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Those Last Bastards on Your List

reed190.jpgOh Christmas is over, but I know you. A few colleagues or clients sent you a present–unexpectedly–and now you have to hustle to get them something as well.
I read about two books in the Times Books section last week that both seemed good for writers, especially those interested in food and music writing. Read the review of Outsider by John Rockwell here and A Stew or a Story by M.F.K. Fisher here.

Mediabistro Course

Mediabistro Job Fair

Mediabistro Job FairLand your next big gig! Join us on Janaury 27  at the Altman Building in New York City for an incredible opportunity to meet with hiring managers from the top New York media companies, network with other professionals and industry leaders, and land your next job. Register now!

The Copywriter’s Best Friend

Did you get a gig writing something more sales-y than content-y? Check out The Copywriter Underground’s musings on AIDA: Attention. Interest. Desire. Action. “It’s one of marketing’s oldest formulas. And the copywriter’s best friend. Some have pronounced it dead. Others have altered it. And yet – in its basic form – it’s still one of the most effective marketing tools in your box.” Read how to utilize it here.
I might love this post though more for the comments at the end:

Tom – Isn’t it funny how these great education posts that we spend the most time on hardly ever get comments? Seems that Brian Clark can do it, why does it not pull responses for you and I? – Mike

We get no respect, I tell you.

How to Write Chick Lit

chicklitillustration.jpgBrenda Janowitz will be teaching a Chick Lit Novel Writing class in New York early in the new year. If you’re interested in writing in that genre, sign up! She provides a few freebie tips below.

Ever read a chick lit novel and think to yourself, “Hey, I could write that?” Well, you can! But don’t be fooled by the fun, informal tone of chick lit — it’s more than just throwing together a bunch of bad date stories. Chick lit still follows the rules of conventional fiction.
With that in mind, your story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There must be conflict driving your story; things must actually happen.
So, where do you start?
Try this writing exercise to get you going:
1) Picture your protagonist (if you don’t have a specific protagonist in mind, use yourself! After all, they say that your first novel is usually all about you….).
2) What does your protagonist want most in life (she has to want something, otherwise there is no point to the book….)?
3) What is standing in her way (try to come up with two obstacles)?
4) How does she overcome these obstacles?
Congratulations! You have the broad outline of your book! Granted, it’s a very bare bones outline of a book, but it’s something to start with nonetheless. Check out some of your favorite chick lit novels to see how the ideas get fleshed out from here. Then take Novel Writing: Chick Lit to learn more about plot, story, character, and all of the other tools you will need in your toolbox to write a chick lit novel that sells.

We Need an Arc Angel to Tell Us Where the Story’s Goin

michaelpin.jpgJane Espenson’s blog has a few good tips on writing a spec script:
Your instinct is right, not to use a spec to change the status quo of the show. Don’t get the romantically-sparring couple together, for example. You want your episode to look like a typical episode of the show, only better, because you will have more time to work with it than the staff writers do. Think a lot about what the show’s actual writers are going to do next.
More advice here.

“The hardest-working press critic in the country”

061213_PB_WebsiteTN.jpgScience journalists: you might find of interest this Slate piece on Charles Petit, lead writer at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker blog:

Billing itself as “Peer review within science journalism,” KSJ Tracker sifts the Web for the day’s newsiest science stories, summarizes the topic, and assesses the work of one or two of the reporters before linking to the other takes on the story. When Petit gets the URL to the press releases behind the science news, he links to them, and he charts his favorite stories on the “Petit’s Picks” page. Think of KSJ Tracker as a Romenesko for science scribes.

More here.

It Never Hurts to Ask

Tivo22.jpgA few years ago I got a plum assignment from a publication that wanted some ‘voice’ in its travel pieces. This was my first time writing for this publication and also writing in this particular genre, so despite my enthusiasm for the project, I wasn’t quite grasping what the editor was hoping for. She was a very kind and patient editor, though, and edited the piece around what I wrote to fashion it into what they were looking for.
She showed me the piece for my edification and also for me to check over. Since it was first person, she had to edit some of my first-person writing. The lede ended up being something like “Being a big-city girl, I have a hard time letting go of my email, iPod and Tivo.” I had no problem with the conceit but I told her, “This isn’t that big a deal but I have to let you know that I don’t have Tivo. I wish I did, but I don’t!” And she changed the piece, because she’s a good editor who wouldn’t want something untrue to be published.
We’re taught that it’s a no-no when sources ask to approve a piece or their quotes before a piece is published. And while it’s diva-ish indeed to ask your editor for the same privilege, it never hurts to ask to at least check the edits on a first-person piece. Just make sure you ask politely, “Do you mind if I see the edits when you’re done?” You can even steal this anecdote if you want, to illustrate you’re just checking to make sure everything comes out, fact-wise, and that you’re not seeking control over the edits in general. You never know if accidentally it was edited in that you are ten pounds heavier, three inches shorter or that you have Tivo when you don’t.

What Kind of Mystery Are You Writing?

fingerprint01.jpgIf you love to read and write books that keep people on the edge of their seat, sign up for Jeff Cohen’s upcoming How to Write Your Mystery Novel class. Today he shares with us some insight on the different kinds of mystery books.
A dead body in the hallway, a room full of suspects, a wise and world-weary sleuth filtering through the clues… wait. That’s a game of Clue.
People think mystery books are all alike, and formulaic: you start out with a dead body somewhere, there’s a detective (professional or amateur) who needs to find out what happened, and along the way, you sprinkle clues, red herrings, the odd second murder, and so on. At the end, you gather everybody in a room and explain what happened, right?
Well, not really.
Real mystery novels are a little more complex: for one thing, they come in sub-genres that define the kind of story being told, and the point-of-view of the narrator. For example:
Cozy (sometimes called a “traditional mystery): In this type of story, the sleuth is usually an amateur—that is, not a police officer or a private detective, but a person from another walk of life who “stumbles” onto the mystery and, for one reason or another, decides to investigate. True cozies include no graphic violence, little or no foul language, and no explicit sex.
Hardboiled: Everything a cozy isn’t. This sub-genre most often features a detective, either private or on the force, investigating what is usually a considerably more brutal crime. The language is more coarse, there can (and often will) be lots of sex, and it’s not unusual that everything isn’t tied up in a neat little bow at the end.
Procedural: It’s all about process. This is always about a professional police officer investigating a crime, and quite often, character takes a back seat to technique. CSI is a procedural; Murder She Wrote is a cozy and The Big Sleep is hardboiled.
Other sub-genres can include “woo-woo,” (which includes occult or gothic elements); romantic mystery and in some cases, thrillers. There’s no reason to restrict yourself to one sub-genre or another, but it’s helpful to know that they exist, and what they are.

The Barbaric Yawp: Giving a Good Reading (Part II)

walt_whitman.jpg(read part 1 of the advice on how to give a good poetry reading here.) This has been excerpted with permission from Soft Skull Press’ How to Make a Living as a Poet, by Gary Mex Glazner.
4. Know your poems. It is a good idea to memorize at least a few of your poems, if not all of the work you will be reading on a given night. There is a world of difference between reciting a poem by heart and having to actually read the material. Having the poem memorized will allow you to concentrate on the performance of the poem. It allows you to have greater eye contact and a more powerful connection with the audience. Having your poems memorized and being able to watch the audience during the reading will give you a good idea of whether or not they are engaged.
Find out from the organizer how long they want you to read.
Practice your set. Make sure you have the intended poems timed out so
that you can do your presentation in the allotted time. Poets are famous time hogs. It is always better to end with the audience wanting to hear more from you, rather than wondering when you are going to stop.

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On How to Make a Living as a Poet

howtomake300.gifI don’t talk about poetry much on this blog, mostly because I don’t read or write much poetry and don’t know too much about the form. But I know that some of you do work in that form. Soft Skull Press has two books out right now that might be of interest to you: How to Make a Living as a Poet and How to Make a Life as a Poet, both edited by Gary Mex Glazner, featuring interviews, inspiration and advice. I thought their section on how to give a reading was potentially helpful, so the folks at the press have kindly allowed me to reprint it here, which I’m doing so in two posts, since it’s a little long. And poets, don’t be shy if you know of resources and tips that you think I should pass on.

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Golden Oldies, Vol. III

The last in today’s e-panel on breaking into the seniors market.
Any common mistakes you’ve heard editors say writers who are new to this area make?
Tahmincioglu: The main things I’ve heard they hate is story pitches that sound boring, and mainly talk about growing old and the problems related to that. Editors want hip stories for seniors given that many of them today are refusing to spend their retirements in rocking chairs. Writers need to think outside the box (sorry for the cliche) but seriously, an editor will just toss your pitch aside if it doesn’t offer something edgy and new.
Meyeroff : When it comes to senior stories that’s the biggest mistake I find–when writers pitch me what they consider a “senior” story. (I find the same mistake from the public relations people.) As soon as someone thinks you’re looking for “senior” stories, they present something related to the elderly. I’ve been a health writer for Senior Wire News Syndicate for 7 years and for The Erickson Tribune for two. Whenever agencies or freelancers pitch me a story, it’s always on topics like arthritis and Alzheimer’s. Nobody ever pitched me a story on gout (a specific form of arthritis), but this past year it got some of the most amazing response of any story I wrote for The Erickson Tribune. Or when have you seen breast cancer approached from the angle of the older adult, as I just mentioned?
Go up to the Tribune’s website ( and you’ll be amazed at the breadth of stories there. Look at the goal on the masthead: “Inform-Inspire-Involve.” The paper is looking for stories of vibrant adults enjoying the next chapter in their lives. Another story that got a great response was geared to current or would-be wine enthusiasts, talking about how they can find one (or more) winery in every state of the union. That’s a nice story as a hobby theme or even a travel story–but it doesn’t have an “aged” label on it.

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