Category Archives: freelance life

FREE fun photo caption short-short story contest!


Mitch Lavender is holding a very cool contest!

In 101 words or fewer, write a caption / flash fiction piece for the stunning photo on his website:

Contest closes April 1, 2013. The winner gets:

– a retail version of Office 2013 for Windows (valued at $219)

– a well-used paperback copy of Stephen King’s book, “On Writing” with all the good parts highlighted! (NOTE FROM WENDY: This is one of my favorite books of all time!)

– a copy of Mitch’s book, “Untrue Stories, Volume One – It Didn’t Happen This Way”

FREE Freelance Success Stories Contest


Writer’s Market is currently hosting its 5th annual Freelance Success Stories contest. This free contest is looking for real stories of freelance success. These should be personal stories—written in first person—and true (how often do freelancers get to do that!). First place will receive $750 and publication in the 2011 Writer’s Market.

Submission rules: Stories should be 800-1,500 words. Submit as .doc (not .docx) or .txt attachment, or in the body of the e-mail message. Subject line should read Freelance Success Stories (or there’s a chance it could be deleted without being read). E-mail submissions only to

Author interview with…Wendy Burt-Thomas


Hi all! I’m flying to NY for 8 days so I’m taking some liberties and running my own author interview. I’ll be back with new authors and writing contests around July 22.

Author interview with Wendy Burt-ThomasQueryBook copy

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and PR consultant. She works from her home office in Colorado Springs – usually in pajamas or sweatpants. Wendy has written three books, and her fourth book comes out in April 2010. Her first two books, written with Erin Kindberg, were, “Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One” (2001, McGraw-Hill) and “Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick” (2003, McGraw-Hill).

  1. 1.    Tell us about your latest book.

“The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters” is a how-to book about getting published. It includes information on writing a query letter for magazines, agents, novels and nonfiction books.

The book was a great fit for me because I’d been teaching “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” for about eight years. In the workshop, I covered a lot of what is in this book: writing query letters to get articles in magazines, to land an agent, or to get a book deal with a publisher. Since I’m a full-time freelance magazine writer and editor with two previous books, this was incredibly fun to write because it didn’t require tons of research. I was lucky enough to receive lots of great sample query letters from writers and authors that I use as “good” examples in the book. I wrote all the “bad” examples myself because I didn’t dare ask for contributions that I knew I’d be ripping apart!

In addition to the ins and outs of what makes a good query, the book covers things like why (or why not) to get an agent, where to find one and how to choose one; writing a synopsis or proposal; selling different rights to your work; other forms of correspondence; and what editors and agents look for in new writers.

It was really important to me that the book not be a dry, boring reference book, but rather an entertaining read (while still being chock full of information). I was thrilled that Writer’s Digest let me keep all the humor.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

I’ve also been a writer. My dad is a writer (12 books, probably thousands of other published pieces) and I gave him a short story for his birthday one year (I think I was 7) and he read it aloud in church. I was hooked! My first paid piece was a poem I wrote at age 16. My dad sent it to a magazine on my behalf (without telling me) and I got an acceptance and check in the mail. I thought, “Wow! People paid me for my words? This is cool.” Yes, writing CAN be about the money too!

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

Send my kids off to a nearby home daycare (soon to be preschool!) and then spend at least an hour going through emails. Then I’m either writing (articles, a book, greeting cards), editing or doing PR coaching on the phone. I try not to work after my kids get home, other than posting my latest author interview and writing contests on Facebook and Twitter every night. (

4. Describe your workspace.

I have a cream and wood L-shaped desk , bookshelf and two matching filing cabinets that I just love. My office is in a sort of loft area on the second floor of our house, but now that we built our sunroom, I look out onto a tile roof. It’s probably for the best so I don’t procrastinate by watching our neighbor. Besides, the view out the picture window behind me is of Pikes Peak!

I’m not a clean freak, but I’m a bit of an organizational freak. There is dust behind my computer, but everything is it’s a labeled file. I have four Macs and often have two going at once.


5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

“Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing” by David Morrell

“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

“On Writing” by Stephen King

Two new books for writers:

• “Get Known Before the Book Deal” by Christina Katz  (

• “Writing the Life Poetic” ( by Sage Cohen

Also, my dad, “The Sinister Minister” is the author of 12 books. (

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

– A horse bit off the last knuckle on my right middle finger when I was 5.

– I once owned a muffin business in Vermont called Little Miss Muffin.

– I went to the University of Aberdeen (in Scotland) my junior year of college.

7. Favorite quote

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

I love when I get to write humor and people email me to say that think I’m funny and that it made my book (like the query guide) fun to read, even though it’s an informational book. I’ve gotten more “fan mail” on this book than my first two combined and the emails make my day EVERY time.

I don’t like being at the mercy of my clients when it comes to deadlines because I have two little kids.

9. Advice for other writers

Seize every opportunity that comes along when you’re first starting off. Many of your regular writing gigs will be from repeat business and referrals.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.

I was on a flight to NY skimming my first book for errors and the woman next to me leaned over and said, “Is that any good?” I laughed and said, “It had better be. I wrote it.”


Where can people buy my book(s)?

You can buy my latest book, “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters” in most major bookstores (it’s usually right next to the Writers Market) or on

Follow me on or befriend me on Facebook or LinkedIn.


Need a writer, editor or proofreader?


Lauren Holder Raab can help with your projects! She provides freelance writing, editing and proofreading services, primarily for authors and literary publications. Projects include books, magazines and websites. Check out her website,, and tell her Wendy sent you.

Here’s a review of Wendy’s book on Lauren’s site:

10 QUESTIONS FOR…”Standing Room Only” author Sarah Protzman


Author interview with Sarah Protzmanbookcoverheadshot-large

My journalism career began on a copy desk in Grand Junction, Colo., at a newspaper where I later became an A&E writer and dating columnist. I now work in Manhattan at Condé Nast Publications have written freelance pieces for New York Magazine, New York Resident and Prevention.

1. Tell us about your latest book.

“Standing Room Only” is my first book. It’s the story, written diary-style and as it unfolded, of buying a one-way ticket to NYC in early 2007 at 24, without a job or apartment. It’s about creating a life from the ground up and all the happiness and struggles that accompany starting from scratch.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

I’ve been writing since I could read. At 8, I wrote stories about two mice, Marshall and Raymond, who solved mysteries that often involved dinosaur footprints. Much later, I was a music columnist for my college paper at Mizzou, and after graduating was hired in Colorado. While on the copy desk, I became a dating blogger in the early stages of our push toward better Web content, and later replaced the A&E writer when she left.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m a copy editor at a fashion magazine, and basically I geek out on pivotal issues such as hyphenation, dangling modifiers and semicolon placement. I work from 1-8 p.m., so I use the morning for book marketing, running errands, exercising, watching Netflix, or sometimes (ok, often) sleeping in.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

Self-adhesive corkboards, a lot of magazine dummies, and a sign my coworkers have come to love — think a NO SMOKING sign with the word drama where the cigarette would be. There are many divas in fashion journalism (the men too), and I’m just not that into that.

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

Jhumpa Lahiri has a gift unlike any I’ve seen. Chuck Klosterman’s essays are pure hilarity and very insightful. Michael Cunningham’s  Home at the End of the World changed my life, as did many of Hemingway’s works.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

• If journalism didn’t exist, I’d want to be a singer/actor/dancer.

• I hate beer.

• I have been bitten by an emu, a goose, a cat and fire ants — though not simultaneously, of course.

7. Favorite quote

“You can learn how to be you in time.” –Lennon/McCartney

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

Best: The rare times when you write something you think is really good.

Worst: That print media is disappearing and the industry as a whole is in real trouble.

9. Advice for other writers

Read as much as you can. Think critically about everything you read and hear. Listen to how people talk and what they focus on when they do. Let your words, both spoken and written, be unpretentious and authentic, clear and accessible.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.

I once did a story where I went undercover as an aspiring rock star. I told several psychics my goal was to be performing on stage in New York City in six months. Each said my palm/the tarot cards/their intuitive powers indicated it would definitely happen. As an aside, one of them threw in, unprompted, that I would never bear children.

Where can people learn more about you and your book?

It’s all happening at


Interview with Melissa Donovan, creator of “Writing Forward”


Interview with Melissa Donovan, multi-talented writer and creating ofmelissadonovan “Writing Forward,” an award-winning site for writers 

Melissa Donovan is a self-employed copywriter and web content specialist. She writes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Her blog, Writing Forward, which was recently named one of Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers,” offers creative writing tips and ideas.


1. How did you get started as a writer?


Like many writers, I started out as a reader – a voracious reader. I could read before I turned four years old and I have always devoured books. When I was about thirteen, I started journaling and writing poetry. I also enrolled in journalism class and worked on the school newspaper.

2. Favorite books (especially for writers)

Writers can learn a lot by reading well-written works by successful authors. If you want to improve your language, read Jazz by Toni Morrison. If you’re having trouble creating realistic or believable characters, read Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Read the classics and read extensively in whatever genre you want to write.

3. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

I’m a huge animal lover, and one of my goals is to write and work on behalf of the No Kill movement, which seeks to end the unethical and unnecessary killing of homeless animals in shelters. You can learn more by visiting the No Kill Advocacy Center.

Normally, I’m pretty shy and I don’t like speaking in public or being the center of attention. The only exception is when I’m dancing. I love to dance, and when I do, my inner exhibitionist comes out and my shyness disappears. I like to own the dance floor.

I started working as a freelance copywriter on a whim. I had been working for a company that went out of business, and six months later I was tired of the job search, tired of corporate life, and tired of playing it safe. So, I took a leap of faith and less than a month later, I was in business.

4. Best and worst part of being a writer

The best part of being a writer is telling a story that people care about. Also, the writing community is incredibly warm and supportive, so it’s an honor to be a part of that. It’s all about making that human connection.

Having said that, the worst part is the solitude. The only thing I miss about having an office job is meeting and working closely with other people. The Internet is helpful in maintaining a sense of community but it’s not quite the same.

5. Advice for other writers

Read and write. Those are the only two things every writer absolutely must do.

Where can people get writing tips and exercises?

My website features writing tips to help writers improve their craft, along with activities like poetry prompts and writing exercises. The poetry prompts are especially popular because the challenge is simple – write a poem that contains all of the words from a list.

One of my favorite fiction writing exercises asks writers to get into their characters by chatting with them, putting them in situations outside of the story, and writing a monologue from the characters’ perspective. It’s called “Getting Into Character.” 

Tell us a story about your writing experience. 

I took a fiction writing course in college, and I remember reading my story out loud to the class – not something I enjoyed much, but it was a class requirement. They laughed, and the best part was that they laughed where the story was supposed to be funny. I remember thinking that I can do this – if I can make people laugh with my writing, then I can be a writer.

Want to get get published? I’m doing a radio show tomorrow


I’m doing a radio show tomorrow – talking about query letters (getting an agent, book deal, magazine credits): (5pm mt/4pm pst)

10 QUESTIONS FOR…Cynthia MacGregor, author of 54 books!


Author interview with Cynthia MacGregortnaydcomeonmom

My latest book is Come On, Mom, which is activities for mothers and daughters. But I prefer to talk about a quartet of books on the subject of divorce. After Your Divorce is for women contemplating divorce or recently divorced. The Divorce Helpbook for Kids is just what its name says—for kids whose parents are going through divorce or recently did. The Divorce Helpbook for Teens conveys much of the same info, but slanted to a somewhat older reader. And Jigsaw Puzzle Family is for kids one or both of whose parents have remarried.


My 54 published books: The Everything Get Your Baby to Sleep Book (Adams Media), Raising a Creative Child  (Carol/Citadel), Family Customs and Traditions (Fairview), Why Do We Need Another Baby? (Carol/Lyle Stuart), Mommy, There’s Nothing To Do (Berkley), 365 After-School Activities (Adams Media), Mommy, I’m Bored  (Carol/Citadel), Free Family Fun (Berkley), Everybody Wins (Adams Media), Totally Terrific Family Games (Berkley), Why Do We Have To Move? (Carol/Lyle Stuart), Why Do People Die? (Carol/Lyle Stuart), One Heart’s Opinion (Rubenesque Romances),  An Appetite for Passion (Rubenesque Romances), Creative Family Projects, Games, and Activities  (Carol/Citadel), Kids in the Age of Exploration (Power Kids/Rosen), The Abduction Prevention Library (Power Kids/Rosen), The Martial Arts Library (Power Kids/Rosen-pseudonymous), Mommy’s Little Helper: Christmas Crafts  (Meadowbrook), Octopus Pie (Maval), Mom, Inc. (Taylor Trade), Fun Family Traditions  (Meadowbrook), What Do You Know About Manners? (Meadowbrook), Moon Love (Rubenesque Romances), Night-Night (Conari), When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Writer (Lobster Press), Divorce Helpbook for Kids (Impact), Divorce Helpbook for Teens (Impact), Good Clean Fun (Robins Lane), I’m at a Loss for Words (Adams), Thanks, Aunt Zelda (Lobster), The Cook-Ahead Cookbook (Bristol/Nitty-Gritty), The Naptime Book (Conari), Think for Yourself (Lobster), Little Indulgences (Conari), The I Love You Book (Conari), Jigsaw Puzzle Family (Impact), Betsy Ross’s Refrigerator (Seedling), Come on, Mom (Lobster), and After Your Divorce (Impact).


Freelance writing: Obviously books, including ghostwriting (not included in the list above), plus most anything else that will sell, from business-oriented stuff to…well, just about anything except grant proposals or super-technical stuff.

I also edit (again as a freelancer).

I live in South Florida, in a little village called Palm Springs, just outside West Palm Beach. Though I’m a native New Yorker, I’ve been down here long enough to have put down long roots and feel like a true Floridian.

1. Tell us about your latest book.

I’d rather tell you about the four I mentioned above. They were all pubbed by Impact Publishers, a lovely house to work with. AYD was co-authored by Bob Alberti, PhD, though in truth I wrote most of it.  I wrote the other three solo. As a divorced woman myself, I know about a lot of stuff in the  book firsthand. Likewise the info in DHK and DHT, since I have a (now grown) daughter who was two yrs old when I divorced. In a case of  history repeating itself, she divorced her first husband after having her first  two kids (she’s since had four more with husband # 2), and I got to go thru it all  again with her and her kids. I have many divorced friends as well,  and bits and pieces of their lives made their way into the books as well.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t write. I was probably only seven or eight when I co-opted my mom’s old typewriter and set it up on a bridge table in my room so I could write on it. A play I wrote at age nine was produced in summer camp. As a teenager I had poems and other writing published in the local weekly (in a suburb of NYC where I grew up) even before I became an unpaid writer for the paper—what today would be called an intern, though I don’t recall the term “intern” being used for anything but doctors back then.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

Up at 5, sometimes earlier. Dressed and teeth brushed and all that stuff and put up a pot of coffee and right to my computer. Read/answer email and try to be done with it by 6. Read newspaper and try to be done with it by 7. Revise my to-do list and prioritize my day. Start working. Call my best friend some time after 8 and see how she is. Lunch around 10:45. A half-hour nap at some point. Wrap up in time to cook dinner and hopefully have it on the table at 6—though I don’t always succeed in that. What I work on throughout the day? There is no “typical” in answer to that question. Writing, editing, sending out manuscripts to editors, doing the scut work (e.g. bookkeeping, other non-creative stuff), maybe some of all of the above…it varies. Depends on whether I’m currently working on a book, whether I currently have a project in-house from one of my clients (for writing or editing) (or several projects from multiple clients) , whether I’m currently in the midst of a huge manuscript-marketing project, or what.

Saturdays and Sundays the routine is similar but not identical. Saturdays from 10 to around 11 you’ll find me at the  rehearsal of my theatre group, and Sundays you’ll find me leading  worship services for the  residents of an Assisted Living Facility from 10:30 to around 11, as I am also an ordained minister and at present my ministry is to the residents of Heron’s Run ALF. Otherwise, my Saturdays and Sundays are alike to the other days.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

In a word: cluttered. And I HATE clutter.  But since moving five years ago from a house to a condo, I am dealing with a much smaller workspace and have little choice in the matter. My computer (a Mac G5), monitor, scanner, UPS, cable modem, Airport (wireless setup), and printer take up most of the room on my desk. Behind my chair is another desk, which houses my postage meter, scale, some reference books (plenty more in the closet, where you will also find copies of all my published books), envelopes, index cards, and other stuff.  Back to back with that desk is my Significant Other’s desk. Though he does a little writing too, primarily he is an eBay seller (and, like me, an ordained minister, though he currently does not have a ministry). Along one wall are six filing cabinets that house everything from  manuscripts to contracts to royalty statements to paid bills and other financial stuff to copies of some of the magazines I’ve edited. Also my stereo. I am a total show tune freak, although I often play classical as I cannot write or edit against background music with words, so if the work I am currently involved in is writing or editing (as opposed to manuscipt marketing or some other non-creative work) I will likely have classical music playing.

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

Ironically, my two all-time favorite books are novels: A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN and THE HUMAN COMEDY. I say “ironically” because I read little fiction,  overwhelmingly preferring nonfiction and especially humor (e.g. Dave Barry, the late Lewis Grizzard, and others of that ilk). My tastes in nonfiction apart from humorous are all over the map. I sub to PUBLISHERS WEEKLY to keep up on industry news and am forever being tempted by book reviews in it, then succumb to temptation and go online to to order whatever looks good.  No willpower! I just finished reading DEWEY (about a library cat) and started reading MOP MEN (about men who clean up after messy suicides, homicides, and accidents), and have the latest Dave Barry book on my nighttable, ready for me to delve into it next.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

1 – I am an inveterate punster (wordplay), and mid-May of most years finds me in Austin TX, participating in the O. Henry World Championship Pun-Off, either as a contestant or a judge. I won second place one year—the best I’ve been able to do as a contestant. Last year I had too much work to get away, and this year I may have too little money. It’s been tight lately.

2 – I write for a hobby as well as for a living. The Palm Springs Players, my theatre group, produces plays I write—about four of them a year on average.  We do not charge admission, do not make any money from the performances…if anything it COSTS us money…for costumes, scenery, props. The Village of Palm Springs Leisure Services Department provides us the auditorium—we don’t pay them  and they don’t pay us—publicizes us,  gives us rehearsal space, but it’s strictly a labor of love. We aren’t allowed to charge money for admission and that’s OK. We’re doing it for the love of acting, writing, designing sets (that would be Christy—we couldn’t do it without her). Our current production (in rehearsal currently with a production date set for the end of March and two other tentative performances at other local venues—also for no money—under discussion) is our first drama; previous productions have all been either comedies or kiddie shows.

3 – My other main hobby  is cooking. I LOVE to cook…and to entertain. Mostly NOT big dinner parties but rather one or two people at a time. HOWEVER, three times a year—my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas—I invite a huge number of people (35 or so may not sound “huge” to you, but you just try to cram them all in this little condo!) and cook up a storm! I am utterly exhausted by the time I serve dinner, but I LOVE doing it.

7. Favorite quote


“There is no one in the world I’d want to trade lives with” – Me

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

You mean there’s a bad part?

Well, besides the money being so dicey. But really…a bad part? I mean, doing what you love—writing–what you HAVE to do, what you need to do as much as people need to breathe or eat—and getting paid for it? There’s a BAD part?

9. Advice for other writers

Don’t give up! Don’t let the rejection slip blues get you down. I’ve had 54 books published but have more than twice that number of books still looking for homes. I get manuscripts back in the mail more days than not. But I NEVER give up. Here’s what to do: Have an assortment of things out there looking for homes. It might be five copies of your only book, or one copy each of five different articles, but don’t just have ONE ms circulating. That way if you get a ms back, you can tell yourself  that even now some editor may be considering making an offer on ANOTHER copy of your book or ANOTHER article.

And here’s another tip: Plan ahead to where ELSE you’re going to send that ms. Don’t just send it out with no thought to where you’re going to send it next. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll send it out, get it back, think, “I need to look for another suitable publisher to send it to,” put it aside…and you might never send it out again. Have a plan. Have a target market list…even four pages long if you want. And when the book/story/article/proposal/pitch/query comes back, send it right back out again to the next editor on your list. Don’t give yourself a chance to give up on yourself. Inertia is a powerful force. Don’t give it a chance to take over your professional life.

And yes, writing IS your profession, even if you’re  a lawyer, a secretary, a doctor, or a store cashier for your daily dollar and only writing evenings and/or weekends. Take yourself seriously…or don’t bother.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. 

I once took an editor out to lunch while on a biz trip to NY. She had pubbed my first two books, and in my naivete I thought I could now reap an assignment that she would suggest: “I need such-and-such written.” She thought I had a pitch to offer. I didn’t. We sat there and stared at each other.

Another time, later on, having learned my lesson, I invited a publisher (hands-on guy, small house) to dinner after learning he would be in my area. I took pains to find out his fave liquor, fave wine, food likes/dislikes. I served a perfect meal, preceded by just his kind of cocktails, followed it up with a pitch for several book ideas. Only to find that he is very uncomfortable discussing such matters in person and prefers to get pitches by mail or email, saving social occasions for purely social. Struck out again.

Where can people buy your books?

My books are all available on as well as thru my website ( and some are available in most B&Ns and some other bookstores.