Category Archives: articles on writing

Should you go to a writers’ conference?

מדליה2016

There’s a writer’s conference advertised . Should you go?

Is it worth it?

It costs quite a lot – will you make your  money back?

Maybe those are  the wrong questions to ask.

Try these questions.

Will you enjoy it?

Will you meet other writers facing the same challenges and fears, rejections and deadlines?

Will it make you feel that writing is a bit less of a solitary occupation?

Will you enjoy and learn something from the lecturers and workshops?

Will you  meet editors face to face so that you’re no longer just a name on a query  email?

Will you get a chance to have a one on one meeting with an editor to discuss a book idea that’s been burning inside you?

Will you go home fired and inspired and ready to sit down at your computer with a bunch of ideas?

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If the answer is yes – then go for it- and ENJOY

 

 

 

‘Very Time Sensitive’ – Write now publish tomorrow

 

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 If you live in Israel, as I do, every few years events occur which beg to be written about- NOW.

Often it’s to show the outside world the truth of what is really happening here.
Most of the world’s media give a totally distorted picture of events in Israel

Sometimes it’s to show  friends and family what life here is really like  under pressure.

But events on the ground change fast and yesterday’s terror attacks are old news today and almost irrelevant tomorrow.

If you want to write about the ‘situation’ and get it published your story will be VERY TIME SENSITIVE, and its up to you to make the editor realize this.

This  applies to anyone writing about a timely current situation anywhere in the world.

8 Ways to get your very time sensitive story published

1. Find a new/ different angle to the events.

Without minimizing the fear every mother has when she sends her children off to school every morning, and I’ve been through it many times, it has been written about frequently. If you  want to help show what it’s like to live under the constant threat of terror and have it published you’re going to  have to find a different angle, one that hasn’t been written about before.
Maybe interview a teacher who has to explain to little children why the school is under lock down when a terror attack has occurred nearby and security forces aren’t sure f there is another terrorist at large.
Perhaps speak to business owners in downtown Jerusalem  who see a 60% decrease in customers.
Find out from shops which sell guns how much their business has increased.

Stick to one particular point / angle. Don’t try and cover the whole situation in one article.

If you are writing an essay about your own experience or fears or how your daily routine has changed,   pick an aspect that hasn’t been written about. Remember you aren’t writing a news article.  Make it personal, the more specific details you include the better your essay will be.

2. Write your piece

Don’t spend too long on the writing – not that the writing should be second rate but you want to get this sent off as soon as possible. Sit down and write it from beginning to end. Read it through out loud. Does it flow? Does it sound like you’re talking to a friend? When you read it out loud you’ll notice awkward sentences, sentences that are too long and words you are repeating too often. If you stumble over a sentence when you’re reading it so will your readers – rewrite it.

If you are writing for a regular newspaper your style is likely to be different to when you write for a Jewish/ religious publication

3.Leave it for an hour.

Go back and edit it again. Proof read for grammar and spelling and read it out loud once more.

4. Send it to a writer friend

You don’t have time to wait a day or two and get some objective distance . But if someone else reads it they are likely to notice errors you missed. They can also check that it flows well and is logical.

5. Submit it

It’s probably no use sending to a monthly magazine. Some weeklies may take it but if they are in the shops on Friday then they probably go to press on about Tuesday so make sure to send your piece by Monday.

Daily publications are usually the best for these kind of articles.

6.Write VERY TIME SENSITIVE in the subject line.

Your  essay   may be considered an op-ed ( opinion piece) in which case it’s possible that you wont’ be paid. If receiving pay is important to you then  make it clear in your covering letter by asking what their rate of pay is. Many professional writers who usually write for pay are willing to forgo the pay when they have something they really want ‘ the world’ to understand.

7.Cover email

In your cover email, write that if you haven’t heard from the editor within 48 hours you will assume he is not interested and feel free to submit elsewhere.
If you decide to submit to several publications at the same time then put SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSION quite clearly in your letter.
Some publications may not look at it as they aren’t prepared to participate in a race, but most understand the need for a fast decision with these articles.

8 Where to send it

This site contains the contact information and guidelines for many newspapers which take op-eds. However be aware that the information is over 7 years old so contact details cannot be assumed to be correct today, you will need to check it out.
However there are a lot of helpful and instructive tips regarding writing about current situations that is worth reading.

How to Improve Your Writing

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 How can you improve your Writing?

By writing…regularly.

At best you could write articles, stories and pitches – but if you’re staring blankly at a blank page, then describe yesterday’s breakfast /  the contents of your closet / an email to a friend – anything to get the writing going.
Aim not to stop until you’ve written at least 250 words and preferably 500-1000

How do you improve it even more?

By reading….regularly.

Articles, stories, books, newspapers, Especially things in your genre, but also anything else that’s good writing as well.
Read as a writer. Analyze why the writing resonates with you, why it sounds so good. Remember all the things you learned about and see how it measures up. Does the author show and not tell / use dialogue appropriately / keep the suspense up but not confuse or disappoint you.
Look at the opening and ending. What technique is the writer using.

How  do you  improve it even more?

By taking appropriate writing courses… regularly.

With the aid of a good teacher and critique your writing will continue to grow and improve even after you’re already being published.
Try a new genre or if you’re happy with the type of writing you’re doing then take a course with another teacher.
Even though I write and teach writing, I still take courses regularly and learn and gain from each one.
Check out these sites and courses
Make A Living Writing
The Renegade Writer
Writers Digest
Women on Writing
and of course this one

How do you continue to  improve your writing?

Find a writing buddy. Someone whose writing you admire and who will give honest, constructive criticism – just as you will for him /her.

Good Luck

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Is your essay ready to go?

Laptop, Human Hands, Keyboard, Typing

8 checks before you hit send.

WAIT

Before you hit  ‘send’ on your latest essay do 8 final checks.

1. Read it out aloud.

Read it out aloud slowly and check if you’ve overused a word. See if you have to hold your breath  because the sentence is too long, or if  anything just plain sounds odd.

2. Delete every ‘really’ or ‘very’.

Delete most adverbs, but ‘really’ and ‘very’ are the worst. Choose better adjectives and verbs rather than use ‘really or ‘very’.
He walked really slowly = he dawdled    She ate very fast = she gobbled her food.

3. Does  your piece open with a  hook?

Does your opening hook  make it impossible for the editor/ reader to stop reading because they have to know what’s going to happen.

4. Is your essay written  in a friendly conversational voice?

Have you written it as though you’re telling a friend about the incident. Personal essays aren’t the place for fancy stilted language that you wouldn’t use every day.

5. Is there a universal theme to your essay?

Is there a take-away message for every reader? Something  fascinating  that happened to you is only of interest to others if they can identify with you.

6. Have you included plenty of details?

Did you ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ what happened? Did you use your five senses to show clearly / how you felt, saw and heard  / what it looked,tasted and smelled like ?
Don’t write
As I entered the house there was a delicious smell of  baking…….
but rather
I could smell the sticky cinnamon buns from the next street, together with the aroma of fresh brewing coffee.  I knew I’d be staying awhile.

7. Does your ending round things off?

Bring the incident full circle. Maybe repeat something you said at the beginning. If there’s a message then don’t tell it blatantly to the readers. They aren’t stupid. If they haven’t got the message then you haven’t written the essay well enough.

8.Sum up your message.

Sum up the message of your essay in one sentence. If you can’t it’s not focused enough.
Once you have found the sentence that sums it all up, make sure that every sentence you have written supports this message.

Put a check against all these points?

OK go ahead and hit Send.

 

 

Markets for Stories and Essays

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We all need  some new or different markets to keep our creative juices flowing , otherwise  the blank page, the most threatening aspect of a writer’s life, stares at us daring us to write something that is unmarketable.

CHICKEN SOUP

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One site that always inspires great stories is the Chicken Soup book site. Here they give a list of all the current titles they are working on and for which they are collecting stories. The variety of options is bound to spark some great ideas.

Check their deadlines carefully although none of them appear to have a immediate deadline looming.

WRITERS ABROAD

Do you live and write  somewhere other than your  native country. If so you should take a look at the site  Writers Abroad which, from May 1st will be collecting  submissions for their next anthology entitled Kaleidoscope. The are looking for short stories, flash fiction or poetry connected to their broad theme of ‘light’.

The theme is open to interpretation: your light might dispel evil, or reveal something unexpected in the darkness; perhaps your character ‘sees the light’ in a revelation; or light may have an important role in your setting. Firelight can destroy or warm and illuminate; or you may be inspired by the difference in light in other countries. The anthology will be print published and later available as an e-book.

All the details and entry rules are on their website.

SASEE –   It’s All About Women   Sasee Cover: May 2015

Essays of interest to women on any subject: essays, humor, satire, personal experience.

Every month has its own theme and the deadline is six weeks before i.e. the 15th of the previous month.

August’s theme is The Joy of Friendship with a deadline of June 15th
Ideas they give you to start your creative juices flowing are
August- The Joy of Friendship
Deadline 6/15/15
How did you meet your best friend?
Does your best friend have four legs and fur?
Why are our pets so important?
Why did you adopt a shelter animal?
Girls’ night out – one or two friends or a large group?
Reconciliations with old friends
Stories of childhood friends
Social Media – have you heard from your high school boyfriend?
Which friend makes you laugh the most?

SKIRT  Skirt® is all about women...their work, play, families, creativity, style, health and wealth, bodies and souls.

Their monthly theme for August is

August – The Local Issue – deadline July 1st
Essay Theme:
What “home” means to
you, widely interpreted…
a take on “no place like
home” or “home is
where the _____ is…”

 

BRAIN,CHILD    The magazine for thinking mothers

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

To get a good idea of what they are looking for,read through their guidelines and submission procedures.
They are not your usual happily-ever-after- market.
They cover some difficult, painful  parenting experiences.

Especially on the look out for humorous essays and essays about teens.

Now also welcomes flash fiction.

Do you know of other markets we can add to this list?

 

What makes a good Writers’ Conference

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Freelance writing can be a very lonely business, just you ( or me) and our computers, so whenever I get the chance to meet up with other writers, I grab it.

Any kind of occasional  get-together and swapping of ideas and experiences is good but if it’s possible  I think all writers should treat themselves, once a year, to a writers’ conference.

What are the main elements you should look for that will make a conference  a success for you?

a) Does it cover subjects/ genres that you  write about already  or want to learn about.
b) Are the magazines and publishers whose representatives are speaking at the conference the ones you are interested in writing for.
c) Will you get a chance to network with other writers, editors. and publishers.
d) Are the speakers successful, published experienced writers/ authors who have something specific to offer you in ideas, information and tips.
e) Will you get an opportunity to meet editors and publishers in your genre and have a one on one session with them. If so make sure you come prepared with ideas / pitches and a clear statement about what you write.
f)Are the workshop sessions practical and with a variety of choices.
g) Is the venue accessible, the price reasonable and  is food provided or a reasonably priced restaurant nearby. If the conference is for more than one day are there reasonably priced hotels in the vicinity.

 

JWWS 2015

For women writers who live in Israel, the one-day Jerusalem Women Writers Seminar, which takes place soon after Pesach/ Passover every year is  everything a writer’s conference should and could be.

This year there was an array of excellent  keynote speakers, well-known in the world of Jewish writing, the chance to participate in two workshops from a choice of about fourteen, including self-publishing, editing, translating, interviewing and writing for teens – there was little missing from the list of criteria.
Everyone who applied in advance was given a private session with a publisher or editor and  representatives from two magazines  gave a run-down on what it takes to get published in their publications.
The writer’s cup pictured above was included in the collection of ‘goodies’ all participants were given.

What do you think makes a successful writer’s conference anywhere in the world?
Tell me in the comments section below.

 

You can be a Travel Writer

You don’t have to travel far to be a ‘travel writer’. No need to pack your suitcase, buy an expensive airline ticket,  update your passport or even spend money in duty free ……….

Ben Gurion aiport, Israel Ann Goldberg  - Copy

 

Travel writing’s for everyone

Wherever you live in the world, your hometown and its environs are going to  interest  readers somewhere. Either it will be of interest because they live nearby and want to find somewhere to visit locally, or because they live far away and your neighborhood is exotic to them.

Find a site – then go and visit.

Start by finding some local sites of historical, archaeological or natural interest.
You can start searching on the internet and ‘google’ but don’t stop there.  Contact your local tourist board and then get out and visit these places. They can’t be far away. Take a notebook and camera and find out as much as you can, note down your impressions and take lots of photographs.

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Don’t stop at one place of interest. Find another one. Often parks will be built around ancient city walls or with a monument of historical importance in the middle.  And even if it’s not, the park itself might be of interest to visitors. Does it have somewhere for children to play? Is there a restaurant or cafe for hungry visitors? Is there a river running through it? Are there attractive flower beds with benches nearby for sitting and relaxing? Is it near a bus stop for those who might come from the other side of town.

Local Museums and all places of entertainment

Visit local museums, markets,  shopping malls, restaurants and places of entertainment.  A place doesn’t have to be old to be of interest. If a family is looking or somewhere to go they’ll need to please everyone of all ages.

Who will publish it?

Offer  the article to your local newspaper as a round-up of places to visit in your locality, around vacation time. This is when readers are  interested in ways of getting out and about without spending too much money, especially if they have school-aged children who need to be entertained for weeks on end.
Some newspapers have special travel inserts at various times of the year – check out if yours has.

If your editor grabs your article enthusiastically then venture a little further afield to the neighboring town and  start again visiting local places of interest.

What about national travel magazines?

Many travel magazines have ‘front-of-the-book’ sections with short travel pieces about off-the-beaten-track areas. Maybe your town qualifies for one of these ‘shorts’, if it has some interesting  sites that you don’t find everywhere.

Pitch a query for a short piece to the editor and who knows- maybe when he sees how much  there is to see and do in your back yard he’ll request a longer article.

What other aspects of your hometown do you think it’s worth including in your article?

Have you ever written a local travel article? Did you get it published?
Let me know in the comments below.

 

Pre-Pesach – No Time to Write?

 

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C’mon let’s be honest. Who has time to write between Purim and Pesach? There’s so  many far more urgent things that just have to be done around the house.

Well – yes and no.

No specific goals

I don’t set myself goals for writing and completing essays and articles between Purim and Pesach – but I certainly  make time for pre- writing because I get so many ideas at this time.

Most of  the articles  and essays that I hope will be published next year at this time,  have their beginnings now.
Tips on cleaning / time-saving / shopping / cooking/.
Essays about Pesachs past from my childhood , early marriage, with little children etc. Stories of my parents’  Pesachs in pre Holocaust Europe
Priceless comments little kids say when they see their mum crawling under the bed – all of these come to mind while I’m busy scrubbing / clearing/ sorting and cooking and if I don’t ‘do something’ with these ideas they’ll all be gone by the time the  chag starts.

Keeping track of ideas

So how can you keep track of these ideas as they come without having to take a break from the cleaning/cooking?

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Easy –  keep an MP3 nearby or, even better, in your pocket or attached to your clothes and as you think of something just record it. Or, have a notebook and pen in your pocket so you can make notes of anything and everything as they occur to you.
Try and find ten minutes each night to transfer your  notes and recording onto the computer, otherwise, if you’re like me, you might never be able to trace those gems of wisdom in a few weeks time.

Once you start cooking make a note of all the little things you want to remember for next year. Did you grossly over buy eggs and have 6 trays out of the twelve you bought still sitting there? Did you have to run out and buy more sugar /  chocolate  in the middle of a recipe because you’d underestimated the amount you need?  Did you find a great substitute for matzo meal when you  had no-gebrochts visitors for the first time?

Making a note of all these glitches will help your pre-Pesach prearations next year and could make a good basis for an article.

Don’t forget your camera

You might enjoy taking before and after photos of the rooms you’re cleaning ( the ‘before’ ones are embarrassing but the  ‘after’ ones make me feel so good). With digital photography today not costing a cent I take photos all the time everywhere just to keep a stock of my own photos to save  me searching the web for ‘free’ pics to accompany  articles.

Do you have any ideas  for keeping the writing juices flowing while preparing for Pesach. Please let me know in the comments below.

Simultaneous Submissions

 

Are Simultaneous Submissions a good idea?

Can you submit to several publications at the same time?
This is a question I’m often asked and my answer is always “No.”

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Once you have submitted an essay, if it is not rejected immediately as being totally unsuitable, the writing passes between several editors or readers to decide if it is suitable for the publication.
If  an editor accepts your essay, but you then  tell her “Sorry someone else bought it yesterday”, that editor is going to think very hard before she wastes her, and other members of her editorial  team’s, time reading anything else you submit to her.

Following up

Send your essay to one publication at a time and wait for their response.  Sometimes their guidelines will tell you how long you can expect to wait for a reply, if so then wait that length of time before following up.
If there is no indication of how long they usually take to  reply, then wait 7 – 10 days and then follow-up with a short email asking if they have made a decision about your essay.
Attach the essay once again to this email because you will jog their memory about its content.
It’s also quite possible that your original email got lost in cyberspace or in the editor’s  inbox and so you will save her having to ask  you to send it again.

Second follow-up

If you receive no reply whatsoever to your first follow-up, not even a confirmation of receipt, then send a further email about  4  days later.

Still no reply?

If  your second follow-up is also ignored then  I  would then send one more email telling them that due to lack of any response,  you are withdrawing the essay submission.

Now you can send it to the next publication.

But what if it’s time sensitive?

If  your essay is time sensitive, i.e. it’s relevant to a particular current event/ something that just happened / anniversary / yahrzeit / Yom Tov  then put the words time-sensitive in the subject line.
Write a message in the body of the email saying that as the material is time-sensitive,  if you haven’t heard from them within 48 hours / 5 days  ( whichever is appropriate) you will assume they are not interested and will feel free to submit the piece to another publication.

Not just time-sensitive but urgent

If it’s  something that would only be relevant in the next 24 hours, perhaps an op-ed, then if you do decide to send it  to several publications put the word ” simultaneous submission” at the top of the op-ed / essay / article so the editor is aware that she is in competition with other editors.

 

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Write for your local newspaper

START LOCALLY

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Are you ignoring  a great potential market that is right on your doorstep? I’m talking about your local newspaper.
It may not be glamorous or glossy and it may not pay big bucks, but it needs to fill its pages day after day, or at least week after week, with material that you are in a wonderful position to provide.
It’s also an ideal place to start,if you haven’t yet been published and are nervous about querying the big glossy magazines.
Although it will probably provide a small amount of national or even international news, its importance lies in its local angle. The editor wants to know about people,places and events in the area the newspaper covers.
But it still needs some research before you rush off a query about your nephew’s kindergarten teacher who moonlights as an opera singer.

  • Read the publication thoroughly from front to back making notes about the types of topics that are covered.
  • Note how how much space is given to community events/ education issues / profiles of local people  etc.
  • Read several editions to check if some topics/columns are regulars and are always written by the same person. If so your chances of writing on this topic are less than on a topic which is always written by different people.
  • Look through the list and see which section you could contribute to.
  • Brainstorm some ideas making sure they have a local angle  Perhaps an interesting off-the-beaten-track  local site/ someone with an unusual hobby/ a special activity at  your children’s school
  • .Develop one or two into full-blown queries indicating why you think it would be a good story for your newspaper.
  • Check the paper’s masthead to see which editor covers your topic and send off your query.
  • If you haven’t heard anything within a week, drop another email checking on your idea.
  • If they aren’t interested in these ideas, don’t give up. Think of some others and query those.

GOOD LUCK
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