Strengthen your Character.

 

 

Hemingway once said, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.” So how do you create that depth of realism in your protagonist that makes you (or at least your readers) weep at their misfortunes? How much time should you devote to these exercises? I once attended a Brandon Sanderson book signing where he answered the question saying you need to know (at minimum) these 3 things about each and every character, no matter how minor:

 

  • Where did they come from?
  • What do they want?
  • What’s stopping them from getting it?

 

You will find endless lists online of questions to ask yourself/your characters to help define who they are and how they will function in your story, but I find myself returning to these core questions again and again. It doesn’t need to take long, but the more fully fleshed out these answers are, the more fully your people will live and breathe on every page.

It can be as simple as deciding that my gatekeeper from the village now works in the big city, and just wants to go home and see his visiting daughters for the evening, but this rough-looking traveler is getting in the way. It can be as complicated as detailing the religious beliefs of an political dissident who is plotting a major coup with multiple obstacles. Very versatile.

 

There are a variety of apps that can help as you seek to give your character depth and clarity. I’m not talking about those word processing apps (with a little spunk) like Scrivener or yWriter, I’m talking about dynamic organizational tools that will make your background work on character development and world building easy to find and integrate into your writing.

My very talented niece introduced me to Notebook.ai, a free online app that organizes all of your background information into four integrated categories: Universes, Characters, Locations, and Items. I find it to be a very efficient way of seeing all the pieces I need easily and directly. It includes relationship maps, and can be as simple or as detailed as you like. Its format does encourage you to be succinct, but doesn’t have a character limit that forces the issue.

Another fairly new option is StoryShop. This one is more comprehensive, there is a price tag, but could be worth it. While this one features a character development section, it also provides space for outlines, research, and a word processor so you can keep ALL the pieces in one box. (I will do a follow-up post reviewing these tools and others soon!)

So spend some time fleshing out the people in your stories. Make them live and breathe and desire. No matter their age, they have goals and fears, and something drives their decisions. What is it? Make sure you know.

 

A word of caution: Don’t let your time spend in character development or world building become so all-encompassing that it distracts you from your true goal: Completing that story! You NaNoWriMo soldiers get back to work!

You’re Not Alone: NaNoWriMo Support

Embarking on NaNoWriMo is daunting from the jump, but fear not! There are plenty of resources for everyone from first timers to seasoned vets, and there are more popping up each year. No matter how far along you are or what’s holding you up, there’s a solution out there to get you to the finish line.

NaNoWriMo.org

This is home base for NaNo warriors, chock full of resources that you may already be aware of, but there’s so much here that some of the essentials can get lost in the shuffle. Here are some direct links:

Pep Talks – Pep talks written by well-known authors delivered right to your inbox.
Regions – Meet other like-minded participants in your area to help each other through.
Word-Count Helpers – Track your progress and share milestones.
Forums – Everything from motivators to a place to unwind, be sure not to spend more time chatting than writing!

Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo is the very definition of community for NaNo participants, featuring counselors and coaches, forums, and badges to celebrate your milestones. Use your nanowrimo.org account to sign in!

@NaNoWordSprints

For something a little different, pop over to Twitter and join a scheduled word sprint run by NaNo volunteers.

The LetterWorks

While you’re here, we’ve written a handful of NaNo help guides on a variety of subjects:

November Events
Making The Most of NaNoWriMo
30 Days in the Trenches: Staying Motivated During NaNoWriMo
Writing Past the Wall
Let it Rest.

WikiWriMo

Have a question about anything NaNo related? Chances are you’ll find your answer here.

 

With these resources at your disposal, you can win NaNoWriMo!

Memoir vs. Autobiography: Does It Really Matter?

Happy November! For most of America, the transition from October to November heralds the end of trick-or-treating and pumpkins and the anticipation of Thanksgiving and the bigger winter holidays, whatever your family celebrates. For writers, however, November first means only one thing: the start of NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month! Our staff has covered this venerable tradition in the past, and we’ve got advice for you if you’re participating this year for everything on staying motivated  to the importance in staying connected with like-minded individuals to reviewing your work after the big rush . Here are some links to get you started:

This post is for the portion of our friends out there who swim in the autobiographical end of the writer’s pool or for those who are thinking about testing those waters this November. We are seeing more and more of a trend towards autobiographical submissions. This is becoming a very popular category of the nonfiction section, and why not? It’s easy to see why people might want to draw from their own personal histories to create an epic novel; there’s an endless source of inspiration to draw from. Anyone can do it, from celebrities to political figures to a person with a story to tell. But hold on a second: does anyone remember that moment in time back in 2006 when A Million Little Pieces was first hailed as a masterpiece then ultimately crucified as a work of fraud? Written by James Frey, the book was billed as a memoir, but on January 8, 2006, The Smoking Gun published an article exposing large portions of the book as fictionalized or gross exaggerations. Mr. Frey was interviewed by Larry King to defend his book three days later, but the real media storm happened on January 26 when Mr. Frey made an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was confronted by her and admitted to fabricating many sections of his memoir, which he had previously stated had been fact-checked by his publisher. This ultimately caused an ensuing controversy in which Mr. Frey’s literary manager dropped him and his publisher broke a two-book, seven figure deal. A legal settlement for readers who felt defrauded was also reached, and people were entitled to a refund of their book. That’s a massive consequence for someone who embellished the truth a bit. So where’s the line? Should writers be expected to remember every conversation they’ve ever had when they are recording memories to the page? Is any creative license allowed, or are we in danger of being sued by some disgruntled cousin who doesn’t remember the family reunion going down the way we do? How can we sort through what is fact and what is reasonable fiction? Luckily, there’s an answer to these questions and more.
Everything on this list falls under the umbrella of non-fiction. If I think of writing as dessert, then autobiography is cake. Memoir, narrative nonfiction, personal essays and roman à clef are all just slices of the same cake. Let’s break it down:

Autobiography: An autobiography can be distinguished from the others on the list as the most factual of the bunch. It is told in a linear fashion and should relay all the major life events of the subject in a chronological order. It concerns itself with the entire scope of a person’s life and all of the events, people, places and subjects that relate to a person’s existence as they move forward through their life, not just a few key years, events, feelings or observations of the narrator.

Memoir: This form gives someone more creative license. It can cover a few short years or a major event. Examples might include how someone survived their time in a concentration camp or how they overcame an addiction. It doesn’t have to be harrowing, but it may just focus on one developmental stage and is more likely to reflect strong feelings. It is generally less factual and more emotional. It is far less encompassing in scope than an autobiography. It is generally less formal and may have a more literary feel.

Narrative non-fiction: Narrative or creative non-fiction is a somewhat new and emerging genre. It draws on real-life scenarios, usually something journalistic, but incorporates elements of fiction to become a readable novel. According to literary critic Barbara Lounsberry, there are four recognizable elements to narrative nonfiction: the topics and events must exist in the real world (not in the mind of the author), there must be exhaustive research, all scenes must be in context, and it should all be presented in a literary style. Some examples of narrative nonfiction are The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Personal essay: This is exactly what it sounds like: an essay that is personal to you. It is generally just a short memoir. A great example of a classic personal essayist is David Sedaris.

Roman à clef: Roman à clef is from the French, meaning “novel with a key.” It began as a way for people to write an expose of famous social and political figures without the risk of reprieve. It is truth with an overlay of fiction. Names or identifying situations can be changed to avoid persecution, but the general public could still understand and enjoy the jab. This could be done for protection of the author or for satirical purposes. The Marquis de Sade often employed the roman à clef to skewer prominent religious and political figures of his day. Today, the roman à clef is still in use for various reasons, including satire, but it can also be used when you’d like to write a memoir but perhaps you would like a bit more creative license than your own story affords you. This is where certain authors—cough, Mr. Frey, cough—could simply have stated his work was inspired by real events. That little disclaimer would have saved him seven figures plus and a whole lot of embarrassment.

These are all just guidelines. Most of them bleed into each other. The important thing to remember is if you have a story to tell that you don’t fret which category you bill it as, but that you get it all down on paper, especially this November! A good editor can help you decide how your memories and your story fit together and what you’d like to call it. Happy writing!

November Events

While I’m sure everyone is excited for Halloween next week, it’s never too early to start planning for all the cool writing events you’ll be attending this November! As it is officially NaNoWriMo, there will be a lot of events this month that revolve around it! Hopefully you can find the perfect event to help you reach your goal! As usual, all of these events are free to attend! Happy writing everyone!

2nd – Tom VanHaaren- “The Road to Ann Arbor” – Ann Arbor

Tom VanHaaren will be at the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor to discuss and sign copies of his book; “The Road to Ann Arbor”! While there isn’t a lot of information on this event, it’s sure to be great! More Info through the link!

https://www.triumphbooks.com/tom-vanhaaren—the-road-to-ann-arbor–event-3443.php

3rd –  ‘5th Annual ‘A Gathering of Writers’ Fall Writing Conference’ – Ionia

This conference is jam packed with a variety of workshops and authors, all willing to teach you new skills! There are 5 workshops overall, each offering different tips and tricks about all aspects of writing! Click the link to see descriptions of the workshops, get more information and register!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/5th-annual-a-gathering-of-writers-fall-writing-conference-tickets-50442754637?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

8th – Lecture: Dr. David Dark – Holland

This lecture will certainty be interesting as Dr. David Dark will be discussing the points of post-apocalyptic novels, and how they challenge our morals. He will also be discussing Emily St. John Mandel’s ‘Station Eleven’ novel in a similar fashion! Click here to register and read more!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lecture-dr-david-dark-author-of-lifes-too-short-to-pretend-tickets-50455115609?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

9th – 10th – NaNoWriMo Write or DIE Library Lock-in – Traverse City

Contrary to the title, you will not die! This is an 18+ event held at the Traverse City Library, and participants will spend the night locked in the library to try to meet their NaNoWriMo goals! An interesting event indeed! Don’t forget to register and check out more information through the link!

NaNoWriMo Write or DIE Library Lock-In

10th – Motown Writers Monthly Meetup – Detroit

This group has been meeting since 2000, and is filled with all sorts of writers! A great opportunity to network with other writers and share opinions! Click the link for more information, and to see there other meetups!

Motown Writers Meetup Group

Detroit, MI
2,934 Writers

Hi everyone. This is a group for everyone in the Detroit Area (and Michigan area) who like to write. Whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, autobiography, or any other gener…

Next Meetup

#MotownWriters Monthly @Meetup

Saturday, Nov 10, 2018, 10:00 AM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

15th – NaNoWriMo Write in – Lansing

This is just one of many of the NaNoWriMo Write ins that are available in Lansing, the link contains the full list,  and other NaNoWriMo events that they will be hosting!

https://nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-michigan-lansing

18th – Detroit Public Library Welcomes Author David Baldacci – Detroit

Usually I try not to have any of the events in the same locations, but this event was too good to pass up! Possibly a once in a lifetime experience, David Baldacci will be at the Detroit Public Library to sign copies of his new book, ‘Long Road to Mercy’! Here’s the link to register!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/detroit-public-library-welcomes-author-david-baldacci-tickets-51486421272?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

26th – Barbara Oakley: Learning How to Learn – Port Huron

While this event isn’t directly linked to writing, Barbara Oakley will address how to handle procrastination, learning new material, and bad memory, all of which can cause you to put off writing! Registration and full description of the topics through the link!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-with-author-barbara-oakley-learning-how-to-learn-tickets-51106888078?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

30th –  You Wrote a Novel… Now What? – Ann Arbor

This is a NaNoWriMo wrap up event that will have Brigit Young as a guest speaker! A great way to learn about publishing and celebrate your NaNoWriMo accomplishments! Click the link for more information and other NaNoWriMo events!

https://nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-michigan-ann-arbor

 

I hope you all enjoy these events! Don’t forget to let us know if you go to these events, or others not mentioned, by commenting on this article! We can’t wait to hear from you! Happy November everybody!

Ask An Editor

As a writer, you have questions. It’s in your nature, so why fight it? Here are some of the most frequent questions posed to editors!

How do I get published?

This is definitely the number one question I hear as an editor, and there’s no simple answer, so strap in. If you’re not choosy about where you want to be published, it’s pretty easy these days. There are more literary magazines than I’ll ever be able to count, and each one has its own standards and methods of selecting work. Frankly, I’ve seen work I considered unpublishable grace the pages of quite a few digital lit mags, so if you can slap together a moderately cohesive story and email it to the right place, you could be a published author in no time!

There’s a similar trajectory for self-published books, which has given them a less than savory reputation, despite a handful of passionate, talented writers who utilize the format to avoid book industry runarounds. If you can finish a book, you can publish it cheap, but there’s no telling whether anyone will actually buy or read the thing.

Now, if you want to write a book that a reputable publishing house will release, or a story that a notable magazine will print, you’re going to have more work ahead of you. You will likely spend more time editing than you did writing the first draft, and then there’s the process of bringing in beta readers and editors, then querying publishers or submitting to magazines. Amanda has written an extremely helpful post that lines out the basic steps that you will take on your journey:

Eleven Steps to Becoming a Published Author by Amanda Wayne

Once you have a manuscript that can ascend to the echelon of major publication, you can also try to secure an agent. Agents are a writer’s best bet for bypassing book industry gatekeepers and placing your manuscript into the right hands. They usually take around a 15% fee, but if they can lock you into a deal with a major publisher, it’s usually worth it. Querying agents is a subject for another post entirely, and fortunately Catherine has run down some of the details here:

The Big Book Proposal Part One by Catherine Foster

What’s the deal with “show, don’t tell?”

Which do you enjoy reading more: a fast-paced crime caper, or the instruction manual for your television? This is “show, don’t tell” at its most basic. Telling is essentially listing the mundane details that most readers already understand, or don’t care about, where as showing puts the reader into the action, informs the feel of the scene, and lets them fill in the blanks with their imaginations. Like any other piece of writing advice, this is a suggestion, not a hard rule. While there are many specific instances in which you will need to break down and lay out some exposition, more often than not, your writing will be more effective if you let your characters show your readers what they’re up to.

Do I really need an editor? Can’t anyone be an editor?


via GIPHY

I get it, some folks think anyone who can operate spell check on their word processor can be an editor. While that might technically be true, a good editor does so much more than line up your grammar, fix typos, and correct spelling errors. Depending on when we are brought into a project, we may help with character development, plotting, overall flow, and sometimes brainstorming if an idea isn’t working and solutions are hard to find. We embed ourselves in the tone of each piece and, like literary chameleons, adopt the author’s voice, ensuring our edits will not stand out from the surrounding text. Essentially, we’re here for you. Whatever your project calls for, editors have the skills to work with you and make it the best it can be!

What’s the most common problem editors see in writing?

Beyond the usual grammar nitpicking, there are many other elements we’re on the lookout for, but I think passive voice is probably the most common. To be fair, it’s not always an issue, which makes it tricky! But what is it? Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action the subject of the sentence, rather than the performer of said action. Suppose your character is playing soccer. Writing “the ball was kicked by Josh” is passive. Read that out loud. It sounds a little clumsy, doesn’t it? “Josh kicked the ball” is more direct and natural. This is a frequent problem when writing in past tense, so stay vigilant and watch out for objects leading the action!

Here are a few more common issues to watch for:
Adverb overuse
Tense shifts
Word choice and repetition

How long does editing take? How much does it cost?

This varies from editor to editor, but we make it easy. Right on our homepage, you’ll find our hourly rates for projects over 2,500 words, and hour per word rates for anything up to 2,500 words. The latter also comes with a two week guarantee, and we will work with you and set a deadline for longer projects before we begin!

In addition, these posts by Catherine are extremely helpful if you’re looking for more in-depth exploration of some of the topics I covered above:

What Kind of Editor Is Right For You? By Catherine Foster 

Can You Afford A High Quality Editor? (The Answer Might Surprise You) by Catherine Foster

Have questions we didn’t answer? Drop them in the comments and we’ll address them in a future post!

Author Spotlight: James D. Taylor Jr.

James Taylor is a Renaissance man, delving into music, history, and writing in his decades long career. As a military veteran, composer, amateur astronomer, and historian, he brings a depth and breadth to his work that is priceless. His penchant for finding a good story in history and talent in finding true sources combine to create intelligent, engaging biographies that reveal his favorite aphorism: truth really is stranger than fiction. He has written four biographies detailing the lives of some of the lesser known Tudor royalty and two about the women behind the enduring Betty Boop. His fantasy novel, Checkmate, entwines Egyptian history with the lives of present-day researchers trying desperately to solve the puzzle that will save the world. You can check out his full list of publications at https://jamesdtaylorjr.com/literary.

 

What first attracted you to Tudor history?

I watched a movie about Lady Jane Grey, which fueled my curiosity… I encountered nothing but inconsistencies with everything I reviewed, such as the spelling of her name and her birth date, to mention a few. I realized that there should be a single unbiased reference available free from embellishments for researchers or just anyone interested in Lady Jane. This led to the following six books for the same reason.

How do you find the documents you use as the backbone for your histories?

Eighty percent of my research still involves reviewing material in libraries and private holdings, as many of the original documents and books are too fragile to be handled for digitalization. This may require traveling out of state. While accumulating material for Helen Kane, I located a single copy of the court trial transcript in New York. The day I was to leave, the copy disappeared. I was rather devastated as the trial transcript was to provide the foundation for the book, and it appeared the project would have to be cancelled. The library frantically searched for the missing copy, but it was never located. About three weeks passed when the librarian located another copy in a law library—that saved the project.

 

What a relief! That would have been disastrous. How do you even know where to look for these materials?

The Tudor era projects are perhaps a bit easier as there is a rather limited selection of published material through history, though sometimes scattered throughout the world. I lost a very dear friend, Dr. Charlene Berry, a research librarian at Madonna University who sometimes helped me with locating pre-1600 books. More often locating sources is like archaeology, but cleaner. I just kept digging and most of the time found nothing, but occasionally I did. I utilize Worldcat.org and Melcat for locating sources not found in local University libraries. The University of Michigan, by the way, has one of the finest libraries in the country.

Your work really brings alive the drama, intrigue, and excitement of people’s lives. How do you do it?

We too often imagine what a person’s life and times are like through the media’s portrayal, which is often very different. Pirates are a good example. Media presents them as dashing, swashbuckling Errol Flynn types instead of deadly, ruthless individuals who patrol the seas looking for easy prey. The Somali pirates we encountered off the coast of Vietnam when I served in the U.S. Navy killed two dozen refugees before we could save the remainder. Usually, fact is more interesting or even unbelievable than fiction. That is my driving motivation, to present the unembellished facts.

 

Tell me about your fascination with Betty Boop.

I felt that Mae Questel’s story had to be told, and the more research I conducted about Mae’s contributions to Betty Boop, the more untold elements I discovered about Betty Boop, which included Helen Kane. Betty Boop was and is an iconic figure known worldwide, but very little is known about her creation and the tragedy that followed. Some of her early (pre-Hayes code) cartoons are very dark even by today’s standards.

 

How on earth did you get celebrities like Woody Allen, Lou Hirsch, Doris Roberts, and Bob Newhart to discuss Mae Questel’s career with you?

I cold contacted all those who worked with Mrs. Questel based on who was still alive, and who would possibly respond; some by direct contact, through the studio, production faculty, or an agent. Constant diligence and persistence yielded those few who did respond. No one simple answer, as each individual warranted a different method. Many of the actors never met her on the set because of the scheduling of shooting times were different. Perhaps as high as eighty percent never responded. This includes family members.

 

That takes real tenacity. Any other tips for budding authors out there on how to research effectively?

Ask questions. Learn to decipher fact from fiction through persistent research. In a class I attended, a woman turned in a report based upon facts she obtained from Wikipedia. When the professor asked if her facts were true, she replied, “Yes, Wikipedia said they were.”

Oh wow. That is sad. You are quite the Renaissance man. Do you find your varied interests help when you sit down to write?

While serving in the military, I visited a dozen countries and had a chance to experience much that those cultures offered. These and life’s experiences have provided me with a valuable tool set allowing me to sometimes view things as others may not.

 

How do you organize your time for your work?

Writing biographies (to me anyway) is like patch-quilting. I will pick a pattern (subject), assemble the swatches (facts), lay them out and assemble them until the final result is something I am proud of. I maintain the discipline required to allocate time and it can vary from an hour to 14 hours a day and if travel is required, more.

 

How do you approach the editing phase of writing?

That is the most tedious aspect of any project in determining what remains or goes. Generally, if information is unclear or I am unable to validate or substantiate it, it is a time consuming decision as to the fate of that information. Depending on the complexity of the project, I will set it aside and re-review it at a later date to possibly gain a fresh perspective.

 

Thank you, James, for your time! It’s been wonderful getting to know you. I look forward to reading your upcoming publications!

Author Spotlight: Ed Myers

Over the course of a week last September, I had the opportunity to administer a series of in-person interviews with the subject of our latest author spotlight, Mr. Ed Myers. I usually conduct my business via e-mail, so this was a rather unusual medium for me, but it turned out to be an unexpected blessing. I don’t use the word blessing lightly; with its overt religious overtones, it can alienate those who disdain the subject, and it can carry a distinctly heavy sort of preaching when it is put into use. I can’t deny that it fits in this case, however; to meet with Ed in person when I would normally choose the more modern route was a blessing to me. I had to consider that, while I am far from tech-savvy, I have taken refuge in insulating myself from much of the lesser social graces that come with meeting someone in person if I can avoid it. That’s the beauty of e-mail and text! I have embraced skipping over that awkwardness that comes with making small talk and chit-chatting about the weather, the uncomfortable pauses, having to listen and feign interest while someone talks about their kids and then trying to decide when it’s too soon to extricate myself from the meeting without being rude. All of this is a moot point over e-mail: it’s quick, to the point, and we none of us must suffer each other’s annoying personal qualities. What could be a more efficient arrangement?

In meeting with Ed this week, particularly for such an extended session, I came to see that there is something more important than efficiency. A connection is forged in that awkwardness borne of face-to-face interaction; there is a certain beauty in the pauses and there is the heart of human experience to be found in time spent in the presence of a person, even a person we don’t know that well. This is lost over e-mail. It may be uncomfortable and inconvenient, it may be time-consuming, but it is necessary sometimes. Especially when the topic is writing or poetry, which deals primarily and fundamentally with the subjects of the heart and how one can best explore those emotional connections. As a writer, I know I am an introvert. As an editor who works with many other writers, I am comfortable in stating that I believe many of my clients also exhibit introverted tendencies, as well. This leads us to the path of avoidance sometimes: avoidance of social contact, uncomfortable situations, and new people. In meeting with Ed this week, I’d like to share that these new experiences wake the sleeping talent in us. They revitalize our creativity even if the cost seems high and we’d prefer to shy away from that source of discomfort. I’m not counseling anyone into a panic attack, but I am pointing out that it is easy to hide behind our wall of technology and forget that human interaction is the best and most important inspiration there is for a writer. I’d like to thank Ed for reminding me of that and for giving me back my inspiration. Now, without further ado, his interview and a poem he wanted to share:

Catherine Foster: Did you like to read poetry growing up?

Ed Meyers: Yes. Edgar Allan Poe was my favorite.

CF: How long have you been writing poetry?

EM: About thirty-five years.

CF: Do you write out of passion or in hopes of publication?

EM: both

CF: What is your inspiration?

EM: Shannon

CF: Your poems are often very emotional and deal with subjects such as love, loss, longing and grief. Many authors struggle to be so open about these feelings. Do you have difficulty tapping into deep emotions and sharing them on the page for others to read?

EM: Yes and no. It’s easy to let my feelings out. It’s not easy to let people read it.

CF: Tell me what you love most about writing.

EM: The chance to express my feelings. It makes me proud.

CF: Poetry is an art form that requires an abundance of patience to master, which you have cultivated; Do you have any words of advice for your fellow poets who may need some direction?

EM: Let it flow.

CF: Thank you for your time with me. Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

EM: It’s hard work to write poetry, but the end product is usually worth the effort. It’s easier to write poetry if you write it with feeling.

Shan

Playing the role of a broken heart

is not easy,

No, not easy

Way to proceed

Like putting

the horse behind the cart.

Being with you

is simple, satisfying, serene; an art.

Tactics to endure.

You move out of the past

but it’s hard to be sure.

Being with you

is so simple

Like learning how to breathe,

for you are the reason for my reprieve.

I’d like to thank Ed for the time he spent with me and for the enormous amount of patience he had with me during these interviews. I’d also like to extend my sincere gratitude to the staff at Origami, particularly Bethany Simon and Kaitlyn Cavazos, for helping facilitate this process.

October Events

October is almost here! September’s wrapping up, and everyone is getting ready for Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Oktoberfest and Halloween, but there’s still time for you to get in on some events that are more centered around writing!  As per usual, here are ten free events in Michigan that are sure to spark some writing creativity within you!

Sept. 15th – Oct. 20th – Give and Let Go Exhibition – Lowell

While this is a repeat from the September events, this unique exhibition will be going on until the 20th  of October! Don’t miss this chance to view an amazing exhibition that features Miriam Pederson’s  poems that accompany Ron Pederson’s welded works of art. More information is available through the link!

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

1st – Grand Blanc Authors Meetup – Grand Blanc

This is a group for authors in and around Grand Blanc who are trying to make a living in publishing, they will be meeting at the Grand Blanc – McFarlen Library on the first! For more information, and to RSVP, click that link!

Grand Blanc Authors Meetup

Grand Blanc, MI
127 Members

A group for authors who are wanting to make a full time living in publishing.

Next Meetup

Grand Blanc Authors Meetup

Monday, Oct 1, 2018, 6:00 PM
5 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

4th – Author Signing: Heather Havrilesky – Ann Arbor

Heather Havrilesky is the author of four published novels and a number of articles, she will be at the Literati Bookstore to sign copies of her books and chat. This is a great chance to meet her! The link contains more information!

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/234578/heather-havrilesky/#events

6th – Author Event: A Trail of Michigan Authors – Muskegon

This event will feature over 45 authors from all around Michigan! A very unique event put on by Barnes and Nobles, I doubt you’ll have another chance to meet this many authors in one day again! More information is available through the link!

https://allevents.in/michigan/author-event-a-trail-of-michigan-authors/20001123029231

13th – Indie Author Day Celebration – Lansing

To celebrate National Indie Authors day, Capital Area District Libraries will be holding a panel with authors and the people who make publishing a book a reality at their Downtown Lansing Branch. What an awesome way to celebrate this amazing holiday! Check out the link for more information!

http://www.cadl.org/news/2018/08/29/indie-author-day-2/

16th – Meet Author Sarah Miller discussing ‘Caroline’ – Dansville

Sarah Miller is a Dansville native, and will be at the Capital Area District libraries Dansville Branch to discuss one of her books, ‘Caroline’. The link for this one is a bit finicky, so here is a direct quote from their website, along with a link to the Cadl website;

Meet Author Sarah Miller (Adults)

Tuesday October 16, 2018 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Our group meets every month for a lively book discussion. This month we welcome the author of our selection–Sarah Miller. Her historical fiction novel Caroline explores the joys and hardships of the American frontier as seen through the eyes of Caroline “Ma” Ingalls, mother of Little House author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

http://www.cadl.org/

23rd – Grand Rapids Sci-fi Fantasy Book Club – Grand Rapids

This book club loves everything Sci-fi, and welcomes everyone! This month’s  book is ‘The Grace of Kings’ by Ken Liu, and is the first book in ‘The Dandelion Dynasty’ Series. See their Meetup page for more info!

Grand Rapids Sci-Fi Fantasy Book Club

Grand Rapids, MI
32 Geeks

Do you like to read science fiction and/or fantasy? We are a fun-loving book group that doesn’t get caught up with too many rules or labels. We read everything from Neil Gaima…

Check out this Meetup Group →

24th – Jeffrey Eugenides Author Talk and Book Signing – Detroit

Pages Bookshop and Wayne State University present Jeffrey Eugenides, who will be speaking about his multiple novels and to sign books! To register for this event, and to get more information, check out their Eventbrite page!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jeffrey-eugenides-author-talk-book-signing-tickets-49955246487?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

27th – Southwest Michigan Writers Conference – Niles

If you’ve been thinking of self-publishing, then this event is perfect for you! This event will feature many authors and professionals that will share their stories, tips and tricks about self-publishing! For more information, and to register, visit the website below!

Southwest Michigan Writers’ Conference

28th – 1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books – Traverse City

Inspired by the Detroit Festival of Books, this is a brand new event that will be happening for the first time ever! Don’t miss your chance to attend this special occasion! Visit their Meetup page for more information and a link to their website!

1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books

Sunday, Oct 28, 2018, 10:00 AM

Grand Traverse Mall
3200 S Airport Rd West Traverse City, mi

3 Members Attending

*This is NOT a BCD event* 1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books! Sunday, October 28,[masked]am-6pm Grand Traverse Mall 3200 South Airport Road West Traverse City, MI Inspired by the DETROIT FESTIVAL OF BOOKS (aka: Detroit Bookfest), the Grand Traverse area now has a Grand Traverse Festival of Books! Celebrating all things Bookish – this even…

Check out this Meetup →

 

If you attend any of these events, make sure you tell us about them by commenting on this article! we’d love to hear all about it!

Have a great October everyone!

 

Poetic Devices. Why Should I Care?

Let’s cover poetic devices! I can just hear the groaning in the back row. Alright, alright. Hear me out. In no way are these just for poets. Each one addresses unique ways writers of all kinds play with words to create more polished prose. Whether you are a news reporter or a novelist, mastering them can bring a subtle sophistication to your writing. We experience the effects of these devices all the time without realizing it. It’s what makes good literature feel musical and inviting. Think of some of your favorite passages of your favorite novel. Inspiring words, or a well-written article will certainly embrace them. You’ll find it in moving storytelling and clear expositions all over the place that just… sound better. So let me introduce you to your ten new best friends.

  • Alliteration.

Alliteration is rhyme’s mirrored twin. It’s when words begin with the same letter, rather than end. Aunt Annie’s Alligator from Dr. Seuss’s ABC book comes to mind. But we see it used to create emphasis, or a certain mood, all the time in literature. The Great Gatsby is the classic example, as F. Scott Fitzgerald seemed particularly fond of it.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly against the past.”

Keep an eye out for alliteration as you go about life, and notice what effect it has in its context. Does it slow things down? Does it add a punch of humor? Does it draw your attention in a certain way? Next time you’re warming up for writing, give it a try! The more you experiment and play with the sounds of words, the more you will be able to use it intentionally.

  • Assonance.

Assonance is when interior vowels echo each other every so often within a phrase. (See what I did there?) As with most of these devices, it creates emphasis and a certain mood, depending on the sound emphasized and the context.  A favorite example from literature is found in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan:

“Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.”

It’s also a great example of the next tool for your literary cabinet, and some others I am sure you will discover on your own.

  • Consonance.

As you may guess from the sound of it, this is a close cousin to assonance. It’s referring to consonant sounds that pop up with in a sentence or phrase. Depending on the consonant repeated, you can really amplify a mood with consonance. Hard /k/ sounds command your attention and might make a phrase more lively or harsh. Sibilant sounds tend to create a hushed mood. Great speech writers use this tool all the time to produce a lyrical  quality that makes you want to listen. Here’s an example from Martin Luther King’s famous I Have a Dream speech:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Alliteration, consonance, and assonance are all about playing with the interior sounds of words, and are well suited to all kinds of writing. Because they are surprisingly easy to incorporate and are almost imperceptible to the untrained eye, their value goes far beyond poetry. They don’t make a stab at your attention the way overtly poetic phrases do, but give that certain je ne se quois to our favorite quotable quotes. Play around with them the next time you are dreading that blank screen.

  • Imagery.

Okay, so this one is pretty self-explanatory. Images are what make good writing come to life. But it’s about more than just the visual components. It’s engaging all the senses to tell your story. If readers feel as if they are experiencing the action, they will be drawn to your work. We read because we want to feel transported to another place, time, or reality, and good imagery is key in making that magic. E.B. White does this excellently in Once More to the Lake:

He pulled his dripping trunks from the line where they had hung all through the shower and wrung them out. Languidly, and with no thought of going in, I watched him, his hard little body, skinny and bare, saw him wince slightly as he pulled up around his vitals the small, soggy, icy garment. As he buckled the swollen belt, suddenly my groin felt the chill of death.

Ouch. The boy feels it. The narrator feels it. We feel it. Experiment with this in areas of your work that just feel disconnected or bland. What experience can you craft for your reader that will show not tell?

  • Metaphor.

Every time I encounter this word, I think of the hilarious and poignant old Italian film, Il Postino. Metaphor is when we say one thing, but mean another. In a good way. It’s a key means of using imagery to convey more than what can be seen with the eye, or felt with our skin. I love Carl Sandburg’s poem, Landscape. It can mean so many things to different people at different times.

See the trees lean to the wind’s way of learning.
See the dirt of the hills shape to the water’s way of learning.
See the lift of it go the way the biggest
wind and the strongest water want it.

We use metaphor all the time in common idiomatic phrases and figures of speech. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A stitch in time saves nine. Music to my ears. The ball is in your court now. Consider this popular quote from Hellen Keller; made all the more significant because of her native blindness:

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.

We use metaphor all the time to convey a stronger, more intimate meaning than can be conveyed with simple factual description. Notice it in the literature you read every day, and consider when you might use it more effectively.

  • Meter.

This is, loosely speaking, used to describe the rhythmic combination of stressed and unstressed syllables in language. In poetry it can be a very specific set of patterns to follow; we typically think of very structured poetry examples such as Shakespeare’s famed use of iambic pentameter. But we aren’t going to be writing sonnets, generally speaking, so let’s look at this in other great works. Examine this excerpt from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inaugural address. Notice where the stresses fall in these lines:

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-

Can you see the rhythm created in his word choice, emphasized in his delivery? Paying attention to where the stressed syllables fall in your most crucial concepts can lend that extra oomph to make your work stand out.

  • Onomatopoeia.

Clickety-clack. Pitter Patter. Squelch. Words that mimic the specific sounds they describe are abundant in English and can be playful or powerful. They help the reader really hear what is happening, making descriptions more vivid. Exploring onomatopoeia can be a fun writing warm up before your real writing assignment begins because it’s really all about appreciating the sounds of the words and the feelings evoked by them. The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes is full of great sounds that pull the reader into the action.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred…

I would argue that in this case, even the sounds of words like locked and barred lend to the delightful commotion and energy of this piece, even if they aren’t typically words we think of as onomatopoeia. I recommend giving it a read in its entirety! Then see if you can write some noise.

  • Personification.

Personification is when the author or speaker ascribes emotion to the inanimate. It’s in the whispering winds or angry clouds that bring alive the storm. It’s in the lonely road and forlorn shack that set the mood of a place. Edith Wharton demonstrates this beautifully here in an excerpt from The Mother’s Recompense:

“Hadn’t she known that something good was going to happen to her that morning – hadn’t she felt it in every touch of the sunshine, as its golden finger-tips pressed her lids open and wound their way through her hair?”

  • Repetition.

Repetition is really the soul of many other devices on this list. Rhyme, assonance, consonance, and alliteration are all about the repetition of various sounds. Meter is about the repetition of emphasis creating a repeated rhythm to the words. Here repetition refers to the reappearance of words or phrases throughout a sentence, paragraph, or even the entire text. Have you ever noticed that the funniest parts of any stand-up comedian’s act are when they cycle back to ideas you thought they’d abandoned? Watch a few Drybarcomedy shows and you will absolutely see it. It’s the same concept. It just adds a little candy for the brain. Some of the above quotes give great examples of this; as in FDR’s famous speech, three times just in that excerpt; throughout that short Sandburg poem; and in two other places, if you can find them. Comment below if you think you see it!

  • Rhyme.

Nope. This one isn’t just for poems either. Listen to this well-loved quote from the Buddha:

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.

Does it sound overly rhymey and trite? Not really. Rhyme doesn’t have to be at the end of a line of poetry to be rhyme or to have impact. Ok smarty pants in the front row. So that last phrase spills over into consonance rather than rhyme, you’re right! That’s what makes it such a good example for use outside of strict poetry. Hear the pleasant echo of the “th” sound in each phrase … health, wealth, faithfulness? See how it bounces from the beginning of the line, to the end of the next, back to the beginning? It makes it memorable and underscores the importance of those words in his message. It goes back to the principle of repetition in fine art, whether visual, auditory, or written. Our brains like it. Whether it’s because it makes things easier to remember or because we like the familiar, it just feels good.

  • Simile.

This is basically a more explicit kind of metaphor that really calls out the comparison by name. The classic example is Robert Burns,’ “O my love’s like a red, red, rose…” It differs from metaphor in that it employs clue words to tip you off that a comparison is being made: like, as, shall I compare thee… you get the idea. Charles Dickens was fond of using simile, and did so with great success, adding vivid imagery and personality to his stories. Check out this quote from Great Expectations:

It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief. Now, I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spiders’ webs; hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade.

He personifies the wet quality of the morning by comparing it to a sobbing, miserable goblin or a network of spiderwebs strewn about. No plainly visual description could achieve the same kind of creepy, foreboding mood at the same time as painting clearly the damp, wet landscape.

Alright. Now you try it. Keep noticing these poetic devices being used by good artists everywhere. Jot them down in your writer’s journal. You can hear it in the music on the radio, and that friend who’s a great storyteller. These tools are found in important, famous speeches and your favorite childhood books. If you want to dive right into it rather than waiting for opportunities to pop up along your path, I highly recommend reading Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven in its entirety. He uses each and every poetic device to wonderful effect. Here’s just one stanza. See how many you can identify. Leave your answer in the comments section!

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; —
This it is, and nothing more.

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!!!