Monday, February 20, 2017

New Writers: 5 Tips for Answering Their Questions

Every so often I get the "Questions". You've probably gotten them too. You know, when someone asks,

"How do I get started in writing?" 


"How can I get my writing published?"

So us writers, we're thinking, this isn't a question that can be answered in 5 minutes. Or even 5 hours. These are "tip of the iceberg" questions. There is no brief answer, and the response is multi-faceted. There's always something to learn, and just about the time we think we've got a grasp on things, the market changes.

And since we're busy with writing and life, we don't always have the time necessary to share all of this with the wide eyed newbie asking the question. Since I've been asked these questions many times, I decided to compile a list of 5 basic tips.

1) Take writing courses.

From webinars, workshops, and seminars, to correspondence and online classes, free and paid options abound. Just because we like to write doesn't mean we have all the necessary knowledge and skills. Good courses teach things like how and where to submit our work, how to approach an editor, and so on.

I experienced this firsthand, learning valuable skills and information from the Institute of Children's Literature courses I took years ago. They were comprehensive, lending direction and cutting the learning curve down in regard to how to write what publications want.

Here are a few recommended sites that offer great courses.

Coffeehouse for Writers
Faith Writers
Poynter's News University
Institute for Writers
Institute of Children's Writers
Writer's Digest

2) Join a writer's group.

Groups offer fellowship, support, resources, courses, workshops, conferences, and more. Find local ones through friends and colleagues, regional papers, or an online search. Organizations such as the ones above also offer online support and/or critique groups.

Other groups include The Insecure Writer's Support Group, which addresses writers of all genres, the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

3) Attend a writer's conference.

Conventions, conferences, and workshops are offered year round. National, state, and local groups sponsor ones of all sizes. Don't discount smaller offerings; just because the keynote speaker's name isn't a household word doesn't mean they don't have much to share.

4) Take advantage of great resources. 

Books, magazines, newsletters, websites, blogs - there are great resources everywhere. A few favorites include Funds for Writers, Pen and Prosper, Writer's Digest, and Writers Weekly. These types of resources  offer links, articles, forums, contests, and other great features.

5) Keep learning.

Educate yourself. It's hard work, but keep at it, learning the craft and sharpening skills. There's always something to learn. Always.

While these tips are helpful for newbies, they're also a reminder of the wonderful tools available to all writers, no matter where we are on the journey.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? What advice would you offer? What was the most helpful advice you had when starting out?

Happy writing,

Photo image: Free Images

Monday, February 13, 2017

3 Ways to Move Past Rejection

Anyone who's been writing for a while has known rejection. Whether an unaccepted article or book query, a polite decline from an agent, an unkind blog comment, or a bad book/article review, rejection can be hard to swallow. It stings. And it sometimes creates an argument in your head. True story: I had a mental conversation with the person that posted the two star Amazon review for my book. I felt my head was the best locale because a) I don't know them and b) I'm too polite to say anything if I did know them, and c) sometimes it's just better to keep your mouth shut. 

While we know that rejection is part of life and serves to help build character, it can make us doubt our abilities. We might be hesitant to submit again, finish that story, contact a potential freelance client, speak at a writer's workshop, or to just write anything at all. It might even make us hesitate to stick our heads outside ever again. (Okay, maybe that's just a tad dramatic.) 

When our confidence wavers, so can productivity. So how can we move past the sting of rejection?

1) Keep it in perspective - Rejection does not mean you are a lousy writer. It means that whatever you wrote this time around was not suited to the market, readership, publication, reviewer, etc. Not everything you write will be everyone's cup of tea. And that's okay.

Despite this rejection, the sun will still rise and set tomorrow. Your family, friends, and pets still love you. God still loves you. You are here for a purpose, and wallowing around in rejection for great lengths of time does nothing to help you live life to the fullest.

2) Recall and value past accomplishments - Did you finish that writing class you took last year? Did you attend and meet other scribes at the writing conference? Was your poem published in the church bulletin? Did that children's riddle get accepted? Does your blog have followers? Did you have an answer to that writing question someone asked you?

Recall past successes, writing related or not, no matter how small. No need to get a big head here, but celebrating the positive can refresh and rejuvenate our mindset. Remember too, that you're on this earth for a purpose. You can affect those around you for good. A kind word or gesture can go a long way. Technically "published" or not, you still have something good to say. 

3) Keep moving forward - Like falling off a bicycle, it's important to hop back on and get going again. Write a story, submit a guest post to a friend's blog, or research that topic and turn it into an article. Take a class or brush up on grammar skills. Experiment with another genre. Meet existing obligations. Just keep moving, learning, and polishing your skills. We don't lose until we quit.

Author Ann Gabhart said, "Rejection is not fatal." She's right. While it's an unpleasant part of life, we can use it as a catalyst, onward and upward to new and better things.

What helps you work through rejection?

Writing always,


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, February 6, 2017

Meet the Blogger with Donna Volkenannt

As you might have guessed, Donna Volkenannt and I met through blogging. She's a gifted writer, with stories appearing in Chicken Soup for the Soul and numerous other publications. Her blog, Donna's Book Pub, offers a host of goodies from writing advice and publication opportunities to thoughts on language and books. She's friendly, helpful, and I suspect, just as kind and sweet in real life as she is online. It's always fun to hop over and see what's happening at her place. 

Welcome, Donna! It's good to have you visit. Why did you start blogging? How long have you had your current blog? 

At a writing conference several years ago, a speaker talked about the importance of building a platform and networking. I was unsure what the terms platform and networking meant, so I flashed back to my younger years. Back in the 1970s I wore platform shoes and owned a pair of fishnet stockings, but when the speaker mentioned blogs and blogging, I realized she wasn’t talking about vintage fashion attire. (Just kidding.)

In reality, in 2008, a techno-savvy member of my critique group told me how easy it was to start a blog. With a burst of enthusiasm, I rolled out two of them concurrently. One was my personal blog, Donna’s Book Pub. The second focused on book reviews. Updating and maintaining two blogs left little time for other writing, so I let the second one fade away to focus on Donna’s Book Pub.

Platforms - Lol! I never thought of it like that. And I owned quite a few pairs of platform shoes myself. I guess we had a head start on the whole marketing thing after all! :D Tell us, what is your blog about?

My intent for Donna’s Book Pub is to be a friendly place for visitors to drop in and chat about writing, publishing, books, and thoughts on life in general. Over the years I’ve shared submission opportunities, tips on writing, conference notes, author interviews, personal stories, and a potpourri of thoughts and observations.  

Well, I'd say you've succeeded in making it a friendly place. It is indeed that and a whole lot more. What benefits have you gained through blogging? 

I’ve gained discipline with writing and self-editing and have come to realize that ideas and plans need to be adjusted to fit time constraints. 

The greatest benefit has been connecting with so many amazing writers who share a passion for the written word. I’ve met talented and generous bloggers who have given me a glimpse into their lives and have helped me learn about the art, craft, and business of writing. 

I agree. The benefits, friends in particular, are great. It's a great community. What projects are you working on now? 

A few years ago I started a novel during National Novel Writing Month. I crossed the word-count finish line, but the novel wasn’t complete and wasn’t very good. Since then, in between writing shorter works, I’ve been plugging away on the novel.

The second project I’m excited about is a volunteer project -- a short script that will be performed during our parish’s cemetery walk in the fall. I’m looking forward to receiving research material from our parish heritage committee so I can start writing the script. 

Both projects sound interesting. Will look forward to hearing more about them in the future. What might people be surprised to learn about you? 

A pleasant writing surprise occurred in 2012 when my essay, “Honey, Can I Borrow Your Garter Belt?” won first place in the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award. As part of the award, I received a generous check and was a guest at the Erma Bombeck workshop at the University of Dayton. It was an unexpected honor and a delightful experience! 

Congratulations! How exciting. Those kinds of surprises are nice! What advice would you share with a newbie blogger? 

Take risks and explore new ideas, but be prepared to change or adjust as needed. Also, take time to visit other blogs and leave comments. 

Good advice. Blogging is a lot like real life, isn't it? Thanks so much for joining us this week, Donna! It's been a pleasure. :) Wishing you much success with your writing.

Thank you, Karen!

More About Donna 

Donna Duly Volkenannt got her first byline as a high school reporter for “Prom,” a St. Louis-area magazine for teens. She is a former president of the Missouri Writers’ Guild and has presented creative writing workshops in Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas. Her work has appeared in: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Spirits of St. Louis, Irish Inspirations, Mysteries of the Ozarks, Cup of Comfort, Sauce, Bookreporter, Storm Country, SASEE, and other publications. First-place winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor award, Donna lives in Missouri with her husband, grandchildren, and fourteen-year-old black Lab. In her spare time she reads, writes, and volunteers.

Visit Donna at her Blog

Do you have any questions for Donna? Do you concur with Donna's advice to newbie bloggers? What are you writing this week?

Happy writing,

Teacup photo credit: Free Images