Monday, June 29, 2009

I Feel a Draft Coming On

Two or three days of quietude, plus the reading of some poetry, stir me to compose drafts. It happened this past weekend for the first time in many months. I drafted 5 poems.

Per the book The Artist’s Way, I try to think of myself as a channel. Not a channel for poetry, but a channel for first drafts.

It’s the quiet and getting centered in it. It’s shutting off the ringer on the phone. It’s sleeping late enough to heal lingering tiredness, and poaching salmon and laying off the chocolate chips (straight from the bag). In short, it’s treating myself like someone whose well-being matters. It’s telling myself, when assailed by painful thoughts and distractions: “Be Kind To Your Mind.”

On second thought, I might have to credit the digital changeover on June 12, because my TV hasn’t worked since.

Writers Scare People!

Yes, we scare people! We know we're all gentle souls, and treat children kindly (you never know which of them will grow up to be a writer, and write about YOU), and you like to party & that -- but goll-lee, just let a household of non-writers know that a writer, like, a published writer, is in their midst and they will do one of two things:

1. Say Oh How Interesting and ask what kind of writing, and if it is not mystery novels or Christ-centered bestsellers like The Purpose-Drive Life, steer the conversation in another direction.
2. Feel Intimidated and say, Well, mumble, mumble, guess I will dig with my index finger through the antipasto.

Come on, people! Writers are JUST LIKE YOU. What we do is hard, like brain surgery and rocket science, yeah, but we want love just like everyone else on earth; please don't be scared of us.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Done Today

I've very little time lately between clients, work, and class prep to get to my own poems. But today I did. Finally I put a satisfactory closing line on a poem I wrote in 2006 (!) that has sat rotting unpublished because I couldn't capture that last line. Then I knocked off some changes (judicious trims) in a newer poem I've been hammering at for about four months, and now I think it's finished.

This didn't take but 45 minutes; however, I was focused. I feel good. Proud of myself.

Paging through the completed poems I saw that the best one was sent through 14 drafts; that the second-best went through 11 drafts, including one severe cutting job at draft #9, plus an extensive detailed workshop critique at draft #5. Who said writing isn't work?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What Your Skills are Worth

Copyediting: $26/hr
Manuscript evaluations: $46-$51/hr
Teaching/leading a workshop: $75/hr
Writing queries: $78/hr; $200 per project
Online research: $65/hr
"Generating content": $84/hr

Info is the "average" from the 2006 Writers' Market. You'd be making more today!

Go out and charge likewise!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Are You Worth Per Hour?

Maybe you can’t make a living wage from your fiction or poems or essays. But you CAN make money using the array of skills you employ when you do creative writing. Here are some of your skills. Not everyone can say they have them! How good are you at each of these, and how experienced? Do you know what they are worth? Can you set a price on them? That’s the first step toward getting paid.

-copyediting $_____ per hour

-evaluation of manuscripts/critical feedback $____per hour

-teaching or leading a workshop $____ per hour

-writing queries, proposals, or synopses $____per hour

-researching potential publication venues $____per hour

-navigating and gathering information from websites helpful to writers, such as or, and preparing to impart this information to those who want it $____per hour

-generating “content”: writing articles for publication or the web $____per hour

Those are just some of the skills you are probably undervaluing! More later, plus actual figures you SHOULD be charging.

Thanks to Becky Ellis of the blog for finding

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Want to Read Books on Your I-Phone?

Very soon a million books will be available for download, at $9.95 each, through a new app for your I-Phone. Read about it in this article from Poets & Writers online. I don't have such a phone so I will find someone who has one and who uses this app, and see if they can actually have a pleasant reading experience on that little screen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The closet door in his room opened into an enchanted land, where Polka the Giraffe led him on magical journeys, and Dunkin Bunkin (a rabbit) and Beeky (a woodpecker) had seagoing adventures and talked like 18th-century Englishmen, and their antagonist, Fantod Willie (a rat) made his living selling bubbles. . .

None of these wonderful stories was ever finished. I have the author's manuscripts. They are all about 3/4 complete.

Langston Hughes remembered a teacher who told him, "Always finish." This advice haunts me as I read these stories that almost -- could have -- made it into the world, and made it a better world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How to Compliment a Writer

"You are fierce, funny, and made of steel," someone recently told me. I agree 100 percent and find this a thrilling way to be perceived. But this got me wondering on how to compliment a writer. Good bets:

"I read your _______ and loved it!"
"Your work is fascinating."
"You're one of the best writers in town."
"I'm a fan."
"I got your book and I'm reading it."
"You really know how to write."
"Your voice is unique."
"You're an excellent writer."
"Your stuff is so much fun."
"Your stuff moves me to the core!"
"You just get better and better."

String any two of these together and you have a custom-made compliment for the next time you want to give a warm fuzzy to one of your peers.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

On Winning

Having entered 9 poetry contests this past spring I've placed in two of them and won the top prize from the Midwest Writing Center's regional competition -- for my "Apple Orchard" poem. They phoned me from Davenport, IA, yesterday, Saturday, and knock me over with a feather. I get $200 plus a special thing (a surprise) they send the regional winner. There's also a national winner. I chose, out of cowardice, not to enter the Center's national-level competition.

The other two honors:
  • Third place, St. Louis Poetry Center members' contest
  • Poetry in Motion, mine one of 15 poems selected to be printed on beautiful posters and placed on the are MetroLink trains. I had a poem selected in 2006 as well.
How do I feel? I'm happy; more so, I am honored. But it's odd -- the poems I sent that I thought were my best and most riotous are not among the winners. Ergo, I wonder: Is or is not the poet the best judge of his or her poetry?

Revise Yourself Raw

Gee, it’s not perfect, but I’d like it to be. Better work on it. There, that helps. But now the rest of the work has to be improved likewise. Maybe I should change the work’s tone entirely. Okay, revise line by line, sentence by sentence. . .

. . .That’s what I want to write, but what will people think of me? Better cross that stuff out. –Because people will guess that these are the true details of my private life, and oo-la-la! Sick self-display. I know better! Delete, delete.

Maybe this is really a short story. Maybe this is really a piece of creative nonfiction. Maybe this is really a poem. Maybe it’s a sonnet. Let’s try turning this into a sonnet.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Are Writers Temperamental?

Anonymous writer had two readings set up. Decided not to do them, but rather than say "I don't want to do them," picked an asinine quarrel guaranteed to short-circuit both appearances and future ones.

Anonymous writer breaks out in red spots upon hearing that she should inquire about guest teaching gigs rather than waiting (11 years & counting) for universities to seek her out. She's bitter that they don't.

Anonymous writer feels she is slighted because she is fat and black. Another sure that the problem is that he is a white male. Another feels ignored because he is over 50. Others feel pegged -- as a Jew, an Asian, a lesbian, an academic, a newbie.

Anonymous writer is crushed by a rejection, never tries to publish again.

Lots of suffering generated by their choices of truths and realities!