Recharging Your Batteries and Setting Goals

quietThis weekend I had the good fortune to join several members of my critique group for a casual retreat.  We ate, talked, critiqued, ate, wrote, walked, ate and did some goal setting. 

If you’ve never gone away for a weekend with your writing buddies, I’d highly recommend it.  This weekend gave us a chance to be writers and nothing but.  How could something be both that relaxing and that invigorating?  I’m not sure, but it was and I am ready to work. 

Good thing too since we spent some time setting writing goals.  My biggest problem as a writer is that I meet deadlines for my editors, contests and whatever but unless I have a hard and fast deadline, I have troubles getting to the “fun stuff,” the stuff I write just for me.

So here are the goals which I am to meet by 9/26.

  1. Query WOW! (Either 1 or 2 queries depending on their themes).
  2. Rewrite a picture book, working through Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books.
  3. Do a quick rewrite of the picture book I brought to the retreat (in prep for doing the above with it).
  4. Do a rewrite on the chapter book that I have all but done.
  5. Rewrite a specific magazine piece.

We are going to check in with each other on Saturdays so I’ll be posting my results here too.

Don’t wait for someone to set a retreat up for you.  Get together with your critique group.  Arrange some time out of town together.  It will be well worth the effort.

Ladies of the Gordian Knot — thank you for a great weekend!


Friday: The Worth of Our Writing and Take Aways

laughterThe worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.”
–James Bryce

This quote popped into my mail box yesterday, sent to me by Real Simple, and it got me thinking.  Do I really agree with this?  

Surely, to stick with a reader and to make an editor want to buy your work, your book or article has to have a take away.  The take away is something that sticks with the reader after they have scanned the last word, something that hangs with them and makes them think or feel.

But does the take away have to be something deep and complicated?  Or can it be something light? 

I’m voting for light and life-giving here.  Over the years, I’ve noted that so many of the award winning books or those on state reading lists have heavy take aways.   The kind with weight. 

Maybe its watching the kids I associate with each day, but I think that one of the greatest gifts that writers can give them is laughter.  A light, lively take away that makes them smile and want to repeat a part of the story at the dinner table. 

If it teaches a lesson, dandy.  But sometimes the greatest value is light and life and laughter. 


Thursday: Primary Research: Denver Public Library Photo Archives

cameraI found out about the on-line photo offerings at the Denver Public Library through a geneology blog

Not into geneology?  Remember, photos are primary data. 

The Denver Public Library has a searchable on-line database of  over 120,000 of the images in their extensive collection.   You can do a search by author, title or subject, but my favorites are the online image galleries arranged by subject.   Within each gallery, you can view “all images” or a slide show. 

Hint:  If you choose slide show, but your cursor over the image to view the caption. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some ol’ time photos to peruse.   And these won’t even leave me sneezy.


Wednesday: Market: The Cenizo Journal

Imagine how excited I was when my Dad sent me a link to the Cenizo Journal.  Based in his hometown of Alpine, Texas, the journal focuses on Trans Pecos Texas.  Here is what I found out about the Journal from the editor, Dallas Baxter.

“I encourage folks to approach me about something,” says Baxter.  “For one thing, it helps me remember to look for their work and for another, it may be helpful for them to talk a bit about the piece before slaving over it.”

Like many smaller journals, Cenizo wants the author to supply graphics.  “Writers are responsible for submitting the photos and/or artwork for their pieces. We pay the artists/photographers for their work ($35 per image) and the writer’s for theirs (ranges from $75 to $175 depending on the length of the piece),” says Baxter. 

Submissions should be no longer than 1500 words and need to be about Trans Pecos Texas.

Here is the Primer Baxter makes available to interested authors:

Stories1.      Please write to the agreed upon length.
2.      Kindly observe the deadlines. They help us all do better work.
3.      Art/photos/other visual support should be submitted at the same time as the work itself.
4.      Submit work in a Word document attached to an e-mail. The Word format ends with a ‘doc’ extension. If you have a new version of Word that creates ‘docx’ files or something else exotic, please paste your work into an e-mail.
Photos and Artwork5.      Art/photos/other visual support should be submitted at the same time as any written work.
6.      Photos should be 300 dpi (dots per inch). This will create a high resolution 4’x6′ photo.
7.      Take your images with the highest image-quality setting on your camera.
8.      Photos you have used on your Web site will be too small for print. Please be sure to send us a 300dpi version of any photo you may have used on the Web.
9.      To check the size of your photo on your computer, find the file and, without opening it, let your mouse hover over the file. It will tell you the size of the photo in the file. Generally your photo should be at least 1 MB (black and white files and drawings are smaller). But files of 2 to 3 MB are best.
10.     If you have several large photos to submit, although gmail and Yahoo now offer attachments of 20MB, it is sometimes easier to save them to a cd and mail or drop the cd off in Alpine. Or use a transfer site such as This free service allows you to send 10MB for free or, if you register for free, 100MB.
11.     Please do not perform any cropping or image manipulation on your artwork and photographs. Let us do the work in Photoshop.
12.     Please don’t use the camera in your phone — the photo will always be too small.
13.     File formats preferred: JPEG, Tiff or Photoshop.
14.     If you are using archival photos/art for which there is no digital copy, please have the photo/art scanned at 300 dpi and e-mail it to us. Resolution options can usually be found in the settings window of your scanning software. Tri-County printing in Alpine will do this and charge $7.50 to scan up to 5 photos and e-mail them to us.
Creators retain all rights to their work. We are not responsible for the return of unsolicited work.


Sue speaking again — even if you don’t plan to write for the journal, follow the link and look at some of the photos in the first issue.  You’ll get to see one of the most gorgeous places on Earth.

Not that I’m biased or anything!


Tuesday: David Harrison’s New Site Is Up

new2Don’t you just love examing the web sites that other writers create?  I’m always amazed at what I find at the sites of prolific writers like David Harrison.  How on earth does he find time to do it all?

David is the award-winning author of something like 78 books, does school visits and is always on the go.   He’s even been brave enough to help educate me in matters of poetry. 

Take a look at his site and you’ll be both inspired and encouraged!


Monday: Market: Cup of Comfort

cupofIn my recent attempts at essay writing, I always keep an eye on the Cup of Comfort site.  Surely they’ll have a theme that is a good fit for me.  I remain hopeful since writing buddy Leslie Wyatt has appeared in their pages.  I’m always more confident where someone else has succeeded. 

Lucky for me, I just discovered the Cup of Comfort blog.  On it, they discuss world matters as they relate to the publisher’s interests but they also discuss current needs, deadline extensions and upcoming projects.  Sometimes there are even lists of the manuscripts from which the final book will be chosen. 

I will submit.  And I will handle the suspense remarkably well when my name appears on that list. 


I will. 


Friday: Sniplits

mp3Do you have a piece of Tween fiction that would make a good audio file?  If so, take a look at Sniplits

Sniplits produces short stories as MP3 audio files.  Their submission calendar is very specific and is at the bottom of the screen I link to above. They only read certain genre each month and the only month they have on their calendar for Tween fiction is September 2009. 

I don’t know if I have anything tween to submit, but you can be sure I’ll be looking through my files next week.  If you have a YA story, why not submit it under the appropriate genre listing — Adventure, Mystery, SF/F, etc?   

Admittedly, I don’t know anything more about this market than what is on their site but I do find it intriguing.

Special thanks to C. Hope Clark for bringing this market to my attention on her blog


Thursday: Researching Historic Newspapers

archiveHave you ever searched Google’s archive of historic newspapers?  Found here, the search allows you to search by a particular phrase (New Madrid Earthquake), date, language, publication and more. 

When I searched on “New Madrid Earthquake,” the search returned contemporary and historic sources as well as both paid and free material.  Fortunately, if you first want to see just what you can find at no cost, you can select for that option. 

When I didn’t rule out paid sources, I found over 10,000 hits.

When I selected “no price,” I still had over 4,100 sources.

Historic papers include the Halifax Gazette, the Sydney Daily Herald, the Village Voice, and more. 

Why not pop on by and see what you can find on your historic topic?


Wednesday: More on Researching Science

scienceDid you know that the Library of Congress has a huge selection of Science References Guides available? 

Those covering kid friendly topics included:

  • Picnics: Selected Titles
  • Presidential Food: Selected Resource Guide – Science Reference Guide
  • The Science of Smell
  • Snow: Flakes and Crystals
  • Solar Ovens and Solar Cooking
  •  If you’re writing for an educational publication, don’t miss:

  • School Gardening: A Guide to Selected Resources
  • School Gardening Activities: A Guide to Selected Resources
  •  Need information for an article for New Moon?  Perhaps you’ll find what you need in:

  • Women and Minorities in Science and Technology: A Guide to Selected Resources
  • Women’s History and Food History: New Ways of Seeing American Life
  • Women in Horticulture — Selected Exhibit Reading List
  • Women of Invention: Women Inventors and Patent Holders
  • I checked out Women of Invention: Women Inventors and Patent Holders.  The guide includes a large number of secondary sources, both modern and historice, collected biographies of women inventors, biographies of individual women, and also journal articles which are primary sources.  Very few pieces other than internet sources link to actual material but with a list like this, you could get a quick jump on your research.


    Tuesday: Primary Sources

    physicsBecause it can be so hard to find primary resources on certain topics, I always note primary material even if I don’t need that particular source at the time.

    If you are working on a book or article that involves physics check out the Niels Bohr Library and Archives .  This site includes transcriptions of over 3000 hours of interviews on the topics of quantum physics, nuclear physics, modern astrophysics and astronomy, laser science, space science and geophysics, science education and much more.  While the majority of scientists are from the US there are also European scientists as well as a few from other countries. 

    Note:  The library owns the copyright to all materials and you have to get their permission to quote from any of the transcripts.

    Special thanks go to Research Buzz which is where I originally found out about this archives.