writing. That’s it! This is called freewriting. It is a stream-of-consciousness, totally does NOT matter what you write or how you write it exercise that is destined for the trash. It’s a method invented in the late 60’s, early 70’s that’s still used today because it works. One study showed that freewriting significantly improved English fluency amongst ESL students’ writing samples as well as bolstering their confidence in the language. Something about releasing that need for control over every comma enables the brain to tap into that lusher landscape of language needed for quality writing. So “waste” those 10-15 minutes with gusto! Even if all you are writing the first time around is, “I have no idea what to write and this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever tried…” keep at it. I’ve occasionally salvaged some interesting phrases that have emerged from freewriting exercises. But that is NOT the purpose. You aren’t writing for anyone or anything. You are just writing. And writing. And writing.

 

Tune in. Close your eyes for a moment and focus in on all that you feel, hear, and smell. Open your eyes and write it all down. Get every detail. Every hum, every rhythm, capture it the best way you can. If you still have time, choose a corner or space to describe visually in great detail. You are warming up your mind with rich vocabulary and practiced perceptions.

 

Zoom out. Start small. Focus on a detail. A fly on a machine. Zoom out to see the room where it rests. Who else is there? Now what about the building? Keep zooming out to take in the big picture. Show an entire town. A society. A world.

 

Josh’s recent post offers some more great prompts to get your creative gears engaged!

It may seem counterintuitive, but I am sure you will find that allowing your mind to wander along its own paths first will help it settle down to the writing you would like to see. My article on Writer’s Block also shares several proven tips for clearing the head and getting ready to move forward in your writing when it has come to a dead standstill. Best wishes and we’d love to hear how these suggestions have worked for you!