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Call out to Writer Friends!

Reading and writing are my passions and occasionally, I have the honor of previewing a book before it is published.  When the manuscript is passed onto my hands (or laptop screen), I treat it gently because it is akin to a newborn.  It is the product of hard labor and sleepless nights and the author entrusts me to give an honest opinion about their “baby”.  I usually edit, to the best of my ability, and leave the good, the bad and the ugly in little notes along the side of the page.    However, this time, I was asked to be part of a Book Tour and publish my review online.

This is new for me as a blogger since I’m usually writing about traveling or teaching or life in general.  However,  I enjoyed writing the review and think it would be a nice addition to my blog.

My book review of Beneath the Slashings, by Michelle Isenhoff is part of her Blog Book Tour and will be published on August 14th.

Who knows — perhaps I’ll join the book review bandwagon! If that’s something you’re interested in, post here and let me know!

~~ Maggie

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Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Writing

 

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Top 15 tips for writing articles in a print newspaper

It all stems from a lunchroom conversation. A music teacher friend of mine, Lawrene, told me about a cool event: a Pulitzer prize-winning composer was coming to a local elementary school to sit down and help students compose their own music. The more I asked, the more excited I became. This story just begged to be written. And published. I jotted down notes and, unknowingly, conducted my first interview as a freelance writer for a print newspaper.

Writing itself is not new to me. I’d written in the high school newspaper decades ago and of course I’d written a lot in my previous career as a legal assistant. I loved to edit my family and friends’ college papers and dabbled in some freelance writing for online magazines, like Associated Content . Most recently, I’d written my first middle grade novel and felt the itch to get published.

After much research and drafting, I optimistically submitted the article to the local newspapers. At first, I didn’t hear anything. I imagined the newspaper offices were swamped and understaffed, due to previous budget cuts. I felt confident in my writing and knew it was print-worthy. I followed up with phone calls and two newspapers picked up the story.

Woohoo!

Since then, I’ve published 25 articles, mostly in the Canton Observer Newspapers and I’ve learned a lot in the process. Here are 15 tips for writing in a print newspaper:

  1. A good story begs to be written and published. In other words, content is top priority;
  2. Of course, good writing is a must. Check your grammar and word choice until it’s perfect. Reading it aloud several times helps to know when to stop editing it;
  3. Talking about the idea with a friend or relative helps develop the story and draw out what makes it interesting for readers;
  4. It’s easy to write about something that’s exciting or that I care about. Even if the story is not one that I’m initially connected to, once I start interviewing, the excitement builds;
  5. Friends, family and co-workers are great sources for stories. Keep ears perked for ideas and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Before long, they will approach you with ideas;
  6. Make connections in the community that may serve as contacts for stories;
  7. Unlike many online newspapers, space in print is limited and brevity is key. Start out writing without a word number limit and then tighten it as needed. Sometimes, the editor already has an idea how much space they want to use and they’ll give you the word limit;
  8. Write articles without your opinions, unless it’s an editorial — “Just the facts, and nothing but the facts”. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t quote someone’s opinion, as long as it’s not a slanted story;
  9. Be sure to proofread. Especially check the correct spelling for names. This makes it a lot easier for the editor and that’s who you want to please;
  10. Interviewing key people is important to the story. Not only does it provide information in an exciting way, but they are passionate about the topic and can give eloquent and interesting quotes;
  11. Invest in a voice recorder for interviews. Not only does it help get the exact quote, but hearing the tone in the person’s voice helps narrow down what’s most important to him/her;
  12. Be sure to back up your facts and research thoroughly. Do your homework;
  13. Write the most important information first. In other words, use the upside pyramid formula with the least important information at the end;
  14. Once you have a working relationship with the editor, get your story ideas approved before writing them. This saves you time and gives you a better chance of getting paid;
  15. Take pride in your writing. Seeing my writing published in print was more satisfying than online; It also turns out to pay better (at least for me).

I love freelance writing! Not only do I love the thrill of seeing my writing in print and I like the extra money, but I’ve gotten to know a lot of interesting people right here in my community.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Family, news, Writing

 

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Writing wisdom

Here are ten “pearls of wisdom” I’ve picked up in the last couple of years:

*Write what you know and research what you don’t; in other words – try to be as authentic as you can in order to be believable – whether you’re writing fiction or not – it turns off a reader when something doesn’t ring true;

*When quoting someone for a newspaper piece, wait for the right quote! People are amazing and no matter what age, when they are excited to share something that’s important to them, they say beautiful things – I found this was the case for every single article I’ve published; sometimes the best quotes come after the person relaxes and shares something, almost like an afterthought;

*Use a recording device for interviews – not only because of the obvious, getting the quote right – but it also helps to listen to it later and hear the excitement in the person’s voice and the event;

*Don’t give up – submit! so far, I’ve published everything I’ve submitted – even my Thanksgiving poem –  (except for my ms, which I only started submitting recently);  I became a freelance journalist ONLY because I submitted stories to the local paper and someone (awesome Editor that he is) liked what he saw and gave me a chance; it comes down to what the author, Janet Evanovich, says in her book “How I Write” — you’re not going to get published if you keep it to yourself – you have to submit!

*Listen to conversations around you – people say the most hilarious things in the most mundane places, like the grocery store and the oil change/tire store, etc.

*Don’t let the publishing industry dampen your spirits — they are human — really — and they are making business decisions — it’s not personal! Even if my ms doesn’t get taken up by a publishing house, I will still write my next ms — it’s completely based on the market and the bottom line and I get that;

*Reading the ms out loud is a must — especially to hear if the words come out smoothly, naturally or trip you up;

*Writing is a work of art! Before I realized this, I used to be so careful about my grammar, etc. and then I’d see a best-selling novel and find “errors” — or what I perceived as errors — like starting a sentence with “And”  or having a sentence without a verb, etc.  When writing prose — those rules are not so set in stone and it depends on the dialog or the flow. Perhaps the writer wants it to sound hurried. So she uses short words. Or the writer wants to keep it going and going and on and on because she wants to make a point of how long it really is…Just. Like. That.

*Avoid cliches! They’re just overdone and it makes for a boring piece. I love reading new ones – especially similes and metaphors that make me laugh;

*Exchange your ms with writing buddies who will give you the good, the bad and the ugly. (thank you Michele and Nancy!) Not only are they helping you with your ms, but when you help them with theirs, you also learn a lot too.

Happy writing!

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Writing

 

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WIP – story of my life! :)

My first writer’s conference was amazing! I can’t believe I waited all these years to attend one, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

The opening speech was by Jay Asher,  who wrote “Thirteen Reasons Why“. It’s a YA novel on the  New York Times bestseller (for 60 weeks in a row, I think). His speech was hilarious as well as inspirational.   With his easy charm and great humor, he shared his story as an aspiring author and entry into the publishing world. I learned that you may start out writing one genre and end up discovering that you’re more gifted in an entirely different one.

Other speakers included editors and an agent. I learned a lot from all of these women.  It was great to see them as real people, instead of “the agent” or “publishers”. One main message I got from the editors is: use an agent – they very rarely publish a new author who doesn’t have an agent. Also, make sure it’s well written because the competition is huge. I just had to look around the conference room to bring this message home.  Another message is that my WIP (work in progress) is seriously in need of more revisions!! 🙂 More on this later.

The main message I got from the agent was that she had to believe in the manuscript to be able to sell it. I can totally understand this. This brings up another message: send ms to several agents because they are all individuals with different tastes.

In the middle of all this, I was fortunate to make the lottery for a chapter critique by Jay Asher! He was just as funny and nice during our one-on-one meeting. He made a line-by-line edit of my first chapter and ms synopsis, which was more than I expected. He had great advice and overall was quite positive. Thanks Jay! It was refreshing to hear his opinions and I felt encouraged to keep at it.

My revisions, based on the critique, were not too bad; I was able to make the changes as soon as I got home. However, I decided to shake things up some more and it is still a WIP. I’m even considering writing something new in a different genre just for the fun of it. And, writing is fun — I’m loving the process!  As much as it would be amazing to get published, I’m loving the ride along the way.

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2010 in Funny, Writing

 

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Writing conference is one week away

I’m so excited about it since I’ve never been to one before.  I almost feel …guilty.  I get to spend an entire day learning about something that gives me so much pleasure. I’ll meet fellow writers and experts who I’m sure to learn from.

In preparation for the conference, I decided to read the books by the authors who will be speaking.  So far, I read Jay Asher‘s “Thirteen Reasons Why” and, for reasons only my closest friends will understand, this was difficult for me to read.  But — I’m really glad I did.  It was brilliant and I’m not just saying that because the guy will be critiquing my first chapter — yeay — it was so well thought out and deep and I couldn’t put it down!!  (That says a lot about a book that I didn’t want to read in the first place).  I’m so blessed that I’ll get to meet the author of such a great book (New York Times bestseller, no less).  I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from him and all the speakers.

Happy writing! Hope to see fellow writers at the conference!

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2010 in Writing

 

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Guilty pleasures

Heroes  – season finale is tomorrow night and…..I CAN’T WAIT!!  I’m totally hooked!  I don’t care what the critics say, I’m still a loyal fan.  The cast is impressive and the plot is entertaining.

American Idol –  yes, the audition stage is painful sometimes, but I like the touching stories and there are some great singers –  oh yeah, I laugh at some of the contestants — one word: delusional!  Some are downright ridiculous, I mean, come on, bikini guy?

Real Housewives series – right now it’s Orange County — each season seems to get a little over the top, but the women prove that money doesn’t buy happiness nor friendship.

Grey’s Anatomy – it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but I’m a loyal fan – the characters have grown on me, what can I say?

90210 – yes – I know it’s not like the original (and yes I watched that one eons ago) but I like this one too.  Too bad I have to wait until March for the new episodes.

Dollhouse – so sad it was cancelled….good acting and much better than some other shows on the air — who makes these decisions? 😦

new shows:  Modern Family and The Middle – love both! The Middle has some great characters and I think the writers are VERY creative!

Good thing I have DVR!

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2010 in Funny, TV, Uncategorized, Writing

 

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