Archive for the ‘Writers’ Category

Service of the Difference Between Writing Books for Children and Adults: Author Meadow Rue Merrill Tells All

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Meadow Rue Merrill signing the contract with RoseKidz for the Lantern Hill Farm series

Author Meadow Rue Merrill, a 2018 Christopher Award winner for Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, an inspirational memoir, sent me a copy of her new book, The Christmas Cradle, for children 4 to 7. [I promoted the 2018 Christopher Award winning books for adults and young people which is how I met her.]

I took advantage of her generous spirit to ask her questions because of her expertise in so many writing genres.

Speaking of generosity, the mother of six donates 10 percent of her royalties from the Lantern Hill Farm series, [The Christmas Cradle is one], to Compassion International. All of the royalties from Redeeming Ruth support orphans and children with disabilities in Uganda. More about Merrill at the end of–and throughout–the Q & A.

Do you think of different ideas for children’s vs. adult books?

Ironically, I began experimenting with ideas for children’s books long before I sat down to write a book for adults. Writing for children seemed more accessible—not because it is easier but because I strongly connect with my childhood. However, while taking workshops and attending conferences to develop my skills as a writer, my family adopted Ruth, an abandoned baby from Uganda who had multiple disabilities. So many people began asking about Ruth, I started writing her story, which turned into my memoir, Redeeming Ruth. A few months after it was published, I received a contract for a five-part children’s picture book series, Lantern Hill Farm. So you never know where you’re writing journey will take you.

Is your inspiration from a different place?

I’m inspired by events and images and words that touch me deeply—whether something that makes me laugh or cry or makes me question why the world is the way it is and how to make it better. I began writing Ruth’s book as a happily-ever-after adoption story, but when Ruth unexpectedly died from health complications shortly before her eighth birthday, it became both a spiritual lament and a treatise on the power of faith and love.

Many ideas for books come from my life and family, like The Backward Easter Egg Hunt, the first book I wrote for the Lantern Hill Farm series. A friend had asked me to organize an Easter egg hunt for a party. She had a basket full of plastic eggs, but I’d neglected to buy the candy. On the way to the party with my kids, I scratched down some ideas for a scavenger hunt based on the Easter story and gave the kids empty eggs to fill. They liked it so much, I turned it into a book, and my agent suggested a series. Walah! Lantern Hill Farm was born. Each story is designed around an activity to help children share God’s love with their family and friends around holidays.

How complex can you make subject matter for kids?

For the youngest readers, a picture book typically needs to focus on a single issue or problem. But that issue or problem can come from a complex experience. The challenge is writing about that experience in a way that is truthful and compelling but with a very limited number of words. My Lantern Hill Farm books are available in a longer version for older readers and as board books for the youngest readers. Reducing the text of each story from 800 words to about 150 was a real challenge, but I was surprised how many words I could eliminate and still have a complete story. I tend to write a much longer first draft to find my way into each story. Then I reduce, reduce and reduce to make that story stronger.

Are there techniques to simplify a basic story?

Once you know where your story is going, take out everything that isn’t necessary to move the story forward. That goes for writing for children or adults. Since I don’t always know where my story is going, it takes me a lot of extra writing to get there. The more I discover of the story, the more I know what to get rid of.

Because a book for young children is usually much shorter than one for adults, is it easier—and faster—to write? 

Photo: amazon.com

Faster, yes. But only because a picture book contains fewer words to place in order. I suppose that also makes it easier, but I wouldn’t call it easy. Publishing my first picture book came after two decades of reading picture books to my own children. Thankfully I have a houseful! During that time, I was also working on my memoir and a middle-grade novel. For me, writing is a slow journey of discovery. The greater the number of words, the longer that journey takes. While my picture books take less time to write, I’ve been thinking about them ever since having children.

How did you choose your illustrator—or does the publisher select the illustrator?

My publisher, RoseKidz, selected the illustrator for the Lantern Hill Farm series. When the first book in the series, The Christmas Cradle, came out this fall, the characters were different from how I had pictured them, but I love how the artist, Drew Krevi, who has worked for Disney and Marvel Comics, captured the fun and excitement of the story.

Do you think today’s children’s book authors have different challenges than those writing before the Internet, smartphones, electronic games and gizmos existed?

I’m not sure if the authors have greater challenges or if the children do. Maybe it is a little of both. But certainly, technology has a way of disrupting attention spans of writers and readers alike. In my own home, I limit how much tech my kids (and I) have access to. For instance, we don’t have Wi-Fi. We run our Internet through a cord in the wall, so it is only available in a single spot. That opens up the rest of the house for reading—and we keep plenty of books.

What were your favorite children’s picture books when you were a child?

Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent, by Bill Peet, about a misunderstood sea monster, any and everything by Beatrix Potter and a children’s picture Bible that I carried around my childhood farm while my mother took care of her sheep and chickens. Regrettably, I had few picture books as a child and was rarely able to go to the library because my single mom was in college and had a farm to run. But the books I did have, I clung to like keys to a magical kingdom. They opened my mind to a world where things weren’t always what they seemed, where animals talked and life was ordered by something beyond what I could see. Perhaps because books were somewhat rare, I valued those I did have all the more.

Do you have other questions to ask this prolific writer? What were your favorite books when you were young?

Photo taken at The Christmas Cradle launch party in the 200-year-old barn of the real-life Jenny, whose generosity and love for others inspired the character in the book. Merrill reads to Ezra, her youngest child.

former journalist, Merrill was a correspondent for The Boston Globe, wrote parenting essays for The New York Times, was a contributing editor to Down East magazine and co-wrote a history for Harvard University–all while raising six children. She currently writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine, where she lives with her family, one pig, an all-kinds-of-cute rescue puppy and a flock of mischievous chickens.

Service of Stationery That’s Not

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Card by Jesse Levison, Gold Teeth Brooklyn

My visit to the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center is always a treat as I love fine paper, eye-catching graphics, fancy giftwrap and embellishments and there was plenty this week to satisfy from wrapping paper stunning enough to frame, magnificent ribbon displays especially by May Arts Ribbon and Ampelco Ribbon, paper party plates, favors, banners and accessories, books, candles, portfolios, boxes, balloons, and a riches of note cards for birthdays, holidays—you name it.

Jesse Levison of Gold Teeth Brooklyn’s whimsical, well rendered motifs in saturated colors screen printed on superior paper [photo above] appealed to me. She wasn’t alone: Talented artists abound at this show. I worry that there may be too many of them, but then I could say the same for gifted writers and musicians, journalists, filmmakers and so many others with training and talent that may go unrewarded in a financial sense.

Neon flamingo by Sunnylife

I play a game with myself when I cover such a trade show. Would I order this or that for my imaginary stationery store? That’s when I noticed exhibitors who were selling items that didn’t fit my idea of stationery. Examples: Barware; bath and body creams; fragrances; tea pots and tea; neckties; leather luggage; backpacks; baby clothes; jewelry; sunglasses; Sunnylife’s pool toys, neon birds, lobsters and cactus [that I loved] and decorative pillows.

And then I remembered that supermarkets and drugstores sell stationery as well.

In addition to art, music, journalism, filmmaking and writing, what other industries are overcrowded with talent? How and where will these gifted people find a way to be paid? What items have you been surprised to see in any store that you’ve traditionally visited to buy something else?

Ampelco ribbon

Service of Putting Your Money Where Your Talent Is: What Books Do Authors Read & Pictures Painters Collect?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

"Thoughts" by John Henry Henshall, 1883

“Thoughts” by John Henry Henshall, 1883

Books

Authors are always asked to name writers they admire and books they’ve loved and all are brimming with lists. Lisa C. Hickman, Ph.D is no exception. When I asked her by email she responded in minutes, “That’s a tough question, I admire so many. I recently finished Rick Moody’s Hotels of North America which was super smart and funny.  I also liked his novel The Ice Storm. But that’s all I’ve read by him.”

Author Lisa Hickman

Author Lisa Hickman

Hickman wrote William Faulkner and Joan Williams: The Romance of Two Writers (McFarland); edited Remembering: Joan Williams’ Uncollected Pieces (Open Road Media) and authored the narrative nonfiction book, Stranger to the Truth, (IndieAuthor LLC), a recounting of a Memphis matricide case.

She continued: “I’ve read a significant number by contemporary authors such as Jim Harrison, Valerie Martin, T. C. Boyle, Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Oscar Hijuelos and Per Petterson, to name just a few.  In the southern literature genre–the subjects of my first book—in addition to William Faulkner and Joan Williams are Larry Brown, Cormac McCarthy, Lewis Nordan and William Gay.   

“I think Andre Dubus III’s novel, The Garden of Last Days, about the terrorists who orchestrated 9/11 was a marvel, yet it didn’t get the traction it deserved.  An author with a lot of wit and talent—often overlooked–is Stanley Elkin.  I’m also a big Judith Rossner fan! And so it goes…”

David McCullough

David McCullough

In The Christian Science Monitor Danny Heitman reported that David McCullough likes to read what the subjects of his books did. In 2011 the Pulitzer Prize and National book Award-winning author told Heitman that John Adams carried a copy of Don Quixote and as he had not read it, he added it to his list. Among McCullough’s favorites are “historians Barbara Tuchman, Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote,” wrote Heitman, and he “is also a big fan of William Trevor, the Irish author and playwright, as well as mystery writer Ruth Rendell.” Quoting McCullough: “I love Anthony Trollope, I’m a Trollope nut. I also like [Canadian novelist] Robertson Davies. I love  Charles Dickens’ ‘American Notes.’”

Pictures

Authors aren’t the only ones to collect the work of colleagues. Mary Tompkins Lewis wrote in The Wall Street Journal about pictures by famous artists chosen for a London exhibition because other famous artists had bought them, which, she reported, happens a lot. [I never thought about it before but imagine it’s a superb subject for a museum exhibition!]

Lewis identified some of the artists and the paintings that will be on view at the National Gallery through September 4: 

  • Lucian Freud bought “Italian Woman” by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Paul Cézanne’s “Afternoon in Naples”
  • Henri Matisse owned “Three Bathers” also by Cézanne and a picture of a Tahitian by Paul Gauguin
  • Lewis wrote “Degas, whose buying habits bordered on addiction, briefly considered establishing a museum of his own.” Degas owned works by Gauguin, Manet and Cezanne, to name a few. Today Jasper Johns owns one of the Cézanne pictures that Degas had also bought—“Bather with Outstretched Arm.” 

“Countless artists have collected the work of their peers or masters of the past. As the exhibition shows, their motivations for doing so—which can include emulation, kindred pictorial ambitions, rivalry, prestige of ownership, or even investment—offer intriguing insights into their own artistic makeup,” she wrote.

Do you have a job, vocation, or hobby that inspires you to collect or read the work of others? Have you read books that your favorite authors say have inspired them? Do you enjoy identifying influences of other artists in some of the paintings you love most?

Paul Cézanne's "Bather with Outstretched Arm"

Paul Cézanne’s “Bather with Outstretched Arm”

 

Service of Debt Collection

Monday, September 14th, 2015

where's my money

I read this on a Facebook posting on September 10: If you write for _______, please beware. I filed my invoice on June 1 and still have not been paid. The editor gave me the wrong info on who to send my invoice to–twice! I’ve sent numerous emails and it’s been so time consuming trying to collect my money.

“I got a few emails from their accounts payable dept. saying all my info was in and I should be getting a check soon. Today, I checked on it and was told that they do not have all of my paperwork. I finally heard back from the editor and she said, ‘I really hope you won’t tell people not to write for us because of $300.’ I’m not telling you not to write for them. I just–at this point–really dislike them. I just want you to beware.

Social mediaWriting about this kind of exploitation infuriates me as do people who either play games, working the float on small fry suppliers making them wait for months or worse—ordering work they know they can’t/won’t/don’t plan to pay for.

I’ve written before about a writer friend who was stiffed a fee in the middle five figures by people she knew in an industry in which she was well known, causing such havoc on her finances that she had to move precipitately to another/less expensive city where she didn’t know a soul. The company was going bankrupt and the owners took advantage of her. This was years ago and I still want to take a shower when I think of them.

I knew a flim-flamer who told a graphic designer he worked with for years, “You designed those logos on spec,” when nothing of the kind had been said. Contracts don’t protect you: They cost too much in time and/or lawyer’s fees to defend in court. I’ve not been immune nor have other honorable, hardworking colleagues in PR who provided topnotch counsel, creativity and results.

The typical victim is not too big to fail so who cares?

I used to see typed or handwritten names of people on bits of paper taped to grocery store cash registers representing customers whose checks the cashier was forbidden to accept. Because the honor system doesn’t work so well, instituting a similar online virtual list, by industry, of individuals and companies who have swindled others wouldn’t be viable. People who disliked or were jealous of someone could add a name that shouldn’t belong and anyway, nobody is guilty here without a trial.

taking candy from a babyWhat’s the difference between these perpetrators and youngsters who mug the elderly or adults who abuse children?

What do you think about resorting to social media to accelerate/stimulate/embarrass a company to pay? Before hiring someone, even for a project, smart employers check a person or company’s Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages where they’d see such postings. The writer in the intro was angry and rightly so, but would a reputation of blabbing to the world about a grievance frighten away future clients?

Exploitation

Service of Getting the Facts Right

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Just the Facts

This guest post is written by Homer Byington who continues to devour history books and biographies as he has since childhood and has an uncanny memory for facts.  My husband wrote:

Ashley Jackson’s Churchill, (Quircus, New York, 2014), and Harry L. Katz and The Library of Congress’s Mark Twain’s America, (Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2014), have more in common than that I just finished one and started the other.

Churchill book coverBoth books received excellent notices. The recent glowing review in The Wall Street Journal was what prompted me to read the latter, and I can attest to the quality of the writing and fresh, balanced thinking in the former. Jackson’s work reminds me a little of that great popular historian, George M Trevelyan’s. However, while the illustrations in Mark Twain’s America are lavish and stunning, it reads like it was written by a committee, which it probably was. The book is also minimally annotated and the index is a joke.

Mark Twain's America coverThese books have more in common than just success. Unfortunately, they both contain factual errors.

The photo caption under a photograph of the three men on page 5 of the insert to Churchill reads, “December 1943: The Bermuda conference. French Premier Joseph Laniel, President Eisenhower and Churchill.” The 1943 must be a typo; the date should be December 1953 when the three of them did meet in Bermuda. What is confusing is that Churchill also met with then General Eisenhower in Tunis in December of 1943, but it was not likely at that time that either of the two had ever heard of Laniel who was then living in occupied France.

On page 22 of Mark Twain’s America, the authors, writing about John Marshall Clemens, the father of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) state: “Trained as a lawyer in Kentucky, and named after the country’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he….” John Jay was the country’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I am not bragging, but I knew that before I reached high school. John Marshall was not even the second or third. The position was considered sufficiently miserable, that nobody would do it for long. That is the beauty of the Marshall story. When President Adams offered him the job, he took it and did much to make the court what it is today.

I know about editors, proofreaders and fact checkers, but I blame the authors. If they cannot get their facts right themselves, how can we trust what they write? The Library of Congress, especially, should be ashamed of itself, and Mark Twain’s America, because of the pictures, is likely to end up in every school library in the country.

What do you think? Should authors be held accountable for errors of fact in their work? Or is it all right for them to slough off the blame on their editors, proof readers and fact checkers?  Can you share other such examples of factual mistakes?

Proofread

Service of Work Rooms: Where Authors such as Peter Ackroyd, Jhumpa Lahiri or Richard Dawkins Write

Monday, September 16th, 2013

 

The Writer’s Room” in the Sunday New York Times Magazine a while ago got me to thinking of spaces in which people are comfortable doing their jobs and where, within them, they are most productive. I previously touched on the subject in “Service of Telecommuting.”

In the article author Julian Barnes noted that he handwrites first drafts and moves to a typewriter for second ones. He wrote that his office has been the same Chinese yellow for 30 years and that he types on his IBM 196c of the same vintage. However his desk has changed from the original placed at right angles to a table to “almost a horseshoe” shape since he had one built and added on to over the decades. He concluded: “The room is usually very untidy: like many writers, I aspire to be a clean-desk person, but admit the daily reality is very dirty. So I have to walk carefully as I enter my study; but am always happy to be here.”

The Lowland Jhumpa LahiriJhumpa Lahiri’s desk was previously owned by a pope’s cardiologist—a healthy pedigree. She doesn’t always work there, where she types. “Otherwise I sit on the sofa to write by hand or read.” She admits that when she first saw the apartment—in Rome—she knew which room she’d like to work in, the previous tenant’s dining room. She reads copy on the terrace on occasion but never writes there.

Richard Dawkins is driven to change where he works by the messes he makes, starting on a clean table moving to others, even if they are outdoors. Jonathan Lethem doesn’t say how long he’s written in the home and office in which Esther Wood once lived and wrote, but he still feels it’s hers, not his. Wood died at 97 in this house built by her grandfather.

Faces in paintings and photographs inspire Edwidge Danticat. She wrote: “I keep a pile of pictures, intriguing faces torn from newspaper or magazine pages, from which I might borrow distinctive features and gestures for my characters.” She continued, “Sometimes when I’m stuck and can’t write, I just sit there and stare at [a photograph of Jean-Michel] Basquiat. Or I sit under my desk and stare into space.”

Peter Ackroyd LondonJust this weekend The New York Times Style Magazine ran a piece about author Peter Ackroyd, “Man of Many Words,” by Jody Rosen. The introductory photo shows Ackroyd at his cluttered desk. Rosen wrote: “Ackroyd writes nearly all day, nearly every day. Each morning he takes a taxi from his London home, in tony Knightsbridge, to the office he maintains in Bloomsbury, where he typically divides his workday between three books. He begins by writing and doing research for a history book, turns to a biography sometime in the afternoon and finishes the day reclining on a bed in a room adjacent to his book-lined office, writing a novel, in longhand.”

Ackroyd’s, like some of the others, is an example of disorderly desk, clear mind–which I relate to.

I admire friends who work in the living rooms of their one bedroom apartments. I don’t even notice their computers and papers when invited for a visit. They are organized and neat and either single or their significant other works outside their home.

I remember the woodshop a retired family friend kept in the basement of his home in Forest Hills, Queens. He’d make a collage of photos of annual gatherings, paste it on wood and make memorable jigsaw puzzle gifts for us. He’d been a businessman but I’d wager that his shop was his favorite workspace.

You’d think a traveling salesperson’s car or a photographer’s studio would be best for them but not always.

Have you worked in a dream space or can you envision what it would be? Are you most effective in what some might call an unexpected place?

Photo: davisphotographic.com

Photo: davisphotographic.com

Service of How Did That Happen?

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

how did that happen

Monkey Business

primateI’ve covered plagiarism before and am consistently amazed by the reaction of the outed plagiarist. This time it’s a world-famous primatologist according to Christopher Joyce, NPR. Jane Goodall who, according to a statement reported by Joyce, wrote the following about “Seeds of Hope.” “This was a long and well-researched book, and I am distressed to discover that some of the excellent and valuable sources were not properly cited, and I want to express my sincere apologies.” I added the bold to part of the quote to underscore the passivity of the apology. Joyce points out that Goodall had a co-author.

 What’s a $Billion Among Friends?

BillionBankruptcy is a different kind of oops, especially when a $billion is involved and in so short a time. The Revel Casino in Atlantic City is less than a year old, according to Tom Hals and Jonathan Stempel of Reuters, and management expects to be out of bankruptcy by summer. A little bump in the road to everyone but those who are owed all that money and if the vendors are small enough and unable to weather the loss, they won’t be in business as Revel expects to be.

NJ.com quoted CEO, Kevin DeSanctis, in an earlier article: “‘Today’s announcement is a positive step for Revel,’ DeSanctis said. ‘The agreement we have reached with our lenders will ensure that the hundreds of thousands of guests who visit Revel every year will continue to enjoy a signature Revel experience in our world-class facility.’”

How benevolent, how wonderful for the CEO to be concerned about future guests: Is my scorn coming through loud and clear?

Peek-a-Boo

LululemonThe press had fun writing and speaking about Luluemon’s $98 yoga pants that turned out to be see-through by mistake. It affected the stock and Bloomberg.com reporter Sapna Maheshwari covered analysts’ interview of Lululemon’s CEO, Christine Day. Day told them:

“The truth of the matter is the only way you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over,” Day said on today’s conference call. “Just putting the pants on themselves doesn’t solve the problem. It passed all of the basic metric tests and the hand-feel is relatively the same, so it was very difficult for the factories to isolate the issue, and it wasn’t until we got in the store and started putting it on people that we could actually see the issue.” [Highlight is mine.]

People in a store are different from people at headquarters or at the plant? I’m not the only PR person to test a client’s toll free number or website link before sending out a press release that includes such references. Chefs are known to have bad teeth because they are test-tasting food all day long. At that price point, couldn’t somebody at headquarters or at the plant try on a pair of these pants and use them as “people in the store” would?

Anybody interested in taking responsibility these days?

Peekaboo3

Back to Basics II

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

apple-pie

This evergreen topic intrigues me. I last covered it in February.

Research 101

I have always enjoyed research. Thought I was good at it until the other day. I moaned to my friend, editor/writer Jim Roper, that I’d spent one hour trying to find a street mailing address for a company’s headquarters and the closest I got was the city.

An aside: It’s amazing how some of the most high tech places are able to hide-or maybe it’s because they are high tech that they know how to.

chamber-of-commerceI’d checked every online resource, including the Chamber of Commerce, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. I came up dry.

Jim said, “So CALL the Chamber.” I stopped pounding the keyboard, picked up the phone and left my phone number and email address in a voice message. The next day what sounded like an intern called my voicemail with the street address. It was easy enough to get the zip code on usps.com. The phone? What a concept!

Mail Fundamentals 

The last mail pickup in midtown Manhattan is 4 pm. Can you think of any business for which this is a convenient time?

mailboxWorse, the nearest mailbox to our office that was on Third Avenue and 44th Street disappeared a week ago while the one a block away, on Lexington Avenue and 44th Street, right across from a post office, remains. Another box on Lexington Avenue and 43rd Street, in front of my bank–a block from the post office–is also gone. Was anyone looking at a map?

Elementary Checking

I get emailed news alerts from a major network. Thought I had a case of déjà vu when I saw the subject line, “Bank to Pay Billions to Investors,” that I remembered from the day before and clicked to read the topic: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’s canceling July 4 recess.”  I, too, make silly mistakes. We should all take it a notch slower.

Magazines Forever

magazine-stackRegardless of the economy or technology, we love magazines and continue to invent and launch them. [Somewhere I have a prototype of one that I made with my friends in 5th grade.]  In the first half of this year we added 138 magazines vs. 90 last year at this time, wrote Stefanie Botelho in folio.com. Food titles and regional magazines were most popular. Closures are down, from 86 last year to 74 this, in the same time period.

Do you have any tips for locating a company that wants to hide? Examples of basic services you may have put aside but are using again or others you’d like to use, like the US postal service, that are becoming harder to access?  

hide-and-go-seek

Service of Memoirs

Monday, February 7th, 2011

memoirs

In the book review, “Me.moir,” in the January 30 New York Times Book Review section, Neil Genzlinger reports that Amazon has from 40,000 to 160,000 memoir listings [depending on how you punch in your query]. Of four books he covers, he writes that only one is a memoir that fits what he notes is the standard criteria that gives a person the right to write one “by accomplishing something noteworthy or having an extremely unusual experience or being such a brilliant writer that you could turn relatively ordinary occurrences into a snapshot of a broader historical moment.”

shhhhOtherwise, Genzlinger recommends, memoir writers had best shut up. He notes: “Memoirs have been disgorged by virtually everyone who has ever had cancer, been anorexic, battled depression, lost weight. By anyone who has taught an underprivileged child, adopted an underprivileged child or been an underprivileged child. By anyone who was raised in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, not to mention the ’50s, ’40s or ’30s. Owned a dog. Run a marathon. Found religion. Held a job.”

Of the memoirs he covered, only “An Exclusive Love,” gets his vote and he admires the writer, Johanna Adorjan, because she made herself the least important character in the book about why her grandparents killed themselves.

seesawI never wanted to write a memoir. I’ve had a great life, with ups and downs like everybody else, but can’t imagine that anyone but an insomniac would want to wade through copy about it. [Though for the sleepless, it might make an effective solution to the condition.] Most of what I’ve learned would be of great help to me if I got to live life over again, but of not much interest or good to others. Might be fun to help someone else write theirs.

I use my experience to mentor students. I often think I should have been a psychologist. I am far more interested in other people’s lives than in rehashing mine for strangers.

I have some book ideas but haven’t had the guts and energy to face them and then there’s the practical question: Who would publish and read them?Obviously, this hasn’t been of much concern to the 40,000 to 160,000 authors with memoirs for sale on Amazon.

Have you been tempted to write a memoir? Have you read any that you might recommend? Do you agree with Genzlinger? Why do you think there are so many these days?

reader

Service of Good Writers

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

writer

I’ve covered a lot about writers and writing. Today I address a reason it’s so hard for writers to make a living, in addition to the obvious fact that there are fewer and fewer places that can use or will pay for words.

I think that a main problem is: Who can tell if a writer is any good? So many people think they are great at it. I’ve heard countless times, “I plan to write a book as I know I have a gift for writing.”

“Nice,” I say to myself, “but you can’t write based on the email or tweet you just sent me.”

Think you can be a great plumber, HVAC repair person, electrician, dry cleaner, hairdresser, dentist, drug or grocery store buyer or airline/railroad traffic controller/dispatcher?

Didn’t think so.

hairdresserBut you know if your toilet and heat work and your lights turn on, your dry cleaning comes back smelling fresh without spots and your haircut and color doesn’t make you blanch, your new tooth chews, grocery and drugstore shelves are stocked with what you need and the planes and trains you take leave and arrive on time.

Good writing isn’t so obvious which is why people think that they can do it and/or don’t need to pay anyone else to do it well.

Here are just a few of the things I think make for good [not necessarily great] writing. Everyone knows this stuff, but so many forget it.

**Don’t try to impress anyone. Simple words and sentences are best.

**Ask someone to edit your material. If you’re in love with a phrase or headline that confuses the reader/editor, change it. The more you write, the easier it will be to accept critique.

**Keep in mind who you are writing for. If you are sending a proposal to a marketing manager, he/she may need to get the OK from someone who isn’t familiar with the latest social networking or whatever jargon. Best eliminate or explain it.

**Give yourself time to reread what you’ve written and simplify and cut the copy some more. Nobody has time and patience to read anything much these days.

I have a zillion more tips, but am taking my own advice. I’d love to read your suggestions, so please send them! We’ll all benefit.

 tips2

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