Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Not Your Mother's Book...On Sharing Secrets, and The First Time

It's no secret...I've become a "co-creator." For somebody who thinks "author" is a bit grandiose, I'm not certain how I feel about billing myself as such, but like it or not, that's my new title. So far in my literary career, I've been a writer, a journalist, a reporter, an editor, a teacher, a mentor, a coach, and a contributor. Now, however, I find myself elevated to a loftier

I'm partnering with Dahlynn and Ken McKowen of Publishing Syndicate on two books in the new series, Not Your Mother's Book. My titles are "Sharing Secrets" and "The First Time." I've yet to write my own contributions for the pair...but have stories in mind.

The story submission guidelines for these books, as well as twenty-six other titles in the series, can be found here:

Here's some tips on putting together your stories for this new collection, courtesy of Lyndsey D'Arcangelo, who will be compiling My Story is Out, another Publishing Syndicate enterprise.
Not Your Mother's Book:

Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone knows how to write good story. Use the following Do’s and Don’ts to help you organize your thoughts and create the perfect story for anthology submissions.

Do make sure that your story is original, honest and a true account of real-life events.
Don’t write a fictional story.

Do try and explain what lesson you learned, if any, from your experience by weaving it into the story itself.
Don’t be preachy or judgmental—it’s the quickest way for your lesson to get lost in the mix.

Do mention real people that are relevant to the story.
Don’t mention your friend’s names just for fun or make up fictional characters.

Do address important social issues if they apply to you and your experience.
Don’t write a speech about political incorrectness or rants about inequality.

Do make sure your story is properly organized and that it has a beginning, middle and end.
Don’t ramble on without any structure or direction. The reader will lose interest.

Do write your story in the first person. (“I rode the bus to school.”)
Don’t write your story in the third person. (“She rode the bus to school.”)

Do write about your personal experience, whether it is a wonderful, courageous, difficult, joyful, funny or extraordinary situation.
Don’t focus on dark and depressing stories with agonizing outcomes. Even the most difficult situations can have a positive impact.

Do read through and edit your story before submitting it. It also helps to have someone else look at it and provide feedback as well.
Don’t submit your story without rereading it or checking it for errors.

Do try your hardest to create the best story you can.
Don’t give up if your story is not selected. It may not fit with this particular book, but might be a great fit for an upcoming book instead.

I look forward to reading your stories soon...don't be afraid to share your secrets.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Getting the Words Right"...Ernest Hemingway

Yesterday I learned that a story I'd had high hopes for, "Fun and Games," didn't make the final rounds for an anthology I'd hoped to be published in. Downcast at first, I reminded myself that there's reasons for rejection. I reviewed the tale. I found it fresh, funny and heartwarming. Then I realized that the book I'd submitted it to might be meant as something you'd buy for a bride, a newlywed, or for somebody celebrating an anniversary. In that context, my story wouldn't have been particularly uplifting...since I was reflecting on my relationship with my deceased spouse.

If I'd not been so enamored with my basic thesis, and had put this story away for a week or two, in revisiting it, I'd have realized it needed reworking for this particular market, or, better yet, that I should consider sending it elsewhere.

I won't give up easily on this story...I'm certain there's a home for it somewhere. But I remembered a valuable lesson I'd learned a long while ago. Never forget the reader over your shoulder. Will this sentence be clear to the reader? Will that reader find the prose harsh or harmonic? Will that reader understand the message you thought you'd sent?

This week I'm editing a novel aimed for the Young Adult market. The manuscript boasts some well-developed characters, a compelling plot, and some superb commentary on the meaning of poetry. But it's also cluttered with some clunky and confusing prose. I find myself making endless revisions, mostly minor deletions and insertions...all for the sake of that mysterious specter lurking in the background...the reader!

When I was an English major back in the early '60s, a professor recommended a book by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, The Reader over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose. Hands down, it's the best book I ever read on how to revise. It emphasizes clarity and consistency, and better yet, shows its readers how to achieve these ends.

I used this book when I taught high school English and journalism back in the early '60s. I recommend it today...and, amazingly, over fifty years later, this remarkable guide to good writing continues to be still available on

One Amazon reviewer who calls himself Irritated, and who likely teaches English composition, says this:

"If your students refuse to learn how important it is to focus on INDIVIDUAL WORDS-- if they insist on thinking that it is sufficient to 'get their point across in a rough way'-- if their sentences are as a result sometimes nonsensical, suggest this book. And then make them read it-- including the appendix at the back.

"Among other valuable aspects, the book uses examples of bad writing from famous authors-- simultaneously reassuring the student that a mistake can happen to the best of us, and reminding the student that vigilance is always necessary."

Here's validation on the reason to revise from George Plimpton's The Paris Review interview with Ernest Hemingway:


Do you do any rewriting as you read up to the place you left off the day before? Or does that come later, when the whole is finished?


I always rewrite each day up to the point where I stopped. When it is all finished, naturally you go over it. You get another chance to correct and rewrite when someone else types it, and you see it clean in type. The last chance is in the proofs. You’re grateful for these different chances.


How much rewriting do you do?


It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.


Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?


Getting the words right.