Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's so nice to be asked

Never a very social being as a teen, I didn't much like going to dances. But once in a while I'd drag myself there with friends. Then hang out hugging the wall the entire evening.

And occasionally I might get asked to dance.

That's what it felt like when I got an email from Orca yesterday requesting the full ms. of my children's novel Miss Stella's Mindful Moments as as result of the query and sample chapters I'd sent them just the week before.

I got myself there, and now someone's asked me to step onto the dance floor. They might end up walking another girl home instead of me, but meanwhile I plan to enjoy the moment while my friends look on encouragingly.

Just getting this far has generated lots of support and kudos from the writers and readers who read the ms. and gave me really invaluable feedback on it.

So this dance is for them.

Also this week, I was asked by the
Arts Council of Surrey to read at their 40th. Anniversary event in Sept. A year or so ago my short story Skim Milk won in the fiction category of the Surrey Stories contest, which went along with a photo exhibit at the Surrey Art Gallery.

While I was thrilled to accept the invite, I did ask that they review the story to ensure it is the tone they want at this gala event. It is, as one of my writing peers says, 'one of Lois's bleak little stories.' Luckily, I have a couple of cheerier pieces I can pull out it they'd prefer.

Two invitations in one week! I've rarely seen my dance card so full.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Anthologies for everyone

Anthologies can be a great way to see your work in print in the company of other good writers. But calls for submission can be hard to track down.

Here are a few from the most recent issue of Poets and Writers.

Listings here are not endorsements - I am just the messenger.
  • Things I'd Never Tell My Mother
    Essays exploring mother-daughter tensions.
    Deadline Nov. 30. 5,000 words max.
    More info. from P.O. Box 7231, Norfolk, VA 23509

  • Bathroom Stories
    'Just the facts - no novel writing'. Deadline Aug 18. No pay.
    Info: Bathroom Stories, c./o Shook, 1775 E. Palm Canyon, Ste. H-254, Palm Springs CA 92264
  • Four upcoming anthologies from Casagrande Press.
    Fishing's Greatest Misadventures, Surfing's Greatest Misadventures, Weddings Greatest Misadventures, Cycling's Greatest Misadventures. Check online for details.
  • Dog Blessings - Poems, Prose and Prayers Celebrating Our Relationship with Dogs.
    To be published by New World Library. Details at the website of
    June Cotner.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Contest deadline approaches - you do not have to be present to win

The Fri. Aug 3 deadline
for the Surrey International Writers' Conference writing contest
fast approaches.

Note: this deadline is much earlier than usual.
Just one week after the conference registration begins

4 categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, poetry, writing for young people.
Top Prize: $1,000 Can. in each category. $100 Hon Men prizes also available
Prize sponsors include: Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte, LPwordsolutions (c'est moi!), SFU Writing & Publishing Program, Quills Magazine, Lions Literary Agency
Complete details at the
Conference website

Conference registration opens July 26.

But you do not have to attend the conference to enter the contest.

If you're a new contest entrant, check out some tips here in my now out of print newsletter Imprint.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One liners can help sell your ideas to an editor or agent

If you have a project you plan to pitch to an editor or agent – either in person at a conference or convention, or through the mail in a more formal proposal – you need to come up with what some people call an elevator pitch. This is a short, snappy description of the project to describe your book verbally to anyone you meet who might be in the position to review your work for possible publication, to describe it to a possible research interviewee, or to use the ‘hook’ in a query or cover letter accompanying a submission to an agent or editor.

These are not mere one-liners that you throw at a moment’s notice. They need to be well-crafted sentences that are short and sweet, yet manage to convey the central idea, and the conflict that your main character(s) will attempt to resolve in the course of the book.

You may be amazed at just how time-consuming it can be to come up with the perfect elevator speech. But it’s well worth it.

Once you’ve got something that seems to represent your book (or story or article) test it out on fellow writers or anyone who has read the ms. Ask them whether it might entice them to read the work if they haven’t already done so, how well it expresses the central idea, if they have.

The blogging agent Jessica Faust of Bookends, LLC – a Literary Agency recently challenged her readers to come up with their own.
Here you’ll find some of their one-liners, and also a few of her responses to some of them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Excuses, excuses... and a summer festival

What is the best reason for not blogging?

Writing, of course!

I've had a wild couple of weeks, with an idea coming to me as I cooked some rice for supper one night, and ten days later I have a decent first draft of a 17,000-word book for early readers (8-10) called Miss Stella's Mindful Moments.

(The rice burned!)

This one almost wrote itself. I felt as if I was just along for the ride.

I've had some great feedback from some real pros, along with very specific craft advice that has made so much difference: young readers have problems with contractions, and if you're going to name a place, person or thing that is not familiar to them, it helps if it's pronounceable. Which is why in Mindful Moments, Sechelt has now been changed to the Sunshine Coast, and the second run- through on the story took more time that I thought, as when you try to eliminate contractions, quite a bit of rephrasing is required. But I think the text benefited in the long run.

I have
Marsha Skrypuch to thank for that invaluable advice.

I feel confident enough to start pitching this baby; later this week will send out full proposal packages (query letter + sample chapters) to four publishers simultaneously. I'll wait to start the second wave of marketing Mindful Moments until I hear back from those four. And in the meantime, plan to finish up Elsie and the Silver Rain and start really digging into
Return of the Summer Fish.

Pandora's Collective Summer Dream Literary Arts Festival will be held Sat. July 21, 12 noon - 7:30 at Lumberman's Arch in Vancouver.

I'll be sorry to miss this - I will be working at the library, as I do most Saturdays.

This will be a great day of presentations, readings, workshops... and much more.

Check out the full day's schedule at

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Surrey Conference registration date announced

The registration date for the Surrey International Writer's Conference has now been announced - it begins July 26, at noon. Complete registration info will be available at the website.

Register early for the best chance of getting your first choice of agent/editor appointments, and to get a place in a Thursday masterclass.

Demand is now so high for this stellar event, that they usually have to cut off registrations at some point, so put you money where your mouth is soon, and mark July 26 on your calendar.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Inspiration vs. intent

Pictured above is a work by British artist Eric Ravilius (1903-1942)

I meet them all the time, writers (and those who've never written a word) who are waiting for 'inspiration' to hit so they can produce that poem/article/novel they've been wanting to write.

I try not to sneer.

But I truly believe that the only time inspiration strikes is when you're sitting at your desk working, or already so deep in a piece of work, that the new idea or insight almost comes as an irritation.

But don't believe me. Here's what Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize winning American poet says in her book ‘A Poetry Handbook’.

“If Romeo and Juliet had made appointments to meet, in the moolight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet, one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere – there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them.

Writing a poem is not so different – it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart, that courageous but shy factory of emotion, and the learned skills of the conscious mind.

They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen.

Or they make apppointments and are casaul and often fail to keep them them; count on it, nothing happens.

So if you're not inspired, or have writers block, or are the only one in your writing group with nothing to share, it might be because you're not making an appointment with yourself to write - in which case, how can you expect anything to happen?

So pick a place, set a time, make a goal.

And be there.

Something will happen.