Tag Archives: write

Writing tips from Patricia Harman (a midwife and author)


FROM WENDY: This blog will be on hiatus for one week (July 11 – 17). Please enjoy this guest blog post with Patricia Harman, author of “Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey” and “The Blue Cotton Gown.”

Patricia Harman, author of
Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey
and The Blue Cotton Gown

In your writing life, how do you keep yourself focused and productive?
Sometimes I’m asked, “So how do you do it?  You have two books out and a third on the way in five years.  Lot’s of us have stories that we want to tell, but writing a book is such a commitment…”

When I’m working on a book, I am compelled, obsessed.  The story goes on like a movie reel in my head, while I’m biking, while I’m gardening, while I’m cleaning house.  I’m a midwife, so it stops for a while when I’m at work at our women’s health clinic.  Other people have stories too, and I have to listen.
Here are some things I do that move me along.
I Plan Ahead.   The night before my writing day, I think about where I’ll start in the manuscript, so I don’t waste time staring at the computer screen.  When I sit down at my laptop, much of the work of writing, the plot, story-line, dialogue,  arc of the narrative is already in my head;  I know where I’m going for the next few hours.  That doesn’t mean I can’t change things at a moment of inspiration.

I work in the same spot.  My computer and notes are set up next to a day bed where I can look out the window at a plum tree.  Few distractions and I don’t have to mess around setting up my scene and getting comfortable.

I set time devoted to writing:  I have two days a week off work each week and on those days, I get dressed, meditate and have breakfast, then write all day.  I have to remind myself every few hours to move around, that’s how intense I am about it.  Sometime’s I’ll throw a load of laundry in the washer or put a stew in the crockpot, but I keep myself focused.  My kids are all grow and that makes a difference.  When they were young, the only writing I got done was my journals or occasional poems in the middle of the night.
 I don’t stop to edit until I get stuck:  I don’t stop to edit until I finish what I have to say.  When I run out of steam or hit a hard part and am stewing in my juices, I use that time to edit, go back a few chapters and read what I wrote.  Sometimes editing will take all day, but by the time I’m done, I’m back in the zone.
 If I’m down, anxious or distracted, I put those feeling on paper.  Like everyone else,  I’m sometimes worried or sad or in a bad mood.  I’m tempted to just lie on my back and stare at the ceiling, but if I take those feelings and start writing them in the voice of one of my characters it becomes therapeutic and I just may learn something about him or her.  The paragraphs written might stay as part of the story, they might be moved to another part of the book or it might be junked, but it gets me going.
I never thought I would be an author.   (I was a mom, a midwife, a lover, a peacenik, an unpublished poet, for a while, a revolutionary.)  The author role wasn’t in my life script.  Now, I guess I am.

To contact the author go to www.patriciaharman.com



Writer’s digest self-published book awards


May 3, 2010 deadline; More than $17,000 in prizes; tons of categories – (poetry, YA, nonfiction, reference, life stories, inspirational, genre fiction, etc. etc.)

Info & entry HERE:


Interview with Christina Katz, author of “Get Known Before the Book Deal”


An Interview with Christina Katzsecuredownloadsecuredownload-1

Author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform & Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids


Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on “Good Morning America.” Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication. Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).securedownload-2

Q: What is a platform?

CK: Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.

A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so any writer can do the necessary platform development they need to do.

Q: Why is platform development important for writers today?

CK: Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them book deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.

Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Because ultimately, before you actively begin promoting yourself, platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Q: How did you come to write Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: I already had a lot of momentum going when I got the deal for a very specific audience. I wrote a column on the topic for the Willamette Writer’s newsletter. Then I started speaking on platform. When I gave my presentation, “Get Known Before the Book Deal,” at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference in May 2007, Phil Sexton, one of my publisher’s sales guys, saw it and suggested making the concept into a book. Coincidentally, I was trying to come up with an idea for my second book at that time and had just struck out with what I thought were my three best ideas. My editor, Jane Friedman agreed with Phil. That was two votes from people sitting on the pub board. They converted the others with the help of my proposal, and Get Known got the green light.

Q: Why was a book on platform development needed?

CK: Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have enough. At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Since book deals are granted based largely on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I noticed a communication gap that needed to be addressed.

My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw online how this type of information was being offered as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.

Q: What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an in-depth understanding of platform, and then the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.

Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.

Q: What is the structure of the book and why did you choose it?

CK: Writer Mama was written in small, easy-to-digest chunks so busy new moms could stick it in a diaper bag and read it in the nooks and crannies of the day. Get Known is a bit more prosaic, especially in the early chapters. Most of the platform books already out there were only for authors, not writers or aspiring authors. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I had to dial the concepts back to the beginning and talk about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.

Introducing platform concepts to writers gives them the key information they need to succeed at pitching an agent either via query or in-person, making this a good book for a writer to read before writing a book proposal. Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

Q: At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

CK: First comes the platform development and building phase. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase.

Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.

Q: What are some common platform mistakes writers make?

CK: Here are a few: 

  • They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
  • They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
  • They confuse socializing with platform development.
  • They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
  • They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
  • They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
  • They undervalue the platform they already have.
  • They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
  • They become exhausted from trying to figure out platform as they go.
  • They pay for “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.
  • They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.

I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.

My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there.

Q: What are three things our readers can do today to get started building their platforms? 

CK: Don’t start building your platform until you have clarity and focus. Otherwise you will likely just waste your precious time spinning your wheels. Or worse, fritter away your time with online distractions (and trust me, there are plenty!).

But once you know what your expertise is and what you are doing with it and for whom, then consider these three steps:

Start an e-mail list: Who are the people who like to hear about your writing success? Why not start a list in your address book with them and keep adding to it as time goes by. You can start by sending out simple regular announcements of good things that happen—just be sure to get permission. One way to get permission is to send an announcement about your work out to everyone you know and tell them that they can unsubscribe if they don’t want to be receive future messages from you on the topic. I strongly recommend that all writers read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin.

Create a simple website: Although social networking is fun, a proper writer’s website is not a Facebook or a Myspace page; it’s not even a blog. So save the detailed descriptions of your quirks and faves for the social networking you will do after you’ve built yourself a solid website to publicize your genuine writing credentials (creds) across the ethers while you are sleeping. And if you don’t have any genuine writing creds yet, getting some is an important first step. The step-by-step instructions are in Get Known.

Blog when it makes sense: Blogging can be great for writers assuming three things: 1) You have ample material to draw on and time to blog regularly. 2) You take the time to determine your appropriate audience, topic and your specific slant (or take) on your topic for your specific audience. 3) You don’t plan on starting a blog, blogging like mad for six weeks, and then disappearing from the face of the blogosphere without a trace. Preparation can prevent this common pitfall from happening to you.

Don’t forget that platform development and building takes time. Once you are ready to get started, just do a little every day and you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish over time.

Q&A w/ Sage Cohen, “Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry”


**Note from Wendy: This is a bit different than my usual “10 Questions for…” Q & A, but Sage is a good friend of mine and she has a new book out that I want to promote!

Q&A with Sage Cohen, Author of wtlpbuybutsecuredownload

Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry

a new book from Writer’s Digest Books



How does poetry make the world a better place to live?

I think poetry fills the gap left by the so-called objective truth that dominates our media, science and legislation. Many of us want to comprehend and communicate the complexity of human experience on a deeper, more soulful level. Poetry gives us a shared language that is more subtle, more human, and—at its best—more universally “true” than we are capable of achieving with just the facts.

How has integrating the reading and writing of poetry into your life impacted you?

I will risk sounding melodramatic in saying that poetry saved my life. I stumbled into a writing practice at an extremely vulnerable time in my early teenage years. Poetry gave me then, as it does today, a way of giving voice to feelings and ideas that felt too risky and complicated to speak out loud. There was a kind of alchemy in writing through such vulnerabilities…by welcoming them in language, I was able to transform the energies of fear, pain and loneliness into a kind of friendly camaraderie with myself. In a way, I wrote myself into a trust that I belonged in this world. 


Do people need an advanced degree in creative writing in order to write poetry?

Absolutely not! Sure, poetry has its place in the classroom; but no one needs an advanced degree in creative writing to reap its rewards. What most people need is simply a proper initiation. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to offer such an initiation. My goal was that everyone who reads it come away with a sense of how to tune into the world around them through a poetic lens. Once this way of perceiving is awakened, anything is possible!


Why did you write Writing the Life Poetic?

While working with writers for the past fifteen years, I have observed that even the most creative people fear that they don’t have what it takes to write and read poetry. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to put poetry back into the hands of the people––not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States––but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life.”


Who is Writing the Life Poetic written for?

Practicing poets, aspiring poets, and teachers of writing in a variety of settings can use Writing the Life Poetic to write, read, and enjoy poems; it works equally well as a self-study companion or as a classroom guide. Both practical and inspirational, it will leave readers with a greater appreciation for the poetry they read and a greater sense of possibility for the poetry they write.


What sets Writing the Life Poetic apart from other poetry how-to books?

The craft of poetry has been well documented in a variety of books that offer a valuable service to serious writers striving to become competent poets. Now it’s time for a poetry book that does more than lecture from the front of the classroom. Writing the Life Poetic was written to be a contagiously fun adventure in writing. Through an entertaining mix of insights, exercises, expert guidance and encouragement, I hope to get readers excited about the possibilities of poetry––and engaged in a creative practice. Leonard Cohen says: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” My goal is that Writing the Life Poetic be the flame fueling the life well lived.


What makes a poem a poem?

This is one of my favorite questions! I’ve answered it in my book, but it’s a question that I’m answering anew every day. And that’s what I love about poetry. It’s a realm where invention is not limited entirely by definition; there is room enough for the endless possibilities of the human. Every time we try to draw a line around what a poem is, something spills over into the next frame, shifting the point of view and demanding new names: olive, token, flax, daffodil. A poem is all of these, or none of them, depending on the quality of light and how the blade in the next room stirs the night.


What do you think people’s greatest misperceptions are about poetry?

I think the three greatest stereotypes about the writing of poetry are:


1.     That one has to be a starving artist or deeply miserable to write great poetry.

2.     That reading and writing poetry are available only to an elite inner circle that shares secret, insider knowledge about the making of poems.

3.     That poetry does not fund prosperity.


I hope very much that Writing the Life Poetic helps offer alternatives to some of these attitudes and perceptions.


I’d love to conclude with a poem of yours. Would you be willing to share one?

Of course! Happy to!


Leaving Buckhorn Springs

By Sage Cohen


The farmland was an orchestra,

its ochres holding a baritone below

the soft bells of farmhouses,

altos of shadowed hills,

violins grieving the late

afternoon light. When I saw

the horses, glazed over with rain,

the battered old motorcycle parked

beside them, I pulled my car over

and silenced it on the gravel.

The rain and I were diamonds

displacing appetite with mystery.

As the horses turned toward me,

the centuries poured through

their powerful necks and my body

was the drum receiving the pulse

of history. The skin between me

and the world became the rhythm

of the rain keeping time with the sky

and into the music walked

the smallest of the horses. We stood

for many measures considering

each other, his eyes the quarter notes

of my heart’s staccato.  This symphony

of privacy and silence: this wildness

that the fence between us could not divide.





About Sage Cohen


Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes four monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Sage co-curates a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. To learn more, visit www.writingthelifepoetic.com. Drop by and join in the conversation about living and writing a poetic life at www.writingthelifepoetic.typepad.com

Contest to get a literary agent: “Book in a Nutshell”


Trying to get an agent? The Knight Agency (my agent on books #1 and #2) is running a contest:querybook-copy2

“Book in a Nutshell” (150 words or fewer); April 20 deadline



                                                CLICK HERE to buy Wendy’s book on Amazon!

10 QUESTIONS FOR….murder mystery series author(s) Evelyn David


murdertakesthecake1Author interview with Evelyn Davidmurderoffthebooks

(a.k.a. Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dosset)







1. Tell us about your latest book.

Murder Takes the Cake is the newest book in the Sullivan Investigations series. It features Mac Sullivan, a retired DC cop and newly-minted private detective; Rachel Brenner, a recently divorced makeup artist in a funeral home; and Whiskey, an adorable and adored Irish wolfhound. It’s the fun sequel to Murder Off the Books.

It’s the week before Thanksgiving and Mac’s goddaughter has just announced her wedding. It’s not long before she discovers that planning a wedding can literally be murder.  Mac, Rachel, and Whiskey have less than a week to find a killer, some missing caskets, and some lost turkeys, as well as maybe a book on modern dating techniques. It’s a fun, festive…and furry adventure guaranteed to leave you laughing out loud and trying to figure out whodunit and why.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

Evelyn David is the pseudonym for Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett. Marian lives in New York and is a nonfiction writer with 10 books to her credit. Rhonda lives in Muskogee and is the coal administrator for the state of Oklahoma. They met on an Internet writers’ forum and decided to try and collaborate on some short stories…and then some novels.  We sold a short story to Woman’s World and have been busy writing ever since.

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

Both Marian and Rhonda work their day jobs (nonfiction book writer and coal administrator), while plotting murderous plots during coffee breaks and lunchtime. Most mystery writing is done at night and on the weekends.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

Messy? A disaster? Looks like a tornado went through and just touched down??

For Rhonda – Not enough storage, too many sticky notes taped everywhere, too many reference books scattered about, too many little temporary tables set up just for a particular project that then grow roots and stay. And a variety of Pepsi One cans and half-empty coffee cups scattered across my desk.  I’d like a fax machine but have absolutely no extra space for one.

For Marian: Ditto, except it’s Diet Coke and teacups.

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

For Marian, it would be the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie, and all the Southern Sisters mysteries by Anne George.

For Rhonda, it would be, To Kill A Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, Nevada Barr’s mysteries, Beverly Connor’s Lindsay Chamberlain mystery series, Virginia Lanier’s Bloodhound series, and Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott mystery series.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

Probably the craziest thing about Evelyn David is that the two halves have never met. Until we finished the first draft of the first book, we had never even spoken to each other. Now we do talk on the phone, but we are waiting to meet on that very special Oprah or maybe when we win an Emmy for the adaptation of one of our books into a TV movie of the week??

We thrive on deadlines; we wander aimlessly without them.

Neither of us can stand being late for anything. 

7. Favorite quote

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“It’s easier to get forgiveness, than permission.” Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

The best part about being a writer is creating a new world with characters that resonate with readers. The worst part is the inevitable rejection letters that are like a knife to the heart <sigh>.

The best times are when your characters talk to you and the words flow effortlessly onto the page. Doesn’t happen nearly often enough. The worst part of being an author is the time between writing “The End” and signing copies of your books at a bookstore.

9. Advice for other writers

Hang in there and keep writing. It’s easy to get discouraged because most publishers are reluctant to take a chance on a new writer. But write the book you want, that you would enjoy reading. Don’t worry whether it meets the current “hot” genre. Good writing will eventually be recognized.  Every published author, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Agatha Christie, all have legendary stories about how often they were rejected before they sold their first story. They made it – so can you!

Writing is a craft – study it, practice it, and hone your skills. Good writers continue to study and improve.

Don’t quit your day job.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. 

Rhonda’s tale was a learning experience for both halves of Evelyn David.

“My very first booksigning was at a small library near where I work. I was leaving from my office, attending a “Friends of the Library” luncheon where I was the guest speaker. Six weeks ahead of time I’d ordered a box of books from my publisher, just for this event. The box arrived in plenty of time. I didn’t open the box, just stored it with my bookcover posters, easel, bookmarks, etc. On the day of the event, my secretary offered drive me, then stay to pass out bookmarks and handle the change box. (I think she just wanted to see how I handled the role of author instead of government regulator.) Regardless of her motivation, I was very nervous and gladly accepted her help. About twenty minutes before we were to leave, I decided to cut open the box of books there at my office, instead of having to take a knife or scissors with me to the library.  A minute later, I was standing there in the parking lot, knife in hand, looking down into the trunk of my car at the opened box of books. I literally lost my breath. The books in the box were not Evelyn David’s first mystery, Murder Off the Books. My publisher had mistakenly sent me 30 copies of another author’s books. My first thought was, “I haven’t even read this book, how will I talk about it for 30 minutes?” My second thought was not one that can be printed. But everything turned out okay. My secretary went around the office and confiscated all the copies I had previously sold to co-workers. I think I had fourteen copies of Murder Off the Books to take to the library – and most importantly I also had lost my fear of booksignings. The worst had already happened. “

Where can people buy your books?

Please visit Evelyn David at www.evelyndavid.com, and catch her at The Stiletto Gang: Women writers on a mission to bring mysteries, humor and high heels to the world (www.thestilettogang.blogspot.com). Murder Off the Books is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, as well as directly from Echelon Press (www.echelonpress.com). Murder Takes the Cake will be published in May and available at all those outlets.

Like to write poems? Want to win books?


Like to write poems? Want to win books? My friend Sage is doing her Amazon Spike Day on March 17 for her new book, “Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry” (Writer’s Digest Books). You can also win a a consultation with Sage. All this is on top of the fact that you’re getting a FABULOUS book! Here’s all the info:         http://tinyurl.com/aezbo5

Ask Wendy – The Query Queen: What are “fillers”???



What are fillers and how much do they pay?

New! January 2009

New! January 2009



Fillers are those little snippets and one-paragraph factoids you often see in consumer magazines. Sometimes they run them next to larger articles (almost like sidebars or “Did youknow?” blurbs), sometimes they’re scattered throughout the magazine, and other times they’re listed in groups in their own section. A magazine like “Woman’s World” might run a whole page of tips from readers (“I clean my toilets with denture tablets because it’s cheap and safe for my dogs to drink from the toilets!”) and pay $25 or so per idea. I used to write short blurbs for “ePregnancy Magazine” on newsworthy pieces of interest to pregnant moms. The pay wasn’t much – I think $15 for 100 words or so – but each one only took me about 15 minutes, so that’s $60/hour. Other than greeting cards, fillers might have the highest per-word rate of all the types of writing you can do as a beginner. (Ad copy writing pays great per word too, but you usually need more experience.) I highly recommend trying your hand at fillers. It’s great, easy money and you usually get paid faster than you do for longer pieces like feature articles.

10 QUESTIONS FOR…Susan Carter, author of “Writer Profits: How I Got the Gig…”


Author #11: Susan Carter0967029171carter-sm-web

I have been a freelance writer and editor for more than 15 years, and a nonfiction book author for seven years. My past “lives” have been in marketing and communications. A string of consulting projects for newly formed franchises led me to write my first how-to book to give clients information that they were struggling to find. I’ve been “hooked on writing books” ever since. I’ve authored five books, both self-published and published by traditional publishing houses, at least a dozen e-books, and a home study course. As a freelance writer, I’ve written hundreds of articles and worked on projects for various industries, from Fortune 100 companies to small and micro businesses. I also occasionally “shepherd” other authors through the process of self-publishing their own works, or developing book proposals to attract an agent/publisher.

1. Tell us about your latest book.

It’s called Writer Profits: How I Got the Gig—15 writers tell how they get paying gigs and how you can, too. I wanted to put a book on the market that actually gave the “how to” for finding writing projects and assignments—something that includes step-by-step information rather than vague references like, “I met a guy and he hired me to write a television script.” That’s great, but it doesn’t tell me how to put myself in the position of meeting “the guy” or getting the assignment. This book does. Topics range from becoming a columnist, to technical writing, to authoring both fiction and nonfiction books, to commercial writing and more. The result was fifteen different writers with fifteen different “how to” stories—it’s received great reviews and I plan to publish a second volume in the near future.  

2. How did you get started as a writer?

My two passions even as a kid were writing stories and arts & crafts. I loved essay assignments (and loathed science) and sometimes illustrated the papers I’d written after they had been graded and returned. Uncertain about which was the more practical path to pursue, I received my degree in fine arts with an emphasis in commercial design, and a secondary in journalism. Once I hit the “real world,” I realized that I like art as a hobby not a career. After several “temp” jobs in an administrative role, I finally accepted a permanent one in marketing, weaseling my way into every writing opportunity that came along (the company newsletter, brochures, annual reports, etc.). At the same time, I studied how to break into magazine writing and landed a few assignments as a freelancer. For about three years I continued to build freelance work, ghostwriting projects, and a small client base until I was able to ‘quit my day job’ and be a full time professional writer.

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

I am an early riser, usually around 5:30 a.m. My mind is most clear the first thing in the morning so I work on anything that involves the creative process in those first few hours. Depending on what I’m working on, the afternoon might include making phone calls to conduct interviews, performing online research, reading, and “think time.” Productivity isn’t always about “doing”; sometimes it’s just “thinking” to make sure that activity is connected to desired results.     

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

To the casual observer, my workspace might look a bit cluttered. I have 3×5-foot computer desk with snippets of paper and sticky notes in various spots around the work area: some are reminders, some are new book or article ideas, and others are phrases or parts of conversation that might be good used in a future work. I also have several (but neatly stacked) piles of paper on the credenza behind me, each associated with a current project I’m working on. The focal point of my workspace is, of course, my computer. I use a 17” PC notebook so that I can take it with me if needed. I have a speakerphone so that I can type and talk during interviews, a small digital tape recorder that automatically creates WAV files to send to my transcriptionist, and a rolodex… yes, the old-fashioned kind that holds business cards and phone numbers, passwords, etc. on tiny index cards. After a computer crash several years ago wiped out all my contact files, I swore I’d always have a backup with hard copies!

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person so I’m very much a “how to” book junkie. My favorite books depend on what my current interests are. As I glance to my right, there is a bookshelf filled with great resources for writers. For book authors I’d recommend 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer, and Beyond the Bookstore by Brian Jud. The Writer’s Market by Writer’s Digest is my “bible” for researching markets for magazines and journals, and finding genre-specific book publishers/agents. I also have several books on editing (including the Chicago Manual of Style) because a good writer can become a great writer if you learn how to polish your work by self-editing.

6.  3 interesting/crazy things about you:

1) I love to read novels but rarely take the time to do it, 2) I still make handmade holiday gifts for friends and family (and some clients, 3) I live less than five miles from the Mall of America (Bloomington, MN) and don’t shop there, but my husband and I go there 5 times a week to walk the halls for exercise before any of the stores (or theme park) open.

7. Favorite quote?

I distribute a weekly ezine called the Monday Muse and each issue starts with a famous quote, so I adopt a new favorite quote each week! 

8. Best and worst part of being a writer?

The best part about being a writer is that success is in my own hands—it’s a matter of listening, learning, networking, asking for assignments, or diligently pursuing book deals. You don’t always get what you want when you want it but if you don’t give up, you eventually get great projects—and tremendous satisfaction. The worst part about being a writer is that success is in my own hands (yes, the “worst” is the same as the “best”). It’s easy to become discouraged and quit when you receive rejections and criticism. You have to be resilient, persistent, uncover new ways to break down barriers, and spend a minimal amount of time licking your wounds or sulking in a corner. 

9. Advice for other writers ?

I have two pieces of advice for writers: 1) Invest in yourself. You may have been told all your life that you are talented but it is important that you’re also skilled, so invest in honing and broadening your writing skills. Being both talented and skilled will open doors to new opportunities and boost your confidence. 2) Learn how to market yourself. If you’re a book author, you are expected to promote your book so you need a plan of how you’ll do that to give to your publisher. If you’re a freelance writer, you must understand and use marketing strategies and tactics to attract assignments. It’s not unusual for the best marketer—rather than the best writer—to get the job.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.

One morning several years ago, I awoke at my usual time, and brewed and poured myself a steaming cup of coffee while I watched my neighbors get in their cars and stream out of the cul-de-sac into rush hour traffic. I sauntered down the hall to my home office, started the computer, and opened Outlook to download emails. As I scrolled through them, I stopped mid-sip when I saw one from an acquisitions editor for a major New York publisher. I had self-published a couple of books by then and was experiencing respectable sales. The editor was researching books according to Amazon rankings and wanted to know if I would be interested in letting them publish the revised edition of my first book! Was this real or SPAM? I researched the company Web site, found a phone number, called it, and confirmed that this person was an editor there. It was real. After hearing for years how tough it was to attract a “top ten” traditional publisher, one landed in my “in” box without so much as a query letter from me. Sweet.

Where can people buy your book or sign up for your newsletter?

 Writer Profits: How I Got the Gig is available in select bookstores, on Amazon and from my www.WriterProfits.com  website, where you can sign up for the Monday Muse, my weekly ezine for writers.